Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Craigslist and Canning Jars, Actual Responses

Having read some other folks' glowing reports of posting want ads on Craigslist and of their being bestowed with a bounty of canning equipment, I tried my hand at it for the first time.  I've browsed Craigslist before, and we found a buyer for a past vehicle of ours that way, but I've never submitted a want ad.
Here's pretty much what my posting said, and these are the exact wordings of the actual emails I received in reply  today.  Craigslist has been a fulfilling experience in every way so far.  Here's how our ad read:


(The ad, minus my personal location)

Need Canning Supplies

I am looking for inexpensive or free canning supplies for home canning, especially canning jars and a pressure canner. I am not a professional -- I just need to feed my family affordably and want to do like my grandmothers did and put away some food throughout the year. I can be contacted via email, thank you! :-) 
(craigslist email hyperlink)

I had no idea how provocative I am in print!  I mean, I guess the Need Canning Supplies tagline is the ultimate Craigslist pheromone, and I am the jar-less naughty Nannette of the Florida swampland.

I am greatly honored to have been contacted by these notables who took time from their busy schedules to drop me a quick Craigslist line.  (Please note how subject-appropriate are there responses to "Need Canning Supplies").  Without further ado, the email responses to my want ad:

Sender:  Mathis Smyre
 Message:  (hyperlink deleted) -- you can reach me.  No fakes keep that in mind.

The scrupulous Ms. Smyre prefers the minimalist approach to parting with her used canning jars and will conscience no fakes.  No fake what? Is Ms. Smyre referring to fakes as in fake parts?  I can't afford a knee replacement yet and I have acquired no other fake parts to date, not even the snazzy cosmetic sorts.  Yet. 

Let's see what else is in the In Box.

Sender:  Vars Cabana
Message:  I'm intrigued in you and your ad. I need to find out more and was wondering if you could call/text me with where you live? Please get hold of my cell phone # on my private page, you have to signup first but no lies there's no charge. This way I am protecting my private information, I have cash set aside already. I just need to ask you something over the phone and check this is not a scam. Thanks! 
(hyperlink deleted)
 -Sent via my iPhone  

This sender's name indicates he/she is most likely Swedish (Vars) and is checking the most important Canning Jar listings while throwing back a few fruity drinks at a tiki bar (Cabana).  He/she is intrigued with the idea of my needing canning jars. 
It appears urgent that I immediately call or text V.C. to tell him/her the exact location of my private house so that he/she can GoogleEarth me in zero point six seconds to find out exactly where the Canning Supply Deficient Zone is.  
To make sure I don't consider his/her invitation to share my private location too forward, I am invited to look for V.C.'s cell phone number after accessing a private page, signing up (oh goody, does the page need my social security number, I hope??)  
The requirement seems to be that I am not allowed to lie.  And there's no charge!!  See, there IS a reward for honesty!!  V.C. is thereby protecting his/her private information, because you KNOW that when some people ask for canning jars they really want canning jars AND a full rundown of the seller's medical history/offshore bank account numbers/names of children and what schools in which they're enrolled!  Gosh, I guess I'll have to settle for just canning jars.  Sigh.  
I am buoyed from wallowing in despair at this apparent setback by V.C.'s assurance that he/she has cash set aside already!  Wow...canning jars AND cash!!  V.C. just needs to ask me something over the telephone and make sure I'm not scamming him/her.  I wonder is there's a secret password or phrase I'll be given ahead of time so when we talk by phone, I can say "the eagle flies  by night" and those canning jars will be ALL MINE!!  Oh, goody!!!

