Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Easy and Cheap - Four Dinners from One Bird

Over the summer I tore a page out of the June/July issue of Mother Earth News with the advice to turn one chicken into three easy meals using your crock pot. It intrigued me, and I knew with going back to school I would be depending on the crock pot for those crazy nights.  So, last week I tried it.

Day 1:  Roast Chicken in the Crock Pot

Spray cooker with baking spray.  Stuff chicken with lemon slices and fresh herbs of your choice.  Cook on low for 8-9 hrs.  Season with salt and pepper - do not add liquid.  Before you serve it, save some good meat for meal # 2.

Day 2:  After supper put the chicken (minus the good meat you've cut off the bone), including the herbs back into the crock pot.  Add carrots, onion, parsley, garlic, ginger and celery and cover it all with water.  Turn the crock pot back on low and let the stock cook overnight.  While you're at it chop up a few carrots and celery and put them in a separate container in the fridge.  If you're a homemade noodle making person this is also the time to do those.

Warning - if you're a light sleeper like me, the delicious smell of chicken soup may just wake you up at two in the morning.

In the morning, pour the broth through a colander placing the broth in one container, and the meat/bones/vegis in another.  Put them both in the fridge.

In the evening, skim the fat from the stock (reserve 2 c. for Meal 3) and add it to a soup pot on the stove.  Heat to boiling, then reduce to a simmer.  Add cut up vegis, reserved meat (from Day 1) and noodles.  Cook until it's all tender - add salt and pepper as needed.  Unless you have a large family, you'll have at least a quart of soup left - use it for Meal number 4.

Day 3:  Chicken and Dumplings

While your soup is cooking, pick through what was left from the stock making.  Put any good meat in a container, and give the rest to the cat.  Return reserved stock, and the meat pickings to the fridge.  When you're ready for supper, add the stock and meat to a pot, and add some homemade cream soup mix (or a can of cream of something - you pick).  When it's simmering, drop walnut sized amounts of biscuit dough on top, cover the pot and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the dumplings are cooked.

The boy was especially pleased by these meals - he kept mentioning something about dinner getting better, and better and better.  I loved the simplicity, and the happy home feeling you get from a house filled with chicken noodle soup.

The next two pics have nothing to do with food.  They're of our last of the summer adventure, and of the first day of school.  They're just here because these pictures make me happy.

We hiked to our favorite swimming spot in the creek - a wonderful way to spend our last day before the crazy fall hit.
I think I'm going to cry when he cuts that hair, and the girl - when did she get old enough to be in middle school?

Friday, September 19, 2014


If you plan to spend the summer living out of your car, you need to be well organized.

What Was in the Hatch:

The Gear Bag:

We have a large duffel bag that holds our hiking boots, socks, backpacks, backpacking stove, matches, a small pot, can opener, flashlights, rain jackets, bug spray, sunscreen, water shoes and a change of clothes.  This means that even if the weather changes or we change plans to a new activity we have everything we need.  It also keeps all of those items from rolling around in the back of the car.


On this trip, because we were in bear country most of the time, we kept all of the food in the car.  On other trips we've kept the storage containers with lunch, snack and breakfast food in the car since we wanted easy access.  We also always keep several cans of soup and crackers in case we need a quick supper when we're away from the camper.


We kept a sports bag with jump ropes, soccer ball, baseball and gloves.  The swim bag (with towels and swim suits) was within easy reach.  We packed the CD case with all of the CDs we could carry, and then listened to them in a the order they were in the case to get a variety of music in rotation.  We also kept a several audio books, a portable DVD player, and a few DVDs (more on this below).  


For the car:  jumper cables, extra oil, extra coolant, extra brake fluid, tire iron, air pressure gauge and a good jack - The Woodsman checked fluids and air pressure daily.  
For us:  a well stocked first aid kit, extra band-aids, and medicine for headaches, and other minor ailments.
For clean up:  Clorox wipes and paper towels - these really came in handy.

In the car:

For the adults:  A small shoulder bag with knitting, magazines and a current novel, a small blanket and pillow.  I also kept a folder for each section of the trip with maps, notes, brochures, and reservation confirmation print outs.  This was kept in the front seat where I could refer to it easily even if I was being both driver and navigator (when The Woodsman was taking his afternoon nap).
For the kids:  lots of books, MP3 players loaded with audio books (downloaded from the library before leaving), a craft bag, a bag of car games and activity books, a trash bag and a bag of summer school work.

