A great garden is all about knowing how to use what you grow. How to maximize your space. How to really make am impact
This may be your first year growing your own. Maybe you have done it before and found it wasn’t enough. Maybe you grew so much you didn’t know what to do with it all!
1) Start a planner for the garden or add some pages to your journal.
Here are some planner ideas:
-general drawing plan including space measurements.
-lists of which foods, how much space, how many plants (to produce in the optimal growing season), standard growth rate (which varies greatly on each variety) and a place for how many plants you need in order to sustain that.
-where you can list pest issues and your favorite ways to help combat pests.
-seed log, for when you save those seeds. Also how you got them, the general germination rate on that batch and when they started (so you can tell, based on how they did later in the season, good reference to see if you need to adjust your start date).
-fertilizer log, how you made it/ where you got it and how often used and on which plants.
Nothing beats a good plan. Knowing what you need, as far as seeds, how much soil, etc. will save you and your family money in the long run. Because we all know the most successful grocery trip is the one with the most deals. If you are gardening to feed your family at a more reasonable rate, splurges should be a minimum.
2) Calculate how much you need and have the plans to store it.
KNOW WHAT YOUR FAMILY LIKES AND KNOW HOW MUCH YOU NEED!
The idea of a garden is not always to be completely sustainable but the goal is to sustain as much as possible. Gardens are an investment. They are a lot of money, either in the value of the time it takes (and do not discount your time) or buying starter supplies. And
trust me, you want the most out of it.
This is one of the biggest food wastes I see. Even on the most popular pages. Inadequate food preparedness and definitely a lack of proper food handling. If you can your salsa incorrectly, it will be a waste of all your labors, at best. At worst, you can fall ill. If you have no plan for 32 cucumbers a week, you wasted potential space for production for your family. Maybe you found out your family are not die hard collard green fans... don’t plant it next year. Save that space for plants you know you and your family love.
Be sure to be in contact with local charities who will take your home grown overflow. This is absolutely VITAL for all gardeners. It takes your overage (even I have it) and turns it into a meal for someone else. I do not like donating homemade canned goods. Sadly, most can not be tested on site for bacteria and are tossed. Understandably so.
3) Know your time zone and plant accordingly.
Yes, we grow corn. In our area it thrives and does not require that much space for our needs. But it may not be the case for you. You may need to start them sooner or later. Investing in seeds or plants for a garden is all about timing. You must know your personal growing season. While this does take some amount of intuitive practice (I swear I get the spring itch exactly when I need to start late indoor seedlings!) starting with online resources can give you a pretty good idea of where to start. This is where the above seed planner helps you track how you did growth and production wise. Write down how you did so you can look back.
Also, account for plant locations. I have to shade a lot of my plants partially in the summer in order to maximize their growing season. Nothing worst than a snap pea seeding out on your right before harvest or losing half the potential because it was started late/ had a hot spring. Maybe the only thing worse is seeing almost fully developed pumpkins freeze on the vine. I have done both and learnt quickly that I needed to reevaluate my plant schedule.
4) Be prepared for set backs.
Pests. Pets. Heat. Snap cold spells. BE PREPARED. The weather is all over the place these days. Our climate here has dramatically changed since I began gardening. (Weather and climate are not the same thing) I could always put my babies in a certain time, without worries. Now? Snow in May and not just a sprinkling. Horrible heat waves in summer. Some springs we skip the snow and hit immediate heat waves. Some summers it’s so rainy, we don’t get enough sun for the sun loving plants.
My point is, be prepared for that. It’s not the easiest to know what year you will get and when. But if you have the right tools and knowledge at your disposal, you can face any of these problems and make it through alright.
We had heat in spring, no rain and my saplings made it. We had 3” of snow and none of the starters in the ground were lost. One summer we had massive flooding. The locus years are particularly hard on seedlings and in that same year, we had a type of flea aphid contamination in our mulch. All of those could have wiped out the garden those years but it didn’t because we knew how to combat it.
5) Know when to make your own... and when not to.
I have been gardening most of my life. My mom talks about how my father use to garden with me on his hip when I was a babe. I’ve been through all the phases, and that includes the phase of buying everything I thought I could ever need. That doesn’t mean you will have guaranteed success, trust me.
