Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye to 2009

Hard to believe it is the last day of 2009 already. My baby boy turned 6 years old yesterday and my newborn is going to start crawling any minute. Its always a little startling to me when I reflect on how fast the year passes by.

I'm not one to really set "New Years Resolutions", but I figure I could outline where I see myself at the end of 2010...

1. Out of debt
- this means all the credit cards and the doctor bills, not the house or vehicles

2. Chickens
- those who read this blog regularly know that this is one of my biggest goals this summer

3. SUCCESSFUL garden
- I see my gardening endeavors as somewhat of a failure up to this point, with a few exceptions... I want to grow an edible cabbage dammit!


These 3 things are top of my list... wonder what I'll be saying this time next year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Early Christmas Gifts

My wonderful husband gave me my gift early this year... my very first sewing machine! I have been having fun learning how to use it. So far I have made lounge pants for Rob and Stephen, and a bag for a young lady I know. Here are a few pictures... not bad for my first try!





Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Note to self...

Never try to start a diet when the house and freezer are full of yummy comfort foods and its the middle of Christmas baking season!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Making Your Own Laundry Soap

I just finished making my second batch of laundry soap. I have been working on that same gallon I started with this whole time, which says something about how far this stuff stretches. It cleans well enough to clean my husbands clothes, (he is an auto mechanic) and is gentle enough for my baby's things as well. This time I added 15 drops of lavender essential oil and the smell is lovely! Once I get started on my homemade soaps, I will use that instead of the commercial Fels Naptha soap, for an even gentler, natural product. I'll post the recipe if anyone is interested, or I can email it to you if you want me to!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Apple Cider Soup


This is too delicious not to share! I roasted some squash and root veggies from my CSA veggie box for dinner yesterday. This soup is made of leftover veggies simmered in vegetable broth and leftover apple cider. The roasted beets give it the beautiful color, and it tastes amazing!

A Successful Thanksgiving!

What a feast! Thanksgiving is always a great time to enjoy the bounties of the fall harvest, and it was a blessing to have lots of family to share with! I couldn't believe how much food there ended up being, and everyone was happy to have leftover goodies to take home with them. Its always funny to watch my husband at Thanksgiving... you can set a timer to the exact number of minutes it will take him to fall asleep after finishing his meal. Its always the family joke.

We had a great day, and now I'm looking forward to a day of no spending, to protest "Black Friday." This world is too focused on consumerism, and I am boycotting the concept this holiday season. It amazes me that so many are so blind to the state our economy is in right now, as well as to the obvious things you can do to make it a little better. Start by spending your money wisely, focusing on supporting your local economy rather than China! Buy gifts from little shops rather than big box stores, or better yet, buy the basic ingredients or materials and make it yourself! A well thought out gift means so much more than 10 cheap little things you grabbed off the shelf, in the race to beat the person next to you to the next aisle over!

This year I am giving gift bags full of homemade goodies and useful items. The gift bag is really a re-useable shopping bag, and it will contain a few homemade preserves, like the Ginger-Pear Marmalade I made last week, Banana Bread, Cookies, and even a few neat dish-scrubbies that I have been crocheting over the last month or so. A few special people may get a few extra goodies that I found at a thrift store, or maybe a CSA box for the week of their choice. My point is just to be thoughtful, rather than tv-commercial driven. You will feel better about the whole season, knowing you didn't give in to the little voices coming out of your television that tell you what to buy and how to think.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I am thankful...

I am thankful for a day to spend with family, and I am not going to waste it by hanging out on the computer! I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Winter is definitely here!

Wow! What a sudden change! Winter is definitely here!

It is -24F at my house this morning. Cold enough that I have the water trickling in the bathroom sinks so that the pipes don't freeze. Every time I think about getting chickens, this is the one drawback I come up with. What about in the middle of winter? I know that they can survive quite comfortably with the right setup, but am I really going to want to go collect eggs at 40 below? The answer, of course, is no, but I would do it anyway! I just need to think about this when I determine how far from the house I decide to locate the coop.

Stephen has expressed an interest in vegetable gardening and raising chickens, so I recently requested some information from our local 4-H folks. The packet just got here, so I need to read and see what they have to offer. We wouldn't be joining until summer at the earliest, but I think this will be more of a next-year project. At any rate, I'm glad he's interested. That means that he is listening to what I am trying to teach him!

Now that there is real snow on the ground, I am really starting to think about Christmas. I have about half of my gifts made, and I need to decide what type of preserves to make. I want it to be something festive, so maybe something like pear/pomegranate jelly? I'll have to start flipping through my canning cookbooks for ideas.

We had an early Thanksgiving dinner with some close friends of ours last weekend. Today I am making turkey soup with the leftovers. The house will soon be smelling warm and delicious, which is perfect for a cold day like today. I love turkey leftovers!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Be careful what you wish for!



We got almost 6 inches of fresh snow yesterday. Everything is all white and sparkling now, but the clouds are gone and its cold! -9F, but its so beautiful... I just love it! We lost power for about 1/2 hour this morning, but nothing to be too concerned about. Now, if I just had a wood stove, life would be perfectly cozy!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Finally Snow!


I thought it was never going to happen, but look at what we woke up to this morning!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Its still not snowing!

Well, the weather warmed up a bit, hovering right at freezing at the moment. But its still not snowing! I love the first REAL snowfall. (as opposed to the dusting we got the other day.) Big, white fluffy snowflakes drifting slowly to the ground, it makes me feel warm, even if they are made of ice! I want to look out the window and see a perfect blanket of white staring back at me, undisturbed except for the occasional moose tracks, or mouse tracks, depending on how close to the house you happen to be looking!

Ok, my neighbor already put up a Christmas tree in their living room... that, my friends, is overkill. What about Thanksgiving? We seem to rush these things more and more each year. This year I intend to slow things down a bit. Hand-making my Christmas gifts will be a big part of that. I am looking forward to putting the baskets together, probably making a few more jams or jellies to include, and making the dishcloths one by one. I've just never had the time to do it before, and I am excited! A real, home-made holiday season!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brrrrrrr!

Zero degrees Fahrenheit this morning!!! The weather sure can change fast around here! We need snow pronto to act as insulation for the long winter ahead. The reports all seem to say its going to snow tomorrow, so here's hoping!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

First snow of the season!!


Ok, so there isn't much, but the important thing is that when I woke up this morning, there was snow falling! My son JUMPED out of bed when I told him the news, and now he is very excited about snowballs and snowmen. I'm pretty sure Robert is gonna get pelted by a snowball or two this year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Home improvements!!!

My wonderful husband had to listen to me whine all last winter about how I had no light in my kitchen. He decided that he wasn't going to listen to it again, now that it is getting much darker outside. So, last weekend, he fixed the problem!!!





This is my newly updated kitchen! If you look at the ceiling on the right, that one little recessed light is the only light I had! It was horrible! We added a few cheap under-the-cabinet lights last year, but, you get what you pay for! They sucked, and didn't last very long. Last weekend he installed a range hood with 4 lights, the 3 red pendant lights above the bar, and the track lighting in front of the cabinets. I can see!!! I have such a wonderful husband!


And just because she is so darned cute... here is a picture of Lily that I took this morning. 4 months old already, can you believe it?!




We still haven't gotten the first snow of the season... it has been raining a lot, but it just isn't cold enough yet. I really am wishing for snow now that the leaves have all fallen from the trees. Patience is difficult this time of year.

I am officially never buying store-bought laundry detergent again. I am so happy with my homemade detergent, it even works well in my High Efficiency washing machine! The clothes feel softer and cleaner than with regular detergent, and I can take comfort in the fact that I'm not loading up my family with all those unnecessary chemicals. I haven't tried the vinegar as a fabric softener yet, because with this soap the clothes are already really soft, but I will give it a try with the next load of towels I wash, just because I am curious. I am still doing my cleaning with vinegar and baking soda, and I am really happy with the change. Are any of you using natural cleaning products, or do you have any recipes for them that you want to share?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall seems to be taking its time this year...

What a beautiful fall we have had this year. I can't believe how long it has taken for all the leaves to drop. The colder weather came on rather quickly, but the last week or so has actually warmed back up a bit, with the temperatures staying in the 40s. It has been raining a lot, and I'm a bit worried that its going to be another year where it rains until December. That is NO fun. I've mostly given up on the fall garden preparation for the year. I got one of the weedy beds tilled under to try and kill the weeds, but I'll have to wait until next spring to add the compost and steer manure. Oh well, you do what you can. I have lots of ambitions, but truth be told, my 4 month old is just taking most of my time, and those ambitions will just have to wait a bit.

We broke down and finally got a dehumidifier for the house, and I'm so glad we did! The average indoor humidity was a whopping 77% and the windows were all starting to grow mold. The dehumidifier has been running for 3 days now, and I've already pulled about 6 gallons of water out of the air. Amazing! The less humid air feels so much warmer, and even my husband commented on what a difference it was.

I have been starting to expand my homemaking skills some more. This week, I successfully learned to make laundry detergent, and have switched to vinegar solutions for cleaning, rather than the normal chemicals you find in the cleaning supply isle. What a difference! I think that the diluted vinegar actually works better, and doesn't leave a lingering smell like most commercial products do. This winter I want to really focus on getting the chemicals out of my home. I don't want them in my food, so why would I want them in my air?

Lily is getting big... its hard to believe she is 4 months old already. She is still nursing exclusively right now, but she'll be starting solid foods in a few months. I need to start learning to make baby food, as I don't want to feed her the preservative-laden baby food you find at the stores. Our veggies that we get from our CSA (which I LOVE) are strictly organic, so we are off to a good start. I think I will invest a little money in a good quality baby food mill. I'm sure that in the long run, I'll be glad I did.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Build it up, then tear it all down...

I got quite a bit of the garden situated for winter today. I have only 2 more beds to tear down before the snow flies. The zucchini/bean bed is waiting patiently for me... and the snap peas are still blooming. We had a really hard frost last night, so I won't be able to harvest peas for very much longer, but right now they are sweet and wonderful!

I finally turned on the main heater in the house, but set it at 66F and turn it back off during the day, like the fireplace. Winter is coming, like it or not!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Brrrrrrr!

It is most definitely getting colder outside. Earlier this week, the air changed. It went from cool summer air, to cold crisp fall air. You can smell the snow creeping down the mountain, and it is getting downright COLD at night. I still haven't turned the heater on yet. I've been baking every day and the heat from the oven is still enough to keep the house warm enough. I have turned on the fireplace in the bedroom the last 2 nights, but that's more for being cozy than for being cold. I am really a cheapskate when it comes to heating fuel. My husband hates it, and secretly turns up the heat when he thinks he can get away with it, but I always turn it right back down! I figure, especially with fuel prices the way they are these days (gasoline is running $3.36 a gallon right now, and heating fuel isn't far behind...) our pocketbooks will thank us if we just put on a sweater. Lily has lots of cute, warm footie pajamas that will keep her warm, and Stephen likes it a little cooler like I do.

I have been letting the dogs stay in the house for most of the day now. Boss is almost 10 and has cancer. The cold last year nearly crippled him. I honestly don't think he will make it through another winter. That's a hard thing to come to terms with. I rescued Boss when he was 8 months old, and he has been the best dog I have ever known. I'll just keep him comfortable as long as I can, and know in my heart that that old dog had a good life because of me. He used to go on sleep-overs to Stephen's cousin's house. I have pictures of them in bed with Boss snuggled up under the covers, happy as a clam, and twice the size of the kids!

My husband mentioned that we might get another dog when Boss passes on, but honestly, I don't think I want to. Lady is quite a handful, although she is getting more mellow as she gets older (finally!) I do need a dog for protection around here, but Lady is 140 pounds, and can do the job quite nicely on her own. She is quite fond of scaring the crap out of tresspassers! She is not mean at all, but they don't know that when she walks up to them and looks them in the eye, and is the same size as them! She has the intimidation thing down nicely... she gets about 3 feet away and just stares! (We don't have tresspassers all that often any more, but it was a real problem last year... mostly punks on four-wheelers or snowmachines tearing up the driveway, with no concept of private property or respecting the rights of others.)

All in all, life is good here at Woodside Gardens. We are content and happy, and ready for the change of seasons. Lots of stuff to do around the house still before the snow flies, but that seems to be a never ending chore, and sure to get worse once the chickens are here. I have all winter to convince Rob to build that chicken coop in the spring!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Its official!

There is officially frost on my car this morning! Autumn is here, snow will not be far behind. Bring it on!!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

No luck this year...

Rob is still out hunting, but is getting ready to head back home. Looks like no moose this winter. Its a bit disappointing, but since this was his first year hunting, it isn't all that surprising. It would have been nice to have moose in the freezer, along with the salmon that we depend on every winter, but maybe we'll have the opportunity next year. Rob did say that next year he is entering for the permits for the land close to our home, so he can go every evening. We see so many moose on our road, it is much more likely that he will get one that way. That is one of the things I love about living where I live. My road goes back into the wilderness for several miles before you see any sort of civilization. There is wildlife everywhere! I see fox, moose, bear, owl, eagle, porcupine, spruce hen (stupid road chickens), or hawk etc etc, most every day that I leave the house. In Alaska, you don't have to go far to find the untamed country, and many of us, like me, are lucky enough to live right in the middle of it!

I got out most of my "fall" decorations this weekend. The subtle colors in my house have changed to the oranges, browns, reds and greens of the season. I don't go overboard, but the little changes make a difference in the feel of things. Everything is just a little more cozy today than yesterday. And I even turned on the fireplace in my bedroom for the first time since early spring! I turn my heat off completely in May every year, and the first time the fireplace comes back on is a sure sign of things to come. It will still be a few weeks, however, before I turn the main heater back on... have to conserve energy as much as I can!

I baked the first pumpkin pie of the season last night, made from fresh pumpkin rather than canned (of course.) Pumpkin is something I would eventually like to grow in my garden, but I think I will have to build a raised bed designed especially for this lovely orange orb. Next year I am building the raspberry beds, so maybe I will put in a pumpkin patch the following year. One step at a time, my garden will get bigger and bigger! Living on gravel like I do gives me the unique opportunity to situate my garden exactly how I want it, where I want it, which is kind of exciting! I wonder what my yard will look like ten years from now!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Yeah, so I lied... what can I say?

Yes, I know that in my last post I said I was done canning for the season, but I just couldn't help myself!



Cinnamon Red Hot Apples

This is a recipe I have been dying to try, so I went ahead and made it up. These are so incredibly good, I can't even describe it! I think I'm going to make some of them into an apple strudel for Rob tonight. He's headed out early tomorrow morning for another try at a moose, so he'll want a hearty dinner tonight and a good breakfast in the morning. He has really come to appreciate my home-cooked meals. Fresh food makes all the difference in the world!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I think I'm about jellied out...

Crabapple Jelly!!!



We got 2 batches of Crabapple Jelly done today. Mom looks glad to be done, as you can see from the photo above! I think this will be the last of the canning for the season, unless Rob gets a moose this weekend. I am definitely getting burnt out!

Oh, for the love of crabapples!!!

I was given a large amount of crabapples over the weekend. The owner of the tree loves the blossoms, but doesn't touch the apples! Lucky me!




Spiced Crabapples


Yesterday I made Spiced Crabapples, and today its Crabapple Jelly, with a bit of the syrup from the Spiced Crabapples. Its going to be yummy! I'll probably end up making regular jelly as well, for those who don't like cinnamon.

