Tennesseetransitions


Eating Locally

On this snowy day, I’m recalling some recent conversations with friends asking what exactly am I eating that is fresh and local in this kind of weather? So, I made a list. I consider food that I grew last summer and preserved in some way fair game when making such a list but italicized them below so  you can tell what’s ‘fresh’ and what’s ‘preserved’. All grown or available right.here. 

Here’s what we’re eating these days: corn and corn meal, cilantro, tomatoes-yes, we’re still enjoying fresh Longkeeper tomatoes harvested in October-cabbage, broccoli, beets, parsnips, white potatoes and sweet potatoes, green beans, kale, parsley, herbs, butternut and spaghetti squash, pesto, salsa, dried beans, jams, V-8 and grape juices, peas, edamame, jams and jellies, honey, teas, hot sauces, salsa, flour and corn tortillas, corn bread and yeast bread, apple sauce, carrots, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, onions and garlic, molasses, and peppers and occasionally eggs, goat’s milk or goat cheese are given to me by friends. We also had fresh lettuce until just recently but the cold finally did it in, mostly due to our failure to protect it well. We enjoy stir fries, soups, pasta sauces, and one pot meals most of the time, occasionally splurging on a pizza from Main Street Pizza since they grow their own toppings on their nearby farm. There are lots of other local foods available that we occasionally enjoy but don’t grow ourselves-from  wheat for grinding into flour, to pumpkins, meats, cheeses, apples, pears and other fruits. I suppose most any food you might want can be found locally at some time of the year anyway! (OK, oranges and seafood excluded, but certainly some kinds of fish are available.) Rice, olive oil and spices are my main import exceptions, although rice is being grown in South Carolina now and I hope to buy from there this year. How far does ‘local’ go? That’s for you to define. Some say 100 miles, others feel 250 is still local. And why does eating local foods matter so much to me?

  1. Supports local farms: Buying local food keeps local farms healthy and creates local jobs at farms and in local food processing and distribution systems.
  2. Boosts local economy: Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.
  3. Less travel: Local food travels much less distance to market than typical fresh or processed grocery store foods, therefore using less fuel and generating fewer greenhouse gases.
  4. Less waste: Because of the shorter distribution chains for local foods, less food is wasted in distribution, warehousing and merchandising.
  5. More freshness: Local food is fresher, healthier and tastes better, because it spends less time in transit from farm to plate, and therefore, loses fewer nutrients and incurs less spoilage.
  6. New and better flavors: When you commit to buy more local food, you’ll discover interesting new foods, tasty new ways to prepare food and a new appreciation of the pleasure of each season’s foods.
  7. Good for the soil: Local food encourages diversification of local agriculture, which reduces the reliance on monoculture—single crops grown over a wide area to the detriment of soils.
  8. Attracts tourists: Local foods promote agritourism—farmers’ markets and opportunities to visit farms and local food producers help draw tourists to a region.
  9. Preserves open space: Buying local food helps local farms survive and thrive, keeping land from being redeveloped into suburban sprawl.
  10. Builds more connected communities: Local foods create more vibrant communities by connecting people with the farmers and food producers who bring them healthy local foods. As customers of CSAs and farmers markets have discovered, they are great places to meet and connect with friends as well as farmers.

So, I’ve told  you what I’m eating these days and why. Now I’ll leave you with a little pictorial  of what we’ve been enjoying at my house…are  you eating any local foods that aren’t pictured here? Am I missing anything? 

 

 

 

 



What’s growin’ on?

 Between four fun road trips with my best friend this summer…

20140831_120953[1]and several fun gigs with our band…

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…as well as not-so-fun computer problems, home decorating projects and now end-of-summer gardening chores, I’ve accepted the fact that I just don’t have as much time to write in the summer as I do during the cooler months. I love the change of seasons, but I am especially looking forward to the slow-down of autumn this year. Our garden has been wildly productive, and that’s the good news. Really. But I’m one of those people that can’t bear to let food go to waste, especially when I’ve worked hard to grow it, and this wildly productive garden has put pressure on me to DO SOMETHING with it all. I’ve given it to friends and strangers…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve canned it, frozen it, dried it, eaten it and delivered it…

20140728_115524[1]I’ve stored it under the beds and dressers, in the pantry and now the butternuts will join the potatoes, garlic, onions, beets and carrots in the root cellar…

