Monday, March 29, 2010

a challenging challenge

A couple weeks ago, I started thinking about setting a challenge for myself - to avoid big box stores for the rest of the year. One of the interesting things with this is of course defining "big box store" - we all think of Walmart and Target, Lowes and Home Depot. I'd consider Petco a pet-themed big box store, and there are other places that come to mind too as places I'd rather avoid (chain pharmacies like Walgreens, for example).

But what about "local chains" (like Pet Quarters, which has locations only in NH and Maine)... or what they call "locally owned franchises" - Ace Hardware comes to mind. Are these to be avoided, or are they ok alternatives when a truly local, independently owned, small business alternative isn't available?

I haven't quite figured that out yet. I'd like to think that I can shop exclusively at independently owned, small local stores - but is that even possible any more? And if I'm buying Tylenol (national, factory-made product) at Calef's (local, independently owned store) am I really making a difference?? Do I want to avoid both the non-locally-owned stores and the products that are made at far-flung factory locations???

These things really do keep me thinking!! I certainly don't have all my answers yet - but I'm working on it - and to my thought, if I'm pondering these things, I'm already shopping more carefully and conscientiously - which has to be better than the alternative, right?

So meanwhile, as I try to figure this out, I've been buying pet food at places like this...

And lumber from places like this...

And what I have already have learned is that I, for one, am much happier driving out to a lumber yard that's surrounded by forest and blue skies, than I am driving out to Home Depot where I'm surrounded by nothing but parking lots and more stores!!

This is going to be a fun adventure!!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

my favorite sign of spring

I like crocuses, and chirping birds, and the reappearance of my garden frog statues from under the snow - but my favorite sign of Spring is, without a doubt, the arrival of the UNH cherry tomato plants. These plants are available at their annual Greenhouse Open House - but you can also buy them direct from the greenhouse a couple days prior to the event (which is March 26 and 27 this year). Rumor has it they sell out super quick at the open house itself - so get there early for the best chance of getting plants of your own!

We went over to UNH today, to pick up a pair of plants. The ones we got already have tiny tomatoes on them - and if the past years are good predictors of the future, by late April or early May we'll be picking red tomatoes for our salads, from these cute little plants growing in our sunroom. The tomatoes aren't as sweet as those that are grown outdoors in the summer - but they're pretty tasty (and I love when visitors come by our house and say "are those TOMATOES??" - and I get to say "yes indeed they are!!").

So, if you're looking for an awesome Springtime activity and you're nearby to UNH, grab a couple tomato plants and have fun watching tomatoes grow inside your house too!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

farmers' market trip

We went to the Seacoast Eat Local farmers' market in Exeter today - for the first time, we decided to go toward the middle of the market (which runs from 10-2) instead of toward the beginning. Made for a nice, peaceful trip through the aisles, since the crowds had diminished - and indeed, as promised, there were still plenty of goodies left when we arrived!

We picked up Empire apples (I'm loving that the New Hampshire orchards have apples from their cold storage that they're bringing to the markets still now in March!), potatoes, onions, rutabaga, and carrots. We still have plenty of local chicken, pork, and beef in the freezer, so this was a meat-free shopping trip.

Next weekend (3/20), there are farmers' markets in Newmarket and Rye, and then the following weekend (3/27) is the next Seacoast Eat Local market in Rollinsford. I'm looking forward to seeing what will be available at the markets as we head toward Spring!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

lesson learned

So last night, we decided to take a drive out to Home Depot to pick up wood for the 3 new garden beds we want to build this year. For 12 six-foot lengths of untreated pine (we make our beds out of pine - some folks use cedar - but we find pine works well), we paid over $75 (eek!!!). Half way home I realized we had made a big mistake - why were we going to Home Depot when there's a small, locally owned lumber yard right in our own town?? We called the lumber yard this morning, and asked their price for the same wood. The answer? Just $23 and change! So guess which family will be returning to Home Depot this morning, bringing back last night's purchase, and stopping by the lumber yard this afternoon?? Yep, that would be us!!

Lesson learned - when you need something, look to the local guy first!! It's certainly not always the case that what you can find locally will be not only less expensive but also better quality - but it frequently works out that way. We're so conditioned to think "big box store" when we need something - it's a habit that's not easy to break. I haven't shopped at Walmart for years, but I still go to Target, Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. more frequently than I probably even realize. I wonder if I could go the rest of the year without shopping a big box store. Hmm... that's a challenge I might have to consider for myself. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 8, 2010

here comes the garlic

After last week's windstorm (we were without power for 6 days, lost a cute little Japanese maple tree we had in our yard, and have been cleaning up branches, limbs, and sticks for days now!!) we've been spending a lot of time outside. What a wonderful surprise when we pulled back some of the leaves that were on one of our garden beds to check on the garlic, and found several of the cloves we planted back in the Fall already sprouting up from under the soil! We covered them back up to keep them warm for a bit longer, but it seems Spring really is almost upon us! With the return of the gardening season, I'm hoping to get back to more regular blogging - this year, we're expanding the garden beds, planting much more than we did last year, and are really looking forward to a wonderful summer!