Monday, December 29, 2008

10# buckets of food....really?


This post is copied from an online forum where me and a few friends debate the nitty gritty of trying to start up a CSA and live in a peak oil world.
The thread began as an entreaty from one of our members for us all to go out and buy 10# buckets of storage food to prepare for the 2012 armeggedon that is currently being predicted.


It is interesting how many people are focused on 2012 as THE year for armegeddon prophesies.
The way I see it is more along the lines of give a man a fish/teach a man to fish. Yes, some food storage can see you through some of the ups and downs of the contraction that will occur. However, this contraction is going to take a LONG time. You can't possibly store enough food to keep yourself fed for the duration. A more balanced approach is to practice good storage practices and learn how to grow/raise more of your food.
Good storage practices basically boil down to -- store what you eat, eat what you store. It's all well and good to have 3 years of red wheat stored in your basement, but do you eat it? Do you know how to cook with it? Mill it and prepare it and bake it? Do you have favorite recipes with it? I try and find things that my house eats a lot of and find ways to store that item. For example, Dave and I have about 3 months worth of oatmeal and raisons in our cabinet on any given day. I use up the stored oatmeal as we eat our breakfasts and when the stores get too low, I go and buy another 3 months-ish worth. It's a food we like, we are familiar with and cook often. Plus it's like 8$ for 3 months worth and it's very healthy. The other item I store a lot of is dry beans. Every other week I make a dish out of dry beans. Chili or tacos or beans and rice, whatever. Again, it's something we like, we have favorite recipes and costs under 10$ to restock. PLUS, I know we have the spices in the cabinet to make it to our tastes.

Knowing what foods you go through quicker than others is important for storage. Sometimes the things can be correlated. For instance, since living off of stored beans and stored onions I've noticed that we [u]never[/u] fix beans without needing an onion. At a rate of about 1 onion per 2 cups dried beans. It would make life sucky if we ran out of onions before beans. But knowing it I can be aware of the onion stores and plan accordingly. These sorts of things can only be learned by actually living out of your storage. And it would suck to try and learn them after the SHTF and you're trying for the first time to live on what you've stored. I think you'll find yourself with spoiled food from things that you eat less than you thought, and gaps in essentials that you eat more than you thought. So yea, go ahead and order 10# buckets of whatever to store in your basement, just don't get to the point where you're trying to convince yourself to eat plain boiled peas on pasta for dinner because you've eaten all the pasta sauce and can't make any more with what you've stored.

Learning to grow your own stuff can help even out the yearly cycles of abundance/depletion. Again, it boils down to grow what you eat and eat what you grow. And all of the lessons that you'll only learn by trying it. This past year I grew onions, thinking I would have WAAY too many onions. And it turned out that I barely harvested enough for a half a year. I wouldn't have figured it out until we were actually trying to eat off what we grew.

These sorts of things are how I'm preparing for 2012. Do I think the world will end on 2012 in a riot of fireballs and teargas? No. But, it's a nice arbitrary goal for having a handle on my own food security needs. By starting now on the easy stuff, I can work out the kinks and identify problem areas before I have to really rely on storage skills for actual food security. I can't really do anything about the crumbling infostructure or the petroleum based food production methods that produce most of the grocery store fare. I CAN figure out how many onions I need to grow every summer so that I have enough onions to keep eating them until the next crop gets harvested. I can't really afford a 10# bucket of dry beans, but I CAN figure out how we like to eat certain beans, how they need to be prepared from dry state and how quickly we go through them. So that when I can afford to buy a bulk amount of beans I'll know how big a bucket is feasible for my family to eat through before it spoils. And I'll know how to fix them so I don't have to call my Mother-in-law and ask her what I'm doing wrong. :-P (and yes, Pat and I have had 30 minute phone conversations more than once about dried beans.)

Instead of focusing quite so much attention on stocking up for armegeddon day in Dec 2012, try and focus on the yearly cycles of abundance and depletion and learn from them so that in the aftermath of 2012 you know how to live off those 10# buckets.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why I do what I do

I'm not sure who reads this blog, most of you are probably friends or relatives. I'm sure at one time or another since I've become an adult you've wondered why I do the things I do.
Why do I bother growing food when I have a good job and can afford to buy whatever food I want? Why do I bother riding buses or bikes when I have a good car that can get me wherever I want? Why do I bother making my own diaper bag when I could go out and buy one cheaper? Why do I try to consume 90% less than the average American?

I do these things so that I hopefully leave the world a little better than I found it. It is an often repeated thought. "We do not own this earth, we borrow it from our grandchildren." Even boy scouts are taught, "leave the land better than you found it". But it seems like the message gets garbled once you leave the campfire. The TV commercials tell you the things will be better if you buy their product, "It's green!" Politicians tell you things will be better if you just drill deeper and invest more of your children's tax dollars into auto industry bail outs, "It's responsible!" One of my favorite bloggers put it best last week.

Madoff may be a criminal, but he’s a criminal in large part because he’s engaging in a particular form of ponzi scheme that we look down upon, one small
enough to be called illegal. In general, we’re pretty comfortable with ponzi models -we live, quite happily, in a ponzi economy, one in which the concept of perpetual economic growth is sold, divvied up again and resold.
We live in a Ponzi ecology where we borrow constantly against the future to pay
for our present affluence. ... ...

We’re going to try and rescue the economy with another Ponzi scheme - with borrowing against our children’s future wealth to protect financial institutions and invest in some good things and some bad ones. This, of course, is the oldest ponzi scheme of all, and you can make the argument that some human societies have been playing this game for a very long time. We’ve been doing it with natural resources and are continuing to do so, and we’re also expanding the share of our children’s wealth we’re willing to borrow against. After all, what have future generations ever done for us? They might as well serve some purpose - to pay off our debt.

And of course we’ve got the best possible reason for this - we’re in a crisis. There’s always a good reason for taking just a little more of what belongs to the future - to bring people out of poverty, to resolve this or that crisis. Of course, the crisis was caused by borrowing against our children’s inheritance of natural resources, but more of the same is now necessary. A good Ponzi scheme always needs new investors - and if none are going to volunteer, well, let’s volunteer them. We’ll use the to prop up the stock market and today’s version of the Roman chariot business.

Our ecology and our economy all fundamentally are built on a Ponzi scheme in which we can never make enough to keep up - we are always losing ground, always having to steal from further down the line of our posterity. At the same time, we justify their forcible participation in this speculation by saying that we are protecting them - we have to protect them from a Depression, so it is worth risking their future. But, of course, if you actually care about your children and grandchildren, you don’t ask them to make sacrifices you aren’t prepared to make. Fundamentally, we’re covering our own asses, and asking our kids to do it for us. .... ...

The question is whether we, and the baby boomers and older folk who had it right from the beginning, actually love our children and grandchildren enough to stop the buck here? I don’t minimize how difficult that is - and I don’t doubt that trying to live on a fair share, and get through the necessary economic crisis so we can start better next time will be difficult for children as well as adults. And yet, passing the buck again ensures them a darker, warmer, more bitter world with fewer natural resources, and a crushing economic debt. Sometimes when there are no easy answers, one has to move to “what is right.”

The burden of addressing our world-wide Ponzi scheme falls, I fear upon all of us who are adult enough to demand it stop, to refuse to participate to the extent we can, to work to end it, and most of all, to shield with our bodies the children and grandchildren we do love, and in whom we must reposit our hopes, our endurance and our courage.
Sharon

Every time I make something myself or pay more to buy locally made/locally grown I'm trying to put myself between my child and the Ponzi scheme. Every time I ride the bus or carpool or bike, I'm preserving a little bit of oil for my grandchild to use to make something irreplaceable. (I guarantee you, our grandchildren will NOT be burning oil for transportation, think more along the lines of medicine and equipment for hospitals.)

I don't believe more shopping malls or highways are going to make my child's world better. I don't believe that bailouts for banks and car makers are going to make my child's world better. I don't believe that GMO's and monocropping are going to make my child's world better.

What would it mean to make a society that did in fact love all of its children?
This is, properly understood, a design problem that calibrates what we intend as
parents with how we earn our living, conduct our daily lives, build homes,
design communities, manage landscapes, and provision ourselves with food,
energy, and materials. I would go so far as to say that the well-being of
children in the fullest sense of the word, not gross national product, is the
best indicator of the health of our civilization. -David Orr

In a nutshell, that's why I do what I do.

Friday, December 19, 2008

CPSIA

Ok gang,
I had originally intended to blog today about my cloth diaper plans, but the past week I can't go anywhere in the cloth diaper arena without running into concerns over the CPSIA legislation. The legislation is due to go into effect on Feb. 10th.
This quote is from Fashion Incubator:

To recap, this law was passed (424 votes to 1) to protect children from unsafe
toys after last year’s widely publicized recalls ... What few consumers realize is this
legislation affects more than toys. What few clothing manufacturers realize is
this also affects them. Of the ones who do know, most of them think it only
applies to children’s clothes. Other than apparel the law includes diapers,
blankets (housewares), books, videos, computer and electronic products,
strollers, cribs, car seats, and anything humans come in contact with in their
environment.

