right now

right now

May 8, 2009

OCD Friday

Lettin' my obsessive/Type A freak-flag fly today!  It seems that whenever my husband is due home from the ship I always get in the mood to organize things just prior.  I am not quite sure why, since I will spend the first day pointing all my accomplishments out to him because he will not notice them otherwise, he is just happy to be in a bed that isn't directly under the catapult of the flight deck and have clean laundry.  Apparently he supports my OCD personality, because last year for Mother's Day I got...a labelmaker!  Yes, folks, not a day at the spa but at least a step up from a broom, lol!  Actually it turned out to be the perfect gift especially since I started canning last year.  Today I finally got around to making my "freezer inventory".  This has been on my mind ever since I started freezing our garden produce, but became an absolute necessity since we picked up our beef share last week.  I have a small deep freeze we purchased last year and it is now packed to the lid!  Now instead of unpacking all the contents every day to see what I can drum up for dinner, I just "shop" by looking at my list posted on my fridge.  I can update it when it becomes a mess and print out a new one!  I just cross off what I take and use it also to make my grocery list.  Pretty simple really, but one of those things I kept putting off.  

And another adventure I couldn't miss... the grand opening of the new "Trader Joe's" here in Virginia Beach.  We were here at opening time, mostly because I knew there would be alot of giveaways and it's right down the street from our house.  We got a couple of free reusable shopping bags and some cookies, then stocked up on "Two Buck Chuck" Shiraz and beat feet outta there.  Before today, the nearest one was about an hour away near one of our airports, so I would visit in conjunction with my mom or husband flying in or out!  So the freak flags were flying here too...check out the mob scene:

The first of the radishes were picked yesterday.  Now if I could just learn to like them...

Here are some miscellaneous things going on around "the Estate"...

Baby bunches of grapes, aren't they cute?

Finally!  The potatoes are doing something!

The new Colonnade apple trees are actually growing!

Clematis is enjoying our weather right now

Remember licking the beaters when you were a kid?  That's one good thing about getting old, we get the BOWL now!!!

That's probably it for weekend posts here.  Sailor/Farmer comes home very soon so I will be busy working and doing things that he won't notice, and will most likely spend Mother's Day mowing the lawn :)

Have a good weekend y'all, and Happy Mother's Day!

Almost forgot...anyone have any experience with "The Food Saver"?  Would love to hear your reviews/experiences before I purchase anything!

May 5, 2009

First Spring Harvest

And it's......STRAWBERRIES, LOL!  I just went outside to "walk the estate" and assess the damage from last night's severe weather and I found the first 2 ripe strawberries, which will actually be the 2nd harvest of the year since I am going to count the 2 leeks I pulled in March that wintered over.  We promptly took a picture and they went down the hatch.  Finn said "Mommy, they taste like the ones we picked at the farm", to which I explained to him "no, they're better because WE grew them" :)   

Also a pic of the peas, which just the past week are going like gangbusters now.  Can't wait, but they never seem to make it to the freezer for stash!  I am going to remember to do fall peas this year so we have some for winter.

On the weather note, our area had the works last night:  severe thunderstorms, wind, downpours, tornado warnings - I was terrified for my seedlings, but amazingly there was no damage.  I hope the same for those of you who went through it.  I thank the raised beds and the fact some other seedlings were planted in my heavily mulched borders.  I think if they had been planted in the unmulched ground they would surely have washed away.  It's amazing how I took the safety of the basement for granted in the Midwest.  When that kind of weather happens here, we have limited options to take cover.  

I now live in the land of sand, swamps, high water tables and NO basements!  That is definitely on my list of future-house needs: a basement for severe weather/canning storage/squirrel attacks, and my own version of a harvest kitchen with a huge walk in pantry and a mudroom!   Hmmm, my mom has all that at the house I couldn't wait to leave to go "see the world"...well, Mom - I've seen it and I want back in...can the kids come, too?!!!

*An update to my fruit leather attempt:

While delicious...this is the amount that resulted from having my countertop oven running for 4 hours!  This will be devoured in one kid-snack sitdown!  Bottom line:  Yummy, but this is definitely not homesteading/being green or cheap!  I think to do this without wasting time and money it needs to be done the old-fashioned way with screens in the sun.  The yield would have been much greater with no energy wasted, but with our humidity here my options are limited.  I did, however, use my 6 jars of too-runny jam to redo the experiment in my food dehydrator.  I lined the trays with parchment paper and it held all 6 jars at once and turned it on at 10 p.m. and it was done this morning at 7.  Greater yield, less energy wasted, so a compromise has been found!

You can tell by my frequent postings that it has been raining all day so I can't get outside, my house is already clean, and I am minus one child today :)  This doesn't happen too often!

