Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chiquita Banana Habit

As a nation, I believe we need to take a close look at some of our habits. Some of these habits we really need to lose, to help both the environment and our debts, personal and national. So, for the next few days until something more exciting happens in my garden, I'll be talking about some of these habits I worry about.

The Chiquita Banana Habit
This is what I like to call our year-long love of exotic fruits. Kiwis in mid-December, pineapples and bananas flown in a constant stream from countries near the equator, etc. The petroleum consumption on these fruits is staggering. The simplest fix? Learn to love local fruits in season. Spend a year going to the farmers market every week, learn the cycles of the fruits and how to best preserve them. Scared of canning? You can do wonders with a 30$ dehydrator and some ziplock bags. Spend June gorging on strawberries, spend July stuffing yourself with blueberries, August buried in peaches and get your apple a day in September. Preserve some of the overflow and eat those during the winter until rhubarb is ready in the spring. Your money will stay in your own community, and it lessens our dependence on both foreign oil and foreign foodstuffs.
Better yet, grow some of your own fruits. Strawberries are pretty easy to take care of, and most gardeners with an established bed have to give away strawberry starts every few years when their beds need thinning or containing. I get all my strawberry starts that way. (Thanks Karen!) A single fruit tree, when properly chosen for your zone can yield bushels of fruit reliably for years.

Anyway, think about it at least and the next time you're at the store reaching for that peach from Chile, maybe give yourself an IOU for a Missouri peach in August and reach for a locally grown apple instead.

Next installment in my habits discussion: The Habit That's Driving us to the Poorhouse.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Low Impact Baby update

Well, I posted a lot about baby stuff before Rowen was born. Plans and goals and such. He'll be 4 months this week. I thought it might be a good time to revisit the goals and plans and share with y'all how we're doing.

The cloth diapering has been going really well. When we lived in the house with no washer, Rowen and I would load the wet bag full of dirty diapers into the stroller and walk to the laundry mat every other day. It was a little over a half mile to the laundry mat, so it was perfect exercise during my postpartum period. Most of the time I line dry the diapers in the front lawn. As I predicted, Rowen only spent 6 or 7 weeks in the newborn diapers. I'm very glad I didn't waste any time making him stuff for that size. Once he hit 10lbs the diaper covers I made for him started fitting. Last week I officially retired those and we are using the next size up diaper covers that I've been making since he was born. I have been really really happy with those covers. I've made them all out of PUL material and fold over elastic (FOE), some I've put a cute cotton print on the outside of. I haven't had any problems with leaking from any of them. The pattern was free, and I have enough material to make a half dozen of each size at least.
For his next size up I think I'm going to make him some velour prefolds. I made one as a trial in the size he's in now, as well as one made of terry cloth, and I have really liked the velour one. It comes off the drying rack much softer than the regular cotton prefolds. It was a pain to make, so I don't think I'll make him a lot, but I think I'll make him 4-6 of them. It makes me happy that I have fitteds for him in that material already made. They should start fitting soon.
So far, making and using cloth diapers has been a huge success, very doable, and the money savings makes it worth the time.

Other cloth items I made that we've been using include cloth wipes for Rowen, cloth menstrual pads for me, the wet bags and the diaper bag.
The wipes are holding up well. In case you don't remember, I put hemp terry cloth together with flannel for 4" square and 5" square wipes. They were a little hard to air dry until my Grandma DeeDee brought me some nifty drying-clippy-hanger-things. Anyway, I keep a water bottle by the changing table and just wet the wipe with plain room temp water and it does it's thing. There have only been a couple of times when one wasn't enough, and nothing that two couldn't handle. One of these days I'm going to make another dozen of them and replace toilet paper with them.

The mommy pads worked really well during my postpartum period. I am never going back to disposables. Cloth pads are softer, more breathable and less smelly than disposables. And, of course, they saved me money. I do need to find a more elegant receptacle for them than the bucket I was using. I've seen pottery jars that I think would work well, some even designed for the task.

The wetbags have been wonderful. I have two large ones that I switch back and forth between and a small one for the diaper bag. All are still looking great and working well. The large ones just hang on the side of the changing table and they do a pretty good job of keeping the stink down, even though I rarely zip them closed between changings.

The diaper bag has pleased me as well. Dave complains that it's "too small." I think it's perfect. :-D :-D

Home-made is really working out for me, so I tried my hand at baby food this weekend. I had a whole bunch of plump peas and juicy carrots from the Franklin plot. I shelled the peas, diced the carrots and steamed them together for a few minutes. Then I tossed them in the blender with a little bit of the hot water and pureed it. I froze the puree in a spare ice cube tray for easy portioning. Now I have ten servings of organic peas and carrots! For free! I tasted it and it's pretty tasty. For baby food. I want to look into making some from sweet corn, and green beans and squash. Ooh and Peaches. Dave's mother just sent me some recipes, if I try them out, I'll report back.

All in all Rowen is styling in his homemade eco-friendly cloth. He seems pretty happy, no diaper rashes to speak of, no leaking during naps, what more can a baby ask for? :-D We'll continue with the low impact baby, and I'll report back when I have things of interest.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Year and a Day

I always told my parents I wouldn't get married. I knew I would go to college and I figured I wouldn't need a committed relationship to have a comfortable stable life. Plus, I was never happy with the fact that I could marry the man of my dreams but one of my best friends couldn't marry the man of his dreams. I figured when I left the Christian religion it was the nail in the coffin for any chance of marriage.

Today Dave and I mark our year and a day as a handfasted couple. Traditionally for this custom, today would be the day to walk away if we thought the whole thing was a bad idea. Or, alternatively, re-knot the handfasting cords and make the bindings permanent.

A year ago I wasn't sure what I wanted to do on this day. Court battles over who was allowed to marry who were being fought all over the country, including my state. For a brief day in August marriage was allowed between same sex couples, then poof! Gone again pending an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court. Finally, in April, the court made it's unanimous ruling and upheld the right of same sex couples to marry in this state. I have never been so proud to call myself an Iowan.

After that day, there was no doubt in my mind what I wanted to have happen today. I knew that I wanted to be married to Dave. I didn't need a ceremony or witnesses, and luckily Iowa recognizes common law marriages, so we don't have to have a ceremony or witnesses. For one year we've lived together, paid taxes together, had a baby together and called one another husband and wife. We're still not changing anyone's name, but legally we are married now, and I couldn't be happier or more in love.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Patatas tres

Ok, an update on the Potato Trials 2009.
I have two varieties planted in a 12ish foot row in my East Downtown Plot. A red potato, Desiree, and a Yukon Gold potato. I forgot to write down where I planted them, so I'll have to wait till I dig them up to find out which is which. But, the one in the South half of the row is significantly larger than the other. Also, the flowering was really bad in the North half, I only saw about 10% of it get flowers. That's kind of worrisome, since my book says that's when they are setting potatoes.
I did get them hilled up a few weeks ago, and wow was that a chore. It took 3 wheelbarrows of compost to get it done. I think if I ever plant potatoes in the ground again I'm going to dig a large trench and plant the potatoes a foot down, then just fill in instead of hilling up.

Record Low Temp

Just an update on what's coming out of the gardens this week.

4 Cucumbers
4 Zucchini
2 eggplant
3 Kohlrabi
2 dozen garlic scapes

We are setting record lows today and tomorrow. We are barely going to get over 70. My tomatoes are looking at me like I'm crazy, and my green beans are about to give up in disgust. The onions and Kohlrabi are loving it, although I'll never get my onion and garlic crops to cure right if we don't get some hot dry weather soon. Hmmm, if I was being really nice I could layer some of my floating row cover on the hot weather plants just to keep them warm, but the 70 degree weather isn't going to hurt them that much. On second thought, Japanese Beetle season is almost here isn't it? I should look that up. I like to cover my vines before the beetles get out in force.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wild Food

Baby and I were walking home from the grocery store yesterday and we saw a doe with triplets! All three little fawns were still in spots, and they were all following their mom across the bike trail and into the adjoining woods. I looked it up on Wikipedia and white tail deer can have triplets about 10% of the time. Needless to say, they were adorable.
That same trail has a surprising amount of wild food growing along it. I picked wild raspberries for about 10 minutes and ended up with a quart of them. I can remember berrying as a child with my family in Texas. Someone, I think my aunt, knew a guy with a pasture that had berries in it, and we'd load up buckets and cousins and vans and go pick berries. I probably haven't picked berries since that summer 15 years ago. But, I still remembered the tricks to it. A pleasant walk, all things considered, and the berries will be tasty in some oatmeal.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Yay!! I have scapes! Some of you may recall I planted my garlic early this spring instead of the recommended fall planting. Hardneck varieties of garlic will put up a flower stalk called a scape, and in order to promote bulb formation those scapes have to be cut off. My farmers market friends had scapes a couple of weeks ago, I was starting to think I wouldn't have any. It was quite a relief to see them yesterday.

