Independence Days Week IX

Wow, is it a new week already???

I have spent the morning after my chores reading other blogs, following random links, and have several pictures to post thanks to Sarah Kucera who is the intrepid artist responsible for them.  Simply incredible.  I can’t get my mind off Detroit lately it seems, and when I do I keep finding links that bring me back there.  But anyway, back to the update.

Plant something:  cowpeas, interplanted with my corn.  I read that they are good fodder for chickens, but I have also read that chickens don’t like beans much so we’ll see.  I’m certainly not averse to some blackeyed pea soup even if they won’t eat them! Bush beans in the rose beds.  The seeds are down to about 60% germination, they’re seeds that my mom had in her cupboard planning to put into her garden when she died five years ago.  She truly was crazy as a loon, but she had a very green thumb and I miss her; I think about her every time I see my little plants.

Harvest something:  lettuce, cherry tomatoes, the first poblano pepper of the season, golden rasberries (they’ve been coming ripe two or three at a time so Mr. Tin Foil and I munch on them while watering).

Eat the food:  we made tepary bean hummus which tasted delicious but immediately made me bloat horribly.  Yeah, yeah, those of you who speak a little Arabic will realize that houmous is actually the name for the garbanzo bean specifically, but what else could I call it that us ‘merikuns will recognize?  Besides, the name for the spread is synonymous with the bean although most Americans don’t realize that.  And probably don’t care.

I got beets from the local farmer’s market and made roasted beets in olive oil with sea salt, and a wilted green salad from the tops with balsamic, home grown onion, and bacon.  Sometimes you don’t even miss meat, I’m telling you.

The heavy duty camp stove is a keeper.  Even Mr. Tin Foil, who thought I was crazy for buying it, realized how much better it was to keep the heat OUT of the house when cooking.

Build community food systems:  shopping at the local farm stand.  We have several coworkers who are pregnant and due soon; I spoke with a couple of coworkers last night about making up dishes that are easily frozen and reheated to give to them.  The idea was received very well and I hope to organize some sort of ‘food shower’ a little sooner to the due dates (the regular baby showers have all taken place already, and it’s too soon for my idea anyway).  I received many gifts when my kids were born, but the ones that are clearest in my mind these many years later are the food dishes I received gratefully.   My most favorite was the zucchini bread that came with the recipe attached by ribbon.  Sadly I lost the recipe in one of my moves; I found a good recipe to substitute but I wish I still had that one.

Manage stores:  Mr. Tin Foil sacrificed a toe nail in the cause, but he put together another shelving unit for my home canned storage, and dropped a shelf on his toe while doing so.  Now at least all my canning stuff is in one place.  Maybe I’m a little compulsive, but I keep looking at it thinking I’m not going to have nearly enough jars to preserve everything that’s coming in the garden!

We have been painting the house over the past week, which has needed to be done for MANY years.  I don’t enjoy sweating in the heat but at least the wind isn’t blowing at 40 mph in the mornings when we have been doing it, and the satisfaction of seeing our house start to really look GOOD is immense.  It’s worth the tedium.  And definitely better than paying somebody else over $1k to do it (which is what the average price seems to be).  I want to support local businesses but not at that cost, thank you very much.

One thing I simply don’t understand:  a professional will spend three days caulking and then taping off all your windows and doors so that they can spend one afternoon blowing paint all over the house and yard.  Why not simply caulk and paint, and spend the same amount of time using fewer fossil fuel inputs and a little more skill?

Next project which I have been banned from starting until the painting is done:  the stone walls for the back patio.  And the gazebo erection on the new patio.

Independence Days Week VIII

Wow.  I would think that this time in between planting so heavily and harvesting would be a little more laid back, but workaholic that I am, I wear myself out most days anyway.

Plant:  more bush beans

Harvest:  garlic, rasberries.  The plant I bought from Lowes for $10, that my husband was really ticked off about, that looked half dead but I knew I could save with a little TLC, is the productive plant…the littler one, that I spent more than twice as much on, at a good nursery, hasn’t given us anything. I have to say, golden rasberries are pretty fabulous.  Gotta get more of these plants!  Oh, and one lone green bean, the first of the season.

The corn is about 6 inches high, doing well.  The asparagus continues to put out shoots.  Lots of cantaloupe blossoms, little cukes, eggplant, tomatoes.

Preserve:  sage, dried in my dehydrator without any power.

Eat the food:  eggs, rasberries, lettuce, nasturtiums, and one lone green bean.

Build community food systems:  not exactly.  Had friends over for the Solstice, talked garden stuff, sampled some amazing scotches, watched silly TV shows (anybody ever heard of the Red Green show?), gave thanks for the bounty we have.

Cleaned up the yard a great deal — got rid of the wheelbarrow that the wheel is flat on, and the barrow is plastic and cracked.  Made a gate for the chicken yard, which is a thousand times better than the bricks and piece of 4 x 4 wood that we were using to keep the end of the fence against the shed, which we had to remove to pull the fence back every time we wanted in or out….THAT got old fast.  One of the Home Depots in Phoenix had a clearance sale on a wrought iron gate that was supposed to be a two gate set, that someone broke up, so I got it for $4.  Total cost $16 for all the pieces.  Admittedly it doesn’t have a latch, but I have a piece of wire looped over the top of the gate that also loops over the post, and it works just fine.

