Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Links

My mother emailed me about Recycle Bank--a site that has articles and links about being green, and (because it's sponsored by various companies) ways to get "points" that will get you discounts or gift cards.

Did you know that September was International Homesteading Education Month? I didn't! To celebrate, Mother Earth News has a listing of events around the country and speakers who are available to present to your community/groups.  If you have expertise or are hosting some sort of an event, you can add it.

Donna Freedman wonders if dimes are the new pennies.

Bryallen completed 100 no-spend days.  Congratulations!

Wacky cake recipe.

Steve points out that that what tastes great to some people in some countries is gross to people in other countries.

So, apparently, Bic created lady pens.  Bic for Her.  The reviews are pure comedy gold, so for that I thank you, Bic!  (Apparently, there are also lady guns, which are pink.  Because if I'm going to pack heat, it had better be pink heat.) 

Have a great weekend everybody!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Busy, busy, busy

I've been a bit busier than usual. As you know, one of my garden plots had turned into a prairie, and my everyday weeding wasn't cutting it.  So I took Monday off and weeded like a demon.  It's far from perfect, but it's mostly clear now.  I also re-staked the tomatoes (actually, added more stakes and just tied the long vines to them, and trimmed back a lot of the vines that had no fruit on them) because they were falling over and looked trainwrecky.

I laid down a little more mulch as well, though it's not enough to cover the entire garden.  I stayed at my friend's house Monday night.  She has an outdoor shower, which was, by the way, awesome.  I brought some cold soup, she made some stir fried bulgur wheat with Indian spices, and her friend who's staying with her made cod.  My friend, who's an incredible baker, offered us a variety of sweets for dessert--I demolished them. We ate very well.  I also fed my friend's chickens the kitchen scraps.  

I spent Tuesday recovering and last night I tried to make a new dish with an eggplant from my CSA (FAIL--I'll post about it later) and chopped up some hot peppers from my garden and put them in the olive oil/vinegar mix to preserve them in the fridge. (Edit: it's probably best to store the peppers in straight vinegar, as Practical Parsimony points out in the comments--though these peppers won't last me the weekend.)  I didn't wear gloves, which was a mistake, as my hands feel. . .er, warm.  They were throbbing last night.  (At least I knew not to rub my eyes.)

I might try my hand at making hot pepper jelly this weekend.  I'll probably also make some stock and can the rest of my ripe tomatoes.

What are you all up to this weekend?  It will be a long one in the US--Labor Day.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cold curried tomato soup

About 11 years ago, a friend of mine had some people over for dinner and made a heavenly cold soup.  I'd never had cold soup before, and this was a revelation to me--it was thick, creamy, had hints of spice and mint in it, and was refreshing.

He graciously gave me the recipe and I made it for my parents.  Then I lost the recipe and couldn't find it, no matter how hard I searched online.  There was always something different--use sour cream instead of yogurt, no mint, etc.

Well, this year has seen a bumper crop of tomatoes--I canned five quarts of them this weekend--and I still had a bunch left over.  I also had more ripening.  I figured I'd better do something with the already-ripe ones that weren't going to make it into the quart jars, so I thought I'd try and make the soup again from memory.  It turned out pretty well--my neighbors came over for dinner, and they seemed to like it.

Without further ado, here's how you can make the soup:

6 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped*
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 cup of yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves and some sprigs of mint for garnish

Saute garlic in olive oil over medium heat until translucent and fragrant.  Add curry, mustard, cumin, and turmeric and stir until it forms a fragrant paste.  Add tomatoes. Stir well, coating the tomatoes with the seasoning.  Once they are coated and heated through, add the stock and bring to a boil.  Once it's boiling, simmer for twenty minutes or so.  Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend, or blend with an immersion blender.  Keep cooking on stove until the soup reduces by about one-third.  Take off the burner and allow to cool before chilling the soup for at least an hour.  (I chill it overnight--the longer it chills, the more the flavors develop.)

Before serving, whisk in about a cup of plain yogurt and a 1/4 cup of chopped mint.  Keep some extra yogurt available in case it's too spicy for some people--it's easy to add more yogurt if it's too spicy for some.  It's not easy to take stirred in yogurt out.

Serve in chilled bowls with sprigs of mint as a garnish.

As I recall, the old recipe called for adding more stock (cold) at the end, before stirring in the yogurt, but I figured that wouldn't be safe.  Also, I was afraid it would make the soup less thick and creamy, and I rather liked it thick and creamy.

*To peel tomatoes, drop them into boiling water for 30-60 seconds, or until the skin starts to split.  Remove and plunge into a bowl full of ice water to cool them.  You should be able to slip them out of their skins.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Links-the weird news edition.

I took this at the beach--has nothing to do with the post.
Don't hoard bees.  That's actually cruel to the insects.  It's like hoarding pets--they do not benefit from this.

Sometimes, DIY is a bad idea.

This guy apparently saw the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Feeding candy to cows.  Yes, I know, there was an expert claiming it was fine.  Still, it grosses me out.

A Scottish farmer developed this super-sweet broccoli that Tesco's (a grocery store in the UK that I still miss terribly) has started selling.  Parents have high hopes that their kids will eat it.  You know, my niece liked regular broccoli when she was a toddler.  I sometimes think we don't give kids nearly enough credit.  Though we could also always feed it to cows. Ahem.

I had no idea that Shia LeBeof raised chickens.  Or that he did, before a coyote ate them.

If you are arrested for a crime--especially a crime you know you are guilty of committing--just spend the money and get a good defense attorney.  Don't do what this jamoke did.  While we're at it, if you're going to steal stuff, steal big.  You'll be way cooler in prison for trying to knock over an armored truck than if you're in the clink for stealing a crappy coffee pot and other items from a Holiday Inn room.

Um. I cannot even.

OK, everybody.  Enjoy the odd news parade and have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How do the weeds in my garden grow? Quite well, in fact.

Your fearless blogger holds a garden tomato.
I've said it before and I'll say it now: Anyone who chirps that all you need to do to cut food costs is to plant a vegetable garden needs a smack upside the head.  Not because I hate gardening--I love gardening.  But because it's a lot of work and the results are scatter-shot, especially when you're first doing it.

Here's the thing: my plot at work, despite our best efforts to mulch it with a couple of feet of seaweed, is still overrun with weeds.  I pull them and they grow right back.  I'll be taking a day next week to really attack them--pull them, rake them out, and re-mulch so that at least they won't take hold in the latter part of the summer, and I might be able to plant some winter crops like spinach. My garden partner is going to try and re-stake the tomatoes this weekend because, again, despite our best efforts, they are growing every which way and pulling the stakes down.

Gardening takes work.  You can't just plant things and traipse out there to harvest bushels of vegetables.  It's highly unlikely that you'll be able to just maintain the garden for an hour a day, unless you have container gardens (which can still have weeds) or you have been doing this for a long time and have a lot of mulch built up (or a weed barrier, which is fine for some plants and not so great for others).  You wage war against weeds, pests (vine borers destroyed our zucchini plants, and cucumber beetles wrecked out cucumber plants), rodents (I cannot tell you how many tomatoes I picked that ended up having large bites taken out of them), blight/fungus, and weather.  Among other things.  And if you get a lot of produce, you have to have the time to preserve it.

That's the thing--you don't want to let tomatoes sit in your kitchen for a week before canning them or making sauce and freezing it.  Maybe a couple of days, if you have to (I have to this week) but no longer.  And canning takes time.  Dip the tomatoes in hot water for 30-60 seconds, dip them in ice water to cool, peel off the skins, maybe cut into sections if they are large, and can them.  Sounds easy, but it is labor intensive and quite messy.  And it does take time.  Can you do this when you get home from work, or are you too tired?

Peppers! And lots of weeds. Pity rabbits don't eat weeds.
A lot of frugal things take work, and the first few times you do them, they don't turn out well. My advice to anyone who's facing immediate financial problems and who's never gardened before and needs help now would not be to garden or do projects that can be frugal but require a lot of know-how.  It would be to bring in more money, cut down on expenses, things like that.  If you have the time and the resources, yes, I'd say this is a worthwhile pastime.

Gardening can cost you money. If someone was hoping to slash their food bill with a garden, they may find themselves behind the eight ball after spending money on the seeds or seedlings and supplies like cages or stakes.  They'll also find that unless they spend a lot of time on the garden, they will lose the war with weeds and pests and other garden adversaries--and sometimes these things can wreak havoc even if you spend a lot of time on the garden.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't garden.  I love it.  Even during the most frustrating days--like yesterday, when I came down to the plot and saw the prairie and thought, "I JUST PULLED THOSE THINGS", I was rewarded with a decent tomato crop.  This is turning out to be a good year for tomatoes (unlike last year, which was a disaster for me).  Even when I get nothing, it's nice to plant things and watch them grow and learn.

But I've always said this is a hobby for me. I enjoy this hobby, and one large reason why I do it is because I do want to know how to grow things.  I do not want these kinds of skills to fade into the background--we're already losing so much knowledge about this stuff.  I understand in visceral ways how it is that weather conditions--like, say the current drought--can affect the food supply.  It's no longer a remote thing for me emotionally.  And on one level, I do feel empowered.  Even if most of the crops I raise fail, I'll still know basically what to do.  It's rare to have absolutely nothing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Renting everything

This story in BusinesssWeek had me scratching my head a bit.  More and more college graduates are opting to rent rather than buy--homes, cars, and even clothes.  The article seemed to think it was a cultural shift.

Some of it makes perfect sense to me--if you lost your job (like one person in the article) you may feel skittish about committing to a mortgage--after all, how do you know your current job won't evaporate? How do you know you won't have to move? How do you know you won't have to sell your place, possibly at a loss?

So it makes sense--I think the push to buy homes (instead of giving people the opportunity and access to good-paying jobs) got us into this mess.  Buying a home is a great thing, but in order to do it, salaries have to be good and the actual home prices have to be reasonable. Yet instead of creating those conditions, we opted for the smoke-and-mirrors approach. What we did last decade was push interest rates lower and lower which, in my neck of the woods at least, seemed to push housing prices higher and higher.  After all, the rates were low! Your monthly payment was low! And then things like 40-year (!) mortgages came out which didn't help much at all.  Look, your payment is lower! So what if you'll be in debt until your eighties?

And everyone was surprised when that bubble burst.

So, I can see why a young graduate would side-eye home ownership.  Not to mention the fact that most people in their twenties aren't sure where they're going to end up--heck, I kept thinking I wanted to move to various places in the US, then overseas (which I did) before I came back here and planted roots.

And if you live and work in a city, it makes perfect sense to not own a car.  Most cities have decent public transportation so why incur such an expense?  You need a car, you can use something like Zipcar, which rents them by the hour.

Some of the things the article talked about some people renting made no sense to me.  Furniture? You can go to a thrift store and get furniture for much less money than renting it.  Clothing? I mean, sure, for a very formal event I see it, but companies like Rent the Runway seem to have perfectly ordinary (cute, but ordinary) sheath dresses and other clothing items for rent for 10% of their cost.  That sounds great until you realize that simple sheath dress cost $3,000 and that you could buy a perfectly good looking dress for much, much less.

It's also not as if the people interviewed in the article aren't spending money.  They go out to eat.  They take trips.  They aren't living like monks.  It does seem to be more of a mindset than anything.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday links

Luckily for my friends, keeping ahead of me isn't hard.
Building a scrap mansion, piece by piece over the years.

That's really cool to build a scrap mansion, but I still salivate over straw bale homes.  Like this one.

Another delicious way to prepare your zucchini or summer squash.  I have so much from my CSA right now.

