Sunday, April 25, 2010

To(o Much to) Do List

Excuses? I got em! According to my planting plan I should have had just about everything planted by now, however, Mother Nature and my work schedule had other ideas.

So, in order to try to get things under control, I'm going to try to focus my activities into a managable to do list for the week so I can feel like I'm making progress.

*plant tomatoes DONE
*plant dahlias & leftover bulbs DONE (thanks to Bill)

*mow garden (if I can find a mower to borrow since ours is broken) DONE (Thanks Jennifer & Dan!)
*unload compost from truck DONE
*build remaining rows in Quad 3
*plant okra & squash

*fill potatoes trenches
*top-dress rows between potato trenches
*plant beans & corn in Quad 2

*spread compost over Quad 4
*till Quad 4
*build rows in Quad 4

*plant summer squash & soybeans in Quad 4

*plant winter squash & beans in Quad 4
*fertilize throughout

This is probably a very overly ambitious list, especially considering that I'm working extra hours this week AND I have several evening errands to run in town. Keep your fingers crossed for me, and I'll keep you updated.

Friday, April 23, 2010

That's Enough, April

So, my plan for this upcoming weekend was to spread compost and till it under in the remaining Quad 4, and plant out EVERYTHING I have left (tomatoes, peppers, okra, beans, squash, etc.) but April has other ideas. Last weekend it rained for 2 days straight and filled up all the depressions in the yard with standing water and left everything a muddy mess. It was just starting to dry out when along came a torrential storm early this morning. Even though it only last a short while, all of the puddles are full again and there is a nice, swampy layer of water sitting on top of the ground as far as the eye can see.

I may still be able to plant the tomatoes and peppers because those rows are prepped and ready to go, but it's going to be a muddy affair. Maybe by early next week I can till? Ugh.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Method to My Madness (and Fish)

My refridgerator has some weird stuff in it, lately. Besides a whole shelf in the door devoted to grains (whole red wheat flour, ground flax seed, wheat germ, vital wheat gluten), there is also a shelf for stuff I never plan to eat (used coffee grounds, cracked eggshells, veggie scraps). The grains I use for breads. The used stuff is for the garden; grounds for the berry bushes and acid-loving plants, eggshells as a general soil amendment, and veggie scraps for the bunnies and ultimately for manure.

Between these two categories of unusual fridge contents is the little container of crumbs. I used to buy breadcrumbs (Italian-style, of course) which I used in meatballs, meatloaves, on fish*, etc. Since I've started baking my own bread, it's only natural for me to save the ample amount of crumbs. Weird? Maybe, but have you ever sliced up a loaf of fresh bread? There is a LOT left over.

Lately I've been topping my sandwich bread with a mixture of oats, flax, and wheat germ. A lot of it falls off when I slice.

I usually leave the crumbs to dry out a bit for a few hours on the cutting board. Just ask my husband and babysitter how upset I've gotten over them trying to clean up the kitchen.

When they're dry, I scoop them up and put them in an airtight container in the fridge until I'm ready to use them.

Usually there are enough crumbs from just one loaf to make dinner. Now, I'm sure lot's of people have been doing this for years and are rolling their eyes at me and my newbie homemaking status, but this is just how I use them.

I add some melted butter, some fresh or dried herbs (above is fresh basil from the garden), and a little garlic and salt & pepper. I like to top fish* fillets and then bake.

The result is a crunchy topping that actually has a more complex flavor and texture than store-bought crumbs because of the mix of grains. And even with the butter, this is a massively more healthy and tasty alternative to fried fish dishes.

*Mom, I know you're shocked about the fish. Yes, for a good 24ish years I wouldn't touch the stuff with a ten-foot pole. But I can't deny that the stuff is actually GOOD for me, and after a few dishes with salmon and tilapia, I realized I could stand the stuff. Then I was introduced to sushi and halibut**, and realized they are super tasty. Baby steps.

**The above-pictured is halibut, which I found at Walmart in the frozen fish section. It's a brand (Fishin) that actually adverstises it's sustainability efforts which are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and the fact that the fish are caught wild and not farmed. AND Walmart often puts them on sale: two 3-packs for $7. In my house that's 3 meals for around $1.17 per plate (including the free bread crumbs and free veggies from the backyard to complete the meal). Fishin also sells Wild Salmon and Tilapia at my local Wallyworld.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Garden Update: First Harvest

Things are going really well in the garden so far. I keep telling myself that this time last year, we only had seeds and seedlings in the ground for 2 weeks, but this year we have this:

Thriving peas, lettuce for days, spinach, and lots of onions and carrots. And this is just the first quad! I'm so excited.

This is one of three varieties of lettuce growing, and it's so tasty! I should note that while I direct-seeded a lot of this lettuce, a good amount of it also came from my wintersown milk jugs. It all transplanted beautifully, so I will definitely be sowing again next winter. We also have some potato action:

It's super muddy out there right now from our weekend rain. I'm hoping the potatoes at the end of these rows make it, but they are currently completely submerged in water, so we'll see.

Anyway, our first harvest was last Thursday morning. For some reason (ahem, caffiene still in my system) I was up at 5am and so I headed outside as soon as the the sun came up. I meant to only thin out the lettuce, but this was the haul of my thinnings:

Yes, those are 3 radishes, too. We've harvested 6 of them already. The first three went to the bunnies because I didn't know what to do with them. I have since learned that they pair perfectly with cilantro, meat, tomatoes, green onions, and cheese for tacos. There are no pictures of this because we inhaled them in seconds. I did manage to snap my first salad, though:

This is my version of a Cobb salad with a hard boiled egg, chopped ham, a sprinkle of cheese and walnuts and some homemade honey-mustard vinaigrette. Definitely not a low-cal diet salad, but for sure healthier than a restaurant version. Mmmmmm.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mutt Monday & Avian Rush Hour

I've mentioned that there is major site work happening on the land behind our yard in order to make way for new houses.

 It means that the delightful cow pasture that used to back up to our yard is now farther away. The dogs are kinda sad about it.

Well, Boston is. Hokie spends most of her time under the shed hunting rabbits.

In other news, we just had 2 days of steady rain, which has left great pools of standing water all over the yard. The rain also brought in significant bird traffic from the decrease in flying bugs.

I actually refilled the feeder twice this weekend for those greedy birds. Most of them were the red-winged blackbirds, which I'd never seen before and had to google.

I never imagined that I would turn into the type of person who watches birds, but they are a little interesting. Today there was a trio of blackbirds with neon yellow heads...almost like neon bald eagles. I reached for my camera but they flew away.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Lately I've been sneaking out to the garden in the evenings to putter around while Bill is giving Joe a bath. It doesn't matter how stressful my day has been, something about spending the last few moments of sunlight out here makes everything okay. It's a mess, but it's all mine.

Fancy Dressing

Now that we're out of the woods frost-wise, I have decked out the house in flowers for summer. Last year I pulled the trigger too early and killed a lovely set of hydrangeas the day after I bought them.

We have 2 cast iron planters hung on the front of the house and 2 window boxes, now chock full of snapdragons, marigolds, petunias, and trailing petunias. I hope to add a third planter to the shed once the siding finally goes up to tie in with the rest of the house. The pics aren't the greatest, but you get the idea. Once they really get blooming it should be a nice pop of color for the front.

And though I'm not too thrilled about the fact that the land behind our house has been purchased by developers and we will soon have neighbors behind us that aren't cows, I figured I should spruce up the back porch, too.

I have such a weakness for hanging baskets of flowers, and Bedrock Nursery in Lawton, OK does a PHENOMENAL job on theirs. I almost felt bad for the folks at Lowes this weekend buying their scraggly looking arrangements for twice the price. In fact, I have to say that Bedrock wins the prize this year for their flower selection. Last year I went with another local nursery, but when I took a peek this year, it was slim pickings. This year I bought all of the wisteria, geraniums, and flats of bedding flowers from Bedrock. They even had really awesome looking tomatoes, peppers, and herbs (the latter ended up in my cart somehow...).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Winged Army

I've been SUCH a bad blogger lately, folks. Sorry. There's so much going on that it's been impossible to write up posts. But fear not--I have been taking pictures.

This weekend, in addition to the storm shelter, we installed a few other things in the garden.

We spent a small fortune at Lowes stocking up on bird feeding gear. Why? Lately spending time in the garden has been a noisy affair, with a chorus of loud grasshoppers buzzing around as they munched on my plants. I've already applied an application of diatomaceous earth (organic pesticide made from fossilized algae) and neem oil to fight off the unwelcome guests, but this year I have a lot of ground to cover. Call in the birds. I read one article recently about how a few birds can eat about 1000 insects per day, and I knew I had to invite them to the party.

Two suet feeders, a birdbath, and one recycled pole bird feeder (made from our largely useless Tomato Tree from last season) later, and we've going some action:

Not pictured is several of his buddies hopping around on the ground eating the seed he tossed down to them. And it's working. The birds have been visiting for just 3 days now, and already tonight I could hear the difference in the garden. I still saw a few hoppers here and there, but they weren't making as much racket as they used to.

We also have been watching the very busy progress of our summer guests, the mudswallows as they build their nest. I have to admit that they're not very tidy neighbors, as this is the scene on my front porch:

I could blame them for the sidewalk chalk, too... Anyway their construction efforts will soon give way to egg-laying, and angrily chirping at us as we inconsiderately go in and out the front door. They usually race across the street and perch on my neighbor's roof where they screech obscenities until we go back inside.

