Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Close

After careful thought and visiting with our oldest daughter, who gave me a huge push into blogging in the first place, and my husband, it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to say goodbye to Easy Living the Hard Way. The bottom line is that eighty percent of the goals I set up five years ago when I began blogging have not been met. The type of blog I write requires a minimum of 10 - 15 hours a week. Too many of our needs have gone to the back burner as I write. This new place requires much more of our time especially now as we work to set things up.

I don't regret writing this blog, I've learned a great deal and met wonderful people around the world.

One of my goals to write this blog was to improve my writing skills. It did for a time but now I'm regressing as I rush to simply get it done.

I had hoped the blog would morph into a book but alas, I lack the time to write a book or articles for magazines. I use to do a few articles.

The goal to push myself into trying new things on a continual basis was successful but now I have the self-discipline to continue without the push.

Sadly the information I spent so many hours acquiring is mostly on this blog and not in notebooks where I can quickly use them as a resource for improving our lives. Part of those 10 to 15 extra hours a week will go into doing just that, compiling research and taking notes on what I have learned. That applies especially to the garden where I'm going to pick up where I left off on my garden journal two years ago. I had barely gotten started. It will include for each vegetable the PH, soil planting temperatures, freezing temperatures, planting instructions, water requirements, nutrient needs, planting companions, types of seeds most successful, when I started them indoors, etc. etc. etc.

I'm even going to include how I used the vegetables after it was harvested. Take the cabbage for example. I've cut the cabbage off the plant, put slices in the stem which created four new cabbages, then cooked with the cabbage, and used the wild yeast from it to create sourdough.  I'll include my storing experiments that include cold storage, canning, freezing, or drying. There will be even a section for each as to what animals love them. The goats happen to love cabbage. The chickens are not so thrilled. Maybe they like it cooked better, we shall see. You get the idea, extremely extensive.

My original plan was to write an informative blog that inspired people to try new things and share information. That has been an almost complete failure. Some of that is probably my fault. But none the less it is a fact. I have become more of a source of entertainment than motivational inspiration. I've instead decided to try formulating a newsletter. The newsletter would be a participatory group of people who would each take turns and write about what they had learned with livestock, the garden, the kitchen, etc. throughout the month. Others in the group could chime in with encouragement, ideas, and helpful hints. Basically it would be a support group. The emphasis here would be participation by all. If you are interested in being a part of the group please contact me at

After careful consideration, I say goodbye. This decision is not easy. Writing the blog has been become a bit of an addiction. I could spend hours doing it and I have. Yet, I've never had the time to do with it like I've wanted. An article or book manuscript I can write and rewrite adding as I learn until I feel satisfied. I'll be able to recapture the creative descriptions I was once told in my writing group, the one I don't have time for anymore, that I was rather good at.

I've gained some wonderful friends through this blog so lets stay in touch. There is always e-mail.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dried Beans, It Is The Future

First of all, my experience with growing dried beans is about nill. Yes, I often grow Dragon's Tongue but they seem to get eaten fresh and none end up going to the seed stage. In fact, the family asked this year if I had any in the garden. I did not, having decided that I was going to experiment with new varieties of beans big time.

I've found a new favorite for green beans and so with my grandpa's Kinghorn wax bean, I've got two really good ones. The purple early bean that is suppose to do well in cold soil is still a question. I would like three really good green beans. Not that I need that many green beans but my goal is to have three really good varieties in each category, tomatoes, green bean, dried bean etc. I'm thinking of the potato famine and how growing just two varieties ended up with a whole nation starving. Those two were both susceptible to the virus that wiped them out. I want three not just good tasting but three that do well under adverse circumstances. Late spring, early frost, and a virus definitely tested the garden big time. Though the turtle and northern dried bean varieties succumbed and then came out of it, they were then hit by the heavy snow. Our season is just to short to play that game. The Contender green beans were not fazed nor were the Orcas or the Kidney beans by the virus. Of course everything was effected by the snow.

My plan for next year is to use plastic to warm the soil as a large amount of snow fell last year chilling the ground big time. Maybe a large amount of snow is normal for up here. I don't know. I do know that the soil took forever to warm up. Major chilly soil was a new lesson as was the wilt virus.

The weather and virus was a good test though bad production was the result. The next test was how big the pods were and how many per plant. Not that I counted but it became clear that the Kidney pods were the longest and the bean the largest which means more food per plant. The plants were loaded with pods, most too green with too small of bean to think of harvesting.Though the bulk of the pods did not reach maturity. there were still far more of kidneys than the other three varieties of dried beans I grew. Two containers versus a partial for Orca and the skimpy one with turtle and northern beans. Note how large the kidney pod is. It held on average six beans per pod. A northern pod is sitting on the counter. Yup, tiny in comparison.

