Monday, August 27, 2012

Re-Useable Shopping Bags...

I have gotten very lax about bringing my reusable grocery bags with me lately. Its just too easy to forget them at home, or even in the car when you go into the grocery store. I have also discovered that the bags you buy at the grocery store are actually kind of inconvenient. They fold flat, sometimes, but they don't stay folded, and they take up a lot of room when they aren't being used. Now I'm on a quest to find a pattern for the perfect grocery bag. It will give me a chance to get more familiar with my sewing machine, which I really need to learn how to use properly.

Does anyone have any good links to free shopping bag patterns that they would like to share?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Feeding Cars Instead of People During a Drought...

This year has been a disaster for many farmers in the United States. It has been such a hot, dry summer, that entire farms are having to be mowed down for lack of production, and in some cases, lack of even germination! All the talking heads are rambling about being prepared for food prices to skyrocket this winter.

Corn is probably the most important piece in America's farming puzzle. It has taken over the world, thanks to some *smart?* people who have figured out how easy it is to play God with our food supply. Go to the grocery store, and there is corn in probably 95% of the products you see on the shelves. The price of corn goes up, the price of ALL food goes up.

Our government has established a law that we must put ethanol derived from corn into all of our fuel. Its not a suggestion... its a requirement. So in the middle of one of the worst droughts we have seen, when people are having to cull entire herds of animals due to lack (or cost) of feed (most animals are not designed to eat corn but that is an entirely different subject.), and when the price of food is going up, we will be using some of this resource in our gas tanks rather than feeding people and animals. According to the New York Times, over 40% of US Corn is grown for fuel!

There are so many acres of land growing corn destined for fuel tanks... imagine what would happen if half of that land was planted with a diverse array of produce instead. Companion planting uses a more balanced amount of nutrients from the soil, and plants grown together harmoniously can feed and protect each other, as well as build up better soil! Local communities would have fresh, local produce, and local farmers could make a decent living WITHOUT corn subsidies! Unfortunately, as long as the government creates this market for corn, and pays subsidies on top of that, the rest is really hard to turn into a reality.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How did I forget to tell you guys???

I mentioned it on my facebook page, but somehow I forgot to let you all know, which is a shame because you were my original audience!...

I was recently asked to become a contributor to Townsquare49, which is part of a great website,!

Because of all of you reading and sharing my work, I'm one step closer to doing what I hope to be doing... writing to a MUCH bigger audience! So please share my blog and their website if you feel it is worth reading!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Perennial Edibles in Alaska

There are a number of annual vegetables that do well in Alaska, but did you know that there are several perennial vegetables, herbs, and fruits that thrive here also? In my quest to make my property a major source of nutrition for my family, I have focused on bringing in only trees that will produce edible fruit (there's always the exception, of course!), and I am working on plans to create a perennial wing in my vegetable garden.

Here's a list of the Perennial Edibles that currently grow on my property:
Crab Apple
Choke Cherry
Black Currant
Red Currant
High Bush Cranberry
Low Bush Cranberry
French Tarragon
Sheep's Sorrel
Mint (Chocolate and Apple)

Here are a few I would like to add to my property:
Grafted Apple (Norland and Parkland)
Indoor Citrus
Jerusalem Artichokes

Making space for perennials in your garden is an important part of any good permaculture plan. It is imperative that you plan for the long term when selecting a location and creating a space for the roots to thrive. Pay attention to not only the soil you nourish them with, but also the amount of sunlight they will receive, the space they will require when they are fully mature, and the amount of shade they will cast onto the surrounding areas. Just about anything can benefit from a fork full of compost at the bottom of the hole before planting, and plenty of loose soil beyond the edge of the root ball will give your plant room to wiggle its toes and settle happily into its new home. If you pay special attention to watering and pampering your plant for the first season or two, they will happily produce for you for years to come, with no more investment needed!

What types of perennial edibles do you have on your property? Do you have plans to integrate more in your garden?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Because Pictures Speak So Much Louder Than Words...

I hate to even say it, but my garden is starting to wind down for the year. We have been enjoying fresh turnips all summer long, and they are wonderful, but I was looking to try something new with them. I had a few dozen still in the ground, so this morning the kids and I headed out to the garden for one final turnip harvest. We ate a bunch of them raw, and then I set about finding a good canning recipe for the rest. Below are photos of my newest creation... pickled turnips! It doesn't sound appetizing, but it is absolutely amazing!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Soooo good...

This is happening in my kitchen right now...

Apple Mint, Cucumber, and water. No sweetener, no artificial colors, no artificial flavors. Just pure fresh garden goodness.
Who needs soda pop?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Roasting Garlic...

Growing garlic is something I have long wanted to do, but have yet to attempt. I put garlic in almost everything I cook, which means it is a crop that I need to be growing.

I absolutely LOVE the smell of fresh-roasted garlic cloves, so today I brought out my trusty clay garlic roaster and put it to good use.

I bought this lovely thing at a local thrift store a few years ago for a whopping $2.00.

Roasting garlic in a clay roaster is super easy...

1)  Submerge the base and lid of the clay roaster in water for 15 to 20 minutes before use.

2)  Trim the tops off of the garlic heads to expose the tips. (Leave the peel on the garlic.)

3)  Place the garlic heads into the roaster and drizzle lightly with olive oil.

4)  Set the lid on top of the roaster and place in a COLD oven.

5)  Set the oven to 350 F and leave the roaster in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half, until the heads feel soft and smell fragrant.

You can use this roasted garlic in just about anything you cook. Just break off a clove or two and squeeze the roasted garlic out of the peel. Store any unused garlic in a air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Remember to use nothing but boiling water to clean the clay roaster, as it will soak up any chemical cleaning agents you might use.

Here's the finished product...

I can almost smell the garlic just by looking at this picture!

Do you make your own roasted garlic? Do you have a different method of doing it?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Transitioning to a New Compost Pile...

It is officially that time of year again, when I start a new compost pile and start preparing the old one to be spread on the raised garden beds. This summer has been considerably colder and wetter than most, and my compost is not as far along as it normally is.

The old compost pile...

I am no longer adding anything to this pile, and I will be turning it every few days, in an attempt to get it to break down as much as I can in the next 2 months, before it starts freezing outside. As I dig through it, I am finding a ton of very large earthworms, which is a happy sight! Most of them will be spending the winter happy and warm inside a worm farm. Between the worms and the more frequent attention, this pile will look very different, very soon.

Because I can't add anything else to the old compost pile, it is necessary, of course, to start a new one! Fortunately for me, my friend just cleaned out her chicken coop a week or so ago, so I had a couple of bags of old straw and chicken manure just waiting to be used!

The new compost pile...

I moved the fence to the new compost area, behind my vegetable garden. The straw and manure are simply heaped into a pile, and I've been dumping my kitchen waste on there for a few days now. I'll probably turn it in a week or so, and then once or twice before it frosts.

Here's a link to one of my most popular posts...  Why you should start a compost pile... right now! ... in case you want more information on starting your own!

As I was turning the old pile this morning, I heard a rustling in the fireweed along the side of the vegetable garden fence...

Can you see the little guy hidden up against the fence?

I have been seeing this little rabbit around the compost pile the last week or so. He is fairly tiny, and I don't see much evidence that he has been there, other than actually seeing him. He seems to be after the compost rather than the vegetable garden, and the raised beds are tall enough that he wouldn't get into them easily, so for now, I'm just watching him. All wildlife is welcome here, and I'm honored that he is comfortable enough to let me see him. I even made sure that a bit of fruit made it outside of the fence, so he can find himself an easy snack!

Are you composting this year, or planning to start a pile soon?