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…and still, it continues. At this writing, I’ve cleared out practically everything I had growing in my plot at the community garden, have amended the tired soil there with many wheelbarrows of our home-made compost and the last of the shredded leaves that the city delivered to us last fall, and ‘put it to bed’ for the upcoming winter with a warm blanket of scarlet clover. But! I couldn’t resist buying some cool season transplants of cabbages, broccoli and Brussels sprouts and set them out this week in a little empty row I found. Since I didn’t have the time it would’ve taken to start them from seeds, it seemed a good choice this year. They won’t produce for a couple of months, but even now, we still have an abundance of fresh food!  There’s still LOTS of Swiss chard, with spinach and kale comin’ on strong…

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The storage onions and sweet bell peppers are finished, but the late onions and hot peppers will keep coming ’til frost. I’m canning lots of hot pepper jelly for hostess and gift giving. This stuff ROCKS with cream cheese and crackers!

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The cherry tomatoes still fill our salad bowls each evening at supper, along with the take-a-chance-romaine that I thought wouldn’t produce in such hot weather-surprise! There are still fresh mints, herbs, parsley and basil, and with cooler weather my self-seeding cilantro patches have reappeared-just in time to add to the final bowls of fresh salsa or pico de gallo that we love with to eat with black beans and rice…

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August-planted beets and carrots have joined the parsnips and will be mulched with more leaves once they’re all full sized, then finally! garlic will join them in their warm bed come early November. THEN maybe I can get back to writing more regularly here. I have a whole page of ideas that I think are worth sharing with you; ideas about redefining prosperity, batch cooking, Little Free Libraries, worm bins, wildcrafting, herbal helpers, Transition Towns, and much more-all small stories about big change. BUT!  if we collectively plan and act early enough, we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. It is time to take stock and to re-create our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil (and gas) but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being. Stay with me as we grow together!

happy fall ya'll

 



Frugal Friday- April 25th, 2014

As the weather warms, I’m enjoying being in the garden and eating fresher home-grown foods, while still using up the bounty from last year’s garden. We ate beets, carrots, parsnips, green onions, lettuce and spinach this week, and because Michael’s chemo treatments don’t allow him to eat raw foods, I tried a new recipe for Creamed Spinach. It was really, really good. With a lot of sunshine, we cooked outside this week, on the grill and in the solar cooker, and even went to a picnic last night, so I know summer’s on its way. As you know, frugality isn’t just about saving money. It’s equally about saving time, resources, and energy (both personal and grid type). This week was a strange conglomeration of all of those things, with less about money than usual.

Monday: Got my old washing machine repaired, and it only cost $120, and that included two visits to my home-one to diagnose the problem, and the second visit to replace the part that had to be ordered. It’s running great, and I’m happy that it wasn’t the kind of repair bill that made me question whether I should fix it or buy new. Savings over new: Geez, who knows? The point is really about taking care of, and using up, what we already own, rather than buying new.

Tuesday:  Every freaking day is Earth Day as far as I’m concerned. We cannot ‘save the earth’ only recognizing it one day a year and after 40+ years of ‘celebrating’ the day, I see more environmental destruction and degradation than ever. That said, I still feel a ‘thrill’ when it’s mentioned, or when I know deep down inside that I’m living it every day, in every way, that I possibly can. In light of that, Earth Day is always the time of year that I’m trying to get my garden plot ready for planting and heavy summer production. Living in a downtown urban area doesn’t lend itself well to finding animal manure for composting and fertilization, unless you count the piles of dog shit in the park. But a fellow gardening friend took pity on my whining about the lack of poo,  and we were both able to drive our trucks on a beautiful spring morning out into the country, to a local alpaca farm, where the animals’ owner filled both trucks with huge loads of FREE composted manure with her little mini front loader! Not only did I get to personally meet the gang responsible for this wonderful windfall…

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…when I got back to the community garden, I got help unloading it from several friends that happened to be in the wrong right place at the wrong right time! Priceless!

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Wednesday:  Expecting company for dinner, I decided that my stove top could use a good scrubbing and cleaning. I like to line my burner pans with foil to catch drips, mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to scrub them. It was time to change the foil. See how clean it looks now? This was a 15 minute job (I should’ve taken a before picture for comparison but forgot to) Savings? Hours of scrubbing!

