Friday, October 30, 2009

Canning applesauce

Time to make the applesauce.  The kids were so excited.

I cut up all the apples, leaving the skin on for added flavor and nutrition.  The cores were placed in a bag to save for the chickens.

Into the pot with an inch of water.

All soft and yummy.

Through the strainer to get the right consistency.

Then 20 minutes in the water bath and we have sauce!  The kids love it, so I need to use up the rest of the apples tomorrow.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thinking about Thanksgiving

100 Mile Thanksgiving

 This sounds great!  I just found this nifty little site.  My family has always had a relatively local Thanksgiving, even before we really understood the whole locavore movement.

My Mom has always gotten her turkeys from a local turkey farm called Bongi's.  We love the taste of the fresh, local turkeys.   They are so different from the plastic encased, frozen birds. 

Then there are the sides.  My family has always had a garden if at all possible.  I've now got one as well.  So, between us, we have lots of veggies at our disposal.  The butternut squash is a must have, along with the pumpkin pie from our own pumpkins.  We also have goodies that were frozen during the summer, like broccoli, green beans and peas.  Apples are abundant here in New England, so pies and cider are a yummy addition.

It seems that the biggest thing that is not local are the grains.  We buy all of our flour from King Arthur Flour.  The company is relatively local, being in Vermont, although I don't know where they get their grains from for the flour.  I'm told that there will be a grain CSA starting up in the Western part of MA, so that should be very exciting.

Interestingly, I've never thought about this before.  I'm relatively new to the locavore and green movements.  It is neat though, that we were doing it right anyway.  The only thing we need to find local now is the little boiling onions for creamed onions.  Those are a must have at our Thanksgiving meal.  What will you be having for Thanksgiving?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Apple Picking

I love apple picking.  We were late going this year, but thankfully there were still plenty left.  I packed the kids and the wagon into my car and off we went to Honey Pot Hill.  Its a great orchard about an hours drive from me.

The only problem was that most of the apples were too far up for us to reach.  Here is Noah trying to find apples low enough to pick.

Any that Morgan found were instantly eaten.

These were out of reach, taunting me.  I am scared of ladders and didn't have my 6'4" hubby to get them for me.

Every tree had hundreds of apples on the ground under it.  So much waste made me very sad.  It was impossible to walk without making applesauce as you went.

The wagon was very useful, since we ended up with a bushel of apples.  The kids are excited to make applesauce from them.

It really was a perfect day.

Over at the farm store, they had pumpkins for sale as well.  They look so nice all lined up.  When the kids were little we would have them sit on the pumpkins for pictures.

I loved the rows of future trees.  This orchard is truly massive.  We have been going there for years, but ended up in an area that I didn't even know existed.  Tomorrow I'll post pics of the animals they have.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Autumn Fire

Each season brings its own personality.  Its as if they are trying to outdo each other.  The red of autumn is no exception.

Japanese Maple
Burning Bushes lit ablaze.

See who else is strolling over at the Quiet Country House.  

Friday, October 23, 2009

Leaves and chickens

Leaves are everywhere these days.  As I said before, I get lots of them from my neighbor's yard. 

These will provide a wonderful mulch for my garlic cloves and will be reduced to practically nothing by spring.  In the meantime, they'll feed and protect the garlic.  As you can see, I still need to clean up the weeds along the edges of the garden, so that next spring I can plant the peas as early as possible.

The chickens are almost finished doing their thing in the garden.  We still don't have eggs yet, but I'm ever hopeful when I go out to check on them.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Garlic planting

Today was the day to plant the garlic.  The beds are getting filled this week and the first one I did was the garlic bed.  The kids have been helping with the bed closest to the piles of soil.  They're awfully cute with their little shovels.  I started by seperating the cloves.

I had 2 different varieties that I got from  They  are a couple that started a garlic growing business in Wisconsin.  Since they are in a cold growing area like I am, they are a good choice.  I can't order garlic from a warm weather source, as it won't do well in my New England winters.  This first year I used grocery store garlic.  I've heard that many times it is grown in warmer climates.  Although I certainly got garlic, the heads were quite small. 

Once the garlic is separated, I choose the largest cloves for planting.  With the 2 varieties I planted this year, they were all huge cloves.  Out of 10 heads of garlic I got only 1 small clove for eating, the rest were planted.  In all I planted about 60 cloves of garlic, which will give me a good amount for next year and some to plant again next fall.  I'm not really sure yet how much we go through in a year, so we'll have to see if that will be enough.  We're pretty heavy garlic users.

This is the bed after planting.  I planted Music at the end closest to the shed and German Porcelain closest to the house.  This will be topped with mulch in the next day or so.  My favorite mulch is chopped leaves and grass.  I put the bag on the lawnmower and mow up some grass and leaves, then put a 4-6 inch layer on top of the bed.  This composts down very nicely over the winter to feed the bulbs and protect them at the same time.  My neighbor loves it, because I come and mow up her backyard leaves.  She has a lot more leaves than I do, so it makes us both happy.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Even the poison ivy is beautiful

I love fall.  The colors are amazing and the cool crisp air, refreshing.

