Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Elsewhere, the country enjoys the turning of the leaves. Here, green is still on the scene...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ongoing Projects At Hand

These will continue to be researched and added to, started or gathered together in order to start...some personal, some family

1. Begin attending a local place of worship. We've put this off for different reasons in the past, but now it's time to find a shul.

2. Stepping up inroads to land finalization and relocation.

3. Determining on paper the ACTUAL savings/costs, advantages/disadvantages of my returning to the job I had. Will weigh financial realities and compare money saved by more careful managing from home (all meals from scratch, really stretching our money, no gasoline expenses, pack all lunches/cook all meals for other family members, etc) VS. the cash. Will also weigh the health impact of working nights, and the reality of how much I can get done in a day here at home, etc.

4. Researching greens and crops that would last the winter here. Must get them in the ground. Plan to do floating row covers or something along that line if necessary during colder weeks.

5. We MUST start substituting grocery store items with our own homegrown/homeproduced. The only of these we're actually using on a daily basis are the fresh and dried herbs and the homemade kombucha. Oh yes, and the diabetes plant/gynura. It's a start, but it's not enough. Greens are top on the list for the immediate, also leaf lettuces and radishes.

6. More experimentation with unfamiliar but available plants, such as cooking young papaya leaves, clover, and others.

7. Need to weekly eliminate ANY storebought breads, with exception of maybe flour tortillas now and then, with my own homemade. Same thing with any sweet treats, occasional desserts. Do NOT plan on making these in large quantities, though, because we're trying to cut back, find our balance. We've lost a little weight just cutting back on them a bit and substituting other things.

8. Find tried and true soup recipes...ones I get asked to make again. Ones I have ingredients for without having to include half a dozen difficult ones. ( I really appreciate Lemongrass's recent recommendations...thank you, I look forward to trying them out!!)

9. Take the time to shop a few places for specific things. I can find real deals out there on specific items, but they're places I seldom shop for much of anything and don't think to go on my weekly grocery shopping. I'll be divvying up the food budget to make stops for these things since they're close by and it would save me maybe 1/4 of my weekly budget. Need to find somewhere with better prices for meat, even though we've cut back on meat quantity by about half.

10. Ultimately, to achieve reducing weekly grocery bill by half within a year's time. I am now spending half of what I spent last year weekly.

11. Increase my physical activity daily. I've lost some weight now, not much, but without trying, simply by getting more rest and eating better, eating more homemade...and, I think, by drinking such copious amounts of the longer-fermented Kombucha (not as sugary as the younger kombucha) I think it's something my body's been needing, and now I FEEL like doing more...yay!!

12. Begin planning the spring garden beds and order seeds.

13. Expand useful recipe base for things to make all meals last.

14. Find the many ways to use the pumpkins and winter squashes since the prices of these right now are really reasonable.

15. Don't know if I can achieve this one, but if so, great :) Can we find a small freezer by late November?? If so, I'd like to watch the sales on turkeys and get some. For now, it would feed us for a long time...till the day we can have our own (praying praying praying...) The prices are so stupid these days, it's maybe my onlyhope to find affordable meat in quantity.

16. Write the thank you notes I have procrastinated.

17. Declutter my desk area, my closet, the back porch. Keep floors mopped regularly (we have allllllll tile floors) Keep laundry folded right after washing. Empty a couple of piles in the garage to free up two more laundry baskets for that purpose. Oh yeah, and those dishes that keep replenishing themselves in the sink even after I've just gotten things back in order (grrrr...) :)

18. Keep saving our loose change for the Not Thinking Challenge.

19. Plan simple things for Hannukah. I have no idea what we'll do.

20. Make EVERY shabbat a special celebration in our week. Have the music, meals, clothing ready no later than Thursday, since it allllwayyyyyssss seems to get put off till Friday afternoon and then either gets rushed or otherwise goofed. I want it to be a relaxing time, a planned time, an oasis.

21. Every week study the Torah portion ahead of time, and read my Bible every day. I'll be concentrating on the version by his literal translation and brief yet historical insights in his Torah translation with commentary.

22. Do something with that neglected front flowerbed. (Update: Just started that today, whacking the bushes back with the HEAVY limb cutter since we don't have a hedge trimmer. My forearms are obviously out of shape. I got half of them done and my arms feel like they weigh forty pounds and feel like I imagine Popeye's do, ahoy!)

23. I ordered yarn...this, and this...for The First Time In My Life!!!!! (so excited) I'm SO NOT a thready sewing crocheting knitting person. But my daughter has a neglected Knifty Knitter set, and inspired by Warren's success making things with his KK, initially inspired by Angie's KK success here being modeled by the cutest pictures of her kids, I thought of the time I could be sitting beside my sweetie as we watch movies and in an hour or two I could have a real, homeknitted hat or scarf, or (as I get better) a longer project such as a throw blanket. So this project is underway.

24. I sketched some chicken pictures for possible red-on-white embroidering, or maybe applique? to make some squares throughout the winter for later assembling a quilt or other project...(y'know, when I learn how to sew??? lol)

25. We have honed hand-sketched house plans down to a few basic designs. Now I'm concentrating on trying to imagine what specific things we'll need to incorporate for ongoing real life activities...shelf space for fermenting, storage, kitchen arranged in best way for canning and food prep and large quantities of things needing to be cleaned and chopped, etc. Windows situated for best through-the-house airflow, some sort of passive design that encourages temperate interior during exterior extremes. Siting gardens and animals in relation to the house and our need to access them quickly yet not be too close. And so on and so on...

26. Will I Can??? I have a dozen quarts, new in the box, sitting there. I have a soup pot that could act as a hot water canner. This is where I got stuck with the kombucha, before taking the leap. I could start with something easy, like lemon curd. Or pumpkin pickles a' la Throwback at Trapper Creek, or Pumpkin Butter a' la Kathie. And yet I circle the project slowly and with trepidation. Hmmm...

27. Make my own laundry liquid/powder. Yep, another procrastinated project. I think cleaning out the cluttered corners of the laundry room would inspire me to get that underway.

28. Correcting my typos before posting on the blog. Yeah....right (lolol)

That's it for now...just needed to put this to keyboard so as to have the list handy! :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The House at Poo Corner

Wooohooooo! We are no longer Excrementally Challenged, we have a source of manure!!!

If you've followed this blog from a year ago, you'll have been subjected at various points to laments about our hardpan soil, tenacious weed collection, and inaccessability to potential soil amendments...things like leaves, green manures/cover crops, wood chips, and livestock poop. We have no trees on our property, and last year was a drought year, so no real H2O to be percolating through the soil even if we could lure the friendly micro-bugs. But this year we had bountiful rains, and many things grew well. Even so, they need nourishment, more than they had without amendments.

That first year (last year), I used a few pots, a bunch of cardboard boxes and box tops, and a couple of experimental thingies such as milk crates lined with paper grocery bags. The only growing medium was potting soil on sale at the big box store, and the results ranged from good to spotty. The learning commenced.

