Monday, May 31, 2010

One Hour French Bread

Even though I don't make it as often as I did a couple years ago, I love to make homemade bread. I ran across a recipe for 1 hour french bread a while back (at this post), and it looked really good. Best of all, it said the entire process from start to hot-from-the-oven could be accomplished in an hour.

So I made two last night, and voila...they were great!

They can be made into an oblong loaf, or smaller baguettes or breadsticks. I went with the oblong loaves this time. One recipe makes one loaf. And aside from water, there are only four ingredients.
NO mixer.
NO difficult instructions.
And easy for anyone who is a little standoffish about kneading...the instructions don't call for it, though when I formed the loaf I gave it 4 or five good turns to get it to hold its shape better. The 20 minute rise is all part of the One Hour.

Aside from raw milk, is there anything more delicious than crisp cold salad greens and crusty, hot homemade bread...or the bread itself, with butter and honey?

Or slices toasted with grated mixed cheeses atop?

I'm going to have to hide this recipe, for the sake of my waist. After one more slice, perhaps :)

Here's Sadge's (at Fireside Farm blog) recipe:

One-Hour French Bread
1½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon honey
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ tablespoons Active Dry Yeast
3 - 4 cups flour (any combination of white and whole wheat)

Preheat oven 450º. Combine water, salt, honey, and yeast in a medium bowl. Let sit 5 - 10 minutes, until bubbling. Add flour, stirring with a wooden spoon, until dough is no longer sticky (I'll sometimes dump the dough out onto the cutting board with what flour is in the bowl and roll it around,adding a bit more flour, until it's not sticky). Roll dough into a 12 - 14" roll (or you can divide it in half and roll it into two long skinny baguettes). Place dough roll(s) on a cookie sheet (this won't work in a bread pan), greased or sprayed with non-stick spray, cover, and let sit 20 minutes. Make diagonal slits, 1/2" deep, on top with a razor blade. (Optional: spray with salt water). Bake 20 minutes.

Devour  :)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hello Memory Reader Card

(or is that Memory Card Reader? Clicking any of these pics should enlarge them) Anyway, now I can finally post pictures again!  I have to do it the "long" way...via the laptop that's virus-free and a touchpad instead of the manual mouse (don't want to unhook it every time from the main computer, blah blah blah)

Here are some of our malangas, still in their plactic bins before being transplanted by Jack to the lot next door (in the ground).  They die back in the winter and reappear in the spring, but so far we haven't reaped a crop from them (the roots).

I had no idea how much I had missed seeing some snaps now and then of what's going on around here.  Here are a few I took in the interim, dating back a few weeks or so...

These are some random wildflower pics.

One of my goals is to learn their names.  I have yet to get that ID manual from the library.  I'm easily distractible and never have yet made it past the fiction, history, and gardening sections :)

Well, I do at least know the name of this one ;-)

 Now that I'm paying attention, there are simply scores of different kinds of wildflowers here year-round, if I'll stop to look. There are more especially on our empty lot next door, since we've been having loads of stable cleanings brought there. The hardpan sand is now nearly a (weedy) meadow, what with all the seeds in the hay going to town, the bermuda swallowing everything, and the several inches of composted manure and herbage from last year's sowings of cowpeas, etc. I rather like leaving it wild and seeing what appears this year, since we aren't putting in an "official" garden.
See the camera-shy guy behind the salad greens?  That's my handsome man!
Some things have come back as volunteers, and we're happy to reap them.  Here Jack has gleaned lettuces and some early clover.  The clover goes into our smoothies, and really is a pick-me-up.
Here is some dollarweed, the round-leafed variety, which we eat as well. It tastes somewhat like a mild parsley and is really good for us, being the American version of the gotu kola variety, which also grows here wild, the difference being more of a heart-shaped leaf with reverse scallops along the leaf edges. What delicious wild things!

And Kaleb keeping watch over all the proceedings...(when he's not getting into the Forbidden Chocolate)

This is some of the Gynura that came back from the winter freezes. We're transplanting it several different areas in-ground. It easily roots from cuttings stuck right into the soil and watered in.

And here's the reappearing act of the Cranberry Hibiscus/False Roselle (edible delicious leaves), which will get to over 8 feet by the end of the season if not cut back and allowed to take a bushier form. We LOVE these...they are the ones that look somewhat like a Japanese maple.

The calabaza seeds will pretty much sprout wherever you throw them. Ours are putting out a lot of blooms. Like I said, we have no official garden this year, so this year's calabaza crop will be our version of Survivor...let's see how they do. This pic is from the glut we had last year. There are a couple dozen blooms just like them on our Survivor plants taking off this year.

