Independence Days: March & April 2012

Plant something: lettuce, spinach, beets, yellow waxed beans.  Last year the birds got all my bean plants.  This year I’m going to post a child over them vigilantly as a scare-robin.  And though it wasn’t my doing, my neighbor and another colleague at work started tomatoes and are sharing their bounty with my in the form of well-started plants.

Harvest something: chives, spinach, onions and rhubarb.  The spinach is last fall’s, so very dense and best for soup.  Good thing I love soup!

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Preserve something: nothing.

Waste not: lots of laundry dried in the sunshine and wind; the compost is cooking well.

Want not: In March and April we received lots of hand-me-down clothes and pulled out clothes from cousins that we’d been storing while people grew.  Last fall I asked friends for some of their leaves, and these have made a significant difference in my compost (both its speed cooking and its odor).
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Build Community Food Systems: My friend has started a monthly potluck to build a local-food community, and went to the March potluck.  It was great to see her chicken coop and garden in person, and to meet other people excited about building a sustainable food system.  We have continued our dinner-swap with our friends, and she is so good about trying out recipes with new (and local) ingredients.  It’s been fun.

Eat the food: We’re still enjoying last summer’s harvest in the form of peaches, applesauce, frozen berries and jam.  We have lots of beef from my friend’s ranch, and… well, we’re eating a lot of grass-fed beef.
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Late April Garden Update

Somehow after that initial garden post, I haven’t gotten around to doing much.  It could be because of my sprinkler debacle, which was only repaired last week.  But a few days ago, my friend Anisa gave me a tour of her garden, and I saw all she had coming up: beets, lettuce, kale, chard… and I thought, “What am I waiting for?”

So without further ado: the garden.

Here is the bed with the rhubarb.  Those on broccoli on the right, and buried under the recently added compost are last years potatoes.  I didn’t notice them, and now they have new plants.  I’m hoping to harvest new potatoes and then pull them up to make way for whatever M wants to put in.  (I’m hoping carrots and cucumbers.)  There is a row of beets just to the left of the broccoli.

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The bed below is two further back from the one above.  It has a bunch of last year’s spinach which will soon be pulled for a spring soup (sausage/greens is my favorite, but I have a new spring minestrone that’s a contender).  I put another row of spinach just between it and the edge.  On the left are rows of peas (way late to start them with how warm it’s been, but… oh well.  I do love peas.  If I get any, it will be a bonus.), beets, carrots, and boston lettuce.

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This is the strawberry bed.  We planted them last year and got a fair crop, but I’m very hopeful for this year.  Lots of flowers already…
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Wow, this is an exciting photo.  We put in two rows of beets (don’t tell Sam) and a row each of spinach and lettuce.
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I don’t have a photo of the rest of this bed, but it’s full of potato plants that keep erupting through the compost I’m layering over them.  I take that as a good sign.  Eventually, when we’ve pulled the beets, lettuce and spinach here, I’ll put tomatoes in this bed.  They’ve never grown here, so I’m hoping to avoid any nightshade pests.

Below is a rose-bush my mom pulled out of her garden.  It was dwarfed last year by the native grass that she inadvertently gave us as well, which Sam pulled out.  Hooray.  It seems to like being alone.
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This is a photo of our fabulous dandelion crop. The strawberries have never done much. I can’t decide if I should transplant them [the strawberries, not the dandelions] or compost them. Ideas?

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This year my peonies are looking great. (So great that SweetP snapped a bunch of the shoots off and gave them to me as a bouquet. They don’t seem to have minded.)

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This is the first year the bleeding heart has bloomed.

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And this is one of the last tulips. But my mom was just in Holland, and I have a tulip package coming across the sea in the fall. Thanks, Mom!

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What’s happening in YOUR garden?

In the garden

We had a beautiful weekend, with 70 degree days and sunshine.  My long run didn’t pan out, but I made it into the garden.

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I rooted out the oregano that spread like plague two years ago.  (I’m sure I missed a bunch of it, but it smelled great while I was digging it up.)  I pulled up all the dried tomato stalks, pepper plants, and sunflower trunks.

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I planted a little spinach.  (I couldn’t help myself, really I couldn’t.  It was a compulsion.)

