Friday, December 14, 2012

Soups: Chicken Noodle

So, every year, one Halloween hits everything between there and the end of the year seems like this crazy blur, things pick up at work for me, we get caught up in Holiday shopping, and to top it all of this year I got sick. Not just normal sick, sick like laying in bed and sleeping nearly 20 hours a day for almost a week sick. So needless to say, I feel a little blindsided by everything going on, but I am feeling better and have realized that I am SEVERELY neglecting this blog! So, since it's winter, what do I do? I am not going to be able to go out and plant anything, and there isn't a lot of things to do around here at the moment outside of the house, so I am going to start sharing things inside the house!

Unfortunately, my "recipes" are more like lists, I don't do exact quantities, especially with soups, I have a list of ingredients, and I kind of just throw in a handful of this, a handful of that until I have made soup. Soups are my favorite thing to cook in the winter, and I have enough soup recipes to open a restaurant!

So here is my "recipe" for chicken noodle soup.

Chicken thighs (boiled and peeled into strips of chicken)
Can of diced tomatoes
Diced onions, celery, garlic, red peppers, jalapenos, carrots
Cooked egg noodles

First, brown the chicken thighs in the pan with a little olive oil. Then discard the skin and the large globs of fat, and return to pan, cover with water bring to a boil then cover and simmer for a few hours to make broth. Or, if you have some chicken broth just simmer until cooked through and peel the chicken off of the bone. I always quickly sautee the diced vegetables, then everything just gets thrown in the pot and simmered until the vegetables are tender.

I promise my next recipe will have measured ingredients!

(What kind of recipes would you like to see?)

Friday, October 12, 2012


We love pancakes around here, and whenever we make them we try and make a new variety. I try and tell myself they are healthy because I add flax seed meal and make them from scratch, but really, some of the varieties are not really healthy at all! But, sometimes you just have to indulge the sweet tooth and partake in something less than wholesome.

1 C. flour (I use whole wheat)
2 TBSP. Sugar
1 TBSP. Baking Powder
2 TBSP. Flax Seed Meal
3/4 C. Milk
2 TBSP. vegetable oil
1 egg

Mix the dry ingredients together and then add in the wet ones. I drop the batter onto a hot skillet by the 1/4 C. full. I find this makes about 10 pancakes. Which is more than enough when we eat two a piece.

Honestly, I have no idea what the nutrition information is for these, so sorry that I can't fill that in.

(most of these ingredients get folded in last. The spices get added in with the dry ingredients)

*chocolate chip: 1/4 C. chocolate chips
*apple cinnamon: 2 TSP. cinnamon, 1/4 C. shredded apple
*s'mores: 2 TBSP crushed graham cracker, 1 TBSP cocoa powder, 1/4 mini marshmallows, chopped
*Blueberry: 1/4 C. blueberries (really any berry works!)
*rainbow sprinkle: 1/4 C. applesauce, 2 TBSP rainbow sprinkles
*Sweet Potato/Pumpkin: 1/4 C. mashed sweet potato/pumpkin puree, 1 TSP. cinnamon
*Banana Nut: 1/4 C. mashed banana, 2 TBSP. finely chopped walnuts (or pecans, or whatver nut you want to use)
*Honey Nut: (substitute 2 TBSP honey for the sugar) 1/4 C. finely chopped nuts
*Oatmeal Raisin: 2 TBSP. oatmeal, 1/4 C. raisins

This is the list for now and it keeps growing everytime we make pancakes and I look in the cupboard for more ingredients. Let me know what varieties you would like to see, and I will try them out for you! Or share what varieties you come up with!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Links, links, links, links, links... Oh, and some more links.

I horde links like you would not believe.... So I figured I would share some of my favorites (I will group them for easy browsing!). This is going to be a work in progress for a bit, so feel free to check this post out every couple of weeks to see if I have added anything, for now though, this is a good start!

Tutorial's, How-To's, and Instructions:

For Around the Homestead:
*Project List from the Creative Homeowner
*NDSU Building Plans This site has plans for EVERYTHING! From cattle feeders to root cellars, you can find just about anything you may want to try your hand at.
*Building and using a midwest solar food dryer
*Build a Simple Outdoor Bench Because everyone needs a place to sit after a long day of gardening

For Around the House:
*Making Homemade Laundry Soap
*Power Your House with a Bloom Box
*Recycle your old jeans into a rug
*Chalkboard Paint
*The Container Store I found this site very helpful when I was looking for spice jars, and am going to be ordering some vials with droppers when I start making tinctures.

For Yourself and Your Family:
*How To Refashion a Men's Shirt to Fit a Woman
*Make T-Shirt Yarn
*Hot and Cold Comfort Bags

Helpful Online Resources
*Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association Biodynamic farming is one of my main interests!
*Countryside MagazineHas a ton of useful and interesting articles, sometimes I just like to browse the online library.
*The Backwoods Home: Articles
*Mother Earth NewsSomehow in the off chance that I am introducing someone to this wonderful magazine. I have been reading this since I was a little girl, and I can credit that with planting the seed for wanting to live simply.

Blogs/ Misc:
*No Impact Man
*Garden Girl TV
*Forager's Harvest
*The Wife Life This blog has crafts, natural beauty recipes, recipes for yummy things to eat, and all sorts of fun things. I love just browsing through her archives.
Make It Do A plethora of posts, organized by awesome little tabs.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Shooting for the Moon

Our moon is a familiar sight to us all, but do you really know how important this celestial body is to our environment, and even our bodies? I have decided that starting with the next full moon (October 29th), I am going to strive to be more aware of how the moon effects myself and my surroundings.

First off, let's talk about how the moon effects the earth. The moon controls our tides, and we have especially high tides during the new and full moons. This of course also has some impact on the earth's water tables. Now, you may be wondering why I am bothering to blog about this, since I don't have a blog about boating or fishing. In permaculture and biodiverse/biodynamic farming the earth's cycles become very important, and being aware of the phases of the moon are incredibly important. The different phases of the moon have an impact on how the plant's grow and there are optimal times to plant each type of plant. It's all very fascinating and I am going to direct you to another site, because really there is so much information to be related, and they do a very good job of it already over at Gardening by the Moon.

The Phases of the Moon Explained

By tracking the phases of the moon and planting at optimal times, you can really improve the output of a plant. It's an old concept and people used to plant according to moon cycles, and in fact that's part of what the farmer's almanac is based on! I have always loved the farmer's almanac. So, why not take the time to consider the moon phase, and astrological sign of the moon before planting? If it's more in tune with nature, then it's all good in my opinion.

How does the moon effect us? Well, that may not be as obvious. The moon follows a nearly 28 day cycle, which is also the same as a woman's cycle, so if you're female, try tracking your menstrual cycle by the phase of the moon instead of days of the month, it will probably be WAY more accurate. But even if you're not female knowing the phase of the moon can be incredibly important for you as well. Did you know that the phase of the moon can have an effect on the success of your diet? In fact it's always best to start a diet on the day of a full moon, and have the period of the waning moon helping you out as you begin. It's all very neatly summarized at the Moon Connection, and I think I am going to use that as a guideline for how I plan on eating from now on. If I am going to start gardening according to the phase of the moon then this seems like a natural next step.

Moon Diet Plan

In fact the Moon Connection website has great information on hunting and fishing by the moon as well.

So my goal is to start living more by the moon. For anyone else that's interested in any of this, a helpful resource would be a lunar calendar. I use this one for free: 2012 Lunar Calendar

Sunday, September 30, 2012

One Last Taste of Summer

I love coffee cake, and I love blueberries. I have had this recipe hidden away in my recipe box for years now. It was stolen from the bowels of the internet somewhere, and I am sorry if I don't give proper credit, because I can't remember where it came from. It's not my recipe, and if you know where it came from let me know so I can give proper credit.

Blueberry Buckle

3/4c. sugar
1/4c. shortening (I used lard)
1 egg
1/2c. milk
2tsp. baking powder
2c. flour
2c. blueberries

1/2c. sugar
1/3c. flour
1/2tsp. cinnamon
1/4c. butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350

1. Grease and flour a 9" square pan.
2. cream together sugar and shortening, add egg and milk, mix well. Add baking powder and flour mix well then carefully fold in blueberries. Spread into the 9" pan.
3. Mix together dry ingredients for topping then add butter. Using a fork mix/mash the butter into the dry topping ingredients to form a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle on the top of the blueberry batter.
4. Bake for 45-50 minutes, make sure to test it by sticking a toothpick in it, since cooking times vary depending on your oven. Mine's older so it took almost an hour for it to cook properly.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cell Phone Free

So, a little over a month ago, I let my phone expire, and I didn't bother to do anything about it. Partially motivated by the fact that I moved to a dead zone for the particular cell phone company I was using (though they tried to convince me that I had service), and partially motivated by the desire to eliminate a hefty monthly bill. At first, I admit I was a little nervous. After all my smart phone did everything, calendar, contacts, it even connected me to my email, facebook and the various blogs I follow.

A lot of you are probably wondering where the silver lining is. Well, I feel a lot more free, and I have been able to focus better. I get sucked into constant updates at my fingertips as easily as the next person, but overall, I had to be honest with myself and admit that responding to a friend's status could wait until the next time I was at the computer. So I took the plunge, I got rid of the cell phone and you know, within a week I rediscovered quiet. It's amazing how much easier it is to focus on a project when you don't have alerts and updates interrupting your train of thought every few minutes. I know, some of you are saying "why not just turn your phone off?" Well, it's not that simple when you have a 5 year old, a few times when my phone was off people needed to reach me and couldn't and that experience has made me terrified to repeat that. Luckily it was nothing major, but just the thought of "what if it was an emergency" haunts me.

So aside from missing my alarm function, and my calendar tracking my daily life for me, syncing up my google calendar to my phone, I am enjoying this newfound freedom. The other day I talked to a friend on the phone for 2 hours, not once did I think to myself "I wonder how many minutes I've used for this month." So while, it is taking some getting used to, I realized that I let something that started out as a luxury masquerade in my life as a neccessity. Now I am beginning to wonder what other things have hidden themselves in my day-to-day life pretending they need to be there.


I really love this video, it gives you so many great ideas for re-purposing old wood pallets. I love reusing things, and finding new innovative ways to keep things from going into the trash. Did this video make you want to go out and snag as many wooden pallets as you could? Cause that's how I feel right now... I need to start saving up to buy myself a drill!

What items have you found new uses for? I love learning new ways to re-use!

Cob, Straw and Cordwood, Oh My!

I have been fortunate enough to grow up in a family where we are always looking at alternative building methods, talking about alternative medicines, and keeping an open mind concerning the world around us. My parents, Aunts and Uncles have done a lot to shape my world view, and I am highly appreciative. Not only was I exposed to spiritual/esoteric things such as energy work, Reiki, and auras, but we also talked a lot about living off grid and being self sustaining. One great memory I have is going to an open house at the Earthwood Building School, nearby in West Chazy, NY. It definitely opened my eyes to all the different building materials available to build a house, which is good, you need to dispel those expectations of "what a house should look like" early in order to keep an open mind about things. So this search for an alternative material to build a house is founded in my childhood, and these are the three options I am looking at the most.

Definitely the most malleable option. These houses look like everything from hobbit huts to adobe houses. I love the warm organic feel that they have to them, and how you can pretty much sculpt these houses to look like anything you want.
This picture just shows how creative you can be with this building material, I love how whimsical this house is. It is labor intensive, however, and you can read all about it in the blog The Year of Mud. It chronicles the author's year long adventure to build her little cabin. Though, I do love how this looks, and have read that these structures are pretty resistant to various environmental problems (i.e. cold, humidity, rain etc.) I almost feel that the time needed may make this more appropriate for a garden shed, or another out building.

Straw Bale
Super quick and made out of a waste materail, this is a wonderful option, that can literally be put up in a matter of days. This is by far the quickest of the three. I love that the thickness of the walls does an amazing job insulating the interior. Which living in the frozen north, insulation is always something in the forefront of your mind when thinking about building a house. There are a ton of pictures online.
There are also a ton of books you can find, filled with various house plans for these structures. Dancing Rabbit's Blog gives a good step-by-step to sort of outline the process involved. I think this is the option I am leaning toward, not only because I like the look of them, but also the quickness with which they can be built highly appeals to me, as there are about a million other projects that I am adding to my to-do list every day. However, I can admit that I am totally in love with the way the interiors of these houses can be designed.
I have always loved the way exposed beams look inside a house, although I have never been much for white walls, that's an easy fix. But really, how cozy does this look? I can imagine a nice little wood stove, and a comfy old couch in this room. Wood floors, are a big love of mine as well, as I am a huge fan of the old rag rugs. I am currently knitting a rug out of old t-shirts actually, and I will post results on that when I get a little further along.

Finally, the construction method that has a special place in my heart thanks to the folks at Earthwood Building School. I love that these houses look like they are built of stone when you view them from a distance, it's just amazing to look at. Then when you factor in the amazing R-value (insulating factor) this is really a win win. The downside is this technique is also quite time consuming.
I do love how these houses look, and you an get quite creative with them as well, by adding bottles to the walls, or getting creative in how you finish the plaster in between the log ends. These structures are a wonderful choice for cold climates, and despite consisting of exposed log ends, they are actually pretty fire-resistant according to Rob Roy (one of the teacher's of the Earthwood Building School). You could ideally construct this house out of wood cleared from the lot you build the house on! But like I said this can be time consuming, not only because you need to strip the logs, cut them, stack them and let them dry, but also because you have to build up the walls much like building a brick wall. The folks at Earthwood have open-houses, and there is actually one on October 6th that I am hoping to attend. Another great thing is that they have several structures built with different materials on their homesite. So if this interests you at all you may want to check it out. I am going for a refresher, but also to kind of relive a moment from my childhood by including my child this time.

