Penny Oakenleaf

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since May 10, 2019
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Naturalized immigrant, homesteader, mother, fermenting enthusiast, beekeeper, chicken herder, and book nerd.
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8B ("cheats" to 9A), Western WA
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Recent posts by Penny Oakenleaf

Creighton Samuels wrote:
If you have the means for a traditional masonry heater, then more power to you.

It's not about "means", it's called "priorities". For example, I can choose to drive an older but reliable car to free up funds for something I need more often than a car. Right now, that "saving" is why I finally have a farm tractor, so I don't need to shovel and wheelbarrow everything up and down a sloped lot with my back injury. That enabled me to put in a significantly larger garden this year than before, which provides my family with food I don't have to buy. A masonry heater will last until my grandkids are old. A metal barrel will rust through and break if it's not maintained (even then, thin metal is under more heat stress, and does buckle, bend, and wear out over time), while a masonry heater rarely needs repairs, especially the newer construction has cleanout holes for clearing out the smoke channels, so you don't have to take the whole contraption down and reassemble it every 50-80 years as part of maintenance like with the antiques. I have made a couple of them as part of my education in structural engineering (the auditorium in one o the older buildings was still heated by them, with scrap lumber from the wood shop classes) and as a volunteer restoring old houses, so I am fairly certain I could make one completely myself, or at least shave off a lot of the labor expenses just being able to pitch in.

As far as politics goes, apathy doesn't help advance any cause. I earned my U.S. citizenship this year, and I already voted in "insignificant" rural county elections with a voter turnout of about 25%. Put in a write-in candidate in stead of an unopposed incumbent whose policies don't work. It didn't change the results at the county level, but it slows stupid politicians and self-perpetuating bureaucrats down. Locally, we got the new fire commissioner that I voted for, with a slim margin, and ours was the only district that voted down another useless new tax proposal. So 2 out of 3 issues on the ballot. I could have not voted, and the commissioner might have remained the same incumbent who has already pissed away enough tax money to need to ask for a tax increase to make up for that.

It's always easy to advise someone else without knowing their situation. I can't afford to move even if neighbors are annoying. We're within commuting range of a good city job that's helping us accrue savings that are fueling our own business, which, eventually, will be able to enable us to move wherever we want, pending it has a stable internet connection and a nearby post office. In the meantime, though, if you want to find me a comparable acreage that's less than $600k within an hour's drive of my family's income source in this area, let me know. I haven't found a livable one yet. Property prices have gone up 75% since we moved in, after developers started hounding local farmers to sell up so they can put in hundreds of "affordable lower $500's" McMansions. Wages have hardly nudged in the same time, but this area is getting filled up with tech workers who can afford those kinds of dollars. Thankfully, the "bad" neighbor is trying to sell up, so they'll go away eventually. The other one will probably age out and die in the next few years. Sometimes it's better to hunker down and just wait out the annoying neighbor who is trying to sell while the market is up rather than try to relocate yourself.
3 years ago

Creighton Samuels wrote:

Penny Oakenleaf wrote: but my home state is actively working towards making any kind of wood fired heating or cooking rather illegal).

A super-secret Rocket Mass Heater should be under consideration.  Keep in mind, it's still not illegal to build one in Washington State, and nearly everything can be 'grandfathered' if it's completed before the actual ban on new wood heating appliances is passed.  This should motivate you to get these things done, not discourage you from attempting them at all.  Even if the law says that you can no longer use that RMH, even though it stays in place, you can just tell them that it's for emergencies only.  They would never know if you actually used it unless your neighbors complained, which they probably won't notice either.

1. Neighbors on two sides call me if they see a weed they don't like in my pasture. I've been messaged about a tree that I hadn't even planted in the ground yet after bringing it home from the nursery, because the neighbor thought I'm bringing in toxic plants just to try to kill her horses, that have no business in my garden. They did not even ID the plant right, so they messaged me over nothing. All traffic in and out is monitored by busybodies. And we have a pretty nice, private neighborhood (cluster of a couple houses on acreages) with polite people.

