Sunday, April 22, 2012


On Friday I was pedaling around my part of the city in what else - pedal pushers & a tank top, wind in my hair, smile on my face. Life was good, very good I had one paycheck in my pocket and only two days to go to my only day off for the week on my second job.
I even got a bit of a burn on my forearms.
Life was good as pedaled my way to the next neighborhood for my last shift of the day.

That was Friday.

Today we dug out the snow shovels that I had placed behind the garage just two days ago. Today we stood in the kitchen looking out the window @ the back yard ... speechless.
I have a pang of guilt in the pit of my stomach. If I hadn't put away the shovels that late unusually hot April Friday, this sleet/snow fall wouldn't be happening now.
I apologize.
I know better.
I have no idea what I was thinking. I wouldn't have taken down storm windows nor put up snow parkas in favor of light jackets & flip flops.
I am soo sorry!

There's nothing to say.
There's nothing to do.
Or is there ?

My area is slated to have under 10" much more than plastic tarps can fend off. The plan for the cold frames is to just go old school & scrape off the accumulated flakes. The fruit trees ... I plan to shake. Yeah just shake them. Shake the wet snow off so the branches won't be weighted down & snap.
No snapping allowed.

Woods has vowed to snap a pic of me standing sentry in our urban orchard shaking trees.

On the home front we have a bit of cured firewood for tonight & Monday night. If the grid goes down due to tree branches on power lines we also have the back up of a small heater powered by propane along with a small supply but I don't see us really needing it. Instead we can just have the wood stove lit for a few hours to heat soap stone bed warmers then turn in for the night.

If this were really the dead of Winter then we'd break out the two person tents to sleep in. It's easier to body heat a small tent than a whole bedroom.

We also have that old standby, a two burner Coleman Camping Stove for cooking and heating water for hot water bottles. Don't underestimate the benefits of curling up with even a small source of warmth when your cold. There's also our supply of oil lamps which we've been putting into practice as of late, along with flash lights & solar garden lights.

The majority of our food is shelf stable no need for refrigeration. What food items that are frozen would be pressure canned for long term shelf life on the Coleman Camp Stove.

We are to use a popular term, prepared ... for the most part minus the garden & orchard pretty well set for this coming Nor'easter that's headed our way.
Are you ?

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Acting Squirrely

Frost Variety Peach Tree #1 
For the most part it has been any where from a hard frost to mild frost conditions most nights here on the urban homestead. These trees, wedding gifts from me to Woodsrunner, have been tenacious in the face of Winter's last hooray.
Every morning as I look out the back kitchen window the sight of them both bring a smile to my face. My Peach Orchard in the ghetto.

When I bought these trees I had hopes of our children playing underneath them. Now going on six years of marriage sans babies Woodsrunner, parents my children as if they are his own. No pitter patter of little Dutch feet playing underneath.
My hopes is that one day my ... our grandchildren will be asking when they can pick a peach fresh off the tree.

Frost Variety Peach Tree #2 & the mylar backdrop
The mylar garden mirror I installed last June has held up really good. The panels that show creases are potato chip bags, the ones without are mylar food storage bags.

Ever since our mini heat wave last month which sparked orchards including mine to sprout weeks a head of schedule I've been scrambling like a squirrel before Winter gathering nuts.
A really frenzied squirrel with empty pockets and pantry shelves to fill.
I'm pretty confident that our personal Peach orchard will pull through, however I think local Cherry orchards have been hard hit. Whatever Cherries make it to market will be beyond my economic reach.

Besides canning up Cherry Pie filling I also can jelly jars of Almond Cherries in lite syrup for Woodsrunner. Cherries are a good homeopathic anti-gout remedy to have in the house. They also are awesome on buckwheat pancakes.

I ordered Traverse Bay Fruit Co. Dried Cherries, 4-Pound Box on Amazon for $24.33 or 38¢ per oz (subscribe & save pricing free shipping) with a portion of this month's earnings from Swagbucks.

I figure instead of pie I'll make Woods Cherry Chocolate Whole Wheat Cake.
Yeah I know it's different when your walking the healthier side of the street.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Murphy's Law

Every Nightingale needs a lamp & coffee grinder 

If you have been a long time reader of my blog then you "heard" me mention how I try not to let the gods know I have dead presidents (federal tax return) least the hot water heater starts peeing like a drunk behind the dumpster of the corner club or the car needs a new battery.

Wait for it ... the car did need a new battery because of a short in the wiring. Woods fixed that but we lost the clock & radio.
No hardship there because in this pinch we just use my solar emergency weather radio  on the dash.

Next came a bearing job rod thingy followed by a wheel alignment followed by car insurance note. The money order went out to the great insurance fund in the sky. Our only chariot has been sitting idle in the driveway, transportation needs fulfilled by bicycle, shoe leather express, or carro de publica. No problema it's Spring and we need to burn off the Winter fat.

Then the mother of all creature comforts only overshadowed by indoor plumbing, broke.
In one tenth of a millisecond by the flip of a switch we lost power in roughly 70% of our house. One moment we were all sitting in my new old parlor watching the telly then we weren't. Woodrunner had gotten up to snag a snack from the kitchen and on flipping the switch set into motion yet another M. L. E. (Murphy's Law event) this Spring.

