Thursday, February 28, 2013

Feeling Balmy

It is amazing how a few added degrees in temperature and a playful warm breeze blowing things about can make you feel all inspired to open a couple windows.  The house has been feeling so stale and stuffy (and the stinky additions by the housecats does nothing to help).  It is just wonderful to open the windows a crack and keep the heavy interior door open.  The house doesn't seem to know what to make of the fresh air, but all of us residents are loving it.

Today's high:  Right around 42 degrees.  Time to break out those bermuda shorts!  Whee!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sap Rising

The days are getting warmer with icy cold nights, which means it is perfect for collecting sap from my resident Box Elders.  Last year, it was a terrible year for sap collection.  I still managed to gather enough to boil down a single half-pint of syrup, but it was underwhelming to say the least. 

I have higher hopes for this season.  We've had plenty of snow, and now with the mild daytime temperatures up into the low forties, it should be a good run.  I have collection bags hanging on spouts hammered into both my clusters of trees, on the sunny side which should hopefully catch quite a lot of sap.  If I can gather enough sap to boil down into a couple of pints of syrup, I will be very happy.

Mostly, though, it's a simple early spring project that helps to make me feel as though the long winter is coming to an end.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Summer Kitchen

So, I didn't exactly find this beauty when I was out junkin' this past weekend, but I found its older cousin: a vintage, teal green kerosene campstove in lovely condition.  While this model has been given over to brass fixtures and a metal fuel tank, my version (which sadly I have yet to take a picture of--sorry, folks) has porcelain tripod knobs and a banded glass fuel tank that cleverly flips over to release the fuel into the stove by way of a pressure-sensitive switch in the screwtop lid.  I've been searching for an outdoor stove to do canning on, and I think my vintage beauty will do the trick.  Plus, the price difference is quite lovely:  The pictured new model, available from Lehman's catalog, is just shy of $900 plus tax and shipping.  My vintage beauty?  Around $100, tax included and it fit easily into the back of Lucille Laverne.

It was a great find, and came at the perfect time.  Sap is starting to run, and its boilin' time!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Weeknight Meals

I don't know about you, but sometimes my weeknight meals get a bit same-y. 

Wrap it in a tortilla.

Eat it on a cracker (well, that's the nights where I get in late, and it's cheese and crackers for dinner...)

Scramble it and serve it with toast (guess what I have a lot of currently).

Pasta.  Again.  Whoo hoo.

After watching Hugh at work, though, I am feeling inspired to try something different with my pasta concoctions.  Particularly that mushroom, how would I go about making "double cream"?  And why do we not eat more of that wonderful substance in this country?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Grow Where You're Planted

What an impressive garden!  It definitely gives me some ideas for developing a linked system of water barrels.  Right now, I don't have any--I really have to fix that this coming season.  I also like how she has a little beehive operation going.  I would love to have bees for the honey and pollination help, but...well, I am a wee bit afraid that I have developed a sting allergy.  There was a summer a couple years ago where I had a demonic (seriously, they were evil) infestation of ground "bees", and between them nesting in the ground about the yard and me discovering them with the mower, as well as a giant hive filling an entire wall of the porch, I got stung many, many times.  And now, sometimes the old bee bites wake up and itch and burn like new, a couple years later.  Plus, any bite causes the same reaction--most recently a spider bite caused them to wake up--so I am nervous about getting stung 'officially' and keeling over in the garden.  Not that I think a honey bee would bite me ordinarily, they are really friendly in the garden, but if one decided I had smushed it or didn't want me to take its honey, that could be bad.

Maybe I can find somebody who wants to park a hive here, in exchange for a jar or two of honey?  Its something to think about, anyway...but for now, I'll avoid the temptation and hang onto my epi-pen.

I love her happy chickens, don't you?  They sounded so happy, with those little brrrp-brp-brup purr noises.  Sweet little chickie ladies!

