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Friday, December 30, 2011

MMMM.....Bread!

I have been laid-up, so to speak, the last week because I had my wisdom teeth pulled, OUCH!
The last few days I have been feeling better and craving some good home cooked food. I got into my old Fannie Farmer Cookbook and decided to make rolls for dinner last night. I have been craving some good bread, and yearning for a new bread recipe book :s
The rolls came out ok, and I had dough to spare that I wrapped up and put in the fridge. It was a quick mix recipe, so I am hoping that it holds. I decided today to make cinnamon bread, another bread I have been daydreaming about and have never tried. I just set it to rise, so I will have to get back to you on how it turns out. Either way, it really is so much fun. Bread is like a living thing, and it is so much fun to m. make! My dear friend, and future sister in law, makes a lot of bread with her mom. They use a bread machine to knead the dough. She has this recipe for jalepeno cheese rolls that is really fabulous. My husband loves the bread, but can't eat the peppers, so I will have to omit the fillings. The rolls themselves are seriously sweet. Great for dinner rolls! I am going to have to get that recipe from them!

So I have been online scouring Amazon to use a gift card I got for Christmas. I found a few really interesting books and put some on my wish list, and others I used the card for. Here are the ones that are on the way: (I read a bit of them with the "look inside" feature, really cool!)
FRESH BREAD COMPANION (Traditional Country Life Recipe Series)

this looked interesting, and was the only bread book I could afford. I hope it is good!
500 Treasured Country Recipes from Martha Storey and Friends : Mouthwatering, Time-Honored, Tried-and-True, Handed-Down, Soul-Satisfying Dishesthis one I have heard about, and I love Storey Publishing, so I am confident I will love it. Plus it was less than $1...Can't beat that price!
Then I also purchased several Storey Country Wisdom Bulletins, one for milk soap, making cheese, butter and yogurt, and one on braiding rugs (I was wanting to make some rag rugs out of old work jeans for the house, LOL).
The book I am most excited about is:
Make the Bread, Buy the ButterThis is one of those books that I would have loved to write! So I know I will love reading it. I wanted the hard copy, not the kindle version for this one!
I have already read the intro online, it is going to be fabulous! And one that I think my sister-in-law will also enjoy!

There were so many things I wanted to buy on amazon, but I will wait! But I am still in the mood for some baking and home cooking, so I am delving into my Fannie Farmer Cook book and my Fleishman's bread book, which I adore!
Fleischmann's Bake-It-Easy Yeast Book
The Fannie Farmer Cookbook Eleventh EditionI love these books!!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chickens

This spring we bought 6 pullets (or so we thought). One turned out to be a rooster, and we gave him away along with one hen.  We now have 4 city hens, that have just begun to lay.

 The weather has turned cold, and I am about to seal the coop up so that it is waterproof.
We have been feeding the girls Layena, and I just gave them a Flock Block. 


Now comes the planning portion of my chicken project. I orginally hoped that we would be moved to the Farm by winter, but since we are not, I have plenty of wiggle room in planning the future of the Flock's coop plans.

We are currently using a Chicken Ark, which we found pictures of online, and just slapped together after a bit of haggling and banter. What we came  up with works well for a handful of laying hens, but could still use a little fine tuning to make "just right". 


I am working on a back trap door for egg collection. Our current larger door would be used for cleaning. It needs new and sturdier handles.  I need one more board across the top, before I seal it up.  I would like to adjust the roosting perches, to ensure there is plenty of room with 4-6 hens. I would like to add a few hens each year and perhaps cull the older ones. I am not sure yet.

Now the "planning" I spoke of.
I currently have 3 raised beds made with cinder block, a potato bin made of recycled pallets, and 2 compost bins, also made of pallets.  When we move, I plan to change the garden quite a bit and also expand it greatly.
I have always wanted to practice sustainable agriculture, using crop rotation, green manures, compost and animals combined to get greater fertility in a concentrated intensive growing situation. What I plan to do now, is keep this "chicken Ark" and use it for the winter at the farm on top of my raised beds.

