Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Again with the garden....bugs this time

 The above photo is one of my broccoli plants. It's growing nicely which makes me happy. I started noticing a lot of holes in the leaves which did not make me happy. Upon closer inspection I noticed the little green feller using my plant as his own personal all-he-can-eat buffet. Look right in the middle of the lower part of the leaf for him.
 You can see him a little better on this photo. He's a cabbage white worm. He and his family and friends have discovered my garden. So, what's a girl to do?
 Pick and squash. It's a good thing I'm not squeamish. I'm thinking this might be a good project for the boys. Those little worms are hard to see but they really wreak havok on the broccoli and bok choy.
You can see how much they've eaten on this plant. Now that I'm in the worm sleuthing business, I think my plants will fair much better. It's actually nice to get down to plant level and notice all the niceties. I love how the leaves start out in the center all curled up and light green. It's amazing to be able to take the time to notice all the ways each plant is growing and the differences among them. I think this will be my new lunch time job. 

Hope your lunch was a good one today. Mike and I had BLT's with homegrown tomatoes, local lettuce, homemade bread and happy bacon (that's what we call our woodlands pigs). Now I have a hankering for corn on the cob. All these goodies will be gone soon so I want to enjoy them now!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Comparison Gardening

Well, here you can see our Square Foot Garden on the day of planting last Wed. and just over one week later. I love being able to see results that fast! I spent the afternoon in the back yard working on the weeds and in the sunroom deep cleaning, purging and rearranging.

The boys (all three) are at a ball game tonight so I think I'll get some take out (I also cleaned the kitchen and I hate to make it dirty again) and finish going through the "stuff" I pulled out of the sunroom. My main goal is to organize my recipes. Might have to pop in a movie while I'm working! I love having time off on a day that I'd usually be at work. I got so much done and still have a whole Saturday! Of course it's supposed to be a rainy one so I may spend some time in the sewing room. Have a good weekend. Stay clear of Hurricane Irene.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Square Foot Garden

All New Square Foot GardeningMike and I have been doing quite a bit of research on turning our back yard into a garden. We've lived in this house for just over three years. In that time, we've really tackled some problematic areas in the yard including English Ivy and Bamboo. This year the boys and I dug up a little gardening space for tomatoes and lettuce (ok, and broccoli that didn't make it). It was grand. We've grown so many grape tomatoes I just keep giving them away. We loved being a part of our CSA but really want to grow our own food. For our yard, Square Foot Gardening seemed the best bet. We followed the book pretty much to a T. In some of the other areas of the yard that are already in beds I'm planning on doing some lasagna layering this fall in preparation for spring planting of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. I've also been thinking of adding grapes but I have to think about that a little more.'s what we did. The pictures say it all. Well, I guess the captions under the pictures help, too.
We bought 2-2x6x8 foot pieces of lumber and had the store cut them into 4 foot sections. We screwed them together right in the sunroom.
Here's the section of the yard prior to the garden.
Nathan is cutting the weed cover to fit.
Our compost isn't ready to use yet so we had to buy compost. You have to buy several kinds and mix it together to get the right nutrients. Nolan is pouring the poop! (this was composted cow manure).
You can see the color differences in the different types of compost. 
Wow. I need a shower.  Here we have our Mix prior to mixing. 1/3 part compost, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss.
We mixed it by grabbing the ends of the tarp and pulling over and over. It was fun! Here Mike and I are helping things along by playing in the dirt.
Adding the mix to the box. Pull the tarp right up to the side so you don't lose any of that black magic.
Here it is. The giant litter box. Ok, we have LOTS of cats that walk through our yard so we know it needed protection! This is actually right after adding all the mix.
The book recommends using wood lath to make the squares. It was a bit more pricey than we had hoped so we decided to use twine. The box isn't exactly 4x4 as the lumber was off by an inch so my squares are a little crooked. It really doesn't matter.
Here's the finished product with cat and bunny protection in the form of wire fencing. I'll probably get a little more creative with this part next year so it's easier to get into the garden. But...the wire came with the house so I'm happy to be using it!
The fall garden: broccoli, lettuce and bok choy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Bouncing Pillow

The bouncing pillow is the funniest name but so appropriate for this very fun activity. We just came home from several days near Pittsburgh. We decided to Kamp instead of Camp. Yes, we rented a cabin at a Kampground of America. It is somewhat tacky but very nice since it rained quite a bit. We were happy to pack up without having to take down a sopping wet tent only to set it back up again when we got home. I'll always love tenting but this week we were happy to have another option.
Nolan was itching to catch a fish but to no avail. He even set his alarm at something like 5:30 a.m. We had big intentions of heading into Pittsburgh but just couldn't get ourselves to make the drive. We just sat, fished, bounced, read, sewed, cooked and relaxed.

Today we had plans to possibly spend the day at the beach. I think we were sick of the car and ended up staying home and doing something I've been wanting to do for quite a while.....we made our first Square Foot Garden. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Traditional Italian Tomato Sauce

This tomato got herself stuck on the fence. I think we'll have to cut her on the day of sauce making!
My friend Heather wanted a copy of Nolan's sauce recipe so I thought I'd just post it for everyone to enjoy. This recipe comes from a Martha Stewart magazine from many, many years ago. I've listed the recipe with Nolan's adaptations in parenthesis. 

