Friday, March 30, 2012

Extending the Love - One Blog At A Time

Ah, shucks.

I won an award. Thanks to Kristy at Gastronomical Sovereignty for giving me (and 14 other badass bloggers) the Versatile Blogger Award!

The Blogger award is here! The Blogger award is here! I'm somebody now! (and if you haven't seen The Jerk, shame on you. Shame.)

The gig goes a lot like this:
~ Accept the award and thank who gave it to you.
~ Link up with that person's blog.
~ Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.
~ List 7 things about yourself that people may not know.
~ Let those 15 other bloggers know that you have nominated them for the award.

Well. I'm game if you are!  I have found that these bloggers have stood the test of time - good interesting writing, pics, videos, new content, etc. Also - hilarity. You gotta make me laugh to get my loyalty. I only have a little bit of time, though, so I'm going to start with 5 and finish up the rest of the 15 as time goes by!

The bloggers that I nominate are:

Beverly @ Bee Haven Acres
Goatgirl (sorry, couldn't track down an actual name!) @ Beyond the Sidewalks
Emily @ Wild Roots Homestead
Miriam @ Mucky Boots Farm
Kristin @ Going Country

And 7 things about me:

1) My favorite snack is little green olives straight out of the jar.
2) I will not replace my broken windshield because I am convinced it will just get smacked with a rock the second I do and crack all over again.
3) I really like Decaf, Sugar free Maxwell House instant coffee drinks. Really.
4) In my spare time, I read about neuropsychology and quantum mechanics. For fun.
5) I only wear jeans from American Eagle Outfitters. And I always wear jeans.
6) I met my H when I was 18 and knew instantly that I would marry him.           
7) I have memorized the entire dialogue of The Princess Bride and it remains to this day my absolute favorite movie and whenever it is on, I stop everything and watch it until the credits roll.    (Wesley: "You could lower a rope or a tree branch or find something useful to do." Enigo: "I do have some rope up here but I do not think you will accept my hand as I'm only waiting around to kill you." Wesley: "That does put a damper on our relationship." )

Thanks Kristy at Gastronomical Sovereignty!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gardening Self-Therapy

I saw this on FB, copied it to my page and ultimately here, just because I love it so much.

There are a lot of reasons why this sign rings true for me. I'm going to delve into a bit of self-indulgent writing therapy in this post, so I apologize in advance for anyone who's not interested in that kind of post. You are free to read elsewhere!

To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

On the way to the office in the pouring down rain today, which will persist for the next 4 days if the hot as fuck weather lady on Kiro has anything to say about it, I realized what kind of gardener I am. And that may not be conducive to a great presence on a lot of social media sites. Let's extrapolate.

I really like to garden, but I've said it before - I sometimes suck at it. I forget things, I get busy on other projects, I mind-wander. I've left seedlings out in the blazing sun, I've forgotten to water the tomatoes, I've just downright not staked up things to see what would happen. I'm not super organized and I'm not cutesy. I like the meat and potatoes of vegetable gardening => the actual veggies. I don't usually get too caught up in how the garden looks as long as it's producing and I have enough time to watch some shows, read with my daughter and make out with my H.

Gardening has taught me several things about myself - things perhaps not realized without a therapeutic prompt - office wingback chair, poop streaked gloves or wooden sign? All the same, my friends.

1) I'm super good with animals. In fact, I like to work with animals more than I like to work with veggies or fruits. So having chickens and ducks and worms appeals to me. I would like to raise meat pigs and cattle for personal consumption. I would like to have a larger flock of hens. I would love to have alpacas and southland Babydoll sheep.  I would love to add another Pug to our home (they are like chips - you can't have just one.) My goal would be to have enough animals that whatever I get out of them (meat, wool, awesomeness) pays for their care.

2) I'm not cutesy and will never spend time adorning my garden. But I fully appreciate people who do. Just like I fully appreciate people who take time to figure things out and build things from scratch. I can't do that. I have no patience and just give up part way through. Which is why I probably prefer animals - more instant gratification.

3) I am not organized and don't do well with tracking growth, yields, or poundage of things grown. I just never remember. I usually say "well, we grew an ass-ton" or "yeah, I had enough to make a crap load of pasta sauce." Very scientific, I know. Try not to be jealous. It's actually right brained thinking and I can't help it. I could train myself to get good at that stuff, but I look at it as trying to change handedness - not a super great idea and it's actually easier to just make your peace with who you are, sometimes.

4) Things that grow with minimal effort by me are my favorites: Tomatoes, beans, peas, cucumbers and worms. Done. I don't like to fuss with things. I like herbs because they will grow anywhere if you give them half a chance and most self-seed for the next year. I am drafting a series of posts on permaculture and perennial veggies and tubers. That's right up my bowling alley, son. Stay tuned!

