Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A letter to myself next spring...

Dear Citysister,
In regards to your garden...
Volunteers are your friend, just don't let them take over. (Sorry, my mother in law just called and asked if the volunteers were the kids, no, they were plants that had seeded themselves into the garden somehow.)  The squash were quite annoying and made it impossible for other plants to survive or get harvested for that matter.  Be ruthless! It should become  your new motto.  The tomatoes need to be started earlier indoors and use the brooder light, when that was introduced, the tomatoes took off.  Staking the tomatoes will be a must, their vines made it difficult to harvest the early birds and the slugs loved the late ones as well as the worms and chickens when they broke out.  Tomatoes are great, but grow lots of canning tomatoes with a couple of other types, that way you get the glut at one canning time instead of a measly one or two here and there to make canning your own difficult.  Plan the garden for that matter and stick to it.  (This year I had a plan, and then let the volunteers take over, and started planting too many of one thing so I took over spaces that were meant for others.)  Potatoes rock...low maintenance, high yield, and completely different creatures than the ones bought at the store.  On the thought of potatoes...over the winter could you fix up the basement's cold storage room and make it ready for next year...it could be something special! In that vein, think about reading up on cold storage... Pole beans are great! Just think about making stronger and taller poles for them as they do tend to take over.  Get the early plants in earlier and the fall plants in earlier too...buy seeds if necessary in the spring for the fall as it is unlikely any will be left come fall.  This is the second year this has happened to you.  Spinach didn't work out too well this year but remember the chard...like spinach but grows all summer as well.  Give the squash the hill.  They were crazy this year growing 20 feet long tendrils in the wrong place...again be ruthless!  Get the garden in front of the chicken coop planted early and take advantage of the spring when the neighbor's tree doesn't have huge light blocking leaves.    Most of all, have fun thinking and planning the garden over the winter...maybe measure things out and plan on grid paper so things are a bit more accurate.  Reposition walls over the winter too...after all, one doesn't need to mow between the beds, the foot traffic is enough to keep the grass down.  (The beds were originally planned to be able to mow between the beds, but we found that with increased foot traffic between the gardens made it possible to not mow.)  And by the way, the apples from the orchard are great, but maybe you could get your act together and plant some of your own?
In regards to putting food by...
The roasting tomatoes method for canning worked great (more on this later)  DO THIS EXCLUSIVELY NEXT YEAR.  Plant more green beans.  I mean it.  And dry beans too...  Plant corn so we can put some away that we grew.  The squash are so easy to put by, decide on a favorite type.  Continue to have people keep their eyes out for canning jars for cheap...no matter what, you never have enough.  Try to clear out the chest freezer so you can shut it off for a bit this winter.  Organize the pantries and freezers over the winter so that we can optimize what we do.

In high school, I had a teacher that had us write a letter to ourselves in one year and then again in five years, with an address of someone that we believed would still be there in five years.  I remember getting that letter (well, my mom calling me saying I got some mail at their home.)  After telling my husband about this, he began doing this with his students.  Different situations occurred over the years.  For example, people move or loose touch, or in one instance a student died...do you mail the letter to his parents.  What if in that letter was something that could have saved him, or cause the parents more grief.  He sent it and left it to the parents as to what to do, but maybe seeing his handwriting gave them some comfort.  I remember writing in an attempt to be profound and reading laughing at how silly I was a mere 5 years earlier (and probably if I wrote another letter at that point and read it now, I would be equally impressed about my silliness.)

In a letter to yourself, what would you say?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Scrumptious Saturday...Slow food (early so you can join in too...)

take the 5 dollar challenge

Basically, they're asking that you create a meal for less than $5/person made from local foods.
The $5 comes from the average cost of a fast food meal.
Dude...if I spent $5/person for a meal that would be $20/night. Multiply that by 30-31 days a month and your food budget for the month for dinner alone would be $600-$620 a month!  
We'd still need to make breakfasts and lunches.
We eat locally most of the time because it is just that, cheaper.  
Yes we do buy almond milk/almonds which don't grow around here too well, and for that matter chocolate doesn't grow locally, but it is not much of a challenge for us to do.  
So for this Scrumptious Saturday I will be preparing a local meal for much less than $5 per person.
So here it goes a menu and cost breakdown

Steak (2.50/lb locally grown from when we bought a quarter of a cow.) Herb rub from our garden
Potatoes (grown in the yard) butter (local dairy $3.50/lb...we are using maybe 20 cents worth.) Herbs from garden
Braised kale and Swiss chard (about 1 slice of bacon 31 cents from a local meat farm, grew the chard, kale from farmer's market $2.00/bag)
So for a dinner for four using only local ingredients we spent about $5.01
Even if I took into account the cost of purchasing seeds for the items I grew, it wouldn't be over $6 for the whole dinner.

