Sunday, January 29, 2012

Out of Commission

Things have been quiet over here because I have been struggling with vertigo for over a week.  I went to bed feeling fine one night and woke up the next morning with my world spinning.  I have been to the doctor twice the first time being told it would pass and then when it didn't the second time I was given some antibiotics and other meds in an attempt to kick it.  I am hoping that the medication works but I know that if it was caused by a virus it has to pass on it's own.  Although there are many ways you can get vertigo and there is no way to determine which cause it is.

Other than going to work when absolutely necessary I have spent most of my days laying on the couch trying not to move and aggravate the dizziness.  The worst part is that in all this resting my body feels fine and I am itching to be productive.  But my head does need the rest which means no reading or being on the computer.  I have watched way too much crappy TV the past few days and I think my brain cells are dying a slow death.  Today I was up for reading and catching up with blogs and I am jealous of all the planning and work people have had the chance to do.  I feel like I have wasted two perfectly good weekends on doing nothing.  Yes, calling pity party for one.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Four Season Harvest

Eliot Coleman has a wealth of knowledge especially in multi-season gardening which is why I got this book.  I read his Winter Harvest Handbook first and felt that this book overlapped a lot with the other book.  I wish I had read them in opposite order because Winter Harvest Handbook expands on the Four Season Harvest.  This book has a lot of great info for gardeners beginning to think outside the "regular" gardening season.  I personally didn't get too much from this book because most of the information I have already been exposed to.  However I did like the detailed instructions for cold frame and greenhouse construction.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Getting Organized

Before ordering seeds I need to organize the seeds I have to determine what I want more of and what I don't need.  Last year I stored all my seeds in a Ziploc bag but this year I decided I wanted something that kept them sorted and more organized.

I went to the craft store in search of an inexpensive recipe box to put the seeds in but instead found this box.  It was only $3, cheaper than the recipe boxes, deeper than a recipe box, sturdier, and has a clasp so that the packets won't tumble out if it accidentally gets dropped or jostled around.

For now I have pieces of left over card stock from other projects as dividers between groups and filling tabs as labels.  I would like to have dividers that fit properly but these work for now.  I have already filled this one up so I might just have to go get another.

I was thinking I could use old seed packets to decoupage onto the box.  Although these are the only seed packets I have left.  There isn't much variety in them and I write the year they were bought on the outside so I am not thrilled with my selection.  I am tempted to go buy packets that look pretty just to use for this project which would make an inexpensive project pricier.

Monday, January 23, 2012


It might seem that I have my first harvest of 2012 but really these are 2011 harvests.  The beans and cilantro seed were pulled back in early fall and then life got busy so they sat in the garage until this weekend.  I finally shelled the beans and pulled the seeds off the old stalks.  I ended up saving about 2 ounces of cilantro seed and will have plenty for this upcoming season.

 A whole whopping 2 ounces of Kenearly Yellow Eye beans.  

 The Jacob's Cattle beans are beautiful, speckled with red and white.  However the measly 2.5 ounces may not have been worth the garden space they took up.  I am really going to have to consider if I want to try them again this year or grow something more productive.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Last night we got freezing rain and ice, everything is coated in a quarter inch of ice.  If you don't need to go anywhere it looks quite pretty.  It doesn't look like it will melt today but tomorrow we are going to warm up enough.


 The ice makes the window box look gorgeous!

 The hive is also covered in ice and icicles.

Dead bees encased in ice.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


This week we registered for the Southwest Ohio beekeeper school in March.  I went last year and really enjoyed it; this year Andy is going to join me .  But even though we are going together we are actually going to seperate sessions.  We each have different areas of interest in bees and this way we can tell each other about what we heard and learn more than if we both go to the same sessions.

I am looking forward to hearing about assessing the queen's productivity and finding her, a beginning beekeeper refresher course, diseases of the hive, and "think like a bee" about colony behavior.  Andy will be learning about how to be an advocate for bees, tips for removing bees from structures, native bees of Ohio, and bottling & marketing honey.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


All the leaves that I had piled on top of the parsnips and garlic to insulate them from freezing has blown away.  I try to not spend unnecessary dollars in the garden but I finally had to break down and buy some straw so that I could protect them from the freezing temps we have been having.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day Off

Yesterday I had a day off work and I choose to get a head start on my cooking for the week.  I made:

French Onion Soup,
Roasted Chicken,
Beef Barley Soup,

Homemade Chicken Stock (for the first time),

And Manicotti that was for yesterday's dinner but I didn't get to take a picture before we ate it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Still Alive

You wouldn't believe it from the frigid temperatures we had over the weekend but last week we had some very seasonable weather.  We even had two days that were above 50 degrees.  Which meant that I wanted to pop open the top of the hive to see if there was any movement and life inside. 

I opened the hive to find some dead bees in the top but also to find the hive alive and doing well.  In fact the bees hadn't even made it up to the top box yet.  The top box was still filled with capped honey.  Despite the fact that there was still plenty of food for the bees I poured a couple cups of granulated sugar on the inner cover as an emergency food source just in case I can't get in again before spring to assess food stores.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that they make it about two months more when they get to start foraging and creating new bees.

 Alive bees climbing up to see what is going on.  If you look closely you might be able to tell that on that frame is still capped honey.

 I probably should have brushed the dead bees away before pouring on the sugar.  But I wanted to get in fast, check that there was still signs of life and close it back up quickly since it was still chilly.

Friday, January 13, 2012

2011 Brasiccas, Herbs, Pepper and Eggplant Reviews

Premium Crop Broccoli - It is going to be awhile before I grow broccoli again.  These were extremely slow to grow.  Out of 6 plants I ended up with one head before I had to pull them all out because they were infested with cabbage moth caterpillars and I needed the space for other plants.

Toscano Kale - I was really pleased with the growth, size and flavor of the Kale.  Next year I just need to put row cover over them so that I can enjoy them before the cabbage moth caterpillars do too.

Bouquet Dill - This was my first experience growing dill.  It took longer than I anticipated for it to germinate and get growing but once it did they were quite large, hardy and the flavor was wonderful.

Barbecue Rosemary - I won't start picking my rosemary until it has a good amount of growth going on, so I felt like I was waiting forever before I could start picking and still be left with a healthy plant.  But by the end of the season my rosemary was huge.  The flavor was wonderful but I felt the leaves were more tender to the cold than other varieties I have grown.

Red Beauty Red Pepper - I gave the pepper the sunniest, warmest spot in the entire garden.  I ended up with one green pepper by the end of the season.  I don't think I get enough sun to grow really great peppers.  I was thinking I might have better success next year trying them in a pot or I might give up all together on peppers.

Classic Eggplant - This plant was the workhorse of the garden this year.  We were supplied with an abundance of deep purple, glossy fruit.  I was absolutely thrilled with the harvest and quality of this plant.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011 Lettuce, Radish, Carrot, Parsnip Reviews

Lettuce- I grew the following varities: Black Seeded Simpson, New Red Fire, Beleah Rose, Red Sails, Arugula, Baby Romaine, Rouge d'Hiver, Buttercrunch, Q's Specialty Mix, Space Spinach, New Zealand Spinach, Vegetable Amaranth, and Mache.  All were disappointing.  I don't know if I got my lettuce in too late or not but by the time they got large enough to pick all the lettuce was bitter.  In the Fall it was the same story.  Some of the following varieties completely fell flat and didn't even germinate.  I will try a few again but overall I am doing a major overhaul in picking lettuces this year.  We eat lots of salad and we want lots of lettuce to pick next year.

Radishes - I grew the following varieties: Cherry Belle, Purple Plum, and French Breakfast.  I loved the colors this year.  I'm not sure if I left them in the ground too long but they all seemed to be a bit hot and too spicy for my liking.  They were all also smaller than I would like so I am going to try different varities.

Carrots - This year I tried Red Cored Chatenay and Cosmic Purple.  I was seduced by the colors of these carrots and thought I would give them a try.  They were ok but I wasn't in love with their flavor.  And for the amount of work it takes to carefully seed them and thin them I'm not sure if I will include them next year.  I really want to try some winter varieties that are supposed to get sweeter with frosts.

Hollow Crown Parsnips - This was my first year for parsnips and I loved growing them.  Many were much larger than I anticipated and I delighted in having a late fall harvest.  Some of the roots were weirdly shaped and mangled but overall I was very pleased with them and will definitely be planting them again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2011 Bean, Leek, Garlic, Onion Reviews

Tendergreen Snap Green Bean - I was happy with this variety.  It grew quickly and provided one main crop with a second picking.  I liked that it was a bush variety and didn't need to be trellised.  The beans were typical green beans with good flavor.

Royal Burgundy Snap Beans - These beans are a wonderful deep purple.  I picked them specifically just for the color.  They were prolific bushy plants.  My only wish is that they held their color when cooked.

Kenearly Yellow & Jacobs Cattle - Both of these drying beans did similarly.  Both had trouble with disease and were spotted with yellow and brown splotches.  The harvest was mediocre.  I have extra seeds so I might try them again but I'm not sure if it is worth the space.  I will have to try the beans soon and decide if they have excellent flavor worth taking up the space.

