homesteading book reviews

Here is a review of two of my favorite homesteady books:

can’t wait to get started!

Canning and Preserving with Ashley English is comprehensive guide to canning, pickling, and ‘putting up’ all types of fruit and vegetables, with both basic and fancy recipes for jams, jellies, and curds. I have never done any canning before- and while I was curious before I am crazy excited right now, wondering how I can get my hands on heaps of organic strawberries along with other cool fruits I can experiment with.

She makes very clear the whats, hows, and whys of canning, including jar selection, vegetable prep, issues about bacteria and pH and all sorts of important things you need to know before cutting up six pounds of berries or asparagus.

I have fond memories of heading to the local u-pick operation and digging in the dirt all morning for strawberries, then heading back to grandma’s house to wash, hull, and chop the strawberries that she then made into jam.  I had to give up the jam when I became a vegetarian- she faithfully used gelatin in all her jam, and would not change. It is my hope that I can make something similar- surely the results will be posted as soon as I can find some berries!

learn how to care for feathered friends.

I also got Keeping Chickens! Equally charming, cute, and practical as her canning book, dealing with all manner of chicken raising- including breed selection, feed choices, and building plans for housing your chicks.  I am especially charmed that she has a chicken-joy similar to my own, raising them for love and eggs, but not for meat.

If it seems odd for a mostly vegan blogger to gush about raising chickens then I imagine you probably have not spent much time with these goofy feathered friends. Personally, I had never thought much about these chicken creatures until I began on the farm with 20 resident chickens. Though I was initially ambivalent, ‘the ladies’ worked their charm on me and I fell deeply in love; in December we got six baby chicks and I was doubly smitten. I found so much joy feeding them kale and broccoli from the fields, often doing harvests just for the ladies. I brought stale rice, beans, bread, and not-perfect vegan baked goods for them, and soon they were eating out of our hands and jumping up to steal our foods. Every morning and afternoon they would come when called, wobbling and gobbling over to me so I could feed them their scratch. I look forward to a day when I can have a few little ladies of my own.

Lady English has a lovely way with words, the design is terribly cute, and her farmhouse lifestyle is very enviable- but also very do-able. And she has a likewise charming blog, and writes all over the place too. Follow her other work:

Small Measure Blog
http://designspongeonline.com/category/ashley-english
http://twitter.com/ashley_english

A follow-up: while I was doing some canning research today I came across some warnings about the BPA in the lids of the canning jars.  Apparently only the seal has the chemical in it (the white part, specifically), and the chance of your homemade goodies getting contaminated is slight, especially if you follow her rules (and general canning rules) and leave a good amount of ‘head space-‘ so the food does not touch the lid.  If this freaks you out, there are alternatives available, including plastic lids (which look like they would fit on ball jars/mason jars, and another company that makes pretty all-glass jars (not interchangeable). Here is the link for the company that makes regular ball jars– so you can contact them and complain!

Utne wrote about it last year, Treehugger did too. For even more comprehensive information about BPA, check out Mother Earth News.

things i love

The past few months have been a bit rough and I’ve been a bit cranky about all manner of things: my long drive and the high price of gas, the lack of opportunities on Maui, the cabbage moths eating my kales, no time for surfing, serious need for a haircut… blahblahblah. Of course there are heaps of good things in my life, but during those cranky moments, it can be too easy to forget about blessings, big and small.  Sometimes it’s the most simple things that make me happy… big jars of food for health and wellness, and even a bit of luxury.  And the kitty!

Jars of healthy, healing foods: chia seeds for my soaked chia drinks and oats for my breaky and a huge jar of brown rice.

chia seeds and oats!

one gallon of brown rice! we eat it faster than you can imagine!