My favorite line:  "Hey, let's go check out the worms!"  Ha ha ha ha...if you say things like that, you too may be a Backyard Urban Survivalist.

Man, I have got to make myself a worm bin.

Just a side note:  Even if you aren't a believer in the issue of peak oil crisis and related concerns as mentioned in this video, it is still fascinating to see how much can be done for food production on a small lot to support an entire neighborhood.  Personally, I don't embrace an "end of the world" view point, but consuming less and doing more to make a positive neighborhood is good for everybody.  Dontcha think?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Farm Dreams

Sigh....doesn't it look lovely?  I think I have blacksmith shop envy.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Library is Open.

My Little Free Library (version 2.1) is now hung up, labeled, and ready for readers to come visit!

Isn't it cute?  Phyllis from the bank donated an unwanted former kitchen cupboard, and a can of turquoise spray paint later, here you have it:  The Chicken Lady's Little Free Library #3568.  It is already stocked with some great titles.

All sorts of wonderful information about gardening, country living skills, chicken and sheep and any kind of backyard livestock you might want to know about (there is a shortage of pig information, though).  There's even a couple of my favorite farm-themed memoirs tucked inside, as well as a Joel Salatin classic. 

While you are visiting and browsing the titles, there's a fringe fun thing you can do:

Inside the vintage can is the ladies' favorite treat, scratch grain, and a scoop.  Yes, you can feed the chickens when you come to this library!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Learning in Comfort

"It's a chilly evening out there, with darkness and snow and wind moving the tall pines restlessly about.

Inside, it is a bit more comfortable:  A warm fire, snoring dogs, and all sorts of talk of gardens streaming live on my computer."

That was the scene the other evening, when I logged in to a lively webinar on the highlighted 'finer points' of seed saving, hosted by the one and only Seed Savers Exchange.

Part of their mission to reach out to home gardeners and farmers across the nation (and world), this webinar discussed the eight things you should consider when planning your garden, that can result in successful seed saving for use in the next years to come.  Some of it I was familiar with (don't plant relatives near each other, be mindful of your pollinators, time your seed saving efforts both to when flowering is active and to the season) and some I wasn't (in this cold climate, you have to dig up biennial seeders such as parsnips and carrots and overwinter them in chilly conditions out the garden, and then replant them; and don't pick the perfect eating specimen--wait for it to get all kinds of 'past prime' to save those seeds).

Each month, Seed Savers offers a free webinar on different topics within the genre of seed saving.  You can find out more here about the 2013 offerings--I am looking forward to April's chat about organizing community seed projects, to see what I can fine-tune about our annual Seed Swap and ideas for the fledgling Community Seed Bank that I'm organizing.  (The Seed Bank is evolving from the very large amount of free seeds I have inherited, post-Seed Swap.  I believe I could feed a small country with what I have living in a cool corner, inside of a mysterious cardboard box!)

Just imagine, in a few weeks, freshly planted seeds will sprout in warm spring earth, and reach toward the sky...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Discovered in the Video Feed.

Apparently, this is something that YouTube will pick for you, if you watch too many videos about peoples' chicken raising experiences.

Cluck it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Winter Condiment of Choice


I've been obsessed about something I made a while back, which I thought at the time "ahh, I'll make this 'cause I don't want to waste what I've got, but I bet I wind up composting it anyway".

Oh, how wrong I was.

I cannot get enough of the Preserved Lemon I put up last winter.  It is a bit embarrassing really--I've gone through two half-pint jars in under a month.  I put them on everything.  Salads.  Pizza.  Stir fry.  You name it, and I'll reach into the fridge and put some lemon on it.

They are ridiculously easy to make, and the amount of salt involved might give you a coronary.  However, they don't taste horribly salty when they are all done.  They have a great sour-salt flavor, with a hit of strong lemon tang at the very end.  Simply delicious!

To make a batch of your own, you will need:  organic lemons, preferably Meyer variety; kosher salt; lemon juice.

That's it.  Three ingredients, how much easier could that get?  Now, I do encourage you to get organic lemons--you're going to be eating the peel, so you don't want a side dressing of hazardous chemicals do you?

Slice the lemons, either into rounds or half moons.  I opted for half moons, as I was filling little jars.  Plus, this slice allows you to peel out the flesh (which you don't eat) when you want to use the preserved lemon very easily.  However, you can decide.  I have heard tell of people leaving the lemons whole in the jars, and I say if you have jars large enough, go for it.

Layer the lemon slices in the bottom of the jar.  Top with a half teaspoon (yes, really) of kosher salt. Repeat these two layers until the jar is full, leaving a half inch headspace.

Top off with lemon juice as needed, to fill the jar.

Process in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes, remove and allow to cool & seal.  Store for at least one month before using.  This should last "forever" in the pantry, but use your good judgement about how long to hang onto things.  I really think you won't have that problem--you're more likely to run out before the next winter citrus season is upon us!

Monday, February 18, 2013


courtesy of Main Street Market Whole Foods Co-Op

This past weekend, I decided to join a local food co-op in a town nearby.  I've thought about it for a couple of years now--and while I shop intermittently at them, I just haven't felt as though "being a member", officially, would be something that I needed to do.

Fast forward to now, when I grow a significant portion of my yearly food needs, shop locally from friend farmers, and frequent places known as "bulk food stores".  It turns out that, well, I am a co-op needing person.

There's all sorts of reasons to join a food co-op (you can read about some of them here), but for me, it boiled down to (a) I don't really go grocery shopping much anymore, so when I do, I'd prefer it to be a local alternative, (b) the bulk food store I love doesn't have all things in organic, and for some foods, that's really important to me, (c) the local co-op has access to locally grown seasonal vegetables, that are hard to come by elsewhere as the Farmers Market doesn't run in the winter time, and (d) by joining, I'm able to save a few percents on the grocery and bulk items I buy. 

It's also really fun to pop in, say hello to a couple of friends, and walk out with a box full of goodies to enjoy during the coming week.  (I got a great deal on a case--a case!!--of my favorite Bengal Spice tea, which should arrive next Friday.  I can hardly wait!!)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Post-Valentine's Sappiness

While the big V-Day has come and gone, there's still a lot of romantically inspired events happening this weekend.  Last night was a big Valentine's Day country dance (I didn't go--can't dance when you can't breathe, unfortunately), and Friday's work lunch was filled with excited talk of planned nights out and special romantic activities to happen over the weekend, as the actual holiday fell mid-work week.  I can't say that I had anything more romantic planned than a day of pruning fruit trees and running an errand or two, but I did stop by a redbox and picked up a copy of a little romantic comedy called Just Like Heaven.  The basic premise is overworked girl gets in traumatic accident and has an out of body experience, dwelling in spirit in her former apartment and haunting the cute guy who moves in.  Hijinks ensue, she comes out the coma with no memories of him, while he is heartbroken she can't recall him but happy she is alive.  But then, by way of a lovely garden, they are reunited.  Kissing happens, and cue the romantic musical suite.

Ahh yes.  The perfect guilty pleasure movie to watch on a chilly winter evening, dressed in your rattiest and most comfortable flannel pjs eating heavily buttered popcorn by the fistful, with a box of tissues on the side.  (Wine is optional but recommended.)

Romance aside, it is worth watching for the gardening.  The male lead just happens to be a landscape architect, whose talent with creating beautiful garden-scapes wins the heart of his lady love.

Works for me!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Winter Orchard

It's another cold weekend in late winter, which means it is time to bundle up, go outside, and take care of one chore that can't wait until the spring:  pruning the fruit trees.  My tiny orchard of apples and plums needs to have various branches thinned out and cut away, so that when spring arrives and the growing season begins again, they will be healthy and hopefully put on some new growth where it will help with proper growth and increased fruit yields.  Most of my fruit trees are young, between one and five years in the ground, and while they aren't very big, I know that if I don't work with them now, they won't be as strong and healthy as they should be in another year or two.  And as that is when I expect to start reaping the rewards of having invested in fruit trees with mighty harvests, a little work now and some thoughtful (and sometimes ruthless) pruning will pay off big dividends.