And last but not least, one more gratuitious blue wildflower shot...

...the best sort of "blues" to have in these spring days melting into summer :)

Have a wonderful week!

Thank You For Your Life

It's not just a day to catch up on getting the lawn mowed, throwing something on the grill, and cracking open a cold watermelon.  It's a day of honor and remembrance. 

Thank you to all veterans and those in active service for putting your lives on the line for us, the citizens of the United States.

Thank you to all the families who have lost their loved ones who died in that service.  And also to those who are permanently disabled as a result.

My husband nearly died, and he has permanent disabilities from his time of service.  Many men and women he served with, and other family members of his who served,  lost their lives.  Live in this country long enough, and no family goes untouched.

Thank you for serving at such great cost.

This Memorial Day, our household remembers those who paid the highest price.

And For His Next Trick...

We stay on budget, faithfully.  It's our means to an end, and we nurture every repayment with a clear slate in mind.  When I shop at the store, I have already thought ahead for most of the items and how they'll be used...what meals they will become.  I make most of our foods, and that includes treats.  One of the things I try to include weekly for a few treats is something chocolate, since my husband loves that more than almost any other.

This week we were both tired, wiped out.  We did pretty well at the store and the cart included everything necessary to be paired with staple pantry items for some great meals (which get stretched into different forms).  There was enough money left before checkout to cover a dessert.  I was simply too tired to bake.  I eyed a cobbler.  My husband asked if it were chocolate.    :)   I put it back and found a chocolate bundt cake. 

I refused to look at the label beyond making sure there was no lard.  That's not typical of me.  I'll whip up a short stack of homemade pancakes before I'll buy things with labels, especially involving ingredients with names only NASA would recognize.  I made an exception...I was counting the minutes till we were back home, the groceries were put away, the sun was down, and I was freshly showered and IN THAT BED.   Ty-yerd!

It did happen.  Everything got parsed to its quickest, easiest action and finally we were all tucked in, sleeping soundly.  BLISS!  Waking up late together Saturday...more bliss :)

Saturday is a lovely slow day for us...our weekly day of rest.  And during a couple points, chocolate cake was enjoyed.

When we get treats, our dog does, too.  I just don't believe in eating while he's hungry, so he gets fed first, and if we're occasionally having something between meals, he gets a very small taste, too.  Only not of the cake...the chocolate is supposed to be bad for him.  So he got half a biscuit.  Because he's a tad plump and all those bites of treats add up.  So half a biscuit for the One of the Begging Eyes (he licks his chops, too).

And he stared me down every mouth movement we made of eating our bits of cake.  STARED.  It was all about eye contact.  He can smell the chocolate, and he's a gentleman and won't grab for it if it's in my hand or on my plate.  But he will totally try to guilt us with hard stares, and then facial expressions of depredation, starvation, gulag hangdog guillotine glances and sighs.  And then go slowly curl up in his Siberia of fluffy dog bed (he's so mistreated ;-))   Actually, he's spoiled rotten and such a good natured fellow.  But he has to settle for treats other than chocolate.

Well, Jack and I ventured forth this evening to run a couple errands and upon our return Jack entered the house and turned to me and said....Umm, honey...

Umm, honey...Kaleb...

I love how a born communicator is rendered monosyllabic under great duress.

Uh-oh.  Kaleb had an accident.  From the look on Jack's face, maybe he even had a Number Two Oops.  Maybe he Ooopsed and then tracked through it.

Just come look, he said.

This did not bode well.  But Jack did not have that look on his face that read  Since when is it the man's job to pick up the poo?   In fact, he had  more of a look that said  This is your call, and I'm trying not to laugh.

Or something.

Anyway, I walked in and there was no foul odor anywhere.  Nothing seemed disturbed.  I looked around.  Nothing out of the ordinary, except...
where Jack pointed his finger...

An empty plastic cake plate, and next to it its large round plastic domed cover, licked completely clean except for a couple of chocolate icing bits that were under the hard-to-reach rim.

There were no ground-in cake bits anywhere.  Nothing else disturbed.

HOW my dog attained superpowers and got the only half-eaten bundt cake from a high surface (that he's never before been able to breach even when we're gone for hours), I don't know.  Nothing else from the surface was on the floor or had been disturbed.  He must have scarfed the contents once he dislodged it, though...

he had eaten the entire remaining half of the LARGE chocolate bundt cake, icing and all.

The only clues were the empty container, a few smears of icing under an extension cord nearby, and a slightly-sticky but very happy dog face grinning up at me and totally breathing Chocolate Breath.

You know you're really budgeting tightly when the first thing you think, after wondering if your dog is going to live or go into choco-convulsions at any minute, is DARN DARN DARN, I WANTED TO MAKE THAT CAKE LAST THROUGH THE WEEK.

Guess the diet starts early!

Oh yeah, and Jack was a HUGE help in the discovery process of all the above (I'm saying this tongue-in-cheek).  I was doing doggie sign language:  Holding empty cake plate, showing it to Kaleb, saying "you KNOW better than this!  This can hurt you!" (believe me, he knew what I was saying and slunk away into our bathroom)

Jack could not keep a straight face.  He replied that I just put the dog in Time Out.  See?  To which I called out a minute later "Ok, Kaleb, you can come out of hiding now" and around the corner he comes trotting, as if nothing ever happened.  "No more chocolate for you, my friend" means nothing to him other than he's out of the doghouse ;-)

Jack laughs and says I TOLD YOU.  He is laughing maybe moreso because he can relate personally.  He is laughing because he knew it was just as likely HE, JACK, would have done the same thing as Kaleb (except using a fork and not leaving the evidence in the middle of the floor) had I gone and run errands long enough, except that when I would have come home there would have been one slender token sliver of cake left..."for me."

It's now 10 hours and counting and I've been watching Kaleb for any adverse symptoms.  So far the only symptom seems to be slight sheepishness at knowing he did something we weren't too happy about, and maybe...maybe...a "slight feeling of fullness"???   He's sleeping it off, and I could swear he's dreaming of doing it again, ha :)

Looks like next time I'm too tired for baking ahead, I'll buy His and Hers jars of Nutella and call it done :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

This Really Happened

We live in an area that is largely rural-suburban.  There are houses out here, but most of the lots are still uncleared and "wild."  We have wild boar, raptors and songbirds, nocturnals like opossum and armadillos and raccoons, occasional bobcats, indigo and black snakes, huge land tortoises, and whitetail deer, not to mention shy gators and any number of other animals.  There are innumerable insects, every sort of pollinator.  Bright green tree frogs with moonstone eyes and the diminuitive anole lizards making throat-expanding displays for their sweethearts.  Coveys of quail bob-whiting from the safety of the Brazilian pepper bushes, ground doves with strawberry-colored feet, whirring like flying fans to the low branches of the slash  pines, red shouldered hawks sitting sentry on snags or stop signs or fence posts, looking for a fat field mouse.  Slender white egrets in a slow-motion patrol along roadside swales, looking for frogs.  Great blue herons standing in deeper water, and the anhingas sunning outspread wingspans of glossy ebony.  Congenial flocks of ibises dabbling for creeping things.  Homely wood storks flying like living pterodactyls overhead, collections of northern flocks of ducks and geese and migratory birds overwintering here.  Darting dragonflies, gulls by the ocean and the step-dancing shore birds scuttling for sand treasures.  Turtles on logs, choruses of frogs.  The call of the whippoorwill.  Rank swamp muck, easy tradewinds, the rustle of every kind of vegetation whispering secrets. 

Aside from the occasional unfortunate roadkill, we all coexist pretty nicely.  We love the subtropical plants and palmetto scrub and mixed cabbage palm and hardwood hammock, the piney woodlands.  We've endured drought and monsoon.  Florida wears her changing seasons with an ancient grace. 

We're underdeveloped here in our part of the county.  It's quiet even with a lot of commuters coming and going on the interstate not far away. We prefer it that way, and with the downturn, there's really been no new development going on.

It was an oddity when we recently began hearing earth-clearing machinery in the area, hard at work.  We figured it was either some heavy dredging of the overgrown swales to allow better waterflow, or a random lot being cleared for whatever reason...but it's not typical.

Then we began hearing it really close.  And frequently, sometimes farther away, sometimes closer...really heavy equipment.  But as our schedules are kind of strange and because we pretty much mind our own business, we didn't drive around checking things out until the day we came home from work and the next day saw that the vacant lot next to our driveway had been cleared of ALL vegetation and shrubs except the largest trees.  Gone, flattened, and now we can see straight through it to the house on the other side.

I drove down the road, and on the other side of that house, the same thing on the next door vacant lot.  Weird.  I thought maybe with this downturn, those neighbors had purchased the adjoining lots at a reduced price and had wanted to open up the thick woods on either side.  But it still seemed strange.

