Monday, December 10, 2007

Homemade Liqueurs

These are our homemade cordials made with fresh organic berries & vodka. Red Current Cordial on the left and Wild Black Raspberry on the right. Both berries were foraged for free, the current courtesy of DH's long time friend and the raspberry a gift from our local power company's right of way.
Container's are those bud vases bought at the thrift store for under a quarter, then scrubbed cleaned. Topped with a new cork from the hardware store for $1 or under. Think I spent about $8 on the bottle of vodka which is still 1/4 full. Add ribbons & labels - saved off of packages or bought after the holidays on discount.
Note to self: find a cheaper source of corks & vases. Research making vodka from gleaned potatoes.
Cordials can be made with flowers, fruit, nuts, spices, and teas.
The reference book we used was, "Homemade Liqueurs Dona and Mel Meilach" 1979.
Bought for $1.75. Very well written & do-able in any one's kitchen. Used common everyday kitchen utensils.
Not pictured is a Cherry Cordial, cherries picked from a gf's urban yard.
Of the 3 my favorite is Black Raspberry. Unsure if my taste buds are tainted by the fact I am getting one over on the electrical company or it really is all that & more.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Thursday, December 6, 2007

La casa de familia

This is my Grandmother's house in Puerto Rico.
The large veranda a recent addittion sits atop a
a large fresh water cistern. There is also a bathroom complete with a solar hot water shower. The window to the right is the dinningroom.
Below is a very large two bedroom apartment.

This is the view every morning while sipping cafe con leche.
Lugo Guajataca.

I'll post more info on fishing & history when I have permission to add links.

~~ Pelenaka ~~

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lead down the Garden Path

This is my side yard Summer of 2000, the following spring after I bough my homestead.
I and my then 6, 5, and 3 year old children landscaped in a raised bed design.
As it looks now- with iris, phlox, lilac, purple cornflower, strawberries, tulips, Shasta daisies, roses, mints, yarrow, an occasionally eggplants. The a good many of my plants were traded, or acquired by either gleaning in nature (hike in the woods) or scouting out gardens in abandoned homes that were soon to be demolished.

Shhh - guerilla gardening

Technically, this isn't my land.
My lot stops right about where those landscape timbers are laid. When I bought this HUD property there was an ugly gray thick wooden fence in the same spot. It stopped right about where you see that corner post of that chain link fence. That fence is now a trellis for raspberries.
Not surprisingly this 2' to 3' wide by oh just shy of 20' collected lots of stuffs. Items like soda & beer cans, paper, along with hidden treasures left by cats.
One day I had a stress relief moment & took a sledgehammer to another portion of this fence that lined my driveway. Shortly afterwards I posted an offer on my local group.
Word has it that it is now a deck out in the country.
So back to this thin speck of dirt that receives a poor amount of sunshine. Can't recall all that is planted except for sure is Bloody Butchers, an heirloom tomato & perhaps Hubbard squash in the far corner leftovers from our plant sale.
Raspberries transplanted from our satellite farm a.k.a. "Niagara Mohawk" might find its way here. Strawberries as ground cover should make the walk over too. Followed by a few outhouse plants & butterfly bushes.
Scroll down to the bottom of my blog for a link to guerrilla gardening a very interesting concept.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Backyard Cider Making

This is our apple grinder not to be confushed with a Monkey grinder selling peanuts.

Husband believes that this is actually a grape crusher. I know that it was a good deal at the antique shop where we bought my coal laundry stove that I can on. The scent of fresh apples.
Point is that it works fairly well provided you have ready & willing manual power.
The apples this year are a mix of gala, rome, crispin, mac ... really anything we could get our hands on.

Ah fresh off the press.
Pity Mom won't let anyone but Husband drink it truely fresh. The rest of the family has to wait for pasturization. After that the majority is canned for later use ... like after Christmas caroling.
Making cider was a great way to spend quality time with both my husband and children on one of the last crisp autaum days on our homestead.
Here's a cute link on cider & perry making. Perry is Pear cider made some last fall for DH Hunting buddy.

City Thing

It's a city thing.
It's pull one over on the man, beat 'um at their own game, no code man gonna keep me from my fresh eggs thang.
It's a one too many episodes of TOH, gonna own me a painted lady - no cookie cutter split ranch suburban 30 year mortgage for me, thing.
It's a sit a while on your front porch and smile a hello to strollers ... hand out homemade popsickles to all the neighboorhood children sorta thing.
Walk to a live free concert, enjoy an evening little league game, or simply go visit on your neighbor's porch thing.
For the blessed few of us it's a less than 15 minute work commute thing.
It's a don't tell me I can't grow this in a cardboard box ... in this zone ... with this dirt ... thing.
A great radio interview about a Massachusetts homesteading family

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Walking the talk / God provides

Last Spring I had a plant sale to help finance my gardening addiction and finish paying off what is left on the purchase of my greenhouse as well as my new canning pot (see blog 6/23/07 Puttin Food by in da Hood), and more plants.
During the sale a very youthful looking senior stopped to browse. We soon got around to topics such as victory gardens, mutual acquaintances, cheese making, fruit production, gleaning and bartering. We exchanged contact info, he invited us to his church social later that month, then he went about his yard sale Saturday.
Well four months later there was a knock on my door. Smiling in a simple I thought of you manner this man brought me food for my table. Food for pantry. Food for my friends.
A deeper smile came to his face when I mentioned that I had been praying for some gleaning opportunities.
The day after he dropped off a few beets and squash he again knocked on our door. Bearing more along with the directions to a few fields of freshly machined harvested carrots and potatoes. Ironically only a few miles from our neighborhood.
Mechanical harvesting isn't 100% effective. There will be plenty if permisson is granted.
So later tonight when Husband finishes his shift @ work and daughters are itching to walk in the fall they will go gleaning.
In return for his generosity I repaid him in butter bought by way of another barter deal, and the promise of late fall yard work. With good pickings hope to also seal the deal with a few gallons of fresh cider pressed in our backyard (see blog 9/5/07 Off to the side of a tag sale & blog 6/29/07 Urban Cider Press).
Carrots will be crinkle cut & canned for us, dehydrated for rabbit feed, paid forward to a few neighbors & friends, become part of a barter deal in the days ahead.
Beets will be canned as relish, paid forward to coworkers, neighbors, and friends, dehydrated for rabbit feed. Made into wine and soup.
Squash and potatoes will be root cellar'd for later use in soups, butter, baked, breads for us & gift giving, paid forward, bartered perhaps.
The simple raised bed in the background grew chard & huckleberries this Summer. Considering removing it to set up my portable greenhouse as this is the one spot on my city lot that receives the most Winter Sun. It's an ongoing obsession for a later blog fueled by a crazy vintage MEN inspired project.
~~ Pelenaka ~~
Only lazy men go hungry - Mom who taught me to never loose my edge.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Color Purple

Over this past week my daughters & I canned up 54 quarts of Concord grape juice out in the backyard over two separate canning secessions.
We used the old time recipe of 1 part sugar to 2 parts grapes, fill with boiling water, then Water Bath.
This is the math along with a lesson learned in shopping farmer's markets.
The first peck I bought cost me $12 from Farmer High & Mighty. Total yield was around 29 qt. (one broke due to operator error).
Had I walked down the full length of the market I would have discovered that Farmer John was selling a peck for $8.
Normally all the vendor's prices are the same be it peppers or peaches. I had worked the night before so that is the lame excuse I'm gonna go with, " Don't shop when your tired & defenseless against natures bounty ". Needless to say when I needed grapes a few days later I visited Farmer John's stand. Lesson learned.
So the second grape purchase ran around $12 for a half bushel. He gave me a buck off since DH was talking apples to him, as in we are in need 5 bushels of mixed cull apples nothing windfall for cider making.
So all totaled Concord grapes ran me $24 for one peck & half a bushel.
Sugar was .99 for a 5 lbs. store brand bought last year during mega mart's holiday baking sales. Used 2 bags of sugar altogether. Total $2.00.
Lids bought for $1 per dozen used 54 so $4.40 ish.
Total was $30.40 for 54 quarts (makes a qt. & 1/2 juice) so .56 cents per quart which really is a qt. & a half when diluted with water.
Have no clue what nearly 65 gallons of Concord Grape juice runs retail.
Factor in the luxury of having it on hand in the pantry.
Since jars are all paid for & my fuel was free (firewood) those weren't factored into the math.
So aren't those quarts a pretty shape of purple?
~~ Pelenaka ~~

Thursday, October 4, 2007

File this under," Life in a museum - homesteading skills/green living/ability to tell future children a when I was young tale"
Not every teenager can say his Mom is soo whacked that she makes him use a scrub board & hand cranked clothes wringer to wash his socks. Lucky Son lucky. In my day I had to lug dirty laundry up hill both ways to a Laundromat.
This actually started as a way to prove a point. Something about generating too much laundry and if we didn't have an automatic clothes washer. Ended up as a skills lesson in the vain of " if you didn't have modern conveniences".

** No child was hurt in the making of this PSA **

Utilizing child labor opportunties a.k.a. the making of the sauce

Hauled outta bed early on a Saturday to a local upick farm, then made to live like a migrant worker for a few hours, all topped off an endless afternoon of prepping & cranking ...
many hands make light work.
Wait til apple picking (foraging/bartering) season is on.
Ah prego prego prego no ragu ragu ragu.
Try Ball, Kerr, Golden Harvest, American Harvest, Benadin, and Perfect Mason to name a few.
Thank you Becca, & Sam,for the effort you both put forth that day!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Free is good

This is a volunteer tomato plant that just sprung up in the back of the celery bed perhaps from restaurant compost findings. Don't remember planting anything that resembles or tastes like this tom. Last year there was zukes here or cukes, or no wait it was actually celeriac bought under the impression it was celery.
I really should appoint a child as my garden book keeper.
Seed saving as it is a pretty tasty and very hardy variety. Doubt it's an heirloom.
Directly in front of the fence is my 2 or 3 y.o. rhubarb plants. Scattered amongst the veggies are marigolds and nasturtiums for bug control.

The Right Tool for the Right Job

This is my non-electric multi use table saw.
With a variety of attachments this one man operation can saw, sand, sharpen, polish, grind, and paint a wide assortment of projects that fill any woman's honey-do list.
Regular general care includes but not limited to back rubs, foot rubs, sweet nothings, and good meals served with a kiss.
Thank you my husband, you are my blessing.
~~ pelenaka ~~

Off to the side @ a tag sale

behind more than a few piles of books and boxes was an old cider press. The press screw frozen in place, wooden portions badly rotted but for the most part complete.
If the price was right might @ the very least might make a cute garden ornament. Besides I have faith in my can do man.
So long story short I piled it into my purse sized car last fall.
After about a week of daily fiddling with it the screw began turning. He's good, very very good.
Now almost a year later it's no garden decoration !
The frame is laminated fir, painted with krylon oil based enamel. Strong yet less weight than the original design. The metal portions scrubbed, sanded, and painted with H2O also by krylon.
Basket & both trays are oak, hand rubbed with food grade oil. The bands on the basket are aluminum with stainless steel fasteners. Unable to reuse the original bands too far gone.
The pressing plate is made from food grade cutting board.
Basket holds 1/2 bushel of chopped fruit. Simply line the basket with a loose weave cotton cloth boiled for 10 minutes then place coarsely chopped apples in. Sit a pitcher underneath the tray for a just reward of fresh apple cider.
1st $300 takes it in time for apple picking season here in Western New York.