The Orca bean's pod was not as large as the kidney and held four beans. The bean is decent size and round. Not all beans will be the kidney size so I figure good size is good enough. As for the turtle and northern beans, the pods were short with tiny beans inside. Most all the pods were still green. They were hit hardest by the virus and with the small size and short pod, the production was not nearly what the other two beans were. In fact, not worth the effort of growing them in a limited space as far as I'm concerned. I love black beans and northerns but I'll buy for now.  I'm sure that I'm partial to them because I have such a limited experience with dried beans. We have so few varieties available to us here. I'm sure there are ones out there I will love but just haven't tried yet.

I'm definitely growing kidney and orca again next year. I've got two or three more new ones I'm putting in also. Then when I get a nice variety that can handle our soil, weather, and short season I can begin to be picky about taste.

As for harvesting,instead of the traditional pull the plants and put them in storage until the pods dry procedure, I put pulled the pods off the plants and put them on a tarp in the garage. I just don't have space for the plants. And since the weather had turned to snow when I was picking and I could not glean any more from the garden at that time, I sat on the tarp and shelled beans, my curiosity getting the best of me. Many of them were not ready, stilling being a bit green.

This is what happens usually when I've let a few of the greener beans dry on their own. They shrivel up. It isn't that I've never tried growing dried beans before. It is that I've never had decent success. Few reach maturity before the wet cold weather hits and many of those shrivel when dried on their own.

See the shriveled bean that dried on its own? So with lots of the beans not mature could I save them? This would be critical in a survival situation. You would be using everything you could get your hands on. Now being the time to experiment, I tried drying them in the dehydrator at close to its lowest temperature to see if it had a different effect on the immature beans. Low and behold they dried but did not shrivel. Woo hoo!! The final test is to see if the taste is effected by the immaturity. Even if it is by a little, that will be a huge success. The other thing that thrilled me is that though the goats at first stuck their noses up at the bean plants, they later devoured them down to the sticks. Plus, the pods that I shelled were also devoured. Yeah, food for us and food for the goats.

I love it when the Lord nudges you along. I had been prompted to try my hand at growing dried beans. I didn't think much about it. I just did it this year. Inspiration struck while I was shelling beans. It cost me 40 dollars for 24 packages of 12 small mouth canning jar lids at the cheapest price I could find them.  I can go through that many jars lids in a blink. Canning is not going to be my first priority in a survival situation. Yes, I'm going to stock up on lids as I've let myself get low but after one season or two, they will be gone.  Yes, I've started to buy Tattler lids and will continue to stock up after I'm done building up my metal lid supply. They can be reused and reused but they are expensive at first to invest in and just how many jars and lids do I want?

 This year I'm running out of jars. Did I just not can that much in the past or do I just have a lot of old food? Can't tell as I do not have decent shelves in my food storage room and so most things are in boxes. It is one of my goals this year to put in new shelves replacing the pitiful wimpy ones in the storage room and empty all the old food out of jars. With a failed garden last year and no peaches or pears to can, old is about all I have from before. I want a inventory done on just what canning supplies I have when I can get things organized. I know I have a canner that needs parts and has needed parts for several years. I have two canners and have been just using the one. In 2015 the canning supplies will be stocked. I've let preparedness in this area as in many others slip while I moved and dealt with family issues.

I got a bit off tract there. The a....w ha... moment came while I was shelling beans. In a survival situation I'm not going to be putting the huge emphasis on green beans as I do now. Dried beans will be the bulk of what I grow in the bean area. Think about it. You never see a movie with the pioneers or cowboys hauling around cans of green beans or bottles. No, it is dried beans. Dried beans most years preserve themselves on their own. They shrink to about half their original size making storing wonderful.

Yes, the pioneers strung some green beans on thread and hung them to dry but the greater part of their storage was in dried beans. Today people put the emphasis the other way around and very few grow dried beans at all. Now I know why I felt the prompting to try my hand at dried beans. I love it when the Lord nudges me along teaching a little here and a little there.

This year he has me thinking along the lines of what will store on its own with little effort on my part. Time is critical as since I have moved and have more things to put away for the winter that I am short on energy and time.

This is a call to all you northern growers. What dried beans do you grow? I'd love a heads up on what varieties to try next. The seed catalogue descriptions only say so much. They definitely did not tell be enough about the turtle and northern bean to make a wise decision.  Plus, have any of you cooked the greener looking dried beans. Do they taste any different.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Natural Fire Starting Materials

 What did you do when the moon did its eclipse thing? Sleep? I'm sorry, you missed a beautiful sight. I admit I was tempted, 4:00 am is early and Kirk was off so conceivably we could have slept in. Not only did I get up at four but I got up several time before that. You would have thought it was Christmas. I went out on the deck to check because I missed the strawberry moon because I got up at the wrong time. I'm like that. Sometimes I get messed up. I wasn't about to miss this.

Alas, we only got a half eclipse. What was up with that I don't know. Must have been because of where we live. We watched from the deck slipping in and out of the sliding glass doors because it was chilly and we were too lazy to get dressed. Besides the warm bed just a few feet away kept calling to us. We just had to obey. Then to our delight, the moon slipped low enough in the sky that we could watch while laying under the warm covers. It doesn't get better than that.

After the eclipse, I was torn between going back to sleep and getting up for a stroll in the early morning light. The moon was suppose to set and the sun rise at the same time. Probably not going to happen here as we figured the moon would be behind the mountain before the sun came up but a rosy glow on both horizons would still be a sight to see. Armed for bear, he's probably gone but I'm not sure about the mountain lion, we walked to the valley below, a pistol in our pocket. Maybe not a bear gun but it made us feel safer. We could maybe scare a predator away at least or alert a neighbor to come and help. Ranchers get up early and so do most of the other neighbors who work elsewhere. At least by five am.
As we walked off our hill and descended down by the creek, I swear the temperature dropped a good ten to fifteen degrees. Heat rises and so we are warmer at times on the hill and since trees along the creek hold the cold it is indeed a chilly experience walking along it. The sight was worth it as the quaky aspen are decked out in twinkling gold with  red underbrush glowing in the warm early light. in the early morning light.

 I got to wondering about this cottony stuff as a fire starter as we studied the trees and brush. It is fire season you know. Ours is crackling behind me as I type. Not a fire in the stove every day time yet but now and then it gets a bit chilly. The grand kids are here for the weekend and they like the house warmer than grandma needs it. I'll admit I used lots of paper, some sawdust, and smaller wood to start the stove. But what if? My mind goes there often. A fire is essential to cook, stay warm, and for mental health in a survival situation. My knowledge of how to start a fire is pretty much limited to a match and a Bic lighter. Yes, I experimented  a little when I taught the Cub Scouts. We did the Ferro rod and battery with steel wool spark flying thing but I'm hardly a pro. I need to learn about tinder and a whole lot more.

One of my goals is to remedy that. Most survival conscious people carry matches, a Farro rod, and a Bic lighter with them most of the time but still it takes practice and knowledge to get the job done. Okay, maybe not so much with a Bic lighter but the Bic lighter will only last so.... long, it can be lost, or stolen and then where are you? If you have built many fires you know how many matches you can go through especially if the wind is blowing or not. I swear matches aren't what they use to be. I go through quite a few in my house starting the stove. They put only a drop of sulfur on the end of a little stick where as in my grandmothers day, and my childhood days, the matches were a whole lot better. The matches back then burned until they burned your fingers. Now, good luck getting them to stay lit at all. 
Even if you have a way to start a fire, what materials are best suited to start one with? Yes, I like paper too, even toilet paper but I'm keeping mine for just that, toilet paper. You might have noticed that Cody Lundin in his television shows, I've only seen a few, always picks up fire starting material as he is walking. Good idea but just what you are suppose to pick up is the question?

We were walking and so we picked up this cottonly like growth to try it out. Our choice of fire starter for this particular day was the Ferro rod. It sends lots of hot sparks. We were a bit surprised. The cottony stuff burned

I mean really fast and then went out just as fast. No way was this going to start twigs on fire. We called our son, the fire starting guru of the family. He even has down the bow drill method. I guess the bow drill only works when the weather cooperates, not too humid and not too cold. Anyway, he advised us to ball up the cottony stuff in our fists before trying it the next time. He said the same holds true for cat tail fluff. Also that we needed to have another tinder underneath that was ready to catch on fire like some dried grass. He named off the temperature in which the Ferro rod sparks and he said that it was hotter than flint. He went on to teach us that certain materials burn better using a Ferro rod and others a flint. Well that was an eye opener. Aren't things always more complicated than they seem. Or is it just to me?

Our son recommended trying roughing up the bark on some sagebrush and trying the Ferro rod with it. He said it works well and we have lots of that. Got to try that. And he said that the cattails and this cottony stuff works better with the flint method as it is a cooler fire starter. It doesn't burn up quite so quickly. Got to try that too. After we try that we need to get some Old Man's Beard and experiment with it.Yeah, we have a great deal to learn. Good thing our son can be used as a sounding board for our experimentation. It will make the learning quicker.

