Thursday, October 30, 2008

Book Review: The Organic Food Shopper's Guide

I checked out the book from our library. I rarely buy books - I wouldn't have room to keep all the ones I read!

I was looking for a field guide to buying veggies. I just grabbed this off the shelf, not realizing that it was going to be a gem!

Okay, it's organized alphabetically. For each item, it lists when it's in season, varieties, how to select it, how to store & prepare it, nutritional highlights and what it goes good with, organic advantages and uses (ah! not just for cooking/eating!!) As a bonus, there are recipes galore!!

This book is going on the shopping list. I think it's something I'd love to have on hand while planning my garden as well as shopping. It's a smaller size so it'll tuck into a basket or purse.

For example, I'm on a quest to grow my own garlic after I tried my hand at making roasted garlic (super easy) for homemade hummus (also, super easy.) We hit the Farmer's Market and found the Garlic Lady (I wish I knew everyone's name, but I just call them by what they sell...) We bought 30 cloves of garlic. Some got roasted ~ YUM! Others went into the spaghetti sauce that I canned. The rest will be planted. I've got the spot ready, even have a ton of shredded paper.

So, that brings me to the book. I have no idea what kind of garlic I had. Until I read the book, I didn't recognize that there are 2 main types: hard-neck and soft-neck. Now, I know that I have white skinned, soft-neck garlic. So, I can check into other varieties next year.

What is even more amazing is to find out that once you find a type/kind of garlic you like, you can grow it from the original clove until you have the abundant bumper crop you need for eating and planting. (That I learned in another book ~ stay tuned.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bad Seed Farm Bee Class

The boys and I motored up to KC this past weekend to attend a Bee Keeping Class at Bad Seed Farm Market. Chris, the bee keeper, brought a lot of things to see and a wealth of info.

We've been thinking about adding bees to our little homestead, but DH has been concerned that bees and little people/dogs/chicks/horses aren't a good match. Well, it seems that others have blended the bees right into their suburban backyards with much success.

We had researched hive box building and found severl great online references to the Emile Warre method, but no place to buy them. Sooo, DH has offered to assist us in making our set up. We have plenty of time, bees don't arrive until April.

One class member (sorry, I didn't catch your name) gave info as to building a house for Mason Bees. Apparently, they are just as good or even better pollenators as Honey bees, and they don't need a hive. So, after hunting thru some library books, we found a simple design for a bundle of bamboo that will be easy to construct.

Really, all we want is to add bees to our homestead, whether they are honey bees or mason bees, either way is just fine.

By the way, the above photo is one box from Chris's hive. It contains about 25 pounds of unprocessed honey and honey comb. It even had a stowaway bee that zipped out during class.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thanks K's Dad

We have a wonderful family friend, K, who's dad is a fabulous gardener. Someday, I'm gonna grow up and be just like him. So when dad of K called her to offer her a bushel of apples, slightly spotty, she declined. Then dad & mom went on vacation.

She relayed the info to me and I immediately begged for the apples, spots and all. My garden produced, but not enough for me to be tired of canning, and I haven't done apples yet. So, she calls her folks on vacation and inquires if I may have the apples. Yes!

Now, we got the spotted orbs of goodness several weeks after picking, so some were a bit mushy, but we processed all we could, nibbling as we went. We fed the chicks some peelings, fed the worms some mush, fed the horses some cores and the rest we dumped into the compost bin.

I found a great recipe for cinnamon apple sauce and we made 7 quarts.

Does anyone else have kids who insist on eating what you just canned?! It doesn't matter if we have fresh stuff, they just want what's canned. It's like they cannot believe what we just made. So, we ended up eating 2 jars already. Sigh. At this rate, we will be staring at empty cupboards in November, except for salsa, which they do not eat with gusto.

My birthday wish came true

I've always had a fierce love for laundry hanging on a line, snapping in the breeze. My great grandma used to babysit us and she actually let us play in the laundry. Well, not the just washed stuff, but she would hang up sheets and blankets and we'd play for hours.

