Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

August 29, 2008

And now...I'm sick.

I was actually sick yesterday too, just barely though, a bit of head congestion. Today, however, I'm like a stuffed bear, with a head full of cotton! Why do these things always come around a weekend, just in time to keep me suffering through the chores that need to be done.

I'm hoping to finish some side-yard clean up this weekend that needs to be done. My compost pile that was very nice last year, is sorely lacking this year. I want to build a proper two compartment one where I can put my bags of chicken manure, and get order to my random piles of greens. The other side-yard task that I need to do is to make a place for my barrel composter. (Which has dried out and needs to be dampened and turned as well.)
I also want to try out another no knead bread recipe with Sourdough. I picked up a recipe from a member of the FreedomGardens.org website and I really want to try it out for my second Campfire-baked bread experiment. And finally, I am going to try out making a bit of sauerkraut from some late season cabbage that I pulled just the other day.
If I get a chance, actually I'll probably have to make a chance just to catch my breath, I wanted to do a little reading in a new book I picked up. It's called "Everything I want to do is illegal: War stories from the local food front" by Joel Salatin of Polyface farm. If you've read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" that name should ring a bell, if you haven't, well, what are you waiting for!
Hope you all have a productive, fun and safe Labor Day weekend (if your in the US, of course).
Grown on!

August 28, 2008

I had a great time

Really, I did, what a blast! And guess what? I think I came out sounding pretty good for a first time out. I would definitely be open to doing it again. The host Doug Fabrizio and producer Elaine were really a pleasure to talk with and made me feel really comfortable. You can find a link to the audio of the interview here, and the show will be broadcast again tonight at 7:00 PM MST.
I also had the opportunity to be on the show with Sharon Astyk, author and blogger (you can read her blog HERE.) whose writing I've enjoyed for some time and Steven, (I'm sorry I can't remember the last name) owner of a local specialty foods market. I think the discussion went very well, and there really seemed to be an interest in the topic. My biggest hope with suggesting this program was to get a little more dialogue going, particularly in Davis county where I live, and to bring attention to the movement of people that are doing this stuff.

If your just visiting this site for the first time, or are very new, I hope you'll take a minute to read a post I put up just a little while back that gives a pretty good idea what I'm all about. I hope you'll stop by more often and join me in this discussion and even share your triumphs or failures.
Welcome and "Grow On!"

August 27, 2008

This is a first

Well I've really gone and done it now.
There's a radio show by the name of Radiowest that's on our local NPR affiliate that I listen to fairly regularly. A few weeks ago I sent them a suggestion for a program to talk about the movement that I see going on nationally around food and in particular people like myself that are trying to move towards producing more of there own foods. You know, oddballs like us that actually want to spend our evenings in our yards growing food, or feeding chickens. We, who spend hot summer afternoons in even hotter yet kitchens preserving our harvests for enjoyment later. Well guess what, they liked the idea and the show will air tomorrow afternoon.

I know, you're thinking "What? What did you do?". Well, actually nothing bad, quite the opposite. I've gone and gotten myself invited to be a part of the program! Yep, I'm gonna be on the radio tomorrow afternoon at 11:00 MST to share my experiences about homesteading and the new Victory Garden movement. This will be my first experience with being on the radio so, with any luck, I won't end up sounding like a buffoon.
If your interested, and your in the Salt Lake area, you can tune in for the program at 11:00 on 90.1 FM. Otherwise, the station does stream online HERE.
Wish me luck!

August 25, 2008

'Maters,'maters and oh yeah...more maters

Is there any fruit/veggie that more concisely epitomizes the desire of all summer gardeners that the tomato? Any one crop that can bring such joy or such heartache as this one? If there is, then I'm not aware of it. And this year I've had a bit of both. These ruddy beauties are the Hamson heirloom semi-determinant variety that I decided to try this year. They are both good and bad.
They are good in that, as you can see, they are fairly prolific. They are not an early tomato, so I did end up waiting a bit for these to start, but they have yielded pretty well so far. They are also great for salsas, sauces and such as they are meaty and moist, with thin skins. However, the down side is that one of the main areas that I wanted these to fill was our summer "italian night" dinners that we love to have. We cut some salami, and have toasted baguette with olive tapenade, mozerella and fresh tomato and basil with some olive oil and vinegar. It's a snackers paradise! These tomatoes did not fill this niche very well. They are good, but not as a slicing tomato. Almost every one has cracked severely on the top and/or has a scab on the bottom. These need to be cut out and do not make for good slicers. I do think I will grow them again, but strictly for canning and salsas.