I've learned that though you can ask questions and read until you think you know everything, there is still nothing like doing it over and over in different situations to move knowledge to the wisdom stage. In a survival situation muscle memory is critical. Your body needs to be able to do it automatically as you mind deals with the shocks and panic feeling of the situations. Our son might have said to bunch of the cat tail material and the cottony material but how bunched up works best. When you need it is not the time to learn it. 

But learning to start a fire with different methods isn't the end of Fire 101. I think we definitely need to learn more about stacking the wood in our fire. I want to try the big logs on the bottom, then smaller on top and smaller yet laid in a criss-cross pattern. Apparently the little fire burns and then on down to the big ones allowing it to burn a long time without stoking it. Pretty handy when it will be a long cold night and you need your rest. What kind of way works best in high winds? Hurricane flats up here last night had me playing musical beds. I was sleeping with one grand daughter but another came in when the wind stared to howl. With them off to sleep I slipped out to find less cramped quarters. The next bed I found didn't remain with just me in it for long as the youngest grand daughter by this time had woken up and gone looking for me to crawl in with. The wind can at times really whip it up. It wasn't just wind though. It was raining too. Does one fire stacking method work better with that situation? Hmmm. I know so little.

So much to learn and so little time to do it in. Oh well, a day at a time. The point is to just continue moving forward not relying on the ease of the modern world to always be there to care for us.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Homemade Fruit Smoothies

Early morning hours and busy schedules have made the homemade fruit smoothy an essential nutrient boost. Kirk this last week was on day shift. He leaves at a quarter to five in the morning. It is dark. 4:15 when the alarm goes off and it is just too early to think of sitting down and eating a hearty breakfast especially when his eyes are barely open, his stomach not yet awake. Fifteen hour days take there toll as it is shortly before bedtime before he returns to the protection of our home. Food, and bed is all he can think about at that hour, and morning comes wa...y too quickly.

Hence,  something light works perfect. Something that stirs the adrenals and jump starts the day. A muffin, Egg McRexroat, or the like works great for a little later during a morning break. He has found that waiting for the break to eat leaves him dragging a bit the whole morning. Maybe it is the eat often but light thing they talk about. With Kirk and I both eating fruit smoothies frequently, it has meant making yogurt up to twice a week. I use the yogurt in making pancakes and where my recipes call for buttermilk also which ups the demand. To keep the culture well and alive you need to make yogurt about every six days at least. I haven't gotten around to making buttermilk and yogurt. Our schedule is just too hectic still. A little milk added and the yogurt works just fine for buttermilk.

So as with all things, practice makes perfect or with me somewhere in the neighborhood. Recipes are great but experience imperative to repeated success. I heat fresh goat milk to 180F. The instructions say 185F but more often than not as I'm trying to reach that temperature I become preoccupied and my milk boils. Boiled milk will not make yogurt. I hang a thermometer to the side of the pan so as I'm working around the kitchen I can keep an eye on the milk. I have several other thermometers, even a digital one, but it takes more time to hold them in the milk and wait for them to come up to temp so I'm not as likely to do it as often as I should.  Also insuring that I'm not as likely to make yogurt when I'm pressed for time, which is much of the time. So I use the thermometer clinging to the edge. What I've learned is that the temp. is a bit lower there. For some reason the 180F reading on the thermometer is enough of a buffer zone to keep me from boil the milk. It is hot enough that it works in making yogurt. Too low a temp and the culture won't take as it need to alter the chemistry in the milk.

When it reaches 180F I then place the pan in a bowl of cool water and change the water several times to hurry the drop to 115F. At this point I add a half to three-fourths of a jar of yogurt from the previous batch.

My culture was purchased and is Y-5. The sweetest of cultures. I'm thinking of ordering a Y-4 to see how we like that but for now, I'm fine until things settle down. I use a Cuisine yogurt maker which is simply a plastic base and lid that holds a constant and appropriate temperature. I've made yogurt in a metal dutch oven on the stove with repeated success except that the water my jars sat in caused the dutch oven to rust. I've made yogurt with a heating pad that does not automatically turn off wrapped around it and a towel around and over that. I've failed at the crockpot method but I've got a hankering to try it again only this time put water in the crockpot and jars set in the water like the dutch oven. I've heard of using a good, warmed up thermos, and a jar at the bottom of a sleeping bag but haven't tried it.