Vintage jar with jasmine tea: At $40 per pound, I am pretty sure this is the most expensive thing I consume. But my daily morning ritual smells like jasmine and vanilla, and makes my mornings that much prettier.  And the jar that is extra cool because it was from the goodwill store. And it didn’t have that icky vintage onion smell, thank goodness.

obviously, it's time to buy more tea

Homemade chocolates: my new favorite dessert.  Simple, decadent, Superfood Chocolates handmade by me (but you should try it too!).  Serious happy food.

just like that... homemade chocolate

and non-food related, but a chance to show off the prettiest, furriest mountain dwelling tigress… my little Physhy.  She never fails to make me smile with her kitten antics, little nibbles, her incessant purring, and affection for all non-kitty foods, like muffins, coconut ice cream, and acai.  Just yesterday she drank my honey’s coffee.

how do they always find the clean clothes to roll on?

farmer’s market finds

this week we were able to go to two farmer’s markets here in town.

on wednesday there is a market in makawao town, just a five minute walk from our little house. and today (saturday) there is a new ‘upcountry farmer’s market’ in pukalani, just about ten minutes drive away. i have to admit that the lack of vendors (leading to a seriously limited supply of  vegetables) is pretty disappointing, especially since the kapiolani farmer’s market on oahu set my standards pretty high (regardless of all those tour buses, that’s not so cool).

but from only a handful of actual farmers selling their wares, we were able to find the following beautiful veggies in makawao: a bunch of leeks and purple pak choi from kumulani farms, white and purple carrots from cocoa farms, and local eggs and honey from another vendor. oh yes, and passion fruit and bananas for a ‘donation’ of only three dollars!

the veggies are soaking in water to make them more crisp and sturdy- it's an important step to keeping your veggies in great shape

 

today, from a similarly small group of sellers we got: a drinking coconut for me, unsprayed pineapples, and some cilantro, pretty purple kale and hefty golden beets (from cocoa farms again).

this was right when we got home: the kale and beet greens look much sturdier now!

and what did we make? the foods included baked carrots with parsnips (from whole foods), caramelized leeks with soft-cooked polenta, lots of steamed kale, and i made some banana bread with teeccino… the recipe is coming soon.

a busy weekend

lately my boss has been giving me the weekends off, which happens to match up with the boyfriend’s schedule too. this means that aside from hanging out and having fun we are also able to get a ton of stuff done at our new little house.

finally!

first and foremost, a new oven! this was actually moved in last weekend, but seems fitting with this whole home improvement weekend theme.  when we moved into this little house a month ago there were a few issues: no garage for the boyfriend, only a little garden space for girly, no fridge or stove in the kitchen and the bathroom is outside– in a mini room, but outside nonetheless.  but we thought it was so charming that we took it and just made it a project to make the house into our home.  first on the list was making the kitchen into a real kitchen for some real cooking- the mini fridge and the tabletop burner was just not going to work.  from craigslist we got a full-sized gas stove, which is such a relief after cooking on a junk electric stove for the past six months at our other house!  we are still looking for a full-sized fridge, because having a mini-fridge with mega-appetites is not working out well.

first thing saturday morning: our first visit to the pukalani farmers market.  without complaining too much, let’s just say that the highlight was finding sixty dollars on the ground (subsequently used for garden supplies).  there were only a handful of vendors, and everyone has some version of the starfruit/tangerine/passion fruit/coconut combination, not bad, but we really wanted some upcountry bounty: kales, cabbage, beets, onions, etc.  we left with only a small bunch of golden beets, cassava, starfruits, and some of the first persimmons of the season.

picture-perfect persimmons

hotel des ver des terre (sometimes french is just too cute)

next errand: wormies!  we have been talking about getting a worm bin for months, and we finally found a good one on craigslist, and then another man selling the worms.  altogether it was $150, but after a few months we can start harvesting the castings (the worm poop) which is an excellent organic fertilizer for our garden.  and those little worms will eat veggie food scraps, white paper and cardboard, and coffee/tea leftovers- and we have a lot of each here.  for the rest of the food waste- stale or moldy fruit, funky grains, peelings, and all the fallen leaves from the mango tree, the boyfriend made a compost pile!  whittling down the waste stream is priceless.

