Saturday, June 30, 2007

Baking day results

Great breakfast of cinnamon rolls. Family declares undying love for mom.

Peaches not ripe enough for easy peeling; peach pie postponed for another day.

Three pounds of pecans toasted. House smells great.

Big batch of oat granola, with a big handful of multi-seed mix, baked. More great house aroma. After granola is cool, chopped toasted pecans are mixed in.

Bread baking! Four loaves of a basic white-wheat bread (white hard wheat flour gives a light texture). Kids can hardly wait for a slice to have with jam.

Two loaves of a hearty whole-wheat bread with a multi-seed mix mixed in, and some pressed on top. Mom declares complete toast happiness; kids indifferent.

Amish Friendship Bread starter divided, and two loaves of cinnamon-sugar A.F.B. made. Kids renew undying love declaration.

Veggie roasting put off to another time.

At 12:55 pm, air conditioning turned off. At 1:10 pm, oven turned off. House is comfortable. Success is declared. Bread is sliced and eaten (with butter or jam). After a break, mom tackles bowl and pan washing, and puts away cooled breads with a great sense of accomplishment.

Triple our normal rainfall

Central Oklahoma remains the big winner during the month with an average rainfall of 12.34 inches, nearly triple their normal amount of 4.57 inches.

~ Oklahoma Climatological Survey summary of June 2007's drought-busting rain, June 29, 2007

That's where we live. No wonder we're feeling so soggy.

This very minute I'm watching The Weather Channel to get out of the "sorry for myself" rut. It's helpful to hear about other places -- the cool nights in the northeast USA, the rain in northern Australia, and the rare snow in South Africa.

Rain, rain, go away. Please go somewhere else to play!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Baking day plans

A friend gave us some Amish Friendship Bread starter, which should be divided and a loaf of quick-like bread made every ten days. I had been mulling over the idea of a baking day this summer, but once a week seemed too often (since I don't want the heat in the house). Aha! Every ten days, with a little flexibility of a day early or late, seems like it could work well.

The starter will be ready to divide and make a loaf of bread tomorrow, and I bought sort of too many peaches at the farmers market today, so here are my plans.

- Clear counters!
- Put pecans to soak in warm, salty water (for crispy pecans, yum!)
- Maybe make up cinnamon rolls, to rise in the fridge overnight
- Mix granola dry ingredients
- Maybe make pie crust?

Tomorrow morning
- Bake cinnamon rolls (if I made them) -- 20 minutes
- Start bread dough for part-whole wheat bread, and maybe multi-seed bread -- ready to bake after 2.5-3.5 hours
- Dry pecans in low oven -- 30-45 minutes 'cause they'll be baked again in the granola
- Maybe prep peaches and make a peach pie? -- 40 minutes baking
- Mix up cinnamon Amish Friendship Bread and bake -- 45 minutes
- Shape breads for second rise
- Chop pecans; add pecans, honey, and butter to granola; bake granola -- 30 minutes?
- Bake breads -- 30 minutes

Depending on how the morning goes, I might finish by roasting those young onions, new potatoes, and beets. I want to be done and able to get rid of the heat by noon, either by opening windows (the no-rain option) or by a single use of the air conditioning.

The end result should be a breakfast of cinnamon rolls, a loaf of cinnamon Amish Friendship Bread, a peach pie, a big batch of oat-pecan granola, some spare crispy pecans, and four to six loaves of a basic part-whole-wheat bread for sandwiches, toast, and French toast; maybe also a loaf or two of a seedy whole-wheat bread with a multi-seed topping. The seed mix has been stored in the freezer, and I really want to try it.

Oh, and roasted potatoes, onions, and beets. Should I get some sausages to go with?


Summer finally breaking in?

The boys are choosing to play board and card games! They set out to walk around the (very irregular and large) block yesterday and got sidetracked playing in the park behind our house! They are reading books, and want to bake with me! This is a great thing, after weeks of the two of them bickering with each other and pining for video game time, seemingly unable to find anything else worthwhile to do.


Also, we saw a bit of sunshine this morning! It's gone now, but at least the skies are somewhat bright. We've gotten more rain this year, as of yesterday, than we got all of last year. All of the land is waterlogged, and all of our days and nights as well.

I ended up using the clothes dryer for a load of laundry, because the days are staying cool (under 80F), cloudy, and very humid, and I needed to launder some slow-drying things. Sigh. I got far enough ahead early last week when it was sunny and windy (got lots of laundry hung dry) that I think we can pretty much hold out for the sunny days predicted for this weekend. If not, I'll do a strategic single load as needed.

