Get Your Garden On

Garden?  What?  If you are like me and have looked out the window today, you are probably wondering, as the snow flurries drift down, why I am talking about gardening.  It seems like a colossal waste of time.  Most people are still in some form of hibernation mode.

But, if you want to really get the most out of what you grow, you have to start early.  Really early.  Before the ground has thawed and there is even a hint of green, most farmers are already planning crops, starting seeds, and prepping their beds.  By the time they can transplant outside, their plants are much, much closer to producing food.  And this equals more food with the time they do have to grow.

Planning

The first thing that has to happen before anything else is planning.  It is a really good idea to know how much space you have to work with, what plants grow well where you live, and even the kind of soil you are going to be working in.  So, let’s get started.

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There are some fantastic websites out there designed to help you plan.  One of my favorites is Smart Gardener, mainly because they have a great free basic membership that gives you a lot of options.  And if you want to get some of the add-ons, most are less than $3.  Definitely not going to empty your wallet.

This website will ask for how many people you are trying to feed and what hardiness zone you live in.  Once you get this information in, it will walk you through creating a garden plan that lets it know the size garden you are working with.  There are options for planters, pots, or in-ground beds.  Finally, you pick your plants and record when you planted them.  From there, the website does all the work.  You’ll be told when to transplant outdoors and when you should be able to harvest.  You can even get reminders to water, prune, or mulch your plants.  To me, it is the epitome of working smarter, not harder.

Of course, you can always go with plan old pencil and paper.  Some grid paper would be helpful for planning.  It will just require a lot of leg work on your part.  If you are interested in this method, leave me a comment and I’ll be sure and write a separate post for that.

Starting Seeds

If you hate starting seeds, fail miserably a lot, etc, then buy your plants from the garden center nearest you around the beginning to middle of April and skip past this section.

This is a big step, and it can be equally daunting.  I have been gardening for as long as I can remember, and to me, starting seeds can be the most confusing.  Some seeds need light, others don’t.  Some have to be soaked.  Some get planted deep, an inch or more.  Some should just be scattered on top.  And don’t get me started on planting them at the right time!

Of course, if you use Smart Gardener, than a lot of this is answered for you.  But I wanted to include some other great sites specifically for this.  Also because there is so much information out there, I don’t want simply keep rehashing what has already been said so well.

  • Garden Guides – This site is a wealth of information for all things gardening.  They offer a very simple explanation of some of the things you’ll need and how to actually plant your seeds.
  • You Grow Girl – These girls are fantastic!  They keep things very simple, but also include some nice DIY ideas as well.  They also have some great charts to help you get your seeds started if using the pencil & paper method.

Prepping

Let’s talk dirt.  No, not gossip.  I mean what you have in your pots or beds or planters or whatever.  If you read some of the above articles, you will see that you need good soil just to get your seeds going.  To keep them going, you will need to keep your soil at the same level.

If you want, you can simply plow up a part of your yard and move on.  But, as we learned in January, good soil=good food with lots of nutrients.  Your yard has been sucking nutrients for years.  (Also, you will have a lot of invasive weeds.  That is NOT fun.  Trust me.)  I suggest making a soil mix that you can use instead.  This is especially useful if all of your soil is clay soil, which is like trying to plant things in a brick.  Doesn’t really work and your plants end up not producing.  They use all their energy just trying to put roots out.

I personally like Mel’s Mix, the guy who started Square Foot Gardening.  It allows plants to grow easily, is also super easy to pull weeds from, and has a lot of nutrients from the compost.  It can get a little pricey, if you are buying the compost.  So, be sure to shop around.  Better yet, look into composting yourself.  That, my friends, can be done for free.

Even though the ground is hard now, and unworkable, I am suggesting this so you can go ahead and have the mix made.  Last year, I tried making patches while I was working in my beds.  I ended making a lot of trips with my wheelbarrow and my back ached for days.  This year, I want to have a lot of it ready to go.

Are You Ready?

I know that I have barely skimmed the surface of getting started, but, as I already mentioned, I also don’t want to simply repeat what others have said.  Check out the sources and start working on your plan.  Also, if you do join Smart Gardener, my user name is sweetangel273.  I would love to link up!  (Just be aware that I haven’t planted anything yet.)  So, leave a comment with what you’re planning or any questions you may have!

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The Sufficient Path – Recipes & Apps plus A Giveaway!!

I know that I’ve given you a lot of information over the last two weeks.  But I am also aware that information is pointless unless you can actually do something with it.  So, today, I’m going to give you some sample recipes from a couple of great, healthy recipe blogs out there, and then will list some apps that work great to keep an eye on what you are actually eating.  And, of course, a giveaway!!!!

First, let me just tell you.  The recipes over at Nom Nom Paleo are fantastic!  One of my favorites is her Easy Paleo Frittata:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or fat of choice
  • 1 cup emergency protein (whatever cooked meat you have on hand)
  • 1 cup frozen broccoli (or any leftover or frozen veggies)
  • 4 large pastured eggs
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper

First, preheat the toaster oven to 350°F and heat the coconut oil in an 8-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Then, add whatever protein you have on hand (here, I used some leftover spicy lamb merguez sausage and onions) to the skillet and stir-fry until heated through.

