Monday, May 16, 2016

Saturday, May 23, 2015

How long does it take to may one garden bed?

Longer than I thought! Although I must say the second bed is larger and I had no help. So I wanted to make a bed before heading to Chicago for the weekend. Pat is already up there. Joe is at "Summer Camp" with the truck. Rylie can't lift a block. She even tried! Because I have these tomato plants I orded from Territorial seed months ago and had them arrive May 15th because I was sure we would have the beds ready by then. NOT!!!!

Poor things are getting desperate.

So I borrowed a friend's truck this morning and was at Menard's before 9 am. I also bought a hand truck as recommended by Dr. Miles, our chiropractor.
50 blocks!
Then of course I had to assemble the hand truck and finding appropriate wrench was a challenge.

Finished this by 10 ish and already the sun was hot!
So I put on sunscreen and started unloading the blocks and setting them. Each block weighs 30 lbs. Not bad but it adds up. I quickly drank my first 2L of crystal light.
I assigned Rylie the pool dredging to remove all the leaves. She lasted 10 minutes before complaining but she worked on it on and off. Then we decided to go ahead and drain it so we could clean it right and start off on the right foot this year. 
The green pool. 
We had some ducks hanging around last week but luckily I think they deemed our back yard too hazardous which was wise. BUT we're afraid they ate our frogs. :-( So here's the front of the garden. The salvia and baptisia are amazing this year.
That deep purple makes my day!
So I took a break when I almost had first layer done around 1 pm. I realized this is not exactly an easy job. I knew it wouldn't be but I guess I was hoping for a miracle. I also began to realize my design was very flawed.
Uh oh!

The zig zag side didn't look right like I planned and my alteration left me with spaces that were not block length. My thinking with this design was to try and capture more sunlight because the neighbors trees have grown over into our yard and cast a lot of shade now on the back half of the garden. We need to trim them back but even if we do there is one very tall tree in the yard behind ours that still casts shade from 3 pm on or it did today. But there was shade around 1 pm from the next door neighbors!!! Argh! So by stairstepping it something tall like tomatoes each one can be in the direct path of the rising sun. Capeche?
Half filled with dirt. 

But I had originally assumed the blocks would be 12" and they're 16" so that messed it all up. So back to the drawing board-ish. But this bed is here for this year anyway. 

My bed doesn't look close to as good as the one Pat did. :-(
For how big it looks in it looks like I can only fit 6 tomato plants. Sigh.... I have 9. But I may extend the bed and do away with the areas in between. Then I can fit 2 and I can walk on the blocks to get to them. We talked about putting a capstone on them but if I don't I will probably fill them with soil and plant marigolds. 

Pool about drained.... now we just have to clean out the rest of the slime! And I swear I'm going to used the broken up concrete to make a retaining wall by the garden. Anyone else ever do that?
See that pile of rocks, that was our back patio slab.

OK I'm officially worn out. But one last thing on my to do list. Flowers for dad.
Love you and miss you Dad!

I also like to visit the angel headstone nearby. Very moving....

Rylie wearing last years pants as capris!
Very productive day.... took a long hot bath and feel human again. Peace out!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Spring has sprung! Saturday in the yard.

Had a good day working in the yard. Uncovering perennials and already fighting the creeping Charlie. Edged the rose bed after spreading manure on the roses and the asparagus.
Asparagus is already 3 feet tall if you can see it.
Between our piling some wood for a couple weeks and the utility company doing some digging we have some large patches of dirt next to our yard. They're on the "communal through way" that goes along side our yard to one block over.
The creeping Jenny and 'Big Ears' Stachys surprised me with how good they look together. The 'Elegantissima' Red Twig Dogwood is also super pretty.
I love the purple creeping phlox.  Or should I say lavendar or blue. 
Isn't this Columbine beautiful!
I love these Pansies! They look like they have dark eyes.
Closeup on the pale blue phlox.

