Spring is here. The Spring Equinox came and went without much hoopla at our house, in part because it has felt more like early summer than spring for a few weeks. With 85 degree days and at least one day with a record high that I know of, our area has been in full bloom. The phlox, daffodils, tulips and many other flowers are showing their Easter colors a little earlier this year, and the flowering trees of cherry, plum, and redbud are closer to the end of their blossoming rather than the beginning. One has to wonder what Easter will look like this year without the Easter egg shades popping up in the landscape. Perhaps some flowers will hold off on blooming…perhaps.
The last few weeks have been filled with hard work, planning, and lots of messes around our house. We finally made some progress on splitting, stacking, and cleaning up the walnut that we had to down last year. Just like anyone, my body tires of hard, manual labor. Yet, there is something especially gratifying about it. I appreciate my body more. I feel competent and useful. I appreciate my husband and his diligence even more than normal because I know that he performs many tasks that I’m not so good at. (I’m terrible at splitting logs, for instance. I freak out about mid swing, thinking that I’ll chop into my leg, and the axe doesn’t really do much good when it doesn’t have a steady person swinging it.)
Progress has been made on the bathroom remodel. We live in an old house and the master bathroom needed a lot of work. While we could have just replaced a few things, we decided to splurge and make it nice. At the time of this writing, the studs are bare, toilet, sink, vanity, tub and almost all the piping has been removed. The rest of the floor will be pulled off tomorrow (my biggest contribution next to moral support and hearty meals). The “insulation” that we found on the exterior walls were glorified aluminum foil. Insulating the space will make a big difference in the way the room feels (we know this because we’ve already done so in one other room of the house).
What have we done with all of that waste? My grandfather was a master carpenter, and I learned much from him on the virtue that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. I’ve heard handfuls of stories from my father about being a young boy and scraping mortar off of used bricks so that they could reuse them to build their home. With that legacy, I knew we couldn’t let our discards go to waste. We’ve brought a few truck loads full of donations to the ReHab store to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Other metal waste will be resold at a drop-off location near downtown. Wood has been set aside to use as blocks and scraps to help with other projects. While not perfect, the amount that has gone into the dump has been greatly reduced.
While on the subject of waste, I’ve been thinking a lot more recently about food waste. I’ve been watching the TED talks on Netflix that relate to food issues, and time and again, the speakers stress how little food is valued in our society. A huge proportion of our food as a nation goes into the trash. With that helpful reminder, I’ve been trying to be more diligent about watching that in our home. As I poured the coffee grinds into the trash this morning instead of going upstairs to get a compost bin for the downstairs counter, I realize I have a long way to go.
See, it isn’t just about using leftovers. It is about using those foods that can no longer be eaten or enjoyed for some other purpose. And what is the hang up? Well, for me, sometimes it is about laziness and ease. It was easier to put them in the trash instead of going back upstairs and getting a bin. It is easier to go out to eat instead of using those leftovers for supper or packing them for lunch. It is easier to throw away the chicken bones instead of making stock out of them. While all of that may be true, the economical benefits of taking a few extra minutes from my routine and getting that bin, packing that lunch or throwing the bones into a pot greatly outweigh the expenditure of time. Yep, having that little reminder from TED is just what I needed to get back on track.
Now for the Independence Days Update:
Plant something: I normally broadcast seeds, and this year I’m trying to see if I notice a benefit from planting more foods in rows. I’ve planted another row of beets, a row of Romaine lettuce (Jericho) and Gigante Inverno spinach, a row of Gonzales Baby Cabbage, One Kilo Chinese Cabbage, and Choko Baby Bok Choy. I also added another wave of sugar snap peas to the garden. I’m thinking that for many of these crops, I’m getting them into the ground a little late. However, as my friend Jennifer says, “If you don’t plant it, it for sure won’t grow.” Also, many of these crops can be eaten small instead of waiting to they fully mature. If I notice that some are bolting or experiencing more insect damage, I can always pull them at that point.
Harvest something: I picked the first of the asparagus on March 15th. Based on my updates from last year, it looks like I started to harvest asparagus on the week of March 20-27, meaning that this year’s harvest is coming a week or so earlier. I’m still harvesting a bit of broccoli, some herbs, and green/spring onions along with some flowers here and there. Hubby and daughter have such bad allergies that I haven’t been able to bring many flowers into the house, but the bonus is that they are pretty outside for everyone to enjoy.
Preserve something: Can’t think of anything
Waste not: See the info above about the bathroom remodel and food waste. I’ve been more conscientious of saving water. Leftover glasses go into the watering cans outside. I put pitchers underneath the faucets while washing my hands (since I use locally made, eco-friendly soap, I’m not worried about it hurting our plants).
Want Not: I added a year’s supply of peanut butter to our pantry at home.
Eat the Food: I made fried quail this weekend that was yum. As a kid growing up in a community where most people farmed and hunted, fried quail was one of my favorite meals. This was the first time I had the opportunity to make it for my husband and daughter, using the quail he had killed on a recent hunt. My experience is that quail doesn’t have as “gamey” of a flavor as other game birds, and so I didn’t soak it overnight in a salt bath as I would normally recommend. I put the meat in a bath of buttermilk with a good shaking of Tabasco and let it sit for an hour or so in the fridge. Then I removed it from the bath and dredged it in flour that I had spiced with Tony’s, black pepper, and salt. I fried it in a Dutch oven and sat them in a warm oven until the rest of the meal was prepared. Serve with a sauce or gravy if you like. Because I first ate these as a kid, I still like them with just a touch of ketchup (organic—I mention this because I find organic brands of ketchup less sweet).
Build community food systems: I worked in the food pantry straightening things up and readying some boxes. Other than that, I haven’t made much progress in this area.
Skill up: What skills have I learned? Hmmm, not much so far. I’ve learned a lot about the process of a bathroom remodel. I learned more about the heat and air system from a neighbor down the road, but as far as new skills I haven’t really developed any yet. It was fun showing our daughter how a lever worked when moving the cast iron tub out of the bathroom. By using smarts instead of brute force, we were able to remove the cast iron tub by ourselves and get it safely into the truck.