Independence Days – August 26

For me, late August is an antsy time. (Okay, who am I kidding?  A lot of my time is antsy time, just for different reasons).  In any case, a few weeks before classes start for the fall is the time when I’m selecting readings, choosing assignments, and getting syllabi ready.  It is, I find, somewhat uncomfortable – I haven’t yet settled on everything that needs to be decided, and the start of classes feels like it’s creeping forward at a far too rapid pace.  At the same time, it’s also the start of job hunting season, and so I have a series of applications to pull together and submit that need to be dealt with too.  In short, the work-related to do list is long, and it feels like time is rather short.

This means that I tend to slow down on just about everything else at the same time, including Independence Days (except perhaps for thrift store shopping, since I usually pick up a few things to replace my clothing that has worn out or become too dirty through summer activities and wind up with a number of new and useful things).  The timing is not great, since this is the ideal time of year to be putting up food.  But I’ve had to accept that there are some other priorities that I need to work on – especially related to fulfilling work requirements and looking for a more permanent job – and that there are some things that I won’t be doing as much as I’d like.

Plant something:  As ever, more kombucha; trying out some lettuce seeds in plastic bins

Harvest something:  Mint, chives, basil, oregano, thyme, and borage; green peppers, sweet peppers, chard, kale, tomatoes, and lettuce

Preserve something:  Dried herbs; refrigerator pickles

Waste not: Made a whole lot of thrift store purchases this last week (thanks, in part, to the big back to school 50 percent off sale at the large local store) including nine books (Girl in the Kitchen, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Jams, Jellies, and Preserves, Food Rules, The Worst Hard Time, A Brief History of Time, Made from Scratch, The Family Fang, Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and a nice edition of The Grapes of Wrath), a large round casserole dish (for use as a bread bowl), a cow-shaped creamer (a long-held but rather frivolous desire), three pairs of pants, a t-shirt, two pairs of boots, one pair of shoes, two throw pillows with shams, a tomato presser, santoku knife, glass jar with spigot, honey pot with dipper, Le Parfair jar, plaid wool blanket, spice rack with jars, oven mitt, quilter’s pencil, bag of beeswax votive candles, and four candle holders – the grand total was $84, and now I I’m looking forward to doing even more of a serious clean out to make room and keep things under control around here; added two more boxes to the donation pile

Want not:  Organized the large closet and the front hall closet for better food storage; stocked up on books and clothing for back to school and the coming months (I’m hoping for more time at home when I’m not teaching, especially time spent reading on the couch and cooking)

Eat the food:  Many salads, sandwiches (tuna on multigrain, cheese on whole wheat), oatmeal, pasta with veggies, frittata, fajitas, fish and chips, soup, dried and fresh fruit

Build community food systems:  Nothing this week

Skill up:  Getting back into knitting (I’m working on a wool log-cabin blanket); still playing the guitar and making a bit of my own music; reading up on different approaches for making bread, and especially wholegrain options

Get healthy:  Working on the cholesterol-improving healthy eating plan; regular bike rides, walks, and yoga; nightly meditation; extra sleep

This week’s to-do list:

  • can one thing that’s currently stashed in the freezer or reading to pick from outside (yep, this one’s still on the list)
  • add another box of stuff to the donation pile (still aiming for at least one per week)
  • finish course prep so I can stop thinking about it
  • apply for two jobs

Independence Days – August 19

Other than preserving some additional food, I did pretty well on last week’s goals.  It was a weird week health-wise, and a busy week work-wise, but I’ve managed to do a lot of work on cleaning up and clearing out the kitchen, making more room for food storage, eating from our food storage, and just generally get domestic things a bit more in order as the new school year approaches and my free time continues to dwindle.  That said, I’d like to figure out some ways to keep up with food production, preservation, and storage through the winter, if possible – it’s something that I think so important that it really should be part of my schedule rather than an after thought, or something that gets relegated to “free time”.

Plant something:  A few late lettuce and kale; two batches of kombucha now that the mother’s started producing babies

Harvest something:  As always, mint, chives, basil, oregano, thyme, borage, and violet; green peppers, sweet peppers, chard, kale, and tomatoes; was hoping for zucchini, but someone or something seems to have walked off with those from our community garden plot (this is in addition to our missing tomatoes, peppers, and radishes)

Preserve something:  Still drying a lot of herbs; still behind in terms of actual preserving – a batch of pickles didn’t turn out well, and the kitchen’s been in such a shambles that I haven’t yet done the jam or salsa that I wanted, but we’re working on getting things cleared out and in order, and at adding in an extra work surface in there, since there’s so little space to work.

Waste not:  Thrift store purchases have totaled five books (Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, Fragile Things, Smoke and Mirrors (love Neil Gaiman’s work), Irish Sagas and Folktales, and Wherever You Go, There You Are), a fine mesh strainer (for jelly, I hope), jeans, and yoga pants, since it seems like my wardrobe is giving up all at once; delivered a bag of donations to the thrift store; continued adding more to the donation pile; working on a food inventory system to keep track of what’s where and needs to be used up

Want not:  Stocked up on 16 pounds of lentils; working on figuring out better ways of creating and using storage, as well as assessing what needs to be store and would be useful to have versus what can do to make more room

Eat the food:  Lots of salads, frittata, shakshuka, fish and homefries, tuna on multigrain bread, steel cut oats, granola, various versions of vegetable soup including homemade minestrone and creamy broccoli with splitpea and sweet potato

Build community food systems:  Nothing this week

Skill up:  Some knitting here and there; playing the guitar and trying to figure out how to make my own music

Get healthy:  Received a measles, mumps, rubella, and hepatitis B vaccination; had a blood test; found out about slightly elevated cholesterol levels that are now being dealt with; currently developing a cholesterol-improving healthy eating plan; regular bike rides, walks, and yoga; nightly meditation

This week’s to-do list:

  • can one thing that’s currently stashed in the freezer
  • add one more box of stuff to the donation pile (aiming for one per week)
  • clear out and clean front hall closet
  • keep up with the new and improved eating plan
  • declutter cookbooks
  • bake something – I’d like to figure out some healthy treats to make at home

Independence Days – August 12

I suppose I should be used to it by now.  This has been another week in which I wish I’d done more.  But it’s starting to feel like that will always be the case.  There will always be more to do, and sometimes some things will have to slide a bit.  It’s simply not possible to do it all, as much as I’d like to.  And so, here’s what I’ve actually done this week.

Plant something:  More lettuce, kale, and chard; another batch of kombucha

Harvest something:  As always, mint, chives, basil, oregano, thyme, borage, and violet; green peppers, sweet peppers, chard, kale, and tomatoes

Preserve something:  I’ve been drying a lot of herbs, but I’m still far behind where I’d like to be on this – there’s so much frozen in the freezer that I need to get through, and I’d still like to do sauce, pickles, and a whole bunch of other things (honestly, it makes me anxious just thinking about it, especially when this is such a busy month in terms of prepping for the new school year)

Waste not:  Recently I’ve been heading to the thrift store with fall and winter on my mind (both in terms of clothes for teaching in and keeping warm) – thrift store purchases have included four books (Perfect Preserves, Moosewood Desserts, the Reader’s Digest Knitter’s Handbook, and Gentlemen of the Road), flannel pants, a wool sweater, shearling slippers, two pairs of wool socks, a pair of jeans, and a wonderful Canadian made pottery mug with my favourite lava glaze; delivered two boxes and two bags of donations to the thrift store; continued adding more to the donation pile

Want not:  Stocked up on potting soil (for indoor micro-greens this winter), rice, oats, sugar, tinned tomatoes, tuna, pasta, toothbrushes, floss, and soap; replaced a few first aid kit items; still working on organizing and decluttering the apartment – clearing out closet space for more food and tool storage, and working to get the kitchen sorted and rearranged to make food-related activities like canning and baking bread easier and more efficient

Eat the food:  Lots of salads, eggs, fish with homefries, shakshuka, eggs and bacon, tomato and mozzarella sandwiches, kombucha, thai shrimp curry

Build community food systems:  Shopped at the farmers’ market; traded pepper for some tomatoes with someone from the community garden; went to a small local eco-event

Skill up: I’ve been slow on this – course prep and apartment cleaning have taken over most of the things I’ve been working on, but I hope to be back to them soon – I now have a fantastic knitting guide and I’d like to learn the principles of knitting, rather than just following patterns

Get healthy:  Lots of walking and biking (which also saves on transit costs); working on meditation and mindfulness; went to the dentist for a cleaning and exam; received a tetanus, polio, and diphtheria vaccination booster

This week’s to-do list:

  • can one thing that’s currently in the freezer
  • add one more box of stuff to the donation pile
  • clear a full shelf in the closet for food storage
  • pick up plastic bins for growing micro-greens this winter
  • organize beans into use-first order
  • cook one meal with beans and rice
  • update measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine

Independence Days – August 5

So far, this has been the week of decluttering.  Facing down the end of the summer and the start of the school year, your not-so-intrepid heroine (that would be me) has started clearing out as much as possible from the overly-stuffed secret lair (read: apartment) that she inhabits.  At this point in our story, there are many boxes of thrift store donations littering the bedroom floor, and many more things left to be sorted, decided upon, and either put away or gotten rid of.  As a result of this project, not a whole lot else has happened this week.

