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Archive for November, 2008

Herbal Coasters

Many of us will be giving gifts in the coming month for a variety of holidays.  For those tea, coffee, and hot cocoa, (maybe even the hot buttered rum drinkers) why not consider making and giving bundles of these herbal coasters.

You’ll need the following materials to make one coaster:

  • 2 – 6″ square pieces of fabric
  • 2 – 5 1/4″ square pieces of cotton batting
  • Dried herbs/spices of some sort  – think lavender, chamomile, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, etc.

Place one square of your fabric on your work table, wrong side up.  Place one piece of the batting in the center of that square of fabric.  Sprinkle your dried herbs lightly over the surface over that batting, don’t let it get too deep, you want your drinks to sit evenly on the finished coaster.  Place the other piece of batting on top of your herb covered batting.  Next place your fabric, right side up on the top of the batting.  Pin in all together to keep the fabric and batting in place.  Sew the coaster together using a straight stitch, using a 3/8″ seam allowance, on all four sides.  Trim the edges with pinking shears to keep your coasters from fraying and giving it a slightly decorative touch.

Consider bundling four together with a decorative ribbon.  Add a pretty tag with this poem: 

Herbal coasters, do your thing,

Harmony, joy, and comfort bring

To all who rest their mugs on you
Make their worries far and few
Perhaps package it together with some favorite coffee or tea.  Homegrown dried mint for tea would be great too.

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Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by emphelan

On the last episode of the Survivalist series, I was asked to talk a little bit more about the throwing knife. I picked up my first throwing knife when I was 15 years old.
wp-th-11
When I was a young Goth girl, I was fascinated with knives, swords, long bows and the like. My Masquerade character was dressed to the hilt with all odds of weaponry. Yes, I was an RPG geek in the day. I showed up at a Flea Market, dress in combat boots, bright green corduroys, and Cure shirt and purple hair, wondering around looking at the sad state the the majority of booths were in. One vendor had this strange collection of dragon statues, old records and steel weapons. I always thought that he too was a RPG geek like myself, just older. I was fingering one of his expensive knives when he approached me. No doubt thought I was going to pocket it. But I digress, the man approached me and asked if I had knew how to throw. I told him no, and then asked him in my teen angst disgust, does he? He chuckled and held a finger up for me to wait a moment. Then walked away to talk to someone else. He than came back, picked up, not the expensive ones and beckoned me to follow. Ok, we you are surviving on your own, I really don’t suggest following a strange man into an alley that is carrying knives, but, it was a good thing that I did. For this was my first encounter with the art of knife throwing. As soon as we stepped out the back, he threw the knife before my eyes could grasp what was happening and stuck the knife beautifully into a box. He turned and smiled down at me. He walked over, pulled the knife, and handed it to me. Without any instructions, but to throw, the knife slipped sweetly out of my fingertips, and bounced off the box, landing on the concrete.

Of course this was embarrassing, but it was a start, and when you are first learning, knives bouncing off your target will be common place. This man in the Flea Market spent a good hour with me. Showing me and lecturing me in the art of knife throwing. It’s concept is simple, stick the knife into the heart of your target, quickly, smoothly and efficiently.

First we need to talk about weight. I would never buy a knife online, simply because you need to feel the weight. Even machine made knives will have a slight difference in balance. You want to feel that difference. In the beginning you want a knife that weighs about 200g, anything lighter will be hard to control, anything heavier will strain your fingers. Take your knife by the handle, between your thumb and index finger, point the blade toward the ground. Now jerk your arm down in the direction your knife is pointing in, if the handle wobbles or the knife comes out of your fingers, it is too heavy for you. You also need to check the balance of the knife. It should be in its center, or a hair off in either direction. Balance your knife on your index finger, until you find that balance. If the handle is too heavy, you will not get predictable throws. If one side is heavier than the other and you love the knife anyways, always grasp and throw the lightest end. Don’t worry about getting cut. Throwing knives have no sharp sides, only the point. And if you tend to obsess over things, do not buy a knife that allows you to balance it with weights.

