Sunday, October 26, 2008

keeping the harvest

With freezing temperatures eminent, I spent a couple hours in the garden yesterday, harvesting what I could. That included a pile of dry beans, carrots, fennel, parsley, bee balm, a laundry basket and canner full of tomatoes (!), mostly green, and enough lemon balm to make a big carboy of wine, plus 2 quarts of tea. I cooked up the ripe tomatoes and with what I had cut up previously & added 6 quarts of tomatoes to the pantry. The remainder of the bag of apples Dave & Dorothy (Don's parents) gave us made 4 and a half quarts of delicious apple sauce/butter, and the cores are fermenting into apple cider vinegar. We shelled scarlet runner beans yesterday to save for seed. My friends Patrick and Abby helped me cut green tomatoes, and now 5 gallons are soaking overnight to be made into pickles tomorrow. Green tomato pickles are one of my favorite childhood foods. Still a lot to do, including find/acquire some more canning jars.

Patrick brought over some leftover mushroom soup and other culinary goodies. It was a delighted crowd of eaters. Merry brought her neighbor's homemade salsa and some chips, plus a jar of hot and spicy pickled beets. Otherwise we have been eating on some white bean and scarce vegetables chicken broth soup, with rosemary. It's pretty good. It's starting to be good soup weather! It's been great cooking on the woodstove again.

Here is Kaleigh in her first two Halloween outfit choices. Dressed as a pioneer (left), she attended the Where the Wild Things Are event at the Illinois State Museum today. She & Don saw a cool owl show, went on a scavenger hunt, and had a pretty good, although stimulating, time. The outfit on right is Kaleigh as a queen, and she attended the (crowded) farmers market costume contest. Although she was one queen of many at the farmers market, she was the only pioneer at the museum. Hooray for homemade outfits and original ideas. Kaleigh and I went to the free festival downtown yesterday also. It was a bit stimulating as well, with lots of sugared up kids, and a lot of time spent waiting in line. We got to go on two hay rides, which was very strange (daylight, lots of traffic, pavement in every direction). No one fell off that I have heard.

When I was a kid we used to have harvest parties, when there was a full moon in October. We'd have a big bonfire, and roast marshmallows and hot dogs. There was a lot of potluck food also. When the moon rose, we'd go on a hay ride, with my grampa on the tractor. It was great fun. These would often take place after a day of cutting wood up in the hills, taking down a few dead trees and cutting them up to provide my grandparents with a winter's worth of fuel.

And now a pile of dishes are awaiting me in the kitchen, to clean up for further culinary adventures tomorrow. In the cold and breezy day of tomorrow promise, Kaleigh starts her first culture club class, and will go to another free and open swim after homeschooling swimming class ends. And then a warm kitchen!


Friday, October 24, 2008

so much beauty it can make you cry

Reading the headlines can sure make you depressed. The economic system of the planet is tanking, global climate change is coming on faster & stronger than scientists' models predicted, education is making children hate learning (the trademark of being human!), and so on. So when I hear about beautiful things, I get excited.

In Pasadena, California, the Dervaes family is making a living on their 1/5 acre city lot, producing 6000 pounds of food last year. They encourage the 100 foot diet. They live an inspired life, and their contentment shows. They live simply, but intently. And it's not impossible for any of us to live this way.

If you're interested in learning more about the Dervaes family, there's a lot on youtube. Additionally, check out the blog at Their web presence is at I am hopeful to be able to get through interlibrary loan a movie about them. The trailer is at

Anais Dervaes says she feels like she was born in the wrong time, that she identifies with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Me as well. I don't like electrically powered kitchen noise, convenience foods, or microwaves. They're unnecessary to worthwhile living. The thrill I get opening up a pantry with shelves bursting with canned garden produce is probably the same feeling someone else would get browsing for a new car. I can't help but be different.

I've been reading a book by William Coperthwaite called A Handmade Life. It's a beautiful book. I enjoy that he talks about all the beauty you can see and feel, and that beauty should be something of abundance in our lives, not scarcity. I like his idea that "we must learn to see beauty in our neighbors living well". You can be sure by "well" he doesn't mean in McMansions with giant lawns, but well in a sense that they are cared for by us and by each other, and have enough. Even though we live in a ghetto, I am constantly amazed by the beauty I see. It's mostly the human interaction that reaches me, people caring about each other in a way that I never saw when I worked a job for a living. These people are so rich, so wealthy in human interaction and love and beauty. I feel privileged to live in such a place.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

stacking functions

One of the permaculture design ideas is called stacking functions, and this is an example. This woodstove not only heats our house, it functions as a cookstove and a dryer. It also warms up the wine so that we can brew into the chilly months. The woodstove has been getting a winter preview the last week. We've been soooo toasty.

