Farmer’s Market Bag

Wahoo!  It’s that time again for Farmer’s Market!

Farmer's Market Bag

Farmer’s Market in Santa Rosa

Our favorite is held every Thursday night during the spring, summer and into the fall.  The main street downtown is closed for four or five blocks, so that there is pedestrian traffic only.  There is usually a stage where bands take their turn entertaining everyone.  Vendors line the sidewalks and most of the permanent stores and restaurants extend their hours on Thursday nights.

The beautiful bag that Donna made.

The beautiful bag that Donna made.

It’s truly a festive occasion with oodles of heirloom fruits, organic vegetables, food, flowers, potted plants, food, entertainment, handmade clothing, crafts and……… did I mention food?  My daughter-in-law’s mother, Donna, made me a beautiful cloth bag to take with me to the market.  Isn’t it beautiful!  She used french seams so that there are no raw edges!

When hubby and I go to the Farmer’s Market, we spend hours there browsing and sampling and buying.  If you are like me, by the time you are halfway done, your arms are tired of carrying your purse and your purchases.  If you want to stop for dinner at one of those yummy restaurants, you might worry that your lettuce is getting too warm while the hours pass by!  I’ve been thinking about this all winter, and I came up with a plan to make a Farmer’s Market Bag – A bag that holds all my necessities (no purse needed), along with my purchases, and keeps everything cold to boot!

Using some of the design elements of Donna’s bag, I decided to make another one and incorporate all of the needed elements for my Farmer’s Market Bag!.

  • Use washable fabric Use washable fabric I had some fabric scraps to make the bag. I bought an inexpensive flannel backed vinyl tablecloth.
  • The first step The first step Zigzag the edge, then turn down about 1/2 inch and sew flat.
  • Sew long sides together Sew long sides together Sew the long sides together, forming a 3 sided pocket, then zigzag the raw edges. I ironed the edges flat and sewed each edge down, to form a stiffer and more stable side.
  • Make the bottom corners Make the bottom corners Place the bottom of the bag with the seam in the middle, forming a triangle. Measure a point that is about 5 or 6 inches wide from each side of the triangle. Sew a seam across this line
  • Finish the bottom corners Finish the bottom corners Sew the triangle piece down on the inside of the bag. This is what the bottom of the bag looks like on the outside.
  • Almost done! Almost done! Line up seams and corners. Fold in the vinyl liner and pin about 1/4 inch from the top of the cloth bag

I started out with a piece of fabric about 40″ x 18″, and another piece of vinyl tablecloth cut to the same size.  I first zigzagged the short sides then turned them under about an inch and sewed this down.  Then I sewed the long sides together, to form a pocket about 38″ x 17″. Next, to make a rectangle bottom, fold the bottom corner to form a cone shape (see illustration) and sew a seam 5 or 6 inches wide.  Then take the triangle, fold it to the inside of the bag and secure with zigzag stitches.  The basic bag is now done.  Do the exact same thing with your vinyl tablecloth, except the triangle for the bottom is on the outside. See illustrations above.

Now, place the vinyl tablecloth inside the cloth bag so that the vinyl is facing inward, line up the seams and corners, and fold down the vinyl tablecloth top edge so that it fits just 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the edge of the cloth bag and pin in place.  I found this easiest to do with a box almost the same size as the bag inside.  Now set this aside while you make the strap.

Farmer's Market Bag

Making the strap/pockets

The fabric for the strap was cut 68″ long and about 12 inches wide.  I sewed the length of the strip, turned it inside out, centered the seam then ironed it flat.  I then sewed a seam 1/2″ from the center seam on both sides, which am hoping will give the strap some stability and strength.

Now it’s time for the magic!  Pin the bottom of the strap to the bottom of the side of the bag (see illustration below).  Decide where you want your pockets and make sure that you leave a large enough opening to get your hand into!  I left one opening on each side about 5 inches wide.  Sew the strap onto the bag about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the edge of the strap, leaving the pocket opening, and make sure you back tack both on the bottom and top of the opening.

