Why "green living" is like going to the dentist

I went to the dentist this week for a cleaning, and while I was laying there withstanding the torture process, I started thinking about the things we do that, while painful, are for our own good.

Like dental cleanings.

Because, really, if we did that to people without their consent it would be considered torture. But most of us not only do it willingly, we pay for the pleasure.

Exactly like trying to live a greener, more sustainable life.

It's easier to buy a box of Kraft Dinner (on sale, of course) than trying to make my own.

It's cheaper to stock up on canned tomatoes, rather than the whole, never-ending process of growing my own - saving seeds, starting them inside, hardening them off, planting, weeding, harvesting, preserving, and then the whole thing starts all over again with seed saving.

Canned beans are on sale for less than a dollar - why grow my own?

Who really wants to live on potatoes and kale for an entire year?

Why spend an entire weekend trying to learn how to make soap, when I can buy it at Walmart?


Because, for me, it's the right thing to do. Because the long-term benefits outweigh the momentary discomfort. Because I don't think we can continue to live like we are, and I'd rather be prepared for the coming changes than surprised at them . Because we have no other option but to live within our means, both financial and environmental.

And besides, I like gardening, even when it gets me a splinter under my thumb :)

So yes, even though some things are hard, and expensive, and at times painful, I know they are worth doing. And I know that I am trying something that is worthwhile, even if I do not succeed. It's the trying that's important.

On this day, the fifth anniversary of Earth Hour, think about how you can live a greener life. You do not have to completely revamp your lifestyle - every little bit helps, and small successes pave the way for larger changes. So celebrate Earth Hour this year not only by turning off, but by tuning into to changes you want to make the rest of the year.

And remember - go see your dentist. Your teeth will thank you for it :)

Independence Days Challenge - Week 8

1. Plant Something.

Tomato and pepper seeds. Nothing outside this week - it's either been too cold or too wet or both :( Then again, it IS still March!

2. Harvest Something.

The first harvest of chives and the tops from my walking onions. Yes, I know it's March, and that is insane. I should have harvested the largest of the asparagus as well (even though it was still small) since the biggest spears didn't survive the cold weather, despite the straw mulch :(

So pretty...

...but the straw mulch didn't work :(
 3. Preserve Something.

Dehydrated the chives and walking onion tops - and wow, quick! I'm used to drying fruit that takes forever - the 3-4 hours that these took seemed like nothing!

Walking onions and chives!

4. Waste Not.

More veggies scraps and some bones in the freezer, for eventual stock making.

5. Want Not.

 Some good sales on this week, so I stocked up on butter, sugar and oatmeal.

6. Eat the Food. 

 Just normal eating, mostly from the stash.

7. Build Community Food Systems.

Went to a workshop at Linda's farm - it was a great time, and nice to see so many people interested in growing their own food! Tiffany from Eating Niagara was there, and you can read more about the event on her blog. It was a good event for me, because it was the reminder I needed that most people don't have a background in this sort of thing (either through their childhood, education or training), and that we really do need to start from square one when talking about sustainable food systems - let's figure out how to get everyone planting seeds first, before we talk about crop breeding and seed saving.

8. Skill Up.

Other than the colcannon, I made Irish soda bread and home-made mac and cheese for the first time ever.  Yay!!


One complication about growing your own food is eating what you grow. So I always have an eye open for new recipes that use items from the garden. Like cabbage. Now, I like cabbage, especially as cole slaw, but when I realized I can end up with 36 cabbages from this year's garden, I realized I really do need to figure out some other way to eat it ;)

Of course, there is braised cabbage, and the always popular cabbage rolls. But when I came across a mention of the Irish dish colcannon, I knew I had found a winner - cheap, uses ingredients from the garden, and no harder to make than mashed potatoes.

There are a ton of different recipes on the web, and after perusing a few, I decided to wing it. Surprised?

