Friday, December 8, 2017

How Much Does a Garden Grow: October and November 2017

Sigh.  I hate when the garden gives up, which, inevitably, it did in mid-October. Most of the tallies I'll share with you in this post are final, although we still have greens and peppers in the sunroom to give us a final boost.

Speaking of sunroom, we adopted a puppy! This adorable little nugget unfortunately likes to climb into the pepper plants, but I think I've managed to create a way to discourage him from doing so.  Nonetheless, I suppose it is time for me to line up a series of posts on sustainable dog ownership!

Regardless, October was our final month for tomatoes, and the big winner this year was the San Marzano crop, with over 38 pounds of harvest. Second was the Cuore di Bue (34 pounds) and the Principe Borghese (33 pounds). Obviously, these three types will repeat in the 2018 garden, with a new variety of Cuore di Bue that came from a friend (thank you, S!); hopefully, this will give me some even heavier tomatoes with better potential for sauce and juice.

Potatoes were a disappointment this year, but hope springs eternal.  I have potatoes planted in the sunroom, and these sorts of plantings often lie dormant until spring and then turn into the most wonderful early spring crops.

At the end of December, I'll give you the final tallies and the overall report.

Cumulative Totals

Total Ounces of Harvest: 4290.0
Total Pounds of Harvest: 268.125

Total Retail Value of Harvest: $973.59

Total Expenditures: (-287.67)

Total Profit (Loss): $685.92
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Friday, November 24, 2017

Butternut Squash Pie

I usually have good luck with butternut squash in my garden, and it is one of my favorite crops to grow. It is easy, it grows well in our climate, and you can store it in a cool area in your house for several months without any kind of preservation, making it a blessing during that time when so much canning needs to be done.

The problem, of course, is how to use it. Butternut squash works in a variety of recipes; I use it in soup and in pasta for a little bit of extra nutrition.  However, I'm always looking for a great new recipe.

I just discovered and adapted this recipe for butternut squash pie, just in time for Thanksgiving. It has the flavor profile of a pumpkin pie, but it is just a bit milder in squash flavor. Additionally, the homemade version bakes up with more of a custard texture, meaning that it is sweet and creamy enough to make you want to forego any whipped topping. And, most important, the recipe is easy enough to make on a regular basis!

Butternut Squash Pie
1 single pie crust (you can omit this and just bake the custard, if you prefer)
1 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
4 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 T ground cinnamon (to taste)
1/2 to 1 tsp ground cloves (to taste)
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg (to taste)
3 cups pureed cooked butternut squash
1/2 cup organic butter
2 large (free range) eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350.  Cut the squashes lengthwise, scoop out seeds, and place face down in a pan with about an inch of water.  Bake until super-soft, about 45 minutes.  Scoop flesh from squash and puree with an immersion blender. Cream together with butter and vanilla.  (This is easier if  you put the butter in while the squash is slightly warm.)

Mix dry ingredients and use blender to mix them with squash mix.  Add the eggs and mix until smooth. (Be sure your puree is close to room temperature before you add the eggs.)

Pour into crust.  Bake for 15 minutes with edges covered with foil, then bake 50-60 minutes longer or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  (You'll see that little divot that's visible in the pie above.)

Cool pie.  Refrigerate leftovers, if there are any!

The Analysis

Fast:  Slower than canned pumpkin pie filling, but worth the effort.

Cheap:  Well, the squash were free.  I can't say that this is a tremendous savings over canned pumpkin, but every little bit helps.

Good:  Fresh, local ingredients make for a truly special and nutritious pie!  (All that vitamin A from the squash!)

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Real Reason to Avoid Keurig

This week, the world has been treated to an intense internet debate over whether to boycott Keurig, the makers of the one cup at a time coffee makers. Frankly, I don't care one way or the other where they advertise or how, so this is, as the image would suggest, a non-political post.

However, the entire discussion got me to thinking, and I do believe we should avoid Keurig and coffee makers like it. But the reason has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the environment and with how we treat our time.

Single cup coffee makers are a sustainability disaster. Requiring those little cups every time you make a serving of coffee, they are yet another way we've found of turning a simple, inexpensive beverage into an expensive ecological misstep.

Yes, I know that one can buy refillable "K cups," but waste is not the only problem with the single cup coffee makers. Not only do they create a waste problem that needs to be solved with a more sustainable retrofit, but they speed a process that's already very fast, creating a false economy of time saving that I find not worth it.  Is it nice to get a fresh cup of coffee in about three minutes? Of course. However, I can have an entire percolator full of fresh coffee in the time that it takes me to get ready for work, meaning there's enough there for a large thermos or a couple of cups in my office.

The idea that we need to save time at every possible juncture is problematic.  Lately, I've been thinking a lot about how hard we push ourselves to rush through things, and we are missing out on experiences that we might enjoy if they were savored. That marginal-quality cup of coffee delivered to you in three minutes is nothing compared to the aroma of coffee percolating on the stove and the taste of coffee made a more traditional way. It's a simple thing, but it is important.

This is not to say that I've never seen a place where a Keurig is a benefit. For one thing, hotel rooms that offer in-room coffee trade the ease of use and self-contained nature of the machine for the pitfalls of trying to put other kinds of coffee makers out for their guests.  There, it might make sense.

However, at home? I'm asking you to turn away from the Keurig, get some really high quality coffee beans and a percolator or French press, and treat yourself to a good cup of coffee to start your day. No Keurig advertising or lack thereof will change my mind.
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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tickets to Paradise: A History of Key West Travel and its Advertising, 1912-1975

Excuse the shameless self-promotion, but I really have to let you guys in on this.

