Friday, January 28, 2011

My happy place

Sometimes I just have to sit back and realize that it's all going to be just fine.  I have to go to that happy place.  The happy place changes from day to day and season to season.  Right now, it's the excitement of the coming gardening year. 

For all of us gardeners, the next garden is perfect.  The weather will be ideal, weeds will be minimal and timing will leave nothing to be desired.  The seeds will have excellent germination and I will of course document every little thing that happens, in order to keep a good record of the year.  In reality, of course, there will be weeds, crops will do poorly, there will be too little or too much rain, there will be weeds.  In short nothing will be perfect.  Except, it will be in many ways.  There will always be that one crop that did amazing.  There will be thing that keeps us all going. 

Seeds hold so much promise.  They hold the promise of joy and wonder.  These tiny little powerhouses will burst forth and amaze us yet again.

We will again be reminded of why we do something so crazy as growing our own food.  The more I see on the news about our food, the more I am glad that I am able to grow even a small portion of what we eat.  I can be a part of the history of our world, by growing and eating foods that have been nurtured for thousands of years. 

I know many who read my blog are gardeners.  Some are very experienced and I learn from them and some are new to this.  Every year it seems that there are more and more gardeners.  Some are here to be 'green', some because they want to save money, some are just doing it for the love of food.  Whatever your reason, the joy of seeds is a universal one of hope.  They don't have to be neatly cataloged, they don't need to be from the fancy garden catalogs, they just need to be.  Enjoy your seeds.  Dream of the perfect garden.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Can I call Uncle?

I'm sure you're sick of coming to my blog and seeing pictures of snow.  I'm sick of looking at it too.  We got another 14 inches or so last night, so there are lots of new pictures.  This was a particularly pretty snow.  It is laying on the branches perfectly. 

The back, lower part of the yard. 

The shed and part of the garden.  My carrots are buried under the snow there.  You can't even tell there is a bed anymore, nevermind carrots.

More of the garden. 

The kids won't be using these any time soon.

The chickens are hiding out in their house.  Their run is, of course covered in a small amount of snow, despite being covered largely by plastic. 

The kids are out playing in the snow now.  My little one is having a hard time walking in it at this point.  The side yard where they play, is the worst with drifting. 

I wish I could start a few seeds, but its still way too early.  At this rate we won't thaw until May.  As was mentioned in the comments, snow is great for the garden.  The old timers used to call it 'poor man's fertilizer'.  If that's the case, it should be a great garden next summer.

Boston usually gets about 48 inches of snow in a season.  In the past month alone they've gotten over 60 inches.  We're just south of Boston, between Boston and Cape Cod.  We've gotten more than that, but I'm not sure of the exact total.  I'd say we're closer to 70 inches in about 30 days.  That's why I want to call Uncle!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Weighing my options

I got an email today from the director of the new community gardens in my town.  They have 20x20 plots for $20.  The co-op will plow and till, as well as having water available.  It's really tempting to have some additional space to grow some of those big space hogs. 

I got another email from the same guy, who also heads up the farmer's market in my town.  He is a professor at the University in my town and a big proponent of the slow/local food movement.  The Farmer's Market started 2 years ago with a big success to start, followed by some major slowing.  That would be expected in my mind.  However, this same man became overwhelmed when the original market manager quit and there were significant issues with follow up managers.  Last year, in it's second season, the market had few vendors and even fewer customers.  He got fed up and cancelled it after a few weeks. I know that overwhelmed feeling well.

So, here I sit.  I now have more time than I've ever had to devote to the things that I love.  If you hadn't noticed, I'm a bit passionate about food.  Particularly local, organic, sustainable food.  It's been a few months since I put the kids into school and I'm starting to get a bit antsy.  Granted, I'll be knee deep in gardening in a few months, but will still have lots more time to devote to something.  I'm really wanting to get involved in the market.  I would love to see it become successful.  I would love to see more people have an interest in where their food comes from. 

My plan is to go to the meeting in 2 weeks and offer my help.  I'm really excited to see what will need doing.  It's so exciting to know that I can now become more active in my interests.  The future is a wonderful thing full of promise.  It is also full of work to be done.  Lets get to work!

Monday, January 24, 2011

You know it's cold when...

It's been a bit cold this winter.  This morning was the coldest it's been in 6 years.  I want my money back.  They said we were supposed to have a mild winter.  They lied. 

The chickens have been my biggest worry.  They're taking it all in stride though.  Their water is on a warming unit.  However, this morning, there was ice in the water anyway. 

How do people in the colder regions do it? 

I'm compensating by poring over garden books and seed catalogs.  All the seeds have been ordered and the plans have been made for the garden.  I'm just dreaming now.  Dreaming of a Spring that will eventually get here.  It does every year.  It just feels like it will never happen.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Canning potatoes

Some of my storage potatoes are starting to sprout.  Since they aren't stored in an ideal location, I'm not surprised.  These were the Kennebecs, which was a little surprising though.  They are supposed to be excellent keepers.

When I started going through the potatoes, I realized that many of the sprouts were coming from the smaller potatoes.  There were a few larger potatoes sprouting, but not as many.  I did not want to lose these wonderful potatoes, so something had to be done.  We're flying through them, but couldn't eat them quite fast enough.

Pressure canning potatoes is very easy.  Pick your own has a lovely little tutorial on it.  I must say that I simplified it a bit as I don't really see the point to pre-cooking them.  That's just me though.

I canned up 7 quarts, but there are tons more potatoes.  The plan is to continue to use the fresh as long as possible and can up whatever looks like it won't make it.

Canned potatoes are one of those things I never knew how to use until recently.  Hubby grew up with a mother who used commercially canned potatoes in many of her dishes.  I never liked the taste or texture, so I wasn't too excited to try it.  Then last year my sister in law grew too many potatoes and wanted to can them up.  I taught her how and she gave me a jar to say thank you.  It sat on the shelf for quite a while, until I worked up the nerve to use them.  To my surprise, they were actually quite good.  The potatoes stay quite firm, you could never use them for mashed potatoes, but they're great for soups, stews and braises.  I will still continue to use fresh potatoes whenever possible, but the canned aren't a terrible thing to have on hand.

This post is part of Daphne's Dandelion's Harvest Monday.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thoughts about home

I've been thinking quite a bit about the perfect home for my family.  Our present house is a duplex.  We bought is 8 years ago while housing was still rising, thinking we would be here for 4 or 5 years at most. 

Then the housing crisis hit.  We were lucky, we never went upside down on our mortgage, but we have several neighbors who bought after us, who are.  Prices had risen so quickly, that in the course of a year the value of our home had risen by almost a third.  It then dropped by as much the following year.  Hubby and I sat in our home and thanked our lucky stars that we still had equity, a job and an affordable mortgage.  We started to look at our home as a more permanent place to live.  I still continued to dream of more land and a single family house, but was content where we were. 

About a year ago we started to talk about moving again.  We've always had a quiet little neighborhood, but in the past year we've had several police incidents on our street.  We have several friends on the police department and they all encouraged us to look elsewhere.  When our adjacent neighbors announced their move out of state, we couldn't justify staying any longer. 

So, where to move?  I've always wanted a woodstove.  Last year we stayed at a friend's cabin with a woodstove and the rest of the family fell in love as well.  During Wednesday's blizzard we lost power for 10 hours.  All I could think, was that if we had the stove we'd be warm and I could cook.  Instead we just put on more layers and ate PB&J. 

Hubby and I have a few differing opinions on homes, but overall are in  agreement.  While I love older homes, they just wouldn't be practical for us.  We are certainly not the fixer upper types.  Hubby is good at a lot of things, home improvement is not one of them. 

So a newer home.  Not a McMansion thank you.  Our current house is relatively small and I'm not looking to get a much bigger house.  The fireplace is a must, so that we can get the woodstove.  Hubby wants central air, I couldn't care less about that, but will look for it.

Lastly is land.  We currently have about 1/3 an acre, with much of that shared.  Since a large portion is also unusable as a result of a septic tank, that doesn't leave too much.  I do all the outside work myself, so it has to be manageable for little old me.  A bigger garden is of course something on the wishlist.  I'd also like more chickens, with meat birds added to the mix as well.  Beyond that, I'm not sure.  Goats would be lovely, but I'm not real confident of my ability to care for them properly.  We'll have to see. 

All of this is just in the thinking stage.  We aren't in a perfect position to sell for another year.  In that time, my thinking could change drastically.  For now, I'm clearing out excess and trying not to think about dismantling my garden and packing up the 300+ canning jars in the basement. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blizzard # 2

Yesterday was blizzard # 2 for our area.  It's only Jan 13th, so that isn't a great sign.  The garden is completely buried.  It's so deep that you can hardly see the difference between the raised beds and the ground.  Behind the garden, our bushes are in bad shape under all the snow.  They bounced back from the last storm, but I'm not sure how much more they can take. 

The kids are loving it.  They've been making tunnels in snow banks today.  I'm sure the sledding will resume shortly.

They're very proud of their work.  My Noah is the very silly one at the top.

The chickens are doing well, considering how little the like the snow.  They're currently under my front window.  It isn't ideal, but was very necessary.   My neighbors that we were sharing the chickens with are moving.  They couldn't have the chickens there while selling the house, so here they are.  The tractor was moved between snow storms, so the girls couldn't be in a better place.  I would have had to lift the tractor over a snow bank.  It's working out well, they hardly got any snow in the run and are quite close to the electrical outlet. 

Toby is in heaven.  He loves this weather and has been playing in the snow quite a bit.  Here he's waiting for me to stop taking pictures and kick the ball for him.  How could I possibly resist that face?

It really is gorgeous out there today.  I'm not a big fan of snow, but it keeps the kids happy and active and the photos are great.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter projects: fingerless gloves

Tis the season for knitting.  The seeds for the garden have been ordered.  The garden has been planned.  It's still too early to start seeds, so what is a girl to do?  Make fingerless gloves, of course. 

I've been seeing these everywhere this year.  That must mean that I'm not the only one sitting in a chilly home all winter.  I was at a friend's a few weeks ago, watching her finish up a pair similar to these.  What was even better, was that they used sock yarn.  There is an absurd stash of sock yarn in my basement currently.  A few years ago, I went on a sock knitting bender.  When Knit Picks had a nice little sale on sock yarn, I went a little nuts.  Then I stopped knitting socks.  Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this.  So, now there is a large stash of sock yarn with no purpose.  In steps the fingerless glove. 

One of the wonderful things about the internet, is the vast array of free patterns.  As a member of Ravelry, a knitting and crocheting community, I was able to access hundreds of patterns almost immediately.  (my name is nandmsmom on the site, but I'm rarely on)  Now, don't get me wrong, I'll happily pay for things, but to get my feet wet, there isn't anything like a free pattern. 

I whipped up this pair pretty quickly.  When I posted a pic on Facebook, my niece, who just joined the military, promptly asked for a pair.  Since there are lots of birthdays coming up soon, guess what's on the agenda?  By the time Spring rolls around, I should be plenty tired of making these.  The stash of yarn should be nicely emptied as well.  That should be less to pack next year. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

It never gets old

I still get a thrill every time the girls lay eggs.  We've had them for a year and a half and they've been laying for well over a year.  It still makes me so happy to collect eggs.  There is something so satisfying about having chickens.  They're always happy to see me, especially if I have leftovers for them.  This time of year they are extra grateful for those treats since they aren't on pasture.

My plan had been to get some more layers in the spring.  That has been put off with the move.  The hens we have now will be with us until the fall and then they'll likely be butchered.  We'll get more hens when we get our new house.  I'll really miss those wonderful eggs, along with the hens that laid them. 

If you have the ability to have chickens, I would encourage you to do so.  They are so easy to care for.  Personally, I think they're easier than the dog.  He is cuter and snugglier though. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Getting my groove back

Vacation is over for the kids.  They went back to school yesterday.  After over a week of getting nothing at all accomplished, I'm trying to get back into my groove. 

It's always amazing to me how busy Christmas is.  Making gifts, shopping, wrapping, socializing and lots of cooking make for a very busy month.  When you add to that Hubby's computer business going into overdrive just before the holidays, it's quite exhausting.  This week is all about taking back my life.  There are still plenty of computers to be repaired, but not to the point that I can't get other things done. 

To that end I'm putting quick meals in the freezer and getting the house cleaned and organized.  I'm not the best housekeeper in the world, but I appreciate a nice neat house as much as the next gal.  I hate clutter and disorganization, so that is my usual incentive to clean.  We're purging lots of crud that has built up over the years.  It makes me so happy to see these things leave my house. 

While I purge, I think about what it would be like to pack up my house.  It's not a big house, but there are lots of things we've accumulated.  We're contemplating moving from our beloved neighborhood in the next year or so.  Who knows whether we'll actually do it, but getting rid of excess is never a bad thing in my book. 

Now it's time to move on with the never ending to-do list.