Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese

This is a reprint of one of my most viewed posts, from when I was on blogspot. This post was originally posted July 15, 2010. I made these for dinner last night, since beets are growing in my garden. Enjoy!

While watching wedding shows the other day, I saw the most fantastic preparation of roasted beets and goat cheese…looking at it made my mouth water.  Now, I have never been a beet person…but the beets I have had are the ones that came in cans from the store.  No wonder I didn’t like them.  After trying this recipe, I don’t think I will ever make beets any other way than by roasting them.  I started out by scrubbing the beets and cutting the greens and bottom tip off.   I used chioggia beets, but any kind will work.  I laid a piece of foil down on a cookie sheet, and poured a little olive oil onto it.

I put the clean beets into the oil, rolled them around a little bit, and then covered them with another piece of foil.  Then I scrunched the edges together like this.  I put them in the oven at 350 degrees.  I let them roast for about an hour and fifteen minutes.

I made sure they were done by sticking a knife into the center of each one.  If it went in easily, I knew they were ready to go.  I could hear the beets sizzling in the oil the whole time they cooked, and the smell was fantastic!

I let them cool a little bit, then pulled the skins off.  After roasting, their jackets just peel right off easily.  I cut them into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices and set to the side.  In a skillet, I mixed 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar.  You could also use rice wine vinegar.  I stirred the mixture and heated until it was bubbling nicely.  I put the beet slices in and cooked them for a couple of minutes on each side at a low simmer.  I took them out and put them on a paper towel to soak up the extra liquid. 

I didn’t get a good picture of the next step.  My intention was to cut the goat cheese into circular slices and stack them with the beets.  However, the cheese I got was too soft to slice, it must have been more the spreading kind.  I made it work, but if you want to try pretty stacks, get a somewhat more solid goat cheese.  Mine turned out to be little chunks, but I heated them for a little bit in a skillet with just a touch of olive oil.  You could grill them lightly if you had slices.  I put the beets on a plate, and topped with the just melting goat cheese chunks.  

I sprinkled a little bit of chunky salt over the top and then finished with some baby greens.  I used gala mache, but any kind would work. Then it was done, and I ate the whole thing.  You could roast many more beets if you were making this dish to share…I only made a few because I was eating it by myself as my lunch.  I couldn’t convince my son to try this, but he doesn’t like a lot of cheese.  I am going to try and get him to eat the beets on their own with dinner sometime.  Whether this was stacked or not, it was absolutely delicious!  I bet it would have been great with a glass of red wine. 

Havw you ever prepared beets like this? What are your favoeite ways to prepare beets in your kitchen?  I’d love to hear from you!

After The Rain

So, we are finally out of April now, or as I was calling it this year, “Monsoon Season”, and aways into May.  All that rain meant that I hardly got out into the garden at all, the whole month at April.  That also meant that I am seriously behind.  If you are serious about gardening, you know that you have certain tasks that you get done in the spring to prep your garden for the year.  Those tasks can be even more time-consuming when you garden organically, as I do.  I can’t just spray the weeds and have done with it.  There is a lot of time spent pulling weeds by hand or with tools, especially after the winter is over.  No matter how cold our winter was, it seems that the weeds quadrupled in number during the months I couldn’t get out and deal with them.

 

Though I am slightly overwhelmed (trying not to freak out), my spirits are high because so many of my spring flowers are starting to bloom.  The alliums are close, the dwarf irises are going crazy, and the tulips are in full swing, a little past their prime.  After I finish weeding, I can top my flower beds with a fresh layer of mulch and make everything look neat.  Chocolate brown is my personal favorite, though I never use the mulch made out of the actual cocoa shells.  Dogs can eat that mulch and become very sick.

In one of my flowerbeds, I found this thing.  I cannot figure out what it is.  At first, I thought it looked like one of my strawberry plants.

