June 25, 2009

Baby roots

The radishes are spicy! I yanked a carrot to see how they've grown. Curiosity got the best of me.

June 10, 2009

Potato Blossoms

I was terrified to see blossoms on the potatoes! I thought they had gone to seed and I lost the chance to harvest any potatoes this season. Some frantic Google research reassured me that blossoms mean little tubers are starting to form (hopefully deep under all that soil). Today, the blossoms seemed more benign and innocent. I wonder if they are edible.

Bonus Pic: Carrots

June 9, 2009

New sprouts

The seeds I planted on Memorial Day are finally coming up. The radishes and beets are up, although reduced in number by somebody's uncensored weeding. The beans and cucumbers are up and putting on their first set of true leaves. I'm pretty sure I have spinach and chard, but it's difficult for me to tell them apart from the weeds, so I'm waiting til they grow up a big. Was that an admission of guilt?




Pickling Cucumber

June 8, 2009

Don't call it a comeback!

I've been depressed. Yesterday, I was unsure of my tomato future. Dreams of fat, juicy heirloom sliced tomatoes accompanying my BBQ burger and plans for a multitude of canning in August were vanishing. The three plants (Berkley Tie-Dye, Black Cherry, and Big Beefsteak) were having difficulty transitioning into the real world. Their growth, stunted. Their leaves, attacked by flea beetles. And if that wasn't enough, the plants I put out around Memorial Day had been murdered by the kitty cats. Eaten right down to the core, even my beloved Black Krim. I only had one and there I was, staring at a one inch stem sticking out of the ground. All but one pepper survived, but that one was being eaten by flea beetles. The basil shared the same fate.

I've even been avoiding the garden. There is an overrun of weeds growing in my tiny little aisles. Silly me for throwing the remnants of hand weeding in the aisles, thinking they would mulch down. So I went out there today, needing to hill up my blossoming potatoes, and saw the Big Beefsteak looking vibrant and bushy(er). I had to run over and check it out.

There I found not only the Beefsteak so happy, but also the Berkley. The Black Cherry has new green leaves, saying a big F-U to those stupid flea beetles. Ha! The peppers are back and so is the basil. Then, I saw the greatest thing ever. My Black Krim - ALIVE. Growing. And creating a volunteer plant???? Could a second Black Krim be emerging before my very eyes? (crossing my fingers and hoping hoping hoping!!) Tell me what you think.

Bonus picture of the Black Cherry

What a great day :)

May 31, 2009

May 25, 2009

You know everything will be alright when Memorial Day arrives. It's warm and the threat of frost has passed. Hopefully. A lot was accomplished this long, holiday weekend. And while spending those hours in the garden, I often paused and reflected on how far this little garden has come and how much I've learned along the way. Now,with the weekend winding down, I'm able to sit down and share my garden with you.

Those brassicas are really growing now. The trunks are thickening and the leaves are bigger than my hand. The broccoli has yet to form a floret, so I'm hoping it will happen soon, before the summer heat. I'm afraid I started my brussels too early and they will be bitter before they are ready to harvest. Next year, I will start broccoli earlier to be planted in March. I'll wait until mid-summer to plant the brussels, so they will be ready to harvest after the first snow when they're tender and sweet.

We've eaten only two heads of lettuce thus far. Totally delish. I have two of butterhead that are actually forming soft heads. I want to harvest them before they become bitter from the heat. I cut the two Romaine stalks off just above the stem. Now I'm being rewarded with "cut and come again" style lettuce!
The potatoes are growing up quickly. I've mounded on soil twice, a little bit at a time. If everything is working correctly, I should have a decent crop.

I spent a good amount of time this weekend weeding and thinning the carrots. It looks like I should have about six dozen of them.

The three tomato plants that I put out before the rains (and then the heat) have required some nurturing. I added more soil, and mounted it up around the stem, then created a well around the base to collect water. There is new leaf growth, albeit small. I gave them friends, too. I added six more tomatoes, four bell peppers, and two basil plants, using the same method on all.

