The official Fall season is one week old today.  Even though the weather here in the south isn’t very Fall-like yet, there’s another way to tell that it’s Fall.

Squash.  I was given these beauties by the Hankins family.   They gave me even more, but I gave some to the neighbor. Luckily tomorrow is my turn to make the supper swap dinner.  Have you ever seen such huge zucchini?

In the midst of trying to figure out what to make from these, I started wondering how squash got it’s name.  I found the answer on the Everyday Mysteries website from the Library of Congress.  According to the site, “‘Squash’ comes from the Narragansett Native American word askutasquash, which means ‘eaten raw or uncooked.'” (Don’t worry, fellow supper swappers – I’ll be cooking our squash.) I also learned that squash is one of the oldest crops, dating back over 10,000 years; and that the first pumpkin pie was a hollowed out pumpkin filled with apples, spices, sugar, and milk. Hmmm….I think I know what I’m going to make tomorrow for supper!

And, if , like me, you are completely inept in the kitchen, especially when it comes to cutting and slicing things, my friend Kristen has a great vlog (that’s a video blog) post on How to Peel and Cut Butternut Squash (without loosing a finger!).  Check it out.  I’ll try and find out where she got that mammoth vegetable peeler.


The One Small Change initiative officially wrapped-up on Earth Day.  However, since the project has gotten such a great response, with several of us planning to continue making changes through the year, Hip Mountain Mama has decided to keep the blog going, complete with prizes and guest posts.  So, this is my review of the first four changes we made this year:

Our first radish harvest

Local Food – this one got off to a slow start, but now that the farmer’s markets are opening, and the Argenta Market is in business, it’s much easier to find local food resources.  Our little garden in the back yard has started providing a little bit of produce as well: radishes.  It doesn’t get much more local than that!  We’re also getting ready to pick up our second Basket of the Month.  We skipped the April basket because we were out-of-town.  That’s one of the benefits of the BAM – you don’t have to get a basket every month.

Cloth Diapers – still doing well with this, although all the extra use means that I need to “strip” the diapers, which I have not done in a long time and need to look up instructions for.  I am hoping to get Callen potty trained this summer, so I might have a good deal on some cloth diapers come fall!

Garden – our Garden is growing right along.  I’ve made several rookie blunders: I don’t think I planted the radishes deep enough, and trying to grow the tomato and pepper plants from seed was a mistake. This weekend’s plans include a trip to the garden store to purchase a few established tomato and pepper plants. Our rain barrel works wonderfully, gathering rainwater from one of the downspouts so that we conserve water and save money.

Composting – I am still learning about composting, so I’m not really sure that I am doing it right, although the basic process seems fairly easy.  It certainly has reduced the amount of food waste that is going into our trash can, which makes me happy.  The composter is getting pretty full, though, so soon it will be time to take some of the good dirt out and spread it around.  Last month we also took part in a recycled landscaping project:  our neighbors thinned out several of their bushes and were nice enough to let us have them to plant in our back yard.  Right now the leaves are all brown and dead, so that’s another research project: should I cut them back, or leave them alone until fall?  Either way, I’ll be pampering them with some compost.

I am planning to continue the One Small Change project through the year.  It’s a great way to keep me focused on making earth-friendly changes in our household, and one change per month isn’t overwhelming.  Stay tuned for our May change!

It’s Here!

Our spinning compost bin, courtesy of Grandpa Stan

My dad delivered our new (to us) compost bin, complete with some starter in it, and we’ve been adding to it ever since.  Every once in a while I have to do a google search to see if a certain item can be composted or not, but we’re learning as we go.

As you can see in the image above, the drum of our composter has a panel door that opens.  We dump in our fruit and vegetable scraps, yard cuttings, coffee grinds and filters, and whatever other organic items we have.  Then, we close the door and spin the drum around four or five times to mix it up.  Pretty easy.   . . .but not really.

I have to admit that I’m a bit intimidated by this compost thing.  How do I know I’m adding enough of the right stuff to it?  How many banana peels is too many?  Is my compost too wet?  When is it ready? When is a good time to add the compost dirt to the garden?  Like I said, I’m learning as I go.  I’m glad to be learning, though, and thrilled that the kids are learning right along beside me.

Our March One Small Change is rolling right along.  I’m happy to report that everything we have planted so far (radishes, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and sunflowers) is happily showing off little green leaves.  Today the kids and I planted cucumbers, squash, beans, and stevia.  Carina loves eating the leaves off of the stevia, which is a natural sweetener.  We’ve had a lot of fun in the garden, and learned a few things as well.

digging holes for the sunflowers

watering the radishes and carrots with water from the rain barrel

happy and proud little farmers

I am excited that we have plenty of water to water our little garden from our rain barrel: it filled up the very day that Craig installed it thanks to  a nice spring storm.  Our April change will go right along with our new garden, and is something that I have been wanting to do for over a year now: COMPOSTING!  My dad has a composter that he is going to let us use, and I’m thrilled to get started.

“Catch! Calls the Once-ler
He lets something fall.
‘It’s a Truffula Seed.
It’s the last one of all!
You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect if from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
and all of his friends
may come back.’ ”

– Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

This is a guest post by Craig Rechkemmer in response to my previous post about our new garden.

Nice piece… you forgot the instructions of how to build a raised garden bed.

Step 1:  Ask hubby (If needed, mention the Pioneer Woman‘s husband)
Step 2:  Point to area of yard for desired raised garden bed location
Step 3:  Check area previously pointed to 6 hours later
Step 4:  Take picture of hubby finishing up
Step 5:  Plant seeds according to garden calendar

Editor’s Note: I was trying to explain to Craig what a blog dynasty is, and was showing him the Pioneer Woman blog.  Ever since I showed him this post with pictures of the Pioneer Woman’s husband holding their preschooler in one arm and rustling cattle with the other, he likes to scoop up one of our kids and strike a pose when he thinks he is doing something manly, like building gardens (see picture above). Too bad I can’t take awesome pictures like Pioneer Woman does.

As part of my quest to feed my family more local foods, I have been wishing for a garden. Not a big garden, because I have no idea what I am doing. Just a little garden that we can try out; a place to grow a few vegetables and maybe some flowers; a fun spot for the kids to use their little garden trowels and get dirty. I love to pick things, and I think the kids will get a big kick out of eating things they have grown themselves.

I have an awesomely handy husband who I am thankful for. He spent the bulk of this past weekend obliging my wishes by building a raised garden bed in the back yard.

The kids helped him too. When I explained to Carina that Daddy was building a garden bed for growing vegetables, she asked, “Are we going to lay down on the vegetables?” I know better than to try to share Craig’s workspace (two type-A personalities don’t mix well on home improvement projects), but I did help add in the dirt. The finished product is fantastic!

Admittedly, I am a little intimidated by this whole gardening thing. However, the more research I do, the more I find that gardening is not only a great project for kids, it’s a great project for type-A personalities. I stayed up way too late last night figuring out when our various seeds need to be planted and sketching out our garden “floor plan”.

Today Carina and I planted the carrots and radishes in neat little rows (we’re already behind schedule for those!), and then we made a garden calendar so we would know when to plant our other seeds and when to expect the seedlings to start appearing. The calendar became a necessity when Carina started asking me every 10 minutes if she could go see if the “carrots and those other things we planted, what are they called? oh, radishes, are ready yet.”  Tomorrow we are going to start our tomato and pepper seeds in fiber cups. Carina has her planting outfit all picked out.

Hopefully SOMETHING will grow, and the deer, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, and birds will save some for us. If anyone loves to hand out free gardening advice, I am happy to take it. How DOES your garden grow?

My February One Small Change pledge was to use our cloth diapers more.  Easy enough – consider it done!  We’ve definitely been using those cloth diapers more, and thanks to the warmer weather, we’ve been using the clothes line to dry them too!  We’ve also made progress on our January pledge to use more local foods – we got our first Basket A Month (BAM) CSA, which included bacon, turnip greens, cheese, honey, rice, sweet potatoes, milk, and butter – all grown and made locally!  I also scored big when I met up with my blog buddy, The Park Wife, and she brought me 18 beautiful brown eggs fresh from her very own chickens!

Our March One Small Change is not so small – we’re planting a garden!  Hubby is going to build us a raised garden bed and we’ll make our first ever attempt at growing our own vegetables, and maybe even a few herbs.  We have no idea what we’re doing, but that’s what google is for.  I’m excited to try this out, and to watch the kids have fun in the dirt!