I love the look of the leaves decorating the grass.

New blueberry bushes finishing up their first year in a new home.

The poison ivy even seems pretty.

I'm not very good at identifying things yet, but these berries are beautiful.

The kids hideout tucked in behind the trees.

Nature covering up a mess.

Dogwoods setting fruit.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm green, how about you?

This month's APLS carnival is on proselytizing green.  You can find more posts in a few days over at Kellie's blog.

So how do I spread the green word?  Well, I live my life.  Exciting, huh?  I've always been more of the quiet type (my friends and family are laughing right now).  Once you get to know me, I'm more in your face, but when I'm out in the real world, I'm very shy and quiet. 

The thing is, that I tend to do things off the beaten path.  The things I do, tend to garner some attention.   Attention makes me uncomfortable in many ways, but I also love to talk about the things that I'm passionate about.  So, shy or not, if you get me talking about our food supply, the climate, or consumerism, you're likely to get more than you bargained for.  My friend K likes to tell me that I inspire people with my passion.  I find that hard to believe, but am thrilled if it is the case. 

One thing that I have always believed is that the more people are exposed to something, the more likely that they will accept it.  People can talk all they want about a subject and it will go in one ear and out the other.  If they see someone else doing it,howeve,  then it must not be that hard and they are more apt to try something new. All of a sudden, that vegetable garden might be something they could try.  Maybe that cool metal water bottle would be just as easy as the plastic one from the grocery store.  We didn't get to this point overnight, and the unfortunate thing is that its probably going to take longer than we would like to get people over to the green way of thinking.  We just need to keep plugging away. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pretty piles of dirt

Today is blog action day.  The topic is climate change, something near and dear to my heart.  One of the big things I'm trying to do is to grow as much of the fruits and veggies for my family on my tiny little suburban plot. 

Here is the dirt for my newest garden expansion.  I've been busily adding raised beds to my current garden of almost 1000 sq ft to increase me to 1340  sq ft or so.  This will allow me to add more calorie crops to our regular veggie rotation and to add more perrenial fruits and veggies to the mix as well.  How does this help with climate change?  Think food miles.  There are none here.  Instead of the 100 mile diet, it would be more like the 100 foot diet.  How cool is that? 

All of us can grow some part of our own diet, even if its only a pot of basil in the kitchen.  It all makes a difference.  We just need to take that step.  If you had told me 8 years ago that I would be doing this I would have laughed at you.  As I've said many times, this has been a gradual process.  It all started with a few extra tomato plants from my mother's garden.  I never had any plans to continue to garden, but somehow it just continued to grow.  It became an addiction of sorts and I guess its a good addiction.  Food security, healthy fruits and veggies and good for the earth to boot.  What could be better? 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How low can you go?

Around here, many people try to keep from turning on their heat until November 1.  Its an arbitrary date more or less, but many people repeat it each year as a goal.  It seems like one of those guages used to show how rugged or in some cases, cheap you are.  In my case I try to see how long I can take it to try to keep our fuel usage as low as possible.  We live in Southeastern Mass and as a result have oil heat.  Most everyone around here does.  Even if they have a wood stove, they usually have an oil furnace as back up. 

Unfortunately we don't have a woodstove.  Its one of those things I wish I could have, but for many reasons that I won't bore you with, it is not possible.  So we wait and wait as long as possible to turn on the heat.  Hubby is almost always the first one to break down and turn it on.  This morning was his breaking point.  We've had colder than normal temperatures for the whole week with things predicted to get even colder in a few days.  We're actually having mid to late November weather right now. 

So Hubby had turned on the heat and after about a half hour with some warmed up toes, his cheap side kicked in and he turned it back off.  I've been trying to turn down the heat a little more each year.  When we lived in an apartment, the heat was part of the rent and we kept it at 72.  Just the thought of that makes me sweat now.  Last year we had it set at 65 during the day and 55 at night.  Now, when I was a kid we didn't have much money.  My parent's kept the heat at 62 for day and 52 at night.  I swore for years that I would never do that, and yet that is what I would like to do this year.  Hubby isn't very happy with that though.  He grew up with a house at 72 and everyone wandered around in very little clothing.  (His mother is famous for greeting people in her underwear.  Frightening!)  He feels that the house is as cold as he can take and would like me to leave it as is.  So, in the name of marital harmony, I will leave it alone.... for now.  I can't guarantee that I won't change it in a few weeks though.  The cheap/green side of me is strong.  I am Scottish hear me roar!

So, am I the only one struggling with the heat?  What do you keep your thermostat set at?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Garden Expansion

Here it is.  You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.  All the beds still need to be filled with soil, but they are built.  It was a lot of work, but there is still lots to do.   The main garden area is 52x18.  There are now 5 other beds.  The 2 long ones are 24x4 and 28x4.  There are 2 smaller ones that are 12x4 and the one under the tarp is 12x10.  That is 1360 sq ft of growing space.  Yikes!  I'm sure there are plenty out there that think its small, but to me it seems huge.  Its pretty much my entire side yard.

This is at ground level showing the beds on the far side in the overview picture.  The tarp is over a section of soil that needs to have some weeds and grass killed before I can finish the bed.  This is the only area that is being built over an existing mound of soil.  I set aside enough blocks to finish it in the spring.  That bed will eventually be my permanent allium bed.  This year the garlic will go elsewhere and the onions will go there in the Spring.  The other bed will be planted with strawberries.

This is from the other side by the shed.  The closest bed will hold my garlic this fall.  The 2 long beds will hold tomatoes next summer.   Hopefully with fresh soil, there will be fewer issues with blight.  I'm really hoping with the additional beds that we'll be coming ever closer to the ultimate goal of growing all of our own veggies and most of our fruits.

With the expansion of the garden, comes expansion of other things.  I haven't had enough space under the grow lights for 2 years now and its going to be worse next year.  The ever handy J will be building me a nice big set of shelves with grow lights now.  I can't wait.  To think this all started with a few small beds a few years ago. 

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Strolling through the candle company's gardens

This week we went out to the Yankee Candle Company to spend the day with the kids.  They have some very pretty gardens outside, so despite some rain, I decided to try out my new camera.  Its not really new, but hubby let me have one of his older cameras.  Its a Canon EOS 20D and much nicer than the little point and shoot I was using.

The mums were beautiful.

Lots of colors.

Corn stalks make wonderful designs.

Piles of pumpkins.

It really was beautiful.

This was my contribution to the Sunday Stroll.  Head on over to the Quiet Country House to see who else is strolling today.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Productive day, finally

After fighting a cold for the past few weeks, I've gotten a bit behind in all of my many chores.  The blog was neglected, the house was a mess and the garden expansion project wasn't expanding.  Hubby and I were both running on empty and needing a break.  We went out to a candle place a few hours from here and spent the day with the kids smelling yummy scents.  The store is more than a store and has lovely gardens outside as well.  Even though it was raining we took quite a few pictures.  Hubby gave me one of his spare cameras and started to teach me how to take better pictures.  I'll post some of them tomorrow.

Today, I felt much better.  It was a beautiful fall day.  The sky cleared, the air was crisp and I felt like I could conquer the world.  I started by conquering the house.  Hubby's businesses were taking over my living room and I needed to take it back.

Then I headed outside.  The piles of cinder blocks had been staring at me for a while.  They were looking a little menacing.  I had already gotten 11/2 beds completed,but had lots more work to do.  At first I thought the I'd finish the 2nd bed.  Then I thought I'd start on a third.  The neighbors were having a yard sale, so I went by to chit chat.  I still felt great, so I finished the third and started on the fourth.  I'm sure you're wondering how many beds I'm making at this point.

The neighbors were having trouble with the wind, so I went nextdoor to help them out.  Miraculously, I still felt wonderful.  So I started on the fifth and last bed.  The second pallet of cinder blocks was in the way, and I finally ran out of steam.  I have to move the last dozen or so blocks out of the way, and then finish the bed.

Then we'll move on to filling them all with soil.  I'm thinking about doing half loam and half compost and then topping it all off with some cow manure for good measure.  First I have to get a new wheelbarrow, as the kids killed the already half dead one I already had.

It's dark out right now, so I'll get some pics posted soon.  Tomorrow will be the pics with my new camera though.  You'll have to let me know how I'm doing with my new photography.  Hopefully it will be better than what I've done so far with my little point and shoot.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Completed market bag

I did it!   The body of the bag I wasn't worried about, it was the handle.  It has an applied I-cord.  It turns out, I-cords aren't very difficult.  Who knew?  The kids are fighting over the bag right now and making lists of colors they want them in.  It didn't really take very long to do either.  We went  and got some more yarn, but need to find different colors somewhere else.

I'm sorry that I haven't been writing much lately, life has been getting in the way.  I'll be posting more soon.  Still working on the garden expansion and lots of other things.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Getting moving on the Christmas gifts

I signed up for Crunchy Chickens Hand for the Holidays challenge this year. This isn't my first year doing hand made gifts.  Last year my Mom and I decided to do as many home made gifts as possible.  I made hats, scarves, dishcloths, socks and lots of baked goods.  This year I'm doing the same.  I've already done one item for my brother's girlfriend, but have lots to do.

This is the start of a market bag that I'm making.  The kids are wanting to have their own, so I may be making quite a few of them.  The handle on this is scaring me a little.  I've never done an I-cord before, so there will probably be lots of frogging happening before the final product is finished.  There are still lots of other things to be made as well.  Is anyone else working on gifts already?