Stacking Functions Garden

1 Comment

Recipe: hot dog or hamburger buns

hotdogbunsSummer is here, and so is grilling season.  We grilled up some delicious fresh sausages from the Seward Co-op the other night and baked up our own buns to eat them on.  Like everything we’ve been trying lately, we were surprised at how easy it was.

Hamburger or hot dog buns
3 c. white bread flour
1 1/4 c. whole wheat bread flour
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
1 c. milk
1/3 c. sugar (optional)
1/3 c. butter
3/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten

Put all ingredients in bread machine and set to “dough” setting (2 lb size). When cycle is complete (usually around 1.5-2 hours), remove dough from machine and divide into 12 pieces.  Shape into desired shape — hamburger or hot dog, and place on a greased baking sheet.  Let rise for about 30 min.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

I found these to be a little sweeter than I normally would like, so next time I’m leaving the sugar out.  I would also like to make them a little more “whole” wheat than this, but that’s going to have to be a work-in-progress.  This made quite a few more than we needed, so we froze the leftovers.


Does sewing fit in?

sewingmachineWhen I wrote up my initial description of a new liberal art called New Home Economics, I debated whether or not to include sewing. Sewing, knitting, and the like were definitely part of the “old” Home Economics. I’m reading a really old Home Economics book (from the 1800s) right now and the author goes on and on about knitting your own stockings, weaving your own straw hats, etc.

My first instinct was to not include sewing. I had to draw the line somewhere, and I thought it would be better to focus more on daily activities — eating and basic household stuff — in order to make the biggest impact. Most of us don’t buy clothes every single day. Plus, at some point getting all DIY about everything becomes unrealistic when you work full-time. Part of the reason we are able to do a lot of the from-scratch cooking we do is that Adam is home part-time. He can whip out a pot of dried beans on a Monday. We don’t have to cram every single thing into Saturday and Sunday.

When I think about attempting to make even some of my own or my kids’ clothes, I  feel overwhelmed. I enjoy knitting, and I sew a little bit (hemmed some curtains 3 years ago). I knitted a couple of pairs of mittens last year, and considered that an accomplishment. We DO buy a lot of our clothes second-hand, so that’s something.

But maybe there’s a place for sewing. I just noticed that one of the sheets for my bed has a hole in it. I hate to throw out that whole sheet, when most of it is still perfectly good. What else could I do with it?  I also have some old dish towels that my grandma embroidered for me that I am saving. I want to turn them into some cloth napkins, and maybe a bread bag or two. When will I get around to this? Hard to say.


Realistically, we’re not ever going to see huge numbers of people sewing all their own clothes. But what if people darned their socks? Sewed buttons back on? Repaired tears to jackets or mittens or pants? Most of us do at least some of those things, but could we do more?  Could I do more?

Maybe it comes down to being more conscious of what we throw away and purchase new, and examining each with much more care than we used to. So I am hereby creating a small checklist that I will try to complete before throwing a piece of clothing, or really anything at all, away:

1) Can this be repaired and still used?
2) If not, can it be taken apart and used for something else?
3) If I must dump this, can any part of it be recycled or composted?
4) If I must replace this, can I replace it with something that I can buy second-hand? Something that is more energy-efficient?

Do you think sewing should be included, or would that be taking New Home Economics too far?

Leave a comment

A green remodel

Story in today’s Star Tribune about a home remodel right in my neighborhood.  I walk past this house quite frequently and have been wondering how it looked on the inside.  I wish they had more pictures of the yard; the rain garden is really cool.  Money quote from the homeowner (who did much of the work himself):

“These are just good, old-fashioned, sensible values about not wasting what you have,” he said.

Read the story right here.

Leave a comment

Garden, planted

My garden is now completely planted for 2009.  I will still plant a couple of things for later harvest after my peas are done, such as some onions, kale, and maybe a couple more herbs.

Today we started our “3 sisters” guilds — we planted the corn and zucchini but will wait to plant the beans until the corn has sprouted.  You want the corn to be just a little ahead of the beans so that the beans have something to climb on.

We also put in our green (bush) beans, our tomatoes, and a second row of parsnips/radishes.  I staggered my radish planting so that we won’t have to eat all of them at the same time.

Here’s our garden right now (click to enlarge):

The row on the very left is the radishes, then you can see two sorta rows of lettuce, then my brussel sprout area.  The 3 sisters got planted in between and to the left of the window wells; we kinda followed the planting instructions from Renee’s Garden.  The tomatoes aren’t in the picture, but they are planted on the other side of our chain link fence next to the deck.

It feels really good to be done, and it also feels like a really long time before we’re going to get to eat any of this stuff.  My best guess is that maybe we’ll have some radishes and baby lettuces in 2 weeks.

1 Comment

Ode to the parsnip

Photo: Adam being goofy with a particularly large parsnip from our 2008 garden.


I’ve been thinking about mashed parsnips lately. Parsnip-eating season is still months and months away, but I will post this now in the hopes that you might still find the time to plant a few of these in your garden so that you, too, can enjoy the bounty with me in, oh, about October or November.

Parsnips are related to carrots, but they’re white, and they are a lot bigger in girth. Their seeds take a LONG time to germinate, but once they are germinated you don’t have to do much with them except keep them minimally watered. Parsnips are probably not real popular commercially, most likely because of the very same factors that make them so awesome for the home garden: they need to freeze in order to reach perfection, and don’t keep that well.

When parsnips are subjected to a hard freeze their starches turn to sugar. It’s so great to grow something like this in Minnesota where our growing season is so short — once you have your first freeze, parsnip season starts, and doesn’t end until they are all eaten up. I pulled our last bunch of parsnips in December, with snow falling on me.

According to wikipedia, parsnips are actually richer in vitamins and minerals than carrots, particularly potassium. Like any root vegetable they’re also rich in fiber and low in calories. Apparently they were thought to be an aphrodisiac in the middle ages.

I’ve eaten store-bought parsnips, and they’re pretty good, once you get that weird wax coating off (why do they do that, anyway?). But straight from a 30 degree garden, parsnips are more than pretty good. They’re exceptional magical amazing oh heck I can’t think of a strong enough adjective, so let’s move on to a simple recipe:

Mashed Parsnips
Several parsnips
Butter, Nutmeg, Salt & Pepper (optional)

Slice up parsnips and boil or steam until tender. Mash with a potato masher. Stir in a little butter, nutmeg, salt & pepper to taste. Don’t even think about putting gravy on this.


On bike commuting

I really have no idea why biking is such a divisive issue. I’ve been bike commuting for years, and when I tell people this they act like I’m trying to start a fight with them. Newsflash to all those Minneapolis drivers who curse me out on a regular basis: I don’t care how you get to work; why do you care so much how I get to work?

But enough ranting; this blog is supposed to be constructive. So here are some facts about bike commuting:

1) It’s not for everyone. It’s much easier if you live in the same town that you work in, or at most only 1-2 towns over.

2) You don’t need an expensive bike or expensive gear. In fact I recommend against that because your bike could get stolen and your stuff will get ruined by rain and road salt. My only expensive biking gear is my Timbuk2 messenger bag which I’ve had for 6 years now and it still looks pretty much like new. It’s best feature is its water-resistance: I’ve ridden through many rainstorms and still arrived at work with dry clothes in my bag.

For my bike clothing I have an old tan pair of shorts, some old running tights, various t-shirts, and a bright yellow fleece. All are over 5 years old and kinda grungy-looking, but I really don’t care.

My bike (seen in the header image) is a 1980 Schwinn WorldSport. It is my fifth bike in 10 years, and my favorite of all, and it was the cheapest! My first two were stolen, my third died in a crash (luckily I survived), and I sold my fourth because I decided it was too nice of a bike for my purposes.

3) If you want to try bike commuting, know that it might take a few weeks or months to figure out your own unique rhythm. Like, what route should you take? Bike in your work clothes or bring them along in your bag? TRY different things and you will figure out what works best for you. I recently changed my bike route after years of riding the same old route.

4) On safety: I found this website a few years ago and am constantly recommending it; it is simply the best guide to how to be safe on a bike that I’ve ever seen. Had I read this in 2002, I might have avoided the one crash that I have experienced. Getting “doored” is not fun at all, and I was very lucky to only have minor injuries.

5) On weather: if you never ride when there is a chance of rain in the forecast, you will never become a regular bike commuter. At some point you just have to get over the weather. Riding in the rain is fun, in the summertime at least. For cold weather, dress warmly but not too warmly. You should feel a little bit chilled the first 1/2 mile or so, and then your heart gets going and you feel nice and snug.

I rode a couple times in below zero weather and I don’t know that I’ll do that again anytime soon– right now my minimum temp for riding is 10-15 degrees F. Essential extra piece of gear for cold weather biking (under 30 degrees): a balaclava. I got mine from REI and it’s lasted about 6 years now.

In Minnesota, it really is possible to bike about 8-9 months out of the year with little hassle. With a certain amount of hassle dedication you can add in those other 3-4 unmentionable months.

6) This goes without saying, but biking is a great way to get extra exercise. I haven’t had much time to work out since I had my kids, but with simply bike commuting I was able to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight no problem.

So yeah, I’m a biking advocate, within reason. I understand that not everyone can or even should do it, but even if we approached something like 10% of commuters (instead of 1-3%) it could really make a difference in both traffic congestion and pollution. And it sure saves a lot of money.

What have I missed here? Do you have great reasons to bike? Safety strategies? Cold weather coping strategies for us upper-midwesterners?