Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Free heirloom seed samples

Hi, I am testing this year's seed harvest as part of building my heirloom seed business, and I am giving away variety packs for testing--all you have to do is plant them and then give me an update to how they do and where your planted. I am still in the early stage of developing the seed lines, so this information is helpful, plus it fulfills the real goal of sending the seeds around. The variety pack contents will be individually labeled, but will likely have mustard greens,  Cherokee black beans, soybeans, sweet corn, red amaranth, and heirloom tomato varieties. Thanks for helping me out, and I hope you get some great produce out of it! You can email folkwiz at gmail.com

(At this time, seed samples will only be mailed within the United States).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Amaranth for food security

Just a quick plug for Amaranth, an annual flowering plant that propagates itself very readily and is one of the more widespread "food-secure" plants of the planet. Leaves are edible (delicious in stir fry) as well as the flowers--which are slightly bitter but good for you. We stir-fry the flowers with the leaves. You can also save the dried flower heads and get the seeds, which are a rich protein source.

We grow two kinds, including the irresistibly named Love Lies Bleeding (pictured) and they are a colorful addition to the garden. But they can take over, so be careful! Luckily, it's the kind of "weed" you can eat. Very drought-resistant and tough, and a pack of seeds for less than $2 can feed you virtually for the rest of your life.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Low Cost of Low Living

One of my goals for the blog is to promote not just healthy, sustainable living, but simple living. All I can share is my experience, but one of the surprising elements of my stay-at-home life is that my cost of living dropped significantly, in ways I hadn't expected.

I'd already made some choices such as not having my daughter in afterschool (therefore saving about $200 a month), even if it meant I had to pick her up early and arrange my work schedule around it. But the additional savings were the obvious (I probably save about $20 in gas a week simply by not driving to work) and lunch (I didn't eat out often but let's call that a savings of $50 a month). But the most interesting discovery was that my desire for products and experiences declined--no impulse cups of coffee at $2 (or $1.25 if you brought your own cup, which I usually did), no snacks, no temptation to go do something mindless but fun. The cell phone that costs me about 8 cents a minute now only gets used about once or twice a week (it's a by-the-minute plan) since I don't need it to keep up with work.

Simply put, by being at home and focusing on my few favorite interests--family, my writing business, the garden, fixing the road, tending to household chores--I had less interest in all the flashy stuff that was stuck in my face while I rolled through civilization. I carry a little cash now instead of relying on plastic cards, so the spending is real and not hidden. The garden has reduced our grocery bill to probably $80 to $100 a month, year round. Most of my recreation is on the Internet, though we also have Netflix for those rare times I want to escape from my escapism.

The irony is because we have so few needs, we have a little extra to indulge in fun like movies and trips, and even the occasional pointless splurge. We are in no way depriving ourselves. My point here is that you don't necessarily need "more, more, more" to build a better life. I get annoyed when the politicians debate the "cost-of-living pay raises" for public employees, especially when the private sector takes job losses and pay cuts. "Cost of living" doesn't always have to increase. It can actually go down, and you don't have to lower your standard of living or drastically change your lifestyle to do it--though you might actually find you're happier if you give it a try. I sure am.

If you have any simplicity or money-saving tips, feel free to share them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Garlic-- stinky goodness

While garlic is best planted in the fall,  it's not too late to stick some in the ground if you hurry! Garlic is one of those healthy, sustainable crops that not only do you good, they're good to grow. If you forget them or miss a bulb or two, they'll be back the following year.

I read on the package of the elephant garlic I just bought for seed that it's good to mix a little sand with your soil so they can expand easily underground. This is true of any root crop, if you live in an area of clay or dense soil. However, don't make it too loamy and loose. A little wood ash or lime will help build up a little potash and calcium that root crops love.

You can break apart a bulb and plant each of the individual cloves, root part down. If you've kept the bulb until spring, you might see a little green shoot coming out the top--a plant wanting to grow. I don't know about planting grocery-store bulbs. It seems like they would grow but without knowing their provenance, I'd go with heirloom, local garlic if possible. Otherwise, go to a seed exchange or one of my favorites, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Garlic will bloom in summer--at which time you can cut off the blooms (also called "scapes" and cook with them--a delicate, garlicky flavor). The garlic can be harvested at this time if you want to eat some, but the bulk can be left in the ground so the husk can develop. As long as the top is removed, the plant's energy will go into making you a bigger garlic bulb to eat later. They keep well and if you harvest before the fall dampness, you can count on getting a year's storage. Some of the bulbs shrivel but you can save those for seed, and though it's hard to resist, you'll want to save a number of your best bulbs for planting that fall. You can either immediately replant or even wait until late fall, just before the ground gets hard.

When saving seed, think of it this way--a typical bulb might have six cloves, so if you want, say, 60 garlic bulbs next year, you'll want to save 10 bulbs.

Garlic is famous for its folk value in "medicine." Though of course I'm not a doctor (merely a practitioner of love), it's historically been used to stave off colds and other viruses, boosts immunity, and is said to lower blood pressure. Besides cooking, if I feel a grunge coming on, I'll eat a raw clove or two (in conjunction with other preventive measures we'll explore later). Garlic. It's good, good for you, and keeps vampires away.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Welcome to Folkwiz

"Where there is a Will, there's a Rogers."

This blog is a place to further sustainable living, simplicity, compassionate self-reliance,  organic gardening, smart cooking, personal economy, and getting along with one another while celebrating the bounty of this wonderful world. Nothing fancy, just ideas. Take what you need, share what you can, and leave the rest.