Monday, December 31, 2007

I finally did it!

One more accomplishment for 2007. For over 6 months I've had the goal of making a totally handmade, local pizza. I've been making my own dough for a long time, I made my own sauce in August and canned it, but have been held up on making my own cheese. I've tried to make mozarella 2 other times and it wasn't succesful. The first time I ended up with ricotta instead of mozarella, the curds just never formed up. The second time I got the right curds but when the cheese was hot enough to knead and stretch it was too hot for me to handle, so the cheese never really formed right.

So, I got some Playtex rubber gloves and tried again. This time success! It really is easy to make if you have good gloves and use enough rennet to get the curds to form. I used whey in the pizza dough and wow! is that a great addition. I'm going to make some bread with the rest of the whey.

Here is my totally handmade, local pizza before going into the oven. I was even able to grate the mozarella to put on the pizza, I don't like big chunks of cheese on pizza. Here it is cooked, it was delicious!
I'm so excited to have finally accomplished this!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 in review

I'm feeling the need to list the progress we've made in 2007 toward living a more sustainable life-style. My eventual goal is to be mostly self-sufficient, this is still many years away.

Things I learned in 2007:

  • Sewing, including zippers and pockets. I still need to learn to do buttons. I can do elastic waist pants and T shirts with no problem. Since this is all Logan wears, I'm pretty set on making all his clothes.

  • Hot-water canning

  • Jam making

  • Bread making

  • Knitting

  • Composting, including worm composting

  • Seed saving

  • Growing a much wider variety of veggies


    • Changes I made in 2007 to live friendlier to the Earth:
    • Joined a CSA

    • Shopped at the farm market each week

    • Ate at least 1 local meal a week since May

    • Turned AC up to 80

    • Turned heat down to 67 during the day, 55 at night

    • Composted

    • Switched to reusable menstrual pads

    • Made more of our bread and bought less

    • Used our solar oven, that we made, in the summer to cook

    • Grew and preserved a lot of veggies

    • Used the library a lot more instead of buying books like I did in the past

    • Got more active politically in causes I care about

    • Volunteered at a cat adoption center and as a habitat steward

    • Expanded my butterfly garden

    • Stopped buying convenience foods and started cooking every night

    • Stopped eating fast food (mostly)

    • Quit drinking Diet Coke (again, mostly, still working on this but down to 1 or less a week)

    • Changed all light bulbs to CFLs and am much better about turning off lights in rooms we aren't using

    • Found local sources for all animal products that we consume

    • Reduced consumption (still working on this, yarn and fabric are my weaknesses)

    • Bring my own bags when shopping

    • Set up rain barrel to harvest rain water, used this to water garden all summer

    • Collected shower water for watering

    • Switched to cold water for washing all laundry

    • Used a drying rake to dry some of our laundry (when we move and get a clothes line, I'll do more of this)

    • Cancelled most catalogs I was getting (this was over 30!)

    • Put up a mason bee house, a ladybug house, and many bird houses

    • Switched all cleaners and soaps to natural products
    • DDW - Week 11

      This quick, easy, LOCAL meal made the work in August so worth it! This week we had spaghetti with sauce I made and canned in August.

      Sauce:
      Tomatoes - my garden
      Basil - my garden
      Onions - my garden
      Spicy red peppers - my garden
      garlic - West Grove, PA - 20 miles

      Noodles - Harrisburg, PA - 110 miles

      Wednesday, December 26, 2007

      DDW - Week 10



      Huh, I just found this in my non-posted section. I thought I'd posted this last week.
      I'm posting this a few days late, but I noticed the round-up hasn't been done yet for last week so I decided to go ahead and put this up. I feel like I'm cheating using this meal as local, but being the week before Christmas it was the best I could do.


      Vegetable Indian Vindaloo curry


      Local (all under 20 miles):

      Carrots - CSA

      Brocolli - CSA

      Green peppers - CSA

      Cauliflower - CSA

      Corn - frozen this summer


      Very much not local:

      Sauce

      Rice


      My next meal will be better.

