The Best Food Prep Tip of the Year (at least I think so)

How long do you expect lettuce to “keep” in the refrigerator? A few days? A week? Have you ever bought lettuce, or some other fresh green, with some vague plan to use it in a salad or on sandwiches, only to find a wilted mess some days later, because you forgot about it? Unfortunately it has happened way more often than I want to admit. I hate wasting food, and I really hate it when it’s because I forgot it was “in there”.

Having a menu or some kind of plan has helped cut down on that kind of waste, but I found something else that helps too. I don’t know what I was looking for when I found this article, but I think it may be the best tip I’ve seen in a long time.

I bought some lettuce about three weeks ago, and prepped it this way:

Lettuce

Lettuce

Cut it. Rinsed it. Patted it with some paper towels to dry it.

cut and rinsed

cut and rinsed

Laid it out in a relatively single layer on dry paper towels.

single layer on paper towels

single layer on paper towels

Rolled it up, in the paper towels.

Rolling

Rolling

rolled

rolled

Put the roll in a food storage bag.

in the bag

in the bag

Labeled the bag.

labeled

labeled

Put it in the fridge and promptly forgot I even had it…until Monday night.

We were making hamburgers, and I remembered that I had lettuce in there somewhere. I was kind of apprehensive when I opened the bag, because there was no way that lettuce would have survived three weeks, right?

Well, this is what I found.

Three weeks later

Three weeks later

Honestly, the taste and texture was like it had been when I wrapped it. No kidding!

Think of the possibilities!

Connie

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Picture of the Week Thursday: A Chicken Update

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Kat and Moonrise

The last time we posted pictures of the chicks, they were tiny. This one was actually taken last week. This is Moonrise. As far as we can tell, she is a hen. We tried to get a shot of Sunrise too, but he wouldn’t keep still.

They both seem to be doing quite well. They have both escaped a time or two (I think they flew out), but they don’t go far. Still, I would rather they stayed in. We’ve had a couple stray dogs about, and Meeko still escapes as well, and I don’t want to risk them all being out at the same time.

We figured out this morning that Meeko not only gets out, but he can get back in too.  That’s another blog post: probably one Ed will write.

Connie

Proper Pallet Preparation (I could not resist)

You see them all the time. People building three story homes complete with in ground pool, billiard room, three car garage and tennis court that are built entirely out of pallets. You see the shelves, beds, fences, dining room tables, circular stairways and scale models of Old Ironsides all built with pallets and the question that is at the very head of most all slippery slopes comes niggling into your mind.

How hard could it be anyway?

Alexander, before he was the great, Cole Younger riding through North Field the first time, and Eve staring at the first Golden Delicious all ask themselves: how hard could it be anyway?

The question really was only a matter of idle curiosity until it met opportunity. The manager of the local Sprouts market offered me as many pallets as I cared to carry off. In two trips, I carried off a half dozen conventional pallets and one shelf like pallet that is now supporting Connie’s outdoor flowers that are wintering in our living room.

This is the shelf like pallet I found and, with no alteration, now sits in the Living Room for Connie's flowers

This is the shelf like pallet I found and, with no alteration, now sits in the Living Room for Connie’s flowers

I am still working on the cold frame and I decide I am going to disassemble a pallet to provide the wood I need for that. I have the pallets. I have a claw hammer and a nail puller, so what could go wrong? Find below the lessons learned from my first pallet disassembling:

Pallets before

Pallets before

Pallets after

Pallets after

1. No, I did not impale myself on a nail, but I did decide after looking at the pallets themselves that anyone doing this might want to know the date of his or her last tetanus shot. Mine was two years ago, when I did step on a nail at the old house, and woke up some six hours later with an infected foot. Note: nurse friendly will ask you one time when you had your last tetanus shot. If you say you do not know, start pulling down your trousers: here it comes.
2. Pallets are made to carry heavy loads being lifted with a pallet jack or forklift. They are designed to take a lot of abuse. Pallets are generally assembled with nail guns by workers who do not scrimp on the nails. Some pallets only have real nails in three of the boards, one on each end and one in the middle. The rest of the boards are attached with staples. The good news is the stapled boards are easier to pull; the bad news is that the nail guy, feeling cheated, uses more and longer nails.
3. So I go to work on my first pallet. So as not to leave you in horrible suspense, I did get enough wood to do what I wanted to do on the cold frame. The rest of the story is that it was hard.
4. It took hours to pull the pallet apart; I broke and rendered useless almost half of the boards on the pallet. Okay, useless is an over statement. I burn wood in my den so they are not useless but you get my point.

