Big Plans

Did you know that by the end of world war II 40% of American produce came from home gardens?  That just goes to show you that we can do whatever it is we put their minds to doing. 

This blog is a natural extension of my journey in living more sustainably, beginning with food.   I am learning all of these things.  A long-time city girl from way back, I have no mother or grandmother to learn from.  If I can research all the resources and give them to you, along with recipes and directions, hopefully you can do it too if you choose to.  If not, perhaps this will be an interesting read for you. 

The challenge for me – ditch the grocery store without suffering a family mutiny. My small children are becoming painfully aware that goldfish crackers don’t come from ponds and the grocery store is now off limits. I’m learning to replace this with that, where that is a healthier, more sustainable option that I create from my larder just like Ma Kettle would have.

I have big plans for this spring.  I began this journey in January – a time when hardly anyone attempts to grow much food save for a handful of salty farmers.  I picked January on purpose because it would give me time to learn the ropes while purchasing seasonal, organic food from local farmers without having to rush to preserve a harvest of my own. 

Right now I am learning and scheming and plotting ways to eventually feed my family from most of our own means.

I have plans to blog about:

  • Replacing processed foods with house made versions that still please a crowd.
  • Fermented foods such as kimchi, saurkraut and crock pickles that require no refrigeration or canning
  • Homemade vinegar (update ACK!)
  • Garage – grown mushrooms (update, found out they move into the foundation of your house)
  • Home cheeses, especially parmeson and gruyere because I cannot find them made closer than Wisconsin (check)
  • Growing your own chickens – both for eggs and for meat (check)
  • Canning, freezing and pickling things that cannot be cellared or otherwise “put up” without electricity (check)
  • Smoking and dehydrating foods (check)
  • Keeping an intensive orchard (check)
  • Beekeeping in the city (mason bees worked best for me)
  • Growing your own Victory Garden – in other words, growing your own groceries (check)
  • Herb gardening (check)
  • Growing berries – raspberry, strawberry, blueberry and lingon berry (check)
  • Goats milk and herb soapmaking – just because I’ve always wanted to (check)
  • Eating seasonally from all of this bounty (check)
  • Sustainable supplements – is it possible to find US high quality ones?
  • Sugar, oil and citrus options (check)
  • Sprouting and soaking grains and legumes (check)

If any of these topics interest you please add the RSS feed so you will get updates.  I welcome all comments and suggestions along my journey – I’m going to need a village and you are invited to join it!

25 Responses to Big Plans

  1. I have just started following your blog and I love it.
    Reading your post on cheesemaking, I saw where you got your milk from Dungeness creamery. I am traveling across country from Tennessee to the west coast, one of our main destinations is Sequim Washington. If you are near by I would love to get to meet you and see your garden and chat about sustainable living.


  2. Hi Leslie,

    I’m in Seattle so anytime you make it here give me a shout – I love to talk about this stuff!

  3. Hi Annette,

    OK, I’m a NewBie to your site, but loved the write-up in the local paper. I just finished Animal Vegetable Miracle and now need to convert my 2- and 6-year old kids (easy) and my 38-year old one (hard), but their desire for chickens might just wear down daddy …

    Have many of the books you recommended, but will buy the nitty-gritty how-to ones ASAP. Looking forward to the Tilth chicken-coop tour on Sat! Hope we can meet up one day.

  4. Hi Grace – good luck! My husband never *quite* gave in so we just sprung the hens on him one day. I promised I wouldn’t do that with the meat rabbits! Are you in Seattle? If so I’ve had 3 garden tours this summer and will have one in the fall. I’d love to meet you!

  5. I just started reading your blog, also. Do you have a date for your fall garden tour, yet? I would love to see it.

    • Hi Cheryl, I have to put the fall tour plans on hold given the book deadlines and amount of time I’ve spent coordinating the bulk produce buys this fall. I’m so sorry! I will take some film footage and add a virtual tour though. I’m still buttoning everything down and planting out for fall/winter/spring. I’m really behind!

  6. Hi again (frequent visitor to your blog), I am really happy to see your well-thought-out plans for what you intend to blog about when you can… it’s a great strategy to lay things out to whet your appetite (motivation?) and entice us (me) back again and again! I wish I had such a great list! (I’m currently slacking on the blog- having a difficult time wrapping my head around current struggles). I do wonder, with all of your intense goals, if you have a sense of urgency about accomplishing so many skills and getting to the level of sustainability you’re aiming for. Do you ever worry about not being able to do it all? Maybe ‘worry’ is the wrong word. As much as I love the concepts and the ideas and learning, I find it all a bit overwhelming- although I understand breaking things down into tiny steps, (my steps are micro tiny increments), I see those who are busy getting their hands dirty in the process and I haven’t yet but hardly started – and it seems like I’ll be 80 before I get there.
    Maybe if you have time, you could map out a kind of schedule you keep and plan to keep in keeping up with all of your projects and actual chores? I can see keeping a dozen hens- clean the coop once a week, get feed once a month, super-clean the coop 2x year down to the corners…but now you’re talking about cheesemaking and all those berries (which need pruning and harvesting and preserving…) so how do you do it all – how do you factor what you’re able to take on- or how do you make plans to keep up with it? (I recall the Walton’s did a lot, but there were a lot of them to share the chores, right?)
    Sorry for all the questions- your progress & agendas are just amazing!
    And congrats on the book!

