Sunday, May 30, 2010

Simple Joys

Sometimes I just gotta remember to stop and play.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Today as I was gazing at the front of my house which used to contain dreaded, overgrown, juniper bushes I was giddy. I had so much room, so many plans. I think I can add this, what about adding that?

The plan remains to make it an herb garden with both medicinal as well as kitchen herbs but I think I have enough room and enough sun to possibly add one or two plants.

The problem now lies in deciding which.

The debate is this...I would love to can my own tomato sauce this year but lack the number of tomato plants to make that a reality from my own garden. Not a huge deal of course, I can buy tomatoes from a grocery store or farmers market. But I love the IDEA of getting them from my own garden if I could manage it.

I have 2 Roma tomatoes (good for paste making such as in tomato sauce) and I have a few sprouted from seed tomatoes, both cherry (not good for sauce) and "regular" that are growing, albeit, not as full or as nicely as the Roma's I bought at the garden center down the road.

With the room in the front I could easily stick another tomato plant or two in there amongst the herbs no problem.

OR... I could plant something entirely different. I could plant some watermelons or squash since I have all that room or we could do 2 tire rings or mounds of potatoes. I feel giddy and overwhelmed with my choices!

I don't have to decide today luckily. We have probably 2 weekends worth of work that needs to happen BEFORE we can even begin to plant anything.

But I am having visions of cone flowers, rosemary and verbana dancing in my head.....

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Garden update

I didn't realize it had been so long since i last posted. My bad.

My container garden continues to thrive. We recently harvested 4 strawberries and a few more are ready to be plucked tonight or tomorrow. I also got (and ate) our first sugar snap pea. It was wonderful.

So wonderful I ate it off the vine essentially. Pod and all.

For some reason my blue berry bush was yanked out of it's pot last night though. Normally I blame it on the dogs but I honestly can't understand why they would constantly sneak under the huge tomato cage I have set in the pot to yank the blue berry bush out. I'm beginning to wonder if I might have another pest of some sort destroying my bushes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Another positive of growing your own

Pesticides tied to ADHD

The article does point out that the pesticides don't cause ADHD. There seems to be a link, the study needs to be replicated etc., etc., etc.

Specifically the Dr interviewed for the article suggests, in this order, going organic, buying at farmers' markets and washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consuming them.
She does not suggest growing your own.

I understand why. That seems odd to the general populace, that you could just grow your own fruits and vegetables and thereby control what you are consuming, as least as much as you humanly can. But it CAN be done!

My evidence:

Now, I know what you're thinking. 3 berries Suburbanite Mom. Smallish, odd shaped berries at that.

I know. But check out the look on my Berry Harvester's face:

She looks pretty pleased with herself doesn't she? She wanted to eat them for breakfast but I didn't have time this morning to stop and assist with the slicing of our "bounty" so she decided to wait until after school today to snack on them.

Also, please keep in mind, these were harvested on May 16th. They were selected because they are the only red ones we currently have. We have at least 2 more ripening and a pinkish hue and I have both Everbearing and June strawberry plants in my containers.

I think one of the biggest obstacles in the years post-TEOTWAWKI will be getting used to not having summer year round available in the grocery store. It will be a lifestyle where you accept that you can not have strawberries in December (at least where I live) and that when you DO have strawberries, they will be as treats and in small portions, not in gorge yourself style. Finally, we will have to get used to seeing foods as they really are and not genetically engineered into perfection, such as my funky shaped strawberries show.

It did dawn on me though, as awesome as my strawberry container is it will never actually yield a true amount that my family and I could consume or store on a meaningful level.

As much as I love container gardening, the more I get "into" gardening and preparation and sustainable living, the more I crave a REAL garden and not just containers scattered around the backyard.

Sadly, I don't think the dogs will let that be a reality for the time being. *sigh*

Also, the great bush pullout (that sounds so wrong) of 2010 in my front yard did NOT happen on Saturday. Instead it is scheduled to happen tomorrow. And all of the junipers in my front yard are coming out, not just the main massive one. YAYAYAYAYAY!

So hopefully next weekend will be filled with soil tilling, raking and planting, along with some mulching.

Last garden update (I swear), I planted my tomato plants yesterday. I planted one regular sized tomato in a Topsy Turvy (my gardening Aunts swear by those things) and then I planted 3 in a container. They are all home grown from seed and frankly, a little spindly looking. Keep your fingers crossed for me and those tomatoes as I have high hopes for tomato sauce this fall.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Future home of our herb garden

This is one of my many monsters around my house, known as Juniper Bushes.

I have never liked them and it has always been on my list of things to do, to rip these out.

This year we decided to get serious and just do it.

We spent about 3 hours on Saturday cutting, trimming and at one point, chainsawing those things trying to get them out but we were experiencing massive FAIL.

We manager to trim down 1 of the bushes (the pile you see to your right) but the root system is immense and deep so I did what any exhausted Suburbanite would do.

