Wild Gourd Farm

Organic Gardening in St. Louis City

Monthly Archives: March 2011

Frugal Friday: Heating Pad

It’s incredibly easy to make your own heating pad- for the simplest version, all you need to do is fill a sock (a long tube sock, preferably) with rice and/or flax seeds and stick it in the microwave for a minute or so.

You can also sew your own, which allows you to custom fit your heating pad. It’s best to use 100% cotton, because you don’t want to be repeatedly putting synthetic materials in the microwave. I have neck issues, so I shaped mine like a shallow “u” with strings at either end to tie around my neck. All you have to do is sew the two sides together, inside out. Leave a small gap so you can flip it outside in and also so you can fill it up. Before filling, you can sew lines across so the filling doesn’t all settle downward when you wear it. Be careful not to overfill it, about 3/4 of the way is usually good.

Microwave times will vary according to the size of your heating pad and how full it is. Mine typically take about a minute or a minute and a half, and the heat lasts for half an hour or so.

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Side Yard Update

Inside the hoop house

Garlic and kale

Carrots on the left and through the middle, bibb lettuce sprouting next to it, garlic in the foreground, onions in the middle, and lettuce in the back- the red leaves over-wintered from last fall.

 

Cilantro- Becca's favorite

Peas

Spinach

We also have broccoli raab planted with the spinach and cilantro, and sunflowers, oregano, broccoli, and bok choy are in pots in the hoop house to harden off.

Yolko, Fanny, and Chica love their coop! Mother Clucker hasn't figured out how to get up there, or maybe she can't fly...

Chica watches Rosco play frisbee

The curiosity is mutual!

Vegan Hamantaschen for Purim

Purim is one of our favorite Jewish holidays! In the story of Purim, Haman, one of the advisors to the Persian King Ahasverus, wanted to exterminate the Jewish population because the new queen’s cousin, Mordecai, refused to bow down to Haman. The king didn’t know his new queen was Jewish, and when she revealed her Jewish identity, Haman’s plans were spoiled. And, most importantly, Haman was known to wear a triangular hat.

So now we eat triangular cookies called hamantaschen to celebrate Purim.Hamantaschen in your face.

I’ve veganized my mom’s hamantaschen recipe,  Read more of this post

Azure Standard in St. Louis City

Our wonderful friend Monica has set up a drop site for Azure Standard here in the city. It looks like our first delivery should be arriving late next week, and the pick up site is conveniently at the Food Land parking lot at Jefferson and I-44.  Check out the Azure Standard website and our discussion on co-ops, and let us know if you’d like to join in!

Frugal Friday: Window frame = picture frame

This week I took a window sash we found in an alley and re-purposed it as a picture frame. I took the easy way out and just cut a piece of mat board down to size, glued photos on it, and stuck it to the back of the window frame. We thought about painting it and removing the hardware and all, but we decided we liked the idea of it still looking like a window.

Of course all of the photos are of the dogs!

There are a bunch of different ways to go about it. You could cut holes in the mat and mount the photos behind it for a more professional look; you can mount the mat and photos on the other side of the pane of glass to make it more of a shadow box; you could mount photos onto plexiglass instead of the mat and have a clear border; or you could just mount one large photo.

Seedling Update

Most of our seeds have germinated and we’ve started transplanting them into larger pots as they outgrow the seed trays. We have four different types of tomato plants (pictured above) and broccoli under the grow lights we made.  Some of out tomato seedlings are in pots in our hoop house, too (which has been getting up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit). We have nasturtium, squash, jalepeño, tomatillo, basil, and chamomile  in our south-facing windows, and we have two types of organic sweet potatoes sprouting in water.  Looks like we’ll have a good jump start on spring planting!

Frugal Friday- Food Storage

We intend to grow as much of our own food as possible this year.  This means we’ll be preserving everything we can, especially later into the growing season to store up food for the winter months. More immediately, we want to keep our harvested vegetables fresh and ready in the fridge.

We’ve tried lots of different things, including those green bags that supposedly extend the life of your produce. The best method we’ve found is to simply store things in water (a tip from our friends Amanda and Ron). Rinsing and cutting celery stalks and placing them in a cup of water in the fridge will keep them fresh and crunchy. The same thing goes for bunches of cilantro. Vegetables like green beans and carrots keep well in bowls or tupperwear-like containers of water in the fridge. It’s best to change the water every so often.

Lettuce is a little trickier, but I’ve found that rinsing it, patting it dry (or allowing to air dry), and storing in a closed container works well for a few days. We’ve also tried storing (mostly) dry greens in containers with layers of paper towels, but it seems like such a waste to use all those paper towels.

Anybody else have some food storage secrets?

