Tuesday, June 10, 2014

2014 Back and Side Yard Gardens Are Off to a Strong Start

Last week I wrote about the side yard garden and promised to post pictures about my other gardens as well. I take space wherever I can grab it while still leaving plenty of grassy areas for my kids to play.

We will begin with the area that was once my only garden:


This year it holds mostly Tom Thumb Popping Corn. I planted in three blocks and they're doing quite well so far. The far right row also contains three rainbow zucchini plants as well as three pickling cucumber plants (hopefully more if the second round takes since I lost one here early on). The mailbox is a new addition to the space and holds a few pairs of gloves and some tools. I've found this to be really really helpful as I seem to always end up over here without what I need and it is at the opposite end of the yard from the side yard garden.



The weed blocker serves several purposes: It (obviously) blocks weeds from growing, it warms the soil to the temperature the corn likes without me having to wait until July for the necessary warmth and it seems to keep the birds from stealing my seeds.

Back to the right of this garden, near the tall fence, is our dwarf cherry tree. This is the second year in the ground and while I saw three cherries on it the other day, the one that was almost red is now missing so I can only assume our jerk crows have stolen more of our goodies.


Moving on around to the left along the shorter fence are two apple trees that we put in last year. We got 3 apples last year. These are dwarf trees and I'll prune them quite a bit shorter when that time is right. I cut them back this year but they grew a ton even after I trimmed them. These are a grafted variety that will grow 3 or 4 (I can't remember) different types of apples.

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They're still small but we have a lot of them this year. Hooray!

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Under the trees, but still getting sunlight, are my potato bags. If they do well, I'll post a tutorial on how I made them at the end of the summer. I want to test them out first though. This is my first year growing potatoes and if I recall correctly, I planted three different varieties.

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Next to the second apple tree is my new raspberry patch. I purchased 9 bare root plants then received about 20 additional ones from someone thinning out her patch. The ones on the end that look rather sad are the donated ones and I doubt I'll get anything out of them this year but that's OK, they're creating a good root structure right now so they'll come back strong next year. I'm learning that with gardening, sometimes I just have to wait a year or two to get the fruit I want.

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Across from this area are three of our blueberry bushes, two sugar pie pumpkin plants and will soon feature around 100 Trail of Tears Black Bean plants which I started in the little greenhouse in order to buy some time to set up the climbing structure along the side of the house.

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Our blueberries are doing well and seem to be growing us some nice plump berries. This is their second year on our property.

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Finally, we have four huckleberry bushes, three more blueberry bushes and two more pumpkin plants next to our front yard along the fence. Incidentally, we also have what we call our snowball tree which spends weeks dropping tiny white petals all over this portion of our yard and landscaping. I took this picture about an hour after raking them all out.

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So that covers the remainder of our property beyond the main garden in the side yard. I'm so excited about what we have growing. I need to work on perking our pumpkins up as the two plants in the raised bed in the main garden are really thriving but the rest all look a little sad. Perhaps some compost will perk them up. I spent about an hour outside most evenings after the kids go to bed and it has quickly become such an important part of my day. After poking around the gardens checking on everything, I feel calm and productive and relaxed. I sleep better at night knowing I can provide food for my family. I'm particularly proud that I started every one of this year's new plants from seed. It was still a bit of an investment in seeds but hopefully this year I'll get the hang of saving seeds so I don't have to buy new ones next year.

Thanks for letting me take you on a garden tour! If you've got a great garden growing this year, I encourage you to share your garden posts from your own blog or if you don't have a blog, I'd love to check out picture via links to publicly published photos (flickr, open security Facebook photos, etc).

Thank you for reading,
Julie



Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My 2014 Garden is Off and Running

Boy oh boy have we had an amazing run of weather up here in the Pacific Northwest. We've had unseasonably warm (but comfortable) weather and my garden is LOVING it. I had great success this year starting seeds thanks in part to my new room where I started the seeds then last year's purchase of a small greenhouse and also the bigger greenhouse I built last fall (uhhhh, did I forget to blog about that?). We moved hundreds of seedlings through the three spaces this year as my husband also started many ornamentals from seed. I'm so excited to see the fruits of his labors but right now most are still just small plants and aren't even close to flowering.