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Thursday:  Remember my telling you about how Michael and I enjoy volunteering with our local university’s arts department? Not only is it a great way to support the arts, we earn free tickets for our time too. But all of the volunteers were invited to a wonderful end of year ‘thank you’ picnic last night, complete with an old-time band and contra dance after the meal! The catered meal was fabulous, we got to meet and eat with old friends, and then dance off the calories afterwards. Savings? Priceless!

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dancers

 

 

Friday: Continuing the cleanup of my oven required me to use a Brillo-type steel wool pad on some spots. I always cut the new pads in two, which sharpens my scissors and results in fewer pads being thrown away due to rust. 1/2 a pad almost always does the job. Savings? Well, it’s like getting a free box cutting them in half like that, AND it cuts down on the waste they make since they rust badly if  you try to ‘save’ them after a use. Just sayin’…

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As  you see, there were no big dollar savings this week to speak of, but again, all the little things do add up to  big savings in all the areas of our lives. Whether it’s cutting brillo pads in two or dancing and picnicking with friends, I consider it an art to live my life in an abundant and meaningful way as I transition to a lifestyle that is based on lower energy, less money, climate changes and an economy that will NEVER return to “the way it used to be”. I hope my blog  inspires you to find your own ways to become more creatively resilient, and to use your own local resources to their fullest. Have a beautiful weekend!



Frugal Friday- March 21st, 2014

Boy howdy, can I tell it’s spring! I am busy every day with community garden and personal garden stuff, as well as all the other things that fill up my calendar. It’s during times like this that I see money slip through my fingers more easily, spending more on things like restaurant meals or car washes or bakery cakes instead of home cooking and backyard car washes. Tracking our expenses for 15 years now tells me instantly where our money goes so it’s easier to stop the bleeding when it begins. As busy as this week has been, I’ve tried to be frugal:

Monday: Put a new double-edged blade in my old razor. I bought the razor new for $5, along with 10 blades, in 2008. Since then, I’ve bought another box of 5 blades, with 2 left. So, that means I’ve used 12 blades in about 6 years. That’s right, 12 blades in 6 years! The secret? After every single use, I drag the wet blade across a scrap of denim, then coat it with baby oil using the handy little brush that came with it, before putting it back in its box. I read the tip about using the denim right after I’d bought the razor and have been amazed at how long the blades can last by taking the few seconds it takes to sharpen and oil them after each use. If you try this, all you need to do is make a few quick strokes UPWARDS, against the ‘nap’ of the denim, like you would if  you were shaving. I think I paid about $3 for the box of five extra blades. I’m very pleased that I’m no longer throwing away ‘disposable’ razors and that I’m saving $1-$2 a month on their cost. Savings over 6 years? A LOT. And I get a MUCH closer shave than I ever did with triple edge blades. Just sayin’. (yeah, you get used to the sharp blade after just a couple of uses and I rarely cut myself)

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Tuesday: I’m putting my Sam’s Club membership to good use. I’ve started buying #10 size cans of peaches, then dividing them into smaller containers which I freeze. Michael did the math for me: we were buying the smaller cans at 4.2 cents per oz, the larger ones are 2.3 cents an oz. When thawed, they are as good as they were when the can was opened, with no degradation in texture or flavor.  Savings: 50%! I’ll be looking for other bulk buys like this in the future.

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Wednesday: Notice that large can pictured above: See how it says “California Peaches”? Nope, not local. Michael’s chemo treatments have left him with compromised taste buds and he CRAVES the cool sweetness of them so much that he blew through all the Georgia peaches that I’d canned last summer before Christmas! Who am I to deny him peaches simply because they’re not local? But this day wasn’t about peaches, it was about tomatoes instead. I told you recently that the president of the California Tomato Growers Association was quoted on NPR as saying that because of the ongoing drought there, as well as the lack of high Sierra snow pack (and spring melting) that this year, instead of that states’ farmers providing US consumers of tomato products with their normal 90% of all processed tomato products, THEY WOULD BE PROVIDING ZERO PER CENT! There’s simply not enough water available to grow them this year. What’s a person to do? Well,  you can convert your front yard to tomato production and can your own sauces and salsas OR you could hope that  you run across the sweet deal I found yesterday at the discount grocery: 30 full-sized cans of seasoned diced tomatoes, all with long ‘sell by’ dates, for 25 cents a can. I found the same brands in Krogers for 90+ cents a can, so savings on the tomatoes alone were $19.50 or more. I also bought 4 name brand jars of salsa for 50 cents a jar and some organic cooking sauces for 30 cents a jar! Be sure to check out your local ‘discount grocery’ too for super savings like these, but when you find great deals, stock up, because chances are they won’t be there when you go back!

