Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gardening in a Box

Sometimes I write things here:

This time it's about gardening but sometimes it's about food or farming, mostly in Minnesota. Other people write there too. If you enjoy local food, you should visit....

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On Growing

It's a time of growth around here. The garden is lush, almost too lush, if that is possible. Our radishes are three feet tall, flowering, and threatening to shade out the zucchini. The pea tendrils are wrapping themselves around the fence and neighboring lettuce. We haven't had a chance to put up scaffolding for it to lean into and clasp. We had an early spring, which no one in Minnesota can complain about. And now we've enjoyed lots of warm days and nourishing rains. The result is that our lilies are trying to put out five flowers at once. They've toppled over with ambition. Is it possible for our garden to be growing too quickly?

Yesterday I laid down on the couch with my daughter. I was on my back and she was belly to belly on me, her toes reaching my mid thigh. We laid like this, me watching her, while we waited for Dada to get home from work. Her hair is still whispy but thicker than it was even a few short weeks ago. She looked around the room as I watched her, trying to make sense of the sound and sight of the shadows shifting as cars drove past our front windows. She seemed to be listening to the sound of a bird's whistle as it drifted through the window. She lifts her shoulders and belly off the ground easily now. Crawling is just around the corner. She sits up on the rug, reaching for toys and her dog without Mama's help. Sometimes, when she's in my lap while I'm sitting at my desk, she bangs her head against my sternum. Hard. It was only a few months ago that we were all so concerned about the safety of that little head that she's now using as a weapon. And she eats. A lot. I am putting off giving her solid foods. Nursing is just so easy. And giving her solid foods means we're one day closer to not nursing at all. Already I miss the way she reaches for my fingers while she's eating and grasps them tightly, so tightly, in her chubby hands.

I was in the garden the other day (or was it a few weeks ago now?) weeding. It feels impossible to keep up this season. We pull up the little buggers or turn them over with a hoe, but they're growing impossibly fast. Will we ever be able to eat that much spinach? The cilantro (which is really from last year's seeds that were cast about in the wind) is knee high. Eric warned me the other day that we might have to pull up the radishes. The roots are still spindly, but the leaves and stalks are threatening to crowd out other plants. But I resist such a rash move. Surely there's time and space for all of it, right? Can't I have my radishes and peas too?

We're thinking a lot about growing around here: what to hold on to, when to let go. But I've answered my question. Yes, it is possible for things to grow too quickly; plants and children both. So I rub my girl's downy hair and pluck some lettuce leaves from the ground. I watch her watch me through the garden fence.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Shopping From the Edge Redux

A month or so ago, I did a little experiment in which I shopped for one month solely from the perimeter of the coop (and from anywhere at the farmers market). This included: produce, meat, bulk, dairy, and bakery (which I didn't end up using).

Here's what I learned from this largely successful experiment.

- Shopping bulk can be a pain in the butt, but it's totally worth it in terms of savings at the register and in the wasteful packaging department.
- To make shopping bulk easier, have containers with you on each trip to the market. I've ended up using bulk for certain items, so I have one container already measured and marked with the tare (the weight of the container so they don't charge you for it) and the PLU (price look up so they charge you for the right item). Once I had those containers (mostly mason jars) set aside for staple items (brown sugar, sliced almonds, dried cherries and, yes, malted milk balls) refilling at bulk was almost as easy as buying prepackaged items off the shelf.
- I am NOT a bread baker... yet. I've now tried to bake bread three or four times with little to no success. The thing is, I've made pizza crust a bunch of times successfully so I know it's not the yeast or where I'm letting it rise or anything like that. I'm still convinced I'm going to love baking bread I just have to figure out how to do it.
- Shopping the perimeter meant that we had fewer processed foods and snack around the house, which was totally worth it. We saved money by not buying pricey spritzers and sodas and were (probably) eating food that was healthier for us. (OK, not the malted milk balls.)
- Using dried instead of canned beans is shockingly easy. Sure, it took some planning ahead because I had to soak them overnight, but they were WAY tastier and cheaper.
- I definitely made more items from scratch and even learned how to make paneer (Indian cheese), which was super easy.
- Bulk tea leaves are fancy and satisfyingly ritualistic. I was worried that I'd miss the ease and Britishness of pouring hot water over a tea bag, but I was surprised that I actually enjoyed using bulk tea on a regular basis. I just pulled out the old tea balls and away I went! A little extra cleaning up, but well worth the savings and deliciousness.

Will we continue? For the most part, it's so easy in the spring and summer to shop from the edge because we practically live on produce anyway (and because our farmers market offers SO much). I still have a bit more kitchen organizing to do, but I'll probably stick to trying to buy from bulk as much as possible.