I harvested 5 onions left over from last year.  They look delicious.

It all has me thinking about Sharon Astyk’s Independence Days Challenge.  I learned so much from participating two years ago.  I don’t plan to post on it every week, but I may sprinkle in an Independence Days post here and there, so humor me, okay?
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2011 Harvest

The ground is frozen today.  They’re predicting 8-12 inches of snow.  Our breath steams in the air, and the hair in my nose prickles as I breathe in.

The garden is asleep; we put it to bed this weekend.  O and Sam harvested 140 green tomatoes, which are ripening on the counter.  I made another two quarts of tomato puree out of cherry and grape tomatoes.  We found a cauliflower that had gone to seed, and we brought in the last watermelon.  The raspberry bushes were picked faithfully every day, and the strawberries and rhubarb outdid our expectations.  Our potatoes are beautiful, but won’t last long.  I have spinach and lettuce seedlings out there, but I’ll be surprised if I harvest anything from them.  We pulled (and have already eaten) the twelve carrots the rabbits didn’t eat.  I had several meals of zucchini, three eggplants, ten red peppers (a first this year!), and one acorn squash.
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Our spring harvest included several pickings of sweet peas, one harvest of pea pods, tons of lettuce and spinach.

Saturday my friend Renee and I drove 500 miles round-trip to pick up beef (we split it with another family as well) from the butcher.  Here is what 200 (or so) pounds of beef looks like in my freezer:
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I still have 40 pounds of apples coming at the end of the week to make into sauce, and I’m thrilled that the store of our local farm will be staying open for the weekend so I can buy as we go, instead of trying to store it all myself.  My little basement is not anything like a root cellar, though every time I go down and see what’s for dinner for the rest of the winter, I feel happy.  Very happy.

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How was your harvest?

Garden: End of June

This year’s garden feels a little haphazard.

Here’s the new strawberry bed.  Verict: thumbs up.

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Here’s the new flower bed.  Verdict: jury’s still out.

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Here are the roses: thumbs up.

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I wish you could smell them.  You don’t have a scratch & sniff function on your computer, do you?

Here are the rest of the vegetable beds.  See those naked stems?  Those were green beans.  And a cucumber.  Boo, hiss, birds.

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See the weeds?  That’s oregano, still coming back two years after it was pulled from the bed eight feet over.  Drat.

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Peas: delicious.

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Not sure if we’ll get any melons or cucumbers– but the tomatoes and eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, peas, spinach and lettuce are happy.  (Well, those last three were happy.  Until they were eaten.)

How’s your garden going?  Feel free to leave a link in the comments– we’d love to stop by and see it!

May Garden

This is our north-side vegetable patch.  That’s a volunteer onion from last year, and then potatoes I planted in early March. I’ve added bush beans, carrots, melons, and more onions from seed.  We’ll see what comes up.  The weather is still a little erratic.

Here are the perennials.  From left to right, top to bottom: Silver Maple, Honeysuckle, Columbine.

The rose in the middle left is a huge joy for me– Sam was trying to swap the low rose with the climber (the low bush was closer to the wall) but he split the rose root-ball.  We put one half of it next to the fence, and it’s very happily sprouting new growth.  But the larger part with four years of tall old growth on it was dead. Dead. Dead.  Until last week, when a teeny tiny leaf bud appeared.  Hooray!  It’s a rose miracle!

The rose in the center of the collage was last year’s rose miracle– the moral of the story being that when I think my roses are dead, I need to cut them back and give them another chance.  It’s worked for me three times now.

The baby robins are growing.  They’re so big now that when the window’s open, I can hear their frantic peeping every time a parent appears with food.  Those robin parents are working so hard!

Bottom left: more columbines (the Colorado state flower).  Bottom center: M’s shoes full of seed pods and flowers from the lake.Bottom right: really happy weeds.  They like the rain as much as I do.

What’s growing in your garden?  Feel free to leave a link in the comments!

Independence Days: End of the Year

Last year, from mid-March 2010 to the mid-March 2011, I kept track of my steps toward Food and Energy Independence.  When I look at where I am now, it doesn’t feel like I got very far– others made it much farther.  (Look at Schell Urban Homestead or SouleMama if you want to be inspired!)  But then I remember that THIS is MY life, not theirs.  And if I break it down, I made steady steps– one by one by one– in multiple areas.

