...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Chipping Away at Projects

I'm looking back and laughing with great humility at my pre-school-year intentions of outlining my new day-to-day schedule that I thought I would stick to so rigidly: an hour or two of crafting on Mondays (which has been my standard "prep day" for a couple of years), work/gym on Tuesdays, yoga on Wed., housecleaning/gym on Thursdays, Friday work...you get the idea (and some of you who know me well know how highly organized I can truly be.)  I was slightly naive to think that it would fall into place this quickly or easily.  Although we're still finding our new groove with the school schedule, I do believe that a routine--though more flexible--will eventually develop.  Until then I've decided to just toss those intentions up into the air and let the universe sift through them and gradually help me drop them into place.

The bright side is that I have ever so slightly begun to chip away at a couple of projects on my rainy day list.  Actually, strike that.  I haven't even touched the rainy day list yet, let alone looked at it though I've begun to cross off small short-term goals and tie up loose ends on some craft project that have been hanging over my head for too long.

Pile of sweaters pre-yarn harvest--the top one was eventually turned into
the garment below.
V's ballet shrug
I bought a few secondhand sweaters way back when and unraveled them so I could reuse the yarn.  I would love to produce more knit garments for myself, but the cost of new yarn is prohibitive.  I'd been working on this ballet shrug for Vera since we thought she was taking a ballet class last spring.  Fortunately, that section of the class was cancelled which bought me more time to work on (read: procrastinate on) this project.  I ran into a little trouble with a new increase technique, but with the help of another knitter friend who has so graciously helped me sort through the language of knitting many times (in the spare time she has between keeping up with her four girls!) I was able to finally finish this project.  I managed to wrap it all up just a week after our first pre-ballet class this semester (and then this week's class was cancelled last minute).  So by week three hopefully she'll be ready to wear it.  It was a really simple pattern--and the faux-cable stitch made me feel super cool and capable--and I love how it folded up to turn into a sweet little vest.  Doesn't have to be just for ballet of course.  In fact, I'm already eyeing a purple turtleneck knit dress in V's closet to pair it with for winter.  I have one more knitting project sitting inside my knitting ottoman collecting dust--a gray sweater vest for myself--that I hope to finish this winter, but I'm also looking forward to knitting more warm socks and small accessories.

Back View
Don't know if you can appreciate the faux-cable with this dark yarn,
but I'm still excited about it
As you've likely gathered by now, we've been busy bees already this school year.  I'm still trying to figure out where my skills and time will be best utilized in volunteering at V's school.  For now we're trying to manage sitting down for a homemade family meal most nights in between the school Open House, Parent-Teacher Conferences, meetings for extracurriculars, my class series, and my husband's continued knee rehabilitation.  The slow cooker has been in full swing.

I'm well aware of how the price of meat has jumped up lately and since we're dedicated to buying and preparing "clean" meat in our household--which is more expensive--I will say that our meat consumption has decreased significantly in the last couple of years.  Fortunately my family either hasn't noticed or hasn't minded a more veggie-centric menu.  Our larder is packed full of dry beans, legumes, and heartier root and bulb vegetables as they roll in from the fall harvest.  Was in the mood to have a more carnivorous meal last week so I picked up some pork hocks from one of our farmer friends at the Tuesday afternoon farmers market just a few blocks from us.  She asked if I was planning to smoke them since smoked pork hocks are typically used in slow-cooking leafy greens like collards, turnips, or mustards.  Instead I was eager to try them in the slow cooker.  I'm still enjoying the library loaned slow cooker book I mentioned in a previous post.

Spicy Pork Hocks
Serves 4-6

Adapted from a recipe from 150 Best Indian, Thai, Vietnamese Slow Cooker Recipes, which called for lamb shanks.  I'd never prepared pork hocks this way before so was shocked at just how much great meat there was on these under-appreciated bones.  I served them with a warm-spiced Indian rice.  It was the perfect meal for a cool night as we crashed in from the school Open House at 7 PM.  (And subsequently had very few dishes to clean up as we turned right around for V's bedtime.)

2 T. grapeseed oil
about 4 lbs. pork hocks (or lamb shanks)
2 t. ground cinnamon
2 t. ground ginger
2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1 large onion, chopped
14 oz. (can) diced tomatoes with juice, we used home-canned
1 t. salt
1 c. chicken stock, vegetable broth, or water

In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add pork (in batches if necessary) and brown on all sides, about 8 min. (each batch).  Transfer to slow cooker as completed.  Drain off all but 1 T. fat from pan.  Lower heat to medium.  Add cinnamon, ginger, cumin, allspice, nutmeg to pan and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 min.  Add onion and stir-fry until softened, about 3 min.  Add tomatoes with juice and salt and bring to boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits from bottom of pan. Transfer to slow cooker and add broth.  Cover and cook on Low for 10 hrs. or on High 5 hrs., until meat if falling off the bone. Serve immediately.

Note:  I found that this meat was nearly perfectly seasoned when it came out of the slow cooker, unlike many of the slow cooker dishes I've tried making before as I stuck closely to the recipe.  

Slow Cooked Pork Hocks and Indian Rice
Autumn moves on and I begin to get excited about fall/winter scheduling (somewhat to my husband's dismay).  A friend and I took the kiddos to the apple orchard this week for what looks like it might be an annual excursion.

Beautiful pears!
I love the little gnarly rings around the tops
of all these Daveys

Holy cow--now THAT'S and heirloom
Pumpkin pickin'
I love this one, warts and all
Loose in the orchard
And though I've heard whispers from friends and relatives about closing up the gardens for winter, I don't want to think about that quite yet--mostly because we still have so much growing, but also because it's another huge undertaking I'm not ready for at this juncture.  Everything in time, everything in time.  Maybe I'll toss that up into the air too and see where/when it lands.  

1 comment:

  1. I love the photos. I need you as my life coach, which I will now allude to on Facebook.