For instance, a snap pea shade set up you create may work so much better and last longer than a shade you purchase. With the right build, it will last for years. Garden boxes are easy to assemble! Buying bags of soil is almost silly once you know how to improve your own. Fermented compost is worth starting the year before for those amazing results in your compost.
If you know how to or are willing to learn, make the most of it. It’s like a newbie in any craft. Start with one thing until you master it. Don’t move on when your first product is bare minimum or okay, and definitely do not settle for bad or untested. A garden is an investment. So the less you put in, the more you make out.
On the flip side, making things can and will go south if you do not take the time to learn it correctly. Mistakes cost, that’s just the bottom line. If your shade set up collapses during a rain storm, you wasted time and money... and now have to rush to try to salvage the plants above and below. If you don’t know how to do it correctly, don’t do it. In this case, it’s great to purchase something can will last longer than the half-attempted creation that may go to waste or cause damage. DIY isn’t always cheaper, or more ecofriendly, when it costs in the long run or wastes resources. When if your supplies are second hand, there is a better way to prolong the life of those supplies.
Basically, Know when to fold them. Know your limits but utilize your skills.
6) Plan to save all your seeds!!
This is absolutely one of my most favorite parts of gardening but may very well be someone else’s least favorite.
Collecting seeds from your plants can be one of the most rewarding things you can do. It means next year, you don’t have to buy those. Saves you money and that’s the entire goal of practical gardening. Save resources, save money and produce food.
Knowing how to get the best seeds, seed that has reached full potential to minimize the amount of duds is worth it’s weight in salt. Knowing how to properly store them is key.
For me, I have to organize things. It’s just a kink of my brain. Organization is calm to my anxious brain. The more organized, the better.
I suggest a small organization container (I got mine at a thrift store, pre-owned) and it makes spring a joy. The strongest plants yield the strongest seeds, and I have them right there. Some of my seeds are 10+ generations old. Not only does it save money, but it really is amazing to think about.
And that’s about all for today.
I hope this blog was able to get you in the spirit of the up coming season! Because, yes, now is the time to plan. Not in spring. Now.
Much love and plants for days,
The Smart Girl in Pants
Oh cookies. Such a staple around the holidays! Let me assure you right now, these are so easy. I prefer to call them Every Frickin’ Day Cookies (Via The Smart Girl in Pants smart mouth...).
One year I did a vegan daily cookie challenge for the holidays, every day (give or take... I did have one day of 5 cookies sooooooo... Mayhap I wasn’t the absolute best at the “daily” part. But I did to all 30!). So cookies, to me, are the holidays. We decorate them. We leave some for Santa. We do the things.
This year I was particularly under the weather and multiple hospital trips took a lot of my time away and willpower away. I HAD to make cookies though. On this very cold night I felt rather less horrid than many previous nights. I decided, get them done. We can decorate them later. At least make them!
And thus, this amazing cookie was born!
My cookie cutter is from a wonderful seller on Etsy! Sadly I can not find the information but I loved it so much, I got two of them. One for the biz and one for whims as this. We, of course, did several obligatory holiday themed shapes as well but these stole my heart.
As for the recipe. I have a HORRIBLE high standard for cookies (see above, 30 days of some crap recipes. Not going to SUGAR coat it. Haha...) I want too much. I want it to stay shapely. I do NOT want rocks, though. I also can not stand too much fluff. Has to be vegan. Last but not least, has to be versatile. I want these cookies to easily accept chocolate. Ganche. Tons of frosting, because let’s face it. Smart kids or not, they love my frosting recipe!
They hold their shape fantastically. Any errors are admittedly the users (mine).
This was a quick recipe and I am in Love.
I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Flour. It has xanthan gum already, which is so much easier to use knowing you won’t have to search for gluten free xanthan gum powder. Clearly an impossible request in my area. It is also THE MOST fabulous bread flour!
Here it is via affiliate link below. We are a part of the amazon program so I will get a small kick back if you lovingly decide to purchase though this link. No added cost to you!
Now that is out of the way. Less talk, more cookie.
