Thursday, April 28, 2011

Things that make me smile...

1. blossoms on my strawberry plant

2. this Gerber daisy my mother-in-law gave me for Easter

3. the smell of fresh cut grass outside my window
4. the husband and I move home in one week and one day

:) :) :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Where are you Mr. Sun?

I miss the sun. And more importantly, my plants are desperately missing the sun.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oh Wow... Applesauce Gone Bad

Just tried making homemade applesauce.


WAY to strong on the cinnamon and brown sugar. Yikes yikes yikes!

Does anyone have a good recipe to share?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Why garden?

I have dedicated a lot of time this spring to thinking about gardening. And I have been tempted to ask myself:

Why garden?

I have never been too interested in gardening until this year. I don't even totally know why the sudden change. For my own sake, I am going to try to pinpoint a few reasons, though.
  • With the recent disasters in Japan, my husband and I have looked at each other and said, "Are we really prepared for what could happen?" The obvious answer was no, which is frightening. We both come from families that value the idea of self-reliance. I guess I'm thinking gardening falls into that category.
  • Having recently married, this summer will be the first time ever that I have my own yard to take care of. I don't know why its different and you suddenly care more when something is your own, but you do.
  • I love to eat. And this summer the grocery store will be 80 miles away. Yes, I just said 80 MILES.
  • Flowers are pretty. Need I say more?
  • My mom does it. And I really like my mom. She's cool. I want to be like her.
  • I have had a severe case of Spring Fever. Its true. Ask my doctor. And he said plants were the only cure.
  • I grew up on a ranch and we grew hay, too. Being outside and growing things is in my blood.
Here is some more food for thought from Paul McKenzie (a horticulture extension agent in North Carolina)

What about you? Why do you garden?

Crock Pot + Fresh Veggies

If there is one thing I love, it is crock pots. Throw some ingredients in and leave all day. Come back to a delish dinner. Its like magic. Almost like perennial flowers!

This recipe comes from my mom's repertoire. And most of the ingredients could come fresh from the dirt.

Sunday Crock-Pot Stew
  • Cut cube or round steak into thin strips. Dredge in seasoned four and brown in saute pan (doesn't need to cook all the way).
  • Slice carrots, onions, green pepper and celery into crock pot (large chunks work great). 
  • Add meat.
  • Add canned tomatoes (unless you are really awesome and can grow something that difficult) and tomato sauce to get a good 'stew' consistency.
  • Add 1-2 cubes beef bouillion.
  • Cook throughout the day and serve over cooked rice or boiled garden potatoes!
Yes, the proportions here are very vague, but that's how Mom rolls. She's just cool like that. And its in the crock pot. So no matter what you throw in, it works out!

Another Berry Breakfast Idea

If you have a berry bush, try this delicious Raspberry Coffee Cake from Taste of Home. I even tried it with a combination of raspberries, black berries, and blue berries. Yummo!

PS: Still try it even if you have to buy the berries from the grocery store :)

Comfort Cookin' - Strawberry Style

I bought a new strawberry plant! And this time, I will guard it very carefully!

Here is one of my favorite strawberry recipes. It is a topping for roll-up pancakes. Ok, ok, crepes.... (The name of that particular food item is a major fight between my husband and I...)

Strawberry Topping
12 oz strawberries, stemmed and sliced
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
1½ tsp lemon juice

Onions, Peas, and Weeds, Oh My!

one Saturday of beautiful weather 
+ husband with a free half hour 
= Planted Onions and Peas!!!

My big garden plot still needs some construction (we have a fence and some bushes to tear out). But that didn't stop me! I decided to let my peas and onions be flower bed fillers. I planted four short rows of onions (~100 bulbs total) and 3 short rows of peas (I didn't count these).

(I chose peas and onions to plant because they are frost hardy.)

The ground in this flower bed was so nice! It hardly took any major digging. The downside of such soft good soil was that the weeds had already invaded. There were hundreds of the one-inch-tall-annoyances. Grrrr!

My short little rows. (I love onions!)

Here are a few of the onion trenches. I poured some water-soluble Miracle Grow fertilizer in the bottom of each trench. (Was that a good idea?) The onion trenches were ~2 inches deep.

And here is part of one of the row of peas. The trench was only 1 inch deep - not as deep as the onions. 

This was a great great great day!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Sprout!

One zinnia has sprouted! Yesterday there was nothing and this morning -- an inch tall sprout!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Last year I killed a strawberry plant.
It was sad.
It was very sad.
I loved the little thing.
I won it at a department banquet.
My mom took care of it for me all summer long.
(I was pretty well completely preoccupied.)
(With getting married.)
So after a summer of TLC, Mom turned the little gal over to me.
After just a few nights outside, a deer ATE it.

Planning My Flower Beds

Soon Hubby and I will be moving out of College Town and back home. Once home, I will be able to plant my flower beds. I cannot wait!

The flower beds I am working with already have a few things growing. Namely, two rose bushes, lots of tulips and lots of daffodils. Yay for perennial flowers! The tulips and daffodils are already growing like crazy. In fact, I'm afraid I might have already missed the grand blooming of the daffodils --- they were extremely close when I left Monday morning. Hopefully they hold out until the weekend for me!

Perennial flowers -- whats not to love?
They come back. Every year. On their very own!
Its like magic!

The Faith Flower

Approximately fifteen years ago, on a bright sunny spring Sunday morning, I sat dressed in frills, listening to my Sunday School teacher explain the concept of faith.

"Faith is like a little seed," she said to the class. "If planted, it will grow!"

After the lesson was completely, our handout for the day was a small potted flower. No bigger than a couple inches.

"Remember, like this flower grows, your faith can grow too!" the teacher recited, handing every child a plant.

To say I worked really hard to keep the little plant alive might be an exaggeration. I am sure my mother did all the work at the beginning. But, boy, did it ever pay off.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Growing Peppers 101

Since I really really want big beautiful peppers this fall (so that I can make this recipe), here is what I've been learning about growing peppers successfully...

  • like sun
  • need good drainage soil
  • need deep and frequent irrigation
  • should be spaced 18 inches apart from each other
  • that flower during hot temperatures are more likely to abort fruit
  • can be placed under hotcap or plastic tunnel to protect from cool weather

For more information, check out my source:
USU Extension fact sheet "Peppers in the Garden"

Because they lived...

In honor of my pepper plants surviving the crash, last night for dinner I made fajitas. Mmmm!

3 large green bell peppers, sliced into long strips
1 medium onion, also sliced into long strips
3 large chicken breasts, cooked and sliced into long strips
Fajita seasoning packet
Cheese, salsa, sour cream, ranch dressing, etc...

After cooking chicken, saute peppers and onions in a small amount of oil until tender. Return chicken to pan. Add contents of fajita packet* and a few tablespoons of water. Once chicken is reheated and seasoning is stirred throughout, you are ready to eat! Warm tortillas over stove or in microwave. Enjoy!

*I don't always use the entire packet. I usually start with half and go from there.

 Serving Size: Last night this fed 4 adults. However, there wasn't much left over. I was wishing I would have added one more chicken breast.

Can't wait for the end of the summer when I can use my own green peppers for this recipe!

Monday, April 11, 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Disclaimer: I am dreading writing this post.

What a morning. As I mentioned here, my impatiens were not doing so red hot at the beginning of last week. However, over the course of the week, I saw small improvements and was feeling encouraged. Even thinking I might resurrect more than half of the impatiens plants.

Well, it would seem fate had other ideas...

This morning, as we do every Monday morning, my husband and I awoke at 6:30 a.m. and hit the road. Back to school. We spend our weekends at home and weekdays here in College-ville. Because my plants have been so small and have needed daily watering, I have hauled them back and forth every weekend for almost two months. Do you think this is convenient? No. So back to this morning...

About 15 minutes into our hour and a half journey, a DEER jumps out in front of our car.

Can you guess where this is going?

