Stacking Functions Garden

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Fermentation MANIA


It’s official.  We have become fermentation maniacs.  Left to right: pineapple chutney, pickled zucchini, dill pickle slices, dill pickle spears, and sour kraut.  They are all in various stages of fermenting, and I think the sour kraut is pretty much done.

There is nothing that hits the heart of the new home economics better than fermentation.  Here are a couple of simple reasons why:

1) It is a way of preserving locally grown produce through the winter months — this stuff won’t keep forever, but it will keep until next spring.
2) Instead of destroying nutrients, as traditional canning does, it enhances nutritional value
3) It is ideally suited to small batches, which makes it perfect for someone with a small garden
4) It’s something most people can’t buy in a store (unless they are very lucky or very wealthy)

Go ahead and click on my Fermentation tag on the right to see all my posts about it.  We made our first kimchi only 2 months ago and already we are completely sold on this.

We used the Nourishing Traditions recipe for the pineapple chutney, the Wild Fermentation recipe for the pickles and kraut, and Adam adapted this recipe for the zucchini.  If it turns out good (and so far, it is looking that way) I will have him post the recipe.

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Fall chore: raspberry pruning


The raspberries are completely done now for 2009.  We had a really great haul.  We ate raspberries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the entire month of July and I also froze 7 quarts.

Raspberries are bi-annuals.  So what happens is each plant, or “cane” spends its first year just growing (including sending out underground runners that will become plants next year).  Its second year, it flowers and fruits, then dies.  So our raspberry area, now in its third year, is finally reaching that level of maturity where we have canes in various stages of living and dying, and it looks like one continuous hedge.

On Sunday I decided to get the dying plants that fruited this year out of there so that the new ones would have plenty of time to shore up and get nice and strong for fall/winter.  It took about an hour, and I’m really glad I did it.  There is something really satisfying about this work, even when your arms are covered with scratches afterward.

Here’s Anneke with my brush pile and her butterfly net:


PS I am trying not to be totally depressed about using the word “FALL” in a post heading.


How to install a rain barrel

We got a second rain barrel Saturday morning at a special discounted sale for Hennepin County residents (got our first one two years ago at a similar event).  Eventually I would like to have about 8 of them, but with my budget, I’ll have to build up slowly.  Here’s how we installed it:


First of all, Adam built a little platform out of some scrap lumber.  It is not necessary to raise your barrel off the ground like this, but it sure makes it nicer to use.  You get much better water pressure.  If you want to use your rain barrel with soaker hoses, a platform is a must.

rainbarrel2The platform from a different angle (it’s next to my tomato jungle).

rainbarrel3Next, saw off your downspout approximately 9 inches above where the top of your rainbarrel will be.  Adam held a piece of plywood behind it so he wouldn’t damage our siding with his saw.  This is why I married him.  That never would have occurred to me.

rainbarrel4If there is a bracket holding your downspout to the side of the house, remove it and move it up.


Attach the curved bottom piece to your downspout.  Adam had to drill out a couple of rivets in order to get it in there.

rainbarrel7Assemble your barrel.  This will vary of course depending on what you get.  Here I’m adding the overflow thinger to the back of the barrel.

rainbarrel8YAY!  Rain barrel installation complete.  Took less than 30 minutes.  OK, that doesn’t include the time it took Adam to build the platform, which he reports was about another 30 minutes.  He’s a skilled carpenter though.

I’m so jazzed about this.  Now I can use this to water my garden and get a two-for-one every time it rains.  I got super lucky too because it rained really hard last night and now we have two barrels full of water, all ready to go!

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Garden update, mid-August(!) edition

This happens every year.  OK this is really only my second year with a real garden but it happened last year too.  I get to mid-August, and I walk past the garden, and I see 2 ft tall weeds, and I think “meh.”  My sense of urgency is completely gone.  Except I do still have a decent amount of food out there to eat yet.  Let’s take it section-by-section:

beets081509What’s this, you might ask.  It used to be green beans, but they are done now.  Now it’s some weeds, but it’s also three rows of beets.  They’re kinda hard to make out right now because they are teensy.  This is my first time experimenting with so-called “late season” veggies.  Supposedly you can plant some things in mid-summer and they have a short enough growing season (and cold tolerance) that you will still be able to harvest them before the winter sets in.  So I’m trying some beets and some kale (coming up a couple pics down from here).

