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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Working Toward A Sustainable Lifestyle

I have been thinking for a long while now on how our family can get back to a more sustainable living situation. It would be nice to be able to depend on our garden for most of our fruits and vegetables. We even have a plan to add a couple dairy goats and a few laying hens in the future. Our plan is to start out slowly with a few easy projects. Our first project this year is putting in a Back To Eden Garden. (which is well on its way.) We have also started composting. Recycling is second nature for me and the hubby. We have been reusing, recycling and repurposing most of our lives. One of the biggest changes we are making is reducing consumption. We are looking for ways to reduce our energy and water usage. This will go a long way in helping us to live a sustainable lifestyle. As I find ways to reduce our energy and water consumption I will be writing about it on my blog. I hope to share some eco friendly project ideas and maybe learn something from my readers along the way.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Making Sourdough Starter With The Help Of My Ozeri Kitchen Scale

Disclaimer: Grandma Bonnie's Closet was not compensated for the review of this product. I received a free product in exchange for an honest opinion. The opinions in this post are all my own.

I have been thinking about making my own Sourdough Starter for a few months now. I had found an old recipe of my mother's for Sourdough bread and it brought back lots of wonderful memories. When I received The Touch II Touch Sensitive Kitchen Scale with Microban from Ozeri I knew this was a great opportunity to make the sourdough starter. 
The kitchen scale has a modern design that looks great just hanging out on my kitchen counter. The Microban antimicrobial technology helps fight stain and odor-causing bacteria for the life of the scale. It is digital and provides precise results up to 11 lbs (5 kg) in graduations of 1 g or 0.1oz. 

With the large high-contrast LCD display, large weighing platform and touch sensitive buttons the scale is effortless to operate.
I needed 4 oz. flour for my sourdough starter. I pressed the start button then selected my unit of measure. I then placed a coffee filter on the scale to weigh. Then pressed the Tare (start) button. The Tare button allows you to subtract the weight of a bowl, plate or other container to determine the weight of the ingredients being weighed. The Tare button is an awesome feature!

The scale also comes with a Calorie Guide and U.S. Postal First Class Letter Rate Guide. Now I can weigh the packages I send to my grandchildren right at home. No more running into town to mail a package.
So, I have got my 4 ounces of flour measured out. I am ready to start my sourdough starter.
Sourdough Starter
1 cup non chlorinated water
4 ounces flour
1 canning jar quart sized
1 coffee filter

Day One: Mix together water and flour. Cover with coffee filter and place ring of canning jar lid over the coffee filter. The coffee filter allows airflow into the mixture but keeps dust or insects out. The airflow is a must to create a good environment for the lactobacilli and the wild yeast that are attracted to it. Set in a warm place. I placed my started above the refrigerator. 
Day Two: Remove 1/2 the starter. Add 1/2 cup non chlorinated water and 2 ounces of flour to the remaining starter in the jar. Mix well. Use the removed starter to make pancakes, bread or feed it to your compost pile. This starter is not as sour as the finished product will be. But it is better to be used then discarded.
Day Three - Day Six: follow instructions for Day Two. Each day you will see more bubbling and detect a stronger fermented sour smell. It will kind of smell like baking bread. 
Day 7: Now the starter is finished. It should be bubbly with a sour smell. It will grow a bit when you feed it. Now the starter can be placed in the refrigerator and fed once a week. When you remove starter for a recipe just replace what you remove. For example if you remove 1 cup starter add 1 cup non chlorinated water and 4 ounces flour back to the starter. 
At any point during making the starter or storing the starter if you see discoloration such as pink, green or black it has begun growing mold. Just discard the starter and begin again.
The starter will have a mild sour taste to begin with as time goes by it will grow a deeper, richer, sour flavor.

I love this kitchen scale already. I have used it a million times in the last week. Now is a great time to begin a healthy diet and start counting calories. With the calorie guide and scale I am sure to succeed. 

You can Purchase the Ozeri Kitchen Scale on Amazon.

Happy Bread making.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Protecting Garden Seedlings From Spring Frost And Snow

Back at the beginning of the week I saw the weather forecast and almost cried. There was a forecast of snow and cold temperatures.  My garden seedlings had just poked their heads up out of the soil. I know the peas would probably be OK because they are cold tolerant. I just did not want to take a chance.  Last year I lost many plants to an unpredicted frost. This is what I did to protect my seedlings.
I had a bin of plastic water bottles that were headed to the recycling center. I cut off the tops of the water bottles and pressed them in the soil over the seedlings.

It worked amazingly well. Complete portable protection. I waited for the snow to melt off the following day and took the bottles off ASAP. I did not want to overheat the seedlings. How is your garden coming along? Happy Gardening! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Beginning Composting And Working Toward A Sustainable Lifestyle

Disclaimer: Grandma Bonnie's Closet was not compensated for the review of this product. I received a free product in exchange for an honest opinion. The opinions in this post are all mine.

I have always wanted to start composting. We had a few failed starts at composting over the years. I had set aside a covered pail under our kitchen sink to hold our vegetable peels, egg shells, coffee grounds and so forth. One of the problems we had was the smell would start to gather gnats even though the pail was not even near full. 
I have since found the solution to the smell and gnat problem. Thanks to www.gaiam.com I received a Ceramic Kitchen Crock to take my composting to the next level. 
This compact counter top crock holds up to one gallon of kitchen scraps. The glazed interior will not stain or hold odors. The carbon filter in the lid will also help prevent odors and gnats. My favorite feature of the Kitchen Compost Crock is that it looks beautiful sitting on my kitchen counter. With the crock sitting at eye level I won't forget to use it or empty it into my compost pile. 
What should I put in my compost crock?
Most table scraps can be collected. Vegetable and fruit peels, coffee grounds, paper coffee filters, tea leaves, tea bags, and eggshells.  Just stay away from adding meats or fats.

