12 May 2013, by gj
“Put your back into it” is not just an expression for gardeners, it’s literal.
Let’s face it, gardening is a very physical activity. The larger the garden, the more it requires from you.
Building raised beds helps a lot with the bending aspect, as does mulching to prevent weed growth.
But the older we get, the more difficult gardening can become. And it’s not just age that can add to the difficulty, many gardeners suffer from car accident related or other injuries.
Yet we love it so much, we keep going.
Whether you are just mulching your veggies…
We can talk about what to do or take for the sore muscles, like heat pads and soothing baths with Epsom salt, gardeners love Epsom salts, but there is also something we have found that helps:
Exercise, G. J.? But gardening is exercise, how can that help?
Many years ago I was misdiagnosed with scoliosis, and a physical therapist showed me a few easy exercises to help strengthen my back muscles.
So recently, I started doing these exercises again, and found that I could play much longer in the garden without the pain I normally would have suffered.
filling a few containers…
It’s so easy and slow, that it’s almost yoga-like.
Here’s what to do:
1. Sit on a straight back chair, and place your elbows at your waist, palms up and arms out front. Keeping your elbows in tight, move your arms to the sides as far as you can, then forward again.
2. Still sitting, bend your upper body down to the floor between your legs and bounce a few times. Straighten back up.
3. With arms across your chest, turn to the right and then to the left as far as you can.
4. Lay down on a mat or other comfortable surface. Bend your knees and place your arms at your side. Try to bring the small of your back down to the mat without lifting your butt.
5. Still laying down, bring one leg at a time to your chest, use your hands to hold your knees, to gently help get them a little closer.
or building weed free pathways.
Repeat each exercise 5-10 times and you will strengthen your back as well as loosen your muscles before the real workout begins.
No more heating pad needed.
Here’s the disclaimer- always consult your physician before beginning any new activity.
Of course, if you are already gardening, you’re most likely ready.
Categories: gardening, preparedness, techniques
11 May 2013, by gj
Gardeners know the benefits of compost, or ‘black gold’ as they call it.
But there are times when you may want to apply that gold in a liquid form.
Well, to not disturb young plants or their soil, for one.
To get that richness right to the leaves, for another. Did you know plants take in nutrients from their leaves as well as their roots?
Crafty little devils they are.
Yours or theirs.
The gardening sites I have seen make this much more involved than is necessary.
A lot of the internet is like that, unfortunately.
My friend and fellow Master Gardener Tami says it does not need to be all that complicated.
A gardener after my own heart.
So here’s the easy way:
1. Get 2 buckets.
2. Get some compost.
3. Get some water.
4. Get some molasses (optional).
Place the water in 1 bucket. Add the compost, broken down or not, homemade or purchased, but preferably in an old pillow case or similar fabric that will strain out the larger pieces. Add some molasses.
Any ol’ bucket will do.
After one day soaking, pour the water from one bucket to the next, then put the bag of compost back in to soak. This is a simple way to aerate the tea.
Repeat for 3 days, and you are ready to go.
Or grow, as the case is.
Add more water, brew.
Read more about how compost tea spray works, as well as other great info on Foliar Spraying, here.
Categories: gardening, living green, preparedness, techniques
13 April 2013, by gj
The plan was to post today about planting asparagus and strawberry crowns. The weather, however, decided to change for the worse, so that is temporarily on hold.
Add a little overtime at work and the plans are shot.
So instead, I figured I would pick up an eggplant at the market, and share a recipe I’ve been working on.
“Sorry, we’re out of eggplant. We’ll have more tomorrow.”
Really? Who runs out of eggplant?
Sometimes when I find myself running into walls, I take it as a hint that I’m being directed, rather than thwarted.
So I’m going to go with the flow and share with you what Mandolin and I have been doing this week- planning.
We looked at it last weekend in the posts called Beyond Gardening. In the meantime we have been trying to decide how much of each veggie to plant in an effort to be prepared with enough food for a year.
