July 29, 2017

Did They Think We Wouldn't Notice?

Quick! Without looking, how many ounces in a can of tuna fish? (Answer at the end of the post.)

And how about these?

And still the same price! LOL. Of course the "gourmet" is going to cost more per ounce, although I don't notice that much difference in flavor.

Here's the answer to the tuna can question.

That's kinda hard to see, so here's a close-up.

And here's a "vintage" can.

I realize this isn't "new" news, but I often wonder how far they're willing to shrink things before folks simply stop buying. Or maybe they think we don't notice. Or maybe they think we're all rolling in dough and willing to pay whatever they want.

I do have bottom line prices for things I buy (or maybe it's top line) and if the price is above that, I don't get it. I've noticed in the grocery stores that the lowest priced choice of similar products is often where the shelf is empty. I've also noticed that stores carry less variety than they used to. And the last time I was in Walmart (not my favorite place to shop) I realized that they'd shortened the aisles of shelves; I assume because they have less on them. Yet the News always reports that our economy is doing well. If that's really true, then I can't help but wonder, "well" for whom?

They give a lot of reasons for rising prices, we've all heard them, but the real problem in the white elephant in the room, the thing no one will acknowledge and for which legislation would be impossible, i.e. the insatiable appetite for greater and greater profits. When top executives require top salaries, there are investors to pay dividends to, and "success" is measured by so-called economic growth, then prices, fees, and taxes can only go up while wages, jobs, product sizes, and quality go down. What is unfathomable, is that those playing this game seem to think that it can go on forever, that an economy can have eternal growth, eternal life.

The other day I was researching the Obamacare penalty, to find out what we'd have to pay this year. It will be the same as last year, but it will be "adjusted for inflation." You know that adjustment won't be in favor of the little people, those of us who can no longer afford health care and yet must still struggle to pay this penalty. (We didn't give up air conditioning to save the earth!)

Guaranteeing profits for the health insurance business was a huge mistake; it only fed the white elephant. Yet politicians are too busy playing a childish game of King-of-the-Hill to notice what's really going on. Or to care. Both parties are guilty, but it keeps the American people distracted and divided, so that most folks likely don't even realize there is a white elephant, and politicians can continue playing their game and collecting tax dollars to play it. Marx got it wrong, religion isn't the opiate of the masses, politics is.

I usually try to be encouraging in my blog posts, but the truth is that I have no hope for this country. We insist upon a glutinous, wasteful lifestyle, and while many recognize this, we think the answer is simply opining about it on talk shows or pointing the finger. Yet how many are willing to do whatever it takes to extract themselves from it?

For those who've been paying attention, this is not new news either. So I'll just leave it at that and move on to my more typical homestead posting next time. Just maybe, by being encouraging I can motivate readers to make lifestyle changes that will serve as lifeboats on a sinking ship.

July 26, 2017

A Little Progress on the Goat Barn (Formerly Dan's Workshop)

"What? A new barn for us?"

Well, not a barn yet but eventually. Current progress is the addition of a few posts.

In the back - posts to frame out a wide sliding barn door.

In the front - a stable door will go between the two new posts on the left.

 In the middle - posts to support the hay loft.

It's slow going because the joints have to be cut. So that's it for the moment.

"Barn, shmarn. We'll believe it when we see it."

© July 2017  by Leigh  at http://www.5acresandadream.com/

July 23, 2017

Summer Days in the Garden

When the daytime highs reach the mid-nineties, (mid-thirties C), something in me switches to pick-and-preserve mode. It just seems like that's what I ought to be doing, and it is!

We're enjoying fresh steamed beans & I'm canning
canning as many as I can. These are Tendergreens.

Summer squash is doing well. I only have about 3 or 4
plants because we all know how prolific it can be!

I've tried a number of varieties over the years, but the standard
yellows seem to do best. Love these sauteed with onion & basil.

I planted cushaw for winter squash where I planted clover as a
living mulch. Cushaw has always done well for me, although
the clover is beginning to wilt from the hot dry weather.

I have two varieties of tomatoes, Homestead and
a  Roma type. The Romas are struggling with
anthracnose, unfortunately, which seems to be
a recurring problem for me with paste types.

I have one row of sweet potatoes that seem happy. For the past couple
years, however, I've grown my own slips and never gotten very many.
I'm not sure why, but would honestly love about 4 - 6 times as many.

Okra is a favorite and doing well. We eat it
oven fried and it freezes without blanching.

Lots of cucumbers too! We're eating plenty fresh
and I'm restocking my shelves with lots of pickles.

My several rows of popcorn are doing well. 

