Sep 202012
 

 

Okay, how many of you saw the misspelling I made in the title.  No, it was not done on purpose.  It was an example of spelling phonetically, according to how my brain hears the word.  Not always the best way to go.

At night, we bring the produce stand/table closer to the house just to detour any seekers of mischief.  There really have not been that many issues.  Last year was probably the biggest issue and it was resolved fairly quickly.  A pumpkin was a casualty in that one, but everything else made it out unscathed.  Still, the table gets brought closer every night.

This year we have taken the additional step of covering our produce stand at night.  Nothing fancy.  An extra table cloth, or plastic table cover, thrown over the items on the table and tucked in under some of the baskets so it doesn’t blow off.

At first, this had nothing to do with people and everything to do with bold, tomato biting squirrels.  It did take two incidences of finding tomatoes bitten into or partially eaten to decide to add a layer of ‘protection’.  Even then, the squirrels were not fully detoured, as they would risk climbing the onto the table in broad daylight if it was placed too close to their tree, by the street.  You could see them sitting on a limb eyeing the juicy tomatoes.

Covering the produce stand has also had a second benefit.  You see, what I mean by “bringing the stand closer to the house” means that I actually put it up on the porch.  It is protected from dew, rain and wind, and keeps animals from bothering it most nights.

Rain has not been a big issue this year, but we have had some rainy weather as of late.  The first time we had a very rainy day this fall, I left the stand on the porch as I didn’t want everything to sit out in the down pour.  I then had to leave the house and run an errand.  When I came back, I could tell someone had been to the stand.  Sure enough, there was money in the money box.  Hmmm.  Okay.  Perhaps it was a friend stopping by.  A few days later, while restocking some veggies, a customer stops by.  In the midst of visiting they mention that when they stopped by a few days before, they got some produce from the stand.  As in, they went up on the porch and bought produce.  They assumed I put it there because of the rain and that it was okay to just walk up on the porch.  This particular customer wasn’t scary in the least and it didn’t bother me too much.

A few days later, in the morning, I hear footsteps on my porch and look outside to see who is there.  It is early-ish and I hadn’t put the stand out yet.  Two customers, this time men, were on the porch, had removed the cover and were looking at produce.  That time, I wasn’t so fond of the idea.

Now, I make sure to tuck the cover in such that it is very obvious.  There have been a few customers who come to the door, knock and then ask if I have such and such.  I very much prefer this method.  We have talked about moving the stand somewhere else at night.  Perhaps even a different location on my porch so that it isn’t as easy to get to.  However, it has not been a big enough issue to warrent the extra effort and change in habit that would take.

I don’t want this to become to big of an issue inside my head, as the community really has been great about being honest and respectful.  We haven’t really had any issues this year, knock on wood.  Everyone seems to appreciate the fact that it is there, whether it be because of convenience or prices or the fact that it is fresh, local produce.  For this reason, we have chosen not to really make an issue of this new habit that seems to be developing.

For now, having the cover tucked under more obviously seems to detour both squirrels and people alike … as long as we remember to actually put it on at night.

 

As a side story, I wanted to share something that shows just how great some of my neighbors are.  I was not at home, but my friend was.  The friend who does that stand with me.  She noticed a customer taking a long time at the stand and picking up and putting down several different things, and then putting a lot of tomatoes and such into a bag.  She decided to go and see if the customer needed help.  After putting on shoes and heading out the door, she then saw someone she knew, whose relatives were the previous owners of my house, pull up to the stand.  The first customer left.  When my friend started talking to the second car, she was told that they didn’t actually need anything.  They just wanted to make sure that the first customer actually paid for the items they were buying.  (They had.)  They probably knew I wasn’t home and was just helping keep an eye on the table.  I’m not sure what says ‘Neighborliness’ more than that.  It is experiences like this one that help keep me going with this some days.  That and hearing from those on fixed incomes who really appreciate the fresh produce they are able to get.  Yes, we could charge more, but we don’t need to.

Sep 112012
 

 

I wrote this post a few months ago, got distracted, and never actually posted it.  Now that the weather is turning cooler, I am thinking ahead to pumpkins.  It seemed like the appropriate time to post this and reminisce about last year. 

