Sunday, January 31, 2010

Local Candles

Melted beeswax from Flint Hill Farm's own hives; I've been making a few candles when I cook, lately. The double-boiler lives on the back burner these days. And as always, I do cook on Sundays! Today's soup was ham and bean. Almost 3 gallons of it! I also dried a batch of parsley during the day, and have some dill and celery in the drier now. A pan of sausage and fennel frittata (for the week's breakfasts) and a pan of braised cabbage, fennel and cranberries rounded out my Sunday agenda. Most of the soup will go to the kids, but half of the cabbage will go into the freezer and the other half will be dinner tomorrow night. That fennel had to be used! I'm participating in Crunchy Chicken's Food Waste Reduction Challenge. Check it out!
This wax smells just like honey. Yum! I had the molds and wicks from a project I did a few years ago. Saving supplies pays off! They're available at the farm store. Or in my living room! :) And boy, do they smell good when you burn them! There's nothing like local beeswax!

Thrift Store Candelabras

As promised, installed on the mantle. They make quite a pretty show, with the candlelight twinkling in the wreath's crystals.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hello, (Wolf) Moon

What an awesome full moon! I noticed it on my way home from the farm this evening though I couldn't stop in the traffic for a photograph, so this shot is later from the deck. It's overcast now. It wasn't earlier, and I could barely believe how beautiful she was! Here's an interesting description of the whys and wherefores of the beautiful Wolf Moon.
In the meantime, I want to comment on serendipity, nostalgia, regret and faith. They don't seem to be related, do they? But they are. I read a quote by Elisabeth Kubler Ross somewhere today, stating her belief that "there are no coincidences". I agree with her, but then I always have. You just have to accept the messages that are placed before you, if you can.
In the past year, I've been revisited by so many old friends, or messages from old friends, from across the decades. One way or another, via Facebook, email,, sheer coincidence or decades-late third-party communication, I'm suddenly reconnecting with those people that formed my reality. It's shocking, painful, and wonderful. So here's the dilemma: I'm facing an existential crisis. What I believed to be truth was actually my ill-informed, one-sided interpretation of truth. In the real world, how many wars were fought because of this type of miscommunication? How many lives lost? How many loves? Can we ever really know what's true, at the moment the truth that forms our reality occurs? There are so many sides to any given story. People withhold and manipulate the truth for their own (misguided) reasons, which shapes our subjective, individual "realities". Sometimes, they think they're doing what's right; sometimes, not.
In my life, time has passed, and life has evolved. And here's where I find solace: those things that were devastating and painful have resulted in growth and strength. They've given me my family, my present life, my mindset. What I do regret is my ignorance, and the pain it may have caused others. I will make that right, if I can; but can we ever really know what's true? What's true to everyone...those left behind, those that are present, and ourselves? Life is dynamic; only small parts of our souls get stuck, and those are the parts that we revisit. The parts we need to heal. If only we could know each others' hearts. And cause no harm.
I've been trying to live in the moment, to savor my experiences as they occur. I've been trying to accept the unraveling of time and the progression of events, and believe that there is direction to them. And you know, I do believe that. Time is so precious. I want to fix those things that have been broken...through life circumstances, through misunderstanding, through inadequacy. I forgive those that hurt me. I do. And I apologize to those that I may have hurt. It was never intentional; we look back, and see through different eyes. If I find you, I'll tell you myself. Don't get stuck there. Fill up on the positive. Move forward.
In this last year, I've met new people who live on faith. All different forms of faith. One family has a traditional monotheistic faith. They lost everything they own, and give thanks for their lives. They're happy; they move on. Another friend lives on hope and dreams. She asks her higher power for help and accepts the answers she gets, then moves forward, whether they're the answers she expected or not. She lives in service to others. The third friend doesn't speak of any religion or system of faith, but lives without desire or possessions, and serves as a lesson to others through his simplicity. These are the serendipitous friends that have come into my life this year, in the year I've also reconnected with so many older acquaintances; so many old memories.
There are no coincidences. We're here to learn.

Rushing the Season

I know it's early. I had to do it.
What can I say? I needed the green(s). Johnny's ROCKS.
And last year's Rosemary is holding her own. This plant is about 2 feet high, and has been regularly clipped for culinary use. FYI: Rosemary likes water; she doesn't like to get too dry. Temperature (above freezing) doesn't seem to be too much of an issue. All of the plants you see here are being grown in a 4-seasons sun room addition that we added to our second floor a few years ago. When I gave up my house to live with Peter, I decided his house needed a little light. I was right. I love this room, especially in the winter, when I'm starving for sunlight. I seem to spend my weekends up there. It's small (10 X 16)...but mighty. The attached deck (8 X 16) isn't quite as functional this time of year, but I'll be growing purple spuds out there this summer! And that's where Rosemary lives when it's warm enough. I've done some container gardening out there as well; grape tomatoes did fairly well, though I have to be extra vigilant about watering. I'm going to try some reservoir planters this year. Every year is an adventure!
Coming soon : straw bale cold frame gardening! Woo Hoo!!!!!! Check out this link for an awesome photo essay on the subject.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bargain Day

