Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Garden Experiments

Winter is always difficult for me because I don't have my garden.  This year, however, I've been much more deliberate about moving plants into the sunroom and other places to keep things growing.

See that slightly blurry picture to the right?  That's a green bean!  OK, right now I only have two green beans on this plant, but I'm pretty chuffed about it because I wasn't sure if the plant could bear fruit at all in these temps and inside away from the bees. I'd love to present Mr. FC&G with a plate full of tender green beans for him to snack on raw, like he enjoys doing.

Also still living in the sunroom are three pepper plants, each of which has at least one reddening pepper on it.  Mostly, I'm hoping to keep these plants dormant but alive to get a jump on next season. However, I'll take any extra food I can grow.

We also have a tomato plant in the sunroom that has some lovely, if small, green tomatoes on it. It did have a lovely reddening tomato on it, but I think a critter found its way into the sunroom and nibbled it.  In any case, I found a red tomato in the pot, pulled from the vine and with teeth marks in it.  I'm not happy.

Finally, with the first hard freezes of the year on us, I brought two containers of potatoes into the garage to live in the weak light under a window. I don't really expect them to grow much over the winter, but, again, I'm hopeful I can induce dormancy and have a head start on potatoes in the spring.

What are you still growing? Let me know in the comments!
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Monday, November 16, 2015

Why You Need to (Occasionally) Go Factory Free

At my Etsy store, Carrot Creations, I have been starting to use the tag "factory free."  I think it's an important one, and I think those of us in the sustainable living movement need to know a little more about it so we can look for it.

"Factory free" means that an item was made by individual or cottage labor, often by hand, instead of being mass produced in a factory setting.

Now, let me say on the front end that, especially as a historian, I'm a big fan of factories.  The Industrial Revolution brought with it a tremendous change in lifestyle and the way we produce goods that has meant largely positive changes.  Suddenly, many goods that were out of reach to the common consumer were made available, and the power of human production was better harnessed.  These are positives that should not be dismissed.

But relying on factories for everything is not good, either, and the positives of the Industrial Revolution must be balanced by a place for individual and small group effort.  This is where "factory free" comes in.  If you buy a product that lists itself as "factory free" (including food), you may see some of these benefits:

  • The business that produces the item (including farms) is far more likely to be small and local to you.
  • The business is less likely to be beholden to large corporate production policies.  Often, this means that a small business will hold itself to higher standards or take time to explain their production methods to you.
  • The quality control processes are often more thorough.  A sock produced on a machine may never be inspected by human eyes; my yoga socks, on the other hand, spend 6-8 hours per pair in my hands and in view of my eyes, making it more likely I would catch a quality problem.
  • You are more likely to get the product you want, even if you want specialty attributes.  If you want an organic, free range egg, you probably want one that is not produced on a factory farm but is, in fact, factory free.
  • You are more likely to be supporting a small business, and small businesses are essential to maintaining the flexibility of our country's economy.
  • You can target your dollars to exactly the type of business and the location you feel most passionate about.  If I want to support my hopefully-future hometown of Key West, I will look for something factory free and produced locally on the island.
Factory free items will never completely replace mass produced ones, nor should they.  But for many purchases, you might consider looking for a factory free tag to learn more about exactly what your money supports.

Have you purchased anything factory free?  What do you look for?
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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Planting Fall Potatoes

I always dislike the fall because it means taking the garden down. This year, however, has been rather fun.

First, we brought so many plants that are still producing into the sunroom that it touched off a full reorganization of the dining room and living room, which are the two rooms with the south-facing windows that need to hold plants. So, I got a whole new living room arrangement out of the deal!

Second, it has been unseasonably warm. Having temps in the lower 70s in November is nothing to sneeze at, and that means we've gotten most of our outdoor work done in shirt sleeves rather than in parkas.

Because it's been so warm, I've given my fall potatoes a bit of a break in the sunshine.  My initial plan was to plant the fall potatoes in their containers and then put them in the garage, where the cool temps and week light would probably make them stay dormant until they finally sprouted in the spring.

It's been so warm, however, that I planted them and left them next to a cozy wall on the back patio. They are protected from any cold nights by a couple of old sliding glass doors, and I can put up some black side pieces we have for just such an application once the weather turns a bit cooler.  I won't have to bring them inside until we start getting legitimate freezes at night that seep into this makeshift greenhouse.

I've got to admit, I have a love/hate relationship with those sliding glass doors. When we replaced that ugly door to the house and put in a pretty French door, I rolled my eyes pretty hard when my husband wanted to keep the glass. And, about 10 months out of the year, I wonder why we still have them. But every year, I have some plants I want to keep outside but keep protected, and Mr. FC&G triumphantly tells me, "let's go get the glass doors!"  And, at that point, I become extremely happy that he had the foresight to recognize a DIY cold frame when he saw one.
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