I started off by cooking some chopped onions until nice and brown. At the same time, I put the taters on to boil. When done, I drained them, reserving the water. I then cooked the chopped cabbage in the potato water whilst I was mashing the potatoes, with butter, a bit of milk, salt, pepper and the onions. When the cabbage was cooked to my liking (cooked but still with a bit of crispness), I drained it, and added it to the mashed potatoes. I stirred everything together, adjusted the seasoning, then served, topped with some dehydrated garden chives.

I also rescued some stewing beef from death-by-freezer-burn, browned it, then simmered it in a "au jus" made from a packet (bad, I know, but it was hanging around the house, so I had to use it!). I also browned more onions to add to the beef. Of course, this would be perfect to make with leftover roast beef. Next time :)

Verdict? I like it, I really really like it!  I think this is a great way to "hide" cabbage while perking up mashed potatoes. And you can add so many other things - leeks, bacon (!!), carrots, etc. One recipe also showed that this can be made into patties and fried - I'm wondering how good that would be for breakfast with fried eggs?

This is definitely one "recipe" that is going into my collection!

Gardening in March

While cleaning up the garden beds, and planting some early crops last week, I took a gander at the herb bed, and couldn't believe my eyes. What an insanely warm winter we've had! Of course, they are calling for freezing temperatures this week, so I hope everything fares well :(

Lemon Balm

Walking onions and chives
Salad burnet
I also found a volunteer wild strawberry in a pot I used for cayenne peppers last year - I'll let it grow for a while, and see what happens!

Last year, I planted three aerial bulb thingies from the walking onions, and they grew and grew and grew. So, I separated the growing bulbs are planted each one separately: about 24 new walking onion plants, all from one original plant (that could also do with dividing!)

As much as I loved the hot weather last week, it's NOT normal. I just hope the rest of the season is not as abnormal as this past winter...

Monday Morning Music - March 26, 2012

A weekly post, featuring a song that has had some influence on me in the past week.

Niagara Falls hosted the Clarkson Cup this past week, and thanks to my sister, Dad and I got to go see a game.

Don't know what the Clarkson Cup is? You aren't alone - a quick glance at the sports section of the major newspapers shows that it's not on most people's radar. Hell, even the mayor of Niagara Falls, who was supposed to attend the opening game for the ceremonial puck drop, apparently had better things to do. It's unfortunate, since it's a chance to see some of the world's best hockey players.

Who also happen to be female.

But I'm sure that's not the reason the Clarkson Cup, which is the Women's Hockey League championship, is so unknown. Nope, not at all. I'm quite sure that a gathering of male hockey players, many of who also represent their respective countries in international level play, including the Olympics, would be similarly ignored.


It was a good game, with some fantastic hockey. And, of course, no hockey game in Canada would be complete without the following being played at least once...

"The Hockey Song", by Stompin' Tom Connors.


"I have concluded, through careful, empirical analysis and much thought, that somebody is looking out for me, keeping track of what I think about things, forgiving me when I do less than I ought, giving me strength to shoot for more than I think I'm capable of. I believe they know everything that I do and think and they still love me and I've concluded after careful consideration, that this person keeping score, is me. "

Adam Savage, Reason Rally 2012

Mad Ninja Skillz

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. 

Robert A. Heinlein
What with the Independence Days Challenge and all, I've been thinking about the "Skill up" category quite a bit. While I don't think I'll ever manage everything on Heinlein's list, there are a few things missing from the list, and those are what I want to work on this year. And by posting it here, I'm making myself a bit more accountable for getting some of it done ;)

So, here is my Mad Ninja Skillz List:

1.  Make yeast bread and increase my quick bread repertoire (currently limited to biscuits and dumplings. Oh, and tortillas!)
2.  Make pasta, including egg noodles and spaetzle
3.  Make soap
4.  Make candles
5.  Make creams/lotions
6.  Re-learn how to knit
7.  Make decent compost and use it
8.  Expand my harvest time through season extension in the garden
9.  Save seeds from the garden
10. Get better at cooking Mexican and Indian food - two of my favourite cuisines!

Some of these I can do without having to buy anything, while some are going to require equipment and ingredients, and so might be put off until I can save up the money.  