We are eager for swimming pool outings, and are ready to pounce on sunny or at least not-rainy days. On Monday we were at a friend's enjoying the backyard pool... and the skies opened and a downpour began. Unlike recent days, this went on and on and on; a few of the kids stayed in the pool, enjoying the experience, while the rest of us tucked ourselves under the patio umbrella under the shelter of a mature tree, with an ear open for the sound of thunder. Finally we heard a telltale rumble and hustled everyone in the house, where we dried off and had a nice time anyway.

Son1 has made his list of things he wants to do this summer, and posted it on the pantry door. Son2 and I will write his today. We did this three years ago, and we drew from that combined three-page list of many different ideas for a long while. Time for new ideas, though.

Yay, summer!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Eat local once a week, or gradually in July, or...

There are more and more ways to try this eating local thing.

One Local Summer

Eat one dinner of local ingredients each week. From the blog post at

It’s a way to explore your world and support local growers and start learning what’s available in your local foodshed.

Don’t fret over salt, spices or condiments. Focus your efforts on produce, dairy, eggs, meat and grains.

Local Food Month

Eat local as much as possibly throughout the month of July, to explore the possibilities available to you. You choose the extent to which you attempt to eat locally. From the blog post at Crunchy Chicken:

The challenge: ...increase your consumption of locally and sustainably grown food and decrease your consumption of imported and packaged food.

After one or both of these efforts, some of us might be ready for the September Eat Local Challenge: only local food, all month long.

I missed our farmers' market on Saturday morning, so I want to go on Wednesday morning (fewer participants, though), and keep eating up the veggies we got last week. An Oklahoma-foods store is preparing to open in the next few weeks in our town's historic downtown. I am very eager to see what they have, and what their plans are for local, seasonal foods.

Dust to eat

Who has given to me this sweet
And given my brother dust to eat?
and when will his wage come in?
William Vaughn Moody, "Gloucester Moors," Gloucester Moors & Other Poems, 1910. Quoted by Caroline Henderson, Letters from the Dust Bowl, in her letter to Henry Wallace, then-Secretary of Agriculture, July 1935.

This snippet of poetry really struck me when I came to it in Henderson's Dust Bowl letters. So full of agony, really, especially in the context of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.

But wait; read it again while holding in your mind the abundance and over-consumption in the developed nations but especially the USA, and the subsistence living of much of the rest of the world.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Another list: the book stack

From the library, I've got some good reading going.

Material World: A Global Family Portrait, and Women in the Material World
Library: An Unquiet History
The Way of Ignorance and Other Essays, by Wendell Berry

Older kid's fiction:
The Worst of Times (a 12-year-old boy encounters the Great Depression with his family; Son1 loved it and urged me to read it, so I'm halfway through and enjoying it)

Waiting at the library:
The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium
Last Child in the Woods

Also calling to me, here at home:
Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament
Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin

I think I will STOP picking up other books and work on these above -- perhaps returning Library in favor of the rest. I will take a good look at The Year 1000; I may want to put that aside as well. In order to get more reading in, some Internet time needs to go. Woohoo!

Update: I did return Library to the library. The Year 1000 is very enjoyable! I may finish it in three days of easy reading. I read a good bit of Last Child in the Woods last night, too, but it is slower going because the writing is not as engaging. It's for my nonfiction book club, so I will read the whole thing, and speedily if possible so another book club member can get this copy from the library too. This is a case of the book priority being related to how quickly I need to get it back to the library, or read for book club, or both.

A list: local purchases

Last night I picked up what I ordered this month from our Oklahoma Food Co-op. Here's the list.

Pecan flapjack granola, 1-pound bag
Fresh beets, a bundle of 5
Cream, 2 pints (very rich and yummy)
Butter, 8 ounces
Buttermilk, 1 pint
Healing lip balm, citrus
"Nuthin' But Clean" goat's milk soap, unscented
Goat's milk laundry powder, 48 loads (a pound or so)

I didn't buy much produce because last Saturday I finally made it to our farmers' market and bought this stuff:

Peaches, a large basket (maybe 1/2 bushel? 1/4? dunno)
Blue Lake green beans, 2 pounds
Blueberries, 1 pint
Blackberries, 2 pints
New potatoes, 1 pound
Young sweet onions, 1 pound

So all this week we ate sliced peaches, alone or on cereal or granola, with or without blueberries or blackberries. Yum! We also had Italian green beans (steamed, then topped with a good drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a good grating of Parmesan, and salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano, and tossed well -- great at any temperature).

I need to go ahead and use the oven to roast all of the new potatoes and young sweet onions (teardrop shaped), and in a separate pan the beets. YUM. I would ask dear husband to grill them, but our charcoal chimney rusted out and we need a replacement. Anyway, then we can snack on the potatoes, onions, and beets, and use them in other things. We have lots of green beans still, so I may get more Parmesan and make a big batch of Italian green beans for the fridge. We haven't finished the blackberries either, so I may freeze them or make a coffee cake with blackberries and last year's home-canned peach not-jam on the bottom.

The granola is a big hit with dear husband and me, so now I will try making granola myself. The ingredients are rolled oats, chopped pecans, whole wheat flour, honey and turbinado sugar, and flax seeds. It's a bit too sweet for me, but still very good. What I like about it is that it's a very simple granola and has at least some Oklahoma ingredients (pecans, whole wheat flour, honey).

I intend to make some baked goods with the buttermilk (pancakes, biscuits, coffeecake?). The first pint of cream is for my coffee for the next several weeks; the second is for whipped cream for treats this week and on Independence Day.

The goat's milk stuff is my standard laundry soap. Next month I'll get a new Sweet Orange Stain Stick, which is a small bar of a strong lye soap, I think. My previous bar has lasted nearly two years and done a good job. I'm trying the goat's milk soap in a search for an alternative to Dove and Neutrogena in the shower.

Tomorrow I'm probably going to stop in at one of our downtown shops and buy a half-pound of decaf coffee. I've completely run out of the fair-trade, organic, well-priced Bishops Blend that I buy at church; the profits help people in need, through Episcopal Relief and Development. It's not local, but I don't mind so much with coffee, spices, and chocolate; they've been traded worldwide for centuries. I might wait 'til Sunday and stick with Bishops Blend after all.

My favorite breakfast lately has been muesli or the granola with sliced peaches and berries, and some whole milk or cream. Plus a cuppa good coffee!

Glub glub

Rain, rain, and yet more rain. That glorious wet stuff falling from the sky? Enough already! Thanks for the bountiful blessings! We're about to float away here; give the water to the parched parts of the nation!

I'm getting a bit tired of gloomy mornings and sudden downpours; this is Oklahoma in June?? The subsoil moisture has been recharged, and every rainwater reservoir in the region is full. All of the games last night in Son1's baseball tournament were postponed, wholesale, to tonight, and tonight we'll probably squelch around and search for a dry spot of ground for our chairs, just like two nights ago at Son2's second and last (oh well; good season though) tournament game. Oh, and lots of Oklahoma rivers are at or above flood stage.

At some point I'm sure we'll get those searingly hot days that are the familiar landscape of our Oklahoma summers. First, though, we'll have some amazingly hot and muggy days while the surface moisture evaporates and sinks further into the soil. When it rains, it pours -- this June, this year, in Oklahoma anyway.

Rain, rain, go away; come again some other day. For now, go water the still-needy parts of God's green acres.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Laundry, accomplished

It is entirely enjoyable to have dried six or seven loads of laundry in two days by wind and solar power -- i.e., hung to dry! The weather forecast for this week was lots of warm days and, by mid-week, a lot of wind, so I took it as my chance to catch up with the laundry all at once without using the dryer. It has been so easy!

For instance, two days ago, a hot and windy day, I hung a load of lightweight clothes to dry (tshirts, shorts), and followed that up with a big load of terry towels (not great to dry on a cloudy and/or humid day, so this was my big chance for an easy drying day). In about three hours the towels were completely dry, so I took in all of that laundry and hung another load to dry. The next morning, after the cool of the morning, I took all of that in and hung a huge load of sheets to dry on our second windy, hot day. I'm learning to vary the type of laundry so I can fill the various hanging places in the sunroom with two loads if possible.

Thanks to the wind, I got the sheets and two more loads dried and put away yesterday, even though it was getting increasingly humid. I stopped for the night due to the humidity and potential thunderstorms. This morning I discovered that a cold front had come through, stirring up a little rain but only a little -- and now it is beautifully cool (70F), with dry air, and windy! I opened up the house to thoroughly cool it down in preparation for the weekend's expected hot days and nights.

Of course this means I'll be looking for more laundry to do in such perfect laundry weather. When I get to the bottom of the typical stuff, I can always wash some blankets...

Between loads and before other tasks, I'm enjoying a morning moment on the old bench in our front entryway, to the tune of the wind-ruffled leaves of our river birches, various bird song, the occasional car passing by, and our wind chimes. This has quickly become my favorite morning spot. Today, though, I'm wearing a fleece jacket over my dress due to the breeze! I may go sit in the wind because that'll put me in the sun, too. Such enjoyable decisions.

Friday, June 01, 2007

How low can we go?

One of my favorite, most-challenging bloggers is Sharon of Casaubon's Book. She and another blogger, Miranda, have concocted the most amazing challenge: the 90% Reduction challenge or the "Riot for Austerity"!

This year-long adventure is open to everyone interested in making big lifestyle changes and discovering the possibilities. The goal is to show by example that Americans and others who have such a wealthy way of life that most of the people on our small world cannot fathom it... can actually downsize, simplify, and reduce our consumption in a radical way -- and still enjoy life!

I decided to join the reduction challenge for the support, ideas, and challenge to go deeper, though my own goals were somewhere between modest and moderate. Here is my baseline, our household's starting line, where we are right now. I'm not providing the USA averages or the full text of the 90% reduction challenge in each area; for all that good stuff, go to 90% Rules. Here we go!


Baseline for 90% reduction challenge

The 7 categories:

1. Gasoline.
I haven't figured our actual baseline yet, but my guesstimate is that we typically use 344 gallons of gasoline per year (11,000 miles at 32 mpg), or about 86 gallons per person per year (divide by four people). This is 17% of the USA average (500 gallons/person/year), but if we only count the adults, we would be at 34% of the USA average.

2. Electricity.
Our baseline is 59% of the USA average, and 49% of the Oklahoma average. Our 12-month usage to date is 6,447 kWh, including 4-for-1 accounting* for the 200 kWh each month of wind power we purchase from the power company. Before the wind power swap, our baseline was 75% of the USA average, and 62% of the Oklahoma average. Our 12-month actual usage to date is 8,247 kWh.

* Wind power: We buy 200 kWh per month of wind power, which according to the 90% rules counts as 1/4 of the amount in typical power. So we can use all 200 kWh in place of 50 kWh of combustion-generated electricity, and then a 90% reduction for us would be 200 kWh wind plus 40 kWh other.
But I needed to figure our baseline with wind. Hmm; 200 kWh/mo x 12 = 2400 kWh/year of wind power (we have never used less than 360 kWh/month, so I count all of the wind power). A quarter of that is 600 kWh/year of typical power. Take out 2400 from our baseline and put in 600 in its place, and our baseline becomes 6,447 kWh for a year.

3. Heating and Cooking Energy.
We use natural gas.
Our baseline is 44% of the USA average, and 65% of the Oklahoma average . Our 12-month usage to date is 44 decatherms or 440 therms.

4. Garbage. A 90% cut would be 0.45 pounds per person per day.
I still need to figure out approximately how much garbage we create each day. We "recycle" a lot of plastic; most of it by bulk is milk jugs.

5. Water.
Our baseline is 47.7% of the USA average. Our 12-month usage to date is 69,700 gallons. Divided among the four of us, that is 17,245 gallons each for the year, or 47.7 gallons per person per day.

6. Consumer Goods. A 90% cut would be 1,000 dollars per household per year.
I'm still thinking about what our baseline actually is. We do a lot of borrowing and making do, acquire thrift store and hand-me-down clothes and items, and very occasionally buy new items. Hmm.

7. Food.
a. Food you grow or that is produced locally and organically.
Our baseline: most of our meat, dairy, and eggs is in this category; produce is limited right now (mid-spring) but in the growing season we typically buy local and often organic; our whole-wheat flour, wheat berries, and pecans are in this category too, and sometimes peanuts. My laundry soap and stain remover are locally made. Perhaps year-round this category has been about 40% for us by dollar amount or item count.

b. Dry bulk goods transported from longer distances.
Our baseline: our non-whole-wheat flour, rolled oats, rices, oils, pastas, beans (canned and dry) are long-distance travelers, as well as some of our produce. Definitely coffee, tea, and spices. Perhaps year-round this category has been about 15% for us.

c. Wet goods (meat, fruits, vegetables, juices, oils, milk, etc) conventionally grown and transported long distances, and processed foods like chips, soda, potatoes. Also, regular shampoo, dish soap, etc.
Our baseline: almost all personal care items and household cleaning items are in this category, though the cleaning items are vinegar, baking soda, liquid dish soap, and dishwasher detergent. This category is full of our fall & winter vegetables (frozen and canned), breakfast cereals, breads, most condiments, most nuts, chocolate and cocoa, and so on, and so on. Probably year-round this category has been about 45% for us.


That's our baseline. Soon I'll write up my basic plans and expectations for each area. Go check out Casaubon's Book (Sharon's blog), Simple Living (Miranda's blog), and Sharon's other site, Our Victory at Home.