Tennesseetransitions


It Starts at Home

These mid-winter days offer me time to ponder the meaning of life, gaze lovingly at my navel, and cross long-carried-over-to-do-items off of my to-do-list. I’ve even cleared out my sewing basket which I think has been on the list for a year now!

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January was National Radon Awareness Month and since I have lung cancer I’ve been thinking a great deal about the dangers of RADON-a leading cause of lung cancer. So, I orRdered a free home test kit here:  https://tdec.tn.gov/Radon_Online/frmRADON_Online.aspx and I hung it for 6 days for testing, mailing it back to the state yesterday.

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It’s precise but simple, and did I mention it’s free? It also comes with a prepaid mailer to return it in! Now be aware…if you find  your home has radon, you’ll need to be prepared to remediate the problem if you plan to ever sell your home, or  you’ll have to at least disclose it should  you sell. But I would hope you wouldn’t wait to sell to alleviate the problem should  you show a high reading. I understand the average remedy costs about $1,000-$1,500 if someone else does the venting work necessary to move the radon out of  your living area. It could probably done much cheaper if you do it yourself. How hard can that be? haha don’t answer that, please.  I’ll let you know when I get my test results back..we’re hoping of course we don’t have any problems.

I’ve also been making lots of soups and canning soup stock, using frozen bags of onion and carrot tops, mushroom stems, celery tops and other trimmings that I save for just such purpose. Last week I made 10 qts of organic broth, and at today’s prices, that equates to at least $20. My time is certainly worth that, and on cold days it helps to warm the house and add humidity by simmering that stock for hours. The resulting golden goodness is good for making soups obviously, but also for cooking rice, pasta, potatoes or beans in too. 

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Speaking of good food and cooking from scratch… I’ve had so many readers ask me for vegan/vegetarian meal ideas that I’ve been writing down what we eat for supper each night, always making sure there’s enough left for lunches the following day. It’s an easy process once you get used to it. I’m sharing this oh-so-exciting information with you, my readers, because maybe you’re one of the ones that have asked for ideas. (If this bores you, just go to the next section.) So, for the first week of February, here was the Jones’ menu:

Week of February 1st,2016

Monday: Good Shepard’s Pie-potato topping made with soymilk and Smart Balance vegan spread-filling contained beans, broccoli, corn, kale, green peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, bay leaf, dried basil, and srirachi sauce. (This is called GOOD Shepard’s Pie because a GOOD shepard doesn’t eat his sheep.)

Tuesday: Fried Rice w/peas and carrots in peanut sauce, roasted brussels sprouts

Wednesday: Aloo Gobi over Jasmine Rice with Fusion Slaw and Rolls

Thursday: Bean and Potatoes Burritos w/Guacamole, leftover Asian Slaw

Friday: Kale, Mushrooms and Potato Bake w/Salads and Whole Grain Rolls, fresh pineapple chunks

Saturday: Grill Cheese Sandwiches w/canned soup, with pickles and fresh fruit (bananas, pineapple and red grapes)

Sunday: Pad Thai w/Naan and Salad

Looking at the lengthening days and the calendar I’m beginning to think about spring planting of course. We ate our last Longkeeper tomato last week…

20160206_170333[1]...so the goal is to grow more of them and get them in earlier than we did in 2015 so that hopefully we’ll be able to grow enough this year to last the whole winter next year!  When planning  your own garden, perhaps you can find space to plant a “ROW” for the “Rest of the World.” Because I live in the city, all I have to do to share that extra produce is to set it out on my front steps.

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If  you aren’t in a high walkability area you may need to load it up and take it to your nearest food pantry or church. Please consider this one little addition to your garden this year…it can make a big difference and won’t cost you much of anything to provide good food for someone who doesn’t have it.

I’ve long advocated that we use our homes as a place of productivity, not simply a center of consumption. There’s a LOT of trouble in this big world and so I feel compelled to do what I can personally to feed and clothe and keep my family as safe and healthy as I possibly can. I share this blog with you in the hopes that it may inspire you to become more self sufficient in any way you can too. It’s my unpaid job but more satisfying than any other position I’ve ever held. It helps me to feel as secure as I possibly can given the state of things. The stock market has crashed again (no surprise there) but since I’ve not been in good health we aren’t driving much (except to doctors’ appointments!) so we’re hardly spending anything on gasoline these days. I love that we can walk to almost every place we need to, giving me an extra layer of assurance that ‘all will be well’. I need that assurance in order to BE well.

