Saturday, May 31, 2008

Grow, Baby, Grow!

I can show you a picture of my gardens completely planted, but you know, it's not very interesting, because I mostly planted seeds! I just walk out there in the mornings to water them and tell them to,”Grow, grow, grow! Make my food!” Yes, I talk to plants, but only when no one over three years old is around!
I've planted tomatoes, basil, cilantro, peppers, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers (a first for me!), carrots, lettuce, spinach, okra (another first), parsley, lemon balm, green beans, butternut squash, watermelon, and sweet corn. I'm trying the “three sisters” approach for the corn. Planting them with beans and squash. The idea is that the corn is a trellis for the beans to climb, and the squash provides shade for the roots of the corn. The beans do the nitrogen fixing for the corn, and the squash and beans growing together supposedly confuse pests... we'll see! It's the sort of companion planting that's been done for thousands of years by Native Americans... except I left out the dead fish under every corn seed, not having any fish at hand. Plus, in theory, all those roots and leaves help deter soil erosion which is a problem with corn. A benefit to raising your own food by hand instead of letting big farms with big machines do it, perhaps?
Gardening inspires a lot of the same emotions in me that having a new baby does. I murmur and pet and fuss over each emerging sprout like it's my new baby. Yeah, OK, that's kind of weird. But there's a lot of satisfaction and warm fuzzies that can be derived from “raising” stuff. Hard work resulting in a good harvest is very good for the soul. In the square foot gardening method, you prune your vining plants to one main stem, which is really hard to do, because you think: more stems, more food. Supposedly, pruning those stems to one, and weaving that one stem up and down a trellis allows you to get a lot more food from a lot less space. Then, when the season winds to a close, you cut off the end of that one stem and it's supposed to help the fruit to ripen in a timely manner. I've no experience with this, however, it's all stuff from books I've read, and probably confused in my mind! All this pruning reminds me of training children to behave well! One does a lot of nipping behavior in the bud, hoping it will help the child “bear better fruit” later. Of course, the raising of children takes much longer than tomatoes, so one must just have faith that those that have done it before know what they're talking about.
Grow, baby, grow! Make good fruit! Be healthy! Grow tall and strong! Be productive!
Gardeners and mothers have a lot in common.

A Zoo, Sort Of

I'm a bit mad at myself today. I'm back from Chicago (had a LOVELY time!), but just not in the groove. Too relaxed, perhaps? I've had these really great photo opportunities recently, and I just wasn't fast enough to get good pictures! We have some sort of bird's nest outside our back door, pasted up in a corner under our eaves. At first you could see Mama Bird building her nest on top of another, older one. Not too much later you could hear little peeps coming from it, as long as you didn't step out the door. They were very obedient little birds and were completely silent when they saw danger. A little later you could look at them peeking over the edge of the nest, waiting to be fed, quietly watching us go about our business. Yesterday, they were gone, and there was a black rat snake on the ground four feet long to entertain us instead. The four baby birds were in our front yard, lined up on a tree branch, getting their flying lessons, and just in time, for those black snakes are really good climbers. I know, I looked it up online! My daughter saw the snake, and we all ran out to look at it, while I was yelling at them to, “Go back inside till I figure out what kind of snake it is!” I Googled Black Snake and found a picture that looked just like the one we saw: a shiny black snake, all kinked up, perfectly still. My kids wanted to kill it. I decided not... we've found plenty of evidence of rodents and I decided a little bit of natural predation was a good thing. Later that day, we heard five gunshots come from the neighbor's hen house. I was disturbed at the gunshots. After all, any kind of killing disturbs a woman like me. The three neighbor men had found two black snakes munching their eggs, and, well, when it comes to food, a man must protect his interests above the serpent's, naturally. One day I believe the lion will lie down with the lamb, but not yet!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dining In

