Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mulberries, mulberries, mulberries

I've been picking around a quart of mulberries every day and have been freezing most of them so I don't get sick of them, but here are some recipes of things I've done with them so far:

Mulberry Vinaigrette-

1 cup mulberries.......Free
1/4 cup oil............50 cents (MUCH cheaper oil could be substituted)
4 tsp rice vinegar.....11 cents
6 tsp cider vinegar....9 cents
1 tsp dijon mustard....3 cents
salt and pepper........1 cent
Approx. cost $.74

I mashed the mulberries through a cheesecloth (a real strainer would have worked better) then mixed the juice with the remaining ingredients and salt and peppered to taste.

I fed the post-juicing mulberry paste to the chickens, they loved it and had some purple lipstick for the rest of the day, which unfortunately I don't have a picture of. Here's a picture of the vinaigrette on some salad I grew.

Mulberry Gelato-
I just converted a recipe for strawberry gelato, but I forgot to take into account that strawberries have a bit of tartness that mulberries do not. Here is the recipe I made, but in the future I will cut down the sugar by 1/2 cup. (This recipe had an almost marshmallowy flavor) Note: I don't have an actual "double boiler", I just kept the egg/sugar/vanilla mixture in the kitchenaid bowl and rested that in a pot of boiling water)

- 6 egg yolks............................ free (minus cost of chicken feed)
- 1.5 cups sugar......................... 52 cents
- 4 cups organic milk.................... $1.50
- 2 big tablespoons vanilla extract ..... 35 cents
- 1.5 cups gently macerated mulberries... free
Approx. cost $2.37 (next time with the reduced sugar: $2.20, with conventional milk only $1.45) Yield is about 1/2 gallon.

1. Beat yolks and sugar until the mixture becomes fluffy.

2. Add milk and vanilla, stirring continuously until the mixture is well blended.

3. Pour mixture into the top of a double boiler and cook over low heat until the mixture is the consistency of light cream.

4. Keep stirring to prevent lumps.

5. Pour the cooked mixture through a fine strainer (I skipped this straining, everything turned out fine), and cool in the refrigerator until cold (1-2 hours)

6. Place cold mixture in electric ice cream maker, add the mulberries

7. Process according to the directions for your machine.

Also, mulberry pancakes (recipe: make pancake batter, add mulberries) and tonight I'm going to make some mulberry syrup. I will have to tinker with a simple syrup recipe as I want it to have a mulberry flavor and not be overpowered by sweetness.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Super cheap solar outdoor bathing

There are a lot of people that have some very nice fancy outdoor showers going, and I'd like to step it up to one of those someday, but right now, like nearly everyone else, money is a little tight and that isn't where I choose to spend it. Here is my solution:

Here are the complex instructions to make your own!
1. Get a cat, get litter for said cat.
2. When bucket that litter comes in is empty, clean out and fill with water.
3. Set in the sun and wait for it to warm up.
4. Shower!

All kidding aside, it really is fun to take showers/bathe outdoors in the garden, and if you don't have the money or the plumbing know-how to build a "for-real" outdoor shower, this is nearly as good and costs nothing.

Or for about $15 you could buy a camping shower and then build a catchment device or you could even just repurpose a well cleaned out concrete mixing tray you have laying around for a water-catching floor?

I'm going to start thinking of plans for a $10 or less nice outdoor shower, though it probably won't happen until next spring.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sparrows and Jitterbug the foster pet

It's been a little windy here and I think that caused a bunch of birds to leave their nests a little prematurely. A couple days ago I spent a lot of time watching two baby sparrows hop around the yard. I put out some little water dishes for them. They could only fly about a foot high and would just be really still and silent when I got close. The next morning there was only one sparrow, I'd like to think that one learned to fly in the night, but more than likely a cat found it... and sadly, the other one drowned the next day in the chicken's water (I emptied it so it was only an inch deep precisely to prevent this!!!). :( Here are some pictures I took of the sparrows when they were hopping around:
Sparrow #1 hiding in a rose bush
Sparrow #2 hiding in a cinder block

