Tuesday, March 26, 2013

All Things Change...

As I drove my husband and myself to an appointment today, several cities over, I took a back route that used to be very rural when I was a teenager, and has since become a regularly used route for those who live in one city and work in the next.

The first time I went down that road, I was 16 and with my friends, heading back to the mountains in the very early morning after a weekend in the city. My most memorable time on that road was the summer I was 19, driving through the deep dark of the night on this empty road on the back of a motorcycle.  In recent years, it's been the quickest route to get out to my parent's house.

Before the suburbs spread and encroached, that back area was ranching country.  A small dairy - and offshoot of another dairy the other side of the city - was there and very popular.  Now, I don't know when they closed this branch of the dairy, but just this last year, Karl's closed its doors for good.  Some of my oldest friends drove by this dairy every day; myself, I drove past it at least once a month the last three years. I imagined what could be done with the building, what it would take to buy the dairy building, etc. Of course, I was never in a position to do so, nor was I inclined to live that close to the city again.

Nearby was a creek - a needed water source for a dairy - with huge cottonwoods along the bank, and a small beautiful blue house.   No one has lived in it for at least two years.  Around the corner were some really unique houses - one had a greenhouse/sun room along the front, and the next one down the street emulated the style.  They'd been there since the 1970s, and I never saw one of them empty, until today.

Today, I saw this:

All those lovely trees - gone!  You can see them in piles here on the ground.  Before, you could barely see the little blue house, because it was in the grove of trees.

We could not stop on the way out, but I stopped on the way back.  The fields behind have been graded, all traces of the fences and runs and everything that made up the back side of the dairy was gone.  Even the dairy itself had been gutted.

Holes purposefully put in the walls, the roof, windows broken out - even when no one lived or worked there, there'd been no vandalism like this.  Even if you bought the property today, there would be no way to reclaim these buildings. What a waste.

To make it worse, I was getting the evil eye from the bulldozer driver that was there, so I pulled over onto the next road, the other side of the creek, only to find the amazing houses on the next block looked like this:

Now, I hadn't been down that road since the end of November 2012, but at that time, the houses were in much better shape, lived in and decorated for the holidays.  Just four months later, weather, corporate vandalism, and no residents leave them looking like the pictures above.  I'm sure they're part of the plan to scrape the area to make it more sellable.

Such a waste.  I know all things change, but it is often NOT for the better. 

By this time next year, a subdivision of matching houses with postage stamp yards will likely cram that space, losing the uniqueness and individuality for all time.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Household Experiment: Mini Roll Egg Bake

A couple days ago, we found this recipe on Facebook being shared around for a mini roll egg bake.  Basically, you take rolls, hollow them out like you do bread bowls, and throw in goodies you'd like to eat with your eggs.

Since today was baking day, I thought I'd make some of the bread into rolls instead, and give this a try for dinner.
Finished Rolls

Tops cut off, bread pulled out of the middle, just like making a bread bowl.  
We ate the insides, the chickens gladly ate the tops

I added cheddar cheese and sliced pepperoni to the front ones, and tomato to the back ones.  At this point, I realized I'd made the rolls a bit too small, so I took three eggs, beat them in a measuring cup, and filled the hollowed rolls.

What happens when you do not cut the top of the roll off evenly; the eggs run out a bit!  Opps! But into the oven they went. At 350 degrees, they were taking a very long time, and the rest of the bread was pretty much ready to go in the oven itself.  So I upped the heat to the 425 required for the bread, and just a few minutes later...

The finished items!  By beating the eggs, it's almost souffle like, as the eggs puffed up over the top of the roll.
We ate them, and they are yummy, but I need to make bigger rolls next time.

So, evaluation:
Time - quick, if you don't make the rolls
Quality - good!

Here's the recipe - enjoy!

