Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The year in review- 2009

It's almost New Year's Eve! EEEK! Where did the year go? It seems like just last week that I was setting goals for the year, now it's time to take stock of my progress and think about what I want to accomplish next year.
This has been a HUGE year for us. So much has happened and our lives have changed, for the better, I think. But how did I do on the goals I set last January? Let's see:
1- Food production- plant, weed and harvest a garden. Well, it was planted and harvested but the weeds were an issue this year. The combination of having no time and the unusually wet weather sabotaged my efforts to keep up with the weeds- but all in all- I didn't do too bad. The fact that this was the first time this land had ever been worked was definitely NOT in my favor on the weed front.
2. Food security- I had hoped to reach 50% of our food produced at home or locally grown. I don't think I made this one. We still do a much better job of eating locally than many around here do but I'd like to do better. We're probably at about 30% for local foods but honestly, things have been so crazy this year that this is one area I let slide.
3. Home Front- find and purchase our acreage. This one is a big definite accomplishment. There are still days that we wonder if we bit off more than we can chew with this house and how much work it needs but we keep plugging along. Having our own land is such a sense of security, now we're looking at the overall plan for developing it to it's fullest potential.
4. Health- Well, this one was hit and miss. I definitely am physically stronger than I was. Working on the house has helped that one along. I did not manage to lose any weight though, In fact, with the decrease in exercise that I'm getting since I no longer walk to work, I have put on a few pounds since we moved. grrrr...
5. Learn something new- well, I didn't learn to knit but I have learned several new skills. I can now add dry walling, tiling and framing to my list of skills. Not too bad.
6. The three R's- we have been really good about this one. We've become much more deliberate in our purchases- partly due to finances and partly due to being more conscious about it. We have also been good at reducing waste while we worked on this place. We have repurposed as much as was feasible and have scrounged many of the things we needed when we could.

All in all, not too bad of a showing for this crazy year. Now, we're looking down the barrel of a new year and a new decade. But more on my plans for the next step later.

Have a happy and safe New Year's Eve celebration. Welcome the new year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Independence days- a snowy update

I can't believe that it's almost the end of the year. And what a year it has been. I'm tossing over ideas for a 2009 wrap up post and a look ahead at goals for the new year (and decade!) But in shorter terms, it's been a while since I've done an Independence Days update. We're in the dark days of winter so the options for many of the categories are limited here in the frigid midwest.
1. Plant something- nope. But I have begun the planning for next year. We've been talking about constructing an herb spiral. Actually, I would love to have a double spiral (one clockwise, one counter) with culinary herbs in one and medicinal/tea herbs in the other. I've been compiling my list of herbs. I have also been planning some permaculture plantings (mainly fruit trees) and trying to figure out to best use our land. Many projects will be on hold until we sell our house in town though and can afford to have some major outside work done.
2. Harvest something- Hmm... does snow count?
3. Preserve something- only my sanity, and that has been a close thing these past few weeks.
4. Waste not- mostly the usual. I forgot to put the cloth bags back in the car last weekend and was amazed at how guilty I felt walking out with plastic bags- even though just about everyone else was using plastic. We rarely don't have enough bags in the car. We've got 6 or 7 bags that cycle between the house and car so it is rare that none of them make it back in. Let's see, I also re-used gift bags for wrapping presents for my sister, niece and nephew.
5. Want not- Even though it was a gift for V, I'm counting the chainsaw purchase as a prep item. We're hoping to put in a fireplace or wood burning stove at some point and will use the saw for cutting wood. We've got 3 dead trees on the property now that need to come down. As far as storage- I now have LOTS of cinnamon and vanilla. My parents live near a different bulk store than I do and made a recent trip there. Mom got two huge bags of ground cinnamon that she divided up between herself, my sisters and I. I ended up with about a pound and a half of cinnamon!!!!! I'm going to have to figure out what to make with it. I can't imagine using that much before it starts losing it's flavor. She also gave me a one liter bottle of vanilla- you know, the Mexican kind with the rooster on the label- yum. I picked up a little bit of candy on the after Christmas sales to stash away for sometime in January for a treat for the children.
6. Community food systems- hmm, not much here other than making a donation to the food pantry.
7. Eat the food- no problem here. We're going to try to eat more out of storage in the next few weeks. Finances are tight and with the extra expenses of Christmas gifts and insulation, it's going to be a lean month. Fortunately, we've got enough stores to eat well for quite a while. It will just take a bit of planning and I've been lazy lately.

In other news, I didn't get the job I had applied for. Actually, I'm relieved. I was so on the fence about applying in the first place and this means one less headache I have to deal with. Now I can keep my focus on the things that are really important to me.

I'll try to do a year in review post and new goals sometime soon.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thinking of Spring

Already! I've got a post up at Homemakers Who Work about dreaming over seed catalogs. It's one of my favorite Winter pastimes. Do you have any favorite seed catalogs or companies?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas photos

These are not in any particular order but are images from the last two days.
We had a wonderful holiday. The weather held out long enough for us to get to my parents briefly yesterday. One sister was there (from Maryland). My other sister, from Colorado didn't make it due to the storm. They opted to stay home where it was safe. My brother is in Argentina. We had a smaller Christmas than usual, partly because of economic conditions, partly because we just don't need as much stuff.
The boys each got Mythbuster's science experiment kits. K9 was experimenting with his today.
Baking soda and citric acid in water, blowing up a balloon.
It's fun.
He's a bit more apprehensive as the balloon gets bigger!

