Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dental Care

When at Walmart I picked up something that I had meant to get many times.  I finally did and was surprised that it only cost $2.58.  (OK, it's $400 a pound so I guess being in .08 oz. container makes it seem inexpensive!)  It's called Temparin Max Lost Filling and Loose Cap Repair  by DenTek.  I found it near the ora-gel and denture paste area.  The little container is supposed to make 8 repairs.  There are directions to replace a lost filling or to secure loose crowns, caps, or inlays.  It says it provides instant pain relief.  It's worth having now if you lose a filling on a Friday afternoon and can't get to the dentist until Monday or Tuesday.  I hope I don't even need it but I'm glad it's in my medical kit. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dogs and Cats

I went to Walmart today.  I was in town, had about an hour to spare and wanted to pick up dog food.  I really like the Ol Roy brand of dog food.  It’s inexpensive, has high protein, and is American made.  Most important, it keeps the dog healthy and strong.  Never mind that she goes under the fence every morning and gets fed at the neighbors as well.  They give her their leftovers from the day before.  She has brought home rolls, cake, chicken, potatoes, and just about everything under the sun.  I do know that if times got hard and she couldn’t eat dog food it wouldn’t be hard to switch her over to leftovers. 

The dog is a good hunter.  She catches rabbits, squirrels, birds, and her favorite, moles.  One of our two cats is a good hunter.  He catches mice, young squirrels and rabbits.  The other cat is getting old and just lies around all day and watches the world go by.  We are watching two other cats for a friend who is stationed overseas.  I’m not sure his cats will want to return to their apartment life after running around our 5 acres.  They are both turning into good hunters as well.  It’s a contest at times to see which cat will bring in some dead creature to give us as a gift.  I would like to get more cats after the two visitors leave.  They do help keep the rodent population down. 

We have a six month supply of cat food and about a year of dog food.  How much should be stored?  The dog is a large dog.  Eating the neighbor’s leftovers, she only goes through a 40 pound bag in about two months.  The four cats go through about 10 pounds in a month. 

We don’t have fleas around here.  I don’t know why, but we don’t.  Perhaps it’s the lack of carpet for them to hang around in.  I do have flea shampoo for them just in case.  I also have the drops you put on their back.  One of the cats is highly allergic to the ingredients in the flea products so she just gets washed and combed.  I don’t think we’ve had to do this to her in about six or seven years.  It’s always a fear that others may bring their dogs here and start an infestation.  We have chemicals in the barn to combat bugs in the house and yard.  I don’t know if they have a shelf life or not. 

I don’t have any medications for the animals if they get sick.  This is something on my list but hasn’t been high on the list.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Acorns, Cattails, and another person crossed off the list

Worked out in the woods today.  We hiked four miles, maybe five.  During that time we came across a pond filled with cattails.  Just last weekend the kids and I picked some and ate them.  I was really excited to see these and I asked the person I was working with if he'd ever tried cattails.  He responded, weren't they mentioned in the book My Side of the Mountain about the kid who ran away and ate cattails?  I said yes.  I then pulled up a stalk, showed him the part that you peeled and could eat raw.  He said that would be great for when the world falls apart and we all become hunters and gatherers.  Of course, he was snickering.  Cross him off the list...

He then wanted to know if I've eaten acorn mush.  Yes, it's sort of a required experience for people in my line of work.  I don't like it though, but I do know how to process it and eat it.  I'll eat acorn bread, pancakes, or make it into a tortilla rather than plain mush.  The Indians used a lot of salt to season the mush, they didn't like it plain either. 

Acorns should be a staple storage item for people who live near oak trees.  A mature oak can produce hundreds of pounds of acorns a year.  There is a process required to remove the tannin from the acorns.  There are people who say you can just eat them plain but I wouldn't suggest it.  Although you may like the flavor they really need to be leached or you'll get sick. 

