Monthly Archives: September 2009

A little more excitement for the day

On the heels of the hacking excitement came this morning’s fun.  I was planning to leave for a day of shopping by 10:30, but was able to get an appointment with my chiropractor to do some work on me for the breathing issue so I didn’t get home until 11:15 am.  (BH, though it wasn’t entirely cleared up this was tremendously helpful.)  Then dd14 didn’t want to leave until she washed all the dishes in the sink (it’s my job but I haven’t been up to doing much more than sitting in one place for the last three days) because she didn’t want to come home to a mess.  The reason I’m mentioning this is that because of these delays, when dd14 finally finished the dishes and started to go outside to get a cooler to take with us for the raw milk, she saw someone in the middle of prying the lock off our garage with a crowbar. 

She didn’t register right away what he was doing, but he ran off the second he saw her (as she described it, ‘he looked up with guilt written all over his face’).  I called the neighborhood patrol to report it but if I had time to think about it would have called a different patrol that responds in the day and has a quick response time.  I did call them afterwards, but five minutes had already gone by and that’s too late to catch him.  I did go around and warn the few neighbors who were in to be careful and keep their eyes open.  

Isn’t it great that we happened to be home?  Since we were going to be out all day, there would have been nothing to have stopped him from totally cleaning us out – we don’t have much of value, but it took us months until we replaced the bikes and mower that were stolen last time and it would be very disheartening to have them all stolen again.

Since I didn’t know if he’d try to come back today and I knew we’d be out until tonight (I know, it seems stupid to go back to somewhere where you were spotted, but breaking into one of the better secured garages on the block belonging to one of the few homes that has someone home almost all day every day wasn’t exactly bright, either), I asked the kids to move all the bikes out of the garage into the house and then find a different place for the mower.  Joining all these bicycles in the living room are two bench seats from the van, removed to make space to bring all our groceries home.  Now that we’re finally home with the groceries, there really isn’t room to move anywhere. 

Tomorrow we’ll finish unloading the groceries from the van, clean out the van, put the bench seats back in, return the bikes to the garage, put away the groceries, and maybe even do some Rosh Hashana cooking.  :)


Site back to normal

>>You’re back, albeit missing some well-written content :(<<

Yes, I am back, and I’m so glad that I am!  If you checked my site after midnight last night, you probably saw the creepy message about my site being hacked (done by a radical Muslim group).  Within a couple of hours my host server deleted that message so the only message you you would have seen was that the site wasn’t accessible.  For those who didn’t know what was going on, now you know!

I was initally concerned that it was my personal site that was hacked into, but discovered my host server was hacked as well when I tried to get their phone number off their website and the website displayed the same graphic and message.  (I also discovered there were other large sites also hacked into by the same group around the same time, by googling when I was trying to figure out what was going on and what to do.)  I think I must have been one of the very first to call them to let them know.  So I think that all the sites connected to my server were hacked into.  I went to sleep with a lot more peace of mind knowing that it wasn’t going to be all up to me to figure it out!  First thing this morning they called me back and left a message that they know who did it, they’re fixing it, and it would be back to normal by this afternoon.  I was doing my monthly shopping today and didn’t get home until 8:30 pm, so I didn’t check until the house got somewhat quiet.

Unfortunately the two posts I wrote last night are gone.  One was posted for a very short while before the site was hacked (it was too new to have been included in the saved databases of my server), the second was lost when I pressed ‘publish’ – that was when I discovered the problem – it was lost the second I pressed the button so no way that could have been saved.  So if you happened to read whatever I read last night, I’m glad, because I don’t rewrite posts.  :)

I was really sad at the idea of losing all the posts I’ve written over the last three years, and you can’t imagine how grateful I feel to have them back. 


Preparing for flu season

Last week a couple of people asked me what I’m doing to prepare for the upcoming flu season, particularly regarding swine flu.  The first thing I told them is, I’m absolutely not getting a shot for it!  

I try to operate from a proactive and holistic perspective, so while shots (particularly these for the swine flu, which are highly experimental and untested – and in the last wave of swine flu, more people died from the shot than the flu) aren’t anything I would recommend for anyone, there are a few things that I’m planning to do.  Most of these are things to prepare for any kind of winter sickness, not just the flu.

Firstly, I’d like to can up a bunch of chicken broth so I can quickly pull some off the shelf and have a sniffly child eating it within a few minutes.

