Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Pickle-torial

Making and canning pickles with Alli was a blast! Have I mentioned how much I love having her as a roommate? Tris asked me if we could keep her forever. I guess eventually we will have to share her with the rest of the world. The plan is rent the house to her and her soul mate, who she hasn't found yet ladies, while we live in the converted garage. I will pimp Alli out in a later blog. Today the pickles are the stars!

Making pickles was easy. It's all easy once you get over your fear of not knowing something. We used the Quick Kosher Dills recipe out of The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 10th Edition, by Carla Emery. For every 4 pounds of pickling cucumbers, you need 14 split garlic cloves, 1/4 cup pickling salts*, 2 3/4 cups of vinegar, 3 cups of water, 14 heads of fresh dill and 28 peppercorns. (We found that we needed more liquid than was called for.) We were lucky enough to have fresh, organic garlic and dill from the market where Alli works.

Boil the garlic with the vinegar, water and salt. While we boiled these things, we also boiled the jars and lids we used for canning and halved the cucumbers.

When the juice comes to a boil, take the garlic out. We used quart size jars. Put 4 cloves of garlic in each jar, then stuffed 8-10 cucumber halves. into each one. We squeezed 4 peppercorns and the dill into the jars the poured the hot liquid on top. 

The water bath for canning was slowly heated to 180°. The hotter the water and the longer you cook them, the less crunchy the pickles will be. Once the jars were filled, the lids are placed on loosely, but not too loose. Carefully place the jars into the water bath for 15 minutes. Remove, let cool and listen for the best cooking sound ever, the POP! of the jars sealing. 

Wait at least three weeks to let the vinegar and salt do their pickling. 

*Pickling salts are salts with nothing added. We used sea salt. 

Making Butter-A Pictorial

Making butter is one of the easiest, most fun things I can think of to do for myself. So far, I haven't not been amazed when the whey starts to separate from the buttermilk. I'm a geek and I know it. All you need to start is cream. I used organic heavy whipping cream. Horizon Organics, I think. It really doesn't matter.

Step 1: Pour your cream into a mason jar with a proper fitting lid and shake.

Step 2: You will begin to see the whey and buttermilk separate. 

Step 3: Pour off the buttermilk. 

Step 4: Keep shaking and pouring until no more buttermilk can be shaken out. 

Step 5: Put in a bowl. I used an old Earth Balance container. Cover with COLD water. I used the cold side of the tap. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to smash the rest of the buttermilk out. Dump water and repeat until the water comes off clear. 

Step 6: If you want salted butter, add 1/3 to 1/2 a teaspoon to the butter and mix. Enjoy! 

Like I said. It's easy. Being sufficient doesn't always mean back breaking work, I promise. Now milking the cow might be a little harder. I will let you know when I get one to milk. This is something the kids can do and love. Just use smaller jars with less cream. I will someday post how to make easy aprons for your wee ones. 

A Child is Born

Happy Birthday Number 2!!!!! Today Number Two turns ten years old. It's his dad's weekend, so I get him for a breakfast date then plan his second birthday for tomorrow night. All he asked for from me was an iPod, so I craigslisted until I found one. PS: Craigslist is a perfect place to find gifts. Reuse is the name of the game. If someone has what you want, they don't need it, it's much cheaper. Everyone wins! Back to Number 2, though.

On March 27, 2000, I went to the doctor, for what I hoped would be my last visit. As with Number 1, I was late. Nine days at this point. Ryan, the boys dad, and Number One went with me. We traveled from our home in Tempe to East Mesa. During the visit, they told me that because my fluids were getting low, it was time for him to be born. I walked out to the waiting room, picked up Number One and said, "Let's go to the hospital. Your baby brother is coming tonight!" The lady sitting next to Ryan and Number One started to cry. She said to the young child that was with her that this was a happy moment and that she was glad she was witness to it. Luckily we picked out his name in a Target aisle the day before.

The night was long and went into the morning. Contractions were really strong, I broke down and got some meds. The nurse came in and checked me. She said that it was time to push. I started crying hysterically and I begged her not to make me. I wasn't ready for another baby. She looked at me, with laughter dancing on the corners of her mouth, from my eyes to my belly and back to my eyes and said, "I think it's a little late to make that decision. Now push." So I did.