How to start a compost pile.
1. Put down a layer of straw or twigs on bare earth. This will allow worms and other organisms access to your compost. 
2. Alternate moist and dry materials in layers. The moist layer would be from your kitchen scraps. The dry layers would be straw, leaves, wood ashes, and sawdust.
3. Add green manure such as grass clippings and clover. This will add nitrogen and speed the process along.
4. Keep the compost pile moist. Either water of allow rain to water your pile.
5. Turn every few weeks with a shovel to aerate the compost. The added oxygen will complete the process. 

I am very happy with my ceramic crock and will be using it for years to come. Just taking one more step to a sustainable lifestyle.
I hope you get started on composting. The Ceramic Kitchen Crock was $42.00 but is now $25.00. So it's a great time to start composting with your own Ceramic Kitchen Crock
Happy Composting! 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Great Tips For Starting Garden Seeds Indoors With Recycled Containers.

Starting your own garden plants from seeds not only saves you money but can also give you a greater variety of plant choice. Starting your seeds indoors gives the plants a head start that can bring an earlier harvest and greater yield. I have started my seeds in a variety of recycled containers. This year I used saved large and small yogurt containers, single serving ice cream containers, solo cups, paper tubes and newspaper.
1. Save as many containers you want for your seed starting or make some from newspaper or paper tubes.
2. I made my newspaper tubes with two sheets of 9”x9” newspaper advertisement. I folded the sheets in half. Rolled the paper in a tube and inserted one end in the fold. I then cut 1&1/2” slits in the bottom end and folded the ends in to make the bottom. I made the paper tube by cutting 1 inch slits in the end of a toilet paper tube. I then folded the ends in to form the bottom.
3. Label your containers. Do not depend on memory.
4. Don't start your seeds too early. Different plants have different needs. Check your seed packet to find out how many weeks each vegetable variety will take to get ready indoors before your last frost date.
5. Make sure your containers have good drainage holes. Water from the bottom if possible. I use a teaspoon to water my seedlings. This controls how much water and where the water is placed. I have heard a turkey baster is also great for watering..
6. The seedling will need lots of light to prevent spindly plants. A south facing window will do great for lighting. If you need to you might want to use growers lights.
7. Turn the container each day to prevent the seedlings from reaching toward the light and developing weak, elongated stems.
8. Before seedlings can be planted outdoors, they need to be hardened off, or acclimated to direct sunlight and fluctuating temperatures. It is best to do this over several days by placing them in direct sunlight during the morning only of the first day, then increasing their time outside by a few hours each day until time to transplant.

For many other great gardening tips and information check out Grandma's Garden Corner.
Happy Gardening!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Disclaimer: Grandma Bonnie's Closet was not compensated for the review of this product. I received a free product in exchange for an honest opinion. The opinions in this post are all mine.
We have been making plans this year to become a little more self sufficient. Living a sustainable life is our goal and we are starting with our garden and food production. The first and most important aspect of growing our own food is that it should be as healthy as possible. I like organic and non-GMO foods so that is what we are aiming for here. I started looking into heirloom seeds because they would be a good step forward in a sustainable living situation. This is when I came across Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I immediately emailed and asked to try out their Home Gardener's Collection. This collection includes 20 full sized packets of seeds and Clyde's Garden Planner all in a collectible burlap bag with drawstring closure.

With so many seed companies selling heirloom seed varieties I am sure you are asking, "Why did I pick Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds?" I selected Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds because they work to supply free seeds to many poor countries and here at home they supply seed to many school gardens. Their goal is to educate everyone about a safer food supply. All of their seeds are non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented. They are not a member of the pro-GMO American Seed Trade Organization! They do not buy seed from monsanto-owned Seminis. They even boycott all gene-altering companies. So, if you are looking to grow your own garden and you want healthy non-GMO food for your family Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds might just be what you are looking for.
Now let's get on to the fun stuff.
Clyde's Garden Planner

Using the garden planner is easy. Line up the red line on your last spring frost date. Then look along the side and select the vegetable you would like to plant and it will give you an indoor and outdoor planting date. 
For example my last spring frost date is supposed to be April 30th. (Not so sure about that this year.) This would make my date for planting peas and spinach outdoors as March 22 and after. Well, that date passed me by! For some strange reason my garden was covered in snow on March 22nd. Well, any way I am putting the peas and spinach seeds in this weekend rain or shine. Also, when you flip the planner over it will give you fall planting dates.
This is a list of the seeds I received in the Home Gardener's Collection. One package each of: Radish Early Scarlet Globe, Pepper Orange Bell, Peppers Italian Pepperoncini, Pepper Purple Beauty, Snow Peas Sugar Ann, Garden Pea Wando, Lettuce Rocky Top Mix, Lettuce Lollo Rossa, Spinach Bloomsdale long Standing, Tomato Principe Borghese, Tomato Raspberry Lyanna, Melon minnesota midget, Turnip Navet Des Vertus Marteau, Onion Tokyo Long White, Carrot Little Finger, Bean Contender, Eggplant Little Fingers, Basil-Greek Dwarf and Dill-Bouquet.
Today, I am starting some of the other vegetable seeds in recycled containers to keep indoors until the the risk of frost has passed on by. I will be writing another post in a week or so to update you on the progress of our heirloom gardening adventure. You can expect several posts throughout the summer on this seed collection and its progress in my garden. How is your garden adventure coming along? I hope spring has arrived in your neck of the woods. Happy gardening!