Here’s a post from last year that’s still relevant. It’s especially meant for gardening first-timers. Not a “how-to,” but rather, my opinions on “what” you might want to grow. Have fun!
Are you new to gardening? Here are my suggestions if you are planting a garden for the first time. Always use planting recommendations for your local area.
Instant Gratification: Radishes. Radishes can germinate in as little as 3 or 4 days!
A sense of accomplishment: Tomatoes. Tomatoes are so easy to start from seed and grow to be mighty plants full of luxurious gems of so many sizes, colors, and shapes! They can be made into sauce, salsa, juice, sun-dried tomatoes or used raw!
3. Wow factor: Beans. I love the way beans germinate, slowly showing a bent u-shaped back, then rising and standing, at last opening out large, green leaves.
4. It just keeps giving: Asparagus, rhubarb, artichokes. Back year after year after year…
5.Edible landscaping: Blueberries. If you can grow them in your area, blueberries are beautiful all year long. There are some…
As March is easing out and April is peeking in the back door, I thought it was time for a garden update.
The garden here has been, well, slow. It was 28 degrees outside when I got up this morning, so, yeah, you can see why even the radishes took their time braving the above-ground.
I’ll start with the onions. In this post I was trying a new method of seeding the onions in containers and then letting them emerge in their own time outside. What happened was by the time I felt like checking on them (we’d had an ice storm, rain, etc., and I just couldn’t bring myself to going out there), they had come up and then appeared to have died off.
I checked the instructions and found where it said “once they sprout, you need to start monitoring the moistness.” Arrgghh. I felt sure they were goners. I brought them back into the sunroom, plus planted two more containers. Well, haha, most of them actually hadn’t died. But I’m still not sure if I will get them past this skinny seedling state. If they make it, I’m going to have to be really creative in finding a place to plant them all, or if all else fails…Mom’s garden.
Next, I did some planting in the sunroom: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce. They have come up and I’ve put some of the broccoli outside.
Outside, I planted peas in the ground, and in my round containers I have planted carrots, radishes, spinach and mesclun. So far, the radishes are up, but as mentioned previously, they took their sweet time. The earliest peas I planted are also up, but growing very slowly. Yes, I know, it’s cold at night.
I planted my tomatoes and peppers only a few days ago and many of the tomatoes are already up! But they have a cozy place inside right behind our wood stove and also have a heating pad under them. I really showed restraint this year and only planted about a dozen seeds (half for mom).
The real show that’s been going on has been the daffodils! Most of them are waning now, but it’s just been so pretty. The mint–unwelcome where it is–has also been refreshing in many glasses of mojitos. Oh, my son has also been helping me try to take control of some unchecked bamboo.
How is your garden (or garden plans) doing?
The chickens wanted to say hello. Not really. They just wanted me to throw them some food. 🙂
I just finished reading this great MG/YA book. I don’t know if it was a big deal when it came out or not. It was published in 2000 and seems to have won some praise but I don’t remember it from anything. It was just one of those books on my bookshelf that I’d never read…
It takes place in the past (post world war II I read somewhere) and features a young protagonist, Harold, who is an albino. He has faced a lot of bullying in his hometown and the bulk of the story takes place with him training elephants after running away with the circus.
First of all, I really enjoyed the writing. So much of today’s literature in this genre relies on the short, choppy first person present tense style that I can’t stand. I aspire to write as well as this. Heavy sigh. Look at this:
The house was small and tidy, with scrolls of woodwork above the doors and windows. It looked like an overgrown birdhouse, a square little building with only one room. Water poured from the roof in a dreary black gurgling, into barrels that overflowed. But if a house could be cheerful, this one was. It seemed as safe and inviting as the Liberty church.
The farmer’s wife was big and husky. Her face was brown and smoothly lumped, like a potato fresh from the ground. The farmer had prepared her well; she smiled at her visitors as though circus freaks called every day at her tumbledown home on the prairie.
I also thought it dealt really well with important topics such as how we treat people who are different from us, bullying, abandoning friend groups, self-esteem and authenticity. We see Harold go through many changes, both good and bad. At one point, nearer the beginning of the book, his new fortune-teller friend challenges him with this line: “If you think that you are less than them, can you blame them for thinking they are better?”
The book is also really fun in places involving the elephants, especially when Harold succeeds in teaching them to play baseball.
I will be keeping this one.
(A word of caution, there are several other books with the same title, so make sure you look for the right one if you’re interested in reading it. Author Iain Lawrence.)
Since it’s still winter this one is a recipe post. One of my favorite ways of preserving an abundance of tomatoes from my garden is to throw them all in a ziploc bag and toss them in the freezer. Seriously, no work. Not like turning them into salsa or sauce or drying.
