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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2018 Container Gardening– Week 15

This week my container garden is winding down. Some plants have been removed because they are done for the season while others seem to just be getting started. Lo and behold my pepper plant is beginning to produce fruit/veggies. I have one pepper that will be ready by the end of this week and possibly three more before seasons end. This week one of my patio tomato plants was removed–it’s done producing and my petunias were done as well as one of my new guinea impatiens. It’s a hot and humid week so far so my heirloom pear tomatoes should ripen up well and then that will be the end of that plant too. Still thriving are plants I bought almost four months ago–a new guinea impatien, a fuschia, a prairie grass plant, lavender, rosemary, hen and chicks, and the lime coleus plant. This week I purchased a fall plant that I have never seen before– a purple aster. So, we’ll see how that goes. I have horrible luck with mums on my deck. In my photos, you can see in one week my peppers progression. Also, my pumpkins plants are thriving, but will they do anything before the first frost? The last photo has the last of my homegrown tomatoes on the right and an heirloom–for size comparison– on the left that I purchased at the Farmer’s Market this past weekend.

 

2018 Container Gardening–Week 14

My garden is blooming this week–the petunias are going crazy and my pepper plant has grown another foot. The big question is, will it produce fruit? At week 14 I’ve made a very big decision regarding my container garden. I’ve been growing patio tomatoes on my deck for a decade now. Each year I drive to my favorite garden and plant nursery and I spend anywhere from $10.00-20.00 on each patio tomato plant, and then go buy dirt ($20.00), and fertilizer (12.00), and then end up with an average of 5 tomatoes from each plant all season. Some years have been more and others way less. Truthfully they don’t even have much of a taste to them. I spend about 30 minutes getting them planted and then for around four months I water them and care for them every day for an average of 5 tomatoes the size of golf balls, sometimes a tad bigger, every year. So, if we are still living in this apartment next spring I will be ordering two Pink Brandywine Heirloom plants and caring for them all season. Because life is way too short to spend the amount of time I do on growing tomatoes and then they’re not even my favorite kind of tomatoes. Pictured is one I had today because ya–my plants are done producing this year–I paid $3.99# for this beauty. My yield for my patio tomato plants this year was– 5 grape-sized heirloom pear-shaped tomatoes and 3 patio tomatoes the size of golf balls. Total cost for less than 1# of fruit–$65.00 (my time not included). You’ll notice in the photo of my pepper plants some plants popping up–those are my pumpkins. This year instead of planting pumpkins in their own pot and spending countless hours for nothing (seems like a resounding theme at times when container gardening) I decided to throw a few seeds in dirt and see what comes up. Also, you may notice my New Guinea Impatiens and Fuschia are still in their nursery containers vs. being replanted in pots of mine. This is the first year I’ve done that and been able to keep New Guinea Impatiens and Fuschia’s alive. I bought a pretty container to put them in and voila! They’ve done great. Until next time–Happy August!

P.S. my patio tomato plants must have heard I was blogging about them and that what I was typing wasn’t very nice. Yesterday, out of the blue,  a softball-sized tomato on one of the plants began to ripen after being green for nearly a month. In defense of these plants, I never really looked into what kind of tomatoes I would be getting growing them. They were suggested to me for their hardiness (which they are) disease resistance (which they are) and most importantly they are perfect for container gardens (which I have). One of the biggest reasons my yield is so low is that I don’t get a lot of bees on my deck. Some years I have had a lot of sweat bees, which usually pollinate both my tomatoes and my plants. But this year–almost none. I highly recommend patio tomato plants for patios, but would think twice about recommending them to people like me who are living in upper apartments and container gardening on their deck.

 

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 Ten



Each time as I sit inside listening to the rain or hail pelt against my deck, I feel like my Dad must have felt when his crops took on flood waters, or we had a drought during the growing season. What can you do? I feel helpless to protect my plants, although I have been known to stand on my deck holding on to my containers during high winds and such. There is nothing I can do when it rains really hard or hails. My plants get very wet and have had their leaves and in some cases stems destroyed by hail. Thankfully, my entire family isn’t depending on the income from my crop of tomatoes. That said I never take growing food on my deck for granted. This week my tomatoes are beginning to ripen–so far they have made it through intense heat, high winds, and thankfully at this time remain free of pests. Year after year anticipation of how well my garden may do and harvest time force me to plant again even though the previous season may have been a total loss. I’m guessing that’s a little like the kind of faith my Dad must have had each year to keep on planting his fields of corn and beans.

All in all this spring/summer has really flown by–it’s hard to believe we are already half way through July. As soon as I harvest my tomatoes my husband and I will be going on vacation. By that time most people will be getting ready for the new school year. This year once again we will be traveling to Door County, WI.

I hope everyone following along is having a wonderful summer. Until next time happy gardening!

