Friday, September 26, 2008

The Last Entry--better late than never

There was something about being finished that prevented me from coming back and blogging the bitter end...okay, it wasn't really that bitter. But there was, no doubt, a lack of variety that made one want to hit the produce section in the dead of night.

The overall experience can best be summed up by the following telephone conversation which took place a day or two after we finished. Richard and Jonathon had been working on his Eagle project and it went later than I expected. So I called Richard's cell phone and said (drum roll please)

Me: "Do you want me to bring you some dinner?"
Richard: "I'm actually not hungry because I ate a late lunch. Let me ask Jonathon. [aside] Do you want mom to bring some dinner?"
Jonathon [heard in the background]: "Not if it has squash in it."

We had a family meeting when it was over and had a discussion (we call it a colloquium in an effort to make it seem like we're doing something more important than fighting.) We asked the kids to say what they learned and we discussed some of the lessons. Everyone was in agreement that it was not fun and they never wanted to do it again. Most felt that they learned more about what it would take to actually be prepared for a real disaster or financial setback (they totally "got" the concept that stocking up the day before was cheating in a serious way...) They said they learned something about working together. The clearing, fencing, and planting of the 100x50 foot area which was done in preparation for the simulation was probably what taught this the most. And there was even some talk of ....sigh....gratitude. They know we have been abundantly blessed.

Our chickens are now full grown and should start laying soon. Richard just built some nesting boxes for them today. So pretty soon we will be "free" in another way (I buy about 3 dozen eggs a week!) And think how totally green that is, you feed them scraps and old wheat people happily give away and they immediately make it all into fertilizer. Nothing has to be shipped anywhere, no foreign imports needed, and I have the manpower for harvesting eggs in my chubby little lovebugs. Abundantly blessed, I'm tellin' ya'......

I have continued planting new crops (though the word seems too large!) and processing tomatoes innumerable. I haven't kept up on the squash though and the guilt of it makes me want to start a new blog.....

Yeah right! Thanks for staying posted for the end to make itself manifest :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A New Taste Sensation

Now when your kids are ungrateful at the dinner table you can say to them, "Don't be so picky, kids in Jamul have to eat squasagne!" For you word experts out there it is pronounced skwa-zon'-ya (an italian accent adds some flair but doesn't do much for the recipe). Imagine, if you dare, lasagne made with squash instead of pasta. The only complaint was that one of the layers was butternut and turban squash slices, apparently the zucchini layers were okay it was the orange squash that caused great suffering and wailing around the table. Suffering builds character you know....

Monday, August 11, 2008

Favorite line...

In the car today, Adam and Jonathon were talking about lunch (and how we didn't bring any with us). Jonathon has some fast food gift certificates that he was planning to feed himself with. After referring to "when a certain thing is over" Adam said, "we're simulating an African experience." So, apparently after 17 years of being told to finish the food on his plate because there are people starving in Africa, he can finally relate to them. I actually don't say this that much but it made me laugh nonetheless. My apologies to any Africans who may read this blog (the internet is worldwide, you know), this would only be funny to an American. And there is an appropriate amount of guilt wrapped up in the humor.

It is quite a meager fare in the ol' kitchen. The last few days are going to be a drag but there are some interesting things I've learned.

1. I'm lucky my husband has a garage full of stuff. I am normally overflowing with grocery sacks and ran out a week ago. We use them for all kinds of things and I thought I was up a creek. But Richard had a bag of bags somewhere in the recesses of his domain.

2. When you can't replace things you think twice before using them. Like ziploc bags or foil. Toilet paper is looking a little low (haven't resorted to rationing :) but since I thought I had plenty it makes me wonder...)

3. We are definitely going to run out of conditioner. This is a pretty big deal because of the long-haired daughters and their tangled manes...

4. Having company is more difficult. Since everything has to be made there is no quick fix food to whip together.

5. This would be a good time to clean the refrigerator/freezer!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Suffering takes more time!