      Farm expansion

      We expanded our farm for Christmas and moved it to a permanent location. Here is the overview of the whole farm.


      Here is a close up of our animal area. Notice the animals are all very friendly and come right up to us. We added Logan to the farm and hope to add Mark at a future date. Maybe he will bring us a tractor?
      Here is the barn my mother in law gave me for Christmas, it is the perfect addition to the farm. And we have our vegetable garden right in front of it.
      Here is our wildlife area with a pond and some woodlands.

      All that is missing is our orchard. I'll have to find some trees to add.







      Monday, December 24, 2007

      Holiday decorations

      I thought I'd post some pictures of a few or my favorite ornaments. I really like Santas and birds.


      Woodland Santa

      Wizard Santa

      Farm Santa

      Birds

      We have 4 of these pinecone ones, all with different animals coming out of them.

      If I find the time, I'll post pictures of some of the decorations around the house.

      If I don't find time, have a wonderful Christmas!


      Wednesday, December 19, 2007

      Winter flowers

      I know it isn't officially winter yet, but it sure feels like it here. I really dislike winter and tend to get depressed so I have a few blooming plants in the house to keep my spirits up.


      This amaryllis has 9 flowers on it! I've never had one get so many flowers.
      The hybiscus spends the summer outside and comes in for the winter. It always seems to like being in the house and will bloom all winter. It currently has 3 flowers on it.

      Tuesday, December 18, 2007

      Saturday, December 15, 2007

      DDW - Week 9


      This week we had breakfast burritos for dinner. We never eat these for breakfast.

      Breakdown:

      Bacon: Rumbleway Farm - 25 miles
      Eggs: Locust Point Farm - 7 miles
      Cheese: Mooo-over Cheese - 25 miles
      Whole Wheat tortillas - 85 miles
      Onions - Not local

      Wednesday, December 12, 2007

      2 types of slippers and a hat

      Here are my latest projects. I made 2 different types of slippers and a hat that rolls on the end instead of having a brim.




      Monday, December 10, 2007

      Bug-out bag

      A couple of months ago I ran across the idea of a bug-out bag (or a 72 hour kit) in a number of places all in 1 weeks time. I took this as a message that I needed to put one together. Logan and I started working on getting all the supplies together over time so the expenditure wouldn't be as large and we now have our bags complete.

      I've split the items up between 2 bags with one being much heavier than the other. I figured I'd carry the heavy one and Logan would carry the light one if Mark wasn't around, or if Mark was around he'd carry the heavy one, I'd carry the light one and Logan would be off the hook. The idea is we have to be prepared for some serious walking for 3 days time if an evacuation should become necessary. While natural disasters rarely occur in Delaware, I figure it can't hurt to be prepared and I feel better having the bags packed and ready to go should we need them.

      Here are the things in our bags:

      Water, 4 liters total
      Water filter
      Peanut butter crackers
      Clif bars
      Beef Jerkey
      Raisins
      Underwear
      Socks
      Hats
      Menstrual supplies
      Kleenex
      Soap
      Toothbrushes
      Baking soda
      Sunscreen/bug repellent
      Hand sanitizer
      Lip balm
      Camp towel
      Hankie
      First aid kit
      Ibuprofen
      Space blankets (1 for each)
      Hand crank flashlight/radio/emergency siren
      Multi-tool
      Rope
      Zipties
      Rain ponchos
      Waterproof matches and lighter
      Disposible gloves
      Dust masks
      Map of area, including walking trails


      Now I need to get to work on amassing the 90 days of essential supplies that the CDC is recommending in case of a flu pandemic. They say to be prepared to not leave your house for 30-60 days if an outbreak occurs.

      Saturday, December 8, 2007

      DDW - Week 8


      This week we had a vegetable stir-fry.