Fast forward to my newlywed years. My DH and I rented our first "house" that came complete with a laundry line in the yard. It was a square affair and dippy and crooked and it was just mostly a pain, but I did use it. Then, we moved into our next house that was built in the '50s and it had the more traditional T-posts with lines strung between. That house saw plenty of cloth diapers and baby stuff added to the usual 2 loads a week. Our next house also had a laundry line, but it ran in the midst of cedar trees. I'm sure when they were planted, no one ever thought they'd grow so wide. I implored my DH to dig them up and move the posts, but alas, he wasn't ever able to do that. He did put up some new wire between trees which worked nicely.

After 13 years of marriage, we finally bought our first house. It had everything on my list of wants/needs except the clothes line. DH promised he'd put one in for me. Every year for any gift giving holiday, I asked for a clothes line. Dozens of holidays have come and gone and this year, in honor of my birthday, I bought myself the cadillac of clothes lines, the Breeze Catcher 140.

It has all the best features: tons of hanging space (holds 3 full loads of clothes), spins with the minimum of breeze (we have plenty of that), folds down like an umbrella and if need be, can be removed from the ground and stored during the winter. OH, and it's rust proof.

The only trouble we had is that it's so windy here, that we ended up cementing it into the ground (after we had it inside the recommended cement block). And, that's really no trouble at all. They even sell the pipe that goes into the cement, in case you ever want to move the system and re-install it somewhere else.

All in all, truly one of the best gifts ever!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


We've always had a garden. Some more successful than others. Some years it's just a few tomatoes, others, it's a sprawling tangle mess of weeds and struggling veggies.

When we moved into our current home, we were extremely blessed to inherit a wonderful garden spot that still had growing produce in it. I'm sure the former gardeners must have spend a lot more time than we do, because in just a few months, we had transformed that beautiful plot into a weed infested wasteland. Sigh.

Every fall, we'd vow to do better next year. We'd burn off the stubble and plow it under. Spring would come and we'd begin planting with hopes and visions of bumper crops of glorious veggies. But, when the heat of summer hit, we'd abandon the mess and just wait til fall to burn and turn it under.

Until this year. We got smart and decided to have our soil tested. Yes, I realize it wouldn't help with the weeds, but it surely would address why we had such spindly plants and little yields. DH dug up several spots and mixed the soil together. Then took a sample to our local Extension office, paid the $ and we waited.

A few weeks later, we got the results back. While we had a wonderful mix of soil and compost, we were severely lacking in nitrogen. We also had a pH of 7.2 while most vegetables prefer 6.3-6.8, so sulfur was recommended to drop the pH.

We had very high levels of phosphorus and potassium and organic matter.

I highly recommend if your garden is struggling, get the soil tested. You will receive a summary report as well as detailed report on what you have and what you lack. Based on their advice, we added nitrogen fertilizer found at local garden centers. And, it worked! This year, we had a much better crop.

It all started with a bag...

This past spring, I saw a few earth friendly (i.e. re-usable) bags in various stores, so I started collecting them. At first, it was just the utlitarian ones from Walmart and Dillons. Then, I found artsy ones at Pier 1 and super huge ones at Aldis and pink ones at the Komen race and well, now I'm hooked. I seriously have a bag addiction. I have fold up ones, zippered ones, water proof ones and ones for frozen items. I keep them in my car, but I have noticed that nearly every member of my family has at least one bag in use in their rooms. My youngest, Miss Em is a lover of bags too. She is always filling them up and dragging them around the house. Right now, she is grooving on the Paris bag from Pier 1.

Anybag, this obsession quickly gave way to other earth friendly ideas and fast forward 5 months and we now have chickens, in a coop, in the yard!! Yes, friends, I have fallen hard for urban homesteading. I'll post several blogs about how I got here and what we're doing.