Crunchy Mama's Urban Homestead

Come learn about awesome plants on my homestead

Quote from Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes

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I am reading devouring the book Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes. So I’ll be posting quotes from the book; things that really resonated with me. Hopefully, it will whet your appetite to read the book 🙂 First quote. From page 13: “…our culture has been hostage to a form of organization by domination that fails to honor living systems, where “he who holds the gold makes the rules.” By contrast, Radical Homemakers use life skills and relationships as a replacement for gold, on the premise that he or she who doesn’t need gold can change the rules. The greater our domestic skills, be they to plant a garden,…mend a shirt, repair an appliance,…the less dependent we are on the gold.”  What do you think?  Does that resonate with you?  Comment below 🙂

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Super easy and fast coconut spinach curried shrimp soup

I’ve substituted wild spinach (lamb’s quarters) for the spinach called for in the recipe.

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My simple but effective-for-me garden record-keeping notebook

I’ve tried several methods but what works best for me is a one-subject spiral-bound notebook in which I write the date and what I did in the garden that day and if we got rain.  I keep it on my counter so that I update it daily.

What record keeping system works for you?  Please comment below.

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Book Review: One-Acre Homestead e-book

Review of One-Acre Homestead: Planning for Self-Sufficiency and Financial Independence by Sara Simmons McDonald

I very much enjoyed reading this book and I believe it is a book that will be most helpful for people who would consider themselves to be newbies to homesteading and/or permaculture.  I personally am new to permaculture.  I’m no expert on homesteading but I have been homesteading since 2008, slowly adding new skills to my repertoire (having young children keeps me in the slow lane).  McDonald gives some thought-provoking advice throughout.  I’ve read through the book (except for the “Our Journey” section) twice.

I’ve given the book a 4-star rating on Amazon; I try to reserve the 5-star ratings for books that absolutely “rock my world.”  There are a few things about the book that make it a 4-star book as opposed to a 5-star book.  First, the “Our Journey” section was a bit long and I wondered when we would get to the meat of the book.  Second, she did speculate a lot about what she would do in the coming year.  It is good that she shared her plans but, for the readers, we cannot know how those plans actually turned out when put into practice.  However, she does blog about her homestead at http://wildhomestead.org.  She is not an expert homesteader (whatever THAT means) and that is fine; she does not claim to be.  This is her story about her experiences and plans for the future.  The last thing is that she is homesteading in Louisiana so some of her crops might not work for those in other climates.  Overall, though, I do recommend it if you have a ½ to 1 acre to work with and want a permaculture design.  It is worth the $2.99 price tag.

She shares some good advice and I will list them in no particular order:

  • Focus your first years on growing easy-but-useful foods such as lettuce and other leafy greens.  But, of course, you should only plant foods that you will eat.  “Greens and herbs are among the easiest things to grow.” The great thing about leafy greens is that you get to consume most of the plant (unlike other plants such as tomatoes, squash, etc.).  Additionally, when you sow the leafy green seeds “thickly”, when you thin out the growing plants you can eat the ones that you thin.
  • “My recommendation for you the first two years is to practice good recordkeeping. Keeping good records in the early years will facilitate your planning for the later years. You will be much better prepared to avoid the same mistakes or to give up because you feel like you aren’t making any progress.”  Ah, this has been one of the hardest things for me to keep up with until this year.  Of all the systems that I designed, it turns out that what works best for me is a one-subject spiral-bound notebook in which I write the date and what I did in the garden that day and if we got rain.  I keep it on my counter so that I update it daily.  Here is a short video of my notebook.
  • “Don’t invest in large batches of seed early on, you will just overwhelm yourself.  Start with a few varieties recommended for your area, see how they work in your garden, and record the results.  When you become more confident with certain varieties of plants and you know approximately how many you will use, then you can buy your seeds in bulk.”
  • “There are plenty of things that demand our time these days, so prioritize what is important to you and start working toward it.  Slowly eliminate demands on your time that do not help you achieve your goals.”
  • “Years 1 and 2 should also be devoted to building soil fertility.”
  • She stresses the importance of finding fruit plants that are suited well to your climate.  They will be more productive with less work on your part than trying to grow something that is not well-suited to your climate.
  • For such a small space, it is best to skip large livestock.  Chickens for eggs will work but she feels that it will be a stretch to try to properly pasture on this small space meat chickens or goats.
  • She also recommends against growing grains and dried beans for self-sufficiency; rather she shows how growing other starches such as potatoes and sweet potatoes will give you more calories in less space that is required for grains and beans.