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Thursday: This was Michael’s birthday. I cooked his favorite meal, African Peanut Stew, using  many ingredients that we’d grown and preserved. No restaurant meal for him, he wanted this instead. A pot of it, served over rice, costs less than dessert would’ve at any restaurant in town. Plus, we had enough left for 2 more full meals. I had made some chocolate chip cookies for a meeting the day before, so that’s what we had in place of a cake, along with some of his beloved peaches, and called it a birthday. He was happy, so that was priceless.

Friday:  Planted peas, onions, potatoes, beets and carrots. Walked to the drug store, Dollar General, the music store, the community garden, the library and the Buddhist Dharma Center. Ate “leftovers and peaches” for lunch. Washed and vacuumed the car in the back yard. Gave myself a manicure. Attending a fund-raiser dinner tonight for One Acre Cafe, and will make a donation with the money I saved.

“Living well on less” is my mantra, I hope you don’t get tired of hearing about it and I hope it inspires you to seek out all the ‘little ways’ that you can keep money in your pocket too, all while making your life more resilient- and fun!



Hope Springs Eternal

Last Saturday our temperatures here in NE TN were a perfect promise of spring, so I got to my plot in the community garden and spent a very pleasant hour or so turning under the green manure crop of Crimson Clover while adding some organic amendments to the soil. The next day’s rain was the perfect finish. Now it will have a couple of weeks to break down before I plant ‘spring things’ there. It’s a rare fall that I get the planting of my winter cover crop timed perfectly so that it will fill in, without going to seed, before the cold weather fully hits, but I managed to last fall. Remember this?

clover

The now-brown quilt of clover served as a natural cover through the winter, and will now finish its’ part in the garden’s life by adding nitrogen-rich organic matter to my slowly improving soil. I added blood meal, rock phosphate powder and homemade compost to the bed and then tilled it all under. I plan to try a no-till method in some of my beds this year, in hopes that the earthworms will drag the compost and other amendments down deep to the plants root area where it’s needed most. I vowed when I started these beds from scratch last spring that as soon as the clay was broken down I’d stop tilling. I hope that time has come, for using a tiller is not sustainable and my goal is to garden productively without using fossil fuels or the pesticides and fertilizers that are made from them. I’m still not there, this picture proves it, but I do hope to be some day soon.

diggin' in for spring

In the meantime, I’m babying my starts of onions, kale, chard, cilantro and parsley that are growing on a make shift book case-turned-plant-rack.

Veggie Starts

They’ll get transplanted to 4″ pots, slowly hardened off, and tucked into the prepare beds by the end of the month, along with potatoes, peas, beets, carrots, cabbage and broccoli-all ‘cool season crops’ too. After many satisfying meals this winter using our stored, canned and frozen fruits and veggies it will be wonderful to once again have fresh foods to add to the table. While I wait for the lettuce, peas and strawberries, I’ve started sprouting seeds in the kitchen to give us ‘something fresh’ right now. Sprouting is easy-peazy- something even I can’t mess up!

The winter was really tough on the fall-planted kale, chard and lettuces. The ‘polar vortex’ ripped the plastic off both hoop houses the night it blew in and all that survived was the spinach. This picture was taken on December 17th, when those things were holding some promise for spring:

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All that’s left of that promising bed are the spinach plants, (lower left) which are still too small to harvest. Hopefully, not for long.

In writing this post, I realize how many times I’ve used the word ‘hope’. My garden is always full of hope, if nothing else. I hope the seeds will sprout, I hope for a bountiful harvest, I hope the food we grow will nourish us and I hope that by showing you, my reader, how much can be grown with so little time, space and energy that it will inspire you to try your hand at growing something this spring too. All indications are that we will definitely see rising food prices as the year goes on. We already are actually. Hoping that won’t happen isn’t enough for me though. In a world where I often don’t feel I have much control over much of anything, growing my food empowers me like nothing else does! Right along with filling my pantry and my belly, gardening fills me with peace of mind and the knowledge that regardless of what happens in the world, I’ll always have the knowledge and skills to provide for myself and others. Hope really does spring eternal in the garden!



