Sunday, January 23, 2011


Who let the emu in the chicken house?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Decisions, decisions

This week I received some wonderful news. I've been offered a scholarship to an organic farming conference. At first I was elated, then I began to add up all the costs of attending that weren't covered by the scholarship. Yikes! The reality of it all took the wind out of my sails. I have another week to mull it over before I have to decide whether to accept the scholarship or let it pass to another worthy recipient.
What to do, what to do? There's the 8 hour drive each way, plus two days off work, hotel, food, and dealing with a teenager who doesn't want to go but can't stay home alone.
Then there's the opportunity to learn lots of skills from people who are really doing this organic farming thing.
If I go I'll be dead broke for months. If I don't go I'll be sorely disappointed.

What do you think I should do?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

More Stuff We Don't Buy

Now that I've had my rant on food, here's how I combat consumerism at home.

1. No cleaning supplies.
That is, no prepared concoctions designed for cleaning. Just baking soda, salt and a spray bottle with cider vinegar solution. By keeping it simple I'm avoiding toxins and saving a bundle, too.

2. Laundry soap
Almost a year ago I bought a box of borax, two boxes of washing soda and 4 bars of Fels Naptha soap. Now, I don't really know what's in Fels Naptha soap so I'm hoping to use some homemade soap once I'm out of this stuff. (waste not, want not) I mix up a batch of gel laundry soap in a 2 gallon bucket and it lasts us at least 5 months. I do love Seventh Generation laundry soap but the goal is to be as self sufficient as possible.

3. Body/face soap
I'm not making my own soap just yet. But dear Charlotte up in Jackson makes some of the loveliest hand made soap I've ever seen. She sets up at the Winter Farmer's Market there so if I run out I know where to find her. I even use her soap to wash my hair sometimes. I'll bet there's someone near all of us who makes soap in her kitchen and would love to sell you a few bars. Shop local.

4. Moisturizer/ hair conditioner
Charlotte's soap is so wonderful I don't really need moisturizer anymore but if the weather gets too cold or dry I give myself an all over rub with olive oil in the shower.

5. Facials/deep cleansers
Here we go with the olive oil again. Just warm up a little on the stove, not too hot just warm, and massage on your face and neck. Then get in the shower and scrub with some salt. If you like you can add a couple of drops of lavender oil to the salt to make it smell delightful.

Next installment, closing the loop in the garden.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jumping Ship on Factory Food

Have you seen Food Inc? If you haven't, eat a meal beforehand because afterwards you won't be able to.

Fresh, The Movie is a good one, too. Industrial farming is all over the news, from salmonella in eggs to contaminated feed lot beef. Its been nearly 5 years since we left the big city for the trials joys of small town life. In these 4+ years I've learned a lot about growing things. I've also learned about how most of the food in grocery stores is raised, making me want to grow more of my own stuff.

We haven't sworn off grocery stores for a year, although I kind of wish we could. Out here we lack the robust local food systems that places like Los Angeles, Austin and Portland enjoy. Instead my goal is to steadily reduce the things we buy from stores. Like...

1. Eggs
Just a few backyard chickens can supply all the eggs a family needs. They don't eat much and they're kinda cute. Just don't name the ones you might eat (see #6).

2. Salad greens
Have you noticed that smell when you open a bag of store bought greens? Ick. Easy to grow, quickly maturing, salad greens are something almost everyone can grow for themselves.

3. Potatoes
Okay, I did buy one 3 lb bag of red potatoes this year because I ran out of the ones we'd grown. They like loose soil but will grow nicely in a container or even an old feedsack. This year I have 10 lbs of Red Dale seed potatoes waiting to go in the ground.

4. Tomatoes and peppers
Yep, more stuff that's easy to grow whether you build a raised bed or just plant them in a 5 lb bucket. Commercial farmers have to spray their monoculture tomatoes with all sorts of nasty stuff but when you grow just a few for yourself they don't make much of a target for pests.

5. Melons
Okay, melons do take up a lot of room but a freshly picked cantaloupe is so good it will make your toes curl.

6. Chicken
See item #1. If you buy straight run chicks you will likely have too many roosters. They fit nicely in the freezer and are quite tasty.

7. Beef
No, we don't raise cattle. But there's a nice family down the road that does and we buy grass fed beef from them once or twice a year. Check craigslist, there may be a nice family close to you who does the same thing.

8. Fruit
This one is more difficult as we live in zone 6b/7. I grow a lot of the fruit we eat. The Farmer's Market is a good source but it only runs from June to September. So I have made good friends with my water bath canner. My pantry is full of jars of pears and peaches that will hopefully last until the early summer fruits are available again.

So we've made a good start. We still have to buy some things from the grocery but the list is getting shorter. The foods we produce or buy locally are a better quality, we're supporting local business and we are consuming less oil as our food doesn't have to travel so far.

Our plans for this year? Well, there are 6 fig tree cuttings happily rooting indoors in a pot of soil (thanks, Sal). I have apple and pear scions on the way and cuttings from 4 different kinds of currants. The seed collection has grown considerably while the chickens tear up and fertilize more of the yard for garden space. It's going to be a great year!