The flurries have begun and the 2015 garden $$ totals are in…Picked (but not so much planted) Sept 22nd – Nov 18th

The garden is tucked in for the impending winter season.  Will it be soft, gentle, fluffy and peaceful or a raging onslaught of freezing rain, blizzards and hurricane speed winds?  In Nova Scotia one never knows.  I have been holding off on doing the final tally of what we picked, weighed and calculated this season thinking that we would have stopped bringing in a regular harvest long before now.  But blessings be acknowledged, the girls continued to haul in buckets of treasures up until last weekend!  We did have to buy some tender veggies and extra salad greens from the market last week – the first real time since June!!  There are still beets, carrots, kale, chard, leeks, onions and mixed greens tucked under hoop tunnels and snuggled under frost blankets for special treats between now and full freeze up, but I think it is safe to say that the majority of our harvest is now in! We had our first flurry today, winter is unavoidable.

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When we began asking ourselves how much we could be saving in produce, we never expected that the totals would be so high.  We also never anticipated the volume of veggies that we could actually consume as a family of four during 1 season, nor how much we would be able to freeze and jar to extend our feasting. And we certainly didn’t even stop to think about how much fun it would be to weigh, track and tally our bounty – who knew kids could get so excited about book keeping?!

 

In the end it is safe to say that this experience has been far more worthwhile to us than any actual $$ total.  It has taught us to be less wasteful by ensuring we consumed what we picked, less picky because even ugly cucumbers taste great and save us money and to be even more grateful for our ability to “shop” for dinner right in our own backyard.  It is amazing how much more we appreciated our own produce when we compared what the weekly prices were in the market for what the kids simply pulled out of the (non-chemically treated, clean earth, worm filled and flower kissed) dirt. Dirt is amazing!  And seeds, well they are just mind blowing. Really.

 

So without further adieu…..drumroll please…..the totals for Sept 22- Nov 18th of our 2015 season are:

Approx savings compared to local market: $972.75!!!!

Total since May 26th – $2355.45 WOW!!!

Total weight picked this period: 136.09 pounds!!  That is almost as much as I weigh….

Total to date: 341.15 pounds (That is a lot of veggies!!!)

These totals are compared to local produce when possible but not specifically organic produce – we would prefer to eat local than purchase organic food that has had to travel very long distances, using wasteful packaging and not being allowed to ripen to perfect.  We do use organic methods in our own garden, so the estimated savings would likely be much more significant had we compared to local AND organic produce!  Not to mention the savings in jams, jellies, spreads, sauces, salsas, dried and frozen herbs, saved seeds, compost, cut flowers…you get the picture!

 

Dollars and cents may speak to some, time outdoors and exercise to others, quality conversations and relationship building to most…how do we put a price on the value of our family garden?!

 

 

 

EPIC Tomato Identification Error! HELP!!

We have discovered an epic error in tomato identification during our tomato taste-off….

Back in the early Spring when little hands were seeding they were very careful to label each seed tray (even if she did plant faaaaaaar too many seeds).

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These little hands wrote out over 100 little tags so each tomato seedling would have a name under the lights.

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Each little tag got placed very carefully next to the plants for whom they had been so carefully made.

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Yet SOMEHOW during our Taste-off, we misidentified one of our favourites.  The second place finalist to be specific.  Each plant in the garden bearing this fruit had the same tag on it leading us to believe that either the seed tray had been tagged in error (that could not have possibly happened with a seven year old running the show, could it?!) OR the seed packet had the wrong type of seed in it. That had to be it, surely…

We realized the mistake just the other day when we researching whether “Mennonite” tomatoes were open pollinated so that we could save some seed from it.  It turns out that “Mennonite” is actually called “Mennonite Orange”. OOPS.  We dug through the old packets and sure enough, the envelope and Incredible Seeds website clearly states, “The Mennonite Orange Heirloom Tomato is most certainly one of the top slicer tomatoes! This large, bright orange tomato is very pretty inside & out with even colour through the skin & flesh. Mennonite Orange is very juicy, very flavourful & so sweet its almost fruity. Super! Another fave! 4-5’ plants require support.” I bet it is….but I wouldn’t know!

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Our “Mennonite” tomatoes are not orange.  At all.  So in fairness and open honesty – our second place winner in the 2015 Tomato Taste Off goes to….NOT A CLUE!!!

Does anyone know what type of tomato this may be?  We are going to save some seeds and keep our fingers crossed, because whatever it is, it is Yummy!!

