Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Canning in early spring...

Is your supplv of of home canned goods getting low?  Or are you antsy to get canning again?  Well I have a secret for you!  Your local orchard may have cold storage for their apples.  We are lucky and have a year round farmers market about an hour away.  They sell apples all year long there so I picked up some cheap b-grade apples to make some apple sauce with.  Now I am sure you can guess these apples are not really the best...I mean not the best as in not as good as they are right off the tree in August...but they are more then good for canning.  I also paid next to nothing for them!  Are you unsure of where to look for these?  Just call up your local orchard.  Pickyourown has a great list of pick your own farms in your area...you can start there or just google it!  There is also an apple sauce recipe here on the same page.  If you have never checked this site out I highly reccomend looking around.  Lots of canning recipes and info as well as the info on pyo farms!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Some thoughts about the radish

Some radish sprouts in the garden

When spring comes around all any gardener wants to see is plants growing as quickly as possible. There is one simple solution to this, RADISHES! Where to begin talking about radishes? How about variety, I am planting four different radishes in my garden, Cherry bell, French breakfast, White icicle, and Watermelon (they are green skinned with red flesh), but the list of varieties is much longer. One seed company I buy from, Pinetree Garden Seeds, lists 14 varieties, and there are some types that are used buy farmers like a green manure and left to over winter in fields then plowed under in the spring.  Red round radishes are by far the most popular, and their flavor is what most people think a radish should taste like, but this is one vegetable that you can expirement with.   So once you have decided what you want to plant get started in Spring as early as you can work the soil. I have found that radishes will grow in just about any soil but remember rocks and heavy clay will disrupt the growth of the root, so once you have prepared your bed plant seeds 1/2 an inch deep and about 1-3 inches apart, this will give each enough room to grow with minimal thinning (when thining is necessary don't toss the sprouts eat them, just put them in your next salad). With good weather you will see sprouts in about a week or two and within a month you will have a crop ready to harvest. Using a succesive planting schedule of a new planting every two weeks you will have a continuous harvest until early summer. You can then plan on another planting and harvest for the fall in late July or early August. Now I am sure you are asking yourself , "what do I do with all these radishes?", well fear not here is a list of recipies my wife, Mama G, found to try this year...
Radish Top Soup
Radish, Butter, and Bread! (We are growing French Breakfast which supposidly get their name because the French eat them on buttered bread for breakfast.)
Roasted Radishes with Radish Greens
Roasted Radishes with Soy Sauce and Sesame Seeds
Radish Cakes (Won't be trying this one as most of the ingredients probably haven't made it within 50 miles of where I live ;) )
Braised Radishes

And you thought you could just use radishes raw!

But wait theres more to know about radishes!  Not only are they easy to grow and delicious they are good for you.  Radishes are an excelent source of vitamine C, and have been reported to aid in the treatment of many common ailments. Here is an article I found online describing the health benifits of radishes.

So when you are planning your garden this year don't forget the noble radish.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

First trip to the farm!

The forscast for Sunday was snowy and cold but at about 10 am on Sunday it was sunny and beautiful and we just had to go up to the farm.  As it was our only day off together in awhile I wanted to make sure we used that time as best we could.  John tilled up the garden....

We have expanded it a bit this year from last...

I would tell you the dimensions but I have no idea!  I am still not a very good judge of footage or acerage of land as I didn't really need them until recently.

Here are the boys making rows with the old row cutter...some tools are just as useful now as they were 50 years ago!

Our little garlic is on the left and our collards from last year are growing again!  This is the first time we have planted garlic in this soil so hopefully it does really well as it seems to be a good seller.

I got some pictures of the inside of the old barn to show you but realized my pictures of the outside on on the other computer that I don't feel like hooking up.  Next time we are up there I will get pics of the outside.  It is a great old building that seems to be falling down more and more each time we go up.  If you head on over to Mama G's you can see all of the goodies I rescued from the barn.  It feels so good to get stuff in the ground...have you planted anything yet?

