The more things change…

…the more they stay the same.

Last year, around this time, Sunshine was working on the pink house and on various jobs back in Shreveport. I was left here alone to struggle with the mouse problem, the out-of-control grass, wanting a garden, and anything else that came up that required physical labor. We were also dealing with the beginnings of Sunshine’s treatment protocol that left him so fatigued that he could barely function. I spent last summer exhausted and feeling quite alone.

We have added more people out here, and lots has changed around me. There is a garden, and chickens, and cats; and we’re building a little house. A driveway has been put in that circles round the pink house and heads down toward the barn; we also have an underground storm shelter and a safe room standing in the center of our future little house.

In spite of all of the changes, so much remains the same. Sunshine is out of town working rather frequently, we have no lawn mower, and I am the only one here to deal with shit on far too many occasions.

Monday, I spent hours cutting and drying what we call “back door fruit”. Back door fruit is the fruit from my work that isn’t pretty, and can’t be sold to customers because everybody wants the perfectly shaped and perfectly colored apple.

side note: they also don’t understand why big-box-grocer fruits don’t have any taste yet the fruits at my work taste so good. It doesn’t matter how many times I explain all the reasons the fruit my boss gets is so good, they still don’t want the brown pear or the almost mushy blackberries.

My boss and I understand that the ugliest piece of fruit in the basket is most likely the tastiest, but most of the rest of the world doesn’t see it that way. I spent yesterday morning getting the dehydrated fruit put into seal-a-meal bags. I did it alone, even though everybody here will want to eat the dried fruit.

I spent hours cutting fruit, lining dehydrator trays, and stuffing the dehydrator full of fruit to dehydrate so that we could have fruit during the winter when it is harder to come by and more expensive at any place that sells fruit. Mr B popped in for a few minutes Monday morning, and he showed me a more efficient way to cut the fruits, and that helped immensely; however, for most of the day I worked in solitude. I spent hours pulling fruit out and sealing it up yesterday morning. Mr B did drop in and help pull some fruit out of the dehydrator, but he poked as much of it in his wordhole as he did into the bowl I was collecting it in.

side note: I can’t blame him, the fruit was tasty and I’m pretty sure he had just gotten up to start his day and was therefore hungry.

That alone shit happens a lot here lately. Sunshine and Biff are working to pay for our little house build, and they aren’t here to help most days. I get it, we need cash to avoid a mortgage. Mr B is generally doing what it is that Mr B does best, which would be attempting to follow all the paths at the exact same time. And moving dirt. Mr B excels at moving dirt. Mrs B is off the property during the week, and when she’s here, she’s busy doing whatever it is she does when she isn’t working her full time job, something to do with a life coaching business.

Which leaves me to plant things in the garden, and harvest things in the garden, and preserve things that are harvested from the garden, and work at my job, and keep my house clean (which is quickly losing its place at the top of my priority list while I harvest and preserve food)…

I need help. And I’m not likely to receive it any time soon. Well, at least not in any significant doses. The grass needs to be cut, and somebody needs to run a weedeater. We need to build a containment solution for a new compost heap so that we can put the most recent organic material in there so that this compost heap can process into actual compost. Our little house needs to be finished. There are beans and peas that need to be planted, and we need to start thinking ahead to our fall garden; specifically, we need to plan where to put it since Mr B plans to move dirt in the current garden’s location after the current crops run their course.

side note: told you, Mr B moves a lot of dirt.

I could go on listing things that need to be done, but I think you get the point. There’s so much shit to be done, and so few people to do it, that I probably won’t get much help with the harvesting and blanching and freezing and berry picking and freezing and fruit sorting and dehydrating and …….

It isn’t just the lack of help. I am starting to really notice the absence of human companionship almost as much as I am noticing the lack of help with the workload.

 

More Freegan Zucchini

The neighbors are bringing us a lot of zucchini.

Not only is the quantity of zucchini squashes large, the size of those zucchini squashes is large.

Photographic proof.

I don’t know what the fuck they’re feeding these zucchinis, but this shit is ridiculous.

I’m going to have to go through those pins that Tia is finding me for ways to cook zucchini that aren’t stir fry.

