Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Science Teacher, The Second CSA Week and a Toast to Great Meals

In the oven right now is a whole chicken cut in half covered in olive oil, salt and fresh CSA rosemary. Next to the chicken dish are 3 small CSA sweet potatoes. We will have a salad with the chicken and the sweet potato. In the salad there is CSA radishes, fresh from the farm today tomatoes and fresh from our garden cucumber. My stomach growls in anticipation.

At the grocery store, Kroger,  the organic milk was on Manager Special so it came at half the cost. At the farm not only did we buy fresh tomatoes, we also bought a pumpkin. The pumpkin looked great. When our girls arrived home we carved the pumpkin. My husband did most of the work but it was all very enjoyable and gooey. The seeds were separated and are waiting to be baked. Half will be baked with sugar the other half with salt. The inside gunk was thrown in the compost bin and then a soy candle was lit in the carved and cleaned pumpkin head. Yes, I have pictures.

Today, despite the heavy rains we had to drive in, has been a wonderful day. Soon we will all sit at the table and eat a fresh healthy meal, part local, part organic, all fresh and I will smile because I and my husband are giving my family the best we can, on a budget, for our health and our future. My heart leaps in excitement.

Tomorrow I will tell you about the meeting with the Science teacher C.G. about the school garden. It went very well. Then I will tell you about this weeks CSA adventure. It's dinner time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Darn Freezer!!!!!!! And Frijoles a La Chara

We almost lost our entire months worth of CSA meet. We noticed things in our freezer were melting. It turns out our freezer was not properly organized and ice/frost built up in the back creating poor circulation in the freezer. But!!!!!!!! We saved it! Yeah we saved it!

There we were cooking as much meet as we possible could to store it in the fridge so that it couldn't go bad. We gave the liver to the dog. We can't stand the stuff no matter how we try it. My dog on the other hand loves the stuff. It was gone in seconds.It was the first to melt to so it would not have lasted through the freezer fixin. That's right I said fixin. That's the Texan in me.

On another note the poblano peppers, cilantro and the leaks from last weeks CSA have helped me make some great meals. What an amazing flavor. Today with some CSA sausage, non-CSA bacon, diced CSA leak, diced CSA poblano pepper, tomato, pinto beans and CSA cilantro, I made Frijoles a La Chara. My husband said they were the best I have ever made.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The New CSA, the School Garden and the Tomatoes

I don't have much time to write this post, but I wanted to post something about what happened in these past two weeks before it gathers with future events and I end up writing one gigantic long entry like my last one.

The news:

The New CSA-Today I picked up the first basket of vegetables at the CSA I switched to for this season. The batch was small and some of it didn't look very fresh, but the pickup was much closer than the last location. The pick up time is also convenient and there also isn't much traffic going to or coming back from the location. I will update this entry with pictures once I get the chance.

The School Garden- Remember in one of my last entries (the last one I think) I posted the conversation my husband and I had with the expert gardener who gave us a ton of advice? Did I mention I had a small conversation with her about starting a school garden? Well, long story short she suggested I contact the school principal and then find a teacher interested in starting a school garden. So....on teacher conference day I stopped by the front office asked for the pricipal. She wasn't in but they left her a message. Several days later C.G. gave me a call and told me she was the 5th grade science teacher. The principal gave her my number because she had also mentioned a school garden to the principal.

I don't know how to explain the excitement I felt during that phone call other than that after I found out she was excited too and after I hung up with her I put the phone down and began to clap, then shake my fists in the air while I lifted both heels off the ground and back down repeatedly.  I know, this was a very weird reaction, but that is what I did and now I must live with a picture of it in my head forever.

Earlier this week I received an email with her available times so that we can meet. I replied with my availability and a few how to start a school garden links. I can't wait until we meet. I hope we can pull this off and make a success of it. 

Oh! I almost forgot. We have tomatoes! In our back yard garden we have tomatoes. Of course I rubbed it in when I told my husband about them. He wouldn't believe me a tomato plant was growing in our garden and now there are 4 tomatoes growing on the vine. Still no watermelon. Still no cantelop. The cucumber is still giving us cucumbers but not many and the plant looks as if it doesn't have much left in it. It is either the bug or the weather that is weakening the plant. Either way it served its purpose and now we know we can plant cucumbers next year. The spearmint is taking a while to grow, but it is growing.

Oh! I also found a Health Food store near where I live, but I will chat more of that later. I need to finish cooking dinner.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Perfect Garden Center

A few weeks ago on one of my husbands days off we took a trip to the park. It was a beautiful Saturday. We decided to grab lunch and have a picnic at the park. Subway was the healthiest and most eco-friendly packaging fast food place we could think of. We hadn't gone grocery shopping, were out of food at home and didn't want to spend the beautiful day, not even an hour, shopping at the grocery store. Subways was our best option for the time.

On the way to the park we noticed a lot of parked cars and some tents ahead. My husband and I debated whether we should stay. We wanted family time to be fun, not over crowded, but when we drove up to the orange cones and the man to ask him what was going on and then to tell him we were going to turn around he told us it was a free event with arts and crafts and plant sales. We also noticed the little train (a kid train made of about 6 cut out 55 gallon plastic barrels attached to a tractor) and when we looked ahead at the play part of the park it really wasn't all that crowded. It was only there upfront. So we parked. We grabbed our food and the kids and walked over to a picnic table.

Did I mention what a beautiful day it was? We ate our lunch. Then my daughters, while already standing up and headed towards the play area, asked us if they could go play. Of course we let them go. My husband, the baby and I watched the girls play. After about an hour my husband and I took interest in the train. So we went to ask how much it cost to ride. We only had about $3 on us. When they told us it was free we were thrilled. Every dollar counts right now.

My daughters got in the train, but I was concerned about the heat so as soon as the train came back I made them drink some water. Then my husband and I began to talk about the 55 gallon drums the kid train was made of. We loved the idea but also remembered the rain barrels we still needed to find so my husband walked over to the driver of the train and asked him where he found the barrels. The man told him he found them about 15 years ago. He gave my husband a few suggestions of where we could find them now but the places were always so far away.

After the train we walked to the tents in the picnic area across the park street playground. The first tent was one of handmade soaps. I know we didn't have any money on us so I just asked the lady for her business card hoping she was local so I can order from her later. She wasn't as local as I hoped, but still in South Texas.

Next we stopped by the arts and craft tent. This is were it was all worth it. The first craft my girls made was pantyhose filled with dirt and seeds. Four parts were tied off with rubber bands. Two parts became ears, one a nose and one the neck. Then eyes and lips were glued on. The eyes and mouth later fell off. The glue used wasn't the best, but in a little more than a week the seeds of sprouted and the plant faces have a full head of grassy hair. They are very cute.

Soon after they made the plant faces/heads they moved on to coloring pictures of frogs and cutting them into 3D figures. Then they had someone help them make hats out of newspaper, paper maches, and some tape. It was a neat idea I plan to copy and do with my girls again.

After the hats they colored butterfly rings and other animal nature crafts. It was all very neat and curious why it was free I asked some of the sweet ladies there who looked like they were really tired of the heat. They told us some local business were sponsoring the event and they have had the even for the past few years except last year because of the Hurricane.

It's nice when companies do this. It really helps families like mine enjoy family outing without having to spend an arm in a leg in the process. My girls still not done with the arts and craft my my husband and I chatted and then nosily tuned into one of the nice ladies conversation with someone else about organic gardening. The someone else was asking about bugs in her garden. The nice lady gave her some organic advice and when the conversation was over my husband and I slowly worked our way to her to ask her some questions too. I'm not sure how long we were there but we were overloaded with a wonderful amount of information.

We wrote down a list of plants she suggested are best to plant for this season for our area. She refereed us to website to look at. She..... gave us so much information. She also referred us to a garden centers that sells vegetable seedlings because we told her none of the nurseries here have vegetable seedlings. We left her thanking her over and over. My girls were delighted to have these new newspaper hats decorated with feathers and other girly things and my husband and I were excited to know that we were excited about gardening again.

As the tents began to close down we stopped by the photo art tent. What amazing work this woman had. My rude husband though attacked her with question about the types of products she used. I understood that his goal was to figure out how we could do this to start our own business. He didn't mean to be rude, he just needs to learn tact. I kindly asked for her business card and was really interested in buying a photograph she took of a frog. It was beautiful. Of course I didn't have the money so we thanked her for her time and we moved on to the carnivore plants.

These plants our amazing! But all I kept thinking was that the plants are not native to our region. What will that do to the environment. Still to look at one and have someone explain to us how the plants catch there food was very interesting, but again we did not buy and we moved on to the local honey.

I wanted some so much. It looked delicious, but I reminded myself I had half a jar left at home and that even if I didn't I didn't have the money. Luckily these events only take cash or I would have been using my debit card and I'm not one to use my debit card easily. When we passed the honey and began the walk to our car on the other side of the park. I looked back at all the beautiful plants and the art and realized that I love these type of events. Next time maybe I will bring enough to buy one thing for all of us.