The rabbits look forward to tree pruning time, too.  They get to nibble on all the sweet wood cuttings--apple twigs are amongst their most favorite snacks!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Adding to the Library

I am working on my Little Free Library collection.  It's a rather fun hobby, gathering books and sharing them with others.

The first incarnation of my LFL (in all its neon turquoise glory) died a sad death when it twisted its door off its frame one windy day.  Plus, it became a rather hodge-podge collection of worthy mysteries, some cookbooks, and a couple of interesting tomes about the Dali Lama.  Good reading, but not quite the themed library I wanted...although, to be honest, I wasn't entirely sure what that theme was.

Now, after some deliberations, I have decided on a couple of things:

1.  The Library will be housed in a smaller cupboard, like a smaller kitchen cabinet type.  A posting to the area list-serv (kind of like a friendly neighbor craigslist or freecycle) found me a free cabinet, which should get dropped off this weekend.

2.  The Library will be a collection of "useful books", including farming texts, gardening, chicken care, and the like.  I'm kind of excited and feel like a "real librarian" as I search for used copies of some handy titles to include in the collection.  A few I've liked so much, I decided I needed to provide a copy for others to read (while hanging jealously onto my own).  Others, I heard about from other people and thought they'd make a great addition.  I mean, who wouldn't like paging through a text called Homemade Contrivances and How to Make ThemFarm Appliances, or Hortus Miscellaneous?  I'm going to be sure to add a couple of my favorite farm memoirs, including this one:

There is something so peaceful about reading someone's farm story.  It makes me hopeful for how my own might read someday.

3.  A small investment will be made in return address labels, to be pasted in each book.  It would be great if the books eventually found their way back home, to be shared out again.  Even if they don't, people who come across them might want to know where the Little Library is, to check out other copies.

I do so like releasing literature out into the world.  It's remarkably liberating!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Another Valentine's Day...or, "I Want a Sissy Farmer"

Happy Valentine's Day to one and all.


This is not my most favorite holiday (as you faithful readers may know, I prefer Halloween and Groundhog Day), what with all the overt smoochy-koo going on and everyone buying diamonds and chocolates for everybody else.  I don't need things, really, or someone to be all smoochy on.

Well, that last bit may be not entirely true.  I appreciate a good smooch.

No, I wouldn't mind finding me a sissy farmer to wander off into a sunset-lit Back 40 with.  Sometimes, it ain't easy to be the independent Chicken Lady--particularly on this Most Holy Day of Hunka-Hunka-Burnin' Lurve.

Ahh, well.  Pass me the chocolate.  I'll buy my own dang flowers, again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Documentary Worth Watching

I've been overdosing on documentaries of varying goodness this past week, and I came across this gem:  A Man Named Pearl.  It tells the story of Pearl Fryar, a self-taught topiary artist who has sculpted his yard into a garden of inspiration in rural South Carolina.  Not only is the story delightful, but the sound track is fabulous as well.  It's a must watch, and is available for streaming on Netflix.

Two thumbs up, gardeners!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sharing the Seeds

Look at the wealth in this box. More than money, more than a good insurance policy, having the potential for food is an embarrassment of riches.  Yes, it takes labor, and sweat, and not a little masochism, but growing your own food and controlling the source of your sustenance is profoundly liberating.  

This treasure trove arrived in a discreet brown box on my rather snowy doorstep, and is such a wonderful gift.  Facilitated through Seed Savers Exchange, the Herman's Garden program offers free seeds to community gardens and similar projects throughout the country.  For a small donation, you get a big box of the previous year's seeds (which are perfectly fine for this season's planting).  I tell you, it is dizzying to open a box so full of spring-into-summer dreams on a grey, snowy day!

