Wednesday, March 31, 2010

1 year

Today is Rowen's First Birthday. :-) I can hardly believe that it's been a year since he was born. It seems like just yesterday we were bringing him into this world and into our lives.
He is now totally weaned, just last week he stopped wanting to breastfeed before bed. *sigh* I know I'm going to miss it, but I'm glad he got boob juice for as long as he did. He's eating solid food like a champ, he loves onions and my home-canned carrots and peas and corn, pasta and red sauce is always a hit, and oatmeal in the mornings is a constant. He's still fearful of walking without support, but I can see his first steps coming. He loves his Daddy, with the word "Dada" as his most said word so far. "Kitty" is his other word, and not surprisingly he plays often with the kitty, sharing his toys most days.
We continue to aim for low impact, most of his clothing is second hand, from either my cousin or the consignment shop. It's worked really well so far, so I don't see it changing anytime soon. He's still in cloth diapers, and we're happy to have sunshine and warmer weather for line drying again. Those diapers were looking a little grungy by the end of winter. :-D We don't buy him much in the way of pre-made snacks, both to avoid the excess packaging and the excess sugars. So a lot of his food is either fresh fruit or bulk bought organic yogurt, oats, etc. I can't wait until the garden starts producing. It'll be great to introduce him to fresh veggies.
We'll have a small celebration tonight, I'm thinking homemade carrot cake and maybe some icecream. I'll probably invite some of the neighbors over, there have been a couple that we've already met and visited with, one in particular has brought us baked treats and so a return gift of carrot cake would be in order. :-) I'l post the requisite baby-eating-cake picture tomorrow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Independence Days 1

Astute readers may have noticed the new icon on the side of my blog. Independence Day Challenge.
The challenge is being sponsored by Sharon Astyk, over at Casaubons Book. The idea is that no one can do everything all the time. Independence is hard and can be overwhelming. But, everyone can do a little bit sometimes, and those little bits can add up to make Independence Days. Sometimes its easy to discount the little things, so this challenge helps to remind us that those little things DO make a difference.
All of us need to devote some energy to fighting battles that will probably be lost, simply because we have an obligation to fight the good fight. But most of us can’t live on a steady diet of tilting at windmills. We also need to do work where we know we can accomplish something and where we know we matter. That’s why I think food preservation and storage matter so much. Ultimately, we are talking not only about the fairly manageable question of what to have for dinner, but also about about transforming our society, our use of energy, our food culture, and, of course our culture as a whole.” -Sharon

The name and the inspiration came from the late, great Carla Emery. She was the author of _The Encyclopedia of Country Living_ . She saw the traditional ways disappearing, and she recorded them, and built upon them until by reading her book you can learn to make a BLT that starts with a piglet, a tomato seed and a field of wheat.

She wrote about Independence Days: “All spring I try to plant something every day – from late February, when the early peas and spinach and garlic can go in, on up to midsummer, when the main potato crop and the late beans and lettuce go in. Then I switch over and make it my rule to try and get something put away for the winter every single day. That lasts until the pumpkins and sunflowers and late squash and green tomatoes are in. Then comes the struggle to get the most out of the stored food – all winter long. It has to be checked regularly, and you’ll need to add to that day’s menu anything that’s on the verge of spoiling, wilting or otherwise becoming useless.


People have to choose what they are going to struggle for. Life is always a struggle, whether or not you’re struggling for anything worthwhile, so it might as well be for something worthwhile. Independence days are worth struggling for. They’re good for me, good for the country and good for growing children.”

So, there's the gist. Every week or so participants in the challenge write down their accomplishments, organizing them into seven categories:

1. Plant something

2. Harvest something

3. Preserve something

4. Waste Not

5. Want Not – This is the category where you report the stuff you’ve done to get ready that isn’t growing/storing/preserving food. That means the food you buy for storage, the things you build, scavenge, rescue and repair that get you further down the path.

6. Build Community Food Systems – what did you do to help spread the message, because that may even be more important.

7. Eat the Food

1. Plant something - I potted up some herb seedlings, Borage, White Sage and Basil are in small pots now. I'm preparing to start tomato seeds this weekend.

2. Harvest something - nada

3. Preserve something - nada

4. Waste not - Potatoes that are sprouted are on my windowsill waiting to be planted. Baby food jars are washed and packed away for further use. Some fruit that was about to spoil got put in a nice smoothie along with the last of the frozen cherries from last year.