We definitely need the rain promised on Sunday.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Ember's Vegetable Garden Version 2.0

It's been 5 years since we went from a chain-link fenced in 15x24 patch of clay to the 15x54 garden I have now.

Apparently that's about how long untreated wood will last when you use 10" or 12" boards for retaining your raised beds. So time to replace them and I've thought long and hard on how I want to do it. I've decided on concrete block with a capstone and then staining or possibly covering with a stone veneer.

Here's the first re-done bed. It will also function as a cold frame.
The one's along the house will now be flush with the wall. 

Looking toward the entrance to garden from front yard. 

Looking toward back yard. 
Couple of things I forgot in first bed but want to remember for the rest. 
1. Consider lining with hardware cloth or some type of chicken wire to keep out moles/rabbits/etc.
2. Insert PVC or metal pipe to add polytunnels? Or may just make a frame for several sections out of wood with cold frame like hinged top.
3. The capstone I want is on clearance at Menard's for $0.63 each! Wow how awesome is that!

Lay out for the rest of the beds is no longer going to be just rectangles that's boring and I can fit more garden space in by different shapes and also going to avoid some shade. The left page is the back and the right page is towards the front. The already build bed is the bed in the lower righthand corner.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Pool Post Clean Up


After first weekend of hauling out 5 gallon bucket full of muck. 

I was determined to get all of the clay dirt and sawdust and what not out of the pool before next year and scrubbed it clean over two weekends. After second weekend of wet vacuuming and scrubbing. 

Doesn't the deck look awesome!

I filled with water half way up and then it got cold quick and froze. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Finally Some Fall Gardening

I'm not complaining because I just not got to my fall tasks since the reason was I was in Jamaica then Albaquerque. But it sure felt good to be outside under the blue sky today all afternoon. I had to fight a bit with the mower then checked the oil needed some. Then read the manual oh 5 pumps when under 50 degrees for the whatchamacallit... choke. Then despite plugging it in had to do the pull start. (HATE THAT) But the new mower is POWERFUL. Wowza. I never could do both my mom's yard and mine in one day with prior mowers. So sorry to say rechargeable mowers can't compete with gas. Hopefully that will change in the future. BUT it's also not very green when you have to buy a new lead battery every year. What a pisser.

Here's the front yard from front door last month:

I don't think I'll plant any tall herbs around my herb circle next year. I missed seeing my Japanese Red Maple too much. I'll put the tall ones around the pool next year. Isn't the Limelight and Little Lime hydrangea pretty with their dried blooms? I'll have to figure out when to prune off some stems of all the dogwood I planted. 6 bushes I believe. That way some bright red ones emerge next year. 

So I mowed and the new mower made the most beautiful confetti out of the leaves on our yards so I should have great leaf mold in the spring for sure. Last years isn't even leaf mold anymore, it's just compost. I'm kind of bummed I missed it when it had that crumbly texture and floor of the forest smell. Tons of worms in it when I moved it to a smaller bin to save for spring. 

I also sucked up leaves from around my mom's bushes with the leaf vacuum but I'm glad the mower did most of that. Raked leaves in backyard that I didn't bag up with grass into dog pen. Moved straw into garden and covered beds with food still growing or waiting for harvest. 

I also scrubbed the pool some more but then ran out of daylight and couldn't find wet vac. 

And that was last Saturday. It filled up with leaves again and I shoveled them out AGAIN and removed about half of that muck again and scrubbed about half of the pool floor with bleach water. So I only have half to go and the stairs. I worked on stairs last week but wow they're really covered with algae. But I'm happy to say that nothing seems to have stained our liner so once I get it clean tomorrow, I'll refill it. I know crazy. About 2/3 up and add winterizer and a couple floats and attempt to rig a couple tarps over the pool. Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Busy Bees and Pesky Moths

As much as I hate the way the garlic chives like to spread through out the garden (should be labeled as invasive), I decided they weren't so bad when I saw how many bees were in the garden today. Wow!

