Stacking Functions Garden


Garden plans, revised

This winter, when I was in the throes of garden planning (while -20 winds swirled around the house), I made some very ambitious plans.  Now in the light of planting day it is time to be realistic.

Originally we talked about building a large cedar trellis/arbor over our deck.  I was then going to grow cukes, zuchini, and pole beans on said trellis.  Well this trellis is not going to get built now, partially because we simply don’t have the money for the wood.  So now I don’t want to let those seed packets that I foolishly already bought go to waste, and I’m revising my garden plan slightly to include them.

What’s new in here is that I’m going to try the classic “Three Sisters” element, where you plant squash, corn, and pole beans all together.  The corn provides support for the beans, and the squash shade the ground to keep the corn’s roots cool.  The beans fix nitrogen into the ground to benefit the corn and the squash.

This plan made me need to come up with a new spot for tomatoes, so I’m going to transplant some sunflowers that are growing between the chainlink fence and the deck and put in tomatoes there.  Moving the sunflowers to the front yard, which actually will be nice because they attract wasps and it was unpleasant sitting on the deck with tons of wasps flying around.

Anyway here is my updated garden layout (click to enlarge):

garden plan 2009

I’m using double rows, to decrease the amount of space dedicated to aisles. So each dashed line represents one row. I’m also going to try to use each grouping to get maximum yield — planting one early season and then one mid-season vegetable or herb in each spot. So some of this is a work in progress — I’m not totally sure, for example, what I’m putting in after the peas are done.

But enough talking, time to go plant!

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On sustainability

Sustainability — and what that actually means — is a cornerstone of the New Home Economics.  As a fun little exercise, I took the “carbon footprint” quiz at  Here are my results:

If everyone on the planet lived my lifestyle, we would need 3.5 earths.
Carbon footprint: Me: 45.2  US average: 91.4
Food footprint: Me: 41.9  US average: 65.7
Housing footprint: Me: 29.1 US average: 31.6
Goods and Services footprint: Me: 21.3  US average 57.7

There’s a lot about these quizzes that is super frustrating to me, such as why don’t I get extra points for my compost bin?  My rain barrel?  The fact that we only eat meat once per week?

One thing I could do to improve my quiz score would be switching to CFLs, but I have a really hard time believing that would make a huge difference for my family.  What happened to simply switching off lights?  (We don’t own the electric company, you know.)  Our electric bill is pretty minimal.  So it’s hard for me to get motivated to save a dollar or two while ensuring that Adam and I will both go crazy from hospital lighting-induced headaches.  Not to mention the sticky little subject of disposing of all those CFLs.

I like to think of myself as above-average when it comes to how “green” my lifestyle is.  But even I apparently require 3.5 earths, so I clearly have a lot to learn.  Well, this is supposed to be a journey, right?

Coming this weekend: in which I plant my cool-season vegetables, add in a “3 sisters” element to my garden plan, and try to find a way to keep the rabbits from eating my tulips that doesn’t involve hasenpfeffer stew.

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Recipe: St. Martin’s Table Whole Wheat Bread (adapted for bread machine)


Adam and I bought a bread machine last fall with the hopes of saving some money — but you have to make quite a few loaves to pay off the cost of the machine itself, so we have made the commitment to buying little-to-no bread for several months now.  I actually don’t remember now the last time we bought bread.

My favorite bread in the whole world is from St. Martin’s Table, a wonderful vegetarian restaurant in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis.  If I had the means, I would hire them to cook for me full time.  We have their cookbook, and Adam adapted the bread recipe to work in the bread machine.  We have tried MANY whole wheat bread machine bread recipes and this is hands-down, no contest, the best.

SO without further ado:

St. Martin’s Table Honey Whole Wheat Bread — for a 2 lb.-capacity bread machine
1 and 3/4 c. warm water
1/3 c. oil (we use olive)
1/3 c. honey
1 T. salt
1 c. white bread flour (all purpose will do in a pinch)
3 c. whole wheat bread floor (or 2 c. whole wheat and 1 c. multigrain)
1 T. dry yeast

Add ingredients, in order, to bread machine pan.  Set machine to whole wheat setting, light crust, 1.5 lb loaf.  You actually end up with a 2 lb loaf, but Adam has found that the crust turns out nicer at the 1.5 lb setting.

Keep an eye on the dough during the first knead cycle.  It should form a nice ball and look slightly sticky — whole wheat flour takes a longer time to absorb liquid than white flour does.  If it seems really sticky and is not forming a nice ball, add another 1-2 T of flour.

breaddoughHere is the dough at the end of the first knead cycle — a nice sticky ball of dough.


Here is the dough after the last rise cycle — this one really took off!

UPDATE 19 Feb. 2010: Well, we got rid of the bread machine after we learned about the no-knead bread method and read Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day — I will post another version of this recipe adapted to that method soon.

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making it easy

I’ve been rather lazy about posting lately; my beloved Grandma died (at the age of 102) and then we had our usual holiday marathon with Easter.  This is all I’m going to say about that:  when you are used to a mostly plant-based diet, going back to a solid meat & potatoes (and we’re talking industrial, Sam’s Club meat & potatoes, Minnesota-style)… well let’s just say there are gastrointestinal consequences of going back to that for two days.

But I’m back on the whole foods, and feeling better, just in time to find this awesome illustration (via

How to make the right choices to reduce your water footprint

Feeling righteous about my everyday meat choices but having a bit of cognitive dissonance about my morning and afternoon coffee.

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An addition to the seed-starting kit

I nearly failed in my first seed-starting attempt because I forgot one important thing: it’s a good idea to have a small fan blowing on the seedlings as soon as they get an inch or two tall.  That simulates the outdoor environment a little better and helps them to develop nice strong stalks and not get too spindly.

Mine were WAY spindly and the fan took out a few of them; they may not recover.  But some of them, after looking horrible for a couple days, actually look better than ever now.  Time to get these babies out in the garden as soon as it warms up.  What’s that I hear?  Snow in the forecast again?