daily links::a food waste cookbook!, news on teen hunger, and more

2016-09-24

There’s a cookbook called Amazing Waste with recipes entirely devoted to cooking with scraps,leftovers,etc. I haven’t had a chance to look through the entire thing yet but this looks like the kind of cookbook I would write. Am writing. These kinds of recipes are great for food pantry users (at least my food pantry) where you might end up with produce that is not the prettiest or freshest.

The entire cookbook is available for free RIGHT HERE.

Thanks to my local food waste reduction -anti hunger group Friendship Donations Network for passing along that info.


·:   Five Questions with JoAnne Berkenkamp, Food Waste Expert and Advocate  – there’s a lot of food waste going on but it’s getting better thanks to mainstream recognition and initiatives to reduce waste


:· some new research reveals some sad information about teenagers living in homes with food insecurity  . Even if teenagers do have access to programs that give them food,they’re too worried about what their peers will think to use them openly but also they are underserved by programs like The Backpack Program, which focuses on elementary aged kids. This is something touched on before here when one of our readers was trying to develop a program for older kids.

As a result, in households where hunger was most acute, teens reported engaging in all kinds of risky behavior to obtain food, including: shoplifting food directly, selling drugs for cash and/or engaging in “transactional dating,” i.e., engaging in sexual relationships with older adults in exchange for food and money. In a few communities, some teens even viewed going to jail as a viable option to ensure regular meals. The report also revealed the degree to which hungry teens look out for each other and for their younger siblings, often forgoing meals or sharing their food with those also in need.

Here’s a summary of the full report: Impossible Choices

My teenager’s high school made school lunch available for free to ALL students, regardless of income. If high schools did that widely, this would eliminate so much of these issues. Her school also has Free Food Friday where food donations picked up from a local rescue agency is available in the school lobby for anyone to take home. My daughter very rarely gets anything because it’s completely gone by the time she has a chance to check it out. Even when she is there on time, it’s difficult to get anything. No one is shy about taking food home. Now I have to wonder why these students have no reluctance to take free food. The school is a small charter school that focuses on sustainability and social justice (nope, don’t go off on me about how awful charter schools are) . Is it just that the culture of the school is centered on taking care or others and being stewards of the earth? A lot for me to think about there. I asked my daughter what she thinks and she says it’s because the school works hard to be a safe space for everyone and “no one judges people for things like that”.


Meanwhile in my community, the school district just expanded their Fresh Snack Program to include another school so that it now serves 1,200 elementary students. The Youth Farm Project (which one of my older kids worked at and let em tell you…that’s an AMAZING program) and other local farms provide a weekly snack to be served with the intention of expanding food horizons and food accessibility. It’s awesome.

My 6 year old was very critical of the yellow watermelon mentioned in the article linked above. He spent his summer growing his own watermelon, so he’s an expert now.
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He’s a super proud watermelon farmer.  I think we actually have a couple left to harvest. I plan on making this watermelon pie. YESSSSSSSSS.

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

 

 

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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.

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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

 

 

[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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