Disassembling five more pallets that represented 20 to 25 man hours of labor to produce an equal number of usable boards and kindling, did not look like such a good idea. What did all these guys who built covered bridges with pallet lumber know that I did not?

Next, I bought a full sized pry bar at the local farm store and worked on the next pallet with it. The results were only marginally better, and my bad shoulder was fast catching up with my worse shoulder in the pain department. I needed to do something else.

While we are still sad that the Library at Alexandria was burned, we do have the modern equivalent at our disposal. Google led me to You Tube. If you need to perform a kitchen table heart transplant, You Tube has a video for it. On You Tube I found a number of videos on the subject of pallet disassembly. My method incorporated the theory seen in this one.

I did not use a brick or a concrete block because I did not have them. I did have a number of the 4 X 4 inch blocks used in building pallets (I had just taken two apart). I had a small piece of 2 X 4 inch wood that I could attach to the other block (God bless duct tape), and extend it to half a foot. Then I used another of the 4 X 4 blocks and my four pound hammer.

IMG_1344

My basic pallet busting set-up. That and a pair of good durable work gloves.

I would set the 6 inch block under one of the boards near the place it is nailed or, better yet, stapled in, then I would put the other block on the board next to it to protect it from damage and I would hit that 4 inch block with my 4 pound hammer. After I had loosened that end, I would move to the middle and repeat the process. The last attached point was fairly easy to pry loose.

This is what happens when you do it right.

This is what happens when you do it right.

This is your set up. Note please, you will loose board even doing this. Wood is soft, nails and hammers are hard.

This is your set up. Note please, you will lose boards even doing this. Wood is soft, nails and hammers are hard.

IMG_1349

When you are doing the center go to the far side of the center support so your force is against the nails not the board. It cost me another board to learn that, you get it for free.

Using this method I took two pallets apart in a little under an hour, saved more than ¾ of the wood and could walk and function when I was done. All told, a vast improvement.

another view of a good set up.

another view of a good set up.

So now I am becoming a fairly adept pallet disassembler. The next trick is going to be actually building something out of pallets. Let’s see how that works out.

For those of you who noticed, yes it is raining in that picture and no, I am not that invested in pallet busting that I do it in the rain. Connie read this and said she would not understand without pictures. And I am always one for clarity.

May God Bless,

EdIMG_1354

Picture of the Week Thursday: Woodpecker

Good morning!

Since I have some potted herbs and flowers that I want to over winter inside, and since the over night temps have started dipping into the 30’s, I started bringing pots in this morning.

While I was out in the  front yard, I started hearing the tap tap tap of a woodpecker. It didn’t take long to locate him on one of the sunflower stalks. Ed came outside about that time, and I whispered for him to get my camera.

Sometimes I think the Lord shows me things like this for the same reason I show them to my children. He knows I think it’s cool, and He likes to see my face light up.

Woodpecker on the Sunflower

Woodpecker on the Sunflower

Have a wonderful day.

Connie

Technical Difficulties

Good morning!

It is a beautiful day here in north central Missouri, and I plan to get some work done outside, but first I wanted to address a few technical difficulties we are working through.

First: We just discovered our “Contact Us” page was not, well, contacting us. We were not getting any notifications. The problem is fixed now, so if you previously contacted us, please do so again, and I will get back to you as soon as possible. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Second: I’ve been using Google Chrome for quite some time, and until recently, never had any real problems with it. Actually, I only have one problem with it now. When I am in WordPress, which is what allows me to talk to all of you, Chrome will not let me access my notifications. Notifications are what tells me that you have commented on post, that you are following us, or that you just like what we’ve written. When I click in the little notification icon, I just get a little circle that keeps going and going and going. “Contact Us” notifications go straight to my email, so this issue dosen’t effect that one.