A Mid-Winter Festival of Bannocks, Roots, Seeds and Groundhogs

groundhog-day-groundhogA little history lesson today dear readers:  February 2nd was an important day in the Celtic calendar. This ancient holiday earmarked the midpoint of winter.  As winter stores of food began to be used up, Imbolc rituals were performed to ensure sufficient food supplies until the harvest six months later. Imbolc was a feast of purification for the farmers, and the name oímelc (“ewe’s milk”) is likely in reference to the beginning of the lambing season, when the ewes came into milk. Imbolc celebrations were marked by bonfires, special foods, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens~ perhaps a precursor to the North American Groundhog Day.  One of the special foods that was prepared for the feast was bannocks, or bannock bread. A blogger that I like to follow posted a recipe for these last summer and today was the day I finally tried my hand at it. These little breads were quite good!

Easy Bannocks

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 3/4 cup water

Measure dry ingredients into a large bowl.  Stir to mix.  Pour oil (or melted butter) and water and stir to make a ball.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface, and knead gently about 10 times.  Cut the dough ball into 4 equal balls and pat into a flat circles ~ 3/4 to 1 inch thick.

Cook in a greased frying pan over medium heat, allowing about 5-10 minutes for each side. Best when served hot.navajo-fry-bread

This is a perfect recipe to round out a meal that may be a bit on the lean side, and has ingredients that most of us have already on hand. (Other recipes suggest adding a bit of sugar or blueberries to the dough) They were more biscuit like than I imagined them to be, so next time I’m going to flatten them more, cook in less time and I imagine it will make more than four that way too. I’m going to try making them over a fire the next time we go camping! Imagine-hot bread when  you’re camping!

To go with our bannocks, I made a  stew of sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage and tomatoes simmered in a quart of  home-made veggie broth, all of which we’d produced ourselves, so the only thing store-bought was the peanut butter, soy sauce and spices that made this recipe from my favorite old Moosewood cookbook perfect for the affair!

As we ate this ‘root crop’ feast, we were reminded of how concerned over their stored food supplies the ancient Celts must have been at this time of year, hoping the rituals they performed during Imbolc would protect their food and their farmers and  see them through ’til spring. We were also very thankful that we live in a time when food supplies are available year ’round.

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To ensure my own crops were ‘sufficient to last until spring’,  I decided today was the day I’d go back to my plot at the community garden and dig those parsnips that I’d deliberately left behind, so I could see how they would fare with the minus zero temps we were expecting at the time. The parsnips were crunchy and in good shape!  They had actually begun to sprout new green growth underneath that 2″ layer of leaves I’d piled on!

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I found one more Imbolc-like reason to celebrate today:  Our annual seed order arrived in the mail AND a local nursery donated lots of seeds to our community garden, so there’s PLENTY to celebrate and look forward to!

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To everything there is a season… and for every purpose under heaven. During these dismal final weeks of winter, I sometimes have to look really hard for those signs, but they’re there! The sun was out just long enough this morning that when Phil the groundhog poked his head out, he saw his own shadow, so, according to the legend, spring will arrive early this year. If that’s not something to celebrate, nothing is! Join me next year for the SECOND ANNUAL IMBOLC FESTIVAL-you’re all invited!

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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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Do You Know What Today Is?
October 25, 2013, 8:31 PM
Filed under: Canning, fall gardening, Frugality | Tags: , ,

Well it’s Frugal Friday of course! OK dear readers, I loved reading your comments last week about what you’d been doing to enable yourself to live better on less and I hope you’ll share again now. This week was fairly ordinary, but there always seem to be opportunities to save a bit of money. For example:

Monday- Added some water to the liquid soap that was so thick it wouldn’t pump out of the dispenser. It’s still PLENTY thick and now there’s more of it.

Tuesday- Made some hot pepper jam with THE LAST of my hot peppers. It makes a good hostess gift and people seem to love it poured over a block of cream cheese served with crackers.

