Thursday, January 31, 2013

January, oh my January

Who looks at January with any fondness?  It begins with a big post-Christmas clean-up and a let-down after the jolliness of the holiday season.  And then there's nothing to do but look forward to months of snow, ice, and frigid weather--the winter doldrums.


But for this housewife, January is a sort of a golden month.

To understand why, take a look at the rest of my year....

February, March--garden planning, seed starting
April, May--spring cleaning, planting, gardening, preparing for the summer market
June, July, August--gardening, farmer's market, vacation/camping, yardwork
September, October--canning, chicken processing, fall garden cleanup
November--craft shows, Thanksgiving preparations, deer processing, housecleaning
December--Christmas (wall to wall)

It seems as though the simpler my lifestyle, the more it is tied to the seasons.  I can buy produce at the store any time of year, but if I want to grow my own, I have to put in the extra work in the summer and fall to preserve it for the rest of the year. 

So January is a month for daily doses of hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows, catching up on my book and magazine reading, and watching movies as I work on all the craft projects I can only dream about as I'm shelling peas or washing sticky peach juice off the kitchen floor. 

So now you see why January is absolutely priceless to many a housewife. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

And the breakfast award goes to....

Pear Crisp.  Yes, for breakfast.  I could eat it several times a week if I had an unlimited pear supply but at the current rate, my supply is on its way to being very limited.... 


What is a crisp?--fruit and oatmeal, essentially, and traditionally considered a dessert.  I used to make my crisps with pie filling, but with an added step, I can make use of my lightly sweetened home-canned fruit.  Captain Awesome eats his morning oatmeal dutifully and politely, but without anything resembling enthusiasm. Instead of serving a heap of mushy oatmeal with a sprinkling of fruit, I've begun making fruit with a crispy smattering of oatmeal.  It's not an entirely new idea, but it is to us and has added a spark of interest (and warmth) to our winter breakfasts. 

I used a quart of pears that I canned with an extra light syrup.  I measured about 2 T. of cornstarch into a saucepan, then drained the pear juice into the pan and whisked it together. 

I then added 1 tablespoon of quick-cooking tapioca. 

In a few minutes it was thickened, and no additional sweetener was necessary. 

I gently mixed in the pears and poured it into a small casserole.


The topping
I started with about 1 cup of rolled oats.  I then added and combined together--

a few T. of butter
a sprinkling of sucanat (unrefined sugar)
some ground almonds
(and when I remember) spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves


I sprinkled the mixture over the top and baked at 350 degrees until it bubbled around the edges.  As you can see, this is a vague "recipe" and can be made differently every time and with a variety of fruits.

Bubbling hot and crispy, a pear crisp is one of the nicest ways to start a winter day!

This post has been linked to Simple Lives Thursday

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday wash day

Traditionally, Monday was wash day. 
In the early part of the 20th century, wringer washers were all the rage.  (Actually, depending on the brand, they were made until the late 1980s and early 1990s!)  And what a luxury it was following the days of a washboard and a tub of soapy water.   Have you ever used a wringer washer?  Or even seen one in use?  Well, it just so happens that I have one in my basement that was here when I moved in.  I have an automatic washer on the other side of the room, but what kind of fun is a washer where you throw the clothes in, add soap, then pull it out later?  Not much.  I had to get a lesson since I'd never operated, much less touched one before.  But here's how it works....and why I like mine so much--seriously! 

The washer agitates like any other washer, but I decide how long I want the wash cycle to be for each load--2 minutes or 2 hours.  My automatic washer only gives me choices between 4 and 14 minute wash cycles.  I start with the "cleanest" load of laundry.


I just hold the piece of clothing near the rollers and it will feed right through the wringer and into the rinsewater tub. Then, I add the next load.  I can re-use the same water for several loads, just adding a little if necessary.  I usually start with lukewarm water and by the time I get to the dark clothes, the water has cooled perfectly.  I don't add soap to every load to keep it from getting too soapy.

 And then I swing the wringer arm around and run the clothes from the rinse tub into the basket ready to be hung to dry. 

An older lady explained to me how she used the washer. After she had washed all the clothes, starting with the light-colored and finishing with the darks, she would wash a load of rags and rugs.  Then she would use the now-dirty water to wash the cellar floor.  She would pour the remaining water into pails and use it to water the garden.  And, she explained, soapy water repels insects and other garden pests.  Clothes cleaned, rugs cleaned, floor cleaned, plants watered, produce protected, a little exercise, a good job done well and nothing wasted. 

How's that for a high efficiency washer?

You may think this process takes a long time.  There are two ways of looking at it, however.  Yes, it definitely requires more hands-on time than an automatic washer, BUT, unlike the automatic ones, you can wash and rinse loads at the same time which makes the process go quickly.  I can wash, rinse, and hang a week's worth of laundry in a couple of hours.
The way my basement is set up, I can walk up the stairs right into my yard to hang the laundry.  It seems like this beautiful fall day was long, long ago....

If you ever see a wringer washer at an auction or garage sale, snatch it up!  And use it!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A quick intro

How does one start a new blog?  It's like trying to decide on the first thing to write in a clean, new notebook.  So, I'll just tell you a little bit about me, which will also serve as a background for all the experiments I like to try and the cool stuff I've stumbled across.

A gadget that makes fruit and veggie chips in the microwave--$26.  I barely even glanced at the picture as I browsed through a catalog for a recent fundraising drive.  I didn't see it as something revolutionary or even interesting, really, just a way to speed up the ancient process of drying produce.  (Y'know, for those days when the craving for zucchini chips hits you hard and fierce....)  It wouldn't have made an impression on me except that two of my friends had been looking through the same catalog and were intrigued and excited about it to the point that they each ordered one. 

At first, I felt a little self-conscious.  Why didn't I see how utterly awesome it was, too?  But truthfully, I'm not often drawn toward new things; overwhelmingly, it's the old that piques my interest.  And I've been that way as long as I can remember.  Even as a child, I was always wondering, "How did they used to (insert activity)?"  I've always been a little dubious of "the latest" of anything and the assumption that it's an improvement over the old.  I think we've lost a lot in our never-ending focus on what we call "progress."

Somewhere along the line I realized that not everyone else looks at life the same way that I do.  It baffles me, but history is endlessly fascinating and and I'll do my best to get you to see it, too.

I guess it's important to have the inventors and the revolutionaries, too.  Otherwise, I'd probably still be wearing fig leaves, but they just don't cut it in my climate.