Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Beneficial insects

Found this gravid lady today

and because she was hanging out in the front of the house, in the potted purple peppers (say it fast, I dare you), and we have a cat that seems to think praying mantis are delicious, I picked her up

and moved her to the back yard garden area, into the asparagus ferns to lay her eggs and start me up on next years crop of alien looking little helpers :D

Will have to remember that there's at least one egg sack in there when we move the asparagus later this year :).

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Our seed order has been placed (and major braggathon on teh frugal me ;) )

This is year 4 of Gardening for us, and in true form I have gone big (because I'm already home, so all out of options ;) )

And by go big I don't mean that I am growing a garden that would feed the masses, since I don't, and don't intend to. This is about us, after all and about being frugal and sustainable, which I am learning are two things that are so completely intertwined in so many ways that they are practically impossible to separate at times.

I mean that I spend WAY more money on organic, open pollinated and heirloom seeds in those first few years than we could afford. And it's now paying off with dividends.

Not dividends in the form of a check (but if you want to get some of my saved seeds, I wouldn't say no to a donation, contact me ;) ), but in the form of organic vegetables in the freezer, dehydrated and stored and in the cans of what we lovingly refer to as HCMREs (home cooked meals, ready to eat) that are on the shelves in the basement and looking like we'll eat this winter with only minimal dependence on the grocery store (nope, no pics of the basement, I don't need anyone to call one of those hoarders TV shows on me).

Dehydrated delicious goodness

And in the bags and bottles of seeds that are in the freezer and drying on the kitchen sill and still waiting to be harvested on the vines out in the yard, that are now in some cases going into the 5th generation here at Pinch Manor. Let me just say that again: 5th generation.

That makes me smile in a goofy, happy way.

And dividends in the fact that I just clicked the 'order' button on this years order and the grand total for the seeds I needed to buy was, including shipping $65.

Here's a list of what those $65 bought us, not QUITE scored to the twelve days:

One kind of bean
Two types of herbs
Three kinds of beet
Four types of pepper
Two kinds of cucumber
Two types of kohlrabi
One type of lettuce
Four types of flowers (to interplant)
One type of pea
One type of spinach
Two types of squash
two types of sunflower
and some swiss chard for hubbin to eat...

That's $65 to feed us organic, local and fresher than anything else could possibly be vegetables for the larger part of the year in varieties that are in some cases obscure and not even available at the farmers market because they don't like to travel any further than from my garden to my kitchen. Bruised tomatoes are just not something one would want to buy.

So allow me to brag and do some simple math here:

Let's say that I include something homegrown in one and a half meals every day, so that's three portions a day (it's WAY more, since we have shifted to mostly home grown, but I am being conservative in my estimates, since I want to account for travel and splurges etc), so that's 1095 meals (there's two of us) over the next year.

Considering the $65 I spent on seeds and let's figure in the approximately $15 that we will likely spend on fertilizer (horse poop) and the $50 that we are throwing at the hoop houses ($150 total, and those are expected to amortize over three years minimum, but probably closer to 5-6 years, being conservative ;) ) that's about $130.

That's $130 to get organic vegetables for 1095 meals. Not considering that we are now growing some of our own grains.

Can I just scream that price-tag from the rooftops?

I spend $0.12 on organic vegetables for the two of us per meal.

Granted, I'm not paying myself for any of that labour, or Hubbin for the digging and hauling, or figuring in the fuel needed to haul the fertilizer or hoop house materials home or the energy and water needed to process and preserve, but I did round up to the $0.12, so I'll call that even.

We eat probably 5 to 6 vegetarian meals a week, and yes, I'm counting the PB&Js in that number, but not the egg containing meals, or the number would be much higher, but this is how we do it. This is how we eat healthy and sustainable on a grocery budget that allocates less than a dollar per serving.

Could I do it without the garden (the thing I am often accused of: "if you didn't have the room for a garden you wouldn't be able to do it")? Definitely. There'd probably be less organic foods, and more focus on the clean 15 vs the dirty dozen for veggies (not a bad thing to pay attention to, no matter what your budget is) and we would not be having as much meat as we do, but I could easily feed us on our budget (again, that's less than $1 per serving on average, we definitely eat more expensive meals, but balance them out with really, really cheap ones) without a garden.

The catnip harvest, yup, even the furballs are being more sustainable and self-sufficient.

Rice and beans are still very cheap. Even the brown rice I buy (nope, not even gonna try growing it, no matter how wet of a spring we are having). So are eggs and flour and potatoes and cabbage and pasta and actually most produce in season. Basing meals around those staples and then expanding with add-ons is how one can do it. That and my flat refusal to let foods go to waste. It pains me when I have let something sit until it's beyond its best and no longer something we would enjoy eating, so I try not to do that too often. Not throwing away 40-60% of the foods we buy (the average families waste) is part of the equation. It still happens, but much less often than it used to. Took conscious effort, though.

Cooking from scratch is another :). It's not as hard as you would think. Try making a big pot of rice on Saturday and then plan your meals around that for the week. Chicken on Sunday, Chicken Quesadillas on Monday, Rice and Beans on Tuesday, Chicken fried rice with veggies on Wednesday, Stuffed Peppers on Thursday, Tuna and Rice Casserole on Friday and Eggs and Rice scrambled together for Saturday Brunch. And then make a big ole pot of pasta or potatoes for the next go around ;) And if you made more than you can eat in a sitting, you have leftovers for lunch the next day or to freeze for those weeks you just can't be bothered, because we all have them and there's no need to beat yourself up over it ;).

One thing I will allow that would not be possible without the garden and that I don't talk about that much: When something is coming in in force and I am not sure what to do with the next basket of corn or the huge colander full of lettuce or the tomatoes that are not going to fit in the dehydrator, that's what we eat. It's free, it's there, it's fresh and we have more than we can shake a stick at, so it's what's on the menu. All day, every day. Until I've caught up.

Those months are the ones where the grocery budget is mostly spent on filling the freezer with meats that are otherwise not on the menu and on improvements to the garden that are not in the budget otherwise and on putting money aside to pay for the food we eat on vacation. It takes planning and pinching and sometimes eating salad for a week straight until the Hubbin thinks he's gonna turn green while I am considering making lettuce sandwiches for his lunch and how I can sneak some fresh cucumbers into his diet despite his refusal to eat them non-pickled and can I get him to eat peanut buttered swiss chard stalks one more day... but it's what works for us :)

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fall quicky update, sorry, no pics and a shameless product promotion

I have been traveling for my new job so much that I am basically either on the road, unpacking, packing, doing laundry or trying to catch up to all the wonderful autumn bounty that my garden is producing and keeping the fridge stocked with home cooked MREs for the hubbin, so he doesn't resort to frozen pizza too often ;)

On the saving front: We have switched our cell phone provider to Ting and WE LOVE IT. Reliable signal and at this point our average bill is less than a third of what it was, with no loss of services that I can detect. For us (2 smartphones, both used for work and play) that's a savings of over $120 a month, so definitely not to be sneezed at. (and if you check it out via that link up there and decide it's for you, you get $25 toward Ting devices or services, if you can port your device, which seems likely from what I've seen ;) )

I promise that once things slow down a bit I will catch up and post about all the things that are bubbling, dehydrating, frozen, cooked, seedsaved, planted (peas and radishes and lettuce and colecrops oh, MY), root cellared and otherwise going on between trips.

For now a quick rundown of what I have in my brain at this moment:

I had a missing cat, he came home after a week, tired, hungry and skinnier than I've ever seen him (YEAH!)

I lied, there's a picture of the prodigal furbaby

Corn harvest is in, 3 varieties eliminated for just not being all that, 9 will be re-planted next year. We will not be doing the 3 sisters, which while wonderful and interesting seems to not work all that well for us in our garden setting, so row planting it is.

Complete failure of the squashes. And I mean we have nothing, nada, zip out of well over 40 plants that all looked beautiful and were popping with flowers galore and set micro squashlings in droves, so it's most likely a pollination issues, which means a bee hive for next spring.

Next years pole beans will be climbing the over 10 foot tall sunflowers that we had this year, can't wait to try that, think that will be just breathtaking with the bright yellow sunflowers and the purple and pink bean flowers and purple pods I have in there (squigg)

Quinoa did beautiful for the first time this year, we harvested too early and I don't think we have viable seed, but that's OK, we will have some next year.

Had (had? HA! Still having) an amazing year for peppers. Some of the varieties I have been trying for a few years now have for the first time borne fruit. And the reward for not giving up on heirloom peppers: DEEEE-licious. White bullnose that are so creamy they taste like they are buttered fresh off the plant, chocolate peppers that are so sweet they are almost like candy (ask me about chocolate bell peppers and chocolate cherry tomatoes in a red leaf lettuce salad...)

And last, but certainly not least, I seem to have finally overcome my lifelong (and often poked at) propensity toward killing mint: All 8 varieties are doing well and spreading like wildfire in their designated and contained spots.

There's more, but lunch is over, so that's all I have for now.
Happy Pinching