Friday, June 25, 2010

Getting The Most For Your Meat Dollars

This morning's wade through the ole inbox uncovered a nifty little gem in today's edition of Mary Hunt's Everyday Cheapskate newsletter. Inside was an article titled "It Pays to Know Your Cuts of Meat," which included a link to a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension pamphlet (note that it is labeled "historical materials" as if somehow this info would cease being useful).

The basic idea behind this pamphlet is pretty simple. Instead of comparing meats by price per pound, we get more bang for our buck by comparing meats by price per serving. I think most of us probably already do this to some degree based on our previous experiences. But this handy dandy pamphlet includes a chart that does the mental gymnastics for us and covers more cuts than we (okay, I) can mentally keep track of, based on serving sizes of 3 ounces each.

One caveat: This pamphlet focuses on how much meat you get for your money, not how much utility. So for example, there is no accounting in the pamphlet for the bone broth you could make from the bones you paid for with your meat.

This post is a participant in Fight Back Friday, hosted by Food Renegade.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What Does It Mean? or The Joys of Suburban Life

So, this morning I took the recycling out to the curb and noticed a plastic grocery bag next to our mailbox. When I picked it up, it became immediately obvious that it contained dog poop. Nice.

Now, we have a fenced yard, so our dogs remain confined to our yard most of the time. We do walk them also, but because we have two dogs it requires two people and 99.99% of the time I'm one of them. So, I know that we are not leaving doggy deposits around the neighborhood that might prompt an irritated neighbor to relocate said deposit back to our yard. But does someone think we do? Or, was this a comment unrelated to our dogs and directed more at us?

I'm baffled. And a bit irritated. And, honestly, kind of creeped out. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Free Pollinator Guides

In honor of National Pollinator Week (who knew? but, yay!), Horticulture magazine included in today's email a link to free pollinator guides customized by your zip code (US). Funded by a variety of organizations and provided by the Pollinator Partnership, these guides are pretty slick. I have not read through mine with a fine tooth comb (yet), but on first glance would say it provides a comprehensive basic introduction to who is a pollinator (they're not all insects!) and planting for pollinators. It appears comprehensive in that it covers a lot of ground, but basic in that it does not go into so much depth as to lose a new gardener's attention. There are also some nice charts that break down what is blooming when and who benefits from it. One caveat: When I plugged in my zip code, it took me to the "simple map" view. There is also an interactive map view. My location is right on the edge of a zone change. So, check to see how close you lie to a zone change. If you are very close to the break like I am, it may be worthwhile to download the guides for both zones. Click HERE to go to and download your free pollinator guide.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Back On Track

Recently, I became aware that all three of us were having "episodes" of "un-well-ness." Not really sickness, but definitely not well either. And I realized that we'd been slipping on our food goals. After sitting down and taking a somewhat unpleasant, but honest, look at our recent eating habits, I recommitted to eating right.

Now, everybody's body is different, of course; so, I don't think there really is a one-size-fits-all diet that is perfect for everyone. But over the course of this journey, I have come to better understand what my body needs, and what seems to work, more or less, for the kids.

I function best on a high protein diet with lots of veggies and limited whole grains and fruit. So, a week ago, I got serious (again) about eating the way my body needs me to eat, and cutting out the crap that I had let slide here and there for all of us. The change has been huge. Truly enormous.

For one thing, I have tons more energy. My skin looks better. But best of all, I have less pain. For several months, I was relatively pain free with regard to the rheumatoid arthritis. If you've been reading here a while, you know that I quit all my meds a while back to see what changing my diet could do for my RA symptoms. But as I started sliding off the routine, I started experiencing more inflammation, until I had a full blown flare not long ago. Come to think of it, that's actually when I had the wake-up call to get back on track and realized the kids were having issues of their own. A week back into clean living and I am nearly pain free.

We are just beginning to eat out of our garden. Until that is in full swing, we'll continue raiding the farm stand and farmers market (although, this last Saturday I bought nothing at the market because there was so little food there- our market has a policy of limiting vendors so as not to cause competition between vendors; but competition between vendors is what pushes vendors to supply amply and with variety, in my humble opinion).

