Category Archives: Wild Edibles

Pickled Milkweed Pods

(These recipes are a work in progress for the Hermit to store gathered recipes or ideas. Many have not been tried or perfected. Try them at your own risk.)

I have eaten many boiled milkweed pods. This year I am trying out pickling them. This is a basic pickling recipe I will try as soon as the pods are ready. As of today some plants already have pods but most are still in the flowering stage. Don’t wait too long to collect or the fluff starts to develop inside. I like about 1 to 2 inch pods. They are crunchier.

Pickled Milkweed Pods

8 cups young milkweed pods
2 cups vinegar
1 cup water
1 tbsp pickling salt
1 cup lemon juice (or more vinegar if desired)
Spices as desired (ie. cloves, garlic, onion, pepper)
Pack jars with pods
Mix other ingredient and bring to boil
Add hot liquid to the jars
Water bath for 10 minutes if desired (not needed as vinegar preserves)
_________________________________________________
Here is how I actually prepared them.
I gathered and cleaned them.

I lightly simmered for a few minutes to wash away some latex. Not all but most washed out.

From there I veered off the recipe.

That’s right. I added them to hot peppers, carrots, brocolli, garlic and ginger.
I simply packed the jars, added about half a tsp canning salt and some Creole seasoning. Then I boiled half vinegar and half water. Poured the hot vinegar water over the hot mix and put the lids on.
That’s it. No water bath. No pressure. Just crunchy vinegar pickled vegetables.
This is the same basic hot mix I made with my dad for years. I just added milkweed pods
As the jars cool the lids vacuum seal. We kept them through the winter lined up on our basement wall with all of our other canned vegetables and soups. We never owned a pressure canner.


And by the way. I know the internet has made everyone scared of living. So much so that you will be told if you don’t pressure can most low acid vegetables or meats you will die.
Guess what? Even if you do everything correct, sterilize everything and pressure cook everything until it is mush it is STILL possible that a botulism spore could be hiding in a jar.
Pressure canners were not even available to most until relatively recently.
So how did we survive?
Very simple. Vegetables that are not high acid or have acid vinegar added were just water bathed. This kills bacteria, including botulism. It does not kill the botulism spores. So over time the spores CAN (not always or even very often) develop into bacteria and the bacteria produce toxins (Bo-tox that makes certain politicians look like wax mannequins) that can kill you.
But you don’t just crack the jar open and pour it down your throat.
The growth of bacteria cause gas which will break the seal.
It also makes the food look bad. When you open it it will smell bad.
At that point you throw it out.
But in reality you could still eat it.
Botulism bacteria itself can be eaten. Your stomach will kill it.
And most importantly don’t eat your food raw.
EVEN IF YOU DID THE FANCY PRESSURE COOKER AT LEAST HEAT IT.
Heating the food will kill the bacteria AND it will neutralize (officially called denature) the botulism toxin.
All it takes is 160 degrees for about 5 mintues (not even boiling although it is best to bring to a boil). Not even regular cooking.
OUR ANCESTORS NEW THIS COMMON SENSE EVEN BEFORE THEY KNEW OF BACTERIA!
The only part of botulism that is deadly is the toxin that you just neutralized (made safe) by heating it.
In summary. Heat those water bathed beans, even if you ignore all the other signs that they went bad or enjoy eating rotten, smelly beans, and you will be fine.
There are plenty other bacteria that might not kill you but could make you sick. (stomach ache and diarrhea).
High heat will also take care of them but the food will still taste and smell just as bad.
And finally…
Shockingly, this applies to canning meat too.
I know. You’ve been told on the internet that people are dropping dead everywhere by not pressure canning their meat.
If you have a pressure canner go ahead a use it and feel superior in your belief that you will never get sick again. You still could anyway because you get cocky thinking you are protected and not heat your food.
But if you aren’t independently wealthy, or the seal failed on your pressure canner and you have no way to replace it, you can water bath canned meat too. JUST COOK IT BEFORE YOU EAT IT. And as always pay attention to the normal signs of spoilage. It isn’t rocket surgery.
Like I said, even if you followed all safety rules for pressure canning, botulism could still form so you could get very sick eating ANYTHING not well pickled, right out of the jar.
Cook it after opening.
Of course this doesn’t apply to higher acid items such as jams and preserves. Or items pickled in vinegar.
And by the way, many of my canning recipes are vinegar pickling. This is because I like vinegar. And also I am lazy and vinegar pickling is very easy. I keep saying vinegar pickling because there is also fermentation pickling which I might cover later. This actually uses good bacteria to preserve by blocking out bad bacteria. Sauerkraut is a form of this. As a kid I punched a lot of cabbage in a crock down in the basement.