2. Advocating breaking laws is iffy, even when the laws are stupid. The way to go about it is to try to find a lawmaker that'll agree to advance your cause. If you do decide to break a law, don't telegraph it on the internet, unless you're okay inviting some busybody (see 1) reporting you.

3. A barrel drum is plain ugly. And a safety hazard through the eyes of a parent with little kids. My house is old and used to have a woodstove, but it, and its foundation, was removed by a previous owner, meaning I'd have to do a massive retrofit for a foundation of any kind of thermal mass heater. You don't just sneak in a new foundation under a house, unless you're a builder. I am not, and with the upgraded insulation and south-facing windows, I can get through most of the winter without firing up my heaters, and have yet to be cold and miserable through winter storms and "Snowpocalypse" situations, so do I really need one? o.O

4. Mark Twain wrote about Masonry Heaters, which I grew up with, and thus consider the only good wood fired heat (also, EPA exempt last time I looked, so it eliminates the iffy 2nd point) You can cook and bake with the kind I've got my eye on, and they can be crammed into a fairly small footprint vertically. The initial investment is higher, but you can get through a winter with 2-3 cords of wood, not even huge logs, but "twiggy" things you prune out of your orchard or forest anyway. Explains why I thought for a very long time that American firewood piles were a 10 year supply, not a one winter supply...

"Take the German stove, for instance - where can you find it outside of German countries? I am sure I have never seen it where German was not the language of the region. Yet it is by long odds the best stove and the most convenient and economical that has yet been invented.

To the uninstructed stranger it promises nothing; but he will soon find that it is a masterly performer, for all that. It has a little bit of a door which you couldn't get your head in - a door which seems foolishly out of proportion to the rest of the edifice; yet the door is right, for it is not necessary that bulky fuel shall enter it. Small-sized fuel is used, and marvelously little of that. The door opens into a tiny cavern which would not hold more fuel than a baby could fetch in its arms. The process of firing is quick and simple. At half past seven on a cold morning the servant brings a small basketful of slender pine sticks - say a modified armful - and puts half of these in, lights them with a match, and closes the door. They burn out in ten or twelve minutes. He then puts in the rest and locks the door, and carries off the key. The work is done. He will not come again until next morning.

All day long and until past midnight all parts of the room will be delightfully warm and comfortable, and there will be no headaches and no sense of closeness or oppression. In an American room, whether heated by steam, hot water, or open fires, the neighborhood of the register or the fireplace is warmest - the heat is not equally diffused throughout the room; but in a German room one is comfortable in one part of it as in another. Nothing is gained or lost by being near the stove. Its surface is not hot; you can put your hand on it anywhere and not get burnt.

Consider these things. One firing is enough for the day; the cost is next to nothing; the heat produced is the same all day, instead of too hot and too cold by turns; one may absorb himself in his business in peace; he does not need to feel any anxieties of solicitudes about the fire; his whole day is a realized dream of bodily comfort.

America could adopt this stove, but does America do it? The American wood stove, of whatsoever breed, it is a terror. There can be no tranquility of mind where it is. It requires more attention than a baby. It has to be fed every little while, it has to be watched all the time; and for all reward you are roasted half your time and frozen the other half. It warms no part of the room but its own part; it breeds headaches and suffocation, and makes one's skin feel dry and feverish; and when your wood bill comes in you think you have been supporting a volcano.

We have in America many and many a breed of coal stoves, also - fiendish things, everyone of them. The base burners are heady and require but little attention; but none of them, of whatsoever kind, distributes its heat uniformly through the room, or keeps it at an unvarying temperature, or fails to take the life out of the atmosphere and leave it stuffy and smothery and stupefying."

