January 15, 2012

Independence Days Update, December through January

DSC_7074 For those of you who don’t know, these posts are inspired by the work of Sharon Astyk.  They have become a sort of garden/sustainability/living simply journal for our family.

Since I last wrote in December, we’ve had a few snows here in East TN.  The first was just a few snowflakes and then it was gone, and the second was enough to delay schools for an hour and then by around 10am had mostly disappeared.  With the winter weather, we’ve been enjoying warm evenings by the fireplace with occasional roasted marshmallows as a nightcap. 

I put the garden to rest—FINALLY—and feel much better when I look outside the window.  I still need to buy a little more straw to add to the large garden bed, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I didn’t add it.  It isn’t too much longer until I’ll be planting the first wave of peas (I usually plant them as a succession crop, beginning the last week in January if I can manage it).  And speaking of waves, waves and waves of seed catalogs are arriving in the post each day and are making me feel as happy as I did as a kid when the big Sears toy catalog would arrive around Christmas. 

This time of the year is usually a break for our family.  While we’ve been a little busier than we normally are in January with a more active work schedule, school resuming, and caring for my dad, we’ve enjoyed the sense of stillness that January brings.  There is something peaceful about this month—the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over, there are fewer household responsibilities with the garden and yard, and our calendars are a little less packed with activities.  We have a sweet excitement about what this year will bring and what goals we have set to accomplish. 

This is the season for sipping on a pot of tea and relaxing with a good book.  This is the season that I plan and make lists—where will I put rhubarb this year?  How can we open up more space for more fruit trees?  When can we start the big bathroom renovation project?  Normal people purge, organize and deep clean in the spring, but January and early February is the time of the year that I do those tasks.  This is the time for fresh starts, snuggling with loved ones, staying in your pjs until your good and ready to get dressed, and taking a lovely, decadent break.  January, how I love thee!

The notes below are based on the last few months--

What did I plant?—Nada, zilch, zip. 

What did I harvest?— You’ll see the photo of carrots above.  This is the first year that I’ve had a fairly successful crop of carrots, and I’ll definitely be planting more and a few varieties next year.  I had no idea that they would last throughout the heat of summer into winter and still be tender and juicy and sweet.  Who knew!?  I’ve also picked a bit of kale that rejuvenated itself, some broccoli that decided to flower, lots of green onions, and a few herbs. 

What did I preserve?—Other than soup and freezing some extra green onions, I haven’t preserved much. 

How did I work to reduce waste and live more simply?— Friends have passed a few more bags of clothes to our daughter,which is so nice!  We’ve been composting more regularly.  I’ve found that it works best for me to keep a dish with a lid on the counter for about a week and then dump the contents in the composter.  We’ve added some basic staples to the stockpile. I added about a 6 month supply of organic US brown rice from  Three Rivers Market and a few varieties of beans. 

How did I work at building and strengthening community food systems?—  I am so proud of the way that the food pantry at church looks with the new Shelf Reliance cansolidators.  A friend kindly donated another 2 to the pantry, giving us a total of 7 of them.  Boy has it made a difference!  A church friend and I spent a couple of hours getting everything sorted by date and food type and making up boxes for the next month.  The pantry is so much better organized.  The consolidation of the cans in a more compact space gives us more room to store other items.  I can’t tell you how many people I have dragged into the pantry to see how beautiful it is.  I will try to post a photo here so you can see, too. 

Did I try any new recipes or were there any special meals at our table?—  Tis the season for soup!  I’ve enjoyed making a few different types of soup, using foods that we added to storage from our summer garden.  My favorite by far has been seeing the fat, big as your spoon, Christmas lima beans in the broth with the other vegetables.  Yum!  For recipes, you can look under the “recipe” label on the left hand column.  The beauty of soup is that you do a little work, have a huge pot full of goodness, and then you have extras in the freezer when you want an easy supper or have a friend who is sick or could use a little comfort. 

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