5) I start to get worried when I see awesome garden things and happenings from other blogs, until I realize that I need to stay true to me, and only compare myself to where I was this time last year, or whatever. Comparing yourself to others is like comparing apples to hippos - makes no sense and only sounds like a good idea. But actually isn't. I like to take inspiration from other people's gardens, but I try actively never to compare myself to them. Ruth Stout did her own thing. I like to think that I am a new generation of Ruth Stout. Do my own thing. If I like it, good. If it sucks, move on to the next project.

My garden refills my bucket, charges my batteries, and makes me feel whole again. Also, I feel like I'm with my peeps when I'm tending the flock, scraping gooey waste away from the side of the worm bin, or otherwise mucking around the back 1/4 acre with my poop and mud plastered boots on. I wish we all had our happy places like that. I just know how I feel after a day of transplanting tomatoes, or erecting a been tower made out of bamboo. I feel like my brain is floating in yum. And that's the only way to describe it.

Anyone else have a place like that?

It's like personal reflection thesis manifesto. Partially written to get these thoughts out of my head and into the ether, but also written in the hopes that some of it rings true for someone else out there. Here's hoping there is someplace like this in your life that helps you understand yourself a little better and give you some peace.

It was a tossup between the garden and the local Starbucks. But whatever.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Coleslaw, Cilantro and Chive dip and French Fries

Here are some tried and true, always fall back on, simply yummy and everyday fabulous recipes that I use all the time.

Now. These are different from other recipes, because I'm going to list the ingredients, but it's up to each individual person to make the recipe what they want (more or less of something, but definitely use all the ingredients.) I am terrible about following individual recipes, and always tweak them over time to suit my needs.

There are two things in the world that I routinely want and never find:

1) Smaller lipstick tubes (I just want a little to try and live with - not a giant tube that will ultimately go to waste)
~and~
2) Base ingredients for recipes so I can venture out and screw it up all on my own.

So. Here we go. In case anyone is like me. Basic guidelines and recipes for three all time favorites in the NW Backyard Veggies home. Certified awesome by Tot and H alike.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Coleslaw

Basic Ingredients:
Cabbage (savoy, regular, red or green)
Scallions (or chives or onions)
Carrots
Mayonnaise
Vinegar (white)
Powdered Mustard (in the spice aisle)
Celery Seed

General guidelines:
Just mix it all together 
Mayo to vinegar is about 4:1.
Go light on the sauce - you can always add more later.
Go easy with the celery seed - too much will feel and taste weird.
Goes great with: Pulled Pork, Turkey Sandwiches, Rueban Sandwiches, by itself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 Cilantro and Chive Dip (jacked fair and square from Trader Joes - not their recipe but super close.)

Basic Ingredients:

Nonfat, plain yogurt
Sour Cream
Fresh Cilantro
Chives
Salt/Pepper

Optional - garlic salt or fresh garlic

General Guidelines:
Mix it all together.
Yogurt to Sour Cream is 2:1
You can never have too much cilantro - just chop very small.
Likewise for fresh garlic if you use that. I don't.
Likewise for chives. I use a lot. 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

French Fries (AKA - best thing ever.)

Basic Ingredients:

Russet, and only russet, Potatoes
Water
Salt/Pepper
Garlic Salt
Dried parsley
Cooking spray
Olive oil

General Guidelines:

Cut up potatoes into french fry like sections.
Put in a bowl of cold water with salt in it for 30 minutes. This pulls out the starch. Don't skip this step.
Drain and pat very dry with a kitchen towel.
Bake at 425.
Coat a foil lined pan with cooking spray, lay out fries, drizzle with all the olive oil you want, then toss to coat.
Sprinkle with whatever herbs you like - I use garlic salt and dried parsley. But get creative.
Toss to coat again, then spray with cooking spray all over the top. Trust me.
Bake until they are done, on the rack 2nd to the bottom of the oven. Turn once.

Does anyone have any other tips, killer guideline recipes or secret combinations of yummy? Leave me a reply or link to your blog!
 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Nelson Farm Walk - AKA: Where's The Beef?!?

Well, how fun.

I asked my friend and her tot to accompany me to see a farm down past Olympia (the capital of this fine state), do a farm walk and meet the beef we are going to eat soon.

I found Nelson Ranch online and was referred there from a fellow blogger/local Washingtonian. I have been trying to find grass fed beef to buy as a 1/4 or half cow that wouldn't break the bank.

What a lovely farm! Located just south of Olympia by the Deshutes river, this farm is over 200 acres and has been in the Nelson family for generations. They raise herefords and angus beef cattle. Jill is the owner, and runs the farm with her dad and uncle.

My friend, the two Tots and I made our way south and were greeted by the Owner and in no time at all we were hitching a ride right out to the pasture in a little growling Kubota tractor/buggie thingy (it's technical name, I'm sure.) It was around this time that I realized I had left my camera in the car! So, as we bumped our way out to the cows, I silently, and then out loud, cursed myself roundly because there would have been some killer pictures of baby cows! And eagles! And awesome land!