I will mention a couple of ways to get rid of the tannins.  First is to grind the acorns, then to put them into a colander lined with muslin.  The Indians would make a shallow depression in the sand along a creek, line the bottom with leaves such as thimbleberry, put in the ground acorns, then slowly pour water over them.  Another way is to soak them in water and change the soaking water several times a day for about a week.  I have made them this way, in fact, I have ground them in the bedrock mortars that were originally used by native women here in California. 

The second way is to leach them whole.  This works if you have a creek or some continuous water flow since it will take longer to leach them whole.  Leaching them whole is good if you want to eat them like nuts. 

A third way is to boil them to get rid of the tannins.  This is quickest if you do it right.  If not done right, or if you do it right but it just doesn't work out this time, you actually bind the tannins to the acorns and ruin the whole batch. 

After you leach the acorns they need to be dried, whether in meal or whole nut form.  They can be dried outside or in the oven.

A fourth way the Indians processed them is to bury them in a wet muddy hole in the ground and a year or so later dig them up.  They will be black and disgusting looking, but this way is supposedly good for roasting.  I don't know, I haven't tried it that way. 

Right now is about the end of acorn gathering season so pick some and try your hand at processing acorns.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sewer, septic, outhouse, hole

I haven't lived in a house hooked up to sewer since 1988.  Every once in a while there is talk about upgrading those backwards folks and extending the sewer system towards my neck of the woods.  If it ever becomes more than talk I will fight it wholeheartedly.  Not because the county charges you directly for their costs of bringing us into the modern age but because I want nothing to do with being on a communal sewage disposal system.  At least I am uphill from their plant.


Our house has a septic system which as I wrote before only failed once but failed at the most inopportune time.  The kind person who added an additional 100 feet of leach line did this work on a Christmas morning.  Something about having a house full of grandkids and sewage coming up in the bathtub made him give up his morning at home.


Although I figure our septic system will work for an awful long time before we have any more problems, this will only be the case if it is treated properly.  I saw an add for toilet paper that said to use their brand because you wouldn't have to use 27 sheets to clean yourself like you have to with another brand.  27 sheets at one sitting?  If everyone around here did that only once a day the system would clog up.  The problem we have is when we have company.  Trying to get the ladies to put their personal hygiene items into the trash can rather than flushing them down the toilet is a problem.  We just had one person visiting who lives with a septic tank and still put three days worth of tampons down our toilet.  Almost makes me want to put cement down hers…


We have an outhouse in the front and I'm planning on putting another one out back.  The boys usually just find a tree when they are outside and don't want to stop playing, so it's more for the "entertainment" of guests and for saving water.


I remember as a kid I lived near the farmers fields.  They had portapotties on the dirt roads next to the fields.  These potties didn't have the plastic container underneath to catch everything.  They were open to the ground.  Prior to setting the potty somewhere they'd dig a hole, maybe a foot deep and two feet wide, setting the dirt aside for later.  This hole would catch everything that was done that day.  At the end of the day they'd move the potty about 25 feet, then they set fire to the pile of toilet paper and human waste where the potty had been stationed.  After burning the pile they would cover it up with the dirt.  I thought that was very efficient. 


I've scoured the internet to see if that was discussed anywhere.  It wasn't.  All I read was to dig a huge hole and bury it all or go into a bag and carry it out.  I also saw that it was ok to burn the toilet paper in your campfire at the end of the day.  No place was found stating that you should just burn it all then cover it up.  Sure it won't all burn completely, but it's a good start to getting it to decompose.


The front outhouse is over a deep hole.  The back outhouse may be built this other way, over a shallow hole that gets burned every week.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dental care

Yesterday I broke a tooth.  What was I doing?  One of the grandkids gave me a jolly rancher candy.  Anyone familiar with this candy knows its a small hard candy that you suck on.  If you bite it you could chip a tooth.  I didn't bite it.  In fact, when girl gave me the candy I popped it in my mouth, took one suck, said I didn't like it and spit it out.  Somehow while spitting it out it broke my tooth. 

