{the new year} clean, fresh and growing

Although it was a good year, 2011 went by in a bit of a blur for me. This year, I am hoping for a more manageable pace that will support a healthier, more peaceful year for my family. I don’t usually set goals each new year, or make resolutions, but I came up with a few changes we are making in our home and routine that I hope will support a great year to come!

#1. clean/spice up my life

In the first week of the new year, I decided enough was enough. This is what my spice cabinet looked like:

Impossible to find anything, things falling out all the time, old spices dry and caked, and quite a few jars of things I just never use.

So, I procured some new spice jars (less than $1 each at my local natural foods store!) and emptied the cabinet, tossing what I never use and re-jarring or refilling my favorites with fresh spices. By reducing what I have to what I actually use, I am more likely to spice up everyday dishes with my favorites like basil, cumin and nutmeg.

In the spirit of full disclosure, the remainder of my pantry is still a disaster:

This is also a part of a change of heart I am trying to adopt: take on only what I can handle. I am terrible at over-committing to far more than I can really get done (while maintaining some sort of sanity) and it has affected my life, health, family and friends in a less than positive way in the last year. Although I would love to do as much as I can all the time (and re-organize not only this pantry but my entire kitchen), when I try to do too much in an afternoon, day or even week I end up rushing through everything. This leaves me feeling tired, guilty for doing less than my best, and overwhelmed with the trail I leave behind me as well as the lists ahead. So, I am trying to simplify, take on only what I can reasonably manage and maintain a slower, more attentive and happier pace – with less obligation and more time to just be. I’m hoping that will leave some more time for fun, and add a little spice to my life too.

#2. 12 months of raw: soaked, sprouted, satisfying

Last month a good friend decided to adopt a raw diet. I was intrigued and did a little research into the health benefits of a raw diet. While I’m not sure an entirely raw diet is for me, there are a lot of raw ‘cooking’ methods that I am excited to learn and adopt. In part, this is for health but I also enjoy learning new ways to prepare delicious food, so this is a project I am excited to take on this year. My hope is to try a new raw method or recipe each month but in light on #1 above and not over committing, I’ll do my best to share this project but no promises!

For January, I wanted to try sprouting beans. I reviewed Christine’s awesome post and got my hands on a set of old school sprouting lids; three colors and sizes – it was a lucky find in the back of the food co-op I go to occasionally.

I soaked about 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans overnight, then rinsed them daily and let them do their thing. It actually took 5 days to get nice sprouts, just about 1″ long. It was pretty cold in my kitchen when I was sprouting, so I think it would take less time if it was warmer in my region/house. If you’re interested in sprouting garbanzos, or anything else for that matter, I’d check here for awesome step-by-step instructions and lots of details on sprouting.

Once these lovelies were nice and live, I made a simple hummus. I used about 2 cups of sprouted beans, 1/4 cup tahini, 1/4 cup olive oil, two cloves of garlic and a dash of salt and pepper. Everything went into my food processor and I processed for a few minutes until it was nice and smooth. My kids LOVE hummus and didn’t know the difference – they gobbled it right up with me!

#3. going bare 

While we have absolutely loved our years of CSA membership with some awesome farms, we are (probably) going CSA free in 2012. For the past several years, I have been exploring gardening – trying different vegetable varieties and growing methods, trying to make the best of the space we are lucky to have where we live despite some pretty abysmal soil. I took a leap this fall and deconstructed my raised beds, spread out the “good dirt”, added some llama/sheep/chicken compost and learned how to operate a walk-behind rototiller on my own. I created a pretty substantial plot, about 24×40′, and planted annual rye grass as cover crop. A bit to my surprise and a big delight, the rye sprouted in a few days and did beautifully in the mild fourth quarter of 2011. I sprinkled chicken scratch in the grass often to encourage our laying flock to spend time in the garden (a habit I fear will take some work to break in the spring… a fence may be in the works) to further improve the plot.

The green grass still stands about 6″ high and is barely visible under the messy snow we’ve had in the last weeks. In the early spring I will spread a bit more compost (probably from our own tumbler and oldest compost pile) and till everything under. I have never done this before but I am hopeful it will result in healthier soil and a fertile, productive garden.

In the meantime, I’ve been spending the winter days poring over gardening books and seed catalogs, carefully planning out the plot and my planting schedules. I am working on developing some fancy spreadsheets and charts (with the help of a few templates and resources) to plan my seed starting dates inside, transplant dates, and succession planting plan which will help me have a longer harvest for many vegetables, much like “real” farmers do.

I hope to have good news to share this summer, either way I will share our progress and harvests here and hopefully not too many “lessons learned”!


11 Comments Add yours

  1. Good for you, especially your garden plot part. I find it really satisfying
    to learn new manly tasks like using the rototiller yourself and to see the
    success of your effort.

    Those spreadsheets would be a post I’d enjoy reading too… I’d better get busy with my
    gardening or I’ll be left behind : )

    1. Liz says:

      Thanks! If I get the spreadsheets in order and it looks like a plan that will work I will definitely share how it goes. I attended a fantastic farmers conference this past weekend (NOFA-NY winter conference) and an excited to apply all I learned, especially in the planning department.

  2. Ona says:

    How inspiring! You did some good work in your kitchen and especially your garden! All that pre-planning/hard work should certainly result in a succesfull garden for 2012!

    I can’t wait to hear about your garden. I just started one last year and it was so-so, and am hoping to learn from my mistakes as well as people like you to have a better garden this year.

    1. Liz says:

      Thanks! Gardening is something I always take year by year… we haven’t a repeat season or harvest, ever. Each year is filled with successes as well as mistakes for me too. I look forward to hearing how your garden grows!

  3. courtney says:

    Sounds exciting. I would love to hear about your progress and what you learn. I will be digging up a good portion of our yard for the first time this spring. We just bought the house and suspect that the soil will need a lot of work! I too need to start planning 🙂

    1. Liz says:

      Good luck and happy gardening!

  4. Jenny says:

    So many great ideas here! I am hoping to get my spices in order but haven’t found jars I like {until now}. Can you let me know where you got yours? Thanks in advance.

    1. Liz says:

      I got my jars at Four Seasons in Saratoga Springs, NY. Not sure where you are geographically but if you are in the area, you can order a case (12 jars) at 20% off the regular price. I ended up getting 24 for under $20, with no shipping costs. The jars are the same as the “Simply Organic” spices you can find in many grocery stores, but label-free! I love them!

      1. Jenny says:

        Thanks so much! I am close enough to Saratoga to get them. I saw a pic on pinterest with Starbucks jars glass etched with spice names and they looked so cute. I just don’t drink Starbucks frapachinos. Looking forward to more crafty organizing!

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