In all of these pieces of advice, she goes on to explain her reasoning.  And she has lots more advice in growing food but also in other topics of homesteading, self-sufficiency and home economics.  As I do with any advice offered by another, I keep what resonates with me and toss the rest.  In fact, she specifically offers to the readers to do just that: keep the advice that is relevant to you and skip the rest.

If I could give a 4 ½ star rating, I would.  I am not disappointed that I took the time to read this book.  Actually, I’ve already read it twice and I will be sure to refer to it again and again.

If you have read it, I’d love to hear what you think of it; or if you have read a similarly themed book that you have enjoyed, please share.

Leave a comment below; don’t forget to subscribe via email, WordPress reader, YouTube or Twitter.  Thanks!

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Watch “Pokeweed identification – poisonous plant” on YouTube

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Succulent, Delicious Garden Weed: Purslane

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Welcome to another installment of Crunchy Mama’s Wild Food Adventures!  I am pleased to present one of my favorite summer wild edibles: purslane (Portulaca oleracea)!  I noticed purslane last year in my organic veggie garden.  It was prolific (because we had put an irrigation system in).  Once I found out that it was edible, I tried it and I really enjoyed eating it.  It is a mild-tasting, very slightly lemony, succulent vegetable that happens to be grown outside of the U.S., on purpose, to be eaten as one of the most nutritious vegetables around.  In the U.S., most folks call it a weed.

An acquaintence of mine mentioned that she developed an allergy to purslane.  So, I am going to give a variation of the warning that just about every wild food blogger (teacher, etc.) gives to his/her audience: Whenever you eat a food that you have never eaten before, you should only have a little so that you can see how your body reacts to the new food.  Additionally, you really should get solid confirmation from several reputable sources that the plant that you’d like to eat is what you think it is.  I often take videos and photos of plants that I am unsure of and post them in wild edibles forums such as the forum at Eat the Weeds and several wild edible Facebook groups.

Benefits of purslane:

According John Kallas, purslane is extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and glutathione (140). Other sources say it is high in vitamin A and C.  If you grow it on purpose, it is drought-tolerant once established.  Because it contains mucilage, it is very soothing to mucus membranes in your digestive system.  Other foods and medicinal plants that contain mucilage are: okra, slippery elm, marsh mallow (not the white sticky sweet treat), chia seeds, flax seeds, and aloe.

Here blogger Meghan Telpner writes about the health benefits of mucilaginous foods.

Videos

Here is a video by YouTube user thejourneyoutdoors in which he shows purslane and a toxic look-alike which he calls spurge.  After digging around to find out the scientific name for the toxic plant, I found out that it is Euphorbia maculata (or prostrate spurge).  The biggest help to find out if a plant is spurge or purslane is if it has a milky sap.  Purslane has clear liquid inside.

Here is a video that I made in which I show another purslane look-alike.  I am pretty sure that it is prostrate pigweed or mat amaranth (Amaranthus blitoides). 

Here are a few more videos on purslane by fellow YouTubers.

My experiences with the plant and what others say about it

I have only eaten it raw in salads or just as-is when I am working in the garden.  However, I have read from several sources that you can cook it with other things and it will thicken the dish in the same way that okra would thicken a dish.  This is because it is mucilaginous.  The mucilage is released when it is cooked.

Purslane-containing recipes (along with other tidbits on purslane):

http://www.culinarymusings.com/2008/06/purslane-not-a-weed-but-a-wonder/

http://www.prairielandcsa.org/recipes/purslane.html

Tomato, Cucumber, and Purslane Salad

http://www.mariquita.com/recipes/purslane.html

http://www.gardenguides.com/115934-purslane-recipes.html

Pickled Purslane

Look-alike plants

Amaranthus blitoides images  — this plant is not toxic; I’ve read from some sources that they are edible but I have no experience with preparing and consuming them.

Euphorbia maculata images — this plant has milky sap and is toxic to include giving you a skin rash

Itemization for (or how to identify) purslane:

Identification: The stems are smooth and red and the leaves are spatulate-shaped and thick.  The leaves grow directed from the red stems, usually in clusters. The leaves have a glittery sheen to them (as compared to a clear shininess on A. blitoides — see my video for comparison).  The leaf veins are subdued, probably because it is a succulent plant. This is a sprawling plant (meaning it grows along the ground instead of upward).

