Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Food goals

As I've been wrapping up the major part of the growing season, I've been thinking about goals.  Goals for next year, for the coming years.  So many parts of my life have goals.

For my garden, the goal is to produce as much of the fuits and veggies that we eat as possible.  To that end, I've added fruit trees and bushes along the way.  Next year will see the start of a strawberry bed.  The veggie garden grows each year as well.  I foolishly thought that when I fenced in my garden, that I would be done expanding.  Silly me.  This year I'm adding more beds outside the fence to increase my garden space again.  One of the beds will be a strawberry bed, another a permanent garlic bed, the other 2 will be tomato beds next year.

One of the things I'm really trying in earnest now is season extension.  I've been doing multiple planting of various veggies, mostly those in the cool weather crop families.  When we get to frost time, I'll be putting cold frames over some of those crops to extend them even more.  Others will be mulched and left in the ground to be harvested as we need them.  I still have a long way to go on this one.  I'm still working on which root crops my family likes and which ones need what kind of protection.

Along the same lines, is changing over how we eat.  Eating seasonally and locally is very different than going to the grocery store and buying whatever we're in the mood for.  It means eating asparagus only for the short time its available.  It means forgoing bananas and oranges, since they don't grow here.  (I don't think I'll be able to convince Morgan and hubby to give up the OJ any time soon.)  The thing is, the more we do this, the more we like it.  Its amazing how good food tastes when it hasn't been picked early, shipped around the world and eaten at less than optimal freshness.  We really appreciate the new foods as they become available.  The changing of the seasons and foods that are available are more of a celebration.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so to speak.

What are your food goals?  Are you looking to eat healthier?  More locally?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Looking back through the growing season Sunday Stroll

See who else is Strolling at The Quiet Country House

Looking back at my garden over the past few months of our rather short growing season.

This was in May. Peppers that are now full grown and ready to be harvested.  Its amazing how tiny they start out.

Tomatoes in June.  Starting to get big.

Tomatoes and peppers in July tucked in with their blankets of straw.

Heartbreak in August with the discovery of blight.

Moving on in September with leeks and some swiss chard in the background.  

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Getting started

I just couldn't resist starting the new beds.  They were calling to me.  Its crazy, I'm still working on this year's garden and can't wait for next year.  This is my first time with actual raised beds.  I've always done a sloped bed that works very much like a raised bed.  Next year this will be where the tomatoes go along with another bed that will go down another side of the garden.

As you can see, I'm laying down cardboard first.  That will help to deter the grass and eventually break down and become part of the soil.  The worms love the cardboard, so they'll come over and help to get things going as well.  When the beds are put together, I'll fill with some good soil and compost and put them to bed for the winter.  Next Spring, I'll be set to plant.  Fall is certainly a good time to get projects like this done.  I have time to do it at my own pace and not feel rushed.  This winter I will be able to look out at my snow covered garden and feel that I'll be able to hit the ground running.

Sadly, it hardly made a dent in the amount of work that still needs to be done.  Its going to be great though!  Maybe someday I'll be able to grow the lion's share of my fruits and veggies.  How cool is that?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cough, cough, hack,hack

That would be me.  There is so much to do around my garden these days and wouldn't you know I'd get a whopper of a cold.  Every time I go out to tend to the chickens, I look longingly at the stacks of cinder blocks waiting for me.  Unfortunately, unless I want to end up in the ER with a severe asthma attack, I have to let them sit and taunt me.

In the meantime, I'm letting my girls prep the main garden for next year.  They're having a blast eating the remains of the garden and scratching around fertilizing the beds for next year.  I know I've said it before, but they really are neat to watch.  I'm so enamored of my chickens.  Its really kind of sad.  When a neighbor had a guest ask me what possessed me to get chickens, I just stood there stunned.  Why wouldn't anyone want chickens?  They are the coolest pets ever!  Another neighbor told her in a very sassy voice, that they were for eggs.  I was just too stunned that anyone would question my weirdness.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I've been getting my list ready for fall chores.  Along the way I've had my helpers assist.

They are helping me to water the newly planted mums that I got at the Farmer's Market on Tuesday.  I got 3 different colors, pink, orange and yellow.  The little man I get them from is just adorable.  He is so proud(rightly so) of the wonderful plants he brings each week.  The prices he offers them for is also amazing.  You can't find such wonderful, healthy plants for these prices at the big box stores.

This is Toby, my faithful companion.  He is such a sweet helper, always running beside me when I have the wheelbarrow full.  Of couse his favorite thing to do is run around the chicken tractor and get the girls all riled up.  He is certainly living up to his breed.

I wish that all these adorable helpers would be able to help me with my next big project.  There are going to be 4 big new beds added to my garden for next year.  I just have to build all the beds, fill them and spread manure by the time the first snow flies.  It seems like a long time, but it sure is going to be a lot of work.  Who needs a gym membership when you have a garden?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Orange Marmalade

Of all things to be canning in September, I'm making Orange Marmalade.  Miss Morgan decided that she HAD to have oranges while we were shopping at Costco.  She loves fruit and I broke down and bought them.  They are definitely not local and also not in season, but I bowed to the pressure of the screaming 5 year old.  Hey, at least it wasn't candy and toys she was screaming about.  The problem was that when she ate one, she decided that she didn't like them anymore.  The rest of us ate a few and then I was still stuck with lots of fruit that would be going bad soon if I didn't do anything.  
So, marmalade it is.  I ended up making 2 batches. (I still have oranges left!)  They will be eaten, gifted or used in a few recipes that call for marmalade.  
I've never made marmalade before.  I've also never used Pomona Pectin before.  Its a pectin that allows you to use a fraction of the sugar in other jam recipes.  This recipe had 6 cups of fruit to 2 cups of sugar, or you have the option of using 1 cup of honey.  How cool is that?  The recipes use sugar, honey and fruit juice to sweeten, so its much better than the 7-8 cups of white sugar that you would normally use.  Each box is more expensive than other pectins, but you don't use the whole box for each batch.  You can get 2-4 batches of jam per box, so it does end up being about the same money.  So far I'm very happy with it.  The marmalade is jelling nicely and it has a nice taste, not too sweet. 
Now, I have marmalade to add to the many other jams and jellies I've made this year.  I don't think I need to make any for the next few years.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Fall Garden

The fall garden is really starting to come into its own.  Every year I try to do a little more for the fall garden.  I never really understood before how much I could grow in my garden.  Its amazing what a little planning and more than one planting will do for the amount of produce you can get out of a small space.  Above are some of the leeks.  This is my first year planting them and so far I'm very happy with them.  I think I'll harvest one this week, just to see what it looks like.
The tomatoes  are really dead this time.  But now, its not quite as bothersome.  We're just a few weeks from frost, so its not as big a deal.  They'll be pulled out on Friday and the chickens will clean up the leftovers.  

 The peppers are getting big though and I'm waiting for a few of them to put on their color.
The swiss chard has also still been doing well.  We've cut and eaten lots and still have plenty to go.
This is some of the lettuce I planted for the cold frames.  It was supposed to be romaine, but it looks like some red leaf lettuce snuck  in there as well.  Its a happy mistake.
There are also some beets looking a little anemic here.  They are also for the cold frame, although they may not make it that far.  This is my first year trying out the cold frames and I'm very excited to see how it goes.  If things go as well as hoped, I'll be adding more cold frame space to the beds.  The next major project is adding several more beds outside the main garden area as raised beds.  I hope to have them all built, filled with soil and ready to go before the first snowflakes start to fall.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Does size really matter?

My kids were playing in the basement today. Noah decided that he would make a fort to play in. He used a smaller blanket than the picture above and it was perfect for him. Then Morgan came along and decided she wanted to play in the fort as well. The problem was, there wasn't nearly enough room for both of them. In this case, the fix was easy. I grabbed an old comforter and threw it over the chairs for an extra large fort, big enough for both of them and all their stuffed animals.

In our real lives, there aren't always any easy fixes for problems of size. We live in a 1200 sq ft home with a finished attic and unfinished basement. The attic is completely taken up with hubby's computer business, so that takes away a large amount of space for us. The reality is that in our society 1200 sq ft isn't very big. In my world it gets rather tight trying to store all the things I've accumulated in my quest to simplify and green our world.

Just the prospect of storing food can be daunting in a small space. First is the equipment for seed starting. Lights, heat mats, pots, soil and seeds all take up a good amount of space. Then I need to preserve all the wonderful herbs and veggies that I grew. This involves a dehydrator, canning equipment and hundreds of jars, rings and lids. All of this stuff needs a home. In my case that home is my basement. I have shelving on every available wall to have space to store all of my goodies. There also needs to be space for all the great things I buy in bulk.

Then there is all that needs to be recycled. We end up with a lot of paper recycling as a result of hubby's business. Since we throw away relatively little, the recycling needs to have a home until we can get to the transfer station to get rid of it.

All of this takes up space. I feel that it all has a purpose in my home. I like my hundred foot diet very much. It helps us to reduce our impact on the earth and keeps us healthy as well.

Now, I certainly have size envy from time to time. I would like to have a bigger home, although not much bigger. I would definitely like to have a bigger piece of land to garden on. We adapt to what we have. We all do the best that we can with what is given to us. But, yes, size certainly matters. It affects what we do and how we do it. The size of our home, our family, our land and our commute are all major factors in life.

This post is my submission to the APLS September Carnival on "When does size matter?" It is being hosted by Tina this month. Head on over and take a look at all the submissions sometime after the 15th.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Earning their keep

The chicks are quickly becoming chickens and should be laying in another month or so. Even without eggs, they are earning their keep. Right now they are in the garden. They're happily eating all the spent veggies that are left. They are also doing a great job of cleaning up the mess of weeds I was too lazy to pull up. When we moved the tractor last night their space was as full of green as that area just outside the coop. They have, in just a few short hours, cleaned up a large amount of weeds and debris.
All of this cleaning up is great for both of us. While they eat, they get rid of weeds for me. They also till the first few inches of soil and mix in they're wonderful manure at the same time. As the beds are emptied, they will be moved around the garden. They are currently in what was once the squash and cucumber bed. The yummy things they are eating also help to increase the health of the eggs they will soon be producing. All the bugs, worms, weeds and spent veggies will be transformed into eggs that you can't buy at the supermarket. These eggs can only be achieved with the varied diet of a chicken able to eat what it was meant to eat.

I'm so amazed by these wonderful animals. I feel so blessed to be able to care for them and see that they have a good life. The eggs will be a wonderful benefit as well, but the chickens have blessed us in many other ways as well. Who else has chickens, or wants to get chickens? I really encourage you to get them if you can. They are quite easy and really fun.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

No product recals for this toy

Morgan just had her 5th birthday a few weeks ago. A huge milestone for her. To celebrate I wanted to get her a kitchen to play with. The problem is that so many are all plastic, made in China or crazy expensive. Then I remembered that I had my uber-talented neighbor J. J is the one who built my super cool chicken tractor this Spring. He loves Morgan and was thrilled to be able to make her something special.

This is what he came up with. He really did a nice job. Excuse the mess around it, its in the basement playroom which is also where all my storage is. He cut out a butterfly and got butterfly drawer pulls.
I love the little stove he made with real knobs to turn.
Here is a shot of the oven and cabinet. I even gave him the leftover paint from my kitchen, so it matches perfectly. Morgan loves it and is having a wonderful time making little pretend meals for everyone. I'm just thrilled with it in general. I've already talked to him about Christmas presents for the kids....

Monday, September 7, 2009

Making produce bags

Its the end of summer and I've been going through all the clothes. Some have been passed down, some have been donated and some are just past any redemption. Above is a picture of an old t-shirt of mine that has too many stains to wear. I've tried everything, but its a lost cause. What to do with it? I've already made hubby's shirts into napkins and we have plenty of them.

Then it dawned on me! I've been looking for fabric to make produce bags from. Being my cheap self, I didn't want to buy fabric, so this would be perfect. The shirt is very worn, so not too heavy.

I started by cutting off the top.
Then the sides were removed. The bottom was left, as that has a purpose.
Up to the dark attic to sew up the sides. What this very poor shot should be showing is to start sewing just below the bottom seam. That seam will be where we put the drawstring.
All sewn up and turned right side out. They're pretty big.
I dug through the kids craft supplies and found these pieces of yarn with the plastic ends. They're kind of like shoelaces. I'm not sure how well they'll work long term, but for now they're perfect.
String them through the seam and you're done!
Just for fun, I weighed them. Each one weighs about 2.25 ounces. Since they will each be able to hold several pounds of produce, I'm not very concerned about the added weight. Now I need to find some more fabric to make smaller bags!

Thursday, September 3, 2009


We love salsa here. Every year my son anxiously awaits the making of the salsa. Its one of his favorite snacks with tortilla chips. So today, while he was fighting through his math, I chopped and measured. The recipe I use is called Annie's salsa and I've seen it referenced dozens of times on the internet. The recipe is linked above about halfway down the page. I omit the sugar and cilantro. The first because we don't need it and the second because we don't like it.

The tomatoes have been loving the dry weather we're having. There is no rain predicted for the next week at least, so eventually I'll probably have to break down and water them. So far though, they seem to be thriving with a lack of water. Honestly, they only have a few weeks left anyway, before frost does them in for good.

The chickens love when it when I go to the garden. They stand poised, waiting for the treats they know they'll soon get. Half rotten tomatoes, weeds, overdone cukes, lettuce gone to seed, its all heaven to the chicks. Since I've been doing lots of canning lately, they've gotten even more. Instead of throwing the tomato cores into the compost, the chickens get them. Since they then eat more of the feed pellets, its a great deal for everyone. It won't be long until they go into the garden to do the cleanup for me. Wonderful little garden helpers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Farmer's Market

This is the first year for my little town to have a farmer's market. A professor from the local college helped to set it up and it has been wonderful. I'm actually quite amazed at the number of people that have been attending each week. It had started out in a small parking lot are, but after the first week, had to be expanded.

When I said I was going to the market, my sister in law said she had no need to go since she had her own garden. So do I, but the market is about so much more.

This week I got lettuce from one vendor, mine is dead and the next group isn't ready yet. Then there were the early apples and jalapenos from another vendor. The jalapenos will go with my tomatoes and onions for salsa today. The apples will be a nice snack.

Another farmer had eggplant, so that went into a very garlicky baba ganoush. Yummy

Then there are the bakers, we have to bakery vendors. One has bread and roll and the other has cookies and bars. I got lemon bars from the second vendor. They are so yummy I can't stand it. Yes, I know that lemons aren't local, but in those locally produced bars they are heavenly.

Lastly I got 2 lavender sachets. The woman who runs this booth is a teacher with a small lavender farm. She makes her own sachets from hand dyed fabric. She also sells lavender in bunches and bags. The smell is heavenly.

The thing is that I can get all these wonderful things in one place. It gives the vendors a place to let people know about what they do. Every week there are more people there to try the wonderful things that they are hearing about. This week I saw the local supermarket buyer over looking at all the great produce. Hopefully that will translate into more local foods in the supermarket(small, locally owned supermarket). Its a win-win for everyone!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Morgan is in Kindergarten now and is so excited to be a big girl. She loves doing anything with me, but is especially enamored of school right now. Its such a thrill for her to learn something new and get praise for it as well. What could be better?

As the kids get older, I realize how very different they are. Morgan loves to do everyday things with me. She wants to help everyone. She is also very observant. She can notice details that others miss, quite amazing. Her other strong suit is how very verbal she it. She expresses herself so well.

Noah couldn't be anymore different. He is our absent minded professor. He can do long division in his head, but can't find the socks 2 feet from him. He is the sweetest, most loving child in the world. He is very energetic, but non-violent. Trying to get information out of him is like pulling teeth.

They are so different and so wonderful in their own rights. I am so lucky to have such wonderful, healthy kids.