Work friends vs. real friends.  It's good to be friends--or friendly--with your coworkers, definitely.  However, I think this article is important because it's easy to blur the lines.  Even if you answer 'yes' to some of the questions at the end--and I certainly did, as there are many former colleagues I'm close with and hang out with regularly--it's important to realize that work is work and you can't assume that everyone there is your bestie--they've got lives outside of the office.  As should we all.

Frugal things the grumpies don't need to do anymore (and have joyfully discarded).

Older adults are very vulnerable to fraud.

10 bonuses from buying a home.

A savings hack--much used, much loved, but well worth repeating.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Is college worth it?

I graduated from a state university over 20 years ago.  I think I got a good education and, at the time, the tuition and fees were reasonable (at least when I started), although it was difficult to get into classes required for graduation in your major.  Had I not spent a year in England on exchange, I would have likely been on the five year plan.

The school, like all schools (state school and private), was starting to increase tuition costs.  I'm glad I don't have kids since, looking at what tuition costs are, I do not think I could send them to university, even if they were able to pay half.

The rule in my house was, I had to put away at least 10% from any jobs I had into my college account.  I decided on a plan of thirds, as it was easier--one third of my pay into my college account, one third into my personal savings account, and one third was for me to spend how I liked.  Summers and spring breaks, I worked.  I wondered who these students who could go off on spring break trips were.  I had my fun--maybe too much of it at times--but I also had jobs while I went to school.  I got stipends at the school paper.  I worked as a janitor in the dining commons.  I worked in the student store. And during vacations I got jobs in retail in the mall near where I lived.  Granted, I probably could have gone on a spring break trip with money I saved, but it just didn't occur to me.  When I was in England, however, I traveled all over the place since it would have been stupid not to.  In fact, in England I felt like a proper student since I couldn't get a job there, being a foreigner and all.  It was kind of nice.

I did not graduate and get my dream job.  I graduated into a recession--I got laid off, then got a job as a receptionist.  I didn't get a job where I was paid decently until I moved overseas.  Had it not been for that job, I would not have been able to buy my place (or learn to speak Japanese).

That's not why I went to college, though.  I went because I really did want to learn about the world and to delve more deeply into my chosen field of study. But university was always touted as the way to get a good job, something you had to do in order to either get a good job or advance in your job, and that you needed it to make decent money.

Now, in my neck of the woods, you do need a bachelor's degree in order to get a secretarial job, which is ridiculous.  But I think that's because the market is flooded with college graduates, and employers can now afford to be choosy.  With the economy the way it is, and with people looking at the jobs you're expected to have an undergraduate degree for, a lot of people are wondering if it's worth it.

I did go on to get my master's degree--mainly because my employer paid for it.  I figured it would be a wasted opportunity to not do that.  But the degree was mainly for me to advance in my job (it was not in the same field as my undergraduate), not because I loved the subject matter at hand.  If I felt like I could do well without the degree (and I didn't have the tuition reimbursement), I wouldn't have bothered, honestly.

I really wish there were more vocational training opportunities (not for-profit "universities" that charge more than my university and push their students into loans with exorbitant rates) that prepared people for good jobs.  I think wanting training for a good job is smart, and I don't think university is for everyone. (I also think that if you want to be able to train for a specific job and learn for the love of learning, you should have the opportunity to do so.  I don't think the two are or should be mutually exclusive.)  What I don't think is smart is the idea that job applicants for almost any job have at least a bachelor's degree.  Unless the job itself requires knowledge of a certain field, that's silly.

I did not go on to work in the field that my major was in.  That's okay with me--I don't regret my degree at all.  But I think a lot of people are urged to go to university and study certain things because it will get them a good job.  And I'm skeptical of that.  I really wish there were good opportunities for people to get the training they need for good jobs.  Right now, I don't think there are a lot of options for that and so people are doing what they think will get them the best chance for good opportunities.