  7. Hi Illoura,

    Thanks for posting! Someday I am going to go through this list and link everything to the blog posts where I’ve talked about it all. Such a long list have I! I did have an intense sense of urgency the first year but I think in retrospect it was pent up energy just emerging from my hidey hole of young children and frustration from not being able to do anything. Suddenly when I could I went a little crazy!

    Here’s what I think: if you go at too fast a pace you will burn out anyway. Keep on with those tiny steps and make real change that is lasting and comfortable. There WERE a lot of Waltons and they all helped out. The reason it has worked for me is because I am highly motivated to ditch the food grid but it is tiring at times. I’ve scaled back on canning and planting annuals and have focused instead of perennail or reseeding vegetables so that I don’t do much gardening anymore. I’m fermenting things, storing things in the garage and eating in season so that I don’t do so much canning. It makes it much more manageable. And that is how the Waltons ate too. So they had more help and ate differently then we do. They didn’t can everything in sight. Just enough to accent seasonal foods. So remember that and cut yourself some slack!

  8. This is such a great project! We have a urban farm in West Philadelphia and have already seen the benefits of organic gardening while combatting hunger in Philadelphia. We’ve already handed out about 300 pounds of food this summer. Gardening is a fun way to get great nutrients and improve health! Keep up the good work!

    • Annette Cottrell

      That is so awesome! I used a refractometer to test our overwintered carrots vs grocery store ones and it really confirmed for me that every minute spent growing food is worth it! What a great haul of food you had for the food bank!

  9. This will be my third year gardening coming up. I have redesigned my raised beds (fewer, bigger beds and more square feet). I hope to extend my season next year to winter. I am getting some columnar apple trees to grow in pots. I really appreciate all the info in your blog! Hopefully I can hit one of your tours sometime. I live in Monroe so i think we’re pretty close!

  10. Hi Larry – thanks for your comment. A few months ago we moved from the city to near Ames Lake so not so close but a nice drive on the backroads. I’m still getting things set up here since we moved late into gardening season. I’m working on the orchard through December and then in the spring will get back to the gardens (several different permaculture style gardens to maximize production). They are *sort* of raised beds but big – one is about 100′ x 20′ and the others are 20′x20′ keyhole style plantings.
    Everything I’m doing here could be replicated in the city on a bit smaller scale. I’m still doing dwarf tree stock and mini Nubian goats for instance and will have several small food forests so people in the city can see that they can have the same size garden. So hopefully this spring you’ll get some ideas from that. I like the bigger beds because they are more flexible. Next summer I’ll be blogging a lot more about winter gardening but unfortunately this year I have not been able to garden so I’ve got nothing to blog about it!

  11. Do you know what the percentage is of produce coming from backyard gardens is now in 2011? I’d be interested in finding that out.

    • Annette Cottrell

      Jennifer I wish I did – that would be fascinating wouldn’t it? I’m sure it’s fairly small though. But the more we inspire others to garden the higher it gets.

  12. Hi Annette,
    This Friday I will share my growing interests with Veggie group on the topic of growing winter vegetables. I appreciate your chart on how much do I need and suggestions on balancing that out with CSAs and local/seasonal foods. I picked up Graham Kerr’s book (he’s in Mt Vernon and wrote Growing at the speed of Life; a year in the life of my first garden),at Focus on Farming. He lists basics and then 34 veggies with stats and includes 100 recipes. Nice primer. Your book is the best! Happy holidays. Chris in Everett.

  13. Hi Annette,

    Started reading your book. It’s way cool.
    I’m reading the chapters in reverse order, for some reason.
    It’s brilliant.
    Thanks for somehow finding time to write the thing.



    • Annette Cottrell

      Jim I have started books in reverse order (my whole life). I never go through a book the way you are supposed to. When I sat down and outlined this book I honestly said “I want a book that someone can pick up and begin at any point in the book.” so I’m glad it’s working for you! Thanks for commenting.

  14. Love yout site! I signed up for the challenge and just ordered copies of your book for my daughter and myself. I live in Auburn so it’s great to find info about local resources too. This is a great thing you’ve got going here! Thank you!

  15. Couldn’t be more delighted that we finally met at the Flower and Garden Show
    Looking forward to a little ‘companion planting’ for the common good.
    Benedicere ( it means ” to announce good thingsnand affirm one another”)
    Graham Kerr.

  16. Annette,

    Thanks for an awesome blog. I read the Urban Farm and loved it, there are so many good ideas and a lot of information in there! I have been trying to feed my family a healthier more natural diet and little by little we are getting there. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  17. My family is in the middle of purchasing a home on 5 acres. I am excited about starting to homestead and also extremely nervous! We already garden, square foot garden right now, which I will take with us, and we keep chickens. I canned some foods last year for the first time. Once the move takes place, we can figure out a plan to continue becoming more self reliant.

  18. Shambala, on Camano, has goat milk.
    Makes good mozzerella and chevre.
    Contact them for info.

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