Garden Harvest for an August Dinner

Can't beat this simple tomato salad with a stick for organic freshness ... well you could but then it would be sauce instead of a salad.
Grew everything but that red onion.
Pictured in the bowl is heirloom Yellow Pear Tomatoes sliced length wise. Small white bowl is more pears along with every one's favorite Bloody Butcher, an early salad variety.
Simple easy table prepared salad mixing in finely chopped celery, red onion, and fresh basil. Sprinkle a dash of garlic powder, then taste with a pinch of salt. Top with your favorite dressing or leave plain. This tom is a keeper sweet & mellow cherry type - will plant @ least 3 for a bigger harvest.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Growing what we eat one ingredient @ a time

A Winter's supply of celery growing in a raised bed 2' wide by 6' long. There are also some volunteer tomato plants growing in the far back portion. Not sure what type don't remember ever planting this variety - pale round yellow almost beefsteak like. Of course could be something that popped up from scavenged compost ingredients from a local restaurant.
The celery will be dehydrated and stored in jelly jars vacuum sealed closed to be used in soups and stews this winter.
In earlier growing seasons this bed has housed zucchini, salad greens, pickling cucumbers, and paste tomatoes.
The cinder blocks and pavers were a great free find years ago at my city dump.

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato ... Four

The two big buckets just in front of our wood pile are potatoes grown using the barrel method. The purplish barrel is something DH had around before we got married. The green barrel is an old plastic trash can cut down that was found curb shopping. There are two more full sized trash cans planted with spuds in the back 40 (feet that is not acres).
Unfortunately I lost my planting sheet that holds such valuable information as species, date planted, and cost of seeds/seedlings. So if memory serves me correctly then there are Red Pontiac and something with a starting with a K planted in each.
Perhaps I am more than just spatially challenged ?
Directly in front is yarrow that I bought from a church sale, then an old cracked crock filled with marigolds and then my Mother's Day Gift a pink clematis.

Look up ...

One of the many stratgeries of an urban farmer is go to vertical. Vertical as in gardening in hanging pots or using a trellis. Sometimes the back of a neighbor's garage or fence. This is my first year growing lemon cucumbers. Worth a do over but still perfer a good tart and tangy green cuke.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Happenings on the back 40' (feet)

This is the cold frame my Go-To-Man built for me out of scrap wood collected from a local shed factory's scrap pile & some upholstery plastic bought with a coupon. Yes, I know you thought that it was just for covering your Aunt's living room furniture.
This little project came after I had spent some time curled up on the couch reading vintage MEN mags about harvesting a salad in the depths of winter. Reality was that shortly after this pic was taken everything growing in here froze.
Upgrade for this coming fall/winter is to insulate the end panels with scrap insulation foam covered with foil (reflection factor) and add a second layer of plastic so there is a 2" or so dead air space between. Will run tests to see if side vents need to be installed.

To the left is our cold frame minus the lid in early June.
There is spinach along with mixed salad greens, a few red onions intended to be compost, beets, and some marigolds for bug protection.
Directly behind in a landscape timber bed is about 8 green bell pepper plants and two red something or other peppers.
To the right is two rhubarb plants on their 3 rd year.
Wood chip mulch curtsy of my city organic dump a.k.a. free.

Almost two months later about the same time of day.
As you can see very shady. In an urban environment there is allot less control in where you plant or what affects your garden outside your lot limits such as neighbor's walnut tree that shade's the very back of my lot/farm.
Despite this so far I have picked 1/2 a bushel of green peppers and numerous salads for DH & myself.
Last year there were 3 hanging baskets of Nasturtiums so this year via falling seeds the pepper bed is full of those edible blooms. To the left in the houseplant container is my Husband's Bloody Butcher Heirloom Tomato plant. A great salad type tom very prolific. Mulched with used hay from our buns.

Satellite Farm

This is a pic of our satellite berry farm located somewhere in our city limits. We don't weed, water, spray, or fertilize.
Just simply enjoy our booty of wild black raspberries, blueberries, and fox grapes.

A good harvest is about 6 - 8 pints total. That's picking every other day in season. Competition is mostly birds (Blue Jays) sometimes deer, and the person who mows once a month.
We make cordials, jam, and fruit syrup for yogurt and ice cream.
Nothing we really depend on like our garden just a nice add on that is free. DH & I have a nice quiet early evening in which there is no conversation just a quiet peace between us.
Something that keeps us bonded much like reading in bed together.

Close up of wild black raspberry shrubs.
Bring off spray and wear old ace wraps on your arms otherwise it's a blood bath.
Scattered in with the berries are some wild concord type grapes (fox grapes), and other odds & ends. Big one to i.d. is of course poison ivy.
On my to do list is to actually take a foraging class Ala Stalking the Wild Asparagus/Euell Gibbons. No matter how many books or photos a person has read and seen there is nothing like learning first hand.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Keeping the Milk Cold

This is a great example of an gas-absorption cycle refrigerator the Crosley Icy Ball Refrigerator in working order. The following link explains in detail the non-electric method of refrigeration better than I can.
It was a true excitement to see one as complete as this @ the Pageant Of Steam in Canandaigua, New York. My only regret is that I wasn't able to speak with the owners who were away from their campsite.

