Wednesday, July 29, 2009

in the bag

Quick post using my local library's WIFI connection then it's back to preserving.

Long story short I have fired up the 2nd freezer, a small chest in preparation of the produce bounty that has been coming our way. Namely Green & Wax beans along with Broccoli.
Having a small chest freezer is different than a larger one as there is generally only one if any baskets to help organize contents. Ours has a small one.
My system has to organize the contents of the veggie freezer frugally.
Has to be basically idiot proof.
Must not use up valuable freezer space or restrict the operation/air flow of the freezer from doing it's job.
So as I'm bum side up with my head stuck in this chest freezer digging around it comes to me.
Organize the contents in plastic shopping bags.
Yeah say it with me ... duh!
Green Beans beige Tops bags.
Wax in bright yellow bags from Family Dollar.
Broccoli in white Wally World bags.
We don't have allot of plastic shopping bags because we normally use cloth bags. I'll have to ask fellow church members & neighbors for shopping bags.
Or another alternative is to make large draw string bags out of old sheets. Label near the opening for contents.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, July 26, 2009


What your looking @ is 50¢ worth of cucumber.
That is what I paid for one last week.
I have no patience. And apparently no sense.
There's 4 more cukes growing in this container & 7 more in the another so about $4.50 worth per our local mega mart. I paid $2.50 per 4 pack (remember when it was always a 6 pack?) so in a week or so I will have broke even. After that any other cukes that grow will be free. Lack of space was why I didn't start cucumbers from seed. If I had then after the first 3 all the rest would have been free, (seed packet was $1.59).
I have 2 more cucumber plants growing in elevated pots along with 4 more planted in a raised bed. Those 4 were a $1 on discount. If I get two cukes from them then I've broken even.
I know the pic reminds me of sumtin else too.
Get your mind outta the dirt & into the soil people.

As you can see the 2 drawf Apple trees are alive and well as are the Strawberries I planted as ground cover, (background). We have just started training the trees to talk French (espalier). So far they resemble an American walking the streets of Paris with a cheap translation dictionary.

Update on the Celery/Brussels Sprouts/San Marzano raised bed - despite the pitiful amount of sunshine equally due to a neighbor's tree and our very wet & cloudy Summer this year the first 2 groups of veggies are doing well, Celery & Brussels. The tomatoes are however lagging a bit behind the ones in the raised bed directly to the right. Those are almost taller than the trellis an estimated height of 4'. Two main differences between both raised beds are that the one on the right receives about an hour of stronger/brighter Sunlight than the bed on the left. And green beans which are a nitrogen fixing plant were planted in the same bed last year. If rotating green beans with tomatoes proves successful then it will be a no brainer as to what I am planting in that bed for the 2010 garden season.

About the looking glass. My plants are vain. Very very vain. Actually just trying my best to direct more Sunlight their way.

But doesn't the mirror make you wanna sing like Carly Simmon? Your soo vain, u thought this song was about you ...

Looking forward to this coming week it will be a mostly sunny with temperatures near normal. July here in Western New York has been one of the wettest with over 9 " of rain. Not to mention cool as in low 70's cool which isn't right when it's July.
Ask me how much laundry I will be doing this coming week. Think sheets & towels. Throw in some curtains too.
I also have a stash of food that needs to be canned. Up until now I have been stock piling all the harvested produce in the chest freezer until I have a significant amount to can. Reached that point when a friend's wife offered me pickings rights to her bed of Rhubarb. I have had my eye on canning up some Rhubarb juice. Maybe mixing in some Red Raspberry juice.
There's also 2 quarts of frozen chicken broth along with 3 quarts of roast beef au juice destined for the pressure canner. Can never have enough home canned broth on the pantry shelves come winter. The beef was scored during K.P. duty after a church dinner so that will work out to 10¢ a pint (cost of the canning lid).
Add to the canning list rendering beef fat & packaging into jars. Amazing what you find when you reorganize a freezer.
Pretty sure I owe someone somewhere a loaf of rye bread.
Then there's the 10 lbs. of soap I started making last year that needs to be rebatched, and put into molds. Seriously, when I make soap I make soap ... mostly because it's really not my favorite thing to do on a regular basis which is why I make a big batch. Not to mention I'm a little bit busy here.
Know your strengths.
Understand your weaknesses.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Saturday, July 18, 2009

steam juicer

This is my still.
This is my still making wild black raspberry juice.
J.J. (just joking) this is a Steam Juicer that DH bought me like about a zillion years ago @ a Good Will store for under $20. Normally retails for upwards of $130 new so I can't really say that it's a must but if you score one for a great price it's one piece of home preservation equipment that's nice to have. Otherwise the old school method of cheese cloth/white cotton pillow case to create a jelly bag works just as well.