Time of Year: Purslane likes hot weather.

Environment:  It will thrive in moist, fertile soil but it is drought tolerant.  It likes plenty of sunshine.

Method of preparation: You can eat the stems, leaves, flowers and seeds (but not the root).  Eat them raw or cooked.

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this post, please click the “LIKE” button and consider subscribing via email, Twitter ,  Pinterest or your favorite reader.  P.S. more resources are listed below.

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Resources on purslane:

Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas (pages 129 – 140)

http://www.msuturfweeds.net/details/_/common_purslane_34/

Resources on “prostrate pigweed” or “mat amaranth” (Amaranthus blitoides):

http://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/species/amaranthus/blitoides/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaranthus_blitoides

http://practicalplants.org/wiki/Amaranthus_blitoides

http://www.pfaf.org/User/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Amaranthus+blitoides

Resources on prostrate spurge (Euphorbia maculata) — the TOXIC one:

http://www.msuturfweeds.net/details/_/prostrate_spurge_38/

http://ontariowildflowers.com/main/species.php?id=604

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphorbia_maculata (The sap of this plant is a skin irritant and will cause a rash similar to Poison Ivy. Use gloves when pulling this weed.)

http://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/spotted-spurge (“Commonly there is a faint to prominent red splotch mid-leaf, but not always. Stems are up to 16 inches long, typically prostrate but occasionally ascending some, sparsely to densely hairy, often reddish colored, branching frequently, forming large circular mats.”)  That it is hairy is a big clue that it is NOT purslane.

Wow!  That’s a lot of information on purslane and its look-alikes!  Better to have more information than not enough when it comes to wild edibles.

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this post, please click the “LIKE” button and consider subscribing via email, Twitter ,  Pinterest or your favorite reader.

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Today’s mulberry harvest! 18.5 ounces :)

From our mulberry tree in our front yard.

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Our experience with Pekin Ducklings for meat

My oldest son’s favorite animal is duck.  My boys were really excited when I announced at the end of April that we were going to Tractor Supply to buy some Pekin ducklings.  Unfortunately, they asked if we were going to eat the ducks.  I truthfully told them that we would be.  Protests abounded.  Boy, did they try to change our minds about it.  By the end of our 5-week stewardship of the ducklings, there was no way to change our minds that the ducks had to go to the butcher.  Yes, they are so cute but hubby and I could no longer stand the stink.

We’ve had chickens since 2008 and we also knew that they were easy to raise (we keep laying hens).  But boy we were in for a few surprises when we brought the ducks home.  Now, I did do a little research reading on raising ducklings from the book Barnyard in Your Backyard and read that you can raise ducklings without a pond or stream.  I don’t remember reading though how much they stink!  So, as is my style much of the time, I decided to just go for it (wing it).  It wasn’t a costly mistake but we don’t think that it would be worthwhile to get ducks again (unless we move to a property with a BIG pond or an easily-accessible stream).

The ducklings were $5 each (total of $30) then the cost of feed (boy do they eat a lot) and then since we decided to take them to a butcher instead of processing them ourselves (we’ve butchered a few layers before) it was $6 each (total of $36).  They weighed about 32 oz. each after butchering! YIKES!  That’s some expensive meat!  Oh and then I had to drive a half hour to the butcher and back.  How much was that in gasoline?  I don’t even care to actually calculate how much they cost.  However, it was overall a good experience.  And, for our homeschooling boys, I like for them to experience a variety of “real life” activities.  Those experiences are what they will remember when they get older.

Here is a 12-second video taken on the first day that we had the ducklings.  They are swimming in a rubbermaid tub filled with water.

Here is a video with the ducklings swim racing across a very small “pond” that hubby made and I talk about how ducks cannot store water in their bodies and so they wet their bedding fast and thoroughly.

Here is a 2-minute video of the ducklings swimming in a make-shift pond (a snow sled).

Here is a short video of our terrier Emmy with the ducklings; she wanted to mother them.

Here is a video of them at 4 weeks old; they are eating grass and I explain how they had been trained to sleep with the chickens in the coop.

A lot less meat than we were hoping for

Thanks for reading!  Please check out my other posts.  If you like them, please consider subscribing by email or following me on Twitter or YouTube (where I upload almost daily about what’s growin’ on!).  Have a great day!

