Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Simple Bath Salts



For easy homemade bath salts, you can just mix and enjoy your own! Here's my post about it today on Women Not Dabbling In Normal...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Some That Survive




The gynura procumbens we planted this past summer really thrived. It outgrew the buckets and got leggy, so we harvested about 5 gallons of the leaves, cut all the plants way back, and propagated several more buckets of them by simply sticking some of the cut branches into soil, where they took root. Here are the young plants from the propagated cuttings. They are more vivid in color in this cooler season, the stems showing magenta and the leaves edged in similar hues...lovely! We will continue using these in salads for blood sugar regulation.

One of the baby malangas, whose corms we hope will mature into large enough sizes in a few months, to eat in soups or a hot buttered mashed side dish, similar to potatoes.




This is a coconut from which is growing a coconut tree. It didn't like the dip in temps a few weeks ago and the leaves are stressed. We think the plant will bounce back.



Here's our latest acquisition from two weekends ago...the jujube tree sapling we purchased from ECHO in Ft. Myers. The little greenish fruit at maturity should be to be the size of a small apple, with a crisp, appley flavor, good for eating out of hand or substituting (we think) in recipes calling for apples. We don't yet know of an apple tree that thrives this far south, so this may be a welcome addition.



These are some vagabonds from the lettuce that went to seed. These are growing around the buckets, in the grass...perfect for picking straight from the lawn, ha!

Hello, beautiful! These beautiful blooms are on our citrus. Not sure if this plant is one of the lemons or limes...
a closeup...

Here's another...I believe these are on the Meyer Lemons (I could be wrong, didn't check the labels)

one of my favorite closeups... :)

And here's the pineapple sage in bloom, amongs the more dormant herbs nearby...

I love the touch of scarlet, and the scent of the leaves is wonderful! The pineapple sage really perked up during the milder temps...they were kind of stressed and crunchy in the summer months.

This is our first Florida winter to have a garden, albeit in buckets, and it's an experiment in plant survival. Which ones will over-winter? Which are too stressed by the dips in temps now and then (to the 30s sometimes) ? I'm just not familiar with the Non-Four-Seasons climate enough to get my head around the fact I can be growing a lot of things right now.

There are tomato plants at Home Depot...and eggplants, peppers, and other veggies. SO strange to be able to plant those now...but hey, I'll adjust!
:)
Seed catalog madness update to come soon. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I love you...

A Place to Thaw

Jack and I went for a relaxing beach date late afternoon yesterday...it's one of our favorite places to walk and just spend quiet time together. If you live in a snow-laden climate and need a place to go thaw, come on down...the weather's in the mid-70s. These pics needed no color retouching...

The sunset paints impossible palettes across the sand and water, colors and textures that you just sit there and try to drink in. Vast, and yet beautiful even in the smallest grains of sand or shell detritus strewn like glowing confetti

It's brushed clean by each incoming and outgoing wave...just waiting for feet to track across, like newfallen snow. Just warmer...

Mauve, gold, salmon, kisses of foam, litters of tiny shell peppering the drifts

pelicans at play, slowly stroking the air currents with their awkward wings, diving, feasting, bobbing along, preening. Repeating.




Sailboat far out on the horizon, a fingernail of sail scratching a curtain of orange horizon


Foam whispering "Shhhhhh" over molten waterlines

Pathway to the sunset

Matelasse quilts of foam in constant motion

This was the point just before the sun sank below the horizon. The clouds were magnificent! Just when the light is only a stripe of incandescence before disappearing, if I'm with Jack, it's time to kiss!

God's handiwork is so lavish, it's amazing to me, new again each time ... shehecheyanu

There are these moments of perfect wonder, and they're not limited to warm beaches. We are collectors of the moment, witnesses of a world we cannot control, fierce beauty, painted with large strokes and the smallest of details. Stunning and raw. A garden we inhabit.

Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam shecheyanu v'kiy'manu v'higyanu lazman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us in life, sustained us, and brought us to this moment.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Some More Roastin' and Toastin'



I tried roasting pumpkin seeds today for the first time. Mine came out a little bit overdone, probably because I mixed some onion powder in with the oil and salt and maybe the onion scorched a bit. I'll add it afterwards next time. But even so, it is tasty!



This is the turkey soup the baked pumpkin flesh went into...it's simmering till Jack gets home. I'm still a bit achey and such from the bronchitis this week, and all I really want is easy food and a warm hubby to curl up with. I do have to say it's been nicer going grocery shopping each week knowing that there is a freezer full of turkey and some other things at home as the backbone of the week's meals. I had no idea it would make this big a difference, but it does. And as much turkey as we stocked up on before the holidays, at the incredible holiday discounts, we've eaten a lot of turkey dishes. For some reason, the turkey soup stock is the one thing we never seem to get tired of...it's seen many incarnations.

I am very very thankful!

I plan to post more next week...this week was just full of working and staying under wraps and recovering from this cold.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy celebration for your holiday this week!

Tonight we light the hannukiah, like we planned on doing the past few nights. Tonight's our first night together this week!

Maybe I'll have more to write soon and my posts will be less boring :) I still have a lot to post about the visit to ECHO, my wish list for the upcoming garden, the progress Jack has made on the lot next door, and some new recipes I'm trying.

I lost another pound or so (not sure how, maybe all the soup?), so yay!

For those of you in the upper 48, stay warm!!

Shabbat shalom...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Apologies to the Dreidel Song

I should be celebrating Hanukkah. I'm glad there are eight days. And I'm glad germs and whatnot are not communicable via computer screen.

I can't write inspirationally just now. But I can leave you with this song...or else what's left of it....

Sung to the Dreidel tune.

My little gift to you...

