Spring Celebration Preparation

Our family spring celebration is one week away. Although I have been preparing, bit by bit, on my own, the bulk of the crafting is still to come.

Yesterday my step daughter and I modge podged some paper mâché eggs. I bought the eggs at a crating store for a hefty $10 a dozen. I also modge podged some real eggs that my dad had drilled holes in and blown out. Those will be strung on ribbons and hung from our fruit tree.

Here are some pictures of the process. They are not overly beautiful, but they are real. I covered the table with some trash bags that I taped down. The elemer’s glue and water mixture we use to adhere the tissue paper would stick to the table forever, so better to protect it.

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Here is an egg that my 1 1/2 year old daughter started. I had some lala dream that she could totally help out with the process, but I think that only would have panned out if her sister or myself had been holding her, helping her, at all times. As it went, my husband watched her while we crafted, which was just fine with us and less frustrating for all.

Here are some photos of the finished eggs.

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I am really pleased with how they turned out. It was so nice to craft with my stepdaughter again. It is something that we bond over, and these little moments are so precious to me lately as she grows older. It feels especially important to have time to bond with her, since I devote so much time and energy to her sister, the toddler.

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A Peek Inside My Pantry

Early Spring is described as ‘The Hungry Gap,’ and while this usually refers to the garden, I think it applies to the pantry as well. This is the time of year when the winter’s stores are running low. Out in the garden, the green onions and parsley are just harvestable, but most of the goodness is yet to come. And inside, our pantries are looking pretty bare.

Here is what is left in my pantry. You will notice a variety of years on the labels. While I cannot recommend what others do, I find that my pickles can usually last 3 years just fine. Jams I tend to eat faster, as all that sugar and fruit seem more likely to spoil. Pickles are not only canned, but they are preserved in vinegar, so they seem pretty protected to me. But please, don’t be fool hearty, only eat canned goods with a firm seal and no mold or splotchy discoloration. If you have any doubts, chuck it. Botulism is nothing to mess with.

Anyway, steering away from Botulism and toward the delicious food remaining in my pantry…

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Top shelf – jams and fruits. Sweeties!

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I think these jams will definitely last us the 3 months until strawberries are ready to be picked and jammed and jarred once again.

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Bottom shelf – pickles and tomato sauce. Savories.

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Although I said what I said about how long pickles last, I am thinking that these curried pickles will make their way into the trash. I don’t want to eat them. And it looks like I haven’t wanted to for three years. So off they go.

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These are my crock pickles from this fall. They are not technically Kosher, since a Rabi did not bless them, but my husband let me know that ‘fermented pickles’ did not sound appetizing and asked me to call them something else. Kosher Dills is a term that we are all familiar with and associate with deliciousness, plus, this is how they are made, minus the Rabi.

I am pleased with how these turned out, even if they are not as well loved by my family as the dills I normally can. I liked the crock fermenting process; it was so easy. I would like to ferment more, in a knowledgable and safe way, and am seriously considering buying a book on it. I spent $50 on this big, 5 gallon crock, and while it was great for large batches of pickles, I realize that it is much too large for most batches of vegetables I would ferment for my small family. I will probably just use a big glass jar in the future, even though I love the way the earthenware crocks look. But let’s get real – being an urban homesteader isn’t about looking cool, no matter how much we might want it to be. It’s about doing it. And I can do it just fine in a glass jar.

Moving on…

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This pickle also is not a favorite of mine. I’ll have to ‘gift’ it to a friend. Really it would be like charity if someone would take it. I do not like how the brine turned out at all.

It also shows how some of what is left in the pantry at this time of year may be left there for a reason.

And so there you have it. My pantry is low, but my hopes are high. With one friend determined to go to Sauvie’s Island every other week this summer, and another friend determined to plan big canning get togethers, I hope that I will be able to provide well for my family in the year to come.

Next week I will add 24+ jars of pickled veggies to this lovely pantry. And so it begins again.

Posted in canning, pantry, preserving, thrifty | 3 Comments

Walk In Greenhouse Is Up!

Hooray!

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Last night I spent a bunch of time transplanting more of the kale and flowers. Those will all go in the walk in greenhouse. Next step is to plant more more more seeds. Tis the time.

