Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rethinking Things

I have a few seeds for my garden, and a few little shovels and things for gardening.
I have the perfect place for chickens.
I like to day dream about a donkey meeting me outside and the kids riding him around.

But, I don't water plants.  I have trouble remembering to feed the dog.  And I'm thinking I'll put the breaks on these things for this year.

I do paint though, and I'm doing more of that.

Like this:

and this:

There are more, I just don't have pictures of them at the moment.  There is one in the works and more in my head and I'm thinking that for now, this blog will be cooking adventures, painting experiments and photos of falling in love with the desert.  

I'm just not to the point of being able to parent three little people, keep up the house, the cooking, the marriage, friendships, etc AND doing things that are actually really hard to be diligent about.  Cooking and painting are a joy so, here is where they will be.  Here's to accepting ourselves as we are and not as who we will be, one day.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Purple Sauerkraut

The ingredients.

I hope the color doesn't change over the 6 weeks!

In 6 weeks I'll be eating all this within about 24 hours, that is the way of sauerkraut in my clutches.  And if all goes well, I'll be making much more!  Maybe when I realize that I can have it at every meal I wont be totally addicted to it until it's gone.  Side note: sauerkraut has is supposedly a very low GI food and is said to be a 'free food' for those living the low-GI life!


I have come to see the word outsourcing as some what of a dirty word.  It's the reason I can't understand or be understood when I call my bank.  It's the reason our country has political ties with little, war torn countries that lead to things like war, and dead soldiers.  It's one of the reasons our country has a very rapidly declining amount of blue collar jobs.  It's one of the reasons the blue collar jobs we have wont pay anyone's bills.

When we lived in an apartment, I was mad that we had to outsource everything.  From playgrounds to tomatoes, lawn care to clothes drying(energy).  And when I longed for a house, I longed for a place to outsource less.  Grow our own, wash and dry our own, make our own, entertain on our own... But I wasn't raised that way.  At all.

I'm finding that it's a lot of work.  Which isn't bad, but it's tricky trying to juggle all of our time consuming responsibilities and taking up new ones.  Even the simple ones, like home cooked meals, tinkering with leaky van parts and enjoying our own sunshine.

In fact, I've lost sight of it.  I've read so many opinions about being self-sustained so we're ready for nuclear war or whatever other tragedy attacks our new frontier.  But I've never wanted to do things myself out of fear.  If I was fear driven I'd be a working mom bringing in as much money as I could - in other words, I'd go back to what I know: money and depending on it's security.

But I read a little list not too long ago about all the things we, as a culture, outsource that people didn't a hundred years ago or so.  This list included food production, clothing production, child rearing, child schooling, entertainment and a bunch of other really huge things.

Yesterday I was looking at my roasted barley coffee substitute for $6.99 a box and the pearled barley sitting on the counter and thought, this box says there are a just a few grains in this, roasted, ground and packaged.  I wonder if I could do that.  So I looked up coffee roasting on the internet.  Turns out, a hundred years ago, most everyone did their own coffee roasting and bought the raw beans (with a shelf life of 2 years) instead of the roasted beans (with a shelf life of two weeks).  This was normal, people still had time to wash clothes by hand and talk to each other.  In fact, it seems they talked more than we do now.

Today I deleted my facebook account so I'm no longer outsourcing friendship and I'm remembering why I'm here.  I didn't want to outsource my kids or my vegetables and I wanted to relearn that the best way to get to know someone, including family, is to work along beside them.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sourdough Starter

See the bubbles?

This beautiful little mother was made of some flour, some water and a little bit of dry yeast.  Exactly those measurements.  She's bubbling away and I'm hoping to not only use her often, but not have to ever toss her out and start again... like I have in the past.

You'll be happy to know that sourdough bread (when made with 100% wheat flour) is a higher protein food than the fresh yeast breads of the same make and model.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Foot In the Door

Just put in a little order for some heirloom barley and shell beans and threw in a packet of southwest wildflowers.

I'm getting really excited about Barley, as it is has the lowest glycemic index of any grain ever tested.  I fell in love with the story of this particular barley strain and that it was created (and expects to grow well) here in southern California.  I'm planning on doing a lot of experiments with barley and low-glycemic recipes as well as figuring out how to get from a packet of seeds to a loaf of bread.

We've also decided to post some of our favorite low-glycemic recipes here on the site, so look out for that as well!

My mom also stopped by this morning with a horse trailer full of goods.  Pallets and branches for heating the house, some fun old pieces of tack, a whole box full of used and rusted horseshoes and some other random bits of rusted junk.  We now have plenty of fodder for our store, we just have to get working on it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

How I Am Making Gravel

When we bought this house, it came with large piles of dirt.  The outer piles had been formed into a dirt bike riding course, with a really nice curve and some jumps, like 8 steep little hills with a curve in the middle.  And since we purchased the property we have wondered, what will we do with those hills?

Well, the first thing we did was introduce them to the kids as 'the mountains'.  These hills are the kids' favorite thing to play with in our yard.

A few weeks ago I decided that the area right outside our front door was destined to be a wildflower garden.  But, it was to have walkways lined with rocks and little pockets of flowers also surrounded with rocks.  Gravel would be perfect for the space between flowers, but where to get it?  Any amount of money was too much for this project.

Then, I saw these:
'The mountains' otherwise known as - 'random piles of dirt'.