American Flag Large Leeks - This was my first time growing leeks.  I was overall happy with the final plants.  Some were very large, some skinny.  I still have some in the ground waiting to be picked, I want to see how well they do with in ground winter storage.

California Garlic - This is a soft neck variety that did poorly two years in a row.  Every bulb was tiny and if I was lucky some were small.  I don't ever want to try this variety again.

Yellow Stuttgarter - These onions also did poorly.  All of my onions were tiny and small.  It might be my clay soil, despite the fact that I have amended it and loosened it.  But I am still on the quest for an onion that does great for me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2011 Squashes, Melons, Cucumber Reviews

Aristocrat & Dark Star Zucchini - I have lumped these together because I didn't really notice one doing better or worse than the other.  Both provided me with a start of good fruit but overall they succumbed to powdery mildew early on.  However they did better than last year's zucchini that never produced anything.

Supersett Summer Squash - The summer squash did the same as the zucchini.  They started off well but were overtaken by powdery mildew.

Spaghetti Squash - I grew a non identified variety from a big box store, which was the only place I could find spaghetti squash.  The squash did not do well.  I got two medium sized squashes and again this squash had the same fate as the others, powdery mildew.

Homemade Pickles Cucumber - I bought this start at the garden center because it was the only pickling variety available.  I was happy with the cucumbers and the amount we were starting to get.  They made delicious refrigerator pickles.  But the plant died from bacterial wilt half way through the season.

Sugar Baby Watermelon - The plant grew two baby watermelons but I left one on the vine too long and lost it.  I was happy with the watermelon we got.  It took up a lot of space so I don't plan on growing one again because in our small garden I want to maximize our growing potential.  But I would definitely try this variety again if I decide to grow watermelons some other time.

Monday, January 9, 2012

2011 Tomato Reviews

As I pick out seeds for next year I need to look back at the success and failures of 2011 to determine what to include again and what to leave behind.  Here are the results of my 2011 tomatoes.

Arkansas Traveler - I loved this tomato and plan on including it again.  It is a reliable tomato that constantly produces small/medium pink tomatoes that rarely cracks with wonderful flavor.  They are perfect for canning whole.

San Marzano - This tomato is revered as the King Italian paste.  I don't think I will ever grow it again.  More than half of the tomatoes on this plant had blossom end rot when none of the other varieties I grew had blossom end rot.  The plant provided an OK amount of tomatoes but even if none had been lost to blossom end rot I would have to grow multiple plants in order to have enough for a canning batch.

Black Krim - This variety provided me with large quantities of large, juicy tomatoes.  It is a black variety and one that I would be happy to include again.  I think next year I would like to try a different purple/black variety to see which would be my favorite.  The only downfall is that they do crack easily after a heavy rainfall.

Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes - This was the second year for this variety in my garden.  Last year they did better and provided more.  They have great flavor and in the past had been abundant.  This year the plant wasn't sparse but I might want to try a different variety next year just because.

Brandywine - This year I had to try the variety that was revered by many.  And I have to say I understand why.  This large heirloom has wonderful flavor but they do crack easily.  The plants aren't prolific and I had to fight the squirrels and deer for them but I am planning on including them again next year.

Pineapple - I grew this plant for a second time.  Last year it didn't do well but the tomatoes are large and gorgeous pink/red and yellow stripped so I thought I would give it a second try.  But the plant grew maybe six tomatoes and I lost at least half to the squirrels.  I don't plan on ever growing this variety again.

Yellow Plum - This is another variety that I grew for a second time.  Again I wanted this one for its unique shape and visual attractiveness.  But all of mine were oval and not the chic pear shape.  The flavor and texture is mediocre so I doubt I will grow them again unless in a couple of years I stupidly want to try to grow them for aesthetics again.

Jubilee - This was a nice orange variety that grew a decent amount of medium sized fruits.  They rarely cracked and were consistent in size, color, taste and texture.  This variety didn't wow me but I would possibly include it again for its dependability.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Winter Harvest Handbook

While looking for a different Eliot Coleman book I ran across this one and was intrigued to see what could be done in the garden during the winter.  Eliot Coleman mainly writes for the small scale organic farmer and many of his greenhouse techniques aren't exactly applicable to my 300 sq. ft. greenhouseless garden.  But that being said I still really gained from the information I read.  He discusses the use of cold frames and gave me some ideas of how I could extend my growing season.  Additionally he explains how to properly tend plants in the winter, methods that have worked best for him, and varieties that have been winter work horses.  I highly suggest this book as a framework for what is possible beyond our typical growing seasons.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Zinnia Seed

I have been browsing my seed catalogs deciding what to get for next year.  In addition to veggies I also like to pick out a few flowers for cutting.  It helps to feed my love of indoor arrangements and curb my desire to buy some at the farmers market.  Last year the only variety that worked out really well for me were Zinnias.

This year I plan to try out a couple of different types from last year other than the Zinnias.  I was at my Dad's over the holidays discussing seeds when I found out his wife, Connie, saved all of her Zinnia seeds from last year.  So I was sent home with a lovely and large bag of mixed Zinnia seeds.  I am looking forward to planting them next year and seeing what pops up.  Now I just need to pick out all of the other seeds.

Friday, January 6, 2012

An Innocent Red Pepper?

This red pepper looks like a healthy, robust, delicious, innocent red pepper.  In reality it is an anxiety, stress inducing red pepper.

To explain we need to start at the beginning.  Since getting married I have been the queen of the kitchen.  Which means I have planned, cooked and bought the food for every meal in our house.  That includes packing lunches for both of us Monday-Friday.  Some people roll their eyes at this thinking I spoil my husband.  But really it works best for our household to have one cook in the kitchen.  It's easier for me to plan meals that share ingredients and to pack lunches that use whats on hand.  It saves on our fridge space and food bills.

I have to admit sometimes after I get home from work, cook dinner, clean up dinner, do other chores and get ready for the next day; packing lunches can be a monotonous, painful chore when I am just ready to collapse for the day.  Andy recognizes my amount of work and has decided on his own accord he wants to take some of the work off my plate by packing his own lunches.  To me this is a priceless gift.

Or so I thought. In addition to wanting to pack the lunches he wants to shop for the food.  So earlier this week we went to the grocery store together.  While in the produce department Andy was seduced by all the glowing, glossy, colorful, bright fruits and veggies.  You might be thinking what's wrong with this, its better than buying processed crap.  But everything he was picking up had been grown conventionally, out of season and thus shipped from somewhere south of Mexico.  So of course my insides were screaming as he picked each item up.

I thought he shared the exact same thoughts and beliefs as I did when it came to spending our food dollars.   I consciously make choices hoping to change market demands and the direction of our food system.  What I discovered was that he supports my choices, thinks they are spot on and believes in them in theory.  But when it comes to him making choices at the store he doesn't worry about it.  In the moment he wants what he wants.  This. drives. me. crazy.

So as he picked up each item I might have made remarks or shaken my head.  Of course this stressed him out and caused me anxiety about what was going into our cart.  In the moment I was wishing he promised to do the dishes every night instead of packing his lunches.  It seems that we have some distance to go before we are on the same page.  I do have to admit I still buy some conventionally grown or out of season items, I'm not perfect.  But many of my shopping habits have changed drastically.

A day later we talked about our stressful, anxiety ridden shopping experience.  Andy admitted to not practicing what he believes and agrees to work towards being more thoughtful in his shopping.  I agree that I have to chill out.  I don't want to be that crazy, crunchy lady that weirds people out.  My overall goal is to help incite change and prove its possible & cool to live a more sustainable life, not scare people away.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

City Boy

We attend the Wood County Fair every summer.  And every summer Andy talks about wanting to have a belt buckle to wear.  He wants to be as cool as the real farmers.  Last year he acquired a John Deere hat in an attempt to blend in with the locals.  This Christmas he delightfully received a John Deere belt buckle!  However it didn't come with directions and this is not something city boys are naturally taught how to do.  It took him awhile to figure out how to put it on.

Watch out folks he is ready to take the fair by storm!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


The Kennedy's celebrate the holidays in Petosky, Michigan every year from December 26th -30th.  This was the first time ever that we arrived and there was no snow.  Normally we arrive with a good foot on the ground already, the only snow around was the man-made kind on the slopes.  Unfortunately this meant there was no sledding or ice skating this year.  However we still had a lovely time.  I normally take a slew of pictures but these are the only few I got this year:
 Normally the bay is covered in ice and snow and too treacherous to venture out this far.

 A few of the 18 Kennedys in attendance on this trip.

 On our last morning the bay started to look how we normally see it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

On Our Way Home

We spent five days in Michigan after Christmas.  On our way home it was apparent it was hunting season and we were in deer country.  We saw both of these cars within an hour of each other.

Monday, January 2, 2012


It wasn't in the forecast but we woke up this morning to some snow blowing around and accumulating a bit.  It isn't much but at least its something.  We didn't get our dose of holiday snow on our Michigan trip so now it really feels like winter!

We even have icicles on the beehive!