Fabulous Foraging

Previously on Herban Cowgirl Adventures

(The title of this post should be read in the clipped British accent of Giles from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”)

SO much happening here at the Green Goddess Gardens lately.  I just haven’t felt like actually writing about it.  So I’ll do a quick list.

1.  Our family bought a car.  After being without one for over 2 years.  And there was much rejoicing.

Tinted windows so we can pick our noses at red lights.

Tinted windows so we can pick our noses at red lights.

2.  I started running.  Barefoot.

So. Much. Fun.

So. Much. Fun.

3.  My Uncle Billy died.

Little Boy kept our spirits up in the hospital as family sat with Uncle Billy in his last days.  We will miss him.

Little Boy kept our spirits up in the hospital as family sat with Uncle Billy in his last days. We will miss him.

4.  We had the flu for 2 weeks.

We took lots of naps.

We took lots of naps.

5.  The Herban Cowboy built a fence for the chicken yard out of old pallets.

Ooo so fancy!

Ooo so fancy!

6.  One of our new chickens got sick and died.

The new girls.  Lucy is the redhead.  Ethel is the recently deceased.  RIP sweet girl.

The new girls. Lucy is the redhead. Ethel is the recently deceased. RIP sweet girl.

7.  We cut down and chopped up 4 trees in our backyard.

"He's a lumberjack and he's okay..."

“He’s a lumberjack and he’s okay…”

8.  I read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” and can’t stop thinking about fresh, local food.

Wild onions found while foraging.  Dirty and stinky and yummy!

Wild onions found while foraging. Dirty and stinky and yummy!

9.  I knit the Herban Cowboy a Doctor Who scarf for his birthday.

Replica of the 4th Doctor's scarf from the episode "The Ark in Space."  Because that's how we nerd.

Replica of the 4th Doctor’s scarf from the episode “The Ark in Space.” Because that’s how we nerd.

10. We got a new (to us) computer, compliments of one of my beautiful aunts.

So big and shiny.

So big and shiny.

11.  I got back on a horse for the first time in 6 years.

You will never be as happy as I am in this picture.

You will never be as happy as I am in this picture.

Advertisements
Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Fabulous Foraging, Green Goddess Garden, Just For Fun, Kitchen Witchery, Possum Living, Stitchin' Bitchin', Telling Stories, The Homestead, To DIY For | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mulberry Jelly

Late one summer at my grandparents’ house, one of their neighbors dropped by with a giant brown grocery bag full of scuppernongs (those are wild, tough-skinned, sweet white grapes, for any Yankees reading this — haha).  My MaMa looked at the heavy bag on her kitchen table and said, “Well.  Let’s make some jelly!”  We gathered supplies, boiled grapes, squeezed the pulp through cheesecloth to strain out the skins and seeds, added pectin and sugar, and poured it off into little jars.  It was the best grape jelly ever.

My MaMa always seemed to have homemade jelly or preserves on the table.  Apple or plum were the usual jelly choices, and fig or peach were the fabulously chunky preserves.

Ever since I began foraging for wild food (several years ago), I’ve wanted to make jelly.  I keep telling myself “This is the year I’m gonna DO it!”  And then I don’t gather enough, or I’m missing a crucial ingredient or piece of equipment, or I totally miss gathering what’s in season until it’s over.

Well folks, (*trumpet flourish*) this is the year I finally did it.  Yay me!

Last weekend’s mulberry picking excursion didn’t yield enough berries for jelly.  So I froze those, and Saturday we went to shake the trees again.  We gathered all we could reach, and headed back home.

Little Boy shows off his treasure.

Yesterday I gathered all my equipment and ingredients.  I watched a buttload of YouTube videos to help get the process straight in my head.   This one most succinctly explained the water bath canning process and the equipment needed:

I found a few mulberry jelly videos, but this black raspberry one was the one I ended up lifting the most from:

The one piece of equipment I lack is a jar rack for the water bath.  I’d read that you don’t really need one, so I looked up a few ways to improvise.  This video was helpful, and I adore redberrychick’s DIY style, as well as that redneck accent.  Adorable!  I want to hang out on the porch and drink wine with her:

I tried the ring thing, but I don’t have twisty ties and the jars kept falling over.  I ended up going with the folded up towel, but that ended up being wobbly and weird.  I’m getting a jar rack for next time.

Some observations of note from my jelly making process:

1.  I didn’t have cheesecloth, so instead of sending my Herban Cowboy out for some, I used a clean white cloth diaper (that had never been used for doodie duty) to strain it.  It worked pretty well, but I think the cheesecloth would be better for straining fruit pulp.  Next time.

2.  Eleven cups of mulberries only yielded 2 cups of juice.  This totally bummed my jelly high.  I had to make a half batch.

3.  I boiled my jelly too long and ended up reducing it, resulting in a VERY sticky and thick syrup.  We’ll see how this affects the final product.

