Friday, January 30, 2009

Shabbat Shalom

During dark days, there is still One who does not change, and who continues to guide through the darkness. Just a reminder to myself, when I look to tomorrow and wonder what will come.

Psalm 18:28 For You light my lamp; YHVH my Elohim illumines my darkness.

I light the candles tonight and am thankful for the week past, and a day of rest. And I thankful for the days to come and the opportunity to work to fill them with a renewed fervor, and renewed hope.

I hope you have a wonderful night and day tomorrow. I appreciate my friends here so much, and the friends I hope to make in the future. Thank you for your friendship!

From our house to yours, shabbat shalom :)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Peevish on Spending Packages

There, I went and did it. Politics AND religion, and all in the same post.

Run, run away now....(
I already hid the rotten fruit)

I've written and written. And deleted and deleted.

Here's what's left...(if you're feeling prickly or might be easily offended, just skip this post) ;-)

We're a spoiled nation and not used to working together.

We're separated by an ideological Mason-Dixon dividing line of differing paradigms.

We're being told as a nation that our future survival is an End Justifying The Means scenario...we are bidden to close our eyes and take a leap of faith into a morass of further debt in order to save the economy ...for the purpose of further bouts of spending???

Does the word Trillion even have a meaning? I can remember when people could not conceive of the term Billion.

Somewhere in here is a lesson we have not learned yet, and may be destined to keep repeating till we change at some very elemental levels.

I'll tell you this, though. I'm not comfortable with our extremes.

And I'm not enjoying seeing people being pressured to drink the Koolaid. I'm enjoying even less watching so many enthusiastically queue up for their turn at it.

It's too early for anyone to be an expert...we've never been down this road before. Some humility is in order. Some caution, trepidation, admission we're all on shaky ground together.

Stop the guilt appeals, the loathesome analyst-and-expert parade, and the hero worship. We need to LEARN the lesson rather than wallow in despair. If analysts and experts were always right, we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place. And we don't need to start speaking in tongues and falling down in worship whenever the word Obama is mentioned. I somehow think he would agree.

There is business to get down to doing just yet.

First, we have to refuse to turn our brains off. We have to make decisions based on what is wise and right from our own experience, not because of manipulation. We're not always going to agree.

I do not care what movie star gushes Hollywood's version of unity sermons; those people do not live in my reality but in an artificial high-school popularity-contest world. I don't make decisions based on "peer pressure." I voted for whom I wanted, and you were not my deciding factor either way. Do you honestly think I listen to you?

Grow up, Hollywood. You don't represent me or my views no matter how much Botox you've had or how young your latest husband is.
So tired of them.

And the other extreme? (Can we never agree on anything?) The Far Far Right..IS there even a far right any more, anyway? I feel so burned out by Bush. Burnt. Crispy. And am wary of those who would still have voted in someone like him. And anyone who would have led on with Business As Usual in his footsteps.
So very tired of all that, too.

I'm not fearful, or hopeless. But I'm very concerned.

I'm tired of the media blitz sensationalizing fear of this and fear of that, when the average family is already combatting the daily fear of how to keep their house or pay the bills after losing a job.

I feel like our nation is being offered immature solutions to adult problems and there is no wise elder to turn to for sound counsel.

The good news? I see so many of us forging deliberately toward self-sufficiency, simplicity, and responsibility...don't underestimate this resolve, this spirit, this foundation we're building against the tide. We're a small group, though, a minority as yet. But whether through necessity or desire, a growing group.

I see the majority of Americans still chasing an illusion that a leader or an economy can be their security, instead of their own choices, values, and self-sufficiency being the primary factors. I don't see our president insinuating himself into that role, but I see plenty of disciples in a misplaced messianic frenzy rushing to ascribe that sort of power to him. And speaking of things in this vein, God takes a bad rap. It's so popular today to bypass any mention of God and His role, too...or on the other hand to claim Him as a political endorsement. No one wants to claim Him when it's not politically correct, but His titles get used a lot to put the shine on speeches or public addresses.

Well back to presidential promised lands....No American president is my messiah. And he's not my pariah, either.

I do disagree with the spending package being put forth. I am bewildered at how I will be asked in the future to help pay it back. I reject embracing the bad advice to bankrupt my country further by borrowing more. Stock market, housing market, banking institutions, insurance companies...are not our salvation. I know no one wants to hear that.

I'm peevish about my nation rushing headlong into further financial disaster.

There are no easy answers for a nation or any network of interconnected world economies dependent on constantly consuming more and more. At some point growth hits a ceiling. Even the earth's own atmosphere has a ceiling. Even the fabled magic bean in the tale of Jack-and-the-beanstalk achieved its fullest height.

My Jack and I have to deal with reality, not risk-it-all experiments, in our own personal finances. I resent any outside force taking on exorbitant debt and expecting us to further "pay our dues" when we didn't contribute to it in the first place. WE did not leave any of our creditors unpaid or do things irresponsibly. Here at home, no matter what, we have to remain resolved about staying the heck out of further debt and paying off what we have left. Yes, with losses. Even if we lose it all.

We'll still learn and operate differently. But in time, I am confident come what may, Jack and I will have the payoff of freedom rather than the futility of a perpetual spending cycle we have to waste our efforts and life to maintain.

Well, enough of my little mood. I feel like someone just took all the hard work we've been doing trying to get out of debt, and mortgaged us back to the hilt and then some.

Oh, did I mention our lifelong insurance company just bailed on our ENTIRE STATE? Thank you so much, State Farm. I'm not sympathetic to your lame excuse that you'd have to increase our premiums 47% to stay solvent. I'm glad Charlie Crist told you to not let the door hit you on the way out. You should have factored the potential for natural disasters in before you ever set up shop hin this state...which is, after all, Florida, and we DO have hurricanes, hello??

I go now, to do as many of us are trying to do, and see if I can squeeze blood out of a turnip.

I am ready for self-sufficiency, simplicity, and sound reason to be our nation's target GNP.

P. S. Be careful out there... don't be carried away by the lemmings rushing to jump over the Cliffs of Insanity...
Photo copyright unknown. If I am infringing on a copyrighted image, I will gladly remove it!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup

You have to read THIS Washington Post article...just saw it today. There is mercury in a high percentage of foods made with high fructose corn syrup. And the public has not been aware, although the FDA has since 2005, according to this article.

There has been a HUGE ad campaign to mislead the public about the supposed "safety" of high fructose corn syrup.

I'd not seen any of these commercials since we don't have TV, but this summer during my MIL's hospice stay, I got caught up on what I'd been missing (said a bit tongue-in-cheek). I was really angered at the misinformation about HFCS and the way their commercials made it look like any question about its safety was due to ignorance.

Here's one of their commercials I first saw:

See? It's a classic "poor dumb guy" spot. Poor Dumb Guy is inarticulate and ignorant about HFCS, and is corrected by Smart Savvy Girlfriend. He is saved from his misconceptions about the differences between sweeteners.

Oh brother. First, get over the Poor Dumb Guy stuff. I hope women are a lot smarter than to believe all guys are idiots because of their unfortunate gender. Puh!! Myself, I prefer smart, sharp, informed guys and am guessing nearly all the readers in Informed Blogland do, too. None of this patting a guy on the head like a puppy stuff for me. I, frankly, appreciate the male of the species (vive le difference, I say!), especially the ones that failed Obedience Class and think for themselves. What a stupidly insulting stereotype...

Well, anyway, the strongest argument the girl in the above commercial has is a comparison with processed sugar??? Let's wake up!

Here's another YouTube, and it spoofs the above commercial. I enjoyed it ;-)

As funny as it may seem that this is being promoted as "healthy," high fructose corn syrup is no laughing matter. It's the #1 sweetener in the U.S. and is THE sweetener of choice in most processed foods. As we all know, the bulk of foods out there are processed.

And nowhere on the label does it indicate whether the HFCS was processed using a method that taints it with mercury.


We have to take charge of what goes on our plates, and into our bodies...

Of Crockpots and Sherbet Glasses.




For some sleep-deprived ramblings about crockpots and sherbet glasses strutting and fretting their hour upon the stage, and then are heard no more...a tale, told by an idio....(wait wait)

Well, here it is at today's WomenNotDabblingInNormal.

And now I'm off to get my day's sleep so I can work the red-eye shift ternite. I know how to spell tonight, but today, it's ternite.

(Wherein I will dream the dreams full of sound and fury, signifying nothing...)

Meaning in modern English I'm hoping for a NyQuil-induced near-coma in which I'll probably snore to beat the band.

And to think my English teacher was worried we'd never remember any Shakespeare, ha!

(I bid thee farewell 'til the morrow. And blah-thee blah blah) ;-)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Freeze Casualties

After the freeze here in Florida...

All the papayas, looking very dead...

All the tamarinds, days ago these were glowing green...

All the gynuras melted down to a brownish-green goo, except

...this one little baby one that had been covered by an old coir doormat.
The guavas that were in fruit...all but one...are toast. See the difference between the one that got covered and the ones that didn't...

This one had fruit on it... (look at pic closely to see)

All the coffees, even though they were on the can SEE their frostbite...

And my beloved coco plums, a plant I haven't written about yet here, but had great plans for...they're brown and crunchy now, their formerly robust green leaves are now crispy like potato chips. Note the difference between the freeze-damaged cocoplum below and the gardenia next to it, which was covered. Yes, the cocoplums were covered, too :( Before, they were loaded with blooms and beautiful developing fruits...

