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Archive for the ‘Homesteading’ Category

HOMEGROWN Life: Buyer Beware! Don’t Plant Those Seedlings Just Yet

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

 

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREENThis morning I saw tomato and pepper plants for sale. I also saw frost on the ground at my house. What do peppers and tomatoes hate? You guessed it. Frost.

So why in the world would a nursery be trying to sell frost-sensitive seedlings while there’s still frost outside? Come on now! We live in a capitalist society. We all know the answer to that one. The nursery doesn’t care if your tomato plants fail. They want to get a jump on selling the most popular vegetables around.

Don’t be fooled. Just because a nursery is selling it does not mean it’s time to put it in the ground! Even some of the best nurseries can make you fall victim to buying before it’s time: Spring is here! Seed catalogs are out! It’s time to plant!!!

Hold on a second. What’s your last average frost date? Not yet? Then don’t buy those frost-sensitive plants. Actually, I wouldn’t even buy them within three weeks of the average frost date. Remember, it’s an average, so some years it will be later. Our last average frost date is supposed to be sometime in February, but I’m not buying it. As I said, we had frost last night, and last year we had frost as late as mid-April. Let’s just say I learned the hard way not to plant before mid-April.

Now, you can very well plant tomatoes and peppers early if you have season extenders, but mid-March still seems excessively early to use even those. Tomatoes and peppers aren’t just delicate around frost; they LIVE for heat and prefer nights above 55F. Planting them too early can stunt them or, at best, knock them back so they don’t get a good start.

Nurseries do a disservice to gardeners by selling veggies before plants can safely go in the ground. Nothing discourages a beginning gardener like a dead plant.

MORE HOMEGROWN HELP

Rachel-Dog-Island-FarmRachel’s friends in college used to call her a Renaissance woman. She was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. She still is. Instead of crafts, her focus these days has been farming as much of her urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with her husband, she runs Dog Island Farm, in the San Francisco Bay Area. They raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. They’re always keeping busy. If Rachel isn’t out in the yard, she’s in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

PHOTOS: RACHEL

HOMEGROWN Life: Oh, Baby, Baby! Pregnant Mama Michelle Shares Her Secrets for Buying Secondhand

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

 

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-DK-MAGENTALike me, I’m sure lots of HOMEGROWN readers aren’t crazy about being stagnant. For us, this equates to being unproductive. It goes against so many things we believe in! I don’t do well with forced stillness, even the kind brought on by pregnancy. And although I certainly don’t miss the shoveling (I am milking that this year!), I do miss the home projects that usually keep me busy and distracted when there are so many inches of snow on the ground.

That said, all of this sitting has given me the time to plan—as long as I can get my pregnant mind to stay focused for more than seven seconds at a time. The house is currently under construction, as our “extra” bedroom turned out to be not so extra after all. We’re adding an office/rec room, and I’ve been scouting out decor on the cheap.

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I’ve always told the kids that buying secondhand is the best way to recycle, and I’ve taken that to heart with this pregnancy. Being pregnant has really amped up my desire to keep this world as clean as possible and to keep as many things out of landfills as I personally can! Although recycling cans and plastics in the household is obviously important, it can feel a bit removed from the cause. By buying and sourcing secondhand, my kids are learning that things don’t have to be new to be useful. More importantly, they realize their donated toys end up somewhere else, that there’s a life to these items. They’re not “out of sight, out of mind” quite so easily.

I’m lucky enough to have a Habitat for Humanity ReStore near me, where people and companies donate everything from furniture to construction materials. While I would prefer an eco-friendly variety if I had my druthers, I needed a large amount of paint—on a budget—so buying a leftover five-gallon bucket seemed like a decent second choice. It’s a fraction of the price and still has four gallons left in it. I also purchased several light fixtures, ceiling fans, and furniture for a fraction of their prices new. The ReStore also has tile and caulk—all of the little incidentals that I’d usually be tempted to grab at a hardware store.

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Besides buying my decor secondhand, this time around I decided to collect almost all of my baby needs secondhand as well. From family and friends alone, I’ve received two hand-me-down cribs, additional furniture for the baby’s room, a safe car seat, a baby bag, and a baby monitor, among other things. I also signed up for all of the local Facebook online yard sale lists (just plug “your town + yard sale” into the search bar), including the free ones, and I check them regularly. I recently got a huge lot of clothes—65 items—for $60, and many things still had the tags on them!

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Some tips for buying secondhand baby items:

It’s all about timing. Be fast! If you see an item online but hesitate to express interest, the good deals will be snatched right out of your hands. Be decisive and be ready to pick up the purchase as soon as possible.

