Preparedness & Green Living
18 January 2015, by gj
By now most people know that the bee population is declining and we need to act swiftly to stop and hopefully reverse it.
But you might think there is little you can do personally to help. That’s not true, you really can make a difference.
1. Give them a home.
Build a Mason Bee House with a few simple tools. Mason bees will populate the house and help your garden at the same time.
Then build a few extra and give them to your family and friends.
2. Have their back.
Read this article on helping the bees. In it there are a number of things you can do to be a part of the solution.
3. Clean up their environment.
Find out if the plants you are buying at your local garden center contain the deadly pesticide known as neonicotinoid that you saw mentioned in the above article. To do this, simply ask the staff who their plant supplier is, then send them an email.
An equaintance of mine did this. The supplier at her center is Bonnie Plants, so she sent them an email. This was their response:
Bonnie Plants does not utilize any form of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides/insecticides (neonicotinoids class includes; acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, thiacloprid, dinotefuran and thiamethoxam) in the greenhouse production of transplants. Neonicotinoids are not contained in any seed nor are they utilized in any stage of the growing process. I do hope this information is helpful to you and alleviates your concern.
Thanks for writing in, and have a good day.
(Since this was a personal email, we removed the people’s names.)
And by all means, stop using products such as Round Up in your yard.
4. Feed them well.
Intersperse your veggie garden with the types of plants bees love. You can call your local cooperative extension and see what plants are best for your area.
Here in Northeast Pa. we find they are attracted to sunflowers and creeping thymus in particular. Look for plants that bloom early to get things started, and for others that have a long blooming season.
If you have any friends that are interested in nature, please pass this on and encourage them to help as well.
To win the battle we need the good guys to outnumber the bad guys. It’s important to the bees, and to our food supply.
Categories: Garden Projects, Keeping up with the Joneses, Preparedness & Green Living
22 April 2014, by gj
Make the Earth smile.
What an interesting concept, Earth Day.
And a wonderful opportunity to make a change.
Being that you are here reading, you are most likely already a gardener.
Good for you!
If you are growing without the use of any pesticides, even better. Bugs don’t know the difference between organic and non, and pesticides don’t discriminate against bugs. Avoiding them all together is best.
Do you plant what will attract those flying bugs that help move pollen from one plant to another? Woohoo! Now you are working with the Earth.
The bees are in there. Somewhere.
We recently purchased this Heath (like Heather) and the bees are having a field day. It was going to go by the front porch, but now we’re thinking we’ll put it in the veggie garden in a pot instead.
Reduse, reuse, recycle. We bet you have that down pat as well.
So how can you make Earth Day even better?
Treat it like New Year’s Day for the Planet, and make one resolution to do something better this next year. That way, it isn’t just a one day thing.
Here are some ideas you may not have heard:
- Repurpose newspapers and cardboard as weed suppressors in your garden.
- Teach how to or help one new person garden.
- Collect fallen tree branches or trimmed brambles into a pile as a safe haven for wildlife.
- Eat less meat. This cuts down on the ‘greenhouse gasses’ considered to be a major part of global warming. Plus it is healthier for you and especially for the animals.
We’re sharing our mostly meatless recipes here.
- If you can, reclaim some ‘gray water’ for your garden or houseplants. This is the water often wasted when you wash your hands, clothes and/or dishes.
- Make your own detergents. Not only is this better for the environment by cutting out a lot of the unnecessary chemicals, it will save you money.
- Mend something rather than toss it. Iron on a patch, sew it, glue it back together or put a screw in it- but fix it don’t pitch it.
We could go on, and you have heard a lot of these and are hopefully doing a lot already. So go ahead and do one more, from this list or one you have already thought of.
In general, it is a matter of living on less. We’re there, we understand.Unfortunately, many people have been forced to learn how to do that lately. That is part of why we offer this blog for free, as a way to help.
Do you have a tip that helped you use less or give to the planet better?
We would love to hear it!
Categories: Preparedness & Green Living
15 April 2014, by gj
Patience grows the garlic.
Sometimes patience pays, well, maybe it’s actually procrastination.
Call it what you will, there are cases where putting off ordering your seeds, plants, and other gardening supplies can actually save you money.