2018 Container Gardening- Week Nine

So this week things have stayed pretty much the same in my container garden. Missing are both Walmart non-smelling
geraniums. Not only did they not smell like geraniums, they basically bloomed once and died. I have since visited a nursery and purchased a new geranium plant along with a new petunia plant plus more Purple Cow composting soil. My husband and I live in an apartment complex for now. We are hoping by this time next year to be moving. A few years ago maintenance came around and planted shrubs etc. near everyone’s front door. I am assuming they felt that the tenant should thereafter be responsible for all care and maintenance of said shrubs and plants. Well, the soil these plants were planted in was all wrong, not to mention the kinds of plants planted, and the fact they were hastily put in and during one of the hottest days of the year. For over a year I watered an entire courtyard near our door and four plants right next to our front door. I also fertilized all the plants that were around our unit. Unfortunately, most could not be saved–mostly due to the fact of the soil they were planted in, they were planted shallow, they were planted late fall during a heat wave, and then come spring the area was sprayed by them with a toxic weedeater. This spring nearly everything was dead so we decided to go out and buy hostas at our own expense. I thought hostas would do well near our front door and they still might. However, the spot near our front door gets extreme heat in the afternoon and shade in the am. Hostas need warm sun in the am and shade in the afternoon. This information did not deter us, instead, we went ahead and dug holes, filled them with Purple Cow composting soil, and planted the hostas. Today I made a sunshade for both plants and will cover with said sun shade for part of every afternoon. Keeping fingers crossed. My lavender is doing well since being cut back, and so is my rosemary. Our tree is still recovering, the lime coleus continues to flower and is about 2.5 ft tall, and I have a total of 14 green tomatoes waiting to ripen. How’s your garden doing?

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!

2018 Container Gardening–Week Seven

I’m thrilled to say my nasturtium flowered this week, just as I’d basically given up. One thing that I know I did wrong with it was that I fertilized it, and I’ve now read fertilizing it probably made the plant want to produce more leaves vs. flowers. I had an abundance of leaves so this pearl of wisdom made sense to me.

Temperatures this week were in the mid-eighties and I was able to harvest two more pear tomatoes. One of my non-smelling geraniums bit the dust so I replaced it with a lovely pot of petunias I found on clearance. Next up I am anticipating the ripening of half a dozen tomatoes on my two patio tomato plants.

2018 Container Gardening–Week Six

My container garden is chugging along and making good progress. I have several tomatoes on each patio tomato plant, and I’ve already harvested and ate four of the heirloom pear tomatoes (the tall skinny plant in pic 3). My lime coleus is flowering, and surprise, surprise my nasturtiums have the beginnings of flowers forming. Soon, if all goes well I will have grown my first edible flower! My geraniums from Walmart don’t smell like geraniums. In fact, they don’t smell like anything at all. I wasn’t able to find red geraniums at the nursery I bought my other plants at–so the geranium purchases were last minute. I won’t make that $20.00 mistake again. My hens and chicks are doing great and have doubled in size. The hostas were bought late and we intend on planting them in the ground outside our front door. My rosemary is the prettiest green and the healthiest plant I’ve grown yet, as well as the prairie grass (not pictured) I bought just for fun. Here’s the garden this week– week six on the deck, but in all I’ve been gardening since late March and feeding birds again since, well, last fall.

Permaculture

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about permaculture lately, and like I, wondered what on earth is all the buzz about? Initially, I’ll be honest –all I saw when I looked at the word was culture, and I immediately thought it was a new group to join.

So what does permaculture really mean? Permaculture is defined as an agricultural system or method that seeks to integrate human activity with natural surroundings.

So how do we integrate human activity with natural surroundings?

Whether on your homestead, property, or in your garden everything created- food scraps, plant waste, and animal waste is all put back into the soil, hence composting, creating a closed loop system of farming/gardening. Nothing is brought in from the outside–you use everything that is already available to you from the resources you have on hand. Thus creating zero waste.

In essence, you collect waste, you compost the waste, and then you return it to your soil. In your soil, you grow your food, and if you have livestock you grow their food too.

By doing things this way your operation is considered sustainable, as well as efficient, less costly to operate, it’s environmentally safe, as well as safer for you, your family, and anyone that eats what you produce–nothing from the outside is being hauled in that may be contaminated with chemicals, bacteria, or other pollutants.

In closed-loop farming, you try to use everything such as:

  • Table scraps are composted- all scraps even bones and meat scraps.
  • Lard is rendered from pigs
  • Animal hides are tanned and turned into gloves, vest, jackets, and so much more.
  • Garden scraps–any and all safe plant scraps
  • Animal waste is composted.

By the way, this isn’t something that is new in farming, gardening, or homesteading. I grew up this way in the 70s, and know many hundreds of people that grew up this same way too. I grew up on a farm, but even most of the city kids I knew had compost pails under the sink. All kitchen scraps were thrown in the garden, and/ or fed to the chickens and pigs. Chickens scratch the ground–they are natural compost tillers. I found a great article about this here.

What is vitally important to remember as you start your spring planting is — you need your soil to be at its very best. You need to start with soil that is alive, healthy, and thriving. Chemical-laden soil grows a chemical laden product. Depleted of its nutrients soil grows depleted of its nutrients product. Small scale or large scale you don’t need to rely on places outside your farm or homestead to provide you with nutritious resources for healthy soil. You have everything it takes to make it if you have kitchen scraps, plant and animal waste, time and space.

Here’s an article I found that teaches you all about composting.

Here’s an article about building healthy soil.

Here is a Composting 101 Guide.

Here’s a Permaculture Film.

Here’s some free online streaming of all things permaculture.

And last but never least here is a family that blogs about homesteading, permaculture, and gardens created by chicken tillers– The Rhodes Family on Youtube. You will love them and find a ton of useful information about permaculture and chicken gardens here.

A special thanks to the website Permaculture Research Institute for providing hours of rich and comprehensive information for me to consume on Permaculture.