Random Thoughts on Cable TV

Once again, for the 3rd time in as many months, I am contemplating killing the cable TV. Funny how it seems to coincide with the monthly billing e-mail.  I know this won't completely ruin my life, but it seems a big step in today's world of "what I want, when I want it"!  I mean, hey - I grew up on a farm before the days of internet, cable and satellite (well, it wasn't available out in the country anyways), we had the 3 major networks and had to physically get up and turn the station since there was no remote!  Feeling old now...
Since I am already at the computer reading my cable bill, I figured I would blog about the pros and cons of this life-altering decision.  Here we go:

  • I wouldn't feel like such a "poser" when writing homesteading blog posts LOL
  • I could still watch TV shows on HULU, if I wanted to sit in front of the computer!
  • we won't be completely without TV since we have an HD antenna which receives the 4 major networks at the present time
  • My house would be quieter
  • save about $80-90 a month, and holy crap...we are a military family with one income...need I say more?
  • the kids will watch less TV and spend more time reading and playing
  • I will spend less time watching TV and more time doing productive things
  • I could read more, which I miss a great deal
  • my husband won't fall asleep in front of it
  • did I say we would save big $$$ ??
  • my kids will have the "weird mom" that doesn't get 5000 channels
  • I love the channels I don't get on antenna (Discovery, Bio, A&E, etc) - HOUSE!
  • the kids will have basically one channel to pick from on antenna - and there are times I NEED to park them at the TV otherwise I wouldn't get anything done!  (remember, military spouse with nearest grandma 1200 miles away!)
  • without my DVR, I will actually have to sit down at the same time my favorite shows are on to watch them, and this is virtually impossible since my kids would never let it happen
  • I would love to say that I don't need to watch "my shows", but when your husband is deployed, and you are the sole caregiver for your kids, there is nothing more I want to do with myself at the end of a long day than "veg out"...and that may happen at 7 pm or it may happen at 10 pm....SEE DVR :)
See my dilemma?  There are way more pros to this plan than negatives, but that very last entry says it all... it is by far the driving factor in keeping the cable thus far.  Ugh...and this year's deployment hasn't even "officially" started yet!  I would love to hear from anyone who has killed the cable and not looked back!  (and before you suggest going to basic cable service, I already have the most basic package that still allows use of a DVR!)

May 3, 2009

New Homesteading Messes, uh, I mean Skills!

It is evening here, the kids are in bed, and I can finally enjoy a glass of wine and blog about our strawberry adventures now that the mess has been cleaned up!  Our strawberry adventure actually started yesterday on the way home from "the farm" when we passed a field and the kids wanted to know what all those people were doing with the white baskets.  So, even though we were scheduled to pick the very next morning with L (awesome friend of mine :)) and her boys (who are like brothers to mine!) I decided I wouldn't be the evil mom so I stopped the car and let them pick "just a few"...
Well, this was a huge hit with the kids, so they were very excited the next morning to hit the strawberry fields again.  We live in an area which is blessed with many strawberry and blueberry farms, so opening day is a big deal 'round here!  So early this morning they grabbed their baskets and were off.  Here's L herding the kids towards the good ones...

And here's all the boys showing off their goodies...even some farm fresh eggs were scored!
So then the work started...I had the boys hull the strawberries for me, quite a few even made it into the bowl!  This is a great job for kids.
Here's a good tip:  use a straw!  I had one of those thick straws that come with reusable drink bottles, push through the berry from bottom and out the crown, and out pops the core/hull. Took about a second per berry, so don't go spend a bunch of $$ on a fancy huller.
This was the first time I have ever done anything with berries other than pop them in my mouth, but I was prepared to do the traditional canned/cooked jam until I talked with the girl at the strawberry stand about frozen jam recipes...she likes them better!  Since she owns a strawberry farm, I took her advice and used a frozen jam recipe using regular pectin, and it turned out wonderfully.  It is a bright red, was super easy, and way less mess.  I ended up with 12 jars of strawberry jam, although due to an experiment I did, only 6 are usable.  After the first batch of 6 jars, I decided to leave the paved surface of the recipe and use more fruit and less sugar and the result was tasty, but the consistency of a melted smoothie!  I could hear the recipe laughing at me, "b*tch thinks she's gonna improve on me, does she?"  Ah, lessons learned...better get a little experience under my belt before I start winging things!

Now what?  I still have this much left...I learned it's really easy to go overboard picking berries...

I decided to freeze bunch whole and put them in freezer bags for later use...

Much to the dismay of the tenants who were evicted from the top shelf of the freezer!

And finally, dried fruit!  The remainder made for 5 trays of dehydrated fruit, which sailor/farmer husband will love for backpacking and on the ship.  You know, "to prevent scurvy...AARGHH!"  I also tried to make fruit leather, which as I type, is still in the convection oven drying but is looking awesome!  I will post pics of those when they are done.  You can do this in a regular oven but I figured I would use my countertop convection since it uses less electricity and I figured with the convection fan, would dry quicker.  This is already paying off since the recipe I used said it could be 6-8 hours in a regular oven and mine is almost done and it has only been 3 1/2 hours.

And, when it was all done, there was even time for a Garden Dog to get a checkup!  Not sure if he is aware that her heart isn't actually on her back or her butt...

I don't think we did too bad for novice berry processing, it was a long day but we had fun and I figured out that one does not, in fact, need BUSHELS of berries to make some jam!  So now I am off to refill my glass of pinot and enjoy a new episode of Brothers & Sisters, hoping that when I wake up tomorrow the house will no longer smell like pureed strawberries!   Out...