Sunday, April 25, 2010

What veggie plants you shouldn't buy

Vegetables and herb plants are oh-so-enticing when they're lined up in their rows at the garden store or farmers market. But the dollars can quickly add up.

Starting from seed can be deceptively easy, even going into June in Indiana (later if you're confident enough to do a planting for a later-fall harvest.) It's so easy in fact, that you could be spending twice or even four times the amount of a package of seeds on on package of plants.

Stick to seeds for these vegetables, which are easy to grow:


These add the extra opportunities to sow continuously over the season and into the fall.

I've found most herbs to be easy to grow from seed as well.

Looking for a start on your gardening season? We're giving away a brown-thumb gardening seed kit this week, featuring lettuce and other easy-to-grow vegetables.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

GPB: Guerrilla Gardening

"Fighting the filth with forks and flowers" - this undercover mission is more than a community clean-up day. Instead, it's becoming a cause that's getting thousands to take back the streets in an unusual way.

Learn more about the illicit act of guerrilla gardening over at the Green Phone Booth.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gardening giveaway: Calling all brown thumbs!

Are you a brown thumb? Do you swear you can't grow a thing?
Can you look at a plant and make it wilt?

Relax...we all have those days. I'll be honest and confess that I killed every single one of the seeds I started this spring when I got a little overzealous in transporting them outdoors.
But I'm trying again. And if you are too, I've got a giveaway for you.

Next week, I'm giving away the Black Thumb Seed Collection from Nature's Crossroads, a Bloomington, Ind.-based seed company. The set includes one packet each of pea, radish, lettuce, flower, and kale seeds plus detailed instructions.
You can enter these ways:
  1. Post a comment with your worst gardening mishap.
  2. Sign up for the RSS feed.
  3. Tweet about it.
  4. Blog about it.
  5. Promote it on Facebook.
The contest ends May 2 at midnight EDT, and I'll announce the winner soon after. Good luck!

In the wake of our Great TV Rebellion

Tuning off TVs. It's something that's tougher and tougher to do these days. In the wake of big screens, iPhones, TVs in every room, portable (or installed) DVD players in your cars, and don't forget, YouTube, it is getting harder and harder to shut out the media.

I thought as parents we were doing a decent job of limiting screen time in our home. While we can't control day care, we can control what happens here. And that was largely limited to the occasional movie, the rare cooking shows and a routine of PBS Kids.

I thought we were doing well. Then the unthinkable happened.

Wednesday night, I heard the fateful words from my husband's mouth: "No TV for a week!"

And my first thought was, What have you done?

Because, as a parent, while I limit the TV use, we do use it strategically. I've been known to let them settle down with a show while cutting food or cooking it over a hot stove - far better than an injury or burn. Or on a particularly hectic night, a few minutes can help them wind down when a book doesn't. But now that option was gone.

But more than a week after the fact, I can tell you, we survived. It wasn't easy, but we did it.

Instead of screen time, we all played in the garden, where my son discovered that he could make mud for the first time. (Thank goodness he doesn't like to get his hands dirty!)

Instead of screen time, we went to a home improvement store for a kids activity, and my daughter built her own mini garden planter, painted a pot and picked out an herb for her to care for.

Instead of screen time, we got dirty. Not with mud, but with the goofiness that comes from making homemade whipped cream for strawberries and butter in a mixer, following an unbelievable sale on organic whipping cream at the grocery. (At 75 cents a pint, I'm set for some time.)

Instead of screen time, we went to the library - and got books (instead of the freebie movies that my oldest tends to beg for). And we've read them, learning about gardening and lynxes and Puerto Rico (OK, that one's for me.)

Instead of screen time, we got sun time - riding our trikes and bikes, playing soccer, taking walks, going to the park.

Instead of screen time, we had family time. Real family time. And that's what mattered.

Need a little encouragement to try going TV-free? We're in the middle of the Biomicry Insitute's "Great TV Rebellion," encouraging us to shut down TV and tune into nature for Earth Week. (They even have an activity guide on their site, however, it's geared for school-age children.)

A little housekeeping

Housekeeping has been all I've been able to accomplish this week, with company coming in. But here's a few fast thoughts on a Friday morning:

As it's been a month since I drew our original winner of the Fairy Garden Kit with no response, I'm picking another winner. This time it's Julie S. in Texas. Please e-mail me at goinggreenmama at gmail by next Saturday with your mailing address, or we'll pick another winner. I'd hate for the kit to go to waste this spring!

I'll have another spring giveaway to announce tomorrow.

Be sure to check out our discussion on personal vs. political action on the APLS Carnival, hosted this month at the Green Phone Booth. And weigh in on what you'd like to see with the Carnival here.

