Thursday, May 31, 2012

A hammock...

After clearing the shed away, and realizing there is too much shade in that space for a proper garden, I have been spinning my wheels on what might work there.  Certainly I plan to seed over that area, and make sure grass grows (as much as possible), but it's such a nice spot, it's hard to ignore.

Enter visions of a hammock, relaxing, leisurely, with a good book, or a swing into a cat nap.  That just sounds too damn romantic to ignore.  There are days when that is exactly what I need...even for a few minutes.  What  I need is a hammock that is easy up/down, and easy to store.  Leaving something up year round is just not feasible, and storage space around here is at a premium.  I think I might have found the perfect solution.  More later...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Savory breakfast bread pudding

I made this a couple of months ago, taking a lead from a sweet bread pudding for the 'bread to egg/milk' ratio, but that's where the comparison ends.  This one is very savory, and very breakfast-y.  My husband, a breakfast lover, flipped over this one.  I think it's very good, as well.  It feeds a larger crew.  I cook for two, so leftovers must hold up well in the refrigerator, or freeze.  In this dish's case, the leftovers do.


Ingredients:

8 cups stale bread, cut into bite sized pieces (any herb infused bread works well here, too)
12 eggs
4 cups milk
3 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 lb. breakfast sausage
1/3 lb. cheddar cheese, shredded
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Into a large mixing bowl, add bread pieces.  Set aside.

Into a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and milk.  Pour milk over bread pieces, and set aside.

In a large saute pan set over medium high heat, heat olive oil.  Add garlic, and saute until fragrant, but not brown.  Add onion and bell peppers, and saute until onions become slightly translucent.  Season well with salt and pepper.  Remove from pan and add to egg and bread mixture.  Stir to combine.

To the saute pan, add the breakfast sausage, and cook through, breaking it up as you go.  Add the cooked sausage and cheese to the egg and bread mixture.  Stir to combine.

Pour into a large (ungreased) glass baking dish, filling only 2/3 full (it rises in the oven, as it cooks).  I usually need one 9" x 13" pan, plus two 6" ramekins.

Bake until it rises, and browns nicely along the sides, and top edges, about 40 minutes, depending upon your oven.

Leftovers can be cut into serving size pieces, wrapped in plastic, and stored in the refrigerator, or frozen for longer term storage.  Leftovers re-heat well in a microwave oven.  A dollop of sour cream on top is a nice touch, as well.

75 things you can compost, but thought you couldn't...

From TLC Home

1. Coffee grounds and filters
2. Tea bags
3. Used paper napkins
4. Pizza boxes, ripped into smaller pieces
5. Paper bags, either ripped or balled up
6. The crumbs you sweep off of the counters and floors
7. Plain cooked pasta
8. Plain cooked rice
9. Stale bread
10. Paper towel rolls
11. Stale saltine crackers
12. Stale cereal
13. Used paper plates (as long as they don't have a waxy coating)
14. Cellophane bags (be sure it's really Cellophane and not just clear plastic—there's a difference.)
15. Nut shells (except for walnut shells, which can be toxic to plants)
16. Old herbs and spices
17. Stale pretzels
18. Pizza crusts
19. Cereal boxes (tear them into smaller pieces first)
20. Wine corks
21. Moldy cheese
22. Melted ice cream
23. Old jelly, jam, or preserves
24. Stale beer and wine
25. Paper egg cartons
26. Toothpicks
27. Bamboo skewers
28. Paper cupcake or muffin cup
29. Used facial tissues
30. Hair from your hairbrush
31. Toilet paper rolls
32. Old loofahs
33. Nail clippings
34. Urine
35. 100% Cotton cotton balls
36. Cotton swabs made from 100% cotton and cardboard (not plastic) stick
37. Cardboard tampon applicators
38. Latex condoms
39. Dryer lint
40. Old/stained cotton clothing—rip or cut it into smaller pieces
41. Old wool clothing—rip or cut it into smaller pieces
42. Bills and other documents you've shredded
43. Envelopes (minus the plastic window)
44. Pencil shavings
45. Sticky notes
46. Business cards (as long as they're not glossy)
47. Receipts 
48. Contents of your vacuum cleaner bag or canister
49. Newspapers (shredded or torn into smaller pieces)
50. Subscription cards from magazines
51. Leaves trimmed from houseplants
52. Dead houseplants and their soil
53. Flowers from floral arrangements
54. Natural potpourri
55. Used matches
56. Ashes from the fireplace, barbecue grill, or outdoor fire pit
57. Wrapping paper rolls
58. Paper table cloths
59. Crepe paper streamers
60. Latex balloons
61. Raffia
62. Excelsior
63. Jack o' Lanterns
64. Those hay bales you used as part of your outdoor fall decor
65. Natural holiday wreaths
66. Your Christmas tree. Chop it up with some pruners first (or use a wood chipper, if you have one...)
67. Evergreen garlands
68. Fur from the dog or cat brush
69. Droppings and bedding from your rabbit/gerbil/hamsters, etc.
70. Newspaper/droppings from the bottom of the bird cage
71. Feathers
72. Alfalfa hay or pellets (usually fed to rabbits)
73. Rawhide dog chews
74. Fish food
75. Dry dog or cat food