This year I'm growing a few favorites again as well as trying some new ones. Here's the master list
  • Apple trees - 2
  • Basil
  • Beans - Cherokee Trail of Tears Black - about 200 plants
  • Bloomsdale Spinach - I can't grow this stuff successfully to save my life, it keeps bolting on me but I keep trying.
  • Blueberry bushes - 3 varieties, 2 plants each
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cherry tree - 1
  • Corn - Tom Thumb Popping variety. Growing in 3 blocks in the same patch for succession harvesting. Will have around 50 plants after I plant the last block.
  • Cucumber - Mexican sour gherkin, 24 plants I just started from seed
  • Cucumber - National pickling variety. 3 in the ground with more just started. I lost several as seedlings, like truly lost, couldn’t find them then I discovered them and 3 survived.
  • Dill
  • Eggplant - Asian Trio
  • Garlic
  • Huckleberry bushes - 4
  • Kale - last year's plant JUST died after pulling through the winter. We enjoyed a lot of kale and now I have 2 new ones coming up.
  • Lemon Balm (technically my 6 year old's plant and it too is from last year)
  • Lettuce - Buttercrunch - just started, still in the seed tray
  • Lettuce - Mesculun in three 2' gutters. I've already harvested the daylights out of one of them several times, it's wonderful.
  • Marigolds (not an edible but sitting in my tomato beds to deter pests - hubs started these then I took over and care for them)
  • Onion - Storing variety, about 50 of them
  • Onions - 3 varieties to be harvested small and used as scallions
  • Peppermint - 2
  • Potatoes - 3 varieties in bags
  • Pumpkin - Small Sugar, 2 plants
  • Pumpkin – 4 Big Max plants
  • Radish - French Breakfast variety, planted 12 and drop a new seed in each time I harvest one
  • Raspberry - 1 unknown variety from a local gardener
  • Raspberry - Black Munger
  • Raspberry - Red Heritage
  • Raspberry - Willamette
  • Sunflowers
  • Snap Peas - around 80 plants I think, we love these things
  • Soybean - Midori Giant Bush Beans
  • Strawberries (80+ plants from last year) - have already harvested several pints which we eat just about as fast as we pick
  • Tomato - 12 Striped Roman Tomatoes which are doing wonderfully in the new greenhouse
  • Tomato - Indigo Apple, 5 plants
  • Tomato - Rainbow Cherry - have already started growing actual tomatoes although not ready to pick yet
  • Zucchini - Tri-color variety, 3 plants
Things I'd still like to plant somewhere:
  • Quinoa
  • Brussels Sprouts (a fall/winter crop)
And now for a tour of the joint but I'm going to break this down into two posts so as not to inundate you with photos because there are a lot of different garden areas throughout our property:



Here in the main garden which is to the right of our home, you'll see a large 10'4' bed containing two Big Max pumpkin vines which I am training out onto the wood chips. At the other end of that bed are three Asian Trio Eggplants and a whole bunch of onion starts that I plan to harvest as green onions for salads and recipes. In the middle of that bed you can often find two little boys playing with their toys. I'm growing little dudes in my garden.

Next to that, we have about 40 linear feet worth of strawberry plants and they're already producing lots of tasty fruit.


Next up are five 17-gallon tubs containing Rainbow Cherry and Indigo Apple Tomatoes. The Rainbow Cherry varieties are already growing tomatoes although none are ripe yet.


At the end of that row are three large pots, 3 old elementary school chairs and a bird bath turned fairy garden in the center. Only two of the pots are full right now and they contain more Rainbow Cherry and Indigo Apple Tomato plants.


Beyond that cluster is the onion bed where I'm growing large storing onions that won't be ready until the fall. On the edge of this bed I've just planted some black beans. I waited to get these in the ground as they need the soil to be quite warm in order to germinate. This picture barely shows it but I have a trellis where the black beans can climb. It creates a small tunnel over the path that is really lovely when the beans fill in the space. I have solar twinkly lights in there too.


Next up is the salad bed where I have snap peas climbing up over a trellis then kale, spinach, carrots, radishes, and butter crunch lettuce growing underneath. Only the radishes are ready to be harvested, all the other plants are still quite small.



