Pockets of the Future Blog

Striving to live now as all will live in the future.

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    Something Simple YOU Can Do to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint (plus videos)

    Posted by pockets

    When it comes to reducing our carbon footprint, I find that the ideas and systems that get the most attention are always the big, expensive ones. They are always about electric cars, solar panels, wind turbines and other big ticket items which most of us can’t afford. Often the necessary work of changing how much energy we use gets lost in endless circles of ‘meta’ type discussions and nothing ever really gets done. There isn’t a lot of interesting information out there about what individuals and families can do in their real lives to reduce their personal footprints. Well intentioned people often have little to no idea about how or what they can do on a daily basis to conserve resources other than using compact fluorescent light bulbs and recycling plastic but there is so much more to do than that.

    My family and I have been particularly focused on reducing our footprint, conserving resources, and living more simply for the past five years or so. Gradually we have implemented one simplifying and natural system after another with considerable success. Several months ago, my wife came across an incredible way to cook food that uses 20% - 80% less energy, increases nutrition of the food, saves time, space, money, resources, and electricity plus it lets you come home at the end of a long day to warm, well cooked food you don’t have to do anything to but serve. This way of cooking is called retained heat cooking, fireless cooking or cooking with a cook box or hay box. We use it practically every day now and it has made our lives a lot easier.

    Scientifically speaking, “cooking” food is not really what most of us think it is. “Cooking” isn’t necessarily boiling or simmering food on your stove top, for instance, because technically food is being cooked whenever it is at 180° or higher. No matter what method you use to keep your food at a minimum of 180°, that food is cooking. You can accomplish this conventionally by setting your pot on a hot burner and continuously forcing heat up from the bottom of the pot over a long period of time until that food is completed cooked OR you can recognize that stove top type cooking is really done best as a two step process. In step one, you create a low insulation set-up in which you add heat to the pot and its contents until they are over 180°. In step two, you transform your set-up into a high insulation arrangement whereby that built up heat is retained in the pot so that it can proceed to cook the food gently and evenly with no additional energy input until that food is completely cooked. All the energy required for complete cooking has already been provided. You are just retaining it within the pot until it has done its work rather than allowing it to dissipate into the surrounding air. In other words, put ingredients in a pot, bring them to a boil, boil for 15 minutes or so, take the pot off the stove and then insulate it in a simple cook box or basket until the cooking cycle is completed. Depending upon what you are cooking, in anywhere from a half hour to several hours later, you can take a pot of piping hot, perfectly cooked food out of your cook box and serve it up just as it is.

    My wife has just completed a 50 page e-book about this process entitled Retained Heat Cooking … The Wave of the Future Again: Discover how easy it is to make and use your own off-the-grid cook box to cook uncommonly good food of all kinds. It includes detailed instructions on how to assemble your own retained heat cook box as well as sections on the history behind this method of food preparation as well as the scientific principles behind how it works. She not only includes recipes and other cooking instructions but also a section on the importance of retained heat cooking in developing countries which are so often characterized by deforestation, shortages of potable water and grinding poverty. My family strongly believes that the resources we over-consume here has everything to do with the lack of enough resources elsewhere. So we feel happily compelled to use retained heat cooking regularly in our home as well as any other measures we can manage to reduce our load on the earth’s resources.

    Putting together your own cook box can be as simple or as involved a project as you want it to be. Design specifications and ideas are in the e-book. You can make your own from boxes, baskets, drawers, or coolers and insulate with anything from hay, cardboard, or blankets to rice hulls or Styrofoam. Cook boxes are very simple to put together and can be made to fit your kitchen, your wallet and your design sense. You can probably get up and put one together right now from items lying around your house and use it to make a meal right away. That is what my wife did and we are still using that instant cook box she put together months ago. If you have a laundry basket or a similar sized box, an old comforter or sleeping bag or blankets, a few old towels and a trivet then you can can get started right now at reducing your energy bill.

    While you are reducing your carbon footprint with retained heat cooking, you will be reducing your energy costs as well. Cook box cooking saves 20% - 80% of your energy costs over stove top cooking, with the most savings coming from long cooking foods like grains, beans and meats. The food in a cook box is cooked slowly over a longer period of time which is actually the most beneficial way to cook many foods. Cooking at a lower temperature preserves nutrients, releases flavor, and increases digestibility. We have learned through personal experience that food cooked by the retained heat method comes out perfectly every time with each ingredient done just right.

    The only real adjustment that most people will have to make to use a cook box is to plan meals in advance and start cooking them ahead of time. In the instantaneous microwave world that we now live in, this may appear to be difficult but it really isn’t. Besides it is a small adjustment to make so you that you can help to reduce your contribution to global warming, overconsumption of water and other negative environmental damage. Any little changes many of us make can add up to big changes that can reverse our current disastrous course. All of us pitching in with such small changes is basically mandatory at this point. We are going to have to make adjustments. Making the adjustment to retained heat cooking is easy because it costs nothing to implement and makes the food taste better anyway.