What's the catch?  Well, the name "seed savers" should give you a clue.  You have to agree to save some of the seeds that you plant, to then share out with the community and continue to preserve that plant's seed heritage.  Basically, you've been given the means to create a community seed bank--for free.

I sent in my request a couple months ago, asking for seeds that could be used in the Community Garden that I coordinate.  I explained that the garden would be used by both novice and experienced gardeners, so please send seeds that even a novice could save easily.  I got tomatoes, eggplants, beans, peas, kale, cauliflower, brocolli, radishes...the works!  

In the next few weeks, I will be making calls to the local food pantry to see about coordinating gardening with their clients, and how the garden could possibly help supply their food needs during the summer months.  I also will be calling various folks to see about souping up the garden experience this summer.  I have dreams of an actual hydrant in the, to see if the meagre budget will cover it!  As well, advertising for space sign-ups needs to happen, and possibly recruiting someone to make/donate a sign.

All this, and the snow isn't going anywhere for a long while.  A gardener's work is never done, nor knows the limit of any season.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Getting Cozy

I've been watching quite a lot of BBC this past week (laid up as I have been with a breathing issue), and one thing I kept seeing, during all the breakfast scenes, was these little eggs in cute egg cups, that the folks at the table would nonchalantly whack with a spoon, remove the top, and scoop out the partially boiled eggy goodness inside.

As someone with lots of eggs, and a modest collection of milk glass egg cups, I had a mild epiphany:  "Hey.  I should try that!"

I am not sure why I've never tried eating eggs this way, but...well, I just never had.  You know what?  Eggs boiled in the shell are excellent.  I highly recommend them.

So after playing with how long to cook the eggs for (I personally like a 2 1/2 minute egg, cooked by bringing the egg in a saucepan of water to the boil, removing from heat, and covering the hot pot for the entire cook time), and perfecting my toast soldier making (necessary for dunking), I soon found that I needed some way to keep my egg hot until I sat down to eat it with toast, coffee, etc.

Hence, the Chicken Lady's Egg Cozy!

This uses very little yarn, so it is perfect for using up the scrap bit left from making that aran sweater or pair of worsted weight mittens.  I recommend using wool, because it is fabulous for retaining heat, although you really could use what you have on hand.  I had about half a skein of egg-yolk yellow Lambs Pride (colorway is called Goldenrod), so I used that.  I haven't measured actual yardage yet, but it can't be more than 25 yards...probably much much less than that, actually.

Using U.S. size 7 needles, cast on 30 stitches using the long tail cast-on method.   Knit three rows.

Pattern row:  Knit three stitches, *p1, k1* across row to last three stitches, knit 3. (This is seed stitch, by the way, which makes a nice bumpy tight fabric--perfect for heat retention!)

Repeat pattern row until the width measures three inches.  Knit three rows, then cast off.

Fold in half lengthwise, to make a "squared" pocket.  Sew up the sides of the pocket.

Tah dah!  The Chicken Lady's Egg Cozy is complete, ready to keep your eggs warm.

(P.S.  If you are using super fresh eggs like I have all the time, putting a spoonful of baking soda in the water really helps loosen the egg from the shell!)

Just Do It.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Playing in the Kitchen

It may be the effects of getting better, or the many, many documentaries I have been watching while languishing on the sofa feeling ill, but I've been inspired to make use of the things in my pantry in different ways.  Winter always gets a bit same-y, and by this time, a lot of the stored root veg are looking past their prime.  So it becomes important to break out new combinations and try different ways to cook the same old ingredients.

The other day, I got a copy of a new cookbook celebrating a time honored ingredient:

Since it arrived, I've been hankering to try a recipe or two.  Tonight for dinner I made a batch of Deluxe Hashbrowns, which made a nice side with baked ham and a spinach salad.  (I must be getting better--this was the first meal I've cook-cooked in over two weeks!)  My initial reaction:  Best hashbrowns ever, truly.  It was also nice to have hot fat that didn't smoke or start to burn.  I had read this about cooking with lard, but working with it is believing.  It also took very little fat (about two tablespoons, melted) to provide plenty of grease to fry the hashbrowns without burning or drying out.