We had 2.5 inches of rain Thursday into Friday morning. The creeks were running high- but it was beautiful. It still didn't manage to wash away all of our snow.
Our tiny pond is a bit bigger than usual.

V was surprised by his big gift
And later at my parents, Dad came through with a companion gift-
Chain oil!
We did get about 4 inches of snow overnight, enough for V to really use the snowblower. My parents were pleased that we got something that we can really use with their gift.
It's one powerful machine!
My gift from V
I also got two silicone baking mats, Ethel gloves (OK, I'll confess, I got those for myself for a stocking stuffer when J15 and I discovered them on the discount rack for $5 a pair!) and a new wooden spoon. I also ended up with a video game for the XBox. In all the years that we have had it, I have played exactly one time- but I still got a game for Christmas (Assassin's Creed)- I think really because V wanted it for himself.
The boys got their science experiments, some clothes, books and a couple of video games. K got his pocketknife. J15 got earrings, an art supply organizer/box, books and a game. Even the pets got gifts, Tick got a new chew toy and the cats got a scratching post that we attached to a corner of the kitchen island where they seem to think they want to sharpen their claws.
More seed catalogs arrived today. I'm now up to 7. Fun for dreaming of the spring and making plans... I really want to do some serious permaculture on this land. We were joking around at inviting an old friend from Virginia to come visit us and give us tips. She has her own landscape design business.
We're also working on designing our new deck which we hope to build wrapping around the addition. We're in luck that my Dad has some lumber that he's willing to give us. Dad is a scrounger (I come by it naturally) and a number of years ago, when a tornado came through and took out the airplane hanger at the neighbors (he has a crop dusting service and landing strip) my Dad salvaged a bunch of lumber. He has a stack of treated 6x6 beams, the longest of which is 26 feet. That's waaay longer than we will need or will be able to transport- but we now have support posts for our deck at no cost other than transportation from my parents.
Now that the holidays are past and we are into the depths of winter, we can do some serious planning for spring/summer projects and next years goals.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From our house to yours

Merry Christmas!

May it be filled with wonderful things.
Be safe, warm and content.

Judy, Vernon, Justine, Ian and Karl

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's finally done

V finally finished up the last of the insulation! Hurrah!!! Just in time for the freezing rain to hit.... boo...
But we now have just over 20 inches of warm, toasty insulation in the attic.
Here is the pitiful amount that was up there to begin with:
Yup, that's an accurate reading... sad isn't it.
And the previous owners said they had an energy audit and were told it was sufficient. Yeah, right!
During installation.
We installed two layers of R30 insulation.
Finished! A sea of yellow fiberglass
We've been getting rain/freezing rain/sleet mix all day and it's supposed to continue through tomorrow. Then it's supposed get cold and change to snow on Friday- Just in time for us to travel to my parent's.
I'm off until Monday and I can't wait to sleep in tomorrow. I need to finish wrapping presents tonight so we can relax tomorrow evening .

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday photos

A bit of a slow day around here for a change. I12, J15 and I were at church by 730 this morning so I12 could warm up for his performance. They sounded great! V and K9 arrived after the first service and stayed for the second service while J15 and I went shopping. Man, I LOVE the discount racks! We found some really cute stuff on the 75% off clearance rack and I still had an extra 30% off coupon to use- we got some sweet deals- and only clothing for the two of us. It's been a while since I've gotten anything new and I really needed it.
It was snowing a bit this morning. Not really enough to warrant getting out the snow thrower (we picked it up Friday evening) but V wanted to play... er... make sure it works... yeah, that....
It's HUGE!!

And a package for me appeared under the tree...
Only a few biscotti left.
We did bake Vanilla cookies today:
Some traditional...
Some not. Well, they're traditional for us...
K9 got out his old hot wheels track and was playing with that this afternoon.
Spaz thought it was fun...
Look at that concentration.
But then, all tired out, it's time to take a nap on the presents.
It was nice to have a slower than usual day. V did find his heavy duty respirator that he's going to use up in the attic. He will do the installation, J15 will run the insulation from the vent to where he is working and help him get it cut to size, the boys will load it into the sling. They're going to try to work on it for a few hours at at time during this week as the weather allows. We were granted a reprieve today since it was snowing.
Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice. The days will start getting longer. I can't wait. I know we have several cold, dark months ahead but every little bit helps. Have a peaceful week.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Checking in