What do you all think?  Is college worth it?  Do we need to revisit the idea what a college education can do for us?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Notes for next year's garden

My produce is starting to come in--some tomatoes are turning red, I'm getting peppers, my leeks are getting bigger, and my butternut squash is coming in.  My garden plots, however, look like a jungle, despite my best efforts.  Here's what I'm going to try next year:

1) I might either use weed barrier or make containers/raised beds.  I mulched with seaweed in one plot--and put down a very thick layer of the stuff--and I'm still getting weeds.  They're not difficult to pull, granted, but compared to my father's garden with his leaf mulch and very few weeds and I'm just discouraged.  I pull them and they come right back. Ugh.  I may at least use weed barrier with certain crops--like tomato and basil and butternut squash, since those seem to be the hardest hit areas for whatever reason.

2) Cage the tomatoes and the peppers.  I tried stakes this year but they were a big fail--the plants are growing more horizontally and the stakes I got aren't as thick as they need to be.  If I do stake them, I'll dig the stakes in as soon as I plant the tomatoes and peppers and tie them.  My father did this with his tomatoes (he also used very tall and sturdy stakes that he dug about a foot into the ground) and they are pretty neatly laid out.

3) Figure out how to vanquish vine borers.  They destroyed the zucchini plants.

4) Figure out why my cucumber plants are toast.

5) Plant more flowers--probably around the edge of the plot at the work garden, and put pots of flowers around the edge of the container garden in my town.  Pollinators are good things.

6) Trellis more plants.  I may try growing melons on a trellis, or try trellising the winter squash next year.  That will keep a cooler part for leafy greens to grow.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Housecleaning--my own rules

Who smiles when they clean? Or wears dresses and pumps?
There are sites you can visit if you need help or if you want to develop good systems to clean your house.  I'll put those at the bottom of the article here, with my own caveats about each one.

My thing about housecleaning is that I hate doing it.  I hate it.  I'd rather nap.  I'd rather go outside.  I'd rather watch TV.  I'd rather read. I'd rather be torn apart by zombies.  OK, not so much the last one, but you get the idea.  I hate housecleaning.

I used to wait until the weekend to do it, look around my place, sigh heavily, and nap.  Or I'd attack it with zeal, get it clean, and then be so tired after that I'd leave dishes in the sink or clutter on a table and figure "I'm still so tired, I'll get it later."  Later would come and the clutter and mess got married and had many, many ugly babies.

I found one of the biggest obstacles to me keeping the place clean was all the stuff I had.  Now--I was no hoarder.  Not by a long shot.  But I am not one of those people who can magically organize their things and keep them in perfect order.  I had a lot of stuff that I didn't need and I had a lot of paper. Oh, Judas in gogo boots, did I ever have paper.  Bills.  Statements.  Junk mail.  And I'd mean to shred it, but then I'd get tired even thinking about it and . . .well, you know the drill.

Friday, August 10, 2012

All around the internets I find eclectic links

If you can catch this documentary, it's well worth your time: The Secret History of the Credit Card.  It was featured on Frontline on PBS several years ago.  If anyone has trouble with getting into debt, this may induce you to never use the things again.

Len Penzo has his annual breakdown of the least expensive sandwiches for people who brown-bag it.  Though I'll note that even the most expensive sandwich to make is less than lunch out.

Mother Connie has her own recipe for stuffed tomatoes.  I need to try this, as I've got plenty of corn and tomatoes now!

Bruschetta, a heavenly treat!

Frugal millionaires and billionaires.  Do you think you would buy a huge home and lots of bling if you were ultra wealthy?

15 Frugal, Single-Serving Freezer Meals.  Note: many are not vegetarian.

File this under ZOMG NO KIDDING: Unemployment takes a tough mental toll.

Have a good weekend, everybody!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Invest in some good stock

I had mentioned making stock here and here and here, albeit briefly.  But I thought I'd show you one of my stock bags so you can see just how obsessed I am.