$6 Candelabras. Tres chic. From a Local Thrift Store!
That's the kitchen table I grew up with; my mom traded her "new" formica table (it was 1954!) for it. I think she got the better deal, personally. I have a few other pieces from the same set, as well. I think it's quirky and fun. I have a "thing" for enamel-top tables. We have 4 of them, in various rooms throughout the house. I'll collect their pictures someday soon.
I have a certain rhythm with visiting the three local thrift stores, and I have been making my rounds. Yesterday's score was unexpected; I've been anticipating my annual post-Christmas un-decorating, and have decided to do a good cleaning in the process. If I can find another place for the artwork on the mantle, these two candelabras will go there with some lovely wax pears that Peter brought home this Christmas (update to follow, eventually). What I was actually shopping for was cheap zippers for my upcycled pouches. None were to be found at the thrift store, though I found a few on my travels today. I also found two sets of silicon heart molds today, for shaping fried or poached eggs. Sounds like a romantic breakfast; Valentine's day is our anniversary, so I'm all about hearts.
Fennel, Carrot and Onion Soup
That's my beeswax double-boiler in the back. You'll see the fruits of that exploration later!
We have a market in town called the Elias Farmers Market. I found out about them years ago through my friend John, who also had a small business in town. Elias has the best, least expensive vegetables in town, with the widest selection and many added extras. It's a family business, and while it's not local produce (which I prefer, and will pay the premium prices for when it's available), it's nice to have the fresh, unprocessed vegetables available when I need them. As I work toward my own sustainability, I'll take some winter help from this market. I bought some sale bags ($1 each!) of fennel, cucumbers, and citrus fruits. I also bought some broccoli raab (next year, I'll have my own homegrown). The fennel was a new experience for me, and since I scored 5 bulbs (!), I was able to experiment. I made a soup based upon this recipe, though I added one potato and a bit of shredded fresh turmeric root from the Asian market down the street. You see the soup above, before I pureed it. It had a nice, light, wholesome flavor. Next time, if I make it in the winter again, I'll add some buttermilk or cream (I was out). Elias also has an extensive stock of Middle-Eastern and Spanish food items, nuts, seeds and herbs, all at discount prices. Yum.
I have become such a local food snob. I actually feel guilty buying vegetables with high miles and commercial meat. I DON'T buy non local eggs or milk anymore. But my conscience is a good thing, if difficult to cater to with such a small garden of my own...and COME ON SPRING!!!!! I think I may be leaning toward a less carnivorous life, come summer.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Zoomies

Zooming around the ring
On a brisk day, there's nothing like a good gallop. It feels so good to show off a little!
Putting on the brakes for a photo op.
No zoomies here. We're gestating. All we want is good stuff to eat. And lots of it. Look at our big bellies. Is that hay or kiddles?
Am I going to be an Auntie soon? Let's get this show on the road! We're tired of being the babies.
I miss my girls. A short visit was in order.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Trashionista Alert

Tres chic in a trashy way. Literally. Trash. Those are recycled soda can disk-ettes.

Here are a few more. My students have fun with this recycling assignment. You should see some of the ideas they come up with! Awesome! And they LOVE it! I love it too. I'll admit it. This unit rocks my world. Lined bird food zip-bag with pop-art (haha) jewelry. Who says I'm not a fashionista? I just need to design a gown...who has the duct tape?


By the way, if anyone is interested in having a VERY exclusive bit of soda can jewelry for their very own, I will contribute 1/2 of the proceeds to Flint Hill Farm, the non-profit agricultural education center I've mentioned before . Just ask for details.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter Crops

These are obviosly NOT winter crops.
Even without the benefit of a root cellar, you can enjoy the fresh fruits of your gardening labors during the winter months; or, more aptly stated, the fresh "roots" of your gardening labors. Read how HERE, at Throwback at Trapper Creek.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Flying Purple (Potato) Eaters

It's that time again!
I started my first few seeds today: Spring Raab, Cutting Celery, Gourmet Lettuce Blend, and Upland Cress. The last two are in the containers they'll remain in (two plastic shoeboxes with drain holes drilled in their bases, nested in two others. My mom passed them on to me. I'll start using the baby plants as micro-greens, then move them outdoors when the time is right. The celery is an experiment based upon last year's insufficient crop. The raab is a new growing experience for me; I'm a big culinary fan. I'm following a starting calendar (loosely) that I found here.
Those white containers at the base of the table are the remains of a free-lance job I had with Crayola several years ago. Crayola products are certified AP non-toxic; I know, because I teach art, and read the MSDS sheets. They used to contain Crayola Model Magic, in smaller, sealed pouches. I gave up the job, but the containers remained in my closet, waiting for ....something. This year, I drilled holes in the bases of half of them, and nested them in the others. They'll be my new self-watering planters. Score one, recyclers!
Purple Potatoes
These organic purple spuds sat hidden in a bowl in my pantry. They were under a stack of recipes, happily growing sprouts. Well, now they're nestled in a nice warm bed of soil, where they can do their sprouting with gusto. I'm following the container potato instructions offered by Kate, over at Living a Frugal Life. Thanks, Kate! I hope to meet up with you at PASA!
I have one more flat to start this weekend: a combined flat of basil and parsley. Something to look forward to. I think I may need more lights! Updates to follow. Don't you just love to watch your infant garden grow?