Hello there, dear readers! I know, it's been awhile, but I know you'll all forgive me, knowing I've been moving and that all is in an uproar... The sewing stuff is still all in boxes, my summer clothes still have not been located, and I'm off on a mini vacation to visit my sister and some old friends in Missouri and Chicago with the baby. I thought I'd just pipe in with a few suggestions for this time of year. I know I've mentioned square foot gardening before, and I still think that is a wonderful way to start to do a little to make life more healthy for you and your neighbors. Perhaps you're not really ready for that... perhaps you can't afford it, or you think it's too late in the season, or you don't think you can find all the ingredients. So I have another suggestion! Make your own dinner. Make it from scratch. Make it from local, fresh, seasonal food if you possibly can, but if you can't or don't want to go to the trouble, just make something for yourself for dinner. I know, you're busy, you're really, really busy and it's just easier to pick up some fast food and eat it on the way home, or get some tuna helper and cook it all in a skillet. But really, it's not very good for you or your taste buds or the environment or small family farmers or your beloved neighbors near and far. I have a few suggestions, just in case you want to try.
Mary Jane Butters came up with the wonderful idea of a Bakeover, which you can try, I've never tried her mixes, but one can always make their own.
A Crockpot is a great investment... if you use it! Think of it as an investment, as you'll save lots of money in the future by putting it to good use.
Try a pot of soup... I love this carrot top soup for spring, it's hearty enough for supper with some bread, but not too heavy for warm weather, and cooking stove top is waaaaay cooler in the kitchen than cooking in the oven.
Even better, try the rubber chicken idea. Roast a chicken... if you work, do it on a day off, like Saturday. (If you have a big family, try more than one chicken!) Eat it with some mashed potatoes, or try some roasted potatoes with fresh parsley or carrot top greens sprinkled over the top. How about a spinach salad with hard boiled eggs and bacon dressing? Have you ever made gravy from scratch? Mmmmm, I'm getting hungry.
After dinner, when the dishes are clean, grab that chicken and pick it clean with your fingers... yeah, it's messy and greasy, but it can be fun if you're listening to a book on tape, or chatting with someone you enjoy spending time with. Try to get them to help you! Put all the leftover pieces of chicken in a glass bowl and put some foil over it and save it for dinner tomorrow night! Then put that bony carcass away in the fridge, too, or, if you have time, throw it into a big soup pot, cover it with water and simmer it for a looooong time. While it's simmering, play cards or another game with your loved one(s)... it's fun! Or, make some dessert, we always do that on Saturday night. Make some chicken broth (here's some more detailed directions). Use it for your carrot top soup a couple of days from now!
On Sunday afternoon, depending on how much chicken is left either make chicken salad (I like this one from Martha Stewart) or black bean quesadillas. These are easily made with a can of black beans, some tortillas, plum tomatoes, and some cheese, don't forget the cumin and garlic and maybe some green onions, if you like. Or add salsa, or sour cream, or make it soft tacos or burritos with rice, or whatever strikes your fancy. If you drink alcohol, grab a couple of cervezas and a lime and make it a little event! If not, make yourself some sun tea or limeade with maraschino cherries and make it an event, anyway! There's your Sunday night dinner.
On Monday, eat your soup for dinner with a really good loaf of bread that YOU like, though, if I were you I'd remember the saying, “the whiter the bread, the sooner you're dead!” Try to make some! If you live alone, go shopping for a second hand thermos and take that soup to work every day to eat for lunch!
Now you know why they call it rubber chicken, it stretches to at least 3 meals!
If you're really into saving money, keep track of what you spend on those meals and compare it to what you would have spent on eating out. Then use the extra money to go shopping at the antique or thrift store for an old tablecloth that you think would make a good apron cause we're gonna do that for the next project! Don't forget to warm up that sewing machine, or get yourself some sewing needles and a thimble that your middle finger of your sewing hand and some thread to match, or contrast nicely with, your project. And don't forget to get some really sharp scissors, or get yours sharpened... it makes the work so much more pleasurable!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Garden

Sooooo, here is a glimpse of me in all my glory and my beloved as we look over our garden. It looks little, huh? Well, we plan to have a garden that is approximately 4 times as big as we've ever attempted before and so, technically, it's ambitious! I love the concept of square foot gardening. I enjoy the sustainability of it, I think that if everyone would just start a little one we'd all be healthier and we could use the petroleum we save by not transporting food to lower gas prices! If we all saved compost for our square foot gardens we'd not have such overflowing landfills and dumps. I can't believe how matronly I look... normally I'd not wear that shirt, but I had to borrow something of Hubby's because I couldn't find any of my own clothes!

Warning!!! The following picture is NOT doing this "By Hand".

Our landlord saw my Hubby toiling away with the tiller and decided he needed some help... and boy did he help! He brought the industrial equipment to ease my husband's labor and we got a good look at what was under the grass. Beautiful loamy clay. It looked fertile and wondrously good for veggies! I think he was a little jealous, because he said HIS garden was full of rocks. Sorry... We had fun watching the progress he made, but I have to say, watching my Hubby sweat while doing manual labor is fun, too. I wanted to do the garden slightly differently. I'm afraid that all that green grass in the dirt will burn my seedlings. I hope I'm wrong and we get lots of yummy veggies out of those little plots of dirt!

Moving Day

You might wonder where I've been lately. I've been doing a little of this:

Fun, huh? Actually, though I couldn't find my camera to record it, a bunch of families came to help move and it was downright fun! Well, for me it was fun, I suspect for some people it was just hard. Thanks, friends! You know I'm there for you, too, any time you need me. See that desk? It weighs easily 500 pounds, but our friends hauled it to the farmhouse! I wish you could see pictures of kind, thoughtful men hauling giant bookcases through narrow doors. I honestly grieve to realize that I didn't record the young men ages 6-17 working like grown men to haul boxes up stairs! I only have this, taken once I found my camera...

I know this isn't a beautiful picture, but the house doesn't look particularly beautiful at the moment, it looks full of boxes and all a-jumble. My girlfriends helped me unpack my kitchen, so I could use it immediately, and they helped me decide where to put furniture when I had a question as to where things went. My girlfriends are the most thoughtful, friendliest, kindest, most wonderfullest girlfriends ever! Gush, gush, gush!
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