Monday, November 28, 2016

Utility Sled...Money Well Spent

So, I need to move many straw bales.  I've been moving them by hand and with a wheelbarrow.

Why do I need to move them?  I'm stuffing them in the erosion problem and spreading them over the bare dirt that will run down the hill this winter without some help.   When one's land is made of snot (actually, it's mostly clay.  Clay and live gopher meat), one must try to keep it in place.  It needs some organic matter.

So, I got a bunch of straw bales.  Chopped straw is used on erosion issues.

I don't have a picture of the bales stuffed in the erosion issue.  The "erosion issue" is also known as "the path of the water line from the well head many hundreds of yards up the hill to the storage tank."  With the top of the tank also just being bare clay dirt that turns into runny snot.  The waterline path was an actual river all last winter and spring and eroded into a mini-canyon with depths varying from 2 inches to 2 feet, width from about 4 inches to nearly a foot.  Cripes.  SO.  I thought long and hard and decided if everyone else puts a few bales crosswise, I will also put a few bales crosswise to the problem, and a whole bunch more stuffed down IN the problem.  Then, I plant them with whatever seeds I can get my hands on.

The bales I got are not organic.  One only has so much money and time and I appreciate the farmer letting me know what the main herbicide is.  No broad leaf type things will grow.  BUT the bales will double as thistle killer so that could be handy.  I will try to get organic next time.  For now I am working with what I have.

Anyway, moving them by hand, carrying, turned out to be OK when they were dry.  At least OK for the first dozen and if I wasn't going far.  It's hard on the back.  And the butt.  I started using the wheelbarrow which was much better, but required that I carefully place the bale to avoid tipping it over AND that I balance the thing on the way to where it went.  Still, a good option for part of the job.

Removing all of the lifting seemed like a better idea.  So I got a utility sled:

It is "Otter" brand.  I haven't tried others.   It's made to move stuff around.  I measured the interior below the curve on the leading edge.  It is just big enough for 1 bale.  If I got one big enough for 2 bales, I'd try to do more weight than I could handle.

Here it is with a bale in it.

Works great.  The bales were stacked so I could put the sled by the side of the pile, pull a bale over the edge so it fell in.  Then I pull it with the included rope (which is crap but when it breaks I'll find something better), to where it goes.  Tip the whole thing over and go get the next one. 

I had all the bales stuffed in the path of the erosion issue so I was spreading some out around the bare earth.  I cut the strings off and raked the straw over the exposed ground, which had some seed on it.

As for the bales in the erosion issue.  I've added "nitrogen" to almost all of them now (yes, pee).  I also spread rye grass seed and whatever other random seed on them.  They are also sprouting lots of wheat.  WHATEVER.  All biomass is good.

As I was raking this straw about over the bare spots, it was covering clover and rye grass and winter pea seed.  It was also upsetting the odd gopher.  A group of vehicles on the highway were treated to the site of an old woman with a garden rake madly slamming it randomly and wildly into the ground.  Had they been closer, they could have seen that I was trying to impale a gopher.  So much for my karma.  Though I'm pretty sure he escaped unscathed.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Simple Thrifty Introvert Friendly Holiday Extravaganza!!

I'm partway through an excellent Thanksgiving.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, how very American to celebrate the immolation and slaughter of native people.

Anyway, as you may have deduced, not my favorite holiday.  I don't mind celebrating the harvest with a bit of gluttony.  One can do that any day.  I have today off work and access to a friend's kitchen since she's out of town.  I am alone.  There is no television.  Introvert paradise.

Let overindulgence begin!

Breakfast: What did I have?  Oh, right. Spinach frittata and a coconut milk vanilla latte' which I made in my travel french press.  I did steal coffee beans from my hostess since I am out and forgot to buy any yesterday.

For a snack, a handful of walnuts (left from some thrifty holiday gift assemblage done yesterday) and a handful of stolen triscuits...sorry hostess!

