March 20, 2011

Independence Days—Happy Spring!

DSC_3619We participate in Sharon Astyk’s Independence Days Challenge .  Sharon hasn’t been posting the updates regularly on her site.  I’m hoping she starts posting them again, as they are always fun to read.  I learn so much about what different people from all areas of the country (and globe) are planting and harvesting when.  I am inspired by their conservation efforts and notes.  If she doesn’t resume posting on her site, I’ll probably still post my updates here.  I have found it a helpful record of the garden, and I hope that it inspires you to get out and start planting.

It has been a while since I posted last, in part because not much was happening in the garden to speak of.  We had a cold winter with quite a bit of snow followed by a wet late winter.  In the last two and a half weeks our area has had a lot of rain.  While I was glad that I hadn’t yet planted anything other than onions, the rain, rain and more rain kept me from planting until Friday of last week (3/18) my early spring garden.  This will mean that not only will we be able to harvest as early, but the length of harvesting those tender veggies will be shortened.  Crops like lettuce, radishes, and peas don’t particularly like warmer weather. 

Spring is almost here, and the outdoors are starting to show it.  The grass is at the point where it really needs mowing, though we are trying to hold off a little longer before we succumb to that dreaded chore.  If for no other reason than having less yard to mow, making more garden beds is very enticing.  The early daffodils have bloomed and the mid-season varieties are starting to open now.  Tulips are starting to bloom, and the hyacinths are showing their pastel petals.  The Lenten Roses desperately need separating, a chore that I have put off and put off for too long.  One clump of them is gorgeous with the drooping flower heads reaching out over the large leaves, but the other clump is a tangled mess.  The Spring Fling at church will be a good incentive to get that project completed.  While autumn is a more ideal time to separate, I’ll baby the plants for a while this spring until they recover, and I suspect that they’ll be fine. 

Our daughter was playing outside this week and I kept hearing her shouts of delight, “Look at those plants!  They are growing even though we didn’t plant them!  Look Momma!”  Of course, we did plant them.  Many of the tulips and daffodils were planted by her own little hands, but her delight was too wonderful and I couldn’t bring myself to remind her of the reality of the plants.  Everything is so magical when you are 5!

The purple plum trees are in full show now, and it is heartening to see so many bees buzzing in and out of the petals.  Oh please bear more fruit this year, sweet plum!  How I would love to make plum jelly this year!  Every time I think about those plum trees I think of the ones that my grandfather and grandmother had in their yard.  The jelly was scrumptious on homemade biscuits on the mornings we would spend with them.

Yesterday when we went to the garden to inspect, we found the first of the asparagus creeping out of the ground.  They should be ready to start picking Monday or Tuesday afternoon, and I can’t wait!  I did a little happy dance right beside the asparagus bed, and I think our neighbors who were on their back porch thought I was nuts. 

Plant— From seed—dill, parsley, basil, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, lots of peas, 4 kinds of beets, carrots (probably too late for them to do anything—oh well!), 2 types of lettuces, spinach, broccoli (probably also too late, but we’ll see what happens), radish mix, and kale.  I’m not entirely sure how these plants will fair.  In the last few years I would have planted a good chunk of this by now, so I’ll just wait and see.  But as my friend Jennifer always says, if you don’t plant it at all, it surely won’t come up!

Harvest—Lots of flowers in two tiny hands.  A big, fat, delicious shitake mushroom from our mushroom log.  Yummy!

Preserve—I had meant to get to making some caramelized onion relish, but too many other things took priority.  I don’t suppose wanting to counts??

Waste Not/Reduce Waste— Not much new here.  We recycle, compost, try to use leftovers to their fullest, and conserve water and electricity.  The heat is off at this point and probably won’t be turned on again until winter.  We shouldn’t need AC until late May, and we’ll hold off on that as long as we can.  The house is still quite cool and comfortable, and we haven’t needed any fans yet. 

Recently, inspired by Blue Frog Creations, we started making some of our own dog food.  At least once or twice a week, our sweet dog Red is very, very pleased with his dinner.  

Want Not/Prep/Storage—I loaded up on pasta this week.  After the February Eat from the Pantry Challenge I’ve been trying to build the pantry again without buying much junk.  The pasta was a good option since it was free, it keeps for around a year (for the whole wheat), and we use it pretty often.  I scored 54 free pastas with coupons from the church to use in the children’s program there.  I picked up 4 for my dad and 20 for us. 

I updated the 72 hour kits (the backpacks that we keep in case we had to evacuate from our home due to emergency).  I realized that we don’t have many foods in storage right now that are easy to travel with and high in nutritional value.  I added a few tuna pouches, pepperonis, crackers, and lollipops, but ideally I would have a few dehydrated soups, protein bars, and dried fruit in there too.  I will make an effort to stock up on those items in the next month as I catch sales.

Building Community Food Systems—About a month ago, I discovered TN Valley Farms eggs at Three Rivers Market.  I had bought them one time previously at Earth Fare, but they were 15cts more there.  At TRM they are so close to the cost of the regular eggs at the grocery store that I feel almost as if I’m cheating to have local eggs that are not $6 per dozen!  Granted, straight from the farmer is always preferred, but this is the next best thing that will do for now.  Two friends who have chickens whom I’ve bought from in the past had declines in their broods, and until they have more laying hens, we can’t buy from them.  We decided to wait until 2012 to get chickens so that we could have the coop and such ready this fall.  We’ll see how the plans go.

I recently bought 1/8 of a pastured, organically grown, local cow.  (For us, I use the term “local” to refer to within 100 miles from our home).  We have been very pleased with the meat and look forward to ordering again next year.  I hadn’t bought a roast in a year’s time, and it has been so nice to eat meat that we don’t have concerns about. 

I continue to have milk co-op every two weeks and order with friends through Frontier every other month. 

As far as communal meals, it has been nice to have my dad in town.  He’s been in Knoxville for almost a year now, and it is nice to share meals with him at least once a week.  The church had their annual tamale and chili meal with homemade tamales and all sorts of chilies from different members of the congregation.  I made my usual black bean organic chili, and it was nice to hear that people were looking forward to it.

Eat the Food— I can’t think of much that I’ve cooked recently that was a new recipe.  The meal that we made for our anniversary was quite nice, though.  We had two of the t-bones from the beef we bought (don’t worry, there were leftovers that we enjoyed the next morning for breakfast—yum, steak and eggs!).  I added the shitake to the marinade and Hubby threw it on the grill too.  I roasted some sweet potatoes, and we had a little leftover braised cabbage.  It was so unbelievably good!  The first meal of the year that contains some of our harvest always feels very special, but this meal was more so because of our 11th anniversary celebration.

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