Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Craigslist is Da Bomb for local!

The farmer's markets are a great deal, but around here they only operate a couple of days a week during the summer and fall months. But, thanks to Craigslist, we've found that there are many more resources for local foods here that we never knew existed.

For instance, pick your own places. We now know of several within a 15-20 minute drive from our house that we can use to augment our own garden produce. Last summer we picked tons of cauliflower, cabbage, beans, corn, carrots, parsnips and cucumbers. This year we are doing a cooperative garden with some folks we know that live close by and have an acre, but we will still probably visit the pick your own places at least once during the year for bulk items to freeze and can that we are not going to grow ourselves.

Another resource we've recently tapped is the local family farmer - family run butcher shop. By calling a particular family-run butcher shop, we can order a pig or a steer from a local farming family, have it humanely slaughtered, cut up and frozen for a price that is actually LESS than factory farmed meat from the grocery store. And the quality was really good! And, we rented a meat locker there so we didn't have to try to store it all at home. It's been one of the best decisions we've made in the past couple of years on our way to becoming as local as we can. This year we will likely get a lamb and/or a goat to augment the quarter steer and half pig we are still working on. (We split the steer and pig with two other families)

So, I'm happy to say that with this and our other efforts to eat more simply and locally, we're about 75% local at the moment. If we had easier access to local dairy products we could bump it up a bit, but the dairy we use when we can is about 45 miles away in another city. Maybe some day someone will open one here. At least we can get local eggs.

So if you need to find more local foodstuffs, try craigslist.com and see what you can turn up!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Not food, but definitely local!

Our little guy's elementary school class had an outing this week to help the local weed sheriff knock back a patch of invasive species plants. The plant they chose to cut down happened to be dyers woad, a natural dye plant I have been longing to work with for ages! It was apparently brought to this area many decades ago by pioneer families and has since spread all over the place to the point that it's considered quite an invasive menace. Here's a picture of one of the plants in the area they worked on. This one is about two feet tall, although some were shorter. Nearly all were in flower, which is why the weed sheriff wanted help knocking them down before they got much more mature - apparently one woad plant can produce thousands of seeds!

We brought home bags of the stuff, and last night I began to extract juices from the leaves for woad dye. It's a bit of a complicated process and I don't know how it will turn out, but I have high hopes. If it works I should know this afternoon. I have to stop at the store for some clear non-sudsing ammonia on the way home from work, then drain the steeped leaves from the water they've been in. I'm taking pictures of the process and will post them if it works out.

My first dye project will likely be some very special wool that my friend AtomicWombat was given while she was volunteering at the local zoo. It's some very fine, soft almost cashmere-like wool that was "blown" (shed naturally) off our local zoo's herd of Rocky Mountain Sheep. It was very dirty - so we've been pretty busy washing and drying it - and it still needs to be carded and spun, but it's a lovely ivory white and should take the woad dye extremely well. We're jazzed about the local wool and local woad project, and can't wait to drop-spindle handspin the results.

Woad, in case you aren't familiar with this plant as a dye source, makes the loveliest sky blue dye - if you can get the chemical reactions right. Here is a picture, and a link to a page with more information. Isn't that the most gorgeous color???

Here's a great page with more information on woad.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Random pictures from the Spring garden

First are the Aronia berry bushes in bloom. We planted these last year and got about five berries from three bushes. Well, actually, the pups got them! This year the Aronias are literally covered with blossoms. And they are all on the upper parts of the bushes, so unless the dogs can figure out how to get a footstool out there (mind you, I'm not discounting that possibility entirely - they can be very clever about getting things they want) then we should actually get to taste some Aronia berries this year.

This is a closeup picture of a strawberry blossom. If you look closely, you will see that I am probably going to have some competition for the ripe fruit later - more competition than usual, anyway. (The dogs have also developed a taste for our ripe strawberries.)

We have a medium size backyard pond that we put in ourselves over the past two years. This is a picture of some of the ground cover that's creeping around the rocks on the edges of the pond. The stuff on the right is a variegated sedum, and the stuff on the left is a variegated creeping thyme. The stuff in the middle, of course, is a rock. ;-)

This is a wider angle view of part of the pond. It has three "tiers" - each of which is a pond and which feeds into the next lower pond via a waterfall. The final waterfall into the largest of the three ponds is shown here, along with some of the irises we've planted alongside.

This is what we call our "Rose Tree." It's a lovely crabapple with the clearest double pink blossoms that just blooms like crazy every spring. The blossoms smell just like tea roses, and perfume the whole yard while they are in bloom. I just wish the hard little green crabapples could be used for something besides compost!

And, that's it for now. I'm so happy it is spring, aren't you?