Monday, December 1, 2008

Independence Challenge - Week 30

Cider jugs lined up and waiting for us to sanitize the "primary fermentation" bucket. Note the elegant metal computer desk that has become a kitchen storage fixture. I hope to find a small corner cupboard or utility cupboard to replace that. I'd love to have storage for small appliances and the cast iron collection.
I got a cold the day after Thanksgiving, so I have not accomplished as much as I hoped over the holiday break. I have not met my goal of being ready to have my mom move in by the end of this month. Hopefully, by Christmas. It's hard to re-organize your whole house, while still carrying on the regular daily stuff.

We did have a nice holiday of cooking, visiting with family and friends, watching films, and relaxing at home. And we did mop up a couple of half-done projects. It's December 1st, so the kids will want to start our paper Christmas tree project this evening. It's kind of a reverse advent calendar; we add something every day until the star goes on top on Christmas Eve. I'll take photos as that develops.

Planted: Nothing.

Harvested: Cabbage and lemon thyme.

Preserved: Started a bucket of hard cider fermenting. I'll make a separate post about that with photos. The apples are not organic, but Weaver's uses an Integrated Pest Management program that minimizes spraying, and their cider is UV pasteurized, not heated, so it should be good for making hard cider.

I jarred up horseradish I grated from a root. Peeled it, grated and ground it in the food processor with some white vinegar. It made about a pint. DH leaned over and took a big whiff while it was still in the food processor - really cleared his stuffy nose! People say it will only keep its heat for a few months in the fridge. I want to plant some, and make it part of our late fall routine.

I made my own cranberry sauce. It was so easy; just a cup each of water and sugar, simmered with a bag of berries. It made about 2/3 of a quart jar that I am keeping in the fridge. Next time, I will jar it in pints and water-process it. Found a new cranberry sauce-filled muffin recipe to try this week.

I made a big mistake that cost me 3 quarts of really good chicken stock. I had once accidentally frozen a quart of stock in a jar, and it didn't break. So I thought, "Hmm, why not use my reusable jars, instead of plastic bags? I can just move jars right from freezer to fridge as needed." Wrong! All three were broken the third day, I guess after freezing really solidly. Wasted jars and stock. I made 6 quarts of new turkey stock. In quart freezer ziplocks, thank you.

Cooked: Wednesday night there was an interfaith Thanksgiving service, hosted this year at our church. There were Muslim, Buddhist, Baha'i, Hindu, Christian and Jewish guests. I baked a Parsnip Spice Cake. I know a bit about kosher cooking, but I know almost nothing about the Halal dietary laws that Muslims observe. Just enough not to use lard or alcohol-based vanilla extract. I made a label for the plate on the refreshment table, listing the ingredients - so, whether the guests were vegan, vegetarian, Jewish, or Muslim, they could decide for themselves whether to eat it.

It's not a new recipe, but I took an all-local Cornbread Pudding to the family Thanksgiving feast in Philadelphia. When you are not the host, you don't get leftovers, so on Sunday night I roasted some turkey parts and made some pie, so I could have leftover turkey sandwiches and pie. And I had more pie and turkey sandwiches today. :-)

DH caught me roasting a butternut. 'What's that?" "Pumpkin," I said. 'No it's not. It's squash! I don't like squash." "You like pumpkin pie, and pumpkin is a squash, and most pie pumpkins look more like this than jack-o-lanterns - you just never see pumpkin except out of a can." "Still. Not eating it." Which is how I ended up baking sweet potato pie. I'll make pumpkin muffins with the other orange stuff. ~sigh~

Stocked: Hair conditioner, copy paper, packing tape. Parsnips and unshelled walnuts.

I got sucked into Wal-Mart, originally in search of a $13.95 haircut. I already go there once a month to get a $4 prescription refill. But once you are in, the prices are mesmerizing, and you end up buying conditioner, copy paper, and tape. They had sweet potatoes for $.38/lb, green beans for .99/lb, and .68 sleeves of celery. I see how people end up shopping there, even as they mutter, "I hate Wal-Mart." You hate that you want to buy things. I'm so torn - Wal-mart is our nation's largest retailer, and they are making an effort to sell local and organic products. Shouldn't I try to support that? But the organization as a whole is the most non-local thing in the world. When I get a new Rx, I will switch to Target, who I hear has a similar $4 program. If I don't go in there, I won't have to deal with the ethical conflicts.

Friday, I bought almost nothing on "Buy Nothing Day." Just two matinee film tickets and a bag of Swedish Fish, for my mother and I to see The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Holocaust-themed film are never feel-good, and this one was immediately followed by a ladies' rest room full of weepiness, but it was good to go to the movies with her.

On Saturday, a friend of DD15's came to visit for the afternoon. They live in Maryland, but were doing a holiday road trip in our area, and the kids wanted to go to a movie and hang out. It was all arranged via text message and Facebook. I had never met his mother, but I couldn't just let her wander around unhosted, so DH and I took her to lunch, and then she came with me to Weaver's Orchard. I bought half a bushel of our favorite Honeycrisp apples for eating and 7 gallons of cider (5 for the bucket and 2 for drinking), as well as Crispins and McIntoshes to make applesauce, and some other fresh veggies. My new friend also bought apples and veg. Her son has a severe peanut allergy, so she is very mindful about food. When we came back to Reading, we toured the GoggleWorks art center while we waited for the kids. Then we showed them the nightime view from the Pagoda. She told me about a big book sale event in Annapolis, and I told her about our AAUW book sale. I don't know if DD15 and this boy will date, but at least I made a new mom-friend!

