Monday, June 29, 2009

How Do Other People Do It??

Tell me how it works.  I read blog after blog every day, learning about all sorts of moms who seem to do 'everything' yet seem so relaxed about it all.  Even the ones who work part of their week, still find time to make a decent meal, read to the kids and scrapbook their last vacation.  I, on the other hand, find myself running after the 8 ball on a repeated basis, looking for lost socks, finding cures for extremely smelly shoes, making sure all the animals get at least one square meal a day (and I don't mean my kids), and making sure that the car I get into at the grocery store lot is actually my own.  Whew!  
I took a few days off this past week to spend more time at home, and became fascinated with all that I could do if I was home on a regular basis.  I decided I would get to the bottom of the laundry pile first, just to remind myself what color the bottom of the hamper really was.  After 10 loads (I kid you not) I really didn't care what color it was, mostly because I was so winded after going up and down 2 flights of stairs to the laundry room for 2 days.  
I had this great idea to cook with my kids - to make chocolate chip banana bread, one of our new favorites.  I went to their rooms, offered to make it with them, and saw the folded clothes that I had just 'lovingly' washed, dried and folded, sitting on the floor.  Needless to say, that after my rant about said clothes on the floor, I was left alone to cook the banana bread, as "no one wants to cook with a 'mean-ie'".  Uh huh.  
I went out to the deck to tend our newly planted veggie garden, and noticed that the recent rain had overwatered the plants.  Being that some of the planters do not have super-efficient drainage, I emptied them of the extra water, picked off the yellowed foliage and dead-headed where necessary, all while talking that special baby-talk that plants so love (What?? You don't do that?).  Ok.  Then as I walked back in doors, I heard a monster of a thunder clap and would ya believe...a torrent of rain came down.  Just as I thought the sun really hadn't forgotten us.  So it was back out to the deck in another hour to dump the additional water from the slowly draining pots.
I stopped counting the "I have nothing to do"'s from my kids after 100 today.  Seriously.  Summer only began for us on Thursday.  It's Monday, folks.  
Now I sit in the living room with several piles of the last laundry load folded around me.  I ate way too many pieces of chocolate chip banana bread, and I can't remember if I showered today. Or was it yesterday?  Every single part of my home that I cleaned over the past 4 days now needs additional attention.  But my kids are fed and in bed at a decent hour, the dishes are done, we have enough clean underwear to last us through to the first day of school, and I go back to work tomorrow.  Makes me think I'm going on vacation at this point.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mama's Spanish Eggplant Bake

One night this week, I had many leftovers and not much inspiration.  The night before, I had made spanish rice, and actually made much more of it than we really could eat in one meal.  So I used that with some veggies needing to be used up, and came up with this phenomenal meal.  Everyone liked it - which is quite a feat at my family dinner table!  It will disappear just as fast on your table, I'm sure.  

Mama's Spanish Eggplant Bake

Slice an eggplant in 1/2 inch slices, salt liberally and set aside in a colander for 20-30 minutes.  Rinse well and put aside.

Take 3 Cups leftover spanish rice, mix with 2 eggs, salt and pepper to taste.  Press into 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 until firm, about 15 minutes.

Saute a red pepper, an onion, other various veggies as you like - I used some leftover frozen corn that needed to be used up, and fresh garlic to taste in olive oil.  Add whatever spices you want to flavor the saute.

When the rice base is cooked, layer the eggplant on top, then the sauteed veggies and top with 1/2 Cup shredded cheddar cheese.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until bubbly.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Food Bill Reducing Tips Thursday

This week's tip: Do It Yourself!

We pay a very high price for convenience in this day and age. Every where we turn, we get the message that making our own food it old hat. So many foods are made to save us time, get out of the kitchen faster, move on to the next item on the agenda, much like a militaristic journey through life. We do have a choice, however, and can choose when we want or need to have the convenience of fast foods, and when we can slow down to make a more mindful meal. The price of convenience foods is nothing to laugh at, though. We certainly pay for the ease of popping something ready-made in the microwave or oven. Buying those deboned and skinned chicken breasts really do pack a punch at the checkout counter versus the whole chicken.

