Tennesseetransitions


Jimmy started all of this…
August 27, 2014, 9:51 PM
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Canning, Resilience | Tags: , ,

What got me to thinking about Jimmy Carter was hearing that this weekend he’s going to be a keynote speaker at a Muslim convention in Detroit. The man deserved his Nobel is all I can say! Now back to the topic at hand…

I’ll admit it. My zest for canning, drying, freezing and fermenting has changed over the years from a casual experiment  into a  complete lifestyle change. The first time I slipped hot green beans into a sterilized jar, screwed a metal lid and band on it, and then ate those late summer beans months later at Christmas, my now-40-year old daughter was a newborn, and I was hooked on canning!

Three years later Jimmy Carter became President and just two weeks into his new presidency he began hosting his ‘Fireside Chats’ while wearing a Mr. Rogers cardigan sweater, as he sat by the fireplace in the West Wing of the White House. Those chats encouraged us Americans to use less energy, and told us how important it was to have an energy policy that focused on conserving the nation’s natural resources.

carter I liked and admired President Carter very much but his message, along with an inflation rate of 20% (!) and a stock market that lost 40% of its’ value in 18 months time was pretty damn scary to me. So, what does a young mother of four little girls do when faced with the war in Vietnam that was in its’ 19th year, Russians standing in long, long lines to get extremely scarce toilet paper, ( I don’t remember why), all while living 600 miles from her nearest relative? Besides stocking up on toilet paper, I began growing food. And canning it. It gave me a sense of self-sufficiency and control over that scary world. Some things never change I guess. 37 years later, we still don’t have that national energy policy, and I’m still keeping our scary world at bay by keeping plenty of TP and beans on hand.

Studies show that people focus more on material things when they feel insecure, and I was certainly insecure as a too-young mom. I’m happy to say that I feel more secure at this stage of my life than I ever have, but I still continue to grow and preserve as much as I can. I’m certain there are still security issues hidden in there somewhere, but by this time, I consider it normal. We all have our ‘issues’ I guess, but if growing food, having a fully stocked pantry, and living by the belief that ‘we are what we eat’ is an ‘issue’ for me, I think it’s a good one to have. Michael was exposed to Listeria earlier this summer due to peaches that were later recalled-oops! and that experience, along with his colon cancer, has certainly made both of us more conscious than ever of how important food is to our health, both mental and physical. Jimmy Carter must be doing something right too-he’ll be 90 years old on October 1st and he’s still building habitats, growing peanuts, and teaching peace. God love him.

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Frugal Friday- April 4, 2014

Ahhh, another day, another dollar fifty cents-and my two cents worth. I hope you’ll share with me in the comments section at the end of this post how you’ve managed to save  your precious time, money or energy recently. And speaking of saving time, this’ll be relatively short because I’ve got a busy afternoon and evening planned-playing music with a friend and then going downtown for the monthly First Friday celebration-both frugal and fun choices!

Monday: We had our annual income tax returns prepared for free by AARP volunteers. This is the 5th year for doing so, and they’re always pleasant, well-trained and helpful. Savings: I just called a well-known national tax service to see what the basic charge is for a simple joint return and was quoted roughly $125-$250! So, I saved a lot going with AARP. You must be over 55 to qualify for this service. Um, let’s just say I qualify.

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 Tuesday: I’ve mentioned this several times before, but since it’s such an easy savings and I can make it basically from what would otherwise be food waste, I keep making  fresh  vegetable stock when I run out. This week I canned 7 quarts plus an extra 2 quarts for the freezer. Cost of a good quart of store-bought broth is $1.89. Savings: $17.10 plus tax and all those metal cans or tetrapaks!

