Saturday, July 31, 2010

Couch Potatoes

This year we decided to concentrate on the vegetables we want to can. Last year the beans made it until December and the tomatoes until February, so we knew we needed more of those, but we got a little carried away with the potatoes: 230 plants.

Laura and I had thrown in a few sprouted potatoes from her vegetable bin last year, and we got ten or twenty decent potatoes without knowing or understanding anything about how to take care of them. They grew. We threw some tires around them, and that was about all. We probably over-watered them. The vines died off a little early, and we dug them before the first cold snap, but all in all they weren't too bad. Funny what a little success can inspire.

This year they were one of the first things we put in the ground. We started with about five pounds of various types from a potato farm in Idaho. We sulphured them well, trenched them in, and they started ok. But the rain didn't stop until June, and only the purple variety from Peru made it. The rest died off by July. They didn't rot, because I can still dig up the pieces and they are covered in sulphur and they are hard. They have about ten little potatoes the size of marbles around them, but the vines didn't make it.

That's ok because we still have twelve rows left. We planted more at the end of April. So far the russets and the yukon golds bought from the local feed store are doing the best. The vines are thick and green, and they grow steadily. We threw in some spidery things from Laura's pantry again; alien-looking grey things with long legs. They shot out of the ground, but too tall and too fast. They are growing. However, the vines are yellow and many are wilting because they just aren't very healthy.

Potatoes seem to be the most time consuming and troublesome of the vegetables this year. I call them the couch potatoes. They want a drink, or some magnesium, or a comforter thrown around them. Hilling them has taken some time.

We opted not to do the tires this year because of the snakes. D hates snakes, and we want D in the garden. The water that the tires held last year was a haven for the snakes.

Laura started the hilling process with wheat straw. We read that using straw keeps the potatoes clean. Then we read that it just encourages bugs? It's also hard to keep the light off the new potatoes if it filters through the straw, so we did the second go round with soil...... 3 yards of soil hand carried and placed ever so gently around their little necks. That was 2 pickup loads. By hand!

Twelve rows took two days. The potatoes grow between the seed piece and the top of the hill. Leah had the best idea. In her garden in Utah, she dug an eight inch trench and planted her seed pieces in the bottom . She keeps pulling the soil into the trench as the potato plants grow.

Ours are hilled with straw and soil, and we'll see who has the best potatoes.

Why are we growing so many?
  1. We want to know which variety does best in our garden.
  2. We want to see if we can keep our own seed stock until next year, and what the quality will be if replanted.
  3. We want to see if potatoes will keep in saw dust in a garbage can through the winter.
  4. We want to see how they can for stew.
  5. We want to try potato flour.
  6. We need counseling.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Waste Not the Wipes!!

I have been extremely intrigued by a great many things lately... having a baby is an eye-opening experience of the best kind.

Countless topics have been discussed in our home over the course of the past few months, and bless D's heart, he has been right there with me, always supportive, going over pros and cons, always willing to be the other half (the sane half, really) of my "Oh I just read something else that turns my world upside down" conversations. Bless. His. Heart.

I will be posting several blogs over the course of the next few months (years) about eco-friendly kid raising. Yes, this farming, dirt loving, surely conservative woman just said the words (hyphenated word rather) "eco-friendly" and I plan on saying much more on that topic. The main idea is that I would like to protect my children. All of them. Even the girls. : ) As parents-to-be, we worry about some of the same things our grandparents worried about when they were raising their brood. However, we worry about much different things too. Things that, until late, have not reared their ugly heads for parents to worry about. We plan on doing all we can to give the Cherry Clan the kind of wholesome, homegrown, dirt-streaked life we enjoyed and love still.

Project #1: Reusable Wipes!!

I like to save money. "Like" may be the wrong word here... ummmm... I'm so cheap I squeak.

There I said it.

I'm also somewhat of a naturalist. A homesteader. A home-loving housewife.

All of the above.

Back to the wipes...

I first read this recipe on Progressive Pioneer, a wholly inspiring blog written by Amy Thompson. The woman has a soul of gold, to say the least. She shares great ideas for making the most out of raising your children, easy do-it-yourself projects, and if I start now I'll be here all day explaining the benefits of following her blog... so just do it. However, I will give the same disclaimer for her site as I did for the other... I am not responsible for the addiction that ensues after visiting her world. ; ) You can find her baby wipe recipe, among other great articles here.

Reusable Baby Wipes

What you'll need:

For the wipes -
flannel squares (to fit whatever container you'll keep the wipes in)
a serger (the other day I called my mom's a surge protector and I thought she was going to pee her pants)
a sewing machine (if you have one of the nicer four-spool sergers you won't need the sewing machine)

For the solution -
3 cups warm water
2 T olive oil
3 drops essential oil (mint, lemon, lavender, you pick!)
2 drops tea tree oil
2 T natural baby wash (preferably the no-suds kind... I'll tell you why later. Ugh.)

Step #1: Wash the fabric. You'll always want to wash fabric before you start working with it - especially flannel which can shrink up to 3" in the first wash. Dry on low heat, and you're ready to start cutting!!

Step #2: Cut your flannel into squares/rectangles that will fit into the container you're going to be storing them in. I used a BPA-free plastic container with a flip top lid. NOTE: you will want to cut the pieces about 1/8 of an inch larger (on all sides) than you actually want. The serger will take off about that much from each side. NOTE#2: The wonderful thing about flannel is that, if you start a cut at one end, the fabric will rip easily and give you a nice, quick, straight edge. Excellent!

The golf pattern - my dad would be so proud.

Is this not the CUTEST fabric for a builder's family? I'm in love.

Step #3: Double up the fabric. The flannel I purchased had a print on one side and not the other. The material is also softer on the printed side than the non. Because of that, I serge two pieces of fabric together - printed sides facing out obviously.

Step #4: Serge all four edges of the fabric pieces. Trim the tails.

Come back soon to see what I do with these scraps!! It's so exciting!!

Step #5: Because I was using a 3-spool serger, I ran a straight stitch down each edge (in the middle of the serge) just to insure that these bad boys would not come undone. Ever. If you've got a 4-spool serger you won't have to worry about this step. If you do add a straight stitch, just trim all excess thread from the wipes, and fold them so they're ready for solution!

Step #6: Make the "wet" part of the wipes...

Put all ingredients in the blender. NOTE: This is the reason you want a baby wash that doesn't create bubbles... I had a lovely explosion in my kitchen last night because I thought I could ignore Amy's advice on that.

Curiosity killed the cat.

And foamed the kitchen.

Step #7: Add your liquid to your wipes. I just put half the wipes in (I can fit 12 in each container I bought), added the liquid, squish squish squished, added more wipes, more liquid, etc until they reach desired liquidiness. Yes. Liquidiness.

What's amazing about flannel is that it holds liquid VERY well, but doesn't drip. Perfect.

Congratulations! You have reusable wipes!!

In the past 24 hours I have used mine to wipe a butt, wipe a counter, clean a picture frame, dust a piece of wood furniture, clean a dirty face, and polish glass.

Yes. I used clean ones for some *ahem* tasks.

Happy wiping!!