Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Solar Cooking

I've been looking into making a solar oven and solar food dryer, and have been very impressed with both the cost and the effectiveness. I'm a member of the Solar Cooking group on Yahoo, and have been following the use and testing of a few that I had considered. One member, Ken, made this video that has truly convinced me that I MUST try one this year!!

I'm so impressed with the temp outside and how well it does - even with snow on the ground. At $5 a gallon for propane, this certainly will pay for itself quickly.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Snow is Gorgeous!

The snow came down hard and quick at times yesterday. We weren't sure if we were going to keep power, because the lights were blinking on and off quite a bit. We certainly didn't keep the PC on with all the power hits. :) It was a nice quiet day that I enjoyed immensely. I love snow storms. There's something really peaceful and yet really exhilarating about them.

We kept the house warm with baking - first we made Mounds Bar Cookies and then put a nice big ham in the oven and let it bake in a slow oven. Dinner came out yummy - ham, baked potatoes with sour cream, corn, home canned apple sauce, home baked bread, and the Mounds bars for dessert.

DH went to the mill yesterday to pick up some flour and was stunned by the price. For a 25# bag, he shelled out $15 and some change. UGH!! According to the man at the mill, it's only going to get worse. He said everyone is now growing corn, and those that did put wheat in ended up losing it because of the drought. I wonder how much wheat berries have gone up in price. I have to make a trip up to the Mennonite store to get bulk oatmeal and cocoa, so I'll see if I'll be bringing any home with me.

Milk also went up to $3.75 a gallon. Still not bad since it is hormone free and the cows are pastured. This time of the year, they are supplemented with their own grown grains and silage. I have no idea what the milk runs in the grocery store these days.

We've been really good at keeping our heat turned down this year. It stays at 63 in the daytime and gets turned all the way down at night. I made a dropped stitched wrap that was a free pattern from Jo-Ann's fabric called Rainbow Boucle Wrap. It used Jo-Ann's Sensations Rainbow Boucle in the Dark Blue colorway. I used a 50% off coupon when I purchased it, and I can easily get 2 wraps out of it - breaking down to about $2.25 a wrap. It's very light and quite warm, making it just the perfect thing to wear when it gets just a bit chilly in here (when the wind blows just the right way).

Mounds Bars

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
12 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Melt butter in pan and add crumbs and sugar. Mix well and spread evenly over bottom of pan. Bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes. Cool.

Mix together coconut and sweetened condensed milk in a medium sized saucepan and heat over medium heat for 10 minutes. Be careful not to scorch. Spread hot mix over cooled crumb crust. Sprinkle chocolate chips over coconut mixture, and put in 350 degree oven until the chips are melted. Take spoon and spread melted chocolate evenly over coconut. Cool and chill before serving.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Out of Hibernation

Since we don't have a farm, there's not much going on here during the winter time. I usually "hibernate" and enjoy some time off to do some counted cross stitch (purely a selfish thing) and catch up on some reading. Things slow way down here after Christmas, and I so love MY time off. It's like a renewal period for me.

I spent the end of December deciding on things I'd like to try and/or learn. I also make a list of goals and things that I'd like to start and/or finish. This is also the time we all go over our lists from last year and figure out what we finished. It's a positive time, noting all that we did accomplish, and not the things we didn't.

This year may be a time for change. DH is currently looking for a new job, and he is searching out of the area - actually out of the state. All the states he is looking at are quite far from our families, so we'll be going it all alone. That's a bit scary, but at the same time, exciting. It feels like we will truly be homesteading if we relocate to one of these places.

I've been doing a few projects to use up scrap yarns and materials. Currently, I'm working on a granny square afghan, a knitted Log Cabin Afghan a scrap quilt, and a yo-yo quilt. Nothing is nearing the finish line, but the Log Cabin Afghan has been my largest focus. It's been really fun working on, although it's far from gorgeous. I have a bunch of acrylic yarns (like Red Heart brand) in a bag, then I put my hand in randomly and pull out a skein to knit with. I never know what colors will go with what. Here's the start of it:

I'm not using any pattern, but came up with my own formula after looking at a few online tutorials and other's photos. Yes, it's very colorful. I guess it will end up being a lot like Joseph's Coat of Many Colors :)

I've also been making some new dishcloths. I've made some for Valentine's Day, test knitted some for a designer, and tried my hand at illusion knitting. The illusion knitting is really cool, and DD wants me to knit her a scarf using this technique.

March is almost here, and it brings garden plans - which I'm not sure what to do there right now with DH wanting to relocate. At this point, I'm going to proceed as normal, since he hasn't found a job he wants yet. Many things are up in the air at this point, and a feeling of restlessness has hit me.

To counteract the restlessness, I've decided to try my hand at a few new things. This year will consist of trying my hand at cheese making and soap making. Two things that will be useful wherever we go, and certainly help with the budget. I'm really looking forward to trying them!

It's so good to be back blogging again. :)