There was nothing wrong with my teeth.  Last week I went to the dentist and got a clean bill of health.  How could this happen?  Freak accident.  I'm going back to the dentist tomorrow to see if it's something that needs repair.  I'm not so vain that I need it to be repaired because it looks funny.  I'd rather spend my money prepping for the future.  Anyway to the dentist I will go to see what he thinks.

When I was at the dentist last week I was asking question after question about dental tools and how to properly use them and if you can hurt your teeth using them, etc.  It's not that I want to put the dentist out of business but rather if there wasn't a dentist available what could I do myself?  I've up until now been pretty fortunate that I haven't had a lot of dental issues to deal with.  According to the orthodontist, one of the grandkids needs braces in about six month but it's not a life threatening problem so if he doesn't get them, he will survive.  I plan on getting him the braces because anything to keep the teeth in good shape is the proper thing to do, as long as I can afford them. 

I'm convinced that one of the reasons for shorter lifespans in older days was due to inadequate dental care.  You don't eat or can't eat properly if your mouth is in too much pain. 

Back to my dental visit last week; I was told that the tools they use for cleaning plaque and tarter won't hurt your teeth if used properly.  What was improper, I asked?  If you use the tool to drill a hole, then you are going to hurt your teeth, but if you use the tool to scrape stuff off your teeth you won't hurt the tooth.  If you dig too far under the gum you can irritate the gum but you won't go too far to irritate the root because the pain will stop you prior to damage that you can cause doing this work yourself.

I'm not talking about full blown dental work, just keeping the teeth extra clean.  Brush them two or three times a day for two minutes each time.  Use an egg timer for the kids so they know what two minutes is.  Use floride toothpaste and get floride tablets for the younger kids if you are on well water.  If you change your toothbrush every six months then you need to have twenty if you want them to last ten years.  That's not too hard to do.  Buy floss.  It will last forever and can be used for other things as well.  Using floss is as important as brushing your teeth. There are websites that have dental tools available for not too expensive of prices.

If you want to read the publication Where There Is No Dentist, you can download it free from Hesperian. 

Another Egg Update

I finally decided the eggs had dried long enough.  For those of you not following my egg adventure, I decided to dry my excess summer eggs to use in the winter.  I read about this but have never heard anyone I know actually talk about having done it themselves.  You are supposed to scramble the eggs and cook them in a non-stick pan using nothing but the eggs.  I scrambled six eggs for this experiment.  I cooked them, then broke them into smaller pieces and put them into the dehydrator.  After about 10 hours in the dehydrator they sat on a paper plate on the kitchen counter for a week.  They feel greasy but I'm sure that's due to the fat in the egg yolk.  They didn't make a grease spot on the paper plate, which was why I put them on the plate rather than in a container.

Tonight I figured they were dry enough and I ground them up.  I used my Kitchenaid grinder, although I do have an old fashioned hand grinder, and an older fashioned pestle and mortar to use if the situation warranted it.  Ground up the eggs look like cornmeal.  The six eggs come to about 2/3 cups ground eggs.  Sometime this week I will cook them up for breakfast.  According to what I read you should be able to reconstitute them and cook some of them like regular eggs.  I also read that you can use them in other recipes calling for eggs but I don't know how that will work out since they are already cooked. 

I'll report again soon.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Good Books

I consider myself an expert gardener.  I can produce enough fruit and vegetables to support myself and several others.  I have raised several different types of animals for meat.  One of my favorite books is Practical Farming and Gardening.  It was written in 1902.  There are not only discussions about successful operations but detail is also paid to causes of failure.  It can be downloaded at .  Another of my favorites is called National Standard Squab Book.  Squab is the high class term for pigeon.  My copy of the book is the 50th edition published in 1927.  This book can be downloaded free at .  This website has thousands of books that can be downloaded, sent to a Kindle, or read on line.  I suggest downloading and printing it up.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Every part of a cattail can be used.  The parts are seedheads, flower heads, young flower heads, leaves, young shoots, and rhizomes.
The seedheads can be used as insulation in clothing, tinder, or soft stuffing for pillows.  In most situations you'd just use this for tinder.  I expect to have enough clothes and pillows that I won't need to use the seedhead.  If you do use the seedhead as stuffing make sure that the material holding it together is thick because you may get a reaction from it rubbing against your skin.
The mature flower can be used as flour.  Put a plastic bag over the flower head and shake the flowerhead.  The flour can be used as is or mixed with other flour.  With a younger flowerhead that is turnning from green to yellow remove the husk then you can boil and eat the flowerhead. 
Young sprouts that are about a foot and a half tall can be cut, peeled, and eaten raw or cooked.  Once the plants get bigger than a foot and a half you don't eat them.  At that point the only thing you can do with the leaves is use them for thatch for a shelter, or for weaving. 
The rhizomes are starchy and can be used as potato substitutes.  They can also be dried and ground into flour. Growing off the rhizomes are little roots.  These can also be used by peeling away the outer husk and eating the inner core. 
Having skills to feed yourself while on the go are important.  It's not something that you should do for the first time during a stressful period.  Find some cattails this weekend and try it.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rourke is at it again!

Rourke, over at, is conducting another great contest.  He's giving away the first season of Jericho on DVD.  His contest is called ModernSurvivalOnline's Jericho DVD Giveaway.  Check out his website.  He gives a lot of good advice and his opinion is on the same line as mine.  

A baby?

At times we get babies visiting around here.  They don’t stay too long but it got me to thinking, what if things went sour and we had a baby that was staying awhile?  There are several great stores to spend all you money just on babies.  You could probably furnish a 2000 square foot house with just baby items.  Walkers, bouncers, strollers, bassinets, cribs, youth beds, high chairs, play pens, play mats, and so much more stuff, plus a million different toys.  Sure you can buy this stuff used or get lots of hand me downs.  How much stuff does the baby really need? 

I also need to think in two different modes.  First is in normal times, the other is in hard times. 

Food:  Formula or breast milk?  Of course breast milk is best but not always an option.  Powdered formula is great.  Just don’t forget that just a generation or two ago there wasn’t the widespread use of powdered formula.  Formulas for babies could be found in cookbooks.  The formula included milk, sugar or corn syrup and baby vitamin drops.  To quote the Settlement Cookbook, “His first drink is prepared by measuring 3 ounces of water into a bottle.  Add one teaspoon of sugar.” “The following sample formula will be suitable for most babies, 12 ounces whole boiled milk, 4 ounces boiled water, 1 ½ tablespoons sugar or corn syrup.”   Amazing that people survived on this where now babies have to be on powdered formula that costs about $100 a month. 

More on food:  In the olden days (baby boomer period) children started on cereal at six to eight weeks.  By the time they were a year old they were eating pretty much the same as everyone else.  Jarred baby food wasn’t something that was purchased for every meal, mothers ground up plain food for the baby. 

Diapers:  I think opposite most people on this subject.  In normal times I’d use cloth diapers.  If TSHTF I’d rather use disposable diapers.  Why?  I would rather not have to spend as much time or water cleaning cloth diapers.  On the other hand, if I got solar around here then I’d still be able to use the washer and have the well going so cloth would still be fine.  Right now one boy who is here all the time has nighttime wetting problems.  I expect it to last another year or two.  We started off using disposables but made some good absorbent underpants.  We are now saving $25 a month by not buying diapers for him.

Wipes:  What about diaper wipes?  They are inexpensive but when we have the occasional baby around here (about twice a month for an overnight stay) I use “baby washcloths” instead and just throw them in the wash.  If TSHTF I’d be using disposable wipes.  Again, less laundry to deal with. Even if they dry out while in the package you can always add water to make them work.

