Monday, October 5, 2015

What We Put By

I tallied the preserved food we have in our pantry* here at the start of October, to see how fast we use it up and thus plan for future winters.

We don't can. We don't have the hardware for it, and according to rumor, our glasstop range would crack if we tried. Canning is labor- and energy-intensive, but we expect we'll do some, some day. But for now, we do not can. **

The food here's all from our own home unless otherwise noted. We've used up some of the food we've processed, already- thee dried plum chunks are gone, the blueberries more than half gone, the dilly beans mostly eaten. But here's what we have now.


tomatoes: 22 quarts
plum leather: 6 quart jars of flattened rolls
herbs: about a pint each of basil, oregano, and parsley- we still have several pints of parsley from last year
kale: 5 quarts
hot peppers: from last year still, 1 3/4 quarts


tomato sauce: 7 quarts
sorta sweet pickles: 3.5 quarts
sweet peppers, diced: 9 quarts? (hard to gauge, mostly stored in freezer bags)
wild raspberries: 5.5 quarts
blueberries (from a PYO): 2 quarts
hot sauce: 1 pint
hot peppers: a handful from this year, plus a handful leftover from last year.
I have a handful of frozen tomatoes from last year yet, too. Didn't freeze any this year.


dilly beans: 3.5 quarts
spear pickles: 7 quarts, but I don't care for them :/
kraut (from a boughten cabbage): 1 quart


What! I've heard it rumored that you don't can.

For the purposes of estimating our tomato needs when we are canning tomatoes, I noted that right now we have 39 6- or 7-oz jars of tomato paste, and 10.5 28-oz jars of diced tomatoes.

Also I just want to show off my tiny shallot braid which has nothing to do with canning but looks pretty on my fridge:


pics parade:

Jack-2015.10.03_10.47.00  Jack-2015.10.03_10.47.04
Jack-2015.10.03_10.47.10  Jack-2015.10.03_10.47.13Jack-2015.10.03_10.47.24  IMG_0195IMG_0199  IMG_0202

* metaphorically speaking; stuff's actually all over

** I did can, once. Probably ill-advisedly. Long ago. And fate decreed that the pears I canned were never eaten! I used them in a fruit leather a winter later, and forgot about it in the oven, and oops. Perhaps for the best.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


And through self-doubt and existential crises, we solider on.


The Car ('08 Honda Civic, 37 mpg)
Miles driven: 1,014
Gas bill: $47
Estimated gallons used: 27

The Truck ('02 Ford Ranger, 26 mpg)
Miles driven: 211
Gas bill: $37
Estimated gallons used: 8

Transportation Total
Total miles driven: 1,225
Total gas bill: $84
Estimate of total gallons used: 36

Electricity & Heating 

Well, it was bound to happen. We finally hit a month where we used more energy this month than in the same month a year prior. Maybe it was the addition of an energy-sucking refrigerator to our cast of characters. Our old fridge uses a shade less than 2 kWh a day. Our new one uses about 1. We're still using the old one, as extra freezer / root cellar-y space, so rather than halving our food-storage energy use, we've increased it by 50%.

total usage: 590 kWh
daily usage: 20 kWh
bill: $119
portion of bill for renewable energy program: $8

Objects In

When the homebuilding budget spreadsheets finally put the fear of god into you, your Stuff In list looks like this (and much of it gifts):

  • the new refrigerator came! 
  • a 5.5V adapter we thought might work for Apple's keyboard but it doesn't so right back out the door it goes (used)
  • an interesting children's book about clocks and calendars (used)
  • a handful of raspberry-colored wool roving (pressured into buying by a pushy market vendor... grrr...)
  • a plastic picture frame, a gift
  • a socket-wrench set, also a gift
  • a junky little truck and two cars, given to Apple by the dentist office, and broken within an hour by the mild-mannered child, also on its way right back out the door
Consumable (Excluding food & medicine)
  • 50# chicken feed
  • house paint cuz the house needs some paint
  • epoxy to fix the porch lamp
  • a bottle of permethrin to keep down the local tick population

Objects Out

Trash & Recycling
  • none

Goods Donations

So many things. cuz looking ahead to selling your home, renting, moving twice, storage units, and building storage space into your custom house puts your STUFF in a new light.
  • two hallways' worth of household goods- furniture, clothes, toys, bedding, electronics, STUFF- to Savers.
  • at least a dozen bags of books, to a local library for its seasonal book sale
Jack-2015.09.10_08.36.00  Jack-2015.09.08_07.25.55

  • birthday present for a nibling
  • two small boxes of random flotsam funsies for family


At the start of October, the garden is largely done. The tomatoes succumbed to the leaf spot disease. The kale is so worm-eaten as to be nonexistent. The handful of pole beans that didn't die are lush and green but mostly bare of beans. There's a few eggplant fruits on the plant yet, and a zucchini appears once in a while. There's shallots and peppers still to harvest. I might get some more turnips, I'm not sure. We get a very occasional strawberry, which is cheering. We ate our final watermelon last week.

We got a few unexpected shiitake this month.

Eggs: I quit counting halfway through the month, without meaning to. The chickens laid about two eggs a day. Our older two are molting. Good for a laugh, not so good for breakfast.

Jack-2015.10.03_10.14.58  Jack-2015.10.03_10.47.00  Jack-2015.09.30_16.10.45

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

And then there were a thousand.

And my 1000th post is to say, the things that have been bubbling up since 2013 have really solidified themselves for me.

So what are my options.

1) Leave my blog public but quit blogging entirely. I find my blog useful though, and I'd like to keep going in some capacity. However, I hate the little voice in my head that's always spying about for Bloggable Stuff in my life.

2) Keep blogging publicly but don't say much that's personal or honestly very interesting. Talk about my garden. My chickens. My "here's how much gas I used, aren't you fascinated?" posts. And while honestly that is all rooted in very personal motivations, sometimes these things can be teased apart. However this seems like an insipid sort of blog- what we've had here, actually, for a while. Yes, I know.

3) Keep blogging behind a password. I can say what I like, and not have to worry so much about screening out identifying information or cropping my photos just so, to keep some modicum of privacy for my family. And I'd know my audience. Making Jack in CT private, though, would shutter the DIY posts that people apparently actually find and use... but, these things happen. And while I'm flattered by the occasional attention, I wish that I wasn't.

We have a piece of property under contract. We're in the very early stages of designing our passive-solar house. We expect to close on the land this winter, sell our house in early spring, and build** the house next summer. Then begins the long, exciting work of building up a productive homestead from the rocky forest. There's going to be a lot going on very soon. I'd enjoy sharing that, but I don't feel at ease doing so, since it's not just my story. It's my whole family's story. I'd like to have a personal record of it all, though, to look back on, and blogging is perfectly suited to that. So I have to ask myself, who am I writing this for?

So, y'know. There's that. I dunno.

I dunno.


* Unless I just post my password here before pulling down the screen, so as to allow any readers here who have hung on, bless your hearts, to continue with me. I don't know that anyone's out there, but you never know. Make a little noise, friends.

** Not personally building it, I mean. We're hiring people who actually know how to build houses, to build the house. More power to you home-DIY'ers, though.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Project Timing It Up

Apple adores Project Time. It became an instant part of his life, topic of conversation, thing to be anticipated. All I did was refer to us working together on a big fun crafty type thing as "Project Time," give it a little organizational structure, and boom. He's all about it.

Our family's current thoughts towards our homeschooling are very laid back. I mean, come on. Apple turned three in April. Even if we weren't anticipating a relaxed unschooling-y attitude, I doubt we'd feel compelled to do much at this age. He's still learning how to not forget to use the toilet and how to get his shoes on the right feet. Academics? What the heck?! He's three years old!

But Project Time? We're already a Project kind of family. (Back when I started this post, I had recently) finished one carpentry project, then began drafting the next one right away, which involved fifteen minutes lying on the kitchen floor, studying how our kitchen table is put together.

"Mama, what are you DOING?"
"This is Mama's Project Time. I'm doing research. Now get off my head." 
Being doing-type people, we can do for our child, enthusiastically. Also modeling being a weirdo just doing your freak thing: that we can do, too.

All we're really doing is formalizing a familiar process for Apple by giving what we do a vocabulary, and prioritizing his learning by setting aside a place to do his own work and ensuring access to materials. Initially I designated a particular time as "Project Time" but that has fallen by the wayside. He haven't been working on big multi-day projects, but Apple initiates his own work, whether because he's found some neat materials (sticking pipecleaners through drinking draws and stuffing them in the holes of this art shelves) or if he's mimicking something his parents have been doing (drawing a large calendar). There's been an enormous amount of work the past month, but once we all settle down, I imagine Apple and I will dream up some Big Projects.

Come to think of it, he's always had a thing for putting stuff in these holes.
The back room happens to have a table next to the stored art supplies, too.
One of many many stories about Apple's favorite creation.
I wish I had something he could put stickers on then peel and restick;
he tries with the paper but it doesn't work out of course.
He also continues to enjoy making hats for my snake Basly. 
This approach has also been good for me in the whole "not being a control freak with my kid" department.

Project Time at first was frequently a request for "Cloth. I want to sew." My contributions towards his sewing projects:
  • being physically nearby and mentally present 
  • having something to do with my own hands, so as to not hover/monitor but still participate
  • reminding Apple where the cloth and embroidery thread are kept
  • asking Apple what his plans were for the cloth
  • threading Apple's needle and appropriately knotting the thread
  • tying off Apple's thread after his stitches were done

And Apple decided what he wanted to make, made it, and cleaned up. He asked for help with the things he can't yet do and has no interest in doing- knot tying, needle threading. He sometimes talked at length about what he was doing, and he sometimes sat and worked very quietly, intent on his work.

And he was often very pleased with what he made. and sometimes he wasn't really interested in the end product at all.

I could try to tell you what he sewed, but my attempts would not do justice to his long-winded, fantastical descriptions. A steering wheel with food so you don't go hungry while driving, I think? A "creepy banana that looks like a burrito" ? As well as a lot of straight-up toy food- blueberries, a banana, "chocolate that's just eating chocolate, it's not for cooking." Oh, and a "cloth sculpture" as a gift to me.

Apple used the box of felt sheets every day for a couple weeks, and now hasn't touched it in a month. He's been very into making story pictures with stickers.  There's always something going on in his corner. I know I keep going on about this, but it signals a big shift of our life, and it's feeding something in Apple he needs.

Monday, September 14, 2015



Back to the regular amount of busy-exciting.

Which, I mean, I'm a wet hunk of the universe slapping itself around and making noises. That's pretty exciting.

But is it 8 acres and a 20-minute commute kind of exciting?

I guess there's "My little one likes to make his own breakfast" excitement.



There's "We've packed up all the diapers and put them in the attic because yay for night-time dryness" excitement.

And "Only a few more weeks until the garden gives out" busyness.

And "Guess it really is time for all those house repairs after all" busyness.

But in the span of two days we went from picking out specific favorite trees to preserve, to flipping dejectedly through the same old real estate listings.

It's been kind of a bummer week.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015




Thursday, September 3, 2015

I Mean

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