This year, we made a decision not to grow seasonal produce and focused on experimenting with mostly trees and longer-maturing go ahead and give them a head start or figure out how hardy they were (or how immune to our bunglings!). Jack has done an admirable job of wooing sprouts from seeds we had no idea about...and he also collected used 5 gallon buckets to keep this little endeavor multiplying, until we topped 100 of them and still kept on going, whee!

Having him on board this year has made a huge difference! We've both learned a lot about what NOT to do with our soil as far as planting, at least in containers, and we're trying to slowly move that now to in-ground endeavors...slowly. It's been good we've both been involved in this now, not just one of us...we each have a lot of ideas, and don't need to be undoing the other's efforts out of overeagerness. We have a lot of conversations as we go, and we learn from each other, and it's worked a lot better this way. We're both convinced that the health of our plants, and ultimately the nutritiousness of our food, is crucially connected to the soil. Instead of seeing insects as pests, we see them as one of many inhabitants necessary to a thriving biodiversity, and we love our little invisible microbes just as much. We actually look forward to adding any veggie trimmings and other kitchen scraps into this mix, and think of it as feeding our unseen friends. (Yeah, ok...pass the tin hats, heehee!)

Over the course of time, Jack located a free source of wood chips, and he's been getting a couple bucketloads every few days as an amendment to our containers. Not so long ago, he chatted with a nearby horse boarder/trainer, and she agreed that whenever he'd like to drop a couple plastic buckets at her gate, she'd fill them whenever she mucked out the stalls. She mentioned they'd not known what to do with the overflow, and had so much that they had begun dumping the excess into their pond (Eeeek!!! oh man)

I sort of "mentioned" (read excitedly begged ) Jack to OFFER to TAKE IT OFF THEIR HANDS anytime they had such an excess, which he did mention, and that's sort of where it was left. We've enjoyed the buckets we get f rom them weekly and they've added a LOT of vigor to the plants and the compost pile.

Today Jack stopped by for the weekly drop-off, and met the other owner of the property, and they chatted. It seems that maybe the idea planted earlier may have come to fruition?? The owner asked if we'd like a TRAILER of the composted manure, and a time was set up for tomorrow for him to come dump it on our vacant lot next door.


Not sure how we'll get the trailer ONto the property, as it's a steep incline and ditch, but nevermind...we'll shovel to our little hearts' content wheelbarrowload by wheelbarrowload, if need be. And the COOLEST thing is that this may be the beginning of a LOT of regular deliveries of FREE HORSE POO....yayyyyyyy!!!!!!

So, if you're ever in this area, and you see a big mountain of horse flops, straw, and a couple in filthy clothes shoveling away with huge smiles on their faces, just wave at us. Just goes to show that one horse's poop is another man's organic garden!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

RETRACTION: No-Fridge No-Freeze Beef Storage

I was tooling around food storage sites and found this interesting page on storing beef without refrigeration. Essentially, you're drying cooked ground beef in a pretty straightforward three-step process and then storing it in preheated sealed glass jars, or plastic bags within food grade plastic storage buckets.

Here's the link to "Hamburger Rocks"....


WWGD...What Would Grandma Do?

My Grandma could stretch a meal! It was seldom fancy, but it was simple, hearty, filling...

These are skills I need to remember and to learn.

For a rambly post as I remember some kitchen lessons learned from my Grandma's Great Depression, WW2, and other years of simple living, you can find that and my attempts to duplicate one of our favorite meals of hers at Women Not Dabbling in Normal today.

Hope you can make it there...have a great day, and let me know how you stretch your favorite meals!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Don't Throw Out Those...Citrus Peels

My grandparents seldom threw out anything. Odds and ends were neatly stored in re-used glass jars of every description...everything from buttons, to rubber bands, to tea bags to twist-ties...each one had its place.

I thought of it as "pack-ratting." But it was not a mess, it was a collection of all those many things my own generation is so used to throwing away. My Grandpa's workshop was a glorious collection, too. He had collected out-of-date machines, and he used them for his woodworking whenever the newest and latest model caused his workplace to sideline an older version...he picked them up either free or for a very modest expense. They were built to last, and use them he did, right on through retirement. His workshop was a feast for the senses...barrels of different sawdusts stacked along the walls, the fragrant drifts of curly sawdust bits spilling from the tops. There were other barrels of unique woods...some planks, some odd bits, some long sections stacked neatly, awaiting use in one of his restoration projects. His tools were hung on pegboard along an entire wall flanked by a sturdy wooden worktable built along its length...vises and gloves and glue and other frequently-used items standing toward the back. When you walked in there, it was a symphony of fragrances, both pungent and heady, and motes of wood dust danced in the light filtering in from the windows. In winter, woodsmoke from a Franklin stove added its incense, and you could taste the air like a wine with its ever-shifting terroir.

A side table held a makeshift table of plywood balanced solidly on a series of sawhorses, its surface stained in ring shapes from the reused tin cans doubling as receptacles and mixing containers for stains, varnishes, and turpentine. There was always newspaper covering at least part of it. It's funny how memory hones certain images in sharp relief, while others are their blurred foil. Within that blur, there were so many reused items, and all this was normal and everyday to them...not extraordinary.

Fishing for rubber bands, or brads, or paperclips, or pennies has never seemed quite the fun when dug from the bottom of a handbag or junk drawer as they were to us children in those days from their designated glass pimiento or jelly jars, or canister. Wrapping papers were saved, pressed flat and folded, and had many reincarnations back and forth through different gift-giving special events. There were boxes of yarns, fabrics, tissue papers, styrofoam shapes, plastic bags, netting, empty gift tins, aluminum cans... you name it...all stacked in the rafters above the car in their garage.

I don't manage my possessions the same way my grandparents were in the habit of doing then, mostly because I've had to downsize the quantity so that it doesn't drown me in minutae and clutter...isn't that a western have so many things you can't even store them?? I've cleaned out a lot of that, changed many habits so that there's not an incoming clutter trail, and I have a long way to go in cleaning up the plenty I still have to manage. I'm embarrassed to say that this will probably be an ongoing task (organization), yet I'm so glad I downsized! The reason my grandparents never had to downsize is because they weren't in the habit of spending the same way people do today.

That said, I have noticed that I want to use my grandparents' sort of frugality to fully utilize the things we do have (we are more deliberate these days about any purchase, and food falls into that category as well)...the things we do want around. Why should I have to go re-purchase string, rubber bands, twist-ties, etc, when I could be more deliberate in saving them?

I need to balance frugal saving so it will fall somewhere between extremes.

I need to find multiple uses for certain things, namely foods. As we tiptoe into the world of growing our own foods and making many things homemade, I want to be sure we've used them as fully as possible. Sure, we can grow a food we like. Does it have only one use, or many?

I'm starting a "Don't Throw Those Out" series as I run across things that may have uses beyond the point I'd normally have thrown them away. In most cases, nearly all food products can be composted in some way, if nothing else. I've been surprised at the interesting and unfamiliar-to-me ways our resources can be transformed into multiple products before they are considered Done For.

