I just shifted operations from a wordpress.com to wordpress.org site and manually moved everything to this site. Everything is dated 2/16, but really it’s been posted over the past couple of weeks.
It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a luddite and not very tech savvy, but I’m trying to trudge my way through this. I checked out “The Complete Idiots Guide to WordPress” (that’s definitely me) from the library the other day, so I should have this figured out in no time… or something.
Citrus is in season right now and high quality produce is going cheap right now. I picked up about a dozen organic lemons the other day, cut them into 1/4 inch slices and threw them in the dehydrator overnight. Lemons are something I don’t use often and it usually doesn’t make sense to keep them around. We keep lemon juice for hummus and some Latin dishes, but just buying a lemon and cutting a wedge here and there usually ends up in wasting a lemon. By dehydrating them, if I want lemon in tea or water, I just grab one and throw it in. A dozen lemons sliced will probably keep us going for the year. It’s always good to take advantage of surpluses and put some away for later.
Seriously, this picture says so much about the direction we’re heading…
Today I sent off my check for this year’s CSA (community supported or sustained agriculture). For those of you that are unfamiliar with the CSA it’s an arrangement with a local farmer to pay for a weekly delivery of produce throughout the growing season. Sometimes it’s picked up at the farm, usually it’s delivered to a location on a prescribed day for collection. It’s kind of like investing, but with vegetables – you pay the farmer in advance and in turn you receive a portion of the harvest, along with other members. If it’s a bad year, you get less. If it’s a good year, you get more. The farmer has an interest in making you happy so that their customers (and income) will be there year after year.
CSA’s have many benefits and I’d encourage anyone to look into becoming a member of one in your area. First, you secure a supply of fresh, high-quality produce for the year and you know exactly where it came from and how it was grown. You may wind up getting exposed to some new vegetables – usually they provide some info on how to use some more obscure things. Although the first CSA I tried wasn’t a very good one, I will admit that my horizons broadened quite a bit the first year with new vegetables and info on how to use them. When you join a CSA you become part of a community of “shareholders” in the farm and can meet some new like-minded folks. This year we met up with the other shareholders from our CSA at the farm for a potluck towards the end of the season and had a great time meeting everyone and seeing the farm – it was one of the highlights of the fall for us. If you aren’t able to keep a garden, the CSA is a good alternative – you’re basically paying someone in your community that knows what they’re doing to do it for you and probably come up with a wider range of crops than you would. The money you spend on a CSA membership stays within your area and allows a farmer to make a living, instead of sending it off to the Jolly Green Giant on the other side of the country (or world!).
Honestly, this year we could probably produce almost all of our vegetable needs in our backyard, especially considering we’re going to ramp up the operation by adding a few new beds in. However, we enjoy being a part of the CSA and feel we get a good value out of it and want to support this kind of farming. We’ll just be able to put up a little more for the winter this year.
Working Poor: Almost Half of US Households Live One Crisis From The Breadline
One of the best definitions for assessing one’s wealth I’ve heard was how long you could go without a paycheck – I think this one is better than determining one’s wealth by their salaries or the consumer goods they own. Many people with high salaries struggle to make the mortgage payments on the McMansion, the payments on two SUV’s, credit card payments, student loan payments and other costs associated with that lifestyle. On the other hand, there are people with moderate/low salaries that have managed to accumulate notable savings and assets through diligence and discipline and thus have a more secure standard of living than a hyperconsumer with a high salary who may see their world crash down around them in the event of unemployment, a reduction in income or even a significant expense (say, killer medical bills, unexpected sewer work, etc).
If you haven’t made it a goal of yours already, you should strive to become wealthy per this definition. Some say you should make a point to have six months to a year’s worth of expenses squirreled away in the event of emergencies. I know that sounds like a daunting figure, but that figure can be reduced (and voila, a surplus created!) by making meaningful cuts to your monthly expenses, finding ways to conserve resources, storing food and supplies purchased at opportune times and learning to do things for yourself. Slowly but surely you’ll build a safety net and steer clear of the breadline should something happen… and if you don’t experience a personal financial crisis, you’ll still sleep better knowing that if one did happen, you’ll be able to make it through.
Tonight for dinner we made a soup with canned tomatoes from our garden, chick peas, penne pasta and rosemary, along with homemade whole wheat baguette bread and it was delicious.
Sounds like meaningless Facebook chatter. What’s the point of this post?
Well, by growing and canning our own tomatoes we were able to use them several months later in the dead of winter and they still tasted pretty much like they were freshly picked. We didn’t have to pay jacked up prices for inferior tomatoes grown halfway around the world. The soup tasted better than if it were made with tomatoes from the store or a can, it was healthier and more environmentally sound due to the fact that the packaging (the jar and reusable lids) was reusable, they were grown using sustainable methods and it did not take fossil fuels to transport them.
The actual cost of the tomatoes was next to nothing, compared to the $1.50-$3.00 a pound they charge at the grocery store for non-organic tomatoes right now or even the cost of canned tomatoes. I put more work into growing and canning the tomatoes than I would’ve compared to simply throwing some tomatoes into a shopping cart, but it wasn’t all THAT much work and it actually provided some sort of enjoyment – at least more enjoyment than my job does. Watching things grow can be fun and there’s a lot of satisfaction from knowing you did it yourself. I can’t accurately figure up the numbers right now, but I’d figure that the actual cost associated with producing the jar of tomatoes (my time, the water, the plants, a percentage of reusable gardening and canning supplies, etc) is lower than what it would cost to purchase a few pounds of tomatoes of anywhere near comparable quality from the store. That’s the benefit of having productive hobbies.
Sometimes doing more with less yields some great results.
My neighbors across the street have their front yard torn up due to sewer work and my mailbox had to be taken out of the ground, so I’ve been without mail delivery for about a week. I finally managed to run out and talk to the mail carrier who had my mail for the day, but told me that my mail was being held at the post office. I was planning on going there this afternoon on my way to the gym and my usual mailman came to the door with a large box. I talked to him for a few minutes and he ranted about how lazy and worthless the temp carrier was because she wouldn’t get her ass out of the truck to take mail to my door – which is policy in a situation like this. For as much shit as the ol’ pony express gets, it’s good to see that there’s USPS employees out there who are actually concerned with taking care of the customer and taking a bit of pride in their profession – I think everyone has a horror story or two about customer service from the post office.
Anyways, today was a pretty good mail day. I received the following:
– The latest issue of Mother Earth News
– The latest VFW magazine
– About 30 packets of seeds as well as some old-timey gum from Victory Seeds
– A copy of “Bankruptcy of Our Nation” by Jerry Robinson from FTMdaily – they had a deal where you could get his book postpaid for $5 last week. I will review it later.
– 100 wide mouth and 100 small mouth reusable canning lids from Tattler from a deal on Markdown.com. For some reason I thought I was buying 100 lids total, but was pleasantly surprised when 200 showed up – I thought some guy messed up the order in our favor. These lids are BPA free, made in the USA, dishwasher safe and durable. If you do any canning, these are a good investment. The lids that come with jars are useless after one use, so you would need to purchase new lids every year otherwise.
– A power bill showing a $32 credit from overpaying last month. Score.
– Byzantium: The Lost Empire volumes 1 & 2. This is what happens when you neglect managing your Netflix queue. While I suppose I’d say I’m interested in all things Byzantine, I’m not really that enthused about getting two documentaries like that right now.
I can’t say I’ve ever imagined myself owning a 20 liter fermenting crock, but we ordered one from Harvest Essentials last week with the weight stones which arrived on our doorstep Wednesday. First, let me say that this thing appears to be built like a tank. It was made in Boleslawiec, Poland and I know that the jokes make them more famous for things like screen door submarines and helicopter ejector seats, but the craftsmanship on this thing is definitely noteworthy. This looks like something that could be in the family for generations and certainly many fermenting crocks have survived the test of time – in fact, my mother showed us one tonight that she had from my grandparents. It looks sturdy enough to take some abuse and I also have to say that it’s not a bad looking piece of ceramic either.
Since it will be a while before we have cabbage in our garden (seeds aren’t even started yet), I went out last night and picked up four or five heads of cabbage, which came up to about 13.5 lbs. I figured we might as well get some use out of it now and make sure we know what we’re doing so we’re ready when our homegrown cabbage is ready.
There’s all kinds of recipes for sauerkraut out there, but Adena insisted on a basic cabbage, salt and water recipe which was probably a smart idea for our first time. Using a food processor it didn’t take long to strip the outer layers, cut out the hearts, wash the cabbage, chop them into smaller pieces and then shred. Once we finished that, we put some of the cabbage in the crock, pressed it down with the stones, added some salt and then repeated the process a few more times with more layers of cabbage. The recipe stated that if you didn’t have liquid from pressing the cabbage, you should add boiled (and then cooled) salt water to give it a liquid layer. Our cabbage was dry, so we had to do that. The crock was about half full (or half empty if it turns out bad) with 13.5 lbs of cabbage. We’re unsure if we have to skim the top layer off every now and then (as I’ve heard before), but the recipe that came with the crock said that isn’t necessary with the crock. It has a ring around the lid that you fill with water which allows gases to escape but limits air coming in. All we have to do is leave it alone for a couple of days and then move it to a slightly cooler spot for several weeks. I’m a little skeptical of this, but if we have problems I’d rather we work them out now rather than on the cabbage we’ll surely put our heart and soul into.
I guess there are some good health benefits to eating sauerkraut and other fermented foods, as well as a ton of other things that can be fermented. Honestly, my annual sauerkraut consumption is low but I’m sure we would eat more of it if we made it ourselves. If it turns out alright, I’m sure we won’t have any problems giving/bartering our surplus away.
UPDATE – Two weeks later and everything seems to be going fine. We can hear the water bubbling every now and then. So far no significant smell either, which is a plus.