Archive for April, 2010

Looking For a Family Cow and Out My Way?

Sharon April 15th, 2010

Note: I don’t ordinarily post ads for people on this site, but I got this email and figured that this was the least I could do to support this kind of local enterprise – and I would be surprised if I don’t have some readers who would be pleased to have this chance to get a calf to raise for beef or to become a family milk cow! 

We are farmers in Northern Schoharie County. We have a seasonal, grass-fed, cert. organic dairy.  We also have small herd of Red Devons, for grass-fed beef.

I am writing you today to tell you of an opportunity. We have approximately 50 certified organic calves, hiefers and Bulls being born in the next 8 weeks. We abhor the possibility of sending these animals into the industrial meat supply via the local auction house and would much rather sell them(very very cheaply) to local people and folks willing to travel for them.

If we could get $50.00 each for the heifers and $25.00 each for the Bulls we would be happy.  These would be week old calves.  You have our e-mail ([email protected]), our phone is a cell 542-7736.

These are beautiful milking devon crosses, dutch belt crosses, jersey crosses, new zealand genetics.  Nice small cows with hard core grazing genetics–and we are completely grain less– have been for two years.  These are not big high input animals, they would make perfect family cows, and the bulls would make great steers for the family meat supply.

We have no trailer or truck, but could arrange delivery with several honest local haulers.

Could you post this on your excellent website, and let us know what you think.

Thanks so much-Paul and Phyllis Van Amburgh, dharma Lea Farm, Sharon Springs, New York(6825 State Route 10)

Still Two Spots in Food Storage and Preservation Class Left!

Sharon April 14th, 2010

Hi Folks – I do still have two remaining spots in the food storage and preservation class that starts tomorrow!  Syllabus and class info are here.  Email me at [email protected] for more details or to register!


Independence Days Update: Holding Back…With Difficulty

Sharon April 13th, 2010

I’m restraining myself with great difficulty from planting too much out.  I know what April in upstate New York is usually like, and I’ve learned over the years that things planted too early often do no better than the things planted a bit later, but it is hard.  Once all the onions, peas and greens are in, I wanna plant, dammit!

It is very hard to get to the computer these days – first there was spring break for Eli last week, which meant more activities planned than usual, now it is catch up time, and the garden calls to us each morning.  

It feels like not much has happened lately – little increments of barn cleaning and bed building, transplanting and seed starting, pruning and seeing what survived (worst tree girdling winter I’ve ever seen!).  Good stuff, but I’m longing for a day when I go out into the garden after breakfast and don’t come back in until dark.

We lost the baby rabbits, all three of them – Rosemary just wasn’t much of a Mom.  I’ve been told to let her have one more chance, and if not, she’ll be culled.  We’ll re-breed in a week or so.

Eric is bringing the eggs to SUNY to sell now and a good thing too, since we’re getting 3+ dozen a day!

Ok, reporting in:

Plant something: Peas, sweet peas, carrots, onions, potatoes, chives, garlic chives, hollyhocks, johnny jump ups, pansies, bok choy, kailaan, raab, lettuce, kale, mache.

Harvest something: Eggs, milk, sorrel, good king henry, nettle shoots, dandelion, chives

Preserve something: Nothing

Waste Not: Building raised beds out of barn cleanings, gave blown duck eggs to a neighbor to paint the shells, mulched ground with a winter’s worth of paper feed sacks.

Want Not: Added some bread flour and lentils to my storage.  Got new glasses, badly needed.

Eat the Food: Lots of stir frying of greens and making them into salads.  Have had chives in everything.  Not sure why we don’t eat chives more.

Build Community Food Systems: Various interviews, helped out with a local school garden project.

How about you?


Making Nickels Squeak: Clothing Edition

Sharon April 9th, 2010

Due to the weirdly warm weather (which has now departed for a few days of normalish April weather) that we had last week, I saw a spring sight to gladden the heart of almost anyone – a yard sale.  It wasn’t at a time I could shop, and it wasn’t like I wanted anything they had – but still, the re-emergence of yard sales is like the return of the redwing blackbirds, a sign of hope. 

All of which means I thought I’d start a series on how to live as much as possible on the waste of our highly productive, industrial society, without buying new stuff or using new resources.  It is also about living cheaply.  For some people this is an absolute necessity, for others doing so allows them to work shorter hours or save more money.  Regardless, though, not buying as much cheap new crap seems like a good thing for all of us – and one very basic principle for fixing the planet.

One of the reasons our family lives as well as it does is that I don’t buy a lot new – there are a few things out there it is worth paying good money for, and buying new on.  Large refrigeration appliances, for example, will be dramatically more efficient than old ones in most cases (unless you happen across a Sunfrost).  Good crayons, rather than cheapies with lead in them are well worth the money.  There are other examples.  My theory, however, is that unless you can make a credible case for buying new, I don’t, well…buy it.  Most lightly used things are a tiny fraction of the price vastly better than what you could get for a comparable cost somewhere else, assuming you do a fairly skillful job of sorting out the garbage.  Sometimes they are actually free.

Moreover, every time you go and buy something new, you are saying to the company that manufactured it “please go make one more, plus the packaging, and ship it over here.”  Well, this is a problem.  All of those things have an ecological impact, and a heavy one.  Now if everyone did this, eventually we probably would have to buy more things new, because the pool of used stuff would get smaller, but realistically, we’re a long way from that being a serious problem.

With four fast growing kids, I honestly can’t afford to buy new clothes for them.  But that’s generally ok with me, since I hate shopping malls and other stores.  Over the last decade of parenthood, with the exception of a few pajamas, socks, shoes and underpants, we’ve bought nothing new for our kids. My mother, mother in law, sisters and great aunt do buy a few new things for each kid every year – and yet the used culture thing is sufficiently common here that once when Grandma arrived bringing new t-shirts, then-four-year-old Isaiah asked “did you get it at Goodwill?”

The vast majority of our supply of kids clothing comes from three places – gifts from friends of ours with slightly larger children, thrift shops like Goodwill, Savers and the Salvation Army and yard sales.

Now in a previous thread a while back, several people mentioned that they had trouble finding what their kids (or they) needed at thrift shops.  This can be a real problem, and is one fo the reasons why I think this post may be useful – because shopping used for your kids is very different than going out once a year for back-to-school shopping.  In order to do it successfully, you have to plan ahead.

In any given year, I may or may not find a lot of good stuff in any particular size.  Some years I hit the motherlode, some years I don’t do that well at all.  But the reason I’m able to do this is that I purchase clothing for two to three years ahead of the largest size needed in my household.  That means that when my sons were babies, I was buying toddler clothes, along, of course, with things that fit them.  Right now I’m buying up to the very top of boys sizes, since Eli is a very tall young man (5′ at 10) – up to size 20. He’s currently wearing 12 pants and 14 shirts, which is pretty amazing to me.  Many were things I purchased several years ago.

This insulates me from any given year’s supply – while I can fairly reliably count on Goodwill to fill in the major gaps in my kids’ clothing supply, at several bucks apiece, I’d rather buy at yard sales (where most clothes are under a dollar) or get pass-downs (although as he gets bigger it is harder to find people with children larger than my son - I was so thrilled when kind friends sent me a box of summer stuff that was bigger than Eli last year, just as I was determining I’d have to go hunting for more – thanks Claudia!!!)

If you are buying for adults, it makes sense to take measurements (a trick I got from Chile) and bring them along with you.  With kids this is one of those “you have to run too fast just to keep up” things.  But it is worth remembering not all kids are the same.  Most of my children were born, sadly, with no behinds.  Baby ain’t got back.  Thus, they require extremely slim pants, or you get the gift of seeing them hitching them up as they run.  Asher, on the other hand, was born with some back.  The same pants that barely stay up on Isaiah fit him just fine, maybe even a little tight.  Fortunately, most children’s pants now are beginning to use the brilliant invention of the adjustable waist.  They are now common enough that they are readily available in many thrift shops and at yard sales.  I buy almost no pants without these neat little tabs – that way, buttless or no, my kids have pants that stay up (the primary thing one wants pants to do).

I’ve heard people say that the thrift shops and yard sales near them never have anything good – this isn’t wholly true in my region, but it is certainly the case that affluent suburbia produces high quality used kids clothes than my rural neighborhood.  I figure that since there are no clothing stores near me anyway, I would have to go to town to buy children’s clothing, so I can either go to town and have the fun of yard saling and hit Goodwill, or I can spend forty times as much and be miserable at the mall.  I consider an investment in a trip towards a populated area, with lots of sales going on to be worthwhile periodically.

In our rural areas, we have a custom well worth adopting.  Most small towns around here realize that if you hold a yard sale on a normal weekend, you aren’t going to get a lot of traffic, so once a year they have town-wide yard sales.  These are awesome, and often coincide with homecoming, festivals, etc…  This way, you can park your car, walk around and have a good time with yard sales of sufficient density that it makes it worth your while.  If you have to take kids yard saling, I recommend alloting them a dollar or two to spend themselves, so that they don’t get annoying.  This is also worth doing for things like bikes, canning jars, tools, etc… If you live in a small comunity, starting a town-wide yard sale (or in a larger one, a neighborhood-wide one) is a really good way of both upping your sales and also making yard saling more fun.

Some folks report they have difficulties finding certain sizes or things they need.  Maternity clothes are often hard to find – I think these are best located through other parents – ask around for someone your approximate size willing to lend out her stuff.  For those of us who are longer or larger than average, buying mens clothes can be the way to get good stuff- this is tough if what you need are ball gowns, but if you need day to day clothes, I advise the mens department.  Even though they make women’s Carharts and other clothing, I also find that mens come up much more often.

For smaller folk, and people of unusual proportions, it can be hard to find what you need – again, this is why I think a diversity of places to shop is worth exploring.  When I go to Boston to visit family, for example, I always take a trip to the local thrift shops.  And every once in a while you find something amazing – I have very large feet (10 womens) and never find shoes, but last year found a pair of brand new size 10 LL Bean boots at a yard sale – for 50 cents.  My husband’s dress shoes were brand new at 120 dollars, and unworn, were being sold for $10 – and a perfect fit.  Neither of us expected to find anything like this.