Johnny’s Select Seeds is currently offering a free shipping discount. Ours came as a post card in the mail yesterday, but if you didn’t receive one, follow this link.
Likewise Burpee’s is offering free shipping, or you can go to their site and get $10 off a $40 purchase. You probably can’t get both though.
Stark Bros. is offering select trees on sale in celebration of Arbor Month. You can find that info here.
This is another one we received by email. If you are concerned about signing up for these and getting too much spam, just set up a separate account for these things.
That’s what we did and it works really well.
So check with your favorite providers of gardening supplies, especially as it gets closer to planting time, and see what bargains you can pick up.
Keep in mind that there are very often end-of-the-season sales as well. You may not find that one specific veggie seed you wanted, but that’s the chance you take.
Also take note that some companies offer discounts and specials all year. The Seeds of the Month Club, one of our favs, is a good way to save all year on seeds plus they often run contests; and Annie Haven at Moo Poo Tea always has free shipping and many times throughout the year offers a free bag with purchase.
Note: None of the suppliers mentioned here compensated us in any way for mentioning and linking their sites. We just want to share the savings with you.
Categories: Preparedness & Green Living
4 April 2014, by gj
It was about 3 years ago that I brought home a curry plant from the local nursery.
My husband giggled “You can’t grow curry.” he said, “Curry is a combination of herbs and spices.”
Of course it turned out he was right; after all, food is his field. Apparently what I had purchased was a delightfully smelling ornamental plant. Drat.
But telling me “You can’t” do anything only makes it a challenge, and I finally figured out that you really can grow curry.
Well, close enough.
It started out with me trying to grow as many of our own herbs and flavorings as possible.
Some, like mints, are simple. Others, like garlic, take a little more work. Still others, like ginger, take more know-how and time.
As the seasons came and went, there was less and less from the store on our herb shelves and more from the garden.
Still that curry thing bothered me.
Until recently that is, when I actually read the list of ingredients from the back of the bottle, given in order of amount:
Coriander- A No brainer. How often do gardeners complain their cilantro has bolted? Yep, those little seeds are coriander. We got this one!
Turmeric- Okay, it is getting a little harder. Turmeric is a root that takes almost as long to grow as ginger, specifically about 8 months. It is a perennial in zones 9-11, but like ginger it can be grown indoors in colder zones like we have. You can sometimes find it fresh at Asian or India food supply stores and in some markets. I couldn’t find it locally, but was able to order some from Amazon.com. The price wasn’t too bad, and you can replant some of what you harvest so it is a one time purchase.
Mustard- It doesn’t say on the bottle of store bought curry, but most often it is the mustard seed that is used as a spice. All we need to do is let it bolt and harvest the seed. Now we’re talking!!
Cumin- This relative of parsley is a new herb for our garden this year. It is often confused with the biennial caraway, but cumin is actually an annual plant. It can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked, so here it will be going in the ground this weekend. What you harvest are also the seed heads. We will be posting more on all of these as the season progresses, hopefully with lots of pictures!
Fenugreek- Another new one for us. This should be a fun season! Also easy to grow, prep your seeds first by soaking (we recommend Moo Poo Tea, link above right) or scarify. Soaking is much easier. Fenugreek will be great because both the leaves and seeds are edible.
Paprika- Another easy one. Paprika is simply a dried and powdered pepper from the group Capsicum annuum. These can range from sweet to rather hot. I’ll let him decide which ones he want to use, as we are growing quite a variety of peppers this year.
Cayenne- This seemed a little redundant to me, but I guess they are looking for a cayenne specifically. Yeah, we have that covered as well.
Cardamon- This very expensive herb actually can be grown at home. I have read that you can plant the brown type found in the grocery store, but I don’t know if that is true. Instead I found seeds online; after all, I’ve gone this far I can almost taste victory! It looks like another plant that may need some special attention, but that’s okay by me.
Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and Cloves- What? No! All 3 of these, the least of the ingredients, are derived from trees; and ones that I highly doubt grow in our area. When I looked up a substitute for nutmeg, it said cinnamon. When I did a search on a substitute for cinnamon, I found cloves.
It began to look like I really couldn’t grow curry after all.
Until my husband read this post on varieties of basil.
“There’s a Cinnamon Basil?” he asked. “You should grow that!”
“Why would you want cinnamon basil? I responded, “That sounds like an odd combination to me.”
“No, they are great together. When I use curry powder, I always add some basil. I love the way they taste together.”
So there you have it my friends, never say “You can’t grow that” to a gardener.
Unless, of course, you want them to prove you wrong.
We will post updates on the plants throughout the season. When we make the curry powder, we will add that recipe to our recently revived foodie blog page here.
Of course, we will also add some recipes that feature curry.
We’re betting this will taste much better than the store bought stuff.
is a collaborative effort on the part of a number of gardeners around the world. Each month they write a post specifically to help and encourage everyone to grow something. Find more posts by clicking on the logo above.
Categories: Herbs, Preparedness & Green Living, You Can Grow That!
4 March 2014, by gj
Did you ever stop to wonder just how self-sufficient your garden could make you? Sure you can grow great veggies, even a good protein source through dry beans.
But what about grains?
Although technically these are not all grains, we are listing them because they are used that way:
Most often thought of as a vegetable, corn is actually a grain. You can grow field or dry corn the same as you would sweet, but allow it to dry thoroughly on the cob before harvesting the kernels to grind.
Be sure to take preventative measures if you are also growing sweet corn nearby, as their pollen is carried on the wind and there can be cross pollination.
This summer we will be showing you ways to help prevent this; but for the meantime, keep them as far apart as possible preferably with a structure between them.
One of the best varieties for making your own corn meal, according to Baker Creek seed catalog, is Cherokee White Eagle. Just be sure to choose a variety that is meant to use for this purpose, they are less sugary and will dry more easily.
Grind, store and use the way you would store bought cornmeal.
Technically a vegetable, quinoa is a relative of spinach that is fast gaining popularity in restaurants as well as home kitchens. Part of the reason, other than the delightful taste, is that quinoa carries a protein not normally found in a vegetable. Especially for vegetarians, this is a wonderful thing.
What you harvest here are the seeds as well, dry, store and use like you would rice. You can also grind the seeds to use like flour.
Often grown for its use as a fiber, the seeds of flax are actually wonderfully nutritious. They are a good source of omega-3′s and high in fiber. The milled seeds can be added to many baked goods.
We are so excited to try our hand at growing flax this year.
Often listed under herbs, and even considered sometimes as a flower, Amaranth is a beautiful tall edible whose flower seeds can be used as a grain.
In some varieties you can also eat the leaves as a vegetable, bonus! The most common variety grown for the edible seeds is Love Lies Bleeding.
One definition of grains is that they are grasses that produce small edible seeds. Millet fits this description well. Its seeds can be ground for flours or gruel, but it is often also used as bird seed.
We are going to try one of the most common varieties used in the US, a Proso type; specifically Proso White.
Again, we will have more specifics on this as we actually grow and harvest it.
Dry or Field Corn
Generally speaking these crops grow quite tall, and the harvest you get for the space may not compare to vegetables you plant instead.
But if you have the room and want to be more independent, consider trying a grain crop.
We will let you know how we fare, what was worth it and maybe what was not over the course of the next year.
Hopefully it will all be rave reviews; but the idea of not being dependent on a store for our grains is already a win in our books!
You Can Grow It! is a monthly collaboration by gardeners around the world to promote the wonderful aspects of gardening.
For more posts, please click on the logo above.
Categories: Drying-Roasting, How to Store, Preparedness & Green Living
31 January 2014, by gj
Even the Guardians of the Garden could not keep the polar vortex away.
So maybe the temperatures you are suffering through are the ones we would be happy to see, that’s not the point.
We’re pretty much all having a nasty winter; but as North-easterners, there are a few things we’ve learned that might help you:
1. Expect it to happen again. This winter isn’t over, and the weather tends to be cyclical. That being said-
2. Have at least 3 weeks of food on hand if you have room, including water. Even stock a few items you can eat right out of the can in case of power loss. Don’t forget a manual can opener.