What's on your skillz list?

Independence Days Challenge - Week 7

Not much going on this week, except garden clean-up! The weeds took over the garden this winter!!

1. Plant Something.

Lettuce, chard, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, kale, collards, radishes, turnip, rutabaga, cauliflower - all in the garden. In March. Yes, I know I could lose everything, but to me, it's worth the risk, since the weather this year has been SO warm!

2. Harvest Something.


3. Preserve Something.


4. Waste Not.

Other than adding odds and ends to the stock stash in the freezer, nothing.

5. Want Not.


6. Eat the Food.

I finally roasted on of my $30 chickens - and wow, was it good!! The bones are in the freezer, waiting to be made into stock.

7. Build Community Food Systems.


8. Skill Up.


Curtain call...

I've mentioned a couple of times that we've been hard at work on the living room drywall. And after drywall, comes paint.

Which leads me to my Achilles heel - picking out paint colours.

Of course, all the advice tells you to pick out your colours based on the fabric choices for your room.


That means I have to actually pick out fabrics for the living room, dining room and kitchen curtains (and throw pillows and dining room chair seats). The rooms, although separate (well, the dining area and kitchen are one big room), are close enough that I want colours to "go" - not match, specifically, but they have to at least get along. And of course, the only other coloured thing in the area is the living room chair.

Oddly enough, given my inability to pick out paint colours, I tend to have fabric store karma*. This time, I walked into the store, and fell in love with one of the fabrics on display. But I could not find it anywhere. I asked one clerk for help, and although she thought they still had some, she couldn't find it either. She asked another clerk who confirmed it was all gone, but it can be re-ordered.

The best part? She sold me the display swag, ~ 3 meters (~ 3 yards), for only $15. This fabric normally sells for over $25 a meter. Unfortunately, it's not quite enough to do the two windows in the kitchen, so I'll have to ask them to order me in another meter or three, but I still saved a lot of money!

Now, I know this isn't to everyone's taste, but I love it - and, the background cream colour and the greens match the chair PERFECTLY!

See? And only $15!!

As much as I love this fabric, I don't want it for the chairs in the dining room, but I have a lot of colours I can pull out of this fabric to help me pick out that one - maybe a dark blue solid?

And I also think I've settled on the choices for the living room: 

The sample on the right is a cream-coloured semi-sheer that I might use for the curtains, while the one on the left is the perfect colour and pattern for the throw cushions on the couch and love seat.

Fabric karma for the win!

*The best, by far, was the time a friend and I decorated another friend's nursery as a baby gift. We started with the paint colours (bad plan!) since I had this idea in my head, and then had to find fabric for the curtains. The colours were white, pale blue and a pale pear green - not typical baby colours, but lovely together - and almost impossible to find in fabrics. However, while rummaging in the remnant bin, the friend found the PERFECT fabric - a nice plaid with all the colours in it. Perfect match, and *just* enough to make the curtains. Of course, my melting** part of the %*^&# stuff while ironing it didn't help, but I was able to hide that part in the hem. Fabric karma, I tell you! :)

**yes, it melted. Ruined my iron :(

Monday Morning Music - March 19, 2012

A weekly post, featuring a song that has had some influence on me in the past week.

I have seen these two different versions of this song all over the interwebs in the last few days, and, being one of those people who actually likes folk music, I've watched the videos more than once.

However, they keep getting the words wrong! Every Canadian who ever went through our elementary school system knows the correct words are:

"From Bonavista, to Vancouver Island,
From the Arctic Circle, to the Great Lake waters..."

But even with the wrong words*, the videos are good. Enjoy!!

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - "This Land Is Your Land" (Woody Guthrie cover) from Consequence of Sound on Vimeo.

"This Land is Your Land", by Bruce Springsteen and various others

*Yes, I do know which version is the original. It's still wrong though ;)

Three of Twelve

The third Christmas gift installment* took place yesterday morning. Yes, morning, because it was breakfast!

