Monday, December 19, 2011

Setting goals now for 2012

So,what are your goals?I won't say resolutions,because we all know in the end less than 1% of those will be kept....LOL....

Well,we have already set a few goals.Here they are:

1)Double the amount of produce we get from our garden.
(That would be 800lbs for 2012)
2)Raise as much of our own food as we can,including meat(rabbits)
3)Reduce what we send to the landfill by raising our own,buying in bulk,and letting as little as possible go to waste.
4)Take an actual,real,out of town vacation,I know this one is a stretch,but I put it on there anyway.

Let's talk more about number 3 on the list for a bit.

Unless you've been living in a box under a rock for a while,you are already aware that the USA is one of the most wasteful countries in the world.Our whole economic system is built on consumption,and along with consumption,is waste...out with the old,in with the new...

I don't know the exact numbers,but drive down any street on trash pick up day,and you can see,we Americans produce a LOT of garbage.

There are some simple ways we can all work to produce less trash.

The first that should come to your mind,is taking your own,reusable shopping bags to the store.All those plastic bags do make great waste basket liners,but they also require a lot of energy to make,and are made from oil..a non renewable resource,once it's gone,it's gone there will be no more.

There are now available reusable lightweight produce bags for when you're shopping the produce section of the store.Look them up,if you purchase a lot of store bought produce,they will be a good investment.

In the kitchen you can reduce how much ends up at the curb by disposing of food scraps(no meat or bones,fat),coffee grounds,egg shells,etc,etc at home,by composting.If you're lucky enough to live in an area where you can have chickens(we don't),you can simply toss veggie peels,carrot tops,etc to the chickens,they love them.I save up my egg shells,dry them out in the oven,then crumble them up and sprinkle them right into the garden beds.These add small amounts of calcium and other minerals to the soil,and the rough edges are a slug's nightmare.

Proper meal planning will go a long way to reduce what gets tossed,by cooking just enough for that meal,or making large batches that you can freeze to eat later,doing a little menu planning,and things like that,you can reduce what must be disposed of.

Stop buying paper plates and paper towels...period....honestly,is it that hard to wash a dish towel,use cloth napkins,or wash a plate?I know,you're in a hurry,but really,come on now,get with the program here.We are using up the current supply we've had hanging around,but once those are gone,there will be no more brought into the house.

Buy in bulk whenever possible,you can do this with meats,baking staples like flour and sugar,pet food if you have pets.If you live near a meat packer,you can buy bulk beef and pork from them rather than the grocery store,and they will cut and package it however you want.

IF you have rabbits,chickens,or ducks,you SHOULD be buying their feed and bedding from the local feed elevator,farmer or farm supply store,DO NOT BUY RABBIT FOOD FROM THE PET STORE....also,hay,straw,bedding,pine shavings....if you've been buying those from the pet store,stop now,brake the habit and save not only on packaging going into the landfill,but also save yourself some money.

Moving on...let's go up the list to number 1.

Double the amount of food we get from our garden...I know it sounds like a lot,800lbs is a big goal....but keep in mind,we garden 100% organically,we've got our own onsite fertilizer factories(the rabbits)and with careful planning and better weed pulling,it should be that far of a stretch to say we could grow that much food.this year we were able to supple enough tomatoes for three household to can up,and more zucchini than 10 households could use(chickens would have been handy here). It's late December here,and the Kale is still green...rabbits love it by the way..So we'll see,and we will weigh and track everything that comes from the garden so my dedicated readers can see if we reach our goal.

Number 2 on the list goes hand in hand with number 1 one the list,so we'll leave it at that.

Number 4,yeah,number four...we haven't taken a real vacation in at least four years....and it would be nice,even just for one week to be able to go somewhere and see some new scenery for a while...we'll see what works out....

So,now it's your turn....share with me what your goals are for the coming year....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

So,let's try this again,shall we?

It's been a busy couple of months around here,getting everything in order for the winter.

We bred the oldest of the three does to our buck,and waited,and waited,and....nothing...apparently she didn't take for whatever reason.Everyone I've spoken with suggested maybe she was too fat...fat rabbits don't get pregnant well...

So,now we are going to wait until spring and try it again.Monitoring the rabbits' food intake a little more carefully.

In the mean time we are working on cutting our expenses here at home as much as possible dispite the up coming holidays.

With the increasing uncertainty of the economy,no matter what those people in the White House say,it's still a scary scene.My own father just got a call yesterday saying that they will most likely not be calling him back to work in the spring.

I came close to loosing my own job in September,but because I was simply doing what I was instructed to do,I walked away with my job intact,and a write up in my file.

Regardless of how things turn out for others,we need to concentrate on matters close to home,and look at the possibility still of combining households to ease the financial burben on all of us.

By my parents moving in with us(they rent currently) it could save them a few hundred dollars a month,and by splitting the mortgage and utilities,save us a few hundred dollars too.

The downside though is that my father is a difficult person to put up with,being very stubborn and old fashioned " a woman's place" kind of person.I personally have no tolerence for people that treat women like they are lesser beings...especially less so of a man who expects to be waited on hand and foot....he is my father,but in all honesty,I've never been able to figure out why my Mom puts up with him.It's a mystery to me.

I think we would butt heads, A LOT........

We did some late fall planting here,I got a good deal on some dwarf and semi dwarf fruit trees,and just had to get them.With any luck they will make it through the witner and put on lots of new healthy growth in the spring.

As winter starts to creep in,we've been adding generous amounts of rabbit manure to the garden beds,but soon we'll stop adding,and let nature takes it's course,tilling it all in when the ground thaws again in the spring.

The rabbit manure is one of the reason we got rabbits,having an at home source of rich fertilizer to add to the gardens,and rabbit manure does not need to be composted,it's not "hot" like other animal manures,and breaks down quickly,enriching the soil as it does.

We are also about the embark on a "spending diet",in which we will do NO SHOPPING for about a year(that's the goal anyway).Sure,there are going to be a few things we need,but everything that is not an immediate need will have to wait for the time being.

I'll keep you all filled in on that as we go along and see how things work out.

I'm looking for ideas for new posts,so if you want me write about something specific,please feel free to make a suggestion in the comments.

Monday, October 24, 2011

This blog in going on hiatus

I will temporarily not be posting my weekly see,I've gotten fed up with paying too much for internet service,land line phone,etc,etc....

So for the time being we are canceling all things we don't NEED,until 1) we have reached some of our money saving goals. OR 2) I find a service cheap enough...because,well,I'm a cheapskate and very much dislike paying more than I have to for basic services.

I will log in and post from various locations when I'm able,but for now,in case you're wondering what's going on,this is it...

Take care!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Boring but important,writing a household budget

OK,ok,I know what you're thinking.

You're thinking I'm going to fill your head with all kinds of numbers,and information about savings and spending,and how to pay down debt.....

Well,yes,and no...

For starters in order for any household budget to be a smashing success,everyone who lives under that same roof must be 100% on board with the plan,the goal or goals and have a clear idea of how you are going to reach those goals.

You will need to have an accurate record of all income coming into the house,and all money going out,be it for bills,food,entertainment,etc,everything that you pay for.

Start with a family meeting,allow everyone to discuss openly what your goals are,be it a vacation or paying off the mortgage early.Have everyone brainstorm ideas for how to reach those goals,and write them all down,silly or not.

