Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Surprise Squatter

This little guy has decided to make a home in my garden. He's dug himself a nice hole right at the base of one of my bean plants and just hangs out. I've walked all around him and he doesn't care that I'm there at all. That, or he's counting on me not seeing him, what with his camouflage and all.

My daily step toward food independence today involved managing reserves. I took stock of all my fresh produce, and we used the oldest veggies in our dinner. I washed the rest and made a giant bowl of salad that will keep us in lunches all week, with nothing going to waste. I also had a look at our supply of pecans (which I harvested in the fall) and resolved to get shelling again! I think that will be tomorrow night's task. Unfortunately, nothing is ready to harvest quite yet, and until I can clean some buckets and pots, I have no more room to plant. Some of that is on order for this weekend, though, and I'm hoping that by then we'll have mulberries ready to pick too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Food Independence Challenge

This from Sharon over at Casaubon's Book:

She has put forth a challenge that I think can benefit us all. Take steps every day toward Food Independence. Here's how.

Go there. Do it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Seeds, Seeds and More Seeds!

The massive package of vegetable seeds I ordered has arrived! It was a potluck assortment, so I had no idea what would be included. It was really like Christmas, sifting through them all to discover what was there. Now if only I had space for them all! This picture doesn't even come close to showing them all - there are close to 80 packets all together.

My life has become a game to see how much food I can plant in my postage-stamp, mostly shaded yard. There will be a second bed dug, for sure, along with lots of containers. On top of it all, I have a shipment of flower seeds arriving in a few weeks - a butterfly garden. I'm really looking forward to that, but I have to face the probability that I just won't have room for most of those right now. Ah well...later, I guess!

There's also been an interesting development with the laundry line. It's only been up for two weekends now, and we've already become so used to it that yesterday afternoon, we had the following conversation:

Me: I'm not sure I should wash another load today. I don't think they'll dry before the rain comes. Wait...what am I saying?? We have a DRYER.

DH: Yes, but do you see what's happened? You've already gotten used to not using it - that's AWESOME!

We actually like hanging the clothes so much that we sort of battle a little bit over who gets to do it. Labor saving devices? Bah! Who needs 'em? Clearly, not us.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day - A Holiday For the Rest of Us

Yes, folks, it's a two-post day.

A wonderful post by Crunchy Chicken has got me thinking about Earth Day. We never attend any Earth Day events because, well, we respect the earth every day. I've decided, though, that I'd like to embrace it.

Over the past few years, we've been gradually opting out of some of the traditional holidays that just don't have much meaning for us. While this makes perfect sense to me, I admit it has left me feeling somewhat bereft. While I don't relish celebrating a holiday that means nothing to me, I also feel that a life with no traditions is not a very full or rich existence. What would you have to look forward to, if not your Thanksgiving turkey or your Christmas presents or your Whatever Day thingamajig? It occurs to me that since we value the basic tenets of Earth Day (if not always their implementation), this is an appropriate holiday for us to celebrate and form our own traditions around. Since we have no historical precedent to guide us, our Earth Day traditions can be pretty much whatever we like, as long as they're in keeping with the spirit of the day.

Some ideas I've had for new Earth Day traditions:
  • plant something - a tree, a vegetable, a flower...anything
  • don't buy anything
  • find something in the house that you no longer use, and give it new a purpose (this could be quite an interesting challenge!)
  • eat a 100% locally produced meal, or even better, a meal from food you produced yourself
  • turn off your TV and shut down your computer for the day - spend the time with family and friends instead
  • anonymously distribute seeds with growing instructions around your neighborhood or workplace
  • donate items you no longer need to those who do need them
  • refrain from driving - walk, bike, take public transportation or simply stay home
  • have a "no waste" party - try having an Earth Day party without creating any trash (another challenge!)
  • Educate others on sustainable living

What will you do on Earth Day?

Letting It All Hang Out

Saturday was Project Laundry List's National Hanging Out Day. Using a clothesline was something we had loosely talked about before, and the time seemed right for us to try it out. After a couple of test runs with sheets, we spent Saturday washing our clothes and hanging them on the line.

I have to admit, I'm astounded at the results. I've spent my whole life believing that using the dryer was faster and easier than line drying, but boy, was I wrong. First, let me say that the actual act of hanging clothes on the line is very...relaxing. It doesn't feel like work at all. Once you get out in sunshine with your basket of wet clothes, you don't seem to be in any particular hurry to get it done. Also, since the clothes can stay on the line until you're ready for them, there's no need to try to sync up the washing and drying cycles like one tends to do with appliances. No rush to get clothes out of the dryer to make room for more.