There's no doubt about it! The actual preparing of food, as opposed to assembling pre-made store bought items, takes more time. We have 4 little boys staying with us while their parents attend a wedding and they are suffering along with us for 24 hours or so. My husband made a pot of oatmeal this morning (whereas if they weren't here we would let our kids eat the aforementioned dreaded Trader Joe's O's or forage among the leftovers). I finished processing a ton of basil into pesto sauce to refrigerate for later. Then for lunch I decided to use the beans and cheese in the fridge but had to make the tortillas. I've never done that before and it wasn't too hard but the recipe said it would make 24 but it only made 12 (and I was feeding 10 people, 2 of which are teenage boys). Jonathon also made salsa from our tomatoes and I cooked up 5 or so butternut squashes (which weren't ready for lunch to make up for the inadequate number of burritos!) So after two hours in the kitchen we had slightly fed children, a huge mess of dishes, and some pesto and squash mashed with maple syrup and butter to show for it!!! Seems to me that I'm "suffering" more than anyone else :)

I saw a friend last night who told me she's going to get together some people to prepare for doing their own suffering simulation next year. They will have time to focus on their garden and stocking up their food storage. Kind of cool to inspire someone to try it themselves :) Though I wish I'd thought about it a year ahead of time instead of a few months. Live and learn...maybe we'll repeat it again next summer (shhhhh, don't tell my kids!)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

If you had only two eggs left....

So, 5 dozen eggs lasted a little over two weeks (but only because I started saying "Don't eat eggs! We need to save them for baking!"). Yesterday we had two left and they went into the life-preserving food item....brownies. The ironic thing is that Carlee made them for a pool party we were hosting. She made them when I wasn't home so I didn't know about them and they weren't served until there was only one other family here. Somehow they were still demolished (it helps that this one other family has 8 kids and it was supper time!) My friend told me that you can substitute 2 T of soy flour for an egg, I don't have soy flour...but, I do have a grinder so we'll see :)

We're missing stuff like tortillas and tortilla chips because we make a lot of Mexican food, taco salad is made at least once a week in normal times but the lack of any lettuce eliminates that. I made an enchilada casserole with rice, beans, and canned chicken but without the tortillas it was more like soup or chile.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Half-way Point

It's actually a little past the half-way point but it has taken a few days to actually sit down to do this post. The suffering has begun and I knew it when I came in one morning to find my son frying zucchini in butter for breakfast. Several of our children won't eat the only kind of cold cereal that I buy (a Cheerio look alike called Trader Joe's O's). But zucchini was a new alternative :)

There is little stuff like cinnamon running out that is not a big deal but we're out of milk, fruits, vegetables, and any store bought bread items. Two more eggs to go. That's a major drag because now we won't be able to make any cake type items. It will all be homemade bread with baking powder (we don't normally use yeast, although I have some and may for variety) and pizza dough. We have plums for a few more days and that's it.

Our chickens arrived on Sunday and they are quite popular with the kids and Richard. They will be more popular for me when they are laying eggs! If my mother were to read this (and I know she won't because she doesn't do the internet :) she would be amazed to know that I have been letting the chickens out of the coop pre-dawn and waking up the chickens! Her nickname for me as a teenager was "Rooster" because I did NOT get up and greet the dawn under any circumstances, an ironic nickname so to speak.

I promised to post a recipe to a friend for the plum bars I mentioned. This recipe is a modification of a Layered Date Bar recipe from Good Housekeeping Magazine. I take the plums, wash, de-pit and cut them in half and then just simmer them for a couple of hours until it's all cooked into a uniform sauce. You don't have to skin them, that's the amazing thing to me. And with our plums we don't add any sugar and it tastes fabulous. Not sure if every variety would be the same. For the original recipe you do the following with dates: in a saucepan combine 2 cups dates, coarsely chopped, with 1 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped. Boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. So you can do this recipe with either the date mixture or the plum sauce. I double the recipe and put it in a 14 x 16 or whatever size that bigger casserole pan is.