In another few weeks this nest will be much larger, and the tiny peeps of new babies (and therefore, new bug hunters) will emerge.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Three Years

Today marks the anniversary of the first time Bill called me "dear."

Te amo, Papi.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

We're Officially in Kansas (Oklahoma), Toto.

We woke up this morning to a rumbling outside the window. No, for once it wasn't an April thunderstorm, but you're on the right track.

Family, you will be very happy to know that after 2 years in Tornado Country, we finally have a hidey-hole.

There was enough dirt left over from the hole to spread to several spots in the yard for eventual bed-making. We're putting 2 flower beds in the front yard, and a really long one in the garden.

After the really hard winter we've had and knowing the wind we face in the next few months, we decided we couldn't put off the shelter any longer. Though I really hope we never have to stay down there for any length of time because I'm SUPER claustrophobic and it's hard for me to breathe down there. Also, it's going to be a challenge to convince the cat and dogs to get down there with us, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

April Flowers

The thing about springtime flowers is that you wait for months for them to arrive, and then when you blink, they're gone. I've been taking pictures of all the new floral arrivals, but even as of this posting, they've changed. Oh well.

This is the border along part of my front flower beds. It already looks very different from when this was taken because several of the daffs are gone and more orange/striped tulips are open. Joe likes to pick the "grapes" off of the muscari, so some of those are looking a bit weak these days.

It's not flower season around here without some bright geraniums. I had intended to overwinter last year's geraniums but got sidetracked and left them out for all the freezes...they didn't make it. These puppies are at least twice the size (I found an awesome nursery in town that has the best plants hands down) and I SWEAR I will overwinter them. However, the pictured plant I found split this morning, and I wonder if I'm having some kind of root borer problem. I saw the same thing happening with some seedlings in the veggie garden, so we'll see.

Do you see those sunny little faces flanking the blueberry bush?

My sister-in-law gave me some bulbs from her garden club in Virginia last November, and I didn't get around to putting them in the ground until January. I planted them in between the blues in the berry patch for something to look at while I wait impatiently for berries, and they came right up.

Isn't this a lovely sight? My pergola, the hubs building pea trellises beyond the gate, the unfinished gate (it's now finished and pretty impressive), and new wisteria plants. I really know nothing about wisteria other than it vines and is good to plant on pergolas and arbors. These have pretty purple flower clusters that are actually starting to bloom, but these pics are a week old, so bear with me.

And finally, our new apple trees are blooming and leafing out. I'm glad the last freeze didn't really seem to affect them, and the blossoms are so cute.

Come onnnnnn, apples!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

If You Peas

This post should have been up a few days ago, but for some reason we've experienced hugely frustrating internet outages in our part of the world lately. The outages tend to occur when it is very windy, or right at 5pm. Good times.

Anyways, this is a peas post!

Right now my Oregon Sugar Pod II snow peas are growing like crazy these days. I wish I could say the same for the regular peas that I have (all 3 rows of them) but they're still sputtering here and there. In any event, the snow peas are supposed to be bush-like, which means that they don't necessarily need a trellis to grow on. However, how can resist these little hands?

If a trellis will make the snow peas happy, a trellis they shall have. And speaking of trellises, we've had a bit of a trellis showdown here on the WatRanch lately. Bill wanted to employ his design from last year, with some improvements. Last year we planted 6 feet of peas whereas this year we planted 100 feet of peas. Therefore, recycling was not a complete option.

This is last year's trellis. It was made entirely from recycled wooden pallets that we pulled from a dumpster and some twine. It did it's job for the most part, but to hand-string all of the twice would have been too labor intensive. So Bill improved upon his design by using plastic garden netting, more pallet wood, and PVC piping:

(Ignore all the Duplos strewn about. I have to throw them at Joe to distract him from walking all over the growing veggies.) There is a wooden stake in the middle of this panel to stabilize the netting. While I appreciate the help in the garden, it became evident fairly early on that this design was not quite perfect. For example, it was hard to align the netting in the middle of the peas, so there will be some that have to reach a loooong way to get to the net. Plus, it's not the prettiest design in the world.

My turn. By investing $.89 each at my local feed store, I bought several stakes of iron rebar and threaded it through the netting. That made it easier to pivot the trellis sections to reach the most peas possible.

Hard to see it, isn't it? The netting in the immediate foreground is the top of the trellis that I was standing behind. I LIKE that it's hard to see, because it makes the garden appear neater, which as you can see from the clutter in these pics, it isn't. In terms of stability, I think my design will hold up against our spring gully-washers much better than Bill's, but time will tell. And yes, I promise to report honestly those results.

Compare from right to left. Of course this will all be moot in a few weeks when the peas are blossoming and I'm too excited to care about neatness.