Clothes:  A couple of years ago we needed to take care of an infant grandchild for four months.  He came with nothing but the clothes on his back.  Nobody I knew had kids or grandkids that could give me some used clothes.  I ended up buying his clothes.  People forget that infants don’t need a huge wardrobe.  I bought four one piece “onesie” pjs with long sleeves and feet attached and six short sleeve one piece “onesies”.  I also bought a package of bibs. That was all.  He wore them for the entire four months.  By using the bibs the clothes didn’t get stained.  They looked pretty new and could be reused for another child.  When the baby went back to his parents they had a huge wardrobe for him.  I think he got to wear everything once or twice.  They never put a bib on him and the clothes look awful even after only one or two washings.

Stocking Up:  The question is how many babies would I expect and for how long?  How do you stock up on diapers and wipes when you don’t know how many kids you’d be supplying?  I decided to use some of the $25 a month that I was spending on the big kid diapers to buy some little kid diapers.  I figure if nothing else, they will make great barter items.

High chair: Often we have two little ones stay over who are too small for regular chairs at the table. We have two high chairs, because I believe that in the house you eat meals at the table and you take your snacks outside.  The little ones use bibs when they are here.  They aren’t taken out of the high chair until they are washed off.  Fortunately I have three barns on the property and baby things like high chairs go on the top floor of the front barn when we don’t have babies around.  They were stored for about five years at one time and about 10 years before that.

Changing table:  I have always changed the babies on the counter in the laundry room.  There is a cabinet above the counter and on the underside of the cabinet is an alphabet chart with the letters and pictures of animals.  Every diaper change includes saying the alphabet and pointing to the letters. 

Beds: Bassinets, cribs, youth beds.  About 25 years ago I bought two portable cribs.  They aren’t really very portable.  They are made out of wood and at one point had casters on the bottom to roll the cribs around.  The bed height could also be raised and lowered.  In the raised form it was the perfect height for a newborn.  The lowest setting will keep in a two year old until they are able to climb out of anything.  The three year old would still fit if I needed a sleeping area for him.  Again, these can be taken apart and kept in the barn.  One is there now.  Its mattress is small enough to fit in a closet or under the bed.  The other crib is in the corner in my room.  It’s been there for three years now.  We don’t have youth beds or bassinets.  The kids go from the crib to a twin bed.  I do believe in twin beds.  I have lots of friends with kids who wouldn't dream of putting their child into a twin bed.  They insist on queen beds.  For one kid!  In the olden days kids slept in twin beds, or if they were in a full size bed it was because there was more than one kid in the bed.  Bigger beds were unheard of for children.  Perhaps that was before mega-sized bedrooms?   I wouldn't travel with a portable crib. When I traveled with the infant, once he started moving around too much that I couldn't keep him on the bed I used a drawer.  I just pulled it out of the dresser, put in a couple of towels and this became his bed. 
Jumpers, swings, and play pens:  When I had the infant here a friend of mine gave me a jumper.  The baby used it for about 5 minutes a day once he grew into it.  Other people use swings to keep their babies entertained.  There’s the handy play pen to keep the child nearby but not into everything.  Let’s see, swing, jumper, play pen, high chair…we are now taking up most of one room.  How about none of the above, except high chair?

Car seat:  Infants need backward facing car seats, then forward facing car seats, then booster seats.  Since all different types are needed, I got one backward and one forward and two boosters.  They have the padding removed and are stored in the barn.  I won’t buy those used because if they were in an accident, the straps may be too stretched out to safely hold the child.  Please don’t skimp here.  The 3 year old grandkid is alive today because he was properly placed in his car seat as an infant!