Then yesterday when I was picking mulberries there was a bird on the ground also getting mulberries. It tried to get away but it has a broken/dislocated leg and did this spastic sideways hopping and flapping dance trying to get away. I put it in a big open cardboard box with some bedding and a water dish and have been feeding it more mulberries and will try to find it some bugs and seeds tomorrow. I don't know why it can't fly, but it can't. Hopefully it will be able to fly away but I think something else is wrong with it too. It has reaaaally long toenails and it's beak seems too long as well. When I was young we had a parakeet that we found in the alley with similar issues. I thought it was a cowbird, but then when I look at cowbirds online they all have dark beaks (this one has a yellow beak, partially stained dark from mulberry juice).... anyone know if this is a cowbird? It's very iridescent. If not, what is it?
Jitterbug the foster pet

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spreading into the front yard

Well, I ran out of room to plant trees in the backyard so I'm beginning what will be a VERY slow conversion of the front yard. When I bought my house the front yard had (and still has) two small hills of grass with a total of 5 very large palm trees on them in the middle of desert landscaping. This is annoying for many reasons, mostly because that means there's always bermuda grass spreading into the gravel. It will be a couple years before everything in the front yard gets worked out, mostly because it all takes money. For now though, I added a pomegranate tree and a variegated pink lemon tree to the front on one of the mounds. I'm really excited about the lemon tree, I had wanted one of these trees for a couple of years now. Here is a picture of the fruit it produces:
notice some of the pretty variegated leaves in the back of the basket

In the fall I'll plant a couple of mesquite trees in the front yard so we can harvest the pods and make flour from them. (Anyone know off-hand which variety is best for this?) Also on the to-do list is converting that bermuda grass to some kind of edible landscaping. Bermuda grass is second only to mosquitos in my list of arch-nemeses. (arch-nemisises?)

Finally, in case any of you were staying awake at night wondering, there will be no re-usable toilet cloths at our house. The little hose thing, maybe.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Native garden plants update and a question

I planted a few native melons on one end of a bed with the beans in it, and on the other end I planted some cantaloupe for comparison. Nearly all of the native melon plant seeds sprouted immediately, about a week or 10 days later the cantaloupe seeds sprouted. However, something bird or bug decided they liked the native sprouts as those dwindled to three and then today I checked on them and there were no more left. :( The cantaloupe is doing fine. So much for that plan, I think I'll wait until next season and make a stronger effort, though that seems counterintuitive, it should be EASIER to grow the native plants.

Secondly, groceries cost a whole lot of money. I'm grateful that our eggs and most of our produce come from the back yard. Hopefully the skyrocketing expense of food will nudge new people into starting their own Victory (from oil and The Man!) gardens.

Thirdly, I've noticed a trend growing in the underground urban homesteader movement--- use (reusable) cloth toilet paper. Really? I guess it's not that different from using cloth diapers, but for some reason it seems much more strange to me. Does that mean you have to wash out the soiled cloths every time you go to the bathroom? If not, where do you keep them? If so, how do you clean them? I don't want to clean waste in the same sink I brush my teeth/my husband shaves in and I'm not going to go marching though the house holding toilet cloths..."Oh, I'm glad you could make it over for dinner, pardon me I'll just be a second while I wash my feces out of this cloth." I'm just curious about all of this. Hopefully someone can help me understand.

Friday, April 11, 2008

First Berries are here!

For the past few days we've had some small strawberries and today when I took out the trash I noticed there were mulberries on the driveway! The white mulberries are ripe first, and I could see a couple of the purple ones at the very top of a different tree, but there was no way to get to them. In my opinion mulberries are well worth the colored bird poop that will stain our driveway, cars and anything else the birds fly over. I have heard that it is no longer legal to sell fruiting mulberry trees out here (because of the staining and allergies I guess?), but I haven't found anything to support that, however, I don't believe I've seen them at the nurseries, so who knows. Here are a couple of the ripe white mulberries: