Adventures in cooking sustainably, healthfully, and locally

Until Dave puts the kybosh on it anyway.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

One More Season

If this year doesn't go well again, I want to say that this is my last season of veggie gardening.  But every year when gardening doesn't go well, I say that and every year I come back to try again.

Such is the life of a brown/black thumb who so badly wants to be a greenie.

The weather has turned toward springtime here in Colorado and I'm chomping at the bit to start my garden.  This year we're trying something different: a container garden with drip irrigation.  What is on the list?

1. Tomatoes.  I have yet to have a good tomato crop.  Year one I was punched with rot and year two was that blasted hail storm.  This year, I'm trying one - just one - tomato plant.  Because I'm a masochist.

2. Peas.  I'm going to admit that the only reason peas are on the list is because they are an early season plant that I can see us eating.  And I want to be able to start planting in April.

3. Spinach.  On the list for the same reason as #2.  I tried last year (hail chewed it to pieces.)  I'm going to give it one more year.  We do eat a lot of spinach in this house, so I'm really pulling for this one.

4. Zucchini.  Year one we had a bumper crop, last year we had nothing.  I hear that zucchini are hit or miss here in CO so we'll continue to try.

5. Jalapenos.  We had a good crop last year.  Going to try again.

A friend of mine might have some leftover seedlings that she may give me, some peppers I believe.  So I might try those again this year.  Not that I've ever had any luck with green peppers, but there you go.  I went through my seed stash and it appears that I have bush beans and bush cucumbers, so I might try those as well.  Small, simple garden this year.  Something has got to work, right?  Maybe this simplicity plus automatic watering will help.  Otherwise this'll be my last year.


Friday, June 1, 2012

So... now what?

I wanted to post some pics, but our camera is MIA.  So just the glorious vision of my typewritten words...


Confession: I'm not very good at this.  My thumb is brown, at best.  Not even a green brown, like a baby poop brown.  Brown, fading into black.

Things that work against me include my flakiness and my inability to really tell if soil is wet, damp, or dry (this also hindered me in the field when doing my good ol' soil sampling.  I also was a lousy field geologist, come to think on it, so maybe this is related...).

I inherited that orchid, right?  I was checking it daily.  Wet, wet, wet, wet.  So I stop checking it daily.  Checked it last week.  Result? Bone dry.  Leaves are drooping.  I only hope I can salvage that beautiful beast.

The african violet?  Same story.  Wet, wet, wet, wet.  Check it last week?  Bone dry.  That little sucker isn't going to make it.

My hanging potted plants.  Dropped $30 on those!  Went away for Memorial Day because they were holding their moisture so well, but when I got home one was half dead.

My rose.  Sizzled.  My new rose that was mail ordered is so small and pathetic, I'm almost regretting buying it. Heck, from Home Depot, I could get a happy, healthier, bigger plant for the same price and I could have at least a season to kill it.  This little guy, not sure if I even have a season.

Heaven help the things we consume.  Garden isn't doing bad... yet.

Hobbies are precious things, things we do because we want to.  Because we love it.  Reading is an awesome habit for me because it's almost free.

Gardening, on the other hand, is not.  Sure, weeding is free (which reminds me, the berm has gone wild again...).  For how much I spend on flowers and veggies each season, and then I get so little return... not sure if this is a good hobby anymore.

I suppose I'm tired of getting so excited about the possibilities and then, despite my best efforts, it all dies.  Tomatoes rotted.  Peppers non-existent.  *sigh*

So I'm considering tossing in the towel and maybe just focusing on killing just flowers instead of veggies, and even then, only a couple.  Go to rock-scaping and have nothing live to kill.  Invest all that money that I'm quite literally burying in the ground only to disappear and instead... get a manicure.  Pick up a cheaper hobby... like...

Writing?  Heh!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tis the Season

I know that we aren't the only ones with magnificent weather waaaay to early in the season.  But I'll take it!  I've been trying to work on the garden with Gracie, and so far, so good.  Well, except my last season rose bush.  I didn't keep up with the rabbit deterrents enough and those bastards nibbled it to the ground again.  It currently has a plastic holey crate over the stub.  I think it'll be too late.