Since then we have visited the garden center we were referred too. The first time we visited we didn't have much time. We got lost and by the time we found it we realized it was almost time to head back home to be there for the girls when they got off the bus. We also stopped by two resale shops in search for an umbrella stroller I need for my 9 month old and at Office Depot to turn in my empty cartridges for recycling and cash back into my account. I love recycling for money. I would do it for free but cash back is a nice touch and I'm not going to turn down the offer if they offer it.

At the garden center my husband who likes to go overboard and who was in a hurry began to grab vegetable seedling and seed packets left and right. Okay he wasn't that crazy but he did grab a lot, more than our budget allowed, but I managed to talk him into giving some of them up and going back the week after to get more if we needed. That day we bought broccoli and leak seedlings and lettuce seeds.

Yesterday, with more time available but not much time we stopped by the garden again. I announced a $10 budget and I made sure we stayed close to it, so when he tried to grab tomato seedlings and I knew they weren't going to fruit at least $2 worth which is about 50 cents more than they were going to cost I convinced him to put them back. I told him we could come back next year, early in the spring and take a look at tomatoes. He put them back. We did however buy, cauliflower (1), cabbage (2), cilantro (2) and Spearmint (1). Everything we bought on both days except the mint was for the front yard. The Spearmint, actually labeled English Mint (we were told by the nice man helping us that they were the same thing) is for the back yard garden for ground cover. We wanted to use soybeans or favabeans but don't know of any place locally that would sell this. We were told we could use mint as ground cover too. See we want a duel purpose ground cover. We want it to improve the soil but also be something we can use or eat before we till it up and into the ground.

Now that I have mint and some of the other herbs (which look great by the way) I can begin making some homemade body beauty products. At least I hope I can.

As we purchased the items above that second day the man assisting us helped us a lot. He gave us a lot of suggestions, told us we could bring a soil sample to the store to be tested for free and gave us a great tip of where we could find a large plastic barrel. He said a car wash. He showed us some he had turned into rain barrels and potters at the back of the store. What a great idea and what a great garden center. Thank you Kingwood Garden Center.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Target, Broccoli, And The Garden

Last week, after taking a ride to see if the new HEB was open yet (we had to run some other errands in that area too) and realizing it wasn't open we drove to HEB. when we parked I showed my husband how easy it was to remember to grab the reusable bags in the back of or car. We shopped for the things we needed. I told him to keep the cost down and for our health we needed to cut down some on packaged food. That proved harder than I hoped. After all Target is no Farmer's Market. Still we cut down on packaged food.

My husband doesn't really like when I shop because I avoid unhealthy snacks and other unhealthy foods. He says I suffer for it too. He's right. This week I have been jumping up an down in craving for chocolate. The fair trade and organic chocolate is out of our budget. We could barely afford the organic milk. I did however grab a gallon. We cut down on our meat purchase too and we are managing to survive off what we bought but my husband already had to go back to the store today to buy something extra for dinner to feed out neighbor so we would ave enough. What it comes down to is that we were raised a certain way to eat and to adjust or try to adjust to a new way of eating without much counseling or opportunity thanks to where we live this is proving to be difficult. Still this issues is not what my entry was suppose to be about. It was suppose to be about the reusable bags.

So, as we are checking out at the check out line, the cashier (with super customer service) is kindly interrupted by another cashier. The other cashier whispers a reminder to her that we get 5 cents bag for every reusable bag we use. It's a new thing she tells her and then points to a note or something close to the cashiers register. We are then told and I was delighted. Yeah!

I am still delighted. Finally that idea, which I knew happened in other states is finally happening here. I love it. I would use my totes either way, but now I get money back too. I wonder if HEB will start this soon?

On another note I think organic milk has something to do with my smoother clearer skin and less painful menstrual cycle. Not to get to specific, but those few months that we were on WIC and back on regular milk I noted my skin break out and during my menstrual cycle it felt again like it did when I was many painful cramps. Now that I'm back on organic, just a 1 month and a pain free menstrual cycle and nicer skin. It could just be a coincidence or wishful thinking. It could just be that I'm eating healthier now too.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, we took down the Topsy Turvy. Can you believe there was a bird nest in there? We also added compost to my front garden. We tilled the dirt a bit. Moved some plants around , planted some broccoli seedlings, some leak seedlings and some lettuce seed varieties. We added the excess (almost over flowing) worm poo from our worm compost into some of the front garden and the rest into our compost bin. I then went to the back yard to pull up some weeds and lift up the melon and watermelon/tomato plant. The cucumber is still giving us cucumbers, but now something is attacking it. There are some orange bugs on it with 6 long black legs. I'm trying to identify them, but still don't know for sure. The orange bug is either an assassin, a soldier bug or a stinky bug. I should catch one and take it to a professional gardener.