In order to create resilient and prosperous households and neighborhoods, it starts at home with me, with you, and you. 



Frugal Friday- Feb. 13, 2015
February 13, 2015, 7:59 PM
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: , , , , ,

On this evening before Valentine’s Day I’m realizing I haven’t bought my Valentine a card or gift. No worries! Every day is Valentine’s Day with this man and we truly do try to show our love all day, every day. I will mark the day though, by baking him something special… he loves apple/cranberry tarts and I’ve got some fresh apples that I need to use up anyway. I’ll send him an E-Card too, professing my undying love. We are part of a good friend’s CD release party tomorrow night at a local coffee house, and so perhaps we’ll celebrate the occasion there with some hot chai topped with whipped cream. We’re perfect for one another because neither of us has ever felt the need to BUY SOMETHING to show our love.

With that thought though, I will tell you how much I love getting the best deals I can when I do have to buy something. Now that makes me a happy Valentine ❤

Monday: I decided to start some more sprouts for adding to salads and sandwiches. 2 T. of seeds makes almost a pint full, for about 25 cents worth of seeds. They taste sooo fresh this time of year, are super easy to do, and heart healthy to boot, fitting in with the Valentine heart theme this week. ❤

20150204_115214[1]Tuesday: Continuing along with the ‘heart healthy’ Valentine theme, I tried a new recipe, called “Butternut Buttermilk Pancakes”. We grow lots and lots of butternut squashes each summer and I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use them. THIS was so good, so easy and so frugal, it will make  repeat appearances on our table long after Valentine’s Day has passed I’m sure! ❤

pancakes

Butternut Squash Buttermilk Pancakes

-Prep your squash by peeling 1 small butternut and dice into cubes (about 1 1/2-2 cups. ) Boil in water until tender. Drain and mash with a fork. You want at least 1 cup of mashed squash. I used about 1 1/2.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of flour (3/4 cups of each white and wheat flour is nice)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

-Separate 2 eggs and beat the yolks in a bowl with 1 and 3/4 cups of buttermilk
**If you don’t have buttermilk on-hand you can perform a quick substitution by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to milk or by mixing 1 cup yogurt with 3/4 cup milk.

-Pour egg and buttermilk into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Pour in 6 tablespoons of melted butter. Mix again.

-Fold in butternut squash mash.

-Heat griddle and brown pancakes on each side. Make sure you don’t rush it and cook the cakes through because they tend to take a little longer than regular pancakes.

-Keep warm in the oven and serve with butter and maple syrup!

My notes: Save those egg whites and plan to use them in a skillet of scrambled eggs or some baked goods. I don’t heat up my big 220 volt oven just to ‘keep them warm’. But I do put them in my insulated tortilla warmer to stay warm until the whole batch is cooked. Saving electricity is always a money saver!

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Wednesday: Speaking of saving electricity… I recently went to the website for my local power company to take a free online energy evaluation survey of my home. Here’s the link: http://energyright.com/residential/online_energy_eval.html  And for doing this, I was sent a free kit of energy saving products, including two compact fluorescent bulbs, a package of switch and outlet sealers, 2 flow restrictors that screw on the end of faucets, an indoor stick on thermometer and more! It arrived this day and made my heart happy  ❤

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Now, even though this has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day, the other thing that happened on Wednesday was that Michael and I got to play music live on WMMT community radio in Whitesburg, KY with two of our dear friends to promote their latest CD. The show was two hours long and we had so much fun! We played, told jokes and discussed with the sweet DJ (in tie dye shirt below) all the ways that folk in Central Appalachia are working to improve their communites. Community and market gardening, teaching and playing the region’s traditional music, making traditional crafts, cooking traditional foods-these are just some of the ways that we’re all working towards preserving our health, environment, heritage and culture. And that is priceless… ❤

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Thursday: We had company over for supper and so I made a big pot of soup, a huge salad, Michael made fresh loaves of bread, and they brought a vegan chocolate cake! But here’s the best part…we actually had some of our grown-last-summer Longkeeper tomatoes that have been stored away in low boxes under the bureau  to add to the salad. Fresh home grown tomatoes in February? Yessss! Heart-healthy and red as any valentine! ❤

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Friday: Today I used the first of two $10 off $40 coupons I’ve received from the new Aldi’s in town. We stocked up on everything from Fair Trade coffee to organic sugar, and stocked up the shelves in my pantry, you know, in case the zombies come. This too made my heart happy ❤

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Here’s hoping your Valentine’s Day is simply heart healthy and happy, in whatever way you choose to honor the day.  ❤



Frugal Friday- January 23, 2015
January 23, 2015, 11:14 AM
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: , , , , ,

It’s been a rough week in my household..family members with health issues, middle of winter blahs, and nothing much to look forward to except spring. Even so, I feel blessed each and every day that I’m healthy and that I have ‘enough’. Enough money, food, clothes, love, stuff. I could use a few more homemade chocolate chip cookies in my life, but I’ll live.

Regardless of what goes on in our daily lives, learning to live well with less is a saving grace that will see you through good times and bad. Ask me how I know.

And so, this week was no different in terms of “using it up, wearing it out, making it do, or doing without.” The old saying “when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping” is sooo 80’s! Malls are standing empty all over America, and I’m hoping that they’ll all eventually be converted into indoor garden spaces with all those glass ceilings and atriums being put to good use at long last. But that’s another topic for another day. Today’s topic is frugality, not malls.

Monday: I finally made it to our town’s new Aldi’s grocery store AND used the $5 off $30 coupon they offered. I forgot to take a picture of the coupon before I used it, so I went looking online for one. I didn’t find the actual coupon, but I like the pic I found instead:

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“Truth #1: When deciding between eating well and saving money, always choose both”

Tuesday: I stopped by the ‘discount’ grocery store that’s about 8 miles away because I was in that area for other errands. I was  hoping to find some more of the veggie burgers there that I’d gotten before. No luck with that, but I did find 3 boxes of Gulf Wax for $2.99 each! I use this mostly for making Buckeye candies for gift-giving at Christmas;  just last month I’d run out and had to pay full price for a box, costing me $7.99. Ugh. I bought all 3 boxes they had on the shelf, saving $5  per box over the regular price. The last time I was able to stock up was years ago, when I’d found it for 25 cents a box at a yard sale, and had bought all 6 boxes the lady had, so this deal wasn’t ‘all that’, but the pain of paying full price for that one box made me certain this buy was about as good as I could hope for now. This is what I’m talking about when I advise you to “plan ahead” and to be on the lookout for your future needs. And in the case of this wax, it never goes out of date. I used to use it seal jars of jelly, until I started using reusable Tattler canning lids. Even then, I’d wash it once I opened the jars, and remelt it again for the next jars I filled. My Tattler supply is limited though, so I may go back to pouring that 1/8″ disk of melted wax again, now that I have ample supplies. Total Savings: $15.00.

Wednesday: After a brief hiatus of using antibiotic soaps and cleaners while Michael was going through chemo and radiation treatments, I’m back to using the natural cleaners I’ve used for over ten years. And this time, I found exactly what I was looking for… 20150110_161016 AND it was 74 cents cheaper per bottle than Heinz White Distilled Vinegar, while being 6% acidic vs 5% for the ‘regular’ white! The higher acidity cleans better too, in my opinion.

Thursday: We made a trip to the ‘Mennonite Bulk Food Store’. We only make it there about once a year, and we ended up spending $60.00. However, about half of that was spent on a 50 lb bag of rolled oats. We eat oatmeal for breakfast every single morning and never, ever tire of it for some reason. Not only do we not tire of it, we ENJOY it with cinnamon, raisins, apples, or honey added. We figure the bags last 6 months so the oatmeal costs us 15 to 20 cents a bowl, depending on what we add to it. Buying the extras at this bulk food store saves a lot if we shop carefully. We noticed that prices on many items today were higher than when we were last there. But the price of the oats remained exactly the same: $29.00!

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 Friday:  I’m doing a lot of cooking from scratch this week, trying to use lots of fresh stuff like kale, cabbage and broccoli from the garden, mushrooms and avocados bought at Aldi’s for 49 cents, and storage crops like apples, parsnips, potatoes and winter squash. We’ve enjoyed a Monday stir fry, a spicy Tuesday Jambalaya, a Wednesday au gratin of potatoes/kale/mushrooms, and a Thursday Curry. Bowls of rice pudding made with added raisins and ‘storage’ apples, and sweet sweet tangelos that were a Christmas gift make good snacks for us.

Tonight, friends are coming over to play music with us, so we’ll have burritos made with refried pintos and rice, topped with grated cabbage and chunks of FRESH Longkeeper tomatoes (will they last until Valentine’s Day?)  summer-canned salsa, and some black olives, grated cheese and sour cream that were left-over from a previous get-together we had. The flour tortillas were bought for $1.00 at the discount store, making them 10 cents each. (Heating them briefly in the microwave, with damp paper towels placed between each one, makes them taste completely fresh after I’ve frozen them.)

We’ve just finished the third full week of January, and haven’t spent but about $100 on food this month, including the bulk items we purchased yesterday. But with just a little advance planning, we’re eating delicious, frugal and healthy meals every day in this ‘Winter of Wellness’. Savings? well, you know… priceless!



Frugal Friday- January 9
January 9, 2015, 3:15 PM
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: , , , , , ,

A new year- If I were going to make any resolutions, it would be to continue to find fun ways to be frugal and thrifty. But that’s always my resolve, and I don’t need a new calendar to remind me what it once felt like to have more week than payday and to rob Peter to pay Paul. I I like paying cash for everything and letting my savings grow. And I don’t know about you, but I want to thrive, not just survive while working towards transitioning to a future that is not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being.

To that end, my family has enrolled in a year-long analysis of our electric, gas and fuel usage. The program is being offered through a local, grassroots group called G.I.N.I. (Green Interfaith Network, Inc) and is sponsored by Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light. Hopefully the resulting audit will help us learn what we can do to weatherize our 115 year old home and about the financial incentives of doing so. Recording our gasoline and mileage will also help us prepare ourselves both physically and mentally for using our own two legs or public transportation to get us to the places we need to go. It’s hard to make myself walk to the dentist when gas is less than $2.00 per gallon, but I find the exercise helps keep me fit, we’re only putting about 5,000 miles a year on our car, and it makes me feel so much more resilient to know that I’ve structured the bulk of my life into a radius of less than 2 miles. When I’m too old to drive or walk, I’ll get an electric scooter. Go Granny go! Savings? you can’t put a price on independence.

One thing that’s become very apparent to me over the last dozen years or so, is that by always thinking and looking ahead for the things that I need or want, and having patience, I will eventually find them at a good price. It breaks my heart to buy something brand new, knowing that all over America there are thrift stores, yard sales, basements and auction houses absolutely bursting with useful items. I see them every day, everywhere.

Monday: I had asked for a very specific type of slippers for Christmas, knowing they are old fashioned and hard to find, but not wanting anyone to buy them new. Not surprisingly, there weren’t any for me under the tree but I found a pair with the tags still attached at my local thrift store this week for 99 cents! Amazon lists a very similar pair but they are ‘unavailable’. I’m happy.

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Tuesday: After having friends over for food and music on Sunday, there were leftover fresh green pepper strips that I’d bought and served with hummus as dippers. I rarely buy them and sure didn’t want to waste them so I decided to make one of my favorite meals: Three Sisters. It’s simple, frugal, healthy and delicious. It uses the traditional Native American trio of corn, beans and squash and since I still have about 15 more large butternut squashes in the cellar, I seasoned and baked a few, then pureed them. After freezing all but two cups, I used it to make this dish…

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Directions are simple: Spread hot pureed squash on a warm toasted corn tortilla, top with pinto beans, chopped tomatoes, green peppers, salsa and (leftover from the party too) sour cream. Add a splash of hot sauce if you’re so inclined. Savings? About $2.00 worth of peppers.  By the way, these tomatoes were some of the Longkeeper type that we grow each summer for, well, long keeping! While not as good as a ripe August tomato, there are 1,000 times better than a Florida-grown, gassed-to-ripen, January tomato!

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Wednesday: I decided I’d best harvest some of the winter onions before this week’s frigid temps moved in. Just-picked onions and fresh tomatoes in January? Priceless!

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Thursday: After putting out a request on Freecycle for a VCR player, a friend responded by bringing by one of his extra players he’d put back for ‘hard times’. Savings? Being able to watch some of our old favorite movies again is yet another priceless gift! Thanks Bryan!

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Friday: I traded a wanna-be-homesteader friend a stack of Mother Earth News magazines for a jar of her home-made relish. win-win

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My New Year’s wish for all of us? That this will finally be the year that we can all become part of a viable, local, food network, that our new Congress will get along, that we’ll all learn to adapt to the changes in our lives and the world, and that we’ll walk and ride our way to good health as we meet our neighbors and form ‘communities of well-being’ amongst ourselves. Oh yeah. May this be the year that we all find our dream slippers at the thrift store too. Happy New Year everyone!



Season’s Eatings

I remember last spring a young woman I know asked me if my garden really fed Michael and me, or did we just get a “bunch of tomatoes and stuff”? Isn’t it funny how such an innocent question has stayed with me, making me hyper-aware of how I might truthfully answer it? The answer, after really paying attention to it, is “yeah, we do get a bunch of tomatoes and a LOT of ‘stuff’.” I think we’ve managed to eat from our plot every week this year. Some weeks we obviously eat more than others, but most of our meals revolve around what is fresh and what we have a surplus of. Sometimes it’s only a handful of chopped cilantro, and other meals, like tonight’s stir-fry, comes mostly from the garden-everything but the carrots. I kept running out of carrots in late fall each year, so 2014 was the year I was going to make sure I had enough to see me through until spring. So… I grew a ton of them, and then, after harvesting, stored them, along with a ton of beets, all unwashed, in tubs of moist sand’, as my food preservation book instructed me to. This isn’t a great pic but it shows you how promising it all looked the day I stored them away down in the cellar…(the carrots are in the top tub, beets in the bottom one)

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I think I added too much water to the sand in the carrot tub and they all rotted and turned to orange pulp in no time! Which of course led to the ‘store-bought carrots’ in tonight’s stir fry and yet another lesson learned. My mom always used to say that I seemed to learn everything the hard way, and it’s nice to know that I wouldn’t have disappointed her with this either. Just sayin’… The good news is that the beets remain firm and look as fresh as they did the day I harvested them in September! 

But back to the question at hand: how much DO we eat from our garden? Our soil in our raised beds was the best it’s ever been this year,and it showed in everything we grew, from spring peas right through to the current greens and broccoli…

winter goods

  We patiently waited until today to dig some of our spring-planted parsnips, knowing the soil would be soft and unfrozen after the recent warm spell and last night’s rain. Parsnips are sweeter after they’ve been hit by some hard frosts so we wanted to pick the perfect time to harvest them. They are tremendous, and proved to me just how deep our soils have actually become…

parsnipsWe also still have Yukon Gold potatoes and lots of butternut squash stored with the onions and garlic in the cellar, so tomorrow night’s supper will likely be a big clay cooker filled with rosemary-infused parsnips and squash, a skillet of corn bread made from freshly ground blue corn that I grew and dried two summers ago…

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a side of fresh kale seasoned with some of our homemade red pepper sauce and maybe a slice of the left over Christmas turkey. New Year’s Day we’ll have our traditional Hoppin’ John, made with black- eyed peas and fresh-picked collards, served over rice and seasoned with canned tomatoes and peppers, onions and fresh herbs.

We’re having musician friends over on Sunday, January 4th, to celebrate the old Appalachian tradition of ‘Breaking Up Christmas’, and we’ll continue eating from our garden that night too when we serve crocks of summer-canned bruschetta and salsa to serve on baguettes and with tortilla chips, and home-canned red pepper jelly served over cream cheese with crackers, along with pizzas topped with red, green and banana peppers, fresh-cut broccoli, sliced green onions and even some fresh cut Longkeeper tomatoes that are patiently waiting their turn to appear on the table in 2015! So, yes Virginia, gardens can give all year long if only you believe. Season’s Eatings to  you and yours.

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And the beet goes on…

My beloved grandmother died 10 years ago today, at the age of 100. She taught me a lot of things growing up; from useless nonsense like: “Never wear white shoes after Labor Day”,  to priceless information on how to cook vegetables and raise “Food”…

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But this Southern girl had never eaten, nor even seen, a parsnip, until I married my London-born husband. Nor did I care to. His love for this carrot-like root vegetable prevailed however, and now I love them as much as he does. So much so that I now plant them in my fall garden. Much like cool weather greens, parsnips ‘sweeten up’ after a few hard frosts. Since we recently had some nights down in the teens, I figured that was cold enough to sweeten them, so I walked down to my plot in the community garden today and harvested some of the parsnips and carrots I’d planted there last August. Aren’t they beautiful? They look good enough to eat, huh?

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I harvested 5 pounds of those fat, stubby carrots that grow so well in the fall, and 3 pounds of the parsnips, along with some ‘spring’ onions too! None of these veggies were protected in any way except for a 2″ ‘blanket’ of shredded leaves, proving that you don’t have to use expensive greenhouses or heavy cold frames or even plastic covered hoops for these cold-hardy varieties. As an experiment though, I decided to leave some of them in the ground because I’m curious to see how they fare after being in the ‘deep freeze’ we’re expecting next week-temps are predicted to be -4 Monday night! I’m hopeful they won’t freeze and get mushy but the only way to find out is to let them be. I’ll post later to let you know how they fare. I couldn’t bear to lose a single beet though so I harvested all of them.

Even though this time of year can certainly cause the window of locally grown foods to narrow considerably, there are still many fresh foods that can survive winter growing conditions or can be stored fresh without any or much preservation. Last week I took the fourth cutting of broccoli side shoots since the main heads were cut in early October and harvested 2 fresh heads of cabbage at the same time. Brussels sprouts look like they’re surviving with the sheet of plastic I put over them around Thanksgiving. I’m harvesting kale and parsley from my hoop house twice a week, but I’m pretty sure I lost my Swiss Chard during the recent cold night when the wind took the plastic off the hoops that covered the plants. That happened a few years ago, and even though the plants looked completely dead I left them in the ground, and because they are biennials, they literally came back to life the following spring in a beautiful flush of growth! I’m hoping for the same this time too, because I failed to save the seeds from those plants that reinvented themselves in spite of the odds, but you can be sure I will this time if I get a repeat performance. I did notice that the tiny spinach and bitter greens that were in that same hoop house didn’t seem to be bothered too much by the unfortunate exposure so I fully expect to be eating them by late February. 

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I went to the grocery store today and noticed price increases in canned beans, tomatoes and milk. I suspect that may be due to the continuing severe drought in California. It’s been said that our next wars will be over water instead of oil. Those of us lucky enough to live in a place with an annual rainfall of 52 inches don’t have to worry too much but that could change tomorrow. I like knowing that I can grow fresh food year round with very little irrigation necessary, but a few rain barrels under the downspouts is still a good insurance policy! But there’s been no increase in the costs of my beans and tomatoes-in fact, I want to show you the last four Longkeeper tomatoes I have been waiting on to ripen-we ate fresh tomatoes in our salads the day after Christmas and I suspect these last ones will fully ripen in the next week or two… note to self: plant earlier next summer so we’ll have enough to last through more of the winter.

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Starting the new year with boxes of locally grown apples and tangelos from Florida, white and sweet potatoes that still have our garden’s dirt clinging to them, baskets of butternut squashes, garlic and shallot bulbs, and all the other canned, frozen and dried goodies that I’ve put up and written about in the pages of this blog gives me a sense of gratitude and comfort. Having the skills needed to provide yourself with good food, regardless of winter storms or droughts, regardless of Peak Oil or ruined Fukushima nuclear reactors, will hold you steady all your life. No doubt I’ll suffer some losses to this extreme cold snap that’s headed our way-probably my beautiful rosemary bush or some of the fruits and berries that were planted last summer. But it’s not the end of the world, and the setbacks continue to teach me new lessons that were begun by my grandmother 60 years ago. The BEET goes on.

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