April 2012


Just a quick note to let you all know I’ll be away this week. I’m heading to Tampa to spend some time with my daughter an dher family. I’ll reconnect when I get back.

Cheers,

Kathy

I got up early, slipped on my jeans and a ratty sweatshirt and headed to the yard. It’s a spectacular morning, crisp and cold with brilliant sun against cerulean blue skies. It was a wonderful thing to see that the frost last night left the peach blossoms and emerging asparagus unscathed. The potatoes are scarring up in the greenhouse in preparation for tomorrow’s planting. The spring greens are a treat after a winter of mostly root crops. Garlic is growing well and the walking onions are sharing the bed with the potato onions I planted last fall. The bed they’re in will be devoted to these onions. I have never had any luck with raising onions from seed. Should the worst happen and I find myself without onion sets I can at least be assured the these onions will provide for some of our needs.

I love the view in back yard. I can see my neighbor’s preparations for the coming summer. Bruce finished up the bee enclosure and I think it’s a thing of beauty. Just in time too as the bees are coming next weekend. There’s a bee meeting tonight and I might go in Bruce’s place as the presentation is on making salves and lotions from bees wax. That’s something I need to know more about.

We have had some bad news. The place we usually get piglets from won’t have any for us for two more months. I’ll spend the morning on the phones sourcing some we can afford. I would love to get some of the heritage piglets from the farmer up the road but $125.00 for them is just out of reach.

Anyway. Here are the pictures I took this morning. Check back tomorrow as I’m posting a video on planting potatoes that I think is a good one.

Cheers.

Once again, I’m a day late. Yesteday was a grand kids day. My son, Bruce, is out of the country for the week and the kids are here. I also had Henry and Mackenzie while their parents cleaned out the basement in preparation for the move here. It occured to me that I had missed my blog but there was no choice. The rest of the crew can entertain themselves very nicely but a one year old needs constant watching.

It was too hot to do much outside anyway. How odd to write that in April. Today looks to be much cooler and I do have much to do. But here’s the thing. Do I listen to history, which says to wait for several weeks before planting any number of things or do I listen to the birds and trees, the soil temperature and my own inner, impatient voice and plant some warmer temperature crops? I have been fooled before. I have put in seeds that rotted and set out seedlings that succombed to a late frost. These aren’t idle questions. Today, it’s not a problem. If I lost a crop I could just start another. There are lots of places I can get good, heirloom seedlings and I have a freezer full of replacement seeds. That will not always be true. The time may well come when the productivity of my garden will determine how well and how often we eat.

So my gardening notebook will be revived with a bit more information that I used to include. I have always included last frost date (but I was sloppy about it) and some general information about rainfall but I am going to begin including just how often I need to water and what the earthworms are doing. I can tell you that this year the worms are further down in cooler, wetter soil. It makes sense as the soil above is dusty and hot. But I don’t trust it for an instant. We could get several more hard frosts still.

I think we have finally decided about the hay field. After going round and about I think it only makes sense, economic and soil-wise to run a ruminant in the big field. We get meat and a fetilized field that doesn’t require haying for the outlay of some fencing and a couple of bucks for an animal that is heading for auction. It won’t be a lot of meat but a few hundred pounds is certainly worth the investment. I’m all for sheep myself but Bruce is leaning towards a calf.

The bees will be here next week. Bruce has the kids helping him finish up the hives today. The potatoes came yesterday and we’ll be getting them in the ground in the next day or two as well. I’m expecting an Oikos order of trees and bushes and my seeds from Carol Deppe are on route as well. For the time being, life is full and blessings are aundant but we could sure use some rain.