Yes, that is my stock bag--basically odds and ends of vegetables.  The end result is actually quite good.  It has the peelings, ends and stems of vegetables as well as the stems of herbs in it (all from either my garden or my CSA).  I also included part of an onion that I wasn't going to be able to use before it goes bad.

I simmer it for the better part of an afternoon with a few bay leaves and peppercorns (and maybe some more herbs and garlic).   I keep this in my freezer and add vegetable ends and scraps to it every time I cook.  It beats tossing the scraps or composting them right away.  

Once the bag is full, I make a batch of stock (so guess what I'm doing sometime this week).  I'll either can it or freeze it--usually, when I can it, there's enough leftover that won't fit into a canning jar that I end up freezing some, often in ice cube trays.  Then I wash out the bag and start all over again.  

I'm not picky about the vegetables I'll include--whatever is left over from what I've been cooking.  Potato and carrot peels, the ends of carrots and zucchini and summer squash, the tough stems of greens, the peelings and ends of beets, the bottom part of celery or bok choy, the stems or tough parts of vegetables--I'll use them all.  

It seems like a waste, otherwise, to just toss them or compost them without this one extra thing.  And when I cook, I often replace stock for water--it kicks up the flavor a lot.  So if I boil rice, I will cook it in stock, not water.  If I make something in the slow cooker, I'll often use stock instead of water.  If I make something like curried lentils, I'll cook the lentils in stock if I have it on hand.  If I've got stock cubes on hand, I'll throw one or two into something that's simmering on the stove if I want to add extra flavor, or I'll add it to my pasta water--it does add some flavor to the pasta.  

Eating vegetarian or eating simply does not mean you have to eat bland food.  You may as well get as much use as you can out of the things you have--so I'll extract as much flavor as possible and then compost them.  Yes, you can buy stock (I have one container left in my pantry) but this feels a lot more satisfying.  It's as if I've sucked up every last drop of pleasure these things have to offer.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Apparently monks eat well

Belinda had written about some good reads about frugality.  I definitely want to check some of these books out.  Her post got me thinking about some of the books I have found useful.  One of them is From a Monastery Kitchen: The Classic Natural Foods Cookbook.

Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila Latourrette, a resident monk at Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery near Milbrook, NY, is the author.  The book does talk a little bit about monastery life and some of the stories and festivals around some dishes.  I'm an unrepentant heathen, but I was raised as Catholic and did find this interesting.  I always thought of monks as living intentionally deprived lives, but they just live simply.  It's nice to see how you can take joy in simple things and create delicious meals that everyone enjoys with basic ingredients.

The books is divided into seasons, and each section features soups, salads, main dishes, and desserts.  The foods are foods you would get seasonally--which is refreshing since I cannot tell you how many times I've flipped through a vegetarian or "simple" cookbook to see recipes that call for things like pomegranate vinegar.  It's also mainly vegetarian (though there are some fish recipes, and there is a lot of cheese, dairy, and eggs for many dishes in the book).

This book is where I got the recipe for zucchini-stuffed tomatoes I wrote about ages ago.  There are a lot of simple dishes using basic but fresh ingredients and herbs--so they are economical and flavorful.  They also save you a fair amount of time, since you aren't going to need to defrost meat.  I've made things like Mediterranean Lentil Salad, Yogurt Cake Saint-Elie, and Toledo Spanish Tuna, among others.

People who like very spicy food may find the recipes a little bland--so you'll want to add in a lot of garlic and pepper.  While I like spicy food but I am also fine with mild food, though a lot of herbs never hurt anyone.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


 I was walking with a friend of mine from work (and her friend) with their two dogs.  We were in the woods.  The dogs were behind us, sniffing something along the side of the path when I noticed a large dog walk across the path.  Or more accurately, lope across the path.  I came this close to cooing at it when I realized that there was no person following the dog.  And then I realized that was a coyote.

