Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Daily Grind

Today was gonna be a big day - I was going to clean the kitchen, mill all the wheat and corn, clean out the fridge and freezer, maybe get a few hours at the local hunting grounds in, and take stock of everything I have stored for the challenge.

My plans came to a grinding halt on step 2.  Lucky thing I cleaned the kitchen first! Milling the wheat and corn took the whole rest of the day.

I have a small Corona mill I picked up before the previous challenge.  I started with the corn first, grinding it twice.  I sifted out one bag of flour/fine cornmeal and then just coarse ground the rest. Then it was on to wheat. That all needed ground twice and sifted. I got a little over 2lbs of what I am calling 'bran' for every 4lbs of flour. Basically anything that couldn't fit through the strainer after 2 passes through the mill is in those bags. I plan to cook this up as cereal in the mornings. Sharon and I will be baking tomorrow in anticipation of the challenge, now just 2 days away!

I'll sort that picture mess

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.2

Can you beet that???

I pulled a few beets from the garden. There are a few more but they are small. I cooked them up and I will have them the first day of the challenge - You know the one that I am going to WIN!!!! You can't beet me!!!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Awesome Project I Destroyed After Just One Use

I took the opportunity yesterday to head out to the local public hunting grounds. While I was there I saw 2 frogs, a fat mole, and a house cat. I spent some time foraging around. I found a black walnut tree (though I didn't collect any this time) a handful of soybeans scattered across a harvested field, and lots and lots of rose hips.

I had been meaning to build a press to extract oil from foods for some time. Yesterday I finally made that dream into a reality, and then after one use I broke it.

I wanted to make something simple and use my h-frame press to apply the force. I poked around for the biggest drill bit I could find, and I found one that was 1-3/4". I poked around in my metal stock and found a short bit of copper rod that, at one end, was the same diameter.

I make aluminum castings a lot, so I started with a bit of aluminum round stock I had recently cast. I use various steel molds, this particular casting is poured into a short length of steel stock and then pounded out when cooled.

Next I put the stock in my lathe (which required a bit of reassembly before use.) I bored out a 1/2" hole to the depth I wanted, then moved right on to the big 1-3/4" bit. The fit with the copper rod was quite good.

Next I drilled a hole into the side of it to allow the fluid to escape. I marked the depth on the rod with a sharpie marker and then gave both parts a wash.

I found a metal baking pan to work in so that the extracted goodness didn't just drip on the floor. I put it all together in the press, applied some pressure and, MAGIC! The resulting juice tastes just like fruit roll-ups.

And then a bit more pressure after that and everything - seeds, stems, pulp - started coming out the same hole as the juice. I needed a screen of some sort, and found one to salvage out of a water tap in my scrap pile.

I put the screen in the bottom and filled the cylinder with rose hips again. I pushed those contents down with the copper ram by hand and thought, 'hey, if I push it down like that I can fit way more in here.' This proved to be a fatal flaw to my plan. The copper rod subsequently wasn't sitting deep enough in the cylinder, and when I applied hydraulic force it bit into the wall of the aluminum cylinder and broke it. Boo.

The whole project, which included a bit of scrounging and machine re-assembly took about 3 hours. I do plan to make a second one and re-use the copper ram.

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.2

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wheat For Breakfast?

In the victory binding of the American Woman's Cookbook, they discuss the cooking of different cereal grains. For whole grains they recommend 4-5 times more water than grain, and suggests using a 'fireless cooker' to avoid prolonged stirring or sticking to the pan. I have a rice cooker I won on a bet (eating a burnt pizza that my friend discarded into the snow), so I gave it a go.

I don't reall know what I was expecting, but what I got wasn't half bad. I used a quarter cup wheat to 5/4 cups water. The final product weighed 5oz (from just 1oz of grain) and had the consistency of firm beans 0. The taste was rather neutral with a slight wheaty flavor. I added a bit of nutmeg, a dash of sugar, and a splash of milk. A few pieces of jellied toast and I had a satisfying breakfast.

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.2

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Weekend

Hello Fellow Challenge Participants,

Sister (you know which one you are!) please bring my Corona mill to family dinner tonight.

Other Sister, would you be interested in getting together one day this weekend and making bread? I read about a concept called parbaking, which is how the thaw-and-bake bread you find in your grocer's freezer is prepared. I'd love to experiment with this concept.

Anyone want to head to the West Side Market soon? Or out to the hunting grounds? I would like to pick up some fresh ginger, nutmeg, and about 240lbs of game meat before the challenge begins.

...And, We're Back

In preparation of a trip to Mississippi, I have spent the last few weeks laboring over an old and cantankerous car. I've had no time to focus on the challenge at hand, and have taken no trips to the local hunting grounds.

The trip has concluded, and I can now turn my attentions back to the challenge (and not a moment too soon.)

Whilst in Mississippi, I was able to bring home a few extra catfish from the pond. 14oz of delicious fish, which brings our meat stores to a total of 14oz. You can see one of my lovely fishing mates, Sarah from Four Pounds Flour and her first catch of the day below.

My lack of hunting time along with the freezer disaster earlier this year will probably end in an unfortunate stint of vegetarianism during the challenge. Vegetarian or no, I will still defeat you all!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Garden is Moving In . . .

Some of the garden has taken up residence in the kitchen. I transplanted some of the leaf lettuce, mint (in the turtle pot) and two large planters of carrots. I'm not sure how they'll do but I think it's worth the try.

Christmas Soup

I used the carrot tops along with two of my potatoes, a couple small carrots, chives, garlic, parsley, some of my soup base paste (from my $10. allowance) to make magical Christmas soup. All of the ingredients above were added to the water I used to blanch my meager supply of beets and the water I used to blanch the carrots. After cooling, the soup seems to magically separate into Christmas color layers. I'm just sayin'

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

48 karat gold . . .

I picked carrots from my garden today. There are actually 49 (some very small). The tops were very beautiful and full so I looked on line to see if they are edible. I found this great website which includes several recipes using the greens.

I made some carrot green tea today. It was okay - tasted very "green." I saved most of the greens and will try my hand at the soup tomorrow. I have plenty more carrots in the garden but only wanted to pick as much as I could blanch and freeze while fresh. Exciting stuff!!!!!

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme . . .

Stevia, Lavender, Basil and Mint. The larger bags in the photo below are gallon size. These are the herbs from my garden that I had hanging between the living and dining rooms. I've also shared some of the fresh and dried herbs with other challenge participants.

Monday, November 21, 2011

They Just Keep Grinding Away...

It seems every time we have a family dinner, the family wants more rule exemptions. First they wanted to use the spices in their cabinets out of their money. Then they wanted more money,, then they wanted more cheat items, then they wanted to 'dumpster dive' for pumpkins. It is very hard to be a dictator when the people are so demanding!

For Sharon's birthday, she has decided to have a party. Everyone rallied around the idea of getting an extra party exemption for her birthday celebration. Finally I agreed, then declared, 'NO MORE!' with a flourish of my arm. A passing waitress fired a comment in, 'God has spoken.' We all had a good chuckle.

Never Leave the Forest Empty-Handed

On my last expedition to Spencer Lake the place was over-run with hunters. I decided to go to another favorite hunting location. No animals were to be found. There were other treasures to be collected though! I now have of meal corn, leftovers not picked up by the cultivator on the public land. I've already taken them off the kernels, 12lbs. Plus 2 more lbs that were dirty, I am going to keep as my planting seed for next year.
I also collected rose hips, 2 sandwich bags stuffed full. I'm trying to sort out what to do with them exactly, hopefully I can get them cooked down into something (a jelly, syrup, something.) They definitely have more flavor than those early ones I picked, I can see why they are typically used for tea. More to come on that subject in the next few days.

More Preparations

Last night, I baked 20 of the potatoes from my 10 pound bag. They are small potatoes so I still have about a dozen left for vegetable soup. After they were almost thoroughly baked, I split them in half, scooped out the insides, blended in some water, a little of my butter allowance and in some I mixed finely chopped parsley and in another batch I mixed the chopped chives (both chives and parsley from my garden). I refilled the skins and wrapped them in foil and then a large plastic freezer bag. In about mid December, I plan on harvesting some of my carrots and turnips and I'll make a vegetable soup to freeze.

I plan on baking my turkey and freezing the meat in 4 oz packages (later in December). I figure with almost a 9 pound turkey, I should have at least 5-6 pounds of meat. That would work out to, at the minimum about 20 packages of turkey. If I eat turkey two times a week, that should last through the challenge. I'll also probably use the bones as a base for soup.

