Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Canning and Preserving: A Beginners Giftaway!

I was traveling through a series of lovely blogs when I came upon a great one called The Simple Woman's Cannery and Garden. I am planning on canning a lot this summer and I am excited to find it. She happens to be doing a very thoughtful Giftaway for those beginner canners or maybe those who just need some new stuff. To be entered you must visit this link and comment on her post. In addition you must add a link to her blog from your own. Make sure to take time to visit her other blog The Simple Woman.

In my canning/preserving plans this year so far:

-Blueberry Jam (from our backyard blueberry bushes)
-Blackberry Jam (blackberries free from a friends farm)
-Tomatoes in various forms (from my garden and friends gardens)
-Pickles (I am growning lots of cucumbers in hanging baskets this year)
-Saurkraut (even if I have to buy some to add to my few homegrown cabbages, homemade saurkraut contains the beneficial lacto-fermenting bacteria that are killed in pasturized store versions)
-Green Beans (pickled and plain)
-Corn (if I get some free or for very cheap)
-Applesauce (A friend with an orchard and the cheap boxes at the local market work great)
-Pears (Another friend with too many)

I really want to try some more traditional methods of preserving such as other lacto-fermented foods, drying, and storing (roots, squash, and potatoes) because I know some of the nutrients are lost when things are canned. However, I think that canning is still worth it for my family, especially when the produce I am able to get is free or at least cheap and I can control what goes in to the cans. There is no doubt the end product is far better than a can from the store shelf. Besides they look so beautiful on a shelf. What a display of God's providence!!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Square Foot Gardening Continues

My husband added the soil to the beds and I laid out the grids. It was so nice of him to do it before going to work (not on his top ten things to do with his spare time I am sure). I have yet to secure them together and therefore I was not concerned with getting the squares exactly 12" yet. The laths will be secured with some small machine screws and bolts put through holes I will drill at each intersection.
The plants will go in tomorrow since the weather is quite windy and cold. I would feel bad putting the little plants in the ground with such shocking conditions. A little sunshine will make the transition so much nicer.
Since this is my first attempt at any serious sort of gardening, I will surely make a million mistakes. If you see any major ones, that I can fix, or do differently next year, let me know. I would appreciate any feedback and or advice.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Square Foot Gardening

This year I am trying the Square Foot Gardening Method. I needed an organized and simplified way to jump into the world of growing food. It was overwhelming to me how much information there was and how many different methods could be used. This method, as found in Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening is almost too simple. I am so excited!! It isn't a huge garden but a lot can be grown in this amount of space. Someday, as I add more beds, I hope to be growing enough to supply the family's vegetables for the summer and to store a good amount for the winter. I'll keep updating, as I can, with my progress.

So far I have:
- made the 4X4 boxes
- laid them out with a weed barrier beneath (shown in the picture)
- bought and mixed the soil mixture (1/3 Vermiculite, 1/3 Compost, 1/3 Peat Moss)
- purchased some starter plants and the seeds I need

Tomorrow I will:
-put the soil in the beds (with my husbands help - yippee!!!)
-put in the plants

This Week I will:
-make the chicken wire cages to protect the plants
-make and buyt any support trellises or cages

Since I am too late for a spring crop I hope to get a good summer crop and then at the end of summer I'll replant for a fall crop.

Thanks to Anne at her blog for the info. she shared on start-up cost. I look forward to seeing her garden grow and how our two gardens compare.

A word to the wise: If you are doing 4 boxes by yourself, spend the extra time to divide the soil components into three batches and then mix. It is back breaking work trying to mix it all at once (You'd think I would have been able to guess that after lifting the bags to the car.)

A Really Great (albeit long) Video: How Much Food Can I Grow?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How Many Times...

I think that I have pledged a new beginning on this blog at least three times, and here I am about to do it yet a fourth. From now on however, for those who read (and I know there are few of you out there, especially considering I haven't written anything for half a year), I will post as I can, with little care for a sense of order. This blog is to be my scrapbook/notebook of sorts. Perhaps you will find some lovely things to uplift your spirit and some resources you didn't know of. God bless.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Gap Between Ideals and Reality

A fellow blogger just posted about some lovely books she purchased that are full of information about how to lead what I would consider the perfect life. By that I mean a healthy beautiful life connected to the Church, community, home, and family. She asks rhetorically, "Should a person with so little time even think about buying these?" I think many of us feel this way. Should we even think about adding one more iota of information to our already unattainable ideal life?

I think the answer is yes, and I assume so does she, because she did buy the books. I say, "Good for her!" We should at least dream of the way things should be and make little steps toward what we want. Knowing that somewhere in the world someone still knows how to do the things we hope to be able to do gives some comfort not to mention inspiration.

As for me, right now, I am tired of there being such a huge gap between the way I think life should be and the way it is. Some of it is in my control and I really just need to take the plunge. But some of it I can't do too much about. An area that I think is most essential to a good life is food. What should be a simple topic is full of conroversy. For example, we can't even legally buy real milk or afford to feed a large family on organic produce. In terms of overall cost (including the cost to the environment and people's health) it is better to eat local organic produce (especially homegrown) and drink raw milk from clean healthy pasture-fed cows on an organic farm. These are small things compared to many problems in society, but they are indicitive of our loss of culture and our loss of priorities. Big business wants more product for more profit and they cut corners where it helps them (like deals with the pesticide company) and short-changes the consumer (like adverse health effects and reduced nutritional content). Similarly the consumer wants products at "Wal-Mart" prices and whenever they want it (like produce out of season) in nice convenient packaging.

I think the disspearance of the family cow is a good illustration of how the gap between a beautiful natural life and the consumer-oriented life most of us lead got so big. Having a cow ties you down. You have to slow down, focus on getting things done and keeping the animal healthy, you have to nurture it, and everyone has to pitch in. Unless you have a very generous neighbor, you can't leave for a vacation and let Bessie milk herself. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is a trade off sure, but in return you get a faithful animal that provides some of the most nutritious food available (raw milk and cheese), and you place family life and family health first. Not to mention the closeness to nature that increases our awareness of God's providence. A connection to the source of our food that keeps us humble.

Some may say I am exaggerating but I don't think so. That is not to say that we should all have a cow out back. Most of us can't right now and many of us wouldn't want to. But I think we should do what we can to support local dairies and farms and start spending our money on real food that fosters real culture.

For those who would question me I suggest you read this book:

Someday I hope to be out milking my own Jersey. I pray God gives me the strength to make the break from my "Wal-Mart" ways to live the life that I dream of.