Sunday, September 28, 2008

Independence Challenge - Week 21

My new cellar shelving and bins.

This was a big stock-up week for us. Last weekend, we went to Washington DC for a family party. The party itself was very lovely and delicious, but the most significant thing for me was that DH's family patriarch started a discussion about keeping chickens in his urban Philly backyard. Apparently he has also been stocking up. That got me massive street cred with DH - if his godfather is doing it, I no longer look like a survivalist whacko. :-)

So, DH agreed that we should spend some of our savings on 3 months of stored food. Instead of buying bits and pieces from our regular food budget, I now have a stock-up budget, and funding to purchase a freezer. I feel so much better - like when you are in labor and they finally say you can start pushing; the hard work is not over, but you are finally doing something besides moaning and complaining.

Planted: Brought some herbs indoors to start getting used to being indoors: fine-leaf basil, rosemary, two kinds of sage, garlic chives. I put a plastic tray on top of a filing cabinet in one of our only two south-facing windows. Took some coleus cuttings to root over the winter. Working up another order of seeds for spring.

Harvested: Cherry tomatoes, mint. Cut some grass to dry for mulching, but got rained out of the rest of my grass harvesting plan.

Preserved: Roasted tomatoes, peppers, basil, and onions as a sauce base for freezing. Dried yet more mint.

This loaf from the old machine was like a brick doorstop. The baking bucket didn't stay locked in.

Cooked: The newer bread machine produced a nice loaf, so I think we are finding our groove with that. I'm having trouble keeping up with yogurt-making. Every time I think of making it, the milk is almost out. Too much going on lately. Made a new cauliflower soup, and found I had everything I needed on hand.

Stored: I focused on dry goods this week, filling out the supplies I already had. Next week, expect to see veggies for cellaring, and after the freezer arrives there will be meat, lard, butter, and whole wheat flour.

A lot of people order bulk food online, but I've heard a lot of stories about slow delivery, so I decided to shop locally for now. I want to establish local sources for our food. I went to a warehouse grocery, a wholesale club, and an independent grocer with a can sale, so far. I still have to visit a Mennonite bulk store, the grocery liquidator, and a flour mill (pastry flour). I do plan to order powdered eggs and high-quality dry milk online. Bought this week:
Cases: evaporated milk, corn, refried beans, canola oil, crushed tomatoes, whole grain pasta, macaroni, Spaghetti-O's (DD11's request), paper towels (DH's request)

Bulk: 20# bread flour, 15# rolled oats, 10# red lentils, 5# cornmeal, 10# split peas, 30# basmati rice, 25# sugar, 4# brown sugar, 6# honey, olive oil, 16# of cat food

Essentials: a brick of yeast, cider vinegar, some spices, hot chocolate mix, bouillon cubes, dried apricots, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pistachios
Prepared: Ordered a 7.2 cubic foot freezer from Sears, on sale for $195. I did extensive checking, and they had best price per cubic foot. But they were sold out at that store, and there were none in the regional distribution center, either, so it is being shipped from another region for Oct 7 delivery. That seems ominous, Sears selling out of freezers in the Northeast.

We got the equipment for making hard cider. Did some research on an email list, and found a home-brew shop in our area: Universal Carbonics, at 614 Gregg Ave (turn back Noble St from Lancaster Ave), where the Reading Draft Birch Beer factory is located. Martin Radovanyi is the proprietor and is very knowledgeable. He helped me pick out a 6 Gal fermenting bucket, airlock, siphon, tubing, and yeast - came to less than $30 and all is reusable. We still need a large glass carboy to rack the cider ($20-40), some bottles (recycled), and a capper ($13). Hard cider is not exactly an essential, but it will be fun, and tasting will be a good excuse to have a party.

Jar, coffee press, and mill from church sale.

Bought a better bread machine at Goodwill for $5, along with some winter fiction. Got another 27 canning jars via Craigslist, mostly quarts. Went to a good church sale and found books, games, a big glass jar, some greeting cards, 18 canning jars, and a shelving unit. DD15 bought a French coffee press, a small electric coffee mill (for spice grinding), and a sewing machine for $10. I am researching the Singer model # to find the right bobbins.

Managed: Cleaned and reorganized the cellar. The kids were an enormous help with unloading the car, hauling stuff to the basement, helping to assemble the shelves, and making labels for the bins.

Couldn't find the shop-vac hose, so I had to buy a new one ($18). Found a spot where there was likely a freezer belonging to the previous tenant. There is a raised concrete slab of the right size, and a heavy-duty electrical outlet. We think the new freezer will just fit down the cellar stairs.

The niche behind the shelves will be for appliance boxes we are saving for moving.

Found a large set of wood utility shelves at that church rummage for $20, and they just fit in our low headroom cellar, in front of the furnace we no longer use. Just what I needed! And Boscov's had a sale on 20-gal lidded storage totes for $3.97. I got 8, and may go back for more. I don't think you can have too many bins. I sorted our food reserves: cans and jars on the shelves, boxes and bags into the bins. Put a temporary shelf on top of the furnace intake, since we are not using it. I have four old milk crates that hold 6 gallons each, so they will store 24 gallons of water in gallon jugs. People say the jugs may leak over time, but the cellar has a sump pump, and we will try to get in the habit of rotating them. I'll look for other water storage containers.

Sorted my dry beans to figure out what else to buy. I have enough split peas, lentils, rice, and pintos. Probably need another 20 pounds of other types, like garbanzos, cannellini, black beans, and soup bean mix.

Reduced, Reused, Recycled: Gave away all our old Christmas lights via Freecycle. We will get a few strings of LED lights. Researched ways to reuse more of our empty food containers.

Doesn't this deli container already look like a seed-starter?

Local/Family: The Neighbor Club is hard to get going. People have different schedules, and are not used to asking each other for help. We also never all have money at the same time, to buy things together. One neighbor was carless and walked to a store a few miles away with a limping push cart. I scolded her for not telling me she needed a ride. I am going to have to figure out how to check in more routinely, to watch for opportunities to collaborate.

I did give a pan of warm apple bread pudding to the pregnant neighbor before we went to DC. I had baked it for breakfast and we didn't have time to eat it. I plan to bake on Monday. Our surly male neighbor just had hip replacement, and I will see if some banana bread will sweeten his disposition. Newsflash: Pregnant Neighbor had her baby Saturday night, a healthy 8.5 pound boy. Better bake some cookies for her other three kids.

Learning: I am signing up for gardening classes given by the Berks Master Gardeners at the GoggleWorks art center. I am not a beginner, but 9 hours with the attention of a Master Gardener is not a bad deal for $25. The three Tuesday night sessions that don't conflict with soccer practice. These classes are poorly advertised. If I hadn't caught the newspaper article in my feedreader, I would not have known. And I am looking for these things. It wasn't included in the regular Cooperative Extension packet, or in the GoggleWorks mailings. I am going to mention that to the people that teach the classes, and make some suggestions

Library: I ordered 4 new books: Coleman's Four Season Harvest, Ashworth's Seed to Seed, Bubel's Root Cellaring, and Katz' Wild Fermentation. I've wanted these, and the used price is almost the same as new - I saved money buy ordering new at a discount and getting free shipping from Amazon.

At the Goodwill, I found a cute little 1955 cookbook, Potluck Cookery, that has a lot of recipes for leftovers. The church sale had some interesting titles: The Cake Mix Doctor, American Wholefoods Cuisine (1983), and Cooking from the Cupboard. Gotta love a 25-cent book.

To my digital library, I added Pat Meadows' beginning vegetable garden plan. She developed it for her daughter (who happens to live in my 6B frost zone), but it has good advice for any new gardener. Pat's site has lots of other good info, and she runs a number of email lists for no-nonsense gardening and cooking.


d.a. said...

I LOVE the pic of the bread! *roflmao!!!*

amanda said...

sounds like you are well on your way! good for you...

MeadowLark said...

Wow. I'm impressed.
And a bit envious. But definately impressed!

Matriarchy said...

I can't believe what a difference those shelves made. I just happened to look at this pile of boards at the church sale, and a man helped me figure out if all the pieces were there. I couldn't have fit a normal shelving unit in our cellar, but this unit let me up the uprights between joists, working around ductwork, pipes, and wiring.

And at the exact time I needed it. Must have been meant to happen.

I emptied most of my kitchen into the cellar, between the bins and the shelves, and now I have room for my pots and equipment - room to work! My cabinets only have to hold the everyday ingredients and the stuff I am using in the next few days.

It feels wonderful.

risa said...

The deli containers are fabulous; I use them to bring my own pre-sliced vegs to work for making a hot lunch, and, yes, they do make good seed starters!

Your shelves are looking good!!

risa b

LisaZ said...

Hey Matriarchy--I see that Miracle Whip on those shelves there! (hee hee, I know it's a personal weakness of yours...) Too funny.

Kidding aside, wow, wow, wow. All I can say is wow. Your progress and drive amaze me always.

Verde said...

It is so exciting to watch this! The rest of us are plodding along and there you go boom!

We are occupied with "what if" scenarios... yous has been what would you do if you suddenly had access to the money to do it.

Way to go on staying frugal on all the choices.

LOVE the bread picture - I snorted coffee!

Matriarchy said...

Don't judge my Miracle Whip! LOL... everyone has their guilt pleasure to get them through the crappy times.

Dude, next time I need to make the photos less high-resolution. LOL

Verde, I think I would be a cheapskate no matter how much money I had - my idea of spending spree is buying a lot of something on sale. And DH didn't give me a blank check - I still have to make sure I get enough food out of what I have to work with. It really helps to have been comparing prices for months - I knew where I wanted to shop. But I love not having to try to stock up out of the regular food budget. Now, once I *am* stocked, the food budget goes back to normal, but by then I should be spending less regularly, so the excess will go to replenishment. Theoretically.

This week I am taking a shopping break to do further kitchen reorganizing, build indoor laundry drying racks, and prepare the root cellaring area in the basement. Oh, and to celebrate DD11's 12th birthday. If I shop, it will be veggies to cellar. Next week, the freezer should arrive, and I will starting filling it. Wheee!

Theresa said...

mmmmm....I am salivating over your shelves....

We have brought in some wood planks to cobble up some storage shelves in our basement as well, but are still looking for something cheap/free to hold up the planks!

Matriarchy said...

I used to have cinder-block and board shelves for books. It takes three blocks to hold up an 8' board. I started the blocks aligned with the front edge of the board at the bottom, and moved each layer back slightly, until the top layer was touching the wall at the back. Makes the shelves kind of "lean" on the wall, for more stability. Then I put the heaviest stuff on the bottom, lighter on top. This would not work at all in a part of the country with an earthquake threat.

Theresa said...

We aren't prone to earthquakes where I live (Alberta) so that sounds like a really good idea. We had thought of using cinder blogs - just have to find some somewhere. We may end up buying some I suppose, since they are handy to have around for a number of purposes.