Thursday, March 22, 2012

Independence Day challenge, week ending March 21

Anyone who lives in the Midwest knows this has been an extraordinarily warm March. My apple trees are blooming. That's right - apple trees that don't usually bloom till mid April. Most leaf buds have broken open and the leaves are beginning to expand. Our last frost isn't generally until sometime in April, but the way things are going, we might not get another frost. Still, I'm keeping to my usual garden schedule. This is the Midwest, after all, and anything can happen.

Here's a photo of our front yard. You'll notice the redbuds blooming on the left (west) side. In a normal spring the redbuds would not be blooming for another two weeks or so.

Here is my Independence Day report for the previous week. Check out Sharon Astyk's blog for more on the Independence Day challenge.

Plant: two different varieties of potatoes, a total of 200 square feet. I've also been pricking-out seedlings into larger quarters.

Harvest: a couple of pounds of asparagus; shiitake mushrooms; and one bluegill from the pond in the nearby county park.

Preserve: my DH cooked up some of the stored sunchokes and froze them, as we need to use them up before they sprout.

Waste not: used corrugated cardboard and rotting wood from a former cold frame as mulch liner to kill some of the grass inside the newly-fenced portion of the vegetable garden. Re-used 100 feet of old fencing so we only had to buy 50 feet of new fence, and re-used posts so we didn't have to buy any new posts. Re-using cell packs for the pricked-out seedlings (and the cell packs were trash-picked to begin with).

Want not: purchased 50 pounds of organic flour from a mill in the upper Midwest. Finally purchased the latest version of Office that our computer's OS will accept, to add a few years of usefulness to it (and got the software on sale at that). Piped up the rain barrel overflow to the rain garden, and buried the drainpipe this time so larger critters won't be able to tear it up to get at the smaller critters that hide in it.

Eat the food: asparagus; the remaining unplanted seed potatoes; sunchokes and radishes from storage; shiitake mushrooms; (tiny) fillets from the bluegill.

Community food systems: doing my best to get the veggie garden planted and the whole yard looking as good as possible by May 20, when our yard is included on a local garden tour.

Skill up: nothing specific this week.


  1. just a question. 50 lbs is a lot of flour. how will you store it? i keep mine in the frig to avoid the natural oils from becoming rancid. but that would be tough with 50 lbs. :-)
    i buy several types of whole grains, as they keep so much better in that form (except rice, of course).

  2. how do you store your flour? i am assuming you are speaking of whole wheat flour. as the oils go rancid fairly quick, i'l like to learn how you stare that much flour--or maybe you are planning a pancake festival???

  3. Half of it, 25 pounds, is whole wheat; the other half is unbleached wheat. I bake about a loaf of bread a week and occasionally bake sweet goods like brownies, plus Mike likes to make the occasional breakfast of biscuits, pancakes, or waffles. (He does most of the cooking, but I do most of the baking.) The upshot is that we'll go through 50 pounds of flour in less than six months. For that period of time, I will store both kinds of flours in plastic containers in our basement. It would probably be better to refrigerate or freeze the whole wheat flour at least, but we have a small, very energy efficient fridge without enough room to store that amount of flour (and barely enough room for things requiring refrigeration). I don't worry much about rancidity; not that it isn't occurring, but just that I don't worry about it. Nothing is perfect; part of simplicity practice, for me, is not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    I have a grain mill so we keep some wheat berries to grind into flour. The problem is, it's a hand-cranked mill and I have to run the wheat through it twice to grind it fine enough for flour. Sometimes I'm willing to take the 45 minutes to grind enough flour for two loaves of half whole wheat bread (the unbleached flour makes up the remainder), but most of the time I'm not willing to do that. I admit, however, that the bread made from freshly-ground flour tastes better than that from the stored flour. More often, I'll use the mill to grind corn for cornmeal, which takes a lot less time, plus I can grind the corn I grow. I've grown wheat, but corn is much easier to thresh out, plus it gives a much higher yield per unit area.

  4. What mill did you purchase the flour from? I'd love to have their contact info if it's available.

    1. I purchased the flour from Buffalo Valley Grains. They were formerly known as Fields of Grain. Here's their website: