Chop your way to a solid core

img_0559

I absolutely just ripped that title from a men’s health mag but I’m seriously considering also making it the title of a Craiglist help wanted post.

People pay a lot of money for fitness programs and personal trainers,right? Why not save money and just come get a workout at my house splitting firewood? Plus, you get to leave feeling good that you’ve done something to help someone out.

I can spin this.

So far we have split and stacked about one face cord. I just want it all split and stacked so I can see how much wood we actually have. It’s hard to tell right now.

The bounty of tomatoes and pumpkins coming out of the garden makes it easier to not stay mad at everything. Today’s tomato harvest was 2 colanders worth (scientific measurement) . It’s been hard for me to give everything a measurement and value like I intended . Maybe with the tomatoes I’ll measure by the product I end up canning, whether it be sauce or salsa or whole tomatoes. I would say pumpkins the size of these would be about $4-5 each around here. This bunch will be canned.

It’s 3p.m. as I’m writing this. No word yet on the car. Our food pantry is this evening so if we don’t get the car back within the next couple of hours, we’ll miss that. It’s the last one of the month so that will be a bummer.

We also have a school event tomorrow for one kid that he really wanted us to go to. We’ll cross our fingers and everything else that we at least get the car back tomorrow so we can make that. We missed out on a lot of school events during the time we were a car-free family. I try to make it to everything now if it’s at all possible.

This thing tomorrow evening is also a dish to pass (side dish or dessert). I predict whatever I end up making will have either tomatoes or pumpkins. I’m glad I have them to work with. Something else that has stopped me from going to things like potlucks in the past was truly not being able to take anything. Add that to the list of “The Many Ways Being Poor Can Make You Feel Like Crap”.

 

 

 

 

 

grocery shopping

 

 

img_0390

View from inside our no-longer-dead car, on the way to the grocery store

YES, we have our old wheels back. It was a simple fix (but may be temporary). The uhaul we rented ended up being $260-ish. It was less expensive than a car rental still and if we hadn’t rented it, the husbeast would have missed  days of work. So, it was more than we could afford but we couldn’t afford not to. I hate making stupid decisions like that.
Yep, rent is late.

Yesterday was our SNAP day,too. We spent $157 of our $221. Hopefully I can make a lot of it stretch. I predict lots of creative pantry anarchy happening this month.

After putting the store-groceries away, I pulled these out of the garden.img_0395 Grocery gardening is the best.

We’re still dealing with a drought here. The USDA declared our county a natural disaster due to crop loss on farms here. Needless to say, gardening was hard,too.I have a lot of tomatoes but they’ve taken forever to ripen. This is the 1st decent bunch. I’ve harvested 8 pumpkins already,though. Things are a little backwards out there in the garden.

 

 

new food stamp amount: $221/month for a family of 5

We reapplied for food stamps at the end of May and finally got a decision this week. We were denied but then also approved in the same decision. Because I’m self-employed, they said the amount I made in May put us over the qualifying limit by $87 but then averaged the past 3 months of my income as a guideline of what I might typically make and that put us under the limit.

The other thing that changed is they do not include our twins on our SNAP case because they are full time college students who are not employed at least 20 hours a week yet. So, we’re on paper a family of five but I’m still buying groceries for a family of seven.

I’m confused about some of the rules for when someone is going to college. I was told by one person that if the twins are working at least 20 hrs/week this summer ,then they can be included on our SNAP case but then someone else told me that yes, BUT their income will also count as household income and that would probably put us over the qualifying limit. I’m guessing the latter is how that actually works.

Anyway, as it stands now we were approved finally and our amount will be $221 a month. That’s just short of 2 weeks of groceries for us. The USDA “Thrifty Family Meal Plan” guidelines say we should be spending about $970 for our family size per month but my food budget has been about half that for the past 6 months, sometimes even lower. It’s totally impossible without going to the food pantry every other week.

On the gardening front, things are slow but happening. We’re in a drought-like spell. I have no hose hookup at this house and I’m watering the garden by hauling jugs from inside the house. It takes forever and it’s not the same as a good soaking rain. Fortunately we know people who know how to do things and a friend is going to put a hose hookup in for us soon. This sounds like a much easier solution than my daughter’s suggestion of building an aqueduct or elaborate irrigation system.

So, adding to my $88 worth of rhubarb, I now have chives and chive infused vinegar.
15 oz dried chives-$28 (I arrived at this price by looking at the bulk spice prices at 2 local markets plus what’s available online)
16 oz of chive infused vinegar – $10
several bundles of fresh chives -$8

My husbeast has been fishing a lot lately,too. Having terrible luck catching anything worth keeping but this week another fisherman gave him a nice bass he didn’t feel like cleaning. That was a nice free dinner. I have no idea what a whole bass costs. A 12 oz package of sea bass is $23 where we usually shop but this isn’t exactly sea bass.
I need to remember to add the cost of his fishing and hunting license into my food production expenses tally. So far without that figured in, I’ve spent $120 on seeds,tools,and other gardening things.
I need to keep better track of time spent in the garden. Once I have a good idea of this,I’ll start putting a monetary value to that time,too. Two separate rates – migrant farm worker wage and living wage.

 

 

 

 

 

how i’m measuring garden successes

While weighing my rhubarb haul the other day, I started to think earnestly about what the best way is to measure success in the garden. I was weighing the rhubarb mainly out of curiosity. At the grocery stores here,  fresh rhubarb is currently around  $4/lb. I was just wondering what the dollar value of my rhubarb would be.( $80 so far, in case you were wondering,too)

Weighing what comes out of the garden seems to be the most used method for measuring food production success. We see it all the time on homesteading blogs and articles. “This family grew 2,000 lbs of food in their backyard!”. Totally an actual headline. But here’s what I’m thinking…is that really as impressive as it sounds? I mean, does that weight have pumpkins and tomatoes happening in it or is it a lot of  romaine lettuce and snap peas?

My rhubarb is valuable dollar wise and rhubarb is awesome to have. I have lots of plans for it but my family isn’t going to subsist on rhubarb alone. Spinach,though…. that’s something we eat a lot of. Spinach leaves are light. 8 oz costs around $3 here. It’s more expensive than rhubarb and more practically valuable for us but it’s never going to add a whole lot to any weight total. If I manage to grow even 5 lbs of spinach, that’s worth a confetti and streamers celebration to me.

IMG_2939

 

Potatoes. We eat a lot of them,too. I decided not to grow a large amount of potatoes this year though because I can buy them pretty inexpensively from my favorite local produce vendor. Less than $10 for a 20 lb bag. If I was measuring my success by pounds, I could use the weight of potatoes on my side.

Weighing the garden harvest for just the sheer weight total feels disingenuous to me. The entire reason I am personally growing food is to alleviate the financial costs of feeding my family. It makes more sense for me to put dollar amounts on this. That’s weird for me because I hate equating dollars with value & success but here it will make sense.

I think stating the weight of garden wealth is also somewhat of a slap in the face to those who are growing with obstacles. Like very limited land or just balcony or patio space. Growing 12 oz of herbs might be a huge success, even if it’s not hefty. For that matter, everything we manage to grow can be a very huge deal.

 

 

rhubarb bonanza

I probably mentioned this already but the town historian tells us that years ago before the property we’re living at became neglected, this house had the best vegetable garden around for miles. She pointed out to this overgrown field near the pond as the former site. It’s so hard to believe looking at it now. When we moved in it was nothing but goldenrod and stupid scrubby bushes & prickers. Now that it’s spring and the field is renewing I’m finding few signs of what it formerly was.I’ll find a clump of daffodils or lillies coming up among dried stalks left behind by the goldenrod.

Monday I stumbled upon a beautiful row of rhubarb. A perfect row, a long ago gardener as it’s architect.

IMG_0232.JPG

I started harvesting what was ready. I filled a clothes basket full.

13254467_1603908243260865_7188558532838368046_n

Now I’m at the full on chopping stage, freezing and preserving most of it but looking forward to strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert tonight and apple-rhubarb muffins for the boys’ school snacks. My grandmother used to make rhubarb syrup that I loved. I’ll can some of that.
There’s plenty to share,too.

IMG_0245.JPG


 

My multi-tasking media today:
::watching:: The Family. I started watching a few days ago, then found out yesterday it’s been cancelled but I’m in too deep now. Damn, Andrew McCarthy is great-creepy in this.
::podcast:: Season 2 of Serial. The general reaction from most people has been “meh. It’s not as good as season 1” but I’m into it so far.
::music:: Painted Shut, Hop Along

 

 

garlic mustard harvesting day

IMG_0131.JPG

I remember last spring there was a meeting at the local library to discuss what should be done about the rampant takeover of garlic mustard. I couldn’t and still don’t understand why they weren’t just telling people to harvest and eat it. Put out recipe booklets,maybe?
It is really invasive but it’s edible and the more we eat it, the more it helps control it. Happy to do my part.

I think I’m going to experiment a bit and use the roots to make a flavored vinegar. I’ve only used garlic mustard in the past for pesto and salads. Though now that I’m thinking about it, I might have cooked them last year in a chicken dish. Seems like I remember that happening.

There is so much on the property I’ll have plenty to experiment with. This bin was just a small patch of it. I’ll probably dry some of it,too.