Sunday, August 29, 2010

Making My Way

We're beginning to see the first glimpses of that wonderful promise of approaching autumn.  The days are warm, the nights are cool and when I wake up in the morning, I've needed a blanket or two the night before.  This is probably my second favorite time of year, when the days are still warm enough to enjoy swimming at the beach, but the nights are cool enough for a sweater...lovely!

I got to thinking this morning as I pulled out one of my many autumn inspired cookbooks, that I needed to add to my homesteading skills.  To be a homesteader...someday.  But, what I came to realize is that to some extent, I'm already there.  I'm getting ahead of myself a bit though, let me back this up so I can explain.

See, I guess my homesteading skills really began when I was a child.  I was the last of three and that being the case, I think my parents were more confident in their parenting skills enough to let me sorta figure a lot of things out for myself.  Or, perhaps they were just tired of explaining everything by the time it came to my turn, either way, it worked out pretty well for me on some levels.  I've always been a very independent person, even as a child, I don't think I was clingy or needy.  Quite young, I learned to make things happen for myself and not wait around for someone else to do it for me.  That's a skill that is completely invaluable for any person.  One we're trying so hard to teach our youngest who will just whine and complain until someone gets sick of it enough to do whatever it is for him.  But, that's a whole 'nother blog topic for another day. 

I was able to figure out how to ride horses when there was no money to buy or board one.  I swapped labor for meager riding time until I was graced by a friend to ride her pony she had outgrown.  Then, it moved on from there and when I outgrew that pony, another horse presented itself for my care, then when that one left, another, until I was able to free lease a horse of my "own".  I had Dixie for 2  years and it was the best two years of my childhood.  And, honestly, with the grace of God and a whole lot of sweat and tears on my part, I learned an amazing amount about how hard work and perseverance really pays off.  I was a very hard working child, I don't think anyone can dispute that.

My parents also believed that we were to work around the house.  No free rides in our home, for sure.  My parents both worked full time and that being the case, we girls were left with a hearty set of chores that needed doing.  I learned to cook and clean and wash clothes and dishes at a young age. Of course, at the time, I hated every minute of it (well, except for the cooking part), but those were skills that were invaluable to me as an adult and mother to my own two miscreants. As an early teenager, my father taught me to chop wood, and stack it, effectively, so it wouldn't fall over under a snow load.   Pretty funny now that I don't know how he learned that skill.  He grew up in the south and didn't need to know how to chop wood...I'm gonna have to ask him that.  But in any case, when it came time for Music Man and I to buy our first house (which heated primarily with wood from our own land), it was another invaluable skill.  Since Music Man had never needed to chop wood outside of a few camping trips with his buddies, he didn't know how to do that.  Guess who had the skills to teach him?  You guessed it, moi.  And he wasn't too proud to ask all the right questions and then run with the newly learned skill.  And now, he can wield a chainsaw like nobody's business, and I only taught him how to chop!  There is deep intrinsic value in being able to heat your home when you need to, having the skills beyond how to turn up the thermostat. 

I also believe that I got the homesteading bug early.  My parents went through a "back to the land" thing in the 70's.  I remember books in our home that included building a house into the side of a hill (I found that interesting even then and would look at those books a lot), as well as Mother Earth News subscriptions.  Yep, I guess they had some hippie gene in them somehow since they sold our house, renovated a bus into a camper of sorts and took us on the trip of a lifetime up the east coast for 3 months to decide where they wanted to settle next.  As an adult, I realize how daring that was, but then it just seemed exciting.  We visited people they "met" through placing an ad in Mother Earth News and we met some interesting and great people along our travel.  Once we flipped a coin (and I do mean literally, it was between Kentucky and NH and the nickel came up NH), we settled into a life that I don't think became as self sufficient as they wanted, but was interesting just the same. 