-Mama G

Friday, March 19, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring time chores

(Our garden from last year)

Spring is just around the corner, but winter has yet to let go, what is a gardener to do?  Well, to put it bluntly, the boring stuff.  This is the time of year to get the stuff done that will make planting and maintaning your garden easier and much less stressfull.  Here is my springtime todo list:

  1. Put the planting schedule on the calander. This one can be done anytime after the previous season ends but if your like me it goes on the springtime list. I find that using a calander(the cheapest one I can find) is the easiest way to keep all the information organized.
  2. Start seeds indoors as necessary.  This is already underway but keep in mind it is easy to get behind schedule on plantings especially when you start planting before you make your planting schedule like me. 
  3. Take inventory on all garden tools and supplies.  Suprisingly enough you will loose tools, example my garden spade is gone.  Knowing this now means I can buy a new one before I need it and have to spend preciouse planting time at the hardware store. 
  4. Make repairs and plan out expansion.  We had lot of snow this winter and it caused some minor damage to my fences.  I am also expanding the gardens again so  I need to buy any necessary tools or supplies in advance.

  5. Clean the garage and Screened porch.  These two spaces are my indoor areas that directly effect the garden so they need to be organized (again) for the upcoming season.
The more the I do this the more I realize that organization and planning are the best ways to save time.


Spring is in the air...

With spring in the air I just can't wait for nice weather!  Here are my favorite spring and summer pics of last year that I wanted to share with you!

I plan on taking a lot more pictures this year and will post them as the season progresses :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Making a plastic bag drying rack...

So I recently bought a scroll saw so that I can make toys for my kids and other crafty things.  When I buy something large like that I am always upset when I open the box to find an insane amount of styrafoam in the box.  I know that they get shipped and need to be protected but I can't imagine there isn't a better way to do it.  I have been keeping the yucky stuff so I can try and figure out a way to use it.  I was looking in the Lehman's catalog and they had a drying rack for your ziplock baggies.  I try not to buy ziploc bags but when I do I rinse them out to use them again.  My kitchen is always covered in baggies drying.  The thing was selling for $20 which set me into "I can make that!" mode.  This is what I came up with...

I just cut a chunk off (be careful when cutting this stuff!) and stuck some bamboo skewers in it.  It doesn't balanca the greatest so you have to evenly distribute the bags.

Not too bad for free.  It is pretty unattractive so I will have to find a place to hide it when someone comes over.  I would have to make a bazillion of these things to make a dent in that styrafoam I have but it is a start!!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

What I would direct seed this weekend (If it wasn't raining)...

These are the plants I would direct seed right now...

Snow peas
Cress ( I actually planted some a couple of days ago...the birds ate the seeds, then I planted more yesterday)
Broccoli Raab
Swiss chard

Some of these things I would not plant until a bit later if the weather wasn't so warm.  I really want to have some stuff to sell the first week of market so I want to be on top of things.  I believe we should have radishes and hopefully some lettuce for sure.  Plus I am playing around with the idea of making some toys to sell.  Baked goods are just too big of a pain to label and package and what not.  John will head up to his parents sometime this week to plant these things up there.  The lettuce we started inside looks great...the broccoli raab is very leggy since we did not get lights on it quick enough.  We started our fish peppers and tomatoes with a heat mat.  I am very stressed about getting these seeds started soon enough.  Today I am going to try and sit down with a calender and plan out the rest of my plantings...(something I should have done in January!!!)

Home made dishwashing detergent follow up...

Just wanted to let you know I used the dishwashing soap yesterday and it worked fine.  Now we have a portable dishwasher so I am not entirely sure if this is ok for it.  I am going to do a little research...even though it seems a lot of people use this without any problems.  I just filled one compartment with half Borax and half washing soda. 

Update:  I forgot to mention I that I spoke about baking soda in the last post but I used washing soda.  I read you could use both so I chose washing soda since...well since it has washing in the title!  Also you can read here about making your own detergent.  It seems many people have had mixed results depending on their dishwasher.  Please check it out :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You can make your own dishwasher detergent?!