      Carrots, parsnips, green peppers - CSA, Calvert Farms, 15 miles
      Brocolli - John's Farm Stand - 3 miles, frozen in September
      Corn - Lockbriar Farm, frozen in August, 46 miles

      Soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic powder - not local

      I did eat this over rice left over from a meal earlier in the week. It wasn't local, but since it was left over from another night I don't think it should count against me ;)

      Tuesday, December 4, 2007

      Too cute

      Check out what I made for Logan for Christmas! I think it is adorable. It is supposed to be a sheep, but I think the ears are a little long, but I still love it. He hasn't seen it yet, it isn't easy to make something for a child you are never apart from without them knowing what it is but I pulled it off!



      Friday, November 30, 2007

      USDA proposal on leafy greens

      I've received many emails on this issue as well as a comment from Erikka. The USDA is considering a proposal to regulate the growing of leafy greens. The regulations make no sense and will harm small, sustainable farmers. To read more information about this proposal, go here: http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/news_press_release,229965.shtml

      The USDA has open comments right now through December 3 on this proposal. You can go here: http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main to make your comments. The comments can be made online, it is quick and easy to do. Click on the 3rd docket from the top.

      If anyone knows anything about the top one concerning dairy products I'd be interested in hearing about it.

      Thursday, November 29, 2007

      DDW - Week 7

      This week we made use of our turkey carcass and made turkey noodle soup and ate it with sweet potato bread.

      The breakdown:

      Soup:
      Turkey - Locust Point Farm, 7 miles
      Carrots, rutabaga, parsnip, celery - Calvert Farm CSA, 15 miles
      Noodles - not local

      Bread:
      Flour - Daisy Flour, 50 miles
      Sweet Potato - Calvert Farm CSA
      Butter - Lancaster, PA, 50 miles
      Yeast - Not local

      Tuesday, November 27, 2007

      Socks

      OK, I made the socks using this pattern: http://yarngear.com/looms/projects1.htm They were pretty quick and easy to make, taking less than an hour per sock. I made them very loose because my plan was to felt them. It I had used thicker yarn they would have turned out perfect. These socks even have a turned heel! No tube socks here.

      Here they are prior to felting, you can tell they are a loose knit and pretty big, this is on purpose since felting shrinks things up.


      And boy does felting shrink things up!! This was my first time felting and I over did it. The socks are now tiny! But felting is so cool, I loved watching the process.



      So I learned making socks on the Knifty Knitter, pretty easy. Felting socks, maybe not the best idea. I'm now working on a purse I will felt and I'll make socks again with a thicker yarn and not felt them.

      I'm loving this Knifty Knitter thing so much! I made another hat that I donated to a hat drive at my work and I have plans for a number of other projects.

      Sunday, November 25, 2007

      Check it out

      I decided if I'm going to raise sheep I should learn to knit. However, I am terrible at keeping the tension even so I decided to try one of those Knifty Knitter looms. It is so easy and quick! In less than 2 hours I made this:




      A hat! I'm so jazzed about this. I'm working on socks now that I'm going to felt, I've never done felting either so it should be an adventure.

      Friday, November 23, 2007

      Local Thanksgiving and DDW Week 6

      We managed to have a mostly local Thanksgiving! All the main ingredients were local with most of the support ingredients being not local. I'm counting it as our week 6 meal since we will be eating it for the next 3 days and nothing else is going to get cooked.



      We started with butternut squash soup for lunch. The butternut and bacon were local. The onion and thyme weren't. I haven't been able to find local onions anywhere, the drought really knocked them out. This soup was glorious, even Mark who claims to not like butternut squash soup loved it!







      For dinner, we had a local turkey from Locust Point Farm. We had to wait in line for over 30 minutes to pick it up. I was thrilled to see so many people eating a local turkey this year!




      Everything on this plate is local. The corn was frozen back in August. The sweet potatoes were given to us by the CSA. And we already talked about the turkey. Not local is all the herbs and spices except the rosemary, which came from my backyard.



      I also made whole wheat rolls using Farm mom's recipe using local Daisy flour and a local egg. The yeast and sugar were not local.



      For dessert we had blackberry crisp with blackberries Logan and I picked and froze in July. The flour in the crisp was local, but the sugar and oats were not. I failed to get a picture of this, it was gone too fast!



      I would put this meal at 75% local, maybe higher depending on if you do it by volume of the ingredients or just number of ingredients. We had quite a few non-local ingredients but they were all the spices, herbs and back up stuff, all used in small amounts. All the main ingredients were local.

      Sunday, November 18, 2007

      Sewing triumph




      I made a vest for Logan, which isn't hard in itself, but I added pockets and a zipper! This is the first time I've done pockets or zippers. It doesn't look great but I'm proud of myself! This opens up so many more options now.
      I also made a hat for Logan. Again it didn't turn out great but it fits and he likes it. Mark actually thought I had bought the hat which was so cool! The way I ended up cutting the fabric none of the designs ended up in the hat. Duh.

      Today was a big sewing day, I finally finished the last 2 pairs of pants I've been needing to make for Logan. He finally has some pants that fit! He is at an in between size where 6/7 is too small and 8/10 is WAY too big. So he will be wearing handmade pants all winter. I still have a bunch of Christmas presents to sew, but that will be another day. Right now, I'm hungry.

      Saturday, November 17, 2007

      DDW - Week 5


      This week we had salad, barbeque chicken breast, and roasted winter veggies.

      The breakdown:

      Salad Mix, red cabbage - CSA, Calvert Farm, 15 miles
      Chicken Breast - Locust Point Farm, 7 miles
      Roasted Winter Veggies - Rutabaga, Carrots, Eggplant - CSA, Calvert Farm

      Not Local:
      Barbeque Sauce
      Herbs on veggies

      Thursday, November 15, 2007

      Grain Mill

      Logan and I went to a program recently where we did things like they did in Colonial days. One of the things we got to do was pick and grind corn to make corn meal. I then brought the corn meal home and made cornbread. It was so good! And that got me thinking how fun it would be to grind my own wheat (sometimes I have weird ideas of what fun is). I started looking at grain mills online and realized they are really expensive! So, I asked for one on freecycle and got one!

      After cleaning it up some I decided to grind some wheat berries I got at the health food store. Here is the mill with some wheat berries in it and some that have been ground.


      Unfortunately, I ran into some problems. The ground wheat was way too big! I turned the plates as close together as I could and still be able to turn the handle. And I was barely able to turn the handle, like it took 2 hands and I could do half a turn at a time before losing momentum. Anyway, even at the tightest I could get it, my "flour" looked like this.


      The grains are still way too big! I put it through a second time but it still pretty much looked like this. So, I decided to try making muffins with it. I was really excited about these muffins. They were going to have flour I ground myself. Pumpkin I picked and cooked myself. And applesauce I made myself from apples I picked myself. I was feeling all self-sufficient and proud.

      But the muffins were unedible. They never cooked all the way through and tasted funny. My guess is the "flour" didn't absorb the moisture since it was such a coarse ground so the muffins never cooked.


      So, I'm not sure what to do. Should I get another grain mill? Just try putting the berries through many times? Give up completely and stick with commercial flour?

      If anyone with grain mill experience has any advice I'd love to hear it! I'm at a loss right now.

      Tuesday, November 13, 2007

      Sweet Potato Bread (again)


      I've seen a lot of requests for sweet potato bread recipes lately. I realize most recipes are the sweeter, cakier type of bread, but I have a recipe for a sandwich bread made with yeast, so I thought I'd repost it. This recipe has been posted before so ignore this post if you've already seen it.


      This bread was incredible! It was by far the best bread I've made and the loaf was gone that night. We've never eaten a whole loaf of bread in 1 night! It was sweet and moist, just perfect. I would highly recommend making this bread. And it was one of the easier one's I've made. I'm going to try making it into rolls for Thanksgiving.


