Monday, January 31, 2011

On Ravioli and Emergency Preparedness

Sitting here, eating local, seasonal corn and carrots which I froze this summer, a frozen fruit smoothie, and delicious local ravioli from Mama Mucci's in Canton. I'm thinking about the epic snow storm that will be soon descending upon Southeast Michigan. Thinking about emergency preparation (oh shit, we have no bottled water or spare battieries...) is encouraging my mind to drift to something a little more fun, which is my planting plan for this year. Emergency planning and Plant planning are essentially, in my mind, the same thing. One might be for a more immediate disaster, but planning ahead for the season and ensuring that my family has vegetables that are high in nutrients, readily available, that didn't take a 1,500 mile trip to get to our door is pretty important to me. Now is the time where I am dreaming and getting carried away by what I might plant, but also doing a lot of realistic thinking;

What kind of vegetables will Sam actually eat? What can be easily used in homemade dishes, or easily frozen? What will store well into the winter?

As I've mentioned before, as I garden more and more, I'm discovering that what really appeals to me about growing vegetables (besides the amazing taste of a freshly-picked tomato, or an onion pulled straight from the ground) is that sort of "survival mentality". I like knowing that if my car broke down, or if there was some kind of bad weather, I could survive on what I can grow in my own backyard/frontyard/whatever other place in the yard my partner lets me take over.

Now in my second year of urban homsteading, the questions becomes one of realism. Because of the climate I live in, the size of the lot I have, etc. it's not realistic for me to grow all of the food that my family will eat. Also, there are some food exceptions in this household- there's a lot of Velveeta Mac n' Cheese being eaten by a certain teen, but I haven't had much success growing that yet. :) Knowing that we will never be a family that lives completely off the grid, how can we inch ourselves more toward the edge of it?

Part of any good planning process is taking in input from others. Although I am definitely the sower, tender, harvester, planter and cook/baker in this family, there are two other eaters! Today I sat down with Sam and asked her what she'd like us to grow, and we talked it out and came up with a list- potatoes, lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, and cucumbers. I will grow a lot of these things, because Sam will eat them and I want to make sure she gets a lot of veggies! Mike is a veritable garbage-disposal when it comes to food, especially veggies. The conversation with him is more about how much space I can use to grow, rather than what to grow in it. He's not yet ready for the whole lawn to be taken up by a potato patch- I stress the word yet.

It's difficult to assess how much I need to grow- how many potatoes does someone eat on average per year? Even if I can find how many potatoes an average American eats per year, I bet you $20 that half of those potatoes are french fried! Here's my best assessment for our family for the coming year:

Lettuce- 3 heads/week, April-December (cold-tolerant)= 108 heads of lettuce 
Potatoes- 6 potatoes/week June-April (storage)=240 potatoes 
Carrots- 10 carrots/week, May-March (storage)= 400 carrots 
Tomatoes- 10 large/week July-October= 160 tomatoes 
Onions- 3 onions/week June-April (storage)= 120 onions 
Cucumbers- 1 cuke/week August-October= 48 cukes 
Cauliflower- 1 head/2 weeks August-November= 8 cauliflower heads 
Garlic- 1 head/week May-May= 52 heads of garlic 
Watermelon- 2 watermelon/week July-September= 24 watermelons

Oh good. Now that I've spelled it all out, it sounds insane! Well.. it's not all going to be grown at the same time.. (I'm telling myself this) the carrots and lettuce and even onions could be planted twice. The potatoes could be planted in two locations and planting dates could be staggered for a longer lasting supply. The tomatoes... holy crap! The cukes... the cauliflower... the garlic... the watermelon.....

It's gonna be a challenge, but so much fun!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

They're aLiVe!!

OMG my first little seedlings are up! These babies are Valencia Onions. I am pretty dang excited. I also ordered a few more cultivars from Johnny's seeds that just came in today- looking forward to planting more :)
My first little onion shoot of 2011! Can you see it?!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Seed Inventorying

Since I am planning for the spring, I decided to devote some time to actually looking and seeing what seeds I have in my possession. I saved some seeds last year (peppers and watermelon) and I was sent some by a good friend (crazy Asian melons that might or might not grow in Michigan).

Another reason for me to step back and look at what I'll be planting and what seed selection I have is because I'm going to a Seed Swap program tomorrow at our local grange- so excited!

