Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Five Ways to Eat More Sustainably in 2016

As a professional writer, I know that it's the time of year for the "how to lose weight and get in shape" articles. I'm not immune to following this trend.

But losing weight, as a goal, feels punitive. It feels like you're punishing your body for something it did wrong, and, if you are at all sane, you won't punish yourself voluntarily. Getting in shape is a better goal, but it needs a food component to support the exercise.

So, here are five quick ideas that you can implement to eat healthier and more sustainably without feeling deprived.

  1. Join a CSA. Standing for "community supported agriculture," this allows you to get farm-fresh food while supporting a local farmer. Pick one that practices sustainable farming practices, and find out if you can get meat, vegetables, or both.
  2. Grow something. This is a theme for this blog, but it bears repeating that everyone can grow something. If you have a plot of land, plan to till it up for a garden; if you have a windowsill, grow sprouts or herbs. Every bit you grow yourself is that much less transportation cost that goes into your food.
  3. Avoid pesticides, herbicides, and HFCS. Learn to read labels. High fructose corn syrup is often listed in the ingredients as such, making it easy to avoid. To avoid pesticides and herbicides, choose organic options where possible, because these farmers and producers can't use harmful chemicals like glyphosate on their crops. 
  4. Avoid GMOs. More than ever before, it is possible to avoid consuming genetically modified organisms, as more and more producers are opting to label when they are GMO-free. While these plant products may not be inherently harmful (the jury is still out, as far as I'm concerned), they are often code for a plant that is "Roundup Ready," meaning that it can withstand being treated with Roundup. I try to avoid glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) everywhere I can, so avoiding GMOs is a good start.
  5. Reduce sugar consumption. Not only will you be avoiding the sometimes-questionable production methods of sugar, you'll be avoiding excess calories. This, I must admit, is my big challenge, so this year I'm trying to leave the sugar out of my coffee most days while cutting down the number of times I succumb to the temptation for a pop. 
What are your sustainable food goals this year?
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Friday, December 18, 2015

The Leggiest Potatoes

So, I like to think I have a green thumb, but sometimes my experiments go a little crazy on me. As you can see on the right, I'm currently in possession of the world's leggiest potato plants growing in my garage.

This whole experiment started when a friend told me that her neighbor or somebody managed to grow and harvest container potatoes by letting them overwinter in the garage. The fact that this conversation took place in a bar after dance class maybe should have been my first clue that I wasn't necessarily receiving high quality gardening information.

Anyway, as you know, I had a bag of potatoes go bad and start sprouting this fall, so I put them in my potato containers, and, once the weather started to dip, brought them inside from within the makeshift cold frame where they had been living.

The idea here was that the weather would turn cold, and the garage would be cold but not freezing. Therefore, the big plan was that the plants would go dormant and then pick up growth next spring when I could move them back outside.

As it turns out, we have been blessed with one of the warmest Decembers in quite a while, and my potatoes won't go to sleep.  So, they are eagerly climbing up toward the window seeking the sunlight instead of staying nice and squat for the winter.

Since I invested exactly $0 in this little experiment (thanks to already having all the materials and planting store potatoes that had started to sprout), I'm just going to leave them there and see if they succeed in living, and, if they do, if they produce any potatoes.

But you can imagine the look on my face when I went out into the garage after not being out there for a couple of weeks and found this mess going on.  Yeesh!
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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Seven Sustainable Things

Time for another edition of Seven Sustainable Things, in which I tell you seven things over the past seven days I've done to live a sustainable lifestyle.  This time, the cold weather December edition.

1.  We harvested a lime!  Since my lime tree is tempermental at best, there is no such thing as a regular lime crop around here.  So, it's always a treat to get a lime to put in our iced tea.

2.  In the interest of losing weight and saving money, we have set a new rule that we can't have desserts unless we bake them ourselves.  That means no mixes, too.  The result over the past two or three weeks has been more organic ingredients in our desserts and, more importantly, more days that we don't eat sweets at all because we're too tired to bake.

3.  To cut the heating bill, I've started spending an hour or two in the morning with my office door shut and my space heater on, but with the house heat still turned down.  Since Mr. FC&G is on a slightly different schedule than me, I just wait until he starts his day to turn up the heat.

4.  This is high sales season for our Etsy store, Carrot Creations, so I've been busy at night crocheting yoga socks as fast as I can for Christmas-time sales.  Hopefully, these gifts will help others live a more sustainable life too!

5.  I picked up an extra class to teach this coming spring semester, which will help the budget out a bit while giving me a fun new opportunity to spend time with my students.

6.  We've got an appointment for an oil change and check-up for our everyday vehicle.  Now, spending money doesn't sound all that sustainable, but last year we caught a brake problem before it turned into an expensive repair.  A little preventative maintenance can go a long way.

7.  Finally, let's hear it for the fireplace!  December is a wonderful time for us to have fires in our fireplace with its stove insert.  It lets us turn the house heat down and convert some of our wood pile into heat while enjoying the festive ambiance.  Win-win!

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

How Much Does a Garden Grow: October and November 2015

Why yes, I am, in fact, behind on this column.  But fall is a very forgiving time for managing the garden, with very little coming in.

I'm always surprised by the spring and fall garden.  Summer is fairly predictable; July and August will be the big months, I generally will get a lot of cucumbers unless the cucumber beetles hit, and I'll never get enough tomatoes.  But I'm never sure about fall.  Sometimes I get a lot of true fall crops, like squash and potatoes, and sometimes, like this year, I'm still finishing the summer up.

As I've mentioned, we hauled lots of containers inside this year, so I've been making small harvests of peppers, tomatoes, and salad greens.  Most of those have come to a halt now that November is over; the photos show almost the last peppers, which came in on December 1.

As far as totals, I brought in about a pound and a half of produce over the two months, for just a few bucks in profit.  Quite the change from previous months, of course.  But I still enjoy seeing what comes in.

Next month, I plan to do a garden summary of what worked and what didn't.  And, like all good gardeners, I'm already dreaming of seedlings and saying "wait til next year!"

Cumulative Totals

Harvest, Ounces: 2,326.0
Harvest, Pounds: 145.375
Harvest Value: $482.50

Expenditures: $141.40

Total Saved: $341.10

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