Nothing special...just a typical dinner for us.  
By the way, I'm posting this Scrumptious Saturday early so that you can maybe think about doing this challenge yourself.  
If so, let us know about it!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Knitting with little ones...

At our homeschool co-op, which started last Friday, in order to get your first choice classes, you have to teach a class.  If you don't the more popular classes fill up by 7 am of regular sign-ups (teachers get to sign up their kids a few days before.)  So, I decided to teach a beginning knitting class.  Lo and behold, it filled up with just teacher's kids and I had people begging to let their kids sign up (of course I let them.)

The prep for the class was a bit time consuming, but it was worth it to get my kids in classes that they were looking forward to (such as chess and dinosaurs.)  For each student I made a packet.  White wool (about 100 yards) was "hanked" onto a paper plate and then placed inside a gallon ziplock bag.  I cut, using the chop saw (yes dad I did it all by myself), quarter inch dowels into 10 inch segments.  I also got out our sand paper, butcher block bee wax, fimo, and wood glue.  For good measure I added a tie-dye kit.
Each kid got a wool package (spaghetti...I let them know that it was going to be their new friend hank...) two dowel segments (chopsticks they exclaim...to eat their spaghetti!) sand paper and set up a area to dye (one girl said "mom told me I was going to die my first class...I was a bit confused.")
Two girls would get a chance to dye at a time while the other girls would sand their dowels ("till they feel like silk"   I told them.)  Eventually, everyone dyed their wool, sanded their dowels, and used bee's wax to finish their sticks.  Fimo was handed out and everyone was told to make balls for the end of their sticks.  I packed everything away and the rest of the day proceeded as planned.
After getting home, I washed everyone's wool and hung it out to dry, baked the fimo for the ends of the sticks, and made little packets of wool and completed sticks for each kid in my class.
Tomorrow...In, around, through and off...we will learn the knit stitch...and maybe purl will visit too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tomatoes...half off...

"You can't be friends with a squirrel, a squirrel is just a rat with a cuter outfit!"
                                                                                       - Carrie Bradshaw

In my opinion, the same can be said of chipmunks.  I have watched them...happily frolicking about my back patio...jumping into their holes that surround the new strawberry bed, and in general being evil little vermin.   The first time I caught one in a trap, my husband was upset with me...in his opinion they are cute.  But I have evidence...half eaten cherry tomatoes everywhere but in my salad.  They choose the ones that are 1-2 days from being ripe...I would pick them, but also wish to have them ripen on the vine and oh so sweet.  Don't worry...

"I'll get you my pretty..."
-Wicked Witch of the West

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fall garden and seed saving

The fall garden is in and the squash starting to tell me as well...
It's almost fall.
Even though it is well over 80 by mid day, 
the early mornings and late evenings are getting cooler and the night...
well, I need a blanket (but then again, any temp under 60 I need one.)
The fall lettuce started to grow almost moments after placing it in the ground. 
As did the carrots...they know they need more time to store starches for the winter.
They must know it's getting cooler, but the fall spinach is a bit more hesitant.
It requires fall rainstorms with chilled reassurance to begin growing.
On the days we don't get the late summer rainstorm in the evening,
I go out with the hose and cool them off myself.
Trying to fool nature...
My next task is to enter my August numbers for harvest.
I've gotten a few large long pie squash,
a few tomatoes,
beans...I love the beans.
Lightly steamed so they are still crunchy,
sauteed with a little garlic,
raw out of the garden.
It doesn't matter to me.
We've also been getting the dried green beans for next year's garden.
Alongside the Provider beans, there must have been some other variety for one or two beans in the packet.
One or two plants grew that were not provider...but rather a large flat pod that had dark, navy bean type seeds inside.  I am saving them too as they bloomed a bit before the provider.
They'd make a nice dried bean I think...they are so pretty.
As with my squash, I have 4 varieties going...due to cross pollination, I cannot save their seeds for next year.
But I did save some seeds from the packets for next year.
I'm going to have a taste testing and decide what is going in the garden next year.
I love having the ability to start next year from this year's bounty.
It's how it should be.
Are you forgoing some of this year's harvest in order to save for next year?