If you look at the center stem though, it has a tall, stacked look to it though, and it is obviously much larger than a strawberry plant.   I tried looking it up, and I thought maybe it was indian strawberry (duchesnea indica), but I wasn’t sure.  If anyone knows what it is, I would greatly appreciate input.  I have been holding off on pulling it until I knew better what it was.  It hasn’t bloomed yet, so I can’t tell you anything about fruits or flowers.

My vegetable garden is still ROUGH, so be patient with me.  At the point I took these pictures, I had turned over some of my garden, but I didn’t have very much planted yet.  The bed nearest the camera has spinach and radishes in it.  The middle bed has lettuce in it, and the farthest bed has beets planted in it.

Disregard the half dead basil plant in the background.  I got overly optimistic and planted the basil start I purchased, and then we had a really cold night.  As you can see, my basil paid the price.  Oh well, I can buy another basil.  As long as I’ve been gardening, I still make mistakes.  I heard a wise gardening person say once, “if you aren’t killing plants, you’re not taking enough risks in your gardening.”  I am not sure that statement applies to THIS situation, but we will go with it.

I do have my onions in…and this is actually a picture of that.  My neighbor laughed at me and said if I hadn’t told him those were my onions, he would have thought I just had straw blown around my garden, which I do.  I guess I see his point, the little onion plants haven’t been there long enough for the green shoot to come poking out of the top yet.  So the whole onion bed does have this dried out dead look to it still.  A month from now, and we will see a big difference.

So now that the rain is done, I am looking forward to making some serious headway in the garden.  Hopefully, the next time I post a garden update, I will have my tomatoes, beans, corn and peppers in.  I am definitely ready for the rest of spring, and some warm weather on the way.  What are you working on in your garden right now?  Are you behind like me, or have you got everything in yet?  Leave a comment and tell me about your progress in the garden this spring.

It’s a Berry Good Time for Planting

There is nothing like eating beautiful, fresh strawberries from your own garden.  The taste of homegrown strawberries is so superior to that of grocery store berries, you will never be able to eat store berries without noticing it again.  My son and I have a tradition of eating the first strawberry straight FROM the garden, right there in the bed in the garden.

I mean, come on!  You can’t look at this basket of berries without wanting to reach out and eat one.  The possibilities are endless: jam, smoothies, pies, fresh, cheesecake…need I say more?  I didn’t know this joy myself until three years ago.

I started my own strawberry patch with 50 plants.  I researched, planted, and waited.  And then I discovered that rabbits had eaten the tops off almost all my plants!  The rage I felt was undescribable.  I was so close to having rabbit stew for dinner.  Talk about eating local!

But I took a deep breath, sprinkled baby powder over all my plants, watered them diligently, and waited again.  Strawberry plants are amazingly sturdy and tough.  The chopped off plants regrew the buds and leaves, and started sending out runners.  I pinched off the blooms, let the plants put energy into roots, and patiently (excrutiatingly) held until the next year.  It definitely paid off…the next year we were bringing in five gallon buckets of strawberries.

You too can have success with your own strawberries at home.  The key is preparation that first year, and patience.

It all starts with understanding how a strawberry plant works.  The whole plant generates outward from what is called the ‘crown’.  The crown is the part that looks like it wrapped in red paper on some plants, and the part that my thumb and finger are around in the picture below.  The roots grow downward from this point, and the leaves and buds and runners grow upward and outward from it.

Strawberry plants look almost fuzzy, in a way, which makes them easy to tell from some other plants that they resemble.  Even the fruits have a fuzzy look to them up close.  The crown however, is smooth, and it is this point that sits right at, and slightly above the soil line when you plant it.

You should chose a sight with full sun, AT LEAST 6-10 hours a day.  This is important.  Turning your soil beforehand can help.  Before you plant, you may want to add some compost to your soil.  They like a pH of 5.5 to 7, if you like to know about things like that.  I never tested my soil pH, my berries did great, but perhaps I got lucky.  Amending your soil ahead of time is easier than after, but if your berries don’t do well, testing your soil pH may give you your answer.


