Saturday, April 30, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not

Have some usable goods lying around in your cupboards that you want to use to prepare challenge foods, and don't feel like going out and buying more just for the challenge? Well I did some comparison shopping at local stores and here are the best prices I have found;

Salt $.39/26oz
White Flour $1.45/5lbs
Baking Powder $.99/10oz
Baking Soda $.49/1lb
White Vinegar $1.99/gallon
White Sugar $2.69/5lbs
Dry Active Yeast $1.19/3pk

So if you want to use the half gallon of vinegar you have left in your cupboards you can have it for $1.99 of your stipend, and then half of the next gallon you buy when your stores inevitably run out.

The Marketplace

As promised, here is my further note regarding trade.

The official currency of the SFS Challenge II will be SUGARBUCKS. Each participant may their own Sugarbuck notes, to a quantity they are willing to trade or work for.

The value of this currency will be skewed to the needs and work ability of the participants. I am personally guaranteeing my Sugarbucks to be worth 4oz white sugar, or 2oz maple sugar.

Every week on Monday, from now through the end of the challenge, I will poll the participants to see what goods they have available for sale, along with the price they are asking in Sugarbucks. All goods traded for with Sugarbucks must be challenge legal, and all services rendered with Sugarbucks must be directly challenge related. Remember that your store-bought items with your meager pittance can be traded here as well, so if you buy in bulk you can advertise your surplus here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

RE: Conditions

Sharon brings up two points - trading labor for goods and Todd's question of milking another man's cow.

As for the first point - yes you can absolutely trade your labor for food to participants within the challenge. To expand this idea, I feel a challenge currency should be established, along with an open marketplace for goods and services among participants. Before the month's end I will post more on the marketplace.

And to the second point - For those of you in interweb land unfamiliar with Todd's query on Thursday, he asked 'If I pay a farmer to teach me how to milk a cow, can I keep the milk and make butter from it? You can pay for any lessons or guidance without spending your resource money. Hunting guides, chartered boats, cooking classes, foraging tours, all these things are free in terms of challenge money. This challenge is a learning experience and finding outside sources of knowledge are well within its parameters.

What is at issue with Todd's query is the ownership of the livestock. As it is not Todd's cow the milk is the farmer's milk. As a settler in this land, Todd is going to a farmer and paying him to milk the cow. It is a resource he would not have available if the farmer were not caring for the cow. HOWEVER - and here is the big deviation from the first challenge - if Todd can convince the farmer to accept goods he (or his family) have cultivated in exchange for, and to an equivalent value of the raw milk, he can use it for the challenge. The goods traded must be challenge legal, and the goods received must have been cultivated or tended 100% by the outside vendor. SO - in contrast to the last challenge if someone brings a pile of tomatoes in to your work and offers them to anyone who can use them, you can give them an equivalent value of food you yourself have grown in exchange, and these new goods are challenge legal. HOwever if someone dumps a bunch of free bananas on the counter at work because they were on sale, these are not challenge legal.

Once the milk is yours you can of course make butter from it.

Suggestions on our currency name?

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Although the first challenge was very beneficial and got me thinking outside of the box as far as cooking and gardening, I am having a hard time committing to this challenge. So, in order for me to participate the following has to be possible:

Condition 1. There has to be some way to exchange services for food. I am living in an apartment now and have no intention of having my own garden. I am willing to help the challengers or outside sources (gardening, preserving, foraging, etc. - not building machinery or other things though, it will turn out like Mark's baking :*) in exchange for food from that same source. Mark, if this is an option maybe you can come up with some sort of hourly exchange option (example: 1 hour of work = $1 worth of food). Todd brought this up at family dinner regarding milking a cow from a local farmer. This is the same thing. So if this is approved, everyone let me know when you need help.

Condition 2. I am on a path to health and wellness which involves eating a certain amount of carbs, fat, protein, & fiber per day. Depending on the food stores, I will make a decision whether or not I will have enough nutrition closer to the challenge.

