Author: katie

So there was a girl who once wanted to handsew but got sidetracked by yarn instead...

It’s Been a Long Week. I Live in Buffalo. I Have Many Carrots.

pickledcarrots

It’s not that I have been silent all week, if anything, I haven’t been here because I have been making just so much damn noise elsewhere.

I know that I have talked about living in New York before.

What I may not have made clear, or not recently at least, is that I live in Buffalo.

We have all had a long week. I don’t have the emotional resources necessary right now to go through it all again over here, which I am aware is a privilege.

Which leads me to one of the personal developments that has happened over the past week-people seem to like to -hear- me. I am something of a very low level vlogger with absolutely shite videos. I refuse to edit these things, that type of shite.

If you were absolutely just starting out on your preparedness/self sufficiency journey what would you want to know? I am in a weird position in that there was never really a point in my life where I had absolutely no education in this area, it was what did I know when and how to adjust it to, say, an urban environment.

I am working on my own stockpiles and we’re definitely moving into growing seasons. My grocery bill is falling without doing much more than making sure to shop seasonally and go to farmer’s markets. I found a sale on carrots, I bought four pounds or more at $.40 a pound. That doesn’t sound like a lot of carrots until you’re trying to get them processed at the end of a day where you’ve already been processing food for almost 12 hours. I have found that we actually use more carrots if they’re dried so I am fine having carrots, but I’m sort of over carrots at this point.

June-In Season

pears1

Asparagus

Beans

Carrots

Summer squashes

Peas

Peppers

Apricots

Blueberries

Cherries

Kiwis

Strawberries

Raspberries

Tomatoes

Pears

Plums

Peaches

Nectarines

Radishes

 

*storage apples actually make great sauce, so if you’re low on sauce spring is actually a good time of year to make applesauces.

 

I Have Many Words.

All tools are weapons in the right hands.

I can’t sit on this one. I just can’t. Not with my not Caucasian husband sitting in the other room. Not with the…number I’ve lost count round of ‘when will this stop?’

It stops with us. It stops with us. It stops when we finally MAKE it stop.

My politics DEFINITELY put me on the Woody Guthrie and Dixie Chicks end of the spectrum. I do not have a lot of tools in my tool chest; I have a few. I have academics behind me. I’m not sure what people thought that conflict sociology meant. I have more than a passing familiarity with American protest politics (American -women- were looting and rioting as early as 1776, sorry, this is in our cultural DNA).

I have homesteading skills.

Here’s the thing. I can feed you. I can cloth you. I can heal you, to a point. There are generations of knowledge sitting in my head. I have an entire network of people that know the crap that I don’t.

I have heard it said, with some truth, that homesteaders end up on a certain end of the political spectrum. However this is one of those things that run in a circle, you go far enough to the right you end up left again. Control your own production. It’s a somewhat privileged position but less than you think. Do what you can. Learn what you don’t know. Teach the people who don’t know. Feed the people who can’t feed themselves. Jesus flipped tables but He also fed the poor.

So I mean I can’t make this stop, but I have my role to play.

Do what you can. Start where you are.

Deer Gate and Self Replicating Jar Orders

 

pumpkin

This will be a little housekeeping, a little general life stuff

It should be noted that since I went something like four years without consistent blogging that everything on this site is out of date. And some of it may stay that way. I have no idea if link parties are even a thing anymore. I have noticed a lot of the links on my blog roll are effectively dead. Even my about page is out of date. I don’t know if or when that will change. Just assume I’m not holding link parties any time soon even if they are still a thing.

I want to get back into horror and folklore posts again but I can’t guarantee if that will happen in the near future. I will also say that I can’t guarantee that I agree with whatever I wrote when I wrote that content, or that I would write it the same way now. I mean I feel like that should be an obvious statement but I actually still get daily hits for old folklore posts and in 2020 I feel like it’s safer to just state that I may not be completely in agreement with myself on years old posts.

My neighborhood is filling up with deer and I’m slipping into old habits. I spend a lot of time wandering up and down the bike path. The deer own that bike path. I’ve started calling it deer gate on my deer related facebook posts. I’ve fallen into a second shift sleep pattern which is honestly what my body does when it’s left to itself, and when I can stop injuring my feet I do a lot of housework and canning and knitting. Right now my kitchen is an implosion because it just hurts to stand too long between blisters and broken toes and whatnot. It’ll come back. Some of these patterns go back into high school and earlier. I used to spend a lot of time by myself, just wandering.

I honestly don’t know what comes next. I think it’s pretty normal to feel like we’re outside of time and disconnected from any sense of the physical right now. I want to think we’re going to be in some sort of normal by Halloween but I also feel like that’s just asking to break my own heart. There’s also frankly a lot that I just don’t want to go back to now that I know that there are other options that honestly I think could have always been available that just weren’t because of abstract and archaic social norms.