I still have Internet Explorer, so I switched over and that worked fine. Still swtiching around is a hassle.

Three: Kat and Bam Bam both use laptops with Windows 8 (mine is Windows 7…Ed is still using XP), and both recently upgraded to Windows 10. When I saw I could do that too for free, I thought “Why not?” At first, it was all good, I did get some help with navigation from my teenager.

Then I went to what I thought was IE to check notifications. Well, it isn’t IE; it’s Microsoft Edge. Ok, well, no big deal, I guess. That worked fine for about two days. Now, Edge is telling me that it “can’t reach this page”. It can’t reach any page. Apparently Edge thinks I am not connected to the internet. Still trying to figure that one out.

My next idea is to see what I can get from Firefox. I’ll let you know.

Four: This is kind of related to three, and mostly just an irritant. Occasionally, I like to play Spider Solitaire. Do you know that in Windows 10, all the Solitaire games are online?  The games that are actually listed in Windows, as far as I am able to tell, are all trial versons. What is up with that?

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in IT; I ought to be able to figure this out!

Ok, that is my little rant for the day. Mainly, I just wanted to let you know that our “Contact Us” page is working properly.

I’ll  have some more homestead related things to share with you in a day or two.

Connie

Run, Run, Run!

Seems like all we did this week was run.

We made two 100 mile round trips to Liberty. and one 140 mile round trip to Independence this week, for doctor’s appointments and other personal business. Needless to say, we didn’t get much done on the homestead.

However, we did find a supplier for free wood pallets and other cool stuff from a store in Liberty. Look what we brought home yesterday!

wood frame with pallets in the background.

wood frame with pallets in the background.

Since we still don’t have the cold frame finished, Ed is thinking about using part of one of the pallets to frame the windows. Lord willing, his next two days off (Monday and Tuesday), will be “stay at home and catch up on projects” days.

Even with all the running, we did manage to get some school done. Most of what we did this week was literature. Since she was having to do a lot of sitting and waiting, I made her take books with her. She was not happy, but she did it. Today we started some Shakespeare, as well as reading “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” . Next week will have some “catch up on school” days as well.

The days that Ed worked, I got a few projects finished. I got some goldenrod picked and then I hung all my herbs out in the garage to dry.

goldenrod

goldenrod

drying herbs

drying herbs

I started drying them this way a few years ago, when we lived in Independence. I had a bumper crop of herbs and needed to get them all harvested before a forecasted frost. I crammed everything I could get into paper grocery sacks and stuck them on a shelf in the back of the house. Time got away from me and I didn’t get anything done with them. A few months later, I opened the bags, expecting to find rotted plant matter. What I found was perfectly dried herbs. I’ve been drying them that way ever since. The challenge this year was finding a place to hang the bags. I thought about the basement, but its too damp. I finally settled on the garage. I would have suspended them from the rafters, but I didn’t have any way to reach that high.

I also finished my first fall decorating project.

maple syrup bottle candle holders

maple syrup bottle candle holders

It’s the same concept as the blue ones I did awhile back. These are maple syrup bottles. I coated the inside with a shade of acryllic paint called “nutmeg”. Since the little handles are solid glass, I covered them with hemp rope. The leaves on the front are real maple leaves from the trees in our front yard. I coated them in about a ton of Mod Podge, to make them stay on. Then I tied on the raffia bows. I think they turned out well. The candles were too big for the bottles, so I had to whittle them down a little to make them fit. I guess that is as good a reason as any for learning to make my own candles!

Of course, on the days that Ed worked, we still had school, and Katherine still had to read. Here she is reading Les Miserables. Bookworm is reading along.