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Wednesday: Because it was such a beautiful spring day, and because I knew I’d be hard pressed to get supper on the table with all I had to do that day, I decided to make a ‘Solar Stew’ of pinto beans, tomatoes and butternut squash. I put all the ingredients in the cooker about 9:30 AM, and when we were ready to eat at 6 PM it was perfectly done! Savings? Well, we’re often tempted to eat out at the end of a busy day when neither of us wants to cook so there’s that. And of course, the peace of mind that comes from knowing that I didn’t have to leave my crockpot plugged in all day while I was away is priceless.

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Thursday: I try really hard not to take advantage of this freebie because I don’t want to abuse it and lose the privilege for everyone: at my local library, no late fees are due if  you are 60 or older. (Yet another reason to enjoy being a senior) I had borrowed a book a few weeks ago that I needed as a reference for a presentation I was giving and was late returning it. Fines forgiven: $1.60!

Friday: We don’t make many new purchases but when we do, we always do our homework first and that’s how we managed to save big bucks at the register when we bought our new gas grill today. A completely unadvertised fact is that Lowe’s gives a 10% discount if  you present your Veteran’s ID card at checkout. Tonight: Grilled Portobello sandwiches on Onion Faccocias, with the mushrooms bought from Kroger on Tuesday with a 5% senior discount, and the buns bought from the day-old bread store at 75% off regular price. We’d been using charcoal for the last two summers, but I like the additional security that a gas grill offers me in case of an extended power outage. But listen up: new gas grills don’t come with a propane tank. That’s an extra $49.95, which you lose when you exchange it for your next filled tank anyway. So, I drove over to my local recycling center where I picked  up what looked to be an almost new (empty) one for free. We took that with us when we went to buy the grill and exchanged it for a filled tank for $19.95. Savings: With the veteran’s discount, we saved a cool $25 on our total purchases, plus I saved $30 on a the tank. A total of $55 saved just by practicing a bit of mindful consumerism!

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This girl loves saving money, but I also love reusing, repurposing, reducing and recycling resources. I find it more than coincidence that these activities often seem to be interrelated. I also find it pretty cool that choosing what’s best in terms of money or the environment often turns out to be best for my health as well. That concept is called ‘The Green Triangle’ and is a useful tool when you’re trying to live lightly. We’ll talk more about it next week, ok?

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Resilience with Oven Canning?
February 10, 2014, 10:23 PM
Filed under: Alternative Energy, Canning, Food Storage, Oven canning, Resilience | Tags: ,

I canned my first jars of green beans when I was 21 years old. Forty years and thousands of jars later, I’ve never poisoned anyone with the foods I’ve put by. I attribute that to the fact that I am a complete NAZI about always, always, always using the safest approved methods for canning fresh foods. Cutting corners during canning is like cutting your own throat. Now, all that said, I want to introduce you to a ‘new’ method of canning I tried recently. It is NOT an extension approved method, but I was so intrigued with the idea I had to at least try it. You can google ‘oven canning’ and find ten sources for it and ten against it. It’s not meant to be used for wet foods, or those with fats in them, only for dry goods.

I like to buy foods in bulk because when I do, I’m supporting a small, locally owned business, packaging is greatly reduced, and because it’s usually more cost efficient to do so, both in terms of price per unit and in terms of environmental impact. The only con is having to store the stuff. I often store bulk items in five gallon food grade buckets, plastic lined tins, or gallon sized jars. My thinking is that by sealing some of those dry goods in smaller containers, (including the bags and boxes of  ‘regular sized’ products that I open) I can store them more easily on my pantry shelves and that those sealed jars will be far better at keeping oxygen, moisture and bugs out of the pantry, which are the big threats to any food. Please understand, I’m not depending on this method to make the food safe to eat later, I’m just hoping it will keep the already safe foods that I do keep in my pantry, fresh longer. That’s a big difference from canning fresh foods! This method is being touted as being able to keep food fresh for 10-20 years, but my plans are simply for 1-2 years, just like with my regular canned goods.