My other source of much dismay has been this seeming beauty. Oh yeah, it's ripe, and clean and hopefully tasty (I just picked it tonight.) But it is one of just over a 1/2 doz tomatoes that set up on four different plants. Hardly what I would call a prolific bearer. It's a brandywine tomato, and it's my first year planting them. I've heard such good things about them that I really had high hopes. This year did not live up to them. On the up side though, I just picked it tonight and this one Tom alone, weighed in at just barely shy of a pound! Not bad.

And I thought on the 'mater subject I leave you with this question. How do you know when your hopelessly, helplessly addicted to vegetable gardening? Well, you know when you have a tomato plant growing in your office.
Yep, I'm that hooked. My name is P~ and I'm addicted to growing. This plant has a funny story too. I had an avocado plant starting late last year and brought this pot from home with some compost in it to use for transplanting. As it turns out, there was a volunteer plant in there just wanting to get out. Of course I let it go.

So, how are you tomatoes coming along? Are you nearing the end of your season yet? Planning anything to prolong it?

Good luck with these little suckers.

August 24, 2008

Local produce, Campfire-Baking and Canning info

This weekend was another busy one. I took Friday off, as I had already met my hours required for the week and we ran errands all day; and I do mean all day! One of the tasks we decided to do was to make a stop by our local you-pick-it farm. They are not an organic farm unfortunately, but I think supporting our local small scale agriculture is more important, not to mention the HUGE savings that we're able to get from it. Check out this haul.Clockwise from the bottom left we got Ancho chilis (to be roasted and frozen for salsas later), jalapenos (also to be roasted and turned magically into chipolte peppers), Yellow wax peppers, Black Beauty eggplants (made ratatouille this afternoon), Green Bell Peppers, Yellow Bells, and Big Jim green chili's (to be steamed and canned for later use.) All together we got two full bushels of veggies. Guess how much? Go on, bet you can't get it?? Twenty bucks total! Ten dollars a bushel of whatever we can get in the box.
We had some shopping to do later that afternoon so we checked on the going prices and we estimate the store value to be approx. $128.00. So if you count the time we put in, which was about an hour total from the time we left the house till we got back, we made a little over $50.00/hr. each. I can live with that!
An observation that A~ and I made to each other while we were there was that there was so much diversity of people there. We saw Asians, Eastern European and of course Mexican families there along with us. Sadly, we were one of only two families of what might be called the UT majority, i.e. non-immigrant whites. I think we have a lot we could learn from some of our immigrant neighbors on this front. I won't get into the issues of legality or immigration policy here because that's not what this blog is about, suffice it to say I have strong opinions. My point here is that these are families that are, generally speaking, on the lower end of the income scale. When we see them doing certain things, like sharing rides, harvesting their own foods and cooking fresh meals and not wasting them, you can bet those are pretty good ideas for someone wanting to live a little more frugally. Our standards of living are, in much of the world, in the top 5 to 10 percent overall. I think this has made us a bit lazy. That's all fine and good in a world of plenty, but I think we can all see that to at least some degree those times are creeping into extinction. Enough on that for this post, you get my point I think.

I alluded to having been inspired by our success with our outdoor Campfire-canning (as I like to call it), and as a matter of fact we did another batch of 4 qts and 1 pint of dill pickles this weekend using that method, what I was talking about was wanting to try my hand at baking some NY Times no-knead bread over the fire.I made sure that since this was a food product that was going to be exposed somewhat directly to the smoke from the fire, to use clean wood and not OSB or other treated woods for this. I burnt down a good deal of coals, and placed our large cast iron stove on them to preheat. After prepping the loaf and coating the bottom with cornmeal (to reduce sticking and allow me to slide it off the cutting board) I dropped it into the pot and placed a few coals on top.
And here's the finished product. You can see that the pot was a little too hot by the thick, blackened bottom, and the little too-dark top crust. All in all though I'd say it wasn't an all out loss. The texture and crumb of the bread was very good. Perhaps a slight bit more undercooked than I'd have liked, but the taste was the best I've made yet. It had a very similar taste to the sourdough pancakes that we eat for Saturday breakfasts. Not necessarily a true sourdough but a very bready taste. I attribute it to the longer time I allowed it to sit before the first forming. For the novice bread bakers out there time equals flavor and that's the real strength of this recipe, it's ability to be slowly made. To help you plan your bread making with this recipe check out my NY Times bread planning scheduler.
And last but not least, for Sandy, a quick bit of wisdom on starting to can. First off we, A~ and I both, are still novice canners. I think the best advice I can give is to not be afraid and to research, research, research. And after you research it thoroughly, respect what you find out. If the recipe calls for 'X' amount of sugar or vinegar or to cook it for 'X' amount of time then add the called for sugar or vinegar and cook it for the right amount of time. Canning your harvest is a great way to preserve your hard work for later enjoyment and it's really nothing to be afraid of with care and attention to detail. One book that A~ and I picked up from the library this year and have really been enjoying is the "Ball Complete book of Home Preserving" (seen below).
I've also read very good things about Balls, "Blue Book of Preserving". You learn about these books or find great resources on their web site as well. Another great resource is Causabons book, a blog with very detailed and concise information on not only canning, but dehydrating, freezing and myriad other food storage and peak oil survival information.
And now that we're up to date on my weekend, how was yours? Hope it was as fun and productive as mine.
Till tomorrow.