And can I just brag that we actually picked radishes this week and we have strawberries starting to form? :-)

Have a great weekend!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Making do with less meat

Just in time for grilling season - meat prices are on the rise. So writes today's Indianapolis Star.

Here's the deal. You can do a lot by cutting back on meat in a meal, either by making it less of an emphasis in a meal or cutting it out completely. (And, for the record, there are few vegetables out there that are $3, $5, or $10 a pound, which is what many people are willing to pay for meat.)

To get you started, here's a few ideas to get you going on the grill the next time you're out there.

Have a great vegetarian recipe? Post your link here.

GPB: Meatless at manic mealtimes

If you're like me, you come home to children who are hungry. Now.

If you're short on ideas for dinner tonight, I'm writing at today's Green Phone Booth on fast meatless meals for those manic mealtimes with hungry kids.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another parenting 'lesson' learned

Things they don't teach you as a parent:

1. Resigning your season's worth onion sets to a game of "Let's throw the onions in the dirt" buys you five minutes to do something you really did want to do in the garden.

2. Not correcting your proud potty-training toddler's decision to put on his pants backwards has the dual benefit of making him confident with his accomplishment and slowing him down as he tries to race out of your yard.

GPB: Powering down for people

A few days ago, following the coal miners' accident, a bishop in West Virginia commented:
"Our country should realize that West Virginia pays too high a price when we turn on our electricity...As one of the greatest suppliers of electricity in our country, we must reflect on what producing this energy truly costs."

On today's Green Phone Booth, I'm posing the question: Is the "inconvenience" of cutting back on our electrical use worth saving a life?

Join the discussion.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Roasted asparagus, with a twist

Roasted or grilled asparagus is one of our favorite standbys in the spring. In fact, we're buying multiple bunches at once when we can find a good deal because the kids just love it.

Tonight I tried a twist on my husband's standard recipe of lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.

Instead, inspired by a cooking magazine from a friend, I mixed 2 T. olive oil, 2 T. orange juice, and 1 tsp. thyme as a marinade. I poured that on the asparagus, and roasted at 350 until al dente.

It was gone in record time!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Actions speak louder than words

Weeks before a primary election, we have five candidates for U.S. Senator in one party, and not a peep has been spoken about the air we breathe. Or the quality of our food. Our the cleanliness of the water. Or the basic building blocks of our health and well being.

(Unless of course, you count a little thing called health care reform.)

The very people who could be representing our state instead have rallying cries that sound like the me-too's of high-school students. Even the media reports that there is very little difference in what these candidates say. When they have an opportunity to pledge support for creating healthier environment, and thus, a healthier future, I've heard few words, if any, spoken.

So when Erin posed the question for the APLS Carnival whether personal or political change is more important, I say the change I can believe in is the change I make myself.

Here's the deal. I think the actions by our leaders the last few years have left people increasingly disheartened with the political system. And if we feel we can't trust them with the big decisions - like creating jobs, ensuring adequate health care, educating our children - how can we trust them with the details of reversing damage done to our environment through lax legislation and enforcement over the decades?

The reality is I can write letters. I can make phone calls. I can rally my neighbors. But in the end, the only person I can trust to make changes is myself. So I'll start with the simple actions I can take, trust that someone else might be listening and hope for the best from there.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fake plastic worms

Ever since my daughter got a fishing pole for her fourth birthday, she's been aching to learn how to use it.

Today, weather and schedules collided, and she got her opportunity to go fishing with her dad. After assembling his and her poles, the pair walked off to one of our neighborhood ponds.

It wasn't long before they returned, due to the simple fact that she'd already broke her reel.

But as my husband explained what happened, he said he need to do something about her "worms" she'd gotten along with the pole from grandma.

"She probably won't be able to catch anything with it," he explained. "There's no scent; the fish won't bite. I'll probably have to get some spray for it."

I just shook my head. So we have fake plastic worms. That we need to buy a fake scent for. I'm just wondering if a little "reality" might just be better - Why not dig up the real thing?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Parting with the plastic: ISO home for kitchen containers

A silent weapon resides next to our fridge: Open the cabinet, and you'll be attacked by a sea of plastic containers.

Plastic food containers have taken over my life. OK, at least one kitchen cabinet. But I admit I'm at a loss of what to do with them.

I'll be the first to admit that our consumption of those Ziploc lunch containers has dropped considerably the last two years. Eliminate one full-time job and invest in a few glass containers to take your meals to work, and you suddenly burn through a lot less plastic. (And yes, burn is an appropriate word, considering how many of them have warped and melted in the dishwasher over the years.)

I've gotten more glass bowls of varying sizes to use for prepping veggies, and rarely get out my mixing bowls. Yet I've got container after container of these storage boxes, and no idea what to do with them.

It's not like you can casually say, "Hey, would you like some used plastic containers for your lunches? You know, because we don't use them anymore on principle." And donating them seems awkward, as you're essentially giving chemical-leaching things to others in need.

