Monday, September 15, 2008

Independence Challenge - Week 19

An awful lot of gourds from one volunteer vine.

Went to Baltimore this past weekend, to one of my daughter's regional youth meetings the weekend of the 13th-14th, so my Independence post timing will be wacky. This Week 19 post is for last week.

Nothing. Too busy with other stuff, and too confused about when first frost will happen. It was down in the 40's at night last week, and this weekend it hit 90.

Missing pumpkin on August 19th, not yet orange.

Harvested: Peppers, tomatoes, gourds. Someone stole my bigpumpkin at the back fence. It was just barely all-the-way orange. Next time, I'm carving a symbol on the bottom of the baby pumpkin, so it grows in with scar tissue, and I can identify a stolen pumpkin I find on someone else's porch.

Preserved: Attempted to dehydrate banana chips, which went oh-so-badly. Saved seeds from Brandywine tomatoes, black-eyed peas, Siberian Iris, bearded iris, false indigo, and an Asian tiger melon from the market.

Cooked: I borrowed an idle bread machine from Neighbor M - the "rent" will be paid in cinnamon-raisin bread. Turns out I have a manual for it, from a similar Welbilt machine I used to have. DD11 and I immediately made a loaf of white bread to get started. DH sounded interested in trying it out. Worked great, and she popped in a second loaf to give Neighbor M the next day. It really was fast to throw the stuff in the machine. There should be no reason we can't bake every day.

Found a great resource: The King Arthur flour website has a chart that lists the weight of common baking ingredients, so you can measure accurately.

We are making an effort to cook more collaboratively. DH made an herb-crusted pork roast, DD15 made cheesy-pesto penne, and DD11 made bread in the bread machine. I made a spiced peach sauce/butter that was good on the bread. Nothing was really new, but the meal came together easily, even in our teeny kitchen. It helped that bread gets started 3 hours in advance.

Stored: 5 lb cornmeal mix, 10 lb White Lily pastry flour (for biscuits), 5 lbs of whole grain pasta, 24 rolls toilet paper, Grey Poupon mustard, Miracle Whip (don't judge me!), fennel seeds (to make sausage), and marshmellows. All this stuff came from the BRL grocery liquidator in Blandon, and cost less than $20.

We joined the local BJ's Wholesale Club ($45/yr) and I wrote down a lot of prices to compare to other sources of shipped and local bulk goods. The selection is limited, and not everything is cheaper than a good grocery store sale, once you figure out the comparison between the huge wholesale size and regular store quantities. If you buy name brands, this is great deal. But we buy a lot of generics, so I will have to watch closely. I do like their chewy store-baked bagels, 9 large for $3.49 - I will get bunch when we have a freezer. They also have good prices on car batteries and tires.

Prepped/Managed: Following up on my September grain storage goal, I posted a lot of questions to my food storage lists, asking what proportions of grains to store, how to manage buckets, and what kind of equipment I might want to acquire.

I decided to continue using the big Rubbermaid lidded bins under my tables for short-term storage - a pantry. I will store bulk grain, beans, legumes, sugar, and salt in 5-gallon buckets with oxygen absorbers in the basement, on pallets. Here is the projected storage list for 3 months:
50 pounds of soft wheat berries (local)
50 pounds of bread flour
30 pounds of pastry flour (local)
20 pounds of spelt flour (local)
50 pounds of rolled oats (maybe local)
50 pounds of rice
20 pounds of whole spelt (local)
30 pounds of cornmeal (local)
50 pounds of dent corn (local)
20 pounds of cane sugar
We won't know for 3 months if that is a good guess for our needs - we just started baking bread. But, if I use 2 cups of flour per day, and there are about 4 cups in a pound of flour, we will go through about 45 pounds in 90 days by baking a daily loaf.

Local/Family: Woo-hoo! I found something that DH wants to do: make hard cider. We hardly ever drink, but when we do go out we tend to order Woodchuck hard cider. The equipment and supplies are cheap, and we can have a tasting party when it's ready. Found a long fascinating article about the history of hard cider in America, and a scanned copy of a 1871 Harper's article about Johnny Appleseed. I've also seen mention of a pear cider called "perry," which sounds delicious.

Had a porch meeting with the Neighbor Club. I made a list of info for us to work on exchanging - cell phones, emergency contact info, things we could use help finding or doing. Neighbor M remarked that her relatives could help find stolen car parts, and one has a port-a-potty biz in New Jersey, if we need any poop. We made a couple of loose plans. Neighbor M and I will try to drive up to a u-pick farm near Fleetwood, and stop at BRL, the grocery liquidator in Blandon. She lent me the bread machine.

Neighbor M wants to make granola. and so do I. Must research recipes and look for deals on bulk ingredients. DD11 wants yogurt and chewy granola bars for breakfast. I bought 3 kinds at the store to compare. I like Trail Mix types, like Nature Valley or Kashi. DD likes Fibre One Oats & Peanut Butter, which lists chicory root extract as its first ingredient. What the heck is that? A fiber additive that is supposed to be full of the soluable fiber inulin. Huh. I woulda thought granola had enough fiber on its own.

Neighbor V is hugely pregnant - 3 weeks to the delivery of her fourth child, and my kids will help entertain hers so she can get some naps. Her husband works at a Pepperidge Farm bakery, and can get bread and other products at cost. We seldom use packaged stuff - croutons, crackers, goldfish crackers, cookies - and we just started baking bread. I think I will get some bread when we have a freezer, as back-up. Cartons of goldfish crackers would be good to give to the church preschool for Sunday snacks. Who can pass on Mint Milano cookies? I'll hide some away for a day when everyone is tired of eating healthy.

Learned: How to get rid of suburban groundhogs. Mom has a den under the decorative boulder in her front yard. They ate all the sweet potatoes - they must go. I learned I can bait a trap with apples, and if I take them more than mile away, they will not find their way back. I don't want to use poison in our yard. I could shoot them - but that's not allowed in the suburbs. (Come on - they ate the sweet potatoes.) I am going to wait for Mom to come home from California. I want someone to keep an eye on the trap once it is set up.

Posted about my banana chip woes on a food preserving list, and got some good advice. I will get back on that horse next week. Did a lot of price-checking on new chest freezers. I was surprised to find that Sears genreally has the best prices, among the big box stores and chains. I will watch some local appliance dealers for sales, to see if anyone beats Sears.

Library: Nothing new, but did some big bookcase reorganization. I have more reference books to shelve. We sorted the homeschooling books into those we will keep for permanent reference, and those that can be donated. I made a pile of some to sell online, but most don't bring enough to make them worth shipping. I will give some to a 2nd grade teacher I know, and see if DD11's 6th grade teacher can use some of the rest, since there is a wide range of reading level in her classroom. We boxed up a lot of fiction that we'd already read, to get back out one day in a bigger house.

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