So this is a really general introduction, and I know there are other green building techniques out there (such as packed earth, just to name one). But these are the three that appeal the most to me and my climate. I will probably get more in depth at a further date, but this is definitely to a great introduction to building with something other than wood and drywall.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why the interest in homesteading?

Honestly, I get asked this a lot by people, not necessarily that specific question, but people are always curious as to how I developed the avid interests I developed. For example, I am very interested in crocheting, knitting, quilting, sewing, canning, herbal remedies, learning about caring for small livestock, gardening, to name just a few. Some of these interests I suppose seem atypical for someone my age, but I love the feeling of being able to make things myself, or being able to fix something that is only a little broken. However it goes past that, to a whole philosophy about life. I tried my best to put it into words, I feel like I had a hard time saying exactly what I wanted to, and sometimes I strayed from my topic a little, but here it goes, my revelation the other night. Caution: This is going to be long, and possibly vague at times...

I realized today, that the planet is going to be just fine, despite what we're doing to it. We may melt the ice caps, tear more holes in the ozone, and pollute our rivers, lands, and air. The planet however, is going to be just fine, it's been here for billions of years, and it will be here for billions more, the only thing that's going to destroy this planet is when the sun finally collapses in on itself and sucks the planets of our solar system into it. There is always going to be life on earth, bacteria, insects, animals, but not in the way we see it now. If things keep going the way they are going humanity is doomed. We don't need to save the planet, we need to save ourselves, we need to find value in human life past what we can produce and consume, and start seeing a bigger picture. We need to work together to reduce what we use, we need to alter our lifestyle to be more in tune with the earth's cycles, and we need to see the planet as something we need to care for, not something that is there for us to exploit. Until we find a value in people past what business measures we're going to continue to see high rates of suicide, addiction, homicide, depression, anxiety, violence in the workplace, divorce, and all of the other ailments that are rampant in Western culture.

Our culture breeds disappointment and a feeling of helplessness, feelings of unrest and dissatisfaction. Convince people they are lacking something and they will keep striving to fill that hole, we don't want complete and content people, we want hungry people who will keep wanting more to fill that void. Find everyone an opiate, keep them from thinking too hard about their lot, but also keep them from being too happy. People that are really unhappy question things around them, so we just need to keep them distracted with hobbies, religion, social groups, activities, movies, music, and all the other wonderful things pop culture brings us. So keep people just happy enough, and keep that feeling of unrest so they are constantly striving to figure out what they need, and if this breaks up a few families, then it's an acceptable casualty. But, this actually helps big business also.

I feel that the disappearance of the nuclear family was no mistake, just as the disappearance of extended families living together was no mistake. They both increase the need for resources, more housing, furnishings, need for utilities. Think about it, how many resources does three generations living together need to consume compared to just parents and kids, and then to take it one step further, how many more resources do those parents and kids need now that the parents live separately? Think about how much more those kids need, essentially two sets of clothing, more toys and room furnishings. It has even become a joke, what do kids in movies say when parents announce they are getting divorced? "YAY! Two Christmases!" A single person on his/her own needs just as many "things" in their apartment (or house) as a small family does, unless they are renting a room. So two people being single and living on their own, (which is becoming an increasing trend in our culture) use more resources and spend more money than two people living together.

The more we break groups apart, force people into smaller living spaces, scatter families, move jobs away from where people live, encourage people to be uncompromising when it comes to what they want, are all the better for big business. The less you trust your neighbors, the more locks, weapons, security equipment, the further you need to travel to get to the people you trust, the better for big business. I know at this point this sounds more like a conspiracy theory than anything, and you're probably trying to figure out what my point is, but trust me, there is a truth here, and you feel it.

My point is this, we need to start forming communities, building relationships with the people around us, or moving closer to the ones we love and trust. We need to start pooling resources, helping each other out, producing things for ourselves and not just consuming. Daniel Quinn described it as a New Tribal Revolution, of people working together to give each other security and support. Picture this; within a block of you there is nothing but the people you love and trust, friends and family, a grocery store and garden that together give you all the things you need and your job. How much will you spend on childcare, how much driving will you do in a week, how far will you need to travel for social events? This sounds very utopian, and perhaps it is, but there is something to be said for the tribal structure, of having all those supports so readily available.

All of this culminates into my vision for my life, a homestead and possibly a family business. Where we focus not on making a ton of money, but on making sure that we all have enough, so that we all are provided for and we're focused on the health and wellness of everyone involved.

Simplistic, and in no way grandiose, I just want contentment from my life, security. I don't need new cars, big TVs, several sets of fine china, I just want to know that my family, my friends, and myself will be cared for. Which, is no easy feat, and is going to take a tremendous amount of work, but, I feel it can be done, and maybe if not completely accomplished in my lifetime, I hope to start people thinking and be like the pebble dropped into a still pond.

All of this, I will admit makes me laugh, it is idealistic, but it reminds me so much of my childhood. When I was in high school, my group of friends and I would talk about growing up together buying a chunk of land and building a group of houses. We talked about having a communal kitchen so we could all eat meal together, and would all be able to hang out and be there for each other. It's funny to me how my vision in life has essentially come right back to that. Just shows you that the ideas of children are worth exploring, because sometimes they are seeing things with astounding clarity.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I love that the computer I do my writing on is sitting next to a window that overlooks mountains, with only a few houses to break up the landscape. There are advantages to living out in the middle of nowhere, mostly that I am not crowded by people, that I don't know. However, there are drawbacks, I am sitting here, on a bright sunny day and it's barely 60 degrees outside, and we had our first frost already. This presents me with a pretty large problem, we have a very short growing season, and I don't have a greenhouse...

So I am sitting here, sipping tea, and researching seeds. My goal is to grow predominantly organic heirloom seeds, because I have read enough about GMOs to know that I am not interested in letting those near me. Looking at the calendar, I am going to have to start seeds indoors, and even still, we had our last frost at the end of May, so realistically I have two months that I can rely on to stay in a decent temperature range to not kill my plants. One of my absolute favorite sites for seed on the internet is Heirloom Seeds. Not only do they have a ton of seeds to choose from, but they also offer premade packages that are pretty awesome. While I will admit that some of the complete garden packages may seem pricey, what you're getting out of it justifies the price.

So I have a list of seeds that I will be ordering from this site, and I figured I would share. I specifically selected items with a short growing season, and tried to get as many varieties of vegetables as possible. The only thing I am going to have to find from somewhere else are sweet potatoes.

The items with an asterix are available as certified organic seeds as well, and the number in parenthesis is the average days to maturity.

Tomatoes: Stupice* (55), Sub-Artic Plenty (40-60)
Pole Beans: Ideal Market (68), Sunset Runner (60)
Cucumber: Double Yield* (55-60)
Spinach: Giant Winter* (50)
Pumpkins: New England Pie* (105) [I love cooking with pumpkins, so I will make a sacrifice to ensure I have some for consumption.]
Squash: Spaghetti* (100), Black Zucchini (45)
Sweet Peppers: Rainbow Bell (68-80)
Hot Peppers: Jalapeno (70)
Beets: Ruby Queen* (52)
Carrots: Nantes Scarlet* (70)
Onions: Crimson Forest (60)
Turnips: Purple Top White Globe (55)
Sunflowers: Large Grey

I also think that I am going to opt to get some of their wildflower mixes, because it is always a good idea to have a ton of flowers around to keep those pollinators close by! They have a beneficial insect mix, hummingbird/butterfly mix and a honeybee mix that I will most likely be using on the sloped part of my lawn that isn't suitable for really much else other than flowers.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Harvest Time

Wow, can you believe it's September already? I for one, am still in denial. There is still so much I need to do before the temperatures drop and the snow starts to fall! This is definitely a busy time of year, but also, a wonderful time of year. Wonderful, of course, because it is harvest season. Some of us are busy canning, and storing away what we can, while others (like myself) are just enjoying nature's bounty. Because I moved from a city apartment, to a house that's quite a bit away from it all, all that I was able to plant this year were flowers. However, despite this, I am still visiting Farmer's markets when I can and enjoying locally grown foods whenever possible. I am fortunate to live in an area surrounded by farms and orchards, there is no shortage of locally grown crops.

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the apple harvest. I love fresh apples, I love eating them raw, and cooking/baking with them. Of course, if you're eating apples that have been shipped to you from half way 'round the world, you probably don't share my love of them, trust me, I know your pain. I have eaten apples that were shipped here from Argentina, and well, if that was what I thought an apple tasted like, and what their consistency was like I would make nothing more than applesauce with them. However, I was fortunate to grow up in a town in Norther New York where apple trees definitely outnumbered people, so I have a great love of the fruit and it's many varieties. It is hard to say what my favorite it, currently I am loving Gala apples, and so is my son. But I also love Macs, and Granny Smiths.

So versatile, and so tasty, what do you do with your apples? Well one of my all time favorite recipes comes from the blog Piece of Cake. So you can either go to her site, or just continue scrolling down, this one is in my "favorites" tab in my recipe box, and I am sure you'll love it just as much as I do.

Chewy Apple-Oat Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes about 20 two-bize-sized bars

For the apple-oat bars:

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup diced apple (about one small apple, I like Fuji or Honeycrisp)
4 ounces white chocolate chips

For the white chocolate cream cheese icing:

2 ounces white chocolate chips
2 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar (more or less, depending on your sweet tooth and how stiff you want the icing to be)
Ground cinnamon, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 inch square baking pan with aluminum foil (with a few inches of overhang on all sides) and spray the foil lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and oats and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth and lightened in color. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat in the egg and vanilla until well-blended. On low speed, blend in the dry ingredients. On the lowest speed or by hand, stir in the apple chunks and white chocolate chips.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake just until a toothpick comes out clean, about 35-38 minutes. Do not overbake. Let the bars cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then use the foil “handles” to remove the slab from the pan. Let cool completely on the rack in the foil sleeve, at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the icing. In the microwave, melt 2 ounces of white chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl in 30 second bursts at 50% power, stirring after each interval until smooth. In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Add the melted white chocolate and beat until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until the icing is slightly thickened and sweetened to your liking.

When the bars are completely cool, spread the icing in an even layer over the bars, using the foil to create a dam of sorts that will keep the icing from dripping down the edges of the bars. Refrigerate the bars with the foil sleeve until the icing is firm, at least 1 hour.

Remove the slab from the foil to a cutting board and dust with cinnamon. With a large, sharp knife, cut into about 20 bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Monday, September 3, 2012


When I first looked at my backyard and started trying to determine what to plant and where I was absolutely ecstatic to see two flowerbeds right next to the garage. They are raised and one is a perfect size for kitchen herbs, while the other, was long and narrow. However, when I really put thought into it I realized the long narrow bed does not get much sun at all, and to top it all off, the dirt filling it is rather poor, it's sandy and it's rocky. We don't have normal sand here either, we have sand from the mines, so it's black, due to the ore content. It's pretty difficult to deal with in a gardening setting, and really, it makes me nervous as hell to begin converting the backyard into a productive food garden because I can't help but to think about the amount of money good dirt is going to cost me and I get dizzy. But that's beside the point at the moment, the point of this post is, what do I put in a flowerbed, that is pretty much rocks and sand?

So looking at the dirt in the flower beds left me sort of pessimistic, but when I did a little research and really thought about it, I realized violas were the answer. First of all, these guys are perennials, so I am not going to have to replant this bed every year (which, is a HUGE bonus cause I would like to be able to focus on my vegetable garden next spring). They also come in a huge variety of colors, which is appealing visually to me and to pollinating insects which are always handy to have around. Finally, and most importantly, they can grow practically anywhere, and I mean anywhere. You don't have to look to hard to find pictures of them growing in sidewalk cracks, and even on walls!
Just look at that little plant! It's barely got any soil in that hole in the wall, and it is THRIVING! Amazing! Of course, these guys would be totally fine in my little flower bed, which really, has little more to offer than a crack in a sidewalk. (The image to the left was on The Pothole Gardener specifically in a post concerning living walls). So I went to one of the local green houses and selected a few different colors that I liked and started planting, the picture at the top right of this post shows what I started with back in May.

So now it is the beginning of September, leaves are changing around here, nights are getting chilly, and I am breaking out my favorite sweaters. I love sweater weather. My violas are just thriving, and I will have to admit that there has been so much going on here the past few months that I have barely paid these guys any attention. I did scatter some egg shells amidst them to deter the slugs (crushed egg shells are not only good for the soil but they are like walking on broken glass for a slug).
But really these guys have been on their own this summer, and they are doing fantastic, they have bloomed continually, and have dropped a ton of seeds, which the birds have enjoyed eating. I couldn't be more pleased, they really earn their reputation for being eager growers. I think that I will make some candied flowers before their growing season ends. It's just a matter of dipping them in egg whites and then dipping them in sugar. Super simple, and an elegant to top off a cupcake.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


My Pinterest

I figured I would share my pinterest account. While it's not completely dominated by gardening and homesteading links, there is a great collection of craft projects, things for kids, recipes and all sorts of things I have gathered. So check it out, and follow me if you so desire!

Book Review: Grow It!

