Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

Harriet Fasenfest started this discussion over at the intro post, but I think it deserves it's very own thread.

Here's what she said,

"Oh but that I could call myself a punk housewife.  I'm more your crusty ex-pat N.Y. still-talking-about-woodstock householder with grown kids and a husband who can't figure out what I do all this stuff (interminally slow learner).  But I'm digging what's happening and I'd love to know more about how all this really works for you.


You know, I know, that you know, that there was the first book.**  Now I'm thinking about the workbook cause I know going backwards and taking on all the skills and trades to make this work is hard when added to all our other commitments and lures of modernity.


So past the vision and the narratives are the real tools of home-ec.  The budgets, the timelines, the storage, the meal planning.  In essence, the nuts and bolts of a functioning home economy.  So where do you get stuck.  I'm wondering.  I got some ideas."


(Harriet's first book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, is a great read. I can't actually believe she joined my group. Lil ole Apron Stringz. How thrilling!)

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Kylein:  Seriously?  They hire people to build (OK, if I had the money maybe I'd pay for that one); tend and maintain; AND harvest?!!!  Well they ARE after all eating homegrown ORGANIC food--I'll give them a gold star for that part.  So they're being healthy--but definitely it doesn't cut-the-mustard  in the going green category.  I can't really say too much though because I'm just now getting all this and I'm 52...a slow learner I guess.  I think I sleepwalked through the first 50 years. 


What's really interesting is when you CAN afford to not dress your kids in hand-me down clothes (to the 5th degree) but you choose to anyway.  Have you ever been in a Thrift store?  Salvation Army?  Even my teenagers love to find bargains there on clothes.  Many times I can  find stuff with the tags still on them.  My niece takes great pride in telling everyone she bought her latest "find" at Goodwill.  I think that's AWESOME! 


When my boys were little and money was extremely tight I actually had people say to me: "Oh you MUST come with us to see "this or that" or eat "here"--it's only $5, $10, $15.00.  And when you tell them you don't have $5 to spare they look at you as if you just told them you were recently paroled from prison for sex crimes.  Seriously.  They just DON'T GET IT.  I think every America should have to live on a meager budget at least six months in their lifetime so they have empathy.  (I can't speak for OZ but from your posts I'm guessing they could use a good dose of scrimping too.)


Every once in awhile when I'm grocery shopping and looking at the vacant eyed shoppers pushing their carts aimlessly up and down the aisles,  I remember reading "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver.  It takes place in the Congo, can't remember the time period but I would guess the late 50's, early 60's.  One of the character's learns that in America most families have two cars and she cannot believe it.  She is dumbstruck.  "I don't believe you," she replies. "Why would one family need two cars?"  Then she comes to America and steps into a grocery store and is completely overwhelmed.  She's used to eeking by on homegrown foods or trading with other villagers for meat.  Refrigerator?  Not in the Congo.  She is horrified by the waste.  I think that book kind of began my path down this road.  I read it several years ago and didn't realize the impact it had on me at the time, but looking back now I can see that it definitely did.


I would highly recommend it--plus it's got a lot of dry humor in it which I always love.


Ok, gotta get back to reading Harriet's excellent book.  Almost done and I have to admit I think I have a girl-crush on her.  :)

Terri, yep.  Seriously.  Cross my heart, I near choked on my laughter, and it wasn't until the fella said "so she's hiring someone so she can be self sufficient?"  and the irony really truly hit me and I just burst out laughing with him, in the privacy of my own home.


Yep, have read and loved the poisonwood bible too!  It's funny how people from other cultures see us.  I have a Balinese cousin-in-law, and when he saw my dishwasher he just couldn't believe it.  What I consider something that helps me and is a major tool in my time management, efficient-household-running, and mothering role he looked at me and said 'only the finest hotels near my village have one of these!'.  He just thought it was great, and I'm pretty sure he thinks that we're just loaded to the back teeth with cash!

When living in our own convictions makes it harder to live without judgement of others - we are winning the war but not the battle.  


