A Year of Homegrown Food and a New Goal for January

Around new years last year, I made a goal to grow all of our vegetables from the garden for the year. May 2017-May 2018. So far, I'm at about 90% veggies from our garden and 10% from the store.  It has been so worth it to learn lots of new things.

[Little Gem lettuce on the left. Turnips on the right] November 27 2017

I think the main thing I've learned is to be a better steward of all the life, plants and animals, that God has given us. I waste way less food than I did before. I realized all the labor and money that went into every plant. We butchered our rooster this year and ate the meat. Butchering our own chicken helped me to be more conscious where the meat comes from and I think I naturally started to eat less meat in general. (Someday I hope to do more meat chickens but our current location won't allow for it)

[May 20th 2017]

Another bonus of eating our own veggies only has been savings on the grocery bill. We are consistently saving $700 a month from last years average grocery bill. That is no exaggeration.  Even though using our own vegetables helped us lower the spending, going to the store less (twice a month) was a major savings. We didn't have a chance to impulse buy. The other thing that came out of eating homegrown food is I cook way more from scratch and that cut down the grocery budget as well.
[Arugula November 27 2017]

Even though gardening is fun, another huge motivator for me is health. I still struggle some health problems, acid reflux being one of them. Conventional medicine barely makes a difference in the pain level but consuming more veggies and less processed food seems to be helping. 

As long as my hoop tunnels hold up, I think we'll make it to spring (2 degrees is the low tonight!). 
[Mulching leaves to put in the garden. Noelle was happy to come along for the ride! December 4th 2017]

[December 2 2017]

I really like having a goal to strive for and because I'm not crazy enough, I decided to do a no grocery shopping month for January. My sister Amy has done this many times before and I haven't been brave enough to try it until now. We don't like going without fresh food- especially fruit! But since I'm already halfway there not shopping for veggies, and I have lots of canned applesauce and peaches, plus frozen fruit, I figured why not give it a try. We haven't been to the store since before Christmas so if I make it to the end of January it will be extra cool!

Fall Garden

 One last picture before our first frost (which was last Friday night)

Salad makings!

 Me scrambling to get all my frost prep done last week. This was the first half of the tomatoes and peppers. Also, I dried some of my thyme and oregano.

Good mother stallard beans. These are really good in soups. They were about double the size of the other types of beans I grew. I'm a sucker for the pretty pattern too.

Winter food storage

Planting progress and rainy weather!

We got 6 inches of rain so far this weekend and are expecting more tonight. I planted a few things in my garden and held off on others that I will plant on Monday.
Over the weekend I put in:
-flower seeds. (I thought this would be a good idea because I wouldn't have to water them. But they may have washed away since they got planted outside my garden fence, not in the level raised beds. I'll be interested to see where they pop up haha!)
-Green onions

I finally got to prepping my beds for tomatoes and peppers this weekend. It's been a cool and WET spring so I think planting them Monday will be perfect :)

 Kale- Lower photo, March 16th, Top photo, April 12th

 Red express cabbage, transplanted March 16th, above photo is from April 28th

 These are my kale and spinach pickings of the crop that grew over the winter. I had to harvest it all to prep for my potatoes.

 One days harvest of kale, onion, and cilantro. I ended up making kale taco salad for dinner. It was yummy.
 This is my healthy attempt at artisan bread. It is 50% rye and 50% whole wheat. I used a sourdough levain and it fermented 14 hours! Rye makes for a dense bread but it was actually pretty tasty.

 I had Cam show off the kale that was bigger than his head. I can't even remember what variety this is but as you can see it gets big!

 Cam surprised me one morning by going out to the local strawberry farm and picking berries for me *true love*. I made strawberry lemon jam. This is my favorite jam! I hope we are able to get more berries this year... I'm not sure how they will fare with the flooding.

 The bed on the right and top will get tomatoes Monday. The green already there is arugula, red, and green lettuce. Big square bed has potatoes in those trenches. With all the rain, the trenches were filling up. I hope the potatoes survive. Also, I have been having a major problem with cutworms. I think because I left the cover crop in so long, they hung out in there. I found and killed 2 worms and I ordered some diatomaceous earth to sprinkle around. I hope it helps because my lettuce is getting chopped off one by one.

 Daikon Radish

Chicks, seeds, and Cold Frames

 I potted up my little mini soil blocks into the bigger ones. This picture is from a
 few weeks ago- this is cabbage. Napa and the left and Red Express on the right.

 We got some more chicks! 5 Rhode Island Red, 2 Buff Orpington, and 1 Red Production. Last year we had 8 chicks. One ended up being a rooster so we gave it away, then 3 got eaten by predators. Now we are down to 4 hens. Hopefully this year we can keep more of our chickens alive. We have plans to build a legit chicken run on the back portion of our garden. I will share progress on that when it happens (which I hope is soon). The boys kept asking me if we are keeping our hens from last year, and the answer was yes. They are laying lots of eggs now yay!

 I put Cam to work building me cold frames so I could set out my cabbages early.

Here's the finished frame. I'm still waiting for the row covers to come in the mail :)

 After many failed attempts, I made my first successful artisan bread. The tricky part was I only wanted to use a sourdough culture as my leavening. I also wanted to create a bread that was not just white flour. This is 50/50 white and wheat.

The garden now. We had a dusting of snow!

My overwintered kale and spinach are picking up speed growing and we are harvesting some of that.
I planted my peas last Wednesday. I could have planted earlier but somehow I always get a ton of little projects going on and I get behind.

Seeds indoors right now:
Kale, Cabbage (Acclimating these to the outdoors this week)
A few herbs

Seed Starting

Once it comes time to start my seeds, time starts moving really fast because there is a lot to do!

In mid February I started my onion seeds. I just put them in these flats and as you can see the varieties are separated by cardboard.

 I also harvested the last of my parsnips this month. It was getting to hot and they were sprouting green again on their tops.

 Dax was a good helper digging out the parsnips.

 Trees and forsythia bushes are blooming already. This one is in front of our house. I think it's a bradford pear.

The start of some of my other seeds. I got a mini soil blocker to start my seeds, then you put the mini blocks into the larger ones. The soil blocker works really well for things that don't like to be transplanted. I love my 2inch soil blocker. I'm still trying to decide if I like the mini.

Seeds 2017

Christmas #2 came to our house. Or it least it feels like that when I get my seeds in the mail!!

Since there is not much happening in the garden right now, I am carefully planning the garden- seed starting times, transplant dates, and planting dates.

Here are the seeds that I ordered for this year.

Some of these varieties I have planted before and I'm restocking, others are new to me. I save a few of my seeds, but not too many- someday I will do better at that!
Here is the list of what I'm growing this year (although they may be subject to change a bit!!) from seed or root:
All varieties are from Bakers Creek unless otherwise noted. Also all are open pollinated except the fennel.

* = new varieties I'm trying out.

Bulgarian Giant Leek*
Ho Shi Ko Bunching Onions
Dakota Tears Onion (High Mowing Organic Seeds)*
Zebrune Shallot
Southport Red Globe Onions

Siberian Kale
Curly Scotch Kale
Chinese Hilton Cabbage*
Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage
Express Red Cabbage (Peaceful Valley)*

Fennel- Precludio- this is a hybrid
Bloomsdale Long standing Spinach
Broccoli Watham 29*

Little Gem*
Crisp Mint*

Garden Cress (Peaceful Valley)

Sweet Potato-
Omani Pink

Kelvendon Wonder Pea*
Sugar Snap Peas
Oregon Snow Pea

Genovese Basil
Thai Basil

Cherry Belle

Potatoes- Yukon Gold*

Jersey Devil*
Amish Paste
Lucid Gem*
Black Cherry
Black Vernissage*

California Wonder
Tam Jalepeno
Canary Bell
Red Cheese
Emerald Giant*

Atomic Red

Tendergreen Burpless

Ali Baba

Cantaloupe-Hales Best

Summer squash- Lemon

Winter Squash
Waltham Butternut*

Parsnips-hollow Crown

Sweet Corn- Who gets kissed (High Mowing Organic Seeds)*
Popcorn- Mini Blue*

Calima (for fresh eating)
Good Mother Stallard (dried)*

Ginger root

Garden Goals 2017

Today's Harvest - Parsnips

I have some lofty goals for my garden this year.  I'm so glad the setting up, digging trenches, making raised beds part is done.

This year, I got a taste of what it was like to have garden veggies spring, summer, fall, and through winter. We are just starting to have to go to the store to supplement vegetables.

Still in stock are
Winter squash- holding up well in our cold basement storage room
Sweet Potatoes
Canned pickles, jam, tomatoes
Dehydrated carrots, peppers, and zucchini
Frozen strawberries
Frozen tomatoes
Frozen Kale

I wasn't sure how the dehydrated stuff would taste because I'd never had rehydrated veggies but it's worked great! We use our peppers frequently in fajitas and chili.

So on to the goals part-

My goal is to grow enough vegetables to feed us year round. We eat a lot of vegetables on a daily basis so it will be challenging!

I'm working on the fruit - but there is just no way I could get close to growing all the fruit we eat with the small area we have.

Why grow all our own veggies?

After being married for a few years I started to hate shopping at the grocery store (it just so happens that we had a child around this time haha). The less time I have to spend there- the better.

Gardening is one of my things that helps me stay happy. It is really good medicine for depression for me (that and my art).

I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for the second time. The first time I read it, it didn't quite hit me like it did recently. If you haven't read it, it is about a family who grows/buys all their food locally for 1 year.

The "fresh" out of season vegetables from the store taste disgusting to me- ie. tasteless, grainy tomatoes, cucumbers with whatever slime they put on the skin (you know what I'm talking about).

Saves money

I like to be healthy

I can grow everything organically

I finally have the space that I think I can do it.

I have loads of recipes and feel a lot more confident about being able to use whats on hand than I used to. The challenge will be how much to grow of everything. On that score, I have no clue how much we will use and how much I should put up. I think that piece of the puzzle will take a few years to shake out.

I'm hoping I can keep up with the blogging aspect so I can keep a better record of what gets ripe when, how much I harvest, what's working and whats not. Having a garden is difficult for me in some ways because nature throws at you insects, small animals, disease and the list goes on. I am a recovering perfectionist and sometimes thats hard to take. But I'll try my best to put on here good and bad- my mistakes and successes- because thats all part of the journey.

Here's to a good year of lots of home-grown food!