Gluten Free +Vegan Rolled Sugar Cookie
2 1/3 c. Gluten free flour (if you do not have the brand aforementioned, please add 1/4tsp gluten free xanthan gum)
1/2c coconut oil (easily replaced with vegan margarin)
3 Tsp vegan protein powder (because yes, I want yum and good for you)
1/2 c sugar (powder subs will work just be sure to check substitute listings on product)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp of flax gel or egg replacement of equivalent value to one egg
pinch of pink Himalayan salt (or just plain salt, you do you and what you have!)
Optional: you MAY add flavorings at around 1tsp per batch. I did not because the protein powder I have is simply divine.
You may also add colorants! Still with FD colorants such as food coloring or gel. I personally love to make my own food safe floral pigments (let me know if you are interested!)
I do NOT refrigerate these! I mix all my wet and slowly incorporate the dry. That’s it. It will be a thick dough. Don’t let it beat you. Incoperate until all combined. Roll out immediately, or if you feel fancy, refrig for 10min.
I roll mine out to 1/4 to 1/3 thick. Very thin. Roll on a flour dusted surface!
As for freezing dough or cookies, let me know! These do NOT last but a moment in my home or my fellows homes.
Pop in the oven at 350f and watch them. At least the first go. In my oven, I took ten minutes until cooked and not brown. In my friends, at 10 minutes we had a bit of brown going on. These are the picture of the second round. She told me if I didn’t post this, she would. I had no choice!
Let cool. I’m not joking. Let them cool. If you don’t, they will feel mush and break. Cool before removing from the pan.
Mine are a bit of crunch on the exterior and soft and pillow inside. Perfect strong enough to take the most lethal of decorating!
Gice them a go! Not just for the holidays! I also did not roll some and just balled them and put vegan candies I had made in the center after cooking! They are not just for rolled kitchen art, my friends! Snickerdoodle knocks, totally happening.
I am imagining a dessert calzone... is that the Italian in me showing or what?!
I am secretly enjoying one now as I listen to the coyotes outside on this amazingly cool winter evening... I hope you can enjoy them in whichever season is your calling.
Much love and cookie things,
The Smart Girl in Pants
At the end of a loooooong day of shipping and packaging orders, running a homestead and school work... I don’t mind caving into my sweet tooth.
We have been so busy recently that it’s enough to make my head spin. I love it but my goodness!
Making taffy has been one of those *things* on my to-do list and today it got to-done!
I decided to play with some fire and NOT individually wrap the candies that are staying at home. I am sure they will begin sticking together eventually but for now they seem fine.
As far as sending some to my taffy loving friend, I did wrap them in mini vegan wax wraps... soooooo adorable! She is sending them back for refills (she’s a smart cookie!).
So here is my SUPER easy recipe, the hardest part of this recipe is judging the sugar stages and pulling. If you have achy hands, maybe find another loyal human to help!
Vegan Salt Water Taffy Recipe
2/3 cup salt water (I like to use a blend of actual dehydrated sea salt from salt water a friend makes and pink Himalayan. About 1tsp of Salt for that perfect “sea salt” flavor)
*ALSO! You may brew a STRONG tea with this salt water and use that to flavor your taffy!
1 1/4 c sugar (I like to use 3/4 regular sugar and 1/4 sugar in the raw. You lay up your raw sugar but remember the color will be reflected in your finished product)
3/4 c homemade or store bought corn syrup
3 Tbsp coconut oil (reserve 1 Tbsp for hands later)
1 Tbsp arrow root or powdered sugar blend
Splash of additional flavoring (check our blog archive for how to make your own!)
Firslty, boil ALL the ingredients listed above, saving addition flavors and your extra 1tbsp coconut oil for later.
This is the tricky part, getting your sugar mix to the correct temp. Every time I use a thermometer, I fail. So my tried and true way of testing is with a cup of cool cup of water. Cook until your sugar mixture forms a sturdy ball. If you drop it in and it’s hard as a rock or splinters, you WAY over cooked it! The ball should be “taffy” consistency. Tough and solid but not IMPOSSIBLE to manipulate.
If you over cook, you’ll have solid candy. If you under cook, it will be sticky as heck. Remember, solid, mailable ball!!!
Once you reach this stage, pour off into a contain (prepped with oil and non-melting, this is HOT) to cool. Once it’s cool enough to touch, start your stretching! This is a work out so get on it!
It should turn a bit of a lighter color as you go. Keep it up!
*If you are making this to give away, please wear gloves. Due to the fact that this does require manual manipulating and Body Oil is virtually impossible to completely strip from your hands. It’s sanitary and safe. I buy bulk biodegradable gloves. I also have kitchen gloves. I can reuse my kitchen gloves many times over just by washing them.*
Once you feel it’s perfect (or you are just exhausted) roll or stretch into a thin amount and cut with some oiled scissors! I do not like to powder these after... but if you want to help avoid them sticking together, go for it. I would recommend a blend of potato starch and powdered sugar.
and ta da! You did it! Congrats! We have officially veganised another recipe!
Love ans taffy things,
-The Smart Girl in Pants
I don’t know if you know... but I love the cold. I would definitely say I’m a winter human. The complete and utter peace when you step outside during a winter’s night is just my space. The humming of lives is calm and quiet. It’s perfect for someone as empathetic as me. The complete calm.
That being said, I also like comfort foods. I, opposite of the summer folk I know, lose a lot of weight in the winter. Possibly due to never wearing a coat and those midnight runs in the snow. But who knows.
To help warm my soul after a good midnight run, I love soups. Not any kind of soup, creamy and thick soups. Meals in a bowl. Yes.
I am still digging up potatoes from this harvest! So winter of potatoes it is.
Our vegan potato soup is Rich, decadent and creamy. I had someone request I even bring it to a thanksgiving meal! Soup at thanksgiving? K!
And Instant pot. Because it’s JUST SO EASY! Ever since my bestie, Carolyn, got me hooked... IVE BEEN HOOKED! I even canned some green beans this year!!!! Low fuss, just toss and press some buttons. It’s made me love cooking again... because it frees up SO MUCH TIME!
If you want to do this on the stove top or Crock, directions below!
Here’s my recipe, feel free to play with any of the measurements!
Creamy Vegab Potato Soup
-2-4 potatoes (if you have tiny ones, 4-5 should do it.) Cubed, I prefer the skins on.
- 3 cups of veggie stock (or just cheat, like I am here and add water. Making the stock as you go!)
-1/2 an onion (I like red or yellow but you do you, sis)
-celery seed (I say about 1/2tsp)
-1tsp holy basil (plain basil or thyme works)
-1 tsp herbs de providence blend (feel free to subby)
-2 large garlic cloves, minced
-1 cup condensed soy milk (or any other plant based milk)
- 4 TBSP Vegan butter sub (coconut oil COULD work but I love the flavor and texture the butter gives)
-3 Tbsp flour
-salt and pepper to taste
*Feel free to add vegan meat subs BUT maybe wait to add them after the pressure cook? Unless you want to just make seitan in the pot, then by all means! You can find my seitan recipe on here and I will update it to include instant pot seitan!*
*I also sometimes add nutritional yeast for a cheesy taste and tons of good-for-me yum! Just add it AFTER cooking!*
*I added some vegan sour cream I made on top and some herb-y goodies.
If you want to do this all in one pot, start with a cup of water, your butter and the flour in the pan. Make a paste and add EVERYTHING else! Stir a bit in to your base paste and mix well to ensure it all comes together. NO LUMPS ALLOWED. Eh, the potato lumps with help later on.
I like to pressure cook for 8 minutes. Naturally release (don’t pop the top sooner or release early) and TADA! I like to smoosh a few potatoes to add to the richness, less water more creamy soup.
Low hassle, perfection ready to go!
For the crock, same as above. Crank it on high and mix your flour mix until it begins to thicken. Then plop it all in! Crock for 3-4 hours, checking often.
Stove top, mix your flour thickener, and plop. Bring to a boil then lower temps to a medium until potatoes are tender.
Next up, Pumpkin soup. Oh let me tell you. It’s a TREAT!
See you in the snow,
-The Smart Girl in Pants
I am a lover of the rich, tangy cold treat. Especially in the winter. I don’t know why but I love a cool treat during a cold day! Weird? Maybe. I even make homemade fo-yo with this. No joke, it’s amazing. Thick and creamy!
