I heart Freecycle!

It doesn't look like much, but this is actually around 70 98 (I counted while taking them out of the poor car) free bricks I can use for landscaping.  I can go back later in the week to get a few more, and some rocks the original homeowners want to get rid of as well.  The car was a bit loaded down at this point, so I decided to make more than one trip :)

There are 2 more large gardens the homeowners want to get rid of (complete with edging bricks), so those will be up for grabs as well, eventually.  Hell, given the wife has two small children and is expecting the third, soon, I might just offer to dig them out for her - once this heat breaks!  It took more than 45 minutes to load the car (really - these suckers are HEAVY, and I had to cart them from their backyard to my car, parked on the road), and I was literally DRENCHED with sweat when I was done.  It. Is. Hot.

But back to Freecycle.  You all know about Freecycle, right?  The site where people post unwanted items, for free, or post wanted items, to see if anyone has it to give away.  Did you note that this is all free?  As in no cost?  Gratis?  Free?

But the "free" isn't the best part of Freecycle.  The best part?  Keeping perfectly good items out of the landfill, and giving them to people who can actually use them.  Getting rid of your junk, and knowing someone else is finding it treasure.

Really - go sign up for your local one now.  They are all on yahoo groups (I think) - just google "Freecycle" plus the name of your city, and it should pop up.  I'll wait.  Go.  GO NOW!  Really.  Just do it.

Are you back?  Did you sign up?   Good!

In all seriousness, Freecycle has to be one of the BEST things on the web.  I joined the four local ones here about 2 years ago, and I admit - 99.9999% of the stuff posted is either stuff I'm not interested in, or stuff that is taken by the time I read about it (I get the daily digest, instead of individual posts, which means fewer e-mails, but more time lapsed between posts and my reading them, which means many things are already given away, but that's okay). 

To date, I've given away a lot of the extra flooring that was stored here when I bought the house (and no, I didn't want to keep it and try to re-use it - none of it was enough to do any one area, and I don't want either laminate or parquet anyhow), and I've received an "antique" dining room table plus six chairs - all solid wood, and while it needs to be refinished, it was free.  (And I'm thinking of getting it painted a glossy black, which I think will go really well with the almost-lime-green colour I'm painting the kitchen and dining room, but I haven't told anyone that yet, because people will think I'm nuts.  Maybe.  Still deciding on the black.  Pretty set on the green though.  Maybe.)


The bricks.  I'm telling you, these are heavy-duty bricks.  While I'm not the strongest person I know, I'm also not a 98-pound weakling, and I could only tote four of these at a time (partly because of the weight, partly because bricks are somewhat awkward to carry).   The lovely neighbour came out to help, once she saw what I was doing, and brought over a dolly to help.

We broke the dolly.  Sorry, lovely neighbour :(

So now, I have 98 bricks to use around the place.  Stay tuned for future projects.....

CSA Basket 4 of 10

Ooooh, two photos in a row!  I'm on a roll :)

This week, we got more garlic (yeah!!), green onions, new potatoes, cucumbers, a zuchinni zucchinni zucchini, carrots, green tomatoes, plums and, best of all, the first sweet corn of the year!!!

The tomatoes came with a recipe for fried green tomatoes, so that is what they are destined for, the cuckes have a date with some vinegar and salt, the taters and carrots, along with some beets from my garden, are probably going in a baked veggie dish, the zuchinni zucchinni zucchini and green onions might end up as fritters, and the corn?


You have to ask?

The corn is the ONLY reason I will boil a pot of water in this heat!

Stop with the socks already!!

My name is not Dobby, and if you give me one more sock, I'm going to chew it up*

Poor Katy.  I shaved her down, since she doesn't like either the heat or grooming, and she's been putting up with not-so-nice comments ever since.  Good thing fur grows back :)

* It's a Harry Potter thing.  Really, you should read the books. 

Great Beet Sea*

Last year, in some round about way, I heard about Linda of Tree and Twig Farm, heirloom vegetable grower, tomato lover and owner of a local organic farm operation.  I've been following her blog, and had to stop myself from spending a small fortune on seeds from her this spring.  Due to a hectic winter, I didn't get any tomatoes or peppers started from seed this year, so on the great May 24 weekend, I hied myself to Wellandport and, after recovering from the shock of seeing that many tomato plants in one space, picked up some tomato and  pepper plants.  And some bean seed.  Because a woman can never have too much seed.  Anyhow...

So, when Linda announced she was giving away free beet seed for the great beet challenge of 2011, I was in like Flynn. 

Tonight, I weeded the area where lettuce and radishes grew this spring, and planted 12 rows of beets, all about 4" apart, in my raised beds which are filled with a mixture of top soil and compost.  No additional fertilizer or inputs of any sort,  and the one drawback of this is the area is on the north side of the small corn patch - while it will get good morning sun, it is quite shaded all afternoon.  However, that's the only free spot in the garden, so it was the best spot available :)

Linda's blog gives a bit more information about the challenge and beets (seed cluster?  I never knew that!), and the comment section has some links to other participants. 

And so, the countdown to September 18 begins... game on!!!

Oh, one more thing.  If you live in the area, and want to support local agriculture, give Linda a try!  (Well, not Linda herself, of course...).  Because, really, who else do you know gives away well over 200 beets to complete strangers (I still have over half the pack left!!)?  Thanks Linda!  And oh, do you have any of that Mrocumiere seed left?  Or the Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce?  Potimarron?  Or Sibley?  Or... sigh.  So many seeds, so little space...

*I've seen them twice in concert - incredible.  Oh, wait.  That's Great Big Sea.  My bad :)

My inclusion in the Crazy Dog Lady Club is now official.

I finally went to the eye doctor, and got a check-up and new prescription.  Considering my regular glasses were around 4 years old, and my sunglasses even older, it was time.  I really don't like picking out new frames, but, for some strange reason, I had NO problem picking out these sunglasses...

What's that on the arm...
What the....

Yep, it's official.  I really am a crazy dog lady.  I expect to get the official certificate in the mail any day now.

CSA Basket 3 of 10

Hey!  At last, a picture of my CSA haul*! 

This week, we got kale and chard, a large bag of mixed greens, green onions, 2 HUGE bulbs of garlic, oregano, shell peas, cherries (YUM!) and the oddity of the week - radish pods!

The farm included a sheet on the pods, with different uses, preparation methods, storage and health benefits.  Makes me wish I didn't just pull up all my bolting radishes :(

One preparation method is pickling, so I think that's what I'll do.  The peas, garlic (well, some of it) and the oregano might star in a pasta dish (I'm debating using the peas for this - might do another curry for work lunches,  since I still have some potatoes kicking around that I want to use up before my own start producing), the chard and kale made it into my breakfast egg dish yesterday, the greens and onions will be used in salads, of course (still loving the chive vinegar!), and the cherries... well, let's just say they aren't long for this world :)

I also picked up a 4 quart basket of cherries yesterday (from a local fruit stand) that have an appointment with  Mr. Dehydrator.  Busy weekend, as always!

* I don't know what happened in the picture, but the peas are MUCH better looking in person!

Wordless Wednesdays - July 6, 2011

Iris, bought at the "year end" sales last summer, and plopped in the vegetable garden for now.  And did you really think I could publish a picture without dogs?  :)

Give peas a chance*

I planted both shell and snow peas this year, with only one problem - I forgot to label which was which.  No big problem, except now I can't tell them apart.  They are both producing really well, and yet, neither patch has pods that are filling out, so I've just been harvesting both as "snow" peas - yum.

I ended up buying some shell peas at the Farmer's Market on Saturday, since they were there.  I then came home, and picked my snow peas.  Today, I cleaned both batches, and looked at the results:

"Waste" from the home-grown snow peas vs. yield of the shell peas

"Waste" from the shell peas, vs. yield of the snow peas

It also took me almost twice as long to shuck the shell peas than it took to cut the tops off the snow peas.  Now, I'm not the fastest shucker east of the Pecos, but still...

I decided to weigh everything, just out of curiosity.  Shell peas - 24 grams peas, 390 g waste!  Snow peas - 208 g peas, 22 grams waste!!

I can't stand seeing that much waste with the shell peas, even though it can be used to make stock, then get chucked in the compost.  Snow peas just seem more... efficient to me, in terms of work and yield.

Of course, yield isn't the only thing to think about.  What about nutrients, especially protein?  From the USDA Nutrient database (a very handy site, btw):

Per 100 g:

Snow peas:  2.80 g protein, 42 calories = 6.7 g protein per 100 calories

Shell peas:  5.42 g protein, 81 calories = 6.7 g protein per 100 calories

Per gram, shell peas have more protein, but also have more calories.  Per calorie, both types of peas have the same amount of protein. 

