Goodbye, Molly Weasley

When I decided I wanted chickens, my friend Stephanie encouraged me and even dragged me with her to a poultry show. I came home with my first four chicks in a box.

Molly weasley and her Peeps the day I brought them home.

I initially named them all after delicious chicken entrees so that the kids would remember that they could end up as dinner and not get too attached. As fate would have it, three of those first four chicks were roosters, and they did end up being three tasty dinners. One lonely hen survived that initial chicken run to be rechristened Molly Weasley. This evening, Gwen went out to the coop to feed the chickens one of their favorite treats, corn cobs with bits of sweet corn still attached. Sadly, she found Molly Weasley, still warm, laying deceased in the run.

I don’t know what her cause of death was. She hasn’t been behaving strangely and up until yesterday, she was still laying eggs. It seemed disrespectful to tinker with her carcass in search of an issue, so I buried her without probing for more information. Just in case  it was some sort of illness, I’ll keep an eye on the rest of my flock, but hopefully the rest of the girls are fine. For now, I’ll just take a moment to remember her on a happier day.

chicken in the backyard

Free range chicken

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under urban chickens

#98 ~ Donate my Hair (or, Locks of Love)

One of the scariest goals I set for myself on my 101 in 1001 was #98, Donate my hair. If you have noticed, I have had really long hair.  I’ve nearly always had long hair. Once, when I was in middle school, I decided that I should get a “cute”, short haircut. It wasn’t cute. I have really thick, coarse and slightly wavy hair. The girl who cut my hair didn’t bother to tell me that the cute haircut I picked out wouldn’t work with my hair. I suffered through that haircut until it grew out and, scarred by the experience, didn’t cut my hair much after that.

My hair became part of my identity. I was my hair. It even seemed to be part of my derby persona. It’s kind of silly if you think about it, identifying with your hair. My hair has nothing to do with who I am or what I do. Still, parting with all of it was a scary prospect. What if I got another horrible, short haircut? What if I looked stupid? What if? What if? What if? What if I were a six-year-old girl who lost all her hair to cancer or leukemia?? My hair is just hair. Like solar energy and lumber, my hair is a renewable resource, and parting with eleven inches of it won’t kill me even if it makes me look stupid for a year while it grows out.

Resolved to cut my hair and donate it, I started talking with my friend JoKnee Busta about it. She had really long hair and wanted to do it too! The more we discussed it, the more derby girls we got involved. Carrie “T-Bone” Hart is a stylist at Regis Salon in the Grand Traverse Mall. She got permission for us to hold the event at her salon and got her friend, Kari to help give haircuts. JuJu Kitty and Alanis-More-A-Threat decided to donate their hair as well. All together, we donated over 40 inches of hair to Locks of Love.

Joanie, me, Jewell and LisaCutting off my hair was scary, but it feels really good to check another thing off my list, help kids who have been dealt an unfortunate hand, and have a really cute (and much cooler) haircut. Who knows, maybe St. Baldrick’s is in my future.

Leave a comment

Filed under 101 in 1001

Rhubarb Two Ways or Canning, Continued.

There are few things that I can’t live without. My KitchenAid Mixer probably tops the list. Coming a close second would have to be my freezers. Yes, I said freezer(s), plural. Of course I have the small freezer that is part of my refrigerator, but I also have a small chest freezer. And a larger, stand-up freezer. Both are mostly full most of the time. Of course, the contents vary from day-to-day and season to season, but I keep them pretty loaded. When things come into season, I try to can as much as possible. Sometimes, I don’t have time to can everything I want before it will spoil, so I freeze the excess until I have time to deal with it. I do that with tomatoes. A lot.

Last year I had an abundance of rhubarb.  I made some delicious Rhubeenas and still had a bunch left over so I chopped it up and threw it into the freezer. With summer’s bounty (and strawberry season) nearly upon us, it’s time to clear some space in the freezers.

 In the first Can Jam, I used asparagus as the May ingredient, but Rhubarb was also an option. Among the rhubarb recipes was a recipe for Rhubarb and Cinnamon Jam from Seasonal Menus. I love cinnamon and have a jar of extra-long cinnamon sticks, so I thought I’d give it a go:

Rhubarb the First Way

  • 2lbs. sliced rhubarb
  • 2 lbs. sugar
  • 3 extra-long cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 2 T. lemon juice

Combine rhubarb and sugar in a nonmetallic bowl.
Let macerate overnight in the refrigerator.
Set up canner and boiling water bath; wash and sterilize jars and lids.
Transfer rhubarb mixture to a saucepan.
Add cinnamon and lemon juice.
Heat over medium heat, stirring often until sugar is completely dissolved.
Bring to a boil.
Boil until jam sets.
Remove cinnamon stick pieces, add one to each jar and ladle jam into hot jars.
Process in water bath for 15 minutes.