Now, I've taken those skills and residual inclinations and formed a life uncommon, I do believe.  Though we have many modern conveniences, and I don't shun them when I need them, cause I love my laptop and my washing machine, I also have skills that are from generations before me.  I can split and stack cords of wood (with an axe mind you, not a splitter), I am able to can tomatoes and a host of other fruits, I can pickle peppers (hehehe, but really, I'm able) and cukes and make jams and jellies.  Preserving food is a huge part of homesteading, in my opinion.  In my childhood of making money to support my horse, I learned how to muck a stall, collect the eggs and get goats and sheep back into the pen that are wandering in the neighbor's garden.  I can cook just about anything I want to, including complicated dishes and simple fare.  I don't believe in chicken nuggets from a box or a Mcwhatever...I make my own from fresh chicken and breadcrumbs and eggs laid fresh that morning, and my kids gobble them up.  I know how to start a fire, even when the wood isn't always perfectly dry, I can sew quilts, clothes, curtains, whatever I need for my home.  I have figured out how to grow a respectibly successful garden.  I can bake bread.  I know to save up water in left over juice bottles because when the power goes out (and it will my friends, it's winter in New England), we have no pump.  Still need water even without a well pump, so better start saving up beforehand.  Running to the grocery store to empty water shelves after everyone beat you to it just doesn't do.  I know to keep candles and lanterns handy, as well as the hand crank weather radio and flashlights for those times as well.  I can read the position of the sun to know what time of day and year it is.  And the list goes on.  But, you get my drift.

I decided today that even though I don't have the chickens yet (we hope they are coming in the spring) or the big garden (ditto on the garden), I do have many of the skills I need to call myself a homesteader.  We don't have the barn, or the acreage, or the animals, but I have the skills to know what to do with them once we do have them, and for that I am thankful and perhaps a little proud.  Most of these skills I taught myself and have been able to pass on to others (I'm teaching my dear friend how to can tomato sauce next weekend and have taught a couple of my nieces to sew...and well, my kids are getting the benefit of it all.  They are already pretty good cooks in their own rights). 

I decided to stop thinking about the homestead in the future and just allow that I'm already a homesteader...with skills yet to learn.

Wishing you some self-sufficiency of your own, ~Peacemom

Saturday, August 21, 2010

And, Today's Offering Is...

Grapes!!  Is this not the coolest?  Music Man spotted these growing on the side of our driveway about 2 weeks ago when there were but meek and green.  I went to check on them today...


They are wild, gonna keep our eyes out for more.  We tasted them, and though the skins are super bitter, the "meat" is quite sweet.  So fun!  Gives a new feeling to hunting and gathering, does it not?

Wishing you purple orbs of happiness, ~Peacemom

Here's something else I've discovered...

I truly love my kids dirty.  It means that they've been outside in the sun and fresh air.  At the end of the day, if there's dirt streaking down the tub when the shower starts up, I know they had a day worth living. 

Dirty feet means exploration in my mind.

Wishing you dirty feet of you own, ~Peacemom

Friday, August 20, 2010


My sister would truly appreciate this...these look like Autumn in a bowl!  I got 7 organic peppers today, yellow, orange and red and cut them all up in a big, lovely, colorful bowl and then placed them in bags and promptly stuck them in the freezer.  These will be excellent in a variety of dishes this winter!

And this is only part of the haul from the CSA today...patty pan squash, heirloom tomato (no, it's not unripe, it's supposed to be orange, that's part of it's beauty!), beets, corn, lacinto kale and russian red kale, along with lemon cukes and green beans.  All organic, all local!! My favorite thing about summer is how wonderful the food is this time of year, soooo good.  This is the time of year that I have mixed emotions about, despise the heat, but sure do love the local food.  Ahhhh, harvest time is the best!

Please, please, your tastebuds a favor, get to that farmer's market today!

Wishing you some wonderful, local harvest of your own, ~Peacemom

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sometimes, I Get To Wondering...

about things and the way the world works, and why some things happen to others and not to us.  That includes the good and bad in life, of course.  Like for instance, my husband, who is a truly great person and an equally great employee has been laid off 4 times in the 12 years we've been together.  Why?  It's not for the quality of work he performs, he always gets glowing reviews, it's not for any tangible reason that we can distinguish.  And, it is starting over every single time he gets laid off.  We get some money built up while he's working, feeling pretty good with some stability and then WHAM!  He gets laid off again, and we're back to square one as we go through the savings just to survive.  He's been laid off since January and isn't having any luck with a new job.  Not for lack of trying, let me tell you.  We're both pretty tired out from the effort of making it work all the time.  And now, we've got 4 mouths to feed instead of just our own.  The pressure is tremendous.

