Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Absence makes the heart grow fonder?? Please?

So.... it has been for.ev.er. since I updated this blog. Seriously.  I didn't even look at the date of the last post, but I know it's ridiculously long ago.  Life has been crazy this winter and spring.  I am hoping to be better about updating things, but honestly, I'm not making any promises.  My small business has taken off some, plus I took on a major volunteer role at our church, plus being on both girls school boards next year plus those little things like, oh, spending time with my family.

Today was a GORGEOUS day here in Cincinnati (I believe we hit 60 degrees and there was SUN!) so I started on garden prep and planting.  I ordered a bunch of seeds from Johnny's seeds for this year, and I sat on the back patio and started some tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. It will be a while before they see actual daylight again, but it was so exciting to get them started and think of all the delicious eggplant parmigiana we'll have this summer.

This is the first time I've attempted any of these plants from seed, so I hope it goes well.  One of the seeds I started, which isn't shown, are the Black Cherry tomato seeds that I saved from last year.  I'm hoping they germinate, as I'm afraid they may have fermented a bit too long in the process.  We'll see.

Less than 2 weeks to spring, and I am seriously ready for it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I'm Back!

I can't believe it's been 5 weeks since I last posted something.  July and August have been just crazy for us.  What has been going on since I last wrote?  Let me get you up to date...
The 'Mammoth' sunflower - not quite as tall as I'd hoped, but it still met Kate's requirement of "taller than Daddy".

Volunteer sunflowers that sprouted from the birdseed - I love the branching one.

I have harvested all the white onions.  The green onions are still going strong and the leeks are about ready to be pulled sometime in the next week or two.  

'Pandora' leek

Today I harvested my first eggplant - an Ichiban.  There are 3 more that will be ready in the next week or so.  The Black Beauty in the garden I have been having trouble with the flowers not setting into fruit, but the one at the street has two TINY green eggplants on it now.  I think the one in the garden finally has an eggplant also.  Next year, I think I am going to go back to the Black Magic, as it seemed to do better than the Black Beauties this year.
Ichiban eggplant, just before I picked it

Carrots are still growing along - I'll harvest them once the first frost comes, so they have a ways to go.

Peppers - the jalapenos are producing a bunch, they'll probably kick into "high gear" in the next couple of weeks.  The Lady Bells are much slower - I have one big green fruit on one plant, and lots of flowers on the rest.  Hoping it turns red before the end of the month.  Bell peppers never seem to do real well for me - it's always a race to frost time before they really start ripening and turning red (I do NOT care for green bells peppers, try as I might.  They have to be red, yellow or orange so they get sweet).

Tomatoes - where to start.  I made my first (small) batch of tomato sauce on Thursday.  The Amish Pastes are really starting to produce, as are the San Marzanos.  I've gotten 3-4 Purple Cherokees, and have 2 more that will be ripe in the next few days.  Mr. Stripey I am still waiting on - there are 3-4 green fruits on the plant.  Then there are the unidentified volunteer plants, which turned out to be... 2 Romas, 3 Celebrities (I think?) and 1 yellow pear cherry (I forget what this one was called - I planted it last year).  I really, really love the Amish Pastes.  I have not had any blossom end rot issues with them like I did with the Romas the past two years.  I have some cracking, but since they're pastes and I use them for sauce, it doesn't really bother me.
Amish Pastes

San Marzanos up close

Purple Cherokee up close

Potatoes - all of them have been harvested, and I started a second pot that I plan on pulling in the garage for the first few frosts.  I thought I'd see how a 2nd crop does.  I'm not out anything, because I used potatoes from the first harvest.  As far as the laundry basket experiment - I don't think I'll do it again.  Hilling them in the basket was a royal pain, and they didn't grow through the sides all that much.  Next time I will just stick to large pots.

Fall crops - I just planted the following recently for fall harvest - lettuce (rouge d'hiver, iceberg and little gem romaine) and peas (both shell and snow).  Hopefully the peas germinate better than they did in the spring.  We'll see.  I've not grown fall peas before.

I also have a head of garlic I got at the farmer's market that I am saving because I WILL be planting garlic this fall, I swear.  I have intended to plant garlic the past 2 or 3 falls and it hasn't happened.  This year, it will.

I also got a promise of some "Eight Ball" zucchini seeds for next year from a wonderful vendor at our local farmer's market.  He buys them by the ounce, but since I have such limited space he said he'd be happy to give me enough seeds for 2 or 3 hills.  They're a bush style zucchini, and are really cool because they're round.  I think they'll be very fun to grow next year.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Potato Time!

