Thursday, July 17, 2008

Independence Challenge - Week 12

Twelve weeks! That's 3 months of this effort. I am finally feeling like we've made progress. Not remotely ready if disaster struck tomorrow, but I am measurably more prepared. More importantly, we are becoming mentally more prepared. DH doesn't snicker at me so much anymore. He seemed impressed when I started making yarrow salve, instead of giving me that look that says, "I'm humoring your cute little idiosyncrasy." He doesn't think things will get as bad as I think they will. But he isn't arguing with the preparations.

Planted: Watermelon, from a pot of starts. Friday was the annual clearance sale at Glick's, our favorite nursery. We got there 4 minutes after the 8AM opening, and it was packed with people filling carts. Quart perennials were 99 cents, and 4-in pots of herbs were 50 cents. I got: Bronze Fennel, Rosemary "Gorizia", Lovage, Tricolor Sage, Mountain Mint, Horehound, and a fabulous dwarf Helichrysum italicum that smells just like curry powder. Bought some seeds half-price.

I also got two angel wing begonias, and some ornamentals to perk up Mom's shady yard: astilbes, bleeding heart, heuchera, and foxgloves. Mom bought more lavender, which she loves. I was tempted to buy more perennial flowers, but I am trying to stay focused on edibles and medicinals.

Harvested: Cherry tomatoes direct-to-mouth. Basil, parsley, sage, thyme. A few white onions, and some bitter lettuce that we hide in tacos. A pound of carrots, one zucchini.

Visited the organic County Line Orchard near Kempton. It was a long drive (25 miles one way), so we combined it with the trip to Glick's. We thought to be picking apricots, but there was a disappointing miscommunication. They did have blueberries for u-pick, so we picked 6# of them at $1.75/lb, bought 3# of farmer-picked apricots for jam, and a quart of sweet cherries to eat on the way home, spitting pits out the car windows. It's not worth that kind of gasoline to u-pick anything, unless we are buying some huge quantity to share with others. We passed the Dreibelbis Bridge, a wooden covered bridge that is part of our family heritage, and stopped to take photos.

Preserved: Gave up on finding counter space in my kitchen for the dehydrator. I set up a dehydrator station on the back porch, where there is a grounded outdoor electrical outlet. Dried a pound of carrot slices. Froze shredded zucchini. Froze 4# of blueberries. Froze portions of pistachio-herb pesto. Running out of room in the freezer.

Canned 2 pints of apricot preserves - my first batch of home-canned anything since home economics class in high school! A little runny, but still good on toast, and DD15 pointed out it will make good duck sauce. I will experiment with other recipes. I intended to make more, but someone ate a bunch of the apricots. It seems I generally need to get twice as much as I imagine I need, to have enough left to can.

Cooked: I made Shrimp Risotto using the lovely homemade fish stock I had frozen, for DH's 34th birthday. We had the first yummy local corn of the season from the market. I am looking for an electric carving knife to make it easier to cut and freeze corn. Tried a new recipe for pesto with pistachios and mixed fresh herbs. DD11, who does not try new things easily, liked Dragon Carrots.

Accidentally made ricotta when I was going for yogurt. The milk started to boil when the thermometer read only 203F, so the milk "broke". It would have made grainy yogurt, so I added vinegar to turn it into ricotta (actually, more like paneer). Looks like lasagna this weekend. Considering I could not make yogurt OR cheese a few months ago, I am celebrating the fact that I knew how to turn a mess-up into some other kind of food, saving a $4 half-gallon of raw milk.

Prepared: DH bought LED flashlights for us, a multi-tool for DD15, and a compass. For his birthday, we got him a portable propane grill that runs on those little Coleman-type tanks. Bought interlocking cables to secure it (and other things), since our last grill was stolen right off our back porch.

Cleaned out the shed and re-arranged the back porch to accommodate the grills and the dehydrator. Also worked on organizing our small over-whelmed kitchen. Decided to pack away my collection of vintage pretzel tins, to make room for the canners.

Bagged and labeled 8 one-pound bags of bean mix for soup. Stored 15# of unbleached flour, 15# pounds of sugar, Wondra gravy flour, demarara sugar, baking soda, laundry detergent, borax, pickling lime, canned pumpkin, pinto beans, ibuprofen, lotion. Stashed a few boxes of liquid chai mix, pineapple juice, chocolate syrup, and cream of coconut (have to hide those or they get consumed). Several vaccuum-packed bags of dried tortellini. Froze a few extra pounds of butter and 2# of frozen shrimp.

One of the local supermarket chains had a big sale on my favorite Red Zinger herbal tea, so I cleaned out three of their stores and stashed 10 boxes of tea. I can't figure out how to reproduce it myself; it has too many tropical ingredients for me to grow the components.

Researched the gun licensing and concealed-carry laws for Pennsylvania. My late father left two handguns and two shotguns at mom's house. We have decided to learn to shoot and maintain them, and will get gun safes for our house and car. We thought about learning to hunt, but DD15 wisely noted, "We are way too loud and clumsy."

Reduced, Reused, Recycled: Found new plastic rain gauges at the Good Will, $1 for four. Got a brand-new Weber table-top-size charcoal grill via Freecycle. That's two new grills in one week, greatly expanding our cooking options.

Local: We are registering the kids for schools in the fall. We had been homeschoolng, but I want to get a second job to allow us to buy a house faster. DD11 will go to 6th grade at a local "magnet" school in the public system, the Gateway School for Agriculture, Science, and Ecology. The school is new, so I don't know exactly what the curriculum will be like, but I plan to be an involved parent. If public school is too unsatisfactory, we can always take her back out. DD15 is going to use a public virtual charter school from home - she does well with minimal supervision.

The Sunday producer market is starting to have more variety of local produce. We get eggs, local nitrate-free beef hot dogs, and local pretzels every week. I usually get herbs to dry or use for pesto. Then we get whatever produce appeals, with whatever money is left. We got fresh corn, wax beans, dragon carrots, oregano, and tarragon this past week. Talked to the beekeeper, who will have beeswax (for my yarrow salve) later in the season - he also talked about a wintershare CSA with greens and storage vegetables.

Learned: We are looking into classes for us to learn new skills. The gardening and food storage is my "skill". DD15 is considering welding - they have continuing ed classes at the VoTech. We may never become a licensed welder, but the skill is good, and is also useful for art metalwork. DH is thinking about what skill he might like to pick up... maybe leather work. DD11 wants to learn to make bread. I need to figure out how to make a floury kneading space in our cramped kitchen.

Went to a Master Gardener Demonstration Garden workshop with mom and DD11, and saw demos about rain gardens, water barrel construction, and attracting pollinators. They also had a display of about a dozen kinds of composters in use. DD11 and I are going to build a nesting box to attract Mason Bees. Their demonstration garden is all ornamentals and herbs, with an emphasis on attracting pollinators with native species. Too bad they don't have an edible demo garden. I saw a water barrel design I liked, using a lidded heavy-duty trash can they sell at Home Depot.

Library: Tomorrow (!) is the big annual book sale... this space should be filled with wonders.

1 comment:

LisaZ said...

wow! You are doing so much. That's great that you're all working on learning new skills. You've motivated me!