Here are some pics of the work done so far:

Our serviceberries were being attacked by ravenous mule deer, and so I hung a chunk of Irish Spring from a branch.  No deer has come back since.  Keeping fingers crossed!

I desperately wanted color in the front yard, but just couldn't afford to deck out the whole yard with new annual landscaping.  So I spent $30 on some marigolds, moss roses, and a dianthus (and English daisies, but they don't do well in full sun).  So now we have a nice little pop of color in our front yard.  I like it.

That little speck of green may or may not be squash returning from our failed attempt last year.  So I'm going to water it and if it turns out to be a veggie, great!  If not, the best cared for weed ever!

Spinach is already popping up!  I'm labeling the veggies this year with scrap wood and magic marker.

The broccoli bucket.  With a broccoli sign.

Some broccoli coming up!

More broccoli coming up!

I'm going to admit it.  I was lazy with the broccoli and the spinach.  They have such tiny seeds ... so I just sort of dumped the whole packet in the barrel and the raised bed.  I thinned the broccoli this morning, and I need to do it with the spinach too.  I was more precise with planting my potatoes this morning.

Now that things are starting to grow, I need to deter the wildlife some more.  Blood meal, Irish Spring, and Bobbex.

On deck: gooseberries, onions, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, double knock out rose bush, blue fescue, creeping phlox, shade wild flowers, and getting those daisies in the ground.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

WHAT? A New Post?

In JANUARY no less?

What can I say... I'm chomping at the bit.  I got my Jung's Seed Catalog, and I got all excited 'n' stuff.  Then I talked to my dear sister-in-law Leslie and she clued me into this little gem.  THEN my friend Lisa showed me this calculator on when to start seeds indoors, and I was a goner.  I must.  Dream.  Of gardening.

So allow me to dream a little bit here.  The following are plans, Big Fantastic Plans, that may or may not actually happen.

1. This is the northeast corner of our lot where the pre-existing lilac bushes live.  They have a combination of light and dark flowers in the spring, but I also have a lot of dead branches that need to be cut off.  Also note the bare patch of ground at the bottom.

This place gets a lot of shade; in fact, the whole north side of the property is a thick layer of ice due to the lack of sunlight that it gets.  It does get a little, as evidenced above, but not much.  So if I want to plant some flowers in that bare patch, it needs to deal with heat but with shade.
The plan?  Find appropriate flowers.  Also, transplant some flowering branches to the front yard to spread the lilac love.

2. This is the east fence line that abuts the open space.  Off picture to the left are the lilacs in #1.  We have chicken wire along the fence to keep the dogs from just going through the fence and running rampant in the open space.
 The plan?  We had originally thought about planting rose bushes at each post, a la #3, but as detailed in #3, something devoured our roses this last fall (to the ground, yo) and I'm not sure I want to invest that much money on something that will be eaten.  So my additional thoughts are some sort of dog-friendly ivy.

3. My experimental rose bush on the southeast corner of our house, right next to the shed.  It gets oodles of lovely sunshine.  It was $15 at the Home Depot and vigorous throughout the summer.  Always blooming, always green.
 Until it got ate.  It could have been the bunnies or deer.  So I need to replant this spot.
The plan?  I'm so tempted to replace my rose and drop a bit of Irish Spring bar soap to deter nibblers.  By the way, that is how Tagawa Gardens encouraged me to deter the nibblers.  Irish Spring has a powerful scent that animals hate.  After our front yard bushes got bitch slapped by the local fauna spring 2011, I bought a bunch of it.  We'll see if it works this spring...  Anyway, I did love this rose, considering how easy it was to take care of.  Depending on budget, I may just try it again.

4. In the background is the back yard, looking at the east fence line.  This is our south line, and because of the tall security fence on the right, there is a ton of shade in this area.  This fence line is also a favorite of the dogs for digging and getting muddy.  So in the backyard, we're thinking about putting a 2' strip of stone along that fence to deter digging.  No flowers.  However, in the foreground, it is a different story.

Although shaded, this is where our whiskey barrel planters will be placed.  Currently, the barrels are on the front stoop and I have found it impossible to keep anything alive in the barrels because of the ungodly heat and sunshine.  Everything burns and dies there.  But here it could be a different story.

The plan?  I believe this will be the spot for our 1 tomato plant and a mini herb garden.

5. Our raised beds.  
 The plan?  Replace all the soil.  Those are pine needles in there, and the planter in the background performed very poorly this year.  Then, plant a variety of goodies, including onions, potatoes, spinach, and jalapeno peppers.

6. The experimental strip of nothing along the north side of our driveway.  The squash and popping corn did grow... eventually.  And in all fairness I really didn't water it all that much.
 The plan?  Not sure on this one.  Originally I was planning on building another raised bed and seeing if improved soil would yield different results.  Now I'm just thinking about mulching it all and calling it a day.

7. The north side of our house.  To the right (off camera) are the other two raised beds.  Here is where I plan on building my third.
 The plan?  Strawberries and zucchini.

8. Along the west side of our house in the front yard.
 The plan?  I want to replace all that stone with mulch.  I plan on moving the stone to the back yard south fence line (for that 2' strip) and lovingly surrounding our mugo pines, dying mini lilac, sand cherries, quinces, and service berries with mulch.  Considering this side of the house gets absolutely hammered with sunshine and the rocks hold onto that heat, it takes a ton of water to keep these guys alive.  Team that with hungry critters who almost ate them all to death last spring, I want to ensure a good growing season this year.

9. North west part of the property, underneath a pine.  I have bulbs planted in there, but all that stone is not underlain with weed barrier so the rest of this berm is just infested with pickers and grass.
The plan?  Transplant the stone to the south fence line, perhaps get some weed barrier going, mulch it, and plant some flowers here.

So do I have specific flowers in mind?  I have been looking at a lot, pricing things out, and I'll save specific options for another post.  I'll probably not mail order anything and buy local from Tagawa.  I think it's most cost effective anyway and if I'm making a bad choice they won't hesitate to tell me so.  They helped a lot with choosing my front yard shrubbery, helping me understand the whats and whys of Colorado gardening.  And considering I still have so much to learn and they are eager teachers, I may as well go back.

Hoping all of you black/brown/green thumbers out there are dreaming too!  Gosh... spring can't come fast enough...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bouquet... of Beer

What did I do for Dave for Father's Day?

I went Home Grown.  I got 2 dozen bottles/cans of beer, born and bred here in Colorado.  Not the Blue Moon one, mind. 

Some liquor stores have the Make Your Own Six Pack, so I made four of them from breweries found all over the state.  So far, he's enjoyed all but one and I can't remember which one that was... it was in a can, a reddish can, and it was some sort of ale.  I think it's fair to say that so far, you really can't go wrong with Colorado brewed beer.  Dave enjoys the red ales, pilsners, wheat beers, things of that nature while I like the stouts, IPAs, and porters.  I figure I get to have my Guinness when our wee one gets here, and since it was Father's Day why not make it a bouquet of what he wants, right?


Huge success!  A gift that is continuing to give.  I'll post when he gets to some of the funky ones...  I'm sure I threw a rye beer in there somewhere.

On a side note, recently we purchased more Colorado grown booze, including the following gin.

Colorado Gold.  Our first gin attempt was Bombay Sapphire.  I'm not much of a gin fan as I rather apply piney liquid to my floor for cleaning, but Dave didn't mind the Bombay Sapphire.  But he likes the Colorado Gold much more as that tell tale piney taste is markedly subdued. 

So far, Colorado really hasn't disappointed us in terms of booze.  Visitors have been happy so far too, so if that isn't motivation enough, I'm not sure what is. 

Maybe us attempting to change a cloth diaper?  I'm sure we could sell tickets for that...

Monday, May 23, 2011

At Last! Warmth!

Well, sorta.  Kinda swinging back and forth between ugly 40's and glorious 80's over the last month here in Colorado.  This week, despite the thunderstorms rolling in, we'll be seeing some consistently decent weather.  And considering we've been busting our butts for the last couple of weekends preparing the yard for bountiful harvest, I figured we'd better fire up the ol' Home Grown Nibbles for the season!

My bulbs from last year's planting were mostly successful:

 However, the tulips were Nibbled on furiously by deer and rabbits during the wee days of March when we had a fantastic warm spell and the woodland creatures got hungry and before I put down my staple deterrent (blood meal).  Ah well.

