"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cherry Tomatoes and Bubbly Cheese

It being high canning season, all the local grocery stores are clean out of cheesecloth. I had very little cheesecloth left, and I was getting dangerously low on pillowcases (which I will soon need for apple cider season - I can't cut them all up, even if I sleep on naked pillows.). The above picture illustrates what happens when you skimp on cheesecloth. One layer is simply not a fine enough mesh - the curds, while under pressure, will bubble out through the holes. It makes no difference in how the cheese tastes, but it is a rather alarming sight. Also, very hard to get the cheesecloth off.

Here are the tomatoes we picked today in exchange for cheese and eggs. You can't really tell how many there are because you can't really tell that those are enormous bowls. My guess is somewhere in the vicinity of twenty pounds of tomatoes. A large proportion are sweet orange cherries - sungolds, I think - and it would be a shame to boil them. We'll just eat those out of hand. Tomorrow I'll can up the rest.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Trade Network Score!

Despite the recent trade network malfunction involving the Kale Fairy's newfound vegetarianism, the powers that be must still be smiling on my endeavor, because today I finagled the greatest trade ever!

Veggie Man traded me 3 and half dozen eggs and a half pound of goat cheese for..... ALL THE TOMATOES I CAN PICK! Yes folks, that's right, I get to go out to their farm and start picking. They have cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, roma tomatoes... they have three thousand tomato plants dropping tomatoes all over the ground and they don't care how many tomatoes I pick. I'm going to bring my sister and we are going to bring our kids and we will have all their little hands picking tomatoes just as quick as we can make them pick.

Then we are going to can sauce.

Now you might think I got the better end of the deal here, but you don't know just how freaky delicious my latest cheese is. I call it "two pepper thyme" because it has red pepper, black pepper, and dried thyme in it, and I'm making more of it just as fast as I can.

In fact, I think I'd better go stir it up right now or my curd will matt. Nothing yuckier than matted curd.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Trade Network Meltdown!

So the Kale Fairy called me the other day, and said that she has decided she doesn't want a grass-raised kid after all. She can't be responsible for the death of a cute baby animal.

I was taken aback. "But," I said, "you said you ordered grass raised kid before and liked it." Yes... but she's becoming a vegetarian. "But," I said, "You do realize that if you don't eat the kid we will?" Yes.... but she won't be responsible. "But," I said, "I can't possibly just accept all those vegetables for free... what can I give you instead?"

Cheese. I am making three or four pounds of cheese a week, and storing it so that I can have enough for ourselves and enough to keep the Kale Fairy supplied with cheese well into the winter. Seriously, I think we've gotten about $300 worth of organic vegetables from her. I probably can't equal that value in cheese, but I can least equal the value of the goat we were going to give her before her attack of conscience.

Which goat we will now add to our own winter stores.

State of the Farm, Late Summer

Django eating thistles. The goats do eat thistles, but not with great enthusiasm and not nearly enough of them to make a dent in the great sea of thistles that covers 75% of my pasture.

Marcus says this is fire blight on the pear tree. (I don't why everything is underlined now. I can't fix it. To hell with it.) All the pear trees have it to some degree. I may have to spray. I think Marcus said sulfur. Anybody?

The roses like the hot dry weather. They are blooming for the third time this year.

My plum tree is bearing. First year! I thought the plums would never get ripe, but finally they are turning purple.

Poppy is growing like a weed. She is taller than her mother already. She has learned to walk on a lead. She is the sweetest, most lovable pony! She runs up to me wherever I am and kisses me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Homesteading Library

Time for another installment of Crazy Aimee Prepares for the Zombiepocalypse!!!

This one is fun. I've been trying to have more fun with my preparations and less lying awake at night wondering if my children will get to grow up. As my mom and the boyscouts of america say, "don't be worried, be prepared!" So I was thinking, what aspect of preparedness would be absolutely the most fun for me, Aimee? The answer came to me immediately; building a library for use on my future homestead. What could be more fun? I get to peruse many dusty old bookstores, spend money I shouldn't really spend, and there's no physical labor involved (except toting the books home, which was a little bit like work, I admit).

