Thursday, September 27, 2012

Its Fall & time to talk about Rose Hips

Rose Hips are also known as rose haw or rose hep, but basically its the fruit of the rose bush, that appears where the flowers once were.

If you have never tried collecting rose hips, be aware the rose plant has thorns which you must guard against. It is recommended that when harvesting rose hips, you plan ahead, and wear long sleeves of a tougher type fabric so as to not be grabbed by the thorns. The worst thorns to be nipped by, in my opinion, are the tiny microscopic ones that torment you for hours since they are hard to see embedded in your fingers or forearms!

I tend to not only wear long sleeved work shirts, but also jeans & gloves when planning to harvest this delicious & nutritious berry. While the rose is a dwarf plant, the prairie has numerous thorny, prickly and thistle type seed heads that are looking for a free ride! So having a good pair of thick pants can help reduce the scratches you may obtain while foraging for this delicacy.

There are numerous types of roses, but my favorite rose to harvest is the wild prairie rose, [Rosa blanda or Rosa arkansana] which is also known by the common names

Arkansas rose

sunshine rose

dwarf prairie rose

prairie wild rose

and is found across the northern prairie. It is so prevalent in some areas, such as North Dakota, that the state made it their state flower.

The wild rose is distributed across a great deal of the North America, as this map illustrates and thus is an ideal source of vitamin C if someone is working to reduce their Carbon footprint

and wanted to reduce their dependence of citrus fruit from southern climates, which is then trucked to northern climates in winter.

Experts state that 3 hips of rose equals one orange, when considering its Vitamin C source.

It is best to locate your wild rose sources in June & July, when they are in full bloom. The Prairie wild rose is a prickly-stemmed native shrub (usually less than 18 inches tall) with pink, five-petaled flowers.

The Prairie rose is not the only rose hip producing rose species. All roses produce hips. Some much larger and some smaller than the prairie rose. The experts say there are between 100 and 150 species of roses with most botanists agreeing that the actual number is probably nearer the lower end of that range.

Another wild rose found in some areas of South Dakota is the Woods' rose [Rosa woodsii]. Unlike the small prairie rose, the Woods' rose is a shrub that often forms large, dense thickets.

Finding both these sources helps me in collecting an ample supply of rose hips, for the various uses such as herbal tea, jam (2), (3), jelly,(2), (3), flour, syrup, soup, beverages, pies, bread, essential oils, and marmalade. Not to mention the flower crop needed to make essential oils & rose water.

If your main interest is obtaining Vitamin C rich hips, the wild hips will be the target for your foraging.

However, if you are like most people the sharp citric acid found in wild hips may be a bit intense. Many people choose to mix both wild hips with domestic rose hips, which have a fruiter taste to them.

Once you have collected your bucket of rose hips, its time to process the hips!

The processing method of hips depends on what you are planning on doing with them. Most methods of processing require that you remove the seeds from the meat of the fruit. This can be done in a couple different ways.

By hand ... by squishing the fresh berry and thus pinching the berry pod apart. Rose hips contain tannic acid in the seeds which cause a chalky taste. So you may want to split hips down one side and knock out seeds, or take pin and push out seeds before cooking for jelly or processing for other food purposes.


using a sieve to separate the seeds & pulp from the juice.

Here is a great series illustrating how to process rose hips traditionally. The beautify of this video is that he is not doing time-lapse video, so you SEE the full extend of the time consuming process. I believe in today's impatient world, perhaps its good to see this so there is no illusion as to the task at hand. I am therefore going to post all of the serious regarding the processing of rose hip syrup that this series posted.

There are numerous blogs too talking about Rose Hips' uses. I've tried linking several of them to this blog by hyperlinking words here and there. So please take the time to click on the highlighted words & see just how many recipes you can find for using this wonderful multi-vitamin of beauty. Rose Hip tea alone is toted as having the following health benefits:

Rosehip tea has antibacterial, anti-viral, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Due to its anti-aging properties, the tea heals tissues and cells.

The tea fights cell damage caused by free radicals, tones the organs and regenerates cells.

The phyto-chemicals present in rosehip tea prevent cancer and cardiac problems. It is a tonic that can invigorate and refresh a person and also increase his energy level.

The nutrients present in the tea boost immunity and health.

The vitamins contained in rosehip tea ensure vitality and longevity.

Rosehip tea prevents colds and viral infections.

It cleanses the respiratory tract and clears mucous congestion; thus, easing breathing.

The tea is also helpful in minor ailments, like urinary tract infections.

It prevents stress and acts as an anti-depressant, due to its calming effect.

Rosehip tea is good for hormone regulation, skin hydration and circulation.

