Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Garden Season transcends Fall.

I have been distracted with the Election Season. And then there is the exploding financial markets. As things heat-up in the election and blow-up on Wall Street, the weather has been cooling down. It's time to find some peace walking through the garden. It's time to think of the joys of this season about to pass and look forward to next year.

The end of the growing season has arrived. However, I don't believe it is truly the end of the gardening season. Now it's time to take note of what went well and what could be improved. It's time to clean up the garden and even to prepare some beds for spring.

I am cooking the last batch of home-grown green beans as I write. Ahh...the pleasures of organic, home grown food. I am cooking fingerling potatoes in the same pot. If you haven't discovered fingerling potatoes you have no idea the pleasure you are missing. They are funny shaped and multi-colored and absolutely delicious. They also take a fraction of the time to boil, roast or bake.

You can find them in the local grocer or farmers' market and you can order seed potatoes to grow your own. I am starting to do some looking for sources. Ronniger Potato Farms, LLC is one business I have found which has a wide variety of seed potatoes including heirlooms.

Here are some fingerling recipes to inspire you at I will say that my favorite way to fix green beans is boiled with potatoes and onions, lightly butter with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Now is also the time to think about planting berry bushes and fruit trees. Fall is the perfect time to plant shrubs and trees. We are planning a trip to a berry farm this Saturday to purchase half a dozen blueberry bushes. Blueberries are close to perfection when it comes to fruit. The bushes are easy to care for. The fruit does not need to be seeded or peeled. You can pick them, bag them, and pop them in the freezer for good eating all winter long. They are high in anti-oxidants, iron and vitamin C. You can plant early, mid, and late bearing varieties to extend your harvest. Not only do they produce beautiful fruit, in the Spring they are covered with pretty flowers and in the fall they foliage turns an awesome red.

Enjoy this informative video about Blueberries!

This is where we will be headed this Saturday: Waters Blueberry Farm.

Here are some places you can look at as well:

Where to order:
Waters Blueberry Farm, Smithville, Mo., (816) 532-3473;

Burnt Ridge Nursery Orchards in Onalaska, Wash., (360) 985-2873;

Gurney's Seed & Nursery Co., Greendale, Ind., (513) 354-1491;

Hartmann's Plant Co., Lacota, Mich., (269) 253-4281;

Miller Nurseries, Canandaigua, N.Y., (800) 836-9630;

Raintree Nursery, Morton, Wash., (360) 496-6400;

St. Lawrence Nurseries, Potsdam, N.Y., (315) 265-6739;

Spring Hill Nursery (for the compact "Tophat" blueberry), Harrison, Ohio, (513) 354-1509;

Stark Bro's Nurseries & Orchards Co., Louisiana, Mo., (800) 325-4180;

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New Addition to Garden: Classic Reel Mower

Now I know that my husband, Brian, is totally sold on going green and sustainable living. He did some research and placed an order for something truly cutting edge which is actually a classic, the Scotts 20-inch Classic Reel Mower.

It arrived today and as soon as we got home from work, Brian busily got working to assemble the mower. As they say, some assembly required. He had it together within 15 minutes and took it right out to the lawn. He actually let me push it up and back a couple of times.

It's easy to push and so quiet. It whispers along as you mow. I am really excited about this change. Our mower was four years old and needed some repairs. It most likely would have cost the same to repair the old mower that we paid for this one. The beauty of this mower is that it of course, requires no gasoline or oil.

Gas lawn mowers are some of the most polluting machines we operate. There are no emissions regulations on mowers, although many communities do have noise regulations which apply to gas lawn mowers.

We will donate our lawn mower to a local charity, Shawnee Special Services, that repairs the mowers and then sells them for a very reasonable price at their outlet.

Another new item for you, I have created a blog for the recipes that I been sharing with you, Joy's Victory Garden Cookbook. I decided it would be easier to search and find the recipes. Please take a look. If you have any favorite recipes you have created for the produce you grow in your garden, please share them at the cookbook blog site and I will be sure to credit to you and link back to your blog if you are a blogger. The goal of the cookbook is to provide some good recipes for garden produce that help us all enjoy our garden or farmer's market produce.