This method was just as easy as it looks. I sterilized and dried two dozen jars, set them upright on rimmed cookie sheets, and then filled the jars, leaving 1/2″ headroom. Putting them on cookie sheets keeps them stable while in the oven, catches any spills, and if breakage were to occur, would make it lots easier to clean up. I then placed the cookie sheets with the filled jars in a preheated 200 degree oven for one hour. Just before the hour was up, I simmered my lids and rings in a saucepan of water to sterilize them and to soften the rubber seals. After reading this tip online (and you know, if you read it on the internet it MUST be true 😉 ) I sterilized some USED lids that I had saved for a craft project and screwed them down tight with the rings, returning the jars to the oven for another half hour. I let everything cool there overnight, and this morning, voila! All but one jar had sealed, even though I’d used the recycled lids. I love being able to see at a glance what I’ve got stored in the jars! Now I’m planning to use some half-gallon canning jars that were given to me but that were too tall for my canner, to oven-can some whole grain flours, dog biscuits and the freshly ground grits and corn meal that I buy at the Farmer’s Market.

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The news is full of dire weather and climate change forecasts, predictions of food and energy shortages due to the prolonged drought in our western states, and rising prices because of it all. I’m certain our futures will be lived under dramatically changed circumstances and resilience is the key to improving our quality of life, regardless of all that. Using resources I already have on hand to keep food fresher longer (I’d LOVE to get away from a freezer altogether!) is just another form of resilience. And that’s awesome. Next up this summer: using this same technique in my solar oven!



Frugal Friday-January’s over!!!

I spent most of this week just like last- trying to stay warm. In between times I cooked a fair amount, wrote some long overdue letters (on yard sale stationary and mailed them with ‘salvaged’ stamps~read on!), and did a lot of reading. Not too much excitement when it’s this cold.

Monday: Mailed my annual bundle of used greeting cards to St Jude’s Ranch. Children that live there use the card fronts (if they’re not written on) to recycle into new cards that they then sell to earn money. I wrote here about it last year, but I have a lot of new readers since then, so I thought it might be something they’d like to know about too.  Repurposing those cards is even better than recycling them, and makes me even happier when I can mail them for free. Yes, that’s right…this week I mailed the cards and a small package to my daughter, all free, because I keep getting things in the mail that don’t have their stamps canceled! And just to add frosting to the cake, I was even able to reuse the original envelopes that those uncanceled stamps were stuck to, which meant I didn’t have to peel off the stamps, nor buy mailing envelopes!  Postage savings: 8 stamps at the new rate of 49 cents each= $3.92 plus whatever new mailers might’ve cost me!

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Tuesday: After reading more than once about how the ongoing drought in California is forcing farmers to reduce their crops this year, and in some cases not plant at all, I decided that it would be prudent of me to increase my supply of almonds, which I truly enjoy eating as a healthy, out of hand snack almost daily. Sure enough, the price has already increased a bit, but not nearly as much as predicted so I stocked up and decided it was time to get out my Seal-A-Meal and vacuum seal them all in order to keep them fresh longer. Nuts will be stay fresh for 6-12 months in the freezer, but by sealing out all the oxygen they’ll last 2-3 years! Perhaps by then the drought will be over and almond growers won’t be forced to pay premium prices for the water their orchards need to survive. That is, if there are any bees left to pollinate them.   Anyway, this sealer came in handy, and I even made up some snack-sized bags to throw in our backpacks when we go hiking or travel. I bought my sealer and several rolls of bagging plastic for $20 at a yard sale, so I know they can be found second-hand, but it seems to me it would be one of those things that could be part of a ‘tool lending library’ since they’re not used every day. Just sayin’…

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Wednesday: Made my second visit to a ‘Discount Grocery Store” near my home. If I’m very careful, I can find some good bargains, but most of their stuff is boxed, convenience type foods, canned goods and snacks, all things that I try to avoid. They did have a small section devoted to some healthier things like name-brand organic products, protein bars and milk shakes, along with many condiments and international style cooking sauces. There were fresh Pepperidge Farms breads and buns for 99 cents, and lots of bulk packages of frozen foods like fish, chicken and burgers too. I didn’t find any out of date items though, so I got a few things that really were rock bottom prices but I’m sure their inventory changes daily and you may not be able to find the same things I did. The point is, there are more and more of these discount stores popping up, and perhaps you might get lucky enough to find one in your town too. They’re certainly worth a try! The first time I visited this little store, it was summer, and they had a fair selection of fresh fruits and vegetables too, but not any this week. I didn’t take a picture, but I was able to buy a Nutella equivalent, Jif brand Hazelnut Butter,  for $1.00 a jar! I bought five jars to give to my daughter who loves the stuff, but can’t afford  what I thought was normally $3-4 a jar, even though I now see that Amazon is selling it online for $10.00  a jar! Savings: $45.00!!! (and now that I see that ridiculous price, I may go back tomorrow to pick up some more jars for her)

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Thursday: Stitched up a long tube of fabric cut from an old curtain, filled it with sand and used it to block the cold air coming into my bathroom from the unheated bedroom connected to it. I could’ve used grits, rice, buckwheat or kitty litter, but sand was what I had on hand. Yeah, I could’ve rolled up a towel too, to stuff underneath the door, but the tube can also be moved around to different doorways and is easier to ‘move out of the way’ when I do want to open the door, and it hangs over the knob when not in use.

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Friday: Found a brand new 3M scrubber in the street when I took my walk. I’ll cut it into 3  pieces (sharpening my scissors at the same time) and use them for scrubbing pots and pans. Savings: $2 or so for three scrubbies?

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That’s it folks! I may not have any Frugal Friday tips to share next week IF the weather warms and I get to be outside more. As important as I consider frugality is to our being able to live well on less, living a simple life that focuses on mindful consumerism and built-in resilience is even more so. Reduce, reuse, repurpose THEN recycle is what I strive for in all my buying decisions. For example, before I bought the Jif for my daughter, I called her and made her promise me that she’d wash the plastic jars when they were emptied and use them for storing things around her kitchen and apartment, or at the very least recycle them. Being the good recycling Nazi that I am, I’ll take pictures of the ways she finds to use them and include them in a future post. And as much as I like the convenience of sealing bulk-bought foods in smaller quantities I really HATE using rolls of plastic to do it. So, I’ve decided to try ‘Oven Canning’ to get the same results and I’ll be reporting on that method next week. What are YOU doing to “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without?” Please feel free to post your comments and ideas below, and to share this blog with anyone you think might enjoy it-or not 😉



Feeding Our Future

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For those of you new to this blog, I moved to my 113 year old urban house in the summer of 2012 with a deliberate mission to grow a garden and cultivate a sense of community in my new neighborhood. Today my next door neighbor brought over two slices of still-warm lemon pound cake. I suspect she’d spotted my husband Michael a half hour before, trying to increase his stamina with the daily 2 minute walks he takes (still in his sleep pants!) from our back door to the alley and back, and thought to herself: “That poor old man! I should take him some cake!”. Whatever her reasons, we were both happy with her decision to share. Michael’s happiness was with the delicious cake. Mine was in the fact that I’ve FINALLY been able to ‘connect’ with her. (OK, I loved the cake too) All summer I’d left little bags or recycled butter bowls filled with tomatoes, peppers, herbs and more at her back door, picked fresh from our garden. We’d speak in the back yard, just polite ‘hellos’ and ‘how are yous’ but her kind gesture encourages me now to continue to get to know her, and her pound cake recipe! I’ve spoken lots more with her son and his pup than with her, finding out that they’ve lived there for over 6 years, he’s a grad student, and the dog’s name is Pippa. The point is, sometimes it can be difficult to ‘reach out and touch someone’ but almost everyone will eventually respond to small gestures of food and friendship.

