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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Little Garden That Could

We are going to put "square foot gardening" to the test.  I think I might call our little garden "The Little Garden That Could".  The squash have been growing so quickly, that we decided we had to act this weekend.  We cleared out more space along the house all the way up to the fence at the front of the house.  So far, we planted three zucchini squash (and I swear they've already grown since they were planted!), two acorn squash, three baby girl tomatoes, two early girl tomatoes, and the three herbs that were living in pots on the front walk - the basil, thyme and rosemary.

We went from this (first squash):

and this (beans peeking out):

to these:

(the thyme isn't really planted that close, but her "hair" all lays to one side, so she's cozying up to the chives)

(rosemary is waiting for her new neighbors - here's where the yellow squash, bell peppers and banana peppers will go)

Yet to be planted are three yellow squash and several bell and banana peppers (next to the rosemary).  We have a few jalapenos to plant too, but they have to be by themselves, so they may go in containers around the corner.  We had bell and jalapeno peppers planted side by side in our garden in Colorado and they cross-pollinated!  Those "sweet" peppers were hotter than fire!!

We've also been exploring companion planting.  We have a book about it, but alas, it is still packed away because we don't have any bookcases yet.   But looking on the internet, we found that tomatoes do well with basil and chives and we have several tomato plants planted near the basil and chives in the "herb section" of the garden.  I read that marigolds (which are good companion plants for lots of veggies) and oregano are good for the squash.  Marjoram is also said to improve the flavor of all veggies.  We do save and dry thyme, basil, rosemary and chives.  We haven't ever really used marjoram as a herb in cooking, but even if we just grow it to bring out the best in our veggies and then turn it under in the winter to add organic material to the soil, it will be really useful.  Turns out, radishes and beans are really great companions - boy that was dumb luck!

On another gardening related note, my hamstrings are zinging!  I didn't even do a fraction of the digging the grass with the pick axe that my wonderful hubby did.  But between that and squatting to plant stuff (my knees don't take kindly to being knelt on, not to mention the bruises that aren't quite gone from my fall on a tile floor at work a week and a half ago), unbeknownst to me, my hamstrings apparently had quite a workout!
(check out the cool moose shorts I stole from my hubby!)

I love the slogan for the National Garden Association:
 "When you garden, you grow" - those are words to live by for hubby and me!

Reflecting back on my last post about life's challenges, and our confusion about where we are supposed to be, what we're supposed to do next, where we want to settle, a thought popped into my head - which working in the soil tends to do for me - and "bloom where you're planted" came to mind.  My hubby liked that, for there's a lot to be said for that!

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Life's challenges

This past year has been full of challenges.  Losing jobs, moving, failed attempt to buy a house (twice), moving again, financial difficulties - you name it, we've had it.  All these tough life events (which all seem to be coming one right on top of another) cause me to: 1) get mad, 2) get sad, 3) say a few choice words, 4) ponder choices made, 5) ponder choices to be made...you get the picture.

My wonderful hubby and I have always been prone to waxing philosophically.  And all these unfortunate events cause to do so even more.  I've run across a few quotes that I think are going to help put things in perspective.  One, from a farm blog I read (http://farm-tales.blogspot.com/), is about the choices we make, and our tendency to analyze them to death:  we tend to get all twisted in knots about our decisions - am I making the right choice?  the wrong one?  Side-step this anxiety by just accepting that I make a decision, something happens, and I make the next decision.  This feels easier to deal with than worrying about right vs. wrong.  I thinks that's really sage advice!

Another one I read this morning is: "However good or bad a situation is, it will change." 

So I'll try to keep life's ups and downs in perspective and I keep reminding myself of the positives.  We have a roof over our heads and plenty of food to eat; my wonderful hubby and I have each other and we are each others best friend; we have our rather crazy, but always lovable herd of furry kids - Maggie, Ellie and Gracie;  we have a little garden started and get to watch plants come to life from seeds; we have birds and squirrels in our backyard; we have our health; I have a job and we have health care insurance.

So we keep plugging along.  Things will get better.  And this won't be the last time hard times come around.  We'll remain focused on the positives and on each other.  I am the most grateful that we have each other.

Monday, June 20, 2011

freezing basil

Well, I put my first batch of basil in the freezer yesterday.  I tried some chopped up and topped with water in the ice tray and some chopped up with olive oil in an ice tray.  It's not much, but for one cutting from my one basil plant - I don't think that's a bad start!  Once they are frozen solid, I'll dump them into a ziploc bag and have the trays ready for the next batch.  We were hoping to make a farmer's market run Saturday, but that didn't work out.  So we'll try again this coming weekend.

