Squash Fritters with Parsley & Garlic Chives

Tuesday I tried a recipe for the first time that I just had to share.  Squash fritters.  I have never made squash fritters before this week, but they were surprisingly easy, and everyone loved them.  Even my anti-squash eaters.

This recipe is based on the zucchini fritter recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I took her recipe and substituted what I had on hand from the CSA share this week.

Squash fritters

Squash Fritters with Parsley & Garlic Chives

1 pound summer squash (I used two small yellow squash and a white saucer squash)
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
1/3 cup +/- fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/4 – 1/3 cup garlic chives, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive oil for frying

Trim the ends off your squashes and then use a food processor or the large holes on a box grater to shred your squash.  Toss the squash with 1 tsp salt and place in a colander to drain for ten minutes.  Use your hands or a spoon to squeeze the liquid out of your squash.  Then place the squash in a clean kitchen towel or cheese cloth and really wring out the squash.  A lot of water will come out.  This extra step is worthwhile.

Place your squeezed and wrung out squash in a large bowl.  Add in the parsley, chives, and black pepper.  Taste for salt and add any if needed.  Mix in the egg.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder.  Add to your squash mixture and mix all thoroughly.

Heat oil in a cast iron pan over medium to medium-high.  Once hot, place the fritter batter, one spoonful at a time in the pan.  Flatten each fritter out into a little patty.  Work in batches, making sure not to crowd them.  Let fry 2-3 minutes per side.  Flip when they are golden brown.  If they are browning too quickly, adjust the heat on your pan.

Drain the fritters briefly on paper towels before transferring them to a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes to finish setting and keep them crisp until serving.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream (or plain yogurt) and lemon juice if you like.

Lamb, fritters, okra

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Categories: CSA, Recipes | 7 Comments

Rebuilding Our Food System

We spent HOW MUCH on groceries last month?!? 

Since our big move to Texas from Colorado, I have truly felt the pain of losing an established food system.  The pain of having food that doesn’t taste as fresh, the pain of less healthy food, and most of all, the financial pain.

In Colorado we had a large garden, a CSA farm share and a freezer full of meat and fruit that we harvested ourselves.  Oh yeah, and eggs and honey from the back yard.  We basically had the freshest, healthiest food possible, at a really low cost.

This is what our grocery budget looked like:

Meat (hunting licenses, fuel, ammo, misc. expenses for trip): $250/year average
Vegetables from CSA: $520/year average
Garden, bees and chickens: $400/year average
Fruit from Western Slope (including gas for trip):  $400/year average

Total yearly expenses: $1570/year or $131/month

Everything else from grocery store: $600/month average
This includes grains, dairy, beans, nuts, occasional imported fruits like oranges, limes, avocados, occasional meats like chicken, fish or bacon, canning ingredients like sugar and vinegar, misc. ingredients like soy sauce, salt, spices, etc., plus laundry detergent, shampoo, toilet paper, etc. because I’m too lazy to separate those things out.

Total average grocery spending: $731/per month for a family of five eating mainly organic, local and sustainable food.

*These averages were calculated from our actual spending totals in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  I rounded up to the nearest ten dollars.  In 2010 we only had two kids, so that year’s grocery totals were lower by about $50-100 per month than 2011 and 2012 bring the average down a bit. 

When we found out we were moving, we had 8 weeks to empty that freezer full of meat and western slope peaches, eat through all our canned goods, and generally try to get through our pantry of stocked up food.  Luckily it was January when we got the news and not September.  Whatever we couldn’t eat, we gave away.

After the move, our grocery budget literally doubled…  without the quality or quantity.

No more eggs that were just laid that morning.  No more freezer stocked with meat.  Telling the kids that no, they couldn’t have a peach smoothie because we don’t have frozen peaches.

We expected the jump in price the first month or two, but we really started to feel the pinch as time went on.  The loss of the CSA and the garden hurt the most.  I feel starved for a real tomato.  I missed the asparagus harvest.  And the pale grocery store eggs…  sigh.

Plus we just didn’t have enough… I realized my menu planning revolved around my CSA share and that I was struggling with what veggies to even buy at the store.  I’d get there and see the choices: conventionally grown with pesticides or organic but from across the globe.  All of it over-priced and lacking flavor.  I felt paralyzed, and often left the store with a big bill and too little veggies for my family who was used to a seemingly unending supply during the summer.