The Extra Strength Cold Medicine Dreidel Song

I have a little dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it's dry and ready My fever and bronchitis
Then dreidel I shall play! have not yet gone away

chorus:Oh - dreidel, dreidel, dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it's dry and ready I'm more or less contagious
Then dreidel I shall play! I'll cough the other way

It has a lovely body I want to light the candles
With legs so short and thin but breathing's no delight
And when my dreidel’s tired if I torched my inhaler
It drops and then I win! I'd conflagrate the night

chorus

My dreidel’s always playful my stomach's feeling playful
It loves to dance and spin an ache is in my head
A happy game of dreidel I quickly quaff my NyQuil
Come play now, let’s begin! and shuffle off to bed


I knew it....
you can't get the tune out of your head, can you??

Me <--------an ornery little cuss when I don't feel good-- but you can't hit me...I'm sick!!(heh heh)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Why I Have Changed My Mind About Florida

I'm not much of a Florida person. I moved here to be with my husband, but quite against my will had it not been necessary at the time.

I'm not a beaches person, though they're stunningly beautiful.
I don't relish over-100 degree fahrenheit temps.
I don't appreciate over-priced properties.
Not a huge fan of constant tourist influxes.
Hurricanes are low on my list of favorite weather systems.
Florida architecture? Hmmm.
Palm tree vs. oak tree? Oak tree.
Trout stream vs. swamp? Oh trout stream, how I long for thee.
I won't even tell you how it feels when you have to go north to be in the South.


And so on and so on.


Until today...

when my hubby surprised me and took me for a day trip to an ECHO test site...where they test seeds/plants and grow crops and forest gardens to help train workers headed for underdeveloped countries, and they experiment with crops suitable for different climates with indigenous plants and plants with multiple uses.

And methods that are not technology-dependent.
And no-till/pro-permaculture methods of farming.
And an emphasis on small farming rather than big agriculture.
And an emphasis on finding solutions for food shortages and poverty by training people in self-sufficiency, especially agriculture.

Oh, and they have chickens (and other animals).

This was like paradise.


And here are some reasons that today I changed my mind about Florida. At least when it comes to gardening...

Keep in mind it's late December now. Here are some scenes that greeted us today -- none have been altered in any way. You can click on each picture to get a better idea of why it was so glorious being there up close and personal...
















I'll post more about what we saw, but for now, I just wanted to share some eye candy. EVERY tree seemed to be loaded with fruits. We got to taste a lot of plants we'd never tasted...yum! There was so very much to see, there just was not time enough to take it all in. We'll have to make future trips and hopefully be allowed to wander through and savor each part, really get a good look at a lot of their innovations, really study the plants and make a good plant list, see how they dealt with different topographical and climate specifics...and so on. I won't even tell you about the nursery till then...so many multiple-use plants and so many plants I've never heard of, wooo...FUN!!

We didn't leave unscathed. We did purchase a jujube sapling, a few seeds, and a 6 dollar old book entitled Folk Remedies of the Low Country by Julia Morton.

I have to go now...we walked and walked and walked all morning and now I'm tired. I was able to be with my sweetie all day, which is the best sort of day to have!

I'll share more about our jaunt as I can this week. I hope everyone has a wonderful night and day tomorrow :)

We're now heading into the last hours before nightfall and I have to get some things done before shabbat begins.

Hug the ones you love and stay warm, all you who are in The Real U.S.A....ha :) I hope your week was great!

Shabbat shalom :)

Unlikely Edibles

I've mentioned some of these before, but we're reading up on it further, and will try some of these in the upcoming year to see how they might be utilized...

There are so many plants whose foliage can be utilized as food in addition to their fruits or roots. Some of those are:

Carrots
Radishes
Turnips (of course)
Beets

Ok, we knew that, I think. But here are the ones we'll be trying in the cookpot in the future to see how we might incorporate them, or at least test them, as valuable additions to our meals.

Cowpea leaves.....pink-eyed purple hull, crowders, black-eyed peas, etc. Did you know that the leaves are edible ?? I have no idea how they taste, but they're nutritious as cooked greens...who knew? Having a few rows of cowpeas not only provides some cheap and great vegetable fare, but if you can eat the leaves, it really contributes in a larger way to the harvest, and the nutrition at the dinnertable. They say you can harvest the underneath leaves as the plant grows, leaving the top ones on the plant still as the cowpease grow and develop, akin to "picking a mess of greens" when you need them. Cool!

Okra leaves...huh? those prickly things? Well, it seems that the young leaves are good chopped and included in soups. Maybe not so good sauteed, as they might have the same slime factor as the pods. But according to preliminary reading we've done so far, in soups and gumbos, the leaves are in their element. It'll be a must-try for our hot climate...we'll see how it does.

Squash and Pumpkin leaves. Again, does the taste vary according to variety? Our reading how turned up mention of the value of these leaves being used at the young stage. I'm not sure if they're used raw, but they can be cooked. I'm not sure of the taste and not sure if they're good alone or better if combined in stir fries and soups. But imagining the double-whammy of utilizing not only the squash and pumpkin fruits and blossoms as well as the leaves...well...there are a lot of leaves on those things! What if it equates to a lot more food from the garden...and another fantastic way to eat our greens? I love the idea of eating as much of the plant as possible.

Clover. Don't laugh. Animals love it, but apparently so did native human populations. We've meant to try this one but haven't yet, except fresh. The leaves are edible cooked, dried and ground as an addition to flour (think adding them into pasta-making or additions to soups), and the flowers are packed with loads of vitamin C and can be pulled apart and used in salads, or battered with tempura and flash fried.

There are more, but that's all for now...just wanted to post it quickly before I forgot! Finding the possibility of "secondary edibles" for common crops figures into our deliberations as we peruse the seed catalogs and figure out what we will try growing this year. In a sense, we're not only educating ourselves as first time gardeners, but also hoping to re-educate our assumptions as to what parts of the actual plants can be utilized. It's exciting to find the choices are vast!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Giveaway Over at WNDIN

I thought you might like to know about this giveaway, if you haven't already seen it.