You are getting the idea. Instructions are a jumping off point, not the final word.
This particular fruit smoothy is made with frozen raspberries from our garden, a pint of peaches I canned a couple years ago, and a touch of sugar. My peaches are canned with barely any sugar and I love using them in smoothies and it is a way to use up the older jars. The raspberries make the smoothy a little tart. This makes for a drinkable smoothy.
We use all kinds of fruit and if some of it is frozen it makes for a thick, use a spoon kind of delight instead of a drink. Mix and match fruit to see what combination you like. It also makes a difference how sweet your yogurt is that you use as to if you need to add sugar. The amount of yogurt you add  is to taste. The yogurt gives a creamy texture and of course adds nutrition. I add probably about a cup of yogurt. I'm not about to measure. Looks and tastes good is good enough for me.
We have three of these Nalgene small jars in which I put the smoothy in the refrigerator. It is handy like Saturday when we went to one town to buy some groceries, livestock feed, and picked up our Bountiful Basket. After ordering the Bountiful Basket in one town I ended up making arrangement to pick up wood for our fire at the sawmill at the town in the opposite direction. The morning was therefor spent on the run. No time for breakfast until it was lunchtime. Those fruit smoothies though they did not fill us, they staved off hunger.
Today we had a banana, peaches, raspberry, yogurt fruit smoothy, really good!! What is your favorite combination of fruits or vegetables for a smoothy? I'm sure we can all use ideas so speak up and share. I never use vegetables and I need to learn how.

You need not have a goat or a cow to make your own yogurt. Use store milk and you will save a bundle on your grocery bill.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Computer Illiterate and My Excuse

I can really be slow sometimes. I just found a whole bunch of comments that were hidden away in the depths of cyberspace. How come they are tucked away there and they did not make it on to the blog? Seriously, I didn't mean to ignore you. I just did not know you had written. And here I thought hardly anyone spoke to me, sniffle, sniffle. You probably think I'm a snooty old broad but really I'm just terribly computer illiterate. I work my way around the computer like I work my way around the store. I walk in, ask a clerk where is the such and such  if I don't know where something is and go straight to it. You won't see me wondering up and down the isles gazing at all the sundries. Nope, that is no pleasure trip for me.

It's that mean ole Autism thing. You seen lovely stimulation and I see a herd of buffalo thundering my way about to run me over. When you walk down the isle your mind focuses on a few things, mine sees it all. My mind is trying to process the distance between the isle, how high the shelves are and how far apart. I see all the colors and how they are in relation to each other. I see all the items on the shelves, their shapes, sizes, textures etc. And my mind photographs them. I can look away and still see the picture of the items on the shelf. When I turn, of course my eyes are wide open and they are taking more pictures and more, and more, Before long I'm buried in pictures with tons of information needing filed away in my brain. Believe it or not I can right this minute still see some of the pictures in my mind of the shelves of items in Walmart where we visited last weekend. Not exciting shelves, the cleaning isle, the notebook isle, etc. Just the very few places I went because you know I did not wonder around.

When you watch a movie, you are involved emotionally and influenced by the scenery. I'm noticing the scenery in detail, the costumes in detail, the actors, how they play off each other, how the difference in their characters complements each other, how well the story is developed, etc. etc. etc. Actually I'm getting a whole lot more out of the picture than the average person. Even the fight scenes fascinate me. Not in the gruesome level but in the how did they fake that and a wow that was cooly orchestrated kind of way. If it is just blood and guts I'm not interested because there is no depth as the director is playing purely on the shock factor. It is why I love the movie, The Huntsman. My son-law can't figure out why I like it. He does not see what I see. I see excellent story development that artistically took a fairy tail and wove it in another direction, though not too far off. I saw excellent acting and during certain scenes marveled at how well parts were played. The costumes were phenomenal and enhanced the over all feeling of the movie. The details of them incredible. I saw the choice of scenery and how they used lighting to provoke an effect. My husband and I have had long talks about those details. Yet there are very few movies I will see in a theater because it is just too much stimulation. Too big a screen, too much, noise, too many people. The movie is enough stimulation on our small screen tv. in our quiet home.

That is why I hate disorder, TOO MUCH STIMULATION!! Which is the state my home is in right now. That is why I'm going nuts. I need to put my garden to bed, finish canning, get the hay arranged and fenced off from the deer. etc. etc. etc. It is not because I'm a clean freak. You would not say that if you saw how bad my house looks right now. It is because order means LESS mental processing. Autistic people are not great multi-taskers.

