Wednesday, July 8, 2009

1. Plant something -more basil and parsley into a pot that is easily brought inside this fall. More dill, since a lot of what I planted did not come up. It's almost time for fall plantings! :) This week, I'll be transplanting some baby cabbage plants from their container to a garden bed. I may scope out some broccoli seedlings today at the store, just to better guarantee our chances of success. I'll also be cutting some mint to mulch it with to deter pesty pests.

3. Preserve something -Making lavender oil. Next will be plantain oil.

4. Reduce waste -Well, it may be a cop-out, but I feel that when I'm harvesting and preserving herbs and "weeds" from my yard that would normally be left, I am reducing waste. I'm trying to better manage our pantry, fridge, and freezer and plan meals to use up what we have.

5. Preparation and Storage -Reading The Herbal Home Remedy Book by Joyce Wardwell. Planning next year's herb garden to include a few more useful medicinal herbs. Making herb oils and tinctures from herbs we have or can gather for future use (see "Harvest Something").

6. Build Community Food Systems -Nothing here this week....thinking....

7. Eat the Food -The girls have enjoyed a few tiny raspberries from our bushes. More spinach, a few baby carrots (just to see if they're ready), we've been carefully watching Killian's strawberry plants, but it appears that while we were away for the weekend someone (or something) else enjoyed the first of our little strawberry harvest.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Things I realize...

I grew up and still live (albeit in a more urban area in another state) in the Midwest. For many Midwesterners, I don't think this "Urban Homesteading" thing is such a stretch. It is not uncommon here to see a small garden in someone's backyard or a tomato plant on someone's patio. There are plenty of U-Pick farms where families make a day of picking (and eating) berries or apples. My brother-in-law and his bride gave away home canned preserves and pickles as favors at their wedding last month. While we, as a nation and a society, have strayed so far from the founding fathers' utopian farmer ideal, I think those areas that have traditionally been farming communities have stayed closer to those ideals. Others have not, including farmers themselves, but that's another discussion.

So, my grandparents had gardens, canned fruits and veggies, had wood stoves, kept and butchered animals, darned socks, sewed and crocheted clothing, quilts, afghans, and basically were skilled at making something from very little, fixing and maintaing their own cars, homes, and anything else that required fixing. They passed many of these skills on to my parents (and aunts and uncles), who also became very skilled at them in their own ways, adding their own talents and interests along the way. Sometimes raising chicken for eggs and meat, having a garden, keeping bees, etc., meant the difference between having food or not, but often they only served to improve the quality of life. None of them, ultimately, became farmers, nor were my grandparents farmers by trade. My maternal grandfather worked in a factory, though he did own a small farm and shared farming with his brother. His children, none of them farmers, still keep gardens. My maternal grandmother, in her 70's, still cans. My paternal grandfather was a postman, and my paternal grandmother sewed clothes for eight children, cooked for an army (even when there wasn't much to work with), washed clothes with a hand-wringer and pressed out wrinkles without electricity, crocheted and knitted huge afghans, and, I am sure did numerous things that I don't even know about. Their children, all eight of them, became doctors and lawyers, PhDs, physical therapists, nurses, landscape designers--among their employers have been such companies as McDonnell Douglas, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the HRSA.

We were blessed, growing up, knowing the origins of food (sometimes a little too personally). To some, we might have been considered deprived, but this knowledge makes seeking a more self-sufficient lifestyle feel entirely doable. I think, too, my own parents and their siblings benefited from their own upbringings in that they always felt capable of taking things on, of being able to do whatever needed doing themselves.

Now, I have learned, also, that sometimes it is easier to leave some things to others. Also, in a limited amount of space, there are limits to what we can do. We are exploring, of course, all that we might do, and the point is, we can do much more than one might think. Currently, there are ordinances forbidding chickens or small livestock in our neighborhood. So, maybe someday, I trade baked goods for milk. Ideally, we make connections with other like-minded folks and find ways to work together as a community to meet our needs.

There are those that believe that we will have to live sustainably to survive in the future, that for whatever reason, it will become difficult to go to the grocery and buy produce and meat. Heating and electricity, city water, and transportation may cost too much for the average person to afford. I don't know if I believe in any of the theories and ideas out there, and certainly, I can think of none that I agree with completely, but I know that where I live, jobs and incomes are dropping, so, even if prices don't rise, some people are going to be struggling. Living sustainably, whether you buy into global warming, peak oil, plague, or zombie invasion, will allow us to live comfortably even in times of financial stress. And, if financial or other stress does not occur, we live all the more comfortably and can do other things with our money than buy food shipped from foreign countries.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sustainable Crafting

I've been trying to carefully evaluate my trash and recycle bins lately. We are very good about recycling items and don't produce an average American pile of trash every week (not that that's saying much), but being thrifty as well as seeing no need to produce more trash than necessary, I have been trying really hard not to toss or recycle anything that could be of use. I have been using newspaper and cardboard that is not suitable for continued use in box form to use as mulch and placed it over areas where I plan to put in new garden beds.

I have been hanging on to a lot of cans lately. Especially any time I happen to have a bigger one, I hesitate to just throw it in the recycling. Looking for something holiday-themed, I realized I had the perfect materials!

I don't know why, but I cannot get this picture to flip. I painted these with acrylic paints and a coat of crafting varnish. I had the acrylics on hand, but I did buy the varnish. I bought a little bottle of it at Meijer's, but will head to the craft store next time and get a big ol' bottle. I think they would be great with some sand and votives, used to hold goodies, or even as planters!
I guess if I were a proper crafter, I would have taken pictures of these with something in them in all their 4th of July glory, but, then, I can't even get the picture turned the right direction.

Purslane and Wood Sorrel

I have pulled lots of purslane out of my garden. I knew it was edible, but I also knew there was another plant that looked much the same that is not edible. Having found that most weedy edibles taste, well, weedy, I didn't make any effort to figure out what plant was what and give it a try. Until yesterday.

I happened across a link with edible weed information and took a look. I found purslane and wood sorrel in my garden. I'd also been pulling up a lot of wood sorrel, presuming it to be clover (which, upon closer inspection, obviously, it is not, though we have clover with yellow flowers too). I plucked up some purslane, checked the stem for white liquid (which is in the inedible purslane imposter), found none, and, along with some wood sorrel, rinsed it off in the kitchen sink and gave it a try. The purslane was actually quite tasty! How sad that I've been spending so much time weeding it out of my garden rather than letting it grow to a decent eating size! The wood sorrel has a lemony-sour (as in unripe) apple taste, which is also good, but I'm trying to decide on a really good application for that. The little yellow flowers would look pretty in salad.