I bought the new updated edition of Gene Logsden’s Small Scale Grain Raising.  Absolutely a must for the small farmer.  I HIGHLY recommend this book, even if you consider yourself merely a gardener — if you have any type of livestock such as chickens or rabbits this book will help you get a leg up on producing much of your own feed.  I definitely plan to re-read this one, and to put it to good use.  I would rather produce as much of my own feed as possible for my chickens as well as my family.  Especially after the organic feed I bought for them went rancid after only a month, and I had to buy more.  What a waste, especially with the price for it!

We bought a gazebo.  It’s in pieces in the side yard, because we had to paint the back of the house before we could put it up, and I want to build the patio before we put it up.

I want bunnies!  I have been searching for a solid year for a local source of Angora rabbits…now that I finally find one, and she has several available, DH says no.  Hmmmm….I’ll just have to work on him like I did for the chickens.   Or just nag him til he says go ahead, you’re going to do it anyway (that’s what he said when I went to the livestock auction with my friends anyway — and I didn’t even buy a pig).

Independence Days VII

Planted:  Corn!  I broke down and got a short maturity variety (hybrid, shame on me) after we bought some sweet corn from the farm stand near our house.  Violets, I had hoped they would work as a cover/mulch plant for all the bare dirt around the eggplants.  Scarlet runner beans.

Harvested:  Garlic, lettuce, carrots, mint, cilantro, nasturtiums and cherry tomatoes for our salads.  Yum!

Preserved:  Nothing

Reduce waste/Manage stores:  Holy crap, our electric bill was DOUBLE what it was the same time last year, and it was hotter last year!  DH and I were initially blaming the fans (at least one in every room but bathrooms) but then I remembered the new freezer.  It took two days to cool to the lowest setting, and then we turned it up a couple of notches after we filled it.  So I’m guessing that’s our energy sucker.  I know our bill is going to go up a little, after all the freezer is four times the size of the old one, but hopefully we will stabilize at a lesser increased rate for next month.  Still, $124 for this time of year (and it would be about $80 if we didn’t pay extra to get 45% of our power from solar) isn’t bad, I compare our usage to others’ on the APS website and we still are in the lowest 15%.

In the reduce waste category also I guess, I purchased a heavy duty camp stove to set up in the back yard so we can do our cooking out there.  I am planning to try the rocket stove with a stew or something or a small batch of preserves so I can see if it will work for canning; if not I will use the camp stove.  I also looked online and Coleman makes a folding oven that sits on top of a campstove burner so I’ll be in business for baking bread all summer without heating up the house, as soon as I order one.

I bought a metal storage shelving unit for all my canning stuff; it’s not big enough but now I have about 80% of the canning stuff — lids and jars, and preserves, in one place.  I am going to buy another heavier duty shelving unit and get the rest of it organized.

Eat the food:  eggs, lettuce, carrots, pak choi for the chickens, preserves, rice and pasta from stores.  I have begun making a double recipe whenever I cook so that I can put the rest into serving sized portions and take it to work.  I really prefer our cooking to the stuff they serve at the cafeteria; I also don’t get the runs from what I make either 😉  I really have no idea what it is about the cooking there, because they got an A+ rating from the county health department, but it’s not just me — most of my coworkers say they get sick at least once a week when they eat there too.

Build community food systems:  nope, been working too much.

The tsunami of climate change, financial collapse, energy depletion.

I have had to limit my reading of blogs that deal with even the positive aspects of the above — living more lightly on the earth, becoming more self sufficient, preparing for hard times, etc.

I simply get too depressed, and can’t seem to function. At times it seems as though I’m watching an accident and I can’t move fast enough, yell loudly or quickly enough, to stop it. All the while I know somebody’s going to get really really hurt.

I feel as though I can’t plant enough produce, can’t buy and plant enough trees, can’t move fast enough in my yard to be prepared, either.

I have to remind myself hourly at times, that I can only do what I can do. I can only organize my time better, I can only spend less time reading this $h!t, I can only harvest at the rate the plants produce, I can only put up so much in preserves for the winter, I can only buy so much bulk. I can only help people who want the help, I can only explain it to people who want to listen.

Sharon Astyk calls it living in two worlds…I don’t feel like I live in two worlds exactly. I feel like I go to work and that’s my pretend life, so that I can come home and live my real life. I work so I can prepare better, so I can get all our crap paid off and have to ultimately work less. In the meantime, I get simply and chronically exhausted.

I spent the ‘fat’ years of our country’s economy living in poverty, working two jobs. Now that the country’s in dire straits, I am — for the moment — doing alright, able to work and to pay my bills and to prepare for the future. It seems so strange to be finally doing slightly better than treading water when the rest of the country is drowning.

And still they don’t understand why, still they think it will be better soon.

Independence Days Week VIb

I’m calling it six b so I get back on track with pretty much everyone else.

