Pumpkin Power

Fall is in the air and we’re hankering for all things pumpkin. So saddle up, tie on your feed bag and get ready to swoon…

Fall Harvest Pumpkin Bars

4 eggs

1 -2/3 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

16 oz. pumpkin puree

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp.ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. baking soda

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Throw everything into a bowl and beat silly.
  3. Pour into a greased 13 x 9 baking pan.
  4. Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick come out clean. Let cool before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces of softened cream cheese

1/4 cup softened butter

1 cup sifted confectioners sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

toasted coconut.

  1. Beat everything but coconut with a mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Frost cooled bars and sprinkle on coconut.

Doomsday Prepper, What?!

So I got an email over the weekend from an old friend. Said old friend came for a little visit onto The New Pioneers blog and was alarmed. “Alarmed by what?” I wondered. Quickly I scanned my brain for “alarming” things that I might have posted. The recipes weren’t alarming, unless you consider eggplant verboten. My dad’s posts weren’t alarming. I racked my brain until I realized that it must be either the compost (goat poop is a bit of a gulp for some) or the fact that I now go to garage sales. I suppose these things might engender alarm in some easily startled people. Of course I thought my friend was made of tougher stuff but you never know. Then I read further.

“I’m concerned by your blog that you have become a Doomsday Prepper,” It said.

I caught about 20 minutes of one of those shows and was a nervous wreck afterward. I am not executing para-military maneuvers with my family. I don’t have enough food stored for 20 people for 20 years. Dear God, I don’t have a bug out plan that includes an old school bus and buried food in the desert. What in the world was she talking about?

It seems to me that when many food prices have doubled in the last 5 years, gas prices are on the rise, housing foreclosures are at an all time high and billionaires are trying to quietly dump all their stock in American banks, oh, I don’t know, call me an extremist if you want, but there might just be some tough times ahead.

Having just spent the majority of my adult life in Southern California, I know how to prepare for emergencies. The thing is that I’m not exactly sure what I’m preparing for here. Hey, our economy may swing around and start going gangbusters tomorrow. The day might come where I start spending $200 on a pair of shoes. Monkeys might learn to fly and DEVO might just make all my wishes come true and cut a new album. But until that time, my instincts are telling me to pay attention and learn useful things like growing my own food and other sustainable tidbits.

To my friend I say, look I can see how my new life looks nothing like my old one. This just means that I’m paying attention. If the nothing worse happens than is currently happening in our world, no one will be happier than me. The only downside I see is that I have canned more jam than I know what to do with and I’ll be able to share the wealth. If it get’s as bad as some analysts are suggesting then you come out and live on the farm with us. You can milk the cow and churn the butter and I’ll bake the cookies and we’ll all be happy.

postpartum on the prarie

Ever since bringing my girls into the world, I have wondered how in the heck bona-fide pioneer women did it.  There was no maternity leave for these rugged gals. The water still had to be hauled, the food grown, the animals tended and let’s not forget the laundry. Why any of these people felt so drawn to settle the West is beyond me. I am soft, spoiled and pampered in comparisons and I still think that I have it rough at times.

I did not do postpartum with ease and grace. I did it like a hormonally wacked out mess. First off I may not have even survived the birth of my first daughter in the Wild West. She weighed in at a whopping 9 pounds 2 ounces and that was with my gestational diabetes well under control. Dear God, she might have been a 13 pounder had that particular condition gone undiagnosed. Add to that the fact that she was breach. I’ll give you a minute to cross your legs tightly as the image of such is sure to cause distress on my behalf.

Once the  lovely c-section was complete and my beautiful babe was in arms, I thought I was golden. Not. My third day in the hospital I started to feel the crazies. My postpartum did not only manifest as depression. My main symptoms were anxiety and panic. Having never suffered either in the past, I had absolutely no idea how debilitating they could be. I console myself that I didn’t panic about meteors hitting the house, like one woman I shared my story with. I never knew when I’d be hit by an attack though. But I dealt with it by enormous amounts of walking. Day or night I would throw Anna in the stroller and walk the neighborhood for miles. That is until I started to worry that the gardeners were plotting to kidnap her and haul her across the border. That’s when I started dragging the driveway.  Ah, the ramblings of the sane.