What a frustrating day. V spent several hours up in the attic this morning stapling down wires and cleaning out old mouse contaminated insulation. Unfortunately, this kicked up so much dust and crud from the tiny bit of old cellulose insulation that was up there that, even though he was wearing a mask, after a few hours of working he was starting to feel ill. So, we only got about a third of the insulation done before he called it quits. We worked out a pretty good system. V and J15 were up in the attic installing and I was outside supplying the insulation. Our penchant for not throwing things away paid off- V strung up an ancient hammock onto the end of a rope that we used as a cargo sling to haul the insulation up through the gable vent. It worked really well. Actually, I would have much rather been up in the attic than standing outside loading insulation rolls into the sling. It was much warmer up in the attic and they were out of the wind. I could load insulation much faster than they could install it so I ended up spending time standing around outside waiting. That wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't been 23 with snow flurries.
Anyway, we knocked off work around 3 this afternoon so I took the time to bake some cookies. So far, Thursday and Friday evenings I baked 2 batches of biscotti (pistachio and a chocolate, cherry, almond one) and this afternoon we made gingerbread cookies.
Don't think the boys got off work since we didn't let them up in the attic (we're worried they would forget about only stepping on the joists!). I had a list of things for them to do. They were responsible for cleaning the cats' litter box, emptying the compost bucket, vacuuming and sorting a huge basket of socks.
I did manage to get all my holiday shopping done and even some wrapped yesterday. Tomorrow, I'm taking I12 to church early since he is playing for both services. J15 and I will attend the early service, V and K9 will come for the later service and bring I12 home with them. After church, J15 and I are going shopping. Not my favorite time of year to go shopping but I desperately need some pants for work. One of my favorite department stores is having a sale and I ended up with a coupon for 30% off my entire purchase so it seemed like a good time to go. J15 is complaining that she needs new bras so she's coming along. I'm hoping that if we can get there in the morning that we can miss most of the crowds in the afternoon. I would still like to find a little something more for V's stocking but if I don't, it's OK.
I did bake a squash this afternoon since another one was developing a bad spot. I ended up making 'pumpkin pudding' - like pie without the crust. I've been doing much better at eating from stores recently. We'll see if I can keep it up. Tomorrow afternoon is vanilla cookie time.
Even though we really need to get the insulation done (especially since there is now only a sheet of plastic stapled up over the gable vent) V wants to take a day off to let his lungs and head clear of whatever made him feel bad this afternoon. Looking at the weather it looks like there may be a nicer day this week. I'll be at work but we figured that I12 and K9 can load insulation into the sling for V and J15 to install.
I hope you are all having a peaceful weekend. If you're on the east coast of the U.S.- stay warm!! I need to call my sister in Maryland and see if she is going to be able to make it this week.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Out of touch

Things around here are crazy and getting crazier by the day. I'll probably be around here in blogdom sporadically for a while until my life settles down. With work and house and holiday preps I'm burning the candle at both ends and in the middle some days.
I had my open forum with department staff today over lunch. My official interview last week was OK but I never know how I do on these things. Today I had no idea what to expect but it didn't go badly...random questions from about 15 people who showed up. The last of the forums for the position I'm going for are tomorrow and then the search committee will make a decision. We'll see what happens.
The children have been having many rehearsals for a variety of musical activities this week, in prep for the holidays. Last weekend was a bust for me getting anything done as will be this weekend. At least I have Friday off so I can finish some holiday gift shopping. I'm just about done with my gift lists. K9 wants a pocketknife so I need to go find a nice one for him as well as a couple of other things.
Saturday is our insulation marathon, Sunday I12 needs to be at church all morning since he band he is playing in is performing at both services, and sometime I need to wrap gifts and make cookies.
I had hoped to get some baking done tonight but I12 had rehearsal, then there was dinner and now I'm just too tired to even think about it. Maybe I'll get something started tomorrow evening since no one has to go anywhere and I don't have to get up too early on Friday (Ooo, I can sleep in until 630!!) Maybe I can knock out some biscotti that I'm planning on for gifts- except that K9 ate all the craisins (sigh). I'll have to see what else I have in stock.

I'll try to keep tabs on what is going on in everyone's lives but I can't promise much for the next few weeks. I hope you are all staying sane this time of year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Yum- Vanilla cookies

I'm posting a recipe today at Homemakers Who Work. It's one of our favorites. Check it out.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

All sung out

It has been a long, busy day and I think I've sung more today than I have in a long, long time. First, the children's Christmas program was this morning at our church. All the children had parts. I12 was a narrator, K9 was a shepherd and J15 had the final reading (not a real part). Then church- which was the annual service of lessons and carols. This is usually one of my favorite services of the year since there is lots of singing- but this year, they selected a lot of obscure, rather downbeat songs. That, and the fact that there were 2 baptisms today, and the service seemed to go on forever!!! Following church, the high school youth served a soup and sandwich lunch (guess who was working there), the trees in the sanctuary were decorated and then we went driving all over town caroling. We made only 4 stops but three of them were more like performances than just caroling. We visited 3 long term care facilities and gave 30 minute concerts at each. It was fun but tiring, and, of course, none of these places could be located anywhere near each other. After caroling, I had to give rides home to 2 of J15's friends who were riding with us and... of course- they live on opposite sides of town.
Poor I12, even after caroling he wasn't done. He had rehearsal for the church band this afternoon as well. They play next week so things are picking up there as well. J15 and I stopped at the grocery store while we waited for him and picked up a few things so we could at least make efficient use of some of our time today.
Now, after all of that, I'm tired. I had hoped to have some time this afternoon to bake cookies but it wasn't meant to be. But the faces of those people at the care centers made the whole afternoon worth it. And you know, we sounded pretty darned good, too! J15 and I can do some mean harmonies together and I12 still has that sweet little boy voice- at least for the moment.
V and K9 didn't go caroling with us. They came home after lunch and worked on cleaning out the garage. Tomorrow, finally, we're getting delivery of our insulation for the attic which will get stashed in the garage until Friday/Saturday when I have the day off and we're planning to put it in. Much, much later than we had hoped but V had to finish all the re-wiring up there before we cover it all over with insulation. The fun never ends around here. But at least, after this next weekend, we'll be warmer and more energy efficient.