The cinnamon flavor wasn’t very intense, but I know from experience with my Chai-Spiced Apple Rings that the cinnamon flavor blooms as the jars age. I expect that even the color will turn warmer with time. This recipe made almost exactly five 1/2 pint jars.

For a printable version, click here: Rhubarb Cinnamon Jam Printable Recipe

Rhubarb the Second Way doesn’t help fulfill my Can Jam goals, but it does help me complete my goal to can enough jams/jellies to get us through the year, and it helps me meet my food storage goal. I snagged this recipe from Tigress but made some modifications. First, she used lavender sprigs; I opted for dried blossoms. They looked quite lovely after their overnight in the fridge, but I know from my soap-making experience that the magenta-purple cooks away. She also includes an extra step: “pass (rhubarb) mixture through a strainer and pour collected juice into a non-reactive pan. add honey and bring to a boil. skim any foam that collects on top and continue cooking until 221 F on a candy thermometer.” Afterwards she returns the solids to the boiled juices and re-boils the whole mess. I’m not sure of the point, but her jam was lovely. I myself hate the mess straining creates and don’t do it unless absolutely necessary. Mine tastes delish and has about the same look as hers, so I don’t think it is an essential step.

Rhubarb The Second Way (Honey Lavender Rhubarb Jam)

2 pounds sliced rhubarb
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 ounces light honey
3 T. lemon juice
3 tsp. dried lavender blossoms

1. Combine rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice and lavender blossoms in a nonmetallic bowl. Stir this mixture gently, cover with a plate and macerate in fridge overnight.

2. In the morning, prepare the canner and boiling water bath; wash and sterilize jars and lids. Turn heat down and leave jars in canner until ready to fill.

3. Pour rhubarb mixture into a non-reactive pan. Add honey and bring to a boil.  Continue cooking until the jam is sufficiently set. Process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.

yields approximately five 1/2 pint or two pint jars.

Again, if you prefer a printable version, click here: Honey Lavender Rhubarb Jam Printable Recipe

Not only did I clear up some space in the freezer, but I’m a quart-and-a-half closer to my jam and food storage goals!

Leave a comment

Filed under 101 in 1001, canning, food

Foraging

Due to the bizarro weather we’ve had around here lately, Mother Nature is all out of whack. Estimates on crop losses from the orchards around here are around 90%. Other edibles that aren’t as sensitive to frosts are ahead of schedule. Take morels for example.

My usual “window” for foraging morels runs somewhere from the 21st of April to Memorial Day. This year, hubby and I started finding those elusive fungi the last week in March. These photos are actually from the first three weeks of April. We did pretty well for a while, and I did dry some to use throughout the winter, but the season that started three weeks early seems to have dried up three weeks early as well. When I went searching on Mother’s Day 2012, I found only one, and that was an accident. It had been kicked over by someone or something and dried out long before I stumbled upon it.

Despite the fact that I didn’t find any morels on this year’s hike, I didn’t come home empty-handed. Dylan and I ran into my friend Stephanie and her kids. They were looking for ramps, so we joined them. Dylan and I came home with a mesh produce bag filled with ramps (or wild leeks). I’ve used some of them in cooking since then, but my real goal was to can them. More precisely, to pickle them.

If you can find them, pickled ramps can be quite pricey. I’ve made them before and everyone that’s ever tried them loves them. However, I’ve become quite a hoarder. I dole them out sparingly to friends and family members that will appreciate them as much as I do. When we open a jar, it is hard not to eat the entire thing. Once all the delicious ramps have been devoured from the pickling brine, I add it to BBQ sauces, marinades and dressings; the flavor is exquisite.

From the bag Dylan and I brought home, I managed to can five half-pint jars. This isn’t enough for me to check #58 off of my 101 in 1001, but it is a good start. It also gets me 1.25 quarts closer to my pickle goal for #53!

