Monday, April 30, 2012

April Successes and Failures

It's the last day of April and its time to show off this month's fantastic failures and successes.

All of my chitted spinach germinated and then promptly died.  It seems that lettuce is not in my future this Spring.  None of my potatoes have germinated and I figure at this point none of them will.

Most of my radishes and carrotts were not successful.  Some of the radishes grew on the left, everything on the right died.  I have no clue what was wrong with one half of my bed.  I also never got around to another sowing so it looks like I will eat a total of 5 radishes this year.

The lettuces are still tiny.  They were planted on March 17th and in 44 days they have done practically nothing.  Again I have no clue what the issue is. 

This is my bed of Swiss chard.  As you can tell only three of the plants have germinated and continued to grow in the back, I need to reseed the bed to get some more going.


 Despite the blurry picture all of my herbs and garlic are doing really well.

The peas are also sailing along.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pea Pesto

 I have seen various recipes on different versions of pesto, one being pea pesto.  Peas are in season and fresh right now so I thought I would give it a shot.  In true Vanessa fashion I didn't look at a recipe I just used what I already knew about making pesto.  I blanched the peas in salted water for 1 minute and then added them along with a handful of Parmesan, pine nuts and chives to the food processor.  I then pulsed it while streaming in olive oil.

While doing this I cooked whole wheat pasta in the water that the peas were blanched in and sauteed onions and mushrooms.  After tasting I added in a few drop of lemon juice, a pinch of salt, more chives, and a few ladle fulls of hot pasta cooking water to the pesto.  When the pasta was done I tossed all the components together.

I plated the pasta with a wedge of burrata cheese, a fresh mozzarella that has a creamy middle, sprinkled with peas shoots and chive blossoms from the garden.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This year I found a variety of rosemary called "Arp" .  It is supposed to be more cold tolerant and will come back next year.  I say I will believe it when I see it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Vegetable Garden Flowers

It is always enjoyable when the flowers around the house are not just in the mulch beds or hanging baskets.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Harvest

I had my first spring harvest that included more than a sprig of herbs.  When I planted the peas I over planted so that I could harvest some shoots.  The chives are beginning to blossom and I am looking forward to using them in the upcoming days.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day!

Yesterday I went and took a class on sustainable horticulture.  It only helped to fuel my fire and choices to not put down any chemicals or synthetic fertilizers.  I hope on this Earth Day you are considering the choices you make for your family and the impact on our world they have.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spoke Too Soon

A few weeks ago I was cheering that the asparagus did not die over the winter and was coming in.  Although it seems I spoke too soon.  I only ended up with two tiny spears and next to the popsicle stick you can see they aren't worth cheering over.

It appears that the crowns did die when they were exposed around the time we had actually seasonal winter weather, during an ice storm.  So it was time to dig them up and replace them so that I don't loose yet another year since asaparagus crowns have to go at least a year before you can harvest from them.

I thought about ordering live plants but since I was making a last minute decision and wanted to get them in the ground while there was still time I bought crowns from a local nursery.  I went with the all male variety Jersey Knight.  Last year I crowded 16 crowns in a 4x4 area spacing them 12 inches apart.  Asparagus should really be planted about 18 inches apart.  Thinking that maybe overcrowding was part of the issue I replanted the same area with only 9 crowns and then added a tenth off to the side since the package came with 10.

Here's hoping I have better luck this next year!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Long Live The Queen

You met her briefly the other day but let me formally introduce you to Queen Mary who has superseded last year's Queen, Victoria.  Isn't she pretty?  She has a nice large white dot on her back so that we hopefully can find her inside the hive sometime.

After installing the bees on Sunday I left the queen cage in the hive for 3 days before attempting to retrieve it.  The bees had to eat through the sugar candy on the edge of the cage to release her.  During this time hopefully their smells intermingle and they accept her as their own since she was raised separately from the hive.

I figured 3 days was long enough, if you go in too early you have release her yourself or put the cage back and go in again to retrieve it a second time.  Thankfully 3 days was long enough.  I removed the cage, added the frame back in that was removed to accommodate the cage and then closed the hive back up.  I didn't go looking for her.  I figured I would dive back in next week and look for the sign of eggs, a sure sign she in the hive and being productive.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Look at what I got this week, I love 'em!  I went to Tractor Supply Co. the other day looking for a new tomato cage and asparagus crowns.  Going through the aisles I found this pair beckoning to me.  I have been wanting wellies, muck boots, rain boots, whatever you wanna call them for years.  In the beginning they didn't even manufacture them in my size(11).  Then once I could find them in my size the pattern was hideous or they were way out of my price range.

When I tried these puppies on and they fit I was sold.  The pink with chicken weather vanes makes them adorable!  I tried to put them back and walk around to see if I really wanted them.  But there was no leaving without them.  The sticker on the shelf said they were $25 and I thought great I can do that.  But when I got to the counter the rang up $9.99.  You can't beat adorable wellies for ten bucks.  I am going to be gardening in style!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bee Installation

On Sunday after picking up the bees at our monthly meeting we headed home to install the package.  I am happy to report that our second time at installation went smoothly and the bees successfully made it into the hive.  You can find last year's installation here.  We unfortunately did not have our friend, fellow beekeeper, and photographer, Michelle, with us this time to take great pictures of the event so we passed the camera back and forth as we shared the installation jobs.  I think we still ended up with some good ones, here are some of the pictures:

Our package of bees! 

 Ready to install the bees.

 Slam them down to expose the can and queen cage and quickly pull them out.

One lil' lady slipped out before the others.  She was so hungry, she found a glop of honey that dripped from our upper box that is still completely full of honey that the other bees never got to before they died.  She is covered in some sugar water which we sprayed on the bees to calm them down and keep them from flying out immediately.  This is my favorite picture from the whole day.  Go ahead and click on it to see it larger, it really is amazing.

 Removing the cork from the candy side so the queen can be released in a few days once the bees have eaten away the sugar candy.

Meet our new queen, Queen Mary.  This year we bought a marked bee hoping that we will be able to find her later.

 This year we used the big kid method of dump and shake.  Last year we opened the box, put in into an empty super and closed it up.  Then a few days later retrieved the box out of the hive once all the bees had left.  This year we were confident enough to just shake them into the hive.  This method puts a bunch of bees in the air but is easier later on when you aren't fishing a box out of the hive.  You can see our high tech method of duct taping the queen cage in between frames.

 I thought this was adorable how all the bees surrounded another pool of dripped honey.  They were all quite hungry and excited to eat real honey.

The bees are safely in the hive and were traveling in and out within minutes of installation.

Monday, April 16, 2012


I can't really count this as my harvest because I didn't grow it but I did help to pick it from my Dad's over the weekend.  I have asparagus envy, I was wishing our asparagus was able to be picked.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

They're Here!

Our bees are here!  A kind fellow beekeeper went down to Kentucky this morning and picked up bees for many of the members in our beekeeping association.  We are excited to have bees again!

Their car filled with bees, they had more in there, but I didn't think of taking pictures until many of the bees had already been passed out.  Can you imagine driving hours with all those buzzing bees in the back?!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Easter Quiche

This is the tale of the Easter Quiche that didn't want to be . . .

There once was a woman who saw a delicious and holiday worthy Spring quiche recipe.  It was made in a spring form pan and the height of the quiche made it enticing to make for Easter.  She began by making the pastry dough, chilling it, rolling it out and chilling it yet again before baking.  Once ready she filled it with her old rice that she always uses to weight down pie dough and put it in the oven.  Twenty minutes in the woman checked on the pie to see how it was coming along when she noticed the sides had fallen in because she only used enough rice for a regular size pie dish.  In a panic she pulled it out trying to salvage the sides and filled the pie with pasta.   It looked a little rough (quite sad actually) but she thought it might work.

Once done baking she went to remove the rice and pasta only to realize she had forgotten to line the pastry with parchment and had baked uncooked rice into it.  At this point she had blanched and sauteed all the fillings and was determined to make the quiche.  So she pitched the disaster and started over again.  This time lining the pastry with parchment and the proper amount of rice.

The woman did not use recipes often and when she did she changed them to suit her needs and available ingredients.  She decided to fill her quiche with asparagus, leeks from the garden, fresh peas, mushrooms and garlic.  She didn't have the whole milk and heavy cream the recipe called for but instead substituted the skim milk and half and half that was in her fridge.  Most of the time these substitutions had worked for her but she soon found out that the thinner consistency of these products weren't up to par for this dish.

After the quiche was in the oven about a half an hour she again checked on it's progress to find that the thin egg mixtures had seeped out through a few of the tiny cracks in the crust through the spring form pan and into the pan below that was meant to catch possible bubbling over.  Half of her filling was no longer in the quiche but in the pan below.  Again in another state of panic she decided to crank up the heat to let the bottom set and then would add a thicker egg mixture to the the top.

Thinking her quiche would be done in about two hours, three hours later the quiche still needed a bit more time but it was time for her to depart to a family function.  Already being a half hour late and no other options she turned the oven off and left the quiche in the oven hoping as it cooled down the quiche would finish baking.