The first contribution!

Earlier this morning, I posted an entry about the start of our composting journey.  After posting that entry, I made some breakfast bread pudding to keep in the fridge for my husband.  An easy, quick breakfast.  He loves it, it's quick to prep before he heads off to work, and it freezes well, if I happen to make a particularly large batch.

Before I started preparing the bread pudding, I set out a stainless steel bowl for my 'waste', which would be my first contribution, aside from grass clippings, to my compost bin.

 

I'm pleased with my contribution.  I had onion skins/trimmings, garlic skins/trimmings, bell pepper trimmings, egg shells and the paper egg carton!  I'm very proud.  I will toss it into the bin, with the grass clippings, later tonight.  I think this is going to be a rewarding project.  You're welcome, Mother Earth.  =)

Footnote: I just learned that dog hair makes a great contribution to the compost bin, as do the contents of the vacuum canister.  I really think I'm going to love this.

Hello, composting!

For many years I have wanted to build a compost area in our yard, and make our own compost.  I'm not sure if it's the fantasy of the pioneerness of it, or if I have some earth connection, on some 'energy' level.  None the less, I have always harbored the idea of composting, understanding that any composting effort on our behalf can only help Mother Earth and reduce the burden she carries.

(I was also really moved by a piece written by Mike Rowe, about a key note speech he gave to the Future Farmers of America, and his perspective on our separation from our world, and the things that sustain it.  If you haven't read that piece, I encourage you to do so.  You can find it here).

Cliff and I also have another practical reason for composting.  In the high grass growing season, we simply have too many clippings, and the overflow has no place to go.  Composting, it seems, was upon us, whether or not we were ready.

A couple of weeks ago, I got six free pallets for the garden I plan to plant this year.  My pallets are larger than normal.  They are 4' x 5-1/2', and six of them seemed a little much for my first gardening effort.  As I looked at those pallets, I had a thought.  If we stood three of them up on end, fastening them into a u-shape containment area, we could make my composting wish come true...or at least start the process.  We would still have three pallets left, allowing a garden planting area of about 4' x 17', which is plenty, I think, for this year.  If it works, and we find we enjoy growing our own fruits and vegetables, we can expand next year.

 

On our lot, we have a good sized front yard and back yard, with one side acting as a pass through from front to back.  The other side is totally utilitarian.  The only thing that grows on the utilitarian side of the house are the tufts of grass that won't quite die, and weeds.  It has become a storage area for our agility equipment, and our compost bin has now been added, further establishing that space as one of 'function' vs. 'form'.

At some point we should probably bring in a unit of 3/4 minus gravel, and just commit the utility space to its 'function', but I may decide it has another life down the road, and removing a unit of gravel just doesn't have a lot of appeal, so for now, we kill the weeds that grow in that space, and leave it as is, as the utilitarian corner of our little world.

Okay, back to the point of my post: composting!

With the pallets up on end, and fastened in the corners, I needed to add some kind of barrier to keep the compost in its place as the pile grew.  We first tried some leftover landscape fabric, but it became apparent it would be no match for even a light wind, and after it was in it's place, it quickly took leave.  1" hex chicken wire took its place.  We finished the bin on Monday night.  Tuesday morning, as I had my morning 'Joe', I checked FaceBook.  Well, wouldn't you know it, the girls at Fabulously Frugal had posted a link to a free e-book on composting.  Previously $16.99, free seemed a very good price.

I expected a tutorial on how to build a compost bin, but what I have gotten, thus far, is a rather impressive education on the fine art, and science of composting, as well as a history lessons in waste management.  I love this book.  I highly recommend it, even if you don't ever plan to build your own compost bin, and venture down the composting path, the information in the book is an eye opener, and really shines light on the need to re-purpose our world, and why it's not just smart, but truly critical to support life...all life.

I really don't know if it's still on sale for free, or not, but if it is, and you have an e-reader, it's definitely a must have, in my opinion.  Give it a look-see:

Composting Inside & Out: The comprehensive guide to reusing trash, saving money and enjoying the benefits of organic gardening

Tonight Cliff will mow the lawn, and the first clippings will make their home in the compost bin.  The sprinkling system takes care of watering that space, so we're good to go.  I'm pretty sure I will need a "Green Acres" style pitch fork to complete my composting efforts, as well as some vegetable waste to feed the micro-organisms that will bring their extraordinary 'work force' efforts to my compost, but I think I'm set...for now.

Footnote: probably good we don't have acreage.  I could see myself with chickens, and other 'farm' type creatures.  I really think I must have farmer blood in my veins...or in my spirit!

Thoughtful Tuesday: waylaid Wednesday...?

 

Yesterday was Tuesday, which means "thoughtful Tuesday", but I wasn't really up to writing, so, here I am on Wednesday, writing a "thoughtful Tuesday" post.  Perhaps I should call it "waylaid Wednesday"?

Yesterday I heard of the passing of a high school classmate.  I didn't know her real well in high school, and I certainly hadn't kept up with her in the ensuing years, but there is something about high school that breeds some familiarity, and when you know the name and remember the person, you feel a connection, even in the absence of a regularly maintained one.  Social media allows us to re-connect, electronically, so those long lost names and faces bubble up, and breed a refreshed familiarity.  I also think high school is a time of beginnings, and in my own mind, I think it will always be that way.  When a high school classmate is lost, it chips away at the illusion of the innocence of those 'beginnings', and carries an element of shock.

It's unsettling when an acquaintance who has passed is someone that was your own age, no matter the age.  I remember the first time a friend of mine passed away, and was my age.  I was 18 at the time.  She was lost to a tragic car accident.  I remember thinking how much it scared me.  I remember realizing I wouldn't be here forever, that life would end for me, too, at some point down my road.

And so it went yesterday when I heard about the passing of my classmate.

I know life goes on, and it must, but there is always a part of me that wishes the world would stop, just for a moment in time, to honor those who pass.  It just seems so inconsequential when a life is lost, and millions of people just carry on, without a care.  Of course, they carry on because they don't know they shouldn't, and, of course, they don't even know that particular life was lost, but I find it oddly unsettling for those left behind...for them, life will go on, but be forever changed.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The finest re-purposing effort of my life!

This weekend has been one of extreme re-purposing.  Not a single penny spent, and three major projects completed.  To say it's been gratifying, would be a ridiculous understatement.

It all started early Saturday morning with shed demolition.  It took a few hours, but it came down without too much trouble.  Neighbor Jeff (a.k.a. the Marlboro man), came by and pitched in to help Cliff with the last of the metal carcass, and hauled it away to a scrap metal re-cycling facility.  Part one done!