But then I saw there were bees, bumble bees, a butterfly that had a moth attached to it, and the biggest bee I have ever seen on this plant. 
It's not easy to see but on the side of the butterfly now was stuck a moth. 

Profile of flying bee tank. See the normal size bee on the second flower from top and then pow here's "Tiny".

See Mr. or Mrs. HUMONGO Bee there on the right. It's as big as the butterfly below. Oh and you can see the moth wing on the butterfly wing in this picture.

Butterfly before moth attached to it.

Here it is again in case you missed it.

And the mothra butterfly.

Close ups:

Tomato Time Again and Our Favorite Meal!

Tomato plants gone wild. 
Tomato plants back in June without support!
Tomato plants without cages gone wild!
This year the production quantity I expect will be a lot less. Not because of the weather but because of silly me. I ordered cages so late that by the time they came I already had 2-3 foot vines and had to wrassle them (much more difficult then wrestling) into the cages.Needless to say the vines suffered so I'm sure it'll cut down production. But there are still a lot of green tomatoes and I just processed my first batch.

Now in cages and coming out the top

Second bed of tomatoes

Future tomato sauce! I love these red cages from Burpee

But the good news is that I finally bought some cages to last past one season! These Burpee cages came highly recommended by Cheryl Snider. You may not know her but she's a knowledgeable gal! Her husband and her plant about 40 tomato plants every year. So they know what they're doing.

Here's the link for the cages:   Burpee Pro Series Cages and Extenders Red

Yesterday started the tomato sauce canning season.  I used my favorite kitchen appliance, the electric tomato strainer and my assistant, Rylie, and we had enough that after cooking down to make 4 quart jars of sauce. Which is about half of what I got from the Arkansas Traveler's alone last year. We'll probably eat half of it tonight because I'm making spaghetti and meatballs for Pat's birthday. Today using beef instead of the traditional turkey because a patient brought me some beef from a locally grown, free range cow.

So here again is my trusty friend I bought from Harvest Essentials Roma Deluxe Electric Strainer

Isn't she lovely.... isn't she beautiful. If I knew how to embed Stevie Wonder singing here and not get in trouble for copyright and what not I would.

Now let's see if I can find my meatball recipe. I can't find it so I'll just write it here from memory. For family of four where one of the children is a 6' 2" 21 year old male, I use 1 and 1/2 lbs or even 2 lbs of ground meat. But if you have 2 little kids 1 lb. would be enough.

My Meatballs

1 1/2 lb ground meat
Fresh minced herbs, have to be small or meatballs fall apart
      Basil, marjoram or oregano handful of each
Garlic cloves 3-4 minced
Onion also minced
2-3 eggs, can use 3 egg whites and 1 full egg if your funny like that
Rolled oats (in my case gluten free) 1-2 cups depending on consistency
Salt/pepper to your tastes

And I think that's it. I make them bigger than golf balls but not quite as big as a baseball but pretty close. Palm size. I have browned them a little, a lot, and not at all. Honestly the latter tasted the best but fell apart too easy. So try and brown them barely, just enough to help hold together. I think the reason they taste better when you do that is then they soak up more sauce.

Then I add them to the sauce. The sauce I make different every time and I wish I kept track of the best results. But I haven't done that plus I assume since I keep it pretty simple that when one is excellent it's due to the tomatoes I used. I try and raise a paste tomato and this year it was San Marzano. And for the second year I grew Arkansas Traveler, a pink tomato. I like the pinks because they're low acid and we all have some heartburn issues.

Spaghetti Sauce with Fresh Herbs

2 quart jars of tomato puree I've cooked down already
2 small cans of tomato paste or a pint I made
2 more handfulls of fresh herbs or couple tablespoons of dried herbs
Taste and add a little sugar if needed

I'll cook up spaghetti in two pots, one regular and one gluten-free. Or all gluten-free but since my husband and Joe don't need gluten-free and it costs so much they usually get regular.

When I make paste I do it by roasting the tomatoes in the oven first. See the previous blog post for Easy Peasy Tomato Paste.