Today's new recipe: Chicken Chili con Queso

Here's a good read about eating locally: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by By Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp. Publisher's Weekly reviewer, Nina Planck, comments, "Michael Pollan is the crack investigator and graceful narrator of the ecology of local food and the toxic logic of industrial agriculture. Now he has a peer. Novelist Kingsolver recounts a year spent eating home-grown food and, if not that, local. Accomplished gardeners, the Kingsolver clan grow a large garden in southern Appalachia and spend summers "putting food by," as the classic kitchen title goes."

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Progress of the Planter Boxes

My planter boxes are coming along very nicely. I have found that the green beans like to have their soil moist. They don't do well if you let the soil dry out between watering. This is amplified by being in a container on a raised deck. They get more breeze and being in a single row are not getting the humidity they would if more clustered in a garden bed.

I have been watering them exclusively with rainwater since we have gotten a barrel installed on all four corners of the house. It takes about a half gallon of water per planter box. I have saved some plastic gallon jugs and find if I fill them up in the evening it helps to have the water ready to go for early morning watering before I head off to work. It may just be my imagination, but it seems the beans and greens have really taken off and grown much faster since I am using rain water.

The one box of greens that I planted has been pretty productive. We have already has three or four spinach and mixed green salads. I will plant more boxes in greens next year. I have been snipping leaves from the greens rather than harvesting complete plants. I need to do some research to see if it is really better to pluck the entire mature plant or snip off leaves and let the plant grow back. I decided to snip for now since it is late in the season and I am not sure how much longer the plants will continue to grow with shortening days and the temperatures starting to cool down.

One thing I am considering is making a row cover or cloche by taking some wire hangers, cutting them and then bending into arches. I would put these in the containers and drape either plastic or a light white cloth over the beds to extend the growing season. This would allow me to grow greens well into the fall from what I have been reading. Especially the varieties that like cooler weather, such as the lettuces. I will most likely use row covers in the Spring so I can began growing greens as early as possible.

I also think that I may grow greens early on the deck rail then put some herb seedlings in as the next crop. It would be nice to have the herbs close to the kitchen.

My raised bed has become a jungle! It's not too pretty and I can't officially call it a Square Foot garden, since I am not using a permanent grid. If you don't have a permanent grid over the top of the garden, you aren't Square Foot Gardening, According to Mel Bartholomew. I am sure that I over-planted, but this is a "growing" learning process. And one done in installments as the budget allows. I will add at least one more raised bed next year, but ideally I would like to have four beds next year.

I may experiment and set up the raised beds two boards high rather than four boards as I have done this year. It's all up to how the Basset Hounds handle themselves. I either have to have tall raised beds or a fence if they decide they want to dig in the garden. I have considered creating a digging garden just for the dogs.

Recipe of the Day

My husband, Brian found a green tomato that had dropped of the vine. I love friend green tomatoes, but since I am on the Weight Watchers program, wanted to find a way to enjoy the green tomato without the added calories of breading and frying. Here is the recipe that I created using the recipe tool on the Weight Watchers web site. I used the green tomato from our garden and a zucchini and onion that came in our CSA bag. The herbs were from my garden.

Green Tomato and Zucchini Saute

Preparation Time: 15 min
Cooking Time: 15 min
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Course: main meals

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion(s), diced
  • 1 green chili pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
  • 1 whole green tomato, sliced rounds
  • 1 cup zucchini, sliced rounds
  • 1/4 cup low-fat chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp basil, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary, whole leaves, pulled from stem
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, whole leaves pulled from stem
  • 1/2 cup canned tomatoes
  • Organic no-salt seasoning, to taste


Heat a skillet to medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onions and chili pepper and stir to coat with oil. Cook until onion is just transparent. Add the tomato and zucchini rounds. Then add 1/4 cup chicken broth. Cook until the zucchini is tender. Add the fresh herbs and stir to mix. Add the canned tomato chunks and sprinkle with organic no salt seasoning. Serve as a side dish.

We served in two servings. You could have a smaller side and serve as four. Since the veggies are low calorie, I would simply double the recipe though.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Vines in my Garden and Grape leaves on my Plate

While I was looking through my Weight Watcher's materials, I found that grape leaves are listed on the core plan food list. I wasn't expecting to see grape leaves on the food list and it sparked a thought about what I might try cooking next for dinner. I wrote a while back about all the vines that had wound themselves through my garden. Some of those vines are wild grapes.

