Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Very Lengthy Tour of My Garden

DSC01182(First of all, don’t those clouds look like something from The Simpsons? HA!)

My garden is mostly planted and I am just so pleased with it!  Last year, I tried Square Foot Gardening for the first time and loved it.  I learned a few valuable lessons regarding over-crowding last year, and I think I made the right adjustments this year.  This is the straight-on view of my entire garden.  On the very left up against the fence is a new addition, an asparagus patch!

DSC01185Nothing to see yet, really.  Asparagus takes three years before you can harvest it, and then it grows prolifically as a perennial, apparently.  I’ve  never had asparagus straight out of a garden before, so that will be a real treat!

DSC01183Right next to the asparagus patch is something else that is new to my garden and my experience:  Raspberry bushes!  I planted two red bushes and one golden, just for funsies.  I doubt I’ll get a harvest this year, but hopefully next year?  I’ve never grown raspberries before, so I’m really not sure when I can expect to harvest.  I know my girls are going to be all over them, though!  They are berry-crazy!  (Ha ha)

DSC01184It’s alive!  The other two bushes just look like expensive sticks that some crazy person planted, but this one actually has a few leaves!  (Doesn’t take much to excite me…)

DSC01181Behind the raspberry bushes is a raised bed.  Last year I grew pickles, basil, beets, cilantro and two kinds of heirloom tomatoes in this bed.  They all did fairly well here, so I didn’t change much.  I planted basil, cilantro and cucumbers this year.  I have room for more, but haven’t decided what to put there yet.  I will probably put cherry tomatoes in there once my seedlings are ready for transplant.  I decided not to grow beets this year, even though they were lots of fun, because I pickled and canned them up, and no one ever ate them.  I also decided not to grow pickles, because it was too frustrating to me that there was never a batch ready at the same time for pickling.  This year I’m just going to order pickles, and that way I’ll get all my pickling done at once.

I took these pictures the same day that I took the chicken pictures, as is evident by Dagny’s outfit.  See my big helper?  (There used to be basil seeds in that square…I’m guessing that they aren’t there anymore…)

DSC01186

I did start my basil this year from direct-sow seed.  I’ve never done that (successfully) with basil, so it wasn’t too surprising to me that most of them didn’t come up.  I ended up buying a healthy-looking plant just to guarantee I would get some basil this year.

DSC01187It looks like at least one seed worked, though!  This is definitely not a weed!  Exciting!

DSC01188I also started cilantro from seed, and there are three seedlings that sprouted!  Aren’t they so cute?  I will probably still buy a larger plant though, because it’s getting to be salsa season and I need cilantro, dang it!  On a related note, you probably already knew this, but I’m still a beginner in the gardening world and this was new information to me.  Did you know that coriander is actually the seeds from cilantro?  I’ll definitely be learning more about harvesting coriander once my cilantro goes to seed later this year and posting about it.  Interesting, isn’t it?

DSC01199The next raised bed, which was all corn last year, now is my lettuce bed.  I decided not to grow corn because I tried it three years in a row, and although I did finally get good corn last year, I just decided it’s cheap enough in season that I don’t need to waste space worrying over it.  So this year I planted Romaine, spinach and arugula, just like last year.  I still want to plant kale, as well, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.  I might have missed the window… not sure.

DSC01200It is my opinion that arugula is the EASIEST vegetable to grow.  It is as talented as a weed and nearly as invasive!  Last year I used my arugula in my Italian Wedding Soup and also made arugula pecan pesto.  It was delicious, and I kicked myself all pesto-less winter for not making more! In fact, I went through a lazy streak in the crucial week before the arugula went to seed and didn’t preserve it at all!  (For shame!  Boo!  Hiss!)  I was definitely regretting that over the winter, because arugula isn’t something that shows up in my grocery stores.

DSC01201Spinach is so cute as a baby.  Aww, wook at da widdle spinach weaves! So sweet!  (I may need help.)

DSC01202Romaine is cute too!  The wood chips are about the size of my thumbnail, just for scale comparison.  Aren’t those leaves tiny?  Someday they are going to be crunchy chunks of deliciousness drenched in Caesar dressing.  Sniff.  They grow up so fast!

DSC01190In front of the lettuce box are the snap peas.  I’m not exactly proud of this contraption.  There are probably 10 different ways to encourage these climbers that are snazzier and more efficient.  But I’m saving my landscaping budget for more important things and this was made with things I already had.  Plus it’s WAY better than my original design, which involved a collapsible drying rack and was far more embarrassing.