I found myself with a load of milk yesterday. I had my own plus that of a friend who had been out of town and had given me her CSA share. Today is pick-up day again and I had no room left in the refrigerator. I needed more mozzarella so I began with that. As long as I had fresh mozzarella id decided to make some sourdough pizza. It’s such an easy recipe and I think of sourdough starter as a must-have in every prepared kitchen. All it takes is a 1/2 cups of starter, a teaspoon of salt and enough flour to make a kneadable dough. I don’t knead long, maybe 4-5 minutes. That went into the microwave to rise. There’s a light over the stove that keeps the temperature of the microwave just right for rising bread. Next up was yogurt. Again, easy, easy. Heat the milk to 160 (a little steam will be rising from the top but don’t let it get away from you.)Add a couple of tablespoons of starter and let is set for several hours. I used the microwave space for that too as the light is on anyway. For dinner I preheated the oven and the pizza stone to 400 degrees while I fried up some peppers, onions and spinach in a bit of olive oil. I give the crust about 7 minutes in the oven before I top it. Some olive oil brushed across the top with keep the crust from getting soggy. Now just put the pizza together with canned tomatoes and herbs chopped very fine and topped with veges and cheeses and in another 7 minutes, dinner is served. It was terrific. Even Phoebe didn’t complain about the onions.

This sounds like a lot of work but the hands-on time is really not that long. The food, with exception of the olive oil and the wheat was from less than a mile away and the food was healthy and fabulous. There are worse ways to spend my time. The folks who own the raw milk dairy are putting in wheat patch this year with the goal of adding a grain CSA to the village. I’ll be their first and best customer. Now if we could just grow olives. I should be careful what I wish for. The climate models looks as though that might be possible in my children’s lifetime and it will cost us the maples.

It’s time for me to get serious about water. I have never purchased a good water filter as water is so easy to access around here. Or is it? How do I feel about hauling buckets from the river? How do I feel about in January? I am exploring water catchment systems. It’s either a good catchment system or finding and re-opening our well. that’s an intensive and expensive project. Barrels are easier. Of course, having rain would be necessary and that’s in short supply just now.

The earthquakes have been crazy the past few days. Lot of quakes both large and small. It is disconcerting. If you live on one of the big fault lines please take this seriously. I know. I’m preaching to the converted again.

First. Let me apologize. The name of the book is The Taste of War:World War II And The Battle For Food.

Next. Guy McPherson. I must tell you that he is a very nice man. He did a great job with his presentation and stayed at the house much later than we had any right to keep him discussing the future, choices and possibilities. We were joined by a bunch of 20 something wwoofers from the dairy farm up the road so we had an age perspective that made the conversation pretty interesting. Guy sugar-coated nothing. We’re in trouble.

I recognize that I’m preaching to the converted here so I’m not going to beat any dead ecological horses. The “whys?” are well-established. The “what next?” is a work in progress. The truth is that what to do next is determined so many variables. Where do live and who do you live with? What are your financial resources and what are your obligations? What are your skills and what are your liabilities? Is your family on-board or are you a lone voice, crying in the wilderness? I can only answer for myself and in the next few weeks I’ll try to speak to what changes I’ll be making.

The first change is my health. I’m actually in pretty good shape but, like lots of post-menopausal women, I have put on a couple of extra pounds. Bruce and I returned to our daily 2 mile walk-around-the-block on the day Guy arrived. We had gotten lazy about it and we just can’t afford to slack off. Old age creeps up on everybody but I plan to stave off the infirmity as long as possible. That means staying the heck out of the Easter candy and paying better attention to my exercise. I am a big fan of Peeps.

Next up is the state of my house. I’m pretty neat by nature but I have let some of the clutter get out of control. I have big boxes and bags ready to head to landfill or thrift store. I think it matters that one has a home that functions well. The great spring purge will continue.

Waste is number three. I may be better than many but I have a long way to go. I believe it will help to get back in the habit of menu planning.

These are all personal goals rather than Barefoot Farm goals. Guy did speak to preparing in three ways. First, secure a source of water that is not dependent on electricity. He doesn’t mean storing water which is a short term solution only. Next he says to secure your food supple. Just as with water, this isn’t about stockpiling but about knowing your food shed and working with it. Then he addresses body temperature control. Cool in the summer and warm in the winter. How will you manage? The final thing he discusses is community. He emphasises the need for healthy community relations. I feel that his priority list is a good one but personal wellness needs to be the final leg of the table.