But just in case this golden opportunity doesn't pan out, there's the next email:
Sender:  Margosian Klawitter
Message:  Check this out if you're legit and go through my direction. My pix and cell phone # are uploaded on my non-public profile so if you like what you see then obtain my # and text/call me asap. This is the ONLY way to seperate pyschos and to double check you're a good guy especailly since I want to host at my home. Im not a bot so stop doubting me. If you think I am not real then move on. Im a sexual girl in bedroom so want to tell you over the phone what I am looking for in a guy rather than wasting my time and typing here. I just hope you are the real deal too! xoxo
(deleted hyperlink)
-Sent via my iPad
You had me at Klawitter.  I had to Google it.  Under "A Brief History of Klawitter" I read that the name dates back to 1590 when the king of Poland granted an area of land to a man with that surname.  And the name Margosian is an Armenian patronym.  So obviously M.K. is a male Armenian Pole.  Or a male Polish Armenian. Who obviously wants to sell me some canning jars, hooray!!  
So the message goes on to instruct that if I am "legit" I will "go "through (his) direction."  What direction is Armenia from Florida?  Or would that be Poland?  Well, let's not get bogged down in details yet. 
He goes on to tell  me I can upload his cellphone number on his (squee!) NON-public profile so if I LIKE WHAT I SEE I can text or call him ASAP! Wow, I have to say this is very accommodating.  It's not just everyone who would  give me private access to a non-public profile for the purpose of downloading some rocking pics of a private canning jar stash!!! My cup overflows!!  
OK, Margosian goes on to say it is the only way to separate psychos and see if I'm a good guy since he wants to host at his home.  (I don't recommend separating psychos. Kind of like I don't recommend separating dogs in a dog fight.  But I digress.)  
Host what??  Wait, I know...A canning party!!  It's a canning party, folks!!  And of course, psychos are NOT welcome at canning parties (I always find they put a damper on things).
He says he is "not a bot."  I was not sure what this meant, so I looked it up.  A bot is the larva of the bot fly, an internal parasite to some farm animals.  Margosian, buck up, man.  Of course you're not a bot!  You'll hit your stride at the canning party and realize you shouldn't demean yourself with unfavorable comparisons with fly larvae.
But then we get to the disappointing part.  Oh dear.  Margosian is not a guy, she is a girl, probably under age and putting on too much eyeliner and lip gloss and typing on her Mom's IPad while her mom is fixing dinner (or canning!) and she is typing inappropriate things unbefitting a Canning Jar Responder.  Real deal? That's exactly what I'm looking for and don't seem to be making a lot of headway on...

But wait, perhaps one Klawitter is not like another!  Perhaps my Craigslist canning jar acquirement aspirations are not in vain...

The next email:
Sender:  Holmes Klawitter
Message:  Read this if you are legit and go thru my direction. My photos and cell phone # are placed on my private profile so if you take delight in what you see then find my # and text/call me today. This is the ONLY way to prevent pyschos and to make sure you're a good man precisely since I want to host at my place. I am not a phony so stop questioning me. If you think I'm not real then leave me alone. Im a kinky chick in bedroom so rather tell you over the phone what I am trying to find in a man rather than wasting my time and typing here. I just hope you're the real deal too! xoxo
Evidently Margosian (see former email) has...a brother, Holmes??  (Holmes, you should have a talk with your sister, she's derailing and in need of some good 4-H classes)  
These siblings' writings styles are either nearly identical or one of them lacks in the originality department.  Same instructions as the Margosian email, right down to the hosting the (canning??) party.
Holmes seems concerned that I not believe him to be a phony, too, and I am to stop questioning him.  What?  What if I need to ask you if the canning jars are perfect or chipped?  What if I need to know if they are pints, quarts, or half gallon?  What about if they're Mason, Ball, or Kerr??  OK, OK, I'll stop.  Anything for canning jars.
He encourages me to only proceed on my canning jar quest with him if I think he is real.  If  not, then leave him alone. Elementary, my dear Holmes.  I will have to focus, to deep breathe, to find my focal point and remember some of that Lamaze training.  I will have to suppress all my questions and reserve them for only those fleeting moments of pure crystalline canning jar enlightenment tainted with no doubts about your authenticity and sparkling with glittering rainbows and little pink dancing grass-fed unicorns!!  Done.  
Call Oprah.

I find the next sentence rather confusing.  You are a kinky chick in the bedroom??  I have no idea how baby chickens got into this conversation, nor bedrooms.  I don't care what poultry you prefer or where you keep your Rhode Island Reds, but I am a bit uncomfortable with the mention that you only are interested in selling canning jars to men and that anything else is a waste of your time.  Obviously you and your sister have some issues to resolve before you respond to any more Craigslist ads.  And chickens free-ranging in the bedroom, not the best idea, but you'll probably find that out soon enough.

Ah well.

