Deb Stephens

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since Dec 03, 2011
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Current homesteader, naturalist, artist and writer. Former zookeeper, archaeologist, and pretty much anything that paid the rent.
I live with 1 husband, 1 old goat (besides the husband), 4 cats, 8 dogs, 19 ducks and 43 chickens on a 75 acre homestead in SW Missouri. We have Mark Twain National Forest along our entire eastern border so when not puttering in the garden or dealing with the usual animal and homestead chores, I can generally be found wandering the hills looking at all the trees and flowers Nature has to offer. I love animals, plants, books and solitude (plus a few more things I may get around to remembering eventually). I am rabid about the environment and try very hard to live a simple, green life with the smallest possible footprint. I am a vegetarian and have been for nearly 30 years. If there is anything else you'd like to know, feel free to ask.
SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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Recent posts by Deb Stephens

Many plants listed as annuals in seed catalogs and in nurseries are actually perennial in their country of origin. They are simply treated as garden annuals where they are not hardy year round. For example, we have some hot pepper plants that are over 10 years old and producing abundantly each year although we live in USDA Zone 6b-7a where they should die off in winter. The reason is that we bring them inside to a cool room in winter and allow them to go dormant as they would in their original homeplace. In the country of origin, they would be long-lasting shrubs.

Many other plants that are, indeed annuals or biennials, will reproduce through seeds so that while the parent plant is dead (or resting) the seeds will sprout in place to form new plants. An example of that is our Malabar spinach -- a tropical vining plant we've had in our garden for at least 15 years -- which dies down every fall when the weather gets cool, then pops back up and spreads luxuriously from the seeds it dropped in the previous summer.

One other way that non-perennial plants often appear to be perennial is when they are cut to the ground before they die so that the warmer roots (warmer because they are insulated from cold air down in the soil) merely go dormant and then send out new growth in the spring. A lot of brassicas (such as your kale) will resprout that way.

I think the takeaway lesson is that if we can duplicate some of the conditions in the country of origin (like adding warmth in the form of a greenhouse or bringing indoors) or do some other thing to maximize survival of tender roots in situ (like deep mulches) a lot of so-called annuals will become perennials for us even in cold climates.
2 weeks ago

Nina Jay wrote:

Deb Stephens wrote: At some point, no matter how thrifty you are, that bike or raft has to stop and resupply. If the world becomes the hell-hole you hint at, there aren't going to be convenience stores along your route and anything you might think of foraging has probably already been foraged by the people who live in the area you are passing through. People who opt to survive in place may be the only ones with food and you can bet your bottom dollar they will see you coming if you think your best option is to steal your way along to wherever you're going. So what IS your plan for resupply?

I can think of two ways a person planning this kind of survival strategy could plan to resupply: one is by hunting and fishing and foraging and the other is by helping local people in exchange for some supplies. If this person is a bit of a Mac Gyver type, he could think of many ways to help the more settled down people.

I would very much welcome someone who could fix our tractor for example. I'd be glad to give some potatoes and carrots and garlic in exchange.

That's actually a real life example. One summer a nice young couple from Switzerland parked their old minivan on the outer border of our land. They didn't know it was our land, they were just touring around Northern Europe and stopped anywhere that didn't look like it belonged to anyone. I went there to say hello, invited them for a breakfast and it turned out the guy was interested in old machines and knew how to repair them, so he fixed our tractor

In an ideal world this sort of itinerant farm worker scenario would be a good one to adopt if the nomad in question had skills and time on his/her hands AND the farmers were amenable to the idea of work/supply exchange. The problem is that it is not an ideal world and the scenario put forward by the OP sounds more like a Mad Max scenario -- so VERY FAR from an ideal world. Even if the biker/rafter has the best of intentions and fully expects to pay (in money or work) for the food and supplies s/he needs, how is the farmer going to know that when s/he sees a stranger approaching the door? What would keep said farmer from merely blowing the well-intentioned biker's head off? In a world where it's everyone for himself and devil take the hindmost, there probably aren't going to be a lot of amiable negotiations over the garden fence. Besides ... I thought the OP's idea was to get down south FAST. If you stop to work, that is a delay.
2 weeks ago

Judith Browning wrote:Well, before everyone starts heading south let me say that just because the growing season is longer doesn't mean it's any easier to live here
I know a lot of folks still think the Ozarks are under populated and you can go hide out just isn't so.  People who hunt and forage here already know every square inch of land, both public and private.  Even many of the caves are well known and any decent ones are already under lock and key.

Many folks in the country here (and farther south I suspect) already have guns, dogs and at least some knowledge in the family of living off the land.

As a fellow Ozarkian, I can attest to all this. Gardening in our hot, humid climate (where rocks grow quite well but a lot of other things just give up and start wilting away somewhere around mid-July) is not as easy as you think. As for knowing the land -- I certainly know every tree, flower and rock on my land and for several miles in every direction. I can walk through the woods and instantly tell when someone has been there by noticing an overturned rock or a tree branch that has been moved off a familiar path, etc. Anyone expecting to "forage" at our expense will find us wide awake -- as well as our 12 dogs.
2 weeks ago
I'm not sure the definition of survival is to spend your life running away. At some point, no matter how thrifty you are, that bike or raft has to stop and resupply. If the world becomes the hell-hole you hint at, there aren't going to be convenience stores along your route and anything you might think of foraging has probably already been foraged by the people who live in the area you are passing through. People who opt to survive in place may be the only ones with food and you can bet your bottom dollar they will see you coming if you think your best option is to steal your way along to wherever you're going. So what IS your plan for resupply?
2 weeks ago
Pearl, We are vegetarians trying to go vegan and having the same problem with giving up dairy that you are apparently having. I found this really incredible book called The Non-dairy Evolution Cookbook by Skye Michael Conroy The Gentle Chef that has some fantastic non-dairy alternatives in it. Here is the Table of Contents so you can see what's in there. It's a bit pricey at $25 for an ebook, but well worth it for the incredible variety of recipes (which include eggless recipes and egg substitutes too). Some of the "cheeses" aren't all that convincing, but some are -- you just have to experiment. The non-dairy creamer is incredible! And there are lots of recipes for butter and cream that you really can't beat.

Table of Contents
An Introduction 1
The Non-Dairy Glossary 2
Non-Dairy Milks 12
Soymilk 12
Quick Buttermilk 13
Whole Soymilk and Chocolate Soymilk 14
Raw Cashew Milk 15
Chocolate Cashew Milk and Hot Chocolate 16
Almond Milk 17
Rice Milk 18
Horchata 18
Non-Dairy Creams 19
Crēme 19
Quick Crème Fraîche 20
Sweetened Coffee Creamer #1 21
Cashew Cream 22
Sweetened Coffee Creamer #2 23
Chai Thai Iced Tea 24
Heavy Whipping Crēme 25
Organic Powdered Sugar 26
Whipped Coconut Cream 27
Non-Dairy Butter
Better Butter 28
Seasoned Butter 29
Cultured Non-Dairy Butter, Buttermilk and Creams
Rejuvelac 31
Vital Butter 33
Cultured Raw Buttermilk 34
Buttermilk Ranch Dressing and Dip 35
Chilled Cucumber Buttermilk Soup 36Cultured Sour Cream 37
Cultured Crème Fraîche 38
Greek-Style Yogurt 38
Greek Tzatziki 40
Indian Raita 41
Mango Lassi 41
An Introduction to Non-Dairy Cheeses
Cultured Cashew-Based Cheeses 44
Cream Cheese 45
Chèvre 46
Peppercorn Chèvre 47
Chèvre with Fines Herbes 47
Chèvre with Mulled Wine Swirl 48
Chèvre with Rosemary Balsamic Swirl 49
White Cheddar Amandine 50
Extra-Sharp White Cheddar 52
Bleu Cheese 53
Chunky Bleu Cheese Dressing 54
Iceberg Wedge Salad with Chunky Bleu Cheese Dressing 55
Block and Wheel Cheeses 56
An Introduction 56
Preparation and Cooking Technique 59
Troubleshooting Tips 61
Mozzarella Fior di Latte 62
Saganaki 63
Eggplant Rollatini 64
Mozzarella di Tuscano 65
Mozzarella di Campana 66
Mozzarella Fresco 67
Insalata Mozzarella Fresco 68
Pizza Margherita 69Provolone Affumicata (Smoked Provolone) 71
French Brie and Camembert 72
Brie (or Camembert) en Croûte with Caramelized Mushrooms and Onions 73
Pepper Jack 74
Dill Havarti 75
Suisse 76
Muenster 77
Smoked Gouda 78
Smoked Gouda, Spinach and Artichoke Dip 79
Golden Cheddar 80
Broccoli Cheddar Soup 81
Golden Stock 82
Americana 83
Potato Cheese Soup 84
Gloucester with Onions and Chives 85
Tofu-Based Cheeses 86
Sharp Tofu Cheddar 86
Mediterranean Herbed Feta 88
Chèvre Soja with Basil Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes 89
Basil Pesto 90
Gorgonzola 91
Gorgonzola, Pear and Candied Walnut Salad 92
Queso Fresco 94
Creamy Ricotta (with optional herbs) 95
Spinach Ricotta 96
Baked Manicotti 97
Chef’s Best Marinara Sauce 98
Cottage Cheese 99
Garlic Herb Gournay 100
Zesty Onion Dill Gournay 101Miscellaneous Cheeses 102
Hard Parmesan 102
Garlic Parmesan Crostini 103
Risotto Parmesan 104
Grated Parmesan 105
Italian Mascarpone 106
Cheese Sauces 107
Golden Cheddar Sauce 107
Classic Mac’ and Cheese 108
Scalloped Potatoes Gratin 109
Sauce Fromage Blanc 110
Potatoes Dauphinoise 111
Mornay Sauce 112
Queso Nacho Sauce 113
Queso Blanco Sauce 114
Salsa con Queso 115
Cheese Melts 116
Colby Melt 116
Twice-Baked Cheesy Broccoli Potatoes 117
Jarlsberg Melt 118
Käsespätzle (German Spätzle with Cheese and Onions) 119
Spätzle 120
Tangy Cheddar Melt 121
Classic Grilled Cheese 122
Cheesy Broccoli, Cauliflower and Rice Casserole 123
Gruyère Melt 124
Gruyère and Chive Mashed Potatoes with Peppered Walnuts 125
French Onion Soup 126
Brown Stock 127
Fondue 128Non-Dairy Seasoning Blends
Instant Cheddar Cheese Sauce Mix 129
Nacho Cheese No’ritos Seasoning 130
Cool Buttermilk Ranch No’ritos Seasoning 131
Eggless Egg Specialties
Sunrise Scramble 132
Sunrise Scramble Seasoning Blend 133
Sunnyside-Ups 134
No-Yolks Sauce 135
Over-Easys 136
No-No Huevos Rancheros 137
Eggless Eggs Mornay 139
Eggless Omelets 140
Eggless Frittata 142
Mushroom, Onion and Suisse Quiche 144
Bedeviled Eggless Eggs 146
Eggless Egg Salad 148
No-Eggy Mayo 150
Non-Dairy Sweet Treats
Italian Mascarpone Cheesecake 152
Graham Cracker or Cookie Crumb Pie Shell 153
Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake 154
Crème Caramel 156
Fresh Fruit Gelato 158
Vanilla Bean (or Chocolate) Gelato 158
Marshmallows 159
Appendix - U.S. to Metric Conversions 162
Recipe Index 163
Bonus Recipe – Home Churned Butter 168
3 weeks ago
That was incredibly inspiring! Those two really have their act together. It is such a joy to see young people who are thoughtful, innovative, creative and forward-thinking. I would love to have a couple like that here on our place -- that kind of out-of-the-box thinking and willingness to work are exactly what every homestead needs!
3 weeks ago