As for how to throw, I read a great step by step article this morning. It sums it up and doesn’t take all the space here. How to Throw Knives on Knifethrowinginfo.com

As for my story, I didn’t end up with the, too pricey for a 15 year old, but I did pick up a cheaper set, one that I still have and use today.

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Luna Planting

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Howling Hill

Planting by the moon is an ancient way to plant, an ancient knowledge passed down from one generation to the next. And not just from human to human. Plants know when to seed, propagate, and rest due to their connection to Moon.

There are as many opinions on when to plant as there are gardeners. Gardening By the Moon states what to plant during which moon phase. While I don’t get as nuanced as they do, it’s mostly because I don’t have the space to be so specific so I put all my seeds into soil on a new moon though I do try to keep growing times in mind. That is, sunflowers and beans I don’t plant until closer to May because they grow so quickly they outgrow their containers and I have no other place to put them before they can go outside on Memorial Day Weekend (traditionally the time to plant in the ground in the Northeast; frost danger has passed by then).

The Basics

Earth revolves once a day; Moon orbits around Earth once every 29 1/2 days. It takes 365 days for Earth to revolve around Sun. The calendar is solar based. In the grand scheme of human time, this is a new invention. Prior to following a solar calendar most societies used a lunar calendar. Did you know the Islamic calendar is the only widely used lunar calendar still in existence?

Because it takes 29 1/2 days to rotate around Earth, Moon has a two extra days. Usually around August every three years, there is a blue moon. This is two full moons in a 30 day period. Because all things are balanced in nature, a black moon is when two new moons occur in the same 30 day period. There was a black moon this year in August. The next one will be in July 2011.

Vocabulary

New Moon A dark moon. That is, Moon cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Waxing Getting bigger.
Waxing Moon More of the Moon is visible. That is, she is growing.
First Quarter Half of the Moon is visible.
Waxing Gibbous Three-quarters of the Moon is visible.
Full All of the Moon is visible. Also, it’s the second quarter but no one really says that.
Waning Getting smaller.
Waning Gibbous (sometimes called “disseminating”) Three quarters of the Moon is visible.
Third Quarter Half of the Moon is visible. It’s not the same half as in the First Quarter, it’s the other half.
Waning Crescent (sometimes called “balsamic”) Getting smaller.

During each phase you’ll note the times Moon is visible. During the new moon, She rises and sets with Sun which is why Moon is not visible to the naked eye. While waxing Moon is visible late afternoon to early evening. During the first quarter Moon can be seen from noon to midnight. Waxing gibbous She rises before sunset. At the full moon, She awakens as Sun sets to slumber. Waning Gibbous Moon rises one hour later after sunset each night. The last quarter She rises at midnight and sets at noon. Lastly, during the waning crescent, she rises before dawn. (from We’Moon the 2007 calendar.)

If you’re like me, once the seed packages come in you get so darned excited it’s hard to keep yourself in check and not plant those little genetic packages of goodness right away. The cold weather and snow (thankfully?) keeps us in check here in the Northeast. In order to get my plants ready for their lives outside I plant seeds into small containers in the house on the new moon in February or March. Of course seeds will grow after put into soil no matter where Moon is in her phase but you’ll note the seeds propagate a little slower or faster in attempts to catch up with Moon.

While the formula is guideline not set in stone. The basic premise of planting by Moon is put seed in soil on the new moon, and by the crescent you’ll have sprouts. The first quarter you’ll note marked growth. By the gibbous your plant will have bud and flower by the full moon. Fruit comes during the disseminating moon, harvest during the last quarter, and compost during the balsamic period. Certainly there are exceptions to this rule. I can plant summer squash in May and not have fruit till August.

Moons also have names. I like to name them myself. For instance, June’s full moon is known as Strawberry Moon here on Howling Hill. I so named it because the alpine strawberries are fruited and sweet to my mouth and the local chipmunk population. Take on this small challenge next year: name all the full moons according to your locality and let us know what they are! Incidentally, the Beaver Moon just passed.