DSC01192I think this will work.  This is the most promising batch of snap peas I’ve grown yet.  The first year I planted them too late and only got ONE pea.  The second year my garden was consumed by weeds and I was too scared to enter it.  Last year I foolishly planted the peas behind the tomatoes, which were foolishly planted behind the cucumber, which were foolishly planted to receive ALL the sun.  The tomatoes and cucumbers were amazing, the most amazing crop I’d ever grown.  But the peas?  Oh the peas.  Nary a one was able to even see the sun, and they were quickly completely consumed by the larger plants.  This year looks to finally provide me with all the peas I can consume!  Once the plants are happily climbing, I’m also going to interplant this box with red, Yukon, and sweet potatoes.  (This was the potato box last year.)

DSC01193I am, however, REALLY proud of this!  I saw this on Pinterest and had to do it.  These are just bamboo poles tied together so that pole green beans can grow up it.

DSC01194(Isn’t this a cool picture?)

As a little girl, I was always infatuated with fairies and tiny forts.  I would have loved something like this as a little girl – a “secret” hide-out in the garden where the fairies were sure to be spotted.

DSC01195My oldest girl was named Cosette, after a character in one of my favorite musicals.  (Name that show!) We nicknamed her “Cozy”, which completely epitomizes her personality.  She is a lot like me in the way that she loves to create forts and is more than happy to hunt for fairies in tiny spaces.  My plan is to try to train the beans up the poles in a weaving fashion, so that the fort will be completely covered.  If any grow higher than the 6-ft poles I will try to encourage them to hang over the “door”, to complete the entrance to the hide-out.  I’ve never grown pole beans before, so I’m not totally sure what to expect.

DSC01196This is the first year for pumpkins for us, too.  I tried to grow them my second year of gardening, but the weeds and the heat wave won that battle.  My plan is to just let the vines go across the right side of the yard.  Can you see the seedling in there?  It only took like 3 days to sprout like that!  It totally shocked me.  (I shock easily too, apparently) I’m not planning on leaving the tomato cage over it, I’m just a little distrusting of my chickens, so I’m leaving the cage there until the vines can fend for themselves.

DSC01206Likewise, on the back fence, is the watermelon.  I haven’t grown that successfully yet, either.

DSC01205I planted this the same day as the pumpkin, and look how wussy the seedling looks compared to the pumpkin!  It took longer to sprout, too.  I’m going to let these vines take over the back of the yard, too.  I tried to grow watermelon up that chain-link fence last year.  It did work, and I did get one melon – that I prematurely harvested because it was about to frost, anyway – but I have a big enough yard that it doesn’t really matter.  The back end of the yard is only used for compost and my husband will be grateful to not have to mow it anyway.

DSC01203The long back bed that was Romas and arugula last year now is the strawberry bed.  I planted both Ever-bearing and June-bearing berries.  The chickens have destroyed two of the June-bearing plants.  I’m not really sure what the method to their madness is… why only two?  Why both June-bearing?  It’s a puzzle.  I put a tomato cage in one end, hoping it would creep them out enough to stay out.

DSC01210This isn’t in my garden.  It’s actually on the back of my house.  This is from last year’s pitiful strawberry efforts.  (News flash, strawberries like FULL sun, duh!)  I was happy to see two plants return.  It kind of vindicated my salty feelings from last year.

DSC01207

This is the view from the right side of the garden.  Stage left, for you theater majors out there.  The box closest to the camera is mostly empty still.  I have two banana pepper plants given to me by my generous in-laws.   They also gave me a jalapeno plant, but the chickens had their way with it.  More tomato cages to the rescue!  The rest of the box is going to be filled with beefsteak, Roma and cherry tomatoes.  I bought all the seeds for these, but only started the seeds a few weeks ago.  The seedlings are only about 4 inches tall, and I’m not sure that is far enough along.  I might just buy plants to get in the ground now, and plant the seedlings I started later when they are stronger.  That way if they don’t produce until late fall it won’t be a big deal and I will have already been able to can up some tomato products.

You can see that I have two big helpers, staying busy digging in the dirt for Mama!

Behind the chain-link fence to the right, on the other side of the strawberry patch I planted sunflowers.  I had started the seeds in decomposing pots and then planted the pots after the seedlings were about an inch tall.  I then took some practical precautions and protected their row with chicken wire.  A day later, the seedlings were all gone.  In some of the pots there was even a broken sunflower shell, just sitting on top of the dirt, mocking me.  Crafty birds.

So I replanted the seeds, but I don’t have much hope for their survival.

