Monday, July 20, 2009

Weird Weather and Garden Update

We have been having some really odd weather lately. Both this weekend and last weekend were abnormally cool. Last weekend wasn’t that far off –maybe high 80s. But this weekend it never broke 80, and last night it went down to 52. That is unheard of around here in July –normally we have that kind of weather at the beginning of October! But that seems to be a pattern occurring across the country. If this keeps up, I don’t even want to think about what it portends for the harvest. Oh I will –I must –but that doesn’t mean I want to.

The bounty of peaches is finally slowing down, and none too soon. We’ve eaten them raw, cooked them in pies, crisps, and cobblers, stewed them, froze them, and last week I made my first ever batch of peach jam. It came out great. The jars are so pretty! I wish I had a digital camera so I could take pictures and upload them.

Everything else in the garden is doing well. The one lone tomato plant affected by blight is still hanging on. The others are thriving. The peppers are coming in, right on schedule, but this weather may change that. It’s not supposed to really warm up for several more days. Our basil is doing well, in particular one plant that is juxtaposed in between three tomato plants. I think that has something to do with it –the other basil plants that are near tomatoes are doing particularly well too.

No rain for five days. Other than that and the strange temps, things are going well here.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Free Food Storage Buckets!

I got some free food storage buckets Sunday from the bakery at one of my local supermarkets. I had heard you could do this, but had never before tried it. The ones I got are 3-gallon icing buckets. The lids on these won’t seal air-tight, so I’ll need to either use mylar bags or find another way of sealing them –K thinks silicone sealant will work. But they were free. All I had to do was clean them out and deodorize them with vinegar. That certainly beats paying nearly $10 each from some of the supply houses.

With things going the way they are, I am becoming more and more concerned about keeping enough food stored up to get us through. I’ve read several reports that each estimate global grain production will go down by about 15% this year –and that is an utter disaster. Then there is the Irish Potato Blight, which is devastating gardens and farms alike across the country. All in all, having food stored in the pantry makes me feel a lot more secure. Before K moved in I had enough food to last me three months. That, of course, halved when she moved in. We both agree that building up the pantry is a priority, so I am working on that as much as possible. Our eventual goal is to have a year’s worth of food on hand. That will not happen tomorrow, but we think we can do it in about 6 months.

If you don’t have any idea how much food one person eats in a year, go take a look at the LDS food calculator. It will give you a rough idea. There are several other calculators out there that do the same thing, and have roughly the same numbers. Those numbers are sheer calories –grains, beans, fats, cooking aids. They don’t include fruit and vegetables. The water requirement listed is for one week, as its generally considered impractical to store more water than that.

Here are the numbers for two people:
Grains -600 lb
Legumes -120 lb
Fats and Oils -26 lb
Sugars -120 lb
Milk -170 lb

It’s quite a lot, but my estimates indicate it can be done for around $1000. Less, with really smart shopping. But remember, ANYTHING stored is better than nothing if things go south. A year is a goal we’re striving for, but not one everyone can or even wants to meet. If you don’t have anything stores, start small. Buy an extra jar of peanut butter or a pound of dried beans the next time you go to the store. Every little bit helps.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Peaches, peaches, everywhere!

Peaches, peaches, everywhere!

My peaches are ripe. Last year was the first year I had any peaches from my tree and this year it just exploded. We literally have peaches everywhere –on the counters, the table, in baskets, in the cast iron skillets. The first ones were of course eaten properly. That is, we ate them underneath the tree with the juice running down our chins. The only bad thing we’ve discovered is that these peaches don’t keep well off the tree, so we’re rushing to preserve them.

Georgia peaches or Chilton county peaches? Neither, thank you, good sir –I prefer the ones from my own backyard!

Some more about my peach tree: it’s a Belle of Georgia peach, planted four years ago when it was about a year old. It is a semi-dwarf tree, which means it’s “only” about 15 feet tall. Currently it has a roughly 12-foot spread. It has never been affected by serious disease or pests, but some of our peaches developed a harmless fungus. These were mostly lower on the tree, and we’ve learned how to prevent that next year.

Happy peach season, everyone!

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Of Farmer's Markets and Corruption

We have a farmer’s market in our community, like many others. This market is open year-round. It has two anchor stores at either end and then other farmers come in three seasons out of four and sell their wares in the middle section. The anchor stores used to be held by two large local farmers who supplemented what they grew with bananas, extra produce, and the like so that they could stay open year-round.
‘Used to be’ being the operative term. All that changed this spring. The contracts were up for renewal this spring. There were competitors, for the first time ever, and so the commission had a bidding process. A secret bidding process, mind. That alone caused outrage among much of the community. When the results were revealed it turned out the old stores had lost –big time. The new tenants had bid DOUBLE the old rent. Furthermore, they had signed the leases before the results were made public.
That might have been the end of it, if the old stores hadn’t appealed and certain other details hadn’t leaked out. Like how the bidding process was rigged –the new bidders were told what the old tenants bids were and how much over that they’d have to be to get the commission to accept their bids. Then it turned out that the new tenants were actually part of a corporate chain who was trying to take over farmer’s markets using franchises. And then it came out that the county commission had not vetted this chain –no background or credit checks even, which are required by state law. And this chain has filed for bankruptcy twice. Oh, and the final straw: the two franchise owners are….the husband and brother-in-law of the head of the county commission. Nepotism, anyone?
There was outrage. There were hearing. The local news and the mayor got involved. And in the end…nothing happened. It was all allowed to go forward. Now the main place in town for poor people to get fresh vegetables has been co-opted by corporate interests who have driven up all the prices, and ran out a lot of the small farmers as well.
Even farmer’s markets aren’t immune to corruption these days, it would seem.

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