Friday, January 25, 2019

Garden Friday

Welcome to Garden Friday!
Planting time is growing closer
and we hope to have a successful season.
Until we can get our hands dirty,
a little planning has to take place.
The first seed order has been officially placed!

This is the first year I am ordering from High Mowing Organic Seeds.
I first learned about them on one of my favorite PBS shows,
"Growing a Greener World".
They are a conscientious company that originated in the founder's backyard.
He began saving seeds as a teenager, selling to friends
and now owns this amazing company
that offers over 600 varieties of heirloom, open-pollinated and hybrid seeds.
If you want to learn more about the story, read this
High Mowing offered me free shipping on orders of $10 or more.
I had no problem meeting that amount!

 The first step in my seed ordering process
is to see what I have on hand.
No need to spend money on varieties I already have,
and that way, I can try a few new things this spring.
I made a list of all of my current seeds
(this is only page 1).

 My seeds are divided up into four containers (two shown here).
The spring/summer seeds and the fall/winter seeds take up two bins.
I have two other bins, one for herbs and one for flowers.
I gathered my containers, made my list
and began to peruse the seed catalogues.

 Because I was able to obtain quite a few seed packages 
from Extension's big giveaway last fall,
and was gifted some by fellow gardeners,
I don't really need to order too much.

Of course, that doesn't mean that I won't.
I am starting to lean more toward heirlooms,
based on the ability to save seeds year after year.
That really appeals to my common sense
and longing for self-sufficiency.
My seeds are organized in alphabetical order,
to make it easy to find just what I'm looking for. 
Once I made note of what I had on hand,
it was a bit less daunting to narrow down the new acquisitions.
Those seed packets all look so alluring.

 I also had my planting guide nearby,
so I know when I need to start seedlings.
I'm sure there are plenty gardeners who are just itching to sow 
Lettuce and kale starts will most likely be sown in the next couple of weeks.
I have a new place to cultivate them
that I just recently decided on.
With the state of the weather around these parts lately,
starting seedlings should help me get through the worst of it.

My order should get here early next week.
It's like my birthday and Christmas 
all rolled into one when that box arrives.

How's your spring garden planning coming along?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Split Pea Soup (Vegan)

It's been mighty cold the last week or so.
When the sun is shining, it's not so difficult to deal with.
We haven't had much in the way of sunshine on any regular basis.
The good news is that it's 
the perfect opportunity for making homemade soup.

 Split peas can be found in the bulk section of most groceries,
and buying them this way saves money and reduces packaging.
Split peas are high in protein, B vitamins and trace minerals,
but low in fat and have no cholesterol.
They pack a punch in the nutritional arena.

 This recipe has just a few, basic ingredients
(and no ham hock to keep it vegan).
Peas, garlic, onions, carrots, water
and a few spices meld together to make a delicious and easy soup and keep it allergy-friendly.
This soup makes a great belly-soothing tonic,
as the simple ingredients are easily digested.
I'm dealing with a tummy issue right now,
so this soup has been my mainstay for the last few days.
The broth really settles ones' belly
and the veggies help boost strength as recovery takes place.
And it doesn't hurt that it warms you from head to toe
during these cold and wet winter conditions.
This was made in the crock pot,
which makes it even better!
Just add the ingredients and let it go all day long.
It can be a starter,
or a complete meal with the addition of rice, noodles or quinoa.
When suppertime comes,
your meal will be ready to eat.

Vegan Split Pea Soup

1 C split peas
1/2 onion, chopped
6-8 carrots, sliced
1 large clove garlic
2 quarts water
1 t salt
2 t Italian herbs (switch this up to your liking)
1 bay leaf
2 t olive oil

Add all ingredients directly to a crock pot.
Pour olive oil over the top.
Cook on high 4 hours,
or on low 8 hours.
Take out a cup of the finished soup
and whiz it up in a blender (for a thicker consistency)
and add it back in to the pot.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Going Local Series-Gastonia ReStore

We are frequent visitors to the 
Habitat for Humanity ReStores.
Habitat for Humanity is a home building organization
whose goal is to create housing for all.

These outlet stores sell a myriad of items for the home.
The proceeds from donated goods go back into the program.
This huge store in Gaston County has been open for 30 years.
You can find it at 1840 E Franklin Blvd in Gastonia,
which is about a 30 minute drive for us.
Here's their website.

If you are looking for furniture, this is a great place to browse.
With this much square footage, there are dozens of pieces 
from which to choose.

 Every item has been donated by someone.
ReStores accept not only furniture,
but lighting fixtures, construction materials and hardware.

 For those just starting out with their first home or apartment,
it's a great place to search for discounted furnishings.
Some folks customize pieces to fit their own needs,
a la "Flea Market Flip" on HGTV.

 All electrical items are in working order,
unless otherwise marked.
The cashier encouraged us to plug in the iron we were buying,
to be sure that it worked.
It did.

Even something as large as a piano can be found here.

 I had my eye on these lockers,
mostly because I loved the shade of blue.
Storage is always a good thing to add to your homestead.
Alas, I have no room for them in our small house.

 This set of rooster dinnerware was so vintage-looking.

 Shelves and shelves of books awaited perusing.
Most looked to be in excellent condition
and could be picked up for a song.

Since it was after the holidays,
this clearance table displayed real bargains.
Each year we downsize our decor a bit more,
but it was fun to see what they had for sale.

We each found a little something.
This corkboard looks brand new,
and works just perfectly hung over our desk area.
It will help me keep my schedule, outgoing bills
and sweet reminders of good times past.
I think I paid $2.00 for it, including the pushpins!

We feel good purchasing used items
because we are keeping them out of the landfill
by giving them a longer life.
You can find your local ReStore here.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Garden Friday

I love me some trees.
Every trip to a state park leads to
dozens of pictures of beautiful, statuesque trees.
They are part of my spirit.
I am humbled by their generosity.

Sad as it was, our oak tree was felled.
It had to happen.
Big K was worried every time we had any winds or an onslaught of rain.
 We've seen it happen to neighbors' trees.
Big, mighty trees.
We've gotten so much rain this past year
and time and time again,
the weather is filled with reports of the soil around trees
being so saturated with rain water that the trees topple.

This one was not only leaning toward the house,
but it had a double leader way up on top
that caused it to be weaker and more vulnerable to falling. 

We are planning to save the stump to use as a table top.
It will serve as a reminder of what once stood here.
Perhaps a new native garden will be planted around it.

 Once the tree service cut it down,
our neighbor took care of the rest of the trimming.
He will be able to sell the wood to folks who need it.
The tree will continue to provide for others,
even after its demise.

We will be installing our live Christmas tree
near our wooded area.
It should be able to live out its life there,
with no worry about being too close to the house.
We will most likely be replacing the felled oak
with something a bit smaller, maybe a dwarf fruit tree.

No doubt Big K will sleep much better from now on.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

I have recently learned about the importance of brining beans.
Often a method used for chicken or turkey,
the method is the same when used for legumes.
It's so easy to do
and really changes not only the flavor of the beans,
but adds a creaminess to the texture.
In fact, this stuff is so good that  
I have to confess,
it was gone so quickly that I never took pictures of the dish.
The photo below is actually a shot from a previous bean recipe 
before I learned about brining.
I hope all will be forgiven
when you taste how good this combination turns out to be.
Feel free to play around with the ingredients
to your liking.
I've never met a bean I didn't like
and the spices used here could certainly be changed up,
but I use what I have on hand.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

1 C dry black beans
1 1/2 t salt

2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 2" cubes
1/2 onion, diced 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1 T olive oil
2 t cumin
1/4 t salt
1/2 C homemade gravy (tomato sauce)

1.  Brine beans overnight.
Place black beans in 4 C water
with salt added.
Rinse and then cook beans 1-1 1/2 hours.
(You can also cook beans in crock pot on low for 6 hours.)

2.  When beans are ready,
add garlic, olive oil, onions and sweet potatoes to a medium pot.
Cook over medium-low heat about 10-15 minutes.

3.  Add cooked beans, seasonings and gravy.

Serve over baked potatoes, noodles, 
polenta, rice, or crusty bread.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

New Recycling Solution

One of my goals for the new year is to 
improve our recycling efforts for 2019.
We've been recycling for quite a while,
but recent changes have enticed me to rethink our system.
We stopped our private curbside garbage pick-up when they ended their recycling program.
Since our county still recycles, but doesn't offer curbside pick-up for our area,
we are responsible for bringing our trash and recycled items to the dump.
It didn't make sense to me to pay for trash pick-up
if we would still have to visit the dump to recycle our household items.
By visiting the trash station every week,
it really made an impression on me.
So much garbage, and it just keeps coming!

With the news that many countries that formerly accepted our recyclables 
will not continue to do so,
it's imperative that we find another solution.
Even though we are still personally working to recycle as much as possible,
seeing all the garbage being left there
(many things that could be recycled),
made me want to do more.

So, for 2019, I have a three-tiered approach
to decrease even our recycled items.

1.  When making purchases, pay attention to packaging.
Buy in bulk when possible or purchase items with the least amount of packaging possible.
Of course, we already bring our own bags when going shopping.
Just say no to those plastic bags!

2.  Although it is ultra convenient, order less online.
Buying local allows you to have a bit more control over packaging
because boxes and packing materials aren't necessary.
This not only helps the environment,
but it's better for the local economy.
3.  Whenever possible, bring your own containers to stores for purchases,
or personal dishes, bowls or jars for take-away food from restaurants.
The benefit of the latter idea is that it can save the eatery money 
on take-away containers.

Here is a great website to help us all do a better job of recycling.
From their website:
"Variation in recycling programs, unclear labeling, and inaccurate recyclability claims 
make proper recycling a challenge. 
The How2Recycle label was created to provide consistent and transparent 
on-package recycling information to consumers in North America."

They have some great info on their website
and search engines to find out what's available in your area.
For instance, did you know that there are designated store drop-off locations
where you can bring air pillows, stretchy plastic, bread wrappers and food storage bags?
Since most community recycle programs don't take these items,
it's good to know that there is a place conveniently located
that will pass them on to the proper place.

We shop at the big box stores as infrequently as possible,
but at least it's good to know that they are participating
in this program and are readily available to take these items.

We may not be able to completely do away with plastic,
but I am thankful that we can responsibly recycle most of what we use.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Garden Friday

It's Garden Friday!
Although things have slowed to a crawl in the veggie beds,
I discovered something so amazing, 
I just had to share!

This is a camelia bush that was here when we bought the property.
It stands alone on the north facade of the house,
which is our wooded backyard.
It barely gets noticed,
unless I'm making a trip to the compost bin.

 Well, this week it grabbed my attention.
It's mid-January, c-o-o-o-o-l-d out there,
and lookee what I found.
After asking a friend about the habits of these plants,
(she has several on her property),
I was told that some varieties usually bloom around Christmas.
Well, this gal is definitely strutting her stuff!

 With so many deciduous trees and dormant plants around us,
I never expected to see this beauty take off.
This shrub enjoys part shade and protection from cold winds
back behind the house.
Camelias prefer slightly acidic soil,
and appreciate a layer of mulch to retain moisture.
Goodness knows, 
there is enough leaf debris back there,
to keep it insulated.
I don't think I have ever purposely watered this plant,
so they must be fairly self-sufficient.

 With more blossoms on the way,
we have much to look forward to.
After blooms drop near early spring,
it will get a good dose of fertilizer.
That should ensure that we continue to get blooms each year
when everything else is looking rather drab.
This will also be a great time to prune back any dead wood
or thin out the branches to allow for better aeration.
I may just have to pick up a few more
since they seem to like this spot.
It's almost a guaranteed success!

 Who would think that in the dead of winter 
one would have fresh flowers to bring into the house?
What a blessing!