Friday, July 25, 2008

Independence Challenge - Week 13

Planted: Got a bunch of native yarrow on Freecycle and planted it in my mom's yard for next year's yarrow salve production.

The onion harvest freed up a big patch of dirt, and I struggle to resist planting for fall. We still expect to move, but obviously not mid-summer. What if we are still here at Thanksgiving, and I wasted a whole season? Calmed myself by planting some store-bought potatoes that sprouted. Might not pay off, but it's a good experiment, and no big loss if I have to leave them in the ground.

Harvested: White onions, now drying in a tray. We got the first eggplant, and a sweet yellow pepper from the plant the neighbor gave us, another zucchini. But the zucchini plant is dying from a Squash Vine Borer larvae I missed. I am sure I won't have any trouble finding zukes to buy inexpensively.

Preserved: Bagged the dried yellow onions in net bags. Dried yarrow leaves and flowers. In the process of trying some pickling - bread & butter pickles from purchased Kirby cucumbers. Get the impression that I do everything in a 2-foot square of yellow 70's Formica? I do!

Canned 7 half-pints of peach preserves. We've been watching a peach tree down the block at the edge of a school district athletic field. The tree is untended except to mow under it, so it's "organic." Today there was a kid in the tree picking peaches, so we leaped into action and picked almost 10 pounds of free peaches. Gave a third to a little girl that went with us, ate about a third, and turned a third into peach preserves. My mother helped me scald and peel the fruit. Froze two cups of slices to make peach sauce for yogurt later.

Made and froze 6 quarts of organic chicken stock, but I don't count that as preserving, since we do that monthly, and I don't have enough freezer space to store more than a month's worth. I keep looking for a pressure canner, so I can put up stock in jars. I notice that I am more willing to do hot summer cooking and canning in our UN-air-conditioned house. When it's 90+ and high humidity, and I turn on the oven or boil a big pot, I joke that I am toughening us up for global warming.

Cooked: DD15 wanted to do things with lentils, so we started with a recipe for curried lentils and basmati, to which she added a chicken thigh for each of us, and some bok choy from the market. Very good, but at the edge of my spicy limits (she and DH have more expansive limits). Smelled fabulous. This is a good basic recipe that we can make from storage, and a variety of meat or vegetables.

Other new experiments: perfecting BBQ chicken thighs on the new grill, bread pudding with cherries for a potluck (yum!), a new pepperoni lasagna. Used a fine-leaf basil from the herb lady - gotta grow that next year. Falling into a nice pattern of standard cooking: yogurt, burrito fillings, brewing of teas, making of zucchini bread, grilling of chicken, etc.

Prepared: Stocked pickling salt, mustard seeds, celery seed, turmeric, sunflower seeds, yet more baking soda (after learning I could use it to nixtamelize corn). I basically buy sugar, salt, vinegar and baking soda every time I go to a store.

Cleaned, organized and inventoried the freezer. Not much room left, and we didn't even freeze any corn yet. Frozen quarts of stock come and go constantly. Guess I will have to dehydrate more. I will try to use the freezer as a holding space for things to can, and less as long-term storage. Frozen pesto, butter, and fruit need to live there.

Reduced, Reused, Recycled: We want to make our 2000 Jeep Cherokee last until we can afford a hybrid or some other more efficient vehicle. I figured out it costs about $0.25/mile when gas is $4/gallon. It is useful to be able to say, "It will cost $2.50 for that errand 5 miles away - am I saving enough money to justify driving further, or should I buy stuff at a slightly higher price, closer to home?" It costs $1.50 to drive to my Mom's and back.

Bought ice cube trays at a yard sale - need to be able to make an ice bath for blanching food. Also got a wooden crate, some pottery tools, and some burlap. Took some cotton flannel shirts from the freebie pile, to see if we can sew some reusable pads. At the good annual synagogue rummage, I got 8 half-pint canning jars, an extra pair of snow boots, a bundle of small white paper bags I will use as seed envelopes, a large cotton blanket, and some clothes for the kids.

We have added a second clothesline and I bought 300 clothespins. I have made it a priority in the girls' chores that someone bring up a load of laundry and hang it, every morning that there is no rain. The other day, DD11 even ran home from playing and took down the laundry when it threatened to rain! By George, I think they are catching on.

We got our car AC recharged, and it feels bizarrely decadent to use it. Car AC uses gas, but driving with the windows down uses more, and rolling them up is not an option in a black car in the summer.

