As time goes by…

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I seriously can’t believe it’s almost been a year since I posted last. The primary reason I haven’t posted is because of the  extraordinary amount of spam I get, and no actual comments. I love my projects and I’ve done so much more (that parsley wine turned out delicious, by the way) but I don’t have the heart to sift through 100 spamming comments for the one (if I’m lucky) real comment.

I really do love sharing all the fun stuff I get to do:Master Gardener program, making lots more wine and beer, cooking really long and elaborate food items, canning and preserving up a storm, etc. I managed to tackle most of my Wish List over on the right of this page. Most times I don’t care if anyone is reading, I just can’t contain my enthusiasm! Plus it’s sort of fun to look back at what I accomplished – I forgot about some of it.

So please, please don’t get discouraged if you are a real honest-to-goodness person who leaves a real honest-to-goodness comment and it doesn’t show up for a lonnnnng time. I let the spam build and tackle it all at once :)

Happy Creating!

 


This week’s projects

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This Week

 

As per usual I’ve done a million different things and documented very few.

Roasting coffee:

green Bolivian beans

green Bolivian beans

freshly roasted - yum!

freshly roasted – yum!

I will have to do a whole post on roasting at home. Someday. When I get a lot better at it ;)

I’ve really enjoyed roasting my own coffee. Except for the second to last batch I scorched and smoked up the whole house like a house fire. I can still smell it. Blech.

I just racked my first batch of wine:

my wine at it's first racking

my wine at it’s first racking

Too bad the pic is small, but can you see that crazy magenta color?? I had to pour some in a glass to get a better look. I am duplicating (more or less) one of my favorite wines my mother made. It has every thing in it – beets, carrots, cantaloupe, butternut squash, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, strawberries and one or two others that I forget. It mellows out into the most amazingly complex but smooth red table wine. The beets give it the crazy color of course but also an earthiness that I was surprised to find I love. Considering I don’t like beets.

I also racked a couple gallons of Parsley wine for the heck of it. It was the only thing growing in my garden and I had a recipe for it. Why not?

I was reading a book on fermentation by Sandor Katz and was inspired to throw together my first kraut-chi (sort of kraut, sort of kimchi), seeing as I happened to have all the ingredients on hand. It smells amazing. I put in a little crushed garlic, pepper flakes and ginger and it makes my mouth water when I smell it. No picture, so just imagine a very pretty coleslaw crammed in a pint jar. (Does anyone else think of Dune when they mis-spell fermented as fremented?)

Oh and I improved my worm bin by making it a double decker! Now when they are done with the bottom bin they can wriggle their way up to the next bin and get to work while I reap the rewards of all their hard work.

I was a good girl and got out in the garden and prepared it for spring planting. Now if it would stop raining I could think about planting some peas or potatoes.

My spring is quickly coming to an end and my project time is getting shorter but I still have some fun plans up my sleeves!


Homemade Donuts!

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As I’ve written before, I’m on a mission to learn to bake this winter. I know that technically donuts don’t qualify but if it requires making a floury mess with my mixer, it counts. I came across an intriguing recipe in the Bob’s Red Mill cookbook for Buttermilk Whole Wheat Donuts. You don’t often hear whole wheat and donut in the same sentence so it demanded a test run!

I actually procrastinated for a few days (something I’m really, really good at) because it requires a lot more work than I typically put in to breakfast. So I mixed all the dry ingredients the night before and gathered everything else together to cut down on the a.m. prep time.

cutting the donuts

I just used a pint glass and shot glass to cut them out. Who needs a fancy donut cutter?

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There was enough dough to make a few more but it dawned on me that I was leaving on a trip the next morning so all these lovelies were going to just sit and get stale for 3 days, so one tray was plenty.

frying the donuts

 

Did I mention this my first time deep frying anything? We actually have a little deep fryer my husband used to use for his hot wings but it’s a huge hassle to clean. Plus I have an awesome set of cast iron, including a nice deep frying pan. I practiced on the donut holes first until I felt confident enough for the big guys.

After cooling a bit (not enough, they melted a hole in the plastic bag!) and tossing in a bag with cinnamon and sugar they were done!

buttermilk whole wheat donuts

heaven

 

Delicious! Some were a bit under done but overall a great success! These would be fantastic with powdered sugar or a glaze too. Who wants to come over for breakfast?



