Despite on-line accounts of successful solar greenhouses (even in Maine), I have yet to get any crops through our wimpy Virginia winters, with the exception of herbs.
So, in the spirit of concentrating on what you do best, this year's focus will be herbs. My goals are to grow and dry all my own stock, have enough to share with friends, and possibly have a bit left over to sell (this is the long shot).
At this moment, the lavender, sage, rosemary, thyme and basil have made it through the winter. Actually the lavender has been blooming all winter, seemingly oblivious to the whole winter-snow thing.
Meanwhile, I've bought some fresh herbs in bulk, finding that they are much cheaper and many times tastier than the boxed/bottled portions available at most grocery stores.
My source is The Well, in Bedford, Virginia. One of my favorite places, worth the drive if you're anywhere in the area. If not, look for natural or organic food stores. If all else fails, look online. But there's nothing like being able to smell what you're buying.
Yesterday I picked up fresh Italian seasoning (we use this like salt & pepper at our house) for $1.01 per oz., and gumbo file (necessary for Cajun cooking and specifically gumbo) for $0.94 an oz.
Previously I had stocked up on chipotle, fenugreek, celery seed and Chinese Five Spice. Note: No matter how tempting it seems, do *not* stick your nose in the bag of chipotle and savor the smell. It can be overdone. Sniff.
I also found a couple sets of the small half-size Ball Mason jars in the canning aisle at Walmart, $4.97 for a set of four. Each jar holds approximately 3 oz of spice. Using the gravy ladle (which has never been used for gravy), I scooped the fresh spices into the glass jars, sealed and labeled.
They look so pretty, and even with the cost of the jar (avg $1.24, re-usable indefinitely), were less expensive than buying just one small can of spices at the standard grocery store.
Next year some of these will be filled with my homegrown spices. Meanwhile, here's the sage currently coming back to life in the greenhouse (three year old perennial plant, and will grow to 2-3 feet by August. Can be transplanted for winter, and perfect for cuttings and starts):