Seasons of Change

Just one more day and fall is here. Where we live we can tell when the season is changing by the changes in our local traffic. Also the upper edges of the bluffs in our area start to show their fall colors and the produce at the market changes from tender sweet fruit and vegetables to the kind better stored in root cellars and processed into canning jars. While there are still green beans at Farmer’s Markets, they’re not as tender as they were in June. Our last haul included half a dozen acorn squash and several zucchini with the last of summers cucumbers. This growing season marks the second year of our seasonal only eating. What does seasonal eating mean?

Seasonal eating means purchasing and eating food around the time the food was harvested. Which for us means, we eat asparagus in the spring and then will not eat it again until next spring. Same for tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, and sweet corn. I have processed and frozen green beans, zucchini, beets, and squash to eat this winter. The reason we do this is two-fold: for one we want to eat food that is freshly harvested and preferably very local to us (grown within 50-60 miles of us), secondly we find this is a wonderful way to support our local farmers. Essentially they grow it and we are there come harvest to buy it and eat it. And we buy a lot of it. We eat as much sweet corn as we can handle. This year that mean approximately 100 ears were eaten by two people in this household. I ate over 11 pints of strawberries (each time picked fresh that morning) and about the same amount in raspberries plus I had 35 ripe peaches and 15 ripened pears. Together my husband and I ate 5 bunches of asparagus, 10 bunches of fresh carrots, 2.5# of green beans, 15# new potatoes, 10# of fingerlings,10# of fresh beets, 12 bunches of fresh spinach, 12 bunches of fresh lettuce, lost count on the cucumbers, and 20 peppers of various color. I alone have eaten 50 tomatoes since July. Now as the season changes we’ve begun consuming apples, squash, and zucchini.

All total from the first week of June until the first week of September we spent approximately $25.00 a week (roughly $350.00) on local produce in two different Farmer’s Markets. Prices are never lower for produce then when they are being harvested. During the summer months our meals consist of lots of fruits and vegetables and very little meat (1 maybe 2 meals a week with meat), and almost no unhealthy snacking. So we save a lot of money throughout the summer.

Prior to eating seasonally we would purchase substandard tasteless produce that was not local to us all winter long. Now–we store some of summers bounty up for winter eating and then come fall we’re buying squash, apples, and zucchini that we will also enjoy all winter. Through out the winter months we will not buy any produce in the store except lettuce and bananas. No matter how bad I might want a tomato in my winter salad, I will not buy any tasteless ones out of season.

Pictured is our favorite tree on the south shore of Devil’s Lake right behind the snack shack. One or the other of us has been photographing this tree since 2005.

Like the seasons of growing and harvesting food each one of us is in a season of our life. I am currently in mid- fall where a lot of my foliage has changed color and some of it may now be lying on the forest floor. There are still bits of rare green here and there but for the most part fall has been declared.

I hope I’ve given you something to think about and that perhaps you and your family might consider seasonal eating. Thank you for stopping. Below are two informative sites that discuss seasonal eating, why it’s better for you and your local community, and lastly how eating seasonally can save you a lot of $.

Eating Seasonally Food Guide

Why eating seasonally is better !

 

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The Month of September means–

Baking several loaves of banana bread (and freezing them), visiting the apple orchard for the first time and trying Paula Reds, and surprises like my new guinea impatiens blooming again. This pretty sherbet colored impatiens has been blooming off and on all season. It has outperformed EVERYTHING I planted this year. In the last 8 days, we’ve had between 20-30 inches of rain (depending on where you are located in this county). Everything is wet, saturated, and in most cases ruined. Luckily because of where we are located– second-floor apartment on a hill, we were not flooded. Summer is almost gone and then we will settle into fall with more apple picking and squash baking and then eventually await the spring seed catalogs. Where does time go? It’s lost somewhere between intent and actual doing–never to be held, never to slow down, never to be captured. Always lost.