I actually am only using it because my girl group (church not a song & dance act), is working on making jams & jelly's. So rather than having numerous jelly bags strung out all over the church kitchen I recalled that this contraption was in a corner of the cellar.
The reason I wrote still is that is what the gals all asked me when I set it on the stove during a PW work day. Apparently I look like the type of urban homesteader to have a still.
Even more droll since the average age of my gal pals is like 6o. Kinda makes ya wonder what they were up to in their youth huh?

Plan is to freeze what I collect until I have enough of a good size batch to create something. Really already have enough jelly from last year's canning season so I am thinking perhaps juice.
Which is what I really need allot of since daughter's cleared us out of all the previous years grape juice a total of 54 quarts plus 5 quarts found hidden which = 59 half gallons.

The Steam Juicer didn't come with a manual so I am winging it. Steamed the berries for 30 minutes to extract the juice. Need to see about either buying a copy of the manual or downloading a copy. I'm sure there is more to this "still" than I realize.

Here's the picking field err spot really. By spot I mean a tiny spot. Behind the garage where there is very little sun & I haven't fertilized.
Gotta love totally free & easy!
Update on Urban Pantry Challenge - All the produce that I have either frozen or dehydrated this week either gifted or from DH's garden.
Canned up 9 pts. of Almond flavored Cherries that came from the same canning factory as last year. Difference this is year that I bartered for a smaller amount with my bbgf. Still have canned cherries left from last year. Cherries came pitted. Traded a new granyware canning pot with rack & a jar lifter. My accessed value for the canning equipment was $20 although I had only paid under $5 @ an auction. Threw in a dozen Ball canning jars NIB that was gifted to me.
Sunday DH & I went to the local Mega Mart to pick up a few items since we both were craving grilled burgers. Ended up spending $54.48 for the following items; one cuke @ 50¢ (dumb on our part as in a week or so we will have cucumbers from our garden), four ears of Sweet Corn @ 30¢ each, one tomato on the vine 62¢ (refer to the foolishness of buying a cuke), boneless pork loin discounted to $1.99/lbs. bought 2 packages which totaled slightly over 17 lbs. Cost of pork was $32.90. Also bought a package of Italian Sausage $7.02, and ground beef patties that were discounted $12.24.
All the meat was repackaged in to family size servings. The pork loins worked out to be 6 packages. The Italian Sausages 3 meals. Ground beef patties 2 packages of 8 burgers each.
Within the next week I will be spending in the neighborhood of $300 on a 1/3 of a cow. This should be the last time I need to buy beef until next July.
Since it's just the two of us for the rest of the Summer I have been crock potting meals for later eating. Cooked one of the pork loins in White Wine, Garlic, Rosemary, (garlic & Rosemary both from garden). Combined with a garden salad & wax beans from DH's community garden allotment it was a nice dinner.
Few weeks ago an avid coupon shopper gave a seminar on couponing/rebating after church service. We exchanged emails to arrange possible bartering opps. This is a better alternative for me than dragging out to the store coupons in hand for the small percentage of items that I do buy.
The conversation went as follows -
I was wondering if you would be interested in bartering? Since my household runs on more of old fashioned methods couponing really doesn't work for me.
Oh, but it could. What items do you buy on a weekly basis?
Don't really shop weekly. What I buy is items like toilet paper, bleach, vinegar, really items that I can't make myself. Sugar is a biggy since I can. I was wondering if you might consider bartering. Gallon of bleach for a loaf of homemade bread? I bake rye or a half whole wheat loaf.
Well here's an offer for Domino Sugar 50¢ off if you buy 10 packets of Kool-Aid. Kool-Aid is on sale this week...
At that point I really hoped I had a good poker face on.
I stopped discussing my method of food preservation in times of bounty because this was a woman who fed her children colored sugar water. I was talking Apples & she was busy filing store receipts for later rebate use.
Don't get me wrong coupons work great. The concept would work magic for me if I could find coupons for items such as canning lids. Washing soda. All the items that I can't buy in a store brand/generic version. Hmm the only thing that jumps out @ me is washing soda. Beer. Primo coffee. And tp ofcourse. I'm not that much of a homesteader to make my own.
The other aspect is of course if my trading commodity costs me less than what I traded it for.
Can I bake a loaf of bread for less than the cost of a gallon of bleach?
Well I did score 100 lbs. of locally grown wheat of which I still have 2/3 left... and I still have 1/3 of a bushel of organic rye. Will need to barter for butter, dry milk, white flour, yeast, & salt too. If I'm savy enough we just may be eatting our bread for free.
Provided that the wood stove is installed this fall which will provide the means to bake.
Otherwise will have to factor in the electricity that my 1949 Hotpoint stove sucks down.
~~ pelenaka ~~

Friday, July 10, 2009

... we have you!

