Wild Gourd Farm

Organic Gardening in St. Louis City

Monthly Archives: January 2012

Frugal Friday: Oven-Dried Tomatoes

We picked our last harvest of yellow cherry and pear tomatoes in mid-December. Many of them were still green, so they sat in a paper bag and kind of ripened on their own with their natural release of ethylene (adding apples or bananas is supposed to help). To preserve our tomato harvest, we popped some of the ripened ones in our oven at the lowest temperature (170°F) to make oven-dried tomatoes.

yellow cherry and pear tomatoes

We cut them in half and put them on wire racks over baking pans to allow heat to circulate underneath.

After several hours…

oven-dried tomatoes

We checked the tomatoes regularly and removed them individually when done- smaller tomatoes dried more quickly.

This can also be done in an electric dehydrator, or, even better, a solar dehydrator like the one Maya Creek has. We’re storing the dried tomatoes in a small jar of olive oil in the fridge. They’re wonderful tossed in our pastas or topping our homemade pizzas, and so much cheaper than store bought sun-dried tomatoes!

oven dried tomatoes


Winter Reading: Possum Living

This winter- thanks to our unemployment- we’ve had the time to tackle projects we’d been putting off and plan new projects for the spring. We’re also reading and researching as much as we can to prepare us for the future.

Becca's favorite book so far

Possum Living was published in 1978 by eighteen-year-old Dolly Freed. She had dropped out of school in 7th grade and detailed the life she and her unemployed father lived outside of the “money economy.” They already owned a house and land outside of Philadelphia, and spent money only on essentials and taxes. Without jobs, they happily spent their days gardening, fishing, raising chickens and rabbits, bird watching, running, cooking and preserving, and doing other jobs around the homestead (including making wine and distilling their own whiskey). In the book Dolly provides helpful step-by-step instructions and recipes that are still relevant to homesteaders and survivalists today.

The new edition of the book includes an afterward from Dolly over 30 years later.  She joined the “money economy”– to become an aerospace engineer at NASA. No kidding! Soon after the original book was published, she earned her GED, studied for and aced the SATs, put herself through college, and ultimately was awarded her dream job at NASA. (It turned out not to be her dream job, and she now works as an environmental educator at a nature center.) Though her true homesteading lifestyle lasted only about 5 years, she still incorporates a lot of it into her life.

For more info, check out PossumLiving.net or this thorough review. There’s also a delightful 3-part documentary made after the book’s publication, which can be found on YouTube here.

Chickens’ First Winter

As we’d recently mentioned, winter weather in St. Louis had been wonderfully mild. We took advantage of it, and so did the chickens.

Chickens eating a pumpking

They even got to peck at a pumpkin we rescued from the trash- quite an autumn-like treat!

The weather was particularly kind to the ladies who molted, who didn’t have to face freezing temperatures without a full coat. We stopped getting eggs when they molted and as the hours of daylight diminished. A few days ago, Eric had a dream about finding an egg in the ladies’ nesting boxes. Unbelievably, after more than a month with no eggs, there was an egg waiting for us!

winter egg

And we got another egg the next day, too.

Yesterday, winter hit suddenly. We got our first snow, and the daytime temperature plummeted from the balmy 50°F  we’d enjoyed the day before to a frigid high around 20°.

huddling for warmth

The ladies huddled together for warmth and protection from the wind.

Some chicken owners provide a heat lamp in the coop for their birds, to keep them comfortable and encourage egg production. Our coop is too small to safely provide a heat lamp, and even so the ladies would still have to go outside of the coop to access food and water, which would be a shock to their system. We decided that it’s best to let the ladies acclimate to the weather, even if it means no eggs. However, we have taken measures to help keep them comfortable in the new winter weather.

heated chicken waterer

We had already set up an electric chicken waterer to keep thawed water available at all times.

wind stop

In the snowstorm yesterday, we quickly hung a tarp around one of the corners of the pen to act as a wind stop.

An Assortment of Native Artifacts

The weather’s been so beautiful in St. Louis this winter, we’ve been able to enjoy the outdoors more than we expected. We found a new creek in the area and discovered the above arrowheads and native stone tools in one afternoon. We’re looking forward to exploring the creek system further and hope to find more artifacts.  When winter finally hits, we’ll have time to research and learn more about our archaeological  findings.