Kat and Bookworm reading Le Mis

Kat and Bookworm reading Le Mis

Ed is working on a series of posts about our critters, but I have to say something about Bookworm here. She is Captain’s daughter, from her first and only litter. At our last house, she practically lived outside. Now, she won’t go out unless we make her, and then she climbs the front door screen, yelling at us to let her back in. She divides her time between Katherine’s room and the tables in front of the picture window in the front room. I’m not sure what she was  thinking here. Maybe she thought she looked better in the pot than the avocado tree did.  That tree is tougher than it looks. It stood right back up when I made Bookworm move.

Bookworm in the avocado pot

Bookworm in the avocado pot

Our weather has been typical for Missouri fall. Two temperate days, one hot day, and then a “but I don’t want to turn on the furnace yet” day, and then back to a temperate day. We are getting very close to our average first frost dates, so I would really like to get some things finished outside soon. I also need to bring in some potted plants and herbs from the front yard. Then I’ll have to work on some interior lighting.

Hope everyone has a great evening!

Connie

So What Would that Look Like in Latin?

I must confess that my Lawn Tractor has been giving me a little trouble recently. The last three or four times I used it, I was getting uneven cuts. It was dragging badly and it got hung up on a couple of high spots. I casually looked for the answer to what was causing this, but seeing nothing obvious, and the problem not being too severe, I continued to use it.

Let me promise you that before starting any motorized device, I always check the oil and the gas, check tensions and tightness where appropriate, and do a walk around to make certain that “this” is in fact still attached to “that”.

So I was finishing up the yard yesterday and decided to mow the, now knee deep in weeds, garden patch. Part way through I took too big a slice of that weedy pie and stalled my mower with grass and weeds wrapped around the blade.

Have I mentioned that I am not as young as I used to be? In point of fact, I am not as young as most TURTLES used to be. Getting down on one knee once involved just dropping down. Getting up was a matter of rising in total defiance of any laws of gravity that might believe they apply.

Getting down on one knee now requires a thorough recon of the area to make certain that it is clear of twigs, pebbles and other foreign objects, plotting a route down that allows for too much yaw and play in my bad and my worse knee (I do not have a good one) having already chosen what, if necessary, I will use to pull or push myself to my feet. Can I get an Amen from the Geriatrics among you?

So, I get down on one knee and free the blade of all fouling weeds. Now to get up: I put my hand on the right rear tire and push myself to my feet. To save you any doubt I did in fact make it to my feet, but picture for a moment pushing down on a big black marshmallow. My right rear tire was effectively flat. I used the gauge on it and the gauge read “seriously?”

It is two tenths of a mile up a dirt road to our little quick shop. So carefully I limped my little tractor to the quick shop only to find out that the air hose hanging between the pumps was busted. Limping back, I recalled that, while my own portable air compressor was busted, I always carry a can of Fix A Flat behind the seat of my truck. Fix a flat worked fine and I continued with my chore for the afternoon.

That is not why I started this little essay however. I want to discuss a truth that was brought home to me as my hand buried itself into what I assumed was a functional tire and I realized with a flash of insight what I had overlooked for about a month.

A Lawn Tractor runs so much better if all four tires are inflated.

You may say that this is obvious and that any fool would know it. I will tell you that I am personally acquainted with one fool who obviously did not. The larger issues I meditated on while I bounced around finishing the lawn had nothing really to do with tires or tractors but expanded to include life in general. They included such things as:

1. No matter how smart you are, how well trained you are, how careful you try to be, and how much you plan, something will go wrong. The equation we call life has far too many variables in it for us to be able to control them. Only the Great Mathematician has that kind of skill.

2. Beating yourself up over something is a waste of time. Every person who has ever performed knows that you are going to make mistakes; they also know that, even if Auntie Mable’s garter belt explodes in the middle of Sweet Hour of Prayer, you do NOT stop. Quit blaming yourself and fix the problem.

3. If you cannot laugh at yourself it is going to be a long, long life. There are things in life that require serious contemplation; you are not one of them. We live one step away from our next stumble; you can laugh or cry. On my better days, I laugh.