The comments section of that post also present a good opportunity to give feedback about particulars you'd prefer to see explored more by the collection of Women Not Dabbling In Normal contributing writers.

Thought it was worth the mention! :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Manna Storehouse Interview

This is a followup to my past post directed as a general query to the homesteading community readers, asking for confirmation of any details and wanting to sort fact from rumor in the case of the recent Manna Storehouse/Stowers Family foodstuffs confiscation.

In reply to a recent email of mine requesting information from the Stowers themselves about what happened to them, they directed me to the attorney in charge of responding to the public's questions. I haven't had the time to go that route yet, but just got a comment from the Runyons directing me to this YouTube video published on their site.

This is the Stowers' recent video interview. Thank you to Steve and Paula for the heads up!


Following the links in the video will take you to The Buckeye Institute site, where this recent article can be found. Here is an excerpt:

"The Stowers' constitutional rights were violated over grass-fed cattle, pastured chickens and pesticide-free produce," Buckeye Institute 1851 Center of Constitutional Law Director Maurice Thompson said. "Ohioans do not need a government permission slip to run a family farm and co-op, and should not be subjected to raids when they do not have one. This legal action will ensure the ODA understands and respects Ohioans' rights."

Click here to see a pdf copy of the complaint filed against the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Lorain County General Health District.

First, You Get A Glass of Milk...


Then you walk five miles. (Unless your birthday falls in a month that includes the letters "a," "e," or "u," in which case you should eat more cookies and contemplate it a bit longer)
Repeat as desired ;-)




Monday, December 15, 2008

One of Those Landmark Numbers...

down, baby, down!!

(No, I'm not sharing the actual number, but it's one of my landmarks!)

I crossed the boundary of one of those BIG psychological numbers. Got on the scale and am down 2 more lbs...19 total in 2008 so far, wooo!

Have not investigated the posssibility of a broken scale, but HAVE given serious thought to bronzing the thing and giving it its own space on the mantel!

(Again, my little happy place of insensibility. We actually have no mantel...)

:::::::: dancing the happy dance ::::::::::::

I go now to work and to ponder the great mysteries of life. Such as how to lose weight while hormonal, puffy, and having consumed two helpings of home fries earlier this morning....heh heh

I take back all the bad words I've said to my scale in the past. For now...

;-)

Doing Not Thinking Challenge

This challenge originated with Kathie at Two Frog Home, and it's been so neat watching the progress of all the participants!
OK, this one didn't go like I thought, due to my inconsistency. I could have done better. But there have been results! :)

But here's where I am compared to where I was before the challenge...

Weight loss:
I have no idea how much I've lost since the challenge because I forgot my starting number ;-)

And there is NO way that starting number was getting published (ha!)

But I will say this -- at the beginning of this year I weighed 17 lbs or so more than I do right now. As of this morning I'd lost another pound...can we say Yay??? And that's with retaining water and being hormonal the past few days. We've cut out some bread and rice and all pasta as a result of my hubby being told by his doctor to lay off them or else. But we still eat pretty much what we want, just better food since much more of it is slow food cooked here at the casa. I have SO much more to lose. But a journey of a thousand miles...blahblahblah and all that.

Well, Yay!!!

Consistently doing what it takes to locate and acquire our homestead property:

Yes. This has been happening. Evvv. Errr. Yyy. Week. Shall report details when I am able to have good news. It's too much of a roller coaster to give the blow-by-blow and I get too wrapped up in it emotionally, but rolling along it is :)

Saving up loose change for Kiva.org lending program to boost self-sufficiency of individuals in poverty:

This went well. I had a dry spell there for a long time where I was not working outside the home, and so had no cash that I was using other than the tightly-budgeted grocery amount. I cooked at home, so we seldom ate out, and this proved to me how much money we lose the more we rely on eating elsewhere in addition to the actual cost...the change really adds up!
I have at least $20 in change I've collected, though, even then. It may be even more. I hope to apply it before the end of this month and get the ball rolling using whatever coinage is the final count.
Though it's a very small amount, these are micro loans, which makes them easy to give out when a few people pool their resources, and makes them low risk. The nice thing about it is that when the borrower pays it back to Kiva.org, I can just reapply the amount to someone else listed on their site in need of a micro loan. These loans help buy a family goat, or cow, or seeds, or fabric for handmade goods, etc...something less regulated in many areas of the world and able to meet the needs of a family as well as having something for them to sell and make a business from.

The nice thing about having a change jar we've been putting coins into is seeing how it does add up, whether quickly or slowly. Now we can be deliberate with what we use the change for...either more Kiva money or some other modest goal.

I've been bad about not reporting consistently on my DNTC progress. But this is the summary of what the results have been.

Any results are better than none :) So....Yayyyy...some good things got done!

Thank you Kathie for facilitating this!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Update. Beware of Cranky.


I'm content. And I'm cranky.

Not blah exactly. At the moment.

There is an entire sub-story here running parallel with what I'm free to type about, only I'm NOT free to type about it yet. It involves the process involved with securing our homestead. It is long, long, and long. It requires weekly followup in many different areas, which both Jack and I quickly do.

Someday I will tell that part of the story, but it's just not the right time yet. When that someday comes, it will be easier to understand the delay in sharing all the details. It does involve a lot of anticipation, planning, researching, doing whatever the next step is, and waiting to see what the results are, and then going forward in like fashion again to the next leg of all that doing and waiting, etc. We've had some major setbacks, some things I'd call challenges, and some great open doors. Much for which to be thankful, even for the closed doors. I would so love to know when this chapter will come to a close and the next one will begin. Some of the bends in the road as far as progress seem daunting to me. I'm having to coach myself not to get into anticipation mode for too long till the fat lady sings...there are just too many variables yet. I'm sooooooo THERE in wanting this to come to fruition. Well, enough said on that...

