Friday, October 24, 2008

Independence Challenge - Week 25

Witchhazel blooming along a road on the
wooded mountain above our city neighborhood.

I'm feeling good, at least about food storage. I'm not done, but I have a really healthy supply now. Crowded shelves and a nearly-full freezer. Some odds and ends left to get, and I need to organize a re-stocking routine. Water storage still needs more work. We'll have more time to catch up after soccer season ends in November, and we have the attic insulated.

I like the LDS/Mormon-style preparedness plan I've been reading about, where families have a 72-hour kit for bugging out, then a 3-month food supply for immediate use, then a year of long-term storage of major staples like wheat, beans, oats, and rice. I have most of the bug-out bags, and the 3-month supply. I found a local wheat source, but I need to find more barrels and buckets before I start on the long-term stuff. I may not subscribe to the LDS religious beliefs, but I surely do believe in their food storage plan.

Nothing new, but we are planning to finish a spinach cold frame and a worm composting farm next week. My ginger root is sprouting - does that count?

Harvested: We had our first freeze predicted Tuesday night, so I harvested everything tender from the yard - 10 green peppers I laid out to ripen, three heads of celery, two parsley plants. Also picked a small head of cabbage. The outside leaves were pretty chewed up by beetles, but the inside was lovely.

Preserved: Dried lots of celery and minced parsley. I use celery almost exclusively for stock-making, so I dry the whole stalk and all the leaves in hanging bunches. My home-grown celery stalks are much thinner and leafier than grocery-store celery, but it's the taste I am after anyway. I also dried celeriac leaves, which taste like celery.

Made a pint of sauerkraut with the little head of cabbage. Used my vintage potato chip slicer, since it was such a small head. Packed the salted cabbage in a quart mason jar - my favorite old cast iron potato masher fits in there perfectly to squoosh it down. It juiced right up. I cut a circle out of a plastic lid and put a bottle of juice inside the jar to weigh it all down, I put it on a shelf over the cellar steps, to wait out the 2 weeks of initial fermentation. I set an email reminder, so I don't forget to check it every few days.

I have about 8 more small heads of cabbage still out in the garden, so if this works out nicely, I will make more. DH and my mother are our only kraut-eaters, so I don't want to get carried away.

Blanched and froze another 2 giants heads each of cauliflower and broccoli - about 10 meal-sized quart bags. One of the cauliflowers was deep purple - turns a pretty lavender color when you blanch it. I hope it doesn't lose much more color when I cook it later - it would turn gray, which is unappetizing.
The last pint of bread-n-butter pickles from the summer got opened, and I found Kirby cukes on sale, so it was pretty quick to slice them and boil some syrup for 2 quarts of refrigerator pickles.

Cooked: Made a huge batch of broccoli-cauliflower-cheddar soup, and froze a quart before the ravening hordes sucked down the rest. Made the first parsnip cake of the season -I love that stuff, this time with craisins and walnuts.

Grilled the corn from the market, and cut off the kernels, then made corn cob stock from the cobs. The corn went into a Cuban-Inspired Pork Chili I tried for the first time. The stock went into a new cornbread recipe. Then the cobs went to compost bucket for the worms. I used the hell out of those last four ears of fresh corn!

I'm getting better with the seasonal cooking from the pantry. Now, if only I could stay in the bread-making groove. I just keep forgetting to put it in.

Managed: Found a big popcorn tin for all my baking chocolate. Mom says she has more tins for other things that come in soft packaging. Tins are really common at yard sales, too, but I usuallly ignore them. I labeled the storage jars I've added lately - DH notices if I don't and asks what is in every jar. Updated the list of what's in the freezer.

Checked the potatoes and squash I stored a few weeks ago, and everything looks okay. It hasn't been really chilly in the cellar yet, so I am a little worried things will start to spoil. I still need to get more onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, but I don't think the cellar is cold enough yet.

