24 Carrot Rabbitry

City-fied Self-Sufficiency

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Archive for December, 2010

I got up Christmas morning and meandered out, to find my kids rummaging through their Christmas Morning Delay Devices Christmas stockings.  We tell them that if (if?) they get up before the adults on Christmas, they can go into their stockings and open any presents in them, and munch on any munchies in there.  We’ll typically put a looooooooong jerky stick in there, nuts, tangerines, and Christmas chocolates.  Maybe not the breakfast of champions, but hey, it’s Christmas!

So right away they want me to empty my stocking.  Considering I filled it myself along with all the other ones, I’m not in a big hurry, since I know what’s in there.  So I do a couple of things and then give in to my kids.  ILoveBunnies hands me my stocking, with a suspicious giggle.

I reach in, and pull out……… a roll of Teflon tape?  Okay, so I didn’t put that in there.  Especially not with carefully curled ribbon tied around it!

So the joke’s on me, once again.  After all, Bunny-Wan Kenobi is famous for this sort of thing.  Grab something really odd around the house, wrap it, and give it as a gift!  I should have expected this from my little squirrel.  :)

Finally, all the bleary-eyed adults who stayed up way too late (that would be four of the six people in the house) made their way out to the den, and we prayed and thanked God for sending Jesus to come and live among us, and to die for our sins, so that we can have a relationship with Him and go to Heaven and be with Him forever someday.

Then we teased the kids that we didn’t want to be like everyone else, and so we were going to wait another day or two to open presents.  They, of course, weren’t falling for it at all.

We had discussed what we were going to do about Christmas, since things are going so crazy in this country right now, and times are getting scarier as our government spends us into oblivion.  We thought about having just a few gifts for the children, and not worrying about giving among us adults, and we thought about pooling for a single gift for each adult.  Ultimately, we all had so many things we wanted to give, that we just gave what we wanted to.

Most of the gifts were practical — a full/queen microplush blanket for my mom, who has been using the microplush throws we have to help keep her legs from cramping at night.  The throws are so small, though, since they’re really intended only to put over your lap, that she was having trouble covering enough of herself.  So now she has a big microplush blanket that she can cocoon herself in if she so desires.  The kids gave her a warm hat that covers her ears, which hurt from the cold very easily.

For my uncle, I am repairing his work shoes, using some tough but soft scrap leather to sew inside and outside the toe where it was wearing through.  The shoes are otherwise still in great condition, and he just loves them.  It’s such an undertaking, though, that he all but made me promise that the effort would be our Christmas gift to him.  The kids gave him a new pocket knife, as ILoveBunnies took note that he needed a new one, and was about to replace it.

For my beloved Shay, I got a copy of the just-released biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  Shay loves biographies, and this one looks really interesting.  I think I might snitch it after he reads it.

For ILoveBunnies, we bought a new Bible.  One that seems well-bound, with genuine leather rather than bonded leather.  Her old Bible’s cover and spine had almost completely separated from the pages inside.  She didn’t want a new Bible, because she loved her old one, and all she wanted was a cover for it to protect it.  It was beyond any real saving, though, as far as being able to use it a lot is concerned.  I reassembled it with packing tape to last her ’til Christmas.  My uncle got her a Bible cover in her favorite color (turquoise!) for her new Bible, and my mom got her a cover for her old Bible, so it would have some protection, which made her happy.  But she’s decided she really does love her new Bible after all.

We also got her some hunting arrows and arrowheads, which she can’t wait to try out.  :)

We abandoned practicality for Bunny-Wan Kenobi, and gave him a toy John Deere tractor with plow attachment.  He’s as happy as a clam and can’t wait to tear up the yard with it.  Maybe he can use it to plant my herb garden.  Hmmmmm……

There were a few gifts for me under the tree as well.  I had told my uncle that I didn’t need to have any presents for Christmas, but that if he insisted, maybe he could get me a pressure canner so I could learn how to can.  He finally cornered me and asked me if that was really what I wanted, since that would actually create more work for me, rather than making anything easier.

