Monday, August 31, 2015


Something very silly:

Quote for the Week

Conservation is the quickest, cheapest, most practical source of energy.”
~Jimmy Carter

Love love love this quote. As I hear people around me protesting uranium mining and natural gas pipelines, no one talks about conservation of energy and how by conserving energy will reduce the demand and therefore the need for mines, pipelines, and power plants. During the energy crisis, President Carter knew that we could get through it by reducing our consumption but because our society is all about consumption, his strategy fell on deaf ears. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Quote for the Day

“It's everywhere. Guns and violence are in every nook and cranny of America. Many children can get a gun quicker than they can get a book out of the library. That puts us all at risk.”
 ~Marian Wright Edelman

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"

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Quote for the Day

"Simply being with other people who are also seekers and who are involved in the same quest you are is very meaningful."
~Dan Wakefield

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

Seriously? A watermelon stroller...for $200? (The link doesn't work so maybe it's not real? One can hope.)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Farm Update

Corn ready to process
We had visitors at our farm stay yesterday so I didn't have a chance to post a "Farm Friday." This past week has been a time of experimenting, learning, and preparing for the winter season. Last Sunday afternoon I:

  • blanched and froze several cups of green beans
  • prepped some of the green beans and put them in jars to ferment
  • made a sweet and savory tomato jam and water bath canned it
  • prepped the remaining onions
  • chopped and froze some of the onions
  • rescued some of our cabbage and made a vegetarian cabbage lasagna

Later in the week I failed at canning some tomatoes but it was a good learning experience. I ended up buying some new jars and lids, then borrowing my mother-in-law's water bath canner. Next week I'll be putting up some tomatoes, marinara sauce, and salsa. Looking forward to having those during the winter.

I did a quick inventory of what we had in the freezer and I've been using it up or feeding it to the animals. It's hard to determine how much of each food we'll eat in the off season. Having farm animals helps me feel like nothing goes to waste around here.

On Tuesday, Bill discovered that the raccoons were getting into our corn. That was the bad news; the good news was that it was ready to pick so we had corn day a few days earlier than planned. Bill picked and shucked it and I removed the corn silks, then blanched and froze it. 

We had a great day at the market today and, after some rest and recuperation, I made ratatouille from some leftover produce. I also started prepping sweet potatoes to chop and freeze.

Have a great week!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wild Edibles

This morning's breakfast:  farm-fresh eggs over sauteed lambsquarters and corn grits

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a big advocate of wild edibles if you know what you're doing. Whenever in doubt, consult with someone with experience. A couple of good points of wild edibles:  they are wild and don't have to be cultivated (no work plus free) and they contain more nutrients than their domesticated cousins. Plus they're fun to learn about and hunt down. 

Some edibles are extremely easy to recognize and don't have poisonous look-alikes. Everyone knows what dandelions are. And all parts of the plant are edible and nutritious, although the greens are bitter. Lambsquarters is a plant I recently discovered and I love! It's a three season plant here, is a great substitute for spinach, and takes no effort to grow - it is wild after all (plus it stays much cleaner than spinach since it isn't close to the ground). You do need to refrain from eating too much as it's high in oxalic acid, just like spinach.  Wood sorrel is another great plant - it tastes like lemon - and grows across the US. I've made a soup from it and have eaten it raw. I understand it's good for making a beverage that's similar to lemon aid. Sumac is another plant that can be used to make a refreshing lemony beverage. When the berries turn red, harvest them, crush them a bit, then cover with cool water. Let it sit for several hours, strain to remove the tiny hairs and any other debris, then refrigerate. Make sure to harvest when the weather has been dry because rain will wash off the coating that gives it the distinctive taste. It doesn't look like poisonous sumac which has white berries..

This article on Real Farmacy mentions two wild edibles I've yet to try:  sheep sorrel and thistles. I've yet to locate any sheep sorrel on our farm - maybe because our soil tends to be clay rather than sand. I've seen - and pulled - many thistles but never realized the ribs of the leaves are edible. This will probably be my next project.

Monday, August 3, 2015


Anyone who lives with a cat knows how they like to explore new territory. I had just put this basket on the floor as a reminder to take it to the basement when Fabs discovered it and decided to make it his own:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Quote for the Day

"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."
~Aldo Leopold

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Farm Update

We always have beautiful sunsets at our house
Summer is a great time on the farm, with lots of juicy produce available - tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, peppers, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc. I've been off schedule for the last couple of weeks, mainly due to the loss of my dear girl Ginny plus we had Melanie, our farm intern, staying with us. So I have a quick recap of random events from the past week, plus a little bit on plans for the coming week.

We worked the new market on Tuesday - the third week. The sky opened up as we were setting up and we thought the afternoon would be a total wash out. Turns out we had some dedicated shoppers who showed up to buy fresh food and flowers even in the rain. The rain stopped not long before the official closing time and more people ventured out. It ended up a pretty decent market day.

I made a delicious zucchini and blueberry bread using dried blueberries that I rehydrated in hot water. Next year I should be able to make it using our own fresh blueberries. Next I want to try a zucchini cranberry bread - maybe even add some pecans.

Melanie spent a lot of time cooking for us. She's a vegan and I told her I knew that meant I could and would eat anything she made. She was quite creative with her cooking and I tried some new combinations I would not have considered.

We had our big market day today. The market got off to a slow start but it picked up. We ended up selling out of almost all the produce we brought plus we sold a few other items, such as my cookbook, bug bite salve, herbs, and sausage.

Processed chicken-of-the-woods mushroom waiting to be cooked
On our regular evening walk, Bill spotted a chicken-of-the-woods mushroom growing in the spot we found one last year. I cleaned it up and will be preparing it tomorrow. I got this book in the mail just in time to try out new recipes using the mushroom:

Over the next few days, I'll be canning and freezing some of our surplus produce for the winter. I'm determined that this year we will reduce more of our food purchases and rely more on what we've put up. We had a few tomatoes left over from the market so I'm going to try a tomato jam. I also have some green beans that didn't sell at our Tuesday market so I'll be putting those up tomorrow. I pulled out an old cookbook with lots of vegetarian dishes and I'll be trying a few new ones with leftover eggplant. Of course, I'll cook and freeze some of the mushroom we harvested (it weight 4 pounds!).

Have a great week!