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Garden Update: Hail Recovery and Pest Control

More on the adventures in our garden! Things have been recovering nicely since the wicked hail storm a couple weeks ago.

Seeds that I had planted before the storm are sprouting nicely. These pictures I took are awful but I’m out of light now! Anyway, lots of alfalfa:

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Looks ready to eat!

Onions:

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They’re tiny but they’re there!

Carrots:

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Not as many seeds survived, but carrots do germinate slowly so maybe we’ll get more?

The tomatoes are flowering and there are tons of little green tomatoes coming out! I see the speckled trucks, though, and I wonder if they’re lacking nutrients. Last week I sprinkled crushed egg shells into the soil all around the garden (although I’ve read that it takes a really long time – a season? – for the shells to get much calcium into the soil) and today I gave them some epsom salts. Hopefully that will nutrient them up.

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Future tomato sauce

The broccoli is also flowering, unfortunately. We’ve had a couple hot days and of course I planted it too late in the season so it is bolting. I want some of it to bolt because I really want to get into seed saving… but I’m not sure if I’m ready! I need to do more research on it but when is there time? I’m trying to do too much right now as it is!

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Purple broccoli!

Other things going on in the garden…. the green caterpillars who were eating my kale, romaine, and chard that I wrote about last time haven’t been spotted in awhile. Although today I was watering the chard and spotted a dead white moth. It didn’t look like it was green caterpillar because I didn’t see a green body, but it still freaked me out a little. I haven’t been as diligent with my daily inspections for bugs, so I need to stop rushing through the morning garden chores!

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So pretty!

We’ve had other bugs – red shouldered or box elder bugs. Apparently they are harmless but they love to annoy us when we’re outside. I have looked for ways to move them along without killing them, but I didn’t have much luck. Mr. Handsome just got a play structure for the kiddos, which the bugs seem to love, so we really don’t have much choice but to spray these guys out of our yard.

Of course I don’t want to use chemicals, though, because we use the yard a lot! I found a solution – water and a bit of dish soap (I use Seventh Generation right now, but I thought about using Castille soap). Yesterday I sprayed their favorite spots a few times throughout the day, and today their numbers are vastly reduced. Apparently these guys are suseptable to drowning, so you have to get them pretty wet. If the water doesn’t kill them, the soap will deteriorate their exoskeleton and get them eventually. Poor little guys. Just move out of my yard!

Baby2 enjoyed helping in the garden last night while I pulled weeds and took pictures. Such a good helper!

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My helper

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Garden Happenings

This year we are growing more than we ever have. We have more space now than we ever have and we are taking advantage of it! We built three 3’x6′ raised beds and have filled them with all manor of foods, including…

  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Onions – yellow and spring
  • Rainbow chard
  • Romaine
  • Kale
  • Butter lettuce
  • Head lettuce
  • Rosemary
  • Pumpkins
  • Sage
  • Pole beans
  • Thyme
  • Broccoli

And there’s a ton more that I have seeds for and want to grow but haven’t had time to get in the ground. Almost everything we’re planting is from seed, but I did cave in to buying a couple tomato and romaine starts since those are my prize crops this year. I scored a bunch of free seeds with a coupon code. Sometimes it pays to be on the internet in the middle of the day!

Anyway, even though I had some free seeds I still needed to buy a couple starts because I procrastinated horribly like I do every year. I always have grand plans to start a bunch of seeds indoors but… I don’t know… it’s like I chicken out every year! I never think I can get the soil warm enough or have space to put starts in front of the window with a curious toddler hovering nearby. So I put it off and eventually just end up sowing seeds outside so I don’t have to transplant anything either.

Right now, though, I’m kind of glad I have procrastinated, because this crazy hail storm happened earlier this week:

 

That’s a whole lotta hail, enough to turn the ground white almost all over, slamming down hard into my plants. I really wanted to go out there and cover my plants, but I wan’t subjecting myself to that firing squad either!

I still don’t know the full damage, since I had planted another round of seeds a few days earlier and none of them had germinated yet, so I hope they are still doing okay under the surface. I can see the damage done from the outright assault by Mother Nature on my leafies, though. Here is the damage done to my kale. Most of these leaves didn’t have any holes at all. Some had a couple holes – I’ve been battling green caterpillars. I think I’ve been winning for a couple weeks now, but sometimes I catch a little tiny one under a leaf. They are so persistent! I hope it is because the greens in my garden are just so yummy. Whatever their motive, I can’t kill them with chemicals because this is an organic garden, so I just go out every day and look under allllll the leaves for stow aways. It takes about ten minutes and it’s worth every minute. Oh, right, the hail damage. Observe…

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I quickly harvested those and made my second batch of kale chips. Here’s a picture of the first batch:

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I’ll tell you the recipe, too, after I share I picture of my sad pumpkin plant.