Actually, I already have a good start on the library of my future homestead, just because I have long been interested in many of the topics involved, especially food. But anyway, here goes, the current list, organized by category. Books I own and collections I consider complete or nearly complete are marked with an asterisk. I am also assembling an online archive of useful articles, but since I assume that the internet will not be easily accessible in the post-apocalypse world, I'll have to convert it to a printed version at some future point. Therefore, it is not catalogued here.


- general cooking*, canning*,cheesemaking*, sausage making*, brewing

-4 season gardening, greenhouse construction, container gardening, composting, seed saving, pest control, irrigation techniques

Animal Husbandry
Care and feeding, breeding, and veterinary information on goats, sheep, chickens, horses, rabbits and pigs. I already have the basic Storey Guides to most of these, but I want more detailed and in depth information. Slaughtering and Butchering.

Wild Foods (and) Herbal Medicine*
Field guides to edible and medicinal plants, books on preparing and storing the same, mushrooming books*, field guides to local marine life*, information on poisonous plants and animals

Long-term Pantry
-information on stocking and maintaining a long term pantry: that is, food that will keep for ten years and beyond. Water storage.

-RDA of vitamins and minerals and what foods provide them, special nutrition needs od various populations (i.e., infants, elderly, chronically ill)

That's about all I can think of off the top of my head on the subject of food.

Next category: Medicine

I have a good start here too, with my complete collection of Nursing textbooks*. Of course, much of the information in them is unlikely to be useful on my future homestead (interpreting EKG data?), but much of it will. All the basics on first aid, infection prevention and control, dietary treatment for various chronic diseases, care of the pregnant mother and the newborn, lactation, and far too much more to list here. Also I have pharmacology and drug books, which are useful even in the absence of modern drugs, because (with the help of my medicinal plants library) I will be able to identify the active principles in various plants and then read about that principle (for example - not that I'd be messing with this plant - digitalis as the active principle in foxglove.)

I'd like to get some books specifically on home remedies and traditional medicine. Recommended to me today was "Where there are no Doctors") Also midwifery (not just theory but practical).

Dental. Yikes, there's a scary thought. Home dentistry? Ouch.

Topics which await categorization (although I do already own a few books on the subjects) include Home Power Generation, Home Repair and Maintenance, Rainwater Harvesting and water storage in general,Septic Tank Maintenance and other waste related issues, and Land Management and Pasture Improvement, and other good farm practice issues.

Today I bought the titles you see in the photo: a gardening book, a very complete book of American medicinal plants and their uses, "backwoods Home" magazine's emergency preparedness manual (extremely interesting reading so far), and two of the famous foxfire books. Not that I plan to be building any banjos, but it's nice to know I will be able to if I want.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Potato-Palooza Part Two

Second and final potato harvest. About the same as the first; more or less ten pounds. This second harvest has larger potatoes and fewer little ones. But all in all, I think both harvests were more or less equal - about three or four potatoes for each one planted. Or, to measure another way, twenty to twenty five pounds of potatoes from a plot roughly two feet wide by four feet long. The size of a coffee table.

That's very encouraging. Potatoes were my best crop this year, for sure. I did okay in spinach, in salad greens in general in fact. Radishes weren't half bad. Tomatoes are still coming on, but look rather anemic. But potatoes were very satisfying indeed.

Next year I'm going to try a vertical crop in old tires. Lord knows there's no shortage of those around here (and for those who are wondering, I read that noxious chemicals are bound to the vulcanized rubber and do not leach into the soil.). I've been following the blog of a dude who is growing his potatoes in a four x four x 6 foot potato tower and apparently you can increase your yield at least 50% by going vertical. Potatoes are just about the only practical staple crop around here, and I happen to love them to death.

In fact, I think I'll go roast some of these guys right now.

Fleece at the Framer's Market

I'm so very proud of my daughter Rowan. She has worked extremely hard this year and has succeeded in taking the raw alpaca fleece from it's natural state to the beautiful display you see above. She washed it, dried it, dyed it, carded it, and spun it on a drop spindle. She has spent something like thirty hours on it so far. Her yarn is truly a lovely finished product.

Unfortunately, although she sat at the farmer's market all day long, spinning, she made only.... $1.00. That's right. One. That right there is why we had to get rid of the alpacas.

Adios Alpacas

Austen and Miguel


I had too many animals on the farm. Something had to go, and it was the alpacas. I freely admit, I went a little crazy on Craigslist during my first year here. I wish I had enough land to indulge all my animal fantasies, but I just don't. Turns out, five acres is not as big as I thought it was when I moved here. It's only natural I would misjudge. I spent my early and middle childhood on a 3.5 acre mini-farm, and it always seemed pretty big to me! We crammed three horses and a dozen goats on that place, not to mention a score or so of chickens.

But I've learned that the number of animals I have acquired here - 2 ponies, nine goats, three alpacas, and about twenty-five chickens - just isn't sustainable in the long run. This has been a very dry year, and I've flat run out of grass. I don't have the funds to be buying hay nine or ten months of the year. Also, there's the little matter of the county's sustainability plan.

Those of us with animals are supposed to have no more than 1 "animal unit" per acre of usable pasture, which excludes non-permeable surfaces, wetlands, or steep slopes. What's an animal unit? Well, I'll tell you. It's one cow, or one 1000 lb. horse, or 3.1 sheep, or 1.4 llamas, or 100 chickens. I added up my animal units (assuming that a goat was the same as a sheep, and that an alpaca was slightly less than a llama) and I came up with 4.1. That's actually just under the limit, considering that I have about 4.25 acres of usable land. However, it feels unsustainable, considering the quality of my land and what has happened in this year's drought.

Realistically, the ponies are the least practical animals I have, but I LOVE them and won't consider getting rid of them. The alpacas are the next most useless (no food products, just hair). So, even though they are funny and silly and decorative and even though Rowan has done wonders with their fleece, we had to say goodbye to them.

They did net me $50 each. That's more than I paid for them.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Best Cheese EVER!!!!

Oh my God, the last batch of cheese I made takes the cake for best cheese ever. It's theoretically cheddar, because I cheddared it, but really it's just farmhouse cheese. After cheddaring and pressing under about 50 pounds pressure for twelve hours on each side, I cut it into large cubes, salted it, and put it in a bowl in the fridge. Now it's a week old.

It's some of the best cheese I've ever eaten! It's so delicious, there is no chance I'm going to trade any of it tomorrow at the farmer's market. After all, I only made two pounds!!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Maiden Voyage

This afternoon, I barely made it home in the bug. I chugged into the driveway on fumes. When I told Homero, he said "let's put my biodiesel in it!"

"Are you sure it's ready?"

"Sure! What could go wrong? I've already washed it twice."

"Well, I'll keep my phone in my pocket."

Here he is, back after his 4 mile run to the gas station and back. The bug is unharmed, as far as we can tell at this point, and hits freeway speeds without difficulty.

Hooray Homero! Hooray! Hooray!

Sweat of my Brow

August. I'm a slave to the bounty of nature. Translation: I spent all day yesterday picking and processing food. I had so many green beans that I canned seven pints (all the wide mouth pint jars I had) and still had beans left over. These are spicy dilly beans, my favorite.

Then I picked blackberries. It is officially blackberry season; my legs and arms are so scratched up I look like I was dipped in a barrel of cats. Either I used to be more delicate, graceful, and careful when I was a kid, or I had a higher pain threshold, or perhaps I'm just remembering wrong, but I don't remember experiencing quite so much pain and blood and screeching while picking berries as a teenager. I picked enough for a pie, but I didn't bake the pie because I was too damn tired. Then the kids ate all the blackberries I bled for. Little leeches.

The last hot job I did yesterday is make cajeta. That involves boiling a kettle of milk for about three hours, stirring nearly constantly. I hope cajeta and dilly beans in winter are worth the heatstroke I am suffering from now.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Trade Network Week Twelve

The Kale Fairy has once again spread her gossamer green wings over us and rained down chlorophyl from heaven.