So here's my inventory. I think all I really need to purchase are some potato tubers. Maybe I'll find some different onion varieties at the Swap tomorrow!:

Basil, Sweet Green-1 pkt
Basil, blend-1 pkt
Carrots, Parisian-2 pkts
Carrots, Scarlet nantes- 2 pkts
Dill, Dukat-1 pkt
Lettuce, Crisphead, Great Lakes-1 pkt
Lettuce, Batvia Laura- 1 pkt
Melons, Watermelon, Moon & Stars-1 pkt
Melons, Watermelon-1 pkt
Melons, Ivory Gaya- a million seeds
Melons, Korean- a million seeds
Onion, Valencia-1 pkt
Peppers- Jalepeno 2 pkts
Peppers, Red bell- 1 pkt
Peppers, Green bell-1 pkt
Pumpkin, Jack-o-lite-1 pkt
Squash, Zucchini, Jackpot-1 pkt
Squash, Zucchini, Clarimore, Golden Dawn, Raven- 1 pkt
Tomatoes, Sugar Plum- 1 pkt
Tomatoes, Matt's Wild Cherry-1 pkt
Tomatoes, Ropreco Paste-1 pkt
Tomatoes, Canestrino de Lucca- 1 pkt

Coral Bells-1 pkt
Snapdragons-3 pkts
Lupins-1 pkt
Zinnias, White Profusion-1 pkt
Zinnias-1 pkt
Foxglove, Purple-1 pkt
Aster, Powderpuff-3 pkts
Statice, Watercolor Pastels-1 pkt
Columbine, mixed-1 pkt
Cosmos, Sensation-1 pkt
Sunflower, Red Sun-1 pkt
Sunflower, Evening Sun Mix-1 pkt
Blue Bonnet, Alamo Fire-1 pkt
Blanket Flower-1 pkt
Echinacea purpurea-1 pkt
Echinacea purpurea, White Swan-1 pkt
Marigolds- 6 pkts

Friday, January 14, 2011

Weekend Reading

I have a great variety of weekend reading planned:

The Sustainable Vegetable Garden, by John Jeavons and Carol Cox
Grow Vegetables, by Alan Buckingham
Square Foot Gardening, by Mel Bartholomew
Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan,
On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Larua Ingalls Wilder
Salem's Lot, by Stephen King

One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong... ♫

I always throw a Stephen King into my reading plans for good measure- gotta shake things up a bit!

Right now I am playing host to several teenagers who are gaming and pizza-ing in my basement (if you don't know, my little sister is living with us!). When I was in high school, my parent's house was always the place to hang out. My parents are pretty relaxed-and-groovy (a la Eddie Izzard), and I think that my house was sometimes a safe space or at least a relaxing space for several friends. I like the idea that our house could now be that safe, fun space for some of Sam's friends. Her friends are all pretty nice, funny and endearing, or at least they are when I go downstairs to check on them!

I meanwhile, eating pizza and Twizzlers (bringing me back to middle school sleepover days), am delving into this list of gardening books and quite enjoying it. Fridays have become one of my fairly quiet nights at home and I've come to like and value the time to myself, even when there are raucous teens downstairs; maybe it's best then-when there are happy, laughing people in the background.

I was reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It's become sort of like a bible to me, or a Harry Potter or a Lord of the Rings- something to be re-read each year and looked upon with fresh eyes. I was reading it tonight, until I started eating aforementioned pizza, Twizzlers, and other bad things and felt a little silly eating the most processed, un-local food ever while reading about a year of local eating.

Overall though, my effort to make more meals at home, buy more local and seasonal foods, and incorporate more vegetables and less refined grains has been doing well. I suppose today will have to be my "cheat" day.

I am surrounded by inspirational books, happy adolescents, napping cats, and I am drinking Coke out of a Twizzler fashioned into a straw. I think I'm set for the night. :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Beef, Brown Rice, and Cheese

I've been trying to start the new year out right, with some new healthy recipes that utilize the veggies I need to eat with the deliciousness that I look for in a dish! Tonight, I tried something I've never made before- Stuffed Bell Peppers! No as local as I would have liked, but it's full of veggies, healthy brown rice, and lean, naturally-raised ground beef. It's about to come out of the oven now, and it smells wonderful. Want to try it with me?

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Beef, Brown Rice, and Cheese


  • 4 bell peppers, red, yellow, or green
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 2 clove garlics, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup cooked long-grain brown rice
  • shredded Mexican-style cheese, about 1/2 cup
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix


  1. Cut tops off peppers, put in an appropriate-sized oven safe dish. Chop edible part of tops and set aside. Also chop onions and garlic.
  2. Preheat oven to 375!
  3. Sauté chopped green pepper (from tops) and ground beef, until beef is browned. 
  4. At the same time, cook your rice, (1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water in a pot, bring to boil, then simmer and cover for 20(ish) minutes. 
  5. When beef and rice are done, combine into a large bowl with your chopped onions and garlic. Now add tomato sauce and cheese. Mix well. 
  6. Stuff peppers with the beef and rice mixture and place into your baking dish. Pour about 1/3 cup  tomato mixture over the stuffed peppers. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Top stuffed peppers with a little shredded Cheddar cheese just before peppers are done; bake until cheese is melted.

Recipe for stuffed peppers serves 6.