Frugal seed starting

Frugal seed starting

Remember how I “curated” the pantry and it was fairly neat and tidy?

Also remember how last year my new (to me) seed bench was so big it only fit in the living room due to the pantry not being curated?

Well, heh heh … this year the seed bench is in the pantry!

Rosie: “Good thing too — you could almost move around in there!”

More on seed-starting below, with a frugal hack that tens of you may be marginally interested in!

Podcast: I did the podcast, as promised, and hope to have a link for you early next week. It will be hosted on The Center for the Restoration of Christian Culture (aka The Thomas More Center, due to it being a project of the Thomas More College for the Liberal Arts).

If you are not podcast-oriented, don’t worry, you won’t miss much. It’s sort of an introduction to the things we do here at LMLD and the material in my new books, but for people who mainly find out about such things via podcasts.

Apparently there are many who just want to listen to a podcast! I have no particular ambitions for myself, but I do think that it’s good to reach these others with the message that making the home, educating children, and bringing the ordinary beauty that is an instrument of peace, as Roger Scruton put it, into the world, are all worth doing.

I also chat about some practical ways to become more competent in managing a household when we don’t have the usual abundance at our fingertips. Of course, living on one income for many years brings along with it lots of strategies for frugality, for sure — just want to keep that collective memory alive.

I touch on gardening and how now is the time (at least here in the northern hemisphere, you know what I mean) to get planting! Some things, at least: The last frost date here in Central MA (zone 6a) is May 4, although the ground really doesn’t warm up until Memorial Day, not for things like peppers and eggplant, and gosh, it has snowed here on my birthday — May 17! But that’s okay, there are other things to get started!

When I think about what I am happy to have had this winter, harvest-wise, I know I will plant more onions, winter squash, kale, parsnips, and herbs. I have plenty of garlic left and have already planted next year’s harvest (it goes in the ground in the Fall). I loved making asparagus and parsnip soup for Christmas dinner’s first course (a recipe that I hope to share with you at some point). Having asparagus in the freezer was great, and that’s a crop that you plant once and harvest for decades.

Looking at food prices (with a side-eye towards inflation), I can say that it will be important to have some food inventory. If you can plant a garden, those are the things to focus on, along with paste tomatoes to roast up and freeze, sweet potatoes, cabbage, and potatoes. Many things store pretty easily in a cool spot (like my pantry, a basement store-room, or a garage), without much special provision — I mean who wouldn’t love a root cellar, but between the fridge and the pantry, we can make this happen. Even if you have room for only a couple of beds, see what you can do.

And as I say, now is the time to plan it. I highly recommend spending some time with Charles Dowding. Learning his no-dig method is a game-changer — time is precious and it’s super demoralizing to spend it all on weed-abatement. He is practical and cuts through the complications and truisms of gardening, which makes his ideas more frugal. For instance, he dismisses the idea that you have to sterilize your seed trays or worry about fertilizers. Phew. Yes, there is an army of interns behind the scenes in his gardens, so you have to apply the discount to all that and be satisfied with a smidge less perfection. And his climate is very different from what I have here. Still. He is a trove of information.

I’m all about trying my hardest not to come up with that $500 tomato and the $600 salad, so starting seeds frugally is a priority. I use a soldering iron that turned up in the craft closet to make drainage holes in those handy baby lettuce/spinach containers, and don’t forget solo cups when it’s time to move little seedlings into bigger pots. Aluminum pans, trays discarded from restaurants, packing material…

Here’s how the winter sowing is going.

I had to liberate these things from their icy containers. Soon it will warm up and they will start growing. I have broccoli, celeriac, beets, cleome, basil, marjoram, and elacampine (never heard of it but apparently it’s a medicinal herb) going out there, with vervain and arugula up next, now that I have more milk jugs (scrounged from my friend — we drink milk by the quart around here now!).

Hopefully the radiator is warm enough for the peppers — I don’t want to buy seed mats!

And now, the frugal hack! DIY soil blocking!

Are you familiar with this concept of soil blocking?

But again, spending money on things… I think I found a simple way to do it. I prefer videos where the person gets right to the thing you want to know, and I certainly do not do that here, sorry, I’ll try to be better next time — I have no idea what I am doing:

bits & pieces

  • Another deep reflection on the Lenten journey from Carl Olson (see last week’s b&p for the previous one): Temptation in the Desert and the Divinity of Christ. (Olson is helpfully connecting us to the spiritual masters of the past — once again I must urge everyone not to restrict spiritual reading to what is found from contemporary spiritual aid sources that rely on content produced by influencers who are not steeped in tradition.)

“The whole story of the Temptation is misconceived,” wrote Monsignor Ronald Knox, “if we do not recognize that it was an attempt made by Satan to find out whether our Lord was the Son of God or not.” In so writing, he echoed many of the Church Fathers, who pondered the question of what Satan knew and what he wished to accomplish in tempting Jesus in the desert.

  • By now we should know that we need solid criteria to judge the voices that urge us towards one action or another regarding current events — virtually every source of information is compromised one way or another. We need first principles. Our friend Fr. Jerry Pokorsky gets the ball rolling on Just War Theory in this article (of course there is a much, much deeper study to be done, but it’s a start for clarification): The Ukraine Mess: Points to ponder about narratives, criteria, possible responses.

Since marriage provides the very framework and fabric of the moral life of society, healthy marriages are necessary, not merely for the individual happiness of the spouses but for the common good of society itself. In this sense, Pride and Prejudice serves as a timely witness to the need for the traditional family at a time when all aspects of family life are under relentless attack.

  • My friend got her butchered pig and it came with 20 lbs of lard! Here’s the BBC’s collection of lard recipes — 91 of them! Do you have that much lard? Do you have any favorites to share?

from the archives

  • Speaking of lard, I use some lard in my butter pie crust. Lard is what people used before vegetable shortening (which is not good for you) replaced it in the national consciousness. This Ham and Cheese and Spinach Pie — a family favorite since my mother-in-law served it to us about 40 years ago, is a good example of a good use of lard (or bacon fat if good lard is not available)! Also a good “Save a Step” recipe for after you’ve served a ham with spinach on the side and stashed away the leftovers. (Not super Lenten of course… )

liturgical living

Today is the Saturday of the Spring Ember Days.

There are many lovely feast days coming up. Let’s celebrate them with delicacy and joy.

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My book, The Summa Domestica: Order and Wonder in Family Life is available now from Sophia Press! And it’s 30% off (along with everything on the site) until Feb. 9!) All the thoughts from this blog collected into three volumes, beautifully presented with illustrations from Deirdre, an index in each volume, and ribbons!

My “random thoughts no pictures” blog, Happy Despite Them — receive it by email if you like, or bookmark, so you don’t miss a thing!

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