Saturday, July 25, 2009

Of compost bins and bee baths...

Bees are good. Bees and countless other creatures tend to have a hard time these days what with everyone mowing down wild grasses, wildflowers, and meadows into stunted useless wildlife-unfriendly lawns. The rampant use of herbacides and pesticides compounds the problem.
One day I would love to have our own bee hive or two, but we currently have our hands full with all our other projects right now.
In the meantime, I read about ways to make one's back yard a little more 'bee friendly'. One big way to attract bees is to provide them with drinking water. So today i bought this simple ceramic bird bath, which I laid upon flat slate in my garden and filled with fresh water. There is a stone in it to provide footing for any bees or other insects that accidentally fall in and need to crawl out. Not only will birds and bees and other insects enjoy it, but I find it pleasingly meditative to look at. Look how prettily the crabapple tree branches are reflecting in the water's surface!

Today I also bought two compost bins and set them up in back of our shed. I've already put about 8 inches' worth of pulled weeds in the first one. It'll be great when the autmn leaves fall, and also when I do the Fall garden vegetable cleanup. I'll still put my prime fruit and vegetable parings in my worm compost bin, but these traditional compost bins will handle the bigger yard loads of green stuff. I'll need to get a little manure now and then to add into the mix, I think.
They are very well designed and made from recycled plastic, and I think they will last us many more years than the usual home-made circle of mesh or wooden pallet arrangements. I like that they can be unstacked and restacked as you fork the contents over to the new spot to turn it. There is no bottom, it just gets stacked right on open ground. I like that too.
In the photo, the bins are behind our shed, and you can see our house and kitchen porch in the background on the left, and the new garden's fence just showing on the right.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Two kinds of sprouts this week

Here are some dark green broccoli sprouts on the right, and some 'sandwich mix' sprouts I tried out. This is simply a produce storage container for the fridge- not what the sprouts grew in. I grew the mixed sprouts in a sprout mason jar, and the broccoli sprouts in a tray, on a little piece of clean towel. I have to learn to start with less seed- my jars get a little too jam packed with sprouts towards the end! It's hard to believe how little seed you really need to get a whole jar full of sprouts.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

kitty flypaper

All you have to do is put a piece of wrapping paper down for a second on the bed, and within 30 seconds there will be cats on it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The big new garden fence is in!

Three and a half weeks after planting the first seeds in my new beautiful vegetable garden, the fence in finished! Now I can breathe a sigh of relieve that none of my new growing veggies are going to be mauled and eaten by deer, woodchucks, or rabbits...all of which we have plenty of around here.

The paths and the garden perimeter have yet to be fully mulched in and tidied up, but hopefully that will be done next week. In the meantime, I can continue tending to the new seedlings I've planted over the past 3 weeks. A bit of thinning and weeding already needs to be done in the 'virgin' soil.

I'm so happy and excited! The garden and fence is very utilitarian because it had to fit somehow within our budget- no English country manor look here. But there is a certain elegance to be appreciated in a no-frills practical design approach. Functional simplicity can be beautiful.

Monday, July 20, 2009


A friend recently gifted me some little broccoli seeds sprouting in a tray, and I was so delighted by their refreshing green-ness that I decided to start growing some sprouts myself. So I bought a 'sprouting jar' at my local health food store, a hemp 'sprouting bag', and various organic sprouting seeds to try. I read about how jam packed full of nutrition sprouts are.

I happen to love alfalfa sprout sandwiches, so I sprouted a bunch of alfalfa seeds in my sprouting jar (basically it's just a Mason/canning jar with a screen lid). I was very diligent about rinsing them with fresh water twice a day, and look how beautifully they came out!:These alfalfa sprouts took about 4 days to mature. I got about 3 whole cups of sprouts from 2 tablespoons of alfalfa seed in the 1 quart jar. Today I spread a sesame hamburger bun with a little cream cheese and a dab of mayonnaise, heaped it high with sprouts and a sprinkle of salt....mmmmmmmmm!!!! Brian put a big handful of the sprouts on his cold string bean salad today too.