1 gallon purple kale
1 gallon swiss chard
2 bunches of beets
5 large turnips
2 pounds of green beans
1 pound of fava beans
2 rather large zucchini
1 truly enormous bouquet of sunflowers

Catch Up

Internet's been out for a while. I've been busy:

Flopsy is finally just about entirely well again. Well, she was never really systemically ill, but her udder was sick. After a week of penicillin shots and three weeks of as frequent milking as my schedule would permit, I am at last satisfied that her milk is fit to drink again. There is still a slight thickening in her teat, but I believe that is scar tissue from the original injury and I doubt it will ever disappear entirely. The udder itself is entirely healthy-feeling, without any lumps or hard areas. This is good, because Iris is not giving me hardly any milk: her baby nurses through the fence and I don't have any way of preventing it. Oddly, Flopsy's baby is not picking up on the trick. Or maybe Flopsy isn't accommodating enough to sidle up to the fence and let her baby have at it. In any case, I'm not getting a whole lot of milk and it's annoying.

Neither am I getting a whole lot of eggs. For a while, I was getting almost none, like TWO eggs a day from a flock of twenty layers. Clearly they were laying somewhere hidden, but where? Not under the barns, we blocked those up (again; the horse likes to pull the boards off). Day before yesterday I decided to really investigate the hayloft, I mean get up there and crawl around and peek behind every bale of hay. I found eighteen eggs. Damn birds.

Summer's bounty is at maximum expression. Last week my sister and I went back to the blueberry farm and picked about a million blueberries. I now have some thirty pounds in the freezer and am so sick of blueberries I could puke. The trade network is also functioning well. Saturday I got three pounds of the most delicious little orange cherry tomatoes and a bunch of herbs of various types from Veggie Man, and today I am going to meet the Kale Fairy at her garden to pick up this week's assortment. Tuesday I'm going to Veggie Man's farm to U-pick tomatoes and actually can some red sauce. I am still woefully deficient in the canning department for this year.

It's time for my most dreaded farm task. I've put it off as long as I can. Now I must gird up my loins and trim the goat's hooves.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Husband Update

Here's what Homero's been up to lately: The Shop That Can Be Seen From Space is well advanced. Concrete poured, all the arcs up, and tools moved in. Two out of twelve junked cars moved in. We need to save money before we can put up the end walls. They didn't come with the kit and they ain't cheap.
Making biodiesel. His one liter test batch came out good - so he says, though I'm not sure how he knows since he doesn't have a small-batch test-kit. He is confident enough, however, to make a 30 gallon batch, which is what he is doing in the above picture. Unless it looks radically wrong when it's done, it'll go in the beetle and we'll give it a whirl. Wish the poor beetle luck!

Here's what Homero's been up to lately (among other things of course).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nostalgia and Poetry

It's about eight o'clock in the evening. Often, around this time of night, or a little earlier, I sit outside with a beer and a book, letting the goats graze on the blackberries and long grass and watching day become night.

I wish I knew the names of all the birds that sing in the evening. Certainly there are killdeer, though they aren't around this late in the season. They are a spring bird up on the top of this gravelly hill five miles from the seashore. They nest up here. Or they did: I'm afraid the animals and the construction may have scared them off. I loved hearing their shrill, prolonged calls in the deepening dusk, then tracking the noise and seeing their white wings as they skim along the ground.

This time of year there are bats in the late evening - just about now, as the light fades. Small, quick bats roost in the giant golden cedar behind the house, and they come out on summer nights, darting about, presumably eating mosquitos. I love bats. I could watch them for hours.

But before the bats come out, the swallows have to settle in for the night. They fly around in swarms like bees, in great clouds. Well, not so great. I remember them from my youth. It seems to me that the swallow swarms of my childhood were larger by an order of magnitude than the ones I see nowadays. But no matter. These latter-day swarms are just as beautiful, just as fascinating to watch. It's a long way between trees up here, and so I have perhaps a whole minute to watch them swooping and swelling as they bridge the gap.

There is another bird I don't know that flies this time of night. It is small, and it flies in groups of five to ten. In contrast to the swallows, it flies in straight lines. It calls out as it flies, a high, piercing peeping sound. I hear them before I see them, and tonight when I heard them I thought "there are things alive in the sky!"

