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Posts Tagged ‘sustainable lifestyles’

MEN June-July 2013

Includes Best Staple Crops for Building Food Self-Sufficiency.

To truly feed yourself from your garden, you need to grow staple crops. The current issue (June/July 2013) of Mother Earth News contains an article that I wrote about the subject. You can read Best Staple Crops for Building Food Self-Sufficiency in the print magazine (where these things always look better) or online. The crops that I talk about are potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, wheat, peanuts, winter squash,  dry beans, cabbage, collards, and kale. There are two charts in this article that you might keep for reference. One chart shows suggested varieties of these crops for each region of the continental U.S.  The other chart is “Crop Yields and Calorie Density”. The information posted there is based on my article that appeared in the October/November 2012 issue, with the addition of calories produced. If you don’t have that issue, you can read that article, A Plan for Food Self-Sufficiency, online. The four charts in that article show suggested yields and the number of half-cup servings you might expect per pound of food as it comes from the garden. There are many crops listed, with separate charts for vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. A fifth chart (online only) that is connected to that article shows yields and oil content of nuts and seeds. 

Includes A Plan for Food Self-Sufficiency

Includes A Plan for Food Self-Sufficiency.

Including staple crops in your garden plan is one thing; finding the variety for each crop that will do well in your climate, that also fits well with your management schedule, is quite another. Besides depending on my own experience, I pored over catalogs and read variety descriptions and gardeners’ internet postings carefully to decide which varieties to include on the regional chart. Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange was kind enough to go over the chart with me and make suggestions. It helped that we were both at the Virginia Biological Farming Conference in early February and that our booths were right next to each other to afford us the time and opportunity for that discussion. In working on this staple crops article I met Eli Rogosa through email and telephone. She is the director of the Heritage Wheat Conservancy and provided the wheat varieties for the chart. You may have other varieties of these staple crops that do well for you in your garden. If so, I welcome you to post a comment with the crop variety and the general area where you are located. Your comments will be helpful to everyone. To my readers from outside these U.S. regions, I hope you take this opportunity to write a comment to share the varieties you are growing in your part of the world.

Building our personal and regional food supplies will take all of us sharing information and seeds as we develop a new food system independent of corporate America. If we are to succeed, we need to be active participants in the process. Even with the best information and seeds, the learning is in the doing. Get out in the garden and get growing. Your skills and knowledge will develop more each year. For the sake of us all, I wish you well.Homeplace Earth

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  1. BB corn-BLOGHave you ever wondered how much space it would take to grow your food? Maybe you’ve wondered just how much space it would take to grow all of a certain crop to have enough for the year. The answer to both questions is–it depends. It depends on what you want to eat and how you are growing it. John Jeavons asked what was the least space needed to grow all one’s food more than forty years ago and has been working on the answer ever since, including the sustainability aspect. You need to consider the soil and grow soil building crops along with your food crops. I wrote an article that is in the new (Oct/Nov 2012) issue of Mother Earth News called A Plan for Food Self-Sufficiency. It includes planning charts for vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains. There is an additional chart online for oilseeds. You can find the article and charts online, however it all looks much nicer in the magazine. You can use that article to begin your own planning.

The charts with the article show estimates of yields you might get if you follow the GROW BIOINTENSIVE® principles explained in Jeavons book How To Grow More Vegetables. I follow those methods, so my blog posts and videos will give you additional understanding of how to put GROW BIOINTENSIVE into practice. The charts also have a column showing the average yields in the U.S. for conventional production. These figures are guidelines for you to use in your planning, but in reality, what you really need to know is how much you can grow in your soil, in your climate, with your schedule, etc, etc. In other words, there are a lot of variables. My suggestion is to just jump right in and get growing. Learn as you go, see what you can do, then improve your skills and soil each year.

In 1997-98 I had a small CSA and decided to include snap beans in the offerings. I had already been selling vegetables to two local restaurants for five years, so I was attuned to doing a trial and estimating the harvest, or so I thought. I had grown a bed of beans in the garden close to the house and had measured the yield and recorded the time it took to harvest, wash and pack. I set my price according to those figures. The crop for sale, however, was planted in another garden on our property, in beds that had not been in production for as long and had not received the mulch and compost over the years that my trial bed had. The yield was not as high and it took longer to pick the same amount of beans, since each grab brought a few beans, rather than a handful. It was definitely a lesson learned. Knowing what I had achieved with the trial bed, however, gave me hope for the newer garden and a yield to aim for.

