Sunday, September 27, 2009

Urban Homesteader

Somewhere back in history, I ran across a website called On it many people blog about their everyday life on small somewhat independent farms. They talk about homeschooling their children, raising gardens, milking goats, county fairs, preserving food, making bread, hatching new chicks, etc. Much of it does not apply to my life in the heart of the city, but it is fascinating. I think the biggest commonality I feel with all these folks is the desire to be self-sufficient. I may never be able to take it to the same level that they do, but there is certainly much I can do with my 1/3 acre lot.

I can, and do, grow a fairly large garden. It produces more than I can keep up with for a good part of the summer. And I think I can make it even more productive with a bit of experimentation. I'll blog details of my spring 2010 plans later.

I can't grow a traditional orchard, but I've figured out that I can have 7-8 fruit trees running across the back of my property. The big nasty Ponderosa Pine tree has to go... not that it's a bad thing, just expensive to get a big tree downed in a backyard where fences, powerlines, garages and other trees are in the way. And then there's a lot of prepartion to clear the area and dig holes and bring in the new trees and get water to them consistently. All that stands between me and having this happen is a lot of money and even more labor. It will take a few years, but I'll get it done. My tree dreams are peach, nectarine, Italian prune, pear (as yet undecided variety), and MacIntosh and Jonathan apples. That makes seven including the apricot that's already there. Conceivably, I could get eight trees into the space so maybe I'll go with a second peach since that's my favorite or, if we can figure out what it is, maybe one of those incredible plums like Mary has in her yard. (It came up from the rootstalk after a Satsuma plum died so it wasn't an intentional planting. Just a superb accident!)

I have a place to put a lean-to type greenhouse along the side of the one garage. This is going to take some thought about how... It can't be really wide, but it can be nearly as long as the garage. This also opens up the learning experience of how to save seeds and starting my own vegetables and flowers. That's something I understand the importance of but need to learn a lot more about what I'm doing.

There's also a place where I could tuck in a... whatever you call the thing that chickens live in. Again I have interest, but also hesitation. The hesitation comes from my tendency to make everything into pets. And also the number of cats on the loose in the neighborhood. And the occasional hawk. I guess they could be penned and not have free run of the yard, but there goes the bug control benefits. I know other people have chickens in their yards and have lost some to cats, dogs and hawks. And yes, up to 8 hens are legal with our city code. It says no roosters, but that's not enforced. Again, something to study and really think about.

These things also open up the possibility of an income stream and that's attractive. With vegetables, fruit, plants and eggs to spare, I should also look into the possibility of selling them or bartering for other things I need. More to research so I understand the legalities.

Moving inside, I already do a little canning and some freezing and dehydrating with the produce from the garden. As I can convince myself to do more and actually eat it rather than leave it on the shelf looking all pretty, I will. I have the equipment, just need more bottles.

Though I don't do it a lot, I also know how to sew, crochet and knit. Even now, it's not that I don't enjoy doing these crafts but more that I don't have need of the things I can make or outlet to sell them. That... and the ever present issue of time.

Even some of the things on my list for Santa fall into this homesteading/self-sufficient train of thought... wheat and a grinder and a dutch oven. Maybe I have more in common with these other homesteaders than I first thought!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Charity = Love in Action

For awhile now, I've been reading Larry Barkdull's series on Meridian Magazine about becoming a Zion person. Frequently he leaves me much to ponder. The latest installment surely did. He wrote:

"Charity transforms a natural man into a sactified Saint - a Zionperson - someone who by nature seeks to comfort the downtrodden, redeem the oppressed, heal the sick and afflicted, and console the brokenhearted.

"If charity is the defining characteristic of Jesus Christ, it is also the defining characteristic of His people. When they, like their Master, encounter need, they confront it. They will not allow lack and suffering to exist in their presence. They are willing to consecrate all that they are and have to blessing the suffering and underpriviledged. For this reason, consecration, the foundational law of Zion, has no need to legislated; consecration, like charity, is a condition of the heart.

"Jesus gave us two tests of charity:

1. If ye love me, keep my commandments. (see John 14:15)
2. If ye love me, feed my sheep. (see John 21:16)"

And then a couple of paragraphs later...

"Keeping and feeding are to stand proxy for the Savior and do as He would do if He were present."

Still later he quoted President Hinckley, "One of the greatest challenges we face in our hurried, self-centered lives is to follow the counsel of the Master, to take the time and make the effort to care for others, to develop and exercise the one quality that would enable us to change the lives of others -- what the scriptures call charity... Best defined, charity is that pure love exemplified by Jesus Christ. It embraces kindness, a reaching out to lift and help, the sharing of one's bread, if need be."

