special posts

1 Really Good Reason to Grow Food This Year

Being prepared.

Being prepared.

If you have been reading here a while, and certainly if you have been growing an edible garden for a few years, you know there are numerous good reasons for people to grow their own food:

1. It tastes better. All of it. Every last veggie tastes better than store bought.

2. You save money. Okay, maybe not at first, but in the long run. Not to mention less Doctor bills, because-

3. It is healthier for you. Fresh produce is higher in nutrients than even organic produce that is older.

4. You are less dependent on others for your food.

5. It is great exercise both physically and mentally.

6. Economic uncertainty.

Now you might be thinking, ‘But GJ, you said ONE reason!’

Of course you are right, and here it is:

California.

Unless you are totally self-sufficient, you are buying something that was grown in California. Maybe it’s nuts, or produce, or an ingredient in something else; but the truth is the vast majority of the food we eat in the US is associated with California farms.

And they are having a horrible year. The extreme drought continues, and here in the northeast we are already seeing the effects.
The price of almonds has skyrocketed, for example; and that is just the beginning.

It gets worse. Even if the drought suddenly lifted, much of this season’s crops are already affected. Not just this season’s either; because so many items end up as ingredients, the prices of other food items will continue to go up even if the drought subsides.

Think about it.
What would you do if suddenly the cost of food tripled?
What if some items you normally enjoy were no longer available?

Now we’re not trying to predict what will happen nor frighten anyone.
For the cost of a few packets of seeds and either some containers or a little part of your yard, you could begin to lay the groundwork, so to speak, for a more secure future food-wise.

Isn’t that one reason alone way more than enough?

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Categories: gardening, saving money & time, special posts

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7 Ways to Grow Love in Your Garden

Gardening is an act of love.

Sure, you get fresh air, exercise, and food; but most gardeners grow plants because they love to.

So here’s a Happy Valentine’s Day to all you gardeners, and a few examples of growing we would love to share:

Love these beans.

Love these beans.

1. Black Valentine Bean
This is one of our personal favorite bush beans to grow. As you can see from our notations on the packet, this bean can either be harvested as a green bean, or allowed to mature on the plant and dry. The seeds that you get as a dry bean are a beautiful purplish black and are wonderful tasting. Although we grow a variety of dry beans, we plant more of these than any other.

Colorful love.

Colorful love.

2. Love In A Mist
What a beautiful name for a gorgeous flower. And free seeds? Yep, you have got to love that! According to the packet description, this plant dates back to 1570′s English gardens, and has “wispy, feathery foliage surrounding the blooms”. Although we primarily plant edibles, we also grow some flowers to attract bees. These look to be a good choice for this year’s garden.

A mix of love.

A mix of love.

3. Love Lies Bleeding
Not the most romantic name, but the red variety of amaranth grows vibrant seed pods that are an outstanding, and edible, addition to the garden. We grew these for years before we were taking pictures of the garden, and unfortunately before we knew they were edible. More to come on growing amaranth this summer.

Tall and tasty love.

Tall and tasty love.

4. Lovage
Okay, we admit this one is pushing it a bit, but what isn’t to love about a perennial herb that grows 3 feet wide by 6 feet high and can be used in place of celery? We have yet to grow this but have tasted it, and the resemblance in flavor to celery was enough to convince us; another gorgeous edible for your garden.

A sweet honeymoon.

A sweet honeymoon.

5. Honeymoon Melon
The picture above is of the accidental experiment; but the real Honeymoon Melon is a yellow skinned green fleshed delight. It is also an earlier maturing variety of honeydew, so you get to enjoy that sweetness sooner.

There are two additional ways you can grow love in your garden:

Mom loved blue.

Mom loved blue.

6. Grow a Remembrance Plant:
This is the Sea Holly that was planted after my mom passed away last spring. In spite of the weather and only being a young plant, it bloomed the following fall, and after two frosts no less. It will always be a reminder of her, in the place we love to be.

Ready for little hands.

Ready for little hands.

7. Spread the Love
The garden really is a good example of the circle of life. Plants sprout, they grow and reproduce; some die and some continue to return for many years.
Sharing the knowledge and the love of gardening is a wonderful way to keep that information alive through the generations.
Pass it on, whether it is your neighbor, your kids or grandkids, or a school or church garden.

The love of gardening really is the best thing you grow.

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7 Suggestions for Our Warmer Climate Friends During the Polar Vortex

Even the Guardians of the Garden could not keep the polar vortex away.

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, special posts

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Big Yellow Baby Steps

The original, and now the best.

The original, and now the best.

Good news was out last week that General Mills has decided to change their sources for sugar and corn starch to non-GMO products, thus allowing them to take a little step and make their Cheerio’s original non-GMO. Just that one variety so far, as they say it had so little GMO in it the switch was easy.

While the company is still maintaining that GMO’s are not bad for us to ingest, and does admit they make some of their other products without GMO’s so they can be sold in Europe, they do not express any intention of changing what they use in their products in this country.