Then we began to notice that all throughout the area, there would be strips of raw dirt with the heavy equipment parked there smack in the middle or the side of vacant wooded land....almost tunnels, as it were, right into the thick hammock growth, everything leveled.  On land where the landowners are not present, and many of them live out-of-state or in other countries.  This alarmed me.  These lots all around this area are generally owned by folks planning for the longterm, and most of them value the natural setting and would not indiscriminately from a distance order someone to go in and clear without having pulled building permits and preparing to build a structure.  I drove the area and noticed that whatever crazy equipment owner was doing this had done it A LOT, and I was alarmed.

I called my neighbor who usually stays abreast of what's going on here and who is in charge if Neighborhood Watch, and here is what's going on:

The federal government decided that stimulus money would go to some worthy cause to create more jobs, so they authorized land-clearing companies to bid on clearing strips of forested land to "reduce fire hazards."  Supposedly they are "protecting" us from fire.

But here's the punch line --  they never  notified the owners of the land or sent out flyers to the residents telling them they were doing this, and they BEGAN CLEARING PRIVATELY OWNED LAND without any further permission needed, no notification, and we can't refuse to let them on our land (supposedly).   Oh, and of course, there is nothing posted stating who to contact if you object.

SO...let's get this straight....I own land and some jacksquat clearing company comes on it and begins clearcutting anything that's not a larger mature tree.

Well, our areas already have controlled burns regularly to reduce the chance of fire.  Most fires here are started by lightning during dry years, and this year has been a really REALLY wet one.  In order to truly protect a structure from fire a very LARGE swath would have to be cut along its  perimeter.

I wish I could post pictures here...these swaths are not swaths...they are simply tunnels within undergrowth, or random strips smashed flat.  They border properties with houses, and now what was a protection for the actual security of these houses has open "tunnels" all the way to the backs of the adjoining vacant properties...perfect for any stranger who wants to be undetected just to go right up into, even with a vehicle now, and scope out private properties and homes.  All this in a time when crime has gone UP and we're having trouble with breakins around here.

If it created enough of a space where fire couldn't jump, fine...IF you've notified the landowners and told them you're tearing up their land first.  But NO, this is the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, and they just DO first and challenge you to challenge them.  To "create" jobs.  Whose "employees" leave their "on the job" six packs and other trash ground into the dirt they had fun grinding everything into.

I counted at LEAST a dozen of these bulldozed-into properties on just my street and the one behind us alone, and they've been authorized to do this to a  big section of our county out here.  Of PRIVATE LAND.  Without the owners' knowledge.

Wow, what a stimulus.  I guess they've already employed enough extra workers to secure our national borders to keep all those illegal aliens from coming across to take their kids to eat ice cream in Arizona. 

Our tax dollars hard at work...

And btw, my husband is Hispanic/Latino, and he strongly believes immigrants to this country should have to do what he did...become citizens LEGALLY.  If you want more immigrants, raise the quotas, but enforce the borders so that terrorists and drug cartels and human slavery can't come across by the millions each year.  Enforce the existing laws and stop criminalizing legal citizens for expecting to be protected rather than exploited.

Oh, and those "people who were here long before..."?   I have native american heritage in my own blood.  As the law stands, babies born here in the US are US citizens.  Drop the guilt trip and start enforcing the protection of private property...yeah, even in Arizona.  Our household has no apologies to the Calderons out there whose own treatment of their countries' citizens is a sad joke.

I'm voting in November for smaller government, and the right to tell strangers to get off my property.

And their bulldozers.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Juniperus ridiculatus

Was it a credit card, or a marriage?

We did a combination paying off/consolidating balance to another lower rate credit card.  Yes, it's the interminable Debt Blasting effort we are daily engaged in.  Every time we get to cut up one of those cards, it's a reminder that we ARE making progress.

The most recent was my Juniper card.  No, it was not a card specifically designated for purchasing evergreens on credit.  They probably just want paying 27% interest on purchases to seem fresh and bracing and invigorating.  Or something.  But anyhow, the day finally came to call them and let them know it was time to balance means we're done.

Free at last free at last...

I have to make this quick, but here's how the call went:

Me (put on hold, to the repetitive reminder of a computer woman's voice stating that I would soon be connected to a RELATIONSHIP MANAGER)

A relationship manager?  Maybe it takes most folks longer to pay them off than most marriages last, or maybe the psychological impact of paying their nasty interest rates results in their having to hire legions of laid-off family counselors/anger management shrinks...hmmm...but wow, I never realized I was having a relationship with my credit card company.  (I wonder how Jack would feel about that)

When my barely-able-to-speak English "relationship counselor" (I love accents, but like to be able to actually know the language) finally came on the line, I truncated my needs into the simple sentence  "I want to cancel my credit card."