Admittedly, I will continue to use the dryer in small doses. I find that some clothes benefit from a five to ten minute tumble on "fluff", to shake the wrinkles and stiffness out of them. Apart from that, though, I'm sold on the line! When you consider that it will reduce our energy usage and not make our house hotter in summer, I can't think of any reason not to keep hanging out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

So Inspiring

Mother Earth News has a great photo slideshow of the "Path To Freedom" house. If you're not familiar with it, it's a 1/5th acre suburban lot that has been turned into a mega-eco, food-producing paradise. THIS is what can be achieved in a suburban backyard, with some planning and effort:

Amazing, isn't it?

Maybe I'm really getting into the life changes we're making these days, maybe I'm worried about peak oil or food shortages, I don't know. But I'm finding that everywhere I look lately, I see patches of land that could be growing something useful. When I think about just how many edible, medicinal or otherwise useful plants could fill up the landscaped space around my office building, it's just staggering. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that there are lawns, flowers, trees and shrubs - they're certainly better than concrete, metal and glass - but I keep thinking that we could be doing more with all this space.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Closer to Backyard Happiness

My darling husband was so sweet over the weekend and took care of some little "me" projects that have been on the list. He surprised me with some improvements and additions to my backyard kitchen. We have a barbecue grill of course, but I prefer this -

The grill/rotisserie has legs that can be raised or lowered, and we're going to rig up a chain for the stew pot so that it can be raised or lowered as well. All I need now is a ring to set SuperWok in and I'll be set!

In the garden, the once-small tomatoes are growing by leaps and bounds! We've had a mixed bag of results so far, but for a first effort, I really can't complain. Especially since I have a history of being a Known Plant Killer. Anyone out there trying to grow something for the first time? Something that's new for you? Please tell me about it in the comments.

For now, I'll leave you with this - spooning dogs!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Getting A Taste Of The Lifestyle

It's been a big weekend here. I've spent pretty much all weekend doing "homesteading" type chores, almost without rest. This is a great thing - it's good practice, it gets me outside (burning calories!) and it really gives me a good idea of what I'm in for. The big news is my volunteer day at Heaven Sent Produce, which I'll get to later. I've also spent a great deal of time tending rabbits and working on my own garden. After some weeding, feeding, planting, mulching and a layer of gravel around the perimeter, the garden is really starting to look like something! I've also baked bread, gone to the hardware store, done laundry, bought groceries and, oh yeah...we dispatched the rabbit this morning.

Yep - it's done. Our little lame rabbit's number was up, and first thing this morning, before we could change our minds, we did the deed. I'm not going to get into the details, but I will say this: it is NOT pleasant. It is NOT something you want to do, EVER. It is, however, a necessary step on our path, and for our first time, one that I think we handled well. It was traumatic, but we got over it. I do think that it will get a bit easier with time, but not much. From a purely technical standpoint, there were things that we decided we'd do differently next time, but all in all I think we did a pretty good job.

On a far more pleasant note, I spent all afternoon Saturday at Heaven Sent Produce helping out in the gardens and getting my head stuffed full of knowledge. This was a really great experience, and one that I've already committed to repeat. I spent four solid hours pulling weeds, which may sound like an abuse of my labors, but I can assure you it wasn't. During those four hours I got to meet and talk with some very nice people and I learned more than I've learned in the last six months. Colleen has been very gracious and has offered to teach me whatever I want to learn. She has offered to suit me up and let me help with the beekeeping, and she has invited us to come watch and help when they dress out chickens later this summer. She knows all too well the difficulty of trying to learn things like that from books and drawings, and is happy to save us from the same fate. In turn, I've agreed to provide her with rabbit manure for her gardens, and when our rabbit production is up and running, to teach her how to dress them out.

It's been a very productive weekend and I'm sorry to say that I'm still not quite done. But I expect this is the way my life will be from now on, and then some.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I Did It!

I grew something! Not much, but something! Something realistically edible has sprung forth from my garden, thereby making this first endeavor a success in my mind. I pulled up these little radishes yesterday, and while they're quite small, they're delicious. Much tastier than the giant grocery store radishes, which taste like, well, nothing. I'm thrilled!

In other news, my tomato plant that was mowed down by cutworms is enjoying new life - twice! I brought the plant inside and placed in water, hoping it would root and it has. I also discovered yesterday that a whole new plant has sprung up from the stump that's still in the ground! Thank you, cutworms - now I have two plants!

I have an opportunity this weekend to volunteer at Heaven Sent Produce, where I've been buying a lot of our vegetables. She needs help in the gardens this year and I could really use the learning experience. I'm very excited about this, and should have a full report next week on how it went, so stay tuned.