Thursday, January 29, 2015

Clove-Ginger Tea

Don't you love it when things come together?

Remember Clove-Ginger Ale, a great homemade substitute for expensive and unhealthy bottled pop? Well, I made a batch last night, and I discovered the best thing.

It is fantastic as a hot tea.

Basically, I followed the original recipe, as linked above.  When I had a crock-pot full of the base mix (about a half gallon), I put a cup of organic sugar in a half gallon jar and filled it with the hot mixture.

For the cold beverage, I chill and mix half and half with carbonated water for a refreshing drink.

For the hot beverage, I drank it full strength.  I will admit that this makes for a fairly sweet beverage, but I liked it that way.  You might want to cut down the sugar if you are watching your sugar consumption.

It turned out to be an absolutely delicious way to warm up, and there are likely to be some health benefits from the herbs used in its creation.

The Analysis

Fast:  Again, this takes very little real prep time, as it is mostly time in the crock pot.

Cheap:  The ingredients can be fairly pricey.  I've been working on growing my own ginger and bay leaves, but so far I do not have a bumper crop of either to write about.

Good:  Definitely yummy and reasonably healthy, with a reasonably light transportation footprint.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

How Much Does a Garden Grow: 2014

At long last, the final tally for 2014!

The immediate past year was not as robust as far as savings as was 2013, but the distribution of vegetables and fruits that we brought in was much more even, making for a better harvest overall.  After all, I could always stack the deck by just growing a yard-full of expensive butternut squash, but if we don't eat them, it's not a fair representation of our growing abilities.

In 2014, we grew:

  • Lemons: 7 oz/$1.74
  • Herbs (dried): 2.5 oz/7.08
  • Carrots: 59 oz/3.54
  • Tomatoes: 1138 oz/$330.52
  • Butternut squash: 267 oz/53.40
  • Beans: 142 oz/$29.95
  • Peppers: 31.5 oz/$5.99
  • Basil (fresh): 20 oz/$20.00
  • Cucumbers: 625 oz/$100.00
  • Zucchini: 255 oz/ $53.55
  • Blueberries: 8 oz/$2.32
  • Peas: 24 oz./$4.56
  • Potatoes: 100 oz/$8.00
  • Greens: $22.5 oz/$19.80
Total harvest:  160.5313 pounds
Total value of harvest: $628.57

Total expenditures: $286.13

Net: $342.44

I'm pretty satisfied with everything on here, except I could have used more tomatoes.  I can always use more tomatoes.

It's funny, but I feel like we really saved more than $342 off our food bill for the year.  I think about all those lovely summertime meals we took out in the sunroom that centered around our own veggies.  We reduce our meat consumption during the summer, and we aren't as tempted to eat out on a busy night because there is nothing more efficient than going out into the yard with a basket and coming in with dinner.  I once estimated that a garden like ours offered at least $1,000 in meal-replacement value, and I feel like that's probably still the case.

In any event, it is nearly time for seed-starting once again.  The cycle continues.  

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On Imports and Sustainability

British television is going to be the death of me.

I mean, I'm already scared to death to let any character created by Steven Moffat climb anything higher than a step stool.  (If you are familiar with Mr. Moffat's work, you know his penchant for sending his characters hurtling off buildings to their permanent or temporary death.  If you aren't familiar, well, consider yourself warned.)

But now, as a voice in the sustainability movement, I have to consider the dark path that British television is leading me down and its impact on my ability to eat local.  Folks, I speak of my addiction to imported British food.

Oh, it started innocently enough.  A couple of digestive biscuits during Doc Martin (although I soon started preferring HobNobs).  A black and tan and a plate of fish and chips when we went out on Friday night.  A nice bottle of brown sauce in the fridge to dress up our at-home meals. A "cuppa" tea in the afternoons while I write and a new-found appreciation for gin when I'm not writing.

But now it's out of hand.  Jelly babies and Jammie Dodgers eaten during Dr. Who.  And the overwhelming sense that I'm not just not eating local, I'm going out of my way to not eat local.  And I'm doing so while declaring the British -- the British, I tell you! -- the best cooks on the planet.  I mean, at least if I had gotten addicted to French food, I would have snobbery bragging rights because of their historic position as gourmets.  To fall in love with another culture because you like its junk food and its television can't be good.

In any event, I justify my little addiction knowing that, for as much of the year as I can, we eat local.  Our meat is all raised locally, as are our eggs.  We are making a slow switch to local milk, and we use local honey.  And our vegetables come from the back yard during summer.

Surely that's worth a few boxes of imported digestives and a handful of jelly babies?
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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

Happy 2015!

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that this blog took a break while we went to Hawaii to visit my husband's family.  I can't say that flying halfway around the world particularly counts as either "fast" or "cheap," but it certainly was good.

Most of the time, sustainable living folks talk about maintaining some sort of radius of operation on their activities.  They try to eat foods grown/produced within a 100 mile radius, or they try to reduce their living or transportation footprint. I'll have more to say about this in a future blog, but I do admit to feeling a certain amount of guilt that we like to travel.  I do think we are pretty careful the rest of the time, but the reality is that the ability is there to see the world, and we try to take advantage of it when time and money permit.

In any case, my new year's resolutions for sustainable living are to put more effort into my FC&G lifestyle.  I feel like I let things slip a bit toward the end of 2014.  We had some emergencies arise, we were both busy, and somehow I think I let my attention slip away from some of the activities I think are important.  Therefore, I'd like to rededicate myself to:

  • Cooking more complete, healthy meals that throw off lots of leftovers.
  • Being more cost-effective with our grocery shopping, particularly in regards to clipping the e-coupons that our store regularly offers.
  • Taking on little occasional projects, like rebatching soap.  I have a whole jar of soap slivers that need to be ground and either made into new bars or used as the base for laundry detergent.
  • Getting some winter crops planted in the sunroom and the sunny windows.  I'm ready to put in some lettuces and radishes, and I will soon be planting another round of ginger.
In regard to earning, which is part of sustaining a living, my goals include:

I've got a lot to get a handle on during 2015.  What are your sustainable living goals?
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