5. Want not - Put together the BOB's, repackaged rice stores into something more air-tight.

6. Build Community Food Systems - Helping with the leadership transition for the community gardens.

7. Eat the food - We ate corn, carrots, tomato sauce and frozen fruit, all put up last year.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Growing Food, Zone 4 Style

Our move in a week is in a Northern direction, Taking us from a zone 5 to a solid zone 4. So, I did a little research into the changes in frost date, and the last frost date for our new house is a week after the last frost date here in Des Moines. If I want 6 week old tomato seedlings to plant out at the end of April, I need to start them this weekend. :-) Yay!!! I love starting tomatoes. So much promise in those little seeds, none of the heartbreak. I'm hoping to start a few extra so our current housemate Claire can have some seedlings for her garden too. And if I start another half dozen and give them to Ms Becky, well that would just be the icing on the cake. :-)

I'm hoping to get my cold frame set up the first few days we're at our new house. It will probably require shoveling snow out of the way. :-P But, I need to get it in place ASAP so it can warm up the ground a little, I want to put lettuce seeds in it by the end of the month. There are two good places for the cold frame to go, the south side of the house has two mudrooms, one off the front door that opens into the living room and one smaller one that goes to the kitchen. I want to put the cold frame near one of those doors, probably near the kitchen door.

I'm thinking those mudrooms are going to be great for transplant hardening. Especially the big one near the front door. It has windows, so light and air flow, but not too much of either so the transplants won't go into shock. They'll also help extend the grow season, as I can bring potted plants into the mudrooms to protect them from frost.

I'm not sure yet where I'll put my seed starting setup. There's a couple different possibilities, one of the mudrooms, a sunny window in the dining room or down in the basement. We'll see where things fit when we move in I guess.

I've pretty much figured out where I want to put the veggie garden. There are a lot of mature trees on the lot, but there's a great spot in the south front lawn, right near the door to the kitchen. Close to the shed, which is in the small backyard. It probably won't be very big, as I'm sure we'll have other things to do. :-) But, it needs to be big enough for 3-4 tomatoes, a couple of hills of squash (one summer, one winter), a row of potatoes, a row of onions, a row of beans and a row of root crops (carrots/parsnips/beets).
My garlic will stay in Des Moines, and hopefully I can come back in July and harvest it. I'd hate to lose the genetics I've been growing for the past few years, but since they are in the ground, my options are limited.
Most of my herbs will probably be potted, and my greens will be too I think. Peas I might try potted, just to save the garden space for something with more bang. Eggplant did really well for me in a pot, so did the bell pepper I grew last year, so I might do that again with those.
:-D Here we go!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Food storage and emergency prep

Dave and I spent 5% of our tax return on emergency prep. We bought a half a dozen sealed cans of dried food. Strawberries, oatmeal, potato dices, and 2 flavors of meal-in-a-can. :-) (Freeze dried meals that require only hot water to rehydrate and then serve.) We also bought some pouch food, some of which went into our Bug out Bags and some of which will go into the general food stores. I'm hoping to take a couple of the pouches with us on our next camping trip so we can try them out.

Speaking of Bug out Bags, this purchase makes our BOB's pretty complete. The bags were a little light on food, now there's a couple days of dried food in them, plus a couple more days of ration bars. I also bought a hand crank powered radio/flashlight/cell phone charger. It's pretty slick. Our BOB's are designed to get us through an emergency and to a safe place. We can live out of them for 32 hours, max. Food, water, change of clothes, light, heat, small bit of shelter, soap, cards for amusement, caffeine and basic hygiene supplies. I still need to get copies of the important documents in there, and I'd like to add a book or two, just for additional amusement in case we're trapped in a shelter. I also need to add first aid supplies to the bags, but all of those supplies are in a box somewhere, or two boxes, I don't even know, but it'll have to wait until we get moved.

Eventually I'll need to make a seperate Bug out Bag for Rowen. Right now I have a little bit extra in Dave and I's bags, and the plan is to grab Rowen's diaper bag as his BOB. It has the basics: food, toys, change of clothes and a diaper or two. When combined with Dave and I's he's covered. But, once we get to the point where he's no longer in diapers we'll need to make him a dedicated BOB.

I think this purchase also gets us real close to the 3 week supply of stored food goal. I'll have to do some tallying and a bit of calculating, but just off the top of my head, I think we're really close. It's a hodge-podge collection of food; store bought cans of veggies, home canned sauces, dried fruits and spices, root cellar veggies and now these large cans of freeze dried foods. But, it would do the trick. I think we're still a little weak in flours, and I know it's not all stored quite right, but hopefully after the move I can re-consolidate the food storage and get it all properly sorted, stored and tallied. The Red Cross and The Dept of Homeland Security all recommend that Americans have a 2 week store of food in case of emergencies. Do you? Is it all expired? Would you be living on canned corn and stuffing mixes? Might be worth your time to check. :-)