Monday, June 28, 2010

A Domestic Weekend-gardening, preserving, and sewing

Jason and I have not been home, together, for about 6 weekends, so we decided to make this weekend about staying home, doing projects, and being together.

Last week the HOA (Home Owners Association) decided to paint the exterior of all the houses in neighborhood. They told us that they were going to do it, but not the dates that they were going to do it, so we didn't have a chance to move all of our outdoor garden stuff until they had already started painting. HOAs are one part of this "suburban" lifestyle that I can't wait to be without. The painters trampled our lettuce bed, painted on plants and trellises, and crushed various other plants that were planted along the sidewalk (amaranth, calendula, and poppies). The first thing that I did on Saturday was work on fixing those garden beds. I trimmed the parts of the plants that were covered in paint. Pulled the plants that were dead from the painter's footsteps, spruced up the plants that I think might bounce back, and replanted the lettuce bed. Jason helped put our gardening table, the potted plants, and our bird bath back next to the house.

This lettuce plant got painted and had to come out. I don't think paint would be a nutritious amendment to our diets.

This branch on our raspberry plant had to go. It was totally painted!

We left the strawberry plants. Hopefully the pain dusting they got won't affect the berries.

After putting the garden back together I decided to sew some pajama/workout pants. I have made this pattern three times now. The first time I made it the way the pattern said with a drawstring waist. I didn't really like the way they fit. The second and third times I just used an elastic waist. They aren't the prettiest or most flattering pants, but they are super comfortable for lounging around house, working out in, or sleeping in. For my next pair I want to add pockets (I have never made pockets before!). I got the red fabric for the pants from a twin sheet set that was 25 cents at a garage sale. The fabric is faded but soft, but was really warped and hard to sew with.

My new red workout pants!

Jason worked on my kayak (yep, he's building me a Greenland Kayak, I'm so lucky!). On Saturday night Jason and I watched The Taking of Pelham 123 on Netflix instant (well, I fell asleep on the couch).

On Sunday I woke up with lots of energy. I cleaned up the kitchen from Saturday's dinner and decided instead of making dilly beans to dehydrate our green beans for our next backpacking trip. So I washed our beans from the community garden, about 3 pounds worth, trimmed the ends, cut them into smaller pieces, and put them in the dehydrator. It took about 18 hours for all of them to dehydrate. I put them in an airtight ziplock and the next time that we go backpacking, we will either add them to another meal or eat them alone. We often rehydrate our foods by adding water during breakfast or lunch and then heating them at dinner. They are not quite as good as fresh, but after a long day of hiking, it's nice to have veggies with dinner.

Washing the beans-green and purple

Putting them on the dehydrating tray.

Leave them for a long time.

After getting the beans ready, I decided to go for a workout. After my shower I decided to work on a dress that I wanted to make. When we were in Vegas for father's day, Jason's mom helped me pick out some fabric for a dress and I wanted to get working on it. I have a lot of difficulty visual and spatial tasks. I can't "see" what something will look like when it's put together. This makes sewing sometimes really hard for me. I also get frustrated with patterns because they never quite fit me right. I got a book about pattern alteration when I was in DC with Sarah and decided to try and alter the pattern. I shortened the pattern at two places to more accurately represent my body style (although the dress was still a little too big for me in some places, while fitting just right in others, someday I will figure all of this out).

I have never sewed anything that had so many pieces to it. It took 3 3/8 yards of fabric and included and yolk, a bodice, front and back pieces, ruffles for the bottom, ruffles for each sleeve and a tie. I was really proud of myself because I knew how to do each task on the pattern instructions (I think this was the first pattern where I didn't have to scratch y head and figure out how to put it together). I worked from about noon until 1am with breaks for lunch and dinner. But in the end I have a dress. It turned out allright. I think that if I make it again, I will make it in a fabric that is lighter than cotton because it is very heavy. I think that I will either take in the sides to make it more fitted or make a smaller size because it hangs on me and almost looks like a maternity dress. But I feel like I am learning about sewing and finally making clothes that I would actually wear!

Dress Front

Dress Back

Friday, June 25, 2010

Community Garden Update

Today was my day off and my first chore of the day was to go to the community garden. Every time I get there, I am amazed at how much everything has grown and its easy to lose track of time while puttering around the garden.

My first chore was to tie the tomato plants to stakes. Instead of cages, we bought 8 foot tall cedar stakes and we are tying the branches to the stakes for support. The only problem with that right now is that our tomatoes are taller than our stakes. We have one big bushy variety that is growing horizontally, but the rest are growing taller every day. I have been trimming them back to try and encourage fruit growth instead of plant growth, but so far there is just a little bit of green fruit. Since this is my first garden, I am not sure how much fruit I should be seeing so far.

