This blog contains 1000 posts. Posting to Blogger with such a large archive has become unwieldy. Also, your blogista, who is sewing a kesa, is not writing much at present. She has ceased adding new posts. Still-active links are here.

Monday, April 30, 2012

They have been warned ...

Do not underestimate foraging. In our area there's thimbleberry, sorrel, Oregon grape, salmonberry, wild onions, morels, chanterelles, fiddleheads, chickory, lambs-quarters, miner's lettuce, dandelion, wild mustard and asparagus, along with wild plums and abandoned apple, pear, and walnut trees -- along with billions of blackberries. We catch the occasional trout to go with all this bounty as well, and are familiar with original Brunswick stew. Nutrias are next, if they keep raiding the potato bed.

Books or some good websites can help you establish what's good to forage in your area. Best is an experienced guide. Be careful, especially around mushrooms.

Friday, April 27, 2012


When not doing anything else, haunt used book stores and free boxes for old how-to manuals and garden guides. Google Books has it down and I know you love your Kindle, but there could come a time when neither is readable -- paper is your fall-back. Many guides from the Seventies, as John Michael Greer points out, are more robust than the stuff that's coming out these days, and they go for from cheap to free, like much of my farm library, shown here.

You like to print out and bind from online? Feel free -- here's a site you will love: Support them -- wonderful folks.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Maybe not ice cream

Consider growing all your own seasonings! We make ours by drying the side leaves of collards, kale, cabbage, spinach, turnip greens and the like with rosemary, marjoram, cilantro, oregano, chives and sage, then crumbling it all up, removing the stems, and air-blending or grinding in our Corona mill to the desired consistency. Use on and in everything -- breads, soups, souffles, quiche, pizza, green drinks, stews. Maybe not ice cream. ^_^

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The key is patience

Not a carpenter? Me neither! But the key is patience. Act like you have all the time in the world, and use freely or cheaply available freecycled materials so it won't matter if you goof, and you can always try again. In time you can furnish a home with attractive pieces of your own design.


Build a ventilated cold room in the basement or part of the coolest room in the house, or, better, if your water table permits, in a free-standing cellar. Load it with, to the extent possible, things you've grown yourself. If nothing bad ever happens, you've still got a terrific hobby.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

And then rest

A fun thing to try is aim for simplest. Eat in the garden. If you feel you should bring it in, do, but maybe prefer having right away over stored or refrigerated or preserved. What's good raw, have raw. If you need it cooked a bit, try a five minute steam. Not ready yet? Try ten. When mixing densities, add each to the steamer at the best time. Try seasoned with herbs from the same garden. Chase with filtered water in the same bowl. Wash your knife, chops, bowl, and steamer, and then rest. 

Haters got nothin' good to do

The great advantage of multiculturalism, as I see it, is you don't have to continually snub, make condescending remarks or jokes about, short-change, beat, starve, torture, or murder millions of people to keep the world something like your mental picture of it. -- Risa Bear

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I could use that

Wherever I am, I don't feel right if I'm not growing something.

I think I got this from my dad, who foraged, fished, hunted, farmed, gardened, planted orchards and vineyards, and brewed and bottled wherever he has lived, until, a few years ago, he simply had to leave off.

He tells me I will come to the same, and shakes his head over the photos of our home place, and I know he is right. But, for now, the itch is on, and I must scratch.

There are few reminders here, now, of all the homesteading he'd done in his ninety-four years. There are the two nectarines, which have set fruit, a fig and loquat that aren't yet in season, and an orange tree, which has been heavily damaged by the freezes of the last few years, as well as the persistent droughts.

But it has oranges.

They're brown from the heavy frost that hit just days before our record run of hot weather that began in February. But still good. And I found my mom's old electric citrus squeezer. So I'm having a tall glass of yard-fresh orange juice, sometimes spiked with a neighbor's grapefruit, every day.

This sort of thing leads to exploring for garden tools and idle soil.

We're in a prohibitive irrigation ban at present which will last through at least August, with a lot of forest fires in the state, so I can't envision trying to revive the last garden, on the south side of the house (where the fig tree lives). But there is a narrow bed alongside the carport, which, when I got here, was full of thistles and the remains of some kind of invasive vine which had climbed everything in sight.

I cleared all this away, walked off with some neighborhood curbside bags of live-oak detritus (for mulch and soil amendment), sifted through the almost pure sand with a busted five-tined fork, then set out a few things: heirloom potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, basil, cilantro, so far. My mom had all of two household plants, and I moved these out into the bed to keep the veggies company.

What with what my British friends call a "hosepipe" ban more or less in effect, I plan to capture any rainwater I can (it's almost devoid of radioactivity here at present, unlike Oregon's) and haul greywater to the bed whenever I'm here.

There's a chance I won't actually be here to harvest any of this. But that doesn't matter. It looks kind of nice, which can't hurt property values, and it makes a statement. In a world in which food is increasingly the province of absentee owners whose only real interest is short-term monetary profit, anarchist veggies must look to any unregulated corner they can liberate.

If I don't pick these tomatoes, the next-door neighbor lady surely will. As she does so, I know she will say a little prayer for me.

