Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Forward Momentum

I realize I haven’t posted any recent pictures of our garden. It’s hard to believe, looking back, that this used to be just a flat plot of earth in our yard. To be honest, I don’t know if we would have had the courage to complete the task if we had known how much work it would be from the outset! But now it’s bringing us so much joy–with our kale really beginning to come in, as well as freshly planted onions, leeks, spinach, parsley, and carrots–we love spending time out there. We’ve also put in a potato patch nearby with both blue and white potatoes. Our fruit trees and grape vines are also beginning to really look lively. What an abundance!

So here is the latest in our gardening adventure. As you can see, we finished our boxes and got a good mix of green manure, compost, and native soil mixed in to each box. We installed an irrigation system and laid gravel in around the boxes and on top of the irrigation lines in between the boxes. We painted the fence and lined it with hardware cloth so rabbits and other small critters couldn’t squeeze through the pickets. Then we planted all sorts of lovely flowers along the perimeter of the fence to entice our bees. What a lucky girl I am–on the weekends or in the evenings, Rob and I will sometimes just go outside and gaze at the gentle wind blowing through this bed of new life, hosted by the work of our hands.

I can’t wait until the day when we can make two stops–the garden and the coop–and then go inside to prepare dinner. That, my friends, will be a joyful day in the Guzzo household.

By the way, chickens are doing well. We have started to assemble their run, and hope to have it done by this weekend. The chickens are growing so fast–they’ll be glad to be out of their garage pen, I’m sure!

Homemade

The past two and a half weeks can be summed up in just one word: sick. First me, for the better part of it, and now my husband and even my dog. But I think we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, so hopefully I’ll be able to post more regularly than I have in the last couple weeks or so.

As I was looking in the fridge this morning, it occurred to me just how different our lives are from just a year ago. Now in our fridge (or pantry), you will find an abundance of homemade things that have just wound their way into our regular daily lives. Today I found: homemade bread, homemade strawberry jam (which we made last August from our CSA strawberries), homemade tomato sauce, homemade soup made from homemade stock (actually, right now we have three kinds of soup: potato leek, creamy chicken, and chicken vegetable), homemade frosting left over from a cake we made, homemade ice cream, and homemade ranch dressing. Sometimes we have homemade butter and homemade cheese, but not today. Soon I’ll add some non-edible items: homemade soap, candles, and maybe even laundry detergent if I can get it right.

Knowing that we appreciate where these things come from–and the effort it takes to get them from farm to table–makes me proud.  We are realizing that things don’t just “appear” in our household. We are honoring the work, the soil, and the bounty. I think that sense of consciousness is important, and I think it’s necessary to try to expand it every day.

By the way, speaking of homemade–our garden fence is almost done. It certainly looks homemade, but it’s ours. We put one gate on earlier this week, and just have to finish the second gate and we’ll be done. I also dug the first 6′ x 6′ box. Digging 36 square feet even a foot into the ground is a laborious task! I sure burned off my lunch that day.

Blessings everyone!

Seeds

Photo provided by freefoto.com

As my body continued to heal from this doozie of a cold, I spent some time yesterday ordering our seeds from an heirloom seed company.  It was exciting. I never thought that, at 29 years old, I’d get such a thrill from ordering seeds on a rainy weekend afternoon.

About a month ago, Robert and I spent a cold winter evening planning our garden and making our seed lists, so I had all of the information at my fingertips. All I needed to do was actually order them–and, strangely enough, this small act made our homesteading seem all the more real.  It was like when I ordered the bees. Planning was one thing, but clicking “Order” suddenly made sure that it was going to happen. Or, at least, we’d make a good attempt. Regardless, it became an inevitable part of the story.

Some of the things we ordered will simply come as seed packets: eggplant, cucumber, lettuce, carrots, kale, spinach, green beans, leeks, onions, butternut squash, pumpkins, arugula, and various edible herbs. We’ll also get seeds for the flowers and herbs that will surround our garden and help to lure the bees: lavender, bee balm, borage, hyssop, chinese aster, star of the veld, zulu prince daisies, and ox-eye sunflowers. And then there will be the large sunflowers that will help to create a windbreak: velvet queen sunflower, evening sunflower, and a mix of others.  All these will arrive in small packages and hopefully fill our small space with beautiful colors and healthy meals.

