Wednesday, July 31, 2013

No more drama queens

Where there's smoke there is a ...... beehive inspection!
A happy bee update today! Exactly 2 weeks after my last hive inspection, where I discovered a queenless hive, I looked back in with only 50/50 hope of seeing eggs. But I did! Third frame I pulled, some still standing up, meaning the queen is in there and has laid them as little as a day ago. Trying not to disturb the bees more than necessary, I popped the queen excluder and honey super back on and closed up. 
The artistic husband (TAH) was on self-proclaimed photography duty but he refused to come close enough to take a picture of the eggs. You can see those here, but in this post, you get gratuitous backyard flower pictures instead.


Because I have learned to never assume anything, I opened the other hive for a quick check, too. Right on top, I found my first little tiny bit of honey in a honey super. You see the frames are much smaller - because honey is HEAVY! Like, break your back trying to carry a deep box full of honey frames heavy. Of course I'm not expecting such gargantuan results this year, but I am sure very excited if I get as little as one jar.

Underneath the honey super, I found a healthy and thriving brood pattern with calm, content bees.

So happy I know I am now running on 2 homemade queens, which hopefully will last a little longer than the previous ones who hailed all the way from Georgia ... Interestingly, if I understand things correctly, a break in brood patterns can help with mite control. So together with my screened bottom boards, I will now wait until after the honey harvest/taking off the supers later this fall, to treat with formic acid or the like. Yes I'll treat. Until we know how to keep bees alive better, I want them to have every chance they get. Also, my bee teacher has pointed out that we only have a strong argument against the pesticide lobby if we can show that we're controlling mite populations.

This brings me to two interesting pieces of news that have hit the airwaves recently. One is good, if you consider knowledge better than ignorance, but really only then: They found out that a combination of different pesticides and in particular fungicides, may be responsible for making bees more susceptible to parasites. You catch that? It's sort of a chain reaction, which is harder to deal with than just banning X pesticide and calling it a day.

Photo: Breaking News! EPA has just raised limits of pesticides allowed.  

This is a direct result of super weeds becoming resistant to Monsanto's Round-up pesticide in their GMO crops. 

The amount of allowable glyphosate (ROUNDUP) in oilseed crops such as flax, soybeans and canola will be increased from 20 parts per million (ppm) to 40 ppm, (that is 100,000 times the amount needed to induce breast cancer cells warns GM Watch) 

Additionally, the EPA is increasing limits on allowable glyphosate in food crops from 200 ppm to 6,000 ppm

Just last month, The Cornucopia Institute concluded a study by finding glyphosate "exerted proliferative effects in human hormone-dependent breast cancer." A similar study released in April concluded that "glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins."

"Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body," independent scientist Anthony Samsel and MIT's Stephanie Seneff concluded in the April study. "Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer's disease." 

A press release issued by the group Beyond Pesticides criticized the decision as well. "Given that alternative methods of growing food and managing weeds are available, like those that exist in organic agriculture, it is unreasonable for EPA to increase human exposures to Roundup," they wrote.

Secondly, the Obama EPA has, during the lull of summer, sneakily and silently increased pesticide limits, to accomodate the use of RoundUp (glyphosate) against ever more resistant weeds. In other words, GMO crops make our planet dirtier, without the increased yield their manufacturers promised. And, oh, they practically indenture farmers, whether they want to farm GMO crops or not. (Farmers have been sued for their crop being wind-pollinated by GMO crops nearby). That's almost a tangent now, but don't be fooled for a minute: There is a connection. Buy organic, support non-GMO seed companies, and please, please, please, don't use RoundUp at home.
That's what YOU can do. 

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Homemade Art Kit

This art kit has a history going back to my oldest daughter's sixth birthday. I had slacked and not come up with much, until the very night before the big day. I went into a bit of a sewing frenzy to complete the first of its kind.


It has been such a success on trips, museum visits, and outings in nature, I quickly made another one for the middle daughter:


This time I had learned a few things about making the construction more efficient. Namely the bottom of the zipper pocket is integrated into the binding and the corners are rounded so it can be bound in one go-around.

The third time, not much change, I've got the pattern down!

And the birthday girls was so delighted to have one just like her big sisters!

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Monday, July 29, 2013

Meatless Mondays: Fakeballs

As promised, I am giving you a recipe for meatless fakeballs. I have learned a few lessons in the process, and if you do, too, please provide feedback! This recipe makes a LOT, so if you're only testing it out and aren't sure about the whole idea, make 1/2 of it. Or make 1/2 of it and add 1/2lbs of ground meat, and report back, because I'd like to know how it went!

Just a visual on why I'm trying to learn to cook with TVP: 

Sorry for the poor resolution, I cannot find these graphics with more pixels. But do see the full brochure and more info here. One last infographic that gives a good indication of how your meal choices can make a much bigger impact than some major lifestyle adjustments; 

And now finally the recipe: 

10 oz TVP (dry)
2 cups boiling water
2 Tbsp Better Than Beef Bouillon
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp majoram
dash of 'mural of flavor' all purpose seasoning
dash of 'old world' BBQ rub seasoning
dash of ground pepper
dash of chili powder (to taste - I used my favorite Peri Peri)

1 small onion
2 small carrots
a handful fresh parsley

1/4 cup whole wheat flour, plus a little more if needed
1/2 cup quick oats or similar amount of stale bread, shredded in food processor
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 eggs

Start by adding the spices, ketchup, and sauces to the dry TVP, stir, and then poud the boiling water over the TVP and stir again. 