Frequently, as I sit in my cheap canvass chair and drink beer, snatches of words that might become poems occur to me. This is now the only time they do. It has been so long since I wrote poetry that it is hard for me to remember how I did it. I know it felt like this; that first a phrase would happen in my head all by itself, something snatched from the actual happening world around me, something like "There are things alive in the sky."

But then what?

See, when I was a teenager (which is when I wrote most of my poetry) I would usually be out walking somewhere. I walked a lot. And something about walking is conducive to poetry. The phrase, whatever it was, would beat in my head along with my feet on the ground. Something else would occur to me. I'd put them together. I'd be walking. I'd think "yes" or "no." Then the next thing. Then I'd repeat all three things together and see how I liked it.

"Writing" is a misnomer. I almost never wrote anything down until it was finished. I was a composer. Now, now I write. No; I type. That's even worse.

Here's how I used to create poetry. I'd be walking. I'd have a small notebook in the inside pocket of my jacket, a spiral topped notebook with a ballpoint pen stuck through the spirals. I'd compose in my head as I walked along until at some point, I'd get to the point that I thought I should write it down. Not a finished point; I knew it wasn't finished yet. But maybe it was a point that I thought I'd composed all I could remember. Or no: I always knew that as long as it was just in my head - and often, poems stayed just in my head for weeks - there was a chance that when I next recited it to myself, it would come out different. So, if I came up with something I liked so much that I knew I didn't want to take that risk, I'd sit down somewhere and write down what I had.

But once written, everything changed. Now the process was totally altered. From this point on - whether this point was a nearly finished product or a mere sketch of an idea - it all had to happen on paper. And that was fine. I loved to write. Oh how I loved to hold a pen in my hand and just let the words come out until my fingers ached.

Kind of like now, how odd. I've tried a half dozen times in the past half dozen years to start journaling again (journaling is a whole separate process from writing. Don't get me started). It's never taken, no matter how many nice rollerball pens I buy or how many college ruled notebooks. The closest I've come is a half-assed dream journal.

And yet, look, here I am. I've written a whole page, at least, right now.

God damnit, it just occurred to me. I've written about writing again. Fuck.

Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain RAin Rain


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Solar Planning

As part of my crazy, OCD-like planning for the "zombiepocalypse" I did a very sane thing: I made an appointment to go down to Western Solar in Bellingham and learn as much as I can about solar electricity. Prior to the appointment, I read an entire issue of "Home Power" magazine, so I felt prepared.

So how about I tell you what I learned about solar electricity. First I learned that we use a lot of electricity, even though I go around turning things off all day and night. We use approximately 12,000 KwH/year. Buying an installed system that generates one third of that would cost - today, from these guys I went to see - $31,000. What is that, like 100 years of electricity bills?

However, here are some more facts that make it cheaper:

1. federal rebate: 30% of installed cost. Bing, we're down to $22,000.

2. Since the system is grid-tied without battery back-up (more on this later) we'd be selling surplus electricity to the grid. The grid has to buy it from us at an artificially high rate - whereas we pay $.08/watt when we buy from them, they have to pay us $.15/watt when they buy from us. The law says they have to do that at least until 2020, and it might even go up.

2.a) What surplus energy? I thought this system only produced one third of your energy? Right, but that usage is concentrated at certain times of the day/year. And our system would produce most of it's energy at different times of the day/year. We use most of our energy in the winter. The sun gives us most of our energy in the summer. We use at night; it produces during the day. So, on any given sunny summer day when we aren't at home or are outside doing something that doesn't use electricity, our system is spinning our meter backward. We save the nine cents we pay for each watt, plus, when the meter goes back to zero for that month, they pay us fifteen cents. So theoretically, each watt we produce is actually worth 24 cents to us. Some of them, anyway. The piled up surplus from the summer months will lower our bill in the winter. Some people with big systems actually get checks from the utility.

But wait a minute. I though independence was the goal here. How does a grid tied system give you that?

