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.


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.
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! :-)

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


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.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Soggy Garlic, planning for fall

So, according to my garlic planting guide, I needed to refrain from watering the garlic after June 1st. Hahahaha... well I certainly didn't water them, but I'm thinking the 7 inches of rain we've gotten this month might be effecting my garlic. With any luck things will dry out for the next few weeks and maybe the skins won't rot off my garlic. *crosses fingers*
I planted 5 types of garlic this year. I thought it might be a few years before I had this kind of space again and I wanted to see what grew best. Up here in zone 4 I have to grow hardneck varieties of garlic. (For comparison, most of the garlic sold in stores is the softneck varieties, the picture above is one I've planted, notice the "hard neck" between the cloves) Two of the varieties, Music and Georgian Crystal, are small and slightly malformed. The other three are tall, sturdy and well formed. I'll do a taste test and storage test to make a final decision. Due to time constraints, (now is the time to order garlic for next year's planting) I won't have the taste test done in time, so I'll probably just order a couple heads of the three that are growing well and if one of them is really stellar in the taste test I'll plant an extra head of that one from the harvest.

The spring plantings are about petered out and the summer plants are growing quickly. If it's time to order garlic, that means it's time to start thinking about my fall garden. This year I want to try a fall harvest of turnips, lettuce and maybe radishes and carrots. The root crops will probably need to be in containers as my summer garden will be up in Boone and I'm stretching the forgiveness of my landlord to keep the garden up for August harvest after I'm off the lease. So, turnips and maybe carrots will be in a large pot. Beets and lettuce I could grow together in my cold frame which is mostly disassembled already, I just need to move the pieces and reconstruct it in Des Moines. It'll go on the south side of the house, pictured below. (the side with the concrete)
There's a shed just out of the picture to the left, so only half of the Southern exposure is really usable. I might put in a small tomato/herb bed under the mail box. Also not pictured is a HUGE evergreen tree to the right, putting most of that East lawn under deep shade. Most of the container garden will go on the sunny back porch. (West side of the house) The back porch is surrounded by a 3 foot strip of weeds on all 3 sides. I'll hope to dig those out and plant perennials this fall. I'm thinking rhubarb and strawberries and lilies and peonies and iris, with hostas in the deeper shade patches. Maybe a small rose bush, if I can find one small enough.
If you open the picture up to it's full size you can see the sunken windows for the basement that I hope to make a root cellar in to store all the fall harvest.

Lots of plans. :-) But, if you know me that shouldn't come as a surprise.
Move day is 2.5 weeks away!!
Handfasting is 1 month and 4 days away!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Cedar Rapids court house Thursday.

Another part of Cedar Rapids Thursday.
Above photos: (AP Photo/Steve Pope)

The flooding this week has been disastrous. Des Moines, Iowa City, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, all under water. Close to 10,000 people forced to evacuate their homes. Cedar Rapids is still without clean drinking water. Thousands of city blocks were claimed by the river.

Events like this remind me again why I want to have emergency preparedness kits. Right now the people in Cedar Rapids have no water, some have no gas/electricity and all are pretty much stuck where they are until the waters recede. All major access routes in and out of the city are under water. Hospitals have been shut down. How many of those people had the necessary supplies for something like this? Probably not many.

Amidst the chaos this week has brought it was nice to get in my garden this morning and put my little piece of earth back to rights. The wind is so fierce today I couldn't get my floating row cover back over my South row. It'll have to wait till tomorrow. My wild flower patch has started to bloom. :-) I managed to save 4 little swiss chard plants. If I can get those to grow to maturity I should have a nice replacement for the lettuce. Beans are growing fast. Tomatoes are taking a beating in this wind, but several still have blossoms and all are healthy looking. Garlic, Onions and Carrots have the same story. My broccoli has started to head. Mmmm broccoli. Squash is busy putting out runners. The watermelon vine is looking kinda splotchy, but I'm hopeful it'll put through. Mustard is flowering. I'm excited to see if I get usable brown mustard seeds from the patch. So far so good.

My pea vines are going gang busters. I did run into a slight problem as I had planted two kinds of peas close together. I have a shell pea and a snow pea. The harvest time is about a week different for the two, as one you leave in the shell and eat it with the immature peas inside and the other you wait till the peas inside are mature and split them out of the pod. I thought it would be easy to tell them apart when it came time to harvest... I think it's maybe not so easy. :-) Some were clearly one or the other, but there were a handful I just had to guess on. Hope I got it right, but I guess it doesn't matter too much either way.

Harvest totals today:
273 grams of lettuce, we've officially got more that we can eat. :-)
80 grams PEAS!!
20 grams baby carrots.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

In search of the wild rhubarb

Here's me tromping through the overgrown back half of Dave's yard. That's where the 5 wild patches of rhubarb live. Got the first mosquito bites of the season. It's amazing what every creek in the area overflowing it's banks will do to resident mosquito populations.. :-P

This pretty shot is my Russian Kale. I'm glad it looks pretty, cause I honestly have no idea what to do with it. :-D Hopefully I get that researched soon.