Ten years later, this child has been trouble. Mouthy, opinionated, and the sunshine I seek when I am down. He loves me. He doesn't care who I am, he only cares that I am his mom. He's a funny kid, too. Doesn't think he likes veggies, but doesn't know he like them when I sneak them into things. He told me on Thursday morning that he wanted to open a vegan restaurant, where only vegans could eat because he was sick of places only catering to meat-eaters. When I pointed out that he can't change the world by separating himself, he said, "Good point. We will let a few meat-eaters in at a time."

He loves hip-hop. 104.7 and 101.5, to my chagrin, are his favorite stations. When he opened his iPod, he asked if it had music on it. Then he asked if I put Lady Gaga on it. Of course I did. Both albums. But I also added AC/DC, The Smiths, Lynard Skynard, Bitch and Animal, Bob Marley, Flogging Molly, and so many more bands and songwriters.

From Tris, he asked for a tool box, complete with hammer, nails, and screws and drivers. He wants to build things, like forts, with his bare hands. Number 2 is an amazing artists; he loves to draw so much that he gets in a bit if trouble from his teacher because he rushes his work so he can draw. He is a math genius. He reads Manga, chapter books, comics and every sign he sees. (I once had to explain what an adult store was. Now he looks to see how many cars are in the parking lot...) He has a sense of humor to rival the oldest of my friends, yet it's still young enough to make his own peers laugh.

He has always had his own style. He loves skate clothes. The child would squirm if I put him in pants that fit at the waist. He likes to wear the occasional dress or skirt. (Don't tell your kids if they go to school with him. He would be mortified!) He picked out his own ear buds to go with his new iPod today. Black and pink. Hot pink! We talked about cutting his hair on the way to Target today. His first haircut was a year and a half ago. He has rather long hair, but you wouldn't know it because it grows in tight ringlets. He said I could cut his bangs only to the maximum length allowed by the school. I told him it was negotiable, then Tris stepped in and said she liked his hair. Damn other parents! Haha!

So Happy Birthday Number 2!!!! I love you more than you might ever know!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Flu Has Struck

I guess the more proper name for what I have is viral gastroenteritis. I was violently sick yesterday. I went to class in the morning and told my professor half-way through that I needed to leave. As soon as I walked through the door at home, it started. I missed riding the bus and train to Tempe for the arts festival with my friends. I missed eating. I missed picking up the boys and dropping them at their dads for the weekend. I won't get to see them until Monday. I missed hanging out with the new roomie.

What I didn't miss was that Tris took care of me all day and night long. She rubbed my head and my feet. She dumped out my puke pan, TMI maybe, she tried to get me to keep up my fluid intake, which invariably she dumped moments later. Tris has been sick too. She finally had to give in and take antibiotics for her sinus infection.

At 11 last night, after she had been sleeping for a while and I had been retching for 13 hours, I gave into my hunger, I figured, "Fuck it. If it comes back up, it comes back up." It didn't. I ate a corner of a white flour cracker, not my favorite, and waited. I was so thirsty, but the flat soda was not what I wanted. So Tris, my love, dragged herself out of bed and made me hot peppermint tea. The best peppermint tea I have ever tasted.

I really have a point to this little story. It is that I love her. It's fairly rare when I get sick, but when I do, it's a doozy of an illness. And there she was to take care of me. I don't ask for nor do I accept help very easily. In a way she has made me look at this silly personality trait and question it. I have done the same for her. I love taking care of her when she is sick. It would never occur to me not to, so why am I writing a post about her taking care of me? I want her and everyone to know how much I appreciate her.

I would have survived without her, but I would not have been so happy when I finally came back to my senses. So thank you, baby. And to everyone else who called, texted or emailed to see if I needed anything, Thank You! I hope I did not spread this doozy to any one of you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Huge Tragedy

Normally I won't write about the news because I don't watch it but I got a call from T telling me not to watch the news because 9 motorcycles were plowed down by a dump truck. It's a very hard thing to see when my love is going on a 7000 mile ride in just 3 months. The what-if's are creeping in and out of my head.

My heart is hurting for all of the bikers and their families. But my heart is hurting, especially, for the driver. Nobody of sound mind wakes up and decides that he will be the one to change the fate of so many in such a terrible way. The bikers who live will go on. Some with memories and some only feeling the loss of their fallen friends. The driver of the truck, on the other hand, must try to look himself in the face every morning, knowing that he killed three people.