I also wonder why, when things seem to go to hell, we're blessed with some pretty great things, too.  Like for instance, we were in a bad way with the last house we rented. You all know the story, a river running through it for three solid months in the spring, the consequential mold and mildew issues that caused horrendous allergies in us all, and just a feeling of doom in that house and with few rentals in our town, not sure what to do.  So, we waited out the lease.  But in the midst of that, we were approached by our friends who had just purchased this little house, and asked if we were interested in renting it.  It needs some work and TLC, but they are charging us less for rent then they could get from some other people, and we're very thankful.  The timing of it all couldn't have been more perfect, honestly.

When it came time to move, we were low on funds, so no movers.  Though we did have to do about 95% of it ourselves (and man, you don't know bone tired until you have to move so much stuff for days on end), we had the help of friends and my sister and her girls came to lend a hand as well.  Our dear friend lent us the use of his trailer and our other friend that came to help Music Man move the heavy stuff had a trailer as well.  We were able to move all of our stuff using those two trailers, so no truck rental.  All angels for us in a time we really needed some help.

On the longest and final day of the move, Music Man's car died.  Would not start, totally dead.  I called the garage that usually works on our cars and the tow truck guy said he was down in Mass and would stop on his way up to NH.  We had tried to jump the car with our mini van, to no avail.  The tow truck guy drove up, had a little portable jump start machine and it started right up.  Now, we know, a lot of other guys would have just towed it, causing us to not only pay the fee for the towing, but also the mechanics would have worked on it as well.  They will usually charge a $50 fee for coming to the house, but he just looked at us and said, "I was never here".  We thanked him profusely and I started to cry as I watch him pull down the driveway.  Another angel for us, and he didn't have any idea what his kindness meant to a couple of bone tired, middle aged parents.  Really, just angels. 

My mother-in-law, who was laid up with a broken ankle took the kids for an afternoon for us allowing them some time away from the stress of it all.  Angel in a cast.

And I honestly could not say enough thanks to our children.  They were amazing the last day of the move.  They literally played together for almost 14 hours straight while we moved stuff.  And hardly fought.  And didn't tease each other, and Maestro helped in whatever way he could by helping Little Red when he needed it.  He earned his Perfect Big Brother award that day, my friends.  They were golden and amazing and I will remember that for the rest of my days. 

And the work my husband put into that whole experience.  He amazes me with his abilities.  He's not a big, burly guy (though, really, some sexy legs, but that's a whole 'nother blog :^), but when he sets his mind to accomplishing things, there's nothing he can't do.  I am just amazed at how much he moved, sweated, worked and wore himself out for our family  Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and he's one for our little family unit for sure.  I am never more in love with him then when I see him giving selflessly of himself for us.  And he does it  A LOT.  Yes, a large portion of the stuff he moved was in fact his (he's a bit of a packrat, okay, a LOT of packrat), but I honestly feel that he's finally seeing that it is more baggage that he doesn't need to keep moving.  And every time we move, he purges.  He was able to donate about 8 boxes of books, and that's a big deal for him.  He loves books, no...really loves books.  When we moved from our first house, we left probably 1,000 books behind for the new owners (they wanted them, we're not inconsiderate or anything like that). I used to have lots of books, too.  But, my moving into "less" and simplicity started about 7 years ago.  I just had a shift in my consciousness that allowed me to let go of things.  And I've never been very materialistic anyways.  Perhaps it was growing up without a lot, but I have little need for extraneous things in life.  I digress, I was talking about Music Man.  And, so, it is with deep thanks in my heart that I realize he's seeing that there is less of a need for "things" that he holds onto for some deep seated need, to keep what he has.  I'm truly happy and thankful for that because I don't want the weight of that baggage in my life either.  Time for it to go.

We have a HUGE yard here that we have to mow ourselves.  We weren't sure how that was going to happen.  A friend of mine recently sold her home. With this, she has a bunch of stuff she didn't need any more as she's wanting to move into a condo where they will mow and shovel for her.  She had a riding mower she was selling.  Now, money here is really tight (you can hear the last scream out of that penny I had to stretch if you listen closely), enough so that I wasn't sure how we could buy the mower, but I told her we'd like to take a look at it.  She sent me an email saying if we want it, it's ours.  Out of the blue, she just said, I want to do this for you, let me do this, it will make me happy.  I kid you not, my friends, I went into the bathroom at work and cried.  That was a kindness that we so badly needed and for her to just offer that, no strings attached meant the absolute world to me.  Selfless indeed, and another angel for our family. 