My husband lives in judgement.  Understands little of what I do or, rather, feels it is corrupt because it does not "pay" for itself. My husband does not like my son and his girlfriend because they are caught in the ravages of addiction (though in recovery of sorts) and passes judgement on them and me.


It is painful and hurtful and he is moving away from us but (and this is the point I want to make) I do not lash back or demean him cause that would mean A) I really know what is right for him and B) I think judgement is okay as long as it isn't directed at me.   Call it a karmic truth but I believe what goes around comes around and if I don't like it when it is done to me then why do it to others?  But this in not a position easily won.  Oh no.  I have had the judgement beat out of me.  I have had to live a thousand broken lives before being able to accept the brokeness in others.  I am a tired old soul that has finally found my way to a certain type of peace.  But hell if it wasn't a messy battle. 


And so I live my life.  Believe in my truths.  Work hard.  Muse about the randomness and confusion that surrounds all of us and feel empathy (when I can) for wherever and however anyone else is working through their narratives because, as I've mentioned, they are complex.  It is only when I'm not sure of the life that I have chosen that I feel inclined to rip someone else another asshole (excuse my delicacy).   At least that's how it used to be.  I was not a wallflower in the attitude department.  I'm assuming you all can intuit that. 


 Even now I can be very upset at the issues that are undermining the well being of the people and planet but I assume these actions come out of a deep spiritual pain.  No one can live in greed, indifference, jealousy, contempt or disregard for the plight of others without there being something stuck or broken somewhere in their hearts.  At least that's what I think.  Yes, they heap damage in the path of their indifference but they are not happy, not peaceful - not really.  No, not really.  This I believe.  


I have learned we are all a little confused and scared.  We are all groping at straws trying to make sense of no sense.  And if the life and the efforts of others  looks rough around the corners or silly or "less than" the truth I am carrying at the moment I try, try, try to remember that the path is long and I only know the answer for myself.  If I used to be a harsh and judgmental person it was likely because I was caught in the confusion of my own life. My suspicion is that once we find peace in ourselves we can offer it to others.  


So accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can.  It will make your message and life a lot easier for others to witness and hear.   It might even inspire a few people to take it on themselves.  At least, that is what I tell myself as I work through the judgement and frustrations that surrounds me these days.  Yes, another broken piece to the puzzle but what can you do?  I thought I was settled but I am not.  I thought I could believe in my marriage but I could not.  Oh well what you gonna do?  Life is a mystery and "fair" well, that's a moving target.  I got a lot more of it then most people on the planet get so I try not to get too indignant.  

But the very good news is today I am taking a class on permaculture and feel I am adding yet another piece to this long and winding inquiry.   Thank god my mind and body still works and the my soul and spirit, despite the wild, winding and decidedly messy methodology of my youthful indiscretions, did not waylay me or turn me into a mean bitch.  Could have happened.  Oh yeah, could have happened.   Fact is, some folks in these parts are yet not sure of my conversion but................FU*K THEM.   Just kidding, couldn't resist -- Bronx girl and all. 


Feast or famine on this disscussion board huh. A couple days of nothing then Bam, can't keep up. My last rant was not meant to discourage or provide a sense of doom but rather to get everyone to acknowledge the need to be more thoughtful about our decisions both financial and everything else. I continually strive to simplify my life and have no desire to live in the past. I don't want to do the wash by hand or subsist full time on a homestead. I don't want to have to make my own clothes or chop my own wood (well I do like to chop a little wood). I love my air conditioning and indoor plumbing and wouldn't want to see them gone. However, I do want to rid myself of some of the useless or counter productive clutter of the todays world. If I make concious choices with my goals in mind rather than just follow the mainstream like a sheep to slaughter, I can come a lot closer to achieving what I choose instead of feeling like I'm making no progress and being tired & stressed all the time.

Well Harriet, I think I'm gunna have to sit 'n join the girl crush crew in admiration of you.  Cheese'n'rice you sound like you've lived, and settled on, a hundred lives and each path has finally ended right here.  I feel like sometimes the family I missed out on have sent angels with signposts pointing like big neon "OverTheFuckHere" and there I find someone who says what I'm feeling is right but haven't yet the maturity in my only four years in to the motherhood of the stayathome sistahs to find the words myself.


Half my problem is that I don't know how to play spin the bottle and the other half is I don't love anyone I see playing in my circle, if you know what I mean.  I'm surrounded, in this lil suburb that looks like a frikkin commercial for huggies nappies, on all sides by stereotypes that I don't get, and that don't get me.  And I'm still stuck in the dialogue of how to get chickens safely in to a cat ridden neighborhood and keep them safe at night.  I'm still copping 'the evil eye' because I have a washing line underneath the carport and well, people might drive past and see my towels and delicates flapping in the breeze instead of using my clothes dryer.


But it's like you say Harriet.  I'm not to stand in judgement and laugh my arse off at people who pay for the work and the harvesting of vegie beds they can afford.  I'm to do my bit, here in this sandlot of a suburban block and testify to the fact that I do what I do because I can, and I love it.  The rest is gravy, I guess.  The knowing I've made the yummy chicken soup for tea that fed a tribe more than I thought, from scratch, went unnoticed by me but thanked by my family.  And that's what it's all about, I guess.


Then it's back to the system, too.  Of knowing when and how that soup came about, of knowing which bits to leave out for the younger ones (they won't eat broth, no matter what I tell 'em, ya know!), and which juicy bits to keep for the visitors.  And my systems keep those meals coming, keep the house looking good, and hopefully, eventually get those ingredients coming more from my yard.


Thanks again, ladies.  I'm trying to catch up on the 8 pages I missed out on, too.  I really am.  But today I also concentrated on kiddo's, and finally cleaning the floors.  Man, it's so nice to get to them floors once in a while!

Yes Harriet:  I was on my soapbox--ranting and raving.  I do try and be respectful of others' viewpoints, where I have trouble is when their way of thinking stunts mine. Sigh.  I am sorry to hear about the Great Divide in your house.  Such times can be very painful.  And with pain comes growth. That's the one thing I keep reminding myself.


Pat:  No kidding, who wants to do laundry by hand?  I can barely keep up with my machine loads!  Cutting wood eh?  Wow.  Bet you have some guns on those arms of yours.  :) Humanure compost bucket anyone? I've delved into a book called the urban homestead and they suggest a large bucket with a toilet seat on top.  Hmmmm...maybe not THAT green. Not Yet.


Kyliein:  Build a VERY sturdy shelter with a hen house to be locked-down at night.  I don't have any chicks, but have read enough to re-think the whole chicken thing.  Especially since we have raccoons here.  And Raccoons have hands. Clever little devils.  Enjoy your kiddies and clean floors.


Off to continue to Great Purge at Mother-in-laws.  The Great Purge is starting to feel like Endless Purge, and we've only been doing this for 8 weeks. 


Yesterday I got the smoker smoking and put some salmon on it for 20 minutes (just enough to get the smoke flavoring) and then pressure canned the salmon is small jelly jars. I love that stuff mixed with softened Cream Cheese as a dip or spread. Sorry, I was fresh out of philosophical musings this morning.

KylieinOz: When we built our chicken coop we made a fortress.  It's 8' tall, 8' long, and 4' wide.  Under the dirt is welded wire fence, with cement cinder blocks laying on the edges.  The coop structure sits on the cinder blocks and is held on by some metal piping that goes through the 2x4 on the bottom edge of the coop and bent into an "L" shape.  Inside the coop the hens have a wooden roost box that has a locking door on it.  Both the coop (the 8x8x4 structure) and the nest box have locking doors.  This way, hopefully, they are safe from the raccoons and whatever that roam here.  It's worked for several years now... although our neighbors all said it would fail because there's had.  I say determination on my part made the difference! :)


Pat: Sounds great! 

Gotta love the neighbors--mine didn't work so yours won't.  Yours sounds like Fort Knox.  Good job!  If I ever move to a rural area I'll be chatting you up for instructions. :o 


Pat: Sounds yummy.  Did you try and get some franken-salmon?  Kidding.


