Tuesday, June 30, 2009


We have a calendula flower! It looked like it was about to bloom for days, and today, it finally opened! These are commonly called marigolds, but are not the same as the typical marigolds. The seeds are little curlicues and the leaves look almost like big spinach plants. We are a long way from several handfuls of flowers to make calendula tincture, but I'm going to be sure to pick up some Everclear while we're in Indiana this weekend. ;) I've been buying calendula cream and tincture for years; it is great for use on burns, scrapes and diaper rash, etc., but I'm very excited to be able to make it myself!

Another great tincture I discovered last year is plantain. It is also wonderful for scrapes, cuts, and burns.

How do you do it? Fill a quart jar with calendula flowers (several handfuls), or plantain leaves (be sure wherever you collect them has not been sprayed or treated) and cover with grain alcohol. Let sit in a dark area. You may want to give a shake once in a great while. After 2-6 weeks, strain the liquid and store in a dark glass bottle. If kept out of heat and sun, this should last a long time! Dilute as needed for use.

What's up with the raspberry bushes?

We have quite a thicket of raspberries in one of the front flower beds. We were going to move them this spring when we noticed that there was a mass of blossoms on them, so we figured we'd leave them in place until after we harvested them!

I never saw many petals, some of the blossoms look dried out, and only a few berries are forming. One was actually ripe today, and it was pretty seedy (well, you know, more than usual for a raspberry, LOL). I don't know if you can get a good look at them in this pic. What happened here? Was there a lack of water at a critical time, is there a disease that might cause this? What?


Independence Days Challenge

1. Plant something - new crop of lettuce, spinach, a few more chard plants as only a couple came up, more broccoli, a handful of garbanzo beans from my pantry--I have no idea what these will do, but at the least, I figure they'll be good for the soil (legumes fix nitrogen in the soil). I put them where the wascally wabbit ate off all the peas. The runner beans are recovering nicely, but the peas aren't coming back. Wire fencing is in place and will hopefully deter the varmint.

2. Harvest something -a couple more handfuls of snap peas. I'm going to try a different variety of snap peas this fall. I haven't had much luck with this package here. A few more radishes, some spinach.

3. Preserve something -well, not really preserved, though I could can it. Made some mint syrup for sweetening tea.

4. Reduce waste - "rescuing" 5 gallon buckets destined for the trash at our local grocers' bakeries to make more self-watering containers. Determined it is OK to put banana peels in the compost and around the rose bush in the front (it's been so neglected, it deserves a treat ;) ).

5. Preparation and Storage - drew out a plan for placement of more beds. Does cleaning the refrigerator count here? Thinking, thinking, researching.

6. Build Community Food Systems -Considering putting together a "community chest" of items that can be passed around the neighborhood. Will post more about this later.

7. Eat the Food -snap peas are being eaten as fast as the bushes can produce (sadly, they're not producing much); we ate some day lilies this week! Molly is especially fond of the day lilies. Ate spinach on top of sandwiches.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Frost Dates....

I've barely finished planting things for spring, but I'm still trying to figure out what else we can put in the ground here, and thinking about what we can do to make our garden last as long as possible. We have one raised bed that with some pvc pipes can be covered ("covered wagon"-style). Currently, it houses tomatoes, radishes, and carrots.

Our average last frost date is October 8 here, and we are zone 5. For a late summer planting, I am hoping to put in some lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, broccoli, and peas. I also want to plant bunching onions and garlic this fall. I am still considering adding some bush beans and pumpkins to our current gardens, though it is getting late, and I will have to put together another bed to do that--I am considering a New Square Foot Gardening approach using some 2X6 lumber in the rafters of our garage left by the previous owners (um, yeah, 7 years ago).

Skippy's Vegetable Garden has a great Online Vegetable Garden Planting Calendar which definitely helps with figuring out the timeline!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Finding Uses for Things We Already Have

Today for the first time, I made some mint syrup. We have a massive (all the more massive for not having been pruned or harvested in the six summers we have lived here) patch of mint in the front flower bed that was planted by the previous owner. This is the first year I have harvested more that a few mint leaves from the patch, and we have really been enjoying them!

Also, for the first time ever, today we ate daylilies from our back yard. We have a couple of different types of daylilies growing in our backyard (also planted here by the previous owners). Right now, it is the orange ones that are just beginning to bloom. Molly (5) and Liam (8) tried one with me. Molly ran up the hill to pick the only other bloom to eat! I'm wondering if we'll see any blossoms for long this summer! They don't have a strong flavor, and are even slightly sweet.
They would make a beautiful garnish!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Independence Days Challenge

1. Plant something - I'm thinking I'll plant a few more scarlet runner beans on the east side of the house; the ones in front (the west side) are looking a little droopy with the heat of the sunset these last few HOT days, and the other patch out back has been apparently very much enjoyed by a critter that left behind a trace of fuzzy gray hair, so I'm betting I can identify the culprit. I will be placing wire fencing around that bed.

2. Harvest something -oregano, mint, one lone snap pea

3. Preserve something -drying more oregano

4. Reduce waste - composting, harvesting more oregano from my big patch to take to the local food bank...maybe I'll take some mint too.