Once all the canning for the season is done, I'll have to post a picture of my pantry, with all the glass jars lined up. It really is a beautiful sight!

Friday, September 11, 2009

09/11/01

Although this is not the usual subject of my writings, today is a day we need to talk about, a day we need to remember forever. This morning I was reading the blogs I follow, and several of them had pictures or videos from this horrible day. My five year old son asked what the pictures were, and I almost told him "nothing, don't worry about it". But I stopped myself. If we don't teach our children about the good and the bad of this world, how will they know what to expect when they get older? I told him what happened, and why it happened, and we found a video that showed clips of the whole thing. He watched quietly, and hugged me when he saw the tears in my eyes. I told him that we need to always remember this day, and remember the people that sacrifice everything to keep it from happening again. I love my country, and I hope that my son will grow up to love her also.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cranberry-Apple Butter

The most recent project has been Alaskan Cranberry Apple Butter. The high-bush cranberries (which I have learned aren't really cranberries at all) were picked here in my yard. You have probably noticed by now that my un-landscaped land provides quite a bounty of wild food every year. The apples were picked from my aunts house in Palmer. They are Parkland apples, grafted onto a crabapple root, so that they will survive our -30F or colder winter temperatures.



I baked some pork chops last night, smothered in this wonderful stuff, and my son couldn't contain his amazement over how good it tasted!

Friday, September 4, 2009

38 Principles of Self-Sufficiency

Copy and paste this link to a very good post about self sufficiency...

http://thesurvivalmom.com/2009/09/04/38-principles-of-self-sufficiency/

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What a difference a deck makes!

I was recalling earlier what the front of the house looked like at the beginning of the year. It is amazing what a weekend project can do for appearances, and functionality as well! Rob built me a front deck for my birthday this year, to replace the pallet (which I detested) that served the purpose when we bought the place. It took him a day and a half to build, but its like we added a whole new room!

Here's the before and after pictures...


Before...




...After

We have so many landscaping plans for this pile of rocks we live on, its hard to decide what to tackle first. We mostly want to get in the gardens first, but this was much needed, and much appreciated! It helps keep the house a little cleaner in the summer, also, because I leave my front doors open thanks to the lack of mosquitoes in this particular spot. I didn't realize quite how drastic the transformation was until I looked at both of these pictures together.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Today's Kitchen Project...

Just look at that color! - Currant/Raspberry Jelly


I canned a batch of jelly completely on my own for the first time today... and it was a complete success! I feel so accomplished this fall, learning this new skill. Next, I need to apply it to preserving vegetables. Rob is going moose hunting next weekend, and it would also be great to get some stew meat canned up. I need to learn to use the pressure canner, soon!

My first attempt at 100% whole wheat bread...

Let it rise...


In the oven...



Everyone was eating it before I could even get a picture!!!



I love fresh artisan bread, and it went especially well with the Raspberry Jam we made last week. Today we are making Current Jelly, as we were able to pick over 2 quarts from just one wild current bush!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Homemade Spiced Apple Cider

1 gallon apple juice
1 can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tbsp cinnamon (or to taste)
20 cloves (or to taste)

Mix all ingredients and heat to simmering... tastes great and makes the house smell awesome!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Smells like fall time...

When I go outside, I can smell the change of the season. Instead of green, my nostrils fill with the smell of earth, brown leaves, and berries. I love fall time, not just for the smells, but for the colors, and the crisp air. Its time to start bundling up a bit, and time to turn the heater back on in the house (almost). Time to break out the scented candles and close the curtains, and give the house back that cozy feeling that it only gets when it is cold outside. All summer long the doors and windows are open, giving the house that nice, fresh feel. Now, when you walk into my home, you smell vegetable soup cooking on the stove, fresh bread baking in the oven, hot apple cider simmering away, and yummy, earthy scented candles burning in the corner of the room. Cozy is the best way to describe it. What could be better than that?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Happiness is...

Happiness is...

A kid who actually likes school
A baby who only cries when she really needs something
Home-canned produce on the pantry shelves
New pantry curtains, home made, of course
Food in the dehydrator
A clean house
Dinner cooking on the stove
A content and happy family

...welcome to my evening.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dilly Beans



Still canning away! I get my first CSA box on Wednesday, and I have a feeling I'll be canning some of that too! I'm looking forward to a full pantry this winter!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lazy Saturday Morning...


Yes, she's a big girl, and she snores, too!

Bear Scat and other fun stuff...

When we got home from Stephen's school event yesterday, we were greeted by a HUGE pile of bear scat at the bottom of the driveway! I'm talking "there's no way that came from a black bear" huge! I know that bears live here on my property, even over-wintering in places, but this reminded me of just how close they really are. It doesn't worry me, but reminds me that Stephen needs to stay close to the house when he plays outside, and that we need to be aware of our surroundings. (Like day before yesterday when I was out in the thick bushes picking rosehips for my jelly) Rob, on the other hand, freaked out a little bit, being the city boy that he hates to admit that he sometimes is.. (hehehe)

A little background on this particular piece of property... My father purchased 40 acres from the original homesteaders, who are close family friends. He then sold 10 of the acres to my sister, who eventually decided that she was more interested in city life. When she told me she was going to sell the place, I immediately sold my house and bought hers! So, although I have only owned this land going on 2 years, I have literally lived here my whole life. The bears were just part of the land, my father always being more interested in providing a sanctuary for wildlife, rather than hunting it. There are bears, moose, fox, Sandhill Cranes (that come back every year to have their babies in my back yard), porcupines, coyotes, wolves, lynx... etc. etc.

I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to be in such an amazing place... just look at what I get to wake up to every morning!!!




That's a photo of Denali... the tallest mountain in North America, which I took from my front porch this morning. She greets me every morning, reminding me that its a big world out there. Look at that photo and tell me that I'm not the luckiest person in the world, to be able to raise my children in such an amazing place!!! This is the piece of land I was meant to be on. My heart is here. My life is here. I can't imagine being anywhere else in the world.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wild Rosehip Jelly!!!

Today was a good day. I officially made not only my first batch of jelly ever, but it was my first time canning as well! Rosehip jelly, made from Wild Sitka Roses that grow all over my property. This is better than homegrown... this is wild food foraging!



Wild Sitka Rosehips




Boiling the rosehips to make the juice




Cooking the juice with the sugar and pectin




Made 1 dozen half-pint jars




Beautiful color






I was determined to learn how to can this year, and I'm excited to learn how easy it really is! Tomorrow its on to Raspberry Jam!

On another note, I officially joined a local CSA this week. Glacier Valley Farm CSA is unique in that you purchase the produce by the week, rather than by the season. Its a good price, and if you live in Anchorage or the Mat-Su Valley, I encourage you to check them out!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A new business possibility...

Working on a new business venture this week. Hopefully it will pan out and allow me to make a little extra cash to help out around here. Rob is so wonderful to take on the task of supporting the family financially on his own, but I feel like I need to do what I can as well. I may be a stay at home mom now, but I was a successful Paralegal until Lily came along. I don't regret my decision to stay at home, but that extra paycheck sure was a good thing! I'll speak more of my new business when the time is right, but for now I am just happy that something may be happening!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fall is upon us!

It was markedly colder when I got up this morning. Partly, I'm sure, because we are getting up earlier due to Stephen's new school schedule, but also, it is almost the end of August already!

Mom mentioned yesterday that she may not be ready for chickens until next spring, so today, after Lily's 2 month doctor appointment, we are going to see what we can do to help her be ready now. I am itching for some chickens!!!

Speaking of Lily, I can't believe how fast she is growing now. If only the garden was so cooperative!