Smile for the Camera, Macy!
Isn't this picture a hoot? Macy can't decide which camera to look at (mine or the one in the she looks at both. What a ham! It has absolutely nothing to do with my thoughts today. I just thought you might enjoy it.
I've been on a journey of some sort lately. I've been doing the things that seem natural to me, without a thought of what I "should" do; following my bliss, so to speak. Of course, those things are pursued in the hours I'm not teaching or otherwise gainfully employed, which still comes first (though I like to think I'm building my skills for retirement). It's a paradigm shift for me. I have always been so devoutly goal driven. I'm trying to fight that urge, because I believe it blinds me in a way; to have my eye on some sort of an end result (an accomplishment; a goal) prevents me from living the journey. The journey has become so very precious.
It's causing me some difficulties. I'm rethinking my activities. I'm finding some of the projects I do pleasurable as I create them, but mildly embarrassing when people react to if they were produced for attention rather than the joy of creation. I don't want the attention, though as I accumulate the products of these explorations, I have to take them somewhere or they feel wasteful. I am so compelled to create; I feel a need to be productive. I've heard the theory that the compulsion to always be engaged in a project or "making", or any other activity that distracts you from quiet contemplation is simply a means of avoiding your inner truths. I don't quite understand that theory, but I do wrestle with it from time to time. I've lost my taste for self-analysis, however. I prefer self actualization. Even if it's a "simple" self. It seems to me that there are aspects of our personalities that we may never fully understand, and that may be a good thing. I do occasionally think that a loftier goal is in order; it has been a lifelong pattern of mine, and one that's hard to break. The seasons bring a different rhythm, though, a natural pattern of preparation and work that can be built upon each year for as long as you live. The "goal" becomes efficiency. I like that.
I had a discussion with a close, long-time friend last evening, over a glass of wine (the organic Chardonnay was wonderful!). We were talking about how much I like to cook and preserve, create and comfort. She kept referring to it as "nesting", which was enlightening for me. Nesting. Building comfort and safety. And it occurred to me that nesting is best done when more than one "bird" are present. I have many single friends that prefer not to cook for themselves; if they enjoy cooking, they have dinner parties. I have one single friend who lives in an attic. He does absolutely no "nesting"; his environment provides nearly no creature comforts, just an accumulation of the debris of his intellectual work and a few dinner plates and blankets. He doesn't need it. I wonder if I would lose the urge if I was alone, or if I'd just fill my nest with strangers. Would I still be interested in the things I do so passionately now? And if not, then what?
So, here's the question for my single friends out there: are you nesters? How do you satisfy that urge, if you have it? And if not, what's your passion? This inquiring mind wants to know.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Using What You Already have

40-50 year old stove top bean (corn) dehydrator
I used to use one on a woodstove (in the '70's)
15-20 year old electric dehydrator
I'm beginning to realize just how much I have that I don't really use. So many of us are struggling in such immediate ways; the CNN footage of the crisis facing the people of Haiti is forefront in my mind, but I'm also thinking of my friends, the Luppinaccis, whose house burned just after they moved into it, two weeks before the birth of their first grandchild. I'm thinking of Earl, under the Parkway bridge, though he lives there by choice. I'm thinking of the hungry kids at The Caring Place, and the homeless people who live under the Albertus L. Meyer bridge in Allentown. I'm thinking about my old college friend who has pneumonia, and is losing his job. I'm blessed. I'm not rich, but I'm blessed.
I've been researching root cellars. We're lucky enough to have a rather rustic basement, with an unfinished cinder block stairway and door that exits to the back yard. It gets cold out there in the winter. I'm currently monitoring the temperature and the humidity using a remote thermometer and a hygrometer. I've been reading about this old art as much as I can, in preparation for this year's garden choices. If it seems feasible (and I think it will), I'll be root-cellaring a good portion of my crop next winter, for use in my soups. I'll grow the vegetables at the farm. My soups will be more nutritious, and less expensive. Win/win. I'll let you know how my plans progress.
I blogged about the bean dehydrator before, so I'll just refer you to that entry here. The other dehydrator was bought years ago when I still lived in Easton. I had a garden plot with "Pop" (Charlie Rush), my neighbor's grandfather, who died at the age of 100 right around the time I met Peter. Pop was kind enough to share his gardening stories with me and kind enough to welcome me onto his land. I had so much produce that I used to drop baskets of it off at strangers' places; no kidding! And they were happy to have it. As I didn't have a freezer and I wasn't yet making soup, I did a lot of dehydrating then, mostly herbs and fruits. When Pop passed and I moved in with Peter, I lost my opportunity to garden for awhile. I stopped using the dehydrator and gave it to a friend. That friend, who had a garden of his own, gave it back to me a few years ago. I finagled my way into a nice garden plot at the farm and retrofitted Peter's teensy little yard with my square-foot innovations, and I'm gardening again, and here we are: I have ample vegetables. I'm using what I have: a dehydrator. Buy one. They're really useful. I wasn't aware that you could dehydrate celery, zucchini, and lots of other vegetables. Dehydrated food requires no energy to save over the winter after the initial drying (you can dehydrate naturally as well, and use none at all!). I'm learning about it all in this great book: Putting Food By, by Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg, and Beatrice Vaughan. There are lots of good tips in that book; some good recipes, too! Check it out! And I'll be using the natural cold storage on my back steps as well. You'll see.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

On Sundays, I Cook

This is how I usually look on a Sunday. Steamy. Getting a soup-facial.
This week's selection is a Southwestern Sausage-Vegetable Soup. I also made a small pot of a Gingered Butternut Squash, Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup for my Vegetarian friends. Yum. Recipes to follow.
Celery dehydrates quite nicely, thank you. I'll be growing a batch of it this summer! WooHoo!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Seed Catalogs: Online!