Planting by Moon is very rewarding. Doing so give you a visual queue as to where your plants should be in their growth cycle. It take a lot of the mystery out regarding when to plant and allows you to plan when to put seeds in the ground or soil containers. The biggest thing to keep in mind, and I already said it though it bears repeating, is to know (or have a good idea) of the growth rate of the plant you’re putting to seed. Large plants such as squash, pumpkin, beans, and some melons grow fast and big so plant those on the new moon closest to when said plant can move outside. Some slower growing (and smaller) plants can be put into soil much earlier.

The last thing I want to touch upon is when to pick your plants. Honestly, I do so when I find they are ready to be picked. I tried googling “harvesting moon” and “moon harvesting” but didn’t find anything relevant. If you have some ideas about harvesting in relation to Moon’s phase let me know. It’s not something I know enough about to write on.

Here’s a handy-dandy moon phase calendar you can put on your sidebar to help you keep track.

Moon graphic available at Moon Connection.

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the family medicine chest is an ongoing series on the fourth thursday of each month.

one of the best way to take your medicine, herbally speaking, is as an infusion. first, let’s get the definitions out of the way. tea is a beverage. it is generally made by heating water and steeping herbs for 2-10 minutes and then drank. it is enjoyed as a refreshment. teas can be made by the cup or by the pot. generally, only a teaspoon or so of herb is used.

infusions and decoctions can be enjoyed too but are generally stronger. they are always steeped for a longer time period for up to 10 hours. 6-8 is the average. infusions are generally made using leaves, flowers and aerial parts of the herb. decoctions are generally made with roots, bark and seeds. there are a few exceptions to this rule (valerian is usually infused because of the delicate nature of the volatile oils in its roots) but today, we are focusing on the generality.  infusions and decoctions are always made in batches (a potful). large amounts of herbs are used. infusions are generally used over time, often drank daily for months at a time. however, they can be used during short periods such as colds and flus as well. preparing the herbs in this manner maximizes the healing properties of the herb. it allows more constituents and minerals to be extracted.

the outcome of infusions and decoctions are the same but the means of getting there are a bit different.

to make an infusion, you’ll need a pot of boiling water (1 qt. of water), a quart jar with lid and your chosen herbs. start by filling the jar with about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of dried herbs (3/4 – 1 cup with fresh herbs). fill to the top with the water and seal. let it sit for 8 hours. strain off the herbs and store in the fridge if not drinking within 24 hours.

to make a decoction, you’ll need a pot of water (1 qt. of water), a quart jar with lid and your chosen herbs. measure out about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of herb and place in the pot of water. bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. pour herbs and water into quart jar and seal. let it sit for 8 hours. strain off the herbs and store in the fridge if not drinking within 24 hours. roots can generally be used for 2 brews.

a typical dosage for infusions and decoctions is 3-4 cups per day which is how much you’ll get out of the quart jar. since it is usually being taken on a daily basis over an extended period of time, i have found it’s best to brew the infusion in the evening before bed. place it on the counter and let it sit overnight. when you get up in the am, it’s ready to drink. it can be drank at room temperature, heated up or chilled. honey or natural fruit juice can be added to sweeten if desired. if you prefer it chilled, start the process a bit earlier and after it has cooled for about 30 minutes, place it in the fridge to steep overnight.

some typical herbs that are made in this manner include ginger root, nettles, raspberry leaf, oatstraw, alfalfa, lemon balm, plantain, rosemary and mint. brews can be made with single herbs (susun weed’s preferred method) or in formulas. if combining both roots and leaves, always decoct the roots first and then add the leaves after removing it from the heat. always use naturally grown/organic herbs since steeping herbs for such a long period will extract out pesticides like crazy (in my opinion, there is never a good time to use conventionally grown plants since herbs are very pest resistant). if you’re having problems coming up with combinations, do a search for herbal formulas online. generally, any formula for a tincture will work fine as an infusion/decoction. but don’t overdo it. it’s better to stay simple and allow one herb at a time.

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Who’s Your Farmer?

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Howling Hill

This post originally appeared on my personal blog Howling Hill on Saturday November 22, 2008. Thanks to Robbyn for allowing me to post it on her regular writing day. She’ll be back next Wednesday to entertain you all!