I have terrible lungs. There’s also always a lingering sense in the back of my head that I may not even be here for Halloween.

Fedex tells me that I have a package coming in tomorrow or Saturday. I haven’t placed an order that would be coming in tomorrow or Saturday. I googled the address that they gave me and it’s a farm store in Anoka. As in, the home of Halloween in America. Things are getting to that weird ‘everything is starting to make a pattern’ stage. I DID place an order with them that was delivered in full last week. I hope that it’s an accidental double pull and not that I’m going to have to figure out what to do with a misrouted woodsplitter or baby chicks or something tomorrow or Saturday.

 

Food Preservation May 21st-May 27th

There was a typo initially in the title that read as ‘May 275th’ and to be honest I’m not even sure that’s incorrect.

It’s hot here right now. It’s supposed to break soon but right now it’s inside of an oven, I know why people have outside kitchens hot. It coincides with a very short week and the funds to get stuff done, so I am working projects as long as I can stand to be in the kitchen and then moving on to other things for awhile and working like that on a cycle.

I have some projects that will be long term large size stockpiles this summer. My husband will eat as many dilly beans as a person puts in front of him and I finally hit the bottom of my 7 year old dried hot pepper stash. Both need to be as large as I can get them by the end of season. Same with the raspberry lemonade concentrate. It’s his favorite non-caffeinated beverage right now and I use to it make Italian sodas and rehydration drinks (add a little pink salt when you mix it). Same with tomatoes, I’m home canning my own and buying a can every time I do groceries. Even if we don’t go sideways this summer I still need to face Buffalo winters and my heat allergy.

dracula

Pandemic commentary or heat allergy? You decide

Food Preservation May 21-May 27th

raspberry coffee syrup-canned

raspberry lemonade concentrate

heirloom salsa

produce box pickles

produce box relish

dilly beans

pickled asparagus

dried jalapenos

dried peaches

dried apples

dried bananas

dried green beans

 

The Return of Produce Box Pickling-Pickling for Food Waste Prevention

The pandemic is making us all do weird things. I mean I think it’s expressing itself on all of us in odd and interesting behaviors.

In my case I’m afraid of touching everything in a grocery store. I don’t mean in that I worry about other people any more than I have ever been, but I feel like I personally am under a microscope more than I might have been in February.

What this means is that when I pick something up I feel a moral obligation to buy the damn thing, to probably a greater extent than they actually mean by the statement ‘don’t touch what you won’t buy’. It only really bothers me when it comes to produce.

Because I end up holding a half spongy cucumber being like what the $%^! am I going to do with this now. I would NOT buy this cucumber in pre virus world but here I am feeling like…produce guilt because it’s now My Cucumber.

producebox

Produce box pickling is a term I did not invent (I don’t think I did anyway) that is framed around grabbing everything that’s starting to get sad and lonely in your fridge and mix batching your pickles. So it’s being flexible with what’s going into your pickles instead of straight running a single vegetables.

So I brought home the sponge-umber,  cut off the worst of the sponge, and sliced it with a summer squash, a zucchini, and a single jalapeno. I chopped the vegetables into matchsticks and heavily salted the mix, and let sit in a colander in a bowl for a few hours to pull out the fluids.

After a few hours I made my base produce box brine (in the canning page link) with a dill seed variation and let the produce cook down in the brine for about 15 minutes. I ended up with just short of 2 pints of relish and sponge-umber found a use in life.

Yes, I am aware that I didn’t HAVE to bring the cucumber home. However I’m also sure that with it being as soft as it was it would have been tossed. I only lost about a quarter of the cucumber and ended up with a shelf stable product for future use.

A couple project notes: I used white vinegar for this run instead of ACV because that’s what was open, left out any dried hot peppers I might normally use because I used a jalapeno (though my household doesn’t think of jalapenos as hot necessarily), used a heavy hand on dill seed, and didn’t salt the brine because I really did lean into the salt because I used table as opposed to pickling cucumber and they tend to run much more wet. I do hot pack my relish as stated above and I had little to no left over relish post processing. I processed for about 10 minutes in half pints and a 12 oz jar.

 

Reusable Canning Experiment-Phase 1

I think my canning stockpile is getting to where I feel more comfortable using the traditional two part lid system. I have been picking up lids every time I find them, though never more than a box or two, and I check jar prices every few days and hit decent sales when I find them.

However I have been moving into a mindset where I want to get into more reusable methods because I know me. We’re only at the end of May and my concerns on food waste have me microbatching a lot more than I might on a normal year. Factoring in the things I normally can heavily on a normal year and I’m looking at reusable methods for several reasons including price and waste.