And the winner is....

Selected by the random drawing of names out of a hat by K9:

Lisa of Colors Outside the Lines. Poor Lisa has been going through finals week after taking the plunge to go back to school. Hopefully this will cheer her up and make her forget all that chemistry she has been shoving in her head...well, maybe not all of it.

Lisa, send me an email with a shipping address and I'll get this out to you after the holidays since I'm not fighting crowds at the post office right now.

Thanks to everyone else who entered. I just wish I could send something to each of you. This was fun. Maybe I'll have to do another one sometime.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Survival seed give away

Only one day left to enter the giveaway for the seeds! The seeds arrived today. A really heavy package too:
Sealed in a pouch for long term storage.
With an 8 page planting guide.
Leave a comment on the original post by midnight on December 12th to be entered. Then I'll select a lucky winner at random and get them off to you. Although, honestly, I may wait until after the holiday rush to send the package- it's a bit crazy at the post office these days.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More snow day pics

Oosh, it took us about 4 hours to clear the driveway! Of course, there were drifts up to mid thigh deep all the way across and all the muck the snowplows threw into the mix. It was rather frustrating since the wind was still howling and many of the drifts were already reforming when we finished. The wind is still howling now. It kept snowing off and on all day. We got maybe 10 inches total??? but it's so hard to tell with the wind.
We finally made it down to the highway.
Doesn't this look like a busy state highway to you???
The view to the South...

and North.
V decided it was just as well he didn't order the snow blade- there was so much snow that he's not sure it could have handled it anyway. The 3 to 4 foot drifts would most likely have overwhelmed the 14 inch blade. So... we're thinking of acquiring a snow blower. Fortunately, the annual card from my parents arrived (with a $$ gift) so we think they may be going to get us a snowblower for the holidays.
Mom always makes counted cross stitch cards for all of us- I've got many years of them saved. Here is this year's:
Isn't it pretty?
With all the shoveling going on, I didn't get as much accomplished as I would have hoped. We did have ox-tail soup for dinner but didn't get cookies made. But....
We did put up the tree
Spaz is thoroughly fascinated.
Given that the cats are curious and slightly insane, we opted to NOT put up anything that may be breakable this year. That took many of our favorites out of the mix so the tree looks a bit more bare than usual. That and Mandy's obsession with plastic puts tinsel right out of the picture. The majority of our ornaments have stories behind them. This year, we put up many of the plastic ones we used when the children were quite small (that we haven't had to use for years). But we still have some old standards:
Little counted cross stitch angels that I made for gifts a few years ago
A cinnamon stick stable that J15 made when she was about 5.
We already got the call that the children don't have school again tomorrow but I still need to try to get to work. We're likely to have to re-clear the driveway so we can get the car out...oh, for a 4 wheel drive vehicle...but that's not in our future any time soon.
What a first winter storm for us to have here. It's being said that this is the worst storm in over 10 years here. So, at least we know we can survive 'the worst' pretty well. Of course, after 4 hours of shoveling, my back is talking to me again! I see Advil in my future....

Snow day photos

I woke up this morning to this:
Oops, forgot to turn off the flash!
Better picture but not good weather.
I love the pre-dawn blue!
It's definitely a winter wonderland!
The highway is snow covered and nearly abandoned.
Seeing the road conditions, the forecast and the occasional periods of white out, I opted to NOT go to work today. The university canceled classes but the hospital never closes. The highway patrol is recommending no travel unless it's an emergency and I didn't consider getting to work an emergency. It will cost me a vacation day but better safe than sorry. The wind has picked up even more and the 8 or so inches of snow is now being blown all over. It's hard to tell how much we got since it's all been blown around.
I've been up since 4am, trying to decide if I could get to work (V didn't take that long to decide he wouldn't take me to the bus stop!) The first snow plow didn't go by until about 6:40- and there haven't been many since then. Makes me glad we're well stocked.
and beautiful.
The poor dog, he wants to go out...
and almost immediately wants to come back in.
But it's fun to bundle up and play in the snow.
We're going to try to put up the tree this afternoon and maybe make cookies. Right now the children are weirded out. I got out the tail of our cow and am currently simmering it for ox tail soup. I think that having that much of an identifiable body part is a bit much for them- at least that it's a tail.
Maybe I'll post some more snow day pics later.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


It's snowing heavily here and the wind is starting to pick up. We've got probably 5 or more inches already and the worst of the storm is yet to come. The children had an early release from school. I, of course, had to work. But we went sledding after I got home- yup, sledding in the dark! It was FUN!!! Of course, now my back is reminding me that I hurt it last week- but it was so worth it. The hill running South from the house is definitely a kick-ass sledding hill!!!
We're pretty sure that the children will have a snow day tomorrow. We've got a blizzard warning through the entire day tomorrow and authorities are already advising against travel unless it's an emergency. I'm holding my breath about getting to work. Very, very rarely the hospital calls an emergency situation and only essential personnel need to report. That is one time I'm happy to be considered non-essential. They did it for a while during the floods of 2008- at that time we worked with minimal staffing rather than none. In the past when the weather was really bad, I was the one who always showed up since I walked and didn't 'have an excuse' to not be there (like I was any safer walking 1.3 miles through a winter storm than someone having to drive!) Now, living out in the country, I'll have to see what the road conditions are before I decide. Since this is our first winter in this house, we don't know where the drifts will form yet. Personally, I'm hoping for a 5 foot drift right in front of the garage!
In other work news- I had my interview this afternoon. It's hard to gauge how it went. It was very odd being interviewed by people I know, including 2 who I work closely with on a daily basis. Like I said- odd. They've still got 2 more to interview for the position I applied for and I have an 'open forum' over the lunch hour next week where anyone in the department can come and ask me questions. I'm more worried about that than I was about the interview.
We still haven't put up the tree yet, maybe tomorrow if it's a snow day. And I need to figure out when to plan the cookie baking extravaganza. I work on Saturday so that's out. Maybe the following weekend- I'll have a three day weekend. We'll see.
I hope all of you in the path of this storm stay warm and safe.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bad weather, Bad news

We had snow overnight. Not much this time- a little less than an inch. But this is the set up for the bigger storm that is coming. We've got a winter storm warning starting overnight through most of tomorrow and then a blizzard watch for Tuesday night/Wednesday. Woo Hoo. It looks like we'll get to try out the sledding hill! Of course, this was NOT a good time for V to inform me that he never got around to ordering the snow blade for the tractor. Oops! We'll have lots of shoveling to get out. We're predicted (at the moment) to get anywhere from 6 to 12+ inches with sustained winds of 25-35 mph and gusts up to 50. I just hope it holds out long enough for me to have my interview tomorrow. It's not scheduled until 3 pm and if the roads get too bad they will likely have to reschedule since several members of the interview committee have school age children and commute 20 or more miles.
In the really bad news- V got the "after a difficult decision, we have decided to go with a different candidate" letter today. (sigh) At least he still has his on-line job and now he'll continue to have time to work on the house.

Hometown Seeds- they do NOT sell GMO

I had a lovely email from the owner of Hometown Seeds this morning concerning the information that is being circulated about them selling GMO seeds. They do not and have never sold GMO seeds.
Here is the text of the email I received:

I am the owner of Hometown Seeds and I need to clarify a terrible misunderstanding. Chelsea showed me your email and I worked back from there. Let me explain.
First, our survival seeds are all non-hybrid and none are GMO. Secondly, the mistake is all my fault. Chelsea is working in our little company part time. She is a student at a local university helping us build traffic to our website by reaching out to sites like yours. She is not an expert in gardening and relies on me to answer any technical questions. When the gentlemen from Oklahoma Peppers Network asked if our seeds were Hybrid or GMO, I told her to respond that we sell some hybrid seeds but they are not in the survival seeds, and none of our seeds are GMO. This is obviously not how she responded and had no idea how badly the mistake would be received. I have seen what she emailed back, hence the misunderstanding and negative blog posts. It was there in black and white after all.
We completely agree with the evils of GMO seeds. We do not now nor ever will carry GMO seeds. As for the survival seeds, the whole point is to provide open pollinated seed that will generate seed for the next year as well as food for the family. All seeds in the survival seed packet are non-hybrid.
We have already sent the survival seed package out to you and I would hope you would examine the types of seeds and the instructions that clearly describe each type of seed.I feel terrible that we have created such a problem. What I feel the worst about is that in your efforts to help us out, we created confusion with your loyal readers. I don’t know what else I can do but accept full responsibility for the what we have done and apologize profoundly. I am very sorry. I ask forgiveness from you and your readers.

Scott Peterson, owner

(UPDATE- here is the rest 0f my email from Scott.)

(I am the owner of Hometown Seeds. Chelsea forwarded your message with your concerns for GMO seeds. I appreciate you addressing us first as our mistake has led to some very negative blog posts. Please see the detailed explanation below. We are vigorously trying to remove these concerns. We have no GMO seeds. We have a single supplier that shares our belief that GMO seeds have too many unknowns and should be avoided. Please let us know if you have any further questions.)

So, the seeds from them are safe, no concerns. I did notice from checking out their website that the hybrids they offer are all clearly labeled as such. I'm glad I didn't jump to conclusions.

There is still time to enter the giveaway for the Survival Seeds pack.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Feast of Music

Last night, V and I put aside the toils of everyday and went out for a feast of the soul. We attended a holiday concert by Musick's Feast. They are a professional vocal ensemble with a focus on early music (primarily 15th century last night). They sing without accompaniment so it is just their voices blending in intricate harmonies. They have a two-fold purpose: They aim to provide high quality music and they are fighting hunger at the same time. They have actually organized into a non-profit organization, all their time is donated and 100% of all door receipts go to fighting hunger. According to their brochure, over the past 7 years that they have been doing this, they have donated $36,000 to feed the hungry. They have sent money to Heifer International, Church World Service, The Salvation Army and Mercy Corps. More locally, they have contributed to the local Table to Table Food Rescue and the local food banks and free lunch programs. Last night's proceeds were to be divided between the Salvation Army and our local Crisis Center food bank.
V and I both love early music and it was a lovely, relaxing way to spend an evening together, away from our worries and also give back to our community. They sang a variety of holiday music so it also helped me ease into the holiday spirit.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Free seeds???