It’s a wonder our second daughter was ever born. We were a bit nervous about bringing number two into this world after my first postpartum experience but we felt that we were at least prepared this time. Of course that didn’t make it much easier but it was enough to add our appropriately named Faith to the family.

Wah, wah, wah, enough about me. Back to our bionic fore mothers. These gals did not have jumparoos, exersaucers, disposable diapers, wipe warmers, automatic baby swings and bouncy seats; to name a very few of things that modern moms “need.” Not that they wouldn’t have appreciated the heck out of even one of these contraptions (possible with the exception of the wipe warmer… I didn’t even buy into that).  I have a vision of a wagon train crossing the Rockies and pioneer women ditching their great grandmother’s china before letting go of the precious jumparoo. Imagine having a safe place to store junior while you performed your other myriad of life sustaining chores.

When I start to feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the learning curve ahead, I remind myself of what being a real pioneer was like and take a moment to be grateful that I am a New Pioneer instead.

I Really Love Your Peaches Pie

In a word, divine. In 6 words? The yummiest farewell to summer ever!

So the end of peach season is upon us. I celebrated by canning Peach Butter, Peach Jam, Sliced Peaches and assembling I Really Love Your Peaches Pies for the freezer. Of course we ate one of the peach pies fresh and it was a thing that summer dreams are made of. Once you’ve made it for yourself and your families you will be declaring, “I really do love your peaches… pie!”

Ingredients:

1 pie crust

3   1/2 pounds of fresh ripe peaches, peeled and sliced

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

1 Tbl. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp. finely grated lemon peel.

Crumble Topping:

1/3 cup softened butter

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cups all-purpose flour

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl toss peaches with sugar, flour, lemon juice, lemon peel, cinnamon and nutmeg. Let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Make the topping by combining sugar and flour. Cut in butter until mixture resemble course crumbs. Set aside.
  4. Stir peach mixture and pour into crust.
  5. Top with crumble topping.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until the crumble is brown. Cover with foil and bake an additional 20 minutes.
  7. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

As our 1 year-old would say, “Numma, numma, numma!”

The Gift of Garbage

Not one but two of our neighbors have recently brought us their garbage as a gift. What the heck kind of neighborhood do we live in?” you ask. The kind where fruit and vegetable waste are considered hostess gifts. We live in a land where compostable cast-offs are appreciated and revered.

Our soil is important to us, as healthy soil bespeaks a future of healthy produce. We do not Miracle Grow any of our veggies either. The site of those gorgeous tomatoes on the bag is enough to weaken the strength of a saint but the truth is that fertilizers of this bend actually decrease the nutrients of your soil in the long run. So we compost and we dig  goat poop into our gardens. We do everything short of a voodoo dance of fertility.

In the past I have heartily looked forward to buying those gorgeous HUGE tasteless strawberries that hit the warehouse stores with regularity. Why, if they’re so tasteless? It’s hard to remember what a real strawberry tastes like anymore. Plus they are about 20 times the size of real berries (the Brits call this Americanism Frankenfood.) The reason the berries are so large is that they are crossed with fish cells in order to help them sustain colder temperatures. They are genetically modified. I’m pretty sure this has an effect on the taste (or lack thereof) as well. Not until you’ve gone back to earth and grown your own delicious sweet fruit, tiny though it may be, do you realize what has passed for food in the last decade.

A recent study by the Russian National Academy of Sciences has shown that more than half the babies of mother rats fed genetically modified soy died within three weeks. The babies of the genetically modified group were also smaller and could not reproduce. Are you kidding me? Don’t think I didn’t start to wonder if my four miscarriages didn’t have something to do with all of the genetically modified food that is EVERYWHERE! Damn those strawberries! Add to this the fact that my husband was diagnosed with stage four tonsil cancer this summer and he is not a smoker, drinker,  tobacco chewer (yuck) or anything considered high risk. There has been such a rash of men in his demographic, with no high risk behavior, being hit with various throat cancers that scientists have begun to take note and are currently trying to figure out what’s going on. Hint: Look to the genetically modified food we eat without even knowing it.

On a bright note, Jimmy is currently cancer-free. We began a slew of herbal and natural remedies before surgery (more on that soon); all the while praying like we were in a fox hole. But believe you me, we are happier than ever that we are growing so much of our own food. If we can keep our children from experiencing some of our dramas, we will consider it worth ever bit of garbage and poop that we have shoveled back into the earth.

And if our neighbors bring us garbage instead of wine? We will treat it with as much enthusiasm as we would a bottle of Chateau Margaux.

The Future of Man?

We, as a family, believe strongly that permaculture is the way of the future. To give you the mini-Wickipedia definition:

Permaculture is a branch of ecological design and ecological engineering which develops sustainable human settlements and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.[1][2]

The core tenets of permaculture are:[3][4]

  • Take Care of the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.
  • Take Care of the People: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
  • Share the Surplus: Healthy natural systems use outputs from each element to nourish others. We humans can do the same. By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.

We’re each trying to learn a skill that will be of viable import to our new community. My career history has not particularly prepared me for this. An event manager for a fancy shmancy caterer, a model and a writer of fiction are not in great demand in sustainable communities. Luckily, I’m handy in the kitchen and this is probably where my talents will come into play.

Poppy has a knowledge of farming and Moses a knack for food storage. Jimmy and I are grunt labor while we wait for the smarts of our elders to rub off on us and the kids.

You might think that we’re really just a bunch of hippies. But the truth is that our community consists of like-minded family and friends that are mostly professional. We have doctors, lawyers, and  an Indian Chief or two all learning to be the proverbial butcher, baker and candlestick maker.

I don’t know if this really is the future of man. But just for kicks try to think of what you would bring to the party if it was. Imagine being a member of an Old Western town. Would you be the sherrif, the storekeep, the blacksmith? If I can figure out how to make my own booze, I might just be the saloon keeper.

Asthma, Help! I’m Suffocating (Reiner)

We moved to Casa Grande, Arizona in the Fall of 1998. Sometime thereafter, breathing became more difficult for me. Since allergies had been a problem for me for several decades, it did not occur that some new problem might be developing.

Finding it difficult to breathe, particularly at night when it became necessary to get into an upright position, the need to see a doctor finally became apparent. I was spending more time in bed at night gasping for air than in bed sleeping. The Fall of 1999 I saw a doctor.

After careful examination the doctor said that it was asthma and gave me a prescription for an inhaler. I used it a couple of times and obtained some relief. but was concerned when an article I read described the alarming increase of people found dead with an inhaler in hand. About the same time, an article crossed my desk written by an M.D. from Texas proclaiming the wonder of cayenne pepper. It was all very interesting, but the most exciting part was his declaration that cayenne pepper could cure asthma.

The same day, cayenne pepper in hand , 100 capsules for $2.98 from Wal-Mart, I started a very successful protocol in use to this day.

The article cautioned that cayenne pepper should not be taken with caffeine or citrus. When carelessness led to forgetfulness, a severe cayenne stomach ache immediately followed and an important lesson was learned.

About 4-5 years later an inflamed bursa cause me considerable pain and research suggested that as long as nightshades were consumed (cayenne is a nightshade) one could not expect any relief from pain. A discontinuation of cayenne shortly resulted in the mother of all asthma attacks. Conclusion? It is better to suffer some pain and continue breathing than to be pain from but DEAD!

Today, thirteen years later, cayenne pepper is consumed daily, anywhere from 4-12 capsules taken with meals. And I breathe freely!

An aside from Whitney: Cayenne pepper is also great for circulatory health and has been shown to be very effective in reducing blood pressure. Somewhat paradoxically it is also a wonder at rebuilding the stomach lining and curing intestinal ulcers. It breaks up mucus and congestion in colds and flu. It has successfully been used to prevent migraines. It is an anti-infamatory and has been used for both arthritis and diabetes sufferers. It is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. But most exciting to my aging self, it is a fabulous metabolism booster. So whose stopping by the drug store today? Happy healing.

Home Sweet Home

When my husband and I left Los Angeles we didn’t look back.

I didn’t adjust to life in rural Oregon overnight, far from it. But I never pined for my old life in Los Angeles. I attribute much of this to the fact that after 18 years in La La Land, I’d had enough of traffic, pollution and $600,000 starter homes. Fire season made me tremble, especially as we watched the flames lick at the hills behind our house the October before we left. I didn’t greet the trembling earth with nonchalance either.  The Northridge quake found Jimmy and me huddled under our dining room table in the wee hours, professing our love for each other. So sure were we that these could be our last moments on earth together.