DSC01209The last thing I planted this year was a blueberry bush.  I planted it by itself in a very empty space where a tiny propane tank used to live behind our house.  It also just looks like a stick in the ground, but hopefully next year or in a few years we’ll have fresh blueberries!

I still have a few things to get in the ground, including a blackberry bush.  I’m not sure where I’m going to put that yet, though.

If you have any tips for some of the things that are new to me (berry bushes, asparagus, pole beans, sunflowers) I would greatly appreciate it!

Advertisements
Categories: Gardening, Journal, Vegetables | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Wood County

DSC01218I love my “girls”.

Back in the fall of 2012, the daughter of a friend of my father-in-law’s (phew!) gave me an entire chicken coop as well as 5 older hens.  Some of the hens still lay (well, of the four that figured out how not to get eaten by hawks, that is...) on a consistent basis, but I was really only getting one or two eggs a day.  My family eats eggs practically every day, so I decided it was time to add some younger hens to our little flock.

Meet the new girls!

DSC01215This is Savannah.  I have no idea why I named her that, it’s just the first thing that popped into my head.  I was born in Peachtree City, Georgia though, so maybe my heritage was shining through in those crucial 10 seconds.

DSC01212And this is Sunshine!  Cozy named her, and it impressed me that she picked an appropriate name that “goes” with Savannah.  Not sure how to tell them apart?  Sunshine has a white butt.

Incidentally, Sunshine could actually be Savannah.  I didn’t notice the white butt until after both birds were named, and then decided Ol’ White Butt should be Sunshine.

EggsThe new hens haven’t figured out where to lay their eggs yet.  For about 4 days after I brought them home I thought they must have still been too stressed out to lay.  But then out of the corner of my eye I spotted their “nest”!  Once I removed these eggs though they stopped laying there and now I have no idea where they created their new nest.  Somewhere in my yard or in the cornfields there must be about 30 eggs!

Mother's Day 2013I love these girls, too!  We read the cutest book the other night called The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington.  It was darn funny.  We laughed the whole way through it (the girls and I were laughing at the little girl’s determination to catch a certain hen, and Ty was dying over my imitation of a southern little black girl’s voice.)  It’s definitely showing up at Christmas!  Ever since then, Dagny has taken on a new life goal.  She wants to be the Chicken-Chasing Queen of Wood County.

DSC01220Minding their own business, looking for delicious ticks.  (Ew.)

DSC01221“Run!  Here she comes!”

DSC01224 “Ack!” (Dagny is wearing a ballerina tutu with tennis shoes.  Pick your battles, folks.)

DSC01225“I git you, Shunshine!”

DSC01223Look at those thighs.  I’d run too if those were chasing me!

DSC01227Into the coop you go!  Dagny has become a pro at helping me get the new hens into the coop at night.  They haven’t developed the habit of going in there themselves like the black hens do every night.  (On the left side of the picture is one of the little girls that I babysit during the day.  Aren’t her blond ringlets adorable?)

DSC01217“Can we come back out now?  It’s only 11:00 am!  There’s still ticks to eat!”

DSC01216Sure!  But Dagny the Chicken-Chasing Queen is still on the loose!

Categories: Chicken, Eggs, Journal, Poultry | Tags: , , , ,

They’re Pancakes! They’re Shortcake! They’re Practically Paleo!

DSC00939

Don’t shut down on me yet.  I know I said the “P” word!  And while paleo and gluten-free are certainly hot topics and very trendy today, I’m betting most of you are like me and when you hear those words (along with vegan or vegetarian) you think, “Uuuughh, groan, whine”.  I’m of the mindset that food is good, and I like to eat it.  I like to eat it ALL.

…Unless of course you *can’t* have something.  I had to give up dairy proteins in all forms for a few months for each of my girls when they were newborns because I was breastfeeding and they had colic so bad.  THEN I was grateful for all the dairy-free recipes I was able to dig up.  And one time I got a bug in me to purchase a vegetarian cookbook because I was convicted that my family was centering ALL our meals around animal proteins.  (That book proved to be more helpful in the SIDE DISH department than with the main course.  We are just too carnivore-ish ;))

DSC00945

There’s plenty of solid reasons for trying new lifestyle changes, though.  I have one friend who discovered, once she went completely vegetarian for a month, that her body does not handle animal proteins well.  Now she serves meat, poultry and fish as a treat instead of daily rations.  I have another friend who co-wrote with her husband a really great post on going mostly paleo/primal.  I highly recommend reading Daniel’s notes on WHY they went that route and how it has benefited them.