When I got home, I searched the web for stuffed grape leaves recipes. After looking over a few for ideas I created a new version which is measured out for the Weight Watchers Flex food plan. I was excited to find a new "food" growing wild in the garden and had fun crafting the recipe and trying it out for dinner tonight. If you are daring, try it and you may find something new and fun for your dinner.

If you happen to be lucky enough to have some wild grapes in your yard or if you have planted some grapes, then you can grab the flower sheers and head out to the garden. Otherwise you will have to buy canned leaves or maybe you can find some leaves at a middle eastern market.

I selected 12 nice, large-sized grape leaves, then I headed for the herb garden where I have some cinnamon basil and cut about 1 cup of fresh basil and then about 1/2 cup of fresh parsley. Next I headed back in to begin the creative process called "making it up as you go." The following recipe is the result.

Joy's Stuffed Grape Leaves

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 20 min
Cooking Time: 45 min
Level of Difficulty: easy to moderate
Course: main meals


1/2 cup uncooked SunWest Harvest Medley rice blend (from Costco) or use long grain, brown and wild rice blend.
1 cup fat-free chicken broth
1 tsp olive oil

12 large grape leaves, fresh
1 cup water

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 pound 90% lean raw ground beef

1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp black pepper, fresh ground, or to taste
12 dry-roasted salted almonds, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, fresh, chopped
1 cup basil, fresh, chopped


  1. In a pot, combine the chicken broth, 1 tsp of the olive oil and the rice (1/2 cup). Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until tender. (While rice is cooking is a great time to go cut the grape leaves and fresh herbs).
  2. In a large skillet, place a steamer basket and one cup water. Cover and heat until boiling. Layer the fresh grape leaves in the basket and cover. Turn heat down to low and cook until leaves are fully steamed.
  3. In a medium skillet, add 1 tsp olive oil and the chopped onions. Cook the onions until they start to become translucent and tender.
  4. Crumble the ground beef over the onions and stir until browned. Sprinkle the ground beef with the allspice and cinnamon.
  5. Grind black pepper to taste over the beef and stir.
  6. Add the chopped parsley, basil and the chopped almonds to the beef. Stir until combined and the herbs are tender.
  7. As soon as rice is done, spoon it into the beef mixture and stir to combine.
  8. Take a grape leaf and lay it flat, backside up, on a cutting board or plate. Spoon three tablespoons of the beef mixture onto the center of the leaf and roll from the stem side wrapping the leaf points in over the beef into a somewhat tight roll.
  9. Place rolled and stuffed leaf seam side down on a plate. Continue rolling until all leaves are rolled.
  10. Spray the rolled leaves lightly with olive oil spray and then squeeze juice from half a lemon over the rolls.

Serve warm with rice if desired and fresh cucumbers (Consider trying this: slice a cucumber into 1/8 inch slices and then place the slices in a clean quart glass jar and pour the following mixture over them to cover: 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 tsp dried dill and a dash of salt and a double pinch of sugar. Seal the jar with a lid and the keep over night in the refrigerator. The cucumber slices should keep for a couple of weeks, but you will probably eat them before that!).

Enjoy and have fun cooking with your own grape leaves and fresh herbs!

By the way, I weighed in today at Weight Watchers and had lost 3.4 pounds this week for a total of 9.8 pounds lost in just three weeks. (as they say, "results are not typical" but they are greatly appreciated!)

- Joy

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cooking with Tofu and Fresh Garden Herbs

Our food from the Hen House C.S.A* this week included a pound of tofu. My husband wasn't so sure about tofu, so I looked around for some interesting recipes. I customized one to the ingredients I had on hand. I have recently joined Weight Watchers so I am building a lot of recipes using their online tools. I promise to share the ones that turn our well with you, my readers.

Here you go, another "Recipe of the Day."

This is a very easy and delicious way to prepare a low fat, high protein dish and an unique way to serve tofu. Can be served as an appetizer or as a main dish. It is also a great way to use the fresh herbs you are growing in your garden.

