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Friday, January 23, 2015

How Much Does a Garden Grow: 2014

At long last, the final tally for 2014!

The immediate past year was not as robust as far as savings as was 2013, but the distribution of vegetables and fruits that we brought in was much more even, making for a better harvest overall.  After all, I could always stack the deck by just growing a yard-full of expensive butternut squash, but if we don't eat them, it's not a fair representation of our growing abilities.

In 2014, we grew:

  • Lemons: 7 oz/$1.74
  • Herbs (dried): 2.5 oz/7.08
  • Carrots: 59 oz/3.54
  • Tomatoes: 1138 oz/$330.52
  • Butternut squash: 267 oz/53.40
  • Beans: 142 oz/$29.95
  • Peppers: 31.5 oz/$5.99
  • Basil (fresh): 20 oz/$20.00
  • Cucumbers: 625 oz/$100.00
  • Zucchini: 255 oz/ $53.55
  • Blueberries: 8 oz/$2.32
  • Peas: 24 oz./$4.56
  • Potatoes: 100 oz/$8.00
  • Greens: $22.5 oz/$19.80
Total harvest:  160.5313 pounds
Total value of harvest: $628.57

Total expenditures: $286.13

Net: $342.44

I'm pretty satisfied with everything on here, except I could have used more tomatoes.  I can always use more tomatoes.

It's funny, but I feel like we really saved more than $342 off our food bill for the year.  I think about all those lovely summertime meals we took out in the sunroom that centered around our own veggies.  We reduce our meat consumption during the summer, and we aren't as tempted to eat out on a busy night because there is nothing more efficient than going out into the yard with a basket and coming in with dinner.  I once estimated that a garden like ours offered at least $1,000 in meal-replacement value, and I feel like that's probably still the case.

In any event, it is nearly time for seed-starting once again.  The cycle continues.  

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On Imports and Sustainability

British television is going to be the death of me.

I mean, I'm already scared to death to let any character created by Steven Moffat climb anything higher than a step stool.  (If you are familiar with Mr. Moffat's work, you know his penchant for sending his characters hurtling off buildings to their permanent or temporary death.  If you aren't familiar, well, consider yourself warned.)

But now, as a voice in the sustainability movement, I have to consider the dark path that British television is leading me down and its impact on my ability to eat local.  Folks, I speak of my addiction to imported British food.

Oh, it started innocently enough.  A couple of digestive biscuits during Doc Martin (although I soon started preferring HobNobs).  A black and tan and a plate of fish and chips when we went out on Friday night.  A nice bottle of brown sauce in the fridge to dress up our at-home meals. A "cuppa" tea in the afternoons while I write and a new-found appreciation for gin when I'm not writing.

But now it's out of hand.  Jelly babies and Jammie Dodgers eaten during Dr. Who.  And the overwhelming sense that I'm not just not eating local, I'm going out of my way to not eat local.  And I'm doing so while declaring the British -- the British, I tell you! -- the best cooks on the planet.  I mean, at least if I had gotten addicted to French food, I would have snobbery bragging rights because of their historic position as gourmets.  To fall in love with another culture because you like its junk food and its television can't be good.

In any event, I justify my little addiction knowing that, for as much of the year as I can, we eat local.  Our meat is all raised locally, as are our eggs.  We are making a slow switch to local milk, and we use local honey.  And our vegetables come from the back yard during summer.

Surely that's worth a few boxes of imported digestives and a handful of jelly babies?
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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

Happy 2015!

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that this blog took a break while we went to Hawaii to visit my husband's family.  I can't say that flying halfway around the world particularly counts as either "fast" or "cheap," but it certainly was good.

Most of the time, sustainable living folks talk about maintaining some sort of radius of operation on their activities.  They try to eat foods grown/produced within a 100 mile radius, or they try to reduce their living or transportation footprint. I'll have more to say about this in a future blog, but I do admit to feeling a certain amount of guilt that we like to travel.  I do think we are pretty careful the rest of the time, but the reality is that the ability is there to see the world, and we try to take advantage of it when time and money permit.

In any case, my new year's resolutions for sustainable living are to put more effort into my FC&G lifestyle.  I feel like I let things slip a bit toward the end of 2014.  We had some emergencies arise, we were both busy, and somehow I think I let my attention slip away from some of the activities I think are important.  Therefore, I'd like to rededicate myself to:

  • Cooking more complete, healthy meals that throw off lots of leftovers.
  • Being more cost-effective with our grocery shopping, particularly in regards to clipping the e-coupons that our store regularly offers.
  • Taking on little occasional projects, like rebatching soap.  I have a whole jar of soap slivers that need to be ground and either made into new bars or used as the base for laundry detergent.
  • Getting some winter crops planted in the sunroom and the sunny windows.  I'm ready to put in some lettuces and radishes, and I will soon be planting another round of ginger.
In regard to earning, which is part of sustaining a living, my goals include:

I've got a lot to get a handle on during 2015.  What are your sustainable living goals?
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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas from Fast, Cheap, and Good!

It's Christmas Eve as I write this.  The presents have been purchased and wrapped, the cards have been sent, and I am enjoying my annual Christmas Eve tradition of enjoying a cup of Bailey's and coffee while I write.  For a few moments, the world seems peaceful.

And so I'd like to take this quiet moment to wish all my FC&G readers a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season.

This blog will resume publication the week of January 3.  And keep an eye out -- my first New Year's resolution is the publication of a Fast, Cheap, and Good book, filled with your favorite tips and projects, updated and expanded.  Stay tuned!

My best and my thanks to all of you for another fabulous year.
Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Shameless Self-Promotion: Hilltop Communications Adds Publishing Imprint

Time for a bit of shameless self-promotion!

My company, Hilltop Communications, has just become a publishing imprint in addition to my writing, speaking, and consulting endeavors!

My first book is Lecture is Not Dead: Ten Tips for Delivering Dynamic Lectures in the College Classroom.  In this short book, I identify ten ways to make your college lecture or professional speech more dynamic and engaging to your audience.  I also include three habits to avoid and a number of discussion questions, making this ideal for faculty development seminars and training programs.

The official Amazon description:

"The lecture as a teaching tool has worked for centuries because, at heart, it is about human interaction, the most powerful, attention-grabbing tool for interaction at anyone’s disposal. The presence of a live, active, engaged human being who is an expert in his or her field will do more to ignite the passions of a group of students than will any canned multimedia presentation. This book will show you how to infuse passion and interest into your lectures and keep your students awake and engaged."

You can purchase the book here, or you can contact me directly for volume purchases or to arrange remote or in-person training based on this book.

Thank you for taking the time to read!  I now take you back to your regularly-scheduled frugality and sustainability!

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Growing Ginger

Herbs and spices are some of the most expensive things you can buy at the grocery, especially if you want organic.  And the price is definitely impacted by distribution costs; I nearly fainted in the grocery store in Key West when I had to pay $9 for a jar of organic bay leaves.

Fresh ginger is another of these expensive items.  It is fairly reasonable here in Ohio, but at the southernmost tip of the United States, it is quite expensive.  This makes it a great option to grow.

To grow fresh ginger, simply take a nub of your existing ginger "hand."  You will know if it is viable if it is starting to sprout while on your counter, like that little bit with the green tip in the bottom center of the photo.  Take a nub about two inches long, so you have some root to start with.

Plant the ginger in a deep pot under a shallow layer of dirt, and keep heaping dirt in as the plant sprouts, kind of like you do with potatoes.  When the pot is full, just let the lovely foliage grow and the rhizome under the soil make more ginger for you.  Since the plant looks fairly tropical, it makes a nice addition to your window sill.

Ginger takes a long time to grow.  What you see in the photo is eight months' worth of ginger growth across several pots; I planted in April and just harvested last week.  But, since ginger is a container plant, it isn't taking up any garden space or obeying the seasons.

Ginger seems to like a fairly warm climate, so put it in a warm window or outside during summer.  Water regularly, and you will have fresh ginger on occasion that you don't have to buy.

The Analysis

Fast:  Not at all.  Ginger is terribly slow-growing, so it is an exercise in patience.

Cheap:  I harvested three ounces of ginger from my pots; not a lot, but certainly enough for a batch of homemade ginger ale!

Good:  Organic, home grown, and free.  My kind of project.
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Thursday, December 4, 2014

How Much Does a Garden Grow: November 2014

Ah, winter.  I just had a conversation with a good friend yesterday about how the garden is now asleep, doing its job of preparing itself for the next growing season.

It doesn't mean I'm not sad to have a diminished harvest for a few months.

November brought us the last of the tomatoes and peppers, both carefully sheltered in the sunroom until they gave their last fruits.  One volunteer tomato and the Red Pear tomatoes were the last to still be productive.

We also had a handful of kale and carrots come in.  The kale is finally finished, but this was actually my spring planting; it lasted all summer long.  I will have to start some more very soon.

So, we are down to just some garlic and ginger growing in pots.  I really need to make time to see what other winter crops I can start in the sunroom, but in the meantime, our tallies stand as follows:

Cumulative Totals
Total Ounces Harvest: 2,566.5
Pounds: 160/4063

Total Value of Harvest: $621.79
Expenditures: -286.13

Total: $335.66
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