I planted radishes and beets between the potatoes and carrots. In the bottom row, I planted cucumbers and beans in a long hill I created by making a trench with my hoe, to hopefully collect some water and prevent all my new soil from washing away. In front of them, I sparsely planted Swiss chard and spinach.

May 14, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Tuna Salad

A week ago, I was convinced I couldn't complete this dish. Not because I had anything against it, quite to the contrary. This recipe has been on my radar for some time. The problem was the availability of fresh, quality Ahi tuna in a landlocked, Midwestern town. I considered just using avocado, because, well, I really really love avocado. I'll never understand those people who are unable to ingest anything *eeek* GREEN.

But, it is TUNA salad, after all. Luckily, I found two 6-ounce portions of frozen Ahi tuna in the freezer section for $5.99. Since I didn't know the quality of the tuna, I seared more towards medium well.

Everything came together easily and quickly. I only made half of the recipe which could have easily fed at three if not four lunch portions. I cut whole wheat flour tortillas in half and served as a wrap.

Results: What a treat! The sharp wasabi and tart lime was so invigorating against the creaminess of the avocado. My husband gave me the "oh my god!" look as he took his first bite. This is a keeper. Thank you so much Kate (of Warm Olives and Cool Cocktails) for the excellent recipe. I would have never forgiven myself if I took a pass on this one!

Final Grade: A+

May 13, 2009

First harvest of 2009

I spent the day inside cooking. I experiemented with this week's Barefoot Blogger recipe. I prepared a double batch of White Chili so Jeremy doesn't have to cook when I'm at work. I made another loaf of bread and I made dinner: Swiss steak over noodles. I set it out to serve and realized I didn't make anything as a side.

The lettuce on the side of the house has been BEGGING to be eaten. After the rain today, the Jericho Romaine looked particularly delicious. It became a simple salad with croutons, parmesan, and Caesar dressing. Ohh, it was SO good!

Roughing the storm

The garden has been coming along very nicely. On Mother's Day, we (my husband, really) constructed the tomato support (cedar studs and pvc pipe) and a hog fence trellis for the cucumbers and beans. We then ran the soaker hose from the rain barrel along the beds. We were about 4' short, but short where the soil stays fairly wet and has more shade.

The Brussels sprouts and broccoli are noticeably larger. The broccoli still hasn't put on any big leaves or a bud. I'm concerned the summer heat will set in before they have a chance to produce. There are also about 15 clusters of potato leaves. I kinda-sorta half-assed hilled some soil around the stems. It's not nearly enough as I only started about 4" deep. I need to go buy soil and completely cover the plants. Hopefully this weekend.

Carrots have been springing up in their crooked little rows over the past few days. I went out there to thin them. What a job! I made it through about half a row before I gave up. There are too many. Sounds like my Saturday morning is filling up.

I had a dilemma Monday: Should I plant a few tomatoes or wait until after the days of rain headed our way. I took a chance and planted three of the tallest: Big Beef Beefsteak (hybrid), Berkley Tie-Dye (heirloom), and Black Cherry (heirloom). Today, big storms moved through the area, whipping the wind and pounding the ground with rain. I sure hope those little guys make it.

April 25, 2009

The Great Sunflower Project

It finally arrived in the mail!!!
Visit HERE to learn more.


Last time I mentioned the garden I was a little disgruntled. My spirit has been lifted the past few days. The weather has been warm, although extremely windy. It's a strange combination. It's as if a storm will break out any moment, then it stops suddenly and you begin to feel the sun bear down on your skin. This nice break in weather has given me an opportunity to be out in the garden. I've removed dead leaves, I've watered, I've loosened soil, I've reseeded, and I've planted.

Out of the original 16 tomato plants I seeded, only half remain. My lack of careful watering during those crucial sunny days a week ago cost me dearly. All of the Opalka and Husky Gold tomatoes withered and died. I've reseeded roughly 10 new plants, including two new varieties: Pork Chop and Granny Cantrell. Here are pictures of some of the survivors:

All of my hot peppers bit the dust as well. I reseeded some of the Hot Pepper Mix as well as some very hot peppers from a friend of ours: Black Pear, Yellow Mushroom, and White Habanero. I don't have anymore jalepeno seeds. Hopefully I'll get some out of the Hot Pepper Mix. I couldn't differentiate between the seeds in the packet.

Out in the garden today, I stripped the plants of withered and dead leaves. Almost all of the original leaves I set the plants out with have died, mostly by breaking (we've had some pretty strong winds lately). Fortunately, almost all of them had serious new growth. Even the dill has put on it's true leaves and I've found new parsley. I dug out a 5' by 3' section of a bed to plant potatoes. I dug down as far as I could, planted the seed potatoes "chits" up, and covered with about 3" of soil. On the other side of the bed, I made roughly four 48" rows and planted carrots, loosely covering them with soil. After I cover the potatoes again, I'll most likely plant some radishes or beets in the center section of the bed. I also directly sowed lettuce in the planters.

Sweet Matina Butterhead

Jericho Romaine Lettuce

Diablo Brussels Sprouts

Red Seed Potatoes

Tomorrow my husband I put together the watering system.

April 22, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Croque Monsieur or Madame?

Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

I have been waiting for this day to come and now that it has, I feel I have lived a fuller life for it.

I distinctly remember watching Ina make this recipe on her show, slightly drooling and zoning out at the thought of all that cheese! When she said you could make it with a fried egg in honor of a woman, I was sold. I love eggs. So thank you, Kathy of All Food Considered. You hold a special place in my heart (and tummy).

You can find Ina's recipe here.

Results: I looooooovvve the ooziness of the sunny side up egg, mingling with the sauce and toasted bread. The perfect brunch recipe. Easy to make. Gruyere is a bit expensive at $7.99/8 oz. What would be a cheaper substitute? Fontina? Emmentaler? I used Italian bread sliced on the diagonal and smoked deli ham. I halved the recipe and one was quite filling. I can even imagine small open-face baguette rounds as an appetizer, if you fuss with the presentation a little bit.

Final Grade: A+

April 17, 2009

Too much of a good thing

The weather was perfect yesterday and again today. High 60s, blue skies, and lots of sunshine. I set out all the seedlings yesterday to let them soak it all up and harden off a bit. When I brought them in last night, the tomatoes (which have been radiant and green) were leaning with a slight wilt to the leaves. This morning they looked good and ready for more bright sunshine. By the time I was ready to transplant them into bigger containers, they looked pathetic: leaves turning yellow, wilted and leggy. I went ahead and transplanted them all, except two Opalka seedlings. Hopefully a night in the house with some fresh soil will amend their problems. I also noticed some (for lack of a better word) fuzziness on the bottom of the peat pellets. Maybe I overwatered them, overfertilized? I've been using fish emulsion, very dilute. I've noticed the same fuzziness on the inside of the cap before. I don't really know. I hope they survive. Otherwise I'll have a very late start to the season.

I made two beds in the garden today. They are roughly three feet wide. I planted the Brussels sprouts and broccoli in one. I wanted to put the potatoes in the ground, but I ran out of energy and time.

The lettuce I planted on the side of the house is looking rough, too. I'm becoming very discouraged.

April 12, 2009

Easter Surprises

The Easter bunny visits Jacob and Karleigh

I feel like this is the right time to transplant a few of my indoor starters. The weather is warming, with nightly lows f0rcasted in the 40s over the next 10 days (after Easter). Dandelions are blooming. And, I see other local gardeners preparing their gardens. I've been worried, though. It is difficult to decipher information about setting out lettuce and the brassicas. Most information regarding broccoli is aimed towards a fall harvest. Lettuce is supposed to be planted in early spring, but some sites say it grows the best at 60-70F. What? We're no where near that here. I happened upon my old timeline for planting. Sure enough, setting out broccoli and lettuce were on the list for 4/12. Go figure. Hopefully I can get the lettuce out tomorrow before Easter dinner.

