Monday, December 22, 2008

Snowed in & loving it!

We're snowed in here in western Oregon. It's really pretty!



Our sky was all orange tonight so it made for some really pretty pictures.




More snow...



This one is blurry but I really liked the artsy style of it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Questions


1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Neither - we use reusable packaging items (baskets, pillowcases, etc).
2. Real tree or Artificial? Real and as HUGE and untamed as possible.
3. When do you put up the tree? The week before Christmas so it lasts until Russian Christmas (the fiance is Russian).
4. When do you take the tree down? After Jan 6th.
5. Do you like eggnog? Maybe. But most likely I would take a sip and remember why I never buy the stuff.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? Not sure.
7. Hardest person to buy for? The fiance and my oldest son - neither give me lists.
8. Easiest person to buy for? My mom.
9. Do you have a nativity scene? No, but I've given a bunch as gifts. Does that count?
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Ha. Neither. Call me Scrooge.
11.Worst Christmas gift you ever received? My parents wrapped a watch up in a giant box with paper and bricks in it and tricked me that it was a saddle. It was awful. I did NOT get the saddle.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? The Bishop's Wife or Miracle on 34th Street (1947).
13. When do you start shopping? Usually it's right after Christmas the previous year, but this year we are being poor and giving ONLY free things. Now before you get all in a tizzy...let me 'splain. I work in the movies industry and get movie samples almost every day. I am giving a season of Monk, CSI, Las Vegas, Law & Order, Lost, Lexx, and 4400 to random family members (I have more too! yay). I love my job.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Oh yeah.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Gingerbread cookies.
16. Lights on the tree? Hundreds, maybe a thousand or more white lights in various shapes and sizes.
17. Favorite Christmas song? I love Christmas music too. I play the local station from the day after Thanksgiving until New Years. They play ALL Christmas music all of the time. My fave song is anything on the George Winston Winter CD. I know that's not traditional fare but well...it is what it is.
18.Travel at Christmas or stay home? We always go to my mom and dad's huge farmhouse and have a huge party with about 16 - 20 people.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Not without *Google*.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? A white metal Eiffel Tower...
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Eve at my parent's house, then we come back to our house and open more (it's 2 AM!!) then in the morning we have our stockings.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? The need to over-do, over-spend, over-decorate. UGH. That said, you should see my tree, it's glorious!
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? White, Silver, Red, Gold. It has to sparkle and shine. Also our collection of Hallmark Ornaments are scattered all over the tree. These range back to 1979!! I tell ya, we have to have a huge tree or else the ornaments wouldn't all fit.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? The traditional fare...but I am trying to talk the family in to doing Indian food this year.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? A better barn for my goats, peace on earth, and a happy family, oh yeah - and to live on my sustainable micro eco farm happily ever after.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Now I know why I LOVED the Billy Goat Gruff story when I was a kid!

Seven Nubian does and two doelings showed up at the farm yesterday; and as soon as my son gets home with his camera I will post the pictures of the girls.

We estimate that between February and March somewhere between 22 and 27 babies will be born. Yikes. And to top that bit of daunting news off, is the fact that one of the does had 5 (YES 5!!!) babies last year. Uhm.

Oh my.

I guess I really am in the goat business.

One little brown doeling fell in love with my 18 year old son yesterday. She followed him everywhere and gave him longing glances when he was on the other side of the shed he was building for them. We have renamed her Elizabeth and we joke that she is our son's new girlfriend. She's very cute, but somehow I think this relationship isn't going to go very far :o).

My fiance is a city boy. I mean, seriously a city boy. He has no farm experience at all but I am learning that he is very open and willing to my farm inclinations.

Yesterday as he worked on the shelter for the girls, they massed around him - helping him - and he just looked at me with the biggest smile on his face and said "I like goats!!"

He also keeps showing up with goatmilk yogurt, kefir and milk from Whole Foods. He's really getting into this!

Stick with this channel for the most up to date dairy goat adventures that money can't buy!

Cheers,
Heather

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A milking we shall go




First off, I am sorry I have been so remiss in my posts. It's 4th quarter and I work for a major chain of stores that really wants to make some money, so I am a wee bit preoccupied working on that.

However, that hasn't stopped me from accidentally finding a herd of dairy goats to buy. Yes, me the girl who lives in the city still has just agreed to purchase 9 Nubian does, most of whom may be with kid.

Luckily this is where the family farm comes in. And my wonderful dad who is retiring next year...he will become the reluctant goat farmer hehe.

You see, there are about 2 acres that overgrow with bushes, grass, tree starts and blackberries every year and these wonderful girls will clear it for us and make us lovely milk.

Lucky they come with their own keeper. His name is Luis.

I am going out to the goat's current home on Wednesday to work out the details of their purchase.

I am - now - one step closer to the dream of becoming a farm girl once more.

Yay.

Friday, November 7, 2008

change.gov

Go here President Obama's Website and see what great things are in store for us.

PS I am thrilled beyond belief about the results of the election on Tuesday.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Turn your heat down willya?

Are you tired of paying for the Natural Gas or Heating Oil company exec's new cars? Are you annoyed that your heating bill has gone up and is going to go higher? Me too.

I say let's stick it to the man and turn our thermostats down. Oh and the whole reducing your carbon footprint thing? Well that will just happen naturally if you play along with me.

Here's our current situation - hopefully some of my solutions will help you too.

We live in a 1500 sf tri-level 1969 ranch. All our windows and doors are original and the insulation is minimal at best. Until this summer, we had zero insulation under the floors and they used to get icy cold!

We had the crawlspace insulated in September (as deep as the rafters are...but I forget the R value, I think 17). In Oregon we rarely get snow or ice, and even more rarely have the temps drop under 30. But in an old drafty house like this one, mild weather doesn't help at all! It's still hard to keep it warm.

Here are a few things that I am working on to help offset our heat needs this winter.

I have collected old linen tablecloths and sheets from yard-sales over the years. I am turning them into multi-layered curtains. First I stitch a rod pocket into the tablecloth and slip it over a tension rod that is placed on the inside of the window frame. Then I stitch up a double thick top curtain of a sheet, tablecloth or whatever I have handy. I place those on a rod that extends outside the window frame. That way there is dead air between the layers of curtains (dead air = insulation).

I am going to make window quilts this year from sheets and old blankets (just sandwich the blanket inside the sheets and voila, quilt) for the two sliding doors and huge picture window. They ooze cold when the weather turns. I like to make the top layer of my curtains really snazzy so the house still looks all cute (but frugal) hehe.

We are also layering rugs on the hardwood floors in the bedrooms to stave off chilly toes. Same in the living room, but we have carpet and new insulation. So the extra rugs are just extra coziness.

We have an unusable fireplace that sucks warm air out of our house...so we put a yard-sale find super heavy 1950s style bookcase on the hearth and have blocked the draft and created a nifty place to store the baby's books.

We also spent time this weekend pulling all outlet and switch covers and placing foam inserts inside.

Next up is a heavy blanket for the kitchen/ garage door...it'll make a huge difference in the house I am sure. My dad has done this for years and it really is amazing how warm the kitchen gets once the door is insulated.

Cooking at home helps heat your house for free. A pot of boiling water or soup, or some potatoes in the oven really heats our house up.

When we are done baking, or the dishwasher finishes its cycle we open them and let their heat flow into the house. We also let warm water from the bath sit in the tub until the water cools.

Add to all these things a nice cozy sweater and socks, and a fluffy blanket for the couch and it won't feel so bad when your thermostat reads 63*.

As part of the Freeze Yer Buns Challenge we've comitted to no more than 65* during the day and 50* at night. We have zillions of blankets and we co-sleep with the baby so it should be fine.

As another blogger so aptly said - I'm looking forward to the overpayment notice from NW Natural Gas in the spring when my equal pay bills for the winter all level out.

***Addendum - I also use the sun to passively heat my home by opening all the south facing curtains when it is sunny out in the winter. It's really incredible how much heat the sun puts out when it is magnified through glass.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I <3 Oregon! My ballot came in the mail today!

I ripped the envelope open and double checked to see if Obama really was on there.
Guess what? He was!

Only 17 more days...

A note to all (whatever party you belong to): Please vote. You have a right to be heard.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Shameless Pig Exploitation! ((more of the Dream))

I'm not going to try to take credit for the fantastic idea that I am about to bestow upon you. I read it somewhere in passing. I 'want' to say it was "Five Acres and Independence", but I recently checked it out from the library and didn't seem to find it in there.

O.K. enough with the disclaiming...

On with the idea!!!

I was thinking about the 22 acres at my mom & dad's and how best to use them. I mentioned before that 2 acres or so are covered in blackberries, overgrown fruit trees and whatnot. My parents usually have a large garden each year too. But the land has to be reclaimed from mother nature every season. Seriously, in the Willamette Valley if you do not mow, the grass will be 6 feet high by May. So this is where my ultra-clever, semi-swiped-from-someone-else idea comes in.

If you are reading this blog, chances are that you know about little things like crop rotation to foil pests and disease. But in case you don't, I am going to explain it in great detail.