The snap peas are starting to bloom and we have a few small pods. We're really excited as these are some of our favorite plants, so much so that I have more planted along the retaining wall.


Finally, for the main garden at this point, is the greenhouse where I have 12 Striped Roman (yes, Roman, not Roma) Tomatoes, a few marigolds in pots, garlic, several short gutters full of mesculun lettuce, and a hanging shelf to hold seedlings.



   



  

Behind the greenhouse is the pergola with bench that I created using reclaimed pieces from the crapport carport we removed a couple of years ago to put in this garden. There are planter boxes where I grew snap peas last year but this year I have started seeds for Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumbers in a seed tray in the greenhouse. I'm so excited to grow those. The are really small cucumbers that look like watermelons. I've read they taste great and can be pickled.

(photo courtesy of www.seedsavers.org)

So that's it for the side yard/main garden. I'll leave you with one final picture, from next to the greenhouse looking back:


I love this space and am so excited about how much growth I've already seen this year. The next post will feature popping corn, zucchini, pickling cucumbers, more pumpkins, apple trees, the cherry tree, raspberries, blueberries and huckleberries. Yum!

Thank you for reading,
Julie



Friday, March 28, 2014

Our Favorite Relatively Easy Pizza Recipe

Dough

Ingredients:
Pizza Dough by Build, Sew, Reap
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 3/4 cups white flour
Instructions:

1.  In mixing bowl, combine the oil, honey, salt, yeast, seasoning and garlic powder.
2.  Add in warm water and stir thoroughly.
3.  Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture becomes a bit puffy.
4.  Add in the flour and mix with the kneading hook for 5-10 minutes until it is well combined and a little beyond.
5.  Lightly oil a separate mixing bowl and add the dough to it. Cover with a damp cloth (lint-free) or greased plastic wrap (if you can't grease it, you'll just likely lose a bit of the dough stuck to it later but it isn't a huge problem.
6.  Place in a warm spot for 1 hour or until doubled.
7.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
8.  Remove from bowl and shape on your pizza stone or baking sheet. 
9.  Add desired toppings (see our favorite sauce recipe below)
10. Bake for 18-20 minutes until crust is just starting to turn golden brown and toppings are cooked as you like.

I like to make a double batch then set half of the dough aside to make into breadsticks later in the week. It can sit in the fridge for a few days, molded into breadsticks and tossed straight in the oven, still cold.

Sauce 

Ingredients:
Pizza sauce by Build, Sew, Reap
  • 1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
  • 3 oz water (I just refill the empty can of paste roughly half way)
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • dash of dried red pepper flakes (optional, we often skip this in the sauce and put them on top of our pizza)
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1. Mix it all together
2. Put it on your dough
3. Top with your favorite toppings.
4. Cook per dough instructions.
5. Enjoy

I also make a double batch of sauce a lot of times. I put the extra in the fridge and if we want a marinara sauce a few days later (for pasta, polenta, etc), I just add 1 can of organic chopped tomatoes when I heat it up on the stove. Once it is all warmed up, I use my immersion blender to smooth out the sauce as that's how my family prefers it. The taste is fantastic.


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My favorite toppings are mushrooms, olives, sundered tomatoes, 
onions and basil (which I was missing on photo night)

Save yourself some time and chop your toppings up instead of slicing. They cook better and the texture is actually really nice. I use a chopper similar to this one.

Also, this crust can be frozen. Make the dough and let it rise, cook for half the time, cool, wrap well with foil and freeze until you need it. When you need it, just take it out, add the sauce and toppings and bake for another 10 minutes or until toppings are cooked.

Thank you for reading,
Julie



Monday, February 24, 2014

Homemade Chocolates

Today I did a little experiment combining several ideas into one and it was a raging success so I'm here to share it with you.

About 10 months ago, I gave up processed cane and beet sugars. This, in addition to my mostly plant based diet (I do cook with oils), means I make a whole lot of my own food to stay within the parameters I've set for myself. That's just fine with me, I've never felt healthier. Unfortunately, I've also become a bit of a chocolate snob but as long as I have a few minutes to cook it up, I have a wonderful go-to recipe for tasty dark chocolate. Today I'm going to share with you how you can make your own amazing chocolates using just a handful of ingredients that no pantry should be without.