Why do I care so much about getting to know the neighbors? Before moving to our urban home, we’d lived quite remotely in the country and I’d missed having neighbors during that 10 years, but it’s become more than that. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that I am concerned that our country is facing an economic collapse-in our lifetime-right along with depleted energy and water sources and ever-increasing global temperatures that are already affecting everything in our lives from food supplies to wildlife. To that end, I’ve learned how to grow food for my family, can and preserve it, and cook our meals from scratch. That alone has given me much peace of mind, and empowered me to discover other resiliency strategies. I’ve learned to live by the adage of “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”. Our home is stocked with several months worth of food, fuel and water, we stay out of debt and try to  live simply but still yet, I realize there is no hope for any of us outside of a community. We must learn to work with our neighbors in developing sustainable lifestyles based upon reduced consumption and sharing of resources. What good will it do for me to have food and water supplies when my neighbors are hungry and thirsty? How long could WE eat on what I have stored? What if there were bank failures in this country, like the ones in Cyprus this past spring? How would we access cash once the ATM’s were empty? What if there was a massive power failure for an extended period of time? There would be looting and  rioting if folks in the South couldn’t buy their Mountain Dew and Moonpies, I tell ya! How would we pump gas into our cars, light our homes, cook or stay warm? How would we flush the toilets and clean our clothes? Do you ever think about these what if’s? I do, and the only way I can rest easy is by being prepared for those scenarios. That includes making sure that my neighbors are too. Then, if those things never happen, we’ve simply got a well stocked pantry and a productive garden, right along with extra toothpaste and a support system too.

I write often about how these changing times demand that we grow a strong local economy. Michael and I have been attending bimonthly meetings for the local ‘Liveable Communities’ group and are greatly encouraged by the sharing and feeling of ‘we’re all in this together’ that we get from the group, but liveable communities really start right. next. door. This holiday season, why not use the natural conviviality of the season to get to know your neighbors better- perhaps take them a card and some cookies, signed with your name and address so they can remember you later too? (I intend to put the internet address of this blog on the cards I hand out too, hoping they’ll read it and get interested in ‘feeding our future’ as well.)  I left a card for a neighbor congratulating her on the new beehives I’d spotted in the driveway, and later, when we made a face to face connection, she told me she’d wept when she read the card because she had been so worried about having the bees and how the neighborhood might react to them. She and I are friends now, and she tells me she’ll let me work with her in her hives next spring! I’ve begun talking to another neighbor about his struggling bread baking business, brainstorming with him on the feasibility of building a COMMUNAL outdoor wood-fired oven at the Community Garden next spring. (would the city EVER allow that? We intend to find out!) Not only are we working on ways to build a local foods network, at the same time we’re having fun building friendships and feeding the future. This poster hangs in my kitchen. May it offer you some hope and inspiration too:

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Do You Know What Today Is?
October 25, 2013, 8:31 PM
Filed under: Canning, fall gardening, Frugality | Tags: , ,

Well it’s Frugal Friday of course! OK dear readers, I loved reading your comments last week about what you’d been doing to enable yourself to live better on less and I hope you’ll share again now. This week was fairly ordinary, but there always seem to be opportunities to save a bit of money. For example:

Monday- Added some water to the liquid soap that was so thick it wouldn’t pump out of the dispenser. It’s still PLENTY thick and now there’s more of it.

Tuesday- Made some hot pepper jam with THE LAST of my hot peppers. It makes a good hostess gift and people seem to love it poured over a block of cream cheese served with crackers.

Wednesday- When I got out my winter PJ’s, the elastic in the waist had somehow magically stretched out while they lay in the bottom of my winter clothes box this summer. Anyway, it was easy to remove the old piece and install a new one using a safety pin to run it through the casing. Here’s the best part: I was able to use waist elastic from an old pair of yoga pants for this project. And while I had my sewing machine out, I fixed a couple of other things that were needing repaired.

Thursday-After (im)patiently waiting for weeks for the pine needles to fall, I gathered enough at a friend’s house to nicely mulch my newly created blueberry and elderberry beds. Both of these berries like acidic soil and annual mulching with pine needles provides them with a fair amount. She got her side yard raked, I got free mulch!