Here are some ideas for foods you can make on your own to save a bundle at the store:

1) Make your own pizza dough. At $1.62 per 2 12 inch crusts, it's alot better than around $5 per ready-made crust or $20 for 2 cheese pizzas at the pizza parlor.
2) Cut up your own chicken. At $5.50 per pound of boneless, skinned breasts or tenderloins, not to mention if those breasts were organic, you make out much better to buy the whole chicken at around $1.28 per pound.
3) Mince your own garlic. Here is where I fall short. I love using tons of garlic in my cooking. Yet I hate peeling it, always have. I typically buy the larger sized jar of minced garlic, and have no problem using it up quickly. However, at 14 cents per ounce, I am much better off buying the whole garlic and learning how to peel it quickly and efficiently, instead of the jared variety at 35 cents per ounce.
4) Freeze your own veggies. I don't buy frozen vegetables too often, not even the organic ones, preferring to eat fresh ones as much as possible. I also don't care for the slightly mushy texture that frozen veggies impart to cooked dishes. But, some of my culinary friends do use them with great success, and spend a whopping $3.50 per pound (for broccoli, for example) for them versus $1.50 a pound for fresh.
5) For those McDonald's fans, make your own egg muffin sandwich. Do you know how many $2.50's you could save by toasting an english muffin, adding a cooked egg and some nice cheese and perhaps some sausage or bacon? Not to mention how much better it would taste!
6) For your next birthday party, make your own cake. Forget the cake mix - making a cake from scratch is really not that scary if you have the right recipe. And at a mere $1.25 versus $3.65 per cake, it's a sweet savings to pocket.
7) And consider making your own coffee rather than purchasing it at a coffee shop. That $3 latte can be made at home for a few cents on the dollar - around 25 cents to be exact. Wow. How's that for putting things in perspective??

Making fresh food can be time consuming. Not many of us have the time we desire to dedicate to planning and making meals, and many of us can't stand to be in the kitchen longer than absolutely necessary to get the meal on the table. Making things from scratch takes time, organization and planning. The payoff is definitely worth it, if you consider how much money you can shave from your food bill. And learning some new skills can be fun (and entertaining to others). I shut down my microwave and put it in the basement about 5 years ago. I thought I could never live without it. I went to go find it for a craft project recently, and saw it was filled with rust from a wet basement issue. Tossed it out, and never looked back. You can learn new things, and you do get used to finding extra time for certain priorities.

Note: Some of the information listed in this post came from Ann Taylor Pittman's article in July 2009 Cooking Light.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Name That Pile!

It's amazing how things change (for the better) when you put a name on it.  I'll explain.

You may remember from this post, how frustrated I was with my lack of housecleaning habits.  Well, that was pretty much rock bottom for me.  I set out to find new ways to develop good habits, helping me to enjoy the home we live in without having to holler at my family day and night.  We want a comfortable home, not a museum, and tracking in dirt, wet clothes, smelly soccer gear are all apart of life here.  Along with several other daily tasks that have become new habits for me, I decided to tackle the laundry issue.  If you are like us, there are loads and loads of laundry to do each week.  We are currently sharing our washer with our tenants (being that theirs broke down), so we are on a strict schedule as to when we can actually do our laundry (only on weekends).  This makes the clothes pile up pretty fast.  Hopefully, the washer situation will be rectified soon, but until then, I think I may have found a way to curtail the 'laundry all over the place' scenario.
It was really rather simple.  My husband and I purchased several tall laundry baskets - yes, new.  We put them in each of the boys' rooms to hold their dirty clothes.  It was then that I noticed a funny thing.  I went into one boy's room - clothes all over the place, and none in the new hamper/laundry basket (the sign on the thing actually calls it a 'Lamper').  I went in to the other boy's room - clothes piling up next to the 'Lamper' but none IN it.  Hmmm.
On Sunday, we cleaned house.  I grabbed these 'Lampers' and my trusty sharpie pen.  Here are my results:

