Monday, April 26, 2010

Yes, I'll be making granola.

My husband tells me, he loves granola.  My heart cringes.  Doesn't he know how much that stuff costs!!!  Here I try to live on a tight, well thought out budget.  Breakfasts of oatmeal and farina, lunches of peanut butter and homemade jam, and dinners of rice and pasta dishes, and casseroles.

So my husband says, "Why don't you make it yourself?"

Ummmmmm..... because I don't know how.  So, I googled it, (I love googling things).  How To Make Granola.

So this will be today's project (after planting in my totes).

Also, please notice and check out my recipes in the left column.  I'm slowly adding my favorites and hope you enjoy them!

Prepping for our Community Garden Plots, Part 4

Last Friday we were invited to Meet and Greet, for the Community Gardens.  We met our immediate neighbors and chatted a little, received our passes and another copy of the Community Garden rules.  We also found that we were only able to get 2 plots this year, instead of th three that we had planned on.  This was followed by a question and answer time.  After 40 minutes of discussion about the shallow tilling in previous years and the new deeper discing this season, I lost interest.

BUT, my excitement about our garden was stoked.

In a conversation last week, my father, with years of gardening experience, strongly urged that I try to do companion gardening, instead of individual rows of vegetables.  Companion gardening is grouping vegetables and herbs together to repel pests and increase soil nutrient use, and even the flavor and juiciness of some vegetables.

So I redrew my garden plan, using companion gardening and within the 2 plots.

My father got a flyer from the local Extension Office, showing some good companion plants.  Many of my vegetable choices were easily grouped.

Sunflowers, Beans, Cucumber
Corn, Peas, Pumpkin and other squashes
Tomato, Carrot, Marigold
Celery, Cabbage family, Potatoes

While Eggplant and Zucchini were not specifically on my own list, I paired them with onions, celery and potatoes, just to try that.

And while planning that, my husband also thought of another way to improve our gardening harvest, skills, and utilize our LARGE back yard (which the landlord will not allow us to dig up).  We have SEVERAL 18 gallon totes.  We use them for everything, packing, kids baths, temporary fish tanks when cleaning our tanks, toy boxes.

After seeing a woman selling THESE totes with 1000 worms as compost bins, my husband got to thinking.  Why don't we just put drainage holes in them and plant some vegetables in them in our backyard?  Salad veggies and herbs would work perfectly.  And we would love to try potatoes and onions.  So I have a couple ready to go right now and am just pondering what to plant today.  I love day dreaming about my veggies. :)

Another thought that passed my head this weekend..... How To Grow Rice.

I was inspired to look it up after reading Robinson Crusoe.  And I'm glad I did!  It looks easy!!!

Now to get my hands dirty.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Armor of God

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[c] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints
Ephesians 6:10-18


Liked this rain soaked ranting from La Soñador?  Check out these similar posts.....

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Ephesians 6:10-18 - Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and ...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Prepping for our Community Garden Plots, Part 3

In the past I have had difficulties with my seedlings.  They sprout like crazy, grow two inches tall...

and die.

What did I do wrong?

So many things probably. :)  Overwatering, underwatering, fertilizing too soon, moving too soon or too roughly, leaving them in too much sunlight, not allowing them enough sunlight, soil that lacks the proper amendments, is too hard, or too soft.  There are so many variables.

While I have gained SOME wisdom in the growing of my plants, I am hardly an expert.  Looking at my own seedlings this year, and being able to say honestly that I have not lost one, does give me some pride, encouragement, and potentially some bragging rights.  But I think that mostly my limited wisdom is held up by a merciful and loving God, and that He looked on my poor effort to grow green and beautiful plants, and blessed me.

From the beginning of my seedling starts, to now, mid April, I have changed my direction, tools and materials DRASTICALLY.

BEGINNING - I began with egg cartons and jiffy pellets.  I lined my window sill with aluminum foil trays (to reflect warmth and light and to contain drainage) and planted my seeds, 2-3 in each Jiffy pellet, this held gently in each egg cup.  And my seeds did sprout and got to about 2 inches tall.  2 inches = make or break for me.  I struggled finding the appropriate watering levels.  They were too dry.  I watered them.  They were too wet.  The egg carton NEVER dried and mold sprung up on them.  I searched frantically on the internet for a solution for this problem.  I didn't want to lose my tomato plants.  This was my test.  This was my year.  Grow my year of vegetables to feed my family.  And I was already at this crux, near to losing, before I had truly begun.
Many gardeners on the internet had run into these same problems, it seemed, and they recommended a 1-10 solution of bleach water lightly sprayed on the mold.  My heart quailed.  Bleach water??  I clean my bathroom with bleach water.  I didn't want to spray this all over my beloved young plants, that would eventually, hopefully provide my family with lots of delicious fruits.
But the mold spread.  It grew up the cartons, up the netting on the jiffy pellets, and then up the stems of my tender tomato plants.  I made my bleach water solution and sprayed a few plants to test it.  The plant weakened.... the mold did not.