Baked Italian Tofu

Servings: 4

Preparation Time: 15 min
Cooking Time: 12 min
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Course: Main meals, appetizers

  • 1 pound firm tofu, well drained
  • 1 cup basil, fresh leaves
  • 1 cup fresh oregano, fresh leaves
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 serving Kirkland Organic No-salt Seasoning, (2 teaspoons)
  • 2 clove garlic clove(s), finely minced
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season a pizza stone or baking pan with the olive oil and set aside.
  2. Slice one pound of firm tofu in slices 1/2" x 1" x 2". (I sliced the block in 1/2" slices and then cut each again long-ways.) Place the slices on a plate over a paper towel. Put another paper towel on top and then set a second heavy plate on top. Let sit for about five to ten minutes to remove moisture. If you are trying to cut down on using paper, then use two clean dish towels.
  3. Mix water and vinegar in a small bowl. Finely mince the garlic and add it to the water and vinegar. Let sit for five to ten minutes so that flavors combine. (steps 2 and 3 are completed during the same 5 - 10 minute period of time)
  4. Finely chop the fresh herbs. Add the dried Italian seasoning and the no-salt seasoning to the fresh herbs. Take the top dinner plate off of the tofu and spread the herb mixture evenly on a dinner plate.
  5. Pour the vinegar, water, garlic mixture onto another dinner plate. Then take four pieces of tofu at a time and place in liquid mixture to coat, pushing gently to pick up garlic. Then gently press the tofu slice into the herbs and turn to coat.
  6. Place the tofu pieces as they are coated with herbs onto the baking pan you have coated with olive oil. After all the pieces have been coated and placed on the pan, put the pan in the oven and bake for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
  7. Remove from oven when lightly browned and serve warm with Marinara Sauce.
*C.S.A : consumer supported agriculture; a subscription to fresh food from local farms.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Shout Down my Rain Barrel!

Say, say, oh playmate,
Come out and play with me
And bring your dollies three
Climb up my apple tree

Shout down my rain barrel
Slide down my cellar door
And we'll be jolly friends
Forever more more more more more.

Rain Barrels made from recycled materials
We went to a class provided by Bridging the Gap at a local recycling center last Tuesday evening and made two 55 gallon rain barrels. The rain barrels are made from mostly recycled materials. Big, white plastic food-quality drums are brought to the recycling center by Pepsi by the semi-trailer truck load about every 2 to three weeks and in a previous life contained soda syrup. The drums were being ground up and tossed in the land fill. Now they are finding a second and long life in the yards on both sides of the Missouri-Kansas state line as rain barrels.

The parts include: white Pepsi plastic barrel, an 8 inch plastic flower pot, nylon screen, rubber band made from tires reclaimed from recycled bikes, a male pipe connector, a sump pump hose, and a water spigot.

How to pull it all together: Turn the flower put upside down and draw a circle on the lid of the barrel. Use a jig saw to cut just inside the hole, maybe about 1/2 inch smaller so the pot can sit in the hole. The hole is just a little bit smaller than the lip of the flower pot. Take the strip of bike tire and tie it around the top of the pot, then take the screening and tuck it under the rubber band, pulling down tight all around tight. The flower pot sits in the hole on the top of the barrel and acts as a filter for the incoming water and also keeps out insects such as mosquitoes which look for standing water in which to breed.

Next drill with a saw hole bit and cut a hole about one inch in diameter at the bottom front of the barrel then screw in the water spigot. Then drill a hole high on the top side of the barrel to accommodate the sump pump hose. The hose serves as an overflow. (See how-to video below).

One of our two rain barrels is pictured on the left --->

In the future, we may make one barrel at a time. Picture a big white barrel in the back seat behind my husband who was scrunched next to a big white barrel in the passenger front seat. I was feeling like a pretzel in the right back and it was my job to watch out for traffic on the right since all mirrors were obscured by barrels.

Friday evening we the leveled the ground for the barrels and placed two cinder blocks in each spot as raised bases. Raising the barrels on blocks provides some added water pressure for the spigot and makes it easier to fill a watering can or attach a hose.

We were supposed to be having rain all week, but had no rain until this morning. We had all the supplies we needed to finish setting up the barrels. All we needed to do was cut the downspouts and attach the diverters. So we woke up to rain and hurried out to set up the barrels.

