Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Garden Update: Summer Approaches.

I'm afraid this garden update won't be as interesting as the last one, due to the fact that I am posting earlier in the year. In fact, right now, our garden doesn't look as interesting as it did then.  To look into our yard, it looks sparse, and some plants look a bit "peaked".  This is actually because of the weird weather we've been having here in Maryland and because we are seeding several plants.  There are others that have just bolted.  My boyfriend has also redefined the beds, moved things around, and placed more stones.  There is simply more dirt than plant life right now.  I thought I'd take you for a quick tour, though, because despite appearances, things are humming along.


We are seeding kohlrabi (left) and onions (right).  The onion  just did not work out for us this past year.  We do not know why.  We're going to try collecting seeds and maybe replanting next year.  We will be planting kohlrabi again, later in the season.  We really like it!  That's why we are seeding it.  We are also seeding beets, as well as growing them.

This is the new crop of beets.  I cannot wait for the roots to be ready to harvest!  When we started growing them, I had not had them in years.  In fact, I was never crazy about them...until  I tasted beets straight out of the ground! Wow!  Now, I love them!  Don't those greens look sweet and buttery?  They're not.  They are actually kind of bitter, but they are very, very good for you.  In fact, I'm told the greens are even more nutritious than the root!  They are excellent steamed.

 This is tatsoi, an Asian green that is said to taste like mustard greens.  I wouldn't know.  Ours bolted.  The flowers are pretty, though!  I suspect it bolted, not just because of our unusual weather patterns, but because we may have planted it a bit late in the season.  That wonderful, red stuff you see on the ground under the tatsoi is the wood mulch that we harvest from the woods not far from home.  (I plan to dedicate a post solely to how we handle mulch and soil, because there's a lot that goes into it, from a philosophical perspective. Stay tuned!)

These beautiful, fern-like plants are the beginnings of our carrots.  They are doing amazingly well this year, so far!  We have already had to thin them out a few times, so we've been enjoying the greens, and we even had some babies this past week!  They are so sweet and delicious, even now!  I cannot wait for the harvest this year!  (If you have never had carrot greens, they taste very similar to parsley, just not as strong-tasting.)

Ah, yes.  The "weeds" that every traditional gardener loves to hate.  From the bottom, we have here:  English plantain, dandelion, and blackseed plantain.  We don't cultivate these--you really don't need to--so much as just let them grow, thinning and removing plants that crop up in inconvenient spots.  We also don't keep a lot of them around.  Again, you don't need to.  They tend to be very hearty plants.  We use all of these in salads, and we sometimes steam the plantain.  (I find I really only enjoy dandelion raw, and I'm not crazy about the blossoms, except to look at and enjoy and in tea.)  I always say, "One man's weed is another man's feed!" ;)

Here, we have chard, and below, collards. These have also been very prolific for us. Both of these plants, I believe, are about two years old, and they keep producing wonderful greens. not only that, the chard keeps trying to go to seed! (We've been quite enjoying the seed tops with homemade hummus--YUMMY!)

This collard tree is just magnificent!  It does not want to give up, and it is starting to look like a palm tree.  The trunk is probably 3" in diameter.  As long as it is producing and seems healthy, we will keep it.  We have one other, younger, collard plant, as well.

Baby peppers. I don't know what variety(ies) these are.  We have so many pepper seeds saved that it's ridiculous!  (We also have a ton of radish seeds saved.)  We may never need to buy seed stock for some of our plants again!  Last year, we had chiles and baby bells.  I don't know what the plan is for this year.  We have a few other, larger pots on top of our fence.  Our peppers stay in pots year-round, but they still produce beautifully. We simply do not have enough space to put everything into the ground.


 My parsley and sage bushes.  We have so much of both that we are giving it away at about every opportunity.  I still have not learned how to make smudging wands, so for now, we're sharing the sage.  It's wonderful sage, too.  We grew these herbs from seed, and the sage is at least three years old!  I hope we are going to harvest seeds from these, because they are clearly very good stock!
Finally, we are growing kale for the first time.  The plants are starting to peek up through the soil, but we won't know for a while how kale does in our garden.  I'm hoping it will be a successful crop for us, because I love kale!

Dirt!  Beautiful, glorious dirt from a stand of woods not too far from home.  This bag of dirt is quite the exercise in sustainability.  (I will go into this more in the post I mentioned earlier.)  We have a unique and very deliberate way of obtaining soil and mulch for our garden.  Heck, the bag it's in is about two years old, even!  We brought back a little friend with our dirt.  Can you see the baby mushroom in the bag?  Isn't it cute?

What we are not growing:  Spinach and radishes.  I also do not feel like the arugula yields very much (and it's not my favorite,) but since I'm not the Master Gardener, I leave those decisions up to my boyfriend.  The spinach just does not do well for us. One year, it bolted, and the next it just kind of didn't take off, so we've shelved that idea (sadly, I have to say!)  The radishes did not grow for us the last time we planted them.  Personally, I think the soil probably needs a rest from that particular plant.  We have planted them in more than one bed--we do move them around--but it's possible there is just something missing this time that they need.  Maybe it's the weather. Who knows?  I just know that they used to do very well for us, but this year they aren't working.  I hope that we can try again next year.  They give us a good yield, and they taste so, so good!

This is a sign that my boyfriend has put on the gate to our yard.  It amused me greatly when I first saw it.  Why?  Because I find it so surreal!  Do we really live in a time and place where we actually have to ask people not to throw things on top of our food?  Apparently, we do!  LOL!

I hope you've enjoyed this walk through our garden, and I hope you're inspired by it.  You really don't need acres and acres of land to start growing your own food.  At minimum, all you need is a balcony and some good pots.  Some plants will do better in containers than others, but even only using pots, you can make a dent in your grocery bill and get in touch with Mother Nature. 

Have fun!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Best Laid Plans...

Oh, dear!  I have been neglecting this blog!  Ouch!  I like to try to at least post something once a month, but I see that I missed April.  So sorry!  I have so much I want to talk about, but things have been insane here at the Little Stone House!

Back in April and on into May, I was swamped with a volunteer project.  In fact, I love this particular project very much, but when you also have a full time job, a part-time business, a house full of pets, and elderly parents, things can get a bit hectic!  Sadly, last week, we had a family emergency.  Fortunately, everything has turned out OK for now.  I did manage to find myself some quiet time during that week, so I was able to be of help to my family--something that is very important to me.

I have a number of posts I want to make. Hopefully, I can do that soon!

Meanwhile, our garden is in, and it's looking fantastic!  We are seeding several of the plants, and we have some greens that are over two years old and still producing really well.  The carrots are happy and are starting to come in nicely, as well.  Meanwhile, my boyfriend has tweaked the layout again, and it's very, very pretty.  I will try and post a more detailed garden update soon, with photos!

We are fairly fortunate, in that we have not been directly affected by this terrible economy!  While I give thanks for what we have, it is hard seeing friends, coworkers, and our favorite local businesses suffer.  We are doing everything we can to try and help folks stay afloat, and we also both recognize that we are safe for now, but that could change at any moment.  We are continuing to take small steps to tighten our belts. I hope to make some updates about that, too.  It's true that a lot of what we are doing is just plain common sense, but I know that when I'm facing a dilemma, I have an easier time sorting it out when I can read other people's stories.  Maybe sharing my own stories will help someone else out.

One sacrifice it looks like we have had to make is that we have not been able to take our 5th anniversary trip.  We are hoping to go away for an entire week (we usually go away for a long weekend each year at our anniversary,) just the two of us.  Unfortunately, things keep coming up, and we are not managing to save up the money we will need in order to make that trip.  I think at this point we are looking at going away next summer for a week. Most years, our week-long summer vacation is spent in MA with his family, but we really wanted to have an intimate getaway for just the two of us.  Our relationship is very special to us, for reasons I may or may not go into at a later time. I realize that we are still lucky, since we can even worry about a vacation; however, having to put it off is disappointing. 

Finally, I have a number of recipes I want to share.  I can't take credit for these, as I did not create them;  I have, however, added my own spin to some, and others have become staples in our household (not all of them are for food!)

It's been a while since I've posted anything, so I wanted to peek in and say "I'm still here.  Don't give up on my little blog!"  I do enjoy writing the posts for it, so I hope that you will subscribe or check back often!  There is more coming.  I promise!

(Photo:  (c) Nicholas Kinney/123rf.com)