One final email in the Inbox.  Let's not give up yet...I'm no easy quitter.
Sender:  Tarka Lovensheimer
Message:  We are near to one another so why not meet up for alcoholic beverages in near future? I'm aware this is for sales but I could not withstand it, you sound incredible. Could we chitchat immediately, I have used this site prior and it's actually good - I was hoping we could get over there and find out each other much better! ;) I have already uploaded confidential photos for you, all you have to do is sign up (do not worry, there's no cost). I will message you as soon as I see you sign on. I promise you will NOT be unsatisfied! 
(deleted hyperlink)
-Sent via my IPad
Tarka! I had to look your name up, too, and in Sanskrit it means Argument, but if you have some canning jars available, you'll get no argument from me!
Are we actually near each other?  If your name is Sanskrit I might have wrongly assumed you were on the Asian continent nearer India or Pakistan.  But it's amazing we're nearby!

How did that happen?  Are you the person in that car that keeps driving by my house at odd hours?  Gosh, well why didn't you just say so.  You know, don't be a stranger, stranger!

I appreciate the offer of meeting for drinks, but most of the time I'm just good for a good tall glass of strong iced tea.  It's the Southern in me (U.S., not Eurasia).  Tell you what, Jack and I will talk about where we can get the best glass of iced tea and you're welcome to join us.

This is for sales, what?  No, I'm buying...the canning jars, remember?  Love 'em, but I'm not a distributor.
You could not withstand the fact I sound incredible.  Hahahahahaha!!! Oh, dear, I get that all the time!  I'd be wayyy more incredible if you have some canning supplies I any?  You want to chit-chat immediately?  So does my husband!!  He's very excited about the possibility.  I mean, we posted this want ad on craigslist, and nothing panned out up to this point, but WOW, this is great!

What, you sent us a link to a site?  HOW cool is THAT?  We just love to click on unsolicited links in emails (Yay!!! just LOVE those canning videos!!)

You were hoping you could get over here and find each other much better?  Well, we'll send you the link to the restaurant when we decide.  We just can't wait to comisserate with like-minded people like yourself about canning!  
It's SO interesting the variety of people you meet with common interests, isn't it?  (by the way, you never mentioned if you do have any canning supplies.  Bring them when we meet up.)  We'll make it a group reservation because I know others will want to join us.  There's the nice guy who heads up Neighborhood watch, he's great and wow, what tomatoes he grows.  And there's the lady down the street who's our go-to person and works with Homeland Security.  She jokes that her runner beans keep invading the border...don't take her comments personally.

Gosh, you've attached pictures of your canning supplies at NO COST??  Well, I figured you'd throw them in for free anyway once I decide which things I'm buying, but thanks.  
I look forward to your messaging my husband and me as soon as you sign on.  That might be a bit of a challenge since I am typing this from the public library and don't have a cell phone.  The best way to "message" my husband at work is to call his work number and ask his boss if you can speak with him.  If you get the switchboard, just select "Law Enforcement" and "Non-Emergency."  
Be sure to leave a detailed message and he or one of the other deputies will come to the phone as soon as possible, depending on how busy things are that day.  He'll even run a background on you for free! (Our thanks to you for all the free goodies you've sent us through email! ) 

We REALLY look forward to meeting you, talking canning, and seeing what canning goodies you have for sale.  Thanks for a REALLY positive experience with Craigslist!!

No need to promise us we won't be unsatisfied.  We hope you gain as much as we do from the meeting!  If not, Jack will handcuff you and run your tag  (hahaha, little uniform humor there to put you at ease!)

Look forward to seeing you soon!

The Lady Who Needs Canning Jars


Monday, April 22, 2013

Eating Down the Pantry

It's a funny Monday.  For the last few weeks when the weather was predicted to have a high probability of rain, nothing.  This week when the probability was lower, nice thunderstorms!

My scheduled work days are at a minimum because my leg has to heal, seemingly in its own good time (hmmmm).

I was supposed to go grocery shopping last Friday for this week's groceries, but it turned out we couldn't and I knew we had plenty of things to get us through the weekend till today.  Today I looked at the freezer and pantry and decided it might be just fine to see if we can go the rest of the week with what we have, and other than needing to buy more water (yes, we have to buy water, ours is not drinkable) I think we'll be just fine.  How cool is that!

The bulk buying, doing it little by little, has paid off.  So has freezing portions of soup stock and soups when I make bigger batches.  There are also banana breads and a meatloaf in there, and smaller packages of meat frozen when portioned off from bigger purchases.