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“If confusion is the first step towards knowledge, I must be a genius!” ~ Larry Leissner

Eating Local – Rainbow Hodge Podge

I love Hodge Podge, an East Coast traditional vegetable soup/chowder of sorts.  It celebrates simplicity, deliciousness and fresh garden treasures.  There are many ways to make Hodge Podge, but in honour of my wee girl’s delight in planting pink and purple veggies, we made a rainbow version today with what we could pick fresh this morning.  Being a wee bit different with the pink and purple beans and carrots, we thought it would be okay the break the rules a bit further and add a red onion and a few chives. The great part about hodge hodge is that there is no real rules, you throw stuff in the pot as you prep the next step (and if you are really good you can even have a batch of biscuits in and baked by the time the process is done!)  And the best part – it is almost completely sourced from the backyard or a local market this time of year; the slat and pepper are the only renegades!

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Here is our recipe(ish)

From the Garden:

1 Red onion, chopped fine

3 cups Pink Chieftain Potatoes, chopped chunky

2 cups Purple Gem Potatoes, chopped chunky

A handful of chives

3 cups Orange, purple and white carrots, cut chunky

3 cups Pink, purple and green beans, snapped

Snap peas (as many as I could salvage)

From the Store:

1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream, 2 1/2 cups milk – that is what we had in the fridge (or half and half) – Local!

1/4 cup Real Butter –  Local!

Salt and Pepper

From the family – Grandma’s Butter Biscuits 

Sorry, this one is top secret!

How we did it:

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Simmer the onions in butter until clear (ish)

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Add chopped potatoes and chives, add water just to cover. Bring to gentle boil until the carrots are chopped.

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Add the carrots, cook for 5-10 minutes, then add the beans and reduce the heat.

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While the carrots are cooking – prep the biscuits (only knead 20 times – 21 would be against the time honoured rules!!)

Once the beans go in, cook for 10 minutes and put the biscuits in the oven (mine stay in 16 minutes).

Once the beans are just tender, drain off the water.  Add the milk, cream, 1/4 cup of butter and as much salt and pepper as needed to taste.

Heat over medium low heat to hot (the biscuits should be done just on time!).  Do not boil.

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Of course, the biscuits are for dunking…if they last!!

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They don’t last long in our house….

End of the Month Garden Tour – August was a BIG month!!!

Whoa!  August was a BIG month for us on many fronts.  We took a big 2 week vacation to Cape Breton with our extended family and friends and we left the garden alone to fend for itself for 2 weeks (thank you to my Mama who dropped over to pick and weigh our goodies).  Being able to spend 2 full weeks as a family, surrounded by friends, in the gorgeous outdoors and the freedom of being unplugged was a BIG blessing for us all. We had plenty of time to splash, hike, play, pick wild berries and visit many wonderful sites, including an heirloom 1744 garden tour (I posted about this the other night because it was really neat)!

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Lots of grass and weeds…

We returned to a lot of veggies waiting to be picked and a lot of BIG weeds around the plants without mulch or plastic film.  Thankfully the combination of mulch and the timer on the sprinkler worked well to keep everything healthy and happy! Before we left, we filled our picking buckets, loaded them into our truck and had plenty of fresh veggies for 2 weeks.  We were both pleased and surprised to find the entire countertop on the BIG kitchen island was covered with a great variety of garden treasures, including Kale, which we are trying very hard to learn to love…

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Big harvests before and after our vacation

We have decided to spend this year weighing and tracking the savings that come out of our garden in order to share with others some of the BIG benefits besides health and stress release that growing some of your own food can provide.  We are blessed to have enough garden space to nearly negate the need to buy produce from May until at least October and freezing/preserving allows us to enjoy our own food long after the snow flies. I would call our garden a “medium” sized garden – 46 feet by 24 feet, but certainly growing in any sized “garden” that we have had the pleasure of nurturing; from a few small pots, to multiple pots on a trailer (yup, I took my garden with me one summer when we had to move!!) right to a permastructure designed to last for years, has been extremely fulfilling. By weighing and tracking cost savings, the kids are secretly doing math and book keeping on top of learning about sustainability. That is a BIG deal for kids who openly declare their disdane for math homework. Since our minions…ahem…children have been big enough to help, they have always played in the dirt and it is so rewarding to watch them learn about their food sources, the science and art behind it and the passing of seasons and life. Now they are learning about budgets too!

The BIG part of this experiment is that this month, we were featured in MoneySense Magazine!!!  The girls were soooooooo excited to see themselves in print in a National magazine and to share with their friends!  We can’t share that link because of copyright stuff, but you could always pick up a copy or look at the online version in the “How I did it” section.

