Friday, December 30, 2011

Year End Totals

This was the first year I weighed and kept track of what we harvested from the garden.  Here are the totals in no specific order:

Brocolli- 6 ounces
Cucumber - 4 pounds 8.75 ounces
Zuchinni - 4 pounds 1.25 ounces
Garlic - 8.5 ounces
Radish - 1 pound 3.15 ounces
Lettuce - 1 pound
Herbs - 2 pounds 12.6 ounces
Beans - 12 pounds 1 ounce
Summer Squash - 1 pound 2.25 ounces
Carrots - 1 pound 1 ounce
Eggplant - 28 pounds 9 ounces
Swiss Chard - 4 pounds 4.25 ounces
Onions - 4 pounds 2.9 ounces
Yellow Pear Cherry Tomatoes - 5 pounds 13.5 ounces
Brandywine Tomatoes - 9 pounds 12.75 ounces
Arkansas Traveler Tomatoes - 8 pounds 10.75 ounces
Black Krim Tomatoes - 18 pounds 9.15 ounces
Super Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes - 2 pounds 10.15 ounces
San Marzano Tomatoes - 2 pounds 12 ounces
Jubliee Tomatoes - 8 pounds 9.5 ounces
Pineapple Tomatoes - 1 pound 15.13 ounces
Watermelon - 3 pounds 8.9 ounces
Kale - 8.3 ounces
Green Pepper - 4.5 ounces
Leeks - 1 pound 3.3 ounces
Parsnips - 4 pounds 7 ounces

A grand total of 134 pounds and 9.6 ounces!

To some this seems like a lot, others might think this is not much.  I am overall very happy with how the garden turned out in 2011.  Keeping track of harvest weights will definitely help me in planning what to use or not use again in 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Answering the Question

This past year I was asked what has made me the gardening, beekeeping, cooking, crafting,  all natural, organic, crunchy person that wants everything to be magazine, glossy perfect that I am.  And in response I had to tell them that I had no idea.

To understand this question better you should know that I had a wonderful childhood but it was not one that you might think would encourage the person I have become.  I grew up in a typical suburban neighborhood in a very nice house with a well manicured lawn.  No one thought twice about using Round Up or chemical fertilizers to maintain the look.  We bought groceries at the local big box grocery store.  No one ever thought about what was in season, preserving the harvest and we definitely never even questioned where our food came from.  Chores and responsibilities were divided up equally between my parents, they did not follow the lines of traditional roles.  My Mom never loved cooking, she cooked out of necessity because her family needed to eat.  We had a garden but I don't remember much ever growing there.  My Dad worked an hour away and didn't have the time to maintain it.  Life was busy, my parents were consumed with raising a family and we felt we had to keep up with the Jones.

Today I try to not put any chemicals on my lawn and I refuse to put any in my garden.  I delight in cooking a good meal and coming up with new dishes.  I keep expanding my garden and finding ways to preserve the food such as canning and freezing.  We became beekeepers and have the future possibility of chickens in the back of our minds.  I try to buy all my meat and eggs from local, sustainable farmers and eat as seasonably as possible.  I am consumed with the ideas of better food system.  I dream of a old farm house with more land and living a simpler life.  I have fallen into domesticated traditional roles and delight in creating the perfect home for my family.

So when comparing the two one might naturally wonder how did I become the way that I am.  But as I think about it the signs were always there.  My Dad when he had time enjoyed baking rhubarb cobblers and trying out new things in the kitchen.  Every Summer my Mom let me pick out a pattern and yarn for a new sweater she knitted me.  I was encouraged to be an independent thinker and make my own choices/decisions/opinions.  My parents would encourage and allow me to cook whatever I wanted often supplying me with the ingredients to try a recipe I had picked out.

It actually makes perfect sense that with the evolution of more responsible communities that I am a product of my upbringing.  And if I'm honest I haven't shed all my typical suburban ways.  I was recently going through some old pictures and saw some of the signs of my future self staring right back at me.  Although some are far fetched but fun anyways :)

 I have always enjoyed "playing around" in the kitchen.  Notice the box of Kerr canning supplies behind me.

 At an early age I learned a love for yard work and gardening.

 I have always been interested in farm animals.

  Cooking has always just come naturally.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


The seed catalogs have been coming in over the past month slowly but surely.  While we are on Winter Break I am going to peruse through them all and start to dream up next year's garden.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Year in Pictures

What a difference a year makes!  In the past year our garden has changed considerably.  It started as wasted space and has been transformed.  The difference between seasons can also be amazing when directly compared.
Back when the space was wasted.

 The trees removed.

 Installing raised beds


 Finally planting seeds and starts.
 Growing begins.



 And then we end up back at the beginning.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Not Immune

Despite the fact that I try to buy items based only on their merit and quality I sometimes fall prey to marketing ploys.  Case in point I picked out our holiday wine based solely on the labels. 