It should expand a little, and after sitting around for a while, look like this:

Doesn't it look a little like meat already? Chop the veggies and parsley in a food processor (mine is just a mini version that fits a few cups), to produce finely chopped uniformness.

Now add the eggs, nutritional yeast, minced vegetables and oats/bread crumbs to the TVP and give it a good stir. It should start to come together a little. The next part is the crux of the recipe: Add flour, but only so much that you can form a little ball that doesn't fall apart if you breathe. Really, don't overdo the flour. The fakeballs will be tough and dry if you do.

Form small meatballs. Not like me. Mine were 2in fakeballs and that was not as good as smaller ones I have made previously. This recipe makes 30 1.5-in meatballs and because I was in a rush I wanted to squeeze them all on one cookie sheet. You're really better off making the meatballs smaller, and producing 60 meatballs that are just about an inch in diameter. 

Bake them at 350F for 10-12 minutes or so (in my convection oven) - but watch, the baking time will depend on the size of your fakeballs!

They are best served warm in lots of tomato sauce. But don't let them simmer in the sauce for long, just long enough to (re)heat. Freeze what you don't eat in one sitting. If working with frozen fakeballs, I would defrost them gently before putting them in the sauce to reheat, so as not to let them fall apart. 

Tasty Tuesday Button  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Book Review: The Good Life Lab

Amazon, out of all things, suggested I read this book. (Amazon routinely suggest things as insane as 'How to boil water' or 'Confronting the Left's assault on Our Families, Faith and Freedom', which gives me a strange sense of comfort. Big Brother hasn't figured me out, yet, it appears). I requested it from the library, and was almost hesitant to crack it open. One can only read so many homesteading books in a season. But I did, and I'm so glad for it!

The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living is - Available for Preorder

Apparently I had slacked in my usually very thorough study of amazon reviews. I couldn't have been more surprised at the actual content of this amazing book. It's much less about the nitty and gritty of homesteading life (though the author certainly leads one and gives detail about it).
It is a book to encourage a sustainable, self-sufficient life style, but it is so much more than that. No recipes, no plans for chicken coops. Instead, she starts at her own beginning, speaking mostly of the mental transformation that preceded her moving to her homestead in a town called 'Truth or Consequences' in New Mexico. (How awesome of a name is that?) What follows is a thoughtful analysis of a 'giving' economy, and a focus no creating. The author and her partner live largely of scrounged and thrifted goods, and make their creations from everything from foraged local plants to high end electronic 'ingredients'. Their goal is to live as much off the waste stream as possible, which I find so inspiring, and more plausible than growing all my own food. They speak of their personal finances in a way that makes a lot of sense to me as well: In a nutshell, they advise to buy things that make things. Throughout the book, though, the story never gets utilitarian. It is a joyful and spiritual account, never focusing on any sacrifice their lifestyle may require, instead choosing to see abundance everywhere. What they learn, they strive to share. What they make, they use and gift, before selling some of it in their online store. In fact, check out their blog, too!
It is clear that the couple believes our consumer society is headed for a collapse, but this thought is not presented in a depressing, doomsday sort of way. Just a matter of fact, their reasoning is that living off the waste stream will work out until we're past that transition, at which point the waste stream will be drastically reduced and we'll have something else figured out.
Meanwhile they focus on making the necessary, but also the beautiful, fun and interesting.

It is a book I really want to own. In fact, I asked for it at Barnes and Nobles today. Of course they had just fixed to send the whole lot back to the publisher, and I couldn't buy it there. Fail! I walked out without buying anything, thinking I could get everything else on anyway. I guess this experience tells a story all of its own.

Small Footprint Fridays - A sustainable living link-up

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Scrounge & Splurge

I'm so pleased to show you my latest additions to my mudroom. This room doubles as my sewing studio, chick brooder, seedling nursery, and storage for all my stashes - from chicken food to seedlings, to fabrics. I needed more shelving! 

In a typical-for-us combination of thrift and spendthrift we (and by that, I mean the talented woodworker husband, TWH) made a 6 1/2ft long, 13in wide board from two reclaimed bedrails. The TWH found the bedframe at the swap shed at our town dump. It was labeled 'solid walnut' but we think it's beech wood. He joined the two narrower long pieces sideways to make one wide board and planed it to remove the previous stain and finish. 

Then we re-stained it and he finished it with some who-knows-how-old linseed oil that was in the basement of the house when we bought it. Mounted to the wall with my three definitely-not-thrifted, fancy brackets, it was just what I wanted. The spacing of the brackets isn't perfect but we had to work with the studs we had and the length of the board/available space in the room, so it is what it is. Add a random assortment of wicker baskets (from the dump, why do you ask?), and voila:

I'm thinking of adding hooks to the underside of the board to be able to hang garlic and onions to cure (if I ever manage to grow onions worth curing, that is). Or flowers and herbs to dry. 

That lavender oatmeal soap is still on my mind. On a rare solo outing into the world of brick and mortar, mainstream shops and stores, I saw some for sale at a staggering $7.98 per small bar at a fancy kitchen store today. Where they also sold plastic grapefruit saver containers, plastic onion saver containers, plastic lemon/lime saving containers, plastic garlic saving containers, plastic bell pepper saving containers and, believe it or not, plastic tomato savers (Who doesn't finish a tomato?). The display took up more than the combined counterspace in my entire kitchen. Seriously? But now I'm on a tangent. Back to business. 


My mini mudroom do-over is rounded out by this yard sale find. The front board slides up and out, not sure why, but it seems so nifty. I'm a sucker for naive country art (not the gift store kind, though). My kids see that stuff and tell me that one day, I'll have my own farm. They're sure of it.

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre