March 30, 2009

Signs and Wonders

A sure sign of spring and a mystery solved! At least one of the things we planted last fall was a group of daffodil bulbs! We're still waiting for the reveal on several other green beginnings, but this is a cheerful start to the blooming time of year. And here is what I wonder - what is it about daffodils in bloom that seems to encourage snow?!! We had a Saturday of sleety, wet snow, though it was nothing to complain about compared to what our family in Colorado enjoyed!

And here is something else I wonder - how many of you have had the immense blessing of sharing a 99th birthday celebration with your grandmother? Here she is as the queen of the day and she even made a speech of thanks to all who attended to help her celebrate! She has led an exemplary life - faith filled, humble, steady, and loyal. Grandma, you are one in a million and I love you dearly. Happy 99th birthday - officially today!In her famous words - Well, this is all then.

March 20, 2009

Spring Symphony



Happy first day of spring! My house plants are feeling the season change and the Christmas cactus, violet, and a cyclamen are happily blooming in pink. We've had gorgeous weather this week and things are beginning to green up a bit around the edges outdoors too. I mentioned that there are numerous bulbs coming up out front, but for the life of us, we can't remember what we planted out there - scattered, scattered people sometimes!

Outside the spring noises are incredible. You can stand out on the deck and be inundated by so many different bird songs. Blue birds are already busy nesting in the boxes that my Uncle J. put along the fence last spring. Red-winged black birds are starting to arrive and put dibs on their favorite pond reed. The females will get here later and make a nest on the ground below those reeds that the males use as watch towers. At the height of the summer we conservatively have a hundred of these birds living at the pond and it sounds like a riot down there.

You can see in this photo that the goldfinches are enjoying the thistle sock and you can notice that this early in the spring they are still a little on the green side. They change to the bright yellow as the season progresses. I didn't get a shot of it, but the suet cage in the photo has had a really pretty woodpecker eating there. And unfortunately, a larger cousin of the pretty woodpecker has been back at our fireplace - ahh! If you read this blog post from last October , you'll remember that this is not a welcome visitor!

At the deck feeder you can see both juncos and house sparrows. Those house sparrows are destructive and pushy, and they keep me from being able to put hanging flower baskets on our front porch, but they do make a beautiful sound.
Last night I heard the first frog music coming from our pond! I wish I knew more about the difference between frogs and toads and their habits so I could identify the various songs. Eventually the noise they make down there can truly keep you awake at night because there are so many of them! One pair of geese and one pair of ducks have been visiting the pond in past days. We're really hoping that the ducks will take up residence in the never-used duck box down there. I guess it's hard to move real-estate all over these days!

Well, this is all then.

March 13, 2009

Find Your Green Thumb

We have a new book to love -"The Backyard Homestead", edited by Carleen Madigan Perkins. If you remember any of the old Storey publications, this one will be familiar to you. The author says that she is taking some of the best of those old stand-bys and compiling the information into this new book. It is absolutely rich with great instructions, loads of pictures, and even recommendations for varieties of plants to grow. Now this book might seem to focus on those homes with acreage of some sort, but it also supports our belief that gardening is possible for anyone.

We have lots of folks tell us that they wish they could have a garden like ours and all the goodies that come from it. But it really isn't necessary to have a lot of space, or time, or great skill to grow a little fresh produce. You just have to really desire to give yourself and your family something very high quality for the table, or just have the determination to prove that you can do this! Start by thinking of what your family loves to eat and/or what is the most expensive thing you buy and would love to grow to help save money. Here are a few ideas from us, from this book, and other various sources. We hope this encourages you to grow!

1. Use self-watering containers of all sorts on a porch, deck, or patio. They have a reservoir in the bottom that you keep filled, which reduces your chances of having the plants dry out. The one in this picture comes from plowandhearth.com, but they're sold everywhere. We're moving our herbs up to our deck this year. The Backyard Homestead suggests that all of these things will grow in this type of container - tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, eggplant, beans and more.

2. If you have a bit of yard space, try the method called "square-foot gardening", which has been championed by Mel Bartholomew for many years. He has a new book which updates this method. The link to his website is in my sidebar. We will be re-visiting this method in our own garden for some of our plants. Here's Mel!Our plan is to purchase some of these grids in vinyl, so that we can move them around easily and take them with us when we move from this home to another - eventually that is. NOTE - these are more commonly wooden boxes and you can build these yourself! His website is full of information that he generously gives for free. His book has great instructions as well.

3. Grow up instead of out. We're planning on using trellises of various sorts to grow things vertically this year - cucumbers, beans, peas, etc. It takes lots less space and is easier on the back when it comes to picking!

4. This is the most low-tech idea of all, which a friend in GA did years ago, and which shows up in our new favorite gardening book. Buy a large bag of potting soil, lay it down flat, cut an X in the top and plop your tomato seedling in. It will thrive and give you gifts!!

Start small and gain confidence as you go. Your green thumb is waiting to pop out!
Well, this is all then.

March 9, 2009

Comin' Up

Here's what's comin' up!

Eggplant Parmesan...

Fresh coleslaw...

Grilled onions...

Iowa sliced tomatoes...

Well, this is all then.
P.S. Love and prayers go out to my Aunt D. and her family. xoxoxo

March 7, 2009

Cure for a Cloudy Day

It was 71 degrees here yesterday! There were open windows and surveying of bulbs coming up in the front of the house. But, it is still only March, and after a night of thunderstorms, lightening, and lots of rain, today there is a cold, steady rain with dropping temps. White stuff next???

Oh well, inside I came up with a day brightener thanks to the good stuff that we still have from last year's garden.

This alphabet soup was ridiculously simple and very good and warming. I used one frozen container of my homemade tomato juice. I brought that to a boil, added a handful of this happy whole grain pasta, some frozen peas and corn, plus a little dash of Worcestershire for zing. It was done in just a few minutes and made for a wonderful lunch. Hope you're warm and happy today.

Well, this is all then.

March 2, 2009

A Good Start

It's the magic seed time! Everything that benefits from being planted as a seedling (instead of being planted as a seed directly into the ground), has been started in our basement. DH has a formula for the planting medium he likes best - 2 parts peat moss, 1 part vermiculite, and 1 part perlite.

If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that we had a bit of a problem with seed labeling and organization last year-really not the fault of DH, but it was fun teasing him in the entry named Turnip Town. This careful system of labeling Popsicle sticks with a permanent marker, is our start of a much more deliberate planting process.

So, all sorts of wonderful things are cooking away with the grow lights positioned right above the flats, and underneath all the little babies is a heat mat that's big enough for four flats of seed starts. We now have 3 and 1/4 flats filled up with broccoli, eggplant, onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and leeks to name a few. As I mentioned last post, the tomatoes and peppers were started first. We'll start herbs and flowers next. I don't know about you, but trying to find flower starts that haven't been used and abused is getting harder and more expensive, so we'll try starting our own this year. We'll see how that goes!

This is always such a fascinating thing to do. You open all these little packets with these tiny little specs in them, and it's unbelievable that this is what will produce pound after pound of vegetables for you and your family and friends! All that information packed into those tiny seeds, many of which look the same, but of course they will produce vastly different vegetables. If doing even a little bit of gardening can't convince you that God created a marvelous world, there just might be no hope for you! But I pray there is!!

Well, this is all then.