Tower of Sour

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My summers are very busy so I have been taking advantage of the slow season to tackle many of my goals for this year (see side bar). One of those is to learn to bake. White bread, bagels, English muffins, crackers, pita, and…sourdough.

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tower of sour

This is a terrible photo (evening light on top of a black refrigerator) but illustrates nicely what happens if you don’t remember to leave enough space in your container for expansion of your starter. I had secured a piece of cheese cloth over the jar with a canning ring and it managed to squeeze itsself up and out. Luckily, the heat from the light above it dried it enough to make clean up very easy.

About 10 days later it became this:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA beautiful, crusty, perfectly baked loaf! I had been having issues with my breads not baking properly when I discovered that my oven is off by about 50 degrees! Now I have a proper thermometer all is well. I could barely restrain myself from slicing into this baby. I wanted to see the steam rise and inhale those yeasty, sourdoughy scents. But I waited patiently for it too cool and then sliced off a warm wedge, ready for my first sourdough success.

And it was….tasteless. I forgot the !@#$! salt. And it was not sour at all. Well, I’m sure it will make some lovely croutons.

I have since done heaps of research on sourdough and I am going to age my starter a few more weeks before attempting again and this time I will not forget the salt :)

Anyone else have a similar bread failure? Or better yet, a stunning success?



Photo Collage Editor

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Finally, a replacement for Picnik! I so very much miss it and searched high and low for something similar.

Behold…Pixlr!

I just wanted a simple grid collage for blogging and not the fancy scrapbooking stuff with music and themes. And I got it. In less than 3 minutes I was able to create a new post header:

This Week

 

 

No frills or fancy stuff. Just pick your grid layout, throw in your pics, add color, text and done. You can get “fancy” with a few filters, stickers and other little things but it’s all very sleek.

Nice work Pixlr, you’ve made me very happy!


Peak Oil and Our Future

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I belong to a local branch of Transition US, a group dedicated to guiding communities to be self-sufficient, resilient and survive the decline of our petroleum based lives. In a recent newsletter they included a list of the Top 10 films for 2012, as chosen by members. There are so many films worth watching, many streamable right through Netflix.

But the one that really grabbed me is available right here, via youtube. It’s short (under 35 mins), entertaining and well narrated. What I like about it is that it doesn’t hit you over the head with an agenda, making it a great selection to show to the skeptics in our lives.

 There is No Tomorrow, the second choice after the link.(After 30 mins of futzing I can’t get the video to embed)

Just watch it. I couldn’t explain it any better!


Looking back at 2012

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Well we all survived Doomsday so I guess I have to start thinking about some New Year’s goals! First I thought I’d copy over my “Goals” list from the old blog. Having a public list like that has helped me stay focused, held me more accountable, even though I sort of forgot about it for a while. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that I have completed/made significant progress on all of them!

1. Eat more seasonally and consume less meat

Eating less meat has been easy, it’s experimenting with beans and grains that’s taking time. We give in once in a while and go carnivore but that’s ok, we’re not going vegetarian. Because we do like meat I have been looking into several local sources for grass fed beef. Because there is so much grass in our Evergreen state, this is a pretty darn sustainable option! Buying half a beef will  be on next year’s list (along with a freezer to store is all). For now, fish is our meat of choice. I put in a new pantry shelf that is dedicated to beans, grains and rices and autumn is the perfect time for experimenting with wholesome comfort foods. Working at the farmers market gives me the perfect opportunity to shop seasonally and I’m going to rely on that this fall and winter.

2. Finally use that new butane torch and make creme brulee

Check! Creme brulee is our favorite dessert (my homemade strawberry ice cream might be close behind) and all I needed was the torch to make it at home. My first batch was massive (I don’t know what I was thinking) and we were forced to eat one or two ramekins every day before they went bad. Delicious but happy to give it a rest for a while. Imagine how good it’ll be with my own homemade vanilla extract, backyard eggs and local, organic diary!

3. Learn how to cook in my new dutch oven over a fire

Done! Sort of. It should read “Learn how to cook in my new Dutch oven with briquettes“. I had visions of hanging the pot over the fire all day but no fire is actually necessary. It will take a lot of practice to learn to cook properly directly over a fire with real coals. Who knew! But in the mean time we have a nice fire ring in the back yard now and now that cooler temps are back I may just have to practice my Dutch oven baking! With briquettes.