I got out today and toppled the enormous moutain of poo...the free horse manure/straw/wood shavings, all three trailerloads. SO happy to have it. I'm just spreading it with a shovel and hoe presently, wanting to take advantage of the rain showers we are having now and then. As I was standing next to one of the Matterhorns, nearly knee deep in manure even at the edge of it all, it occurred to me why blue jeans originally were called DUNGarees...ha :)

I started back to work last week, and today was my first day off. I truly miss being at home, but am getting my mind in gear for the task at hand. Which results in slight crankiness ;-) Jack was going through some sort of Not Feeling So Hot on his off days this week, and so did a lot of sleeping in, which is understandable given that his knee is still healing. He did a lot of helpful things around the house, which were much appreciated.

I'm cranky about our eating fast food several times this week, as I didn't stop and make much from scratch. There were things already cooked, sitting in the fridge, but Jack doesnt have the same ability to look at them and visualize them as particular meals he can assemble himself, other than such things as frozen fish and such. So I feel we've been wasteful and much less healthy in our eating in the past few days, and I was being so careful with that before. Which made me slightly crankier. I've been SO SO careful about our grocery budget and now with that and the gasoline for the commute, I'm probably developing an indelible frown line across my forehead. The good part is that I can see how much our mindset has changed this year, which is progress. I just don't want to slide back away from that progress.

I'm feeling blank about what to journal here...I'm feeling quite boring.

In contrast, I'm missing my daughter while enjoying the quieter privacy in the house. Ever missed the noise of a loved one while not missing the noise of a loved one?? Told you....Cranky.

I don't know how Jack deals with me sometimes. I'm terrible at prolonged waiting, and this is the scenario we're in presently. SO much to be thankful for, and we are!! Sooooo cranky about certain areas being fraught with Waiting.

I know what I'm going to do this afternoon. I'm going to put some potatoes to bake in the oven, chop some veggies that will get steamed or sauteed just before serving time, and set the table for Shabbat. THEN I will shower and get into THE most comfy bedtime clothes I can, even though it's wayyy before bedtime. And I will slip under the covers till about 30 minutes before Jack gets home from work. Then I'll put the fish in the oven, finish the veg, make some refresher kombucha, and call it a night. Light the candles, put Jack in charge of making sure they don't burn down the house, and crawl into bed for the night.

Working nights messes with my bod during my off days. And that's how I justify pajamas in the afternoon ;-)

Am I hormonal? I'm 42...whadda I know from hormones? (said in a Linda Richman Coffee Talk voice)

I don't have much time here, and I have yet to answer some of the wonderful comments. I lack the time to visit other websites much at all, which frustrates me somewhat.

I'm delighted with how many online friends came together in behalf of our mutual friend in an emergency...that was a high point of the week :)

I learned how to knit a brim for the round loom caps...thanks to Angie at Children in the Corn (see blogroll on sidebar for link) for showing her great successes teaching herself knitting, and inspiring me to try this...it has been fun!

I'm behind in getting out holiday cards. (Some would say years behind, as this happens to me annually and most years they never get sent, ha!)

Jack's knee is a lot better, SO much better than two weeks ago. I'm relieved about this, and thankful.

I'm slowly getting an area at a time within the house straighted and organized. I'm swapping some household items for my daughter's mattresses and bedframe, since they are quite new. She bought a larger size and seems happy we'll be setting her bed up in what will now be a guest room...first time we've had a guest room since we moved to Florida, woo :)

If we had a swimming pool, this is the perfect time I'd want to jump in (ok, yeah, except that it's winter and all...details...) I so love swimming and rarely get to do it. I love the feeling of swimming along the bottom and looking all around and the sounds being distorted, sort of like music, and gliding along through liquid blue. I especially love it when my muscles are tired...it's so relaxing.
Why the picture of Einstein? Dunno, it fits my mood, and it's always made me smile. Or maybe I included it because feeling oddly disjointed, typing incoherently, and craving salmon sushi and a very hot bath are signs of genius?? (not holding my breath on that one ;-))

Well, this happy yet slightly cranky gal is going to call it a day and wind up what I need to get done before night is near.

I hope you've had a wonderful week! And if it's not been wonderful, I hope you survived with your head held high, lots of hugs, and something to warm you in the chill. Thank you for what you add to my world :)

Blog is closed till after sundown tomorrow...


Shabbat shalom!

Some More Caps!



This picture isn't too close to the real color...more a pine green than it seems here. The first few caps I knitted on the round loom by looping one single row of yarn loops over another single row of yarn loops (I'm not a real knitter, remember? I totally cheat with the round loom, and yet, success!!) I noticed that this produced a light sort of cap with a lot of breathing room ...spaces, if you will...in the finished products.
I wondered what would happen if I did two rows of loops over two rows of loops instead? I had to relax the tension as I went, or they wouldn't reach when I tried to ease the bottom loops over the top ones. What it produced was a much thicker cap, with a nice squishy thick feel to it...not as easy to expand. It held its shape well and the ridged pattern that happens was better defined.
For some reason this dark green cap just gave me a lot of problems. I had to take it apart a couple of times and this was the first cap where I tried making the rim, or band, or whatever it's called. But hey, I did it! When at last it was about finished and I was pulling the final piece of yarn drawstring-style together to finish the top, I heard a slight (and sickening) pop, and there were all the little loops sticking straight up, not held together anymore. I had pulled the drawstring too tight, and it had popped in two. I gingerly took the yarn hook and threaded it through the exposed loop ends and then went through the painstaking process of picking through every single one of them and pulling a thicker piece of yarn through each one. I took my time. Finally finished! And then I found that when I gave the cap to Jack to try on, since the yarn was thicker, there wasn't as much "give" as with the single-looped caps and it felt tight on his head.
I told him his head must have grown and that's what he gets for having the big head, ha! Ah well shucks, I was really wanting this one to be for him. Time to pull out the Big Head loom I guess? heh heh