Now here's the thing about coyotes--I was very leery of them, until I learned how small they were.  Then I figured that yes, you have to be careful with regard to kids and pets but a fully grown adult doesn't need to worry too much.  But this animal was quite large--not the size of a wolf, but the size of a very large dog, certainly.  I did some Googling later that week, and found out that when coyotes--which used to be limited to the west--migrated east, they interbred with red wolves.  They seem to act mainly like coyotes--they are comfortable enough around people that they have made their homes in suburbia and even urban areas (they are around in Boston) but timid enough where they won't hang out with people openly--they try to make themselves scarce.  Having said that, I was glad I was with friends.

I can see why Jonathan Way, a researcher who studies the eastern coyote, calls them coywolves.

Coyotes are opportunistic animals--like raccoon, bears, crows (have you seen what those birds to do trash bags?), and squirrels.  If you live in an area where they are around--and chances are, if you live in North America, they're around--you can take steps to discourage them from hanging out in your yard.

First, they will go through your trash.  Keep it in your garage (or make sure it's in the dumpster if you live in a complex).  Don't take it out until the morning of trash pickup.

Second, if you have a dog, let it just hang out in your yard unsupervised.  Coyotes can climb chain link fences.  If you have a fence, make sure it's one they cannot climb and make sure it's deep enough underground that they cannot dig under it.  Coyotes regard dogs as competition, not prey.  Sometimes they are just curious about them if you're out walking with them, and sometimes they'll sort of shadow you (but not bug you) because you're unknowingly near their pups--so they "escort" you away from the pups.

Third, if you have a cat, keep it indoors.  Cats are ace predators, true, but there are plenty of animals that will go after cats and eat them--fisher cats (a type of weasel), coyotes, some birds of prey, among others.  (Between the predators and cars, it's a good idea to keep your cat indoors if you can.)

Fourth, do not leave pet food outside for your pets.  It will attract coyotes--and other critters.While we're at it, you may want to rethink birdseed.  If you live in black bear country, they'll eat it.  And coyotes eat it--and they'll certainly be attracted to the squirrels.  Basically, you don't want to feed wild animals intentionally or unintentionally.  I love birds and would love a bird feeder.  And while birds (and the thieving squirrels) seem to do just fine with being fed, a large fed mammal does not survive well.  They acclimate too much to people, they might attack someone, they become dependent upon people providing food, they end up dead.  There is a saying, "A fed animal is a dead animal."  If you love the beasts, don't feed them.  They are quite good at feeding themselves.

You can see more advice on how to avoid coyote interactions on Jonathan Way's page.  You can also learn more about eastern coyotes there.  It's fascinating.

I am not one of those people who goes out into the woods and communes with nature--and I don't seek out large mammals.  The larger they are, the more nervous I get.  One of my biggest fears around eastern coyotes is mistaking one for a dog--it's easy to do--and trying to call it over.  While they are beautiful animals and I get the urge to scritch and pet beautiful animals, wild animals are so not into that at all.  As it should be.

I do appreciate them from a distance.  I respect nature--which means I let wild animals be wild animals and I don't try to feed them or tell myself that I have some special bond with them.  I don't entertain the thought of having them as pets (that's very cruel to the animal).  I'd like to smack people who do that.  But that's another post.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Freezing corn

I got six ears of sweet corn as part of my CSA share.  I normally give some to my parents as they love sweet corn, but I knew I wouldn't see them this week.  I also figured I'd get more corn next week--once it comes in, it really comes in.  Not that I'm complaining!

This week I figured I'd freeze it.  I resolved this year to not have rotting vegetables in my fridge--I was pretty good about it last year, and wanted to be even better about it this year.  I also knew that I wouldn't be able to eat the corn this week, so I figured I'd freeze it.

It was pretty easy.  I shucked the corn, I cleaned off the silk, and blanched it in boiling water for four minutes.  I took them out and put them in ice water, sliced the kernels from the ears with a very sharp knife, and put the kernels in a freezer bag.  I got out as much air as I could from the freezer bag, sealed it and put it in the freezer.