Second,there needs to be an agreement about which goal or goals you are going to work toward first.Put those in order on a list.

Third,there needs to be a clear and set plan of action,how are you going to get to goal number 1 ? 2? and so on....

My husband and I have been talking about this a lot this week,as we have three main goals,a newer,more reliable vehicle,a real,actual away from home vacation,and paying off the mortgage early.

Well,number 1 could be easy enough,just trade in the old worn out one for a newer one right?Wrong....ONLY because currently our debt to income ratio is too high.According to who ever crunches the numbers for financing,they don't think we can afford to buy a car,although we've crunched our own numbers and can see otherwise,if the bank says no,you're pretty much screwed.SO new plan,save up enough to pay cash for the vehicle we want....harder than just getting financing and picking out what you want,but it'll work for us,didn't REALLY want another car payment anyway,we haven't had one for nearly 5 years now.

As for the vacation,that will come after we get another car,and we'll do it the same way,save up so we can pay cash.It may take a lot longer than I would like,but in the end,it will be worth it.

When it comes to paying off the mortgage early,there are a number of ways to work toward that goal.One being the yearly income tax check,simply apply it to the mortgage.There is also the occasional refund from the mortgage company when your escro account balance gets too high,you can simply tell them to apply it to the principal on your loan.We are also going to be slowly increasing the amount we pay each month,as we get the other goals reached.

So,there we have a very brief lesson on budgeting and planning.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I actually ran out of canning jars,twice.....

I've been canning all season,every type of tomato product we would normally buy,jams and jellies,apple pie filling,apple butter,and tonight applesauce...and I am down to 5 pint jars and 12 quart,but I don't really like to can in quarts since it's just the two of us eating the food.The smaller the jar,the less chance there is of there being some that goes to waste.

I am very happy to have pantry shelves full of wonderful foods that we get to enjoy this winter,when the last thing I want to even think about is going out in nasty weather just to shop.

I am also thinking more and more that we need to redo the household budget,and go on a "spending diet" for a while.

By having a full pantry,and not having to shop,I won't have any real excuse to go into any of the stores,for things other than milk,eggs,etc,things I don't have here since we have neither a milk cow or a goat,and we're not allowed to have chickens in town yet(working on that).

Aside from canning,we've also been freezing a lot of foods(veggies)and drying some too.We will be placing a meat order soon(assuming my hubby comes home from deer season empty handed as he usually that will give us plenty of everything we could possibly need.

So,it's your turn now,tell me,what's on your pantry shelves?Are they full? Empty? If you live in an area with extended winters like mine,do you have any plans to reduce your need to go out in bad weather?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall is in the air....

Can you smell that? The crisp cool air,the scent of burning leaves that seems to signal the beginning of fall?

I don't know why it is that people insist on burning leaves to get rid of them..

I mean,I know there are a lot of them,and you think you don't know what to do with them all,after all they are covering up your carefully manicured lawn,and sidewalks,driveways,etc,etc....

However by burning them you're just throwing away a perfectly good,free,fertilizer source for your garden and flower beds.Yep,all that money that people spend every year on lawn fertilizer,and special fertilizers for the garden,the flowers, a total and complete waste of money.IF they would just use what nature has already provided.

With just a little effort on your part you can save some very valuable nutrients for either your garden,flowers or even your lawn if you insist on having one(more on that later).

You can compost them as they fell,or run them through a shredder,or run them over with your lawn mower to make the pieces smaller so they break down faster.Leaves contain small amounts of nitrogen,and as they decompose,you get leaf mold,but leaf mold is not something to be afraid of,as plants love it,and thrive on it.

You can add them to your compost pile after you've shredded them,but I normally choose to just layer the shredded leaves right into the garden beds,by spring they will be nearly gone,back into the soil,and will help feed your garden plants.

If you don't want to mess with them all that much,you can simply mow over them right where they fell,and they will break down and feed the lawn.

I must add a word of caution here,not to use the leaves from Oak,hickory,or walnut trees in your compost or your garden....unless you are going to let them decay for several years.The leaves from these trees contain tannins and other agents that will actually PREVENT plants from growing,so you could use them in pathways,etc.areas that you would like to keep weed/grass/plant free.

Whole leaves can also be used as a mulch around plants and flowers,in pathways around the garden,etc,etc.

With so many uses for them,it seems silly to put so much effort into raking them up just to light them on fire,or rake them out to the curb to be hauled away by the city.Why not let them work for you by feeding you plants?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My buckets runneth over

Well,sort of.....

I've got a ton of things to get done around here,and it seems not nearly enough free time.

This morning,I've got some fresh concord grapes to do something with,kind of leaning toward throwing them in a gallon of vodka and letting them age/flavor the vodka....seems like an easy solution,and quick too..

A friend of my Mom's gave me a big bucket full of grapes from her house,knowing that I make all kinds of homemade things.While I do appreciate it,I've more than got my hands full at the moment with apples,pears,plums,and starting the get the garden ready for winter....

The weather man is predicting a possible hard freeze tonight,so that will finish off what few plants are left out there.We've got to get the beds cleaned out and prepped for winter,one,you don't want all the old plant material sitting there,you want to pull it up,chop it up and add it to the compost,and two,with four rabbits now,we need the space to dump the trays when we clean the cages.

We were going to dedicate just one bed to cage cleaning and compost materials,however,the leaves,grass clippings,and rabbit manure break down into the soil so fast,that I'm thinking it might not be needed....So the new plan is to get a good deep layer on each bed,tilling it in until the ground freezes,let it sit all winter,and then till all the beds a few time before it's time to plant.

We will need a dedicated compost heap though to continue the cycle during the growing season and I don't want to add any manure to the garden in the spring,as it won't have time to break down properly before time to plant.

So my plan for the day,my only day off until sometime next week,is to buy some cheap vodka to pour over the grapes,get that taken care of,which is just a matter of washing the grapes,adding them to a container full of vodka and sitting the whole works in the dark somewhere for a few months.

Then on to the plums.I think I will dry enough to fill the dehydrator once,and then make a jam or plum butter with the rest,there's only about 5 pounds of those.

After that's done,I've still got pears and apples to deal with.I made a pear butter last week,with some from the tree in the yard(it's still young so only produces few pears a year)and some a friend gifted me.It turned out WONDERFUL,it's super sweet,and nice and smooth(yeah for stick blenders),and another batch will get canned up and gifted to friends this holiday season.

The apples will have to wait until the plums are done drying,and for my next day off,or late shift so that I can cook some down into apple butter.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Doing some good for the community

I know I haven't updated in a while.The last post I wrote,wouldn't post due to some malfunction with Blogger,and it got lost in cyber space somewhere.

Since then,we have signed up to help the local food bank rescue harvests that would otherwise go to waste.Groups of volunteers go out and pick vegetables,fruit,etc that would otherwise just sit in the field and rot.Tuesday was our first day,and boy oh boy do they move just under 3 hours the group harvested more than 300 boxes of apples.

We were going to go back and help this morning,but I woke up with a very stiff and sore back,so probably should not be doing a lot of bending/stooping today.Otherwise we would be on our way there right now to help harvest squash and cabbage this morning.

What I did not expect when we got there Tuesday was to come home a about 40 pounds of apples that we were given.