August 22, 2008

Local Salt - The Processing

This is a post I've been meaning to get to for some time now. Do you remember earlier in the month when I talked about gathering local salt from the shoreline of the evaporation ponds of the Great Salt Lake? Well, that salt, pure as it is, is not clean enough to be used for consumption. If you look at the close-up picture of the raw salt, you will see small particulates of dirt and what not. These need to be removed, at least before I'm willing to use it! So let's talk about how I went about doing that. First off, we started with 8 oz of the raw salt crystals.

The best way I could reason to clean the salt was to first mix it into a 100% saline solution. This is done by adding salt to water until the water can hold no more dissolved salt. We added the water to the salt in a dark colored pot. (I apologize that I've lost the exact quantity of water, but I believe it was either 2 1/4 or 2 1/2 cups of warm water.) The reason I mixed it in a dark pot was so that I could easily see if their were still un-dissolved crystals at the bottom. Once I had this 100% saline solution, I lined a metal sieve with a fine cloth. For this I used some scrap textured polyester cloth similar to polo shirt material. I did this multiple times, cleaning the cloth in between, to remove the particulates and to give me a clean solution. I used polyester fabric because I didn't want it to soak up the solution that I was running through it.
After filtering the particulates out, I brought the saline solution to a rolling boil for a while. Not too scientific here, heat kills bad stuff, and evaporates water, and those things are what I wanted to do.
After the boiling solution started to form floating crystal "rafts" on top, I reduced the heat to a constant simmer and kept an eye on it. We did this in a fairly wide bottom pan so that there was a lot of surface area for evaporating from . You can see above, that the crystals had started forming a more solid brain shaped pattern. It was pretty cool to watch actually. When the salt was to this point, I was worried about burning it, or scorching the bottom of the pan so I removed it to complete drying in the air. I chopped it up quite a bit and continued stirring it while the pot cooled down. No need to waste that heat after all.
The final step was to move the salt to a foil lined tray and let it sit out in the summer heat of the kitchen for a couple of days. (I did cover it with a paper towel by the way.) A few days later, I slid the cleaned salt off of the foil and into a zip lock and into the spice cabinet.

The texture of this salt is much like that of the packaged popcorn salt, or pickling salt that you can buy. Taste? Well, honestly it tastes like... salt, but that's what it's supposed to taste like. filtered, cleaned, and processed salt. And totally local too! How many can say that huh? Since this is a zero iodine salt, it will be great for pickling so I'm going to use some of this soon to turn a bit of my homegrown cabbage into sauerkraut.

Hope you liked my experiment, I had a really good time with it!


August 21, 2008

Harvest Savers 8-21-08

This weekend past, and yes I apologize for my neglect this week, I had a deadline at work that needed to be met today and well, let's just say that I had my hours for the week plus a few for next week in the bag by this afternoon so I was a bit preoccupied working to support my gardening habit. But as I was saying; this past weekend, we were able to put up a few more jars of food from the garden. Our boys loved the bread and butter pickles that we put up last year, and begged us to make more so with our first harvest of our pickle cucumbers we made 4 quarts of them. A~ worked hard on Sunday, while I was actually at the office for a few hours. When I returned she surprised me with those two quarts of red goodness. Pickled beets! I can't wait to break into those babies. She also took 6 pounds of our hamson and san marzano tomatoes and made a great smelling spaghetti sauce that we canned. Three pint jars full and one nearly full that we'll be eating soon.
We also did something a little different this time.