2018 Container Gardening- Week 11

This past week we’ve been dealing with cooler rainy weather. Not necessarily good for what I’m growing. I can’t remember if I updated last week, but I’ve lost most of the blossoms on my pepper plant–so probably no peppers this year, though there are new possibilities. This happens they say (the experts) when temperatures are too warm. The week they dried up it was very hot here with heat indexes of 103 degrees. Last week I picked my first tomato and it had blossom rot– I know what causes this and that’s too little calcium in the soil. So I went out and gave all my plants some Purple Cow Compost tea and a few days later picked my second and third tomato and they are just fine. My peppers had this issue last year and I was too late in catching it.  My lavender is getting leggy, but my rosemary and hens and chicks plant are thriving. We trimmed the lime coleus and now have two healthy branches that are flourishing.  Currently, that geranium and petunia plant I picked up at a local nursery is filled with gnats. This happens a lot with plants and soil that sit outside in the wet for long periods. I’ve bought many a bag of big box dirt(never again) that was filled with fungus gnats. Looks like this geranium and petunia were planted in some of that stuff at the nursery. So, I will probably get rid of that plant this next week before they start flying indoors. That’s it for this week. All total I’ve been planting, watering and caring for my container garden for 5 months now– with almost 3 months of it spent outside gardening.

 

2018 Container Gardening- Week Eight

This week I have teeny tiny pepper buds on my plants. It is so neat to see the flowers become fruit! As reported I am down one geranium,soon to be two, so I went out and bought a red geranium and red petunia to replace them. I learned my lesson at long last–no more plants no matter what from big box stores. I cannot believe I bought not one but two geraniums for $11.00 a piece and they didn’t smell like anything. For most of my life I couldn’t stand the smell of geraniums or petunias, but now my garden would not be complete without their unique smells. It sounds weird but it is true, and I can’t describe what they smell like–so next time you’re planting a garden buy some and see for yourself. They grow on you, I promise. Everything has doubled even tripled in size since plant. See for yourself–Happy Gardening All!

Blog Dedication

This blog is dedicated to my great- great- grandfather Manuel (4th generation farmer) pictured here with my great-great-grandmother. Many many years ago now he bought his first farm in Ontario, Canada and soon after helped to frame his first barn–his pride and joy. Shortly afterward he contracted pneumonia and refusing to rest properly died at the young age of 40.

Happy Valentines Day –How to keep your flowers fresh!

I like having/buying flowers for my home on a regular basis, not just for Valentines Day or other special occasions. To do this I must buy my flowers at a friendly price within my budget constraints. So I buy all of my flower bouquets from the supermarkets we shop in every week. Often when you look at the bouquets of roses in Walmart they look pretty sad. But for less than $5.00 they’re not too bad. Here’s a trick I’ve learned that a friendly florist once showed me.

When you get your bouquet home from the supermarket trim the ends of each flower diagonally so that they can drink the water you will be setting them in. The temperature of the water should be whatever the temperature of your tap water is when you turn the tap on. So lukewarm to cool but never ice cold or hot. Use the flower food packets that come with. And for roses always remove the guard petal. Florists will have removed this petal, but flowers purchased in supermarkets or stands will have the guard petals still on. The guard petal is the petal on the rose that is discolored, frayed, loosened, ruffled or just has an older look to it. If you don’t remove this petal your roses will never open. Here is a great article all about guard petals on roses.

Here are my flowers a day after removing the guard petals–

Happy Valentines Day!

September and all its Splendor

It’s Apple Season–hello September!

Apple, cabbage and squash season around these parts. And lots and lots of Roma tomatoes. This next week’s prep list will include canning tomato sauce, freezing spaghetti sauce and at least a dozen frozen bags of homemade applesauce. I will definitely post pictures and share my recipes. Until then have a lovely Labor Day weekend.