· 8 crusty bread rolls
· 2 Tb butter, melted
· Salt and pepper
· Assorted fillings*
· 8 eggs
Preheat your oven to 180c/350F. Slice off the top of each roll and scoop out the soft bread inside, leaving the sides of the roll intact. Brush the inside of each roll with the melted butter and season with salt and pepper.
Fill the roll with their favorite toppings*. Crack an egg or egg white on top, season with salt and pepper, and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes and then cover the pan loosely with foil. Bake an additional 20-25 minutes, or until the egg is just set.


Now, when I went out to give the chickens their bread bits, I collected the afternoon eggs, and found a trend - every time the chickens are stuck inside for the day due to a snowstorm (their own fault, the refuse to go out in the snow), we get an abnormal egg. Usually it's a coloring thing, or an elongated egg - one of our Leghorns just does NOT like being stuck inside all day!

Today's abnormality was a shell less egg. And not only is it missing its shell, it's missing its yolk!  Now, this is rather common when the chickens first start laying eggs and their bodies are adjusting to the whole process, but it is much rarer to find one when they are over a year old. But the snow is melting, spring is coming, which means more outside time for our girls.

Holding the shell less egg up to the light - since it's all membrane, you can clearly see there is no yolk.

What a membrane only egg is like - it's rather odd - it feels smooth, but you can clearly move it around without breaking anything.

So that's our egg, that's our dinner - I also made 16 rolls total, cupcakes, three loaves of regular bread, and three loaves of bread with fresh chopped garlic rolled up in it.  If you love garlic and have never tried it, you should!

Egg count of the day - six, including the odd one.

How Snow Works Here- a Pictoral Review

Once again,  the forecast said snow. So this time, I took some before and after pics.  It snowed all day Saturday, and this is what Sunday morning looked like.

Part of Front Yard before the snow

Front Yard after the snow - not so much here, thanks to the trees.

Side yard, before the snow

Side yard, after the snow

The path I shoveled at 1 am so daughter could get out for her bakery job. 
Sadly, she had to hike down the hill to her car - the church parking lot is our friend this year.

A shoveling assistant as we try to clear the driveway.

Protecting us from rogue squirrels

Helping shovel is tiring work for an old dog.

The view to the East from the middle of road in front of our house.

The view to the west from the road in front of our house. 
You may not be able to tell, but that's a heck of a hill in the snow.

And soon after we shoveled, our neighbor came out and plowed the road.  The sun, the slightly warmer day - now the road and driveway are pretty much down to the dirt again!

Colorado snow - comes in fast, leaves again just as fast.  That's ok - I'm ready for spring.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Simpler Life vs Simpler Times

To put it bluntly, simpler times never existed.  Each generation has had their hard work and bad patches, their criminals and tough lives.  But what we saw as kids is colored by time and forgetfulness, and we remember the better things. We're even worse with history.  So many people romanticize the Victorian era, for example. Not romantic at all. I only worked in a living history museum, dressing and working like the 1870s, five days a week.  At then end of it, I got to take off my long skirts and bustle, go home to electricity and running water and AIR CONDITIONING - there is nothing like summer heat of 101 plus 80% humidity to make you appreciate air conditioning.  But I lived enough of the lifestyle to know - things were not simpler.

I prefaced this blog that I wanted to learn how to live simpler. And I do.  And simpler is truly a state of mind rather than a state of being. If I wanted to live REALLY simply, I could win a lottery, not have to leave the house unless I wanted to, have someone in to clean, my groceries delivered and not worry about money ever again.

But I haven't won a lottery.

So for me, living simpler is being able to walk out to the coop and get fresh eggs, and be greeted enthusiastically, even if I know it's not always for me but for the treats I may have with me - cabbage wins over me for attention every time.  But at the same time, they clearly do know me; they will come to me when I get home from work and they are in the yard simply to greet me.  They'll come sit under my lawn chair or on the table next to me.  They don't do that with my dad or son - they're not here enough - but they do it with my husband, daughter and myself.  They even do it with the dogs, walking up and inspecting them as if they are some oddly shaped breed of chicken themselves.

Living simpler is going to mean getting rid of a lot of the stuff I have and never use.  One of my goals is to gather all the unfinished projects and get them done - either to keep, sell, or give away. It means realizing that my hoard of fabric is going nowhere, and it's time to start using it or selling it - a project I plan to start this weekend.  Same with the craft books and patterns - there's only a few things I want in each, so time to make a copy and get rid of the bulk.

Living simpler would, for me, mean being able to subsist without electricity of need be - a handpump for the well would be great.  Exploring the viability of the other well on the far side of our property is in order for warm weather. We already have an 1890s cookstove in good working order, I just need to get more firewood. I'll start with clearing some from the property, and then asking locally for the trees people get rid of on the county slash days. The freer the wood, the better.

Making more things by hand to alleviate expense and to be healthier for us - that would be living simpler, even though making bread, noodles, canning and drying foods are all more time intensive. That includes crocheted, knitted, sewn items as well. In that aspect, I fell in love with the treadle sewing machine when I worked at the museum, and want to get a nice working one to stick in the lovely cabinet my dad found for me.  I find sewing that way or by hand more soothing,  more creative.

I would like to become financially secure enough to be in a place where my income is enough and we have no worries about property taxes or car repairs, or even if toilet paper is in the budget this week.  Creative financing needs to become a thing of the past.

I would love to be able to garden and grow a great deal of our own vegetables, enough to can like we have in the past, but I am also realistic about that - we chose to live in the mountains where the soil is full of granite and the growing season is much too short.  So I will have to, for this year at least, content myself with growing some things indoors while also visiting farmer's markets and farm stands on my work trips, bringing home the good stuff to can.

But I have noticed, in my search to change life here for a simpler one, that too many people have made simpler life interchangeable with simpler times. As an historian, this bugs the everloving crap out of me. To that effect, I've started a series of articles about the myth of simpler times; the first three in the series discuss life on the plains, living in a soddy. My next set with be standard Victorian times, working my way into the 30s and 40s, through the ever glorified 1950s, up to today.

If you're interested, I've linked the first set here for you to peruse.

The Myth of Living in Simpler Times: Life in a Soddy Part One, Part Two, and Part Three

Just click the links for the various parts.  I bet it's easier to read if you start with part One.

My opinion for the day. And just for a giggle, this postcard I found:

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Dealing with Cravings

My parents taught me, when I was quite a bit younger, that for the most part, you should listen to your cravings when you have them, because it means you need something that food offers.  Eggs and red meat for iron, Orange juice for vitamin C, potassium in potatoes, salty foods for potassium, water for, well, water!

Of course, I was also taught that you should have other cravings at moderation. The reason I was told was sometimes, there is too much of a good thing - like keeping to minimum salty foods during pregnancy to avoid water retention.  And not too much sugary foods, because too much sugar is not good for you.

Of course, that's not stopped me from bolting down a whole candy bar on occasion.

But recently, I was cutting up some cabbage for the chickens, and on a whim, ate a piece.  Now cabbage and are usually not friends, but all of the sudden, the cabbage tasted wonderful!  Poor chickens; as I was taking the bowl of cabbage out to them, I was eating a portion of it along the way!  I even cut some up and took it for my lunch on Thursday - raw, of course.

So this started me wondering about cravings, and I did some research.  A large number of articles stated that all cravings are purely psychological - we eat what we eat because we are stressed, depressed, need comfort.  Well, I'm sure that is partially right.  I know my favorite comfort food is one the rest of the family is not really fond of - browned ground beef mixed with onions, on top of heavily buttered mashed potatoes, lightly salted.  Yum.

But then I found a chart that talks about the cravings for everyday foods, a lot of them junk foods, what we lack that causes it, and what the healthy substitutes are.

For example - you are craving burned foods - like meat burned to a crisp on the grill (a friend of mine LOVES these), then it means you are likely lacking carbon.  Not a far stretch.  The healthy alternative? Fresh fruit!  (That will make her happy - she also loves fresh fruit!)

The list goes on, and includes things like a lack of appetite as well as general overeating - a lack of certain minerals can actually cause either one.

Now, if you are like me, your cravings also include the good for you foods.  I found that craving the cabbage means a lack of sulfur and glutamine.  When the low sugar oatmeal cookies I made two weeks ago seemed the best thing ever, it is likely I was lacking Avenin.

Here's the link to the chart that tells you all these good things.

But now - what do these things do for my body?  Well, Avenin is oat gluten.  If you are allergic to glutens, this could be bad for you. But for the rest of us, it provides a starch we need, and basically what makes a good bagel or pizza crusty so nice and chewy.

Glutamine is an amino acid - and an important one. For someone with IBS, it helps eliminate the diarrhea.  It is used to help cancer patients recover from the effects of radiation. For the rest of us, it helps with depression, moodiness, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and can help moderate ADHD.

Sulfur is the third more abundant mineral in the human body, after calcium and phosphorus.  It helps keep the skin clear and the joints working right. However, some of us are also allergic to it as a medication or a supplement on its own. It appears that while I can have the methylsulfonylmethane or MSM version, found naturally in eggs and other foods, my body has no tolerance for the DMSO/dimethyl sulfoxide  version.  Believe me, a sulfur allergy is quite irritating, and is something that needs to be mentioned to your doctor - it is a common base element for several antibiotics and medications.

I could go on, because sometimes I crave broccoli, and other carrots, and sometimes I cannot get enough water.  I like the table, because it shows craving that I had when I was younger that I never knew were the cause of deficiencies in my diet.  For example, did you know that eating ice can mean you lack iron? This can be a serious issue for anemics or former anemics. If only I knew this when I was teenager. And I thought it just meant I was thirsty.

As with all things, use this chart in moderation.  Don't overdo any mineral, and don't see the enjoyment of a food one day as a craving - it's not.

Be healthy in your eating habits, but do pay attention to your body. It knows what it needs.

In the meantime, I'll keep sharing my cabbage with the chickens.

Disgruntlement Post

Why am I disgruntled? Because I went to the store on February 28th.  You know, the day before the sequester was supposed to begin (and did, because our politicians cannot pull their heads out), and prices that were normal less than a week ago had jumped by large increments.  Stuff I normally buy, so I know the prices of them. All because people bought into the fear mongering, thanks to the media, about the sequester. All the doom and gloom.

So a flat of dog food - now a $1.50 more .

15 skeins of embroidery floss - $16!!!  What the deepest hells?

Sausages - 50 cents more.

10 lb bag of potatoes - $3.00 more.

A loaf of bread - 30 cents more.

I could go on, but it is depressing as well as anger inducing.

Now you may say it's the time of year, and I'd buy that, except a great deal of our produce comes from Mexico this time of year, and that doesn't increase the price.  You may also say - what's the big deal? it's only a few extra dollars.

Well, a few extra dollars is a very big deal when you are on a limited income.  It means things you intended to purchase are suddenly off your list, and your family goes without that item.  For some folks, it means that the budgeted menu you had for a week or two weeks could well get blown out of the water.

Time for me to start shopping around for prices again. Time to start planning a LOT more plants to grow, time to find time to get to the farmer's markets during the summer - which can be hard, since my work schedule in the summer can top 60+ hours a week.  Time for me to buy the Palisades peaches this year and can them, instead of just thinking about it.

Time to get more chickens, and make sure that some of them actually end up in the freezer come fall, instead of populating the coop all winter.

I'm considering getting a few turkey chicks too.  And maybe some rabbits. And time to stop being squeamish about the slaughter of them.

Time to REALLY get into the barter, and making noodles and bread and all those things. And get on that raw milk coop, especially since many brands of milk will now be putting aspartame into their milk.  No thanks.

A simpler life is not that simple after all.