I am not aiming to win this challenge. I am supporting a cause of sustainability and living outside the norm. I am stopping at my birthday weekend (mid-January) as long as the above conditions are met.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Test Breakfast (AKA I am a Terrible Baker)

So a few days ago I decided to bake some bread, using ingredients I'll likely have for at least a portion of the challenge. The mixture was roughly 40% oat flower. The yeast I used was a 7-yearn old packet. I managed to get the yeast bubbling in a cup of sugary water despite its age. Regardless the bread had little rise. Though flavor-wise it was alright it had roughly the texture of a brick.

This morning I decided to make a trial breakfast - french toast using this masonry bread. 2 eggs, a dash of maple sugar, and a few slices of bread. It was a bit chewy and more substantial than usual but certainly palletable. I topped it with spreadable blueberries (no sugar ones left from the last challenge) with a side of honeyed blackberries. The leftover eggs were scrambled up too - no food waste in the challenge!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another Nutty Forage

Anyone who has a big basswood tree in their yard knows about the thousands upon thousands of seed pods they dump on the ground every year - while cleaning up the yard I found them everywhere. Another three minutes of interweb research showed me several sources that said the nuts were edible, but too small to be worth collecting. You can see pictured a seed with husk, a split husk, and several of the nuts removed. The other picture shows several basswood nuts with one of the Chinese almonds in the background.
These seeds are constructed similar to walnuts - a husk on the outside with a shelled nut on the inside. Unlike walnuts the husks are hard and woody (instead of black and gross.) Once cracked the nut is inside, with a hard shell covering the meat.
My first thought was to try to eat the whole nut. Not so good, that shell is really too hard to be enjoyable. My next thought was to try to pop them like popcorn. I put them in an egg pan and put another pan on top, swirling them over the flame of the stove. Sure enough some of them cracked with a popping sound. All of them at that point are edible. The shell becomes crisp and crunchy. They would make a nice addition to a trail mix or something.
In the effort of thoroughness I also tried to boil them. I boiled them for 20 minutes (along with a few more Chinese almonds I found.) The shells had softened and could be removed pretty easily, though the work is hardly worth it for the tiny nut meat it yields.
Finally I set up a good collection of them and sat down to watch TV and see how many I could shell. The rate, over 2 hours of work, is approximately a tablespoon per hour of labor. Now I am thinking about ways to construct a powered shelling apparatus...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bean Counting

Looking back at my notes from last season, we will need an estimated 700lbs of food for the pair of us to survive the challenge. Time to get crackin!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chinese Almonds - The Incidental Forage

I finally got around to starting my seeds for the garden this year. It has been rotten cold here in the Cleveland area. It is the 5th of April and we are staring at highs in the 40's and 50's for the upcoming week (at least.) As I was going through my seeds I found a few questionable looking sweet peas. I planted them out next to the garage, where I discovered a pile of discarded pits. I wracked my brains where the pits came from. I t turns out they were discarded from our apricot adventures during the last challenge.
I took a few of the sprouted pits and put them in the empty pots I had lying around. There was still a sizable amount of sprouted pits left. They looked curiously like almonds. I did some brief research on the subject - the apricot shares the same genus with almonds in fact. The apricot and 'bitter' variety of almonds share a common problem with edibility - a chemical called amygdalin. When amygdalin is processed in the small intestine produces cyanide. From what I have read heat treating (either boiling or roasting) will dissipate the amygdalin and render the nuts edible. They are referred to as 'Chinese almonds.'

Do not take the following as an endorsement for eating apricot seeds, either raw or cooked. I am no scientist, doctor, or expert on this subject.

I gathered up a small pile of them and shelled them. As they started to sprout they were already cracked. They were very easy and quick to shell. In no time I had 3 ounces of raw meats.
I am taking no chances (well, aside from eating potentially deadly seeds.) Many of these seeds had sprouted and I don't know what wierd chemical plant things have happened on the inside. I boiled them for 15 minutes, rinsed them thoroughly, then roasted them for 30 minutes (20 minutes @ 325, then 10 minutes @ 275.)
The yield was 1-1/2oz of roasted nuts. I tried one - it tastes like a toasted nut, more like a peanut than almond with a bit of a bitter finish. I'll try a few tomorrow and a few more the day after that, to make sure there are no negative effects to eating them before I add them to our stores for the challenge.