Simple living is a lot of work

There’s a lot of work that goes into living simply (or intentionally, or mindfully, or whatever you want to call it). It seems like there’s always something needing the attention of a human being. The cats need to be fed, the chickens need to be locked up in their chicken house at night, the grass needs to be cut, the garden needs to be harvested, the wild game needs to be butchered……

This week has seen a lot of perfectly edible but not pretty looking food go out the back door at work. My boss is like “nobody is going to buy the ugly squash” and tells me to do what I want with it, just make it go away. Which has led to a lot of squash getting blanched and frozen.

Just as an example:

The back door zucchini. It was lumpy and a bit wrinkled, but still firm and edible. But people don’t buy the ugly food. See how much is piled over the top of that giant stainless steel bowl? And that is about 3/4 of it. There was more.

side note: see how fucking tiny my kitchen is? That shit is ridiculous.

So we now have a bunch of frozen zucchini. It was quite the endeavor, cutting and washing and blanching and packaging all that zucchini. It was worth it, though. It’s food security. It’s one less thing we have to spend money on through the winter when Sunshine and I work a lot less. It’s one more thing that we’re doing for ourselves. It’s one less way we are participating in the consumer driven capitalist economy we live in. And I like it that way.

Final note: I ran out of freezer containers. I made a trip to the Dollar Tree when I made my grocery run. I did some damage to their shelves and filled up an entire shopping cart with reusable food storage containers. Yes, it was grossly consumerist. But at least I can reuse them again and again, which makes it feel like a far more intentional purchase

Growing and preserving my own food

So I’ve got the hang of this blanching thing, and I’ve been slowly but surely rounding up all the cauliflower and getting it stashed in the freezer. I think I’m going to try some mashed cauliflower at some point in the future. It has to be better for Sunshine’s diabetes than mashed potatoes, right?

Well, Thursday, instead of taking it easy before a marathon day at work on Friday, I decided to go harvest more cauliflower and get it frozen. Turns out, most of it was ready.

cauliflower almost done for this cycle

After I got done with that, I wandered the garden trying to see what did and didn’t start growing from the sprouts I grew. A lot of things didn’t grow: carrots, peppers, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, a significant portion of my snap peas, and some of the lima beans. I’m sure I’m forgetting something else, but fuck it.

I found a tray of squash sprouts that nobody had planted, so I planted those in the empty spot where the okra sprouts didn’t grow.

planted squash

I realized that there was nowhere to plant half of the stuff I needed to plant, because Sunshine and Mr B had planted a lot of turnips in the garden. I went to sunshine crying about how there was no room to plant anything I like to eat because the entire garden had been planted with things he and Mr B liked to eat, like lettuce and turnips and shit.

Sunshine wandered out to the garden with me and helped me think and plan. He took a look at his radishes and said that they were ready to be harvested, so he helped me pull those up and we found this monster potato sized radish growing in our garden.

I decided to plant peppers where the cauliflower came out, and multicolored carrots where the radishes were. I went over to the far northwest corner of the plowed area and planted eggplant and okra.

planted eggplant and okra

I had a little space free at the end of a row of lima beans that I used to plant some kohlrabi for Sunshine since he likes turnips and radishes and shit so much. I still need to find space to plant some green beans, black eyed peas, and other bean type stuff. Like, I still can’t figure out why we have so much lettuce and so little beans in our garden. Maybe as some of the lettuces run their course it will free up space for beans and peas and shit.

Learning new skills

Yesterday, I got disgusted by all of the food that was going bad on the plants in the garden, so I dragged my ass out there and harvested some cauliflower, broccoli, and green onions.

I crawled through the still muddy garden with my handy Chicago Cutlery all purpose knife and gathered up the broccoli and cauliflower first.

Then I had to consult the internet to find out exactly how to blanch something. Mr B happened by as I was trimming and rinsing the veggies and kindly offered up the use of some of his cajun cooking equipment.

He even stayed and helped with the actual blanching part, but had to jet off to an appointment and couldn’t stay to help me package it in containers.

ready for the freezer

As you can see, I don’t always spell correctly when I’m running short on spoons. It takes a lot of braining to make the words go, and when I’m struggling to breathe I just can’t be bothered.

After I got the broccoli and cauliflower put in the freezer, I went back to the garden and harvested green onions. Mr B told me not to pull the onions out of the ground yet so that they could grow a little bit bigger. The green tops will regrow, which means that there will be more green onions to harvest in the future. Apparently, Mr B really likes green onions. Good thing, because I harvested a bunch.

green onions

If I never see another green onion for the rest of my life, that’s perfectly fine with me. Because I’ve said that, my boss will probably have a new shipment of green onions waiting for me tomorrow. I cut green onions until my hand was bruised and my fingers were numb and didn’t even get halfway through this crate of green onions. Thank heaven Sunshine made it home from his clinic appointment in Oklahoma and offered to help me finish the task. We used our handy seal-a-meal thingamajigger and got the green onions put into the freezer next to the containers of broccoli and cauliflower.

I’m supposed to be on strike, but I could NOT let all that food go to waste in the garden. It would mean that all of the energy I put into helping Mr & Mrs B plant that shit would be a complete waste. It also would be contributing to the food waste problem we have in this country, and that is not OK with me.

In the end, I learned some new skills, and that’s always a good thing.

final note: Sunshine has already been forewarned that we are probably going to have to repeat the whole process for broccoli and cauliflower again on Saturday. There’s a lot of small to medium bits still on the plants that I don’t want to go to waste. Also, since Mr B is the one that like green onions so much, his ass can cut all those fuckers up next time they get harvested.

Amateur hour in the garden

So none of us really know what we’re doing in the garden. We’ve been experimenting, I guess. We’ve been talking with neighbors, reading on the internet, and asking at gardening supply places. It seems like every time we make a plan, Mr B finds a new way to build a mousetrap; like when he made the garden longer but with fewer rows so he could fit his tractor in between the rows of plants. I’ve just kind of stepped back and waited for instructions (well, that’s what I was doing before I went on strike). We also seem to have an inordinate amount of green leafy shit growing out there. Seriously, there’s like 4 or 5 kinds of lettuce, some cabbage, two colored varieties of chard, a few types of greens, and some spinach. There are only a few partial rows of beans, which I’m not sure I understand since Mr B doesn’t eat meat and is constantly talking about needing ways to get enough protein, but OK. It’s an experiment, and we’ll learn from it.

We had to relocate the compost heap and create a better way to contain it than the small area we had created with a few pallets. I’ve been back at work at the produce stand, and I’ve been bringing home a lot of freegan spoiled fruits and vegetables to add to the pile.

side note: there’s a lot of stuff coming out of my work as “spoiled” or whatever. My boss has some exceptionally high standards for the products he sells. I’ve seen him toss out whole bushels of cantaloupes because they do not meet his standards for sweetness and texture. I’ve been called into the walk-in cooler to taste cherries because he knows that his sense of taste has been warped by all of the high-quality fruits he gets in stock; I’ve had to tell him that the cherries weren’t necessarily as good as his usual, but they were still far better than your average grocery store cherries. He won’t sell a green tomato that has turned red because he says the texture of the tomato is crap after being refrigerated like green tomatoes have to be refrigerated. There’s a lot that heads out the back door at work… The boss doesn’t care where it goes as long as it doesn’t head toward his customers’ tables. Quite a bit of it gets eaten out here because it’s perfectly good food. Bossman is just glad he doesn’t have to deal with it, and if I can keep it out of a landfill… well, he likes that, too.

So I’ve been bringing home a lot of stuff because the boss tells me to “make it go away”. The compost heap is growing by leaps and bounds.

compost heap is growing

Sunshine got out there yesterday with some pitchforks and turned the compost heap. It was interesting to see the various layers. There was some dark rich stuff towards the bottom of the heap, a few potato plants sprouting on the top, and small bits half pulled through the fencing by little raccoons or something. There were also approximately 8,947,837,658,298,798,632,058,967,093 ants crawling through the pile, and I saw at least one slug.

This week’s heavy rains left standing water in some low spots in our garden and Mr B got out there like a little kid, barefoot, and shoveled a trench to allow it to drain off. It was kind of fun watching him splash mud all over himself.

Today’s agenda includes getting out there and picking broccoli and cauliflower, and researching the proper method to freeze them. I think something called blanching isĀ  involved, and I’m going to have to find the freezer tape to mark the containers with. It’s amateur hour in the garden, and it’s definitely a learning experience.

final note: Having a chronic illness has really sucked this week. I’m hoping I can muster the energy to accomplish this today. The fatigue is still really bad, and the pollen + humidity isn’t helping It might be time to start back on the iron supplements if I can find them. It’s hard to do life when one’s limbs feel like they weigh 100 pounds each.