Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stored Foods

I finally was able to take the time to evaluate what all has been preserved in our freezer and what we have canned.
In our freezer:
Strawberry Freezer Jam - 11 half pints
Apples - 11.5 lbs.
Berry Freezer Jam - 17 half pints
Potato Leek Soup - 5 quarts (I improvise a bit with this by making half of the water be chicken broth and we always add some cheese and diced ham)
Diced Tomatoes - 15 quarts
Applesauce - 7 quarts
Corn - 15 pints
Blueberries - 12 cups
Rhubarb - 9 cups
Zucchini - 9.5 cups
Bell Peppers - 5 quarts
Tomato Sauce - 5 quarts
Borlotti Beans - 2.5 quarts
Lima Beans - 2.5 quarts
Sugar Snap Peas - 5.25 quarts
Peas - 6 cups
Poblano Peppers - 1 quart
Jalapeno Peppers - 1 pint
Banana Peppers - 1 cup
Medium Peppers - 1 pint
Cayenne Peppers - 1 cup
Red Hot Peppers - 1/2 cup
Black Hungarian Hot Peppers - 1/2 cup
In our pantry:
Peaches - 11 quarts
Green Beans - 31 pints (plus 2 we have already eaten)
Salsa - 8 half pints (this turned out to be a sweet and spicy recipe, so next year, we need to cut back a bit on the sugar)
Hot Salsa - 2 pints
Peach Melba Jam - 7 half pints
Apple Butter - 2 1/2 pints (We tried a crockpot apple butter recipe that really did not go well!)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Residents and Fall

We were sad to say goodbye to the hopping Worthington farmers' market a few weeks ago and now we are getting down to freezing temperatures. A few days ago, we pulled the last of the unripe tomatoes and the peppers to save them. We will be wrapping the tomatoes in newspaper to help them ripen, which will give us fresh tomatoes for some time to come. In addition, we had to drain the rain barrel, which was a complex issue with our little comet goldfishes inside. We drained it to about the halfway point and then tipped the barrel over and caught the fish as they shot out. If you recall, we started the season with 8 fish (7 Erics and a Bob) and we knew we had one fatality early on. Other than that, we were unsure of what was inside the barrel. We ended up with (drumroll please.....) three fish! It is not shocking because of the fluctuating environment of the barrel, but it was funny that there were no bodies. Out of all of them, we had a white one, a white and orange one, and an orange one. As you can see, they have now taken up residence in the house. I am notorious for killing fish (not on purpose of course), and it looks like these three hardy ones will still struggle inside. The cats have taken a keen interest in the fish bowls despite our best attempts to protect them. We also have already had to learn the important lesson that one bowl does not offer enough space and oxygen for three fish, so we had to divide them into two bowls. We thought about getting a big tank with fancy filters, but in the end, budgets are tight and there is only so much money we are willing to put into 3 fish that cost 30 cents a piece. So for now, they will have to be split up... They have also earned individual names since they survived this long. Orange is Bill, orange and white is Eric, and white is Sookie (can you tell we are True Blood fans?).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Plant Summaries

I wanted to write up summaries that showed the performance of the crops we grew this summer.  Below highlights what we noticed…

Black Diamond Yellow Flesh Watermelon – BIG healthy plants that produced multiple melons. The melons themselves were juicy and beautiful but not very sweet. Part of the problem probably came from us not watering frequently enough. We harvested one full size melon and will be getting about 3 additional small melons by the end of the season.

Crenshaw Melons – The plants began very big and healthy but were killed by the Cucumber Beetle and bacterial wilt, so we never got any melons.

Amish Paste Tomato – Very large, beautiful plants with lots of tomatoes that look like big Roma tomatoes. The fruits were easy to peel and meaty. We love these for sauces and salsas!!!

Ernie’s Plump Tomatoes – These plants were not as lush with leaves and produced significantly less tomatoes. These tomatoes tended to be much harder to peel (even when blanched) and we ended up with a lot more of these rotting because they seemed to be more susceptible to bugs.

Chadwick Cherry Tomatoes – We did one of these just for the heck of it in a pot and it developed into a big plant with lots of large cherry tomatoes. These are bigger than the average cherry tomato, but they were very tasty.

Hungarian Yellow Wax Hot Peppers – These were our most productive hot peppers. The plants were kind of small but there were always one or two peppers developing whenever we checked the plants.

Jalapeno Peppers – These plants struggled and we really didn’t get anything off of them. Many of them died so we supplemented our hot peppers with other varieties which seemed to struggle as well.

California Wonder Pepper – We had one plant pull through the season and now that we are about to get our first frost, we are about to get our first pepper. Funny and sad, but next year we will definitely go for a different variety because based on feedback from other gardeners, this variety is notoriously unproductive.

Black Seeded Simpson – These were fairly dedicated germinators but they went to seed before we were able to harvest much of anything off of them.

Snowball Cauliflower – The plants germinated well and grew into huge, healthy plants but they never developed any crowns!

Iceburg Lettuce – We had to buy seedlings of these because our home-germinated plants all died. The plants began to grow nicely but they bolted before developing heads.

Caribe Potatoes – These all germinated fairly well, grew into beautiful plants and gave us as many potatoes as they could. Unfortunately, we needed to give them more room, because six-inch deep soil just doesn’t give much room for potatoes to grow.

Appaloosa Beans – These plants all struggled. We got a few successful grown up plants, but out of all of them, we ended up getting ¼ cup of dry beans in the end. We tried to supplement with another variety of white dry bean, but that was not productive either.

Henderson Bush Lima Bean – These plants germinated very well and grew into healthy plants, but we had some sort of pest that liked chewing up the leaves. We missed out on the first round of harvest for these beans and we only got a handful of beans in the end.

Kentucky Wonder Bush Bean – These plants germinate fairly well but again they suffered from a bug that liked to munch the leaves. The plants ended up providing us with tasty beans for a few meals but nothing really significant.

Danvers Half Long Carrots – These seeds germinated very well and grew into the biggest carrots they could be. Unfortunately, that meant they only got to be about 4-6 inches long because of the limited bed space.

Homemade Pickles – These plants germinated very well and grew into big healthy plants that produced more cucumbers than we knew what to do with for a while. Sadly, after about a month of producing we got Cucumber Beetles and bacterial wilt that killed all of them very quickly.

Thomas Laxton Garden Peas – These peas germinated the best of the 3 varieties and grew into the biggest plants with lots of pods, but the pods were all fairly small. We probably got a cup of shelled peas out of these plants.

Oregon Giant Snow Peas – These were the second best germinators and were by far the most productive. We always had some snow pods to munch on while the plants were growing and they were very tasty.