Preheat oven to 350. Combine 1 1/2 c flour (I use whole wheat), 1 t baking soda, 1 1/2 c oats, and 1 c honey. Then knead in 3/4 c butter. It is very stiff and I do it with my own two hands, yessiree... Press half the dough in a 13 x 9 pan. Bake it for 15 minutes. Spread plum sauce (I'm guessing I use about 3 cups?) over the crust and sprinkle the remaining dough over the top. Sprinkle is not an accurate word though, it is really more like plopping. Bake 25 minutes more or until golden brown. They cut better when they are cool but they never actually look nice :) They taste fabulous though.

Jonathon is grinding wheat right now. We do about (this is a total guess but the two containers are about the size of a file box) 100 cups at a time and normally have to grind every three to four weeks. Because he didn't get it done this morning he has to make bread tonight. How they are abused!

Tina said, "I'm dying! Save me!" and "This is so embarassing, why do you tell people about our suffering simulation?" and I answer "Because I think it's cool!"

Thursday, July 31, 2008

People say the funniest stuff...

How people have responded to my little experiment has been very entertaining to me. Some samples:

"Kathy, what if 'The Crisis' comes at the end of your experiment and you're already out of food?" [Read The Fourth Turning or it's website to get the flavor of 'The Crisis']

Sitting down at a table of ladies, all complete strangers but one, for a bridal shower, "I was just telling everyone about your experiment and wondering if you were allowed to eat here?" [The answer to that would be yes :)]

After offering a friend a piece of zucchini bread: "Oh no! I couldn't take any food from your house this month!" [don't know whether that was a comment on my cooking or not...]

After telling a friend that I have been reading "The Emporers of Chocolate" and how it totally made me crave chocolate: "You mean you didn't stock up on chocolate before you started?" [the suffering simulation probably saved me a 10 lb weight gain right there!!!]

My husband and sons are off on a scouting adventure full of non-suffering food. Not much else to report.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Windows of Heaven

Okay, really it isn't a fair contest. Last week we had two barbecues (sent home with tons of leftovers from one.) Saturday I went to a gorgeous luncheon at my former student's bridal shower. Today I was in charge of a funeral luncheon and came home with half a ham, a casserole called not-so-ironically "funeral potatoes," a salad and more than a dozen rolls. Bottom line, is that with the exception of my children being force fed all manner of squash, nobody has suffered a smidgen.

We are out of lettuce, which is a major food item here, and almost every other fresh vegetable. In our garden we have swiss chard, basil and zucchini for greens and pumpkin, kabacho, and butternut squash for oranges. We are almost out of milk, will have to resort to Rice Milk (which some of us like and others don't).

Today Carlee (our "mother's helper" or "my sanity keeper") made a batch of plum sauce from our tree and a double batch of plum bars with it. These are amazingly wonderful and a treat we look forward to this time of year. We'll have eating plums for a week or so and there are a few more peaches. No grapes came this year :( We have a few lemons and could probably get oranges from our next door neighbor but fruit is more or less coming to an end. This will be big for the kids, they eat tons of fruit. I mean really! I usually buy at least 5 bunches of bananas and that doesn't usually last the week.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Caught Red-handed

So, this needs a little preface. The suffering simulation was supposed to start this coming Sunday. It has been scheduled for several months. But the groceries were not cooperating. I do my main shopping at Trader Joe's about every 3 weeks and I needed to go about a week and a half ago. Then I needed to go to Costco for a dinner party for my graduated mentees and I thought "Kathy, this is entirely too stupid to waste the full cupboards and a trip to Costco to do this shopping again next week." So I moved up the simulation a week knowing that Jonathon's birthday party would require shopping the day of (this particular family can not "store" ice cream). And on top of that I received news yesterday of a fellow church member's passing and am in charge of the dinner provided for the relatives and close friends. Which means I go to Costco to get spiral cut hams and rolls.