It was amazing. We had a somewhat light drizzly rain for a couple of hours. When we went to check the barrels after about an hour of rain. One barrel was already full and using its overflow hose. The other barrel's spigot was open...something we didn't notice while the barrel was we lost some water there.

Our instructor told us that a 1,000 square foot house can shed over 20,000 gallons of water a year. I believe it now after seeing how quickly our barrels filled today. The cost for two barrels: materials and class, $35 per barrel (the are raising the fee to $45 which is still a bargain), flexible diverter, screws and washers $18, cinder blocks about $6. Total about $104 for materials and setup of two 55 gallon barrels. If you bought pre-made barrels from a garden center, they would cost about $150 each. They might be a bit more aesthetic, but otherwise function no differently. Our barrels were about $52 each installed. We are planning to make a few more barrels and daisy chain them.

Here's a good resource for pre-made and custom-made rain barrels. You can also get some great ideas from the site: Aaron's Rain Barrels and More. I like Aaron's creative ideas for daisy chaining barrels and there's a great idea for a barrel stand made from landscaping stones.

Watch the video below for a pretty close example of how we made ours. The only difference is that we put screen-door screening over the top of the flower-pot version of an atrium gate. He puts a filtering cloth at the bottom. Our style of build allows the overflow tubing to be place higher. Watch the video and this will make sense.

Video: How to make your own rain barrel from a food-quality 55 gallon drum.

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Back to the Garden

Guardian of the Beach
The wizened old man who watches over Bethany Beach, Delaware is the first one to greet you and the last to say, "farewell." I would love to bring the old man home to my garden. Maybe I can find a big log and create my own someday. We had a great time at the beach and it seems we have been running ever since. But today I am determined to give you some updates of my suburban homestead as I am becoming to consider my plot of suburban land.

Back to the Garden
Some great things are happening in the garden. I am in love with the fresh herbs. The are beautiful and so fun to use in my cooking. I picked my first lovely white eggplant yesterday and plan to cook it tonight with dinner. I have made some awesome pesto. I will share a lite version with you at the end of this article.

Planters on the Deck
My new garden addition is five new railing planters for my deck. I saw them when we were at the garden center looking for a display solution for the wooden spirals Brian bought at Shorty's Shop in Bethany Beach. The wooden spirals have found a home next to the vegetable raised bed garden and a looking good there.The planter is plastic, but looks convincingly like clay. It has groove on the bottom so you just set it on the railing and plant. No brackets or screws. It's great. The pots come in two sizes of groove, 4 inch and 6 inch. The garden center had five 6 inch pots left on the shelf and I got them all. My raised bed is brimming over with plants and I have several packets of lettuce, spinach, collard greens, beans and more that I wanted a chance to plant. Late July to early August are the time to plant fall crops and a great time to plant some lettuce for fall. I plan to replant just as soon as I harvest the spinach and lettuce and if lucky, I may get several crops in through mid October.

I planted spinach and lettuce in one pot and then planted the others in three varieties of bush beans. In just a week, the seedlings are popping up. It's fun to have the plants on the deck and so close to the house.
Recipe of the day:

Pesto Sauce, Light
2 cloves garlic
2 cups fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh oregano
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 T olive oil
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup fat-free chicken broth

  1. Add all fresh herbs to blender, then add the rest of the ingredients on top.
  2. Blend on low for 5 seconds then increase to medium speed for 15 seconds. You may need to tamp the ingredients down.
  3. Blend until just combined.
Serve as a dip with crackers and fresh cut vegetables such as carrots or celery. May also be used as a sauce over pasta. 8 servings; 2 Weight Watchers Points per serving.

(Zucchinis are on the way!)

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Prince Charles endorses Victory Gardens

"It doesn't need an acre of garden, a window box is a very good start."

Prince Charles, in a look-back to the "Dig for Victory" campaign of WWII, is endorsing a new campaign of victory gardening. I am so very happy that we now have a royal reason to enjoy our backyard gardens in addition to the pleasures of fresh food, we can now take pride that the Victory Garden movement is royally official.