I was barbecuing chicken for dinner when I spotted two little sprouts in my deck planter. The dill! It survived the kitty cats using it for a bed a few weeks ago.

I made potato salad as a side. I think I've nailed down the recipe for my tastes. I've tried so many, and I keep messing with the ingredients, but I'm finding the basics really make it a proper potato salad. I'm happy to share my recipe, but know that I have not done exact measurements. Like anything, parts can be adjusted for personal taste.

Kim's Potato Salad

2# baby yellow gold potatoes, diced
1 small onion, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup bread & butter pickles, chopped
2 eggs, hard boiled and chopped
1- 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 tbsp yellow mustard
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/8 c sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp celery seed

Boil potatoes until in water well salted until fork tender. Drain and dry.

In large bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and celery seed until well combine. Adjust to taste. Add onion, celery, and pickles. Gently toss in eggs and potatoes until well dressed. Allow to sit for 1 hour before serving, if possible.

April 9, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Chinese Chicken Salad

It has been declared salad week in my household. I made the decision last week for various reasons: hoping to help the weekly grocery budget and my reclaimed weight gain after the breastfeeding ceased. Naturally, I was very excited that McKenzie of Kenzie's Kitchen chose the first recipe this April: Chinese chicken salad.

I did make a few changes:
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Green pepper instead of red
  • Omitted sesame oil
The recipe was ridiculously easy to follow. I baked off the chicken earlier in the day and allowed it to cool before assembling the rest. The green bell pepper didn't deter from the flavor, but rather made the whole dish less appealing to the eye. Too much green. I tried toasting the sesame seeds but they seemed to clump together rather than toast. I left out the sesame oil due to budget constraints - $8.99/bottle! I did add just a teaspoon of a new bottle of 18 year old balsamic vinegar. I did feel 1/2 cup of vegetable oil was a bit much. I would have been satisfied with 1/4 cup. I served this up with a hunk of freshly baked bread.

Results: My husband and I loved it! The only thing that was missing was some good crunch. Perhaps some fried wontons, chopped peanuts, or even broken up ramen noodles would suffice. I think the dressing alone was good had I reduced the amount of oil. A jalapeno would have added nice spice. I can see this fitting easily into our weeknight rotation for an easy fix. We have most of these ingredients on hand all the time.

Final Grade: A-

(now if the Croque Monsieur will be so figure friendly....)

April 1, 2009

March 27, 2009

First Transplants

Yesterday I transplanted my Brussels sprouts, broccoli, romaine, and butterhead. I put them in 3" pots. They definitely needed it. They were all flopping onto each other and were running out of space. When I picked up the little guys, there were lots of healthy roots growing through the netting. I tried hard not to damage any, but a few were sacrificed. I took them outside on the deck, in the sun. I thought it might be good for them to harden off a little. I've been brushing my hand over the leaves to simulate wind while they've been inside. By the end of the transplanting session, they were all rather limp and unimpressive looking. I got them back inside, gave them some water and rest. Today, they are looking strong and happy.

A few of of my pepper plants are putting on their first set of leaves. They seem to be doing very well.

March 26, 2009

Barefoot Blogger: Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts

Today's recipe was chosen by Anne of Anne Strawberry. Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts. Seriously. How could this be bad?

Recipe can be found here.

A quick read-through of the ingredients had me cringing. I've never, ever used puff pastry. I've always wanted to, but never had the gumption to give it a try. Ina makes it look so easy. But then again, she makes everything look simple.

I assembled all my ingredients at the store yesterday. I picked up pre-shredded parmesan (I know!) and pre-crumbled goat cheese while also skipping the basil for cost savings. I thought of using sun-dried tomatoes as tomato season is still a few months away, but I went ahead and bought a grocery store-style cardboard tomato to stay true to the recipe.

The onions cooked down perfectly.

(I'm writing this while they are baking in the oven. The smell drove me to check on them - oohh my! Lovely little golden brown tarts. I can hardly stand the seven minute wait!)