It has not been an easy journey finding a perfect vegan yogurt. Soy yogurt was easy, just follow the recipe that comes with the instant pot with soy milk and a yogurt starter. Done.
But I wanted MORE. Or actually, less. I was sick of buying soy milk. I wanted to use my own milk and NOT end up with a watery mess of nasty.
And that is how we arrived here!
VEGAN YOGURT RECIPE
•3 1/2cups of your choice of plant based milk (your personalized recipe can be calculated in an app called MyFitnessPal.)
such as oat, hemp, rice, coconut, almond, walnut, acorn, cashew... the list keeps on going!
•2 scoops of vegan protein powder (I chose one with calcium, vitamins and minerals. Why not make this treat a good one!)
•2 tsp xanthan gum (I use gluten free). This is your main thickening agent. You definitely need one! Agar agar would work as well.
•2 Tsp arrow root powder or corn starch. (Another thickening agent)
•1/2cup of yogurt starter (this can be from a previous batch of yogurt or a store bought)
*2Tbsp sugar, this can be omitted based on which plant milk you select and/or additional ingredients you choose. Many ingredients already contain naturally occurring sugar! If you believe you have enough sugar to sustain your starter, try it! I generally like to add the sugar, just to be sure!*
-You may spilt or double this recipe, respectively!-
and what ever additional ingredients you would like! Fruits, nuts... just be aware that the more liquid based ingredients you add, the less thick your yogurt will be.
Sanitize your jars. While those are being sanitized, heat your milk base. You want it just under boiling, so your xanthan gum and corn starch/arrow root will incorporate. Let it cool completed to room temperature as the jars are cooling. Add your vegan protein powder, sugar and starter!
Add enough water to the base of your instant pot to meet your steamer plate (I don’t like my jars sitting IN water. Just enough water to retain some heat). Place your jars inside, close and keep warm for 15 minutes. Then unplug it!!! Leave it alone (no peaking) overnight and by the morning, plop them in the fridge. Few hours later and you have BEAUTIFUL yogurt! If you strain it, it will get even thicker!!!
My last batch I added an extra tsp of xanthan gum and I was able to WHIP it!!!! Whipped vegan vogurt? Yessssssss.
Give it a shot! I know I am saving SERIOUS money just making my own milks. Adding the protein powder ensures I still get some nutrients along with my probiotics. It’s just a win win!
Be sure to do your due diligence as far as homemade goods and shelf life! Be sure everything is highly sanitary before making. The nutritional values and the shelf life all depend on which milks you use, how you made it, what you add and how you store it! If there is more liquid then when you first made it, there is mold present or it smells strange, that is a sure fire sign that it is definitely bad. Keep refrigerated for longest shelf life. You can even freeze it for a longer life, plus it’s an easy and quick additon to smoothies and drinks!
Love and Yogurt,
~The Smart Girl in Pants
Upon waking this morning, I found that the pre-order of Stardew Valley had arrived!
As a lover of homestead life and video games, I have always been quite obsessed with games that allow homestead building (not just farming based app games).
I tried this wonderful 8bit styled game this morning and what it lacks in new ages graphics, it makes up for with its detail and massive story mode opportunity. It’s like a grown up version of my favorite weekend DS games.
As far as inclusivity, it is unknown if we can chose a same gender spouse but personalization options are great. I chose a rather alien
-silver pigment for my person. You can chose your gender (two choices; male or female), hair, clothing and aforementioned hair color, as well as eye color.
As far as first impressions go, this is looking like a very immersive game! I played for 10 minutes (all I had time for) and was HIGHLY impressed!
I already encountered my first ‘night creature’ and bought seeds to begin my farming journey!
My only gripes... walking is SLOW. I’m sure there is a run option, I have yet to find it. I also got SUPER lost in the huge town but eventually found my way back, with lazy exploring.
If you love indie games and homestead ideals, this game may be a good one. Not sure if it’s for the kiddies though!
-The Smart Girl in Pants
Today we have an exciting new Gettin’ Green Blog about a small business we just ADORE!