I have my first homegrown potatoes! While we were gone for a long weekend, I neglected to have a neighbor water my potato pots, and one of them succumbed to lack of water and kicked the bucket.  So I kicked the pot (over) and got almost 3 lbs of potatoes out of it!  YAY!  I am really looking forward to homemade baked potato salad this weekend for a BBQ with friends.  Yum.  The other two pots are sketchy at this point as to whether they'll recover - I'm going to give them a week or so and see if they recover.  If not, I might harvest and restart with them also.

I haven't posted in a while as things have been pretty busy - here's a few pictures of the girls from the past few weeks...
Kate at the Fort Wayne, IN Children's Zoo, nose-to-nose with a sea lion.  It stayed right by her for about 2 minutes - it was very cool! This was the highlight of the trip to Grandma & Grandpa's for the 4th of July!

Claire in the dishwasher - what is it with toddlers and dishwashers?!?

Claire in the box some fabric came in - who needs toys when you've got a good box to play in?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day lilies and Death Day...

The past week or so sure slipped away from me fast!  I can't believe how long it's been since I've posted.  This is a tough time of year for me in the garden, it's so darn hot and there's not a lot going on at this point.  The peas are all done and pulled, the lettuce is all pulled, I've picked one little tomato (though there are a lot of green ones right now), I've picked and pulled 2 of the 4 cauliflower, and the onions are getting large enough I could probably pull them any time now.

The big highlight of the past week has come not in the vegetables but in the ornamental garden - day lilies are blooming!  The Stella d'Oros have come and gone a while ago, but the rest of them started blooming in the last week.  I have lots of 'My Sweet Rose' blooming, and my favorite day lily of all, 'Golden Illusions'.  It's a beautiful golden yellow color with a large flower with ruffled edges.  Of course it is the slowest at multiplying, but the clump will get big enough to divide eventually - maybe in the next couple of years.  What's your favorite day lily?  Is there a "must-have" I should look at getting down the road?  There is a master gardener in Cincinnati that is know for his day lilies - he has probably pushing 200 varieties in his yard, and he hosts an open house every year.  My mom and I went back when Kate was about 18 months - he had a little play house for kids and a large electric train set.  It's perfect.  I don't forsee my yard becoming a regional draw for day lilies, but I do love them!

My Sweet Rose

Golden Illusions

I also was super excited yesterday (the first day of weather in the low 80s in over a week) to go out to the garden and find a bloom on one of the eggplants!  It's a standard Black Beauty, which I love because they're so reliable and usually are the first to produce.  I also have an Ichiban, which has a bud but no flower yet.  And the random tomato that sprouted out the drain hole of a pot that I put compost in has a tiny tomato on it.  I left the plant go, mostly to see what would happen.  It's growing out of the drainage hole of a cheap 1 gallon pot I got with some perennial I bought long ago.  With nothing but water when I remember, it's produced a tomato.  And people say they can't grow things!

Black Beauty Eggplant

The tiny tomato on the plant growing out of the drainhole...

Finally, there are two things I want to share - first is in honor of "Garden Blogger's Death Day" over at Gardening without Skills - my pathetic blueberry has finally kicked the bucket entirely.  It's all brown and shriveled and very much dead.  I attempted to amend the soil in it's pot to make it more acidic, and I thought I followed the directions on the elemental sulfur VERY closely, but the blueberry definitely did not appreciate it.  I am really sad about it, as I don't want to start over from scratch and wait another 2 years for blueberries!  :(  I don't have a picture and it's already dark out so I'm not sure one I took now would do the dreadful looking thing justice.

Lastly, our crazy neighbors.  When we bought our house 4+ years ago, it was our first house and therefore we didn't think much about neighbors.  Well, we got the crazies.  I take that back - they're very nice for the most part, they just have no business living in a suburban housing development.  The siding blew off a large part of their house in a big windstorm we had in February and they are just now getting it fixed.  And they are using vinyl siding that looks like fake cedar shakes.  But I suppose it is better than the half-missing siding they had before.  And their 4 ft deep temporary-type backyard pool sprung a leak, which drained entirely into our yard, and then the empty pool blew over against our fence in another strong wind we had last week.  Plus in the winter they have 4 golf carts and a 4-wheeler living on their back patio - and no, they don't golf.  We had new friends over one night last month and someone asked if there was a golf course near us.  Mark and I burst out laughing.  Again, they are very nice, but they need to move somewhere with some acreage so that this is not right in the middle of regular suburbia.  Though the neighborhood would have much less to talk about if they left!