This one was fun! It was my experiment with alternating colors to create stripes, and these were the only two colors I had left. I like it! I used two loop over two loop for the blue and three loops over three loops for the thinner brown yarn. Because the blue had more stretch to it, it's a nice flexible cap. I had fun with it :)








Not sure why, but this one was my favorite this week. Maybe it's because it's my first time trying this "fat yarn" but it's likely the muted colors that for some reason my eyes kept going back to. I love the way the rows stand out...on this cap I used two rows of loops over two rows of loops and got a very thick cap. There's not a lot of stretch to it, but the up side is that it holds its shape really well and is one of the neater looking rolled edge caps I've made.
Again, I can't believe I'm making anything real so soon in this process. Yay for the Knifty Knitter round looms! If I can make this, a five year old can!
Anyway, thought I'd share these pics. My daughter is making off with the final goods so I got some shots while I could :)
I find it really relaxing to work on these while relaxing. They are easy to do with other distractions going on around. In fact, I think knitting with the round loom actually helps me relax. It might be time soon to save a few nickels and check into the other handheld loom that makes scarves and rectangular shapes so I can knit up some matching sets, woo!
Now all I need is about two dozen cats, some little lace doilies, and a sturdy pair of house slippers and I can be the crazy cat lady who knits and talks to herself, ha :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Homesteading Mafia, Unite!

;-)

If you are part of this extended online community loosely termed "homesteading," please take just a second to read this post at Monica's site. (It loads slowly) It's about a friend near and dear to us all, Phelan at the A Homesteading Neophyte blog, and about how we can be a part of something very necessary...now. We're most of us having a hard time with this economy, and working hard to hang on during it. One of the most necessary parts of homesteading, however we may define it, is being the old-fashioned hands-on definition of a good neighbor.

Phelan is one of our neighbors, and also a teacher to many of us. So many people, including myself, have gained a lot from what she's shared on her blog for a long time. I believe there are times to honor our teachers, and there are times we neighbors can facilitate helping each other through community. I can't say it better than Monica did, but I can ask that we weigh in as friends. Phelan's own post about the situation, as well as a tip jar she reluctantly included at the end of the post at her many commenters' insistence, can be found here, though she only included it by coercion :)

I thank you!

(Secret mafia handshake and high five to ya!)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Comments About Manna Storehouse Raid

...otherwise entitled "Robbyn's Rules of Commenting." ;-)

A day or so ago, I posted a question trying to verify if an email I'd received was correct. It stated that Manna Storehouse, located in a private home, had been raided and their inventory and computers, etc, confiscated while the family was held at gunpoint. The reason I was particularly interested in this story is because the family business/buying co-op is the sort that helps others buy grassfed meats and organic foods at affordable prices. I was wanting to separate the fact from the fiction.

I am waiting for an official press release, which will come soon. When it does, I'll post it.

I have concerns for our constitutional rights and freedoms and that there may be some blatant injustices in small farmers, etc, being targeted in differing ways. I found it very difficult to believe that a dispute over licensing details could have actually resulted in a family's home being searched in the way it seems (by the accounts I've read) to have been. I'm still waiting for details.

An online friend of mine posted her concerns that this particular news story be correctly verified, and expressed her personal perspective as the wife of a law enforcement officer who each day is often required enforce the law while at the same time protecting himself. It is the reality of every family member of loved ones in law enforcement that their job requires the risk of their own lives. Her comments spoke to this and to the fact that often police are following orders. She also stated that she has a concern that farmers and homesteaders are being unfairly targeted more and more. She made her comments respectfully. They reflected her opinions, and the last time I looked, this is what our Constitution protects the right to express. Therefore, I thank her. I am thankful for our Constitution.

As a rule, I seldom edit or refuse to publish comments based on whether I agree or not with them. This will be one of those exceptions. Here is why--

I came home from work to an In Box with several more comments, all of which I appreciated reading. The part I had a problem with was that rather than address the content of my post, which was to get to the bottom of what really happened at Manna Storehouse, it began to be a dialogue among the commenters. Whatever has really happened, it has touched a nerve and involves very important issues. These issues include the role of law enforcement, Constitutional rights, the targeting of small groups (even families) without grounds or due process, potential abuses of privacy and other rights in the name of "security" or "compliance," and the ethical conundrum of those involved (law enforcement, etc) when the choice must be made to participate (or not) if it's obvious an injustice is being perpetrated under the guise of law.

These are tremendously important concerns!

Though I had no idea this would bring about such important discussion, I welcome it...within the confines of respect. That's the rule here... you can say hard things and I don't have to agree with you, nor do any commenters have to agree with each other. BUT. It has to be expressed respectfully.

I know...if you're the friends of the family who just got held at gunpoint, you're entitled to rant. Please do! But let's put things on the table without attacking others. That's my requirement.

I did not post the following comments in full, not because I wish to edit the convictions behind them, but because they became personal to one of the commentors, going beyond the realm of this blog in its ability to adequately foster dialogue. I thought they were borderline hostile, though it was probably wasn't meant personally. But to me, it did sound a bit too personal to other commenter's thoughts...an attack is different than dialoguing.

Here are some of the concerns I can post, excerpted from some of the comments in my In Box. I did not include whatever other valid parts of their comments that were directed to prior commentors. The discussion is out on the table for all, not to target an individual. My thanks to those who took the time to express your concerns:

#1 I wonder to what extremes tactical teams will just do their jobs... At some point, individuals have to be responsible for their actions which further tyranny, "just following orders" is no excuse.