We’ll see.

Recently Chipotle restaurants announced that they were moving toward all non-GMO foods, including grass fed meats.
Their stocks soared, even though customers were informed they may need to slightly increase their prices.

These big companies are smart, and they keep a close eye on trends.
We have already seen an organic version of Heinz catsup hit the store shelves. Since they are not using the heavily pesticided corn syrup and sugar beets, then they are probably non-GMO as well.

But they will keep that quiet for now. Why?
Because its a double standard to manufacture one way for the European market, and another for the US.

And it is hypocritical to say GMO’s are safe, and we don’t want to have to label foods that contain them, then turn around and start using the non-GMO ingredients to their advantage.

This, my friends, is where the conundrum comes into play:

Do you not buy any General Mills products because they financially support efforts against labeling GMO’s containing foods, and they in fact use much of the product so heavily doused in Monsanto’s chemicals-
Or, do you purchase that yellow box of non-GMO Cheerio’s and show General Mills your support for removing GMO products from at least that one box?

Normally I would go with the first choice, but not this time.

Because here’s the thing- if the sales of the non-GMO containing Cheerio’s soar, then other General Mills cereals will follow.
From there, other companies will be quick to jump on the wagon and so maintain their share of the market.
And perhaps the tide will turn.

Amy’s food started it a year or so ago and saw their stock jump up, and now Chipotle’s has thrown some major heat on the fire.
I’m thinking… let’s get out our fans and feed that flame.

Because voting with your dollar? It works.

Don’t just take my opinion on it.
Read what the GM reps say about GMO’s and their other products.

Categories: GMO's, special posts, you are what you eat

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Planning for Success

planning a year round edible garden

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

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, special posts, you are what you eat

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3 Gardening Resolutions for 2014

We started out with about 8 resolutions for the upcoming garden season, and pared them down to three.
‘Be more organized’ and ‘keep better records’ have had enough time on the list already, either that will happen or it won’t.

‘Buy less seeds’- forgetaboutit.

Some other ridiculous expectations got scratched as well.
Let’s be serious.
After all, this is gardening- if it ain’t going to be fun, then it is a chore.

peas in the home garden

More of this.

So instead, and without further eloquence, we will:

1. Try not to expand, again.

They say when you are changing a behavior, you should never use the word ‘try’, it is weak and you should be more assertive.
Like we will not expand the garden.
But seriously, that is just dooming oneself to certain failure.

This year, though, we are looking at simplifying in certain ways; so rather than expand out like we have been, we are going to give in a bit and grow more vertically.
That will be a little easier physically, and involve less time as well.

More of these.

More of these.

2. Garden with more perennials.

With some additional fruit trees, canes and brambles, we can assure ourselves and our family of a year’s supply of fruit; that is if we use more of the space in the roadside garden previously taken by annual edibles.
Last year we doubled our horseradish barrels, increased our rhubarb plants, and added an expanded area for walking onions.
We also added an additional sunchokes bed, somewhat by accident.
Hey, perhaps it was meant to be.

This year we want to incorporate some additional items, including Lovage, French Sorrel, Good King Henry- a plant related to spinach but eaten more like asparagus, Sea Kale and Ramps.
We are also looking into more pots of herbs.
The more the garden can grow itself, the better.

oriental lily

Yeah, let’s bring these back this year.

3. Add more flowers.

It was just a few years ago that most of our flower beds were lost during construction.
Now we have a wonderful front porch instead, but its time to take another look at building areas to feed the soul.

Years ago my Dad made a chart of what to plant, here in Zone 5/6, for a continual bloom spring to fall.
Surely that would work in many nearby zones as well.
That’s the kind of thing we post on the website, and we’ll get that up asap.

So that’s not too bad as far as resolutions go.
What are yours?

To all of you, here’s to a
Healthy- in both mind and body,
Wealthy- in love, happiness and a bountiful harvest,
and Wise- in mind and spirit, 2014!

~ the Jones

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Dear Santa: What I Want to Give for Christmas

Christmas

There have been years when one child’s main Christmas gift request was more than our entire holiday budget, lean as it was.

There have also been times when there WAS no budget to be had.
When visiting family and sharing gifts meant giving up a week’s groceries.

Oddly enough in retrospect, those really were the times we remember the most fondly. The times we learned what Christmas really means.

“Oh sure G. J., you can say that now… now when you are comfortable.”

Oh, make no assumptions my friends.

Christmas

Our first Christmas together we could not afford a tree or decorations. I made snowflakes from construction paper and hung them around the apartment.
I also discovered I was pregnant with our first child.
What was the best gift that year?
Yeah.

Then there’s the tale of the Christmas we bought a pair of jeans for our older daughter from Salvation Army for 50 cents. That’s how tight the budget was.
It ended up being her favorite gift- because the jeans were covered with zipper pockets that had unexpectedly held a quarter in each one.
She has always been lucky that way.

