Archive for the 'Independence Days Challenge' Category

Independence Days and Other Updates

Sharon September 8th, 2008

Now that my summer classes are over, I have a little room to move, and I’m overdue for an IDC update, and wanted to update y’all on a few other things.

1. The book is officially out, and should be in most bookstores as of today.  The Independents get it first, so if it isn’t at a local chain, try them (better yet, try them first if you’ve got one ;-).  Everyone whose mail order for the book I received by last Wednesday should have their book or get it within a day or two.  If you don’t mind, no more email book orders after today.

2. When the first food storage class ended, we elected to keep the internet group open for further discussion.  Because of privacy issues for the Adaptation-in-Place course, we can’t do that, but what we have done is start a new group so that the course participants and anyone else here who is interested in joining, can keep the conversation going.  I feel like my month-of-adaptation-boot-camp just barely got things started - so there’s a lot more thinking to do.  If you are interested in joining the group send an email to [email protected].  Remember, you can change how you receive the adaptinginplace group content by going to the website at and going to “edit membership” at the top left of the page.

3. Posting is going to be a little less frequent here.  Right now, the net is taking up a lot of time and energy, and I feel like my family, the farm and more domestic concerns need more of my time than they are getting.  So I’ve decided I will be online only on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  There will be posts those days (and I may publish posts through the magic of the internet other days), but I won’t be around quite as much - so that I can actually do the stuff that I’m supposed to for independence days, so I can adapt to homeschooling two school-age kids (Simon is now in 2nd grade, Isaiah starts kindergarten and Asher is nearly 3, and so moves from “full-time hindrance” to “part time hindrance, part time preschooler ;-), so we’ll be busy - and meanwhile Eli is headed into 3rd grade at the school he attends) so we can do a lot of fall clean up, wood stacking and getting ready for winter.  I may be back in the winter, or not - but if you are trying to get in touch, don’t be surprised if I’m not around as much, or it takes a while for me to get back to you.

 Ok, on the Independence Day Challenge. I have to say, I’m really happy with how this has worked out for our family - at the same time last year, I had much less food put up, and my management of my garden was worse (I won’t say “much” worse, but worse ;-)). 

Plant something: Spinach, arugula, turnips, radishes.  I also transplanted some rhubarb from seed to larger containers to go in the ground in a couple of weeks.  I’m getting to the point where there probably won’t be much planting - not enough light anymore to really get things to harvest that don’t grow quite quickly.  But I’m still plugging at it - moving some things into the self-watering containers we built, which will winter over on the sunporch.

Harvest something: Oh yeah - tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant, garlic, green beans, beets, cucumbers, mushrooms, zucchini, hot peppers, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, turnips,  apples, thyme, sage, rosemary, basil, mint, and more….

Preserve something: Raspberry jam, Greengage plums, dried tomatoes, dried sweet pappers, dried sweet corn, dried peaches,  pickled jalapenos, pickled onions, pickled garlic, made kimchi, made salt-herb mix and added crumbled dried tomatoes for a soup base, canned honey-lemon carrots, rhubarb sauce, applesauce, made cider vinegar (was early cider anyway, and not that good), canned roasted tomato sauce, made goat’s milk yogurt, goats milk yogurt cheese and kefir.

Managed Reserves: Cleaned out freezer for the winter, to make room for soon-to-be-butchered poultry.  Used up last year’s pickled beets and chutneys.  Did a spice and seasoning inventory, and placed a Penzey’s order.  Began to sort out the school materials and consider what might be needed for the next couple of years, so that I can keep an eye out for cheap supplies.  Also began sorting through last year’s herbs and seeing what needs replacing and estimating our usage.  Began trying to figure out where to move the herbs so I have more room for canning jars filled with canned food.  Have not yet figured it out.

