Independence Days: End of July

Plant something: the sweet potatoes that had grown legs.  I know nothing about growing sweet potatoes, but I guess I’m going to find out!

Harvest something: basil, a few tomatoes, onions, beets!, strawberries and raspberries. And we’re doing our best to hold off on those plums…


Preserve something: pickled beets.  And some raspberries that were on sale at the grocery store– I just froze them on trays and will have them in smoothies all winter.

Waste not: lots of laundry dried in the sunshine.  And while we were gone, 14 people stayed in our home for a night or three.  Isn’t that fun?


Want not: we received two bags of hand-me-down clothes for the kids.  What a blessing.

Build Community Food Systems: I’m really getting nothing done here, but I’m enjoying watching my friend embrace local and natural food.

Eat the food: I love this part.  We’re enjoying this tomato sauce, and pickled beets.


Independence Days: June 2012

Plant Something: we put in cucumbers and melons at the beginning of the month, and Sam brought home a basil and a cherry tomato to plant.

Harvest Something: the last of the broccoli, lettuce and strawberries, the first of the raspberries, onions, and potatoes.


Preserve Something: We froze raspberries from the store, and made jam as well.  (Whoa- I guess I filled those jars way less than normal!)


Waste Not: I took may (good) camera in to the repair shop… we’ll see what they can do (and how much it will cost).  SweetP dropped it on the pool deck.  I also figured out what was driving up our natural gas bill: the pilot light on the fireplace.  So we turned that off.

Want Not: Had to stock up on some boy clothes.

Build Community Food Systems: We finally have a grocery store within walking (or biking) distance, and it has bulk grains.  Now I just have to train them how to tare the scale to measure the grains inside my quart jars.

Eat the Food: We’re at the tail end of the last year’s peaches.  Beef, beef, beef.  I made a yummy pesto we’ve been eating on everything.  Strawberries, roasted new potatoes, carmelized onion pasta sauce (thanks, Moosewood), and lots and lots of romaine lettuce.  (Note to self: next year less Romaine.)

Independence Days: Late May

Plant Something: I put in melons, pumpkin and butternut squash seeds.  I had been holding off on putting my two tomato plants in the ground in fear of hail, but I finally did it.  The beets, carrots and lettuce finally came up, so I don’t feel the need to replant them… though it felt like forever.  If I were organized, I would have checked the germination time before I put them in and recycled the envelope.


Harvest Something: rhubarb, strawberries (we’re getting 15-20 every day now), spinach, new potatoes.  Rather than carefully reach under the ground to pull a few potatoes without disturbing the rest of the plant (as Laura describess in Little House), I just pulled up some of the whole plants.  I planted too many potatoes, and I want the space for squash and melons.

Also, I spread the first finished batch of compost in the flowerbeds.  In the fall, friends brought 3 of their big bags of leaves, and they have been a great addition to the compost.
Waste Not:   I was able to duct-tape O’s shoe that broke… not a permanent solution, but it will hold him for a bit.  We continue to dry almost all our laundry on the line, and the heat has been off for a month.  We also changed our company for local milk.  We had a few episodes where a gallon delivered one week spoiled before the second week.  I did a little research and found that our company was a co-op (nothing wrong with that, except that it was one extra step from field to door, and I wondered if that was compromising its freshness.)  So we switched to a different company that is an actual dairy.


Want Not: refilled the propane for the grill.

Preserve Something: nothing

Build Community Food Systems:  My friend built herself a garden.  I had nothing to do with it except that I’m always blathering on about mine and foisting extra rhubarb on her.  So now she has her own.


Eat the Food: J has declared that we are going to eat all the raspberry jam before we go to the strawberry.  Lucky for him, we have a few pints left, but it’s going fast.  I found the raspberry sauce I made, and it’s been really yummy on my oatmeal.  We still have lots of applesauce and beef (lots of beef).  We’re still enjoying our local popcorn almost daily.  How much popcorn did I buy?  Where I could do much better, is in the eating-the-food-in-the-fridge-before-it’s-bad department.  I had gobs of tiny portions of leftovers in little, opaque containers.  When I finally got around to examining their contents, I found some really fantastic mold.  Yowza.

