Saturday, November 26, 2011

Planting Bulbs

Today the kids and I planted our bulbs. We planted bulbs 25 'Menton' and 25 'Blushing Girl' Tulips, 50 'Mélangé' Narcissus Daffodils, and 25 Hyacinth.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Goodbye Jack-O-Lanterns

This past Sunday, the kids and I took the pumpkins we had carved for Halloween, and said our goodbye to them. We then chopped them up into the soil of where we were going to plant our strawberry plants. Instead of just throwing them in the garbage, we figured we let them add nutrients to the soil, and hopefully in turn give us great tasting strawberries come spring. We also noticed that one of our neighbors was throwing out three full size bales of hay that they had used for their Halloween decorations, so the two older kids and I grabbed their red wagon, and loaded it up with hay and brought it back to the "homestead" to use as mulch for our strawberries.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Filling Raised Beds

Since we moved this past July, we had to leave our old "homestead" and start anew. Last weekend I built two 4'x8' raised beds, and then filled them with soil. I was able to purchase 1 cubic yard for $28 from Southern Landscape Supply, and they threw in about an extra 1/2 cubic yard for free. Antonio and Julia Belén were happy to help, and really enjoyed moving moving the soil out of the truck we borrowed from our friend Peter.

For preparation of the site, I used the lazy method of removing the sod, I just laid down overlapping layers of cardboard and then took an Olfa blade and trimmed the pieces of cardboard that extended past the wood sides to the exact footprint of the beds. I had used that method in the past in our previous "Homestead," and it worked well enough, so figured I would do so again.

Moving the soil was a good workout, was tiring but felt good, was able to spend the time talking and listening to the kids, and then praying and contemplating life while shoveling (when the kids took a break to play in the woods with the neighbors). I knew that I moved a lot of soil, but felt that it wasn't too bad, then the next morning I picked up my daughter to carry her to Mass, and my arms screamed in protest. So later I was curious and looked up approximately how much a cubic yard of soil weighs, and was surprised that I moved a little more than 1.5 tons on Saturday with the help of Antonio and Julia Belén!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Preserving Peaches

We just got back from a family reunion in the Outer Banks (just a week ahead of Hurricane Irene, thank God). On the way back we stopped at a farm stand in South Carolina to buy ourselves two bushels of peaches. We have been eating peaches since we arrived home with the two bushels, but it was time to start preserving them before they start to over ripen or go bad. So two nights ago, Julia started processing them, and canned some lovely jars of peach preserves, and also canned some sliced peaches. The remainder we peeled and prepped for ready made cobbler filling, and dried in our new (thanks to freecycle) dehydrator, and as an extra bonus, Julia made into a carrot peach bread.

I was excited to try out the dehydrator, as this was our first time using it. I had been dreaming of dehydrating food probably since I was in high school. I know, that is probably weird, but I love dehydrated food, and always thought it would be so cool if I could make it myself. I used to read all the backpacking magazines and see all the recipes always called for food that you dehydrate, and would be sad that I would have to scratch the recipe, due to a lack of a good way to dry the food. The kids were very interested, in the process, watching the peaches slowly shrink as they dried into our "fruit snacks." Last night, they looked pretty much ready, so I turned off the dehydrator, and we all tried some dried peaches. They were a huge hit, even Julia, who doesn't normally like dried fruit, loved them, and was finally more keen on the idea of our dehydrator taking up some counter space while it's in use (she's the master chef, so the kitchen is truly her domain, which I can't complain, with all the wonderful things she makes us!)

So now, with Julia and the kids' approval, the world of dehydrating has opened up for us. So now we'll be adding third way of preserving to our repertoire: canning, freezing, and dehydrating!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Brewing my First Batch of Beer in the New House

Today we spent the day getting almost everything that was left of our things from our townhouse and cleaning up a bit over there. I moved the majority of my garden that I had in pots over to our "new" homestead. Although we are still living in canyons of boxes, I am currently brewing my first batch of beer in our new house. This time I am brewing a Honey Brown Ale, using wildflower honey. Hopefully it turns out as well as our other batches have.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Garden Harvest upon Return

We just got back from driving out to Colorado for a family reunion. We had a great time, got to see family, and even was able to go see the edible gardens at the Denver Botanical Garden.

Upon arriving back home this weekend, we saw that there were vegetables waiting for us, as well as a ton more blueberries. Julia was able to make a quick Cucumber Tomato salad with apple cider vinegar and a little bit of salt. It came out delicious.