A Farmer’s Daughter

farmer

From the earliest age that I can remember-farms and farm animals have been in my world. When I was four, maybe five, I remember visiting my grandparents on their farm. My grandpa had draft horses, milk cows, and chickens. Oh, and kittens and a puppy too. To encourage me to make the long trip to the U.S. from Canada by bus all my Mom had to remind me of was the kittens. Once there I would run around outside for hours, visiting the chickens, watching my grandpa milk and playing with the kittens. Within a couple of years my Mom met a farmer and again I was encouraged to leave the place of my birth, my school, and friends to move to the U.S. and live on a farm. And so I did. Though I was unhappy a lot in my younger years, I enjoyed growing up on a farm.

Perhaps my biggest regret of my wasted youth was not getting to know the farmer behind the great farm I grew up on– my step-father. As his young daughter, I simply worshiped this great man who rose every day at 5 a.m and worked tirelessly until after dark at night. Even sick he worked. Even when he could hardly move his body from arthritis or take a breath because of respiratory problems he’d had for what seems forever he worked every day. He took care of his farm, his animals, and his family well. Even though I know there are many men and women farming who love the land as much as he did. In my honest and humble opinion he was and is the best farmer I will ever know.  Because of my own personal issues I never got close to my step-father and that will always be a profound regret of mine. I have talked to him many times since he’s been gone, and I know he is in a better place albeit I always thought that to be the home farm. If not for his farm; the farm I grew up on, my younger years would have been nearly unbearable. In me, I see the things I picked up from him. His memory lives in me each day, in who I’ve become, and in how hard I work. A part of him is in the reason I feel the way I do about animals, about feeding my family well and my desire to help feed others.

I recently learned that all of my grandfathers back four generations on my biological dad’s side were farmers  (this was a major revelation for me) and this has caused me great pride. I now know that farming is in my blood. My last grandfather to farm was Manuel. He struggled to work the family farm even though he wasn’t really happy farming. He did so out of obligation.  He died at forty after a long illness. His family was young and none of his children were old enough to work the farm while he recovered from illness. Soon after his death his family lost the farm, and that was the last farmer in the family on my Dad’s side.

When I am around farmer’s, reading about farmer’s I feel a sense of peace. They are my people. We as a people owe a great debt to those people that have from maybe the very beginning of time worked diligently to feed all of us. And I’m not in any way speaking about factory farms. I am speaking about family farms, families living and farming together. The family farm being passed down to son or daughter and the tradition of living and working the same land generation after generation to feed all of us.

Lately, I’ve spent many hours reading about homesteading, organic and urban agriculture.  Some of the books I’ve read are: Farm City by Novella Carpenter, Growing a Farmer by Kurt Timmermeister and The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe. I’ve also purchased several films on Amazon that I think are good depictions of what farming is really like if you’re not familiar with it or want a refresher course in farming 101 like I did. They are: Farming Forward, Betting the Farm, Eating Alabama, The Organic Life, The First Season and To Make a Farm.

My heart says it is never too late to live your dream, to accept your calling or to go after what you want and just do it. That said, physically and monetarily there are limits. I do not have aspirations to milk cows, although I love farms, barns and dairy cows. So I know I will not become a dairy farmer. I am also certain I will not become a large crop farmer growing corn, hay or soybeans. I’m looking into learning how to become – a food farmer( growing food for human consumption). Thankfully my husband is entirely on board with this so it is something that in the next two years we will begin doing together. The first step of this conceived plan is for me to graduate, which happens in just two weeks. The second step will be for us to get our affairs in order with our current home, jobs, and priorities and start visiting some of the places we’ve thought about relocating to which will help us decide where we want to make our forever home, and then once that is decided the next step will be to buy a home with land. I will still work away from our farm at a job in town because that is how we will finance our dream. Though I wish I would have heeded my true calling some twenty years ago, I’m glad I went to college and will now be able to finance our plans (hopefully) in a much more sustainable way. Me as a farmer will never be the same kind of farmer my step-father was, but the farming I will do be it ever so humble and small will surely honor that life that I once lived as a farmer’s daughter.