Grow It!:The beginner's complete in-harmony-with-nature small farm guide by Richard W. Langer
I stumbled across this book at The Cornerstone Bookshop, and for $6, I really couldn't pass this up. Not only do I love old books with cheesy covers, but it was also on a topic, that as you may have already guessed, I am highly interested in. First of all, I would like to point out that I find this book highly amusing for 2 reasons: 1, the cover makes me giggle and I came really close to tagging my Dad in the photo cause the picture reminded me of photos of him from when my parent's first met, and 2, the book is so obviously written with for the audience of city mice looking to become country mice. Sometimes the book is a little dated, but it was published in 1972, and besides the information that this book is really useful for is completely timeless.

This book is just bursting with information, and I was really pleasantly surprised at just how much information I found in these pages. I have to admit I completely skipped the chapters on tillage, and grain because they in no way apply to anything I ever plan on doing, but I devoured the other chapters anxiously! I am going to supply you with a listing of the chapters after just so you can see the amazing array of information that can be obtained from this book. Really, I can't say anything bad about this book, it definitely earned it's endorsement from Mother Earth News, and I was really pleased with the sections especially on livestock. It gave information on everything from their care to their butchering. I could go on forever, but really, a listing of the contents of the book will tell you whether or not this is something you want to try and track down for your homestead's library.

The Land: Your soil-watershed-pond-woodlands
Tillage:Farm Equipment-what it is-how it works-how to use it right-plowing-harrowing-sowing your fields
Fertilizer: Barnyard manure-green manure and how it grows-composting-liming
Fruit: The orchard site-planting-pruning-harvesting-apples-cherries-peaches-pears-plums
Nuts: Almonds-beechnuts-chestnuts-filberts-hazelnuts-hickory nuts-pecans-walnuts
Berries:The berry patch and what's in it-blackberries-blueberries-currants-gooseberries-grapes-raspberries-strawberries
Vegetables: Bountiful varieties from asparagus to watermelon-getting a head start on spring-mulching-how to raise your own seed for future harvest
Pest Control: Preventing pests-feathered and crawling friends-safe nontoxic sprays-how to kill the bugs without killing yourself
Grain: How to raise, harvest, and make flour and feed from your grain-buckwheat-corn-oats-rye-sunflowers-wheat
Forage: Your pastures and meadows-what to grow and how-grazing livestock- making hay-winter fodder
Goats: Breeds-housing-basic equipment-feeding-breeding-kidding-weaning-milking
Chickens: Starting a flock-the henhouse-the brooder-feeding-gathering eggs-how to dress a chicken for your broiler
Other Fowl: Ducks-geese-swans-turkeys
Pigs: Breeds-housing-equipment-feeding-breeding-parasites and other problems
Honeybees: Who's who in the colony-starting a colony-the beehive and where to put it-equipment-handling your bees-swarming-honey and how to get it
The Larder: How to keep what you harvest for the winter-root cellars-krauting-drying fruit-making cheese, butter and yogurt-setting clabbered milk-smoke curing your meat-sausage making-lard and cracklings
Catalog: The government will give you a hand-ordering by mail your farm equipment, organic fertilizers, livestock, fruit and vegetable seeds, and tree stock-publications galore-farm books for winter evening reading

See, what a wonderful amount of knowledge to be had from this book! Really all useful, the catalog is the only chapter that is pretty much completely out-dated. This book has definitely earned a place on my bookshelf.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

There's gold in these hills!

Well... Not really gold, but it is a nice golden flower. First of all, I want to point out that goldenrod gets a bad rap, it's pollen is heavy and is pollinated by insects, therefore is not the cause of your seasonal allergies. Ragweed looks similar, but the important distinction here is that the long lance shaped leaves of goldenrod grow directly on the stem, while rag weed, branches off and the leaves only grow on these branches.

I harvested some of this today for herbal teas this winter. I have been reading up on it and I have come to the conclusion that having some dried leaves/flowers stored in a jar would be invaluable! You can use it for a variety of common ailments, including sore throats. However, the one I found most interesting is that it is sometimes used to treat seasonal affective disorder, and to stimulate the digestive system. Because the herb induces sweating it increases circulation while also helping to reduce fevers. Mostly I was interested in using it as a gargle for sore throats since winter usually brings on at least one sore throat that makes me hate my life for a few days. In fact, this is also sometimes known as Blue Mountain Tea and has been known to be used for nearly every digestive ailment, and even UTIs.

So just a few factoids for you all. It is kind of a bitter anise-like flavor, as it is described, and it has also been said that every species is different so some are less bitter than others. I will let you know how it turns out! Of course the herbs will take a couple of weeks to dry, and then I will have my first trial run!

**DISCLAIMER:**The medicinal information here is just that, I am not a doctor nor I am an herbalist, while I do extensive reading on each plant, I do not in any way guarantee that these plants are safe to ingest. I also do not want anyone to take anything I say as being sound medical advice, once again, I AM NOT A DOCTOR! So if you have any sort of medical condition, or aren't positive that you actually have goldenrod in your yard, consult a doctor, or an herbalist! I am merely relating information to you that I have found on the internet myself, and it is up to you entirely what you do with it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hips Don't Lie (a little more about rose hips)

So, I felt the need to add on to the previous post concerning rose hips. I wanted to sort of fill in some blanks that I may have left without intending to do so.

First of all, I just want to say every rose produces hips, and all rose hips are safe to eat (just make sure that the plant you are getting them off of is a rose! Also be cautious of the use of pesticides!). The hip is the fruit of the plant, and while all roses produce hips some roses will have tastier hips than others. Yes, not all hips are super tasty, they are all a great source of vitamin C, but some species of rose have better tasting hips than others. Further research into this matter shows that the dog rose (rosa canina) has the tastiest hips of all of the rose species. This wild rose is a climber, and can be trained into a shrub. It produces bright red hips that are typically oblong in shape. Unless it has something to climb on this plant will typically only grow to be about 3 feet tall (1 meter), but if it has something to climb on it can reach heights of 15 feet (5m)!

When harvesting rose hips it's said to wait four months after they have formed (oops!) before gathering them. At this point you can either solely collect the seeds or you can also prep the fruit for making jelly, wine, or whatever else your little heart desires to make with the hips. Just a word of caution, the little hairs on the inside of the fruit need to be removed before cooking the fruit, and the little hairs are sometimes used to make itching powder, so be a little careful when cleaning the fruit. If you want to harvest the seeds out of them soak the seeds overnight, discard the ones that float to the top because these seeds are not ready and will most likely not germinate if you plant them. Now you're ready to plant those little guys and see what comes up!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Roses have hips? (a.k.a. catch-up post)

So yeah, just a catch up post, sharing some things I learned about plants that are growing in my part of New York State, and all the fun things I learned while researching them. I really have my son to thank for this, as his constant questions keep me interested in the natural world while we hang out outside.