We used our fire pit for the hot water bath method that we used to can with. It was all very "Little house on the prairie". The last time we did any major canning, we noted how much it raised the temperature of the house. Since we have been trying to use as many passive cooling methods as possible to keep the inside temps down, we didn't want to heat it up just to can a few quarts. A~ had gotten a good start already on the prep work in the kitchen, and I had gotten the pot set up as seen above and started the fire. Our 10 and 11 year boys were placed in charge of this and that was their contribution to the process. (I have to add here, that keeping a fire and respecting it is something we have worked on with them for some time, and at no time were they unsupervised for very long.) Using the fire worked very well and allowed us to burn off some scrap OSB that we had laying around.

Now that I realized that our fire pit can be used for more than just roasting marshmallows, I have a couple of things that I think I'll try out with it. Stay posted for that. I should have a few good "catch-up" posts that I've been meaning to get around to this weekend.

Thanks for the patience,


August 19, 2008

400 already?

I realized late last night that I have just hit Four hundred posts here. Four Hundred in 532 days of blogging and nearly 22,000 visitors. Not too shabby I guess huh? Glad you've all decided to come along for the ride!
I'm a little sleep deprived tonight, so I'll have to just coast on this for now. See you tomorrow.

Update on the bees

I knew I had the smartest readers in the known world!!

Less than 9 hrs later and I know what bees I have. Thanks to gintoino’s comment on last night’s post calling the little bees that I have “horned  bees”, I was able to cross reference that common name to find that they are “officially” called Peponapis pruinosa or “squash bees”. Which definitely applies since I find them every morning bunched up inside my zucchinis and pumpkin blossoms.

Thanks for the help gintoino, good call!


August 18, 2008

Oh, life on the farm

"...It's kinda laid back
Aint nothing a country boy, like me can't hack...
Early to rise, early in the sack, Thank God I'm a country boy..."
C'mon, you know you love that song! I couldn't help myself from humming it this afternoon while I was watching the chooks ranging around the 'stead. It was one of "those" moments ;-)
And check out this little guy. Just posing on our volunteer sunflower. I've been paying a lot of attention to the bees this year, and have noticed something odd. They sleep in the garden. Any of you have any knowledge of this? I've never heard of such a thing. Are these Mason bees? I've heard a lot about them, but I can't identify them for sure. These little pollinators are approximately 1/4 inch long, and like I said, they sleep literally in the flowers. This blossom became a sort of apiarian dormitory. I took this photo just about the time that the sun was getting ready to set and the bees had started to settle down. You can see how they have all of their heads facing down into the crook of the flower and are very calm. Is that the oddest thing or what? I guess their is no greater testimony to a healthy garden though, than one where the insects not only visit, but decide to bunk for the night. They're welcome anytime!

August 17, 2008

simple...not easy

This weekend we did a lot of work around the house. Cleaning out the garage, pulling weeds, double digging beds, harvesting and canning spaghetti sauce, pickles and beets and making more progress toward our garden expansion goals for next year. It wears you out some days you know.

As I was working the garden beds this evening I was thinking to myself that this decision that A~ and I made last year to simplify our life together; to take more ownership of our food supply and to live a little lighter is a complex one. To say it plainly, it's called "simple living"...not "easy living". Oh we could just go about our way like everyone , maybe just have a little kitchen garden for some fresh tomatoes and peppers, you know, a hobby garden. But we chose to go big. Last year we headed off down a path that I don't think we really know where it ends and is a hard one to follow. We do, however, believe that it is what will be best for us and our family in the long run. Are we 100% in all of our goals? No. Are we improving every month? Yes.

I see around us, both in the neighborhood, and in the online communities, a surge in interest in this way of living. I want to make sure that, amidst pretty pictures of garden harvests and homemade goods, I give a realistic perspective on this stuff. It's a lot of hard work. There are times when we're tired or have an ache, or really just aren't motivated to get out and do what needs to be done. Plenty too are the times when we, or more specifically I, have to talk myself into completing the project I'm in the middle of because I'm just tired. This isn't our living, that takes the first half of the day. This is extra.

The rewards are plentiful though and are what really makes it all worth it. The surprise of gathering in fresh eggs everyday, taking our "garden walk" together every night after dinner or watching our boys learn responsibility and work ethic through caring for our animals and working in the yard. A~ and I enjoy exploring this journey together and learning what we can do and produce on our own and I think we're constantly surprised at just how independent we really can be. So be realistic if your thinking about taking these challenges on, but be optimistic too. It can be done, it can be enjoyed, but it will take effort and a measure of dedication.

Good luck and Grow On!

