Friday, April 26, 2013

Springtime Flies By

Time really flies when you're completely bogged down with too many responsibilities and stresses.  You might even convince your husband to take you out of town because you can't look at the dishes and laundry another day without thinking it would be a good idea to just throw it all in the garbage can.  He might comply. 

The day before we escaped I noticed our oddball cactus had a flower.  It was incredibly stunning.  Not your ordinary cactus flower.  The petals were delicate and tissue paper thin, not something you'd think of belonging on a prickly beast. 

I was blown away at this next shot.  I didn't do anything special with my camera.  I just took the picture.  I love all the details it picked up.  Such vivid colors!

Cactus:  The most beautiful varieties and how to keep them healthy

Here's the girl's pumpkin(?)  I've counted 4 on the vine so far. 

29 Delicious Pumpkin Dessert Recipes {$2.99 Kindle Edition}

Someone has moved into the garden!  I was really quite surprised.   They've moved in next to the pink jasmine.  They obviously have good taste.

The first sunflower is open.  I don't expect seeds from this one.  We're patiently waiting for the next one to bloom.  That one is a Mammoth.  It's currently 5 feet tall.

These guys were a surprise.  I didn't know we planted radishes.  And only 3.  

The square foot garden with corn, squash, and beans is coming along.  This prompted a big discussion about why some plants grow bigger than others even when they are in the same soil.  After much thought we came to a consensus:  I don't know.

All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Update to No Poo Hair

I had a humerous moment today when I found a link back to a post I did on Pinterest.  It was funny to me because of this pic.  So the back of my head is on Pinterest.  Who else gets to actually say that?

I'm just posting an update to the recipe.  It still works.  I use it, but not all the time.  I have some other less chemical brands of shampoo I also use.  Frankly, it depends on if I'm in a hurry.  I have a 7 year old.  What can I say. 

2 teaspoons Baking Soda to 32 ounces of water

1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar to 20 ounces of water

I find I like it best if I blow dry my hair.  You may have to play around with the amounts of baking soda/apple cider vinegar to water to get the best mix for your hair. 

Fog AND Rain

The weather is ugly today.  It will be great for the plants.  After the rain last week the plants are growing like weeds and the weeds are growing like weeds, too.  I still have grape vines to plant and another salvia bush.  In the meantime here's some pics of things I noticed.  Hold on, the dog's crying so I have to go let him inside.  For an animal that's supposedly been around thousands of years, dogs can be kind of whiney.

I came home from work and the husband had built this for me.  He used my free pallets and fixed up my compost screen.  I get the pallets free from Gardenville.  Marriage tip:  If your husband does things like this it means they love you.

Here's my glorious compost pile.  It's mostly rabbit poo.  The husband cleaned the old mulch out of the entire rabbit area and dumped it here before he added a new layer of mulch to the area.  Rabbits make lots of poo in case you didn't know. 

"I don't know, what project do you want to work on?"-  A usual conversation with the husband.

A rare sighting of the husband.  Do NOT tell him I posted this pic.  

This is a zombie eggplant.  Everyone thought it was completely dead from the freeze we had but now it has lots of little green leaves growing.  It might survive my care after all.

This is a pic of companion planting between a sunflower and pumpkin plant.  Someone's tail had to be in the pic, too.

Lastly, some of the onion plants from last year are flowering.  I'll let them go to seed and collect the seeds and see if I can grow some more.  Onions love me.  I don't know why.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Non-SuperWoman Way of Canning Green Beans

I spend a lot of time reading blogs that have my head spinning at all the things they are able to accomplish.  I, however, am not filled with that much energy or I'm just not able to cram that much activity into a certain amount of time.  I work slow, but I do work.

I bought some green beans and thought I'd show you what a typical canning adventure would look like for me.  Maybe it's a more realistic view you can appreciate.

The first thing I do is look for a recipe.  I found a basic simple recipe on the Ball Canning website.  I follow Julia Child's advice to read the entire recipe, several times if needed, to get a clear picture of what I'll be doing and what will be happening.

Ball Green Bean Canning Recipe

Now I'm ready to start.  I begin by cleaning my kitchen.  This is best done by tricking some other family member into doing it but I usually have to do it.  I like to have a completely clear space so things will stay organized and there's less confusion about what's happening in the kitchen and where things are at.  This is a good time to gather supplies and ingredients.