There are some sites on the internet that will tell you to plant x number of pounds of this veggie or that, but they don’t look at storage and don’t know what you and your family likes.
I surveyed my husband, kids and kids through marriage, and discovered that at least one of them does not like: Lima Beans, Brussel sprouts (I think they all mentioned them), Celery, Cauliflower, Chickpeas, Kohlrabi, Turnips, Edamame, Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Eggplant, Peas, Raspberries and Beets.
So how do you plan?
If you just look at fruits and veggies, each person should have about 1.5 pounds per day. In one year, that’s about 550 pounds of fruits and veggies per person. If you look at any one specific veggie, one 4 ounce portion per week for 3 people is 40 pounds. Although that sounds like a lot, it’s doable if you have the room and plan accordingly.
Here’s what I know:
Potatoes produce an average of 7 pounds per pound planted, 20 pounds planted should yield 140.
Carrots are about 3/4-1 pound per foot. We have 40 ft. planted so far, about 30 pounds.
Beans and Peas can yield up to 1/2 pound per foot. The plans are for 20 feet each, about 8 pounds for both.
Sweet potatoes produce about a pound per foot. We are planting 16 square feet.
See? We’re already up to over 200 pounds!
Corn takes a lot of space, so I’ll buy what we need from the neighbors. Our apple trees won’t produce enough yet, so they will be supplemented by buying from a local grove.
To be honest with y’all, I felt rather stressed at first to think that I would need to grow or buy about 1500 pounds of veggies for just our family of 3. Then I realized something.
I’m just one gardener, and all I can do is my best.
So now the garden plans have been redone to grow only food that can be processed, and I’ll take it from there.
Mandolin has offered to help, it was after all his idea, and that will make a big difference.
I’ll also keep records, and let you know what actually produced how much in case you decide to try this as well.
Oh and as for the brussel sprouts?
Maybe just a few, for me… hey, I think I will have earned it.
Part 1- Preparing for 3 weeks.
Categories: gardening, preparedness
7 April 2013, by gj
If you look at your garden as if it were your only access to food, it may change how and what you plant. Think about how each veggie can be stored to feed your family beyond the growing season.
Cold storage closet.
Five ways to hold food are freezing, canning, dehydrating, lacto-fermentation, and cold storage. It is possible you may not be able to have a freezer, so try to grow more of what can be stored fresh or processed. Fresh items, whether in a root cellar or basement, or in our case, a cold storage closet, would include potatoes, carrots, celery, rutabagas, the cole crops and winter squashes. These items will keep fresh for months when stored properly.
Learn to can, really its easy and a pressure canner is nothing to be afraid of. Food stored this way has a shelf life, according to the USDA of 2 years. That being said, it can last longer. An additional benefit to canning is that the food is ready to eat. Sure, soup tastes better when it’s hot, but if you’re hungry enough, right out of the jar works too.
Putting up food is easy.
Lacto-fermentation is a very old method of storing food, using salt and the veggies own juices. It requires no refrigeration and can keep food fresh a long time. We make a veggie slaw and pickles this way, but there are numerous other recipes on the internet. This is actually a very healthy way to eat.
The way to hold food the longest is by dehydrating. When you remove the water, bacteria and mold don’t have what they need to grow. Dehydrating food may not look as good as frozen, but that’s not really a consideration at this point. Pretty much any veggie can be dehydrated. The down side of dehydrating is that it will need liquid to be rehydrated, in most cases. You can purchase a dehydrator or DIY a solar one. I’ve even heard of people placing cut veggies on a tray and leaving it their car on a hot day. See, this doesn’t have to be expensive!
A word about protein, if you can have chickens in your backyard that’s great. Really though, you do not need eggs or meat to have enough protein, and in fact those who consume little or no animal products are just as healthy and often healthier than those who do. For more on this, watch the documentary Forks Over Knives. Most veggies contain protein as well, some more than others. Dry beans for example, are simple to grow and very high in protein. They dry on the plant so require no preparation other than to remove them and store. Leftover beans can then be planted the following year.
Extending the season.
So consider planning your garden with food storage in mind. And unless you live in a year-round warm climate, or have unlimited growing space, consider using inter-cropping, succession planting, season extenders, and vertical gardening to get the best harvest possible. Of course, you should know how to save seeds.
Learn to start your own.
Look to the list of links to your right- there is much more information here on everything I’ve mentioned. You can also use the search bar at the top right to find more.
What we have changed this year is we have added more perennial fruits and veggies, are growing more things vertically, are using cloches and the mini greenhouse, and intend to dehydrate more.
Just in case.
Categories: preparedness, saving money & time
6 April 2013, by gj
How things will play out down the line is best left to the experts to try to predict, though I think they would all agree on one thing: the cost of goods will continue to rise.
Most of what we have read predicts a slow change to our economy rather than, or at least before, a dramatic crash. We have seen some examples of economic problems happening in Europe. It’s a good idea to pay attention to what happens there.
When Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, we saw numerous pictures of stores with empty shelves. It wasn’t long before there was no longer any alcohol to be found, and there were lines of people at the gas pumps. This was a different circumstance, a natural disaster that we knew was coming.
Still we might be seeing similar results at some point, so its best to be prepared.
There are numerous websites and Facebook pages that look at many details on how to go about it. A simple search using the terms ‘prepper’ ‘survivalist’ or ‘off the grid” aka “OTG” will take you to all the information you could possibly want. I also added a link at the end of this post that has some interesting thoughts on the subject, take a minute to read it.
The main things of course that you need to consider are food, shelter, and water.
Shelter is not only your house, but how you run it. Do you have more than one heating source? A backup generator? Would you be able to close down rooms to conserve fuel in cold weather? Do you get sufficient sunlight to help heat your home? Do you have enough blankets and warm clothing to keep your family warm indoors?
Under shelter I would also include needs for daily living, such as first aid and medicines, personal hygiene, eating utensils and so forth.
Take a walk through your house, open cupboards and closets, bring a pad and pencil. Make notes of what you might want to stock up on. Also look at what you can get rid of to make space.
Learn to make things yourself. It takes less room and money, for example, to stock up on the supplies to make soap, than to stock up on soap.
Here are some How-To’s on Pinterest.
Free water source.
We use a lot more water on a daily basis than most of us realize. I read once you should have 3 gallons of water per person per day. This would include water for flushing, cooking, and cleaning as well as drinking; and is a conservative estimate. Even if you cut this back to 1 gallon per, it would still be 28 gallons per week for a family of 4. That’s a lot of water!
If you are using municipal water, this may or may not become a problem. For those of us running a well on electricity it’s a different issue. Either way you should always have a supply of water on hand, and look into ways to collect if either from precipitation or a nearby waterway. There are a lot of good DIY videos and sites that could help you to build a rain collector.
I don’t want to inundate you with too much information here. It’s Saturday. It’s spring! Go play in the garden.
So in Part 3 tomorrow we’ll look more specifically at what you can do as a gardener.
When you do take a break, take a quick look at this post.
Categories: preparedness, saving money & time
5 April 2013, by gj
“I took some vacation time the end of May;” Mandolin told me the other day, “I marked it on the calender.”
“Why May?” I asked, “Is there something going on?”
“No…” he hesitated, “I just thought I’d help you in the garden. That’s when most of the work needs to get done, right?”
Now let me just back up a bit here, and tell you that over the years Mandolin has helped me with the most physically difficult gardening tasks- digging and installing posts for a fence, moving rather large rocks, even hauling some horse manure. (But just once.)
Gardening is really my hobby, he’s busy enough with the work that needs to be done on remodeling the house.
So all the wheelbarrow loads of soil and compost and gravel and wood chips, all the planting of fruit trees and brambles, pruning, tilling and so on, has been done by me.
My wonderful husband has yet to set seed to soil, and if he had, he would know that most of the work is preparation and done well before the end of May.
So as tempted as I was to ask “Who are you and where’s my real husband?” all I could say was “Why?”