      Sweet Potato Bread

      water - 1 cup

      Unbleached white flour - 1 3/4 cup

      Whole Wheat Pastry Flour - 1 cup

      Instant Yeast - 1 tsp

      mashed sweet potatoes - 3/4 cup

      softened butter - 1 tablespoons

      Unbleached white flour - 1/2 cup

      salt 1/2 TBS


      I peeled and boiled the sweet potatoes until they were falling apart and then I mashed them with a fork. My cup of water came from the pot I boiled the sweet potatoes in.


      In mixing bowl, combine water, potatoes, yeast and 1 3/4 cups white flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour and mix until well combined.

      Add the butter and mix until it is integrated into dough. The dough will still be very soft.

      Cover and let rest on the counter for 20 minutes.

      Add the salt to the dough and spread the 1/2 cup flour on the counter and knead the dough for 4-5 minutes, adding more flour if needed.

      Roll the dough in flour, put it in a clean bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk (about an hour).

      Turn the dough out on a lightly floured counter and shape the loaf.

      Grease the loaf pan.

      Put the shaped loaf in the pan and let rise until doubled in bulk (about an hour).

      Preheat oven to 375°f .

      Bake bread for 35 minutes or until golden brown (~195°f).

      Turn out of pan onto cooling rack for at least an hour.


      Both of my rises took less than an hour (about 35 minutes) but it was 85 in the house (this was over the summer, I haven't made this bread since it got cold).

      We also didn't let the bread cool an hour before eating. We couldn't wait that long.

      Sunday, November 11, 2007

      Cold Frame

      I recently got this on sale and got it set up just before the frost came. I don't know how well it will work since my plants are all in containers but I thought I'd give it a try here and I know it will come in handy once we move. I figured if nothing else it should help some of my potted plants survive until spring, or at least be better than just leaving them sitting out which is what I was going to do.



      Saturday, November 10, 2007

      DDW - Week 4



      This week we had oven fried chicken, sauteed swiss chard and steamed brocolli.

      Breakdown:

      Chicken - Locust Point Farm

      Flour - Daisy Flour

      Swiss Chard - CSA

      Pinenuts - Not local

      Brocolli - CSA

      Spices - Not Local

      The brocolli was getting old, but it still tasted pretty good. I liked the sauteed swiss chard but Mark did not.

      Thursday, November 8, 2007

      Sweet potatoes

      I harvested my sweet potatoes the other day and thought it would be fun to look back over the development of these guys.

      I started my sweet potatoes by growing slips from an organic sweet potato I bought at the store. I got many slips.

      However, only 1 slip actually survived planting, here it is shortly after being planted.

      It grew quickly and made beautiful flowers. At one point it was overflowing the pot and trying to take over the deck! This is what it looked like the day I harvested. You can see a sweet potato coming up out of the dirt.
      My harvest from 1 slip. I have no idea if this is a good harvest from 1 plant but I was happy with it.

      Sunday, November 4, 2007

      CSA

      These are the last 2 weeks of CSA shares.


      The CSA thing has been interesting. Overall, I've enjoyed it. It is fun to see what we are going to get every week and we've gotten a lot of new things (for us). I have felt a lot of pressure to figure out what to do with everything we get. Some of the things I've really been stuck on. I've discovered that Mark is pretty picky on how he will eat veggies, they can't be soft at all!

      When I read the description for this fall CSA they said it would be things like potatoes, brocolli, sweet potatoes, califlower, your traditional fall veggies. Of those things, brocolli is the only one we've gotten. I will admit to be disappointed by that because we really like all those fall veggies here, much more than the traditional summer ones. We are getting so many greens and I didn't expect that from a fall CSA, but I should have now that I know greens love the fall.

      I'm not sure if I would do a CSA again, we really are just too limited in what we like. I think we are better off growing it ourselves or visiting the farmers market and getting exactly what we want and will eat. I hate to admit some things have ended up in the compost because it took me too long to figure out what to do with them.