Next, I just noticed that I have almost no vitamin C powder left.  I can’t believe that it’s all finished since I bought four pounds less than a year ago.  But I’ll order another 2.2 pounds of sodium ascorbate from Bronson Lab.   

Next, I’m going to order some dried elderberries so I can make elderberry syrup.  Elderberry is the thing to have for the flu – it’s a key ingredient in preparations like Sambucol.  (The Latin name of elderberry is Sambucus nigra – you see where Sambucol gets its name, right?)  I tried to order some a few months ago but they were sold out at the place I get my herbs, so I’ll get some with my next order.

Next, I’m going to make an echinacea glycerite.  Echinacea is an infection fighter and a natural antibiotic.  I want to make a glycerite versus a tincture since a tincture uses alcohol, while a glycerite uses glycerine; the alcohol tincture isn’t as appealing for kids as the sweet glycerites.  (This isn’t for the flu, because of the cytokine storm issue.) 

I also plan to buy kosher glycerin capsules and a capping tool so I can fill my own capsules.  There are several powdered spices that I buy in the food section in a large container, knowing that they are helpful medicinally, too.  Some of these include: ginger, cinnamon, tumeric, and garlic.  It’s not practical to eat a large amount of them, but if I can put them into capsules, it would be easy to give a child feeling queasy, for example, a ginger pill.

We already have a stock of vitamin D, which is effective in small amounts as a flu preventative, and in extremely high amounts, is a curative.  We aren’t taking it daily at this point.  We got this specifically with swine flu in mind. 

There’s a homeopathic remedy called oscillococcinum for the flu – the local health food store didn’t have any when I checked in the spring, but it looks like I can order it online.  Another item I’d like to have on hand. 

Something I did for my personal health today was to start a lobelia glycerite and a mullein glycerite brewing.  Last winter I shared how some doses of mullein and lobelia tea ended my asthma symptoms.  But since the camping trip a week ago, they suddenly resurfaced and I’m having a hard time breathing throughout the day and particularly at night.  Hopefully this will help. 

Since most people who die of the flu actually die of dehydration, I have several recipes in my notebook for homemade rehydration formulas.  This came in handy a few weeks ago when dd8 was playing all Shabbos long but not drinking much, and suddenly began vomiting repeatedly.  She couldn’t keep any liquid down, but the rehydration formula was great and I was very glad I had it since it saved us a trip to the emergency room. 

A suggestion in an entirely different direction is to stay out of public areas as much as possible.  Another suggestion along these lines is to have enough basic food supplies on hand so that if you get sick, you won’t need to run to the store.

As I wrote last year on the topic of boosting immune function for kids, try to keep white sugar and processed foods out of your diets as much as possible, since they bring down your immunity.  While eating a good diet doesn’t guarantee an absence of illness, the better your diet is, the healthier you’ll be.  


Shopping and gas costs

>>With the price of gas being what it is, is it really worth making a 2-3 hour trip to shop really worth it? >>

Well, let’s look at the numbers.   If I get 13 miles to the gallon, then I need 15 gallons for the entire day (it’s 100 miles in each direction).  With gas now at about 2.50 a gallon, it works out to $37.50.  So I need to save at least that amount before I start to benefit.  I gave the example of having saved over $110 when I bought three bags of wheat.  I don’t buy wheat every month (can’t eat nearly that much in a month!), but everything I buy is significantly less than it would be if I bought locally, not on sale.  (That’s not to say that everything is much cheaper, but that the things I buy are much cheaper.) I started buying 5 gallon buckets of coconut oil when I do my big shopping (it’s an item the store doesn’t carry but specially orders for me) – the shipping that I used to pay for one bucket was about $40.  And of course, I get much, much more than just one item – we have a 12 passenger van, and I remove one bench seat before I go.  The van is generally packed full when I get back – that’s why it takes me part of the following day to get everything unpacked and organized!

I wonder how much people spend on their gas costs for their small trips every couple of days to the store?  Most people don’t think about there even being costs associated with it, but whether they think about it or not, they’re still spending that money on gas and shopping.  I think that’s it’s highly likely that most women spend just as much as I do on gas each month with shorter but more numerous shopping trips – but spend a lot more time in the stores than I do.

However, it’s in large part due to the gas costs (and time needed) that my shopping trips have become more and more spread out.  At this point, I go shopping about every 7 weeks instead of every four, and supplement in between the big trips with small local trips every couple of weeks.  So the gas costs are really much less significant than it seems even from the number I gave.

>>I have an Amish area about 2.5 hours away but that takes a day away from regular life (school, hanging out, etc) and everyone’s tushies get tired from being in the car for that long (even with our audio books and torah tapes).<<

 I don’t see it as taking a day from regular life as much as it being a day of regular life.  I try to do some kind of trip on that day, when I can – like going to a living history museum, a chocolate factory, potato chip factory, dairy.  It doesn’t always work out but the kids enjoy going with me anyway.  I can’t say exactly what they enjoy about it – a friend came with me once and I know it seemed boring to her from a kid’s perspective.  One thing the older kids said they like is having a long block of time to shmooze with me, which is why I don’t generally agree to have anyone come with me.  I generally buy some kind of treat for everyone, in addition to buying something for lunch and then (weather permitting) we have a mini picnic.  It’s generally pretty simple but the kids enjoy it. 

>>In buying bulk, do you worry about bug infestation and how do you store everything?<

Bulk grains are put into the freezer for 24 hours, sometimes more.  When it’s the winter time, this is greatly simplified by storing them on the stairs leading from my basement to outside that are covered by storm doors – that freezes them very quickly.   If there are any insects in it, they will be killed by this.  In the summer I find this much harder to do – I only have one freezer and generally need the space for perishable foods.  But whether the grains are frozen first or not, I transfer them from the bags they came in to food grade plastic buckets (most are five gallon, but the rectangular ones I prefer are a bit smaller).  They seal tightly and can be stacked somewhere in the corner of your laundry room or basement.  It doesn’t take up much space. 


Buying in bulk through supermarkets

>>about your bulk food distributor- do you have one source that will get you what you need, or do you need a different person for each product or store type? do you go through the local stores, or do you just go over their heads? the stores here don’t seem too eager to help someone not shop by them- even if i offer to pay them for their help… but if that’s what you do, then i will keep plugging away here.<<

I just finished making my bulk order today, so now’s a good time to answer this!  Buying in bulk is a great way to save money since generally the price per unit will be lower if you’re buying a large amount (not always, though, so remember to check the unit price to be sure it’s worth your time).  I’ve gotten more adventuresome over time, so here’s a bit of my progression and what’s worked for me; maybe one of the ideas will work for you.

To start with, I asked my local health food store if they had bulk amounts.  They did, and routinely offered a ten percent discount if you buy it in bulk.  That’s nice, but wasn’t very impressive.  But I stuck with that for years since I wasn’t buying the large amounts I buy now, since I used to shop once a week, so buying in bulk wasn’t very important to me (actually, I felt it was a liability at the time since I didn’t want to allot room for storing that amount of food – but my priorities have changed since then).  But 3.5 years ago when I started to grind my own wheat for health reasons, I wanted to find another source since the local health food store was selling regular white winter wheat for over a dollar a pound (after the discount) and it was more expensive in that case to grind my own wheat than to buy whole wheat flour. 

Then I started looking to buy directly from the wholesalers that the health food stores were buying from.  I asked the local health food store who their supplier was and did some online searching for other bulk food distributors.  Most bulk suppliers won’t sell directly to individuals, but some will.  I found one three hours away that sold to stores and individuals and started buying from them.  I didn’t go often at all – I didn’t need many items, and got enough of those to last me at about 3 months so I wouldn’t have to make the trip too frequently.  At that time a 50 lb bag of wheat was only $12, less than a quarter of what I would have paid in the health food store, even after my bulk discount, so it was a big savings (three bags I bought at a time were $36 vs. $150), particularly since I was driving the veggie van then and gas costs weren’t a concern.

But driving three hours away took a lot of time and energy, particularly since the farmer I got my raw milk from was two hours in another direction.  It was a very, very long day when I did that shopping.  Then I noticed that some of the stores I shopped in had bulk sections where many different foods were repackaged from the individual large bags into small individually priced bags by the store.  Some even had 50 lb sacks of oats on the bottom shelves.  I started buying from these stores in the smaller bags, even though it was a little more expensive than buying from the wholesaler since I saved myself a lot of driving.  And I also started getting the 50 lb sacks of oatmeal.