Yes, we hit the deer. Dumb animal. It didn't even die. (Please don't turn me into the humane society for that comment.) Thankfully, Lucy (my car) came away from the collision with only minor damage: passenger side mirror broken. It could have been much worse.

However, remember, my small plants were inside the car. You have this figured out by now, right? Yes, the plants went FLYING :( 

Not much was left. Only a backseat full of dirt :(

Once we made it to our destination, I picked through the remains. I was able to salvage all 14 peppers plants and 1 measly zinnia. I repeat, ONE. Out of approximately 20 plants. As for the impatiens, this little accident was the straw that broke the camel's back. They were completely ruined.

This picture shows my garbage can. However, it doesn't even do justice to how awful the poor little guys looked.

So... what have I learned?
  1. If you plan on transporting your seedlings on a regular basis (which I would not recommend), peppers are the only deer-collision-proof plant.
  2. This probably was not the best spring in my life to start plants indoors.
  3. I have determination. (Just in the last few hours, I have already purchased new seeds, soil, and potting carton thingy-es, and sowed my new seeds.
  4. Maybe you could call #3 stupidity?
  5. I will never again start impatiens from seed. Totally not worth it. They took almost a month to sprout. Grew slowly. Almost died from a few hours of fresh air. And did not survive the crash. Not worth it.
A few other irrelevant observations...
  1. Not all zinnia seeds are the same. I had a few left from before that I planted today (Burpee's Bright Border Mix variety) and the new seeds (Fruit Smoothie Mix variety) were much larger than the oldies.
  2. Jiffy Seed Starting Mix has a much finer texture than Miracle Grow Seed Starting Mix.
  3. A little TLC goes a long way. My impatiens had almost recovered.
When the damage was first surveyed, I was very disheartened. My husband actually had to talk me into starting seeds again. But now that I've had some time to mourn, I am trying to optimistic. Seeds are a new beginning. My last set had so much potential. I just made a few mistakes. But now I know --- stay away from cold weather and deer!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Potatoes from the garden! Such fun! As a child I was fascinated by the idea of throwing a potato into the ground and coming back at the end of the summer to a mound of new potatoes! Amazing!

When I can finally plant my (outdoor) garden, potatoes will definitely be part of the game plan.

(Don't mention this to my hubby, but I always dreamt of marrying a potato farmer. Yes, I am fully serious right now. What a silly little girl I was. A spud farmer? Really? That was the most exciting man I could dream up???)

This simple and easy recipe (from Bon Appetit) is delicious and utilizes not only your garden potatoes, but also any rosemary you have growing.

Potatoes Roasted with Rosemary and Sea Salt
1 lb red potatoes, each cut into 4 – 6 wedges
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp coarse sea salt or other coarse salt (we will use kosher salt)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (or ½ tsp dried)

Preheat oven to 400F. Toss potatoes with oil, salt and pepper in a bowl to coat. Transfer potatoes to a baking sheet and roast 20 minutes, stirring once.
Add garlic and rosemary to potatoes and toss to coat. Continue roasting until potatoes are just tender (approximately 10 minutes).

Lovin' the Free Advice

Twelve Gardening Tips

Check it out!

Emerald... With Envy

Here in my neck of the woods, it was SNOWED all day long.
Meanwhile, Pioneer Woman has already planted her garden.
I'm jealous.
And inspired.
I love P-Dub. Check her out.

Fertilizing Continued --- What about my seedlings?

As shown in this post, I have some little seedlings right now. As I was working on this other post, it dawned on me...
My little baby plants are probably due for some more plant food. I know that the seed-starting soil I used had fertilizer in it, but that was over a month ago. My preliminary internet search is suggesting that it is probably time to re-fertilize. I think I better head on over to my local gardening store and get some advice.
Stay tuned and we'll find the answer together.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Let me be frank.
Bottled spaghetti sauce and bottled pizza sauce will NOT do. There is no comparison. Homemade marinara supersedes the stores' fake-wanna-be sauces at all levels. Especially if the ingredients are fresh from the dirt.

Homemade Marinara Sauce
This recipe comes as an estimation. Last night I used the following proportions to make a spaghetti sauce for myself and my husband. We were left with oodles of leftovers. 
3 small to medium ripe tomatoes
1 large onion (or equivalent in small ones)
tt salt, pepper and garlic powder
tt Italian seasoning (or even better, fresh oregano, chopped! Hopefully by the end of the summer mine will be usable for this recipe!)
* 1-2 small cans of tomato sauce

Heat small amount of oil (<1T) in large saute' pan. Chop tomatoes and onion(s) to small dice and saute' until tender. Add seasonings.

*Adding the tomato sauce: For spaghetti sauce I typically use two cans, but add one can to start with and add the second can slowly,  using only the amount that you think necessary to achieve a good consistency.  For pizza sauce, 1 can or less is generally sufficient.

Simmer on low to allow flavors to blend. If making spaghetti, brown ground beef and add to sauce.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Baby Steps

Follow the Yellow Brick Road,
Follow the Yellow Brick Road,
Follow, Follow, Follow, Follow,
Follow the Yellow Brick Road...

This spring I took my first baby steps (What about Bob, anyone?) down the Y.B.R.

Here is my small indoor garden on Day 1. I planted zinnias, impatiens, oregano, and (not pictured) green bell peppers. You can also see a small container of tulip bulb sprouts, a gift from my mom-in-law.

Spice Up Your Vegetable Intake

Nothing compares to perfectly ripe and sweet garden corn. While simply eating it off the cob is usually my favorite way, this Southern dish incorporates some of your other garden produce and has just the right kick to spice up your day.

Maque Choux 

6 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, small dice
1 green bell pepper, small dice
1 Roma or plum tomato, concasse
10 oz corn kernels
1 tsp black pepper
tt cayenne pepper
1 ½ – 2 cups milk

The Wicked Witch is Alive and Well

My little indoor garden has experienced a few causalities this week.
My zinnias were in desperate need of some real outdoor sunlight so I put everyone outside for a few hours on Monday. Big Mistake. My impatiens were clearly not ready for the extremities. They are slowly wilting more and more each day. I anticipate a funeral in the next forty-eight hours.
Oh that mean awful witch...

Garden Plot Prep Work - Part 1 - Fertilization

Time to start planting is nearly upon us (or so I'm told), but before throwing the little helpless seeds into the real world, I need to do a little work on my garden plot. Anyone else? Oh good...

Today's post will cover fertilizer. This is something very tricky. On one end of the spectrum, you can have soil with too few nutrients and thus, plants that grow very poorly. On the other hand, if you use too much, you can get your soil too 'hot.' This is a very technical term that my mother uses to describe the infamous horse manure incident. Good ole' Dad was sure that his pile of horse manure had sat and composted for enough years that is was ready for garden use. Mom was not so convinced, but Dad persisted. The composted horse manure was incorporated into the soil of one flower bed, and the plants literally burned to death from the heat of strong, not-yet-fully composted horse crap.

It was not pretty.

The end.

So, how to choose fertilizers...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

First Recipe - Stuffed Green Peppers

During my numerous daydreams of beautiful gardens, I ponder the fresh produce I could incorporate into my dinner menus. Thus, included amid my gardening attempts will be a few recipes to wet the appetite (quite literally) to the advantages of having a produce garden.

Today's recipe is a classic from my mom...
Stuffed Green Peppers
1 lb ground beef, browned
1/3 c onion, chopped
tt salt and pepper
1 (16 oz) can tomatoes (crushes or petite diced)
1/2 c water
1/c c uncooked long grain white rice
1 t Worcestershire sauce

6 green peppers, tops cut off and seeds cleaned out
1 c cheese

Following the Yellow Brick Road

Gardening, and the love thereof, is a long standing tradition in my family. That said, you could call me the black sheep of the family. In other words, my thumb is not green. This blog will document my difficult journey down the illustrious Yellow Brick Road.