And the winner is…

The poll is closed and the votes have been tallied; our fourth chicken is hereby named Mother Clucker! We had a lot of fun reading through all the creative chicken names that were submitted, thanks everyone for the great ideas! We ended up using three of ’em, so Pat, Bone, and Rachel will receive a dozen eggs each when we get ’em, hopefully in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, it’s been a week and our chickens have adapted to their new home. Check out our pictures below to see the set up!

Here's the chicken area before it was all completed. The pen was wrapped in chain link fencing, with a protective layer of chicken wire on top and along the sides at the bottom. We extended it outward along the ground to prevent burrowing predators.

Our completed dog house-turned-chicken coop, which sits on a coffee table we found in the trash. We outfitted the coop with a window, ladder, and sliding door.

Here you can see the coop with the door, window, and roof open. Inside are two roosts and two nesting boxes made from reclaimed wood.

We cut slots into the bottom of the sides of a bucket and fastened it to a plant tray to make this chicken feeder.

This plastic jug with a hole cut out near the bottom sits in a plant tray to hold water for the chickens.

And now, here are our lovely ladies:

Meet Fanny, our Jersey Giant.

This is Yolko, an Ancona hen.

Here's Chica, our Polish hen. She's iridescent in person, and she's got attitude. Maybe because her crest restricts her vision so much!

Presenting to you for the first time, here's Mother Clucker (formerly Ms. X), our Partridge Rock hen.

They’re about 20 weeks old and should begin laying soon. We’re looking forward to having lots of eggs!

Guess What?

Good news! We got our chickens yesterday and they’re rapidly adjusting to their new home. We named our Ancona Yolko, our Jersey Giant Fanny (Rachel’s suggestion), and our Polish hen Chica (Bone’s suggestion). So, in lieu of Frugal Friday, we’ve created a poll to choose the name of our fourth chicken, a Partridge Rock hen.  Vote for your favorite and we’ll name her at the end of next week!

Note: If you select “Other” you’ll have to leave a comment with your suggested name; the poll doesn’t track the written-in part.

Pictures of our other chickens will be up soon!

In Response to a Question about Local CSAs & Co-ops

Hey guys I was wondering if you could talk about CSA’s & co-ops? I’m looking for input on local ones and want suggestions. Right now I’m torn between Azure Standard which is not local, they are from Oregon. Or this website I found called communityhelpingscoop.com which is some kinda csa that delegates by municipalities but doesn’t list who the producers are-very weird. I found Local Harvest csa listing site but it wasn’t very clear who would was the product supplier either. I know about Fair Shares and am not interested in them. They are overpriced and not broad enough. Like I said, I want to support a local csa/co-op but haven’t found anything as good as Azure, other than going to the farmer’s market. But even that seems to be not all local as well, which I find to be a contradiction in terms. Let me know your thoughts on this!

Monica

Monica, if everyone asked these questions and followed through, we could do some real change.  I don’t think you can go wrong with the options you’ve researched.  Becca was a member of Fair Shares in their first year and it was ok.  They are a multi-farm CSA with some decent options and multiple pick up sites, but it is a bit pricey.  We split it with our neighbor, which worked out because he took the meat that was offered.  It was a great opportunity to learn how to cook with new ingredients.  In our opinion the pluses of a CSA are getting high quality produce, supporting local organic farms and being introduced to new varieties of vegetables.  The negatives are forking over large sums of cash at once and having a limited choice in the share.

We’ve had little experience with co-ops, but we do know that they can be a better option than shopping at most grocery stores.  Getting involved in a local group reduces shipping costs and allows you to buy in bulk at a reduced rate.  I don’t think the co-op we participated in offered 100% local fare, but it seems like there are some that do.

As far as stores go, Sappington Market and Local Harvest are consistently stocked with local and organic products.  We prefer to buy whatever produce we don’t grow ourselves at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, where most of the vendors are local, seasonal, organic farmers. Schlafly Bottleworks also has a market on Wednesdays in season, and the Downtown market, an off-shoot of the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, just started last year.   The Soulard Farmers’ Market is cheaper, but, as you pointed out, most of it is shipped in from California and Mexico; however, we’ve found a couple local, organic vendors.

I like the idea of picking up a CSA share at the farm to meet the farmer and see the land, maybe even harvest a portion of the share myself.  Yellow Tree Farm and Earth Dance Farms are both providing CSAs in St. Louis this year.  We have both websites linked on our blog.

We would love to provide a small CSA in the St. Louis area for friends and family someday.  We have a ways to go, but we learn sooo much every year. We’ve recently increased our garden space 6x what it was last year.  Hopefully this year’s harvest is more than we can eat, so we can share our excess with you!