The driver may not have been paying attention, but before you judge him, remember when you answered the phone, sent a text or checked a map. Think about that time you turned to help your child or grabbed for a fallen CD. Remember that close call you had. And remember that you were lucky that time. This man did not have luck on his side today. Today was his 15 minutes. A 15 minutes nobody wants. Please be safe in your travels. Look for people, other cars, bikes and motorcycles. And keep all these people in your thoughts.


T here - I am not one to pray but if you do, whatever you do, please send as much energy to those involved in the accident today. Even the driver. As it may have been his fault he will have to live with this burden for the rest of his life and being the loving humans that we can be he needs love also. Accidents can happen to anyone at anytime, anywhere. All we can do is give others in need our strength and love our families tonight.

Peace be with those who have moved on, their families and those still suffering.
Much love to all.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Knit

I love it! This past week I have been on spring break from classes and what a blessed week it has been. I read. I knitted. I took a much needed trip with T to Tombstone.

This week, I made a hat and these wool diaper soakers. Soakers are usually for cloth diaper babies, but can be used for all babies. I finished these last night, but couldn't post the pics because it was more important to pay tribute to Rosie. May she rest in peace...

I don't have any, but our roommate has a 7 month old that I would love to clothe in wool. Without further ado, the soaker and skirtie...

I didn't pinch her...she just does not like laying down. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Death of A Friend

I'm sorry to inform all of our readers, but our beloved chicken, Rosie, has passed. She became the victim of our not-so-beloved-right-now-dog, Amelie. Number 3 requested a prayer so we had to look up Psalm 23:4 on The short prayer was said and tears were shed. Good night and farewell, dear Rosie.

Nothing to do but ride...

Today we got home from an amazing two day adventure on the open road. For those of you who do not ride you can still appreciate the beauty of getting outdoors and feeling the wind in your face. For me it's freedom and to be able to share it with my love and one of my good friends makes it just that much more amazing.
The adventure started off Thursday morning around 0930hrs when we got the bike loaded up with our gear and our bodies and headed south to pick up my northern friend, Glenda.
Than it was off to Globe for some lunch and amazing canyon drives.
After a quick fill up, for the bikes and us, we headed on East toward Safford and found some hot springs to take a quick dip and refresh our sore butts. (By we I mean Jen...)
(Photo Courtesy of Google Images)
After a nice 30 minute dip and some stimulating conversation with a couple from Yuma, we stripped down north woods style in the parking lot (to the delight of some nearby campers I'm sure), got geared back up and hit the road one last stretch into Tombstone.
With the wind whipping us around and the sun setting in the West, we rolled into town, 9 hours later, in true iron cowboy style and bellied up to the bar for some great food, lots of drinks, friendly people and a trip back in time.

So until next time my kind to your neighbors, get some fresh air into your lungs and always keep the chrome side up!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Old Shirt

It's true. That's all it looks like. Some farmers shirt from the 1970's. But it is more than that. Much more. It's a reminder to us that there is a home for us. Neither T nor I, feel complete in Phoenix. We feel better about being here now that we have each other, but never quite at home. Tris wore this shirt on our first camping trip. We hung it on the closet door for months after that trip and subsequent trips. Why? Because it smells like home. It smells of campfire and wood chopping. It smells of fun and peace. It smells of the woods and each other. 

When we hit a rough patch, we go back home and if we can't go home, we talk about it, we take out the shirt and we smell it until the peace comes back to us. The shirt has more of a history to Tris. She looks absolutely beautiful in it. I took it out today to smell it. Although the smell of campfire has since dissipated, I can still imagine it. I need to go home. The woods and the tent are where I undoubtedly belong, but I also need to find more beauty and comfort in my urban surroundings. 

On that note, it is my goal for this blog to take you on the path of our journey to simplicity. A part of living simply is finding peace in my surroundings and because my surroundings are urban Phoenix, I am determined to find solace and beauty in what I am given. If all goes as my brain has planned, I will begin to take photos on my daily excursions to show you all the grace that abounds. For now, just a picture of us at home. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

Quick Note

All three chicken have been named.

  • The Black One is Zöe Nightshade
  • The Orange One is Rosie 
  • The Spotted One is Gia
That concludes this post. Tomorrow or later tonight I would like to sit down with Alli, our new roomie and have her tell us how she made the delicious smelling homemade corn tortillas for dinner tonight. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Perfect Sunday Morning

Number 3 came into our room this morning to snuggle at 6. The light was just starting to peak from the horizon in the east. Number 3 and I laid there and tried to be quiet so Tris could still sleep, but we only lasted about 45 minutes. We started whispering and T threw the blankets over her head, then the pillow. Number 3 suggested that maybe we should be quiet, so silence ensued. That didn't last very long. We finally decided to get up around seven and make some breakfast for everyone.