And that's my excuse for not having any photos: early morning, food to cook, coffee to drink - and no hands free for the camera :)

We had home-fries, baked French toast with maple syrup, a frittata-like dish with local eggs, bacon and cheese, regular toast and slices of oranges and grapefruit - hey, we needed something healthy, right?

And of course, coffee.

The baked French toast didn't turn out very well (it was still tasty though), but everything else was good!

And who doesn't love going out for breakfast?

Now, I just have to figure out what to make for next month....

*Instead of Christmas gifts for the adults in the family this year, I'm having everyone (including the kids) over for one meal every month. Yes, I am crazy.

Independence Days Challenge - Week 6

Not much to report this week - we've been working a lot on the living room drywall, and after I clean up, eat supper and get clean myself, I just don't have any energy left most nights.

1. Plant Something.


2. Harvest Something.


3. Preserve Something.

I've heard a lot recently about "Cowboy Candy" - basically pickled jalapenos, and thought I'd try a small batch now - that way, if I like them, I know to plant more this year in the garden. So, I cut the recipe in thirds, which made exactly one pint with a bit of syrup left over. I'm going to let them sit for a week or two before trying them, but I'll let you know how they turn out.

And since I had the canner out... I made 12 half pints of cranberry sauce. Yeah, I know - so NOT the season for it! But I'm roasting a chicken this coming week, and really wanted cranberry sauce to go with it. So instead of buying a can, I bought some frozen berries and made my own. Of course, like usual, I over did it a it. Note to self: buy only ONE bag next time, not three!

Let me tell you - cranberry sauce is about the easiest thing you can make. Add 1-2 inches of water to the bottom of a large, non-reactive pot, bring to boil, chuck in the clean, picked-through berries and cook until most of the berries have popped. Add sugar to taste (and maybe some other bits - lemon zest might be good, or apples, or grated ginger...), bring back to boil, then either use as is or can for later use (1/2 " head space, 15 minutes for pints).

4. Waste Not.

Other than adding odds and ends to the stock stash in the freezer, nothing.

5. Want Not.

Cranberry sauce added to the stash.

6. Eat the Food.

I made another batch of chili, all from food storage.

7. Build Community Food Systems.


8. Skill Up.

Do drywall seams count?

Explain this to me....

See what I bought? That's the weighed gauge and an extra rack for the pressure canner. Common things that many canners buy, since they make the process a lot easier - the weighted gauge means you don't have to stand there and stare at the dial gauge on the canner to make sure it stays at the correct pressure (you still have to be within ear range, though), and the extra rack means I can safely double up on smaller jars.

So why is this a blog post? Because of where I bought them: Amazon.com

Not the Canadian version of Amazon, and not my local hardware store, even though many other people have managed to buy these items through their local stores from the same chain. Each store is independently operated, and the new owners of my local one apparently were the only ones unable to order these items for me. Oddly enough, they will find that they are also unable to sell me anything else in the future as well. Yes, I do hold grudges :)

So, being unable to find these locally, I went on-line. But guess what? Amazon.ca doesn't sell the regulator at all, and that was what I really wanted - the rack is just a bonus.

When I first looked, the only seller on Amazon.com didn't ship to Canada, but I recently looked again, and low and behold - a new seller with international shipping! Yeah!!

But wait: the cost. It has to be prohibitive, right?

The gauge, the rack and one other item, including all taxes, shipping, handling and border fees: $49.17. The third item (a jelly strainer) was over $7.00, so that's somewhere around $40 for the gauge and rack.

The rack alone at Amazon.ca?

$41.73 plus tax, shipping and handling.

I'm all for shopping locally, and trying to keep my money in Canada, but I'm not willing to sit still for highway robbery.

So my advice? If you are looking for items that you cannot find locally for a decent price, look at ordering from the USA. I refuse to feel guilty any longer for doing so, not when such vast price differences exist.

But one good thing: this prompted me to write my first ever review on Amazon.ca ;)

Reminder: Garden Club Meeting

For all you local folk, just a quick reminder that the first meeting of the year for the Ridgeway & District Garden Club is tomorrow night. Meeting starts at 7 pm, but come early for coffee and treats!  It's at the Stevensville Community Hall (same building as the public library).

All meetings are free, but a yearly membership is only $10 ($15 for families) and gets you some good perks.

Coffee, snacks, door prizes and a great speaker: what can be better than that??

Hope to see you there!

When life gives you lemons...

... preserve them! With salt, of course!

I've been wanting to try this for a while now, and lemons were on sale this week, so I hied me to the store to buy 10.  The recipe I was following said to cut off the ends, then quarter the lemons without cutting all the way through to the end, like this:

However, I found I couldn't get enough of them into the jar, so I ended up simply quartering them all the way through, then salting each quarter before smushing them into the quart jar. Of course, once I was done, I realized using a wide mouth jar might have made this a wee bit easier...

I was able to fit 7 lemons into one quart, and used one more for juice to fill the jar.

Now, all I have to do is wait....

Monday Morning Music - March 12, 2012

A weekly post, featuring a song that has had some influence on me in the past week.

I've spent a lot of the past week working on the living room drywall (yeah!!), along with Dad and a few other insane nice family members who volunteered their help.

On Saturday, it was Dad, my sister and me. And of course, we had music playing. We spent a lot of time discussing who was singing (the family past-time!), and which of us liked or didn't like that particular singer (Dad doesn't like Frank Sinatra or the Beetles, sis hates Bruce Springsteen, I can't stand Rod Sounds-Like-a-Girl Stewart). But we all agreed that this song rocks!!


"Mustang Sally", by Wilson Pickett

I admit it: I'm a peasant at heart

One bit of advice I hear a lot when reading about reducing your grocery budget is to eat "like a peasant". Never having been, or known, a peasant, I'm not quite sure what one would have eaten way back in the day, but I figure this following dish would probably fit the bill :)

I needed a quick, filling supper last night - I had no leftovers, and after a day spent working on drywall seams, I was tired and hungry. I had a small amount of cooked beef in the fridge (from the bones I used for stock), the last of the garden potatoes, onions, celery, and of course, some frozen veggies.

So I very quickly diced a stalk of celery and a small onion, cleaned and cut up the taters into small chucks, and tossed them all the cast iron skillet with some vegetable oil and a dab of butter for added flavour. I let that all fry up for a bit, then added the beef and some frozen corn, cooked until everything was fully done, then served with some pickled beets, bread & butter pickles and chili sauce - all canned last fall.

Seriously good. And easy. And cheap. Less than a cup of beef resulted in two good sized servings, and since I roasted the bones before making the stock, the beef was both flavourful and moist.

It may not look like much, but it was very tasty, and perfect after a busy day. Meals like this are a great way of both extending a small amount of meat, and using up leftovers. And you can't beat one-pot meals for convenience! 

Eating like a peasant: using up what I had to create a flavourful, cheap, easy, filling meal. Love it!

Things I don't buy: pasta sauce

I don't buy pasta sauce, and haven't for years. I started making my own pasta sauce back in university, when I realized it was cheaper to buy a can of tomatoes and make my own - and now that I grow those tomatoes myself, it's even cheaper.

Pasta sauce with home-grown tomatoes and home-made sausage
And there are so many pasta sauces, and all of them are so easy to make. Quick sauces, as simple as heating up some pureed tomatoes and tossing in some herbs and spices. Longer cooking sauces, with meat to give them a bit more heft and flavour. The simplest sauce of all: toss cooked pasta with some good quality olive oil, your favourite herbs, a shake or three of hot pepper flakes, and top with freshly grated Parmesan - a great tasting dish, ready within minutes. Roasted tomato sauce - a new one for me this past year, and one that will feature heavily this coming tomato season! And for those decadent types: home-made Alfredo sauce - SO good!

Even better: now that I have my pressure canner, I can make sauces in large batches and preserve them - and what can be better on those busy days than coming home and opening up a jar of summer for supper?

