Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I've Discovered Cutting Celery

Photo from Jonny's Seeds , one of the seed companies I order from.
Our goal to grow as much as possible of what we consume is challenging here where the growing season is short and cool. I'm finding this challenge quite often involves doing without or finding substitutes. One area I'm working on is celery. We do not use very much and though I've come up with better ways of storing it in the refrigerator, it still wants to go bad before we've consume it. Out to the rabbits it goes. Sadly this long storage time means the celery is depleted of nutrition and so it is rather wasted. So what is the solution since there are a few dishes I really like celery in?
Photo from Johnny's Seeds -- Celeriac

As I debated this question, I looked into growing celery in our garden, since we had a friend growing it about 25 miles from us. Alas, the weather and elevation are just different enough from there to here that it is not possible without a greenhouse. Yet it did not seem wise to take up our future greenhouse space to a plant that was only edible during the harvest time. Dried celery stalks to me are hard and woody. I've tried it.

Could there be another plant that tastes like celery but would grow here? I discovered Celeriac in a seed catalogue and gave it a try a couple summers ago. Nope, the tops were lovely but there was no bulbous root by the time Jack Frost came to end the gardening season. The seed packet said 90 days to harvest but our summers are not terribly warm and the sun goes down early being next to the mountains. Those two things put together equate to needing more days than the packet recommends. I'm not completely ready to give up on Celeriac though. Whether it be this year or next I will start plants indoors first and then transplant. Maybe that will work. 

As I contemplated the what shall I substitute for celery dilemma once again, I happened to find Cutting Celery in a seed catalogue. (It is not a common thing offered.) The idea intrigued me. A celery that was grew more like parsley but had thicker stalks and an abundance of leaves. I decided to try this variety in the house under grow lights this winter. AWESOME!!! Though the stalks were smaller than the photo in the seed catalogue, it tastes wonderful. Then again the catalogues plant was grown outside and I think I spread the seeds too thick causing over crowding. I've divided the pot into two and I'm watering a little less as the leaves have brown spots. (I have a tendency to over water.)

Beware if you want to try this variety that the flavor of Cutting Celery is a slight bit stronger than traditional celery but not unpleasantly. I rather like the more intense taste. The ability to have it fresh, full of nutrition, and within reach of my kitchen counter makes this a permanent addition to our indoor gardening project. I can't wait to dry some and create ways to use it that way. I've got some ideas already. Celery salt comes to mind. I really like that stuff in potato salad, deviled eggs, and sandwich spreads. What if I dried Cutting Celery and added salt. The kind of salt that does not cause my tastes buds to disappear off my tongue leaving a sore spot. Yes, I'm allergic to the chemicals in highly processed salts.

If this works I can eliminated two things I presently buy, celery, and celery salt. A win, win!

Oh and by the way I'm still waiting on comments on what you want from my blogs in the future. Talk to me please.

Friday, February 24, 2017

A Facebook Page

Come see!! I have a Facebook page for Easy Living the Hard Way. The link is https://www.facebook.com/EasyLivingtheHardWay/
 I've just posted a picture of our newest member to our rabbit family. On the Facebook page will be quick updates and introductions to new members of the livestock family or something we are in the middle of. Give it a gander.

I invite you to be a part of the many changes I am making. Please let me know what you would like to see more of on my blog. I am doing a great deal of thinking about the direction my writing needs to go. I have plans but what I really want to know is what brings you to Easy Living the Hard Way? Write to me. My plans include you.

Let me know if the Facebook link does not work. Our oldest daughter is updating me once more on social media and how to use a computer. My four year old granddaughter was showing me something new on the television remote the other day. Yup, a four year old can out maneuver me. You can see techno is not my thing.  None the less our daughter keeps dragging me along into this century but what I'm really interested is in the last one and a half. With help I might yet get things figured out and I admit, it is kind of fun.

What really stumps me in this new century is part of my brother's texts. He keeps putting in all those garbled code letters that are suppose to mean something. I'd answer his texts right away but I've got to decipher the things. The four year old isn't around all the time. My sister are smart enough to keep things low tech. I still have a flip phone.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tomatoes Are Bad For You or so the New Fad Says

I was listening or rather started to listen to a site about how tomatoes and beans were bad for us because they contain.... whatever chemical it was that causes bloating and makes you gain weight. I sometimes do this as I read e-mails. Interestingly I could find no one else who had done studies on the same subject to substantiate this claim? I have no doubt it might work for the doctor who plastered pictures of himself all over the site but was it really due to a food sensitivity on his part? I had to wonder. I've grown extremely suspicious of diets and diet information. It is a huge money maker.