I actually enjoy the feeling (right now, at least) of being back home with enough time to do things s-l-o-w-l-y.  I have no choice, so why not embrace it?  In one hour today, I put together the ingredients for fish cakes (to fry up later just before serving), boiled a pan of Basmati rice, made 3 quarts. of chicken and veggie soup, and got a batch of brownies into the oven.  I grabbed a handful of tree collard leaves from a couple of heroic plants outside the back door, and chopped those and added a handful of dried stinging nettle leaves from my medicinal herb stash...those went into the veggie soup, too.  Yum!  You have to love greens and herbs for ramping up the nutrition!

That's about all the time standing my knee can handle at a time between rests.  It was all possible because I had the bulk ingredients on hand, and those things in the freezer.

With the exception of a dozen eggs and some water and such, I wonder how long we could go eating down our pantry and freezer?

Here's to the slower version of fast food, and homemade soup on a stormy day!  I'm stoked about skipping an entire week's grocery bill!

What's cooking in your kitchen?  Got any tips to share?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Time to Prepare

Proverbs 24:27  Prepare your work outside, And get your fields ready. Afterwards, build your house.

Is anyone else ever stuck in the preparation period?  I'm learning the hard way to lean into it and just enjoy the process.

I look forward to each time we can be "at the land" calendar seems to go forward with those days as the highlights and most everything else marking time till the next one.  Progress creeps along.

It's going to have to be ok.

I love this verse about preparation.  It covers a lot, doesn't it?  We are in the first part, preparing our work outside.  I'd love to be at the second and third stages, because I want to be putting in trees and a garden right now that the weather is warm and the birds are sallying forth and everything's bursting with new life!

I have some decisions to make regarding allowing my leg to heal properly.  It will likely affect my work schedule.   I'm trying to discern during this process, because in my job people depend on me and I'm very attached to them and to their daily concerns and their happiness.  I've found I really enjoy being able to be helpful and useful, and I enjoy being around older people, usually.  I learn so much every time I'm with them, namely to appreciate each day and to savor relationships.  To laugh and to make peace with things of the past and present that can't be changed, and to turn over the details of fond memories like the treasures they are.

I have a lot to learn and I want to keep from making mistakes of haste in each the area of our transitioning to the land and in decisions related to my workweek.

I'm glad Jack lends his perspective daily.  He mirrors a reflection of a better-rounded view of things than I ever have by myself.  I also pray.  I always need God's gentle hand and wisdom, and He's always been faithful to grant those for the asking.  It doesn't mean I always know the right thing to do, though, or the wisest course to take, but often it means I know which ones not to take.

Proverbs 24:27  Prepare your work outside, And get your fields ready. Afterwards, build your house.

I'll take to heart His timely reminder that there is a time for each step, and there is wisdom in the right preparations in the right time.

Let me know how you're doing...I love hearing how your Spring has sprung!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Babes In The Hay: Paying for Our Inexperience

 Friday we went back to the property to put in the second front corner fence posts.  My bad knee is not a happy camper with being on my feet at work or anything else requiring being upright and active, much less tromping around on our wonderful land.  I offer more moral support than mobility at this point.  This is NOT ideal and was not exactly in our ideal plan, and the a pain.

I know God is in control and knows all this.  We're trying to learn from it and do what's repeated so often as His response...get wiser!

Here are a few things we are learning as we go...

The Hard Way.

1.  Physical limitations spell a big slowdown in progress. . Physical limitations... we realistically have to allow for them because even if we weren't coming to this equation with them yet, they are bound to happen eventually.  Accidents, injuries, life.  It happens.  Boy, is it frustrating not being able to help like I want to in the meantime.  Realistically, our bodies aren't always going to be in prime working order.  We will have to deal with it as best we can while trying to think ahead safety-wise and also making things as "handicap ready" as possible, since we plan on being on the land for the long term.

2.  The beauty of the natural world can be harsh.  Animals are not Bambis, and nature is not Disney World.  Even though I already know this, we were reminded of it last week when Jack was digging post holes for the second fence corner beside the front ditch and twice, the non-poisonous black water snakes decided to declare their presence.  Not in passing, but approaching fearlessly and rather in inches from our feet.  It's more than a little disconcerting when YOU try to stay away from reptiles but THEY decide to makes tracks FOR you.  Yes, it is likely the season that emboldens slithery creatures as Florida's earlier-than-elsewhere Spring may equate to breeding season around here.  Or is that most of the year??  Aggression probably has a very understandable natural reason.  It's just another reminder that we are amateurs at this, and this is not a Bambi world.
A second reminder of the non-Bambi nature of nature was as we sat cooling off in the truck's AC. a The day was sunny and hot with a nice steady wind making the tree branches and grasses dance around.  Butterflies played on the emerging wildflowers here and there. Two lovely birds alit on a branch right in front of us, ignoring the sound of the truck engine idling. They were grayish with beautiful yellow breasts and slightly crested heads.  As we were commenting on their beauty, they each took turns speeding and dipping through the air to grab....what were those bright papery things in their beaks?   Ohhhhh, OK.  They were voraciously eating... all bright orange butterflies.  Crunching them up in a series of gulps till gone.  And then off to go find more to crunch.  And so we learn that the Great Crested Flycatcher does indeed catch.  And I revise some of my expectations for that spectacular Butterfly Garden that exists in my dreams and pare it to something more realistic.  And wonder if Flycatchers eat honeybees just as voraciously?? (grrr!) :-)

