Monday, June 27, 2011

First Fruits of Summer

Snow Peas for dinner
It was actually veggies but, who's counting.  Today the children and I harvested the first snow peas and snap peas of the summer.  Our garden is finally filling up with all sorts of wonderful fruits and vegetables. It seemed like destiny was determined for me to  fail all of Spring.  And now with a bowl of produce I feel triumphant and excited that my trials and troubles led to my ultimate success. I will actually produce some vegetables and fruit to put on the table this year, yeah!!

"The Jam"

Recently I took inventory of my preserves and realized that I had put up enough preserves to get us through the cold seasons. I thought for sure we would run out after I had given away so many Christmas gifts of strawberry, blueberry and blackberry preserves.  I hadn't realized what unfamiliar territory it was for most people to grow and preserve their own food until I started to give mine away.  I notice when I give people a gift I grew, picked and preserved myself they look at me like I'm either a genius or possibly a crazy person.  No matter which there is always plenty of gratitude for the treat.  But, the gratitude isn't why I do this crazy stuff, it is the sense of connectedness and the thrill I feel when supplying my family and others with the fruits of my labors.

Free Range bed anyone? 
We have been contemplating what to do with our ugly lawn in our south facing front yard and my desire to produce more food.  We finally made the decision to dedicate it to food production.  We wanted to have raised beds and we wanted to make them for free. There seemed so sense in spending money to save money.  We had been collecting materials all spring and this past week we were finally ready.  We put up 2 raised beds, a 4'X8' and a 3'X4', from wood supplied from our friends, Dawn and Neven, who were adding a second story to their house.  We lined them with collected newspaper and lastly filled with our mature compost. In the larger garden bed we planted beets, chard, brussels sprouts and cauliflowers for late fall harvest.  The smaller garden bed is for the children's choice of produce. They planted Casper celedon pumpkins, Big Max orange pumpkins and some random pumpkin starts they potted months ago.  This was a really easy project I recommend it to anyone.  You can complete the beds and have them planted in an afternoon. I also recommend you get rid of some of your lawn it is very liberating.  DO IT, DO IT, DO IT!!!!
Thanks for checking my blog out. Have a fruitful summer, actually Veggieful.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Making Fairy Wonderlands

My daughter is in love with the mystery and wonder of everything Fairy. I have fostered this love by helping her create and maintain fairy gardens around our house. Watching her creativity and excitement in  nature come out is wonderful to watch.  We also read the" Flower Fairy" series of books by Cicely Mary Barker. If you are unfamiliar with these books please check them out.  The water colours, drawings  and poems are really beautiful.
 A couple of monthe ago I saw our locally owned nursery was having a Fairy Festival at the end of April, complete with a magic fairy tea party and make your own fairy garden. After we signed up we went to look at their selection of "Flower Fairy" ornaments  and their examples of the Fairy garden they were going to make at the festival.  I saw their fairy gardens and decided to make my own (each empty box was a crazy $24.99).  I went home and made three of the boxes myself (one for each of my kids and one for my daughters best friend). And after we attended Fairy festival we filled and decorated our fairy garden boxes.
 They are really easy and super fun to make.
 11"X 14" recycled cedar fencing. 2 pieces of 1"X 3"X 14" and 2 pieces of  1"X3"X10"for the sides and 2 pieces of 1"X6"X14" for the bottom. Screw the sides together and sides to the edges of the bottom from the under side of the box . (The bottom pieces are not screwed together.  You want a gap allowing for water to drain).
 Final box (absolutely not square), then we filled it 3/4 full with organic potting mix.
 The kids picked out the fairies and outdoor plants at the nursery. They each decorated their gardens with collected rocks, shells and glass form their trereasure boxes and  sicks, moss, tiny pine cones and other pieces of nature from our yard. This one is my daughters created.

This one is my son's.  He helped as much as a 2 1/2 year old has the attention for.
 These two are the indoor version made in 6" clay pots and indoor mini plants. (The plastic plant was not my idea) These two sit on our kichen table.
I hope these pictures and information help you to get inspired to create a fairy garden with your kids or just for your self.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter Eggs Galore

Eggs go in the bath with 1Tbs vinegar and put in the fridge

24hours later and slimy
  I was thinking how great it would be to dye our eggs with all natural dyes and I found some good veggie dyes you make yourself.  I didn't really realize how really difficult it would be. The dye instructions are really vague and the eggs come out all slimy (if you touch them the dye comes off).  This is a really nice idea but it might take some years to really perfect. A few of the colours are quite nice, blue from boiled red cabbage and the Golden yellow from boiled turmeric. Apart from those the colours are muddy and not so awesome (as you can see in the pictures).  I hope you still  try  to dye your eggs with  natural dyes and hopefully have better success.
   The next thing we will be doing is jello filled egg shells. This is a Easter tradition my mum did when I was a kid and I just love it.  I will also be attempting to fill them with chocolate this year. I will  be posting our egg filling  trial on Friday night.

