Monday, November 29, 2010

Why I am thinking of having a cow.

Well, I am a mom- therefore I have a biologically given right to have a cow.... but in reality a cow would provide a lot of things we do not currently have.

A cow would provide daily chores that need to get done- not chores that you can skip or put off until later- but chores that effect the comfort of an animal and give you food.

As chores go the only major chore that would qualify as being as important as taking care of a cow 2/day is that of cathing Ian- you just got to get out there and do it, and sometimes even pause what you are doing to get it done. If you go somewhere or are too sick you still have to find a way to get it done.

Sharron Astky at Casaubon's book had this to say about chores

"Chores are a dirty word in most houses - those things no one wants to do. The funny thing is that while the amount of time spent on chores expands when you have animals, so does the pleasure of doing them. It probably seems strange to people that I wrote:

On a farm, chores are something else - they are bookends to each day, a formal structure like the forms of a sonnet or musical scales that shape the day. They can be speeded up, slowed down, slightly elided and occasionally contracted out, but for the most part, they are there, implacable, eternal and oddly pleasurable."

In short chores remind you that live and breathe in a world not powered by the internet.

Besides the value of daily, routine chores the cow will provide milk in exchange for grazing grass and eating hay. The milk will be natural, organic, and grass fed. There will probably be so much milk that we will end up making cheeses and yogurt. (more chores)

Then there is the value of cow manure for those wishing natural fertility upon their gardens. yeah- I know another set of chores of mucking out the barn, composting it and then mixing it into the gardens.

Thirdly is the value of bonding with an animal- in a relationship where you both depend on the other for food.

I hope the once the chores are learned that they can be taught to boys, so the boys can learn the value of the daily chores and hard work and gentleness and firmness when managing animals. I would like them to participate in the circle of life and husbandry, maybe if they can learn to handle a cow, they can handle a wife :)

Houses are a double edged sword

They are a hole in the weather that you throw money into. But as far as holes in the weather go, some are better then others.

We haven't truely braved any weather yet in this house that pregnant women has felt cold in. Our lowest so far is about 8 degrees F. But as soon as winter winds started to blow my last house was a shiver fest. No matter how much I tried to cover windows and unused doors the rest of the house was always leaky enough that cold air lurked around every corner and blew across your legs. The propane fed flames that kept our house reasonably warn worried me, but not as much as the leaky gas line to the hot water heater that made it possible to take a warm shower. We used to turn on the space heater in our bathrooms just so we wouldn't shiver after our short showers (never enough hot water).

Now, any space in which there are people or cooking or sunlight, there is warmth in our house. Often times enough where I will open the window for cooler air. And the ground water in floor heating runs through a heat exchange to preheat the hot water.... even when the power was turned off to the water heaters - we didn't notice for 3 days.

So why is there such a difference between the last house and this one? There are lots of reasons.

#1 The last house has no southern exposure and only 1 small south window- so we had no passive heat. This house was planned to face south with a greenhouse to gather passive heat. Passive heat is also gained through the windows on the upstairs that face south. Our roof is angled so that in the summer we do not get the direct sun rays through our windows reducing heat gain.

#2 This is house has few northern and western windows and a nice pine windbreaks on the north and west. This reduces the windchill on the house from those cold north winds. The last house was in the middle of a field and had lots of doors and windows facing west and north.

#3 This house has it's north end built into the ground about 4 feet. That is 4 feet of earth insulation. The last house was 4 feet above the ground. So we could even get cold winds underneath it.

#4 Insulation- this house has 6 feet under it and it's walls are a massive 12" of Styrofoam. Each window actually is 2 windows, one on the outside of the wall and one on the inside. The last house had "Standard" insulation, that left many heating vents and other places on the outside wall uninsulated. Our current house has nothing to break the insulation on the outside walls, even the power outlets are inside the insulation.

#5 surrounded- this house is surrounded by empty- insulating space. On the north we have 4 feet of ground. On the south we have a green house, on the west we have our garage. That leaves the east side available for windows that open directly to the fresh, cool air. This is really nice when I am cooking.

Well that is all I can think of for now as the major comparative differences int he warmth of these 2 houses. So - location, planning, southren exposure, lack of northren exposure and insulation. Keep those in mind if you ever build in a cold climate.

Monday, November 15, 2010

dream of your future

Dream of your future, oh little seed
huddled safe beneath the snow.

Dream of your future, oh little seed
the sprouts that you will grow.

Dream of your future, oh little seed
tucked in safe for the night.

Dream and sleep, sleep and dream
wait until the morning light

Corner of future possibilities

When ever one builds to the rectangular squares of modern architecture, you always end up with corners. and corners, when not properly thought out and planned tends to be a place where stuff gathers.

This is a picture of one such corner in my house. It is my kitchen gather corner. It has my baby pumpkins and squashes waiting for use in a dinner or desert. It also has pumpkin seeds in a small container that I am hoping to plant in the coming spring, and some empty containers.

Why empty containers? because I have deemed them of too much worth to throw away or recycle. The glass jars will be used again for canning, the #10 can will be filled again with food, and the vinegar bottles are a future wash station for a camping trip or other times with water is in short supply.

I guess this is the corner of future possibilities, all waiting for their time to get busy.

Winter wonderland

Taken from my green house window.

It is nice to see the snow come on time this year. It was amazing warm and beautiful right up until the snow. The bikes didn't get put away until Saturday morning, as the first snow started falling, but the hoses did manage to get put away in advance.

In the winter it is time for my garden and grounds to sleep, while I watch the wonderland and began pondering how best to make our sand lot turn into an Eden. How best to create a rich soil teaming with life, how best to keep the deer and other garden pests away in a safe and humane manner, how best to lay out the garden plots, the orchards, the solar clothes dryer.

Winter, when you can stare out at the scene your hands will be transforming can be trans-formative. My roots are aching to get back to the earth and be grounded, grounded while stretching forth towards the sunshine of heaven.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I ran across a new term today: neo-feudalism.

neo-feudalism is the state in which we run our butts off on our hamster wheels everyday to the ends of being "another day older and deeper in debt", while the banks reap the benefits of our hard work through tax sponsored bail outs.

Meanwhile, these same banks then turn around and foreclose on any average joe who looses his job and can't find another one quick enough. Now, we can argue about the average joes being over leveraged and not planning well enough ahead and therefore deserving their ends, however that misses the point that the system is set up, by those at the top, to pump the value of our daily sweat up hill.

The income gap in america is at an all time high- the top 10% of us takes home something like 49.7% on the national income. (and this is from data garnished in 2007). We know that it has only gotten worse from there.

The truly sad part about this is that the other 90% of us has made ourselves dependent upon this hamster wheel running system, in hopes that someday we may work hard enough and prove lucky enough, to join the top 10%.

Maybe we should have stayed on our family homestead, milked our family cow, grew our veggies to sell at the farmer's market. But somewhere the American dream was marketed to us- and we thought that if we just took out 5 years of student loans, then a mortgage and a car payment or 2, that we would be all ready to get that high paying career and hamster wheel our way to the top, while having fun on the way.

10, 20, or 30 years later, coughing from the smog while sitting in the traffic jam... we had an epiphany that this wan not fun, and that there was no way in h*ll that you are clawing your way to the executive positions, because the executive has a son who just got married and joined the company. So why should you sit in a traffic jam, just to kiss their butts?

Maybe it is too late go back to our family homestead, having sold it generations ago for the chance at fortune, but it is not to late to have a garden. Maybe it is too late to not take on that massive mortgage, student debt, or car loan, but it is not too late to cut your expenses, downsizing your homes and cars.

The only way to avoid serfdom is refuse to be a pawn in the neo-feudalist society. Have your own land, owned by you (and not a bank), grow things, make things, use it well. reduce your needs for cash. Build friendships and neighbors

In descriptions of a perfect society there are 2 things that stand out to me.
1. that there was no poor among them
2. that every man shall eat the fruit of his field

I think those 2 items are interrelated. I think the idea of a jubilee year every 50 years is another way of maintaining a non-feudal society. In the jubilee year, not only was debt forgiven (any that lenders still allowed out at that time) but also their land was restored back to them. Everyone again had land they could grow on all they had to do was show up and claim it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Carrot Cake

Every carrot cake should start with fresh organic carrots. I scrubbed these in the sink and then chopped off anything I didn't want to eat.
Then I am grateful- for our food processor and the nice little carrot chops I get.
Now we start the batter. I start it with apple juice concentrate, pineapple juice drained from the pineapple can, 4 eggs and a stick of melted butter.
and because sugars and fats carry the flavors- we add the spices next. Here is come cinnamon, vanilla, ground ginger and nutmeg.

Carrot cake- cont

These are my ingredients/ add ins. Here is a stick of butter, and a raspberry apple juice concentrate, a can of crushed pineapple, walnuts, and raisins and coconut in the container.
I add the coconut, lightly chopped nuts, and raisins to the carrots.
Time to grab the organic whole wheat berries from the storage bucket.
then we grind them. I use a whisper mill. I love whisper mills. I have had and used mine for 11 years. I use it several times a week and all the flour get trapped in the handy storage container.

carrot cake cont 1

so we mix in the spices- I also added some cloves- that didn't make the picture.
then we add in the baking soda. I used 2 tsp
the baking soda reacts with the acids in the juices and foams up quite nicely- wait for it to foam.
after it has foamed, add in the flours- about 3 cups.

carrot cake cont

now we taste the batter to determine if it needs more spicing- just abit more cinnamon
then we add the pineapple in
and mix that batter with the add ins- carrots, lightly chopped nuts, raisins, and coconut

then we pour them into greased pans and smooth out the top- all ready for the oven 350 degrees for about 1 hour