I actually enjoy a dietary challenge from time to time.  I think it opens the doors of culinary creativity, and almost always introduces me to new foods that I would not have thought to try – or new ways to use foods that I wouldn’t have tried on my own.

DSC00946

Right now my husband and I are nearly done with a detox/diet that we started at the end of March.  We’re at the end of a 3-week phase where we can’t have starches or sugar.  It has not been nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, largely due to several recipes I’ve tinkered with.   I’ve also enjoyed several of the recipes I’ve discovered so much that they are now a member of my recipe book.  I don’t think I’d want to make this a permanent lifestyle, but I can say that I’m going to continue to find and add grain-free foods to our regular menus.

This particular recipe is a keeper.  Now, honestly, nothing beats good old-fashioned buttermilk pancakes slathered with butter and maple syrup.  But these grain-free pancakes are delightfully versatile as a breakfast food, a mid-day snack, or dessert!!  I haven’t tried them with syrup yet since we can’t have sugar for another 4 days (but who’s counting?) but that’s no matter.  They are really good with strawberry puree and whipped cream!  (My daughter tried them with syrup and liked them.)  I say these are “practically” paleo because I do use dairy, which is not part of the traditional paleo diet.  You can sub out the yogurt for applesauce and the milk for almond or coconut milk like the original recipe calls for, if you are trying to stick with true paleo.  And omit the whipped cream, of course.  (The first time I made these I used applesauce, and I will say they are sweeter, but much more prone to crumbling.)

One more note:  I think they are actually better the next day.  The last batch I made, I made on Saturday night so we could eat them Sunday morning.  Just re-heat them for 30 seconds or so in the microwave or in the oven for a few minutes.

DSC00942

Grain-free Pancakes/Strawberry Shortcake

(The original credit for this recipe)

Pancakes (makes about 8-10 small cakes):

  • 1 1/2 cups Almond Flour (almond flour is simply almonds pureed in the food processor!)
  • 1/2 cup Plain Greek Yogurt (I used Chobani 2%, but fat-free would work, too)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 cup Milk (I used raw whole milk.  Skim, low-fat, or almond/coconut milk would also be good!)
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Coconut (optional, but delicious!)
  • Coconut Oil for greasing the griddle

Topping:

  • 1 cup Strawberries and/or other fruits (pureed in blender or food processor)
  • Whipped Cream

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, except coconut oil.  Batter should be slightly runny.  If it’s still thick, add more milk until it resembles typical pancake batter.  Grease griddle or pan with oil.  Spoon batter onto hot griddle into 2-3″ rounds.  When sides begin to brown, flip pancakes.  Brown the other side, then serve warm!  Add pureed strawberries and whipped cream.  If strawberries aren’t super sweet, you may want to add a packet of stevia or a teaspoon of sugar while pureeing.  Typically they won’t need it, though.  Especially if they are in season!  Leftovers should keep in the fridge at least a week.

DSC00954

 

Tell me if you try these!  I have a few more starch and sugar-free recipes that I will post here if anyone is interested.   I’ll be back to eating those things next week, but it never hurts to try new recipes, right?

Categories: Fruit, Grain-free, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Mother’s Day Ideas

If you are my Mom or my Mom-in-Law STOP READING THIS!  Unless you want to to veto your gift.  Because I haven’t made it yet, but this is what I’m planning on making you.  Unless I change my mind and make something else.  Or buy you a plant like I do every year…

DSC00901

For the rest of you looking for ideas, here’s a good one!  These are just inexpensive Terra cotta pots from the hardware store,  about $1 each, painted with inexpensive acrylic craft paints.  I made these little pots yesterday for a group of mom-friends.  I’m a table leader at my church’s mom’s group, MOMentum, and last night was our last meeting until fall.

DSC00898

They were such a great group of women, and I just loved hanging out with them twice a month!  So I painted them each a little pot and they turned out so cute that I thought they would make cute Mother’s Day gifts!  It took me about 2 hrs to paint 10 pots, and it was so much fun to do!

DSC00900

I got a few ideas off Pinterest, and some were just inspired by the way I felt yesterday.  (Which, fortunately, was pretty happy 😉 )  For my friends I added a perennial, a packet of giant sunflowers (I’ve always wanted to grow those!) and some gummy worms for funsies 🙂

DSC00903

 

I thought making these in a few different sizes would be nice too.  I’d like to try using my alkyd paints on a few and paint scenes or flowers or something, too!  A high-gloss finish coat would really class them up, too.  What do you think?

 

Categories: Crafts, Journal | Tags: , , , , ,

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: