Thanks Jeff for the heads-up. PTF gets a nod fromGrist 

Dreary & Misty

The first week in August has been an unusually cool one. This morning it’s foggy and misting heavily, more typical of “June Gloom” than August weather. Normally August and September are our hottest months.  So far we had an unusually hot June and July.   Wacky weather still continues, I wonder what will be in store for the rest of the year.  

Going from hot and humid days where temperatures neared or topped 115 to overcast and cool with a high of 75 is quite a shock, not only to humans but to the plants. This sort of weather is ripe for mildew and disease to spread throughout the garden and we have to keep a vigilant eye on any first sign of trouble.

Filming pizzas baked in earthen oven

The sun didn’t come out at all yesterday, of course the camera crew that came all the way from Ventura were thrilled with the “ideal light.”   The director had planned on focusing on a half dozen aspects of the the homestead. Instead, being overwhelmed as everyone who comes here, he only touched on the gardening part; however the piece did close with freshly made pizzas coming out of the cob oven.   It was a little tough with parts of the yard pilled up with roofing debris and pathways blocked off or tight filled with many of the self watering pots that once resided on the north side of the house.

The best laid plans…

One of the guys who was over here yesterday interviewing us for the Hope Dance piece rightly put that this kind of lifestyle requires daily, weekly, monthly planning. Rightly so.    One preparation challenge and record that we’re really proud of was one summer we didn’t go to the store for 8 weeks ( 2 months!)   Usually we would try to go every two weeks, but it seems that we have been getting lazy and now are going once a week to pick up things like cheese, butter, wine and other special food items for Jules (he’s on a special diet for health reasons).

Now about those answers

First, thank you all of your great and positive comments and “happy anniversary” wishes (PTF journal celebrated 5 years in July!)   We are thankful to have this opportunity to share our journey with you. Sharing this journey with you, as fellow travelers, has given us inspiration to keep putting one foot in front of the other each and every day.

Now to your questions as promised.

Does anyone have a recipe for lemon balm syrup?

::Lemon Verbena Syrup::

2 cups sugar ( since I use raw sugar it turns the syrup dark)2 cups water4 cups fresh lemon verbenaBring all ingredients to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Cool, strain and store.

Do you have recipes posted on the site somewhere for the homemade deodorant and toothpaste?

::Herbal Stick Deodorant::

1 1/2 tbspn beeswax (yellow is best) 1/2 tbspn cocoa butter 1 tablespoon coconut oil 15 drops white thyme essential oil 15 drops rosemary essential oil 25 drops lavender essential oil 3 drops castor oil Melt beeswax in a glass jar standing in hot water, add the cocoa butter, and when it has melted, add the oils. Stir to mix thoroughly, then pour into a clean, discarded deodorant stick case and leave to cool and set.

::Homemade Mint Tooth Paste::

6 teaspoons baking soda 1/3 teaspoon salt 4 teaspoons glycerin 15 drops peppermint Mix thoroughly. Should be a tooth paste consistency. For flavor you can add a few drops of peppermint or wintergreen. Store in a container.

I’m interested, too. I tried making deodorant and it was a bust. What have you used?

See above recipe. Any stick or powdered forms of deodorant basically mask any unpleasant odors. We find that eating healthy (no meat, high sugar consumption) and drinking plenty of water also helps. Sweating is your bodies way of eliminating toxins and with a healthy diet the odor is reduced. We also use themineral rock and find that it works really well.

What do you dehydrate with? Have you tried a solar dehydrator? I would like to try building one soon to use.

A few years back (2002) we built a homemadesolar dehydrator. It worked quite well, but with it being made of recycled cardboard, over time it started to look ratty.   I hope to build another one using scrap plywood (with leftovers from our roofing work) In the interim we bought a couple of the Hanging Pantries (they have now been discontinued by the manufacture)

Did you already see An Inconvenient Truth?

No, not yet. Waiting for it to come out on DVD. 

Jeff S
Knowing that you also plant intensively, and knowing that you are frugal and save your seeds for the next season, I was wondering how you deal with having the different open pollinated varieties so close together yet retaining some semblance of purity of seed. With beans, I am able to space their plantings so that they are not blooming at the same time, but tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers are another story.

We try to save as much seed as possible, however, with our limited space some things just can’t be saved. Instead, we buy bulk seeds.  That’s one of the “disadvantages” of small farming; however it is possible although it requires a bit of work and certain techniques.   A great article that covers seed saving for small gardens:
Saving Seeds in a Small Way

I would love to make some of my own cheese if I could get raw milk. How does the crock work? Is it like the evaporative coolers that don’t work well in humid areas? But then, we’ve been getting increasingly dry in the heat of the summer.

One of our readers (thank you Stephanie) shares this wonderful website that gives step by step (with photos!) forhomemade cheese The crock is a stoneware container and was used before the invent of plastic water “towers.” During the humid days, that we experienced last week the water in the cooler was room temperature – not as cool as I would have liked.

BrianA full refrigerator is more efficient than an empty one. Although if you’re going from full to empty to full every week, I’m not sure throwing room temperature things in there during the weekend is going to help.

We are aware that a full fridge is definitely more efficient than an empty one. However, when we have a large amount of produce and/or 45 – 8.5″ x 8.5″ x 2″ boxes of flowers we need the space to keep them fresh (so it’s only “empty” on weekends). Ideally we’d like to live w/o a fridge like we did for about 2-3 years in the mid 90’s.    We use on average about 6 kwh of power a day.  On good days most of our power is supplied by our own solar panels and the rest is supplemented from green power provided by the City of Pasadena.

What type of refrigerator did you buy?

We purchased a energy efficient Kenmore model from Sears back in 2002. The City of Pasadena offered(s) money back incentives to buy energy star appliances and we got a considerable rebate! I can’t seem to find it now, but a friend of ours posted on her blog of the drastic drop her electrify bill took when she replaced her old fridge with a newer, efficient model. From my memory (pathetic as it is these day) I believe her bill was slashed in 1/2.  

Gia &JenniferI’ve been envying your outdoor shower for a couple of years now. I should just bite the bullet and try to build one of my own!I was wondering, does the water heat up as it travels through the black hose or is it more of a case of letting the water warm up in the black hose for a while before you shower? …..
Yes, yes. Can you tell us more about how the solar sun shower works? I’d like to build one too.

We got the shower piece from Target a few years back on clearance. We adapted a shed plan from a book from the library and re-used some scrap wood for the side. As for heating the water, the principle is quite simple.  The black rubber hose is coiled on top of the shower structure for the sun to heat up. The hose/water heats up approx 2.5 gals of water at a time.  It is possible to get several hot showers a day, if timed correctly.

KoryI just came across this a low tech highly accessible way to preserve food in the short term. I wonder if there is a special mix or would any terra cotta pot do?

Somewhere in one of the PTF journal posts we posted a few links to resources on alternatives to modern refrigeration. To rehash:
Life Without a Fridge – great article
The un-fridge“Pot-in-Pot” method developed by a native Nigerian is helping his people keep food fresh. We have yet to try out this method of food preservation. Anyone have comments whether terra cotta pot would do?

CherylI’d love to hear about making elderberry syrup, it’s one of my favorite things and I’d love to make some. My elderberry tree didn’t fruit for some reason though despite having masses of gorgeous flowers. Maybe needs a pollinator?
::Elderberry Syrup::

Ripe elderberries Sugar
Pick the fruit on a dry day, wash well and drain thoroughly. Strip the fruit from the stems and put into a pan, adding just enough water to cover. Simmer for 30 minutes until the berries are very soft. Strain through a jelly bag or muslin and measure the juice. Allow 450g (1lb) sugar and 10 cloves to each 6dl (1 pint) of juice. Heat the juice gently, stirring in the sugar until dissolved. Boil for 10 minutes and then leave until cold. The syrup may be frozen in small quantities or packed into small, screw-topped, soft drink bottles which have been sterilized.Elderberry syrups of this kind have been used since Tudor times as a stand-by against winter colds. The syrup is a cold aperient, relieves all chest troubles, will stop a cold and bring on a sweat. It is normally diluted, allowing 2 tablespoons of syrup to a tumbler of hot water and a squeeze of lemon juice. A little whisky may be added if liked. A few drops added to a glass of wine makes an excellent aperitif.
As for pollination, according to our Western Garden book, the American elderberry needs any two varieties for pollination. We have two American and a few European varieties planted.   There is also a native Elderberry that grows wild here.

N.H. woman bakes cookies on dashboard {YahooNews}

Blistering heat was just what Sandi Fontaine needed to bake cookies for her co-workers — on the dash of her Toyota Rav4.
read more

Hmmm, turning cars into solar oven. Perhaps cars have some use after all?

No Comments

  1. Brian says:

    Thinking about the fridge a little more, I wonder if you could just throw some empty boxes into the fridge after you took out all the veggies/flowers for the customers? That way when you opened the fridge on the weekend the cold air wouldn’t fall out, and thus it would be more efficient. Better than throwing in bottles of water or something that would need to be cooled (using energy) each weekend.

  2. Cheryl says:

    Thanks for taking the time to post your elderberry syrup technique. I guess I’ll have to make elder”flower” syrup until I can get myself a pollinator. Thanks again!

  3. Risa says:

    I have used the pot in pot method with plain old “super store” terra cotta pots.

    It’s able to get the temp inside down to the low to mid 50’s.

    You need to plug the drainage hole. I used a piece of tape to cover the hole. Then I turned it over and caulked the hole. The tape keeps the caulk from falling through until it dries.

    You have to use a non porous bottom tray or it will leave a wet spot.

    It works great for veggies because of the humidity, but you have to rotate your stock or it will mold. For that reason I think a bunch of smaller ones rather than one giant one works better for household use.

    Just remimber that it won’t get as cold as a regular fridge, so you have to use things up faster. This all depends on the humidity. The drier the air is around it the colder it gets. Remimber, it is the evaporation that cools it not the water it sits in. So glazed pots won’t work. And the more air circulating aroud it the better.

    I used these at our last house, but decided not to try transporting them. I have a few experiments to try on the next batch I make. I’ll let you know if they work out.

  4. Joshua says:

    Thanks for the replies! Also, I have heard that travelers used to keep wet towels around wooden water and food barrels to keep them cool through the evaporation, similar to the crock.

    As far as elderberry pollination, Raintree Nursery sells two different major types that they say don’t cross-pollinate outside their type. So they might not all cross-pollinate, or at least not well.