I didn't quite understand that we would be touring during calving season. I hadn't put that together, so you can imagine my absolute and unadulterated joy when we ventured right out to the pasture to meet the cows and there were a bunch of baby calves wobbling around and playing in the hay. One and two day old calves laid around, scampered (yes. Scampered.) right up to the Kubota and lazed around in the warm hay that had been put out for the mamas. They lazily regarded us from under hooded eyes and as the Owner stopped the Kubota, the cows started coming up to us, chewing while they investigated.

It was around this time that I actually started to become delirious with happiness. I was wearing this ridiculous grin the whole time and all I wanted to do was take the Tot, get out of the Kubota, and sit down in the field with the cattle. Because I am a great big dork.

We saw mama cows with brand new babies, still [very] pregnant mama's waiting for the big show, and a couple of horned cattle just sitting around looking awesome. The tots did great - all wide eyes and question marks and even though it became pretty cold the longer we were there, it didn't rain or get nasty. A frosty wind was blowing, but that's why man invented coats.

We saw the barns, the horses (some beautiful draft horses and a couple of buckskins), the swamp (yeah!) and then made our way back to the houses to get some beef to try. I SUPER regret being a forgetful lady and leaving my camera behind, but I was able to snap some picks because we ventured past our car on the way to get some ground beef and I snagged the camera.

I just love to go tour these farms. I'm such a voyeur (that's why I'm a therapist!) but I am also going to buy beef from these folks and I wanted to see where the meat was going to come from, as well as get the Tot conditioned to understanding where the delicious meat originates. She's still young, but it's never too early to start!
As we were turning to go I could see cows coming in from pasture to get water. The wind rustled through the trees, and far off I could see eagles cavorting over the fields. There was little sound, and the quiet was like balm for my ears. Every once in a while, the calm was punctuated by a hearty mmooooo from the back field.  After days and days of hearing neighbors yell, squawk, turn up the bass in their ridiculous lowered hondas (god, please, let that fad DIE already.) and otherwise assault my senses, it was wonderful to rest in the presence of history and nature.

Soon we packed up and headed north again. Naptimes, chores, laundry and all the other real life activities beckoned. We bumped our way toward the front gate and got one last view of the Big Red Barn and baby calves.


Great Farm Walk Day!


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mistake

I am a giant dildo.

I will just say that I once posted about how I had ALL these worm babies hatching and I was so overwhelmed and didn't believe it and blah, blah, ridiculous blah.

*sigh*

Well. I DID have worm babies hatching, but the majority of white specs that I was seeing were actually mites.

Mites. White mites. Fucking mites.

And I fell victim to the most common blunder (next to getting involved in a land war in Asia) of thinking ALL those little white eggs were worms. It's pretty common for worm people who have transitioned from outside worm bin love to inside worm bin love to mistake the multitudes of small white specs for worm babies when in fact they are not.

*dramatic sigh*

When I began to suspect that I was being a giant dildo, I took the top off the worm tower and took a closer look, only to discover that the little specs were crawling. Crawling. Which is impossible for worms to do. Because they have no feet.

Seriously, every time I talk about it I have to scratch my head. It just gives me the giant dildo heebie-jeebies.

*Scratch-scratch. Sigh*

These are what worm egg sacs actually look like!
In the picture above, actual worm sacs can be seen to the right of the arrows. They look like kernels of corn and are about the same size. Mites look like uncooked quinoa kernels. Not to put anyone off quinoa, as that stuff is GOOD.

I consulted several websites and my Worms Ate My Garbage book by Appelhof and I found out that my mistake is common and simply means that I added too much soft, juicy material (such as tomatoes, grapes or melon) before the adult worms were able to adequately work through it. Mites love soft, juicy, rotting food and so I basically just rolled out the welcome mat and offered free foot massages to them. The mites don't spread, they don't infest my house and, like fruit flies, they have a pretty short life. I'm not too worried about them. But I did move the worm tower outside, bleached the holy hell out of the area it was standing in, and added a ton of new bedding and fibrous material (all shredded paper) to the tower to balance out the ecosystem a bit and dry it up.

I will not regurgitate what I found on other, more comprehensive websites, but I will offers links to them. If you are a worm person, PLEASE consult these websites and buy the book.

THIS website had good pictures and some info.
RedWormComposting just seems like a stellar site all around for anything worm related - just type "white mites" in the search box and get ready to be grossed the fuck out.
THIS is a pretty interesting site for more info on other types of critters found in worm bins.

I'm gonna go pick my self confidence off the floor and read some more about worm composting. I thought I knew all I did. Turns out I don't.

*sigh*

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Watch Cat and Other Unbelievables

Back off. These are my tomatoes.
Because sometimes the tomato starts could be pillaged by unknown beings.

Or the grow lights are super comfy to sleep under.

It's a Watch Cat!

And for those times when even I have to roll my eyes at myself:

Yeah. I bought this book. It lasted 2 days before the Tot ripped out a bunch of the pop-ups and moveable parts. I bought it and sighed over my own "leftiness". Just how pinko-commie-liberal-smug-conservationist can you get without actually throwing up? I'm committed to finding out. Maybe I will truly piss off my conservative neighbors by reading this book to my barefoot daughter while wearing a long flowery dress with no bra on top of my compost heap. That should do it.

