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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hungry Month

In the old days, folks used to refer to February as 'hungry month', because stores in the root cellar were dwindling down, and there was mighty little in the garden.  One couldn't just nip on down to the store for fresh groceries. If you hadn't planned well, you might certainly go hungry in February.  

February for me is the beginning of the gardening year; this is the month that I start seeds under grow lights in the garage; this is also the month I start preparing beds for new starts. Yesterday I harvested the overwintered leeks and carrots from the winter bed.

To say the carrots were a disappointment would be an understatement.  I usually like 'Caracas' carrots, but they were for the most part really small. I think that is my fault though; I suspect that I got my winter batch into the ground too late last summer.

The leeks were great, though! You really do have to plant them in a trench and hill up to get the white part of the leek to be longer, but it also really helps to start with the right variety.  It turns out that 'King Richard' is the right variety for long whites.

I've been think about this year's garden since mid-January, which is when I needed to get my seed orders in.  At this point, I have all me seed except for one or two items that won't come until next fall. Last spring the seed starts (and failures) really pointed out that I needed to do something about my soil fertility, which I've been working on.  Part of the problem was adding greensand to the soil in the planter boxes, which I didn't know would cause the soil to bind together. It's not as bad as the native clay outside the boxes, but it's far less than ideal.  I've been adding agricultural gypsum to correct my mistake. Then late this last summer and autumn I planted green manures: fava beans, red clover, cayuse oats, and field peas, all of which are winter cover crops.  We've also been composting in situ, and I made the commitment to scale back the garden so that I could grow soil.

The other thing that changed significantly and will impact the garden is our diet.  My Whole30 month did not fix my asthma or eczema, but I can't fault the diet. Avoiding most grains and dairy was a piece of cake, but keeping corn and sugars at bay was a lot harder because they are in everything. Okay, not literally everything, but in enough stuff that I'd figure out too late that I blew it.  I did lose nine pounds, however, and that is huge for me.  So in February, we are going to go through the groceries in the house that are tripping me up, and then in March I start another Whole30, only this time I'll follow the full blown AIP (Auto Immune Protocol), which in addition to no dairy, sugar, grains, alcohol, and legumes, also includes no nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers), eggs (I love eggs!), seeds (black pepper and mustard, among many others), and nuts.There are so many things that you can't eat they say you're better off concentrating on the stuff you can.  This doesn't mean I'm swearing off everything forever- it's just until I can straighten things out so that I can reintroduce things one at a time to see what it is exactly to which I have a food sensitivity. 

One of the things that the change in what we're eating really pointed out to me is that without having to worry about dairy, grains and sugar, folks could really think about getting most of their food from their backyards. And before you point out the number of paleo diets that include baking, I'm not one of those folks whining about missing waffles and pancakes.  For the last month, Steve and I ate vegetables at every meal, in addition to the animal protein we were supposed to be getting, and it's not as hard as you think it is.  I'm not kidding myself here; growing most of my food would take a lot of work, and well-timed planting, as well as the addition of a couple more animals into the mix (I'm thinking ducks in addition to rabbits), and on the face of it, I realize that I have to turn more of the yard into actual production.  I have a lot of un-used space that is in useless walkways or what's left of the lawn.  

So I'm re-thinking permaculture as well, and to that end, I've ordered a couple of perennial vegetables.  I'll go over all that in a later post, though. 


jules said...

Paula, did you get into rabbits yet? We've been raising them for 2+ years now. The expense for us is feed and hay. The downfall is, of course, the harvesting. Well, in blunt words, the killing. The stress of getting it right without suffering. We don't harvest often enough to be proficient at it, at least for the first one or two in the batch. After that, it gets easier. Its meat after all. Here too, we don't usually breed in the hot summer months, so we go probably 4 months without babies, which makes the muscle memory a bit slow to return. We may revisit that decision, though. The cuteness is a factor, up until the death blow, then its just food. Wonderful, flavorful, roasted food. Have you tasted rabbit yet? We have a 18'x18' fenced yard with 16 wire hutches. We have 2 retirees, 3 working bucks, 7 working does and, as of right now, 18 babies (kits) of various ages, growing out. When do you think you'll get into them?

Paula said...

Hi Jules- not yet, but am planning for it for this spring after the bees. ( I broke down and bought a package and I'm going to make a Warre hive.) I have a few things to figure out - mostly where to put everything, but rabbits are on the radar for this year for sure!