Ok - I am not an artist, I'll stick to creating music.  However, do you notice that the 'Lampers' are full??  Somehow by naming them, their use became known and the clothes actually made it in.  What's really great is now there will be no confusion over 'which pile of clean clothes is mine?' - a question I will get for a week after I've folded all the clothes and left them to be retrieved.  Easy enough - 'Grab your 'Lamper' and put the clothes away'.  It's so simple, mindfully simple, I'd have to say.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Loong Process, But Worth It!

Our house comes with a sunporch, as many New England homes do.  When we looked at our house with the hopes to purchase it, it was filled with so many plants, birds and cats that we could hardly look out the windows to the backyard.  When we moved in, we noticed the carpet, a lovely puke yellow, was filled with birdseed and cat hair.  The walls were dark paneling, and the ceiling was stained from a roof leak.
It took us a long time, but the carpet was the first to go.  Out with the puke yellow, and in with the blue.  Then we moved downstairs in our 2-family house for a time, and the walls were painted white by tenants.  When we moved back up, the roof leak was so bad, we had to tear down parts of the ceiling tiles to gain access for repair. Upon moving up, the sunporch became a dumping ground for anything we didn't know what to do with and didn't have time to think about.  Dehydrator, bike repair equipment, musical instruments.  You name it - if you couldn't find it, look in the sunporch as it was most likely found there.
So the first step of our cleaning process was to clean out the room to make it more useable by our family.

It was hard work, but in the end, we were able to create a small, very small TV room.  Then, we had some time off and decided to tear the ceiling tiles down:

Putting up beadboard paneling was a great idea.  On a sunny day, we coated each board with polyurethane:

We rented a neumatic nailer from Home Depot to fix the boards to the rafters.  What a treasure that was.  I can't imagine the sore muscles we would have had we hammered in all those nails!  The nailer was terrific and such a time saver.

The finished room with furniture pulled from other parts of the house:

It is a small space, but we love it.  It needs a few more things - a new cover for the futon which I will make from fabric I already have hanging around, More art on the walls, and I think I will paint the side tables the same color.  For added texture, I may add curtains over the shades.  The room can get pretty hot in the morning as it faces East and the sun pours in.  Curtains with the shades will insulate the room, and the rest of the house during the hotter months.  When I have other projects finished in the house, I may get to painting this room as I'm not too keen on white white, but for now, that will have to wait.  We have a french door that could be cut to fit the doorway to replace the boring luan door and let more light into the nearby kitchen, but again, so many other things need attention, and this will wait.

All in all, this took a long time to pull together, but we are so happy with the results.  

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Food Bill Reducing Tips Thursday

It's Thursday, and time for another food-bill reducing tip.  

Today's Tip?  SHOP ALONE!  Do you grocery shop with someone else?  Your kids?  Your partner?  Your friend or parent?  Oh my.  I can actually chart on my bank statement when I shopped alone, and when I had someone with me.  Taking my kids along for the ride typically raises the tab a good $12 for all the snacks and magazines I really should say 'no' to.  And some days, I do.  Other days, it's just easier to say 'yes' in order to get the shopping done in a reasonable amount of time.  I know... pushover mom.  But those of you with kids may understand where I'm coming from.

The real challenge, surprisingly, is when my husband comes along.  During those trips, I can expect a much larger increase in our grocery bill, as he busies himself with adding his favorite cheeses, snacks and drinks (the killer for the budget) to the cart.  Here I am putting in all the bulk and generic brands, and he throws in sushi.  Tahini.  Brie cheese.  Oh, I love this man.  At least he's not buying pop tarts and jello pudding pops!  But I do steal myself when he suggests that he'd like to come along while I shop.  I don't usually go so far as to check my bank balance, but I do try to find some financial wiggle room to cover his 'extras', thinking it over in my head as we drive to the store.
To find that wiggle room, I buy local, in-season produce when I can.  I buy mostly organic foods, and being that this is much more expensive, I have to buy less, consume less, and find more creative ways to stretch the food.  Buying our produce locally (either in the grocery store or at our local farmer's market) helps the environment (keeping the emissions down from trucking only locally versus across the country), helps the farmers (keeps them in business) and keeps us healthy with tasty, well-raised food.  
Another way to keep the costs down is to shop AFTER you have eaten.  When I shop before a meal, everything, and I mean everything looks good - looks even better in my cart, being bagged to go home.  I find my judgement is quite skewed when I shop hungry.  If I eat first, I am less bound to gobble up the store, make better decisions, and can stick to my list and weekly meal plan.

What tips can you think of that help you keep your grocery bill down? 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cookin' Out!

I have been away in California for my niece's graduation.  What a wonderful time I had.  It is so good to reconnect with family, especially over such a great celebration.

We had a good ol' fashioned Bar-B-Que while I was there this past week, with my nephew making some pretty awesome hamburgers.  We also had the discussion of whether to call it a BBQ or cookout.  In the east, we call it a cookout, and I guess I became accustomed to the word as it seemed natural to me, but my family got a kick out of it - "Cookout?", they asked.  Ah well, semantics.

Chris' Amazing Hamburgers
My nephew, Chris, begins making the hamburgers by mixing the meat up with a few simple spices - salt and pepper, or whatever you have on hand.  He takes a patty-sized amount of the meat and rolls it into a ball, depresses the center and adds a large cube of cheese.  After closing the ball, he pats it into a patty and cooks it on the grill.  Serve with your favorite toppings, relishes, etc.

To that, we added grilled eggplant that my friend, Fiona and her son, Campbell, recently taught me to make.

End of the School Year Eggplant
Slice one eggplant about 1/2" thin, skin on.  Layer the pieces in a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and let sit for 1/2 hour (with something underneath to catch the water).  Rinse well and pat dry.
Heat grill to medium/medium high.
Mix 1 Tbs chopped garlic with 1/2 C olive oil.  Before placing the eggplant pieces on the grill, brush each piece with the garlic/olive oil mixture.  Grill on one side until grill marks form and eggplant is beginning to be soft.  You may need to brush with more olive oil to keep the eggplant soft.  Turn the eggplant and brush with the oil.  Continue to grill until soft.

Sprinkle all pieces with salt or seasoned salt once grilled.

Whatever you call it, cooking outdoors brings an altogether smoky and adventurous flavor to food.  I am looking forward to sharing more grilling stories and recipes with you this summer.  Having just picked up the Cook's Illustrated guide to grilling, I expect to have many more grilling experiences coming up.  Stay tuned!

Monday, June 8, 2009

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down!

Ok.  So you may remember from this post a few weeks ago, how excited I was that the neighbor was going to renovate this huge house next door to me, and he gave me carte blanche to dumpster dive.  Well... this morning they came to begin demolition.  I know because all of a sudden on a glorious, radiantly sunny and bird-song filled morning, I heard the shattering of glass and splintering of wood.  I happened to look up to see piece after piece of apartment fixtures flying out the 3rd floor window.  And apparently, no one had bothered to actually OPEN that window - they just threw things out without bothering to make room for the explosion.  I saw pieces of countertops, carpeting, window screens, odds and ends - appliances left behind.  When one of the demo guys (and they were all guys) bumped into the screen door, he grabbed a crowbar and tore it off.  A perfectly good screen door that could have fetched a good $25 from someone needing such a door.  Now it's twisted metal in the back of some guy's truck, laying under layers of ripped wood and tile.  And I have glass where my kids ride their bikes.
Ok.  Now you've guessed my little secret.  I'm on a rant.  A major one.  Not only do I have to dodge the flying glass that falls on our shared driveway, I have to watch as these guys tear into the very heart of this house and THROW IT ALL AWAY.  Not ok with me.  But I feel caught.  This is NOT my house.  I did NOT hire these guys to demo it.  I am NOT paying the bills.  But seriously.  Couldn't someone have come through beforehand and collected the kitchen cabinets and sinks, the countertops and stoves, the old windows and doors?  How incredibly sad to see it all flying out the window, nobody caring one heap of plumber's putty for it at all.  Geez.  Donate it to a salvage yard at the very least.