I spent the morning preparing the big meal.  Most of my duties involved remembering the stove was one while something simmered or baked.

The main dish: Spicy adzuki beans on spelt berries. YUM!  I'd never cooked adzuki beans or spelt berries before but had done plenty of dry beans and whole grains.  That expertise along with the odd internet search saw me through.  I started both of those soaking, separately of course, last night.

In the morning I put the spelt in a big sauce pan with enough water to come about an inch over the top of the grain.  Brought it to a boil, and simmered. I don't know how long it simmered.  The internet said it would take 90 minutes, but it didn't take nearly that long.  I tasted it every now and then.  Once it wasn't crunchy, I called it good.  After a good drain in a seive, it went into a bowl in the fridge.
Since I still had some coconut milk after the latte' was made, I put some cooked spelt in a pint jar and topped it up with coconut milk and some fresh grated ginger root. It's in the fridge now becoming progressively more delicious.

After the exhausting time spent watching a video while the spelt simmered, I dove in and took on the beans.  These cooked up super fast as well.  Not the 40 min the internet told me. Lying damn internet! It was more like 25 min.  Again, I was tasting them off and on while they cooked.  They went from definitely not done to "OMG!  OVERDONE!" Pretty quickly.  But, still held up well in the final dish.

I drained the beans and left the lid off the pan to get them dried out a bit.  I don't like to leave cooked beans sitting in water.  Then, just let it all cool off.

Obviously I needed a rest after all that.

But wait!  What about dessert???
After the rest period, I made one of my quick tarts.  This may be the best one so far.
Apple with fresh grated ginger, and whatever cinnamon and nutmeg I could round up. Unroll the crust (the cheap store brand refrigerated pie crust...bought on sale of course), just one.  Put it on a baking sheet.  Not an insulted cookie sheet.  Those are stupid.  Just a thin piece of metal.
I had some plum pineapple jam from the farmers market so I used a couple tablespoons of that to make a circle on the unfurled crust (leave 1-2 inches of the edge unjammed).  I put the ginger more or less evenly on the jam.  I sliced up one granny smith apple, and scored the hide...these had crappy thick skin that was hard to bite through.  Arrange slices neatly on the jam.  Sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg on.  Fold the crust edges up over the apple edges any which way.  Seal up any cracks or tears in the crust. Bake at 425 until the crust is brown and the jam is a bit bubbly between the apple slices.

I have no idea how long that is.  Just keep an eye on it.

After another good rest, time to finalize the main dish.

I diced up an onion and sweated it in peanut oil.  This is thrifty peanut oil that I poured off the top of natural peanut butter I got on sale.  So, basically free oil.  I chopped up the remains of a head of garlic I found at my place.  Threw that in.  Let it sweat some more.  Turn up the heat and get a bit of carmelization going on the onions, but not much.  I put in about a tablespoon of cumin, and a mix of hot pepper (new mexico, ancho, chile de arbol, something else) that came in a multi-pack as a gift last christmas.  Stir that around and let it cook a tiny bit.

Open a can of diced tomatoes and throw that in.
While it heats up, get the beans.  I put in about 2 cups, maybe 2 1/2 cups.    Stir.
Then, I let it simmer.  It got quite dry even with the lid on the pan.  But, I let it be.  I probably kept it simmering about a half hour.

I heated up a cup of the spelt berries in a TINY bit of water in a smaller saucepan.  Once hot, I threw some spicy beans and mixed it up.  I had meant to slice up an avocado on there, but I didn't remember that until I was settled on the couch watching a movie and eating out of the pan so I just didn't bother.

The beans and spelt was really good!

The remains of the beans went into sandwich baggies with some spelt berries.  As I type they are freezing and I will take them to the office for microwave lunch options.

I meant to only eat ONE piece of the tart, but as I was doing some odd jobs in the afternoon, I just kept having "one more piece" and now, there is no more tart.  Oh well.

So, how was this all thrifty?