Stroller:  There are several different kinds.  You can buy a cheap umbrella stroller that is lightweight and won’t last long.  You need to make sure that it won’t tip over if another kid runs into it.  There are also large strollers, some of which are part of a car seat set where you unsnap the seat from the car and snap it into the stroller frame.  I had a Snuggie, which is a cloth baby carrier that you wear against your chest like a backward backpack.  It was comfortable and easy to use.  I carried the baby with me while doing my chores, shopping, etc. and never used a stroller.

When I was working in the kitchen he was in the high chair watching everything that was going on.  Prior to being able to sit in the high chair he was in his car seat watching.

Getting back to babies and survival thoughts.  You don’t need a bunch of junk for a baby.  Get solid items that will last a long time.  Don’t overbuy.  We are going to use some of the money we are saving each month to invest in disposable diapers.  If we don’t need them they will make good barter items.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Egg update

The scrambled eggs are in the dehydrator at a real low temperature.  They feel a bit greasy which is probably due to the fat in the yolks.  The thinner pieces are getting crispy and are easy to break.  Perhaps tomorrow they will be completely dry.  Then on to the next step of the experiment, grinding the dry eggs...

Cleaning Supplies: How much are enough?

If I’m planning on purchasing enough stuff to last 10-20 years how much do I need?  Am I really going to go out and get 20 years worth?  I'd like to but first I have to figure out how much I need.  When something comes up in a super sale you may as well stock up.  It's better than putting your money in the bank.   

I don’t know if I have a lot or a little when it comes to cleaning supplies when comparing how many different things I use.  I keep things simple.  I do make window washing spray but otherwise everything is purchased.  Here's a list of what’s in my closet.  I’m listing name brands and I usually stick with the name brand but not always.  Costco’s Kirkland brand is usually as good as the name brand.
Formula for window spray: In a one quart spray bottle add ½ teaspoon simple green, 1 ½ teaspoon vinegar, couple drops bluing, fill rest with water.

Amount Used
Times per week
Container Size
Supply on hand
Dishwasher Detergent
2 tablespoons –
¾ ounce

85 oz. box
4 months
2 years
Clorox Bleach
1/3 cup (~3 oz) in white load
128 oz.
10 months
5 years
Clorox Bleach
1/3 cup (~3 ox) in quart spray bottle
128 oz.
10 months
2 years
Liquid soap-
1/2 oz.
128 oz.
6 months
3 years
1/3 cup in bucket
128 oz.
10 months
3 years
Simple Green
1 cup in quart spray bottle
1x month
128 oz.
16 months
3 years
32 oz in spray bottle
1 every 2 month
128 oz.
8 months
2 years
Murphy’s oil soap
4 oz. in bucket
2x month
32 oz.
4 months
2 years
Proforce oven cleaner
4 oz. straight from bottle
1x month
32 oz.
8 months
2 years
Ajax cleanser (not the oxygen kind)
2 oz.
21 oz.
2 ½ months
6 years
Laundry Detergent (Costco powder)
~1/3 scoop
200 loads
(but I get 300 loads with H.E. washer)
5-6 months
4 years
Vinegar – mostly for laundry
2 oz.
128 oz.
4 months
3 years
two or three drops
1x month
8 oz.

This is all I have.  Obviously my 10-20 years worth of supplies falls short.  But knowing what I have is an excellent start.

Monday, October 18, 2010


We do not ever buy eggs from the store.  I like to know where our food comes from.  I've always said that I won't buy foreign food from foreign companies because they have less oversight for the way things are grown and processed.  After the American 1/2 billion egg recall, it brought home the fact that if possible I'd rather not buy my groceries at all.  It's much more of an incentive to produce my own.  Presently this is impossible with a full time job and grandkids to raise but any amount that I don't have to buy gives me that much more to spend on the bandaids and bullets part of my survival plan.


I have a recipe for preserving eggs.  You can keep eggs in the refrigerator for months if you want.  They've gone bad if you can float them in a glass of water.  If they still sink, they are still good.  This recipe is not like most recipes which call for freezing them or putting them in a waterglass or even pickling them.  This recipe calls for scrambling the eggs and without milk cooking them in a nonstick pan.  You don't butter or spray the pan, just cook the eggs on the nonstick surface.  After cooking them well but not browning them you break the scrambled egg into small pieces and dry them.  You can dry them in the oven, dehydrator, or outdoors if it's warm enough.  I wonder if you can just let them sit on the counter to dry if you keep the flies off? 


After they are dry you grind them up into a powder.  Supposedly you can then rehydrate them with milk or water and scramble them up again.  It will be great if this works.  We have so many eggs during the spring, summer, and fall but may only get two or three each week during the winter.  If I can save those eggs for baking and still have scrambled egg dishes then winter will be much more pleasant. 


I'm cooking a dozen eggs today.  I'll let you know how it works out.  Has anyone out there ever done this?


Saturday, October 16, 2010

What to do with the money?

The federal government, in an idiotic move, made a change to one of the tax codes and next spring when I complete my tax return I will be receiving a credit of over $20,000!  I'm not saying what I did to "deserve" this money but it's legal and I will take the credit.  


This leads me to a huge dilemma.  What am I going to do with the money?  Number one idea is to pay down the mortgage.  Getting the place to a position of outright owning my property is a very lofty goal.  This money won't even make it close but would take off four years worth of payments. 


Second idea is to put in solar power.  Not the grid tied type which is worthless if the power goes out but the stand alone solar power.  $20,000 would get me a good system that I think would probably cover all our electrical needs.


Third idea is to finish with the six foot wrought iron fence across the front of the property.  That's five thousand.  I'd have $15,000 left.  With the other $15,000 I could buy lots of stuff. 


The fourth idea is to make more improvements to my mountain property.  It needs fruit trees, fencing, and just about everything.  At this property I am always putting in more fruit trees, as I believe you can't have too many, but if I didn't add any more we'd still be ok. 


My fifth idea is to ask you.  If you had this windfall, what would you do with it?  As you can see, none of my ideas include putting the money into the bank or into savings.  I do not believe that that would be the best use of this money.  It's a one time chunk of money.  I don't ever expect to have this amount given to me again.  Ideas?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Baking in canning jars

I bake fruit and vegetable breads in canning jars.  Examples are zucchini bread, banana bread, and our fall favorite chocolate chip pumpkin bread.  I told this to a friend and she tried it.  She wasn't successful.  When I saw what she did I just laughed.  Rule #1 when canning breads, use a wide mouth straight sided canning jar.  If you use a jar that has a taper up at the top your bread will not come out in one piece.  It will make good bread pudding though! 
Put a light coat of grease (I use Crisco) in the jar to cover the bottom and sides.  Do not bring the grease too close to the rim or get any grease on the rim of the jar.  Make your recipe as normal and pour your batter into the jar rather than baking it in a loaf pan.  You will need to experiment to know how much to pour in.  You want the top of the loaf to come just below where the lid would be if the lid were on.  Do not bake with the lid on! 
As soon as it is done baking take it out of the oven, wipe off the rim, then put on your canning lid (that you have prepared in hot water) and loosely tighten the ring. If you put in too much and the loaf bakes up higher than the top of the jar that's ok.  Just cut off the top of the bread so it's below the rim.  Let the jars sit on the counter to cool just as you would when canning fruits and vegetables.  It's really that simple.
When it's holiday time I give these jarred breads as gifts.  I usually put a puffy decoration on the lid, which was really popular during the 1980s.  It's a well liked gift but often during the holidays people have so much to eat that they throw away a lot of food that sits around and gets stale.  If the person isn't going to eat it right away it will be preserved and they can enjoy it at a later time. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall garden fun

In some parts of the country the temperature is freezing at night already.  Not here.  The weatherman was joking today that some of the local towns are going to get down into the 50s tonight.  Most people already have their fall garden in and are reaping the fruits of their labor.  The pumpkins are almost ready to be harvested for Halloween carving. 


