Fall wherever you are…

I do love the fall and miss the days when I could go to the local park in Oregon and grab a nice harvest of apples and walnuts for free. I would then fill the house with the cinnamon infused scent of cockpot apple butter and enjoy a great treat after it had cooked down to a jelly like spread. Here are a few pictures from those fall Oregon days.

This was Mrs. SNH’s favorite local coffee shop! Go Dutch Brothers!

Meanwhile in the present, this rainy Florida Saturday yielded a surprise when I went to check on the plants. I cannot believe it is near Thanksgiving and there are still tomatoes producing in one of my garden bins. We kept one of the roma plants when we moved to the new house. It has continued to grow. The Florida weather has held up and the plant now has about 5 tomatoes on it. It would be great to harvest them before Christmas! Other plants that seem to keep on ticking are kale, blackberries (which were once just a small twig) and the Seminole pumpkin which is now about 8 feet long with several flowers on it.

I also have a Moringa tree that we cut down when we first moved in. It is back to a height of about 10’. We cannot kill it! Moringa is widely hailed as a miracle tree for its edible leaves. We may just decide to manage it and if you are a local and want a cutting for your own yard, feel free to contact me. I will gladly propagate for you. Here is a picture after we cut it down in August. I’ll try to get a pic up this weekend of how it has grown.

Lastly, I wanted to report that the first shed is fully removed so we can start building our raised beds for the spring season on this portion of the yard. Cocoa the wonderdog has to be fenced off first, so that project will take me through December to properly section off the yard. I did manage to put up part of field fence during a lunch break, but it cannot compete with the size that we now have available. I will solidify the sketchy back fence by using some 4×4’s with a concrete footer and extend a 4′ high section to where the field fencing is now (just in front of the Moringa tree shown in the picture above. I am still debating about how I would like the gate. I think a nice arbor would make a great entrance. Maybe my ambitions are bigger that my capacity.

Blueberries Planted!

Greetings SNH’ers,

Today, I had a nice bit of cool weather and planted some of the blueberries that I received for Christmas. Sams club had a great deal on some whiskey barrel look-alike planters. Berries are one of the best “smarter not harder” things you can plant because the cost of berries in the grocery store are very high. Blueberries and Blackberries can bring between 4 and 6 dollars a pint!

The first step was to plant them with some basic soil, add some manure and acidifier since blueberries enjoy a slightly acidic soil. I then added a top layer of planting/potting mix with some decent drainage. Lastly, we used an organic fertilizer to keep the plants fed for a bit.

Great Looking Planters
Soil Mix with acidifier
Blueberry Plants adapted for middle Florida
2 Potted Blueberries next to a young Orange Tree!

If you are in the southern part of the US, it’s time to start making your spring planting plans. I am planning to plant tomatoes in starter pots with the kids as a way to push some extra funds into their 529 plans. I’ll do a post when we get those going!

4 days to Christmas Update

Happy Christmas SNH’ers,

It has been a pretty crazy couple of weeks, thus my lack of posting. Let’s run down the list:

* I suffered a severe back injury that laid me up for several days and had to go to the emergency room!

* Little SNH’ers got sick before the Christmas holiday.

* Christmas school events were attended.

* Santa’s lap was attended by the youngest SNH lady.

* Lots of good home cooking was done – chili information below.

* Cabbage ended up getting a leaf miner and will likely die out completely unless it is treated and tended.

* Grow bag seems to have 2x growth versus standard plastic planters.

* I had an injury to my foot, rather, an attack of psuedogout. It swelled my right foot to double the standard size and needed some quick treatment. I am currently on the mend, but will likely take about 5 days to be really walk-able again per the fine staff at the walk in clinic.

The Garden has had some interesting items happen to it. First, Little SNH’er #2 planted a cabbage for a school scholarship progress. The winner was to submit the cabbage for a chance at a $1000 scholarship. Unfortunately, it has secumbed to leaf miner and the growth is very slow. Likely not a winner. Here is a picture of the leafy pathways it has made through the plant:

I have battled with leaf miners before when living in Florida about 15 years ago. They can be treated effectively with organic solutions, but can damage plants to a point that they cannot recover. With my foot being out of commission, it may have gone too long. I plan to get some this weekend to try.

The grow bag with the turnips are outgrowing the plastic bins with Parris Island Romain and Beets. I think the water regulation (soil drainage) of the grow bags is far superior to that of the plastic bins producing a better environment for soil consistency in a container garden. I removed the water retainer in the beets to allow more water to flow out of the container in hopes it will regulate better. I have never done will with beets.

Baby organic gmo free Turnips in grow bag

It really is time to get my metered gardening solution up and running. I have 1 more major component to order, a vegetronix VH400 meter (https://www.vegetronix.com/Products/VH400/). It is in my scientific and engineering opinion, the best option for long term soil metering. It uses TDR to read moisture vs corrosive annodes as are most of the low cost solutions. TDR ignores the salt content (a big issue in coastal Florida where I am at) as well as maintains a long lifespan sitting in the soil.

I made a great chili and seem to be honing in on a style that I really like. I apologize, but I put beans in mine. Here goes the latest version:

  • 1 lb micro cubed steak
  • 2 serrano peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapenos finely chopped
  • 1 poblano finely chopped
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 white onion finely chopped
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 1-4 cups water depending on how soupy you like.
  1. Saute the onions, peppers and cubed beef together until brown and creating a lovely “spicy” scent through the house.
  2. Add your favorite chili spices. With this recipe, the peppers do a pretty good job, but some paprika, 2 tbsp of generic chili powder, 2 tbs salt work well.
  3. Add in your tomato sauce and beans and simmer on low for about 2 hrs.
  4. Serve with sour cream and cornbread.
Cutting of Peppers
Saute Peppers and Onions
Finish Cooking before adding tomato sauce.
Simmer and Enjoy.

Have a blessed Christmas, praise Jesus.

Mr. SNH.

Speed up your meals and get more free time

                I was realizing today how much more time we have during lunch breaks if we use what we have in the fridge for a quick meal.  For example, this weekend I used a crockpot for some delicious adobe style chicken which fed the family a great dinner on Sunday.  On the flip side, we were left with about a pound of chicken in leftovers.  I simply wrapped those in a tortilla for a quick lunch yesterday and wrapped 2 up for a late-night dinner tonight.  The amount of time saved by having such a quick meal was great!  I got to spend more time with my 4 year old at lunch after she returned from preschool and I got to spend some extra family time with the kids this evening by opting for a delayed burrito wrap with the leftovers after the little SNHers were in bed.

                The savings is two-fold too!  Not only do we gain the time, but also save on our food costs.  We are nearly at crisis level with how much food we (Americans) throw out in the trash each year.  According to this article (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-why-americans-throw-out-165-billion-in-food-every-year-2016-07-22) we waste about 40% of our food!  That is simply astonishing considering how much we pay for that food.  In my household, our food budget is about 30% of our monthly spending.

                The more we eat our leftovers, the more we do for our food system, our time and our wallets!  Have a good night.

The high cost of Blue Apron, just go to the grocery store!

Greetings SNH’ers

I was listening to a millennial rave about how much money they are saving when using Blue Apron to cook their meals. Having gone through a revelation in cooking with my family (1 gluten free child, 1 vegetarian) in recent years, we really had to start analyzing our eating habits and how much impact it had on our budgets. We no longer eat out like we used to and we also started to cook “real food“.

The Blue Apron does have some great meal ideas, but the reality is that these meals are extremely expensive at the estimated $9.99 per serving. These meals are largely dinners and after looking at our budget for the family on a monthly basis, we are at about $3 for our dinners and $7.50 per person per day.

Here is an average family Friday night meal. 2 pizzas serves us pretty well with little waste. Now, these days, we may make a gluten free crust, but you’ll get the idea with this info-graphic.

As you can see, the $1.69 per person for this recipe is an excellent way to suggest you roll your own with your local grocery store and forget the boxed meal services. At 9.99 per serving, they are 6 times more expensive. They are costing you massive amounts of money that could otherwise be put into your IRA or other investment vehicle!

I am not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy those meals, just don’t do it as part of your regular meal plan for the week unless it brings you a certain satisfaction that you can’t get by heading to the grocery store and sourcing the ingredients yourself. They do often have unique ingredients and flavors that you may not stock in your pantry. I find however, that as you cook more, your pantry grows with many of the items that are used in those recipes.