Fresh from the garden lettuce & RMO Essential Oils and Pest Control blend

For most of the last three weeks, all we’ve had in Wisconsin is rain, rain, and more rain. Every day is cloudy. Somehow in my fond dreams of yesteryear, I remember spring having some sunny, warm and simply satisfying days before the hot and sticky days of summer arrive. This year I made a solemn promise to take spring slow and enjoy every moment of it. Now all I want is heat and sun–go away rain, the rivers are flooding.  Less than two weeks after planting the last six lettuce plants we’ve had two big salads from those six plants, a lettuce leaf on five sandwiches this week, and lettuce on our hamburgers tonight. Believe it or not, there is still at least one salad left and more to come. This has been my most successful year of growing bibb lettuce.  While harvesting the lettuce I was bitten a total of three times by pesky mosquitos, which reminded me I need to order some Bug off! from Rocky Mountain Oils.

Last year I used a blend made from RMO’s cedarwood, lavender, peppermint, and lemongrass essential oils in purified water in a 4 oz spray bottle. I put in 30 drops of cedarwood, 25 drops of lavender, 15 drops of peppermint and 15 drops of lemongrass. I shake the spray bottle gently before each use.  I use either, it just depends if you want to make up your own batch or buy a blend that has all of the essential oils and more already in it. Either way, you cannot go wrong using Rocky Mountains Oils as your go-to pests go away and stay away from me spray.

 

Container Gardening 2017

I planted lettuce plants 10 days apart, all of which were bought at the same time, same place, but I ran out of big box potting soil for the rest of my veggies and six of my lettuce plants.  Every year I use regular potting soil from a big box and I add nutrients/minerals to the soil. Last year I bought really expensive organic fertilizer, that did absolutely nothing for any of the vegetables I was growing. This year via Facebook I noticed the coop I shop at was stocking Purple Cow Organics products**.  We found someone local who carried them and proceeded that very night to plant the rest of the lettuce and veggies.

I re-potted a tomato plant that had been severely frost burn in Purple Cow Organics Tomato Gro. Currently, that tomato plant is thriving, the one I did not replant died in big box potting soil.

Side by side you can see big box vs. Purple Cow Organics– the big box potting soil lettuce plants were given a 10-day headstart and still we’re not even close to a lettuce salad.

The lettuce planted 10 days ago in Purple Cow Organics is ready and waiting to be harvested. This picture was taken 3 days ago for a photo op, today I am planning on harvesting what I can and having a salad. The beauty of all of it is the lettuce will grow back and we will have several salads from these six plants.

Ten days ago this was a container filled with Purple Cow Organic Potting Mix and three seed potatoes–today a potato plant appears! So get out there and get you some and enjoy that first home grown salad grown all by yourself (with a little help from Purple Cow Organics, of course)! 🙂 Enjoy.

**not compensated in any way by Purple Cow Organics for my awesome experience using their products and then blogging about it.**

Ramp Salad and Rhubarb Crunch

This week at the first of the season local Farmer’s Markets–
Ramps

Ramps are related to leeks and here in the Midwest they’re the very first thing that pops out of the ground and are usually sold at Farmer’s Markets from late April to very early May (about three weeks) and then gone. It’s hard to define what a ramp tastes like. They taste both sweet and strong- maybe slightly like a sweet earthy garlic. A popular way to enjoy them is in a salad. We spent Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market in Madison WI and brought two bunches of ramps home with us. I made a ramp salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing– the recipe is here .  It was fabulous, you will love it. Give it a try. Next week, perhaps two weeks from now, rhubarb will be available for sale.  I’ve included a favorite family recipe for rhubarb crunch.

Ingredients
3 cups diced rhubarb
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup & 2 pats of butter
Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
In a large mixing bowl combine rhubarb, granulated sugar, and 3 tablespoons flour. Stir well and spread evenly into baking dish. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl combine brown sugar, oats, and 1 1/2 cups flour. Stir well then cut in butter or margarine until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle mixture over rhubarb layer.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

I’m joining Marty over at A Stroll Thru Life for her 373rd Inspire Me Tuesday!  Until next time be well!

Vegetables that grow well together–interplanting and trellising.

Hello, April!

We’re just now starting to figure out what we’ll be planting this year in our container garden.  One thing for sure, I’m going to try and grow a container of potatoes this year. We have seeds and plants started for pumpkins, tomatoes, lettuce and peppers so far.

I ran across an article about pairing up the plants in the garden. Like for instance –plant basil or parsley around the edge of your garden where your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants grow. All of these plants must wait until frost is out of the ground and the consistently warm weather is here for good. You can plant potatoes in the ground, after you’re sure the frost is out, and then plant pole beans or some ornamental gourds above them on a trellis to utilize that space.  Something that I cannot wait to try when we get our new place is interplanting carrots and radishes. Try it, I hear it works great. Something else I saw recently in a food documentary is planting pole beans with your sweet corn and the pole beans end up using the sweet corn as its pole. Be sure to leave room for lovely nasturtiums, an edible flower that looks great in salads.

Some wonderful things to think about if you are short on space. Definitely always consider the vertical as you are planting your gardening–peas work great on a trellis overhead. You can start your sweet peas inside and trellis them up your curtains and across your curtain rods until it’s safe to take them outside. I did this two years ago and loved it. This year we have two grow lights so we’re going to have several plants started in the next three or so weeks. Our greatest hope is to learn how to start most things on our own vs. running to the nursery and buying their 4-6″ veggie plants and flowers.

Until next time be well!

Soil [how-to prep the garden]

DIY Soil Testing

With Spring right around the corner now is the time for starting our seedlings. We’ve purchased our seed packets, starter kits and grow lights. Next up was prepping the containers on our deck for when the starter plants are ready to go into the soil outside. In prior years we’ve had no containers of soil on our deck because come fall we’ve always bagged it up and used it for fill on our lawn. Last fall I had what one would call–

a light bulb moment when I went to bag the dirt in our containers and haul it down to a low spot in our lawn for fill in. Here was soil I had worked with and grown organic food in for six months, and I was about to throw it on our lawn. The wiser thing to do would be to keep it and add more nutrients to it pre-planting and grow some more great food for six months. Soil over time loses its nutrients. Farm crops especially are nutrient deficient. Tilling soil is one of the worst things you can do, though long practiced and still done today. Farmers till their fields to aerate the soil which loosens up the soil and readies it for planting. Fields and gardens suffer from soil compaction come spring. Stress from machinery last fall, or animals, or possibly even you pushed the soil down causing air displacement. I can remember planting things in a garden and then pressing down the seed rows by walking on them. Now that’s a really bad idea. Soil contains living and breathing organisms and they need air. Biology Life in soil– lists all the wonderful things soil is composed of.

Up until the last three or four years, I simply filled containers and pots with soil purchased from our local nursery, put in my starter plants or seeds and watered. Doing things this way will likely yield you something, but more times than not that is based on luck. If you want luscious flowers, vegetables, and produce crops you need to have rich, nutrient dense soil.

Here’s how to make nutrient dense soil- 8 Steps

Everything, including the seeds and the plants, that we grow is organic. We do not use chemicals or store-bought fertilizers. Because our garden is in containers and not at the ground level we don’t see a lot of the usual garden pests. If I do I simply remove them by hand. Once we buy our own home again we will have to consider what we will do for pests in our ground level organic garden. We are looking into no-till methods for our future gardens. For farm fields, farmers might want to consider the no-till method which has so far proven to almost eliminate soil erosion. Leaving the previous year’s crop intact (what’s left behind after harvest) rather than tilling it in, has proven to increase water infiltration and water retention. Thus requiring less water and causing less runoff of contaminated water (fertilizers and pesticides). For more information about no-till agriculture- visit this site.

Below are more links and how-tos for garden prep:

How to make compost

Soil Testing- kit and info here

Garden Prep- things to do here

There’s a new documentary out called Sustainable. This is a great documentary that gives the viewer a look at how to live sustainably, grow sustainable foods, and features sustainable farms. It also features Illinois farmer Marty Spence & family of Spence Farm a provider of locally grown food for many Chicago area restaurants including Frontera Grill owned by Chef Rick Bayless.

Container Gardening into August

It’s hard to believe it, because it seems like just yesterday, that school was getting out for the summer. Yet, school is back in session, or just about, in this part of the country. Back in May I was just transplanting seedlings to pots and trying them out on the deck. Temperatures overnight were still dipping down into the upper 50s. But not anymore, because tonight they are still in the low 80s and it’s nearly midnight.  Tonight I thinned out the last of the cucumbers and I ‘ll see if that helps them. I have two containers of cucumbers looking good- though one better than the other and one container of pumpkins (still waiting for these guys to appear) and lo and behold the tomatoes that wouldn’t ripen all summer are now ripening. And my beautiful plant from Bauer’s Markets in La Crescent, Minnesota has four more tomatoes on it.

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A follower asked me a question this past weekend, that I thought was a good question, (aren’t all questions?) and I thought I would fit the answer into this post.

The ?– how I am doing on my gluten free diet?

Well folks, as strange as it may seem I don’t have as big of a problem as I did last year at this time.  For several years I was unable to eat foods with gluten in them. That’s a lot of food when you think about it. Especially since at one time, all foods had gluten (or so it seemed) and there was no such thing as gluten free. After having gone away from as much as I could and starting to feel better, I was convinced I had an allergy or intolerance to gluten. I went to the doctor, and without expensive tests, he thought it sounded like Celiac disease and wanted to do tests. As bad as my symptoms were I resigned myself to thinking I had Celiac disease and over time just stopped eating everything with any trace of gluten in it.  Slowly gluten-free food came onto the market, and even though prices were high, I purchased everything out there. Though my symptoms weren’t as bad I still had issues with gluten free foods. Finally, after reading everything I could find online about it, I tried taking a daily probiotic to help strengthen and repair my gut. After about a year of taking the probiotic and slowly putting foods with gluten back into my diet I am doing a lot better. I eventually did take the tests necessary to rule out Celiac disease and they were negative. So that was a relief. So to answer your question, I’m doing great! Thanks for asking.

 

Food and flowers

A few pics uploaded while we are away enjoying Kansas City, MO. Before we left I froze six big bags of kale and dried my flower bouquet. So far I have harvested two freezer bags of rosemary. I usually get three by the time the garden is done. I also picked seven tomatoes. Five of the tomatoes are from one plant. I still have three tomatoes on one plant that will not turn red? I’ve tried pinching the suckers, removing the dead branches, and not watering. No luck. The real secret to getting tomatoes to turn red is HOT balmy weather. We had three days where heat index temps went up over 100 and humidity was at or above 85%. All of my tomatoes, except these three, turned red. After the hot spell, my parsley was nearly dead. But a little tender loving care and it’s looking good again. The cucumbers are growing fast, I replanted some in another container before we left. Pumpkins are in too but weren’t up before we left. We are staying here and we love it!  Next year I think we’ll be planning a vacation to Round Top Antique Fair in Texas. We’ll be back on Tuesday and I’ll be back on Wednesday with an easy recipe for Chocolate Mousse.

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Summer menu ideas & herbs

Menu gif

Summer Menu Time- What’s Cooking?

Breakfast in the summertime is usually fruit leftover from our meal the night before. And water, lots of cold water with lemons and cucumbers in it.
Lunch- Lots of salads. Is there anything better than a fresh from the garden cucumber diced with fresh tomatoes, peppers, and buttery lettuce? We have salads for dinner too though we throw in chicken, eggs and sometimes sliced Fuji apples to make a more filling meal.
Monday– Monday has to be an easy day for us, meal wise, so it’s often a quick pasta dish like Shrimp Scampi Zoodles.
Tuesday-Once a week we have breakfast for dinner. Since I froze quite a bit of asparagus, lately it’s been Mini Quiches w/asparagus.
Wednesday– I volunteer after work on Wednesdays, so I pack a salad and a snack bar. My husband usually makes a pizza.
ThursdaySouthwestern Chicken wraps and soup- usually homemade that I defrost in refrigerator -(it’s good for two meals)
Friday– We almost always have seafood for dinner on Fridays so it’s either a local fish fry or I make something with salmon like Salmon Cakes with Cucumber Dill Salad.
Saturday-I grill once a week 9 months out of the year. I love grilling. In the summer we have hamburgers, hot dogs, and brats. Once in awhile, I will BBQ a whole chicken.
Sunday-We almost always have roast chicken for dinner on Sundays. Now that I am able to source new baby potatoes we have those, fresh onions, fresh tomatoes, fresh parsley (potatoes) and fresh rosemary(chicken) and homemade baked beans.

This past weekend we took a ride to our local farm stand and loaded up. We bought a flat of strawberries, some yellow marigolds, another tomato plant,  some more thyme, parsley, new potatoes, radishes, butter lettuce, and peaches. For two grocery bags full it cost us $23.00. I was able to get 5 -4″ pots of thyme for $1.50.  Here is a couple of pictures of my patio garden. I am thrilled to say I already have 3 small tomatoes on one of my plants. I’m also happy to say my lavender is near flowering.

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That’s all for now. Until next time–be well!

Lemon Cream Fillo Napoleon

lemon-8Whether it be oranges or lemons the smell of something citrus is my favorite smell in the whole world, right next to hay and fresh cut grass. We began growing our Meyer Lemon tree three years ago from seed. This year is the first year it has produced fruit.  I use lemons for cleaning, cooking, and baking. And there is nothing in the world like growing your own food. It has been a real pleasure growing our lemon tree. We’ve even started two more from seed. Along with the lovely lemon balm, I grew for making soap, everything in and around our home, at this time, smells like our lovely lemons.

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So I couldn’t resist catching an episode of Ina Garten where her and a friend are making Lemon Cream Napoleons. This dessert is a real favorite of my husband’s. In the Netherlands, they add vanilla cream between the fillo wafers which is good, but not near as good as the lemon is. The episode can be found on Netflix on Ina Garten’s Back to Basics Collection. Or you can go to the Food Network site and find it here. I have several of Ina’s cookbooks, including her Back to Basics (my favorite), but find watching her show to be very helpful to my getting everything called for in the recipe just right.

This weekend we had fun at two local fall festivals, we also experienced walking through a corn maze and drank lots of fresh apple cider. I also bought extra cider and cider donuts and froze both to enjoy this winter. I use the apple cider for pancakes, marinade and to make bbq sauce from.  I add it to my homemade bbq sauce for pork and the meat just falls off the bone- so tender and so full of taste.

October is passing by so fast, it’s already the 4th. Speaking of October, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Even though I think often of those around me dealing with cancer, or that they have family dealing with it, I’m especially aware of it in October. Around here we have the 5k Cancer Run, the Think Pink 5k, and the Breast Cancer Awareness Walk. Though I have known two women in my life, both co-workers, who were diagnosed with Breast Cancer, I have been fortunate to remain breast cancer free (so far, fingers crossed). Cancer was one of the biggest reasons I quit smoking at 39. That said when I was in my late twenties and also in my early thirties I was diagnosed with skin cancer.

The first time it was found on my leg, it was caught early and excision ( it was cut out) was used to remove it. I was really scared, and unfortunately, this happened before I met my husband, and I had to go through it alone. About a year later another growth was found on my elbow and this time cryo-therapy (frozen off) was used to remove it. The last time a growth was found, again on my leg, cryotherapy was also used. It should be noted I’ve never laid out in the sun or used a tanning bed. However, people who have fair skin, light hair, and eyes and have ancestors from places like England, Norway, Sweden and Ireland often end up with skin cancer. I have used sunscreen for years and now faithfully check all my many hundreds of freckles, moles and even keep a close eye on my age spots. I’ve been lucky now for over fifteen years. As far as my husband goes, I won’t even begin to discuss how covered in moles (hereditary) he is and how much time each month it takes to look at them all. Some we have to take photos of and keep track of etc. We have had a few doctor’s appointments where we’ve had to wait for the results. So tormenting, but thus far he has been lucky. Be vigilant, check yourself often and definitely seek a doctor’s opinion if you notice anything unusual or changed on your skin or any lumps anywhere on your body.

Until next time, enjoy what’s left of fall in your neck of the woods!

Cucumbers and the importance of bees

I think I am like a lot of people, or at least I was, about how food grows. To grow a considerable garden you need a plot of land, a hoe or a tiller and then you till the spot and plant the seeds or starter plants and water as needed. Occasionally, especially after a rain, you weed the garden. If rain is sparse then you need to haul water to the garden and water the plants. Then magically the plants, because you weeded and watered them, appear. But there is more to it. As an adult, I’ve planted a large garden just once. But I’ve had container gardens for years, that I grow tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and flowers in.But, even growing my own vegetables I was still clueless as to how the whole process worked. Bees, our food grows because of bees. Honey bees and bumble bees are the two kinds of bees that I’m not afraid of. Each year I plant pots of lavender, verbena and bee balm to please honey bees and bumble bees. There are two things that I’ve learned in the last five years that may make you laugh hysterically. The first thing– I didn’t know until about five years ago that the flowers on my tomato plants, or on any fruit or vegetable plant represent the fruit that the plant will bear. I had no idea really. I thought the flowers were just part of the plant. The second thing I’ve learned just this year is that sweat bees also pollinate my fruits and my vegetables. I knew bees pollinated flowers and I also knew that bees pollinated fruit trees. But I had no idea that bees pollinated my vegetable and fruit plants.

Something very important that I knew but had never put into practice was that one must feed your plants. I had always assumed, that if I bought really good plants or seeds, I would grow really good healthy veggies and flowers. Not so. They need to be fed. I’ve been feeding my plants Foxfarm Happy Frog Organic Fruit and Flower Fertilizer. Everything is so much more filled out, rich, colorful and happy. Which makes me happy too. When I thought I was going to lose my cucumbers, because of the cucumber beetle, I quickly looked up organic remedies. I found that growing catnip plants next to the cucumbers works great. Of course, I didn’t have time to do that so I grabbed dried catnip from my cat’s stash and sprinkled that around the base. Problem solved. Unfortunately, I did this too late and lost all my plants except one. And that one plant is thriving thanks to catnip, my watering, being fed properly, and of course most importantly because of the bees!

The first picture is of the sweat bee pollinating the flower, the second is the male flower, the third picture is the female flower and the last picture is my first ever grown cucumber. (click on pictures to make larger)

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That’s all for now until next time eat good food!