For the recipe, check out my Jerked Onion recipe from the Can Jam and substitute whole ramps for the cut onions, or click here for a printable version: Jerk Pickled Ramps Printable Recipe

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 101 in 1001, canning, food

Let the Canning Commence

Last summer I helped my friend Joan of Olds Farm plant, weed, feed, harvest and shuck her wares. I even dragged the kids along with me a few times. Needless to say, Dylan no longer wants to be a farmer.  In exchange, I received a great bounty of produce and farm-fresh meats. It was win-win.

So, when she called last month and asked me to help her run her tables at the Farmers’ Market for three weeks, of course I said yes. Each week I came home with a giant box of goodies. Spring greens, ground beef, chicken and pork sausages, garlic, leeks, onions and . . . asparagus!

The first week I grilled all the asparagus and spring onions I brought home and consumed them within three days. The second week I brought home a much larger bag of asparagus. I continued to grill and eat large quantities of asparagus, but there was actually enough left over to can and freeze some.

Photo by Tiffany Copeland Godden.

Yesterday, a terrible storm blew in and it rained all morning. At one point, the sky was so black that it appeared to be evening and it was so still I thought there would be a tornado. Yard work was out of the question and the house was nice and cool so  the weather was perfect for canning.

I dragged out the giant bag of asparagus and my pickled asparagus recipe from the Can Jam. The recipe is there in a step-by-step illustrated version, or you can download the printable copy here: French Tarragon Pickled Asparagus Printable

I didn’t get seven jars this time, but I also didn’t weigh/count my spears. I only had these five, tall-ish jars available, so I cut enough spears to fit into the jars. When I was done I had enough asparagus left over for one more dinner and a pint of frozen asparagus.

I’ve never frozen asparagus before and I was afraid it would all turn to mush so I searched The InterWebs for advice. After consulting various “experts”, I decided to take none of their advice and do it my own way. I present to you The Method.

The Method

  1. Clean and cut your asparagus spears.
  2. Fill a CLEAN kitchen sink or large pot with ice and water.
  3. Bring a pan of water large enough to hold all of your asparagus to a boil.
  4. Set a timer for one minute.
  5. Rapidly add all the cut pieces of asparagus to the boiling water.
  6. As the timer counts down to zero-ish, remove the pan from the stove.
  7. Quickly drain the asparagus and add the hot pieces to the ice bath.
  8. Stir the spears around in the bath to quickly cool them.
  9. Remove the cut pieces to a towel to drain.
  10. Spread the cooled pieces onto a plate or cookie sheet and place in freezer.
  11. After the pieces are individually frozen, place them in a freezer container.
1 pint frozen asparagus

Yum.

Okay, so most people blanch their asparagus, but I did it for less than a minute and I was really quick about getting it into the ice bath. Conflicting info from the internet makes me wonder if this will help at all, but I’m hopeful. They look beautiful at least.

Storage count: 2.25 quarts pickles.5 quarts frozen vegetables

1 Comment

Filed under canning, food

#53 (How Much Should You Can?)

As part of my 101 in 1001, I committed to completing a food storage plan. I actually sat down this winter and completed it! However, I did it the old fashioned way: with a pencil and a printed out copy. So, with canning season upon us, I decided to update the plan and bring it into the 21st century. After starting my canning for the season, I decided that it was time for a spreadsheet.

Drumroll please . . .

canning grid

Ok, so that is just a pdf version of the guide I printed from the internet. It’s a good thing though, because the link I had used to find the form before is no good anymore. If you want to print it out and do it the old-fashioned way, you can.

Here is a spreadsheet template for you to use to plan your own canning. I hope you find it useful.

My completed canning plan is a little adventurous. I think I’m going to be very busy this year. The Farmers’ Market is going strong, and I’ve already started my foraging and canning for the year, so I think I can do it, but it will be a lot of work. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 101 in 1001, canning, food, frugality

#94 Have a Date Night With my Hubby Every Month

Mr. Hippie doesn’t like to run. Or hike. Or read. Or, do a lot of the things that I enjoy. He doesn’t hang out with me at derby. Mr. Hippie does like to watch TV. And play video games. And play solitaire on the computer. He likes to watch sports and drink beer and be a regular guy.

When I added this goal to my 101, I anticipated that Mr. Hippie and I would be having a “formal” date night every month. I tried at first to make that happen. We went to the Winter Microbrew and Music Festival. We saw Lewis Black at the City Opera House (on the same stage we got married on in 1998.) We went bowling and even went out to dinner a couple of times but what I realized, is that despite our different interests, we do a lot together.

