Monday, May 24, 2010

Slow Down!

As a person who multitasks yet constantly feels like I'm being spit off the back of the treadmill of life, I found this article really interesting.  I try to simplify, yet I also find myself doing things that complicate.  Blogging, for example.  Web surfing.  Various garden projects.  Isn't it just easier to buy stuff at the store?  Faster.  Wait - that's the point.  A lot of my projects (which can be overwhelming in their number and scope, especially for my life phase, as I mother little ones) are simplification projects.  Growing food is a slow process, a labor of love, a developing oneness with the food.  And yet it is also watering, weeding, planting, composting -- translation -- time.  It is slow.  Yet it is also a time sink.  One in the same, I suppose.  There is this tension between wanting to get things done so you have time to move on to the things you want to do vs. just slowing everything down and enjoying the process.  Being mindful. 

Where do I waste time?  Web-surfing, email, reading news.  But is it such a waste?

We don't really watch TV, so the time isn't being sunk there. 

This article points to agreement about increased speed of life now.  We get places faster (cars, airplanes) and get information faster (internet, phones), so why aren't we overwhelmed with leisure time?  Doesn't that sound nice?  Being overwhelmed with leisure time.  Yet I don't know anyone who feels that way.  Why not?  Longer hours at work?  Greater expectations for ourselves and our families?  More scheduled activities for kids?  Multi-generational care across suburban (and global) sprawl?

Some of the ways we try to simplify in our home are:
- almost no TV
- minimal cell phone use (so we aren't getting calls everywhere we go)
- growing some of our food
- preserving some of our food (but again, is this just complicating things?  It would be faster to buy a jar of applesauce than make it.  But I guess that's the point - SLOW DOWN!)
- I don't like to run errands all the time, so I postpone trips like going to the grocery store (in the article he discusses the merits of skipping a bookstore trip that he doesn't really have time for anyway).  But this ends up with less frequent trips.  The ones I do make are time-consuming and feel like a marathon!
- intentional reduction in consumption.  Freecycle and Craig's List are not only cheaper, but also greener - by reusing stuff.  They are more of a process - than the quick accomplishment of just buying something new.  So does searching for a pressure canner for a year on Freecycle, Craig's List, garage & estate sales, and thrift shops count as "slowing down"?  Or is it just a complication and I should have just bought a new one and got it over with?

I'm afraid that I'm a long way off from having the answers.  I'm open to suggestions.  How do you simplify your life?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sign the Petition for Corn Allergy Alert

Please consider signing the petition for getting the FDA to require disclosure of corn on the primary allergen list.  It hides under so many names: natural flavors, citric acid, ascorbic acid, tocopherols, maltodextrin, etc.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

McNeil Children's Medications Recalled

I am so ticked about the cluelessness of my local pharmacy staff that I gotta rant.  Have you heard about the recent McNeil recall of children's medicaitons?  Well, my local pharmacist hasn't.  I went through my medicine cabinet and of my 6 products in varing degrees of used/new-ness, 5 of them were involved in the recall.  The 6th was a store brand of ibuprofen.  So I called that store just to make sure it wasn't included.  The tech and pharmacist assured me it wasn't and, by-the-way, there was no recall on either the Motrin or the Benadryl anyway.  WRONG!  After looking this information up on the pharmacy chain's website I called back the pharmacist to tell her she'd better read the internal communications to give accurate advice to other families.  She said, oops, she'd just checked the shelves and it did look like some of the Motrin and Benadryl was recalled.   She actually told me, and I'll paraphrase, that she didn't get the memo.  When asked, she still said, no the store brand wasn't affected.  I'm not sure I believe her.  Her actions don't inspire a lot of faith in her advice or in her knowledge of her own limits.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Teepees and sowing

As I said, this weekend was great for gardening.  After unloading the cow compost from the minivan, I made a teepee from bamboo harvested from a friend's yard.  I amended the soil with the great compost and planted it with green bean seeds that Alyssa saved from her garden last year and Red Noodle Yard Long pole beans.  Since I expect those to take about 90 days to mature, inside that I planted radishes and kohlrabi.  In another part of the front yard I built a less elaborate teepee and planted it with lima beans from the bulk bins at the local market.  Inside of that, I put beets.  This second teepee will probably need some horizontal twine around it to help support the limas.  I grew some last year and found they needed some horizontal support as well as vertical string.  The bean seeds I had soaked in warm water overnight, hoping this will hasten sprouting.