I wanted to get in the gardens as soon as May hit, but I was darn lucky I didn't.  We got snow!  In May!  So the weekend of May 14th, despite being wet and cold outside, was the chosen weekend instead:

 Farthest is seed zucchini, then jalapenos, then heirloom tomatoes, then strawberries.  Both gardens.  One of the pepper plants is a normal green bell pepper, but we wanted to try the jalapenos again. 

Then, this last weekend, we finally busted out our respective yard tools and got crackin' on our lawn.  I weeded our front berm, watered the gardens, and mulched and watered our still-fledgling shrubbery.  Dave dewinterized the lawn mower, mowed, and fired up the weedeater.

Yes.  We are both still ridiculously sore.  

Spaghetti squash, pumpkin, and popcorn experiment.

Oooh!  I almost forgot the experimental patch alongside the driveway, underneath the pines.  Sure, we really didn't amend the soil (it's likely super acidic from years of pine needles), but we figured hey!  Why not pop a couple of pumpkin, spaghetti squash, and popping corn and see what happens.

So far, in approximately a week... nothing has happened.  But then again, I don't expect to see anything for a bit yet.

On the Farmer's Market front, we attended the season opener and haven't been back.  But not for a lack of produce!  We scored some great onions, tomatoes, 1 jalapeno that we forgot to use, red potatoes, sausage, eggs, beer and cheese dip (mmmmm), and a big loaf of jalapeno bread.  Plus Dave and I may have shared a cinnamon roll.  With the baby of course. 

We do look forward to more excursions, but the frequency of those will be largely determined by how we adjust to the whole parenthood thing.  Regardless, we'll keep you updated!

In the meantime, we challenge you to consume more locally this season.  And we'll let you know, of course, how our own efforts turn out.

Here's to a fruitful 2011 season!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Heading into winter, locally

We've had a month's worth of home delivery of local food, both vegetables and fruits and an array of dairy products.

On Royal Crest Dairy:  Fail.  Don't get us wrong!  It is a great service, with lotsa milky products available (as well as some non-local options).  However, I really overestimated the amount of milk we drink.  In fact, we actually don't drink any milk.  I was on a cereal bender there for awhile and I did make some ice cream, but over all... just isn't worth it for a non-milk drinking family.  Maybe when we get around to having children, it may be worth it.  But for now, nah.

On Door-to-Door Organics: Success!  What I love about this particular service is that during the summer months you can request local foods in your delivery.  Once winter hits, you still get fresh food including options for some local stuff when it is available.  Why this is good for our family: I think I stated it before, but I'll say it again...  I'm too cheap to buy organic foods in the grocery store.  I see bushels of apples for 99 cents a pound and then see the same kind in the organic section for 3x the amount.  I can't wrap my mind around the fact that I'm investing in my health.  This way, through the delivery of organic produce, I'm ensuring that I'm getting no chemicals schmooeyed all over our food.  This last delivery, I'd wager about 1/3 of the delivery was still local.  I had bananas and oranges delivered, but also local potatoes, squash, and apples.   All organic, and that has to be better than before. 

Another thing that has been bothering me: I feel that at this moment in time, I'm not ready to go 100% local over the winter.  I didn't prep well enough for it, so throughout the winter we'll be investing in some not-so-local foods.  Like candied apples.  Sure, the apples were local and the sugar was local.  But the mix?  Heck, I didn't know what was in the mix!  :)

I do intend to not make this whole thing into a food blog, although I have a ton of fun cooking and such.  But living a local life is more than food.  It is frequenting some of our local restaurants (Warhorse Inn, Moonstruck Bistro) instead of some of the chains.  Pay attention to where things are manufactured and try to stick to items that are made closer to home rather than half-way around the world.  Planning for the spring garden, enjoying the sights to see in Colorado.  You know, that sort of stuff.

With that to ponder, we leave you with this.  Poached pears in a white wine sauce, served hot and topped with vanilla ice cream (not local, but hey... sometimes efficiency is necessary on improvisation...).

Questions for readers:  Do you try to shop local?  If so, how do you do it?