Sometimes, it's in the darkest times that we are given the most precious gifts of love. 

I see that now.

Blessings to you when you need them, ~Peacemom

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Oh and...

Went back to the doctor this week and happily learned that my blood pressure was a sunny 115/75...breathing a bit easier now.  I do feel it, I knew it was better as I've been overall feeling healthier and having less problems in the evening now with pains and such.  I'm sure it also helped that I've dropped 18 pounds in the last 7 weeks.  Feeling pretty good about that too...getting those necessary steps to better health in the forefront one struggling way or another!

Weekend Work Is Never Done

Hello All,

After a truly lovely day at the beach with some dear friends yesterday, today it's back to the work of homesteading.  I'm in the process of learning those all important homesteading skills.  This is the one I practiced today:  canning peaches.  We have a place about 2 miles from our house that grows the MOST incredible peaches.  The juiciest, sweetest, most wonderful peaches I've ever had.  I brought a bunch to the beach yesterday, and we all pigged out on them.  My friend could not believe such delicious peaches are grown right near my house.  She's not a local shopper, per se, and so I think I maybe I may, just may be making a convert of her.  No one seemed to mind the juice dribbling down their chins, fingers or arms!  So delicious. 

I also was instructing Maestro in the fine art of canning peaches.  He's at the age where he wants to help with things, and since most of this job is not suited to him (sharp paring knives and boiling water the culprits), I gave him the task of stirring the bubbles out of the jars before the lids went on (he really liked the whole wooden chopstick thing), and he also measured the head space to be sure I had 1/2 inch between the lid and the fruit.  I'm gonna make some kinda chef out of him yet, he loves to cook.  And I look at it this way, perhaps he'll provide these things for me when I'm too old to do it for myself.  One can only hope!

We have a neighbor who's name I do not know.  One of these days, I'm hoping to meet them in person.  They own a gorgeous house and barn and one horse to enjoy it.  They also have a wonderful vegetable garden which is displaying it's bounty in earnest.  They so kindly leave a big bench out in front of the barn, where they have placed their excess produce from the garden.  Along it is a "FREE VEGGIES!" sign.  I am not one to pass up fresh veggies to start with and honestly, the whole free thing is quite a bonus, but I'm so loving that my neighbor would leave those out for anyone who might want them.  Such a wonderful, neighborly thing to do!!  I look forward to driving by to see what is offered  up and I will stop and snag a few things if I know we will use them...but I never take all of it.  I want other neighbors to have the same opportunity they are granting me. 

This is the lovely corn that they left yesterday along with a HUGE zucchini!  I grabbed one the other day and we enjoyed some muffins for breakfast, so yummy!

And these are some wonderful tomatoes and cucumbers that were there a couple of days ago.  I stopped today to pick up a few more and will make some sauce to freeze soon.

As far as getting more things ready for winter, I did manage to get 24 cups of blueberries frozen up that we picked last weekend and today I froze some string and wax beans which I got at the farmer's market.  I have many more bags of beans to buy, but just bought what I knew I'd have time to process today.  So much work, so little time! 

Wishing you the pleasures of the hand made life, ~Peacemom

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Preserving the Harvest

For those of us who put food by for the winter, this is a busy time of year.  It's been tremendously hard for me to try to do this while we are in the midst of moving.  I did get some strawberry jam made, but usually by now, I've got many pounds of blueberries in the freezer for some midwinter treats (like pies and muffins and such).  I do hope to get out blueberry picking tomorrow.  I also usually have peas and carrots in the deep freeze and many ears of corn off the cob in bags ready for the snow fly.  This year, I'm very behind in such things.

Today, I managed to procure some wonderful shell beans from the local farmer's market.  Though they are not organic (there are NO organic farmers markets in our area, grmph), they are lovely.  I bought some last year and froze them and used them in a stew or two in the winter time.  I found them to be a bit hard, even after stewing for a little while, so this year, I decided to learn a better way to preserve them for freezing.  The advice called for blanching for 4 minutes prior to freezing.  Ah!  I should have known to do this as I blanch most everything else I freeze, but it didn't occur to me that shell beans needed the same treatment.