In the back yard, I had a grand time planting three types of lettuces, radish, beets, carrots, celeriac, kohlrabi and turnips.  In my large herb pots, I added some garlic chive and dill seeds.  Those dill seeds are about 9 years old, so I won't hold my breath on them.  I planted a Texas Taragon plant that I bought on a whim because its blooms were so pretty.  I'm sure it will taste great, too.  In a pot, to reduce invasiveness, I planted a lemon balm plant that I also purchased on a whim.  It smells lovely.  Upon researching the invasiveness of lemon balm last night on the computer, I also discovered that I should separate my spearmint and peppermint plants into different pots so that they don't eventually end up tasting alike.  Not that I could really tell you the difference now.  But while I was out there potting, I pulled some of each mint from their communal pot and started separate pots for each.

Regarding my cottage cheese container project, I believe I have lost one of the 16 tomato seedlings due to drying out or rough watering technique or something like that.  For me and my self-sprouted tomatoes, this is a pretty low mortality rate.  I'll continue to be vigilant.

Manure made my day

This weekend was such a great gardening weekend.  It started early on Friday with a preschool field trip to a local dairy farm.  It was a very kid-friendly, educational trip.  The kids' favorite part was probably getting to play in the cottonseed pile in the feed barn.

Knowing in advance that where they have cows, they have cow manure, I brought my shovel, gloves and trash can.  I expected to be offered to muck out some stalls.  Lo and behold, this dairy has developed a very successful side business of supplying organic compost to local organic farms.  DS, DD, and I stayed after the tour to get some black gold from the compost business.  We had a great time watching the compost guy load up an enormous open-topped big rig with about 42 cubic yards of compost.  We also came home with a trash can and several bags full in the back of the minivan.  Unfortunately, we were late home for lunch, nap, had a chaotic evening and before I knew it, it was Saturday morning and my van was still full of cow manure.  For the record, when I opened the car door, the olfactory stimuli were overwhelming.  But that was some good s**t.

Political Satire

What's wrong with this picture?  This flag was handed out for kids to enjoy waving at a musical we attended last week.  When I saw this flag up close, I was rather taken aback.  I'll give you a clue about the problem:

And that's not a sticker that peals off.  It is written on the plastic sleeve that is the edge of the flag and holds it on the stick.  I think some designer somewhere thought that was hilarious.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Ugliest Nosegays

I always wanted to use that word in writing.  That, and posy, just don't come up much in my daily life.  Anyway, the point of the picture is to share with you my google-informed attempt at rooting sweet potatoes.  Anyone tried this?  They say to half submerge them in water and they'll root/sprout.  So far, I'm wondering if they'll just rot.

Growing cottage cheese

Today I planted more tomato seedlings and nursed along the ones I put out recently.  The windy weather with 30% humidity is hard on the little seedlings, and it seems to be in moments like this that I lose my wimpy seedlings.  So today I cut the bottoms off a few dozen yogurt and cottage cheese containers and put one around each vulnerable-looking transplant.  Now my garden looks like I'm growing cottage cheese!  I hope they create a more sheltered little micro-climate that helps the plants transition.  I put in a couple "mystery" tomato volunteers from friend Cathy's garden.  Thanks Cathy!  We'll see what they become - she's betting a cherry or roma.  I also planted into the Topsy Turvy that I got recently at a rummage sale with a tomato start that I actually bought.  It is an heirloom called "Mr. Stripey".  Love the name, as does 5 year old DS.  The other one I'm growing just for its name is "Mortgage Lifter."  Do you think it will work?