I remember when some of my family, not in my food control, went on the Atkins diet. My research revealed that the founder made a huge amount of money and helped tons of people loose weight while causing kidney damage. I also found that it only works for six months. That is the formula, loose weight quickly but not in a manner that will sustain the weight loss because then you won't need to loose weight again. "Money makes the world go round." they say and doctor after doctor jumps on the bandwagon using his or her credentials to doop yet another set of citizens desperate for a quick and relatively easy solution to extra pounds or poor health.

Remember the era when oatmeal was pushed as the simple way to lower high cholesterol? They made no differentiation between instant, quick, cracked, or scotch oat. One size fits all. What they did not say was that it was really just roughage that more people needed.  The push was backed by oatmeal companies. Just like eat Angus beef is by the Angus beef industry. It is a gimmick to sell more of a product and it works.

So is it all tomatoes that this doctor does not like? They are not all created equal. Does this chemical he touts as bad greater or lesser in certain tomatoes or in different ways of processing them. Remember my blog about kidney beans? Raw they are toxic but cooked the toxicity is tremendously reduced to where the body has no problem with them. It is in the details where the truth is found. Did you know that commercial tomatoes produced today are lower in acid than the heirloom tomatoes of yesteryear? Because of this they now recommend that you pressure can your tomatoes rather than water bath them for safety. That is not all that has changed from the tomatoes of your great grandmother. From the 1950's to today crops have lost 5% to 40% of their minerals and vitamins. Some is through selective breeding for mass production and some through soil depletion.

When you look inside a can of tomatoes the tin is lined with a gold substance. This is to prevent the acid in the tomatoes from eating the can too quickly. Never the less over time the can does get eaten by the tomatoes inside. This means you are eating metal with your tomatoes. It is not just tomatoes but all foods in a can eat away at the lining. But rest assured, remember, the modern tomato has undergone a large change in the acid level  The tomato of today eats the can slower. I'm sure that makes you feel much better.

When I look at these self touted experts who say they only  want to help more people, I look at what they have to profit from the information they are selling or the product being sold. I also notice how long they try and keep you watching their video.  The longer the video, the more likely you are to buy. I want someone who gets to the point so I never make it to the end. Give me facts and figures along with substantiating evidence of theirs and others in the field.  

As for testimonials, they are a scheme and are rigged. Don't believe them. I've learned a great deal about marketing from our daughter who works in that field. Also don't believe anyone who after a short period of time says the health product makes them feel better. Most things are formulated to initially make you feel better. Some of it is psychological. The other part is often an addictive substance or just enough of a good thing to make you feel better while taking it and not when you quit. Talk to the same person a few years down the road and the story usually has changed. Health supplements seldom have a lasting effect.

From what I've read and watched. Most health products are harmful since bits and pieces are pulled outside of their natural state.  The natural state being the best formulation for absorption or the best nutrient balance. Very little should be done to the food before consuming.  The good Lord formulated things in a balance that is best for our bodies. We seldom improve on that. That is why my doctor told me Kirk and I to not take supplements. Except vitamin D which we can't get enough of where we live. Eat well and live well is the magic formula. In fact my husband was taking vitamins and became ill. Quit and he is much better. The vitamins were top notch and prescribed by a doctor who is a nutrition expert too but still not real food.  A friend says he takes vitamins and feels much better on them but he admits he eats terrible. See the difference?

Interesting how the research sites and university sites which publish studies never try and sell me something. Information for free. Who really has my best interest in mind and who is just trying to get into my pocket? It is easy to tell when money is involved.

We've heard that milk is bad. This came out at the same time as almond milk. Of course the study reports did not saying whether the milk that is bad is pasteurized cow's milk, A1 or A2, what the breed of cow is because yes, that makes a difference. They do not say whether it is camel milk, fresh goat milk, or even sheep milk that is suppose to be bad. They did not say whether the animal was fed grain or simply pasture fed. Whether it had drugs pumped into its body but simply said milk is just milk and it is bad. No it is not!! The truth is that some milk is not healthy and some people have trouble with one kind of milk but not the other. For some drinking milk is not necessary and even harmful. In my opinion almond milk is not milk. It is a highly processed product.  Who knows what they are doing to the nuts to extract as much liquid as possible. Is it like most canola oils where they use a petroleum product to do so?