We also ordered garlic, potatoes, and tomatoes, which will arrive at various times of year. The potatoes will arrive in mid-April, and will come in 2 1/2 pound bags. We’ll have to plant those in an entire separate area, because potatoes don’t play well with other vegetables. They wreak havoc on the soil and attract all sorts of bugs (which is why conventionally grown potatoes can harbor some of the most toxic pesticides around).  They’ll take a certain amount of attentiveness and care from year to year, so we plan on rotating them in various spots on the property. However, they won’t get to hang out with the rest of their culinary friends in the garden. Besides the potatoes, we’ll be getting tomato transplants in mid-May. May 15th is the last day for potential frost in the area, so we can’t get them any earlier than that. Tehachapi is known for its short growing season, but hopefully next year we’ll have the greenhouse up and running and won’t have to worry about that as much. The tomatoes are especially exciting because we’ll be getting some of our favorite varieties–Cherokee Purple and Green Zebra. We’ll also be getting a variety called “Amish Paste,” which will be good for canning and cooking. Finally, we’ll be getting garlic bulbs in early September. We’ll plant them when the rest of the garden is beginning to wind down, when the pumpkins and winter squashes are demanding our attention, and when the ground begins to get cold again. I plan to plant a lot of garlic over the years–we’re big fans in this Italian household.

These seeds bring us one step closer to our dream of living off of the land. We also looked through hatchery websites last night and picked out some heritage chicken breeds that might make it into the running for our tiny flock.  But more on that later. We still have a lot of work to do before we can order those chicks. We just need to take it one wonderful step at a time.

The Power of Daily Choice

We have more power than we think when it comes to the food industry (although this can apply to so many of our cultural problems):

“The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum total of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us and most of the rest of them made in the name of our needs and desires and preferences.”   -Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma

Check out Michael Pollan’s visit with Oprah and his important discussion about our food: www.oprah.com/showinfo/Food-101-with-Michael-Pollan

Bee-coming a Homestead

In the cold months of January, homesteaders around the country are cozied up inside, salivating over seed catalogs and planning for warmer months. We now join the throngs that dream of April chicks, putting up deer fencing and contacting local apiaries for supplies.

Today I took one step closer toward our homesteading goals and ordered our bee supplies. Our little garden hive box and all of the necessary clothing and necessary tools should arrive within 5-7 business days. Then, between April 16th and 30th, we’ll hopefully get a box in the mail that contains our bees and their queen. Whoa.

In some ways this is daunting to me. I’ve never been stung by a bee, and I’ve heard it’s not pleasant. However, I’ve also heard that beekeeping is one of the easiest homesteading activities that one can do, and the side benefit of having our own honey will just be divine. Between now and May we’ll have plenty of time to read our beekeeping books and become well acquainted with all of our equipment. I’m pretty excited about the prospect of really starting our life in the country…somehow this makes it more “real.” After all, not many of my Los Angeles friends have a backyard hive (although I hear it’s possible). Next up: fixing up the chicken coop. We’re ambitiously hoping to order pullets for April or May. We’ll see if we can do it in time.

To be honest, I’m just happy to have something on the horizon other than working on that darned bathroom. The end of our first homeowner’s project is in sight: the tile is laid, the bathtub installed, the walls painted. Now we just have to seal the grout, varnish the wood stuff, and hook up the plumbing. Small potatoes compared to what we’ve faced so far.

My heart continues to overflow with thankfulness. Every day I get to wake up to clean air, beautiful hills and kind people. Years ago I never would have dreamt  that this would be the life that nourishes my soul and gives me a zeal to wake up every morning. But here I am. And if it’s a dream, I hope I never wake up.

An Interesting Perspective

An interesting look at the food crisis. The main thing I notice they don’t address is one of the sticking points of the whole dispute, and that’s the use of GMO crops. On one hand, they can help solve the short-term crisis. On the other hand, they have far reaching effects that we can’t even comprehend when we first use them (how they might affect migration patterns, for example, or how resistant pests may spring up as a result). In any case, it’s something to think about. And I like the concept of a more collaborative, rather than combative, attitude. I just worry that the Almighty Dollar will always want to have the last word.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1IWkbU0SG4&feature=player_embedded

Blessings of Bounty

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I’ve talked before about getting food from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Here is some of our seasonal bounty, along with fresh baked rosemary potato bread. Shortly after we baked the bread, we spread some of our homemade butter over two (or three) steaming slices.

One of my favorite parts about getting food from a CSA is the challenge and surprise of seasonal eating. I love it. I probably would never have bought sunchokes or persimmons, and yet here I am eating them with delight.  Autumn is no longer the time for cucumbers or peppers (and certainly not asparagus!), although you’d never know it from walking into a supermarket.  It’s no wonder that eating seasonally isn’t a mainstream practice; it’s hard to even know what that means without being pointed in the right direction. All of the choice that is available to us in the grocery stores have actually stripped us from understanding the natural limitations of the seasons. We’re actually quite spoiled when it comes to our food choices, but we don’t know it–to most it’s just “normal.”

This is one of the beauties of eating seasonally–we become more attuned to the rhythms of the earth. No…we participate in the rhythms of the earth. We become part of it. We appreciate it.

And we are grateful.