And a giveaway!!
I recently received an email from Chelsea at Hometown Seeds. They are a newer online seed source and she asked me if I would post a link to their site. In return for this, she will send me a free pack of Survival Seeds, a specially designed pack of 16 varieties of seeds to keep in stock for emergencies. Not that I'm falling for the panic about the end of the world in 2012 (I haven't even seen the movie!) but you never know.
I'm good on seeds at the moment so I thought I'd do my first giveaway ever and give one lucky reader my free seeds.
I've done a little bit of checking on this company and for those of you who are heirloom purists, this company is probably not for you. They sell a variety of open pollinated and hybrid seeds. I'm personally not that much of a purist so it doesn't really bother me- I think they both have their uses. The survival seeds are supposedly all open pollinated varieties that you can save seeds from if needed.
If you're interested in being in the mix to win leave a comment on this post by midnight December 12th and I'll choose a lucky winner at random.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Not feeling it.

It's hard to realize that Christmas is only a few weeks away. The weather here has been unreal. It was 58 here yesterday. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I just haven't been able to get into the holiday spirit.
I have only 3 gifts so far. One for K9, one for J15 and one for my mother. I want to get V a chainsaw but I need to do some research and get some recommendations first. I know it is something he will use around the property and has been looking at for a while. He has a little electric one that we used in town but we've got much bigger trees and definitely not enough extension cords to reach to some of the trees that need cut here.
I do have some home canned goods that I can use for gifts (peach salsa, pear chutney, cranberry mustard) probably for the nieces and nephews. I may make some biscotti as well and I usually give them coffee or teas.
I've been laid up for a few days. I pulled some muscles in my back over the weekend and then they were further aggravated when I came down with a stomach bug on Monday (I ended up leaving work early). Let me tell you, it's a terrible thing to realize that you need to get to the bathroom now and have a catch in your back so you can't even breathe much less move. My stomach is feeling much better and my back is slowly healing. I've been taking lots of ibuprofen and me and the heating pad have been close friends. I did make it back to work today and oh my it was busy!!
But regardless of health and gifts, the season keeps creeping up. I'm having difficulty getting into the swing of things. I even put some holiday music on my ipod but can't stand to listen to even some of my old favorites. Maybe when we put up the tree and do some more decorating I'll feel more into it- maybe.
I have been pleased that the boys aren't making excessive demands on their lists, and J15 is simply asking for fatigues and boots (she wants clothes to work outside in). V just wants trains (no surprise there- but that's probably not what he's getting). He has asked me several times what I want. I honestly don't know. Last year he got me a pressure canner that I really wanted. I got my land this year, that is gift enough for me. Maybe some books...
I've also been a bit preoccupied with this possible promotion. I've got an interview next Tuesday and a candidate forum on the 16th where staff members can ask me questions. Eek. V still hasn't heard anything about his job possibility and I think he's getting a bit discouraged. sigh.

I'm being buried alive!

I'm posting today over at Homemakers Who Work about my problem with too much stuff in my life. Drop by to check it out.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nuthin' much

I puttered around the house today, getting this and that done. Nothing huge, but little accomplishments that add up. We were up early. I12 had to be at church at 7:40 this morning for a final rehearsal and then the youth choir he is in sang at the 8 am service. We're not used to getting around that early on a Sunday morning (we're usually in the 10:30 crowd) but in some ways, it was nice to get home early enough to still have most of the day left.
Lets see, I got some Christmas lights hung outside since the weather is still cooperating with us with low 4os. Nothing spectacular, just icicle lights around the porch. It's funny though, they actually illuminate the porch better than the regular porch lights do.
I cleaned up a bit around the house, washing ziploc bags, doing dishes, a load of laundry and general scrubbing.
V and J15 were hanging drywall in the basement. They're making progress on her room. It has been on hold for a while while other, more pressing matters took priority, but now that work outside is closing in, work inside is becoming more frequent.
I made cranberry mustard for gifting this year- 7 quarter pint jars plus a bit of extra for us. This was a recipe I hadn't used before and I was expecting it to be a bit more mustardy than it turned out to be. Not that it's bad- it just wasn't what I had expected.
I also finally ground some of our corn.
It turned out lavender!
I used a spare coffee grinder that we have from somewhere. It didn't make the cornmeal very uniform, some was ground into flour and some was pretty chunky. But the mix worked and it was very tasty.
It bakes a lavender/gray color.
But OH, so tasty with butter and honey!
The children pronounced it 'wrong' but yummy. They thought the color was odd but they ate it. In fact, of a whole batch there is only one piece left!
We had a lovely, local meal for this dark, chilly day: one of our grass fed steaks, spiced fried potatoes (diced potatoes and onions with pepper and cayenne) corn from my mom and cornbread. A bit heavy on corn but the cornbread was an afterthought- mainly because I wanted to grind some of our corn. The wine V and I had wasn't local- but it went well.
Now, after 4 days off, I've got to think about getting back into work mode for tomorrow. I could SO live the life of simply working on our land and not leaving- but, we're not at that point in our lives and the mortgage needs paid.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Local produce