Sugar Snap Peas – These did not germinate well at all and did not produce very much. We got a few handfuls of pea pods off of all the plants we grew which was very disappointing.

Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach – These germinated very well and were tasty based on the few leaves we got to eat. Unfortunately, they bolted very quickly, so we hardly had any harvest time.

Zucchini – We grew 3 gorgeous plants from seed, which germinated very well. We got one big zucchini off of one plant and that was it for the harvest. The plants ended up being the last to succumb to the Cucumber Beetles and bacterial wilt.

Onions – We planted onion sets and the limited space of the beds resulted in the onions we harvested being little bigger than ping pong balls (those were the big ones), so that didn’t work out so well.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Strawberry Freezer Jam and Green Beans

Another weekend of canning and definitely many more to come.  A week or so ago, we canned 7 pints of green beans and this last weekend, we purchased around 4 pounds more and got 12 pints out of that.  We followed the guidelines from PickYourOwn.com for canning green beans and got all 19 jars to seal successfully.  We put salt in our beans since the last time we canned these we quickly realized that we love salty canned green beans!  This many cans means we can have a pint every 2 weeks, hopefully that will be enough (we both are quite fond of canned green beans).  Our green bean liquid did seem to decrease quite significantly in the canning process, which concerns me a little, but since they all sealed, fingers crossed the beans will be okay.  clip_image002

We lucked out and got 4 quarts of strawberries at market.  One quart I froze whole after cutting off the tops so we can make at least one batch of strawberry breakfast bread.  The rest went into the strawberry freezer jam.  We tried the recipe from CDKitchen, which like the raspberry freezer jam doesn’t call for pectin.  After eating this jam, I would definitely try adding the pectin because it behaves more like a sauce than a jam and I would probably cut back on the sugar a little because it is VERY sweet.  With our 3 quarts, we ended up getting 14 half pints of jam, so we are doing quite well on our jam stock.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Peaches and Blueberries


On August 8, Jacob and I tried canning peaches for the first time with relative success.  We purchased a half bushel of peaches and after sacrificing a few to mold and a few to stomachs, we ended up getting 11 quarts of peaches out of the batch.  It probably should have been less than that, because once we filled and sealed them, the peaches floated and since we used a light syrup, we are thinking it was because we didn’t pack them densely enough.  We followed the instructions from PickYourOwn.org for canning and making the syrup (we did the ‘very low calorie’ option).  We had an entertaining time peeling the peaches – some needed to boil a little longer so they were hard to peel – but it’s always really satisfying when you get a peach that the skin just falls off of.  Cutting the peaches into slices was a very juicy mess (we had some lemon juice left in the fridge that we sprinkled on the peaches to keep them from turning brown) and we had some issues with our syrup because a lot of it had evaporated by the time we were ready to boil the peaches AND we had too many peaches for the darn pot!  That was quite tricky and I’m not sure if they all got enough boiling in…We packed the peaches and sealed them in the water bath canner – all sealed successfully!  Hurrah!  We will have a can of peaches per month! 

We also got 5 pounds of blueberries (again some of them went to stomachs before they could be frozen).  We washed them and put them in freezer bags.  We got 12 cups of berries out of that batch, which is enough to make three blueberry pies or some other concoctions. 

We also picked our first watermelon and tomatoes this weekend.  Unfortunately, the watermelon was not ripe…a sad waste that goes to the compost bin.  The tomatoes are beautiful heirlooms that look like big Romas which I am very excited to try!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Watermelons and Green Beans


After ripping out the diseased plants, we put in seeds for plants that should not be affected by wilt (basically  no squash, melons, tomatoes, or peppers).  We stuck in some leeks, lima beans, green beans, and lettuce.  We still have one cucumber plant (on the right) hanging on and producing – we got 3 cucumbers yesterday.  We also have one crenshaw melon plant DSCN3006(on the left) that is trying to produce something, so fingers crossed it can pull through.  The peppers are struggling.  We have only had a few hot peppers and no sweet peppers.  The plants just seem to be burning or just failing to thrive, I’m not sure which.  We have also had something going on with a few of the strawberry plants where they seem to get burnt and dry up even though we give them water.  Thankfully it hasn’t been many – mainly confined to one bed, but it’s still disturbing. 

The second seeding of peas is poking up, which is exciting.  We are currently harvesting cucumbers, green beans, carrots, onions, and raspberries.  We are about to harvest watermelon!  I was DSCN3003watering last night – admiring my stylish pantyhose slings that are supporting the vertical melons as you can see on the right – when I was startled to find a  bowling ball sized melon hiding underneath the vines on the garden bed floor!  I love how the garden can surprise you like that!  Of course,  I’m afraid of picking it too early now.  I know they say to pick it when it sounds hollow, but they always sound hollow to me, so I’ll give it a little more time.  We have lima bean pods filling up and the dry beans have been producing a lot of pods.  However, the garden still only produces enough to supplement what we eat instead of being a main portion, which is a little disappointing considering how much we planted.  The potato plants are dying off DSCN3004which means they will be ready for harvest soon.  The cauliflower (left) doesn’t seem to want to produce.  We got these plants to grow big and beautiful but no head!  Not sure why…  We decided to harvest some carrots and the onions from the raised beds and felt like we had entered a miniature world.  The carrots were all about as fat around as an adult thumb and probably just about that  length!  Then, the onions were about the size of ping pong balls.  I had been skeptical about these two plants since the space is so limited in the beds and I really am not sure what the Square Foot Gardening author was thinking when he said we could grow these.  Lesson learned!  From now on, root veggies will not be grown in the beds (we’ll see what the potatoes did).  The tomatoes are starting to turn red and the plants are taller than me!  As you can see in the photo below which shows the main tomato and lima bean bed, the garden is starting to feel more like a jungle each day, but I can’t say that I mind – better a jungle than a desert!       DSCN3007