Bruce and I spent some time last night talking about the farm and what we need to do. I know I’ll be doing a lot more research on planting for a different climate, one than may be warmer and drier than my current climate. I have ordered sassafras trees and I think I may put in some cherries. Generally, we can only grow sour cherries here but I think sweet ones may be possible in the not-to-distant future. In case you were wondering. This is not good news.

Both say it better than I can. Check out Ted Talk: The Earth Is Full. Very calm and rational. If any of you are in the area tonight, come on down. Guy is speaking at 7:00. Peak Energy, Peak Economy and Climate Chaos. This is the convergence. How well we plan for it will determine how well we cope.

It’s the Great Spring Purge. With 4 people moving in, I need to make room. My food storage room is going to be Henry’s bedroom so I spent Saturday cleaning it out and finding homes for all of the pantry food. It was eye-opening and led me to make a pledge. I will cook more with my stored foods. I will plan two bean meals a week and two pasta meals. I will use tha danged canned peas or feed them to the chickens. They are taking up valuable real estate and they are way outdated. I thought that didn’t matter but I opened a 2009 can and found it too yucky even for hens who are not at all particular. The peas were grey and mushy. There is a lesson here but it’s too painful for me to tackle just now. I know we have all done it but it just sucks to see wasted food.

Speaking of food. I’m about 1/4 of the way through The Hunger Of War. It is a very dry but excellent read. I give it a 5 star rating and put it on the short list of books that have changed my life. Please beg your local library to get a copy.

Short post today. I have to get the AV equipment for Guy picked up and I still have laundry to finish and bread that needs baking. And then there is the darn book, calling from my duties.

Bruce heard an interview on NPR about a book on World War II. It’s entitled The Hunger Of War. He was stunned to learn that more people died from starvation than through violence during that time. Many of the problems were faced in places that had given up local food production in favor of imports. When the energy shortages and the imports ceased the populations no longer had the means or ability to feed themselves. I just ordered the book and will begin it today. I’ll post a review when I finish it.

This book came at a time when I have become fascinated by the food crisis in Greece. I just read an article about the Greeks beginning to deal directly farmers in order to afford to put food on the table. We tend to think of hunger as something that can only happen in other places, to people who live much closer to the edge than most of this country does. It happens in Africa and in the war-torn regions of the Middle East. It happens to somebody else. Until it happens to you.

I shy away from posting gloomy things. I like to write about food and community, family doings and weather, books and events. Today I feel the urge to go that dark place. The economic news continues to look ugly. The weather gets nuttier with every passing season. The Monsanto battle is one I don’t see resolving any time soon. I urge you all to look in your pantry. How long could you feed your family if you needed to rely on what was on hand today? If you store nothing else I hope you store some open pollinated seeds and some good gardening books. At least store seeds of squash and beans. They produce well in a lot of places and provide a big bang for the garden buck. I hope you’ll do a walk-about and look for those spaces where you could grow some food. It doesn’t need to a John Seymour, perfect sustainable backyard. It might be your church yard or your playground. It might be the space that runs along the side of your driveway. Join a community garden group and plant something. The experience will be useful someday.

I hope you’ll put away some staples and cook with them from time to time. They are cheap and nourishing and very accessible today. Think oats and rice, pasta and sauce, dried fruit and some canned squash and pumpkin. Applesauce can be used to stretch eggs in cooking.

If I sound as though I maybe got up on the wrong side of the bed today I hope you’ll do an amazon search for memoirs of wars and sieges. Read some stories of the Great Depression. I watched more of the Wartime Kitchen series on youtube this morning. It’s a good look at living with less and making do. I always hope for good things and a happy future for my children and grandchildren but I know that woman have always hoped for those things. It didn’t always work out that way. I know that most of you who visit here are already doing a lot. So spread the word. The time to think about food was yesterday but it’s never too late. I’m not much for protesting on the street but I hope to plant in solidarity with people everywhere who don’t wish to held hostage to circumstance. Share your food and garden stories please. They will inspire the rest of us. Share your recipes. They will educate. Share your fears. They will give us the opportunity to support each other. Above all, eat good food.

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