Meanwhile, place the frozen broccoli in a medium microwave-safe bowl, cover it with a wet paper towel and nuke it until it’s thawed. Use a pair of kitchen shears or a knife to cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces.

Add the broccoli to the ingredients in the pan and mix to cook thoroughly.

Crack the eggs into a medium bowl, and add the coconut milk, salt, and a few grinds of pepper.  Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the bottom of the frittata is set.

Place the skillet in the oven. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, and then crank the heat up to broil for another 2 minutes or until the frittata puffs up and is cooked all the way through.  Carefully transfer the frittata to a plate, slice, and serve.

Another great website to check out: The Primal Palate.  Be sure to look at the multitude of recipes they have.  You can even sort for specific food allergies or dietary preferences.

In terms of apps, the app I prefer is MyFitnessPal.  It is easy to use and has a large database, which makes it easy to find what I’m looking for.  Can’t find it?  I can easily add it in.  Plus, it is streamlined on my iPhone, which makes it easier to actually track what I’m eating.  It’s available on the iTunes app store or on Google Play for you Android users.  Best of all?  It’s free!

Do you use a different app to track your food or have you found a great source of healthy recipes?  Leave a comment below!

And now . . . . .  for the giveaway!  I am giving away an 8 oz bottle of Concentrace Trace Mineral drops to one lucky winner!  Please visit my Facebook page to enter!

The Nuts & Bolts of Your Health

If macro-nutrients are the bricks, cinder blocks, and studs of our health, then micro-nutrients are the screws and nails, the glue and mortar that holds it all together.  They are not needed in necessarily the same quantity as macro-nutrients, but they are still vital to our ability to function.

What are micro-nutrients?

Have you ever looked at a food label (I believe everyone should be reading their food labels, but that’s another issue) and there are some items on there that seem a bit strange?  Copper.  Selenium.  Magnesium.  There are a lot of metals, minerals, and vitamins that can appear on a food label, and it really makes you wonder what we need it for?

Now, I am not going to go over every single micro-nutrient in detail, but I will talk about some categories of micro-nutrients and why they are important.

Vitamins

If anyone has seen I Love Lucy, you’ll remember the Vitameatavegamin that she tries to advertise.  It is one of the ones that always has me laughing.  It is the idea that something as simple as a spoonful of one thing or a pill can make all your health problems go away.  In fact, most of us grew up with some sort of vitamins that we usually took with our breakfast (Mine was Flintstones for the longest time).  The term vitamin has become synonymous with a small tablet to give you the extras that your body needs because they aren’t found in the food you are eating.  But vitamins are more than that.  If you do not have vitamins in your diet, you will start to have health issues due to a deficiency.

The most common deficiency 100 years ago was scurvy.  Sailors were out at see for months at a time, and their diet did not have vitamin C at all, which is gotten from fresh meat, organ meat, and some fruits and vegetables.  Scurvy can be debilitating, and if left untreated, can result in death.  Finally, it was discovered that citrus fruit could help.  Of course, today’s modern sailor would simply be given a Vitamin C supplement to take.

While, with a busy schedule and food that can be nutrient deficient before it ever gets to your plate, it is important to realize that most vitamins can be taken in a pill form, but may not be absorbed correctly or in the right amount.  Certain vitamins are only absorbed with other co-factors present, such as fat or certain trace minerals.  If possible, it is better to get your vitamins in actual whole foods.  Also, be aware of how the food was grown, as large-scale, factory farms may overtax soil, resulting in the food having less nutritional value.  I have found the local farmers market to be the prime location to get nutritious fruits and veggies without breaking the bank.

Minerals

Like vitamins, minerals are needed in small quantities.  But, their ability to help our bodies function can not be overstated. Minerals like iron, potassium, and magnesium are common in our vocabulary because they are prevalent on the backs of food packaging.  We are also generally aware of issues like anemia that come from a lack of iron.  The most important point to realize?Minerals cannot be created by any living organism.  They exist in soil or as a salt (from the soil).  Plants pull the minerals from the soil.  Then we either eat the plants or eat the animals that ate the plants.  That is the major way we get minerals in our diet.  As the larger farms continue to overwork soil to produce quantity instead of quality foods, the minerals in the soil get less and less.  That is a big reason why a lot of our foods, from milk to bread to salt, have been fortified with minerals.  The normal process of getting these important elements into our bodies just isn’t cutting it.

One way that I have found to add minerals to my diet is to get a trace mineral solution to add to my water.  It generally isn’t too overpowering if you increase the amount slowly.  I recommend Liqumins ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops* for this.  While it does supplement your diet, I feel better about how it is processed as well as how it is absorbed in your body.

To sum up, these little nuts and bolts hold everything together, in terms of nutrition.  If you are missing these vitamins and minerals, it can have serious, life-threatening consequences.  The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University has done lots of research on micro-nutrients.  Be aware that their material can get a bit heavy, but it is well worth a quick scan.  They also list the individual vitamins and minerals, what each one does, and what a deficiency can cause.  Friday, I will post how to put all this information to use with some recipes and apps that can help you on the path to better nutrition.

Have any questions?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

*Affiliate link – Please see the Disclaimer/Disclosure Policy for more details.