Prepped: DH got space blankets for the bug-out bags; they came in box of 12. He also bought forearm lifting straps for our general equipment supply. These straps allow you to use the leverage of your whole forearm to lift things, instead of relying on your hand strength to grasp. That's a great tool for people with hand disabilities like my arthritis. He also bought us a boning knife and a new pepper grinder - I looked for used items, but these are really essential cooking equipment for us, and it was worth buying new to get exactly what we needed. The knife really made a huge difference in meat carving.

He also got four packages of military-style emergency rations for our bug-out bags. They have a five-year shelf life, so I have to figure out how to remember to rotate those. Ugh - we may have to eat them in five years. Each vacuum-sealed brick has six 400-calorie portions of "pleasant lemon vanilla flavor" stuff. Maybe I could put cubes of it on the coffee hour snack table at church - hee hee!

Managed: The sweet potatoes in the cellar are getting shriveled. I have not been using them fast enough. I think I better roast them all and freeze chunks or puree. The squash look fine. I just roasted the first one. The white potatoes are slightly shriveled, but not bad, and we use them regularly. The onions look good. I have not gotten the cellar thermometers I meant to get, and we have been using the clothes dryer for towels, sheets, and jeans - bottom line, I think the cellar has not been as cold and damp as needed for good root storage. The local harvest comes in long before the cellar is chilly enough.

I've been eating the little bits out of the freezer - four pierogies, a lone burrito, that kind of thing that accumulates in the upstairs freezer. I must find time to really re-organize it this week. The stuff in the front comes and goes briskly, but I can't remember what is in the back.

Funny how many things get done here by people wearing
pajama pants. I don't think the worms noticed.

Reduced, Reused, Recycled: We finally got the worm bin started. I will make a separate blog post for that. The poor worms hibernated in the fridge for more than a month. They were still alive, and I hope they warm up and start making little worms very quickly.

Family/Local: Doing some research to prepare for the food security seminar for youth, and the food discussion group at our church, both of which will start in January. People are definitely interested. Heard about a Three-Bowl Ritual that focuses on food waste awareness - might be good for a group activity.

Learned: Signed up for a December 2nd webinar about Small Farm Incubators. It will be good for me to better understand the obstacles to small farm operations, if I eventually want to build a buying co-op with local suppliers.

Library: I'll put this in the "library" section since it contributes to our journaling and documenting. DH got a fancy new Canon camera. His aunts wanted to give him a graduation gift in May, and they finally agreed on a camera. DH is a writer, and might be able to sell more freelance work if he can also supply photos. Our older Kodak EasyShare DX7590 camera now officially becomes "mine" and I plan to find a macro lens for it on eBay. It's hard to take garden and food pix without a close-up lens.


Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I have to admit I shop at Wal Mart for good because my dollar can stretch so much farther there.

In the late spring through Oct., I try to go to the farmer's market for fruits and veggies and the money I save at Wal Mart on other items helps me have the funds to shop the farmer's market.

Matriarchy said...

That's a good point, Brenda. I don't mean to seem holier-than-thou about Wal-Mart. They do so many things that make people unhappy, but when you have to stretch a budget, you do whatever it takes. I go to a grocery liquidator that sells some expired products and dented cans, which many people would not buy. It's actually cheaper than Wal-Mart, and it lets me spend more on local veg. Until local systems are better established, I guess I should not agonize over Wal-Mart, as long as I am helping to build up the local systems.

fullfreezer said...

I try not to shop at Wal-Mart unless I can't avoid it. But I do go to some of the other big-box stores which probably aren't any better. I think you're right, try to support the local foods and business first- but there comes a point where budget concerns come in. I've been trying to buy only locally raised, pastured meat but that gets expensive. Looking at our income dropping significantly at the end of the year, I stocked up on a few turkeys at the grocery store after Thanksgiving. We can't get just the backs here but at 59 cents per pound for a whole turkey, I didn't think we could go wrong. We'll be eating lots of turkey and stock in the next few months. Good thing I had some room in the freezer.
Sounds like you have been busy, even with a cold.

Matriarchy said...

I have to remember to leave more room in my freezer for turkeys. I can't squeeze more in just yet. But I know that some stores will have a clearance of frozen birds after Christmas.

I think I caught this cold from bloggers! LOL... it seems like every blog is talking about being sick. I'm lucky to have two older kids and a DH that is around a lot; they help me get things done.

I promise to catch up with your Green Meme nomination very shortly. I got side-tracked by the holiday.

eSpares said...

I make a lot of chicken stock too for freezing - having tried all kinds of receptacles my favourite so far has been tupperware with a locking lid. The reason for this is simply that it means you can stack your stock - it keeps my freezer tidy and I can fit more frozen goods in my tiny UK freezer.

risa said...

We go to a dented-can store for some things, a co-op for some, and an employee-owned grocery for some, though always trying to make the garden do more than half the work.

Sometimes I feel hypocritical about my "greenness" and social conscience stuff, but then I feel it's maybe to my credit that if everyone got their food where I get mine, McDonald's would go bankrupt overnight.

Your mention of the ironware caught my eye. We have a very old house, and while it has some awful drawbacks, such as finding the occasional frog singing in the bathroom (cute but an indicator), any place you put a nail you can hang whatever you jolly well want on it and the item will stay put!