Expanding on a resource

The following Spring after I bought my city home I stumbled on a nursery run by two elderly brothers who had the most varied selecting of plants I had ever seen. The Purple Cone flowers a.k.a echinacea took my breath away despite costing $10 a bucket. I bought 6.
Now seven years later I have new cone flowers that I re pot & sell in my annual plant sale, a beautiful view in my side garden, and when there's a breeze a faint lovely scent fills my home.
The flowers share this bed with Ever bearing Strawberries and an occasional pussy cat on the prowl.
Behind the Cone flowers is a pale Lilac shrub obtained from a vacant city lot for free. Re potted shoots have made me a bit of change.
As you can tell my good neighbor's 1915 there is less than 20' between our homes. The flowerbed defines and provides a buffer.

This honey bee isn't exactly part of our livestock since we can't harvest the honey - yet. Just a matter of my can-do man building us a hive.
It is a possibility waiting to be enhanced.

~~ pelenaka ~~
addicted gardener

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Urban Homestead Livestock a.k.a. putting meat on the table.

This is Handsome, our two y.o. Flemish mixed breed buck bought for $5. He is quiet, eats almost anything I throw at him such as garden weeds along with his rabbit feed.
Right now he is giving me the look since I had actually touched his lady Chocolate. The look says "You know better".
Come winter I set up my portable greenhouse moving their pen in. They both sleep in a big hay filled nest box.
The plan is two or three times a year Handsome jumps the fence and has a tryst with our meat rabbits does.
The after about 16 weeks the results are sent to freezer camp.
Rabbit isn't our primary meat source on our menu so we don't grow more than say 10 fryers of 5 lbs. weight a year. Often it's less than that which is fine for now.
Raising meat rabbits is more or less a two fold benefit on our urban homestead.
First is the bunny poop which is the greatest manure ever since there is no need to age the poop before application. Here is a nice site
Better garden production = more harvest = less $ spent on food = extra income.
Second is that raising this type of meat is very do able both in cost & location wise.
Can't buy a beef cattle for under $25 and pasture it in your backyard.
So if the worst case scenario does happen be it a version of Red Dawn or simply that money is tight we can still eat.
Rabbit is good eating. Delicate white meat that can be cooked anyway you would chicken.
I can directly control what my rabbits eat.
Resulting in a healthy meat that isn't laced with hormones or antibiotics. Or jammed pack with preservatives.
The care & welfare of my livestock wasn't trusted to a multinational company who's bottom line will always be profit, think pet food or peanut butter. Or the latest- Sara Lee products.
Good site on raising backyard rabbits
~~ pelenaka ~~

Urban Homestead Livestock

This is Chocolate a pig who is after a year the common law pen mate to my Flemish mixed breed rabbit, Handsome.
What can we say it works for them.
He protects and warms her on cold winter nights in their nest box and she signals for more food with a glass shattering squeal.
Chocolate came to us about six months old from a home that had two big dogs. Her cage was on a small table in a dark hallway. She was a bundle of nerves to say the least. She isn't real social, dislikes being held, but will take feed from your hand now.
Last time she was weighed she came in just under a bit over a pound.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Last night while prepping charts a coworker asked me this very thought provoking question.
Got me to thinking. Thinking real hard. Real real hard. My head started hurting.
So I laid this on my husband's lap when I came home in the morning.
He gets me. We are kindred souls. Let his head hurt a bit.
A few seconds later he answered.
You would & do pay retail for Time.
He soo gets me.

Time in my world is defined as not spent in the pursuit of employment.
This Time includes family time, church time, martial time, leisure activities such as camping, fishing, shooting, reading, knitting, and a sub category of city time. City time is all the great things you can do in a city like ethnic festivals, museums, art galleries, & gardens in old historic neighborhoods.

Any time spent obtaining employment such as washing of uniforms, commuting to a job, continued education to maintain my professional degree, or depending on my mood time spent thinking about an upcoming shift qualifies as unpleasant time.

Buying time.

Easier said then done.
Buying time is a accomplished by money saving activities such as foraging, gleaning, gardening, canning, energy conservation, in short voluntary simplicity.
Learning to live within our budget ... saving for a rainy day, saving to take time off to enjoy Time.

Don't get me wrong I love my profession. It has enriched my life in soo many ways other than monetary. It's just that I am no longer exclusively defined by my occupation. It is not my source of entertainment, nor social companionship. An all expanding filler in my life.
It is a means to an end.

Buying Time.

Like the bumper sticker reads, " A day fishing is better than a day working".

~~ pelenaka ~~

A gallon saved is cash in the hand

I would like to say that my use of rain barrels come from a deep seated belief in water conservation ... reuse, recycle, blah, blah, blah.
Or how great rain water is especially when gathered in a lightening storm ( ionization) .
Truth be told it's because of cold hard cash.
No sense in growing free food to lighten the food bill if ya gotta pay for H2O.
I lucked out when my Blessing got these free from a pump manufacturer as the prototypes outta a new mold.
The color matches my foundation so they aren't really visible from the city street. Mint & Strawberries @ the base.
There are barrels @ all gutter down spouts for a total of 5 around the house.
Husband fit in real plumbing sigots so a garden hose can be attached.
19 cent common goldfish live in each one happily after two years. Winter they live in a 5 gallon bucket in the cellar. Tried them in a goldfish bowl but they freaked. Way too much openness I suppose. They have doubled in size living on mosquitoes & a bit of fish food now & then. For entertainment they dodge the neighborhood cats leading to a fun game of wet kitty.
Notice the white jugs to the left of the garden path?
Kitty litter jugs holding extra rain water.
Now spray painted black for solar gain in a crazy attempt to heat my green house.
In the distance is last year's tomato crop. Bloody Butcher on the left & Yellow Pear on the right.
Added bonus is that my 105 year old cellar stays dry.
One day hope to score a 200 gallon reservoir tank that can be buried. Fill it with the rain barrel overflow. Top it off with an old fashioned hand crank well pump ( think child labor oppertunity)
Hmm, now isn't that what every homestead needs ?
~~ pelenaka ~~

Friday, June 29, 2007

Urban Cider Press

Bought @ a yard sale for $40 late Summer 2006 this is a fruit press.
No maker's mark. Could be as old as 100 or as young as 30 years.
Perfect size for an urban homestead.
Good price for fugal homesteaders.

