Category Archives: gardening

Organic Carrot Gardening

Organic Carrot Gardening- not for the faint of heart.

I started out with some carrots pulled fresh from the garden.

Then, I cut the tops off, leaving a little bit of green, but not too much. Supposedly this prevents wilting of the carrot during storage and it worked for me. Previous attempts this summer to store the carrots with the pretty, leafy tops failed. 😦

Then I had a sink full of carrots, with lots of soil still on them.

So I lighty scrubbed the dirt off, using no water. At this point the carrots were still somewhat wet from the garden soil, so I put them in a big bowl and stuck them in the fridge to dry.

A couple days later I started scrubbing, and scrubbing, and scrubbing some more with a bristle-y scrub brush.

Then I peeled the carrots.

Trimmed them.

And sent these three with Keith to work. They were the best looking ones. I blanched & froze a few bags and have some more sitting in my sink to be peeled for dinner tonight.

The variety we grew was “Short N Sweet“- and they are only supposed to grow to be 4 inches. Next year I think I will try a different variety- these taste great, but the smaller specimens are a bit of a pain to scrub and peel without losing some of your own skin. Ouch. We also planted the seeds too close together, which may account for why we had so many itty bitty carrots.

And of course, we got a mutant carrot or two…

So here’s the thing about growing root vegetables, organic or not…

You will end up with, err, organic material in your kitchen. As in dirt. Soil. Rocks. Bugs. Spiders.

And guess what happens when you clean up? And add water to the dirt?

You guessed it, MUD. On your countertop. Yay.

And picking, cleaning, trimming, scrubbing, peeling and cutting carrots takes a considerable amount of time.

But I think it’s worth it. Just be forewarned.

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Bread in five minutes a day. Honestly.

I took out Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day from the library over the summer, and have been working on perfecting the basic boule loaf ever since.

I think I’ve got it now. And now it really does take me five minutes of active work to make the dough, shape the loaf, and stick in the oven. At first it was sticky mess that took waaaaay longer than five minutes, but now the recipe lives up to it’s name.

Now, onto bigger, more complicated things. Because, you know, I just have to make things complicated. I’m a Martha, not a Mary, remember? Busy, busy, busy.

I have been following the blog of the authors of Artisan Breads, and am thrilled that they are coming out with Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day at the end of this month. Just in time for my birthday, I told my mom. She thought it was kind of funny that I wanted either a bread baking book for my birthday or kettle bells & a kettle bell workout dvd. Carbs or weights. Yada yada. But that’s another story.

So… I have been noticing some new recipes on Jeff & Zoe’s blog and was drawn particularly to their Garlic, Chard, and Parmesan Bread. I love swiss chard and had a ton in the garden, but never got around to making this during peak harvest.

I picked the last of the chard this past week, but was a little insecure about bringing more chard over to our neighbors for dinner (and particularly end-of-the-harvest- chard), so I opted to use some bagged baby spinach I had on hand. I’ve been somewhat addicted to spinach this pregnancy so there’s always some around here. I also opted to use the bread dough that I had in the fridge, which is the basic boule recipe (found here) and I used the cheese I had on hand. Part Skim Shredded Mozzarella and some romano cheese. I don’t like parmesan much and Keith would eat the kind that’s in the green tube without flinching. Yuck. Thank goodness I do the grocery shopping around here. We’re a romano cheese kind of family.

Mmmm. It was delicious! I enjoyed a slice, but left the rest of loaf at the neighbors, or else I would eat it all. And THAT would negate my spin class workout, right?

Plus there’s enough temptation coming out of the oven on a regular basis over here anyways.

On melons

Out of a melon patch…

Come melons.

Or, rather, mini-melons.

The cantelope looked luscious, but looks can be deceiving. It was awful. The watermelon was really good, but not good enough to plant again next year. Melons take up too much space and produce too little. I’m all about the production capabilities of my small suburban garden.

But it was kinda fun to eat a mini watermelon with a spoon.

Garden progress, praise and woes

We endeavored to create a vegetable garden this year. All of the gardening books we consulted advised starting small.

We didn’t listen. (Photo is from mid-July)

We planted:

7 zucchini/ summer squash plants

14 roma tomatoes

6 banana peppers

18 green bell peppers (actually I think a few were supposed to be red, but I picked them before they turned)

3-4 eggplant

3 pumpkins

A packet of carrot seed

Swiss chard

lots of spinach

4 broccoli- only 2 plants survived

a row of beets

3 cantelopes

3 watermelons

a row of radishes

And I just planted a fall crop of broccoli, lettuce, spinach, kale, and collard greens. I’m hopeful that those will continue into October, before it gets too cold.

We harvested several prize zucchini, like this one. This guy weighed 5.2 pounds- almost as much as the dog.

We had some issues with rain this summer- it rained ALOT. ALOT. ALOT. As a result, I *think*, some of our veggies experienced “blossom end rot”- where the bottom part of the fruit or veggie is black or rotted. This happened to ALOT of our zucchini. I had started out thinking that I planted too many zukes & summer squash, but due to the rot problem, I had to throw out a good amount. Thankfully my overplanting allowed us to have a great zucchini and summer squash supply in the kitchen. At this point in the year, I have ripped out all of the squash plants that have stopped producing and have just a single summer squash plant with about 4 mid-sized squash on it.

