Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Putting a Price on Home-Grown Vegetables

I already know I reap big dividends from enjoying the superior flavor, freshness and lack of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides in my home vegetable garden. But just for fun, I like to track and weigh my harvest all season long and then calculate the value of the same produce if I were to buy it in the supermarket. When possible, I'll use current organic produce prices in the store, but if an organic equivalent isn't available, I'll use the going price for non-organic produce to establish the value of my own vegetables.

Here, without further ado, is the haul from this year's garden, ranked in order of monetary value:

Tomatoes:148 tomatoes harvested, or 63 pounds! This came from 5 plants that eventually exceeded my height. I have frozen enough to last all winter in delicious soups and stews. I also gave away quite a few to my mother and my auto mechanic. Their non-organic value I calculated at $62 (at .99/lb); I couldn't find organic tomatoes in the store on the day I checked prices, but I imagine they'd cost substantially more.

Stringbeans 25.6 lbs. I overplanted these and was rewarded with more green and yellow beans than I could pick, but I did enjoy them in lots of three-bean salads. Just tonight I enjoyed them in a curry sauce over rice. The non-organic price for stringbeans was $1.49/lb, so the value of my 25 pounds would be at least $38.11.

Lettuce: @14 servings. I have quite a bit of late-summer planted lettuce growing now, but I don't care for this variety and am not eating much of it. The 14 servings came from spring greens that I planted.

Cucumbers: 12. I only had three vines this year and one by one they were hit by wilt and kicked the bucket mid-season.

Wineberries: 4.25 cups. This is just a drop in the bucket compared to previous years, when I picked daily throughout the month of July and froze for winter use, but I was sidelined by a fear of tick encounters, and in fact, I just started on a course of antibiotics after contracting Lyme Disease for the 4th time. I'm angry with myself for letting that happen, as I really do try to be careful, but it appears I'd need to practically chain myself indoors to be assured I wouldn't be bitten.

Zucchini: 9, or 6.78 lbs. Due to space limitations and the desire to try a few new vegetables like cauliflower, collards and soybeans, I only had a single plant, which, like the cucumber vines, met a somewhat early demise.

Cherry tomatoes: 163. I had just two plants and they rewarded me with plenty of perfect little red globes I snacked on like candy. I almost prefer these to the big ones.

Snow peas: Lost my tally but estimate around 2 pounds.

Green pepper 15 (48 oz)

Cauliflower: A single 14 oz. head. These were fun to try growing, but aside from that first head, they got too buggy to consider actually eating.

Broccoli 14.5 oz. I recall only harvesting a single head of broccoli and the rest of the time I picked quite a few of those little side shoots, which worked great in stir fries, although these, too, got so full of tiny green worms that it became more work to pick them out than it was worth. They were so hard to pick out I started getting a little paranoid that I would miss one or two and end up eating them.

Collards: 16 oz. I should have been more on top of the little green worm situation before they got out of hand and riddled the collard leaves with holes.

Basil: 20 servings. I used the basil exclusively to make my own pesto sauce with olive oil, walnuts and parmesan cheese. It's addictive.

Yellow squash: 3 (31 oz). Also a mid-summer victim.

Edamame: 17 oz (unshelled). This was another of my "experiments." I enjoyed eating the bright lime green beans, but realized rather late that I would need to plant many, many more soybeans to really get a decent harvest, and that's unlikely now because I also realized they take up valuable real estate. Unlike regular beans, you have to wait til the end of the season, practically, to harvest them. So their longer growing season would seem to make them somewhat unsuitable for my smaller garden. I'd like to tell you its size, but it's irregularly shaped; it's roughly 150 square feet.

All told, my very conservative estimate of the total value of my produce is $224.39. I say conservative because I used non-organic prices for about half the vegetables, including the tomatoes, which represented the largest harvest.

After deducting for expenses (mainly seeds and seedlings), I figure I netted $170.93.

Then again, I gave away quite a bit of food to my mother, father, mechanic and a neighbor. But that's what growing vegetables is all about, I think. Sharing the bounty.

