Independence Days Update:Almost All the Way Home

Sharon July 12th, 2010

We are rarely away from home as much as we have been these last few weeks.  I was gone for three days at the end of June, beginning of July, and then for the last four days.  We have one more very short trip (Eric and I are, wonder of wonders, going away for 24 hours sans kids – thanks to generous Grandmothers!!!!  We’re going to go on a busman’s honeymoon and  visit a couple of other farms ;-) )

We spent the last few days enjoying ourselves with family in the Boston area – end ended with a wonderful family bash to celebrate my Great Aunt Sally’s 90th birthday.  When I was a kid I took such family occasions, and the pictures they always made us take for granted – but now I keep thinking “how many 90th birthday parties will I get to go to?”  The elders of my own childhood are mostly gone now, and every remaining member of my grandparents’ generation is someone my kids will remember only through the lens of childhood .

We stopped as we often do, at Old Sturbridge Village on our way there, a living history museum that reproduces life in the 1830s.  Because Sturbridge is just about halfway between my parent’s house and our house, it is a place we can all meet in the middle (which we do a couple of times a year), and also a great stopping point on a long car trip - it comes just about at the point the words “he’s touching me” start coming from the backseat.

My kids love Sturbridge and so do I.  When I was a child, it was also almost exactly between my home and my Grandmothers’ home in Waterbury, CT, so many of my childhood memories focus on Sturbridge.  My sons particularly love the Parsonage – one of the houses with a lovely garden and a traditional attic room with two beds.  The first time we went through the interpreter said “how many kids do you think would sleep here?  Probably four.”  She clearly expected the kids to be shocked at the idea of everyone not having their own beds, but my boys just laughed and said that was just how they sleep.  So since then the kids like to pretend they live at the Parsonage.

The days before we went were busy, trying to keep up and get ahead and deal with the extreme heat.   Now that we’re back and the kids are going to camp and other summer programs (half day for the three younger ones), Eric and I are looking forward to three hours every single morning to devote to the farm and farm work. 

We must build a buck pen.  We must build another kidding pen.  We must clean out the back area of the barn, which until recently had a wood cookstove in it (which has now found a new home – yay!) so we can move the winter milking back there and also set up beds for the dogs.  We are having friends over to install our new manual well pump on Thursday.  The sheep are arriving tomorrow, along with Xote the guard donkey, and there is fence work to do in the meantime.  There are garden beds to build and fall seeds to start.  There’s plenty for us.

The cherries are done for the season, the peaches and apricots are nearly ripe.  The black currants are ripe as well, despite heavy depredations by the goats (they will be moved ASAP, but until this year they’d been ignored).  Tomatoes are starting to come ripe, zucchini are in full swing and the beans are in progress.  We’ve also been eating the best mesclun mix I’ve ever had – called “the kitchen sink” by Pinetree seeds, it has a strong emphasis on my favorite, spicy parts – arugula, mustard, etc… plus pea shoots, asian greens and even a little lettuce ;-) .

Summer is settled in to stay.  The babies are coming.  Life is good.  And although the trips have been fun (and the last one should be too) we’re almost home for the rest of it.  I’m glad to be here.

Onwards:

Plant something – I didn’t plant much of anything due to the heat.  Started some broccoli and asian greens indoors.

Harvest something: Tomatoes, yarrow, cucumbers, zucchini, green beans, the last of the snap peas, onions, green garlic, motherwort, mongolian yarrow, lemon balm, lemon verbena, sour cherries, raspberries.

Preserve something; Dried herbs, made cherry pie filling.

Waste Not: Nothing unusual.

Want Not: Made our usual Boston-area run of the awesome local Savers.  Found pjs for the kids, pants without giant holes for the husband, tshirts for Eli, pants for children with no behinds to hold them up for the other boys ;-) .

Eat the Food: Ate my Moms’ delicious food, including fish from their seafood CSA.  Can I just say how jealous I am?  Also ate what we call salsa salad a *lot* (we call it that because it started out as a salsa, but we eventually decided we just liked it plain) – chopped tomatoes, beans (black, pinto or whatever you like) and sweet onion (we use a variety called “candy”) mixed with lime juice, salt, a little sugar and chipotles.    We usually eat this with corn on the cob and salad.

Build community food systems:  Nada, although I got to see the results of my step-mother’s hard work on her community garden expansion – that was awesome!

So how about you?

