I love life!

Hi, I am Jo and this is my blog about my life. Here you will find entries on cooking, gardening, food safety and the interesting things happening in my search for an inexpensive and healthy way of living. My home is located in North Florida and I am relearning how to take care of myself at almost 50. This is the deep South so my garden and season may be a bit different than yours. I look forward to seeing what you have to say as time passes. Read on and have a beautiful day!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Permaculture and food production

  ECHOcommunity is an incredible, valuable resource for information and 
communication between you, ECHO and other members! 
Today 8 hours of my day were spent at ECHO attending a class on Permaculture and touring the farm. The promo for the class I attended is below.

ECHO is an organization aimed at fighting world hunger. To that end they have simulated growing conditions of the different regions of the world where hunger is an issue. Each of the regions is set up and attended by interns who will later go out into the world and teach what they learn on the farm. They have areas to simulate growing conditions on steep slopes, jungle conditions and even an urban setting. All of them are designed to promote efficiency of food production in smaller areas and to allow them to be maintained without the use of commercial fertilizers and modern equipment. The plants grown provide not only food for the humans who will be tending them but also fodder for animals, herbal medicines, building materials and soil amendments.Clean, safe water is also addressed in he building of wells  water catching systems and purification methods. ECHO does so much more that this post is barely scratching the surface.

The whole day was impressive! The speaker Eric Toensmeier was  an articulate, funny and a man who possesses a wealth of knowledge on the subject matter. He broke down the basic concepts of permaculture and explained with examples that were easily understood by normal non permaculture experts. There were over 100 people from all over South Florida listening intently and taking notes on the wealth of information coming at everyone.    

What you don't know what permaculture is? That is ok, until a few months ago I did not have a formal understanding of the topic. Think of the classic three sisters, corn, beans and squash. That is permaculture at its easiest and finest. Corn provides the support for the beans and the squash cover the ground below acting as a living ground cover. All three support each other as well. The beans are nitrogen fixer for the corn and squash. The squash protects to ground and prevents erosion while cooling the earth below.
Permaculture focuses on perennial plants and companion planting to improve yields and build soil. One of the methods of soil fertility I had the opportunity to learn about was biochar.  This link will take you to a great source of information on biochar as I can  not even begin to describe it and it's benefits in this page.

Unfortunately, biochar requires an airtight kiln to properly burn the wood to make high quality biochar. I can't see our neighborhood association going for this. Maybe someday.

Permaculture, however, is perfect for our climate and has been utilized in most tropical climates for centuries. While at ECHO I purchased a cranberry hibiscus and lemongrass. The lemongrass will provide a fragrant mulch for my beds and the hibiscus will provide both food and tea. If we do not like it it will be purely decoration as it is a lovely plant.

I will keep you posted on the permaculture journey!



Sunday, February 2, 2014

How much do we really spend?

Rob is working and dinner is in the oven. Seminole pumpkin is roasting to be turned into soup and beets are roasting with rosemary to be served on fresh garden greens as a salad.  A healthy and oh- so yummy meal.

While working on dinner the thought crossed my mind that even though we are "frugal" it is hard to determine how much we really spend on food. The garden is an interesting example. It is a source of great joy so is some of the cost considered "entertainment" or is it all allocated to "food." Working outside in the sunshine keeps me active and provides really wholesome food so does it also go under the heading "health and wellness?"  Do we add in the cost of fertilizer to the food cost or to the household maintenance cost?

When home canned goods are made do we need to compute a cost per hour of the person canning? Or just the cost of food? Do I compute the cost of the jars? Amortize them? Write them off after a few uses?

Additionally, I have no idea what people normally pay for groceries. We buy some items online and in bulk (gluten free flours, herbs, spices, dehydrated fruits). Some items come from farmers markets and most are cooked at home. Then there is what Rob buys. Many times he stops on his way home and for bananas or some single item and comes home with hummus or another item that was "buy one get one." Nothing wrong with that only I have never added it up.

Do we add in meals out? How do we figure freebies from meals with family?

This month I am going to attempt to track what we are truly spending. This will not include money spent for cat food, cleaning supplies, household goods or any non edible items.  

If all goes well at the end of the month I will post what we really spent and in what categories.

Happy February to all-