As per the instructions, the hemp bag (from is especially good for sprouting the larger seeds, grains, and beans, so I put some mung beans in that and I submerge it in fresh water also twice a day to rinse and wet the sprouts, then hang it to drain over my dish drainer. This picture was taken after just two days growth. I figure another day or two and the mung sprouts will be ready to eat...
I can't get over how cheap and easy it is to grow sprouts- I had never tried it before! Sort of makes me feel like I'm back in the 1970's again. I ate sprouts back then but never thought of growing them myself. I stopped buying sprouts at the supermarket long ago because they often looked a little sad and wilted.
Anyone living in an apartment or even a dorm or room can grow their own fresh nutritious greens with no soil or pots or fertilizer at all!
I now look forward to fresh green sprouts even as snowy blizzards howl outside this coming winter.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

String bean salad

Today i went out in the old little vegetable garden to do a bit of weeding and cleanup. I had seen some baby string beans developing on the tops of the bean bushes, but as I poked around in the foliage I discovered a whole mess of string beans all ready to harvest! Mostly Kentucky Blue Lake, with some yellow wax beans as well.
I picked a big bowlful, then cut them and lightly cooked them just until tender. They looked so pretty in my old blue bowl...
I decided to just make them into a nice cold summery vinaigrette bean salad that we could snack on over the next few days right from the fridge.

To the lightly cooked stringbeans, I added:
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
dill, salt, and pepper
one can garbanzo/chick peas
one can small black olives
a generous handful of capers
a couple thin slices chopped raw onion
a little chopped garlic
a few chopped sweet pickles

yum yum yum yum -a great way to enjoy fresh string beans from the garden!
We're having them for dinner tonight, piled on some of our own fresh lettuce and a few slices of tomato...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fence going up

My old little garden has been providing us with endless harvests of greens for the past two months, and no end in sight yet. As you can see, things are pretty much full up in there, not an inch of space left anywhere. The lettuces have been a great treat, and I've had to give away quite a lot of it to friends. I was surprised at how nicely the romaine grew, and have planted some in the new garden as well. Most of the bright lightest green you see here is Black-seeded Simpson leaf lettuce. It's very quick growing. Tomatoes are along the right wall, and bok choy nearest the camera, along the path.

Today the fence guys came and put in the big posts for the new garden's fence. Very exciting and impressive! Should be finished just a few days from now. I do hope they get the fence done before the rabbits and deer discover all my baby vegetables as their personal free buffet...I've been very lucky so far, considering I see deer footprints here and there in the fresh soil every few days.

You can just see some of the green rows of baby seedlings sprouting up in the garden already (if you click on the picture it will enlarge and you can see it better). Those are from the seeds i planted two weeks ago. I made a new succession sowing yesterday, and will plant more seeds in another two weeks again. This will hopefully give us a more even supply of Fall vegetables and greens, rather than have them all mature at once.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A good July 4th

What a lovely July 4th I had!
First a wonderful breakfast at Ralph's Pretty Good Cafe with my honey.

Then we went for a nice 14 mile bicycle ride in the countryside.

After that I brought in a HUGE amount of fresh lettuce from the 'little garden' and carefully washed it. Such sparkling bright greens and ruby reds! It was enough lettuce to fill a spaghetti pot like four times over! I divided it all in four portions- one portion I gave to my neighbors, one my husband took with him to a party today, one we are bringing with us as part of a large salad for a party tomorrow, and the last batch is just for our own use at home over the next few days. Funny thing is the little garden doesn't look much different even after taking out all that lettuce...I really have a lot of lettuce right now.

After that I did a little bookcase organizing.

Lastly this afternoon I made two nice white boules today in my Dutch oven pots. They rose nicely! One has a poppy seed top and the other is sesame. I also mixed up a batch of semolina dough for next time I bake, let it rise, then put it in the fridge to 'ripen' for a couple of days. The flavor improves over a few days in the fridge before baking.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Suki loves to play turbo ball...

Our new adopted kitty Suki has lots of energy. We got her these Bergan brand track-ball cat gizmos.
She seems to enjoy them...