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Those pumpkin leaves were beautiful, I was so proud of how the pumpkin is doing because it is in the ground, not the raised beds. Our soil is very clay textured and compacted, so it must be really fighting to dig in. The romaine was shredded, too, but it mattered less as long as the whole leaf was still present. A couple leaves did almost just melt away from the hail, though. It went on like that video for at least five minutes, because I was taking a video of the front yard for a minute, then I got distracted by the World Cup game, then I took that video above of the backyard and it was a minute or two long originally.

So that’s the story of how Mother Nature helped me make dinner by pre-shredding my romaine salad.

And now for the Kale Chips! This is a version of a recipe I found on this blog via Pinterest. I do it like this…

 

Kale Chips

Ingredients:

  • Kale – about two quarts worth of washed and dried kale with the middle stem removed and cut into chip-size pieces (they will shrink a little too)
  • 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs oil – I have used melted coconut or olive oil, both are great but I think I like the olive oil a little more
  • Salt

Equipment:

  • 4-quart size bowl (or small bowl if you don’t have a big one – this is used to mix the oil and vinegar but also to toss the kale in the mixture if you want)
  • Knife, cutting board, washing/drying equipment to prep the kale
  • Dehydrator. I have an inexpensive Nesco dehydrator that makes perfect kale chips. You can also make them in the oven but I burn mine every time that way. Seriously, I have sat there and watched them bake before and I still burn them. The oven lies.
  • Storage. I can fill a half-gallon mason jar with a dehydrator full of kale (a few pieces don’t make it from the dehydrator to storage, though).

Directions:

  1. If you haven’t followed the directions in the ingredients already, wash and dry your kale, remove the stem in the middle (that’s the bitter part) and cut your kale into chip-size pieces. I like pieces that also fit into a half-gallon mason jar because that’s what I keep my chips in. I haven’t tried storing them in a paper bag but I imagine that would work too.
  2. Put ACV and liquid oil (melted coconut, olive oil, whatever you’re into) in a big bowl. I use a four quart stainless steel bowl because I like a lot a room to toss the kale in the oil/vinegar. You could also use a small bowl and rub the oil onto each piece individually. Either way you have to do a little rubbing because you want to make sure the oil/vinegar mixture thoroughly coats the kale pieces.
  3.  Fill up the dehydrator trays with oil/vinegar coated kale. They will shrink a little so you can pack them in tight but don’t overlap the pieces or they will stick together and not be crispy in those spots.
  4. Give each tray a little dusting of salt. Mr. Handsome likes Alder Smoked Seasalt. I recently read that Himalayan pink salt is the one you want because it contains all the minerals. ALL of them. Okay, not really all, but a lot.
  5. Close up the dehydrator, put it somewhere away but near an outlet so the sound won’t bother you and you can plug it in. Turn it on and wait a couple hours, three to four probably. You’ll know the chips are done when they’ve reached your desired crunchiness level. It’s okay to open the dehydrator and check. I do it and both me and my kale chips seem fine.
  6. Turn off the dehydrator and transfer the kale chips to storage, sampling them along the way, of course. Offer fresh kale chips to everyone in your family, even though they will probably refuse them again. Do tell them how yummy the chips are though!

I used to make my chips with just oil but then I found this ACV way and it really does help with the flavor. I find I can use less salt now that I’ve added the ACV. Experiment with your recipe and find your own favorite. I haven’t made these twice yet and I like them more and more every time!

The HOW (and the when)

Okay, after a couple days of updates and a break for Father’s Day, I’m back to the goal stuff.

The What and Why have been documented, and we know Who is doing this (me and my family!) and Where (at home and in our community) – all that is left is the How.

How am I going to be more productive and consume less?

The answer is… I have no idea! I’m new at this. I guess I’ll be finding out as I go? Well, that’s not entirely true, I have some ideas. Have I mentioned toothpaste?

But really, though, how do I produce more than I consume? I think I should start by being mindful, and encouraging mindfulness in my family. By mindful I mean that I should start looking at everything like I’ve been looking at toothpaste. I want to ask questions – What is this? What’s in it? How are the ingredients made? Where does it come from? Who created this?

Of course, I have to figure out how to encourage these questions from my family without being annoying. I have been kind of annoying to them lately. I mentioned that I’ve started changing our diet already. Well, I did some things kind of fast. No more white bread or white pasta – when enriched flour foods were gone I replaced them with whole wheat or I banned them (still trying to keep the Little Debbie-like shit from coming in my house but that’s a separate fight, and at least one that I don’t have to have often). No more Jello (I make some using fresh juice and grass-fed gelatin now). I added lots of veggies – veggies at every meal when before we had them only a couple times a week. Way less pasta – once a week for dinner and that’s it (and now it is only half the dinner instead of the whole thing). And the biggest one (but honestly seemed the easiest to implement when it was all said and done) – no more sugary cereals AND cereal is now just a “lazy day” breakfast. We now eat home-cooked breakfasts at least five days a week or more. Kiddo1 had cereal this morning (first day of summer!) for the first time in weeks. Trader Joe’s O’s, plain, with raw milk. Oh yes, our milk went from convention to organic to raw pretty quickly.

That’s not the annoying part. I’ve been telling them why I switch things when they ask, and how much bad stuff is in some of the things we’ve been eating. I try not to lay it on thick, I really do, but sometimes I get away from myself! I have also not allowed them much of a transition. I am trying not to swap out the whole pantry at once, but I will change the bread they get overnight. One day it was white, the next is was wheat and no matter how much they protested I did not go back. They’re actually lucky on this one – I’m still buying bread but I would like to do away with it all together. More on this later; it’s more complex than it sounds.

So I am not shy to tell them what they’ve been eating sucks and I’m not slow to take it away. I’m a “yank the band-aid off while they’re distracted” kind of nurse I guess.

I digress! Mindfulness! That’s all I’m trying to get at here. I need better ways to encourage mindfulness in my family, and I’m not sure what those are yet, but I know being more aware of what we’re eating and what we’re buying is going to be helpful.

Step 2… I also want to read whatever I can. Reading books and articles about what I’m doing helps. Reading will be a way for me to broaden my scope and skills. I’ve read a couple homemaking-related books since I started writing again last week (I’ve been sick, lots of time to lay around and read) and I’ll write reviews of those soon. I want to research homemaking, the art of domesticity, etc. I want to learn all those things our grandmothers knew – how to sew, how to clean, how to use all parts of a cow, how to raise chickens and garden year-round, etc.

Step 3… Community (this is the hardest one for me!). I need to get out of my house and find other people who feel the same way. I’d love to take a gardening class or find a mentor that will help me learn. I want to meet a local farmer that I can buy meat from today but maybe trade for meat when I have something of value. I want to meet folks who tinker with cars and would do anything for a few jars of the jam I make every year.

I’m sure there are more steps. Learn to try things without fear of failure. Find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Meditate. Turn off the TV more, put down my phone more. Talk about my goal with others. Write about my goal 2 or 3 or 5 or whatever times a week.

I think I really will be find out how to do this as I go. I’ll be sure to write it down though.

 

Oh wait! The When! I left out one question – when. I’ve actually been thinking about this one a lot this week.

Obviously I’m starting now, or I’ve already started I guess, but when am I done? Better yet, because I know I’ll never be “done,” when is my target to have the production-to-consumption scale emphatically tilted to producing?

I’ve been thinking about 9 years, mostly because of my blog’s namesake. Well I called this blog 9 years later because I started it to document my second pregnancy, which occurred 9 years after my first pregnancy. So, you know, gotta follow that up with something equally epic (which is impossible, I know, as nothing is as grand as having a child). Plus, this is, like, a really big goal. I’m talking Make. All. My. Shit. (Hahahaha – so I’m proofreading and just now realize how funny that last sentence sounds. So I can’t remove it.)

9 years from now I want to have the skills that will enable my family and me to be free. Free to live anywhere we want – stay in our current house and build on, or maybe move to a farm, move to another country if we felt like it. I want to be free to decide whether or not I will continue with conventional employment. Free to make decisions about our future that are not hindered by questions like where will our food come from and where will we buy X, because those things won’t be major players in the decisions any more.

I know it sounds like a lot. I know it is a really lofty goal. I know it could fall apart at any moment! There will be successes, there will be failures. I’ll probably give up from time to time, but that’s why the blog is here! Oh dear blog, please keep me motivated by making me accountable. I can’t promise to post my progress and not follow through, right? We’ll see.