 

We had a few 'presents' behind the shed, which we weren't expecting.  An old door, two old tires, and an antique push mower.  I would have liked to keep the push mower, but somehow the boys saw fit for Jeff to take it away, so I will live without it.  I thought it was kind of groovy, in a weird sort of way.

 

Next up, the shed base.  With Jeff's chain saw, quick work was made of the base.  A few cuts, and viola...all done!  While the boys made quick work of the last of the shed demolition, I made a tart, and sent Jeff home with a couple of pieces for he and his wife.  Small price to pay for the huge help Jeff was in the latter part of the demolition project.

Sunday morning was burn day.  With a rather large pile of wood to burn, we had to start early, so we had our fire stacked and ignited by about 5am.  After 7 smokey, and HOT hours, stoking that fire, we were done.  I'm not sure when I have been so tired, but gratifying doesn't even begin to describe how good it felt to burn that old wood.

Our fire started small, but it took little time for the smoldering heap to turn into a raging inferno.


 

Once we had the fire all but out, it was time to find homes for all the prior occupants of the shed.  As the shed was so ineffective at keeping its occupants dry, we didn't have much out there, but we did have a few things that needed to find a new home.  We re-organized the garage, (for what must be the third or fourth time this year), and found space for the yard chemicals/fertilizers/insecticides.  We loaded up a van full for the dump, and were left with mostly the yard tools.  Hum, what to do...?

We had an old metal garbage can holding all my agility jump poles, and weave poles, and determined it might find better use as a tool caddy.  Some old PVC was cut, holes drilled into the can, some zip ties, and a few minutes later, a caddy.  All the yard tools fit nicely inside, and store in a very small corner of the garage.  A great project, to be sure.





 

Today we took three of the six free pallets we had and fashioned them into a compost bin.  A little leftover landscape fabric was stapled to the inside panels, and we were good to go.  With as much lawn as we have, the twice monthly yard debris pick up just isn't enough to haul it all away when the grass is really growing, like it is now.

I'm not sure how well the landscape fabric will hold up as a barrier in the compost bin, especially with the wind we have on occasion, but if it fails to stand up under our weather conditions, we'll replace it with chicken wire, or another suitable alternative.

Whew...I would say I'm sufficiently pooped, as these three re-purposing projects were only some of things things on our 'to-do' list for the weekend.  We also sprayed for weeds, hung a light fixture in the garage, re-seeded some bare spots in the lawn, built a shelf for the roof-top cargo carrier, and a few other random things.  It has been a very full weekend.  All of the other projects were also re-purposing projects.  The only project on our list that cost money was the light fixture.  We had to purchase the fixture.

All in all, our projects were a truly fabulous showcase of how much one can accomplish without spending money.  Look around...you might be surprised at what you have that you can re-purpose, saving yourself money in the process.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

As you like it...trail mix!

Not a particularly inventive idea, and I'm sure there are many who have been doing this for a very long time, but it was a good reminder for me, so I figured others might find it useful, as well.  'Mix your own' trail mix.  In our local market, called Fred Meyer, we have a beautiful bulk section, full of seeds, nuts, grains, flours, etc.  If you need it, they probably have it there.  They also have spices in bulk, and there are many to choose from.  I have long since made my own combination spices from the spice section, but I had sort of forgotten I could make a great, custom snack, by choosing my own seeds, nuts and dried fruits from the bulk section.

This morning, as we were doing our weekly shopping, my husband said, "let's make our own trail mix."  I thought it was a great idea.  We chose items that were on sale, and made about 2-1/2 lbs. of trail mix for about 1/2 the price of the next least expensive option.

 

We chose roasted peanuts, yogurt raisins, sunflower seeds, sesame sticks, dried cranberries and dried dates.  A great snack, either to take to work, send off to school with kids, or just to have in a bowl around the house.  If you haven't made your own trail mix, I encourage you to give it a go.  It's kind of fun to pick out what you want vs. just accepting what they put in the pre-made stuff.