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!


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).
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.

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.


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.


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?

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.


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

Independence Days: Weeks 47-48

Plant Something: spinach and potatoes.  I know it’s really early, but the groundhog didn’t see his shadow, did he?

Harvest Something: nothing

Preserve Something: nothing

Waste Not: I caught the bananas just in time and made some yummy banana bread.  Also, I went through the seeds I saved so I wouldn’t be buying what I already have on hand.

Want Not: I ordered our seeds.

Build Community Food Systems: I had a conversation with my grocery store (you know, when they ask you at check out, “Did you find everything you were looking for today?”) about how I appreciate their local produce and would like to see more local products.

Eat the food: We’re still enjoying lots of local jam, honey, beef, onions, potatoes, peppers (frozen), smoothies with peaches and raspberries we froze.  We had a really good NY strip steak this week with a rub of salt, pepper, brown sugar, and garlic.  Perhaps you heard the smoke alarm going off?  It was delicious, if noisy.

Independence Days: Weeks 44-46

Plant Something: nothing, but I’ve got a tentative order for seeds written out.  I just need to go through the seeds I saved so I’m not ordering what I don’t need.

Harvest Something: nada

Waste Not: the DAV came by last week and picked up all sorts of things culled from our drawers and bedrooms during winter cleaning.  And my friend Amy was able to use a pair of linen pants that were too small for me– hooray!

Want Not: my neighbor Renee passed down lots of pajamas for O– he’s very happy!, and she gave me a beautiful blouse.  Also, I found some great casual bamboo pants at

Build Community Food Systems: nada.  Have you read Tough Choices: Facing the Challenge of Food Scarcityby Lester Brown?  I heard him interviewed on the BBC a few days ago about the world food crisis.  Very thought provoking.  It makes me sad to think of the price of rice doubling in the Philippines, or the soaring price of cabbage in China.  Those are staples I completely take for granted.  All the more reason we need local food options that are sustainable.

Eat the food: jam (raspberry & strawberry), pumpkin, squash, the last of our onions and potatoes, beef (we’re getting down to the end of the cow), peaches, and applesauce.

Independence Days: Weeks 38-43

Even though it seems like there wouldn’t be a lot going on in the darkest part of winter, I’m surprised by how much local food we’re eating.

Plant/Harvest/Preserve something: nothing

Waste Not: We make a lot of little adjustments in the winter to save heat.  Not only does it save money (yea!), but it’s best for the environment.  We continue to hang-dry many of our clothes indoors (putting the rack over the heating vent, or hanging them in the shower).  The added moisture in the air is no small benefit.  We program our thermostat to 62 from 9:15 p.m. to 6:30 am, and we keep it at 68 during the day.  We have a lot of sweatshirts and blankets hanging around, for snuggling on couches to read.  Instead of electric blankets, everyone has a ricebag (which we call bedwarmers).  They go into the microwave for a minute or two and then get tucked in to warm us up until we fall asleep.

Want Not: I stocked up before Christmas on my local butter and sausage from Costco.  Also, I found a local tortilleria and have been buying their tortillas.  They are so fresh and yummy!

Build Community Food Systems:  Local tortilleria as above.

Eat the Food: This is where I’ve been seeing my local food pay off.  From the freezer I’ve been pulling: beef roasts, pureed basil, tomatoes, frozen berries and peaches for smoothies, tomato soup, apple pie filling, and chiles and peppers.  In the crawl space, I still have garlic, shallots, black beans, cannelini beans, potatoes, squashes, and onions– I haven’t bought any from the store since June.  And on the shelves of my pantry, I keep pulling off canned peaches, applesauce, and jam (strawberry, raspberry and grape).  Those look like they’ll hold out for awhile.  I’m looking forward to seeing how my winter grocery budget reflects my summer storage.