National Chili Day

There seems to be some discrepancy as to when National Chili Day is, but it's definitely this week. So, here's my favorite chili recipe to warm you up, wherever you are. If you can find local products to make this or grow your own, go for it, or buy organic if you can't. Enjoy, I think I am making a pot tonight!

Really Good Chili (serves 8-ish)

2 lbs. ground beef (venison is yummy if you can get it, no more than half the meat)
1/2 onion, chopped finely
1-3 jalapeno peppers, chopped finely (to taste)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 large tomato, chopped
8 oz jar of salsa or picante sauce, however spicy you want it (or use your homemade!)
1 tsp black pepper
2 Tb. chili powder
4 tsp. ground cumin
3 tsp. creole seasoning or seasoned salt
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. cilantro
2 cans of beans - (I like to use 1 can of kidney beans and 1 can of black beans. I plan on experimenting with locally grown dried beans this year)

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the ground beef, onion and pepper, and saute for 10 minutes, or until meat is browned and veg are tender. Drain grease.
Add sauce, salsa, tomato, spices and beans. Mix and simmer at least an hour.

I serve it with loads of cheddar or mexican cheese, and oyster crackers or corn chips. Yum.

If you eat chili regularly, get yourself some chili bowls like the one above... something about a good handmade stoneware bowl for chili makes it so awesome.

About That Time...!!

Recycled, Biodegradable Seed Starting Pots from Rush of Wings on Etsy

You might still be under a bunch of snow and spring might still seem kind of far away (the ground is still frozen solid here in Tennessee), but if you're starting seeds indoors it will soon be time to get that under way. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty excited... I've been poring over seed catalogs for the last month deciding what heirloom varieties of vegetables and herbs I want to grow, and a few flowers.

I'm a raw newbie so I don't know ahead of time how this is going to work, but I'm starting them on shelves under grow lights. I don't have any fancy heat mats, but in my fairly warm bedroom I'm hoping I won't need them. I can't wait to turn the soil and get my hands in the dirt! Stay tuned for the tale of the little garden that could.

Great Backyard Bird Count

Once again this year I'm participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Over the course of four days you count birds in your area so Audubon can get an idea of how many birds are in what habitates in what areas of the country. It's a lot of fun, visit the link to check it out.


Five Color Swiss Chard from The Bearfoot Shaman on Etsy

Like gardeners everywhere, I'm looking out my window the past few days at the snow-covered (even more snow-covered than has been usual for my time in Tennessee) ground and daydreaming of turning some of that land and getting my hands in the dirt and...

ordering seeds.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one obsessing over seed catalogs these days. In my temperate zone it'll be time to start some seeds indoors in about two weeks. So I'm ordering this week and next from my four favorite companies: Seed Savers Exchange, Heirloom Seeds and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and Richter's Herbs.

I'm ordering all heirloom varieties. My husband isn't too keen on technicolor vegetables; he thinks it's weird, and yellow tomato sauce doesn't appeal to him in the least. As I ponder this, it occurs to me: the reason it's weird is because the biodiversity of the crops we eat, and even the crops we grow, has drastically dwindled in this century, till the only tomatoes anyone's ever seen were red.

But heirlooms are a piece of history, and usually not bred for color but superior flavor or other great qualities - what they are NOT bred for is pesticide and herbicide resistance. I feel a special responsibility to preserve heirloom varieties since one of them - the Soldacki tomato - was brought by my grandfather's family from Poland, and he has preserved them throughout his lifetime, but now is unable to garden at almost 88 years old. With industrial farming threatening crop diversity, I think the need is even more pressing.

So my rabid catalog perusing is socially and environmentally responsible. At least that's what I'm telling myself. This is my first year of "real" gardening, so come fall I'll be saving those seeds for next year (and thumbing my nose at Monsanto and their self-aborting seeds, in the process).

Oh, and Etsy has some heirloom varieties as well. There's something really cool about buying from a human being who's preserved the seeds themselves, so check it out.