It doesn't. The power goes out, it goes out for us too. But batteries are WAY more expensive than I thought. And the system requires more maintenance. And the batteries need replacing every five, ten, or fifteen years depending on how much money you spend on them in the first place. And an off-grid system is totally incapable of producing anything like the amount of power we actually use unless we literally stuff the attic with a hundred thousand dollars worth of batteries. I'm not worried about the occasional one or two day outage. I'm worried about the day the grid goes down for good. And I doubt that day will come within twenty years. I think electricity will get much more expensive fairly quickly, but I doubt it will become unavailable that soon.

So my thinking is, it makes sense to save money on the batteries and maintenance now, and worry about adding that expense in ten or fifteen years, or twenty, when the shit can be seen from the fan. Or alternatively, when it becomes clear that I was wrong and the shit isn't headed this way at all, I will have saved a huge amount of cash and hassle.

Now I know I'm going to hear from a fair number of smart, handy people who understand electricity and like to build stuff. You guys are going to say "$30,000 my ass. I can build that system for $242 and a mile of string." Well bully for you. You should go into business then. I can't, and I'm not interested in spending the next few years of my life learning how. I have other stuff to do.

Like go milk the goats, which I have to do right now.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mine is Bigger Than Yours

My zucchini, that is.

What am I going to do with this monster? And with the thirty carrots, the six cucumbers, the pound of parsley?

Today is given to the task. I think I'll make a zucchini parmesan... like an eggplant parmesan, but with zucchini. I can't think of a reason that wouldn't work. I'll make my biggest lasagna pan full. And if it's good, I can freeze it.

The carrots are going into curried carrot soup.

Assorted other veggies - fennel bulbs, onions, some more zuke, etc, will go into a large pot of spaghetti sauce which I will use in the zucchini parmesan and the extra freeze or can, whichever.

Okay, it's a game plan.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Trade Network Week Ten and HELP!!

The Kale Fairy showered me with her largess yesterday. One gallon of kale, one of chard, one of lettuce, a pound or more of green beans, four bulbs of fennel, and a zucchini the size of my thigh (and I don't have dainty thighs). Oh and a big bunch of parsley.

The lettuce, I admit, I fed directly to the chickens because it has gone bitter in the heat and I don't have the heart to tell the kale fairy so. The kale I gave to my houseguests to take home with them - some of it. Some of it I froze. I now have a winter's supply of kale in the freezer, I believe.

The rest is clogging up my fridge. There are now about eight squash on the counter. Ditto cucumbers. Ah, well, it's summer. Everybody's in the same boat.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I actually got something that can legitimately be called a harvest from my garden this year! Up until yesterday, my 2009 harvest consisted of several handfuls of spinach, about one bunch of radishes, a couple pounds of snap peas, one very large cucumber, and twenty or so tomatoes. Counting the cherry tomatoes. It was the worst garden year ever.

HOWEVER. Yesterday afternoon I decided to dig up half the potato patch, since the plants on the west end were looking very yellow and limp. The first several I found were as small as marbles, and I was beginning to get depressed, thinking I had somehow managed to fail at growing the easiest to grow food plant there is. But digging a little deeper, I began to unearth real potatoes. Most of those in the picture are pretty good sized, at least as big as you get in the supermarket. TAll in all, I think I dug about ten or twelve pounds. There are Yukon Golds, Yellow Finns, and Red Bliss.

And I had guests last night for dinner. For the first time this year, every single thing I put on the table (spices excluded) was either grown on this farm, gathered by me, or traded for milk and eggs from this farm. I was (probably a little too) proud. The Menu:

Pork Roast in a mustard-rosemary-honey-white wine glaze
Roasted New Potatoes
Mixed Green Veggie Grill - kale, chard, onions, and zucchini sizzled on the griddle with garlic, red pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar
and for dessert Fresh Blueberries and Cream with Cajeta (goat's milk caramel sauce.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blueberry Blast

I had a couple of hours to kill today, so the little girls and I went to our favorite U-pick blueberry farm. I've been wanting to go pick blueberries for a while now, but I've been waiting for the beastly heat to subside. Finally, today, some clouds moved in and the temperature is a nice, tolerable 75.  Good day to go berrypicking!