And so what do I do with bags of tomatoes? Chili! I simply measure out the amount and take into account the size and gaps and then dump them into a big pot. As they cook, the peels come off and I usually scoop them out. By the time the chili is all cooked, everything is nice and broken down. I mean, it all depends on how you like your chili, of course, but I prefer my chili a bit on the soup side rather than thick side.
Here is the recipe I’ve been using for the last many years. I got it off the web under the auspicious title “The All-Around Best Chili You Can Make.” I have made a few changes to the original recipe.
4 pounds of hamburger (I never use this much. I use only a pound or two.)
4 medium onions, diced (or probably chopped is more precise)
2 cups chopped green peppers (or less if you don’t have that many)
2 28 oz cans whole tomatoes or 2 quarts (8 cups) fresh or frozen tomatoes
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 4 oz cans cans of chopped green chilies (I always use fresh or frozen from my garden and vary the amount depending on the heat of the pepper)
1 pound bag of dry beans of your choice (I like small red beans)
4 cups water
1 can of kidney beans (I usually omit this)
4 TB chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp salt
Of course, you can adjust any of these ingredients to your preference.
Either soak the dry beans overnight or use the quick soak method. I usually rinse it all out and change water and then cook the beans for 40 minutes. The beans are then ready for the mixture as described next.
Cook the hamburger enough to drain off fat if too fatty. Add onions, both kinds of peppers, garlic and finish cooking. Add this and all other ingredients to the BIG pot of slightly cooked beans. Bring to a boil. (If you are using the frozen tomatoes you can stand around and peel off the skins :))
Turn down to medium or low and cook for at least one more hour until the beans are soft.
Like many places in the country, my family and I recently experienced a lengthy power outage. Although we never got the snow we were promised, there was snow all around and we got plenty of ice.
We’ve lived in this house for nearly 30 years. It’s in town and in the past we’d never lost electricity for more than an hour or two. We just ended four days of no power. Four days. I know many people had longer, but this was a first for me and like the wildfires in September it really shined a light on how much we often take for granted.
Let me just say: I really like electricity. Yes, I did miss Alexa & Netflix. I also missed hot water, light, cooking food normally… Basically, life really changed for those four days and nights.
The first day I think we just were waiting for the electricity to come back on. I asked my husband where the generator was that I had urged him to buy in preparation for “the Big One.” That’s what we west coasters call the impending large earthquake we are reminded is coming soon. I was ever so grateful for our wood stove which is our primary source of heat on a normal day. We learned that we could cook on it (canned soup, beans from the camping box, tortillas in foil, hot dogs in foil) and we plowed through a lot of wood. We lit candles, tried to preserve our phone battery life, and turned the couch toward the stove.
By day two the generator was found and taken out of the box and my brother-in-law brought over gas and got it going for us. This saved our freezers and fridge which had already gone an entire day and a night without electricity. We also created a charging station for our phones. That day was work, work, work. I wasn’t expecting it when the hot water ran out. That was a hard loss I should have seen coming.
Cooking was a pain. Washing dishes was a pain. It was like camping except without the sunshine, the swimming in a mountain lake, the hammock. It wasn’t like camping at all.
By the end of day two and day three we were starting to cheat by unplugging the freezer a little at a time to plug in a coffee maker or the microwave. We watched the news once on tv and All Creatures Great and Small.
On day four my son and I drove out to my parents’ house–they got their electricity back a day or so earlier. I was looking for easy food, maybe a chance to wash my hair. Soon after we arrived my husband called to say the power was on! Joy!
Yesterday, our first day back, I did laundry all day, roasted a chicken and baked a pie. We also got a lot of the downed limbs dealt with, as it was dry outside and not too cold. I’m fortunate that I get a few extra days home from work. But this is only because the area where I work was hit even harder, and many of the other employees still don’t have electricity.
Anyhow, I’m grateful now for the easy warmth and light and cooking, etc. Thoughts and prayers to those still without. Here are some of the photos from our “ice storm.” The sound of branches breaking and then of the melting was something else!
The past couple of years I’ve been growing a little tired (in the truest sense of the word) of gardening. Meaning, I haven’t been in a hurry to begin, or I chose to buy starts for some plants rather than early seeding them myself. But this year I’m finally feeling it again.
A few weeks ago I splurged on buying a lot of new seed rather than just relying on leftovers. And this weekend I sowed onion seed. I’m trying a method called winter sowing where you put the flats outside.
I’m trying this because the last few years my onion seed often germinated and then died off. I wasn’t sure why, so this time I have both new seed and a new method. We’ll see how it goes. I really do miss the years when I was successful and had a lot of storage onions. I love braiding them up and hanging them around the kitchen, snipping one off whenever a recipe called for onions.
Do you have anything planted or growing yet? (Inside or out.)
As more and more people are buying the complete set of the Seed Savers series, I thought it was a good time to remind everyone that all five books have complimentary book club questions.
As for other teacher resources, I’ve compiled a few (with permission) from other teachers and I’ve also started working on more comprehensive lessons for Treasure. However, that project always seems to fall off my plate.
As I mentioned a few posts back, I recently found a guest post I’d written at the request of someone who then never followed up. If they posted it out there without my knowledge, then mea culpa. I can’t remember who it was and don’t feel like sifting through old emails. 🙂
Why Read a Fiction Series on Gardening?
Let’s face it, there are a lot of good gardening books out in the world for both adults and children. Why would anybody want to read a fiction series?
There are several reasons. First, fiction is very capable of teaching things. Both truth and facts can be contained in a piece of fiction. Think historical fiction if you have any doubt.
Additionally, fiction has the capability of asking a lot of “what if” questions, much like scientific hypothesis, but about more than just science. Fiction can easily pose questions about social justice, responsibility, politics, and the like.
My series, the Seed Savers series, is a fiction series set in a future where gardening is illegal and real food unknown or unattainable by a majority of the population. The story unfolds with three children (ages 7-12) who have been given a seed from an older woman in their community. They don’t yet know what a seed is or its relationship to food, but they are determined to find out. The first book contains quite a lot of gardening instruction as the children begin to learn this forgotten skill.
The Seed Savers books are listed as ages 10 and up, but it really depends on a child’s reading ability. Some as young as 7 have read at least the first couple of books. The last two books are a little “older” in feel, and focus more on political themes.
Children who enjoy the outdoors and especially gardening are sure to identify with the main characters, Clare, Dante, and Lily.
Seed Savers-Treasure, the first in the series, has been used in schools with sustainability and gardening units, in after-school and/or community gardening programs, read in book clubs, and families–especially on farms or who garden–have enjoyed reading Seed Savers together.
So why read a fiction story about gardening? Why not! If you love thoughtful fiction and have often thought it would be nice to find a novel dedicated to food and gardening, look no further–Seed Savers is for you! (Or possibly a great gift for someone you know.)
Hi there. I hope your Thanksgiving was great and that your Christmas plans are buzzing right along!
In case you don’t receive my newsletter or subscribe to any of my social media, I wanted to let you know that all five Seed Savers books are half-price until Friday, December 4. This only happens once or twice a year, so grab ’em now!
The books are also available in paperback.There’s still time to order author-signed books for Christmas (directly from me)! The best deal is to order a complete set for just $60 (plus postage.) Just hit the contact button and send me an email. 🙂
So I’ve been meaning to post my dutch baby recipe for YEARS. In fact, before I started this post, I searched my website to make sure I hadn’t already blogged about it. I LOVE this dutch baby recipe. Over the years I’ve taken scores of photos of my babies, and now I’m finally posting! (Okay, update . . . I found this in my “draft” file, meaning even when I wrote it I didn’t post!!! The hens are not delivering as many eggs now in the dead of winter, but this recipe still rocks!)
We currently have four hens. This is our third “batch.” The first two times we got three hens, but something always went awry (one would be mean, or one would be a rooster) and we’d soon end up with two. In our last case, we had a rooster chick and then another hen died suddenly before she was 2 years old, leaving us with a solo, lonely chicken. So this time, I started with four to be safe.
Well, you guessed it, all four have grown into wonderful, egg-laying hens. So besides selling eggs to our neighbor, my favorite go-to egg recipe is the following Dutch Baby.
I got the original recipe out of a newspaper years ago and it has two variations, one sweet, one not. I almost exclusively make the sweet one. I suppose because it is so EASY and I always have the ingredients. For the sauce part I usually use plum syrup or jam and frozen blueberries, just because I have those items on hand.
It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s yummy!
Sweet Dutch Baby with Blueberry Topping
1 cup whole milk
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour
2 Tb butter
1 Tb sugar
jam or syrup
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt. (I don’t necessarily use whole milk.) Vigorously whisk in the flour until mostly smooth. You can let it sit with a few small lumps while you prepare the pan and then rewhisk out the lumps. Brown the butter in a heavy-bottom 10-inch skillet (I use cast iron). Rewhisk your mixture and then pour it into the skillet. Transfer to oven and bake until puffed and golden, 15 to 17 minutes. Without removing Dutch Baby from the oven, sprinkle with the sugar and turn oven to broil. Broil until very puffy and golden brown a couple of minutes longer.
To make the sauce I just add blueberries to whatever fruit syrup or jam I have in a small saucepan and cook it until the berries are hot.