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Amie wowed at Times Square

Missed last week because of sickness and a trip to the Big Apple – about which soon!

Plant. Nothing, except for ongoing sprout experiments.

Harvest. Herbs for drying, wheat grass from sprouter, chard and one or two carrots from garden.

Preserve. Drying catnip, mint, sage, oregano, thyme. Drying apples. Baked more sugar pumpkins (now on major sale) and froze the puree.

Waste not. Mulched bags and bags of leaves from our neighbor. He rounds up our leaves for us (yes, with his dreaded gasoline powered leaf blower – read here for my old rant) and in exchange we let him dump his leaves on the (as yet) undeveloped part of our property. Whatever we don’t compost stays there as a mulch and weed suppressor.

Want not. I am finding Sharon’s Food Storage Quickies very helpful, and this week on her recommendation I bought 5 lbs of rolled oats. Also bought 20 lbs of whole wheat flour (in freezer). I started experimenting with a more organized list of our food storage and emergency supplies.

Build community food systems. Talked with a friend and several of the moms at Amie’s preschool about raw milk. Food is always an easy connector with acquaintances and neighbors, and usually they’re very encouraging of our efforts. I’m usually very careful about how I word our food adventures, though: I never imply any judgment of their food choices, I just tell my own tale. The  raw milk tale is definitely a good one (I’ll tell it here soon).

Eat the food. My first bread was undercooked, the second overcooked, and on the third I forgot to make the cut on top – so it can expand – and it came out a wonderful shape not fit for photography. After so many people scrunching up their noses when we mentioned duck eggs, we loved them with wheat grass in an omelet. A pity the lady who sells them to our supplier is going to stop for the Winter. We decided to eat more fish, as our meat consumption is even lower now than it was (Amie and DH eat meat once a week, I have it at most once a month). I wonder and tilapia like to share a pond?

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Independence Days goes on and on and, round and round.

Not much to report this week: caught a bug and though it’s not getting worse, it’s not much getting better either, so I’m on a low fire here.

Plant. Nothing. The mung bean sprouting didn’t go too well: I must be doing something wrong.

Harvest. Usual (chard, kale, parsley). The one broccoli, I am happy to report, is growing a fruit – I’m happy to say it’s still exciting, to see a fruit grow. Harvesting the grass from the wheat berries.

Perserve. Roasted, pureed and froze more sugar pie pumpkin. Roasted the pumpkin seeds.  More pumpkins are stored in the basement, waiting for processing. Drying mint, sage, oregano and apples.

A good friend of ours came for a short visit and we showed him our pantry (the canned jars, the sugar and the bags of flour, beans and lentils in the chest freezer). It made him so intensely happy, and he gave me a hug, congratulating me. What a great reaction!

Waste not. Made field bag out of DH’s torn pants and the usual (Freezing our Buns, etc.)

Want not. No want-nots.

Build Community Food Systems. Nope.

Eat the Food. We ate what we harvested. I made a yummy fish-lentil concoction with the frozen bouillabaisse left over from our fish stew feast several weeks ago. And our homegrown basil pesto went over really well with our guest. We did do a take out yesterday, of Chinese food, since neither of us felt up to cooking: a sure sign I don’t have enough ready-made, warm-it-up meals in the freezer.

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Plant. Nothing: our winter beds are full. We did improve the bedding.

Harvest. I didn’t plant any Fall vegetables, so I have few plants left in the garden: kale, chard, parsley. The peas and the beans are giving up in the seesaw of warm/cold, but I managed to harvest the last few. Harvested the three small green peppers from the plants I brought inside. Also oregano, thyme, and mint. Sprouting fenugreek, mung beans and wheat berries.

Preserve. At the grocery store bought 20 lbs of organic local potatoes on sale, stuck them in my new “root cellar” – a plastic garbage bin, a bucket of water at the bottom, some sticks on top of that as a frame, then the potatoes; it sits in the coldest part of our basement. Strung apples and hung them to dry above the wood stove (an experiment). Dried thyme and oregano. Froze vegetarian pasta sauce.

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Waste not. A friend gave us a humongous bag of acorns (thanks G!). Amie and I had a great time sorting them – though at time I understood what the ballot counters in the 2001 elections in Florida went though – and we were left with 13 lbs of acorns (in shell), for cracking, grinding, leaching and cooking with later. They’re stored in a dry part of the basement.

Want not. Following Sharon’s lastest food quickies, I bought a large box of yeast and 10 lbs of (unpopped) popcorn, all of which went into the freezer, and 5 lbs of salt.

Build community food systems. Nope.

Eat the food. At grocery store bought locally grown sugar pie pumpkins and made four loaves of pumpkin bread – a first. Brought the mint plant inside and am slowly defoliating it as I drink mint tea. We’re in soup, stew and chili mode now, and I take care to make leftovers for freezing. Love that winter food!

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Nothing much of anything happened this week: I’m a bit out of whack with DH gone, and I’ve also started working on the novel again (again!), while it snows. We had our first frost and our first snow, and the garden is in full Winter mode now.

Plant. Planted pak choi. That will be it for this year’s garden, I’m afraid. Started a few more sprout jars: I’ve got three going now.

Harvest. Last four carrots and three tiny eggplants, Swiss chard, kale, parsley from the garden. Fenugreek and wheat sprouts. I’m eying those four tiny green peppers on the plants I brought inside: they’re not growing anymore…

Preserve. Canned 4 pints of blueberry-basil vinegar I’ve had brewing for two months, then brought my big pressure canner downstairs, as no more produce flows in from the Farmers Market. I got the tiny chest freezer downstairs going and packed it with pounds of flour, rice, lentils, split peas, and seeds for sprouting. I am on the lookout for things like sugar pie pumpkins and potatoes on sale, for storing, but I guess I’d have to drive quite a bit further West or North to find good local deals. There are such big gaps in my food storage, it makes me quite despondent…

Waste not. The average temperature in the house is now 58F and I’m happy to say that, unlike last year, (when we averaged 63F), I’m having no problem with it. When it gets colder than that we start a fire. Amie is herself like a stove, she loves it colder, same as DH.

Want not. Aside from the freezer foods I also stocked up on elderberry syrup from Honey Gardens: there was a major sale on it at a local health food store, and I pounced. Amie gets two teaspoons of the stuff a day, and so far so good. I also got bought a cup of dried elderberries ($30/lb!), from which I want to make my own elixir or syrup.

Build Community Food Systems. None of this. I so wanted to go to the Massachusetts Relocalization Conference, but childcare fell through.

Eat the Food. We’re eating everything from the garden as it’s too little to preserve. Also started eating home-canned green beans and applesauce.

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Amie’s drawings of a flower and Amie in the garden

Plant. Did that!

First planted the hoop house frame, sewed the row covers together for the quick hoops (3 5×10′ covers make 1 10′ x 15′ cover), and ordered more row cover from Johnny’s.

Started sprouting fenugreek as an experiment – that count as planting, right? – and love it: so easy and yummy, a mini-garden right in my kitchen.

Planted Farmers Market peach seeds (Canadian Harmony) in a bed that will be mulched in Winter – whatever comes up in Spring will be transplanted into a pot.

The big one was transplanting into the hoop house beds the winter harvest seedlings: spinach, several lettuces, broccoli, kale, chard, purslane, parsley, mizuna, and mustard greens. Also the big broccoli plant, the two largest kale plants, and the chard plants from other beds. There also sowed more of the same plus claytonia, mache, tatsoi, and other hardy veggie seeds. Covered all these up with my row covers. I hope the clamps arrive soon so I can put the plastic up.

Harvest. Still chard, kale, carrots, green beans, lima beans, peas. And fenugreek sprouts:

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Preserve. Canning has slowed down since my Farmers Market closed. The last apples went into two quarts and two pints of unsweetened apple sauce with peel (a beautiful pink). Froze more vegetable stock. I got our tiny chest freezer going, stuffed with flour, rice and sugar, and tomorrow when it’s really cold will transfer to it some of the foods from our overstuffed over-the-fridge-freezer.

Waste not. We finally wrapped our hot water boiler. We also got a big load of beautiful and well-fitting Winter clothes for Amie from a friend (thank you!).

Want not. Split more kindling. Ordered 10′x 500′ of row cover (that’ll last us a couple of years).

Build community food systems. Our hoop house is extremely visible from the street :)

Eat the food. Ate everything we harvested and the freezer food is getting good rotation. I’m so tempted to open one of those peaches in syrup jars. We did order a take-out pizza one evening, though. Also drank our first glasses of raw milk.