Since I'm canning green beans I have to get them prepared and cut up.  Food prep can often take longer than you might think, try not to take on too much.  In your head you might think it's a great idea to can up all the green beans you'll eat in a year but you'll find yourself still cutting beans at midnight, unless you like to can at midnight, and that's o.k., too.  It took me 45 minutes to get this standard sized colander filled.

My next step is to rinse the beans, get them into a big pot and cover them with water to cook.  While they are heating to boiling I get my jars and lids ready.  I wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse and place on my cart.  I keep the hot soapy water because I'll continue to use it by washing things as I go along.  I put the lids in a saucepan of hot water and let simmer.

I have this wonderful kitchen cart that I love to use during the whole canning process.  I'm able to arrange everything I'll need on top and can move it exactly where I'll need it.  This speeds things along and keeps spills and accidents from happening.

Once the beans have boiled for 5 minutes I ladle them into the jars.  I use a food funnel which I failed to have in the picture.  I ladle in the boiling water and then top off with salt.  I clean the rims of the jars, place lids and rings on the jars.  I've had the canner getting ready on the stove by heating water in it.  This will get the pressure needed quicker once the lid goes on.  

I place the jars in the canner and lock the lid on.  I push my little cart in front of the stove to block anyone from knocking the canner accidentally.   Once the desired pressure is achieved I set my timer for 20 minutes and take a break!  When my 20 minutes is up I turn off the heat and go take another break or work on something else since I won't be able to open the canner until the pressure drops.  This is a drawback compared to waterbath canning. 

When the canner drops pressure and I can take the jars out, I place them on my cart and then wheel them on over to the table.  I move the jars onto a towel and let them cool.  When they have cooled off I label them on the lids with a sharpie marker.  The rings are reusable but the lids are not so I like to write on the lids.  I'll write "Green Beans with Salt 4/7/13."  I'll leave them on the table till the next day and then put them away till we're ready to eat them.

I finish by cleaning up the entire project.  Everything is washed and put away.  I keep all my tools and utensils for canning in the canner so they're easy to find.  I even have a set of measuring spoons I use only for canning.  It keeps me from having to search high and low for these things that other people can misplace.  Then I'm finished!

This whole project from start to finish has taken me 3 hours.

American Red Cross Emergency Radio

My husband spends a lot of time on Amazon.  I should clarify that, he spends ALL his time on Amazon.  Most of the time my Amazonics Anonymous husband orders silly stuff and I just look at him wondering what planet he's from.  Every once in awhile he'll order something truly useful (in my mind) and practical.  Such is the case with this lovely radio from the American Red Cross.

Right now it is $30.05 shipped.   It does not need batteries.  It has a hand crank charger and a solar charger.  It has an FM and AM tuner and a flashlight.  It also has an USB port!  This means you could charge all those pesky phones, etc.  It is red, which is my favorite color.  A great addition to your home emergency planning kit.

                                          Amazon's American Red Cross Emergency Radio

What my husband usually orders...

He can order in bulk and give to all his friends.  Weirdos unite!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday and the Sun Came Back

Yesterday afternoon the sun came back and it was still too cool and too windy to want to stay in the garden.  We opted for the yearly ritual called Girl Flies Kite and Makes Big Knot.  Another successful year!  The girl has improved in keeping the kite in the air.  Her attention span is not improved.  After 5 minutes she wanted Daddy to hold the string.  Daddy said no.  Then her brain said, "get on your bike and ride while you fly the kite.  What could go wrong?"  And she was off on her bike flying her kite.  Luckily, the wind intervened by going away and the kite fell.  The girl no longer thought it a good idea.  I was just happy knowing I wouldn't be in an E.R. trying to explain how my kid was inextricably tied up to her bicycle by a possessed kite.  (In case you're wondering, composting, wood pallets, and things to go in a burn pile happen back here.)

I was driving through a little back neighborhood to get some produce from the discount produce supplier.  I drove past this house and then came back around and took a very quick picture before they thought I was the IRS or something.  What I was looking at was their greenhouse.  The husband decided we will build ours.  I'm hesitant about the materials due to the terrible winds we get here sometimes.  I was happy to see someone else using the materials we're pretty sure we're going to use.  The size looks about right so I can study the pic and guess pretty close how much supplies we'll need.

Back at the homestead it was time to throw down the first of the mulch.  This is just to cover muddy areas that are our main walkways. 

