green

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.

Saving Versus Hoarding: Too Much of a Good Thing

juicebottle

I have been planning on writing this post for a few weeks, but I have things in my draft folder I intended on posting prior to this one.

Then I started thinking about this orange juice container.

I buy orange juice maybe 3 times a year. If that. I am really picky about my juice and I really can’t justify the price for the quality I want more than that. I’m not at the point where I think about the reusability of the packaging I buy [yet] [though I also admit that I am annoyed that Wegmans swapped out their pasta sauce bottles for plastic, at least in the bulk pack]. However, the quality of juice I buy normally comes in a bottle more often than a carton.

So I rinsed out the bottle and set it aside for the tea that Mid brings to work. We don’t know what happened to his normal Stanley thermos at this stage of the move, though I’m sure it’ll come up again at some point.

It did however get me thinking about this subject again, so I’ll touch on it tonight.

Saving Versus Hoarding

There is a certain frugality to getting as much use out of what you own as you can, instead of buying a separate product for that purpose. That’s why I use canning jars in my kitchen for storage instead of dedicated kitchen storage pieces, unless they go on deep sale.  During my research for the money saving posts, one of the consistent tips was to never throw out anything that can be used for something else.

I’m going to tell you there comes a point where you need to let things go and throw them away.

Again, I do agree with the idea-and use it-but as with the majority of things in life, it’s a matoter of degrees. You can tip from ‘frugal, green reuse’ into ‘kind of scary stockpile of old stir fry bottles.’

My system for avoiding a hoarding situation and maintaining a useful stash:

[This system takes into account seasonal use items like Christmas decorations or winter gear, but the idea is still the same. Even if the item is only used once a year, it should be getting used during that point of the year. If you have 1000 Christmas ornaments and only really use 50, it’s time to purge.]

  1. Figure out when you use the items you already own-if you already have a stash of 50 bottles and only use 10, it’s not time to start hanging on to more bottles. It’s time to purge at least some of those overflow bottles.
  2. Determine how much storage space you actually have to put towards saving-not what you -think- you have, not what you -might- have if you were to clean things out, what you have right now.
  3. Occasionally deep clean-go through and clean out cupboards and closets and drawers. Get rid of things you haven’t used in an allotted amount of time. For example, if you haven’t used something in a year, at the very least put it into more remote storage like an attic or store room, or purge it.
  4. Forget how much you paid for it-with some exceptions. If the item was truly expensive, try to sell or trade it to recoup some of the costs. But if it was a normal sized purchase, the money is already gone regardless of whether or not you keep it.
  5. Once you have an idea of actual space, have cleared out your stashes, and know what you have-only keep things that you can name a use for. Try to avoid ‘but I might need it some day’ if you don’t have any idea what you’ll be using it for on that random future day.,
  6. Don’t keep items that need more than light repairs. A box that can be taped is one thing, an engine that needs to be completely overhauled is another.
  7. Stop saving when you stop using-every so often I have to go through and purge small bits of yarn. I do a lot of scrap knitting, but there comes a point where my small bit collection outsizes the amount of time that I spend scrap knitting. Don’t save more glass jars than you will ever feasibly use.
  8. Only keep things to ‘upcycle’ if you actually intend on upcycling them. I feel like upcycling is my generation’s answer to the Depression’s keep it because you may need it and not have resources to get it. Upcycling is awesome, but if you don’t know how to sew, now is not the time to start holding onto piles of old blown out jeans. You can certainly try to trade or barter them to someone who can upcycle them for you, and you can definitely work on learning to sew so you can eventually upcycle old denim-but there will be plenty of old denim available to play with when you get to that point. Basically, don’t start holding onto items for skills that you don’t actually have yet.

Learning to Homestead-What You Can Do in an Apartment

garden2016

Urban homesteading is a different beast than the way that my parents do it with 75 acres in the country.

It has to be, and it presents interesting and novel logistical problems not otherwise faced by people on established rural homesteads. In some ways it’s easier-you [generally] have a water source, some form of garbage removal, and at least theoretically speaking a steadier, definite access to sources of a guaranteed crop via a market.