Plant. Due to a miscalculation of the weather on my part – or the weatherman’s part? – I didn’t get to transplant the seedlings and sow more winter veggies today. Tomorrow, I hope. I did get to clean up the garden beds. Moved the pepper plants inside – but I will not call them houseplants, though, since houseplants invariably die on me.

Harvest. Swiss chard, kale, radishes (though maggots had already munched through most of them), green beans, carrots, peas, lima beans, last scallions, all the potatoes from the towers (Bintje) (made fries, not exactly the most ecological use of oil and electricity, I admit) and the last celery.

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garlic for honey garlic pickles, Caribbean peach salsa and beloved canner in back

Preserve. Started honey garlic pickles: garlic cloves, apple cider vinegar, honey and 12 weeks of waiting (simplest of recipes here). Processed 1/2 bushel (25 lbs) of Farmers Market Cort apples into 9 quarts and 3 pints of unsweetened apple sauce (unsweetened because I want to use it as a replacement for oil and butter in cakes). Canned 12 half-pint jars of apple peel jelly. Froze 90 cubes of vegetable stock made from veg scraps. Made and froze more mirepoix with carrots and celery from the garden.

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wood stash on porch

Waste Not. We pick up every stick that falls on our property for kindling,  and we learned, with the help of Roz and www.woodheat.org (here and here – the acting is hilarious) how to most efficiently build and maintain a fire (our neighbor’s chimney constantly bellows thick, gray smoke, and we are determined not to do the same).

Want not. Bought 25 lbs of sugar and 20 lbs of all-purpose flour – time to fire up that little chest freezer – the over-the-fridge freezer was getting a bit too full anyway. Reorganized all my seed packets.

Build community food systems. Again not so much “built” as “supported”. I gave my last egg cartons to the egg guy at the Farmers Market and signed up for his raw milk and farm-fresh eggs club. It was the last Market in my town, but there is a bigger one in the next town over that will be going on for a couple more weeks: I might go check it out.

Eat the food. Minced meat out of the freezer with fresh mirepoix, fresh homemade veg stock, homegrown scallions and parsley and (store-bought) tomatoes that were going bad made a nice pasta sauce for a couple of days. Some of the frozen mirepoix went into our seafood stew feast for 10, and we opened the first jar of apple sauce and the first jar of blueberry jam, both of which Amie loved and we’re still alive.

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In the balmy 60F weather I dug up the last two potato towers. All in all there were three bins, 4′x4′ each and filled up to about 3′ high. In one I had put 2.5 lbs of Salem, in the other two 2.5 lbs of Bintjes each. I harvested 1 lb and 1.5 oz of (terribly tasting) Salems a few weeks back. Yes, that’s a negative yield. We might as well have eaten our $8 worth of organic seed potatoes. And today I dug up 6 lbs 10.2 oz of Bintjes (which were $7.5 for the 5 lbs of seed). At least I didn’t come out negative on the Bintjes!

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That was one labor intensive, costly (all purchased compost, and the wood for the towers) and utterly useless gardening exercise. I’m so glad I blog. I was thinking, as I was seeing the disappointment growing on my digging fork, that I could at least get a funny blog post out of it. Well… funny…

Some of the plants had some tiny potatoes in the upper 2 feet of the soil, but most spuds were formed in the bottom foot, and most of these were undersized. I am guessing that if I hadn’t slashed down the blighty plants a month ago, or if they hadn’t caught the blight in the first place, I would have had a little bit of a larger yield, but not large enough to make it worth our while anyway. The soil was also wet and very heavy. Perhaps the tubers couldn’t grow even if they wanted to: too much pressure, especially from above (those useless 2 feet of soil). Maybe we placed the planks too tightly together, so there wasn’t enough drainage. But in the end I think we just don’t have the sun in that location for the sugars to be transformed into starches.

Well, two of the bins will be a depot for compost for more beds next season – they held blighted plants, however, so not for solanaceae.  The third bin will become a large compost bin. I’ll cover them with straw and a tarp during winter.