Stop me if I go too fast ;)

In nature, multiple plants are in the same genus - so tomatoes, peppers, nightshades, potatoes, and tobacco are all related. Brassicas are cauliflower, broccoli, turnips and the like and they are all kissing cousins.

If you grow the same types of plants in the same areas year after year it's like putting a neon diner sign out for pests. If plant diseases are a problem (we have powdery mildew like crazy starting in August every year!) then what I am about to tell you will possibly change the way you garden.

Two words...

I bet you have no idea what words...




Drum roll -




Crop




Rotation



O.K. so you already guessed, but it was still fun no?

In order to actually maintain a good crop rotation schedule, you have to plot out ahead of time how and where you will place your plants (keeping in mind the kissing cousins et al). This is a lot of work and makes my head go foggy. If you are constrained by a small space then you will have to plot and graph your way to pest free living. If you have a large space (say 22 acres?), then you can passively rotate your crops by following my simple plan.

First divide your area into 3 plots. Obviously the 3 areas should be appropriate for vegetable gardening (6 hrs + a day of direct sun). No special fertility or any other requirements need be met at this point. I highly recommend an overgrown plot that needs a lot of work. That way, my Spectacular Idea will seem all the more wonderful.

So you have your 3 spots picked out right?

Now fence at least one of them with hog or cattle fence. It's probably cheaper and easier to do all 3 at once in the long run, but do whatever feels best for you at the time.

Each section will need its own gate.

Buy some piglets in the spring and place into the first pen. Apply appropriate TLC.
Feed them all the compost scraps that are fit for the pigs to eat...and then let the pigs work their magic on the soil in the first pen. They will root out the weeds and chomp down the brush like nobody's business! Word to the wise though, make sure any plants that you want to keep are protected.

So that's pen #1. Let the pigs stay in there until butcher time (here it will be spring to late fall).

In the second pen, either have a garden or pasture poultry. Do the opposite in the 3rd pen.

The next year, put the piglets into the plot where the garden was and move the poultry to the pig pen. Into the chicken pen throw any leaves and non-edible compost items. Don't worry because when the pigs are in that pen, they will destroy anything that is left.

Each year the pigs will churn your soil and reduce pests and disease to a minimum. The chickens are just for fun, but will benefit from the fresh pasture too.

This method takes a bit of work, but not very much planning which I like!

I'll lay it out in simple terms before I go...

YEAR #1

Plot #1
Piggies and edible compost items

Plot #2
Garden (will be limited in size a bit in year 1 unless you are incredibly lucky)

Plot #3
Pasture Poultry and other compost items

YEAR #2

Plot #1
Pasture Poultry and other compost items

Plot #2
Piggies and edible compost items

Plot #3
Garden

YEAR #3

Plot #1
Garden

Plot #2
Pasture Poultry and other compost items

Plot #3
Piggies and edible compost items

And so on, and so on, and so on into infinity.

What do you think? Am I on to something?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Dream Continued

And now back to our regular programming...

I'm still dreaming a little dream.

Although the reality of mortgages, car payments, and the need for health insurance keep me solidly entrenched in the life I long to shed...dream with me anyways...

I've mentioned my parent's farm before but I am going to elaborate on a few, hopefully fun, things.

The farm was once two 1240 acre homestead grants, dating from the mid-1840s. Time and life changes have reduced it to 22 south slope acres in the fertile Willamette Valley. Currently most of it is leased by a “Bent Grass” farmer. Bent Grass is golf course grass. This is not an organic operation, which annoys me, but it does pay the taxes every year. Were we to move there, the farmer would be eliminated from the equation since we would need all 22 acres to support a sustainable lifestyle for numerous family members. The local market is always open to selling local produce and farm products, so we would definitely keep that in mind as we determine what crops and animals to grow.

I'd start with chickens, since we could whip up a coop and fence an area in no time and with very little cash outlay. The chickens could actually feed us completely if need be. Eggs are an excellent source of nutrition and if you toss in some veggies and a teeny bit of cheese, you have a meal fit for a chicken farmer ;)

After the chickens were settled in, we'd need to start fencing the acre and a half or so of orchard with hog/ cattle fence so we can raise piglets (and maybe other critters). The idea for the pigs came from my childhood when my parents lived in Odell, Oregon. We had a couple of acres, chickens, pigs, and a Black Lab named Duke who kept me out of harm's way. I was three.

We had 3 pigs Alouicious Abercrombie the First, Second and Third. They were generic pigs (in my memory) and we fed them and the chickens all sorts of scraps and things. Duke followed me everywhere and was my best friend. We bought the pigs early in the spring and fed them with summer's bounty all the way until November when the last of the pears and apples had been devoured into their giant bellies. I remember how smelly they were. I also remember how fascinated I was with them. They were so immense (to a 3 year old) and so messy. I used to think about going into their pen and playing in the mud with them, but whenever I strayed from the “Duke-approved” areas I was firmly but gently tugged back to the right area by kindly doggy jaws on my wee little bum. Anyways, after the pigs had devoured the last of the produce for the year, my parents had a slaughter truck take them away. Thankfully I was napping. I am ,and was, a very sensitive person and seeing them taken away would have had me distraught for weeks. Later on that winter we were shopping at DeHart's Market in Odell and we saw some packages of pork. My parents had finally explained that they had sold two of the pigs to the market. So when I saw the meat (specifically the ~gulp~ feet), I hollered MAMA ARE THOSE MY PIGGIES!?!?!?! She shushed me and said yes. While we were checking out, I kept asking the cashier why he won't give me my piggies back. I remember this vividly. I was very mad at him for taking my friends away.

Odell was a great place for a child. We had a creek, Neal Creek to be specific, running through the back of our land. We had a cow farm to the south, and a crazy old lady to the north. She had a parrot and a very deep pond. Both inspired me to wander over there when my mama wasn't looking. Duke, of course, was at my heels and if I went anywhere within many feet of the pond or the road he would either stand in my way or tug on me gently. He was quite a babysitter.

That winter our creek flooded and when I was outside with my daddy who was feeding the critters, I wandered away to the creek. Duke shoved himself between me and the water and grumbled at me. He scared me and made me cry. My daddy patted Duke and scolded me, and the next time I tried to make him let go of my hand he wouldn't. Apparently, I was a handful and I owe a great deal to my sweet Duke.

Our house was very small, but we had a huge pantry that my parents put gleaming jars of tomatoes and plums and things in. I loved to go into there and run my fingers across the letters on the jars. Unknowingly I was tracing B A L L and K E R R. There was a tiny window in there that let a little light in, and sometimes when the sun was sinking into it's bed it would shine through there for a few moments. The tomatoes nearly glowed!!

I also remember my parents making and bottling Root Beer. It was so much fun to watch and taste. They didn't quite follow the recipe correctly though, because in a few days we heard small explosions from the pantry. All the bottle tops had burst. It was a real mess and nobody let me help clean it up. I was not very happy about that either!

Ok – so after that long diatribe – now you know why and how I plan to grow pigs. It should be easy and fun (well not in November when the slaughter truck comes – especially for Mssrs. A. Abercrombie 4 – 10)...but well you know what I mean!!

My next Dream posts will be about sustainable energy and heat sources (ie solar, growing a forest for harvest etc).

I hope this finds you well and happy. I am much restored after baking, cooking, sewing, gardening and hanging out with my family.

Cheers.




Friday, October 10, 2008

There's a Wolf at the Door.

I'm a pretty optimistic person. I try to look on the bright side, or I just see the bright side for the most part. But lately, my optimism has been waning.

Today as I read the news (why oh why do I do this to myself?) on cnn.com I started to feel panic. Even though the headline loudly says "Anxiety Makes it Worse" and "Calm Down, Be Brave". Frankly I feel a bit anxious and not very brave right now.

I googled Depression era recipes. I also looked up Victory Gardens. I perused some of my favorite blogs and after awhile came to the conclusion that I need to do something in order to feel like I am doing something.

Make sense?

I've been paralyzed by the mortgage meltdown. Frozen by the Dow sliding into no-man's-land. Held hostage by the drama of a desperate Republican Party.

It's like someone pressed pause on my normal life. I don't like it one bit.
Now, I realize that I can't change the past, or help with crude oil prices, but I can do small things at home to prepare for whatever is headed our way.

So in the interests of distracting myself from the current disaster at hand, I am going to do the following during the next 3 days...

Harvest tomatoes that have been ripening under my WT Greenhouse (WT = white trash hehe).

Cook down said tomatoes into sauce and freeze.

Whip up some curtains to save energy and make our home more cozy.

Finish organizing and mouse-proofing my new pantry area in the garage.

Bake stuff. Not only does it warm the house, it warms the soul.

And last, but not least, log off the internet and stay off of it until Monday when I am back at work.

I seriously need a break from all the dire news.

Cheers.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Checking In

I'm sorry that I have been lax in posting. Between summer ending and fall beginning (read the rains have started!)...and my new job (a surprise promotion I might add :o))...I have been a bit distracted.