You can see here that the crown is sitting slightly above the soil line.  As said before, this is important for healthy growth in the plant.   Now, different sources will give you different information about how far apart to place each strawberry plant.  I have seen 14 inches, 20 inches, but I feel like the CLOSEST you want to plant them is 8-12 inches apart.  A little further is better, but you definitely want no more than 3 plants for every 2 square feet.  In the picture below, they are planted about a foot apart in a double row.  I planted them this way in my patch, but left a wide space (more than 3 feet) in between the double rows.

You can see these plants have a good start, with buds on some plants that will soon turn into flowers.  On my new plants, I would pinch those off.  Not getting to eat many berries the first year is disappointing, but it will be worth it when you get a bumper crop of strawberries the next year.  Buds that form later in the season can be left on,  many types of strawberries form buds in late summer and the fall, that don’t turn into fruit until the next year.

I would also recommend mulching your plants the first year.  It may not be necessary in subsequent years, as your plants fill in and cover the ground themselves, but the first year, you need to protect your plants from getting choked out.  Strawberries do NOT do well with competition from weeds, especially things like creeping Charlie (ground ivy) or grass.  I use straw to mulch a lot of things in my garden, as I like its ability to cover the ground, while at the same time being very easy to move around, and it quickly biodegrades.  A lot of the straw will be gone by next year, so if you don’t need to mulch anymore, you don’t have to remove it.  I used straw around the plants, and then woodchips on the paths in between my double rows.

I don’t push the straw right up to the base of the plant.  I leave it a little space to breathe, because again, we don’t want to suffocate the crown.  Also, it needs room to send out runners, and a little bare dirt around the plant assists in that process.  You will just need to hand weed a little right around the plant if necessary.

I mentioned baby powder above.  If you have rabbits in your garden, and you don’t have a fence, baby powder is a great way to help keep the bunnies off.  I use baby powder on many things in my garden, because the rabbits think it tastes really bad, it is easy to apply, and easily washes off produce without being absorbed.   The downside of baby powder is that it has to be reapplied after a rain.  However, it is cheap, easily accessible, and will keep your plants intact until they grow larger.  Rabbits want young, tender new growth, and when your plants get larger and tougher, the bunnies will lose some of their interest.

Strawberry plants usually produce well up to 5 years.  Replace with some new plants every year or so to keep your berry quality high.  This is much easier than pulling them out and completely replacing them all at the end of 5 years.  Some people think that their strawberry plants aren’t any good, when the problem is that they are actually too old.

Do you have any tips for growing strawberries?  The best gardeners are always learning and growing (pun TOTALLY intended), and I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.

Broccoli! Broccoli!

 

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As long as I’ve had a real garden, I’ve grown broccoli.  Sometimes not so successfully, but every year, I’ve had some growing.  A lot of it is probably my attraction to broccoli cheese soup, but also, it is really easy to grow.  Whether you start your own seeds or buy some starts at a nursery, you can grow it too!

I started my seeds back at the beginning of February, but my seedlings haven’t done very well inside.  They probably should have been further along by now, but I’m not too worried about it,  because I know they will make up for lost time fast outside.  Besides which, I have my little homemade milk jug plant guards to help them out.  With a family of seven, we go through a lot of milk.  Instead of recycling these milk jugs, I saved them and rinsed them out, and cut off the bottoms.  Then I cut the handle in half, and took off the top, including the cap.  You’ll see why the handle is important in a minute.

If you take care of them, you can save them and use them from year to year, but mine were getting old, so I needed new ones for most of mine this time.  I try really hard to use things that I have laying around the yard or the house for my garden.  I just don’t have the budget to go out and spend a lot of money on fancy row covers and things like that from garden supply catalogs and garden centers.  I also feel an obligation to reuse things whenever I can, and reduce our waste, and the amount going into our trash can.