Also, before I forget to mention it, not all pumpkins are created equal.  The regular pumpkins you see at the store may be great for jack-o-lanterns but are too watery and bland for baking with.  That is for another day, but I did want to mention it.

At the produce auction this past fall, I was able to get a large bin of pumpkins (usually about 60 pumpkins, of the size I got, per bin) for $.25 per pumpkin.  It was the end of the auction, there had been a large supply of pumpkins that day and everyone else had either already reached their quota or had no room to take them.  No one was bidding on these pumpkins; they weren’t even paying attention to the auctioneer.  Out of a last ditch effort, the auctioneer looked at me across the room and said, “$.25”.  I hadn’t looked at them, but knew what the rest of the pumpkins had looked like and so I said, “Yes.”  That worked out well as some other people had wanted them but not that many.  I sold a few to others there, gave a few away, and brought the rest home.  I actually had to go back as I couldn’t fit them all in my car.  Some were placed out at the stand, a few were given away on the way home, and the rest were cooked down and frozen.  I didn’t think I could use 50 cups of pumpkin puree, as we had never eaten pumpkin in all our years of being married.  However, after I had sold a few at the auction (for the price I paid) and a few on the stand, the rest were free for me.  Free is my favorite price.

Turns out, I have been able to use more of the pureed pumpkin than I though.  We have used it in shakes, to make muffins and to make bread.  There is still some in the freezer, but I will definantly put up more this year if I can get a good price on it.  With the drought, and it being the beginning of pumpkin season here, I’m not sure what the harvest and prices will look like at this time.  As this is not something that we all ‘love and can’t live without’, I am not worried about whether we will get it this year or not.

One thing I was glad to learn last year, is that it is not hard to process pumpkins. (This link has been causing me some issues. If you have the same issue, check out The Prairie Homestead and follow her directions; they are basically the same.) It was a sort of slow activity, though.  The length of time was due to the fact that my oven can only hold so many pumpkins at once.

I wish I had pictures to show you the process.  If given the opportunity this year, I will do so.  Until then, you will just have to take my word, and those of other commenters at the link, that it is super, super easy.

A baking sheet under it is a must for me, as it otherwise gets too soft and goes through the grates.  That was Lesson #1 that I learned the hard way.

As to the ‘too soft’ part, that is what makes it so great and so easy.  You do not have to fight a knife and gain huge arm muscles while cutting into the pumpkin.  It literally slices easier than butter.

One thing that I have not had good luck with is saving the seeds.  It just seems like more effort than it is worth to get them out of the strings.  Perhaps you have had a different experience.  If so, please tell me how you did it.

Jul 242012
 

I have tomatoes.

Unfortunately they are not from my garden.  They were a really good deal, though, at $.17-$.20 per pound.  My intent was to get some for myself and put the rest on the stand.  However, the deal was so good that I went a bit overboard.  Now, instead of having a few tomatoes to eat with our meals this week, I have about 120 lbs of them.  They look good, even the #2’s and canners.

And I was worried that there would not be any tomatoes because of the drought.  I am not chancing it though and will go ahead and buy them now rather than wait to see if I can get a better deal on them later.  Considering the store is selling them for $1.69 or so, what I paid for them is just fine by me.

The only thing that was keeping me from buying more was the fact that I knew my Norpro Sauce Master had a broken handle.  See, last fall It and I had a disagreement.  I thought I had won, but in the end It did … the handle broke when I was almost done.  More precisely the nut that allows the handle to rotate broke off.  Completely my fault, by the way.  Once I admitted that I was in the wrong, and fixed the problem, It worked so much smoother and better … right before I finally broke the nut beyond repair.  Let me just say that trying to “fix” it with a screw wrapped in tape may have been a sufficient fix, but definitely not the most comfortable.  My knuckles and hands paid for it.