That said, I'll begin with citrus fruits.

Citrus fruits that are grown without pesticides or chemicals are good beyond their use as a table fruit or juice. Many times we just toss those peels away, and sometimes they don't even make the compost pile if we have too many of them. (But they make it back into the soil somehow...)

Our Meyer Lemon and Persian and Indian Sweet limes produced for the first time this year, and it has been such fun juicing them by hand and adding them into foods or making them into simple, refreshing drinks. Originally from Tennessee, the novelty of being able to pick my own lemons and limes has not worn off...I feel exotic and spoiled! I also feel a great sense of waste in throwing out those fragrant peels for no other reason than not knowing quite what to do with them. My challenge to myself is to begin thinking like my grandparents would have, were they blessed with a bounty of fresh citrus peels. Here are some things they may have done with them...

1. Zested the peels into small strips and dried them, to be stored dry and used as spice

2. Candied the zests by boiling and preserving by rolling them later in sugar.

3. Doing #2 and dipping them into dark chocolate for addition to a festive dessert or treat tray at holidays

4. Using the imperfect peels (spots, etc) as a freshener for a garbage disposal (even though they didn't have garbage disposals)

5. Slicing, drying, combining later with cloves and cinnamon in simmering water as a back-burner room freshener

6. Zested and steeped in an interesting bottle of vinegar...or kept in a small container of sugar as a specialty baking addition

7. Scrubbing elbows, heels of feet, and any other area of skin prone to blotchiness or discoloration

8. I use lemon peels to scrub my veggie-chopping work area after working with really pungent things like seems to neutralize the odors so they don't penetrate so easily. Works great with baking soda for scrubbing sinks and tubs, too!

9. To polish copper or scour stainless steel...just dip a used lemon half in kosher salt and scrub, then rinse and polish

10. Clean orange halves that have been juiced can be scraped of pulp remains and used as a fragrant container in which to chill individual servings of cold chicken salad, fruit chunks or chilled pudding

11. Good citrus fruits with skin imperfections can be made into pomanders by studding with cloves and rolling in a fragrant spice blend and allowing to dry.

12. Fresh, undried zests can go right into cakes and other baked goods. Fresh orange zest turns ordinary teriyaki sauces into extraordinary, and pairs well with honey or brown sugar for a glaze for roasted/baked winter squash/pumpkins.

I look forward to posting about other ordinary things that have further use before being discarded.

How do you use your leftover citrus peels?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cuban Soup, Easily Approximated in Any Zone

Isn't this calabaza scrumptious-looking??

I'm posting this here in part for my own reference...before my brain's storage capacity begins losing files again, ha!

I saw something a while back on an instructional online video on something similar, while doing a search for Calabaza recipes. In short, Jack and I had picked up some tropical veggies native to Cuba and the Caribbean and I was considering how to cook them. Among the veggies I had available were Malanga, Boniato, and Calabaza. Malanga is a starchy taro-ish tuber (officially a corm), Boniato is a large, mild sort of sweet potato, and Calabaza is the equivalent of a mildly sweet winter squash. Substitutions, for those not in this area, would be white potatoes for malanga, sweet potato for boniato, and butternut squash or other sweet non-stringy winter squash or smooth-fleshed pumpkin.

These are some calabazas. I can only find them at the open markets or regular grocery store...I'm saving the seeds.

Here's the Boniato...

...and the Malanga

I believe the recipe I found was for "Cuban Chicken Soup," and it may not have caught my eye at all were it not for my husband's recurrent stories of delicious soups he remembers from childhood (always retold with reverent pauses and squinty-eyed looks of bliss...ha) Two such soups are regularly mentioned by him...homemade chicken soup and pigeon (squab) soup. The former is usually mentioned as utilizing different veggies than what I usually put into my own homemade chicken soup, and with the added description of going to the market and picking out a live chicken that was slaughtered and plucked right there on the spot by the seller. The pigeon soup is usually described by him as something his Mom made whenever he was sick or needing some extra nutrition. He says she kept a few pigeons in the backyard and would process one or two to make the soup stock (I'm not sure what else she added), and that it made a very strong soup that was rich and nourishing, especially for anyone feeling weak. He said it would cause a sick person to rest well and to sweat.

I'm not sure I'll include "this'll really make you sweat!" as an dinner invitation to guests if I ever serve pigeon soup, but since I have no clue how to make it (and I don't see any pigeons in the area), I think my friends are safe for now...heh heh

I didn't follow the online recipe exactly, because of a huge gripe I have with two spice companies...Badia and Goya. In EVERY latino recipe I saw, Badia Complete spice mix was called for...without exception. Rave reviews, the whole nine yards, and famous chefs declaring "this is THE authentic spice for all latino foods and beans!" Well, I did find it in that section of my regular grocery store. And guess what THE highest-percentage ingredient listed on the label was? Monosodium Glutamate. In ALL of them!

Both Badia and Goya...MSG, THE main ingredient. Hmmmmph!! I thought we'd gotten wayyyy past this these days, but after looking far and near for anything equivalent, I haven't found it.

So I had to wing it on some of this... Badia and Goya, you have now heard my official protest.

But I digress...

I have to say I know how to make a mean chicken soup from scratch. My daughter is not a soup lover, but my chicken soup or matzah ball soup is at the top of her request list. I'm not bragging, but simply stating that this is one of the few basic foods I feel confident making. I like it best with a good balance of chicken flavor, spices, and veggies, and can't stand a watery weak soup. But I don't care for it to be over-salted or to have long over-boiled shreds of meat instead of small chopped bits...I'm picky, if I have a choice.

Anyway, I always wondered what the fundamental difference was between my GOOD chicken soup, and the angels-singing-heavens-opening Cuban chicken soup of blessed memory my husband remembered.

I tried this soup.

I was skeptical.

But oh, now I'm a believer!

I'm glad I made a big pot of it the first time around. Like many of my other experiments, this could have gone really wrong (especially since I make a a large quantity...ever do that and regret it and then have to find ways to eat something you're just not crazy about?)

The proof, however, was whether this would ever compare to the soup of Jack's memory.

When he tasted it, this is what he said...

(taking another bite)
(taking another bite)
"Now THAT'S some incredible soup! You made some GREAT SOUP, Robbyn "
(Taking several more bites)
(now slurping)
oh, yeahhhh, THAT's some good souppppp"
(more soup consuming)
"THIS tastes like I REMEMBER"
(repeat till bowl is empty and he is asking for seconds...and thirds...)
"Baby, you make some incredible soup!"

My soup is really good, but it's seldom incredible.

And now you may laugh....My "great chicken soup" was made with turkey

(because that's what I had on hand) already cooked (I was trying to use it up, we had eaten on it for days already)...bones, pan juices, and a good bit of meat.

Maybe Cuban chickens are huge, gobble, and are served at Thanksgiving?? lol

Oh, yes, this is gratifying to the cook, wooo!!

The thing is, it's so so easy.