Field corn. Half of the patch has done well, the other
half has no ears! I suspect nitrogen deficiency. I
plan to cut those plants back and dry for stover.

Amaranth has only done so-so. This is a
feed crop for me so the more the better.

No shows for me this year have been Swiss chard, which I planted twice! No joy with watermelons either. I had half a dozen indoor starts that didn't make it, and neither did the seeds I planted directly in the ground to replace them.

In the fruits and nuts department, we had no peaches or almonds this year, even though there were plenty of blossoms! No strawberries either, because I lost all my plants in last summer's horrific heat and drought. The apple harvest will be okay, although less abundant than last year.

This Gala is still a little green but has good flavor.

Pear trees have produced only a few, so I'm not expecting much of a harvest there. A first this year will be my Japanese persimmon!

First time for fruiting this year, four of them!

I planted it in my first hedgerow two years ago and confess I haven't given it a lot of nurturing. It's had to struggle on it's own but it's survived and beginning to produce! We have a wild persimmon too, but it's so tall that the only way to get fruit is the ones that fall to the ground. Critters both tame and wild keep the area pretty well cleaned up, however, so there's never any left for us. Even so, those fruits are small compared to the Japanese variety!

Another first will be crabapples.

I'm thinking pectin and jelly!

This is the first year I've gotten more than only 5 or 6 of them!

Blueberries and figs are my old faithfuls.

Even though it's been cooler this summer and with more
rain, the blueberries haven't produced as well as last year.

Figs are usually ready for harvest in August.

So there's my mid-summer garden report. How about you?

Summer Days in the Garden © July 2017 

July 20, 2017

Something For My Wish List

My bow -

Genesis Gen-X. (This model
is now called the X-Dawn).

I love my Gen-X, but ooh-la-la, here's the one I would absolutely love to have -

Oneida Eagle Kestrel

The Kestrel is my dream bow and likely to remain that way. Unless, that is, I ever have a spare $1400 that I don't know what to do with. ☺

July 17, 2017

Dehydrating Cheese

The other day I cleaned out the fridge in my pantry. This is the smallish second one I use for extra milk, garden pickings, eggs, seeds, and flour. Tucked away at the back of the very bottom were a couple round of goat cheese I'd made in September 2015! They were pretty hard and pretty sharp, so I decided to try my hand at dried powdered cheese.

The first step was to cut it into small pieces and grate it in my blender.

I spread it out on parchment paper and placed in my dehydrator on low.

It took about ten hours to dry. Because of the oils (butterfat) it was a little
clumpy. Some people dry theirs on paper towels to absorb the excess oil. 

 To remove the clumps I ran it through the blender again.

Even though I'll store it in the fridge, I
still vacuum sealed it for better keeping.

To serve, I just add a lid from an old Parmesan
cheese container and reseal when we're done.

Dan likes Parmesan cheese, so this is something I've wanted to try. I think it's tastier than the dried Parmesan from the grocery store. But then, mine doesn't contain sawdust cellulose powder or anit-clumping agents. Mine is all real cheese. 😊

Dehydrating Cheese © July 2017 by Leigh

July 14, 2017

Dan's Workshop: Second Thoughts

Or maybe it's third, fourth, sixth, or tenth thoughts; I've lost track.

It started when the hay mow in the goat barn started to get full.

We designed it to hold about six round bales of hay. But our own hay harvest has been abundant this year (plus wheat) and since we stack it unbaled, it's beginning to look like the mow may not be able to hold all we can harvest. (Which we would rather do than buy hay.) What to do?

You may recall that what I've been calling "Dan's Workshop" was originally supposed to be my new goat barn. The current goat barn (then the "Little Barn") was to become the workshop and storage building. We changed those plans after a lament that we seemed to be stuck permanently in the building/establishment stage of our homesteading. Getting established (fencing, housing, gardens, storage, etc.) does take some time (especially when homesteading can't be a full-time endeavor - I know many of you can relate!), but that wasn't the main goal in becoming homesteaders. The main goal is to live closer to the land and develop a lifestyle of seasonal living.

I figured we it would be easier and faster to streamline the building process by skipping the hay loft and making the structure Dan's workshop. Then we could move on to other things.

In discussing where to store the rest of the summer's hay harvest, Dan convinced me that this building is going to be a job of work either way. He felt that with a hay loft this structure would be better for the goats, and that the "Little Barn" would be better suited for a workshop, plus equipment and lumber storage.

I admit the Little Barn is not the most convenient set-up for goats, but I was willing to live with it so that we could finally reach the end of this tunnel of trying to get established and move on. We spent no little time discussing it, with the result that Dan got started on a hay loft. He had already cut most of the lumber for it anyway.