I can't wait to fry up the leftovers tomorrow, with a couple fresh eggs and a slice of homemade Cranberry Walnut Wheat bread, toasted to perfection.

There are many other tempting recipes that I am longing to try, such as a simple raisin cake (which I think I'll make using some dried tart cherries I've been saving for a special occasion...) and flour tortillas, which I've always wanted to try making.

I think the key is knowing where to find good quality lard, not the hydrogenated kaka that lives in the blue box or those green and white tubs at your standard grocery store.  I've seen it before at the co-ops near me, but it is easy enough to render on your own.  I stopped in at the local meat locker, and came home with a fifteen pound block of ground hog fat for the king's ransom of five whole dollars.  Now, it likely isn't from an organic pig, but it was locally raised, so all is not lost.  I'm looking forward to acquiring a free-range, happy pig from friends again this year, but my lust for lard couldn't wait.  I have plans to convert more cooking to natural fats, not the strange blended "vegetable" oil and shortening.  What the heck is that stuff that comes in a spray can?  Eventually, it will be locally sourced lard and olive oil in this house.  (I'll hang onto that spray can for helping un-mold crafting projects involving concrete and plaster.)

This new cookbook is a treasure trove of recipes incorporating lard.  It also talks about the history of lard, and why the misconception of lard being horribly unhealthy came about (hint: it had to do with the corn industry, surprise!).  Like any fat in your diet, you shouldn't eat a lot of it.  But, added to a diet rich in vegetables and healthy complex carbohydrates and a bit of locally raised, healthy meat, it certainly won't hurt you as badly as some chemically-processed fat could.  Everything in moderation, right?

I can't leave you hanging with how to make those hashbrowns, can I?

Deluxe Hashbrowns from the Lard Cookbook

You'll need:  four cups shredded potatoes (about three medium); two tablespoons heavy cream; 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; a good quantity of ground pepper--I like quite a bit--and about 1/4 teaspoon paprika (I used smoked paprika, yum).  I also added a bit of minced onion, because I just wanted to. 

Combine all ingredients until well mixed.  Melt two tablespoons of lard in a large skillet, cast iron preferrably, over medium high heat until the lard starts to sizzle.  Pour in the potatoes and pat down flat.  Cover (I used a piece of tinfoil smushed over the top), reduce heat to low and cook five to seven minutes until the bottom is nice and browned. 

Flip the hashbrowns, pat down again, increase heat toward medium, and cook uncovered for ten minutes or so, until nicely browned, a little crisp, and cooked completely.  Serve hot with ketchup or hot sauce, or alongside whatever else you like.  Bacon, possibly?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Know What You're Buying

So, continuing on my theme of perusing seed catalogs and plotting my purchases, I thought it would be good to point out the obvious:  Shopping from all catalogs is not equal.  By now, you've likely figured out that I am opposed to GMOs (I like to keep my flounder and corn genes separate, thank you very much) and I really don't like the idea of ingesting tons of  reportedly "safe" pesticides that are imbued in my food.

I particularly dislike monopolies.  I really, really don't like big companies coming in, bullying farmers, and forcing them into greater and greater debt to buy modified seeds and massive quantities of pesticides and herbicides, and if they don't, forcing them out of business by ruining them, politically, socially, and financially.

Not. Nice.

When it comes to what I, as one little individual in the great big world, can do, however, I have to pause, look around, and get off my soap box for a moment.  The only thing that I really can do, is spend my dollars (few that they may be) as a consumer on what I believe is the best thing to buy.  So, organic food?  Yep. Shop local from friend farmers?  Wahoo!  Non-GMO products?  Yes please.  Recycle and reuse more?  Absolutely, sign me up.

Now, as a backyard farmer, I spend quite a bit of money every year on seeds.  Seed potatoes, all manner of vegetable and herb seeds, and good quality nursery stock for my fledgling orchard--there's my budget, in a nut shell.  When your budget is small, it is very very tempting to buy seeds for a catalog offering tremendous deals:  Save $25 when you buy $25 in product!  Get a free $50 to shop with!  Free Shipping, Buy Here!  Oh yes, I know the seductive call of a seed catalog very well.  (There is a reason why I refer to them as "gardener porn", you know.)  Unfortunately, what is not so obvious is that quite a lot of the seed houses are owned by Seminis, aka Monsanto. Or, even if they continue to be independently owned, they buy a LOT of seed owned by Seminis/Monsanto, and redistribute it.  They may not be selling GMO seed, but...the company that owns them or that they buy from DOES.  I will not go into my hatred of all things Monsanto, but I'll leave it at that I prefer to buy my seed from an agency that still believes that food belongs to the people, not a corporation, and that food should be...well, food, not a mixture of chemicals, viruses, and foreign DNA.

Anyway, because Monsanto has started buying up lots and lots of seed catalog companies, this means that they now (a) can limit varieties severely, creating a backyard monoculture, (b) can restrict access to seed, period, and (c) can start dictating whether or not it is "legal" to grow certain crops from seed in your own backyard.  This is all based on the idea that if you control the food (down to the seed), you control the people.

Well, I refuse to be controlled, thank you very much.  To that end, I looked up a few forums online and found a list of currently-owned-by-or-purchasing-in-quantity-seeds-owned-by-Seminis/Monsanto seed catalog companies.  I found this list at a couple of different sites, including The Garden of Eatin'Planet InfoWars, and Hawke's HealthLet me be clear:  I am NOT advocating to not to purchase items from these companies.  Good people work for them, and overall, they likely have great business practices.  But...I personally don't want any of my meager garden dollars possibly finding their way into the pockets of a giant company that I firmly believe doesn't have my health, or the welfare of this world, as any part of it's corporate agenda.  You might agree with me, and you might not...but information shared never hurt anybody, right?

Here's the most recent listing of companies that I could find:

Audubon Workshop
Breck’s Bulbs
Cook’s Garden
Dege Garden Center
Earl May Seed
E & R Seed Co
Ferry Morse
Flower of the Month Club
Gardens Alive
Germania Seed Co
Garden Trends
Lindenberg Seeds
McClure and Zimmerman Quality Bulb Brokers
Mountain Valley Seed
Park Bulbs
Park’s Countryside Garden
R.H. Shumway
Roots and Rhizomes
Seeds for the World
Seymour’s Selected Seeds
Spring Hill Nurseries
T&T Seeds
Tomato Growers Supply
Totally Tomato
Vermont Bean Seed Co.
Wayside Gardens
Willhite Seed Co.

Look familiar?  Me, too.  I get a LOT of these catalogs free in my mailbox.

But then again, I get these other ones, too, from the companies that are independently owned AND are committed to non-GMO/open pollinated seed varieties.  Oh, how I like my variety!  You, too, could consider checking out the catalogs from one of these companies when making your seed purchases this year:

Abundant Life Seeds
Amishland Seeds
Annapolis Valley
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Heritage Seed Company (Nova Scotia, Canada)
Diane’s Flower Seeds
Ed Hume Seeds
Garden City Seeds
Heirlooms Evermore Seeds
Heirloom Seeds
Heirloom Organics
Horizon Herbs
Landreth Seeds
Lake Valley Seeds
Livingston Seeds
Local Harvest
Mountain Rose Herbs
Organica Seed
Sand Hill Preservation Center
Seeds of Change
Southern Exposure
Sustainable Seed Co 
 Tiny Seeds
Uprising Seeds
Virtual Farm Seed Co
Wildseed Farms

Gosh.  I think I'll be able to source my seeds from a "safe" dealer, don't you?