And I thought, the soil is pretty course, I bet I could make some gravel and then well, if I wanted the whole two acres covered in plastic with a layer of gravel on top to deter weeds, well I'm half way there!  Over the course of a few days, my plan involved the metal window screens that came with the house.  Or rather, on the house.  But seeing as we have a ton of windows and about 5 screens, we will need to re-screen most of the house anyways and if one old metal screen gets injured in the making of gravel, it's a small price to pay.

So I took two patio chairs, my old screen and set to work!

The set up.

How it works: shovel dirt on top of screen, move it all around until dust and debris stop falling out the bottom.  Move remaining bits (gravel) to bucket.  Take bucket, pour in desired spot.  Return.  Repeat.

So I got a few buckets full after sifting.  Here is the result:

Not the most uniform, but over some plastic it will definitely keep the weeds away!

Now.  There was the stuff that fell out of the bottom and it was beautiful.

Extremely uniform, wonderful, slightly orange sand.

I was thinking of all the uses the sand could have and decided that it needed to go on the walk ways through the wildflower garden.  When I sift the dirt, I get about half and half.  Here are some pictures of the gravel and sand in action.

Gravel in action, the stick in that clump of grass there is a rose bush.

Sand on the walkway.

I'm really excited to see how it will look when the whole garden has the sand and gravel in the appropriate places.  It will be a long time going because two buckets of gravel and two of sand take a totally of about 45 minutes.  But I'm out there watching the kids play most days anyways, so it's all good.

I can't wait to take my rake and leave wonderful little rake lines down my walk ways with bright bloom wildflowers hanging out the side of their planters... Slow and steady!  April looks like it may possibly be a big month here at Dusty Acres, so I'm setting April as my set up goal for the front and back gardens.  It's a tall order, but I'm a tall girl...


Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Over the last week or so I have been plotting out our front flower garden.  In lou of a green lawn that is expensive to upkeep we have opted for a wildflower garden out our front door.  My hope is to fill the plots with drought resistant flowers that give us a beautiful show and yet don't require overhead sprinklers twice a day.  Honestly, my dream would be to water by hand 2-3 times a week, but I don't think I'm quite savy enough to find plants that fit that model yet.

Since we live in the desert I have yet to notice a small flowering plant that is native to our area.  There are blooms on the yucca and Joshua trees in the spring, and a certain bush I have yet to find the name of, completely covers itself in tiny yellow flowers at the end of summer for one week, and for that week the high desert is a sea of yellow.  But nothing dainty and flowering, yet.

In our front garden I wanted flowers, bright, abundant blooms all throughout the growing season.

I am using two resources:

My Own Experiences

So far, I've decided on a packet of California wild flowers that has flowers in it that bloom from early spring to late summer.  I've also decided on some of the Black Eyed Susans that sprinkle themselves liberally over the Los Angeles basin in the heat of summer.  They are not native, although they have naturalized to Southern California and I have had a love affair with Black Eyed Susans since I was very small.  The way they spring up on the side of the freeway in a crack in the pavement, a 2'6" scrubby plant covered in large yellow blooms that hasn't seen rain or even clouds in months.  They wave a cheery hello at the motorists as they grumble in smoggy traffic.  These girls are still a poem waiting to be written, and I'm more than a little excited to see them swaying in the wind outside my window!

Payne's #1: Rainbow Mixture Available Here.

Black Eyed Susans in all their glory, Available Here.

So, we have already turned this:  
Before we moved in.
Into this:

Bright blaring morning sun, but painted the front white, the door red
and added a scrappy little fence.

And some fun little rock paths. 

So this is the inbetween period, the period of plotting, rock hauling, gravel making and watering plans.  Soon, there will be lots of wild flowers beside those paths!  And the scrappy little winter time rose bushes along the house there will be blooming and beautiful.  It'll be such a transformation!

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Little Walk

A few days ago, we went on a little walk at the edge of our neighborhood.  You drive to the end of the paved road, drive past the last house, out onto some government land and over look a valley from the joshua tree littered foothills.  It's spectacular at sunset.  Here are a few photos.
A dying yucca in the orange sunset.

There are trails forged all over these desert foothills.

A Joshua tree standing in front of foothills along the northeast side of Big Bear Mountain.

Last spring this Yucca plant sent up the giant shoot you see covered in white flowers.
It is now dying and it's offspring surround it, preparing for the spring when they too will sprout a veritable tree of white flowers.

Dead California Buckwheat overlooking a view toward Lucerne Valley.

The remnants of a Cholla Cactus.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Upon Dwelling on Eating Locally Grown

I am thinking about striving to eat as much food grown on my own land as possible.  And I am realizing that things that are staples in our diet just wouldn't happen if it wasn't for imported or ultra processed foods, such as:

vanilla (which in the orchid family and requires lots of humidity and very controlled temperatures)
coffee (all I know is that it isn't grown in the US, and there has to be a reason for that)
imitation parmesean cheese (hey, it's a staple around here)
hot chocolate powder
chocolate anything
vegetable oil (on my own, I would just be living with butter instead of oil)
olive oil (I could press my own olives, but that is SOOO MUCH WORK to get just a bit of oil, from growing the olives, harvesting, pressing, and I'm pretty sure the olives are cooked/fermented/something first)
lard (is this seriously just animal fat?  how do they get it's so white and strange?)

in short - I would really enjoy doing the 'we're only eating what we have here on our land' for one year with the kids, I think it would make a truly amazing homeschooling year.  But man, my food life would be so different if it weren't for so many of those imported foods.  Can you imagine cheese being a rare treat?  Or, in thinking about how much butter and oil I use in cooking, how many hours of butter churning would that translate to in a week?