I got the organic adzuki beans for 50cents a pound and the spelt berries for about 66cents a pound.  A store was changing up the bulk-bin selections and had random bags of things they weren't going to carry in bulk anymore.  So, I grabbed what looked good.  I also got some prunes (which it turns out I do not hate) and other items.  The beans and spelt berries were the last things left from that deal.
The tomatoes are store brand, not expensive, but organic. The onion was something like 79cents a pound and the garlic is from the community garden for free.

Coconut milk is often a high end item.  The coconut milk I am using is from powder.  Wilderness Family brand.  While the bag of powder is still fairly spendy, there is virtually no waste.  You mix up as much as you need when you need it.  The bag I have is over a year old.  I think I spent $12.50 or so on it.  I don't use it that often, but it is still good.  Doesn't take up much space and no worry about freeze/thaw as I would have with cans.

The ginger was bought on sale about a month ago and I've been using it but it's time to use it up before it gets too dry and old.  Hence, ginger in things.

The jam was 3$ for homemade at the local farmers market.  I used 2 or 3 tablespoons full for the tart.  That's pretty thrifty.

I must say, it was a damn tasty meal!  All based on "what needs to be used up" supplemented with "what's on sale."  And a bit of theft from my hostess.  But I will leave her a tart or something as a thank you.
The store brand crusts were on sale for $1.69 and I used only 1 from the package of 2.
The apples were 79cents a pound.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tiny Car Pantry

Faithful readers (of which I assume there are none) will remember that I had mice in the car last year.  Followed by at least one dead mouse in the car which stunk.  I never found the carcass.

And yet!  I have NOT learned my lesson.  I am in the car a minimum of an hour per day on weekdays, and often that much on the weekend.  Many weekdays I also drive another hour or more during work.   Lots of car time.  I end up eating in there and since I don't live in a town, I shop when I am in a town.  That is often in the middle of a work day or during a full day of errands.  Food will be in the car for extended periods.

When I had the mouse/mice last year, I eventually found a stash of almonds in the spare tire compartment. I didn't remember having almonds in the car!  Cripes.  I later found part of a bag that must have fallen out of a grocery bad or off the seat when I was snacking. 

My hope is that with the tiny car pantry I can at least keep full track of the food and keep it mouse proof.  If the little bastards MUST come in the car, and I'm sure they must, at least they will have to leave to find sustenance.

I should have taken a picture but I didn't.
At a thrift store (obviously) I came across a lovely BIG metal tin with a tight fitting an hinged (hence can't pop off and roam away to parts unknown) lid.  It is about 8"x12"x5" with a domed lid. When I do a shop, I put the shelf stable car lunch ingredients in there.  Right now there are 3 small boxes of Lara Bars (cashew and some lemon), a tin of sardines, some high-end onion crackers that come in a box that will fit in the tiny car pantry, fig bars, a package of dried figs, a plastic spoon and fork and for no apparent reason, a hotel size hand lotion.   All the food was on a SUPER sale.  Normally it would be a jar of nuts.  Sometimes there is a bit of fresh fruit, apples or oranges, in there but with the current freeze/thaw weather that's a bad idea.

I think it also saves me a bit of cash because I can eat before I go into the grocery store.  I had been going in too hungry and indeed, one ends up buying too much when shopping hungry.  It's prevented me from stopping at cafes and coffee huts too.  When I get hungry, I can have a Lara bar and make it until I'm back that the office or home.

It's also winter so never a bad idea to have food in the car in case one gets stuck.

The tiny car pantry now lives in the back of the car now.  It used to live in the passenger seat but I ended up just eating what was in there because it was there.  That does not save money or make sense.  It's been a life saver on driving trips too!  The snacks are already in the car.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


So, my little stats page view counter thingy says there have been 30,000 page views of this blog.
Um.  thank you.

I'm surprised. 
Of course the most popular post is the one about the whore house (probably see a bump on that now).

I hope something I've said has been useful to someone at some time.