I know I said I was done with planting.  I wasn't going to look at another plant.  I lied.  This hydrangea was 50% off at Lowe's.  Along with some other...plants.  Maybe some fern leaf dill, grape vines, and salvia.  I'm happy with the hydrangeas because it got my imagination working on how to incorporate a flower growing area in the garden.  I'm thinking of adding a section of white picket fence to the back corner.  I'll want to grow only flowers there for cuttings.  It should be a wonderfully relaxing childlike spot.

I stopped at the grocery store and they were selling their tomato plants for $1.25.  I'm working really hard to have tomatoes this year so I'm growing lots and lots of tomato plants.  Last count was 14 and I have seedlings inside.  Overproduction is not a problem.  I love to can food.  Last year we didn't have hardly any tomatoes and it was depressing.  I'm hoping to avoid it this year.

I also very quickly took a piece of wire fencing, formed it into a circle, and connected it to itself by bending back the wire edges over the other ends.  I should probably bury it in the ground a few inches or get some metal brackets to keep it firm on the ground.  I also planted these in the new low-raised bed. 

At the grocery store I picked up some odds and ends that always seem to disappear.  That's right I don't know where my salt and pepper shaker wondered off to.  Someone in the house is always burning or melting the spatulas because they don't know how to cook with them.  My knives seem to walk off.  I haven't seen any sticking out of anyone's back so hopefully it's all good.

Lastly I picked up this beautiful Dutch Oven.  I've been looking around on Amazon and stuff and haven't seen it priced/pretty enough.  This is a 5.2 qt enameled cast iron.  I just know I'm going to make all kinds of delicious things I'll need to use salt and pepper shakers, spatulas, and paring knives to make.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Rain Made Me Change The Header

The rain is still coming down so I had to find some things to do today. 
  • Take the little one to the dentist.  (No cavities!  She didn’t bite this dentist so he’s a keeper.)
  • I’m still very sore from the Chiropractor’s visit.  (I have to go back tomorrow…)
  • Nearly died of boredom then remembered I wanted to work on something that would make me feel like stabbing myself in the head.  Hmm, I should try to change the header.
Taking a walk into unknown blog design territory always fills me with trepidation.  I’m pretty sure it will involve some loss of blood and a computer smashed to a thousand pieces.  I Googled the info and found some instructions I could follow.  I would give you the link but I can’t find it anymore.  (Sure she lost the link.)

Basically, it involved creating a collage in Picasa with a selected file.  This was surprising because I thought Picasa was not around anymore.  I guess they changed their mind.  I chose the pics I wanted, arranged them, changed the background color, added text, resized it and then saved it.  In Blogger I uploaded the pic and selected “instead of title and description” and “shrink to fit.”

What I would change next time:  I would create a new folder with only the pics I wanted in the collage.  It was a pain to go through and delete all the photos I didn’t want.  


The rest of the day I’ve spent dealing with homeschool stuff and reading my cookbook.  I’m excited that it’s one of the original versions.  

We tried the strawberry jam today and it was wonderful!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rainy Days

I'm getting better about paying attention to the weather forecasts and planning around them.  In the past I have always stuck my head out the door to see what the weather was for the day.  Now that I want to garden better I'm trying to plan ahead and work with the weather.

This week is going to have some rainy days.  This leaves me with not much to do in the garden.  There's no watering or feeding to be done.  I can spread a little mulch for soil improvement.  Mostly it will be just watching things grow.  Here's some things I can do:
  • Stalk the UPS truck.  (This actually worked, my cookbook came today)
  • Go see the Chiropractor.  (This was the first time I saw one.  Holy cow!  The little one was totally freaked out watching.  I may be a few inches taller now.  Are you supposed to be really sore later?)
  • Grocery shop.  (I had a dream last night where I went grocery shopping, came home, then proceeded to tell my husband about every item I bought.  Sadly, it was one of the best dreams I've ever had.)
  • Can some jam.  (I wanted to make strawberry jam the other day but ran out of time.  The little one helped me can up 12 half pints.  People love when you give them jam.  Like crazy love.  I'm hoping to save some for a Food Swap in June.)
  • Experiment with Windows Live Writer and hopefully not mess up this post.

Zulilly Shoe Deal

I just picked up these cute boots at Zulilly for under $25 shipped.  They have lots of sales going on all the time for lots of other things.  Check them out at

There is also some really cute shirts from Food Fight.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Low Raised Bed

I was perusing the current edition of Mother Earth News, just minding my own business, and came across the article How To Make Cheap Garden Beds by Cheryl Long.  I am completely all for this.  If you know anything about my property you know it is nothing but rocks.  Big rocks, little rocks, heavy rocks, round rocks, white rocks, brown rocks, etc.  I have only ever built completely raised beds for gardening and hauled in dirt.  I currently have 12 beds mostly 4 feet by 8 feet. 