You know what the Tot's all time favorite book is [was] so far? The Big Red Barn. With absolutely no help from the wannabe farmer momma over here. She picked it out herself, from a stack of books at Half Price Books. And said "ooooh" when she found it.

That's my girl!

There is absolutely no redeeming value and/or educational component to this post. I'll end it now.

Happy Thursday, Everyone!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sausage Making - A Tutorial

I have never made sausage before so today was the maiden voyage of my new grinder/stuffer attachment to the KitchenAid mixer and sausage making in general.

Excited? Yes. Prepared? Usually.

I stopped by The Green Valley Meat and Mini Market for Sheep casing (sold by the apparent ass - load. $36.00 later! But it will make 30 pounds of sausage and keeps forever packed in salt) and a couple pepperoni treats for the Tot and I. I can't resist cured meat in tube form and I'm doing my best to steer my daughter wrong on this. It's a life long passion that is actually kind of embarrassing. No one likes to be the one in line at Target with tampons, shampoo, baby wipes and a slim jim. Just saying.

Anywho. I picked up a full pork shoulder (also known as pork butt by my butcher H) at the local Costco and made the seasoning from a recipe I found online. I will post the recipe separately as I want to focus this post on the process of making sausage.

After lunch, books and a binkie, the Tot was down and I was up for making some sausage!

Keep all meat super cold until you are ready to grind it. I stuck mine in the freezer when I got home to chill. But first? Clear the Decks. Put away anything that is not critical for the task. And get a scale out b/c you're gonna measure some meat (or just eyeball it if you're that guy.)

Than pull out and measure up some meat. The recipe I used called for 2 pounds of pork. I went a little over.

Pork Shoulder has a lot of fat on it and that's what you need. 20% fat makes for a juicy and yummy sausage. I am making breakfast sized sausages.
Cut the pork up into pieces which makes it easier to get the pork into the grinder.
Then attach the grinder accessory to the Kitchen Aid and use the disc with the largest holes.
Run it through the grinder twice (or three times if you want. I only did twice).

 Measure out your spices and incorporate them very well into the ground pork. Really get them worked in - the worst thing is to bite into a big bunch of herbs.

I soaked the sheep intestine in warm water for several minutes before I strung it on the stuffer.
 I will not make any comments about how the mass of sheep intestine reminded me of a squirming ball of tapeworms. I will refrain from mentioning that because I know if I did it would gross out people as much as it grossed me out.
 [But you know you're thinking it]
Casings will keep if packed in salt and water for over a year in the fridge.
Anyhow. Rinse and feed onto the stuffer. And at this point, it's important to notice that while you are holding back penis + condom = hilarity jokes, that the casings actually slide onto the stuffer very well if your fingers are somewhat dry. I used the smaller stuffer that comes with the Kitchen Aid set of stuffers. I suppose I could've used the bigger one and it may have been easier to stuff the casings. I might try that next time.
[insert penis joke here]
 And VOILA! Beautiful sausages.
I would do several things differently next time: stuff them a little looser so they don't bust open (I lost a couple) and grind the sausage one a more time. 

Sausages can be kept in the fridge for a week or frozen for several months is kept in an airtight container.

Happy Sausage Making!



Friday, March 16, 2012

Feeding Time - In Myriad Ways

It struck me this morning as I was watching The Tot feed the chickens (git 'em started young, I say) that we are in the production time of feeding ourselves.


Yeah. We go to the store, we shop, we cook, we eat. We are always feeding ourselves. But as the 1/4 acre becomes more productive year after year, we are growing and producing and storing our own food. I'm learning as I go, and sometimes things don't work out (like the whole sauerkraut debacle) but overall things are getting better.

This picture has many layers to me - The Tot feeding the chickens (who feed us with eggs) shot from behind the first bean sprouts (curling upward in rapture thanks to the worm casting rich soil I started them in) that will eventually become full grown beans to eat fresh, to freeze and to can. Layers of production, like a cake. With the frosting being, of course, the awesomeness of my kid.

Add to that the new arrivals:
Currently cooling their heels at my friends house in Seattle until I can drive up and fetch them. We are raising red ranger chickens as meat birds. I got them from the Seattle Co-op, and my buddy is a member there. We will split the cost of the chickens down the middle - we each buy the birds, she pays for feed, I provide land and slaughter area in 12 weeks when they are ready to go. This will be my first time butchering a large amount of birds. I am nervous/excited/worried that I'm going to go to hell for killing an animal (only half kidding) but remind myself that I would rather be in Hell with all the other people who butcher their own animals than in heaven with Jerry Falwell.

Just saying.

This is the ramp up to growing and ultimate production time. It's exciting. I'm trying some new things this year (meat birds and self butchering) and some old (have finally found out that I can save seed - they all seem to be growing from saved seed!) The Tot is getting old enough to learn how to help in the garden and be a really fun companion.