Other victims of the freeze:
The baby lychees
The starfruit/carambola...wahhhhh :( :(
The coconut palm
The porterweed bush
All the mangoes
The brush cherry
The avocado :(
There are more, I'm sure, and some of these may bounce back...we're not sure which, yet. I had no idea I was so attached to our little green babies.
The hardy survivors??
Amazingly, all the citrus...still even have their blooms. We DID cover them, but then we covered many of the above. (They smell fabulous, too...a very strange accompaniment as I surveyed the damage to the other plants)
The rosemary is thriving like nobody's business, as if it thrives on a good freeze.
The yerba buena is reigning supreme in its area of Bucketville.
The gardenias are fine.
The moringa is fine.
The pineapple plants looked a little off-color, but I believe they're fine.
And all the planted greens and lettuces are doing just fine! :)
Lest the blog be where only successes are documented, welcome to the setbacks.
Amateurish attempts notwithstanding, we've had many successes with our small-scale growing experiments. We're trying to learn what works for our growing zone, what plants are the hardiest sorts for us, and which ones we prefer for any number of other reasons. Ultimately, it's the plants that can take the most abuse that are most likely to survive our learning curve.
Freezing temps are the enemies of Florida crops...this we have learned.

There have been losses all along. Some seeds or starts never make it, even though they're suited for our zone. Maybe we planted them at the wrong time, or in the wrong sort of soil or light situation. Maybe we over/underwatered them. Maybe they just don't like being in pots as well as they would like being right in the ground.

Herbs have been this way. Some I was sure would grow well here just never took off. Other plants, such as the Cape Gooseberry and our Raspberry plants struggled along for a little bit, then bit the dust, as did one of the grapes. The Za'atar herb took one look at Florida and gave up the ghost. Others decided the summer heat was too much for them and promptly kicked the bucket.

Of the remaining hardy crowd, it appears a couple nights of freezing temps can do them in.'s like a punch in the stomach. We've talked about one day having a big enough greenhouse-ish situation to protect plants that are not yet in-ground (when we have our land, y'know...). When there is a freeze advisory, we put as many plants as possible on our back lanai and covered them with sheets and towels. Some had to remain in the yard, and some were covered others were not, due to lack of extra material to use as protection.

We're not sure which of these are casualties, and which will make a rebound, but all of these have been seriously damaged in the freeze from last week.
This is our first test of the lower temps. The plants that bounce back, or make a comeback at all, will stay. Hopefully there will be many! In a more permanent situation, we'll make a protected area for all the potted plants, and for the plants in beds, we'll have frost protective cloth where possible. Larger trees can often sustain different extremes than the babies, but any trees we plant in the ground will have to survive...I don't think we'll have any way to protect them from freezes except by situating them among other trees per permaculture recommendations.
I really hope the guavas and the cocoplums make a comeback. It's my hope we can build a small cottage industry around some of the plants that do well, and I do like the taste of guava. The cocoplums are unique to the subtropics, as well, and I hope very, very much to have some prolific bushes to harvest for experiments in tropical fruit jelly-making. The cocoplum pits can be roasted and eaten like almonds, too, which is also something I'd love to see if we could utilize.
Let's see what survives....
Ugh. The poor dead things... wahhhhh :(

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Little Procrastination Problem...


I mean no, I have not made my 2009 New Year's Resolution list yet. I'm still deciding if making one at all is a good idea at the moment. But there are things I do need to get better at doing, and along those lines... blog seems to be where memes and challenges go to die. I am often late responding to comments, though I read EVERY single one and do respond when I'm at last here for more than a minute or two. Yes, I do have a life, albeit a less intriguing one than some other bloggers who at any point in their lives may be

1. butchering various rare and heritage-ish farm animals before sunup
2. cooking home-grown organic and pastured slow foods for their family and an entire logging camp...before sunup
3. living on $5.00 a week like a queen/king
4. living self sufficiently in some remote location in a shelter hewn by hand using only a Swiss Army Knife, paper clip, and a roll of duct tape
5. living so lightly on the land that even the vapor from their breath is recycled and filtered for use as emergency drinking water
6. building so many raised beds and trellises that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon look amateurish in comparison
7. manufacturing their own gold from used car batteries using a secret family formula
8. going on yak-buying expeditions in the Himalayas while staying with indigenous families in their yurts

Um, our 5 gallon buckets somehow didn't make the list, but be it ever so humble, there's no place like home Bucketville.

But I digress...

I really love my friends in the blogging community. Please forgive my procrastination, which is sometimes forgetfulness. Or unawareness! I catch up on different blogs as I can, but long pauses happen and I miss out on being very timely sometimes.

Thank you to Angie at Children in the Corn for this November of 2008!!! (hiding head) How I missed it, I do not know, but er, ahh, I'm on it now! Thank you for this honor :)

And I resolve to get better about not procrastinating quite so much, or maybe just not getting quite so distracted or sidelined by early Alzheimer's and whatnot. Because I should always put off today what can be procrastinated till Scarlett said, "Tomorrow is anuttha day!"

Wait, I mean...umm...

Oh fiddle dee dee. ;-)

Anyone seen my keys?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This Could Be Fun!

meme from Karl, who got it from Naturally simple who got it from Tabitha:

The first five people to respond to this post will get something made by me.

I will try to make these be about or tailored to those five lucky people. This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:
- I make no guarantees that you will like what I make!
- What I create will be just for you.
- It’ll be done this year
- You have no clue what it’s going to be.

The catch? Oh, the catch is that you have to put this in your journal as well, if you expect me to do something for you! And please link to your blog so that I can visit and read in case we are new friends.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Seed Exchange

Procrastinator that I am, I'm just now getting the seeds together to send on to the next person on Howling Hill's seed exchange. I received mine from Annette at Ward House , and will be sending the package on to Grace at the GiveMeGrace blog. It should be in the mail either today or Monday, yay! (I'm enclosing the updated mailing list that was sent to me.)
This is the first seed exchange I've done, and looking at all the seeds was exciting! I chose a few seeds...okra, cinderella pumpkin, and egyptian walking onion. The seeds I'm contributing to the collection are winged beans (from ECHO), Seminole pumpkin mix (ECHO), and my own tamarind seeds.
Earlier, I made some homemade seed pouches by cutting up a couple standard letter-sized white envelopes, sealing the edges with invisible tape, and doing a quick watercolor wash on one side and letting it dry. It makes nice individual packets for seeds that can be written on and then sealed. I write the instructions on the back...if I have enough, it might be nice tucked in with a greeting card next year for the holidays as a small gift.
Thanks to HH for including me on this year's seed exchange. Let's see how our gardens grow!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Want This...

or this...

Sometimes our goal of getting out of debt first seems to be taking sooooooo loooooooong...

Hope there's another Samuel or William out there when that day comes!


Dreaming of dog days to come...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Redworker Wannabe

(clicking on pictures will enlarge)

I SO don't sew...

But I so appreciate beautifully sewn handwork and clothing. It's really a skill I need to learn.

I aim to begin slowly...with a needle. I used to cross stitch when I was younger. I can do that, but I'd like to learn other things.

Since the world "sew" makes me break out in PTSD flashbacks to high school Home Ec class sewing disasters (think mint green dotted swiss and stretch turquoise polyester as the foundations of two of the most memorable horrors), I need to steer clear of trying to CONSTRUCT anything just yet.

Some things take baby steps.

(Gratuitous What About Bob movie quote...) "Baby step to the elevator, baby step onto the elevator, baby step close the door.....pause......Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh.!!!!!"

So I tried a needle and thread. Hey, it's a start :) Especially if the thread is red.

I love redwork embroidery and the nostalgia it evokes. There's something about the pairing of red thread on a light background that is bold and understated at the same time, if the design is pleasing. I'm not sure what has drawn me to red, but I love redwork needlework, red-on-white transferware dishes (looks pink sometimes), and red touches intermingled with my household colors, no matter how subdued they may be.

It's like a little shout-out. Maybe it's just indulging that inappropriate urge I have in overly-solemn places that take themselves a bit too seriously (think hushed restaurant, museum, golf tournament...I know I know...) to shout "Wow!!" (ok, I don't actually do that, but I do sometimes amuse myself at those places by thinking of all the possibilities. Oh, and never have been to a golf tournament...for obvious reasons, ha)

Well, anyway, to me, strewing bits of red here and there in the home, garden, and life are like little wows punctuating the ordinary. Creation is gaudy with it...hummingbirds return to vermillion portals for nectar...human horizon-gazers at dawn and dusk drink long, satisfying draughts with their eyes of the smoldering crimson strata-and-cloud highways that spell sunset.

I wanted to try my hand at some redwork, and decided to practice.

I don't know how to officially do embroidery. I need to learn some stitches. The way I do it now is not to pull the needle through two holes in one movement, but to push through, pulllll the thread through, push through the next hole, pulllll the thread through, if that makes any sense. I aim for beginning the stitch slightly below the line and ending it slightly above, then beginning the next stitch from underneath half a stitch back.

So, in short, I have no idea what I'm doing! :)

I also didn't know I was using too much thread. After reading the instructions on some websites since finishing my first attempt, it says to use 2 or 3 strands of embroidery floss. I used (cough cough) six. And a needle that would accomodate that amount.

I pulled out an old pillowcase to practice on, so if I messed up, I could pick the stitches out and not worry too much about having ruined something nice.

I didn't have a pattern, and though there are plenty of great free patterns online, I decided to use something closer to home. I took a poultry catalog, found a couple pictures of chickens I thought would make a good silhouette, and enlarged them to the size I wanted on a copier. I'm not supposed to have chickens, but I'm intent on having the closest arrest me, ha!

I got some regular paper and traced the outlines in bold ink.

I used each traced image as a pattern by placing the cloth on top of it and lightly tracing over it onto the fabric with a ballpoint pen. My pillowcase fabric was thin enough to see the pattern underneath one layer of fabric.

After that, I threaded my needle and followed the design. This is where I could greatly improve my stitchwork by learning a stitch and keeping to the same one consistently. But even with no experience with particular stitches, it was very relaxing to stitch away some quiet time between rounds at work.

Though my stitches look a little rough, and I used too much thread according to the experts, it was a passable first try :)

And hey, I used one of the "official redwork colors" when choosing embroidery thread without even knowing it...DMC 817, woo! (not that I was sweating that, ha)

Here's a page all about redwork and how to get started. Or you can just do like I did and not hyperventilate about the finer points, and just try it and then decide what to tweak better once you've put a little thread to fabric.

In the future I might reuse this rooster and hen design and try filling in some of the negative spaces with red thread for more of a color blocked look. Or I can trace other things...anything, really...fruits, plants, flowers, favorite poetry or verses, silhouettes of loved ones...the possibilities are endless. Plenty of subjects to practice with!

If I actually planned to use the pillowcase, I'd make sure the images are sewn along the edge(s) for obvious reasons. I have an idea to make some quilt squares in case one of these days I get ambitious enough to make a quilt myself, but that's for a later try.

Here's a link to a couple simple stitches I'll probably be I can be an "official" embroiderer someday?? :) As in crossing something off my New Years resolution list?

Oh yeah...resolutions schmesolutions...LAH-luh-lahhh

I'm still working on the 2009 list. Trying redwork was on LAST year's list!

If you have any tips or advice for the amateur (me!) please feel free to pass them on...collective wisdom always welcome here :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Just Thoughts

I've just about had it.

I'm at the precipice.

Seriously. I think I'm entering my Solitary Yurt Dweller phase.

I watched Story of the Weeping Camel...and I felt jealous of a family of yurt-dwelling shepherds in the Gobi Desert.

Wordsworth wrote "the world is too much with us."

He was writing about the burden of self-imposed "progress"...a society spinning out of control by the force of its own innovations.

I exist in a world of periphery, and have felt for some time that that's the actual world. It's where all the Scratch-and-Dents collect to catch their breaths or be Not Quite, or to patch their wounds. It's where the clean-up seems to never end, but there is a comradery of humanity and imperfection.

What of the speeding, bleeding blur of Modernism and Progress that spews out its casualties like so much flotsam and jetsam at ever-increasing frequencies? This is not the life I can endure....tried it, but it's not sustainable, that speed, that acceleration. On the sidelines is where the real action percolates...the slower sort beyond employee of the month plaques, easier this, more convenient that, disposable everythings.

I just got back from a quick trip to... (It's becoming more bizarre)...the grocery store. Right there, above the refrigerated eggs and next to the kosher sauerkraut, a sign above a vacuum sealed stack of packaged food, "Ready-to-eat pancakes...fresher than homemade!"
(Have we truly sunk to this subterranean low of marketing suggestability??)
These were not frozen pancakes, or pancake mix, or pourable pancake batter...these were refrigerated the gourmet fridge pickles section. And just how does one get something fresher than homemade? eat it at the source before any preparation at all??

I opt out of eating live chickens or anything else fresher than homemade.

I go now to my rebellious and quickly-vanishing world of stirring my own pancakes, having a conversation on one of those old fashioned numbers called a wall phone, to catch up with people before their last names, zip codes, spouses, presidents, diseases, or jobs change again.

Here are the things I'm getting sick of being convinced I "need"...

A certain level of income.
A college degree.
Phone, any sort, especially with gadgets and options.
All on-grid appliances. Time-savers. Things with electric plugs.
More than two changes of clothes.
More than two pairs of shoes.
Makeup (that's pretty much gone now, anyway, in my case)
TVs, all electronics, including gaming and music devices.
House with mortgage. Oops, already said that!
Credit cards (even the paid-off sort), checkbooks, drivers' licenses, forms of I.D.
Entree and three vegetables three times a day.
Mail (with the exception of seed catalogs and snail mail from friends!)
Fashionable clothes.
Sheets, curtains, stuff. ( least the stuff)

I think I can do pretty well with a good sleeping bag, a can of Sterno, and couple of good pots, a roll of clothesline and the dried contents of the bottom shelf of my pantry. A good water source. Something for soaping up myself or my clothes periodically.