    In terms of our 50 page e-book, Retained Heat Cooking … the Wave of the Future Again, it is available at our Bamboo Grove Press website for $5.95. My wife is an incredible researcher and a great cook. Her e-book has all of the information you need about how and why retained heat cooking is the best available method for cooking most of your food. My wife has also released a shorter 10 page e-book about solar cooking entitled On Your Way Towards Solar Cooking:The Why’s and Wherefore’s of Solar Cooking in Brief priced at $1.99. In this book you get a brief overview of solar cooking along with over 50 links to all the information you need about solar cooking, buying a commercial cooker or building your own, solar cookbooks and more.

    Please forward this post and links to these e-books to anyone you know who might be interested in cooking with a cook box, improving the taste and nutrition of their food, and reducing their carbon footprint with virtually no start-up investment. It will improve their lives and help the earth tremendously.

    Below are two videos we made about our experiences with fuel efficient, retained heat cook box cooking. I hope you enjoy.

    All the best,



    Announcing the Release of Our First Two Bamboo Grove Press E-books!

    Posted by pockets

    Bamboo Grove Press is the publishing arm of Pockets of the Future and today we are releasing our first in a potentially nearly endless series of e-books on a wide range of subjects related to natural living, homesteading, herbalism, homeschooling, old paths/new ways of thinking, innovative building techniques, frugality, preparedness from the inside out and the outside in and so on. I am so excited to have our first two e-books ready for you that as I share this, I am trying to type and jump up and down at the same time!

    Our first e-book is:

    Retained Heat Cooking … the Wave of the Future Again

    by Leslie Romano

    Discover how easy it is to make and use your own off-the-grid cook box to cook uncommonly good food of all kinds. This is a frugal, time honored method of cooking that saves time, space, money, resources, nutrition and electricity. Includes sections on the history and science of retained heat cooking, how to make and use your own cook box, tips and suggestions based upon personal experience, recipes, related homeschooling ideas and ten incredible advantages to cooking highly nutritious, perfectly cooked food with this natural, easy to implement retained heat cooking method. Only book of its kind on the market. 50 pages. $6.99

    Our second e-book is:

    On Your Way Towards Solar Cooking: The Why’s and Wherefore’s of Solar Cooking in Brief
    Plus Over 50 Links to Solar Cooking Information, Reviews, Directions for Building Your Own, Places to Buy Commercial, and Cookbooks From Which to Make It All Happen

    by Leslie Romano

    Once you discover the significant benefits of cooking in ways other than on an industrially made stove in an electrified kitchen, you just can’t stop! Here on the farm, we have become so enamored with retained heat cooking that we are eager to learn more ways to cook alternatively. Solar cooking will be our next endeavor. Become more prepared and more self-sufficient through solar cooking. This e-book will get you started with a brief overview of the why’s and wherefore’s of solar cooking as well as over 50 links to all the resources you need to make solar cooking an effective way to save energy and cook nutritious food for you and your family. 10 pages. $2.50


    More titles in the works:
    We have several more e-books already in the works on a special herbal tea you can forage yourself that provides surprising benefits, easy to make herbal personal care powders, and the wonderful benefits of raising rare breed livestock on your family farm or homestead. And those are just the titles we have already started writing.

    If there are subjects you would like to see addressed by us in e-book format, please leave a comment and let us know or contact us personally.

    This is so fun! Come join us. There is much to learn and share.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,


    Sometimes My Mind Lags Behind My Actual Experience

    Posted by pockets

    Today as I was grinding grain to make bread, I glanced over at the shelf that holds our garlic. It was empty!

    I thought, “Oh no, what can we possibly do about that? How will we go without garlic when we use it so much?”

    A moment later I realized, “Oh yeah, not too long ago we chose to go without garlic for months and months and did just fine. I guess this is not a big deal. Whew.”

    This made me laugh. See how the mind works? It contains so many entrenched ideas about what we have to have that even strong, successful experiences of living without an item or condition can be quickly forgotten.

    Hopefully my sometimes limited mind will catch up to my actual expansive experiences sometime soon …

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,


    Our Refrigerator Unplugged But Then Plugged Back In

    Posted by pockets

    A few months ago, I was really keen on unplugging the refrigerator and making a go of learning to do without one, at least until our cow calved and we were deluged with milk. My husband was reluctant because these innovations always mean more work (both mentally and physically). He rightly pointed out that we were already pretty overwhelmed trying to manage what we already had going on and that going without a refrigerator is probably a pretty big project. At least at first until you get the hang of it.

    “Yes, that is all true,” I said, “but this would otherwise be such a great time to try this out. Our refrigerator is practically empty these days which is expensive to maintain and it is freezing outside so we can use our breezeway to keep some foods close to the kitchen. Please could we try?”

    He graciously agreed and we did try it out. First I did some rearranging with his broad shouldered help. We have a freezer in the basement which was situated clear across on the opposite side from the stairs ever since we moved in for reasons lost to me now. I asked him to please move it to the plug near the foot of the basement stairs (which lead from the kitchen). I then rearranged our food shelves down there so that I could empty a smaller one and move it next to the freezer right at the foot of those stairs. This would give pretty good access from the kitchen to cool storage and frozen items.