Farmer's Market Bag

Matching side seams, pin the strap from the bottom all the way up the side of the bag.

Because of the way the fabric tries to bunch up, I found it easiest to start sewing the seam at the center top of the strap, down each side to the bottom of the bag.  When you sew the opposite side of the strap you make one continuous seam without any openings for pockets.  You now have pockets to store your keys, cell phone, change purse, etc., but the magic is that inside the bag you now have a pocket that will hold frozen water bottles or one of those reuseable ice substitute packs – which helps to keep your produce cool!   Cool!

Farmer's Market Bag

Sewing the flap together leaving raw edge open.

The final step is to sew on a flap to cover the top.  I cut a piece of fabric 1 inch wider than the top of one top side of the bag, in my case 15″, and about 20″ long.  I folded this right sides together, sewed a seam up either side of the flap so I had a 3 sided pocket that was 14″ x 10″.  Insert the raw edge of the flap between the top edge of the bag and liner and sew a seam about 1/4 inch down.  It’s done!  You can add a button or snap to keep the flap down if you prefer.

Farmer's Market Bag

Insert the flap between the cloth bag and the vinyl liner and sew all thicknesses together.

And the best part?  Because the bag is lined with the vinyl, the inside wipes clean with a damp cloth!

Now I have two bags.  My hubby can carry one and I will carry the other!   The one Donna made will be perfect for dry goods, handmade items and brochures/books.  The other will hold my keys, money, cell phone and ID (just in case someone is giving wine or beer samples) in the pockets and will also keep my produce cool until we get it home.  :)

Farmer's Market Bag

One of the side pockets that can hold either a cell phone, keys, change purse, etc.

Farmer’s Market – here we come!

Farmer's Market Bag

These Freezer Paks fit right into the pocket between the vinyl and the cloth.

Do you like to attend Farmer’s Markets?  Or, perhaps, are you a vendor at one?  Let me know what you think of this bag.  If I get favorable comments, I might just add it to my Etsy Store!

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Spring at the Future Homestead

” Spring is nature’s way of saying ‘Let’s Party!’ ”  ~ Robin Williams

Spring has sprung at the future homestead.  I thought I would share a few pictures with you I took on our recent trip up there. We can’t wait until this is our permanent home!

The fruit and nut trees are blooming and the bees are buzzing.

Cherry blossoms

The cherries are blooming! This is a Utah Giant. It had just a few blossoms last year, but no fruit. We hope to get some fruit this year.

We are lucky enough to have some natural pollinators up on the future homestead including mason orchard bees and bumble bees, among others.  We hope to get a few honey bee hives soon – one for the orchard and one for the vegetable garden.

All-In-One Almond Tree

We planted this almond tree last year, so this will be it’s second summer. This is an All-In-One almond. Can you see the little baby almond??!!

We have purchased all of our fruit and nut trees from a wonderful nursery in Nevada City, Ca, called Peaceful Valley.  If you are anywhere near Nevada City, it’s certainly worth a visit.  Of course, they have quite a selection on line and you can visit them here:  Peaceful Valley Grow Organic

The Ambassador Walnut tree seems to be quite happy!  Look at all those catkins!  She is such a young tree, but her enthusiasm tells me we might get a walnut or two this year!

The Ambassador Walnut tree seems to be quite happy! Look at all those catkins! She is such a young tree, but her enthusiasm tells me we might get a walnut or two this year!

We also planted a few artichokes last year and I mulched them heavily over the winter.  Imagine my surprise when I saw them poking out of the mulch, a day after the most recent snow had melted!

mulched artichoke plants

Globe artichokes peaking up through the mulch. I didn’t expect to see them so early in the spring!

Of course, along with the bursting forth of new growth on the plants comes the plant eaters!

