right now

right now

Jan 9, 2010

Like Math?!

The other day I read a post over at Agwh's blog: Grow Your Own (Food) about the value of our homegrown veggies. Now, this may be "preaching to the choir", but I think at seed ordering time and especially when we hit "pay using this card" we all could use a reminder of the rewards of what we do, financially speaking! I also came across a post while researching this on my own at "kitchengardeners.org" that is worth a look! I copied it below, but you can read more of Roger's post here.

To do your own value, just replace his numbers with yours, fun for a cold winter's day! Of course much of our produce is given away, donated, etc, but even with a worst case scenario, I think we all pretty much pay for our seed orders with less than half of our tomato harvest! The prices also vary of course depending on the region you live in, BUT STILL!

Thomas at "a growing tradition" made the statement the other day that sums the reality of our gardens up... "Not that it really matters since I'd still grow my own food even if it costs me more to do so. The way I see it, there are just some things that you can't place a value on and growing your own food just happens to be one of them."

How true, he beautifully stated what we all are thinking! Enjoy the winter math...
If any of you have copious amounts of free time to do this, post your total values in the comments section, I would love to see our combined worth, hahahaha!

Jan 7, 2010

Seed Order 2010... Completed!

I am finally done! I realized that if I waited for "me time" my seed order would never get off to a start, so I just let things in the house go to hell and did it anyways. They'll live. It took me several days, since I try to research more and be smarter about this every year. Not sure if it's working...

In the interest of my New Year's resolution about paying attention to the finances and where the money is going in the suburban homestead, I have listed my expenditures for this year's order. You may say "Wow, she did great!" or "Holy crap!", but I will say that the amount is significantly less than last year. This is due in part to saving seeds and storing old seeds properly, but much of it is honestly looking at what I can handle and past experiences. I am sure that I still went a little overboard, but a little progress is better than none! Most are heirloom varieties, and this year I am doing annual flowers for the first time selected from the lists of "The Beekeeper Guy" that visited our class during MG training. Many can be directly seeded outdoors, so that's a bonus.

Here is is for 2010:

Roninger Potato Farm - $21.00
Red LaSoda
Red Pontiac
Rose Finn Fingerlings
*may interest southern gardeners, they will ship in time for our early March potato planting dates - most places cannot)

Bountiful Gardens - 3.95
Soybean Innoculant

Fedco Seeds - 28.17
Dragon Langerie Bush Wax Bean
Beer Friend Edamame
Fish Hot Pepper
Paul Robeson Tomato
Gigante dItalia Parsley
Lemon Balm
Carpet of Snow Alyssum - flowers
Flashback Calendula - flowers
Osaka Flowering Kale- ornamental
Red Peacock Flowering Kale - ornamental
Tashkent Marigold - flowers
Persian Carpet Zinnia - flowers
Bells of Ireland - flowers
Jobs Tears - flowers
Panorama Red Bee Balm - flowers
Burgundy Gaillardia - flowers

Burpee 51.75
(I know, I know..., but they were selected for certain traits I wanted)
Early Sunglow Hybrid Corn - short stalks
Heatwave Lettuce - this blend performs all summer without bolting here
Sugar Baby Bush Watermelon - 3 ft vines!
4th of July Hybrid Tomato
Orange Wellington Tomato (the first hybrids I have grown)
Be Sweet Soybean - huge yields
Pesto Perpetuo Basil - variegated, patent pending, only avail as expensive plants for 3 yrs now!
Verbena Bonariensis - flowers

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. 39.95
Purple of Romagna Artichoke
Golden Wax Bush Bean
Cosmic Purple Carrot
Parisian Pickling Cucumber
Japanese Climbing Cucumber
Mexican Mint Marigold - flowers
Litchi Tomato (for fun! did anyone see this article in Mother Earth News? Interesting!)
Craig's Grande Jalapeno
Val d'Orges Lettuce
Quadrato D'asti Rosso Pepper
Sweet Yellow Stuffing Pepper
Hollow Crown Parsnip
Vorlon Tomato
Red Zebra Tomato
Red Malabar Spinach (for those of you in hot areas where it's hard to grow spinach, check out this link... it climbs, won't bolt, tastes just like spinach, widely available)

So there it is! The 2010 Honesty Total = $144.82.
I still have other heirloom tomatoes, herbs, etc that I saved from last year that will be planted as well, saving a ton of money there. New vegetables making their debut in my garden are: Watermelon, Parsnip, Artichoke and Corn. There are many more companies I am becoming interested in and have requested catalogs from (especially our VA based Southern Exposure Seed Exchange), but haven't arrived yet so they lost out on this year's business, but I am sure to branch out and investigate them the next time I order.

Jan 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Finnegan!

I have been accused of many things, but a cake decorator isn't one of them. Good thing he is too young to notice!

Happy 5th Birthday, Finn!

Now I want to see this movie!

I haven't seen "It's Complicated" yet.... but I will now! Check out the unreal vegetable garden photos and story here. Staged or not, it's beautiful!

Jan 5, 2010

Vertical Gardening

How cool is this? Would be a fantastic backdrop for the outdoor dining area & dinner parties!