    The door next to the basement door in the kitchen is the outside door leading to a breezeway (at least that is what we call it). It is like an indoor hallway with windows. It was empty when we bought the place but not too long after moving in, my husband installed shelves down one wall under the windows and hooks along the opposite wall. It is filled to the brim with boots and shoes and coats and bins of hats and mittens and jars of children’s experiments as well as some tools and the odd outside toy interspersed with lovely bits of wood and stone that have caught the children’s fancy. I rearranged the shelves to clear a few feet of a shelf right next to the kitchen door. I also reclaimed a cooler that was out in the “granny house” holding grit for the hens and put it in the breezeway also.

    Then one Wednesday morning after family prayer but before launching into homeschooling, we all went into the kitchen and watched while my husband ceremoniously unplugged the refrigerator. Ah, the kitchen filled with quiet. Blessed quiet. I love the quiet that only a loss of power can give (both materially and spiritually now that I think of it) and I was glad.

    Things went pretty well for a couple of weeks. We put the gallon milk jars out in the breezeway. We weren’t getting enough eggs from our hens to live on so I put the already refrigerated grocery store variety in the cooler with ice from the freezer. I put cream and buttermilk in there too. Produce went on the food shelves at the foot of the basement stairs. Yeast and seeds and so on went in the freezer down there. Ketchup and a few other things went in a cupboard in the hutch in the dining room. Everything accounted for, except maybe leftovers.

    We ran into a couple of problems. One is that the breezeway which is unheated and otherwise perfect for this use has a wall of south facing windows. This meant that there were lots of days - even in the cold of January - when it simply got too warm in there to keep food and milk sufficiently cold. The other problem was that having leftovers that have to be eaten right away changes meal plans and creates a degree of unpredictability. Paul and I have both spent a lot of time learning to cook so that there WILL be leftovers (which takes some doing for a farming family of eight). Now suddenly leftovers were sort of a liability. Furthermore, we were used to having some time pass between meals of the same food. Now, especially with a breezeway that got unpredictably warm at times, we needed to instantly get used to eating the same thing until it was gone. Somehow the “instantly” part of the equation didn’t get figured in.

    Finally my adrenal fatigue got worse again and I started to lose track of it all. The weather warmed up a bit. My husband wanted to put his attention into other things. We had some leftovers go bad which just can’t happen here. We need every scrap. So Paul made an executive decision and plugged the refrigerator back in. I was ridiculously disappointed which he was very understanding about. And there you have it - two and a half grand weeks without a refrigerator to mind our food for us.

    As I am writing this, it still doesn’t seem like it should be that hard. For me, it was the adrenal fatigue with resulting lack of mental energy that did me in. It takes some doing to implement a new system until it becomes second nature. I need enough energy to get from “new system” to “second nature.” I also need to tweak how we store the food. South facing windows is a deal breaker. Maybe we could get a second cooler? Maybe I could use the freezer more for leftovers? That just leaves the milk. We don’t have much now because, as I reported earlier, our cow turns out not to be pregnant. But sometime we will have a cow in full milk. Yikes. That will really be something to deal with. Actually this place has a spring house but there no longer is any water flowing in there. We don’t know if we can do anything about that or not and need to research it.

    Lessons learned from this experiment?
    One lesson is knowing from experience how much we love the quiet that settles after a refrigerator is turned off. One morning my husband woke up and thought for a minute that he was at an ashram. It was just that peaceful.
    Another lesson I experienced is how great I felt not having to depend upon a big metal box to keep my food stores good. I was surprised at how much this affected me. I really felt more “self sufficient” in a very tangible, daily life sort of way. It felt GREAT!
    A third lesson is that houses are not built for this just as they are no longer built for wood heat. You need a north facing storage area or pantry that is accessible from within the house, preferably the kitchen. After the fact adaptations require thought and planning. For instance, we have a small north facing front porch with a cement floor but it is entirely open with just a little roof over it. That might make a good storage area but we have no idea how to suitably enclose it and not have an eyesore as a result.
    A fourth lesson for me is to think long term and get more geared up with making lacto-fermented veggies and sprouts. I need to do this anyway as I think it is really important for our health. Having these two food preparation skills fine tuned, habitual and a long term part of our natural way of eating will smooth out storing produce during the winter a little bit.
    A fifth lesson has something to do with leftovers and my rhythm in the kitchen. For as long as I have a freezer, I could perhaps just stick leftovers in there even if they are going to be used day after next. And/or I could change my rhythm in the kitchen so that almost everything is cooked fresh and eaten on the spot (makes me tired just writing that). And/or I could start thinking more in terms of immediately transforming leftovers into something seemingly new for next day. What did folks do in the so-called old days? I imagine they ate what they had until it was gone. They also probably had stronger digestions and could eat beans every day. Some members of my family cannot do that. So ultimately the lesson here in this category is that I haven’t figured the lesson out yet! I will have to keep working on it and get really geared up for our next attempt.

    This is tough for me because right now our frig is practically empty and it is cold and snowing like crazy outside. This would be a good time to have the refrigerator off, right? But I think it is foolish to keep turning it on and off. That would be like dating in that it pulls for failure. No, I have to be fully prepared, my husband has to be fully on board, and then we will definitely succeed.

    In sum, then, we LOVED having the refrigerator off but it took more than we were ready for to make a long term success of it. However, I cherish living fridgeless as a goal for the future. So I will wait patiently, improve my adrenal fatigue somehow or other, learn some new food preparation and food storage skills, make long term plans that take fridgeless living into account, think more creatively, do a bit more research and then pounce when the timing is right.

    Oh, I am really looking forward to it.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,


    Fuel Efficient Hay Box Cooking in My Living Room (New Lentil Soup Recipe and Video Included)

    Posted by pockets

    A week ago Saturday, I was in the kitchen considering what kind of dinner I could make with the ingredients I had on hand while simultaneously ruminating over fellow bloggers who were suddenly disappearing into the mysterious landscape that lies off the grid (see last post). Interestingly this combination thought process spontaneously resulted not only in my cooking up a new lentil soup recipe but also in venturing into cooking it very efficiently in our living room!

    One of my favorite cookbooks of the last six months or so is Eating Off the Grid, Storing and Cooking Foods Without Electricity. (You can get this cookbook on Amazon via the link below but I frankly found it more cheaply at USA Emergency Supply.) It has a very useful array of simple recipes across twelve categories together with interesting historical information, menu plans, nutritional information and other practical information for off grid living with regards to food.

    Anyway, I decided to try one of her lentil soups I hadn’t tried before AND to try cooking it in a way she mentions which I haven’t done before. Both were great successes. I will first give the very simple cooking explanation for cooking in an insulated box followed by the recipe.

    (Please view the video linked at the bottom of the post for visuals for all of this.)
    I have used this method with great results now with soup, beans and grain. In a heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid, start cooking your dish in the usual manner. Bring it to a boil, put on the cover and cook at a fairly high boil for about 15 minutes. I adjust the heat here depending upon what I am cooking and how big the pot is.

    In the living room (and this is simply because it was the only nearby spot I could find that wouldn’t be in the way), I set up a laundry basket. In the laundry basket is an unzipped twin size sleeping bag with the center of the sleeping bag squashed down into the laundry basket. Inside that I put a travel blanket that used to be in the car. Inside that is an old bath sheet (you know those giant bath towels?). At the bottom of all of this I put a flat, stable hot plate.

    After the lentil soup boiled for 15 minutes, I carried the pot into the living room and set it into its insulated box. I wrapped the towel around it and then the blanket under it. I then wrapped another heavy cotton blanket around it all from the top and tucked that it all around but inside of the sleeping bag. Then I wrapped the sleeping bag up all around the whole thing. The sleeping bag is nylon so I was careful to have only cotton blankets and towels actually touching the pot. Nylon would melt.

    About three hours later my husband unwrapped the pot for me and brought it into the kitchen. It was still so hot that steam was coming out of it and the lentil soup inside was perfectly cooked. And when I say perfectly cooked, I really mean perfectly cooked. This particular recipe has flour in it which could otherwise have easily burned but didn’t at all from being cooked this way. The lentils were soft but still held their shape and yet everything else was tender. It was kind of amazing to me.

    The soup cooked up so beautifully (and it was such a balm to my soul to cook something mostly off the grid…) that I have since cooked up a big Dutch Oven full of fava beans and right now have a pot of barley cooking away in there. I can’t say this arrangement adds much to the decor of the living room at this point but it surely feels great to only use about 15 minutes worth of electricity to cook meals that usually cook on the stove top for hours.

    Meanwhile, this particular lentil soup recipe turns out to be a nice addition to my repertoire of lentil soups. It is a bit different and a keeper.

    Author Denise Hansen, MS, RD explains that it is a Greek and Italian tradition to eat lentils on New Year’s Eve to “assure prosperity and good fortune.” I figure we can use that any time of year!

    This is my adjusted version which does not include soy bacon bits or beef bouillon. I also made it a bit thicker and tripled the recipe. I doubt many readers will want a recipe quite that size so I will try to scale it back a little. You are welcome to scale it back further or freeze the extra from this for another day.

    1 large chopped onion
    3 carrots
    about a cup’s worth of frozen greens or the equivalent in fresh greens (the recipe suggests Swiss chard including diced stalks - I used mustard greens because that is what I had on hand)
    oil for sauteing
    1.5 cups flour
    7 quarts water
    2 or 3 potatoes, diced
    3 cups lentils rinsed (and soaked if possible!)
    5 tsp. salt
    4 bay leaves
    2 tsp. thyme
    about 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

    1. In a heavy bottomed stockpot, saute onion, greens and carrots in oil until soft.
    2. Add the flour, stirring constantly to make a roux. Unbleached flour works best (she says notes this although I used Golden 86 for this kind of thing all the time).
    3. Slowly add the water, stirring constantly. Then add the remaining ingredients.
    4. Simmer for 2 - 3 hours. (Alternatively put boiling hot pot put into your insulated box and tuck it in for three hours or so.) The flavor improves with longer simmering. Just before serving, remove the bay leaves and add freshly ground pepper.

    This soup is thick and saucy. It also makes great leftovers. We ate this soup for a couple of days plus over a week later we are still enthusiastically using our insulated box for long cooking. Try it - it is extremely easy and is just plain common sense once you start to think about it. Besides, if you happen to have a large family and just a regular smallish stove like I do, it frees up a burner. We are so taken with this recipe that I have added it to my menu plan and we are so taken with this form of cooking that we made a video about it to inspire you. Enjoy both!

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,


    As Long as We are Hand Washing Laundry, Why Not Consider This Too?

    Posted by pockets

    I am not a moody person and I don’t wake up in moods per se. But I do sometimes wake up with some kind of call to arms such as “I have to write this,” or “Let’s get rid of stuff,” or “Let’s try ________ today!”

    The idea I woke up with the other day, I cannot just implement off the bat. It will require family enthusiasm as well as strategizing. But I figure I might as well share the idea and some resources with you all in case you can implement it right away. In any case, it is something I am finding very interesting to think about, to mull over, to imagine in the future of the family.

    How about living without refrigeration??

    I know this is kind of radical. And the many “large family” lists and web sites and so on I have been reading for years and years all extol the many benefits of going in exactly the opposite direction, i.e. cooking in bulk and then loading up multiple freezers and refrigerators with spare parts for future meals.There is great utility in this approach. Cooking enough for eight or ten or more people requires enormous amounts of time and planning. It is a significant time-saver to be able to cook up a double batch of beans, say, and then freeze half of them for a future time-crunched dinnertime. I have been doing this for years and, in fact, often wish I had been doing this even more than I have been.

    So no refrigerator at all? Hmmm….

    Well, I know it can be done because it always was done by everybody and often is done today by many people all over the world. Just like hand washing laundry, see? There really is a choice - we just have been unconscious of it because we are so accustomed to the mechanized, technology-driven, whenever possible use a machine to fill in the gaps that require having to exert physical effort or having to adjust to natural ebbs and flows approach. But if we set that particular calculus aside (or change the values of the variables for which we are calculating), we discover that we actually have a choice. If we were to stop and honestly consider this choice of keeping food in a cold, metal box or not, what would we choose?

    Some background reading is in order here! Here are a few of the articles I have been reading since the “no refrigeration” idea popped into my head.

    Don’t Fight Room Temperature - What’s in Your Fridge Does Not Need to Be There
    This is a brief summary of the some of the flow of the “no frig” way of thinking in the last couple of years. A great introduction.

    No Refrigerator - for 30 years
    This was apparently a seminal article from a most interesting blog, Little Blog in The Big Woods. Do investigate this blog for other interesting perspectives.

    We Make Do Without a Refrigerator - South central Texas homesteaders have learned to survive without a fridge and urge you to do the same, regardless of geography
    This is from a 1976 issue of Mother Earth News.

    Living Without a Refrigerator The no refrigeration section is at the bottom of the page.
    This thoughtful bit is written by Jim Conrad, naturalist and world traveler.

    Living Without a Fridge
    This article is from the British GoSelfSufficient site.

    I am always interested in how becoming more “self-sufficient” invariably increases awareness and shifts our rhythms significantly, sometimes dramatically. Along those lines, there are a few observations from these articles that I have been thinking a lot about:

    My experience is that when you have a refrigerator you develop addictions to foods and drinks that are richer, more caloric and more sense-deadening than need be. You don’t know your senses are dead until you have been free of your addictions for some time and find that foods and drinks you thought were bland and characterless begin pleasing in subtle ways. You don’t know how wonderful a cool drink is until you’ve been away from ice awhile.

    It’s beautiful to see wholesome grains, fruits and vegetables on shelves in my daily living space, not sealed inside a vibrating metal box… It’s liberating to not have to pay for the electricity and maintenance having a refrigerator demands.

    And it contributes to my spiritual well-being to know that I no longer require a kitchen with a refrigerator humming away every hour of the day sending out this message to power producers: “More, more, more, send me more electricity, no matter what the cost or consequences… ” Jim Conrad

    I can imagine the truth of this. The less I need, the better I feel. It is just so liberating to be able to do without. Or rather, it is just so liberating to be able to do with what Nature provides. There is always a lesson in it.

    By living without a fridge you will be more in touch with the food you eat. You will be much healthier as a result of eating fresher food, and you are less likely to waste food if you do not have a fridge to store it in (you will not buy it in the first place). GoSelfSufficient

    This would definitely apply to me. Somehow as I get older I become more and more of a “If I can’t actually see it, it no longer exists in my mind,” person. If I see the broccoli, I will remember the broccoli. If it is locked up tightly in a drawer in a refrigerator, well … then all bets are off.

    Much of the rest of what folks use refrigerators for clearly comes under the category of “luxury”. Ice cream; beer, pop.

    Would you be better off if they weren’t so handy? If you’re like me, if the ice cream is there- I’ll eat it. Then buy more. How much of our obesity epidemic is due to having a handy supply of treats in the fridge- all the time? …

    This, potentially, is a big deal. Refrigerator lust is one of the things driving huge energy use increases in the developing world- everybody wants one; it proves you’re modern.

    If we start a movement here in the Overdeveloped World to get RID of them in homes (sure, the restaurants, the stores, need them) - some folks in the OverdevelopING World would pay attention- and perhaps put the brakes on their country’s rush to refrigerate. Maybe.

    I’ve worked in China- in places where the nearest refrigerator was probably 100 miles away. Guess what? They manage just fine- and don’t “need” it, until you tell them they do. Little Blog in The Big Woods

    We don’t have any those luxuries anyway although I would probably be happy to have to gobble up some ice cream all in one sitting once a year or so! Imagine having the nearest refrigerator 100 miles away. That implies so many things.

    Makin’ do without a refrigerator isn’t easy at first. Like riding a bike, however, “it’s simple once you know how”. Mother Earth News

    I really, really want to know how to make do without a refrigerator and then always know how. I think that would be great and I want to learn the lessons just waiting for us within such a shift. I don’t know when, but I am sure we will try this. We are hard at work right now on a very big project which we will be telling you all about next week but maybe after that…? If we could be wild enough to start hand washing laundry just before cold weather sets in, perhaps we could be prudent enough to start going without a refrigerator when the great out-of-doors could make a suitable substitute on most days anyway.

    I will keep you posted.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,


    A Neat Moment in the Kitchen

    Posted by pockets

    Yesterday morning I looked up from helping a young one with math at the table and noticed this moment in the kitchen:

    A hard working father,
    An eager young lady.

    A temporary electric stove,
    A slow and steady wood burning stove.

    Quick mozzarella for lunch,
    Long draining feta for the week.

    All things coming together to support us in our quest.


    moment in kitchen


    looking up


    Neat, eh? A lot of amazing things had to happen for this kitchen scene to even be possible. I wonder what the kitchen will look like next year at this time and what new things we might be doing in it.

    Always an adventure…

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,


    Old Methods Eventually Call for Old Rhythms

    Posted by pockets

    We rarely go out and aren’t involved in many activities off the homestead. Nevertheless, it seems like I am constantly having to adjust our schedules and methods due to internal pressures, projects, natural changes and new ideas. I am in the thick of a series of changes yet again and one of them relates to baking and electricity usage.

    The more we ratchet back to doing things the “old way,” the more I see the wisdom of the old rhythm of assigning homekeeping tasks to specific days of the week. According to this blog post, homemakers lived by this rhythm for over a hundred years and some still do. I never felt a need to do this before because with a clothes washer, for instance, you can throw a load in any old time and it just doesn’t matter. If you aren’t concerned with the extra energy required to turn the oven on and off whenever the mood strikes (and you are using an electric oven in the first place), then you can bake at any time. If you have plenty of gas and live within a reasonable driving distance from town, you can jump in the car and go shop or whatever at any time. Modern “conveniences” and a “gee there are plenty of resources available to me to use how I like” lifestyle does not require the discipline/rhythm of accomplishing tasks in a predetermined order and on well chosen days. You can easily do little bits of this and that at varying times and days with no noticeable repercussions. That is probably part of what it generally means to be “modern.”

    Washing laundry by hand and baking a lot, at times in an outdoor wood fired earth oven, is teaching me the necessity of adapting to an older rhythm in order to successfully adapt to older methods. There is only so often you want to drag out all of the buckets and other equipment and get all set up and get wet and all sorts of things to do the laundry. Getting through as much of it as possible at one time is really starting to make sense to me. There are only so many times we can afford to go to town (both in terms of time and gas) so having a careful list and itinerary for the trips we do make helps us be more effective.There is only so often you can reasonably light up a baking fire so you might as well do as much baking at once as you can while you have that precious fire going.

    Even if you have an electric oven, how much electricity you use is still a consideration and will be increasingly a consideration for more and more people, I imagine. Oklahoma Prairie Mom, on her blog Life of a Prairie Mom, commented on this recently in her post Our Electric Bill. About baking she says this:

    The electric stove is in use only a twice a day. The greatest usage though is when I am baking. To help save energy, I plan my baking so that I am doing it only twice a week, on Monday & Thursday. On those days, I bake enough bread, cookies, and anything else that we will need until the next baking day. This also includes any orders that I have for baking bread or cookies for others. By limiting the number of days that I bake, I am not heating up the oven nearly as often.

    “Oh, that is a good idea,” I thought when I read that. “I am going to go back to trying that sort of schedule again.” I have been wondering about ways to cut our utility bill lately. It isn’t easy because we don’t have many uses left to cut! But I can at least do this. Lately I have slipped back into baking bread on an as-needed basis. I decided to make another attempt to go back to the old way of baking a lot at a time once or twice a week.