My herbs are pretty well dry. I'll let them dry a few more days before I bag them up. I still have mint growing and have some parsley to freeze as well as the bag of kale.

It looks like the next freeze is going to be the upcoming Sunday night. I haven't decided whether I want to go through covering the garden with the sheets or just mulching with leaves that I haven't raked and harvest the root vegetables at a later time. I'll watch the forecast and keep you up to date.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More Harvest

Yesterday, I froze two more containers of pea pods, I harvested the kale, and more parsley. I also picked the cabbage plants by the roots and put them in water to see if I could get any more growth. I keep picking mint and have been enjoying mint tea nearly every day. I picked some tomatillos but I'm not certain what to do with them.

I've also decided to change up my $10 allowance. I found a great frozen turkey for $5.02, 10 pounds of potatoes for $1.99 (I heard that Kmart has them cheaper so I might give the $1.99 ones to my Mom and buy the $1.00 for 10 pound bag). My remaining $2.99 are 1 stick of butter (.50), 1/4 of the 5 pound bag of sugar (.50), one third of a small bottle of oil (.43), 1/4 of the veggie soup base ($1.10), and 1/4 bottle of vinegar (.50). If I buy the $1.00 10# bag of potatoes, I can add in the .78 bag of rice or one dozen eggs for $1.00 (which I previously froze). I would be about $.03 over budget. Maybe I'll look for $4.99 turkey. (tee hee)

The turtle is tooling along . . .

The Clean Sheets are on the Beds . . .

I am trying to eeek out every last millimeter of growth from the garden. Last night, I covered the plants that are still growing with bed sheets to keep them from freezing. The garden peas must have hot feet because they keep kicking the covers off. Silly garden peas!!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lessons from the Fall Garden

Well - I still have some garden production. I pick snow pea pods daily. I planted them around August 15. As far as the later plantings: The first picture below is the beginnings of the regular garden peas. I think August 30 was a little late to plant them as they have had flowers for a few weeks and are just starting to form into pods. There are possibly 6 pea pods thus far. August 30 is too late for to plant peas!!! The second picture is of one of the turnips that I planted around the end of August. It looks like I will have a few smaller turnips - but good news - still some production from them. The last picture shows the snow peas, carrots and beets, with the garden peas in the back and a few lettuce leaves in the front. The beets and peas were planted around the middle of August and although the roots are on the small size, I should be able to harvest some nice vegetables from the August 15 plantings early in the winter. The summer squash, green beans, beets and cabbage planted at the end of August will not be producing any large quantities of vegetables. (We might have a few meager harvests from these).

Overwhelming Gratitude

Today, I pulled out the remnants of the tomato plants, the cages, the squash, and various other items from the early summer garden. As I looked back at the area where all of these wonderful plants grew, I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this garden and the bountiful harvest it provided. . . . I'm just sayin'

Monday, October 24, 2011

More Harvest From the Garden

Over the weekend, I made use of the available space in the passthrough between the Living and Dining Rooms. Bunches of herbs are suspended from a wire run through the open area on both sides. Herbs include: Rosemary, Stevia, Basil, Parsley, Lavender, Sage and Lots of Mint. I also harvested more Pea Pods and Chives.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall Garden Update

Just an update on the progress of the garden - fall planting. The first and third pictures were taken on 9-14 (mostly planted about mid-August), the second and fourth are the same areas one month later on 10-16 (beans planted at the end of August). I think that if I plant a fall garden next year, I'll make certain I plant before August 15.

The Big Score

Here's what I came home with on Market Day, last Thursday;

1 jar grape jelly
1 jar fruit pectin
2 small jars chow chow relish
2 jars sweet pickle relish
1 jar peaches in light syrup
1 turnip
1 bag frozen green beans & tomatoes
2 bags frozen watermelon
a sampler of chives
4 sugarbucks

I am still owed a sugarbuck by the Jacksons and 3oz of yeast from Sharon. Buying part of her yeast has freed up some store cash too - a good thing since I had to invest in more sugar and salt.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Market Day

We all added a little more variety to our food stores. I took home some canned goods from Mark and the Jacksons. I also traded with Mark and got a little sampling of rose hips and 2 more maple sugar cakes :). I got a nice big turnip and roasted pumpkin seeds from Mom. I owe everyone yeast. We decided to split up the 1 lb bag that I have. I know I owe Mark 3 oz. but I'm not sure how much I owe everyone else. Mark was able to free up $2.34 of his allowance because of the trade. I also traded cabbage, rice, chives and some frozen goods.