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Sad Day for Our Garden

Yesterday was a very destructive day for the garden.  We were on vacation for a week and in that time we lost a battle with cucumber beetles and bacterial wilt that we didn’t even know we were fighting.  Before we left, we had noted that the cucumbers were struggling, so we sprayed them with an organic insecticide, but it was too little too late.  Apparently, the cucumber beetle is a carrier for bacterial wilt.  When they munch on a leaf, the wilt is transmitted and once a plant is infected, there is nothing that can stop it.  The entire plant dies.  Unfortunately, the cucumber beetle is not a picky eater.  They will go for pretty much anything with a yellow flower – zucchini, muskmelons, tomatoes, squash, etc.  When we returned from vacation, all of the cucumbers AND the crenshaw melons had bacterial wilt.  Yesterday, I removed the infected plants (I left one cucumber and two crenshaws that looked like they still had a little strength in them but it’s only a matter of time before they bite the dust).  After that, I realized that at least one of the zucchini plants was swarming with beetles so they were doused with the organic insecticide.  I am anxiously watching over the other two zucchinis and our tomato plants (which are officially taller than me and I am very protective of them).  I am afraid that I am going to have to turn to more conventional insecticides just for this year for this battle simply because we have lost so much already and apparently you need to do the integrated pest management against cucumber beetles from the start of each plant, so it’s too late for a more natural approach.  We were happy that we got so many cucumbers already, but the melons are such a disappointment because we had picked the crenshaw, which are not typically found in farmers’ markets.  No crenshaws for us this year…. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lots O’ Lettuce

clip_image002On Saturday we woke up to a lot of bolted lettuce and romaine that had fallen over.  Our romaine grew very oddly in general because instead of getting a neat head, we got a long stalk (as you can see on the right side of the picture)– but it was still edible, or at least, it didn’t poison us.  The immense mystery lettuce plants (in this picture they are on the left) we got at the ReStore had bolted, so we yanked those and the Romaine lettuces that had fallen over.  As you can see in the picture, they were all quite large.  Any explanations for the Romaine behavior or what the heck the mystery lettuce was would be most welcome in the comments section below.   I then sat down on the front porch and ripped off a majority of the leaves, but the mystery lettuce has quite bitter leaves, so I didn’t take as many of those.  We also added to our landscaping by going to the ReStore where they had pepper clip_image002[6]plants and tomato plants (3 plants for 50 cents!!!!), so we went crazy and now have random peppers and tomato plants stuck wherever they would fit in our landscaping. 

We got lucky at the Granville farmer’s market on Saturday and found rhubarb, so we bought 4 bunches and I chopped them up and froze them on Sunday.  We have enough to make three strawberry rhubarb crisps throughout the year (we don’t commonly eat it, so that’ll be enough for us).  Now we just need strawberries.  I also froze around 5-6 cups of shredded zucchini for baking.  We also bought some tasty peaches, sweet corn, tomatoes, garlic, and peppers.  We ended up making an excellent salsa and I will post the recipe shortly. 

clip_image002[1]Jacob’s parents were generous enough to let us forage on their land for blackberries and black raspberries on Saturday since berries are a bit pricey for us (they are quite labor intensive when it comes to harvesting so farmers have to charge a higher price).  We earned the berries by being clawed and stabbed by the massive plants to a rather extreme degree on our arms.  However, we ended up with 8 cups of berries and were able to make raspberry freezer jam on Sunday.  This is a simple recipe that calls for 2 cups of raspberries, 4 cups sugar, and .36 cups of liquid pectin.  First, wash the berries and then mash them with a potato masher or other destructive item that can cause berry carnage.  Once all the big lumps are gone, you can sieve out some of the seeds – although we didn’t – and then add the sugar (LOTS of sugar, it seems like a bit much but I guessclip_image002[3] this is normal for jam).  We used Pioneer Sugar made from Michigan sugar beets.  Once that’s mixed, add your liquid pectin and stir for 3 minutes.  Ladle the jam into sterilized jars and try to get out the air bubbles with a nonmetallic object.  Put the lids on tight.  Put the jars in the refrigerator until the jam has set – no longer than 24 hours.  Then you can stick them in the freezer until you are ready to use them.  This recipe makes 1.5 pints of jam.  With our 8 cups of berries, we ended up with a whopping 18 cups of jam!  Our goal here was 6 cups so we definitely went above and beyond.  This is good though because it lightens the pressure to get strawberries when the secondary everbearing season comes on since we won’t be depending on strawberry jam anymore.  Thanks, Donna for the beautiful pictures!! 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Gardening in Progress

June in the garden has caused the cucumbers to go INSANE as you can see!  We finally got our clip_image002big supports put in place for the melons, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  Jacob had to do some metal bending with one of his many tools to get them into the shape recommended by the Square Foot Garden book.  That book also recommends nylon netting for the plants to grow up, which we couldn’t find anywhere.  So we checked out plastic netting but in the garden section nothing was big and strong enough, so we wandered through Home Depot and found snow fencing.  Unfortunately, it’s bright orange, but it is strong, big and will work for us this year.  We put them up with plastic ties and the plants are happy.  I said we should name our garden the “315 Garden” since all the clip_image002[5]construction is taking place on that particular highway now and both have the unfortunate orange colors.  We harvested our first very large pickling cucumber and will be picking some more today I’m sure.  All of the spinach has bolted and the drying beans still only have one successful plant.  We went out and bought the only drying bean seeds we could find which are close to cannellini beans (we think) but the actual beans are somewhat of a mystery because the people tried to look them up at Oakland Nursery and every bit of information that came up on them was in another language.  But we are desperate because we’ve gone through the Appaloosa seeds, so we’ll give these a try.

Stand Back! Jam Boiling Point has been Reached!

This weekend, we seized the third day of the weekend to begin preserving foods (something we should have started a few weeks ago).  Up until now I have been planning what our annual food consumption will be so I know how much to preserve, and I will do a more detailed entry about that soon.  For now, we sort of missed out on strawberries and peas (peas are very crucial to our personal sanity) but we are working on fixing this issue.  Our fingers are crossed that someone has everbearing strawberries which should come into a secondary season soon and we are also hoping we can do some experimentation with peas and our second planting of those.  In the meantime, we got 4.25 pounds of sugar snap peas and blanched and froze them, which came out to 13 cups.  We also blanched and froze 6 cups of garden peas (shelled peas).  On Saturday, our kitchen was filled to the brim with green peas laying out to dry before they went into the freezer. 

At the Clintonville Farmers Market on Saturday, we picked up 4.5 lbs. of peaches and 2 half pints of raspberries so we could make peach melba jam.  On Monday, I sat in front of the TV slicing and dicing 8 cups of peaches (some of which had some little wormy friends that were not harmed).  My partner in crime, Lauren, joined me – as she often does when I am trying some new and messy recipe.  We followed this recipe for peach melba jam from suite101.com.  I was happy that I didn’t have to skin the peaches, because I hate wasting stuff like that (I also have an unusual fondness for peach skin).  In a large pot, we boiled the peaches and lemon juice clip_image002(which we had leftover in the fridge from previous projects).  We then added the 2 cups of raspberries and 2.5 cups of Pioneer sugar from Michigan sugar beets.  Here’s where it gets messy.  While the pot boils, some crazy person has to stand in front of it and stir it to keep it from burning for 20-25 minutes.  For a majority of the time, that poor person was Lauren while I prepped the canning equipment.  The jam likes to spit and sputter which it did not only all over her but also all over the stove and kitchen floor.  We sterilized the jars in the dishwasher (the perfect number of them, which was fantastic) and we decided to do the hot water bath canning method, which we had never done before.  We had a rack from a pressure canner, a big canner which was used as a decorative piece in the living room until now, and our tongs were regular cooking tongs (no rubber grippers because those are MIA in the basement or garage somewhere), so it was all a bit risky.  However, we packed the jars, processed them for 10 minutes and listened as they all popped!  The jars are all sealed and we surpassed our goal of 6 half pints and got 9 plus a little extra for this week, which I just enjoyed on some fresh baked bread that I made yesterday.  Yummmmmm.    