But my favorite story was a little different.
It wasn’t long that we were married and assuredly quite without funds. I would babysit for my husband’s boss and his wife, to earn a few extra bucks.
She invited me to go Christmas shopping with her.

To be honest, I was embarrassed.
I only had $25 total to spend, and that was stretching it.
And so we went and it was fun… though difficult when you have little money and everyone is trying to sell you something.
I did make a few meager purchases and when we were done- I had $35 in my wallet.

“How could this be?” I wondered.
I tried to retrace my steps to see who had given me the wrong change.
I really wanted to set things right.

“Don’t worry about it” she said. But I could not help feel I must fix this, I would not want it to come out of someone’s paycheck.

Finally she said it was time to leave, and so we did.
Mystery unsolved.

Christmas

In my early 20′s, I was so naive, and for many years later I did not realize what had taken place.
It was not too long ago I was telling our, now adult, kids this story when Mandolin said:
“She put that money into your wallet, don’t you see that? Did she have access to your wallet? She gave you that money.”
And so he is right, and I never knew the act of kindness that she bestowed upon me that Christmas season.

As I sit here this Christmas Eve and think back on the old days, I can’t help but wonder where did asking a child “What do you want for Christmas?” come from.

I wonder if we are doing them a disservice by asking that, and perhaps instead, should be posing the question:
“What do you want to give for Christmas?”

So herein begins a new tradition I can have with my grandson, as he gets older we will plan a ‘giving’ holiday together.

If nothing else for my benefactor so many years ago.
Her name?
It was Mary.

Categories: Keeping up with the Joneses, special posts

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Thankfulness and Giving – You Can Grow That!

Fall is the time of year when many people’s thoughts turn towards expressing gratitude for what they have, and to giving to others.

Commercialism aside, gardening affords you the greatest opportunities to do just that.
Whether it is bringing a small basket of fresh produce to the elderly woman down the street who can no longer grow a garden; or a dozen eggs to the disabled vet next door who not only enjoys them himself, but loves to share with his dog; being able to give really is more rewarding than receiving.

Plenty to share.

Plenty to share.

It means you have more than enough, that you think of others and care about them, and your heart grows bigger with each act.

Whether you share produce, pickles or seeds, or even just the information to help others grow their own, it is a wonderful way to connect and improve someone’s life every day.

This is a lesson I have learned well these past few years blogging.
What began as a simple attempt to share what I know about growing food, has given me in return wonderful new friendships and connections, a whole lot more information, and expressions of gratitude that truly touch my heart.

“What do you get out of this blogging thing?” a more cynical acquaintance asked me recently. “Look at how much time you spend, what’s in it for you?”

“Much more than I could ever have dreamed.” :-)

you can grow that

This post is a part of a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world.
Click on the link above to read more.

Want a very simple way to give?

When you read a post that teaches you, uplifts you, or just makes you laugh- share it using the icons below, or share from another source.
You are not only changing someone else’s life, you’re making yours better too.

Even if you don’t see it right a way, trust me.
You will.
It is a bonus to be truly thankful for.

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I, Gardener

a fruit tree

There are times in the garden, especially in the quiet hours of the day, that I feel very close to nature. It’s almost as if, were I to take my shoes off and stand quite still, I might begin to take root.

Of course this is about as likely to occur as a robot becoming sentient.
Or is it?

I was walking with my Dad through his gardens recently, just a few days after my Mom’s funeral. This is a man who has spent his entire life working with plants. With tears in his eyes he commented:

“The gardens look so sad this year. See the butterfly bush by the gate? Last year it was twice as big by now. Nothing seems to want to grow or bloom… I don’t know, maybe it’s my imagination.”

“The gardens are sad,” I replied, “because you are. Spend time out here, Dad; as you begin to feel better, they will start to look better.”

Now if you are new to gardening you may think that a plant is just a plant, but let me share a true story with you:

Many years ago a young woman was found murdered in her apartment. The police suspected her boyfriend, but had no proof.
The woman loved houseplants and her apartment was filled with them. In a effort to trick the suspect, they hooked a lie-detector type device up to the plants. This machine could only detect certain changes in the plants, meaningless in a court of law of course.

It was only when the boyfriend came into the apartment, that the plants reacted. It showed clearly on the device. Apparently his presence had a strong effect on them.
The police were shocked.
The boyfriend confessed.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary. How does your garden grow?
The answer to that might depend on her mood.

So might I suggest that when you are gardening, you don’t stress it.
Leave the problems of the day at the gate, and be light of spirit.

Not only will the garden grow better, so will the gardener.

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Beyond Gardening, Pt. 1: Economics

“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?”

garden 001

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.”

how to build a mini greenhouse

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.

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Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2014 by Gardening Jones (tm), and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

As gardeners, we love to share, so just let us know what your intentions are and we can work together. Please feel free to link any post you see. They say they call that Link Love.

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