We have hard water that leaves soap scum and lime scale in the tub and toilet. I've tried all the combos of vinegar, salt, and baking soda cleanser that I can stand, and I am going back to chemicals for now, until we are out of this rented hovel, with its bathroom mold problem. The scum and scale provide a foothold for the mold that regularly creeps out from behind the poorly-intalled plastic shower walls to climb the walls and climbs the shower curtain. I feel guilty about the chemicals, but I can't stand the mold. I hate when people visit and have to see our bathroom. Ugh.

Prepped: At the Goodwill, I found a large black metal picture frame that gave me a holiday gift idea. Found a package of Graco stroller netting intended to protect babies in strollers from mosquitoes, but I am going to use it to protect containerized plants from bugs next summer.

Fabulous Freecycle Find: I got a very large cast iron griddle. The brand is Texsport, and appears to sell online for $35-40. I've wanted a griddle for a long time. This one is 24" deep, almost 27" with the handles, and is actually too big for my current stove. It would be great on a commercial stove with cast iron burners. It would also work ourdoors over a fire or a charcoal grill. I'm dying to be able to make more than one pancake at a time. The flip side has a ridged grilling surface.

Stored: DH brought home 4 cartons of grits (6#). When I looked surprised, he said, "I don't know why you are always so surprised when you ask me to get something and I actually come home with it." He's right; I don't give him credit for being a good shopper. And he really is 100% behind our efforts to stock up, even if he and I disagree on where the economic crisis will ultimately take us. He also brought two big boxes of decaf tea bags and two canisters of hot cocoa mix when he saw them listed on our shopping white board.

Made a last large food run (about $250), shopping the sales at various places. I remember a line from someone's blog, something like this: "I never need anything from the store. I shop to restock, taking a advantage of loss-leader sales. If you don't need something, you can always wait for the best price." That's my goal, and I am almost there. I only need milk, eggs, cheese, a little produce (like bananas), a few bread and cracker products. I am not making enough bread and rolls yet. We also buy a few treats, but not from need.
Redner's had a 40% off sale on store-brand fresh chicken, so I bought about $20 worth and froze 10 meal-sized packages: 4 bags chicken breast, 2 bags boneless thighs, 2 bags whole thighs, 2 bags drumsticks. Also got 4 canisters of bread crumbs, and 4# of margarine for baking, to freeze.

Price-Rite was good for 12 assorted cans of beans, 10 cans of albacore tuna, a gallon of white vinegar, 2# of brown sugar, cat litter, boullion cubes, pound bags of candied ginger and dried pineapple (only $1.49!), 4# box of dry milk, and pork ribs for the chili. For the freezer, I got 3# of shrimp, 3# of hot dogs, a pound of bacon, two bags of bagels, 2# of meatloaf mix, and 2 pints of heavy cream. They also had cheap garlic and kirby pickles. It's a great place to buy Hispanic seasonings, and I got dried chipotle peppers that I jarred up.

Big Lots did not impress me. Their prices on odd lots of canned goods are not much better than regular grocery sales. I like the Buy-Rite liquidator much more. I did buy 15 cans of Campbell's soup, a 7oz bottle of vanilla extract, a 2# can of peanuts (for granola), 3# of whole grain pasta, and 3 canisters of raisins. Cleaning products were cheap, so I got steel wool, cleanser, toilet cleaner for hard water, and citrus cleaner.

I cherry-picked the Giant specials: 30# of King Arthur white whole wheat flour for $3.20 per 5# bag (regularly 4.49) was my favorite deal. Lots of Buy-One-Get-One-Free: kielbasi, bacon, split chicken breast, frozen ravioli, Bagel Bites for DD12. Half price center-cut pork chops. Good sale on ricotta and mozzarella - can't freeze them, but they will stay good unopened in the fridge for several months. Also picked up some Fels Naptha soap, washing soda, baby wipes, natural dish soap.