4 twenty-eight-ounce cans whole Italian plum tomatoes (Nolan uses large fresh homegrown tomatoes. 20 large, 40 small or some combination)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp crushed red-pepper flakes
1 cup Chianti or other dry red wine
1 TBSP dried oregano
8 leaves fresh basil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Puree the tomatoes in a food mill, removing most of the seeds. (**Nolan informs me he peels the fresh tomatoes, puts them in a big bowl and "mushes" them up with his hands. This is perhaps one of the reasons he loves making this sauce. LOL).
2. In a medium stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, and saute until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add red-pepper flakes. While oil is sizzling, slowly add half of the pureed tomatoes. Add wine, stirring to combine. Add remaining tomatoes.
3. Reduce heat. Add the oregano, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened slightly, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
4. Add the basil. Season with salt and pepper. Store sauce in an airtight container, refrigerated, up to 4 days. Alternatively, store in freezer up to 1 month. (Final note: I keep it in the freezer up to 1 year).

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Deadly. That's my opinion of this book. Well, if you love bread like I do, anyway. I bet I've eaten more bread in the last week than in the last month since I read this book. Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. If you want to make tasty, homemade, easy, daily bread, this is the book for you. If you want to stay slim and healthy, than I'd recommend you stay away from this book! When it comes to bread, I can't moderate. Thus, I'm taking it back to the library this week.

I did want to show you how it works. So here's Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day in pictures:
Here's the last of the mix. I mixed up the batter on Friday night. It rose on the counter for 2 hours then was transferred to the refrigerator. I made bread Friday, Saturday and today from this one mixing.

You do really need to have a few pieces of equipment. Those pieces being a pizza peel (shown with flour on top) and a bread stone in the oven.

Here's the bread sitting for 40 minutes out of the fridge on the pizza peel.

The bread goes into the oven (450 degrees) onto the stone with a pan of water above. About 10 minutes prior to being finished, I move the bread from the pizza stone to the rack above. Otherwise it isn't brown all over.

After 30 minutes, here's the finished product. I highly recommend farm fresh butter to complete the meal.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Putting Up....again

My mother froze corn every year of my life. In fact, she is still doing it. She makes the BEST chicken corn soup EVER with the frozen corn. To be honest, I refuse to eat corn that comes from the grocery store. It has to be fresh or frozen fresh or I'm leavin' it behind. That being said, I love a warm cup of soup for lunch during the winter and decided to get my corn on the cob this morning. 
Here's Mike helping me husk. We probably should have done this outside but it didn't make too much of a mess in the sunroom. The husks went right into the compost.

Yummy close up. I bought 4 dozen ears.
 I realized that my kitchen is perfectly set up for blanching the corn. Above you can see the pots that are not quite boiling and the corn ready to be added.
 Turn to the middle and we have two sinks full of ice water (Mike was on the ice run when I took the photo).
 Finally, the draining section to the right.
 We set up the card table just outside to cut the corn off the cob. I wanted to get a photo of Nathan and I cutting and Nolan and Mike blanching but my fingers were too messy.
Here's the bounty for the freezer. Just over 8 quarts. That'll be enough for 4 pots of chicken corn soup this winter. I wonder if that's enough?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Putting Up

What a strange phrase that is. It is, however, one used to describe preparing your food for winter when there isn't any fresh garden from which to pick.
Above you can see what we've been doing today. Nolan and Mike went to the Tomato Barn (isn't that the best thing you ever heard of? A Tomato BARN?). They used all of our homegrown large tomatoes, the tomatoes from our CSA (3 pounds) and a large box of 'maters from the Tomato Barn to make a double batch of sauce. Yum! After dinner (which was cooked on our new charcoal grill) I threw on the mass of bell peppers from the CSA. They are lovely and roasted to perfection. My good friend Connie recommended grilling them whole and throwing them in a freezer bag as is. After defrosting, peel and seed before using. What a GREAT idea! Thanks, Connie! This was the easiest ever. Since we already had the grill going, it was a cinch to add the peppers when the food was finished. 

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home BakingFinally, I mixed up a batch of bread dough from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Of course, this is a library book. According to this book, you can mix up a pot of bread dough in minutes, let it sit on the counter for 2 hours, put it in the fridge and cut a loaf's  worth everyday for fresh bread. Each day the bit you cut off needs to sit on the counter for 20 minutes and then bake for another 20. Wow. I'll keep you posted on how it turns out. It is sitting on my counter at the moment.

Just when I think I can't be a stay at home mom and work full time I have days that so many things get accomplished. Did I mention I cut both my boys hair tonight, too? That's at least a $40 savings. I'm glad we brought those boys up right. They sure do make life easy now that they are teens. 

I'm off for an ice cream run. We're eating healthy but it is summer.....gotta have some 'cream. Have a wonderful weekend. I may hit the sewing room when I get back from the store.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

From the Library

I don't know how I would get through life without our library. I have checked out so many delicious books over the year that I never would have had the chance to read otherwise. To be honest, I don't keep too many books at home because I can always get almost anything I want to read at the library. Here are some of my current reads:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
 Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a fabulous book by Barbara Kingsolver. Mike and I are really trying to eat locally and naturally as much as we can. This book describes the year that Barbara's family spent eating only locally grown (and mostly home grown) foods. It is also a fantastic wealth of information about America's food industry and seasonal eating. I highly recommend it.

Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden And Your Neighborhood into a Community
Food, Not Lawns, is a book I've had on hold for a while but only checked out this week. As we are moving to eliminate the grass on our property and turn it into a garden, I was interested in this book. I believe (after only reading a chapter or two) that the premise is to bring community through sharing of locally grown, organic vegetables in your neighborhood.
The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!
The Backyard Homesteader is an excellent reference book for anyone looking to add gardens or livestock to their backyard. I don't know that we have enough space for chickens (but I'm thinking on it) but we will use this book when thinking about our rain barrels, compost and garden. A great reference.

I've a few more that are related to food but I think I'll save those for another day. I'm off to sit in a comfy chair and read through some more books. Again I say....what would I do without the library???
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