Friday, July 2, 2010

Chicken Noodle Casserole

We experimented with a casserole dish on Wednesday and now have a new favorite meal.  I was craving something like tuna casserole (which is obviously out of the question for us) and was getting extremely frustrated as I was searching for chicken noodle casserole recipes ‘from scratch.’  I was especially disappointed in an “Amish” recipe that called for multiple types of Campbell’s condensed soup.  However, I did find one recipe that pointed me in the right direction.  We took the recipe from All Recipes and tweaked it a bit to match our needs.  And just for reference, the lettuce in the picture was picked a few minutes before eating and the flower is a nasturtium.


-8 oz. package of egg noodles (we got ours at Rife’s, they are not completely local but they are quite close)

-1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

-Garlic powder or 1 clove garlic, minced

-1/4 cup all purpose flour (again not local but since Jacob moved in we have had some on hand)

-2 cups milk

-Salt and pepper to taste (I also added a bit of Lawry’s seasoning salt from our stash)

-3 chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces

-1 cup frozen or fresh peas

-1/2 cup butter

-Shredded Cheddar Cheese


-Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

-Cook the chicken pieces until they are cooked all the way through, then add the garlic, onion, and if you are using fresh peas, add those now too.  If you use frozen peas, just make sure they are thawed before you mix them in the casserole dish later on.

-While the chicken is cooking, cook up your egg noodles, drain them, and set them aside.

-To make the casserole sauce, melt 4 tbs. of butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour.  Gradually add the milk and continue cooking 5 minutes until sauce is smooth and slightly thickened.  Season with salt and pepper.

-Combine the noodles, meat mix, and sauce into a medium sized baking dish.  Top with freshly grated cheddar cheese.

-Bake 25 minutes or until bubbly and light brown.

I highly recommend eating this with a fresh salad.  In our household, we like to mix our lettuce with our food to give it a little crunch, so we picked fresh spinach and lettuces from the backyard just before eating.  We also mixed in some local cucumber, kohlrabi, and sugar snap peas to spice it up. 

I’m used to my first attempts at recipes to be a little less than great, oftentimes they are somewhat bland, but Jacob and I both took our first bites, looked at each other with big grins, and (once we swallowed) couldn’t help but exclaim how delicious this dish was! 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Arbor is Finished!


When we first moved into this house, we quickly realized that the patio was not a functional spot for sitting in the evening because clip_image001there is no shade and lots of direct sun.  After much planning, we decided on an arbor that we could grow grapes (for eating and wine making) and hops (for brewing) on that would provide shade and food.  The hops variety is known as ‘nugget’ and we put in Concord, Niagara, and Catawba varieties of the grapes.  I really wanted a Canadice because I wanted a good eating grape that wasn’t white and that one is supposed to do well in our climate, but we were unable to find it.  Jacob has developed super human strength and other incredible skills as he has dug three foot holes – on digging the first hole and running into something solid we realized that we were not the first people to build an arbor here, lugged enormous pieces of lumber from trucks to upright positions, and has survived clip_image001[7]having the ladder fall out from under him (the arbor is very strong and can now apparently support a fully grown Jacob).  Yesterday, he got the cross beams up and secured while I was at work so I got to come home to this beautiful and completely finished arbor!  And now we wait for the plants to grow… 

Friday, June 18, 2010

June in the Garden

clip_image002I was looking back at the pics of the garden from a month or so ago and was surprised at how much has changed.  Our asparagus continues shooting up feathery spikes which we need to straighten up so they are not taking over the garden path.  The peas are finally starting to produce but it’s a bit of a slow start.  The snow peas are kicking butt in the production clip_image001department although some of them are covered in tiny bumps and I don’t know why.  The garden peas are having some trouble.  They are an heirloom variety known as Thomas Laxton and the pods currently are maturing as mini-pods (they only have 1-3 peas in them) which is frustrating if you have to shell them to eat them!  I have to do a bit of research to solve these issues.  The melons have all germinated and are happy but not big enough to be climbing yet.  The cucumbers took us by surprise because they have grown by leaps and bounds and we’ve clip_image002[5]already had to put in tomato cages for them.  The strawberries continue to try to give us goodies but we know we have to yank off runners and flowers so we can have a good crop next year.  The peppers are doing well, we even have a blossom on one.  Unfortunately a few transplants didn’t make it, so we have to supplement by picking up a few more plants at market this weekend.  The lettuces are really taking off, so salads are completely doable for us clip_image002[7]now – although salad dressing is another story altogether.  The carrots are growing nicely and I have to figure out when we can start harvesting those.  The cauliflower keeps getting munched by bugs so we are spraying them with an eco-friendly product we got from Lowe’s but it keeps raining and washing it off!  We put some zucchini out which is doing well along with some sunflowers that are trying their best to survive the transplant.  I wanted to just grow them from seed outside but something promptly dug up and ate the seeds the one time we tried that.  The spinach has pretty much all bolted before we could even really harvest anything which is a bit disappointing.  I guess we should have started those earlier.  The potatoes are growing nicelclip_image002[9]y, although we haven’t completely filled their squares back up because the tub we were holding extra dirt in filled up with water (lids are definitely the way to go!), so our harvest may be a little smaller than it should be.  The tomatoes are growing nicely as well.  The struggle we are having is with beans.  They just don’t want to germinate for us!  We should have about 15 plants for each of the three varieties and currently our dry bean variety (appaloosa) only has one plant! clip_image002[11] I’ll be doing a replant this weekend and keeping my fingers crossed (third time’s the charm right?).  The onions are looking happy as always but we have had some bolting so we’ve been cutting off the flower stalks and hoping the bulbs are not affected.  The raspberries have probably doubled or tripled in size and are producing berries now – the yellow ones are the best!  I find myself battling the Morning Glories on a regular basis to keep my raspberry bushes healthy though and we have an anthill that has decided to target one of the bushes so a lot of the berries we try to harvest there are filled with bugs – yuck!  The harvests aren’t huge (roughly an ounce at a time) but keep in mind that these are first year plants.  The bird netting we put over them seems to be keeping away the birds and neighbors so we are keeping our fingers crossed that we will get the most out of our meager harvest.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Best Burger EVER!!!