At this point in the spring, my garden is still pretty empty.  I have radishes, spinach, carrots, and some lettuces going on the west end, but you can’t see them in this picture.  Broccoli and onions (coming soon in another post) always go in the garden in April.  I make sure I have a bale of straw, or some other kind of soft, easily moveable mulch ready before I plant my broccoli.

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I started my seeds in little peat pot squares, which break down a little in the soil after you transplant the seedling into the dirt.  I don’t think they break down all the way fast enough, so I always tear open the bottom of the pot before I put it in the hole.  I use a trowel or my hand to make a small hole, and pop it in.

Now you are ready for the milk jug.  I just set it directly over the freshly-planted broccoli seedling, and then I take a stick and drive it down through the open hole made in the handle.  I make sure it goes down into the ground so it holds the milk jug in place, even in pretty high winds.

From the overhead view, you can see the stick going down through the side.  At this point, you can mix some compost in with the soil if you haven’t done it already, or you can wait and mix something in with your water later.

After you finish planting and covering all your seedlings, it will look something like this, depending on how many plants you are doing.  I did 14 plants, because I have a big family, and we eat a lot of broccoli.  I plant them in pairs, in a long row, so that I will be able to lean over the plants later when they get bigger, and cut off the heads.

There are several advantages to the milk jug covers.  One, is that it protects the seedlings from predators.  I have a bunch of rabbits, and without this covering, the bunnies would come along and bite all these plants off at the base.  Bye Bye broccoli.  The milk jugs go up high enough that the bunnies can’t get to the plant without sticking their head down really far into jug, which most rabbits won’t do.  The milk jugs might help with deer to a point, but if deer are a problem for you, you might need a fence to keep them away because the jugs won’t help when the plants are much taller.

A second advantage is that in my full-sun garden, the milk jug provides a little bit more shade, except for when the sun is directly overhead.  That way the tender broccoli seedlings don’t get sunburnt while they are getting used to being outside, after being in my basement for their entire life thus far.

Next I take the mulch and place it in and around the milk jugs.  This helps to keep weeds down around my seedlings, and helps (along with the jugs) to hold some moisture in for the broccoli plants while they are getting their roots established.

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I will admit, I also like the way the rectangle of mulch makes the row look neater as well.  Which helps later on when the garden starts to look a little crazy in mid-late summer.

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Later on, when the plants get really big, and the stem of the plants get much thicker, you can remove the milk jugs if you want, and just fill the straw in around the plant.  I don’t usually take mine off, I leave it until the plants are done before winter, and then I stack them all up at the same time and put them away in my garden shed.

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Straw makes an excellent mulch I think, as long as it doesn’t have a lot of weed seeds in it.  Even if weeds do start growing in it, they are super easy to go along and yank them out when it is garden weeding day.  They don’t have the hold that a weed does in the bare ground.  Straw also biodegrades well in one garden year, so I don’t have to remove it from my garden.  By next spring, most of it will be broken down, and I usually till or shovel in what is left, working it into the soil to improve the texture and provide lots of organic matter.

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Later in the spring, I’ll post some pictures of how my broccoli plants are doing.  It is really exciting when you go out and one day, your little seeding has a baby broccoli head starting in the center.  I will make sure to water these seedlings every day that it doesn’t rain for a while, so that they don’t get dried out and die.

Have you ever planted broccoli in your garden?  What are your favorite broccoli recipes?  Please comment and share them with me!

Just Some Apple Picking 


One of my favorite things to do in the fall is to go apple-picking. In fact, it is on our Family Bucket List for Fall, that I posted about last week. It gets you off the couch and outdoors, breathing the crisp, fresh fall air. 
We went to Center Grove Orchard, which is also one of our favorite pumpkin farms. This day, we skipped the squash, and headed right to the apples. Or so I thought. It used to be that the U-Pick apple trees were right in front of the main building, but with all the expansion they have done, that isn’t the case. Now, you go clear through the building to the ticket counter, get stickers for apple-picking, and then you have to wait for the hay-ride to take you back to the apple orchard. Not that I’m complaining about the hay-ride. The little boys loved that. 