Side note:

If it was a driving day (more than 2 hrs. in the car) the kids were expected to take care of school work and to read first.  They then could listen to their MP3 players or do other activities.  If we were going to be in the car for more than 5 hours we allowed them to get the DVD player out for the last 2 hours of the trip.  This kept the DVD player as something special, and was really helpful on those super long days. 

I also created a small box for each kid with little wrapped presents (books, games, crafts, snacks, etc.).   The kids were allowed to open one when they had been in the car for at least three hours and when they were done with their school work.  This really gave them something to anticipate, and helped motivate them to do their school work.

Everything had a place, and everyone knew to return items to their proper location.  This way we did not have to spend time digging to find what we wanted.  Also, the kids had to clean up and reorganize their backseat each day when we pulled into the campground.  

We all enjoy having a few audio books for shared family listening.  It's amazing how quickly the miles fly when you're all enjoying a good book.

Happy traveling!
Working on school work while heading through Missouri.  Stretching out is essential.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to do Laundry Once a Month

What, and How Much, to Bring

Obviously we don't have 8 weeks worth of clothes.  We also weren't going to have either the time or the desire to visit a laundromat with any frequency while we were on the road.  The solution - wear the same clothes multiple days in a row.

This modern American habit of a new outfit for every day (and sometimes multiple outfits for every day if you have a preteen or teenage girl in your house) is really not a necessity from a cleanliness standpoint, unless maybe you're under three years old, or you're a particularly sweaty person.  We change daily because of the strong social conventions that make us either 1) worry about what others will think, or 2) feel uncomfortable because we're breaking a taboo.

Now that I've returned home, this practice feels wasteful from an environmental standpoint.  Since I work in an air conditioned building where my physical work is very limited, there is no practical reason to need a new outfit daily.  And yet, if I practiced the same habits in my professional life that I do when traveling I'd be a social pariah.  Don't get me wrong- cleanliness is a good thing.  I don't want us all to start having to carry nosegays and have to burn incense in church since we can't handle the stench, but we could probably stand to waste a little bit less water and electricity by increasing the number of times we wear an outfit before it lands in the dirty laundry.  We could also stand to reduce the overall amount of clothing we own.  I don't know about your family, but even though most of my kid's clothes are hand me downs they both have more than either of them need.  I'm guilty too - both my closet and dresser are over packed.  We could stand to consume less.

However, when you're traveling with your family cross country, and no one else knows you, you can break these mores without worry.  We averaged about three days for a shirt, and five to seven days for shorts.  Pants and sweatshirts could last for several weeks since they were usually only worn in the early morning and later evening.  East of the Mississippi (where humidity rules supreme) we had to change more frequently.  Underwear and socks got changed daily - we did have some standards.

Everyone also had hiking socks, a rain jacket, a baseball cap, a warm hat, a fleece, long underwear, two pairs of p.j.s , two extra pairs of long pants, two long sleeve shirts, and one nicer outfit.

For shoes everyone had tenners, hiking boots, flip flops and heavy duty sandals (Chacos or Tevas).


Everyone had a small bag for underwear, socks and jammies - since those items would be needed every day.

Warm clothes, and nicer clothes got packed together in a separate compartment since we wouldn't need to get to them very often.

All of the other clothes were rolled.  If you're not rolling your clothes when you pack them, you're wasting space.  Rolled clothes fit better in your bag, or storage compartment, and they don't wrinkle.  

Clothes were grouped by type (shirts together, shorts together) in bags and compartments.

Odds and Ends

Because of these practices we only did laundry three times from the middle of June to the end of August - twice on the road (once at a commercial campground and once at a laundromat), and once at home in between being out West and heading to the beach.

When planning your trip think about stops where it might be convenient to do laundry.  It's wise to plan to stay at a commercial campground in that time frame, or schedule extra time in an area where you know there will be a laundromat.

Carry quarters:  we took $20 worth of quarters, and still had to pull $20 more before we returned home.  You'll need quarters for laundromats, showers and sometimes tolls (not all states use the same auto toll readers for toll roads).

You may feel a little uncomfortable if you're headed out of the wilderness and into a city or other place where most of the tourists are staying in hotels.  We often chose new outfits for those days.