Prepped something: Stacked wood.  Cut wood.  Began lengthy process of shifting computer room (and relevant books) up to our bedroom for the winter, so that we can shut the guest rooms up for winter (except, of course, when guests are in them).  Began a large scale de-cluttering with computer room and our bedroom.  The goal, of course, is to go through everything.  This has never happened, and I probably need Chile to come and kick my ass regularly ;-).  Local fruit farm is being turned into condos ;-P, but 30 year old, highly productive blueberry bushes are being dug and sold for the price of digging them.  Put my name down for a bunch.  Began making next year’s garden plan.  Finally ordered garlic and bulbs.

Stored something: Ordered more wheat, more oatmeal, more distilled vinegar (good for cleaning), more fair trade earl grey, more corn, alphabet pasta and wine yeast.  Haven’t received any of it.  Began hosing out buckets that have been emptied to be refilled. 

Reduced waste: Finally gave up on the dump, which no longer accepts many things that could be recycled, and accepted that if we want to recycle most of our stuff, we have to pay for the trash service (which comes up our road anyway).  We don’t usually generate enough waste to justify every-week pickup, but we’re tired of schlepping our recycling in to friends or having it build up in enormous piles, and the dump doesn’t seem inclined to change.

Cooked something new: Greengage plum jam, chili garlic sauce

Worked on local food systems: Not so much - I’ve been head deep in the AIP course.  Time to get to work, though.  How about y’all?


Independence Days Update: Focus on Managing Reserves

Sharon July 13th, 2008

Hi Everyone - this will be my last ID update until August - since I’m doing so much about food preservation, and trying only to write online four days a week, I feel like I have no time to write content posts about other stuff between this responsibility, the book club and all the material for the class, so I’m going to use Sundays to write Peak oil and Climate change content for a couple of weeks, and come back to it when I’m not writing so much about preserving anyway.  I’m thinking that I may go to once every other week or once a month anyway - not in practice, because I think the “do something everyday” thinking has been helpful, but I’m worried that more people seem to think that my lists are intimidating than they do helpful, so maybe I’ll back off a bit, and just keep reminding us.

 On to my subject of the week - Managing Your Reserves!  This is important stuff - you do all this work - you spend the money to buy the food, you do the work to preserve it, you put up, you put it away - and you do not want to lose it.  That means that your food needs your attention every so often - probably not super often - that’s the whole virtue of storing things, but often enough.  Root cellared things need to be checked and sorted out, and things that are starting to spoil removed and cooked or eaten.  Canned goods need their seals checked every so often and for you to keep an eye out for rust and other damage.  Dried things need to be kept away from light.  Old stuff needs to be eaten before the new stuff comes in (have I mentioned how labelling is helpful yet ;-)?).  Some stuff will need to be composted or fed to an appropriate critter now and again. 

 Some people organize their reserves by spread sheet, some people with paper and pen - but you do need some system.  If you write down how many containers of frozen chicken stock you have, you won’t spend all afternoon taking the freezer apart looking for that one when you used the last one last week.  I’ll do a whole post on potential organizational systems, but the major issue is this - just as the gardener’s shadow is the best garden fertilizer, so too is the food preserver’s shadow the key to actually getting to eat and enjoy what you have.  So, yes I know it seems kind of pointless, but make the time to do inventory, check supplies, look in the buckets, sort out the rotten apple that really will spoil the whole barrel.

 Ok, onward and upwards.  My weekly accomplishments:

 1. Planted: Saskatoons, betony, st. johns wort, arugula, beets, carrots, turnips, bush beans, cabbage, yarrow, bok choy, marshmallow, edible chrysanthemum, basil.

2. Harvested: Cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, cousa squash, beets, carrots, lettuce, parsley, cherries, raspberries, blueberries, basil, mint, onions, broccoli, green garlic.

3. Preserved: Rhubarb sauce, strawberry jam, strawberry sauce, herbs in salt

4. Stored: Picked up a big bag of nutritional yeast (good for grownups, good for critters) and packed it away, and some more tea (actually for my Mom, but she visits so often that I’ll keep some of it).  Added 10lbs more local honey to reserves.