The “Independence Days” idea came from Sharon Astyk.  She breaks down our steps in 7 categories of intentional steps toward using less from outside, doing more for ourselves.  It was a very useful exercise, because thinking of my consumerism in these terms made me think about it in a way I hadn’t before.  And I got credit for really small things.  I gave myself credit for taking small steps.

So in conclusion, during the second week of March:

Plant Something: I put the last of November’s 50 lbs of potatoes (about 10 of them that had sprouted legs and were trying to walk away) into the garden.  Many of them actually are now sprouting leaves.

Harvest Something: nothing

Preserve Something: nothing

Waste Not: We consolidated our two sandboxes into one, and I used the box on the garden side to make a strawberry bed. (The strawberries came later and were planted.)  I also have started hanging the laundry out again– it works as long as I get it outside (very) early in the day.  My Lenten discipline did free up many little bits of time which served to get all sorts of things mended so they can be used: curtain rods, pants, shirts, pants, stuffed animals, pants…

Want Not: Just in the nick of time, our beef grower called to see if we wanted another 1/4 cow.  We did!  So the freezer is full again.  My friend Renee stocked us up on Costco butter and croutons and sugar and yeast.

Build Community Food Systems: One of our homeschooling acquaintances (she’s in our once a week “school”) raises chickens, so I have a new source for eggs from pastured chickens.  Yum!

Eat the Food: Looking at my pantry now, as we have several months before much produce comes out of the garden, always informs my next year’s planning.  We are still stocked with peaches.  We’re completely out of tomatoes, though we have some roast tomato soup still.  Our berries are gone.  A quarter-cow held us close to a year, so that’s a good fit for us for now (I see times a-comin’ soon when we’re going to be a double-recipe family, rather than eat-exactly-all-of-the-recipe family.  And just a year or two ago, we were a  family who could eat dinner and have several days of leftovers from a recipe.)

What I learned: I’m so glad I kept track of this.  Perhaps the blog wasn’t the ideal way to do it– a paper journal might have been enough– but it kept me accountable.  Had I not been sharing it with you, I might have given up halfway.  I noticed a lot of patterns in my thinking (and therefore, my doing), and this discipline helped me over the hump in a few– like planting a little bit frequently, instead of thinking I have to plant a farm one weekend.  I think I have a ways to go in spreading the joy of living locally, and I’m still tongue-tied when I try to explain to folks who don’t know my why we do the things we do, but this Independence Days challenge gave me some good ways to think about it.  Thanks, Sharon Astyk.

Independence Days: Weeks 49-50

I expect to post just once more in this series of Independence Days posts, but it won’t come till after Easter.  I’ve enjoyed keeping track of all the little ways we’re tried to be faithful stewards of our small bit of earth, and the relationships it provides.

Plant Something: We put in spinach, lettuce, and peas, though nothing has sprouted and the mornings have been so cold, I don’t think I’d want to sprout either.

Harvest Something: nothing.

Preserve Something: my sanity?  Just kidding.

Waste Not: It irks me that it is often cheaper (and certainly easier!) to replace something altogether than to fix it.  So last week, I dug around online to find replacement wheels for the dishwasher rack, and foam covers for the headphones.  (SweetP likes to take things apart, and then chew the foam covers.  I know: Ewww.)  Also, I patched the holes in the wall that have been there… er, two and a half years?We’re going to use an old 4’x4′ square garden frame that Sam replaced in the vegetable garden as a flower bed in front of the fence.  This week we worked on moving the river rock.  Also, we’ve been taking care of the compost.

Want Not: my friend Renee shared some of her red lentils with me.  They make the yummiest Jerusalem Lentil Soup.

Build Community Food Systems:  Nothing.  But Sam has me contemplating chickens.  Of course, our HOA forbids them.

Eat the food:  Ah, here we excel.  We had a most delicious Plum-berry tart this week, make from the description in Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food.  Yum.

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Also, we enjoyed pantry onions, peaches, tomatoes, and jam; and frozen peaches, raspberries (in that there tart), plums, beef, sausage, and tomato soup.