Our neighbors backyard - down to 2 golf carts, the 4 wheeler, and the half-missing siding.  Also not the dying/dead spot of grass where the pool was blown over for a week.  Good times. :)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

And the heat goes on... plus a recipe

Today is the 2nd day of 90 degree heat - blech.  I am, without a doubt, NOT a heat-loving person.  I went out at 2:00 today to take a couple of photos and fill up the kiddie pool, and the 10 minutes I was outside was enough for me, ideally for the whole week (the lowest temp in the 5 day forecast is 87).  This is when gardening gets tough for me.  I want no part of pulling weeds in the mid-day heat during naptime, and I don't want to get up at 6:30 AM to do it before the girls get up.  Thankfully (or not so thankfully from a humidity standpoint) we've had quite a bit of rain, so things in the garden are withstanding the heat fairly well.

One thing did make my trek out into the heat this afternoon worth it - my first tomato is ripening!  I have 4 "known" varieties of tomatoes in the garden, and about 5-6 "unknown" volunteer plants that germinated from stuff thrown in the compost bin (I obviously don't maintain a hot pile).  The 4 kinds that I know are growing are San Marzano, Amish Paste, Cherokee Purple and Mr. Stripey.  All are heirlooms, so I'm planning to save seed for next year. The San Marzano is going to have the first ripe tomato.  Actually, it's the only one with a tomato at all right now.  Everything else is just blossoms.  I am actually very excited about the San Marzanos.  As a lover of basically all Italian food (I studied for a summer in Italy in college, which got me totally hooked) the San Marzano is the quintessential Italian paste tomato.  I am looking forward to much homemade marinara sauce this summer and fall, between the San Marzanos and the Amish Pastes.  I have not had a lot of luck with regular Romas the past 2 years - they got blossom end rot really bad - much worse than any of the other plants I had, so I decided to see if either of these do better.

I also visited the West Chester Farmers Market this morning.  I bought a small bunch of red onions from the Gravel Knoll Farm booth, but there wasn't a lot of produce at this point that I haven't grown myself, with the exception of beets, which are not my favorite.  I did buy some absolutely delicious lemon curd from the lady that sell homemade frozen scone dough - I have been eating some slowly with just a spoon this afternoon.  I basically love all things lemon.  It tastes a lot like the custard part of a lemon meringue pie.  (Insert a Homer Simpson-esque gutteral Mmmmmm.... here).  I also got some homemade raspberry jam, and an organic, pasture-raised skirt steak for fajitas.   (Another Mmmmm....)  Kate and Claire came with me today, and happily got snow cones - they even had a lemonade flavor which was colorless (a big plus as I knew Claire would end up wearing as much as she ate).  They also have an awesome scavenger hunt program for kids, where there is a "clue" each week that the kids have to search the different tents to find.  When they find the clue, they tell the person working the booth and they get a wooden nickel.  They save up the wooden nickles and at the last 2 markets of the year in October they can spend them on kid stuff.  Kate was so excited to find the clue.

On a final note, in honor of the first tomato, I'll leave you with a simple, tasty, healthy recipe involving fresh tomatoes.  This is a staple recipe from my friends Jill & Brad.

Corn & Black Bean Salsa
2 cans black beans, rinsed & drained
1 can hominy or yellow corn, drained (if using fresh, blanch quickly to soften just a tad)
2 - 3 medium tomatoes diced (you can use diced from a can, rinsed & drained if it's not tomato season yet)
1/2 large red onion, finely diced
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro (or more to taste)
3 T olive oil
3 T lime juice
1 1/2 tsp cumin

Combine in a medium to large bowl and chill for 2 hours for flavors to meld.  Serve with tortilla chips, or even just with a spoon!  The picture below is minus cilantro, which I hadn't trekked out to pick yet.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Strawberries, Roses and Mud puddles

Wow, this past week snuck away from me!  We got quite a bit of rain over the past week or so, and I haven't been in the garden too much.  I spent a lot of time sewing orders, which I really needed to do.  On Friday, I stopped at Varnau's, my favorite local nursery, and all their plants were 50% off (they're only open from mid-April to mid-July, so they're starting to clearance things already).  They had a few strawberry plants left that were only $1.50 each, and I couldn't resist.  I have wanted strawberries ever since we moved into the house 4 years ago.  They mostly had Junebearing, but I did find one everbearing (literally one plant).  I bought the June bearing "AllStar" and the everbearing "Ozark beauty".  Hopefully next year I will have a handful of yummy strawberries to eat.  I am not sure where I am going to put the AllStar, since I believe they send out a lot of runners being a junebearning.  The Ozark Beauty I am going to put in a pot - I just have to get a pot to put it in.  I also got a beautiful scented leaf geranium for $2 - I have a different variety in a container on the patio, and I love them.  Their foliage is always so interesting.