5. Prepped: We finally cleaned out the haybarn that has been filled with the stuff from Eric’s grandparents that we had no idea what to do with for a couple of years.  Most of it will be given to our synagogue yard sale or thrown out (unfortunately, a lot of it isn’t give away-able - they brought *EVERYTHING* they owned - Eric’s grandmother was too overwhelmed by caring for his grandfather to sort things out), but we found some treasure (badminton and croquet sets, fishing equipment, a few additional garden tools - neat).  More importantly, we can now put umm…hay in there for the goats, which are coming just as soon as the fencing is up.  But the fencing couldn’t go up until we cleaned the barn because the posts are in there… So we’re getting there.

6. Managed reserves.  Cleaned food storage closet - partly.  Hope to finish tonight.  Inventory will begin soon - I shoulda done it in the spring, but was too busy with the book.  

7. Cooked something new - tried out a new whole wheat pizza crust - it was ok, but not as good as our fave.  

8. Reduced waste - the annual wave of fruit flies has made me religious about partially eaten fruit going to worms, chickens, sheep or compost pile. Not fast enough, unfortunately.  Cleaned out hay barn so that our neighbor with the horses can minimize her waste of hay - she was losing a lot to rain, and can now use our barn.  Anything rained on I get free for my garden, which is great.

9. Worked on local food systems: Gave a private tutorial to one of my food storage students so that she could take her lessons back to her community ;-). (ok, my college buddy Bess came for the weekend and in between gossip, I showed her how to water bath can rhubarb sauce - but it sounds better the other way).  Talked a bit about getting more local foods into my shul’s kosher catering program.

Ok, how about y’all?


Independence Day Update: Back and Meditations on the Project

Sharon July 6th, 2008

Hi folks - Well, I had a great week, but of course, mostly didn’t spend it doing things to make myself more sustainable.   I did go garage saling with Mom and step-Mom and found the motherload of Eli sized winter clothes (yay!), and while it wasn’t my community, I got to visit my parents’ community garden and wish that I could have a community garden plot too, but that’s pretty much it. 

But I thought I’d mull, for a moment, on how the project is going.  I admit, I’m really liking the way it is helping me overcome my own flaws.  You see, I tend to be a “sustained time” kind of project person.  That is, I like to work on things uninterrupted, and get totally engrossed in them. Now the realities of parenthood have cured me of that to some degree, but with my garden and food preservation, I’ve still tended to think “Oh, I only have 20 minutes before I have to do X- that’s not enough time to…”  And the really good thing about this project is that it is a reminder that 20 minutes of weeding makes an enormous difference, that I can shell some peas for the dehydrator now and put the rest in later.  It is definitely forcing me to make better use of my time.

Right now there are more jars of canned and dehydrated food than I’ve ever managed at the same time of this year.  And that, too, makes me happy.  It doesn’t mean that I’m not making mistakes, but I’m doing better than last year, and the year before, and that’s how to look at this - not “did I compete with X person” but “am I doing better than I was?”

A couple of notes.  If you plan to sign up for the food preservation (and yes, I still have a couple of spots), the deadline is Monday evening, so please send me an email ASAP. If you’ve already signed up, and haven’t gotten an organizational email, my apologies, please email me one more time - I’m assured that as of yesterday, emails should no longer be disappearing from my box into the void.  If you have signed up and gotten your organizational email, please make sure you subscribe to the yahoogroup - this applies only to registered class members. 

Also, tomorrow is the first post in the post-apocalyptic reading group - we’ll be discussing Heinlein’s _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_.  I’m really looking forward to it. 



Independence Days Update - Focus on Planting

Sharon June 29th, 2008

Hi All - It has been a busy week, some of which I talked about in my latest garden post. I know that “plant something” is kind of obvious, but my own observation is that July is when things like succession planting and getting ready for fall tends to peter out - you’ve been planting all summer, and now there’s tons of weeding and harvesting to be done, and it is easy, easy, easy to just put off that next row of lettuce or bush beans. So my exhortation to everyone here this week is - don’t.