Jotham Bessey wrote:I was thinking about clay not long ago. I don't know anything about pottery but couldn't one separate clay out of and clay rich soil by mixing it in water, letting it settle, and then skimming off the clay (which would be on the very top of the settled soil then)

That's pretty much how it is done except that what floats is the organic matter. You skim that off then pour your slurry through successively finer screens to get rid of the big stuff (pebbles large grit sand, etc.) you don't want. Let it settle then pour off the excess water. What is left should be decent clay, assuming you started with clay soil. Pour the wet clay onto plaster bats or sheets of cardboard -- which absorbs the excess water -- then put it somewhere warm to dry to a workable consistency.
3 weeks ago
I think I remembered some of the details wrong (or read a skewed account of it somewhere else originally) but this is the story Baker Creek got if you want to read it. Art Coomb's Ancient Watermelon. I know many people say it must have originally come over with Europeans (or more likely African slaves) because watermelons originate in Africa, but there are a few who say it may be a true American watermelon. I wish someone would do a DNA analysis so we could know one way or the other. Either way, they are interesting and well-worth growing. These are a couple that showed the most obvious ancient characteristics. These were only about 10 or 12 lbs. each -- compared to one super-sized melon that weighed over 35 lbs. (I think as much as 40 lbs. because my kitchen scale topped out at 35 lbs. on a smaller one!)

These weren't the best for flavor and had fewer seeds, but they were late to appear and I think they may have got larger if they had had more time to mature before the weather got cool. You can see that the area near the rind is only pink and a bit marbled. I think the seeds will still be okay though.
Hey Gilbert, I have a bunch of Art Coombes Ancient Watermelon seeds that I will trade for heirloom tomato and/or squash seeds -- what varieties do you have?

These watermelon seeds are really interesting. Apparently, a guy named Art Coombes found a small clay pot in a cave somewhere in the desert of Arizona or New Mexico (I forget which) and after he unsealed it (it was stoppered with clay as well) it turned out to be filled with red seeds that appeared to be from watermelons. The pot was dated at around 4,000 years old but the seeds remained viable, so he grew them out and discovered a watermelon with a handle like a squash. He kept selecting for those that had the most typical watermelon shape (oblong and rounded, and larger) until he mostly bred out the squash shape entirely. Baker Creek seeds is trying to breed them back to the original shape and size so I got my seeds from them.

I have grown a bunch of them this year -- which mostly turned out to be the watermelon-shaped type, but a few were decidedly smaller and more squash-like. I am saving seeds from both (separately of course) to grow them in separate places next year. I really want to get more of the squash-type just because they are so interesting, but I admit the larger, rounded types did taste much sweeter and were a lot fleshier. From 4 plants I set out, I ended up with over 40 melons ranging from large cucumber-size (they were late to develop and didn't mature) to a few that weighed between 25 and 40 pounds each! Of the total, I would estimate that about 10% had obvious squash characteristics and something like 25% were pear-shaped (so sort of in-between) while the rest were very melon-like.

Anyway, I can swap either kind (or both) but I have a lot more of the larger, melon type than the squash-like melons so I'd have to give fewer of those. I also have a bunch of heirloom pepper seeds (hot and sweet) if you're interested.
I'm not in California, but I have followed the news and my heart goes out to all those whose homes and lands have been damaged or destroyed by all the fires lately. I am especially sorry for the town of Paradise -- an entire town just GONE overnight! All those people have lost not only their own homes but even the spaces that might potentially have been temporary emergency shelters for them -- schools, churches, everything. Anyway, I don't have any money or I would send it to whoever needs it, but I can offer a rent-free camping place for a trailer, tiny home or tents to a family or two (or three) here on our land until you can figure out what you want to do. Problem is, we aren't close to California so you'd have to get here somehow. We're in SW Missouri (near Branson) and we have 75 acres next door to the national forest -- with plenty of private camping space and a good, deep well for water. We may be able to rig electricity, but a trailer or tiny house equipped for solar power would definitely be a plus. Please let us know if we can help anyone in this way.
1 month ago