It is one of the reasons why we moved. I was so.... over stimulated every day living in a small town. I love living where we live. There is the creek, a few insects noises and a few bird noises. Cars don't often pass by on the road down below and the neighbors are really quiet. Sometimes a dog barks - but not much. On rare occasion we hear a lawn mower but half the neighbors don't even have lawns. The area between neighbors is on average five acres but there are a lot of empty five acre lots with nothing on them. We live at the end of a short lane. On two sides of us is ranch land. Not much noise there. Beyond that is state land and the mountain.

So when I think you get the idea. When I hop on to the computer, I function as well as I do in a store. I go straight to where I'm headed and don't wonder down the isles. I miss out on things that way I know but I'm not curled up in the corner of the closet rocking. It is why new things are so difficult for me. Have you ever gone to the gas station and fiddled with a new pump for a few minutes and then before you got gas went home or to another station? I have over and over again. Oh I'd go back to the new pump. I don't totally avoid new things but I'd have visualized the thing and figured it out before returning. Silly maybe to you but new things are extremely overwhelming. Not in a get out of my comfort zone kind of thing because I'm rarely in that zone but in a too much information not clearly laid out kind of way, especially when you understand that I'm also trying to process all the noise, and movement at the gas station at the same time. The pump wouldn't be that big a deal all on its own.

Funny how our different brains process information. The sign directing you to the fort down the road from us. The fort the Indians got way back in the 1800's is totally confusing to me. To my husband it is as clear as day. But to me the angle it sits and the spot it sits in directs you off onto a different paved road. The sign is right before that road and angled toward it. In fact you have to cross the bridge and travel a ways and then turn left onto a dirt road that has a number of other totally unrelated signs listed there where you turn. Kirk's brain does not process the angle, the location etc.

Kirk's and my brains don't think much a like at all. Not think much a like as in how we process information, not as in what conclusions we come to like opinions on subjects. It is why we complement each other. Where he is weak, I'm not and vise versa. Like last night, he was wondering why when the barn door was open and there was grain inside in a dish waiting, why did the goats follow me in the barn, eat a little grain, and when I went back out, they left the grain and followed me. The chickens do the same thing. I told him, I'm mom. Stick with mom and she will take care of you, silly. And of course I'm mom. It has been my nickname and my role. In fact I signed a thank you note this week, Love Mom, to two grown men not related to me, one of the gentlemen being my age. They started affectionately calling me Mom when they stayed with us in September. Nothing new as my older brother's friends in high school called me mom. It didn't matter if they were male or female. It doesn't stop there for my oldest daughter has friends that call me mom. They are grown and married.

I may not be that hot thing from down the street that the guys whistle at but I don't mind. Mom is something far more endearing.  

Maybe I've skirted around the subject the long way but the point is it isn't that I can't figure out the computer. It is that the computer just has too many places to wonder around in over stimulating me. So I treat it like I do a trip to the store. I know what I want and I go straight to it or I ask the clerk, which just happens to be our oldest daughter, and she directs me to exactly where I need to go. So excuse me for over looking you. I really did not mean to. My problem is that now that I have found you, I can't figure out how to comment back. Especially now that you've disappeared off the place I found you when I clicked the publish button. Maybe I need to go ask the clerk? But if we don't get it figured out or it is too complex to comment back. Please know that I wasn't ignoring you on purpose. I really do appreciate it when you write to me.

And maybe while I ask the clerk how to contact you maybe she can figure out why the pictures I download off the camera are now in a jumbled heap. I can't figure out how to reset it back to the way it was. Was that one of those side isle trips I took and should not have? It is dangerous territory when you walk off the beaten path.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


It snowed again the other day. The forecast for 22 F. sent me rushing to get my potatoes in. Some were eying the skies and with their heads poling up I wasn't sure they would survive the cold night. With the potatoes shivering in laundry baskets. Maybe shiver was a bit much but even if they weren't I was. The dried bean shells had ended up proceeding being pulled. I have such ADD at times. I started to dig the potatoes and the effort made me stop and look over at the dried bean rows. I thought they'd make a nice break so I went and started pulling plants while ripping off swelled pods and putting them into buckets. When my back grew tired of beans I started on the potatoes again. Which had me stopping once more to look over at the green bean plants which I had quit picking weeks ago with the fleeting hope that they would have time to form seed.

Maybe just maybe I could get a little of them but by then it had started to rain and I had to rush in the garage the potatoes and dried bean pods. When it started to hail I was done. The howling winds making them seem like the skies were hurtling BB's at me. I huddled in the garage on the tarp, my hood on my sweatshirt pulled up and occasionally glancing out the window at the rain/hail, thinking it would soon stop, I began shucking beans from the shells. Did you know that is addicting. I couldn't stop though the rain/hail turned to snow and I became colder and colder.  I did not stop until all the beans were shucked. Then I started a fire in the stove in the house roasting marshmallows of course. I do love a good golden brown marshmallow all crunchy on the outside and warm gooey on the inside.
 It wasn't until later that I got around to sorting potatoes. Once again I'm thrilled with my King Harry's. The best performing potato I've ever had. I know, I haven't had many but this one has far surpassed anything I've ever grown. In the old garden here. (Hmmm I really do need to name the gardens. Want to help?) I had wilting disease  but the King Harry's still produced medium to small potatoes. Shocker as the plants didn't even blossom. These were the potatoes I grew in the garden at the old house. They out performed that gardens harvest by many times. The soil there was horrible. Having grown them for a while I had forgotten that when you nick a potato it often turns to mush later. These don't.  
Some of the King Harry's were at a whopping 4 1/2 inches. The amount of potatoes each plant produces was once again impressive. These are my main crop potatoes and I just might start calling them Ole, Reliable. The only downer is that to my great disappointment they did not produce seed this year. Hopefully that will happen next year and I can figure out what prompts it. You know the commercial potato growers know the answer.  
My Norland red potatoes succumbed to the wilt disease, are a fussier potato, and I'm going to try something else next year. The new potato, the Norkotahs were a nice surprise. Some were monsters. This one was almost nine inches.
 This is one hill, so not too bad for production. They do turn to mush when you dig them with a shovel and slice one. I think I'll have to get a potato fork as I plan on raising these next year.
What tickled me was that a couple of the Norkotahs had artistic shapes. I remember as a child picking up potatoes and putting them in a gunny sack. This was at our cousins of which there were eight children. That meant an acre of potatoes or was it a half acres. I don't know but a lot. My uncle was a farmer and would dig the potatoes with the plow of the tractor and we kids would sack them. I'd ask him about those potato seeds but alas, he is gone. Oh the fun of working together and the delight of finding these mis-shappened potatoes. Maybe not so fun in the kitchen  as they are a bit difficult to peel but they sent a child's imaginations a racing. 
Though not the crop we had planned, we would have had potatoes coming out our ears, not literally of course but blessings none the less as more potatoes than we have ever had before.  BLESSINGS!!!

What is your favorite kind of potato for the north? I'm trying to find three kinds of most vegetables.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Saving Tomato Seeds From Tomatoes

I'm making salsa. Just a few jars left in the pantry from last year.  Oh how I'm tired of canning and I did not really do all that much this year. It is just that I want to work on organizing our belongings in this new home. I'm frustrated with the contained clutter.You know, things that are collected in an area but not efficiently shelved, hung, or organized so as to quickly be at hand. But for now I will work on having a grateful heart for the food we have been blessed with.
Though things haven't gone as planned and my efforts in the garden have been few and far in between. Still we have been given much. One side of the garage is bursting with produce awaiting canning, putting away, dried, or processed. It will be a great aid in the days to come as we tighten our belt and work on our finances.
Though I had planned to do so much more with the garden, there are still many things I learned and many successes.The garden soil though not perfect is far better than that which we left behind. I learned that a garden notebook is essential if I am to move forward and accomplish the goals I have set forth of trying to be more self-efficient in the area of food. I'll talk more about that later.  
One of the things I learned was I am definitely going to repeat growing the Alaska tomato. Not sure exactly which plant was what kind as I did not mark them. I will next time. But there were larger tomatoes than I've had before. I'm sure the soil had a huge impact. With a few of those larger tomatoes I've started an experiment, saving seed. I may not know exactly what kind they may be but I've come to the conclusion that in survival it isn't the name that will save us but the best plants of what ever they happened to be. So with seeds from those larger tomatoes I began to learn.
I scooped out some seeds from a lovely tomato, place the seeds and the jelly like substance that clung to them into a half pint, glass, canning jar.
I can just see my sister saying yuck right now and there is no way I can do this. She is majorly allergic to mold. But mold is a must. In the jelly substance that clings to the seeds is a chemical that prohibits them from sprouting. When this mixture molds, it breaks down the chemical. The jell like substance becomes a liquid, no longer clinging to the seeds. Molding therefore serves a two fold purpose of releasing the seeds from the jell and breaking down the sprouting prohibitor.  
Some people add a little water in with the jell before it molds but I chose to add it after I took a fork and scooped off the mold. Less liquid to stink I figured and I was right. It didn't smell too bad until I added liquid and disturbed the liquid. See the seeds at the bottom? That is a good sign.  The bad seeds are suppose to rise to the top. Shock of shocks, all the seeds sunk. I'd say that is a good tomato. 
I then rinsed the seeds thoroughly in a wire strainer under the kitchen sink to finish removing the jell like substance from them. If any pulp remains remove with your fingers.
I then placed the seeds on a paper plate as instructed. The site cautioned against paper towels as the seeds stick to them. Let seeds dry. Today I will remove the dried seeds, place in a plastic bag, and then put in a glass jar. Remember that plastic is porous and moisture will eventually work its way inside of it and that is why the need for the glass jar.  
Encouraged by the results I now have two more jars on the counter. One has the seeds from three large round tomatoes. The other the seeds of three pear shaped tomatoes. Note the tomato seeds throughout the liquid. That is because the jell is not broken down yet. Part two of the experiment will take place next spring when I plant the seeds and see just how successful I really was with my seed saving project.