So the first plant we came across was this vine with this spiky looking fruit on it. Which, I immediately poked to see if the spines were sharp. Yes, I learned absolutely nothing from the various cacti I have stuck myself with. Well, the spines on it aren't sharp they are soft, and so is the fruit, I wouldn't let the kiddo touch it until I knew what it was so I went inside and did some research. Turns out this highly prolific plant (because it is EVERYWHERE in the back yard) is a wild cucumber, but also goes by manroot, and old man in the earth. It's not harmful to touch, but can be poisonous to ingest, and the plant derives it's name from the large tuber that spawns the vines. Evidently the tuber can be several feet long and weigh up to 100lbs in larger plants. The tuber also has soap-like properties and the fruits can act as loofahs when they are dried and the spikes removed.. So this plant is like the ultimate bathroom buddy. Well I am glad to finally know what this plant is, but I am concerned about trying to find this tuber and unearthing it, if the amount of vines in the yard are any indication, this thing is going to be like digging up a body.

I talked to my son about how various plants release seeds, and we looked at the way various plants spread, since we also have burdock in the yard we talked about how some plants rely on animals to get from place to place. Then, came the fun part of the evening, I showed him the "spotted touch-me-not" that is thriving in the perimeter of the yard. These plants are actually a lot of fun because when their
seed pods are ready to disperse their seeds if you touch them they spring open and fling seeds in every direction. I myself spent the better part of half an hour poking seed pods when I read this online after identifying the plants about two weeks ago. So we had more fun last night as I hunted down the seed pods that were ready to pop and the kiddo touched them and then laughed as the seeds flew everywhere. Part of me cringes to think of the crazy amount of seeds we threw everywhere, and hence this nice border plant is going to be everywhere very shortly. It is a weed, but it's kind of pretty, and the flowers are very unique. It's not poisonous, but really has no use, although supposedly it does help to neutralize poison ivy oil when you get it on your skin. This isn't something I am willing to test out, nor can I really test out since I don't react to poison ivy. But if you do run into some poison ivy and use some of these crushed up leaves and it works, let me know.

Well, the whole reason that I wanted to take this tour of the yard was to harvest some of the rose hips that we have on the multitude of rose bushes that are thriving in the yard. I always thought these things were finicky and hard to grow, but I may have to change that opinion since they are taking over the parts of the yard they have been planted in. I wanted to be sure to harvest the hips off of the bushes that are sporting the most colorful fruit and also happen to be turning this lovely purple color. Another thing about living in the mountains, it feels like fall, and some of the leaves are already changing. So the current plan is to sheet mulch the strip of lawn on the south side of the house, which is really nothing more than a pain in the butt to mow, and replace the grass with rose bushes. I want something there that I don't need to mow. This is part of the process of getting rid of as much lawn as possible and start using that space to produce food. I want enough roses in my yard to produce some rose hip jelly next year, this is the ultimate goal, and I am going to start these seeds indoors next spring and transplant them outside. So why put so much effort into growing roses if all I really want from them are the rose hips? Good question!

Rose hips are not only tasty and used to make jelly, tea, and marmalade, but they also have some great medicinal properties. They are really high in vitamin C (higher than citrus fruits), which for those of us around here looking to eat local is incredibly important because we can't even grow citrus fruits. Without vitamin C you get scurvy, which while talking like a pirate is fun, scurvy is not. Since my ultimate goal is to eat solely local foods, this was a revelation, living in an area with a limited growing season and trying to ensure you don't get certain diet deficiencies is pretty challenging. Aside from their vitamin content, they also have lycopene which is great for prostate health. Rosehips have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be great for those of you who have arthritic joints. I read online that they are sometimes combined with hibiscus leaves to make a tea (hibiscus leaf tea is a wonderful way to lower blood pressure naturally).

I know that it's going to be a challenge growing roses from seeds and I am going to cut open the hips now and soak the seeds overnight to see if some of the ones I picked yesterday will germinate. Wish me luck, I am doing some experimental stuff here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sheet Mulching

This is one technique that I recently learned about and just absolutely fell in love with! Mostly because (in my opinion) the biggest deterrent to starting a garden is the idea of ripping up the sod, and tilling. The process is so labor intensive and then you have to figure out a place to put all of that plant matter you have removed from the ground. If you feel the same, then you're probably going to just love this idea. Next time you plan on starting a garden, don't rip up grass, and don't worry about raking up and removing the plant matter from the plot you've cleared, simply layer over it! Yes, that's right, plan on just going right over it!

I know it seems pretty crazy, everything we learn about planting a garden seems to tell us to rip out those weeds and get them as far away from the plants you want as possible. However, one of the biggest points of permaculture farming/gardening is that you want to do everything you can to encourage proper soil health. Healthy soil is living soil, it is full of decaying plant matter that encourages worms to be present, and it should smell like the dirt on a forest floor. Personally, I love the smell of dirt on a mountain trail, just something about it makes you feel so grounded (ha! I crack myself up).

So how do you do it? It's not completely labor free, but honestly compared to the alternative it's like the difference between running through a waist deep field of grass, or through waist deep water. Here's a basic how-to:

1. Look at the area you want to plant, and decide what kind of soil you want out of it (basically if you need acidic soil, add some acidic plant matter, like pine needles etc). Determine what you need to add to the base layer, and mark out the area you will be turning into your garden.

2. Mow/Cut/Knock over the plants. You want everything laying flat, but you also want to remove the large pieces of plant matter (branches, thick stems). Basically if you can't step on it and have it lay flat for a bit after then get rid of it.

3. Put your initial layer of compost/mulch down, and soak it with water.

4. If you have any trees or shrubs to plant, do so now, but be careful to not pile up compost/plant matter too closely to them as you prepare the rest of the layers.

5. Place your layer that will act as a weed barrier. You can use anything biodegradable here, but the most common choices are newspaper/cardboard. You will need about 3-6 layers of newspaper, and you need it to be a nice even cover, with the edges overlapping quite a bit, the point here is to prevent weeds from popping through. After you have that placed, do yourself a favor and wet it down a little to keep it from flying away as you complete the next couple of phases.

6. Layer mulch/compost on top of the weed barrier. Basically this layer mimics the way a forest floor works, you have plant matter and dirt layered to help break down everything below it by encouraging beneficial insects to be present. So aside from compost you can layer in wood chips, dead leaves, straw. Basically put the compost down first and then the plant matter on top of it, your goal is at least a 2 inch top layer.