When we got back to the orchard, we got to buy bags for the apples and THEN, finally, we were in the orchard. We walked clear to the back of the orchard, to get to the apples we could reach. We picked Cameo, Jonagold, and Chieften varieties. The Cameo and Jonagold are for fresh eating, the Chieften are for canning and pies (PIES!). 

The apples here were nice and low, and easy for the boys to pick without help. And of course, there was a lot apple-tasting going on. 

Once we picked the apples and filled up the bags though, we realized, “How are we going to get all these apples back to the car? Or the hay-ride, for that matter?” I’ll tell you, a bushel and a half of apples is not light, and two toddlers are no help at all. Struggling, we managed to get the apples to the hayrack. Once we got back to the main building, we spotted a wagon! 

Of course, this portion of the trip could not have happened without the help of our little guys. I really don’t know how we could have made it otherwise. 

It was funny, though, how many people were amazed by the amount of apples we had. Several people said, “Wow! What are you going to do with all those apples?” A few older ladies asked if we were going to make applesauce. One person asked if we were going to make a pie. 

The answer is yes, all of those things, but so much more than that. People have lost touch with the art of preserving. We are so used to going to the store and buying a jar of applesauce, that we don’t think about making our own anymore. Besides applesauce and pies, I find it a challenge to come up with ways to use the apples to make interesting things. For example, the apple salsa I made this weekend, is something you aren’t going to find in most stores. 

Would it be a lot cheaper if I had my own apple trees? Yes, of course. And that will happen, when we get our farm. Until then, our family will do what we can to put food back. The experience of picking the apples, and the act of preserving them connects us to our past and grounds us to the Earth. Everytime we eat something we made with the apples, we have ownership in the process. 

Okay, for now I will get off my soapbox, because I have work to do. I have recipes to plan and apples to cook, and these apples aren’t going to peel themselves. 

Feels Like Fall

Finally, fall is here. I’ve been waiting for it; the crisp, cool mornings, the leaves turning vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange, the sigh of the Earth as it puts on its last, most beautiful show. I am delighted to have an excuse to drag out my tall boots and sweaters and drink hot chocolate. I am secretly (not anymore) obsessed with pumpkins, and this is my time to stack them everywhere and admire their orange, bumpy ugliness. 

The abundance of autumn is now in full swing, and the time is right to do some of my favorite activities of the year with my family. I saw a Fall Bucket List on Pinterest a while back, and that really got me excited (cause my OCD-self is really obsessed with lists).  I took some of the things from their list, and added some of my own to make it more kid-friendly. 

1. Go apple picking at a local orchard. (We did this last Saturday ). 

2. Decorate your porch or table with fall flair. 

3. Take a drive to look at the fall foliage. 

4. Drink apple cider 

5. Bake an (apple) pie. 

6. Make something with pumpkin in it. 

7. Gather some fall leaves and do a craft. 

8. Wear a sweater, scarf and/or boots. (check!)

9. Go to a pumpkin patch (we will be doing this in a few weeks). 

10. Get lost in a corn maze. 

11. Go on a hayride. 

12. Watch a scary movie. 

13. Rake some leaves, and jump in them! 

14. Build a bonfire.
15. Watch a football game. 

16. Carve a pumpkin. 

17. Roast some pumpkin seeds. 

18. Pick out a Halloween costume. 

19. Make chili. 

20. Read some books. 

21. Watch some nature (watch some squirrels eat your pumpkins). 

22. Eat some candy. 

23. Make some cookies.

 

24. Make caramel apples. 

25. Gather pinecones. 

So there you have it. That ought to keep you busy until wintertime. I’m sure there are things that you and your family do during the fall that aren’t on this list. Feel free to comment and share your ideas. I would love to expand this list even further! 