Since it's only the first week in August, I expected that we would have to hunt for ripe berries. Usually the season goes from mid-August through much of September. However, this heat must have really accelerated the harvest! Every bush we looked at was loaded with ripe berries. All we had to do was reach out a hand and close it and we had a fistful of ripe berries. And sweet! Man, they are super sweet. 

In fact, I think I'd better get on it and get in more picking quickly. Many of the berries are already drying on the bush into blueberry raisins. It just so happened that the farmer was out picking berries as well. He's an older man, about seventy, I'd guess, who bears an uncanny resemblance to my Dad. He had a kind of canvas hammock under the bushes and was simply raking his arms back and forth in the branches. All the ripe berries fell out, along with some leaves and other deritrus that he said would be blown away by air in the sorting machine. 

One of the things I love about this particular farm is that the bushes are very tall - in fact they are really more like trees. I'd say on average they are about ten or eleven feet tall. I asked the farmer about this and he said "well, that's because they've been neglected. They're about eighty years old, y'know." I told him not to prune them back: we love the fact that they provide shade, and that we don't have to crawl around on our hands and knees to pick blueberries. He said "I hear that a lot." The kids also love this place because they can run through the rows and get "lost" in the blueberry "jungle." Plus, it's the only place I know to get organic blueberries for a dollar a pound. For anyone who lives in Whatcom County, it's Hannah's Blueberries on Enterprise Road. Support our local farmers and get the best blueberries in town!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Trade Network Week Nine and Laziness

My hens are not laying very well. In fact, hardly at all - between the resolutely broody ones and the ones who are molting;  the ones I assume are laying out in the bushes somewhere, and the ones who are on strike or something. I am feeding twenty hens and getting five or six eggs a day. It sucks. 

However, it isn't really affecting the trade network. Veggie man is happy to accept goat cheese in lieu of eggs. In fact, when I arrived today, his wife (Veggie-ma'am?) said "Oh no! More eggs!" Apparently, they have eggs left over from last week, when I brought four dozen. This week I brought 18 eggs and a half pound of red-pepper cheddar. 

This isn't the "smokin' goat" chilpotle cheddar; it's just regular dried red pepper fl;ake cheddar. Spicy but not smoky. I find the chilpotle is delicious, but it's a bit overpowering after a while. Anyway, I value the cheese at $10/pound (a bargain) and so I had $8.75 to spend on veggies.

For which I got a princely pile: three decent sized eggplants, four big cucumbers, a couple pounds of new potatoes, about twenty peppers of various size and shape, and a pile of okra. I intend to pickle the okra with a few hot peppers tonight. When we lived in Ballard, in Seattle, we used to go to a cajun restaurant that had on every table a crock of hot pickled okra as an appetizer. My daughter Rowan LOVED it. She could eat a whole crock if I'd let her. I can't remember the name of the place now, but it had pretty decent gumbo too. 

I need to use up a lot of produce. I have a scary amount of produce in the fridge. Theoretically, I should have already preserved most of it, but I kept thinking we would eat it fresh. Who am I kidding? Yes, I like green beans, but can we really eat several pounds a week? Plus two or three heads of cabbage, several gallons of assorted greens, a mound of turnips, four heads of fennel.... et cetera? No, we cannot. 

I've been lazy and remiss in the preservation department. I blame the heat. Who wants to have a massive kettle o' water boiling away in the kitchen all day when it's a hundred and six degrees out? Not me, friends. What I have done is rinse and chop the kale, then stuff it back in the ziploc bags and freeze it. It's not the world's best preservation method, but it's fine to use for soups and stews later in the year. I wish I knew more about natural fermentation methods of preservation. I'd like to make sauerkraut. And kim chee. 

Anyway. I'd better start researching how to preserve what I've got now. Maybe I can can some caponata... that would use up the peppers, fennel and eggplant. I have tomatoes as well. And basil. That's actually a pretty good idea. Tonight for dinner I'll have roasted baby potatoes and green beans. I can make curtido (a lightly fermented kind of latin cole-slaw) with the cabbage, and pickle the okra. 

It's a plan.