The fiance is building a triangle-shaped-tunnel for my garden today. It's kind of ghetto (read - made from wood in the garage),but it will extend my tomato harvest and enable us to plant greens where the rains can't destroy them.

It's such a sweet gesture, and I am ITCHING to go play with it.
Once it's all up I will post pics.

Heather

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dream a Little Dream With Me :)

I’ve been dreaming a little dream for awhile now and I thought I would write a post about it so you can dream with me.

Currently I am trapped in a 8 – 5, M – F, I have to pay my mortgage/carpayment/buynewclothesforwork/payhalfmysalarytodaycare/eatoutbecauseIamtootiredtocook RUT!!!

It seems like everything we do costs a ton of money, and nothing we do is making us any happier. I assume that part of my discontent is the horrid state of affairs with our economy. But part of my discontent goes so much deeper.

Until 6 years ago I lived in the country. I had chickens, horses, a dog, and a huge garden. Now I am a slave to The Man and I am really unhappy with my current situation.

The mortgage industry failure has trapped me in my house. It’s hard to refinance, and equally as hard to sell right now. So, what is a country girl to do that is trapped in the city?

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately…my baby has turned one without me. He has learned new words, new skills, and bonded with a mommy who is not his flesh and blood. Don’t get me wrong, my daycare is wonderful, but she isn’t me. And I miss my son. I miss his smiles and his snuggles…and I miss holding him as he falls to sleep after lunch.

Here is my dream –

Call my parents up (who are nearing retirement and are overwhelmed with their farm) and say – hey can we rent your entire upstairs (4 bedrooms/ 1500 sf)? They say yes…

So we call the neighbor who covets our yard and say hey – want to buy our house? He says - yes I’ll be right over with a check (hehe – remember this is MY dream).

Then I would call up my employer and say – thanks for 7 years of employment, but I am outta here!

We’d have to prepare the upstairs to live in since it has been uninhabited for 3 years…
We would add solar panels for water heating and perhaps radiant floor heating. We would put in a woodstove that has the capability to heat water as well to account for the multitude of cloudy days in Oregon...

Then we’d fence, put up a chicken coop, and start farming.

I’d buy goats (for brush clearing and milk), pigs, chickens and a steer. For the fiancé I would buy a Donkey or a Mule since he has wanted one for as long as I can remember. I want a horse again someday too.

We’d bring our hottub and set it up to run on solar too.
I’d build an outdoor shower with nearly unlimited hot water that we could use from May to October all thanks to the sunshine. The shower water would run off and feed the gardens.

We’d put in cisterns to catch the 40 odd inches of rain that falls each year and then keep our gardens as green as can be with that free water.

I’d spend every day teaching my baby to love and respect nature.
I’d cook entire meals from items grown only our farm.
This is my dream and my bliss!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Simple Christmas

Here is the email that I just sent my family today.

Hey all,

Well, October is nearly upon us. And with that, thoughts naturally turn
towards the upcoming holidays. This year I would like to shift our
Christmas focus a little.

I think we could all benefit from spending less, and slowing down.

It sure would make this year easier and cheaper. We could spend more time
just yakking or watching Christmas movies or something rather than preparing
food or cleaning up….

  1. Gifts should be useful, simple, non-cluttering, handmade, recycled,
    repurposed, thrifted, yard-saled, bought very cheaply (not cheaply like China
    cheaply, but cheaply like something really great found on clearance!) or handed
    down (ie no new gifts to the best of our ability)
  2. Wrapping should be re-used, re-usable or non-existent
  3. Food should be simple (I was thinking a giant pot of soup and bread for
    Turkeyday & Christmas)

Thoughts?
H


For me - Christmas has always been a frantic, stressful time and I always spend too much money! This year we cannot spend too much money without letting the light bill slide, so change is inevitable.

I am glad to effect change in a bunch of people too, because I know they need to save money and time too.

What are you doing this year to limit your spending or use of resources this holiday season?

I am making the following things (hopefully no-one in my family sees this hehe)....

IDEAS

Pillowcase Purses

Cherry Pit & tea filled heating pads

Mustard Baskets
~~Hot Crackers
~~Sausage
~~Spicy Mustard
~~Ale & Tarragon Mustard

Mocha Mix

Coffee Mix

Dill Dip & Dressing Blend

Ranch Style Dressing Blend

Italian Seasoning Blend

Cajun Seasoning Blend

Friday, September 19, 2008

A strip club in our neighborhood? I don't think so.

"Seeing Stars? You might (and not like it one bit)"

Community members organize to fight Stars Cabaret

By Jennifer Clampet The Lake Oswego Review, Sep 18, 2008 (2
Reader comments)
PAMPLIN MEDIA SERVICE FILE PHOTO / JIM CLARK Randy Kaiser,
pictured in 2002 at his Stars Cabaret & Steak House in Beaverton, plans to
open a Stars Cabaret in Tualatin. * tag. */--> TUALATIN – Lake Grove and Tualatin-area residents have plans
to fight a new strip club no matter how stacked the odds are against them.
Busying himself with his cell phone, Claude DaCorsi looked up just long enough
to acknowledge that Stars Cabaret-Bridgeport expected contention. http://www.lakeoswegoreview.com/news/story.php?story_id=122169223920161900 http://www.lakeoswegoreview.com/news/story.php?story_id=122169203635761200


What is wrong with this world when laws protect establishments like this? I firmly believe that places like this should be in a commercial area, or in a red light area as one of the readers commented below.

Our children walk through here to go to the theater or Taco Bell. Players (a fun family place) and 24 Hour Fitness are across the road.

There are two motels nearby that will certainly be the recipient of increased *hourly guests*.
Oh and there are not too many sidewalks through the River Grove area...which leads me to the fact that Stars starts serving alcohol at 11 AM. Just in time for someone to get good and drunk and run over one of our kids on the way home from school.

I hope that the threat of people videotaping the parking lot as well as picketing repeatedly, along with the huge public outcry, will deter this move by Stars.

I understand that they are a business, but they have no business where familes and children are.

Period.


***Back to your regular programming

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Edible Landscaping & Flirty Flavorful Flowers

Here is another list of plants that are part of my edible landscaping theme. Many have flowers that are beautiful and tasty. A couple I mentioned earlier, but they're really worth planting so I am repeating myself :)

  • Anise Hyssop
  • Arugula flowers
  • Basil flowers
  • Scarlet Runner beans (flowers too)
  • Bee Balm
  • Tuberous Begonia (begonia x tuberhybrida)
  • Borage
  • Broccoli (yes, flowers too)
  • Calendula
  • Chicory
  • Chives
  • Garlic Chives
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Daylilies
  • Dianthus (pinks)
  • Dill
  • Elderberry
  • English Daisy
  • Garlic
  • Hibiscus
  • Hyssop
  • Johnny Jump Up
  • Lavenders
  • Sweet Marjoram
  • Mint (all)
  • Mustard
  • Nasurtium
  • Orange (currently researching if lemon blossoms are edible too)
  • Greek Oregano
  • Pansy
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Roses
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Summery Savory
  • Scented Geraniums
  • Sunflower *recipe below
  • Thyme
  • Sweet Violet
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • Yuccas
  • Zucchini
This is a list that I culled from the book "Lasagna Gardening with Herbs" by Patricia Lanza.

Sunflower 'Mock Artichokes'

Pick the Sunflowers while still in the bud stage. Clean and then boil for 2 minutes. Meanwhile bring a second pot of water to boil and transfer the Sunflowers to the fresh water (reduces bitterness). Boil until tender. Fry in a blend of olive oil and butter. You can add bread crumbs and salt if you prefer.


Disclaimer - I am by no means a leading expert on edible landscaping items, and if you poison yourself by eating the wrong thing it's your own dang fault...that's what www.google.com is for. These are merely *my* suggestions :)

Cheers!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

That Lovin' Spoonful (or I've Fallen in Love with a Farmer and I don't even know his name)

Ahh just kidding...

But today was a day of new experiences and eye openings for me!

I have always *thought* about going to one of our many local Farmer's Markets but it was the kind of thinking that is done rhetorically and required no effort on my part. In fact, by thinking about it so often and with such fervor, somehow I had absolved myself of the need or desire to truly go to one.

Today dawned sunny, brilliant with September colors and well - I just felt like I had to find one that was open. The caveat was that I couldn't spend more than 5 minutes on the road...and it was Sunday so most Farmer's Markets had already happened yesterday.

So, I googled Farmer's Markets with my zipcode and found ONE that met the 5 minute requirement. So I grabbed the fiance, baby, sunblock and a water bottle crammed with ice and took off in the car - in quest of the most perfectly red tomatoes. (disclaimer, I know that in order for this to be an ideal situation we would have biked, but I am not risking life, limb and baby with the lunatics on our roads...that and we just have one bike!)

Honestly, had I not been so motivated to go to a Farmer's Market today, I do not think I would have even stopped. Because from the road it didn't look like much. Shows you what I know!! Hehe

After we parked, we put sunblock on the baby and grabbed his stroller. Once we walked to the sales area it was clear that I had vastly underestimated the sheer deliciousness of what I was about to experience.