Our friend Dan brought over a hydraulic wood splitter, and we were able to split a cord or two of wood, including almost all the large stumps that were lining our driveway. We are now down to the huge stackpile in our back yard, what used to be the giant elm, and that is all that is left to be split. The same day, our friend Steve brought over his drill & he and Don drilled holes and set the faucets for a couple of rain barrels. Don is considering overflow methods, and then this project will be a functioning part of our homestead.

I have canned 25 quarts of tomatoes for this winter. I have another four quarts in the refrigerator, waiting until the day comes when I make applesauce & get the canner out. The tomato plants are still producing big beautiful tasty tomatoes, but the colder weather has slowed them down. Frost is imminent, of course, and we shall see how it goes. I am hoping to make a big batch of green tomato pickles when the time comes. We also have quite a few carrots out in the garden to dig up. The big pan on the woodstove in the picture above is chicken stock soup. I made stock a few days ago, and it's been overflowing the refrigerator. Today I cut up most of the vegetables in the house & made a hefty pile of soup. I am going to fill up the freezer & we'll eat the rest.

Our friend Mike brought over a pile of dumpstered bread from his step-dad (who only likes white bread). We've had a pile of cheese to go with it. We also plowed through the pile of eggs from our friend Shannon & our friends Matt & Debbie from the farmers market. We've been chowing, on good food. We've been drinking wine also: raspberry, plum, peach. There's only a couple of farmers markets left.

I went to a knitting group last night and had a good time. There are several experienced knitters, and I am hopeful to make another pair of wearable socks, and learn how to sew a pattern. Today I went to a meeting today with the pastor of a church down the street. He is interested in starting a garden to supplement their food pantry. What a great idea! I am hopeful this will be a fruitful venture, and I like that it is only a block from my house.

Community, that's our wealth. It's wealth that expands with each interaction. It doesn't get scarce, only more plentiful. Even if the U.S. economy tanks, community can get stronger and more abundant. I count my blessings. They are many.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

mo money

Couldn't help but chuckle at this headline:

US debt clock runs out of digits

That was when it went woosh! over ten trillion, but no worries, they are adding two more zeroes. It'll soon be able to record a quadrillion dollars in debt. I have no idea what that means. I was barely comprehending billion when trillion started being bandying about. And now, for the first time in my life, I see quadrillion mentioned as an actual "for real" item. (Well, except that money is all pretend & it's one of the big con games they don't want you to find out about.) I wonder how many years before they'll have to add more digits. And how many more after that we're pushing around wheelbarrows of worthless paper to buy bread.

Where is all this money coming from that we are supposedly giving to the banks? The U.S. no longer relies on the gold standard, but the value of our money is backed by the U.S. economy. Does that mean our money is worth less, or even worthless? Certainly, the more they invent to grease the wheels of commerce, the less any of it has in make-believe value. I'm not sure why the stability of our neighborhoods and communities should be based on the ability of banks to loan money.

And in Cook County, Illinois, the sheriff is not enforcing any more evictions. Now there's someone who's going to get a lot of votes come election time!


Thursday, October 2, 2008

and these are the superpowers of our lives

I didn't see this reported in the american online news I follow, which is cnn. But this is some of what the bbc had to say about what we're not quite aware of, yet:

US superpower status is shaken

By Paul Reynolds
World affairs correspondent, BBC News website

US Congress
Will Uncle Sam still bestride the world in future?
The financial crisis is likely to diminish the status of the United States as the world's only superpower.

On the practical level, the US is already stretched militarily, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and is now stretched financially.

On the philosophical level, it will be harder for it to argue in favour of its free market ideas, if its own markets have collapsed.

Pivotal moment?

Some see this as a pivotal moment.

The political philosopher John Gray, who recently retired as a professor at the London School of Economics, wrote in the London paper The Observer: "Here is a historic geopolitical shift, in which the balance of power in the world is being altered irrevocably. The era of American global leadership, reaching back to the Second World War, is over... The American free-market creed has self-destructed while countries that retained overall control of markets have been vindicated. In a change as far-reaching in its implications as the fall of the Soviet Union, an entire model of government and the economy has collapsed. How symbolic that Chinese astronauts take a spacewalk while the US Treasury Secretary is on his knees."


I read elsewhere that rumors are circulating about a week-long bank holiday, and read the encouragement to have food on hand & necessary paper money around. I happened to buy a stash of bus cards the other day, and my pantry is full. I can survive pretty well without money for weeks at a time, so I'm not worried. My bank is also somewhat small and local, and I have practically no money invested in it!