On the fourth Friday of the month Wolf and I get together with a local sustainable sustenance group for a potluck of local foods. Most months there is a lecture of some sort, this month was no different. Previous talks include bee keeping and beer making, this month it was Dr. John E. Carroll professor at University of New Hampshire. He’s written a bunch of things including Pastures of Plenty: The Future of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Conservation in New England and The Wisdom of Small Farms and Local Food: Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and Sustainable Agriculture.

As usual, the food was fantastic. Lots of local foods strewn together to fill our bellies with wonderful goodness. After we finished eating we listened to Dr. Carroll gave his talk. Though long it was very informative. I took notes so I’ll try and reconstruct what he had to say through my notes.

Meat goats are the oldest domesticated farm animal source on the planet. Goats are very utilitarian and have a variety of uses including meat, milk, pulling carts and rooting. By that I mean if you have stumps which need to be removed put a couple goats to work instead of yourself. In no time your little friends will get to work and have that stump lose enough to move without killing your back with a shovel and a pick.

Winter farmers markets are a necessity. If you think a winter farmers market is unfeasible in your area consider that New Brunswick, Labrador, and Price Edward Island all have winter farmers markets. Generally what’s sold at these markets are meat, dairy, tubers, preserves and canned food, season extenders, and food from hot and cold houses. Season extenders can be in ground or underground.

New Hampshire needs to become a grain producer again. Though coming back to NH grain is taking her sweet old time getting here despite having grain producing neighbors such as Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts. Grains can be used to make breads and beer. Microbrews are very much looking for local grain growers so they can market the beer as “truly” local. For example, right now a microbrew can produce its beer here in NH but can’t label it as “locally grown” because the grain comes from somewhere. If you’d like to grow grain (and not just here in NH but anywhere in the US and probably in other nations) but don’t think you’ll have a customer base, think again. Microbrews and local bread makers are seeking grain growers to partner with. Find a microbrew and ask if they want to form a partnership. An excellent author on grains is Wes Jackson.

The title of this post comes from the question he asked “who’s your farmer?” Dr. Carroll stated most people have a dentist, doctor, plumber, electrician, mechanic, and maybe an accountant and lawyer but do not have a farmer. He asked with a show of hands how many can say they have a farmer. Wolf and I put our hands up — Gitches Funny Farm is our farmer if you’re wondering — as did about half the room. Dr. Carroll believes having a farmer is more important than any other tradesperson. Without food there’s no need for a doctor, dentist, plumber, etc. Lastly what he said about this, which I found really interesting, is during the Depression just about everyone living in an urban area had a connection to a farmer through family or friend.

Michael Pollen, of course, came up. Maybe a quarter of the room had read one of his books and almost everyone has heard of Pollen. Pollen is quite well read in both senses. That is, Pollen reads quite a bit himself and others read his work veraciously. My notes are a little fuzzy here but I believe Pollen thinks New England best tool for open space, protecting land, etc is through small scale farming. Farming, as we all know, is ecological while maintaining green lawns is not. If you’re wondering where the capital of the localvores is, it’s the Champlain area of Vermont. Business are dedicated to local foods and wares, including hospitals and schools.

Dr. Carroll then went into a huge thing about UNH. Since I’m still so pissed at academia for scamming me I didn’t pay too much attention to this segment of his talk though he did say UNH has created a new major: Eco-gastronomy. It focuses on sustainable agriculture, nutrition, and business. My response that that is “that’s great. Can you get a job after?” Apparently this major was inspired by the slow food movement and has an exchange program in Italy.

He then got into the social aspects of farming and how it’s looked down upon by society. This was a huge shift from 50 years ago when farming was considered a great trade to get into. But as “Americans” wanted more wealth and less work they moved off the farms and into the suburbs to push paper around instead of manure. Doing so caused a huge shift in the way “Americans” perceive farming.

1500 is the average miles every molecule of food travels from production to belly and this includes local foods. In 2003 80% of the food we consume came on trucks and the other 20% on trains. In 1990 the numbers were closer. Food is stored for no more than 4 days in NH called “just in time” delivery. If for whatever reason food trucks can’t get to the supermarket there is only 3-4 days worth of food at the distribution centers which in NH is a small number of. There are no warehouses in NH with food stored in them.

There are 1.3 million people in NH. We can’t feed ourselves unlike Havana, Cuba which produces 50% of it’s own food including livestock.

Nationally we spend about 9.5% of income on food from the poor to the wealthy. Dr. Carroll believes we should be spending more like 20%. He purports it’s a question of will and not economics.

The local food movement is a social movement just like Civil Rights, Suffrage, Equality movements. Because of the energy crunch coming down the pike more food will have to be produced locally for people to live and survive. While VT and ME are ahead of NH regarding local food production, we are all learning how important local food is. We must start focusing on the towns we live in and not on the nation or the world. We can’t fix problems in India if we can’t feed ourselves in central New Hampshire. And while it’s all well and great we want to feed our Indian sisters, we have to feed ourselves first and we need to “re-localize” which means investing in the local economy not world economies. For me the scariest thing he said in this mini-lecture was how we won’t be traveling as much in the near future. Just the thought makes me feel trapped in a cage though I don’t do much traveling as it is.

Speaking of traveling, the US needs to get the train and bus system up and running again. Cars will become so expensive there is no way we’re going to afford the gas to go to Grandma’s for Christmas every year unless we get public transportation systems back to what they were in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The soil and grasses in New England are prime for grazing so says the good doctor. In the Colonial period, Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts wrote to King George and said New England has better grazing lands than Ireland which, at the time, was thought to be ultimate in grazing lands. Maybe Gov. Hutchinson just wanted King George to choose the colonies over Ireland to increase revenue. But it’s nice to be thought of as “the best in the world.”

Each of us who has land, no matter how little or big, must have an intimacy with said land. We need to learn about the wildlife which lives on it and travels through, above, and below it. We need to know all about the soil on the land we own and realize different parts of the plot has different types of soil.

Money needs to be spread from farmer to farmer and not just shop at one farm. Wolf and I are guilty of this. We spend money only at the Gitches. Doing so is a disservice to ourselves because we become dependent on one source. And as Stephanie likes to say “reliance on one thing makes you vulnerable.” We need to spread our money out a little bit more. Doing so will spread the wealth which is something he and I preach all the time.

As I stated up above, goats are great at opening up scrub forest. But so are pigs. The two work well together so don’t keep them separated if you don’t have to. And, go with heritage breeds. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir about the importance of heritage breeds (and heirloom seeds). Dr. Carroll is of the opinion the Devon cow is the best cow suited for New England weather. It can give birth without assistance, knows how to graze (which apparently has been bred out of the Holstein), and is a good producer of meat though not a lot of milk (though don’t quote me on that). Other important heritage breeds are the Katahdin sheep and Rhode Island Red chicken (and the New Hampshire Red) all of which are well suited for the cold, snowy New England winter.

Toward the end of the lecture, Dr. Carroll talked about Elliot Coleman and the seasonal extension books he’s written. Mr. Coleman lives in Maine so he knows a bit about cold weather. Mr. Coleman is considered a guru I guess.

Town Agricultural Commissions will become fundamentally important. Conceived of in Massachusetts, these commissions do not have the ability to enforce though they can advise on farming issues. Each town should/will have an Agricultural Commission. To learn more about them check this link out (PDF) and then click here to find out how to organize one (PDF). Basically, it’s a commission with an approach of education to the general public about farms and how to resolve small problems before they become big problems such as Ms. Farmer closes the road at 5p to let her cows cross the road which ties up traffic. There are not many here in NH though Lee has an excellent one.

One of the most interesting things I learned last night is women make up the majority of farmers in the world. Here in the United States that’s not the case though we’re catching up fast.

The only critique I have of Dr. Carroll’s talk was it was all very theoretical. He doesn’t offer any practical solutions at all. I asked him what he thought the obstacles were and he gave me a typical academic answer: Basically he spoke for a few minutes but didn’t say anything. He’s very intelligent and knowledgeable but he doesn’t garden so I have a hard time taking advice from someone who doesn’t practice what they preach or know first hand. It’s like a guy giving a gal advice on her period. But overall I did enjoy the lecture and took to heart some of what he had to say.

