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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

 

Book Review: Our School Garden!

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Our School Garden! by Rick Swann, illustrations by Christy Hale

I read a lot of gardening books. It is very rare that a gardening book gives attention to food accessibility for low income families and food banks yet here those things are in a kids book. It’s not a standard story with typical narration although it does follow one story of a boy named Michael who is feeling alone in a new city and school but finds a home and connections through the school garden. The story is told through poems and standard narration with pages that also teach other concepts. There’s a lot of good information about basic gardening (like using the example of Three Sisters Gardens to talk about companion planting) and also great inspiration.

The illustrations by Christy Hale  are wonderfully warm and engaging and show a lot of diversity that is often lacking in children’s books.

Here’s some photos I took of a few pages that give a feel of what this book is like…

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I got this copy from our local library but it’s also available at readerstoeaters.com . There’s a lot of other titles there I am SO excited to check out (a kids book about Will Allen!)

 

 

[Daily Dozen]Potatoes in buckets, gardening as therapy, and good gardening tips

I guess “Daily” is a relative term here. Oh,well.I’m just trying to get back into a blogging groove. I’ll get there soon.
Here’s 12 gardening things for today. I’m starting to see signs of Spring here and getting antsy to get seeds started and things planted. You?

  1. The BEST Garden Ideas and DIY Yard Projects! – Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons – a lot of these are decorative ideas but some great ideas that would help be space savers in a small garden. I’ve done the wagon wheel idea before when I owned a pre-school but we made it a “Pizza Garden” with roma tomato,basil,oregano,etc. BTW, Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons has a great Facebook pg,too…here. I’m rarely annoyed by it! (Trust me…that’s a huge endorsement from me. I’m so grumpy lately)

  2. Growing Potatoes in a Bag or a Bucket – Countryside Network – since there are so many pictures on social media of potato growing but with few details on how and what to do, this is a good one to read. It covers all the basics. This year I’m growing taters in burlap coffee sacks that I got for free from a coffee shop.


  3. The Curious Case of the Antidepressant, Anti-Anxiety Backyard Garden -I love this article so much. I have often said that gardening is the only therapy I can afford and it turns out there may be some sciencey data to support that.

  4. Kiss my Aster!: Take My Tomato, Please! – my favorite gardener-writer doesn’t like tomatoes the same way I do but I still love her and appreciate this list of the top 4 she grew in 2015.


  5. A Pyramid Planter for 15 sq. ft of Garden in Just 4 sq. ft. – Gardens All – I’m really just sharing this to show the general concept of a pyramid planter for anyone needing to grow upwards to save space. The one they show is pricey and the DIY one on pg 4 of the post requires more than a hammer and nails. If any of you come up with a super cheap and easy to construct pyramid planter, I’d love to see it:-)

  6. Gardening Against the Odds: the restorative power of the garden – for the past 5 years the Conservation Foundation and The Sunday Telegraph have given out Gardening Against the Odds awards . This is a nice piece on the previous winners and emphasizes the power of gardening.

  7. A Kentucy Domestic Violence Shelter Helps Women Grow Food—and Confidence – a 40 acre farm that gives women escaping dv a safe refuge and employment with the added bonus of gaining skills,confidence, and therapy. Much love for this.

  8. Wise Pairings: Best Flowers to Plant with Vegetables – I am a devout practitioner of companion gardening. You absolutely should include flowers in your garden to create diversity and beneficial elements that aid veggie growth.

  9. DIY Pallet Top Garden: Using the most of your space to create a garden friendly for chickens and people! – Naturally Loriel – I love this idea and if I didn’t already have a fenced in garden, I’d be out gathering pallets right now.

  10. 28 Vegetables That Grow in Partial Shade | Small Footprint Family – I may have shared something like this before. Our last rental had mostly shade. I had good luck with all the brassicas and greens as long as I could keep the slugs at bay.

  11. 4 Problems with Starting Seedlings – Gardening Jones – All good advice.

  12. This is definitely not a complete list but it’s a good start for inspiration. I grew corn in a container last year. My advice with container gardening is to give it a shot, even if it isn’t typically something you see in a container. Even though I have gone through Master Gardener training, the bulk of my gardening experience is from trial and error, learning through doing.

 

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Daily Dozen: Garden Dreaming

[contents: seeds,no dig gardening,gardening and farming on rented or borrowed land,pest control,chickens]
I am itching to get seeds started ,even though it’s way too early here. I’m making do with planning and scheming. Mostly.