So, why has it taken me this long to replace it?  That is a great question.  {crickets chirp and you can hear the leaves falling in the breeze.  Itsn’t it peaceful?}

Today I said that it was finally time to order a replacement part.  I had not been looking forward to doing it by mail order.  Something about it makes me nervous even though people did it this way for generations.  I decided to check online instead.  Sure enough, I found a store online that had the handle I wanted.  For less than $3 more than ordering it by  mail, I should get it within the week rather than in 4-6 weeks.  It is worth the $3 to me to have it here that much sooner.

And so begins the Great Tomato Adventures of 2012.  So far everything is off to a good start.  Now to go put the tomatoes somewhere besides the trunk of my car.

My camera still doesn’t have a card that will work with it.  As a result, I did not take the picture above.  However, it looks so much like my stand that I could have and there wouldn’t have been much of a difference.  For those who don’t know, the green containers are actually quart sized containers.  They make great containers for anything though, not just stuff that you need a quart of.

Jul 182012
 

It feels like slow week in the realm of gardening here at my place.

  • We got rain! A lot of it. That meant no need for daily watering.  There is even a chance for storms again tonight.  Though I would prefer a light rain every morning, I will take what I can get right now.  We even have some green in our grass.  Hard to believe, but it is true.
  • Nothing is ready to pick yet from my garden, though there are herbs ready if I need them.  The cucumbers are covered in blooms, just no cucumbers yet.
  • The stand has had pretty steady business.  That is good as I get tired of putting out and bringing in the same items day after day.  Surprisingly, to me at least, zucchini has been a big hit these past two weeks.
  • And I am choosing to ignore the big weed flower bed in my front yard.  I need to go through and take out what I want to keep, pot those plants up for next spring and then do something about the weeds.  That is for another day week, though, so I’m choosing to ignore it right now.

So, what have I been up to?

  • Slowly working my way through the video here.  I had some thoughts on it as I was watching it.  More to come on that later.
  • Slowly reading through Since Silent Spring by Frank Graham
  • Slowly trying to figure out the new theme that you see.  Not everything is how I want it, but I’m learning a little at a time.
  • (Have you picked up on the ‘Slowly’ theme so far?  I find that though I can read or watch something quickly, that doesn’t mean I comprehend it.  I’m intentionally trying to go through the movies and book at a slow speed.  Firstly, because of comprehension and secondly, because there are really other things I want to get done this week.)
  • Cleaned out my fridge.  Feels so good to open it now.  Cleaning is something I find takes my mind off things I don’t want to think about.  Times when I am frustrated, sad, overwhelmed, etc.  For some reason, focusing on cleaning an area or a particular items makes me feel better.  That is why the fridge finally got emptied out and cleaned on a whim.  This is one thing I like knowing about myself because it is a non-chocolate, non-coffee way to make myself feel better … and something actually gets done.
  • Cleared off my kitchen counter and realized how much more that makes me feel calm.  Love the lack of clutter.  Now for the rest of the room …
  • Gather up the last of several items to take for the teen garage sale this weekend.  My plan is to get the car loaded, during nap time, and drive them over this afternoon.
  • Looking at the bird nesting in the Begonia hanging from my front porch. (Not the one shown above, though they are about the same size.)  It was the source of an afternoon of birdwatching with some toddlers.  It was not only their first introduction to ornithology, but also to a bird identification book.  The bird is a female who has a nest with several eggs in it.  We watched as she would fly close by, then leave, only to fly close by again.  I pointed out that she wanted to come back to her nest, why that was, and why she wasn’t doing so.  Finally, we went inside and watched as she flew to her nest.  We then spent a while looking through a bird ID book with me pointing out several different features (maps, pictures of both male and female, etc.)  Being that this is the book I used in college, it isn’t exactly kid friendly.  They did enjoy the pictures though.  I’m hoping to instill a love, or at least an appreciaition, for nature by starting them young.  I have no expectations of molding them into leading ornithologists or conservationists or biologists or naturalist or hydrologists or what ever other -ist you choose to think of.  I just hope for them to have an appreciation for nature and at least a basic understanding of it.
  • And lastly, I’ve been realizing exactly how much I am away from home.  It really doesn’t seem like it to me, but when the first thing I’m asked in the mornings is, “Where are we going today?”, well, that is a big clue that perhaps we are gone more often than needed.