Can't wait til next year!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Between His Toes: A Maine Coon's Encounter with a Freshly Painted Floor

Luther was a mighty bad boy Monday. MIGHTY bad.

Among my many chores that afternoon, I wanted to paint the floor of a downstairs closet. The wood floor in there had been painted before, and I knew I had the oil-based paint on hand, left over from when I did the sun room floor.

You might guess where this is headed...

I put the first coat down. It stunk to high heaven. Most cats I've had in the past don't need any encouragement to steer clear of such a chemical odor. I needed to keep the door open for it to dry, but I blockaded the entry with a variety of objects.

Just in case.

I opened all the windows, then left to mow the front lawn. After wrapping up with that, I trudged up the hill, looking forward to relaxing with a cold iced tea in the half hour or so I had before running out to pick up my neighbor from work.

I came in the house to find Cocoa Beach enamel paint pawprints in a variety of locales, including the oak floor in the kitchen, the fir floor in the living room, my Moroccan rug, a bamboo mat in the sun room and even the black dining room table! Oh, yes, and on the stairs as well.

Oh, naughty, naughty boy!

After a major freak-out/panic attack, I found I could remove the paint simply by scrubbing hard with a DRY paper towel. The exception was the bamboo mat; the rapidly drying, sticky paint had gotten in between the narrow slats, so on that I had to use some toxic smelling, gasoline-based Goof Off, which worked well. (Afterwards, I closed off that room, left the windows wide open over night and everything was fine in the morning.)

But no, the challenge wasn't over yet, because I realized Luther must have oil paint on all that long fur growing in between his toes. It's a Maine Coon thing.

I had to straddle him, first facing his most unhappy scowl, then facing his rear, and hold up each paw to snip away the paint-soaked fur with a pair of scissors. He was most upset about that. There was a lot of moaning and hissing, but to his credit, he did not try to scratch or bite me, for which I'm grateful.

I made two passes at clipping off the fur, but I knew I couldn't get all of it. Not sure what else I could have done, aside from taking him to the vet to have them anesthetize him and do a more thorough job. But that seemed like an extreme measure, and anesthesia presents its own risks.

He seems fine now.

I put a second coat on the closet floor yesterday and he hasn't shown the least interest in it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Walk at Fairfield Hills and the Labor Day Parade

Why is it that the most beautiful weather days seem to follow really bad weather?

After yesterday's tornado watch, on again, off again rain and blustery winds, this morning arrived with much lower humidity, crisp fresh air and a sunny blue sky.

Althought my mother was coming to pick up some tomatoes from the garden, I couldn't resist slipping out for an early morning walk.

I headed over to Fairfield Hills, but instead of doing the usual walk through the shady woods on the paved asphalt trail, I parked at Reed Middle School and walked down Trades Lane.

Hadn't been there in a while, so was pleased to see the nearly completed new animal shelter.

What an improvement over the old one, wedged in between the landfill and the railroad tracks.

I made a large loop around the sunny corn fields, noticing many cobs still on the stalks. Perhaps they will be harvested soon.

It was so peaceful and quiet; you'd never guess you were in the center of Newtown.

Here's the 2nd Company Governor's Horse Guard, saved from the state budget axe.

This past Labor Day I got to march in my hometown's Labor Day parade. It's the only one in the state. I was marching for a friend's organization that raises funds for disabled war veterans who need to make their homes handicapped accessible. It's the least we can do.

Our division, which was near the front, met at the northern end of Main Street, waiting for the signal to begin. It was fun seeing the many participants in Colonial-era garb. Love the hoop dresses!

I must admit to getting a little choked up when we came around the bend and saw all of Main Street down to the flagpole and beyond, packed with cheering crowds. It was quite a colorful scene.

Good time was had by all. I'd do it again in a heartbeat! As I told my friends and family, when else will I get to see what it's like to be Britney Spears (or any other celebrity)? You know, getting cheered, having your photo taken, throngs of adoring fans...what's not to like??