Banana slug in Sierra Nevada Mountains

This is the third banana slug we have found on our future homestead. We saw it’s silvery trail and found the slug just chillin’. My middle finger is 3-1/4 inches long, so you can see Mr. Slugo is about 4 inches long – and fat! I’m sure he could devastate our vegetable garden overnight!

And then the bug eaters -

Western Skink

This is a skink. They have a very long body and tail and look like a slithering snake when they are moving quickly across the ground. Skinks are great bug catchers. Hmmmm. I wonder if they eat banana slugs?

The evenings are still pretty cool, so a warm campfire is always fun.

Campfire

We have a lot of sticks, twigs and punk wood that we burn in the campfire. This year I want to cook with a dutch oven in the firepit more often. Yum! Marshmallows anyone?

We also set up the “living room”…..

future homestead

This is where we sit for a well deserved rest after working on our future homestead. We haven’t put up the screens yet but those will be necessary soon. Come join me for a cup of coffee – or later this afternoon for a glass of tea!

So, we are ready for another year of preparations to make this our permanent home.  This year we plan to finish our back road, clear an area for a metal shipping container box that we plan to use for storage, clear a patch for our raised bed vegetable garden, and finalize the plans for our new home.  Do you need some exercise?  Come join us!!!!

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Eating Sprouted Acorns

Eating malted acorns

I have read that if you wait until spring to collect sprouting acorns, you never have to worry about worms in the nut meat !

The first week of March we traveled up to our future homestead to install yet another water storage tank.  While removing the forest duff where we were installing the tank, I noticed that most of the acorns still on the ground were starting to germinate!

Hmmm………  I remembered somewhere back in the recesses of my brain that when seeds germinate, the starches turn to sugar.  When a brewer makes beer, he sometimes uses malted barley (which is sprouted barley) because the grain would have a higher sugar content to turn into alcohol. So, it would make sense that if I gathered sprouted acorns in the spring, they would be sweeter than the whole, just dropped acorns in the fall, and it would be easier to get the remaining tannins out of the acorn.

eating sprouted acorns

Don’t worry, there were plenty left for the squirrels, deer and turkey!

Right?

I did some research and found that when sprouting occurs, chemical changes naturally take place so that some enzymes convert carbohydrates into simple sugars.  The complex proteins within the seed are converted into simple amino acids and most of the available fats turn into fatty acids.  This makes the nutrition within the seed more readily available for digestion.

I also found this:  ”Germination caused a decrease in the protein, carbohydrate and starch; it increased sugar content, and had varied effects on the lipids contents of the dry samples. The anti-nutritional factor-tannin concentration was decreased.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1546053

Eating "Malted" AcornsI figured it wouldn’t hurt to try, so I gathered several pounds of the sprouting acorn nuts and brought them back to our current home in the Sacramento Valley.   I decided to use the boiling water method of tannin extraction, using larger pieces of the acorn.

The first thing I noticed was that it was much easier to remove the acorn meat from it’s shell!  The acorns shells had (usually) three splits at the small end, where the future root was protruding from the shell. Just a little bit of pressure on the acorn shell along one of these fissures with pliers would crack the acorn shell in half.  In fact, I was able to get a lot of the acorn nut meats out of the shell whole and intact – which was nearly impossible to do with newly fallen acorns.

"malting" acorns to eat

The testa (papery skin) is easily removed with a slotted spoon when using the boiling method to extract tannin.

I decided to try boiling the acorns for 15 minutes at a time, transferring back and forth to fresh boiling water, and see how many water changes it would take to get fairly clear water – which is supposed to indicate that most of the tannin had been boiled out.   Knowing that my oak is a species of red oak (I figured this out when I read that white oak acorns germinate as soon as they fall to the ground and red oaks wait until early spring) and the fact that red oak carries more tannin than white oak; I didn’t start tasting the acorns until after the fourth boiling.  Ick.  Then the fifth.  Nope.  Sixth.  Maybe, but no.  Seventh.  Much better.  I boiled for the eighth time, just to make sure.  Success.