Along with our own gardens it is important to buy locally as much as possible to help support local farmers and local suppliers of goods and services. The closer to home we shop the better it is for Mother Earth and for the local community.

During the world wars, our parents and grandparents learned the benefits of community. Everyone had to pull together to support the war effort. But as soon as the war was over, the "modern era" emerged with more and more technology driven ways to support our needs and wants. Along with the growth of the multinational corporations whose pursuit to supply demand with ever cheaper products, modern technology at low cost has driven us to the ends of the earth to supply our everyday needs.

This has wrought benefits, but the burden of producing this lifestyle has weighed heavy on our environment and our local communities. Our pursuit of the "modern" life has brought us to a crisis that will require an effort similar to that of WWII to support the war against global warming.

It is good to know that we can make a difference by digging in our own backyards.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

At the Beach!

We have been at the beach for the past week at our annual Weaver family reunion! It was great to see everyone again. It was a true vacation from the computer. My day job is very computer intensive work -- so I was determined not to touch a computer or think about work! However, I missed my garden and blogging!

To prepare my gardens before leaving, I set up soaker hoses on the raised bed and on the herb garden. I put timers on the faucets to water every other day. Our summer vacation has been a gardening challenge in years past. My soaker hoses worked well and no plants were lost this year!

In the raised bed, I used one 50' soaker hose and wound it up and back spacing out about a foot apart. In the front I have a long narrow bed, so I took a 50' hose and cut it into 4 pieces. I bought male and female connectors and caps for the hose ends and then hooked them up to a four-way splitter. I cut my regular garden hose so it would be just long enough to connect the splitter to the front faucet and connected it to a timer.

I had a couple of challenges. I learned that you have to inspect the hardware pieces closely before purchase. One piece I bought was the wrong type which had been placed in the bin with the pieces I did need. Another piece had a screw that had no groove in the head. After overcoming those challenges, I hooked up the timer on the faucet, hooked up the hose and turned it on. The faucet stem packing was wearing out and the pressure from the timer caused a massive leak. I had to schedule a plumber to fix it. Just in time, all the work came together and now it works like a champ.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Just Plain Fun to Read: Blogs worth your time!

Anajz from the Sustainable Backyard kindly awarded "Joy's Victory Garden" with an award and now it is my turn to pass on the award to a few of my favorite spots on the web. There are so many blogs I enjoy that it is hard to pick and I will probaby have to have a few more rounds of awards in the future!

I pass on the "just plain fun to read" award to the following blogs:

And I must also include the Sustainable Backyard as one of my favorites! Hope it's OK to circle back around!

If you would like to see more blogs & things that I read, check out the OFE Blog Roll & Other Resources.

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Sunday, July 6, 2008

An Award for Joy's Victory Garden! - just plain fun to read

Anajz from the Sustainable Backyard kindly awarded "Joy's Victory Garden" with an award! Thanks Anajz! This is so exciting!

Now I will pass on the fun and will send this on to some of my favorite to read blogs! Stay-tuned.

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The joys of herbs!

I purchased more herbs than would fit in my raised bed this season so I decided to plant herbs among my perennials where I generally planted flowering annuals in the bed alongside our driveway. I am enjoying the different textures of the plants in the garden and the butterflies and bees seem to enjoy the variety too.

This morning I snipped some stems from my basil plants that were starting to flower. The plants are still rather small so I don't want them to spend all their energy flowering and producing seeds. Trimming helps promote bushier growth. The lovely thing about trimming herbs is that you can put them to immediate use.

For instance, I snipped some herbs as well as some long stemmed flowers from my garden and created a table bouquet. Then for breakfast I cooked some scrambled eggs and added fresh trimmed basil, rosemary and parsley as well as some chopped garlic and salt-free organic seasoning. Delicious!

Growing herbs sparks creativity, adds beauty to your garden and your table while also providing some important health benefits. Research shows that Basil has benefits of DNA protection, antibacterial properties, anti-inflammatory effects, and essential nutrients for cardiac health. Rosemary contains substances that are useful for stimulating the immune system, increasing circulation, and improving digestion. Rosemary also contains anti-inflammatory compounds that may make it useful for reducing the severity of asthma attacks. In addition, rosemary has been shown to increase the blood flow to the head and brain, improving concentration. Parsley is a rich source of antioxidant nutrients, is a good source of folic acid, promotes cardiovascular health and helps fight rheumatoid arthritis. Garlic, a super herb about which many have been written, is an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of vitamin B6 and vitamin C and a good source of selenium. It promotes cardiovascular health, operates as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral agent and protects against many cancers.