The tea is recommended by medicine practitioners for relieving nausea, headaches, menstrual cramps, kidney and bladder infections, diarrhea and dizziness.

The pectin present in rosehip tea helps in relieving constipation, cleansing the intestines and lowering cholesterol.

It is used for treating disorders like allergies, asthma, bronchitis, etc.

Rich in flavonoids, rosehip tea helps in strengthening the body’s capillaries.

It fights dysentery and strengthens the stomach.

So with such a powerful medicinal and food at our doorstep, why not take a fall evening processing rose hips with friends & family?

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Climate we live in: Dehydrating using the sun

Its the season of the harvest, and depending on your climate you may have an easier time than some to dry your herbs for storage.

I have used air drying for decades. Nothing fancy, just took the herbs and bundled them with a string & hung them up high along the wall in my kitchen (which had 9 foot ceilings), allowing the heat of the room to dry them. This worked for a long time in the various western states I lived in over the years. However, if you live in humid climates, as I do in eastern South Dakota; air drying is almost impossible! Simply bringing solar dried #vegetables into the house at night, when using a solar drying is not enough! The air even inside the house tends to be too humid!

I've tried using electric dehydrators, but I find they are too small for the production of vegetables and herbs I need to dry all at the same time. So while I'm waiting for the dehydrator to dry my vegetables, the rest are rotting in buckets and baskets!

Adding to this downside, is the fact that I'm using electricity. My preference is to reduce my electrical use, NOT increase it! So I began looking at other ways in which I might dehydrate here in South Dakota, where I currently live.

Another solution had to be found, that would allow me to dry a great variety of vegetables, flower seeds, herbs & medicinals in the short harvest period of fall.

I've tried the drying system of placing bundles of herbs tied together, hooked to a nail in the kitchen. It was ok, but it has its draw backs! While winter heat does dry the herbs, the problem lies in spiders LOVING the new "home" I've created for them to attach their webs too! Another problem is the fine dust that falls onto the herbs while drying, in the winter dry-air conditions of an enclosed winter home.

I've concluded that here, in Eastern South Dakota at least, I needed a drying method that was faster -- leaving out the dust collecting method of high-hung herbs that I just couldn't get myself to make tea with due to the fine dust-coating.

I know Native American women in the region, used to sun dry their winter food stuffs including corn without electricity! So its just a matter of figuring out how we might do it today!

My solution? My old mini-van!

Yes, you heard me right. I take advantage of that heat build up in our cars each day! My van happens to sit most of the time, in my driveway facing south. So its in the perfect position to collect a great deal of sunshine and heat.

So I decided to experiment.

My first clump of herbs I dried was some Mint.

It was a great success! Within less than 10 hours my mint was dry (though I kept it on the screen, in the van for another 14 hours just to be sure all moisture was gone.)

I then decided to try drying some Cilantro, Mushrooms & Tomatoes.

Fresh Cilantro

Cilantro, 8 hours later

Even the thick end caps of the Tomatoes, given a couple extra days of drying, dried nicely. Its important, once you dehydrate anything, to remember to place it in an airtight container so as to keep moisture from entering back into the product. I am using recycled glass jars with sealing lids. The jars were boiled in water, as were the lids to sterilize the jars, then dried, before they were used.

They too have been drying very efficiently. Of course the thicker vegetables and fungi require more hours of dehydration. I have been drying the Mushrooms for three days so far.

By day three, they went from looking like the first photo to the following photo provided:

I also dehydrated Rosemary. I took the rosemary, still on their stems & placed them on the drying rack. As a thicker woody herb, it took several days to dry them completely. But I believe it is well worth drying them! They smell wonderful!

Once the herb was completely dry, I collected the stems carefully from the drying screens & took them into the house, where I removed the rosemary's needles into a small glass jar.

My latest test for my off-grid dehydration system is to see if I can dehydrate some Sweet corn, used in Indian Corn soup; as well as some seed heads from a neighbor's flower garden. Note: Day four of the corn drying. Dimples are beginning to appear in most of the kernels... indicating the dehydration is happening.

I have also begun drying Marigold seed heads and Elder seedsfollowing me processing some Elder Berries.

The heat in the van doesn't get over 120 degrees, so I should be able to not only dry herbs and vegetables for cooking. I suspect I will be able to dry seed stock for future garden use. So I've placed some brown paper bags in the van, with collections of Hollyhock, bachelor buttons and other seed heads (each in its own brown bag) so as to test whether this would be a suitable method for me to dry my seeds for storage.

I do not however recommend this technique to anyone living in a more southern climate. Not even in southern Kansas! It is critical that you determine the heat produced in your closed up vehicle, before placing seed stock into the vehicle for dehyrating.

As you can see in the photo. I place a window screen frame (look for ones with Plastic screening) across from the dash to the back of the seat. This allows air flow through the screen.

I have placed screens from the front seat head rest, to the middle seat as well, and the middle row bench seat to the back seat; giving me the full length of the interior of the van to dry vegetables and seeds.

Celery : I took two photos of the celery. One is the celery 8 hrs into dehydrating;

& one at the end of the process, two days later.

Some of the vegetables I hope to test include:

Eggplant : Began drying Sept 16th, 2012

Zucchini: Began drying Sept 16th, 2012




Summer Squash









Dandelion Roots

Arrow Roots


Willow Bark


Brussel Sprouts

sunflower heads (and more if weather conditions hold!) So I will keep you informed. I will try to update this blog as each new vegetable is tested.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rain Barrel System

Installing some rain barrel collection systems to the Gallery House is something I have long wanted to do.

While the house is clearly old enough that it would have utilized a rain collection system historically. The town's homes didn't have indoor plumbing for bathrooms until the 1970s, so I'm certain that it wasn't until then that indoor water usage fully was embraced. Though an indoor kitchen pump may have existed.

I do not know of any cistern being buried on the property. Other property in town have beehive brick cisterns at the edge of the homes, so it could be possible that at one time something similar existed. Or it may have been a simple wooden barrel or steel drum prior to indoor water, that was used to collect rain fall as it came off the roof.

Both systems had their period of usage.

There are numerous designs out there that offer people ways in which to include a rain barrel for watering garden plants or landscapes.

Some people have plumbed the barrels so that they are multi-barrel systems that allow a great deal of water storage as it comes off the roof, stored in sealed barrels that are interconnected by pvc pipes.

My first rain barrel was much simpler, as it was merely a plastic trash barrel, with a large plastic window screen secured over its open top, to keep mosquitoes and debris from getting into the water.

It is important if you collect your own rain water, that you make sure that it is not illegal in your state to do so. Many Videos are found online regarding rain barrel system designs.

When harvesting rain water

Its also important to consider the quality of water you get once the rain runs over your roof material and down into your collection barrels.

Some people don't consider the material that their roof is made from. However, this material can contaminate your water and make it unsafe to drink or use on food crops such as vegetable gardens.

The roof on our Gallery House is steel roofing panels, which are one of the better choices for rain collection, if you aren't going to utilize solar-roofing panels or green roofing choices to create a "Green" roof. Ours is simply the good old fashioned steel roof that happens to be green!

It is also important to be aware of the need of filtration. Not only does contaminants enter the water via roof materials, but also pathogens can be present in your water storage and drainage system that will multiply and can cause grave harm to you, your animals and your garden if not properly filtered out.

Additional contamination can occur if you leave your barrel open.

While most people think of the system to be clean, it has the potential of being a nursery space for mosquito larva.

It doesn't take much effort to deny mosquitos from using your home's rain barrel as their personal nursery and by taking a few moments to secure your water source you also secure your family's comfort by denying a few thousand future mosquitos from dining on you & your family!

Its important to remember that mosquitos can live in a very small amount of water

Even a bucket set at the edge of a building to collect water for your houseplants is a nursery space for millions of mosquitos over one summer. The solution is simple. Rather than use oil or other contamination to your water supply, simply cover your collection buckets & barrels with a fine synthetic screen. Recycled window screening fabric works great for this purpose.

My frugal method for securing the screen was to take and cut the screen several inches beyond the diameter of the barrel, draping it down all sides about 6 inches. Then I took a bungee cord and wrapped it around the barrel, stretching it to hook to itself. This bungee holds the screen tight across the surface of the barrel, denying insects (and debris) entrance into the barrel.

The rain barrel method of course is only one method of water storage, one can use (if its legal to store water in your area).

When I was growing up in the sandhills of eastern Colorado, most of our extended families' ranches had well houses which had windmills pumping water up from the deep Ogallala Aquifer.

Within the wellhouse was a water barrel that collected the water and we simply went into the building to bucket out the water needed in the kitchen.

Another type of wellhouse are those built over a natural spring. Such locations are prized by the land owners and if properly safeguarded and "plumbed" to collect the water coming up from the natural spring, can be a windfall to the land owner. These well houses can be made of wood, stone or any other building material and have been historically.

The well house can be quite plain or quite fanciful.

One could even use a standard commercially available storage shed as your well house structure.

Having a well house to store excess water is far better in many ways than having your water barrels exposed to the elements & I think you will find it is much more pleasing to the eye to hide the unattractive barrels. HOWEVER, if you live in a cold climate where water freezes in winter, don't forget to protect your water storage from freezing or empty your barrels before winter freeze.