Oh, and some sort of gun that shoots ratshot. So I can sit on the front porch and take aim at any IPods, GIS, Blackberrys, or other atrocities of progress that parade down my street.

I hope my husband gets home soon, before he finds I've hauled all our household belongings to Goodwill, traded our house via craigslist for a year's supply of good tarps, and there's a camel standing in the empty garage.

I'm in a mood, and just in time for shabbat (and some much-needed rest...can you tell??) Let's see if this, too, shall pass.

(I secretly kind of hope not...)

Everyone have a restful shabbat...hug the ones you're with! :)
shabbat shalom!

Brief update. I've had a few hours of sleep since writing this post.... Ummmm...?? Well, I guess I explored my inner ascetic? I'd make a "kinder, gentler" list upon more rested reflection, but I do often ask myself when all these "needs" became so concrete. Not that I want to work a pump handle or haul buckets when I need water, and I sooooooo love a hot shower or bath! And that soft bed came in really handy right now, ahhh :) Well, Yurt Robbyn lurks inside to tame the more spoiled version of myself from time to time, which is a good thing. And at last check I found one happy husband relaxing in the living room, and no camel in the garage...



Later note: Thank you to Latigo Liz for this Lemonade award for Attitude/Gratitude...I'm grateful!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Angie's Fabulous Gourd Creations!

Look what Angie/Farm Mom from the Children in the Corn blog made!

She's the featured guest writer over at Women Not Dabbling in Normal today, and she shared her tutorial on some of her great gourd creations. You'll want to head over and check this out!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

And They're Off!

Day eight, radishes in the lead, mustard gaining on the red leaf lettuce, other leaf lettuces and red kale in third, chard loping along for a pleasure ride and all the others never left their comfy box stalls. Yet.
Salads, your day approaches...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

ECHO Global Farm Goat House

It's taken me a while to post more of our pics from the ECHO test farm tour. Their test farm is amazing and approximates several different types of climates in order to develop multi-purpose crops using low-tech sustainable methods to be used in developing countries. Many of the planting techniques and actual under-utilized plants Jack and I've been interested knowing more about are featured was exciting seeing so many all in one place!

This was their goat house. There was so much to fit into the tour, and we didn't get unlimited time to poke around and measure and fiddle to our hearts' content, but here's what we were able to gather at the time...

The structure was made as a solution to many third world farmers' to raise goats on small land parcels without sustaining damage to crops. Goats are an important animal in many cultures, useful for milk, meat, skins, bartering, and sometimes fiber.

ECHO's goat house was their working solution: an elevated structure made of found materials or available wood. It is large enough to comfortably accomodate several small to medium-sized goats, and the wooden slats are substantial enough to be strong, and are spaced to allow for air circulation on all sides...but to keep predators out. There was a feeding trough along one side, and the slats were spaced to allow goats to extend their heads to the trough for eating forage, but not enough to allow the goats to escape.

Beneath the troughs, trimmed limbs and forage leaves/plants were piled. As the goats finished what was in the troughs, the trimmings could be easily rotated upward to refill the troughs.

It's hard to tell in these pictures, but the building was positioned raised above a dirt slope. Animal droppings fall through the floor slats to the ground below, and are raked down the underneath slope into the open to be collected and used for fertilizer. Any uneaten twigs and branches from the fodder are put into the compost pile.

We've never had goats, but know enough about them from others to know they're talented escape artists. We weren't able to study the structure to see how they're prevented from getting out, but it's obvious this structure works well and has been used successfully for some time. The goats did not seem crowded, seemed to enjoy being higher up off the ground and in the shade rather than direct sunlight. And there was no way they'd ever be standing on wet ground.

Several forages are used for is moringa, a multi-use tree good for animals and humans. Here is a stand of moringa, harvested 7 times a year (if memory serves) by what seems to be a coppicing method (or is it a pollarding one?) since the tree trunks are cut at regular intervals after harvesting their quick-growing branches. These can be fed to animals such as the goats, for fodder, harvested for human consumption (leaves), or for low-tech water purification (leaves again). Here is a stand of coppiced moringa trees. The trunks are 2 to 3 feet high and the branch growth was about waist high or so.

Here is a mature moringa, a different variety than the above. This one stores water in its trunk and can endure punishing drought.

That's all for now...we enjoyed seeing their solution to the goat dilemma. Goats can easily decimate a garden, yet this goat house situated in close proximity to surrounding gardens kept the cycle beneficial to not only humans, but supplied the goats with fodder that otherwise would have been a plant waste. In eating them, the goats gained nutrition, produced fertilizer and milk, and the garden benefitted again, continuing the circle.

More ECHO fun to come, as I have time to post!

Found Treasure: Musquee De Provence

I was at a different supermarket just before sundown on Friday late afternoon, rushing to get a few last-minute items before shabbat. Can I just say I WILL be going back there again?? Out-of-the-way grocery, where have you been all my life??

