Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Garden in the Winter: Sunflower Sprouts

One of my favorite things to do in the winter when the gardens are only memories and dreams from the seed catalogs and I hunger for fresh vegetables, is to grow sprouts and one of my favorite sprouts (and the easiest to grow) is sunflower sprouts.

All you need is a little dirt, a sunny windowsill and some raw sunflower seeds. Be sure the seeds haven't been treated in any way. Seeds sold for planting often have fungicides or pesticides added to them and you don't want to eat that.

If you want really cheap sunflower sprouts, buy a bag of sunflower seeds intended for the birds. I have looked and looked and not found a place that can honestly claim these seeds are inedible or not safe for humans.

A small bag will make a lot of sunflower sprouts!

Potting soil is best because of its water holding properties, but if you don't have it, don't run out and buy it. If you have nothing but dirt dug from the cracks in the sidewalk, the seeds will grow! If the soil you have is clay or compacts easily, add something to make it more porous. It can be anything from spent tea leaves or coffee grounds to find sand, crumbled weed stalks or coarsely ground eggshells.

Whatever you put in it won't matter much because it's not going to break down in the few days it takes for the sprouts to grow.

So put the soil in a shallow pot or some kind of container with drainage holes, then water it thoroughly and let it set for a half hour or so, until the water has percolated through it.

Sprinkle the sunflower seeds over it and cover with a layer of soil, or if you're a tidy gardener, you can scratch rows and cross rows and put the seeds in them. Plant them closely, about a quarter of an inch apart at the most.

Put the container in a warm place and keep the soil damp but not wet. Within two to three days, you should see the seeds begin to awaken, stretching and yawning, as it were. Tiny green stems will begin to unfurl. Eventually, the sprouts will stand upright and you will see two primary leaves.

When the sprouts are an inch or two and before the secondary leaves form, pinch or cut them with scissors at ground level and there you go.

Use sunflower sprouts on sandwiches or in salads or just snack on them. They have a wonderful, slightly nutty and altogether fresh taste that will satisfy the longing for vegetables fresher than the supermarket!


Friday, October 2, 2015

5 Reasons Why You Should Have a Garden Next Year

1. The price of vegetables are going up and up and will go even higher in the future. All food prices are going up and vegetables are one of the things that we can grow ourselves, no matter where we are. Container gardens, patio gardens or backyard gardens can produce an amazing amount of food.

2. There are not enough vegetables grown in the US for everyone to have a healthy amount of them. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service via Off The Grid News which goes on to say that "...the supply of vegetables in the United States has been falling since 2000." And much of that goes to french fries and ketchup!

3. Your kids (and you!) will enjoy watching the garden vegetables grow. What better way to teach a child the wonders of life than show them how to plant a seed and how much patience it takes to wait for life to show. Then you can remind them and yourself how tiny that one seed was when you bring in armloads of produce.

4. You can stock your pantry and freezer with canned, dehydrated and frozen food that's healthier to eat than most produce in the store. You don't have to add those unpronounceable chemicals to your own home canned, dehydrated food and frozen food and you know how much salt and/or sugar is in it.

5. It's convenient to step outside and pick a salad or vegetables to cook for dinner. What can I say about that? If you prefer to get the kids ready, drive to the store, resist temptation and children's pleas, find the produce, pick through it, stand in line at the checkout then pay for it, go for it. I'd rather step outside, choose what I want and get back in the kitchen to finish making the meal.

So think about it. If you didn't put out a garden this year or have never put out one or you did put out one but found a few things lacking, decide right now and plan on growing a variety of vegetables and putting them up for next year. You won't have to depend on the grocery store for the healthiest vegetables ever!



Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ready for Autumn!

Along about this time of year the whisper of autumn becomes stronger and stronger...  Sunflowers compete with yellow buses along country roads, the sky takes on a certain shade of blue and the deep shadows of the big trees across the alley linger just a little longer every morning.

Changing seasons, changing lives. There's a sense of renewal in autumn, a sort of taking a deep breath and starting out with a sense of purpose to prepare for the winter ahead. Although not all of us have to cut wood and preserve the whole harvest and begin making warm clothing, autumn is nevertheless a time of preparation.

Feeling the need to get ready for cold weather is not a throwback to caveman days or beyond. Our parents or grandparents needed to make autumn preparations. If we're smart, we'll do the same, even if what we do has changed.

What do we need to do in the autumn, before cold weather?

  • Have furnaces checked and change the filter.
  • Clean out coat closets. Check sizes, wear and so on, to see what needs to be replaced before cold weather.
  • Have our cars tuned up and ready for cold weather driving. Make sure our tires are okay for ice and/or snow.
  • Tend the harvest. Can, dehydrate and freeze produce that is cheap right now for frugal winter eating.
  • Take a look at window casings and doors and make any repairs that are needed. Replace caulking, tighten hinges, install weather stripping.
  • Take advantage of sales on garden tools, paper, pens, pencils and fresh root vegetables.
  • Look to nature to provide decorations and inspiration for our homes. Everything from river rock to dramatic "weeds" can be used creatively. 

There's a lot more to it besides the way we feel, although the "feeling in the air" makes us sometimes hurry to get things accomplished before... something or other. It only makes good money sense to preserve what we can, to get ready for the times of (winter) lean in the times of (summer) fat. In other words, the more prepared we are, the less the winter will cost us and that's a frugal fact.

Friday, August 28, 2015

As Summer Turns to Fall

I found this tucked away on the computer. The seasons are changing again - and as if they never have before, I watch in wonder as everything slowly moves from summer to fall. 
 
And the wheel goes round and around and around.

Summer turns to fall, frost and then a little snow.
Winter turns to spring and on and on it goes

I found a beloved stone and in my mind
It was polished and perfected, then the flaws began to show
The stone began to crumble and seem cold and far away

Shall I put it down and look for another?
Or shall I just put it down?
Or shall I keep holding it, waiting for summer to return...

Should I walk away...
Another stone will appear. Perhaps.

And summer turns to fall... and on it goes. 

Leaving little bits of us behind to turn dry and blow on the wind.

Winter turns to spring and on and on it goes.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ye Olde Kerosene Lamp


Did you know that lamp oil is nothing but refined kerosene? The odor has been removed and further refining removes the natural color.

You can make a lamp out of anything that you can keep burning. Before there were kerosene lamps, there were candles and before that, there were all sorts of oil lamps. Before that, there were torches. They all had the same purpose: To give light.

You can use the same simple, basic principle to make oil lamps out of almost anything. Any kind of vegetable oil, liquid or solid, and any kind of animal based oil, will burn.

A wick is anything that will "wick" or absorb and draw up the oil. Braided cotton or cotton twine is commonly used, but thin pieces of wood, twists of rags or even twisted dry grass will work if properly prepared. To prepare a wick, it has to be soaked in whatever you intend to burn.

A wax (animal and/or vegetable "oil") candle needs a wick that has been soaked in that wax and allowed to harden. To make a wick for a dish of, say, fish oil, soak it in the oil before positioning to burn, and so on.

To keep a wick up out of a container of liquid fuel, you will need a wick holder. A kerosene lamp is an example of how you might make one, but it's very simple to use a piece of wire. Make a flat spiral to set on the bottom of the container, then a piece coming up from the center of the container that is higher than the fuel level will be. At the top of that, make a round "eye" to fit the wick through so it won't fall into the fuel.

Soak the wick then thread it through the eye and let it fall to the bottom of the container. Fill the container with fuel and light it... and there you have it.

A few of these around a room will light it as well as candles. It's a good trick to know when the lights go out and you're not prepared.

A second way to make a light and one that you don't have to mess with much at all, is to use a can of shortening or lard. Insert an ice pick or something similar, into the center of it, then drop a wick (which you've soaked in a liquid version of the solid fat) into the hole and tamp it down into it. This will burn for hours and hours.

A good survival item is a can of tuna in oil. You can eat the tuna, of course, then you can make an oil lamp of what's left, using the label (soaked in the oil) as a wick.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hurry, get the harvest in!

And the rush is on. August means bushels of ripe tomatoes, summer squash overrunning the garden, gallons of cucumbers and peppers, and corn tasseling overnight. That is, if you're one of those gardeners who never fails!

That's not me and that's probably not you. One crop or another fails now and then and we have to say, "Well, the tomatoes did well, anyway!"

Whatever your garden is producing well right now is THE crop to take care of. Keeping it through, or at least until, the winter, is the essence of country living when it comes to food.

Canning, freezing, dehydrating, pickling and the use of root cellars each have their benefits. Decide what to do with each food by researching and studying your own situation.

If you're lucky enough to have a root cellar or a cool basement room, you can keep root crops and some others in a fresher condition than other methods. Canning gives you convenience foods, while dehydrating uses a minimum of storage space. Freezing is the easiest way to put up the harvest but maybe the least dependable. Pickling can be done without a pressure cooker or canner of any kind if you ferment the food.

Which way will it be? It's time to make the decisions and full speed ahead! Here's to a great harvest this year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Backyard buildings

Most cities would frown on you building a shelter of any kind from scrap lumber or old metal, even if it's in your backyard. We have to bite the bullet and pay for materials that are approved, like new lumber and siding, so sometimes it's cheaper (and easier!) to buy kits or even sheds that only need screwing together. A power tool is handy for that, but a screwdriver works, too.

Where to put the shed is a problem in most back yards. It needs to be close enough to the back door to get to in a snowstorm if needed, but of course, we don't want it in the way visually. If we entertain in our backyards, we need it far enough away to not be part of the scene.

Along a side fence is usually the best place. Trees and other landscaping might limit your choices even there, so think carefully before building one. Stay away from low or wet areas, too. They're hard to move after that!