Aug 31 2012

The Leftember Manifesto


Recently, I heard a story on the radio that 40% of our food goes to waste.  (Here’s the link to the article published in The Atlantic.) The article clarified that not all of this food waste is in the home—some comes from spoilage long before it gets to the consumer, but I know Roger and I could work harder to eat what we buy, instead of letting it go to the dogs/chickens (literally).

In addition, purchasing and using food proportionally to one’s needs is financially sound.  We could use some financial bedrock right now.  I found a great article that lists 14 reasons why leftovers make sense. (Linked here.)

Finally, we are a week away from hunting season, when Roger begins to fill the freezer with venison.  It’s time to purge the freezer, pantry, refrigerator and cabinets.

Let the month of September be Leftember!!

This is a photo of all of the food and non-food items in the two cabinets and one drawer in the kitchen.

Our rules:

  1. All lunches and dinners will incorporate food we have in storage or in the freezer.
  2. We will not eat out more than one time in the month of September.
  3. We can buy new food items if they are incorporated into a recipe where the main ingredients are already in our home.
  4. We can buy staples like wine, coffee, flour, dairy products, sugar and tea if they are consumed without waste.
  5. We will purge all expired, stale, and otherwise compromised foods.  This will include a thorough cleaning of the cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer.
  6. Guests are welcome to bring rescue food.

Note:  In anticipation of my mania, Roger made an emergency visit to Costco today, allegedly to stock up, but I approved his purchases, which were not rash—unless you count the beautiful new vacuum.

Roger complains that this photo of our emptied cabinets is like hanging out dirty laundry, but a proper confession must be made in order to change our wasteful ways and enter the path to food conservation salvation.  Amen!

Apr 25 2011

Shaping up for spring


Spring arrived all at once today,  and that inspired me to pack up the winter clothing and break out the summer duds.   First, I discovered I have three nightgowns I didn’t remember  Most disastrously, all last year’s clothes don’t even have wiggle room.  Ugh!

Roger found a free app for me, Nike+.  Plenty of people must be using it for running, but it works just as well for walking.  It tracks mileage, time and calories.  At intervals, a nice voice comes on to encourage me and give me the walking update.  There is a cumulative total mileage feature, which means nothing, but psychologically, it’s priceless  The app combined with two energetic dogs and new walking shoes, and I have to get moving.

I’m also using (on and off) mynetdiary, an app for weight loss.  It features target calories per day, exercise, weight, water consumed, and notes.  I like the graphs it can produce, including the food breakdowns.  Since it is connected to the web, all of the foods are updated, so most commercial items, like Planter’s Peanuts (did I eat those?), are easily accessible.

One area where I need extra help is in consuming water.  There is a grid of blue water droplets, and the user taps each one representing a glass of water consumed.

Both apps are great motivators–I guess the most important element for motivation is me!

Oct 22 2009

Doe Urine


Made a pilgrimmage to Bass Pro last night to buy Doe Estrus in preparation for our weekend in Pennsylvania.  Roger is partial to Tink’s 69, but that didn’t preclude about 15 minutes in the scent aisle comparing wafers, bombs, dragging lures, gels, liquids and different brands. 

Roger seriously debated the virtues of gel and liquid with another hunter in the same aisle.  We settled for some of each.  Then, on to the arrow aisle where we were looking for some sort of powder for drying the feathers.  I’m fairly certain that after this season, I could work in the hunting section of the store.tinks_69_and_scent_bomb

Aug 23 2009

Cucumber Conundrum: Any Ideas?


We planted the cukes late; I think it was late June.  The vines were vigorous, and we’ve gotten a number of fine cucumbers.  The vines are still loaded with blossoms, but the vines and leaves are turning brown and evidently dying off.  No idea why, and haven’t researched it yet.  Any insights?

Aug 23 2009

Tomato Tragedy: Late Blight Fungus


Well, it’s the worst disaster to hit my tomatoes in all my gardening career.  If you’re a gardener, you know how bad the late blight fungus is this year — a veritable epidemic in the eastern U.S.  Evidently, the cool, damp Spring and a bad infection among some major growers created a perfect storm. You can read the Maryland Cooperative  Extension Service’s info here:

Region’s Tomatoes & Potatoes At Risk of Devastating Disease

I noticed it first on three plants at the end of our “tomato alley.”  But when I went to pull and dispose of those plants the next day, it was clear that the entire crop is infected.  I did pull those three plants as planned — indulging that helpless feeling of having to do something — but I left the rest.  Basically, the fruit that is on the vines is mostly ripening and usable.  Maybe 15% spoiled.  But the vines themselves are rapidly dying off, and no more fruit will be set.

That said, we’ve enjoyed quite a number of tomato sandwiches, and tomato-mozzarella salads, and last night we sent off some of our guests from Nicole’s send-off party with small bags of tomatoes, and today I made maybe 5 or 6 quarts of homemade tomato sauce.  But we won’t be doing the massive canning that we anticipated.

It’s sad, because the plants were so big and beautiful and loaded with nice fruit.  I just hope the fungus doesn’t overwinter.  It typically does not, but there is concern that it may have mutated.  We’ll take some precautions.  Meantime…

Lessons Learned

  1. Plant further apart.  No matter how far I space them, it’s never enough.  I will plant fewer and further apart next year.
  2. Be cautious about evening watering.  I’ve never been too disciplined about this; after all, it rains at night, right?  But I’ll avoid this practice in the future.
  3. Water from the bottom.  I will set up a drip or seeping irrigation system next year.  I’ve always meant to do this.  Now I have incentive.
  4. Start our own plants exclusively.  I really doubt any of the plants from Dana’s, our favorite nursery, brought it here, but who knows?

Aug 8 2009

Time For Fall Planting!


Gardeners and other people of the outdoors are always thinking one season ahead.  In the past month, I started shooting the bow again to prepare for the season that starts September 15 here in Maryland; I’ve got my MD license, and PA license and doe tag.  Also, I’ve been thinking about getting the greenhouse ready for growing greens all winter.  But now, it’s time to plant for fall!

I’ve got lettuce seeds ready to go in, and places to put them, thanks to Natalie cleaning up the garden…she’s been so great about keeping up, I’ve hardly had to pull a weed.  I’m getting spoiled.  She also has planted the cabbage plants she bought up in Meyersdale at the Amish greenhouse when we visited my sister.  Anyhow, the lettuce should be good to grow through October; with some floating row cover to keep the heavy frost off, probably into November.

Also to go in the ground now:  beets, turnips, and kale.  If you’ve never grown kale, you should.  It’s easy, productive, and one of the healthiest things you can eat (lots of calcium, take note, ladies!).  The nice bonus:  if you plant now, you’ll get a good fall harvest, and it will one of the first and most prolific things to grow again in the spring, without you having to do anything.

Aug 8 2009

How To Pick, Wash & Store Lettuce & Greens


Seems like a no-brainer I know, but there really are some tricks to making the most of garden-grown lettuce.  One important thing to remember:  good hygiene is very important with lettuce.  Try not to let any of the leaves stay in contact with the ground, and if the lower leaves yellow, wilt, or start to rot, remove them immediately and discard in the compost pile.

Harvest: If you’re growing head lettuce, then just let it go until it’s a good size to pick.  If you’re growing leaf lettuce or picking head lettuce as leaf lettuce, just remember to pick only the largest outer leaves; leave the interior core and it will keep producing.

Washing: Remember this rule:  Give lettuce a bath, not a shower. It’s virtually impossible to clean off the garden dirt with a stream of water.  You have to put the lettuce in a large bowl of water, swish it around, then lift the lettuce out before discarding the water (leaving the dirt, grass, etc. to sink in the water) page.  It usually takes three rinses.  (Commercial growers must do this, because it’s never an issue with store-bought greens).  Then spin dry in a salad spinner.

Storing: The right humidity and air flow are critical for longest storage.  I use an old-fashioned, single-hole punch (probably can get one at Staples) to punch a series of holes all around the perimeter of a one-gallon zip-lock bag.  Then I put 1/2 of a paper towel in the bottom, add the spun-dry lettuce, put another 1/2 paper towel on top, then seal and put it in the vegetable bin in the fridge.  I know, I know, there are probably toxins in the paper towel, but it’s not making that much contact.  Open for better ideas if you have any.

Jul 20 2009

Tomato Alert: Late Blight Fungus


Bad news for tomato growers and gardeners throughout the East. Late blight fungus is spreading wide — “explosively” according to the USDA — and destroying whole crops. Link to an article below. A reminder that tomatoes in the garden require good hygiene. If there’s any doubt at all, do NOT compost your tomato vines. These things are nasty and highly contagious, even season to season.

New York Times article on late blight fungus

Mar 12 2009

On Manure


Ah, manure! That glorious, odoriferous, precious shit that is both the beginning and end of the food production cycle. Securing a supply of suitable shit is a holy crusade for the organic gardening purist. And once we’re hooked up, we’re very selfish and protective of our sources. So don’t even ask!

The best option, of course, is to have your own supply handy, as I did when I had my own chickens and someone else’s cows on the farm in Taneytown (sigh). But we won’t be getting chickens here in Sykesville until next year.

I’ve used several different kinds of manure over the years, and have enjoyed stimulating conversations on the topic with fellow gardeners and farmers. Here’s what I know:

To compost or not: The safest bet is always to pile it up and let it age; that way, there is no danger of burning the plants with too much nitrogen. But this is not always a practical option. Often, you just can’t wait. You just have to spread the shit.

When to apply (uncomposted): Ideally, spread it on in the Fall, till it in lightly, and by Spring it will have broken down and the nutrients will be ready for uptake by your plants. Alternatively, as we have done (mostly) with this new garden, a lighter layer applied in the Spring and tilled in will do the trick. Not too much, though, or you’ll get burned. You can use composted manure anytime without worries.

During the season: If you have composted manure, or make up a manure tea, you can apply it in the holes before you plant, and use it as a side-dressing throughout the season. (More on in-season fertilizing in another post.)

We’ve done all with this garden so far: We manured part of it in the Fall, the rest over the past several weekends, and we have a nice pile in the back of the yard cooking for later use.

As far as types of manure go:

Horse: This is my favorite, especially when the horses are bedded in sawdust (vs. straw), as is the case with most of the manure we’ve scored. It breaks down quickly, the sawdust absorbs many times its weight in urine, and it also enhances the tilth of the soil nicely If not in sawdust, horse manure will be in straw, which is fine, but it takes longer to break down. In general, it’s rare to get burned with horse.

Cow: Good stuff but sloppy. Best when composted, but if you can handle it, a light layer of fresh can be safely worked right into the garden.

Chicken: Hot stuff! As in, high nitrogen, danger of burning the plants. It’s great, though, adding tremendous fertility for its weight (perhaps the highest ratio, though that’s just my conjecture), but by all means, compost it for a season first.

Pig: Never used it, but have heard it’s high in fertility, and probably best not used fresh.

Human: Yuck. Believe it or not, there is an “operation” on Route 407 between New Windsor and Taylorsville that I am is convinced is spreading human shit on the fields. It’s the worst thing you could ever smell. I know that landscapers use it. But keep it out of my garden…and yours!

Speaking of smell, my assessment of least-to-worst smelling manures:

5.  Horse

4.  Cow

3.  Pig

2.  Chicken

1.  Human