After trying the tomato plants, I decided to try tying the cucumbers and butternut squash. I had been wrapping the stalks up a trellis as they grow, but they were busing out and getting in the way. We don't have a lot of space in the garden, so when a branch is in the way, it often breaks when I am walking through the garden. I used the twine to more securely fasten the vine to the trellis. I think that the cucumbers will be easier to pick this way as well.

We planted purple string beans this year and some of their leaves has been turning an ugly shade of brown. I am not sure if they have some sort of disease or if a pest is getting them, but I decided to remove all of the affected leaves. I found a couple of grasshoppers sitting on the bean leaves. According the my garden book, they are voracious eaters, but so far the leaves don't look chewed on. I am not sure how to get rid of grasshoppers.

After trimming and tying, I picked my harvest. I picked half a bag of green and purple beans, 2 zucchini, about 12 pickling cucumbers and one jalapeƱo pepper. I ate about 5 currant tomatoes.

Next it was time to water. I have volunteered to water part of the exterior community garden every time I go, so watering takes about 30 minutes. When I got back to the car, I realized that I had spend almost 3 hours working in the garden without even realizing it.

I am hoping that I have enough cucumbers to make a small batch of pickles (I have more from earlier in the week) since to be perfectly honest, I am getting sick of raw cucumbers. I will also make another batch of dilly beans this weekend.

I have included some pictures of the community garden!!

I wish that I didn't have to wait for my tomatoes. This one is an orange-banana tomato (I think). We have lots of different varieties, but the sharpie ink has washed off the labels that we wrote.
Here are some pickling cucumbers. I am hoping to one day get enough to make pickles. We get about 15-20 a week and since they are small, they would fill one or two jars. My gramma suggested making refrigerator pickles though and I think that I will try that this weekend.
Tomatoes growing out of the ground squirrel fence. They are about 7 feet tall. Crazy!
We are still getting about 2 zucchinis a week from the plant!
These are some type of hot pepper from the hot pepper blend we got from territorial seeds. Maybe habaneros?
Here is another view of the fence Jason built to keep out the ground squirrels and the beans and squash growing up the north wall.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My First Blog Post

For the past few months, some of my friends and family have suggested that I start a blog. I am not sure if I really have anything to say, but my friends seem to think that keeping a record of what I am doing would be in my best interest.

Last August my boyfriend and I moved to San Diego to try and start a new life together. He had a transfer with his job and I was sure that with my teaching experience and Spanish language skills, that I would have no trouble finding a good teaching job here. Boy was I wrong! So now I am an underemployed woman, trying to create a life with her boyfriend, while trying to take the blessing (curse) of extra time off to pursue other interests.

I have been working hard at gardening. We have a few small raised beds in our yard, but they are mostly shaded during the day and not so great for most vegetables. In April we got a community garden plot where we are growing the majority of our vegetables. I love canning and preserving and am hoping the grow enough vegetables to get us a year's worth of salsa, spaghetti sauce, pickles, dilly beans, and anything else I can imagine canning. We also got a food dehydrator so I am experimenting with dehydrating as a food preserving technique.

About 5 years ago I thought that it would be a cool idea to learn how to sew. I hate going shopping and it's always been tough to find clothes that fit and look good. While at Target with some friends, I found a Singer sewing machine on clearance for $50 and bought it. With some help from my gramma and some classes at Treadle Yard Goods in St. Paul, MN (oh how I miss that store), I started to pick up some of the basics of sewing. Since moving to San Diego, I have had more time to sew and I am finally feeling more confident following patterns. I would like to learn more about alterations and tailoring and fashion in general-like what kinds of fits are best for my body type.

I have also been experimenting with creating my own lip balms. Through various San Diego listservs, I met some people who have hives and more beeswax than they know what to do with. So far I have made three different batches of lipbalm to give to friends and family and I am working at perfecting the recipe.

Jason and I enjoy camping and backpacking and have made a 2010 resolution to go backpacking 12 times this year (once a month, although we are a few months behind). So we are exploring the areas surrounding San Diego.

Jason and I eventually would like to get some land in a beautiful place, probably in or near the mountains, where we can have enough land for a big garden, chickens, goats, maybe some alpacas (Jason really wants them...). I feel like now I am developing the tools that I will need to live the sustainable life that I dream of having.

I can't promise that this blog will be focused because my life isn't focused at all. I can't promise that I will be diligent about posting because sometimes experiencing life is more important than recording it, but I think that this will be a good exercise for me. I often feel like since I am not making anywhere near to the salary I made in Minnesota or working in a very meaningful job, that I am not doing anything with my time. Hopefully this will help me make sure I fill my time with meaningful things and help me feel like I am doing something useful.