Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Line Drying When it's Snowing Outside..

Now that winter's arrived in my neck of the Frozen North I've had to take in my clothesline from out back and find a new place for it inside. Since last March I haven't used our dryer at all, I started line drying mostly because of a bird's nest in our dryer vent opening- I know, I know, but after awhile I sort of got used to the zen of hanging laundry and getting that satisfied feeling seeing my clothes swaying in the breeze. When the sun was just right and the birds were chirping hanging laundry outside was one of the nicest chores around. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and November brought snow and below freezing temperatures to my little corner of the world- and hanging laundry outside suddenly lost it's appeal. Frostbit fingers and frozen socks looming, I decided it was time to move the line inside. We are blessed with a great big basement but finding a place to hang our laundry where it would dry in a relatively short time and still be out of the way proved tricky. Reusing the length of cord from outside, we finally rigged up the line in the furnace room, and alongside our freestanding clothes drying rack it should serve us until Spring returns. Our furnace room works great for drying because of the heat our wood burning furnace puts out, and since we light a fire every day it's easy to gather or hang laundry while tending the fire.

I know not everyone has a handy furnace room like ours, what do you do in the winter? Line dry outside? Use the dryer for a few minutes? Put a rack by the wood stove? Line-drying clothes is such an easy, old fashioned way to do a necessary household chore. It saves you electricity (watch those kWh drop!), helps the environment, and you never get that pesky static cling that makes socks stick to.. well just about everything!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Electricity, Electricity

Do you know how much power you use? Every day? Or do you, like most of us just pay the electric bill every month or two without looking at the details. Your electricity bill will tell you exactly how much you are using on average per day measured in kWh. If it's fancy like my bill, it will show you a little graph of past usage so you can see how much you've been using over time and if you've improved or gone a little overboard on the air-conditioning lately.

My latest reading was running at 23.8 kWh and I'm determined to get it under the 20kWh mark for the next bill. It's a little tricky because my husband and I both work from home, have our computers on all day, and my husband also uses a lot of power tools for his home business. We also have an electric cistern pump for our water, and our stove, oven, and hot water heater are all electric as well, and anything that heats up is a big energy hog.

How do we cut down? Change our most used light bulbs to CFLs, heat water in the electric kettle instead of on the stove, heat with wood, open the windows on the shady side of the house to keep the house cool in summer, use no small electric appliances in the kitchen (except for the kettle!) , line dry our clothes, unplug anything that draws 'vampire' energy when not in use, and wash laundry in cold water.

Keep track with me on the side bar of the blog as I try to keep those kWhs headed south. What do you do to keep those kWhs down? Do you have a good tip to save more electricity? Send us a comment and let us know!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Visiting a Pick-Your-Own Fruit Farm

With strawberry season winding down here in the northern climes, and summer crops growing fat on summer sunshine, U-Pick fruit and vegetable farms seem like the perfect topic to start with. Not only is it a cheap and easy way of gathering loads of fresh produce for the table and to put up for the colder months ahead, but it’s also the closest you can get to eating local without growing it yourself.

U-pick fruit and vegetable farms, also called ‘pick-your-own’ are popping up all over the place these days. Usually only a little ways out of town to make them accessible to customers, these farmers do most of the work for you by growing the fruits and veg. All you have to do is get down on your knees (or reach up into trees) and pick. U-pick farms are a great way to buy direct from local farmers. Buying direct keeps more money in the farmers’ pockets instead of it going to a middleman. Prices for you are cheaper too, partly because you do the work of picking, and partly because it decreases the farmer’s costs. Those strawberries don’t have to be washed, boxed, shipped etc.

Your First Time at a U-pick farm?

1. To find a local U-pick place, ask around at the local Farmers’ Markets, drive out into the country and look for signs, or check the classifieds in your local newspaper. Don’t be afraid to call and ask what’s picking, or how long the season for a certain crop will last.

The best time to pick is first thing in the morning or in the evening when the sun’s cooled down a bit. Be sure to check hours at the farm though before you go. Most farms are closed Sundays.

Wear comfortable clothing that will keep you cool, and that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. Fruit juices, especially strawberries, cherries, and raspberries, can stain clothing.

Ask ahead if you need to bring your own containers. Some places provide baskets, and charge per basket full, while others charge by weight. If you need to bring something, I’ve found that plastic ice cream buckets work great, so do plastic or stainless steel bowls.

Once you get there, usually a farm worker will show you where to pick and away you go. Bring a water bottle, a hat, and wear plenty of sunscreen. There’s rarely any shade out in the fields.

Once your buckets and baskets are overflowing take them over to the cashier (usually located in a nearby hut/fruit stand) and pay for your bounty.

Get them home as quick as you can and into the fridge. Use them fresh, freeze them for later, or turn them into jars upon jars of jam and jelly.

You can’t get any fresher than sun-warmed, just picked strawberries. While you’re picking, there will always be a couple ‘casualties’- it’s okay to taste test a little in the field, just wipe the dirt off first! Picking fruit and vegetables in season is fun and easy, and gets you much closer to the food you eat. It’s a wonderful learning experience for kids and adults alike, plus it provides some very sweet rewards.

Easy and delicious Strawberry and Apple Cobbler

Other Delicious Ideas for Summer Berries:
Popsicles (just blend them with a bit of water and sugar, and pour into molds)
Sauces for pancakes, shortcakes, or meats
Smoothies and Milkshakes
Jam or Jelly

What do you do with your berry harvest? Any tips you’ve learned while picking? Share them with us!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Beginning

"I enjoy doing housework, ironing, washing, cooking, dishwashing. Whenever I get one of those questionnaires and they ask what is your profession, I always put down housewife. It's an admirable profession, why apologize for it. You aren't stupid because you're a housewife. When you're stirring the jam you can read Shakespeare."
-Tasha Tudor

Here at Quaint and Keeping House, we’re all about embracing what Mrs. Tudor has proclaimed. For so many years ‘keeping house’ has been anathema in our culture. It was deemed as drudgery, it was unskilled labour that must be avoided at all costs, and it was something that the modern young woman ought not to aspire to at all. And while I admire and respect all those career-focused women, we ought to also raise the role of the housewife to a similar status. In the past, being a housewife was considered a real and important profession and at long last, an amazing group of young women (and men, house-husbands too!) are standing up and saying that it’s not just okay to stay at home, but it’s a position that is worthy of respect too!

If you’re still a nine-to-fiver, and love keeping house, we hope you find some inspiration here too. Being a housewife isn’t all or nothing and a lot of the projects and ideas can be done on weekends, or incorporated into your time at home. We know for a lot of ladies that it isn’t possible to stay-at-home full time, and that some ladies love their careers too (I know I sure did when I worked away from home.) and wish to find a happy balance between home and career. At Quaint and Keeping House you will find a little domestic bliss to soothe your busy day.

Young, savvy, and a bit old-fashioned, this blog will touch on all the topics that will nurture your domestic passions from going green, to how to make the classic chocolate chip cookie. We’ll show you the ins and outs of keeping house the old-fashioned way in the new millennia.