Here is an update on the television issue we had last week.  I am being more proactive of the amount of television taking place in our house, durring the day especially.  My goal is for zero, zilch, nada to happen.  This accomplishes several goals:

  1.  More imaginative playing
  2. Better attitudes
  3. Less energy being used; the wattage kind, not the caloric kind.  Something I’ve very happy about during these warmer months

Today, I agreed to ONE, half hour epsidose of a non-cartoon television show, but turned off the television afterwards.  This was followed by about one hour of “I don’t want to….”, stomping feet, whining and uncoroperative behavior by one child. They were the lucky winner of In-The-Same-Room-As-Me time.  After that hour, you could hear the kids playing nicely together, using their imaginations and toys to mimic the road construction that is taking place right outside our house.  This was the same construction that we went outside to watch before watching the half hour of television.  The more I am running this little experiement, the more I am convinced that for this particular child, any television is a bad thing right now.  Not sure why this reaction is happening now, in this child, even though they are well rested and have a lot of other physical activites going on.  I have my suspicions, but it is something I will never be able to prove one way or the other.

Jun 282012
 

Note: For this post I will write the first part in the singular form, as I think going between “I” and “we” will be confusing.  However, this has been a joint effort between my friend and I.  It isn’t that I’m taking all the credit for the work and such.  I just don’t want to confuse all my readers. 

I talked about how I started going to the produce auction and getting produce for my family at mostly wholesale prices.  One thing I quickly realized is that I was able to get much more than my family was able to eat.

For example:

24 count box of cucumbers.  My family could probably use enough to warrant buying this, even given the loss of a few of them.  However, they usually sold them is stacks of 3 or 4. So, 72 or 96 cucumbers were just a bit more than we could use before they started going bad.  (It would have been a great deal if everyone in the household had been willing to eat a cucumber or two with all 3 meals for two weeks and cucumbers only for lunch.  That actually would have lowered the grocery bill considerably.  However,  I think I would have had a mutiny on my hands.)

There were a few solutions.

  1. Find someone at the auction willing to sell you a box from a stack they just bought.  Sometimes this worked, but not always.  It helps if you know the person or have formed some kind of relationship with them.  If it is another individual there to buy for themselves then they may sell it to you.  If it is someone buying for their store, or several stores, then you will probably be out of luck.
  2. Take a friend or two along.  Not only would you be able to split the price you end up paying at the end of the day.  Also, neither of you will end up paying for stuff that will only go bad before you can get to it.  That is not a way to save money.
  3. Give it away.  There were several times when I took boxes of stuff to church, let everyone know it was there, and told them all that I really didn’t want to take it home with me.  I even went as far as handing out plastics grocery sacks so they could carry more.
  4. Sell it.  Check with your appropriate local offices before setting something up.  The last thing you want is for them to come take down your set-up because it is not allowed to be there.  Or, worse perhaps, send you a fine for not having the appropriate permit.

I had so much extra produce that it was going bad before I could use it.  I tried to give it away at church, but there are only so many green peppers people need.  I decided to put out a table with my extra produce and offer it to those passing by.  Once my garden, and my friend’s, starting producing more we were able to add items that were more than our families needed.  As time has gone by, I’ve also gotten better at starting seeds and was able to put out some of my own garden plant seedlings this year.

There are several ways to do a produce stand.  You need to figure out what works for you.

  1. Will your stand stay out all the time or is it something you will put out in the morning and bring in at night?
  2. Will you be close by to help everyone who stops by or make it more of a self-serve setup?
  3. Is this something you want to do at your home or elsewhere?
  4. How about going to farmers’ markets?
  5. Do you want to do it all season or just during specific produce’s harvest times (watermelons, tomatoes, corn, etc.)?
  6. Are you going to offer things besides produce?  Plants, artwork for the yard, things to go in the garden (trellises, pots, compost, etc.)