Periodically you will find the motherlode in a particular size, and this is awesome, particularly if you have children who are close together in age.  Right now we have the annoying situation that Isaiah (average height, very skinny) and Asher (very tall for his age, a bit more solidly built) are actually wearing exactly the same size clothes, despite a two year age difference.  While I have an ample supply of 6 pants and 7 shirts, I am finding things a bit tight with two kids, but am grateful that I had some extras.  I also find that a few extra things in smaller sizes allows you to compensate for the inevitable irremovable stains acquired by children over the course of usage. 

Finding really good quality stuff can be hard – there are things that wear like iron – I just retired a sweatshirt my mother bought used at a consignment shop when Eli was three, so it had been worn by at least one previous child.  After going through four additional children, most of whom wore it more than one year, it still is good enough to pass down to someone else.  But I do find, for those with multiple children, that most things are made to last for two kids.  Oshkosh, Hanna Anderssen, LL Bean and Lands End are pretty reliable for three or more, however, so if you can find it, buy it.

What about picky kids, who care what they wear?  I’m fortunate that my sons really don’t.  In that case, you’ll have to take them along – the only one of my children who has any preference at all is Isaiah, and he’s turned into a fine young shopper – he has an eye for good stuff.   My deal is that if you have opinions, you have to put in the time.  Four out of five of the males in my life have determined they don’t care enough about what I pick to actually do any of the work ;-) .  With older teenagers, you might consider giving them their clothing budget and seeing what they come up with!

I know people have strong opinions on used shoes – my take is the one endorsed by the National Academy of Podiatrists – that used shoes are fine as long as they are not heavily worn and are clean.  We pass shoes down here – since sometimes they wear them for such a short period they don’t have  a chance to get worn, this is useful.  I often find barely worn or unworn kids and adult shoes  and boots in the box, and these tend to be the ones I focus on – I find that I still have to buy some of them new to keep up, but I do find some and it saves money.

The Tightwad Gazette is a wonderful resource if you aren’t good at cleaning and repairing clothing – I’ve found it very helpful to use strategies they suggest to take very minor problems and make them effectively go away.  People often get rid of things that need very little.

The biggest strategic issues in buying clothes cheaply have been making time to come to population centers to shop, knowing what will wear well, trying a variety of sources, and most of all, anticipating future needs and being prepared to take advantage of them.  What have you found to be useful?


Food Storage and Preservation Class Syllabus

Sharon April 5th, 2010

There is still space in my upcoming (starts April 15) Food Storage and Preservation Online class, for those who are interesting. If you’ve wanted to start preserving or building up a food reserve and have no idea how to start, or perhaps you learned to can once upon a time, but want to explore the full range of food preservation options, or you’ve joined a CSA and want to know what to do with all that food you are getting, or cut your grocery bills – this is the class for you. Each class includes a couple of practical projects for you to try out each week.

The class is offered asynchronously online, which means that you go at your own pace and don’t have to be online at any particular time. Cost of the class is $150 for six weeks, or equivalent barter, and I thanks to a generous donor, I have one additional scholarship spot for a low-income participant who wouldn’t be able to join in otherwise. Email me if you’d like to apply.

Here’s the class syllabus. Email me [email protected] to sign up or ask further questions.

Thursday, April 15: Introduction, Food Preservation vs. Food Storage, Getting organized, Sourcing bulk food and preserving quantities, Setting up the Kitchen for Preserving, Equipment you Don’t Need, Equipment You Might Need, Eating what You Store.

Practicum: Planning Your Food Storage, The Menu Project

Thursday, April 22: Low Cost Strategies for Building a Reserve, Community Resources and How to Find Them, Getting Started with Canning. Condiments, Part I Year Round Food Preservation, Menu ideas.

Practicum: Water Bath Canning and Wonderful Condiments

Thursday, April 29: Foodie Food Storage; Special Circumstances, Special Diets; Meals Kids will Eat; Getting Loved Ones on Board, Herbs and Spice Mixes, Teas and Beverages, Introduction to Dehydration

Practicum: Dehydrating and making Spice MIxes and Teas

Thursday, May 6: Bulk and Local Sourcing, Storing Medications and other non-food supplies, Foraging and Preserving Foraged Foods, Teas and Beverages, Introduction to Lactofermentation, Pressure Canning 101

Practicum: Pressure Canning Without Fear and Pickling with Lactofermentation

Thursday, May 13: Planning the Harvest, Food Storage and Preservation as a Cottage Industry, Teaching Others, Storing Water, Root Cellaring and Season Extension, Setting Up a “Root Cellar” when you don’t have one, Preserving in Alcohol

Practicum: Root Cellaring and Making Liqueurs

Thursday May 20: Food Storage and Community Issues, “But Won’t the Marauders Come and Take It?” Food Preservation and Ways of Reducing Food Waste, Menus Part II, Basic Dairying, Preserving in Salt, Wrap Up, Developing Your Battle-Cry.

Practicum: Simple Cheese and Herb-Salts

This class should be a lot of fun – this was my first ever online class, and I’ve now run it almost 10 times, and it is simply a blast! I hope you can join us!

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