So I’m sitting at my first week with reusable methods. To define the term, because I know at least one person is sitting there thinking mason jars are reusable by default. I am talking specifically about systems designed for the lids to be reused, normally with a rubber gasket.

Currently the three systems I’m testing are Harvest Guard, Tattler, and Weck.

weck

Weck

You’re going to hear a lot of mixed noise about Weck and I’m starting with them because they’re the system with the biggest learning curve and where I had my first true lid failure I think ever, honestly. However it was totally me. It was complete user error.

They’re finicky. They’re gorgeous but finicky. You have to heat the gasket with the lid in hot water, make sure the gasket is fit over the lid, seat it correctly and clamp it into place with a separate clamp system.

Guess what I didn’t do first run? Any of that. Guess what didn’t seal the first run? I have another run cooling now and just visually I can tell that they’re at least trying to seal even if I don’t hit it this time. I figured out 90% of the ‘correct’ way just by troubleshooting the first run on my own. If the other 10% gets me in the end will be determined.

Weck jars have no FDA testing behind them but they’re the primary jar style in Europe. Make your own decisions based on that info. There is no plastic whatsoever in this style. However I also spent $20 after gift cards on 6 jelly jars. You pay for these jars.

Harvest Guard

Harvest Guard is a brand of American made reusable lids. You get a plastic lid and a gasket. They’re controversial because there’s something like a 30% failure rate however I will also say that again my own lid failure is my own misuse. This is also why I completely misused the Wecks the first time, because this was my first use of a gasket and with Harvest Guard you DO seat the gasket first and then the lid. So I just sort of went with that pattern with the Wecks.

The trick to this style of lid is that you do not tighten down to process. You tighten after the run is cooling. This is where my failure comes in, I went to tighten the rings at the appropriate time and the ring was already as tight as it was going to go. That was me, not the lid. The other three lids in my sample pack went on fine. I will get getting more of these lids.

Tattler

Tattler is the most recognized of these types of lids. I have a sample pack coming and will come back to this when I run them.

Gaskets

I’m putting this as a separate point. Every company except Harvest Guard will be very direct about only using a gasket once. Most bloggers will too. However there’s also a certain amount of wink wink nudge because most people seem to run gaskets until they degrade. The wording is suggestive of this too, as in, do not use gaskets that look worn out. I do intend to rerun gaskets at least as an experiment. I’ll report back later.

In Defense of Microbatching

YAY one of the posts I’ve been saying has been coming for weeks now.

Now that I’m semi permanently work from home I watch a lot of Youtube videos while I work, and I have been watching a lot of homesteading and homestead adjacent channels. I was watching one of the canning for beginner videos that came up on auto play and the teacher said, almost with a literal sniff, ‘there is absolutely no reason to microbatch and I absolutely do not recommend it when you could just spend 6 hours and get your entire years worth done in a day’.

Ok. Hold up. Back up a second. It’s time for this post.

I have written on this before but that was prior to our descent into a cthonic hellscape. If anything I am MORE supportive than ever of microbatching.

microbatching

A Couple of Points

I define microbatch here as anything you can reasonably source in a grocery trip run or a single day’s harvest. Microbatching is sometimes seen as being suggestive of something like two quarter pints and while that’s certainly a microbatch, assume something along the lines of ‘fits in a 12 quart stockpot without having to get out the enameled canner’

Microbatching does NOT impact my electric bill that much; even with being at home 24/7, cooking all the time, canning, running a camp sized washing machine, running a dehydrator, my husband gaming all the time, etc, my electric bill only went up by $4. That may be an actual defense but I feel like I’ve seen it said as a weakness, that you’re spiking electric usage for such a small output but I haven’t seen that to be true.

In Defense of Microbatching

Price-it is a lot easier to navigate and surf sales when you don’t need 20 bushels of a single produce item. You can still end up with the same total yearly output, but if you’re buying whatever crop it can be easier to even out the changes in pricing

Food waste-I have lost a single bell pepper since March 14th. March 14th was my first day of home leave, that’s the only reason I remember that date. There is a lot of ways of going about this including freezing whatever you have until you have enough that it IS worth running a canner for, but you can save a lot more food than you think if you stop thinking about canning as something where you need to put up 12 quarts at minimum

Availability-look I can’t tell you for certain that stuff will be harder to find this year. But I can’t tell you that it won’t be either. There is always a possibility that your personal buying power will be limited.

Crop size-it is possible to be ultra productive in an average backyard garden. It is also entirely possible your yield will be three cucumbers and a pound of tomatoes. You don’t HAVE to can that but there’s no reason not to can it either.