I called a landscaper.

I explained my issue and while the first 2 places I called were each booked for 2 straight weeks I was able to get someone to just come and pull those things out next Saturday morning. I am excited.

Our plans post bush removal include turning over the dirt, amending as needed (we have very clay like soil) and planting an herb garden there. I am aiming for both medicinal as well as kitchen herbs.

My list of "would like" includes:

I just need to make sure that these items will grow together well and also make sure they will fit in the space.

I'm also thinking of throwing in some lettuces since that area gets a limited amount of direct sunlight .

I can not wait for Sunday!

Monday, May 10, 2010


I may have mentioned I'm a planner. I like lists. I need them to keep me on track. That's the general purpose of this blog is to keep me on track and focused.

The other night my husband and I were having a talk and he said he felt like I didn't have a specific, attainable goal in mind with all the prep talk. (Also, this stuff is such a downer)

So I really thought about achievable goals and I am going to list them here.

1. Organize pantry - be brutal.
No more cake mix that I might make some day. No more cans of food that someone gave me when they were moving and I have just held on to them. No more stocking up on stuff with a quickly approaching expiration date.

I want to have 6-12 months of storage on hand but I want to rotate it out so it doesn't get stale. This means gutting what I currently have and organizing it in a way that will make rotation easier. Husband says he will help.

2. Learn to cook.
Okay, I already KNOW how to cook. On a stove. With electricity and a can opener. I don't always know how to make things from scratch. In the event of prolonged electricity loss I need to know how to create things from scratch over an alternative fuel source.

This means I will learn how to boil water and cook food at a minimum on our outdoor grill and preferable over an open fire. I made need a camping Dutch Oven. (Psst -makes a great post Mother's Day gift)

Also this little item would make a great wedding anniversary gift sweetie. Just sayin'.

3. Learn to grow
I do not have any worries about my onions. It looks like we will have 6 good sized ones when the garden is done. And I have 3 pinkish looking strawberries so far and 1 sugar snap pea pod. My cucumbers however, are suffering and I still haven't planted my tomatoes. I tried to harden them off and they started to turn yellowy brown.

I would like to work more on my herb garden as well. To that end we are pulling out (or having pulled out) the massive Juniper bushes in my front yard and putting in a butterfly/herb garden. And maybe some lettuce.

4. Learn to save.
Even if my garden does NOT produce huge quantities of food this year I plan to learn how to save what we like to eat so that when it DOES get going I can save it all.

To this end I'm getting canning supplies and am determined to learn how to can tomato sauce this year as well as some of of fruit preserving. And applesauce although truthfully, I've canned applesauce before. That wasn't so bad.

5. Relax.
I need to make a massage appointment. You know, for my health.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

How much?

So my last post showed my little garden in containers and isn't it so cute hahahaha...

I realize that this year, that garden doesn't matter. It's cute. It's a learning curve.

After I posted that I started thinking about just how BIG a garden I will need.

After food is too expensive to buy or doesn't arrive at all by truck. Be it through Peak Oil, societal breakdown or pandemic or EPM (which OMG THAT'S a scary thought!) or whatever, how much would I actually need to grow to feed my family.

I broke it down in my mind in terms of spaghetti.

Specifically sauce.

Because I know that tomato sauce can be canned. I can add stuff to it and make it into spaghetti sauce either pre or post canning. So how much of THAT do I need?

On a very boring year my family probably eats a tomato based dish at least once a week. Usually spaghetti. Your average spaghetti sauce jar (or can if your thrifty) has about 14 oz in it. My family usually adds hamburger but we are not including that in this experiment.

A Pint is 16 ounces so that is what I would use were I home canning my own sauce. That would feed my family of 4 just barely. When the youngest child starts eating real food we would be hard pressed.

Of course we could bulk it up with veggies. But again, I'm JUST looking at my basic sauce.

To create 9 pints of thin sauce would take somewhere between 20-30lbs of tomatoes for thin sauce. Plus possibly 2 onions and garlic and herbs. Those are a must for my canned sauce. Lets say that for 9 pints I'm only going to use 3-4 heads of garlic which I honestly think is very low based on the recipes I've read.

Your average tomato plant, properly cared for and in ideal conditions will yield 10-15lbs of tomatoes. For my math lets go on the worst case scenario of the best case scenario and say 10lbs per plant.

I'm SURE once the SHTF or whatever happens will be ideal growing conditions for my tomatoes, no drought, perfect sunlight etc. /sarcasm

So to feed my family for 9 meals I need 2-3 plants growing in pretty decent conditions PLUS I need to provide at least 2 good sized onions and 3-4 heads of garlic.

Let's make the math bigger. I need 52 jars of the stuff for our once a week meal.

52 weeks / 9 pints = 5.77 batches of sauce

5.77 x 3 tomato plants = 17.33 (let's round up to 18)

PLUS I'll need 11.5 onions (good sized) and 23 heads of garlic.

