In Search of the Lean Six Life

Smarter, not harder. Preferrably A LOT smarter.

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Well… Chit

If you read my post yesterday (but missed my reply to Carolee, of the Herbal Blessings Blog), you might be wondering why I would ever have planted peas last Sunday, knowing there was a snow storm in the forecast.

In a word: chit.

That’s right. I said it. In my blog, no less.

After reading (most of) Steve Solomon’s Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times, I decided to try chitting as a way of jump starting seed germination. The approach is similar to sprouting seeds to eat, except when the roots are just becoming prominent, you plant the seeds in prepared soil. If you wait too long, the fragile roots grow increasingly susceptible to damage when planting.

Chitting takes three to four days, and in the Mid-Atlantic you NEVER know what the forecast will be in a few days, much less a week.  In other words, when the seedlings are ready to plant, you plant – oncoming winter storm or no.

… or you let them fully mature into tasty pea sprouts, and try chitting a new batch in another week! (That’s probably what I’ll do next time.)



Happy First Day of Spring!

Spring Arrives in Maryland

Spring arrives in Maryland – bringing with it snow

Of course, I’d already planted something. Peas, last weekend when it was sunny and mid-50s. I recently learned that cold, wet seedlings are susceptible to a fatal fungal disease calling “damping off.” I’m sorry, pea seedlings.

One of my garden goals this year is helping my veggies flourish by giving them an optimal environment: more room to grow, consistent fertilizer, and ideal amounts of sun, warmth and moisture for their needs.


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The Philosophy of Salads

We’re having company over for dinner. Which means spaghetti (keeping it simple), and a huge salad in the style of a certain Italian chain restaurant. The chickweed is long dead, thanks to the Arctic chill that has enveloped our area for the past two weeks. Plus who feeds yard weeds to company? What will people think? Additionally, my “lettuce bowl” attempt for indoor leafy harvests utterly failed too, so I am reduced to buying… yes, you guessed it… bagged lettuce. The horror! The shame! (I grabbed two.)

Next: tomatoes. One display featured tomatoes from Canada; the other, from Mexico. And I wondered, which choice destroys the environment less? The produce from Canada, with a shorter shipping distance but more electricity for heat and light to grow out-of-season tomatoes? Or the harvest from Mexico, closer to the tomato’s natural requirements for warmth and sun, but further to ship to me, the consumer? The conflict! The guilt! (There are no “good” tomatoes in January, so I snagged the three which looked least sad.)
This is a trick question, of course. The “right” answer is that in the piedmont region of Maryland, in January, after two weeks of nighttime lows in the single digits and wind chills well below zero, one does not expect lettuce and tomatoes. They are not native to here and now. They can only be here thanks to the cheap energy that fuels our modern American expectations and consumption habits.
Learn from my folly, dear friends! An equally delicious, much healthier (and much more sustainable) winter salad for company could include:
– cubed, roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash
– on a bed of torn kale,
– garnished variously with goat’s cheese, pumpkin seeds, thinly sliced red onions, pickled beets, dried cherries, and/or chopped walnuts, and
– dressed with a simple vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, walnut oil, Dijon mustard, a touch of honey and rosemary or other herbs.
All these ingredients could, could, be grown and produced locally to the Mountain/Piedmont regions of Maryland, and preserved in such as way as to be available for eating, even in this brutal weather.

… I hang my head in shame as I slice the tomatoes.

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Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2018! Kicked off in typical “me” style with a random kitchen injury while making dinner. Seriously, I somehow cut myself with the knife without knowing. I’m getting used to the feeling of, huh, wonder when that happened? Oh, well.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, because I feel anything worth doing is worth starting now, not just because it’s a new year.

That said, I will try to write more in 2018. Maybe here, maybe on other blogs and forums, maybe I’ll write a book, who knows. I’m still figuring out if I have anything worth saying…. so stay tuned!

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My Cold Season Salad Greens

I forgot to mention that earlier this year, I swore off store-bought lettuce & salad greens, especially the prewashed-mixed-leaves-in-a-plastic-bag variety.

Let me be perfectly clear – these pristine baggies used to represent for me all that was healthy and good for you. Salads for all! No excuses, it’s so convenient! Look at this variety of dark leafy vegetables, what’s not to love?

After reading Omnivore’s Dilemma, bagged leaf lettuce in the store morphed from the ultimate health food to the posterchild for industrial agribusiness (organic or otherwise), and a symbol for what I am ever so gradually trying to get away from. Like so many “convenience” items, savings for me meant higher externalized costs elsewhere, namely in the consumption of fossil fuels. No more! During the summer, I got my fix through what I could grow, supplemented by the occasional head of leaf lettuce from one of the local farmers markets.

Let’s be brutally honest. No lettuce producers noticed my protest. No, my actions haven’t changed the world. It’s a purely symbolic move, but dammit, lettuce is one thing I can provide for myself!

At least, until I couldn’t.

Given the untimely demise of my winter garden, I had to find another way to boycott bags of leafy greens.

Behold: chickweed!

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Bountiful Beautiful Chickweed

Mild flavored, crisp textured – a perfect substitute for my salad green needs. Did I mention – extremely cold tolerant? And that it’s a prolific weed that actually grows in thicker when I harvest cuttings from several plants, rather than pulling individual plants up by the roots?

What’s not to love, indeed? Let the store-bought salad greens boycott continue!


And Just Like That, We’re Done

Today I Learned … don’t ever, ever trust the weather forecast.

It said the low would be 32 overnight. Everything in my winter bed is hardy to 28 or so. Says I to myself, if they are wrong by a few degrees, no big deal. I chose not to cover the bed with a row cover.

I chose poorly.

They were wrong by NINE degrees. The outdoor thermometer says 23 F. The bed survived one night at 26 with really bad burns on most of the kale. I can’t even bear to look at it today.


Well, next year by this time I will have a low tunnel installed over the winter bed, with actual greenhouse film covering it so I can leave it in place during the day. (The doubled row cover blocks too much of the weak fall sun.)  No experience is ever wasted if you learn from it, right?