3.  Mistakes are expensive.  And we are NOT experts and we ARE inexperienced.  This is why it's so important to ask a lot of questions ahead of time, from those who already have the experience. 

We did not have the brush cut on the other side of the boundary lines, nor was the line of cut brush fully cut TO the boundary lines.  Because the saw palmetto is too dense to simply whack with a bush hog, it requires either big machinery such as that of the contractor we hired, or we need a bulldozer or other scraping/pushing equipment.  And it won't be a single day's work...the WHOLE perimeter needs to be expanded to allow room on both sides of the fence for fence maintenance and mowing.    Lesson learned, and NOT so happy about how we both missed that one...usually between Jack and myself, we try to troubleshoot situations ahead of time and often get things right that way.  We got this one wrong, bleh :-)

This is not a whining rant, but it's a picture of the realism of this step in our progress.  It's not defeating us, it's a learning curve.

We are reminded....ask ask ask those with more experience.  And then ask some more!

Be thankful in all things, because there is much going right amidst the things we're botching.  God is very good to help us through these things, and for allowing other areas to not be the same kind of challenge.

And the timing...goes forward.  With a lot of unexpected bumps in the road.  But there's still a road :-)

Got any advice for us??  We'll take it!  Advise away!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fence Has Begun!

Spring has sprung, fence has begun!!!
We only had a few hours at the land, but the very first fence corner was put in.  Hooray!!!!!!

It was overcast and slightly warm, with a light breeze blowing the whole time.  Jack did the heavy work and I was his gal Friday.  He can handle those 200lb plus posts a lot more easily than I can. 

It was my birthday and I can't think of a better way to have spent it!  (Well, except with the addition of instant weight loss and a winning lottery ticket?? haha) With my best friend, getting my first sunburn of the year, starting a new phase of turning dreams into realities (the fence!!!), and out in the fresh air with the different tree sounds (oh, how I've missed those and nearly forgotten them).  The palmettos swish in the wind, the pines whisper and the nearby lowlands a quarter mile or so along the opposite side of the road.....they make spooky sounds!  They sound like the sound effects in a tornado movie when the wind moans.  After we realized what it was, it was as if all the land to each side were humming a low!!! 

We have three more fence corners to go, some more supports on the longer sides, the gate posts, and then some fencing wire.  We're trying to decide which of this and that are the best choices for our budget.  This is all new to us, so any advice is welcome (jump right in, please!).  We hope to put in a 22' culvert and have an entrance that would allow for equipment to be brought in without too tight a squeeze.  We were looking at gates and are eyeballing the 16 foot one.  Each of these steps takes time and money, so it's a process. 

And it's a process that's now begun!  YAYYYYY!!!!!!!!

Thank you, God!!!!  Thank you to my best friend Jack!!!  I'm grateful!!!!!

What's happening in your new spring??

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Home Stretch: The Many Incarnations of Bulk Pantry-fication

I noticed that last year Jack and I changed work schedules so frequently that we were eating drive-through fast food, or simply eating out at all, way too much. Now that the schedules have settled (hopefully!) into a more dependable pattern, I took a hard look at just how much money was going down the drain during those times of unsatisfying 99 cent "value" burgers, and the effect it was having on our health and stamina.

 The joy ride is over, and though it may have been momentarily ok, our bodies just want home cooking.  And so does the budget!

 There is no drive-through that can offer home cooked butterbeans and cornbread with fat slices of garden tomatoes, or meatloaf made from actual meat without fillers and chemicals...and so on.

