Sunday, January 26, 2014

Here comes the Sun.....and it's alright!

Sometimes I do realize how fortunate I am to live where I do. It is the hotbed of information, supplies, and ideas for Food Storage and Preparedness.  Having said that, there are folks all around me who often are unaware, don't express an interest, or just are oblivious to the good fortune surrounding them.  

Yesterday was woe of those "I am so grateful" moments. This is because I attended a Winter gardening/Greenhouse class taught by the infamous Cale Warnock.  

In all fairness to Caleb, he never stopped moving even though he agreed to allow me to take his picture.  I took several....this is one of the good ones.  Guess where we all are?  In his Greenhouse....see the foliage?

This is his Greenhouse that he let a lot of us tour and snack in.  It is a lean-to style Greenhouse that he had constructed on the back of his barn.  Want to take a little tour?

This is the floor.  Now, he (and I for that matter) live in an area that has lots of rocks under the soil, and many of them are huge. I remember driving up to the site of our current home while it was under construction.  The basement had just been dug and it looked like somewhere that Fred Flintstone and Barney would hang out.  Caleb informed us that he had heavy equipment come and dig down 8 feet, then back-filled 4 feet of just rock.  This is necessary for something called "Thermal Mass".

I think everyone knows that the soil is warm when you dig deep. Think of  Geo-Thermal heat.  He said he used the rocks to help transmit the heat through "Thermal Mass".

See the timbers and the rebar?

He has layered Timbers (and secured with rebar running through the timbers). These raised beds are about 4 feet tall. They are reportedly filled with that same rock to again take advantage of the Thermal Mass.  He reports that he has very little soil on top, about 1/2 to 1 inch for most foods.  The exception would be root vegetables.

Back to the floor, he has a couple of tubes that the rock was back filled have a direct conduit for the warmth to travel into his Greenhouse.

The roof is made from "Twin-wall Polycarbonate" and not glass. 

As you might expect, the Greenhouse gets very hot.  It needs to be vented.  Here is the large vent.  Class members were surprised to feel the heat that was coming out if it on a bitterly cold winter day.

Here is another vent that can be opened when needed.

The window is another vent.  In the photo above, you saw a vent near the peak of the roof, here is another view from the outside.  See the hinges and clasp.

Sooooo, what is he growing?

Lots of delicious greens.  He allowed us to take pieces of the leaves and sample them.  Fresh and delicious.  

Here he is pointing out a sprouted potato.  He planted potatoes on New Years Eve, less than a month ago.

Lots of greens,,,,  Notice, no pots here.  He says in the bed is better because of the thermal mass.  

And continual crop rotation and planting.  I love the sticks dividing each item....simple and effective.

The Water barrel is in the corner allowing him to water "in 90 seconds" as he says. How in the world does he get water in his Greenhouse?

He uses rain water and melting snow that he captures from rain gutters.  Now, before some Utahns get going, it is now legal to capture and keep up to 200 gallons of your own rain water...and he does.  Can you imagine hauling water into this Greenhouse?  That alone would stop me from considering it!

Although difficult to see, there is a Thermometer in the corner.  


What is the take-home message?
  • He raises his food year-round.  He makes a great point about being dependent on the food supply chain.  He is also correct about the modified seed, generous use of pesticides, and Irradiation (a slight exposure to radiation to manage pests etc, but takes away up to 10% of the nutrients of your produce).  
  • You need to know what varieties will grow in the winter...and he does.  See his book "Backyard Winter Gardening" which lists varieties to use.  He does not use hybrid seeds, more like an Heirloom seed.
  • He not only uses his Green house, but cold frames as well.  

He reports that it does not take a lot of time, and this Greenhouse does not require electricity to run.  This is huge point!

You can learn more about Winter Gardening from his book:

Here, you can hear and see him give you the personal tour....

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Not everything I try works...learning from a failure

Winter my backyard.  It's a cold Winter morning.  Of course I would be the one to try something new with the snow and cold outside....who else?  I knew the sun would be changing soon, so I decided to try my Sun Oven in this cold weather.