#2 (sic throughout) I'm baffeled at the posted dialog. What have we come to? Yes, it's true. This family, who is providing a healthy source of organic FOOD, YES FOOD, NOT DRUGS or any kind of illegal product, was stormed upon by a SWAT team, in full riot gear, and had fully automatic guns pointed at them, including the children. No phone call, no explenation. Private property was taken, including a signifcant amount of food, valued at possibly $10,000.00. Yes, IT'S TRUE. This is a perfect example of the tyranny we can expect from our goverment in the days to come. THEY WERE GROWING HEATHLY FOOD. And every civil right we claim to cherish in this country was violated. What about those children? Did they deserve that experience? What did that teach them about thier country, thier leaders, thier goverment, thier law enforcment?

#3 At some point, even the ordinary swat team guy must take responsibility for what he does.

The point of some of the edited-out portions pointed to historical injustices (in particular the holocaust) and raised the issue of individual responsibility vs. following commands. Several folks stated this in various ways. I edited another part that used a religious rebuke in an insulting way. If you want to direct it to me, I'm fine with that...I initiated the topic. But leave heavyhanded personal remarks to other commentors out of it. I defend your own right to comment on my blog without being insulted as well.

These are important issues, and often emotional ones.

My heartfelt thanks to all who feel protective of our rights and our freedoms and who are hopping mad at injustice. We have every right to be.

I am thankful for our Constitution, for the law enforcement in this country who enforce it, and the freedom we have to appeal within that system to right any injustices or corruptions both within and without. There is much that needs to change.

I'd like to get the facts before going any further with this.

Thank you, Dina, for your link. :) I did see it. I'm awaiting the press release from the actual family, when they have made it official.

And right now, like Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Shabbat shalom!!!

Home-centric Ramblings

I know there are people who juggle a heavy job schedule with all their home duties and projects every day, with great success. My hat's off to each of them!

I've done both at times, and when there were children in the picture, it was a wrenching set of decisions how to do justice to the privilege of motherhood (and in this case also fosterparenthood) and doing what it takes outside of the home to bring in a necessary income to meet the bills. The decisions difficult and personal, and I don't believe one solution fits all. No matter how far afield my responsibilities take me, inside of me is always the longing for home. For being at home.

Home is the ones I love. It's especially my husband, and a place for my child or children to always be welcome and understood. If I flop at other things, I hope I won't flop at those.

For myself, I know I'm not one of the wonderwomen. Not as a mother, friend, project-doer, volunteer, and employee. I do try to do well at each of these.

My personality does not feed on drama to maintain equilibrium, and I crave quiet movement and a more natural flow to days and doings. This has made me seem quite boring to a lot of folks, and it's the difference between my youth and my middle age now (I'm 42). Not that I've not risen to the occasion of life events and crises as they've come along...hopefully, I'm steady in those. But I don't crave them as my energy source or for meaning.

As a youth, my parents relocated on average every two years, and there was an excess of drama and time demands...in fact, it was nearly constant. The up side is that I learned to adapt and be flexible, and saw a lot of different places and situations. I nearly always hated school, though, especially when I was very young. I chafed at the long days spent in uninspiring schools, staring out the windows (if they had them) from my desk at the day passing by, so discontent. I wanted so much to be out There, having finished my work long since, and simply just doing busywork much of the rest of the classes. I love being outdoors, or fashioning a house to be a place of welcome. (I do better with that some times than others...my house is often TOO relaxed and not renowned for its ability to excel at white glove tests, ha!) When later I homeschooled my daughter a few of her younger years, it was interesting to see just how little time it took for her to learn the day's lessons, and how much free time was left for her to explore and extend her learning to all of her day, in a natural instead of contrived way, when there was not busywork to have to sit through.

Anyway, back to the topic -- As a young person, I didn't see myself wanting family and stability and doing anything but getting out there and seeing the whole world, being in constant motion, and changing the world. The flip side of this is that I quickly found that I had been in a sort of isolation much of my childhood, and that part of me craved quietness, room to think and sort things out, and stable friends who were not destructive.

I did get to travel the world, and what I found was that I most loved being with people...in their homes. I loved the roads off the beaten path, and would look at the people and their houses and wonder just how they lived their daily lives. The happiest memories I have of those travels are of the hospitality shown me on so many levels, and of getting to share the simplicity of a cup of tea and conversation in the heart of someone's home. Years later, a family of friends in Northern Ireland showed me that a sort of hospitality that exceeded my ability to comprehend when they had me over for two weeks. I'm so lousy with long distance correspondence, but I hope to return that hospitality to them someday. Those very real home moments and friendships were better than any tourist destination in a travel flyer.

I love other cultures, and traveling. I love learning about history. As an adult, there is still a part of me that loves new things, discoveries, some times of a lot of activity and excitement. But a greater part of me prefers that Home be at the heart of these, and that it be a quiet refuge and place of peace rather than stress. I'm not sure how exciting my own history has been or will be, but it has been and will continue to be Home-centric. My husband also shares this preference, and we both are slowly working to exchange the demands of an outside work schedule for being our own bosses, namely doing the business of keeping ourselves afloat from our efforts right here in our own backyard.

We're not yet there. It's our goal, though. I'm delighted to say that God has been gracious to us in allowing us a lot of forward movement, and the debt reduction continues. For those in the same circumstances of paying off debt before tackling further goals, it can seem an interminable journey, and the waiting can seem really long. Longterm friends of mine are probably sick of hearing about my dreams of living in the country and doing "country things"...it's an old song and I'm stuck on Repeat. The difference now is that Jack and I both want the same thing.