  1. Tomato Seeds: From My Garden to Yours – one of my faves, You Grow Girl , is selling seeds from her own garden at her Etsy shop
  2. 32 Seed Companies – Gardening Jones – my favorite seed company is missing from this list, so I will add FedCo and make it 33.
  3. how to grow spinach, with tom stearns – spinach is one of those easy indoor greens to grow and this talk with Tom Stearns tells you more than you will ever need to know about spinach
  4. Gutter Gardens – I’m thinking of reprising my  “Lettuce Turnip the Beet” rain gutter garden in the new place. It worked really well to keep slugs and other things from eating my greens
  5. Wine Bottle Reuse and Recycle Week – A Green Garden Border – just because. I don’t even drink wine so Id have to go raid a wine drinker’s recycle bin. Or maybe a bar.
  6. How to Make $100,000 Farming 1/2 Acre You Don’t Own – Lots of inspiration here from Curtis Stone (not the chef) who wrote a book about how to make money from land you’re leasing/renting or borrowing. And in my opinion, this is how food sovereignty and accessibility is going to happen. The problem is, we have landowners who are not willing to allow people to grow food for some odd reason and finding people who will let you borrow their unused land is kinda hard. Here on our Rented Homestead, I have 5 acres (although half of that is a huge ass pond and marsh) and I have no restrictions on what I can do with the land while we live here. My goal isn’t really to make money but to instead provide for my family (which is just as good as cash) and be able to share the harvest-wealth with others.
  7. How To: Reflective Garden Decor from Recycled CDs – I found a stack of crappy CDs when unpacking a box the other day,so…
  8. A Beginners Guide to No Dig Gardening – Indie Farmer – I mentioned a few times that I was “lasagna gardening” at our new place and people were like, HUH?This is what that looks like. It makes the most sense for me since I have all the materials needed for building layers and no real access to a tiller.
  9. 12 Great Uses for Wood Ash in Your Coop, Home and Garden – you guys, I can’t wait to get chickens but for right now, the wood ash is handy as a ice melter and I’ve also used it in my lasagna garden layers a bit.  I have not delved into soap making with wood ash because it sounds like a giant pain in the ass.
  10. Top Ten Chicken Keeping Blog Posts of 2015 -handy reference
  11. Grow Write Guild #32: When the Gardener Can’t Garden – I know it’s a writing prompt but I only need one sentence: It was hell. The end.
  12. The Poor as Folk Garden Party –  I made a Facebook group for low income gardeners of all skill levels. Get and give advice, boast about successes and cry about failures here. (I will change the privacy setting to closed so no one will see your posts unless they belong to the group

This post has gone bananas

[content notes: food waste, food rescue, recipes, too many banana songs and references to gorillas]

About a week ago we acquired 80 lbs of bananas. An entire shipment of banana arrived at the store “too ripe”. Optimally, stores want the naners more on the green side. This particular grocery store is one that does the responsible thing and works with food donation organizations that use food “waste” to feed people but this time… toooooooooooooo many bananas.

[Digression: These happens everywhere in America,every day, with a lot more than bananas. When people actually argue against feeding poor people and policing their food choices, I’m like…guys… there is more than enough food for everyone,ok? Good food. Food people can eat. This feeding of people does not have to be this complicated]

So, 80 lbs came into our house on Friday. On Saturday, 40 more lbs joined them.

And now I’m starting to see Grodd’s point of view a little clearer.


I am not really at the banana hating point but it may be awhile until I have a craving for a banana-anything. Also, hard to hate free food.

So, here’s what I did with 120 lbs of bananas:

  • Gave them to friends and people I don’t even really know
  • Sent some with my daughter to take back to college after break
  • Made banana pancakes (had that Jack Johnson song stuck in my head the rest of the day)
  • Made banana chips  (I definitely did not use fresh squeezed lemon juice like the recipe calls for)
  • Made banana muffins & bread while ,totally unplanned, my 5 yr old watched a Richard Scarry’s Busytown dvd with many episodes centered around Bananas Gorilla
  • Froze equivalent to a small boatload of bananas while singing “The Banana Boat Song”. One entire shelf in our upright freezer ($30 at a yard sale many years ago. One of my best buys ever) is just bananas in freezer bags. These will come in handy for quite some time for baking and smoothies. I also read yesterday that bananas are on the brink of extinction, so maybe I should hang on to some for the Bananapocalypse. They could be bartering gold!
  • Kept some out to ripen to make MORE bread & muffins. When my one daughter was little, I used to make her these banana-carrot muffins all the time. I think we’ll venture into those and maybe some banana-peanut butter muffins, even though my boys cant take them to school for snack (Peanut Free classrooms)
  • Stashed a bunch in the pantry to get truly black for Rotten Banana Pie. Should be able to make that for the holllerdays.

 

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My smallest guy practiced writing skills while labelling the freezer bags when he wasn’t peeling  piles of bananas

 

Obviously we had a lot of banana peels to contend with afterward. When we moved in here, I decided my easiest way to set up garden space would be to build a lasagna garden using our empty moving boxes as the base. We don’t have snow on the ground yet so I’m still able to add layers. Instead of composting all the peels in our regular compost, I just added them to the garden to bake.

Special thank to PAF reader Rose who saw me mention on Facebook that I don’t have a blender and offered to send me her old one. Yay, we can have Banana Ice Cream now,too!