Friday, June 26, 2009

Update and going on vacation

I may have mentioned(complained) that it has rained a lot here lately. In fact it has rained daily for about a month. Today I did my quick walk through to check on things. Above is my zuycchini. They are showing male flowers that haven't opened yet. I'm hopeful that in another week or 2 I'll have some zucchini to grill up. In the background you can see the volunteer tomatoes. To the left are the cucumbers that have been thriving.
This was supposed to be a shot of the sugar snap peas. They have flowers as well and we're anxious to be eating them. Hubby swore that he hated all peas until he tried sugar snaps. Now, its his favorite veggie. In the background are cabbages and squash.
This is the tomato patch. They have flowers, but no pollination yet. I think we'll be a few weeks behind this year, unfortunately. Our tiny little window of tomato ripening is shrinking and it makes me sad. I'm always hopeful that we'll get enough to can for the year. So far, it hasn't happened. Someday...

This will probably by my last post for a week or so. We're headed to Vermont to dog sit for my sister. She's in the mountains and I'll only have access to dial up, so I'm not planning on doing too much on the computer. We're just going to relax and enjoy the quiet. See you all soon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I've been inspired by many of the great bloggers I read. This week, the inspiration comes from this post. We're going trash free! We already Reduce, Reuse and Recycle as much as possible. The compost bucket is a permanent fixture on my counter top. We're working to decrease the amount of meat in our diets. Now we're going to try to be trash-free! We'll be going to my sister's next week for a little vacation, while watching her dogs, so we'll do it this week and as best we can at her house.

My biggest challenge will be hubby's businesses. The trash that a computer business creates is pretty overwhelming sometimes. The boxes for parts are recycled or put on my garden pathways. The parts themselves are the biggest issue. It is difficult to find places to take the multitude of hard drives, memory sticks and computer cases. Hubby is good about trying to sell things for parts and taking what he can to places that accept computers for recycling. We still end up with tons of stuff with no good place to go. This is especially troublesome in our tiny house. Thankfully, his other business is wedding photography. This is easy to deal with. The advent of digital photography has taken care of most of the waste. What little is produced is easily recycled.

Food trash is a huge problem in landfills today. When things are broken down in the backyard compost heap, they break down nicely. However, when we throw large quantities of food into the trash, it creates an anaerobic mess that creates large quantities of methane gas that harm our earth. How do you deal with this? First and foremost is to change what you are buying. If we cook like our granparents, using basics, we use less packaging and produce less waste. We them need to make what we need. If you have leftovers, freeze them, or re-create them to reduce waste.

Composting is a given, but many think it will be a big stinky mess. If you stick to a few guidelines, you will be fine. First find the place in your yard that will not bug you to look at, but will also be easily accessible so that you will use it. It really can just be a pile, you don't need anything fancy. Mine has traveled from place to place in my yard, until I just simply put it behind my deck. It is out of sight for the most part, since many don't go in my back yard(my side and front yards are the biggest area and the ones used). It also works because even in the winter, all I have to do is go out my back door and dump things over the railing.

Once you have your site, you need to fill it. Put all your fruit and veggie waste in there. Some people say you can safely compost meats and fats, but I don't. I stick to veggies and the like. grass clippings go in there, along with any weeds that have not gone to seed. You also want some brown (dead) ingredients to help things break down. This is easy in the fall, when leaves get raked in, but not so easy the rest of the year. For us, I have a shredder for paper. We unfortunately have lots of paper waste from the businesses and homeschooling. These get shredded and added to the compost as well.

The last step is turning your compost. I'm really bad at this one. It should be turned every few weeks to help get oxygen into the pile and increase the breakdown of your compost. If you are like me, don't despair. As long as things get moved around a few times a year, it will be fine. The only difference will be that it will take longer for things to breakdown into usable compost for the garden and yard. This stuff is amazing when finished. It can be such a boon to whatever you happen to be growing. Just spread it and be amazed. Best of all, it's free!

My next experiment will be in dealing with the bones of the meat we eat. I'm going to try tossing them in the fire when we have our weekly hangout with friends. I'll let you know how that goes. In the meantime, if anyone has any better ideas of what to do with the, let me know.

Join in our trashless time!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Here is a picture of my better half. It's hard to find pictures of him, since he's usually the one taking them. He's a good man and a wonderful father to our 2 kids. Right now he's playing video games with the Little Man while digesting his big special breakfast. I so appreciate this man who works so tirelessly for our little family and tolerates his wife's crazy obsessions.

Today we're off to my parent's house to celebrate the day with my Dad. We'll have our usual Father's Day fare of lobster, corn on the cob and broccoli salad. I can't wait! I'll be bringing along the corn on the cob from a local farm that grows early corn in hoop houses. It's so yummy, it'll make you cry. I'm also bringing bags of lettuce for my Mom, sister and brother's girlfriend. My garden has been producing so much lettuce with all this cool weather and rain, that I can't keep up with it. The garden is doing beautifully, but really needs some warmth and dryness to get things pollinated. I'll get some pics up later this week when we dry out.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chick update

They're getting bigger! The little one has been dubbed Mary by the neighborhood kids. You can see her on the far left. She is getting bigger, but is still significantly smaller and weaker than the others. I'm still holding my breath about her survival. The rest are starting to get some real feathers as opposed to the baby fluff.

They've been getting a little flighty and I am worried about what we'll do with them in a few weeks. In the meantime, J took some of the leftover chicken wire and made a top for their temporary home. Their permanent home is almost finished. I'll post pics when its done.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rain and laziness

It has rained on and off for the last several weeks. We've had the occasional peek of sunshine, like yesterday, but then its back to the dreariness. My garden is happily growing, but longing for the sun as well.

All this rain is making me lazy though. I can't do much in the garden, can't mow the lawn, can't hang the clothes on the line. Yes, I could clean the house, but that would just be silly! Instead I'm spending far too much time on the computer. It's sad really. Somehow, I just seem to get more done when I'm busy. A body in motion is likely to stay in motion, or something like that. A friend always says, 'If you want something done, ask a busy woman'.

One thing I've been doing in my endless online adventures, is look more closely into water barrel systems. With enough of a set up, I really wouldn't ever need to turn on the tap. We've certainly gotten enough water in the past few weeks to keep my garden going all summer. The problem is aesthetics. My neighbors already think I'm nuts, but having 5 or 6 bright blue water barrels sitting under my downspouts might push them over the edge. I've been gentle about adding all of my oddities. Shoot, I still haven't put the chicks out in their tractor yet. All things in time. Plus, I might put hubby over the edge as well.

So, here I sit in the blogoshpere doing very little. Yesterday was beautiful, but hubby and I were shooting a wedding. The bride might have gotten a little upset if I decided to stay home hanging laundry and weeding. While I wait for the sun I think I'll go research low flow drip irrigation systems. Afterall, what good is a rainbarrel without a way to get the water to the garden.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Last night I was at our homeschool group's curriculum night. It seems every year I get millions of questions about canning. This year I think I'm finally going to get around to having some canning classes. Canning is so easy, but the mere thought of it overwhelms so many. I love that people are wanting to know how to do this. There is nothing better than pulling a jar of your own soup off the shelf, or a jar of the tomatoes you grew in your garden to make sauce. In the above picture is the base for Pasta Fagioli(can't can the pasta with it), turkey broth and chicken soup.
These things are so wonderful. I can control what goes into our bodies. No risk of added HFCS, weird preservatives and other oddities in our food. Who needs to buy convenience foods, when I have these goodies waiting for us in the basement? This picture show strawberry jam, grape jelly from a friend and kidney beans. Yes, kidney beans. I buy the beans dry, because they're much cheaper. Then I can them up to use when I need some beans real fast and forgot to plan ahead.

The jars all look so pretty sitting on the shelf, don't they? My family loves that I make them soups exactly the way they like them. If we don't like a particular veggie, we leave it out. Yummy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why I do, what I do.

I've been thinking about how my life has come to be lately. When I posted the Wannabe Farmer post it got me really examining things. When I got right down to it, there really should be no surprise that I'm now returning to a simpler, albeit, busier life. Its the way I grew up to a certain extent.

The blame falls squarely on my parents' shoulders. Its all their fault. You see, I grew up with 2 of the most wonderful people you've ever met. When I was born, my Dad was a mechanical engineer with a good job. He had scraped and struggled to make it through college so that he could make himself a better person. My Mom was a teacher for the deaf, from a family who was a product of the depression. They both knew how to work hard. My Mom never went back to work after I was born, but continued to work hard for our family.

When I was 8, my father was called into the ministry. They packed me, my sister and brother up and moved 500 miles away for my father to attend seminary. This meant leaving his good paying job behind. I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say we never had much from there on out. My mother made us clothes, grew gardens and canned the excess and learned to bake the most delicious bread. In addition, they provided the most wonderful childhood imaginable. We didn't have the latest toys and gadgets and certainly didn't have the latest styles, but we had a close and happy family.

My parents are both very intelligent and well educated people. They would take us out of school and take us on trips to the Science Museum, Plimouth Plantation and Sturbridge Village. I think if it had been 10 years later, they probably would have homeschooled us. It was just their style.

So, here I sit with my family. I could certainly have taken the path that led to me working full time. The kids in school, living in the suburban mcmansion with a dog and a housekeeper once a week. There are many that feel that is the life for them, and that's ok. Its just not for me. I had to work hard to have my kids(maybe I'll talk about that later). I worked hard for this house as well. For me, it is more important to teach my kids to be stewards of their world. I want to instill in them a love of learning, a love of the earth and a love of hard work. It is so important to me to be able to feed my family nourishing foods that I grew myself. To show them that the fruits of our hard work should not necessarily be the latest video game, but a simple homegrown, homemade meal and a happy family. That spending time with the people you love is more important than buying them the latest thing.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Garden Update

Here is my weekly tour of the garden. Everything is really starting to get big. Here is some of my zucchini. I have a problem every year with squash vine borers and haven't found a good way to combat them. My solution has been to stagger my plantings. These were planted on May 1st. I have another set planted on June 1st and the last set will be planted on July 1st. That way I have a steady supply of squash and if they get attacked by the evil borers, I have more coming.
These are my cucumbers. Normally I direct seed these, but this year I started them inside to give them a bit of a head start. So far so good. There are 18 plants this year. That should satisfy my cucumber and pickle fiends.

Here is one of my tomato plants. They are really starting to get big and if you look closely you can see flowers forming.
Lastly are the peaches. I had to thin them a lot this year, or the tree would have been overloaded. I think I have a good balance for the size of the tree this year.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Introducing the baby Buff Orpingtons

Aren't they just the cutest things you ever saw!! I picked up our baby Buff Orpingtons today from my friend. We're starting with just 6 to test the waters. One of them is smaller than the rest and was getting picked on by my friend's chicks. She was concerned that she wasn't going to make it. When we got home, the kids held them and then we settled them into the basement. The kids started naming them and the small one was named Mary. At first it seemed she was going to be picked on here as well. However, as time has gone on, they seem to be accepting her. I hope she'll be ok.
The neighborhood kids are so excited by them. They were in and out all day to look at them and beg to hold them. I can't say I blame the kids. The chicks are awfully cute.

The baby chicks have arrived!

I've wanted chickens for years. Hubby hasn't been thrilled with the idea, but finally said it was ok. J, is splitting them with me and building the coop. I will put up pictures as soon as hubby comes home with the camera. He's off to a Red Sox game with the Little Man. Update soon!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tales of a Wannabe Farmer

I've been thinking a lot about Sharon's blog post yesterday. She was talking about the trials and tribulations of being the partner of someone who decides they want to be a farmer. In my case that would include also deciding to be a homeschooler as well. My poor husband would be in that category. The poor guy thought he married a nice sensible goal oriented nurse.

I think it started when we had The Little Man. All of a sudden I didn't really want to work anymore. I was adamant about nursing him exclusively and then making my own baby food. Necessity called and I still worked as a nurse per diem so that we were able to buy our own home. Then it got worse.

We had Pooh Bear and I never returned to work. Hubby is all for me staying at home and loves having me here to raise the kids. He just didn't realize what the side effects would be. After a very short stint in a pre-school/day care for the Little Man, I proposed homeschooling. It was something my mother (the school principal!) had been asking me to do for years. He said yes, thinking that I would get all excited about it, but not really follow through. That was 4 1/2 years ago. Homeschooling has been the best thing for our family and we haven't looked back since.

As for the wannabe farmer.... It started innocently enough. Growing up, we never had much money. My mother always had as large a garden as she could. When we moved into the house she had some extra tomato plants and threw some into a small area of my yard. That Christmas I couldn't stop talking about wanting a bigger garden and planting more things. Mom got me a book on veggie gardens that year for Christmas. Then I got Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.

The garden started out as 4 small 4x4 squares with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and sugar snap peas. The next year it doubled. Finally last year I made the jump to the 1000 sq ft garden. This may seem quite small to some, but in my small suburban yard it seems huge. The excess is canned and/or frozen up to use throughout the year. I'm also looking into forming some sort of root cellar to store produce. This would be used in conjunction with cold frames. But I digress....

If it were up to me, we would be living on several acres with chickens, ducks, sheep, goats, well, you get the picture. Hubby has been really great about my desire to be a farmer. He really enjoys what comes out of the garden and has become quite the proponent of what I'm doing. He just doesn't want to have to participate. For the most part he doesn't need to. Its just when I'm really desperate.

Thankfully (or not) I have great neighbors. J, that lives next door is a structural engineer with too much time on his hands these days. He helps me with many of my projects and is currently building a chicken tractor. We'll be getting chickens this year and splitting them between us. Since we share a yard its very easy. His wife is like my hubby. "Do anything you want as long as I don't have to help." They think we're nuts.

In the end, its all about being as self-sufficient and sustainable as I can. In these times of financial and global crisis, most people don't think I'm quite as nuts. In many cases I'm getting lots of questions about how I do it. It's easy, you just take it one step at a time.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Potatoes revisited and the neverending mulch

I've had potato issues for the past few years. I've tried growing them in barrels using grocery store potatoes and seed potatoes. Never with any luck. Last year I thought I'd try them in my main garden with seed potatoes. The Little Man is a huge potato freak, so he was thrilled. They looked great all summer and we were excited to dig them up. So we started digging and found a handful of tiny little potatoes. We got discouraged and stopped digging after a while. This year I had all my beds planned out and all of a sudden, there were these big leafy green things coming up. You can see them in the above photo. They are all in the spots where I had planted potatoes last year. Apparently they survived the winter and decided that this was their year. I'm leaving them alone and we'll see what we get. I'll probably end up with my biggest potato harvest.

Aren't cabbages pretty?! This one is getting big and starting to head.

Next to it is some broccoli doing the same. They're so pretty, I'm going to have to try some purple varieties next year.
Do you remember the picture of a box of dirt? Well here it is full of yummy lettuce that is destined for supper next week.

Now for the mulch. I got a little carried away. I'm sure you're shocked at that. You see, while I was knocking out my basement this Spring, I decided I needed 4.5 yards of mulch. Keep in mind I have a smallish surburban yard. Somehow I figured I would be able to use this massive amount of mulch. I also figured I'd be able to get it spread in between finishing the basement, educating my kids, planting my garden, planting more fruit trees and breathing. I figured wrong. Not only was there way too much, it sat so long that it is now a part of my lawn. It ended up everywhere including the pathway for my garden. Note to self : fill the truck with small amounts of mulch as needed and if you have it delivered, put a tarp under it!!