Our Composting Tradition

Most of my life, I have lived with a composting option of some type. At Marandy Hill, growing up, it was a square block structure with a opening at the bottom for removing the finshed compost, and Dad paid more attention to it than the rest of us since he used the finshed compost for making up potting soil mixes. Since moving here in 1998, I've had a simple chicken wire bin setup that works fairly well, but I'm ready to change that a bit. I just orderd a Compost Sak to use instead of the old bin, in the hopes that it will break down the compost faster and it will allow me to move the compost setup to a more convenient location closer to the garden. I'm going to set the Sak next to the ramp we built last year for the dog, and if works out as planned, will probably get a second Sak as well.

I've also decided to migrate a bit to container gardening using fabric pots, such as Smart Pots. Since our soil is generally pretty poor, it's an ongoing battle to improve it sufficiently. The Smart Pot style of fabric pots will let me use less expensive soil mixtures. It should also make it much easier to control weeds, and hopefully, will make it easier to move some plants for over-wintering. My plan is to start by converting the section I had been using for herbs to individual fabric pots, since the herbs are among the plants that I know I will want to be able to move inside when the temps drop.

Honoring the Past

If my parents were still alive, they would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last week. Both of them had been raised on small farms in Pennsylvania and brought to the table a tradition of doing things for themselves and teaching their children to do the same. When I was about five years old, we moved to a "farmette" complete with several acres, nine outbuildings and a three-story stone house, all of which were in dire need of some TLC. the transformation of that property would occupy most my childhood and provide a hands-on learning environment that has served me well ever since.

Long before we arrived on the scene, the property had been the home of a fairly large dairy farm, but in the year since, the property had been subdivided many times, until all that remained was the part we purchased. My mother's interest in the history of the tract soon revealed that it had been named "Bear Thicket" at one point, but since none of us cared much for that name, my paternal grandfather came up with "Marandy Hill", a combination of my name and that of my brother. Most of the time, though, we were too busy to think much about what the place was called; it was enough just to keep ahead of the task at hand.

Stocking Up

I try not to wear a tin-foil hat too often or worry about how long it will take the zombies to reach my house during the apocalypse, but I do like knowing that there's enough food in the house to feed us for more than a day or two. When we first decided that the little 'pantry' in the kitchen was way too small, it was time to consider where to set up some additinal food storage space. On the lower layer on our split foyer, between the garage and the family room, is an unfinished area that houses the furnace, a powder room, the sump pump and the washer and dryer - we just call it the back room. Since the room is unheated and is closed off, we decided that it would also serve well as a food storage area. It's also cool and dark which is a real plus.

The shelving unit is barely a foot deep so it still allows to easy passage in the area and everything is easily accessible. We got the shelves at IKEA so they were very reasonably priced and went together quite easily.

The picture at the right shows them after assembly still sitting upstairs in the living room. Not shown is the fifth section that joins the two parts that we assembled first. The back room is an "L" shape and not terribly wide so we figured it would be easier to put four of the five sections together first where we had more room and then connect them together with the fifth unit downstairs.

There is something rather comforting about having a decent amount of food in the house, and in the years since we've added the storage shelves, I've really come to appreciate the convenience of having ingredients on hand. Since we live about 7 miles from the closest grocery store, it makes more sense for us to buy many items in bulk. They're usually cheaper that way and it definitely saves time and gas not having to run to the store as often. We also have a full size freezer that gets plenty of use as well, though I prefer to store canned foods more than frozen, just in case the power goes out for any prolonged period.

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