(Yes, I may be becoming a bit of a vigilante.  Watch for me by night, bearing seed bombs and aged manure...)

Friday, February 8, 2013

P.S.A. of the Week

As it is the weekend, when many do their weekly shopping, check out the Non-GMO Shopping Guide.  You can print it as a PDF booklet, or download the app on your iPhone or Android device.  I try to grow as much of my own food as possible, or shop locally from farmer friends, but some things (crackers, sugar, coffee, and the like) just need to be purchased because they sure don't grow around here.  It's hard to find everything organic on my budget, but with this guide, I plan on making my food dollars work to say no to GMOs.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Five bucks?!?

Geez.  I have got to work on my building skills...and start looking through the trash more often.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Calling all DIY'ers!

I don't regret investing in a kit and hiring a good friend to build my little hoop house, but this guy's project turned out pretty neat:

Boy oh boy, he did some research and foraging, didn't he?  Talk about bringing DIY to a new level.

(I also love the bartering/trading involved.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Future Road Trip?

Here's another place that I'd really like to go and visit.  Check out their aquaponics operation!

If I do wind up making the pilgrimage there, I'd bet I'd have no problem rounding up some friends to come along.  Anybody interested?!?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Winter-Time Reading

Aside from gazing longingly at seed catalogs and working my way through my yarn stash and various knitting projects, winter is a great time to catch up on some reading and research that generally gets put aside in the busy days of the growing and harvesting seasons.  Lately, I've worked my way through a small library of books:

I got this a Christmas or two ago from a beloved aunt, and while I've browsed through it a time or two, I've never actually settled down to read it.  This spring, top on the project agenda (alongside somehow obtaining a new roof) is revitalizing my currently inaccessible root cellar--so a thorough read is in order!  I'm up through Chapter 5 thus far, and I can say with certainty that this book is chock full of information.  I can hardly wait to put it to good use!

After a first year of successfully growing oodles of green growth in my little hoop house, I decided that perhaps I might wind up with more actual produce if I read a couple of guides.  So, I found these hiding on my bookshelf:

I think the first one will be more helpful than the second, but both are pretty good resources.  (The second one was less expensive, so if you are on a tight budget, it might be your option to at least start with!)  I think I've figured out what I did wrong, and now I have a much better plan for this next season.  Let the tomatoes come rolling in...

There is something about winter that makes me long for fruit, fresh from the vine or tree.  (Must be the lack of Vitamin C? Perhaps the imminent onset of scurvy?)  I have a nice little orchard started, with plum and apple trees, but still...I dream of something exotic.  If that's your inclination, then this book will speak to you as it did me.  Full of descriptions of pawpaw, hardy kiwi, wild blueberry and alpine strawberry, and including some detailed information of growing strategies, it might even help you grow some "exotics" in your own backyard garden.  I am pondering my options for this year, and I think I've settled on making a terraced garden on the front slope, with Nanking and Hansen's bush cherries filling the beds.

Well, back to the reading!  What kind of plans are you concocting, while dreaming of spring in the depths of winter?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gardener Porn

If you haven't yet gotten a copy for yourself, you need to get one here.  Seriously now, the photos in this catalog will make you hunger--hunger, I say!--to go out and grow something.  There's sunflowers, and cucumbers and beans and greens...the melons, oh, those melons....and page after page of gorgeous squash and tomatoes.  Try not to drool all over the pages, right?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tradition & Woodchuck

Happy Groundhog Day!  The day that we celebrate the approaching spring and break the back of the cold winter, by looking to a small ground-dwelling rodent and his perplexing shadow. 

This may be, perhaps, my second favorite holiday, next to Halloween.

This year, as I have done in the past, I will be watching the greatest (and only) movie dedicated to this most festive holiday:

And there's more.  I'll be drinking this:

Don't drive angry.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Something to Contemplate...

All that on 1/10th acre?  Dang.

I am so under-utilizing my giant 1/4 acre!!