clip_image002Sorry it’s been a while since the last post.  Life has been a bit crazy.  We finally found a yeast that appears to be sourced in the U.S. and is distributed by Frontier in bulk, so we will be placing an order for that shortly.  In the meantime, I rented the book Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day after Mother Earth News featured an article about it.  The book encourages making large batches of bread dough and just breaking off pieces and baking them when you want fresh bread.  The recipes are very simple and easy to understand – something that is certainly not the case with every bread book.  We used the packet of yeast that I caved in and bought the other day to make up a 2/3 size batch of the 100% whole wheat bread.  It rose!!  Yippee!!!  So for dinner, we tore off a big hunk and made up 6 hamburger buns which baked up beautifully.  We had grass-fed ground sirloin burgers (no seasoning or anything) that Jacob cooked up on the grill.  We had a side of mashed potatoes with our homemade butter, Snowville Creamery milk, and some salt and pepper along with a side of fresh asparagus from market.  We used organic ketchup (we will make our own  in the future) and had some fresh romaine lettuce from the garden (picked about 30 seconds before consumption).  These sure aren’t your standard McDonald’s hamburgers!  I’ve never been a huge burger eater myself, but these were absolutely wonderful!  The meat was moist, and the bun held together but wasn’t tough, and the mashed potatoes were good (but they tasted different to us since it was our first time eating yellow potatoes as opposed to the red ones we bought in the wclip_image002[5]inter).  I was surprised that we noticed the difference between the varieties!  The asparagus tops were good but we’ve had that asparagus around for a little while so the ends were a little woody.  For dessert, we had vanilla bean Velvet ice cream (our indulgence, at least it’s made in Ohio) with fresh market strawberries.  Delicious!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Much Ado About Yeast

When we were preparing to take on this challenge, I read Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100 Mile Diet, and essentially cursed myself with bad bread karma because I laughed at what I thought was the absurdity of a loving relationship between two people being in jeopardy because they don’t have bread.  Now, don’t get me wrong, our relationship is as healthy as ever, but anyone who knows me and has had to be around me talking about food for more than 5 minutes knows that I am going through some serious bread drama.  Unlike the couple in the 100 mile diet, we have access to a wide variety of flour (although none of it is my much loved, white all purpose standby), but something they neglect to talk about in the book and in fact something that Barbara Kingsolver neglects to talk about (as she talks about how easy it is to have your local, made from scratch pizza crust every Friday) is what makes the bread light and fluffy…YEAST!!!!  Going into this challenge, I didn’t realize the effect that these little microbes can have on my diet, but apparently the United States is not a fountain of yeast production.  Once I had searched for some time for a company that even sources their yeast in the United States and failed to find one, I decided to take a look at history.  Surely yeast comes from somewhere and the folks way back when couldn’t just run down to the local Kroger for a package of Instant Dry Yeast.  What did they do?  They made sourdough starters (I know there are other starters that can be made, but they are a bit complicated for me right now, especially after you see the issues I have with this most common variety). 

First, I tried to make my own, which involves mixing flour and water in a jar and having it sit out for some wild yeasties to land in.  Unfortunately, after quite some time passed and my starter did not bubble at all (in fact it became like a disgusting lab experiment gone wrong), I came to see that my kitchen is not a hub for these microbes.  I searched high and low calling local bakeries asking for a bit of their sourdough starters, but believe it or not, a LOT of the bakeries in the area import their ingredients like that.  However, after a while, I hunted down two generous bakers that provided me with a starter each.  Your starter is kind of like a weird pet that, like a cat or a dog, can make your house stink if you make it angry.  You have to feed it the right proportions of warm water and flour and these amounts vary depending on whether you are planning to use it or not.  Your starter can keep indefinitely and goes into a kind of hibernation mode in the refrigerator where you just feed it once a week or so.  I did not treat my starters very well because I kept forgetting them, but I got one nice and frothy and made a loaf of bread.  The bread wasn’t bad (it rose over the pan I had it in) although it was a little heartier than I would like (aka I want fluffier bread).  I let the yeast build back up for a while (it stunk up the kitchen pretty well since it is SOURdough).  During the clip_image002next round, I tried to make two smaller loaves which, as you can see, managed to not rise at all and turned out more like biscotti (Jacob quite liked them but it’s not my ideal).  Shortly after that, I tried another recipe and got one that rose a little more but was still pretty tough and flat.  To make matters worse, my most active starter got infected with mold, so down the drain it went.  Now I have one in hibernation in the refrigerator, and frankly, I’m not sure if it even has any yeasties in it any more…I’m wondering what the heck these people who wrote books about eating local did about yeast, because they don’t mention it at all and it seems to be a huge issue with me!!!  If anyone knows of any yeast produced in the United States (ideally Ohio but if not, we’ll make do), please tell me who they are and where to get it!!!  I finally caved and bought a package of ‘organic’ dry active yeast from Germany (insert guilty face here) because I just want a little edible bread that doesn’t resemble the consistency of a brick.  Give me some advice Barbara Kingsolver, because I want some Friday pizza too!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stir Fry and Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies!

We had a few more culinary wins this weekend. Because I am helping Jacob make the big move to my house, I got to take a trip down to Athens and visit their wonderful farmers market. The low prices and wide variety of products made me literally jump for joy. I got a quart of strawberries for $4.50, a head of romaine about the size of my torso for $3, a Napa cabbage of the same size for $2, a zucchini for $.75, a cucumber for $1, and a pint of sugar snap peas for $3.50. I couldn’t believe the load of fresh goodies we got for such a small price! It really shows the difference in prices between more rural areas and the ritzier upscale towns.

With our bounty, we decided to make a stir fry. I cut up some normal cabbage we had on hand along with some asparagus, napa cabbage, sugar snap peas (removing the strings by snapping off an end and peeling off the string), wild onions from the backyard, roasted chicken (sliced up) of one whole chicken breast we had cooked previously, and noodles (we would have used our local ones but were out and didn’t get to our Clintonville Coop so we got egg noodles that are at least made by the local T. Marzetti’s company). While the noodles cooked, I sautéed the vegetables and chicken in an ice cube of chicken broth, adding salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and the magic ingredient: cumin. I rarely cook with that but I felt like it just needed a little extra something and that proved to be it! I don’t give specific amounts here because I’m finding more and more with stovetop cooking, I rarely measure. I just get a feel for what will work for us. I guess a safe estimate for everything regarding spices is between ¼ and 1 teaspoon depending on your personal tastes but you just really have to get a feel for it on your own. DO NOT OVERCOOK THE VEGETABLES!!! Far too often I have encountered people who claim they hate certain wonderful vegetables simply because they never had it properly cooked for them. The asparagus, peas, and even the regular cabbage should have a fair amount of crunch left to them. Essentially, you just want to heat them through but no more than that. It takes a little practice to get it perfect, but please, for the sake of your vegetables and your eaters, leave your vegetables having a little crunch to them! Once the pasta was cooked, I mixed it all together and dinner was served. This isn’t your typical Chinese stir fry because it doesn’t have a thick sauce, just a splash of tasty spices cooked into everything. It’s a lighter flavor, but that lets you appreciate the taste of the fresh vegetables and meat.