Kim if you’ve not heard of this group it meets in Laconia on the fourth Friday of the month. It seems right up your alley!

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Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Gina

turkey-001

This is a good week to share one of the most beneficial parts of a meat-based holiday meal: the bones! Instead of throwing away your turkey carcass this year, why not make some stock or soup. We all know we are in the midst of some lean times and, unlike the turkeys of my youth, no part should ever be wasted, in my opinion.

I feel like I am a little “preachy” towards the choir today. I’m sure you already know how tasty and easy home-made broth or stock can be (and I wrote about fish stock a few months ago here). I’m betting some of you learned to make broth from a childhood memory of the perpetual stock pot your grandmother or mother kept  on the stove or maybe you just started by experimenting with after-meal bones after reading something somewhere in your mid-thirties (guess which way I learned!) Either way, learning to make stock is one of the essential homesteading/homemaking skills to know, especially if you dabble in livestock or just eat an omnivorous diet. Besides, I believe it is important to remember that an animal gave its life for us to eat so we should honor it all the way down to its bones.
Broth is not only wonderful for soups, but easily digested and rich in minerals and other health goodies as well. It is essentially a type of medicinal tea made from bones. Among many other things, broth contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, glycine, collagen, amino acids, protein and sulfate. All of these are, of course, extremely essential for healthy minds and bodies.
Stock can be created from almost any type of bones. It starts with the leftover bones from dinner, some bits and pieces of meat or fat, leftover vegetable bits. Add a splash of vinegar or wine to help extract some of the minerals and such trapped in the bones. Cover with cold water (to extend the soaking period) and simmer the mixture for an extended period of time (anywhere from two hours for fish to all day or overnight for larger animal bones). Individual types of bone broths vary slightly in preparation, but this is the basics.
In many cultures, broth is the only major source of calcium in their diet. Many people are finding they cannot digest milk products and broth provides an excellent alternative. Making broth also stretches meats and bones can be bought quite inexpensively from a local butcher.
This holiday save the turkey carcass from the meals you make or attend (the ultimate doggie bag!) and make some broth. Here is an example of how broth from a carcass of bones can provide valuable protein and a mineral rich food resource, plus a bonus after-Thanksgiving meal.
Turkey Carcass Soup (A true slooow food soup)

 Step 1:

*1 turkey carcass (hopefully with some meat still attached)

*Left-over bits from vegetables cut for holiday meal

-(celery trimmings, carrot tops, onion parts)

*Garlic

*Bay leaf

*1-1/2 teas. Salt

*Pepper to taste

*Splash of vinegar or wine

*Cold water to cover

Break the turkey carcass into pieces and place in stock pot, crock pot, or Dutch oven. Add remaining ingredients. Bring mixture to boil (or just turn on crock pot!). Reduce heat to low (simmer), cover and cook for at least 2 hours (I go longer). Remove bones and allow them to cool (or burn your fingers). Pick off any meat and reserve.

Step 2:

*Vegetables of choice

-(carrots, onions, celery, sweet potatoes, parsnips, etc.)

*Spices of choice

Strain the broth and discard flavoring vegetables (I feed them to dogs for extra nutrients, but, of course, if you have yours on any special diet just discard). Put the broth back in stock pot and add vegetables of choice and cook until almost tender. Add noodles or rice and continue cooking until noodles or rice are tender. Add turkey meat and seasonings of choice (we like curry, pepper, and more garlic). I have also added cooked navy beans to this soup (yum!)

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That time already??

In the past weeks a trickle of seed catalogs has begun making their way to my mailbox. Of course I know (really KNOW) that it will turn in to a flood in the not too distant future. Not that I mind…but it does become overwhelming at times trying to remember which variety of this or that I will choose as I look through the ninetieth catalog and forget what I looked at in catalog number 47. Purple cabbage or green? Frilly leaves or smooth? Big or small? And lettuce choices seem to evolve in to a eeny meany miny moe situation at best, and tomato choices are so overwhelming it’s beyond comprehension at times.