I have now planted my last rose bush my MIL gave me--they all remind me of her now when they bloom. Blueberries and strawberries are showing lots of unripened fruit.  My Hydrangeas for the first time in two years are blooming!  Yay!  I'll chalk it up to the newly added compost mulch this year on their beds. My Wisteria is getting tall with lots of shoots everywhere.  These are all my flowers I accumulated before I began my "edible" garden journey.  They are all keepers. 


My carrots are sweet and lovely.  Radishes are sprouting.  Can't wait to see my green beans sprout.  My tomato plants have been moved outside to harden off and of course we are having our lovely winds we get from time to time.  I moved them to a sheltered spot until the winds subside.  Hopefully in a few days I can transplant them.  Green Onions are in.  All I'm waiting on now is basil to plant in with the tomatoes.  Oh and Garlic.  Someone told me to plant garlic around my rose bushes--although I can't remember why.  I figure it can't hurt.


I bought corn seeds but don't know that I'll get to those this year.  I'd have to clear a huge space in back yard and I'm finding it hard to come up with extra time since beginning the Purge.  Two bedrooms and closets are cleaned out completely, Yay!  Kitchen is half way done.  Now we're working on the back shed which is a dark and scary place!  Crammed full of "stuff".  It's just too beautiful to be working inside--it's been in the upper 70's all week and very beautiful.  After the shed we'll head back in for the last half of the kitchen cupboards and the dining and living areas.  Then the last of the den/office area which is piled with books and papers. 


And somewhere in all of this, I've got to keep up with my garden--because that is what gives me joy.


Finished Harriet's book last night.  Now I'm re-reading it more slowly and then will stop when I get to April/May and read as each month begins. 


BTW, I'm SO disappointed in Seeds of Change being owned by Mars.  I didn't know that.  Sigh.  What about Seed Savers Exchange? 


Dang, I burnt have the heavy aluminum off the bottom of my favorite small stainless steel canner. I thought I was multitasking but found out I don't have the capacity. I had put the small canner on a large fish-cooker propane burner and then transferred my Porter beer from the primary fermentor to the secondary fermentor. By the time I got back the aluminum was melting off and dripping on the burner. I salvaged the canner but it has a large part of the aluminum missing from the bottom. Luckily it will still sit level on the stove (after I did some grinding on the bottom).  I thought thngs were going badly until I read about Osama Bin Ladin's woes. Mine looked a lot better after that.


I don't know about franken-salmon but I smoked and canned the crap out of em so the franken part os probably dead if not missing by now.


Pat:  LOL.  Sorry to hear about the mishap.  As CJ wrote in her ApronStringz blog regarding leaving the room while drying your cast-iron skillet/pan on the burner: 


"...set your pan on a low flame on the stove and set a timer for five minutes. Do not leave the room!!! I refuse to accept responsibility when you practically burn your house down by leaving an empty skillet on high heat and then going to do just one little chore outside. I would never do such a thing. Ahem…."


I did dry my skillets that way, sorta kinda.  One night I was sitting in the living room with hubby and he said what are you cooking?  I was so far removed from what was cooking in the kitchen I said "nothing."  And I was about to leave it at that until I smelled it.  NOT a good smell.  I ran into the kitchen and saw the poor smoking skillet.  And I thought "Dang!!!  That CJ KNEW that I'd do it. Or that ANYONE would do it at least once.  I now set the timer and sit in the same room like a good little girl.  It's amazing how quickly our mind switches gears and forgets what we were doing just a second ago. 


Ok, so you didn't forget Pat.  You just tried to Multi-task.  Cooking and multi-tasking don't seem to co-exist very well.  Lucky for you, you didn't burn the salmon.  Now THAT would have been a tragedy.  :)



In light of  THE NEWS and the confusion amongst our citizens about how to react to it: Celebration? Fear? Somber? Sadness? I've decided to share a quote from our dear friend Mark Twain which seems most appropriate: 


"I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure." -- Mark Twain





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