Refuse, Reuse, Repurpose

Throughout 2017 we have been trying to simplify and purge our home of the mountains of ‘stuff’ that have accumulated over the years, so we can expanded our household.  Sensitive to the resources that went into everything we are trying to clear from our living space we don’t just want to throw all this stuff away.

We have been given things away, donating items, and we ‘up cycling’, or repurposing with added added value, to use as gifts or to use in neighborhood exchanges.

Last week my dad gifted me a few boxes of old mason jars he found in his basement.  I had some leftover beeswax from last years harvest. The combination begged for me to spend the afternoon making beeswax candles.

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Last year was my first year harvesting honey, so the beeswax I set aside wasn’t the 100% pure wax bar an experienced beekeeper would have in their stores.  My wax still had a sticky residue, so I decided to mix my beeswax with paraffin wax that most hobbyist candle makers use.

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For this project, I was persuaded to use wood wicks by a more experienced candlemaker.  I always hold back a test sample from anything I make to test before offering my products to others.  After burning my test candle, I realized I personally prefer the way a regular cotton wick burns.  However, the wick did burn clean which was a concern of mine.

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I have set aside my beeswax candles as future gifts. Here they are pictured with what is left of our 2016 honey harvest and some lavender-honey wax balm I made a month ago.

Harvest Season

Between our garden, the farmer’s market, and Green Bluff- our local farming community, we are swimming in produce abundance!

For modern day homesteaders across the country, August is harvest season. This last weekend we put: 9lbs. of blueberries; 6lbs. of Bing cherries; 3 bunches of radishes; 9lbs. of carrots; and countless cucumbers up on our larder shelves.  Additionally, we dried bunches of tomatoes for future pasta dishes and dinner entrees.

The following are two very easy food preservation techniques that should be in every homesteader’s toolbox.

Pickled Vegetables

We use brine and lacto-fermatation to pickle our vegetables…

*  1 Quart jar

*  2 Tbsp. of salt (we use Himalayan pink salt)

*  3 Cloves of garlic

*  Pearl onion

*  Additional fresh herbs (dill for cucumbers)

*  Fresh filtered water

In the bottom of a dry jar, add 3 cloves of garlic, pearl onion, chosen herbs, and salt.

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Next pack the vegetables in as tightly as possible, top off with fresh water, and close the jar.

Pressure might build up in the jar as a byproduct of the lacto-fermentation process. After a week on the shelf, simply loosing the ring on the jar to ‘burp’ it and then tighten the ring back on. Burping the jar will no longer be necessary after 2-3 weeks and the pickles will be shelf stable. The pickles must refrigerated after opening.

How long these pickles can be stored is a debated issue, our personal rule of thumb is about a year. Your taste buds are a reliable guide in lacto-fermentation. This is the same process that is used for dishes like Kimchi and Sauerkraut.

Oven Dried Fruit

*  Parchment paper

Take parchment paper and line metal pans.  In a single layer, lay out your fresh washed fruit to be dried.  Place in oven set at 170-210 degrees. Convection mode is best.  If you have to use bake mode, set at 170 degrees and put fruit on top shelf.  We used 210 on convection mode.

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Dry your fruit for 3 to 8 hours depending on type of fruit. Check your fruit every 2 hours to determine how much longer to keep it in. We used the same process for the cherries, but due to sugar content after they had been oven-dried we had to air dry on parchment for a few days before transferring to a mason jar for storage.  The blueberries were able to be stored after a short cooling period of an hour.

August is the time to preserve harvests! In the coming weeks we will be steam juicing plums and grapes, as well as our annual honey harvest.

My Hometown

When I was 8 weeks old, I was blessed to come home to a farmhouse nestled on the banks of the the Spokane River.  My entire life, except my college years, I have been privileged to call Millwood my home.

There are countless emotional reasons for why I love living in Millwood.

*  My son is growing up under the watchful eyes of a multigenerational village of family, friends, and treasured neighbors

*  The people I’m closest to live here

*  Our streets are a safe place for the neighborhood children to play, grow, and fall in love with the natural beauty that surrounds us

Yet for all the emotional ties I have to this city, there are just as many strategic reasons I believe Millwood is a wise place to live.  It is in the spirit of love and commitment to my hometown that I declare my candidacy for City Council Position #1 for Millwood, WA.

Millwood a City Prepared for the Future

* Water security- The Spokane river provides one of our city’s boarders. From the highest vantage point that is ultimate water security.  Of course there are rules and processes that govern the use of water and I have confidence in how our water is being managed.  

*  A walkable city- Everywhere in Millwood is a walkable distance away. My church, the homes of family members, and my closest childhood friend are all a short 15 minute walk away. Accessible and self contained community equals resilience for every Millwood citizen.

*  Downtown business community & farmer’s market- Millwood has a robust business community and a weekly farmer’s market, all mere blocks away from my front porch. That is rare after the over half-century trend of building suburban developments in locations that create a clear fragmentation between residents and commerce.

*  Century old trees and perennial gardens- We love to garden in Millwood! Our tree lined streets aren’t just walkable, they are simply beautiful to walk.  All those neighborhood gardens and suburban livestock equal food security.  The fact that a good portion of Millwood’s gardens and trees have well established root systems is even better in regards to drought tolerance.  

*  Self governed- As its own incorporated town/city for 90 years, Millwood is governed by a Mayor-Council model. That is a benefit to citizens because decisions are made by people who are dedicated to living the consequences of their choices. Due to the longevity of our self-governance there are also ample built in opportunities for citizens to be involved in decision making and to have their voices carry weight.

In the Wilderness

The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.” (Deuteronomy 2:7)

For years, we have been living in the wilderness. In this wilderness, we are not abandoned or separate from God, rather we are in a season of deep preparation and transition.

The general challenge is to leave paths not intended for us alone so that we remain available for the path that is uniquely ours.

Building Stronger Neighborhoods

Connect the dots- There are people in your neighborhood that need to know each other!

People you know are working on similar projects, experiencing a similar struggle, or have personalities you know are a perfect match.  When you make neighborhood connections everyone wins.  Your neighborhood will be happier, stronger, and more resilient!  Plus they will always remember who introduced them.

Listen and solve problems for others- I have a neighbor, Bob. When I gifted him a jar of our freshly strained honey last fall, we discussed all the trials my family went through with our first honey harvest as new beekeepers.  Little did I know that Bob’s dad was a beekeeper and one day Bob presented me with an old, beautifully refurbished, hand cranked honey extractor.  I could not believe it!  Bob had even welded me a new handle for the crank.

Needless to say, if Bob ever needs anything from my family he merely needs to ask.  Never underestimate the impact that listening to others and sharing solutions will create.

Share a book- This takes sharing advice to a whole another level.  Books are an efficient means to share complex ideas, inspire new behaviors, solicit powerful responses, provide meaning for painful experiences, and in short change a person’s world!

A carefully selected book is always a perfect way to impact another’s life.

Send a card- Thank you cards are making a come-back.  Take your card-writing practice to the new heights and incorporate: congratulations, birthday, and sympathy card writing.

Personalized, handwritten cards are the perfect gesture to brighten a neighbor’s day.

Break bread- Resurrect the tradition of taking people lunch, out to coffee, sending them treats from your garden, or inviting them over to your home.  If this is the only discipline you adopt, your likeability factor will go through the roof.  People love, and feel loved, through food and fellowship!

Letting Go

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

A couple of summers ago we went to the water park.  When we were playing in the wave pool, I lost control and was overtook by wave after wave.  As the waves reached their summit, my sun-glasses were knocked off and I was pushed under the water.

In contrast, my son Zachary effortlessly stayed above the greater than 7 foot swells. Seeing me struggle he swam over to me and said, “Mom quit fighting and go with the wave’s rhythm!”