More on the impact to small businesses can be read here, in a petition to congress. But, basically the legislation apparently makes it impossible for Work-at-home-moms who have small businesses sewing and selling children's diapers/bib's/wraps/bags/etc. The legislation makes no difference between toys coming from china with paint and metal in them, and cloth diapers made in the US. These small businesses will have to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars to get their lead free cloth and thread tested and certified lead free. And they have to keep testing, with every new batch of cloth or thread.
The online diaper selling/swapping bulletin board at http://www.diaperswappers.com/ has many sellers of diapers who are reporting their plans to just close shop if the legislation goes into effect.
Now, maybe congress will release clarifications and diapers, wraps, bags and clothing will turn out to be not covered by this legislation... I don't know. It's worrisome though. I don't care if an organic cotton diaper made by a mother of 3 gets tested for lead. I DO care if the plastic toys from China get tested for lead. I hope there's some common sense differentiation that takes place.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Seed Catalogs!


Yay they are here!! And since patience is still not one of my virtues, I of course got 3 catalogs. hee hee.. that's ok. I'll share them with friends. I did a lot of seed saving this past year and so my seed order won't be too huge. But it's still one of my favorite part of the gardening year. All the hopes and the planning and the dreaming, with no bugs, no dead plants and not a single failure in sight. :-) Plus, there's the added bonus that I know whatever I buy to plant will help feed my baby. And he doesn't know that veggies are icky yet. :-D Maybe he never will... :-P
I need to find seeds for a different carrot type, something that will store longer than what I grew last year. And I need to decide what type of potato I'm going to try and grow in my vertical potato experiment. Might try some new lettuces just to keep things fresh. And maybe a new squash, if I see something that might be better for baby food. Maybe a butternut or acorn. We'll see.

Speaking of baby, I've been sewing up a storm lately. Sheets and blankets are almost done, next on the list is bibs and diapers. I'll attempt to take a picture of the crib with it's festoon of blankets and post it here. Some things I save money on by sewing them myself. Sheets are probably not one of them.. but it makes me feel better than just buying them from China at Walmart. (course we won't mention the fact that a lot of the material I use is probably made in China... ) Diapers definitely do. More on this later as it deserves a post all it's own.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Still here

Yup, still here.
Things have slowed dramatically for winter. Winter will never be my favorite season, but I'm starting to appreciate the down time. :-)
My Winter 2008 cold frame experiment continues. Everything sprouted, and the cold frame does keep in heat. It's getting really cold at night though. So far everything is still in baby leaves. We shall see if I get anything to edible size before Jan. My hypothesis is that the frame will freeze solid in January. :-P
I'm impatient for my seed catalogs to start arriving. I know I've updated my mailing address with all of them at least twice, but part of me still wants to spam their websites with catalog requests until I get one in the mail. :-D
I've got the basic plan for the year already. My community garden plot is going to be 90% root crops. I didn't notice much vandalism this past year, but I did notice the 10 minute drive to get there is quite the hurdle some days. So, I figure if I put my root crops there, it won't matter so much if I only get there once a week. By my calculations I need to plant a LOT more onions, carrots and garlic, so having a space dedicated to only these crops will be for the best. I want to plant at least 100 onions. Dave and I go through 2-4 a week. I think 100 onions would get us by until green onions were harvestable in the next summer. The onion crop I pulled out this year, (42 onions) will run out towards the end of January. The garlic crop might last through Feb. I have plans to up the garlic planting to 50. (Hopefully all my seed bulbs are plantable.) 50 still won't be enough to see us through a year, but it's a small step in the right direction.
The rest of the garden will be mostly container gardening, which will take some planning, but not a lot. I'll probably just wing it.

Yule planning is taking up most of my thoughts lately. The bid for Austerity continues even through the holiday season. That means that I'm trying to make most of the presents, and being careful about how much gets spent. Did you know the average American comes out of the holidays with their credit cards 800$ heavier? My goal is to spend no more than 10$ per person. Maybe 20 on my darling. ;-) So far I have spices that I dried this summer, childrens books, extra veggie seeds and bundles of pictures from the handfasting. Mom and Dad still need to be found something. It always seems like they do so much for me, that nothing seems good enough to give back. It's not the case, and they don't feel that way at all, but it's my stumbling block every year.

In other news, baby is growing well. I've finally started to put pounds on the scale. I feel him kick and somersault every day. Sometimes I can poke him and he'll kick me. :-D Dave and I both talk to him and we can't wait until he joins us in person this spring.
The hunt for a midwife has been most unfruitful. The closest one I can find is an hour and a half away. All the others I've talked to told me they are full. I am really not excited to birth in a hospital. Call me crazy, but I'm healthy, baby is healthy, and I just don't feel either of us needs to be in a hospital for something as natural as birth. Sadly, it's looking like that's exactly where we will be. Dave and I have found a hospital that doesn't instantly raise our hackles, but I have lingering concerns. The biggest is being given no choice in labor positions. The other is being tied to monitors and schedules, with the ever present threat of C-section if me or baby lags behind said schedule. I know Dave will be there to help and that's probably the only thing that's going to get me into the hospital when it's time.
If you've never seen the documentary, "The Business of Being Born" I highly recommend it. It's nothing to do with labor, and everything to do with why American women labor in hospitals. Did you know America spends more on health care than any other nation, but our infant mortality rates are lower than any other industrial nation? And 1 in 3 babies are born by Cesarean in the US. I can't believe that all those C-sections are medically necissary.
Anyway, I'll get off my soap box for now. Watch the movie, Netflix has it, there are places online that carry it.

Stay warm. Stay frugal. :-) Try to enjoy the holidays.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Snow Flurries!

Well, I put the Franklin garden to bed today. It's nice and cozy under 2 inches of manure and an inch of hay and leaves. The collard greens I planted this summer are knee high and beautiful, but everything else is gone. I've got seeds in from all the tomatoes and herbs and lettuces. And while all the fencing and tools aren't exactly in the shed, they are gathering near the shed. :-D

So, I thought I would take a moment to update my blog. Write down some of the numbers before I lose them. :-)

First things first, my Riot 4 Austerity totals for September that I figured out a couple of weeks ago and never got into the blog. :-D Remember, there are 7 categories and the experiment goal is to try and get to 10% of the American average for that category.

Transportation:
Hubby and I are down to one car, and we've moved to the same town where we work. So instead of the 30 gallons per person per week (300%) that we started the challenge with, we are down to about 10 gallons per person per week which is right at 100% of the American average.
We'll need to figure out the bus system to get it down further.

Electricity:
We are down to 419 kwH per household per month. That puts us at 46% of the average. Still going down as we replace lightbulbs. Although, my darling husband is horrible about turning off lights. It might go up a little bit this winter just due to less sunlight. We'll see.

Heating and Cooking fuel:
Our best category right now. We used 4 therms for the month of Sept. putting us at 5% of the American average. Our heater is gas, so I expect this to rise, hopefully not too much.

Garbage:
We just got a scale, and yes, I weighed our trash output for a couple of weeks, we throw out an average of 10lbs a week. We recycle everything, and I split the organic waste between the compost and the worm bin. That puts us at 16% of the American average.

Water:
The water bill cycles in the middle of the month, but for the 32 day period between 8/17 and 9/17 we used 1870 gallons per person. That's 62% of the American average. There's canning in that period, and a handful of baths, both of which will be no more as winter moves in. It's possible we could install a low flow shower head and get it down some, but our shower is jury-rigged in the basement, and I'm not really sure how they got the shower head on there to begin with. :-P

Consumer goods:
Mainly clothes this last month. Dave started a new job and needed nice new pants and I needed maternity clothes. I guesstimated 50$ a week on all of that. The rest of the baby gear has all been used and I've probably spent about 20$ a week on that stuff. All told we ran around 27% of the American average.

Food:
Our food breakdown is still really good since I'm still fixing some of the last of the veggies from the garden. We still have a half dozen braids of onions and garlic in the cellar. The farmers market supplies our fruit and other veggies. We'll eat garden food all winter with everything I've canned/dried/frozen. :-)

And, using the food category as a segue, here is the garden booty for the last bit of Sept.
Yellow Summer Squash: 1.766 kg
Eggplant 463g
Black from Tula 1.09 kg (these really started pumping out big ones.)
Green Zebra 1.613 kg
Striped Roma 188g Finally! The first and only 3 fruits from this vine. Usually doesn't take until Oct.
Stupice 530g
Moonglow 682g Some really pretty ones.
Amish Paste 1.309kg Definitely planting this one every year!
Green Zucchini 1.878kg These just get way out of hand with all the rain. This was only 2 zucchinis.
Buran Pepper 41 g A lonely little pepper. I am just not a pepper grower. :-P

I got my cold frame moved and put back together half way through Oct. I had to find 12 more bricks to add a third layer to the walls. It was originally built on soil, but it's now on concrete and I needed to build it higher so I can put soil in it. I got seeds put in it on Oct 30th. hee hee.. yea I know. REALLY late. But, better late than never right? I'll just call it an experiment. My "2008 Hardiness Trials." I have beets, spinach and kale in there. The kale and the beets and one of the spinaches are up already. :-) I'm not sure how everything will do, but I'm excited to see what does happen. The frame works, it keeps things warmer in there.. who knows if it's warm enough.
Hmm.. oh and the bermed house construction has started! I'll need to do a full post on that particular project, but it's nice to see things actually going in the ground.

