Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pink salad

Recently I made put together this salad for a dinner gathering with friends. Now that it's too hot for lettuces, I used beets, kohlrabi and purple onions from our garden. Once you add beets to a recipe, everything it touches turns a beautiful ruby pink. The other day I made another salad using beets, with couscous and chick peas. I like having a cold salad ready to eat in the summertime, and should make more of them.

Pink salad
* 2-4 beets, peeled
* 6-8 kohlrabi, peeled, fibrous parts removed
* 1 small purple onion

* 1-2 small lemons, juice only
* agave nectar, or sweetener of your choice
* fresh salt and pepper
* fresh herbs of your choice, if desired

Combine the dressing ingredients in a measuring cup, gauging the amounts to suit your taste. Cut the onion very finely and add to the bowl. Next, grate the kohlrabi over top. Pour the dressing in and stir. Then grate the beets into the bowl, season with fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and stir all together. 

This is so simple it's hardly a recipe. The only thing is the time it takes to grate the vegetables. As I was typing this post, I just thought perhaps sliced cucumbers would go nicely in this salad too. And oh, if you're wondering about the beet greens in the top photo, they dressed up some flower bouquets!

Before you go, will you share one of your favorite summer salads with us?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ode to lavender

by far, my favorite plant of them all.  lavendula.  all varieties, really.  it is beautiful, and hardy (mostly), and produces the most intoxicating and calming scent.  i've always said that i believe that if a heaven exists, it would smell like freshly baked bread, but now i'm beginning to think it may be lavender after all.  in these crazy busy runaround days of summer, all i need to do is run my hand through one of my (five!) lavender plants and inhale.  calmness wraps around me like a gentle wave.  {it's no wonder that a drawing of a lavender plant will be on our wedding invitation!}

i transplanted these lavender plants from our old apartment last spring after we moved into our house, and some of them are now in their third year, growing bigger and fuller each season.  they are my little garden babies and i love watching them grow, snipping their blooms and drying them to put around my house, or use in body care recipes.  to make a lavender infused oil, simply pick fresh blooms and place the flowers (either fresh or dried) only in a jar and cover with olive oil.  allow the oil to steep for 2-6 weeks before straining out the flowers through a cheesecloth.  you can use this oil as a massage oil, in the bath, as a moisturizer or headache reliever (simply rub a little bit on your temples) or in other body care recipes for lip balms or lotions.

[or you could use the blooms to make some of amy's hand scrub]

if you have any room left, i highly recommend adding a lavender plant to your garden.  you won't regret it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

coming home to the garden

happy tuesday, gardening friends! i almost cannot believe it is tuesday. for the past few days i have been driving up the oregon & washington coast, soaking in the lush landscapes, diversified gardens & bustling farmer's markets. it is always nice, though, to come home to my own handiwork- the garden in my own backyard.

walking around the garden, watering the plants & seeing their growth is so satisfying. oh, the goodness of tending to a garden!

Monday, June 27, 2011

family gardens

ever since i was a little girl, i've been surrounded by adults who love to garden. because my grandfather had a wonderful vegetable garden every year, it really doesn't feel like summer to me without one.

this week i am visiting my mom. although my mom does not have enough room for a vegetable garden, she loves flowers and plants her tiny yard with a mix of annuals and perennials each year. whenever i visit, i like to look at her terra cotta pots and hanging baskets to see what color combinations she's loving at the moment. you can learn a good deal about someone by looking at their plants, i think.

my favorite part of her yard is her small, formal (and traditional) charleston garden in the backyard. it has a crushed oyster shell path that is flanked by boxwood hedges, a fountain with lily pads and bright orange goldfish, and a bench to provide a place for rest and contemplation. it's a peaceful oasis. also, on the property are some of the plants that i associate most with my childhood such as pampas grass and magnolia.

one of the most wonderful things to me about gardening is the knowledge that is passed down from family members and how often their favorite plants work their way into your heart. my mom has my grandfather's jade plant and a chinese evergreen plant that used to belong to my grandfather's mother. green family heirlooms. i love that.

do you have any plants that have been passed down through your family?

Friday, June 24, 2011

summer is here

maybe it is the constant hum of the box fan. or maybe it’s the fireflies being whisked into ball jars each night.
but without even looking at the calender it’s my garden who just flat out told me that summer is finally here.

the bee balm and cone flower are beginning to flower.

the raspberries are slowly ripening.

the sunny yellow squash flowers will soon be fruit.

cilantro is finding it’s way into every salad we make.

the toscano kale is beginning to tower above it’s neighbors.

pesto has become a topping on everything and anything (roasted potatoes especially).

and herbs such as peppermint and anise hyssop are being made into iced teas.

we are headed out on a camping trip this weekend to celebrate the solstice. The cooler is packed with kale chips, pesto pasta, bean salad with cilantro and peppermint tea. oh yes and a few raspberries for banana boats over the campfire.

Banana Boats

peel back one piece of banana peel.
scoop out a channel and eat.
fill channel with chocolate chips, nuts, and fresh berries.
pull peel back over and wrap whole banana in tin foil.
roast over fire until warm and gooey.
grab a spoon and enjoy

happy summer !

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

garden pesto

arugula harvest

arugula pesto

penne with arugula pesto

every year, i like to try my hand at growing a few new plants.  this year, one of those was arugula.  i planted these arugula seeds practically as soon as the snow melted outside, which here in minneapolis was not until the third week in april.  we've been getting so much lettuce so far this year (including some that has volunteered for the second year in a row, after i let it go to seed in 2009!) that i practically forgot to pick the arugula for salads.  as some of it was starting to bolt, and as i was starting to think about planting the rest of my beans in their place, i knew i needed a recipe that would use up my modest arugula crop.  pesto it was!  this arugula pesto was delicious and simple to whip up after a long day at work.  i based the recipe on my standard basil pesto recipe (which is vegan), with a few adjustments. i hope you enjoy it!

and next up...garlic scape pesto!

spring arugula pesto

2 cups (packed) fresh arugula leaves
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
fresh ground pepper to taste

heat a small skillet over medium heat and toast the walnuts, stirring occasionally to make sure they don't burn.  this should take about 10 minutes, or until they begin to smell fragrant (alternatively, this can be done in the oven if you already have it turned on-for about 10-15 minutes).  put the arugula, garlic, and walnuts in a blender or food processor and blend until finely chopped.  while the blender/food processor is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.  add the salt and ground pepper to taste.  this recipe made about 7 ounces of pesto, or approximately enough for 2 pounds of pasta. 

i'll admit i've been terrible at keeping up with my garden journal, but here are a few notes from the past week or two:
::lots of strawberries and lettuce are ready to be picked, and a few peas are ripe too!
::the peacevine and sungold tomato plants each have a few small green tomatoes, and most of the others are beginning to flower
::garlic scapes are appearing, must remember to pick them soon.
::i pulled out all the arugula, and radishes (only got a handful) and need to plant the rest of my beans there.
::harvested a few green onions for black sesame otsu, so delicious.
::the lavender is beginning to flower. my absolute favorite.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

adding livestock to the backyard

there is a new addition to our backyard garden. his name is basil, a holland lop rabbit. i have wanted to add a rabbit to the mix of things for awhile. their poop is a perfect source of natural fertilizer that can be added directly to the garden beds & with this kind of soil, we need all the help we can get.

once i started talking about my rabbit ideas, a friend offered to give me her hutch that was no longer in use. i placed the hutch under the shade of a tree, painted it & added some handmade curtains for extra shade. we also attached a fan to the side of the hutch. i've read that any temperature above mid 80 can be difficult for rabbits. in our area, a typical summer day can get up to the high 90s with very high humidity.

i also keep a frozen water bottle in the hutch to keep the rabbit cool during extreme heat. by doing just a couple of extra steps, we hope to adapt our rabbit to its climate & ensure its health.

throughout the last couple of months, i have researched the care of rabbits. the most helpful books i have found are-
storey's guide to raising rabbits
country wisdom & know-how
barnyard in your backyard

are there any other sources you recommend? also, do you have experience with rabbits? i would love to learn more!

Friday, June 17, 2011


i had always wanted a small flock of hens and was not about to let our limited space stop us from keeping them. we got our first flock about 6 years ago and have been hooked ever since. they are such a wonderful addition to the garden in so many ways.

it is so fun to collect their beautiful eggs each day. and they help to keep the insect population at bay. and let's not forget about their poop! yes it is a wonderful addition to the compost pile. but mostly we get a lot of enjoyment from just watching them scratch around in the garden and listening to their sweet little clucking sounds. we are now onto our second flock and have chosen a variety of breeds.

columbian white wynadotte

americauna (a blue egg layer. we are very excited about this!)

partridge plymouth barred rock


silver seabright bantam (a favorite around here)

they are about 2 months old now and are just starting to free range around in the garden.

they are beginning to get used to our outdoor space. one of their favorite spots is our back porch where they peck around, preen their feathers and roost up on the bench.

for those of you thinking about starting a small flock of your own, i highly recommend the book Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces by Barbara Kilarski. it is a simple and easy read full of information about raising healthy chickens in a small space.

the girls make the garden feel complete. heck they even help with identifying our address. when people ask where we live, i'll say "we are the house on the corner, the one with the chickens." they nod and know exactly where it is.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Garden thoughts

Today I find my gaze drifting out the window, and am thankful my eyes can rest upon the garden. Last night we said farewell to really good friends who are moving and this transition along with some decisions I'm making with a new business venture have me in a bewildered state. So for now I listen to the rain and thunder through open windows. Smile as the busy wrens find insects for their new brood in our little birdhouse. Will cherish the tender, golden raspberries I picked this morning. Wonder at the red of the cardinal as he rests upon the wood pile. Laugh (and fuss) at the squirrel stashing green plums in the empty robin's nest. And I am thankful for all this that God has made and will do what I can to take care of these gifts.

But seriously, how do you keep squirrels out of the fruit trees?!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

raised bed gardening

we moved & are settling into our new home on the arkansas-oklahoma border. the first goal of our new home was to build raised beds. with some untreated wood, tools & a little elbow grease, we built four garden beds. we used the mu extension publication as our guide. (by the way, if you haven't connected with an extension office near you, i highly recommend it. they have a wealth of knowledge & are paid to help you!)

with our small amount of space, we used every inch of growing room-

planting shade-loving swiss chard in between tomato plants

& building trellises for squash & cucumber to climb (for this trellis, we used bamboo & gardening twine).

we are making progress in this bare yard, one step at a time.

what are some of the ways you use your garden space efficiently?

Friday, June 10, 2011

gardener's hand scrub

i like to think you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their hands.

i have yet to have my palms read but my soil stained lines just might give it away that i love to dig in the dirt.

i personally am not a glove kind of gal. and obviously manicures are not my thing.

but soil can be rough on one’s hands.

mine tend to get dry, chapped and stained from working in the garden.

but having a good nail brush and a moisturizing scrub by the kitchen sink can do the trick. below is a little recipe that is quick and easy to make and helps to clean and soften up my hands in a pinch.

gardeners hand scrub

1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup coarse sea salt
1/4 cup dried lavender flowers

mix together and store in an air tight container

take a tablespoon of mix. massage and rub.
get out that nail brush and scrub.
rinse with warm water.
your hands will feel a bit oily after but it soon soaks in.

cleaned up and ready to pick the first of the blueberries.
happy scrubbing!