Back to My CSA

January 18, 2011

Back in March of last year, Charlie and I started an ambitious project. We were going to use John Jeavons’ Grow BioIntensive method to try and grow all of our vegetables. We decided not to renew our CSA. We had been buying from our CSA for several years, so this was quite a step for us. We loved the high quality and wonderful variety that Two Small Farms provided us. I already gave it away in the title of the post- we’re going back to our CSA. Yes, we’ve just moved, and I no longer have my wonderful garden. But, even if we still lived in our house in Belmont with the great garden, we would still be going back to our CSA. Here are some things that we learned last year in terms of the Biointensive method, gardening in general and our relationship with our garden:

  • Biointensive gardening was too intensive for us.  I love Jeavons’ methods.  Truly, they do provide a way for the developing world to raise their own food in a sustainable way.  But, the amount of work that is required for this method was just too much for us.
  • I’ll reveal my inner lazy slug.  I pretty much want to garden on my own terms.  When my basil is flowering, I’ll get to it when I get to it.  In case you don’t already know this, flowering is your enemy- it’s the plant’s attempt to reproduce before it dies.  So, with basil, when it’s doing well, part of maintaining the plant is keeping all the flower heads pinched off.  When I feel like gardening, it’s great.  But, I don’t want to have to cut back my basil when I don’t want to cut back my basil.  I know.  Lazy slug.
  • Double digging, which is one of the pillars of the Biointensive method, is a ton of work.  A TON.  They say you don’t have to do it that often.  But, seriously, back-breaking.  Those who say that I’m not doing it right and that it’s all about technique truly probably don’t have a temperamental back like I do.
  • It’s really hard to get the variety in your back yard that you get from a good CSA.  I found myself buying much more produce from the grocery store,  which often said “grown in the USA” on the label.  Seriously?!  That’s all you can give me?  Grown in the USA?  Can’t you at least give me a state?  With grocery store produce, I can’t ask questions about the practices of the growers.  It’s also difficult to know anything about how they treat their employees.   For the most part, I really don’t want to spend my money on grocery store produce.  More on this later . . .
  • I love the way that a CSA structures our family’s eating.  Basically, with a CSA, we eat around what comes in the box.  Which means that we get a terrific variety, and we try things that we would have never tried.

So, there it is.  All in all, trying to raise all our food ourselves was more work than we could keep up with.  There is so much that I love about growing my own food, which is why I’ll probably always be growing a portion of it.   I love seeing my kids pick and eat their own peas.  I love cutting my lettuce five minutes before I eat it.  But, it’s nice not to have to grow all of it.  This year, for the most part, I’m going to leave my veggie growing to my wonderful CSA, Two Small Farms.  We’ll probably try to raise all our own veggies again at some point, taking the aspects of Biointensive gardening that worked for us.  But, for this year, I’m going to enjoy picking up my veggies each week and letting Elizabeth eat the strawberries in the car on the way home.

Garden Markers

January 16, 2011

I wanted to share these super cute garden markers with you. I love them. They’re home-made from mostly re-purposed materials. I saw them when I went to Hidden Villa with the children back in September. Hidden Villa has a wonderful teaching garden, where they bring school groups in to talk about gardening, nutrition, and a host of other topics. Their garden is divided into wonderful little plots where they use these markers. The stake that goes into the ground stays in place. Each stake has a sturdy cup hook screwed into the top where the signs hang. Then, each sign has a metal loop screwed into it so that you can hang the sign on the stake. Let me know if you have questions.

Love the sign below, too!

My November Garden

November 9, 2010

We have our house on the market, so the yard has been tidied up quite a bit. I thought I would show you what it looks like. First of all, I sold out and planted grass. It looks great, and the kids love it. But, it’s very, very thirsty. Not a big deal in many parts of the country. Here in California, it doesn’t rain from roughly April through September- so plants have to be irrigated during this time. All our water comes from melting snow pack in the Sierra Nevada range. As weather patterns change, our choices for what to plant are becoming more important. This is the reason that I’ve favored drought tolerant plants up to this point. It’s also the reason for my guilt over planting grass.

You can see over on the right hand side that my husband has built a permanent place to compost. I’m loving that! He has the doors for it built- they just need to be attached. So, so nice.

Bok Choy

Lettuce

Arugula

Chard

We also have onions planted, along with cover crops (rye, vetch, buckwheat and bell beans). And, I’m going to be planting beets. Because I really can’t think of anything better than roasted beets with arugula and goat cheese- yum!

I read a great article yesterday about a 14 year old girl in Michigan who started a small CSA.

I love it when teens have meaningful work. Something important that they are doing with their time. I love this for so many reasons. It shreds the idea of the surly teen who has nothing better to do than cruise the mall in their spare time. I think that meaningful work also builds self esteem.

My thinking on adolescence has been heavily influenced by my sister Betsy, my tutor Mardi at L’Abri and Donald Miller‘s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”. My sister has told me many times how much they’ve loved parenting through the teen years. Not being glib- there are rough spots, to be sure. But, both she and her husband Steve have loved raising their boys through adolescence. I mention this as a part of the equation because it runs counter to the common idea by adults that parenting through the teen years is to be dreaded. My tutor Mardi from L’Abri lectured about how in the past, teens had meaningful work from an early age. They were important contributors to society who had a lot of responsibility.

Then, in Donald Miller’s book he told a story about a young girl whose parents were very concerned about her. They had found drugs in her room, and she had a boyfriend who was completely disrespectful. The dad was so concerned about the trajectory of her life that he put a second mortgage on their house so that they could build an orphanage in Mexico. Wow. He wanted to give their daughter something important to do- a better story to tell. As they prepared to leave for Mexico, the daughter started doing fund raising for the orphanage- engaged in the cause that her family was now living for. She broke up with the boyfriend. Her dad said that “no girl who plays the role of a hero dates a guy who uses her. She knows who she is. She just forgot for a little while.” I hope to instill this same value into my children. We have one life to live on this planet- make it count. I’m not telling you to take out a second mortgage on your house, but I do think that it’s important that we help our kids find their way in leading a meaningful life.

So, I loved this article that my friend Linnaea sent to me from the New York Times Magazine. Click here if you’re interested in reading about what this young girl has done. I love the way that the journalist captured the contrast between her 14 year-old voice, and her very grown-up accomplishments. It’s also clear that this young woman has been mentored by her parents. She’s providing local food and solving an environmental problem at the same time.

Well, there are a lot of options when life hands you apples. Galette, sauce, pie, crumble, cobbler, cake- really, you can’t go wrong. This time, we made apple sauce.

A big thank you to my neighbor Julien, who started this whole adventure. His tree is so heavy with fruit right now that he called us to see if we would be interested in coming to pick apples. Yes! Absolutely!

The next day, we were planning to have my friends Leanne and Sarah over with their girls to play. I thought that it would be fun to make apple sauce. It’s so, so simple.

First, cut the apples into chunks. Any bad spots go into the compost. I leave the seeds, stems and skins on.

Next, throw the apples into a big pot on medium heat. You can use apple juice or water to help the apples begin to steam- then, they’ll begin to release their own juice to cook in.

Continue cooking on medium to low heat until the apples are very soft (actually, I was going to say mooshy- which is a way better word than soft).

Once the apples are cooked, use a food mill to remove the skins and seeds.

And here’s the finished product:

You can add cinnamon if you want. Also, with early apples like these, the sauce is a bit tart. More apple juice while cooking would have sweetened it up a bit. But, adding a little honey also works.

It’s a fun process and a yummy product. So much more fun to make when you have friends to help you with the work- and the eating!

Food Forward

July 26, 2010

Check out this new show called Food Forward. They’re still trying to get funding to air the first show. The clip features Joe Morris, the man I’ve been buying my beef from for the last three years. Shows people who are doing very, very cool things in the sustainable food movement.

The Garden in July

July 22, 2010

I love my summertime garden! July is absolutely glorious. I’ll tell the story with pictures.

I have to start with the girls. Here, they’re going crazy after I’ve turned the compost. Worms, pill bugs, earwigs and beetles- a veritable feast!

The corn is really tall- over my head. The squirrels are already tearing into the ears. If only bee bee guns were legal in Belmont . . . I know, I know, all my animal loving friends- but they’re eating my veggies!

The tomatoes are getting bigger. I’m probably a month away from getting good tomatoes.

Who knew that artichoke blossoms were so beautiful?

The sunflowers are absolutely spectacular. Way over my head- maybe eight to ten feet tall. Why haven’t I grown these beauties before??? I was concerned about the wind toppling them over. But, they’ve done very well!

The green beans are blossoming.

And we’re starting to get a few beans.

Truly, July is glorious- I love gardening!!!