Wednesday, July 25, 2012

there's one thing i've learned

ahhh, it has been far too long, friends. wednesdays have been lonely around here, but it is so good to be back. since my last entry back in early june, my husband & i have experienced some big changes. i got a job offer with local foods & community building (of course i said yes!), we packed up our things in three weeks, said goodbye to our backyard garden, tied up our coop onto a trailer with chickens squawking inside & traveled 60 miles north to our new home. we are currently house-sitting for friends & enjoying our new town. in a couple of weeks, we'll move into our permanent home. life's an adventure.

& one thing i've learned throughout it all - the seven homes in five years, three cities & many gardens sprinkled here & there- you can grow food just about anywhere. raised beds from scraps of wood, a tomato plant in a pot, herbs in a bucket, salad greens as edible landscaping, swiss chard mixed with flowers, community garden plots & the neighbor's yard. we've done it all in the last seven years & we have fed ourselves from it.

we moved with a trunk full of pots filled with edible flowers, greens, herbs & vegetables. we harvest a handful of mint to add to our summer mojitos & a few stems of chard with our fresh eggs. as we house-sit, we are also enjoying the bounty from the backyard garden. the many squash & bell peppers are perfect for tacos & the cucumbers sprinkled with vinegar make for the perfect snack. 

of course, we would love to settle down eventually & dig deep into the land. for now, we enjoy the creativity that comes from planting in pots, building raised beds, leaving our work for another to enjoy & feeding ourselves.

do you have any stories to share? i'd love to hear your creative ways of growing food.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our water garden and the summer garden status

The continuous extreme heat and dry conditions this summer are making it really difficult to maintain the garden. Last night though, a storm passed over bringing much needed rain. Yet at this point, we're basically trying to just keep plants alive. So we haven't had much to harvest compared to years past. Yet one crop that is producing are the grapes. The plants themselves have been doing well, and this is the first time since we planted them a few years ago that we've gathered a crop. Yay! To deter the birds, who also really love grapes, we have several meshes covering the plants. We still have been picking lots of grapes and let me tell you, they are tasty little jewels! I'm thankful for them.

A bright spot in the garden is this new little pond and water garden. In the spring I showed you the beginnings of it. Now it's pretty much finished, although we want to transplant irises into the spot in front of the wall. 

I can take no credit for this project. My husband did all of it, including constructing the form to pour the concrete fountain. It was rather complex. Water is pumped up through one side of the form and then the water trails down over the top. Inside the circular openings he made recesses for plants. A "red creeper" plant is there in the middle. The water lilies and lotus in the pond were gifts from a co-teacher of mine who has a water garden. The others we purchased. Of the whole project, the biggest expense were the patio rocks.

water lily

submergible plants
The pond water is mostly rain water collected from a rain barrel. The plants and submergible plants help control algae growth. We're still deciding whether to get a couple goldfish to help with algae and mosquito larvae. But since our pond isn't deep enough for fish to overwinter, we'd have to find another pond for them at that point.

I can't tell you how much enjoyment and nourishment this water garden brings. Lots of birds and insects visit it daily, including sparrows, goldfinches, catbirds, and honeybees. When it's this hot and dry out, it's so refreshing to hear the babbling water, and to see an oasis of happy green plants!


Monday, July 16, 2012

drying herbs

herbs for drying 

since we seem to be on a bit of an herb theme here, i thought i'd share a few thoughts about drying herbs. when summer is high and the herbs are exploding, i can never keep up. so i dry them, for the colder months when i'm dreaming of fresh herbs on everything from scrambled eggs to salad dressings to cool ice water.

drying herbs

drying herbs & curing garlic 

before you dry your herbs, be sure to rinse them or brush them off to remove any dirt or tiny critters. i dry my herbs in two main ways. the first is in hanging bunches. this works for things that get tall, like lemon balm, peppermint, and oregano (which is what is pictured here). i tie them up with twine and tape them to the door frame. hooks also work well. just make sure there is enough air flowing around them so that they can dry completely.

drying herbs 

for smaller herbs, rose petals, lavender, chamomile, red clover (pictured here), i use an old window screen on my dining room table. ideally, i should probably prop this up on something to increase air circulation, but it still works.

once everything is dry, i crumble up the big leaves and store everything in jars for later use. i shared my favorite herbal tea recipe here a few years ago (it's still my standby, and is delicious iced as well). i also use my dried herbs to make infused oils, my favorite shampoo, bath soaks, and obviously for cooking as well. what are your favorite herbs to dry?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Chipping Away

DSC_0024 some progress
Things are a bit slow going up front.
It has however improved and I am chipping away at it. Which is better than not chipping at all right?

I made that promise and I am keeping to it, even if it is at snail's pace.

So here is what I have been working on...

:: I dug up everything from the front and leveled out the slope.

:: Since a rock wall is not in our budget right now I settled for a holly hedge at the bottom of the slope. Once the roots settle in I am hoping the shrubs will act as the anchor. I will have to prune it over  time so it doesn't grow too tall but I think I am going to like having a bit of evergreen in the winter months.

:: I salvaged some bricks and made a low wall to separate the top from the slope. I like the effect and I plan to plant succulents along it.

:: I have transplanted several perrenials from other places of my property to the front to help fill things in a bit.

:: It is amazing how full sun can make such a difference in the size of a plant especially veggies. Swiss chard has never been so big or happy on my property. The few that I planted are loving it up front as well as the tomatoes.

Still to do list:

:: I plan to fill in with lots of herbs such as sage, lavender and grey santolina.

:: The soil is pretty compacted and clay based. I plant to apply a good amount of compost and leaf mulch this fall.

:: Replace a concrete walkway to the front door with a stone pathway. 

Until I can purchase some more things I water, I weed and I envision.

Patience truly is a gardener's best friend.

Friday, July 6, 2012


DSC_0102 DSC_0101 DSC_0100
 I know it may seem a bit silly but even though my garden is right outside my back door I find myself not using herbs to their fullest potential.

This week I found myself picking from a jar of fresh mint (left over from the mojitos) and adding it to dishes I normally wouldn't. 

It got me thinking that maybe if I had several jars with fresh clipped herbs out at hands reach that maybe I would be a little more creative and use them more.

I clipped dill, more mint, anise hyssop, thyme, oregano, sage and flat leaf parsley.

I added the dill to a beet, cucumber goat cheese salad, the mint to jars of ginger iced tea (it's been really hot here!), the parsley to an adzuki bean and quinoa salad and I used the oregano and thyme to make some Zaatar.

Having them out on the window sill had me using them so much more and they are all so pretty as their own little bouquets.

What herbs are you loving these days?