These are the strawberries, obviously...

The cool scented leaf geranium leaves.  I'll have to post a picture of the leaves of my other plant later - they're very different.

I also am excited to see the knockout rose that I transplanted earlier this year finally having new growth.  It was by our front stoop, and it tended to take over the flower bed and part of the front walk if not regularly pruned.  It's a red one and it was growing gangbusters.  This year, I dug it out and moved it to the other side of the driveway in front of the rain barrel.  I also pruned it back to about 12"-18" from the ground when I did so, so that it was more manageable to move.  It's been a big group of sticks for a month since I did this, while it tried to recover from the shock.  It finally is.  I was not really worried about it, as this is the hardiest plant I've had.  People say roses are tricky and need special care.  Not this one!  My hope is that it will grow and next year camouflage the rain barrel somewhat in the summer.  The barrel is functional, but it's not pretty.  However, I have had about 4-5 people in the neighborhood ask me about where I got it, how I made it, etc over the past year, so I'm kind of glad it's visible from the street.  I know of one other house in the development that made one of their own after asking me about mine.

I also have to share some photos from Sunday.  We had a torrential downpour (which of course started while I was driving home from Costco - it's about 3-4 miles away and it took me about 15 minutes to get home - roads were like rivers).  My rain gauge is broken I discovered, but the news said rain was falling at the rate of 5 inches an hour, and that doesn't surprise me.  I can't remember when I'd seen rain that hard last longer than about 10 minutes - my guess is it was about 30-45 minutes of serious downpour. Our backyard slopes to the middle slightly, and we had a river running through our backyard.  When the rain let up, Kate really wanted to go splash in the puddles, and of course Claire had to join her.  Who needs a pool?!?!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What I do when I'm not gardening....

It rained today, which is great for 2 reasons.  First, everything needed the rain, and I now have full rain barrels again.  Secondly, I needed to NOT be in the garden for a day (actually, for a couple of days).  I have my own business making items for moms & children predominantly, called The Daisy Chain Boutique (that's kind of garden related), and I am getting behind on some orders because I am spending too much time in the garden.  Seeing as how the garden doesn't really bring in income in the same sense the business does, I need a day (or two) of some poor gardening weather to help me refocus.  I just thought I'd show some photos of what I do when I'm not gardening, for those who are interested.  If you absolutely love what you see and want to check out my Etsy site (which sorely needs to be updated) you can do so here- www.atthedaisychain.etsy.com

I am rather addicted to crafting - I rubber stamp, scrapbook, make candles, sew, make hair bows, and I know I'm forgetting some things.  I also really want to learn to quilt, knit and make baskets, but I've kind of forbidden myself from picking up and new crafting hobbies.  Though I do have a friend who crochets cool animals (amigurumis) and we keep saying we're going to get together... I might not be able to resist learning crochet.  Just don't tell my husband. :)

This is a display of hair bows I did for a craft fair last fall.  The problem with craft shows is inventory - I still have a bunch of these bows left, especially the single color ones.

Some of the "pillowcase dresses" - they are originally designed to be made from a pillowcase.  They're fun and fairly easy to make. The purple Tinkerbell one in the bottom right corner is probably my top seller.

This is a fun large purse/diaper bag I made.  I've made a couple of them.  They're not so quick, but they're cute.  Debating if I should sell these, as they're rather labor intensive and I'm not sure people would be willing to pay as much as I'd need to charge to make a profit (probably in the $40-$50 range)  I also have a yellow daisy/flower one and a 4th of July one.

A nursing/breastfeeding cover.  This is one of the best inventions ever.  And really easy to make with very basic sewing skills.  Buy why sew - buy one of my reasonably priced, hand made covers instead.  They make great shower gifts!  Yes, this is a shameless plug.  :)

Kate modeling on of the aforementioned pillowcase dresses (as a tunic top) at the Van Wert Co Fair last year.

Cute ladybug hair clips.  I also do bumblebees.

Another great bow, best for preschoolers and up as it's a large bow and overwhelms smaller heads.  All 6 major Disney Princesses and Tinkerbell available (as are other themes).

A "pouch-style" baby sling.  This is me and Claire last fall when she was about 8 months.  This is another absolutely brilliant invention.  I do coordinating slings and covers.  

Blog Widget by LinkWithin