Bed #1 would be ready to plant...after having composted there previously.
Bed #2 would be current compost. Two bins that cover an entire bed. One would be the active bin, the other would be used to turn the compost into for the finishing stage.
Bed #3 would be the current location of the Chicken Ark. It would be used for one month (during winter and possible late fall or early spring, depending on that particular season). Straw would be used in the upper chamber along with pine shavings for bedding or nesting material. Each week this area would be scooped out, but the litter thrown below to the ground level.  As water and food is changed out, a new layer of CLEAN straw several inches thick would be added to the soiled straw, and the clean food and water brought back in. After 4 weeks, a thick layer of bedding and manure would be left. And the Ark moved to the next bed. This bed would then become divided into the 2 compost bins from bed #2.
Bed #4 would be the last of a cold frame crop (which there should be several to stretch through winter). As the crops are finished being harvested, the left over vegetable debris would be left for the chickens, when the Ark is moved onto it from Bed #3. This is done as in Bed #3. The chickens eat the vegetable debris, and bedding is added for 1 month, and all is composted once the birds are moved to the next bed.
Bed #5 Would be another cold frame, exactly as in bed #4 but at an earlier stage of maturity. This would be harvested at the same point that the Ark is moved from Bed #3 to Bed #4. The Ark would be moved here after spending 1 month on Bed #4. Followed by composting the manure and bedding.
Bed #6 Would be a hoop house that would have been put up about the same time as the two cold frames. The crops in the hoop house would likely differ from the cold frame crops. These would be brassicas, specifically Brussels sprouts, and Broccoli, Cabbage, etc. Perhaps some clamped potatoes, Some onions, leeks, garlic, etc from a fall crop.  This should be harvested by the end of the cold season (usually by March) and the hoop moved to the beginning of the beds to harden off transplants started elsewhere. The Cold frames can also be moved to the beds that are ready and have been composted to start more carrot, spinach, lettuce and other early plants in Spring, as well as early potatoes.

By the time that the chicken ark has moved from Bed #1 to Bed #6, the season should be warmer. The hoop house could have the plastic sheeting removed, leaving only plastic netting. The Entire hoop would be moved to pasture, and a shelter/nest box could be put inside. This structure would be light enough to move daily during the months when the grass is very green and there are many bugs. You would have to come to the location of the hoop house to collect eggs, feed and water the chickens. But they would get the full benefit of pasture, without being harmed by predators or becoming messy around the farm buildings.

At the end of the warm season, the chickens would be transferred to the ark, and the process would begin again. The hoop could have the plastic put back on to protect late vegetables, and the chickens would be moved successively as the crops are harvested. Ant new beds would be planted down to the winter crops for the cold frames.

My plan has so many advantages, and I try to take sanitation into consideration. By building a hot compost pile, all at once and turning it into the second bin, the bedding and manure should reach temperatures hot enough to kill harmful microbes and bacteria.  The sanitation of the ark is considered, by cleaning the upperchamber weekly, and refreshing the litter beneath, giving them a clean and safe place to walk about (normally it would be much too snowy for them to be outside.)
And the benefit it provides to the owner, by keeping them close to the house (as is the garden) for taking care of them and collecting winter eggs. Also by being close to the home in winter, added light or heat can be used more easily.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Web Soil Survey...a useful tool

I have been studying again and I am trying to make a good, practical plan of action...step by step.
I am trying to be sure, what comes first!
Yesterday I went back to the PFI website, which I enjoyed so much last season, and I started looking at some old archived farminars.
Today that farminar led me to this INVALUABLE site, provided by USDA web soil survey.  The speaker was pretty great and I regret that I wasn't able to participate while it was live, I really enjoyed the recording anyways.
whole farm soil planning . It would have been a foreign language without having looked at it on the farminar, and listen to the discussion about it's infinite usefulness. It was better than the Christian County GIS, which I really had a ball with last year, and this is yet another useful tool in the box. I could see how incredibly helpful it would be in CHOOSING a property to farm, or even just for folk about to build a home. It is soooooo worth checking out. It has information about your soil type, it's water holding capability, and so much more.
For us, this could be areas prone to flooding (our house in town), or sinkholes (the neighborhood), moreso than the GIS, which I believe only gives info on existing sinkholes (in other words, the people using the system are the ones trained to put the clues together about what the maps mean).

I enjoyed many farminars in the last 48 hours! And feel like I have caught up on a lot going on and hope to stay up to date.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A slow spring with Books to read!

   At the local library again, with a relatively limited selection, I chose a few reads. The first two, were about chickens.
   The Joy of Keeping Chickens: The Ultimate Guide to Raising Poultry for Fun or Profit (The Joy of Series
This was a good read. The author genuinely likes the animals and cares that they are kept humanely. She educates others very well on what to expect when starting a flock for the first time, and seasons after. She gives a good general picture of chicken keeping, on the smaller scale, but still in a "for profit" venture, as well as just to have the pleasure of keeping a flock of your own.

   Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces I found this book to be a bit biased, as the author made clear that she didn't care for the idea of naming, and then butchering her pet chickens. She keeps them on a very small scale purely for their eggs and her personal enjoyment on an urban sized scale (in her case, 3 hens, in my case, I currently have 6 in town).
   Although this book did have some good information, it seemed to lead to the authors own personal opinions too much to recommend as an all around good chicken book. Most readers would lack the information they really need to get started, it read for me, more like a chicken novel.