It gives me pause to think about how I'm doing and what selfish attitudes and habits I need to rid from my life. That was most especially a prominent question in my mind when I came to his quote from Joseph F. Smith... "we may give without loving, but we cannot love without giving." I think I'm pretty much kind and giving and willing to help others, but I also will admit to walking past the transient on the street begging for change while wishing that he weren't there and in some ways condemning the choices that led him to that point. That's a situation I'm not really sure how to handle... It appears that many people doing this have made it a conscious lifestyle decision and often it seems they are preying on the rest of us to feel a little squeamish about walking past them without handing out some change. It's hard to leave someone truly in need, but panhandling has become so common that it's hard not to be cynical and wonder if the need is real or just a show. I guess I need to spend more time examining my own soul about this one.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Domestic Goddess

Today I was a total domestic goddess. And I've got the tomato splotched t-shirt to prove it!

I've had a cold pack canner for about 10 years and today I finally used it as a canner for the very first time. It's been used before to cook corn at a backyard barbeque and to cook a load of spaghetti for a Church party, but today was its maiden voyage into canning. I made salsa. Red and green... and they are so good! I'm chalking this one up as a success.

And I've got my freezer filled out of the garden. It's packed with ziplock bags containing chopped tomatoes, diced zucchini and onions, shredded zucchini, 4-cheese mashed potatoes, and crumbled cooked hamburger. Found burger on a good sale. Add this to the few other essentials in there and the strawberry and raspberry jam I made this past Spring (and the peach and apricot still left from last year)... and I've only got the side-by-side in the kitchen. By this time next year I hope to have an extra freezer in the basement just for this kind of stuff, but not right now.

Also tried a new recipe for chocolate chip zucchini bread today. Pretty tasty - hence the shredded zucchini in the freezer.

I think I'm about done with the garden for this year. Our growing season still goes for about another month, but I've got what I wanted from it. Except for corn which I planted but it never set ears. Corn was such an abysmal failure that I don't think I'll ever waste the time and space on planting it again! But I digress... I'm tired of garden. I netted hundreds of tomatoes, more zucchini than I could even keep given away, 130 cucumbers (I only planted 2 hills!) and an easy 30 pounds of green beans. Some days I feel like I'm turning pink from eating so many tomatoes and others it's a lovely shade of chartreuse from all the green stuff. I watered tonight, but there's a very good chance it's the last time. I may ask a few people if they want to keep it picked for a few weeks but if not, then I'm going to start pulling it and getting stuff cleaned up for winter.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Greased Eggs

Randomly wandering the net a few nights ago, I came across this interesting tidbit of information. Admitted... it's not very practical to my life but it was interesting all the same. Apparently you can grease eggs as a way to preserve them, as fresh eggs, for up to a year.

I know, I know... wow! Life just wasn't complete without that little factoid tucked away in your brain right?

As I understood it, you generously rub lard all over the surface of very freshly gathered eggs - it said within 2-3 hours of when they were laid - and then store them in the bottom of the refrigerator for as a long as a year. The author said she'd tried it as an unbeliever mostly to prove her husband wrong when he brought this information home. (By the way, this family lives on a homestead-type farm where they are trying to be totally self-sufficient in what they can do to provide for themselves so they have several chickens. Chickens, who - and I have no experience to confirm or deny if this happens - lay loads of eggs in the summer months and next to nothing in the wintertime.)

What you do is take your very fresh eggs, slather them with lard and stash away in a carton in the bottom of your fridge until needed. She said some of them will get a little mold on the outside that is easily washed away with running water. The lard coating seals up the pores of the eggshell so that oxygen cannot get in and start to dry up and decay the inside edible part of the egg. In this lady's experiment, she broke a greased egg in one bowl and a freshly laid one in another at about 6 months. Her family couldn't tell the difference. The color, texture and smell were identical. Sounds pretty incredible, huh?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Where Jesus lives?

Money magazine has apparently found the living quarters of Jesus Christ... And they want Him to subscribe! I saw the soliciation today addressed to Him, personally, and addressed to 20 E North Temple, Salt Lake City UT 84150.

Do you groan and shake your head or just go ahead and laugh right out loud?

Monday, September 14, 2009

One Solitary Life

A work friend forwarded the link for this short movie earlier today. It's touching. It's thought provoking. At least it got me thinking...

Sometimes I feel really insignificant because I compare what I have, where I go, how I look to the people around me and what I see in their abundance is my lack. And that's dumb! If I'm not looking outward and judging what I have against my seemingly more cosmopolitan friends, I'm actually quite content with my lot in life. It's only in the comparing that I feel like a simple bumpkin. And it inspires want and jealousy rather than humble thankfulness so it's a place I try not to dwell.

In Helaman 12:7-8, we read: "O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth. For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing assunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God."

Oh to be more like the dust...