When we got to the orchard,the guy in charge pointed to one row of trees and told us we could pick and keep all the fruit from that row.YEAH! We got about 10 pounds of apples,nice little bonus!

In my email it said to bring your own buckets,bags,etc to pick into,so I took three bus tubs with me.We picked into those and then dumped them into the boxes gently.

As we were picking,we learned that we could also pick some for ourselves as long as we weighed it and logged it on the sign in sheet by our names,ok,sounds good,so when we ran out of boxes to fill,I filled a tub to take home,and that weighed in at 20 pounds,I logged it on the sheet as directed and put it in the car.

After more boxes arrived,and we were done clearing off the trees,the guy said anyone that wanted to walk back through and pick up apples that had been dropped or fallen from the trees could take all they wanted.I thought,cool,and filled up the other two tubs I had brought with us.So we came home with a grocery bag and three bus tubs full of apples.I shared some with a friend,and took some to my Mom on the way to work yesterday,and I think today I will start drying some for treats later.I love cinnamon covered dried apple slices to snack on.

I really like that fact that this program saves food that would otherwise go to waste,and it gets given to those in need.I didn't expect to come home with so mush for ourselves,but it was a nice little bonus.From what I understand you don't always get to bring some home,but when there is an abundance like with the apples,they are very generous.

I would encourage anyone who reads this,to try and take some time in one way or another to help your local community.In today's world,there are more and more people in need than every before.

So if you can help by doing something like this,of working a few hours in a soup kitchen,or even work with people directly and help to teach them to grow some of their own food,any way that you can help,will be a bigger help than you might think.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Successes and failures

So those who've been following the blog know that this spring we did two potato experiments.The first one,we built potato "condos" or towers...the idea is that you can grow up to 100 lbs of potatoes in a small area,by adding layers to the tower as the plants grow,adding more soil or growing media,and continuing on until the thing is about 4 foot tall. was harvest day as the tops have died back,so no more potato growth would be expected.So we started removing the layers,and dead plants,and....another layer...and another.....Well,we had stopped well short of the four feet in height,stopping at about 3 feet...we didn't find any potatoes until we got down to the original bottom layer where we started....only then did we come up with roughly 5-7 pounds of potatoes in each of the two towers.....100lbs eh?

What we found here is that the potatoes did not form any higher in the soil than the seed potatoes were planted...

THEN experiment number 2....growing potatoes above the ground in straw.Well,we had to stop due to light loss and mosquitoes,but 5 feet down the row,we've come up with only about 2 pounds of potatoes....What we did find was a LOT of pests....bugs,mice,etc had eaten a lot of the crop,and a large portion of what we did dig up had been damaged in one form or another.I'm guessing right now that we'll end up with less than 10 pounds worth of potatoes in the entire 20 foot row.

All in all I would say both experiments failed drastically,and that most likely to get a dependable harvest,one should probably stick to the old fashioned way,dig a trench,plant them,and then hill around them only once or twice at the most...

But for our time and effort,it's not going to be worth it for us to continue to try and grow potatoes here.The time and energy will be better spent on something that we know will give us a good return.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Stocking the pantry with goodness

OK,so Blogger is still messed up and won't let me post pictures,so I'll add a link to my list of links on the right side of this blog page so you can click on it anytime and see updated photos of what's happening around here.Just click on the top link,that's the one to my photobucket garden album,it will keep you up to date as far as photos go.

My pantry shelves are filling quickly with home canned goodies,and I just know that this winter we will have no worries about running out of some things.From the mountains of tomatoes we have been blessed with this year,I've made everything from chili base to pizza sauce...salsa,and pasta sauce,we will need none of those items for at least a year.YEAH!

My goals for the gardens are to eventually grow enough food to support us for the better part a of a year by canning,freezing and drying the foods that we grow.

Although 65 tomato plants is still WAY more than we needed,about 1/2 that I think would be enough to provide us with a year's supply of tomato based foods.

I haven't dug the potatoes yet,but plan on it sometime this week,the tops are starting to die off,so that tells me,whatever crop is there,that's all we're going to get.

I can leave the carrots where they are until the ground gets too cold,but I will probably have already pulled and frozen them by then.

Of the many things we grew as a first this year,the Kale went nuts....and I don't even like Kale,but the rabbits seem to enjoy it.So if it gets planted again next year it will be strictly as rabbit treats.

The winter squash is about done too,I don't think we have the soil just right for it,as it only grew a few,and then died off quickly.Oh well,live and learn,and try again next year.

The popcorn is trying,the stalks have been knocked down twice by storms,but there are a few ears forming,so we may at least get a small sampling of it.It needs a long growing season,so next year,if I plant it again,it will have to be one of the first things planted in the spring.What we have out there did not get planted until it was nearly July,or it may have been during the first week of July,I'm not sure.

The broccoli could have done better,but I think to get enough to make it worth freezing,we would need to plant about 8-10 plants rather than just the four we did this year.

The cabbage has done well,but I don't think we will be planting that again,as the only way we really eat it is in the form of cole slaw,and you can only make so much of it,and it does not keep.So I think that space would be better used on another crop.

This coming week we are going to be able to start pulling up the plants that are done producing,and they will be run through the shredder and added to the compost pile.

Once we start getting the garden beds cleaned out we can start adding the shredded leaves,compost,plant matter and rabbit manure/straw/shavings to the beds and let it sit all winter,tilling it in early next spring.

We are going to leave one bed empty next year,and that will be the base of our crop rotation/sheet composting project,leaving one bed empty every year,to use as a place for compost making,and then rotating them around so that every year one will not be planted,allowing the soil to rebuild.This way each bed will go three years without having the same crops planted in it,hopefully helping to prevent any plant diseases from taking hold in the gardens.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My how they grow fast.

Ok,I can't seem to sleep,so I might at well do something somewhat useful and give you guys a real update on here.It's 4:30 a.m. and I been awake for half an hour with acid reflux,so rather than sitting on the couch miserably waiting for my insides to settle,I'm going to update you on the rabbit project.

Our buck has grown HUGE since we got him in the beginning of July,and at nearly 10 lbs,he's ready to start earning his keep,but we still need to get a doe the proper age/size as the two little ones we brought home the other day will not be old enough/big enough to breed until next spring if they do grow big enough at all.

We're going on Tuesday to pick up the fourth and final(for now anyway) addition to our rabbitry,a purebred New Zealand doe that is about the same age as our buck,and is ready to be bred.

If we were organized enough,we could have the first litter in just a few weeks,well before it gets too cold out,but the old shed still needs to be redone,and a trip to Home Depot is a must.The doors need fixed/replaced and there is a hole in one of the walls.

I wanted to post a photo update for you so you can see where we are in this little project,but for some reason Blogger is not uploading my images today.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I haven't been slackin' just busy.

I haven't had enough time to sit still long enough to update my little blog here.We've been super busy with the garden harvest,getting the whole rabbit thing in order,pet sitting on the weekends,and on Tuesday we will be picking up our fourth and final addition to the rabbit family.

I went Wednesday after work to pick up what I thought was just one female rabbit,but when I got there the woman pretty much begged me to take all four of them,two bucks and two does.Well I did...they are not purebred New Zealand,they are a crossbreed,but we'll see how well they grow,they may stay on the small side.....if nothing else they can contribute to the fertilizer needs of the garden,besides,the one little doe likes to be held and cuddled.