Sharon

21 Responses to “Independence Days Update:Almost All the Way Home”

  1. Brandie says:

    My first report :-)
    Plant something – I planted some watermelon seedlings I had gotten 50% off a few weeks ago, that my husband wouldn’t plant because he says it’s too late for them. Seeded lemon grass in pots for second time as it didn’t come up the first time. My first attempt at homemade potting mix is lacking something critical.
    Harvest something: Giant cucumbers we forgot to look for, lots of Roma tomatoes, one potato just to see how big they’re getting (big enough, but we’ll let them grow more).
    Preserve something; Froze some sweet corn on the cob from the veggie stand down the street. The market garden is run by a local family, descendants of the original owners of our house, but they are older and most of the hard work is done by a Mexican father-son team that has worked for them for years. If my husband goes while they are there, they give him extras for free, I guess because they don’t see many people of their own ethnicity on this side of town.
    Waste Not: Feeding all food scraps to our chickens. My husband objected to feeding them meat scraps, but I convinced him it was okay. I guess they never had leftover meat to feed their chickens in Honduras.
    Want Not: Built my first solar cooker entirely from items on-hand and used it to cook beef brisket.
    Eat the Food: Spaghetti with our fresh tomatoes and basil, and feta and olive oil.
    Build community food systems: Several people in the apartments next to my house have veggies growing in containers. I considered approaching them about a community garden in an empty area under power lines, the same area I garden, but they don’t appear to have any outside water supply and mine is too far away.

  2. Billie says:

    Sharon,

    I have a question for you. I realize that it seems rather minor but I am hoping you might address it specifically and maybe more in general.

    I have been getting far more interested in the environment. Far from perfect but feel that I am light years ahead of where I was several years ago. As part of my exploration of what I can do to reduce my impact on the world, I have been exploring taking mass transit to work.

    I work 12 miles from home. I can take my car to work which costs me a 1/2 gallon of gas (each way) and takes about 30 minutes door to door. A gallon of gas costs about 2.65$ these days. I can run multiple errands on the way home from work that take me a mile or less from my usual route (library, groceries and so on). At least one of these errands would result in my driving to do it on the weekend so I can purchase local, plastic-free groceries. This store is about 12 miles round trip. My insurance rate wouldn’t change if I switched to taking the bus so the only other expense is a rather nebulous wear-and-tear factor.

    I can also choose to take the bus. This takes 1 hour door to door and costs 1.50$ each way.

    In terms of money (and I am not made of money) and time, it is more costly to take the bus than the car. It also has some other types of impact from moving my errands to the weekend. What responsibility do I have to take on this extra cost in terms of time and money in order to lower my carbon footprint? I have taken on extra costs in other areas that I feel are important to my health but this particular cost seems to benefit me indirectly only and perhaps only in my future. I guess I am really struggling to figure out if this step is really worth it for me and what should I be considering besides the cost to me personally.

    Any comments on how you go about deciding a course of action when the end result doesn’t seem to come down on one side or the the other conclusively.

  3. Gabrielle says:

    It rained!! I wanted to sing, “Rain, rain, please, please stay!” The rain barrel is full, and the plants are so much happier. The succession plantings are starting to fill in, and the garden is looking just a tad bit better than it has.

    I made some headway in preserving this week. I decided to buy more foods at the farmers market to preserve. If the garden yield increases enough for me to preserve from it, then I’ll be pleased in the winter when I have even more foods in my storage.

    This week in the garden I had a few “happies”. I was working in one of the vegetable beds only to lift the cucumbers to move the plant out of my way, and I was surprised with 2 regular looking cucumbers. All of the cucumbers up until this time have been gnarled and wonky. These were perfect, and there are even more on the vine to pick later. I had all but given up on them this year. The other “happy” was when I realized that the Moulin Rouge sunflowers had bloomed. Is there a happier flower to be found than a sunflower? They are gorgeous.

    Plant— Two tomato plants that I’ve had sitting in the shade for a month!

    Harvest—Red and white onions, scallions, basil, green beans, okra, Pawnee shelling beans, bell pepper, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, flowers.

    Preserve—Okra and tomatoes in the freezer, squash in the freezer, bell peppers in the freezer, 10 quarts green beans (it is a start, at least), 2 quarts refrigerator pickles.

    Waste Not/Reduce Waste— We continue to collect the water from kitchen tasks and bring it down to the garden. Other than the usual composting, recycling, and energy saving efforts, I don’t have anything else to report.