Plant something:  Arugula and lettuce; a new batch of kombucha; sourdough starter

Harvest something:  As always, mint, chives, basil, oregano, thyme, borage, and violet; green peppers, chard, and a bit of kale; the first few ripe tomatoes

Preserve something:  Didn’t do so well on this one this week – the last pickles that I fermented were a dismal failure, and I need some practice (or something approximating a root cellar)

Waste not:  Thrift store purchases – three books (Winter greens: Solar Greenhouses for Cold Climates, The Not So Big House, and Creating the Not So Big House); put together a rather large donation pile for the thrift store (and still going strong on the decluttering); started putting a few sewing books to good use through learning how to refashion old t-shirts and other jersey knits

Want not:  Stocked up on more salt and spices; working on seriously organizing and decluttering the apartment so it’s easier to work in and there’s more room for the important stuff – there are already four boxes of books and another three boxes of miscellaneous stuff ready to go, and the main closet is cleaner and less cluttered than it has been in ages

Eat the food:  Frittata, lots of salads, eggs, fish, burgers with corn on the cob and fresh steamed veggies, soup

Build community food systems:  Back to the farmers’ market this week, and had some good chats with farmers (and a few invitations for farm tours, if I can find a way out of the city)

Skill up: Still knitting; practicing a bit of hand-sewing

Get healthy:  Still biking and walking anywhere I possibly can; watching calories in an attempt to lose a bit of weight and avoid buying new pants; a fair amount of greens and fruits; added in some more yoga, meditation, and general mindfulness

Up next: keep up with the decluttering and spend more time relaxing (via yoga and meditation), on doctor’s orders.  There’s a lot to do prior to the start of school, and a lot to learn and plan, and so the calmer I can stay, the better off I’ll be.  Happily, I also tend to feel better when the apartment is clean and tidy, so I’m hoping that the big push to purge now will help a lot with that as things start up again and the school year starts up.

Independence Days – July 29

Despite a long, somewhat un-food-focused week, I’ve been trying to keep up with Independence Days here and there.  News about drought and rising food prices has me concerned, and I’m trying to gear up my food production and storage a bit more to help mitigate some of the issues that we seem to be facing.  Hopefully this week will be even better, especially now that I have on project off my plate, and another nearly completed as well.

Plant something:  More arugula and lettuce; started a new kombucha scoby; started a ginger beer starter

Harvest something:  Mint, chives, basil, oregano, thyme, borage, and violet; green peppers, chard, and a bit of kale; foraged garlic

Preserve something:  Prepped both cultivated and foraged garlic for storage; made pesto with leftover garlic scapes; dried mint, chives, basil, oregano, thyme, borage, and violet leaves

Waste not:  Thrift store purchases – one pair jeans and one cardigan, one reference book (The Nature Principle), and one large jar for storage; worked on storing and eating leftover promptly; used chicken bones to make stock; made further use of the quick sale grocery store produce racks

Want not:  Stocked up on pasta, potatoes, olive oil, butter, and tea; bought two sets of reusable produce bags (on sale)

Eat the food:  Basmati rice with butter chicken, frittata, thai shrimp curry, lots of salad, battered fish, roasted fish, shakshuka (with sale halloumi cheese), pizza, minestrone soup

Build community food systems:  Not so much here – between caring for my container garden and the plot across the street, most of my energy has gone to food production rather than building food systems

Skill up: Easing back into knitting (I decided I’d do better if I started with something really basic, rather than trying to resume a sweater that I have no idea where I stopped on); still working on the guitar here and there; reading as much as possible on good gardening practices

Get healthy:  Still keeping up with the walking and biking as much as possible, plus regular gardening; lots of healthy foods;  trying for a bit more sleep and to get fully into meditation as a daily practice, rather than something that happens a few times when it strikes me

I have a week of meetings and dealing with a journal issue coming up, but I’m looking forward to getting back to the market (I’ve missed the past two weeks for different reasons), and hopefully getting some jam made to free up a bit more freezer space.  With any luck, there may also be some corn to freeze (pricey as it is), and if I can get some cucumbers and tomatoes in bulk, I’d like to try my hand at a bit more canning – I’ve made both pickles and tomato sauce before, but never to can.  Admittedly, this might be a bit ambitious, but if I get even half of this done, I’ll be pretty happy with that.