 THIS IS SUCH A GREAT BOOK!!!!  :)
This book appealed to me on so many levels. I have absoutely always found it facinating what it was like to cook through the ages, particularly in america. I found so often in my middle school history classes that they had really disconnected history in their books. That it never really added up for me how people lived from day to day and I always enjoyed opportunities to reenact or imagine how they lived. I loved to read books with historical themes, and especially loved to read books about being "holed up" somewhere in the middle of winter, maybe in a cave, maybe in a cabin, struggling to survive, and living by skill alone. I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, I loved visiting the Williamsburg, Virginia and Jamestown reenactments and historical sites. I loved getting caught up in the ways of old, and this book really takes you there, all the way up to our unfortunate current way of life, so dependant on outside input and prepackaged, disposable life. It was all that I had been wondering about my mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and all their mothers before them. All the stories about "back in their hay day", I could see so clearly what the history books couldn't say. I am sad to finish the book, because I know how it ends, with my generation of google, Wikipedia, and digital books. How our lives are electronic, everything is e-commerce. Kids don't recognize fresh raw broccoli at school, they don't know how from my parent's generation...the boomers, to my generation, the x-ers, or whatever my kid's generation will be...things change SO FAST!!!
Since the industrialization of American women, since technology has reined supreme in a man's world...nothing will ever be how it used to be. And a major thing to remember, although this fast paced change has revolutionized cooking in a mere hundred years....it has opened up a world of opportunity for women. We truly take for granted how short a time has passed since women were the workhorse of all humanity. Life truly was not possible without mom. It is nice to learn the traditional ways of cooking. And get back to our roots, get back to the land..but we must be thankful for some of that change. I would love to own this book, it is on the wishlist, especially if in a hardcover!

This is another book I have picked up, but haven't read yet, since I have been absolutely engrossed in the previously mentioned book. But I will recheck it if I must.

I have absolutely always planned to have honey bees and become a bee keeper. It has been another on a long list of future hobbies.







This year, in the last few weeks, actually, we have been discussing getting Guineas.
   They love eating bugs, and even with a very cold winter, and exceptionally cool Spring, we have seen a very large number of ticks.  I hate the idea of spraying the entire property with chemicals. It's bad enough the herbicides required to kill 6 foot tall poison ivy plants. To add insult to injury, I refuse to use pesticides, unless over run with some horrible plague of insects like the end of Creepshow!
   My husband suggested the guinea fowl as a method of controlling ticks and after reading up a bit on them, and seeing one in person, I like the idea a lot. They get along with chickens and are even more hardy and helpful!

   I have read that they are very noisy and sound warning alarms toward strangers, and danger alike. Some people don't care for them because of this. With guineafowl, "Birds of a feather, flock together", they are gregarious, as bird lovers say. They are very social and it can be used to train them to return home to roost. They are called "The poor man's pheasant" and can be dressed as such. But in my opinion are much more useful as a pest controller than anything. I already had planned to build a permanent chicken coop on the farm, when we finally move, so now, I will also account for space for the new poults as well!! They are right around the same price range as chicks, they eat turkey starter, and mash initially, but when more mature, it is said that at least 90% of their diet is insects through all the warmer months. And after two weeks of age they are hardier than any other poultry. That sounds too good to be true. I am so glad that we are taking on birds for the farm as a start. I cant wait to start including critters on four legs!
Four legged animals are great for lawn mowing! As we have been having trouble keeping the grass cut and do not have the funds for a tractor, we now have a riding mower. I know we aren't ready for pets at the farm yet, and I can't keep something furry here long, besides the cats. I doubt the mower will last for ever, since it came from craigslist, but it is a start. I would like to get a little more yard clean up going on both properties this season, and start tilling up some plots for vegetables. Creating compost bins and getting water to them. We have human sized weeds to chop down, grass to mow, and poison to irradicate. I have flowers, and trees to plant. Berries to move around the land, and more to plant from town. I have planning for orchards, groves and vineyards, and I have animals to account for and arks to build! I have lots and lots of projects, here there and everywhere!
   there is plenty to do in the barns. to fix up and organize, to clean and move out of the way. Sorting, storing, and clearing away the cobwebs of years passed by. Fixing up for years to come! The grass just keeps on growing! Along with everything else!

 I am excited to get the chickens out of the brooder, and into their chicken ark permanently. And perhaps buy those keets! But alas! The weather has stayed cool all season! Plants aren't in the normal stages for this time of year. we are all getting a slow start!


  

Friday, April 29, 2011

Gotta Hurry

I spoke with the county office yesterday, and they said that our permit was set to expire this month. I gave her my sob story, that I had been in the hospital and worked had slowed to a crawl since January. I asked if we could have just the plumbing inspected. It's ready. And the HVAC is almost done, but we are behind finishing the electrical. She said don't worry, she will bump up the expiration date in the books and just get it all ready for rough in. I told her I wouldn't be able to afford a new permit. She said don't worry, about it. So hopefully that will buy us enough time to get done.
I know everyone expected us to be done by now. But that is how life goes. Life is trying and expensive. You have to roll with the punches, as they say.
So now we have to get to this punch list. My husband threw his back out and has been down for the count for most of April. He's feeling a little better, although it still hurts him and it is a nagging pain. We are hoping that he can go to a doctor or chiropractor soon, but it is just a matter of convincing him to go. For now, it's back to work, again.

I have been working on a few things. I have a few tricks up my sleeve as they say.

  1. We bought baby chicks last weekend, they should be a week old today. 6 pullets, of different breeds. I only know that 2 are supposed to be "golden comet" and the other four are "chickens"...I am not sure what they will be later.  Our intention was to keep them here in Springfield, because they just changed the ordinance last year, to allow them in the city. They would have to be kept in a chicken tractor, and never allowed out. we haven't built them a building yet, and I think that is my job. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperative, and we had monsoon like storms until just yesterday. 
  2. I spent some time last week trying to mow  by the old farm house. It looked really good, but after the storms, it has all grown up really fast! I found a morel mushroom under the lilac bush, a big one! And that got me excited! And yesterday, I nearly got a bullfrog with my mower. But luckily, the blades missed her, and I carried her up to the pond. Last night, we had a garter snake in the living room, a pretty good sized one. It had a spot that looked a bit skinned, and I set it free...I am guessing it was supposed to be a gift from one of our cats...most likely Mr.Meowers.
  3. I am wanting to put in a garden at the little farm house. We made a mess with the bobcat last year, cleaning up stumps and debris. the land is rutted up and hard to mow. We will be looking to rent bobcat again soon, and I will scrape off the sod to compost, and put in corn, potatoes and beans for summer. The soil down there is old, which means it is full of nutrient.  There are lots of maples and walnuts down there. and there is a long row of daffodils by the clothes line. I plan to put the garden in there, right along side them. It should benefit all of us, and will make for good cook outs and bonfire parties by the barn. :) Hopefully someday, there will be harvest parties!
  4. My Springfield potager is coming along, slowly. I have harvested asparagus, which I blanch and freeze if I can't eat it right away. You can hold it over for a while in a glass of water in the fridge, if need be. I also have chives and garlic we put in last year. I am not sure how many cloves I put in, but 4 remain, and that is a start! The chives, I cut with scissors, and dry in the dehydrator. It makes the whole house smell like onions! But it gives me a good supply for baked potatoes, salads, and whatever else I can find to use them in. Other crops, that we direct seeded, are sprouting: spinach, carrots, peas. I put in seeds of onion and leeks, but I don't think they will fruit out, so I will replant something else there. My intention is to grow a lot of salad greens, carrots and beans this year. And corn and potatoes.  I have eggplants and tomatoes as well, and a few pots of herbs.
  5. At the big house, I would like to start a little bit of naturalizing landscaping. Some natives like purple coneflower, I have already thrown out there. But I was thinking of a combination of things. Some natives along the borders of the fence rows, and some old fashioned favorites landscaping the house. I have so many plants here that I am proud of. Now I plan to dig them out and transfer them to Rogersville. I hate doing that, but I have just recently started to invest so much effort into them, that it would be a shame to not be able to enjoy them. In a rental, you never know what your tenants will decide to dig out and replace, so I only plan to leave things like vinca vines, and a few other ground covers. I will take the specimen plants with me, and make up the new landscape. That should help with our appraisal as well. 
That's it for now. These are our accomplishments and plans for the time being. This weekend they are calling for more rain, so we will probably work indoors on electrical, which is really needed.

I will try to post more, now that my computer is up and running again! :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Back to the Plan

Well, I guess an update is in order. A few short days after my last post I was taken ill and spent over a week in the hospital. My lung had collapsed. Apparently my years of smoking and my awful cold contributed to my spontaneous pneumothorax. It was awful, but I made it through it. I am still struggling with my addiction to tobacco, my feelings of angst, and a rather hefty hospital bill! :) But ..... I made it through it, so that is what I have to focus on.  I have to not worry about it, and concentrate on what is good, and how I can keep it so.

After my return home, and a few weeks of recovery, I started to cooking a lot of comfort foods. How cliche to eat instead of smoke, but it was just how I felt I wanted to spend time. those first weeks I made a lot of good meals.... Chicken cutlets with pork tenderloin red sauce, Lasagna, Stroganoff, Salisbury steak..... I started to bake dinner rolls and biscuits...then became more daring and tried my hand at sour dough....then deserts, yes cookies, that is easy...but also French Silk Pie....Mmmmmm...that's my husband's favorite.  And it began to occur to me that even though I have spent my life skinny, (and that is partly to blame for my lung collapsing) I am gaining weight after I stopped smoking. Granted, I am cooking all the time...but I always have. It's still the tail end of winter in the Midwest, so outdoor activity has come halting...so that may contribute too...but I think a lot of it is that we are just getting older. We may be wiser, I am not sure...but the older...that is a measurable event.
But I found some great sites while searching for my comfort in foods....some helpful advise is so great....

http://cookistry.blogspot.com/2011/03/technique-troubleshooting-dough.html
I keep returning to this one just to read about the breads! LOL, it's really a great start.
Thefreshloaf.com this one was pretty great, too.

I keep thinking "we HAVE to get that house done!"...it is costing us everyday we stay here! And it makes everyone miserable daydreaming about it.
I keep thinking "I won't be here forever".....I better enjoy NOW, NOW, or I may never have a chance. And I keep thinking, "you will be a better farmer without cigarettes....GET OVER IT!!!" So I will try!

I have been thinking of a few things I love....and remodeling is so a part of us (my husband and I). Last night I saw the best episode of  "I hate my kitchen" on DIY Network. Although I would not do exactly what that couple did, and I don't have a $21,000 budget...I DID love some of their choices. Green glass tiles, an integrated compost bucket (at over $300...GEEZ!) The stainless open shelving was AWESOME, although I would never do it....and a BEER TAP in the kitchen!!! YA! Now THAT, is right up my alley!!!
Well, except that mine will be in the breakfast bar section of the kitchen/dining.....
They used a bright green paint on the walls, which I LOVED...and it got me thinking about the colors of my space...hmmm....not a lot of walls in there....But I really loved the space...

but what was really cool was the magnetic primer they used under it.  After several coats of the primer, which was infused with iron....they used their walls as a magnetic board...it was pretty neat!!
It's all in the imagining how you will live in the space...what you can do to it, how you can change it to fit your needs.


Then I kept watching DIY Net...just because...I watched until it was pretty late.  I am a HUGE fan of the "crashers" series...BUT, I know I would never be so lucky as to get crashed...I really would love to...I even know their names...I think (Matt Muenster, Amed Hassan, and Josh Templeton...well, I think anyways!)
I like the shows because the remodels are FAST, the are SWEET looking, and they are FREE even though the materials they use (at least Matt always hooks it up) are CUTTING EDGE, and very PRICEY. So nice....so so nice! I know that there are other great shows on DIY, but the Crasher are my top pic...and Rehab Addict would be up there, too...because I really really love how Nikki preserves historical integrity. my husband says we are a lot a like, physically and otherwise! ;) Mostly because we both tend to have dark circles under our eyes, LOL and we are very petite ladies...well, some of us USED to be! LOL

So I am getting RE-motivated about the house....AND THE PROSPECT OF SPRING.


Right now we are in the process of wiring. We are making home runs, running the lighting circuits, installing can lights, receptacle and switch boxes, fan mounts.....We are making final decisions about the lay out....We are getting closer...and I love it.  HUGE things are coming....HUGE.  And with it, a huge amount of stress, too.  It is going to be a long process.....and I am realizing that it may take us until fall to complete the project.  Over a full year...but that is ok....I knew that things NEVER go to plan, and when your plan is as loose as ours....well, it's more likely to meander to the destination.  But it is all for the best.

I have pondered where to garden...here or there? And I decided HERE! and maybe THERE!!
I already have so much in place here, it is too much to ignore the plots out there. I figure, if nothing else, if we decided to take the cinder blocks from this garden, to start the next, what is stopping the plants in place from growing??  Not a thing!!
So I planted. I planted potatoes at the first of March, and the other day I covered them with compost. They were culled red norlands from the restaurant that my FIL works at.  Which is DOUBLE great...for one, they were free, normally you pay about $4 for 10 seed potatoes. for another, they are ORGANIC and LOCAL....so...TRIPLE GREAT!!!!
Audrey and I threw out some onion family seeds by the garlic and chives, and I figure we can plant tomatoes in the back of that bed.
The bean bed of last year, we threw down some seeds, too. carrots, peas, spinach...and I can't wait for it to grow.  I don't know why I planted the peas. Neither of my kids will eat them...Audrey seems to be writing off anything green, and Chas, being so sophisticated, informed me that he prefers canned, because he likes the mushy texture, I suppose. Last night I made him eat asparagus...I dumped cheese sauce on it, and he said it still wasn't enough...I thought it was good though!! When he is older, I think he will change his mind....
The only other thing I have to harvest now is chives, which I did, and ate sour cream and chive potatoes for several days. The other day I broke down and bought some store produce...HOW IT KILLS ME TO EAT A MEXICAN TOMATO IN MISSOURI, I cannot describe to you...HOW UNFAIR that the tomato gets to vacation in the heart of the Ozarks, and I don't get to go to Cozumel....seems sort of backwards to eat that way.....     : ->
Anyways, I splurged....I bought a $6 T-Bone....yum...OMG, yum...how this Texas girl "loves me some steak!!". And I had to have salad with it....so off we went, and this was one expensive trip to Dillon's. Red leaf lettuce is $2, $1.50 avacado (the exception to mexican and south of mexico produce!!), Spinach $3, tomato $1.50, cucumber $.99......but it was really really good. I topped this with my home made garlic bread croutons, and some onion parmesian dressing.....man that was good! Now I crave the spinach....
I have always always loved spinach. even the mushy canned stuff, and as I got older, learned how much I LOVE the butter taste of fresh spinach....I use it in place of lettuce, by preference at Subway, and at home!!
speaking of; I made a WONDERFUL sandwich with my (store bought) french bread. YUM!! I was telling my son this last night and he said he wanted to try it. (glad he said so as I sliced the other half of the loaf for garlic bread to go with our alfredo linguine....I had to use up that whipping cream, so we won't eat it anymore! LMAO) He thought it sounded good...so I saved him two slices for today's lunch.  I asked if he wanted lettuce, he says yes, but no to the spinach...well, I snuck it in there anyways.  I just don't see how he could tell the difference, it's green, it's crunchy and it has iron, not just water!! I do LIKE lettuce, but it is kinda worthless nutritionally...I LOVE spinach...and I don't mind tricking him into eating it.
SO that was my story...
1. I miss my garden and eating foods I GREW...there is SOO much pride in that...it makes me wish I grew that T-Bone, too!
2. I love making breads, and utilizing them for other things. I really enjoyed the french bread sandwich more that a sliced loaf bread sandwich. I really liked getting to use my croutons, they had been in the container for ages, waiting on a salad...and they were really good, I was amazed. they were just cut up, left over garlic bread! nothing special.  Just cut ....

This makes me think...(everything does!)
It makes me think about the next year, and the one after that. It makes me think about how a few years ago, well even last year, at this time...I had nothing to harvest....and although I only have a very few things at the moment...its that many more than before. Just asparagus and chives. But I know that asparagus and chives will live on in the garden until I choose to change it.  And in future years, i could possibly have clamped potatoes to go with my chives...EVEN BETTER, to have FRESH MILK, from the farm, for the sour cream, and butter.....HOW WONDERFUL IS THAT TO DREAM??  And the way I see it, it's not that far fetched. I mean, how many dairy's are in my neighborhood?? How far is Memory Lane?? It's not very far....8-10 miles, maybe.

I just want you to know that I am serious.  This makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside to imagine...ONLY EATING LOCAL.
no mcdonalds.
no taco bell.
no kfc.

WHAT DO THOSE PLACES HAVE THAT I DON'T HAVE????
Msg, preservatives, to start...
and how far away did the chicken travel....HOW MANY TIMES DID IT CROSS THE ROAD?????

I have proven to myself that I don't need it...and now I am beginning to realize that I don't want it either.
I want my own foods. I want then to travel less than 15 miles to get to my plate.  I want them to be thought through meals, intentional. Things I want, things I crave.
I don't CRAVE a big Mac. I don't need dehydrated refried beans and sour cream that comes out of a caulk gun. (check it out next time you visit the "Bell"). I am not opposed to dehydration...but I just think that we sacrifice so much for convenience and not having to over think anything about life day to day. It's silly.
That is not the message that I am trying to teach my kids, and my family and friends.

I believe that the "day to day" deal...that IS life. You have to embrace it all for what it is. you have to enjoy every day, the good the bad and the ugly. And when it's bad and ugly, you have to make it good. And that is what makes a person good, that they keep aiming for something better. this happens to be my something better.