We have a fairly regular shopping “date”. We get groceries, chicken food, run errands, whatever. We talk. We hold hands. We enjoy each other’s company.  A couple weeks ago we ran out to the feed store to order two new chickens. On the way home we stopped at Traverse City’s newest brew pub, The Filling Station and had a beer together.

Most Friday nights we make pizza. He rolls the dough, I make the sauce. He cuts up ingredients, I dress pizzas. Sometimes while we eat pizza we watch a movie. Other nights, we play Scrabble.

Although hubby doesn’t like to hike for the sake of hiking, he likes to hunt morels. In the spring we go out two or three times a week in search of the elusive fungi.

Recently Mr. Hippie has taken up frisbee golfing. I’m not good at it, but sometimes we do that. I’m more in it for the hike and the alone time with Mr. Hippie, but throwing the frisbee is fun too.

Last week was spring break. Our Traverse City State Theatre shows FREE movies all week. The kids and I went to several matinees, but Mr. Hippie and I saw three movies last week on the big screen. We ate popcorn, drank soda and enjoyed our dates.

My point is, I’m crossing this goal off the list. It might be different if my kids were younger and we had to arrange childcare in order to leave the house alone, but after seventeen years, we are still best friends. Sure, we irritate each other sometimes, but mostly, it’s all good. We have a date night almost every week, and we don’t have to work at it; it’s natural.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 101 in 1001

Why Resale Shopping is Better Than Retail Shopping

I have shopped at resale stores for years. Goodwill is one of my “must stops” when I actually drive around, but there are a few others in town that I frequent and several others that I visit once in awhile.

There are lots of reasons I love resale shopping. First of all, it is much cheaper than retail shopping. Jean Jacket? $7. You can find all kinds of goodies for a fraction of their retail price. Sometimes resale shops even take “leftovers” from retail shops. I got a brand new, still-in-the-box deep fryer for $10.

But, “brand new, still-in-the-box” is not what I look for at resale stores. In fact, not having to deal with all the packaging that accompanies new merchandise is one of the things I love most about resale shopping. Have you seen all the plastic, styrofoam and even twist-ties that come on new stuff? The box is often twice the size of the coontents because of all the extra crap they cram in there. When you shop resale you don’t have to dispose of even more waste. Even though I recycle when I buy new, not everyone does. Resale reduces waste.

Haggling is acceptable. Now, you can’t get out of control with the haggling, but the staff at resale shops usually appreciates it when you let them know if a price is out of line. They want to sell their stuff and won’t if the price isn’t good. Most of my canning jars came from Goodwill. Sometimes when I go in there the jars are marked $.99 each. I won’t buy jars for that price; I can buy them new for less than that. But, if you tell the cashier what the jars retail for new, they’ll mark them down. I’ll buy quite a few jars at fifty cents apiece, but I’ll clean them out if they are a quarter each.

Lots of things that seem like a good idea but take up a lot of space can be found at resale shops for a reasonable price. I buy a LOT of housewares at resale shops. For example:

New pitcher for the ancient Osterizer blender that I dropped and broke.Blender jar (BTW, if you drop your favorite glass blender pitcher on the floor and it breaks, you can screw a standard-mouthed mason jar onto the base as a temporary fix. Screwing a canning jar to the blades also works if you want to make individual smoothies in different flavors or want to premix a bunch for storage.)
Ice cream maker
Bread machine for school
Fermenting crock
Super-deluxe, stainless-steel colander that I use for everything
Drinking glasses
Jelly/cheese straining bag (So, it’s really a cotton pillowcase, but whatever.)

Many resale shops offer you a discount on a future purchase when you donate your old stuff. Cleaned out your closet? Take the old stuff to a resale shop. Somebody will probably love your “old” outfits and you could get 10% off your next purchase.

Lots of thrift stores benefit charities. Women’s Resource Center benefits battered women and their children. Goodwill helps people find jobs. Shopping resale benefits people in your community.

Rundrand TulipToday the reason I love resale shopping is this beautiful Weck canning jar. I have been wanting to try Weck Jars for a while now, but they are quite pricey. This 1 Liter, BPA-free jar cost me $5. It was probably too much since it rivals the actual retail price of the jar and was most of the money I had left from my March allowance, but I can try it out and see how it works before I invest a fortune on more fancy-shmancy canning jars. If I don’t like it for canning, I can always store dried beans or coffee or something in it.