 Even when we do eat out at "meat and three" places, being Torah-keeping Jews means having to be a food detective when it comes to if those green beans/pintobeans/most any veggie were cooked with pork fat (or pork anything)...and if that luscious piece of pie has a crust made with lard. And so on. It's a lot more complicated at times than simply asking to omit the bacon strips from the deluxe burger.

We tired of it, and our tight income stream tired of it. 

 I have begun thinking in terms of how many hours it takes me to earn whatever I'm thinking of buying. And what percentage of my week's income that represents. All in all, I began resenting getting Not Much for too many more hours' work than I thought it all worth. That re-motivated me to get back to home cooking.

I'm doing a MODEST amount of cooking ahead on a few of my days off so that we DO have fast food for the other days...home cooked food that can be reheated fast.

There are books out there about bulk shopping and cooking and about how to super-coupon, and how to plan meals ahead down to the T.  I discovered long ago I'm just not that regimented at this point. I can work within looser guidelines, and with that I'm comfortable.

Here's the Robbyn take on simplifying a bit and what seems to work for me right now:

1. I have EASED into bulk buying for the backbone items I know we'll use. Easing into that was the only way to afford the switchover without exceeding the weekly grocery budget, which is modest but is a lot less than what we spend eating out.

 2. At this point, IF we have the money in the budget (some weeks we don't) I try to leave $20 a week for eating out together. We like that as a "date." Some weeks we don't have that, and it's ok.  On the weeks we do, we make the most of the date and it feels decadent without wrecking our finances.  Maybe someday we won't do that anymore.  But it gives us a realistic cushion to transition from being slack to being much more frugal.

3. With bulk buying, I begin buying things we always need on hand or use regularly. Some items we eased into buying at the warehouse buyer's club were cottage cheese, colby/Jack cheese, onions, potatoes, bananas. Occasionally I would add in something I'd usually never buy in bulk but could now and then, such as ketchup, mayo, olives. About once a month or every 6 weeks I'll get something pricier that's on my longer-term list, such as basmati rice (20lbs), dry black beans (??lbs, big bag), laundry detergent, toilet paper. Garlic, spices. And so on.

4. Make several familiar, dependable recipes from a bulk meat purchase.  Even a small bulk meat purchase.  I'm not organized enough (or motivated enough yet) to freeze vast quantities of the same meal item...with some exceptions, I just don't want a food such as 6 meatloaves taking up my small freezer space. But if I can take a bulk amount of ground beef and make several tried-and-true things from it, THAT I will do. Or I will take a big package of chicken legs and use it as the base for some really rich chicken stock and freeze that in canning jars, using them as "fast food" starters for any number of soups or other dishes. Time right now is precious to me. I don't have enough time off to spend it all in the kitchen.

 5. Make what we already know we like and will eat. (That goes for planning a garden, too, and canning, but that's a different post) What we are familiar with and have the spices and cooking equipment for. Otherwise, in my case, it will either turn out really weird and I'll have too much of it, or we won't like it enough to want it again for other meals down the road and it will stay in the fridge or freezer too long.

 6.Cook several related things at once and be done with it.  I love to cook certain things, but I can't say I just LOVE to cook.  I do love to eat good food.  With a really big package of ground beef today from Sam's, I made a basic mix of meat, egg, onions, salt and pepper and garlic that became the base of 1 dish of stuffed bell peppers (added cooked rice), a meatloaf (added dry oatmeal and cracker crumbs), and the rest was pattied up raw and put into plastic bags to freeze for "quick" hamburgers another time...or meat to brown and add to spaghetti sauce...or whatever.  Since I had to make rice to go in the meat for the stuffed bell peppers, I made enough to have later in the week to go with black beans and chicken sausage.  Extra servings of the meatloaf or peppers can be lunches, frozen, added to soups later, or be weekend leftovers.  Jack can heat the rice in a warm skillet and add the hot beans/sausage over it for a meal when I'm at work, and so on.

