Sunday, July 29, 2012

Independence Days update, 7-29-12

I haven’t done an Independence Days update for over a month. Since I last updated, we’ve attended two out of state weddings, keeping us away from home for 12 days. During the first trip, the high temperature in St. Louis ranged from 99F to 108F. During the second trip, highs each day were in the 90sF. I didn’t measure any rain at our house during either trip. While being away from home kept our electric bill lower (we don’t run the AC when we are not at home), the gardens suffered from not being irrigated for those 12 days. According to the US Drought Monitor, our area is now suffering from extreme drought, and it looks it. Not only are lawns dormant, but I am seeing wetland plants, shrubs, and some trees going dormant early or dying. I irrigate some part of the yard every day whenever I am awake and at home, but only the vegetable garden has gotten enough irrigation to grow reasonably well, and it barely enough. The best I can do elsewhere is keep desirable plants from dying and reduce fire risk near the house. This morning we received about 0.2 inches of rain, just enough that I will not irrigate today. Tomorrow, however, the round of irrigation begins anew and continues until we get a substantial amount of rain (at least an inch in a week or less).

The update below will include everything important since the last update in June.

Planted: I planted a fall crop of the ‘French Fingerling’ potatoes even though the weather has been so hot, just to see if they will grow. So far no potato plants have emerged, but that could still change; they seem to take about 3 weeks or so to show up and it hasn’t been quite that long since I planted them. I also planted a few pole bean seeds in front of the southernmost row of corn, some of which have grown despite the heat and insufficient rain and irrigation. On the other hand, the pumpkin seeds I planted in mid-June failed to germinate, and the replacement seeds I planted in early July germinated but died during the second wedding trip due to the heat and drought. I don’t plan to seed fall radish or greens crops unless the pattern of heat and drought breaks for several days sometime before late August. We still have collard, kale, and other greens alive in the garden that we can harvest through fall.

Harvested: peas were harvested until the end of June, as were plums. I harvested the ‘French Fingerling’ potatoes in early July. This month I’ve harvested peaches, pears, elderberries, hazelnuts, black walnuts, red and yellow onions, orange and yellow carrots, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, zucchini, cabbages, and some herbs. I started harvesting some of the black-eyed peas, letting them dry further in the pod while under cover in the basement. Squirrel pressure is much less this year so we are able to harvest some of the fruit and nut crops for ourselves rather than the squirrels stealing the entire crop as in past years.

Preserved: various mint-family herbs, by drying. Tomatoes, by making and freezing a quart (so far) of tomato sauce. Potatoes, by holding in a 5 gallon bucket on the floor of the basement. Pears, by refrigeration. Onions, by holding in baskets in the basement. Cucumbers and cabbage, by fermentation into pickles and sauerkraut respectively (14 pounds worth of cabbage got made into sauerkraut!). Elderberries, by freezing for later use in making wine.

Waste not: I’ve written blog posts on minimizing the use of electricity for AC and on reusing graywater from the kitchen sink and the laundry. Mike was able to repair a puncture in one of my bicycle’s tires using the patches from the patch kit and Shoe Goo in place of the dried-up epoxy in the patch kit. I’ve continued to use the solar oven for boiling water, baking the occasional loaf of break, and recently to bake eggplant Parmesan.

Want not: Mike found and purchased a peck basket on one of his thrift store runs. We used the remaining half of a processed ham and lots of garden produce to put together most of the dinner we prepared in celebration of Mike’s mom’s 85th birthday. Our neighbors gave us a few pounds of the overripe peaches from the box they’d gotten, so I expect to be drying peaches tomorrow. We are continuing to eat the remaining kimchi to make space in the fridge for the new batches of fermented products.

Eat the food: coleslaw made from homegrown cabbage, peppers, onions, and carrots. Boiled and fried homegrown potatoes. Homemade salad dressings. Eggplant Parmesan from the homegrown eggplants, basil, and garlic (we used a jar of tomato sauce Mike’s mom didn’t prefer and therefore gave to us). Salads with various combinations of zucchinis, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. Tomatoes, plums, peaches, and/or pears with breakfast. The unprocessed ham half as red cooked pork according to a recipe in Mike’s Chinese cooking book. The remaining kimchi and pickled tomatoes from last year. We took some of the homegrown fruits and veggies as well as bread and cheese along with us on the trips in order to reduce purchase of fast food meals.

Build community food systems: nothing outside of sharing some of the harvest with neighbors, family, and friends.

Skill up: I learned how to reuse graywater using items we already had on hand. I also learned how to do a load of laundry by hand; I’ll write that post eventually.

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