I have developed a rhythm of purchasing from various local suppliers, and this has helped me learn to plan ahead a bit more. This is still not my strong suit, but as long as I am progressing I don't think I can complain. I am also coming to accept, and better understand, the higher prices for local and ethically-raised meats and dairy products. It is still a challenge for me with regard to my budget. I have cut back, and then cut back some more, and then a bit more, how much meat we eat. I am thankful eggs are more affordable, and they have become an important staple in my bid to keep my protein intake up where I need it to be, although the kids still don't want to eat them.

The fallout from this one decision- to eat what I should eat- has been surprising and wonderful. Having all this energy has made the idea of maintaining a fitness routine seem entirely doable. The Girl, the dogs, and I have all gotten a lot more exercise than usual lately. We haven't quite figured out what activity to do to entice The Boy to come along with us, but we're working on it!

Figuring out how my body needs to be fed involved a lot of trial and error, as well as a fair bit of frustration and soul searching. But it was an exercise well worth undertaking because feeding your body how it needs to be fed is sort of like turning a magical key in a door between Blahsville and So-This-Is-Life Land. If you are on this journey too, and if you sometimes lose your way or become discouraged, know that improvement is only one better decision away, and that each better decision takes you closer to the life you want. Keep looking for the right fit for you; it will be worth it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Save Strawberries From The EPA!

This call to action showed up in my inbox today from the FRESH: the movie site. The short version is that the EPA has decided that methyl iodide is safe for widespread use as a soil fumigant on strawberry crops, despite the knowledge that it is a known carcinogen, thyroid disruptor, neurotoxin, and has been shown to cause spontaneous abortions of late-term pregnancies.

Despite the risks to farm workers and the surrounding populations. Despite the risks to people who eat strawberries. Despite a California state-commissioned study that warns against it. Despite a 2007 letter of protest sent by prominent scientists and Nobel laureates. Somehow, the EPA has decided it is safe.

I disagree, and signed the petition against approving methyl iodide. If you would like to sign the petition too, you can find it, and more information, HERE.

*The post is participating in Fight Back Friday, hosted by Food Renegade.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Magic Beans

Jack and the Bean Stalk must have been written by someone as entranced by beans as I am. I always look forward to planting them because they always get right to business for me. I planted the bean bed 4 or 5 days ago. Yesterday, I was starting to worry that the beans had not shown themselves yet because they have traditionally popped up after 3, or sometimes 4 days, for me. When I looked up online how long they take to germinate, I was surprised to see 7-10 days! But, I figured there was no need to panic. This morning when I went to finish digging the new bed, the beans were peaking out. They looked like this:
 Sorry. That's sideways.
Just now when I checked the garden, it was obvious the beans had been busy today. Here is what I found:
Pretty amazing, huh?
This bed includes two kinds of beans. The majority are Empress bush beans (green); but I had just a few Goldenrod bush beans (yellow) left from last year that I planted here also. So far, it seems the Goldenrods might be moving a little faster than the Empress. Last year, I was gifted a handful of Goldenrod beans by one of my master gardener classmates. I really liked them, but then forgot to save any seeds! D'oh! This year, I'll have to mark them early so I don't forget. (In theory, if I want to save seed I should separate bean varieties to avoid cross-pollination. However, beans are self-pollinating and pollination occurs before/as the flowers open, so the likelihood of cross-pollination is low.)

What kind of beans are you growing? And if you are a new gardener (or not yet a gardener!), why not give beans a try? They're easy to grow, and you can't beat the taste.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In The Yard Today

I have been working on digging a new 12 by 18 garden bed in the sunniest part of our yard. I'm only half way there, so no pictures yet. It's just been too hot to work out there for long. But stay tuned- work progresses! It has to- I have way too many plants that need to go in the ground still! Meanwhile, here's what's going on in the yard today.
The front roses are blooming
The side roses are blooming
and so is the clematis
I've been patiently (not patiently) waiting for the onion flowers to open. Do you see the first two?
The first Roma tomato 
A Lantana that is usually bicolor
This riot is the Russian Red kale seed pods that fell over due to the sheer weight of the pods. This plant is massive and survived our crazy winter completely unprotected.
Do you see the bumblebutt hanging out of the Hosta flower?