I didn’t want to live a life where I had to work 60 hours a week just so I could afford to send my daughter to grade school at $15,000 a year. I wanted to give my daughter a sibling but that wasn’t in the cards if we’d stayed.

As easy as it was to leave that life behind, it was enormously hard to let some of the ego stuff go.  I was a model in Los Angeles for many years and my husband an actor. We had some fun and exciting experiences that didn’t translate to our new life as New Pioneers. We identified ourselves by what we did, who we knew, what our next career move was.  Yet no one in Oregon even knows that we have a somewhat glamorous history. Nor do they particularly care if I wear make up or color the gray out of my hair.

I have recently discovered that I am no longer attached to my old identity. Gray hair, makeup, clothes, and accessories no longer make this woman. I now define myself by my abilities to raise my daughters well; to teach them the things that are truly important like making them strong and self-sufficient.

I will always be grateful for our years in California. They taught me many things and introduced me to many adventures I would not have otherwise had. I made life long friends there. All of that aside though, I feel blessed that I am finally home.

I Hope you Like Jammin’ Too

This summer I was overcome by a full on blitz of crazy jam energy. The family hit every farm within 10 miles of us (which is like 15) and we picked and picked and picked fruit until it was coming out of our ears. So ostensibly, if being sustainable means never having to buy jam again (and never saying we’re sorry about it), we’re there!

Here’s a little peek inside our pantry. This makes up just a fraction of what we put up.

Check out the cute little bows and charms. A nice little touch for a gift. To be totally sustainable I should have tied some decorative grass on it but hey, that’ll be another thing I only do when I absolutely have to.

This summer I made Peach Butter, Slovak Prune Butter (what can I say, it’s what my people eat), Apple Butter, Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, Spice Blueberry Jam, Raspberry Rhubarb Jam, Italian Plum Conserve, Blackberry Kiwi Ice Cream Topper, Mixed Berry Syrup, Pear Butter and Caramel Apple Jam. This fall I’ll add  Pumpkin Butter and Concord Grape Jam.

One of the biggest hits was the Pear Butter! Check it out.

Pear Butter

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds of Bartlett pears (unpeeled) cored and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 2 tbl. fresh lemon juice
  • 1  1/2 cup of sugar
  • 4 orange slices
  • 1 lemon slice
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
  • 1  1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  1. Combine pears, wine and lemon juice in a heavy sauce pan. Cover and simmer until pears are soft, about 20-25 mins.
  2. Push through food mill or coarse sieve to remove skins. Transfer to food processor and puree.
  3. Return to heavy sauce pan and add remaining ingredients.
  4. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase to med. heat and boil gently until mixture thickens and mounds on spoon. Stir often, this will take about 50 minutes.
  5. Discard fruit slices, cloves and vanilla bean.
  6. Spoon butter into hot canning jars, filling only to 1/4′ from the top. Wipe rim of the jar and place lid on. Seal tightly.
  7. Arrange jars in boiling water in your canning kettle so that at least 1″ of water covers the jars. Cover and process for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove jars from the pot and cool. If the top seals, they will last for 1 year in a cool dark place. If the lid pops up, refrigerate and use… or barter from some fresh meat that you won’t have to kill yourself!

Now if I can just throw myself into sheep shearing with the same enthusiasm I can learn how to spin yarn so I can knit some warm sweaters. Stay tuned.

Knitting Bread

This recipe got its name because it’s kind of like knitting all those small bits of yarn together that are left over at the end of bigger projects. It’s a little of this and a little of that and the end result is delicious and comforting.

Whoever decided to put zucchini into bread is a mad genius as far as I’m concerned! I double the zucchini in this recipe to bump up the nutritional value but also just to get rid the all the zucchini.

Ingredients

  • 3  1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1  1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 2/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup apple or pear sauce
  • rind of one orange
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease 2 standard bread pans or 5 mini ones.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, sugar and spices.
  4. In a separate bowl combine eggs, oil, water, zucchini, lemon juice, apple sauce and orange rind.
  5. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir in nuts.
  6. Bake about 1 hour for standard pans or until tester comes out clean. About 40-45 mins. for mini pans.