If you really want to provide a significant portion of your food from your garden you would be looking at growing things that fill you up, so you would be thinking about growing calories. In Jeavons book there are columns in his Master Charts that show how many calories, and how much calcium, and protein are in each pound of food for each crop. Consider corn. If you are already growing sweet corn, using the beginning biointensive yield of 17 pounds of kernels per 100 square feet, you would have 6,800 calories of food in that 17 pounds. If you grew flour corn-corn for cornmeal- and achieved the beginning biointensive yield of 11 pounds of dry kernels, you would have produced 18,216 calories in 100 square feet of garden space. Of course, the sweet corn, depending on the variety, might have been ready to harvest 3-4 weeks earlier than the four corn. The corn stalks provide important carbon for your compost pile. If you grew sweet corn, it is to your benefit to leave the stalks standing for 4 weeks after the harvest of the ears, giving them a chance to produce more lignin. If you were doing that, you might as well grow flour corn.

There is nothing like growing staple crops.  In her book, The Resilient Gardener, Carol Deppe talks of growing five staple crops that “you need to survive and thrive”. Those crops are corn, beans, potatoes, squash, and eggs. (She prefers duck eggs). Deppe has to avoid gluten, making corn her grain of choice. She even includes her recipe for cornbread that has no wheat flour in it.

beans-dried and canned--BLOGFor fun, let’s take a look at beans. If you grow snap beans and achieve the beginning biointensive yield, you would have 30 pounds of beans from a 100 square foot bed. Those 30 pounds of snaps would give you 4,230 calories. If you grew those beans all the way out to dry seeds, the beginning biointensive yield is 4 pounds of dried seed, giving you a yield of 6,152 calories in the same space. Of course, they would be in the bed longer and you would have to keep the bean beetles from taking out the plants before they reached dried seed stage. One great advantage of growing dried beans is that they don’t need to be cannned. Just put the dried beans in a jar and store them in your pantry. Cowpeas are my dried bean of choice. They grow better for me to dry seed than other types of beans and the bean beetles ignore them. Find out what grows best in your area. At Ecology Action in Willits, California, pinto beans grow well. I have never been successful with growing pinto beans to seed here.

This should widen your thinking as you make notes for next year’s garden. Some more thoughts about planning a diet of homegrown foods are at my post On Growing All Your Own Food. I was recently at the Mother Earth News Fair in Pennsylvania, and at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello in Virgnia the weekend before that. It was encouraging for me to meet so many people who are anxious to learn to grow their food. It proves there is hope for the world, after all. We are living in exciting times and we need to embrace that. Enjoy the adventure!

 

Find more on Planning for Eating at http://www.motherearthnews.com/permaculture/planning-for-eating.aspx.

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dried food in jars-2012-BLOGThis is my third summer using solar food dryers and they have become a firm part of my food preservation plan. Of course, the biggest aspect of my plan is to need as little preservation as possible. So, we eat as much as we are able to out of the garden all year. Next is to grow crops that pretty much store themselves. That would be things like onions, garlic, winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cowpeas, hazelnuts, and peanuts. Some things are fermented, particularly cucumbers and cabbage. I’ve had a huge jar of dill pickles on my kitchen counter for most of the summer, sort of like what you might see in a deli. We take pickles out whenever we want. Some of the snap beans get salted in a crock. The rest of the snap beans and extra tomatoes are canned. 

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Principe Borghese tomatoes

The crop that I dry the most is tomatoes. There are varieties that are better suited for this and I’ve been growing some. Principe Borghese (preen-see-pee bore-gay-zee) has been the most prolific so far. I had a harvest of about 75 pounds from the plants that grew along a 16’ livestock panel. Principe Borghese is a determinate variety, pumping out the whole harvest in 5-6 weeks. The seed catalog says the days to maturity for this variety is 78 days, however, I’ve found my harvest begins at about 60 days from transplanting and I had my first tomatoes before July 4th this year, without even trying.  These tomatoes look like large cherry tomatoes. Sometimes I cut them in half to dry and sometimes I cut them in quarters. 