And though I would love to have come to you with superb ideas on how to handle this problem….my post is not about keeping organized since I only dog ear pages and then make somewhat random choices. Oh yes, and way way over buy seeds. (Doesn’t everyone?)

So, hopefully you won’t mind that I am keeping it short today (my husband scoffed when I told him this) and I am going to just give you a link. A link to a pretty good site that has an extensive list of seed catalogs, because of course everyone needs a confusing array of choices :-D

I happened to find this link recently and thought it would be nice to pass along for those that might not have seen it before and since this is a very busy week that is short on time…..it helps me out. So…Happy Thanksgiving everyone and have fun looking!!

http://www.greenpeople.org/VegetableSeed.html

P.S…some of the links are dead but there are still many I had never heard of.

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Check Those Receipts

Many of us are facing rising grocery prices and decreasing budgets.  There are many ways to face these challenges, many of which my fellow writers here at Women Not Dabbling In Normal have tackled.  We’ve covered things like stretching our food into further meals, canning, gardening, leftovers, and much more.  But before using leftovers or canning store bought produce, one big thing you can do to reduce your grocery bills happens before you even leave the grocery store.  Check your receipts, go through them with a fine tooth comb.

The simple act of checking your receipts can save you small and large amounts of money.  Let’s face stores, people, and computers make mistakes and its our responsibility to make sure those mistakes aren’t taking money from our pockets.  While checking the actual receipt is important, we have to pay attention to everything we put in our carts. 

Keeping a price book and bringing it with us to the grocery store is a great way to keep up on prices and keep a running tally of the total bill.  It’s a good idea to remember prices if you can, but if you can’t use a calculator to help you figure out what you’ll owe when you check out.  Pay attention to and write down those prices to make sure you get the sale price of items you buy.  Sale prices must be updated in the grocery store’s computer system, sometimes they get missed and you’ll be charged full price.

If you are able to follow along as your items are scanned, be sure to tell the checker of any price differences for immediate correction.  Sometimes that can be a little difficult because of the speed at which many of those scanners move, so be sure to check the receipt before you leave the store.  This is important, check the receipt before leaving the store.  For example, I once was charged for buying four roasts when in actuality I only purchased two, if I had left the store the courtesy clerk would not have been likely to believe me and refund the money.  Again, check the receipt before you leave the store.  Note any price differences, doubles, etc. and bring it to the attention of the customer service desk.  Just yesterday I purchased some colored decorating sugar which had been on sale since Wednesday and was charged the full price.  For 3 days people had been buying the colored sugar at full price and not noticing being charged 30 cents more per bottle than the sign advertised.  It’s much easier and saves time and money to check the receipts before leaving the store and getting your refund, than having to go back if you check your receipt when you get home.

It is our responsibilty to make sure our money is spent in a way that we anticipate and there’s no shame in requesting a refund for as little as 30 cents.  Its worth my time and energy to make every penny bleed in order to save money and stretch our budget and I encourage everyone to do the same.   Check those receipts before you leave every store not just the grocery store and be sure to make your money work hard for you.

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PreHeat Oven

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by emphelan

This post first appeared on Dec, 7th, 2006 on A Homesteadng Neophyte. Sorry for the repeat (of course this is new to many of you) but I am super short on time. Enjoy.

19 degrees (-7C) , it’s 19 degrees (-7C) outside, the high will be a blistering 33F (0.5C). I have a feeling that my oven will be on most of the day.

This is one of the reasons I love winter and the cold, being able to heat my house with my oven. For weeks my house will smell of fresh bread and cookies, pies and individual sized cakes. What my children don’t eat, will be packed up and taken into the city, where my husbands hard working co-workers will have a small feast. If only I was allowed to give them to a food bank {cookies not co-workers}, but the rules prohibit that.

I love baking, cooking is grand, but baking. . . it’s just so homey and therapeutic. So many frustrations can be taken out by just punching down a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. Sweet bliss. And my children, I can bake with them underfoot, while cooking I tend to splatter and worry about them getting burnt. Yet with only me finagling the oven, my children get to pour, mix and cover each other with flour, not to mention they get to lick the beaters. Nothing brings my kids and I closer together than a big o’ batch of cookies.