And so that I won't forget it, here 'tis...substitute the closest thing you have on hand that approximates the combination of veggies, and it'll taste pretty darn great. Adjust it to your personal taste...the combination was different than what I was used to putting in my chicken (well, turkey) soup, but it's good!

Cuban Chicken/Turkey Soup

Ingredients: Carcass and pan drippings (skim off what fat you can first) and the dark meat (whatever's left on the bones after serving most of the meat) of one roasted or baked turkey

--- Boil this in enough water to cover, with a few shakes of salt. Skim off any scum, and simmer, continuing to skim scum and fat off.

When you've boiled it at least 15 or so minutes, strain all through a colander and put liquid back into the soup pot. If there's any good tender meat, make sure it's thoroughly de-boned and chop it, and add it back to the pot. (Freeze the rest of the bones and everything in a freezer bag for later boiling to make additional stock some other time.)

Add to soup pot:

1 small or medium white onion, chopped small (don't overdo)

1 or 2 shakes garlic powder (just a little bit, don't overdo)

1 rib celery, chopped small

1 medium potato, peeled and cubed (if you substituted potato for malanga, make this another type of potato, such as red, if you like)

2-3 cups cubed raw Calabaza or other butternut-type (non-stringy) squash or pumpkin

2-3 cups peeled and cubed Malanga or starchy peeled white potato

2-3 cups peeled and cubed Boniato, or mildly sweet peeled sweet potato

2-3 cups regular sweet potato (optional)

1/4 of a whole green bell pepper, chopped very fine

1 unripe peeled and chunked (green) plantains, or very green regular bananas

2 Tablespoons Better than Chicken Boullion, or other no-preservative/no MSG chicken boullion equivalent

2 or 3 sections of frozen peeled yuca (cassava), optional

A dash of black pepper

A couple dashes of turmeric, till a nice yellow color

(Note: Oops! I initially left out the next three spices when typing this post. Also add 2 or 3 bay leaves, a generous pinch of ground cumin, and a scant pinch ground oregano. Sorry!)

Don't worry if you don't have all the types of veggies above. Just use as many as you have. Add water to just cover all. Boil all for a couple minutes, then cover and reduce heat to a nice simmer. Cook till all root veggies are very tender. With potato masher, mash root veggies just one or two times, till partially broken up (no more). Liquid should look rich by now. Add very small shake of paprika if desired. Top off liquid with more water, if it gets too thick, and adjust taste by adding more Better Than Boullion. Adjust salt and pepper, if desired. Is the soup tasting rich and wonderful? If it's terrific, you're ok to go on. Is it too sweet? Maybe remove a bit of sweet potato, and adjust so on.

Remove green plantains, and any stringy bits of yuca/cassava from soup, and discard. (to the compost or chicken house)

Keeping soup on low simmer, stir frequently, add chopped pieces of cooked chicken or turkey (or both), and the following:

A few more raw peeled chunks of your choice, any or all:

Malanga (or white potato)
Potato (or second type of potato)

Calabaza (or sweet smooth-type winter squash/pumpkin)

Sweet potato

Add those to the liquid and cook just till fork-soft. Left them intact (don't mash them or allow them to cook to a mush). Soup should be nicely starchy from the vegetables, fragrant and rich with tastes of broth and the veggies, and the last chunks of veggies served up tender right in the soup. Serve with rice, or with a scoop of rice in each soup bowl.

This soup is great served with black beans and rice on the side, or a fresh salad, or some cold citrus fruit...and lime squeezed over all. Hot Cuban bread or French bread (baguette or other) rounds any of it off nicely :)

Customize the flavors of the soup by adding or subtracting any roots/veggies you think are too dominant in's totally subjective. I think the secret is using the turkey carcass and pan juices as the base, adding in the calabaza/sweet velvety winter squash/pumpkin, and going from there ...

Happy eating!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hooked on Kombucha

This has been a huge leap for me, but it's something as easy as making a pitcher of sweet tea...

making Kombucha.

I'm posting this article for the faint at heart...folks like ME...with pictures. As a beginner, I've had a hard time telling if my Kombucha is "ok," and I'm unfamiliar with what it's supposed to look like in its different stages. I have to admit, as an uninformed amateur, if not for the encouragement of others, I'd have taken one look at this and declared it Funky and Disgusting.

But it's ANYTHING BUT here's a peek at my learning curve.

Making Kombucha is much like many other things are, and have been, in this learning process. I want to can jellies, fruits, veggies, soups...when I learn (well, re-learn) those canning skills, one of the biggest obstacles I have to overcome is my discomfort and unfamiliarity, and the fear I'm going to somehow kill off my family with some deadly pathogen lurking in a homemade product.

Maybe this is evidence of how brainwashed, or at least dependent, I've become throughout the years in trusting commercially-marketed products rather than homemade ones. I think there's a lot of fear and distrust and misinformation that has to be undone by any homesteading-minded person to even get to the point of taking that first step into the unknown and trying something new.

We did that a while back with fermented products when we found a source for yogurt cultures needing no cooking whatsoever, especially the Caspian Sea Yogurt. We used it, got the hang of it, found our comfort zone, discovered how to use it in our meals and found the range of good and bad fermentation indicators. It helped that at no point the yogurt looked weird or funky...that's not one of the stages of the yogurt fermentation process.

I was more leary about Kombucha, and was holding off on trying it indefinately till Maria generously offered to give me one of her extra starter "mushrooms" (SCOBY) and gave me really simple instructions on how to get it off to a good start. Despite my trepidations, I said Yes!

(I just wanted to be sure I wouldn't kill the little starter culture...I have kind of a knack for doing things like that)

It was at about this point that things began to pick up with Jack's mom's illness, and things got crazy around here. And it was at just that point that our little baby SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) arrived in the mail from Maria (I still have to send the Thank you note...I'm the ultimate loser of a procrastinator!!)

Don't you love getting a box delivered by the mailman? Here's what was inside, including the beautiful card...lovely!

Up close, the baby SCOBY looked like a firm, gelatinous, jelly-fish-ish round disc, and the liquid it was in smelled a floral, apple-y smell..clean and sweet. A fingertip taste-test confirmed that it had a light cider taste...mmm!

I brewed the tea, added the sugar, diluted it with water and when it reached room temperature, I added the baby SCOBY into its new home.

Ok, so I didn't have a clean tea towel, so an old clean shirt of Jack's was sacrificed to the cause... the SCOBY is floating here at the bottom, but as it fermented it straightened out to meet the edges of the container and floated at the top.

Then life hit hard. Since the SCOBY is content in its liquid at room temp for days (or more) at a time, covered with a cloth secured with a rubber band, it was left to its own devices. When I was home, I changed the liquid out every 7 to 10 days. The liquid was murky and smelled vinegary, and...I was afraid to taste the liquid. There was a white floating scum on the top of the water that I was SURE was something bad...maybe my ferment was moldy?? I laugh now to think of it, but since it was neglected in between new brews of sweet tea solution, I took white vinegar (SCOBYs like white vinegar) and "cleaned it up" each time, reserving a little liquid to include in the new batch with the growing SCOBY. Oh, dear!