Today felt like a small reflection day on our efforts to produce for ourselves -  independent of the mass consumer-driven machine. 

So many levels of growing. Happy start to the weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Alternate Seed Starting Containers

Because I am a world class dork and like to reuse everything, I give you:

Alternate seed containers.
Bulk apples from Costco - before


Filled with homemade seed starting mix and beans.
I spy with my little eye:

A bulk grape container.
Planted up with Sweet Banana Pepper seeds. (*Swoon*)
I am such a sucker for pepperocinis made from pickled Sweet Banana Peppers. I didn't make nearly enough last year. This year I shall rectify that problem.

I have also, though I have no pictorial record of this, made seed flats out of old plastic boxes (the ones you can buy for a dollar from Target) with holes poked in the bottom. I have used wooden drawers and shelving. I have used gutters. I have used all sorts of things. Basically anything that can hold soil and still drain.

And then, of course, the Newspaper pots. Duh.

Giddyup
What types of things have you used to plant seeds in? Gotten creative lately? Necessity breeds invention!




Monday, March 12, 2012

Tips On How To Save Gas



Well, the suits have decided they are going to freak out over oil futures and raise the amount that we pay at the pump by .70 cents in the last 8 weeks. Even though the straight of Hormuz only sees 10% of the world's crude oil being shipped to and fro, and Iran has closed the straight before and it wasn't that big of a deal - the megalomaniacal suits have decided that the extreme possibility of a war with that country is just TOO risky for their blood, so they're gonna pass that risk on to us common folk.

Thanks, guys. Remind me to throw organic, free range eggs at your Mercedes when you drive by. Talk about ouch, people .That one stings.

I'm not going to restate the obvious (such as why don't we invest time, money and energy [aka - make it a priority] to develop alternative powered tractors, cars, trucks and freight so that we don't have to depend on foreign oil. Or point out that oil is finite and will run out in my lifetime. Or make the analogy that our energy policy closely resembles a bunch of people speeding towards a wall at 100 miles an hour in a car and all they can argue about is who gets what seat belt.) NO. I'm going to restrain myself from verbally lashing out at our obtuse and childlike legislators (how's that 8% approval rating treating ya'?) and focus this post on how to SAVE gas.

You know, for the rest of us working class who keep the country actually running with our tax dollars.

I don't like having to conserve gas. I will be the first to admit that I loves me some freedom and I especially love going for long drives in the country - preferably with a killer set list cued up on the Ion's radio and a fresh cup of joe. But, civic duty calls. And since I'm a member of this society, I must respond. Boo.

I own a Saturn Ion. I am not car choosy, so I bought the cheapest, lowest mileage, most dependable car I could find. It is my little tank. I have stuffed an inordinate amount of haphazard junk in this car. This car has a soul, yet no sex, but if pressed I would call her a she. She gets pretty good gas mileage - between 25-32 MPG depending on city or gas driving. Also depending on a lot of other factors.

Commence:

1) Most gas is expended through vaporizing out of the gas tank. In hot weather, try to park under cover. In cold weather, try to park where the sun won't hit the car all day long - such as under an overhang or in a garage.

2) Fill up your car with gas when it's cold.

3) Fill your car up, then run it down to the dregs. Then fill up. Lather, rinse, repeat. I have heard from the Car Talk Guys that doing this continually turns over the gas in your tank and keeps the gas pure (doesn't allow it to build up shit just sitting there) and therefore burns more efficiently. I am a reformed $20-dollar-a-pop gas getter. It hurts in the beginning but then starts to really make sense. Then check your mileage. (Fill up, start your trip odometer, when empty take the miles and divide that by how many gallons you originally put in.)

4) Try to lump errands together. Say you have to go to the grocery store, then the Target, then the Goodwill, then to Half Price Books - put the destinations that are closest to each other on the list to do that day and make the loop in a series of rights - like a big circle. You will waste less gas than if you have to turn left somewhere. Odd but true.

 5) Initiate NO GAS days - meaning either no driving or doing carpooling or taking the bus. In my far flung neighborhood, we have next to no bus lines (once again, I bite my tongue at the ridiculousness of our state and local government's values) so I have days that we don't go anywhere. Usually a weekend day, and usually several times a month, if not week.

6) Keep your tires properly inflated and make sure all ancillary junk is out of your car. Weight slows things down. I am notorious for stuffing things (chicken wire, feed, books, old clothes for Goodwill) in the trunk and then forgetting about them.

7) Fill up whenever possible at Costco or another big box store. Same gas as Texaco or Chevron, and much cheaper. Do NOT use Arco gas - mostly because they are a subsidiary of BP and I hate those fuckers, but when it comes down to it, Arco gas IS just really bad for your car. Grocery store gas is like mid range gas, so every once in a while go for it. The guy whose article I linked to below says there is no difference between Arco and Chevron gas but price and additives. He's probably right. I just don't like to give BP any of my money. It's picking the lesser of the evils, I suppose. 29 Tips For Saving Gas.