Spring is a great time to ask. It’s likely that your cousin would love to get that crib out of her attic! A lot of people who’ve had babies in recent years hold onto their goods, just in case. Prompt their memory by letting them know you’re happy to take these things off their hands. Just make sure the item in question is still safe and sound before using. For car seats, this includes making sure it has never been in an accident and that it hasn’t expired. If it has expired, Babies-R-Us offers a trade in. Turning in an expired model gets you a discount on a new one. Nice!

Speaking of asking . . . If you’re planning on breastfeeding, remember that many insurance carriers will cover all or a portion of your breast pump. Call and ask before Baby arrives!

Start early and give yourself time to collect. Begin looking for deals as early on in your pregnancy as you’re comfortable. The greater head start you have, the wider the variety of things you can get your hands on. Sometimes it takes a couple of months to find that perfect changing table, but persistence pays off. And even though it’s hard to remember when we’ve got piles of snow outside, yard-sale season will be here soon!

Offer to have it cleaned yourself. Sometimes people resist giving away an item due to the work or expense it would take to clean it. When talking with family or friends, or if you post an “in search of” request on a local site, mention that you’re willing to clean the right items. For something as pricey as a crib, a glider, or even a large lot of clothes in good condition, your effort will be worth it. Plus, your crazy nesting instincts are going to make you re-clean everything anyway!

Pay it forward. If you’re shopping and you see a great deal, pick up an extra and pay it forward to a mom in need. The same goes for keeping your baby items in good condition once you’re done with them. There will always be appreciative like-minded moms or women in dire need of your supplies. If you’re done having kids (like I thought I was!), pass supplies along as soon as your baby outgrows them. That means less clutter for you and more items recycled as quickly as possible.

Don’t forget consignment. Maternity clothes are pricey! Do yourself a favor and look for a local shop that carries maternity resale. You’re only wearing these items for a few months. You don’t have to invest hundreds of dollars in clothes to get you by!

Consider setting up a swap/trade in your area. Are there lots of families near you? There’s a good chance those moms are as hungry as you are for a good deal. Many parents will trade toddler toys for newborn needs or happily swap quickly outgrown “like new” sneakers for a nice set of swaddling blankets. Why not get everyone together and make a party out of it? Bonus: You’ll be building community with like-minded parents! Just make sure everyone marks a value on his or her items ahead of time; you can also bundle smaller items together for greater trade value. Check out HOMEGROWN member Kate’s Hosting a Food Swap 101 and Nat’s Bartering 101 for more ideas.

Got a great source for finding? Share your advice below and spread the secondhand love. Enjoy the hunt!

MORE FROM HOMEGROWN

 

HOMEGROWN-life-michelleMichelle Wire comes from serious pioneer stock: Her great-grandmother literally wrote the book. It’s this legacy, in part, that led Michelle to trade in her high-stress life for a Pennsylvania homestead. Even so, she holds down a full-time gig in between raising kids and chickens.

PHOTOS: MICHELLE WIRE

 

HOMEGROWN Life: How About Cream of Roasted Fennel Soup?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

 

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREENThis is my first year growing Florence fennel, the bulbing kind. Fennel grows wild around here, so I figured it would do well in our yard. Boy, has it! This is definitely something we’ll continue to grow—and eat. The recipe below, for cream of roasted fennel soup, is one of my family’s favorite ways to prepare it.

fennel1WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 fennel bulbs, bottoms and stalks trimmed off; reserve the leafy tops
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/4 lb bacon slices
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 large Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half

WHAT TO DO:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

2. Cut the fennel bulbs into 1/2-inch slices. Place the fennel and the chopped onion on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 25 minutes or until tender and slightly browned.

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3. Divide the bacon in half. Leave one half in slices and cut the other half into 1/4-inch chunks. Cook the slices in a Dutch oven until crispy. Remove from heat and lay on paper towels to cool. Cook the bacon bits in a fry pan until crispy. Transfer to paper towels to cool.

4. Add the cumin and caraway seeds to the Dutch oven. Cook them in the remaining bacon grease until fragrant, about a minute.

5. Add the chicken broth, potatoes, fennel, and onions. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook on medium high until the potatoes are tender. Add the bacon chunks, milk, and half and half, and use an immersion blender or food processor to purée the soup until smooth.

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6. Serve with a garnish of bacon slices and fennel leaves. Enjoy!

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MORE HOMEGROWN MEALS FOR HUNGRY BELLIES:

  • Don’t miss Emily’s awesome Soup Jazz Sunday, featuring a new recipe and playlist in every installment.
  • Find more winter-repelling recipes and farm-share-friendly meal plans in the CSA Cookoff.

HOMEGROWN Life blog: Rachel, of Dog Island FarmRachel’s friends in college used to call her a Renaissance woman. She was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. She still is. Instead of crafts, her focus these days has been farming as much of her urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with her husband, she runs Dog Island Farm, in the San Francisco Bay Area. They raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. They’re always keeping busy. If Rachel isn’t out in the yard, she’s in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

PHOTOS: RACHEL