Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Couple Days of Fun

I got back yesterday morning from the Peoria area. I went to visit my daughter & her husband and to help paint the baby's room. We had a great time! I really loved being able to participate in preparing my future granddaughter's room. We painted to match the colors of the bedding set they picked out. It is really cute. Monkeys, bears, giraffes, etc. with different shades of purple in the background. We used Olympic No VOC paint from Lowe's. I recommend this paint. It is thick & goes on great. No offensive odor. The shade for three walls is Misty Lilac and the other wall is Summer Melon. It matches the comforter perfectly.Kristin & Tim

After we finished painting, we put the crib together and then got out the bedding to see how it all came together. I can just picture the baby in the crib :-)

Only a few days until Halloween...we will be at the farm. No need to buy candy. The Amish don't celebrate Halloween :-). Here are my great-nieces in their costumes (made by my niece Trisha)...Noelle looking cute in her Karate outfitAddy looking cute as a Tootsie Roll

Thursday, October 22, 2009

You're Doing a Great Thing, Canning Your Food, & Then...

Okay. It takes a lot to get me upset. But this did it. One good thing about the economic downturn has been the resurgence of preserving your own food. More gardens growing, more canning being done, healthier food being eaten. Sounds great right? Well it is great.

Now, do you know the dangers of BPA (bisphenol-A)? It's been in the news a lot lately. An estrogenic chemical. That is one that can imitate the hormone estrogen in your body. An endocrine disrupter. Well, you say, I have estrogen in my body, so what's a little more? Here is the story....estrogenic chemicals have been shown to increase risk of reproductive and developmental problems, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Why am I upset? Because canning lids are coated with BPA. That's right. The lids you use (Ball, Kerr, Golden Harvest & Bernandin) are coated with BPA. Organic Gardening had an article about it in their Nov-Jan issue. Those of us who shun plastic because of the negative affects on our healthy bodies now have another worry. BPA leaches into food that touches it. Some companies that use it have discontinued using it due to the research & stores that stock items that are used for food or drink are also pulling the items from their shelves.

Will the makers of canning lids do the right thing & stop coating the lids with BPA? Probably not unless they hear from the people who use them. I suggest writing to the companies & let them know you want them to stop. People canned safely for years before they started coating the lids.

Organic Gardening suggested a company called Weck that makes glass jar lids & rubber rings to seal the jars instead of metal lids.

I don't know how many canning jars you have, but I have a lot. To replace them all would be a huge expense at a time when everyone is trying to make do. Pushing the companies to change the way they make the lids is the safe & economical way to go. Even giving us a choice. BPA-free lids.

Here is the contact information for the company that makes the lids for all of the above listed (Ball, etc.):

I think it would be a good idea to contact each individual company (since their name is on the product) to state your displeasure about how the lids are made & wanting a safe option.

Ball Corporation, Kerr & Bernandin are all owned by Alltrista now.

Golden Harvest is sold in WalMart and I can't find a website for them, but again, they are made by Jarden Corporation.

BPA is used in metal cans as a lining. One company who did the right thing & switched when they found out about the problems concerning it is Eden Foods. Thank you to them. We should be guaranteed a healthy, BPA-free product when we buy food. Shouldn't have to worry what feed ourselves, kids & grandchildren when we open a can. I'm sure big corporations hope we keep being too busy to notice what is in our food supply. Let's not let this happen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Weekend at the Farm & a Chance to Win a Goodie Basket

We had a busy weekend (again) at the farm. But before I forget....Jaz from the blog October Farm is having a give away. Just click the link & leave a comment to be eligible to win a basket full of goodies!Steve putting up the pex tubing.

Saturday morning we started to install the pex tubing for radiant floor heat. After the first few rows we had it figured out & it went a lot faster. We used six 300 foot rolls. There are two lengths of pex in each bay. It is all done in a continuous loop. At one end it is bent inside the bay and at the other end we looped the pex down & over to the next bay. This is the spot that John from GreenHome Solar will hook up the loose ends of the pex into the tubing (red) and run to the boiler.

Boiler system almost done

This process is very hard on the neck. Poor Steve. He did all the stapling due to the stapler being quite heavy. I ran around untangling the tubing & feeding it to him and giving him the sawzaw to cut down misc. boards that were in the way that were nailed in with ring shank nails by the previous owner.

John should be there this week to finish up. Then we will have heat in the new living area. This is a huge step forward. We still need to install the insulation in the basement by stapling it onto the bottom of the rafters (to hold in the heat from the pex). That is this weekend's project. We will then start to close off the living area from the shop area, insulate & drywall. The plan will be to keep the heat set low enough to keep the pipes from freezing. Then if we can't make it to the farm due to weather or obligations at home, we won't have to worry about the farm.

I will get into the more technical aspects of radiant floor heat in a later post.

This morning at breakfast I started looking through the book "Simple Food for the Good Life" by Helen Nearing. I need some inspiration to keep on the right track of eating healthy. Helen & her husband lived to ripe old ages of 91 & 100 so they did something right :-). It is full of quotes that are fun to read too. Check it out if you get the chance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vacation in Oregon

We had a great time in Oregon with Steve's brother Bill & family. We flew into Portland last Thursday, settled in at the hotel & then drove into Portland for dinner. Bad idea when you are tired from the trip. We drove around (and around) and decided to go back to the restaurant by the hotel. :-) Traffic around Portland is so heavy and it is very confusing. Not to someone who drives it all the time maybe...but Steve & I got totally lost. After dinner it was back to the room to watch TV & crash.
The next morning we ate at the hotel which had a nice continental breakfast and drove back to Portland (this time with map in hand) and found Powell's Bookstore. It is everything we had hoped it would be. The largest used bookstore in the US. We came armed with a list of books and had a great time browsing through others. Edward Abbey and Sandra Steingraber were a couple of the authors we were looking for.

The weather was great. Warm and sunny. We walked around town after the bookstore. It is a great "people watching" place. There are musicians on a lot of the street corners and beautiful sculptures placed here & there. We found our way down to the Willamette River, watched a juggler, listened a couple guitar players and looked through our books. We ended up buying lunch & bringing it back to the riverfront, it was so nice out. We knew it was in the 40's and raining at home so it made it that much sweeter to be absorbing the rays without coats on.
It was time to leave for Corvallis to visit family. We drove through Milwaukie which is the home of Bob's Red Mill. We had a smoothie at the outlet store. Fun to see the area where the flour I buy comes from.
We arrived in Corvallis about 5:30. It was great to see Bill, Cindy Owen & Mark. They also have Luke, the dog & Blackie, the cat. We were all hungry so we drove into town & ate at Nearly Normal's, Gonzo Cuisine. It is a funky vegetarian restaurant, perfect for us. After filling up at Nearly Normal's, we drove over to Oregon State University where the girls soccer team was playing the California team from Stanford. Unfortunately, OSU lost but we had a fun time watching the Stanford band, who was there for a football game the following day.
The next day it was soccer time for the boys. They had back to back games in the afternoon. They are both great players & it was fun to watch them.
We headed for the coast later in the day, stopping at Mary's Peak. At 4,097 feet, is the highest point in Oregon’s Coast Range and the most prominent peak to the west of Corvallis. It was quite a hike up the mountain, but really worth it.
We arrived at the coastal town Yachats after dark. Steve & I took a walk on the beach. We couldn't wait to see & hear the waves crashing on the shore. In the room, there was a tiny window to open so you could hear the waves. A great way to fall asleep.

The next day, we all explored the beach and played Frisbee with Luke. He is so fast! Really good at catching the Frisbee, too.Sea Anemone

We took a drive in the afternoon to a lookout point down the coast then picked up some food for dinner to take back to the motel.
It was a beautiful sunset.

The next day we drove back Portland, stopping at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville. This is where the Spruce Goose is kept on display. It's the plane that Howard Hughes built in the 1940's. It was interesting to see all the different planes on exhibit, but it made me sad to imagine the consequences of war & the many men & women killed.
We had a relaxing night at the hotel & got up early for the flight the next morning. It was a long day. We didn't get back home until 10:30 that night. Really long layover in Salt Lake City.
Then back to work on Thursday morning & up to the farm Friday afternoon. I'll write about the farm weekend in the next post.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Getting Ready for Radiant Heat

Last weekend we met with John Murphy from GreenHome Solar again about the specifics of putting in the pex tubing for the radiant heat. We are now waiting on the wide crown staple gun we ordered. It should be here by the time we get back from Oregon so we can get started. We will be stapling the tubing to the plywood under the main living area floor. After that, we will staple insulation to the bottom of the rafters. I will try to take a lot of pictures to walk everyone through the process with us.

Since we didn't have a stapler to do the job yet, we worked on more windows on the north side of the barn. Every new window makes such a difference. The old Amish windows were single pane and you could just about throw a cat through the leaks (sorry Mia :-)
We also have two outside doors to put in, hopefully before the snow flies. I painted one of them last weekend inside so it will look finished when we get it in.Three windows done on the north side
Steve fixing the hole from the old basement stairs

We also needed to fix the hole in the floor from the previous stairs leading to the basement so we can install the pex tubing.

New boiler for the radiant floor heat

John has been there during the week installing the Munchkin boiler system for the radiant heat. When we are done putting up the pex, he will come back & hook it up. We will still have several projects to get done upstairs before it will be effective for the winter, though. Closing in the wall between the shop & the living area, insulating, drywalling and putting up doors to the basement & shop are all a "have to".

Besides doing all of that, I need to get the garlic planted & the potatoes & leeks harvested. It was too wet to prepare for the garlic last weekend. I did find a source for organic straw in the area for the strawberries, blueberries & garlic.

I picked the last of the tomatoes, dug all the carrots, cut some parsley, picked the gourds and one red cayenne pepper before we left for home. With not being up there this weekend, I'm afraid that it will frost and be the end of the garden for the year. I guess it will be a relief (as long as I get the garlic planted) that it is done. We really couldn't keep up with the weeds this year. Next years' garden will be much smaller, at least until we get done doing the major projects on the barn.
I will be "off-line" for a week on vacation. Talk to you when I get back..

Monday, October 5, 2009

Wisconsin Solar Home Tour

This weekend was a cloudy & rainy one. We still had fun though participating in the solar home tour. We went to two houses on Saturday morning. The first was Roald Gunderson's. He is well known in the area for his building practices called whole tree architecture. You can find our more info here about that. He has designed & built buildings at the Angelic Organic Learning Center (where Angie has been accepted into the Farm Beginnings class and at our favorite spot to eat, the Driftless Cafe. He re-uses materials in a very creative way. Inspiring. So much can be done with what we have. There are more pictures on his website of his home & the other structures he has designed & built. In the above pic of the greenhouse, the hanging planters are sections of gutters. The greens you see growing on the left are growing on pieces of steel siding (like we have on our barn). They also offer workshops at the farm.
Door to the greenhouse at Gunderson's

The second home we saw was Sara & Joel's. I was really excited to see their home & wasn't disappointed. They have a greenhouse on the front of their home for passive solar heat. The only back up they have is the wood stove. Having a greenhouse attached to front of the barn is in our plans for the future. The wall in the greenhouse is painted black for maximum solar gain & they have shades that rise up & down on a thermostat so they can take heat with the sun even when not there. They also have a nice, well-producing garden. It is so nice of everyone participating in the tour to share their homes with us. A great learning experience. Maybe someday, our home will be on the tour, too.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Caramelized Onions

While I was up at the farm last week, I took the time to sit at the computer & look up recipes. There is a pizza we love at the Driftless Cafe in town that has caramelized onions on it. They are so good. I've never made them before so I found an easy recipe. Just use your crock pot. No standing at the stove stirring the onions for 40 minutes. Cut about 3-4 onions (put in fridge before hand to keep your eyes from watering so much), melt a stick of butter in the crock pot, add onions & set on low for about 8 hours.
I used some right away on a homemade pizza & froze the rest. Putting serving size lumps of onions on a cookie sheet to freeze solid then moving to a freezer safe container. Now I have enough caramelized onions for six more pizzas.
Next, I will be drying onions and probably some garlic.
Here is a link to a great blog called Farmgirl Fare and her homemade pizza sauce. Great for using up those last tomatoes. Steve & I agreed that the pizza I made with the onions & homemade sauce was the best one yet.
We are getting some much needed rain at the farm today. We'll see if we had frost when we get there tomorrow...