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Archive for the ‘Homesteading’ Category

HOMEGROWN Life: Planning a Baby Food Garden

Friday, January 30th, 2015

 

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-MAGENTAMuch like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, “extra” time and space don’t seem to exist. Even so, I apparently decided to fill both of those “extras” with a new baby! That’s right, we’ll be saying hello to a new little girl come spring—and saying goodbye to our so-called spare room and spare time.

That means, in the middle of winter, I’m trapped inside and in full nesting mode. As I may have mentioned before, winter is NOT my favorite season. In fact, it’s not even in my top three. Therefore, I’ve spent much of my time insisting the house isn’t clean enough, making the kids schlep furniture from one room to the next, pouring candles, cooking, and planning my new garden. Generally, I’ve been making everyone around me insane.

We moved into this house a little late last season to get planting, so I’ve been putting a lot of attention toward it this year—you know, the obsessive type of attention pregnant women tend to excel at.

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As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to feed this baby as organically and naturally as possible, including breastfeeding (my first time) and making baby food. That includes growing many of the veggies I’ll use in her meal prep—in other words, a baby food garden. This took a bit of advanced planning, as she won’t start eating food until next winter.

For starters, our garden this year will be an ambitious 1,500 square feet, larger than I’ve had previously. I’m committed to growing what I can preserve and what I know the family will eat. After combing through my seed catalogs and the very few baby cookbooks I could find, I’ve decided to plant a wide variety of flowers and produce, focusing on veggies I can freeze in bulk. This means lot of peas and carrots, beans, berries, and squash of all types. Here’s my full order for 2015:

  • Blauhilde beans (purple)
  • Dragon Tongue beans (yellow)
  • Sunset and Streamline runner beans (green)
  • Envy edamame
  • Oxheart and Lunar white carrots
  • Chicago pickling cucumbers
  • Garden huckleberries
  • Cherry Vanilla quinoa
  • Cimarron and Butter King lettuce
  • Southport and Wethersfield onions
  • Little Marvel peas
  • Lilac Bell and Etuida peppers
  • Giant Nobel spinach
  • Fordhook zucchini
  • Jersey Giant (red) and Cream Sausage (white) tomatoes
  • Strawberry watermelon
  • Country Gentleman sweet corn
  • Early Prolific straight squash
  • Genovese basil
  • Rosemary
  • Stinging nettle
  • Valerian
  • Yarrow
  • Chamomile
  • Cumin
  • Echinacea
  • Lavender
  • Fennel
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Sage

Over the next year, I’ll post tips that I think other new natural moms might find helpful. Here’s my first one: When planning your garden, don’t forget herbs for Baby! Although infants’ initial diets may seem simplistic and made up exclusively of those things listed above, and although we tend to think of baby food as bland, especially because canned baby food is so boring, it doesn’t have to be.

You can start with the mildest herbs, introducing those one at a time so you can gauge your baby’s reaction. Then you can move on to bigger and bolder flavors; for example, mixing mint into lamb and peas. Do proceed with caution if allergies are prevalent in your family, as some herbs and spices—such as cinnamon, fennel, and paprika—can bring on allergic reactions. Even the most simplistic of purées will welcome some herbs and spices, and your baby will develop a taste for more adventuresome foods as he or she grows.

Did you know that around five months in utero babies begin to foster a taste for certain familiar foods? That means if you want your child to develop a natural predilection for healthy choices, you might start (or continue) eating that way during your pregnancy. This has not been an easy task for a picky eater who may or may not be writing this post, but I’d really like my little one to enjoy a wide variety of veggies, so I’m going to grin and bear the green beans. It will serve as a good guilt-trip story in the future when she refuses to eat something I’ve made.

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In addition to her diet, I’m also committed to selecting the most responsible and environmentally conscious baby products I can find for my household. I’m glad I started early because, frankly, it’s all a bit more overwhelming than I remember. My son is 10, and my daughter is 16, so there’s a wide age gap. I never thought I would be picking out baby stuff again, so after my second pregnancy, I promptly purged my brain of any relevant info. What’s that I hear? Never say never?

Luckily, the Internet is here to save the day, with a wide selection of sites comparing all kinds of products, including diapers. I was shocked to learn Americans throw away an average of 49 MILLION disposable diapers a day, one of the largest contributions to landfills. These diapers can be full of harmful chemicals, including polyethylene and petroleum, and even more staggering is that they take an estimated 200 to 500 years to decompose.

With so many terms to learn (bleach-free, cruelty-free, wood pulp-, dye-, and latex-free, all with varying degrees of biodegradability), it’s a lot to ponder. I also wanted to be practical and take into account ease of purchasing, just in case of an emergency run, as well as price and my family’s priorities. I spent a good deal of time considering cloth diapers, as well, and compared available services. In the end, I ended up selecting a disposal brand I could purchase locally that uses sustainable materials and is largely biodegradable, cruelty-free, and free of dyes and toxins.

As with anything in this HOMEGROWN life, we all make decisions that are best for our family and try to make decisions that are also best for the Earth. If I can raise a few more responsible, earth-loving humans, I’ll know I’ve done something right. Someday my 72 hours of diaper research will pay off!

MORE BABY-FRIENDLY FOOD IDEAS

  • Don’t miss the Homemade Baby Food 101, full of the HOMEGROWN flock’s collective wisdom!
  • If you haven’t perused HOMEGROWN’s Earth Mamas and Papas parenting group, give it a gander!
  • If you’re thinking about planting your own baby food garden, check out the Garden Planning 101. Good luck and keep us posted!

Michelle WireHOMEGROWN-life-michelle comes from 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 where she holds down a full-time gig in between raising kids and chickens.

PHOTOS: MICHELLE WIRE

 

HOMEGROWN Life: Deciding Which Vegetable Varieties to Grow

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

 

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREENAnother year has come to an end. The seed catalogs are rolling in, and as I sit here drooling over them, I keep coming across new, exciting vegetable varieties that I just have to try.

There’s a part of my brain that’s screaming at the rest of it: “Don’t fix what isn’t broken!” Year after year, I post about what I’ve learned, and one of the recurring themes is to stick with the things I know work for our area—not to risk losing productivity because I’m feeling adventurous. But really, what fun is that?

Vegetable VarietiesThere are some things I’m set on keeping the same. The Orangeglo watermelon and Bidwell Casaba have been very kind to me, unlike most other watermelon and melon varieties, so those are here to stay for the long haul. Catskill Brussels Sprouts will also probably stick around. There seem to be so few varieties of heirloom sprouts, and these do the best.

I always say not to mess around with our corn selection. We grow Bloody Butcher corn, which has served us well. It gets HUGE and gives us multiple relatively long ears on each stalk. The corn can be used fresh, or you can let it mature into a dent corn. After a failed attempt at saving seed from it and coming to the realization that we just don’t have enough space to save corn seed and avoid inbreeding depression, I’ve decided to expand my corn-growing horizons to include a flour corn, a sweet corn, and a popcorn.

Unfortunately, there’s no fast way to determine which varieties you should grow for all vegetables. Your best bet is to find varieties that were developed in areas that have a similar climate to where you live. For instance, Italian varieties will probably do best in coastal California, where we have the same basic climate. Russian varieties might serve you well if you live in colder areas. If you have a short season, choose varieties that mature quickly. This, of course, can take some research to figure out. For cool season crops, you’ll want to make sure they have enough time to develop before warm weather hits. For warm season crops, you want to give them time before the frosts come. Seed packets and catalogs include a number, usually next to the name or after the description, denoting that variety’s average number of days to maturity.

When it comes to latitude, rather than season length, onions are much more specific than most other vegetables about where they can grow. Varieties will either be long day, short day, or intermediate. If you live north of 35 degrees latitude (draw a line from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. to approximate), you’ll want to grow long-day onions. South of that, grow short-day onions. If you’re just on either side of that latitude, you can grow intermediate onions. I’ve also had good luck with long-day onions here on the 35th parallel.

Besides climate, you’ll also want to look at the size, yield, and disease resistance. If late blight is a problem in your area, choose vegetable varieties that have some resistance. If you have a small garden, choose compact or high-yielding varieties to make the most of your space.

Or you can do what I like to do and just pick a bunch of varieties to try and see which ones do best. Good luck!

MORE HOMEGROWN SEED ASSISTANCE

Rachel on Vegetable VarietiesRachel’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

ICYMI: The Top HOMEGROWN Posts of 2014 (AKA Inspiration for 2015!)

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

 

Don’t worry. We understand if you didn’t spend every waking minute of 2014 hunched over the computer, drumming your fingers and waiting for the next HOMEGROWN 101 to post. You’re busy! You’ve got actual stuff to do, from tending the garden (not to mention the kids, pets, and livestock) to making breakfast to fashioning bird feeders from Mason jars. We get it. Your get-it-doneness is why we love you!

But just in case you were wondering what your fellow DIYers were reading while you were off crafting, baking, and planting, we’ve rounded up the top five HOMEGROWN posts from 2014 in a few different categories—plus some fun stuff to look forward to. Here’s to finding inspiration for a whole new year of doing in 2015!

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Top 5 shiny new 101s of 2014:

  1. Sue’s Pallet Wood Chicken Coop 101
  2. Andrea’s Wine Bottle Wind Chimes 101
  3. Joe’s Fermented Chili Paste 101
  4. Cynthia’s Homemade Bone Broth 101
  5. Jessie’s Common Garden Pests 101—and how to fight ‘em!

HOMEGROWNgrowinglettuce101lettuces

Oldies but goodies! Top 5 archived 101s in 2014:

  1. Jennifer’s Drying Chili Peppers 101
  2. Camas’s Buying a Whole Pig 101
  3. Back to basics: Hoop Houses 101
  4. Lauren’s Duck House 101 (Don’t miss her Raising Ducks 101!)
  5. Lucy’s Growing Lettuce 101

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Top 5 HOMEGROWN blog posts of 2014:

  1. Rachel’s pros and cons of tiny house living
  2. The Skills Tent Schedule at Farm Aid 2014—now with photos!
  3. The United States of Thanksgiving, HOMEGROWN-Style, with apologies to The New York Times
  4. Rachel’s big-batch granola recipe (This woman is a HOMEGROWN machine!)
  5. Dyan’s ode to fall cooking—and eating

Coming up next: a few inspiring—and totally doable—food resolutions for 2015. Stay tuned to HOMEGROWN.org! And happy HOMEGROWN New Year, you guys!