It wasn’t just the veggies.  All the stores here carry different brands of food than I usually bought in Denver.  I found myself reading labels again where I had been used to being able to just pick up what I knew.  This made grocery trips much longer (with three kiddos in tow) and often discouraging.

Dinner time came around and I had no plan for what to make.  We had chicken and frozen broccoli so many times the kids and Rick protested.  We went out to eat way too many times.  I gained almost fifteen pounds from the eating out, and sitting around not gardening.

Finally, I got my wits about me.

I made a giant run to Costco and bought the pantry items we needed to start rebuilding.  Lots of canned tomatoes, pasta, chicken stock, brown rice, nuts, flour and sugar, frozen berries.  I made a big trip to the bulk section of the grocery store and restocked on beans, rice, oats, quinoa and lentils.

I looked up the CSA’s I had researched before we moved.  I called them and I signed up, even though we were halfway through their seasons.  That’s right, them, their seasonsI signed us up for shares from TWO different CSA farms.  One is an all vegetable share from a farm northeast of us, and the other is a mixed share of vegetables and grass-fed meat from a ranch to the southwest of us.

I picked-up up our first ranch share from the the farmers market Sunday.  Wednesday I will get our first share from the farm.

Kids with Koch Week 1

It feels good.  Good to have fresh, organic, locally grown veggies in the house.  To know what to make for dinner.  To have in-season food with actual flavor.

So starting with an empty pantry, no freezer (it sits unplugged in the garage), and no garden, building our food system here will take time.  Restocking will take time.  But it is time well spent, so here’s to a fresh start.

Categories: CSA, Food | 5 Comments

Well Hello There Again…

Compost bins

So it’s been almost a month and my blog edits and updates are almost done.  I know that WordPress has been sending notifications every time I update an old post, and for this I’m sorry.  I haven’t been able to figure out how to turn those notifications off.  Some of the updates have been very minor, and it is annoying me that the updates are getting shown.  Hopefully you have enjoyed some of my old posts.

The main thing I was doing was taking some of my more personal posts down.  I was beginning to feel that my family, my kids in particular, were too exposed here on this blog.  There are still pictures and some anecdotes about them here on LazyHomesteader.com, because I feel that us being a family with young children is an important thing to show and a part of our story.  But the posts of their first steps, birthdays and other non-homestead related milestones have been removed.  Over 150 posts.

I started this blog six years ago, shortly after our oldest was born.  I had no idea at that time what our “little chicken experiment” would morph into.

I’m excited to share with you what has been going on with us here in Texas.  We have met some new people and our neighborhood actually has quite a few other chicken keepers.  Exciting!

With the move, however, I find myself going back to some basics when it comes to food.  Reading labels, menu planning, finding ways to reduce energy bills (oh how that A/C runs the bill up!).  I’m looking forward to catching up with you!

Categories: Community | 3 Comments

Pardon the Dust

My bathroom cleaners

I’m going to be doing a bit of blog-keeping over the next week or two.  Suddenly I find myself ready to write, so hopefully I can have some new posts after I do a little clean-up.

I plan to separate out pieces of the blog – some of which are quite old and just don’t apply to the majority of The Lazy Homesteader content anymore.  I started this blog as a journal over seven years ago!

The clean-up  does involve moving some things around in the background, so I’m giving a heads up in case there is some weird down-time or something as it happens.

Stay tuned friends, and thanks for sticking with me through the move and adjustment period here.

Categories: Urban Homesteading | 1 Comment

Tips for Using Your Push Mower

I realize that in some parts of the country, there is still snow on the ground.  Down here in central Texas, though, I just finished mowing the lawn for the second time.  Whew!  I’m grateful that our backyard here is modest, since even this “mild” spring weather is hot to me.

Here are some tips in case you are new to using a push-reel mower and finding it difficult.

Push mower

1. Clean the yard first.  Our power mower could chop up sticks, but twigs will get caught in the reel of the push mower, bringing you to a stop and you’ll have to reverse the blades to get it out before you continue mowing.  Frequent starts and stops require a lot more energy than maintaining momentum.  A few minutes spent looking for sticks and rocks and small kids’ toys, anything that might get caught in the mower’s blades, and removing them from the grass before you get started is time well spent.

2.  Set your blades higher.  Longer grass uses less water, and higher blades will promote that, taking just a little off the top.  If you cut the grass shorter, it might need more passes of the mower, which can double (or more) the time you spend mowing.

3.  Mow more often.  While longer grass is good for water conservation, let it get too long and you’ll have trouble getting the push mower through it at all.  This is especially true of thick lawns or lawns with hills.  Our new lawn has a bit of a rise in one area and that grass is harder to mow.  If we were to “let it go” it would be very difficult to cut with the push mower.

4.  Use a trimmer for the edges.  I’ve had a  hard time getting the push mower to do a good job cutting the grass at the edges of the lawn where it meets with the fence or the patio.  Instead of struggling over those areas over and over, I just mow as close as I can and then clean up the edges with the trimmer.

5.  Mow in sections.  Our front yard here is about the same size as it was in Colorado, but the grass here is thick and harder to get the mower through.  It makes the job tough for me in the heat (I know!  Wimpy Colorado girl in Texas!).  Instead of sweating my way through the whole job at once, I break it into two or three more manageable chunks.  The mower is lightweight so it’s no big deal to walk it back to the backyard while I take a break, get a drink or water my garlic.  Then after I’m refreshed, I take on the next section of lawn.  I can still get the job done, both front and back yards, in under an hour including the breaks.

Categories: Simple Living, Sustainability, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thrifty Thursday: Holiday Gifts Throughout the Year

Over the last few years, Rick and I have gotten pretty good at managing our monthly budget.  The one place where we have a huge bump, however, is always at the end of the year.  The holidays.

Ugh.  Holiday shopping is a large hole in our budget.  Every year we say we’re going to save, going to put a little money away every month so we have a cushion for December to buy gifts (or supplies to make gifts) for our family and friends.  But we don’t.  And then we end up relying on Rick’s bonus money or selling items on Etsy (I did pretty good last year), or whatever to eek out just enough for Christmas.  And we always end up scrimping on the gifts we give each other.

This year, I’m trying something different.  Buying and making gifts as I go.  I know it’s not a new concept, but I have never been able to make it work.  I always forget what I bought or where I put it, or I give the person the gift I bought early because I just can’t wait.

This year, I have a plan.  It’s a list.  That I keep with me. 

Gift Log

First, I made a list with three columns:  Who, What, and Where.  Make this list somewhere when you won’t lose it.  Mine is in my planner on a Contacts page in the back.  Put it in your phone, whatever… just somewhere where you can find it and access it quickly.  Not on your home computer.  I’ve tried that, and I forgot to keep it up to date.

The Who column is for all of all the people you’d like to give gifts to.  Count them up.  For me, it is 19 people if I count individuals, or 14 if we do some couple/family gifts.  Looking at how many months before the holidays, and since I started this in January, I decided that if I buy or make two gifts per month, I’d have all of my gifts made or purchased no later than September.  And I can totally afford two gifts per month.  If I were starting now, I would still be able to make it by December, possibly November.

WHERE

Ok, so two gifts a month.  Now here’s where the list is super important.  I need to remember WHAT I bought (and for whom), and WHERE I put it, so that in December, I can find the gift and give it to the person I bought it for.  That’s why you must have the list with you.

And then write down what the gift is and where you put it.

For example, I found this funny little mini-pinball game for my grandpa (I can share this gift because my grandpa doesn’t read my blog).  So next to my Grandpa’s name, I wrote Pinball Game in the What column, and then Pink Shoe Box in the Closet in the Where column.  At the old house we kept that box under the bed.  Since I moved the box, I made sure to update my list.  So I can find it later.

Box in closet

Simple, right?  I’ve stuck with it, and I really think it’s going to work this year.  And, it will leave me and Rick some extra money come the end of the year for each other, the kids, and the people we draw names for at Thanksgiving.

Do you budget or plan for the holidays?  What do you do that works?

Categories: Thrift | 6 Comments

Adapting in Place… Somewhere Else

Last year in March, Rick’s company offered him a promotion which we initially turned down.  It involved a move across the country and we weren’t really interested in relocating at that time.  They begged him to reconsider and flew the both of us in to check out the area.  I have to admit, visiting the farmers market in the first week of June to find these…  well, let’s just say Adam’s fruit wasn’t nearly so tempting.

Texas Toms in June!

Some of you might know of Sharon Astyk and have read her concept of Adapting in Place.  It’s a concept that we’ve been working toward achieving for a long time here.  All last summer we confronted the question of how to adapt in place when you don’t know where that place is/will be next year.  And really, is it wise to give up all the work we’ve done here and move to a completely new climate?  Questioning, questioning, questioning.