What's my garden looking like this year?  The summer garden is still going crazy.  We are still getting squash, cucumbers, okra, eggplant, and tomatoes.  We have onions and garlic ready.  One of my favorite vegetable dishes in cubed zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes cooked in a little butter with a lot of Italian seasoning.  It's simple and delicious.  We eat this fresh for over half the year.  For the other half of the year we eat the same dish using dried zucchini and eggplant mixed with canned tomatoes.  I can zucchini and eggplant using the pressure canner as well. 


We have pumpkin growing by the propane tank and also out front.  We use them not only for carving but also for eating the seeds and eating the pumpkin.  My grandmother used to make pumpkin chocolate chip cake.  It's delicious and can be cooked in a canning jar and given as a gift.  I keep pumpkins in the garage during the winter and they will last until spring. 


The ground doesn't freeze around here and can be kept going all year round.  Overwinter I usually just keep broccoli.  The plants have grown like crazy and will have little flower buds to pick each week.  I can get enough for one meal per week for most of the winter.  We also overwinter some of the beets for the greens.  I can pull beets and carrots for much of the winter as well.  I can't leave potatoes in the ground here.  They will rot, but some will survive well enough to grow again in the spring.  It is time to start prepping the garden for next spring.  The kids cleaned out the chicken coop and dumped everything into the garden.  I've heard that you aren't supposed to do this as the manure is too strong.  I've never had a problem with burning the plants.  What it has caused is some plants to grow great but not produce flowers or vegetables.   By the time spring comes around I usually don't have a problem. 


At the end of winter, and sometimes during, the barn needs to be cleaned out where the sheep hang out.  This takes a while to decompose because it goes straight into the garden.  If I made a compost pile it would decompose quicker.  We don't have much to compost.  The chickens eat leftover food.  The sheep and goats (when we have goats) eat the leaves from the trees.  Branches from trimmings get burned.  Grass, when I mow the lawn a couple times per year, goes to both the chickens and sheep.  If I wanted to compost I'd be taking away from the animals and giving to the garden.   So right now the garden gets the manure the animals get the plants.


I'm trying to decide if I want to put in raised beds.  At another house I lived in I had raised beds and I loved it.  I used railroad ties which looked great in my perfectly manicured yard.  I certainly don't have anything that looks perfectly manicured now.  Railroad ties, or any product used to raise the beds would have to be purchased because I don't have any source of free stuff except rocks from our other property.  Is it worth the expense?  Not right now but if I get serious about raising the beds then I should start putting the manure in areas where the bed would be if they existed rather than spreading it throughout the entire garden. 


It's easier to plant intensively in the raised garden than it is when you have lots of open space.  At least it is for me.  With about ¼ acre dedicated to vegetables, it's hard to not want to use all the space and space each of the plans out in nice rows.  There's something very satisfying about looking at the rows of vegetables. I could plant in less space but then there'd be all this open area.  I'd need to plant even more food!


During the winter the ground gets so saturated that you sink at least to your ankles when walking in the mud.  Last year we put in a rock path that went from the yard to the barn but missed the 15 feet to the chicken coop.  This summer we extended it to the chicken coop.  Instead of just a small path we made a 15 foot square pad in front of the barn and coop.  We are going to put down another layer of rock this weekend but it's looking good so far.  Being able to make dedicated paths in the garden would also be a plus and is another reason to go with the raised beds. 


I'm thinking about opening the chicken coop door and letting them into the garden during the day.  This will be a good way to get rid of many of the bugs that overwinter in the garden.  They can also eat the weeds.  They will probably eat a lot of the seeds as well so I should expect as much of my volunteers to come back in the spring.  It will be a good experiment.  I won't have to worry about the volunteers anyway because next season I'll be planting my survival seeds from that I won from the contest at