The first part of that phrase is Why prep when.
Closely followed by a smirk, or a shy smile or if that family member is confident enough an outright chuckle.
Then that display is met with a look of cold dead silence.

Sometime you are just tired of talking to a rock. It's not like I'm a major subscriber to the whole when the hits the fan scenerio, but the same skills that hard core preppers & survialist adhere to can help the bottom line on a modern days family's budget.
Not to mention natural disasters.
Economic downturns.
In the past I have offered assistance with helping close family to set up their own long term food storage system. I have offered up mason jars & canning equipment. A starter set if they choose to utilize home preserved food as part of their preps. I have emailed details on gleaning opps, meat buying coops, or various barter deals. Nothing short of droping by their door to deliver a basket of garden produce arouses them.

No pic on today's post. We are making
a few high tech changes around the urban homestead this Summer. One of which is switching over to a lap top from DH's 10 y.o. computer. Slow going due to a learning curve. Not as bad as being a techo virgin but enough to raise the frustration levels for us both. Besides switching systems we have also decided to turn off our home internet DSL leaving us so far with only a local library WIFI port which isn't 24/7/365.
For the Summer we are taking full advantage of our tax dollar supported library's internet port to pocket a bit over $40 a month. It's > a 10 minute walk via shoe leather express & if you count the fact that we also use the library's dime to charge the laptop there's a savings too.
In the meantime we'll scope out other WIFI options like occasionally visiting a coffee house or perhaps a barter deal with a neighbor who has wireless internet. Or scoring a great deal on an air card plan.
The 2nd big change for us or rather me is trading in my land line telephone for a cell. I had resisted because I was deeply emotionally attached to my phone number, one that has been almost 10 years in existence. That says allot for a person like me who has lived in no few than 23 homes. Seems that I was fussing for nuttin as now the telephone powers that be will let you keep your #. For now we are going with a cheapo cell plan. Savings of $ 20 and change per month.
So besides playing back the cost of the lap top ($840), the all most $70 a month will be channeled into the wood pile. That is to say to buy a 3 cords of quality firewood for Winter heating, cooking, clothes drying, & if do able utilize the wood stove as the primary method of heating water replacing the natural gas water heater. That would only leave us with only one utility bill a month the electric. Hopefully since we won't have to power the furnace blower that bill should be > than $50 per month instead of $70 ish.
Since it's off season for firewood now is the time to stock up. While I haven't given up on gleaning or bartering for cords of wood which in the past year has gotten to be more difficult, I still want to have a supply in. After those two budget items are paid off there is always paying back the cost of installing the wood stove ($ from 2008 income taxes). Then finally doubling up on our extra monthly mortgage principal payment.

Scored 5 half gallon bottles of lamp oil for $2.68 in of all places Target.
DD#3 treated herself to a bathing suit off the clearance rack which is why we were there instead of say Aunt Sally's. Both her & DD#2 will be gone for the remainder of the Summer to Houston to visit with their father. I'm missing them already but DH & I are looking forward to alone time.

Canned up 6 pints of Victorian Rhubarb BBQ Sauce. Rhubarb collected from the garden since early Spring, raisins that started out as grapes from a barter deal 2 years ago (dehydrated & vacuum sealed in a qt. mason jar). Tried a bit on pork loin that night very nice! This recipe is differently a do over. Estimated cost per pint is 30¢ which includes spices,vinegar,ect. , & cost of lid. As I wrote before my jars the majority of which were free have all been paid off after the first few years of canning by the savings of not paying retail for food.
Gifted 3 vintage Sunbeam stand mixers to a fellow homesteader in turn was gifted a dozen of her farm fresh eggs.
Now & perhaps tomorrow our area will finally experience
Summer temps & no rain so I need to stain our bedroom door, work on a plan to build an outdoor solar shower, & enjoy the Sunshine with my family.

~~ pelenaka ~~