Pretty simple design just ratchet the donut shaped wooden plate down on top of the fruit. Juice flows out the bottom and out the pour lip.

DH spray painted the cast iron base red on a whim. Or to see how the iron will hold paint. Not liking the red. Doesn't match my stove.

Finished upgrade & the Handy Dandy Husband who always finds a way.

With help from my daughter here is what went into our new old fashioned press.

Sanding & painting the cast iron base with food grade black paint.

Removal, sanding, and painting of the metal hoops from the wooden basket.

New basket based on the old made from oak, varnished with a food grade product.
Pricey stuff but a bit went a long way so the rest can be used in making cheese presses.

New stainless steel hardware to replace all the old rusty nuts & bolts used to attach the hoops to the basket.

New donut shaped pressing plate made from a food grade plastic cutting board. This plate slips on to the center post followed by the ratchet thingy. The plate is actually what presses down on the fruit so I wanted a material that could be scrubbed & disinfected.

Last fall we made about a gallon & a half of fresh cider. Canned about 5 quarts of this.
Thank you Ball Blue Book 1943.
A good treat for Christmas breakfast and cold January mornings.
Would have had more but we were late gleaning apples loosing some great opportunities to heavy winds followed by hungry deer in late September.

Planning on advertising the press for cider parties in our city. Something along the lines of we will set up the cider press and supervise the pressing in your home. Not sure on what to price the "cider party" at but we are open to barter opportunities.
We also have an antique fruit grinder for the whole cider making experience, lol.
Grinding along with the washing of apples is the most labor intensive aspect of the whole process. Pressing goes by soo quickly.
Would also like to bring the press in at our Church's next family fun night this fall.

On a side note I won't let anyone drink the cider before I have a chance to pasteurize it.
Even after scrubbing the apples with nail brushes. Even after boiling the cloth pressing bag & the press it self.

This is a larger cider press I bought last spring @ a yard sale for $20.
No foundry mark.
Round wooden handle to turn the screw is gone. As is the pressing plate and most of the wooden base.
The frame is wet rotted & in pieces and when I dragged it home the center screw didn't even budge.
My blessing put some magical oil on it every day for a week.
Now the screw turns.
Every homesteading husband needs a winter project to make the cold dreary days go by faster.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Monday, June 25, 2007

Thoughly Modern Millie

Below is the pic of my 1934 Ice Box.
Unsure of the maker at this time as I still need to run a patent search on it.
If you scroll down to a previous post you can see what shape it was in when I bought it on ebay.
After much scraping, scrubbing, sanding, & careful nail removal it has been upgraded & painted.

Originally it was that '30's cream & green but I decided to go with white enamelware edged in black that I have soo much of like the milk pitcher & small wash basin. Also I have a gray & pink '50's kitchen so green & cream won't work.
Directly in front is a recent antique store find a small square enamelware container with a glass lid. Yes, we have a microwave. Also a small freezer. Just couldn't see given the power company more biz than we have to.

The ice box has a clear plastic tube connected to the drain under the ice tray. This tube feeds directly into the same plumbing as my clothes washer so no need to empty a catch basin or mop the floor when it was forgotten.
The shinny stuff under the ice box is insulation. Since my original plan was to restore a vintage '50's Hotpoint fridge figured there was no need to worry about laying tile.
That rise in the floor is an elbow of a huge plumbing pipe. My 1902 home wasn't built with indoor (upstairs) facilities. Hence some things tend to stick out or take detours.

To answer every one's question here is what's inside of my ice box.
Clockwise; ice compartment which holds 75 lbs. of ice. Since I don't have freezer space enough to generate that amount pictured is about 32 lbs which lasts for 4 1/2 days.
Compartment below is referred to as the dairy section. It is the coldest @ 36 -38 degrees. Holds eggs, cheese, homemade ranch dressing, mayo & butter.
Left compartment is broken down into 3 zones.
Bottom left; milk, juices, yogurt, anything that needs to be cold but not dairy temperature cold. Generally holds around 40 - 42 degrees.
Next shelf up temp is 42 - 44 so this holds fresh veggies, anything will will be eaten soon.
Next shelf farther up hovers around 46 degrees so this is for things like bread, commerical foods, & apparently a pint of my canned salsa.
Ice boxes work on air flow. The warm air moving in this case clockwise hits the top of the ice block cools which makes it fall to the next section. As the air warms slightly it raises passing the milk & fruits, then hitting salads, finally passing over the bread on it's way back down to the ice block. Yes when you open the dairy compartment you can feel a cold chill hit you feet.
The ice box is really two galvanized boxes one inside the other. It has a pine wood frame with sawdust wrapped in brown paper to form squares. Squares were then fitted between the two boxes.
The insulation factor varies thru out the ice box. Top & sides have the most @ R50.
Bottom around R 30.
Doors are the least @ R 12 - 20.
Reason being is that you can only unbend galvanized metal soo far before it loose it's shape.
Since I have no desire to learn how to use a sheet metal brake & my Dh's honey do list books him up to the year 2020 I made do.
The insulation was that pink foam & that foil bubble wrap stuff layered.

Learning curve was two fold.
One - make sure new ice is being made as it takes about two days to freeze.
Two - take out the food item quickly and if not completely used then return it quickly so it doesn't have a chance to heat up.

Since we eat from our pantry the majority of the food I prepare was canned either commerial or home canned. So if we have say baked chicken (frozen), carrots (home canned), peas (frozen), mashed potatoes (root cellar), salad & dressings/butter ect. (ice box).
Generally we don't cook with an eye toward leftovers.

Oh yea the beer on occasion's sits in the with dairy.

~~ pelenaka ~~

5/6/2008 The ice box is stilling going strong. Currently it's out on our unheated enclosed porch to take advantage of the cold (now cooler) weather. I still have yet to locate & buy a proper rubber gasket for all 3 doors. The foam rubber weather stripping is on it's last leg.
Great link on Crosley

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Iris, Spring is here

Originally this bed of Iris started as a few dozen dry out bulbs given to me by a neighbor down my street after I shared some strawberries from our garden.
Since then I have gorilla gardened Irises around my city, planted them on a few grave sites, traded & bartered for other plants, and even sold a few to support my gardening addiction.
~~ pelenaka ~~
side front flower bed in the front yard Spring 2007

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I am truely blessed

Alot of women would be of the mind that receiving a handmade solar dehydrator made from scavenaged parts costing less than a dollar is an insult. Labeled a birthday gift might be considered salt in the wound.
Others like myself see it in this light.
Since we both pool our incomes any money spent even if bought by one is really bought by both. Last thing we both need is to increase my outside the home work load.
Crafting me something that I would truly use, something that eases my burden, that costs nothing to use is well a stoke of genius.
I am loved by a very handy man.
My Dh made this for me out of this & that, scavenged parts & pieces based on my old Ronco dehydrator trays.
Currently there's cantaloupe rinds drying to be used as bunny treats this winter. Later this fall celery will be dehydrated for use in soups & stews.
Roses will become potpourri, green peppers for Puerto Rican Red Rice, and perhaps I'll try making sun dried tomatoes.
Here's a link to his blog writing about my birthday gift
~~ pelenaka ~~
good to be blessed

Cha-ching - canning Strawberry - Rhubarb Jam

This canning season I have promised myself that I will do the math. Since it's the beginning of canning season easy to keep this promise.
Don't hold me to it when it's the dog days of August and I am knee deep in back to school activities, gleening, foraging, and preserving our harvest.
Doing the math means figuring the cost of canning start to finish minus the cost of jars & rings. Since I have been canning for over 5 years coupled with the majority of my jars were free or dirt cheap they have long since been bought free & clear.
So the math should figure like this; ingredients such as produce, spices/flavorings, preserving agents such as vinegar/salt, pectin, any portion that we're unable to grow or obtain free, and canning lids.
The cost of my antique laundry stove $125 will be deducted @ the end of canning season along with my new canner $140. Fuel was obtained free unless you count elbow grease donated by my Husband.
The finished product will then be priced by comparison to a similar retail product. Weather I would actually pay the retail price is doubtful.
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam - 12 oz. jar @ the local farmer's market $ 4.69.
Organically grown strawberries from our farm - free (4 plants bought @ wally's in 2000 for under $10 now 3 separate raised beds cost as long been absorbed).
Rhubarb - 2 plants bought last spring - $ 10.00. First year actually utilizing it.
Sugar - 2 bags 5 lbs. each bought in Dec. as a loss leader (holiday baking sale) - .99 each.
Pectin - 2 boxes off brand (not Ball) - .99 each.
Lemon - 1/2 cup of squeezed juice (bought clearance after New Years then frozen) 27 cents.
Total cost of ingredients & 13 canning lids (.08 per lid) = $15.27 which netted 13 pints (12 oz mason jars) of jam. Didn't figure in tax or city water used so add a buck bringing it up to $16.27 for 13 pints.
Had I bought the almost two quarts of non organic strawberries @ the farmer's market then bring up the cost by another $7.00. Rhubarb no clue as couldn't find any retail to price.
13 jars of artisan jam = $ 60.97
13 jars of Mom's jam = $ 16.27 or $1.25 per jar.
Selling a 5 quarts of berries @ the going rate would offset the total cost.
Not paying retail for rhubabr plants duh. I have an addiction when it comes to gardening. I'd work my steps but well needed stepping stones by the roses.
This jam will be used on toast, bagels, and as a topping on hot oatmeal, frozen yogurt, or mixed into homemade plain yogurt.
Figure that we will eat about a jar a week so these 13 pints will help fill in half of one spot on a six month menu.
My goal is to have a pantry stocked to last our family of five for six months.
~~ pelenaka ~~
having goals provides fodder for conversations with your P.O.