Independence Days – July 22

Between research projects, editing a special journal issue, and pepping classes for next semester, it’s been a heck of a week (especially after finding out that I have essentially no resources for a class that really needs a whole bunch of resources).  Given the stress of these different things, I’ve actually been retreating to focus on food, gardening, and general preparedness a lot more this week than I would have expected (or maybe it’s just that there are a very justifiable form of procrastination).

Plant something: Lettuce, arugula, mixed greens, and peas

Harvest something:  Chives, thyme, basil, mint, borage, oregano, sage

Preserve something: Pickles (fermented and vinegared); dried chives, thyme, basil, mint, borage, oregano, and sage; sage and chive infused vinegar (for eating and homemade skin care)

Waste not: Thrift store purchases – four cookbooks and a novel (Moosewood Celebrates, Fields of Plenty, Under the Sun, Venezia, and Another Roadside Attraction); have started paying more attention to the discounted grocery store shelves for almost out of date produce – thus far have come home with super-discounted green beans and half-off fresh fish, mozzarella, and halloumi

Want not: Stocked up on 16 lbs of lentils and a kilogram of peanut butter; working on sorting out a better approach to food storage to prevent the kitchen from falling into a perpetual state of disaster all the time and to allow the food to be more easily accessed and rotated

Eat the food: Lots of salads, frittata, shakshuka, fried fish with homefries, soup, pasta with sauteed veggies, veggie and cheese wraps

Build community food systems: Not much here – just more time at the community garden

Skill up: Playing guitar; learning more about organic gardening techniques and pest control; getting back into the knitting groove

Get healthy: Taking time every day for a bit of rest (usually reading on the couch with a big mug of tea with some fresh homegrown herbs tossed into the brew); plenty of walking and biking to and from campus, and for errands; lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains

One thing I need to start thinking about is how to keep some of these habits and routines up when school starts again in a month and a half.  I’m teaching more than double what I did last year, and a number of new courses (or new course formats), so I’d really like to figure out how to keep up at least some of the preparedness, skilling up, food prep, and healthy living stuff that I’m doing now, since these are the things that are likely to fall by the wayside.  I’m sure it’s do-able, it’s just a matter of figuring out the best ways to make it work and how to keep it up when things start to get really busy.

Independence Days – July 15

Plant something: oregano, rosemary, and sage (from the last of the offerings available from the local nursery); more kale, lettuce, arugula, and peas

Harvest something: pea shoots, swiss chard, peppers, borage, oregano, thyme, basil, sage, rosemary, mint, and chives

Preserve something: dried borage, mint, thyme, violet, chives, basil, and rosemary; fermented carrots, beets, beans, and the few tiny little green tomatoes that I took off the plants before they succumbed to wilt; froze beans

Waste not: thrift store purchases – two novels; reused plastic spinach, mushroom, and frozen yogurt containers for planting seeds and glass jars as spice containers; cleared extra room in the fridge in the hopes that we’ll have more room and, consequently, less food going bad

Want not: stocked up on vinegar, flour, pasta, and plastic canning lids; cleared out the fridge to make some more room for the healthy stuff and the necessities; worked a few extra hours to supplement the “special projects” bank account

Eat the food: salads, frittata, burgers and fish burgers, veggie wraps, fajitas, soup, sandwiches, fish and chips; lots of homegrown herbal teas

Build community food systems: shopped at the farmers’ market and discussed local food issues with some of the farmers (being informed is good!); chatted with people at the community garden

Skill up: figured out how to set up my bike trailer and ride with it attached to my bike; learned more about pest and disease control in gardens; practiced fermenting a variety of different foods; practiced the guitar

Get healthy: lots of walking and biking; many, many salads and other good food; plenty of sleep; working on a bit more rest and relaxation and just generally slowing down

The big focus this week has been on health, especially in terms of trying to relax a bit more and take a bit of time off from work (and thinking about work).  I’ve been doing a lot of different things, and I think I need a clearer schedule and more focus in order to get done the things I need to do and have some time for the things that I really want to do.  This coming week, I’ll be continuing with this and starting my mornings with meditation and then work – no exceptions.  My hope is that I can get things done early and enjoy myself, since putting things off until later means that everything else is less likely to get done.

I’ve also been giving some more thought to the idea of downshifting further.  In addition to trying to find some more time away from work, I’d like to cut down my consumption a bit more and be even better about recycling and using what I have.  This is a good thing in general, but I’m also hoping that it will free up a bit more cash to put towards some important “wish list” items.