4. Install a rain barrel system

This is one I’m glad I haven’t completed yet. I had 3 barrels and a very ambitious plan to run a gutter along the fence all the way to the garden. But then I  started reading more about rain gardens, grey water (for flushing toilets), and bigger water catchment systems. Last night I attended a dinner where an expert in this field (from ARCSA) gave a talk. Now I’m going to go big! I want a cistern (or two) for irrigation and maybe household use (flushing and laundry) and possibly a filtration system for drinking. He pointed out that while energy is a renewable resource and commended our explorations in such, water is not. Wells are going dry, water tables are dropping and being polluted, bottled water companies are draining rivers and springs and shipping it away. Yup, water catchment will be number one on my 2013 list.

5. Successfully grow ginger, lemons and cranberries in my PNW climate

Well, if you don’t count the successful part, I did ok at best. I planted ginger rather late in the spring and was eagerly waiting for my first sprout. I knew I wouldn’t harvest anything this year but was just eager to see growth. Nothing. I’d poke my finger into the soil, feeling for something. Still nothing. Then, finally, after throwing some lettuce seed on the surface to retain some moisture in the pot, a sprout! It’s still only about 4″ high and needs to come indoors now but it’s growing!

My lemons just are not happy. I need a greenhouse and have to quit moving the poor thing around. Fantastic blossoms! The whole house smells wonderful. Then they drop. Sigh. Will keep at this one because I must have Myer lemons! I have not acquired a cranberry yet. They need rather specific site requirements and I’m not sure where the optimal place is. I may create a space when I’m working on the water catchment project. All three plants will be back on next year’s list.

6. Find ways to make our favorite snacks from scratch (crackers especially)

I am just now tackling this one. Since I have been in a food preserving frenzy this month I’m reading a lot of great books with yummy recipes. So far I’ve just put up healthier snacks, such as dried fruit but I really want to hand make many of the snacks and convenience foods we buy. Most of which are baked. And that will lead me to another goal for next year’s list – learn to bake! But before the year is up I will try a few recipes for crackers (I have one for Cheeze-it type and one for Wheat Thin type) as hubby and I do love to nibble them!

7. Reduce our trash output and begin banishing plastic from the house (as much as is reasonable)

This is two goals in one. It all started with bottled water and plastics (watch Tapped, Plastic Planet and Bag It). I wanted to stop throwing away plastic by stopping it from entering the house. Especially bottled water, but I won’t side track on that (and I reallly want to) and other food packaging. The more I learned about plastics, how toxic they are (there are no “good” plastics) I learned of all the other chemicals that are floating around in our bodies at amazingly toxic levels. I will save the rest of that diatribe for a separate post but it has led me to making more of my own body care and laundry products, thus reducing more plastic we throw away.

An interesting if not slightly yucky project; before you throw your garbage into the trash can, dump it out on a tarp and take a look. Do a trash audit, it may surprise you (ours is 90% food packaging, especially my yogurt cups. Easy to remedy- make my own!). It takes a little practice training yourself to not buy items encased in plastic as we are so habituated in grabbing our usual brands. Making your own solves that problem! I’m looking at you, condiment aisle.

The short answer is – we are still, and probably always will be working on this goal.

8. Be a consistant, year-round gardener

Ok, I’ve kind of fallen down on this one. Now is the time to be transitioning to fall crops and I missed the boat. I have half heartedly scattered some seeds about the garden but I just ran out of steam. A good part of this leads back to goal number one and eating more seasonally. I’m just not sure what we like to eat winter-crop wise. So this season we will experiment with all those squashes and root veggies and see what I might like to grow for next time. For fall I seeded more carrots, spinach, kale, and corn mache. It’s my first attempt so we’ll see what happens!

So there we are. For having half forgot that I even listed these goals I’m quite proud of what I accomplished. And I already have a very long new list for next year!

What did you accomplish this year that you are particularly proud of?


Ruffles & Rust Show

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This weekend I will be vending at the wonderful Ruffles & Rust craft and antique show at the Evergreen State fairgrounds in Monroe (Washington).

It’s Friday,October 12 from 5-9 ($30 for special advance shopping)

And Saturday 9-4 ($7)

I am in the back row in space 58. Come and say hello!

More information, directions and vendor map at the Ruffles & Rust website.