The late summer Strawberries sang a chorus to me when I walked by. The hot sun had warmed them and released their potent fragrance. The apples were blushing shyly when I brushed their cheeks. The blackberries nearly lept from their boxes into my fingers. Oh and the mountains of tomatoes were more than my senses could stand.

We spent 45$ and had a kiddie sized wagon full of produce. I thought I would do a price check for you....

Green Beans $1.65/#
Fuji Apples .99/#
Japanese Eggplant $1 ea
Strawberries $13 for a half flat
Watermelon (seedless from Hermiston, OR) .39/#
Swiss Chard $1.25 a bunch
Green Onions 2 bunches for $1
Yellow Pear Tomatoes $2.50/ pint
Blackberries $2.25 - $3/ pint depending on which booth you were at
Purple Cauliflower $1.25/#
Zucchini 3 for $1
Beets .99/bunch
Kohlrabi 3 for $1
Carrots .75/#
Lettuce $1 each
Herbs all $1 a bunch
Corn 3 for $1
Cantaloupe $1 ish a pound - they were tres gourmet ones
Heirloom Tomatoes $1.50/#

It was a fantastic experience and one we will have each week from now until they close for the season. I can't believe it took me so long to go!

It was neat because most of the smaller farms had signs stating their organicness (is that a word? heh). And their prices were the same as the bigger guys who were clearly not as organic(ness).

I sent my fiance back to buy some Strawberries before they close at 2 today! We are going to freeze them for winter. MMMM

It was neat to see how I could still save money and get to buy the most fresh, local, mostly organic product available. Oh and even better - reduce my carbon footprint to a smidgen...well at least for today.

If you do not go to your local FM regularly - get thee to one asap!!

I'll post pics shortly.

Cheers.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Garden Update, Extending the Harvest and *oh deer* a new garden friend

Today I harvested 2 Scarlett Runner beans, about 10#s of Patty Pan squash, 10 or so fat, sunny colored Lemon Cucumbers, a handful of Cherry tomatoes, and a bunch of misc. herbs. My 3 volunteer Swiss Chard plants need a trim too.

The seeds that I planted a couple of weeks ago (Kale, Swiss Chard, Parsley, Cilantro, strange lettuce blends etc) are all up and going nuts.
It's still in the 80s here most days so the fall garden is as happy as a lark.

My plan is to get the artichokes, onions, garlic, leeks, carrots, beets etc etc all in tomorrow. I'm probably nuts, but what the heck.

Next year I resolve to weigh my harvest, but with the success of the potatoes and summer squash so far this year we have to be near 50#. We also have a ton of unharvested red potatoes still in the ground. Also some Artichokes coming on. A loaded Cayenne pepper, some more summer squash, more cucumbers, and all those lusciously loaded tomato plants. Add to that all the winter plants and we are sitting pretty right about now.

I love how each day is a learning experience with mental notes made (ie space tomatoes further apart) for next year on so many things that I will barely be able to remember all of them!

Next up will also be a tunnel for the tomatoes...it will break my heart if the rain destroys those beauties.

How's your 4 season garden coming along?

PS I forgot the *deer* part - we have a new guest who is eating the tips of my tomatoes and deleafing my beans. She's been by a few other times, but now she is starting to take bigger bites. GRR!!

Ecoguilt

Interestingly enough, I have added *ecoguilt* to my repertoire.

I feel guilty when I forget my cloth shopping tote.
I feel guilty when I leave a light on.
I feel guilty when we drive somewhere out of the way to go to dinner (last night).
I feel guilty when I buy something with excess packaging.
I feel guilty when I turn on the clothes dryer.
I feel guilty when the cold water runs down the drain as I wait for the hot water to start.
I feel guilty because I use disposable diapers, when I really want to use cloth, but I just don't have the bandwidth to add one more chore to my overfull days.
I feel guilty about nearly everything these days.

I do so many things already to be a good steward of the earth...

I never litter.
I use mostly organic cleansers in my house.
We are 100% organic in our yards and gardens.
We limit just about everything in our lives to some degree in order to live a more sustainable lifestyle...and....

It's not a lot of fun sometimes...

To some degree, guilt is a good thing. It is that little voice in your head asking why you need to do this, or that. But lately, I've been feeling like *ecoguilt* has taken over my life.

Why can't I bike to work? Excuse.
Why can't I buy 100% local, organic whatever.... Excuse.
Why can't I cloth diaper? Excuse!
Why do I need to eat out tonight after I just finished a 14 hour day? Excuse!
Why can't I bake my own bread, or cook more veggies? Excuse!! Excuse!!
We insulated under our floors a couple of weeks ago and had to use the pink stuff because we couldn't afford denim. Guilt!
Etc etc etc etc ETC!!!!

I am starting to believe that there needs to be a healthy balance of ecominded choices and actually enjoying life. I'm running out of energy these days trying to keep up with my busy life AND my commitment to the environment.

We work hard and, I believe, deserve to reap the rewards of our labors.

I still want that flat panel TV for the living room. I haven't bought it yet, but I'm not certain that I still won't.

Why can't you have an HDTV *and* an outdoor solar shower?
Why can't you have a nice car *and* garden organically?
Do they cancel each other out? I don't know.

I ramble.

But you get the point.

Ecoguilt is threatening to take over my life and I am not sure I like it.

Edited to add the following - I guess I am just looking for a balance between living a reasonable life and the environment. That is all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We do not imply these products are fit for food products, or for any particular use.

I read this "As always you should test your product with the packaging to ensure product compatibility. We do not imply these products are fit for food products, or for any particular use." on a website that was selling jam jars.

Sounds a wee bit ominous to me, and Very Doubtful that I would want to can up my beloved summer crops into one of these babies.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Craziest Waste of Gas Imaginable!!

I had to do a double take when I saw this example of American laziness!!

I was driving to work yesterday morning and, unfortunately, following a school bus. It was a glorious September morning in Oregon, read 60*, bright blue skies, and just plain nice out.

My drive takes me through a rural area where the driveways are about 400 - 500 feet long. The bus was stopping periodically at driveways, and I was kind of zoning out...when all of the sudden I noticed a child get out of a car that was parked at the end of the driveway and get onto the bus. Once she was safely on her way the mom backed the car up the long driveway...

Keep in mind how nice the weather was...and gas prices etc...

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt so I told myself maybe she had a broken leg or something so she had to drive down her driveway.

Fast forward about half a mile later - when the exact same thing played itself out in front of my very eyes.

I don't get it! It was so nice out. It will start raining soon and any opportunity to walk with your child will be gone.

Both sets of parents never got out of their cars nor did they even have the windows down...they were sitting there in their closed up, idling cars in the sunshine waiting for a bus.

Is it just me, or is there something desperately wrong with this picture?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

APM - Alternative Pest Management Part 1

Somewhere a long time ago, I read that the shortage of Hummingbirds was because of pesticides. At my old place (about 75 miles east of here) I counted11 Hummingbirds at one time all vying for a spot on the feeder. I have seen 1 a year here in the Willamette Valley! The difference is terrible, and I really miss those little zoomers.

According to Jonathan Ya'akobi at Dry Climate Gardening, a pair of nesting birds can eat 75 pounds (POUNDS!!) of bugs in a year. This includes aphids, insect eggs and caterpillars.

I've been actively researching plants that attract birds (bees, butterflies and beneficial insects) and are still part of my edible landscaping plan.

To attract and keep the beneficial critters a few things are needed - food, water, shelter and no pesticides.

Food:

Blueberry
Huckleberry
Raspberry
Grapes
Mulberry
Plum
Calendula
Dill (food for Black Swallowtail caterpillars)
Fennel (food for Black Swallowtail caterpillars)
Nasturtium
Parsley (food for Black Swallowtail caterpillars)
Sunflowers
Anise Hyssop
Pineapple Sage
Cherry
Crab Apples (Crab Apple Jelly anyone?)
Hazelnuts/ Filberts
Walnuts
Chesnuts

I also located this LIST online that has some great suggestions for attracting birds.

The folks at EarthEasy have plenty of suggestions how to control pests by attracting beneficial insects too!

Shelter:

Evergreen shrubs and trees (leaves or needles or both!) to protect them from predators and the elements.

Water:

Birds love water that drips so a tiny fountain is sure to attract them.
A birdbath is great too.

Butterflies like a little muddy place that they can sip tiny amounts of water from. Think 'marsh garden'.

I don't know about you, but I would much rather lose a berry or two to a flock of birds than sit on a chemical soaked lawn.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What is this plant in my garden?





It's about 3 1/2 feet tall, has leaves that are over a foot long and grows on a very fleshy stem. The top has 3 sections of flowers just like the one pictured.


Any idea what it is?