5. I may disagree on rocket stoves being a necessity, and on what does or doesn't constitute a skilled cook or baker, but I hope we can agree to disagree on that point, and surely still bond over something like classic literature, or a good homebrew. ;)
3 years ago
My hangup, even if it makes me a Devil's Advocate, is that badges are currently wildly unbalanced between subject matters. I honestly don't know if anyone ever noticed the same. Textiles are "dumb easy", gardening and cooking are "pro athlete" hard from the gate due to specialized equipment requirements, even when most of us can probably whip up a quick meal from a rather sparsely equipped kitchen (I hope). I'm not a native English speaker, so maybe there's just a bit of a miscommunication, but the whole PEP badge system just confuses me at this point.

The major concern I have, is that most home cooks, who might want to pursue a badge, are women, who may or may not build things. I do build, but it's beehives and chicken coops. With dimensional lumber and occasional plywood. I don't work in cob, mortar, or concrete. I don't weld, and I am content never learning to on my current path. I don't know how many women out there do, but I've only met a handful who didn't feel apprehensive about building things from scratch, and I'm the only woman I know who can wrangle my tractor implements to the PTO hookup without help. ;)

Stuff like baking bread, fermenting something, and canning a batch of homemade jam or pickles would be more on par with newbie tier badges (which I assumed sand badges were supposed to be, because x amount of sand badges equaled a straw badge? That's how it'd work in most video games. :P ), since anyone with a basic home kitchen and simple, accessible supplies, even renters, can usually achieve those. Bonus that since a lot of the sand badges are geared to be "vegan inclusive", all of the things I listed are. If making cheese is not an option, maybe a vegan might want to make tofu, and so on.

I'm okay not getting a permaculture gardening badge, because although I like permaculture's guiding principles, I don't have a hugel mound in my plans in the near future, so the time conscious logic says "no use trying for the gardening badge bits either". I may use things like nitrogen fixers and mulch, and water retention swales and other cool things in my garden, but it's not a hugel, and not a food forest, (although the weeds make it look like a jungle), and I adore regimented straight lines as a foundation for a garden, so I'm content remaining a hybrid. But I live and breathe food and cooking, so it's a bit of a tougher nut to swallow. :P

The food processing sand badge just is cost prohibitive, and very time intensive, and with the amount of specialized equipment or "appliances" needed, did I say time consuming and expensive? And almost assumes you have access to regular sunlight for the sun oven, and a big enough property, or a gracious enough friend with property, to build an alternative energy kitchen. I do have a thermos bottle and some thermal pots, and use residual heat and cast iron to maximize my cooking efficiency, but the kitchen the house came with is the kitchen I have.

A pack of 16 sewing needles cost me under a dollar, and knitting needles for a small project can cost about the same. For a sand badge in textiles, if using scrap fabrics and yarns laying around an average home, you're going to be out maybe $5. If you buy all the supplies at premium rates, I'm sure you could spend more. The time commitment is a few hours. I think if I had a babysitter, I could finish the sand badge for textiles by sundown today, without leaving my property to source supplies. I guess I could ask the Amazon Fairy™ to bring me foam insulation and a wood crate, and a sun oven and some kind of solar dehydrator to be able to start on the cooking badge, but that'd leave me without a grocery budget for August, and maybe part of September, so the cost is just a lot out of the gate in specialized equipment I don't have, while going against all my principles of "work with what you've got".

If you need a rocket stove or oven and hay box (without being permitted alternatives with a similar function, such as thermal cookers) to cook with to qualify for any cooking, I'm going to take the attitude of "damned if I do, damned if I don't" and just not even bother pursuing them, because although we're all about alternate energy here (saving up for a full solar array is slow going, but we're working on it, utility company will actually subsidize it here), as I did say before, Washington is trying to make wood burning illegal. just look up any company that sells woodburning stoves and pick one you like, chances are there's a disclaimer at the bottom that says it is "illegal for sale in the State of Washington", and they're trying to ban the remaining few types, even the efficient and cheap ones.

End snarkasm: I had never seen an electric clothes dryer in person until I set foot in America in my adulthood. Old habits die hard, so I still line dry my laundry when the humidity % gets below "soggy". I mostly bake on cold winter days, because the oven helps keep the house warm so it does double duty. Don't everyone? Or is it just us Europeans? ;)

I'll let what I wrote sink in, and be discussed by the powers that be. I hope I made my point clear while steering clear of rude, because I really do not intend to come off as ornery. Of course, one could also just catch up the rest of the badges to the difficulty level of the food and gardening badges: If the textile badge required "build a floor loom and weave your own bedding" as a sand badge, it'll be "balanced", but that's sort of an ornery thing to say. Sorry.
3 years ago

Tereza Okava wrote:ooh, i like that Tall Tales Recipe of Yore....  toasted rye flour reminds me of toasted barley, which makes the best drink ever, so it stands to reason that would make a fabulous topping for things. Hm. Now I`m going to have to make something with rye....
thanks, i am filing away ideas for when this starter kicks the bucket. so far we`re doing okay, but it is almost inevitable....

Barley may slide a bit off topic, BUT, toasted barley reminds me of Korean sikhye (rice and barley drink). I'm absolutely addicted to the stuff. I've heard many Koreans drink it to help wean their babies, so I've convinced myself it's the only "sugary" beverage I'm allowed, because I'm trying to wean an almost 2 year old who is teething on me. Ouch.
3 years ago
I have a Finnish steam juicer. You can toss berries, or fruit such as grapes into it whole, stems and all, and it'll spit out pasteurized concentrated juice out of the spigot hose straight into sterilized bottles for long term storage. You don't even need to further process them after bottling, if everything touching the fresh juice has been squeaky clean and sanitized properly. No sugar needed, but I usually sweeten mine a bit, because I have kids and an American husband whose sweet tooth rivals that of most toddlers. I just need to pick enough blackberries in a day or two to justify firing up a giant stock pot like contraption. The dry pulp that is the seeds and skins and other solids can go in the chicken run, or compost pile.

My most popular blackberry preserves from last year was blackberry vanilla jam. You can use extract, you can use vanilla pods, you can use vanilla paste, just put it in last minute before putting the stuff in cans so the aromatics don't evaporate. The year before, I used homegrown apples and blackberries because I was drowning in apples. All depends on what is or isn't available. The berries I picked yesterday and survived dinner and breakfast are on the back burner of my stove, simmering into a simple quick jam with some key lime juice from limes I found at the supermarket for $1 for 2 pounds (ugly produce shelves are great), so that's what's gone in the pot. I don't think it'll even make it into canning jars before someone asks for scones, but otherwise, can with a generous 1/4 to 1/2 inch headspace and process for about 10 minutes for most "jam" sized jars. :)

You can also blend the berries, sweeten lightly with honey, and make fruit leather. My kids don't really like the seeds, so I have to strain it, at which point you need to top the trays off with more of the fruit puree a few times to make it thick enough to be worthwile, or the fruit leather will be too thin to handle without breaking. Lots of work for a nice treat, so I try to plan ahead.
3 years ago
I think, after sleeping on it, that my biggest hangup is that for a sand badge in textiles right now, you need to just about darn a sock, knit or crochet a potholder, sew a small pillow, and weave a basket out of things you find laying around. I think I can complete the whole project in an afternoon, if I get some uninterrupted time. The list for food processing (which upon reflection looks like a work in progress), starts with "build your own kitchen from scratch". I'm hoping if we give it several months, it'll be refined to a more achievable set of skills for the beginning cooks. :P
3 years ago

Tereza Okava wrote:does the apple make it vinegary? Is it just a tad or the whole thing? I`m intrigued!!