Independence Days Challenge - Week 5

1. Plant Something.

I started three herbs from seed bought from Richters this year: basil, leaf celery and common comfrey. I also bought borage and calendula, but those will be direct sown.

2. Harvest Something.

YES!  I got tired of saying no to this category, and so in desperation, went into the garden and harvested a few tops from the perennial onions. I realize this is not a "real" harvest, but, hey, we northerners gotta take what we can!

3. Preserve Something.

Marmalade! Three recipes, four batches, resulting in 26 half pints and 8 quarter pints.

4. Waste Not.

I finally got around to making both beef and veggie stock this week, from the freezer scraps and some cheap-ish beef bones from the grocery store. And... wait for it... I pressure canned it!!!

Vegetable (left) and beef (right) stock

5. Want Not.

15 pints of marmalade, 2 quarts of vegetable stock, 2 quarts of beef stock added to the stash.

6. Eat the Food.

In addition to eating a lot of marmalade, I made a Mexican "lasagna" with ground beef from the freezer, canned beans (store bought, but from the stash), canned salsa (made from garden veggies), canned tomato sauce and home-made corn tortillas, topped with cheddar cheese and the chopped onion tops from the garden.

7. Build Community Food Systems.

Nothing this week.

8. Skill Up.

First attempt at jam making with the marmalade, first beef stock, first use of the pressure canner, and...

I made corn tortillas!  Amazingly enough, I found the masa harina in my local grocery store and decided to finally use it. And wow - EASY! Just corn flour and water, mix, rest, roll out and cook. I've since read some people add salt and/or lime juice, and both of those would be good additions. And yes, I have to work on my "roll out into a circle" technique :)

One last thing, even though this doesn't really fit here:  I hung sheets out to dry this week. In March. In Canada*. Do you have any idea how happy this made me?

*Yes, I do know some people hang laundry out year round, and that is how I grew up. I have some "great" memories of my hands freezing as I took frozen laundry off the line, and so I tend not to use the line during the winter. Bad me.

Days of limes and oranges

Sunday was my one day "off" this week (renos are back in full swing!). So, of course, I decided to make marmalade. This was my first attempt at any jam/jelly type thing, so doing it on a day where nothing else was happening was a good thing. And if I hadn't had forgotten to take my brain with me when I went shopping, it would have gone soooo much better.

I had decided to make three different recipes, and thought I had all the ingredients on my list. And since all the recipes list the amount of sugar by volume, but it's sold by weight, I had to figure out how many cups in a package. I wondered a bit when every site I saw said there were only 4 cups in a 2 pound package, but since each site said the same thing...

(Notice my mistake yet?)

One recipe was for blood orange marmalade, since they were on sale for $2.00 a pound. So, I very nicely weighed out 3 pounds of them, wondering a bit when they completely filled a produce bag...

(See it now?)

I got the rest of the ingredients, a couple of other items, all fours packages of sugar, and headed to the checkout.

Where I almost fell over when the blood oranges rang up at over $14.


Yeah. That's it. I live in Canada, and have for my entire life. And we use the metric system, and have been for almost my entire life.

I apparently forgot this, and thus bought twice as much sugar and twice as many blood oranges as I needed.

At least when I'm wrong, I'm consistent...

I started with the easiest recipe Sunday morning, a four-fruit marmalade with naval oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit.

Four-fruit marmalade
After that was done, I started on the first of the two batches of the blood orange marmalade.  It was a bit more labour intensive, but not too bad.
Blood orange marmalade
Needless to say, I was a bit tired after both those batches were done, and I wasn't in the mood to go back to the store when I realized I also didn't write down everything I needed for the third recipe. And by that point, I was re-thinking the effort required for that recipe, so I simply modified the first recipe by replacing the lime with another lemon, and two oranges with my last blood orange and one more grapefruit.

I also forgot to take a picture of it, so look back at the first one, and imagine it a bit more pink :)

Clockwise from top left: Blood Orange, Mixed-Fruit, Four-Fruit

The verdict? They are all tasty, but not perfect. Not bad, mind you, for my first attempt! But the lime peels in the first batch are still too hard and I find that recipe too sweet, the blood orange version didn't set completely, and the last batch is a bit too tart. In the future, I'll make both the four-fruit and blood orange versions again, reducing the sugar a bit for the first, and cooking longer for the second.

But, of course, since I ended up with 15 pints of marmalade, I won't be making any more for quite a while....

It's a good thing I like marmalade!!

2012 Seed Choices, Part 7

The main list is here, Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, Part 5 here, Part 6 here.  

Carrots and beets and greens, oh my! And thus, finally, we get to the end of the never ending seed justification :)

One bed this year will get planted with beets and carrots - the so-called root bed. And once again, I have multiple varieties, for multiple reasons. For beets, I want some to can, some to eat fresh, and some to store.

I still have old seeds, as well as the seeds from the great beet challenge of 2011. But my stock of those is low, so I bought some more - of course. And once again, a seed mix has saved me some money: I get to compare three different varieties, as well the three that I already have. And Linda from Tree & Twig was selling a VERY interesting beet this year: 3 root grex. I could try to explain it here, but Margaret, from "A Way to Garden", does such a good job, so go there to read about it. I'll wait ;) Final total: 6 varieties of beets.

For carrots, as well, I want some for both fresh eating and storage. Both Scarlet Nantes and Chantenay Red Cored are said to be good storage carrots, and a mix of different coloured carrots will give me some variety for fresh eating. And a total of 6 varieties.

I'm starting to think I'm addicted to seed mixes....

The last bed will be a mixture of greens and the oddballs.  Lettuce, of course - a leaf mix and a romaine mix (really, it's cheaper to buy mixes vs. all the individual varieties!  Really!!), as well as a butterhead lettuce variety (I love sweet, tender butterheads!), and Cracoviensis, which is said to be a cold-tolerant variety. As lettuce seed doesn't store well, I have no old seed to use up (which is probably a good thing!). I also plant Swiss chard and spinach in this bed - one variety of spinach, and two of chard, for a total of 14 varieties.

I need professional help.

 But wait, there's more!

I'm trying celeriac again - I planted it two years ago by direct seeding, and it didn't do much. So this year, I'm starting the seeds inside, and will try again. And, since I use a LOT of celery in my cooking, I decided to try and grow it. Adding two more varieties to the grand total.

This last one, I'm blaming solely on my friends from Texas. I tried fried okra there for the first time this past fall, and loved it. So it too is going in the garden, and of course, I can't plant just one type. So let's add both red and green okra to the heap.

30 more varieties to add to the total. So what's the final tally? I have no idea, and I refuse to add them all up.

I can justify (almost) every variety I'm planting this year. It's a combination of planting to compare varieties, to fulfill different roles, for hardiness in different seasons, as well as a few just for interests sake. It all sounds so reasonable... right up until it comes time to plant everything!


Monday Morning Music - March 5, 2012

A weekly post, featuring a song that has had some influence on me in the past week.

Yesterday, I made four batches of marmalade. And, as I normally do, I had music playing while I was working.

How fitting is it that this song came up? Yes, I do like old fold music - in fact, I actually went to see this group play in Buffalo when I was still in high school. In the 80s. I think I was the youngest person in the theater!

"Lemon Tree", by Peter, Paul and Mary.

2012 Seed Choices, Part 6

The main list is here, Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, Part 5 here.  

And now onto another big group, the legumes. Legumes are one of the best sources of non-animal protein, and while I'm an unapologetic omnivore, I still like the idea of being able to grow protein in my garden. Last year, I planted a small trial of dry beans, along with green beans, peas and peanuts (yes, peanuts grow in Ontario). The peanuts did nothing (wrong soil type, I think), but the dry beans did great. 

So, of course, that means I have to plant every variety possible, right. Yeah.

Do you have any idea how MANY dry bean varieties there are? If you are basing your choice on what's available in your local grocery store, you will be very wrong.

I have 12 varieties to plant - and that's the tip of the iceberg. And I might end up with even more - I still have to put in one seed order, and there are a few from that supplier I'd like to try...