8) Pay attention to maintenance issues for your car - such as desired gas, what type of oil to use, and air filter change rates. Also generally driving differently will help save gas. A good website for more information on that is HERE.

This is our reality now. We will have $5 gas by the summer. We have to be like the Army and adapt and overcome this issue. We will have alternative cars and transportation when we start asking for it. And since the vast majority of us are dependent in some way on petroleum, this is the dance we must do.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Worm Tower in Ecstasy

Seriously. Let's have a conversation about the worm tower that I got for Christmas. And how friggin' righteous this thing is.

This was a gift from my mom - the GM to the public. I have wanted one of these for a LONG time. For vermicomposting Dorks like myself, these towers are the closest thing to a very tiny church that we can get. They are worm generating machines. Without any moving parts.

Worm towers are different from worm bins. These are made to generate castings (rich soil made out of worm poop), but more importantly, they create an ideal environment for the production of large quantities of worm babies. And subsequently worm adults.

The first time I lifted the lid and saw a giant mass of white specs, I thought "oh, crap - an infestation of something" and I resolved myself to figure it out. Then later, I realized they were baby WORMS. I have never seen so many in one place before. I just assumed I screwed up and something got loose in there and just bred uncontrollably.

Which was true - it was just worms! Hooray!

Literally scattered all over the worm tower. So I fed them and fed them and they reproduced and reproduced and I added another tray to the tower and the rest is history.

 And the water that comes out the spigot is full of baby worms, so I just pour it back over the top tray.


This is the aerial view of the first tray, which has now been completely processed and all the food scraps I've put in there are gone. The worms will now move up to the second tray because I have filled it with food and bedding. If I was so inclined, I could take all the castings out of this processed tray and put the dirt in the garden. But I'm going to wait until all three trays are full of bedding and worms before I start removing castings.

For more information about worm composting and the benefits of it visit the Vermicomposting page.

Hope everyone is faring well with the time change. Washington is still hanging onto winter with her fingernails and today it is snowing, hailing, blowing wind, and raining. It's pretty as long as you don't have to go walking in it. Now there is thunder. Wow - cool day.

I went on a killer farm walk yesterday and am drafting a post on that with lot's of pictures. I met some great people and networked a bit (in my perpetual quest to find new information regarding the best way to get land.) I no longer say "if" I get land, I just say "when" - I just have to keep my eye on the ball...

Then I can populate my acreage with beautiful red wrigglers!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bread Machine Dill Bread

In the immortal words of Mr. Willie Nelson - you gotta know when to fold them, and know when to walk away.

This could be the second time in as many weeks that I have referenced Mr. Nelson. You're welcome. Handmade Bread: 4, Lindsey: 0

I can't make bread.

I mean, I could, if I wanted to devote hours and hours to it, possibly take a class and be willing to fail lot's more times.

I've even made "No Knead" bread to absolute failure. It's NO KNEAD BREAD. And I FAILED. TWICE.

I am good at some things. I am an excellent wife, a pretty fantastic mother, a top notch daughter and at times an incredibly insightful therapist. (I'm also really super humble).

But I am no bread maker.

I know when it's beyond me. Like sewing. I know that sewing is beyond me. And knitting. As much as I would like to go Bruce Lee all over that shit, it ain't gonna happen.

My personal thesis is that I will attempt a new thing usually 4-5 times before I decide to either A) give it up or B) find another way to do that task that is easier. If I really LOVE what I'm doing, then I will stick with it longer. Soap making is an example of that.
So I bought a bread machine. Again. This is my third. I used the other two so much that they broke. One didn't really work that well to begin with. So this is the Trenta. That is what I will name her. Trenta the bread machine. I know that the actual word is Treinta and it means 30 in Spanish but I don't care. I shall call her Trenta and she shall be mine.*

I have got the basics of bread making down and can make a passable loaf, but the emotional expenditure and actual time involved thinking about it (time capital?) make this activity more of a chore than I want it to be. I think the occasional special loaf will still come piping hot out of my oven, but for daily use, Trenta is where it's at.

Life is what we make it, right? We get to decide which homesteady things we are going to really invest our time and energy in. There is this nice middle ground that we can exist in that says we can still buy boxed cereal if we want, yet make all our own soap and cook exclusively at home from whole ingredients. We can hang our clothes outside to dry, use all natural cleaners and still get our hair colored after going through the Starbucks for a mocha. No self-sufficiency police are going to come out and smack us around if we don't spend a whole Saturday morning making bread for the week.

Having a bread machine has always enabled me to throw a loaf in whenever I want and then go do other things that are more fun. I like that shortcut. I also like making homemade bread. Our big giant brains made that shortcut possible and I'm gonna ride that sucka till the end.

Here's a great recipe that I found in an ancient book called "Electric Bread" and I have modified it over the years to suit my tastes. This makes a killer BLT.