I also grew Hungarian Paste tomatoes, another determinate variety. I began harvesting these about 18 days later than Principe Borghese and picked for only 4 weeks. That was too short of a harvest window for me, but the blister beetles had moved in on the plants. This variety is similar to Roma and Amish Paste. I had some trouble with blossom end rot on the first flush this year, which might have been caused by weird weather; however, blossom end rot has been a problem with this type of paste tomato on the first flush in my garden in other years.  I’ve had my soil tested and calcium deficiency is not the problem.

long tom-closeup-BLOG

Long Tom tomatoes

A new variety, for me at least, is Long Tom, an indeterminate. I only have a few plants and they were put in late, but I’m really impressed with the tomatoes I’m getting. It could be due to the bed they are in, but these meaty tomatoes have been weighing 4 ounces each! If you don’t like seeds in your dried tomatoes, this is the variety to grow. I’ll pay more attention to Long Toms next year. All these varieties and more are available through the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog.

The list of things I’ve dried in my solar dryers is: apples, cabbage, celery, collards, grapes, kale, mushrooms, okra, onions, parsley, peaches, peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini. I’ve dried snap beans, but I found we just don’t eat them. They are good, however, reconstituted in chicken broth. One of the good things about drying is that you don’t need to have the quantity that you need when you are canning. You can put small amounts of this and that in the dryers. I’ve found that I can salt the snap beans in a crock and add to it over the next couple weeks as the harvest comes in, otherwise if I had a small amount, they’d go in the dryer.

SW trays open-BLOGASU dryer inside-BLOGI have two dryers and each have special features. One, the SunWorks model, exposes the food to the sun. Historically, that’s how things were dried, lying out in the sun. The larger model, based on plans developed by Appalachian State University (ASU), does not expose the food to the sun. If I’m drying mushrooms, I put them in the SunWorks dryer since mushrooms really develop a lot of vitamin D when exposed to the sun. If I’m drying collards or kale, I put them in the ASU dryer. The greens dry quickly in either one, but they stay greener out of the sun. I built the SunWorks dryer with an electric backup option. I played with that a little that first year, but haven’t plugged it in since. If the weather takes a turn and it rains, I just leave the food in until the sun comes back out and it dries. When drying is complete, I put the food in glass canning jars and store them on shelves in my pantry. Of course, if the weather promises to be rainy and damp for days, which is the pattern we seem to be in at the moment, I resort to canning.

You can find more information about my solar dryers at my blog posts Solar Food Dryers and Solar Food Dryers-Update. The Solar Food Dryer, a book by Eben Fodor, was my guide in making the SunWorks dryer. A good book to refer to in handling the food is Making & Using Dried Foods by Phyllis Hobson. I’ll have both books for sale at my booth at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello on September 15 and at the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs, Pennsylvania on September 21-23. I’ll also be speaking on Solar Food Drying at both events.  See you there!

 

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Cindy washing lettuce-BLOGIt never occurred to me to have a place to wash my harvest in the garden until I began selling vegetables. Until then, I would bring everything into the kitchen to clean, since I would be preparing it for our table or to preserve it. In 1992 I began selling produce, primarily lettuce, to two local restaurants. It was time to set up a place to wash it outside.

We happened to have a bathtub sitting in the backyard, having replaced it when we remodeled the bathroom. I put it on cement blocks so the top was a workable height. A screen that I made of 2×4’s and ½” hardware cloth fit over the top. Now I could lay things on that screen and hose them off, with the water being caught in the tub and draining into the bucket I put under the drain hole. This water would be returned to the garden. I would line up multiple buckets and keep changing them out as they filled.

Sunfield washing station-BLOGI built a bench out of scrap wood to hold 5-gallon buckets and harvest trays. That and a drinking-water-safe hose was my set-up. When I sold leaf lettuce by the head, packed in boxes, I would hold each head by the bottom and dip it upside down in first one bucket of water, then another. Doing that allowed any dirt or slugs that were in there to fall out. The buckets were food-safe and kept as clean as if I were using them in my kitchen. I put the lettuce heads on the screen over the tub and hosed them off again. They drained there before I packed them into cardboard boxes to take directly to the restaurants. When I had the CSA and later sold at the farmers markets, I sold bagged lettuce. I used three 5-gallon buckets and put only the trimmed leaves in. By the time they had been through three buckets, the leaves were clean and I put them directly into a salad spinner to get out excess water. I bought a 5-gallon salad spinner like the one I saw in the restaurants. That used spinner cost me $100 at a restaurant supply dealer, half of what I saw a new one for at the time in Johnny’s catalog. It made my job easier.