    Want Not/Prep/Storage— Not much new to report in this area this week.

    Building Community Food Systems— I helped with the men’s breakfast at church. I picked the church vegetable garden. A friend joined us at the Market Square Farmers Market this weekend. It was her first time, and I had the best time showing her around and introducing her to my favorite farmers.

    Eat the Food— Ahhhh, the first okra and tomatoes of the year! Yum! I was proud to finally have enough shelling beans to actually cook for a meal this year. Last year the rabbits attacked them, and we only had enough for seed.

  4. Claire says:

    It had been quite dry for the last couple weeks, I’d actually watered the veggie garden for almost the first time this year – then we got 3 inches of rain over a 2 day period. When it rains it pours … literally.

    Planted: nothing this week.

    Harvested: turnips, lambsquarters, carrots, rose hips, calendula flowers, a few not-really-ripe-yet peaches.

    Preserved: bought some local peaches and used the solar-powered food dehydrator to dry them. It was the first time I’d used it to dry fruits and it worked very well. DH made wine from the frozen Nanking cherries I’d harvested a month ago. Dried the calendula flowers. Froze the rose hips. Currently drying flour corn from the harvest in 2008, in the solar dryer … it didn’t seem moldly but I think it will be easier to grind if it is drier.

    Waste not: have avoided using the AC all this month, so far. We do run the furnace fan 24/7 as it helps keep the house at an even temperature (redistributes air between the hotter and cooler sides), and we have been running the dehumidifier in the basement, so the electric use is still higher than I’d like. Can’t think of anything else besides the usual.

    Want not: we signed a contract with a company to glass-in the south facing front porch to create a small solarium. Its primary purpose will be to overwinter potted citrus trees and other tropical plants, and provide a warm space to raise seedlings. If we are lucky, it will also contribute a bit of solar heating to the house (or at least be a somewhat-warmer place to sit on sunny cold days than the rest of the house).

    Community food systems: nothing this week.

    Eat the food: a stir-fry with the turnip greens and (the few) roots and some dried mushrooms; filling and good eaten over rice.

  5. NM says:

    Billie,
    Those trade-off questions can drive you crazy. What about taking the bus most days, and driving once or twice a week, to get those errands run, and seeing how that works for you?
    Plant something: Catnip, basil, thyme, tarragon, marigolds, lobelia, potatoes and the cherry tomato top I rooted after the dogs snapped it off. Al
    Harvest something: sage, mint, lemon balm, local eggs, CSA vegetables, farmers market fruit. Parsnip seeds that I hope were ready. Fully developed, not dry.
    Also, spent a day pulling the weeds and bolted parsnips out of a garden bed, so I can dig it up and plant for winter.
    Preserve something: Dried herbs
    Want not: My husband put up a new garage door to replace the one that for years has barely worked, getting the house another small step toward sale-ready.
    Waste not: composting I’d like to do something with the old garage door window (and the various other old windows lying around). On the other hand, this might not be the best time for that … augh.
    Community food systems: wrote various things about gardening, for the paper …
    Eat the food: Vegetable pot pie, broccoli-stuffed potatoes, green salad.

  6. Lise says:

    We foraged for cherry plums, picked raspberries, and ate tons of kale and popsicles. My update (and sort-of-recipes) are here:
    http://inthepurplehouse.blogspot.com/2010/07/independence-days-filling-freezer-with.html

  7. I will do an update on my blog soon – big accomplishment here was reconfiguring the barnyard fences … moving critters should be easier, and fences that are not actively falling down do tend to hold animals in better than sagging wire and tipsy posts. The quackgrass is still battling for supremacy in the garden – but I’m determined to hack it down. I honestly considered a one-shot of Roundup … but I have regained my sanity. I’ll do it the old-fashioned way, by hand … because I can afford the time. If it was crucial we eat from there RIGHT NOW, well, I might make a different choice. Then again, my husband is a volunteer firefighter, and we were discussing controlled burns as another option – he says there are ways to do that without letting the fire get into the ground. Might try that in the fall.

