Growth is a double edged sword. Unchecked, growth can be cancerous and destructive. It is this type of ceaseless expansion that has put our society into the precarious environmental and financial positions in which we currently find ourselves. On the other hand, growth can be regenerative and life-giving. Following a forest fire or a bitter winter, the first green shoots to emerge from the earth bear witness to the earth's ability to restore life in the wake of disaster.

My goal for this blog is pretty simple and open-ended: I want to document and share with family and friends my efforts to incorporate an ever increasing degree of self sufficiency, voluntary simplicity, and environmentally-conscious design into my life as a would be urban homesteader.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hot Sauce

Spicy food occupies a special place in my palette. Chili, Indian food, chicken wings, pizza. eggs, you name it - the hotter the better. Next to tomatoes, I have more varieties of hot peppers than any other plant. I'm always looking for different things to do with them. I found a recipe in Mother Earth News for a Tabasco brand-style hot sauce. Personally, Tabasco isn't my favorite type of hot sauce, but the recipe sounded interesting. It called for fermenting the peppers in brine for 4-5 weeks. I chopped a bunch of jalapeno, tobago, and pablano peppers, mixed in some salt and water, and let them sit. After 4 weeks, I mixed in a little white wine vinegar and let it sit for another week. In the end, this is what it looked like.

I tasted the liquid. I was spicy and very salty. The recipe was rather ambiguous about the amount of salt to add, and apparently I added a bit much. Undeterred, I strained the mixture through a cloth to separate out the pepper bits and seeds. I then used a makeshift sieve to get all of the seeds out of the pulp.

I heated the pulp, and mixed in some tomato paste, honey, brown sugar, coriander, and ginger. As per usual, I was making this up on the fly. I was hoping for something sweet, spicy, and vaguely exotic. It came out pretty good. Thin enough to mix into soup, but thick enough to put on a sandwich. I liked it enough to call it a success.
The liquid was a different story. It was so overwhelmingly salty that I wasn't sure what to do with it. I heated it up to boiling, added butter and sugar in an effort to balance the flavor out some. Ummm... I suppose it worked. The sauce was less salty, but calling it good might be a bit of an overstatement. I kept it, but I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with it. I the future, I'm going to use far less salt in the brine. Here's the final product:

This is a link to the original recipe at Mother Earth News. The article promises to help you save money. To be honest, I'm not sure how much hot sauce you need to consume in order to save an appreciable amount of money by making your own. At any rate, give it a try and enjoy!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hausgemacht Halloween

Ever since I've been a little kid, Halloween has been my favorite time of the year. I've always liked spooky stuff, and I'm sure the fact that my birthday is 3 days before it has a lot to do this too. Making my costume for trick or treating is something I've enjoyed about the season, and since we've had kids, I've looked forward to making theirs. Store bought costumes are a major pet peeve of mine. My wife always points out, as I'm trying to finish things at the last minute, that it would be much easier to simply go buy costumes. She's right, it would be easier. It would also be easier to eat lunchmeat sandwiches and chips for Thanksgiving instead of turkey and mashed potatoes. Somehow that seems to miss the spirit of the holiday, though. Likewise, buying some cheap, piece of shit costume that will look exactly like everyone else who bought that same outfit misses the spirit of Halloween. Anyway...the kids are really big Pokemon fans, so they decided to be a Poke-family: Pichu, Pikachu, and Raichu. I dressed up like a Pokeball (the little baseball looking thing that Pokemons live inside of). None of the adults knew what I was, but the kids all got it.I made the costumes from a combination of things I found at the Goodwill and some extra fabric I bought. All together, I spent about $26 for the materials to make 4 costumes. $6.50 a piece for costumes that will serve as play clothes for a long time to come, not to shabby. The kids all had a great time.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hoop House Progress

The framed out hoop house.

Football has finally wound down, and I'm trying to get some work done before Winter rolls around. I got the last of the frame work done on the hoop house last Saturday. The door and ventilation window have yet to be constructed. I'm hoping to get plastic put on in the next couple of days (once it stops raining). The various things that I planted in there some weeks ago are up and growing. I'm harvesting lettuce and radishes now, and the chard, peas, carrots, beets, and turnips are coming in nicely. I recently planted some spinach, but I'm not sure if it will germinate as the temperatures drop. Once the plastic is on, I also plan on transplanting the Tobago and Black Hungarian Wax pepper plants into large pots to over winter in the hoop house. I'll be interested to see how they do next spring.

The door frame at the end of the hoop.

I salvaged this giant piece of 6mil plastic from my school when there was roof work being done this summer.

The 3 beds about 1 month ago as I was starting to plant them.

The hoop house bed this past weekend.