Dill Bread
Small Loaf
1/2 C Water
1 C Wheat Flour
1 C White Flour
1 Tbsp Dry Milk (Or regular milk - add with the water)
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 C Cottage Cheese (can also use Sour Cream, or Marscopone)
3/4 Tbsp Dried Dill
1/2 Tbsp Dried Onion
2 tsp active dry yeast.

Add ingredients in the order listed - wet first, then dry, then put the herbs around the perimeter and make a little divot in the flour  and add the yeast to it - make sure it doesn't touch the water.

Choose your setting and run it. Good to go.

*$15 bucks on Craigslist. Done.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Starting Onions from Seed - planting, transplanting, and eventual eating....

We all know how to plant onions from seed - get the right kind for your climate (short day for southerners, and long day for us chilly northerners), deposit seeds in flats of planting mix and grow under grow lights starting right around the end of January until now.

But after? And when to transplant to the outdoors? And how the hell to harden them off when you're a forgetful brat like myself?

Yeah. Let's do a post on that shit.

Sow Seeds: I started my onions from seed at the end of January. I am using leftover seed from last year - Noordhollandse Bloedrode Onions. I like them because they can be grown as scallions, as well as bulbed onions. I was a bit thrown off by the name, but I liked the dual purpose of them and they are a long day variety.These are red bulbed onions, too, which I like. I have a grow light system in place, but others can start them in cold frames or simply a sunny window in covered flats. The trick is to get them warm, keep the seeds moist until germination and then give them ample air circulation (true for all seeds.)

Then:

When to take out: I always put 4 seeds per cell. When they get about 4 inches high I start taking them outside during the day to let the air and cold have it's way with them. This is called hardening off. They can be brought in at night. Or, like this year, left outside for 2 days straight when I forgot about them and got too busy to play nursemaid to a flat of onion starts.
But see? They did okay. Notice mommie's little helper in the upper right hand corner.

Separate out: I dig them out with a plastic spoon and separate the bulbs - carefully.

And put them into a waiting basket. I always try to transplant when there is rain or sprinkles forecast but sometimes I get it wrong. Like this year, when it snowed the next day. Didn't I say it was gonna snow one more time?!?

I lay them all out nice and tidy like. Then I prepare my soil. Which doesn't mean much, save for tilling it under and removing errant pieces of large cardboard. I have tried lasagna gardening and can't quite get the hang of it, so I build my soil in layers during the fallow months, and then till it all under in one pass with the VP. (My rototiller).

Furrow and Plant: I pull a long furrow down the beds and plant the bulbs somewhat close together - about 3-4 inches. I harvest some when they are small and eat them like scallions and the others I let go until they form bulbs.

Then I lay them in the furrow and fill in dirt behind them. This is more fun when it's not 36 degrees and windy outside, like it was this week. Also, the Tot was wailing pitifully from the backyard because she couldn't make up her mind to go inside or stay out with me. I wish all my problems were so simple! (No bad parent alert - I rescued her and gave her an onion tutorial, which kept her distracted until we could go in. I've never planted onions that quick in my life. )

Onions like soil that is heavily amended yet light. Sandy soil can work sometimes, too, just make sure that the organic content (manure, compost, whatever - just choose a poo and go with it.) is present.

Starting from seed is somewhat tedious but it can be super fun to dig up a fully formed onion bulb come July or August and it is very satisfying to prostrate them before the Sun to generate that papery outer covering.

Anyhow - Onions from seed to garden bed. Happy Planting, minions.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

New Slogger Boots

Because sometimes you just need new boots.
In the past, I have gotten new garden shoes and they were fabulous. They were also Sloggers and they remain the most comfortable things I own. I have been wearing them around the house (after a careful cleaning, of course) because they basically cushion my feet on a pillow of goodness. Surrounded by love. On top of perfection.

But then I was meandering through Target today (as I can only do with the help of the Tot's Fairy Godmother and my BF to help with said Tot wrangling) and I spied these hanging out in the gardening corner.

Yes. They are mainstream. Every second gardener is going to have a pair. Yes. It's industrial flower power courtesy of Chez Target, carefully mass produced for general positive consumption. Grumble, grumble, broo-ha-ha.

But I LOVE them. I do, I do, I do. They were on the shelf and all I could think was "Get. On. My. Feet."

And, they are Sloggers, which means they are SUPER comfy. And, they had my size. AND they are made in the Good Old USA.

Sold.

And I could rationalize getting them because Target didn't have 3 other things I technically needed to get so I had extra money!

The H bought me boots for Christmas, but they are fleece lined and will be hot and unbearable come summer time to garden in. Plus, how cute will these look with rolled up jeans?!?

Rubber Flower Boot Goodness. Giddyup.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Fasting

Damn you, Public Radio, for introducing me to fasting. And for making me want to do it.

***Prologue***
I was listening to Weekday with Steve Scher on KUOW yesterday and one of the spots was on the health benefits of fasting. He was talking with Steve Hendricks, an author and outdoorsy type, who routinely goes on fasts to improve his health. He has researched the method of fasting and presented his findings in Harpers this month in an article called Starving Your Way to Vigor: The Benefits of an Empty Stomach.

