Thursday, June 18, 2009

What He Said...

The problem with the modern world is simple.

Hothouse Tomatoes.

"Geronda, why don't we have patience today?"

"The current situation does not help people to become patient. In the past, life was peaceful and people were peaceful and had the endurance of the patient. Today haste has invaded the world and people have become impatient. In the old days people knew they could eat tomatoes by the end of June, for example, and they were not concerned about it. They would wait until August to eat a watermelon. They knew in what season they would eat melons of figs. But today they will import tomatoes from Egypt earlier rather than eat oranges which contain the same vitamins. You may tell someone, "Come on, why don't you wait and find something else to eat now?" But no, he'd rather go to Egypt and get tomatoes. When people in Crete realized that, they started constructing hothouses in order to grow tomatoes faster. Now they construct hothouses everywhere in order to have tomatoes available in the winter. They will work themselves to death to build hothouses, to grow all kinds of foods and make them available throughout the year, so that people will not have to wait.

But let's say that this is not that bad. But they go even further. The tomatoes are green in the evening and in the morning they have turned into plump red tomatoes! I scolded an officer of state once regarding this matter. "Having hothouses is one thing," I said, "but using hormones to ripen fruits, tomatoes and so on, overnight, is going too far because people who are hormone sensitive will be harmed." They have destroyed the animals too: chickens, cattle, they are all affected. They use hormones to make a forty-day old animal appear like it is six months old. Can anyone who eats this meat benefit from it? They give hormones to the cows and they produce more milk than the farmers can distribute to market. As a result, the prices fall and producers go on strike, they pour the milk on the streets and in the meantime, we drink milk with hormones. Whereas if we left everything the way God made it, all would go well and people would have pure milk to drink. Notice how hormones make everything tasteless. Tasteless people, tasteless things, everything is tasteless. Even life itself has no taste.

Nowadays, young people have lost their zest for life. You ask them, "What will give you peace?" "Nothing," they reply. Such vigorous young men and nothing pleases them. What has happened to us? We believe we will correct God with our inventions. We turn night into day, so that the hens will lay eggs! And have you seen these eggs? If God had made the moon shine like the sun, people would have gone mad. God created the night so that we may take some rest, and look at us!

We have lost our peace of mind. The hothouses, the use of hormones in produce and in animals have made people impatient. In the old days, we knew that we could reach a certain place on foot in a certain amount of time. Those with stronger legs would get there a bit sooner. Later, we invented carriages, then cars, aeroplanes and so on. We try constantly to discover faster and faster means of transportation. There is an aeroplane which covers the distance between France and America in three hours. But when someone goes from one climate to the other with such great speed it's not good, even the sudden change of time itself can be confusing. Hurry, hurry...Gradually man will enter a projectile and with the squeeze of a trigger, this projectile will be launched only to burst open at some point and allow a madman to emerge! Where is all this taking us? We are heading straight to the madhouse!"

-Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Spiritual Counsels, With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man

Monday, June 15, 2009


I am just too thrilled! I've been drooling over Excalibur Food Dehydrators for weeks, months even. They are wonderful, but PRICEY. I read literature on picking out a food dehydrator, looked at various models.... Then one day as I was searching out more information about a Canadian made dehydrator by Berron I came across an online ad for one for sale in a city my in-laws have to drive through to get here. Long story short, older farming couple sizing down were getting rid of a 6 tray Berron for $75! She was thrilled to sell it 'to a good home' and .... bonus .... when she comes across where she stored her steam juicer she'll give my in-laws a shout and it's mine ... for free!!!

It arrived here Friday night:

What a beauty!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

On Darning and Mending

Back in the day when we were farming and making a whopping $2-3,000 a year making do was very important. One way I stretched our dollars was by darning dh's socks. Now good work socks, wool socks, can easily cost 3-8-12 dollars a pair depending on the thickness and quality. Dh kept wearing them out in the same place on every pair and I found after they were darned that they lasted FOREVER because they had been reinforced by the darning wool in just the right spots.

Repairing the knees in jeans so they could be wore on the farm was another, then there was the basic hand mending of little rips, tears, and loose hems too.

I'll give you a hint about mending jeans... use one pair that has really lost it to be cut up for patches. If you look at jeans you will see that the inner seam is just a regular stitch, pick that seam open, open the jean leg flat, put the patch on with a sewing machine, then restitch the inner seam. Makes it a whole lot easier!!!

Now that we are powering down the same making do is coming back to me. It's time to set up my mending and darning basket. I was looking for a basket with a lid that I could put on my end table in the living room that wouldn't be an eyesore and that I could store my basic hand sewing supplies in. I found one at a garage sale for $2, it was quite an eyesore when I found it with lots of bright wool stitching and horrid raffia flowers on it. A couple minutes with a pair of scissors revealed the nice plain basket underneath. It now sits on my end table looking just fine. I've put a variety of different threads, needles, small scissors, as well as thin grey, white, and black yarns for darning. An African market basket was then pulled out of the closet and tucked behind my library basket beside the end table for items that need repairing. I'm all set up!

It is amazing how much you can do if you make a point of darning or mending one item a night after the chores are done before you pick up a book or turn on the internet :o)

Tonight I repaired my 11yo dd's favourite skirt. She bought it at the second hand store herself and last Sunday she caught it on a nail and tore a little rip in it. It is a lovely handmade skirt with beautiful hand embroidery around the hem, it would have been a shame to let the tear ruin such lovely item. A little iron-on interfacing and some stitching put things to rights. She can go back to wearing it nearly daily, at least til she out-grows it!

Some resources:

Darning socks video and tutorial.

Fancy darning for hand knit items using a duplicate stitch can be found here.

A quick article and video on mending, here and here.

It is time to buy some basic sewing supplies and a good book about sewing. It is time to learn how to hand sew. Also teach it to your children. They need to know.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Radish Greens???

Lately I've come across recipes for radish greens, really. Are they truly edible???

Dh grows a lot of radishes, 300+ every week in his market garden usually, not this year though as germination has been horrid. If these things are edible we want to know!

Fresh from the garden they are .... unappetizing:

After washing and trimming ....

Well the basket of them left out had children nibbling from it even though they are prickly. Taste verdict from oldest child: 'Like dirt, only greener, not in a bad way.' Strange child. Other children after eating them both raw and cooked said they like them better raw. Might toss a few into the next salad.

One recipe I saw called for them to be cooked in butter and garlic like so:

Yuck, was my thought but then I don't usually eat cooked greens so I have no comparison. Ds ate quite a bit, one dd ate a little and said they were better raw. Personal taste I guess. These were rather old tops, maybe younger ones will be better??

Try them yourself! If you like them - wonderful! If not - no real loss, they were headed to the compost anyways :o)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Independence Days Update #5

Plant Something:

Italian bush Beans
Onion transplants

Harvest Something:


Preserve Something:

Nothing this week...

Preparation and Storage:

Started sorting through last year's lentils to pull out wild oats and dirt clods, maybe if they were clean I'd use them more.

Reduced Waste:

Used more baler twine in garden.
Took grass clippings from friend's mowing service and mulched the whole garden, it really cuts down on hoeing, helps to build the soil, and lets the children know exactly where they can walk (as I only mulch the paths).

Build Community Food Systems:

Gave mint away to new gardeners.
Gave away strawberry plants to another new gardener.
Seeing as how our garden is very public and how we are involved in market gardening people are coming to us for advice. I love encouraging people. Many many people are turning to gardening these days, great to see!

Eat the Food:

Local Bought- wheat, eggs, beef, honey
Home Preserved: frozen cherry pies from last year, pickles
Pantry Storage - lots
Fresh from garden - chives

Try Something New:

Made tomato cages and pea fencing from concrete reinforcing wire held together with zip ties. Last year we used the rolls of wire and it was a hard job to get these to roll the way we wanted the cages to go. Using the flat wire made it easy enough for me to do by myself! I think we have 18 of these cages made now, they are wonderful to use with indeterminate tomatoes.

Powering Down:

Reading 'The Long Descent' by John Michael Greer, AMAZING book! Great ideas on the how and why and how to prepare.

Back to bike riding now that son's cast is off, no more driving him to school! Littlest son and I biked 8 km yesterday to the building supply store to pick out things for our bathroom renovation.

I've been going to garage sales with my mom and this week I found a grinder for $2! Usually used to make sausage but can also be used to to grind cukes for relish. These can be $50-250 new depending on the size!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Herb Bed Construction

For the last two years mint's been growing in the garden and it hasn't spread ... It was contained by growing it in a chimney flue liner sunk into the ground. Keeping this in mind I planned our new herb bed, a way to limit the spread of the herbs. I wanted it to be in the middle of the garden, kind of a focal point, once the raspberry canes are moved to the edge of the garden in a couple years.

Step one was finding the middle of the garden, and sinking in the 12 chimney flues. I didn't worry too terribly much about them being perfectly level and square, they are pretty close and once the herbs grow it won't be noticeable:

Once they were in they were filled with 'Mel's Mix' a combination of vermiculite, peat moss, and various manures as per the instructions in Mel Bartholomew's book 'All New Square Foot Gardening':

Thinking about what herbs we use in the kitchen guided what was planted. A quick trip to our favourite local greenhouse yielded:
Greek Oregano
English Thyme
French Tarragon
Lemon Balm

Adding sage and parsley from our old patch and chives from a garage sale planted out the 12 flues. The plan was to put something tall in the middle like an obelisk or bird bath. Instead it looks like dill will be living there :o) I need lots of dill for pickles and for borscht and for potato salad and for ...

Grandma supplied us with little volunteer dills from her garden and a baggie of dill seed. They are now all settled in and hopefully will give us a nice batch of leaf and seed heads.

All these herbs should be able to supply all we need for the year, now I just have to read about how to harvest and other ways to use them. We've been growing our own mint tea and the addition of chamomile should be interesting. My little tea grannies are already sniffing at the meager teaspoon of flowers we've harvested!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Independence Days Update #4

Whew! What a busy two weeks we've had.

Plant Something:
42 tomato plants (12 different varieties)
carrots under burlap:

16 cabbages under floating row cover (It will go over the hoops):

60 green bell peppers
1 green zucchini
1 yellow zucchini
1 row leaf lettuce
1 row of English cucumbers
'Beurre De Roquencourt' bush beans
Set up and planted our herb bed

Harvest Something:
Trimmed the onion transplants and ate the trimmings
Chamomile flowers

Preserve Something:
Dried the chamomile flowers for tea
Dried the leftover mint and basil

Reduced Waste:
Used moldy hay to mulch new garden section
Used lots of cardboard under the hay
Kept the baler twine and am using it instead of bought string for marking garden rows

Build Community Food Systems:
Dh and children very busy putting in the market garden:

Eat the Food:
Local Bought- wheat, eggs, beef, honey
Home Preserved - pickles, green beans,
Pantry Storage - lots as I'm starting to just buy things on sale and really stock up so a lot we eat from storage instead of buying as we need it.
Fresh from garden - rhubarb, herbs

Try Something New:
I took a good look at what we use as dried herbs for cooking and for teas, many of these could be grown in our garden. So our something new is putting in the herb bed in the garden and stocking it with herbs that I want to dry. This is a step towards independence from the industrial farming machine.

So far I've planted: basil, sage, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives, tarragon, mint, lemon balm, and chamomile. I'm going to add dill and cat mint this week.