After 35 years of marriage, the look on his face said much more than his words “I just think it’s really important that we get as much out of the garden this year as possible.”
If you’re wondering if there’s going to be a punch line in this post, there isn’t.
I’m about as serious as I hope I’ll ever be, much more than I want to be, and I am because I care about y’all and truly believe this is important.
Think about this:
1. The US government is spending far beyond our means. If we did what our elected officials (for decades and across party lines) have done, we would have had our car repossessed, our house foreclosed on, and probably would have had to declare bankruptcy. One city in California has already done so.
2. If you compare the government to yourself, that car that has been repossessed represents our infrastructure- roads and bridges, public transportation, utilities, municipal waste, etc. The home that was foreclosed on represents everything else- all public buildings, government agencies, hospitals and so on.
The bankruptcy is a declaration that you cannot meet the expenses you racked up, and in so admitting, will not be allowed credit for many years to come.
Note also, that those you owe money to can contest the bankruptcy, and you have to pay them what is due. You cannot just walk away from all of it.
3. We can’t just print more money, as that makes what money is already out there worth less. When the treasury department printed more dollars recently, they in effect gave anyone with a job a salary cut, because now what you earn will buy less. It may seem like a dollar is a dollar, but there’s so much more to it than that.
4. This cannot go on forever. Why is Homeland Security stockpiling weapons and ammo? Homeland Security, not the military. Why does Mandolin, a practical man if ever one lived, feel the need to get more from the garden?
This is what I want to talk to you about this weekend. I hope you come back and read on, just to be aware. Part 2 will be a look at how things might play out, and Part 3 will be information on what you can do about it.
What is the expression- “Forewarned is forearmed”
Even if you’re only armed with knowledge and a seed packet, you will be better off.
Categories: preparedness, special posts
3 February 2013, by gj
As a gardener it’s not surprising we no longer purchase many fruits and vegetables at the grocery store.
There are a number of other things we consume, but now make ourselves.
Spend time not money.
2. Jams & jellies
3. Bar soaps
4. Some juices
5. Dry beans and baked beans
6. Laundry soap
Not milk, not Tide.
7. Pizza (we do buy the cheese)
8. Pickles and relishes
12. Most sauces, inc. applesauce, marinara, salsa and hot sauce
13. Dishwasher detergent
14. Pancake mix
16. ‘Instant’ or “just add” anything
17. Window and multi-surface cleaner
Of course we buy the ingredients we can’t grow.
Still, ten gallons of laundry soap made at home costs less than one in the stores.
A homemade bar of plain soap costs 60 cents and lasts longer.
What do they run in the stores these days?
Find many of the recipes for the food items on our recipe page above, and for the cleansers on pinterest here.
Categories: preparedness, saving money & time
25 January 2013, by gj
Many gardeners find themselves limited as to what they can grow.
It might be because of the amount of room they have, the free time to spend in the garden, or the physical demand a garden requires.
Of course there are gardening techniques and practices that can help in each of these areas.
For today though, let’s look at how to decide what to plant, and what not to. It all depends really on what you want your garden to provide:
1. Financial savings. If saving money is your top priority, you are not alone. So what veggies are expensive in the stores but easy to grow? Raspberries would probably top the list, expensive mainly because they are difficult to ship. Herbs are another food item that can be quite pricey, yet most do well in pots or hanging planters. For some odd reason lettuce has become expensive, at least in our area. A small head sells for almost $2, are they serious? Conversely, dry beans and potatoes are relatively inexpensive all year.
2. Fresh eating or long term storage. Are you mainly looking for a variety of fresh produce or do you want to load up the pantry shelves? If its the former, then one or two tomato plants, a variety of fresh greens, one cucumber, peas and beans growing up a trellis, etc. can provide you with a mini produce department from spring until fall. If winter storage is the goal, potatoes, garlic, onions, and sweet potatoes can be held through most of the winter. Dry beans will last for years, and there are pole varieties that save space.
cold holding sweet potatoes and squash
3. Self Sufficiency. If your concern is more for the future you would probably want to plant heirloom and open pollinated varieties of plants, so the saved seeds will continue to produce true to the parent. A variety of veggies that includes at least one protein, such as a dry bean, will offer the most nutrition per garden. Shoot for color- orange sweet potatoes, carrots or squash, a red tomato or berry, purple eggplants and dark green broccoli. This will arm you with a good balance of vitamins in your diet. Also consider some perennials plants or those that can be replanted like onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
4. Food Safety. This is becoming an increasing concern for many, and is one of the reasons they are turning to their own yards. Some of the veggies with the highest levels of pesticides were found by the FDA and USDA to be Celery, Peaches, Strawberries, Apples, Blueberries (Domestic), Nectarines, Sweet Peppers, Spinach, Kale & Collards, Cherries, Potatoes, Grapes (Imported), Lettuce, Blueberries, and Carrots. Here’s the complete list.
This list is now 5 years old, and since then I have read that summer squash is also loaded with pesticides. Geesh.
In addition GE corn, which is now headed to some markets, is very heavily sprayed with pesticides. If you’re looking to grow food that is safer to eat, keep this in mind.
choose organic what you can
This subject came up a few times lately, and after much consideration here’s what we would grow if for some reason we had to downsize:
A few raspberry canes, 2 blueberry bushes, 1 small vining summer & 2 winter squash and peas & beans on trellises, carrots, kale, a few strawberry plants, ‘garbage can’ potatoes, pole dry beans and 2 celery plants. If there was room, then a tomato or two.
We would buy organic corn just to be safe.
How and what would you choose?
Categories: faq's, gardening, organic, preparedness, saving money & time, you are what you eat
11 December 2012, by gj
It’s estimated that the average American family does not have as much as a 3-day supply of food on hand.
We have become so used to ‘picking something up’ on our way home from work, to drive thru’s and pizza delivery, that if we were suddenly caught in a bad situation we would have real problems.
Now I’m not talking about the Zombie Apocalypse, the Mayan Calender or certainly not a disaster of Biblical Proportions.
Still, haven’t we learned anything from hurricane Sandy?
The government recommends you stock up with a 3 day supply of food and water to prepare for a disaster.
Seriously? That wouldn’t get you very far at all.
food and water on hand
Now the fact that you are reading this tells me that either you are already a gardener, maybe a home food processor as well, possibly a budding prepper or have a good friend who has sent you here.
That’s great news.
You either want to know or have gotten started.
Here’s what we recommend:
Everyone should try to build up and maintain a minimum 5-7 day supply of food on a regular basis. If nothing else, this allows you to plan ahead and shop sales.
If you want to be better prepared though, stock up more.
Here’s the thing- you may not know ahead of time that something is going to happen.
We saw with Sandy, that even if you are forewarned, supplies become limited rapidly. If it’s a shock like 9/11, it will be too late to stock up.
plenty to share
What we do is keep a minimum 3 week supply for two on hand.
10-12 cans or pints of veggies
124 oz. of canned meat or vegetarian substitute (You can eat canned tuna, chicken, and even spam right from the can.)
10-12 pounds of potatoes and/or rice, pasta (cooked equivalents)
21 cans/pints of vegetable soup, canned pasta, chilli or other ready to eat food. Best if they include something of a vegetable serving, even if its tomato sauce.
Well, we have chickens and get a fresh assortment of eggs.
If you don’t you’ll want a good supply of shelf-stable milk, cereal, trail mix and 21 cans or equivalent of fruit and/or fruit juice.
Treats: Be sure to have some shelf stable items on hand! Also consider bottled ice tea or coffee if you are so inclined.
don't let Mother Nature catch you unaware
Of course, there’s a lot more you would need than just this, we’re only talking about food supplies.
We were very fortunate that hurricane Sandy caused only minimal damage where we are. Still, we lived on Staten Island for a short time when we were first married.
When I read some of the people there were eating out of dumpsters, I cried.
How long could you last on what you have on hand?
Use this as a guideline: FEMA’s readiness site
Categories: keeping up with the joneses, preparedness