I just read about this today...I have not had a chance to try it but it sounds so easy and cheap!  And the best part is you use baking soda and borax...two things we already have in the house!  I use the Borax to make laundry detergent which you can find the directions to making here.  To make the dishwasher detergent just use equal parts of these ingredients.  You can add essential oils or one site suggested using sugar free lemonade!  I will just be using the Borax and baking soda.  What another great way to save money and reduce packaging.  I wonder if I could find a place that sells Borax in super duper bulk.  I should have a load to do tomorrow and will let you know asap how it went!!!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Making a cold frame from old windows and starting plants

Spring isn't officially here yet but I am already a nervouse wreck about the garden.  Last year I felt we got a lot of stuff in to late and did not maximize their growing potential.  This year we have been off to a good start. We already have some lettuce, kale, and cress growing under lights, and are getting ready to start our tomatoes and peppers.  I have also helped a fellow farmer repair his greenhouses in exchange for some plants later in the season.  Starting plants indoors can be stressfull but one way to beat the stress is by not starting them indoors if you do not have to.  Many plants, like summer squash, can be started indoors and you may gain a week or two on harvest but the time and money that can be saved is worth an extra week of waiting for delicious grilled veggies.  With that said we are planting as much seed directly in the garden as we can this year.  This will be benificial in a few ways, first we dont have to worry about starting the plants indoors or buying the plants from someone else, second we will be able to control the harvest better by using successive planting methods, and finally did I mention we dont have to start the plants indoors.  If you do want to get a jump on spring you can also use a cold frame to start plants in the garden before the outside conditions are ideal.  Cold frames can be purchased at garden centers and hardware stores but why not build one yourself.  I buit one with some old storm window frames and a leftover 2x4:

I used some basic tools to measure and cut the 2x4 into six 6" pieces
Then I cleaned up the old window frames and screwed all the pieces together to form box

Then wrapped the top and sides with plastic and stapled it in place and.....

By placing this in the garden now to help raise the ground tempature I will be able to start some plants early directly in the garden. 

As nervous as gardening makes me it is a good nervous. I know that in the end I am providing healthy clean fruits and vegetables for my family, and community.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Making your own microwave popcorn

Let me start out by telling you how I almost burnt the house down.  Well ok not really but I almost caught the popcorn on fire.  So I have read in multiple places that you can pop popcorn in a brown bag.  Well with all the chemicals in regular microwave popcorn I really wanted to try this.  I have some brown bags from work so I put some popcorn in one and set the microwave on the popcorn setting.  About 1 minute later I smelled something burning...like paper.  Yikes!

Well I do not think that is supposed to happen!  I haven't read about anyone else having this happen so I am assuming it is the bag...but I still will not be doing it this way again.  So I was really bummed but then I thought well if I can do it in a bag I can probably do it in a glass bowl with a plate on it.

I put in in for about a minute...

It got a little steamy but not a problem!  I guess you can add butter before you cook it too.  I was going to buy an air popper last week but I am glad I didn't!  This is at lease 1/2 the price of regular microwave popcorn, less waste, and no chemicals!!!

Also we are starting to get our first seedlings!  These are the swiss chard.  I am starting them a bit earlier then is reccomended just to see how they do.  The seed is actually a cluster of seeds so I will have to thin it quite a bit.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New Blog!

Right...a new blog already?!  Well I don't want to clutter this one with crochet patterns and crafty stuff so please visit me over at Mama G's Big Crafty Blog (sweet title right?!).  I just posted a pattern for my spinny flower which I made this garland out of:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thrifty Tuesdays!

Tuesday is my favorite day of the week.  This is the day I do my thrifting.  Hardly a Tuesday goes by without at least one good find.  Today was a pretty good day...

I just looove these"Japan" mugs (not sure what they are really called).  I found this one today.

I found the one on the left awhile ago.

These are to go with our fondue pot.  Aren't they groovy?  We were just using bamboo sticks but I believe that is a....fondon't.  Harhar!  (I just had to say it!)

This is an Otagiri tea set I found for 2 bucks!  Here was my thought process when I saw it: "Wow I was just thinking I woul love to start having an aternoon tea everyday...this would be great!".  My thought process when I got home: "Man I haven't even found time to shower today...I really can't see tea everyday being a possibility...*sigh*".  I have a feeling this might end up in the garage sale this summer.