Thanks!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Small changes that you can make starting today that are FREE or nearly FREE and still save the environment

Stop using paper towels (if you have them, use them up and then buy or make (instructions to follow) kitchen rags)
Stop using paper napkins (see above)
Go on an unplugging rampage – unplug the energy vampires around your house that just sit and do nothing most of the time
Make lentils and rice for dinner (recipe to follow)
Turn off the TV
Go without make-up for one day a week
Wear your jeans one extra day before washing
Stop (and seriously I mean STOP) buying individually packaged water and soft drinks
Add water to your shampoo, conditioner, body soap, dish soap, liquid laundry soap – you know you use too much anyways so what harm is a little water going to do?
Don't run to the store for that one thing – just make do without it today
Skip showering every once in awhile
If it's yellow let it mellow (I know that seems gross, but if you pee twice a night it is ok to let the first one sit until the next time)
Turn off the A/C in your car, roll the window down and feel the breeze
Turn off the A/C in your home if it isn't 95* + out (we do not use A/C unless the temperature gauge reads triple digits)
Stop sprinkling your plants a little every day – if you want to save water then you must water deeply, less often (LINK) <--click link for 100 ways to save water
Stop patronizing restaurants that send take-out home in Styrofoam – better yet, eat at home more – it saves you money
Find a sunny spot in your yard and plant a garden – it's fall in the US right now – plant fall crops (see my posts on fall gardening)

Most of these things cost little to no money, or just plain save you money. They also do not require a major lifestyle change, but they are a great place to start if you are trying to find a way to go green but are not ready to buy a Prius, install Solar panels, or forswear the car.

Quick and easy paper towel substitutes
– the easy way is to buy a big bundle of white shop rags at Target ($3). We wash them until they are either too stained, or too worn out to keep using. If you are a more DIY kind of person then grab that old ratty bath towel that you keep meaning to throw out and cut it into washcloth sized squares – serge or hem the edges, or just let 'em unravel. I do this all the time and we NEVER buy paper towels. If something is so gross that you think you MUST use a paper towel, just find the oldest rattiest rag, use it and toss it. If it's a cotton rag, you can actually compost it. But that's purely your choice. I sometimes pick up nice towels at yard sales for a quarter. I know this sounds creepy but wash them well and they're fine. They're great to repurpose into kitchen rags.

Paper napkin substitutes are easy too, use the rags from above, or buy some muslin at a fabric store – cut into squares and hem. Buy them at a yard sale, estate sale, thrift shop – whatever, just promise me that next time you go to use a paper towel or paper napkin that you think about this post, and remember just how easy, cheap, or even free it would have been to take one small step to save the environment.

Lentils & Rice recipe -
Quantities are based on family size (we ate lunch and dinner from the following recipe)
1# Puy Lentils (French Green)
1 ½ cups dry rice (make in rice cooker or stove – whichever way you usually make rice)
1 medium onion
Garlic to taste
Cumin powder to taste (2 TBSPs)
Garam Masala to taste (2 TBSPs)
Plain Yogurt
Salt
1 qt Chicken Broth

I started the rice in the rice cooker which takes 45 minutes.
Then I placed the washed, sorted lentils in a pot with the broth, onion, garlic, and spices.
Bring lentils to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover.

When the rice is done (45 mins – 1 hour) the lentils should be done.
Serve in bowls layering lentils on top of rice with a big dollop of yogurt on top.
I like mine with lots of salt ;)
It's delicious, healthy, low fat, and CHEAP – oh and better yet no cow polluted the environment or died to feed you. We are eating like this 3x a week. I hope our waistlines, health and pocketbooks will show the results soon.

Just take a couple steps today
– limit a trip, turn off a light, skip the take-out. It adds up.

You don't have to ride a bike to love the earth.

I know it would be grand and all, but sometimes it just isn't practical.

Best,
Heather

Update on "Ways to Save Money"

Ways to Save Money

* Conserve water Working on this, will install a cistern by Spring
* Drive less by limiting and combining trips Done!! Doing!!
* Convert to all CFLs Not yet, but nearly there
* Hang clothes to dry I hang about 15% of our laundry. Trying to get better!
* Grow a vegetable garden Done! I am also planting a HUGE fall/winter garden right now
* Hold a HUGE yard sale this summer On hold for now. Just listing things on Craigslist.
* Investigate installing low e window film to help insulate our house w/o replacing the windows Probably a no go...this is more for sun I believe.
* Eat vegetarian more often Just started doing this - 3 dinners a week!!
* Limit processed food purchases - healthier and cheaper Ongoing
* Make coffee at home Ongoing. The last time I was at Starbucks was in June-ish.
* Insulate the living room crawl space Done, to the tune of $703.81.
* Cover windows with plastic for winter Found a brand new window for the living room on Craigslist. Yay. Plastic will go up on the other windows in October.
* Sew thick curtains for winter Some done, more needed
* Install woodstove insert (natural gas prices are rising!) Maybe not this year, we're running out of money
* Reuse items that I usually would toss Ongoing
* Sew Ongoing, but need to do more of this
* Shop with coupons Hmm probably cancel this one, as most of what we are shopping for has no coupons
* Spend less at Christmas by making gifts Working on this
* Stop eating out - except date night Ongoing
* Turn off lights in empty rooms Ongoing
* Watch less TV (saves power) Easy, ongoing :)
* Unplug items we are not using Trying!! This is not very easy!!
* Insulate the waterheater TBD
* Investigate installing a tankless waterheater Probably not this year
* Buy foods with less packaging - bulk items are great Ongoing
* Use less air conditioning Used it once in the house this summer (107*)
* Give our old clothes new life by turning them into new things... www.craftster.org See sewing note above

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My car costs me $1020.48 per month!

I am annoyed that it took me this long to figure it out - but I had to figure in the payment, gas, upkeep and insurance...amazing that I never have done this before.

Watch this space for future updates as I decide what the fate of the money-pit car is.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Food Not Lawns (part 2) & Fall Veggies (part 2)

Today something interesting happened - I went to the local garden shop to pick up some light organic soil blend for seed starting and the gentleman who was checking us out asked what we were planting. I told him how my 17 year old son and I had reclaimed some no man's land on the side of the driveway by building a raised rock bed. I also told him how we were tearing out our front flower beds to plant a winter veggie garden instead.

He stopped checking and looked at me sadly. I was very puzzled. He then said, "It's a sad, sad world that we live in that people are forced to do drastic things like this."

I said, "Oh it's good fun and I can't wait to eat from it!"

He was kind of a bummer on my day. I guess in a way he's right, but you know the old saying about Lemons and Lemonade? That's what I am doing. Besides who needs all these thirsty flowers and grasses? I'd rather use the water on something that is good to eat.

I planted Swiss Chard and Parsley in a mixed planting in our new driveway bed.

My 17 yr old son removed all the overgrown perennials that I had grown from seed in a bed by the road (never ever plant Shasta Daisies unless you REALLY want to have them in abundance). He also dug a bunch of sod which is now lying around my garden thinking about composting for me.

Tomorrow I will add some composted horse poo/sawdust to the newly dug bed (I have only 10 or 12 wheelbarrows full left)...and then plant my Kale and lettuce blends.

I am also doing my winter flower pots with Kale, Swiss Chard, and Arugula. It should be fun.

I'm really digging this 4 Season Gardening.

More tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Here's what a truly organic garden looks like

I thought I would post some pictures of my garden (veggie and flower) so you can see what no pesticides and no chemical fertilizers look like.

I water the veggies once a week for 3 hours. The flowers get watered every couple of days, but the flowerbed was just planted in July so it needs time to become established.

That said - here we go -

The first picture is our new front walkway with our new landscaping. The rich black soil is merely composted horse manure and sawdust.

New Front Walkway garden


Next up are the Yellow Brandywine tomatoes...nothing, not downpours nor deer can stop these heirloom tomatoes!

Yellow Brandywine Tomatoes

Every year we have mystery squash of some sort. This year are some strange looking pumpkin type devices. It's like Christmas...with err squash...

Mystery Volunteer Pumpkin

Our neighbor dug a hole in our yard to get to his water meter. He never filled it in so we did with some nice dirt from an old Swiss Chard bed (died 4 YEARS AGO!!)...I guess seeds last that long exposed to the elements...I have never watered nor placed any poo around these lovely plants. I am however, planting more Swiss Chard there now and will start caring for it.

Water Meter Swiss Chard

Ahhh, the next item in my garden line-up is not a plant at all, but a little sweetheart who loves to touch and taste (nearly) everything in my garden. I couldn't let him do that if I used nasty chemicals.

Dima

MMMM Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes...'nuff said.

Cherry Tomatoes

This pile of plants are 4 Lemon Cucumbers. They are crazy big and producing a ripe cucumber every day now. We had a late spring so this is very exciting.

Lemon Cucumber Giganticus

I hope you enjoyed a little peek into our world.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Composting is for sissies

I have been reading a book written in 1955; but its message is very timely. It is called "How to have a Green Thumb without an Aching back" by Ruth Stout. It's really hard to find...in fact I bought mine at a yard sale about 15 or 16 years ago for a dime.

In the book, Ruth talks about buying a 55 acre farm with her husband in the early 1930s. She tackles a huge space for a garden and basically wears herself to a frazzle every day trying to keep up.