Chicken of the Wood

On mine and Lily’s morning walk today I found a nice surprise.

Chicken of the Wood mushrooms, or Sulphur Shelf. (Laetiporus sulphureus)

I didnt have my knife but these were tender so I broke off a handful.

Quite a plate full.

And easy to clean.

I cut them up with some yellow squash.

And broke out some cooking supplies.  I am going to make soup.
Some spray Canola Oil, Tony Chachere’s Creole Spices, Powdered Garlic, Hot Sauce and condensed Cream of Mushroom soup.

First I fried up the squash and the mushrooms.  Chicken of the Wood mushrooms do not cook away to nothing like some mushrooms.

At this point you know where the mushrooms get their name.  They taste almost exactly like chicken strips.  But I want to make them into soup.  So I added a can of Cream of Mushroom soup and spices and cooked for a while.

Boy, does it look good.

I am not exagerating.  It is delicious.  Like something you would get at a fancy restaurant.  My only cost, 50 cents for condensed soup and a few spices.  The Creole spices make it almost taste like a seafood bisque.

What’s that?  Oh.

Lily says she doesn’t think those mushrooms were chicken of the wood.

She always makes comments like that before she flies away.

Just kidding.  The Chicken of the Wood mushroom is one of the easiest to identify.  I am no mycologist.  But once you have POSITIVELY identified this you will always be able to find it.

But I am writing for entertainment, not as a field guide.  Be sure to get a good field guide to take with you, either a book or a wise older person.

Possum Day

Possum Day
Back in the 70s an 18 year old girl, pen named Dolly Freed, wrote a book about her adventures growing up with her divorced dad outside Philadelphia, in what would be today called a mini homestead. The book was called Possum Living, How to Live Well Without a Job and (almost) No Money. It is now available by audiobook, read by the now grown author.

The title Possum Living comes from the fact that possum’s don’t have to have day to day jobs and can still make a living and survive. Diogenes of ancient Athens was her father’s hero. He lived in an old barrel in the center of Athens and Alexander the Great is quoted as saying if he had not been born Alexander he would have prefered to be Diogenes. The bible gives an idea of the lifestyle in the quote “Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feed them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

So this brings me to today. I am calling it Possum Day.

For as long as I can remember I have dreamed of living in a cabin, away from the “civilized” world. This was my intention when I bought the Pithole Homestead several years ago. But instead of living on the land I have been trying to do a balancing act of living both at the cabin and at the house in town. This has never satisfied me. I want to actually be a member of the forest I live in. I have realized that one main thing has been keeping me from living this way. My vehicle. It is just too easy to jump in the car and head to town, when I really don’t want to.

So with my Declaration of Possum Day I will truly begin my adventure. It may take a couple of months to complete but starting today I will live on my land. My vehicle for now will be only for important trips and emergencies. Eventually I plan on not driving at all. In the 1976 book the girl and her father spent in one year $1498.75. Her fathers reaction was “where did it all go?”. Taking into account the cost of living from 1976 to today and that it is just me and my dog, my goal is to live on around $5 a day, or about $150 a month. For now I will calculate this not counting vehicle costs and taxes, Basically just the basic survival. The end result will be $5 a day, total. This does not mean I will start from scratch but I will make use of the the conveniences I have already setup, such as solar power, and I will attempt to maintain the status quo.

Today’s post is going to be a long one.  In fact probably a week long.
I will document here what I have and what I will do will each thing. I wil list my goals. By the end of this post I will have laid out my entire plan. Possibly, a 5 dollars a day may have been a good idea in the 1970s, but I may decide to adjust it after full consideration. Maybe more like $200 a month. But I will document the journey every day.

So now on with the show.

What do I have now?

Here is my basic budget of $150 a month, leaving a little extra.

Of course this will be supplemented by what nature provides.
Here is my current status.  As I write I will note other costs and adjust my budget later.

WATER
My new .5 micron water filter  ($8 every 3 months) is doing a great job removing rust. I am thinking of attaching a home built, solar powered, UV filter, but .5 micron is actually smaller than most bacteria.  Also another small water line and a solar pump would be nice.

Water well with filter

The 100 foot well provides ice cold water, which I use to keep a few items fresh.

Cooler – cooled by ice cold well water

And of course my solar shower bag heats the water up for a warm shower in the  summer.

    Solar shower

Winter is still heating water on the stove and washing up indoors.

HEAT
Heat is provided by a wood stove and supplemented by a propane tank ($17 a month).

Wood stove with propane heater sitting on top

The tank can feed a heater, a cooking stove, a bright lantern, and maybe soon a water heater.  I can also use the large tank to refill small 1lb bottles.

Propane tank

Propane stove

OUTHOUSE
Well, it is actually more of a porta-potty than an actual outhouse, or a lugable loo, as the Brits might call it.  State laws don’t allow for creating and actual pit outhouse. So I have designed an 5 gallon bucket, composting outhouse, which uses replaceable, biodegradable plastic bags ($10 a year) which can then be placed in a composting barrel.

Outhouse

Can with toilet paper and biodegradable bags

POWER
To keep the electrons flowing I have a 3 battery storage bank and a large 100 watt solar panel.

100 watt solar panel with wheel barrow to move as sun changes positions

I also have a smaller 40 watt panel that I feel bad when I see it making electricity but not going anywhere.

    40 watt solar panel

Battery bank

Solar controller

750w 120VAC power inverter

This powers my tv, computer, recharge phones and tablet, provide light and even a fan.

At full battery bank charge I have about 1500watts available.  That’s about 12.5 Amps max at 120VAC (depending on power factor of equipment run) or 125 Amps at 12VDC.  All 3 batteries charged provided about 120 AmpHours meaning I can run a 5 watt LED light bulb for about 12 days continously without recharging.  But they recharge nearly every day.
My well pump requires 220vac with about 3500 watts peak surge so I still use a gasoline generator when I need to pump water, or run heavy power tools.  If I double my battery bank I could probably run my well pump.

tteries Generator with Styrofoam to insulate the noise

So that is the basics, except food.  For now I purchase my food, usually in bulk.

 

Food

Supplies

There are many wild foods, and as anyone who has ever planted a garden knows, squash multiply.  Even better than loaves and fish.  If you plant one you’ll be giving them away for months.

Soups, rice, pasta, canned goods, etc.  But it is 2018, so I don’t really have to go anywhere to get my food.

Mailbox

Yes.  A large part of my budget was cell phone/internet.  I can order my groceries and supplies through Amazon, etc and have it delivered right to my mailbox.  I plan on putting a special large package box behind the regular mailbox.

UPDATE:  I  have added the package box.

ENTERTAINMENT

Yes, I am living in the woods.  Nature is my entertainment.  With bears in the morning, raccoons at night and chipmunks, squirrel, birds and deer 24 hours, there is plenty of nature.  But that is not all.

TV Antenna

Yes.  I have a tv.  And along with broadcast channels I have streaming video over my internet.  Jeremiah Johnson eat your heart out.  Remember, I am posting this online, and part of my meager income is via the internet.  And when I say tablet I’m not talking pen and paper.

Tablet with keyboard

While there is no power, water or sewage connections here, there is an old telephone pole with a telephone connection.  It isn’t connected and with decent cell service here I see no reason to connect it.

Telephones

I also have many tools and equipment for building and repair.

Mower

And I just got a new addition to my outdoor furnishings.

PARANOID?  MAYBE

At the end of my driveway is a ditch.

It presently can be crossed with a 4 by 4, but I plan on digging it deeper because I have a removable bridge.

Also there is a gate.

This gate is normally closed, even when, or especially when I am in the cabin.

You may have noticed that Lily has discovered the joy of photobombing.  Everything I want a picture of, she suddenly becomes interested in.

Also, as I have stated elsewhere, please contact me before just dropping in.  I am a friendly hermit, but I am also a well armed veteran and don’t want any misunderstandings.

(updates will continue throughout the week)