Well, this post was long and full of numbers. :-) No more today. Something more interesting soon, I promise.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Winterizing!


The name of the game this week is winterizing at my place. My place.. should I say our place? hee hee.. still getting used to the whole married thing.
I thought I'd never get around to it. But, finally, I'm down to the last plastic bag of tomatoes, and the only thing I want to add to the freezer is possibly a few bags of bell peppers. Seed collecting/cleaning/storing is well in hand, but that's an all winter project so I'm not worried about it.
So, with the mornings getting chillier, time to turn my attentions to winterizing. I did battle with the heater this weekend. Managed not to blow myself up, but it's definitely an old gas heater, so anything I can do to minimize the work it'll have to do will be all to the good. We're doing all the usual things, plastic sheets on the windows, space heater by the shower and checking attic insulation. We're also hanging fabric drapes on the windows in our bedroom and in the north facing windows of the dining room. My goal is to keep our thermostat at 65 or lower this winter. Eventually I'd like to send it down to 55 at night, but we'll see how that goes. I stocked up on wool blankets, and wool socks. I'm thinking about making Dave and me night stockings. hee hee.. if anyone knows of a good pattern for such a thing, let me know. I've joined up with Crunchy Chicken's Freeze Your Bunz challenge. Just to help with the challenges of keeping warm. Community support is always essential for these things. Chime in on her site if you want to join up with the challenge.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Making sense of the totals

Well, some more booty out of the Boone garden.
Black Krim tomato: 211g
Stupice tomato: 162 g
Green Zebra: 656 g
Amish Paste: 529 g
Hybrid: 244g
Moonglow: 317g
Eggplant: 191 g
Yellow squash: 477 g
Zucchini: 1.46 kg (This thing was literally the size of my arm, wrist to elbow)
cabbage: 296 g
Purple Green Beans: 41 g
Green Beans: 122 g

The squash and zucchini got grated up and the first 3 cups went into two loaves of tasty homemade zucchini bread. The rest of it got divided up into 3 cup servings and frozen for zucchini bread this winter.
I also tried my hand at a stew this weekend. I bought 1lb of beef and a handful of potatoes from the farmers market. Tossed in garden bounty: onion, green beans, garlic, herbs, carrots. It was VERY tasty.
I had a canning party Saturday. I sent out an open invitation to my friends, telling them what I was planning on canning and when I was planning on doing it. Two took me up on the offer. Brian and Mel got 7 pints of delicious salsa canned out of their garden. I got another 2 pints of my roasted tomato sauce canned.
I'm going to try and make a variety of the sauce tonight using my eggplants. Not sure if I'll go to the trouble of canning it. I might just eat on it for the rest of the week. :-)

So, making sense of totals. The idea with this blog and my garden journal was that when it came time to plan next years garden and order seeds, I could look at what performed well and choose appropriately.

So, starting from spring, and working towards fall, lets see if we can make sense of some of the jumble.
LETTUCE:
I planted Tango lettuce and Monoppa spinach in my cold frame in late March. They both did really well. I can definitely plant the cold frame thicker next year though, there was a lot of space wasted in it this year. Maybe instead of rows of seed, I can just evenly cover the frame in seed.
Outside the frame went the Forellenshuss (romaine) lettuce and 5 color swiss chard in early May. The Forell. did really well, but I'd like to see how it does with an earlier start in the cold frame. It did take a while to head up really well. The Swiss chard got eaten by birds I think. Maybe a scrap of row cover or something next year to protect the baby plants.

ONIONS
No more onion seed for me. That experiment failed. I got spindly looking sprouts that never got big enough to plant. The sets I bought from Earl May were healthy and vigorous and tasty. No contest there.

CARROTS
Carrots came up in early May. I planted Scarlet Nantes and was very happy with them. They are tasty, grew well and are keeping nicely in the fridge. I was told if I want something that will rootcellar over the winter I should look into a carrot that isn't harvested until fall. We'll see.

MUSTARD
So far a rousing success. I harvested lots of seed pods. I'm still processing them though, it's rather tedious. Might plant some more next year. Might not. We'll see.

BROCCOLI
I started from seed a variety called Romanesco, it has been healthy and strong all year, but stubbornly refuses to head. Could be too wet and cold this year. I might give it one more year, but I think I will add another variety more suited for Northern planting. The varieties I planted from Earl May did alright. About half of them headed. Taste was so/so.

CABBAGES
Did alright. They seemed to enjoy the cold wet weather at least. :-) I should have seed leftover so I will probably try them again. Every plant headed, but I think to do anything useful with them I"ll need more than the 2 or 3 I planted this year. Not sure if I"ll find the room for the 6-10 heads that would be more useful, but we'll see. I need to figure out ways to eat it besides coleslaw too. Some sort of kimchee maybe.

PEAS
Well, I planted two types, and I planted them WAY too close together for starters. I thought it would be easier to tell them apart. Course, I saved seed, but I'm not even 100% sure I got the different types sorted totally correct. lol. But, I gave it a good try. The yeilds were wonderful on both. Both tasted delicious. No change probably, just replant the seed I saved and focus on seperating the different varities so I can harvest them better. I think I ate a lot of the pod peas as snow peas.

ZUCCHINI
The Golden Zucchini has so far outperformed the Black Beauty. But, both were tasty and fairly prolific once they got started. I should still have seed leftover so I can see planting both again. They didn't ramble too badly, which was nice.

CUCUMBER
Crop failure on the Cucumber. Not sure if it was the flooding or what, but the little sprouts never got past the first few leaves. I think this is the second variety I've tried, and the second to fail. I might just be destined to not grow cucumbers. Possibly not going to bother planting any next year.

WATERMELON
Crop failure. The vine stayed at 2 or 3 leaves for months and only now has a decent size to it. No flowers no fruit. Might not bother to replant next year.

CORN
Flooding took out all the corn. No verdicts on which of the 5 types is better. :-P I never got the Bloody Butcher corn to sprout at all. So that one might be a bad batch of seed. I can see myself trying one more year on corn, but this is the second year I have totally failed.

SUNFLOWERS
FLooding again to blame for this failure. Brian and Mel mentioned a squirrel cleaned them out of sunflower seeds before they got any. So if I do try again I will try to come up with a bag or somethign to keep the squirrels out of my seed.

GARLIC
I picked 3 of the 6 varieties to try again next year. Based on growth habits and harvest.
German Extra Hardy, Russian Giant and Chesnook Red. The other 3 were either generally malformed and/or small upon harvest.

PEPPERS
Pathetic most adaquately describes my peppers. I think I just don't have the touch. I got maybe one or two scraggly peppers from 3 or 4 plants. Perhaps I'll just leave the peppers to the pros and Brian. :-)

BEANS
I'll replant the Empress Green bean and the Royalty Purple Podded bean, but the Cherokee Black and the Red Runner Beans were not to my taste. The red Runner Beans are really pretty and fun to grow, so maybe just for fun they will get another try.

TOMATOES
Clear winners seem to be Green Zebra, Stupice and Amish Paste with Moonglow following closely. Purple Cherokee and Striped Roman did as well as can be expected. They are always finicky, but tasty enough I might plant them again. Yellow Beams totally failed. Black Tula I haven't decided on. I only got 2 or 3 tomatoes off the 2 vines I had planted. Tasty enough, but hardly worth the space. With all the wet and cold, I'm loathe to judge too harshly, but space will be limited next year, so choices must be made. I can see taking garden space for 2 each of the first 4, but the PC and the SR will need to find homes in my container garden or something I think.

Well, there's the year in recap. The seasons almost over and I probably wont plant a fall garden, just cause I"ll be cover cropping and weeding heavily. Lots of tear down and setup too, getting the Boone garden reverted to sod and the Des Moines community plot under some sort of control in regards to the grass. Plus putting in veggie space around our rental house. So, no time for fall plantings.

Lets hope next year isn't quite so cold and wet. :-)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Canning and planning

Processing the tomatoes was a great success. Dave and I canned 6 pints of salsa and 2 pints of delicious roasted tomato pasta sauce. Our counters are now clear of the layer of tomatoes. Hopefully we'll get some more off the vines this month, but if not I might invest in a flat of tomatoes from the farmers market, just so I can make more sauce. Oh, the sauce was SOOO good. We oven roasted 3 pounds of beefy oxheart tomatoes. I can't remember the name of the variety but it's been producing fairly well. So, we oven roasted 3 pounds, cut in half with garlic and basil and thyme (all out of my gardens) on top. Then I tossed those into a skillet with an onion and a little bell pepper, more garlic and more basil, salt and pepper. An hour later the sauce was done and soooo tasty. 3 pounds of tomatoes and an onion condensed into 2 tasty pints of garden goodness. Completely free except for the water used in the canner and the olive oil.

I'm a little worried about the salsa, it was really really watery, and I think I used too many onions. It was definitely a rainbow, I used orange and green and purple tomatoes. We had a cup full at the bottom of the pan that didn't make it into the jars, so we put it in the fridge and hopefully we'll give it a taste test tonight. *crosses fingers* It was our first attempt at salsa, so we'll see.

Now, I have probably 9 pounds of summer squash and zucchini that I have to figure out something to do with them. I'll probably try to pan fry one yellow squash tonight, but that still leaves 6 or 7. Must do research. Dave has put in a vote for some zucchini bread. :-D We'll see I guess.

Have I mentioned it's nice to be home again? With both of us pitching in, the house is slowly coming back together. The kitchen almost has all the countertops back to usable. :-) Now if I can just figure out where to store my giant canning pots I'll be set.
Next on the house list is finally getting the bedroom put together. We need to get all the clothes figured out and into a place in the closet so that we can rearrange the bed placement to facilitate a crib. :-D :-D And then we need to repair computers and put the desk area into a state of organization.
Also on the todo list before first frost is to round up window treatments for all the windows. I'm looking into plastic wrapping most of them, with some having a second buffer of a wall hanging to stop any hint of drafts. Course that demands I find a way to keep Rienne from climbing said wall hangings. :-D (Something tells me razor wire isn't baby safe.) We did really good with only running the A/C a handful of days this summer. I'm hoping we can continue the trend this winter and keep things pretty cool to save on natural gas costs. Sealing up the windows and hanging wall hangings will help, as will some nice thick wool socks. :-) We'll pile on the blankets in bed, and me and baby heater will keep Dave toasty warm.
I also need to get my cold frame moved from Boone down to the new house so I can plant some fall greens ASAP. I'm hoping this one happens this weekend. I'll plant some spinach and some lettuce and maybe kale and swiss chard. We'll see what I have in the seed trays. With any luck I'll be able to pull some tasty salad greens out in October. But, realistically they should have been planted a week or two ago, so we'll see. I might not get anything more than baby greens. :-D

Seed saving is about to go into full swing. I've got piles of mustard seed and basil seeds staring me in the face. Thanks to my love of basil I have like 3 or 4 different varieties I need to keep separate during cleaning and drying and bagging. :-P Lettuce seeds are probably ready to harvest from this spring, and green beans are getting close. Gotta save green bean seeds, I can make baby food from green beans. ;-D

Anyway. Lots to do. More pictures will be up soon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Yay for savings. (And August recap)

Well, I've given 2 weeks notice at work.

That sentence looks so calm on my screen, but there was nothing calm about this past week. The short of the story is I didn't appreciate how my team was treating me. Whether or not the behavior was based on my pregnancy or my gender or just plain dislike, I can't say. I don't particularly care. I don't think it's too much to ask for courtesy and respect, and I'm not so hard up that I have to stay in a position that doesn't give me those basics.

So. Now I'm a 2 month pregnant engineer looking for work. In Iowa. :-D Fun.

The good news is even after a move and a wedding we still have a months worth of bills in savings. I'll have 3 more work checks on top of that. Plus, a whole week of vacation next week. :-D My parents, being the wonderful people they are, have already offered us the basement should "It all hit the fan." I figure even if I end up working at a grocery store we can manage to keep the roof over our heads. But, it's nice to know we have someplace to land if we fall.

My darling husband did a fabulous job of keeping up with the harvest out of the gardens while I was gone. So we have an additional buffer of an overflowing freezer and cabinets covered in a layer of tomatoes and squash. My stress relief for the next few days will be processing lots of tomatoes. Currently I'm planning a batch of salsa, (a healthy snack choice for me and tadpole this winter) a big batch of tomato/veggie sauce, and probably a small batch of stewed tomatoes.
Last night I froze up the last batch of peaches. Colorado peaches... Mmmm... in my honey and water solution. (1 cup water to 1/3 cup honey)

Without further ado, here are the garden totals for the month of August.
Cherokee Purple Tomatoes: 175g
Stupice Tomatoes: 76g
Moonglow Tomatoes: 551g
Green Zebra: 828g
Striped Roma Tomatoes: 182 g
Random Tomatoes Dave couldn't identify: 2957g
Green Beans:507 g
Purple Beans: 119 g
Basil (dried): 9 g
Green Zuchinni: 853g
Yellow Squash: 607g
Mint (dried): 40g (talk about prescience, I didn't know I was prenant yet, but I harvested armfuls of wild mint out of the garden and dried it to make a tummy soothing tea)

Total harvest for August out of both gardens: 6.9kg
15.2 pounds for those of you who prefer non-metric weights.
Not up to the poundage from July, but it's hard to win weighing tomatoes versus onions. :-D Density and what not..

So, let the processing begin. Anything not fit for storage will be eaten over rice or pasta in the coming weeks, ad nauseum I'm sure. :-D

Saturday, August 23, 2008

One plus one equals three!


:-)
As most of you know, Dave and I tied the knot a month ago. The thinking was, together we are stronger than we are separately. So, we've known from the start that one plus one equals more than two, we just weren't expecting physical proof of that quite so soon. :-D
I am happy to announce Dave and I are expecting a child.
:-D
I am sadly still traveling for work, and it's very hard to be away from him and the rest of my support network right now, but the money will come in handy. If we are counting on our fingers right, we overwhelmed the birthcontrol sometime during our honeymoon and our new addition will be born at the end of March, 2009. Just in time to greet new spring plantings.

We are both really excited, and frantically trying to figure out how to make all this work. It's frustrating knowing that the most my company currently offers for maternal leave is 3 months unpaid leave. I really don't feel that's long enough for me and baby, but with me being the primary income in the family, and my student loans breathing down my neck, I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to stay away from work. But, we'll figure it out I'm sure.

We're both in agreement we don't need to make this more complicated than it needs to be. I'm not sure when a new baby went from "clean out a dresser drawer for baby to sleep" to "get a bigger house, baby needs a room" but I'm not interested in following that trend. Baby can join us in our bid for austerity and living lightly and I'm positive she'll be no worse off for it. (In case you're wondering, I'm hoping for a girl, and Dave is mostly ambivalent.) We are also both in agreement that this is the only child we want to conceive. The human population needs to contract if it's to have any hope of living sustainably on this planet. That means if at some point we want another little bundle, we will seek to adopt. So, we will enjoy this experience, as poorly timed as it is. :-D We've put out the call to our respective families to help find a stash of cloth diapers and used baby clothes. I'm planning baby food into the garden for next year. And we're both really happy.

Not sure what else to write today, I've been away from the gardens for over 2 weeks now. Dave is bravely taking charge of them. We're getting lots of tomatoes and squash and beans. He's keeping up on the weigh ins and hopefully sometime soon we'll get together and I'll get this blog updated with some of those numbers. So, tune in next week for actual garden blogging and more my usual fare.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

July totals and the garden handoff




Ok, time to tally things up for the month of July.

Produce pulled out of the Boone garden last week:
Stupice tomatoes: 190g
eggplant: 250g
Purple green beans: 190g
Green beans: 130 g
Pole beans: 320

Produce pulled out of the Des Moines garden last week:
Kohlrabi: 390
Basil (dried): 13g

And... Drum roll please...

July Totals
Peas: 30g
Onions: 42 onions
Bush Green Beans: 1267g
Purples: 720g
Pole Beans: 593g
Carrots: 2528g or 2.5 Kg!
Garlic: 31 harvested
Kohlrabi: 1045g
Basil: 13g
Stupice tomatoes: 190g
eggplant: 250g
Green Sage (dried): 6g
Stevia (dried): 7g

Total produce: 6649 grams, plus the onions and garlic which weren't weighed. The average garlic head should weigh around 70g and mine were all good size, so we'll run with this number for now. That adds another 2170g bringing the total to 8819 g plus onions. If I convert it all to pounds it's 19.4 pounds plus onions. I have 5-10 lbs of onions. So, 24.4-29.4 pounds of produce out of the garden for the month of July. Not too shabby. :-D

I'm pretty proud of how well the garden was planned this year. The entire North row was harvested in the space of one week. The entire center row is going to seed. The South row is all still in production. This is going to make it very easy to hand the garden off to Dave this weekend. Instead of being overwhelmed by the care of all 950 square feet, all he has to worry about is the South row.

Yes, the gardens will be in Dave's care until October. We were planning on me having very limited time to garden in the months of August and September due to my job's busy time. "Very limited" has officially been downgraded to none. Due to a team member being unable to fulfill his travel requirements, I've had to pick up his travel. I've been told I'm leaving August 11th and I shouldn't expect a day off or home time until October 1st. Super. So, Dave is in charge of tomato, eggplant, squash and pepper harvest. I know he'll do fine. I honestly don't know what I would do without him.


We went out to the Boone garden yesterday. There was some slight hail damage to some of the tomatoes and one of my two pepper plants was broken off close to the base of the plant. Sadness. But, plenty of tomatoes for harvesting. We spent time going over the row and talking about what he'll need to look for and what he'll need to do. We tied tomato vines up and harvested giant piles of mint and mustard so I can try and process them before I leave. The mint is being dried and the mustard needs the seeds gathered out of their many pods. We harvested a pile of Stupice tomatoes. I'm really pleased with this variety. It's a strain out of Czechoslovakia and has hands down won the "Early" prize for my garden this year. I want to say I have 3 vines of it in the garden, and I've pulled out over a dozen ripe tomatoes this past week. The Moonglow variety had a ripe one, and the hybrid had a couple. My squash hills finally have one fruit set. Woot. Oh and the watermelon vine I thought was dead is actually still alive. Hee hee.. not sure if it'll get it's act together in time to put on a watermelon, but there's always hope. *Still* waiting on the Romanesco Broccolis to head. These things take forever! It's supposed to be worth the wait though. If they head while I'm away and I don't get to eat any of it I'm going to be pissed. I harvested the cabbage head and the pretty purple kale. I found a recipe for a soup with Kale in it, but I don't think we'll have time to fix it before I leave, I'm planning on just drying it and powdering it to make it into a healthy additive for soups. The cabbage head I'm completely in the dark on. I still need to research whether it's better to freeze it or leave it in my root cellar.

Anyway, there's the progress report. Hopefully Dave keeps up with the tomatoes and remembers to record data on how much he harvests. If not we'll just have to make up numbers. :-D

Monday, August 4, 2008

Busy-ness




Lots of busy-ness this last week. So, this post is going to be a little long.

The onions and garlic bulbs are curing nicely. They've been in the living room for most of the curing, our weather has been too unpredictable to leave them outside while Dave and I are away at work.

I harvested the second round of green beans last week. (yes, some are purple) I have harvest totals for the week, but they are... somewhere not here. The beans were wonderful, tasty and prolific. What more can a girl ask? I was eating them straight off the vine while I was picking them. My wonderful mother came over yesterday and helped me can. Even brought a few beans from her fridge and Daddy's garden. We ended up with 4 full quarts of green beans. Not too shabby. My first canning experience went well. Except for picking the hottest day in weeks to do it. :-P We got all four burners on the stove going and that kitchen got warmish. :-P But, we survived and I learned the basics of canning. I think I'm going to practice again soon with some corn. Not out of my garden, as all my corn was a bust this spring, but fresh and local corn is relatively easy to find right now.


My Stupice tomatoes (Stupice is the variety) fulfilled their promise of earliness. I have 3 little round tomatoes from those vines. I also harvested an eggplant. I'm going to combine those into a pasta sauce tonight with some mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. Mmmm... :-D

Mustard is very close to harvestable. I'm hoping to gather the seed pods this week and take them on my business trip next week. I expect long hours in a hotel room that would be perfect for the task of opening seed pods and collecting mustard seeds. It possible I'll have lettuces seeds to do also. They are surprising me with how long they are taking to set seed. Oh well.

A couple of my container garden basils are setting seed. I didn't get much harvested from them in terms of seasoning, but the seeds will be valuable and I can possibly harvest more leaves this fall if they bounce back from the seed removal. We'll see. I'll have plenty of herbs to keep me busy. Mint has taken over my kaput corn patch. Literally knee high bushes of mint. I'm going to harvest some to make into tea. I have a really healthy Stevia plant that I'll also dry and make into a sweetener. I'll get some Thyme, green sage and a bit of chives too if I can figure out how to dry them. If I'm on my game and have a bit of luck I'll get the first round of all those harvested and started drying before I leave.

I'm starting to think I'll need to hand pollinate my squashes. Still no fruit set. Not sure what their problems is. I wonder if I put too much compost in their hills and they are soo busy putting leaves they are just uninterested in procreating. :-) Lots of male flowers, so I could harvest those and fry 'em if I wanted. Not sure I want to though. I saw someone selling squash blossoms at the farmers market Saturday. She had a shallow bin with water in the bottom and the blossoms packed in tight with their stems in the water. They looked pretty. One of these days I'll get around to frying some. I want squash first though!

I think I'll harvest my cabbage when I'm out next. It's nice and big and the outer leaves appear to be very mature. I've almost got my root cellar area finished in the basement, so hopefully it can go down there.

We are starting to get bills for the first month of utilities in the new house. Hopefully we'll sit down tonight and look them over and I'll have some usage totals for my Riot 4 Austerity pledge.

I'll end with a picture of some of my farmers market tasty goodness for the week.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Here Kitty Kitty... part trois

Well step 3 has commenced on the kitty raw diet adventure. :-D
I bought a big bird at HyVee a couple of weeks ago. It's called a capon. Not sure what that is, but it was very bird like. I paid 16.81 for it, and it made 1400 grams of kitty food. I portioned it out into 13 days of food. That means I'm paying 1.29 a day to feed Rienne. Still a little high, but manageable. She was begging for scraps as I was preparing the meat, so I gave her a part of a wing to gnaw on. She did attempt to eat parts of the wing off the bone, but was a little put off by the complexity and bone. So, if I ever want to get her to eat prey or raw meaty bones, we'll need to work on that skill set. But, for now, she really enjoys the meat in large chunks, cut off the bone and she eats the organ meat without fuss too. So, we're two hurdles down at least. :-D

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Honeymoon Bliss

Wow, what a week.

Dave and I were handfasted on Sunday. We had lots of family and friends with us for the ceremony. Vows were exchanged, pictures were taken and lots of food eaten. Flowers, dress and 80% of the food were local. I made the best strawberry rhubarb pies from scratch. Daddy and Mom whipped up some tasty ice cream. Everyone left happy. I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. We danced around storms, power outages and Dave’s family being an hour late. And everything turned out wonderful.

We had a small honeymoon, from Sunday night through Weds night. We didn't really go anywhere, stayed home, watched some movies, ate leftover food and lazed about our new house together.

I did get in some gardening in on the honeymoon. Monday I went to the Franklin plot and attempted to reclaim the pea patch. I saved a couple handfuls of seed and got a good start on turning it into a plantable patch for the hairy vetch. I can’t believe how wet it is here. I had water in any hole deeper than 2” in the plot. I’m glad I spent the time to build my soil up, the people on either side of me had standing water in their plots.

I harvested Green Beans, Purple Green Beans and a couple of massive Kohlrabi.

Kohlrabi: 655g
Royalty Purple: 30g
Empress Green Bean: 135g

Wednesday I made it out to my Boone garden with Dave. Everything was lush and well watered. :-P The flowers were heavily damaged by storms on Saturday, but everything else appeared sound. I have tons of tomatoes on the vines. I even harvested one little red one, but I'm not sure what kind he is. (My garden journal hasn't been unpacked yet) :-P

I harvested all the garlic finally. It was definitely close. There are a few that might not cure cause they stayed in the wet ground too long, but over all it was a good harvest. I pulled out 31 garlic heads. The North row outperformed the South row hands down. I'll have to check my journal to figure out which types that would be. I damaged 4 or 5 as I was trying to get them out of the ground. Shovel cuts mostly, so those I cleaned up and cut up and they are now diced garlic in oil in my fridge. The rest of the heads are quietly sitting on a tarp in my living room curing. At least I hope they are curing. It's been raining since I pulled them out of the ground yesterday, so they can't go outside. *shrug*

I harvested all the onions. The tops were laying over on most of them. And, like the garlic, it was just too wet to leave them. So, they too are on the tarp in the living room, hopefully curing. Dave complains it smells "funny" in the living room now. hee hee...

While I was harvesting I grabbed the carrots out of their bed. Something was eating the tops, so I figured I should harvest now while I could still tell where they were. I got a giant pile of carrots. Not sure the best way to store them, some research will need to be done. I did set some aside and Dave helped me cut them up and put them in the dehydrator. So, at least some will be dried. For some reason I think they should be stored in damp sand in the basement, but I could be confusing them with beets.

We harvested from the bean rows too. All three types are putting out bumper crops. Must be all the rain or something. I was a good girl and tied yarn around the beans I'm saving for seed. Dave even helped with it on Weds. So, here's a picture of the harvest, and the totals.Weds Harvests from Boone garden
Purples: 500g
Pole Beans: 273g
Empress Green: 220g
Carrots: 2528g or 2.5 Kg!
Onions: 34 harvested
Garlic: 31 harvested

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

4 days till the handfasting!!


So, two pictures, one of the green beans, and one of the first 4 onions hanging in their braid in my kitchen.

4 days till the handfasting!! So much left to do. :-) I think we’ll make it though. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for Dave’s outfit. It shipped from the tailor on Monday. Hee heee.. eek. Definitely cutting it a little close, but barring any natural disasters it should get here by Friday. Except for a slight zipper malfunction, my dress is done and beautiful!

Dave and I went out to the Boone garden last night. I have lots of pretty pretty flowers for bouquets and such. A good chunk of my bulbs are blooming, I have a massive drift of wildflowers, and a couple handfuls of edible flower blooms. Perfect! I might need to go buy a bouquet of white flowers and baby’s breath just to balance out all the yellows and oranges that I grew, but that’s definitely doable. I have 5 huge vases from Valentine’s Days past, I’ll reuse those and I picked up some corsage bracelets and florist’s tape for a total of 5$. I’ll be using leftover ribbon from my dress to decorate my bouquet and the vases. I invested 50$ in bulbs this spring. So… 55$, 65$ after I buy the bouquet of white flowers Friday… $65 for wedding flowers. I’ll use every flower in my garden, and I’m seriously thinking about stealing.. er liberating.. some flowers from my office park median. It won’t be a fancy affair, but there will be flowers and I won’t break the bank. Not bad for 5 months of planning. :-)

While we were checking on the flowers we harvested 782 grams of green beans from one of my Empress bush bean rows, and 4 more onions.

The tomatoes are still stubbornly green. I’m starting to doubt they’ll be ready by Sunday. Oh well. No great loss. More for me to can when they do ripen. :-D

The garlic definitely will need to be harvested as soon as I can get to them. Even if I have to drag Dave out to the garden on our honeymoon. :-D

My cabbage appears to have stopped growing. I’m not sure how to tell if it’s done though. I might ask Dave’s mom when she’s here on Sunday.

The dehydrator was a success on the first batch. The strawberries are tasty, the blueberries are decent, (I’m not the biggest fan of blueberries to start with) Dave swears the banana chips are delicious. I don’t like how the peaches turned out, I might try the next batch of peaches with a pretreatment of citric acid and hope the results are more to my liking.

The Japenese Beetles are officially here. I saw my first handful yesterday. So, the row cover went back over the squash. Hopefully the beans can hold their own against the coming onslaught.

That's all for now.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dehydration, not such a bad thing

I walked to a garage sale on my block Friday. Best thing I did all weekend! I picked up a food dehydrator for 4$! 6 trays, 100% working dehydrator!
The bag of strawberries from my Daddy's garden was still sitting in my fridge Friday, about to become an embarassing slime ball. Now they are saved. Safely dehydrated, made my kitchen smell good all weekend I might add. Since I was running the dehydrator for the strawberries and it only has one setting (ON) I figured I should put more stuff into it, so I bought a couple containers of blue berries that were 2 for 4$ and I sliced up a couple of bannanas, and the last decent peach from my counter top. Between the strawberries and the last of the peaches, I was about to have 4 pounds of trash, so I was glad to save them.
The onions went in a braid on Sunday. I was fairly happy with the result. I'm still not sure how I'm going to weigh all of these onions for my records. I'm storing them in braids, so I'm keeping the stems/leaves on, but I'm not going to eat the stem/leaves, so weighing them as a whole for my records seems not quite right. I think I'm going to just harvest them, and keep track of the number of onions I harvest, and then as I'm eating them I'll weigh the first few and average out the weight and multiply it by the number harvested. Not exact, but closer I think than any other method short of taking the tops off of every last one to weigh it properly.
So, in the interest of keeping all records in the same place...
Onions harvested: 4
They look real pretty hanging in their braid in my kitchen. Most of the braids will go in the dark basement, where they will store better, but this first one might just stay right where it's at until I eat them. :-)
I'll try and remember to take a picture tonight and post it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Onions!


I pulled these monsters out of the ground last night. They are currently curing on my cabinet in the kitchen. That will work well enough for these 4, but not so well for the 30 more still in the ground. Research must be done to figure out the best way to deal with all these onions.

My pea and bean trellis has completely collapsed. :-( The last storm just knocked it completely over. Oh well, I'll do better next year. Luckily 2/3rds of my bean crop are bush beans and thus not dependent on something to climb.
I did harvest probably the last of the peas. 30 grams. The rest of them will be seed stock for next year.
The lettuces are bolting nicely, the romaine is about to flower, the spinach is setting seed.
The two broccoli plants that headed are already flowering. They are hybrid varieties, so it's not worth saving the seed, but I"ll let them flower just for the heck of it. The Romanesco varieties are still showing no signs of heading. They look healthy, so I'll just be patient.
My cabbage is really pretty, the head is a good 5 inches. I think it'll get bigger, so I'm letting it be.
The garlics are getting close to done. I think I might be able to harvest them the week after the handfasting. (Dave is yelling, "No gardening on our honeymoon!") hee hee So, I really need to get these onions cured and out of the way so I can cure the garlics.
I have a dozen tomatoes on the vines. :-D There's a chance a couple will be ready by the handfasting. Not sure what I'll do with them, but they'll be ready. :-)
I'm anxious about the flowers for the handfasting, some are flowering, some are not, hopefully I'll have a few nice looking ones in time. The wildflowers are doing fine. :-) There will be some flowers at least.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Here Kitty Kitty... part duex


Well, the raw diet adventure has begun.
I got Rienne moved to our new house. My other kitty, Demeter, will sadly not be joining us. He has taken a liking to one of my old roommates and would rather stay with him. C'est la vie.

So, to start things out and transition from dry food, Rienne got a couple days of canned kitty food. There was some hesitation on the first meal, she didn't know what to do with it at first, but when I hand fed bits of it to her she figured it out enough to lick the gravy off the portion. :-) She had wet food figured out by the end of the first day though. Seemed to really like it. So, two days of that, and then sadly a day and a half of dry cat food cause I ran out of the cans, and I hadn't cut up the chicken yet. :-P But, this morning, she got her first helping of raw chicken. She had a nibble last night when I was cutting it up, and seemed to really enjoy it. She didn't leave the kitchen the whole time I was cutting up that chicken. This morning... I sensed the same sort of hesitation that she had at the first wet food meal. Like she wasn't quite sure what to do with it. I tried to hand feed her some, but I didn't have the time to sit with her. I think she did nibble a few pieces down while I was in the bath, but it was hard to tell.
Most of the resources I found on this diet recommended leaving a serving out for only 30 minutes. So, when it was time to go to work I scooped up a large part of the portion and put it back in the fridge. I did leave her one chunk, in the hopes that after we left she would take the time to nibble some more. She also had a few nibbles of dry food left from last night. I'm hoping tonight I'll be able to sit with her and maybe cut up some of the bites a little more and hand feed a bit to get her used to the concept of raw food.
I am going to be keeping track of costs and such in order to do this as cheaply as possible, but I don't want to compromise on quality. I think this diet will get much cheaper when I can order in some level of bulk, but I wanted to start small. So, this first chicken was a local organic bird. It was a 4 pound bird at $3 a pound. I got it from the farmers market 3 miles away from my house. After cutting the meat off the bone and cutting up the gibblets I had 6 portions at 110 grams and 1 portion at 80 grams. I kept about half the skin, if Rienne starts to gain weight I'll keep even less skin. So, just to keep things on the same measuring stick, my 7 portions totaled 740 grams which is 1.63 pounds. I'm a little unsure as to how much Rienne will eat daily, but that should be at least 10 days worth of food. If I was buying her 10 days of wet food, at 50 cents a can, that would be 5$. Clearly the 12$ I spent on this 10 days worth is a little expensive. Although, maybe this is more than 10 days worth, I don't know.
On the plus side of the equation, I did steal 6 strips of breast meat for Dave and I to eat and I made a quart of really nice chicken broth with the skin and bones. It would have been nicer with my fresh herbs, but they are still on Dave's porch, they'll be moved tonight. Still, 4 cups of organic chicken broth is at least 4$ and the strips of breast meat would be a couple of bucks worth of meat. That puts me closer to breaking even. :-D
I have a cheaper bird in the freezer from Hyvee, it was only 2.25 a pound. Not sure what kind of bird it is though. It was between the turkeys and gooses in the freezer, it says "All natural, gibblets included Cabon." I have NO idea what a Cabon is. :-D The meat counter guy didn't know either. *shrug* We'll see I guess.
I want to try buying bulk pieces of chicken too. i.e. 10 pound packages of leg quarters or something. Those could be cheaper than whole birds. We'll see.
And of course, if she takes to the diet, I need to see about getting all the supplements to make sure she's getting all her vitamins. But, one thing at a time.

The garden is coming along nicely, I have green tomatoes on the vine, onions about ready to harvest, and a bunch of broccoli ready to harvest. My mustard patch has a BUNCH of seed pods set. I think I might actually get enough to make some mustard. :-D Both gardens have been a little neglected this past week, due to the move. I should remedy that over the next couple of days. :-D In all my free time.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Two goals with one stone!

I accomplished two goals this last week.
Goal #1: We are moved! I am now 6.75 miles away from work and Dave is living in the city where 75% of his work happens. That is an improvement. I was working out my fuel budget last night and I had to run the numbers 3 times because I couldn't believe that the numbers I was getting were right. I should use less than 10 gallons of gas a MONTH to get to work and back, and that's assuming I never ride my bike or the bus. Before I was using 10 gallons every 4 or 5 days to get to work and back. :-) We have a nice, clean, cool basement that I'm turning into a root cellar as fast as I can. I already have my kitty on search and destroy missions down there, but so far no mice. :-) I have a clean space to can food in. And a nice kitchen in which to cook from scratch. I couldn't be happier.

Before and after pics. We're not done yet of course, but the space is starting to look like ours.

Goal #2 Hypermiling of my car reached 40mpg!
My last tank of gas got an average of 40.44 miles to the gallon! :-) I've been hovering at 39.5 for awhile, and I guess the wind was on my side this past week or something. I don't have numbers yet for in town driving, that will take another month to trend, but I was really excited to finally get over that 40mpg mark. Honda Civic power! I like to think I don't drive so much as I creatively glide. :-P


Post Apocalyptic Book club reading #1: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein
As some of you may know, I've started reading for a book club. Not a normal book club, this one focuses on literature both popular and classic to explore the ramifications of peak oil and climate change on our society. Each month will have a different theme with 3 different books to discuss. This month the theme is "Classic Guy Doom." With the 3 books being The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Lucifer's Hammer, and the Wasteland. For a full run down on each month, see here. Join us for a month or two if something catches your eye. :-) Whether you believe all the premises or not, the discussion should at least be captivating. It's all online and open invitation.
I haven't quite finished tMiaHM, but I'll say a few words about it here.
At first I didn't quite get why this book was included. It's more of a text book on how to stage a revolution. Then I realized the limits the "Loonies" face on Luna, in terms of water, air and food, can be correlated to the limits we are facing with peak oil and climate change. Their solution to the abuse of those limits, namely the revolution, wouldn't work out as well for us here on Earth. We can't really revolt against the Mid-East, we've paid them good money to put ourselves in this position. We can't revolt against ourselves for buying into the SUV/suburbia dream. We are not a small colony revolting against a well-armed oppressor, if anything, we're the ones doing a lot of the well-armed oppressing.
Our solutions are not going to come from a few national leaders. There are too many variables and too many distractions at that level. Local solutions work better, local leaders will too. Just as the solutions for Luna won’t work for us on Earth, the solutions for Colorado won’t work for New York.
Local leaders, and local solutions to the problem will result in less violence. A series of local community gardens implemented in the next couple of years will do more to change this country than the entire Congress can in the same amount of time. The question Sharon put forward, “Why are we so blase about this?” is one I have asked myself numerous times over the past couple of years. Mannie’s perspective of odds helped me see it a little better though. I think most people run the odds in their heads and figure it isn’t even worth fighting. I think the problems are just so entrenched and so huge that people don’t know where to start, so most of them just don’t.
So, in conclusion, the book was an interesting look at the very real consequences of ignoring limits, but not terribly useful as a blueprint to the way out from here.

Monday, June 30, 2008

What a month...


Ok, this is likely to be a long post.

A storm took out power and internet at work Thursday morning, and it just now came back up. So, I spent lots of time in my gardens Thursday and Friday. :-) Lots of pictures, lots of harvest totals and of course the rundown on progress in June.
The picture above was taken on Thursday, you can see the continuing storms in the background. I harvested my first broccoli head. :-) Picture below. It's at least 6" diameter.
All my beans are blooming. The Purple Podded "green beans" are blooming in a pretty purple, and the Scarlet Runner beans below have their striking red blossoms on.
Harvest from the Boone garden:
Broccoli -- 336 g
Peas -- 151 g
Mulberries -- 173 g

Continued lack of power Friday meant I spent 4 hours in my Des Moines plot, doing some weeding and setting to rights. The heavy downpour on Thursday split one of my little kohlrabi. So, I harvested him even though he wasn't full grown.
Harvest from the Des Moines garden:
Peas -- 30 g
Kohlrabi -- 72 g


Saturday was pretty lazy. I ate strawberries from my Daddy's garden for breakfast. Mmmm...
Below is my container garden, at the moment. It will expand a little bit after the move this weekend, as I'll put a large chunk of my fall root crop in containers.

JUNE TOTALS FOR HARVEST:

Peas: 717 grams (some free)
Lettuce/spinach: 933 grams (free)
Garlic Scapes: 303 grams (free)
Carrots: 20 grams
Rhubarb: 131 grams (free)
Kohlrabi: 72 grams
Broccoli: 336 grams
Mulberries: 173 grams (free)

Not bad. :-) Maybe next month I'll get something harvested in the Kilogram range. :-) The free in parenthesis means the seed packet that produce came from has already paid for itself, or I harvested the produce from a wild plant.


Riot 4 Austerity Totals:
Sadly the whole month was spent packing and cleaning and moving, so not only do I not have any totals, I'm sure if I could look at them it would be bad. :-P But, all this moving and packing and cleaning is so I can be closer to work. So, as of next week I won't have a 40 mile commute, or a giant old farmhouse to heat/cool. I really can't wait. :-D It'll be interesting to see how my new living arrangements balance out with the wedding plans for the 20th.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mmmm, Frozen Peaches...

Dave and I froze 4 peaches last night from the bag I picked up Saturday at the Farmers Market. I got a bag of fresh Missouri peaches for 6$, 8 peaches in the bag. They are soooo good. I don't know about y'all, but when I go to the grocery store and I get a peach, they never taste like these do. They usually taste like some form of cardboard. So, I have resolved to buy 3 bags of farmers market peaches over the summer and freeze about half of what I get. So when I feel like a peach in November I won't have to settle for cardboard peaches from HyVee. I know I know, everyone reading this is like, "duh, Jennie." But, this year I'm actually making it happen. Last year I got as far as buying the peaches, but instead of freezing the extra I let them rot on the counter. :-D Baby steps.
We froze the peaches in a honey & water solution. The directions I got off the internet actually called for a sugar water solution, but Dave and I were out of sugar. So we fiddled with honey and water till it tasted about right. What we ended up with was the following.

Jennie's Frozen Peaches
4 fresh peaches
2/3 cup honey
1 cup hot water (I'm thinking I'll increase this to 1.33 cups next batch)

Mix honey and hot water together until all the honey is dissolved. Cool mixture in freezer for a couple minutes until it's room temp.
Slice peaches. I don't take the skin off of mine, but you can if you want.
Arrange peaches in 2 quart freezer bags, roughly one layer deep.
Pour half of honey water in each bag, trying to cover all the peaches.
Smooth out air bubbles and seal bag with as little air in bag as possible.
Keep flat in freezer until frozen, then stack like sheets. :-)

I've got snow peas, strawberries, peaches and rhubarb in my freezer. Last year all I had was rhubarb at this point. Definite progress. I'm excited to see how everything tastes this winter.
Tonight I should do something with the little green peas, they need to be shelled and either frozen or canned. And I need to make strawberry rhubarb jelly and can it. Then immediately clean and pack my canner so it can move down to Des Moines this weekend. :-D

This is my last weekend to move boxes, next weekend Mom and Dad come with the truck to move furniture. :-D :-D

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A nod to No Impact Man

Yesterday on No Impact Man he said something that struck a chord with me, so I thought I would write a little about it.

When I started the No Impact sustainable-living project, part of the reason I did it was because I was so skeptical that the politicians would ever do anything about climate change. I felt that, in the voting booth, whether you pull a red handle or a blue hand, you still pull a big business handle.

So I decided, if I wanted to do something about planetary stewardship, individual action through lifestyle change was the way to go. Of course, the big question was always whether the efforts of little old me could make a difference or not. What I discovered was that, if nothing else, at least I could make a difference to whether I felt I was contributing more to the world's problems or to its solutions.

... ...
If I try, if I make an effort, I may not save the world. But there is a good chance, at least, that I'll end up saving myself.
-No Impact Man
Everything I do on here, all my little experiments and all my little successes, they are not going to save the world. At best they'll make me healthier. If I'm lucky they'll help my friends and family be healthier. If I'm super lucky maybe my city will be a little healthier. That's it. That's all I can do. But, at least I'm doing it. I can wake up in the mornings and look at myself in the mirror and know I'm contributing to solutions.
Politicians are NEVER going to solve this problem. They will never volunteer their constituency to start the necessary changes. These changes are going to be way too unpopular. The cold hard truth is we as a nation represent 5% of the population and we use close to 25% of the worlds energy. The statistics on waste and pollution are just as bad. We need to use at the very least, a fifth of the energy we currently do. And that's assuming world wide availability of energy stays the same. Which I happen to doubt, and thus my goal to reduce my consumption to a mere 10% of what's normal for an American. Changes now while I've got the safety net of widely available energy are much easier than changes after the fact.
It's really come home this past month. I've noticed that rising food prices are not effecting me much. I've always bought organic milk and eggs. These don't rely on imported oil as much as conventional milk and eggs so their prices aren't going up. They're already a part of my budget, so I'm not having to retool my budget to make ends meet. Produce is getting more expensive, again since I've always bought organic produce, my prices aren't rising. With produce coming out of my garden and my commitment to preserving what's cheap and in season this summer, I don't expect I'll buy much grocery store produce till at least mid-winter. If I had waited till now, now when food prices are high, to start my gardening or my local/seasonal/organic diet, it would be 5x harder. But, because I've already got a good start on a sustainable diet I'm weathering the food price up tick fairly well. Do I feel I wasted money in the years before the conventional food got expensive? Hell no. I didn't have to worry about my spinach during the massive spinach scare, I knew the farm where my spinach came from. The same with my tomatoes during the recent e-coli scare. I knew which farm my tomatoes came from, and I talk to the guy who grows them every week or so at the farmers market. The step I took to wean my diet off of imported oil was better for my health, better for Dave's health, (only cause I cook for him) and arguably better for the health of my city because I helped keep that tomato farmer in business.
I see energy cutbacks soon for this country. It's just going to get more and more expensive and wages aren't always going to keep up. Why wait to make changes until I have to? Why not start now so that when I'm looking at 6$ a gallon gas, it's as I ride by the gas station on my bike.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer Solstice

It was quite the weekend. Fairly productive though.
Friday: Summer Solstice! The longest day of the year! A beautiful day. I was up early, done with work early and out in my garden by 5. All my hairy vetch is in bloom. Pretty purple blossoms all over the garden. Hopefully pulling in lots of pollinators, my beans and tomatoes and eggplant are all blooming too.
The Earl May broccoli is heading. No signs of heading on the Romanesco broccoli.
My swiss chard got eaten again. *sigh* What eats only swiss chard? It ignored tasty rows of lettuce and peas, and devoured the little swiss chard. I'll try again this fall maybe.
I brushed the dirt away from an onion, they are looking good. Slightly larger than golf ball sized. All healthy looking. :-) I'm hopeful.
Harvest:
83 grams of peas
70 grams of lettuce.

I made the garlic scapes into soup Friday. It was delicious. If you live in the Northern part of this country, you can still find scapes this week, but then they'll be gone for the year.
Here's my garlic scape soup recipe for those interested.

Jennie's Garlic Scape Soup
2 Dozen garlic scapes, flower trimmed off, cut into 1" pieces
3 potatoes, in 1/2" dice
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 cups veggie stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Saute scapes in bottom of pot in olive oil for 2-5 minutes.
Add potatoes and stock, cover and simmer for 20 minutes
Remove from heat and puree. (I just sorta mashed some of it and that was fine, puree is just a nicety.)
Season with salt and pepper, whisk in cream.

This was a super cheap, super tasty, fast meal and it was enough for 2 dinners for Dave and I.


Saturday: First Day of Summer.
I scored 3.5 quarts of strawberries for 8$. Some from my Daddy's garden, and some from the farmers market. Two portions are in the freezer, and a large portion is in the fridge waiting for me to find all my canning stuff so I can can up some strawberry/rhubarb jam.
Took lettuce and peas to my parents.
Mom and I worked on the dress some. It's going to look so pretty! :-)

Sunday:
Harvest: 94 grams of peas
Oh my.. the peas just won't stop. :-) We had super ramen for lunch. Lots of peas and green onions and the little baby carrots out of my garden. Sauteed in oil and soy sauce, dumped on top of tasty ramen. Mmmm.. :-) Almost caught up on peas after that.Got my seed box all organized and my new seeds for fall put away. I've got lots of good seed for stuff. I don't know if I'll ever get it all planted, but at least I'm trying. Right now my seed storage consists of a tackle box and lots of little plastic bags from the local bead shop. It seems to be working so far. It keeps things organized, it keeps it all together and it keeps bugs out. It's not ideal because sunlight can get in through the lids, but I'll wrap it in something dark and put it in the basement for winter and it'll be ok.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Scapes!


After my Soggy Garlic post, I've been watching the garlic, and good thing too. The garlic scapes were out yesterday evening. With hardneck varieties of garlic, the bulb tries first to reproduce by seed. So it sends up what is called a scape, it's a long, skinny, slightly curly flower stalk. If not removed in time it can retard the bulb development. So, now I've got 303 grams of garlic scapes in my fridge. (About 2 dozen scapes) I'm planning on making a garlic scape soup tonight. It's a lot like potato and leek soup, but instead of leeks I'm using scapes. It should be delicious. You can also mince them up into scape pesto, or course chop them and use in place of green beens. They get sold up here in the farmers market for about 5$ a dozen or so. Fairly popular. Not a bad bit of money for something you have to remove in order to get garlic bulbs. :-)
Other harvests last night:
111 grams of lettuce
129 grams of snow peas

The peas immediately got blanched and frozen in two servings. I invested in a large box of freezer quart sized bags for just such things. I had been using large tupperware tubs and that worked ok for the rhubarb, but I didn't see it working as well for things like corn and peas and green beans. This freezer bag method will work well for thawing single servings of things, plus they store flat like sheets in the freezer. I plan to reuse them. Hee hee... I used to laugh at my Grandma Buckley for washing and reusing ziplocks, but I'm definitely going to do it.

I've been paying attention to my water use this week. I've noticed in particular my urge to reuse gray water. Rarely do I have something I can immediately reuse it on though. For instance, last night I had a couple of liters of gray water that had been used to wash lettuce and then boiled to blanch the peas. It was cloudy with pea nutrients and dirt, but not bad water. If I had a large enough barrel or bucket or something I could save similar batches of gray water and use it to water my container plants. The bucket would need to be easily filled by bowls and pots, so a large opening is key. Probably air circulation would be good, to keep it from going all icky. Every few months I can imagine it'll need a light cleaning with some bleach solution. I wonder if I have a bucket like that around the house.

If you are confused about this talk of gray water, let me explain. When talking about water conservation in residential applications, there are three different types of water. White water, gray water and black water. White water is either properly stored rain water or municipal/well water. Safe for human consumption, sometimes containing trace amounts of chemicals like fluoride/chlorine. Gray water is water that has been used for things like rinsing dishes, washing produce, boiling food. Gray water can also refer to water that has been used to clean things, like laundry water, shower water, dish cleaning water, but the cleansers and soaps used have to be biodegradable and non-toxic. If toxic cleansers are used or petro-based cleansers, the water usually gets classified as black water. Black water is water that isn't fit for human or plant consumption. Toilet water or water with toxic chemicals in it. If you can keep toxic chemicals out of the water, black water can be sent through a digester or a clarifier, (think septic tank or marsh) and be nicely turned into gray water.

My goal through Riot 4 Austerity is to get my personal water use to 10 gallons per day. Right now my shower uses all of that in the morning. I still need water for cooking and water for drinking and water for laundry and water for bodily functions. :-D I have a plan though.
Our new house doesn't have a shower in the main bathroom. You have to go down to the unfinished basement if you want a shower. Needless to say, I think I will not be showering much. I think my time spent in India will be put to good use here. While I was in India, water was something that was trucked in to our village. I learned to shower and wash my clothes in a 5 gallon bucket every morning. If I go back to that method, that still leaves me 5 gallons for eating, drinking, plants and bodily functions. I'll probably still go over most days, but some days it will be achievable.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Double the fun

So, as mentioned in other posts. I have two gardens (plus a container garden). I take care of one in Boone, where I'll live until July, and one in Des Moines where I"ll live after July. The container garden is in Ames at Dave's house. I finally made it out to my Des Moines plot after a week of flooding. I expected to find devastation and was pleasantly surprised. :-)
Nothing dead, nothing missing and a nice harvest of peas to sweeten the deal!
Something, a bean beetle I think was gnawing at my green beans, turned them into some pretty lace. I couldn't see any beetles, so I'm hoping they are gone. The beans can still grow in the condition they are in. We'll see.
The kohlrabi looked fabulous, the tomatoes were healthy looking, the peppers too. The basil I thought was drowning a couple weeks ago has perked back up and looked good. All's well in the Des Moines plot.

Harvest total for Tuesday
90 grams of peas!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Buried in lettuce :-D

Yup, officially buried in lettuce. And it's wonderful. :-D The peas are delicious too. Peas are still one of my favorite reasons for growing a garden. Sweeter and tastier than any of the rubbery peas at the supermarket. I'll freeze some for winter, but most will probably get devoured.

Harvest totals Monday night:
176 grams of lettuce
60 grams of peas (Dave is yelling, "60 and a half!") hee hee

Gifts (trades) of lettuce are going out to my friends, Brian/Mel and Becky/Adam. Brian's trading me some fresh rosemary, mmmm potatoes tonight! And Becky is trading me use of her chain saw. Yup, chicks with power tools, you know you like it.

I'm happy I have enough to share. That was my sneaky plan behind the 1000 sq ft garden. Becky and Adam are trying to get their hobbit hole house built this summer out on the farmland. Neither has the time to tend a garden so I am glad I can send veggies their way. Brian and Mel are just sweet hearts and they've let me crash at their place to ease commuting costs, veggies are the least I can do.

I have a couple of really nice looking lettuce heads that I've left mostly alone, I'm going to let them go to seed and I'm hoping I'm able to harvest seed properly from them. Harvesting seed is the next loop in my sustainable living plan. It's fine to shell out 70$ every spring for seeds and harvest 500$ or more in veggies, but even better if I can save seed from the year before and start for free. :-) Last year I saved some seed. Peas, tomatoes, pumpkin, basil and sunflowers. They all were saved correctly and sprouted this spring. Sadly the pumpkins and sunflowers got rained out, but that's ok. This year I hope to expand my seed saving to lettuce, spinach, squash, peppers and beans. It'll be tricky with the move, but I'm hopeful.

I ordered my fall seeds last night. All of my seeds come from Seed Savers in Decorah, Iowa. I like that they save heirloom varieties and grow most of the seeds organically. Plus, I'm assured it will grow in my zone, because they grow everything they sell. I've converted a tackle box into my seed saving box. It's kind of a mess right now, with extra seeds in piles at multiple locations. My goal for this week is to get it all organized again before my new round of seeds comes in.