In the frozen section, bags of mixed tropical veggies, ALL of which I put into my hubby's favorite calabaza soup...and very affordable. Now I don't have to buy all six items and worry about spoilage if they don't get used up in time. The prices overall for everything were lower, the square footage smaller, the selection larger, quantities smaller, meat fresher, health food section broader, and the fresh produce didn't have that pre-packaged pall about it. Hmmm...maybe I was just broke and hungry?

They still had winter squashes, too...something my nearer store does not. I found a calabaza, but then...oh THEN look what I found...

It was unmarked. I thought I knew what it was, but the checkout clerk did not. I'd have to wait till I got home to confirm my suspicions. hope hope hope hope

I've never seen one up close and personal... (the white patches are where the label came off and left some paper behind.)

and if you love mottled, mixed-media-colored, combination opaque-and-frosted-looking, deeply ribbed garden art in the form of winter squashes...this is it. I had to get it and to see if it matched my guess from only seed catalog dream list photos...

(yes, this is still my hanukkah tablecloth. so I'm the sort who hasn't changed out the holiday stuff yet... you should have seen how long my christmas tree stayed up in the days before I became Jewish, ha! I think February was a record...but I digress)

Here's a closeup of the squash art...are these color gorgeous or what?

I pulled out the seed catalog to see if my hunch was right...and...

sure enough...Musquee De Provence!! SCORE!!

I'll post an update when we actually eat it...we'll do the taste-test deliciousness scale once I can bear to stop gazing at it and muster enough courage to cut into it. And those seeds SHALL be saved, ohyestheywilllllllll....

I'm such a heirloom veg junkie.

More later...just had to share the sickness :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More About Yerba Buena

This herb made its new home at our house last April (here's the first post from then). It's Yerba Buena, or Jhibbaweena, depending on your accent ;-)
To read more about it, you can head over to my post today at Women Not Dabbling in Normal. Yerba Buena, a wild indigenous mint, is a very versatile addition to nearly any garden, thrives in many zones, and is a worthwhile standby in the herbal medicine cabinet, soothing bathtimes, or beverages such as the mojito ...check it out!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In Case You Wondered...

...where the fat jolly guy goes after all the deliveries. Don't be fooled by that frozen plastic smile...he's catching some rays near the sunny coast. He's for sure got everyone else beat for the most snowbird mileage.

And of course right next door is his preferred milk-and-cookie alternative. (I can vouch for the apple fritters...) I'm thinking he carbs up here with Elvis now and then.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

First Starts, Garden 2009

Meet our 2009 kitchen salad bar!

We hope to actually get a few things into the ground on the lot next door this year. But of course we'll continue using our containers to grow things, too. If you've read this blog at all in the past, you're likely aware we use 5 gallon buckets for a lot of the plants. Recently, I found these...

Buckets, meet bins.

There was a sale at Home Depot.

There are now fewer bins there to meet the public demand. They were too good to pass up, being that they were CHEAP, durable, deep, and much wider than, say...a five gallon bucket. Yes, I'm guilty as charged...

Jack is the green thumb around here, and due to his persistence and attention, we've still got a lot of buckets going in Bucketville. In fact, if anything bites the dust, in the time it takes for a brief moment of silence to give tribute to the casualties of our learning curves, he's usually stuck another start, seed, or volunteer plant back into the bucket as a replacement. He's enjoying the discovery of how satisfying it is to nudge little green things into a good start in life, and I enjoy seeing all his successes!

I'm getting my shot at planting a little bit right now...usually Jack is the master gardener. Who doesn't love playing in the dirt, I ask you??

Today, the bins got planted with:
leaf lettuces,
komatsuma greens,
two kinds of table radishes,
red kale,
and red chard...yum :)

Oh yeah, and a big thick horseradish root!

(and elsewhere, some empress nasturtiums and mammoth sunflowers... stop me, I'm outta control...)

As far as the salad plants in the bins, I planted them a little thickly so the initial ones can be thinned for baby salad greens and then the others can mature into some cut-and-come-agains for salad. Now for the waiting to see the little babies emerge :)

I started this blog journal in 2006 (hard for me to believe!) and that summer I tried growing a few tomato plants in pots, a couple of eggplants and peppers, and some lettuces in flats.

Here is a pic of those first tomatoes...(2007 brought a new camera...these are with the old one)

I experimented with different repurposed containers -- everything from milk crates lined with paper grocery bags, old boxes, box tops for flats, basically anything that would hold soil...with mixed success.