Aldi rounded out the freezer: Bratwurst, chicken nuggets, five 1# rolls of frozen ground turkey, a 12# ham, and 4# of butter. Also got more dandruff shampoo, oats, ziplock bags, lemon juice, chunk light tuna, sugar, peanut butter, pancake syrup, rice crispies, saltines, a stash of fig newtons, and extra toothbrushes.
Reduced, Reused, Recycled: Still haven't turned on any heat. The residual daytime heat is still enough carry us through the night, even when it hits freezing. It's about 64-67 in here during the day, a little warmer near one of the two south-facing windows. Sweatshirts and slipper-socks are enough to be warm, with lap blankets when we sit still. We closed the storm windows throughout the house. DH needs to get another blanket on his side of the bed; his feather comforter is getting old and a little thin. We each have our own layer of bedcovers to roll up in, allowing each of us the right coverage for our own internal thermostats. Like two giant larvae snuggled together.

We are doing badly at not using the dryer. I haven't found a masonry nail that will hold up the clothes rod, and we run out of indoor clothesline fast. The windy weather has landed some laundry in the neighbor's muddy yard, and that wastes water on rewashing. I need to do some exploring of laundry aids at Home Depot or maybe Tractor Supply.

Local/Family: I bought local produce at the West Reading market: celeriac, baby bok choy, apples, carrots, eggs, 4 ears of the last sweet corn of the season, and 2 pecks of organic sweet potatoes to store. Some of what I bought at the more commercial Fairgrounds market was from a 100-mile radius. Erica from the B&H organic farm gave me a sample of the hard red wheat they have siloed; I plan to buy 50# from her, and encouraged her to grow spelt again, too.

Spent last weekend with DD15 at a youth retreat in Towson, Maryland. There is another in November in Annapolis, and I am scheduled for youth leader training in Philadelphia. Note to self: figure out how to tie the youth stuff into the food security stuff. Maybe develop an awareness workshop that presents basic info and makes suggestions for action - sorta like An Inconvenient Truth, but for food.

Learned: Checked with my chef-friend Rosella, who used to own a fresh pasta business. I wanted recommendations for a pasta machine. She said that most of the all-metal manual pasta makers are fine and cost less than $20 on eBay. That was a relief, after pricing water filters and grain mills that run $250-300, and the $200 Squeezo fruit mill. I will ask Rosella for a pasta-making lesson for the girls and I. We can also try making crackers.

DH found a great article at PlanetGreen about Green Sex. We both thought the bamboo sheets sounded good. Lots of resources listed there, as well as discussion about phthalates in sex toys and condoms. You'd think sex was already a pretty green activity, wouldn't you?

Library: Stopped at a used book store in Maryland last weekend, and bought some fiction. Looked at the garden and food books, but didn't find anything I really wanted. The gardening books were almost all about ornamentals, which once would have made me happy. Now, I want books about growing and preserving food.

DH and I each have a large collection of winter reading - I suspect we will run out of winter before we run out of books. I can't begin to express how much I love having a reading partner, after several oldbad relationships with people who were jealous of the booktime. DH and I even often like the same stuff; we've expanded each other's reading horizons. I can face any apocalypse, if I just have enough books and right person with whom to share them.


Hannah said...

Wow, you are really on the ball with your food storage!

If you ever need any food storage tips or recipes, feel free to stop by our blog. Good luck!

Hannah @

Matriarchy said...

I do read your blog! Storing more oats this month. I was happy to see the granola article, as I am planning to make some soon.

MARIE said...

My friend Sharon's daughter runs a CSA Circle M Farm in Blanchardville, Wisconsin. That's too far for us! But, the site is full of interesting stories and some recipes you might like.

MeadowLark said...

Couple of thoughts...

Kraut in pint jars. That's brilliant. I don't grow cabbage and thought I would have to buy enough for, like, 5 gallons or something and I'm not even sure if we'll like it. Good idea. Feel free to post more information. :)

Pasta machine. I made ravioli. If I can do it, anybody can. Mine is just hand cranked and it's actually fairly entertaining. Although I use the kitchenaid for the dough because I'm just plain lazy. Pics of the ravioli at my place, btw.

On a not-related note, there are some intersting thoughts here. I'm not a "survivalist", but he did have a few words that made sense.