Obviously, in her mind, our relationship was at risk.  She must save it.  She asked why, why, why the magic was gone, and used her cue card to start enumerating possible reasons from which I should choose.

I was tempted to tell her I can  no longer take the toilet seat being left up, the tube of toothpaste being squeezed in the middle, the sitting in front of the TV in only underwear hogging the remote.  But I was nice :)

Nice, but not helpful.  Not accommodating.  Ours became a troubled relationship.  The price had been too high, we were done.  I replied, "I don't want to answer a lot of questions, please.  I want you to cancel my credit card."

She tried to impede the downward spiral.  She asked again for the reason, and the ensuing options list lasted a good full minute or so before she drew breath again.

I decided the "relationship" could last an additional 30 seconds, out of the kindness of my shriveled outsourced-call-center-loathing heart.  I would be patient.  For 29 more seconds.  Tick, tick, tick, tick.  Breaking up is hard to do...well, at least for them it is. 

I said "I'll save you some questions.  I paid off my card, I don't want it any more, I don't want to hear any more offers because I don't want the credit card, and do not want to reconsider."

Then she wanted me to list all my other current credit cards (yeah, for real she really did!) and the interest rates.  You've GOT to be kidding me!

It was at this point I fantasized about asking her for her credit card information and asking her if this was an open relationship and why she had been holding out on me all this much credit, so little time!  Or at least she could give me her SS# and pin number to her ATM...I'm just saying.  It's a RELATIONSHIP, after all...(I was getting used to the idea, hmmm)

Nah, I was just ticked off.
But I waxed beneficent and kind and gentle.  I summoned all the Nancy Reagan era moxy within me and I just said "NO."

Apparently I do not know the Sanskrit or Hindi for "NO," or else she was deaf.

"NO" was not in her relationship managerial vocabulary.  She asked again.  She asked three times.  She offered to send flowers, go on dates more often, give me bajillion fairy-dust-magic-something points, fly me to the moon.  I decided all those things would be on my tab at some inane percentage rate and politely (well...) declined.

Let's just skip the parts of the dialogue where I was sorely tempted to suggest an appropriate resting place for further Relationship Management.

At the end of about seven more attempts on her part to get into my private business, all to which she received strident requests to PLEASE CANCEL THIS CREDIT CARD,  she replied without breaking her stride from her cue card, again.   So I just began talking over her saying CANCEL IT CANCEL IT CANCEL IT CAN'T YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS CANCEL IT, and at last she sadly transferred me to her manager.

So that would be the Manager of Relationship Managers...a Relationship Supervisor?

She tried it again, but we finally saw daylight and she prepared the divorce papers, er credit card termination.  All from Bombay.

We're through, relationship over, long and fraught though it was.  The thrill is gone, baby.

And so is another credit card....and freedom, FREEDOM!!! is on the horizon.   YAYYYYY!!!!!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lassie Can't Fix Stupid, or Otherwise Entitled

Don't Leave The Faucet Running Full Blast In the Laundry Room Washtub and Then Forget About It.

Kaleb is good about alerting us to trouble.  Usually.  He can sound like an Irish Wolfhound if someone is at the front door, can whine if something is wrong, make near-human voices for different things he's trying to communicate to us.  He can also engage in a cyclical game of Fetch My Mangled Stuffed Animal when his owner, unlike Timmy and not trapped in a mine shaft, is mindlessly going about chores in another part of the house, stopping only to lob the toy back to the dog when prompted.

La la this how senility begins?  At 44, I hope not, but let's just say I'm glad I had to run back to the other side of the house.  BECAUSE MY CLASS ACT CANINE DIDN'T SEEM TO THINK there was anything out of the ordinary as The River Styx approached from the laundry room...he gamely held his stuffed animal in his mouth, all perky and happy as I rounded the corner to find a Golem-sized column of Mr. Bubble-like suds advancing, and the FULL washtub (and those things hold a lot of water, they do) doing its impression of an indoor waterfall, full force.

I have taken to soaking even non-laundry items in the washtub at times.  With LOTS of hand dishwashing liquid.  And the resultant bubbles.  Yes, I know I'm writing fragmened phrases, some of which lack subjects or verbs.  But back to the story.  It looks like in this instance, I had forgotten the important detail of TURNING THE FAUCET OFF.  It does take a long time to fill one of those jobbies.  I had a lot of things to soak.  I suppose I just multi-tasked way past the back end of the house and the forgotten running water.  Ack.

Needless to say, I pulled the plug on all the fun.  My dog is not a water dog maybe he was trying to keep me upstream?  Or he hates mopping floors as much as I do?  Or it was not yet a crisis in that it had not yet reached the value-sized box of dog biscuits?  (ha) At any rate the floor throughout the house, thankfully, is hard tile.  And there were more suds than water (that's saying a lot, because there was a lot of water) and I only had to throw down one closetful of towels (not an exaggeration) had flooded the laundry room but had only just begun to course past the pantry and on into the kitchen.

And thus the moon waxed and waned (not really, the whole process lasted about 30 minutes) and the tides pushed and pulled (indoors and out) and all nature plotted that this day would be the one for me to finally mop my floors.   

Well, cross that off the list.  Floor:  Mopped!

So now added to the list of Did I (a) turn off the iron (b) turn off the stove (c) put the gasoline can away from anywhere flammable (d) lock up the house before leaving (e) recheck whether I turned off the stove and the iron...the letter (f)...TURN OFF ALL THE FAUCETS.  Just another item for the obssessive compulsive checklist.


Well, it looks like I'm ahead on my chores for the day.  Wonder if that means I should pencil in Wash the Dog.   heh  :)   Here boy ;-)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Plans H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P

OK so in making big life plans it's nice to have backup plans.  And of course the backup plans serve to fine-tune the original plans, and some things drop by the wayside, and of course other things try to sideline a good many of the specifics so that we have to regularly revisit and revise (and rethink) The Overall Plan. 

What surfaces are the most important elements, and others fizzle out or are absorbed by time or circumstance or distractions.

We like the better-distilled plans anyway.

I began this blog several years ago.  I was very very anxious for us to be where we most wanted to be...on some land, carving our own little place in our own way, our own expression of good living defined differently than a lot of folks, but custom-fit for us.  To be free of the clutter of outside demands that leave us without many choices or time together, and in other ways TO clutter our days with meaning and deliberation and being IN the moment.  To deconstruct, to construct, to experiment, to distill, to embellish...our way.  Jack and myself, individually, are each partial solitary creatures content to hermit away our days in a riot of natural setting and a dearth of modern conveniences...and part relationship junkies needing meaningful connections with friends and family of all different persuasions, especially valuing keen perspectives, creative minds, and a lot of diversity.  We both gravitate to our home as our refuge, home being wherever the two of us happen to be nesting at the time.

Anyway, there have been ups and downs, and as far as the overarching plans we've undertaken, we've been united in most ways without too many exceptions. 

We're still not on our land, so with all things being what they are circumstantially, on this day I'm simply glad to have my husband, for us to be together and be able to pay our bills.

We're very blessed, and I thank God every day for Jack and Rachel, a roof over our heads, food, a vehicle, gasoline, jobs, paychecks.

We're getting out of debt.  I can't believe it's taken this long and every time we anticipate making sizeable headway, something like getting tires replaced or any of a list of other normal blips on the budgetary radar arise, our margin of flexibility is just slim slim slim.


I'm thinking about pushing a bit harder.  I'm mulling over becoming certified in another job area that would make me more marketable in our locale closer to home, for more pay and better hours.  I'd be on my feet more, work more hours, and see less of the homemaking I love...and for a time less of my husband.  I don't like that fact, I feel a physical need to be with him and near him daily that just can't be explained except to say it's where I'm happiest.   But if I can get the training and the certification under my belt, 6 months of fulltime work at the new job would make the difference in whether ditching the rest of our debt takes months or years.  The prospect of being able to be FREE in months means at that point we could both have a lot more choices and less pressure to make further decisions.

And THAT seems like a decent open door.

The other thing that I would want to go hand-in-hand with that is our taking care to keep improving our health and keep slowly losing weight.  I simply don't want that to go backwards.

We want to go offgrid.  To have the tools we recognize we NEED to put in and maintain a garden that will feed us a large percentage of the year.  And especially to have the time to do those.  ALL without debt.

These are all attainable goals.  I feel like we're going through our undergraduate education in Homesteading in which we can't do the fun specialization "courses" till we have the foundational things firmly in place.  Learning some of the things NOT to do has been part of the process, and  maybe just as important a part of that education.

Strangely, in the cleaning and organizing I've been slowly doing here in the house, I have run across soooooo many seeds bought during the last two or three years.  Every unopened packet is a  hope deferred.  There is a scripture that says hope deferred makes the heart sick.  There have been a few times I've felt heartsick, as much of this process seems like a lot of prolonged waiting.  But honestly, now I feel "replete" with direction.  As I look at the hopeful stash of future foods, flowers, and growing things represented in all those waiting seed packets, I think to myself "these will keep."   It's kind of how I felt when Jack and I first started getting to know each other, anticipating the next time we'd talk or be together but not wanting to rush each step but instead savor it...while still in a way hoping it would hurry along...but glad for the time to walk it out together instead of rushing past all those great "firsts."

It's so funny, mapping out these backup plans.  They all serve the big plan, though, even if they look different than what we thought the plan would definately be a few years back.  Plans A and B were wayyyy back there, and we may make our way through all the later letters of the alphabet before all's said and done.  I'm going to have to muster some additional stamina and flexibility...I mean how many dozen careers can one person have in a lifetime??? I've had so many! many as it takes, woo!!  Because they serve our life instead of our life being in the service of A Career.  Bring 'em on.  If it's all for the sake of having more choices and more ability to do what we most want to do sooner, plans X, Y and Z are all still part of THE plan.

So if you hear me whining about sore feet and a job I never imagined myself doing, well it's par for the course.  Because I want to be able to enjoy having more time with my husband for the long term, and I sure do want some chickens!!!

Hope your weekend is great...we're having an easy night tonight.  Ate local Mexican earlier today and tonight is just a snack of olive tapenade on some buttery crackers and a delicious cold glass of milk (I haven't bought milk in months...all of a sudden it just called out)  We're turning in early tonight, so glad to be together after a long week.

Have a restful night....shabbat shalom :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Concrete Canvas Cloth

Ok, this is fascinating.  The possibilities are exhilarating for folks like Jack and me...this material is rugged, easy to assemble, fast to build with, and with admirable strength and temp tolerance, wow...
more info to come after I receive a reply from the manufacturer

Here's a link for more about the cloth

Comfrey Hoecakes

I know there's some controversy about whether it's ok to consume comfrey leaves or not.  So anyone considering that question should do what they are most comfortable with only after doing their own research. 

I've decided for myself to use the leaves in small quantities since it may help me with upper respiratory healing issues, which seem to be my weaker health area.  I use a comfrey leaf (they're large) quite often among the other forage herbs we include in our green-and-berry smoothies. 

I read somewhere comfrey leaves can be made into fritters.  For an experiment tonight, I decided to try making a different variation on the fritter and made hoecakes hoecakes are simply pancake batter inclusive of some cornmeal, which makes it light and a bit different texture.  Plus, I'm southern born and bred, so cornbread usually figures in somewhere just like cold iced tea does :) 

 Anyway, I took a few comfrey leaves, cut the flat leaf parts off the stems, rolled them up like a big cigar and sliced them thin (chiffonade style) and then chopped those bits fine till it was all in very very small pieces.   I used a basic pancake batter, stirred in some pre-mixed cornbread mix, added in the chopped comfrey, and cooked some up in a hot skillet like small pancakes to accompany our dinner this evening.  I had omitted any sweetener in the batter, so it was a nice side serving to go with savory things, served still warm.  There was a nice flavor, as the comfrey is very mild.

I think this might be a way I'll use chopped pumpkin leaves, squash leaves, or okra leaves (all of which are edible and nutritious but not commonly cooked here in the US) in the future.  Comfrey leaves have sort of a mucilagenous quality to them, as does okra.  It's not noticeable when prepared as a savory pancake of sorts.

I also found mention somewhere that the comfrey leaves can be steeped in vinegar... might try that to see how it tastes and to include in some homemade vinaigrette.

Mmmm...playing with the weeds and herbs :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

It's a Long Story...

Ever want to recap recent events but by the time you revisit each one in conversation, it just boils down to "it's a long story..." ?


Here are some of the long stories between this and my past post --  I shall bulletpoint, but there are numerous details...all the long stories...that are being skipped or this post won't get finished tonight:

1.  Happy Mother's Day to all!!  Especially to Lucretia, who is not actually a relative of mine, but who gets a Mother's Day card (late) every year from me.   Long story...

2.  Fresh mango cobbler.  The only thing that beats it for mango magnificence are mangos eaten out of hand freshly peeled by my handsome husband while we both nibble the part-that-sticks-to-those-weird-shaped-pits and the juice runs down our chins.  Makes for great kissing.  Nevermind :)

3.  Daughter dates new fellow.  Big improvement over last near-stalker.  Long story :)

4.  We're eating our weeds 'n herbs...dollarweed, gotu kola, plantain, false roselle, moringa.  Harvesting comfrey, too, but not sure about how to best use it.  Loving those fresh spinach/herb/berry smoothies every day.  Still trying to improve our health.  Health feels better, weight still needs to be lost...long story...

5.  I'm so crazy about my husband.  I love when he laughs.  It's a good thing because most of the time, he's laughing at me :)   We've begun reading a book aloud some nights when we're relaxing.  It's so nice!

6.  I've been reading a lot, and writing fairly regularly.  Recent topics have been a lot of books on Florida cracker history, since it involved a lot of living off of natural resources without much cash ...I love history, anyway, and have found some journals/writings of native or longterm floridians past that mention a lot of the local flora and fauna and given me a new appreciation for this beauty that's all around me daily.  This place just revels in sprouting lush vegetation and houses such natural wealth, none of which can be measured in mere dollars and development.  I love reading how folks a hundred years ago or more survived living in the scrub...what they ate, what their livelihoods were, what crops they grew, what regional foods they cooked.  LOVE finding original recipes from those times, even though I'll never eat coon, cooter, gator, or ground squirrel under normal kosher circumstances :)  Didja know there was a crop called chufa that was widely grown a hundred years ago as feed plots for hogs?  I didn't even know what chufa was.  Well, so much more to tell, but of course...long story!

7.  Really really enjoying discovering some of the writings of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.  Written early in the 20th century there's a noticeable difference in things we now take more for granted, such as the societal shift in referring to minority groups especially, and how they're referred to in literature.  Anyone who's read much further back than the 1920s will notice that.  With that taken into consideration, as I'm not a book burner for the sake of political correctness (history was what it was, and I'd just as soon not see older writings redacted) I so enjoy much of her humor, but even moreso her lush description of backwoods "florida cracker" (a real term, not a slang epithet) life, right down to the exact plants, habitat, birds, insects, mammals and water life.  Also am reading other accounts by other authors along the same subject lines for no other reason than it's caught my interest for the moment.  It's sparked my interest in better knowing the names of the trees and plants I pass by every day.

8.  There's more but I'm tired and am headed to bed soon.  After some deliberation whether or not to shear the beautiful lush coat of our sweet Kaleb (Aussie dog), the decision was made to PERHAPS get some clippers and at least lighten his load a bit during this already HOT approaching summer.  Flashback to my childhood and the time I decided, without my sister's exact permission, to give her Betsy Wetsy doll a summer hair cut with a pair of our mom's pinking shears.  I did not make for smooth sisterly relations at least relating to dolls (Long story...I wasn't much into dolls anyway, much preferring caring for real animals or playing "school teacher" and getting to boss people around, ha)  Well, I can say Kaleb's back end is now devoid of his gorgeous Australian shepherd skirt...the hairs that flow from his hind quarters but that also collect sand spurs at an alarming rate and also random poo if he has the occasional outhouse blunder.  Anyway, he's got the full Betsy Wetsy treatment to his backside and is probably fully air conditioned back there.  I also trimmed up his legs in like fashion, removing the fringes all the way up.  When Jack gets home and sees the job a small pair of trimming scissors did when wielded by Moi, well it might hasten the arrival of a nicer electric jobbie.  Let's just say it's a good thing no photos can yet be loaded to my blog...

8 1/2.  Due to #8 having happened only an hour ago and resulting in clinging dog hair on every square inch of my clothing, I itch, therefore I bathe.  Shower, here I come.

9.  Computer still has its virus problems.  We are saving money and therefore it must wait.  I am waiting for a second grader to come into my life so my computer problems can be fixed by someone more competent than myself. Long story...nuff said!

10.  We're slowly making headway dismantling Bucketville.  Yes, the buckets have given way to putting the plants right smack into the ground.  I removed untold strata of old boxes we had been "saving" on the back porch (um...yeah, that's why they're there) while Jack has been planting out a lot of the bucketed plants (there were 200 to start with, so he has a ways to go), and the result means that sometime between now and the end of the year our back yard and side lot MIGHT start looking less like the white trash bed and breakfast and more like just a crazy untamed overgrown jungle...which most of Florida already is, so we'll go with that rationale ;-)

Goodnight to all...I miss being here and shall be back, but am fully engaged in the art of living, and with the company of Jack and a great dog and some pretty fantastic mangos, complaints!!

Be well!!