We kept one buck and one doe,and a friend of ours took the other buck and doe.So all are in good homes.

In the busiest part of the season that we are going through right now,my dear husband has come down with West Nile Virus,so things have not been normal around here for several days now.

While he is on the mend,it will be several more days before he will be up and around enough to be able to be of any help.So here I am with no extra hand,and running like crazy trying to get everything done in between work shifts.....

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I just got an email from our realtor wishing us a happy anniversary for being in our home for 2 years now.

It got me to thinking about just how far we've come since we changed the path of our lives and decided to pursue something more self reliant and self sufficient.

It seems like I don't really think about it all that much,but when I stop and look or stop to write a few things down,it makes me see just how far have come toward reaching our goal of self reliance.

This all goes back to 2001 or 2002 when we were over 40K in debt(the bad kind)and had nothing to show for it,we were trying hard to keep up a lifestyle for people that made way more money than we probably ever will,and trying hard not to let it show just how bad we were sinking in the sea of debt we had created.

Our "friends" were all the type that made a lot more money than we did,and often let it show that they were taking pity on us for all our bills and not having a lot of extra cash flow.

The final days moving up to where we called it quits,we had numerous falling outs of sorts with these friends,many of whom just didn't see why I felt the need to be so independent,and why I was perfectly fine letting my husband go tromp around the woods for a week during deer season without worrying about where he was or what he was really doing.

They didn't understand why I was ok with having to mow the lawn myself or shovel some snow,or take my own car in to get fixed as needed.I didn't need someone to do all that for me.A husband should be a partner to stand beside you,not someone for you to hide behind.i wasn't raised that way,I wasn't raised to sit back and let the man of the house do everything.

It was around that time,we became so disgruntled with our lives,our selves,and everything around us,that we nearly called it quits....but as fate would have it,we didn't,instead we took a look at how we were living,seeing what we were doing wrong and what it was that was making us so freakin' miserable.

Turns out we didn't need therapy,we didn't need a divorce,what we needed was a lifestyle change.Why were we trying to live a lifestyle for people who made so much more than us? Why were we trying to keep up?

So here we were,strapped with 40k in debts,living in a crappy old mobile home in a crappy old trailer park,barely scraping by working two full time jobs....not having any children,our only dependents were our pets.So why couldn't we pay our bills? Because we were stupid,there,I said it,we were DUMB..

SO,we looked for an answer and found it in a debt repayment program.Sure we could have filed for bankruptcy and probably been able to do so,but WE created those debts,WE spent that money that we didn't WHY would we expect someone else to pay for it all? I have higher standards than that.

There are situations that do call for bankruptcy as the only option,and I really feel for the people who must make that choice,but it wasn't for us.We chose instead to pay it all off,no matter how long it it off we did,slowly,it took us all the way until 2008 to get it all paid down,but we did it.

Something else we did during that time though,was learn,and educate ourselves.We didn't want to go back to living that life again.I learned in that time to sew quilts,cook,can and grow food at home in a container garden on the patio.I had some help from my Mom learning to sew and can,but for the most part it was all hands on learning.

In 2009 we were finally able to realize our dream of home ownership,and purchased our first home.It's not a huge fancy farm out in the middle of nowhere,heck,it's not even a farm,but fate stepped in again and for some reason unknown to us,we are meant to live where we are,in town on our 1 1/2 acre lot,where we've built our raised bed gardens,planted all sorts of fruit bearing trees and shrubs, and vines.
This year has been a lot of work,and hopefully we will be able to see some of the pay off as the trees mature and begin to bear,and shrubs and vines starts to produce,and gardens get better as the years go by.

It's not the lifestyle many of our friends chose,and many of them probably still wouldn't understand,but maybe,just maybe that's why they are no longer a part of our lives.Those that are in our lives now,are there because they accept us for who we are,how we live,and don't expect us to change to fit into their lives.They are the ones who don't think we're nuts for wanting to raise our own meat animals,and fully understand the satisfying kind of tired you feel at the end of a day of working around the house and canning food to fill the pantry with.

But all this goes back to choices,the ones we made those few years ago,and the ones we make now,I can mark this anniversary as one of those milestones in life that marks where the old is gone and the new begins,and the progress we've made in between.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Personal Security.....a fully stocked pantry(part two)

Ok,we talked about how to build up your pantry inventory,now we need to talk about what to do with it.

Hoping that you didn't go out an buy 100 pounds of dry beans your family will never eat,let's talk about meal planning.

In order to cook during an emergency,you need either a camp stove or a grill with at least one side burner for boiling something in a pan.

I have one of these---->

A good camp stove is worth it's weight in gold.They are for the most part simple to use,don't really take up a ton of storage space,and you can get fuel for them at nearly any store(stock up at the end of summer when things go on clearance).I got this one on clearance at Cabelas several months ago,and it's awesome.While you may not need an oven,they do come in handy.

However you don't need anything nearly that fancy,a simple one burner type stove that screws onto the top of a fuel bottle will work too.

Now you have a fully stocked pantry,a means to cook the food,and some water stored.
Don't forget to also stock up on things like medications for your family,pet food for your pets,batteries for flash lights and radios,any other little things you might need to make life more comfortable until the emergency passes.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Personal Security.....a fully stocked pantry(part one)

With everything that's going on in the world today,between wars,battles over oil,food recalls and an unstable economy,what does one do exactly to try and protect themselves from what could become another depression,or as many have come to call this The Great Recession?

There are a few steps you can take to protect you and your family.

First I would sit down and have a family meeting,or household meeting,keep everything out in the open,talk about finances,keeping the pantry stocked,who's responsibility it is to do what as far as chores,etc go.IF you are highly invested in the stock market and you're panicking as you watch the prices continue to fall,stop....just stop.....

For safety sake,now might be a good time to talk to an investment specialist,since I am not one,that's the best advice I can give you as far as the stock market goes.

Now,at home,that's a subject I can give some open advice about.

Let's take stock of what you have in the pantry.Get out your pad of paper and a pen or pencil,and make a list of everything you have a full package of in the pantry,cupboards,upstairs,downstairs,where ever you stash your stuff.Don't forget the freezer as well.

Depending on how many people live in your house,your numbers will vary widely.

Now that you've taken an inventory of what you have,let sit down and figure out what you need.The average American household only keeps about a one day supply of food in the house,that needs to change,right now....

Start by making a list of everything that you normally buy(excluding fresh produce and refrigerated items),from applesauce to bottled water and everything in between.List everything,ketchup,toilet paper,batteries.etc..anything you normally purchase on any given shopping trip.

Now take a guess at how many of each item you would normally go through in about six months.This is going to be the starting point for building up your pantry.There is nothing more comforting during an emergency than knowing that you don't need food,water,batteries,etc,etc.

I am not going to tell you to go out right now and spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and buy everything you need all in one trip,that would be insane...BUT you need to start building up your pantry.It doesn't matter if you're a pro coupon queen,or just an average shopper,but you need to build up your stash of non perishables(non refrigerated or frozen items),so that you and who ever lives in your house have about enough to get through six months.

To do this,you can simply buy a little extra every time you shop,let's say you need 12 cans of corn,but can only afford 2,so get two,put them in the pantry,and next time get 2 it up as you can without causing any hardships anywhere else in the house.