Wow, those scrambled eggs with herbs can really pack a health punch!

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Firecracker Day Trip, Berries, Cider, and Wine

Morning stop at the garden
The zucchini is blooming this morning. As small as the plant is, I wonder if I should pluck the blooms and let the vine get a bit bigger.

I found mushrooms popping up all over the bed this morning. I got out a hand trowel and broke them up into the soil. Not sure what type of 'shrooms they are, but I figure they can compost and nourish the soil. And, while I was working the soil, I did see some red wrigglers so they did survive the rainy weather of the first night in their new home.

A berry pickin' we will go...
We checked the "Picking Report" and figured we better get to the Berry Patch early. The fields were picked out by 1:00 PM on Tuesday. The Berry Patch opened two weeks late because we have had a cool spring. I guess the berry picking crowds were trying to make up for lost time! Over 20,000 people visit the Berry Patch each season.

Here's a tip for you: if you plan on visiting the Berry Patch, you are going to encounter a fresh baked blueberry muffin that is warm, decadently fragrant and fresh from the Berry Patch store oven. They are in high demand. You might drop by the store before you head out to pick and put you name on the muffin list. They have a posted schedule of when they expect batches of muffins to be done. Plan well and you can beat the crowd. Also, they have a delicious blueberry lemonade that is definitely worth a try along with many other blueberry products. You can also pick up some great relishes and jams.

Everybody gets one bucket, but as many plastic bags as you think you can fill with berries. The process is run very efficiently.

The berries were a bit on the green side today. By tomorrow there may be more ripe berries. Next Tuesday will probably be a prime day. The patch is closed on Sunday and Monday.

Brian took the challenge to search out the best and the blue-ist berries.

We ended up with a little over five pounds of berries by the time we called it quits. We were hoping for some blackberries as well. The blackberry bushes were laden with berries but very few were ready to pick. They might be looking pretty good by next Tuesday. If only I had the day off! Maybe a vacation day is in order. The Berry Patch says they will have berries through July and into August.

Berries in tow, we headed back to pay-up and wait in line with many other hungry muffin shoppers. You can watch as they cook the muffins, but if your name is down a ways on the list it becomes a bit of torture as you wait for the muffins to get done. Just don't give up, the yummy muffins are worth the wait. You will want a muffin on the spot and more to take home. We purchased two muffins, some blueberry lemonade, a quart of blueberry syrup, and especially for Brian: a jar of blue cheese stuffed olives.

On the road again...
My husband loves apple cider. Why do I mention this? Because the Louisburg Cider Mill is just 8 miles away from the Berry Patch. With his new GPS in hand, he was ready for more day trip. Our next stop - the Louisburg Cider Mill where you can find wonderful unfiltered cider and awesome apple-cinnamon doughnuts.

They have a great variety of other sundries in their store as well. I came home with some raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and a new two-cup teapot which I will take to the office so I can properly brew my tea. Styrofoam cups do not make a real cup of steeped tea in my book. Brian also got a root beer float to go with his doughnut and a gallon of unfiltered apple cider to take home.

Wait, how did we get to Sonoma?
On the way to Louisburg Cider Mill we saw signs for Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery. This was a bonus adventure since we had never been there before. Just a few miles from the cider mill, it's a lovely place and the owners, Cindy and Dennis Reynolds are enthusiastic about introducing you to their wonderful wines. We did a wine tasting. I was very impressed. We brought home three bottles: their newest red - Flyboy Red, Buffalo Red, and a white wine, Traminette. They were also serving lunch for the Fourth - organic hot dogs with all the trimmings.

The vines are full of fruit waiting to become great Somerset Ridge wines!

You may not think of Kansas or Missouri when think about great wines, but did you know that Missouri is credited with saving French vineyards?