I responded that yes, I did really want a pressure canner, in spite of the extra work that canning would be, since it would be a way for me to help ensure a food supply for my family, particularly once we get our garden going.  I explained that what concerns me most right now is the ability to care for my family during the hard economic times that are almost surely ahead, and that anything that would help ease that concern would be a wonderful gift to me.  I had a number of things on my to-get/to-do list along these preparatory lines.  However, a pressure canner was not at the top of the list.

“Really?  Well, then what’s at the top?”

“A hand-crank grain mill.”

I then explained to him that flour has a very short shelf life, but that whole wheat berries can last for ages (remember when they took the wheat from that Egyptian tomb, planted it, and it grew and produced?).  Without a grain mill, though, I can’t do a whole lot with whole wheat berries.  With a grain mill and a supply of wheat, I can, at the very least, make sure my family has bread to eat.  With a hand-crank mill, I can do that even without electricity (with the help of my solar oven that I need to finish ;) ).

Besides, I’ve been wanting to get back to baking my own bread.  I used to when we lived in Delaware.  I could bake only rolls, but I baked them anyway.  The reason I couldn’t bake loaves is that my oven was a gas oven, and the fire would come on with a *thump* and make the loaves fall.  I understand probably not all gas ovens do this, but mine did.

I told him that I don’t like making requests for gifts, and the only reason that I was mentioning this was that he made me.  He laughed, and proceeded to ask me where he would buy this mill I wanted.  *Sigh*  …So then I had to shop for my own gift, too… LOL… but I made sure he didn’t pay to have it here by Christmas.  Nobody had the one I wanted locally.  So on Christmas morning, I knew that hadn’t arrived, but it was on the way.

There were two gifts there for me, though.  The first one was from my beloved Shay.  Upon unwrapping it, I found a marvelous new kitchen faucet!  (Oooooooooooooh… now I get the bit about the Teflon tape!)  It was tall, and had two levers, and the faucet neck was shaped like a question mark, to make it easy to get a big pot under it.  And… it had a sprayer!

A SPRAYER!!! YESSSS!!!!!

Shay knows that if he got me one of those sparkly baubles guaranteed by the television to elicit gasps of joy and such from the lady on the receiving end of it, I’d genuinely appreciate it and treasure it.  But if he really wants to make me truly happy, he will give me something at least somewhat practical.  Something that will make my work at home easier, or that will help me better care for my family.  But he still wants to make sure it’s a treat as well.

He has known ever since we moved here that I’ve wanted a new faucet.  Admittedly, I wanted a new, tall faucet at our apartment, as well, but I made do because it did have a sprayer.  So it wasn’t too difficult to wash the larger items I have.  The kitchen faucet here is like the one at the apartment — one of those old standard low ones that is hard to get a large pot under.  But it has no sprayer to make living with it easier.

So a new kitchen faucet, to me, is a big deal!  It’s not really a necessity, since I was getting by with the one I already had, so he really is treating me, which is what he wanted to do.  <3  But it will make things so much easier for me, for my mom, and for ILoveBunnies.

The other gift under the tree was from my mom, and it was a pressure canner!  I thought this was really funny, that I had had that conversation with my uncle, and I knew he had ordered the mill, and here I got a canner as well.  So now I get to learn how to can, and I can do something with all those vegetables I plan to grow!

It says it can do seven quart jars at a time... wow!

It’s also a pressure cooker, so maybe it’ll replace my other pressure cooker.  The other one is smaller, though… this thing is pretty big!  I do have limited cabinet space, though, so I don’t know if I can fit both of them.

Since then, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of my new grain mill, and pricing grain at Whole Foods.  YIKES!!  You know, I figured it ought to be less expensive to buy the grain whole and in bulk.  If I buy it at Whole Foods, it will cost five times as much as I can buy flour at Wal-Mart!  Five times!  Come on, now… I mean, how much did they pay for the grain themselves?  What’s the markup?  It’s got to be incredible.  So I’m looking for alternatives.

Meanwhile, last night, my uncle walked out of his room with a box, and asked me if he had ordered the mill from a site called Everything Kitchens.  Why, yes, he had, I replied.  Sheepishly, he admitted that, in the confusion of several of us all wrapping gifts together in his room, he had completely missed this box, which had been there the whole time.  We had never expected it to arrive in time for Christmas, but it had!