I`ve never had anyone to ask, so I'm going to take advantage- so if it makes hooch and doesn't bubble, that's okay? This is the first batch that I can actually see bubbling, otherwise they just immediately separate.

Responding a bit backwards, so don't get confused like I do... The "hooch" on top only occurs for me when I've forgotten to feed the starter for a while, and the yeasts run out of food. It can usually be resuscitated from there by feeding it in small increments and keeping at room temperature over a couple of days.

Then about the apple. It's only used the first time you make your starter, if at all. You don't even necessarily need the whole apple. In the future, you can just add rye, and water, and keep perpetuating it. The sourdough I'm used to is rich, a little tart, but not unpleasant, and the crust has an absolutely addicting nutty quality to it that results in fights over bread heels at the table. I am also one of those strange people who will treat toasted dark rye flour (dry pan, stir continuously until it's dark and aromatic) as a topping for baked turnips with butter, salt, and freshly ground pepper. It's a recipe that I learned from my dad. I've heard it's based on archaeological finds from iron or bronze age Scandinavia, but I haven't actually ever seen a source, so I'm inclined to file it under "Daddy Oakenleaf's Tall Tales™". It is awfully tasty, though!
3 years ago

Kate Downham wrote:That is an impressive collection!

Thank you for posting. I've been a bit slow with replies lately because I only have internet access on the phone right now. I am thinking a lot about cookbooks and working more on mine, and will come back here with more questions and thoughts soon : )

Our house internet is literally between dial up and antique. I usually use my phone as a hotspot to get a reliable connection if uploading or downloading anything. The unlimited cellular data plans really are worth it, even when the connection is usually metered during "peak hours".

My cookbook collection is small, but the library here is really good so I get lots of books from there. Right now I'm reading 'Local Breads' to further my sourdough skills, and I just finished 'The Hands On Home', which I got the library to order in for me based on Permies reviews.

My largest problem is, that I am pursuing a more minimalist lifestyle, but I absolutely adore the feeling of leafing through books for my information. (And please conveniently ignore the towering stacks of craft supplies and books off camera that I'm attempting to consolidate into a more reasonable collection). I have a great library system available to me, but I'm often not brave enough to run out with three toddlers and little kids to really peruse books, and can never finish the ones I do check out within the 3 week loan period, so I end up buying them used when I find them, or being gifted them off my wishlist for holidays and birthdays. I'm slowly leafing through them, saving the recipes I want, and then sending them on their way through used bookstores, or if I happen upon a local book swap, at the book swap.
3 years ago

Kate Downham wrote:

Penny Oakenleaf wrote:
P.S. Is the "proper" name for the glass flip top jars "Fido"? I'm learning something new every day. Thanks! :)

Fido is the name of one brand of them that has been tested by many fermenters, so it's known to work well for this. I'm not sure if other people are calling this style of jar made by other companies 'Fido' though. I like the name : )

I will have to go on the wayback machine soon to find all the good stuff about fido fermenting that I read years ago and link it here - one blogger did tests on all kinds of fermenting jars and methods and found that Fido jars worked just as well as the more expensive options.

I am of the opinion that what works for someone, is the best choice for someone. We are mass-consumers of homemade ferments here. For sauerkraut, I usually reach for a 2 gallon water-sealed crock, and for kimchi, I have traditional Korean clay onggi in about 3 quart (liter) and 1 gallon and 1.5 gallon sizes. I keep my kombucha in a continuous brew setup in a 1.5 gallon glass jar with a stainless steel spigot (I upgraded it from the cheap plastic one it came with). The water sealed crock works surprisingly well for the type of traditional Finnish "sima" mead I usually make, too. ;)
3 years ago
Let's see if the slow internet has sped up enough to upload... my current cookbook collection. I told myself "I need to cull 15-20 books before I let myself get one new one", but I caved and bought "The Dehydrator Bible" since I took the picture, because I couldn't resist getting a companion for my new dehydrator. ;)
3 years ago