Saturday, June 29, 2013

In Other News...

Here in N.E. Oklahoma we've been in the high 90's for awhile.  Not a surprise really, I mean it IS summer.  Here's an interesting thing though.  While over half the country is being blasted with higher than normal temps, we have a COLD front moving in from the North.  The weather guys are all talking about this being a freak thing that they've not seen happen before.  Freak or not I say "Bring me cool weather!"

We finally got around to "summerizing" (look Ma, a new word!)the RV.  Some of you already know that our main a/c took it's final dive last year.  We've got a little window unit in the bedroom but it's not big enough to cool much more than that room.  Well, last year  we got a "swamp cooler" for the house.  So yesterday we took it out, cleaned it all inside and out (it spent the winter in the barn).  We've got a box fan (well its round but... ) that was due a cleaning too. 

Then it was time to install the solar reflectors for the season.   In other words, the foil is back up on the windows. The little ac is on in the bedroom with the fan in the hall blowing the air in the direction of the rest of the RV.  And then there is that awesome swamp cooler blowing in the main room. It might be a bit of a redneck way of doing things but it works! I have to say.... it's really really nice in here.  This makes me a happy camper for sure!  It get's rough when there is no  escape from the 100+ degree days.

Summer always seems to bring on a whole new mindset here on the homestead. For one thing it get's too hot to be able to cook much or bake at all in the RV so we  adjust how we do our cooking.  The grill and the bbq pit have been getting a workout already. So has the slow cooker. Last summer I made all my bread in the old thrift store bread machine. It baked it's last loaf of bread just at the end of the season. A sad day.  I'll tell ya what though, I sure got my money's worth out of that $4.00 machine! I guess I'll need to find another way to bake bread this summer! Possibly learn some Dutch Oven baking. I've not tried my hand at that before.  Come payday I'll take a couple of propane tanks and have them filled.  Then we'll break out the "summer stove" and Mars will get it set up and ready for the season.  I just love this three burner high btu stove. I think they call it a Cajun Cooker?   It puts out an awesome amount of heat and that makes it a great "canning" stove.  I'll be able to use both canners when I need to now.  I think it should save a ton of time once I start canning. 

Mars is getting ready to build me an outdoor vegetable wash station.  We found a sort of broken discarded bathroom sink out back in the woods.  It's not in the best shape but the basin is good and it will sure work for veggie baths.  I'll take some pictures as he's building it because I think you (and I) will be amazed at how it comes out!  He's got a plan to use old pallet wood to build the stand with.  He'll be adding a couple of new faucets in the same area and I'll have a hose run to the sink, and a bucket under the sink to catch the water.  That will go to water some plant in need around here. We've been needing the extra faucets  done anyway since there's only one  right now. What that means is that if we are using the drip irrigation there's no access to running water anywhere close.  It's amazing how often you find yourself thinking "I'll just grab the water hose and....oh dang.... the water's hooked up in the garden." 

With things being so hot, the work on those unfinished rows in the garden has been a real slow go. With this cooler weather moving in we might actually get them back in action.  It seems every time I get out there and try to fight the Bermuda devil I find something else that really needs to be done.  You know?  Like this morning.  I got up early (early for me) and headed out to work on digging out that blasted grass.  Then I noticed that my Lemon Basil had really taken off and it needed to be picked and dried.  So I wandered over and picked a bunch of it.  That's when I noticed that the regular Basil could use a trim as well.  So I did.  The basil is right next to the dill so I gave it a bit of a haircut as well and took them all out to the barn.  I keep my dehydrators out there.  It's too hot to run them in the RV and besides there's no room for them so the barn is the next best thing. I put everything in the dryers and since I was out there already I checked on the baby chicks and freshened their water.  That's when I realized the water faucet wasn't being used so I drug out the hose and watered all the flowerbeds, herb beds and the new trees.