Wisdom that rings true…

One of the biggest lessons I have learned these last few years, control is merely an illusion.  Often the harder I have attempted to control a situation, the more I was overtook by it.  We are are in the midst of significant transitions for humanity, we are better served by letting go of attempts to control and trust God.

Only then can we truly understand the new realities and lead better responses for our communities.

(adapted from an original post Shawna’s former blog, Shawna Beese-Bjurstrom, RN, MBA, April 2015)

Whispers From Eden

‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.’  (Galatians 6:2)

Recently I spent some time listening to a dear acquaintance as she processed through the worst tragedy I can imagine.

Mostly I just held space and gave her a loving ear.

I am learning that often the best way I can help another isn’t to give advice, demonstrably comfort them, or even bear gifts. Carrying each other’s burdens is a powerful act of love.

It was honor to bear hope for another in the midst of loss.

Home Economics

One of the most significant changes my family has been making is trying to establish as much productivity within, or in proximity to, our home as possible.  It was not so long ago that the family home was the economic engine for the family.  We are trying to reconnect to that tradition.

My husband and I both have careers in healthcare management, and the same skills that created success in the corporate settings are not the same skills that will create success on our new path.

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Four fundamental ways our new path differs from our management careers are:

*  Successful professionals are skilled at executing and refining existing business models.  In many ways the task at hand for the modern day homesteader is to create new economic models that don’t yet exist.  People who will be successful at retrofitting their modern homes into the primary source of their incomes, will be reimagining ways to use heritage skills in the modern context.

*  Community building will be key in the new economy.  Identifying community needs and testing creative solutions is a priority.  Corporate professionals spend a lot of time with the public engaged in communication to execute specific messaging.  Yet a listen first approach is the only way to build a community and respond to the changing times.

*  For corporate professionals, organizational growth is a big part of the job.  It is hard for experienced managers like Scott and I to not want to find the ‘right’ model and jump to the scaling. The future will be built by people who aren’t just working within one model, but making many models work and integrating models when appropriate.

*  Last, the future holds a high-degree of ambiguity.  That is certain.  Professionals likely rose to the heights of their organizations because they created order out of chaos.  We are entering a world of ‘peak everything’.  Living with, and adapting to, uncertainty is key to success.

Backyard garden

Homegrown Tinctures

Last winter I took an herbal medicine course and fell in love!

With peaceful joy, I anticipated starting my own homegrown healing library of tinctures, honeys, and salves during the 2017 growing season.

Yarrow Tincture

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What I used:

* A handful of fresh cut yarrow (top 3rd of plant)

* Pint Mason Jar

* 80 Proof Vodka

 

After I had Scott correctly confirm my identification of the plant, I chopped the top portion of the plant into a bowl.

Then I transferred the Yarrow to a mason jar and bruised the plant a bit with my pestle.

Last I covered plant completely with 80 proof (40% alcohol) Vodka in a ~2:1 ratio (2 parts Vodka to 1 part fresh plant).

In 6-8 weeks I will strain all plant material out of the alcohol infusion with cheesecloth, and the remaining liquid will be a Yarrow Tincture.

Feverfew Tincture

What I used:

* A handful of fresh Feverfew flowers and leaves

* Pint Mason Jar

* 80 Proof Vodka

 

For the Feverfew Tincture, I repeated roughly the same process I used with the Yarrow Tincture. This included having my husband independently confirm plant identification.

This is my first year making my own herbal preprations and I am NOT AN EXPERT. Nevertheless, I’m sure having a lot of fun learning and reconnecting with the healing properties of our natural world.

Wild Healing

“Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting plants from their natural, or “wild” habitat, for food or medicinal purposes.” -Wikipedia

What a beautiful time in the growing season!

The days are so long and after dinner my husband has been escorting me on wildcrafting quests along the river.

What is not to love about this time of year?

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(Blanket Flower)

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(Bladder Sena)

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(Feverfew, Chocolate Mint, and Catnip)