Author Archives: thelivinglocalexperiment

Building a hoop house

With the warm March we have all been excited about getting out into the garden.  I have to constantly remind myself that it is not yet Spring, and we have two more months of frost and freeze.

Enter the hoop house, a way to get an early start and fulfill the urge to garden.  B and I talked about it for a couple weeks, and then today, given the fact that it was in the 50’s, all the snow was gone, and it wasn’t too muddy we decided to build it.

The supplies:  4- 10 ft 3/4 inch PVC tubing, 1 roll of plastic sheeting ( our roll was 30 feet, and we found it on clearance at an odd lot store), 8- 3/4 inch two hold straps, roofing nails (we didn’t have any short screws), a hammer, a pair of scissors, a staple gun with staples, and something like more tubing, twine, or small branches as a cross bar to support the hoops.  We used some old pipes from a defunct green house and some zip ties to fasten them.  Oh- and a raised bed.

Our raised bed is just over eight feet long.  We marked at 1, 3,5,and 7 feet on both sides.  Then we used those marks as our guide to nail the straps.

We debated for a while whether to put the straps on the inside or the outside, as we have seen them both ways, but decided outside would work for us.  Once the the straps are on slide one end of the pvc tube through one strap, pushing it slightly into the ground.  Then bend the tube and slide it through the strap that’s parallel.

Once the tubing is in place it is time to attach the cross bar support.  We took smallish pipes and attached them with two zip ties at each hoop.  You could use basically anything you could get your hands on.  We had also considered a broken tent pole for the job.

Now that the support is in place it is time for the plastic.  You will want to have an idea which way the wind is blowing as you unroll the plastic sheeting.  Originally, we had wanted to put grommets in the plastic like a tarp so we could weave the tubing through it, but we couldn’t find anything big enough, plus that would have taken a long time.

Pull the plastic over the hoops and make sure all four side are completely covered.  We made sure there was at least 6 inches over hang on each side.  Then we got out the staple gun and wen to town on 2 sides.  There are no pictures of this because it is a two person job, especially when it is windy out.  Why only two sides?  Well, the soil was still frozen and we needed to add more before we planted.  We will also have to plant the seeds.  Once those are done we may add a couple more staples, but you will need to leave at least one short side completely loose for ventilation and access to the food you’re growing.

How tall is it you ask?  Well, it is big enough for a preschooler to walk around comfortably, and there is enough space on the two sides that she was able to crawl in and out multiple times.

In all the supplies (not including our existing raised bed and the things we had laying around, like nails and staples) cost us around $30.00.  It took around half an hour to put together, even with gusty winds and a three year old “helping.”  Hopefully, we will be planting in it next weekend, and soon will be getting some early greens. Yum!

 

 

Is It Winter or Spring?

 

Well, it hasn’t been too wintery this year in Maine.  There have only been two snow days at school, and I’ve only been let out of work early once.  Still though, it has been cold enough to not let K outside too much to play.  Today all that inside time was getting to everyone in the house, and we decided to head to Clary Hill to tromp around a little bit.  It was in the 40’s today and not windy ( which is unusual where we live.)

We didn’t get far down the trail because of the ice, but we had a lovely time.  Ruby, the Cairn Terrier, enjoyed climbing on rocks and rolling in the snow.  Duncan, our old, fat beagle, sniffed and sniffed.  Us humans slid on the ice and checked out various animal tracks. We wandered around for about an hour, and then made our way home.

Once home K and I looked for signs of spring, and did we find them…

Peonies starting to poke through the ground.

A little poppy popping up.

Some tulips coming through the grass.

More poppies growing.  It gives me hope that the dark days of winter will be gone soon.

Getting back into the swing of things

Oh my- I have really dropped the ball on this blog over the last few months.  We have had a lot going on, and unfortunately this was put on the back burner.  That isn’t to say we gave up on living locally the last few months.  We’ve continued that, but it hasn’t been as easy given the time of year and not having any winter CSA’s or food shares in this area.  We’ve been slowly eating all the veggies I froze and fruits I canned.   Our entire Thanksgiving Feast was produced within ten miles of our home.  We tried really hard to get our Christmas gifts from craft shows and local merchants.  We really saved quite a bit of money on gifts by shopping this way.  That wasn’t the point, but it was a pleasant surprise.  Most clothes and household items have been purchased through thrift and consignment stores.

This weekend I made my own laundry detergent.  I was nervous, but the results have been wonderful.  Here is the recipe:

  • 1 box of Borax
  • 8 boxes of baking soda
  • 4 bars of Castile Soap, grated
  • a heavy sprinkle of lavender essential oil

I dumped it all in a five gallon plastic container and mixed it with my hands.  It only takes two tablespoons to do one large load.

I also spent some time making some shower gel for K’s sensitive skin.  This is still cooling so we shall see how it works.

  • Half gallon distilled water
  • two cups of grated soap (I used Tom’s of Maine because it doesn’t have the sodium based ingredients.)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Vegetable glycerin

Heat the water add soap and glycerin.  Do not boil.  Stir continuously until soap dissolves in the water.  Pour into jars and let cool.  My plan is to take an empty shower gel container and fill it with the soap.  That will be what is on the shelf in the shower.  The rest will wait in their mason jars.

I have several other plans in the works that I hope to blog about in the upcoming weeks.

Root Vegetable Comfort Food

Rutabagas.  I received two in the CSA this week.  I had no idea what to do with them, but I was determined not to let them go to waste.  I turned to the internet to figure out what people do with them.  I discovered a Finnish dish called  Lanttulaatiko.  I have no idea what it translates into, but it is seems to be essentially a rutabaga casserole.  Here is my take on it:

Ingredients:

  • Two medium rutabagas
  • Two carrots
  • One egg
  • 1/2 cup of bread or cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • salt and pepper
  • cinnamon
  • One TBSP of butter

Peel and chop the rutabagas and carrots.  Put them in a large pot.  Fill the pot with water  until it covers the vegetables by an inch or so.  Generously salt the water.  Bring pot to a boil and continue to boil the veggies until soft, around 25 minutes.  While the veggies are cooking, in another bowl beat an egg with the milk.  Add the bread or cracker crumbs, and allow them to soak up the milk/egg mixture.  (I had wanted to use bread crumbs, but I had used the last of them on the meatloaf I was making at the same time.  I found some buttery crackers still sealed in their tube in the pantry.  I think they were from the last time we had company at the house.  I crunched them up and threw them in the egg.)

Once the rutabagas are soft drain and return to pot.  Then mash them until they look like lumpy mashed potatoes.  Pour in the milk, egg, and crumbs and mix together.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  Then pour the entire thing into a greased baking dish.

Dot the top with several pats of butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.  My cinnamon kind of exploded out of the jar on the first shake.  Bake at 375 for 40 minutes.

Once out of the oven allow it to cool slightly, and then dish it up.  We enjoyed this quite a bit.  It may end up on our Thanksgiving table.  It could be served as a main course or a side dish.

Acorn Squash Macaroni and Cheese

This food experiment starts with our “As Seen on TV” Goodwill find.  A couple weeks ago we purchased a nearly new pasta machine with all the attachments.  It was a whole $2.50.  After a few trial runs we finally figured out how to create our own pasta.

Anyway… here’s the recipe:

1. cut an acorn squash in half, drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven at 400 until tender. Around 45 minutes.

While the squash is roasting make your pasta- or cook up your ready made pasta.

When the Squash is done scoop the insides out and puree with a little milk.

Now its on to the sauce.  We used two very different cheeses, both from Appleton Creamery.  One is an aged raw sheep cheese, and the other a soft cow’s cheese.  Shred the sheep cheese which will make about two cups, or three handfuls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dice a medium shallot.  In a medium sauce pan melt 4 TBSP of butter.  Toss in the shallot and cook in the butter for a few minutes.  Add about 4 TBSP of flour.  Whisk the flour, butter, and shallot. Add the squash puree.   Add 3-4 cups of milk, continue whisking.  Add the soft cheese and two handfuls of the shredded cheese. 

When the cheese has melted mix the cooked or fresh pasta in the cheese, and pour into a buttered baking dish.  Sprinkle remaining handful of cheese on the top and bake for 20 minutes at 400.

Garden Fence

Today’s weather was beautiful.   I decided to burn some brush, and noticed that some of the branches still had some bend to them.  B and I had wanted to try our hand at building a garden fence.  The photo is the result.  The only thing we didn’t find in our yard was the nails we used to construct the frame.

To make the fence, get five fairly straight branches that are approximately the same length.  Take two to make the top and bottom.  The other three will be the vertical supports.  Nail the vertical ones to the top and bottom.  The start weaving branches that are still a little flexible in whatever manner you see fit.  We used sumac and some thin birch saplings that had been growing in inconvenient places .

While we were making our fence B heard some noises coming from the brush along the property line.  We discovered a mystery flock of chickens in the brush our chickens enjoy spending their time.  At about the same time our neighbor at the top of the hill drove along the fence line.  We didn’t see the chickens again.  We can only hope that they followed our neighbor home.  Although part of me was ready to adopt however many chickens were in there.  I saw at least two. It was surprising there weren’t any scuffles between the two flocks.  At the time our chickens were enjoying an afternoon snack of sumac horns.  The photo below is a few of our chickens resting in the brush after the other chickens disappeared.

Fall CSA Week 1

 

We had the option of continuing our CSA share for another four weeks.  We decided to take it, so we could put of grocery store trips for a little while longer.  For the first week we received, goat cheese in olive oil, two decorative gourds, Georges Highland Sheep cheese, pie pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, rutabagas, collared greens, onion, salad greens, and chevre.

To round out our food this week we took a trip to Beth’s Farm Market and bought apple cider, butter, ground pork, red onions, carving pumpkins, shallots, and a birthday present.