    Sharon, I have one bit of advice for you as a new Pyr owner – go check that puppy’s fur, all over, especially on the mid-back and by the tail. If it’s been hot and damp there (I think it has) and he has as much fur as our Mac (winter coat kind of stuck on in places in lumps, but working it’s way off), then you might have the seriously unpleasant surprise that I just got: fly strike. I never would’ve thought in our (usually) dry climate this would be an issue but … let me just say, eewww (which absolutely deserves the most girly squeal of disgust that you can imagine). Of course I discovered the problem when I am the only person home (everyone else has gone away for a week, I’m minding the farm) and so I got solo de-maggoting duty. I still feel unclean … but I’m sure that’s nothing compared to the misery my dog’s been in for the past who knows how long. I’ll be calling my vet in the morning to ensure I have done all that needs doing … so yeah, all of you with furry outside dogs … please go check them over!

  8. Lynne says:

    The garden is just a bit out of control here. In May and June we got lots and lots of rain, and now we’re getting some heat. The vegetative growth is enormous, and the things that get to go to seed are going crazy. I also always always plant things too close together. We also now have a toad and a snake in the garden setting up residence. I consider amphibians and reptiles to be supreme indicators of garden health, just like bee species, and I am so thrilled that they are out there in our little suburban yard.

    Plant: kale seed; broccoli and kohlrabi transplants

    Harvest: dill, parsley, oregano, basil, green onion, garlic scapes, carrots, snap, snow and shelling peas, just a bare few cherry tomatoes, one green pepper, potatoes, broccoli, romanesco broccoli, mint, sage, zinnias, strawberries, pink champagne currants, few raspberries, blueberries

    Preserve: strawberries – dehydrated, frozen, jammed, syrup; peas – frozen snap and shelling; broccoli – frozen

    Waste not: Usual

    Want not: 20 pounds more rice for storage; my husband set up more drip irrigation; cleaned and organized food storage and canning areas, wiped down shelves, inventoried, etc.

    Community: Well, a different outstanding neighbour cared for our chickens while we were away and so our community supported us again…and got a few tasty eggs in exchange. We live in a very awesome neighbourhood

    Eat: all of the harvested veggies and fruit; developed a version of tabbouleh salad with lentils to up our lentil intake from the grain CSA; strawberries twice daily, salads still coming, pea-mint salad; potato carmelized onion and sage salad; eggs galore; dressings with herbs; stirfries with veggies

  9. Sharon says:

    AppleJack Creek – It has actually been very dry here, but I will definitely go check ASAP – thanks for the tip, I wouldn’t have thought of that!!! Actually, maybe I’ll make Eric do it ;-) . I’m so glad you mentioned it.

    Billie – I think NM’s solution might be a good one. I also think the cost benefit ratio may change as you do it more – you may, for example, find that you enjoy the time to read or listen to music or just think on the bus. Or maybe you won’t. So what I’d suggest is that you try taking the bus most days, and allow yourself to drive one day, so that your errands get run. Do it for a couple of weeks, and then see whether the (definite and appreciable) benefits to the planet are accompanied by any benefits to you. Does that make sense?

    Sharon

  10. Sarah says:

    Preserve Something: 3 gallons of pickles and counting. We got a 1/2-bushel box of pickling cukes as a bulk order from our CSA farm.

    Eat the Food: Ben successfully made Szechuan dry-fried green beans. Mmmm… Green beans are not my favorite veggie under most circumstances, but I can just eat piles of these on their own as a meal.

    Local Food Communities: Gave many jars of pickles to coworkers, who are happy.

    We’re moving next week, and it’s been really good to put adapting-in-place concerns at the front of our apartment search rather than trying to make do with the one we have. We won’t be able to make substantial renovations, but at least we can pick an apartment that will need fewer of them. (Gas heat! New windows! Actual sunlight coming through the new windows!) The new place is still close enough for me to walk to work, and is also closer to the center of town, making shopping trips easier on foot.

  11. Sonrisa says:

    Finally harvesting wheat here. Like everything else it’s two weeks late, but it looks great! I’m hoping for 120lbs from the 1000sf I have planted, but I’ll be happy if I get 100lb. Thanks to kitty we aren’t losing a ton to rodents this year, and the heads are huge with a lot more grains.

    Plant- beets, beans, lettuce, radish, eggplant.

    Harvest- baby carrots, herbs, egyptian onion top bulbs, strawberries, wheat, lettuce, beets, cardoon, grass alfalfa, comfrey, kale, eggs, milk.

    Preserve- Dried the smaller E onion bulbs to make onion powder (the larger ones are saved for planting). Canned pickled beets.

    Waste not- I saved the juice from boiling the beets and started a beet wine. Now that it’s fermented for a while it doesn’t smell or taste anything like beets. Even my husband (who hates beets) is exited to see how it turns out.

