Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Independence Challenge - Week 15

Posting a fast update before we go on vacation. Going to try to make some overdue posts about markets and the garden before we go. When I get back, I *must* figure out what to do about the exploding spice cabinet (above). Our great new food experiments have tripled the number of spices we store.

Planted: Nothing this week. The temperatures have been cool the past week, which has reminded me that fall is close - and winter right behind it. I am starting to figure out how to take a lot of herbs inside this winter. I have started ordering seeds for next spring, to beat the rush. Small orders from ebay and Victory Seeds have arrived. I am looking for a big airtight container for seed storage.

Harvested: Mint, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and some kind of volunteer squash or gourd. Bought peaches to make jam, but they got eaten; planning to pick more after vacation. Got a lot of green tomatoes from a neighbor that thinned her overladen plants. I plan to make Green Tomato Chutney from a new recipe.

Preserved: Dried sage from the market. We tasted the bread-n-butter pickles I made a few weeks ago. I like them, and DH a pint already. First you get the crunch, then the sweetness, then the bite of the vinegar, and then finally the lingering spiciness. They do need to mellow a little longer to tone down that bite. We couldn't wait the whole 6 weeks to try them. I am going to pickle some lemon cukes next.

Cooked: I made a half-pint of jam while I dinner was cooking Sunday night. We were having roasted local turkey thighs with DD15's famous gravy, and fresh corn-on-the-cob. I had a handful of fresh blackberries left from market, and threw in a handful each of frozen black raspberries, and frozen blueberries. I put in some sugar, a splash of lemon juice, and just cooked it all down until it reaching gel. So, I made a half-pint of jam while I made dinner. I'm working on making canning part of my routine. I didn't process that jar, since I plan to eat it immediately, but if I had large quantities of berries, it would not have been hard to process. It's yummy, but seedy. I think I will make juice and strain berries after this.

Managed: Got plastic reusable lids for canning jars. Immediately used them up by lidding open jelly jars and transferring bagged spices to jars. Need more jars and lids.

Found French green lentils and mung beans at the bulk shop in the market, adding to our experimental legume collection. If we like them, I will buy larger amounts.

Stopped in at a Vietnamese grocery store, but they didn't take credit cards and I didn't have cash with me - I am going back with DH and DD15 to shop - they have exotic ramen noodles, cute little dumpling wrappers and all sorts of interesting thing. Who knew? I have driven down that street a thousand times without noticing the shop was more than the usual city corner store.

Stored hand soap concentrate. We like those "foaming" hand soap pumps, because it rinses quickly. But the refills are more expensive than regular hand soap - even though it is mostly water. We make our own foaming refill by diluting the regular soap with water 10:1.

Reduced, Reused, Recycled: Helped mom set up for a yard sale. Didn't go as well as well as it could have. There wasn't enough stuff out - some people just drove past slowly and didn't even stop. Shoppers want to think, "Wow, look at all that stuff. Surely there is something I need there." Mom took back some stuff she put out, and actually discouraged a shopper from buying something she felt we rushed her into putting out. She did get rid of some larger pieces, thankfully. I think she made about $60.

Read a great article about the many re-uses of newspaper. For several years, I have been getting a free newspaper subscription. One of our neighbors had a paper route, and gave us a leftover paper almost every day. But they have given up the route - they kids got too old to help, and the vehicle expenses ate most of the pay, which had gotten lower over time. They suddenly realized the husband can make the same amount of money working 3 hours of overtime, and no one has to get up at 4AM.

Got three pair of free used soccer cleats for the girls, and put our outgrown cleats into the recycling box at the soccer field. I am worried about the cost of driving to far-flung games around the county. I will make an effort to combine the trips with looking for new food sources.

Local: I may be underestimating DD11. She weeded a new neighbor's front planter and dug up mint in our alley to put in it. I saw her giving a tour of our garden - they must have decided to start gardening themselves. She has been making friends with the girl. The family is from Puerto Rico and mostly have no English, but the three kids are all close in age to DD11.

In our neighborhood, it is not unusual to people to stand back and wait to see what sort of people move in. Admittedly, one new couple was arrested having a drug party within a month. But, perhaps it would be more productive to immediately welcome people with baked goods, making it more likely they will turn out to be folks that will be good neighbors. Kids are good ambassadors.

Soccer season started, which also starts the season of sitting around with the team Soccer Moms three times a week. This year, everyone is worried about money, fuel prices, and the coming winter. I don't want to look like Chicken Little with the peak oil stuff, but I think I will suggest that we network more purposefully and help each other find things we need. I am looking for canning jars, someone else might be looking for kids clothes, etc.

Learning: Lots of learning this week. I have been researching alternative peach jam recipes after my first batch was pale and un-peachy. Learning the differences between jam, preserves, conserves, and jelly.

Investigating ways to hang/dry clothes indoors this winter. I like saving money by not running our electric dryer, and I finally have the kids trained to the outdoor clothesline. But that won't work from December to Late March. The laundry line in the basement can take days in the winter, now that we don't use the oil furnace that used to make the basement warm. The cellar is cold and damp, and clothing comes up smelling of mildew. I am looking into various ways to use bamboo poles to build racks or hold hangers. Perhaps some sort of rack that could be raised and lowered, to take advantage of how heat rises in a room/house. And the added humidity would help with the dryness of heated indoor air. But how to implement in a rented house, where installing contraptions may be viewed as damage? Still working it out.

Starting the second week of Sharon Astyk's online course "Adapting in Place." There are about 40 people on the course discussion list, and we have covered introductions, our worst fears, sharing descriptions of our options, our families' views, our plans for making a living, and arrangements for food and water. We've started this week with heat, cooking, and laundry. I am reading a lot, thinking about what might work for us, massaging our future plans. I have asked DH to start reading Sharon's blog, so we can discuss more from a common starting point.

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