Finally, I realized the white surface scum was the good was not fuzzy or dry and not turning colors. It was the part that thickens as the little SCOBY grows bigger. I confirmed this by looking at a lot of pictures on the internet.

My SCOBY, once at home in its brew of tea, has never looked perfectly pristine and white, but one of its babies has, initially. It separated into two sections like flaky biscuits do, and the underneath "flake" was white and seamless...the upper one was beige with an irregular surface. There were dark brown hanging fibers floating from underneath, like jellyfish tentacles, and some floating fibrous bits in the liquid itself, which seemed partially murky.

Again, if it were not for the convenience of an internet comparison, I'd have chucked the whole lot out of fear I was brewing some deadly potion.

But we found YouTube videos that showed all sorts, and saw that there is quite a range of brewing techniques and differences in the appearance of the different SCOBYs. Some are a pristine white, nice and thick, while others are highly layered and of varying thicknesses. Colors ranged from Dark Beige with variations within the layers, to pale and pearly. My SCOBY has variations in it and an irregular, but smooth, surface. At no point have I seen any mold, so I relaxed. I found a suggestion of adding a few tablespoons of vinegar for added mold protection, so I've been doing that routinely now.

After Jack's mom died, we had some time off and we decided to start the Continual Brew method. We are very much trial-and-erroring our way as we go...

We purchased another glass container, this time with a spigot at the bottom, and instead of emptying the contents after every 7-10 day brew cycle, we allowed it to do its intial ferment and then have a pitcher of the sweet tea solution made up to replenish any Kombucha we pour off daily. We don't worry about measuring how much gets replaced...we keep it filled to a fill line on the jar...easy!

To say we're enjoying the continual brew Kombucha is an understatement! Here are the three containers we have going right now...

This is a second baby that we're growing, and its container of has variations of opacity and transparency, but in a couple weeks it will be a thick and solid re-useable "mushroom."

Here's the original SCOBY, being coaxed from dormancy (it had been stored in the fridge for a time)'s getting thicker and whiter... it's rather like a leathery apple-vinegary scented pancake. (Sorry for the badly focused pic)

We're hooked! In fact, I was so hooked the first day it was ready to drink, I had (should I admit this publicly??) 6 iced tea glasses of it over ice ...all in one evening. The caffiene wired me so much, I was hyper and when Jack called me from work, I was feeling good he got a little worried and told me to hold off on it another couple days to make sure most of the sugar had been fermented out. I've not had another 6 glass day yet, but I'll say this is my new favorite drink!

We don't keep soft drinks in the house, or order them often, so around here it's usually water, and occasionally milk or homemade limeade. But Kombucha over ice?? perfect!!! It's tart, lightly sweet, slightly carbonated (and if you store it in the fridge a few days bottled it ramps up the carbonation further). I used to filter it so there were no "floaters" but now I pour it straight over ice right from the Kombucha container spigot.

Man, it's good!

And so our science experiments continue! Among the three containers, we should be able to keep some Kombucha drinking going on!

I feel great after drinking it, and am sleeping especially a baby, with dreams in amazingly vibrant colors...the first dream was of my buying a horse for the first time in my life...he was a beauty! (in the dream...)

Warning to other'll need to let it ferment to the more tart stage to insure a lower sugar content.

Kombucha...and Kombucha-making has turned out to be a fun (and nutritious) addiction. I'm glad I'm somewhat past the trepidation factor. This fermented drink is quite robust and loaded with glorious probiotics..the healthy bacteria that will chase the bad bacteria in our bodies right out of town :)

More About Moringa

Raw Milk Dud

This, in my email recently:

Personal Liberties at Stake in Raw Milk Issue

Sunday, October 12, 2008 2:33 PMBy: Kimberly Hartke

Our constitutional right to liberty is systematically being attacked by government agencies flanked by anti-competitive forces in the food industry.
Nowhere is this more obvious than on the raw milk issue. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently vetoed SB201, a bill to preserve consumers’ rights to access farm fresh milk while guaranteeing its safety.

Read full article...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Stretch-the-Veg Greens Update

Jack had surgery yesterday on his forehead, to remove a cancerous place.

Yes, the C Word...the panic-inducer, life-flashing-in-front-of-your-eyes word association. The day we found that out, I was pulling up every possible internet dietary recommendation I could get my hands on under the title Cancer Prevention. At the top of every list was the category Greens. Dark, leafy greens of every sort are a vital component of a body's cancer-and-other-diseases defense team. Those same leafy greens are something we really need to include more of in our meals around here, and that means finding ways to enjoy eating them as well as developing some garden savvy in growing them.

Thankfully, they seem to be an easy food to grow, and here in Florida, we should be able to stretch a couple of seasons and still keep them going. In colder areas, I'd imagine they could be included among other greens grown under a protective polytunnel or other crop-prolonging method.

We didn't have an active seasonal in-ground garden of any sort this year, for reasons discussed in prior posts. What we did do is begin slower-growing plants, and some herbs, trees, experimental and exotics in 5 gallon (what else?? ha) pots. We're gearing up to make decisions about what to start putting into the ground and whether we'll be seeing any daylight with our goals for relocation. So many decisions, quite a bit of waiting, and so many things that just can't's a head-scratcher sometimes trying to find ways to strike a balance.

Recently, I posted about dual-use veggies...ones commonly used for a better-known food (think beets, turnips, sweet potatoes, okra, papaya), but with the real potential of dual usage for humans for a second table food. In these cases, the second food is Greens.

We're continuing to experiment a bit with our Blood Sugar Regulator plant, Gynura procumbens/ Sambung Nyawa. Its flavor is not unpleasant, but since it is a new taste to me, I'm not used to it...and so we experiment for a better taste "fit." So far, we've had it raw in salad, steeped fresh in hot water as a tea, blanched, and a cut up and stir friend ingredient in chicken enchiladas (mmm!)

We still have 3 1/2 gallon ziplock bags full in the fridge, and I'm trying not to waste it. Tonight's inclusion was with some shredded cabbage, stir-fried in a tablespoon of olive oil with a pinch of salt and then continued briefly with the addition of a couple tablespoons water, to sort of steam/stir fry it just till the greens brighten and begin softening. I don't cook past that point...I like them tender, cooked till no longer crunchy, but no more...I can't stand pale, gray, limp overcooked cabbage.

The picture above is at the just-done point. I served this for each person tonight for dinner in a bowl, in this order: hot cooked rice, some cabbage and greens served on top of that, and a ladle of steaming Winter Squash-and- Turkey Soup over all. Yum!

Over at a recent entry on Duane Marcus' blog The Funny Farm, he's written about finding another wonderful Asian green called Komatsuna. It is said to be delicious eaten for its greens as well as its stalks, which can be substituted fresh for celery. I've never tried it, but he says his customers enjoy it, and gives it great reviews for its hardiness and ability to withstand some cold weather as well as heat without bolting. It's a warmer zone plant, so we'll be looking into it for sure. Thanks for the heads-up, Duane!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

One of My Favorite Blogs the whole wide world.