One experiment with removing the tannin from acorns that I have been toying with is using pH testing strips.  Since Tannin is an acidic agent, I thought it would follow that the acorn nuts themselves would become less acidic as the tannin was leached out.  So I bought some pH test strips from an aquarium supply store to check out the acidity level of the water after each boil, to see if, indeed, the acid levels dropped.  I think it worked.  As you can see from the picture below, the color of the water from each successive boil turned from bright yellow to orange, indicating that the level of acidity had decreased.  I plan to experiment with this method using several techniques of leaching the acorns including the cold water leach method and the combination of cold water/hot water leach, along with the hot water method as above.  According to my palate – the acorns didn’t taste very palatable until the pH had reached about 7, which is neutral. The eighth boiling showed a red color on the test strips (sorry, that one isn’t in the picture), which apparently was an indication that the water was no longer acidic, so I assumed no longer had any tannin. :)

leaching tannin from sprouted acorns

The bright yellow color on the bottom of the test strip on the left showed that the water from the first boiling was very acidic, with the seventh boiling on the right being orange, which is neutral, indicating that as the tannin is leached from the acorns, they become less acidic!

After I had some leached acorns I had to decide what I would do with them next.  Since I had leached the tannin using the hot water method, I knew that they would lend themselves to a recipe that was not flour.  If you would like to make acorn flour, cold leaching is best for this because the oils have not been cooked out and the resulting cake, cookie or pastry would be less crumbly.  Baked goods made from flour using hot processed acorns tends to have no structure and fall apart.  So, I thought I would candy them using a recipe I have for candied walnuts!

Candied Acorn Nuts

Yes, I know, taking a natural good-for-you nut and coating it with sugar is counter-intuitive, but it sure is good!  :)

These were pretty good!  But – next time I won’t add so much cinnamon.  You see, many plants contain tannin naturally, the most famous being grapes!  The tannin in the grapes added to the tannin in the oak barrels is what gives red wine it’s astringent, tannin flavor.  Another food stuff that includes tannin is cinnamon.  When I ate an acorn after the eighth boil, I did not taste any tannin.  In fact, the acorn was almost sweet.  However, after roasting the acorn, I could taste just a hint of tannin. I knew that roasting acorns will tend to bring out any tannin flavor left in the acorn, which is why I boiled once more, after I no longer tasted tannin.  Then, after they were candied, even through the sweet of the sugar, I could taste a stronger tannin flavor – presumably because of the cinnamon.

Will you have to boil your acorns eight times?  I don’t know.  Each oak tree is different.  Some people only have to boil once.  You never know until you try!

Will I make candied acorns again?  You betcha – just not with so much cinnamon.   In fact, I’m thinking of making some caramel acorn and popcorn next!  Anybody want some?

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Using Home Canned Salmon

I recently canned some salmon that had been sitting in the freezer for about six months.  pressure canning pacific salmonLearning how to can beef, chicken, pork and fish with a pressure canner has been on my list for a while now. To see how I canned the salmon, click here.   Although we will be able to keep a lot of food in our freezer while living on our future homestead, I would prefer to use the freezer mainly for vegetables.  Why?  Because I like frozen corn much better than canned corn.  Ditto with green beans.  Have you ever canned zucchini?  It isn’t pretty – think mushy.  But if you freeze it either in thin slices or shredded, you can make zucchini bread or zucchini muffins even in the dead of winter.

But – you need to eat what you can to make it worthwhile!  Sure, I was proud of the fact that I actually canned my own salmon, but the only thing I have ever made with canned salmon before has been salmonMaking salmon patties from home canned salmon patties!  However, if we had salmon patties every week, we would get mighty tired of them!  So I went on a search for some other recipe using canned salmon. My first thought was to find something like a tuna casserole, but since I don’t like tuna casserole, I skipped over those recipes. I might look into one of those later.  Then I found this one for Salmon Chowder and then another one from Whole Foods, which also sounded really good.  Since hubby and I both love Clam Chowder, I thought I would give it a go using both recipes as a guide!

So, If you know me, you can expect that I tweaked these recipes together into one and omitted or added some ingredients.

How to make Salmon Chowder

Bacon cooking in butter. MMMMmmmmm….. bacon…♥♥♥

I started out frying the bacon with the butter.  After the bacon was browned, I took it out of the pan to save for later.  I added the onion to the pan and let that saute for a few minutes until it was translucent.  Then I added three tablespoons of flour and stirred, stirred, stirred. This quickly made a fairly thick rue, and I let that bubble for a minute or two while I stirred.  Next, I added four cups of chicken broth, a little salt and some pepper.  I wish I had only added three cups of the broth, but the potatoes needed to cook in the broth/rue mixture and I needed another cup of the broth to cover the potatoes.  Add the potatoes. After about 15 minutes the potatoes were getting tender, so I added the flaked and chunked salmon, along with the corn that was thawed.  I brought this up to a boil, turned down to a simmer and let it bubble away for about 5 minutes.  After the 5 minutes I added 2 cups of half and half.

Canned Salmon Chowder

The salmon flakes up pretty well. I left some chunks also, but I removed the skin.

That’s it!  The Salmon Chowder was absolutely delicious!  It wasn’t too salmony (if you know what I mean) nor did it have too many potatoes.  The broth was a bit thin, though. I crumbled the bacon on top of each bowl and served with fresh from the oven french bread.

Here is what I will do next time.  Cook potatoes separately until almost tender (maybe 10 minutes) before I add them into the chicken broth/rue mixture – that way I will only have to use 3 cups of the chicken broth.  Also, I will add celery.next time.  I didn’t add any the first time simply because I didn’t have any!  Also, I only had one cup of the frozen salmon and potato chowdercorn and I think it could have had a lot more, may be two cups.  This was the last of the frozen corn I grew in my garden last summer and froze. It was still delicious! Oh – and onion – a bit more onion! I need to trust recipes more because I only added 1/2 of an onion instead of the whole onion as suggested in the first recipe. Next time I will add the whole onion!

As you can see, I omitted the carrot and dill that the recipe from Whole Foods suggested.  I’m not a huge fan of dill unless it is a dill pickle, and I just don’t think carrots belong in a chowder.  I may be wrong, but it’s my chowder.  You have my permission to put carrots and dill in yours!

Salmon Chowder Recipe

Here is a jar of my home canned salmon. It isn’t very pretty, but it sure is good! However, it is almost impossible to get out of the jar!

Another thing I have learned from canning the salmon and then using it in a couple of recipes, is that I need to can it in smaller wide mouth jars!  The salmon chunks would be much easier to get out that way, and the smaller jars would also be just the right size for hubby and I.  This salmon chowder recipe made enough to fill the bellies of at least four adults, and the salmon patties I made previously made four very large patties.  So, using the smaller jelly jar size to can the salmon would make the perfect proportion for one meal for my hubby and I.  I might still can some in pints, just in case we have company.

recipe for chowder using salmon

This was so good! As hubby says “that’s a keeper!”

If anyone has another recipe that uses canned salmon – speak up please!  If you have a post about it, please include a link in the comments.  If you just have a recipe, you could type that into the comments as well!  If you have a recipe similar to tuna casserole….   well, ummmmm.. ♥♥ :) ♥♥  no thanks.

The site for our future home!

The site for our future home! We are working on the plans right now!

As you may know, our plans are to move up to our future homestead, grow and raise most of our food, build our home off the grid using solar and wind power, and live as simply and happily as possible.  That is why I am learning how to can, freeze, dehydrate, ferment and store food.  I am trying to learn as much as I can about sustainable and organic gardening along with permaculture techniques.  I have been doing research about heirloom vegetables and heritage chicken breeds.  I am convinced that the trick is to learn as much as possible before we move up to our future homestead, because once we move up there, we plan to hit the ground running!

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