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.