I originally didn't pay this interview any mind. Because, you know, I like to eat and stuff. I also don't like feeling hungry but LOVE how I feel after a day of minimal eating - light, airy, and cleaned out - so I decided to give it more than half an ear after a couple of minutes.

Super glad I did, people. This guy went into all the health benefits of fasting and included, much to my happiness, laboratory findings that support evidence that fasting in a controlled environment can lower blood pressure and help with problems like headaches, inflammation, intestinal problems and other ailments. It also helps in the long run with digestion, absorption of vitamins and minerals, and the most basic task of enjoying the taste and function of food.

Essentially, and I'm not going to do it justice [which is why I will include links to some terrific websites I found] fasting is a way to rest and reset your gut. It helps with weight loss, sure, but that's not the reason people should do it. As a mental health professional, I can only nod emphatically while heaving a heavy sigh  - eating disorders (closely related to anxiety, power and control issues) are no laughing matter and fasting should only be undertaken by people who have talked with a doctor, examined the benefits and are working a plan for health reasons. Also, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, recovering cancer patients and people with long term, med managed chronic illness should not try fasting unless you talk to your doctor first. Seriously. Don't be an idiot.

What was most interesting to me was all the information he gave about people in history (and cultures) who use fasting as a way of becoming more spiritual, balancing themselves, and learning will power and tolerance. Yes. Jesus was mentioned. Some Native American tribes have historically used fasting as a compliment to rituals. Also, I was intrigued by the conversation of how animals use fasting to help themselves - when they get sick, they immediately go off their food. It's this instinctual reaction to illness - let your body heal and rest from the inside out.

Feed a cold, starve a fever, right?

I liked THIS SITE for information about the health benefits of fasting and how your body reacts to it.

This guy also brought up the different kinds of fasting - using juice and raw food, or just going on a water fast. It seems that water fasting is more serious hard core, and juice fasting is not so much. Both are cleansing, but water fasting is (it seems) quick and dirty, while juice fasting (and raw food eventually) is a bit more mellow and healthfully sound.

He started talking about a 21 day water fast he did and I stopped while I was doing the dishes, looked at the Tot and said: "you'd think he'd die doing that, right?" She said: "Yeah." and crammed a handful of eggs in her mouth.

I liked THIS SITE for information in regards to juice fasting and how to do that - including a full plan for juice/raw food fasting, what to expect, and how to do it right.

*** Cut to current activity***

I'm fasting today, just to try it out.

I had to seriously psyche myself out for this! I tend to get quaky when I don't eat - my knees get all jello and I have a hard time catching my breath. I'm not sick, I'm just a living organism that is used to fuel every 4-12 hours. Plus - I truly dig my fuel.

Info: I am 5' 5" and 128 pounds (I weigh myself all the time - don't hate. The baby weight was killing me [and my sciatic] so I keep track to make sure it's not creeping back up). I have no ailments and take no medication for anything. I take a multivitamin (chewable fruity vitamin - I like to stay in touch with my inner child) every day. I take no other supplements. I eat a balance diet that sometimes leans a bit too much in the dark chocolate direction. I don't drink soda, tea or juice. I DO drink coffee and sugar free juice mix with a ton of water.

Full disclosure: I had a Grande Skinny Mocha today. I wanted to take the Tot to the indoor playground and I can't stomach that nauseating kids music without SOME form of coffee in me. Or the precious cliquey mama's who chase after their children yelling "Spencer! Give that back and say you're SORRY!" backsides jiggling maniacally in their Juicy sweats.

I say let the kids fight it out. Prison rules. First to flinch loses.

I'm not super popular, I think. But I digress.

I have decided today to fast until dinner. Baby steps. I have done whole day fasts in college by accident (Forgotton Lunch + No Money = Fasting!) and know that technically I can do it, but the H and I were going to have dinner tonight, so....

So far - growling stomach, lightheadedness, lagging reaction time, and distraction are populating the list of body problems. It's 4:19, do you know where your appetite is? I DO.

It's so transient and that is the thought that makes fasting easier. It's not like I'm never going to eat again. I'm going to eat in 3 hours. So what?

There is also a social responsibility piece to this that I'm almost hesitant to bring up, but I will. Please take with a grain of salt. => There are many, MANY people in the world who do not have enough to eat and have no drinkable water. And 2/3 of Americans are obese or overweight. We have too much. We consume too much. And many people think it's necessary. The average household throws away $500 in food a year. Are you kidding me? And that's the average? And it's not absolutely necessary, we've just been tricked into thinking it is - by corporate consultants and advertising executives who know just how to sell stuff so that the majority will buy it. Irrationality plated up to look like daily necessity.

There are many reasons why I am thinking of doing small fasts on a continuing basis - social responsibility, health, weight, novelty. But as the hours tick on, it's harder to get jazzed about it...

2.5 hours until dinner!!

Have any of you tried fasting? (And cholesterol checks don't count!)