Monday, April 28, 2014

Finding the Rabbits

Well, 'tis the season.  The first sounds of mowers outside unfortunately coincide with the first baby rabbit births.  And while I have no great love of rabbits in my garden, as you know, I also have no desire to actually mow over the little ones.  Among other things, it seems rather unsporting.

Identifying a rabbit nest in your yard can be tricky. Here's one we discovered in the middle of the garden.  (The nerve!)  The mother rabbit will line and conceal her nest with her own fur, adding some grass to the top as well.  Since this part of the garden was not broadforked yet but was not grassy, we got a better view of the nest from seeing her fur over top.  Normally they are much harder to see.

Inside, you will typically find between one and four tiny little rabbits.  The mother will come back to check on them.

What did we do with our rabbit nest?  Since it was in the garden, it was not in danger of being hit by the mower, so we let it be.  But those little critters had better be out of there when I'm ready to plant in two weeks.  And they'd better give me a pass or two on eating my tomatoes this summer, since I left them alone in the spring.
Pin It!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Regrowing Ginger

I love to regrow veggies from scraps. The link you see there is to a post from last year in which I detailed my excitement over regrowing romaine lettuce from the end of the head I bought for Easter dinner.  In fact, if you haven't read that post before, please click on over.  I was going to rerun it this year in celebration of starting a new batch of "scrap" romaine, because I believe so strongly in the transformative power of growing food from scrap.

But this year, I'm trying a new experiment, and I think this one will be equally exciting:  I'm regrowing ginger root.

Now, ginger falls into that category of herbs and spices that we often use fairly little of, except I've started making Clove-Ginger Ale almost weekly.  Even if I reduce the amount of herbs and spices in the blend and just let it steep a little longer, it still gets fairly pricey.

However, I've just learned that one can regrow ginger root.  That ugly thing you see in the photo is a ginger root, or rhizome, to be exact.  The little green onion-like protrusions are where it wants to regrow.  My understanding is that one just puts this in a pot of dirt and in a couple of months or so has a new root to dig up, replant part of, and use the remainder in cooking.

I'll do a full analysis when I have tangible results.  Right now, I have two ginger root pieces starting up in the sunroom.  I can't wait to see if this little project will save me a couple of bucks and let me have organically-grown ginger at my fingertips!
Pin It!

Friday, April 18, 2014

My Top Decluttering Tip

We all just have too much stuff.  Packed in among all of our treasures and comforts that we are lucky to have is a bunch of detritus -- the bits of projects, the things we feel we should reuse (but never will), and the things we feel we should keep (but really should throw away).

I'm not explicitly a non-consumer, although I do admire their discipline. I do like to shop, so I'll probably never be one of those people who embraces a "100 item" challenge.  Have you heard of these?  You can search online to see people who have pruned their belongings down to 100 items.  Even if you allow me 100 categories (like "underwear" or "DVDs"), I'm not sure I could do it.

However, Mr. FC&G and I are engaged in a slow decluttering process, much along the lines of this article.  The article suggests removing one item from your living environment each day.  Doesn't sound like much, but it adds up over time.  Just this morning, I cut the pretty buttons off a sweater that had started to run and sag, and I threw the sweater away.  (It wasn't any use as rags, and, sorry to say, I'm not ever going to unravel it and knit something new with the yarn.)  I've been doing this pretty consistently since the beginning of the year, and I'm pleased to say that I'm starting to see light on my closet shelves!

My top decluttering tip?  As you know from reading this blog, Mr. FC&G and I would like to move permanently or on a partial-year basis to Key West.  This is going to happen some time between next week and a decade from now, depending on how quickly we declutter and how quickly we sort out the income complexities.  But right now, our most effective decluttering strategy is to ask one another, "Do you want to move this to Key West?"  Somehow, invoking visions of us carefully wrapping and hauling a chipped dish or a broken tool 1,000 miles usually tips the balance in favor of a discard.

Sometimes, you just have to keep the larger goal in sight.

Pin It!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How Much Does a Garden Grow: March 2014

Never let it be said that I don't practice what I preach. In my quest to take responsibility for some of my food production, I've continued to plant lots and harvest a little during March.  Thank heavens for the farmer's markets and stores that help us supplement, because March is such a difficult month!  You start planting and working the ground and doing the labor of growing your food, but there is precious little immediate pay off.

However, I did harvest six ounces of greens from the sunroom, along with one key lime that was the perfect complement to a fish dinner.  I also spent $16.90 ordering a dwarf bay tree.  Although I had promised myself that I was done building the micro-orchard, I have discovered that organic bay leaves are going to drive me to the poor house if I keep making my clove-ginger ale every week.  The new tree, plus an experiment regrowing ginger rhizomes, will hopefully help keep costs at bay.  (Plant pun!  See what I did there?)

Nonetheless, March brought a couple of milestones.  We have now officially harvested over a pound of food from our garden this year, and the total value of the harvest now stands in double-digit dollars at $11.66. We're not rich yet, and we haven't yet turned an official profit, but we are getting into the "respectable" territory for our totals with the year only one-quarter done.

I would anticipate that April and May could well start bringing some substantial harvests.  I have two containers full of potatoes that are growing nicely (see them sprouting above), and the transplants for the garden are coming along well.

Cumulative Totals
Total Ounces Harvest: 17
Pounds: 1.0625

Total Value of Harvest: $11.66
Expenditures: -212.21
Total: $200.55
Pin It!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Super-Quick Rice Soup for Two

Ever have one of those days?  You know the ones -- you are working until the last possible minute, leaving virtually no time before you have to head back out to evening commitments?

