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Blogging about gardening in zone 4, marriage, our golden retriever and life in general.

Friday, February 25, 2011

2/25 Friday Farming: wintered over plants

I tried to keep two plants growing from last summer through this winter, mint and basil. I'm not sure I can declare this experiment a success as well... they're alive, but not necessarily thriving. 

The mint was actually purchased at a grocery store for making mojitos. Rather than just pluck the leaves and throw the plant away i put it in a pot to see what happens. Thus far...  not much. 

The basil is one of the starts from last spring. It's currently in a pot that I can never seem to grow anything in, likely due to poor drainage. Regardless, I have two stems of basil that look like this:

Hm. Not exactly thriving.

Both plants have been together in a south-facing windowsill all winter. I haven't given them any fertilizer, as I likely couldn't dilute it enough to not scald them. These two herbs will continue on until it's warm enough to plant them outside for the summer.

I'm not sure if I'll try to overwinter them again next year. My intention was to be able to grab basil and mint to cook with over the winter, but these currently have pretty poor taste.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Waking up

I've never been a morning person. I've wished I was; I've tried to be with the help of an alarm, but I'm just not. I wake up drowsy and cozy and just wanna stay in bed. Kind of like Harlow when she gets back from summer camp:

Getting out of bed is tougher for me in the winter, when the light is low or non-existent. I realized how impacted I am by low light this morning, when our bedroom filled with light while DJ was in the shower. I woke up... awake, ready and rarin' to go!

This week is filled with late meetings; one every night, and two this weekend. Whew. Since my boss gave me the "quit racking up comp time" lecture in December, I've been making a better effort to try to balance my in-office vs. out-of-office time. It's been nice this week to be home in the mornings while it's light out. Harlow and I went for a run yesterday morning, and today I get to drink coffee, read the state newspapers and blog.

Now if only spring would spring.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

2/18 Friday Farming: herbs

I went over all the veggies I want to plant in 2011 last week. Today, I want to focus on the herbs I'm planting. Hopefully we'll be able to actually use this stuff! I've decided to use a portion of the driveway flower bed for herb gardening this year. We'll see if it works.

Herbs for 2011 are:

  • Garlic: which I planted last fall in the garden. We go through a clove of garlic per week. I'll use it in pasta sauces, with potatoes, with eggs, with steak. With about everything!
  • Basil: for use in making bruschetta, and other Italian-like dishes. 
  • Mint: let me be honest. I'll use mint to  make mojitos. 
  • Chives: I transfered 2010's chive patch into the driveway flower bed. Hopefully it comes back, and makes delicious contributions to salads, dinners etc.
  • Oregano: for making pasta sauce
  • Cilantro: for topping anything with a Mexican flavor, and for adding to salsa. 
Yep, that's it. Fairly straightforward. We have a food dehydrator, but my main goal this year is to have enough herbs to cook with. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Honey Love

Harlow went to "summer camp", aka the kennel, last weekend while we were in Moonlight with some friends. She was in good shape when she got home, although she really, really needed a bath. It'd been since early November, when we hosed her down in the front yard. Three months is a long time for someone with such long hair to go unbathed.

We scrubbed her down, and then laughed as she zoomed around, rubbing her face in the carpet to get dry. She's always extra fluffy after a bath.

I wasn't feeling so hot on Sunday night (the last of the bottle flu) so was laying on the couch watching TV. Harlow is not allowed on the furniture; though she'll jump up on the loveseat while we're gone. But as I lay there on Sunday night, I wanted to cuddle. So I hoisted her up, and got some furry, hairy cuddles.
Wait, I'm not allowed up here!

Maybe if I lay down real nice she won't notice.

I am a sleepy dog.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Farming: Why I want to grow my own veggies

I'm still a novice when it comes to home gardening. I did okay last year, but have a long ways to go before producing enough... er, produce just to keep us in tomatoes, peppers and salad fixin's in the summer. I'm not talking about canning and storing home grown things for winter consumption; at this point my goal for 2011 is just to not buy veggies between June and October.

You might have heard this week about how the price of food will go up in 2011 because of the price of corn commodities. I myself am just becoming more aware of everything that corn goes into, from feed for animals, to soda drinks, etc. Frankly... it kind of grosses me out!

I've mentioned before that I'd like to shift our eating to more organic, more local, and less processed foods. I think to do this, we need a giant freezer (so we can buy half a beef or something) as well as to check out our options for a CSA in Bozeman.

A successful garden this summer, hopefully, will move us in this direction. I'm trying to not get overly ambitious about what to plant, given the diminutive size of my garden and that it's just the two of us at home. We'll also be in Europe probably when most of the produce "comes in" (damn!), so I don't want to waste time and money growing something we won't eat.

So what do I intend to plant this year? And how will I use it? Here's what's on my list for now:

  • Asparagus (a perennial that's already in the ground), which I'll sautee, steam and put into quiches. 
  • Broccoli: I've never grown Broccoli before, so this is a bit experimental for me. We'd use it with dinners, and cut up as snacks.
  • Lettuce:  for salads
  • Spinach: for salads. If we grow enough, I might also be able to blanche and freeze it for use in my favorite spinach artichoke dip. 
  • Carrots: for salads, snacks, etc. If things "come in" together, I'll use it to make soups to freeze for the winter. 
  • Sugar snap peas: for snacks. MMMM! (hopefully I can figure out a way to keep the gophers out this year)
  • Snow peas: for stir-fry
  • Zucchini: Am I the only person in the universe to fail at growing zucchini? I think I harvested 2 zukes last year. It'll go into stir-fry, bread, muffins, and maybe be grated and blanched for freezing. 
  • Spaghetti squash: I really like the idea of getting veggies in while eating pasta. MMM.
  • Sweet corn: Corn on the cob, frozen corn kernels for soups, mmmm.
  • Roma tomatoes: for summer consumption in salads, pastas, etc., then blanched and used to make pasta sauces. I might consider dicing and canning them, but I'm not sure if I'm that committed.
  • Early girl tomatoes: since our growing season is so short, they need to ripen quickly. These'll go on salads, burgers, etc. 
  • Cherry tomatoes: these'll go into salads and as snacks. 
  • Eggplant: for on pasta? I've never grown this before, so we'll see...
  • Bell peppers: we purchase at least one bell pepper every week, year round. I'm hoping that these'll ripen by mid-August, for use in fajitas, on salads, pizzas, etc. If we get enough, and the timing is right, I'll roast them on the BBQ and then freeze them for use in soups through the winter. I'd also like to try my hand at making home-grown salsa and canning it!
  • Jalepeno peppers: for salsa, and spicing up foods. 
  • Pumpkin: for pureeing for pumpkin pies, carving into jack-o-lanterns, etc. 
  • Yukon Gold potatoes: for use in mashed-potatoes, summer potatoes, diced into soups, Harrison spuds, twice baked potatoes, etc. 
  • Fingerling potatoes: so yummy! So tiny! 
  • Celery: I've never grown celery before. I'd like to use it in salads, soups, as snacks. 
  • Walla Walla Sweet onions: for slicing onto burgers, chopping and including in soups. 
  • Shallots (baby onions): for salads
I've tried not to grow something we won't eat, or use somehow. I considered artichokes, but realized that might be too much of a pain in the rear. Man... looking outside at that frozen garden right now makes me depressed. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Superbowl Doughnuts

DJ and I obviously like to entertain. We designed our downstairs spaces to function well when having large groups of people over. One of the annual events is a Superbowl party, which DJ gives themes to. The 2008 theme was "Deep Fried", 2009 was "Deep fried, part 2", 2010 was "Pork Products" and this year was "Gravies of the World."

(Did you just vomit in your mouth a little?)