Local: Someone brought mahogany rice to a church potluck, and I found out about a Vietnamese food store around Chestnut and Wunder Streets. We continue to enjoy the Sunday producer market - a new stand with stone fruit opened last week and we bought the first local peaches and plums. Eating lots of very fresh corn.

Learned: Talked to a woman that's been married 60 years (!), who grew up with lots of canning. Her father managed orchards in New York State until he could buy his own. She recalled that her mother canned every night, as she cooked dinner. Her loaded pressure canner held 12 quarts. It would cool overnight, the jars ready to be put away each morning. Wow. A dozen jars a day, almost every day. But - it was the systematic inclusion of canning in her routine that struck me. No dramatic "Ooo, today I will can!" Just can something, day in and day out, as part of the regular cooking.

Priced parts at Lowe's to make a rain barrel, and learned how vague most water barrel instructions are. I want to make a few barrels for mom's house. Will be testing instructions in the weeks to come.

Joined lists for edible container gardening and preserving food, where I am already learning new things.

Library: After weeks of waiting for the big book sale, I didn't get to go. Had to use the book money to pay an unexpected auto repair bill. Boo hoo! I will have to do the best I can at yard sales and auctions. Did buy the latest edition of the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, replacing my vintage copy. The supermarket had Blue Books for $4.55, displayed next to the canning jars.


LisaZ said...

Your updates are so well done and impressive! I am extremely jealous of the freebie peaches. I didn't even know peaches grew in PA.


Matriarchy said...

Thanks, but I think I'm just a good note-taker. When I post a challenge update, I immediately open a new draft for the next update, and use it to make notes during the week. We had a busy day today, and I already have several paragraphs for next week. This updates really help me organize my activities and my thinking. Thirteen weeks is the longest I have EVER kept up any challenge or themed journaling.

I bet if everyone else took running notes, they would also have lots to list. A lot of Independence bloggers run farms, and don't list the daily chores. I have no livestock and only a 10x40 garden.

Oh, yes, we have peaches in PA! Loads of stone fruits - we already had apricots and cherries, and the peaches, nectatines, and plums are starting. Next Saturday, we are heading to a Peach Festival at a u-pick farm. We'll be driving to a part of our county that we seldom visit, so we will also be visiting a new producer-only market and a huge old market/auction/flea. I plan to come back with a carload of peaches, zucchini, beans, and corn.

Verde said...

Wow, you have really been productive. Are you taking one of Sharon's classes?

I loved what you said about the lady who canned each night. That's an awesome way to look at this whole thing.

Matriarchy said...

I am going to participate in her "Adapting in Place" class that starts soon. But I've been following the notes and posts from the other classes on her blog.

I've been "functionally poor" since my kids were born - I became a single parent almost immediately. So I have a lot of practice eating cheap, making do, and working the yard sales.

Frankly, my biggest problem is the mental part. I spent years telling myself that our poverty was "just temporary" and that things would improve. Things were just starting to get better - and now it looks like my poverty expertise is about to become a career! I'm having trouble re-adjusting my expectations.

Matriarchy said...

Upon re-reading, it sounds like I was saying I wanted a more material life after being poor for years. That wasn't quite it. I wanted a life where we had enough. Enough to pay the rent, the utilities, and the grocery bill without the constant juggling. Enough to feel sure my kids would go to college. I didn't want them saddled with the student loans that have plagued me for 20 years. I wanted us to travel. I wanted to wake up and not immediately begin to think about money. I do know how to count my blessings, but I also know how to count my pennies and see that I don't have enough for everyone to get new shoes at the same time. I was tired of that, and I was hoping it would be over soon.

Marnie said...

Hi there - found you through the comments on Sharon's site - nice comprehensive post, and something that i'm going to reference for inspiration :-) i'm just starting the food security journey, myself.

I saw you mention sewing reusable pads - it's easy-peasy, and i wrote a post a little while back on that, if you'd like some resources:


looking forward to reading more of your journey...

Matriarchy said...

Cool, Marnie! I have the flannel, just haven't gotten around to it, yet. My poor elderly sewing machine needs a new bobbin, and it's from about 1917! So, I have to go looking on eBay. I would love to get a serger. I have carpel tunnel syndrome that keeps me from sewing by hand - maybe a button, but then my hand starts to hurt.

I love the fabric show in your post about Lillian's gift. I could SO easily become a fabric addict.