It seems like we have as many of these days as everyone else, even though Mr. FC&G and I work primarily from home.  Somehow my fantasies of stopping work at a reasonable hour always vanish in the face of yet another deadline.  I rarely get to spend a weekday afternoon cooking a really special dinner.

During a particular crunch this week, I needed to make dinner and have us eat in about 45 minutes so we could leave in time for an early evening appointment.  It was here that I was rescued by the fortuitous combination of home canning and leftovers.

Super-Quick Rice Soup for Two
1 quart homemade stock
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups pre-cooked, leftover rice
1 t. marjoram (homegrown and dried)

Slice carrots and add to stock and marjoram in large sauce pan.  Bring to a low boil and cook until carrots are your desired consistency; we like them done but with a bit of a crunch, so this was about 15 minutes. Reduce heat.

Add leftover, pre-cooked rice to soup and heat until warm.  (If you start with uncooked instant rice, you can cook it along with the step above by cooking it in the soup itself.  Just don't obey the package directions of the rice to liquid ratio, or you won't have soup at all!)

Serves two, quickly.

The Analysis
Fast:  This homemade soup was on the table in fewer than 20 minutes, and we were out the door on time.

Cheap:  Since I was relying on leftovers in the form of rice and homemade items (stock and marjoram), the only thing I really wound up using up from supplies was carrots.  Hopefully, that will change this summer. This was super cheap.

Good:  Gourmet?  No.  But actually, this tasted a good bit better than your average canned soup, which means we had a more-sustainable and healthier version of that classic quick meal.

Pin It!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring Challenge: Take Responsibility for Your Food

I was sitting at yoga the other day waiting for class to begin, and I got into a great conversation with a fellow yogini about the purity of the food supply and the necessity of finding clean, whole foods.  We agreed that part of the problem is that consumers have abdicated responsibility for growing/raising/procuring food, putting a lot of responsibility onto farmers.  They, in turn, must use conventional rather than organic methods to get the largest yield per acre in order to feed a whole bunch of people who are raising and growing nothing.

This is not a crack against farmers, by the way.  Those who I have spoken to take the responsibility to feed the country (and beyond) seriously.   But I am saying that the rest of us should take that responsibility a little more seriously ourselves.  (By analogy, the fact that I have a mechanic doesn't mean I should know nothing about taking care of my car.  Just because I teach college doesn't mean my students should never pick up a book and learn something without me.)

The situation we have now is an historic anomaly.  Something in the neighborhood of 95 percent of this country works in non-farm jobs, counting on that 5 percent or so to produce the lion's share of our food.  That's not sustainable.  We all need some skin in the game, if only to diversify risk.

So here's my challenge for you.  Whatever you are doing this season to produce food for yourself, I want you to commit to doing one or two more things.  I'm not asking you to stop going to the grocery store or even to take a "100 mile pledge" of eating locally.  Just amp up your food production.  If every household did this, imagine the weight it would take off a food production system that is becoming ever more centralized and unsustainable.

Here are your challenge levels:

You: Have a farm, a garden, or a bunch of raised beds.  Your seed orders are in, your seedlings are sprouting, and you are starting to work the soil.  You are READY.  You are already in this.
Your challenge:  Grow/raise/procure something you've never worked with before.  Try a gourmet version of a vegetable, like daikon radishes or spaghetti squash.  Learn to fish if you don't already know and have a place for wild, edible fish.  Put in a couple of blueberry bushes or a rhubarb plot.

You:  Have some outdoor space, but it is limited.  Think patio, deck, balcony, or a limited yard. Or, your neighbors or neighborhood covenant would freak out at the site of too much food production. Or, you physically can't commit to tilling up a bunch of ground.
Your challenge:  Sneak at least one veggie into your containers or foundation plantings.  Potatoes make a great food crop, and the vines and flowers are seriously lovely.  Try a container variety of corn or beans.  Or, I've never known a neighbor hard-hearted enough to protest a single container tomato plant.  Look for dwarf or container varieties of your favorite veggies or fruits.  Take the shortcut you have to take to get you inspired -- buy a bag of organic potting soil to fill a container if you don't have access to a compost pile.

You:  Want to participate, but you have no outdoor space that is suitable for growing.
Your challenge:  Find a windowsill that gets 8 or more hours of sun per day, or buy a desk lamp and put a grow bulb in it.  (I do this to start my seeds.)  Grow an expensive-to-buy herb or two.  Basil is practically a cash crop, given that it is so expensive to buy fresh basil leaves in the store.  Rosemary handles the chill of a winter window sill admirably.  A bay tree will live in a container and produce for a long time.

You:  Seriously don't think you can do this.  You don't have the space, or you don't think you have the time, or your job keeps you on the road too much.
Your challenge:  Sprouts and microgreens will grow to edible size in less than 2 weeks, making them a good crop for times when you are at home.  Because of their short lifespan, they don't require quite the light that long-growing plants do.  (I do shine a grow light on my sprouts to retard mold, however.)  Or, put an aloe plant on your desk in the office.  They do well in low light, and, although relatively rarely eaten, do serve a medicinal purpose.

What challenge are you accepting to take more responsibility for food production this year?  Sound off in the comments -- I need new ideas for me, too!

Pin It!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The One Trick You Must Know For Huge Potato Harvests

If you really want to get huge potato harvests this year, you need to follow this simple trick.  Before putting the seed spud in the trench or pot, wrap it in a piece of tissue paper.

Know why?
So it won't get dirt in its eyes!

(And thanks to my Mom, who has gotten me with that joke every single year!)
Pin It!