I have read this book many times and still seem to glean new knowledge from it.

I have clung to my compost pile for years...and it's never really finished, nor have I gotten anything from it...I just keep piling garden and veggie scraps in.

We have some resident Raccoons and they knocked my compost bin flat last night. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last...and strangely enough I just finished Ruth Stout's book again...

So today, instead of dumping the contents of my bowl on top that disaster of a pile, I lifted the straw mulch that covers my garden and poured the contents underneath. Then I tucked the mulch back into place and voila it was perfect.

I am no longer going to make a compost pile. I am going to 'layer compost' on the spot in my garden from now on.

If you lack straw, you can use shredded leaves, or mulch, or even some topsoil. Just scratch the soil enough to have a place to put your compost items and cover with something. Worse comes to worse...tuck under the edges of the Zucchini.

Apparently RS mulched this way for 12 years before she wrote that book...and she seemed pretty happy with it.

Oh and did I mention - she stopped tilling, weeding, fertilizing, and using any pesticides when she started mulching.

The only fertilizer I use is organic (horse poo etc), and no chemicals EVER enter my garden - and we practiced the no till method this year. Our mulch needs to be thicker because I have had a few weeds, but not many!!

So, yeah, composting is for sissies. Do it layer style :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

HURRY ~ HURRY ~ HURRY

Everywhere I look everyone is in a hurry. The cars speed down the highway, rushing to work, to the gym, to the grocery store, rushing to the gas station because they use so much gas rushing around that they have to fill up more often. They rush to work with a cell phone to their ear, and a wireless laptop in their bag. They rush through dinner so they can watch their fave TV shows. Or they watch and eat. Come vacation time, they log in to their work emails from wherever they are (which is usually home because they do not have the energy to travel). They usually also have a Blackberry and they answer emails mid-meal while dining out with their wife/ husband/ family whatever.
All this rushing buys us bigger TVs, shinier cars, newer shoes, and iPods, and cellphones and and and and and and and and...
I'm worn out just thinking about this life we lead.
We rush so much, that we also are dependent on others to cook, clean, and care for us. Those things that 30 - 40 years ago were the norm like eating at home and stay at home moms are gone. In its place we have kids that go to daycare, Pizzawhatevah delivering a heart attack in a box while we rush down the road to hell.

As a nation, and as humans we need to slow down and just BREATHE.

Nothing good will come of driving like a maniac on the highway just to get to work 2 minutes earlier. Seriously, in 20 years who cares that on Wednesday, August 20th you were 2 minutes late to work. You're alive. It's the heady days of summer where everything just feels right...why do you need to go 80? Why do you need to mutter under your breath if the person at the light in front of you doesn't gun it. Do you really need to ride their bumpers? What will it get you? Maybe a higher insurance bill!

This is a letter to myself, as much as it is to anyone who is reading.

Downshift
Downsize
Downslow

SLOW DOWN

Fall Garden #1

I’ve been thinking about my fall garden since oh, February or something! My friend Melinda over at One Green Generation had a great post today that inspired me to write this little post a few weeks ahead of schedule.

Here in the mild Pacific Northwest (zone 8+) we have rain and wind to contend with rather than freezing temps for the most part. Once in awhile it freezes hard here, and sometimes it snows, but mostly it just rains and rains and rains.

What I’d like to do is just cover my entire garden before the end of September! I’ve been daydreaming about building a huge hoop house over the whole thing. I am sure it could be done, but I am not sure I want to spend that much money – and I am doubly not sure I want to go all out on my first real try at extending my garden through winter.

In the past I have stapled plastic sheeting to our fence and draped it over a couple of boards to cover my tomatoes and peppers. It worked great until December when a huge windstorm hit. Everything was torn to shreds including the plants! They were ripening happily under the plastic roof up until that point. Granted no new fruit formed and the ripening process was slow, but it was a start! I think as I get more serious about extending our harvests that speeding up the ripening process will come to the forefront.

I have read about creative ways to heat your greenhouse – everything from housing a certain amount of rabbits per X amount of square feet, to laying black plastic on the floors and placing dark colored items (stone, painted milk jugs full of water etc) all around the inside where they can radiate the heat that they collected all day. The book “Four Season Harvest” that I mentioned in an earlier blog post has a great graph explaining the interior versus exterior temperatures in a greenhouse environment. It doesn’t take much to grow Swiss Chard, Kale and the like under plastic according to the book.

In the past, in zone 8 Oregon, I have successfully grown Kale, Swiss Chard, Broccolini (Broccoli Rabe) and Carrots in a single raised bed with no cover. It was incessantly rained on and frosted over a couple of times and still everything grew like mad. It not too much time we had a HUGE crop on our hands. The Rabe was amazing. The only drawbacks were the huge amount of slugs that ate everything in sight.

These crops were direct seeded into a sandy loam, composted chicken manure and wood product organic blend from our local wood products place. The owner called it magic dirt when I bought it. He was right. I did a side by side test of two pots of sky blue Lobelia – one in potting soil and one in the magic dirt. The magic dirt Lobelia was bigger, brighter in color, and had more blooms than the potting soil Lobelia. I wish now that I had taken pictures to show you, but it will be easy to recreate next year.

Back to the crops –

We direct seeded them in this raised bed (8” x 6’ x 24’) in mid September. We watered sometimes and forgot to water sometimes, but Mother Nature helped us out by watering for us too. We got busy, and stopped looking at the bed altogether for about 3 months. When suddenly one day I noticed the contents of the bed were getting tall – and I thought hmm the weeds have taken over. So I moseyed on down there and to my surprise there were very few weeds and TONS of veggies! I pulled a couple of carrots up, and they were tiny but so so orange. I wiped it off and gingerly took a bite…the flavor was crispy sweet and amazing. Needless to say, I walked back to the house with my hands full of baby carrots! We ate from that unloved winter bed until Spring and the slugs had their way with it the next year. Imagine what would have happened had I given it a little care?

Later I priced organic Carrots, Kale, Swiss Chard and the Rabe. ALL of it was 3$ - 4$ a pound/ bunch. We got at least 100 misc pounds/ bunches from that bed. Which if you are a finance whiz means my return on investment was HUGE!!! Now if only my 401K could do so well hehe.

My challenge to you is, if I can get these results being lazy – why can’t you?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Homemade Popcorn

I've just recently rediscovered homemade popcorn.
I grew up with it and kind of hated it because it was a sign of being poor in my eyes...
That said, I'd forgotten how good it was.
I bought a 1/2# at Whole Foods the other day and made some from memory in a pan on my stove. It turned out alright, but I just found a recipe online that looks great. I will still use olive oil because that's all we have in the house.
I challenge you to discover for yourself how amazing homemade popcorn can be.
Oh and I should mention, it's about a thousand times healthier than microwave popcorn.
I'm not sure about the carbon footprint, but it seems like making popcorn on the stove would use a lot less energy that popcorn in a premade bag.
Seriously...go buy some popcorn kernels and make it.
You will thank me.
Cheers :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

100 Things to De-Clutter my life (Inspired by Dave Bruno)

So I've been reading Dave Bruno's blog about living with only 100 Things.
I can't quite see myself getting there, so I am making my own '100 Thing' challenge.
Mine is simpler, but still very hard...I'm getting rid of '100 Things'.
Groups of items count as 1.
Each item will be disposed of in the most environmentally friendly manner, whether it is Freecycle, recycle, selling etc...

Here goes...

  1. Screener DVDs
  2. Boxes of VHS
  3. Old Computer Monitors in the garage
  4. Old CD Players in the garage - at least 2, maybe 3
  5. Bags of clothes
  6. Large box of glass bottles w/ lids (uhm…)
  7. Twin Mattress in garage
  8. Pile of scrap wood in the yard <-- DONE - given to a theatre group for set building
  9. Baby items (swing, clothes, carseat, toys etc)
  10. Unwanted books (at least 50)
  11. Bag of hardened cement that has sat around for 2 years
  12. Broken Dolly
  13. 2 sets of weird Mexican bells that I have hauled all over *sigh*
  14. Box of random office junk décor
  15. Bottles of old condiments in the fridge
  16. Bottles of old spices & sauces in the spice cupboard
  17. Old not so yummy noodles in the kitchen drawers <-- DONE, composted
  18. Grapevine wreaths in garage
  19. 2 wooden Swan thingys in the garage
  20. Broken cement chunks from pulling fence posts (about 6)
  21. Old Computer parts & towers in garage
  22. 3 cookbooks from previous occupant - not sure why I kept them
  23. Box of horse tack in garage (minus saddle ;o))
  24. Broken VCR
  25. Old TV in bedroom
  26. Ugly white bathroom cabinet
  27. Random, unnecessary DVDs
  28. Old digital camera - works great (+cords!)
  29. Old mop that was replaced by Swiffer
  30. Curtain rod from previous occupant - UGLY
  31. Random unused linens from Linen Closet
  32. Old leaky hose
  33. Misc. plastic plant pots
  34. Broken PS2
  35. Old broken bouncy horse toy

Ok that's 35. I have 65 more to go. My life and my home are over-cluttered so this is very exciting to me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I would convert to CFLs but I still have incandescent bulbs left...