What’s In Our Trash Can?

A few weeks ago, while wandering around the library, I found an interesting book.  It was the ‘Zero Waste Lifestyle  – Live Well by Throwing Away Less’, by Amy Korst.  I was intrigued by the title; I already do some simple things like composting and a little recycling, and I wondered how anybody could have ‘zero’ waste.  The premise behind the book is that we send sooo much trash to landfills that doesn’t have to be there.  All that trash in the landfill is either not breaking down, or it is breaking down and turning into harmful gases and liquids and leaking out.  The author challenges the reader to examine their own waste habits, and see what things they could divert away from the fate of the landfill.  Even if you don’t have ‘zero’ waste, maybe you can have a lot LESS waste.

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I’ll be honest, I haven’t finished the book yet.  Not because the book isn’t interesting; rather, it is the opposite.  I read a page and then set the book down to look something up on the internet, related to what I just read.  Or I find a passage that gets me thinking, and I kind of chew on it mentally for a day or so while I go about my daily routine.

One of the first things the author asks you to do is to assess your own trash situation. She recommends weighing your trash to get a base number to compare your waste amounts to later.  I did not want to weigh our trash, but I did think about how many ‘bags’ of trash we go through in a week, between garbage truck pickups.  I know that there are some weeks we take out a big black garbage bag almost everyday.  It’s at least 4-5 bags a week.  Add to that the training pants my son produces, since he is still potty training, trash from the yard and garage, scraps and trash from our basement remodel, and it adds up to a full-to-the-brim curbside bin every week when the truck comes.

With guidance from the book, I have already identified some areas where we can really eliminate stuff from going into the Big Brown Bin.

  • Food Scraps-  With seven people in our home, we have a LOT of food scraps. You would think with our big dog, we wouldn’t waste a lot of food, but you would be surprised.  I can’t just let him finish off that many plates.  For one, it’s just not good for him; that’s a LOT of leftover lunches, and for two, he was a weenie stomach.  I’ve never met a dog that gets intestinal distress from looking at a hot dog.  So, leftovers gone bad, dropped fruit, mushy apples, expired yogurt, you name it, all of that, it is going into the trash.
  • Paper Products That Get Wet- This is paper towels and tissues especially.  However, it can include some kinds of food wrappers made of paper or cardboard that touch food and get wet.
  • Plastic Containers/Plastic Hybrid Bags- Basically, this is what the majority of food comes in.  We buy a lot of single serving food items, and this adds up to a lot of chip and cracker bags.  There are water bottles, soda cups, cheese wrappers, and meat packaging, to name a few.
  • Bathroom Trash-  There are some bathroom trash items we just can’t get around.  No matter how hard-core I want to be, we are NOT getting rid of toilet paper.  Not with all the child-people I live with.  (That is a big HECK-to-the-NO).  On the other hand, a lot of tissues, hair and other disposable items get thrown away in the bathroom.

Since I started assessing the trash, I have been diverting things into other paths.  To be clear, your first and best ways to eliminate waste are the first two out of three R’s.

  • Reduce- Stop buying all the things that need to be thrown away in the first place.  Use your own containers and buy in bulk to eliminate wrappings and containers.  Buying less means less waste.
  • Reuse – Before you throw something out, think of how you can repurpose it and give it new life in your home (or someone else’s).

Then…after that…

  • Recycle –  Most people know about recycling now.  However, you are probably throwing things away that could be recycled.  Paper, cardboard, glass, tin, and many plastics can be reformed into new products.
  • Compost –  This kind of fits into the other areas, but I consider it its own pathway because it is recycling/reusing you can do yourself at your home. Food scraps and other items get turned into lovely fertilizer to boost your flowers and veggies.