Then it occurred to me to speak to the manager of the bulk section in one of the supermarkets.  I try to look for win-win ways to work with people, and this was an example of this.  I wouldn’t ask a store to help me shop somewhere else, because there’s no advantage to them.  You have to think about how your request will benefit both sides. A store is in business to make money and isn’t likely to do you favors if there’s no profit for them.  My question to her was if I could order bulk amounts through the store, so the store was my middleman and I paid the store for my order.  She had never been asked this before, but pretty quickly agreed.  Why would they do this?  The store makes money since they tack on 20 percent to the price they pay when selling it to me.  There’s very little work involved for them – they just add my order onto theirs when calling it in to their distributor (actually the same source I was buying direct from), and put my stuff to the side in a separate shopping cart for me when it comes in.  I come in later the same day the order arrives, so it’s not sitting around in their way.  This is very nice for me since they’re willing to order anything for me that their distributor offers, even if they don’t get it for the store.  And the price I end up paying is comparable to what I was paying when buying directly from the wholesaler.  Very convenient, and good for everyone. 

If you have an Amish or Mennonite population within a couple of hours of you, it will be worth your while to explore their stores.  These stores are used to selling in large quantities to large families and are unlikely to blink twice at your request. 

I’ve spoken to several stores and all of them were willing to order bulk amounts/case lots for me – the difference is how much of a discount they’ll give (some, like Trader Joes, don’t offer a discount at all).  I would expect that if you present your request as I did, that most store managers in other parts of the country would be willing to work with you.

Good luck!


Gardening discoveries

Remember a couple of days ago I mentioned that the pears we were planning to pick were picked when we went camping?  Yesterday I accidentally discovered the person who picked them!

It was so uncanny how this happened!  I had an errand to do and went to someone’s house I had never been to.  Walking up her front walk, I noticed vegetables growing.  So when she answered the door, I commented and told her I’d love it if she could tell me what she was growing since I didn’t recognize them all.  She responded by saying she had a lot in her back yard and offered to give me the whole tour – of course I agreed!  As we were walking in her side yard, she mentioned something about her plum tree, and I asked how they did this year, commenting that a number of the area apple and pear trees didn’t do well this year because of the late frost.  She said, there’s a tree they picked this year that had loads in the area – and I said, ‘was that in such and such a place?’.  And she said ‘yes’!  She couldn’t believe that we had gotten permission and planned to pick the very same pears. 

Towards the beginning of our discussion, I finished saying something and she said to me, “I feel like I’m listening to the other side of my brain speaking!”  We do a lot of things similarly, though she’s been gardening lots longer than me.  She used recycled lumber for her raised garden beds, is making large lasagna beds in back, and is using wood chips she got for free from the city for her beds and the paths.  This last thing was really funny, since just a few hours before I made arrangements with the tree service company taking down a neighbor’s tree to dump a half a truck load of wood chips/mulch behind my garage.  What for?  To use for my lasagna beds in back and to cover the paths between my new raised beds!  Unfortunately because of how my yard is situated, there’s not room for a dump truck to dump it directly in the yard, which means a lot of work shovelling from where they dump it into the yard.  So that was part of yesterday afternoon’s chores.  A few of the kids were swimming at a friend’s house and when I came to pick them up and their friends heard we were going home to shovel wood chips, they asked if they could come along and help.  Ane they did.  You see, fun and work don’t have to be entirely separate!  The guy who gave it to us was still working down the street and kept peeking over at us to see what we were going to do with so much mulch. :)

– Side comment – if you garden or use a wood stove, try contacting tree service companies to ask if they have wood mulch and/or firewood you can have.  When I asked if I could have the wood chips, he asked if I also wanted firewood – they would have given me as much as they had.  These companies are always chopping down trees and take what they have to the dump, if they don’t find anyone who wants it.  Clearly, they’re not going to spend lots of time and energy trying to find you to give it to you for free, but if you ask them and you’re close enough to the area they’re working in, chances are good they’ll be happy to give it to you for free.  Free firewood would make winter heating costs negligible, but we’re unfortunately not set up for it and when we had someone over a couple of days ago to assess what was involved in changing our heating unit, we learned that it would be expensive and complicated for us to switch to wood/coal heat. 