I thought I'd update on my seedling outcomes that I posted on February 14, 2010: "I planted TONS of seeds to start indoors.  Basil, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes (6 types - Black Krim, Brandywine, Yellow Pear, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter and Pineapple), cucumbers (lemon and gherkin), chard, squash (pattypan, portofino, zucchini - oops, no yellow crookneck?), lettuces and marigolds."  Of those planted the basil, eggplant, tomatoes, lettuces, and marigolds had a good success rate.  Of the peppers, only 25% took.  The cucumbers and squash sprouted but didn't survive long enough in their puny containers to get transplanted.  I recall it said something about "not recommended for starting indoors" on the label.  But, hey, what do they know?  They are just the experts, right?  Anyway, perhaps they have a point.  I have so many more seeds I want to get in the ground - actually wanted to get in the ground about 6 weeks ago.  I hope to have more updates soon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Garden Update April 2010, Part 2

Today I finally got some of the tomatoes that I'd started from seed in the ground.  I'd planted one about 2 weeks ago but the warm air dried it up into nothing.  I'm hoping that the weather will be less extreme in the next few days and these ones will make it.  I planted some Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Pineapple Tomato, Yellow Pear Tomato, and Brandywine.  I'm most excited to taste the Pineapple variety.  I also put some of my seedlings for eggplant in the ground and the one pepper out of four I started that has survived thus far.

About half of my snap peas are still blooming and growing strong and the other half is done.  Why?  Essentially the same location.  I wonder if it is disease or what.  Anyone know?

This Friday DS's school is taking a field trip to a dairy farm.  I think I'll bring a trash can to try to bring home some manure.  Should I just add it to my compost bin?  Anyone with experience composting cow manure?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Finally got a canner!

I finally found a used canner!  On Thursday I went to an  estate sale and found a stainless steel stock pot that didn't list the size on the bottom but looked larger than my largest (8 qt) stock pot.  I bought it for $3.75.  When I got it home it indeed is taller than my other stock pot.  I measured the volume at 12 quarts!  Yippee!  It seems tall enough that I'd be able to do more than the pints that I can fit in my stock pot.  Then...  while surfing on Craig's List I found someone local selling a canner and canning jars.  After emailing back and forth with a young woman, I went to look at it on Saturday.  I thought I was going for a pressure canner, so I was beside myself with excitement!  When I got there, I discovered that the woman was selling her mom's boiling water bath canner (for a cut of the price) and didn't know a BWB from a pressure canner.  I was disappointed, but since I didn't have an big canner with rack and such, I bought the BWB canner (fits 7 quart jars at a time) plus 101 jars (mostly quarts), some lids, some accessories for $75.  It wasn't the screaming deal I was hoping for but it's decent.  Around here those jars would be $1-$1.50 each in the thrift shop, so not bad.  It is good that I got more jars, because I just used the last of mine for storing various gluten-free flours in.  I'd still been using these large canisters back from my gluten-days but it just didn't make sense.  Instead of 1-3 types of flour, now I use about 9, so the smaller containers make more sense.  Anyway, now I'm set for quarts!

And I figure I'll use that 12 quart stock pot for some of the canning cooking (like big batches of applesauce), then process the jars in the BWB canner.  Now I just need a bigger kitchen to hold all the big pots!

Garden Update April 2010

I started seeds MONTHS ago so that I'd be ready to go early to plant them.  And here it is the end of April.  Just this weekend, I finally put 7 basil plants in the ground, 3 patty pan squash, and 5 shallots.  The best laid plans...  Anyway, it was good to finally get them in.  And I planted them with some gorgeous compost that we'd sifted a couple weekends ago.  We used the coarser woody chunks as mulch on the yard to suppress weeds.  The fine compost I put in a trash can to store until I needed it in the garden.  In addition to a healthy crop of pill bugs and ear wigs, I couple squash-like plants sprouted in the trash can.  So I planted those in the garden today too and labeled them "mystery".  DS, who loves flowers, was pleased that we were able to plant about 7 marigolds that were already blooming after starting them from seed.

I gotta hand it to our citrus trees.  Today I picked the last orange tree clean.  They've been feeding us steadily since early December.  I've harvested over 216 pounds of mandarins, tangelos and navel oranges!  That's a lot of produce.

I've been keeping my "garden finance log" with the expenses and yields of the garden, starting in Nov 2009 with a large seed order.  To date, my garden expenses (which excludes water - hard to quantify - and labor) are $132.21 and my yield is $449.41.