Produce out of the gardens this past week:
4 yellow zucchini
1 black zucchini
6 kohlrabi
3 onions
basil, oregano, sage

We'll be having Pureed Kohlrabi tonight. And I'm going to try and get the last of the peas cooked into baby food then frozen.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Eating More Turnips

Part of eating locally is adapting to the foods that actually grow in your region. As Sharon says, "Grow what you eat and eat what you grow."
Root crops were not a huge thing in my family growing up. We lived in Oklahoma, it's so hot and dry there, I don't even know if you can grow a decent beet or turnip in that state. It was much easier to live off the okra, tomatoes and beans that thrived. So, now I'm living in zone 4 Iowa and okra is kind of a gamble most years. I keep getting bumper crops of root veggies that I don't have any familiar recipes for. These crops will grow even in late fall/early winter up here, so they're a great way to extend my garden harvests, but I have been scrambling to find ways to eat them.

Then today I was thinking to myself, "Self, there may be others out there who need root veggie recipes." So, here are some of the ways I'm eating root veggies right now.

Turnips can be snuck into soups. I'll be honest, I don't care for the taste of turnips, so I just hide them in things. Last night I snuck one turnip into my Garlic Scape and Potato soup. Turned out delicious and as required, I couldn't taste the turnip. :-D

Carrots I've been putting in everything. Soups and salads are pretty obvious. But a couple weeks ago I had some leftover grilled squash and carrots from a grillout. I made up a tomato sauce and tossed the squash and carrots into it. On some tasty whole wheat pasta, the carrots fit right in.

With beets I like a nice borscht. If you've never had fresh borscht on a cool fall day, you're missing out. It's a Ukrainian soup made primarily of beets. Sooo good.

Don't forget, beets and radishes and kohlrabi and turnips all have edible greens. If you're a seed saver and you find yourself with an overabundance of these, try sprouting some on a windowsill as a nice fresh green in winter.

If you're up in my neck of the woods, try a nice fall crop of root veggies this year. Plant the seeds in a few weeks, end of July-ish. They'll actually taste better after the first frost.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Another wet spring

Well, apparently Iowa wasn't the only one with lots of moisture this year. I'm reading reports of Late Blight in the NE part of the country. Apparently there was a huge lot of tomato starts that went out to chain stores infected with Late Blight.
So, for all you tomato and potato growers out there, even if you aren't close to the NE part of this country, check your plants for Late Blight signs and properly dispose of any diseased plants. This disease was responsible for the Potato Famine in Ireland.

More info:

Things are growing great in my gardens. The West bed of the downtown plots has lots of flowers on my green beans. I seeded a row of carrots in between two rows last week, that's the 2nd planting of carrots for this season, I want to try and do one more in a week or two so I can have a late fall harvest. Hmm, oh the 2nd planting of green beans that I tossed in that plot are sprouting. Hopefully they will set beans after the first plantings have slowed down.
The East bed of the downtown plot has flowers on the potatoes. According to my little book, that means that the potatoes are forming under ground. I did get them hilled, but I think I'm going to need to do it again this week. My hills of cucumbers, squash and zucchini are all getting big. Lots of flowers, I'll probably harvest zucchinis this week. I also transplanted in a dozen or so strawberry starts. They are June bearing, and I got them free from one of my mom's work friends who was trying to tame her strawberry patch. Hopefully the rain we got this weekend will help them settle in to their new home.
The Franklin plot is about to need an onion harvest. They are looking soo big and healthy. I'll probably harvest the first few this weekend, but most of them need a couple more weeks to really bulk up. I still don't have any sign of scapes from my garlic. The plants are big and healthy, with lots of leaves, so surely garlic is forming under the ground, they're just not interested in putting on scapes I guess. The first carrots are starting to form. Still very small and at least a month away from harvest, but looking very healthy. The kohlrabi are doing fabulous. I'll harvest the first of those this week and have at least a couple a week for the rest of the summer. Tomatoes are growing well, as usual with the wetness, the Green Zebra is the healthiest, it's already got flowers and the others are just starting to think about it.
My containers are doing well too. Dave and I ate the first eggplant from my container-grown eggplant on Friday. I made a pasta sauce with it, it was pretty tasty. The great thing is I have 4 more eggplant fruits set on the bush, with another half-dozen flowers. I am definitely going to grow my eggplant in a container every year. It's huge, happy and productive, plus the flowers are pretty, and it's right on my back porch. Couldn't be happier with this experiment. The pepper plant has a pepper set, the tomato is happily growing, the herbs are all tasty. I'll have radishes to harvest soon, maybe a week or two.

All is going great. I love eating out of my gardens, it's so much more personal, eating food that I've grown.