and then we worked on the garden! there is limitied space in the yard, as we are on the side of the gulch, so i am taking up the container gardening project that i’ve worked with in almost every other house i’ve lived in for the past years.  we headed to the our local organic garden store where we purchased some packaged worm castings, some potting mix and other soil amendments to make a good mix.  we also rescued some transplants that they were killing- red cabbage and collards (which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be cauliflower and broccoli, not a bad mistake!).  after mixing a healthy potting mix, i transplanted most of the cabbage, the cauliflower, and started a bunch of seeds: gobo (burdock), red kale, winter kale, lacinato kale, collards, sunflowers, squash, and more cauliflower.

babies!

and i finally hung pretty curtains in our bathroom: i really wanted to forage for the bamboo for the rods, but we found them at the garden store for only twenty cents each- kind of a no-brainer.  this beautiful fabric has had multiple incarnations: bedroom curtains at my mokihana house, a full-sized shower curtain at the manoa house, and then a smaller shower curtain at my kakela house.  and here they are again.  i only had to buy the hooks to hang them (and ask the boyfriend for drilling help), which means prettiness in the bathroom for less than ten dollars.  and i use the term bathroom lightly, because this room has no sink nor toilet- but has a fantastic steam room. yes, a steam room!

oh yes, and we ate great food too! on saturday the boyfriend slow-cooked the cassava with onions and the last of our greens for a totally hearty and delicious lunch.  on sunday i cooked up some chickpea cutlets for the first time in a long time. i read the new and improved post punk kitchen site, and found that isa made some tweaks to her recipe from veganomicon.  she recommends using store bought breadcrumbs for the cutlets, so i reluctantly obliged her and purchased some from whole foods.  but, it’s true, it makes a huge difference in binding and texture of the cutlets.  they were delish served with roasted squash (from the neighbor) and the aforementioned golden beets, plus some locally grown peas.

no worm food here

local goodies… from our yard and elsewhere

starfruits abound...

i know that it is very cold for most folks right about now, but allow me to share the joy of maui’s autumnal bounty.  we’ve been exceptionally fortunate these past few weeks, and great food is quite literally falling into our hands.

this country road takes me home

on my drive to work, along a winding country road, there is a sign reading “5 starfruits for $1.” this is a great price for these relatively rare fruits. starfruits have quickly become a new favorite fruit of mine, with the crisp flesh and mild/sweet flavor similar to a white grape… but tropical.  and they look like freakin’ stars! how cute is that?

still life with woodpecker... um, oranges

and more! at this cute little house of ours there are not one, but two avocado trees- one should be ready very soon- one mango tree (finished for the season) and a gorgeous orange tree dripping with fruits.  last week I harvested about 10 pounds of delicious fruits, and gave most of that away to our friendly neighbors in the cottage. there is also a lychee tree, some unproductive bananas, and a macadamia nut tree too. we cannot actually locate this tree, but we know it’s here because we get bounced on the head with nuts from time to time.

but most joyful of all, there is a coconut tree, and I just did my very first harvest. usually coconut trees are an impossible 50 feet tall, but this one tree is only about 20 feet tall, and leaning just perfectly on the roof. so, with the help of a very tall ladder and a very nervous boyfriend, i hopped up on the roof and cleaned and trimmed the tree, and harvested a huge bunch of coconuts, each weighing in at about 3-4 pounds. unfortunately I was overly excited and chopped them all at once; I should have checked because they are actually a bit too young. there is a ton of juice inside, but no meat at all- not even the young gelatinous stuff. there are lots of baby coconuts on the tree, so hopefully within the next six months we can enjoy those too!

cocos!

and our new neighbors gave us some cute little limes and a very funky squash from a farm upcountry.  and my boyfriend’s coworker gave us this beautiful avocado. maui’s bounty, indeed.

huge, gorgeous avocado: priceless