Those Who Care

If you really care for your friends and family, you will prepare yourself to care for your own needs and have a little extra for those less fortunate.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Baking With the Solar Oven

We've spent this summer experimenting with alternative cooking methods and we've learned a lot.  Today, I would like to concentrate on baking with a solar oven.  I love to bake!  I think it must be genetic as my Grandmother had her own bakery at one time and she taught her joy to me.  But baking in a solar oven is a little different.

The how-to books on solar cooking all claim that it is as easy to cook with a solar oven as a stove.  Well, if it were truly that easy, why would cook stoves be the norm all over the world?  However, it does have a lot of advantages.  Free fuel and a cool kitchen are not to be sneered at.  There are a few drawbacks though.  For proper baking (not emergency I'll take whatever I can get kind) you need to have good control of the temperature.  Especially when baking cookies.  Despite what many claim, the angle of the sun does make a difference for this type of baking.  I have found that here, even on the hottest summer days when the sun is right overhead and no clouds, that I need to bake in the middle of the day.  After 3:00 pm, forget it.  An inferior product will result later in the day or too early in the morning.  This info is important when planning your evening meal.  I've discovered that it is best to have our main hot meal at noon as it is hard to have properly prepared hot food after that magical 3:00 pm.  The sun angle (despite our adjusting of the oven) just doesn't allow the food to get hot enough unless it has had that magical middle of the day.  In fact, the oven begins to cool and so does the food.

It also helps to allow the oven to heat 25 degrees above the baking temperature you need as you will lose about 25 degrees when you open the door to place the food inside.  No matter how fast we are, we always lose 20-25 degrees.

By following this advice though, we are able to bake cookies at the right temperature for the same amount of time as in the kitchen oven.  I love that free fuel.  Have fun and experiment with some cookies.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Extra Strawberries

We were given some lovely ripe strawberries last evening.  There was about 1/2 of a gallon bag.  Well, right now we have plenty of fruit so I made some chunky strawberry syrup today.  I first washed and hulled them and then, using my pastry cutter, because tools have to useful for more than one thing, I mashed them.  Then I came up with this recipe which is delicious and has less sugar because of the clear jel.

2 1/2 c crushed strawberries
1/2 Tablespoon dried lemon peel
3c water
3/4 c sugar
3 Tablespoons clear jel

Bring strawberries, lemon peel and water to simmer.  Add red food coloring until you are happy with the color.  Add sugar and clear jel (which are mixed together, very important).  Simmer a few minutes.  Can and process for 10 min at sea level.  Here I processed for 15 min.  Yield: 8 half pints

We tried it over some butter pecan ice-cream  Talk about good!  The great thing is I now have some for us and some to give as gifts is needed. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Canning Peaches

Why can peaches while living in an RV?  Why do any prepping while living in an RV?
Truthfully?  Most people don't.  RVs are designed for camping trips of a weekend or a couple of weeks at most.  The fridge is small, counter space almost non-existent and storage space is more for a few clothes and some sleeping bags. Some of the newer and very expensive ones are designed for rich retirees who want to travel and not be tied down to a home somewhere.  Wish we all could enjoy such a life but in today's economy that just isn't happening for most of us.  We live in an RV because that is what we can afford.  We want to take care of ourselves, and honestly, does anyone really think that housing prices were reasonable a few years ago?  When the average worker could not afford a house without taking on crippling debt, I knew that something was seriously wrong and it would come crashing.  We almost bought a couple of times but felt so uneasy that we didn't.  Hence, we do not worry constantly about losing our home.  And that, is peace of mind.  Is it hard to accept living this way?  You bet, at least for me for some years. I groaned and complained but now I'm grateful.  The most important lesson I've learned is "Be happy whatever your living conditions."  You only make others miserable if you aren't.  Learn to make the best of wherever you find yourself and if you really don't like it then work on changing it.  There are more and more people finding that living full time in an RV can be a blessing.  Most are forced to it via the economy or natural disasters.  However you've come to it, remember, it can turn out very  nice.

So, why am I spending so much time canning?  Most stock some canned beans, cereal and paper plates and then plan on going to the store every day or so.  Many give up all self-respect and turn into slobs, never or seldom even cleaning.  I cringe at the way some live but I figure they would probably live like that anywhere they crashed. We want to live a good life, a healthy life with our self-respect intact.  So we choose an RV with lots of windows for light and light bright colors so we don't get depressed in the winter when the days turn gloomy.  For the most part, we live as we would in a house.  And that includes canning.

 Now, how do you can in an RV.  Well, if you've never canned before, find someone to teach you in their home.  It is a little trickier in such a small space.  We have added a small, free standing, light weight, butcher block that adds enormously to our counter space.  Without it, I would soon have the screaming meemies.  But, even so, I have to carefully plan every step of canning.  I also only have so many pans and bowls, once more I have to carefully plan.  Because of this, I have to finish one step at a time, clean and then go on to the next step.

  1. Wash the jars
  2. Put the jars into my 20 quart stock pot
  3. Place the stock pot onto a heat diffuser on the stove.  (This prevents the extended heat from warping the stove grate.)
  4. Bring the water to a boil and leave the jars in until I'm ready to fill them.
  5. Pick over the fruit while the jars are sterilizing.
  6. Preparing a large bowl of water and lemon juice to prevent the sliced peaches from browning.
  7. Peel and slice the peaches.  The peelings go into a wash basin or pie plate until I can throw them onto the compost pile in the garden.
  8. When I have enough sliced peaches, I drain them on paper towels (I will use the lemon water again so I don't pour it away through a colander.)
  9. Remove the jars, one at a time, placing them on a pie plate (in case of spills it is easier to clean) and then fill with peaches.  
  10. Wipe the jar rims carefully (the rim must be clean or the jar will not seal)
  11. Place the lid, that has been simmering in a pan of water on the back burner, on the jar.  Put on the ring and tighten.
  12. Move the stock pot to a trivet on the table.
  13. Place the canning pot on the diffuser on the stove.  
  14. Add the jars and add water until the jars are covered by at least an inch or two.
  15. Bring to a boil.
  16. Process according to jar size and elevation.
Then I repeat the process for each batch.  I don't pour out the sterilizing water until I am done.  No sense in heating fresh water each time.  And I only pour out most of the water in the canner as well.  I have to cool it down with some fresh water so the jars won't break but I can leave in about a quarter of the water that I used to process the last batch.

Obviously, this is time consuming and not very cost effective if you only count money and time. We feel it is worth it.  While on our mission I could not can and had to purchase commercially canned products.  That was a terrible waste of resources, (i.e. money)  Hard little green peaches from China!  They were terrible.  They were so hard that the peach would fly out of the bowl when you tried to cut it with a spoon.  You were forced to use a knife and there is no way I will ever believe those peaches and pears had any nutritional value.  In canning my own, I know exactly what I've got.

And the most important reason?  Because the Lord has told me to care for myself and to be prepared.  I know that if I do my part, no matter how small that is right now, He will make up for my deficiencies and that folks, is real peace of mind.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


When I was a kid, Mom taught me to soak a sour sponge in a little bleach and water and it would sweeten the sponge right up.  But that no longer works!  What have they done to our sponges?  I really like those little yellow sponges with the scrubber on the other side.  But now, they only last about 3 days before they stink and everything they touch, dishes, counters and hands, stink too.  I've tried soaking the sponges in a bleach solution which buys me about 1 extra day before I throw them away.  I know you can 'nuke' them in the microwave but that doesn't last long and I use our microwave as a breadbox.  (Really dislike microwaves and wouldn't be able to use mine if the power was off and we were using the generator anyway.)  I've never cared for dishcloths as they don't scrub as well either.  So, anyone out there know what they've done to our sponges?

Prepping is All About Doing It!

Could I have picked a worse time to become ill?  Well, yeah, but it was still rotten timing.  As soon as I felt as though I could stand for awhile, I was out in the garden weeding and burning the germs out of me.  My mother always swore that you never get better until you can get some sun.  So I was out there early, before it became too hot, weeding.  I was able to work about 10 min and then rest 10 but eventually the garden was beautiful again.

This is a first year garden.  For who knows how long, this has been willows and wild roses crowding out everything else.  Now those monsters are gone, the weed seeds have found the sun and have really taken off.  Especially the wild tobacco and mustard but, the soil is beautiful.

Unfortunately, the week I was down, most of the peas became too old for preserving.  I really like young peas and neither of us will eat peas that have turned to mostly starch.  So I pulled out all but the few plants that I'm saving for seed.

I planted my herbs in the worst part of the garden area, lots and lots of stones.  This area has flooded many times over the years as we are alongside a creek.  I would never build a house here but since we are on wheels we are not worried.  We keep a close eye on the creek during runoff season or when there is a lot of rainfall and are prepared to evacuate if needed.  The herbs love where I placed them.  I have never had calendula grow so tall.  And the parsley, it's hard to believe that it is only two plants!

This week I've been busy drying herbs and peaches and canning peaches as well.  We have a great produce guy who comes up every Tuesday from the valley bringing fresh produce.  The first box of peaches I dried (okay, we ate some too) but the second box I canned a dozen pint jars and am drying the rest.  I use pints because we can't eat a whole quart at one sitting and an RV fridge is too small for the rest of the jar and the jars are harder to store because of their size.  A dozen is all I'm doing because of storage space.  Mostly I'm drying.  At times I feel like my great-great-great grandmother coming across the plains.  Heavy bulky items just don't cut it.  Dried fruit and veggies are easier.  I like drying my own because they taste better.  I can be picky about waiting until the fruit is ripe.

Trust me, canning in an RV is not for the faint of heart but well worth the effort.  I hope to purchase a propane camp stove to can on in the future.  I have pears ordered and will can a dozen pints of those as well.  We can use the camp stove for many other things as well and I truly do not want all my eggs (or cooking methods) to be in one basket.  I trip and fall too much!

When it comes to prepping, there are times when I'm too busy doing it to write about it!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Prepared to Be Ill?

Are you prepared for illness?  A week and half ago we went to the city and neglected some precautions.  Before we go out into large masses of people we always slip an Elderberry and Zinc lozenge into out mouth.  This helps kill any germs we may breath in.  Well, we had to go to the VA hospital and FORGOT to use the lozenge!!!!  Of course, I caught some nasty bug that is still with me.  Hopefully I will be feeling much better by next week and can post better advice on preparing for illness.