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Showing posts from May, 2009

The Sucker Run Has Ended

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Sucker, rice, and apple cider (from last years harvest.)

Actually the run has been over for several weeks but here is the report for the year. We tried some new things this year. Usually I would just cooked the sucker fillets on the fire pit after being marinated in soy sauce. This year I decided to be a little less primitive and go to a little bit more work. I marinated them over night in soy sauce and vinegar (thinking the vinegar might dissolve some of the small bones but it didn't seem to make any difference.)

I dipped the chunked up fillets into a flour and spice mix. Then into a batter of eggs and milk. Then rolled them in bread crumbs. (I made these by drying some day old bread we get free from our baker friend on our wood burner.) Then fried them in our cast iron skillet in butter and corn oil. They were so good sometimes I had them with rice twice a day. Yes, they have some small "Y" bones but you learn how to avoid them.

Picture are two of our Free School student…

A Sappy Story

Once upon a time a friend gave me some pine salve to try. She said her daughter used it to help clear up the skin problem she had. Well ever since I set my eyes and nose on it I have wanted to make some.

I came across some places that had information on it and took what was worth keeping. So now I will attempt to concoct my own version of it.

First you start with a glob of pitch from a pine tree. As I looked expectantly to the tree in our yard I envisioned myself scaling the sappy thing in search for that pungent treasure.

In the meantime I had to get the doggy do up and out of the ways of unsuspecting shoes. As I attacked it with my shovel, I noticed it was a bit different looking. What had my dog been eating? I pocked it. It had a bit of a spring. I, well, smelled it and to my surprise it was a big chunk of pine pus.

One website suggested you infuse it in olive oil for a few weeks in a very warm location. Another said to put it in a crock pot with the oil on low for a few hours. I…

More Frugal Experimenting on the Johnston Homestead

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My mom got one of those topsy turvy tomato planters you see all over the place that grows the plant upside down. We got to thinking that maybe someone had figured how to “home-make” one. A friend googled it and came up with a plan.

We took a 5 gallon pail (acquired through a friend that owns a bakery) and cut a 2 1/2 inch hole in the bottom for the plant to go through.

In the ready made one there is a piece of foam to go around the stem of the plant. I had packing foam that we must have gotten a computer something in and used that. That’s the red thing in the picture. In the other bucket (picture down to the right here) we are experimenting with the black ground cloth instead of the foam.

So, we put the foam around the base of the stem, gently pushed the plant through the hole, filled the bucket up with some light compost and hung it up. Then we watered it.

We'll try to keep you posted on the results. Oh, and one place we hung them was rather windy so John stapled some clear plastic …

Prosuming on Down the Road

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Examples examples I love examples. So here is Ben being a fine example of a prosumer. Heading off to work with his gas saving "truck."

Not only is he going to save money on gas, he is going to be warming up for the job down the road (literally).

To start with, the kiddie trailer was purchased at a garage sale. So was the bike as a matter of fact. We have used this trailer for grocery shopping and any number of hauling adventures. Oh and the occasional child has taken a ride in it.

We suggest Ben tries hauling his surfboard someday. And yes there is good surfing on Lake Michigan. Real Men surf the lakes.

Finished Eye Cream

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So here is the finished Eye Cream. Next time I'll add a bit more lavender essential oil and this being spring heading into summer I will add extra beeswax. They do that with chocolate you know. More or less wax according to the season.

John headed out to his first edible plant walk of the season at Kohler-Andrea State Park. I loaded him up with the thermoses of hot water, cups and his favorite teapot. He makes nettle tea for the people to sample. It is a very easy tea to like. We try to have it every morning while we can.

The horsetail is getting bigger so I need to get gathering for future use. And I need to get some eye cream over to a neighbor who has been asking for it since last winter. And on and on...

Eye Cream Fixins

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Fresh horsetail drying

Let's continue the eye cream conversation. The recipe called for fresh horsetail. I am sure you will recognize it now. I harvested it in a more swampy area. Drying overnight gets rid of some of the water content before I infuse it.
Same with the violet leaves and flowers also pictured.

So tomorrow I will add this all to olive oil and infuse for about five hours in a little crock-pot.

More to follow on the progression of the eye cream.

Rhubarb Nectar

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It's rhubarb time again. And once again it is time to wow the friends and family with my getting to be famous nectar. Simple as pie. Wait a minute,I never thought pie was simple.

Anyway, get yourself 12 cups of chopped up rhubarb and put it in a pot with 2 1/2 quarts of water. Heat it up and cook the rhubarb 'till soft. Strain it through a fine mesh strainer (as pictured) . To the strained juice add a cup of honey and 2 cups of unsweetened orange juice. Chill and serve.

Oh and don't forget to secure the vault you will have to store it in as it is much desired by most and to fight for.

Solar Drying

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I was doing the wash today and thought I would write a bit on our prosumer laundering. Clothes that is. I realize that there are people that don't own a dryer and possibly never have. In our married years we only had access to one for a couple of those years.
We have a friend from the Czech Republic that says she doesn't know anyone who has one there. What a sad situation eh? (eh is Canadian for huh).

But I never thought that I just couldn't live without one. I have included a picture of my solar drier so you can get familiar with the construction of it. Two poles and laundry hanging rope to string between them.

To the right here is what I call "clippy things". This is one of the wonderful pieces of equipment we brought back from Japan with us. So weather conditions pose no problems for me on laundry day.

Dryers take a fair amount of energy and boot up the bill. So this is one thing you can save on by planning ahead and air drying. The added benefit of hanging things…

Wild Violets

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Ah Spring. Time for that sweet little beauty that claims a good part of our property. Not only is it gorgeous, it is tasty and medicinal and a great ingredient for an eye cream I make.

First the edibleness of it.It goes well in salads. By "it" I mean the leaves and the flowers. The leaves are mild, sweet and slightly peppery (as stated in Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants by Steve Brill).

The flowers and leaves are blood purifiers and detoxifiers. They contain rutin and vitamin C.

The neat thing about their properties is that they are really beneficial in the eye cream I make.They strengthen the capillaries on that delicate skin.

So whether you eat the violet or put it on your skin....it goes in. How wonderfully poetic.

Spring Garden

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Remember the empty 4x4 box? Well here it is with some tasty morsels John is munching on. This is Wisconsin, this is cold 'till July and about mid July the snow flies. Not really, but you will notice the glass panels leaning up against the box. Those go on at night and part of the day to warm the soil up. The squares to the right of the bunch of greens have four lettuce in each but they are little yet.

Also, during the day when we have the glass off we put the wire cages over them to protect from those nasty deer. Pretty creatures, but too assuming and piggish.But hey, I figure if we fatten them up....they should oblige us and fatten us up in turn.

To the left in the picture is the garlic I planted in the fall. And what you can't see are the trellises John just constructed for the peas to climb on that are about 4 inches high now. I could have started them even earlier.
Hope this gives you an idea on garden timing for some things.

Frugal! Is it the New Big Thing?

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It seems frugal is now hitting the big times and more and more people are jumping on the band wagon. Here are a some recent articles in the big name magazines. Check them out.

Business Week Oct 9th 2009
The cover of the Magazine is "The New Age of Frugality." Also has an interesting video on a family and how frugality made a big difference in their life.

Fortune Magazine April 20th 2009
Has an artilce titled "Thrifty is the new Frugal". Investment strategist Edward Kerschner talks about how consumers are switching from 'conspicuous' to 'conscious' consumption, according to

The New York Times March 9 2009
The New Frugality: No Passing Fad

Foraging for Food by John

Many people want to live off the land or learn to be more self sufficient. In other words they want to be prosumers. As I have mentioned in my other writings very few can survive off the land and those who can don’t want to. They know it is very hard work just to maintain a subsistent level of living.

It’s fairly easy to pick out those people who have very little “survival” or self reliant skills. I know. I was one of them. They want to head for the wilderness and “live off the land”. Ha! Most of these people would starve if I dropped a dead deer at their feet. They would have no idea how to butcher or preserve it.(I learned this skill one very rainy cold night by lamp light with the how to book in my hand and a knife in the other). Vegetarians would have to wait for spring to eat.

No offense to vegetarians as when situations permitted I have gone vegetarian for years. But you can’t be a vegetarian in snow country without depending on Wal-Mart and diesel guzzling trucks to bring your …

Rice is Nice

At any given week there is a happy parade of people through our house,property,kitchen.I get charged up with the sometimes constant flow. People to teach as well as teach us. Lessons in frugality as well as spiritual lessons or just plain life as it is.

Normally I love to bask in “peace and quiet”. But I also love the electricness (my computer says that is not a word. tough) of the interaction and all. And it seems that right around eating time is the interacting hour of choice.

I take care of that with the number one most used appliance in my kitchen. No, it’s not the dishwasher. He’s not always around. It is the most honorable rice cooker. We bought it brand new in 1993 (what? that’s not frugal you screech).It is if your tools save you time and money.
Anyway, It goes non-stop around here and sometimes a couple loadings a day.The rice comes out great.

Mostly people like to squirt some soy sauce on and go with it. It's the type of food that can stand on it's own or take a little…