Material availability-similar to food availability, you may just not be able to even source enough lids to run massive batches this year. I’m hearing rumbles from various parts of the country that stuff is getting scarce and until we sort out supply chain stability issues you may not be able to run the size batches you’re used to.

Family size-not everyone has 10 people they’re trying to feed. Not everyone needs 100 quarts of tomatoes.

Storage space limitations-I know a lot of homesteaders like to sneer about this (don’t act like it’s not true we all know it’s true) but not everyone is prepping on 100 acres off grid. Plenty of people are prepping in apartments and don’t intend on sleeping on their canning stash.

Variety-this is a completely legitimate reason and one that is weirdly controversial though I’m not sure why. Not everyone WANTS 12 pints of just plain strawberry jam, and microbatching is where you can play with styles and flavors with more ease than with bigger batches, unless you have the need for massive amounts of canned product and the access to the produce.

Time-can we please work on giving up the idea that everyone suddenly has all the time in the world right now? I’m not sure why we all keep going along with this myth when everyone I know is working harder than ever. I am working a full time job including testing and overtime as well as effectively being a full time stay at home homemaker right now. I don’t -have- 6 hours at a stretch to just knock out a full year’s yield. I might be able to justify an hour or two a day at different points in my schedule. And I don’t even have kids. People who juggling education and childcare in there probably have even less guaranteed time access. I am well aware that people make it work, I am just saying that if your argument is just dedicate the time we don’t all have the time TO dedicate in a single block.

Phrase of the day is ‘not everyone’ and I’m not sure I have the mental energy to try to change it.

Food Preservation May 14th-May 20th

There really isn’t a good time necessarily to break something in your foot but I guess if I’m forced by circumstance to not walk the hill every day is probably as good as time as any. I had an incident with a foot stool and thought with some clarity, the fact that this doesn’t hurt right now even as I feel something crunch in my foot tells me this is not going to end well. However even with my daily commute ending at the living room couch every day doesn’t mean I’ve been off of it because I am in fact not an intelligent person. I was actually pretty ok on it until I went to run an errand for my husband and realized this was going to be a very not enjoyable experience.

I have a couple of posts percolating in the back of my brain including why micro batching in a pandemic isn’t as off the wall as it sounds (save. everything. you. can.) and my potential/developing experiment with reusable canning lids but I have to get there first.

raspberryconcentrate

Raspberry lemonade concentrate-my husband’s life blood at this point.

As an aside I find it a little…weird that Ball is still being like ‘buy our stuff’ when we both know there’s no stuff to buy, Ball, you’re not producing for obvious reasons and I’m getting emails on lid orders telling me that they’ll fill it…eventually. Maybe there’s a post there too, about how I’m ordering supplies from random Midwestern farm stores at this point.

Anyway.

Food Preservation May 14th-May 20th

half gallon whole milk-frozen

pineapple salsa-frozen

strawberry butter-about half a pint (this one was way, way off of estimated yield)

lemonade concentrates-blackberry, raspberry, blueberry-a lot. just…a lot. This may be tied with dilly beans in my husband’s heart

1 pound roma tomatoes-dried

1 pound nectarines-dried

8 oz mushrooms-dried

bbq sauce- 3/4 quart

tomato jam-about a pint

apple pie bourbon-quart jar

raspberry blood orange vodka-pint jar

dilly beans-about 2 quarts

2020 Canning List

So I did sit down and wrote out a list, and I might as well put it on here if only for record keeping. I don’t necessarily ‘promote’ this blog anymore, that’s a pit of time and effort that I never really got any reward out of.

Basically I’m ok with talking to myself right now and whoever wanders by.

jazz

It needs a photo and this playlist makes me happy right now

 

Cranberry Sauce

Lemonade concentrates-this is my favorite project right now and I’m about three batches in already. I will be writing on this one in full later

Firestarter-this one is on the site a couple of times over, and I’m not sure I can run a canner and NOT do this one at this point.

Apple pear jam-see above. My husband will not let me get away with not making this one, I even hunted down some Pomona for the project.

Dilly beans-he will literally tantrum if I don’t restock these. He went and got his ‘favorite’ jars just for this project. Soon Mid, soon.

Tomatoes-all and sundry. I’ve already made tomato jam

Dill pickles

Hot peppers-probably will be run plain. Just vinegar and salt

Bbq sauce-I did a batch this weekend and ended up at Ted’s hotdog sauce. This may be a season’s project trying to find ‘my’ recipe

Mint and raspberry syrups

Sweet pickles

Relish

Stone fruits-I’m putting this in one giant ball because I want canned peaches, plum jam, peach jam, etc