So I'm pulling into the Costco parking lot and think to myself. "I shouldn't have sent out that email with my blog on it yesterday. I'll probably see someone that read it and they'll think I'm a liar." I assure you that lying is not one of my deadly sins. But, as luck would have it, I was not in the door 10 FEET before I ran into a friend who innocently asks "You're not here to get food are you?" So I'm doing the song and dance about the birthday being a known aberration in the experiment and looking like a complete idiot. But, alas, such is the life of a celebrity I four weeks of fame are here at last.

So the final guideline that now everyone must know, life in a fishbowl requires complete transparency: our children are allowed to get on their bike, with their own money, and ride to the store to buy anything they want. We live a good half an hour ride to the nearest grocery store, so it's no small feat. And remember, our main goals are to teach our children hard work and gratitude. I think they'll be more grateful for milk they buy themselves and haul (uphill!!!) in a backpack (and, who knows?, they might even put it back in the fridge...)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cooking frenzy

We are overflowing with squash from the garden. Today I made zucchini bread (2 cups of sugar to sell 4 cups of squash) and cooked a kabacho. I think that's spelled right but it's an orange squash that looks like a turban. You can cook it like a pumpkin, cut in half and bake until tender. After it cooled I scraped it out, I will probably make biscuits with part of it and see how that goes. I've done it with yams and the consistency is very similar. I also made a batch of pasta and used the basil from our garden in a pesto sauce and tossed the pasta and pesto with our first yellow tomato. Two greens, one yellow, and one orange. Not a bad morning's work.

While all that was baking I also made a batch of brownies for a women's meeting for church tonight. The kids are hoping there are leftovers for them :) So I guess we can add a brown to the mixture.

Still haven't run out of anything yet but only have one head of lettuce left and none grew in either place I planted it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 4

It is very uneventful so far because we're still in a grocery week and haven't run out of fresh food. So I decided to talk a little about the preparation for this.

We put in a huge garden area in the spring. It was waist-high in weeds and we cleared and fenced a 50 x 100 foot area. This included putting in "chicken utopia" (a fenced in chicken run containing a grapefruit tree for shade and poultry wire all around and on top, with a used shed for a coop and TWO gates for the chickens to be allowed on one side of the garden or the other). The chickens have been incubated and hatched by some friends of ours and we are anxiously awaiting their arrival.

I also stocked up the pantry and fridge spending about $200 at Trader Joe's and $400 at Costco. It was good to think about all the things we need but it will be interesting to see what we actually run out of. Or who knows? Maybe we won't.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why would we do this?

Our family is going to live for 4 weeks on what food we have in the house and garden. Many people have asked me to blog it. I guess because it is so weird and bizarre that they can't imagine why anyone would do it!!!

Well, Georgics for one thing. Getting a tie to the land, seeing a purpose in something as dreadfully boring as gardening (I speaketh for myself, my husband thinks it's great fun....)

Healthy eating? Anything that's "quick" from the store is full of stuff we should avoid in the first place!

But mostly for gratitude and hard work. My kids take for granted, they waste food, they complain when it's not their favorite dinner. Hopefully the suffering will make them see that they don't have it so bad. Not to mention me seeing the same thing :)

I should probably add that we are not your typical family. We have 6 kids (ds 17, ds 14, dd 11, dd 8 (today!), dd 4, and dd 2) and we already eat weird. 90% of our eating (at home anyway!) is whole grain. And we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints so we have been admonished to keep a year's supply of food. I know we've never made it but we do have thousands of pounds of grains/legumes (that might be a slight exageration, my husband will be compelled to find the right answer and get it on here.) We also have 75 cans of chili in the garage (give or take, whatever...) That's a funny story in and of itself but we'll save it for another day :) My point is, nobody is going to actually starve to death