Reuse and Recycle

I thought I'd showcase a couple of great finds that A~ picked up at our local thrift store and surprised me with. We really like to take advantage of reused and recycled items around our house. It helps us to stretch a dollar, which we all know are getting pretty tight nowadays, and it feels good to know that we are helping to conserve resources at the same time.
Check out these bushel baskets that we got. They're a bit dry but are in otherwise very good condition. I had been using a basket that I picked up at the same thrift store until just recently but, with the HUGE hauls of food that I've been getting... naw just kidding, actually the handle broke off the basket. Although no doubt this was due to the poundage right? Anyway, we scored these babies for a buck a piece. Great deal!

Since we've been really been trying to put up the stuff we've been growing, we have noticed how expensive it is to buy these suckers new. I mean, yeah, we have bought them new. But if we can buy 10 of the quart size jars for $2.50 then you can bet we're all over it. On a side note, we always saw a glut of these in years past when we weren't really canning much but now, they always seem to be snatched up right away. It sucks if your in the market for some, but I'm really glad to see that more people are putting up food.
And my pride and joy. The Precision Garden Seeder. This is one of the coolest little gadgets. My boys saw this and somehow knew what the heck it was. It's a little big for the scale of gardening that I'm doing currently, but truth be told, I have aspirations of grandeur that some day I'll have some land and you can bet this baby will be in full use.
I wonder what these things go for new. This one was only 6 bucks and there's not a thing wrong with it.
Have any of you ever used one of these? They have interchangeable seed gears on the inside to allow them to be used for different types of seed.
Well, that's about it for tonight. It was a long day today, working on cleaning out our garage and straightening up around the house and tomorrow hold more of the same. Time to get some late season stuff into the ground you know. Plus it's about time we get serious about our expansion to liberate some lawn.
Till next time.

August 15, 2008

The girls...

Well, as promised I thought it was time to post an update to how my girls are doing. I have to say that I am very happy that we decided to mail order our chooks. (Australian term for chickens. I just love it... sounds just like the noise they make... chook chook...) anyway as I was saying. I'm glad we decided to order them a month and a half before our local farm store was going to get them in. The white leghorns that we got in first started laying over a month ago and have been providing us with a consistent 3 eggs a day.
This is big momma, she runs the roost around here, and is really the only one that has a name. She matured before the others, and started the laying off first as well.
And here is one of the brown leghorns that are just hitting the 19 - 20 week mark and are starting to lay now too. These girls came from the farm store and if we had waited until they came in, we wouldn't have gotten any eggs yet but maybe one or two. Timing is everything isn't it?
Here's the browns again. They pretty much just sit around and watch what the whites do. Then when the whites are done, they do the same thing. After the picking on they got when being introduced the "pecking order" is pretty well ingrained in them.
They sure are nice to take pics of though. I have to say that now that we've had the chooks for a bit they are everything I'd hoped. (but friendly) they don't make noise, they give me healthy, tasty eggs, and their fun as heck to watch. The City Counsel here finally accepted the draft of the Title X change that is pending with the chicken law amendments in it. The first "reading" will be on Sept 9th, and hopefully they'll vote on it then too. A little at a time, I'll get them legal eventually.

Have a great Friday all, more to come this weekend. Sooo Many chores.
Take care!

August 13, 2008

2008 Garden update - Aug 13th

Time for another Garden Update.
In the last week and a half or so, the garden has really started to come up to where I thought it should be a couple of weeks ago. Long spring, and sudden hot summer really prolonged the growth spurt, but it seems to be here now.I thought you guys might like to see what it is that the whole raised bed section of the garden looks like in context, rather than just a pic here and one there. If you click the picture you can see the full sized version that I seamed together.

These are the Hamson tomatoes that I decided to try out this year. They're tasty, but the tops have all been split to as least some degree so they don't really make a great slicing tomato. But for salsa... perfect. They're also a semi-determinant variety so I get quite a few at a time as you can see. This picture was taken just after I pulled about five or six ripe toms from the plants.
Another late comer, but a very welcome one to the garden is the green bells. This one is forming just perfectly, and there are another 4-6 of them staggered just behind it, so as usual it'll be feast or famine.
Here's a late cabbage that I honestly didn't think would head up, because of the heat, but the fence that's just behind it and blocks the morning sun, combined with the shade of the apple tree that's west of it, must put it in just the right micro-climate to benefit it. No complaints here.
And speaking of the apple tree, it's piled full on a lot of the branches. One problem, the organic methods I tried to keep the bugs out either didn't work, or more likely I was not diligent enough with them. Either way, the apples will make fine applesauce and/or pies.
Above is Mount Squash. There are four pumpkin plants in there, and two butternut's. I the middle I placed one of the wire trellis systems that I used for my peas earlier in the year. The vines have taken it over and then some.
Here's one of the pumpkins that have set successful. There are a couple of them buried in there.
I planted marigolds to help attract bees and beneficial insects this year. Here is one of the ones that I started from seed. It grew a lot slower to start with and took forever to set a flower, but that sucker is two and a half feet tall. Are they supposed to be that big?
And on to the pickles which finally set. Now I'll be swimming in them soon enough. This is the first year for us actually growing pickling cukes. I pulled the first few pounds of them today and their very very tasty, can't wait to pickle some.