We made Pumpkin cookies last night. I was running behind on things so we were only able to make one type of cookie, today that will change.

Pumpkin Cookies

A soft Pumpkin Cookie

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup Pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Glaze (recipe follows)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease baking sheets.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking power, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl, set aside . Beat the sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until well blended. Mix in the pumpkin puree, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Slowly beat in flour mixture. Drop by tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely. Drizzle Glaze over cookies.

FOR GLAZE:
Combine 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in small bowl until smooth

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Like anybody needs another pumpkin pie recipe…I promise this is a little different.
  

//i37.tinypic.com/nq4n4x.jpg" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>Different as in what do you do when your hubby is tired of 500# of winter squash sitting in your living room. 
I have found over the years I can buy a little more time if I bake a pie or two.  I’m actually getting tired of the dogs jumping over the squash and throwing their chew bones in the middle of the pile and playing cucurbit and seek.  They just think I have brought the garden in, and gamboling inside on a rainy day is right up their alley.

These are our Sweet Meat winter squash.  Our pumpkin substitute that keeps until May without any processing.  That’s why we like them so much.  Any vegetable I can store without processing is a winner in my book.

The squash are just curing here in the livingroom, because it is warmer.  Soon they will be moved to our unheated upstairs, where it is cool and dry.  Ideal squash storage area.

  

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On average, we use at least a 15# squash per week, mostly as a vegetable, but sometimes for desserts.   Nothing goes to waste, we eat the seeds or they go to the milk cow, the dogs eat the cooked skin, and we eat the flesh.  We save the seeds from the longest keeping, best tasting squash in the spring.

To have it on hand all week, I steam half the squash at a time, and store it in the fridge.  This way it is cooked and ready to heat and eat for a quick lunch, or dinner vegetable, or… .

I do steam it, because I like it moist, and it takes less electricity or wood than baking it.  To make a pie, the texture is better steamed.
 

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Here is the difference – the praline filling before the pumpkin squash pie filling.  Placed in the bottom of the pie shell and baked for 10 minutes, then cooled while you are making your custard, and baked again. 

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Praline baked and cooling.
 

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I got in a good habit in Home Ec in high school, having everything ready before making a recipe, but I had kind of let this good habit slip.  When I started homeschooling, I saw this as a perfect opportunity to teach my daughter, not only the basics of cooking, but also math, and reading.  To make it easy for a child, I would have her measure everything and put each ingredient in a pile so she could see where she was in the recipe.  It helps me too, sometimes I have to do recipes in small snippets of time.  Even if I measure this out hours before I actually make the pie, I can easily look in the bowl and check to see if I forgot something or measured incorrectly.  

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Sweet meat squash doesn’t have strings to speak of, so the egg beater will take care of what little there is.  The strings will wrap around the beaters and can be rinsed off before adding other ingredients.  I just puree it as I needed.   

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Filling ready to bake.  The foil is to protect the edge during the second baking.
 

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Not bad for squash pie.

Here is the recipe for enough filling for two pies, and praline for one.  It is rich, and sweet, a little goes a long way.  Pie crust is pretty subjective so I didn’t include a recipe for crust.

PUMPKIN PRALINE PIE      praline for one 8″ pie, filling for two 8″ pies

Praline for one 8″ pie
2 T softened butter
1/3 c brown sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans or ?
Preheat oven to 450*F.  Cream butter and brown sugar.  Blend in pecans.  Press firmly into unbaked pie shell.  Bake for 10 minutes, watching for so crust does not puff up or slip.  If it does puff, prick the puffs with a fork and pat the crust back into place with the back of the fork.  Cool before filling.

Pumpkin pie filling      enough for two 8″ pies

4 c pureed squash or pumpkin
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves
2 eggs, beaten
2 c whole milk

Preheat oven to 400*F.
Combine pureed pumpkin and dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Add eggs, milk and mix well.  Pour into pie shells and bake for about an hour.  Depending on your oven, the pie may be done sooner.  When a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, the pie is done. 

This filling can be made a day in advance and refrigerated.  I use this for pumpkin custard without the crust or praline too.

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