Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer is....

Memorial Day weekend is the tease of summer…and summer is:

· Having tea without discussing the most recent book in American Lit.
· Wearing the same pair of pants for three days
· No weird papers or requests from counselors
· Hiking, wildflowers, feet in cold streams, backpack creaking…
· Fresh veggies from the back yard
· A pile of books from the book sort
· Eating both of my lunch cookies, rather than giving one to Jesse when he comes in to tell me about his attempts at getting a girl
· Being outside, rather than inside, as the default location
· Staring into space
· House projects
· Day hikes every Monday
· Dirty feet
· Garden hoses exploding in the yard
· Watching the bees bring in pollen with Lucy
· Listening to Harry’s stories while weeding at Sunbow
· Making jam, drying fruit, reading cookbooks
· Fresh berries
· Democracy Now all the way through
· ……

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Homemade Yogurt

I’ve been making yogurt for about a couple of months now…when I first saw the process, back in the old Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook, I thought—why bother? Only women with huge hairbuns make yogurt! It is cheap to buy. And the idea of fixing up a heating pad, and using a blender for dried milk powder…seriously. Too much effort for something that would not be tasty. Then, Sunset magazine had a recipe involving a small cooler and some canning jars of hot water and I thought, What the heck? I have some extra milk. If Sunset readers can do this, I, as an Urban Homesteader, can. It was amazing. Homemade yogurt is significantly better than store bought (and cheaper). It is light and delicate. No need for sugar; it has not had time to sour. Pair it with some homemade cinnamon walnut blueberry granola and you are styling.

So here’s the process:
Heat 4 cups of milk to 180 degrees.
Cool said milk to around 116—I put it in a sink with some ice water and stir frantically.
Add a couple of tablespoons of yogurt from the last batch.
Pour into a quart canning jar (because I stir so vigorously, I end up with a half pint overflow jar of froth).
Put into small cooler with two jars of hot water for 8-10 hours. In the winter, when the cooler was chilly, I pre-heated it beforehand with some of the boiling water.
Put in the fridge to stop the fermenting process.
The trickiest part is not having the kettle boil right when the yogurt is ready to be poured into jars.

Give it a try. It is worth the effort—and you do not need the hairbun.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Garden shimmering

Mark and I left town for the weekend—packed up The Ark with warm blankets, a fresh loaf of bread, and the flower guides and headed south to Table Rock, a mesa in southern Oregon with an excellent rep for wildflowers. We left behind email, TKAM character sketches, photo survey of neighborhood organization…It was a good trip—Mariposa Lily all the way up the hill, madrone trees in bloom, warm breezes…and we found an old school Italian restaurant in Medford that served garlic bread and piles of spaghetti drowning in sauce. The owner was the host and knew everyone in the place except for us. We stayed in a state park with hot showers and lots of little kids circling the roads on small bikes, scooters and one electric motorcycle (Mark as jealous). At seven AM this morning, Mark woke up and rustled around loudly enough to stir me. “It’s a great morning for driving,” he announced and it was, cool and bright. We headed out so that we could climb the hills on I-5 before all of the traffic. We were home by noon.

The garden was shimmering when I walked out back….you know that afternoon, in mid-May, when all of your work planting and trimming and coaxing seeds out of the ground suddenly bursts out and every plant in the yard is glorious? That’s what we had. All of the spring veggies were huge in the sunlight; the potatoes were filling their beds; the onions were proud; the breeze was gently swaying the wind chimes; the bees were humming in the back corner; the chickens rushed out of the coop and plunged into the compost pile. White alliums crowded the front garden beds and the fig tree is finally leafing out. Everything was glorious and there were no pressing tasks. Life was good.
At dinnertime, I wandered out with the basket….mustard and kale greens that need to be eaten before we plant beans, asparagus shoots, micro-greens (aka lettuce thinnings), and hunky radishes….and we ate outside, balanced on the planting bench.

Summer will come.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Community Supported Lifestyles

I’ve been thinking about how the community that surrounds us, the structures that has been put in place over the years, enable us to live as well as we do, and as low on the carbon foodchain as possible. We do what we can, the community supports these choices, and there is the beginnings of a model for how we all need to live in the future, if the planet is going to survive. We are far from perfect, but we are better off than most of the country.

1. We have Blue Sky power, which supports local alternative energy projects; my fee pays for Marge’s solar panels, which is good because she has better solar access than I do. There is similar program for natural gas.
2. The Bean and Grain project’s Fill Your Pantry event lets me purchase wheat, oatmeal, beans, onions—all of the winter staples—directly from farmers in bulk. How cool is that?
3. There is also an all winter farmer’s market, a CSA that allows me to jump in for the last nine weeks of the season, Sunbow farm…we can eat totally local fresh veg all year. I can even bike out to pick it up directly off the farm. Really—I could HARVEST it.
4. Allied Waste will pick up our trash twice a year and our recycling whenever we put it out. Recycling is free. They are also composting kitchen waste. We can even dispose of weird, dirty plastics at the co-op.
5. People rake leaves and pile them in the street for leaf pick-up in the fall and no one cares if I gather them all up to pile on my garden beds. Free organic matter.
6. There are sidewalks and bike paths all over town and enough people bike to work that the cars know we exist. We are a Bike-Friendly town. Corvallis does not sprawl, either, thanks to urban growth boundaries.
7. There is an ethic of repair here. We can take our old reel lawnmower down to the local hardware store, on a bike cart, and someone will sharpen the blades, replace some bolts, and tighten the whole thing up, without suggesting that we buy a new one. When we converted our garage into the dining room, Mark Meyer bought old lumber and worked as much of what was already there into the final construction as possible—and took pride in the list of recycled materials we generated later.
8. There are several excellent bookstores—new and used—and an award –winning library. There is always something to read.
9. There is green space surrounding the town. We can take an eleven mile hike through second and old growth trees, following the ridgeline. On one trail, we will see thirty species of wildflowers next weekend.
10. We are not considered weird because of the way we live. It is normal for a large segment of the population.