Friday, August 28, 2015

Farm Friday

The Lynchburg Wednesday "Green Market"

This has been yet another successful homesteading week. Our farm stay guests left on Sunday and I started cleaning the house in preparation for a birthday party for our friends' toddler daughter on Saturday. She loves the goats and the wide open spaces so we we're happy they asked if the party could be here.

I've been trying to find ways to cut down on our need to purchase food from the store and to use more of what we grow. Not that we waste anything. In fact, we have four containers on our counter: scraps for the pigs, scraps for the chickens, scraps for compost, and tea leaves and coffee grounds for the worms. But I've tried to start thinking outside the box and get away from actual boxed/canned/jarred foods.

One thing I was reminded of when our intern was here is that it's really not that difficult to be vegan. I've really disliked buying dairy products because, even though I'm not eating meat, I'm still supporting animal cruelty. I tried purchasing milk from a Virginia dairy that sells in reusable glass bottles. But I realized that even if that dairy refrains from animal cruelty, I'm still supporting Big Ag, the very people who try to stop small traditional, sustainable farmers from any progress. I mainly buy milk for Bill's coffee and then use the remainder for baking. He told me he really doesn't need the milk for his coffee and I've often substituted homemade rice milk in many recipes. I've even made cornbread where I substituted plain water for the milk and it came out fine.

Some of my cooking adventures:

  • Baked crackers - will try again using parchment paper to prevent sticking
  • Learned I could save and toast squash and watermelon seeds. 
  • Fermented mung bean sprouts
  • Made a new okra, potato, and tomato recipe
  • Made fried okra patties

We took a little time off and drove to Lynchburg to check out their Wednesday farmers' market which is a producer-only market. Two nearby farms vend there so we were curious what it had to offer. We had a nice lunch at The White Hart Cafe, stopped at a consignment shop (where I looked for a few things for the farm stay but didn't buy anything), and then headed home to chores.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Guns and False Security

Today there was a senseless (of course they all are) shooting about an hour from my home. I happened to see the "trending" panel in my timeline on facebook about an hour after the Moneta shooting. I've also seen the back and forth bickering between the pro- and anti-gun people and doubt I will change anyone's mind on the subject but, since it's an extremely important one, I'll give my two cents worth.

I'm a Quaker. I believe in non-violence. Violence only creates more violence. And, for the most part, don't like guns. I see very few reasons for gun ownership. And even then, I think it should be mainly for hunting - if you eat the meat. The problem is most gun owners don't hunt or if they do, they consider it for "sport." Nor do most owners really know how to use a gun for self protection. They like the idea of owning a gun. It makes them feel "safe" and "tough." But, as I said, most people don't really know how to use the gun they own so in a situation where they would need it for protection, they would be useless - or dangerous. Even if they know a bit about how to properly use it, in most situations where they would feel the need to use it, they would either be taken by surprise or not have their gun with them. So it's a false illusion of safety.

The tragic situation with the reporter, the camera man, and the business woman, had any one or even all three of them been carrying, they would not have been able to react in time. I saw the live footage. They were taken by surprise and they were busy:  microphone and camera in hand and minds on the situation, not on the surroundings. How could they have stopped the shooter? And even if one of them could have reacted after the shooting, the point would have been moot as the damage would have been done and the shooter ended up killing himself anyway. How could an additional gun or guns have turned this into a positive situation?

All this posturing about this being an example of how it could have turned out differently had someone been carrying makes no sense. The three victims would have still been victims regardless of additional guns. While it's true that criminals don't respect gun laws, it's also true that many of the guns that kill are owned by those who wouldn't be considered criminals. Often guns are stolen and end up in the wrong hands. Sometimes mishandled guns result in accidents. And sometimes people who appear sane end up committing insane acts. 

We need to admit that gun ownership rarely translates into safety but often turns into tragedy. This culture of gun worship needs to end. In my area there is a gun store called "Point Blank"; it makes me ill to see the sign. What is worse is another gun shop that opened earlier this year, with a newspaper article saying the owners share "a love for guns and Jesus." Their main product:  an assault rifle. 

How does this make any sense?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Quote for the Day

The Roots of Violence: 

Wealth without work, 
Pleasure without conscience, 
Knowledge without character, 
Commerce without morality, 
Science without humanity, 
Worship without sacrifice, 
Politics without principles.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Farm Friday

Making "sun"-dried tomatoes

Tomato powder from tomato skins

Salsa and marinara sauce
The last two weeks have been so productive I've barely had time to blog - hence the lack of a "Farm Friday" or "Farm Update" last week. I recently texted my daughter that I was looking forward to winter. Her reply? "Who are you and what have you done with my mother?"

Here's some of what I've been up to, in no particular order:

  • Learned to water bath can and made marinara sauce, salsa, tomatoes, tomato juice,and pickled okra. I borrowed a water bath canner but it didn't have a lid. I improvised and ended up steam burning my arm. Thank goodness for aloe vera plants and my bug bite salve which has lots of anti-inflammatory and healing properties. A canner is on my wish list for next year since I've pretty much finished out this year's canning season.
  • Also made tomato jam and watermelon jelly. This led me to the next activity...
  • Researched pH meters as I'm not quite sure the jam and jelly were acidic enough. The jam most likely is but maybe not the jelly. Since I'm not sure, I'm also refrigerating them.
  • Made tomato powder (which can be reconstituted into tomato paste, tomato sauce, and tomato juice) from tomato skins removed to can tomatoes
  • Used up some frozen bread ends to make plain and Italian breadcrumbs
  • Chopped and froze 3 quarts of bell peppers
  • Hosted our monthly Piedmont Sustainable Living group - we had a good crowd over to learn about wine making.
  • Worked both farmers' markets
  • Hosted a family at our farm stay
  • Fielded two inquiries about our farm stay
  • Accepted reservations for farm stay guests this weekend - a quick turnaround time as today I'll have to clean the house immediately after our current guests leave.
  • Made a delicious roasted dish with potatoes, garlic, red onions, and lambsquarters. If last year was the year of wild mushrooms, this is the year of lambsquarters. Love those three season weeds!
  • Took my SUV to the shop for transmission work (she's 12 years old and has over 200,000 miles on her so she's been a good vehicle). The dealership kept telling me that it was something other than the transmission. They did repairs and I still had the same problem. The transmission shop immediately diagnosed the problem - and described exactly what I've been experiencing. I do think part of the problem is the men at the dealership tend to not listen to women, whereas the transmission shop is owned by a woman. Not the first time sexism has resulted in my not getting acceptable results from a business.
  • As part of our homesteading journey, we try to create as little waste as possible. When we return from a farmers' market, I survey what we have left over and determine what I can make or preserve and what I can't.
  • I've been using up not perfect tomatoes to make an Arab dish called "Shakshouka" that one of our summer interns taught me years ago. Her version is slightly different than what I've found on the internet. It's a great way to use tomatoes. It is time consuming as you have to cook down the tomatoes first so I made a double batch of the tomatoes on Wednesday and was able to make a quick dish on Thursday. Another way I saved was to use the tomato skins left over from canning to make tomato powder.
  • We also cut down on waste by feeding leftovers to our animals and composting what they can't eat. We also feed tea leaves and coffee grounds to the worms in our worm bin.
  • Baked 4 loaves of bread. My bread wasn't rising as much as it should lately and now I know it's a combination of flour that is a little heavy and using too much water.
  • Cooked and ate delicata squash for the first time. I love that they're easy to cut, have a delicious taste, and unlike other winter squash, the skin can be eaten.
  • Made a new home cleaning recipe - a toilet bowl cleaner - that I like so far. I'm still working on having to buy fewer specialty items and instead to buy some basic ingredients in bulk and make my own products.
  • Was running out of some of my other home products, so mixed up a couple of batches of face cleaner, countertop cleaner, and toothpaste.
  • Learning that it's okay to enjoy your job. In our culture, we're taught that "work" should be something that's undesirable and distasteful. But I'm learning that when you do meaningful, productive work - such as running a farm and homesteading - you shouldn't feel guilty about liking it!
Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Saying No and Getting More

Consumption - this was once considered a scary word. Consumption mean you were ill and likely to die. Fast forward a few decades and people are now regularly called "consumers" and we're encouraged to engage in consumption, a practice and a word that is still scary and leads to sickness. Sickness for the planet and for the people who chase the illusive happiness that consumerism promises but never delivers. This article is a good reminder of all that we miss out on when we're engaged in the consumer world. When we say no and opt out of the world of consumption, we're saying yes to so much more.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

Seen on Distractify's Facebook page:

"Look before you leap"