If you garden,or can/dehydrate foods,that's even better.The sense of comfort that comes from having a pantry well stocked with food you grew yourself is priceless.

I'm keeping away from cold or frozen foods for one major reason,in a power outage,without a generator,you will not be able to keep that stuff cold or frozen for a long term emergency,period.By filling you pantry with canned,or dried foods,you will still be able to sit down to a good meal,and not worry about keeping things cold.If you have a generator,great,but for many it's too costly to be included in the list of needed items.

You also need to keep bottled water on hand,although six months is a little hard to plan,try to store as much as you have space for,figuring on one gallon per person per day....but you also need water to be able to cook and keep clean.In an extended emergency,quite often just being able to stay clean is extremely important,especially if the local water supply has become contaminated.

This post is getting a little long,so we'll stop the lesson here,and continue on in my next post.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A constant cycle....what comes from the garden,returns to the garden

What comes from the garden,eventually returns to the garden.

It's that time of year when gardeners are overwhelmed with produce,working hard to can/freeze or otherwise preserve the harvest to use later in the winter.

Yeah,that's where I'm at right now,as the pizza sauce is cooking down on the stove and the water bath canner is coming up to a boil.

I've already talked about the importance of growing organically,and not letting things go to waste in previous posts.

Well,in the kitchen while you're cutting and chopping and getting all that goodness ready to can,the seeds,stems,skins and cores can all go on to live a useful purpose in the compost bin.Don't simply throw them all out,or into the garbage disposal if you have one,add all that right back into the garden through composting.

While I run to the kitchen and stir the sauce,I convince my dear husband to take the bowl of scraps out to the composter and toss them in....

While those parts leftover from the food processing may not have any food value to you and I,they are still chock full of nutrients that can be returned to the soil to feed next year's plants.Your plants will thank you for it by growing big and strong,and providing you with an abundant harvest to repeat the cycle again next year.

Nearly anything that once came from the garden,can be returned to the garden through composting.Diseased plants,or those otherwise infected with something should be burned or disposed in another way,and not included in compost.Weeds that have gone to seed should also not be put into the compost bin,as the seeds can often survive the composting process and cause you much grief later on in the garden.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

who says gardening organically means a smaller harvest?

There's an old saying among conventional gardeners that gardening organically means a smaller harvest and a constant battle against bugs and weeds....

Well as you might be able to tell from the photos here,there is NOTHING small about this harvest!

We went out this evening after a storm rumbled through while we were gone today to check out the damage,and as we stood the tomato plants back up and staked as many of them as we could,we harvested what was ready,bringing in over 20lbs of ripe tomatoes a combination of regular sized canners,cherries,yellow pear,black prince,this WHOPPER of a Pineapple tomato(although there is a slight chance it could be a Mortgage Lifter tomato,I'm not sure),and a few green ones that got knocked off the vines during the storm.

I have used absolutely NO CHEMICALS in growing my gardens....none...I don't believe they have a place here,my gardens have been fertilized with leaf compost and rabbit manure/grass clippings,and nothing else....

The soil we used to build the raised beds was primarily leaf compost and top soil,and also contained no chemicals.

My gardening in the future will contain only organic matter either produced here on the property or brought in from areas that I know are 100% chemical free.

While conventional gardeners continue to battle weeds and bugs with more and stronger chemicals,draining the soil of much needed nutrients,I will continue to build upon the base we have here by adding only 100% organic compost and materials to my garden beds.the proof is in the pictures,who needs chemicals?

I don't,and neither do you...if you don't already practice organic gardening methods,I highly suggest you look into it,your garden will thank you,so will your family and friends that you share your excess with,and so will the planet.healthy plants can not grow in soils that have been drained of it's nutrients,and treated with one chemical after another,while using them might produce a crop,the flavor and quality will pale in comparison to that which is produced naturally,chemical free.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sharing the Bounty

It's commonly known that most gardeners plant way more than they need or can use....especially zucchini.

Something I strongly believe in is sharing the bounty.If you have more than you can use or put up for the winter,don't ever leave it to rot in the garden....share it!

I've so far shared zucchini with 6 people,and still have more coming on,my freezer contains enough frozen zucchini to make enough bread for 16 loaves,I have all I can use.So I've been sharing it,taking turns who I give it to,so that more people can enjoy it,and not one person gets a chance to get totally burned out on it.

I've taken summer squash,tomatoes,peppers and cucumbers to my parents,to work and given to friends.

Now the tomatoes are starting to come on full force,and soon I fear I may have to make night time deposits on porches to give the excess away.

I know how much salsa,ketchup,and tomato sauce I want to be able to make,so pretty much anything above and beyond that,the tomatoes will be shared.

I get as much enjoyment out of giving the extras away as I do growing the plants.
If you have non gardening neighbors,a gift of fresh produce will not only make their day,but could win them over if they have any lingering questions about your gardening methods.Fresh produce is also good bartering material,as for some,it's easier to work out trade deals than it is cash deals.

Can you trade zucchini for car repairs?Probably not,but you might be able to trade some for having holes dug,fence posts put in,pet sitting,things like that.

So I encourage you,if you have the space,plant some extra,if for nothing more than to share with friends and family.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Importance Of Having The Right Information

Let's talk about information.

Where do you get most of your information from?
The internet?Books? DVD's? Family and friends?

No matter where the information comes from,you need to be able to rely on it.

Weather you're gardening,farming,sewing,or whatever,if you're jumping into it blind without the right information,disaster could happen.

I learned a lot about gardening from my Mom as well and trial and error,reading books,watching videos,and listening to what others around me were saying/doing and what worked and what didn't.I'm still learning too,I think it's something that you can never learn enough about.

While there are literally millions of sources of information out there,sorting out what you need from what there is can be a challenge.

Say you want to can those beautiful peaches you just brought home from the farmers market...from my stand point,it's a fairly easy task,but if you've never canned anything before,it can seem daunting to say the least.

When it comes to food preservation,I would highly suggest you get the most current,up to date information you can get your hands on.The Ball Blue Book is reprinted every year with new and updated info.It's cheap too,and available where most stores sell canning supplies.

However,what if you want to learn to raise and butcher your own meat animals?You wouldn't be able to find that information looking in the "animals" section of the book store,you'd more likely find a copy of a children's guide to raising pet rabbits.Sometimes what you need has to be special ordered,but I did find a wonderful book about raising meat rabbits at the local Borders store that's going out of business,however it was in the gardening/farming section of the store.

There are scores of books out there,Ebooks,PDF files you can download and print out.

If you do a google search for "canning peaches" you're likely to end up with thousands of results in return,and you must pick and choose which is the right information for you to use.

I'm a book person,I love books,and love reading them,flipping through for certain information and instructions,in fact,you'll find very few books on my bookshelf that aren't related to "how to" or "do it yourself" type stuff.

It doesn't matter WHERE you get your information from,but it does matter how ACCURATE it is....a quick guide to canning peaches will do you no good if it's missing important steps like sterilizing the jars....

SO,be careful and choose your information carefully,check for references,and double check things like PDF files and blogs posts in group forums.

You can learn a lot by trial and error in areas where safety is not a concern,such as experimenting with planting too close or companion planting,or raised beds versus standard in the ground gardens,etc,etc....