If you haven't visited Nita at Throwback at Trapper Creek, you're in for a treat!

It's just one of my most favorite sites to visit! Ever. Amen.

I want to be Nita when I grow up... She's living the life I'll be working, ohhhh, the rest of my life to learn how to live (and I am sometimes hit with the urge to just despair of our snail-like baby steps and repeatedly bang my head against my monitor after reading her most awesome informative posts)

Nita, you're now on the blog list after months of my enjoying your blog. Apologies!

There are so SO many other wonderful blogs here I haven't even updated on my sidebar. Please forgive!

If you're reading this and your name is not Nita from Throwback at Trapper Creek, and you are wondering why I now know all your children by name and all your best recipes and yet don't have your blog name listed on my sidebar, it's because I'm a procrastinating dork! If that's the case please drop me a comment to that effect and I'll remedy it. I'd love to include yours! I'm slowly trying to catch up, but you've heard that before, ack! :)

Secondary Edibles: Greens

In researching some necessary changes in our diets both presently and for future days on the homestead we're working to purchase, we've become aware of the role greens should be playing. A vital source of quality nutrition, greens are for the most part easy to grow, and often overlooked (at least by us).

I've never really grown greens, aside in our childhood garden where we grew kale, chard, some leaf lettuces, and turnip greens. Others grew collards. All are delicious in some form, especially when accompanied with a hot buttery hunk of cornbread...mmm!

Lately, we've noticed in our investigation of different plants friendly to this growing zone (9) that some plants know as foods in other ways also have edible leaves or stems. This would make these foods a dual-use food, in addition to their value after harvest as a compost or mulch ingredient.

Vegetables with secondary edible parts sometimes require specific cooking or preparation, and the flavor may vary from appealing to unappetizing. However, it must be kept in mind that whole cultures have utilized parts of plants Americans are unfamiliar with. If prepared properly, many greens untraditional to western tables can be harvested and enjoyed, as well as their nutritional boost.

We're trying to utilize our plants, and plan for future crops, with multi-use in mind. Some may be animal fodder, mulch, fertilizer, companion plants or beneficial insect attractors as well as a great crop for our own eating. Whatever plants we can eat, if we can find multiple parts of the plant that are edible, we'll be trying it!

Here is a small list of some such plants that we've read have edible greens in addition to their primary crop fruit or vegetable:

1. Okra...leaves can be used as greens. Do they have to be young leaves, or prepared a certain way? We're still researching that.

2. Sweet potatoes. Ditto. Leaves and stems are said to be edible as boiled greens...flavor depending on variety, some varieties pleasant and other not

3. Papaya. (Baby papayas shown below) Young leaves steamed and eaten like spinach in some parts of Asia.

4. Malanga. (Shown below)Ditto #3.

5. Mints. (Some shown below, among drying herbs) They're primarily an herb, and used as such, but we enjoy them not only as a spice/condiment, but also stir-fried into other greens such as spinach, with some salt ...really brightens the taste!

6. Gynura Procumbens/Sambung Nyawa/Bloodsugar plant. (Shown below, just after trimming back...we harvest 5 gallons of leaves!) We use these as a tea, but prefer them as greens. They can be used as a food, not just a medicinal.

7. Beet greens/Turnip greens. Others use both root and leaves regularly. I simply love beet greens!

8. Snap beans and Lima beans. We've never tried either. We'll research this some more and actually try some cooked different ways before recommending them. But we saw it on a list and if it's true and they taste fine cooked (and are safe!) then wow, what a great double use for these!

9. Squash. Again, young leaves said to be edible if cooked..I'm assuming boiled or sauteed. Again, would need to try!

10. Red Clover. The flower heads and the leaves are both edible. Leaves are said to be very rich in nutrients and protein, and we'll be trying them both raw in salads and cooked with other greens.

Ok, that's all for now.

We'd LOVE to know if you know any dual-use plants that can be harvested for greens, and how you prepare them for eating. Have you tried any of the above? We'd love to hear from the voices of experience while also trying out hand at some.

Don't forget...before trying anything ALWAYS read read read and KNOW it's safe before beginning. Same thing for testing for very careful!

Don't take my word for any of these things before doing your own research.

If we find success with these, we'll give a full report :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Love Homesteading Magazines?

So do I! I wrote a bit on it on this week's Women Not Dabbling in Normal. What are some of your favorites?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Happy Birthday, Rachel!

You will always be to me so much more than I could have thought a daughter could mean...

You'll always be:

The one who taught me I could be a mother even though I didn't feel ready for motherhood

Those long hours nursing you were hours no one can ever take away from me, and that even though my own mother bottle fed me, my nursing you is a powerful natural connection I'm glad we shared

The girl who always wanted to be in nature, showing me all your discoveries

The one who is not afraid of snakes

Outrageous finger nail polish parties with friends during sleepovers

Dancing with my scarves to Moby

Rubbing the backs of my hands unconciously whenever you took my hand for security

Always wanting to be in the middle of a bunch of kids...never shy


Stubborn, in all the ways that can be good or bad

The one who ate the entire jumbo pack of gum from my sister's purse when you were three

The only one in the house who asks me to buy Ramen Noodles

Long beautiful hair

Singing to yourself throughout the day, just like I do

Smart! Sometimes emotional

Hate having your feet confined

Would put on a sock, hate the way it feels, take it off, rearrange it, repeat

Hated the way bathing suits feel. At age five, the neighbor came down the street requesting you stop jumping through their sprinkler naked as a jaybird, waving your bathing suit...heehee

Making real mudpies in the flowerbed, and getting your friends in on the action

Words that will never be the same again. Grits will always be "Gips"

Asking me to tweeze your eyebrows

The time you paid a stylist to fix your hair "just like the magazine picture" for a special event, and then came home and asked me to undo it and fix it better :)

Teaching yourself how to dance, though your mom has two left feet

Sleepovers where you put on all the makeup in the house, with your friends, then took it off, then put more on again

"Not feeling so well" whenever we were about to go to church (back in the day), and your sudden "recovery" when I suggested we stay home and you take a couple tablespoons castor oil to help you with your rather vague ailments (miracle cure! only had to use it once lol)

When I started hearing you repeat to me the things I said to you...and my mother said to me

Amazing color artwork

A fascination with animals of all sorts, insect world included

Watching you watch the fish in your fishtank

Reading stories and praying at bedtime

Always always always hugging! And so many kisses

You're smart, so smart!

The times I knew what you were doing and you didn't think I knew what you were doing...

When you cut the creamy center out of the lasagnes and baked fettucinis when no one else was looking...and thought no one knew who did it, lol

Graduation. How could you have grown up so fast??

The heartbreak of divorce. How impossible it was for me to shield you from that loss of innocence

Learning to forgive

Reading me the Psalms when I'm discouraged. My reading them to you when you are.

Your first pair of glasses. Your retainer. Leaving your retainer in the school lunchroom. Finding it in the trash after remembering you'd left it.

Our Jack Russell who protested your removing him from your bed by peeing down the center of it.

Your hugs. Your crazy laugh!

Your first boyfriend.

Your sadness at being an only child, and how I tried to have siblings for you, but couldn't.

All the prayers for your safety, everytime you leave the house to drive to work.

When you were learning to drive and would close your eyes when the oncoming cars would come too close. How close you came to knocking over an old lady in her housecoat at her mailbox when closing your eyes that way, and Jack and I screaming "sttttooooppppppppp" whew, lol!!

When we were new here, and gave you careful directions how to find the house if you went jogging. Then we looked and you had begun jogging full speed the opposite direction, heehee

Donuts and Little Debbies, your weaknesses!

Hated onions till you worked in a sandwich shop and actually tried them on a turkey sandwich. Now you order extra...on everything

You never eat the crust of anything

How you love anything that looks Japanese

There's so much more I could write...but each new day, there'd be more. I'm so glad God brought you into my life. I hope He gives us years more to enjoy as mom and daughter!

I love you, Rachel. Happy 20th!

11th Hour, and a First Class Stamp

I know, it's hard to believe. I'm one of THOSE...

There have been a lot of elections, and I've voted in very few of them.

I have such an aversion to politicians, sales pitches, pyramid scheme promoters, prosperity evangelists, Tupperware and Amway distributors, it might be a borderline phobia or something, only I'm not afraid of them...I just can't stand two seconds more in the same proximity.

(Could this be because of my former bad experiences with all of the above?? lol)

But I care about my country.

I'm seldom overtly "political," but I will venture forth to make this statement. Neither of the current presidential candidates satisfy what this country needs in leadership during these times. I think either direction, each candidate is a dangerous gamble, and I don't think a country should be run by hoping you're choosing the lesser of two evils. Marriages shouldn't be made that way, and we're going to be married to this person economically and policy-wise for the next 4 years.

I don't blame anyone but ourselves. WE are ultimately responsible for who we put into office.

Well, anyway, that's my wee rant (I cut it short...) And this could very well have been one of my non-voting years, except that my husband was born in a non-free country where people took their lives into their hands to have a voice in who their leaders should be. Now in our family, voting is a responsibility.

So this otherwise politically-averse gal had to listen to the candidates and their promises...or rather, try to read between the lines of everything they are refusing to commit to print or speeches just now. Sheesh!

I'm amazed at the issues that have NOT been raised. Things like the passing of the Real I.D. and its pending implementation...hello?? Um, wouldn't it be nice to have a candidate repeal the Patriot Act? Localize food production? And one hundred other things on my own pet peeve list...things associated with losses of OUR freedoms.

When I hear the candidates, I think in terms of precedents, and the further losses of our freedoms. Some people might thing this is inevitable..."because" (fill in the blank with whatever the crisis is at the moment) As I see it, we've given up more freedoms, whether knowingly or through inattention, in the last 50 years than in the rest of our short American history.

I got my voter's registration off on THE cutoff day for mail-ins...same day we searched the place and couldnt find a 1st class stamp in the house...ha! Same day one of our vehicles went kaput, etc etc, but thanks to Jack, it did get stamped and mailed in time.

You know what this means, right? It means I'll probably get called up for jury duty any day ;-)

Oh yeah, and I have to decide which Amway salesman er, candidate, to vote for...

I know which person my husband's voting for, and he has strong reasons why. I refuse to tell him who mine'll be, because in my family growing up we NEVER told anyone who we voted for...that was something my Depression Era grandparents held sacrosanct...NOT telling ANYONE...and somehow it's still in me.

But I do tease Jack now and then by suggesting the possible redeeming qualities of his choice's know, just to make sure he's really listening to me at the moment...

It's so much fun kissing and making up ;-)

Re-Posting: Week's Update

(This was published yesterday at the Wordpress site I decided not to use. Sorry for the confusion...I'm back here at Blogger like a bad habit)

Last week, we did make a little progress in some areas.

There were obligatory errands and such, of course. One of my challenges was to try to purchase groceries within budget, and now I'm taking cash...only what I allow myself to spend for that particular trip. I shop from a list rather than by wandering down the aisles, and I'm planning most of the week's meal in advance.

This past week, I kept to my budget. That's an accomplishment! I am now shopping on HALF the budget of a year ago, per week. My long term goal is to once again half that, if possible, but it'll only be possible as a garden comes in.

In the kitchen: I made meatloaf without a recipe...made up my own recipe basing it on what I remember my Grandma putting in hers. I'm enjoying slowly adding one recipe at a time that's tried and true, the sort I can do by memory and that the family for sure loves. LOVE is the operative word. If they don't LOVE it, I keep tweaking and trying it differently till I can tell it's at last a family classic. Finally the meatloaf is at the love stage. Next challenge...extending the leftovers.

Using leftovers -- The meatloaf found further incarnations. The next night, it became the basis for Shepherd's Pie, and the next, the start for Vegetable Beef soup. Both were eagerly eaten, so at least there was not too much Leftover fatigue :) I feel good knowing three solid meals to do well back-to-back with similar ingredients. That's stretching some ground chuck!

First Harvest of October! We harvested 5 1-gallon bags of what we call the Blood Sugar plant, Gynura Procumbens. We washed and bagged them, and are trying them in all sorts of dishes. Tonight's was enchildas...I chiffonaded (sliced in ribbons) the leaves and included them stirred in with the rest of the ingredients before filling the flour tortillas...the flavor was complementary, nothing weird.

I had to cut back the Blood Sugar plants, and from those, I planted out 28 starts for new plants (it's all we had containers for, presently). I also cut back and harvested most of the herbs except two mammoth cinnamon basils, and tied the pruned sections into bunches and hung them to dry. They smell delicious, especially the thymes :)

Jack did the lion's share...the cleaning out of all the weeds, the mowing, the replacing of landscape fabric under that weedy mess where the herbs were. We discovered some great volunteer plants, such as two avocados and a bunch of volunteer basil coming up here and there. We're leaving them in the soil even if they're sharing pots with existing plants...looks like they're making good companions, so why mess with a good thing?

He's having great success with starting exotics from seed. We now have some small established lychees, and have also planted miracle fruit plant seeds, mameys, plums, papayas, malangas, tamarinds, and I can't remember the rest. The mameys are 2 feet high now (3 plants), the malangas put out shoots within a week of being put into the soil. We are trying gingers. The tamarinds grow like weeds, as do the papayas, but so far have not been pollinating and turning the flower buds into any fruit...wahh..we're waiting for them to mature enough to have enough dependable male and female plants.

Some seeds that are awaiting planting, but we're out of containers just now...cherimoyas, royal poincianas, more tamarinds, calabaza. We should have plenty left this spring.