First, let me entice you to read on:

Yummy Chocolates by Build Sew Reap

Yes, that's a peanut butter cup. Yes, I made that myself. Yes, I did it in under 10 minutes including cleanup. Yes, you can too.

Not into peanut butter cups? How about a homemade Almond Joy?

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BTW, when was the last time you thanked a blogger for eating 6 decadent chocolates just so she can get a good photo? Just know, I took one for the team today.

Now for those of you who aren't into filled chocolates. Get yourself one of these and crank out a few of these:
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This chocolate can also be poured over ice cream and it solidifies just like Magic Shell.

I could go on and on about how versatile this recipe is (banana + peanut butter + chocolate) but I bet you want me to just go ahead and post the recipe so here it is:

Estimated cook time: <10 minutes + 30 minutes in the freezer

Ingredients for the Chocolate:
Yummy Chocolates by Build Sew Reap8
  • 1/4 cup organic unrefined coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup organic cocoa powder (please buy fair trade)
  • 1/8 cup organic maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp organic vanilla extract (optional)
  • pinch of sea salt (optional but I like what this adds quite a bit)
Optional fillers:
  • Natural peanut butter (the stuff with sugar would be too sweet in my opinion plus the natural stuff rolls into a ball easier)
  • Coconut + an almond
  • Banana
  • Peanuts
  • ?!?!? use your imagination!!
Directions (printable recipe here):

Put mini muffin papers into 8 mini muffin tin holes. If you don't have the muffin tin, you can just use two muffin papers together for each candy and put them on a freezer-safe plate or tray.

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Combine ingredients for the chocolate in a small pan over medium-low heat.

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Stir constantly until all ingredients are combined and mixture looks smooth then immediately remove from the heat.

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Pour a little dollop into each muffin cup. I think these were each filled a little less than 1/4 of the way.

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Add your filling.

Peanut Butter: Roll small balls of peanut butter in your hands. If you're using the natural stuff, this should be no problem at all. Put the PB ball in the center of the chocolate.

Coconut & Almond: Sprinkle some shredded unsweetened coconut across the surface of the chocolate. Gently press in one almond per candy.

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Now pour the remaining chocolate into the 8 cups.

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Optional: I like to sprinkle a little coconut on the ones containing coconut since I know not everyone is a fan and don't want any surprises. If I make several different varieties at once, I try to use some system to tell them apart once they're finished.

Pop the tray in the freezer for about 30 minutes. When they're firm, you can eat them right away or store them in the refrigerator.

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Warning: If you're sensitive to caffeine, these are NOT a good late night snack unless you want to stay up all night crafting. I won't judge.

Thank you for reading,
Julie



Friday, January 3, 2014

A Room of My Own

First of all, Happy New Year!!! 

I hope your holidays were filled with family, friends, love and laughter. Mine certainly were and it was a welcome change of pace from the month of November when I busted out an additional room in our house. Yes, I added a room.

You might recall that I once had a room for my crafts but I was evicted when we found out I was pregnant with little dude number 2. I moved my stuff out to a corner of the garage and landed here.

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I know what you're thinking, it's not too awful ... only it was. You see, it was NEVER that tidy again because it was too cold to work out there during the winter and too hot during the summer. It was dirty because there were no real walls to keep it separate from the rest of the garage and that little desk was never enough space for me. Furthermore, the only time it was well lit was during the day when natural sunlight flooded the space and that's all fine and good except I don't do a whole lot of daytime crafting, I'm a stay at home mom.

So, the hubs and I started talking and we decided that our 2 car garage with a 1 car opening was wasted space. We decided to rip out the room we built him awhile back (that ended up having the same problems mine did ... cold/hot, dark, dirty) and build on two rooms just outside the main part of our house. We used to step out of the living space, down to a stack of cinder blocks and onto the concrete garage floor to get to my craft space, laundry, the hubs' room, etc. but not anymore.