  Ok.  Then I thought I really should be out there digging those blasted Bermuda roots up.  It's just been SO hot and since it's the garden spot the sun beats down on it most of the day.  I swear I'm like a kid with A.D.D. when it comes to finding things (anything) to do to keep from being out there digging that grass out of that row!  I should be ashamed.  I'm not, but I'm sure I should be!  I've made myself a promise though. With this cooler weather headed our way and staying for at least a week it seems I've been given a second chance.  I WILL FINISH THESE ROWS!  No, really.  I will....  Do those peppers look ready to pick?   

Believe it or not, around here in just a few weeks, it will be time to start planting the fall garden.  Time flies. We're talking about trying to have a rather large fall garden this year.  A sort of compensation for the smallish spring garden.  Like many other folks this year, our spring was wet and cooler than normal so we are just riding the tide out there in the garden.  I wonder if this cold front will instigate the tomato's to start setting some more fruit?  That would be awesome! 
I hope you all have a great weekend.  I know we are going to try.   I'm off to fight that Bermuda Devilweed.  Hmmm..... I wonder if there's a cucumber out there this morning?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Preservitis- A New Disorder Identified?

(Re-post from 2010 SciFiChick@baconandeggs)

There is a newly recognized disorder that has come to the attention of folks across the country.  Although this disorder has been around for many years, it now has an identifiable name. That name is Preservitis. Symptoms include, but are not limited to the uncontrollable urge to can, dehydrate, freeze or otherwise preserve every fruit and vegetable that come across the path of the affected individual.  This disorder may become more intense as the summer season winds to a close.  Person's with this affliction have also been known to try unconventional recipes so as to save every known part of said fruits and vegetables.

   There is no known cure for this disorder at this time.  The prescribed treatment is to let the symptoms run their course.  To alleviate symptoms, it is recommended to allow the affected individuals to pursue their urges to can, dehydrate freeze foods until the symptoms have dissipated.  It appears that once they have found that all fruits and vegetables have been attended to, the affected individuals return to a semi-normal state of mind. Studies have shown that symptoms will usually ease off as the summer winds to a close.  

WARNING-  In most patients these urges WILL return year after year. Researchers believe that Preservitis will become more prevalent as society begins to sense a growing need for self-sustained living.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Monday

Monday already.  Wow, the weekend just flew by.  Somehow it seems we've mostly caught up on things around here and have enjoyed a slow and almost lazy weekend.  The grass is all mowed, the weed-eating done, the coop and cages are clean and I actually am caught up on the weeding in the garden.  For a day or so anyway!  

 I took a walk around the garden this morning, enjoying a cup of coffee and a cool breeze.   The squash, no matter how close I keep an eye on it and obviously no matter what I spray, dust or sprinkle on it is still being attacked by squash bugs. I pick them off and kill them almost to obsession.  Kind of like a monkey will groom another monkey?  I search for the eggs and destroy them too, and I'm still loosing this battle.  I am almost to the point that I am ready to just give up trying to grow it.  The problem is that we both love squash. Oh, and did I mention I'm not a quitter?   I wish we could afford row covers because I'm starting to think that might be the only thing left to try. 

In other news around the homestead all the beans and the black=eyed peas are starting to bloom. The pepper's that were planted a few weeks ago are all blooming.  I've even been able to pick about a pint of jalapeno's and a little bell pepper.   The 14 or so that I picked up a couple of weeks ago seem to be coming out of their shock from being so root-bound when I got them.  It may just be a "banner" year for peppers. The row on the right are all the runner beans and the peas.  On the left are two types of bush beans with some different types of peppers and squash mixed in.

 The tomato's are looking great so far.  There are green tomato's all over the place.  I need to tie them up again.  The "cages" that Mars built are working well so far.  Not bad for some old cedar limbs and a bit of baling wire!

 I've read that marigold's planted with your tomato's will help repel insects. So I planted these when they were seedlings.  I don't know how true that is but I love the look of them there! They are just starting to bloom now.  Can you see the green tomato's?  I can! Actually I can see Fried Green Tomato's on my plate very very soon!  In the south, summer isn't official until you've had your first mess of Fried Green Tomato's!