An important focus of our home is God. This blog is not a vehicle for writing about the specifics of our faith, but I'm also not going to "hesh up" about the centrality of it at the core of all we do and hope to do in the future. My husband is a Jew by birth and practice, and I'm one by choice, and we both have christian pasts that overlap into our presentday in ways we appreciate rather than not. I have a lot to learn, but we're a pretty pared down couple beliefwise. We believe in the written Torah and other scriptures contained in the Tanak (the OT, to christians), and do not have a heavy emphasis on tradition, though we have a reverence for wise men (and women) and their insights. We strive for a simplicity and straightforwardness in our faith rather than the esoteric, or any tendency to follow gnostic or mystical things, or any thing or person propounding "a higher knowledge" or "special revelation." We are convinced of the necessity for ourselves to not add to or take away from the simplicity we read straight up in the pages of the scriptures, and that puts us in an interesting No Man's Land where we don't exactly "fit." Nevertheless, we are delighted to be here...it took us a long time to pare it down to this. We love that Judaism allows for us to ask questions and quest in this way.

That's probably more than I've ever written on this blog about our faith. The only reason I'm writing about it now is because of its importance in determining our decisions daily and in the future. Our desire to love God and live according to His instructions figures into every area of our lives. Our attitude towards these things also is the same we have in other areas. We don't strive and find some relief in achieving things through work. We don't "earn" happiness or a right relationship, but that's not to say that in every area of our lives there's not an investment of time, focus, and elbow grease. The grace part is that we've been granted the fullness of life no matter how bumpy the process of living it gets. With us, there's no dichotomy of grace vs "works" because we do what we choose to do, and not against our will. This for us has been our process of growing up. Our choices don't always entail the easy road, but the journey is not alone. Frankly, I don't care where it leads, as long as we're praying for direction along the way and doing the best in each decision we can to follow the path God lays out for us.

Boy is this post rambling. Don't get the impression we have our act together. We don't. And don't mistake our willingness to walk this way as some religious thing. To us, separating life into categories that make "religion" something apart from the our everyday lives is contrived. Our heroes are not religious, they are godly...and flawed, and real.

Again, I digress. I'm just trying to clarify somewhat. The subject of the post is about whether to stay at home or go work at a different location for someone else regularly. We're at that transitional point of discomfort, both desiring to put our energies into our little homestead, right here at home. Running a household with a strong priorities of conserving resources, self-sufficiency, experimentation and constant learning, and producing what we need right here as much as possible really requires time...here....at home. It doesnt mean we can't work elsewhere, but our Elsewhere has been the biggest chunk of time and energy in the past, and we are transitioning it here.

I love being at home. I'm not a driven person, and I'm very relaxed (too relaxed many times) when I'm at home. There are times when we'll just have to discipline ourselves to a different set of tasks here, but evenso, I feel such a sense of fulfillment when we can actually SEE fruition of our attempts close at hand. I long for plantings and the tending of plants and animals, with all their joys and frustrations, and the final harvest that must then be put up in ways that extend our enjoyment of the fruits. I LIKE learning to be more self-sufficient and not having to depend solely on others. I LIKE paring down what we consider to be necessities to the fundamentals, and being very selective, and creative, about the "extras." This simplicity has infused all the areas of our lives. We enjoy this choice, this elbow grease...and the ability to work with our limitations. There will always be more to do, but we're not driven. I'm so grateful that simplicity can be inspiring rather than a deprivation. We enjoy our less, more.

I just returned to work after a long hiatus for most of the summer and fall. Initially, I was off work to be in hospice with Jack's mom in her last weeks, and I'm so glad we were able to do that. I'm enjoying getting back to a schedule at work...for a time. We don't know how long that will be, but we know the goal...the rest of our debt being paid off. There haven't been any bailouts for our family, and so we work :)

As I've been at home these past few months, I've thoroughly enjoyed it, and my productivity around here really picked up. My sleep schedule balanced itself, my health picked up, I slowly began losing weight without doing anything else differently. I was able to make better meals, made everything possible from scratch, learned a lot of new recipes and did some experimentation. I saw Jack thorough a lot of testing, driving here and there, and was available to my daughter and Jack for their uneven workdays. I got to be with my husband a lot more, and help him more (we help each other, and I love being with him). It was even nice knocking off whatever I was doing and just being with him as ran errands together...often that's the best "date" around. We did a lot of planning, organizing. We scrapped a houseplan that took us months to agree on...scrapped it in a day. Redrew one that we're now fleshing out the details of, and we're happier with. I'll write more about that soon. We got a lot of health things sorted. Saw our daughter through a lot of transitions...she's graduated the LPN program, begun the new fulltime job, enrolled in college for the first time, taken on meeting her own expenses and contributing to the household a bit, and recently has moved into her own digs. She's made good decisions and bad, and as her mom I'm the first Go-To in a lot of that. It hasn't been a boring year :)

Jack's knee is better right now, and we just got a call from the neighbor that he's going to drop off another load of horse manure for us...he's worried he's giving us more than we need, but we keep telling him bring it on!

There is news to report on the land search, but we're waiting till everything aligns and we're sure of what to report. When we do, you'll hear the whole enchilada.

Happy freezer update! We bought the small freezer not too long ago, and got about a dozen frozen turkeys for $.79/lb. The turkeys are small, about 8-10 lbs each. We ate on the first one for a week because we didn't amend meals with a whole lot more. I don't think we'll ever get tired of soup made from the turkey stock! We've since run across a few deals on other meats, and have slowly tucked a few buys into the deepfreeze as well...a couple of chuck roasts, some grouper, a couple of briskets.

I had no idea how wonderful it would be to have a freezer. I underestimated how less dependent on the grocery store it helps us be, now that I have all I need to make things from scratch at home. There's not much in the way of instant-presto food, but there are all the ingredients for whatever I need to fix (we still have some fresh veggies in the fridge...and of course a bottle of root beer. What's up with my craving root beer so much lately?) When I'm set up for pressure canning and can have more time at home, I'll be putting up a lot of meat that way, too, especially stock and soups. But for now, this step in buying the freezer is such a blessing! We're so grateful God has provided some more workdays for us both so we can afford to get a jumpstart on it. We're not eating into our debt-reduction this way...we're just finessing the grocery budget, and so far so good.