So, there you go, a bit of eye candy and a little catch up with what's been going on in the Freedom Garden. Tomorrow I'll get up some pictures of the girls, they've been laying consistently, and as a matter of fact, the younger ones that I got as a second batch are just starting to. Fun stuff.
See you tomorrow.

Movie wish list

I found a movie trailer online today that I'm really excited about watching. I don't believe that it's out on dvd yet, but I'll be checking into it further. In the mean time check out a trailer for it.

if you have problem viewing through your reader, check it out HERE

It's a story that needs to be told in my opinion. The agricultural system in the U.S. is broken. It's still getting the food to us, sure, but in reality it's broken. Any time an industry cannot support itself purely on it's products, but must subsist off government subsidies while delivering a sub-par product that industry, in my opinion, is not viable and must be changed.

Stuck on Stupid

I just love that saying, sometimes it just says it all! I’ve often thought of using it as a title for a post, but until now I didn’t have anything that was just quite dumb enough. Well thank you Utah State officials for providing me with it. Last night’s newscast had this story in it and while watching it A~ and I did a “WHAT?” in unison.

It seems that in Utah, the second driest state in the Nation (“Except for its neighbor to the west, Nevada, Utah receives less annual average precipitation (13 inches) than any of the 50 states” ref: Division of Water Resources). A state where the State Division of Water Resources State Water Plan,  January 1990 states: “Significant water use reductions can be achieved when people understand the reasons to conserve. Water conservation can be pursued through two basic strategies: (1) More efficient operation of the storage and delivery facilities by the water provider to increase supply; and (2) more efficient use by users to reduce demand.”; it is illegal to collect and store for use rainwater. Doesn’t collecting and using your own rainwater for landscaping or other uses seem like “efficient use by users” to them? Not trying change that kind of law is just plain “Stuck on Stupid.” Hopefully now that the issue has seen the light of day we can get this kind of thing changed.

Agree? Disagree? Where do you stand?


August 12, 2008

Tired and Frustrated

Sorry, no big post tonight. I'm tired, and I have to get up early to get in early; deadline to make in the "real world" at least until I figure out how to get paid for this writing thing. Any suggestions? ;-)
I'm also frustrated. I seem to have an impending conflict coming with my local ordanance enforcement officer. I guess my sideyard, is not necessarily entirely mine. If I put lumber there that I've just acquired for a backyard project, or pile some sod cuttings from the backyard I am considered a "nuisance" and given notice to clean it up. I'm not even in an HOA!
*$#!!)#%**@#. Awe heck, cussing won't help I guess. Time to get familiar with the ordinances.
Be well all.

August 11, 2008

Reduce - Energy and Fuel

We received our power bill yesterday and I have some great news to share. Below are the stats as I've received them:
July - Aug 07July - Aug 08
Are they the lowest power usage amounts in the world? No. The thing I am proud of though is the fact that there is a consistent down trending there. Take a look at the usage on the left from last year. You can see that we used 2501 kWh throughout the billing period, but what's really important though is the Avg kWh per day use because the number of days billed can vary from year to year and that number is 69, down 4 kWh from the year before. That reduction was last year when we had just begun to pay attention to our habits, and our power footprint. This year (graph on the right), I'm proud to say that we were able to increase that reduction further, by dropping another 14 kWh from even last years totals.

That reduction means a lot of things. First, of course, is the fact that we are truly beginning to walk the walk more in our everyday lives and this is a sort of validation to ourselves. Secondly, it is realized in actual dollars. This savings translates to nearly $70.00 for this billing cycle alone. When you're able to make these types of changes, it translates into serious savings throughout the year. Which brings me to the last thing that this means to me. By reducing our use, we begin to put ourselves in a place to be less impacted in the future by rising costs. That, more that probably any other one thing, is the reason that we try to strive toward these changes.

On a related note, I had to put gas into my old Toyota last Friday. Big news huh? Well, actually it really is. You see, the last time I had had to put any fuel into that car was on June 9th. So that's two months of driving on a 10 gallon tank. Not too shabby huh? Mostly that's due to the fact that I've had a little over three weeks of bike commuting so far this summer. Not as much as I'd have liked to have had, but it makes a difference.