    Want not- Saved next years onion and garlic “seed”.

    Community- nope

    Eat the food- We are at the time of year that the goats are eating almost completely home grown. I cut them pasture, alfalfa, comfrey, and they get tons of weeds. At milking time they are also getting last years leftover wheat. In fact, one of my goats snorts when I mix in the store bought grains. Spoiled turd! It’s always a pain to get them back on purchased feed. :)

  12. ChristineH says:

    Posting, as promised. :)

    Plant something: Nope. Been working on getting the spent pea vines cleaned up so we can plant in that spot.

    Harvest something: raspberries, last of the spinach, chard, winter radish, onions

    Preserve something: freezing said harvest somethings (except radishes and onions)

    Waste Not: Found a good home for hubby’s old work truck which would otherwise have gone for scrap – we gave it to a teen we know who wants to go a different highschool that offers some trade courses. Without a vehicle to drive himself he couldn’t have gone, and we figured it was a good cause. Also found a good home for an old bed we had but didn’t need.

    Want Not: Got a great deal on some old cheddar, made bread full of awesome cheesy goodness. :) Set up a barter agreement with a friend with a spring – he fills my cistern for baked goods and veg from the garden. Happiness all around.

    Eat The Food: Still working on last year’s stash of freezer veg, pickles and jam. It’s nice to know I put enough away to go from harvest to harvest, but most of what’s left is not “the good stuff” and we are looking forward to some variety. Made pad thai with the onions, ate radishes and raspberries fresh.

    Community Food Systems: nothing formal, just encouraging friends to plant gardens and helping the newbies learn the ropes.

  13. KC says:

    I’ve been away from home (on retreat for 3 weeks) , but have stopped back home again a couple of times to harvest onions and plant parsnips and greens. After very dry spell, we are finally starting to get a few storms and refilling the rain barrels again.

    planted: parsnips, mixed greens (for fall planting), green beans

    harvested: onions, garlic, dill, green beans, kale

    preserved: curing onions and garlic

    waste not: received compost and cardboard from retreat center

    want not: same

    build community food systems: garden talk among friends.

    eat the food: someone else has been doing all the cooking this week!

  14. Billie says:

    Sharon,

    I think I will start with two days a week – those two days that I don’t go to the gym. That extra hour of travel will get me home at the same time as if I went to the gym so I won’t notice the extra time as much.

    Billie

  15. I love OSV! I live in the Midwest and my daughter lives within an easy drive of OSV, once in awhile she will text me saying she has taken the grandchildren there for a few hours.

    She uses both (OSV and the grandchildren) to lure me into traveling to New England. :)

  16. Jallibunn says:

    Fish CSA? Never heard of one (surprise, not so relevant in Montana). Tell me more! How does it work?

  17. Laurie in MN says:

    Billie:
    Have you checked to see if the bus lines offer a monthly discount pass? I know the MTC here in Minneapolis/St. Paul does, and that can cut your cost waaaaay down if you bus most days of the month.

    Otherwise, it sounds like you have a good plan started. I hope you can read or knit or something on the bus. I get motion sick reading in vehicles :( and didn’t knit when I was taking the bus regularly. I listened to music, though, which was kind of a nice way to end the day.

  18. Sharon, I enjoyed Independence Days. Was it in there I saw a Bread & Butter Pickle recipe with a tip on crispy pickles? Do you list it here on your blog? If not I suppose I can run up to the library and get the book again. Thanks.

  19. MaryK says:

    I’m starting to freak out a bit because the grapes are ready NOW and I have to make grape preserves and juice. I have vegetables to put up, tomato sauce to make, salsa to get ready, the herbs need to be gathered and dried and I just don’t seem to have enough time!

    Planted: Kale, more green beans, beets, butternut squash, more crookneck and zuchinni.

    Anything else is a big blur!

  20. Billie says:

    Laurie,

    They have a monthly Metro Pass but it assumes you use the Metro and not just the bus system. For just the bus, it is actually more expensive. They have weekly bus passes but the last time I checked (before they just raised the prices) it shaved 1.50$ off the weekly price. Even before the transit authority raised their prices, I figured I would barely break even monetarily with the weekly pass and now I am sure I will not.

    I just live too close to work to make it worth it. I have a co-worker that takes the bus and he said he was saving a ton of money over driving but he lives maybe 2 times further away.

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