Some seed catalog sites, in case you're interested:

Please feel free to add more links, if you have them!


P.S.: I've decided to give Johnny's Seed Company my main order this year. It's employee owned, and carries a nice variety, including heirloom plants.

Vegetarian Soup

This recipe (all mine), makes a hearty, healthy vegetarian soup. It has buttermilk and butter, so it's NOT vegan.

Buttermilk Vegetable Soup

To create broth: Simmer the following in approx. ½ gallon of water (in a medium-large pot) until tender and aromatic:

  • Trimmings from: Onions, carrots, shitake mushrooms, zucchini, celery (see below)
  • A handful of large dehydrated Asian mushrooms
  • Dried parsley
  • 2 carrots, cut in pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic

When done, strain and save remaining broth. Take out whole vegetables (Asian mushrooms, carrots, any whole celery) and blend in food processor. Add to broth. Add water if necessary.

Add to simmering broth:

  • 1 bunch of watercress, stems and all.
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed small
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 5 small zucchini or 2 medium, cut small
  • 3 stalks of celery, cut thin
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp. turmeric
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper

Cook until all vegetables are tender, then remove vegetables from the broth and puree in a food processor. Add back to the soup and stir.

Cut the following vegetables (chopped in small pieces):

  • 3 medium carrots, peeled• ½ cup baby leeks or scallions
  • ½ -1 cup shitake mushrooms (best choice)
  • ½ -1 cup mitake mushrooms (other mushrooms may be substituted)

Add 1 cup of buttermilk and a pat of butter. Do not boil after this point. Add water if necessary; the soup should be fairly thick. Simmer until tender, then adjust seasoning.

Something Seedy

No Celery Here...
You know what I did last night, on my way home from work? I bought seeds. Yes I did. It's January, but my seed purchase was fueled in part by my lack of celery. Incongruous? No...I grew celery last year; lots of leaves, lots of plants, but the stalks were skinny and I didn't know how to save it. I have recently discovered that celery can SUPPOSEDLY be dried, then tossed into soup and re hydrated with no loss of character. I've been reading about growing celery, which apparently needs a longer growing season that we actually have here in Pennsylvania, so I was planning to start it early. Fail. No one had celery seeds, but they did have lots of other tempting goodies. I'm going to start a seed journal this year.
I make a lot of soup. But if you've been following my blog, you already know that.
So, today is my day to experiment with celery before devoting a large portion of my small garden to it. I bought several bunches last night just prior to buying the seeds, and I am currently in the process of dehydrating it. I'll let you know how it works tomorrow, when I make this weekend's batch of soup. In the mean time, I'll be thinking about my garden...and ordering celery seeds! Ah, life's little pleasures! It may not be a weekend on the town, but it works for me.
This morning, when I went to visit Earl, I noticed three things that have also fueled my seed-ordering passion. First, the air felt warm, a novel experience lately. Mid-40's-in January warm. Second, there were joggers everywhere. Like seagulls in parking-lots. Don't these people have some manual labor they could be doing? I think jogging's ridiculous. Of course, as a non-jogger, I can say such silly things. Third, several pairs of amorous squirrels were chasing each other up and down the trees. SOMETHING'S in the air. Something "seedy", if you get my drift.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Auguries of Innocence

"To see the world in a grain of sand
and heaven in a wildflower
hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
and eternity in one hour."
-William Blake
Of course, if you go on to read the rest of this poem, you'll experience a cascade of emotions and be left with an ache in your heart. That's not where I want you to be, so don't do it! Just enjoy the wonder of these first 4 lines. Save the agony of the rest of Blake's philosophy for another day.
The above phrase, which I find incredibly beautiful, came to mind today. I've been thinking of two very different things today: the horrors being experienced by the Haitians in the wake of the earthquake they experienced last night, and the fulfillment I'm experiencing, having made contact with a few significant friends from my past. The unifying theme however, is the compression and expansion of time. For Haiti, the long, everyday, day-to day existence has abruptly stopped. This is the moment that the survivors will remember forever. Some will remember it with gratitude; some will remember it with emotional agony; but it will be a crystalline moment frozen in time, a clear vignette of where their hearts were on that fateful day. They'll remember. Those that survive will always remember. Time stopped for them. Time stopped for everyone there.
On the other hand, time has gotten away from me. I've lived my days, months, years and decades as foggily as they revealed themselves, leaving behind some peak experiences and memories as we all do. Closed some books. Those books remained on my mental shelves like dusty memories; easily ignored, sometimes not entirely forgotten, no longer relevant. But I've opened a few today. And I feel like I'm picking up a favorite read, a favorite line in a poem (like Blake's) that may not have panned out exactly as I intended, but had just a moment or two of exquisite beauty for me. I'll hold on to the memory of that beauty. The rest of the poem be damned.
I have found friends I haven't seen or heard from for 35 years. Through the Internet, through technology, through social networking, blogging, whatever means available, I've managed to reconnect with a few friends from my childhood and just beyond; how lucky are we to live in this time?? It makes me remember, in less abstract terms, who I am. It gives a more linear presence to my memory. I have gaps...long periods of time full of emotional trauma that no longer live in my mind; these remembered moments were the best of those difficult times, and I'm so grateful to have reclaimed them. Thank you, friends, for finding me. This has been a year of "coming home".