Now, sweet corn is a little different from regular corn.  The kernels are lighter colored, and they are, as the name attests, quite sweet.  I read that canning it will result in slightly discolored corn (though it will taste fine).  I'm not sure if freezing it will do the same thing, but it can't hurt to try it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday blogaround

Brought to you by CSA tomatoes.
Here is what is out there in interwebby land:

I have a new follower and she has a blog.  :::Waves hello:::  Check her out!

Unclutterer has four ways to sell your unwanted stuff.

Some people have a cursing jar, others have a negativity jar.  I think that's an interesting idea.

What a difference 18 months of effort can make.

Phelan (at another new blog I found), wants to know what you think the difference between a homesteader and a prepper are.

The anti-social guide to selling your stuff.

Lack of rain means food prices will rise. Here's how you can drought-proof your food budget.  Which reminds me, I need to stock up on dried beans and have a canning day.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

CSA produce meal--South Asian style fried rice

I am getting a lot of produce from my CSA farm, which is great.  I also know that I need to use it up because some of this stuff does not preserve well (such as the patty pan squash I got). One of my friends (the one who made this heavenly dish) mixes shredded carrot, chickpeas, chicken stock and spices in with the basmati rice and water in the rice cooker and it's come out very well.  Well, I have no compunction about ripping my friends off.

First, I took two cups of brown basmati rice and four cups of water and put them in the rice cooker.  I added two shredded carrots, leftover forty clove of garlic chicken (with several cloves of roasted garlic), a few chopped carrot tops, a tablespoon of ginger powder, 1/2 a teaspoon of garam masala, 1/2 a teaspoon of chili powder and 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  I closed the cover and set it to cook.  If I didn't have the leftover chicken, I would have added chickpeas and vegetable stock.  (I figured the chicken and garlic would add a lot of flavor as is.)

This smelled divine.
Then, I chopped an onion, a zucchini, and a patty pan squash.  I sauteed them in olive oil over medium heat, added in a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of ground coriander seed.  It smelled heavenly.  Actually, the cinnamon made me think of Thanksgiving.  Once the rice was done, I added it to the skillet and mixed everything together.

My friend's version was much better, I think because it was spicier.  Surprisingly, it wasn't that spicy to me, and I think it was a little heavy on the cinnamon--I think I'll just put 1/4 teaspoon in next time.  I wanted a hint of flavor, not for it to dominate it.  And I can't believe I'm saying this, as I am a spice wimp, but I think I have to add maybe another teaspoon of chili powder or cayenne pepper.  Overall, it wasn't bad, though.  I did have seconds.

I do like dishes like this because they are versatile--you can use what you have on hand to make a decent meal.  This one has plenty leftover for a big lunch tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Banishing stinky squatters

Steve over at World of Okonomy had an uninvited resident recently.  He emailed me how he got rid of this cute but smelly pest.

"Our neighborhood has tons of skunks. I've had one (or more) living under my shed  forever (they love the compost pile! One bad thing about composting, no one tells you.) That's just have to be aware at night. I never go out without a flashlight. But recently, one has taking up residence in my crawl space (skunks need only 4" of space to squeeze into a spot) and has left my house smelling of skunk every morning (which open dishes of white vinegar eventually will dispel.)

I asked around. Skunk removal is close to $200! So I did some research. I prepared all this in advance in the daylight (skunks are nocturnal.) 

My lure: A bowl of rice crackers and sunflower seeds. Wet cat/dog food is the best,but I was determined not to pay a penny for this. Also, the seeds/crackers have the benefit of being noisy.

 I checked the bowl regularly during the night. Around midnight I could see that he had rooted through the bowl, so I knew he was out. I had an arc-lamp that I checked under the house to make sure there were no babies (a mother would have killed herself trying to get to them.) I sealed the crawlspace up with double layers of chicken-wire (galvanized wire is the best) making sure I stretched it out in front of the crawl space so he could not dig himself back in.

I finally soaked an old pair of my shorts with with ammonia as a stinky message back that he was not welcome anymore.

Seems to have worked!"