Finally, after all that, you may have to throw something away.  After reading about some families that have attacked the zero waste lifestyle with zeal, I am quite in awe of how little trash they can produce with some (significant) effort.  Many of these families have a shoe box, or a jar with the amount of trash they have produced that year.  I am under no illusions that we will only fill a shoe box with trash in a year.  You have to set a goal that is achievable, though challenging, for your family.

So, I figured I would start with working us down to one (singular) garbage bag or less a week.  The first thing I did was restart my worm-compost bin.  I ordered new worms, filled the bin with bedding and started adding scraps.  Ta-da!  Worm poop fertilizer.  Easy peasy. Much to my family’s delight, I am keeping it in the bathroom for now.  Once a day I peek inside and give the worms a little spritz with my sprayer so they stay hydrated.  I have been throwing in food scraps, tea bags, the crumbs from the bottom of cereal bags, banana peels and the like.  Needless to say, the worms are very happy with their end of the arrangement.

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My assistant helps with the vermicompost (worm poop) collection. 

I am also adding to my backyard compost pile like never before.  All the other food scraps besides meat and grease, along with the wet paper/cardboard products go into a bowl to get dumped in the yard.  The downside of this, my pile is clear in the way far back of my yard.  Also, I am a lazy composter, so my pile biodegrades VERY SLOWLY.  I need to water it some, cut pieces smaller, flip it over to get air inside, that would all help.  I am going to work on those things.  I am also in the market for a compost tumbler.  I could have the kids work on turning it for a short while each day, and I’d get compost much, much faster. Plus I could make it much closer to my back door.  I also need to get a compost pail for the kitchen with a filtered lid, to keep it out of sight until I am ready to add it to my pile.

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My recycling has increased by at least double. I called the city and ordered a second recycling bin for free.  This way I can’t use the full recycling bin as an excuse not to recycle everything that can be.  I went on the city’s website and found out that I can recycle more types of plastics than I thought, so that means less plastic in my garbage bin.

I am buying less disposable items already.  My mother-in-law gave me a bunch of large flour-sack towels for cleaning, so I can use less paper towels.  I got out my childhood hankies, to reduce my use of tissues.  I am still looking for solutions for some of my disposable items, so this continues to be a work in progress.

At the end of the first week or so, this is my full trash bag.

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It is almost all plastic bags or some mix of plastic that can’t be recycled.  There are a few paper products in there that my family put into the trash. If I see them quick enough, I grab them out and put them in the compost.  I am working on training them, but it will probably take a few weeks before they remember about the napkins and such.  As for the plastic bags, I don’t know how much I will be able to do about that for a while.  I reuse bags when I can…but the only way to get rid of most of it, is to either make all my own snacks (love this idea, but I am not able to quit my job to have the time to make all our food from scratch) or to buy less single serve bags.  Part of the problem with that is the fact that I have four children between the ages of 12-15 (plus my assistant).  They are essentially a hoard of locusts.  If I bought large bags of chips/cookies/etc…they would devour them in a sitting or two unless I hovered over them monitoring their chip consumption.  I’m enough of a meanie already, making them do chores and stuff (rolls eyes) without being the chip-controller.  The single-serve chip bags SLOW THEM DOWN.  The packaging somewhat regulates the speed at which they go through the stuff.  I will keep looking for ways to reduce this type of waste, possibly when the children graduate from high school and move out.

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A bag from a box of giant pretzels, ready to be reused for ‘something’. 

I have a lot more things to think over on this subject.  For example, do I really want to be the lady that carries a glass straw with her everywhere?  Will my family stage an intervention for me if I get a composting toilet?  Will people think I am interesting or weird when they find out I make my own mascara?  These are deep, thought-provoking issues that I need to work over in my mind.  I still have a ways to go in the book, and I am sure I will dig up some more good articles and ideas on Pinterest before it is all over.  Bear with me, and share your ideas for eliminating or reducing waste in YOUR home in the comments.