This is my beautiful cabbage! This thing is 3 feet in diameter. This is my first year with cabbages. I grew them from seed and I only have two growing this year, the second one is a couple of weeks behind this guy. I'm guessing the small little nub in the middle of it is where the cabbage head is growing.

And finally, proof of peas! This little guy peeked back at me when I went to inspect the peas. I have lots of tiny pea pods on the vine and loads of blossoms. *fingers crossed* Please no hail this weekend!

While I'm chatting about the garden, my tomatoes are looking great! Three of them have blossoms and all of them are looking super, nice green color, new leaves being put on, just great. Beans are growing happily. No casualties to rain or rabbits.
Garlic is still doing great. No signs of the leaves drying out yet so they must have a couple more weeks till they think about harvest. Course, with all this rain, maybe the little bulbs are rotting in the ground.. :-D Who knows... :-D
The onions are enjoying the daily rains. I want to get some mulch on them, but I'm worried they'll rot if I do that, so I'm holding off till the end of the month.
I thinned my carrot patch yesterday. Got several tiny baby carrots. :-D
The beats, sadly, are officially dead. Something ate the tops off most of them, and the rest flooded out with the rain. This is the second year I've failed at beets. :-P
The corn is the other casualty. The seeds rotted in the ground and the seedlings died in their tray inside because it's been storming every day since they sprouted.
I'm trying real hard to keep the okra alive in it's tray. It most definitely would not like the current conditions. I might just have to let them go and reseed new okra, and hope they're ready to go outside in a couple of weeks when things are dry.
My swiss chard suffered a set back this week. Something nibbled at all of them, so to keep that something away and protect the little remains from the pounding rains I transfered one of my cold frame windows over and propped it up over them. Hopefully that helps out a little.
Spinach is officially done in my garden until sometime this fall. I'm still eating off the last harvest of it though. Had some spinach with my eggs this morning. :-D

Well there's the news from the garden for the week. :-D Have a good Tuesday!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Mmmm... Turnips... and Soup!

I discovered a love of turnips this weekend. There was a pretty pile of them at my local farmers market and I was looking for things to throw in a soup. I nibbled on them raw as I was chopping and they were very good! They made an excellent addition to my Chicken and Noodle soup. I might try and grow some of these tasty veggies this fall. Apparently they are one of the easiest, most nutritious plants a gardener can grow. With both the bulbs and the greens being edible.

Jennie's Chicken and Noodle Soup (version: Spring 2008)
Chicken stock
Chicken leg & thigh
5 stalks of Celery
4 average sized Turnips
3-4 Carrots
Half an Onion
bunch of Green Onions
shell noodles

Put stock in large pot, boil chicken parts in the covered pot with enough stock to cover them, with the garlic, green onions and half the Thyme and Sage.
When chicken is done 20 minutes or so, lift it out of the stock. Add 2 cups of water and any remaining stock to the stock/spices mix still in the pot. Add diced carrots, turnips and onions, cover and simmer.
While the veggies are cooking, separate the chicken from the bone and chunk it. Add the chunks back to the pot.
Cook, covered at a simmer for at least an hour, more if you like. Add remaining half of Thyme and Sage about 15 minutes before serving.
When you add the Thyme ans Sage, cook the pasta in a separate container, following package directions. Drain pasta and add to soup right before serving.

Salt and Pepper to taste.

This recipe made enough soup for Dave and I to have dinner on it and lunch the next day. Super with some leftover bread. :-)

Harvests this weekend:
303 grams of mixed greens
131 grams of rhubarb

I'll have PEAS later this week!! I have a boat load of little baby peas on the vines, with lots more blossoms right behind 'em. :-) Mmmm peas.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Here kitty kitty..

The past couple of days I've been pondering my new commitment to Riot 4 Austerity. As I go about my daily routines I've been thinking about how they fit into the commitment and what about them (if anything) needs to change in order to reduce my consumption.
An interesting thought occurred to me yesterday, what should my kitty eat to consume less?