However you’re also facing space concerns, pollution concerns, sometimes security concerns, and potentially distinct concerns that homesteading in other areas may not-one of my friends wasn’t allowed to grow vegetables because the plants attracted vermin. And I…well I live within 20 miles of Love Canal and I don’t exactly trust our soil quality.

What you can do in your apartment is also going to depend on what your apartment offers for space and storage, as well as green space access and local laws. A duplex with a backyard is probably going to have more options for use than my one bedroom with no accessible green space. There are ways of making it work-including a skills share where you ask for lawn space from someone in exchange for produce-but generally speaking you can do -something- with your space.

Homesteading Projects that are Apartment Friendly [Though Not Necessarily Every Apartment]

  1. Microcanning
  2. Scratch cooking
  3. Dehydrating
  4. Interfacing with local growers through CSAs and farmer’s markets
  5. Container gardening
  6. DIY cleaning supplies
  7. Depending on type of apartment (a larger duplex or rental house with a yard and coop space) chickens and other urban friendly animals
  8. Convert to cloth products-kitchen cloth is generally pretty easy to transition to, you could also jump to family and mama cloth depending on your comfort level
  9. Trade and barter networks
  10. Fermentation
  11. Fiber arts
  12. Minor household construction [depending on rental agreement]
  13. Raised bed gardening
  14. DIY beauty and body supplies like scrubs
  15. Composting [depending on rental agreement]

The trick to urban homesteading is to use the resources in your community. You’re probably not going to have a lot of space for gardening, so use a farmer’s market, or even just a good sized supermarket. It was pointed out to me once that you’re still helping a farmer pay bills when you buy tomatoes. I buy my broth bones from a local butcher. I use co-ops and markets for local honey. There may be trade offs-Buffalo doesn’t currently allow chickens and even if they did, they would have to live in my bath tub but we do have farmer’s markets with eggs. I can still cook and can and I have herb buckets every season.

DIY Face Scrub

honey-dipper-351485_1280

There’s a lot of controversy over the topic of facial scrubs-more than you would think. Whether it’s better to use physical versus chemical, the little balls that don’t disintegrate and kill fish, the evils (or blessings) of sugar…With the exception of the little balls, it seems to depend a  lot on who you talk to (Reddit seems to be populated by a lot of arm chair dermatologists).

I do like physical scrubs, and my skin handles a sugar scrub fine. Truth be told, I do prefer to buy my scrubs but sometimes I need something between pay days or I just don’t feel like putting pants on.

No one likes pants.

I like adding honey for moisture (my skin is letting me know we’re not in the glow of early youth anymore) and, honestly, organic roses if I can find them. Oatmeal is fine as well if you have it. I would avoid coffee unlike body scrubs.

Use an oil like olive or coconut-use one that you know that you don’t react to, or do a spot test first. I don’t react badly to olive or coconut but I’m not acne prone either.

Notes

-I use my facial scrubs in the shower so I can just wash them off

-Because all ingredients are food grade, I make a very small amount so I go through it quickly enough to not mold

-I mixed in a cup and then pressed into an empty Paintbox Soapworks sample jar. The label’s wearing off and is totally not photogenic

-I don’t use a facial scrub every day. Start out with once a week and see how your skin handles it. I use hot water on a face cloth the other days

Basic Honey Face Scrub

Honey

Brown sugar

Olive/coconut oil

In a dish add a small amount of sugar. Add about a teaspoon of honey. Add enough oil to wet the scrub. Press into a small jar.

*Use a light hand in applying and don’t rub too hard. You’re trying to exfoliate, not act out a body horror in your shower.

Steel and Father

steel and father

I still can’t photograph hats for finished knitting projects when by myself…and Mid is rarely around (or willing…or, oddly, capable of producing the types of shots that I want without me devolving into a borderline tantrum. Me: take a photo of the hat. Mid: Okay. Me, going home and looking at the camera:…why are all these shots from like 15 feet away. Mid: I did what you asked. I took a photo of you wearing a hat. Me:…I’m going to stick with my terrible only half a hat at a time and never the back of the hat selfies).

I want you to know that I endangered myself for this hat.

I almost fell off of the step trying to get photos. Because I’m just that graceful.

I am in fact capable of knitting things other than socks, hats, or scarves. But most of my knitting time is on the bus and I’m not going to try to work an armhole on the bus. Maybe on the train…but not on the NFTA. So most of my projects turn into simple things that I don’t really need to have he pattern out for.

This hat was supposed to be for sale or trade, or at the very least, for donation-but I should never be allowed to write a hat pattern because I finally just let the lace devolve into chaos lace and do what it wanted at the crown. I’ll wear something like that but I’m not going to ask someone else.

The next hat should go better. It’s just a rib.

———

There seems to be some great confusion about this Buffalo storm on Facebook…and I’m having people who don’t live in this city kindly trying to teach me about the city I live in when they don’t live here themselves (yes, that was snarky. I’m a snarky person. Bourdain is my hero).

Buffalo is broken down into two major sections: the north towns (or northtowns, one word) and the south towns (or the southtowns, one word)-and a dozen smaller neighborhoods like Kenton, Elmwood Village, University Heights, so on and so forth.

Ironically, Buffalo proper is getting little to no snow. The north towns are getting little to no snow. The south towns are hoping they’ll be melted out by Halloween.

Please…PLEASE…if someone from Buffalo tells you that the south towns are getting snow…please don’t tell them to stop changing the subject by shifting the conversation to towns not related to Buffalo-because it is the Buffalo storm after all.

So if you see someone talking about the south towns getting hit…we are in fact talking about the same storm. Because I’m frankly getting tired of admittedly well meaning people telling me they don’t understand why I’m talking about Cheektowaga when it’s the Buffalo storm. Buffalo isn’t a giant mono-city.

Edward

Edward Olive Green

I have a confession to make.

I hate following other people’s dye recipes. I don’t trust them. I know that I post mine, and I hope that people are capable of replicating my results.

But this project is exactly why I don’t follow other people’s dye recipes. I was going to do a solar dyeing course while I was on vacation, which fell through in large part because of a freak Polar Vortex that is relevant to my fiber art in more ways than one. I knew I was going to have fiber coming out of my ears, so I decided to start a project I’ve had on my mind-one that was supposed come out navy blue.

When I mixed the dye pot, it was murky green. But I plunged ahead anyway, deciding to be trusting for once.

So this is how Edward is a yellow leaning olive. I like it, I actually really like it, but it’s no navy blue and this is why I won’t follow people’s dye recipes.

The naming for this one comes from a Lady Edward, a figure who featured in the English World War I peace movement.

Edward

2 packages blue koolaide or similar (sample is dyed with ice blue lemonade)

1 package orange

This is your base dye pot. Start with about 2 ounces wool for coverage shown in photos.

 

Bloggers-I have started a new group board on Pinterest. Open to all DIY, craft, food, or other creative blogs, I would love to have you join. Joining instructions are posted on the board-join here.

Please, stop by this week’s Inspired Weekends!

Linked to-

create with joy

carolyn’s homework

the chicken chick

the prairie homestead

a pinch of joy

frugal by choice

vmg206

mamaldiane

pink when

DIY Citrus Cleaner

citrus cleaner

Just another fast entry. I hurt my lower back at some point in the last three weeks, which has thrown off my right leg. I’m much better, but still not awesome. And I get to rock an awesome compression sock.

Yay.

I mean, I know that it could be a lot worse-my GP is pretty certain it’s nothing circulatory or cardiac. I had a D-dimer run and it came back negative for clotting, which is the big concern. But. Yeah.

Anyway, it’s put a damper on my enthusiasm for a lot of things. But projects like this are awesome and low impact.

If you’ve been cooking with a lot of citrus (like, say, being obsessed with soda syrup like me) you’re going to have piles of peels.

In order to utilize them for your home, you can make perpetual citrus cleaner.

1. Take a large clean glass jar.

2. Place peels into the jar.

3. Cover with vinegar-I used ACV because it’s what I normally have in the house. Just regular old cheap off the shelf stuff.

4. Let sit for at least two weeks.

5. Strain through a kitchen cloth or coffee filter and return to the jar.

6. As you use more citrus, throw the peels into the jar with the cleaner and start again, letting the peels on the bottom sit for at least two weeks. Continue to add vinegar to cover peels.

I pour mine into an old spray bottle for use.

 

Bloggers-I have started a new group board on Pinterest. Open to all DIY, craft, food, or other creative blogs, I would love to have you join. Joining instructions are posted on the board-join here.