However if you are planning on preserving your food for later use,or doing anything where safety now and later will be of the utmost importance,do not take risks with using information that may be incorrect and dangerous.

I know this probably sounds like a scolding rather than my normal upbeat posts,but I wouldn't want anyone reading this blog to go away from here thinking they can just jump in without instructions and come out with perfectly canned peaches. :)

I know of people who believe anything they read on the internet,or anything that a person says,thinking how could anyone give the wrong information,well,it happens,and when it comes to matters of safety,why take the risk?

That guy at the farmers market selling "miracle fertilizer" that looks like plain water,is probably selling you plain water...those fancy bottles of "manure tea" yeah...honestly,anyone can water down manure, and it'll still be manure....

There is no right or wrong way to garden,compost,fertilize,etc..and you may find a way that works for you that others fail at,or find to be too much hassle,or you may find something that works awesomely for one person,but when you try it,you fail...and that's fine,it's called learning.That's what life is all about right? Learning?

Just don't put your health,or that of you family and friends at risk by using the wrong information.Do some research,and get the facts before you do it(canning,preserving,fermenting,butchering,etc,etc),so that no matter what,you'll know that what you're putting in your pantry,and bringing to the table will be safe for everyone.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Planning meals based around the garden

We are finally getting enough veggies ready out in the garden that we can start to plan some of our meals around what's ready.

Tonight's meal will mostly consist of veggies from the garden.

Going to make BBQ chicken,steamed green beans(from the garden)maybe mashed potatoes,but I'm going to go back out in a few minutes and see if maybe I can steal a few new potatoes from the towers to go with dinner,and sliced tomato.

Then we will have Zucchini Pie:

4 cups peeled,sliced,seeded zucchini
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 TBS flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 TBS cream of tartar
2 TBS lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt(optional)
1/4 ground nutmeg(fresh is best)
1 TBS butter,diced
1 pastry crust for 9 inch pie

1)Boil zucchini until tender,drain and dunk in cold water to cool,drain again.

2)Add sugar,flour,cinnamon,cream of tartar,lemon juice,salt,nutmeg,Mix well.Put into pie crust,dot with butter,place crust on top.

3)Bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Laundry day

OK,ok,I know this has nothing to do with gardening.However,it has everything to do with being more self reliant as well as leaving a smaller foot print on our planet Mother Earth.

Where we used to live an outdoor clothes line was forbidden,now that we have a place to call our own,the clothes line is in place.This was actually a Christmas gift from my parents a few years ago,but it wasn't until after they gave it to me that we discovered they were against the rules of the park where we lived.

With the high of 97 here yesterday it would have been just plain dumb to run the electric clothes drier.I don't like using it,but it has been difficult to convince my husband to hang the clothes out on the line,until yesterday.Since I'm home far less than he is,he does the majority if the household chores,and sometimes it takes a little prodding on my part to get him to change the way he's doing something.

Everyone has a reason either using a clothes line,or not,but for the vast majority,it's because they're lazy.It takes effort to take the clothes out of the wash,put them in a basket and haul it outside,then to hang them up on the line,and when they are dry,go out take them back down and bring them in....yep,much more work than tossing them into an electric or gas drier and hitting a button....

BUT,look at it from my prospective for just a moment.

Are you really so busy that you can't take an extra 5 minutes to hang a load of laundry outside on the line?

Have you shopped for newer energy efficient appliances lately? Notice that there aren't clothes driers labeled with the energy star rating? Yep,they don't exist,at least not the last time I went shopping for one.That may have changed,or it may not have.That's because it takes SO MUCH energy to dry one load of laundry,that they can not be labeled Energy Star Rated.

How much electricity does your clothes drier use?Look into it,it might surprise you.Somewhere on your appliance should be a little white or yellow label,on there it will state the approximate monthly cost or yearly cost to run it. What does it cost you per year to run the clothes drier?

What about the environmental costs? It takes fuel from coal,nuclear power,hydro stations,etc,etc to get the electricity to your house to run that machine so you can have dry clothes.The major part of where we get out energy from in NON RENEWABLE sources,meaning,once it's gone,it's gone,there is no more.Remember too that it take additional fuel to get the coal,etc, to the power plant to create that energy so you can run that appliance.

If everyone who uses the electrical utility system were to do just one thing to reduce energy usage,cutting out the clothes drier could be the easiest,and have the biggest impact on energy usage.

I'm not saying that clothes driers are all that bad,I mean,when it's raining,the clothes won't get dry,or in the winter,they will "freeze dry" in a few days,so there are a few advantages to using a clothes drier.but in the spring-fall parts of the year,it only takes an extra few minutes of effort to reduce your energy output.

In times like this week,where we've hit nearly record highs for Michigan temps,even just a small effort can help ease the burden of our over taxed,outdated,electrical system.

I'm not saying turn off the a/c,and get rid of the clothes drier,but what I am saying is take baby steps,if every household did just a little bit to reduce their energy output,there wouldn't be as many outages as there have been,rolling blackouts,etc, do just a little....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The wonders of mystery plants

Anyone who's ever had a garden knows that sooner or later you end up with mystery,volunteer plants that come up just where ever they feel like,and leave you with a couple of choices.You can pull them up with the weeds,you could transplant them to another part of the garden,or you could just let them grow where they are.

I chose to let most of them grow right where they sprouted,since most of them were either growing up through the holes in the cinder blocks,or like the stray zucchini,growing in between the two fences,not in the way of anything.

So now we have several plants growing here and there,some,we know what they are,others surprised even let's take a look at what we have discovered so far.

This turned out to be Lemon Squash,and is growing healthy and strong,and is starting to produce for me.YEAH! WIN!

This one turned out to be zucchini,and has already given me 4,and as you can see,is still going strong.

We're thinking this may actually be a type of zucchini hybrid,time will tell I guess...I have since harvested this one,and it's sitting on my kitchen counter,waiting for me to figure out what it is.But the general opinion among my gardening friends is a type of zucchini,which it shouldn't be,since this was a store bought plant,and was labeled as "Hubbard"....

Lastly we have a new mystery to solve,while I suspect that this is a type of Gooseberry,I'll need to confirm it before I proceed any further,it's not in the garden,but is actually growing along the back edge of the property,under the shade of some trees.

So tell you have any mystery plants growing in your garden this year? Did you let them grow or pull them up?What have they turned out to be?

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Ok,I am not a big fan of broccoli,but my husband loves the stuff,so we have it growing in the garden this year.

I only put in four plants,and so far have gotten enough for two meals(what was left after hubby snacking on it raw)put in the freezer.

Freezing vegetables is the fastest way to preserve your garden's harvest for later use.Although I also can and dehydrate a lot of foods,for certain vegetables,canning and dehydrating just do not work out well.

Dehydrated broccoli turns out leathery and bitter once re-hydrated.I would imagine something delicate like this would turn to complete mush if you tried to can it,so in the freezer in went.

I had also read somewhere in my gardening books that if you leave the broccoli plants in the garden after you harvest the first big crown,that it will sprout more smaller ones next to where you cut the first ones,so I am trying that out.
As you can see from the photos,that there are a few smaller crowns growing around where the first main crown was harvested.I'm going to take these off and just leave the plants to see what happens.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The cost of feed

So,here we are with a new rabbit that needs rabbit food and some good hay.

Well,ok,yeah,I could go to the pet supply and get everything I need,after all,it's only one rabbit,right?

Rather than hopping in the car and loading up a shopping cart with plastic bags of rabbit pellets and plastic bags full of fancy named hay,I looked online for pricing....and knowing what I'm willing to spend on food for this little project of ours.

Well here we are:

Petsmart a 24oz poly bag of hay is $4.99....sounds cheap right? Well guess again.
That's 24 ounces of hay,less than 2 lbs of food....well,you can go straight to a local farm,and buy a full bale(which is anywhere from 40-50lbs)for around $3.00,same hay,no fancy plastic wrap,and yes,you have to store it somewhere,but for less than the pet store cost of a 24oz bag,you get 640(average)ounces of the same hay for the rabbit.

Now on to the rabbit pelleted food,the pet store cost is anywhere from $10.99 all the way up to $33.24 for rabbit food....the largest bag being 25lbs.The 5lb bag was the $10.99....not so bad though,you get a lot for your money right? Wrong again...

The local feed store price for not 25lbs,but for 50lbs is $17.49(no plastic bag either).One rabbit goes through at most a cup of pelleted food a you can guess just how long a full 50lb bag would last.

Let's not forget the bedding,we need bedding for the little guy too.With prices starting at around $7.99,and going all the way up to $34.99....with fancy things like recycled paper or chopped corn cobs,sun dried grass and cotton,ok,folks,this is just a rabbit,and not even a pet,as he will be earning his keep.

Plain old straw bedding,the old standard for horses,cattle,sheep,you name it,even dog houses,for decades.It's completely natural,eco friendly,decomposes in the compost pile,and is pet safe...the highest price I've seen locally is $2.50 for good clean wheat straw,that's for aprox 40-50 lbs per bale,enough to change the rabbit's bedding a dozen or more times.

While sometimes you may actually need something from a pet supply store,but mostly pet supply stores are designed to make you spend way more money than you need to.

So the hay,and straw are in the shed,just a few feet from the rabbit hutch,and the rabbit chow is in an old dog food storage bin,tightly sealed.I have enough food and bedding to last the little guy for a few months at least,for less than the cost of 25lbs of some fancy branded rabbit food from the pet supply store.

My advice,shop around and only buy what you really need for your animals.You need bedding,not recycled paper product,you need food,not fancy labels and plastic bags.

Some food for thought,so the next time you need something for an animal,be it a pet rabbit,a horse,or whatever,it pays to really look at the costs rather than the labels and fancy eye catching wrapping.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Snakes have their place

I was out watering the garden and scared up a little garter snake,though not uncommon,I have been seeing more and more of them.In fact,the larger the garden gets,the more of them I see,there's a rather large one living in a small brush pile near the garden,we decided to leave the pile there and let the snake have it as his home for the summer.

I know,I know you hate snakes right?Well these little garden guards really are good to have around.They will help keep small pests out of the garden/yard that could damage your plants.Although they will catch a frog or toad once in a while,for the most part they will snack on some insects,small mice,things like that.

Garter snakes are not poisonous,although they will bite when given a reason to,but if you just leave them be,they will go on about their path and not bother you.In fact most any snake,as long as you don't bother it,won't bother you,even rattlers,which can be found here in Michigan.

The above photo gives a good example of what a native Massasauga Rattle Snake looks like,it is the only species of rattler in Michigan,it is also the state's only poisonous snake.We came across this one on a hiking trail last fall.If you see one,just give them plenty of room,they will go on their way without even stopping to look at you.If you see one curled up,just give him plenty of room and make a very wide path around him.If you're going to be out hiking in areas where there are tall weeds and lots of low lying brush it's a good idea to wear high cut boots and a good pair of jeans,if you surprise a snake,it will most likely strike at ankle height,a thick leather boot will help protect you from it's poison,but just be careful while hiking/walking outside in heavy brush,and watch where you step.

If you'd rather not have snakes in your yard,you don't need to invest/waste money on those snake repellants,you just need to clean up your yard a bit.Snakes like cool dark places to hide,under sheds,under brush,inside dense plants.Keep your lawn cut short,any brush piles picked up,and keep animals from burrowing under sheds to keep snakes from taking up residence in your yard.

If you do see a rattle snake in your yard,it's because either he's just passing through,or you have mice or rats hanging around,his favorite food,eliminate the food source,and the snake will have no reason to stay around.This is as easy as making sure that all people and pet food is kept in sealed containers,including feed for animals like horses and goats.Mice like grains,and if you have it available to them,they will come,and multiply,and where there are mice and rats,there will eventually be snakes.

For me,snakes are welcome in my yard and in my garden.There is nothing out there that's so important that it can't wait until the snake moves along on his path and out of mine.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The big reveal!

I've been watching these stray plants grow all spring,not knowing for sure what they were and not wanting to pull up what seems to be perfectly healthy plants.I hate pulling up volunteers unless I have to.

We have Zucchini,this plant is growing between the electric fence and the poultry fencing(rabbit barrier),and now has about 6 little zucchini on it,so I think it's safe to say we have another zucchini

The other appears to be Lemon Squash,actually I'm about 99.9% sure it's Lemon Squash at this point.The tiny yellow dot growing in here tells me it is.Lemon Squash,for those who've never seen it,is right up there in production with zucchini,giving tons of slightly roundish to lemon shaped summer squash.They are quite tasty,and being small in size,one is just about right for one meal,depending on what recipe you're using that day.

The photo of the big cluster of plants is the Lemon Squash,which started out this spring growing up through the holes in the cinder blocks we used to build the sides of the raised beds.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Well,the first part of our rabbit project is home and in his cage.
We're going to let him settle down for the rest of the day before we bug him anymore,he's had a rough day,being separated from his litter mates,put in a cat carrier and driven in a car for nearly an hour....

We decided on getting a New Zealand,as they are a very good meat breed of rabbit,and hopefully will pass on those big muscles to his offspring.

I'm not sure exactly when we'll add a female rabbit to the plan,but sometime later this summer,with a first litter planned for next spring.

For now this one's primary job is going to be to produce manure,which will go into the compost pile,and then into the garden least until the gardens are done for the season,then we'll decide which garden bed will remain empty next year,and that will be where we either place the hutch,moving it as needed,or where we dump the contents of the catch tray and let it sit for a year to help build up the soil.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The pay off begins.

I was able to get out to the gardens and for the first time harvest something other than Kale and radishes,although they made it into the basket too.

In previous years we have always had tomatoes,peppers,green beans and the like,in smaller amounts due to it being grown in containers on our patio,but this year I went a little nuts with the planting,and it is starting to look like I'll have plenty to share.

Pictured in the basket are, Kale,cabbage,broccoli,hot banana pepper,zucchini and an assortment of radishes(when planting,took 3-4 packets of different types,mixed them together,and planted).

I just made my first ever batch of kale chips we'll see shortly if those are on the keep list or not.Tomorrow will be fried zucchini,and we'll probably just cut up the broccoli and snack on it with the radishes.the cabbage I am going to take over to my parents and hopefully my Mom will make some cole slaw for all of us to enjoy.