    So last Friday I baked a lot. One of my daughters helped me some of the time which was fun. All in all, we made four corn breads (we bake them in cast iron skillets), 10 loaves of whole wheat bread, one large loaf of Irish Soda bread and finished off with an unexpected batch of Homemade Herbal Marshmallows. It took more than half the day to make all of that. It was a good feeling to freeze 7 loaves of bread, and two rounds of corn bread and still have fresh Irish Soda bread for dinner with our mashed potatoes and greens. All in all, a productive day. I don’t know how much electricity it saved, but it surely opens up my schedule to do other things. It also frees me up tomorrow to do some cooking ahead for Sunday.

    Oh, the Homemade Herbal Marshmallows were a first hands-on herbal project for The Lionsgate School Herbal Education Program. (Doesn’t that sound official? Maybe I will come up with a more catchy name for it some day.) I will devote an entire post to that interesting and instantly consumed project very soon.

    Meanwhile I need to figure out exactly what our need is for baked goods. Maybe one day a week, I will focus primarily on loaf breads while on the other day I bake pizza crusts, sandwich buns, crackers and other wheaten goodies. Our days are so jam packed and I get so tired that I really need to have our freezer full of possibilities. Baking ahead will give me some breathing room as well as save on electricity.

    The old rhythm of organizing time and tasks was as follows, by the way:

    Monday: Wash Day
    Tuesday: Ironing Day
    Wednesday: Sewing Day
    Thursday: Market Day
    Friday: Cleaning Day
    Saturday: Baking Day
    Sunday: Day of Rest

    With a few variations (some folks had a gardening day instead of a separate ironing day, or the days were not quite in this order), this is the way everyone kept house for more than a hundred years. It was such a common scheme that day-of-the-week dishtowels emblazoned with that day’s chore were everywhere. (You can still get Aunt Martha iron-on embroidery or paint transfers with this scheme–I collect them, in fact.)

    There was logic behind this. Laundry was far and away the heaviest task a housewife faced, requiring a great deal of strength and fortitude to hand-wring clothes and carry big baskets of wet laundry to the clothesline from the basement washtubs. Monday was the day to do it, when you were still fresh and rested from Sunday. Tuesday’s ironing followed Monday’s wash. Mending and sewing on Wednesday made sense when you’d just been through the clothes and noticed what needed a button or a patch. And so on.

    Or for the Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush variation, go here.

    I will have to work at this and figure out (again) my own old rhythm. Having one type of chore listed for each day is a great way to make sure you get your 15 minutes of a neglected task in a week … like mending and sewing for instance. I am rather dramatically behind on mending and really want to start back up sewing again. I don’t actually require an ironing day (!), and already have my cleaning day on Saturday so that the house is especially nice for Sunday. We sweep every day and often many times a day so I wouldn’t waste a day in honor of just sweeping as in the Mulberry Bush song. I have long done the laundry in tune with the weather so I am not sure how to assign that to a particular day. I have tried and tried to make Sunday more of a day of rest for myself and I still need improvement in this area. Well, I guess I am going to have to work on all of this a bit. The point is for me to consolidate types of tasks that have heretofore been scattered all across the week in order to save on motion, time, and money/energy use.

    One more comment about old rhythms - I started cooking in a Nourishing Traditions/slow food sort of way years and years ago. I noticed even back then that cooking in that very careful way completely changed my rhythm in the kitchen. Having to soak foods, peel the skins off of almonds, cook beans for hours and hours and so on causes you to slow down and really feel what you are doing and think about it far ahead. It gives you much more contact with the food and, therefore, much more time to pray over the food. It is my experience that these old rhythms of food preparation add nutrient density not only in terms of needed chemical changes for ease of assimilation but even more importantly, in terms of opportunity for our thoughtful, prayerful care as homemakers and heartcenters of our families to permeate our daily cooking for our loved ones.

    Perhaps the weekly old rhythm will make that happen for mending too? I will have to make up my weekly schedule and live by it for a while and see.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,


    My First Knitted Dishcloth!

    Posted by pockets

    Years and years ago when I only had one little child, my next door neighbor was Mennonite. One weekend she and I and my daughter took a trip together to visit her Mennonite and Amish relatives in Ohio. In fact, we spent a weekend on an Amish farm - an experience I enjoyed very much.

    One afternoon on the farm, we all went and visited another nearby meticulous Amish farm. I especially remember two things from that brief visit: a conversation in which it was explained to me that it works out very well having larger families if you start training the children young to take up daily tasks and the obviously hand knitted dishcloths at the kitchen sink. It had never occurred to me that you could actually make your own dish cloths so I was surprised to see them. Many years later, I can now vouch for the former principle of training children for family life but as I was at the beginning of my odyssey of self-reliant skill building back then, I took note of the dish cloths but never got around to actually making one. I tried once or twice over the ensuing years but the only instructions I found were for crocheted dish cloths which I had no idea how to do.

