Making Do

These have been lean times. My role is to feed the family, whether in times of plenty or no. I had to get mighty creative this last month to make those meals appear on the table. Although this can be hard, it can also make me proud of my creativity and resourcefulness.

Many mornings saw fresh scones or biscuits offered with eggs, in place of toast. Eggs were bought with change from my friendly local egg neighbor, or gathered here from the hen house. I made homemade bread several times as well.

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I bought a few ingredients from the store each week, which I used to round out the bulk food we had at home. Mostly I bought produce and dairy products: milk, cheese, butter, 1/2&1/2 and yogurt. In bulk here we had half a chest freezer full of pasture raised meat, much whole wheat flour and white flour, oats, homemade jam and homemade pickles in the pantry, and frozen corn, zucchini, green beans, blueberries and raspberries in the freezer.

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I was able to come up with a remarkable number of different meals, treats and snacks using combinations of these foods.

We also have greens harvesting from the garden, as well as some fresh herbs. We have kale, collard greens and swiss chard for cooking, and arugula and swiss chard for salad. We have an abundance of parsley, and also fresh mint and chives and green onions.

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I was struck by the amount of food security a household has if they have food stored away. It may seem obvious, but I didn’t fully realize how important this was until we truly needed that food. Then I became increasing thankful for our bulk food purchases. They are better environmentally because there is less packaging involved, and they are better economically, because you pay less when you buy in bulk. And if you come to a time when you need food – there it is. And boy is it beautiful.

Posted in baking, bread, canning, chickens, compromise, cooking, harvest, pantry, preserving, simplifying, struggles, thrifty, turning waste into want | 3 Comments

February 14th, 2015

Happy Valentines Day Everybody

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Scones At Home

We have been making scones at home on a regular basis for months now.

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Although scones seem a bit fancy, they are actually quite quick and easy and use mostly bulk ingredients that we always have on hand: flour, a bit of sugar, baking soda, cold butter, salt, eggs and milk or cream. We add a handful of dried fruit or chocolate chips or frozen berries; whatever we have around. Plain scones have actually become my favorite. You can taste their simple, satisfying flavor more clearly with nothing else to distract you.

Here are some photos of scones we’ve made at home this fall and winter:

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Chocolate chip scones.

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Yum! Plain cream scones.

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Dried cherry scones.

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And yes, River helps me make many batches of scones. She dumps and sifts all the ingredients. I mix, since the recipe call for barely combining the ingredients. I use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to just scoop the mixture out of the bowl and onto the ungreased baking sheet. This process is so simple that I sometimes rise early and make these before my family awakes, especially if we are out of bread for morning toast. But don’t worry, you don’t have to feel pressured to make homemade scones each morning. They can be a special treat for your family. Just don’t fear the scone – you can do it!

Posted in baking, Family, home, kitchen, parenting, simplifying, thrifty, toddler | 1 Comment

Morning Mocha

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These days I wake at 5:30. I stretch in front of the heater as my coffee brews. My morning mocha is a diabetic friendly one. Coffee, lots of 1/2&1/2, a drizzle of agave, and cocoa. With my limbs and back loosened up I sit down with my warm cup and its smoky cocoa, and I take a moment to myself.

Moments like this are precious to the moms of toddlers. All day their activity and excitement surrounds us, as do their needs. The quiet moments are when we recenter. They are sanity makers.

Sometimes I light a candle in the pre-dawn darkness. I appreciate the quiet, cuddle with the animals, and rejoice as the sun’s light moves over my window and into my kitchen. Winter’s darkness can truly make us appreciate light.

If I am lucky I will get to write a letter or read a chapter of my book in my morning solitude. This meditative time alone usually lasts about half an hour after which I begin my duties as a homemaker, which include making coffee, breakfast and lunch to go for my hardworking husband. A great peace has been created between us ever since I took on regularly preparing these meals for him. He can then wake and have his moment alone rather than rushing around getting ready.

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Enjoy your time alone mamas and papas. Take a deep breath and prepare to meet your day.