Rick liked the job and we both thought we could like the area, but we were also fearful of such a large change and leaving “our tribe.”  Rick put together a proposal detailing what we would need to move out there; he aimed high figuring that if he got it, it would be worth it.  We spent the summer doing projects around the house preparing to move, preparing not to move, on pins and needles, only to have them turn him down in August.

Serious peaches in June

When we were turned down we were disappointed, but also relieved.  Both of us were born and raised here in Colorado.  All of our families are here (well, most of mine, I have a few scattered about).  And I have finally been feeling connected to my community here.  So many good friends have been made in the last year.

Fast forward to last week.  They called Rick back, and after some negotiating offered him more than he originally asked for last year.  The first guy they hired instead of Rick had to quit for health reasons, and the next guy has not been able to do the job.  All of this is to say we are going to be packing up the homestead and moving to San Antonio, Texas.

In less than six weeks.

Pearl Farmer's Market

It feels silly to say that this is really unexpected for us.  Last year, we spent a lot of time getting our heads and hearts prepared for a potential move across the country (not to mention the house).  We knew all along that Rick was right for the position and we knew his bosses knew it too.  We actually were surprised when he didn’t get the job after everything.

But now…  now… well now we are packing up everything we own and trying to find a place to rent in a city we’ve visited one time.

Everything we’ve heard about San Antonio has been a mixed bag.  Some love and others hate it.  I feel a bit like Rapunzel in the movie Tangled.  You know… filled with glee one moment and sobbing the next.  But a good friend reminded me that there are good things everywhere.  Thankfully, we’ve heard more good things than bad, and I know this is going to be a big adventure for our family. Ultimately, we are very excited.

Puffy Taco from Taco Taco

We are sad about leaving behind our friends and families and neighbors.  Of course, the beautiful Rockies.  We’re a bit fearful about starting over with gardening and homesteading and community.  I am sad to be leaving my new friends in my homeschooling group and all the friends we’ve made doing the potlucks.  However, I’m finding that I’m sad about leaving behind some things that I did not expect to feel so attached to.

My beautiful garlic that I’ve been saving and growing for the last three years.  It’s already starting to come up in it’s bed full of lovely soil that we’ve built up over nine years here.  The soil.  So much work has gone into building it up.  My compost bins, both full of nearly finished compost.  Just a little TLC when the warm weather hits and it will become black gold.

Our next door neighbor who dug up half his lawn to let us plant potatoes and carrots and onions.  He doesn’t even eat them.  The two cherry trees we discovered half a block from our house on city property… right when I was this close to planting my own.  The pick-your-own peach orchard on the Western slope.  All the digging and tilling and hoeing and digging.  This is the place I first felt that real connection to my food and the earth and, well, everything.  Everything!

Texan tree

On the flip side, there are things that we are really looking forward to.  A fresh start, a new neighborhood (maybe one with lots of families or at least a park).  Maybe a second bathroom and a guest room.  Picking a new house with a bigger yard and the potential to grow more food, year-round.  Did you guys see that there were tomatoes AND peaches in JUNE!?!?!?

So what does this mean for the blog?  Well, I’ve had a long list of topics that are half written about.  Some will need a bit of revision to fit our new situation.  Expect to see them pop up here and there in the next two months.  But I make no promises.

Us.  In Texas.

We’re pretty much scrambling to pull off a cross-country move with five people in less than six weeks.  We have found a home for our bees and potential home(s) for the chickens.  We will rent in San Antonio for at least a year, so we will not be taking them with us.  We think we’re going to sell the house.  If we can.  Oh, and did I mention that Rick will be flying back and forth between Texas and Denver and will be gone for 2.5 of those six weeks?  Yeah.

So if it’s quiet for a while, please understand why.  And if you live in South Texas and have any tips for a gardener moving from zone 5a to zone 8b…. please share them.  I’m going to need all the help I can get.  It’s snowing in Denver while it’s a sunny 81° in January there.  Yee-Haw!

Categories: Community, Urban Homesteading | 18 Comments

Thrifty Thursday: DIY Swiffer Cloths

We have hard flooring throughout our house here.  Tile in the kitchen and bath and wood floors everywhere else.  There is a great tool for keeping those floors clean, most of you know it; the Swiffer.  But those Swiffer cloths get expensive.

My solution: mirco-fiber towels.  I have a couple of micro-fiber towels that will fit perfectly onto the head of my Swiffer.

And when I need to spot clean something with a mop?  I just get the cloth wet, wring it out and poof! – a Swiffer wet mop.

Micro Fiber Cloth

Go forth and attack your dust bunnies!

Categories: DIY, Thrift | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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