I can see me turning into a dry bean hoarder.

Which is ironic, since the one and only time my Mom tried to get me to eat pork & beans as a child, I threw up at the table.

Too much information? Sorry :)

But yes, I'm new to the dry bean world and apparently, my tastes have changed in the last mumblemumble years - and like many a new convert, I'm prone to ramble on and on about my conversion. But yeah - dry beans: easy to grow, easy to store, easy to cook, great source of protein. What's not to like?

I addition to the dry beans, I'm trying lentils as well, but I actually don't expect them to do well - they, like chickpeas, can be very susceptible to disease, and grow better in a more arid climate, like the Canadian prairies. Did you know Canada is one of the largest growers (and exporters) of lentils and chickpeas? But hey - I saw the seeds for sale at Seedy Saturday, and decided to try them. Won't work if I don't try, right?

And of course, I'm also growing peas, both snow (1 variety) and regular (2 varieties), and pole beans (3 varieties). And roma beans as well. Which is Switzerland's fault. Really.

Of course there is a story behind that! I was lucky enough to go to Switzerland for work a few years ago, and one meal I had was a very nice soup with these amazing, tender, HUGE flat podded beans. They were at least an inch wide, and I've been scouring seed catalogs for the past few years, trying to find out what they were. The closest I can come up with are roma-type green beans, but they aren't exactly the same. However, I still have some old seed, so they'll be planted this year, and I'll continue my search. Any ideas?

And the last oddball of the group is the winged pea, aka asparagus pea. 

 A definite novelty, but worth the space in the garden, just to see (and taste) it.

So, the legumes. 21 varieties and counting...


2012 Seed Choices, Part 5

The main list is here, Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here.  

And now we move on to the solanums, which include peppers, potatoes and, of course, tomatoes. I'm actually surprised I don't have more varieties here, as this is generally the one group that inspires even the most restrained gardener to plant more than they have room for!

I'm planning on one whole bed of potatoes this year: the small trial planting did really well last year, and so this year, I'll increase the amount planted. I don't have the varieties listed here, as I'll buy the seed potatoes in bulk from one of the local feed stores. That tends to be the most economical way to buy, as they sell them by the pound. Buying through mail order means buying a larger amount of each variety, plus paying for shipping. And potatoes are heavy! Of course, buying locally means the available varieties are limited, but I'm willing to accept that trade-off.

For tomatoes, I try to plant three different types: a plum tomato for canning (whole and sauce, plus salsa and chili sauce), a "beefstake" type for fresh eating (and the excess also gets canned, of course), and a cherry tomato, since there is no better reward for gardening than walking outside and popping a perfectly ripe, sun-warmed cherry tomato into your mouth.

I've been planting different varieties each year, and I've yet to find a "perfect" variety. Like other crops, I still have some two-year old seed, but I also splurged on new varieties this year, like Stupice for an early producer, and Jaune Coure de Pigeon, a yellow cherry. So, 11 varieties in all, but the 3 old ones may not make the cut, depending on how much space I want to allocate. As tomatoes tend to be gold in terms of neighbourhood currency*, there is no such thing as too many plants ;)

I still have some of my original sweet pepper seed as well, and added two new varieties this year: King of the North (a green to red bell) and Marconi Sweet Red, a red shepherd-type, for a total of five varieties.

Hot peppers, for some reason, is where I go insane. I want to plant each and every variety I find, which, considering I don't eat a lot of them, boggles the mind! Jalapeno (for salsa) and cayenne (for drying) are mainstays, and I added four other varieties this year. A couple are traditional pickling varieties, and I'm also planting some Ancho peppers, just to see if I can smoke them, dry them and grind them up as chili powder. So, six varieties in total.

Not counting the potatoes, 22 varieties.

I am insane. I really am.
*No, really. I share every year with family, of course, as well as the neighbours on both sides, but I've heard a rumor of someone living down the street who is willing to trade composted horse manure for tomatoes. Sweet!


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