Friday, 17 December 2010

Pictures of You.....

The Smells of the Holidays

There's no way to sweeten the ideal, we are pig farmers and have three rough and tumble kids under 7. That means I do a LOT of laundry and deal with a lot of really bad smells. Those of you with kids and or pigs probably know that the majority of these smells come from the kids!

But there is a catch, everyone in our house is allergic to commercial chemicals, deoderizers, and fragrances and it is a range of reactions, from severe skin blistering to headaches to sinus irritation. It is easy enough to switch to hyper allergenic clothes washing, pure soaps, and natural cleaners but what about getting smells out of unconventional places and what about pleasant scents?

My first step is always to clean, but that's not always enough.

To start with, white vinager is a great deoderizer. Works the same way that Febreeze does, it pickles the stink and kills the bacteria. I used to demonstrate Febreeze and had to study the product before hand. Basically the same idea. I add a little peppermint oil to the bottle so when it dries it smells minty fresh! My oldest daughter calls this Peppermint Pickle spray. I works as a first aid spray too (all be it a painful one) and a quick hand sanitizer. I use a mix of this as a rinse in my clothes washer too.

Then to make the house fragrant if company is coming I collect the orange/clementine peels and mostly eaten apples that are abundant this time of year at my house. Through the day the girls add them to a stove pot, I cover with water and add a cinnamon stick or two and simmer; add water as needed. Ta da! It adds humidity we need right now and smells amazing with no allergic reactions. I have also done this with just mint, but it is not as strong.

How do you combat stink at your house?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Happy Happy Farm Day for Farmer Chad


Frugal Fruit

When Julia asked me to take part in her frugal blog tour, I struggled to think of a topic.  Then it came to me....fruit!

Who doesn't love fruit? Or rather who does in my house....the answer is everybody including our livestock. What is not to love? It is healthy and sweet and full of good nutrients. It can also be expensive but it doesn't have to be.

In fact, most of the fruit brought home to our farm last summer was free. Even when we lived in the city I managed to "score" hundreds of pounds of fresh, ripe, organic fruit for free. How? I paid attention and I asked.

The first year I brought home the apples it was because a nursing home posted online that they had trees that needed picking. When the facility was built, various fruit trees were planted and now they were basically neglected and so heavy with fruit the branches were breaking. Organic by neglect and only a short drive from home, we brought our own picker and had at it. Every year I go back (with the grounds keeper's permission) with buckets in hand and a few friends and we bring home more than enough apples and pears to fill my pantry and freezer for the year.

This year I brought extra buckets and cleaned up all the windfall too (the grounds keeper was thrilled!). The hogs and chickens we raise could not get enough. That go me thinking about how to get them I asked around. Anyone I know have an apple tree that was bothering them? Ha! Surprisingly, four or five friends did have an apple tree problem. Perfect, lovely apples that were just going to waste were suddenly put to very good use with a very small effort on my part. I brought home about 4000 lbs of apples this year to feed 18 Berkshire pigs that we pasture.

When we lived cityside I would also see neglected trees while walking my kids and dog around the neighborhood. Peaches, apricots, cherries, and mulberries that no one bothered to pick. A quick knock on a door or a note left in the screen would not only yield my pantry but also expand my community.

I also added wild crafting to my fruit gathering repertoire. I found red and black raspberries wild in my own backyard. Then I found wild plum, mulberries, boysenberries, elderberries, an blackberries.  I gathered and froze or canned and much as I could. Then I started to notice these berries everywhere we went, public parks and ditches were overflowing with food! (Note: most ditches in Iowa are sprayed with pesticide and they manage road runoff so not the best place for harvest, IMO).

Not all my fruit needs were satisfied this way though. My kids are HUGE peach fans and no one who had peaches were giving those up for free. Ha! A local family owned store near us had 50 lb crates of Missouri peaches for $13 dollars this summer. I bought 5 over the course of two months and canned 2 of them. The the rest my kids ate out of hand and any spoilage went to our chickens. This same store had apricots and blueberries for a similar price too. I asked the storekeeper about spoilage and a few times they called me and sold me crates of bruised fruit for 3$ at the end of the week. CRATES! That all went to the pigs. Pigs like bruised fruit.  It doesn't hurt to ask.

We also cultivated our own garden fruit too. A small patch (10 ft by 15 ft) of strawberries yielded 135 lbs of fruit for us this year. We froze about 90lbs, ate until we were red in the face, and shared with friends too. We planted raspberry canes and watermelons too.

When my kids chomp through the fruit basket for the week I don't cringe at the expense. I know the ingredient list and I know who picked it for the most part. My freezer is brimming with the summer bounty and I will relish the taste of local sunshine in pies, smoothies, and fruit Popsicles all winter.