I guess the biggest point of all the efforts that we make is just that, "we're making an effort." It's about trying things out, seeing what fits your life, and what changes you can make. Everyone can't do everything, we're not saints and there are things that we just aren't willing to do without, but to make the effort at least gets us into the game.

Till tomorrow,


Urban Chickens

Local news Channel, KSL.com having an interesting debate on-line regarding the keeping of chickens on urban/suburban lots.

Check it out. Particularly if your local to Salt Lake County. How do you feel about it? Are you raising chickens in your urban/suburban lot? What have you learned? Have you had to fight the system to do it?


Here are a few links to some of my personal Urban chicken raising posts.

Chicken condo

Small scale coop care

Pictures of the coop made from mostly recycled materials




August 10, 2008

Airing it out - A Family Affair

I thought I'd share a picture of another clothes line today. It's a special one, but it's not mine. So what makes it special then? It's my Moms! Yeah Mom!!
I got an email from sunny southern California the other day with this picture and the news from her that she hasn't used her dryer for sheets and towels for the last 2 months. Two months Mom and I'm just now hearing about it? Two months of me thinking I'm the only crazy one in the family "making" my wife lug the laundry down stairs to hand it up. Jeez, quit leaving a guy hanging.

So now I have to wonder to myself, could I have possibly had an influence in this? Could my incessant bantering on and on about sustainability and re-use and yada yada yada have rubbed off? Well, as much as I'd like to take the credit, I think it should probably be going the other way. I mean, who do you think made me the way I am after all? I remember my mom hanging clothes when I was a kid, heck this is the woman that I've seen put plastic "disposable plates" in the dishwasher to get another use out of them so re-use and sustainability were part of my upbringing before they were the terms du jour. My Dad was always a leader to me on that too. We have family home movies of him fixing up a second hand stroller that I think they probably picked up at a garage sale and one of my greatest Christmas's as a kid was the one when Santa brought in a "new" red bike that I didn't know had been refurbed by Dad for me.
So now when I see my Mom taking the time to do things a little bit different than probably most of her neighbors, as much as I'd like to take a little credit for it, I can't. I'm just following their lead.
Thanks guys.

August 8, 2008

Finally - homemade mozzarella

This last weekend A~ and I finally tried our hand at making our own mozzarella. It was fun, interesting and didn't taste half bad. Add to that the fact that we got enough cheese from one $2.80 gallon of milk that it would have equalled what we would normally have spent $6-$8 on. There are still some finessing things that we have to work out, like the exact amount of rennet to add, how long to knead it for, and the proper amount of salt to add, but we ate it, and I think the boys are looking forward to more of it.
It all started with a gallon of milk poured into a stainless steel pot. The milk was then heated slowly to 55 deg F.

When the milk gets up to 55 F we add some citric acid diluted in water and continued heating until the milk had risen to 88 deg F, stirring occasionally. At this point the milk has started to curdle slightly and looked almost like cottage cheese sitting in yogurt.

When the milk has risen to 88 deg F, we stirred in our rennet with an up and down motion. (Don't ask me what that's supposed to mean that's just what the recipe said to do). It's at this point that we lost our way a little. The recipe that we were following called for 1/4 tsp, and the package for the rennet called for a different measurement. We added the packages quantity and it didn't seem to be getting the curds and whey to split so we added a little bit more and continued heating. We were supposed to heat it until it reached near 105 deg, but ended up having to go to nearly 120 before we saw any real separation. I don't know if it had to do with our elevation or what, but this is the main area that we need to play around with to perfect it.

Now you can see the curd separating pretty well. You need to let it continue to separate until the whey is mostly yellowish/clear.

It's now that you ladle the curd out of the whey with a slotted spoon. After you've done that, and drained off as much whey as you can, the curd needs to be microwaved for 1 minute, knead and pour off excess whey (don't throw that whey away, you can make ricotta with it) Do this at least two more times for 35 seconds each times, lightly salting after the second time, and knead the cheese until it is stretchy and shiny then roll into balls and set in ice water bath if you are not going to eat it right away.

And there you go. approximately 3/4 to 1 pound of finished mozzarella. You can eat it right away, or let it cool and store in a lightly salted water in the fridge.
It was fun and tasty, although I think I needed to knead it a little longer. The finished product was still a bit "wet" for lack of a better description, and was breaking down slowly in the water bath.

We did enjoy it with a few homegrown tomatoes and basil and some olive topenade that A~ made, and the next day put slices on top of some eggplant Parmesan.