So here is my final potato tally:

  • TOWERS (in shady part of garden)

- Bintje (8′x4′x3′): 5 lbs seed > 106.6 oz (6 lbs 10.2 oz) = RATIO 1:1.33

- Salem (4′x4′x3′): 2.5 lbs seed > 17.5 oz (1 lb and 1.5 oz) = RATIO 1:0.43

  • BEDS (in most sunny part of garden, all equal amount of sun)

- Banana fingerlings (3′x5′x1′): 1 lb seed > 8.6 oz  = RATIO 1:0.53

- Keuka Gold (4′x4′x1′): 2.5 lbs seed > 135 oz (8 lbs 5 oz) = RATIO 1:3.375

- Dark Red Norland (4′x4′x1′): 2.5 lbs seed > 61 oz (3 lb 10 oz) = RATIO 1:1.5

The Keuka Gold, which were great tasting, were the only success. Maybe I should stick to those next time? Maybe I shouldn’t grow potatoes at all next year?

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first fire in wood stove

We lit our wood stove for the first time yesterday. The temperature inside was 62 F, so quite bearable, but we wanted to cure the stove while we could still open the windows, and get the hang of lighting a fire before the cold really kicks in. Going by this evening’s attempts, we’ll have to do a better job of sorting our wood, and splitting it a little more. Even after a year out there, some logs are still not dry enough.

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applesauce and apple peel jelly

I processed most of my half bushel of apples into unsweetened apple sauce. For some reason – because the canning book says “peel” and I am still such a novice that I feel I have to follow each instruction to the letter – I peeled the apples before boiling them. (Next time, no more, and that will save me a lot of time).

So that left me with a big mound of apple peels. Thinking of the vegetable stock I made earlier with peels and trimmings, I wondered if there was a “fruit stock” I could make with these peels.

I didn’t find anything like fruit stock, but I found an apple peel jelly recipe, over at the Backwoods Home Magazine – the irreverent jokes in which I enjoy a lot. I called up the orchard from which I bought the apples and they assured me their apples are pesticide free. So I stuck ‘em in a pot (two pots actually, there was so much of it), boiled them with water for 15 minutes, and set them aside for a night. Tomorrow I’ll finish and can them.

I was thinking I never used to be so frugal with food. I used to prepare and eat my food without thinking much about it. Even after starting the garden, I never thought of what I was doing as frugal. More like taking control of our food supply, shrinking our ecological footprint, re-learning skills that might be needed in the future, etc.

Making jelly out of apple peels, though, that counts as frugal. I’m very curious to try the result.

Riot for Austerity fist with Thermometer

Our Riot is almost a year old! It feels great to have come this far, and I can’t wait to tally up the yearly average. But first, month 11.

Gasoline. This went down a bit from last month because DH’s shuttle rides again.

9.55 gallons pp = 23% of the US National Average

Electricity. Our electricity went up a little because of all the canning on my electric stove. At 327 KWh of 100% wind produced electricity we used

9% of the US National Average

So we made the goal and are holding it there, but if we want to keep it at <10% over the entire year, we’ll have to come up with a solution for those big months, March and April, when the germination and seedling lights come on and stay on. Especially our hotbox – for germinating and growing on the heat-loving plans – will need an overhaul. What with the winter harvest and winter sowing I might also need less lights…

Funny, how nowadays when I wake up on a warm, windy day I immediately think: Laundry Day! On windy days I usually get two loads washed, on the line and dry by the evening.  It feels good not to use that dryer. As the weather turns nasty we’ll be hanging our clothes to dry in the basement, but I do like the outdoorsy smell more than the basementy smell :)

Heating Oil and Warm Water. Same as last month.

13.6 gallons = 22% of the US National Average

Though there have been a few cold days and nights (one at 37 F), we haven’t turned on the heating yet  -and of course we’ll be doing the Freeze Your Buns challenge again. The Indian Summer is keeping us pretty warm at the end of this month, so we also still haven’t test run our wood stove. It sure is good to keep the windows wide open for a little while longer.

Trash. After last month’s headaches about whether to count our construction debris for the Riot – and many helpful comments from the Riot group – we’re back to normal.