Even though a job change commenced and the lettuces and tomatoes limped along, even this small amount provided us with a fresh salad everyday and the tomatoes...not any fancy varieties, but mixed multicolored ones...outdid anything we would have normally turned to in the supermarket. The difference in tomatoes alone was made us WANT salad :)

In 2007...well, it was an overwhelming year in some respects. When we decided not to grow a seasonal garden, I turned more to kitchen and household experiments, and Jack kept bringing home throwaway 5 gallon buckets, cleaning them, mixing up soil stuff, and putting his hand to different other outdoor leanings. The birth of Bucketville...

We made a concious decision last year not to put in a seasonal garden, but to experiment growing longer-growing things such as baby trees, tree seeds, some individual this-and-thats to see how well they'd do in our zone, and some multi-use plants we need to experiment with on a small basis to see if they're something we want more of. We also started with some herbs.

We moved on to plants indigenous to this zone worldwide...many that were native here, in fact, but have lost popularity due to convenience produce markets. We're exploring ethnic markets when we can, trying to learn different uses for the different parts of plants we'd assumed there was only one use for...experimenting with our own tastes and health needs. This has been fun!

It goes to show, we're only as limited as our imaginations most times. Things WILL grow in buckets (even ugly old paint buckets, ha!)

This year, we're back to wanting to grow some seasonal things and expanding a bit further.

Lessons learned with the container planting so far?

1. don't try to grow two tomato plants per pot (definately!),
2. boxes disintegrate quickly (which can be bad or good depending on how we're using them,
3. it pays to have good soil, and for containers to have a soil mix that drains well
4. we need a good source of compost and natural fertilizer,
5. many plants need some sheltering from our hottest sun exposure,
6. water EVERY day (here),
7. there are going to be invasions of plant-eating bugs so we need to know how to work with that, 8. it helps to have a supportive spouse,
9. if you place heavy containers right on the soil, you'll have to plan on moving them frequently to mow under them unless you've put down a barrier,
10. always place a barrier under the pot between the soil and holes in the pot or termites might decide they've found their Hilton
11. native plants are a good fit usually
12. keep roughly to our recommended planting zone
13. repeat #9 until you finally get reallllyyyyy tired of moving heavy pots back and forth
14. clay pots are expensive. we realize if we can garden on the scale we want there will be nothing on our lot but house and garden...a longer term plan must be decided upon
15. some things just aren't going to do well. Others will. We try to optimize and go with the ones that seem to grow well despite the abuses of weather and climate

Back to January 2009...

We've debated about putting in raised beds, etc, but since we're situationally up in the air with some circumstances and don't know if we'll have the house on the market in the near future, we're having to keep the lawn area more conventional rather than digging it all up (which is what we'd do if we were going to be here longer.) Blah blah blah, anyway we want reusable containers for now (that we could take with us if ever the need be), and containers can be expensive. That's why free used 5 gallon buckets filled the bill so well last year. But at over 100 of them now, my girly self is craving something more aesthetic and more surface space.

As I drool over seed catalogs, renting a tiller and planting a green manure crop for some tilth and mulch to plant into calls with its siren song. How DOES one trim a wish list from three pages to one?? ;-)

We're SO new to this...WHEN to plant, WHAT to plant, what not to do. Hopefully this year we'll work out some of the kinks.

Any advice for the new kids? I know so many of my blog-0-sphere buds out here have years and years over us in experience. What's your advice for the likes of us newbies?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Jayedee's Giveaway

If you're interested in a chance at a $25.00 gift certificate to a great heirloom seed company, you'll want to head over to Jayedee's place.

I'm dreaming of heirloom tomatoes, squashes, okra, cowpeas and beans! (happy sigh...)

That's all for tonight,'s about sundown..

Shabbat shalom!! :)

Sorghum 'n Biscuits

I've been craving sorghum lately, that thick sweet slow-pouring lava flow of dark mineral richness.

I ate it when I was growing up, the syrup stirred with a pat of butter and slathered over biscuits. A little goes a long way -- it's dark, smoky, fortifying.

I couldn't find sorghum at the market so had to substitute molasses this morning. Close...but I'll still keep looking.

Sorghum is a crop that does well in these parts, and I'm slowly looking into it more. The grain type is said to make a nutritious flour. I'd like to find some or make some and experiment with it to see how to best incorporate it. Sorghum syrup hails from the deepest of my Deep South Grandpa's working mules were named Sog'rum and M'lasses.

Nothing deep to report here....just cleaning up from the momentary drop biscuit-fest and the jolt of liquid iron I think I needed (there are mixed reviews on the healthfulness of molasses and sorghum, but with such a long tradition in the South, I'll stick to my forbears' ways as regards this subject...and polish off the test subject with enthusiasm!) A little goes a long way...only a few bites, and I'm full. And now for a moment or two on the back porch, just me and my hot mug of Constant Comment...ah :)

A perfect start to a day off...and a new year...

hope you're enjoying your day!

Happy New Year to all :)