I'm not much into cooked veggies,I much prefer them raw,as straight from the garden as one can get.I will fry some zucchini,and cook veggies here and there,but if they can be enjoyed in the raw form,that's the way I like them best.

So how about you? What's your favorite veggie? How do you best like it prepared?

I've never had a garden this big,but I can already see where I can make improvements for next year,I think I've got just about the right amount of space(5 beds that are each 3 feet wide and 35-40 feet long).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How could anyone hate a garden?

I've just finished reading about a woman in Oak Park Michigan who has locked horns in battle with the city over her vegetable garden.Of all the things a city could site a property owner for,they've chosen her garden...

While I haven't been to Oak Park in quite a long time,I would say that the city officials could find other properties to complain about.I'm sure it has it's fair share of run down or abandoned properties,yards with trash in them,things like that,that to me it seems would take priority over someone who chooses to plant vegetables rather than flowers.

Follow the link here,and show this woman some support,maybe even write/email the city and tell them how stupid it is to go after someone who's simply choosing to grow some of her own food on her own property.In a type of silent protest,maybe all those neighbors who said they support her could plant at least one tomato plant in their own front yards as a show of support?

In the big picture it's regulations like those in Oak Park that discourage people from making any attempts at all the be more self reliant,and know where their food is coming from.

I drove around my neighborhood yesterday evening,and honestly,there are only a few households that have a veggie garden,sure most have flowers,or other landscaping,but no food plants.

SO we took a drive out to the area countryside,thinking surely people who live further out from town will be growing some of their own food....the answer,few and far between did we see a garden of any kind.

As a society in general,we have become so detached from our own food that it's kind of scary.We have children,and some uneducated adults who don't know where meat comes from,they really don't understand that when they have steak or hamburger,that they are eating part of what was a living animal.

Children don't understand that milk comes from an animal,and apples grow on trees.

It's this line of thinking that has allowed companies like Monsanto to take over agriculture,do some reading on your own,watch Food,Inc,it'll open your eyes a bit.

We've come to a point in our society,especially here in America,where we're so dependent on others to supply our food for us,that we don't care where it comes from as long as we can buy it at the grocery store.

The average grocery store only has enough stock for three days,and a larger portion of households don't even have three days worth of food in the pantry,we've set ourselves up for disaster,really.

Ok,I'm rambling now,I'll stop for now,more on this topic later as it's one that I hold close to my heart,but for now,go to this woman's website,and show her some support.If you live in her neighborhood,go ahead,plant a veggie in your front yard too.If enough people were to do that in support of what she's doing,maybe the city will see how stupid this fight is and leave her and her garden alone.

Here's the link again in case you missed it at the top of this post.

Ok,I see the links are not working for some reason,but you can still copy and paste it to your search engine to bring it up,sorry.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

There's a rabbit in my garden!

Had you scared didn't I? Thinking how could a rabbit get through four strands of electric fence and 24 inches of poultry fence?

Well,because I put him or them there.We don't have the rabbits yet,we picked up the rabbit hutch(basically a cage designed for rabbits)this afternoon,and then we'll decide what we're going to do.

What I would like to do is set the hutch up right out in the garden,on top of the compost pile,or over top an empty garden bed,so that the dropping go right into the garden(less cage cleaning).

Local rabbit breeders charge $20-$40 per bag for bagged bunny poop.It's costs a lot less than that to keep a couple of rabbits in your own backyard.Rabbit manure is like black gold,as the pellets are like tiny nitrogen bombs to feed your garden with,it does not need to be composted,and can be spread directly into the garden,unlike most animal manures.

So here's the plan: Place the hutch directly over top either the compost pile or an empty garden bed(the one I'll be resting for a year anyway)and as needed move the hutch along the bed to evenly distribute the manure.In theory it should work.
Then,in the fall we'll mix it into the soil,and let it sit all winter,working it in better in the spring,several weeks before planting time,much like farmers do when preparing fields for planting.

I'm thinking that in the winter months we'll have to move the hutch closer to the house,inside the privacy fence to give the little critters more protection from the harsh winter winds,in that case,we'll just dump the droppings onto the chosen garden bed or the compost pile as we clean the cage.

I've never done this before,never even had a pet rabbit before,but this is all about learning what works and what doesn't.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Things grow fast around here....

It seems like just a few weeks ago that we planted the garden,put the seed potatoes in the towers and now....the garden has gone crazy!I have renamed it,The Tomato Forest.Nearly all of the plants are 4 foot tall and still growing,and setting fruit.The above pictures were taken a week or two ago,the tomatoes are now well above the cages.

We went out yesterday and added a last layer of dirt to the potato towers,I've read that once they bloom,they will not make potatoes beyond however tall they were when they bloomed,not sure how true that is,but we'll see what happens.The towers are now four boards high,and full to the top with dirt.

We also added a thick layer of straw around the row of potatoes.This year is an experimental year,and I know some people have had really good luck growing potatoes in beds of straw,so why not,let's try it and see what grows.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Building raised beds

Here are a couple of pictures from when we were building the raise beds for this year's garden.

We chose to use cinder blocks as the sides because,well,for one they were free or nearly free(thank you craigslist)and two,they are permanent,and since we don't plan on moving these beds,it worked out perfect.Well,until we ran out of cinder blocks,but we have more on the way,gifted from a friend,but those will have to wait to be added around the gardens until next spring.

As we laid out the blocks,we layered old newspaper down and then put several loads of compost/topsoil on top of the papers,this has helped to drastically reduce the weeds,and saved me time weeding.

I won't lie,it was a ton of hard work,more than I've ever done building a garden space,but in the end,with proper care,I think it will pay off.This is our first growing season with the new raised beds,but it's already had the benefit of being able to plant the garden while a large portion of the lower yard was still flooded,rather than having to wait until it dried out enough to be able to work the soil.

Using the raised beds have both advantages and disadvantages,on the up side you can plant earlier,and there are a lot less weeds to deal with.On the downside,you do have to water more often because the beds dry out faster than a traditional in the ground garden bed.

I've taken one end,where we ran out of cinder blocks and made that the designated compost pile.When we get more blocks,I'll simply add them around the border to match the rest and add topsoil on top of the compost,and mix it in,instant garden bed!

My plan is to rotate the beds yearly,and use a different one every year as the compost pile,that way I can be assured of good crop rotation to prevent plant diseases and to not overly drain the soil of much needed nutrients.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Welcome to my blog!

OK,so I have abandoned my former blogging attempts and have created this shiny brand new page for all my friends to read and follow along with me as I turn what was once and empty lot into my garden/orchard and own personal local food supply.

With today's unstable economy,unstable pricing and what seems like one outbreak after another of food born illness,it only make sense to grow your own,at least as much as you can in the space you have available to you.

I grew up with a family garden,fruit tress and all,the only thing we didn't have was livestock.In my younger years I wanted nothing to do with gardening,canning,preserving,and all the work that goes along with getting food from garden to plate.

Now that I am older and wiser,I've been working on getting back to those days when I could just step outside my door and harvest food that night's meal.I'm getting there,slowly.

I hope as you follow along with me on this journey that you will be inspired to try and grow at least some portion of your own food.There's a certain comfort and enjoyment that comes from eating a meal that contains foods that your grew yourself,and it just makes the entire meal taste that much better.

So,come along on my personal journey as I learn,grow.explore and create.