If you live in a place where it is too hot now to plant, but you’ll be able to do it in a month or so, it can be good to get a few weeks jump on the season, and to start things inside, in your (hopefully) comparatively cooler house. If you live where it is generally cool, like me, the next few weeks are key to getting a good harvest of vegetables continuing to come in through late fall and early winter.

Ok, on to my update.

Planted: Onions, bush beans, mustard greens, potatoes, beets, chard, brussels sprouts, cabbage, borage, basil, cucumbers, watermelon, carrots, winter squash, saskatoons, comfrey.

Harvested: Strawberries, more strawberries, more strawberries (from the pick your own - mine got toasted), bok choy, arugula, lettuce, mint, the very first baby summer squash, peas, onions, garlic scapes, chard

Preserved: Strawberry jam, dried strawberries, strawberry sauce, triple lemon vinegar (lemon peel, lemon verbena, lemon balm), willow bark tincture

Stored: Sprouting seeds, whole wheat linguine, peanut butter, chana dal

Prepped: Bought two used sets of sheets for guest sheets (and kicked myself for not noticing the brand new down comforter for $10 that was snagged by a friend), bought some bigger shirts for Eli at Goodwill.

Cooked something new: Elderflower fritters with honey, Robyn M’s garlic scape pesto recipe - very good!

Managed: We have rats in the barn, and they are killing our baby chicks. Eric and I constructed an elaborate cage of chicken wire and pvc, which took them a whole two nights to break into - the dogs kill them, Zucchini the not-quite-barn cat kills them, but not enough. We cleaned out the whole barn, but still have not gotten rid of them. We are thinking short term of using poison, very, very carefully out of desperation (and with very careful awareness of
other things with barn access, careful restriction of dogs and cats away from barn etc…) since we are desperate (these are birds for sale, and they need to live), and while we are gone, the chicks are moving into my bathroom ;-P. Dealing with the rat problem has taken much of our time and energy this week. As a longer term solution, we’re thinking of getting a terrier breed dog with ratting skills - anyone have any recommendations?

Worked on Community Food Systems: Put in an herb garden for a friend, had dinner with a friend from Albany who knows everything about local food projects.

Reduced Waste: Same as last week.

Ok, how about y’all?


Independence Days Update, a Day Late and a Dianthus Short

Sharon May 31st, 2008

Ok, today is the LAST DAY of writing the book.  Did you hear me (of course, I’m naturall such a quiet soul, so I doubt you can hear me ;-P)?  THE VERY LAST DAY OF SPENDING ALL MY TIME IN FRONT OF THE CURSED-TO-HELL COMPUTER.

Tomorrow, as Aaron put it, “Beer for Breakfast!” - but it is going to be a long, long, long day - it is 6:19 and I’ve been at the computer for close to two hours already.  Don’t even ask when I went to bed.  And don’t think I haven’t considered whether beer for breakfast might not make this day go faster. 

And yes, I kinda forgot about Independence Days yesterday - actually, I think I mostly forgot it was Friday ;-).  So please, post your updates. 

I will be posting my update on Monday, after exploring just how caught up I can get in a day.  My first big management project will be the removal of 14 sheep and 1 donkey from  my front yard. Note, the kids would prefer they stay, despite the decimation of my strawberry harvest. Today while I am turning pasty and typing incoherently, the boys will be celebrating Xote’s (our donkey) birthday.  Did you know it was our donkey’s birthday?  Me neither.  But Isaiah says it is, and wants to make him a cake out of rolled oats, mushy apples and some other stuff. 

I think the first category I will get something into is “management” since the removal of sheepies and their guard will enable me to then remove the approximately 400,000 individual bits of sheep and donkey manure presently adorning my lawn, garden and porch into the garden.  Think of it as a treasure hunt.  But it sounds delightful compared to writing any more books, ever.

So you’ve all got to be way, way ahead of me!


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