8% of the US National Average

I don’t know what to think about the fact that the company I buy organic mushrooms from (at the grocery store) has changed their containers from recyclable plastic (green) ones to fully compostable (black) ones. I’ve been chucking them into the compost bin and have found they break down fast. Which means I can no longer use them for growing seedlings – and they were the ideal size and depth. Now, I have some doubts about the “biodegradable” claim. Not that the claim is false – obviously not, in this case. But I doubt whether the container ends up in compost bins. It’s like the “biodegradable diapers”: consumers feel themselves absolved of all guilt when they throw that thing in the trash can, from which it will continue to the (anaerobic and pitch dark) landfill, where it will not degrade at all. Now I worry that consumers may think they no longer have to recycle these mushroom containers, that chucking them into the household trash will be enough. And so the result will be opposite to what the mushroom packers intended…

Water. Our water usage went up from last month (17%) due to two factos: canning demands a lot of water, and we also sowed grass seed that needed to be watered twice a day 9for a month, after that, no more watering EVER!). We don’t have enough water pressure in our rain barrels to water the grass with those, so tap it was…

638.3 gallons pp = 21% of the US National Average

Consumer Goods. Some new clothes for Amie, the Winter Harvest Handbook and Back to Basics for Mama, and an ipod for DH’s birthday, how fast that adds up: $430.

52% of the US National Average

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garlic for honey garlic pickles

Food. I am estimating that we now eat 80% local, sustainably grown (a small but growing percentage of it homegrown), 10 dry bulk foods (granola, dry beans, flour, etc.) and 10% wet and conventional (cheese and coffee, especially). Not too bad by Riot standards,  but of course this will change as the Farmers Market closes down…

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(Also check our Independence Days efforts.)

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Amie cans a quart of water

The Indian summer came, went, and came again. Last Friday we hit 37 F – cutting it pretty close – but yesterday it was 70F. It’s going to get cold again soon, though.

Plant. Moved (replanted) the 2 rhubarb plants, because in the end we chose their first bed as one of the beds to be covered by our winter hoop house. Planted 50 or so garlic cloves (3 varieties) next to the rhubarb. Sowed peas and planted onion sets for overwintering and early spring germination in outside beds. I’m investigating more winter sowing in containers here.

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some onions at least made it to scallion stage, the celery is thin but tasty, the carrots are small but super sweet

Harvest. From plants still going strong: Swiss chard, kale, peas, green beans, potatoes, parsley, basil, scallions, carrots and all the culinary herbs. Last ones: cucumber, eggplant, cherry tomatoes. Pulled most of the celery for mirepoix (with own and Farmers Market carrots and Farmers Market onions).

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Mirepoix in the Dutch oven

Preserve. 6 quarts of green beans, 3 pints of pickled cucumbers, 6 pints of peach pie filling  making the (preliminary) total of jars to 101… PLUS (just in) 5 pints of Caribbean peach chutney – and that‘s the end of the peaches. So 106. Froze 5 lbs of mirepoix (I first cook it in butter, until just soft; I just love chopping it up; and I could cook it every day just for the smell of it). Froze 2 quarts of vegetable stock made form scrap (mainly celery leaves).

Waste not. We had a largish party, during which I was planning to do an experiment: I was going to set out paper napkins and cloth napkins and see which were most popular. Then I noticed I was out of paper napkins, so cloth it was, and the defunct experiment was the talk of the evening. We also used metal cutlery and recycled and compostable paper plates. The ashes from the 7-hour ribs went into a ash-bin for the compost and soil improvement. Filling a large bag of veggie “waste” (e.g., celery leaves) in the fridge: once I have enough I’ll make veggie broth and freeze or can it. For the rest, we continue on with our usual stuff.

Want not. Bought more canning jars (for some reason there weren’t many 8 oz jars in my Freecycle/Craig’s List hauls) – they were on sale this time. Our toothpaste was on sale too, so now we have enough for a year. But nothing else. It’s pathetic – I really want to be better prepared, for flu or power outage or whatever, but my self pep talks on the issue fizzle out so fast. I wish I had a buddy nearby to do this with.

Build community food systems. Chatted with farmers at the Market, getting on a first name basis and getting nice discounts too – I never ask for them, and when they’re offered, I always ask: “Are you sure? I know it’s not easy for you…” Some tell me about how they are just scraping by, and I also get to see how competition among the farmers at the market plays out. It’s very educational. I also went to a Transition Town meeting, and local food is of course a large part of Transition (more on that later).

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100% homegrown "shepherd's pie" filling, to be topped with homegrown potato mash

Eat the food. Ate most out of the garden and whatever is left over from canning – one evening when it was just Amie and I, I had only green beans for dinner, almost an entire quart of them. Amie was so impressed: how can anyone eat so many vegetables!? We’ve eaten nothing from our canned stores yet: it will be special, cracking open that first jar.

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"See, I can do this, Mama, because I've seen how you do it!"