Planted:  Buckthorn

Harvested:  the first cherry tomatoes, peas, lettuce, carrots

Preserved:  made a small batch of pear butter (pears were on sale at the grocery store)  Also purchased LOTS of cherries on sale so I can make cherry preserves for the year.  They’re in the freezer until I get time to deal with them.

Reduce waste/manage stores:  bought brand new cloth napkins from the thrift store.  Purchased a pattern to make crib sheets and bumper pads from fabric I already have in storage.  Purchased and received the parts for my pressure canner so I can take it in to be checked.

Eat the food:  eggs, lettuce, tomatoes, Laban Oummo (lamb with yogurt sauce from frozen stores and stored rice).

Build community food systems:  not so much, but I sold more of my excess eggs at work. Bought more good stuff at the local farmer’s market.

DH and I made a deal with our rearward neighbor to take the large pile of river rock out of her back yard so we can build an herb spiral and to make the walls for the patio out back.  Also to build the raised beds that I’ve envisioned being next to the walls of the house since we moved in 10 years ago.

The javelina have found my beans and roses in the front yard, so I had to buy portable fence to protect them; they already ruined my pathetic little yarrow patch under one of the trees.

Second job

It’s official, I’m an ambulance jockey again.

I missed it.

Having just ONE patient at a time, doing just ONE thing at a time, and being out in the sun during the day….sheer luxury.

I like being an ED nurse, but I really do miss being a paramedic. I’ll be a nurse on the ambulance, but still…to me it’s just an extension of being a good EMT — I just have better toys 🙂

If it works out and it seems pretty steady I may drop one shift a week at the hospital so I can do this one day a week. I get to keep my insurance either way and less stress is ALWAYS a good thing.

Do you wanna be a spy or something?

Last week Jeff had purchased a power strip for our old freezer, as the outlet was about three inches farther away than the cord would stretch (we’re planning to convert it into a cooler for potatoes etc).  He got it 13 miles away at our local hardware store.  At the time, the debit card machine was down due to bank issues, so he was given a carbon copy receipt with the tax included purchase price, and told to return later to pay for it.

Friday we went up to pay for it; the owner of the store had literally about 50 of the receipts in his pocket!  He told us he was still having issues and to just pay him next week.  We spent about 40 minutes wandering the tiny store, looking at catalogs of solar lights, and chewing the fat with the owner.  Having gotten exactly zero done of our said task, we went across the highway to the local market for some veggies to go with dinner.

The owner of the market is originally from Lebanon, and worked in the military in his younger days as a translater; he speaks Russian, Armenian, French, and of course Arabic in addition to English.  I had a question for him regarding the entymological roots of a couple of Arabic words which completely stunned him — after he gathered himself, (“Why do you want to learn Arabic??  You wanna be a spy or something??”) he corrected my pronunciation and then ensued a wonderful conversation.  We learned about his younger days in California, his associations with some of the greats of the rock and roll world (Samy Hagar, Led Zepplin, David Bowie, etc), his family, guitars, Middle Eastern music, and I can’t even remember what all.   The upshot is that he said any time I want help with Arabic to come see him; he said his kids have trouble with the same stuff I do — and he has a bunch of old Arabic language movies he is going to try to dig up for me to watch.

We didn’t get the veggies, so that task was a wash too…but we learned that while it often takes longer to go to the closer stores, we learn more about our neighbors and build ties that way.

Independence Days Week VI

Planted:  nothing.  Transplanted portulaca, a relative of purslane that is sadly only for show.  But I have volunteer purslane growing in one of my flower beds.

Harvested:  lettuce, lettuce, lettuce!  Eggs, of course.  French breakfast radishes.  The pathetic spinach plants that were already bolting.

Preserved:  nothing yet.

Reduce waste:  gathered up all the cardboard boxes I’ve been hoarding, broke them down flat, and put them into the shed for use in the raised beds and under the herb spirals we will be building soon.

Managing stores:  Used stored pasta to make a pasta salad and spaghetti rather than making fresh. Used stored berries to make bread. Found stored rice where it didn’t belong and put it up front where we’ll eat it first.

Eat the food:  Pasta salad with homemade mayo, fresh eggs, local onion, pickle relish from last year’s bread and butter pickles, and frozen red pepper.  Dutch oven bread from scratch.  The last of the apricot butter.  Sauteed spinach with pak choi, local leeks, garlic, and red wine vinegar.

Build community food systems:  told a coworker about the local grass fed beef rancher 15 miles up the road from me, she wants a card so she can order.

On the bad side:  I lost a potato tower!  Admittedly it was a redneck tower with garden fence and black plastic, but it was filled with ants, grubs, and some god awful slime at the bottom.  I don’t know if we’ve been over watering or what.  I don’t water unless they look really droopy, because they’re in containers, and they’re root crops.  Well, this year is an experiment; I guess that Russian fingerlings just aren’t a good choice for the Arizona heat.  This is the second planting of these that has gone bad.

On the good side:  we got our freezer!  Mr. TF defrosted the old one, and stocked the new, and made it all nicely organized.  We haven’t put labels on anything because I’m sure it will get rearranged at least once when all the harvest starts coming in, and whenever we get a side of beef to put in it.