4.  Cleanup sucks.  The bad news is that mulberry pulp gets everywhere and stains everything.  The good news is that it’s a beautiful shade of purple.

All those years of planning and procrastinating, the money spent on equipment, all the time spent, the cleanup work and a learning curve that encompasses stains and burns  — and I made three jars of jelly.

Three.

I should be crying in frustration, but instead I am SO excited.  The money’s already spent, now I know what to do, the jars are reusable, foraged fruit is free, I’ll be faster next time, what can I make next, somebody stop me!

Maybe I should wait until I taste the jelly before I get TOO excited.  I gave one jar to D, who had driven us all around Chatham County searching for fruiting trees.  The other two sit, with their tightly sealed lids, on my counter.  I’m supposed to wait at least 24 hours before I open one.  We’ll see if I can wait that long………

Mmmmm.

 

Categories: Fabulous Foraging, Kitchen Witchery, Possum Living, The Homestead, To DIY For | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Breakfast Math

I always estimate the cost of meals in my head.  This morning I’m actually doing the math.

Zucchini in a raised bed made from an old tire.

The Herban Cowboy made a vegetable and cheese omelet with strawberry slices on the side.  I had mine with hot sauce and plain yogurt on top.

Ingredients:

The food for this meal came from our backyard garden and chickens, as well as the local organic grocery store the Herban Cowboy works for.  He gets a discount on food, and often brings home free items such as outdated dairy and slightly blemished produce (what we don’t want, we feed to the chickens).

Olive Oil (from Brighter Day, $7.50 for 24 oz — 15 cents per tablespoon)

Eggs (from our backyard flock, factoring in cost of chicken feed — 15 cents per egg)

Red Bell Pepper (free because of black spot, which we cut off)

Zucchini (from garden seed — 2 cents per squash)

Cheddar Cheese (on sale at Piggly Wiggly — $2.99 per lb — 18 cents per oz)

Milk (from Brighter Day $3.00 per half gallon — 2 cents per tablespoon)

Parsley, Basil, Thyme (from garden seed — Cost is negligible)

Salt and pepper (from Brighter Day, cost negligible)

 

At least 20 eggs per week! Go girls!

Coat the iron skillet with 3 tablespoons of olive oil ($0.45).  Saute diced bell pepper ($0.00) and zucchini ($0.02) until soft.  Whisk together 5 eggs ($0.75), 3 tablespoons of milk ($0.06), 2 oz shredded cheddar cheese ($0.30), salt, pepper, and herbs ($0.02).  Pour into pan with sauteed veggies and cook it up!

What does that come to?  $1.60 cents.  Add in a few cents worth of hot sauce, plain yogurt, and sliced strawberries, you’ve got a meal that fed 3 hungry people for about 2 dollars.  And it was SOOOOOOO good.

Of course, I haven’t factored in labor costs involved in preparing the food and washing the dishes.  Fortunately, when we’re all helping gather ingredients and cooking and cleaning up, it’s all fun anyway, so who cares?

 

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Fabulous Foraging, Green Goddess Garden, Possum Living, The Homestead, To DIY For | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Busy Week Is Busy

This whole past week has been much crazier and busier than I am willing to be on a regular basis.  I won’t go into detail on all the stories, but here’s the blog version….

Last Saturday, the day after our beach fun with friends, the whole family went down to River Street to see the Tall Ships.  The Herban Cowboy was performing two puppet shows with the Puppet People, and Little Boy and I tagged along for the pirates and the face painting.  It was a HOT day (sunburn for Mommy!), but SO much fun.  My mom came down and Herban Cowboy treated us all to lunch at the Boar’s Head (grilled fresh tilapia with cheese grits — I almost licked the plate).

Giant puppets!

Real pirates!

 

Halfway through the day, as Little Boy was getting his face painted, I noticed my wedding ring was gone.

Gone.

I stared off into space and very quietly had a three minute panic attack while Morgann painted a shark on my kid’s face.  I didn’t tell the guys until later.  Why spoil their day, too?

Land shark!

Sunday, I shook off the blues and we took a family trip to Home Depot to order a new stove.  My old one was down to one working burner, and we desperately needed a new one.  We looked around at a few second hand options, but my mom really wanted me to have a new one, and offered to pay half.  Which came out to about the amount of the second hand ones we’d looked at.  So despite our Possum Living inclinations, we gave a fat wad of cash to a big box corporation for a new appliance.  To be delivered Wednesday.  So no, I don’t get to feel superior that I saved the planet by buying local and used, but I will get a shiny new stove.  So it’s still a win.

Later that afternoon, we all went mulberry picking.  Our friend D came over with a big sheet for catching fallen berries, we grabbed a bucket, and headed off to search for fruiting trees.  Most of them we found were either full of green berries, or past fruiting, with empty branches and purple stains on the ground below.  We finally hit pay dirt behind a grocery store in our neighborhood.  D put the sheet down, she and the Herban Cowboy shook the tree and gathered the fallen, I pulled them by hand from the branches, and Little Boy grazed happily on the low hanging fruit.

Little Boy and D, working hard and filling their bellies.

Purple jazz hands!

 

I love picking mulberries.  Reaching through the branches, sunlight filtering through the canopy, seeing the gleaming jewels of red and purple, feeling the scratching of the leaves on my arms and face, the earth and berry juice under my feet (yes, I was barefoot).  There’s something primally joyful about picking berries from tree branches.  All the pleasure centers of my brain were LIT.  High on berry picking.  I’m such a nature nerd.

Pictured: Nature Nerd Feet

I’m going to make mulberry jam, but 1) My new stove doesn’t arrive until Wednesday, 2) I need a 10 quart saucepan and 3) I need more mulberries.  So I froze what we collected on Sunday, and there in my freezer they await their jammy, jammy fate.

Shining purple jewels of treasure!

Monday morning, Little Boy and I lazed around the house, playing games, watching DVDs and reading books.  I was tired from the weekend, and still down about my lost wedding ring.  I kept NOT hearing and feeling the metallic “clink” when my finger taps against a hard surface.  I noticed its absence.  The weather seemed to mirror my mood, with thunderstorms forecast, and dark clouds and intermittent pattery showers.

We needed to go to the bank before the afternoon thunderstorms hit, so we hitched up the bike trailer and started off the half mile to the bank.  I figured we could make our deposit and still have time to hit someplace up for an easy lunch.  Once a week or so Little Boy and I like to have a “lunch date” somewhere.  Maybe we’ll beat the rain.

On the way to the bank, I spot one of the homeless men who lives in my neighborhood.  He and his mother? sister? — they’re definitely related, but sun and wind have made it difficult to determine their ages — anyway, they live in a tent in a little wooded patch behind a gas station.  We see them when we’re walking to the Dollar Store or riding the bus and we’ve spoken with them several times.  On different occasions I’ve offered them blankets, hand-knitted hats and scarves, and lunch.  They always refuse (though the Herban Cowboy has reported that the man has asked him for money).

The woman always has nice words to say to my boy, and he likes the two of them.  Because of his affection for them, we’ve had to have the conversation about friends vs. acquaintances vs. strangers and what the safety protocols are with each category.  I don’t think they’d hurt me or Little Boy, but I do have a feeling that the man is a petty criminal and con man.  Nothing to base that on but instinct, but nevertheless, I am friendly but cautious with them.

So on the way to the bank I see the man.  He’s alone, and I realize I haven’t seen HER in over a week.  My curiosity overcomes me and I stop and ask, “I’m sorry if this is personal, but where is K?  I haven’t seen her in a while.”

He tells me she has pneumonia, and is lying down in their tent in the woods.  He was trying to find something for her to eat.  I told him I’d see what I could find.

Little Boy and I continued to the bank, all the while talking about what was happening.  I explained to him that Miss K was very sick, and she only had R to take care of her.  I told him that she was hungry and needed food before the thunderstorms came, so I thought we could give her our lunch, since there’s still food at home for us to eat.  He didn’t like that idea at first.

“Mommy, I don’t WANT to go to Kroger I want to go to lunch with you.”

“Listen,” I said as I locked up the bike outside the grocery store, “I want to go to lunch with you, too, but we do that all the time.  I don’t want to go into Kroger either, but there’s a sick, old, hungry lady who’s all alone and needs our help.  And I just couldn’t live with myself if she got even sicker or even died just because we didn’t feel like going into the grocery store.”

He considered this as he took off his helmet and followed me into Kroger.  We got chicken, black eyed peas and turnip greens from the deli, some fresh fruit, and a jug of purified water.  Then we loaded up and headed back.  Rain drops fell here and there, threatening to open up at any moment, though no thunder yet.

We gave the food to R, and continued home, making it back just before the sky opened up and sent a big, fat shower.  The whole thing shook me up all day.  I’m all for living in the woods, but I’d like to have food and good shelter and help when I’m sick.  The piles of trash bothered me, too.  What if that was my mother?  What if that was me?

It put my lost wedding ring into perspective, that’s for sure.

And then to drive home the fact that all my problems really are First World Problems, my shiny new stove arrived yesterday.

So shiny. So pretty.

 

Categories: Fabulous Foraging, Kitchen Witchery, Telling Stories, The Homestead, Unschooling | Leave a comment

Go Fish

This pose is the Herban Cowboy's version of "Blue Steel".

Went fishing this weekend.  Just me, my Cowboy and our friend D.  Little Boy was at my mother’s house, so we were able to stay down at the dock for hours without him whining about being bored or going home.  He’s not quite old enough to enjoy the Being Still part of fishing.