We discovered yesterday that the rosehips appear to be ready to harvest. Usually they are best after the first frost, so I'm not sure if I should harvest them now, or wait a few weeks. I'm looking forward to making batches of rosehip jelly, and I will probably dehydrate some of them as well. The cranberries are ready to pick also. Lots to do!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Still thinking about next summer's gardens...

This morning, the compost pile is definitely on my mind. I am really looking forward to being able to turn this lovely stuff into my garden, and to get some healthy, organic vegetables out of it. Depending on the state of the oldest compost pile next spring, I may end up using it a year early. I have discussed my 3 year compost plan before, but I think I may not have to wait that long. Even if there is still a little bit of identifiable material left, it will still help out my soil immensely.

I have come to the conclusion that the nutrient-poor soil in the garden beds is probably the main reason I had such an unsuccessful garden this year. Next year I will scale back the sheer number of different plants I will be growing, and try to concentrate on 6 or 7 items that are the most important to me, and with a little luck, and a little compost and cow poop, maybe I will actually have something to can at the end of the season!

No one ever claimed that organic was easier, but in the long run, its soooo worth it!

On another track... I can't believe that the farmer's markets are already starting to wrap up for the season. I was a little disappointed by the selection in the farmer's markets I visited this year. I expected to be able to find more than zucchini, but that was really the only prevalent vegetable. Everything else was very hit-or-miss. Don't get me wrong... I love zucchini, but Alaska has so much more vegetable potential! One of the markets I attended had over 100 vendors, and only 2 of them even had vegetables. The rest was all just deep fried foods and tourist items. I guess when things go more mainstream, sometimes people miss the point. Hopefully this will change in the future, as more and more people find the benefits of eating locally grown foods.

Fall is quickly upon us, and today is the first day of school! Time seems to go by a little faster every year. Stephen is starting kindergarten, and he is excited for the transition! Hopefully his good attitude about school will continue. I always loved school, and I'm sure he will too.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'm not quite sure why I find this so funny...

One of my eggplants is actually producing flower buds all of a sudden. I had given them up as a total loss, and now this! Of course there is not enough time for it to produce a mature vegetable, but now I'm curious as to what it will do. The garden is a crazy place, indeed. Now if only my zucchini flowers would do something productive... they are pretty enough, but I really would like to get at least one squash for my effort!

We hit up a farmer's market while we were in Anchorage today. I bought a huge yellow zucchini, a few snow apples (white turnips), and some fresh green beans. I will be making homemade vegetable beef soup this Friday, and they will add so much to the flavor. I LOVE homemade soup, especially in the fall and winter. Nothing like healthy comfort food! YUMMY!

I also just ate 2 of the reddest, most amazing tasting strawberries ever, out of my 3 tiered raised strawberry beds. Absolute heaven!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ewwww... cattle poop!

I'm going to be adding aged steer manure to my raised garden beds and to my compost pile today. My husband thinks I'm nuts... he's such a city boy! LOL I just amazes me the differences between him and myself, him growing up in big city California and me growing up on a little farm in Alaska. When Rob's parents were here last week I served scrambled eggs with fresh eggs, and they (my husband included) actually complained that the eggs were too yellow! Can you believe that?! They are so used to old store bought eggs that they thought the yellow color meant that there was something wrong!

I'll be getting 3 chickens very soon. I don't have a chicken coop yet, so they will be living at my mother's house with her 3 new hens, while I work on my husband a while longer. He thinks that chickens will be a big pain in the ass. We are also going to be raising a turkey next spring for thanksgiving dinner. I'm really excited!

Sooner or later Rob will let me do this here, but for now, at least mom is only 6 miles away!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Starting the harvest...

Today I harvested more snap peas and some of the green onions. The peas will still produce for another 2 months if I keep picking every 2 or 3 days, and the onions needed to be thinned very badly. I have one absolutely huge cucumber, which I just don't quite want to pick yet. There are also quite a few babies, which might at least get to pickle size if the weather doesn't get too much colder. The tomato plants are still looking pitiful, with one green tomato about the size of a golf ball. Maybe I'll at least get to eat this one! Carrots are small, almost not worth mentioning, but they are still trying, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt until the last possible moment.