We picked more of our carrots today, which is such a great crop for kids.  It is so fun to see what comes up out of the ground!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rummage Sale Score

Do you have the garage sale bug?  I must confess that I do.  I was particularly excited to see a multi-family sale and a girl scout rummage sale very nearby.  So today I went out looking for a pressure canner, canning jars and a tag-a-long bike. 

I found none of these.  But, as is the way with rummage sales, I found other things to spend my money on.  Since DH doesn't share the garage sale bug, and thus his reaction leaves something to be desired, I gotta tell you about my finds.
- got a basketball hoop for DS for his b-day for $3
- a cute, two piece outfit in great condition for DD for $1
- a silicone mini-muffin baking pan in heart shapes for 50 cents
- a new Topsy Turvy Tomato thingy for $2.  (I kept eying those in the stores and catalogs but couldn't bring myself to buy one retail.)
- a bunch of kids books, including hardbacks that look brand-spanking new for 50 cents each
- and here is the real score - hundreds (literally) of packages of various crafting supplies for about 7.5 cents a piece.  I spent $20 total on that.  I'm going to be selling at a swap meet tomorrow (for other reasons) and have repackaged and crafted with some of the items already to resell.  Some necklaces, pins for jewelry, fridge magnets.  I needed a way to display them.  After killing the black widow spider that had taken up residence on an old cork board in the garage, and dispatching the egg sac as well, I brought the board inside.  Using a stapler and a large piece of black cloth that I'd recently received via Freecycle, I covered the cork board to look more professional.  I made up little signs for the display items and attached them to the board in little baggies with push pins.  To attach the un-bagged magnets, my husband dug some wire mesh out of the garage.  I cut a piece with tin snips, covered the sharp edges with black electric tape, and attached that to the board with push pins.  The magnets hold onto it so well!  In all, I think I made about 100 items to sell on that board.  If I sell even 20 of them, I'll make my money back plus have 90% of the crafting supplies left.  Cool!
Wish me luck tomorrow.  Hopefully I'll make some money at the swap meet AND find a pressure canner, canning jars, and tag-a-long bike.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Breastfeeding saves lives and money - BIG money

Breastmilk is amazing.  "The United States incurs $13 billion in excess costs annually and suffers 911 preventable deaths per year because our breastfeeding rates fall far below medical recommendations"  "...95 percent of these deaths, are attributed to three causes: sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); necrotizing enterocolitis, seen primarily in preterm babies and in which the lining of the intestinal wall dies; and lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia."

I know from experience that it isn't always easy to breastfeed, though.  Families need support (LOTS of it) and education.

I was impressed this winter when my family got a bad stomach bug.  It killed my 92 year old grandfather.  DS (4 years old) was still throwing up a week into it.  I was sick for days and days.  DD (over 1 year old) was sick for about 4 hours!  She still nurses.  Amazing.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Love my new widget!

Most weeks I try to check the watering index in Southern California so that we can adjust our irrigation system accordingly.  Some "intelligent" timers adjust on their own, but I think they require a paid subscription.  Instead, we check the index.  This helps us to water how much our plants need but not use too much water, which besides being wasteful, is becoming increasingly expensive. 

Well, now I have a widget on my blog that tells us the watering index!  I'm so excited!  Check it out.  It should be over there on the right.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Demise of the Dare-Me Diet Deal

I hate to say it, but after weeks of struggling with the Vita-mix diet I imposed on myself, I've given up the ghost, fallen off the wagon, bit the dust, thrown in the towel, raised the white flag, cried "Uncle" and declared myself done!  What did me in?  Chocolate withdrawal.  I know, I could have put chocolate into the VM but that just wasn't in the spirit of the deal.  I'm still using it regularly for grinding flours, smoothies, sorbets, hash browns, and pesto.  DH graciously agrees that I can keep it.  He's such a sweetie - I think I'll keep him, too!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancakes

This morning I made a new recipe of GF Pancakes with amaranth flour and wild rice flour that I ground in my Vita-Mix.  It was delicious.  To quote DH, "Yum!"  I've been looking for a flour blend that I can use without rice, corn, soy or sorghum and this worked out nicely.  Of course it is also egg-free since that is a must for me.  It could be made dairy free by substituting 1 cup of soured milk substitute  (e.g. 1 cup almond milk/rice milk/soy milk with 1 T vinegar or lemon juice) as described here.  