The puff pastry took a little patience to work with. I attempted rolling it out to the 11" square Ina insisted on, but it was sticking and I didn't want to ruin it as it already had holes from the folds. I made the circles using a small bowl as my template. The rest of the assembly went without a hitch.

Results: YUM! The flavors are perfect. I only used one large onion and felt there were more than enough onions on each tart. The pastry was flaky and the goat cheese slightly melted into the onions. I want these flavors on an entire pizza pie! I do think substituting sun-dried tomatoes until my heirloom tomatoes are ready to be picked out of my garden would be an acceptable substitution and wouldn't affect the flavor at all, perhaps even enhance it. I found the sliced tomato to be a little too wet for the crispy pastry. Maybe I'll roast the summer tomatoes before placing them on top. Now, what to do with all that leftover puff pastry?

Final Grade: A

March 21, 2009

Black Gold

What a day!

As I mentioned before, Jeremy picked up the compost. I took over from there using our newest garden tool, the wheelbarrow, to unload it and put it in the garden. Before doing that, though, I had to rake over the soil the I had tilled last week. It was wet and difficult to move. I had planned on grading it out today and doing another till - but it's a no go. We'll see how it is tomorrow

I caught sight of a cardinal in our tree. Then I noticed how big all the buds are. Plus, I found a little surprise in the compost! (and yes, I squealed like a little five year old girl, but only because my husband still acts like an eight year old boy.)

Hmph. My body feels like I did much more than that today. On paper, it's not nearly as impressive.

What you think, shall become

Just yesterday, I was talking to my husband about farmer's markets. I wished that I had enough space to not only feed our family, but have enough to sell to others that wanted to buy local produce. Today, that wish is now a possibility.

A few weeks ago I was making the rounds, calling all the local nurseries for the pricing of a cubic yard of compost. It was abundantly clear that I would not be able to afford as much as I wanted, being roughly $29-35/cu. yd. - I needed about eight for a raised bed. At the suggestion of a forum member, I emailed local horse stables for free or cheap horse manure. By that night, Steven of BriarCroft Stables and Tack returned my email stating that he had two year old composting manure and it was free. Hallelujah!

This morning, Jeremy went to the stables to pick up the compost. Unfortunately I had to stay home with the kids (no room in the truck). I really would have liked to meet Steven and speak with him. When Jeremy returned home, he told me about the meeting. There was the suggestion that if this garden goes according to plan, he would allow us to use his property for a large-scale garden so long we keep his family in fresh produce. The rest can go to the farmer's market, CSA, whatever we choose (insert BIG, HAPPY, blow my mind grin here). Hopefully we can build a good relationship over this year's growing season and discuss how to proceed.

Of course, this opens a whole new can of worms. Will my backyard garden be successful enough to give me the confidence to try it on a large scale? I need to learn how to save seeds in order to plant such a large garden. How will I find the time to care for my family, work a full-time job, and take care of two gardens? That's just the tip of the iceberg, I'm afraid.

I have to keep in mind what Jeremy always tells me:

Stop putting up roadblocks. If you think it, it can be done.

March 15, 2009

Look how they've grown

The brussels and broccoli seedlings are growing up fast. They look strong and healthy. The lettuce is looking good, as well. I had to move the cauliflower, peppers, and herbs to a more humid area. They hadn't sprouted yet and we're drying out fast due from the unprotected warmth of a grow light. I rearranged them in my second jiffy greenhouse, placed the lid on and moved to the laundry room. When I woke the next morrning, humidity! Today, I moved the cauliflower and thyme seedlings as they had germinated, although the cauliflower is leggy. I waited too long.

We worked all day today. I cleaned up the yard then tilled up the 15x15 designated garden area. Jeremy put up our new shed and finished off the garden gate. He seemed surprised that I could till the soil so well. I guess he doesn't understand my passion. I'll admit, I am sore. Blisters to boot. We finished off our hard work with our favorite summer fair: barbecue chicken.