I enjoyed that spot on "I hate my kitchen" for a few other reasons too.
1.) I love hippies! Especially ones that can pull off a great set of nappy dreads. It may not be everyone's taste. but I find it adorable.
2.) I love organic gardening and composting and they made a point to talk about it repeatedly. Organic isn't just a trend...it's the right thing to do...but it has become awfully trendy....I'm just saying!
3.) I liked that the couple was artish...the guy was more clean cut, and the girl was a total hippie....reminds me of stories about the 60's....geez....but that is the type of couple I can relate to...complete opposites...coming together...that's the stuff I love!
4.) I loved the incorporation of RECYCLED materials...the countertops...well, it's kind of ridiculous that it's MORE expensive than granite and marble. They used those great mosaic backsplash tiles that I can't wait to get my greedy little hands on!! (thankfully that can wait virtually forever!) They even used a light cover from a stop light...( I have NO clue where you can purchase that)....all these things...are so GREEN. And of course...bamboo flooring...the greenest we know of at this time in history. It was well thought, for this couple.
5.) the chickens...I really loved the chickens...the fact that they showed them (and the plants) so much. they spotlighted the eggs, the compost, the garden ...and the chickens....they spotlighted a lifestyle that to some seems weird or farfetched....but to me...it looked like the life I have been dreaming of....
collecting veggies from the garden., and eggs from the chicken coop, feeding them scraps and grains I grew...composting, in a stylish way ( I currently use coffee cans and creamer cans...a far cry from the posh set up they had!!) They spoke not only of their beer brewing, organic gardening, chicken raising and canning...They spoke of a lifestyle that I love...that I want.

What I didn't like:

  • $300+ for a in counter compost bucket??? that is just stupid
  • over priced materials abound. the custom cabinets, crazy faucet, and upgrading appliances that seemed to me to be just fine.
  • they did not speak of reusing any of the old cabinets. not even in the basement (duh) or garage. Bad Hippy!
  • I wanted to see a bay window for their seed starting OR an outdoor cold frame or hotbed nearby to the kitchen. I think that was a major part of their lifestyle...and I hate it when the kitchen is so nice no one wants to use it!! I think that kitchens should be designed to use the hell out of them. They need to be beyond durable...they need to be well planned for the uses of the owner. Not general purposed for everyone. This couple needed a place to germinate that was out of the way of the countertops...
  • I liked some of the open stainless shelving...BUT...it seems like they wasted a lot of space on pilsners...it made me feel like they drank more than they ate! There were some oddly placed things. Spices all over instead of jsut by the stove.  Beer by the sink, but I don't know where exactly the compost was...it was a little strange....but over all, it was OK
I gotta go now...but these are just some of my recent thoughts....
I will get back on task soon, but I have croutons and crumbs to make today, dishes and loaundry to do, and another child to transport to school and back, and dinner to plan!  So much to accomplish each day...let's get to it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Latest book I am reading

Yesterday I was at the Webster County Library. If you have ever visited it, it is probably less than 1,000 square feet. And yet, I still, am able to find something to read, and if I were more fond of fiction, I would be able to read all that library had to offer in less than 2 years, and that is with taking breaks all summer long.

I came upon the book by accident. As it sat atop a bookshelf with a few other miscellaneous books. I still have yet to figure out all the sections in the tiny library.  As far as I can tell, it is mostly comprised of Christian fiction, but there are still a several titles that I will want to borrow. I haven't utilized a library in a long time, not since my son was little and we borrowed games and videos for him. So this has become something I have grown fond of. It is a quaint little place, with friendly librarians, who still enjoy reading. It is rather low-tech, although they still use the bar code scanners and computers for a card catalog, so at least I don't go in there wondering what I should do! I  put the book back, thinking, with two more in my hand, I wouldn't have the time to read it before the due date. Then I changed my mind, and grabbed it up, adding it back to my stack. I am glad that I did.

So about this book, then.
Possum Living, by Dolly Freed, is an interesting and somewhat humorous tale of a young woman and her father, jobless in Pennsylvania.  She describes how and why they get by with little to no money at all.  After her mother abandoned them, they have found many ways to procure food and goods needed, and have decided that there are lots of things you JUST DON'T NEED. She describes her style of living this way because; "Sometimes Daddy frets and says we are little better than possums living this way.  Possums can live most anywhere, even in big cities.  They're the stupidest of animals, but there were possums on earth millions of years before men appeared, and here they are-still going strong"
She goes into economics, budgeting, and the cost of living (in 1978). She has a list of the things they DON'T spend money on, and in that list is vacations. (we don't really exactly vacation, but we do take trips sometimes). I love this line:
"Vacations, another common expenditure, are not required-our whole life is just one big vacation. We don't need to "get away from it all" because there is nothing we want to get away from."