I love barns, farm houses, and anything that looks like it comes from a rustic more simpler life.  So when I saw the bottle on the left it's label made me pick it up.  Then when I saw that the wine was created from organically grown grapes the deal was sealed, I had to try it.  Of course I had to buy the bottle of Chardonnay because it had a bee on it and the brand is called Honey Bunch.  And just like the label says it is the "bees knees."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Gifts

Merry Christmas!

Every year by Thanksgiving I get asked what I would like for Christmas by family members.  As a child I knew exactly what I wanted and I was audacious enough to show my disappointment when I didn't get exactly what I thought I should get.  As I have gotten older I always have a few things on my list but I have wanted less and less.  Christmas has become less about the gifts and more about what really matters: family and the reason for the season. 

Now don't get me wrong, I still enjoy receiving and I love giving.  But this year when I was asked what I wanted I left it open ended for most everyone.  And I have been pleasantly surprised by the amazing gifts that I could not have imagined up.  It turns out the best gifts are the ones I never knew I wanted or needed and came from the hearts of loved ones.

My sister found this idea on pinterest.  I love it and can't wait to put it in my classroom!

My best friend Lauren found these adorable bee labels on etsy, I am looking forward to putting them on our honey and bee products.  She also gave me soap for the gardening nerd that I am and some fun pins just for teachers.

These were the gifts that I got before Christmas.  I can't wait to find out what fun gifts Santa might bring me today!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lessons From The Cookie Jar

Years ago I decided I wanted to start baking lots of holiday cookies and give them away.  Why?  I have no idea, I just like to.  I started when I was single, in grad school, and had plenty of free time during my holiday vacations.  I had complicated cookies that were just for looks but also plenty that were delicious.  I wanted to have these over flowing baskets of glorious baked goods that sparkled, amazed and would make people ooh & ahhh and think that Martha Stewart had nothing on me. 

Now I am married, have a full time job and responsibilities that have made it impossible to stay sane and keep up the illusion.  So in response I have cut the complicated but beautifully realistic peppermint candy canes that tasted mediocre at best to make only the delicious crowd favorites.  In the past by New Years we were packing them in to keep from wasting them or throwing the extras away.  So I have cut back from making the copious quantities to just enough for everyone to have a taste.

This year I was inspired to try gingerbread because it is a classic that I have never made.  In the past I have had brick hard gingerbread that I did not enjoy.  I learned that I actually like well made gingerbread and have decided that it will become a new staple in my repertoire.  I am also going to throw out the sugar cookie snowflakes next year.  They are buttery, delicious and gorgeous, but not worth it.  Many puff up during baking and break when coming off the cookie sheet.  The gingerbread recipe makes enough that I will have plenty to decorate as snowflakes in addition to the other shapes.

 These are show stoppers but they aren't going to make the cut next year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Winter

It is officially Winter.  Although I am a day late the Winter Solistice was yesterday I figured better late than never.  However we are having quite seasonable weather and no snow.  All week we are in the mid 40s.  But I am hoping that soon we are going to have a winter wonderland like the picture below, Andy and I are ready to snuggle up.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Our New Favorite Meal

On a recent grocery shopping trip Andy decided to go with me and as we were walking up and down the aisles a package of manicotti noodles caught his eye.  He decided that he wanted them and that I would be able to make a meal out of it.  I thought great now I am going to have to stuff shells but figured it wasn't worth the battle.  So we got them and they sat in our cupboard for weeks before I finally decided to do something with them.  When I did I realized it really was quite simple and the cheesy deliciousness has made me happy to make them over and over again.


I didn't use a recipe I just threw a bunch of stuff together that sounded like it would work and it did.  Here is what I did:

I blanched an entire bag of spinach for literally 10 seconds in boiling water and then pulled it out.  I then cooked the noodles in the same spinach enriched water for about 7 minutes.  While the pasta was cooking I mixed together a tub or ricotta, half a bag of shredded mozzarella, a handful of parmesan, the blanched spinach chopped, and a garlic clove minced.  When the noodles have cooked drain them and run cold water over them so that they are cool enough to handle.  Put a fourth a cup of tomato sauce and a dash of water in the bottom of a glass pan.  Stuff the shells and line them up in the glass pan.  Top with remaining sauce and cover with foil.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes then uncover and sprinkle on remaining half of mozarella and bake for another 20 minutes.  Give it 5-10 minutes to cool out of the oven.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Honey Labels

I finally got around to making labels for our jars of honey.  We will be gifting some this year for Christmas and it was about time to get them gift giving ready.  I just used Avery labels because they are supposed to be partnering up with Martha Stewart.  Her team will be creating templates and designs just for Avery.  Unfortunately I couldn't find her templates, I think it's a young partnership and the products are not fully developed. 