I had acquired some plastic trays that bakeries use to deliver bread to stores. I would pick my harvest into them and take it to the washing station. With things like tomatoes and peppers, I would just set the tray on top of the screen and hose off the produce, turning it with my hand as needed. Then I would take the trays to the porch and set them on the porch swing or arms of the rocking chairs to drain. It was shady on the porch, a good place to sort the produce. A piece of hardware cloth with ¼” spaces was put in the bottom of the tray if it was used for green beans or cherry tomatoes, to keep those things from falling through the holes. The produce was on its way to the customers in a short time or using the porch would have become a problem with the family coming and going.

Washing produce with a hose is wet work. A heavy duty vinyl apron from Nasco and heavy rubber gloves protected me from getting waterlogged and from the chill in the spring and fall. In the summer, an occasional splash from the rinse water was a welcome cool-off. The Nasco catalog said the apron was the kind used in dairies. I used that apron for the whole ten years I sold vegetables.

I’ve come to believe that a washing station in your garden is a good thing to have even if you are only growing for your family. It certainly saves a mess in the kitchen. You may not do all your washing there, but you can certainly do the messiest stuff there. If you are selling vegetables and you use your kitchen for washing, you are putting more stress on you and your family than is necessary, not to mention the mess.

sink and drying trays-BLOGThat old tub that I used as the base of my operation eventually had to be hauled off to the dump. Installed in an add-on bathroom by a former owner who did things on the cheap, it was plastic and covered with styrofoam. Although I wasn’t selling vegetables anymore, I had gotten used to having a washing station and wanted to put together another one. Sometime over the years, I had found a stainless steel free-standing sink at a yard sale. Two years ago I put it in the garden and plumbed it to a hose (drinking- water-safe) from a pipe sticking out the back. That gave me running water without holding a hose! I could still collect the water from the sink in buckets. One of the greatest things about a garden washing station is being able to use the wash water to water the garden.  These days, I’m not washing loads of lettuce, but I am washing and cutting produce for the solar dryers. Some of my best days are when I can pick, wash, and cut the produce and load it in the drying trays, right in the garden. I feel the fresh air and hear the birds singing. The produce never comes in the house until I take it off the dryer trays and put it in the jars. I suppose I could do that in the garden, also, and clean the trays in the garden sink.

My first set-up was on the east side of the garden with morning shade from a nearby maple tree. I was usually done washing in the morning by 10:30am and didn’t begin harvest in the evening until 6:30 pm, when the sun began to be softened by the trees on the other side of the garden. If I used that space during the heat of the day, it was to quickly rinse tomatoes, peppers, or beans before bringing them to the porch.  To provide some protection from the sun in my new space, we recently built a structure out of bamboo. This thing may not last long, although I’m hoping to get at least a year out of it. We had bamboo we had to clear out, so we thought we’d have some fun. It will help us decide how we want a permanent structure when we get around to it. The permanent one will most likely have a tin roof.

Santa Cruz garden washing station-BLOGIn 2001 we visited the gardens at the University of California-Santa Cruz and found this washing station. Having it against a building makes it easier to add a roof. A wall provides a place to hang things, such as colanders, and maybe shelf space. I know of one market gardener who had added a roofed, room-sized area behind her garage for washing and packing. It was open on three sides and it had a door into the garage where she stored the produce in refrigerators. If you are selling produce, be sure to plan a space for sorting and packing and for the packing materials. Taking over the family porch for that, although convenient, is not always the best thing to do.

Anyone out there with a garden washing station you’d like to tell us about?

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tomato juice and soup-BLOG

tomato juice and soup

Almost everyone grows tomatoes and eventually has enough to preserve for later. I’m interested in using the least energy to get my food to the table and have been using my solar dryers as much as possible. Sometimes with tomatoes, however, I have too many for the dryers, the weather is threatening rain, or I just need to get these tomatoes through my kitchen in a hurry.

When the kids were growing up, I used to can a lot of spaghetti sauce. I would add garlic, onions, basil, parsley or celery, and peppers, all from the garden, and cook that sauce down for a couple hours before canning it. I did that on the days with the most tomatoes. On the days with a lesser harvest, I would can tomato juice or tomato soup. The juice would be used as a base for soup. I could use a quart of juice and throw in all sorts of vegetables and leftover meat. Of course, you could also just drink the juice.