So, the original goat barn, then Dan's workshop, is now the goat barn once again. Confused? Well, I can't say "me too," but I can say that deep down I'm kinda glad.

Next - a little progress. 

July 10, 2017

Solar Power Baby Steps: Room Fan!

I have been very inspired since reading and reviewing Prepper's Total Grid Failure Handbook. Except for our stand-alone solar devices (we have a solar charger for our electric fence, a solar-powered attic fan, a solar barn light, a solar flash light, and a solar car battery recharger) I have virtually zero experience with generating solar energy. Most books and articles on the subject get way over my head too quickly, so that I have no clue as to how to apply the information. As a hands-on learner, I needed the simplest project I could manage in order to get an experiential grasp on the basics. After reading the Grid Failure Handbook, I began to see ways I could expand our use of solar electric power, especially in the area of preparedness. For example, it's not uncommon for us to lose electricity during lightning storms, ice storms, or hurricane aftermath.

Most of us are familiar with rechargeable batteries. We recharge them by putting the batteries into a little holding device and plugging that into the wall. Then we pay the electric company to recharge the batteries for us. Solar powered devices may or may not have a battery (our attic fan, for example, only works when sunlight hits its PV panel), but the barn light, fence charger, and flashlight each contain their own small battery for after dark use. My new project was going to use the sun to charge a 12-volt car-type battery that I could use with the 12-volt device of my choice.

There are a lot of 12-volt appliances out there. Many common items are wired to run off of car batteries for RVs, boats, camping, tailgate parties, over-the-road truck hauling, etc. Any appliance you use at home probably has a 12-volt version out there. As a truck driver, Dan already has a small 12-volt oven (looks like an old-fashioned lunch box), clip-on fan, cooler, 1.5-quart slow cooker, and a DVD player. All of them use the same kind of electricity as the battery stores (DC or direct current) and simply plug into the vehicle's cigarette lighter.

Typical 12-volt plug

In choosing an appliance, I thought about our preparedness needs. I can cook and heat without electricity, wash clothes without it if I need to; even lighting isn't the greatest need. If we lost power during summer, however, the thing we'd miss most is our fans. Since we've stopped using air conditioning, we use our fans a lot! They help keep us cool, but also, by circulating air in the house, they help prevent mildew and mold. Because of our humidity, that's important! After searching around on the internet, I found a 12-volt room fan.

12-volt fan, 3 speeds, 920 CFM.

To attach it directly to the battery I got this eyelet terminal battery clamp with a 12-volt socket.

You can also get them with alligator clips.

The battery is a deep cycle battery.

12-volt AGM deep cycle battery.

This is not the same kind of battery one typically puts in a car. In a vehicle, a starting (cranking) battery is used. It has to supply enough juice to get an engine started, i.e., rotate the crankshaft. It can bear a high load for a short duration. Something like my fan, however, doesn't take much energy for start-up but must draw continually to keep running. A deep cycle battery can bear a light load for a long time, so it is better suited for these kinds of applications.

Another note about this battery is that it is a "maintenance free," aka sealed battery. It has a shorter lifespan that the flooded cell batteries you have to add distilled water to, but also, there's minimal off-gassing and no chance of spillage. For those reasons I felt it was the best choice for indoor use.

To monitor the battery, I got a small digital voltmeter.

I don't have the best camera so I couldn't get a good shot!

When it gets to between 12.4 and 12.1, then I'll know it's time to recharge the battery. In general, frequent top-ups without letting the voltage get too low will increase the life of the battery.

The set-up is super simple.

The clamp and volt meter attach directly to the battery (red on red and black on black). The fan plugs into the cord's 12-volt socket. I was actually impressed with the breeze the fan creates, even on low!

Since the amount of electricity being delivered (12 volts) is the same as is required to run the fan (12 volts) nothing more is required. If I want to power a typical household device (which uses alternating current or AC), then that's another story (and another project). As long as I use 12-volt devices with this set-up, then I'm good to go.

So what about recharging the battery? This is where the car battery recharger comes in. We bought it not too long ago from Northern Tool: a 20-watt solar panel with a 12 Amp charge controller.

The purpose of the charge controller is to control the charge to
the battery, i.e., prevent it from being overcharged or drained.

The set-up: solar panel > charge controller > battery.

Now we'll see how long my fan can run on the one battery, how often I need to recharge it, and how long that takes. I can see the need for a second battery for a quick switch when one needs recharging.

We're still a long way from energy self-sufficiency, but in terms of preparedness it's a good step. Next I'll tackle something a bit more complicated.