Jan 4, 2010

2010 GOALS!


1. Throttle back a little - yeah, already failed at this one by the looks of my seed order, you will see what I mean when I post that!

2. Try new varieties, new vegetables - this year I hope to find "the tomato" for my area, and try growing artichoke, melons and corn for the first time.

3. Spend more time in the garden - meaning, when it's 100 and dripping humidity, I am still going out there and working and not letting produce go to waste! The tomatoes don't pick themselves.

4. Get my family involved - the kids are ages 7 & 5 come this summer and so they will have assigned "chores" in the garden and will work along with me. I see no reason not to, and they will benefit from this in the long run. My kids already know weird, nerdy stuff about rhizomes, seed germination, Latin names, etc... why not make them nerdier?!

5. Kids will eat my vegetables - this is the year, and I have finally found their "currency"... the Nintendo DS and BB Gun... they will do anything in order to have some time to play it or shoot it.

6. Continue to keep track of produce harvested and preserved - This has been a great motivator and just plain makes me happy when I look at the sidebar and see that all the work is paying off.

7. Can/Preserve more - I can do better this year. Husband will be deployed, and it may seem strange, but I get way more done when he is not here, without anyone to talk to in the evenings, I can just can away!!

8. Annuals - I am a huge perennial gardener, but this year I plan on starting annual flowers from seed to add another dimension to the gardens.

9. A "pretty" veggie patch - I hope to incorporate more flowers and herbs among the vegetables and take a cue from the French Potager gardening techniques. I reason that if it's prettier, I will spend more time there!

10. Learn how to handpick Tomato Hornworms - If you read my post about this, you know it's pretty much the only thing that freaks me out, besides the copperheads and Water Moccasins we have here. Yeah, I went a little overkill in freak-out fashion on those hornworms last year.

11. Continue to maintain my "Garden Manual" and seed storage area - think I will do a post about this one soon.

12. Seed Saving - I hope I have time for it, when you see my upcoming seed order you will see the extra financial reasons for this, but it just plain makes good homesteading sense.


1. Reuse/Repurpose/Recycle - I can always do better, one good thing is that I am downright embarrassed now when I forget my reusable bags while shopping!

2. Turn compost more often!

3. Create a sunken "root cellar" - our climate doesn't allow for proper storage and we don't have basements here due to the high water table, so I plan to use the "sink a trashcan into the ground" method, more on this later this year!

4. Save more energy - I grew up in Minnesota, there's no excuse for me to not just "shut up and put on a damn sweater!" - yep, I'm the worst offender in the family when it comes to the heat and a/c!

5. Get started in earnest on the chicken plans - Find a stealthy coop design, (preferably mid-century modern, lol) and have hubby build when he returns from deployment. Research chicken breeds more and develop a "master plan & timeline"! (I would dive in, but since my husband is up for new "orders" soon - meaning a transfer, but not necessarily out of the area, we need to make sure we have several more years here before we do this - I'm a responsible animal owner!)

6. Can/Preserve More - same as above

7. Construct a shady area with hammock - this equals more play time for the kids, since I will be able to read while they play instead of sweating in the sun watching them throw sand in the sandbox

8. Train the puppy to do something other than "be a puppy" - Not sure if this belongs in this category, but I have never had an Australian Shepherd that didn't basically "train themselves" to do helpful things (i.e. laundry, picking up their own toys, etc) and my older one Marley has no trouble with this concept and will be helpful rounding up chickens when their free range time is up, but well...Sprocket on the other hand is part Jack Russell, yeah, the unhelpful part! She is almost 2 and we are still calling her "the puppy" if that tells you anything.

9. Keep on making our own cleaners and laundry detergent - I never calculated how much this has saved us the past year, but with a family of 4, boys at that, I am sure you can guesstimate... it's hundreds!


1. Keep track of cholesterol, blood pressure and exercise more regularly in the cold months - Family history of problems, so I want to stay on top of this.

2. Be more patient with the kids - I am type-A, OCD in the worst way, so this one will be baby steps! I will say I am a little better now than I was last year... gotta keep improving!

3. Turn off the TV! - more "off" time equals better behaved kids and a more sane mother not yelling over the TV, and more time to read!

4. Read for pleasure more - I have loved to read since I can remember, but it has gone by the wayside since I had kids.

5. Learn to Knit - yeah, that one...

6. Work on relationship - yeah, exactly. It's hard to do when your husband is at sea for 8 months out of the year, lol, but we make it work! We are as different as night and day, but this is why it works. But it can work better. We need to communicate more effectively, and be on the same page when it comes to parenting, so this will be a recurring goal every year!

7. Find a project with the Master Gardener program that really works for me - there are so many that right now I am just trying them all, but so far the Community Vegetable Plot and "Ready, Set, Grow!" for at-risk elementary students is speaking to me!

8. Find a babysitter - yeah, I know, this is pathetic. My kids are 6 & 4 and have never been with a babysitter. Other than my best friend and when my mom comes to visit, I don't have anyone I trust! I don't even know where to start...