I decided to make Chili from items from my Pantry/Food Storage.

Here I am adding Canned Beans

I then added my Tomato concoction.

In went my canned Hamburger.

I added Dehydrated minced onion.

Chili powder was next....

Finally, Tomato Sauce.

See how the sun was moving quickly?  I set up the Sun Oven in the position that I traditionally use in the summer.  I let the Sun Oven heat up for a while.

I placed the Chili in the Sun oven.

I, again going off the settings and positioning from last summer, left my Sun Oven and went off to Church for 3 hours.

How did it turn out after I returned to my home? Not so well

There was a significant amount of condensation on the glass and the temperature was....really....low.

I brought the Chili and and used my temperature probe.  Look at the temperature....  Ugh, I had an epic failure here.

Why am I showing you this?  Well, first of all my neighbor told me that that everything I do (for this blog) turns out perfectly.  So not!  I don't always share the 'misses' and 'mistakes'.  So, today I am showing something that did not work.  

Image and information courtesy of Sungage

Here is what I believe happened.  Look at Figure (b) in the Summer, the rays hit the ground more directly.  Now look at figure (c) as this depicts the sun rays direction in the winter. This means that it would take more rays and a longer period of time to heat up in the winter.  This is a big deal!

Here is information about using this device in the Winter from the Sun Oven Website

Can I use a SUN OVEN® in the winter?
Yes, a SUN OVEN® can be used on a clear winter day. The most important factor in using a SUN OVEN® is the brightness of the sun, not the outside air temperature. Often, a 40-degree, clear, low-humidity day will allow food to cook faster than a 100-degree day with high humidity. The SUN OVEN® has been used very successfully at the base camp of a Mt. Everest expedition where the temperatures are often well below zero. There are, however, more cooking hours available in the summer than in the winter. In the summer, it is not unusual to cook from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, whereas during the early winter, effective cooking is limited to 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

I didn't start this oven until 12:30 p.m. and came home near 4:00 p.m.  I used it in the wrong time frame.

Am I giving up?  No, I will try this again this winter, however, I will babysit it next time.  I need to know that this is a viable option should I need it in the winter.  

So, this is just a learning experience...nothing more or less. I look forward to learning more as I build my skill set by using the tools I have available to me.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pumpkin Soup, a Cost Effective and Delicious Meal on a Cold Winter Day.

I recently took the plunge and learned how to can Pumpkin.  At first glance, you might think "Why do that?, I can buy a can in the store when I need it".  It is a very valid thought.  However, as I have looked at what I can do with this, and the cost effectiveness of canning pumpkin, I am grateful that I took the time to learn, to try, & to experiment on the word.  Here is the process with my thoughts on how to do this. 

I plan on using my little bottles of orange goodness for many things.  Here is one recipe that I tried....and it was great!

What is it?  Pumpkin soup.  I found the recipe in my my trusty "The New Pillsbury Family Cookbook" that was copyrighted in 1975.   Yes, this cookbook has been around for a while. I looked on Pillsbury website for this particular recipe, but it wasn't really there.  However, I found several that I really would like to try in the future that looked delish!

Pumpkin Soup (Pillsbury) 

(With the Little Red Hen's suggestions in red of course)

4 Cups cubed raw pumpkin
1/2 Cup butter or margarine
1/2 Cup water
3.5 to 4 cups (about 26 oz) chicken stock (see my suggestions below)
2 stalks celery, cut into pieces
1 medium onion, quartered,
3 sprigs parsley or 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1/2 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon powdered thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine or sherry (I skipped this step)
1 teaspoon salt

The directions tell you out cook your pumpkin in butter then simmer with 1/2 cup water for 30 minutes.  I skipped this step and used my canned pumpkin.

The remainder of the ingredients are used to make a broth.  Simmer them for 30 minutes.  I used my Chicken Flavored soup base, but also could have used my powdered bouillon for the chicken stock.  Having food storage staples gives me many options.  I hate to have my choices restricted:). 