I thought long and hard, and I prayed....  What must I do to SAVE these seedlings?  I had plenty of seed to throw the whole lot out and start again, and again, and probably again.  But why start new ones?!?  Why go to all the trouble of planting and watering and turning and tending new seed pellets and watching the sprouts grow, only to watch them then mold, wither and die, like so many before.

I did not water them while I pondered this, and slowly the mold died.  The plants remained alive, but began to weaken.

I prayed.

And while wandering Walmart, I had a new and I think, ingenious idea.  Try to mimic the store bought starts as much as possible - larger, well drained containers, and good soil, not fake jiffy pellet soil.  My thoughts are that more soil equals better drainage, better root structure, more warmth.

So I purchased some large plastic cups that were on sale.  I got about 150 for $3.  And a large bag of Miracle Grow Garden Soil.  I DID NOT purchase starter soil.  I purchased Garden Soil - ie. as close to real dirt as possible.

I transplanted all my starts into these cups, and used a knife to cut 4 drainage holes in the bottom of each.  I have NO mold.  I have NO weak plants.  I have not lost a single plant!  And next year I intend to plant my seeds direct into the cups to begin with.  I believe that the less you have to transplant, and move and transplant and move, the better.  I would highly recommend this method to anyone.  It worked great for me, black thumbs and all. :)

My own personal take on our goals....

I want my plants to grow big and strong, so that they fulfill their purpose.  Being a christian, I think of myself as a steward, in all areas of my life.  Children, Husband, Home, Animals, Plants.... I try my best to care for them for the Lord.  I look to tending these plants, so that they may do what God intended them to do.  And this year, I pray that they will feed my family, and provide us, not just with our nutritional needs, but some extraordinarily delicious meals.  And I also pray, that the time spent tending them, strengthens my family, doing our physical labors in the sunshine and fresh air, digging in the fresh, rich dirt of the earth, spending our time together, productively with laughter and learning and an end product that delights our eyes and our stomachs and our souls.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Prepping for our Community Garden Plots, Part 2

Immediately after our 2009 harvest, we sat down and discussed our garden and our future and goals.  One of our main goals is that we provide for our own food needs as much as possible, ensuring our food safety, and supply.  We want to learn to live healthier and more sustainable lives, and teach our children the same.

So this year we tried to plan for one year's worth of vegetables.  We are aiming at having 3 garden plots to equal 40'x60'.  We plan on having 70-90 tomato plants, 5 garbage cans of potatoes,20' row of beans, 100-150 onions, 100 garlic, 6 zucchini, 2 hubbard squash, 2 pumpkin, 2 acorn squash, 2 spaghetti squash, 2 eggplants, carrots, celery, kohlrabi, and a row along the entire back of corn and a few sunflowers.  We are doing about the same amount as last year on the salad fixings, since they don't store.  But, I learned last year, DO NOT plant all your lettuce at the same time!  Plant them about 1/2 - 1 week apart, so they ripen and are ready 1/2 - 1 week apart!  This allows you to eat alllllll your lettuce and not have to throw any out!  YEAH!

Here is my plan.  I like wasting time in KolourPaint. :)

This will provide for more vegetables than are currently in our diet.  I have been researching and trying to gather more recipes that lean more on vegetables, to become our staples.  I have found that homemade spaghetti sauce, made from diced tomatoes and diced or shredded zucchini is DELICIOUS.  This with some pasta will make delicious and healthy meals for our family.  Pastas, Stir Fries, Potatoes, would become the daily staples, with a "meat on fridays" kind of attitude.

Of course, through this year, we will continue our grocery store patronage.  But we will be moving towards bulk items, spices, flour, sugar, pasta, rice, beans, and dairy products.  We are considering purchasing a cow to butcher for the freezer, and if chicken or pork goes on sale, we'll jump on that.

The community Gardens open here May 1st.  I have figured the first week will just be prep work, marking the rows, putting in the irrigation system (we have not yet decided on soaker hoses or drip irrigation tubing), and the stakes and twine for the plants to grow up.

Then the 1st or 2nd week, depending on how long the prep work takes and if the ground is dry enough, we will begin planting.  I intend to put composted chicken manure in each hole for the tomatoes, and tilled lightly into the other rows.  Tomatoes, in particular, take more nitrogen than many other vegetables.

And here are some photos of my starts......

They are all stacked anyway I can get them, in front of my only east facing window.  I dream of the day when I have my own land, my own house, and my very own greenhouse to grow my starts in!

Until then, we will plug along happily with tomato seedlings covering every available surface, and the smell of nice fresh dirt in the house. :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Prepping for our Community Garden Plots, Part 1

Last year we participated for the first time in the Community Gardens.  We had one plot 20'x40'.  I was excited and terrified.  Having no property of my own, my previous gardening attempts had all been in containers.  And they all failed.  I was sure I had a black thumb.

But my husband encouraged me to keep trying.  I had some good help.  My father, and the local Master Gardeners were very willing to lend a hand, a hoe, and plenty of advice.  We planted 13 tomatoes, 1 cherry tomato, 1 row of green beans, 50 onions, 10 seed potatoes, 1 row of corn, 1 zucchini, 1 cucumber, 1 hubbard squash, and a wide row of radishes, lettuce, cilantro, and some peas.

The garden flourished!!!  I learned that the art of growing things is MUCH more forgiving out in the earth.  Overwatering, it drains off.  Underwatering, the plants have larger root systems and survive.  Of course, I TRIED very hard to learn how to take care of my garden correctly.  But the plants lived through my trial and error and I was GRATEFUL!

It never occured to me to take pictures of my first garden, which I regret.  But we do have a picture of my newborn sleeping while I tended the tomatoes.

I worked in the garden for about 1 hour every other day.  And on a few weekends I was able to pry my husband from the office and get him to hoe the weeds down with me.

From this first garden, we had numerous delicious and fresh salads, and fried zucchini and tomatos.  Our tomatoes made the bulk of our return, when we brought home 8 bags of ripe tomatoes and were able to can 12 pints of diced tomatoes and 6 quarts of mild salsa and 3 pints of hot salsa.  Our potatoes didn't do 'great' but we still had a few meals with delicious garden potatoes.  And our onions were on the small side, and HOT!  But they kept VERY well, and were delicious additions to our meals.

Added to this bounty, my mother-in-law blessed us with one pumpkin each for the children.

As you can see, they were VERY LARGE pumpkins!  The kids were thrilled.  And when we opened them up to process, we found that the flesh on these pumpkins was 8" thick!!  So after a few days of processing, I ended up with more than 30 freezer bags, 3 cups each, of pureed pumpkin.  I do 3 cups because it is the perfect amount for my pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie recipes, and I use 6 cups for pumpkin jam!

By harvest time, we were hooked.  We looked back on the previous months, our small efforts and poor gardening skills, and saw this rich, rich reward.  We began earnestly planning for the next year's garden, and researching diligently the time honored techniques used by successful gardeners.

Planning for 2010....... coming soon!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My New Canner and Canned Chili Meat

Yeah!  I used my new canner today for the first time.  I canned my chili meat.  I decided on using pint jars, since our chili meal will have added beans, rice, and cheese.  So I think 1 pint will provide for my family of 4 quite easily.

I used 4 lbs ground beef, 4 diced onion, 4 large cloves of diced garlic, 4 cans of diced tomatoes.  And I mixed up my own chili seasoning, using 1/3 cup cumin, 1/4 cup chili powder, 4 tsp salt, 1 tbsp cilantro.  It made 7 pints with a little left over, which my husband gladly taste tested for me.  He said it was delicious!

I'll consider that an afternoon well spent.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

TO DO LIST - Canning Chili

My husband recently bought me a beautiful canner, the All-American Pressure Cooker and Canner.  It's biggest selling point to us, was the metal-to-metal seal, with no gaskets, and it's built like a tank.  If this thing falls off my pantry shelf and hits me in the head, I know the canner will win.

Tomorrow I will be canning some chili meat.  Since I prefer using canned beans anyways, I will have cans of chili beans to go with each of my quart jars of Chili Meat.

My typical chili recipe is....

1 lb ground beef, browned
1 diced onion
1 pint jar diced tomatoes
2 cans chili beans
3-4 tbsp of chili seasoning

And I serve this with rice and shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream (if these things are available).  It is delicious.

As for chili beans, I have tried many kinds, black beans, red beans, small kidney beans, large kidney beans, and pinto beans.  I prefer the black beans so far, and they seem to have a higher protein count and lower carbohydrate count also.

Sometimes I mix my own chili seasoning, using cumin, chili powder, garlic, salt, and pepper.  I really prefer mixing my own, but since I haven't organized my spice shelf recently, I have trouble finding the little store bag with chili powder, or cumin, and sometimes, can't remember if I used the last of the garlic powder, when I am at the store.  So I DO have a stash of bulk "chili seasoning" from the grocery store as well.

This will be a test run.  I have 4 lbs of frozen ground beef.  So I will prepare that, with 4 onions, 4 cans of tomatoes, and enough chili seasoning to compensate for the eventual addition of beans.  I am debating on using pints or quarts to can it, so that it will be most equivalent to the quantity we are used to enjoying.

Regardless, I'm looking forward to using my new canner, and if all goes well, I will post picks of my accomplishments tomorrow evening!

Hello world!

I am a wife and mother.  I love serving the Lord, family, friends, sewing, gardening, cooking, writing poetry and stories.  I love playing the piano and flute, and singing old hymns and celtic pieces.  I love love love reading, but rarely find too much time to sit and delve into a good book lately.  And recently I’m finding my heart leans towards Homebirth, Homeschool, Agrarianism, Moving towards being Off the Grid.

Want to read more About Me?