We interpreted gravies pretty liberally: any liquid or semi-liquid condiment. Which meant that home made doughnuts, with a liquid icing, could be considered.

The dough pretty much exploded out of the bread maker.

I made DJ set the fry-daddy up in the garage. I couldn't handle the smell of fried food in our house. 

Then the doughnuts came back inside to cool. 

Before being dipped in icing. 

And voila! A pile of doughnuts for our guests enjoyment. 

Of course, Bozeman being health-conscious Bozeman, we had about 2/3 of that pile o'yummy leftover by the end of the game. They went to work with DJ this morning since I don't want them in the house!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Farming (in February!)

Puxatawney Phil has declared an early spring this year. We did have a mild January, but I'm convinced we'll pay for it in late March with bitter cold and big snow. We currently don't have much white stuff out there, but I know it's coming. 

I just finished reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" about the eating local movement. The author and her family tried to raise enough vegetables and meat animals to be able to eat out of their back yard for an entire year. It was a great book, and maybe if I had access to two or three acres, a few deep-freezes and a large pantry, I'd be considering it. But then DJ would think I've really lost my marbles. Wither way, I strongly recommended the book.It makes really interesting points about eating locally, the ramifications of eating California-grown spinach or South American Bananas in the winter, and why American food culture is actually making us sick. 

I also read "Square Foot Gardening" to think about how to plan my garden this year. The book suggests four foot by four foot raised beds, and that a plant or plants be grown in each square foot. It's really about maximizing space, reducing the amount of space given to weeds and growing the food products you really want to eat.* Since I don't have a lot of space, it helped me rethink how to plant my garden. 

Which of course... lead to spreadsheets. The first is titled "Planting Schedule", and identifies when I'll start putting seeds into dirt either inside or outside. Seed for transplant dates, transplant to garden dates, harvest dates, etc. Obviously it's unfinished, but eventually it'll be all color coded for each plant. I'll probably add a row beneath each plan to record when those things actually happened. 

You can see on the tabs on the bottom that I also have a garden layout section. It's based on the Square Foot Gardening method, but in ground instead of in raised beds. Each cell on the spreadsheet represents a square foot. 

I'm curious to see how this works. I've based my "Planting Schedule" on the realistic last frost date in Bozeman... June 1. (Gah that's so far away!). Last year I jumped the gun on starting plants inside for transplant, and they really didn't do so well. I'm also hoping that the compost we tilled in last fall, as well as the compost we might till in again this spring, will improve productivity. 

I'll probably give in soon though on planting some herbs inside. I've been keeping a basil plant from last summer, as well as a mint plant, alive through the winter. I'd like to get growing on some cilantro. 

*Anytime I think about gardening I think about both of my grandmothers. I called my grandma Jan last night to talk gardening with her as I worked on my spreadsheets, and she mentioned that she's got an entire bag of this leafy stuff and she can't remember what it is, why she grew it, and what she's going to do with it now. It's basil. I suggested, what else, brushcetta!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Yesterday was my 28th and Harlow's 1st birthday. As a gift to both myself and our pup, I took the day off from work and committed it to true relaxation. This meant no laptop, no internet and no television. 8 hours of silence, book browsing, checking out and reading, and one very long walk in the sunshine with the doggie later, I feel well rested and more prepared to deal with the world. I'm going to try to take a day off like that every few months; it did wonders for my sanity.

Of course, life is all about balance, as Harlow will tell you:

DJ and I had an interesting conversation about work/ life balances last night. We agreed that it'd be awesome if one of us could be home more frequently during the week. I don't mean stay-at-home-wife or house-husband style, but rather that we both worked four 10 hour days a week: Courtney worked Monday through Thursday and DJ worked Tuesday through Friday. That way we both get some quiet time at home to get projects done without feeling like we had do to something with the spouse. It's an interesting idea, even if it was just every other week...

What would I do with my free day? Probably play housewife. Cook, clean, garden, put up produce, read, and generally unwind. Something to think about!