Friday, February 29, 2008

Freshly Brewed

Normally, of course, if I am talking about something being freshly brewed, it is beer. Not today. I had seen this advertised in a magazine, on ways to be eco-friendly, and had to try it as our coffee pot had kicked the can (faint rim shot anyone?). It is a Toddy Cafe and it cold brews your coffee. You put a pound of coffee in there, let it soak for 24 hours, and then let it drain into the carafe below. It produces a smoother coffee that also has, or so the claim goes, 67% less acidity (this is a BIG one for me!) than regularly brewed coffee, and uses no electricity up to this point. To get hot coffee, use 1/3 concentrate to 2/3 boiling water. I must say, so far, I am in love.
Check it out for yourself:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Failures & Successes

Failures and Successes, today has been full of both of them. We did make the soap. We rendered the cattle fat into tallow and used it, along with olive oil, to make an oatmeal, honey, and cinnamon soap. Today I was able to take it out of the molds. Taste tests to test the ph balance proved the lye was too strong, so the soap is a failure. But really, it isn't. We can use it for laundry detergent, so we will still be saving ourselves a lot of money and it is still a step towards greater self-sufficeincy. And, most importantly, this was our first batch of soap, so it was a good learning experience, and we did learn from it.
And the successes? Shannon has been the epitome of them today, though Tristan is quickly trying to follow along as well. Justin found a "cloth" bag under the couch that a pop-up Thomas the Train tent had come in. Shannon has taken to carrying around his trains in, and then hanging the bag on door-knobs ... just like I hang our cloth grocery bags on some cabinet knobs in the kitchen. They are both pretty taken with recycling, but Shannon is of course much more aware of it. He gets very upset when he sees litter and he runs to pick it up so that "Mother Earth will feel better." He points it out when he sees it and can't get to it and says how it makes Mother Earth feel bad. It's really quite sweet.
Maybe there really haven't been any failures today, just varying degrees of successes. Success as a parent, as a person, as an enviromentalist, as a teacher, as a homemaker, as a homesteader. That's good enough for me.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What I did on my weekend

What a weekend this has been, and it isn't even over yet! Yesterday we went out to Lowe's and bought all of our supplies for the chicken tractor. Well, all of the supplies needed to BUILD the tractor, accessories such as a hanging waterer and such have been purchased or are still waiting to be purchased. The total cost for supplies came out to $70. Not too bad. This would get our chicks through summer, though we intend to go ahead and build a coop sooner rather than later. I was reading about how fast they will eat grass down and how often you need to move the tractor and it dawned on me that if all that holds true another unforseen bonus has come to light: the diminished need to mow. So we'll see. Justin began cutting the boards yesterday, but has had to hold off today due to rain.
Last night we lost a pet: Anypig, aka: GuineaPig, our (obviously) guinea pig. We think he was older than he was sold to us as. And we found out today that we keep our house colder than they can really tolerate (big whoops there), so we're going with the conclusion that there were several things that led to his demise. We buried him outside, wrapped in a brown paper bag. Shannon was sad this morning when he found out and asked why GuineaPig couldn't come back in to his cage. It was tender and bittersweet. So, of course, we did what all stupid, sappy-hearted parents do, got new ones. And yes, that was plural. What really tickled me though was when my mother was asking Shannon what we would name our new guinea pigs he replied that they were guinea pigs. She told him yes, but that things had names and went through all our pets' names. He replied to her "But they're guinea pigs." Making sure he keeps a realistic grasp on life and our relation to animals is something that is always on my mind, how best to teach it, etc - seems like he is learning it.
We now have two baby guinea pigs. 'Isapig' is approx. 4 months old & 'Penelope (pronounced "pee-neh-lope") Peepers' is approx. 8 or 9 wks old. Both are females. We've adjusted the temperature in the house, which will hopefully work better for them as well as us (something that we've been trying to "get straight" since we installed the new boiler). I've read that they do better when they aren't alone, so hence why we got two. We've also been doing a lot of reading on how to make sure they get a nice healthy & happy home.
That would seem to be full enough for a weekend, but it isn't. You obviously don't know me. Last night we rendered some tallow. Tallow is like lard but where lard is made from pig fat tallow is made from cattle or sheep (we used cattle) and is supposedly quite tasteless. Tonight we will be, or so the plan goes, making soap for the first time.
Also last night Justin put a new faucet on our kitchen sink, so that we would have more room for our bigger pots underneath. And this afternoon I am hoping that we can take the boys to the indoor Winter Carnival over at the Salem Civic Center. My contact at the paper has asked me to please take some photos if I go, so I would really like to be able to do that, plus it would be wonderful for the boys.
Guinea Pigs, Chicken Tractors, new faucets, rendering tallow, soap-making (and the quest for supplies & ingredients for it), photography, and some quality time with the family ... this is what I did on my weekend.

-By Mama Taney