May Garden Update

Our garden is officially ‘all in’. We thought it was before, but we kept slowly adding things here and there. We tried a lot of new things this (chard, tomatillos, peas, etc.). We are exciting to see what does well and already thinking about next year when our garden will be huge.

We’ve had pretty optimal growing weather the past few days, with lots of sun and humidity for most of the time and the occasional crazy rain storm. We also got a rain barrel this weekend which helps since the water we use isn’t so cold.

We should have strawberries next week (if I can keep the critters from getting them first) and kale shortly after that.

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P.S. If anyone has any advice for keeping rabbits away please share. We have our intense jail structure (see 2nd picture above) covering our carrots and beets, but we learned afterwards that bunnies also love pea plants and chard. Save our veggies!

How to Green Your Christmas

Christmas time is probably the worst time of year for sticking to your environmental (and diet, and money) goals. Everywhere you go there are shiny, overly packaged things beckoning you, whispering “you deserve it, but maybe if not for you, than at least for a gift”. Here are some things to keep in mind to lighten the load on the planet this holiday season.

Make some gifts yourself.

Buy used. For this tip it’s important to know your audience. Some people might be insulted with a second hand gift, but many won’t mind, especially if it looks brand new (they might not even know).

Buy locally made goods. If you can’t make it or buy it second hand, try to find things that haven’t traveled the globe to get to you.

Give an experience. This can be anything from a zoo pass, movie tickets, or even dinner out. Extra points for actually doing the thing with the person.

Give consumables. A lot of people already have way too much stuff. Give them a bottle of wine, or some fair trade tea. Or better yet, homemade jam and cookies.

Pass by those cheap, useless ‘stocking stuffer’ items. Especially crappy little toys for kids that will break, get lost, or be forgotten about in a day.

Give to a charity on someone’s behalf. I’m a big fan of Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope. Many of them are matched (or way more than matched) so that even a small donation makes a big difference. People really seem to appreciate this because many people want to give, but don’t have the extra money.

Lastly, (especially for parents) give quality over quantity. You could buy 20 plastic toys that are great prices and fairly disposable, or you can invest in a couple of really well constructed toys made from natural materials that will last long enough to passed down to other children.

Any one have any tips to add?

Preparing for Winter

We finally had nice enough weather outside to do some yard work. We’ve already been getting frost every night so I was happy to finally get the yard prepared for winter.

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I pulled out the rest of the beets and leeks. Kurt worked the soil a little and then I planted three heads of garlic in that spot.

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We also raked up about a million leaves. We filled two bins so that we can add them to our compost through the winter.

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I also covered the bottoms of our strawberry, blueberry and kale plants with leaves. We are going to try to overwinter our kale. We will see how it goes.

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Lastly, we made a new garden along the side of the yard. We mixed some leaves in the the soil, laid some newspaper on top and then watered it well.

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These are all new things that we’ve never tried before so now we just have to wait for Spring to see if this all saves us any work!

Seasonal/Holiday Decorating

I would love to have a house that changes with the season. The only problem is, the thought of storing all that holiday stuff the rest of the year makes me cringe. I remember every year hauling my Mom’s giant and plentiful Christmas decoration boxes out of the basement only to have to pack it up and haul it all back down a few short weeks later. Ugh. I think there is an alternative.

I prefer decorations that can magically go away at the end of the holiday or season. I’m not talking about throwing them away. I mean using things that can either be eaten, go back to nature, return to the recycling bin or just stay around and serve another purpose.

For a Christmas tree, for example, we use a little potted evergreen tree. At Christmas time we make some simple decorations to adorn it (stringed popcorn, paper stars, etc). In January, the stuff comes off and it’s just a regular, non-Christmas tree. It can be enjoyed all year round.

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For Fall we usually just keep some squashed arranged nicely on the table. We eat them and replace them as the season goes by. This year I upped my game and added some bright leaves and little pine cones to the display. And when the season changes, the squash all get eaten, or moved to cold storage.

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We also carve pumpkins, of course. Those can be composted afterwards.

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The one addition I would like to make is a wreath for the front door. I would like one that I would weave things into (ie. leaves, garland, flowers), and be able to change for each season. I haven’t come across anything cheap yet, but there is already a hook waiting for it on the door (it was here when we moved it), so I’m still keeping my eyes open!

How do you like to decorate for the seasons? Does storing things that only get used briefly bum you out too? Maybe it’s just me!

Packaging Our Soap

Our soap is ready! We tried it and it’s just lovely. It’s super lathery and feels very moisturizing. We have tons of it and since we’d like to make more, we needed to get rid of some so that we don’t need to build a third story to house our soap. We decided to give some away as Christmas gifts, so this meant I needed to package it somehow. We were told at the class that castille soap needs to breath, so it shouldn’t be packaged in a way that it’s all covered. I thought about it for a bit, and this is what I came up with:

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I used brown kraft paper, tape, a sharpie and a stamp we used for our wedding. I think it turned out pretty cute. What do you think?

Canning Apple Sauce

Last weekend was an extra productive one for us. We ripped the carpets out from our whole upstairs (holy cow it was gross, straining and time consuming), and painted a bathroom. We also managed to make apple sauce, pumpkin butter and cinnamon buns.

For apple sauce this year I did something new, using my tomato mill. This was great because it saved all that peeling and coring time, also it allows for much higher yields, because less is lost. It does, however, lead to less pure looking apple sauce. There are some slight dots of red in there. So I wouldn’t use this method if you plan to enter your sauce in the county fair.

We used a huge variety of apples. We always pick whatever tastes and looks good when we go picking, but then forget the names and which ones are which by the time we get home. I personally don’t think it matters much. Again, not for the county fair.

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All we did was wash them, cut them into eights and throw the pieces into a pot with about a cup of water. Cook until the apples are squishy, then pass it all through the food mill. Don’t burn yourself. I also put the ‘waste’ mush through a couple times, but this depends on your mill and if you’re fine with ‘B’ grade sauce.

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If it’s not as thick as you’d like it you can cook it down, but I just put mine into hot, sterilized jars, lidded them and then processed for 10 minutes.

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Yum.

I use my homemade applesauce in baking as a replacement for oil and just for eating.

Fermenting- Update

Our fermenting was a success! Well, mostly. After about a week I decided the pickles and beets were done. The method I used to tell…I was tired of skimming the crud off the top every day, and they tasted good. Very scientific, I know.

I’m not sure if it’s the kind of salt we used (a mixture of pickling salt and kosher salt), the recipe we used (1 tablespoon of salt per cup of water) or if it’s just us, but the pickles were unbearably salty. As in, they made your mouth hurt. To remedy this I strained them out of the brine and we are keeping them in water in the fridge. This seems to have reduced the salt, so they are now deliciously edible and super crunchy.

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We will definitely do this again next year, but I’d love to find a way to cut down the salt so that we can store them in brine since I assume that would make them last longer, and probably increase the probiotics.

Any suggestions?