Upon returning home she peered into the oven to find the quiche fully cooked.  A bit browner than she would have liked but at last ready to eat.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Duck Dynasty

Over the weekend Andy and I came upon a new show, Duck Dynasty.  It hillbilly, red neck and hilarious.  The Robertson's have some one liners that are funny statements themselves but the delivery is what makes it over the top.  Here are some of the gems we heard this weekend:

I have caught thousands of frogs.  I am a frog's nightmare, little tadpoles have nightmares about me 'cause I go in and I take them out.  I was just born that way.

Don't marry some yuppie girl.  Find you a meek, gentle, kind spirited, country girl.  If she knows how to cook and she carries her bible and she loves to eat bull frog, now there's a woman.  See what I am saying.  Just cause she looks a little homely that's all right.  It's a hard to get a pretty one that cooks and carries a bible.

The first prerequisite for a marrying a woman in my opinion: Can. She. Cook?  You gonna be there for 50 years and you don't even know whether she can cook!  What kinda thinking is that?  Well, we'll just live off love.  Not really, you'll starve to death.

Beavers are like the Viet Cong.  They move around at night and live in holes in the ground.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Potted Up

I potted up all of the sunflowers.  They will probably have to be put into larger pots before they can go outside.  Every year our sunflowers get dug up or eaten by the squirrels.  I am hoping by allowing them to get to a more significant size the squirrels won't touch them once they go out.  

Saturday, April 7, 2012


The seeds that I planted last week are each coming in at their own pace.  The sunflowers in the middle are doing really well and are ready to be potted up.  The basil on the right is small but doing well, while the snap dragons on the left are teeny tiny and have spotty germination.

That tiny little seedling is a snapdragon.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday Chores

We do not have a self cleaning oven.  So when it gets dirty you have to roll up your sleeves and get in there, you can't just push a button.  I wish I could just push a button.  Our oven is coated in burnt on grease from roasting whole chickens and what not.  Regular soap and water is not going to take it off.  In my attempt to remove cleaning chemicals from our life using Easy Off isn't really my first choice.  The idea of cooking food in an oven that might be burning off those chemicals onto my food is not appetizing.

Awhile back I tore out an article from Martha Stewart Living where they gave a tutorial cleaning the oven using baking soda.  I decided to use my Good Friday off work to give the method a try.  You mix 3/4 cup baking soda with 1/4 cup water.  Then brush the paste all over the oven and let it sit overnight.  The next day use a plastic scrapper to remove the paste, wetting as needed.

I am too impatient to let it sit overnight so I let it sit for about 3 hours.  I was really skeptical that baking soda would clean some of the seriously baked on grease.  After three hours it didn't take it all off, it really only took a little off.  But I didn't think it would clean anything and it definitely did do some cleaning.  I am sure if I left it on overnight it would have done a much better job.  I will probably try it the right way again in a month or two.  My only complaint is that it was messy to clean up and a lot of work for it to only be partially clean.  For now we have an oven liner on the bottom of the oven to help prevent future messes.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring Pizza

I have always enjoyed cooking.  But recently I have been going through a period where cooking feels like a chore.  My work schedule has become more demanding and I just haven't had the time or energy.  With the entrance of Spring I have been getting my cooking mojo back.  The availability of fresh Spring produce has helped to excite my passion for cooking again.

This week I made a Spring Pizza.  Per usual I didn't use a recipe, I based it on a recipe I read earlier this month.  I bought the whole wheat pizza dough and rolled it out.  For the sauce I made a white sauce.  Use equal parts butter and flour (about 1 TBS) to make a roux.  Melt the butter in a sauce pan and then whisk in flour letting it cook for just a minute.  Then slowly stream in milk (1-2 cups) whisking as you go to remove lumps.  Simmer the sauce until thick enough to spread.

For the topping I used leeks, mushrooms, asparagus, fontina cheese and fresh mozzarella.  Saute the leeks and mushrooms prior to putting them on the pizza.  After spreading the sauce sprinkle on the fontina, then add on the veggies and finish with a few pieces of fresh mozzarella.  Bake in an oven at 350 degrees per dough instructions or until bottom is golden brown.  After baking I drizzled it with of my pesto thinned out with olive oil.

With a simple spinach salad it made a perfect Spring dinner!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I have been watching our asparagus beds carefully for a couple of weeks now waiting for them to come up.  I was starting to get worried that their mid-winter exposure might have killed them off and they weren't going to come up at all.  In fact I figured if they didn't come up by the end of this week I would need to go buy new roots to start over with.

But then after our mulching project I was surveying the garden when I spied this guy.  He sprung up over night because the day before I had scoured the bed looking very closely hoping to see a sign of asparagus and found nothing.  Here is hoping the rest follow along soon!

Monday, April 2, 2012


Of course after mulching the entire garden I had to take some aerial pictures of the neat and clean garden.  The garden only looks this nice once a year, on the day we mulch.