Now I wish I'd have let a couple cucumbers get large and saved seeds from them. The method is the same as for tomatoes. Oh well, there is always next year. For now I must start that garden journal.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Corn Stalks and Goats

 The corn that towered above our heads and had just barely tasseled and tiny cobs had started to form when the 17 inches of snow buried us, well, I've found a good use for it...
goat food. Waste not want not. It saddened me that all that fertilizer and effort came down to goat feed. Not that the goats are worth their feed but I could have had corn and goat food too.
Lessons don't come easy. I'll have to try another kind of seed next year. I've been trying kinds for years but not found my niche. Too sweet of a corn and the roots aren't broad enough for the high winds we get and they lay down flat on the ground. This corn had roots like I've never had before and where as I can usually pull it out of the ground with some heave ho, I heaved and hoed and nothing happened.
This is where being married to a knife maker comes in handy. I was going to use a hatchet but my husband volunteered this hefty knife. It works like a dream. I especially like the lime colored piece on the lanyard as the knife blends in nicely with the ground making it hard to find once you set it down.
That is why they recommend that all your equipment in your bug out bag or survival gear have brightly colored Para cord attached. It is imperative that you find it in that situation. Your life depends on it. This winter I hope to get back to our bug out bags and work on them. I'm thinking we won't be bugging out but bugging in and that leaves me with far more plans to make.
This is a special knife. It was Kirk's journeyman smith test knife. The first part of his testing he took this knife to a mastersmith and chopped through a free hanging thick rope with one swipe. Then he chopped through a 2x4 board twice and could still shave the hair on his arm. I don't remember this part but I looked up a recent test and they had them cut through the rope twice more. After this the knife was bent to a 90 degree angle without damaging the blade. Design, thickness, taper, and heat treating are critical components to the success of the test. This knife was made of 5160 steel from a ball bearing. I showed you the process a few blogs back. Remember the ball that was heated and pounded out into a strip of metal. Successful forging is the only the first step. There is more testing to become a journeyman and it has to do with design, clean lines, etc. but we won't go into that now. Kirk has been ranked a mastersmith for years now which involves a different test.  
my I got off track. I was talking about a corn chopper and this is a jim dandy. Just like the rope, one wack and it easily chops through the stalks.Not nearly as bulky as a hatchet either.  
You might have noticed the fancy sheath. LOL It is a cardboard, duck tape affair. Hey, it works. We have lots of knifes with sheaths like this. Most are in our meat cutting supply box.
I'm thrilled to now have my goats next to my garden. Yes, I have to keep the plants planted a ways back because it is amazing how far they can reach through the fence to devour them. In our previous home, the garden was a mile and a half trip and the corn stalks never made it to them.
With such success with the corn stalks, my husband started looking around for other dead or dying plants to feed them. I had to stop him, he was going to feed them tomato plants. Keep in mind rhubarb leaves, potato plants, and tomato plants to name a few have poisonous parts.
Squash seem to be okay so I'm going to try giving them some today and see if they like them. I read where they sell the leaves in Asian markets.
What do you feed your animals from your garden? I'm wondering about trying to give my goats zucchini next summer. Don't know why I didn't try this summer. Have any of you fed zucchini to your stock? My chickens don't like them and my sister's don't either. Could be a universal dislike. Not being fond of zucchini bread it leaves me without a good way to use up the large sized ones. Then after I'd put the last of the zucchini in the compost heap, my mother-in-law gave me a slice of some awesome chocolate zucchini bread. Alas, I'll just have to keep that in mind for next summer. Then again there might be some zucchini in the freezer from last year but it is still in a complete disastrous heap after the move and I couldn't even find the frozen pumpkin I was looking for.

Just came in from the garden for a drink. I'm pulling dried bean plants and digging potatoes. My goats don't like the bean plants. Alas, I guess they will become a part of the mulch pile.