We were blessed with a modest windfall from an unexpected source this week (an endeavor, not a person), and it couldn't have come at a better time! This will take care of our property taxes and I got a pair of work shoes I was needing and a few other necessities. We are SO thankful to God for this, and for the added work days.

We go to work elsewhere in order to be here faster. I crave being at home. I've had a wonderful time being here the past few months! The faster we pay off the debt, the faster I can be here, and now it's gone from years to hopefully a countdown of months. I hope we do it fast!

We need to sell one property (we have vacant residential lots that are not moving at all, a handful total). If we can do this, we will be out of debt instantly, and can move forward with some totally new and exciting efforts. For now, we're in the countdown.

A year and a half ago when I started blogging our journey, if anyone had told me it would be this much later and we'd still not be out of debt yet, I'd have been really deflated and blue about it. Journaling here has helped me have a more realistic view of all that goes into the daily living of moving a certain direction. It's allowed me to compare my supposed wish lists against the realities of other homesteaders already "living the life" and seeing where I need to hone our expectations considerably. Other homesteaders (however that term is defined) have been our very real teachers, as we feel privileged to have a window into your lifestyles, preferences, and what works for you. We're so thankful for you! Many times, I even get intimidated. We're slower, aren't supremely driven, and our ambition stops short of what it would have been 20 years ago. But the changes have been real, if sometimes "real slow."

I'm already missing being at home as much. But my heart never leaves here. That includes my husband...it's not a house. Having Jack as kindred spirit and partner in crime (ha), and as a great strength in areas in which I'm not as strong is perhaps the greatest gift God's given to me besides my daughter (they are in separate categories, not competing ones) :) I stop all day, every day, to thank God for Jack. Sure, sometimes we need a break from each other, but only for a very little bit. I'm so glad our worlds came together into one. Someday I might write about how God brought us together, but for now, I'm just grateful. I'm slightly apprehensive about leaving my snug home and returning to a work schedule elsewhere, but I'm not less grateful for that opportunity, since it's not an end in itself.

God speed the day we can be on our land, out of debt, working hard at home and making it a place of welcome to others!

Sorry...this post was all over the place! I hope you have a relaxing weekend. We're now headed into another shabbat, and this time I'm lighting the stand menorah Jack had made years ago. I need to start us our own traditions for our weekly shabbat...someday I'll learn some other things to make it special, hopefully from observant folks who have been doing that a lot longer than we have. But whatever it looks like down the road to us, it'll always be a time of rest, refocus, family, homespun worship and gratefulness to God. It's to us weekly what christmas is to others once a year, minus the shopping frenzy :)

I'm so grateful for everyone who comes here, and always love reading your comments. Thank you for sharing yourselves and your perspectives so generously with us!

Shabbat shalom :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Knitwittery





I did it...yayyyy!!
Thanks to the ease of the Knifty Knitter round looms, making these was easy enough for even me to do it...and I haven't a clue about knitting, crocheting, etc. I wrote more about it at WMDIN, here.
I'll have some time late tomorrow to get back here and relax a bit. Today, I'm training most of the afternoon and working all night till mid-morning, so I'm scrambling to get things together beforehand and can't do justice quite yet to the wonderful comments on the past couple of posts...thanks for bearing with me. I love my online friends (you!) and love each and every comment...thank you!
In the meantime, I still can't believe I actually made something useful with my own two hands! I'll be using any down time at work to continue making more, to get the hang of it a bit better, and experiment a little more. The temps here in Florida finally dropped into the Cold category, even if briefly, so I'd better complete a couple more while we can actually wear them :)
I hope you're having a great day! I'm off to the salt mines...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Garbo Does My Dishes


Well, not exactly, but she kept me company in my kitchen The Day After Thanksgiving. And now we know why she never made public appearances. Seeing the state of my kitchen scarred her for life. But she did provide a memorable performance as I washed the umpteenth sinkful that had piled up despite my attempts last week to wash-as-I-go.

Dishwasher?
*I* am the dishwasher...

Jack had to work. I needed to wash. Sometimes I make it a game, but sometimes it's simply Ugh. This was one of those times.

I hauled my daughter's TV (the one that has a VCR tape thingy built right in) right onto the countertop and fished through a stack of old taped-from-AMC-back-in-the-day tapes to watch. I'm on an old movie kick right now, and we're not renting, nor do we have TV reception or cable (our choice, no complaints). I was in the mood for some company...and Greta showed up. (Not one of her smarter moves, ha)

She peered down from her queenly perch atop the one clear space in my kitchen and surveyed the dishware carnage below. She quickly grabbed for her bouquet of camellias to cushion the assault of her delicate sensibilities.


Oh drama queen of drama queens, she involved me in her intrigues, as my drying rack filled up and emptied time and again. (That's ok, I was up for it...I'm the mother of a daughter just past her teens, after all.) There was much movement on my part, a lot of scrubbing and suds flying and refilling of the sink with more water...and more dirty dishes.

This went on for some time, till both of us were a bit exhausted...she, of her Cukor-induced plot twists and I of my bottomless sink.

I got a lot done, but in the end, there were still more dishes. And you know what happens if you leave ANY dishes in the sink till tomorrow...you have to cook more food and then it begins again.

Tragedy, or comedy?

I laughed. Garbo didn't. Her Marguerite character died rather over-dramatically right there on the spot, of consumption, in the arms of her beloved. Though I have my doubts.

I suspect my kitchen was what did her in. Maybe there's only room for one heroine at a time in here.

I'm going to find out.

Yes, there are more dishes awaiting. I go now to the tragedy/comedy that is my kitchen sink...again. And I take some more old VCR tapes along as company. After all, I haven't yet killed off ALL the old silver screen greats...who will it be this time? So far I've made it through Greer Garson, Lauren Bacall, Mary Astor, Bette Davis...who else?

So many drama queens, so little time!