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Green Sour Butterfly Leaves (Wood Sorrel; Oxalis) — Crunchy Mama’s Wild Edible Adventures

Greetings, friends!  Next up in my wild edibles series is wood sorrel.  Wood sorrel might be mistaken by new foragers for clover but after reading this post you will know how to distinguish it from clover.  It is similar to clover in that it has three small leaves coming from the end of a small stem.  Wood sorrel, however, has three heart-shaped leaves and the veins in the leaflets radiate out from the base whereas clover has three egg-shaped leaves and the veins in the leaflet come out from various points from the center vein.  The wood sorrel flowers have 5 petals and the clover flowers have “lots of tiny pea-like flowers clustered together on flower heads” (Kallas).  Click here to see images of clover flowers.  Both clover leaves and flowers and wood sorrel leaves and flowers are edible but the taste difference is very distinct.

Wood sorrel between my fingers

 
Wood sorrel has a bright, sour, lemony flavor.  Clover does not have this sour flavor.  The sour flavor comes from a mixture of acids including oxalic acid; a common warning to those with kidney problems, gout, etc. is that they should avoid plants with oxalic acid.  Everyone should be aware that consuming vast amounts of foods with oxalic acid might cause problems (see below for more links regarding oxalic acid).  Many “normal” foods have oxalic acid but there are no big warning labels on them regarding oxalic acid (spinach, swiss chard, and beet greens, okra, figs, peanuts to name a few, according to http://juicing-for-health.com/oxalic-acid.html).  John Kallas writes, “[i]n spite of many authors claiming so, oxalates are not a problem for normal healthy humans eating a normally diverse diet.”  You will need to do your own research and decide what works for you. 
 
One of its nutritional benefits when consumed as part of a varied diet and in moderation (whatever THAT means — sarcasm) is that it is high in vitamin C.  Another source says that it is high in vitamin A.  Kallas reports that it is high in iron and calcium.
 
 
Other names it might be called are: sour grass, shamrock (although clovers are sometimes called shamrock so I would avoid calling wood sorrel shamrock), yellow oxalis, sour clover, or oxalis (after the genus that it belongs to).
 
I have personally only eaten wood sorrel as “trail nibble”, meaning that I just picked some leaves and ate them then and there.  Because of the oxalic acid, the surface of your teeth will feel strange for a few minutes.  It’s the same feeling that you would get after eating raw spinach leaves (for the same reason: oxalic acid). 
 
Poisonous look-alikes? No
 
Here is the itemization for wood sorrel:
 
Identification: Herbaceous (non-woody) plant with slender rhizomes; each leaf (green or plum-colored) is made of three heart-shaped leaflets that are an inch or less in length and they grow out from one point at the end of the leaf stalk (aka the petiole, pronounced PET ee ohl) and each leaflet has a crease along the middle and the leaflets can open and close depending on the weather (like a butterfly); the small flowers can be yellow or violet and have 5 petals. 
 
Time of year: spring through fall
 
Environment: Found in the lower 48 States. Likes partly shady areas and moist soil.
 
Method of preparation: You can eat the leaves, flowers and pods raw or cooked.  John Kallas recommends that when you snip off the leaves and flowers that you snip about 1/2 inch down the stem (from the leaves and flowers).  The stem is fibrous so you do not want to include much of the stem.  You can include some wood sorrel in your salad (maybe 20% of your greens) or you  can add them to soups or make a tangy sauce with them (see Kallas’ book for the recipes).  You can dry the stems, bundle them together with some clean string and make a tea by seeping the dried stems for a minute or two in hot water, according to Kallas.
 

Additional resources for learning more about wood sorrel:

John Kallas’ Edible Wild Plants pages 177-190 (This book is one of the BEST books on wild edibles! Go read the reviews!)

Green Deane’s http://www.eattheweeds.com/sorrel-not-a-sheepish-rumex/

Steve Brill’s http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Sorrel.html

http://www.american-lawns.com/problems/weeds/wood_sorrel.html

http://kingdomplantae.net/yellowWoodSorrel.php

http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/sorwoo68.html

More reading on oxalic acid:

http://juicing-for-health.com/oxalic-acid.html (“ORGANIC oxalic acid is essential for our body. It is the INORGANIC form of
oxalic acid that we need to be aware of.”)

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400344/Avoid-Vegetables-with-Oxalic-Acid.html

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Herb and Flower Seeds in Vermiculite

Herb and Flower Seeds in Vermiculite

I’ve mixed together some herb and flower seeds in vermiculite and I sprinkled the mixture on one of my garden beds. Most of the herbs are perennial!

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