Thursday, June 12, 2008

Independence Challenge - Week 6

This is a 2-week catch-up post. Between work and family stuff, I was too busy last week to do more than make some fast notes. Mom saw her doctor and is doing a bit better; 85-yo aunt is not doing so well. Weather was suddenly record-breaking hot, close to 100F. The tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, onions, and potatoes seem to be loving it.

Planted: Sweet potatoes at Mom's. Scored whole flats of broccoli, romaine lettuce, and cabbage starts for free. They were half-dead but have revived nicely with regular watering. I fish-boxed most of the lettuce (almost 40 plants); digging up a new spot for cabbage - but 60 plants is too much for me - will give some away. Getting more fish boxes for broccoli (about 50 plants). Some may bolt or die after the stress and heat wave, but it's worth a try. I also planted cowpeas to replace the English peas that were done, and potted up some basil and marjoram sprouts.

Harvested: PEAS! My first English peas, shelled by DD11. I can see that I would have to plant a LOT more to have peas to freeze. DD15 ate the whole harvest this weekend, raw. Granted, it was only 2.5 cups. I need to get some innoculant for the next batch, to increase my yield - and plant many, many more vines. DD11 keeps pulling sweet baby carrots. She won't get any mature ones if she keeps it up.

Picked parsley and thyme for cooking. Harvested mulch by shearing grass and clover. I dry it on the sidewalk and then use it to mulch my beds. I watched birds eat a whole lot of those inedible "white" mulberries from a neighbor's tree. I didn't harvest the berries myself, but I benefit from it, since the birds help keep the bugs down in my yard.

Preserved: Drying more peppermint and lemon balm from my yard. I wanted to report that I canned my first strawberry jam, but the heat made us postpone the u-pick trip until tomorrow. Bought a food dehydrator for $3 (woot!) at a yard sale. Expect posts about dehydrated stuff as I figure out how to use it.

Prepped/Managed: Bought extra bleach on sale. Ten pounds of Goya's Thai Jasmine Rice ($1.24/lb in 5lb bags). They were the last two bags in that store, and I was worried they were the last we would see. But no, they were restocked - at a 54% increase! From $6.20 to $9.55 ($1.91/lb) in ONE week. There was an 11-lb burlap bag of Indian Basmati for $19.95, but my experience with that brand was weevil-y. Basmati and Jasmine have been out-of-stock at Aldi. American basmati and jasmati are grotesquely expensive. I am trying a small bag of Giant-brand organic brown long-grain at $2.50 for 2 lbs.

Found a sprouting lid that fits mason jars at Echo Hill ($1.99). I had been wanting one, but didn't want to pay for shipping. Now I need to find something to sprout. One step at a time.

Cooked: Shopped at the opening day of the West Reading producer market. Enjoyed our first all-local meal for the One Local Summer challenge: grass-fed eggs, grits, bacon, toast and nectarine jam. Decided to make my own yogurt, and while looking for a yogurt maker on FreeCyle list, I was sent instructions to make yogurt in my crockpot, so I am going to try it. Worst case, I lose a gallon of milk.

Bought some of that local spelt flour for experimenting. Tried waffles first, with good results, substituting spelt flour for whole wheat. In looking for spelt recipes, I found another local source of flour, Daisy Flour, spelt and white/wheat pastry flours from a historic mill in Lancaster County. The pastry flour seems like the best deal, with a 50-lb bags for less than $40. Have to work that into a Lancaster provisioning trip. Soft Red Winter Wheat for pastry flour is grown here most frequently.

System-building: I asked a 7-yo neighbor child if she wanted to grow something for her mother. We planted romaine, basil, a tomato, and some marjoram in containers (photo at the top of this post). We carried them up the block to her front stoop, and when I left she was asking passersby to stop and smell the marjoram. She agreed to water it every morning (unless it was raining) and I gave her a watering can and showed her how to use it. We will document her efforts with photos. I am going to ask some other neighbors if I can plant stuff in their barren front planters. They have soil going to waste, and the small beds are easy for idle neighbor children to tend.

Also attending a series of discussions about economic justice at our church. The small group is moving toward looking for a project, and I am going to try to poke them in the direction of something with local food. We already run a monthly food pantry, and many members are food-conscious, so we would be adding to an area of competence. Perhaps we could prepare a directory of sources of fresh food in the city. It could be handed out in Spanish and English at the food bank, and might also get some press coverage.

Reduced, Reused, Recycled: Fixed a weed-whacker I thought was broken. FreeCycled a computer monitor and printer; replaced DD11's mattress via FreeCycle. Sold unwanted clothing on eBay. A neighbor gave me a wooden pallet for Mom to more neatly store a pile of salvaged vintage cobblestones. Found an egg producer that can use my big stack of egg cartons. Salvaged flats of empty 2" and 4" pots from a neighbor's trash to use for rooting cuttings. Not only did I get the dehydrator at a yard sale, I also found a good knife-sharpening steel and some metal hooks for hanging things from rafters. Trash-picked the planters for the neighbor kid's garden. Made the kids stop sneaking clothes into the dryer.

Learned: More about yogurt-making, spelt, the usual gardening research. Researching more on urban farming and spending a lot of time looking at various cities to which we might move.

Library: Had DD11 catalog my cookbooks on the book-tracking website Still need to work on manually adding books that don't have ISBN numbers, like my vintage regional and church cookbooks. I will put her to work on the reference shelves next. I will then be able to print a catalog of my books, with comments on each volume. Borrowed library books about canning, to see if I want to buy one beyond the Blue Book.


LisaZ said...

Wow, you are doing so much stuff! I'd love to know more about crockpot yogurt making. I have used the "haybox cooker" method that Pat Meadows wrote about on her blog (linked on Sharon's site). It works very well, with no electricity except for the heating the milk part.

My favorite thing in this post, though, is your story of planting with the 7yo neighbor girl. What a fabulous idea. You have planted a seed in her, and given her some of your quality time, that she will never forget. I know because I loved that kind of stuff when I was a kid, particularly from people not my parents. That is amazing! I hope she will keep watering.

Great work! I love your blog.

Lisa in MN

Matriarchy said...

I got the recipe from a woman who got from her mother-in-law in Lebanon, who got it from her mother, who got it from her mother - back into pre-history. Although somehow I doubt they had crockpots!

Here it is:

1. Heat almost (but not quite) to a boil a gallon of milk (whole, 2%, etc. your choice).

2. Remove from heat and transfer to a large lidded crock (I use a bean pot-you could use a crock pot).

3. When the temperature has dropped to the point it is uncomfortable to your finger but not burning, add your starter yogurt (about 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups)

3. Put lid on pot, wrap the whole thing up in a blanket (I use twin-size fleece--holds heat well).

4. If your blanket is good-leave on your counter overnight. If not sure how good your blanket is, place the whole thing, blanket and all, in your oven with the oven lightbulb left ON.

5. Yogurt by AM-FOR SURE.

Last tip: if you put the starter in while the milk is too warm it may kill the starter, or if not, become grainy. It's a judgment call--the starter goes in when the milk is too hot for your finger after about 10-15 seconds.