My biggest challenge with this whole concept is that I garden in a narrow space between two two-story houses.  The sun’s angle is definitely on the down-swing now and every day my garden is getting less sunlight.  So we’ll see if this works or not.  At least I can say I tried!

beans081509Here’s the complete mess that you could call my pole beans.  Newsflash: pole beans get really, really tall.  I should have built my little twig teepees about 7 feet tall instead of 4 feet tall.  Now I have a twining, vining mess.  But it’s covered with beans.  I’m not really sure what to do now.  I think I’m supposed to just let them completely dry out on the vine, and not harvest them until the plants are completely dead.  Most people (most normal people that is) do not raise beans for drying like this because dried beans are insanely cheap, so why grow them?  I got excited about these particular beans, called “Hidatsa Shield Figure” after reading a book about heirloom plants.  No store that I know of sells these beans, so I will have something very unique to put in soups, etc. this winter.

brussels081509My brussels disaster.  This will be my second and final attempt at brussels sprouts.  I’ve been nursing these things since February, and my dreams of a brussels feast have been all but dashed.  They have a few really loose, pathetic looking sprouts on them, but my harvest will be very small if I get any at all.  On the bright side, the lettuce underneath them re-seeded itself and I may actually get to harvest some soon!

pepperskale081519Here are my loverly banana peppers.  I picked a first round of them last week and made some pickled banana peppers.  They are freakin’ delicious!  A couple more are coming in so I may try to do another pint or two.  You can also just barely see the tiny little kale plants coming in on either side of the peppers.  We’ll what happens with those.

parsnips081509Parsnips are looking good.  Once you get past the initial anxiety of making sure the seeds sprout, these things pretty much grow themselves.

onionsandweedsI can’t believe I’m showing you this, but just look at my beautiful red onions!  Surrounded by tons and tons of weeds!  😦

cuke081509On a more positive note, here is a ripening cucumber.  Growing an heirloom variety called “Boothby Blonde” cucumbers.  They are hands-down the most delicious cucumbers I’ve ever eaten.  They are SUBLIME.  Seriously.

brandywinesEven more exciting than that, MY FIRST TOMATOES of 2009!!!  Boy howdy was the wait long and excruciating.  I did three heirloom Brandywine tomato plants this year.  I really love Brandywines, even though they do have a slightly longer growing season.  And yeah, I’m fully aware of the LOTR connection and the fact that I might love them all the more, precisely because of it.

tomatojungleHere’s my tomato jungle as it looks right now outside.

3sistersFAILOh, and here’s my awesome “3 sisters” garden.  Good grief, biggest FAIL of 2009.  Reasons why it failed:

1. For the “groundcover” plant, I should have done a vining plant like pumpkins or squash.  Just because zucchini are sorta related doesn’t mean they’ll do the same thing.

2. I should have stuck with one bean vine per corn stalk.  I tried to use one stalk of corn to support 3 bean vines.  They got too heavy (and a strong wind didn’t help either) and now the corn is pretty much bent in half.  Even after Adam tried staking it up.

overgrownmessAnd here’s the whole beautiful, overgrown mess!  We’ve been vacationing a lot the past few weeks, and our drought has suddenly lifted, and everything is going CRAZY!  It’s pouring rain right now as a matter of fact.  Tomato season has finally begun, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

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New use for zucchinis

Well, I was warned.  But I really thought that 3 zucchini plants would be manageable.  WRONG.  I had zucchini for breakfast, lunch, and dinner one day this week.  I’ve made two zucchini cakes in the last week.  Tonight Adam came up with yet another creative way to use some up:


He made some homemade spaghetti, and also cut up zucchini into long noodle-like strips and threw it right in with the noodles.  It was tasty!

How to replace some of your noodles with zucchini:

1. Buy or make fatter noodles so you don’t have to kill yourself cutting the zucchini matchstick size.

2. Cut your zucchini into long thin noodle-like strips.

3. When you’re boiling your noodles, add the zucchini strips right in with them  (at the beginning for fresh noodles, about half-way through for dried/storebought noodles).

Voila, you’ve just reduced the carbs in your spaghetti dinner and used up some excess zucchini at the same time!

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CSA Week 10


This week’s full-share box:

2 heads broccoli
1 head curly endive (lettuce)
1 pt box of white button mushrooms
3 zucchini
3 yellow “patty pan” summer squash
4 cucumbers
1 bunch parsley roots (close relative of parsnips)
2 heads red cabbage
5 carrots
1 bunch baby leeks

Standard CSA info:
What is a CSA?
Where do we get our CSA from? Food 4 Thought.
See all of my CSA posts

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Time to switch shampoos

Here’s a rather snarky article in today’s exposing the toxic nature of most commercial shampoos.

“Of the 22 shampoo ingredients in my hand, all except three have proved to contribute, or are suspected of contributing, to health or environmental problems. Most of these ingredients, though known toxins, are permitted for use, because the small quantities limit human and environmental exposure.”

originalmedI’ve been using JR Liggett’s bar shampoo for a couple of years now and I love it for several reasons: minimal packaging (so no plastic bottle to recycle), and one bar lasts me around 8 months.  Also, I don’t use conditioner so it saves me time.  Oh, and it’s really cheap.  And biodegradable.  I really like this stuff.  I’ve been using Burt’s Bees bar shampoo for the kids, but it didn’t really work that well on my much-thicker hair.

This is another one of those issues where one person changing their habits alone is only going to make minimal impact.  That the FDA does pretty much nothing to regulate the chemicals used in these products that are washed down all of our collective drains day in and day out is really pathetic.  Check out the full article here.

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The other two R’s

recyclingOther children of the 80s surely remember the commercials about the three R’s: Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle.  Is it me or did we go through a period of time where we kinda forgot about the first two?  I certainly did.

We ran into a quandary last winter when we switched to canvas bags for getting groceries.  What were we supposed to store our recyclables in, and how to schlep them out to the curb, without piles of extra paper grocery bags?

Our solution: we had a broom closet in our kitchen which we measured carefully.  We found some baskets at Target that were a good fit — bonus that they happened to be those cheap plastic crates — and Adam screwed some thin strips of wood to either side of the closet.  The crates slide in.  It’s not super elegant or even smooth but it works just fine.   Recycling day comes, the crates go out to the alley.  I just try and make sure we bring them back in same day so that they don’t get taken by any of the many scavengers recyclers who walk through our alley every day.  And yes, I feel very lucky to live in a community with a strong curbside recycling program.

So that’s all cool and everything, but bringing my own bags to the grocery store started to help me be more conscious of packaging.  At the same time, we are striving to cut down our grocery bill.  One solution: buy large percentage of groceries in the bulk section.  An easy way to do this is to bring your own containers and fill them at the store.  Not really a big deal as long as I’m hauling all those bags anyway.

gettinggroceriesSo ironically, I’ve actually had significantly fewer items in my recycling bin lately.  All thanks to those other two R’s.

By the way, I’m tracking my grocery expenditures for this year and will do a big post about it at some point.  I really want to try and prove that I can still eat healthy, organic, humane food even when on a budget.  It’s a work-in-progress, that’s for sure.

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CSA Week 9


Another Thursday, another beautiful box of produce from Food4Thought.  Today’s box included (before splitting with our neighbors):

A good lb or so of green beans
6 cucumbers
1 bunch arugula
1 bunch red mustard greens
4 zucchini
3 patty pan summer squashes
1 bag of sauté mix
1 head of cabbage
6 sweet onions
2 bunches baby leeks

Standard CSA info:
What is a CSA?
Where do we get our CSA from? Food 4 Thought.
See all of my CSA posts