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

She-Tree by the Valley

Every time I pass this tree, I see the torso of a girl with an unexpected tail. She has a little belly, and is facing left. Can you see her?
And...I caved. I bought food. I was at the farm to check in on my goatie girls, and these eggs called to me. Loudly. I almost made it. I'm not sure this counts, though. I won't be back to the farm until Saturday. Exemption? Aren't they beautiful?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What To Do With Leftover Buttermilk

Make Pasta! (Hanging in the pantry doorway, next to the dry catnip)

Hanging on the kitchen cheesecloth drying rack on the back door

Ingredients: Buttermilk, equal amount of egg whites, flour, salt, parsley, baking powder
  • Mix buttermilk and egg whites (you can use whole eggs if you prefer)
  • Add salt, baking powder and parsley, stir
  • Add flour while stirring with a fork until a firm ball of dough forms
  • Knead dough on a floured surface until elastic
  • Run small portions through a pasta maker or roll out thin and cut into strips or pieces. Let dry, then freeze (due to the eggs) until ready to use.

Sunday Soupday

This weekend's soup selection for is Chicken Vegetable-Noodle, which (I am happy to say) did not force me to run to the grocery store. This was due to some good buys in previous weeks, and a surplus of frozen garden veggies; I love my freezer! I started the broth last night, and completed the big pot this afternoon. Peter will be able to deliver our usual 2 gallons to the kids at The Caring Place tomorrow.
What I AM running out of is celery. Last year, I grew it for the first time. While my greens were good, and I used them until they were gone, the stalks were puny, and I don't know of any way to preserve them for winter use. I hate buying celery grown 3000 miles away; I'm going to explore this conundrum. Does anyone out there have a way of keeping the stalks? I know you can dry the leaves, and I'll do that with next year's crop for my winter soups. Maybe the answer is celeriac; celery root instead of celery. I could keep it in my "root cellar" (the back steps from the basement to the back yard). I've been monitoring the temperature down there this week, and it's hovering right around 32, give or take. I'll keep watching for awhile to determine how useful that space might actually be. I came upon a blog called "Living the Frugal Life" by a like-minded writer named Kate, right here in PA. She offers some helpful links if you're as interested in this subject as I am. **********THIS JUST IN: Celery can be dehydrated. RIGHT HERE'S the most-excellent site I just found describing how to dehydrate many common vegetables.*************
Day 4 of the Week On-Hand Pantry Raid: in addition to the big pot of soup today, dinner was interesting and good. I thawed a chunk of meatloaf from the last time I made it (I always make 2 and freeze one; why do extra dishes or waste extra fuel cooking it twice?). There were some mushrooms left that needed to be used, so I made a really good gravy for the meatloaf with them. Here's my recipe:
Buttermilk Mushroom Gravy
  • Mushrooms, chopped roughly
  • 1 Scallion, chopped fine
  • Butter or olive oil or some other sauteing material
  • Buttermilk
  • a little flour
  • Beef bouillon cube (if using with a chicken dish, use chicken bouillon, or vegetable bouillon if you're a vegetarian)
  • Pepper

Saute the mushrooms and scallion in the oil or butter until tender. Sprinkle a small amount of flour on top, then pour the buttermilk over the mushrooms. Begin to warm the mixture, then add the bouillon cube, and cook until the liquid begins to thicken, stirring gently. Cook until gravy-thick. Add pepper to taste (the bouillon cube should provide enough salt).

Come to think of it, this would be a great way to make mushroom soup. Hmmmm.

Along with the meatloaf and gravy, I broiled two spinach cakes and made some egg noodle dough from flour and egg-whites. There was some mushroom/vegetable mixture left from last night's stuffed fish, so I made some ravioli from the dough and the mixture. That went into the freezer, but the scraps made some darn good noodles for Peter's dinner.


When I took the chicken and ham scraps to the farm for the dogs today, Kathy presented me with a half gallon of fresh milk and a nice chunk of cheese she had made earlier. I usually take over a quart or two of my weekly soup, as it's pretty easy to just make a little more, and I know she's feeding hungry volunteers every week. So, thanks to her generosity, Peter will have his cereal this week and we'll put that cheese to good use. Little does she know that she's helping me meet my 1 week non-shopping goal; I'll tell her when it's over. What a great, intuitive friend!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Healthy Adaptations

Dinner: Stuffed Fish Fillets and Cranberry Relish. Homemade Apple Wine.
From "The Larder".
Tastes Better Than It Looks.
Like: Really GOOD.
2 additional non-shopping recipes for today:
A. Sugar Free Cranberry Relish:
  • 1 12 oz bag of frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup of sugar substitute (pick a healthy one, not a nasty chemical)
  • 1 cup of water

a pinch of salt Cook down. YUM.

B. Mushroom Stuffed Fish Fillets: I used lime instead of lemon juice, scallions instead of onions, olive oil instead of butter, and baked it instead of microwaving. I used mitake mushrooms, because that's what I had. Added the chicken broth and olive oil mid-way, as I forgot it in the beginning.

Earthy. Mushroomy. Wholesome. I'll make it again-y.

On-Hand Update

So far so good. In the three days I've been living from my larder (so to speak), I've managed to both feed us well and have a few creative endeavors without spending a cent, except on gasoline.
Meals so far: On Thursday evening I roasted a bone-in ham from the freezer (thawed it the day before). I sauteed a small head of cabbage with olive oil and caraway seeds, and had a salad on the side. We're trying to watch our carbs, so I'm cooking a minimum of empty starches. I cut most of the remaining ham from the bone, and threw the bone and a handful of carrots in the crock pot with water for soup. I peeled a rutabaga and cut it in thick slices, and put it in the crock pot for Friday's meal.
Friday night (last night), Mashed rutabaga with ham and cabbage. Rye bread for Peter. I retrieved the ham bone from the broth which had been cooling all day, and picked off the good meat. I saved the fat and the bones for the farm dogs. I strained the broth, pulled out the carrots, and cleaned the crock pot, then put the broth, carrots and ham bits back in for soup. Added a nice dry lentil mix I have on hand, the leftover rutabaga chunks, and 4 frozen tomatoes, some more carrots, and set it on low for the night.
Saturday morning: woke up to a house that smelled of ham and lentil soup. Yum! Checked it out, and it needed water, so I added that, adjusted the salt and pepper, added a bit of frozen corn and a little more chopped ham. Good to go. I took a container of it to Earl (with a ham sandwich of course!), and we'll be eating it for lunch. I'll probably have fish (from the freezer) for dinner. I'm getting tired of ham! The leftover soup will be tomorrow's lunch, or frozen in a quart container for another day.
Creative endeavors: I've been working on my penny rug (recycled wool cloth). I took it to school to show the kids in my studio class, as we'll be doing a "Green" project soon, recycling found objects. They were really interested, as were a few of the faculty members. It's amazing to me how "new" an old handicraft seems. I also made a pair of wool soakers (part of a skein of red wool I had on hand), but I'm not happy with the width of the leg hole. It seems too big. Since I don't have an infant on hand to size it to, I'll hold on to them until one is available, then rework my pattern. I have a few likely offspring of my colleagues at school.
This frugality is sort of fun; it reminds me of my childhood (though I wasn't cooking back then...just looking for ways to make something from nothing...a great skill, as it turns out!). We'll see how it feels a week from now, at the end of my little goal.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Resolutions Update

Forced Paperwhites. Luscious.
I have been vigilant about emptying boxes of debris. Tonight I'll be tackling my couch-side mess. Yesterday, it was the kitchen pencil-junk box. No interesting finds, except for counter space! I DID find the floor in my studio! The cat promptly barfed on it. YIPPEE! But it still feels good to move forward.

A Week On-Hand Pantry Raid

Having Fun With Compost
I have been reading some frugal/green/environmentally aware blogs (as is my passion), and have noticed a post-holiday trend. We're paring down. We're using up. We're emptying our larders for the impending spring, while we hunker down in our caves. It's winter. Time to cuddle up and enjoy the hard work of summer.
With this in mind, and with a lean checking account due to a number of circumstances , I'm going to try to live from the fat of my pantry and household accumulations this week. One week. We'll see how it goes. I'm talking about all of my needs: food, entertainment, creative endeavors. I do reserve the right to buy cat food and gasoline if necessary, and I won't impose my constraints upon my husband's various needs (though I'll suggest compliance...but it's ultimately up to him). This is MY experiment. One more thing: I'm going to use one frozen item each day as a part of our daily meal.
How creative, well-fed and giving could you be if you didn't buy any more supplies for a week? I think I've become unnecessarily addicted to "the hunt", as much as the activity that follows it (food shopping, shopping for art supplies, thrift shopping...). Bad. A shift is necessary. We'll see how I do. Let me know if you're interested in joining me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No, I'm Not Pregnant. Obviously.

Cute butt.
Call me old fashioned.
Others have. I don’t mind. I take it in the Mother-Earth News context, so I consider “old fashioned” a down-to earth, wholesome sort of neo-retro compliment.
Besides, I’m in my 50’s. It was bound to happen.
It’s been a long time since I lit out on my own and started my family from scratch…and then started it again. And again. It’s been a long time since I thought about the down and dirty details of baby-raising and other brand-new family considerations, though I do occasionally read the shiny new ramblings of expectant moms on the various green blogs I follow. I have even encountered discussions about the cloth vs. disposable diaper dilemma, and other “green baby” debates. So yesterday, when I was shopping for cloth diapers for an expectant family I know, I wasn’t entirely surprised to have to buy them online. But what I WAS surprised about was the nearly complete absence of something I used to be able to buy at the grocery store…or the drug store…or K-Mart, or any other store that had a baby-supply aisle.
Do you know that “diaper covers” (formerly known as rubber pants) have gone the way of the dinosaurs? Oh, I found a few upscale, trendy Cadillac versions out there, retailing for more that $10 a pair. $10 a PAIR? That’s insane! I used to be able to but a three pack of the little stinkers for about $2. I was tempted to buy a roll of Saran Wrap to include in the gift box, but didn’t give in. And here’s the other injustice: none of these things were available anywhere offline. Not one. I did finally find an online, simple “diaper cover” set offered by Gerber for a more reasonable price, and some cute little woolen “soakers”, but honestly, why was this baby-technology “improved upon”?
I am admittedly WAY out of the baby-making game, and when I WAS participating, I wasn’t using disposables very often because my daughter had a sensitivity to the materials used in the archaic disposables we had on hand in the late ‘70’s. I diapered. I washed diapers. I used rubber pants. And my daughter grew up just fine. We didn’t create our own personal landfill, though I do admit to wishing she was a little less sensitive at times, because cloth diapers were an entire new hobby in an already busy life…but we got by. And $10+ for a pair of rubber pants would have been half of my grocery money for a week. And yes, I breast fed. Another great savings; Mother-Earth News healthy and handily packaged.
So I want to know: what are you young mothers out there doing to keep those wet bottoms from ruining your furniture? Are your babies green, chic, or just plain disposably-diapered? Do you have strong feelings about any of this? An inquiring old-fashioned dinosaur wants to know.
Update: Here's a FREE set of instructions for baby SOAKERS from the Craft Yarn Council of America:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I Found 'Em

3:46 AM.
I FOUND MY KEYS. They have been keeping me awake for almost two weeks, because I KNOW what a problem it would be to replace them. And guess where they were...are you ready?
Under the Christmas tree. That's right, folks. In the Christmas basket. That red one, right there. Of course. Sure. That makes sense. (O_o)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I Confess.

Newborn Penny Rug: Read On...
The next time I'll see my goatie girls will be Tuesday, as today is a non-milking day. It's also FRIGID outside, with a gusty wind and temperatures in the teens. A good day to work on those resolutions.
I have come to the conclusion that the main cause of my messy studio is the plethora of unfinished projects I accumulate during the course of a year. Here are some of the projects I found today:
  • A bag of unfinished crocheted lap blankets from last winter
  • The scarf I was crocheting from alpaca roving which I was making into yarn with a drop spindle during our strike in September. Darn. I wanted to finish that for Christmas.
  • Three felted pincushion sections I had planned to add to to make one big one. They look like little cup-cakes.
  • A bag of wire snow-flake ornaments meant for beading.
  • A box of wooden horses also intended for ornaments.
  • An old 45 record box full of pretty fabric scraps, and the pieced applique runner I was making. Unfinished, of course.
  • A woven shoulder bag full of fusible glass and mica dust that I bought a month ago to make fused beads from.
  • Six 33 records and the huge drill bit I intended to use to cut out the center labels; these were going to be coasters. I bought the drill bit in June. Dang.


I'll finish them. You bet. As soon as I finish the wool penny rug I'm working on. Don't laugh. I will. I've had that wool since last year's purse-making project (several almost finished, several sold, thank you very much), and I consider it a green obligation to use it. It came from recycled sweaters and from a student's mom. Gorgeous stuff. My tingling fingers are slowing me down a bit, but I will persevere.


I also found several jewelry pliers, some silver beads, several spools of colored wire, and three handmade journals. I'm feeling very rich today. And ever-so slightly less messy. Huzzah!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Objects: Nostalgic Necklaces

There are stories here. There are stories in our objects. A few days ago, my neighbors packed up their possessions and moved to a new state. They've been living without their things in a new apartment, waiting for the movers to deliver. They're sleeping on an air mattress, sitting in lawn chairs. They feel a little lost...adrift. I would too.
Last night, my friends (the Lupinacci family) watched their home burn to the ground. They lost everything but a few musical instruments and their lives. They are thanking God they survived.
Earl lives under the bridge with nothing. He wants nothing. He accepts food and occasional help, but wants no possessions. What does he dream about? He lives his life in his mind.
With those things in mind, I'm sorting through the messy rubble of my life, trying to make some sense of it all. I have so much...and so much is taken for granted. Too much. But there are stories to tell, as I put these things away, or in their proper places. The stories hold the value. Not the things. (Please pray for my friends).
In the picture above, you see three necklaces. The longest of the three is made of beads tied on leather. It's called an "Evil Eye" necklace; an old, interesting custom that I first encountered at a conference at Muhlenberg College on the holocaust. A woman there was wearing an intricate collection of necklace trinkets, which I found interesting. I commented on them; she told me they were for avert "the evil eye". I researched the subject, and found that many cultures wear objects of protection. Crosses, medals, beads, amulets. The "protection" comes from their particular faith. These beads are one of the simplest, most primitive forms of this type of belief structure.
The next necklace is a sterling silver kayaker with a brass paddle. Peter bought it for me when we attended the National Paddling Film Festival in Lexington Kentucky with our friend John. We came back to Pennsylvania and John founded the Lehigh Valley Canoe Club Paddling Film Festival, which has raised thousands of dollars for river conservation and river sports. John died two years ago. We loved John. We miss him.
The last, and shortest necklace is a Belizean zodiac symbol for the dates between October 24 and Nov. 12. I have absolutely no idea what it means or represents. It's simply the period that includes my birthday (and John's, who took us to Belize). I think of that wonderful place, and our last times together when I see it.
Objects. Things. They spark my memory.
More to come.