9. Admit that we can't afford "stuff"! - This is the biggest one. While I feel that we are getting along pretty well considering we are a one-income, enlisted military family, according to IRS standards, we are below the poverty level! This year I really want to be able to say "we can't afford it" or "we don't need it" without feeling guilty. I know in my head & heart that my husband provides all the income we need plus enough for a few things we don't. I provide a stable home, grow food for our family, try to teach my children to succeed in life and budget like a madwoman... but why do I feel this need to have "stuff"? And why do I feel badly when we can't afford things (things we don't need anyways!)? We really are better off than most of our peers, military that is - most we know drive cars that cost more than their rent, yes, rent... I should feel good that we own our house, drive two sensible fuel-savvy Subarus instead of gas-guzzling SUV's but yet I still have a hard time just accepting our financial deficits. So I decided to make my fears "public" on the blog... it's the first step, right? Bottom line is, I need to remember all we have done - remodeled the house, kitchen, gardens all by ourselves without contracting any of it out, we are able to have one parent at home with the kids, and we grow our own food! So I just need to become okay with saying "no", and budget more smartly and save more for our future. And anyways, who needs a big SUV? We have killer dinner parties, so there! End rant.

10. Start thinking of our final resting place - nope, not the raised bed where old gardeners go, but what our plans will be when hubby retires! With 5-10 years left in the military, we need to get hot on looking at areas, land, careers. I need to firm up my plans about returning to school for a BSN, and be able to finish that before the time to move comes.

11. Keep blogging! - I have "met" the most warm, wonderful people here on the blogosphere, and it has been so fun swapping stories, ideas, failures, and successes! I want to keep on with this and definitely want to make time for updating my blog a bit and fixing the slideshows, labels, etc. Thanks for hanging in there with me, and know that you will take on an even more important role for me once hubby deploys in March, you may become my only adult interaction in the evenings, LOL!

12. Clean up the "office" - this encompasses everything from the file cabinet to the thousands of photos to be organized on the Mac, old emails, budgeting, and general the "list-making" I am so fond of.

I hope you all achieve your goals this year, thanks for following along on our little suburban homestead adventures. Your support, advice, ideas and kind words are always appreciated!

Jan 3, 2010

Looking Back... 2009 Ups & Downs

Before I post my 2010 goals for our little suburban homestead, I thought I would review the past year's highs and lows so I have something to measure my accomplishments with this time next year! I am actually taking a cue from Judy over at My Freezer is Full, who posted her 2009 accomplishments and goals for the next year - good idea!

1. Composting - we did well with this, we have had 3 large compost bins built and cooking since last spring, but need to be better about turning the pile more often so as to have adequate heat to kill weed seeds (since sailor/hubby likes to compost weeds!). We have filled a couple of new beds with our compost and happily report that we have never had an issue with smell or critters, it seems silly now that this was my main protest to hubby about composting!

2. Repurposing/Reusing/Recycling - We used our old fencing that blew down in a storm to build compost bins, creating all garden stakes, tipis, etc out of stuff we already had. We scored a huge section of plastic drainage pipe that will become a potato cage in 2010, also scored a rain barrel from hubby's work. All seed starting stuff this year is recycled from last year's operation. Hubby made several garden shed tables, seedling shelves, and potting bench from leftover lumber from home remodeling. Turned our old large aquarium stand into our homebrewing station with the addition of a recycled door/countertop. We can always do better in this area, but those are the ones standing out in my memory!

3. Growing our own food - Each year is getting better and better, and I can't think of the last time I visited the produce section of the store. We find that we are eating what's in season instead of paying too much for tasteless tomatoes and the like in the middle of winter! Last time we had hamburgers we just topped them with Chard and winter greens and a couple of pickled peppers from our stash... no tomatoes, no problem! Lows - Kids were still not eating veggies out of the garden the past year, fall lettuces were under-utilized, fall peas were a total failure due to planting a bit late. First year planting potatoes, used wire cages & straw for fingerlings, big success! We also started brewing our own beer, which is one of the best things we have done, it's fun & the taste is far superior to store bought!

4. Changing the way we buy meat - score here! Have not bought any grocery store meat in almost a year. We purchased a small deep freeze last spring and ordered our meat shares through a pastured, humane local farm. We just eat a little less meat to compensate for the increased cost, but the taste is well worth it, not to mention the other benefits to buying local. The main issue here is budgeting, since we buy our meat all at once.

5. Gardening "as a family" - total flop! Hubby gone most of the year, he helps when he can, but the kids are not quite as helpful as I had hoped they would be this year.
6. I wanted to save seed but didn't this year other than a few flowers... total bust here.

7. Community Gardening Activities - check!... went through Master Gardener Training and Certification and graduated in November. I am very proud of this accomplishment since I have two little boys at home that normally put a stop to any of my "selfish plans"!

8. Preserving Food - although I did do this, I didn't do nearly the amount I should have. Maybe it was due to being busy with classes, but this year's stash is pathetic compared to 2008. Mainly, the tomatoes... I just got overwhelmed and gave alot away!

All said, not too bad, better than the average suburbanite - but still can definitely do better! So now I think I can work on my goals for 2010, and can look back on this and see if I have done better than this year. What about you? Are you where you had hoped to be at the end of the year?