Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sprouting seeds on the windowsill

They're poking through after some chilly nights, a smokey afternoon, and a battle with mold. So far I'm seeing sunflowers, zinnias, basil, tomatoes, and squash. I have high hopes for the lavender that is supposedly difficult to start from seed. Next year I may try to do this outside following the directions on http://www.wintersown.org/. The site makes it look easy and even offers some free seeds if you send a SASE.

I'm surprised to see that the seeds I saved from a few tastey heirloom tomatoes last summer were the first tomatoes to sprout. Maybe I should offer my apartment up for seed archiving.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cats running scared

I had a candle going and didn't realize it was smoking a lot until I walked into the bedroom and it was filled with smoke. Now I've got the windows open and the fan running in the bathroom. Mao Mao didn't notice it until I opened the window in the bedroom and woke her. Her reaction was to run and hide under the couch and now the bed. Cha Cha seemed a little concerned but is over it now. It's getting a little chilly in here and I'm monitoring the windows to make sure the birds don't make the leap from the feeder to inside the apartment. When the sun shines through the front window I can see the smoke pushing through the top of it.

This is a very good reminder to check the smoke alarm batteries.

Am I getting a headache or is it just my imagination?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Meat free for a day

Cutting beef from our diets or going vegetarian or vegan once in a while is one easy way to be more green. We've been hearing for a long time now that the beef industry is a costly operation (one of the reasons why I haven't been to a McD's for many many years), but now there are some startling numbers to back up the claim. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have determined that cutting meat from our diet just one day a week is equivalent to driving 1000 miles less a year in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Going vegan bumps the savings up to 8000 miles. Check it out:

I've been trying to eat fish one night a week since February and have been conscious of my beef eating for over a year. It might be time now to completely cut beef from my shopping list and explore meat-free recipes. For meat eating days I think locally sourced meat that gets to run around in the pasture and eat grass is also a good option. I'm reminding myself now how nice it would be to live in the country.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Seed Sowing

The windowsill seed starter is loaded up and so are my expectations for lots of summer vegetables and flowers. The plastic greenhouse is planted left to right with:
Ildi Grape Tomatoes
Chocolate Cherry Tomatoes
Mystery Heirloom Tomatoes that I ate last summer
Crookneck Squash
Summer Squash
I had planned on starting Sweet Corn but I didn't realize they needed a planting depth of 2". My planter is barely 1.5". So I threw in the squashes and basil. The flowers will become gifts if they make it. The basil will stay on the windowsill. The tomatoes will go in my plot. No plans yet for the squash. Squashes tend to get attacked by vine borers at the plot. They may just need more attention.

Cat Note: Cha Cha is recovering nicely from being spayed. Mao Mao seems to be acting more like her old self now that Cha Cha is a no-sex like she is.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle!

No pictures this time, just some thoughts on the book I'm reading (devouring): Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (Poisonwood Bible, anyone?). I powered through about half of it yesterday when I had some quiet time. The author and her family are living off the land for a year. All of their food except spices, olive oil, and coffee are sourced from their gardens or county. The book offers practical advice on planting crops and raising livestock as well as some pretty frightening facts about the stuff most of us eat. She makes it sound like a lot of work but not totally impossible. Her daughter contributes some delicious sounding recipes and insight into the younger generation's perspective.

I think we could really make some positive environmental changes in our country if everyone lent a hand to supporting their local farmers and growers. I have been aware of the benefits of trying to eat local to minimize my carbon footprint. This is easy in the summer when produce is available at my neighborhood farmers market. This year I'd like to make a point of preserving this local bounty for the rest of the year. The book gives instructions on canning and preserving summer's harvest for year round civic duty. Buying while the goods are fresh and local gives the small scale farmer a better chance of making their ends meet throughout the rest of the year. Tomatoes ripen in August but there are still bills to pay in January.

Seasonality is another point that hit me pretty hard. I usually only enjoy cherries when they are in the stores for $1.99/lb in July but a couple of weeks ago I bought some for a treat. I regret making that choice. They probably came from thousands of miles away and honestly they looked and tasted like they did. Bruised and mildly flavorful, they were nothing like the cherries that are available in July. My point is that most of the fruits and veggies we buy in the winter and early spring are totally out of season, from very far away, and usually bland. Why do I buy nectarines in spring from Argentina? Why not wait until Jersey growers have them tree ripe in September? Is it possible to eat seasonally and wait to taste the produce at its peak? This year I'd like to make a point of really appreciating the fruits and vegetables as they locally come into season. I may even try preserving some of these seasonal treats for enjoyment later in the year.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Kitties Coexisting

This couch can hold 2 cats and two adults quite comfortably.

After dark this is a battle ground but right now it seems they've worked it out.

Look back to one of the earlier posts and you can see how much Cha Cha has grown.