Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Food Independence Challege Update, AKA Fun With Poultry, Part I

Well, after some time out of town and not much happening around the house, we've managed to make up for it in a big way. Here's the latest update on our progress...

We didn't actually plant anything new this week, just moved and transplanted a few things. We also haven't harvested much - just a few herbs, a few beans and some green onions. Our big prep item this week was to buy a Foodsaver - I'm really not sure how I've lived this long without one! I have an overwhelming urge to vacuum seal everything - watch out, pets! ;-)

I cooked a tasty vegetable stew almost entirely from veggies brought home from the CSA farm this week, added a bit to our reserves and rotated some older items to the front of the queue.

Now for the biggies - our new skill learned this week was how to process chickens from coop to freezer. It was quite an event, I must say. A lot of work (five of us did about fifteen birds in all), a lot of mess, but overall a great learning experience. This leads me to my preserving efforts for the week - we have eight chickens in the freezer and one in the pot. Talk about stuffed! I'm not sure I could fit a single pea in that freezer right now. On the local food systems front, I helped out at our CSA farm picking beans and blackberries and have passed some of those (and some chicken!) to family members. We're also really working hard on making new connections with like-minded folks and sharing as much knowledge as possible. It's amazing what these relationships can bring - our day of chicken processing would never have been possible without them!

It's clear to me that the coming week will involve preserving beans and blackberries, making chicken stock, and if I can fit it into the schedule, making yogurt and growing sprouts. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Holy Low-Energy Lifestyle, Batman!

We have now truly realized the benefits of the clothesline! I know I've gone on about how hanging the clothes is more relaxing and we seem to get more laundry done and blah, blah, blah. Well, here it is folks, the moment of truth:

Our gas bill (we have a gas dryer) dropped from $75 last month to...$16 this month!!! That's a reduction of about 80%. Nothing else in our usage changed. We cut our gas bill by 80% just by employing extremely minimal use of the dryer. Holy crap. I knew it would make a difference but I had no idea it would be so dramatic.

Hubby and I have also started a work carpool experiment. We work the same hours and our offices are only a few miles apart, and we've been making the trip every day in two cars - silly. We're fortunate in that we actually sort of enjoy the time together in the car, and don't generally get on each other's nerves. Also, each of us gets a turn each day to just sit and be a passenger, which reduces driving stress for both of us. Since we're too far from work to walk or bike and there's no public transportation where we are, this is the best solution we could come up with, and so far it's working quite well. We'll be really happy when we start enjoying the benefits of only paying for half the gas!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Food Independence Challenge, Week Two Update

Hi folks - it's been another busy week. Here's what's gone on around our house.

We planted green onions, lettuce and radishes in containers. The only harvesting this week was dandelion and mulberry leaves for the bunnies and mulberries for us. They're finally ripening! I'm sorry to say that I have nothing to preserve this week, so there was none of that.
Our prep this week included digging a new garden bed and scoring some good finds at a garage sale - planting containers, storage jars, fireplace tools and a paper shredder (to make compost and mulch from our waste paper). I also ordered a sprouter. To grow sprouts!

Not much this week in the way of managing reserves - just labeled some jars and used up some greens that were looking tired. As far as cooking something new - we've been making bannock for breakfast this week, in all sorts of variations. We've made it before, but only once or twice. We've put it back into rotation as a quick, easy, and infinitely variable staple. This week we made it plain, with cornmeal and cheese, and with mulberries and blueberries. I'm considering making a big jar of bannock "mix", so we can just scoop out a cup or so at the drop of a hat. I also used beet greens in my dal this week instead of spinach, which was new for me. Yummy!

No working on local food systems this week. I'll be unable to work at the CSA gardens for three weeks in a row, which makes me sad. I love doing that. As far as reducing waste - see paper shredder (above). We're also trying to think of a use for the (partial) bamboo rug that the dog has kindly chewed to bits.

I'm still working on honing my gardening skills. I'm reading "Gardening When it Counts" and learning a lot about root systems that I never knew before. I've also had to come to terms with the fact that this knowledge will come slowly and gradually and there will be many failures along the way.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Apparently I've been tagged by Skunky Acre Farms. Here are three random things about me:

1. I had a lazy eye until I was 30 and had it surgically corrected. The surgery has helped me to see better, which is awesome, but I actually sort of miss it a little bit. It helped people to remember me. Now I look just like everyone else. If I had it to do over again, though, I'd still do it.

2. I despise watermelon. Wait, let me say that again...I despise watermelon. Everything about it grosses me out - the flavor, the texture, the smell, everything.

3. I hang my towel over the shower rod when I shower, so it's right there when I need it. My husband seems to think I'm the only person on the entire planet that does this. Someone please back me up here.

At this point I'm supposed to tag someone else, but I've decided that tagging will be on the honor system. If you read this and have your own blog, feel free to tag yourself. If you don't, I'll never know. :-)

New in the garden - we tore up another patch of the backyard this past weekend. We now have another 6 by 10 area, which isn't much, but it was all we could spare. It gets good sun all day, so hopefully the tomatoes and peppers we put in there will do well. I have lots of seeds started in pots for various things, basil seedlings are coming up, carrots, chard and spinach are coming along, and we'll be putting more beans in the first garden, I think. Rabbits all weighed in at near or over six pounds, which was exciting. They're almost ready to start making babies. We've been feeding them a lot more fresh greens now that they're available, and they love it. We do to, since it's that much less pellet feed we have to buy.

Still no further developments on the farm. We have been given an asking price, which we pretty much knew already, but no contract. I thought one was in the works, but apparently it wasn't. We'll be arranging a meeting with the sellers later in the month. I'm out of town next week, so it will have to wait until I get back. Hopefully some real progress will be made then. I'd love to be in possession of the property by July 4th - it's a great place for a barbecue!