Some people bury their water storage tanks. These buried tanks historically were called Cisterns. In our local town, some exist, though they haven't been used in over 50 years. The ones here are brick & mortar beehive cisterns large enough to park a compact car into!

The cistern is called a beehive because of its round form similar to the historic skep bee hive.

The roof of such a cistern is quite intricately built with bricks stepping inward layer after layer until the opening of the cistern is quite small.

Whatever your water collection system, becoming more conscience of our water use and more importantly water waste is critical for the planet.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

RePurposing Kitchen throw aways

The Kitchen is perhaps the most prolific place of trash coming out of our home. Often people don't know what to do with all those empty cans, bags, twist ties, plastics and bottles other than to simply toss them into recycling bins.

However, this method depends on a great deal of carbon foot-printing.

Consider this:

* If you delivery to a Recycling Center: You use your vehicle to transport the recycled materials to the site. Then that material is hauled to a facility where it may be sorts, or may be put into a larger petrolium gobbling vehicle to be hauled to a cargo ship to be shipped to another country.

* Curb side recycling: Each bin must be picked up by a recycling center vehicle which is starting and stopping numerous times along the curb to pick up the neighborhood recycled materials. Then that material is hauled to a facility where it may be sorts, or may be put into a larger petrolium gobbling vehicle to be hauled to a cargo ship to be shipped to another country.

Why not try a third option? Why not REUSE it yourself? Yes, that is possible. Many items used for one purpose can be repurposed and reused on site. Saving greatly in the carbon footprint of our neighborhoods, towns and nation.

Such recycling doesn't have to be unsightly either. Here are just a few examples of how you can repurpose Kitchen waste within the confines of your own home or property.


Do you ever try to figure out how to keep your things preserved from the sun, insects and rodents without having to buy expensive storage systems?

If you store foods in South Dakota, without using pesticides and other poisons to keep predators out. One frugal way to do this is to repurpose Popcorn tins.

You can get those large popcorn tins at rummage sales or thrift stores. Often they have whimsical winter themes or cute little bears or something on them. Not necessarily what you want on your shelves as canisters. But a 50 cent can of spray paint from the Habitat Restore can resolve that issue.

If you want you can also label the can so that you know what is stored inside. This tin system works great for bags of dried beans or even boxes of cake mix, etc that are otherwise easily penetrated by rodents. By placing bags of legumes in tins (still in their sealed bags) you also remove the sunlight which deteriorates the nutritional aspects of the legumes. Keeping them inside the bags makes it easy to have numerous different types of beans in the same large can.

Placing boxes such as cake mix into tins prevents those little moths that we have in South Dakota from being able to burrow into the cardboard and lay their eggs. These moths are small gray moths. They are known as "Pantry Moths".

Some say the moths eggs are actually already in the wheat, but I'm not sure about that. I do know that one of the safest ways to get rid of them is toss EVERYTHING that they could have gotten into. (I had them assault my pantry supply once already, so I learned). They are tiny and can get into the folds of boxes and into the boxes. So having tins prevents this from happening.

How does one know if they have pantry moths? Finding webbing in a stored food product is a sign that you have an infestation. So the tins that you and your family throw away can save you hundreds of dollars of damage. So can those old empty jars such as spaghetti sauce jars! It doesn't matter what type of lid it has, as long as it has a lid.


Commercial Meat Trays

Have you noticed how stores now sell their meat in plastic meat trays?

Simply wash the tray after removing the meat, instead of tossing the tray into your plastics bin.

These trays work wonderfully as plant watering trays. They are stout and their shape makes them ideal for placing side by side with other trays and not leaving unneccessary space on the shelves or unusable space due to the pots being rectangular nursery pots and the trays (found commercially) being round.

Here you see one of my meat trays that has been washed and is now being used under some nursery pots that I recycled. There is enough room in the tray that I could add one more pot.

The plastic of these trays is sturdier than many watering trays found commercially as well, which to me is a great bonus.


Large Plastic Jugs:

Large plastic jugs are a God-send in my opinion when it comes to frugal living! The cost of a simple scoop is outrageous and here is a scoop-to-be just sitting in our recycle bins!

The diagram below shows how to take a modify the jug so that it can become a great scoop for dog food or other feeds or other bulk items such as bulk flour storage or sugar storage bins.

Another use of large plastic jugs include repurposing them into watering containers.

Many people have used semi-clear milk jugs as Cloches for their gardens. Some of the new milk jugs that are darker so as to reduce light deterioration to the milk, no longer work effectively as cloches, but there are still plenty of alternative plastic jugs out there to use as garden cloches.

Some people repurpose their larger jugs into dispensers of other items such as Bath Salts.

Another clever idea is to use them in Halloween decorations.

Some people use old milk jugs and other large plastic jugs as container planters.

The options are endless. But what is best is the plastic jug doesn't need to be shipped to some unknown location but can be utilized by your own family by simply repurposing.


The Tin Coffee Can:

Coffee cans come in plastic or metal these days. Both have their repurposing benefits! Both are GREAT canisters-to-be or can be used in creative ways unrelated to storage of food. Here I want to focus on the multi-purpose aspect of tin coffee cans.

As mentioned in a previous blog, I use one of my metal coffee cans as a container for my recycled egg shells.

But this isn't the only thing you can do with metal coffee cans.

You can repurpose coffee cans into decorative lanterns:

Or you can take it and make a funky ceiling lamp.

Another repurposing idea is to take the coffee cans and mount them to a board in a row and make a place to store craft supplies such as yarn, fabric scraps or even spray paint cans.

Some people take the humble coffee can and repaint it as part of their repurposing effort, then mount it to a wall or fence to become a decorative planter.

Another creative RePurposing of metal cans is to make Charcoal Lighting chimney's with them.

You can even make a coffee can oven so as to make Coffee Can Bread!

Some people use tin coffee cans as chimneys as they make adobe ovens.

Another cooking stove made from a coffee can is the "Coffee can wood-gasifier stove"

Another is the Tin Can Sterno Stove.

Coffee cans also make great emergency kits for the trunk of your car. Simply take the can, prepare it to become a Tin Can Stove. Drill the necessary holes, etc. But instead of using it for recreational situations. You take the empty can, add a small candle, some water proof matches or a lighter, a small tin cup or enamelware cup (to be used for mini cook pot). Pack these items into can. Add small envelopes of ketchup, mayonnaise, honey and seals packets of crackers.

These items are not "snacks" but emergency items. While not great as a meal, these items have protein, sugars and other nutrients that could be beneficial if you were stranded for some time. Having the stove & cup allows you to melt snow and make water available to yourself until help can arrive. In summer, you should always travel with water bottles in your car, so even in the warmer seasons you should have in your travel pack, emergency supply of water.


Mylar Lined Resealable Bags

The Mylar bag has been getting a lot of attention lately within the Prepper community. This is mainly due to the mylar bags' ability to reflect light and thus protect stored items from degradation due to light.

While most preppers talk about buying mylar bags so as to store their food storage, few talk about recycling mylar that is currently coming into one's home.

You may not even realize that you have mylar bags around you in various forms. But they can be found in grocery food bags and in the form of pet food treat bags.

These recycled mylar bags work wonderfully for storing garden seeds, which was mentioned in a previous blog. Also they work great for storing food items. Even if you aren't placing the food directly in contact with the reused mylar bag, but keeping the item in its original box or bag, but merely placing that bag or box into the large mylar bag to lengthen its shelf life. Another type of "Mylar" lined item that often is tossed is the paper lined baby formula cans. These cans have a silver lining inside that works in the same manner as the mylar bags.

While the cardboard cans aren't rodent proof, they are tools to assist in reducing light penetration. I use old formula cans to hold small bottles of garden seeds.

------------------------------- Mesh Bags

These bags are often tossed by families after the produce in them is used up. However, mesh bags are a great item with many uses.

One of the simplest things you can do with mesh onion bags, for example is take and cut the label off and tie the bag into a knot in the center. Then repeat this again over the first knot until the ends of the bag are too short to tie again. This ball of mesh just became a scrubber for your kitchen!

Another option is to take a small mesh bag, after emptying it of its produce, and cut a small oval out of one side. Then take the bag (with bottom seam still intact) and hang on a hook or nail at the edge of your sink. This bag will then become a handy place to place your wet sponges. By giving them breathing space the sponges dry quicker and it reduces the chances of mildew building up in the sponge.

Another way to use the bags is to reuse them for various produce that you may want to store in your root cellar or cool pantry storage space.

There are numerous garden produce that needs air when in storage. Onions and potatoes are two of these items. Others include: beets, turnips, & garlic. Allowing air flow to produce is critical when storing and the humble mesh bag you've been throwing out can help you in that job.

Another use of the mesh bag is to provide you with a great place to store all those bath toys of your children!

Small soft material mesh bags can be used to collect thin soap bars that are getting too small to easily hold and use. Take these thin soap bars and toss them into the bag. Then use the bag as a scrubber that has its own soap supply, by simply tying off the open end.

These are just a few of the items you can repurpose.