My first question when I read something about health is who has something to gain from this? Is this a blanket approach and ignores differences? Was this a thorough study lasting an extended period of time which means years? Was the study done in different countries and with a large number of people. Some nationalities have trouble with certain foods because of genetics. Is this study supported by others?

Experts are now panicked. People have bought the lies and now they won't listen to the truth. Low fat foods have a substantial amount more of sugar and salt in them and this makes them more unhealthy than the whole products but people are still buying low fat. Low fat foods are more heavily processed which changes the chemical composition of the product. This alteration often means the body can not easily digest it. Things not easily digest product often turn into fat in the body and is toxic. Whoops, the intent was to lower fat. Keep in mind that the more something is altered the more the potential for harm.Whole foods are the push now and for good reason. Foods have a carefully orchestrated balance in them that scientists are just now beginning to understand. Each component is important. Also coupling foods together helps our bodies to better utilize each.

To further complicate things, some vitamins and minerals are more readily available if a food is cooked but other vitamins and minerals in the same food is more easily absorbed if raw. You need to therefor eat it in both states. I  have a friend that can not eat carrots raw but can if cooked. Grains and nuts become a chelator in the raw state but the vitamins are released if coupled with certain other foods and cooked. Calcium needs magnesium or your body can not  absorb it. Goat milk has enough but not cow's milk. Yet cow's milk has more folic acid. Milk is greatly changed by what the animal is fed. One diet being healthy and the other unhealthy for you. The truth is in the details.

Should you throw up your hands and say, "It is just too complicated and everything is bad for me." therefore they feel justified in eating as they wish.

Go right ahead, join the 1 in 3 women with cancer, the 1 in 2 men with cancer. Join the throng of people who are fighting chronic illnesses like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Yes, you might have a genetic disposition to get the disease but the choice is still yours. Most diseases are the results of a accumulations of choices as is Type Two Diabetes. What diseases are you choosing? Some have predispositions by genetics to a disease but whether or not we contract that disease is our choice. Each day we choose what we put in our mouth and what we surround ourselves with.

Unless you are born with health problems or your parents ruined yours in your youth, then you were given a nice clean slate to start with. What will you do with it?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Apple Cider Vinegar in the Making

My apple cider vinegar start made in a old glass apple cider jar.

 I've wanted to produce my own vinegar for a long time. It is about as all purpose as it gets. You can use it for cleaning in the kitchen or bathroom,  for laundry, and even we have discovered it makes a great hair rinse. The smell disappears when your hair dries. It is a food preservative. You can cook with it. I've decided in my self-sufficiency pursuit, it is a must learn to use and make product. It is suppose to benefit a myriad of health ailments from colds, to lowering cholesterol, to tummy troubles.

One use for vinegar I had no idea about but discovered on the internet as I was browsing is for sugar diabetes. This could be great for when my blood sugars get wanky when my hormones get mixed up. I learned that people with pre-diabetes improved their blood glucose levels with using vinegar at bedtime by nearly half, while people with diabetes cut their blood glucose concentrations by 25%. They need only take a couple tablespoons of water with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed with one ounce of cheese. This of course only works for those with type 2 diabetes since it is diet related.

I am of course referring to home brewed vinegar or a few select companies because the store vinegar as a whole has who knows what in it? The live culture which is called a mother has been removed from most store products and the ones that say live culture I am suspicious of since I know yogurt and buttermilk from the store has little if any left alive by the time it arrives in your store.

I've learned that vinegar can be made from any starch and that includes wood. For me that is a disturbing thought. I know that 10% of shredded cheese has wood pulp in it and I don't like that. Now I've learned that vinegar may be made from it too. I would not put manufacturers past it. It would be cheap. I don't know about you but I don't want to be cooking with wood vinegar nor do I want petroleum used to extract more liquid from grains to make vinegar like they do in oil making. What do manufacturers do to make vinegar? I'm not finding the information which makes me suspicious. That alone is motivation to do it myself.

The first summer we moved in to our
new place, I started a batch. Well actually several gallon jugs but thought it had failed so I dumped it. Hind site has now told me that I was indeed very successful but I chose chokecherry juice and could not see what I was creating. I now realize I had a very healthy mother. No, not mother as in my mother but mother as in what you call the culture for making vinegar. It presents itself as a stringy substance or I've seen it as a blob. Some say it is the brown residue at the bottom of the jar. That I don't know. My chokecherry creation had a large blob and oh how I wish I had kept it.  