The instructions suggest that you strain out all the vegetables and just use the broth. The next step is to add the pumpkin and simmer for 15 minutes.  I refused to throw out all those simmered vegetables.  I removed the bay leaf and kept them all.

The suggestion was to blend the soup contents in the blender.  All I could think of was "what a hot mess".  Instead, I pulled out my stick blender  and went to work.  I found that tilting my stick blender slightly allowed for the larger chunks of the vegetables to be pureed.  

Doesn't it look beautiful as a puree?

I served this delicious soup with salad.  It was a cold day and this was a welcome meal by all.  Rooster Junior even helped himself to seconds.  

After chopping the vegetables, which really didn't take long, the time involved was the simmering (about 45 minutes total) and the blending (about 5 minutes). Most of the time this was simmering, I was doing other things, so the hands-on time was very short.

I made this soup, I believe for under a dollar.  The Salad (for 4 people) was approximately about $1.58 as the lettuce was $.83 for the head of Romaine, ~ $.75 for grape tomatoes and Onions from my garden. Yes, they are still there and usable in January.    Salad Dressing came from my pantry, (but a couple of tablespoons to me are inconsequential at this point).  Total cost for this meal for 4 people was a whopping $2.58!  

It does pay to can and use these foods as convenience foods when you are cooking.  

Try it!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announcement


Church Instructs Leaders on 
Same-Sex Marriage

Following recent court actions bearing on same-sex marriage, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles today sent the following instructions and guidance to congregational leaders throughout the United States. Leaders were asked to share this information with their members in appropriate settings.

On December 20, 2013, a federal district judge in Salt Lake City issued an order legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah, striking down century-old state laws and a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage exclusively as between a man and a woman. The United States Supreme Court has put that ruling on hold pending consideration of the issue by an appellate court. During the interval between the district court ruling and the Supreme Court stay, numerous same-sex marriages were performed in Utah. Legal proceedings and legislative action in some other states and countries have given civil recognition to same-sex marriage relationships.
As we face this and other issues of our time, we encourage all to bear in mind our Heavenly Father’s purposes in creating the earth and providing for our mortal birth and experience here as His children. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:27–28). “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well-being of society. Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and crucial to eternal salvation.
Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We urge you to review and teach Church members the doctrine contained in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
Just as those who promote same-sex marriage are entitled to civility, the same is true for those who oppose it. The Church insists on its leaders’ and members’ constitutionally protected right to express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family, and morality free from retaliation or retribution. The Church is also entitled to maintain its standards of moral conduct and good standing for members.
Consistent with our fundamental beliefs, Church officers will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, and the Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, all visitors are welcome to our chapels and premises so long as they respect our standards of conduct while there.
While these matters will continue to evolve, we affirm that those who avail themselves of laws or court rulings authorizing same-sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully. The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility—even when we disagree.
As members of the Church, we are responsible to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to illuminate the great blessings that flow from heeding God’s commandments as well as the inevitable consequences of ignoring them. We invite you to pray that people everywhere will have their hearts softened to the truths of the gospel, and that wisdom will be granted to those who are called upon to decide issues critical to society’s future.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Who's got Pumpkins?

Yes, that really is a pumpkin that I used for 'decoration' during October and November.  The sad truth is, it is not the only one.  I have always thought about learning how to can pumpkin, but it just seemed daunting.  So, I never did try it. I didn't like throwing good pumpkins away, it always bothered me. So, this year, I did something about it.  

I found directions on canning Pumpkin from the University of Minnesota Extension service.  I followed their directions, but learned a few tricks along the way that I thought I would share.

After washing the pumpkin, cut it open with a sharp knife.

Initially, I cut the pumpkin in half.

After cutting the half again (making quarters), I tried a number of 'tools' to scoop out the seeds and stringy mess.  Guess which one turned out to be the best tool to use?

The best tool was a serrated Steak Knife.  I started from one corner and pulled the seed/string mixture to the center.  I flipped the piece around and repeated it on the other side.  After taking a couple of large scoops out, the knife cleaned up all the 'strings' and left the flesh.

