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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Container gardening

Progress this week

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When I started my garden in April I was pretty much the first person around here buying flowers. In fact, prices weren’t even on the starters I bought when I bought them. I was anxious to start gardening after what seemed like an endless winter. I bought a small 3 ” pot with bee balm in it that held one stalk and 5 leaves. My bee balm is now a small bush that is sitting in picture 5 next to the New Guinea impatiens sitting in the orange pot. The impatiens were one small cluster of leaves and 1 flower bud. I bought a large pot with six starter geraniums. Each geranium plant was not more than a stalk and 3 leaves and the cosmos were started from seed.

All the tomato plants you see or don’t see, there is 9, have all been started from seed. They are in various stages of growth from just 4″ tall to almost a foot and a half tall. I planted kale from a starter pack of six leaves- just six leaves.  In the beginning of May I planted all the kale together and now I have a very large pot full of kale. I also started rosemary and thyme from seed and have two medium pots overflowing of that. I had one very sad cutting off a lavender plant that I just tonight re-potted for the third time that should be flowering by fall. Last but never least I have one cucumber plant that survived out of the four I started. All four of them were planted as wiry little almost dead looking weeds and again watered, given proper sun and love. Eventually, they were transplanted to a big pot and then to a bigger pot after that. All of them seemed to be doing well and then one by one wilt. Turns out I had cucumber beetles killing my plants. So I read and I read how I could get rid of them and finally found a cure I was satisfied with. On my last plant, as recommended, I placed some catnip. Albeit some dried catnip that belonged to our cat.  He wasn’t real pleased with that recommendation.  And that did the trick!

I’ve also got a sedum plant and a succulent I bought as starters that have doubled in size. The big purple plant in picture 3 is verbena.  My verbena plant was started from a 1″ stalk with two leaves on it that my plant supplier almost didn’t want to sell to me. Like I said I was really early to the greenhouse.  Also hard to see are our radishes that I decided to try growing in flats. I would definitely recommend growing them in deeper flats as I will be transplanting them later this week. I bought the seeds and flats and planted the radishes to see what would come up. They did come up but they were so tiny and frail. When I was trying to harden them off and especially after I’d watered them I would have to steady them back up, push the dirt around them and hope and pray they’d survive the wind. They have and they are now all at the stage where the leaves sting, feel like nettles, so it is time to replant. There’s another flat out there that you can just barely see in pic 2 that is three types of lettuce. It is slowly coming along, again started from seed.

I’ve been feeding all my plants FoxFarm Happy Frog Fruit and Vegetable fertilizer. It’s natural and it’s organic. All of my plants have been planted in organic soil and originate from organic seed or starters. My cucumber plant at the moment has all male flowers, so we are waiting for a female flower to show up. The female flower is the one that contains what looks like at first a mini cucumber under her flower. A bee comes along and fertilizes the female flower with the male flowers pollen and voila a cucumber is made. I know we learned some of this in school but can I say, I find nature to be, and growing my own food and learning how to grow my own food, such an intense pleasure, and experience.  Just in case Mr. Bee doesn’t make it to my deck I’ll have to pollinate the female flower, if she shows up, myself. For this, I will take a fine paintbrush and turn it around and around in 2-3 of my male flowers and then place the brush with pollen on it inside the female flower and pollinate her. Sounds kinda of sexy, doesn’t it? All for the love of cucumbers.  Every night I am out in my container garden getting dirty and it feels so incredibly good.