Friday, December 31, 2010

Hay House

New Year's Eve feels like a fitting time to look back on the year's accomplishments.  I think one of our successes this year will pay dividends for years to come.
(Click on the photos to see them larger.)
 The old hay barn on top of the hill was not going to make it through another winter.  We had to either kiss it goodbye, or save it. 
 Phoebe's great uncle and his family had lived in the building at one time, so it had value as more than a barn.
 It was still standing this summer because of one 2X4 Phoebe had jammed into a corner last winter. There were no posts or beams used in the construction; the roof rested on the walls.  And there was not much wall left.
 We did not have a lot of disposable cash at the time, but we could not let it go.  So we undertook, not a restoration, but maybe a rehabilitation.
 With the help of our friend and carpenter,

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ahhh Moka Pots

 In this dreary weather I think it would be a great time to share my love of the Moka Pot.

Living here on the Homestead has it's limitations. We are staying in a 24 foot travel trailer. We have a makeshift kitchen in an outbuilding but the only real hospitable space is the trailer.

With this in mind let me tell you that there is precious little room for luxuries like an espresso machine, but there is room for a Moka Pot!

I met my first Moka Pot in an Italian hardware store. I had no idea what I was looking at but the clerk finally got across to me, with his hand waving and gestures, that it was for making "cafe", coffee.
That week I saw them everywhere, in windows of houses, in shops, hanging from the door of a cooking store. I had no idea how they might work and I didn't speak Italian well enough to get a full explanation.

I would have bought one to bring home then, but they all seemed to be made of aluminum and I had quit cooking in aluminum years before. I also found later that the aluminum ones make terrible coffee. I find it's best to stay away from aluminum when it comes to cooking anything acid.

State-side I forgot about them until one fateful day I ran across a stainless steel Moka Pot in my favorite thrift store. I snatched it up and that action has sealed my long and happy relationship with my Moka Pot and a love for the genius who invented it.

Since so few people I meet have even seen, let alone used, a Moka Pot, I made this little video highlighting the crucial moments in the process. Cheers!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Gimpy Gets the Christmas Spirit

Gimpy would like to help chop. Gimpy wants to know why we chop. Gimpy wants to know what it's like to be chopped.

Of course we are not surprised by Gimpy's strange interest in things he should avoid.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Peaches in Winter

Every year we can and preserve several things. Jams and syrups of all sorts. Pizza and spaghetti sauce. I don't get carried away with any one thing because I've found that everyone gets tired of eating most things after the 15th jar, so I do mostly small batches of lots of different things for more variety. But peaches are a different story. We can't seem to can enough of them.

We can 50 to 75 pounds of peaches every other year. It's a lot of work for every year and we have found that if we do it every other year it stays fun and we have just enough jars to last, if we are careful.

My dad thinks I'm crazy.

"You can buy cans of peaches 4 for a $1.00 on sale!" He says, as I hand him a bucket of peaches to cut up. He is exaggerating of course, it's more like 4 cans for $3, but his point is that it's cheaper to buy canned peaches than it is to can peaches.

But this biannual pronouncement never slowed

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pictures of Garbage

Here are two half rotten tomatoes, basil leaves that had fallen to the ground in my garden from the cold and two packages of slightly moldy cheese. Cut out the bad spots, add one lump of homemade pizza dough and we are on our way to good eats!

Our entire project here at the Homestead has hinged on one basic tenant: How can we do it with what we've got?
I will be the first to admit that a great deal of the time we are talking about the Almighty $, but just as much of the time we are trying to use, use, reuse, recycle, repair and reinvent what we have. Garbage is a last resort.

We have consciously cultivated the reuse lifestyle over the years, partly because money was very tight and partly because it felt right. We wanted to be lower on the food (waste) chain. Our friends and family are mindful too but then the other day I read an article titled "From Farm to Fridge to Garbage Can" in the New York Times. According to this article

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Great Morning

I had a great morning today. The sun came out and everything seemed magical in the golden glow of the low winter sun. I loved my tea cup even more than usual.

My banana bread turned out better than I had hoped. (I had forgotten to add the soda and didn't remember until I put it in the oven, Doh!)

I went out to check on the Women's Honey Cooperative and they were feeling very happy about the magical sunshine also. I took the roof off and refilled their syrup jar. They were glad to see that too.

 I decided to get to work on some seeds I have been drying in the outbuilding. These Amish Cranberry Beans are just a treasure to hold and behold. I played with them for a long time, like a kid with a button collection.

 Fennel seed

Then I finished mulching the garden. It's a nice feeling to know I won't have too many weeds next spring.

Any list of good things will include my daily cappuccino. Everyone came to join me on my coffee break, including the bees.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Boy and His Chicken

Or rather, a boy and his CHICKEN!!!  The boy in question, who we'll call Mr. B., is a Very Good Dog.  And he loves his CHICKEN!!!
Phoebe found the first of these chickens almost a year ago.  Mr. B. fell in love instantly, and the CHICKEN!!! became a constant companion.  No walk is complete without the CHICKEN!!! in his mouth.  No job is more important than throwing the CHICKEN!!!.  No work is properly executed without Mr. B. standing over the CHICKEN!!!, staring at us, staring, staring, pleading with his eyes...THROW THE CHICKEN!!!
The CHICKEN!!! has a friend, the Monkey.  Not being made of water-and-dirt-repelling plastic, the Monkey does not look her best in the winter.  However, for the other dog, the Monkey is still the toy of choice.  Neither dog cares much for the other's toy.
We just celebrated our 9th year with Mr. B..  Our other house is on the edge of town, next to a large field.  Mr. B. was dumped there just before Thanksgiving.  He was very reluctant