3. Similarly, have a way to heat your house. If you already do, try to have a back-up. Be prepared to block off unused rooms in case of emergency. Hang a few quilts, er… maybe some beach towels (just kidding) in doorways to prevent heat loss and stay close to whatever heat source you have.
4. Protect the pipes. Did you know your water pipes can freeze and literally break if they get too cold? Heat wrapping them is a good back-up plan. Also, let them drip just a bit to keep the water flowing. In an emergency, it is better to turn them off and drain them; a bother that could save you a major headache in the long run.
5. Prepare adult and kid Blizzard Boxes. That’s what we call them anyway. For the kids, age appropriate games, toys and puzzles to keep them busy. Be sure at least some of them don’t require electricity. Add a few snacks they don’t otherwise get, those kind of things. These will keep your kids entertained on unexpected days off from school.
For the grown-ups maybe a few movies, a good book, and also snacks. Chocolate goes a long way during stressful times for both young and older.
If the winter ends and you didn’t need them, hooray! Have a little party!
6. Don’t forget the pets. Be sure to have enough food on hand for them. Also, since they sense stress in their loved ones, a little Blizzard Box for them would be wonderful too.
7. Preparedness doesn’t need to take up a lot of space. Thermal underwear and blankets go a long way to keep you warm, yet are quite thin. Bubble wrap on your windows will help keep the warm air in. A small camping stove will let you heat water if the power is out.
We in the north really do feel for you, our winter has been nasty as well.
But for us it is just a matter of colder, or more snow…
No pun intended, but its a matter of degree.
Stay warm and safe out there, and if ever our temps are going to go above 100F, we’ll call on you for help!
Categories: Preparedness & Green Living
5 January 2014, by gj
Plotting and planning.
Having a goal is great; whether it is to lose weight in the new year, start a new career as an entrepreneur, or grow a garden.
Having a good plan however, can make all the difference.
The basics of writing a business plan can help you achieve your goal, whatever it is. So let’s leave the new business planning to the experts, and look at the wonderful goals of Getting Healthy and Growing Food:
1. State the goal specifically.
I want to get healthy is not as specific as I want to lose 2 pounds per month this year or I want to drop my overall cholesterol by 10 points.
Similarly, I want to grow food would be better stated I want to grow enough food to eat fresh and preserve for my family of 4.
2. Detail the steps you will take and make them achievable.
Do the research on what it takes to lower your cholesterol, as an example. Talk to your Doctor and Pharmacist. Find out what specific steps you need to take, and see which ones will work for you
Likewise, do you have the room to grow enough to sustain 4 people? That would be in the neighborhood of 2000 pounds of produce. If space is limited, rethink your goal. Otherwise, look at what techniques you can use, such as intercropping and succession planting, to optimize your harvest.
Yoga on the wii.
3. Plan for challenges.
Everybody is gathering for dinner at that new rib joint, what do you do?
Two weeks without rain, what now?
Life happens, plan on it. What is the old army adage, “Forewarned is forearmed”?
You know there will be stumbling blocks, but do what you can to be prepared. Maybe that will entail a rain barrel, perhaps a husband who is willing to share a dinner entrée. Decide ahead of time.
4. Know your own personality.
Are you the type of person who would rather set a goal of an Elephant, and be happy with a Mouse?
Or would you rather go for a Mouse, and be thrilled with an Elephant?
Do what works best for you.
If you are the type of person that does better with the support of others, use that to your advantage; just be careful, as supporters can also become enablers.
Set a goal that can be achieved alone, just in case.
5. Enjoy the journey.
Sure, the gardening goal sounds like a lot more fun than lowering cholesterol, but it doesn’t have to be. If you enjoy trying new foods and cooking, then you can have a blast experimenting with dishes and ingredients that are better for you.
Plan the steps you will take with your own enjoyment in mind, that will not only make the journey more enjoyable, but increase your chances of success at the same time.
Oh, and by the way, wouldn’t these two goals work well together?
Hmmm… I may have to go update my plan a bit.
Learn more about the Gardening Techniques mentioned in this post.
Categories: Preparedness & Green Living, You are What You Eat
27 December 2013, by gj
Happy little ones.
This blog is foremost about gardening; but the less money you spend in other areas, the more you will have to put into the garden.