We planted a few sunflowers along the back of the left garden bed. What started out like this in the windowsill:

Turned into this:

Most of the sunflowers grew over five and a half feet tall. We’re now waiting for them to yellow & droop so we can cut them & hang them to dry to harvest the seeds. Next year I want to find a different location for these guys, since the blooms follow the sun all day, you couldn’t SEE them from the house. You had to walk around the back of the garden to see them in all their yellow glory. From my kitchen window all I saw was the backs of the flowers. Not what I had pictured. Oh well. Live and learn, right?

We’re getting lots of tomatoes right now, but the plants look kind of sickly. We neglected to put tomato cages around all of them when they were small and by the time we got around to it, it was really tough to do without killing the plants while threading them through the support cage.

We’re still waiting on our melon patch. You can see a few cantelope (middle and top) and watermelon. We’re also waiting on our eggplants- we planted a variety and it looks like we’ll have a white eggplant and a purple/white one. There are some green ones too, but we don’t know what to do with that?

The beets were awful. I’m never planting those again. They smelled bad, they tasted funny, and when I cleaned & cooked them, the whole house smelled like “farm” as my husband described it. Yuck. I don’t know if we’ll do another melon patch, it seems to take up alot of room and thespace could be utilized in a better way. The carrots don’t seem to be doing much, I don’t like radishes so I shouldn’t have planted them, I want more swiss chard, more broccoli, spinach, and leafy vegetables. The mesclun salad mix didn’t work out as well or as long as it did when we planted it a few years ago at our condo- so I’m thinking head lettuce next year.

I need to research more about root vegetables before deciding to do those again. I’d like to start a strawberry patch and an asparagus patch next year. Our grapes will be in their second year next year, so we might get a few fruit from them next summer!

All in all, the garden was and continues to be a fun family experience. Here’s hoping to a good fall harvest and a late arriving winter 🙂

Growing Veggies like the Obamas… sorta…

I had a vegetable garden when I was a kid. We had just moved, albeit across town, but I was in a different school district, school was out for the summer, and for the first time in my life… my mom was out working. She had worked before, but always had off in the summers.

So I planted a vegetable garden, with the help of my great-uncle Frank, who grew up eating only that which his family grew.

I loved having a garden to tend. I was always making moats and trying different watering patterns… and discovering how amazing it was to grow something. It kept me occupied during those long summer days when I couldn’t really go anywhere and wasn’t supposed to leave the yard!

And now I have a vegetable garden once again. And a presidential family who also has their very own garden. Granted, they’ve got “people” to take care of it and they are in a different growing zone than I, hence the reason they have already harvested 85 pounds of lettuce and I only have this by way of lettuce:

Mesclun salad mix grown in a container.

I watched the NBC special on the White House last week and nearly jumped off the couch when they showed the garden, particularly when the chefs were harvesting some gorgeous Swiss Chard.

“WE HAVE THAT TOO!!!” I screeched! Keith was pretty amused.

Rainbow swiss chard… cuz it’s prettier than just plain swiss chard…

Three rows of spinach… to take care of that wierd pregnancy craving for spinach that I have…

Beets and marigolds.

Other garden dwellers? Tomatoes, peppers, peppers, more peppers, eggplant, broccoli (which may not survive), carrots, more tomatoes, green beans, pumpkins, cantelope, watermelon, zucchini, summer squash, and herbs.

We also planted two concord grape plants.

Our garden is also organic… so far… I have refrained from using oodles of Miracle Grow and am hoping to still have some good results. I’ve used bloodmeal to increase the nitrogen level of the soil prior to planting and will likely be adding some composted manure in the near future.

Everything’s still pretty small right now, but hopefully we will reap a harvest if we do not give up…

The little gardener who wasn’t

She was interested in helping her daddy garden. Really, she was.

Then she saw me, with the shiny silver camera.

Gotta go, Dadd-i-o. No time for pictures.

Must. Get. The. Camera. Maybe if I keep smiling she’ll keep taking pictures and I’ll snatch it out of her unsuspecting hands Muahahahah!!!!

I did manage to get the camera out of the way… within nanoseconds of being manhandled by sticky, apple juicy, garden grubby little fingers.

So much for documenting the cuteness of Sweet Pea gardening. Maybe I should get those camoflague cameras that hunters use.

Sprucing up the bistro table

Since I don’t usually spend the big bucks to inve$t in durable patio furniture, I have a bistro table set from Joann’s that is several years old and starting to show it’s age.

The base of the chair is all wonky and starting to rust; I’ll likely have to clean it with a wire brush and repaint it by the end of the season.

BUT! I thought it could use some cushions, since the chairs have never really been all that comfortable.

Enter one of my design heroes, Kristin Nicholas. You may remember I made some wicked cool leg warmers she designed. I don’t wear them nearly often enough, as I am generally more conservative in my color palate than Kristen is, but everytime I do don my legwarmers, it’s a good day.

Kristen shared this fabulous tutorial last summer on printing your own fabric, using a canvas dropcloth as the fabric (AKA- cheap!) and basically whatever paints you have lying around.

I really liked the affordability of the project, because I wasn’t about to shell out $30 a yard for some Sunbrella fabric that was going to sit on my rusty bistro chairs.

I cut and preshrunk my canvas cloth, then I cut out a stamp or two like from kid’s adhesive foam.

A little stamping action with some random acrylics I had lying around, a little striping action, some sewing and stuffing of foam padding…

I only used one color, because I didn’t want the cushions to stand out too much. I wanted the main focus of the flagstone patio to be the garden, not the bistro set.

and…

TADAAAAA! My spiffy bistro table. Now, for some iced tea and some quiet time…