We transformed this:

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Into this:

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We sealed the concrete then built up the floor by 8+ inches, leveled it, added insulation and put down sub flooring. 

Then this:

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I added walls that hadn't been there before, built a closet around the water heater, installed a new window and started drywalling. This was before I finished building the wall but was the last photo I was able to take of the entire room.

A little of this:

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Lots of drywalling and mudding then some fake board and batten which I created using some low budget particle board ripped into appropriate sized strips. 

And finally this:

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The counter above the washer and dryer is removable for maintenance and the shelves were recycled from the old laundry space. 

New Craft Room 03
I've had those kid body forms since before I had real kids. I used to use them when I photographed clothing for my easy shop. Well, they are now the same size as my two boys so they hold a special place in my heart ... and on my wall.

And now moving around the room:

New Craft Room 08
My super handy neighbor came over and taught me how to remove an old single pane slider window and install a nice new double pane one. Bonus that this one has a screen and functioning lock.

New Craft Room 09
This is my new work space with custom "L" shaped desk that I cut from a nice piece of plywood. After cutting the pieces, I used the router to round off the top edge then I painted it with the same glossy white I used on the board and batten. I also found a place for some artwork I created many years ago using the pieces from the pattern for the first formal gown I made for myself.

New Craft Room 05
I've used this double layer desk system several times now and love it. These baskets slide in and out nicely and now I have a tidy place to store all my ribbon.

New Craft Room 04
I treated myself to this great hanging system from Ikea so I'd have all my most used supplies organized at an arm's reach. 

New Craft Room 07
A little space to store larger items like cutting mats, a tabletop ironing board and rolls of contact paper and stabilizer. 

New Craft Room 06
I had my eye on this Ikea Expedit shelving system knowing it would provide a good partial wall to separate my space from the passthrough from the house to the garage. I love that all those boxes are accessible from either side of the unit.

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The Expedit from the other side.


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I hung this curtain rod up behind the door to the living room so we would have a place to store clothing waiting to be ironed. I didn't want them hanging in the doorway.

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The flooring I used is a peel-and-stick linoleum from Lowes in 18x18 pieces laid with 1/8 inch space between them and grouted with special grout intended for linoleum tiles. I had no idea this stuff existed but when I saw it, I knew I had to give it a try. It looks stunning, particularly for peel-and-stick tile. I will never lay that stuff without grout again.

In conclusion:
This was a HUGE undertaking and should have taken far more than the few weeks that I gave myself but I'm not a patient woman. I still have some details to clean up in there but the big stuff is clearly finished. I've used the room a few times and love being able to just bounce out to my sewing machine which remains plugged in and ready to be used whenever I need to. In fact, I even made myself a skirt for New Years Eve! I hated having to bring my sewing machine in to the the dining room table as it meant I had to completely clean everything up before dinner each night. What a pain!! It won't be an issue any longer now that I have my own space. It is clean too, no more dust floating from my power tools and workshop into the craft space.

Now, if you don't mind, I've got some crafting to do ...

Thank you for reading,
Julie



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

From my family to you and yours:


V3 Family Photo Card - Online

Or if you prefer a more traditional route:


2013 Nice Card

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Inappropriate Elf - The Christmas Story Sequel

Have you heard of the annual Inappropriate Elf contest over on BabyRabies? It totally cracks me up so this year I had to enter. I took it upon myself to clue you into a little part of the birth of Christ that never made it into the Bible.

We'll pick up just after He was born ...

Mary and Joseph celebrated the birth of their son, Jesus. The three magi came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They even had some animals looking on, seeing as they'd just booted those animals out of the stable so Mary could give birth, they were understandably curious. 

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But wait!! Daer the elf was peering down on the scene. What could he want?

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Daer quickly moved in and took Joseph down in a powerful headlock.

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Then before anyone could figure out what was happening, he stuffed him in the stable.

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He closed the doors and locked them up tight.

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To the shock and horror of those looking on, Daer embraced Mary in a loving hug. Looks like Jesus wasn't much of a miracle after all.

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Of course, there was a huge coverup so nobody ever heard what happened that fateful night after Jesus Christ was born.

Merry Christmas!


Thank you for reading,
Julie






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