Above are the beans in all their glory.  I purchased them at the farm stand and I thought they looked so interesting, I just had to get them.  So glad I did, they are delicious!  This is a shot of the pods along with what the beans look like once shelled.

I just love all the different variations of color of the beans. The pods and beans both look as if they were painted in watercolor.  A very artistic bean they are!  Once cooked, they go almost pastel, a few different shades of pastel that are almost a gray color with a little pink intermingled.

A collandar of empty pods.  I truly find the textures, colors and feel of the produce so interesting.  Cooking is such a sensory activity, and being able to take the food from pod to table is a treat.  The fact that I can preserve it the day it is picked is also very satisfying to me.  I am truly hoping that next year, there will be a picture of the beans I planted with my own hands gracing this page.  For this year, I'm happy to have the local, fresh goods to preserve for the seasons to come.  If you have a farmer's market or stand near you, do yourself a favor and stop and get the best of what there is to offer this time of year.  Even "locally grown" items at the supermarket were not picked fresh that morning, I guarantee.  You'll get the peak of nutrition and flavor when you buy at the farm stand directly, and you get the satisfaction of knowing that you're supporting the farmer in your town.  It's a win-win proposition, I'd say!

Wishing you fresh produce (and shell beans!), ~Peacemom

New Home

Hello All,

We are finally in and living in a sea of boxes.  It was by far the hardest move we've made to date with the amount of work we did ourselves.  I swear, I will never look at movers the same way again! I've been making progress with putting things away, but Music Man and I have determined that we still have way too much stuff.  This house is definitely putting to the forefront the need to pare things down even further.  I already have a couple of bags worth of stuff for the "Still Good Shed" at the transfer station, and Music Man donated about 9 boxes of books.  Since meeting me, he's really come a long way in getting rid of the stuff that he now realizes is more baggage then it is necessary.  It's a work in progress.

The new kitchen is very small, and it's going to be challenging for me to function our mostly made-from-scratch meals from it, but I'll get a system down and figure it out.  I don't have a choice.  I've also decided that instead of using so many of my hobbies (Oh, I have many, many hobbies!!), I'm going to be concentrating on my cookbook and photography for the next two years while we are in this house.  I decided that it's time to see if that cookbook will ever get to a publisher and if not, then to retire the desire to write it.  We'll see what happens from here. 

The boys playroom is going to be in the basement.  We figured it would be done when we moved in, but it was not and now the boys are living with a few cars to play with and their bikes while the rest of their toys remain in boxes waiting for the completion of the playroom.  We're hoping in the next couple of weeks it will be done.  Just in time for them to go to school!

I am putting some pictures here of the flora and fauna around our new home.  Once upon a time, someone really loved this home as the landscaping that is now horribly overgrown shows some thought and great care in it's planting.  I had fun walking around snapping photos, hope you enjoy them!

Not sure what type of flower this is, sort of looks like a hybiscus, I think.

Pretties lillies, not sure what kind.

Queen Anne's Lace, so lovely!

Not sure, any suggestions?

Thistle growing in the field behind the house, busy bee busy at work!

And, we have fruit trees!  Here is the peach tree that grows apricot size peaches, so terribly sweet!  But, the woodpeckers have discovered them also and got to most of them before we did.

Along with 3 different apple trees!  They have not been sprayed or tended to at all in years, so though they are organic, they are rough around the edges.  I can sauce them, just the same and can't wait to pick our own apples this fall!

Not sure what type of berry this is, any ideas?  Can I make jam with them?  There are some black and some red, just the same.
Don't know what these are either (I've got a lot to learn, huh?), but I love how they look like little oranges all in bunches.  Also giving me the autumn color I love, so they have a dear place in my heart already.

And, alas, nothing's ever perfect.  This is the swimming pool next to the house.  We hope to get it up and running next summer, but for now, this is what it looks like.  The frogs are very fond of it and have had many tadpole babies in it.  Gross.

Thanks for enjoying some images of my new home.  So far, it's good, we're gonna like it here.

Staying sane in the sea of boxes, ~Peacemom