We did have a causality, well, actually about 600 to 700 causalities I am sad to say. Our worm bin became too wet while we were gone, and there were no worms left when I looked through it last night. Not sure if it was getting some rain coming in through the sides if it was windy, or if it was a factor of the food that was in the bin. I am going to have to see what I am going to do with composting with worms in the future.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

First Tomatoes of the Season

Today we harvested a few more blueberries, so now we are at about 1 3/4 pounds from our two blueberry bushes for the season so far. I was excited to harvest our first tomatoes of the season! They came from my Gartenperle tomato plant that I have in a hanging basket on the back patio. So far I have 5 gorgeous looking red ~1" diameter tomatoes.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Frenching Green Beans

This year for Julia's birthday, one of the things the kids and I got her was a bean frencher. This past weekend we were able to try it out on some homegrown and local farmer's market green beans. The kids were very happy to help out, and Julia was amazed at how easy it was. It is a simple mechanism that slices up the green beans as you put them in from the top and turn the crank, very much like the old school pencil sharpeners that used to be on walls of classrooms.

It was a huge hit! The kids love eating french cut beans, and quickly ate every one we put on their plates. Now Julia is itching to get a pressure canner, so we can start canning our own french cut green beans, now that we'll also have more space to grow a larger quantity of green beans.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blueberry Season is Here!

Today we harvested our first blueberries from our two blueberry bushes we have in the yard! The kids were very excited, they had been following the progress of the berries all spring, seeing how they were little green balls, then slowly darkening as they grew. So this morning we (the kids, while I telecommuted from our yard that is) picked 3.64 oz of blueberries. I am thinking that we may expand and get maybe two more bushes next spring, as we will finally have more space. We harvested just over 2 pounds last year from these bushes, and so hopefully we will harvest a bit more now that they are three year old plants this year, but with an additional two, we may be able to grow all the blueberries we eat for the year. We are finally going to move into a house that has a yard, I'll tell you more about that later, but what that means is that I am going to get to restart my garden, but also expand it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

New Raised Beds

Here are pictures of the "Homestead".
Green Beans on the Berm

May 11th

The Klein Box
 I was given the gift of a raised bed from a friend who had extra wood, and so I decided to go ahead and make myself another one I had been playing with adding as well.  So now I have space that I didn’t originally think I would have back when I was starting seeds, there are plants I want to grow now (and have seeds for), but was afraid that it was too late, but with talking with Julia and seeing a post from Chiot's Run has encouraged me to go ahead and try. And it may work out for the best as are going tob be busy during high harvest time, so this may delay the harvest just perfectly (hadn’t thought about that aspect).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Brewing Beer

This year Julia surprised me with a beer brewing kit for my birthday. I had been talking about wanting to venture into brewing our own beer for a while, loving the idea of having a beer that is as local as our own home (although yes, some of the ingredients may not be super local, but I hope to change that). I like the idea that it is one more thing that we make ourselves, that we control and know what exactly goes into it, so we can avoid the preservatives and additives that are going into our store bought goods (yes, even beer have preservatives added to them). Brewing beer fall perfectly in line with our push to a more frugal budget, if you don't count the initial cost of the brewing kit (as that was a gift), with the cost of the ingredients the beer came out to 66 cents a beer. One of the things that helped was that I was able to get all my bottles for free, by going to our local liquor store after they had a beer tasting, and asked for all their non screw-top empties, and my brother-in-law gave me a box of empties that he wasn't using from when he used to brew.

I brewed my first batch of beer, it was  North Rim Wheat. I was nervous that it wouldn't turn out, but we have been happily enjoying them now that they are done. I couldn't be happier, it is a deliciously smooth tasting wheat beer.

Now I am dreaming of growing our own hops, wheat and barley (although maybe not barley, as that may not grow so well here in the south, although Walter Reeves says it may be possible, "Outdoor cultivation is more problematic. Barley sprouts very well in October but cold weather can kill it. If you want to grow it for grain, the best planting time is February. You’ll be able to harvest the golden seeds in summer.").

I have now started brewing my second batch of beer. This time I am trying an Amber beer.


My tomatoes are doing well, the ones that I have in my hanging pot have little blooms already forming.

I have decided that I am going to start my tomatoes at least 3 weeks earlier next year, and then just transplanting into my yogurt containers while it is still too cold outside, that way when it is warm enough for them to go outside, they will be more established. Of the tomatoes that I transplanted directly into the raised bed, half of them are struggling, while all the ones that I transplanted into my yogurt containers are doing quite well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Earlier this May the kids were excited that there were radishes ready. They are always willing to try them after the excitement of harvesting them, but haven't truly acquired a taste for them yet.