A bit of history - in the 1860's French vineyards were plagued with vine diseases most likely accidentally imported from America. Missouri grape vines were grafted to vines in France and credited for saving the French vineyards. Missouri exported 10 million root stocks to France. Somerset Ridge in just on the Kansas side of the state line between Kansas and Missouri. Next time you enjoy a French wine, remember that it has a heritage that extends back to the Missouri/Kansas wine country.

Buzz it up

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Red Wrigglers have Arrived!

A box, smaller than I imaged, was waiting on my porch when I got home on Wednesday evening. Red Wriggler's! Could there really be 2,000 Red Wriggler's in that small box?

Then my next concern was "how long had the box been on the porch?" Were my wormies still alive? I opened the box and pulled back a sheet of newspaper packing. There was a cloth bag, tightly tied by a draw string. The bag was about as big as a quart-size baggy. I carefully opened it and peered in. At first it just looked like a bag of compost. Then I noticed some movement. Yep, the worms were "wriggling."

Also included in the box were some simple directions from Uncle Jim: dig a hole in the middle of the bed and place all of the worms in it. Cover with dirt, then cover with the two pieces of newspaper included in the box. Water to dampen the paper. The directions assured me that the worms would disperse on their own and they live best in colonies - so all 2,000 worms went into the vegetable garden.

This would have been simple, except about the time I was walking out to the garden, it started raining and then a bit later grape-sized hail started falling. Just as I started to prepare a spot to plant the worms, I had to turn and run for cover carefully cradling the bag of worms to safety.

Brian took this picture of me digging in the garden. Such a lovely pose. And no, I don't really have a basset hound hanging off my butt. ;-) Just a little camera trickery and interesting framing by Brian. Did he realize this???

Not wanting to leave the worms in the bag over night, I waited out the hail, then donned a rain jacket and headed back out. I followed Uncle Jim's directions except I didn't need to worry about watering to dampen the paper. I was throughly soaked by the time I got back inside. I was a little concerned that the worms might get too much rain, however my raised bed has about 16" of very loose growing medium so I think they will be alright.

I had considered putting some worms into my compost bins, but in trying to research whether this would work, I couldn't find anything conclusive. My concern was that my bins might be too hot for the worms. And that was my final decision. I did learn a lot about vermiculture. Now I have a hankering to get or make a worm composting container.

It sounds like worms will eat almost anything from eggshells to junk mail. And the worm composter collects liquid produced by the worms as they compost that you can use as liquid fertilizer on your garden and house plants. Pretty cool stuff.

I added a few links to my "Composting" reference where you can find more information about vermiculture (composting with worms). I now have 2000 and four pets - two basset hounds, two cats, and 2000 worms. Oh, and Uncle Jim assures me that after the worms are mature, they will reproduce about every thirty days. Lots of worms!

When I looked out my front window this morning I had a nice surprise. After all the rain of the night before, my day lilies decided to bloom!

I purchased these lovely ladies from the Berry Patch several years ago. Tomorrow we are rising early and starting our Independence Day by heading out to the Berry Patch in hopes of picking some fresh blueberries! On their website they say that they have some nice blueberry bushes for sale. I might just come home with two or three along with a gallon of fresh berries.

Buzz it up

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Perennials and things

Each year my perennials return in their own time. As winter is passing, I look for them and wonder where they are hiding and how they fared the winter cold. When tender green shoots start pushing through the soil I welcome my old friends once more with a special reverence and joy and hope for another season of riotous beauty.

Lavender lilacs hedge around my house and make a backdrop for my yard. The flowers hang like Chinese lanterns. So sweetly fragrant, they welcome spring looking every bit as luscious as a ripe bunch of grapes.

I was wrestling with the ivy and wild morning glory and wild grape vines that have woven themselves through my front garden bed when I stopped for a moment and saw the beauty they had created. I stepped back surprised that what I saw as a nuisance and was trying so hard to uproot had such awesome beauty when viewed with the right state of mind. I grabbed my camera to catch the moment and now I look at my vines in a new light. I purchased a wire trellis so that my vines can weave more beauty in my garden.

I love my yucca's rich white flowers reaching to the tallest heights of the garden in late spring. Now that summer has arrived, the yucca blooms are falling. So beautiful for such a short time. Flowers teach us to treasure the seasons and the times of our lives.

Buzz it up

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