The directions indicate that you should cut the pumpkin flesh into one inch strips and then peel.  After cleaning the inside, I put a sharp knife in the middle of the quarter piece and cut toward the tip. I repeated this process from the middle to the other tip.

"Peel"?  I had never peeled a pumpkin and thought that it might take forever. It would have too if I didn't get a bit creative.  I initially started with a sharp paring knife.  That took way to long and didn't leave a smooth surface.  I then tried a potato peeler and it worked really well,  It was relatively quick too! Look at the difference between the two above in the picture.  The only suggestion I would give is for portions of the flesh that have deep indentions.  Cut along the indentions and use the peeler on the edge to get all of the peel.

Next, cube the strips and drop them into boiling water.  Boil for 2 minutes.

I chose to use a strainer to retrieve the pumpkin dices after boiling.

I poured the hot dices of pumpkin right into the jar from the strainer by using a funnel.

Fill the jars with the hot water that you boiled the pumpkin dices in, wipe the rim and place a sterilized lip and ring on the bottle. This pumpkin made 5 quart jars of pumpkin.

Process for your area in a Pressure Canner.  As I live over 5,000 feet, I processed at 15 lbs pressure for 90 minutes.


Now, you may be asking yourself if this worth it.  I believe it is.  I got that pumpkin for free!  A 29 oz can of pureed pumpkin (the national brand) costs $3.33. I got 4 cups of diced pumpkin in each quart.    The smaller pumpkin gave me the equivalent of ~ five 29 oz cans once the dices are pureed.  

I am guessing that I may get 7 quarts from the larger pumpkin that remains. (Just for a point of reference, I paid $2.00 for the larger pumpkin I have yet to process).  That means that with the larger pumpkin, I will save ~$21.31. (Here is the math:  7 cans would cost $3.33 each leaving a total of $23.31. Subtracting the $2.00 I paid for the pumpkin leaves a residual amount of $21.31)


Once I got my system going, it took about 10 minutes to get the seeds/strings from the inside and about 30 minutes to peel the entire pumpkin.  As I used a large stock pot, the boiling of all the pumpkin dices was under 5 min.  So, it took about 45 minutes to prepare the food for the canner.  After placing the jars in the canner, I set the timer for 90 minutes and went about my other pressing tasks.


I plan to blend the dices and use the puree as I would in any recipe.  It could be used in bread, soups, and certainly pies.


Canning pumpkins and winter squash

By William Schafer, University of Minnesota Extension educator
Revised 2010

Vegetables must be canned in a pressure canner for the correct time and pressure (PSI) to ensure their safety. If not canned correctly, these low acid foods may contain the deadly botulism toxin.

Vegetables may be canned without salt. Salt adds flavor but does not prevent spoilage. If you use a weighted-gauge canner and can at an altitude less than 1000 feet, you may use 10 PSI instead of 15 PSI for the canner pressure. This will improve nutrient and quality retention of the vegetables. Check with your local county extension office or Soil Conservation District for altitude information.

Cubed pumpkins and winter squash (acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, golden delicious, or hubbard)

Quantity: An average of 16 pounds is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 10 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints – an average of 2-1/4 pounds per quart.

Quality: Pumpkins and squash should have a hard rind and stringless, mature pulp of ideal quality for cooking fresh. Small size pumpkins (sugar or pie varieties) make better products.

Procedure: Wash, remove seeds, cut into 1 inch-wide slices, and peel. Cut flesh into 1 inch cubes. Boil 2 minutes in water. Caution: Do not mash or puree. Fill jars with cubes and cooking liquid, leaving 1 inch headspace. Adjust lids and process. For making pies, drain processed jars and strain or sieve cubes.

Recommended Processes
1) Dial-gauge Pressure Canner
Pints – 55 minutes 11 PSI 
Quarts – 90 minutes 11 PSI

2) Weighted-gauge Pressure Canner
Pints – 55 minutes 15 PSI 
Quarts – 90 minutes 15 PSI


So, if you still have a pumpkin or two ought to give this a try.  It really was a worthwhile task and I will be doing it again.

Try it! 

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