4. The Maker of Everything made it all to its purpose, and declared it perfect. The designer and builder of the only perfect things loves you. Even when you neglect to check the air in your tires.

When I finished, I came in and, over coffee, shared with Connie my story of the mushy tire and some of my contemplations, I told her then, “I probably should make ‘You Lawn Tractor Works Better With All The Tires Inflated’ my motto. I wonder how that would look in Latin?”

Writing 101: Wrapping Up

I got way behind on the Writing 101 assignments, so I’m going to try to kill a few birds with one stone.

Day 16 involved taking cues from the stats of our blog. Well, I don’t think we’ve been at this long enough to have any useful stats. The facilitators of the class prepared for that possibility and offered some alternatives, but none of those really appealed to me either.

One suggestion was
“Overnight, you discover you’ve gained 50,000 blog subscribers. What would you write for your next post?”

One of Ed’s favorite jokes is about a little boy who is struggling with math. His teacher decides to try a different approach.

“Johnny?” she says, “You have three dollars in your right pocket, and two dollars in your left pocket. What do you have?” Johnny thinks a minute and says “Someone else’s pants on?”

My response to gaining 50,000 subscribers overnight would be similar: “Who hacked my blog?

Day 17 challenged us to mine our own material, with an alternate suggestion to consider “things we leave behind”

I looked over my blog notes, and did find something. There was a link to making extracts without alcohol. So here is your head’s up. Next week, I will post about creating mint extract using fresh mint and food grade glycerin.

On Day 18 we were to let a map be our muse….Are we there yet?

Traveling with children is always an experience, and they are sure to make what would other wise be a dull trip memorable. James was 18 months old when we left Kansas City on Thanksgiving evening after having dinner with my Mom’s family. We were heading for Atlanta to see my dad. My grandma always made the most wonderful home made noodles for Thanksgiving dinner (my sister makes them now). James ate a LOT of noodles. A few hours later, they all came back up. That is all I remember about that trip.

When Bam Bam was five, we moved back to Missouri from Kentucky. Mom and my sister had driven down to help us with the move, and the boys and I were riding with them in Mom’s car. We had gone about ten miles, when Bam Bam asked “how much farther?” Have you ever tried to explain a twelve-hour drive to a five year old? That was a fun trip too.

When I was a kid, we traveled broke a lot. That meant there was no money for anything besides gas, and sometimes barely enough for that. One such time we had gone to my grandparents in Oklahoma. I think it was some kind of emergency trip. My sister was maybe two, so I was about ten.

Anyway, Grandma had sent some sandwiches with us for the trip home. I don’t know what the meat was, but I do know that we couldn’t chew it. My sister would not give up. She kept gnawing on that piece of meat. We had stopped at a road side park to eat and she took it with her on the slide and on the swing. That’s when she dropped it in the dirt. Of course, Mom wouldn’t let her have it back, and she started to scream. Seems to me like she screamed the rest of the trip. Yeah, another fun one.

Katherine has never had the experience of an extended road trip.

On Day 19, we were to “feature a guest” or “publish a roundup of great reads”. I have come across some great bloggers in this class, and wish I had time to read everything. I know some of them have the same “complaint”.  Anyway, I do want to share one that I just love.

This is the first post in a series of three from Casey. Be sure to read the other two posts. Together they tell a great story.

For Day 20, we were encouraged to look toward the future and think about what is next.

This one is easy. I want to get Ed back into posting his thoughts at least once a week. (He’s got something in the works right now, and I’m hoping to post it tomorrow.) Fall is my favorite time of year, and it’s very busy on the homestead. So what is really next for Old Folks at Homestead? More of what we’ve been doing. I need to gather some golden rod, finish the cold frame, get my spinach planted, and experiment with planting things now for spring harvest.

I’ll have more “pictures of the week”and I’ll be keeping y’all updated on the chickens, dogs, cats and whatever other critters wind up on the homestead. We’ll talk about homeschooling, repurposing, and eating real food. We’ll share our faith, our thoughts our hopes, and more than a few laughs.

Thanks for sticking with us.

Connie