Here's a shot of the lower garden.  The onions are almost ready to pull.  The spinach has bolted and some of the lettuce has also started to bolt.  I harvested turnips last week.  I didn't plant many but will put some more into the fall garden.   We'll start it here as most all of this plot will be about finished soon.  Except of course for the tomato and pepper plant's I stuck in there. 

 I've got lemon basil tucked in and around the garden and the flower beds that I've been harvesting and dehydrating a little at a time. I'm planning on drying a fair portion of the onions for using this winter.  I use a good amount in cooking and would like to have onions last until next year.  We'll see how it all works out.

Right now the garden is in that "limbo" phase.  Where things are either getting ready to take off and others are just about done.  So while I have a chance I think I'll try and give the house a good going over today.  Hang some laundry, find me a shade tree and read a good book.  Not a bad way to spend a Monday.  I've certainly had worse.

Friday, June 21, 2013

How to Make Tomato Powder

  I've noticed around the blog-o-sphere that some folks are already picking tomato's.  I'm jealous!  But not for long!  Tomato season will be here soon enough.  Last year I made a wonderful discovery.  Did you know that you that you can make your own tomato powder?   It's super simple too.

I came across an article on making tomato powder from tomato skins and was instantly intrigued. After seeing how simple making tomato powder is, I'm sorry I didn't start doing it sooner. I'm also thinking about all those skins I tossed to the chickens before I found this idea. I'm betting that won't happen again. The chickens might be disappointed but I'm sure not!

Why would you want tomato powder?  It's got so many uses. Sprinkle it liberally on meals like soups, stews, pasta sauces,taco mix, pizza toppings. Put some "zip" in your omelet or eggs. Shake it on veggies to add a bit of flavor.  It livens up all kinds of dishes.

The thing I wanted to do the most to do though was to be able to make tomato paste and tomato sauce.  I figured if it worked I wouldn't have to buy it in the can anymore.  I figured what the heck, I'll give it a shot and see. The worst thing that could happen was that the chickens would loose a snack. I've tried making tomato paste  on the stove and I have to tell you... It ain't as easy as it sounds. All that cooking time and stirring and hoping the whole time it doesn't burn, I didn't enjoy it at all.  Besides, it's just to hot in the kitchen during tomato season to do it.  So I decided to try this idea of making it from tomato skins. Now that I've done it I sure wish I had known about it sooner. It's awesome!

First thing you do is peel your tomato's and save the skins.  Lay them out on your dehydrator trays and wait it until the skins are dry.It doesn't take very long at all. They will be like brittle paper when they are done. 

 I laid some  straight on the trays and some on trays with screens. (For the life of me I can't figure out what I did with the rest of my screens.)  They both work fine, it'd just easier to remove the skins using the screens.

I took some of the dried skins and ground them up in my little coffee/spice grinder. That was it!  Tomato powder!

 To make tomato paste from it, just add a tablespoon of water (more or less) to each tablespoon of powder until you get the consistency you are looking for. 
 To make tomato sauce start with one tablespoon of tomato powder to two parts water. (more or less)  For tomato juice just add one tablespoon to 4 tablespoons of water.(more or less)  It's kind of a "feel" thing and not exact measurements.  Just add water until you get the consistency you want for whatever you are making.  
You can also make a mean tomato soup using tomato powder.  I think this will be an awesome addition to any food storage pantry.
I am forever running out of tomato paste. Not any more!  This will be a great thing to have in my food storage. I know I'm going to stock up on it!  Of course I'm not sure yet just how long it will last but I'm testing that now.  I decided not to grind all the skins and store them in jars until I need them.  I figured with the moisture content it would end up being hard as a brick in no time if I ground it all. So I put the skins in mason jars and vacuum sealed them. I'll just grind them as needed.  I know I'll be drying tomato skins from here on out. ...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Self Sustained Living

 Way back before many had even heard of preppers I stumbled into the company of some folks who would become some of my dearest friends.  I was honored to be among them even if I was the new kid and had much to learn.  One of these folks was my friend Kat.  I'm sure some of you probably know her already as MMPaints of Self- Sustained Living.  I can't begin to tell you all the things I've learned from this woman.  Sometimes I would be so embarrassed to have to ask a "simple" question, because she was just so very much more knowledgeable.  She'd just laugh and tell me "What good is it to wonder about something and never ask?"  So ask I did.  A LOT!  And there was never a time she didn't stop and answer me. 