I admit I could use that.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Floor treatment on a budget

Risa is still doing time in Florida. Prefers to draw a veil of mostly silence over much of what she's doing, which is kind of a cross between hospice care and alligator wrestling.

Here is a bit of the recent past:

MONDAY, APRIL 26, 2010

Not in my lifetime

So, Risa's kitchen floor -- which was a horror to look upon, when the family moved in, in 1993 -- got, at the time, the same treatment as the dining room floor, with a difference.

There were no asphalt tiles, broken or otherwise, and no holes where roof leaks had swollen and burst chipboard underlayment, as in the dining room. But there was an unsightly black, green and yellow linoleum that looked as if it had been there since the house was put up (owner built) in 1949.

In places the linoleum was worn halfway through to the wood (not chipboard) flooring beneath. If Risa were young, spry, and full of boundless energy, she might have tried cutting up and disposing of the linoleum, and come up with a treatment for the wood. But the stuff had been glued down very, very thoroughly. Another layer, in colors we could stand, might be what to do -- but money was in short supply, having been scraped and scrounged for the down payment.

So she painted the whole thing white, lined it off in squares with a pencil and straight edge, and painted brick-red tiles over the white, covering the whole thing with two coats of satin polyurethane. (We have a thing for white with brick red and forest green trim. Our kids' friends called it "the Christmas House.")

Seventeen years later, it was obvious that thousand of steps, and the occasional dragging about of tables and stoves, had had their way with the paint job.

Time to renew. With a small brush, Risa traced over the white "mortar" ...

...switched to a larger brush to cover the red "tiles" ...

... then sealed with high gloss poly.

Not too bad.

"Think we'll be doing this floor again?"

"Probably not in my lifetime. Yours, maybe."

You don't need to wax over a urethane-finished floor. To remove dirt and stains, simply clean the floor regularly with a mop dipped in a solution of one cup of white vinegar and ten quarts of water. If your floor is particularly dirty, increase the amount of vinegar. Earl Proulx, Yankee Home Hints

Friday, April 06, 2012


Gardeners feel a certain compulsion wherever they are. 

I arrived in Florida in the first week of February and the first week of April is almost gone. We have had the Great Heat Wave along with much of the East, and I've sat with my dad in the porch rockers, fanning myself, and memories of hot Georgia summers rise up. Toads, which one might not see until June, snuffle round our feet, and mosquitoes buzz in our ears. Lizards sit on fence posts bobbing up and down, tormenting the dogs, who can't quite bring themselves to leave the shade to snap at them.

And my garden is three thousand miles away. 

There's drought here, so, if I were to stay the summer (which could happen) I really should resist turning over my dad's big old garden, which has fallowed for the last decade. But next to the carport, there's a row of concrete planters filled with sandy soil. 

I was slicing and dicing in the kitchen and noticed some potatoes that had gone to sprout.

Hmm. Can't resist a bit of productive greenery, now can we?

Today, they're up.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

On the cheap

Foraging, you get to eat without a) having to work (slave) for money which b) will be taxed, and then c) given to someone in exchange for food which has been d) farmed badly, e) processed to death and f) transported all over creation so it can be sold to you by g) the middleperson. The savings can be applied to getting out of debt and stocking up for resiliency, yes?

A small repost for you:

Pennies on the dollar

At this time every year, the big-leaf maples (acer macrophylum) will bud, and produce their flowers. Most people I've talked to don't seem to know this, but the pendulous, lime-green bracts can make an edible and nutritious meal. Good tasting, even, if you don't have it every day. I'd describe it as broccoli with a hint of wood smoke.

We have a fairly large one over the driveway, just in front of the garage, which shades our annual orgy of firewood-splitting, and for about a week -- maybe two -- I'll climb a ladder daily and collect a colander full.

I give the bracts a thorough immersive washing, as they attract a small black beetle-y insect that's not as tasty (don't ask).

Here I'm making up my lunches for the next work week.

At right, maple blossoms. At left, kale, leeks, elephant garlic greens, walking-onion greens, chard, and a broccoli leaf, all from around the winter garden. In the steamer there is short-grain whole rice, which takes about forty minutes.

I'll mix all but the rice with home-dried Amish Paste tomatoes, local tofu, and hard-boiled duck eggs (left over from the annual egg hunt).

We'll steam the diced-up stems of the alliums with the tofu and eggs, for about ten minutes, then add everything else, shredded, with three minutes to go, seasoned to taste.

Refrigerate separately from the rice, combining in a container some half-veg mix, half rice to go, each day. Refrigerate at work, zap for lunch. The rice seems to go yucky faster if pre-mixed, so that's why I wait to add it each morning. If I want my rice even fresher, I'll make half as much and make another batch come Wednesday.

The leftover steamer water goes into a pitcher to dole out for soups, breads, dressings, gravies, hot drinks, souffles, pancakes, and lattkes. If too much of this veg-water accumulates to keep well, I pour off some into the compost.

People tell me I'm not a very good cook, and it's true; I don't have much of a knack and seem to resist learning to do better. But I'm fascinated with low-to-no-cost cuisine and feel that we're possibly coming to a time when we may, most of us, need to know how to eat for pennies on the dollar.


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