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The Basement Seed Starting Area

January 26th, 2012

This past weekend I spent some time cleaning up the basement seed starting area. Last year, a few of you asked about seeing it, so here it is. My seed starting area always starts out neat and tidy in January, but slowly descends into chaos as more and more seeds get started and as the gardening season ramps up. Add to that all the plants that get hurriedly carried in when the weather turns cold in the fall and it can get to be quite a mess. It remains that way until January, when I head down with my mop to clean it all up for the new season. I’ve always got a furry helper by my side “helping” me with the chores so it’s not so bad (this time it was Dexter).

My seed starting area consists of a collection of random items that have been given to me throughout the years. The table I use is an old enameled top table that was left in the first house my parents purchased, it’s much older and I am (probably by 2 or maybe 3). It’s quirky and interesting, I’ve loved it since I was a kid. This table used to sit under our laundry shoot in our old house with a basket on top.

My light shelf was given to me a few years ago by my mom when she got a new one. One tray has been removed and replaced with a piece of plywood topped by a heating mat for those seeds that appreciate some warmth, like: peppers, tomatoes, onions, etc. Head on over to the Your Day Blog to read my post about how this seed table recently taught me a valuable lesson.

After sweeping, mopping, dusting and cleaning up, everything was back in order and ready for the coming season, which officially started on Tuesday (more on that tomorrow). It’s nice to have this little corner of the basement set up as a seed starting area, it’s quite cold down there since our basement in unheated, but with a heating mat for the warm loving crops everything does just fine!

Do you have a dedicated seed starting area?

A seedling heating mat seedling heating mat is money well spent if your seed starting area is in a cold area of the house. I have this 20-3/4-Inch by 48-Inch which accommodates 4 flats of seeds, you only need to keep the trays on the mat until the majority of the seeds germinate.

What To Do With a Turnip?

January 25th, 2012

I found these lovely turnips at Local Roots in Wooster, OH last week and snatched them up. I’ve never grown them and have only had them in my kitchen once before. As I strive to learn more about winter gardening and growing vegetables that don’t require canning or preparation for storage, I find myself turning to root vegetables like the turnip. Purchasing from local farmers before growing them yourself is a great way to test them out to make sure you like them; you also know if they grow well in your area if the farmers are selling them. Although I’m thinking even if I don’t love them, they’ll be growing in my garden in the future because they’re such a versatile and useful winter vegetable!

According to what I’ve read in my on-line searches, There are many different way to prepare turnips, but I’m not sure which methods I should try. I figured the best place to ask for advice is here. These three large turnips should give me enough to try three different recipes. What do you recommend?

So what is the best way to eat a turnip? Have you ever grown turnips in your garden?

A Resource or a Liability

January 24th, 2012

Risa, from Stony Run Farm, brought up a great thought in the comments a few weeks ago when we were discussing why you grow your own. If your neighborhood/community got together in tough times to categorize people as liabilities or resources which would you be? Do you think the resources in your community could support the liabilities?

The biggest problem would probably be that many people would consider themselves resources. While that may be true in good times, their skills/talents might not be what is needed to survive during the tough times. I’ve thought about this as I strive to learn to grow some of my own food. Mainly, I do it for healthy food, because I enjoy it and to save some money, but I also want to have the skills necessary should a time every arise when we need to for survival.

Being able to grow food is a skill that most people should cultivate, whether you believe you will ever need it or not; sadly it’s not a skill many people see as necessary. On the most basic level, to survive you need: food, water, and shelter – everything else is really a luxury. Many of the skills we posses and use for our day to day jobs are for luxuries and not for necessities. This is true of my job, I produce a luxury. As a result, I feel the need to be able to produce my own necessities so I don’t have to rely on someone else. If things ever go pear shaped, my job/skills/income would be gone. No one needs a photographer/writer/videographer/blogger to survive, you can’t eat those things – so I would be considered a liability if I didn’t have any other skills.

Luckily, I have worked hard at learning/developing a lot of skills and I’m continually striving to broaden my skills that will come in handy should things every get rough.

Here are some of the skills I have:
growing food
foraging for wild food
winter gardening
seed saving
plant propagation
dehydrating, curing, canning
maple sugaring
cooking/bread baking
herbal remedies
rain water harvesting
Mr Chiot’s hunting is also a good skill

Some skills I’d like to learn:
keeping & breeding chickens
dairy & beef cow husbandry
meat rabbit breeding/rearing
pasture management
butchering meat
smoking and curing
hone my knitting/crochet skills
root cellaring
cooking with wood heat
first-aid & herbal healing
foraging, wild harvesting

Taking some time to think about what would happen in tough times and working on learning a few skills that will come in handy for you family and your community is something we should all do. It’s kind of like having a spare tire in your car, you hope you’ll never need to use it – but you want it around just in case. Learning a few basic skills will give you a sense of peace knowing that should you ever need to, you could survive.

What can you provide/bring to the table when times get tough?

Great resource books to keep on your shelf:

Old as Dirt

January 23rd, 2012

Every now and then I reach into the junk drawer in the kitchen for a pencil, which doesn’t happen very often. I don’t like to use pencils being more of a cheap bic pen person. This pencil shows you exactly how little I use a pencil:

Yes, I got this pencil in 1990 when the census representative stopped by our house; I was 14 years old. The pencil has never been sharpened, still sporting the original short point and the eraser has barely been used. I guess it’s not as old as dirt, but it’s pretty old for a pencil!

For some reason I distinctly remember the day when this pencil appeared in my life, but I have no idea how it’s stuck around for 21 years. It’s not that I particularly like this pencil or keep it around for a specific reason, somehow it has just moved through life with me.

I’m not really a sentimental person and I don’t place much value on things, so I don’t have objects around the house that I’ve saved for that reason. Of seemingly weird trinkets from my youth, I also have this tiny blue cow eraser that I got in the 3rd grade when the dairy association came to our school to promote how healthy milk was.

No doubt this census pencil will remain in my home for many more years and I’ll chuckle every time I reach into my junk drawer and pull out the pencil. I won’t be sad when it’s finally gone or lost, but I sure enjoy seeing it surface every now and then! It’s funny how something as insignificant as a pencil or an eraser can float in and out of our lives for many years, not having any value but somehow carrying a few memories with it. Every time I see this pencil I can hear the doorbell ringing at our old house on Metzger Ave. in Rittman, OH and I remember seeing the census representative handing me a clipboard with this pencil.

Do you have any items like this in your house, insignificant items that seem to stick around?

Quote of the Day: Jessica Prentice

January 22nd, 2012

For many of us, our interest in seasonality is somewhat selective. We want the warmth without the cold; we want the long days without the long nights; we want the abundance without the scarcity; we want the birth and growth without the death and decay. But without the death and decay there is no rebirth.

Jessica Prentice – from Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection

I was thinking about the rhythm of the seasons earlier this fall as I spent time clearing out the garden. The lush productiveness of high summer, turned into the damp decay of fall, which has now turned into the quiet slumber of winter. Where once there was green, followed by yellow and brown, now there is starkness. Where plants carpeted the earth, the soil then laid bare and in the blink of an eye, it’s now covered in a thick blanket of snow.

The rebirth that occurs because of winter happens not only in the garden, but also in the gardener. We awake in spring with renewed energy and vision for the coming seasons. I for one, am enjoying the small bit of rest that winter provides curled up in my favorite reading chair, cup of coffee, piles of books, seed catalogs and my computer by my side, planning what new and glorious things will appear in the gardens of Chiot’s Run during the coming year.

What are you dreaming of for the coming gardening season?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.