Let go of your hygiene squeamishness.  In all likelihood, when you show off your vacation pictures, no one will notice that you're in the same clothes multiple days in a row.  And, when you're on the road, no one will know you - so who cares?  If you have elementary or middle school boys in your group they may think this is the best plan in the world.  The Boy loved the lack of frequent showers and clean clothes - hmm... boys.

Happy Packing!

Three Different Days - Same Clothes

We don't look too bad do we?

OK - to be fair, you can only see what The Boy is wearing, but I promise that since we're in Colorado here no Park Service personnel or other visitors were harmed by being in close proximity with our unwashed, three day clothes wearing selves.  Also, I think The Girl snuck in an extra clothes change that day - she's tricky like that.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Packing for a Cross Country Trip - Food

Once all of my planning is in place, I start to pack.  First I organize all of the non-perishable food, and make a list of what I need to purchase closer to leaving.

The breakfast box contained several boxes of cereal, packets of instant oatmeal, breakfast bars, Pop-tarts, and bagels.  It also included several cans of fruit.

Lunch/Snack:  The lunch box held PBJ, jerky, tuna and salmon packets, shelf stable salami and pepperoni, trail mix, pretzels, fruit cups, applesauce packets and a few sweet treats.


This time around I started with a weekly rotational dinner menu.

Sunday:  Breakfast for dinner:  pancakes, eggs (fresh for a while and then dehydrated), and fruit  (sometimes fresh and sometimes canned)
Monday:  Soup, crackers and cheese
Tuesday:  Asian: a boxed rice meal, a can of chicken and a can of mixed vegetables (all cooked in the same pot), or dehydrated split pea dahl and instant brown rice with a side of canned vegetables
Wednesday:  Spaghetti and canned green beans
Thursday:  Oat burgers, canned baked beans, instant mashed potatoes, and canned peas
Friday:  Tacos (TVP with taco seasoning, queso dip, tortillas) and canned corn
Saturday:  Cheesy Pasta (mac and cheese or tuna helper) and canned vegetables

Once I had created my menu I first went shopping in my pantry to see what I already had on hand.  Then, I made a list of the bulk food items I needed to make the pancake mix, oat burger mix and taco "meat".  I also made a list of canned and boxed items I needed to round out what I didn't already have.  I bought enough food for five meals of each type - figuring that we would go out for dinner a few times, and have some days where dinner had to be quick and we would eat lunch food.

After knowing what I needed, I made two grocery trips.  The first to our local Sharp Shopper - bulk and reduced price food, and the second to our regular grocery store to purchase anything I still needed.  Once I got it all home I spent several evenings creating individual trail mix bags, and mixing up the other items I needed for the dinner box.

Taco Seasoning Mix

1/4 c. minced onion
1/4 c. chili powder
3 T salt
4 t. cornstarch
1 T garlic powder
1T cumin
1T red pepper flakes
2 t beef boullion granules
1 1/2 t. dried oregano

Mix together and store in an air tight container.  Use 2 T taco seasoning with 1 c. re-hydrated TVP

Oat Burgers

Mix together
1/2 T beef bullion granules
1/2 t. Italian seasoning
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 T onion powder
1/4 t. salt
1/8 c. dried onion flakes
1 1/2 T yeast flakes
1 1/2 c. quick oats
1/4 c. ground walnuts

When ready to use...
Add 1 1/2 c. boiling water, 1 T soy sauce and 1/2 t. hickory seasoning.
Once the mixture cools, shape into patties and cook on a griddle.

Split Pea Dahl

Cook together - simmer for about 30 - 45 minutes until tender.  Dehydrate, then re-hydrate when ready to use.
1 1/2 c. split peas
3 c. water
1 c. chopped onion
1 T curry powder
3/4 t. ginger
1/4 t. salt

Trail Mix Combonations

Dried Apples, cinnamon yogurt covered pretzels, peanuts
Dried Cherries, chocolate covered pretzels, almonds
Dried Pineapple, pecans, coconut flakes
Raisins, peanuts, chocolate covered sunflower seeds
Dried Blueberries, dried strawberries, cashews, dark chocolate

Finally, it was time to get it all organized.
Dinner Boxes (sorry it's blurry - I was in a hurry)

Breakfast Box (again, sorry for the poor lighting)

Having everything planned out and organized meant that dinner was usually on the table in less than 15 minutes.  Normally, I love to cook.  But, when we're traveling I want to keep it cheap and easy.  Then I have more time for this.....