According to Wikipedia the average household can save 30$ per bulb over the lifetime of a CFL by making the switch. Wikipedia also goes on to say that CFLs save 2000 times their weight in greenhouse gases.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the costs of swapping bulbs...

Cost

While the purchase price of an integrated CFL is typically 3 to 10 times greater than that of an equivalent incandescent lamp, the extended lifetime (fewer lamps to replace and reduced labor) and lower energy use will compensate for the higher initial cost in many applications.[21] A US article stated "A household that invested $90 in changing 30 fixtures to CFLs would save $440 to $1,500 over the five-year life of the bulbs, depending on your cost of electricity. Look at your utility bill and imagine a 12% discount to estimate the savings."[22]



I've been puzzling over how to make the change to 100% CFLs while I still have incandescent bulbs left. The frugalista in me won't stand for throwing anything away that cost money - but the greenista in me is struggling with the electricity bill and our carbon footprint.

Hence my brilliant idea!!
I've been collecting things for a charity (medical items, toiletries, household items etc) for awhile now and I think I have landed upon a perfect solution to my quandry.

I can give my bulbs away to the charity to be used at their offices or their clients homes. I know this seems bad, and it feels a little bit like cheating, but that way I can make my start at home asap w/o throwing perfectly good bulbs away. I can also help my favorite charity (who couldn't afford CFLs if they wanted to - heck I can barely afford them but it's the right thing to do).

So if you are reading this - tell me your thoughts - am I doing the right thing? Or is this just shifting my problem elsewhere? *sigh*

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Food not lawns (part one of many I am guessing...)

I have a flowerbed that runs the entire width of my property minus the two car wide driveway. It's about 6 feet wide and full of weeds and Shasta Daisies.
I like the Daisies but they take a lot of water and other than a few bouquets I get very little from that bed.
I have been pondering the food not lawns movement and wanting to join in.
I have planted mint on the edge of a flowerbed in the back yard and placed a big feisty Artichoke in a flowerbed too. It's a start, but I am ready to take it to the next level.
I am going to rip out the Daisies and weeds and spread some of my precious horse poo on the beds..(I'll tell the horse poo story later...it involves an entire driveway full of poo and a mad fiance - it was a hoot).
So anyways, once the bed is cleaned up and mulched with poo, I am going to plant a winter garden right out there in front of my house. For all the neighbors and house hunters who always drive down our road to see.
I'll get a pile of Swiss Chard, Kale, Peas etc from it, and they'll get a lesson in landscaping.
;o)
I'll shoot before and after pics so you can see why this must be done.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

'Slug Tossing' by Meg DesCamp

I borrowed 'Slug Tossing' by Meg DesCamp yesterday from our local library. I read it from cover to cover last night. It's almost like sitting and listening to your best girlfriend describe how she became gardener. I highly recommend reading this book if you are a somewhat reluctant gardener, because you will see that anyone - and I do mean anyone can learn to grow things.

Worldcat


Slug Tossing and Other Adventures of a Reluctant Gardener
Author: Meg DesCamp
Publisher Sasquatch Books ©1998
ISBN: 1570610444 9781570610448

Click here for the reviews.

Everyone loved it!!

'Round Soup' - your toddler will eat it!!

This is perfect for that picky toddler in your life…a fun soup where all the visible ingredients are round! You can substitute any number of round food items for the ones listed below as long as they taste good together and are round.

2 qts organic chicken broth
1 pkg turkey meatballs (Trader Joes)
2 small handfuls of round noodles (wagon wheel maybe?)
1 small sliced organic zucchini
1 small sliced organic carrot (thoroughly scrubbed)

Combine ingredients and heat until noodles are fully cooked (approx. 30 mins on med/low).

Make sure to exploit the ‘roundness’ to get your wee one to eat it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why packing a lunch for work saves gas


I’ve recently had an epiphany about a gas vampire in my life that I didn’t realize was even there.

The ‘quick run to the blah-blah restaurant for take-out lunch because I forgot to or was too lazy to pack a lunch yet again’ vampire.

In every other way in my life I have reduced my gas consumption! I can’t believe that this one was just hiding there in plain sight.

My car gets just around 22 mpg, but in the city it’s closer to 21 mpg. So for the sake of argument I am going to use 21 mpg as my benchmark.

At 19 cents a mile in town and 18.13 cents a mile on the highway – a quick trip out can add up over time.

In town lunches = 2 miles round trip or .38 a day or $1.90 a week.
Next town up the highway lunch = 12 miles round trip or $2.18 per day or $10.88 a week.
If I go home for lunch every day (I used to do this) = 20 miles round trip or $3.63 per day or $18.13 per week.

If you take into account how much buying lunch out costs ($5 - $7 here) and then factor in the cost of gas to go get it you are looking at a serious cash outlay every month for something that could easily and cheaply be packed at home.

Now that I have identified the gas vampire in my life, it’s time to kill him. Err tomorrow that is, since yet again I did not pack a lunch for work today!!! *sigh*

I guess putting a dollar amount to it will really help me…see top :)
Cheers






Monday, August 4, 2008

Energy Consumption Thoughts







I’ve wanted to put a clothesline in for ages, but I’ve never really given it enough thought to figure out how it would work in our yard.
Most of our trees are just not suitable for stretching a clothesline between so I am in a quandary!

I do, however, wash my dark work clothes in cold and hang them on plastic hangers to dry (inside the house). I do this year ‘round and have been doing it for years and years!

Yesterday I had a mixed load of my dark work clothes, A’s socks, the baby’s dark clothes and a couple of my middle son’s t-shirts. I washed it all in cold and then when I was going to sort half to the dryer and hang the other half, I decided to hang it all instead.

Granted there are a bunch of plastic hangers scattered through a few closets and on the laundry room clothes rod, but I felt very virtuous not running the dryer.

The one thing I hate to line dry is towels. I hate how crunchy they feel.

I love line dried sheets though! MMMM they smell so good when you crawl in between them.

I just found this clothes drying rack from Gaiam. It looks like it is out of stock though! Darn!

This rack would be ideal to use in my yard since I can’t seem to figure out the tree thing.

I wonder how much energy I will save by washing a couple more loads a week in cold AND hanging more out to dry?


I’m sure it will be noticeable on our electric bill. I hope so.

My Natural Gas usage and my PGE Electric usage is at the top of this sheet (I can't figure out how to move it down here ugh).
I'm hoping to compare these again in a few months and see a noticable difference!!









Sunday, August 3, 2008

Thrifty Christmas idea for little girl

I don't have any daughters, but if I did this is what I would make her for her 3rd or 4th Christmas...

A dress up treasure chest.


Ingredients -

Old prom gowns, wedding dresses, lace, tulle, costume jewelry etc.

Instructions -

Tear apart the dresses and remake them into elastic waist fairy skirts, veils, capes etc.

Use the costume jewelry to enhance the clothes, or string beads onto strong cords to make necklaces. Be careful of choking hazards though!! Use common sense about the items you are using, and the child whom it is for.

There is a no sew fairy tutu pattern here - it's so easy that anyone can do it.

To make this gift really memorable, include a tiara and a wand. Pack it into a nifty box that looks like a treasure chest (even a spray painted cardboard box with a separate lid would work) and watch a little girl's eyes light up when she opens her gift!

Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman

If you are interested in extending the harvest season of your garden, I highly recommend reading the book 'Four Season Harvest' by Eliot Coleman. It's really well written and very engaging. He and his wife traveled to France and the books talks a lot about how the French extend their growing seasons. He applies their knowledge to his American garden and voila!! He has food, fresh from his garden 365 days a year.
Here is what I am doing to extend our harvest...
~Installing a mini hoop to cover my 6 tomato plants. A simple cover in Oregon can extend the harvest until December if all goes well. Our tomatoes need protection from rain and wind more than frost for the most part.
~Creating a raised bed with horse poo as the bottom layer of soil (warmth as it decomposes) to grow Broccolini, Kale, Carrots and Swiss Chard in.
~Planting pots with Mesculen salad blend, Swiss Chard, Arugula etc. Where some people might put a pot of Pansies by their front door, I'm going to have a pot of Bright Lights Swiss Chard. I'm all for edible landscaping.
~Locating a permanent spot for garlic and planting a ton. We will not have fresh garlic until next spring but the wait will be worth it!
~Starting Artichoke seeds, planting them out in the garden, waiting a year to see if we get Artichokes.
I plan on starting the Arugula and Mesculen pots at staggered times so my harvests will continue.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Impulse purchase at Lowe's today

Well sorta an impulse purchase...I have been thinking about buying a chainsaw for ages to cut up a big pile of shrubbery into burnable chunks.

I was in Lowe's today and they had a little 14" electric chainsaw for $44. It works great. I played lumberjane today and made firewood! What a hoot.

The baby cried the entire time though. Not sure if it was the noise, or if he thought something was going to happen to mommy. I had daddy take him inside while I finished a couple of little logs. My oldest son came over and cut down some more shrubbery for me. He's definitely much stronger than I. What took him 15 minutes would have taken me an hour! GRR!!

We're having a guy come next week to give a quote on installing a woodstove into our fireplace opening. I'm excited to have a fire in the house again. It's been about 3 years since the inspector told us not to use the chimney due to a huge crack in it. So having it repaired (if we can afford it) and putting the insert in is going to save so much money in the long run! NW Natural Gas and their 35% rate hike this winter can kiss my patootey! We're going back to basics and burning wood.

Our house is old and poorly insulated and we have so much trouble keeping it above 65* in the winter. No matter how high the thermostat is. It also costs us $220 - $270/ month just for the gas bill, this doesn't include the $120 - $150 for electricity! I'm completely done spending so much on utilities. If something doesn't change this winter, we are all going to huddle in one room with an electric heater. Bah!

Anyways my plans to keep the house warm are:

Insulate the UNINSULATED crawl space under the living room. The floor is positively icy in winter.

Install low e film on the picture window in the living room (and both sliders).

Put plastic film over same window & sliders.

Make insulated curtains for all the windows in the house.

Have the furnace cleaned and inspected.

Install a woodstove insert and use it faithfully.

Flip the switch on the ceiling fan to the winter setting (whatever that is...I know it's supposed to be opposite the summer setting, but since I do not know what the summer setting is, I am in trouble!).

Insulate the hot water heater if we cannot afford to replace it with a tankless.

Install new front door. Important! Needs to be done, no matter what.

Buy rugs for the hardwood bedroom floors. BRRR.

That is all that I can think of for now.

xoxo

I want chickens!

Our local city ordinance allows us to have chickens or ducks, so long as our neighbors do not complain.
Back in my stay at home mom days I used to have 60 chickens and about 8 ducks. I miss those eggs! I also loved being able to take the apple cores, carrot peels etc out to the girls and have it turned into lovely poo for my garden.
I'm trying to broach the subject with the fiance mainly because I have to sweet talk him into building the coop.
I've been reading all sorts of articles and blogs online about urban homesteading and off the grid living while still inside city limits.
A local farm has month old Rhode Island Red hens for 5$ each. And I think we could have eggs as early as November with any luck at all.
The hens would cost 20$ (for 4), the coop would be about 50$ (we already have some wood in the garage), add in feeders and waterers and we will be out about 100$ to start. If eggs are 2.50$/dozen for normal free range non organics, and 3.50$/dozen for the organics - it wouldn't take long at all until the chickens pay for themselves. Plus this would enable us to eat less meat more easily.
Wish me luck on talking the fiance into a few hens.

Water Conservation

We have a 1/3 acre lot in the city limits. We have a lot of trees and landscaping, as well as a large vegetable garden. Our water bill runs about 55$+/mo in the summer which is terrible! I also always feel bad when I water the lawn, so I rarely do.

Since we live in Oregon, and we have abundant rainfall I have been thinking about a cistern. I've done tons of research online and have found other people in Oregon who have done the same thing. Apparently 1" of rain on a 1500 sf roof can equal about 500 gallons of water. I'm going to start doing some calculations to see how much water we really need to keep the entire 1/3 acre bright green all summer long. Then if we add a cistern or two, maybe we can limit our consumption from the area well and instead use something that is free for the taking.

Recently I watched these 2 movies that were about water and what the lack of water can do to your life. They are a story told in 2 parts, part one is Jean de Florette. Part two is Manon of the Spring. They're pretty tragic as stories go, but watching them did get me on the cistern track...

We're planning on putting new gutters in when we do our roof this fall, so I'm hoping that we can get city approval to add a cistern at the same time. We have the perfect area along the side of the house. It's completely obstructed from the street and will not take up any space that we currently use.

I've also been reading a lot about greywater. I sure hate wasting 55 gallons of water for every laundry load when my lawn right outside the laundry room is dry as a bone. More on that later as I make the switch to non-toxic laundry soap and get the pipe in. I think the city may veto that one, but since it will just run out the laundry room window part of the year, what they don't know won't hurt them. Especially since I will only use environmentally friendly laundry soap. What's the harm?

If anyone knows where there is a website that shows how to calculate water usage/ needs for landscaping and gardens please let me know where I can find it!! :)

I'll find some good cistern and greywater links and come back and post them.

In the meantime, happy Saturday to you!

Adieu Starbucks

My New Year's Resolution this year was to give up my secret lover, Starbucks.
I have done so well at not going there that I may singlehandedly be responsible for their store closures hehe.
I used to spend 5$+ a day every workday there. We also went twice a weekend with the bigger boys and usually bought pastries etc. We would average about 25$ a weekend there.
My fiance A also went every day before work. His coffee was over 5$.
Since we have stopped going we have saved about 2300$ just in 2008 alone.
Here's how I came up with the number - 31 weeks x 75$ a week = 2325$. I have gone to Starbucks 3 times this year and I know A has gone a couple of times too. Other than that we have made coffee at home with local Stumptown beans in our French Press.
We obviously still have cost incurred from the beans and half and half, but it's nowhere near the Starbucks #. We make coffee every day at home for about 15$ a week, this takes into account that my 17 year old son has now become an avid coffee drinker. Can you imagine how much our Starbucks bill would be if all 3 of us were going every day?

It was good while it lasted Starbucks, but we're through!

Cupboard Scavenger Hunt

Every time I enter my kitchen to cook, I think about what I already have in the pantry, freezer or fridge. I mentally put things together to see if they work. Sometimes my creations are awful, as my fiance A will tell you about the Hamburger Soup from last week. It was so bad.

Most often though, my creations turn out really good.
If I have an ingredient that is in danger of spoiling, I try to cook around it.
Say I have Kale and it's going to wilt if it doesn't get cooked today. I'll make Kale Risotto for dinner, which is a hit around our place.

The basic ingredients are Arborio Rice, Kale, Garlic, Chicken Broth and Parmesan.

We have 4 dozen eggs right now, so I am going to make omelets for dinner and maybe some potato salad with my Yukon Gold potatoes that I just dug from the garden.

By eating lower in the food chain, we're increasing our health as well as our wallet.

Cheers

Friday, August 1, 2008

What did I do today to save money?

Nothing! In fact I spent too much GRR.
I took the day off of work to drive out to see my Grandma who is in the hospital. Since my parents live near her, and my dad is sick, I rolled two trips into one.
I drove about 75 miles today (at 22 mpg x 3.99/gal AGH). I also treated my mom to lunch which was about 20$.

But a few days ago I made a couple of trips to Rite Aid that make up for this a little bit.

Rite Aid has this 'Single Check Rebate" program that lets you enter your receipts online and you get reimbursed for certain items. Either in full or in part.

I bought 1 ea Garnier Fructis shampoo/ conditioner @ $2.99 each (with a 1$ coupon off of each). Rite Aid is reimbursing me $5.98. I paid $3.98. It feels naughty. Hehe.

On my next trip to Rite Aid, I bought 3 One Touch Glucose monitors that were regularly $84.99 each, but were on sale for $19.99 each. I had $20 off each coupons, so they paid me .01 each to buy them. I turn around and donate them to charity. I also get a tax deduction.

I also bought 4 tubes of Crest toothpaste that have a $10 SCR (Single Check Rebate) on them. They were $15.96 for 4, I had 4/ $1 off coupons so after the SCR I paid $1.96 for 4 7.6 oz tubes of toothpaste.

They also had Softsoap handsoap pumps on sale for .99 ea, I used .35 off coupons so they were .64 each.

They had the same deal on 3 pack Irish Spring bars, but they were all out.

I've resolved to never pay for shampoo or conditioner again. With Rite Aid SCR, I don't think I will ever have to.

What did you do today to save money?

Accidentally Frugal

In the last year, things have really changed for me financially.
Mostly due to the 1000$/mo daycare bill that I now have! Thanks to the little bundle of joy that arrived in July 2007. The same bundle that is sitting on the floor tearing up a Red Plum coupon insert and hopefully not eating it...

So where I & the fiance used to run off for dinner all the time, and the girls at Nordstrom knew me by sight...we now have quiet dinners in, and yard sales.

This has been a tough adjustment for me and I am still struggling to get my finances under control.

There are also other mitigating factors like the fact that I want to be a stay at home mom. I also want to live in the country. I also want that new Prada purse that I saw on www.bagborroworsteal.com. And am currently drooling over a 50" Panasonic 1080p HDTV. SIGH!!

When you factor in that I drive a Saab that gets 22 mpg on a good day. And live in a house that needs a new roof, doors, windows, carpet, furnace, kitchen, bathroom...ahh face it...my house needs a new house! I have a lot of scheming to do if I am going to do anything I want to...and be able to pay NW Natural Gas this winter.

This is where my blog comes in. I figure that by writing things down that it will make it easier to live up to them. I'll also have witnesses (you, dear reader). Hehe.

I have a list of things that I am doing to save money. Hopefully some of these will help you too. If I missed anything, let me know!

Cheers,
Heather