The kale I transplanted last night was at least twice as big as when I was transplanting it last week. This season brings incredible growth.

Rive and I planted store bought onion sets and broccoli starts into the garden yesterday evening. She actually helped. She was able to hold them gently enough to place them in the holes.

It is a gardening time of year. What we do now is the basis of how well our gardens will thrive all summer.

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Transplanting Tiny Seedlings

Remember those seeds I started this winter? They have grown into small yet fairly hardy little seedlings. The other day I plunked out quite a few of them and transplanted them into their own cells. I have a tendency to plant my seed too thickly. This ultimately makes it so that the seedlings that die pull the others down with them, as their withered little stems and leaves fall on the healthy leaves and bind them up. It also makes little lines on the healthy leaves where water gets trapped, causing them to wither.

So anyway, here is my transplanting session.

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Here are the lettuce seedlings.

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And the kale.

As you may remember, River dumped a whole packet of flower seeds in while I was planting the kale seed. I was devastated, as it was special seed I had been saving to beautiful a central nook in our new yard.

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But all was not lost. Many of the flower seeds survived and grew mixed in among the kale. I am untangling and transplanting them as I go.

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Here you can see that I laid the tiny lettuce seedlings each in their own cell. I buried in the root and most of the stem so that the plant would grow study, not tall and lanky. I followed Charles Dowding’s advice from his book “How to Grow Winter Vegetables.” He recommends using a pencil to get under the seedlings root and lift it out of its original cell. This was such useful advice, as it can be tricky to get them out with breaking a portion of the root. I usually squeeze the bottom of the cell to loosen the soil around the root. This weakens the seed tray, however, and shortens the number of times you can use it before it breaks. The pencil was also useful as a tool for maneuvering the tiny plant around, as my nimble fingers are giant and clumsy compared to this tiny life form. The pencil I used had a broken tip and the wooden part was soft and scrunched, so it did not scratch the plants at all.

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Here are some lettuce seedlings all potted up.

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Here is the book that was so helpful. I am hoping this year to really be able to put it to good use and grow a decent amount of food over the winter.

Here are the transplants at the end of the session:

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Flowers!

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And here they are a few days later:

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Posted in garden, thrifty | 2 Comments

Make Hay While The Sun Shines, or whatever

Today I made use of a very important life lesson. For the past week or so I have been feeling the weight of taking care of my daughter so much. By six o’clock every night, I’m wishing it was her bedtime. But it’s not. So today, while she took a nap, instead of doing housework, or cooking, or gardening, I watched a TV show and ate snacks. And you know what? For the rest of the day I was able to be a more present mom.

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Field Trip to Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply

Today we took a field trip. River and I went to my favorite urban farm store, Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply. I love their vibe, their cute homemade signs, and I love the fact that it’s owned and run by a woman (and her partner and friends and mom).

These guys carry a very practical selection of products for the urban farmer, as well as enough of the cuteness to make me excited about my practical projects.

This time of year they always have chicks. River and I looked at the little cuties. I want to get two more (same as last year), but my husband thinks we have our fill of responsibility (same as last year).

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Sweet hand painted signs.

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Food for your average household pets like cats and dogs, as well as food for your farm animals such as chickens, goats, and whatever eats alfalfa : )

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Our seeds. Naomi’s has the best seed selection in town, by my standards. They buy their seeds only from small, local seed savers who specialize in plants that grow well in our area. I really appreciate that. I’m supporting like minded folks, both when I shop at Naomi’s, and when I buy seeds there.

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Hay hey hey

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Pitchforks. You know you love it.

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River had a great time pushing the cart, and getting little rides on it when it got too heavy for her to push.

Well I wish I could have taken more pictures to show you, but it’s tricky enough just to shop with a toddler. This store has an amazing book selection (if I had a thousand dollars to spend here, it would not be hard), and their seed area is so sweet, as are there wonderful plant starts, also from small local farms. I love to support this business because of the dedication Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply has to the small urban farm movement. They are always willing to give gardening or animal raising advice. And for me it’s always fun to shop there.

Check them out:

Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply

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Baby Tasting Salad Greens, fresh from the garden

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