    About a month ago, I came across an informative post at Reformed Farmer’s Wife. Leah is teaching herself how to knit and has turned out all kinds of wonderful things. She knitted a number of dish cloths, for instance. In her post Newly Acquired Skill she has photos and links and all the inspiration I needed to finally get started knitting dish cloths for myself. I already had some yellow and white cotton yarn tucked away partially made up into a very lame sort of dish cloth. I quickly found the yarn, tore out the old knitting and started afresh.

    I choose the Moss Rib Cloth to start with because I thought the ribs would help with scrubbing and the directions were easy. Every afternoon when I was supposed to be resting for my adrenals, I spent at least some of the time quietly knitting. It was such a pleasant way to pass some time. I knitted other times of day, too, whenever I could but it was challenging. The brain fog I have from my physical condition and the myriad interruptions of full-to-the-brim family life challenged my concentration mightily - even with a pattern this simple. However, I persevered and finished it and now we are using it!

    dish cloth

    dish cloth close up

    This is fun. I have already purchased two more skeins of cotton yarn for my next cloth and for my oldest daughter to start her first one. She has also already discovered that exercise is more satisfying and rest sweeter when accomplished through a gainful occupation.

    One of the things I love most about this odyssey towards do it yourself skill-building in the service of a simpler life is the many “aha” moments. “Oh, that is how they used to do it,” and, “Oh, I can learn to do that myself,” and most especially, “Oh, we can do that as a family.” To me these are fun realizations full of all kinds of possibilities. I love it.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,


    A Melt-in-Your-Mouth Italian Flat Bread Rounds out a Somewhat Italian Meal

    Posted by pockets

    I wrote recently about my discovery that there are many flat bread recipes out there in the world and noted how we just may especially need those recipes as the percentage of protein in wheat continues to fall.

    Last weekend we had a resoundingly successful Italian meal of Lentil Chestnut Soup and Fried Ricotta Flat Bread with Parsley Garlic Sauce. My husband loved it. The children loved it. They couldn’t wait to eat the leftovers. It was wonderful

    Catherine at Albion Cooks apparently adapted the Lentil Chestnut Soup from a Deborah Madison lentil chestnut soup recipe. I don’t have the soup cookbook of Deborah Madison’s and I had all the ingredients on hand that Catherine used so we cooked it up. My husband pulled a bag of chestnuts from the freezer and shelled and boiled them for me. The rest of the soup was really easy to make. By the way, you don’t have to have your own chestnuts. She calls for canned chestnuts in her recipe. I think of this soup as being somewhat Italian, by the way, because chestnuts are an ancient part of the Italian diet (and landscape).

    Then I made the Fried Ricotta Flat Bread. As I am accustomed to making tortillas and chapattis, I found these easy to make. The only difference is in the ingredients of the dough. This dough is very rich with the addition of ricotta cheese (freshly made in our case), egg yolks and milk. You mix the dough, let it rest and roll out thin rounds just like with tortillas or chapattis. However, you fry these breads. I virtually never deep fry anything so having a fried food is an occasion here in this house. I rolled out the breads and Paul cooked them in the oil. They puffed up beautifully and were golden brown.

    There is a parsley sauce or salsa verde to go with these ricotta flat breads that is not to be missed. It consists mostly of finely chopped Italian parsley and fresh garlic together with a few other ingredients. The recipe calls for anchovies which we don’t eat. I just left them out but added a little extra salt. Next time I make this, I hope I will have some capers on hand. We love capers (which are pickled flower buds by the way) and they will add some of that pungent flavor and earthy saltiness that the anchovies must add.

    Gattina of Kitchen Unplugged explains that

    This parsley sauce is called salsa verde, means green sauce in Italian. Green sauces were an entire category centuries ago, are generally uncooked, varied by adding anchovies and/capers to taste. People use to accompany it with boiled and poached dishes, but the new Italian cooking seems not to be rigid with it. Anyway, serving it with this bread is suggested by Sale & Pepe - Grandi Fritti all’ Italian, I tried it, and I liked it.

    A whole category of green sauces is something I would like to learn more about! In any case, this parsley sauce was delicious and positively medicinal with the amount of garlic that was in it. Interestingly, the children loved it. I should have made a bigger batch, in fact.

    The flat bread itself was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It had a pastry-like quality to it which together with the earthiness of the soup and the intense green garlicky-ness of the sauce made for a satisfying combination. In fact, Paul served the children some of the flat breads sprinkled with cinnamon sugar for dessert.


    One great aspect of this meal is that it easily transitioned into leftovers. We are intent on making larger portions on Friday or Saturday so that I can cook less on Sunday and enjoy a bit more Sunday-ness, if you know what I mean. The Lentil Chestnut soup recipe is easily doubled or tripled and stores in the refrigerator well. I made a quadruple batch of the fried ricotta flat bread recipe which Paul encouraged me to try splitting in two and storing half in the frig to roll out the next day. I did this and it worked very well. I am glad he suggested it as it was wonderful having those hot, rich flat breads one more time.

    The end result was a nourishing meal full of new tastes which everyone was delighted to enjoy two days in a row.

    Boy, I can’t wait to learn about another new flat bread! This one really added a new dimension for us (which is kind of funny because it is flat!). More to come …

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,