Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Urban Homesteading Sorrows and Joys

Many urban homesteaders will probably recognize this scenario, that of a promising project turning not-as-planned, and then becoming comical.
A couple of years ago, while doing the Eat Local for One Year project, it occurred to me that instead of spending so much energy trying to grow a European-style diet for myself, I should just learn to eat like people already here had done for centuries. Several of us locavores decided that we would try gathering, processing and eating acorns, the traditional local staple.
I gathered quite a few acorns from my own yard and all around town. I stored them in a number of boxes and baskets all over the kitchen and living room. These places were already filling up fast with winter squashes, bushel baskets of corn, dried herbs, basket fiber and seeds. Soon, various rooms were looking alot like a country store, minus the mini-spotlights and a cheese-sampling table covered with gingham.
I finally did try to make some acorn flour this summer, but I was not too successful. The flour eventually flowed out of my home-made leaching bag so much that yield was tiny. It managed to permanently stain everything in the process, including pyrex. Then it looked like it was moldy (this was hard to tell because of all the staining). After three days of leaching, it didn't taste that good, so I threw it away.
The rest of the acorns continued to sit in their baskets until I mustered up enough courage to try again, or find a friend who would take them all.
This fall, disaster struck again. I smelled something funny in the kitchen and discovered that my last Cinderella pumpkin had rotted, and the pumpkin liquid poured next door, over to a huge basket of acorns.
So, I put about 20 pounds of acorns outside, resolving to sort them out and hose off the basket before everything rotted.
Then it rained!
I just left the basket outside for a few days, and every day took a handful of nuts and threw them on the patio for the squirrels. It wasn't long before they found the basket. Now for the last three days, the fiber animals have been quite entertained watching the squirrels climb into the basket, fiddling with the nuts, and scurrying off to the various hiding places.
Most of the hiding places are in the 40-odd planters I have out on the patio. Every spring I have to pull out 2-3 baby oak trees before refreshing the soil and replanting. This year, despite not being so smart about saving the acorns, I was smart about adding compost. I just put it on top of the pots and I am letting the squirrels do my digging for me.
Arbor day. Done. Isn't that a joy?

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