Wednesday- When I got out my winter PJ’s, the elastic in the waist had somehow magically stretched out while they lay in the bottom of my winter clothes box this summer. Anyway, it was easy to remove the old piece and install a new one using a safety pin to run it through the casing. Here’s the best part: I was able to use waist elastic from an old pair of yoga pants for this project. And while I had my sewing machine out, I fixed a couple of other things that were needing repaired.

Thursday-After (im)patiently waiting for weeks for the pine needles to fall, I gathered enough at a friend’s house to nicely mulch my newly created blueberry and elderberry beds. Both of these berries like acidic soil and annual mulching with pine needles provides them with a fair amount. She got her side yard raked, I got free mulch!

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Friday- Harvested 3 HUGE carrots (of about 30) from my fall sown plot at the community garden:

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Right before dark, I scavenged for fallen tomatoes underneath certain-to-die-tonight tomato plants at the community garden to add to tonight’s salad, made with our just picked lettuce and dressed with our favorite pennies-per-serving dressing:

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Here’s the recipe for that dressing:

Michael’s  Vinaigrette

1 large clove garlic, peeled and chopped

1/8 tsp salt

1-2 T balsamic vinegar

1-2 T red wine vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

4 T. Olive Oil

Black pepper to taste

In a mortar with a pestle mash the garlic with the salt until they form a paste (or mash the garlic in a press) Transfer the garlic paste to a small bowl or jar, and add the remaining ingredients, whisking or shaking them until the dressing is well combined. Tweak to your own tastes, adding chopped finely herbs if desired.

But here’s the BEST thing of all this week: After waiting (im)patiently for a couple of months for Netflix to stream the remaining 8 episodes of the ‘Breaking Bad’ TV series, and refusing to pay $16 to see them, (after receiving a free year’s subscription as a birthday gift from my daughter), she tired of hearing me whining about it and found this link so that I could watch them for free: 

http://www.ddotomen.com/?s=breaking+bad+season+5

You’re welcome!

Alright, your turn! Let me know how you were able to live better for less this week! In the meantime, I’ll be watching the Breaking Bad finale-for free 😀



Good Investments

Yesterday was our first taste of winter here in NE TN -some of the higher elevations close by had snow flurries and even a bit of sleet! The gray skies and windy conditions forced us to turn on the gas fireplace stove, immediately drawing  the cat and dog in close. We picked the remaining tomatoes and then brought the baskets and bins of fresh produce from the porch inside to the pantry to protect it all from tonight’s expected low temperatures. We’ve got two cases of apples to store away, along with onions, grinding corn, butternut and spaghetti squashes, red, yellow and white potatoes and sweet potatoes all cured and waiting for the real cold to move in before we begin eating them daily. You know, when that time that comes after the Farmer’s Market closes next month when there’s very little fresh, local produce available, all these root veggies will be combined with whatever greens and Brassicas we have under the hoops to make lots of great meals. All this food was grown organically on good soil and is full of vitamins and minerals. Soil and compost building is a ‘good investment’ in successful gardening and the resulting fruits and veggies are  ‘good investments’ in our health and future well-being.

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Every single person that has seen Michael since he’s undergone his cancer treatments has commented, “Well you look good!” Even though his body’s been completely poisoned with the chemotherapy and ravaged by the radiation, he pulled through easier than many his age do and we are certain it’s because he was always investing in good health, even though all the while that damn tumor was growing undetected. Eating healthful foods and getting exercise every day may in fact be the best investment he’s ever made. This picture was made a week ago.

michael on bike

I’m glad the government shutdown was discontinued and the debt ceiling raised, but I think we all know it’s temporary. A friend remarked the other day that she has never EVER tended her garden with as much care as she has this year. Why? I think she’s simply being prudent and wise based on her own observations of how precarious our current economic system is. If ever, in the course of our lives, there was a time to plant food and learn a craft or skill, build a pantry and invest one’s money in one’s life, it is now. I recently offered a talented friend use of my washer and dryer twice a month to do her laundry in exchange for giving me advanced bass lessons while her clothes get clean. Michael and I make our ‘mad money’ by playing with a local band. The better musicians we are, the more likely we are to be hired to play. (AND learning to play any instrument is right up there with learning a foreign language and doing brain exercises as ways to keep sharp as we age) Plus, we have so much fun playing music!  I consider the trade another ‘good investment’.