How would you have handled this?  Would you have told the 'guys' to put aside anything they could salvage?  Would you have called the owner?  The contractor?  Would you sneak in during the night to grab what your arms could carry before the 'guys' come back in the morning?  Would you have done nothing as I did?
The whole experience is making me resent the renovation now, whereas before I was looking forward to having a 'new' space next to me.  What about all the people who would have come to take what they needed from the house and left the rest for the demo 'guys'?  Don't contractors know about this resource?  Ugh.  If I get the guts to talk with the owner or contractor, I will ask about this manner of demolition, which is probably pretty typical.  I will put the response here in a future post.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Time to Plan the Summer Camping Trip!

We try to go camping every summer, for at least one if not two weeks.  Being the frugal family that we are, we search for weeks to find the best campground that meets our needs, but in the best price range.  We look for places that afford us the opportunity to get out for free fun, such as the beach, an outdoor music festival, etc, so that the overall cost of the trip is held down.  Lately, we have found that our boys do not tolerate long (over 3 hour) car rides, so on top of being beautiful, cheap, and fun, we need a campground which is not too far away.  Lucky for us, we live close to the White Mountains (NH), the Green Mountains (VT), Cape Cod, the Maine Coast, and the Berkshires (MA), all amazingly beautiful areas to spend some quiet (or loud) family time.  
One problem we come across is that we have trouble finding tenting campgrounds.  Most places suit RVer's, which is fine - but do not tend to cater well to tenters.  We found a great place called Tully Lake in MA where you cart in your stuff (about a 5-10 minute walk to your site) from the parking lot.  It gets quiet and peaceful, with many sites are on Tully Lake.  Here are a couple of pictures:

It's a peaceful, tranquil place. 
However, after some crafty marketing, many other folks thought it was peaceful and tranquil as well, and the campground began filling up in April for July and August.  And a full campground is not necessarily a terrific thing if you want tranquility.  Beyond that, just getting a site on the water is next to impossible.

Here, we are at Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, MA, one of our very favorite places to go.  Only 45 minutes from home, we have been known to camp in the vicinity just so we can spend every minute of every day at the beach.  Love it there.

And another favorite spot is the Coast of Maine.  Nothing like it there.  Finding sandy beaches is tough, but the rocks are amazing.  And you can go lighthouse hunting, and never be disappointed.  Photo opps galore!  This picture is from Wells, ME:

And here, just to continue our water theme, this is Provincetown, MA, basically the top of Cape Cod for those of you not Cape-savvy:

This was a very special weekend away for my family.  It was unplanned, we called the day we left and found a hotel right on the beach for Labor Day weekend.  No, it wasn't cheap, and not camping.  I saw it as our last blast for the summer - our feet-dragging effort to return to the rigors of Fall.  And I would love to do it again.  I have started our summer trip fund - late, I know (Yikes!  It's June already!), but with the hopes that we will be able to save just a few bucks to offset any trips we take.  I hope that with a few little shifts in our regular purchasing and some other creative maneuvers, we will achieve $500 without too much pain - and more if I can swing it.  
Do you suppose people will sponsor me to walk around the block a few times?  
Or how about getting a few of my friends together to call strangers around dinner time to ask them for just a small donation - at the gold, silver or bronze level, in order to send my family on a vacation?
Or better yet, I'll put small jars at local stores to collect unwanted pennies for the next few weeks - maybe that will get me some gas money... hmmm.  The ideas are endless.

What are your plans for the summer?  How do you cut costs yet still have a great time?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Food Bill Reducing Tip Day!

I was reading about Stacey on her blog, My Friend Oprah, and learning how she uses whole, organic foods for her family, yet still keeps her food bill under $100 or so bucks a week. Ok. I just don't know how to do that. My weekly food bill can easily triple that, and there are times I have to run out toward the end of the week for more milk, bread, etc. Now... to be fair to us, we have teenagers, who eat constantly ($). And then they bring their friends over who eat constantly ($$). And we choose organic foods. ($$$) Another issue is our gluten allergy: 3 of us have it, and can't use wheat to make bread, pasta or pizza from scratch. So although we can keep the various substituting flours in the house to make these staples, the time involved is challenging for a busy mom ($$$$). So perhaps keeping the food bill under $100 is not very plausible. But I sure could learn to love even $200 a week for food. Just keep me away from the dreaded $300 mark!

So how do you keep your food bill down? What great tips do you have to share? In fact, I think we need to dub Thursday the official 'Mindfully Simple Food Bill Reducing Tip Day'. I will start with the following tip, that does help me (when I DO it):

Tip # 1: Make a menu plan for the week (or even 2 weeks). Create a list with the necessary foods for the plan and stick to it - don't waiver for those yummy looking chocolate covered somethings at Trader Joe's - you know what I'm talking about (don't do it!!).

Ok - Your turn. List your tips through the comments and we can keep a running tab of ideas.

Congratulations to Angela!

The winner of my first giveaway is Angela from My Year Without Spending.  Her favorite hobby is, "It's tough to pick my favorite hobby- either reading or baking. I also love hiking and yoga, but those aren't really "hobbies," are they? I find the time just because I make the things I love a priority."  I totally agree that it is important to find the things we love to do, then find the time to do them.

Congrats, Angela!  Send me a line to let me know where to mail your necklace!

And for the others, don't despair.  Another giveaway will come soon!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A New Garden Idea and Question

Today, I was able to begin and somewhat finish a simple garden pot idea that has been bouncing around in my head for days. After my plant shopping, I have ended up with 11 tomato plants. Oy. Way too many for this deck gardener, so I will do my best to parcel some of them out before they wilt and fizzle away. But for those that will eventually produce our food, I needed to find an inexpensive and suitable way to pot them up, bearing in mind they will be on our deck. I know that tomatoes do best when planted deeply, so knew that what I had was not going to work - plain terra cotta pots and such. What I came up with was this:

A simple Home Depot bucket, food grade, to transform into a glorious tomato pot.  It set me back a mere $2.78.
First, I primed it with plastic primer spray paint:

Then I used a hammered copper spray paint over the primer.  I tried to get some of the orange to disappear on the inside, but it was starting to rain, so I rushed it a bit:

I really like the copper look, don't you?  I mean, clearly, it's not a copper pot, but it does make you stop and look twice.  Here is the planted version:

I put the handle back for easier move-ability.  I purchased four of these buckets today, hoping to get them all planted (and not realizing I had 11 tomato plants).  I painted and planted only 2.  So tomorrow, my goal is to find homes for at least 4-5 plants, and then by the weekend, have the rest planted, either in more painted buckets, or other tremendously creative ideas.

Now for my gardening question.  I have planted sweet potato vine, since I absolutely love the colors it has.  My problem, that I have never experienced before, is that the green is turning purple.  I have no idea why.  
It is happening to all of my sweet potato vines, in each container I've planted them in.  The only constant is the same organic compost/soil mixture which may possibly be a bit too rich in compost.  I had thought this was a sign of comport burn, but now we're just changing colors.  Any thoughts or ideas out there?  Any sweet potato vine experts out there?  Drop me a line/comment and help a garden girl out, won't ya?