When MeeriiD launched, I honestly didn’t expect to make a lot of close friends, since I’m really shy. Vicktoria’s jewelry drew me in, her supoort for her fellow creators was heart warming and her friendship is one I truly am grateful for!
What I love most about her jewelry that she truly takes the time to create one-of-a-kind works of art for each of her customers. That’s something you can’t just get anywhere!
She even has big plans for the future! “My goal in the not so far future is to actual do the smithing myself of silver and such so I can make my own bases.” Which I think is absolutely astonishing! Her based now are allergen free and from only the best sources.
I asked her how she makes steps to be as eco-friendly as possible and I was not disappointed!
“All my pendant bases are nickel and lead free. When I cut them (the stones) myself, the chips are used in resin molds or used in chakra bottles as charms for earrings/necklaces. from my knowledge my stones are resourcefully mined. Slave or strip mining. I buy from other small businesses. (Soon I will be mining as much as I can myself). When I cut my stones, the water is poured into a bucket that I have placed a fine mesh screen on (that’s how i get the chips) and then the water is recycled to use in working with the stones. Each piece is produced by hand. So love and care goes into every piece I make.”
We are so proud of you, Vickoria, and wish only the best things for your business! Thank you for being such an amazing artist!
~The Smart Girl in Pants
That is right, the real head to head.
Compostable brushes are all the rage. Why? We ALL USE THEM. For our entire lives! Or lest the naturally occurring bacteria in our own mouths reek havoc! New one every three months, forever. Those all add up to a huge pile of MESS that lasts longer than we will! Nope.
I got mine as cheap as possible, requesting waste free shipping (did you know you can do that? It works. The more we do it, the more it will happen. Do it.). No one wants plastic these days. Moving up or moving out, amiright?
Most bristles are NOT biodegradable. I snap the heads off and save them for random mini scrubbers, which comes in so handly.
I did not mention plastic with separate heads BECAUSE they are NOT a sustainable option. When I took these brushes into my dentist, he thought they were hecka cool. Agreed they would clean just as well as any tooth brush because... no matter how fancy, the cleaning is only good if the cleaner does the work!
I also make tooth paste for my smart pants fam so I’ll be more than happy to post it (The T man, tooth man aka dentist) also loved this. It’s baking soda free and calcium fortified. Comment or email if you are interested!
Today we are going HEAD TO HEAD on the pros and cons of the biggest contenders!
Let Us Get To It!
Good ole wood. You just can’t go wrong with a wooden tooth brush. Simple, screams “I don’t waste tbings” which is cool. Wasting is SO 1999... we are growing or going, ya know what I’m sayin?
•Simply processing: sees wood, cuts wood, adds bristles. Done.
•I trust this in my veggie compost.
•Light weight, every ounce matters when traveling.
•Pretty hypoallergenic, unless you are allergic to wood.
•It can and will splinter. Thanks water for breaking my wood. Jerk.
•Strange mouth feel. The Smart Kids REFUSED to use.
•Stain easily. WAH.
•Plain. No tongue scraper. Defeats the light weight aspect when your tongue feels nasty in a strange place the whole time... and requires another product.
•Trees grow slowly. Unless this is upcycled wood, still a weird aspect to cut down a tree, that took years to grow? to make several tooth brush That will be used for 3 months.
These seemed to sneak in during the night and steal some of that glow from the wood. It’s a Wheat based composite.
•Familiar mouth feel.
•Less waste, wheat grows fast, in less space and with less resources.
•I don’t trust this in my ‘straight to the garden’ compost. Maybe the colors are safe but idk!
•More than likely these require more processing.
•Possible allergen for those with gluten allergies. I’m sure sellers could answer that but it does deserve some consideration.
We love both but in the end, which would you chose and why?
*For those wondering, I use a water floss.
One time investment, no animal products and this one has lasted me YEARS.
Thanks for reading! Sorry I was missing so long! Between MeeriiD (check us on Instagram, MeeriiD) and my ed-ja-macarion, it’s been crazy!
Love and Sparkly Biting Bones,
The Smart Girl in Pants
Breakfast is not a meal I often enjoy. This little gem was another story!
The Smart Girl in Pants