7.  Soup, Eggs, Beans, Cheese, Oatmeal, Potatoes, Rice... Eating simply can be immensely satisfying.  Staples are satisfying. When I'm TIRED and am tempted to stop at a drive-through for some "value" item, it's a waste.  It's mostly chemicals and mystery ingredients, all polluted and none of them pure.  Until we grow our own, we can NOT afford the prices of most organic things, I don't care how many slogans the purists hurl our way.  And we ARE working weekly to make that move.  Until then, we can learn to be satisfied with the simple things.  Soup is's whatever we have in the way of veggies, stock, beans, meat, leftovers, wine, whatever.  We make large batches of stock and small batches of individual soup meals using that stock as the base.  Otherwise we'd get sick of it.  ANYTHING can make up a good soup, just about.   Eggs...they are a meal.  They are so many meals, in so many forms.  Sometimes, the simpler and easier, the better. Over easy on toast.  Scrambled soft/firm with a splash of milk/cream or dot of shredded cheese.  Boiled. Minced for egg salad sandwiches, or my former MIL's egg/chopped black olive spread.  Beans = chili, baked beans, red beans and rice, soup additions, a cornbread duo, bean dip, refried beans, and so on, even brownies (really!).  Cheese  can be shredded and frozen in small portions.  It can be shredded and amended with pimientos (and a minced green olive if you like) to mix with mayo for a reliable and delicious Pimiento Cheese spread.  Put atop bread slices and toasted for cheese toast.  Grilled cheese sandwiches, yes, please.  Additions to ...well, most things.  Stirred into potato soup, dressing baked potatoes.  And so on...and so on with simple uses of the simple staple items.  A simple baked potato is better than fast food any day.  Or a hot bowl of oatmeal with butter and a dab of brown sugar.  The list goes on.

I believe our Pantry Yoga will continue and we stretch our thinking backward in time to the basics and stretch our dollars more practically (again) at the checkout counter.  Done gradually enough, it's not overwhelming and has been fairly easy.

Of course, the best "stretch" is that of planting and growing our own food.  The second best is being cautious before we give away that hard earned money and make sure it's for something satisfying and worthwhile.

Those are just a few things we keep tweaking on this journey.    Sometimes it's just habits we have to keep repeating long enough to have them become second nature.  I think maybe we'll get to that point someday.  In the meantime, I'll be slightly scatterbrained but better stocked in the pantry for "quick" food that truly is "slow"...but feels fast enough to keep me away from the drive-through.

Let me know your advice and tips...we're not experts and love to keep learning!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Thistles, Edible and Medicinal

A postcard from the farm to you... :-)


Hereare some interesting videos to share as I learn about thistles and their edible and medicinal uses.  As always, research thoroughly yourself before trying at home.  I'll do a little more searching and then maybe some harvesting next week!

Happy trails!

Bon Appetit!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Hash Brown Hail Mary

I'm still zombie-fied after getting off the hamster wheel...
Oh man, what was I thinking?  On my day off, I am torn as to which items to knock off the To Do list.
That same To Do list also has "relax in bed to rest the bum knees" and "spend time with hubby."

So, when possible, I do sleep in.

There's a time to zoom and a time to collapse.  Or maybe I should learn to pace myself??
I've been so chock full of work hours away from home these last few months that my progress with my herbal school assignments has slowed to a crawl, though the materials get read and re-read repeatedly and with relish.  I'm easing into a different mindset with that because it's one thing I did just for myself.  I saved for the tuition for a long time, bought the materials and then some, and it's designed to be self-paced.  It would appear my pace is slower than some, but I'm determined to EXPERIENCE this learning in a more natural way than my previous traditional academic classes, which were more one-dimensional.

In a time when I thought I'd surely be rooting for the home team to keep pushing pushing pushing to the final goal, I lost sight of the fact that part of my goal always is to be in the moment.  So we WILL keep taking the right steps as we ask for God's blessing on these plans, and trust He will correct the direction of things as we go.  I ALSO will do things (well, some things) more slowly in order to not miss these days.  These days of being together in this and loving each other, and learning, and being IN this.

Well...didn't mean to go on about that.

Some Perspective
The forced bedrest prior to returning to work made me examine where I need to do better, and also allowed other areas to settle to their more realistic places.  And allowed my expectations to get un-stuck from Hyper Proceed-Forward mode.  Phew.  And it will disappoint some people.  I am not naturally a people pleaser in some areas, but in the area of my work ethic at a job, I'm nearly a hyper-pleaser.  This has had to stop.  I have had to stand up for myself, because ultimately I answer to myself and to God.  I'm an independent contractor and I pay self-employment tax, which is no picnic, so I'm taking back the management of my work life and my boundaries.  There have been too many times I've let my niceness be taken advantage of, and my relaxed attitude about payment be taken advantage of, as well.  I do love to help people.  But I need to draw boundaries in those areas so I am not a pushover, and preserving my high standards not just at work but to have time at home and with Jack.  And others don't have to like it.  I can't please everyone all the time.