We have become quite accomplished with our own version of Shake n Bake for pork chops.  They come out every bit as tender out of the oven, good flavor AND no preservatives or MSG!  While I had the food processor out for the basil, I ground up extra corn flakes for future batches of pork chops.  Wow that CuisineArt food processor gets some work done fast.  :)

We've also been experimenting with room air fresheners with rock salt and essential oils.  They work really well.  When the scent starts to fade, all you have to do is stir it up and it's fresh again.  We especially like using lavender or eucalyptus.  We have one sitting on the mantel in the living room and as you walked by it and the air stirs past it, you catch just the slightest hint of the fragrance - not a overpowering perfumey smell like commercial air fresheners.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More progress

 Beans are poking their heads up - looking close to 100% germination!

Radishes in the back - I did plant them in a row, but you can see how some of those itty bitty seeds floated a little when we watered.

All of the squash varieties are the first up - zucchini, yellow and one acorn.  They are big seeds compared to the other veggies.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Urban homestead underway

So this weekend, we finally got a garden started at the new place.  We've missed a lot of growing season, but that's the beauty of living in Zone 8 - you have a long way to go before it starts getting chilly, let alone cold!  I'm actually early in terms of planting a fall garden.  :)  So we'll just see how it goes.

We dug out a small area and direct-sowed Roma beans, carrots and radishes.  Seeds started to be transplanted later are yellow squash, zucchini squash, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, rosemary, acorn squash, banana peppers, bell peppers and jalapenos.

We love planting seeds and the exciting anticipation of them poking their little green heads through the soil.  Yes, I said exciting!  There's something very satisfying of growing something "from scratch".  Of course we're total nerds.  But who cares?  If something so simple brings us such pleasure - I think we're light years ahead of those who covet "stuff" in life.  We are very "earthy" people for sure.

My wonderful hubby was even scheming on how we could turn the two straggly lines on the clothesline into a modified "tent" greenhouse when things do start getting cooler - like a tall cold frame.

The hardest part will be keeping everything watered right now as it is scorching hot - we are flirting with setting new record highs every single day.  And nary a drop of rain in our future.

We finally found a spot where my basil seems relatively happy - near the front porch.  Nice, gentle full morning sun, but protection in the brutal afternoons.  I went to cut some basil yesterday for my fresh pasta salad I made for lunches this week and hubby said to give her a good haircut, as she was getting overgrown.  So now we have a bunch sitting in a bowl on the counter - I like that almost as much as a vase of flowers - and she still needs to be cut back more.  I see a batch of fresh pesto in our future!  Don't have any pine nuts, but I'll use a few walnuts.  Need to unearth an ice tray so that I can freeze cubes of pesto for future use...especially when my basil is long gone and I crave that fresh taste of summer.  Can one each too much fresh basil?  I just don't think that's possible.

Stay tuned for news of sprouting...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sense of accomplishment

I love the sense of accomplishment experienced when you do something for yourself.  This weekend, my husband and I replaced the light in the garage.  They had a small globe light out there, a contractor special don't ya know!  You know something is on the cheap when you can buy it for $2.00 RETAIL!  :)   And this particular globe light was itty bitty - in fact it's the same as the one over the kitchen sink, which only lights about an 8 sq. ft. area.  Hmmm, do you think that might be a little bit on the insufficient side for lighting the garage?

So we installed an 8 foot, four bulb florescent shop light.  Wow, it's the difference between night and day (almost literally)!  We always feel such a sense of accomplishment when we make improvements like that.  I can still remember the feeling we had after we installed a new recessed light at the top of the stairs in our house in Colorado - and it had a DOUBLE SWITCH!  That was a puzzle, let me tell you.  But we had a really good book on electrical wiring and worked our way through it.  I'm telling you, we patted ourselves on the back for quite a while on that one - still do I guess.  :)

Next up?  Maybe a nice pendant light over the sink to replace that other hideous globe...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Her Royal Highness

Gracie, aka Fred, aka short pants, aka the cat that thinks she's a big dog, and now aka Her Royal Highness is a piece of work in our house.  Granted, she's a cat, but that girl thinks what's hers is hers and what's ours is hers.  She has taken to sleeping on my pillow with me.  And I admit that it's all my fault.  It all started because I sent my darling hubby a hilarious cartoon from Mutts one day - the cat was sleeping draped across the dad's head.  I kid you not, that VERY NIGHT, Gracie decided to take up post on my pillow with me.  I even blamed him for showing the cartoon to her and giving her ideas.

Well, I'm not giving up as easily as Maggie (see earlier post).  But it's not easy, let me tell you.  Maybe I should just sleep with Maggie - she would share her bed with me even if she won't share it with HRH.

Sunday morning, Kent was headed up to Temple early and I was snoozing still.  He said he wished he could have turned the lights on, because HRH was draped across the top of my head, back hoof dangling down the side of my face, just like that cartoon!  The last few nights I have removed her from my pillow repeatedly, but she keeps coming back.  One early, wee hours of the morning this week, I got up to go to the restroom.  When I came back, she had spread out, covering the ENTIRE pillow!  What's a mom to do?  I moved her four times last night - and finally gave up. As long as she gives me at least half of the pillow...