Sunday, February 14, 2010

Waiting for spring......

This is my rhododendron "tree". When we bought our farm I actually thought that this was an apple tree (it was from a distance and mid-December). Rhododendrons are practically our state flower, usually I don't care for them, but this old timer has a special place in my heart. Like clock work, every Mother's Day this rhododendron busts out with pink blossoms that when fully opened turn white, tinged with pink. It's like mother nature is wishing us all a Happy Mother's Day.

Looking back at this picture from last May, I can't wait for spring! I know that most of the Midwest to the east coast is dealing with snow, but here in the PNW we are just living up to our reputation of gray, drizzly, rainy days - January through March can be a LONG 90 days.

I am so ready to get out in my gardens.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pizza anyone?

When we moved from the big city (of 10,000) out to our little farm, the quick trip (less than 1 mile) down to the local pizza place, became a 30 minute round trip.

It was time to break out the pizza pan I had owned for 13 or 14 years that had seen very little use.

Now I make pizza once a week. I make the dough from scratch (KitchenAid mixers are fantastic) and use tomato sauce that I can in small jelly sized jars every summer. I also add herbs to the crust - it really makes a difference. I do buy the cheese and other toppings (meat only - I live with 2 men that don't believe in veggies on a pizza). My family thinks it's pretty fabulous and likes it better than most of our local pizza places.

I think my next "from scratch" try will be mozzarella cheese, I came across a recipe in a magazine that seemed to be really easy. Of course I managed to accidently recycle the magazine, however I've found many similar recipes online. We have a local dairy that sells great milk (in the old style glass bottles) that I use to make homemade yogurt... I think I'll give their milk a try in this recipe.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Garden planning...

I love to garden and I am so lucky to live on 20 acres of sandy loam soil (think raspberries - more on that another day). It is the perfect soil for growing anything.

Our first year on the farm, I decided to be organized and keep track of what I was doing in the gardens. So every year since we moved in I have started a garden journal. The first 3 years (2005-2007) I used a journal I had already. In 2008 I found this fantastic mini binders (here) and have used one each year.

I use it as a basic day-by-day journal, documenting what I've done and when as well as the weather. I also keep track of what types of vegetable and flower seeds I used, including brands, and document how each plant does. It really helps for planning the following year. What worked, what didn't and so on. Last year when my husband wanted to plant our vegetable garden in March I was able to show him the past few years of planting dates!

When I purchased my first mini binder I also ordered paper, graph paper, dividers and divider pockets. The pockets come in handy for keeping everything together. I also keep track of seeds I order and try to keep most of my receipts so I can track how much I spend each year. I also purchased to "rubber bands" meant just for the mini binder (see on green binder above), they are fantastic for keeping everything inside the binder while I'm working with it. At the end of each year I go through and make sure everything is attached using scrap booking tape/glue. I also try to include photos of the gardens at different stages each year.

I also like to plan out my vegetable garden, drawing a "map" with colored pencils. A few years ago for Valentine's Day my husband gave me a fantastic gardening book named "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible" by Edward C. Smith - it is a great resource for what to plant together, what NOT to plant together, plant rotation and great basic information about most vegetable and herbs.

I do purchase some annual flower starts and vegetable starts but I am fortunate to have a small greenhouse that my dad built for my mom, in which I can start quite a few things. Early April I am able to start cucumbers (you should really try the lemon cucumbers), pumpkins, tomatoes, zinnias, marigolds and peppers. I start my impatiens in my enclosed, south facing, front porch late in February since they take a LONG time to germinate.

So the planning has begun for the 2010 garden. I've ordered my white impatien seeds, hollyhocks, fancy "mumsy" marigolds, a wide variety of zinnias. As soon as I shake off this cold/flu bug I'll be out to the local garden centers and KMart (love those Martha Stewart seeds) to plan the rest of my vegetable and annual flower beds.

Tis the season... the "flu season"

Home sick today. I thought it was just a cold coming on, but now I think it is the flu. At least the sun is out today... being in the Pacific Northwest a sunny day is always welcome...