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 Get to know your neighbors–you’ll need each other as shortages force us to relocalize. Work toward establishing new, more community-based economies.  Last week I traded a neighbor some of my fresh organic veggies for a big sack of his pecans. He feels like he got the best end of the bargain, but so do I. That’s what I call win-win. In the business world, networking with others in your line of work is considered important for success. The same holds true in our private lives. Volunteering for your favorite charity, sharing space in the community garden, even joining a church or club are all great ways to network and make friends. Our church community has rallied around us during Michael’s illness and we’ve felt uplifted and empowered by their support. Many studies have proven that a strong social network of friends can stave off depression, dementia and other illnesses. Building those relationships are ‘good investments’ for everyone concerned!

I think by clearly envisioning the joyful, healthy, earth friendly lives we most want and then by making ‘good investments’ during this transition period that we are currently experiencing, we’ll be able to make that vision a reality.

PS I apologize in advance if some the words in this post are highlighted in red and take  you to an ad. I have no idea why it’s happening and will try to fix it in future posts.



Fall Has Fell

“Fall has always been my favorite season. 

The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year

for the grand finale.” Lauren DeStefano

 Fall is my favorite season too, even though it’s bittersweet for me, knowing what lies just beyond it. I’m still working on my summer to-do list, and now I’m in the midst of my fall list! Many of you have asked me to let  you know what’s going on in the garden during each season, so I hope this helps, although I suspect I should’ve written all this out back in August.  I hope it will give you an idea of where you need to be now anyway.

All of my raised beds in my community garden plot are now planted to either fall crops or crimson clover, which I like as a cover crop for winter.

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I’m harvesting broccoli and lettuces, beets, August-planted potatoes, and carrots there, with the kale, cabbage and cauliflower ready in another couple of weeks. Brussels sprouts remain a mystery to me, but I still plant them anyway. Maybe someday I’ll actually get some sprouts from them! 

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At home, I’ve started harvesting bok choy:

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I always feel like it’s a race to get the late summer plantings almost to harvest stage before the fall equinox, because things really slow down by then. This proves to be especially tricky with Longkeeper tomatoes! I have full-grown plants  loaded with green tomatoes now that were set out in August,. If they can just begin to turn pink before our first frost, they will slowly continue to ripen inside the house, allowing us to have fresh tomatoes until about Valentine’s Day- if we don’t eat them all before then. The key is that they won’t ripen if picked green, they must have at least a slight blush of color to continue ripening. I usually plant them out in July,  so don’t have as many this fall as in years past, but we’ll still have enough to last til Christmas with any luck. Longkeeper -the name is accurately descriptive. Even though they’re not as sweet and juicy as a summer ripened fruit, they are far, far better than ANY grocery store tomato you might buy in mid winter. And by golly, they’re local 😉  Some Farmer’s Market vendor is missing the boat by not selling them during the winter months.

I finished preparing my final bed today, turning in compost and shredded leaves. I’ll add some bone meal to the holes when I plant my garlic there at the end of October, but today I just raked it smooth and planted winter lettuces and spinach, neither of which will be ready until spring. With a simple little hoop house over that bed, those plants will just sit there, almost dormant, right in the row, until late winter. When the days begin to lengthen just a bit, that spinach and cold hardy lettuce will burst to life and offer us fresh greens, just about the time the kale and swiss chard grow tough and we’re tired of them anyway. Last, but not least, the parsnips that were planted way back in July won’t be harvested until after several hard frosts, but before the ground freezes solid (boy did I learn that the hard way!). The freezes sweeten them, and then they’ll keep in the refrigerator for a very long time; I consider it one of nature’s mysteries that just as my vegetable drawers are finally empty of all the fruits and veggies they held all summer, along come the greens, apples, nuts and root crops to fill ’em up for the winter.

I set up another compost bin today, and will let the one we filled during the summer cook and decompose all winter, hopefully ready for use in the spring, with this new one full and ready for use by next fall. And so the gardening cycle continues. After all this intensive digging, planting, harvesting and storing it’s nice to know we’re moving into a quieter, slower pace in the garden for a few months. God willing, the wheel of good health and fortune will continue to turn and the seed starting trays will be full again come February. Happy Fall Ya’ll!

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