The second story of MOH (my old house) went black along with two of the first floor rooms; the living room & downstairs bedroom. NP, we are preppers we just pulled out some battery operated L.E.D. lanterns then ran an electrical cord to the t.v. Finished watching the movie because it was due back @ the library the next day. By the third day of no power we went old school pulling out Wood's oil lamps.
The upside is that none of the vital outlets that supply the Westinghouse or chest freezer were affected. Oh yeah wait for it ... $3 savings on the electrical bill so far.

So the plan for now is to take a chill pill yeah I wrote it, take a few to regroup. We're working the  bartering angle for electrical work. So far no takers.

No hurry.
We have heat & plenty of lamps; battery, solar, & oil.
Most importantly I have a means to grind & brew coffee.
I might even invite Mr. Murphy in for a cup.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cow in the Cupboard

Free milk without buying the cow

When I think of a traditional homestead my pop culture inspired imagination often pictures dairy cows on lush green pastures contained within a perfectly picturesque white rail fence, Elsie the Borden Jersey Cow comes to mind.
Sweet smiling with her daisy chain necklace, the symbol of perfect dairy products.

But for those of us who don't have lush green pastures to keep a big doe eyed milker for our personal dairy there is always the more convenient alternative - non-fat powdered milk. Before you wrinkle your nose and mentally make whatever gag like remark that always represents forced Brussels sprouts consumption there are a few advantages of having a cow in the cupboard at your beck & call.

There's is the convenience factor which just can't be appreciated enough least there's a blizzard to remind you that you really don't want to make a midnight milk run.

I use non-fat milk for cooking and baking which frees up fresh milk for drinking, a cost savings. Then there's the added bonus of decreasing the calorie and fat content of a recipe by replacing the regular milk. I also use it to make Greek style yogurt.

I got a good deal on 8 pounds of non-fat milk in month on special offers on Amazon for $39.73 which qualified for free shipping. And as my other swagbucks rewards, this milk is free.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, April 1, 2012

No Fruit 4 You

Free Strawberry bed started from 3 orginal plants bought 11 years ago
3 or 4 days ago our freakishly warm early Spring turned on us. First a very chilly night like a wing man who has forgotten that it's all about moi, then more like a spurred lover giving us a hard frost. Yesterday it was all about a disgruntled wife who has realized that her fun loving grass is greener on the other side of the fence husband, was planning on moving along solo.

Yesterday I awoke to a blanket of wet snow less than an inch which brought us up short.
It really wasn't a great surprise since we all knew that the beach party weather of  last week was a freak of nature, "Little girl you want some eye candy"?

The Strawberries I'm not so much worried about because they have the resiliency of a child who grew up in a broken home. Short daylight hours & heavy foot traffic that doesn't always stay on the walk, this bed just keeps on surviving.

No warmth felt from the stacked stone cellar
As you can see Woodsrunner, has been busy putting in next year and the year after firewood. Every few days he works on splitting a round. 
The early warm Spring not to mention a relatively warm Winter meant that we had just gotten away with enough of wood to keep us warm. Currently we are burning windfall gleaned off the city's hell strips or gifted from neighbor's yards. Annie a few houses over actually thought enough to box & toss a tarp over the pile she gave us. I get allot of looks as I pull the garden cart behind me walking around the hood. 
NP, free heat can smooth over any of the hurt feelings I might have.

No signs of frost damage perhaps being an antique variety is the key.
This tree a Sops of Wine from Miller's Nursery in Canandaigua, New York. It has yet to give us fruit I have despite this recent cold snap. The fact that there's no blossoms may be the saving grace.

Climbing Pink Rose originally planted over a hundred years ago.
Pink Rose Bush seems to be very hardy. 
My neighbor behind me LaShonda, had tossed it over the fence in my direction when she heard me hanging laundry last Summer. Just as the root ball went up in the air clearing the peak of the garage she gave me a shout out. I'm glad she didn't see me hit the dirt. She kept half replanted that along a fence line. I potted this half up until I can afford to make a trellis for under the kitchen window. I think that a view of pale pink roses @ the kitchen sink will compliment my gray & white kitchen. 

Looking a little like Sanford & Son despite the new layer of mulch

Earlier this morning when I looked out the kitchen window @ my two Peach trees all I could hear was the voice of the actor who played the Soup Nazi in the classic Seinfield episode, "No fruit for you ... NO FRUIT FOR YOUUUUU"! 

My plan was to go down to the furniture store and snag some plastic wrapping outta the dumpsters then wrap my precious Peach trees. Yeah I know ... but have you ever had a sweet juicy Peach rip from a tree grown in your own backyard. Then don't judge me ...

All I can hope for is that my Peach trees Frost variety will survive & produce because locally the fruit orchards were hard hit. I didn't can as much fruit as I should have, poor planning on my part. If I had then this glitch in food production could be easily rode out until 2013 or even 2014 harvest. 

Now I need to come up with an alternate plan to put fruit in on the family menu.
  1. Schedule time to go foraging for wild berries I slacked last year.
  2. Scope out new opportunities a.k.a. make contact for gleaning of any available urban fruit.
  3. Increase garden fruit plantings such as melons to provide fresh fruit then all tree fruit can be preserved. 
  4. Consider stocking commercially caned fruit (although expensive since we would need low sugar/no sugar).

~~ pelenaka ~~