The Backyard

The Backyard

Monday, February 28, 2011

Could Spending More Time in the Backyard Be On The Horizon?

Yes my friends, hubby and I are talking the R word. We're both a little young, but if push comes to shove at my job and Pennsylvania goes the way of Wisconsin with cutting benefits and salaries for government workers, retirement may be sooner than expected -- like maybe in three months. The other deciding factor is the rising price of gas. Right now, today, it costs us almost $8.00 to drive our 50 mpg car to and from work every day on our 100 mile round trip. That's a little too salty. We've both been saving our pennies like crazy people and got rid of all debt, so we feel confident we'll be ok financially. But the other confidence builder is what I can produce in the back yard and my other frugal plans to save money. Simple things like riding bike to the grocery store, giving up using the dryer, and driving as little as possible will save money. Hubby is giving the go-ahead to plant lots of food to save on the grocery bill. I just ordered onions. Rows and rows of black beans, kidney beans, and white beans are going in the ground in May. The broccoli is started, and the greens will go in sometime in April as will the peas. Sweet potatoes are on tap as is butternut squash. I'll try to freeze as much as I can and use my mom's huge chest freezer if need be. Lots to think about over the next three months. But the main, top priority is starting my spring bike training on March 7 for my 7-day stage mountain bike race the end of May and early June. All else comes in behind the training. The gardening and retirement planning is done on down time from riding bike. There are a bunch of female professional mountain bikers coming to the event I'm entered and I'm honored to be in the mix with them. Without a doubt, riding takes top priority this spring.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Garden 2011 is Happening Because of High Fuel Prices

Quickly rising fuel prices are going to have an effect on the prices of food at the grocery stores and markets. And it won't be only food -- it'll be everything. As a result, hubby and I discussed how to save $$ and of course the first place I went was the backyard and the food we eat. Hubby "complains" (nicely) that when I start seeds, I use up electricity with the grow lights - about $25 a month with all 8 lights glowing for 14 hours a day. My plan was only to start broccoli plants this year, but I have room under a set of two lights for two flats of seedlings so we started talking about filling up that area. What shall we grow that would 1) save us money at the grocery store, 2) is nutritious, and 3) you can start at the same time as broccoli? The answer? Cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Both are pricey at the grocery store, yet nutritious, fairly easy to grow, and we both love all three. I estimate I can save about $200 just by growing maybe 48 plants of each of these three plants and freezing them (except the broccoli which doesn't freeze well). So on tap for seed starting as soon as I can get the seeds are brussels, cauliflower, and I already have the broccoli seeds. Bring on Spring -- and cost savings!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You Can't Hold a Dedicated Farmer Down

A year without fresh vegetables from the backyard is like a year without sunshine. It's virtually impossible for a dedicated organic farmer/gardener to go without those tried and true easy-to-grow staples in the backyard to pick for dinner. I really liked Michaux Mayhem's link on their blog, Living the Frugal Life. Kate had a post about a book entitled the Resilient Gardener which is basically about surviving on what you grow, but it gave me an idea about not being so fussy in the garden and spending too much time on certain things. Kate mentions a part of the book that caught my eye which gave me an idea of not working too hard in my own garden:

Even more do I appreciate her frank admission that not everything is worth doing well, or even doing at all. What she terms selective sloppiness appeals to my sensibilities. This is a book that will help you find the sweet spot between maximum productivity and minimum labor. If you want advice on how to make your gardens a beautiful, weed-free show place, this isn't it.

Until last year when my mother became ill, I've always been a neat freak in the backyard. Every weed had to be pulled and row perfectly spaced. There had to be beds of straw or compost between all rows to keep weeds at bay, and even the design had to be aesthetically appealing. No more! This year, I'm just sticking the seeds and plants in the ground paying attention only to crop rotation to keep disease at bay. Obviously, if the weeds start sapping moisture and energy from the vegetables, I'll pull them, but many weeds will now be left to grow to become bad-bug food. I won't have as big a garden either. Here's the plan for now:

One or two tomato plants
3 bell pepper plants
Butternut Squash

Maybe there will be a few more, but this should keep the old girl happy and still riding her bike. Growing to store and harvest can wait until retirement.