MM is a tough girl.  She's pretty much single handedly worked her homestead for years.  She's been through many a tough time and somehow has always been able to pull herself up by her bootstraps.  She's got through droughts, driven a hay baler from morning till way after midnight for fear the rains would come, played nursemaid to goats, chickens, calves, rabbits and any other critter that needed her.  Raises most all her own groceries, grows her own tobacco and coffee beans, makes cheese, works on the old farm truck AND the tractors, builds fences, animal pens,  and does repairs around the homestead. I've even been lucky enough to try some of her cheeses. (Awesome stuff!) She's one of my prepper hero's and I'm happy to be able to call her a friend.

Right now my friend is finding herself in a bad place.  I could say much about the situation she's in   as I once was a victim of domestic violence.  You can read about it HERE in her own words.  I can read between the lines.  I know how crushed she must feel.  But I also know just how tough she is. After all the blood,sweat and tears she has shed on her homestead these past years, she's now about to loose it all,   In the midst of all the chaos she has figured out a business plan that would help her keep from loosing her homestead.  HERE'S what she has in mind.  RIght now she just needs a hand up. And folks I'd like to ask that if you can see to do it, if you could try and hit her donate button.  Even a dollar would help.  I know things are tough for many of us right now so if you can't donate money, I totally understand.  If you have a blog, I'd like to ask if you could pass the word along to your readers.  I'll be doing the same on Facebook.  Maybe you could stop by and let her know that folks really do care.

Life sometimes has a way of knocking you to your knees.  A single incident can change your entire world.  I should know.  It was just over a year ago since that very thing happened to me.  I thought everything that we had struggled for was about to come to an end, before it really even got started good.  It was then, when I was feeling helpless and hopeless, that I found I had much to be thankful for.  The kindness of friends who I've never even met helped me get up off  my knees and dusted the dirt off, so that I could stand again.  I made myself a promise that if there were some way I could pay all that love and kindness forward I would do just that.  So if there is any way that you could see to reach out to her and lend her a hand up I would be so very thankful. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday in the Garden

Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans
All this spring we've been working around the weather with the garden. In the end, with the wet spring we've had around here, we've been able to plant all but two rows.  Those still need weeding and water lines.  There's not much we can do about the weather so we needed to adjust accordingly.  This will be my first time trying a Fall garden so I'm hoping to make up for what didn't get planted this spring.  More on that later.

One of the "must have's" around here this year is Salsa.  We've enjoyed the 18 quarts I put up last year.  It's versatile enough that it can be used as straight up salsa and is also a great addition to things like beans, chili, taco's and a number of other things.  One goal this year is putting up enough to last us all year without having to "nurse" it through the winter.  I've still got a whole bunch of tomato's in the freezer and I'm planning on using them for the "cooked" tomato's called for in the recipe.  I need the freezer space.  

With that in mind I wanted to make sure we grew most of the ingredients to do it. Tomato's, onions, peppers, cilantro are all in various stages of growth.  There are tiny tomato's coming on pretty well, the onions have probably 3 weeks before I pull them and I've got a second round of cilantro started and ready to go in the ground soon. I'm drying the wintered over cilantro and saving seed for both next year.  The seed is also called coriander.  I've never cooked with it before and so it will be another first.  Does anyone have any recipes that call for coriander?  Time to do some recipe searches!

I had a pretty good run with the spinach this year.  That's a first! I was even able to put about 8 quart baggies stuffed full and freeze them.  I'll be replanting for sure because you can never have too much spinach.  This year I'm going to try saving the seeds from them.  From what I've been reading I'll need to let the seed form and thrash the seed out onto a tarp and winnow it.  We'll see how it goes. 

I'm hoping it's not to hot to start some more lettuce. We've been enjoying lots and lots of salads so far.   I'm sure it won't be long before the early spring romaine and Simpson start bolting.  Gotta have some lettuce to go with all those tomato's you know! 

I'm finally getting caught up on the weeding. (for now)  I've been trying to do at least a row a day and then just keep repeating.  We'll see. I've also mixed up a batch of bug spray and have had to use it several times already.  Always with the dang bugs.  Oh, speaking of bugs... those %*@*# squash bugs are back. I've moved the squash from last years spot and actually have them seperated and spread out around the garden.  The thought is maybe they won't decimate them all.  Long shot I know but.....  So I've been using a product called Eight, which is a "safe" product.  It seems to help some but I'm still finding and scraping little eggs off from under the leaves  and picking off the bugs as I see them to stop the infestation if I can. I'm beginning to understand why I see so many hoop houses around.

Yesterday I finally got the rest of the runner bean trellis finished. And just in time I might add. They were starting to try and climb each other!  I wasn't able to plant all the beans I would have liked but some things can't be helped.  Last year I planted a double row about 50 ft long.  This year I only had room for half that.  I did plant more of the Cherokee beans this year.  Those are some yummy beans and we really enjoyed them last year.  

 We are forecast for some scattered thunderstorms over the weekend.  At least it's dropped the temperatures down to around normal (whatever that is) again.  We are back in the low/mid 80's at least for the next couple of days.  I'll take what I can get.  Having no A/C once it hits the high 90's can be challenging sometimes, but we manage.

So there you have it!  This is what I've been up to since getting back from OKC last Sunday.  I hope I've not bored you to tears.  I know a lot of you are doing the same sort of things right now.  I really do love this time of year, even if I do have to hustle my butt off to get things done. I'm still a few weeks away from canning.  Then the fun really begins!  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Warning- Vacation Pictures

You should see all the "thumbs up" he gets in this truck!
I know I told ya'll about my brother and sister-in-law coming to visit last week.  We had a wonderful time with plenty of BBQ and Beer. Not to mention music and laughter.  I haven't seen them since before they went to Japan about 5 years ago so we had lots to catch up on.  They are stationed in Kingsville, Tx now and she's due to retire from the Navy in about 3 years.  Anyway.... My brother had a conference he needed to attend in Oklahoma City over this past weekend.  My SIL asked me to come with them so we could hang out while he was tied up Friday- Sunday.  She didn't really want to sit in the hotel by herself all weekend and so we played tourist all weekend. 
Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill
I didn't think to toss my camera in my purse our first night in OKC so I can't show you the awesome food porn from Toby Keith's but I DID snag a picture of the place the next day.  I had me a good old fashioned chicken fried steak.... Oh so good.

I had no idea there are actually bears IN Oklahoma.

  SIL and I went to the OKC Zoo on Friday.  I was surprised at how nice a place it was.  The zoo is 109 years old (which is 9 years older than OKC)   
The pink flamingos were sooo pretty.   

This guy's face just makes me giggle.  It kind of looks like E.T. don't you think?

This mountain lion paced and paced then came right up to where I was standing and seemed to say hello. 

 I sure wouldn't want to happen across this guy out in the woods.  He's HUGE.

 Saturday we went to the Red Creek Festival.  It was held in the convention center which was great because it was air conditioned.  
It's a Native American Festival and they were having dancer contests. 

 I'm not familiar with what the dances actually are but it was awesome to watch them in their finery.  

Sorry about the pictures not being very good here.  I was just too far away I think.
This brave allowed me to take his picture.  I told him I'd make him an internet star for a day! LOL!
Check out the look on this Brave's face.... Scary!

We walked through the Botanical Gardens.  The pictures just don't do it justice. 

 This is a shot of the tropical gardens.  We decided that the cost to go check it out just wasn't worth it though.  Instead we toured the gardens and people watched.

You can't tell it in this picture but the dream catcher here is about 10 foot tall.

Saturday evening after my bro got out of his "class" we headed down to Bricktown for some dinner. 

   Again, no food porn but I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture before digging into some awesome Fuzzy's Taco's and a mega Margarita.  

There's a riverwalk that is really pretty to walk along.  Ducks and water taxi's play in the water.
                             This guy play's a mean bucket!!!
There was a group of young men breakdancing.  They had a pretty good crowd of onlookers.  
They have horse drawn carriages in Bricktown.  Here's a Cinderella Princess Carriage.
The Bricktown area is chock full of live music on Saturday nights and lot's of them play outdoors.  
My brother is a beer snob.  No, seriously... he is.  So what better place to down a couple than The Tap Werks.  It's an old brewery turned bar and grill with over 100 beers on tap.
   He talked me into trying a "Black and Tan".  Now I'd heard of this beer before but had never had one.  It's a "layered" drink made from half stout beer and half pale ale. 
 In this case Guiness Stout and Bass Pale Ale.   I've had several folks tell me how good they are.  THEY LIED!  That was one of the nastiest things I've ever tried to drink.   hehehehe

Sunday my sis n law and I went to the OKC Memorial where 168 people, including 19 children died that horrible day.

The Reflection Pool.  We didn't go to see it at night.  They say the chairs seem to float on the water's edge.
The chainlink fence that was put up when the explosion happened is still here. A memorial all it's own.
Across the street from where the Murray Building once stood is a catholic church.  They erected this memorial in honor of ALL the children who died that day.  Two pregnant women died in the blast as well.  There are 22 stones.  The statue of Jesus has his back turned away from the Murray Site.  
The inscription reads "Jesus wept".....
There is also a Memorial Museum.  We couldn't bring ourselves to go in.  The chilling and depressing effect of the Memorial site itself was almost too much to bear. I'm so glad we went but I'm really glad it was the last thing we did while we were in OKC.

All in all it was a wonderful get-away and I enjoyed every minute of it.  It's good to be home though.  The weeds seem to have missed my attention while I was gone.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Anyone miss me?  I've been abducted by aliens and teleported to Oklahoma City.  They are treating me well and  assure me I'll be home by end of day tomorrow.  Story to follow... with pictures!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Oklahoma Storms

Well it's been quite a week here in my neck of the woods.  We are ok here but many of my fellow Oklahoma neighbors have not been so lucky.  First there were 3 days (and nights) of horrible tornado weather, not to mention the torrential rains.  And now the floods are wrecking havoc on some folks.  My thoughts and prayers are with them all.

We fared pretty well through it all. We got some high wind gusts and several inches of rain but no damage.  It seems (so far anyway) that the range of foothills we live on have provided us with what I call a "rainshadow". (Sung to the tune of Moonshadow by Cat Stevens <wink> )  And although I know it's not "technically" correct it works for me. We've been here and for the most part  storms seem to be diverted to our east or west.  Not much, but enough so that many storms will veer around us and even sometimes reform again on the other side.  Let's hope it stays that way.  Going through these storms in an RV can be pretty nerve wracking to say the least.

In other news..... it seems that I've become really good at ticking folks off.  I really didn't mean to... it just sort of happened.  Email from one person this week asked that I read and post her article here.  While I understand where this person was coming from, the fight she's fighting isn't my fight.  That in itself offended her.  And although I respect anyone's opinion, just because I'm vocal about what I perceived to be tyranny doesn't mean I'll just take up any fight or cause.  Why is it that I'm suddenly supposed to?   Looking back now I suppose the best thing I could have done was just not answer the email.  I've ticked her off and am sure I've lost a reader over it.  It happens I suppose but I sure do hate it. I've been a bit quiet here about some of the outrageous things going on in this country and around the world.  If you want to see where I "vent" you are welcome to join me over on FaceBook.  Just hit the Facebook link on your left or search for me there as SciFi Chick.  Just don't do it if you are easily offended.  I lean way to the right on most issues and have a sometimes warped sense of  humor.  You have been warned.