That statement really began to suck me in to her writing.  Not that the writing is spectacular. Just the opposite.  The fact that opossum is misspelled (or not, depends who is asked), and her indifference to the mores of society, her obvious lack of formal education, her distaste for all that is the "rat race", just makes the writing more entertaining.
I am from Texas, and now reside in rural Missouri.
I once visited New York, and was asked how I like all the cows. I thought to myself, How do you like all the smog? The stressed out executives that curse the tourists in their Big Apple?  how do you cope in a microcosmos of stress, and competition? A population that far exceeds the land? Homelessness, and starvation are a daily occurance, to the point that no one cares about them anymore...how is that working out for ya'll?
  I love my area. Yes, it can be boring if you are from a big city, and enjoy that kind of stuff.  I, on the other hand, find comfort in living in a community that still opens it's doors for the homeless, when there is a wind chill advisory. On slow crime days ( a lot of days) the police will actually go out and assist the homeless to the Red Cross, and churches that invite them in to stay warm. I find comfort, that we are not too good, too busy, or just plain too greedy, to care about those in need, and less fortunate than ourselves.  So if you are a New Yorker, or other city life sucker, think about it....where would you go to "get away"? Vermont? Maine? the Hamptons?  Yes, that is right.....THE COUNTRY!!! I would chose that vacation everyday, and visit the executive monkeys when I fail to appreciate what I have here.

Her chapter titles are cute, too. chapter 4 " We rassle with our consciences" just cracks me up. She describes her father as "the old fool", yet speaks of him endearingly, obviously she adores him.  she lists what Daddy thinks about living the possum life, stating that it is "unmanly to worry so about the future." and that "Jesus clearly and specifically taught against concern for future security (Matthew 6:25-34). Like it or not, it's un-Christian to plan for the future." {what a riot!} Her father says, "There is nothing I do now as a young man to live that I won't be able to do as an old man"  and my favorite " I refuse to spend the first sixty years of my life worrying about the last twenty." She says "The notion of kicking the kids out of the old nest and sticking the old folks into some retirement village is part and parcel of industrialized economics, which I also dislike on other grounds"......"The idea of genetic immortality-the family going on and on forever-appeals to me. It's the closest thing I have to a religion"

So I find that in her simple words, and her obvious rural dialect, that some things still ring so clear and true. That it does not take a higher education to love, to live and laugh. It takes heart. And by leaving behind all these notions, she is left only with the purity of just getting by.  They have each other, and in that they have everything.
She has chapters about raising and butchering rabbit and chicken from their cellar. Fishing, Frogging and hunting turtle from local waters. Some topics are a bit more than I think I would be willing to try, but then, in reading it, it gives me a sense of what it really was like to live they way they have. 1978 is not so far in the past, and not so long ago that this way of living was the norm. But, then, "to each his own". They lived this way not because they HAD to, but because they WANTED to, and enjoyed it. They loved their wild caught food, and they had their own ways of preparing them, their own ideas of catching them. She says, "Some people reportedly play "turtle roulette." They feel around in holes in banks where snappers retire during daylight hours, hoping to grab the thing's tail with their right hand and gaff it before it wakes up. I don't know anything about this technique. If you want to learn it, go to any rural town and ask for "Lefty". He'll be happy to tell you all about it." {that is just funny, don't care who you are!}

this book isn't a text book of getting by, it is almost nearly a novel, non-fiction, but a novel all the same. I read it in less than a day, maybe closer to half a day. I especially enjoyed the afterward. While reading the book, I couldn't help but wonder how that worked out for them. Did she stay living with her father her whole adult life? Did they continue their possum lifestyle?  She answers those questions in the Afterward, written in 2009. And I applaud the addition. with out that, it may as well have ended with a cliff-hanger for me.  I won't spoil it...the way it all turns out for her, and her father. But I do however wonder, why he was ever in that car? Or was he? It makes me even more curious about her life now, and if she ever chose to write another book.  Keep in mind, all the while, that this woman was a mere 18 at the time of writing, and had but a seventh grade education. You will have to buy, beg, borrow or steal the book to find out what became of her. And although I don't think I will be using her recipes for turtle soups or stews myself, I really enjoyed the reading of it. I really found some great things in there, for all that she might take back, there is plenty that is left behind of value.  Her quotes show that her time spent "improving her mind" paid off. And reading it, has also improved mine as well.
This book was thought provoking for me, and led my imagination into another world. Her honest nature, and blunt attitude made it more enjoyable, but the truth of her life in those years, was the best gift. A lot of people have lived this way for one reason or another, but not nearly enough choose to share it the way she did.  I would recommend this book, it was really a fun read!

With that, one last quote she shared, that leaves me with hope for how we choose to change our own lives"

Mark Twain's definition of work: "that which you do when you would rather be doing something else"
By definition, you could indeed, not work, so long as you did what you love. And that is different for each individual, but the principle is the same for all.