Now that I’m drying tomatoes, I use the dried ones for spaghetti sauce and have become spoiled. I no longer have a kettle of tomatoes boiling away in my kitchen on hot summer days. By choice, we don’t have air conditioning in our house and are very aware of anything emitting heat. But still, there are those days when I have to resort to canning tomatoes. When you look up tomatoes in the canning books, they tell you the first step is to dip them in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then in cold water to remove the skins. I have never thought that was a good idea. Talk about heating up the kitchen! You would only want to do that if, for some reason, you needed to have whole tomatoes in your jars. If you are making sauce there is no need to keep them whole.

foley mill-closeup -BLOG

Foley Food Mill

I acquired a Foley Food Mill early on in my canning days to make applesauce with and it works perfect for putting the tomatoes through to remove the skins and seeds. The tomatoes need to be quartered and cooked till soft to go through the Foley mill. You put them in the top, stir it around and the juice comes out the bottom. You need to dump the skins and seeds in a container and fill the hopper again. It is a handy tool to have in your kitchen. Mine hangs from the rack with my pots and pans. In the photo, it is being used on a pan on the stove. That burner is not on, it is just more convenient to use it there because the pot with the tomatoes was still hot.

I use tomato juice to make the tomato soup I can, a favorite for lunch, especially when a friend or one of our grown children stops by. It is all ready to heat and eat. Once the juice is made there is minimal preparation to make the soup, which is then put in the jars and  run through the canner. In the first photo you can see jars of tomato juice and soup on my basement shelves. My recipe is based on one that came from our county cannery back in the mid-1980’s. I’ve posted it on my recipe page here.

Victorio strainer-BLOG

Victoria Strainer

The Foley mill works great, but you have to cook the tomatoes first. That’s hot work, but not as hot as dipping them in boiling water to remove the skins. In 1986 I bought a Victorio Strainer. I see they are still available today, as are any parts you might need. You only need to quarter the tomatoes and put them through raw. I’ve been using it with the small Principe Borghese tomatoes I have and I just wash them and put them through, no cutting needed.  With the Victorio strainer the skins and seeds separate out to a container as you continue to put the tomatoes in. No need to dump anything out in the process, as with the Foley mill. The tomatoes are never heated until the juice is heated to put into the jars or made into soup. That’s our daughter Betsy working on her tomatoes with the Victorio.

But what if you’ve canned enough soup and juice for the year and you still have more tomatoes than you know what to do with? You can put up more juice to be made into spaghetti sauce later. This is where your other dried veggies can be useful. Use your limited solar dryer space to dry okra, zucchini, peppers, onions, parsley, celery, and anything else you might want to put in spaghetti sauce. I didn’t mention garlic because I just store that as it is for the year and have cloves whenever I need them. I didn’t mention basil either. It is a staple in spaghetti sauce, but it doesn’t go through the dryer. I hang it in my kitchen until dry, then store the basil leaves in jars. When you want a thick spaghetti sauce, combine the juice with the dried veggies and herbs, give it all a whirl in the blender and cook it for a short time-maybe simmer for five minutes or so. If you have time, let it set a little longer to let the flavors blend. Your sauce can be ready by the time your pasta is cooked and the table is set.

This is an opportunity to get really creative. You can add different things for different dishes. The okra or zucchini is the secret to getting thick sauce in a hurry. If you don’t add okra or zucchini, you will have to do more cooking, however, cooking down a quart of sauce takes much less time than cooking down a couple gallons of sauce. If you have enough dried tomatoes, you could add some of those, also.

tomato juice-gallon jars-BLOG

tomato juice in gallon jars

Okay, maybe you think all that might be a good idea, but you still just want to can spaghetti sauce. You could juice the tomatoes and put them in the fridge overnight. The solids will separate out from the “tomato water”. You can preserve the “tomato water” to add to soups throughout the year. Use what is left to cook down in a shorter time for sauce. The photo shows two gallon jars with juice from the Foley Food Mill and the Victorio Strainer after they’ve spent the night in the refrigerator. For some reason, the juice settles out with the “water “on top with one method and on the bottom with the other. That relatively clear liquid is what is being boiled away when you cook your sauce down.

Tomatoes can be canned in either a water bath canner or a pressure canner. Since I have a pressure canner, I use that, but when I started canning, all I had was the water bath. Make sure you follow all the safety guidelines whenever you can anything.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great resource and has the book Complete Guide to Home Canning available as a free download. The print edition can be ordered. The book So Easy to Preserve is available for order from the same website at http://www.homefoodpreservation.com/. That book includes freezing and drying.

I hope I have given you some helpful ideas. Have fun and stay cool!

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Piteba oil press-BLOGOnce you really begin to plan how to eat a homegrown/local diet you will soon realize that cooking oil is something that is not coming out of your garden or is available from local growers, unless you live in California in olive territory. If animal products are in your diet, that could be a source of fat. I buy bacon locally from a farmer who raises his hogs on pasture and save the drippings for cooking with. Having homegrown oil, however, would be nice, and it just happened that I visited Lehman’s Hardware in 2010 when they first began to carry the Piteba oil press. I bought one and played with it long enough to know that I needed to spend more time learning all the ins and outs to put it to the best use. I was busy building my solar dryers and learning more about them, however, so the oilseed press got put aside. With my 2011 hazelnut harvest and homegrown peanuts, I decided it was time to get it out. Another source for the Piteba is Bountiful Gardens.

The photo shows it all set for action. The press comes with a small bottle with a wick that holds colored lamp oil that you provide. The first photo shows blue lamp oil, but in the closeup photo you can’t see colored oil because it is almost empty. You also need to provide a container to catch your pressed oil as it drips from the slot. Unfortunately, a jelly jar is too wide to fit the space, but I have a small juice glass that is just the right size. There is a small hole in the frame where that glass sets. A funnel could be placed there with a tube that leads to a larger container. You also need to provide the seed hopper, made from a soda bottle. I used a bread pan to catch the oilseed cake after it was pressed.

The small lamp heats up the press cage to help with the oil flow. Light it 10 minutes before you begin pressing. Once things are flowing well, you might be able to extinguish it. Beware! Only have the wick showing the slightest bit or the flame will be too big. If it is too big and you have to adjust the wick, DO NOT grab the wick holder with your fingers while it is hot! Wait until it cools. I’m speaking from experience here.

The first time I used my press I tried some old sunflower seeds that I had here. They were the striped culinary ones, not the black oilseed variety that you should use for oil. Being old they were probably somewhat dry and they immediately stopped it up. The handle stopped turning easily, in fact, it became impossible to turn. When that happens, and it will, you need to take off the large cap and the adjustment bolt. If you’ve had the lamp lit, they will be hot, which is why I keep handy a ¾” wrench to use for the adjustment bolt and a monkey wrench for the cap. Take them off and immediately clean out the cap. You will need a knife to dislodge all the packed seed residue. Wash everything thoroughly, making sure the threads of the cap are clean.   If your seeds are too dry, the directions suggest mixing some water with them and leaving them in a plastic bag for two days, then try again.

Immediately after using the Piteba, dismantle and clean it. If you wait, the press cake inside will become hard as stone. If that happens, you can soak everything in water until it softens enough to take apart. Depending on how it is, you may need to leave it soaking overnight, but it will soften enough to clean. Be sure to read all the directions. There is a washer that needs to be coated with edible oil before it goes on the expeller screw when you put it all together to use.

You can go to the health food store and buy any number of seeds to try in the Piteba. There is a performance chart available on the Piteba website that allows you to compare the percent of oil in various seeds. If push came to shove, however, and you needed to provide cooking oil for your household, you would do well to learn as much as you can about using seeds you can grow or find locally. Keep in mind that these seeds aren’t as convenient as the ones from the store. You will need to clean and process them yourself. If you are using sunflower or pumpkin seeds, use oilseed varieties. The seeds of oilseed pumpkins are hulless. The seeds from oilseed varieties of sunflowers are black.

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pressing homegrown peanuts

I was anxious to press my homegrown hazelnuts and peanuts. It took forever to shell the hazelnuts, since my nuts are the small native variety. Find out more about growing hazelnuts at Hazelnuts / Filberts In My Garden. The yield for one cup of homegrown hazelnuts, weighing 5 ounces, was 3⅓ tablespoons oil. The yield for one cup of homegrown peanuts, weighing 6 ounces, was 4 tablespoons oil. I used my Master Nut Cracker for the shelling for both the hazelnuts and peanuts. The peanuts went pretty fast with that. I’ll be writing about that nut cracker one of these days.

If you wanted to produce enough oil for one tablespoon a day per person, you would need 1.4 gallons of oil per person per year. In the Master Charts in How To Grow More Vegetables (HTGMV) by John Jeavons, the beginning yield for peanuts is 4 pounds per 100 ft² and the intermediate yield is 10 pounds. The average U.S. yield for peanuts is 7.2 pounds per 100 ft². Let’s consider the conservative 4 pound yield. I need to sow about 8 ounces of peanuts for each 100 ft² planting, so a yield of 4 pounds leaves 3.5 pounds for eating or pressing for oil. At that rate it would take 960 ft² to grow peanuts to produce 1.4 gallons of oil, plus the seed to plant back. Just think, if you had that 7.2 pound U.S. average, it would only take 500 ft². I battle the voles at my place, so my best yield of peanuts has been 3.75 lb. per 100 ft². I’ll have to see what I can do to get my peanut yield up. The HTGMV beginning yield for hazelnuts is 7 pounds per 100 ft² planting. Since hazelnut trees are perennial, you don’t have to save out any seed to plant back, however, some trees may not produce every year.

primitive oilseed press-BLOG

primitive oilseed press

In 2008 I took this picture of a primitive oilseed press. I don’t know any more about it than what you see in the picture.The seeds are in a small basket. We were at a folklife festival and came upon it at the end of the day. The only person around was a volunteer who said it was for pressing seeds for oil. If you don’t have a Piteba, it might give you some ideas. In The Self-Sufficient Life and How To Live It, John Seymour suggests using a cider press to extract the oil from seeds. You would need to crush the seeds, then wrap them in a cloth. Obviously, you would need to work with a larger quantity of seeds. It might be, now that you have taken a closer look at what’s involved to produce your cooking oil, you might adjust your diet to use less than before. Steaming vegetables might become more desirable than stir-frying. Last week I used my solar oven to bake some snap beans, potatoes, and garlic together with only 1 tablespoon of my newly pressed oil drizzled over the vegetables. It was delicious.

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Two years ago our daughter and son-in-law had a dream-come-true wedding. I’m sure many would not want to do something like this, but I think there are enough people out there who might be interested in hearing about it. I hope that by telling you what we did, it will get the creative juices flowing when you plan your own events. Betsy and Chris told us at Christmas that they wanted to be married in June. They were living in Arkansas and would be returning in May to settle near family. As the wedding plans began to take shape, we realized that this would be quite an adventure for all of us. Betsy and Chris met when they both worked at Brookview Farm in 2004. At that time, in addition to the grass-fed beef they still sell, Brookview also had a market garden and pastured laying hens and sold compost. It was their dream to be married there, so they contacted the owners, Sandy and Rossie Fisher, who gave their blessing. Thank you so much Sandy and Rossie!

When we started to think about food, we realized that probably no caterer would want to deal with us. I would contribute what I could grow and we wanted to source the rest locally. We have a friend whose unofficial specialty is hospitality, although it is playing the viola that pays her bills. Lucky for us the Richmond Symphony takes a summer break and Molly would be available. She gladly accepted the challenge, although she had never done something like this. Thank you Molly and crew Linda, Steve, and Jen! The wedding would be June 19. I got out a copy of the Plant/Harvest Schedule form and started to plan. That is one of the forms I explain in my DVD Develop a Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan and a copy is on the resource page at www.HomeplaceEarth.com. The dates of the first frost and the dates of each of the weeks in the columns were filled in. I was going to be growing the green beans and lettuce. To have lettuce and beans on a specific day and not each week before and after is quite different than when I was a market gardener and had a continual harvest. I knew that the beans that I was planning on growing would be ready to pick in about 6 weeks and I would have a good harvest, picking every few days, for 2 weeks. I planted them 8 weeks before the wedding. If everything went as planned, I would have enough to feed our guests from the harvest of that second week. If something delayed the crop for as much as a week, I would still be okay. From my 10 years of growing lettuce for the markets, I knew that I could sow the seeds in a coldframe space and plant the seedlings into the garden in 3 weeks. In 5 weeks from transplanting I would be harvesting wonderful salad. In addition to beans and lettuce, I supplied the garlic, onions, and parsley. The bean harvest went as planned and we had plenty. As for the lettuce, I had planted enough, however some rabbits had gotten in and helped themselves and the weather had turned hot and dry early on. I provided what I could and we bought locally grown lettuce for the rest. Including the wedding party, we had 150 people respond that they would attend. Of course, there are always those who don’t reply in a timely manner, if at all, and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of food for anyone else who may be around the farm helping, so we planned food for 180.

B-C eating-BLOGPlans for this wedding just seemed to flow together. Chris’s aunt and uncle planted potatoes for them. One of the best days Betsy and Chris had that week before the wedding was digging those potatoes that would become the potato salad for the wedding feast. Barbecue was a natural on the menu and Brookview Farm already had a place to cook it. The day of the wedding, Chris’s uncles cooked the pork raised by Brookview’s farm manager. Molly did a great job tracking down as many other ingredients as she could, including tomatoes and mushrooms for the bruschetta and cabbage, from local growers. She even got vinegar for the coleslaw from Virginia Vinegar Works. Chris’s cousin made the cake.

barn-BLOGThe ceremony would take place in the pasture with the guests sitting on straw bales in the shade of fenceline trees and with their friend from Arkansas officiating. Thank you Jacob! Transportation for the wedding party to the field and for the bride and groom afterward was provided by Betsy’s brother, Luke, and his oxen. The reception was in that big old barn and that’s where we spent our time that last week. It had only been used as storage for many years. It was filled with equipment, old building supplies, remnants of hay, and some dried cowpies from when a steer got loose and ran around in there. Getting that steer under control was one of the early adventures Betsy and Chris had together at Brookview in 2004. We fixed the floor in a few places and we swept and swept and swept. Finally we let the dust settle and put up the rented tables and chairs and spread the rented tablecloths.

bandanas-BLOGIn the classes I taught at the community college, I would talk about zero-waste events. In fact, that was one of the topics that my students could choose to write about for one of their papers. We needed to try to make this a zero-waste wedding. It wasn’t exactly zero-waste, but close to it. In the end Molly only had one bag of trash and I don’t think that was totally full. We rented the plates but found that it was cheaper to buy stainless steel silverware online than it was to rent it. We now have plenty for future events and it has already served another wedding. We used half-pint jelly jars for wine glasses and punch cups and pint canning jars for beer mugs and water glasses. People had been giving me their old canning jars for years, so we only had to buy a few dozen jelly jars. Betsy had brought Arkansas wine with them when they moved back and we got a keg of beer from Legend Brewing Company in Richmond. We used small flowered women’s cotton handkerchiefs for the hors d’oeuvres, taking the place of both a napkin and a plate. For dinner napkins, we used men’s work handkerchiefs in many different colors. I have to admit, it was a chore washing and ironing all those handkerchiefs ahead of time. But I only had to do it once. Both napkins (handkerchiefs)  were favors for the guests to take home. Food packaging was kept to a minimum, and we traded containers back and forth with the homegrown produce. Food waste was deposited in the Brookview compost bin that Betsy built when she worked there.

And then there were the flowers. We only had a few here to contribute but Betsy assured us she had it under control. She knew what was blooming in every ditch around and in her friend’s yards. In August she would begin teaching the classes I had just left at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and she was given permission to do some picking in the gardens there by the floral design instructor. Thanks David! The morning of the wedding, she gathered the flowers from hither and yon and her friends, many of whom had just arrived from Arkansas, made the bouquets and centerpieces. Quart canning jars were the centerpiece vases. There were some places in the barn that were off limits and some things that just needed covering. I called in every quilt I had ever made for our kids and took any from our house and we hung them up on clothesline or draped them places.  Betsy and I restyled my cotton wedding dress that I had made in 1972 and added a sash made from satin from her grandmother’s wedding dress. She dyed the sash blue to match the ties the guys wore. Chris’s mom, with help from her mother and sisters, made his linen suit.

B-C kissing-BLOG

Only a few hours till the wedding!

Casey Smith, a friend of Betsy’s from high school, was the photographer. We needed a DJ, so a month before the wedding my husband and I (Betsy and Chris were still in Arkansas) went to a local bridal event that apparently is put on each month and found one who had that weekend open because of a cancellation. Rick Ripley did a great job for us. I guess that cancellation was meant to be. You may not be planning a wedding, but I’m sure there is some event in the future you will be putting together. After all, birthdays and anniversaries come every year, as well as other occasions for celebrations. You might not have a stash of canning jars, or a friend with a barn, but you have other resources and connections. Start collecting dishes, silverware, and other things so you can avoid disposables. When you put your mind to it, I’m sure you can come up with a party that is unique to you and easy on the earth. To Betsy and Chris—Happy Anniversary! To the rest of you—have fun putting together your own special event.

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