(Delicious Muffins)

We had to decide between making doughnuts, bagels or muffins. Number 3's choice was doughnuts, but that left me and Number 1 out. Number 1 can't have wheat and I am on a sugar hiatus. (It's a deal I made with Tris. I can have a new iPod if I stay off the sugar for two months.) With that in mind, I made the executive mom decision to make muffins. Oatmeal muffins to be exact. That way Number 1 could have a bowl of oatmeal while we ate muffins. I can make wheat-free ones, but he was still sleeping, so majority rules this time. (Mean Mommy!)

(Number 1 has not had his coffee yet.)

Number 2 and Number 3 helped me make the muffins. In all of my cookbooks, I could not find a decent recipe so I turned to Hillbilly Housewife. It's an old stand-by. I have it saved in my Homesteading folder in my bookmarks. According to Suzanne, the woman who owns the website, the focus of the site "is on low-cost, home-cooking from scratch." She has a bunch of meat recipes, but some really great time and money saving recipes I can use too. In this particular recipe, I substituted maple syrup for the sugar.

(Number 2 enjoying his hot chocolate.)

Yesterday at Goodwill, Number 2, Number 3 and I found these matching, blue, hand-made, mini mugs, perfect for little cups of tea or cocoa. With the muffins on the table and five butts in the seats, we buttered our warm muffins and drank our coffee and cocoa and enjoyed the quiet morning. Now after a harrowing experience with a vermin, I am listening to rain, the kids, the wash and the tap tap tap of my fingers on the keys, wishing T didn't have to work every Sunday.

(After 3 muffins, the kid had to be rolled out of the dining room.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What Are You Throwing Away?

I have been really busy today. The chickens moved in and the new roommate is moving in tomorrow so all must be douched. In the process of throwing things away today, I took a long, hard look at the contents of the garbage can. We have been really careful to teach the boys what can and cannot go in the recycle and compost bins and for the most part they follow the rules. Plus all food gets composted; none of us eat meat and cheese doesn't last very long around here. So what could all this garbage be?

Plastic food bags. Not just bulk type bags, but bread bags and Flesh and Queasy (Fresh and Easy) produce bags. I need to think of a better way to buy my food. Like getting my ass to the farmers market more often and baking my own bread, except Number One's wheat-less bread.

What are you tossing? Do you recycle and compost as much as you should?

One quick note on garbage: I think everyone should only move their curbside bins to the street when they are full. It takes much less energy for the truck to pass your house then it does for the truck to stop for one or two bags of trash. But that's just me.

Chicken Homecoming

The babies are home!!  The lady I called on craigslist last night was super sweet. I told her I was looking for hens who are about to lay or are already laying. This is what she came up with. The white one lays brown eggs. The black one may lay blue or brown. It's undetermined yet; and the orange one lays very large white eggs. I am so excited about this! They come home in this box and it took them about a half of an hour to get out of it. Really it took the dog scaring the shit of them for them to even move. 

I think we should call this one Tyra Banks. She seems to want to pose for the camera every time I point it at her. Tris will probably want to okay that name. She looks so regal and beautiful! 

These two have stuck together since they came home. The black one is a talker. No name yet, but I am sure it will come to us eventually. 

Look how pretty she is!!! The previous owner, K, loved her babies and you could tell. They had a huge space to roam in and a very large coop. 

I am on my way to the feed store to get some hay for them to lay in and some scratch and feed. Tempe here I come!!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Coop Today, Chickens Tomorrow!

Tris and I were up early. For different reasons though. She couldn't sleep and I had class. I love getting up early. I don't like being forcefully awaken, but being up already and getting a move on my day is the best way to start. When I got out of class, we relaxed and had a cup of organic, free trade french roast and an everything bagel from our very own kitchen. We enjoyed these lovely treats sitting in the front porch stoop, baking in the sun. Then we designed our chicken coop.

The design is very basic, and according to our friend, Michael P, quite possibly ghetto because most of the materials were found, or in our case saved from the dump. (Michael said if we waited until tomorrow, we could really ghetto-fy it by going through his garage.) We did spend $49 on the 2X4's for the frame and chicken wire. Chicken wire is expensive!!! I think it must be hand twisted. Those are the only two ingredients we didn't have on hand. (PS: There's a really hot dyke who works at the paint counter at our home depot. Look at Tris, I do not need eye candy, but sometimes a nice view is just that, nice.)

We started building our six foot long coop and small pen around 12:30 and finished at 5:30ish. Every time we do a project together, we learn a little more about each other. Tris needs pictures. I need Tris's pictures. She was trying to explain something about the back of the coop to me and I just couldn't visualize, then she drew it and I understood. Usually I can just visualize without a drawing. Here's another difference. I love that some of the wood was warped and didn't fit perfectly. My beautiful Virgo partner hated it! We had several moments of her getting mad and me pretending that I was busy. I like to have fun. She likes refinement. (As of last week, all plumbing projects are mine. She just can't handle the hundred-year-old-ness of the house.)

I am painting a picture of a very anal girl, but Tris is mostly far from anal. Just when she is building or fixing. She amazing and my perfect match. It occurred to me tonight why she always hammers. I have had all these great ideas in my head forever, but I have never been motivated enough to change my vision to reality. Step in Tris. I have an idea, she improves it and together we build it. Mostly I hold the pieces while she hammers. Part of me really likes watching her arm muscles. It's hot!

I could go on forever about her arms, I digress. Instead, I will just show you some pics from the day. The first one is Tris and the frame work. The floor and roof slats and the side of the hen house are made from cedar fence boards from my sister and brother-in-law's backyard. They got a new fence, we got hen house building material.

This is the side of the coop. It is only 6 feet long. We figured we would start small with only two or three chickens. We don't want to be overwhelmed. We lifted the roof in front by about a half of an inch so the water from rain would slope down.

This is the back of the hen house. Tris and I decided it would be easier to collect eggs from the source, so we made a small door that was low so the kiddos could collect too. 

This is the finished product in it's new home. It's a little heavy, but not too heavy to move around the yard. 

We are still working on the berms before we order the irrigation for the year, but I am thinking by next weekend that project should be done and soon we will have real grass. I guess I could have taken pictures of the inside of the hen house. I will tomorrow, but for now, I am staying put. I have been in bed reading all of my back issues of Mother Earth news for a couple of hours. Watching my Love hammer really drains me. Haha! Much love to all of you!

I forgot the getting the chickens part. I went on craigslist tonight on a whim to see of there were any laying hens for sale and there they were. $10 each and less than a mile away! Score! I called the lady and she said to come by in the morning to pick them up! Chickens already! Can you believe it? Now Good Night!

The Novelty of the Push Mower

Now every kid can mow! I asked Number 2 to get out the mower so we could get the chicken coop in place. When he started mowing, which he begged to do, the neighbor kids wanted in too. Four boys pleading for a chance to mow the weeds; to which I duly permitted and suggested that they take it into the front yard where there is much more for each kids to mow. My lawn is a little patchy, but definitely shorter. Here are some pictures from the day!

The boy that started all the hype.

The neighbor kid getting his turn.

The last two patiently waiting their turn to mow the lawn. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Last Night

I almost lost her once last night. I could have helped, I think. It was so fast and so blurry. Then I lost her. I watched her drown. Gone. I was following the rules and she died. She died. I had to tell her family. My grief was unbelievable. I was screaming and crying. I was shaking and sobbing. I was numb to all else; the only thing I felt was the pain of losing her. I woke up and was truly surprised to find her there, right next to me. In my head I said, “Oh”; out loud, she told me later, I gasped and burst into tears. I sobbed for a solid half hour. She kept telling me that she was there, she was safe and so was I. I had a hard time believing her. I still feel like I am in a dream. 
There are so many ways to interpret a dream. Face value, she is going to die. I reject that one. From the dream book, death equals birth in real life, drowning equals bad business deal and so on. I could also substitute myself for all facets of the dream. I was the lake that I was drowning in. I died. I was the extraordinary grief. That might take me a little time and a considerable amount of quiet to interpret the dream that way. 
How I will interpret it for right now is that I must cherish her. I must cherish the all people around me, for they may not be here when I turn around.  She was gone from me and my feeling of loss was greater than anything I have ever experienced. My babies must also be treasured. Everything that I do has to be for the good of all of us, people I know and don’t know alike. On my path to simplicity, I will do less harm everyday. My very existence will still have an impact on another being, but it is my goal to walk as lightly as I can.