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The photoshoot was a big deal, but seeing themselves in a magazine was a way bigger deal!

On top of the magazine being published, they were also on the radio yesterday on the Weekend Gardener with Niki Jabbour, which pretty much blew their minds!  Here is the link if anyone would like to share, it is a BIG deal for our family and a pretty neat way for other kids to hear how exciting getting involved in a family garden can be!  Really. We are the 10:30 time slot, but the whole show is always great if you have time to listen.

Finally, as my husband would quote, we are “Putting up some big numbers, big numbers folks!”  I totalled up our weight and savings for August (see Picked and Planted – August 5th to 29th for more details) and we had picked over 100 pounds of produce and saved nearly $500 dollars this month alone!  That was a big shock and reaffirmed how important it is to us to grow our own.

Lastly on the BIG theme, we have set a big family eating goal for the month of September by joining the 50% Local September Club.  It is a local movement encouraging people to eat 50% local for the month. That can be 50% by weight, percentage of ingredients, purchasing etc, but it forces us to look at what we eat, where it came from and how much of a footprint it leaves.  The girls have already looked very hard at the pre-packaged granola bars when reaching for a snack and are asking some very mature questions, makes me proud.  I don’t think eating local will be a problem, you can’t get much more local than your own backyard.  I do foresee some interesting decision making at the supermarket when picking out dairy, meat and other staples that cost will play a part in.  That said, I was very pleased to see how easy it was to find products from our own province by paying a bit more attention to the labels, it is worth the extra seconds.

I think that is a BIG enough ramble for August, see you next month!  I have a big job to do planting the fall veggies and getting the frost blankets a hoop tunnels out again soon…but for now I will procrastinate reading the Garden Share Collective and the End of The Month Views posts!

Picked and Planted – August 5th-29th

These past weeks we picked:

A whole lot of everything!!  We have had a constant supply of everything from the past month, including a reintroduction of radish from the second planting, some random lettuces and especially exciting was the addition of tomatoes and tomatillos! I love tomatoes so much, I did a special post just on them…yup, love ’em!

August was a big month – we picked a lot, we saved a lot, we jammed and baked a lot while on vacation and since being home, we have frozen a lot.  My hubby is thoroughly enjoying the quote ” We are putting up some big numbers, big numbers…” I can’t argue!

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Onions

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Herbs and garlic

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All sorts of colourful carrots – no better way to get little ones to eat veggies than to let them pick out their favourite colours and plant them!

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Carrots are not the only the only veggies that come in multi-colour!  We have been picking green, yellow, pink, purple and speckled beans in all shapes and sizes.

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Magically, rhubarb has continued to produce in the shade.  We froze 16 cups so far for the winter.

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Apples are almost ripe – we picked 5 pounds in advance of the deer, hopefully we didn’t pick them too early…

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Our favourite root veggie – beets!  So delicious steamed or roasted.

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And what good are tomatoes and basil without cucumbers for greek salad?

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And not to be forgotten…TOMATOES!!!!

WOW!  What a month!!!

Approx savings compared to local market: 495.89!!

Total since May 26th – $1118.46

Total weight picked this period: 103.31 pounds!!  That is more than my 12 year old – our minds are blown!

Total to date: 232.59 pounds

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This was our first massive picking before we left on vacation – the picking buckets get loaded into the truck with everything else so we don’t have to go to the store during our holidays.

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This was our second big picking after holidays for the freezer and storage!

A few notes – 1. Prices are calculated by comparing to the price of non-organic, (local when possible) produce at the local grocery store that we stop at the most.  We usually buy our produce (when our hand is forced) at a local veggie market that is mostly organic and spray free, but tends to be more expensive and has less selection.  We chose to compare to the supermarket as it was more reflective of what most people would buy and what I could quickly take a picture of with my camera when grabbing the weekly essentials without an extra trip. If I cannot find what we grew (market turnip, tomatillos etc.), I will call the specialty market in Halifax for their prices. These costs do not factor in the price of what the produce becomes (jams, pies, baking, salsa, pickles etc.), simply the raw food we pick. I suspect our savings would be almost double if we compared to organic or final products!

2. Since May 26th, we have purchased 2 pounds of tomatoes, 6 cucumbers, 1 bag of potatoes, 8 bunches of bananas, 3 watermelons and 1 pineapple. Everything else has come from our garden or our weekly fruit share from Tap Root/Noggins CSA.  Not bad, if I do say so myself!!!

3. We record everything by hand after weighing our picking buckets with a digital fish scale.  The kids are getting to be very good little book keepers!  We are not separating by variety of tomato, bean, kale etc. but we are separating by type of veggie.  Maybe next year…

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My wee book keeper.

These past weeks we planted:

Zippo.  Vacation and work got the best of us!  That said, we finally pulled out the peas today and made space for all the fall greens we hope to plant tomorrow and later this week. Stay tuned!

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(Taken right after we got home – in desperate need of a mow and a lot of weeding!)

Tree Following – My wee girl’s Magnolia in July

Hi everybody, this is my tree in July!  Hope you like it, I took the pictures all by myself!

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My tree is happy this month, can’t you see?!

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This is a white flower, isn’t it pretty?  Can you see the brown flower? This is what it looks like when it is dried out.

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The spiky thing is the bud when the flower is all done, it is weird isn’t it?

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These are it’s leaves, they are happy and they are pretty.

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This is it’s bark. I don’t know what the little dots on it are.

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This is it’s beautiful flower, it makes me smile!  do you like the red in it?

See you next month!

Tree Following – My Wee Girl’s Magnolia in June

My tree is getting bigger!  It is bigger than last month! This picture is from far away.  It has friends, a blackberry, a maple and a spruce. It is very happy this month!

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These are it’s babies, they are buds. There are lots of buds but there are no flowers yet.

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This is it’s bark that protects all of the branches, leaves and buds.

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These are it’s leaves, the buds grow on them.  I think that there is 100 leaves. Wait, I don’t know?! Actually, I think there are 97 leaves…

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See you next month!!!

Beautiful Blooms – June 7th

The sun came out today after a cold, rainy week and with it some more beautiful blooms to enjoy with a Sunday morning cup of coffee!  We even found our very first tomato blossom this morning smiling at the sunshine, that means some yummy tomatoes are on the way.  Most of the pictures were taken by my girls this week, which certainly adds a new perspective to the blossoms in the garden and in the woods. I love getting to see what they see through their sweet little eyes. Happy Sunday to everyone!

“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.” ~ Unknown

Little hands, Big hopes and a few Mama tears…

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Once again I have had to let go, just a bit. Once again I have had to concede control and watch as my wee girl grew seemingly just a bit bigger in front of my eyes.  Once again, I have to swallow deeply, choke back a (perhaps hormonally driven) tear and lump in my throat as she took another step towards independence.

My rational mind knows that they are only flower planters on a porch. My rational mind knows that we have been planting flowers together for years now, and even at 7, she has more passion for pretty living things than most will develop over a lifetime. I know in my rational mind that getting a bit teary over a kid planting some seedlings she carefully seeded, nurtured, watered and doted over for months is a bit silly.

I really do know, but I can’t help it.

This time, she didn’t need me. This time she didn’t want me to help with any of it. This time, she didn’t even want to plant anything I had brought home! She did it all by herself. And I could only watch, wondering when did she get so big, so capable and so independent?

But I couldn’t be more proud of her; it may have only been planters on the deck, but in the big scheme of things, it was so much more. And so one little tear may have been in part because my baby has disappeared and this amazing, gentle and smart  wee girl with a big heart has taken her place. And one little tear may be because she doesn’t need me as much anymore.  And one little tear may be because she is my last baby and I won’t get to have these firsts again.

But it is only planters on the deck after all.  And I was still the first person she wanted to show and couldn’t stop beaming at as she proudly pointed out her hard work, her plant babies and rambled on about her high hopes for them!

So there may have been one more little happy tear for that too.

Boy am I in trouble over the next few years!

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about” ~ Unknown

Tree Following – My Wee Girl’s Magnolia in May

This is the first month of my wee girl’s endeavour’s to “Follow a Tree“.  She selected a Magnolia from our back yard that the girl’s gave me for Mother’s Day 2 years ago.  I won’t say what variety it is until it blooms because it is really quite spectacular and she wants it to be a surprise!

Each month she will head outside and take a picture of this tree (at least until November, at which point it may get boring to watch, but we will see…maybe the snow accumulation will be interesting!)  Depending on her thoughts of the day, she may write down her observations about the buds, blossoms, leaves, bark, nibblings etc. or she may just post a picture.  This tree has yet to be named, so I suspect one of these months it will be!

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Here is her first picture (remember she is only 7, so it may not be centered or focussed, but I am not going to edit her work in any form, this is her personal project to learn from and reflect upon). She even picked her own quote this month! I think these little projects are such beautiful learning gems, I hope they get as much out of learning about their environment as I do from learning about them!

Early May has been cold, not much is happening…no big buds yet…hopefully June will bring some fun!

“We can learn a lot from trees; they’re always grounded, but never stop reaching heavenward.” ~Everett Mamor

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