For the past three and a half years, I've been working on the book you see at your right. If you receive FC&G via email, the launch date of this book is today.

I fell in love with Key West on our honeymoon. As so many do, I got off our cruise ship and walked with my new husband down Duval Street, but it wasn't the bars and the shopping that first drew my eye; I thought that was a little overwhelming. Instead, my new husband decided we should cross over to one of the historic streets paralleling Duval, and it was then that the love affair began. I looked at all the old Conch and Victorian houses and felt that I could hear the echoes of the history of this island.

Meanwhile, through my college teaching, I was developing a specialty in the history of advertising, and I began to explore the advertising that brought people to the island. Along the way, I discovered that Key West has not always been a tourist town. Instead, it once was a thriving business hub, and the advertising reflected that. It was only with the onset of the Great Depression that things changed, and tourism became the island's primary industry.

As I wrote this book, I imagined who might read it. Of course, I want historians, advertisers, graphic designers, and those in the travel/tourism industry to read this. However, I also hope that tourists contemplating or in the middle of a visit to Key West grab a copy and learn more about their vacation destination.

If you are interested in this book, the Amazon/Kindle link is below. There is also a link to buy directly from me; for a limited time, the book is 20% off list price with free shipping to celebrate the launch.

Buy Amazon paperback or Kindle/e-book

Buy direct from the author
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How Much Does a Garden Grow: September 2017

(This post's photo is from a line of hand embroidered tea towels at my Etsy store, Carrot Creations.  See it here.)

And just like that, high gardening season is over.  September gave us the typical small harvest every other day. But, as I write this in mid-October, I am still harvesting a few tomatoes, some peppers, and arugula.

The big story this month is butternut squash.  I've saved and replanted seed every year, allowing me to get a plant that is well-suited to being prolific in our climate. I harvested over 23 pounds this year from a very short row, for a retail value of $71.82. With so much squash on hand, I need to start making some pies; the butternut squash will taste just like pumpkin once I spice it. I might also pressure can some, since I have learned this year that it can be canned in cubes.

The San Marzano tomatoes kept coming in, for a yearly total thus far of 594 ounces or just over 37 pounds.  For those of you keeping track (because I clearly am!), the tomato total through September was just over 178 pounds.  Still not enough; never enough. But, I am grateful; I even had tomatoes in my stir fry last night, in the middle of October.

So, we are starting to wrap up a highly successful garden year!  But, more to come, because October is still productive. Let's see if we can get to $1000 in retail price for the garden produce!

Cumulative Totals

Total Ounces of Harvest: 4253.5
Total Pounds of Harvest: 265.8438
Total Retail Value: $962.70

(Total Expenditures: $-287.67)

Total Profit: $675.03

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Interlude: On A Day Working in the Fall Garden.

I do not like your wretched fall.
I do not like the fall at all!
I do not like the falling leaves.
I do not like to wear long sleeves.

You may have your herbal tea.
Keep your soup far from me.
I do not want a cozy fire.
Sun and heat I desire.

I do not want to drive in snow.
I won't wear boots wherever I go.
I do not want to stay inside
Of this house where I reside.

I do not want to wear a sweater.
Shorts and flip flops would be better.
I want to garden all year round,
And live in a small beach town.

So keep your fall, if you please.
I'll winter in the Florida Keys!

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Monday, September 25, 2017

How Much Does a Garden Grow: August 2017

Finally! It is nearly the end of September, and I am finally updating you on the garden progress through August. You really never know busy until you've tried to prep for a new class you've never taught before plus tried to finish a book in the same month. (More about the book very soon, which I will shamelessly plug here!)

In any event, I am pleased to say that the August garden helped push our garden tallies to a much more reasonable retail value total. Some highlights:

Tomatoes! I planted 71 tomato plants this year, and next year I hope to plant more. All the room, all the tomatoes. Cumulative totals through August:

Coure di Bue: 511 oz., $127.75
Principe Borghese: 493.5 oz., $123.38
Siletz: 364 oz., $91.00
San Marzano: 574 oz., $143.50
Black Krim: 167 oz., $41.75
Martian: 428 oz. $107
Volunteers: 226 oz., $56.50

So, through the end of August, I harvested 155.65 pounds of tomatoes for a retail value of $690.88.  September will add to these totals.  Nowhere near the goodness of 2009, when I think I harvested at least 300 pounds, but certainly better than we've had in years.

I was able to can 9 quarts of juice, 2 12-oz. jars of tomato soup, 7.5 pints of chili sauce, and 6 pints of tomato sauce, in addition to over a quart of dried tomatoes.  Again, not nearly enough to get us through, but hopefully enough to give us some cushion.

Another good haul for the month was beans, and I harvested 118 oz. in August for a value of $22.42. We ate some of those fresh and I canned a lot for Mr. FC&G's winter lunches. I also plan to be selling bean seeds this year, since I have developed a strain that is very hearty and prolific.

Cucumbers did not do fabulously in their new spot this year, and I admit I lost track of the zucchini a bit, so I didn't can nearly as much as I should have.

All in all, a much better year.  And I haven't even told you about September yet, or for my plans for harvests into the winter!

Cumulative Totals:
Total Ounces of Harvest: 3717.5
Total Pounds of Harvest: 232.3438
Total Retail Value of Harvest: $855.40

Total Expenditures: (-$287.67)

Total Profit: $567.73

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