Whoa, Nelly!
I'm allowing myself to slow down.  To rest, not have to think about anything in particular all the time, not have to be "on" all the hours of the day.  I didn't realize how much caregiving requires, but I think the being "on" (meaning being the buffer, the equalizer/mood lifter/need-meeter) for long stretches needs the converse time of being "off."  I thank the Jewish holy days for their interruption of the rat race, and the compassionate command to REST on certain days.  Passover was such a one this year.  We ran right up to its beginning with life, life, life and all its little and big emergencies and I barely got the leaven out of the house in time, cooked up some goodies for the Seder.  When that "enforced" rest comes, of not doing any career-related work for a sacred span of time....well, it's just NICE.  And it's a gift from God.

I heart the Jewish holy days.
I simply loved Passover this year.  It was spent with wonderful friends who are like family, and also with our faraway friends and family we miss very much with us in spirit and thought as we sat down together to recount the Exodus story, have fun, and REST.  I needed it and it happened again.  As it does every year.  And it reminded me of where my heart lies, the priorities that are precious to me, the fact all these THINGS we DO are FOR just this...this family/these friends, this time, this memory of deliverances, the reality that we live in a time where God creates spaces to remind us to never stop hoping, and loving Him.  Regaining my gratefulness, and getting to breathe.

Passover pushed my Reset button.  I was burning out.  The only solution is to keep on persevering, but I cut my work hours back by half a day to have more time with my husband and one day a week our schedules correspond to give us a full day together to work to prepare the Farm. (yay!!!!!)

What's with the hash browns?
I just looked at the title of this post.  I just tried making hash browns, and I did everything wrong, so the lumpy heap of shredded potato mush was wrung of its excess oil and put into the soup pot instead.  So in this house, if at first you don't succeed, you become soup! The has brown second incarnation was much better than its first!

Back to the Budget
I'm all over the place in this post apologies!  I'm resetting my mind to keep the grocery budget to a minimum and to stop eating out.  Everyone can have their conscientious platform for this reason and that reason about the ills of fast foods, storebought, so on and so forth.  I know where I stand on all those, and I know what I can do right now.  What I can do right now is make more at home and make better food cheaper.

So I have to make my own "fast food" more at home.

Soup's On...Again
My reset begins with the bags of frozen veggies I found when cleaning out the freezers for Passover.  They were looking a little peaked but were not freezer burned, and I simply hate waste.  The ones looking worse for the wear went into the Lazy Man's Compost...aka  the ground or compost around the driplines of some of the still-dormant trees in the side lot.  If we had chickens, they'd have gotten some of that.  The better excess frozen veggies went into soup.  I just can't afford meat from the store as regularly as I used to get it.  And as fast as the prices are climbing, that might become zero soon.  I've seen this day coming, but the prices are now exceeding what I conscientiously can justify paying based on our income.  We MUST get to the farm ASAP if we want to continue to eat!  In the meantime I bought a large package of chicken drumsticks for about 6 dollars, and that became the base for a large batch of soup stock.

Don't have a pressure canner, so froze it
We ate on that for the last several days, along with other things, and today I froze 2 gallons of the soup using glass canning jars, leaving airspace for expansion.  Another cheapy quick food was to take a block of five dollar (2lb) cheese, grate it, add canned pimientos (and maybe a few diced green olives), add mayo and chill...for really great homemade pimiento cheese sandwiches through the week.  (Or matzah spread during the week of unleavened bread).

The familiar budgeting cycle continues.  Make soup!   Bake banana bread!   Make sandwich spreads!

It all tastes better than those places we would pay many times the cost and get a fraction of the flavor.

Fail-proof Side Dish
Oh, and a tip from Passover this year...if you have spare pumpkin, sweet winter squashes, or sweet potatoes, bake one up and then use it in the same proportions as the recipe for Pumpkin Pie on the Libby's Pumpkin can.  Their pumpkin pie recipe dates back at least to the 1950s and can be used for pumpkin, sweet winter squashes, or sweet potatoes for an awesome and fast crustless "souffle" as a side dish.  It's SO easy!  I simplify further by using a generous amount of pumpkin pie spice mix instead of the individual spices, and adding a dash of ground ginger.  It's fabulous!  We cooked two batches from one calabaza pumpkin and it's easy enough for a beginner!

What's cooking in your Spring, your thoughts, your kitchen?