Jack has started a few trenches that will be filled with wood chips, grass clippings, compost, manure, and some soil and then covered with cardboard for the next couple months to ripen into a decent place to plant in the spring. Meanwhile, I'm lobbying for some dug-up space to plant winter greens...

We're doing the M. Fukuoku (sp?) Leave-it-alone method of leaving nature alone to grow naturally, and we're not putting in a hedge at the front of the adjoining property where Jack's starting those garden beds. We're simply leaving a 15 foot strip along the front and will mow evenly down its length, allowing it to grow like crazy and form its own wild plant strip. We don't plan on being here long enough to justify spending a single cent on anything a buyer would simply be bulldozing under. So let's see if it works...we need a thick strip of foliage to discourage 4 wheelers from decimating any plants we'd put over there. We'll post the progress :)

We also harvested 14 limes! About half were Indian Sweet Limes, and the other were Persian limes. I can't explain the craving I've suddenly developed for it, but I've been making hand-squeezed limeade, which is SO SO different from anything from the store. I don't know if it's the variety of lime, or the fact they're squeezed just off the tree, but there is NO bitter taste and just the most fragrant and delicious mild lime taste when mixed with some sweetened water and served over ice. JUST the thing to refresh after melting down in the humidity outside! Mmmmmm :) Those little limes trees are now 3 years old and are in pots, and are not very big at all, but that doesn't stop them from producing great normal-sized limes, yay!

It was my daughter's birthday today...Happy 20th, sweet Rachel!!!! I can NOT believe it's been that many years! What an incredible person I've been given as a daughter. My prayer for her is that she'll always keep God at the center of her life, and dare to live life to its fullest protected and guided by His wisdom. That's really the only thing I want, if a mother were to have a wish, because He made her so wonderfully...and I got to share in all these 20 years the wonder of watching her grow. I have a lump in my throat and a LOT of thankfulness :)

We had a fun celebration today between her work schedule and Jack's.

Repairs: I had to play early morning chaffeur to Jack when his vehicle decided it didn't want to start. Tomorrow should be fun, with round-trips to a service center somewhere, I'm a-guessing :)

Slowly stockpiling a few extras. I bought calabaza at 40 cents a lb. so that we can have some more of that fabulous soup, and save the seeds for the spring. I hope to have enough both to use and to share with friends out here who'd like some. Calabaza is absolutely delicious!

Kombucha success at last!!! Maria was so gracious and sent me a baby scoby way back about 2 months ago, smack before the world went upside down and we found ourselves living at hospice with Jack's mom, before she died. I was already very unsure of my Kombucha skills, and was pretty convinced that I was going to somehow taint a Scoby, or unwittingly do something wrong to it and render it harmful to us. I had no idea what one was supposed to NOT look like, so when Maria's baby scoby started getting more robust and had some beige-ish and light brown-ish floaties in the brew, I was SURE I had murdered it. But we were on the run at that point, so each week I made a new brew and poured off most of the old stuff, leaving just enough to help along the new. Now we actually have 2 scobies and are using the 2nd as the primary one, and are keeping the first dormant just in case we need it again soon. We ordered a couple of continual brew items, and...

We tasted our first homemade Kombucha! I do mean TASTE...we've been MAKING it for a while now, but I was always too scared to serve it to us. Then we went online and looked at pictures and different ways people make it, and it really put our minds at ease that ours is it was time to taste! It poured out looking like apple cider, and I did filter off the fibrous bits that were floating in it. Upon tasting it, it TASTED like slightly dry, lightly sweet and totally PLEASANT apple cider...Yay, SUCCESS!!! At this point, since I 'm still getting my sea legs with the whole fermentation thing, we'll just drink it fresh without fermenting it further (by bottling it...we're just skipping that stage). We LOVE it as is!

Scary skin cancer stuff...Jack has to have an area removed on his forehead. There 's nothing like the C Word to get us looking fast and furiously into prevention prevention prevention. That is one reason we're stepping up the kombucha and the blood sugar plant production around here. We're making them each daily foods (well, once the kombucha is ready! that's why we want the continuous ferment method).

Still saving the loose change for the Doing Not Thinking Challenge...collected another $2.00 to add to the kitty, now totaling $'ll go to's micro-loan program, can't wait :)

Weight loss? Haven't weighed. HAVE been trying to reduce our overall carbs (try doing that when trying to also cut the ol' grocery budget in half, hmmm!) while upping our green stuff and lots of water. But I'll tell ya, the birthday cake likely didn't help things much :)

Keeping on with the Homestead Acquisition efforts. Yes, oh yes. Never are we far from the conversations about what to do next. Then we do those things, often daily. It's a lot of hunting, researching, and mostly w-a-i-t-i-n-gggggggggg. But it WILL pay off, and these conversations have helped us to prioritize, and adjust, as we go.

Oh, yeah, I mopped the kitchen floor. Not a huge accomplishment, but if you'd seen, yeah. Well, that's all I have to say about that...

I'm posting this post without pictures, even though it goes against my grain. More pics to come, tho! :)

I'm Back

I apologize for the confusion.

Yesterday, I moved the blog to Wordpress. Today I'm moving it back, hopefully permanently.

My brief fling with Wordpress is over...I just didn't bond with it. Yes, it looked more business-like, and had some options I don't have here...I think. Or maybe I don't know how to use either to their best advantage.

But like a favorite pairs of jeans, or soft chambray work shirt, this blog seems to be my most comfortable fit. I missed the slightly messy familiarity of my clutter on the sidebar here.

I'm getting old and set in my ways :)

Anyway, I'm back.

I apologize for the inconvenience to those of you who'd bookmarked the new link already!

Thanks for understanding!

That said, if anyone would like to be added to THIS blogroll, please say the word. I'm hopelessly behind in updating it...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Moving to New Site...for Now

I'm not sure how much I'll like it or not, but I'm moving my posts over to Wordpress rather than Blogger.

One of the reasons is that I hope to better organize and simplify the site. But if I don't feel comfortable there after a time, I'll end up right back here. Either way, I'll leave this page up and keep its archives intact.

Here's the link to the new page...same blog name, same crazy blog nut case author.

Hope to see you there! :)


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ocean Palettes

We don't get much in the way of fall colors down here per se, at least not any leaves changing or the blushing foliage kissed with cold snaps.

But here's our next best thing...

Golden backlighting...

And more gold

Then some russets, corals, garnet

Clarets, ports, burgundies

Melting into the grays, blues. Salmons, pumpkins, persimmons, rose...

and then fading away. Children playing in an ocean of pink...

My sweetheart wading with me in the shallows

A fisherman trying to cheat the dark for one last whiting

and the great blue heron, looking on.

Who's watching whom?

The water was quiet last night, unlike the week before. Every time, it's different, and I love watching its changing moods, indescribable hues, the sights and smells. The breezes feel so nice to drink in, and I love the sand and water against my feet and toes as we stroll, stand in drifts of tiny shells, or follow the crisscrossed designs of children's footprints.

It's not the New England coast or an Ozark or Appalachain mountainside, but it's a Florida version of wonderful :)