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Winter’s Garden

Winter gardening is hard on my pride. The garden largely looks empty, and the plants grow slowly. But grow they do, and upon closer inspection, there is a lot going on in the garden this time of year.

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If anything can swell the pride of a winter gardener it is mustard. These plants can survive hard weather and neglect. Thank you mustard. I must eat more of you.

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Here is a row of mustard greens I planted this summer. Behind them is our gnome. My intention was to allow these to quickly go to seed, then harvest the seed to use in pickled veggies. But as I just stated,
mustard greens stand up well to neglect, and they are thriving despite the minimal care they have received.

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It looks so pretty! If only it had reemay…

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Arugula! Another good plant for boosting the confidence of a winter gardener.

I have moved many of my potted herbs into the greenhouse in hopes of keeping off the worst of the chill and giving them a head start toward an early sprout time. Each winter they die back, and each spring they regrow. My hopes seem well founded as both the mint and the chives are already sending up new growth.

On the coldest nights I have been heating a brick up in the oven and then placing it on the ground in the greenhouse. It is the same technique as placing a hot water bottle under your blankets at the foot of your bed. It warms up the space just a bit. Enough, I hope, to keep the plants from freezing.

Now is the mellow time of year when a gardener can choose when she does her tasks. If a project waits a week, it is probably fine. It is a non stressful period. We can relax. The excitement (and continuous devotion) lies ahead. Soon I will start seeds in trays. Soon I will plant peas. For now I will blog and read my book.

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Purging

I have a new habit: Getting rid of everything we do not love or use often.

It is so liberating. I am letting go. Letting go of stuff we do not need. Letting go of guilt. Letting go of the idea that I have to hold on to things just because someone I care about gave them to me. It feels so good. I feel lighter, more free. So much stuff that we have kept over the years, hauled with us from house to house, is stuff we do not use. It stays in its boxes, or we worry about where to store it. I am so relieved to let it all go.

Bag by bag our belongings are leaving our house. When I have finished this sort through we will be left with just the things we adore or use regularly. Thank you release. Goodbye guilt.

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The 12 Days of Christmas

This year I did the 12 days of christmas for my stepdaughter. This is something that I have been contemplating doing for years. It was wonderful. It stretches out the fun and excitement of christmas, prevents christmas burn out, and is economical.

On christmas day we opened stockings, exchanged gifts, and ate a delicious meal together as a family. The gift that I had under the tree for my stepdaughter was a small photo album, to be filled with the beautiful nature photos that she takes. This matched up well with the gifts that her father gave her, which were photo paper and two tripods for her camera. He got our whole family a printer that can print photos since we never seem to print any at the store.

On the following days, my stepdaughter received small gifts, each wrapped and with a small card stating the date to be opened, and sometimes a little something about the intention behind the gift. On the day after christmas, we were packing to go take a trip to visit family. I hand delivered her second day of christmas gift, which was a toiletries bag. It was perfect timing, as she was just trying to figure out what to store all of her toiletries in. The next day she got a book written from a dog’s perspective to read while we traveled. The next day a chocolate bar. The next day a homemade coupon stating that she and I would go see an awesome nature movie soon on the giant screen at our local science museum. She got a pencil case for school, a hand painted doggie tree ornament, an coupon for dinner with me at a fancy Italian restaurant, and so on.

I really like this way of doing christmas. No more big bang holidays that feel over within hours. Each gift can be fully appreciated because it comes on it’s own day. And christmas day does not feel empty either. Family and friends also give gifts, so it in no way felt lacking. Next year I will do this for both of our girls. We also hope to start making holidays more about the experience that about the stuff. Next year for either thanksgiving or christmas or both, I am strongly going to advocate for spending christmas money on a cabin in the woods rather than gifts. A few gifts for the kids and a few for the folks and one from my husband to me and one from me to him. And there, we’re done.

ps another great aspect about doing the 12 days of christmas is that folks who were up to it could shop the post christmas sales and save quite a bit of money.

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