Thursday, October 29, 2015

Growing, Regrowing and Multiplying Your Food

A while back I ran across the idea of regrowing your food from kitchen scraps. I thought it was a great idea! I never had any good motivation to get my experimentation started, however, until my brother started his. Recently my brother has been doing some experimentation on his blog (Saving Money By the Numbers) regarding cloning using cuttings and rooting new herbs from existing stems. The way I see it, if you can use what otherwise would be thrown away to grow new food, you have an endless food supply. Although some of the ideas explored may be somewhat impractical, it is interesting, nonetheless, that the ability exists. This page will serve as the index for my experiments, which is why it is still incomplete.

Saving Seeds

Cantaloupe, Honeydew, and other Muskmelons
Cucumbers and Summer Squash
Pumpkins and Winter Squash
Tomatoes, Tomatillos and Potatoes
Strawberries, Raspberries and Blackberries

Seeds That You Forgot Were Seeds

Avocado Pits
Beans, Chickpeas, Lentils, and other Legumes

Herbs to Root from Stems


Clones from Cuttings

Fruit Trees
Fruiting Vines
Fruit Bushes

Save the Bottoms!

Green Onions and Leeks

Save the Tops!

Carrots, Turnips, Parsnips and other Root Vegetables

You Can Grow a Tree from That?

Peach, Apricot, Nectarine, and Plum Pits
Cherry Pits
Whole Tree Nuts
Apple and Pear Seeds
Citrus Seeds

Bust It Up and Stick It in the Ground!

Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, and Yams

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce

I really love this recipe for spaghetti sauce because it is easy, tasty, and cans well. Because it is a crockpot recipe it will cook overnight or while I'm at work, and then I am able to can it when I have the time. The original recipe, from which I adapted this one, can be found here. I would encourage you to please visit the site and leave a good review, as I like to give credit to those who did the "leg work" and came up with a good recipe to begin with. I adapted the recipe to omit the meat, doubled the recipe and made it a bit more saucy, so that it would be easier to can and to open up the options for what I could eat it with.

Here's the recipe I used:

2 medium onions, chopped
4 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
2 cans (14.5 oz) tomato sauce
2 cans (8 oz) tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp brown sugar
8-10 cloves minced garlic
4 tsp dried basil
4 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt
2 tsp thyme
Lots of ground black pepper (I don't measure, I just grind!)
A few dashes of hot sauce, if I'm feeling like a spicy sauce

Please note that I have a pretty big crock pot. If your crock pot is smaller, you can make a half batch pretty easily. Start off by dumping in all of your tomato products.

Add in all your seasonings, garlic and brown sugar. The only thing that should be left out until the very end is the bay leaves. Don't put those fellows in just yet!

Mix it all together really well before you put the onions in. That way it is easier to blend your tomato paste in. If you don't blend the tomato paste in, it can stick to the side or bottom of the crock pot and burn.

Chop up your onions. You don't need to worry about chopping it up super fine, or even uniformly. We're going to use a stick blender on this beautiful mess at the end!

Stir in your onions, add your bay leaves, put a lid on it, and turn it to low. You'll want this to cook for about 8 hours. Did you notice that I left the bay leaves sticking out just a tiny bit?

Once your 8 hours are up, snag those bay leaves out and find your stick blender. It's a lot easier to find the bay leaves if you leave just the tip sticking out of the sauce. Whatever you do, don't forget to pull out the bay leaves. Believe me, it's not great if you forget.

Using your stick blender, grind your sauce up until it's nice and smooth. I like a saucy sauce, but if you like yours a bit more chunky, you can just blend a little, or you can skip it altogether. If you are planning on canning this sauce, turn your slow cooker to warm while you get your jars and rings together. This is the recipe I used in my instructional post Food Preservation - The Basics of Canning.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Winnowing Wheat

A couple of years back, Willie and I decided to try giving our goats wheat hay. There was a family just a few blocks down selling it, and we wanted to support a local grower and give something new a try. Well, the idea was less than successful. The goats didn't care for wheat hay, and held off on eating it until we started feeling bad, gave in and gave them more traditional types of hay.

About a month or so ago I was out near our hay stack and I noticed that there were some volunteer wheat plants that decided to spring up. I thought that this would be a good opportunity to figure out how to thresh and winnow wheat. I waited until the wheat had matured and dried, and I clipped the seed heads off the plants, and put them in a bag while I did my figuring.

While perusing the shelves at one of my local thrift shops I found a wide, shallow basket. A light went off and I said "Winnowing basket!" I paid a dollar, and brought my winnowing basket home.

I smashed the wheat heads to loosen the kernels, took all the wheat kernels off their stems, and discarded the stems. (They are not good eats.)

I gathered together all my kernels, and set about trying to figure out how to thresh the wheat. I began by rubbing it between my fingers, but then I had a better idea!

Tadah! This little beauty is a garlic peeler, and I figured that if it worked to remove the papery skin from my garlic, it would loosen the papery husk of my wheat!

After I put my kernels through my makeshift thresher, I took my winnowing basket and went outside into the breeze.

The winnowing part really isn't too hard, you just have to jostle and shake your little wheat kernels very gently and let the wind pick up the chaff and blow it away. It doesn't have to be a big production, like in a documentary on tribal peoples, where the fling it high into the air and catch it on tarps. Although you could do that, and it would look totally cool, I'm just saying it isn't really necessary.

After the first round of winnowing, I found that there were still some kernels that had chaff still attached, so, back through the thresher they went, and then back out to winnow. Eventually there were just a few kernels resisting my threshing, so I had to remove the chaff by hand.

Here's my finished wheat! Threshed and winnowed, I'm going to put it away to plant in the spring. I would like to plant a little patch of garden with animal fodder for my creatures to eat. Big ideas, right?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Little Dresses

Little Dresses for Africa

A while back I found a great opportunity to help others while indulging my desire for crafting. Little Dresses for Africa collects and distributes home sewn clothing to needy children in third world countries. The only problem? I've never sewn clothing! So, I enlisted the help of my friend Mary! She had a very easy dress pattern which could make many dresses, in many sizes, quickly and easily. She also had a serger and a good sewing machine for us to work with!

After Mary showed me how to make my first dress, I set about cutting pieces and assembling dress kits. I had stacks of fabric I had been collecting over the years, so I began sorting, matching and measuring, then cutting the fabric and elastic with my rotary cutter.

I labeled the pieces and put each dress kit into a zip top bag.

My main source for fabric has been my local thrift shops. You can find a lot of fabric and pay a very small amount for it if you look at buying second hand. Another good source is the discount bins at your local craft, fabric and super stores. Here you can find fabric remnants at discounted prices. And, of course, a big contributor to my fabric stash is my mother-in-law, Pat. She works in a quilting store, and sews projects to sell, donate, or to enter into the local county fair. She was also working on a whole mess of dresses, and wanted to contribute to our effort, so she sent up two boxes full of fabric.

We are really excited about our cute little dresses, and we want to encourage other people to help out those in need, using whatever skills and abilities you have. Even the smallest acts of kindness can touch the lives of others in a profound way. We're hoping to complete 50 dresses before we send them out. After that who knows what we'll do. Britches for Boys, maybe?

If you would like to check out our finished dresses and keep track of our progress, you can do so on my Little Dresses photo album on Facebook. I would also encourage you to like my Facebook page, as I am often posting photos, updates, and extras there.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Washing Clothes Without a Machine

The other day our washer gave out and I was left with a basket load of dirty wet clothes to deal with until we got our new washing machine. So, I decided to show you how we wash clothes without a washer! This method comes in handy when you're out camping, too.

After you gather up your clothes that need washing, and your laundry detergent, you will need to procure a clean bucket and a clean (read here: new) rubber plunger. Not a fancy one, just a basic model.

Put your detergent in the bottom of the bucket, then pile clothes on top of that. You will want to pack the clothing in the bucket pretty tightly, so that you can achieve suction with your plunger. Fill it up with warm water, and add more clothes if you feel it's necessary.

Now, take up your plunger and plunge! Be sure to stir up the contents every so often, so that everything gets clean. The clothing actually gets super clean with this method, because the plunger forces the soapy water through the fibers of the clothing, taking the dirt along with it. I wish I had taken a picture of the dirty wash water when I was done with it, but I didn't want to nauseate my readers. Rinsing is the same method, only with clean water instead of soapy. Depending on how much soap you use, and how concentrated it is, you may need to rinse two or three times to get it all out.

If you have a lot of clothing to wash, and have access to a bathtub or shower, you can use this same method in the bathtub. Rather than plunging your laundry with a plunger, you will stomp it with your bare feet. Don't be scared, it'll be okay. There aren't sharks lurking in your laundry to attack your feet. This works well if you are camping in your camp trailer, or if you're at a hotel that doesn't have a laundromat service. If you're out tent camping, just pack a bucket and plunger and you can keep yourself clothed for the whole trip! Someday I will own a washboard, and then I will teach you all to use one, too. One has to have dreams, right?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Halloween Costume: Jelly Beans

So as one may have ascertained from some of my previous "Tales of My Childhood," my family didn't have a whole lot of money when I was growing up. What we lacked in monetary funds, though, my mom made up for in sheer ingenuity. Since there wasn't money to buy our Halloween costumes, she made them. That's just how it went. There was no option. This costume is one of my favorites, by far, because I'm sure we had these things in our house already. Yes, I went trick or treating as a bag of jelly beans. Yes, it's made out of a trash bag and water balloons. Yes, my mother is a genius. No, she was not worried about me suffocating and dying, because she kept me in her sight the entire time I was wearing it. Let's be smart, people.

First things first, take your bag and cut two leg holes in the bottom.
Have your child put his/her legs through the holes, and measure where the arms will be. You should also measure to see if the top of the bag needs to be trimmed down.
Blow up a whole bunch of small balloons.
Have your child wear their jelly bean bag, and fill with the balloons.
Once it is nice and full, tie knots in the bag over each shoulder so that it will stay up. The bag should not be tight around the neck, it should just sit on the shoulders.
Take a large black marker and write "Jelly Beans" on the front of the bag.

Here's my disclaimer for this one: Never allow young children to play with plastic bags, or place them over their heads. Do not leave child unattended while wearing this Halloween costume. Do not tape or tie anything around your child's neck, as this could create a hazardous condition. Failure to heed these warnings or follow instructions completely could lead to serious injury or death. Writer of this blog post accepts no responsibility for misuse or abuse of materials, leading to injury or death of a child. Parents must accept all responsibility for the safety and well-being of their child.