We got to make one of our favorite goodies using the zucchini: Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies. I was introduced to this recipe when I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and became quite fond of it, because the moisture from vegetables clip_image002like carrots and zucchini tends to make my typically over-baked goodies moist. These cookies actually remind me more of muffin tops than cookies because they taste more like a breakfast bread with that added zucchini but that’s just because of my own experiences growing up. I will say that this recipe is not as cheap as it used to be before we went local. We used local eggs that we got at the Clintonville Coop, local Amish butter (next time we will use our own homemade butter), some of our precious brown sugar held over from the old days (soon we’ll try using white sugar and molasses as a substitute), local honey from the Clintonville Coop, organic Fair Trade vanilla from Whole Foods (EXPENSIVE!), the last of our all purpose white flour (next time we will get some of the Amish white whole wheat flour), Amish whole wheat bread flour (both flours from the Clintonville Coop), regular baking soda that we had in the cupboard, normal salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, a mix of carob chips and grain sweetened chocolate chips by Sunspire (again, very expensive but we got some on sale at Whole Foods, they aren’t Fair Trade certified but the company seems dedicated to improving the lives of their growers), and finally our Athens zucchini. The cookies are amazing! We are donating a dozen to the Ronald McDonald House (our usual reason for baking – I used to be able to donate 2-3 dozen but with the high prices of the ingredients, we have to decrease that), another dozen are divided up to helpful neighbors, and the remaining cookies go to Jacob and myself (I’d like to think we deserve a few since we did pay for them and work hard to make them). I highly recommend making these when zucchini are overflowing from gardens!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Early May in the Garden

The garden challenges and successes continue to battle and I’m not sure which is coming out on top…  The strawberries are doing well now that we supplemented them with some healthier plants.  We had to trim off our first runner last weekend and continue to pick off the overambitious blossoms.  The potatoes are, for the most part, growing and we continue to cover them.  One square seems to still be dormant, so that may be 4 plants we don’t get.  If in another week or so we see nothing, we will refill that square and put in another type of plant.  The asparagus continues to grow into feathclip_image002[7]ery sticks which it’s supposed to do, so that’s good.  The peas are getting bigger each day, so I tied some string to the wooden dividers to guide them toward the fence.  Two of the three cauliflower plants decided to bite the dust since the plastic touched them when it was too cold, so I replaced them with some cauliflower plants I got for a bargain at Rife’s Market in Grandview.  I placed the extra cauliflower plants back with the raspberries since they don’t grow well in containers.  The spinach seems to be holding its own along with the carrots.  The big downer was that we lost our second batch of lettuce transplants again to the cold.  We transplanted 20 head lettuces and 20 leaf lettuces over the weekend and forgot to cover them when the frost came, so we lost every one of them!!!  We have some more seedlings in the basement but I am going to cave in and purchase some plants so we have something growing and producing during the first part of the harvest season.  That’s a bit depressing since I hear it’s supposed to be easy to grow lettuce and we have failed miserably.  The onions are still lookclip_image002[5]ing happy and the raspberries are growing, although some of them appear to have been bitten by frost or something because they have some blossom areas that have turned brown.  As you can see, I’ve been doing a bit of landscaping work, so now the raspberry bed has mulch which will hopefully help keep the weeds under control.  The pclip_image002eanut plant seems content in its pot as you can see on the left.  On the herb front, we put in some German Chamomile which wasn’t too happy with the transplant but seems to be hanging on.  We have at least one lavender plant that has shot a bloom up which is exciting.  The dill is still growing along with some new cilantro seedlings.  We are still waiting on the horseradish (I remain skeptical) and the bay leaf seems happy in its pot.  The rosemary appears to have a little new growth which is encouraging.  The chives don’t seem to be big fans of the cooler weather and have taken to being droopy but I think (fingers crossed) they will perk up soon.  We set out the tomato seedlings and sage seedlings to harden off, so we get to plant those at the frost free date.  I also started the cucumbers (a week late, oops!), zucchini, watermelons, and crenshaw melons in the basement over the weekend.  I managed to kill off a large portion of the herbs in the basement because I couldn’t see how dry they were until it was too late, so it looks like we may be purchasing some herb plants in the near future…sigh…At least we are having some successes, although it will feel a lot more rewarding when we are harvesting more than wild onions from the backyard. 

We also began putting in the arbor over the patio which will have grapes and hops growing on it.  One post is in, three more to go!  I picked up aclip_image002[9] few grape plants yesterday but still need to find the good eating varieties.  For now we have a white wine variety (the type escapes me) and the blue concord grape plant, which were both from Home Depot.  I ordered the hops online, so those should arrive in the near future.  We really need to get them all in the ground this month.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Hurray!!!!!!  We finally got our hands on some local popcorn and I could not be happier!  We got the lovely kernels at the first Worthington Farmers’ Market of the season from Pop and Judy’s Patch (George and Louise O’Briant – really nice people with great products!).  While we took turns mixing the butter last night, we made our first batch(es) of from-scratch popcorn.  Jacob took clip_image002charge for round one, consulting wikiHow and pouring some oil in the dutch oven and adding a few kernels.  Once those popped, he added 1/4 cup of the kernels and covered them.  We both watched with excitement as they popped but it soon became apparent that we were doing something wrong because they were not all popping at once and the kernels that did pop were burning.  Quickly we poured that out to reveal only about a quarter of the kernels popped and many of those were a bit blackened.  So here comes Katie for round two.  I tried another recipe from Simply Recipes that took a slightly different approach.  I put in some oil, salt, and added my few kernels.  Once those popped, I added 1/3 cup of kernels and pulled the dutch oven off the heat.  I counted 30 seconds and put it back on the stove with the lid slightly ajar.  Oncclip_image002[5]e they started really popping I held the pot just above the burner and shook it back and forth (kind of tricky while keeping the lid slightly ajar – we had a few kernels shoot across the room), but the extra effort definitely paid off.  As you can see, my kernels (on the left) were beautiful, crisp, puffy, and white with only a couple of unpopped kernels and Jacob’s (on the right) were an honest effort (and still pretty tasty).  We added a little bit too much salt, but the popcorn was still delicious!!!

Crème Brulee Leads to Butter

As part of a May Day basket, I received a very tasty mix for crème brulee that called for some heavy whipping cream.  The only container we could get that was locally sourced was the Snowville Creamery half gallon, which goodness knows is more whipping cream than we can use in a week.  However, Jacob and I couldn’t stand the thought of wasting so much lovely dairy, so we decided to make butter last night.  We followed the Thrifty Fun site’s instructions.  This is a really neat activity for kids to see or even participate in clip_image002depending on the method you choose.  I remember making butter in elementary school by shaking a mason jar which was pretty fun (especially if you have multiple children because it can take a while).  However, being mature adults (ok, maybe not so high on the mature ladder sometimes, but technically we are adults now) we opted for the electric mixer method.  You need to let the cream warm up just a little, so once it hit about 60 degrees we started working with it.  I poured the whipping cream into a large bowl and started mixing.  Unfortunately, a key point to remember is that whipping cream expands when you whip it (duh!) so halfway through that process I had to transfer the cream to a large pot that could clip_image002[5]contain all of it.  It’s fun to watch it go from a liquid to a whipped cream that holds peaks to all of a sudden this weird yellow chunky stuff with buttermilk pools.  At this point, Jacob took over and dumped out the buttermilk (you can keep it and use it as well, but since our cream was at the expiration date, we opted not to).  You then add cold water, mix it, and dump it again to clean the butter.  After doing this a few times, we added some salt to help preserve it and then put spoonfuls on a cookie sheet where Jacob pressed the water out with a wooden rice server.  It worked surprisingly well and it’s kind of cool to watch the little beads of water suddenly pop out of the butter.  We then placed the butter in mason jars, which personally I wish we could have done the butter in sticks because they are easier to work with but we didn’t have wax paper or containers for that.  So tada!!! we have butter!!  The hardest part is cleaning up the mess, which I made Jacob promise to do today while I was at work.  Hopefully that happens as smoothly as the butter was created - Jacob, you are my dishwashing hero!  Behold below, the finished product - our lovely butter.clip_image002[7]

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spring in the Garden

The garden continues to get more and more beautiful which is shocking to me (the Queen Black Thumb).  We had to pull out a few of the strawberries yesterday that just weren’t growing and clip_image002put in some new plants, which are quite large.  It’s sad having to pinch off the blossoms, but we just can’t let these ambitious Junebearing plants produce this year because it will impact the harvest next year.  At least we can get some everbearing strawberries after July.  The onions are gettinclip_image002[5]g quite tall and the raspberries are getting a few little blooms.  The carrots are starting to peak out of the soil, so we thinned them yesterday along with the spinach.  One of the cauliflowers is doing very well but the other two continue to struggle.  I think it’s because the plastic dipped down and touched them when it was too cold.  I hope they are able to bounce back.  One lettuce is hanging on for dear life and we have a bunch inside that will be transplanted soon.  That first round just didn’t go well.  The potatoes are in the ground but we are still anxiously awaiting the green growth.  The clip_image002[7]peas as you can see are coming along.  The distinct difference in the success of each variety is quite interesting.  The sugar snap peas are definitely slower than the garden and snow varieties.  I came across some red onion sets at Rife’s Market for a great price, so I put some of those along the side of the house near our dill.  That dill was the surprise of the weekend!  We bought a few plants thinking the seeds I had thrown by the side of the house and neglected would all fail.  Well, that’s the cue for production apparently because yesterday I got to looking at the ground and we now have about 20 dill plants springing up!  I’m wondering if the cilantro will pull a similar trick since we just bought some of those.  We also bought a few German Chamomile plants to put amongst the lavender.  Still no growth with the horseradish – I’m worried we planted it too deep, but we’ll just have to wait and see.  I just can’t wait to be able to harvest (and to put down some mulch in the beds around the house so I can stop weeding every day!!!).

Killer at Large and Food Inc.

The other weekend Jacob and I watched a few interesting documentaries that I have wanted to write about ever since and haven't had time until now.  The first one was Killer at Large which focuses on the obesity epidemic in the United States and the variety of causes involved.  This 2008 documentary takes an in-depth look at legislative, genetic, behavioral, and almost any other aspect of the causes of obesity you can think of.  The basic message is that obesity is a very real threat to us but there is no one factor we can point our finger at for causing obesity, it is a combination of things.  They do focus a bit on the whole issue of corn and high fructose corn syrup and how that became so prevalent in our foods by interviewing Michael Pollan and contrasts the industrial and small farm operations that supply food.  However, a majority of the film focuses on childhood obesity, and some of the issues tie in very well with the Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution if anyone has seen that.  It addresses problems with cheap lunches provided to students that count french fries and ketchup as legitimate vegetables, the prevalence of vending machines at schools (and the uproar that occurs from PARENTS when they are taken away or filled with healthy items), and the lack of activity that students have.  Overall, I highly recommend this film simply because it does make you think a bit more about our society in terms of how it is treating our children. 
The second documentary we watched was Food Inc.  I am sort of disappointed in myself for not watching it sooner, but because I've read so many books and watched other similar documentaries, I delayed seeing it until now.  This documentary looks at our food system and how it affects us as consumers and the environment.  It tied in nicely with Killer at Large since they both focus on the corn issue and obesity.  A lot of Food Inc. is hard to see, especially if you aren't really all that familiar with the issues at hand.  The footage of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and the secrecy of large industrial agricultural companies is always a tough pill to swallow (for a look at one of the CAFOs in our backyard, check out Ohio Fresh Eggs).  Aside of animal cruelty issues, the documentary looks at acid resistant E. Coli strains that have developed as a result of the unsanitary conditions these animals are raised and slaughtered in.  It looks at Kevin's Law, which is trying to get safer meat in reaction to food recalls and the death of a young boy as a result of eating an infected hamburger.  The issues surrounding GMOs are discussed along with the problem of the various food industries becoming dominated by just a few companies.  This documentary is a great introduction to the industrial food chain if you are trying to get familiar with it.  It's also ideal for us educated veterans of the food industry because it reiterates just how important our local, safe food choices are and how important it is to stick to it even though it can be more difficult than the easy choice of running down the street to Kroger whenever you want.
You can find either of these documentaries at your local library (I know Columbus Metropolitan Library has them although Food Inc. is in high demand) and most video stores carry Food Inc.  Also, for teachers, Food Inc. does have a guide that goes with it which is also available at the Columbus Library.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Jacob and Katie’s Diner