The Family Grain Mill with Hand Crank Base

It’s got great reviews and had free shipping from several places online.  It doesn’t grind the finest flour possible (#10 – cake flour), but it does grind it almost that fine — #9, which is bread flour.  And you can still bake cakes with it, they just won’t be as fine as they are with cake flour.  I’ve done that before, with all-purpose flour from the store, and it’s been fine.  You can buy cake flour there, too, but I rarely do.

You can also crack grains with it for homemade hot cereals, and you can grind to any fineness in between.  Some things require two passes, like for cornmeal or bean flour — crack it first, then grind it.

They also make other attachments for use with the same base.  There’s a grain flaker/roller, a meat grinder, a shredder, and I don’t know what else.  You can also get a motorized base for it, but they also sell an adapter for the attachments that makes them compatible with a KitchenAid mixer.  WHICH I HAVE!!

The Best Plastic Wrap in the WORLD!

Seriously.

In general, I hate plastic wrap.  It’s a somewhat necessary evil.  I don’t use it unless I have to.  Why?  It tears wrong, then it sticks to itself like crazy, rendering itself practically useless unless you can employ another person to help you peel it apart so you can use it.  Then you put it on whatever you need to put it on, and its desire to stick to anything else or to itself is completely gone.  You end up with a loose mess of plastic barely blanketing your food.

Then I went to Bible college.  (Yeah, that’s got a lot to do with plastic wrap, right? :D )

I, like many other students, had a roommate who worked strange hours off campus.  We would put together plates of food in the cafeteria for those who missed dinner because of work.  I would make up a plate for my roommate (or maybe she ate elsewhere, and I made up a plate for someone else?  I can’t remember any more.  It’s been 20 years!), and the final step was to cover the plate in plastic wrap.

After doing this several times, I noticed how consistently well-behaved this plastic wrap was.  Now, granted, it was a little easier to use just because it was an industrial-sized roll which may have been on a permanently mounted stand (or maybe it was just heavy and stayed put), which meant you didn’t have to hold it with one hand and cover the plate with the other.  It pulled against you, which was a big help.  But the method of dispensing was not the only reason this stuff was better.

This plastic wrap didn’t really, REALLY stick to itself until you stuck it on something and pressed.  Sure, it would do some of the usual static-cling stuff, but it was easy to get it straightened out again — by yourself!  And then it actually stuck to the plate (which was stoneware, so that certainly helped) and stuck to itself, giving you a nice, tight film and seal.  I’ve found since then that it clings to pretty much anything, including most plastic, at least well enough to keep the thing covered… unlike any other wrap I’ve tried.

Every time I went to get a plate for someone, I would remind myself of the brand so I could make sure and buy it faithfully for the rest of my life.

Unfortunately, availability isn’t as good as it is for some of the other major brands.  This is NOT Saran Wrap, and NOT Glad Wrap.  I despise both equally.  This is none other than… (drum roll, please)… Reynolds plastic wrap.

It's Reynolds or nothing! If at all possible, anyway.

Unfortunately for me and plenty of other people I discovered by doing a search on “reynolds plastic wrap”, it has followed the trend of many other things that I’ve discovered and liked — things I actually would be brand-loyal for and get nothing else!  It’s been discontinued due to low demand.  That picture up there is one of the last rolls I snapped up in a dollar store once the other stores quit carrying it.

AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGHH!!!

I’ve been using other brands with no satisfaction, until I discovered two more rolls of Reynolds I had bought and stashed.

However, thank goodness, Reynolds plastic wrap is popular with professional kitchens!  So while I may not be able to find it any longer in my local grocery store, I can buy it at Amazon or a number of other places online.  And, if I had a Sam’s Club membership, I could buy it there as well.  Most of it is called “Reynolds Foodservice Wrap”.  It comes in 1000 foot rolls with a couple of different kinds of cutters.

I can’t believe I’m considering ordering PLASTIC WRAP online!  But I almost certainly will, once I do the math.  Because I bet it’s a better price even with shipping than I was buying it in the store.  Let’s see… ~$2.50 for 12″x50′… $22 for 12″x1000′… why, yes, even with shipping, it’s less than half the price I used to pay for the other!  Awesome!

Some people say that Sam’s Choice (Wal-Mart) or Stretch-Tite are about as good… I may try them, but with that price for the wrap I really like… why?  :D

Preparing for the Future

A few of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted on the solar oven project in a while.  It’s merely been paused while I work on some other things, and I will resume work on it shortly after New Year’s.

So what are the other things?

Well, for starters, Christmas is coming.  We don’t go crazy for Christmas, preferring to keep it a bit more low-key and respectful, but there are still things to be done.  One BIG thing is the family calendar.  Every year, we take copious amounts of pictures, and in November and December I select the best and put together a family calendar.  Each month has a collage of five or six pictures (mainly of the kids), and most of the pictures have captions.  I print them myself (about 24 calendars) because I haven’t found an office store yet that can print them as well as I can.  I put a lot of effort and time into it, and it gets rave reviews from family.  :)

We’ve also had some medical issues lately.  My mom developed shingles, and I wouldn’t wish this very painful resurgence of the chickenpox virus on my worst enemy.  My son, Bunny-Wan Kenobi, got a couple of eczema patches on his hands, which I fought and fought.  Finally, I had to take him to the doctor, and it turned out the eczema had gotten infected.  So he got an antibiotic, as well as a topical steroid that’s stronger than OTC hydrocortizone.  Then he had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic after a week of being on it, which prompted a prescription for a strong antihistamine to fight the hives.  I also ended up pulling out some long-unused Nystatin to treat a yeast outbreak in the eczema.  He’s also been having to have Aquaphor (I got the generic!) put on his hands and up his arms, and he’s wearing long socks on his arms to bed.

Poor child!  He was delighted to finish the antihistamine today (apparently it tasted pretty vile — “imagine that it tastes like grape, but then make it very, very sour…”), and he’s counting the days until he can stop the topical steroid and the Aquaphor up his arms and the socks.  I’ll continue the Nystatin on him, and start him on Benadryl since the rash isn’t completely gone yet.  He’s also supposed to apply a small amount of Aquaphor to his hands every few times he washes them.  It’s like being back with him as a baby, when his skin would just go haywire and I’d have to use a prescription eczema cream, Nystatin, and Bactroban all together to get it back to normal.

But another thing that has been taking my attention is something that has to do with preparing for the future.

With the way things are going currently, and the legislation that has been passed and is still coming down the pike, we believe that the hard times in this country have only begun.  The numbers that show there is a recovery going on are the result of a big shell game.

With that in mind, it is only wise to prepare.  This is why we raise meat rabbits.  But another thing we are working toward is starting a vegetable garden.  That takes money, especially in our case.  The yard regularly is wetter than it ought to be, because we live at the bottom of a hill and our yard was engineered (why?!?) as an overflow for heavy rains.  This means that any vegetable gardens I have will need to be in raised beds.

Okay, so where to get the money?  Well, when we moved in here with my uncle, this house was already packed to the gills with stuff.  My grandmother and grandfather bought this house.  My great-grandmother lived here for years.  My uncle moved back in to help care for my grandfather, then my great-grandmother, and finally my grandmother.

So there are many things around the house that are no longer in use.  Clothes, shoes, etc.  Most of the sizes are smaller than any of the three girls (myself, my mom, and my daughter) that live here now, so there is no one to wear them.  My uncle is graciously allowing me to sell a good bit of it on eBay to raise money for garden plots.  I’ve been at it for a couple of months now.  Shay has also sold some of his model trains to help out, and we’re doing pretty well so far.  It is going to take a while to go through everything and have it all posted and sold.

In whatever situation you find yourself, please do what you can yourself to prepare.  Any food you can produce on your own is a step toward immunity from hard times.  In the Great Depression, the people who were least affected were the farm families and others who had large gardens and kept chickens and such.  Even if you live in an apartment, there are things you can do… just do some searches, and you’ll find there are others who have figured out ways to grow vegetables at their apartments.  Even if you end up not needing everything you produce, you will be in a position to help others.

My son, the eBay tycoon…

Bunny-Wan Kenobi decided he’d had enough fun with a couple of his toys, and got me to list them on eBay for him so he can get some extra Christmas money.  So I figured I’d come over here and make a shameless plug for him.  :D

He’s selling a box of Mega Bloks parts from a couple of sets.  It’s a lot that he bought used himself, had a marvelous time building stuff with it (and using it with his Legos), and now he’s selling it.  The listing is here:

http://cgi.ebay.com/Lot-Mega-Bloks-Pieces-Dragon-Mountain-Vorgan-Ship-/140488227751?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20b5c03ba7

He also has a Cyberman helmet (from Doctor Who) for sale:

http://cgi.ebay.com/Doctor-Cyberman-Voice-Changing-Helmet-Light-Sounds-/140489847646?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20b5d8f35e

Not that he’s ever seen Doctor Who, but this is a cool helmet whether you’ve seen the show or not.  :)

And, hey, I’ve got some stuff for sale as well, and I’ll be listing more for some time to come, so feel free to look around.  :D

In-the-Pumpkin Pie Pictures

I meant to make this post earlier, but I guess a week after Thanksgiving isn’t too late.  :D

I couldn’t find a pie pumpkin this year that was large enough for this recipe, so I used a Creole pumpkin.  It is a kind of “cheese” pumpkin, so called because it supposedly looks rather like a cheese wheel when you cut into it.  It is less sweet than a pie pumpkin, but it’s still a good eating pumpkin.  The smallest Creole pumpkin I could find was just shy of 8 pounds, but better a little too big than too small.

Here’s the recipe:  http://rabbittalk.com/blogs/24carrot/2010/11/01/baked-whole-pumpkin-or-in-the-pumpkin-pie/

And here are the pictures:

This is my uncut Creole pumpkin. It was very stable and relatively symmetrical, a little wider than it was tall, and had a nice stem. Creole pumpkins are not orange like pie pumpkins; rather, they are somewhat pinkish tan. The flesh inside is orange, though.

I used a knife to score a line to cut a lid.  I kept the knife steady by holding it in my hand and pressing my hand against my side, and using the other hand to rotate the pumpkin against the point of the knife.  It works pretty well, and I don’t have to adjust the line much.  It works better for me than just trying to eyeball it, because pumpkins are never perfectly symmetrical.

I cut the lid off, but at a steeper angle than I was trying for. Thankfully, the lid didn't fall in once it was cooked! ILoveBunnies cleaned most of the strings and seeds out while I prepared the filling. We saved the seeds for toasting.

I buttered the outside of the pumpkin carefully so I didn't drop it, put it into one of my 9" deep-dish pie pans (thank goodness it fit!), poured the filling in and dotted it with butter, put the lid on, and put it into the oven. Once I started checking it for doneness, I remembered that it was easier to tell if it was done when I forgot to dot it with butter, because I didn't have a layer of melted butter mixed with filling covering the surface of the custard. I think I'll leave out the butter dots next time.

I ended up increasing the temperature of the oven 25* after an hour and a half, because it didn’t appear to be anywhere close to being done, and I had a turkey to bake yet!!!

Another note to add to the recipe:  When checking the pumpkin while it is cooking, and the first time after it’s done, it is best to use a butter knife to go around the lid again to make sure it isn’t stuck.  If you don’t, the stem might separate from the lid… like what happened to me this time.  At least the skin stayed attached to the stem, so the stem still stood up like it was doing something… but I couldn’t use it as a handle much.  :(

The increase in temperature may be responsible for the extra browning. Or maybe this is just the way this kind of pumpkin browns. Not quite as pretty as the bronzing I'm used to getting, but still an interesting presentation for pumpkin pie!

The lid comes off for serving! I did overcook it a little (guess I shouldn't have raised the temp!), which is why it expanded so much. Though part of it is also that the pumpkin relaxed and squished down as well.

Some custard, some pumpkin, and some whipped cream! YUM! The custard usually separates into two parts -- a lighter color, eggier, more classic custard, and a darker, creamier, looser custard. Both taste great and they give interesting, different textures. A little pumpkin on your spoon, add a little custard and/or whipped cream, and mmmmmmMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmm! This is the only pumpkin pie I really like!

Soooo… anybody else give it a shot?