As I read the article I stumbled upon the phrase "low raised bed."  Hmm, I might be able to do this.  I found a test area and gave it a try.  It was a lot of work but I now have a low raised bed which measures 7 feet by 2 feet.  I dug up the soil and got it all loose 4 inches deep. 

Let me tell you what's going on in the pic.  At the bottom right side is what needs to be dug up.  Notice there's still some green weeds growing.  Next to that is a "small" rock that needs to be dug out.  To the left is the tilled up soil mixed with very small rocks.  In the upper left is what was finished and covered with mulch.  In the upper right are not so small rocks I tossed to the side and form a border along the fence line.  

Now the mulch can decompose and start improving the soil.  I am going to try planting some extra seedlings there in a month to see if the bed is usable this season.

I wonder where that pot went.  Ah, there it is.  Whoa lady, you're gonna need to get through me to get that pot.  I need that pot... You're gonna have to scratch me.  Pot.  Scratch.  Pot.  Scratch.  Fine, you win.

Today was the first official harvest of the season.  I did a health pick of all the greens and it added up to quite a bit.  I have spinach, swiss chard, 3 lettuces, and fennel.  It was one gallon bag's worth.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Researching Greenhouses

I've been battling with things in the garden for several years.  The more garden blogs and pics I see the more I want a greenhouse.  This seems to be the way to go to get plants grown and healthy enough to put outside.  This is one of my downfalls of gardening with seed.  I invariably put things out too early.  Usually I'm running out of room in the house or the weather pretends it's going to behave.  

Greenhouse by Exaco.    There's no prices on the website.

Greenhouse by Duramax at Lowe's.  This one is under $1000 and is the largest so far for our budget.  70 square feet.  I'd like to be able to attach shelves along the sides.  I don't know if this is possible.  If not I'd have to buy metal shelving units to maximize space.

A one piece unit from Solar Gem.  No prices on the website.  I've emailed them.  I'm not sure how much I like the look of this.  Obviously I can't attach anything to the sides and I would have to have shelving units.

The biggest consideration for choosing a greenhouse here is wind.  It would be pure foolishness to consider anything with soft walls such as polyethylene.  I might as well throw my money out the window. 

I have awhile to consider what I will get.  It's pretty much too warm here now to have anything growing in a greenhouse.  It would only be used for storage or protecting plants at night from critters.

My only other choice is to carve out space somewhere in my house for 3 months out of the year and just be more patient with growing inside.

What's Cookin?

Now that all the labor intensive work is done in the garden, I'm mostly watering and doing damage control.  I've set a small goal to plant something everyday.  Today I planted some okra seeds and coleus seeds indoors.  I need a greenhouse...  In other news I decided to buy Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child.

I've checked this book out of the library several times just to read.  It's an invaluable resource.  I'm happy I'll be adding it to my library and I'll be able to write notes in it.

Tomorrow I'd like to try making some strawberry jam with the little one.  Strawberries are on sale cheap and I love have homemade jams instead of buying them.  Now I just need to see if I have some jars...

Ball Canning Website

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gloomy Day

I did not want to go outside today.  I did not want to work on the garden.  The freeze made me feel frozen.  I was tired of gardening.  I was tired of planting.  The skies are so very cloudy.

But outside I went.  I was reluctant and petulant about it.  I grumbled at the cats.  I pulled all the dead plants out and reseeded.  I planted new tomatoes plants.  I left some of the zombie plants in the ground.  They have a knack for coming back to life.  I started some more cucumber seeds indoors.

" As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again."-Scarlett O'Hara

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Death and Destruction

Disaster hit last night.  I feel a little sullen about it.  It's the chance one takes with early Spring gardening.  The late freeze.  Not everything was killed, but enough that I will have to sow some more seeds. 

Eggplant.  50-100% killed.

Beans and corn.  30-60% killed.

Cucumber.  Under 20% killed.

Tomatoes were also 50% killed.  Luckily beans grow very fast.  The tomatoes I will just rebuy some new plants.

I haven't posted a pic of Onslo in a long time.  He's still dumb because he keeps eating dirt.  There's just something about new dirt he can't resist.  He's gross.  He's still a good little guard dog.