Friday, October 14, 2011

Eater beware

I'm a plant thief. Or rather, a branch thief. I realized today that it's nearly the end of the month, the month when the new greenhouse is supposed to be finished on campus. The botanical gardens will be wanting their plants back soon, and the library will look so empty. My coworker said that she'll miss the giant jade plant, but we now have three baby plants and one start from it. (They've all been from pieces knocked off--the plant is so old that it's very fragile and the only place to put it was in a high-traffic area.) Looking at all of the plants, I realized that the one I most want to keep is the begonia. My grandmother always had begonias so they're sentimental for me. But this particular one is special because when I received it, it only had one leaf. According to the greenhouse worker it had had some "hard times" before and had dropped almost all of its leaves. I've nursed it back to health week after week and it now has more leaves than I care to spend the time counting. It's beautiful. So I cut a small branch off for myself and I'll try propagating it in water on my desk. (It's what I did with the jade plants.) I read up on water propagation for begonias, specifically, and I should have cut enough off that this will work. Fingers crossed.
On the upside, not having all these foster plants around will free up a lot of space so I can put more of my own plants in here next summer. Growing the tomatoes was such a success that I want to see how well a bushy variety would work. I got three more cherry tomatoes today and the plants show no signs of slowing down. My pepper plant now has two more peppers on it. I wonder when their internal "kill switches" will trigger and they'll succumb to winter?
I found this interesting article from the New York Times about the watering down of the standards of the USDA organics label. First of all, I would like to point out that the article was written in 2009, only seven years after the label and the laws behind it were created. Secondly, they focused mostly on processed foods, although milk and dairy products were also of concern. This is one of the reasons I avoid any and all processed foods when I can, even the organic ones. Because they might not be as organic as you think. It's also a cautionary tale on reading labels. For instance, I prefer Tilamook yogurt over "organic" yogurts that I've tried. When I look at the labels, the organic ones full of all the "food products" that I wanted to get away from! Tilamook has real, whole ingredients. They also don't treat their cows with hormones. So they might not have the organic label, but I still say they're better for me.
One of my weekend projects, though, is to try making my own yogurt. If it turns out, I'll post pictures and the YouTube video I've looked at. Until now, I thought I'd need a crock-pot, or a dutch oven, or that I'd have to put it in a cooler with warm water for 12 hours, or something else completely ridiculous. But I found a video that shows how to utilize your microwave, so we'll see how it goes.
Another of my weekend projects is to sew produce and bulk bags for myself. Until now, I've been (mostly) reusing old bags that I've found around the house. I kind of thought that I'd use jars for all of my bulk items, but that means getting each and every jar weighed every time I go to the grocery store to get its tare. Then I realized that (duh!) other people use things like these organic muslin bags for their bulk and/or produce needs. And while I think that $17 for six organic bags is a pretty good deal, I'd also have to factor in shipping, my need for instant gratification, and the fact that $17 is actually a lot of money that we don't currently have in our budget. So I'm going to make my own. They won't be organic cotton, sure, but I'll get to reuse fabric from an old project (curtains for our cabin) that doesn't fit into our current apartment. (I tried to put up these curtains when we first moved, but they're completely the wrong size for the windows.)
I'm also going to reuse some of that fabric to make little sandwich covers. I saw this project a while ago when a friend posted it on Facebook, but I didn't like the plastic bags involved. I think, though, that I'll make something similar. I'm not sure what to use, though. I do want to make sure it's a little bit leak-proof so that I don't get vegetable juices, mayo/mustard and other things on the rest of my bag. So I might cut up an already-used Ziploc and cover it with a piece of cloth so that the plastic isn't directly leeching into my food. I've also toyed with the idea of using oilcloth, but real oilcloth (not the modern kind made with, you guessed it, petroleum) is hard to get ahold of and, from everything I've read, difficult to make. I do have a gift card to Joann's Fabrics, though, so I'll probably go check them out this weekend. I did find some organic oilcloth on their website, but it was an entire roll and only available on the internet. But no matter what, I'll probably need some supplies to get myself going on these projects so it won't be a wasted trip to the store. It will be very cool and worth it to do a little bit more to eliminate waste in my household.
If you're interested, there are a whole lot more tutorials videos on YouTube about how to make reusable sandwich and snack baggies.

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