You can plant seedlings in the mulch/compost layer, or more well established plants can get planted right below the weed barrier by poking a hole right through it for the plant. This is also something you can pretty much do for free if you plan it just right. Personally, this fall as I rake leaves I am going to get some cardboard/newspaper from the bins at the dump and harvest some local dirt to get my garden plot mulching before the snow falls. Doing it this way means that come spring my garden will be all ready for planting and the soil should be enriched by the plant matter that had all fall to decay and turn into compost.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Road Side Veggies

While I will be the first to admit I can be a horrible curmudgeon, there are times when I cannot say enough good things about people. I will admit I love living in this area this time of year, harvest season, the season to scope out all of those roadside stands for fresh vegetables and fruits plucked from gardens and hand carried to where they sit on display. This is just wonderful to me, since when I go to the grocery store (and while I admire Hannaford for labeling where the produce comes from) being told the tomato I am about to buy comes from chili, makes me a little queasy. Not only because it probably means that the produce was picked before it was even ripe, but also that it spent weeks in transit, moved from shipping containers to tractor trailers. But also because I know that very little of the food imported into the United States is tested and/or sampled by food quality assurance workers to be sure the food these big companies are bringing into the country is safe for consumption. So knowing that road stand veggies are not only greener in the sense that they don't travel as far before I buy them, but also are just more lustrous in general.

Well anyway, I have driven past this one particular road side stand a few times while driving between Plattsburgh and Lyon Mountain, and I couldn't help but to notice the squash and cucumbers piled on this little fold-up table. I have a weakness for summer squash, I love it with all my little bitty heart. Well, anyway, I stopped today and was just browsing marveling at the size of the squash, and the zucchini he had was huge as well, but it was also this lovely deep dark green that was almost black.

While I was standing there the farmer came out and greeted me, and informed me that he was just about to pick some tomatoes, which, I thanked him for but was really only interested in getting a couple of cucumbers, so he went and picked some directly from the plants for me! Was just a really nice guy, threw in a couple extra because he was worried that the one larger cucumber he gave me wouldn't have as much flavor as the smaller ones. Just a genuinely nice guy, practically giving away produce because his plants are just producing a ton of them. But it's the little things like that that make me really appreciate living in a rural area.

So if you live in the area, the guy is located nearly directly across the street from the Hyundai dealership. Probably the closest road side vegetable stand there is to town. I am so anxious for apple season to be upon us.. Late summer and early Autumn are by far my most cherished times of year!

Downsizing: Your Wardrobe

The Tumbleweed Tiny House Blog: How to Completely Simplify Your Wardrobe, Right NOW!

I think a lot of you can relate to the following scenario: you have an entire dresser/closet full of clothing, but, you find yourself wearing the same 5-6 outfits. Well my friend, this lack of variety happens subconciously and for good reason, you tend to gravitate toward the clothes that make you comfortable, and make you look good. So it really is no conspiratorial plot of your closet that you seem to always wear the same few t-shirts. I admit every time I move I can't help but to look at the things I own, and wonder why the hell I cart them from place to place. I began to seriously look at the clothing I was hording, and really critically evaluating what I needed to keep.

The article that I linked to is a great way to quickly accomplish this. However, I think it fails to address one major pitfall, that I myself fall into pretty heavily sometimes. The pitfall being "but this would be fine if I just hemmed/patched/altered it a little." Well my dear crafty friends, I know all to well this snowball effect. I don't know about you, but it almost seems like one WIP (work-in-progress) laying around the house almost always begets at least 10 cohorts without you even noticing what's happening. I will admit I am shamefully guilty of buying items in thrift stores solely with the intention of altering it, for example, I have a small stack of very large button-up men's shirts, that were going to be altered into cute summery dresses. However, it is now August (I acquired them in March, you know, PLENTY of time to complete those projects before summer), and I have made pretty close to zero progress on those projects. I have the best of intentions when acquiring these items at thrift stores, but lets face it, hording supplies for crafting quickly becomes an obsession. Not only because supplies tend to be expensive (the price of yarn, WOW), but when you envision something you want to make with it, it's really hard to just, let it go.

So let's apply this to a stack of clothes. In the case of my collection of button-ups, I set myself a deadline, if they aren't made into dresses or useable shirts within 3 months, I HAVE to give them to the Salvation Army. So, with this new deadline, that I have decided to commit to, I need to either make time, or admit that I am just merely keeping these items around for really no reason. I did turn a lot of old t-shirts with sentimental value into a quilt, and will be making another shortly. I also made t-shirt yarn out of the remnants of the t-shirts that were cut up to make the quilt, and the yarn is currently being knitted into a little rug (which my 5 year old has already told me will be going into his room when it's done). So while it is admirable to re-purpose items (and I admit I love doing it!), I really caution you against using that as a perfect excuse to keep around stacks of clothes that could be put to better use if donated, or given to a friend.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Book Review: "Twelve by Twelve" by William Powers

Definite Must Read!

Permaculture, homesteading, tiny living spaces, wrestling with the feeling of being out-of-place in our Capitalist society. This book has it all! While it is definitely NOT a how-to, and it is devoid of specific instructions, it chronicles the author's stay in a friend's 12'x12' (yup, it may be the ultimate tiny abode!). It is a wonderful read for anyone who is on the journey to "what's next" as we all begin to realize that the current way of living that we're accustomed to in Western culture is not sustainable.

Powers discusses his thoughts as he lives off grid in a friend's 12'x12' cabin, and I really got into this book. It gave me ideas, and pointed me in directions I would've never thought to research, but this book itself is purely just a good read. While I will make sure to include reviews on other books that I am currently reading in order to obtain more information on the various plans I am hatching, I felt this was a great book to start with. This book doesn't give you tutorials, it gives you ideas and inspiration. Sometimes I feel like it's best to start with a piece of literature you can relate to, so you can enable yourself to envision starting upon the path yourself. It's heartfelt, funny, and just overall human. He talks about his experiences working abroad and he has such a breadth of experiences to share that this book is never dull.

I won't talk too much in detail about the story of the book, since I am posting a review not a summary. I will however say, that at one point in the book he touches upon the idea that a local economy is what we need to develop in order to ensure the success of our nation. I couldn't agree more, and I think that this is something all local businesses should be looking into working toward. If we all looked to buy local more, and limited our visits to the big box stores, we would start to see more changes in the areas in which we live. While, I would like to point out that buying local produce and food can be more pricey (yes, you can cheap coffee at a drive-thru but isn't it more rewarding supporting the locally owned coffee shops?) but this is the real cost of food. So visit those road side stands, and Farmer's markets! You're supporting local people, and you're getting fresher products. I will get off my soapbox now, and end this review on this note: If you're even remotely interested in tiny living, permaculture, living off grid, or just feel a general disillusionment over our throw away culture, this is a great entertaining read, that will be not only enjoyable to read, but also give you plenty of food for thought.

This is just the first of many suggested reads that I will share!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Keyhole Garden

This is something that was just too cool to not share, I happened across it the other day. This is definitely a good weekend project for someone looking to have a garden in their backyard without really wanting to take on something large scale. This type of garden recycles kitchen scraps as it grows food. The video below is a great how-to:

How to Build a Keyhole Garden

I think this would be a wonderful weekend project for some of you who want to bring a garden into your backyard without either ripping up all of your sod, or tilling it. Let me know what you think!

The Three Sisters, Forest Gardens, and Hands Off Gardening

Companion gardening is nothing new, and in fact the Native Americans utilized it as a way to plant crops that involved little to no work once they began to grow. I am doing a lot of research on this topic, and on permaculture gardening and pretty soon I plan on starting to design a homestead so that it is mostly hands-off, and will share what I learn along the way.

One of the first articles I encountered while starting to research this subject explained "the three sisters." Which for those of you who are not familiar, is a specific way of planting corn, pole beans and squash where the three plants grow together in such a way that they are beneficial to one another. The corn provides a "pole" for the pole beans to grow on, and the squash is a low spreading ground cover that prevents weeds from getting enough sunlight to grow while also helping the soil retain moisture. This system is just so intuitive and so natural that it just intrigued me. So I began to research further which is what lead me to permaculture and forest gardens.

Forest Gardens with Robert Hart

Now, this video on YouTube gives a very brief introduction to the idea of forest garden, and the documentary I linked to the other day mentioned this as well, but it's an entirely low maintenance system of planting. It involves Hart's "7 Layer" technique to gardening, which shows how interplanting and proper planning can maximize the yield of an acre, while nearly eliminating the work involved in such a garden.
Now the diagram to the left (drawn by Graham Burnett) wonderfully illustrates the 7 layer technique introduced by Robert Hart, and the seven layers are as follows:

1. Canopy layer consisting of the original mature fruit trees.
2. Low-tree layer of smaller nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks.
3. Shrub layer of fruit bushes such as currants and berries.
4. Herbaceous layer of perennial vegetables and herbs.
5. Ground cover layer of edible plants that spread horizontally.
6. Rhizosphere or ‘underground’ layer of plants grown for their roots and tubers.
7. Vertical layer of vines and climbers.

So not only does your garden not look like a traditional garden, it really resembles a forest, a forest of edible human friendly foods that you can harvest and eat, but also takes super low maintenance because through resembling a forest you're helping to not overwork the land, and the diversity of plant life helps to enrich the soil and keep the beneficial bugs present. Often we forget in gardening and farming that there are beneficial bugs, much like we forget in modern medicine that there are beneficial bacteria. So this sets up an eco-system in your garden, and the people feed per acre is definitely comparable to modern farming, but this system is sustainable in that, you don't need to let the fields lie fallow to recover for a year, this maintains year, after year. I am beginning to plan out which plant to obtain, and I want to just say for anyone reading this, that my garden is being planned in zone 4b, so keep in mind that I also need to select plants that are cold hearty, as we have long cold winters around here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

An Introduction to Permaculture

Farm for the Future-- Watch the Full Documentary

This is a great documentary from the BBC that gives you a great introduction to permaculture gardening. Permaculture gardening is something I have become highly interested in recently, thanks to a book that I recently read. This documentary tries to explore how we can feed the planet when fossil fuels decline, and cease to be available.

Something to Ponder...

Life Running out of Control- Watch Full Documentary Free

This site is not only great for this particular documentary, but also gives you access to a ton more, for free. I watched this the other day, and I highly recommend that you watch it as well. It raises some important questions, and is very thought provoking. Dr. Vandana Shiva is one of the main people in this documentary, and she is very quickly becoming one of my personal heroes.

What are you thoughts on GMOs?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why, hello. Let me introduce myself...

My name is Shannon, and I am in recovery from Capitalism. I have suffered from Capitalism nearly my entire life, as it was there from the time I was born, surrounding me, brainwashing me, and I have just within the past few years recognized it for what it truly is. Capitalism is a disease, it's a cancer. This method of thinking is destroying our society, and causes people to be viewed only in terms of how productive they are in society. People are not valued, they are numbered, and our environment is seen only as a source of various resources. I am sick of the way our Capitalist culture treats the environment and people, and I have really begun to look at everything with a very critical eye. I want out, I don't need a brand new car, I don't need clothes that are in fashion every season, and I don't want to get caught up working in a job that I can't stand just for some illusion of financial security. If this economy has taught me anything is that nothing is permanent, and that even if you work hard your entire life, when it comes time to retire you could find your pension/retirement is completely gone. I don't want to endure the stress of a life dominated by a job I don't like, I need to make some change. I want to live more simply, I want to learn about the environment around me, I want to be more green, I want to live in tune with the Earth.

I really began this journey when I became pregnant, I began to not only look more critically at the way that food was grown and processed, but also at the way we impact the environment as a whole. This is often the case when you realize you're going to be a parent, you start to self-evaluate, because your values ultimately affect your child. What kind of child did I want to raise? What was important to me that I wanted my child to value? I have a son, he just turned 5, I have come to have a new appreciation for everything, and have worked hard to teach him to appreciate things, and value them. Though it's a hard lesson to teach a kid, less IS more, and you should value the things you have. Learn to want the things you have, and also learn to distinguish between needs and wants. This is a work in progress, however, these are the things I determined to be important to me. I am not just raising another consumer. I don't want my child to be concerned with material things, I want him to be compassionate and caring and spend his energy on more rewarding pursuits than the pursuit of more stuff.

There is more to you than the stuff you own. So many people are devastated when they have a house fire and they lose everything, but are you really the things in your house? I have tried to downsize, and living in a small one-bedroom apartment this past year has taught me to really evaluate what I truly need. Live simply. How much space do you really need, how much furniture, how much clothing? I have constantly asked myself these questions over and over, and ultimately it is leading me to the path of living in a smaller house, I am enamored of the tiny house movement. Do I really need cable, a smart phone, wireless internet, and air conditioning? I am slowly getting rid of all these things from my life. I don't need to use as many resources as I do, I can downsize, and I can start producing food for myself and my family. I can fix things rather than replacing them, I can re-purpose things that are beyond repair. Through this I also free up money, which will allow me to work less. In terms of work less is most definitely more. The more time I have to myself, the more time I have with my family, the more stable my way of life will ultimately be. I think one of the greatest problems with society is the amount that we work, that we spend commuting to and from work, and the amount of time we spend trying to just de-stress once we get home from these jobs that, let's face it, most of us cannot stand.

I want to simplify, I want to revive old crafts and skills, my dream is to have my own homestead. I have been slowly collecting information, finding better ways to do things, sketching plans. I can't tell you how many hours I have spent reading, and researching on the internet. Everyone should have this information available to them. Anyone who wants to stop merely consuming and start producing should have the information available to them and thankfully we have the internet for that. So, in conclusion, this blog is going to be my space to share sketches, photos, recipes, plans, information, tutorials, and anything else I come across as I start to intensively move toward my ultimate life goal. So I hope this can be not only an inspiration to some, but also a resource of a variety of things involved in a journey from being purely a consumer to being more self-sufficient.