Please, stop by this week’s Inspired Weekends!

Linked to-

life with the crust cut off

family home and life

the tasty fork

mom’s test kitchen

ginger snap crafts

mamaldiane

carolyn’s homework

memories by the mile

vmg206

the chicken chick

frugal by choice

the prairie homestead

simply living simply

nifty thrifty

clearwater farm

little house in the suburb

simply gloria

lil suburban homestead

Day 1-No ‘Poo

I may be a little late jumping on the no ‘poo (washing your hair with something other than shampoo-hence no ‘poo) bandwagon but for $.49 a box for baking soda I thought it would be at least worth a shot to see if it does anything for my baby fine, waist length hair.

*As it turns out I have no decent photos of my hair. I’ll have to fix that.

Flat.

Not particularly dirty, but flat.

When you start the no ‘poo process, one of the main warnings is that your hair goes through an adjustment period before it finds the ‘right’ amount of oil that it needs to produce to stay healthy. One of the major problems with conventional shampoo is that it strips too much oil out of your hair and causes your scalp to produce too much. Without that stripping agent your body will probably produce the same amount, but the baking soda won’t strip as much out of your hair. Hence, you may have a case of the greasies for awhile.

Following the advice of a couple of different sites I dissolved a tablespoon of baking soda into roughly a cup’s worth of water. I massaged my scalp before showering to help loosen any dead skin (ew, but necessary as far as I could tell) and then washed my hair with the baking soda water like normal making sure to rinse well. I rinsed with diluted apple cider vinegar after which helps normalize the pH of your hair and prevents it from getting frizzy.

So day 1 verdict: it’s slightly more oily than normal (though it was also fairly greasy going into the shower. The top half of my hair is flatter than normal but I’m also used to a volumizing shampoo. The bottom half of my hair does feel softer. I did end up using some dry shampoo to see if I can get some volume, at least.

We’ll see how this goes. It’s not like I can’t go back to normal shampooing if this ends up not working for my hair.

Rainforest {Selfish Knitting}

I keep wanting to call this yarn Amazon, but the color is actually called Rainforest.

I’m not sure I actually like this yarn. It knits up much more to a sport weight with my normal gauge than a worsted weight and it has a vaguely strange, brittle hand to it. But I do like how the colors work up.

I wasn’t sure how the colors would work with my skin tone because I normally do better with warm tones than cool, but I think the greens shift yellow enough that it works.

And yes, for the record, I did pledge APO (F05, EN).

Anyway, I think the only thing that I would have done differently is that where Selkie has enough length that the top flops a little even if I’m covering with my hair down (like in the photo), Rainforest sort of sticks up in the back. It doesn’t do it if I’m going for a full cover with my hair pulled up and all it takes is a little arranging so the floppy bit stays down.

Linked

Be Different Act Normal     I Should Be Mopping the Floor

Create With Joy     ClaireJustine

Selkie {Selfish Knitting}

Selfish knitting- the act of knitting for one’s self, or the act of knitting what one’s self desires-which may be knitting for other people, purely for the sake of pleasing one’s self.

These are not my colors. I really don’t think I can stress at all how knitting with yarn the color of sea glass is not ‘me’.

I’m a water element. I don’t want to do woo-woo-philosophical here, but I’m a pretty dominant water element when it comes to my personality and alignment. In terms of my chart I’m Aries with Cancer rising, and my moon is in Gemini. I don’t put much if any stock into astrology though, even if that’s a pretty spot on description of my personality.I’m a hot blooded water. Hells, I’m almost steam.

So, yeah. I’m a pretty hot blooded water thing, and I tend to pull more from the autumnal connections to water than the cooling, flowing, stereotypical blues and greens of the oceans side. For that matter, I’m actually afraid of large bodies of salt water. The Great Lakes don’t bother me at all, but put me next to the ocean and I freak out.

I have no idea what I’m doing knitting with yarn that may be one of the most ‘watery’ colorways I’ve ever laid my eyes on or why it pleases me so much since it’s not flaming orange or blood red-but this hat just makes me happy. I guess that’s the only real thing that mattters.

And it matches my eyes. So extra points to Selkie house for that.