5. Preparation and Storage - filling up my oregano jar, planning more beds from scrap lumber left in our rafters, collecting buckets for more self-watering containers.

6. Build Community Food Systems -sharing oregano harvest and a small bucket of oregano plants for their garden with local food bank

7. Eat the Food -enjoyed mint leaves with iced tea--took some to the baby shower we threw last week. Um, and, yeah, I ate the one lone snap pea. It was good.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Where I started....

We’ve made the effort for years to live frugally, simply. But, in the meantime, we still managed to rack up some debt. We always planned to someday soon buy a place with some acreage and plant a huge garden, but the state of the economy and its effect on our personal finances has left us owing more on our home than it could ever bring, if we could sell it at all. In addition to that, we have not progressed far in paying off accrued credit card debt. Of course we knew better than to use credit cards, but we used them with the assumption that our incomes would remain steady or continue to grow, and they would be easily paid off.

So, what now? For years, I have been reading and learning how to live green, how to live frugally, I’ve studied lots of theories on nutrition and learned to cook from scratch. I grew up on a farm. My parents did the best with what they had, which wasn’t much. My dad is a bit of a renaissance man who can do just about anything and has done just about everything. He’s built homes, farmed (and all that entails), fixed cars, tractors, boats, and airplanes, not to mention wells and pumps and furnaces. When I was a sophomore in high school, he went back to school (he earned his bachelor’s in horticulture when I was a baby) and earned his J.D. He has now been practicing law for over 20 years.

My mom also taught me self-sufficiency and nurtured in us creativity. She was very young when I was born, 17. She worked hard alongside my dad. If anyone ever made me believe that women could do anything, it was her. She carried five gallon buckets full of feed to the pigs, held squirming baby pigs as my dad, um, castrated them, hung laundry on the line, cooked meals from scratch, and baked pies that were works of art. She is an artist, has always been, I suppose. All through my childhood, she was always creating something, painting, forming lumps of clay into incredible sculptures and pots, and later, taking up woodcarving. She made us elaborate Halloween costumes and piñatas shaped like animals and cartoon characters from papier-mâché. There were always art supplies to be found and used, something I took for granted until I was grown and realized that not everyone grows up with access to clay and paint and papier-mâché . When I was twelve and my youngest sibling was 8, she had my baby sister. I don’t remember her slowing down during her pregnancy. She gardened and mowed the lawn(we lived in the middle of nowhere, LOL) in a bikini at 8 months pregnant. She nursed my baby sister until she was nine months old, when she came down with mastitis and received the bad advice from her doctor to wean. I mention this because I was old enough to remember and really have learned about parenting of a baby and infant. She started college the same year I did and has been an art teacher now for over 12 years.

Now in my 40th year, I have been married to my sometimes reluctantly green hubby for 14 years, and I am a full-time mama to four beautiful children, two boys, ages 11 and 8, and two girls, ages 5 and 2. While this blog will have little to do with child-rearing, I imagine they will come up. I teach college-level English online part time from home. I, with my husband's help, am working to make us as self-sufficient as possible in the face of limited budgets and resources. I want to share with you our success (and failures) in this adventure.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Independence Days Challenge

1. Plant something - 2 more rows of sweet corn

2. Harvest something -radishes, oregano, mint

3. Preserve something -going to dry some oregano!

4. Reduce waste - yard and kitchen waste going to our garbage can composter

5. Preparation and Storage - does putting up oregano count?

6. Build Community Food Systems -Dropped off info at our local food bank on www.AmpleHarvest.org They are creating a registry for food banks and backyard gardeners so that gardeners may donate to their local food banks.

7. Eat the Food -Nobody but me eats radishes. I've been enjoying them, though!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Independence Days Challenge

Sharon Astyk of Causabon's Book has created the Independence Days Challenge. Tuesdays will be the day for sharing progress in the following categories:

1. Plant something -

2. Harvest something -

3. Preserve something -

4. Reduce waste - This category covers both the old “Reduce Waste” and “Manage Reserves” group.

5. Preparation and Storage -

6. Build Community Food Systems -

7. Eat the Food -

See the link above for more details on the categories and the challenge.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Remaking Suburbia

As a young couple, we found ourselves drawn to the suburbs as we sought housing a reasonable distance from work. For a long time, we have planned at some point to move to the country, to claim some land of our own where we could lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Having grown up on a farm, I have always longed to share with my young children the joys of living in the country—of being able to wake up in the morning and pick berries for breakfast, watching things grow, knowing that we do not need to be entirely dependent upon utility companies and grocery stores. The reality, though, is that a move to the country is not going to happen for us right now. And it’s quite possible that in a number of ways our suburban space is far superior to a more remote location. Our home is located on the edge of a small town (which is not far from a larger city). We have numerous amenities within walking distance—an excellent library system, public schools, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, parks, swimming pools, post office, grocery stores, restaurants, and specialty shops all lie within 2 miles or less of our front door. We are surrounded by kind and caring neighbors. Our children are growing fast. Our oldest just turned eleven. So we realize the time has come, not for making a new home (no matter how appealing sometimes it sounds to “move away from it all”), but for re-making our current home—for remaking suburbia.