Saturday, December 14, 2013

December 2013 Update

I had planned to write an update in November however during my last month of pregnancy, I am not exactly sure where the time went.

My 100 Things Challenge went really well and I have been trying, especially with the holidays coming, to make sure that anything that comes into our house is something we really want, need or can't live without.

The weed less gardening experiment was mostly a success. As always, there is something to learn for next year such as 12 tomato plants in one bed was a bit much and staking them when we initially put them in would have been a lot better. Overall, there was very little weeding and most of our plants did extremely well. What didn't grow well were the carrots (we had some but definitely not what we planted) and lettuce. Perhaps they needed to wait until the second year, after the paper had decomposed? Next year we will rotate the beds and expand the number of tomato beds as well as move the corn to the second garden.

One amazing upside of the garden this year was that in October, I kept our grocery bill under $150 (and that includes about $20 worth of chocolate for my pregnancy cravings) and under $200 in November. November was more expensive due to us ordering an organic turkey ($75 later...). We ate lots of cabbage and beets and carrots (from the non-weed less side) from the garden. Dinner often had lots of eggs and some cheese, along with buttermilk biscuits or bread.

To oven roast cabbage:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the cabbage into wedges.
Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle on salt and pepper. We also added maple syrup some times or Dijon mustard, depending on our mood.
Cook covered for 35 minutes or so.
Cook uncovered for an additional 15 minutes, until the edges start to get a little crispy.

Beets in the crockpot (2-3 hours)
Wash beets.
Place in crockpot.
Add about 1 inch of water
Add vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
Optional = Add other flavors - I usually add a couple of spoons of applesauce and of blackberry jelly.
Cook in crockpot until tender.
Rinse under cold water and remove skins.
We serve them immediately. Any leftovers were refrigerated until the next day and eaten.

During November, I also learned to make mozzarella cheese (Thank you Pioneer Woman!). Since we don't have a microwave, the first time I made it at my parent's house. Subsequent times, I have used the no microwave option and just dipped the cheese into 170 degree water. The results have been delicious. The kids love to eat it plain but I have been partial to eating it on homemade pizza.

The colder days and larger belly, have enabled me to spend more evenings reading. My most recent books have been  The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather and Self-Sufficiency.

The Feast Nearby was a nice read. The chapters were easy to follow and the recipes looked wonderful. The reason I picked up the book though was because it was supposed to be about a woman who lost her job, moved to a small cabin and lived off $42 a week. She did do that however, she also received a lot of free help and produce. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just that she didn't exactly do anything for it. She didn't exactly barter or trade. She moved into a family cabin with wonderful people as neighbors. I sincerely wish we were all this lucky. The book does contain a few things she cut back on or how she managed to live on her $42 a week. The book did have a wonderful amount of information on it. For me, the information on raw milk was incredibly enlightening. The author included lots of researched facts from her previous works to help explain some of her "whys." Due to the number of recipes, this is a book that I would love to have on my cookbook shelf. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a light read with a culinary emphasis.

I have been reading through this series for the last couple of years. This is the first book that I picked up and read from front to back in an effort to decide which of the books I wanted as a reference book. I will admit that it had a ton of information in it and I learned a lot. I was also incredibly disappointed. The section on cooking contained many recipes but nearly all of them include sugar. The book tells you about how to grow, harvest and figure out how much grain you need to grow for your family but then includes recipes where you will need to buy the primary ingredients. IT seemed rather odd. I really expected more of the recipes to include honey as most people who are looking to be self sufficient are able to have honey bees. Maple syrup is dependent upon locale. Needless to say, this book is definitely worth the read but it isn't something that my small homestead would be able to utilize enough to want to keep it as a reference book.

Now December is halfway through and we have added a beautiful daughter to our family and I have turned thirty. (What is the big deal about this number? Please someone explain it to me because whatever the huge impact is, it hasn't hit yet.) The holidays are fast approaching and we are finally getting some snow. The world is turning white and snuggling up nursing a newborn by the wood stove is what I am looking forward to most. What are you looking forward to this season?

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