This afternoon, the children and I shelled our Bloody Butcher heirloom corn. I hope to grind some tomorrow and maybe we'll have some pink cornbread for dinner.
Isn't it pretty?
We didn't have a huge harvest but still ended up with about 6 pounds of corn. We would have had more but it was so wet here this year that the ears started to mold on the stalks before we even harvested it. So we were VERY careful about shelling it, trying to not get any bad bits into the mix. So, there was quite a bit wasted on several ears. But still, it is not bad for a first harvest.
Here's another local product that V was quite pleased to find at the store on Wednesday night on the way home:
Locally produced whiskey
We're not huge whiskey drinkers but this stuff is really good. It was even mentioned in Wine Enthusiast magazine last year. In fact, it has been such a hit that the small company producing it has been unable to keep up with demand and there has been none on the store shelves for at least 6 months. So, when V saw a single bottle gracing the shelf he snapped it up. We stopped to pick up milk and tortillas and see what else we find.
But here is what is really special about it, besides the taste:
Every bottle is hand numbered: Batch, barrel and bottle.
Even the date bottled.
Pretty cool!

Today is Black Friday

My parents celebrate 54 years of marriage.
I get to spend the day with my family.
I'm not buying anything or going anywhere.
I emptied, re-baited and reset 3 mousetraps from the garage. Eesh, that takes us up to 18!
I've got a pumpkin in the oven.
I'm doing dishes and laundry and general household clean-up.
The weather is warmish- for late November- so I can work on my raised beds this afternoon.
We're eating leftovers from the feast at my brother's house. (It was fun. My family, my parents, my Brother and SIL, and several couples that they know from a gourmet cooking club- from Germany, Turkey and other far flung places- so the food, while not all traditional, was FABULOUS!)

Thursday, November 26, 2009


There are so many things to be thankful for, on this day- and all the year.
Here are just a few:
I am incredibly thankful for my family. For V and the children who help me get through life and who are willing to try to live out this crazy dream with me.
I am thankful that my parents are still with us, and that they have and continue to teach me about living simply and frugally.
I am thankful that we have been given the opportunity to transform this neglected house and 5.5 acres of land into something wonderful.
I am thankful that God has given us strength of mind, body and spirit to make it possible.
I am thankful that I have a job that I love.
I am thankful, even though I may complain about finances, to realize that we are rich beyond comparison with most of the world. But I need reminded of that on occasion.
I am thankful that I have a roof over my head, food in my pantry and safe water to drink.
I am even thankful for our crazy pets. They provide comic relief in our days, companionship and are ever on mouse patrol.
And I am thankful for all of you, my friends. You have made this journey less lonely and made me feel that I'm not so crazy after all.

Peace and blessings to you all this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

She's obsessed!!

Our kitten that is. She is obsessed with plastic. Not playing with it- eating it! I'm really glad we use cloth bags for groceries and try to not buy things with too much packaging because every time we have anything plastic in the house, she is trying to eat it- ASAP. I caught her trying to chew on the pack of toilet paper that hadn't yet been put away last week, and last night she opened the kitchen cabinet doors to go in and chew on the plastic bags that some of my bulk stuff is still in (she was after the quinoa last night-note to self- I need to put it in a jar before I go to bed). I'm really glad I don't generally store things in plastic but transfer them to other containers. She isn't interested in the food that's inside- she just wants the plastic. Store bought bread- yup, leaves the bread but eats the bag. I had saved a couple of mini ziploc bags from getting bulk spices over the weekend and had put them on top of the microwave until I had time to wash them- you guessed it, she got hold of them last night and chewed the corners right off.
Anyone else ever have experience with this? I've had cats before with weird behaviors but this is WAAAY beyond any other I've ever had. This is more than just curious cat- she is truly obsessed! V asked our vet when he had them in for boosters but all he said was "Hmmm".
Any suggestions are appreciated. Right now, all we can do is keep everything made of flexible plastic out of her reach.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Thankful IDC

Turkey Day is almost upon us. I don't have to cook much this year. We'll be feasting at my brother's house this year- about a 10 minute drive. Yay!!! I'm responsible for bringing the mashed potatoes and milk. Oh, I don't know if I can stand the strain!!!
It's been busy but since it is Monday, I'm going to do my usual Independence Day Challenge update- especially since I've got things to report.
1. Plant something- no. But I did get my first seed catalogues in the mail this week. Ooo... garden porn!
2. Harvest something- A jalapeno pepper from the indoor plant.
3. Preserve something- Made chutney from the pears that were going bad in the fridge. Yummy.
4. Waste not- Hmm, the usual here. I was really good at using cloth bags when shopping.
5. Want not- Continued work on organizing my pantry and cabinets. Stocked up on some spices that were on sale at the food co-op when I was there picking up spices for chutney. Got an extra bag of cranberries for the freezer. Oh, and local honey.
6. Community food systems- Made a largish donation of food to the local food bank. The high school youth at church were doing a special food drive. I donated a few of those excess cans of tuna, some canned veggies that I picked up a couple of weeks ago specifically for the food pantry (They were on a really good sale but we don't eat commercially canned veggies), canned beans, some rice and peanut butter.
7. Eat the food- I've been a busy little bee in the kitchen lately. The pear and gorgonzola tart was good this evening. It was tasty but it was more work than it was worth. I was pretty sure that the boys wouldn't like it so I also made a quiche for dinner. Everyone was satisfied.

I've got my resume and cover letter ready to turn in tomorrow for the Clinical Supervisor position. V is still waiting to hear anything after his interview. We'll see. He isn't feeling well. He's got a terrible cold and has been hacking and coughing... including most of the night last night so I've essentially been up since about 2:30 this morning- so I'm TIRED! At least it is a short week this week. The children's last day of school for the week is tomorrow but I have to work Wednesday as well. I'm SO ready for a long weekend.
I hope you are all getting your Thanksgiving preparations done.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chutney Sunday

Ok, I confess, I am a newcomer to chutneys. My parents, while widely traveled in the world, have always been fairly conservative when it comes to food. While I have tried many world cuisines, there have been gaps in my food education. I had never had chutney until last year.
I had my first introduction at the food preservation workshop that J15 and I attended in the fall of 2008. After that, we made and canned our first batch of apple and green tomato chutney. In fact, it was the first thing that J15 helped can. We fell in love!
This year, I'm trying a new recipe. With the abundance of pears I needed to process, I was pleased to find a recipe for pear chutney in my Simply in Season cookbook. It has a much more complex, sweet/savory flavor than the one we made last year but I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.
It went from this:
Diced pears, dried fruit and spices.
To this:
Thick and flavorful!
I was pleased with how it turned out. We've got some for us and several small jars for gifting this holiday season.
The finished product.
I've got 5 half pint jars and 5 quarter pint jars for gifting.
Here is the recipe:
12 cups pears- peeled, cored and diced (you can also use apples or a combination)
1 1/2 cup onion- chopped
1 jalapeno pepper- seeds removed and minced (I used one from our indoor plant!)
4 cloves garlic- minced
1 cup currants
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 inches of fresh ginger root- peeled and minced
4 cups brown sugar (less if the fruit is sweet)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp each: ground cloves, yellow mustard seed, salt
1 1/2 tsp each: chili powder, ground cumin, whole cumin seed
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer until mixture thickens (about 50-60 minutes) Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Ladle into sterilized jars, allowing 1/2 inch headspace, seal and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
It was a great and tasty way to use up my pears. I have only 5 left and those will be used tomorrow evening when I'm making a savory pear and gorgonzola tart for dinner. I'm turning into quite the kitchen queen here lately!!!
Have a thankful week!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Busy Saturday

It was a busy Saturday here. I'm still trying to organize my kitchen cabinets and get a handle on what I've got in stock. When we moved in, I had a vague idea of where I wanted things to go, but having lived here for 4 months now, things are starting to fall into place. But my kitchen cabinets were a shambles, with things becoming more and more jumbled over time. They are looking much better and I've discovered that, in addition to not needing to buy tuna for a while, I also don't need to get any pasta of any sort for quite a while. Taking stock makes me realize that we could eat quite well for quite a while from our stores.
In other news: IT BEGINS!!!
The first seed catalogues arrived today.
Unfortunately, even though I don't need any seeds for next year, there are things I spotted that look interesting.
Then, there was the weekend squash audit. Eesh. I'm glad I checked!
This was NOT there last weekend!
Fortunately, it really didn't extend into the flesh very far and most of the squash was useable.
But more worrisome was this:
It looks for all the world like little mousey teeth marks. EEEW!!!
At least it was on the same squash as the bad spot so I didn't need to use 2 this weekend. I've set traps downstairs near the squash and potato storage areas, the last thing we need is to have a little rodent 'friend' helping himself to our food. I didn't see any other evidence of them but I'm not taking any chances. We're up to 15 now from the garage since we started setting traps in there about 2 weeks ago. You'd think they would be slowing down by now!
I tried a few new recipes today, as well.
I really need to process the rest of those pears. I've also got a recipe for a savory tart with gorgonzola, cream cheese and pears. YUM.
The other thing I tried was a recipe to use up that squishy squash. A last weekend, V was in the car on his way home, listening to The Splendid Table. He heard them talking about a recipe for roasted squash and greens over pasta that he thought sounded good. So, I looked it up and we tried it this evening. I did have to pick up some endive at the store and some half and half but it was well worth it!!! Of course, my predictions were accurate and the boys didn't like it but, oh well, more for the rest of us.
The last thing I made this afternoon was a cranberry, apple, jello salad that my mom has made for years that K9 absolutely adores. I used it as an opportunity to teach J15 how to use the food processor. Of course, I feel like I spent the afternoon in the kitchen- but it was great. V and I did make a run to Menard's today and the grocery store. I picked up not only things for us but a few things for our friend Jim who lives across the street from our old house. He shared some whole wheat pastry flour with me this week and was wanting celery, eggs and regular flour from the store. He doesn't have a car so getting there is a problem for him and, since we were going anyway....
And now, it's time for that pear tart. And it's our usual Saturday Family Movie Night.