I love my companion cat. Her name is Rienne, she's smart, she's affectionate, she's clean and she plays fetch! Currently I feed her Science Diet dry cat food. My vet recommended it. She seems to enjoy it, she eats well and appears healthy, but I've noticed she's a tiny tiny bit overweight. I didn't think much of it because like me, she's been living in confined quarters for the past year. I did some research this morning and now I'm starting to wonder if her diet may be unhealthy for her. I'm a big believer in proper diet.
That begged the question, what's a proper diet for a cat? Cats are obligate carnivores. I am not. Come to think of it, as of this posting I haven't had meat in a few days. So my first step was to figure out what an obligate carnivore needs for diet requirements. Apparently, it means not only do they need meat, grains are mildly poisonous to them because they don't have the enzymes to digest them. The Science Diet dry cat food I've been feeding her has "Chicken By-Product Meal" followed by a whole host of grains. Eek! The lack of meat is made up with a lot of additives and supplements. To make matters worse in my mind, the "food" is stored in warehouses and shipped all over the country, in who knows what temperature, degrading the nutrients even more before it ever gets to me and Rienne. Completely unacceptable.
Frustratingly, a lot of the resources I found online were unsubstantiated claims, often contradictory to other unsubstantiated claims. This made it difficult to find accurate information on how to go about a whole foods diet for Ms. Kitty. Eventually I did find a site up to my standards. Footnotes referencing studies and research papers backing up logical intelligent claims. This page has all their articles including 12 chapters explaining the hows and whys of a raw meat diet. They even have an article on how to can the cat food. :-D I was immediately enamored with the site.
The cost of a whole foods diet works out to the same price as or a little cheaper than a store bought diet. This site works out some of the math so I'll spare you the calculations here. There is a weird formatting error on that last site, so I lost the last sentence of every third paragraph, but the information was still really good.
This site was written by a lay person, not a vet, but I really liked her straightforward way of presenting her findings on switching her cats to a raw food diet. She even has a pictorial of how to make the food. :-D
There are a couple of books I want to check out before embarking on this journey with my cat, including Michelle Bernard's book, "Raising Cats Naturally." And it's definitely going to be something we ease into so it's happy for everyone involved, but I think it'll be healthier in the long run. She's been exposed to meat, all of her obedience training was done with raw meat. So I'm hopeful the transition can be accomplished with a minimum of fuss.
I see a whole, raw food diet being much simpler to keep up in the coming era of limited energy. Instead of her diet being dependent on the giant oil driven transportation network and petroleum based supplements it'll be dependent on local healthy meats just like my diet.

Links from above:

Monday, June 2, 2008


So, it has come to my attention this morning that my goals are hazy at best. Admirable, but hazy. To remedy that situation I have joined Riot 4 Austerity. Their goals are to document the successes and failures of individuals and families attempting to reduce their consumption to a mere 10% of what the average American consumes. In order to track my progress I will attempt to calculate out my baseline consumption, (what I consumed from June 1st 2007 to June 1st 2008) so I'll have something to compare it to next June. I'll be using the Riot calculator available on their site. They skew some of the numbers on consumer goods, letting you use a reduction on your numbers if you buy used or locally made, but most of the calculating is just straight numbers.
Fuel: I use about 25 gallons a week. That's 261% of the Average American. Eek. Good thing I'm moving at the end of this month. The only thing saving my budget is my nice little car getting 38 mpg.
Electricity I just can't calculate right now. Between my place and Dave's place, my roommates running computers constantly, my grow lights this spring for seedlings, food in both refrigerators at one point... I have no clue. I'm up on the CFL's and lights don't stay on for no reason... I'll just assume I run about average. And go from there.
Heating and cooking fuel I'm probably way over average, between Dave's house having a giant hole in the roof and the farmhouse leaking like a sieve I probably used my fair share. Neither house was kept balmy, but figuring out my portion of it would again be a nightmare.
Garbage I'm a little light on. I'm putting a high estimate of 20lbs per week in the calculator and it's telling me I'm at 63% of an Average American. Between the worm bin and the compost pile, all my organic trash gets eaten. I've been avoiding heavily packaged food for years now, and Dave and I recycle what we can and try to cook from scratch.
Water I think I'm a little light on too, I put in an estimate of 50 gallons per day. I take a 10-15 minute shower which is 20-30 gallons of water, add in 5 flushes a day at 3 gallons per... some light hand washing of dishes... I don't wash my car, or my cat. I don't water a lawn. I hand water my garden, so in the peak of summer, maybe another 30 gallons a week. Again, between me at Dave's house and the plants at the farmhouse, that's too many roomates and too many variables to figure out my share. I think I'm a little light of the average currently. :-) We'll go from there.
Food wise, I'm a bit heavy on the wet/processed/non-local goods still, but my bulk unprocessed is at the right level. And my local isn't too far off. If I can eat out of my garden this summer that should get really close to the goal levels.

I'm excited to see how far I get in a year. If I can get down to 10% on a few categories I'll be happy. If nothing else it should be an interesting experiment.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

May Totals

Drum roll please....
For the month of May, I harvested 834 grams of produce. 520 of that is rhubarb, with the remaining 314 from lettuce.
Now, you might be saying, that's not much produce. It's not even a full kilogram. But, that's enough for salads at every other dinner for two people for most of the month of May. Plus a couple of tasty rhubarb deserts and a lot of frozen rhubarb. Close to 3/4 of that produce was free. Not too shabby. All my lettuce packs have paid for themselves, and they are still going strong.

To start off April, I harvested some more lettuces this afternoon. 150 grams of mixed greens. Tasty, tasty free lettuce. Most of that harvest is again just thinnings, with everything still producing strongly. I'll need to start watching for signs of bolting if we get into a spate of hot weather. If I have to harvest everything to keep it from going bitter in heat, everyone I know is going to get some salad lettuce. :-D

The picture today is a picture of the romaine lettuce I'm growing and harvesting right now. It's tasty and pretty. Gotta love heirlooms. It's called Forellenshuss. Which is Austrian for speckled romaine. :-D