This is my basic canning set up on my 1900's laundry stove. On the left is my new water bath canning pot which holds a zillion mason jars at one time and heats to boiling fast on two burners.
Added bonus is that the lid doubles as counter space. If I leave out a few jars then there is room for funnels, tongs, rings, and lids.
The right front burner is for cooking and is the only way to add wood to the fire. Cooking is done by way of direct contact as pot on stove (high flame) or using trivets of varying heights (med. to low flame).
Right back burner has my old 9 quart jar capasity water bath canner - hot soapy water, rings, and mason jars waiting on elbow grease.
The empty round wash tub generally holds produce such as apples or tomatoes that need washing. In a pinch I will place the tub over a crude but safe firepit filled with water to keep sterilzed jars hot before being filled.
Why do I can on a woodstove ?
Because my regular stove is a 1949 Hotpoint double oven electric stove that makes my electric meter spin like cheap tires on black ice.
Because we get free firewood.
Because after all is said and done I can preserve a quart of strewed tomaotoes, for around 12 cents. That includes the cost of salt, water, & canning lid. The toms were grow from saved seeds.
Jars rarely bought new were gotten by way of friends, freecycle, curb shopping, and tag sales. After 5 years of active canning all 300 + jars are paid for.
Because canning outside on the patio beats canning in a hot kitchen any day.
~~ pelenaka ~~

Putting food by 'n da 'hood

My son, urban homesteader in the making, helping his Mom out by filling the water bath canner ... k k he was promised that he could lite the stove. Promise him that he can play with fire & he's all there.
The canner he's filling was the one big new homesteading tool purchased new this year with tax $ . Pricey @ over a $130, put this under the heading of "should have had this all along".
Holds 15 quart jars, 27 pint jars, 10 half-gallon jars or 12 gallons mason jars from Lehmans.
Hopefully this will put an end to canning all nighters.
The stove is a circa 1900's four burner coal laundry stove. A real step up from canning on a fire pit & a one burner pot belly stove. Just below the ash door reads, Pennsular Stove, Detroit, Chicago, Buffalo. The biggest part of the stove would be the double walled basket where the fire is, ortherwise it breaks down into very easy but heavy cartable sections. On the back are two holes fitted with plumbing connections presumably to provide indoor hot water. Not sure if this was a retrofit. Antique find for $125 last year so after this canning season stove will be paid for.
Background is our urban farm ... k k garden but it produces like a farm.
Directly infront of that white picket fence is our heirloom Tomatoes.
Also two good producing third year Rhubarb plants.
Next to the rhubarb is celery, and some unexpected rogue heirloom Bloody Butcher toms.
Between that raised bed & the scavenaged firewood is the mixed salad greens cold frame, (top resting on the 3 cords of wood.
To the left that is one of two full size Frost variety Peach trees. A wedding gift last year to my DH. There's about 2 dozen or so peaches growing so we have high hopes.
See that corner of that white building behind the peach tree. Well my land or lot as we say in the city stops about 3 1/2 ' before that building. Hence our farm's name ... Thirtyfive by Ninety. Our lot size.
Also place a two story 1902 home, small driveway, and a 1920's garage (shed) .
Throw in western New York winter's as in Buffalo Blizzards. Zone 4 - 5.
Add a pinch of "not allowed by city code/zonning".
Mix with a good dose of limited direct sunlight due to neighbors trees.
Now you have urban homesteading in the real world.
Lock & load, were heading toward our goal of self suffiency on > 1/8 of an acre. Done on the cheap, as green as we can.
~~ pelenaka ~~

Psst, buddy got any lye ?

Seems that in the two or so years since I last made a 20 lbs. batch of soap, yeppers I go big when I soap, lye has become DEA & Homeland Security issue. Lye is used in making meth. Who knew.
We're still trying to perfect hard cider into a useable form of unleaded gasoline.
Success rate is very low but with a platter of sharp cheese and wheat crackers we press on.

No longer able to buy lye at my local mega grocery store in a pure form panic started to set in. I have no coupons for commerical soap. I've been spoiled by handcrafted homemade soap. I have this homesteading skill I yearn to nurture.
If I had only known would have saved wood ash from my outdoor stove durning canning season.
Or tagged along on a police raid on a meth house.
Or simply stocked up on Red devil lye.
A day spent visiting rural hardware and grocery stores searching for old stock of the "right" drain cleaner (100% Sodium Hydroxide) yielded no results other than filling my head with fantasies of owning Nubian goats.
Last week my husband thought he had found it. Quietly and without much fan fare he bought a bottle.
Yesterday huddled over the kitchen counter with the shades pulled and our cars parked down the street we pulled the bottle from the brown paper bag and opened it. In the background the faint sound and sents of oils such as lard, coconut, and lavender infused castor warming in the double boiler filled the kitchen.
Any moment I imagined hearing the phrase," Step away from the Lye with your hands up"!

Yup lye alright.
Lye with these funny little gray pellets scattered in amongst the white.
Lye with something, something not needed for soapmaking.
Lye for drain cleaning.

All I want is to make 20 lbs. of soap using easily aquired ingredients from the store and my backyard.
My husband leaned over, brushing my hair away from my face kissing me on the cheek.
It's alright he whispered. We'll just have to implement soap saving measures. Will be good for the water conservation too.
My husband the newlywed homesteader, I think I'll keep him.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Eccentricity, idiosyncrasy

Saturday, January 27, 2007 - Eccentricity, idiosyncrasy - means a singular trait or habit
... that is not customary from the norm.
Thinking of maybe stenciling a few tee shirts with this written on it.

Thru a gf we occassionally recieve expired food from a a local mega supermarket something like a second harvest deal. This food is often passed on by charitable organizations that have to deal with heath regs or don' have the labor and skills to deal with 5 lbs. bags of too soft apples (duh think applesauce, pie filling, cake). Today we got numerious <3 oz. packages of fresh organic herbs like basil, cilantro, and taragon.
So while having my morning coffee there i sat with a small pair of sharp scissors cutting out the portions of spolied herb leaves so i can dehydrate the rest. Thoughts of me as a senior rinsing out paper towels and hanging them to dry all around my kitchen keept floating in my head.
Never the less i have a pt. mason jar filled half way with dried cilantro waiting for salsa canning time. One less thing to grow or buy.