A quick entry that’s good for a laugh.  We were cleaning out the refrigerator only to find a few pieces of long forgotten chicken.  Rather than throwing them in the garbage, Jacob voted to throw them in the backyard where ‘something’ would come and eat them.  Although I was hoping it would be the neighbor’s cat, I noticed as I was watching a bit of TV that a friendly raccoon was climbing down one of our trees and having a feast.  The raccoon was so comfortable with his dinner that he didn’t even mind Jacob sneaking outside and getting this snapshot of him.  I guess it’s nice that he poses for his photos but I really hope he stays out of our garbage cans.  clip_image002

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Apple Oatmeal Bread and Chicken Asparagus Bread

I've been wanting to write for some time, but alas, life has been insane!!! I do have a few recipes that I have to share and I promise I will do some more writing soon because I have some things I definitely want to share! Yesterday I found a delicious oatmeal apple bread that helped me use a few of my less than lovely apples in the bottom of the fruit drawer. The recipe is available from cdkitchen and is absolutely wonderful (even if you have a psycho oven that cooks everything in about half of the recommended time). For this recipe we used whole wheat bread flour and oats from Stutzman Farm. The honey we used was dark amber from Brenneman's wildflower honey. The milk was Snowville Creamery and instead of 3 egg whites, I used 2 small eggs from Manchester Hill Farm. All of these items were bought at the Clintonville Coop. The apples were from Bauman Orchard which we bought from Whole Foods. The baking soda, spices, and oil (we used canola instead of corn because it was what was on hand) were all items we had stored in our pantry. I'm not typically a big apple cinnamon kind of gal, but this bread is excellent, especially when it is fresh out of the oven (Jacob and my neighbor both agree whole-heartedly).
The other recipe I had to share was my chicken asparagus pasta. The ingredients can be changed based on taste, feel free to add more or less of anything or add some ingredients based on seasonality including fresh tomatoes when you add the asparagus, onions, fresh mushrooms, or fresh herbs.
-1 bag of Amish Naturals wheat pasta (from Clintonville Coop)
-1 bunch of purple asparagus, chopped into bite size pieces (Worthington Winter Market)
-1-2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite size pieces (North Market Poultry and Game)
-1 tbsp. oil
-1 tsp. dried oregano
-1 tsp. dried basil
-1 tsp. onion powder
-1 tsp. garlic powder or 1 clove minced fresh garlic
-1/2 cup mozzarella (Meadow Maid cheese from Worthington Market)
-salt to taste
-pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a skillet and saute (and garlic clove if you are using it) the chicken until cooked. While the chicken is cooking, cook the pasta separately according to the instruction on the package. When the pasta has a few minutes left to cook, add the asparagus and dried herbs and saute until heated but still firm (it should turn green). Once the pasta is drained, place it back in the pot and add the chicken mixture, cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir and serve. This dish is excellent with a bit of fresh spinach or lettuce on top.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mulch and Bricks around the garden

Because we got all the beds filled last weekend, it was time to take on a couple of the cosmetic aspects of the garden. The weed cloth blowing up in the wind just wasn't going to cut it!
We went to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore to look for bricks, but didn't find any. Instead, we found some white ceramic floor tiles that had bits of green and blue glass stuck in them that would make nice stepping stones. We also went back over to Lowes to get the brick and mulch.
We picked up 95 bricks, some pea gravel, and 6 bags of Cedar mulch to match the Cedar raised bed boxes and loaded up the Saturn. I dug the trenches and laid the brick while Katie planted some more onions, carrots, cauliflower, peas, lettuces, and weeded behind the fence. As I walled in sections of the garden, Katie came by and started filling in with mulch. It took most of the morning and afternoon to get it "finished" after going to Lowes, but it looks nice and clean now.

There was some risk of frost last night, so we covered the peas, asparagus, spinach, onions, and some of the strawberries with painters drop cloths.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Supports for Vine Plants

Some of the veggies we are growing this year will require a little help staying upright under their (hopefully!) prolific growth so this morning I started making up some supports. The melons, cucumbers, and tomatoes will need these supports. They are simply a frame made of electrical conduit held in place by some rebar buried in the ground and sticking up into the conduit. This was my first solo attempt at using a conduit bender, so the first one is a little crooked, but the others went much better! I was sawing through the 1/2" rebar with a halfway dull hacksaw blade when our neighbor, Mark, came out and offered to let me borrow his electric grinder. I was very grateful for his offer because it cut down an hour long job to about 10 minutes with much less effort on my part. Putting up some sort of netting is all that is needed to complete the supports.

I also put up a shade frame for the peas made of 1/2" PVC pipe held in place by more pieces of rebar. We'll be able to drape a piece of shade cloth or plastic over it to protect the peas from too much sun and keep some moisture in. We had some success last year with a little pea container garden, but this should be much better for them.

All told, it took me about three and a half hours when you take into account the trip to Home Depot. Not really that big of a deal and working in the morning allowed me to avoid the hot sun, which is always a plus when you have to go to work again at 5:00.


Ode to the Saturn

Jacob’s lovely Saturn wagon really served us well this weekend and I shall be forever grateful that it didn’t die on the highway as I had feared it would.  Sunday we had to drive all over town getting vermiculite, plants, and other soil mixings.  First stop was Oakland Nursery where we purchased 75 strawberry plants (all four varieties - 2 ever-bearing and 2 June-bearing), eight horseradish roots, and a Bay Laurel plant.  They were out of vermiculite so we had to plan another stop at the Dublin location.  Next we were offclip_image001 to Lowes for 20 of the 40 lb. bags of compost and three of the 3.0 cu. ft. peat moss containers.  If you ever need to feel true fear, pile all of this into the back of a Saturn wagon that has a big crack in the windshield and 147,000 miles on it!  The wheels were definitely less than happy, but by golly, it got us home safe and sound where we unloaded and headed back out to pick up our vermiculite, eight varieties of lavender (we just couldn’t decide), five chive plants, some Snowville Creameryclip_image001[5] milk and tasty cheese (from Whole Foods).  Once we got home, we filled the last four and a half beds and put down the grids, so the beds are officially full!!!!  Yippee!!!!!  I am so happy we won’t have to do that every year.  We put 64 of the strawberry plants in the beds and the remaining are going to try to tough it out in one of the herb gardens by the lavender along the fence.  We put in the chives and horseradish along the sides of the house.  The areaclip_image001[7] where we dug holes for the horseradish looks a bit ragged this morning but I’m worried about covering the horseradish roots too much.  It kind of looks like a dog was let loose on the side of the house but it will look better soon…  The Bay Laurel plant is happy in its new home in a big pot out front.  We didn’t put that in the ground because it will need to come inside during the winter.  After five hours of intense labor, both of us were thoroughly exhausted but we got to enjoy a nice glass of wine and sit by the garden to take in the results of all our hard work.  It was a very nice evening.