But I am.  That’s my favorite part.  Just standing in the wind, watching the ripples on the water, the sun rays through the clouds.  Listening to the lapping waves and the seagull cries.  Smelling the marsh and feeling the movement of the tides.

It’s a good thing I like the zen of fishing because I suck at the actual fishing part.

I very rarely catch anything, although to be fair, nobody else down at the dock seems to either.  We probably need to find another fishing spot.  One where people catch things besides crabs and slimy sucker fish.  It’s a good thing I don’t need to live off what I catch.  I might waste away to normal.

Yesterday our friend D joined us, and even though she didn’t catch anything either, it was nice to have an experienced voice coaching us and our puny poles along.  A few changes we need to make in our setup:  bigger poles, stronger lines, better bait.  Maybe I can post a wanted ad on Freecycle for a nice fishing pole or two.  If I find something better for the grownups, then the Little Boy can have one of the wimpy poles.

Next time, bigger poles. I'll get you, my pretties. You can't hide forever. Muahahaha.

To be honest, I don’t know what I’d do if I actually caught a mess of fish.  I’ve never cleaned one in my life.  I’m a little grossed out by the prospect of it, but I think I could do it.  One of my wishes is to be able to eat fish that I caught about once a week.

I think I’m going to bake D a fresh loaf of bread and invite her fishing again.

Categories: Fabulous Foraging, Possum Living | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Can you still say “Gypsy”?

I want to live in a gypsy caravan.  Little sleeping nook, some comfortable seating, a tiny kitchen and a dirty-hippie composting toilet.  Weather permitting I’d cook outside, poop outside, and even shower outside.  I’d keep some chickens, a little garden, and an apiary for honey.  I’d forage and fish.  In crappy weather we’d hunker down inside, playing games, reading, knitting, writing, making art, etc.

I would need some modern conveniences.  Internet and running water access are mandatory.  A small amount of electricity would be required.  Gotta update my Facebook status.

I’d need some groceries.  Salt, whole wheat flour, milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and olive oil.

This is what I’m practicing for.

http://tinyhouseblog.com/tiny-house-concept/wandering-book-artists-gypsy-wagon/

I suck at blogging.  That should have been a link.

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Fabulous Foraging, Green Goddess Garden, Just For Fun, Possum Living, Telling Stories, The Homestead, Unschooling | Leave a comment

Solar Power

Mavis and Hazel roll around and kick up the dirt. My dirty little yard birds.

I’m out in the garden, sitting on the glider bench, sweating and typing on the Herban Cowboy’s notebook.  It’s 85 degrees and sunny.  There are shiny red strawberries fattening in the strawberry patch.  The chickens just took an ecstatic dust bath in the dirt behind me.  And we’re finally finishing the solar energy experiment we started last week.

In this experiment, Little Boy thinks light colors will absorb more solar energy.  We painted one bottle white and one bottle black, put a corresponding color balloon on top of each, and have set them in the sun.  The idea is, the color bottle whose balloon expands first is the one that absorbs the most solar energy (the heated air having expanded into the balloon).

Mavis, Hazel, Daphne and Gloria, pictured here weeding the garden, removing insect pests, and fertilizing all at the same time.

So now, while we’re waiting for the sun’s sciency goodness to manifest itself, Little Boy is learning how to herd chickens out of the garden beds, and the Herban Cowboy is moving a bit of chicken wire fencing, expanding the yard our girls have to scratch around in.

As for the rest of the Green Goddess Gardens, the kitchen garden has been mulched, the nasty garden fence taken down, peas growing, sprouts (green beans, radishes, broccoli, lettuce).  There’s a lemon cucumber plant and some kind of tomato that the Husband brought home from work, seeds are planted (yellow squash, zucchini, cucumber, basil, parsley).

Wood sorrel. The Irish shamrock. Little Boy eats them right out of the ground. I prefer them in egg salad.

Spring is so busy.  It’s too much work for me.  I prefer the forced laziness that the heat of summer brings.  But at least the work is fun.  And it goes with beer or wine.

And gardening is not all hard work.  We forage for wild food and encourage it in our yard.  We’ve got yellow dock for soups, chickweed and wood sorrel for salads, and Little Boy and I are both watching the wild blackberry flowers with mouth watering impatience.  This year I am resolved to make wild fruit jam.  Either blackberry or mulberry.  I vow this every spring.  I hope this is the year I really do it.

UPDATE:  Our solar energy experiment was a dud.  Neither balloon expanded.  Not sure if bottles were not painted enough, or if we’re just crappy scientists.  Either way, I think we’ll just move on to the next one in the book.

Wild blackberry. We're gonna eat it.

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Fabulous Foraging, Green Goddess Garden, Possum Living, The Homestead, Unschooling | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.