I also noticed she had something sprinkled on top of her lasagna beds, and asked about it – she said they were wood ashes (which is what I suspected).  Wouldn’t you know, I just brought back all the ashes from our campfire for my garden beds? :)

She dug up a clump of chives for me and that’s now in our garden bed, and also gave me a ground cherry for the seeds – I had never seen ground cherries growing before, though I had read about them in my catalogs and considered growing some.  So now I’ll be able to start one.  She also gave me some leek seeds.  She was growing a bunch of flowers, one of which was something that spontaneously grew in our yard that I wasn’t able to identify and ripped out because I didn’t know if it was an attractive weed or something someone would want there.  I didn’t want the seeds to fall into my lasagna beds and grow up next year without knowing what it was, so it was nice to learn what it was and I even brought some of those seeds home with me, too!

It was fun to meet  and chat with someone about these things -though I write about some of it here on my blog, I don’t usually meet people who have an active interest in it. 


Choosing a dehydrator

>>about dehydraters- is there a substantial difference in what you use a deyhdrater for versus what you would use a vaccuum sealer for? i am fairly certain that at some point you researched this, so i am trying to not reinvent the wheel. is there a reason you chose one over the other? <<

I looked into getting a vacuum sealer at one point and didn’t see a need for it.  I might not understand well how the two work, but I’m under the impression that a dehydrator and vacuum sealer are two distinctly different appliances with different applications.  The dehydrator dries your food as a preservation technique, and the vacuum sealer sucks the air out of the container that you store something in, thereby creating a tight seal that will keep your food fresh long term.   

>>as far as a dehydrater, i have done a lot of reading in magazines (like mother earth news, natural living, etc) and they seem to say that an electric dehydrater should only be a first step until you can handle a solar one. …. so, do you have any ideas about what would be a good intro dehydrater? i don’t want to spend a bunch, in case i don;t use it so much, but i don’t want a super junky one either, since the one i buy will most likely be the one i have for as long as it lasts. what factors should i look at before i decide? i read your posts on this, but i feel like i need a bit more guidance…<<

I think their point is philosophical and ecological, and I agree that solar dehydrating is good to do when you can.  If I could, I’d love to have non-electrical alternatives for all my appliances.  But solar dehydrating has its limits – like the weather!  And it takes a lot more time.  I need the reliability of a dehydrator that will do what I need, when I need, at a predictable rate.  I live where humidity can be high in the summer, which affects drying time.  I’ve wondered if I put my dehydrator in the sun if it would work well – I’d probably have to play around with leaving the door off to adjust for air flow.

As far as what to start off with, there are two ways of thinking about this.  The first is, buy something cheap and see if you use it enough to justify buying something more expensive.  That’s not my position.  I had a cheapie dehydrator and it was inefficient, the results were uneven and poor, and I’d never consider dehydrating valuable or worthwhile if I were still using something like that.  So I think, decide if dehydrating is something you’ll do a good amount of based on your research about it, and then get a good deal on something good that you can use and enjoy using for a long time. 

Basically, a dehydrator is just a box with a heat source and a fan to circulate the air. Be sure that whatever model you get has a fan since without it, you’ll have to constantly rotate the trays and your results still won’t be even.  Get one that has a thermostat so you can control the temperature (different foods dry at different temps). A timer is a nice feature but not necessary.

I chose the 9 tray Excalibur, which has an excellent reputation.  I got a very good buy on it because I got a factory reconditioned model with a ten year warranty for $150.  But I know that this is still a lot of money and many people won’t consider that affordable. 

American Harvest and Nesco are supposedly decent inexpensive alternatives (keep in mind the suggestions above about being sure to get a model with a thermostat).  Absolutely avoid ronco, which is a piece of junk; I’ve heard very little positive feedback about it.  There’s a pretty new dehydrator out on the market called Good 4U which looks interesting; good price and seems to be good quality.  My concern with that one is that there’s no door because of the tray design so you’d have to have all the trays in all the time, and you couldn’t use it to let dough rise or make yogurt (which I haven’t yet done but many people do). 

In the end I think getting something you can use long term is actually a more frugal strategy than getting something cheap and later getting something that really works the way you want it. Junk just isn’t a savings, not in time and not in money.


Distinguishing between limudei kodesh and chol

>> do you distinguish between limudei kodesh and limudei chol? I haven’t listened to your husband’s talk yet, so if he addresses it, you don’t have to answer this one.<<

This question came from someone who listened to a recording of the talk I gave at the homeschool conference in June.  In that, I explained my approach of how to teach children of varying ages different subjects.  I specifically didn’t speak much about the limudei kodesh, since my husband was giving a talk about that and I didn’t want it to be redundant for those attending both talks.  But because he spoke more about the holistic approach to Judaics, I really could have talked about how I handle the specific skill building without preempting him – I didn’t know how he’d handle the topic, though, so I erred on the side of caution.

If I’m understanding the intent of the question correctly (and I’m not sure that I am), I don’t very much distinguish between Judaic and secular learning in terms of how I approach it.  I use pretty much the same approach for all that we learn – I strive for an integrated and meaningful way of learning for whatever we do.  The kids learn Hebrew writing just as they do English writing- beginning with a basic workbook to learn letter forms, and then continuing with copywork.  Unlike with English, we do teach Hebrew reading.  We keep it relaxed, using one of three Hebrew primers.   That’s pretty much it for the basic skills necessary before they can use the independent learning approach that I explained in my workshop and have also addressed here on the blog. 

Once the kids have independent learning skills, they go on to do chumash on their own, building their tranlation skills over time and eventually going on to the commentaries.  As they get older, they develop interests and follow through with that – for example, this morning ds10 told me he wants to do more halacha on his own this year.  There are other examples of that, but the point is that children naturally find their interests that relate to Jewish living just as they find interests that relate to other areas.  When a child wants to pursue something, his learning will be much more valuable than if we push it on them because it’s part of a ‘curriculum’.

I see learning as natural and integral to living, and that’s especially true of Jewish learning.  After all, if we’re living a Jewish life based on the Torah, aren’t our days filled with relevant applications?  My husband is great about using the meals to enhance the Jewish content of our learning.  He learns halacha (points of Jewish law) at every meal with the kids, and we do a lot of discussion about holidays, philosophy, etc.   We say tehillim (Psalms) at the end of our dinner meals (not every single night but on a fairly regular basis), and one of the kids leads the tehillim.  This is a natural way that they practice their reading skills and I can assess them without doing anything formal while participating in something our family finds meaningful.

If I downplay the discussions we have on a wide variety of topics, it would really be missing an integral way that we cover a lot of topics.  That’s constant and ongoing.  For example, today we discussed the Jewish view of modesty and makeup usage, using quotes from Chazal (Jewish sages) and the gemara (Talmud).  We also discussed entitlement and financial responsibility (this is a topic I return to again and again), specifically today as how it relates to adult married children and the Torah view.  This is spontaneous and unplanned – if I read an article or post that I think has points to consider, I often read out loud to the kids, and we discuss them.  The older kids particularly enjoy this and so do I – it gives us a chance to talk out ideas and perspectives.

I hope I answered the question, but as always, if something isn’t clear, anyone is welcome to ask!


Fig picking and preserving

Today I planned to go pear picking, but my boys came home from shul and told me on the way home they looked at the tree I had gotten permission to pick- and it had been stripped clean!  It had been loaded less than two weeks ago.  I didn’t pick them right away since I was waiting for school to start so my kids wouldn’t feel uncomfortable having lots of people watching them (it’s in a busy area).  And then I couldn’t pick them right before the camping trip because we were busy packing up.  Well, as the saying goes, opportunity waits for no man.  It’s a good reminder – if you find a good deal, or a good opportunity, don’t sit around assuming that it will be there for you when you feel like moseying around to it!

The boys also checked on the apple trees we picked from last year – hardly a fruit on the trees.  Later in the day I drove by another apple tree we picked that I was positive no one else would have picked from – nothing. I’m pretty sure that all these apple trees were hit by the late frost, just like the three pear trees we picked last year, and that’s why there’s no fruit.

So I decided to see if we could go fig picking, and that worked out beautifully!  We picked about 4 gallons of gorgeous figs – soft and delicious.  None of us had ever had fresh figs before.  Dh told me when I got home that the gemara says that fig trees have several different ripenings, which is exactly what I noticed when picking – half the fruit on the tree was hard and green and won’t be ready for several more weeks, and half were soft and juicy.

Since figs are so perishable, I wanted to deal with them right away.  Truth be told, I’m very sure that if I had left them around for a couple of days, the kids would have snacked them away.  But I didn’t want them to disappear with nothing to show for our trip, so I tried some new things.  First of all, I made fig jam, just honey, lemon juice, figs, and chopped walnuts.  It was more like a conserve technically, since it had fruit and nuts, but the recipe I used said ‘jam’.  Everyone loved it, but I didn’t think it looked attractive in a jar, which is too bad, since it is so delicious it would make a nice Chanuka gift.  But if it doesn’t look pretty, who would venture to open it up and try it?  So we have four pints for our family to enjoy.