Tonight's the Deadline!

Don't forget to list your favorite hobby here to be entered in the random drawing for a handmade amethyst necklace!  Drawing is tonight at 10pm EST.  Good Luck!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Seed of a Thought

I have come across some disturbing information over the past couple of years, and it has finally bothered me enough to write about it.  I have enjoyed gardening for many, many years.  In fact, it's probably a surprise to even my mother, that I enjoyed it as a kid - but would have enjoyed it much more if she had me do more than weed the flower beds.  I was always curious about the flowers, the vegetables, (we had a HUGE veggie garden out back) and could watch the bees and butterflies pollinate for what seemed like hours.  Many years ago, my step-father gave me a subscription to the Seed Savers Catalog.  At first I thought, "Hmm.  How odd."  But then I read it, and was hooked.  For those out there not familiar with their services, Seed Savers has collected tens of thousands of varieties of seeds, primarily from organic, and many heirloom plants, making them available to people who want them.  The catalog is a clearing house, so to speak, of quality plant possibilities, linking gardeners up with long lost, or 'seldom found in the grocery store seed bin' seeds.   Their headquarters, in Iowa, is Heritage Farm - a wonderful place to check out not only seeds, but heirloom animal breeds as well. 
Although I have not ordered from Seed Savers for quite some time, the whole idea inspired me to save my own seeds.  As mentioned previously, I attend the Gore Estate plant sale annually, to obtain heirloom plants from days gone by.  Had they not saved those seeds way back when, we would not be able to benefit from the plants' existence now.  The flowers and veggies of the victorian era are living well and prospering in my yard today thanks to some kind and thoughtful soul's act of reaching in and saving the seeds at just the right time.  I started saving my seeds from the garden, replanting them the next year to expand the flower beds.  I sent packs of seeds to family so they could enjoy a part of my garden at their homes.  When we ate a new species of organic melon we loved, we saved the seeds and planted them the next year so we could enjoy the melons again and again from our own yard.  We still come across old packs of seeds from the past years, shoved in a drawer, or lost in a pile of magazines, and find they are still viable, able to produce beautiful flowers and tasty vegetables.

It pains me to read about big agri-businesses buying up the seed businesses.  The intention here is to control the seed market, moving away from heirloom and organics and toward genetically modified, pest resistant varieties.  Companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta and DuPont focus on developing seeds that can be protected by patents, making it very expensive for growers to save the seeds (not that you'd want to).  Heavy fines are placed on those who get caught saving seeds, making it much more challenging for the small farmer to be successful.  
According to Organic Gardening Magazine, a report issued by the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture has warned that our seed supply is in grave danger.  Over 2000 varieties of seeds have been eliminated in one year alone.  Those are seeds that will never be replaced, at least not by agri-business.  However, if folks have saved seeds, those plants are not gone forever.  It has been estimated, the magazine article goes on to report, that at least 75 percent of genetic diversity among our agricultural crops has been destroyed.

So what does that mean for us?  Buy organic.  Always.  When you can, buy heirloom veggies at the store or farmer's market.  If you have the time and space, plant a few heirloom varieties and save the seeds.  It's really quite zen-like to harvest seeds, and can give you the sense that you are helping to save the world.  Well, it gives ME that feeling - saving it one seed at a time.  Check out what Seed Savers has in store - if not for this year, then perhaps for next or another in the future.  The more seeds we save now, the better off future generations will be.  Think about the victorian plants in my yard - someone had the foresight to save those seeds a very, very long time ago.  And - the seeds and plants are free that way!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Don't Forget the Giveaway!

Don't forget the giveaway from this post!  The deadline is 10pm, EST this Wednesday, 6/3.  All you have to do is list your favorite hobby!