I decided that didn’t really fit my lifestyle to be outside with the stand all day, every day, so I chose to do more of a self-service setup. Others have done this too, which is where I got the idea that it was possible.  Every morning I put out the stand, put out a money container (I do empty this during the day if I see someone stop by with money or if I notice items gone), add price signs, then go about my day.  Just before dark, or whenever is the best time of me, the stand gets brought back up to the house.  I think if the house was further from where I have the stand, putting it on a wagon would work well.  If I wasn’t able to actually see the stand, this would make me more nervous.  However, because it is right in front of my  house, I feel I am better able to use this method.

Farmers’ Markets are something I tried for a few years.  It was fun but ended up not being worth it for me. (Read more here and here.)  Perhaps if there weren’t little ones I had to keep an eye on while doing it, this would be a different story.

I have not added extras to the stand, as in non-produce/plant items.  I thought about doing this at the Farmers’ Market this year, but then opted to not do the market at all.  I hope to one day have enough worms, for composting, to sell.  At this time, I am just trying to keep them alive.  They are.  I checked just yesterday.

Now, to follow a rabbit trail.

There is always a point or two during the season that I start to question my sanity in this.  Then something happens and I get renewed energy to keep going.

There was one time each of the past two summers where it was obvious someone had stopped by, yet no money was in the box.  We had not been having problems with this, so it was always a big blow to us.  More so because it wasn’t just a quarter or two.  Usually it was several dollars worth of stuff.  However, we would keep putting the stand out and just hope it didn’t happen again.  We would put it out a bit later in the mornings and bring it in earlier in the evenings, all while keeping a closer eye on it.

A few days later, someone would be knocking on my door; usually an older lady.  “I stopped by your stand a few days ago and got some produce.  I didn’t have enough money on me and am from out of town.  So I came by today to give you the rest of it.  Here you go.”  It would have been so easy for the person to not have stopped back by.  My faith in our community was renewed.

Or, the latest example.  This happened this past week, actually.  Items on the stand had not been selling.  I was tired of putting it out and bringing it in with no results.  Nothing.  “Why do I keep doing this?  Perhaps I’m just not meant to do it this year?”  Yup.  The “Oh woe is me” was going full blast in my head.  Then a note was left in the money box.  “beets?”  was all it said.  Now, if you remember a few weeks back was also when I had been canning up all the beets.  All 7 pecks.   It was actually put into the box on the last day of canning … when I had the last peck’s worth sitting in the pot, with no water over them yet.  The person had not come up to the door to ask.  I didn’t see it till after I started cooking the beets.

I was able to get beets a few days later and added the sign to the table.  “We have BEETS.  Ask inside by knocking on the door.”  Due to the heat, beets would not last more than a few hours outside without becoming icky and inedible.  One day.  Two days. (It was at this point I realized how silly the wording sounded, so I crossed off the last half.)  Three days went by with nothing.  Then another note was left in the box.  “I REALLY want beets.  I’ll be back tomorrow between 9 and 10 to see.  Thanks.”  Again, this customer had not come to the door, otherwise I could have told them I had beets on my kitchen counter.  I was starting to get a bit annoyed.

The next morning, I was sitting on my porch talking to my friend and getting ready to put out the stand.  A van slowed down as it approached my house.  It was the customer who was wanting the beets.  We took them down, talked to her and got to know her a bit.  Turns out, she has arthritis and can no longer garden like she used to.

“This stand is a blessing.  Thank you all so much for doing this.  I love to come by and see what produce you have.  You both are a God send.  When I get up in the mornings to take my pain medicine I always say a prayer for you and this stand. Thank you.”

That is when I realized my attitude had been completely wrong and self-centered.  There were other things going on in life and I let that affect my attitude about this situation.  Instead of being annoyed, I came away refreshed from the encounter and ready to take on the day.

I will keep the stand going as I have come to realize something about my produce stand.  There is more to it than me making money.  My neighbors are also being blessed by it.  Yes, I could try to charge a lot more in the hopes of selling and making a larger profit.  That is not why I originally started it and not why I keep it going.  Yes, it is nice to get money back from it.  No, I do not plan on getting rich.  It is a way to make a little extra money, in addition to paying for the items from the auction.  However, it is also a way to offer fresh produce to those around us that is cheaper than the stores, usually, and fresher.  We may not have the best selection around, but try to keep what we do have fresh and affordable.  This is why I keep doing it.