Today I pulled up a bunch of plants from the raised beds to make room for some fall planting, including a lot of oregano and sage (which smelled amazing).  I put all of it into the dehydrator, and since there were some empty trays, decided to fill one tray with halved figs.  I didn’t want to dry all of them because dried fruit gets eaten up very quickly and it’s almost disheartening to see so much fruit being turned into such a small amount.  For veggies, it’s great because I cook them and they rehydrate, but the fruit is mostly used for snacks, and I don’t like watching it disappear so fast. :)  One tray doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s 14 inches square and holds a nice amount.  I’ll see how that turns out in the morning.  So drying the figs was the second way I preserved them.

Since the fig jam called for honey, it isn’t something that everyone in my family will eat, so I wanted to make something that didn’t use sugar or honey.  I looked through lots of recipes online but didn’t find anything.  So once again, I ended up making up my own recipe. :)  I cooked a mixture of rhubarb, strawberry, and chopped figs, added a can of orange juice concentrate to it (would have preferred apple but didn’t have that), and then stirred in a box of pectin for low sugar recipes.  We have 3.5 pints of that.  It still doesn’t look as vibrantly colored as I’d like, but I guess I have to accept that unless I use some artificial ingredients, the fruits I used all cook into less distinct colors than they started out with. 

And that’s the end of the figs!


Weekly menu plan

Today ds10 asked me what we were having for lunch, and I suggested to that he start writing some ideas of what he’d like down for the week.  He ended up getting a call from a friend and going out with him, but dd13 decided to put her ideas down instead.  I asked her to make it slanted more towards non-meat meals since our camping trip was so high on the meat proteins (used 12 pounds of hamburgers, 5.5 lb beef hotdogs, and a couple of pounds of canned ground meat for chili – for three dinners).  After writing it all out, she told me now she appreciates the effort it takes for me to do it every week!  Here is what she decided on:

Shabbos – dinner – chicken breasts in coconut curry sauce; roasted root vegetables, rice, gravy, salad, pecan power bars, apples; lunch- meatballs, sweet potato pudding, marinated mushrooms, Japanese radish, sweet and sour carrots, fresh salad, hot cherry peppers, pear chutney, watermelon, pecan power bars

Sunday – b – oats and milk; l – apples and peanut butter; d – chicken coconut curry, rice, pickled veggies

Monday – b – banana bread; l – peanut butter popcorn; d – split pea soup, cornbread

Tues – b- polenta; l  – leftover split pea soup; d – pizza

Wed – b – Perfect pancakes (flour soaked overnight – not indicated in recipe); l – sweet potato fries, ricotta cheese; d – chicken noodle soup

Thurs – b- Amish oatmeal; l -to be determined; d – bean burritoes

The breakfasts will be supplemented with fruit.  Dinners and lunches are supplemented with vegetables – we’ve used a lot of our home grown veggies in the last weeks.   Almost all of the squash plants were hit by powdery mildew and are dying now, but we got a lot of nice winter squash before that hit that I’m putting in storage – mostly butternut squash, since that’s what we planted the most of, but we also have acorn squash and a couple of pumpkins.  So far our tomato plants are still doing well, despite the blight that has hit a huge number of gardeners across the country.

I really would like to put in our fall/winter garden right away, but haven’t yet done it because I don’t have compost to add to the soil.  Last Shabbos we had an organic landscaper and his family for Shabbos lunch, and he told me to speak to him since he sometimes comes across stuff that would be good for boosting soil quality for free that he’d be happy to pass on to me.  If I can get a truckload of stuff this week (not likely, but you never know!), then I’ll try to get the cold weather seeds in.  I specifically ordered a bunch of seeds that can flourish in the winter in my part of the country, mostly green leafy vegetables, to supplement our meals even when the summer is over.  I’ve never done that before and would love to see how it works out.  But it’s not worth trying to grow in clay soil that hasn’t been amended.

I also need to start saving seeds for the coming season – the autumn is already almost here!  That’s something I’ve never done before, but whatever seeds I can save from my heirlooms will save me the cost of needing to buy those seeds in the spring.

I’m planning to go fruit picking with the kids this week, pears and maybe figs, if the person I was in touch with a month ago still has them (they were unripe when we went).  Naturally, whatever we pick will end up in large part being eaten fresh this week!