The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Homesteading gear windfall

Homesteading gear

It turns out that a like-minded neighbor was living a mere half mile down the road from us all this time, and we only learned the extent of our similarities when she got ready to move away.  For health reasons, our neighbor is having to return to her home state, and she decided that much of her homesteading gear wasn't worth shipping south.  Did we want a rocket stove, hand-cranked generator, solar oven (with one broken pane), and much more?  Definitely!

Sun pantry drying rack

I'm most excited about experimenting with the rocket stove and the solar oven, while the Chinese military-issue generator from 1972 tops Mark's list.  However, what I actually used first was an item I thought wouldn't be much use to us here.  A simple wooden rack of drying trays makes sense if you live in a climate where the humidity doesn't often hover around 80%, but if we tried to dry food in such a device without building a solar dehydrator around it, we'd just grow mold.

Still, when I realized I'd picked too much basil for my current batch of pesto, I thought --- maybe the simple drying setup would work for herbs?  I filled the four trays with basil, oregano, chives, and Egyptian onions and will report back in a few weeks once I discover which, if any, dry quickly enough to maintain their flavor in our wet climate.

A huge thank you to our soon-to-be-ex neighbor for sharing the bounty with us!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Dried basil often loses its flavor even with the best drying techniques. In addition to freezing in cubes, blended with a bit of oil (or in a very flat layer in a ziploc, where you can easily break off pieces of frozen basil in oil), I'm trying basil salt right now. My herb book mentions that wetter herbs like basil and tarragon do really well layered in salt. I'm going to try two different ways at the end - removing the actual leaves and seeing how flavorful the remaining salt is, and alternatively blending the final salt with the herbs, leaving the herb bits in the salt. It has been a week at this point and I can say that the leaves have remained vibrant green and aren't blackening or decaying. The glass container smells fantastic. I simply layered the whole fresh leaves with a very thin layer of salt between each single layer of fresh leaves until the container was full. The herb book didn't give fantastic directions, just to use salt to extend the life and usefulness of fresh basil and tarragon.
Comment by Charity Thu Aug 21 13:46:36 2014

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