Monday, November 17, 2008

Independence Challenge - Week 28

This is one of my favorite breakfasts, oatmeal with fruit and yogurt.
I cut up two very ripe pears for this batch...

Planted: Ginger root sprouts; put in water to root. Did a little fall garden clean-up, much more still to do. I wanted to bag my mom's leaves, but she (and all her neighbors) blew them to the curb and her Township came by with the giant leaf-sucker before I got any. At least we can get free leaf compost next spring from the Township facility. Although, with all the wind and rain, I bet there will be more in Mom's yard.

Oatmeal: 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 cup water, a handful of raisins,
a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar mix, a pinch of salt. Cook on low for 5 minutes
or so, until thick, while peeling pears
. Dump onto pears.

Harvested: Two more little heads of cabbage, broccoli, basil, lemon thyme, rose hips, lemon balm.

Preserved: Made apple butter with some apple seconds - Gala, Goldrush, and #10's. I wanted to experiment with adding much less sugar than usual. Filled a 4-quart slow cooker to the top with peeled apple pieces and added 2 tsp cinnamon, a sprinkle of nutmeg, 1/4 tsp of ground cloves, 2 Tbl of sugar, one Tbl of apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Then I cooked it for 10 hours on low, the last 2 hours with the lid sideways. When it cooled, it was still watery, so I put it back in a pot on the stove for about an hour on the lowest setting, and whizzed it with the immersion blender. It got very thick and I put it in a jar for the fridge. Not as sweet as the store-bought kind, but we like it that way. I think next time I would start it at night, let it cook overnight covered, and then have the whole next day to watch it cook down with no lid. Yielded a little over a pint from 4 quarts of apples - I need a bigger crockpot to produce enough to can for our pantry.

Then I top it with about a cup of homemade yogurt sweetened
with a squirt of honey. "It's like gravy for oatmeal!"

Cooked: Tropical produce like pineapple, avocados, and clementines is on sale. We love clementines, and can go through a 5# case in one day. They are only on sale in November and December - I see them other times of year, but they become very expensive out of season. I know they come from Spain, and I will miss them when import costs rise to where they stop shipping. I feel like a bad locavore when I buy them, but we can't grow citrus in Pennsylvania. We traditionally peel a whole case of clementines and put out a big bowl of juicy little segments as a Thanksgiving appetizer. I can deal with anticipating seasonal fruits that only appear for a short time in the annual cycle of seasons, but I don't look forward to never getting citrus, bananas, pineapple and other things that don't grow in the Northeast US. I expect their prices to climb beyond what I will pay, as a rising fuel prices and the import credit crunch.

My "Bacon of the Month Club" delivery arrived this week. Oscar's Applewood Bacon this month. Did I mention that I won a subscription to this last holiday season, by blogging at Serious Eats? I won Bacon! I can't even recall anything else I got for Christmas. I feel crappy about the carbon footprint, and I would never buy this for myself, but I must admit that I have loved it while it lasts. I've been watching for other blogging-for-prizes opportunities.

DD12 ran out of jarred pizza sauce, so we mad some. She is very particular about things, so we had low expectations. I found a popular recipe with lots of good feedback online, and made it a little more bland for her - no red pepper flakes, less black pepper and spices. We also whizzed it up with the hand blender, since she doesn't like lumpy texture. She pronounced it, "Not the best I ever had, but not as terrible as I expected." Believe it or not, I think that means she will eat it. I froze it in pint containers. DD12 made us tortilla pizzas, and I liked it just fine, so I kept the recipe.

Stored: Seems to be the season for canned fruit sales. I got ten cans of pineapple, 6 of tomato paste, kosher salt, and 6 packages of deeply-discounted black Halloween napkins. DH got 2 big cans of WD-40 and more hot cocoa mix.

Know what? Grocery shopping only cost about $50 this past 10 days or so, including the stuff I bought for storage. Most of it was produce and milk. This business of having food stored is pretty cool.

Prepped: Found two cast iron skillets on Craigslist, smaller 6.5" and 8" skillets to round out my collection. Also got an Atlas pasta maker, with a ravioli attachment - whoo hoo! I have been wanting to try making crackers, as well as pasta. With lasgana on the menu for next week, this was good timing.

DH, DD15, my mom, and I all went to a free flu shot clinic at the state Dept of Health. Saved $120. Then we went out for breakfast. Spent $20. (DD12 got her shot at school.) My arm doesn't even hurt.

DH took DD15 to buy a winter coat. Normally, that's a Mom job, but she thought she already had one picked out. Turns out, it was too lightweight - a rain coat. He did an excellent job of helping her choose a black wool pea coat that will last for years and can be dressed up or down. Good Dadding! Next, he can take DD12 for a school sweater and a winter coat!

OK, this might not seem like "preparations," but it was on the Media Plan. I came back from the store, and DH was all aglow. Uh oh. "I thought you should know that I bought a 42" HDTV while you were gone." Apparently, he called DD15 over to watch him click the cursor, and say "I just spent $1000." It is in our long-term media plan, and our Christmas plan, and we think this is a good time to take advantage of frightened retailers, and he shopped for more than a month before deciding that Amazon had the best deal, and he got free shipping, and he did not use credit. Still a huge purchase. I hope it moves us faster toward saving $100/mo by giving up cable TV and get Netflix. The TV will pay off a year after giving up cable. For people who do not watch TV at all, that might not make sense, but for a family that enjoys film as much as we do, it does.

Managed: Worked on menu planning, to do a better job of eating out of storage. This coming week, we will see if I can stick to the plan. I also participated in a little round of "show me your fridge" and that actually helped me with the menu planning. I think I might take pix of the fridge more often.

DD15 got those big oil containers washed in the bathtub, refilled with water, and carted to the cellar. They add 15 gallons to my water reserves (15 gallons in crated milk jugs). With the water in the hot water heater, we now have 2 weeks of water for 5 people (counting my mother).

We returned the solar lantern; it would not charge. We may make a trip to the huge Cabela's outdoor outfitter that is about 15 miles away. They might have a lot of different lantern options to look at, in person.

Reduced, Reused, Recycled: The car was acting up again, another $260 worth of spark plug and battery trouble. We want our 2000 Jeep Cherokee to last a few more years, to see where we end up and what vehicles come onto the market. But it's fighting us. I think all the driving to conferences is taking a toll. Offsetting that annoyance is the news that I will be able to apply for mileage reimbursement, retroactive to when we first got involved in the youth group this spring. Whew! That will be a help, as will some offers by fellow youth advisors to make room for us in their car pools.

Does anyone have idea for how I can reuse these canisters? I hate
to throw them away, but I can't think how to use them. They are
not bug- or rodent-proof, and only moderately moisture-proof.

I moved the fridge and vacuumed the coils to make it more efficient. (Wow. That sounds so green, doesn't it? OK, here's what really happened: I dropped the lid to the ice tea pitcher down between the cabinet and the side of the fridge. In moving the fridge to get it, I knocked the hot cocoa canister off the top of the fridge. Much vacuuming ensued. ~sigh~ )

I posted to Craigslist to find some free leftover carpet padding to insulate that cold section of bedroom floor over the porch. So far, I only got offers to sell big rolls of it.

Local/Family: Getting ready to take some big steps in this area. I am "ramping up" my involvement in community food security, in a couple of ways. (Get it? Ramping Up is the name of this blog!) I have a lot of things to take care of this fall, including moving my mom in for the winter, so the new activity will start in January - this is planning time.
This summer, at our national convention in Florida, delegates at the 2008 General Assembly selected “Ethical Eating” to be the 2008-2012 Congregational Study/Action Issue (CSAI) of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (PDF Study Guide). I am going to take that on in my congregation here in Reading, by organizing a study group. A lot of folks are already interested in various food issues, and we run a monthly food pantry distribution, so I think there will be a high level of interest.

In January, I am going to start organizing a local bulk purchasing coop. I will focus local foods, but my larger concern is that city folk find access to inexpensive bulk food staples, so it will not all be local or organic. I've been talking to some people about this for a few months.

I was at another youth conference with my daughter the weekend of Nov 7-9. Part of it was a planning meeting for January event that will focus on Social Action issues. I volunteered to develop a 75-minute youth workshop about "Ethical Eating" for the January conference. Too short to go into a lot of detail, so I will use it to show how food security issues affect all of us, introduce a range of issues, and invite them to choose an issue to learn more about. I will also bring food to taste, which will attract the little beasties to my workshop. We do 4-6 conferences a year, for 50-100 youth each time, many of them repeat attendees. I may work on a series of workshops, perhaps develop a workbook for other youth programs.

I am becoming a Science Inquiry Helper at DD12's public school. The theme of this magnet school is "Agriculture, Science, and Ecology," and it has already gotten an award even thought it did not open yet. I'm going in there to see what they are teaching these city kids. That got me invited to a Key Communicator dinner at the new school, which I found disturbing on several levels. More about that another day, but let's just say I am ruined for public school after having homeschooled. I keep repeating to myself, "DD12 is happier in public school."
We had a family conference this week. The family groans whenever I say, "Let's have a family conference." They know there will be work involved. We just had the last week of soccer season, freeing our schedule until spring season starts. I have not been getting as much done as I would like in preparing the attic, so I delegated to DH and the girls. We are setting aside some afternoons and evenings where I help sort stuff, then they will move it around and do the cleaning. Major push to declutter and organize over the next few weeks. We will go to DH's large family gathering in Philadelphia, so I don't have to cook or clean for guests.

Learned: Nothing formally, but there is seldom a project that does not result in my learning something new. I suspect I am about to learn to make pasta.

Pure evil.

Oh! I thought of something. I learned I can no longer make Jello Cake, which involves baking a 9x13 cake from boxed mix, then pouring a large package of prepared liquid Jello over it. Yellow Cake and Cherry Jello, for instance. Then you put it in the fridge for 3-4 hours, so the Jello firms up in the cake. I thought I would make one as a fun little snack. I cannot stop eating it. The sugar is like crack in its jello-ized form. I'm not used to it anymore. I better not ever make the Pudding Cake, either - which involves poking holes in a box cake and pouring liquid instant pudding over it - chocolate cake with chocolate pudding is especially devastating. It's tough to repress childhood flavor memories.

I'm trying to get back on my program of ordering one used book per week from my wishlist. This week, I ordered Annie Proulx' The Complete Dairy Foods Cookbook: How to make everything from cheese to custard in your own kitchen (Rodale 1982). I've had this out from the library and liked it.

Our church had a service auction, and I bid on a gift certificate to a used book store located at a farmer's market in Lancaster County, about a hour away. I will get a $25 certificate for $10. And the trip will give me a chance to check out a market I have not visited in years, deep in Amish and Mennonite country. I might find those organic bulk potatoes I wanted.

Our church also has a book sale area, where donated books are sold as a small on-going fundraiser. Along with a little fiction, I found these last week:
Cabbage or Cauliflower: A Garden Guide for the Identification of Vegetable and Herb Seedlings. A very useful concept, and full of nice drawings, but I think photos might be better. I will test it out this spring. Perhaps I could use it as a sort of notebook, and add prints of photos I take of my own seedlings, for future reference when I forget to label a flat of something.

Bread Winners, a 1979 book from Rodale about bread bakers and their recipes. I bet there are a lot of tasty winter experiments in there.

Garden Bulbs in Color, a 1939 book full of colorized plates. I am not much of a bulb person, but I think it is a good addition to the garden book shelf, in case I become more interested when I have more yard. I typically like vintage cottage-garden flowers, and this book will give me old names.
We've been buying some new books, too, much as I prefer used. All of DD15's friends are reading Twilight, and the movie comes out next week, so she is racing through the book. Maybe anything that encourages teenagers to read should be supported.


fullfreezer said...

My daughter is a 'Twihard' and has read all the books. She threw a fit last summer because the last book was coming out while we were on our way to the beach (NC) to meet family from the Reading area. We had to stop in West Virginia on our way out of the hotel to pick it up so she could read in the van. It at least kept her from harassing her brothers.
You will have fun making pasta. I had an Atlas pasta maker but lent it to someone years ago and it was never returned (he has since denied that he ever borrowed it) but I got the pasta rollers for my KitchenAid mixer. Love it.
We sprang for our big HDTV last spring. We were at Best Buy and noticed that they had lots of returns. It turns out that people buy them to watch the Super Bowl and then return them. I can't imagine doing that but we got an essentially new TV for $500 off because it was a return. It was one that we had been contemplating for a while but ended up getting spur of the moment.

eunice said...

have you ever tried the FreeCycle network. it's a way to keep reusable items out of the landfill as communities pool their collected unwanted items for others to pick through. you could even post a WANTED item and see if anyone will respond with leftover carpet padding for you to use. it's an alternative to CraigsList and best of all, everything is free. here's the FreeCycle group for Reading.

woohoo! Matriarchy is an organizer.

Matriarchy said...

Freecycle is great! I have gotten a lot of good stuff that way. A woman at my church jokes that we chase each other through the Freecycle posts. This week, I just happened to find what I wanted on Craigslist - I watch those ads, too, and they also have a section for free stuff.

I've been looking at pasta makers on eBay for a while, so I jumped at the chance to get one locally, and not have to pay shipping. Picking it up took me to a cute little neighborhood behind the airport, where I had never been in all the time I've lived here. And the woman made a trellis out of an upside-down tomato cage, that I am going to try with my clematis next spring.

Verde said...

Sounds as if you are busy, as usual. I read the latest twlight book while we were on vacation - much fighting ensued over whose turn it was to read.

I won't tell my DH about the TV. We have never purchased a TV before - all hand me down and used and he is making noise about getting a TV.

Matriarchy said...

My TVs were always used and hand-me-down, too. Then I met DH. He is *very* media-oriented, and he brought with him stereos, TVs, game systems, and assorted electronic gadgets. He also quadrupled the cable bill. Now we are thinking about the future and predicting that our TV, news, and film viewing will move from cable to internet in 3-5 years. But I don't want our family viewing to move from one shared experience to a lot of small separate screens, so that means setting up a system centered on a large monitor. That's what DH just bought. A little sooner than I expected, but once he started looking at them, I guess it was inevitable. We do plan to make this thing to last for many years.

In fact, the thing just arrived and DH and DD15 have been setting it up, We just watched a piece of familiar film in HD - and I have to say it was pretty impressive.

If your family is not as invested in film-watching, this would be an extravagant purchase. Some would argue is is unnecessary for any family, a symbol of our unbalanced consumerist society. But I don't intend to throw out the technology with the bathwater as the world changes. The media system we build may end up being used by several families - for entertainment, education, and possible video-conferencing for business.

DD15 is part of an 65-church regional youth steering committee, and one thing we are talking about to better connect far-flung youth groups is video production and media conferencing. As the cost of travel rises, I want to be prepared to be part of the devloping alternatives to face-to-face meetings.