A little over a month ago I tried again.This time I went to the local Farmer's Market as I heard there was a gentleman who sold homemade vinegar, mother intact. I spoke with him about the process and since he was sold out when I arrived, I made plans to come again. It was a couple Saturdays later before I could get back and a couple more weeks before I could get my own batch started. The quart I purchased was $7.00 which makes it out of my price range to be a regular customer. Think $28 dollars a gallon and I intend on creating a large use for it. I understand that the vinegar might well be priced correctly. It just isn't in my poor woman's budget.

In my hurry to get started amidst the chaos swirling in our lives. I happen to be making the vinegar in the wrong order. I'm also using apple juice that I canned last fall from our trees. The recipes call for starting with apples and then going from there. That means relying on the questionable products of the store. The thing I'm trying to work away from. I have no facility to store apples but a food cellar is definitely high on my priority list.

To me starting with apple juice is just a jump start on the project but what do I know? I'm a newby to vinegar in using it and making it. Two things I do know is that a apple press is definitely in our future and we need more apple trees. We LOVE the homemade juice I made and bottle. We could use a whole lot more apples if we had them so more trees will be planted. Meantime I will beg for left over harvests from others.

Will this batch of vinegar work. I don't know. The more I've read, the more I see that maybe this batch wasn't done quite right but if not, I shall try again. The more I research, the more ideas I'm acquiring for ways I can use vinegar instead of another product.  Homemade ketchup and mustard are in the near future for sure. What is your favorite use for vinegar?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Laundry Organization

How do I keep up. The truth--- I don't. But there are some things I do that make a huge difference on how much I get done in a day. They all have to do with organization. That and teaching the kids to use the organization I set up. That is the hardest part. They do pretty well but there are frequently mornings when I discover that one of the girls has not emptied their lunch box and put the ice pack in the freezer for the next day's use. Or like this morning, the eight year old realized she had NOT put her backpack in its designated spot and had instead left it in Papa's car which is now at work. This same child forgets her lunch box at school more times than I can count. Memory problems plague our family. One of those genetic handicaps passed down through the generations. Organization and color coding help tremendously with the contention this problem raises.
When it was just Kirk and I, (for a very brief period in our lives.) we had only four or five loads of laundry a week. Keep in mind our washer will do a full basket load of clothes at a time - a must. Now four loads has gone up to fourteen to sixteen or more. This week it is more as I'm doing the kid's laundry from our daughter's house which includes the blankets. To keep up or rather attempt to, I have learned a few things from having our three children and now four granddaughters in our home. This laundry basket set up my husband built from plywood and metal angle iron slide bars is the awesomest basket holder. I've had it about five years now and it is by far the best thing I've found for us. I LOVE it. Baskets that are stored vertically take up less room. I now have a large laundry room and still it could stand to be larger.  I've seen where people have built a two basket stack and placed two or three sets side by side and then put countertop on top for folding clothes. I have a counter top in my laundry room. It is just full right now. It is unfull and then full and then unfull. You know how it goes. The laundry baskets on top are spares for moving laundry from washer to drier etc.
White dirty clothes are in the top basket.

Lighter colored clothes are next down.

Then dark clothes like blue jeans re on bottom. You can see that I've color coded and labeled the baskets. You would think my family could remember light down to dark but NOPE! They were putting clothes in whatever basket was less full and then saying they could not remember. To a degree we remember what is most important to us. This was not to them and so I made it to where there is not excuse. I consider creating more work for Grandma a sign of disrespect. Ask the girls how well I take that. 

If I had put words on the baskets it would not have been enough  since the four year old can't read and the others would have found a reason not to. The duh factor eliminates lots of contention. That includes with the hubby.  Color coding is easy for even the smallest of the family. I simply used masking tape, painting tape, and electric tape as this is the simplest thing I could come up with. Nice pretty labels would be nicer but it is just not up there on the priority list.

I found when our kids were small that these 18 quart plastic tubs meant to do dishes in are extremely handy for many things including washing wool in. I used them to hold our children's clothes in then and I am doing the same thing now with part of our grandkids. We have six granddaughters and one grandson.
The baskets not only have a specific shelf for each of the four children but are labeled with their names. It is the responsibility for the kids to put away their own clothes. If I find a basket around the house then I know who is going to be putting it away. See the stern grandma look?
If you had fewer children then the space for the clothes bins space would allow you to stack towels, bedding or even Mom and Dad's clothes. I simply fold Kirk's and mine onto the washer and laundry room countertop and put them away. I'm not showing you the rest of the laundry room right now as there piles of clothes I'm sorting to put up on a church clothing exchange Facebook site. It is a bit of a mess. I also have a rack for those clothes that need hung up. You may not have the luxury of a nice sized laundry room like mine but there if always room for organization. I had a much smaller space in our last house. I did use the plywood stacked laundry basket set up. My oldest daughter has used one just like this in two of the homes she has rented. Her's is in her bedroom. A pretty curtain over the front or putting this in a closet is an option.

I realize that one size does not fit all and we each have to choose a laundry set up that works best for us. I just want to show you one tried and true method for those who are looking for options. The plastic bins I would never do without no matter what my laundry set up. That is if I have children to care for. They can be quickly picked up if company arrives and you happen to be folding clothes in the living room. They are great when the kids are helping as everyone knows where the item they are folding goes.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Eggs, All Shapes and Sizes

Go to the store and you can choose, medium, large, extra large, and sometimes even jumbo sized eggs. You get a whole dozen or more of your choice.  What I get is small medium, large, and gumbo but I don't get a dozen of the same size, shape or even number of yolks inside. "I get what I get" and as my nine year old tells me, " and I don't throw a fit." Yes, I get whatever the girls lay. At first it is pullet eggs. Some eggs so tiny that the yolk is only a yellow dot inside the whites. Some are so large you would swear you had ducks instead of chickens. It takes a while for you young hens to get things right and consistent. Meanwhile it is kind of fun to see what awaits you each morning.

This Heinz 57 variety of eggs can be perplexing for the person who does a great deal of cooking like I do.  Scrambled eggs no problem but the standard recipe calls for large but I have such a variety of sizes. Oh what do I do with such a selection? I mix and match sizes all the time. I have this HUGE recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I half most of the time. It calls for three eggs. Halving three eggs, I don't think so , so I just put in one large and one medium and call it good. After all I am a dump cook. That means I substitute all the time and my measuring is very approximate. The simple fact is if you cook with fresh ingredients you have to make changes. Not big ones, just subtle to get the consistency you desire. Pumpkin is often not the same consistency as the canned store pumpkin you buy. It is not even the same for the same kind of variety.  Weather and the amount of water the plant receives change changes this quite a bit. A little more flour; a little less; a little larger egg; a little smaller one an it all works out. It is all about being flexible.

Pullets when they first begin to lay slip out small eggs. Sometimes really small like there are fairy hens in your coop. They lay ones with no shell, or lopsided ones but most of the time they do a pretty good job. Eventually the inner works get things running correctly and as time goes by the eggs get larger until they are standard size. Standard size for the genetics of the chicken. My Easter Egger hens lay larger eggs from the very beginning. I emphasize MY as in mine aren't fitting standards for their breed in size and production. As a rule a two year old hen lays a much larger egg than a one year old hen. From then on the size does not change but the frequency in which they lay does. After two years their production rate drops significantly and there after.
Genetics play a role with number of eggs laid a year, when the breed will begin laying, and the size of egg. Genetics also play a role in shape. This shape gene is individual to each hen, also the color tone. This is great as you can easily count how many eggs she is laying a week. Then there is the occasional oops! A hen will get things keewampus like this warped egg. The egg is a bit squoo..shed at the time of development when the calcium is forming on the outside giving it a hard shell.

Eggs are suppose to look like this beauty. Some are even a bit more rounded.  This is what you want as it plays a large role in hatchability. Some swear an egg with a more pointed end will hatch into a rooster and a more rounded egg a hen. There is no scientific evidence to this, in fact it has been proven false.
I have this hen that insists on laying a different egg each time. The brown specks are calcium she failed to put into the shell. The result is a soft shell. The shells often break when you try and pick them up. Other times she puts ridged bumps on the ends.
And sometimes in the middle. She will never get this part right as she has been laying for a couple months. It is genetic.

And sometimes there is no shell at all. This picture is from a different hen. For this particular hen has a wimpy lining also and if there is no shell it breaks at the mere thought of picking it up. She needs to be chicken noodle soup if I could only figure out which one she is. This hen also likes to lay the eggs scattered around on the floor of the coop and not in the nests. So far she has alluded me and I don't know who she is but that is not hard as I'm in a flurry of activity since our single daughter with four kids has just being diagnosed with cancer. Yes, the four grand daughters that are here a great deal of the time.