Sure, some of them become temporary homes for Goldfish crackers, or other small snacks for my rambunctious toddler. And I can use a few of them for random storage in the garage or other areas. But, really, I'd like to part with them as quickly as possible and reclaim my home! Any great ideas?

Better butter, at your fingertips

When it comes to home cooking, I tend to struggle with the one or two missing ingredients from my pantry or fridge, and it usually ends up with an unplanned trip and expenses at the grocey store.

One of those on my list? Unsalted butter, called for in a lot of recipes but always forgotten on my shopping trips.

I had an easy solution yesterday. In less time than it would take me to even drive to the store, I had freshly made butter on hand. And it was amazingly easy. Here's how.

I had a leftover pint of heavy whipping cream that I'd bought a week or two back for other intentions. As it was close to the sell-by date, I had two choices: Make a dish far heavier than I'd really want for dinner or get creative. I pulled out my mixer and dumped in the cream.

My 4-year-old loved helping spin the mixing bowl as the cream blended and changed to a pudding-like consistency, then to whipped cream and a bit later into butter. All told, it was likely 10 minutes of having the mixing bowl at the "whip cream" setting. When the cream clung to my spoon upside-down, it was ready. We scooped it into 1/4 cup size-mounds - perfect for many recipes - on a cookie sheet and froze it. The pint made 2 1/4 cups of butter, which I've now got ready in my freezer for future.

We ended up using some last night, and I have to say, it was far better than what we'd end up getting at the grocery store - plus it saved the stress of having to make the drive.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Storage solutions at the GPB

Kaboodles, tray inserts, tubs, you name it... It seems to be all about the plastic, and it rarely truly meets all my organizing needs, particularly as my life evolves.

The next time you're thinking about a run to the store, check out what you already have on hand. It might surprise you. Today I'm blogging at the Green Phone Booth about ways to rethink your storage in your house. Check out some of our solutions that worked for us!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Peas and carrots, carrots and peas...

Peas and carrots, carrots and peas... I admit that phrase is burned indelibly on my brain after watching hours of "Super Why." But it's becoming of greater importance these days, as I'm working to plan my vegetable garden in admittedly small spaces.

See, I got a little overambitious with my garden planning this year. In a desperate attempt to get more plants without shortchanging my small yard, I started looking into the idea of "companion planting." The short explanation is mixing your plants in a way that helps them out - whether by providing shade or supporting nutrients to the plants surrounding them. Or perhaps growing one plant next to another repels insects that may harm the other plant.

I started researching companion planting, and after referencing several books and sites and trying to make sense of what I could or should plant together, it began to look like a jumbled mess:

Sounds easy in theory. Peas, lettuces, onions, radishes, beans and tomatoes seemed the most "friendly" to other plants. But then, you haven't factored in height or root vegetables, or which plants take up more space than others. In my first attempt to get this all straight, I was left shaking my head, not really sure where I ought to plant things at all.

I'm left wondering whether my approach last year is just as well: Have a plant that takes a lot of ground space, like squash? Underplant with some root vegetables or onions. Have a hole after something's been taken out? Add some new seeds and see what happens.

Either way, I've got plenty of time to consider it. My weekend of keeping my seed starts outside have left wilted, lifeless plants in its wake!

Have you tried companion planting? What system works for you?

Monday, April 5, 2010

For the overzealous types...

You know who you are. It's a beautiful spring weekend, and you got just a little too enthusiastic with the yard work. And you're paying for it today.

No worries. Found a good resource for yoga poses and stretches for those aching muscles at Organic Gardening magazine. Check it out!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter!

Just a quick note to wish you all a very blessed Easter weekend. Take time to enjoy all of the blessings in this world!

2-year anniversary

We make so much out of the seasons of the world. What is all too forgotten is the impact of the seasons of our lives.

Too often we state, "This too will pass." But what we forget are the lessons learned and the experiences gained from each stage of our lives.

Today marks the second anniversary of my blog. I don't know that it's noteworthy, but it's an interesting excuse to look back.

The last two years have been a journey to find myself, in more ways than one. Yes, this blog has largely about one family's attempts to live greener and a less-harried life. But along the way, I've tried to make a healthier lifestyle for me and my family, particularly as I dealt with some health issues and wanted to prevent the same in my children.

We've watched our babies grow from helpless infants to helpful toddlers and preschoolers, anxious to make their mark on the world around us.

We've battled overwork, unemployment, underemployment and the college student life, all of which has taught us little lessons about who we are as a family, where our place is in this world and, most importantly, in what ways we can improve it, no matter how limited our resources, time or size may be.

And with each season of our lives, a lesson learned.

Thanks to all of you who've joined us on our journey.