We'll be tweaking this recipe to make it work better for us, but I think we're onto something good! I'm consistently amazed with how possible it is to make some of the dairy products that seem to mysterious like this cheese or the yogurt that I love to make. Give it a try, it's not that hard, costs very little for the supplies and is a great skill to have in your quiver.


August 6, 2008

Freedom Gardener of the Month

Well, to my regular readers, this was the "big news" I alluded to a week or so ago and may I take this opportunity to say "WOW, I am honored!". And to anyone dropping in from the Freedom Gardeners website let me also take a minute to welcome you to my "other" home. I thought I'd take a minute to introduce myself and show you around the ole blog.

You may be wondering what's going on with that crazy title? "A Posse Ad Esse", what's up with that? Well, to me it signifies a sea change in the way I had decided to look at the world and it has changed my life in many ways. It's Latin for "From possibility to reality" and no, I don't regularly speak Latin here (or elsewhere for that matter so don't feel like you have to run out and grab your handy Latin-English dictionary) but I loved what it meant; to make the conscious decision to focus not on what you do not have and grapple with the inevitable frustration that comes with it, but instead to focus on what is "possible" and strive to make it "reality". Since adopting that mindset I have found much greater peace with myself and consequently have been able to realize many of the things I thought were otherwise unattainable.
So, what do I blog about? Well pretty much whatever crazy idea I'm up to at the time. Maybe it's sharing my progress toward having a completely organic garden, or updates on what I like to call the Big Weigh-In where I've been keeping count of everything that I bring in from the garden; you can see updates for that over there in the right column under the picture of the scale; 125 lbs so far! I'm also a huge advocate of Composting, although this years not been as good as I had hoped.
I also write a lot about Repurposeing on the blog. It's a great way to stretch a dollar, keeps things out of the landfill and keeps the old noggin sharp trying to figure out how to make things do. Of course you can also expect to see an occasional update to my Freedom Gardeners Challenges like the 100 ft Diet, Harvest Keepers, and Liberate Your Lawn.
Well, there you go, a pretty good intro to what I'm all about. Of course I'd be remiss if I didn't give credit to the Dervaes family From Path to freedom. I found their blog early last year and it opened my eyes to what was "Possible". I'm glad to be able to call myself a Freedom Gardener and to be associated with the caliber of gardeners that are there.

August 5, 2008

This lawn is your lawn...

This is a great video I borrowed from a site that I check into from time to time, KitchenGardeners.org

I love the idea of trying to get the next president to grow food on the white house lawn. Don't you?

August 4, 2008

2008 Garden update - Aug 4th

The update for today is...drum roll please... onions.
This was the first year I have ever planted onions and overall I am happy with the results and will definitely grow them again. I learned a few things along the way too. For instance, onions like to have very soft soil. I grew two different varieties a red and a yellow (sorry I can't remember the exact varieties.) and spread them out throughout different parts of the garden as a natural deterrent to some pest insects. This allowed me to see how they performed in different areas and I can say for sure that the onions in my raised beds overall performed much better.
I also think that the raised beds, because they are a higher quality soil, hold more water and release it more consistently allowing the onions to grow better.
The other thing that I learned is that you need to be patient when the onions start to look like they are done. I ruined about 6 or so of them by pulling them too early. Since I haven't ever grown them, I didn't know exactly what to look for as a sign of being mature so of course like everything else I experimented. Again, be patient. When the majority of the tops have fallen over, looking like some animal crept through your prized onion bed and knocked them all over, then wait a couple more days just to be sure. Then, what I did, was to gently pull the onion loose from the ground, but not all the way out. I left them to sit on the soil in the same way that I see the onions at the local farms sit. I left them to lay there during what were 95-103 deg days for about a week. After that I pulled them and laid them in my over size (3' x 2') garden sieve.
And here we were today after another few days. The onions had dried well and the papers on the outside were crackly and dry but the stalks were still semi pliable. I figured this to be the best time for me to try my hand at an onion braid. It's not as easy as you'd think it is.
So, whatya think? Not too bad for a first timer huh? There's actually two braids of the red onion but the second one was too short to put a good loop on the end so I laid in it front with the extras that I couldn't braid. So I bet your thinking how much? What's the poundage man...don't leave us hanging!! I'm proud to say we hit exactly 25 pounds between the two varieties. Oh yeah, and guess what that means? We're over 100 lbs for this year!!! Better yet, with the other things that we've taken in the last few days we're now over 125 lbs. This weekend should knock me up a few more pounds too with harvesting...oops, look at the time, my it's getting late, I'll have to get back with you on that one *grin*.
Hope all your gardens are growing well.
Grow on!!