Garden Update
  My salad garden is beginning to sprout its first two row of  lettuce plantings, they aren't ready to be thinned yet but next week they will be. I put some store bought starts of fennel and dill in.  My cucumbers are big and the weather is still too cold to transplant outside. I hope it gets above 40 at night soon, my living room is not set up to be a hothouse.
  In my big garden the snap peas are getting to be 2"tall , beets, chard, and kale sprouting up. All is looking good.,well almost.
  The dang slugs are killing me.  I used all the natural tricks but, I did resort to an organic compound called "Sluggo".  It is made of copper salts, it does the same thing as the copper strips, it shocks them.  I just had it when I went outside and my broccoli plants had more holes and one had been mowed down completely. ARGGG!!!  That's when I gave up on the totally natural approach.  I am sorry but I really tried, the slugs won that battle.  

Friday, April 15, 2011

When Soup is the Answer

Well today has not been the best, I'm sick, husband's sick, kids who refuse to get along, and veggies still being munched by slugs or now earwigs, HELP!! With all of this I resorted to making some soup. That's supposed to help everything, right? My mother makes this soup it tasted great even when you can't taste with a stuffy nose.
Here is the recipe, it looks like a lot but, it goes quickly. You can use a boxed stock but when you are sick the real thing works much better.  I made this while sick and two insane kids pulling on me.  If I can you can. 
I hope you like it:

Annie's Cold Ease Soup
10 c. cold water
4 chicken thighs with skin and bones
1 stalk celery cut into 4 pieces
1 carrot cut into 4 pieces
1 onion skinned and quartered
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 lg. sprigs parsley
8 whole black pepper corns
8 whole garlic cloves with skin on
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
In a large dutch oven or stock pot  put in water and then all the ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 -25 minutes, until the chicken thighs are cooked through and a bit of the fat is rendered into the stock.
then remove the chicken onto a plate to cool and strain the stock. When the chicken is cool de-bone and reserve the meat for the soup.
Chop the following;
1/2 a small fennel bulb
1 stalk celery
2 carrots peeled
Saute in 2Tbs butter and 2 Tbs olive oil with a bit of salt, till tender about 5-8 minutes. Add stock :
5  large leaves of  chard or kale, thinly sliced
1 head of garlic peeled and smashed leave the cloves whole
1/4 cup uncooked rice
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
reserved chicken meat
salt and pepper to taste
Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, just make sure the rice is done.
Stir and serve.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Welcome to Our Quarter Acre Farm

Today I will start again and hope all goes well.  I had some silly but unresolvable problems yesterday with the new blog.   Today looks to be the same gray we have had too many days of this spring. I am desperate for some sun and warmth. I hope the weather holds with just rain and grey and we don't have a  freeze or random snow like we got last week, crazy. Otherwise this will a blog of how to salvage a home-farm.
Now that it isn't snowing or  currently pouring down rain I want to give you a tour of our place. We have a little garden space  and we will  be adding  raised beds  very soon . It is currently made up of two a patches one in the parking strip across the street. This garden was donated to me by our neighbor, thank you Jeff. In this 35' x 6' space I have managed to squeeze rhubarb, leeks, Yukon gold and Russet  potatoes in vertical cages, onions, tri- colour beets, broccoli, rainbow carrots, savoy cabbage, rainbow chard, Lacinato kale, parsnips, sugar snap peas, pole beans, butternut squash, pumpkins, raspberries, strawberries and zucchini. Quite a list for this small space. I have tried to plan well and use very space to its capacity. I have done well to carve out a lot from this "useless" parking strip. In our back yard there is even less space. And the second garden is a  8'x 3' devoted " the salad" .  I have filled it with green onions, fennel ,dill, pickling cucumbers, bloomsdale spinach, three kinds lettuce and nasturtiums. I consolidated all my really heavy watering plants into this one garden, since I have a history of being a little lazy in that area. I will have tomatoes and basil in pots on our deck later this spring.  
We also have 8  one year old hens (our second batch, we fed the raccoons with our first), our dearly departed honey bees (two new hives arriving shortly), our 17 year old cat Charlie, native cherries and an Italian plum trees.

 Yesterday I went out to the big garden and much to my dismay I found the signs of SLUGS!!  So, I did some internet research and put some ideas to use. This morning I checked  on my new slug deterring methods.  The straw and egg shells I spread around my plants may have done their prickly duty and the orange rinds have no slugs under them. We shall see if the orange rind method even works.  But as of today no new signs of nighttime snacking on my valuable veggie leaves. Yeah!!! I have many veggie starts in our window waiting to go out so, I had better get the slug's under control.
Hope you enjoy the pictures I have included of our place, especially its only tractor with pedal power (zero carbon foot print).