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Friday- Harvested 3 HUGE carrots (of about 30) from my fall sown plot at the community garden:

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Right before dark, I scavenged for fallen tomatoes underneath certain-to-die-tonight tomato plants at the community garden to add to tonight’s salad, made with our just picked lettuce and dressed with our favorite pennies-per-serving dressing:

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Here’s the recipe for that dressing:

Michael’s  Vinaigrette

1 large clove garlic, peeled and chopped

1/8 tsp salt

1-2 T balsamic vinegar

1-2 T red wine vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

4 T. Olive Oil

Black pepper to taste

In a mortar with a pestle mash the garlic with the salt until they form a paste (or mash the garlic in a press) Transfer the garlic paste to a small bowl or jar, and add the remaining ingredients, whisking or shaking them until the dressing is well combined. Tweak to your own tastes, adding chopped finely herbs if desired.

But here’s the BEST thing of all this week: After waiting (im)patiently for a couple of months for Netflix to stream the remaining 8 episodes of the ‘Breaking Bad’ TV series, and refusing to pay $16 to see them, (after receiving a free year’s subscription as a birthday gift from my daughter), she tired of hearing me whining about it and found this link so that I could watch them for free: 

http://www.ddotomen.com/?s=breaking+bad+season+5

You’re welcome!

Alright, your turn! Let me know how you were able to live better for less this week! In the meantime, I’ll be watching the Breaking Bad finale-for free 😀



A Pictoral: How I Spent My Summer Staycation

 Yesterday I wrote about what we can do to contribute to making our towns and cities a better place to live. Today is completely different;  I wanted to share with  you what I’ve been doing to contribute to making my own life and family a better place to live. I’ve been staying close to home this summer, trying to be on hand as a gopher caregiver to my husband while he’s going through his cancer treatments. Normally, our summers are filled with camping, gardening, hiking, and playing with the band…

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But this summer, we only got in a quick trip to Florida back in May…

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And an even quicker trip to Ohio to visit my ‘grandbabies’…

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before he was diagnosed with the Big C. So while Michael goes through the healing process, I’ve been growing and preserving the very best food  I can to help him win this fight, because I’m a firm believer in the adage…

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I’ve been whipping up some ‘Farmaceuticals’ for him to eat once he can enjoy food again. Like many of our modern medicines, all of mine come from the Earth. In my kitchen farmacy, I transformed  just-picked zucchini…

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into salted, dried chips…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

that are great for munching on right out of the jar

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Cabbage was fermented from this form…

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To this chow chow

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My heirloom Hopi Orange Lima beans started out small…

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Moving on UP to this OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then after the pods were dry…

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I waited until a friend came over 😉  and while chatting over a cup of tea, I casually set the bowls of beans on the table, and they got shelled out in no time flat! Then the beans were stored in jars until they’re cooked this winter. The fresh beans aren’t nearly as pretty as these dried ones, but they both taste awesome with some of that chow chow on them!

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Recently a friend uttered those three special words we all love to hear: LOCAL, ORGANIC, and FREE. So I picked her concord grapes, and loved transforming them from this…

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To these Christmas gifts jars of jelly. Thank you Sara.

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This month, as the tomatoes have ripened, they’ve gone from the vine right into the jars and will be used in the months ahead as the basis for many pots of soup, pasta sauces, chilis and casseroles. The 50 jars I’ve canned this summer should last a year…IF I only use one jar a week!

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Luckily, onions, potatoes, garlic and winter squashes just needed to be stored away in a dark, dry, rodent- proof place…

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Drying some of the garlic allows me to keep it year round though…

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Old fashioned, plain green beans are Michael’s favorite and recent research shows they can be effective against cancer:

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In addition to all this canning, the freezer’s full of berries, chopped peppers, edamame, peas and pesto, with apples and pecans coming in next month. My young daughter once asked:

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How did you spend YOUR summer staycation?




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