I did however find a flower and a bee icon among their options and put them together on our label.  Over all I am happy with how they turned out and think it is really cute.  They did print slightly off center to the left, but it wasn't so bad that I was willing to throw a whole sheet out and start over.  Actually the perfectionist in me was willing to redo them but Andy said they looked just fine.  I think the recipients of these bottles will be quite pleased!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cranberry Chutney

I make cranberry chutney every year around the holidays.  Cranberries are in season and it is a great relish for any holiday cheese plate.  It is also delicious with meat, in sandwiches or spread on crackers.  It is super simple to make and I freeze it in small batches to pull out and use throughout the year.  I am sure you could can it easily based on the amount of vinegar that is in the recipe but this time of year I just don't have the time to can and freezing it is easy.

1 12oz bag of cranberries
1 cup of each of the following ingredients: raisins, chopped onions, granny smith apples peeled and diced, sugar and white vinegar.
3/4 cup of both chopped celery and water
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cloves

Put it all in a pan and simmer away until the most of the cranberries burst, the raisins plump and it is hard to tell all the different bits apart.  This normally takes 45 minutes to an hour.  You can do multiple batches at the same time in one pot.  I have done a quadruple batch in one pot before.  It just takes longer to cook than a single batch.  I estimate about 45 minutes per batch in the pot and know it's done when it reaches the right look and consistency.


I harvested a whole bunch of Rosemary.  Rosemary will not make it through the winter here and I don't want it to go to waste.  I like to allow it to grow as big as possible and then cut a bunch, dry it in the dehydrator and package it up nicely for holiday gifts.


I still like to leave some of the plant to have fresh Rosemary for as long as possible until Winter finally kills it.

I always find it amazing how a big basket of Rosemary once stripped of it's branches doesn't look like that much.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Outings

Over the weekend we went to the zoo's Festival of Lights.  We haven't been in a couple of years so it was nice to go.  But we didn't stay all that long because we just weren't up to dealing with the crowds.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dressing Up Cans

I have been dressing up cans getting ready to gift them for the holidays.  My preferred way to make them look nice is to glue scrapbook paper to the lids and then tie ribbon around the bands.  This year I am trying labels from Ball that are supposed to dissolve off cleanly when washed so the can can be reused. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Leek, Parsnip and Potato Soup

The December Martha Stewart Living has a leek and parsnip soup recipe which I found perfect considering those are the items coming out of the garden right now.  I call it leek, parsnip and potato because potatoes are just as integral to this recipe as the leek and potatoes.  Unfortunately I can not find the online version of the recipe, it seems while the issue is on newsstands they want you to have to go buy it to get the recipes.

 First you cook down the leeks

 The most interesting step is that you cover the leeks with parchment while cooking to keep in the moisture.

 Once the leeks are soft you add in the parsnips, potatoes, 2 bay leaves and chicken stock.  The recipe also called for water.  I however did not have the amount of leeks the recipe called for so I reduced the amount of potatoes and parsnips proportionally and did not add any water.  I also like a thicker soup.  At the end after blending you add in just a little bit of milk.

We enjoyed the soup drizzled with a little olive oil along with a white cheddar and tomato jam grilled cheese. YUM!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Winter Harvesting

The weather has officially turned to from Fall to Winter despite what the calendar says.

After being able to loosen the soil and get some leeks and parsnips I finally got around to taking some precautions to make sure that I can harvest them later in the Winter.  I planted both specifically because they can last in the ground through the Winter.  I would be thrilled to get anything from the garden in the middle of January and February.

The chard has seen their last days and did not make it through the frost we have been having.  I pulled them out and used their leaves along with the harvested leek tops to insulate the soil around the leeks still in the ground.  I then piled old leaves on top of the parsnips.  Hopefully both of these efforts will keep the soil from freezing and allow me to harvest through the winter.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I was afraid the ground had completely frozen and I wouldn't be able to harvest one of my leeks but after allowing the Sun to work its magic I was able to loosen the soil to get some leeks and more parsnips.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Winter Window Box

Summer flowers might be long gone but that doesn't mean my window box is empty.  You can buy branches at a nursery but I hate paying for something that is readily available for free.  They may not have a perfectly uniform, polished look of store bought branches but I like them just the same.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Correspondence


It is that time of the year again to mail out Christmas cards.  Some people look at is as a chore but I enjoy it especially with a Christmas movie on.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Growing Garlic

This year I planted Fall garlic because all of the Spring planted garlic I have tried has had poor results.  I planted the garlic last month after our first real frost.  Just recently I noticed the garlic has been growing and has started to come up.  We have had some milder weather than usual.  I am not sure if this is what should happen yet.  I was under the impression the garlic would get roots established but the green leaves would not grow yet.  I am going to cover them with a blanket of leaves and hope that it is enough protection to keep them safe until Spring.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Butternut Squash

Back in October I was bestowed with a glutton of butternut squash because my Dad had more than he could handle from his garden.  Butternut squash is one of our favorites and I was excited to get them all.  But I have been a bit busy and didn't have a chance to do anything with them.  The Thanksgiving weekend gave me a chance to finally clean them up, peel them and cook them.  I roasted a few pans with sage and pureed the rest for soup bases, most of which went into the freezer for future use.