So why grow both?  They have very different uses, and as much as I love snow peas (especially raw, straight off the plant), I prefer to use shell peas in soups.

And besides - Dad would disown me if I didn't grow shell peas for him to eat.  Raw, straight off the plant.  I come by my weirdness naturally :)

*yeah, yeah, I know.  Old joke.  Gimme a break - I just spent the last four days working like a mad woman.  I need a weekend to recover from my weekend!

I do not own, and never have owned, a pair of Birkenstocks.

I figured it was about time.  Long past time, in fact.  It seems granola is one of the baby steps most people take on their way to eating healthier, local, sustainable, green, whatever.  And although I eat granola and yoghurt almost every day, either as breakfast or as a mid-morning snack, I haven't, up to now, actually made any.  As I'm almost out of store-bought granola, I figured now was as good a time as any.

And of course, you should know by now that I tend not to follow recipes.

What I do follow, mostly, is ratios.  If you know it's 8 parts oats, 4 parts add-ins, 1 part sweetener and 1 part oil, then your granola options increase dramatically - both in ingredients and in scale.  Much more freedom for experimentation than a recipe that tells you to the teaspoon what to add!

This is what I used, but really, feel free to change it :)

8 cups rolled oats
1 & 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 & 1/2 cups ground flax
1 cups raw sesame seeds
1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt (most definitely NOT Tablespoons, not that anyone would ever make that mistake.  Of course not.  But, if one did, one would be happy one used sea salt, and added it to the oil, and thus could strain most of it out before it dissolved.  Ahem.  Carry on, nothing to see here.)
1 c maple syrup (I used 3/4 c of regular, and 1/4 c of this most excellent dark local syrup)
1 c vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cinnamon (and not cumin, although, once again, no one would ever make that mistake, or be thankful that one actually looked at the label before adding.  It's a wonder that one is allowed in a kitchen most days.)
1 tablespoon vanilla

Mix the oats and other dry add-in in a large (really large) bowl.  Combine the salt, sweetener, oil and spices, bring to a boil, them pour over the oat mixture and stir well to combine.  Place on a parchment-lines baking sheet in a thin layer (I ended up doing this in three separate batches - don't try to bake it all in one go!), and bake in a 250 F oven for 20-25 minutes, stirring mid-way.

How do you tell when it's done?  Damned if I know.  If it smells burnt, it's over done, so you want to get it out of the over before that.  I took it out when it was dry-looking, and the oats, while still chewy, were more toasted-looking than the uncooked ones.  I'm sure you can under-cook granola, but I know you can over-cook it, and I'd rather have mine a bit chewy rather than a bit burnt.

Cool, store in an air-tight container, and depending on how much you made, and how fast you eat it, think about storing it in the fridge or freezer.

Oh, and after it's cooked, feel free to add dried fruit.  I didn't this time, since in the summer I often have fresh fruit to eat it with (like stewed rhubarb from the CSA basket, sweetened with more of that delicious dark maple syrup!).

So, how much did it cost me?

Rolled oats: ~$1.50 (I estimate I used ~3/4 of what I bought, so this is an estimate)
Wheat bran: ~$.20 (again, I didn't use all of it, but this stuff is ridiculously cheap!)
Ground flax: $0.61
Sesame seeds: ~$0.80 (ditto not using it all)
Maple syrup: ~$5.00, based on the price of a litre of local syrup.
Salt, oil and spices all from the pantry

So, a total of around $8.50 if you added in the pantry items.  Around here, a 750 g box of granola costs at least $5.00 ($0.67 per 100 g), and I made MUCH more than 750 g - closer to 1700 g ($0.50 per 100 g).  So it is a bit cheaper, but of course, that doesn't take into account my time or the energy for the oven.  However, I know what's in my granola, and it most definitely does NOT include those "puffed" rice bits most commercial granolas seem to have these days!  My granola also doesn't include nuts.  Nuts would increase the cost, obviously, but you could reduce the cost by using a mixture of sweeteners instead of straight maple syrup.  A combination of molasses and white sugar would be tasty and cheaper, and you could always add some maple syrup or honey for taste.

Granola with yoghurt and stewed local rhubarb sweetened with local maple syrup.

Will I do this again?  Of course!  It's incredibly easy, and quick, other than the baking time (which can be reduced by using more than one pan at a time!)  I love the adaptability of home-made granola as well - what you eat is limited only by your imagination, instead of what a company thinks you should eat.


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