4 Comments

Filed under canning, frugality, green living

Etsy

One of the goals I had from my 101 in 1001 was to set up an Etsy account and actually sell something. Today, that happened.

I set the account up months ago, but never listed anything. Today I added a banner and listed my first three items: cute little bags for storing your skate wheels.  They’re designed primarily for derby girls, but anyone that skates on quad skates could use them, or skateboarders could use them to store two sets of wheels.

To my surprise, I sold a bag today! I was so excited that I had to run right out and ship it. My friend, Rochelle ordered it. While you’re on Etsy checking out my shop, not just Derby Bella, you should go see hers too: Sink or Swim Treasures.

Hopefully the shop will help me reach my Spending Diet goals but right now I am at the break-even point. For now I am happy just to have crossed another thing off the list.

2 Comments

Filed under 101 in 1001, crafts

Spending Diet; How’d the first month go?

When I decided to start the spending diet, I didn’t really discuss it, I just implemented it. So imagine Mr. Hippie’s surprise to learn that he had essentially been cut off.  He got paid on the second, so we went out, ran errands, and did a little grocery shopping.  We also withdrew enough cash to cover our “allowances” for the month.  He was excited to have cash in hand since that isn’t something we normally do. I think he was also working under the assumption that this allowance would be happening every time he got paid. This was particularly enticing since January is a three pay-period month for him. Now picture his shock and sadness when he realized that this money had to last him all month.  Despite his reluctance, the plan seems to be working so far.

The biggest part of the plan is to reduce extra spending, but another aspect is to try and find ways to increase your income.  One of the things I have been doing to raise a little extra money is make these cute skate-wheel bags.

You know you want one.
Storage bag for roller/skateboard skate wheels.

I’ve been selling them to other derby girls and hope to get some listed on etsy soon. Hubby assumed that I was doing it to raise extra “allowance” for myself.  He was a little surprised when he learned I plan to contribute the profits back to the general fund to pay down our debt but I think he was relieved that I wasn’t just trying to raise a whole bunch of extra money for myself.

How I spent my January allowance:

  • $35 ~ Derby dues.  This is an automatic withdrawl from my checking account, so I will only be taking $65 cash each month for my allowance.
  • $10 ~ 2012 wall calendar and a start on my Christmas shopping for next year.  Gifts are wants, not needs, so my gifting needs to come from my allowance.  However, both items were half off, so I felt the expense was worth it.
  • $15 ~ “gifted” to my husband.  He has been wanting a big ticket item for a while. He got some money for Christmas and had allowance money in hand, so decided the time to splurge was now.  He was a little short.  I was going to loan him the money until February but decided that since:
    A. The spending diet was my idea and
    B. He had no idea he was going on a diet, it would be nice of me to cover his overage.
    Besides, he sprung for his item the first week of January and still spent NO MORE MONEY all month.  It was worth $15 to me for him to buy-in to the plan; it will be a savings in the long run.
  • $4 ~ “Brunch” with my son.  I received a $10 gift certificate to a local restaurant for Christmas from one of my students. Adam was at work and Gwen was at a friend’s, so I decided to take Dylan to breakfast with the gift certificate.  There was a slight overage and I needed to leave a tip, so I sprung the four bucks to spend a nice morning with my son. I wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t had the certificate, but the money was well spent; the breakfast sandwich was big enough to provide him with a lunch as well. Plus, we talked about the spending diet while we were out, so hopefully he is learning good financial habits.
  • $6 ~ Beer. One of the things my husband likes to spend his allowance on is beer. I myself will not spring for a case of beer because I can’t stomach the idea of spending that much of my allowance on it.  However, I do enjoy a beer from time to time so I pay him a dollar every time I take one of his. He is the clear winner here because the beers actually only cost about $0.75 each and he gets to keep all deposit money to use in the future but I do take free sips of his beers from time to time.
  • $5 ~Crafting Supplies. I needed some ribbon, velcro and a fat quarter to complete a project. If I sell the stuff on Etsy, I will repay myself for the expenses but for now, these items were a want.

Not bad. At the end of the month I still had $25 left even after “giving away” part of my money. I know I have some expenses coming up that will put me over some months allowances, so having a cushion feels good.

1 Comment

Filed under frugality