Resolution #1...Day 1

Everyone should have a helper as beautiful (handsome) as Mosey.
There's a backstory here: This gorgeous kitty was left at the farm in a carrier with a plea for a home, but was clearly NOT a farm cat. Just look at him. I brought him home, hoping to integrate him into our little cat family, but that's not working either, so he has become our official sunroom/studio cat. He's an absolute lovebug. He is very meek; though he loves people, he's scared to death of other cats. I would relinquish him to a loving home, if I knew he'd be an only pet, just to give him the run of the house and laps to sit on. If you know of such a place, please let me know. Until then, he's our two-room kitty. He was going to be named Annie (as in Little Orphan...), but when we had him checked out at the vet, he wasn't a she. He is a healthy, beautiful, neutered boy. So his new name is Moses, having been left in his "basket". But he's kind-of we call him Mosey.
I began the new box-sorting regimen today. It occurred to me that the contents of those boxes are full of stories, so I decided to pick one interesting object from the detritus to write about each day as I nurture this new habit. Today's choice follows in the next blog (I want to include a photo.)
Just one note before I go: though you'd think the process of drying out the goats for birthing would be easy, they all stop lactating at different rates. And since they are used to eating a hefty portion of grain when they're milked, they REALLY,REALLY want to go to the milking stand. So the dry goats rush the gate every time I call for a milking goat. I was mauled by rioting goaties tonight. ATTICA! ATTICA! I was pummelled, knocked about, bitten and marauded. My goatie girls have become gorilla girls. It's ROUGH out there. Luckily, I only expect one or two more visits before they're all on hold until kidding time, and eat together as a herd again. WOW.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Peter, Rebecca and Kathy after dinner, New Year's Day
Boeuf A La Bourguignonne (thank you Julia Child)
Are you making New Year's resolutions this year? I propose we do it here, for the world to see...which will require some good thinking. I'm going to try it tonight, during a little dinner party I'm throwing, when I'll update this blog with pictures and a list. You're welcome to join the cyber-party and add your resolutions to the list. I'll check in occasionally to see how you're doing. Put your thinking caps on! I'll start: MY Resolutions:
  1. I am going to sort/organize/ donate/discard the contents of the equivalent of at least one box of “stuff” a day until the upper levels of the house are in order.
  2. I’m going to begin the task of formalizing my masters degree so I can retire at a decent pay scale in a few years.
  3. I’m going to learn how to make better home-brewed wine and better home made cheese.
  4. I’m going to continue to watch my food and drink consumption so I can get my cholesterol and triglycerides in order (and lose weight doing it).
  5. I’m going to grow my garden with a better eye on freezing and preserving for the winter.

Peter's Resolutions/Goals:

  1. He's going to stay in the financial "black".
  2. Clean the basement (this is NO SMALL TASK), and inventory items for Craig's list.
  3. Invest 1/2 hour 2 - 3 times a week archiving his father's artwork (Pierre Bourdelle).
  4. Work on the kitchen counters
  5. Fix the Flint Hill generator
  6. Sell the Chevy truck.
  7. Lose 20 pounds.

WooHoo! We're going to be fit as a fiddle!

The Year in Review Questionnaire

I snitched this questionnaire from The Farmers Daughter who snitched it from Laura. You'll have to follow the links (and you'll be glad you did...good stuff out there in blog-land).
  1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? I learned how to trim goat hooves, and how to do fancy braids with horsehair. I grew kohlrabi and liked it.
  2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I didn't make any last year.
  3. Did anyone close to you give birth? A few faculty members gave birth; so did my daughter's best friend.
  4. Did anyone close to you die? Not this year.
  5. What countries did you visit? We stayed in the USA this year. But I'm game if anyone needs a travel partner!
  6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? A more orderly household
  7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? August 29, the day the calf was born
  8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Hmmm, I'd have to say that getting involved in the non-profits that I work with now feel like the best things I have done.
  9. What was your biggest failure? I don't feel like I've really failed at anything. Maybe that one nasty pot of seafood chowder that went amok.
  10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I had a torn meniscus in my left knee from carrying that calf and developed carpal tunnel, but I've got a few thousand miles on these bones, and they're bound to need a tune up.
  11. What was the best thing you bought? When the truck had its coronary the week before school resumed, we bought a 1999 Mazda Miata. A very impractical car, but boy, is it fun!
  12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My daughter...she is patient, hardworking, and always keeps her kids first. I'm proud of the woman she has become.
  13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? I have some issues with local politics. 'Nuff said.
  14. Where did most of your money go? Bills and supplies
  15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? The Farm:, and our little goatie girl, Faith
  16. What song will always remind you of 2009? I'm not really tuned that way.
  17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? happier b) thinner or fatter? thinner c) richer or poorer? the same
  18. What do you wish you’d done more of? traveling
  19. What do you wish you’d done less of? procrastinating
  20. How did you spend Christmas? Christmas eve with our family, Christmas day together, and with our friends at the farm, and our friend El.
  21. Did you fall in love in 2009? I'll always be in love with my sweetie. But I fell in love with a little goat...
  22. What was your favorite TV program? I have to say House...and Gardening by the Yard on PBS
  23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I don't hate anyone. It's a useless emotion.
  24. What was the best book you read? Sleeping Naked is Green was good.
  25. What was your greatest musical discovery? We heard David Jacob Strain at Godfrey Daniels. He was really good. And our friends Angela and Kendra Lupinacci are doing some awesome things on You Tube.
  26. What did you want and get? I wanted a goat and got Faith, and her whole new herd to spend time with.
  27. What did you want and not get? A farm, hahaha...though I DID get to help out on one regularly, so I sort-of got one.
  28. What was your favorite film of this year? I enjoyed Julie and Julia.
  29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? Let's see...not sure what we did (I think it involved dinner), but I turned 52.
  30. What’s the one thing that made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Working on the farm
  31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009? Sal's Boutique (Thrift-store...Salvation Army... not-so-chic)
  32. What kept you sane? The animals and the land.
  33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Not real big on celebrity fan-dom.
  34. What political issue stirred you the most? Health Care and Global Warming initiatives
  35. Who did you miss? John
  36. Who was the best new person you met? Kathy Fields
  37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009. I didn't learn this, but it was often reinforced: We're all part of the same energy; the more you give back, the better you feel.
  38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. "To everything, turn, turn, turn...there is a season, turn, turn, turn..."