This is the recipe:

1/4 c gar/fava flour
1/4 c potato starch
1/4 c tapioca flour
1/8 c wild rice flour
1/8 c amaranth flour
4 t baking powder (GF, corn-free)
1 t baking soda
2 t sugar
1 t salt
1/2 c apple sauce (I used thick, homemade apple sauce)
1 c buttermilk (if you use thin applesauce, consider using plain yogurt instead)
2 t vanilla
2 T olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients together.  Add the wet ingredients and stir until just blended.  Cook over medium heat on a lightly oiled non-stick pan.  Just like other pancakes, turn when the bubbles in the batter stop popping.  Cook the other side.  Serve warm plain, with maple syrup, or with other favorite topping.

Friday, February 19, 2010

King Corn

DH and I watched the documentary King Corn yesterday.  I highly recommend it.  The movie was entertaining and very educational about how we developed such a glut of corn and how it is in almost everything we eat (beef, bread, crackers, etc).  They connect the dots of the redone Farm Bill in 1973 to the rise of high fructose corn syrup, obesity, diabetes, and declining life expectancy.  It makes me wonder how far we could go in stemming the explosion of health care costs if we just stopped subsidizing corn so that empty calories weren't the cheapest.  And here's a far out idea - if we want to support farmers, we could subsidize local, organic farming such that healthy foods became cheaper.  What would happen to our nation's weight if a fresh salad from the local market were cheaper than a fast food burger and soda?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dare-Me Diet Deal Day 8 of (54), no 52

I'm now on Day 8 of my Vita-Mix deal diet.  Since I've lost 2 pounds, I'm committed to a mere 52 total days now.  I've been experimenting with different smoothies for breakfast.  Some include my homemade yogurt which is a great way to dress it up.  Other favorites include humus, hash browns, and "ice cream."  A big plus is that it is way easier to clean than a normal blender and it can handle textures that would otherwise not work.  Today I even got out the grinder blades to make wild rice flour for pancakes and amaranth flour for tortillas (the latter were good and worthy of repeating.)  I also like that it makes it easier to consume greens more regularly.  The biggest minus is time.  I already run around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to keep my duckies safe, occupied, fed, and happy.  Preparing food from even more basic ingredients than I already do is time-consuming.  And I soooo miss chocolate and ice cream.  If I ever get some time I'll post some favorite recipes.

Garden Update

This weekend we got around to a number of garden projects.  In addition to weeding, since we've actually had rain lately, we did some planting.  I planted about 4.25 pounds of red and gold potatoes into various pots and boxes.  Also, I planted TONS of seeds to start indoors.  Basil, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes (6 types - Black Krim, Brandywine, Yellow Pear, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter and Pineapple), cucumbers (lemon and gherkin), chard, squash (pattypan, portofino, zucchini - oops, no yellow crookneck?), lettuces and marigolds.  In the past, I've had spotty success transplanting outside the puny seedlings that I start indoors.  Now I've got them in a different window, so I hope they'll get more sun and be more robust.  We'll see.

We are still eating pounds and pounds of oranges from our trees.  The sugar snap peas are blooming and producing nicely, although I wish it were more.  When we are out in the garden, the kids snack on the peas constantly.  Almost none make it into the house!  We've harvested a lot of parsley lately and made pesto.  I'd prefer basil but none is ready.  I only started 8 basils - perhaps I'd better do more.  Although if all these seeds actually take, where on Earth am I going to plant them all?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dare-Me Diet Deal Day 1 of 54

To summarize and simplify the math of the intro post, D = 54 - P, where D = the number of Days I'm on my blender-intensive diet and P is the number of pounds lost.  54 days is a shockingly long time.  Perhaps this wasn't such a good idea.  But if I lost 54 pounds by tomorrow, I'd be done with the blender-intensive diet AND I'd be a skeleton.  But perhaps I can find a happy medium here.

Today, P=0 'cause it is day 1.  What if I gain weight?!  Uggghhh! 

Oh, and I forgot to mention in part of the deal, if I cheat, that day doesn't count and I have to tack on a day for it at the end.

Today I got the blender and got home about 12:30pm.  The kids were hungry and the house was chaotic, so I didn't have time to unpack it or figure it out before lunch.  My lunch entailed salmon, fruits and veggies.  Before dinner, I only had time to clean the machine and make a simple green smoothie: greens, carrots, juice, banana, hemp protein powder.  Now it is 6:35 and I'm still hungry!  I gotta figure out how to use this thing better.  I need some nut butter, stat!

Dare-Me Diet Deal Intro

I've been wanting a Vita-Mix after hearing friends on-line and in-person say how much they like theirs for green smoothies and grinding beans and gluten-free grains.  But honestly, who can justify a $600 blender?  Well, look at me, I did! 

I didn't want to get it and not use it, so here is the dare/deal I made with myself.  I'll use it for A LOT of my food initially.  Here are the rules, with a little algebra thrown in for good measure.  For D days, I will eat:
1) Food prepared in my new Vita-Mix
2) Fresh fruits and vegetables
3) Lean animal meats (fish, chicken, turkey)

Where D = (X/10) - P
X = Cost of the Vita-Mix     and
P = Pounds lost

When pitching this elaborate justification scheme to DH, he said, "Well, I guess I have to be honest here."  He took a deep breath, and we both braced ourselves for the painful truth.  "I think losing 10 pounds would be a good goal."  Owwww, man!  But he's right, and then some.  Not that I mentioned to him that my goal was weight loss.  He is so in the dog house for bringing that up!  ;)  My main goal was to justify a Vita-Mix to use for grinding GF stuff and getting more fruits and veggies in our diets.  But losing some of the weight I've gained in the last year would be fabulous.  I know what the problem is - I eat junky food for energy, which gives me temporary energy, then makes me tired, so I eat the wrong stuff again, so I have energy, then I'm tired....  You get the idea.  I hope this Dare-Me Diet Deal will break that sugar addiction cycle AND justify spending way too much money on a blender.  Perhaps this hard-core intro period will get me in the habit of using the Vita-Mix and make me stretch creatively in its use.

So this morning I went out and bought a 5200 TURBO (actually, I'm kidding about the turbo part) at Costco.  It had an extra $100 dry grinding unit for the grains and beans.  With tax, the horrifying bottom line was $537.20.  So, getting back to our algebra:
D = 537.20/10 - P
Let's assume I stay the same weight.
D = 537.20/10 -0
D = 53.72
Let's round that to 54.  54 days.  Holy cow!  What have a done?!  Quick, send me your favorite blender recipes!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Motherly sayings

"Son, I don't think it's good for the umbrella to hammer on it." Good grief. I never knew I'd have to SAY that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What to say when we awaken in jail?

This is so random, but I got such a huge kick out of this thread on Facebook, that I wanted to post it in my blog.  Here is the scenario: "If you & I woke up in jail together...using only FOUR words...what would you say to me?"

Here are some of my favorite responses, in no particular order:
No kids! No kids!
My name is JULIO. (That was an "in" joke.)
I don't believe it.
Next time, pants on.
What will Matt think?
We are so screwed.
Dang! We had Fun!
We got some sleep!!
Your lawyer, or mine?
I told you so!
Bring anything to read?
This is your fault.
Awww man, not again.
Thanks for the help.
Fancy meeting you here.
Is that my blood?
What did you do?
Don't tell my husband!
Let's do it again!
You come here often?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Parsley Pesto

Hi to all my loyal fans!  I wanted you both to know that I tried my Fabulous Pesto tonight with the herbs I had on hand and it turned out great.  My basil in the garden had not been happy about some 30's-ish lows last month, so I only had a tad of that for my pesto.  I had a bit of cilantro and TONS of parsley.  It was vibrantly green and yummy on our bean thread pasta.  By the time you put parmesan, pine nuts and garlic on anything it would taste great.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How much are 16 caterpillars worth?

Today's garden yield included 2 cherry tomatoes, over 6 pounds of Manderin oranges and 16 juicy caterpillars.  Since early November when I did a big seed catalog order, I've been keeping track of my garden expenses and yields.  My little spreadsheet includes expenses of seeds, plants, pots and stakes totally $73.49.  I didn't include wages for our work or expenses of watering because they were too hard to quantify and, hey, its a labor of love.  My yields record all the garden produce I've harvested since November 1: chard, lettuce, eggplants, tomatoes, herbs, lemons, oranges, lima beans, black-eyed peas, pomegranates, radishes, potatoes, and butternut squash.  Assigning values to each produce item, trying to be comparable to organic produce at the store, my yield so far is about $156.  But today's yield included 16 little green caterpillars eating my turnip greens.  How much are they worth?  How will I fit them into the equation?

I plucked them off.  They are now residing in a jar with greens from turnips and from a nearby radish, which wasn't infested with the caterpillars.  I'm setting it up as a preschool science experiment.  Do you think the caterpillars will selectively eat the turnip greens in the jar?  Or had they just not noticed my lovely radishes?  Oh!  Gotta add the radish and baby turnip to the yield totals!

Ok, my science mind is starved by motherhood.  I got out some old equations to work on the caterpillar density.  I know that 16 caterpillars might not sound that remarkable to you, but they were found in my little container garden.  One pot of lonely turnips, the pot being about 12 inches in diameter.  Feel free to check my math...  That is a radius of 6 inches.  The surface area of the pot is pi*r*r = 113.1 square inches.  That's 0.15 caterpillars per square inch, or 20.4 caterpillars per square foot.  Gosh, if I had an acre of turnips, they'd have 887,397 caterpillars on them!  That feels like a caterpillar plague of Biblical proportions in my little pot!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wonderful worm castings!

It has been a while since I've tended to our worm bin in a substantial way.  We just keep them in a plastic tote in the garage.  A month or so ago I'd moved all the contents over to one side of the bin and started adding the new bedding and new kitchen scraps on the other side.  This gives the worms a chance to migrate out of the older bedding and scraps and into the new, easing but not eliminating the sorting of worms.  Today was harvest day from the old side.  In addition to finding a happy, healthy worm population with plenty of egg sacks, I harvested about 2 gallons (I'm estimating from my 5 gallon bucket) of fresh worm castings.  These went directly onto our sugar snap peas that are happily blooming.  Nothing like digging around in worm poop to really make your day.  Elizabeth, you said that it is pretty sad when good limas make your day.  Is worm poop sadder?  But it was really rich worm poop!  I'm linking an image from so you can  see what I mean about the egg sacks.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The best lima beans of my life

Months ago I planted some lima beans from the dried bulk bin.  Unfortunately only one of them grew well.  The one that took, grew pretty well.  Today I harvested all 11 pods since they looked mature.  I've never grown limas before so don't really know.  Did you know the pod is fuzzy?  I did a cursory Google search today to see how to prepare them.  My distracted search with DD tugging on me didn't net much useful information.  I took a pod to DS's preschool and polled the teachers.  Although no one had cooked a fresh lima bean before, the consensus seemed to be to shuck them and boil/steam the beans as one would fresh peas.  So this evening the kids and I shucked the limas, yielding a whopping 1.25 ounces of beans (an average of about 2 beans per pod).  I put them in a pan with a tiny bit of water and simmered the beans until soft.  They were the best lima beans we've ever eaten.  I must grow them again!  And in a better location to get a better yield.  I also think that next time I'll put the dry beans in a wet paper towel before planting to start them sprouting.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Holiday of Horrors

It has been a while since I've posted.  You know how the whirlwind of the holidays can get ahead of you.  And it still is ahead of me, but I've got to share this.  We've just experienced what I shall refer to in years to come as "The Holiday of Horrors."  I'll post the very abbreviated version.

On 12/26 we drove to Arizona to visit family.  On 12/27 my 92 year old Grandfather got a stomach bug and was hospitalized.  On 12/28 DS got bug, spent 2 days on the sofa and didn't stop throwing up until 1/2.  On 12/29 my Mom got bug.  On 12/30 Grandfather died.  On 1/1 I got the bug.  On 1/2 we drove back home to California without emesis or excrement soiling the new (used) minivan.  On 1/3 DS and I were still on the sofa due to the bug.  On 1/4 DD got it.  So far, only DH has escaped unscathed.  I sure hope we are done with it.  Today DS went back to school and DH went back to work, so we are pretending we are back to normal.