That’s my logic, and I’m sticking with it.
So there are many simple things you can do to bring your energy bills down by cutting usage.
1. Sunlight is Free
It never ceases to amaze me when I see new homes with windows elaborately covered in drapes, and lights on all over the room.
Nature’s gift of sunlight can help in so many ways.
By opening those drapes you not only cut down on the use of light bulbs, it can lower your need for heat. Cover the windows as the sun goes down to likewise conserve the warmth.
If you use A/C in the summer, do the opposite.
Of course, if you have older windows the drapes may be more effective on saving energy in the long run. Consider adding to that by using bubble wrap, moistened and stuck to the glass, to keep the heat indoors.
A sunny window can also cut down on the light source needed when starting seeds.
See, this is a gardening post after all.
We turn our overhead seed starting lights off when there is good sun coming through the window, then back on when it is not enough.
When we compared our bills from this and full overhead lights only, supplementing with sunlight saved us a fair amount.
And the plants didn’t seem to notice.
We also start our seedlings near a heat source, rather than pay to heat another area.
Send that heat back down.
2. Remember Heat Rises
If you have ceiling fans, set them to blow downward in the winter months. This will draw the heat down from the ceiling and back to where you need it.
Be sure to insulate the flooring for second and third floors and attics.
My grandparents and many of that generation used old newspapers under rugs as insulation on the upper floors. They lived ‘green’ and ‘upcycled’ long before there were terms for it.
Likewise, take advantage of the cooler areas of your home and even the outdoors if you can. We built a Green Closet in our laundry room, saving energy by letting the cold temperatures from outdoors in to keep our cool loving veggies happy all winter.
Timing is everything.
3. Live Simpler
Things that heat up are the main energy users, but electronics left on also add up fast.
You can simplify energy use for making food by using a toaster oven, microwave and/or crock pot, if they are available to you.
Avoid heating a full oven for just a small amount. Consider making more than one meal, and freezing some that you can just nuke another time. When you do use your oven, take advantage of the heat lost through the vent burner by simmering a dish on it or heating up a kettle for tea or cocoa.
Think about a clothesline if you can have one where you live, or even just a clothes ‘rack’ placed in your bathtub. When you do use a regular dryer, gently shake your washed items before placing inside. By loosening them up a bit, they dry faster and that uses less energy.
Also, wash on cold.
Pretty much all the time.
A real energy saver is to place a timer on your water heater. These wonderful little devices give you the opportunity to decide when you will need hot water the most. They are inexpensive and pay for themselves in a short period of time.
You are most likely bathing at the same time each day already.
You can also save some money by turning your electronics off when not in use. A small investment in a power strip can not only help prevent power surge damage to your electronic devices, it can make it easy for you to cut their power when they will not be in use.
Well, that’s it for now.
With all that saved money I can go ahead and place a seed order.
Categories: Preparedness & Green Living
23 November 2013, by gj
Yes this is primarily a gardening blog, but it is very difficult to grow everything you eat.
For the rest, take advantage of sales.
We looked at this recently, but this week is a good time to be a tad more specific.
Grab the opportunity.
1. Turkeys for 49 cents per pound? Or better yet, free?
Around the holidays grocery stores will sell some items at or below cost. They figure that if they can get you in the door, you will buy a lot more things than just a turkey, so it is worth it to them.
Back in our restaurant days, Mandolin would roast off a few turkeys and carve them. He used portions of turkey slices to line the inside of soup cups. That was then filled with prepared bread stuffing, wrapped with plastic and frozen.
Whenever someone ordered a turkey dinner from the menu, he would grab a soup cup and microwave it until it was hot.
You can do the same thing using any freezer-to-microwave container. Right now, stuffing mixes are also on sale. Win-win.
Of course be sure to save the bones for making soup stock.
2. Whole cranberries can be grown at home if you live in a cooler region like we do, but even then it takes a few years to get a good crop.
We take advantage of them being on sale this week, and make our own cranberry sauce and can it. It is seriously easy to do, just use 2 parts berries to one part sugar, and one part or less water. Add some fresh lemon or orange zest if you like, and boil until the berries burst.
Water-bath can like you would jelly.
3. Sweet potatoes, not yams, are also on sale in our area. We grow our own, but if you don’t you can get them at a good price now. These need to be pressure canned or can be frozen after cooking.
Both homegrown and purchased.
4. Winter Squash is in season now, and also on sale at our local markets. Again, if you don’t grow your own now is a good time to stock up. We love squash soup, and simply cook off a few butternuts, remove the flesh and freeze it in portions. It is our version of a soup mix. You can also dehydrate it and grind into a powder, or pressure can. Squash also lasts a long time in cold holding.
5. The sides. Pre-canned items like green beans and pumpkin also go on sale this time of year. We prefer our own homegrown, but if you don’t have that opportunity go ahead and stock up. Check the expiration dates and be sure to use them in time. Most canned foods have a long shelf life.
6. Non-food items, like aluminum foil, are often on sale during the holidays. Check out stores for the best price.
Just remember to never go to the store hungry, stick to your list made using the store flyer, and keep those blinders on- they are betting you will buy things that aren’t on sale, and they use many marketing ploys to make that happen.
Stay strong, save money.
Categories: Preparedness & Green Living
17 November 2013, by gj
Between Mandolin and I, we have been temporarily unemployed, underemployed and self-employed.
We have learned to stretch a dollar till it yells “Uncle!”, okay not literally.
But even living paycheck to paycheck, and especially then, we found ways to stock up the shelves and always have food on hand.
Enough in fact that both of my daughters have said that if ever anything catastrophic happens, like a Zombie Apocalypse, they are moving back in with us.
Some of the home canned and dehydrated foods from the garden.
Of course growing as much of your own food, and learning how to preserve it, is key.
I’m guessing by the fact that you are reading this you are already doing that, or getting ready to.
Good for you!
But what else can you do to fill those shelves up when money is tight and food costs are soaring?
Here are some ideas:
1. BOGO: At first you need to start small. If you find a buy one get one sale on a non-perishable item, put one away. If you have to, hide it so it does not get used. Do take note of the expiration date.
2. Buy ingredients. Instead of buying bread, buy flour and yeast. Learn to make it by hand or eventually get a bread machine. Trust me, they pay for themselves in pizza alone.
Don’t hand out money for pancake mix, when making it yourself is simple. Likewise other mixes. There are tons of recipes online to do just that.
We make up a bunch of bread mixes, label what we need to add, and place them on the shelf. It’s faster to make bread than to go to the store and buy it, and a whole lot better tasting, too.
Likewise we have our own cake mix on the shelf. As the holidays approach, cookie mixes will be added.
Here’s some of what we do.
3. Buy in bulk. It may be a while before you can do this, but it saves money in the long run. Mandolin LOVES Jasmin-scented rice. At the local market, it’s very pricey. Instead we get it in 25 pound bags from an area Asian food supply store.
4. Use coupons, but don’t get trapped. Never buy something just because you have a coupon, unless you are getting it for free. Also don’t buy a name brand with a coupon if the store brand is less expensive.
You can be more creative with your coupons than you might realize. For example, your store may be selling an item as Buy 2, get one free with coupon. The coupon is for the free one, not the other two. So if you have two 50 cents off coupons, you can use them as well. If your store doubles the coupons, you now have 3 items for $2 less than it normally costs for 2. Pretty good, right?
Purchased with savings at the forefront.
5. Buy seasonally. Items go on sale at different times of year, due to holidays, growing times, etc. This is a good time to grab the chance to stock up. Keep in mind you can put up fresh produce, even meat, that you get from the market when it is on sale.
6. Make the most of what you buy. If you need a fresh orange or lemon, don’t toss out the skin. Grate it, let it sit overnight to dry, and now you have lemon or orange zest. Have you seen how much that is in the stores?
Instead of buying boneless chicken, buy the whole thing and cut it up yourself, using the carcass to make soup. You can preserve that as well.
Go to the market early if you can, and check out any older produce they may have on sale. If they have tomatoes and peppers, for example, bring them home and make soup or sauce.
When it comes to food, like many things, time really is money.
But with just a few simple tricks, you can save on both.
Categories: Preparedness & Green Living