That's just for 52 meals!

That does NOT include the actual pasta or rice or whatever I'm putting the sauce on.

PLUS - if want to extend the sauce, give it some more nutrition, I need peppers, celery, mushrooms (as if I would chance that at this point) and we haven't even accounted for how many herbs I'm going to need to grow which include basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano to start with.

Then comes my biggest hurdle. My family is not an island.

We have family. Specifically we have my MIL & FIL plus my SIL, her husband and their two children.

I am a bleeding heart liberal. I could not let them starve.

Also, we live in a neighborhood. My neighbor to my left has at least 4 children that I know of. They are my middle child's closest friends. What would I do if they were hungry? Would I let small children starve?

The idea of growing the majority of my own family's food is daunting. Feeding our mildly extended family is concerning. Feeding those who I couldn't let starve? Anxiety producing - it makes me wanna cry.

Logically - I know I can't feed them all. I just can't. I can grow extra, give seeds etc. but as most gardeners know, you have a learning curve the first few years you start gardening. Can you imagine the stress and the steep learning curve if you were trying to feed your family and had no preparation?

I sure hope Survival Dad is buying a few rounds of ammo, just in case I guess.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I'm a planner

By nature, I'm a planner. I love lists. LOVE them. Borders on obsession occasionally.

One of my most successful jobs was when I was a wedding planner.

I belong to my local PTO and they adore my efforts because I am a PLANNER. Plans. Planning. Plan-diddy-plan-plan.

I have a budget. It used to go out for 2 years and included things like merit increases and changes in health care (both of which were always whatever would negatively affect me the most i.e. higher health care costs, no merit increase etc.) but I've whittled it down to just a year ahead.

I have yearly financial goals because I should have been in accounting instead of HR but I'm excellent with people.

I make grocery lists and meal plans and follow them pretty strictly.

I have a plan for retirement and I evaluate it and update it regularly.

Prepping (as I have discovered that it is called) is just another plan for me. And I love it. And it can feel overwhelming sometimes but so can planning Muffins with Mom or 20 years of not working.

Ask me about how many hours I spent planning our trip to Mexico for my 30th birthday sometime. It's embarrassing.

My husband is not. He likes to throw stuff in the cart. He likes to wing it. He trusts that everything will work out.

Obviously his life is much less stressful than mine.

We are a fantastic complement to each other. He reminds me to take things easy, slow down, and that not everything needs to be planned. I make sure there is food in the house aside from cereal and cookies.

I'm working on making my backyard (and eventually the front yard) work a little better for me.

The plan is to have green grass in the middle. I know, I know, wasteful, pointless, etc. Whatever. I have kids and dogs and live in suburbia. Plus having the un-blocked space heats the kitchen to incredibly warm degrees regardless of the weather.

It's the sides that are causing us some issues.

I want to line the side of the backyard with trees. Right now we have some lilacs and various bushes that serve no real purpose. I want to plant two apple trees this year, rip out some shrubs and plant some raspberry bushes. I would also love to add two cherry trees next year and perhaps a strawberry raised bed.

My husband, not so much. He doesn't want the trees. They'll make more work for us with their leaves and stuff falling onto the ground. He doesn't want to attract bugs. His mothers back yard is very reminiscence of an English Garden/Secret Garden and he hates it.

Additionally, we don't plan to live here forever. We would like to move to a house in a few years that better meets our needs and the needs of our family and our current house isn't it. So why put in tall the time and effort into a place that I wont live at in 5 or so years?


That's one of my biggest issues with the planning. I'm planning for a what if. A most likely but unknown time frame. The what if ranges from total societal breakdown to high fuel costs limiting food availability. So do I plan now and if so, how far out do I plan.

I need a drink.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mayday Garden Update

Here is a little better representation of what I have going on with my container garden.

You see the three larger containers to the left, three in the middle of those are 3 smaller terra cotta containers and to the left are two more terra cotta containers.

The terra cottas in the front of the larger containers, 2 contain more strawberry plants and the third contains Catmint. It helps keep ants at bay.

Over to the left, those two terra cotta containers contain spearmint and peppermint. Those also keep ants away which is why they are placed so close to the door.

Here is our gazebo. Survival Dad made the door to it and on either side are blueberry blushes, in containers.

All large containers have huge tomato cages to protect them from the dogs.

And despite it being only May 2nd AND Colorado experiencing some cold temperatures and even snow in the last month I present some encouraging items:

Green strawberries

My first pea pod on my tallest sugar snap pea plant.

Radishes whose seeds apparently survived Molly's vicious digging a few weeks ago.

One of my yellow onions that I planted from set and had to save from Molly's digging twice.

Make no mistake, I know this garden wouldn't say, feed us for a winter (or even a summer), I'm just getting a feel for how to grow things and what items work where etc.

My next planting will be my tomatoes which I plant to try in a variety of ways including using a Topsy Turvy and more traditional caged methods. I'll let you know how that works out.