Yesterday both my husband and I did the weekly round of coupon shopping which I truely hate. I hate shopping, hate the crowds, hate that it has become a shopping expirence with coffee bars, international deli, french bakery, and cooking demos.
With any luck only a few more weeks of this and the family pantry will be stocked for the year. Name brand products that after couponing have to be as inexpensive as generic/off brands coupled with the rule that it has to be of value.
So far there is enough toothpaste to last a year each bought for a buck or slightly less, 3 small bottles of Dawn had for free, case of German potato salad, and cans of Chunky Chowder soup that only my husband enjoys.
Big score was getting 100 oz. of tide for 3.44 = .344 cents an oz. this week. Can't make laundry soap for that since i have yet to find coupons for boarax or washing soda. But the point is that I have the skill if I need to.
Did have a coupon for fancy salad dressing by that actor/race car driver so i looked that up. Can't believe people pay $3.79 for small bottle of dressing. I mean that is what i pay for meat.
Later today I have to go back and repeat the process using my husbands shopper's card so I can get the same great deal on Tide, along with a free bottle of apple juice, and oreos.
Durning the Thanksgiving sales name brand flour was .89 cents per 5 lbs. Should have seen the look on the cashier's face when i put 12 bags on the convayor belt. With a deadpan look I told the teenager we were reinacting the "I Love Lucy" episode where she bakes a giant loaf of bread. No reaction but the man behind me broke out laughing.
When I first moved here the YWCA had an apple tree infront of the building. When I stopped in to ask if we could collect the apples the receptionist said yes but thought they weren't edible as 6the tree wasn't sprayed (organic !). As my children pulled their red wagon home loaded with the free apples we passed neighbors sitting on their front porch. One yelled out across the street something about that we were the only people she knew who could go for a walk in the city and come back with food.
Good to have skills.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

You have a what ? Why ?

Thursday, January 25, 2007 - You have a what?
Of all the low tech methods that we use on our homestead by far the one that causes the most disbelief and curiosity is our cira 1930's low end ice box.
It all started about two years ago when my huge freezer on the bottom never had the need to fill it up-3 y.o. refridgerator blew the blower motor for the second time.
$90 + labor. As par for the course the warreny had expired. I wasn't paying Sears to fix what is a product defect.
On cleaning it out i found that we had 3 jars of fancy mustard, 2 of plain mustard, 2 bottles of ketchup, 6 jars of pickles, at least two of every type of known sald dressing opened. Not much in the way of real food. Nothing that wouldn't fit in a cooler keept in the cellar next to the freezer stocked with ice packs. Good solution to buy me time.
Since the majority of our meals are prepared from both home canned goods and commerical canned as well as fresh and frozen, we have few leftovers. Lack of refridgerator space isn't an issue. Freezer space is on occassion since we have a small 12 y.o. upright freezer in the cellar. Making ice isn't such an issue but getting the ice into the ice box requires it to be listed on the chore schedule.
By the sixth month of not having a fridge i learned that it's no big deal. My electric bill is less, and i have a bigger kitchen. That huge fridge didn't fit in my vintage cupboards.
Refridgerator was freecycled to a young couple who inaddition to buying their first house was expecting twins soon. Plenty of need for fridge space.
About a year or so ago i bought the ice box for $75. It's metal over a wood frame later painted gray inside and out. Added a rubber drain hose from the hardware store which i threaded thru the floorboards (old house) into the pipe that the washer empties in.Also did a quick gasket replacement using foam weatherstripping.
Three gallon milk jugs frozen = two days of 36 degree ice box tempature just below the section where the ice is kept. Directly next to it it is about 38 - 42.
Not very efficent but did beat the method of placing food in a bucket of water on the cellar floor. If you were lucky you had a deep well or cold creek to place food in.
Last fall i got in a mood and took apart one of the doors to see what was used for insulaton.
Resembles saw dust packaged into a square using brown wrapping paper. What is left of a yellow & green circular decal states - This cabinet insulated with (missing portion of decal) ?Wool, True Insultion, Sanitary, Ordorless, Permanent.
Plan is to strip off the paint, reinsulate using highest R factor that will fit, replace door gaskets, polish up the chrome hardware, and paint it white with black trimming like white enamel ware dishes.
Currently our ice box is a plastic tote out in the enclosed front porch since winter has finally arrived. Low tech and free.

Mom, where's the bread ?

Thursday, January 25, 2007 - Mom, where's the bread?
Monday we bought a Back to Basics dough mixer for $18 from an upscale Big Lots type store. Our free bread machine gave out a few weeks ago. Likely due to having to kneading four loaves of 50% whole wheat dough a week Gonna miss that handy little machine both due to ease of use and low electrical useage. Sure puts my 1949 electric Hotpoint stove to shame.
The dough bucket plays a part in the large scale plan to install a wood stove this spring. We already have four cords of wood split and stacked along with a stove top oven cira 1920's. Four sad irons, trivets, cast iron fry pans, pots, muffin pans, and two soap stone squares for bedwarming.
Gotta say that there is a bit of a phyiscal learning curve much as there was with the manual grain mill. My arms ache. Sometimes i am such a cityslicker.
Last fall we bought two bushels of organic grain from a local Mom & Pop heath food store costing $32 each, winter wheat and rye. Buckwheat would have been a better choice in that quanity for us. Goal is to find a less expensive local source for grains and gluten flour.
First made 100% whole wheat bread. Reality is that i made bricks good for knocking the iceles off the house.
Below is a pic of one of the three 50% whole wheat loaves i made. Slightly better.
The bucket doesn't knead exactly simular to how a upright stand mixer with dough hooks will. Also the version that clamps to the counter would be good. But for the price i'll be quiet.
Practice makes perfect and in this case stronger arms.