Faster Wheat Production

Mark demonstrated his faster, more efficient way to process wheat with a big clear plastic bag, rolling pin and a little bit of elbow grease :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Adding to my stores . . .

We had a market exchange day today after family dinner. I've added the following to my stores for the winter challenge:

5 ounces of chicory root
about 1 cup of black walnut meats
1 cake of maple syrup sugar
1 jar of blackberry jam
1 small jar and 1 large jar of summer squash
1 jar of bread and butter pickles
1 jar of sweet pickle relish
1 jar of dill pickles
1 large jar of whole peeled tomatoes

I also anticipate trading for yeast.

Mark also gave a demo on threshing the wheat. Thanks for the demo Mark! I think everyone walked away satisfied with a variety of new items. Happy Birthday to Todd!!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday Forage

I went out with a friend (Dan) bow hunting this weekend, hoping to catch a deer off-guard. We had no success catching any venison, but I used the opportunity to gather some wild edibles.

As I was waiting for Dan to show up at the range I spotted a large section of the ground covered in black walnuts. I quickly filled 3 grocery store bags with walnuts. I hulled about half of them this morning so my hands are pretty well stained.

Having enough walnuts I ventured forth into the surrounding woods. Sarah Lohman had pointed out what rose hips looked like earlier in the year - I found some and collected them. The smallish berries have a fibrous center filled with seeds. Both the taste and texture were a bit surprising to me. They have the texture of a bell pepper (we ll a really tiny piece of a bell pepper) and the taste was very slightly sweet. For some reason I was expecting them to be more like elderberries. It will take a lot of prep time to separate the seeds from them all, even with such a small amount collected. No wonder they are traditionally used to make tea! They are a good source of vitamin C, so be gone ya scurvy!

We marched over to where the ederberry bushes are - I was hoping to gather what I had missed the last time. No luck, the birds have picked the rest of the bushes clean. I did head over to the area where the hickory trees are. I collected a small bag of hickory nuts; most of them were bad, about half of them with white grubs in them. If you are fishing at Spencer Lake and run out of bait, you can probably find some good grubs in the hickory nuts! Put a hammer in your tackle box!

The ground cherries out there are still not ripe.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

More news from the fall garden

There are still lots of green tomatoes in the garden (1st picture). The mid-August planting of green beans are looking good (2nd picture). The last planting of green beans is progressing - still no flowers though (3rd picture). The carrot patch is overrun with kale (not a bad thing) (4th picture).

Pass the peas please

The pea pods planted at the end of August are still pretty small. They were sitting in a pool of water for several days during our downpour days (1st picture). The garden peas plants which were planted toward the end of August are growing like wild - no flowers yet however (2nd picture). The pea pods planted around the middle of August are very prolofic!!! (3rd & 4th pictures).

Turnup near the Turnips

The turnips I planted in June are progressing nicely (1st picture). The turnips I planted in August all look pretty healthy - but I'm not certain how big the roots will be (2nd picture). Look who turned up near the turnips (3rd picture).

Sunday, October 2, 2011


This morning I realized the irony of it all. We are living in the future to live in the past. I don't want to live in the past or future, I want to stay present. That being said, I want to get the challenge over with so I can get back to the present. I have enough food stored in the freezer for a few days, and don't have a desire to store more food for the future. I feel that by living in the future for the past, I have missed out on present day opportunties to eat fresh food from the garden. That being said, on Monday Oct 10th I'm starting my challenge. I'm going to eat the frozen food stores and store-bought goods. I'm skipping the wheat based products for several reasons, one being time. Mark, since I'm not making bread and I still owe you sugar bucks can I give you the yeast as part of the exchange? That would give you an extra $2.34 to work with. I can also give you the onions and rice as previously communicated.
Good luck fellow settlers :)!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What a difference two weeks makes . . .

I took some pictures two weeks ago and, as I was looking at today's pictures, I realized that the garden has grown quite a bit. I'm sure we'll have peas, beans and beets. Not so sure about the summer squash. The last two pictures show the squash progress. No blossoms yet so, unless we have a late late late frost, I'm not so sure about any harvest from them.