I went ahead and turned under all the spinach and kale... they were definitely not doing anything. The cabbages look healthy, but there are no heads. I will give them the benefit of the doubt as well, but I'm not holding my breath.

Next year I think I will try heirloom seeds for most of my produce, along with better soil. Hopefully this will make the difference!

I also turned the compost again today, getting the top layer (wet from the rain) into the center of the pile. The center was bone dry, so I obviously need to water it more often. We just haven't had enough rain this year, even though the last 2 weeks have been very rainy. I'll just keep at it!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Already thinking about next years garden...

So, with the exception of a few plants, this years garden has been a real failure for me. I need to start thinking about next years garden and what I will (and won't) plant in it. I'll start out with a list of what grew and what didn't.

Grew Well:

Snap Peas
Cucumber
Onion
Strawberries
Rhubarb

Didn't Work Out:

Beans
Zucchini
Broccoli
Carrots
Radishes
Spinach
Kale
Cabbage
Eggplant
Peppers
Tomato
Beets



I have to start by asking myself how much of the failure could have been prevented? I need much better soil in the raised beds, that would make a difference all the way around. I neglected my garden for 2 weeks during the beginning of the hottest part of the summer. This was due to Lily being born, but it was neglect all the same.


So, what am I definitely NOT growing again next year? Eggplant, Peppers and Beets for sure.

What am I definitely GROWING again next year? Snap Peas, Cucumber, Onion, Strawberries and Rhubarb, for sure, obviously. But what am I not willing to give up on quite yet? Cabbage, for one. I love cabbage, I cook with it all the time, and Alaska is know for its ability to grow prize winning cabbages, which tells me that I am just doing something wrong. I also know that even if I say I am not going to, I will end up with at least 2 tomato plants again next year. I think I will try Zucchini again as well, as this is just something I really want to have an abundance of in the fall. I think that next year I just need to scale it down a bit, and try to focus on a few so-far-unaccessable-to-me vegetables, and a few tried and true favorites. I will not give up, and sooner or later I will have an amazing vegetable garden every year to feed my family!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Is it time to re-define our priorities?

All you seem to hear in the news is the (still) tanking economy and other public discomforts. It makes me wonder when more people are going to realize that sometimes, simpler is better. The American People as a whole are working themselves to death, just to keep up appearances within a superficial, materialistic society. Families are living together, co-existing, without ever getting to know one another. How are parents supposed to lead by example and instill morals and values into their children, when their children never see them because they are always at work? If society placed a higher value on being at home than traveling, multi-tasking, and spending money, we would have a greener earth, happier families, better LOCAL economies, and have (possibly) poorer, yet much better off and contented, people.

There is nothing better to me than being at home, watching my children grow, learn and play, while my husband works on whatever project he has dreamed up in the back yard. We aren't spending money, we're using hardly any electricity because we are outside in the yard instead of in the living room watching TV (we don't even HAVE TV), and the children are learning that home is a good thing, to be enjoyed every day. Sitting on the front porch in the covered swing with a cold drink on a hot, sunny day, is, to me, better than being in a mall, or a car, or just about anywhere else.

Happy Birthday to me!






This was my birthday gift from Rob this year. Adding a deck is like adding a whole new room to the house!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Time flys...

Hard to believe that Lily is almost a month old already! I've severely neglected my blog! Here is a quick garden update...

The broccoli and spinach bolted, due to the 85F+ temperatures. The cabbage hasn't grown at all in the last month. The peas are blooming and the beans are doing well, as are the carrots. The radishes have met a similar fate as the cabbages. Cucumbers and zucchini are looking good, and I have 1 tomato. The peppers are covered in aphids and the eggplant seems to be a wasted effort. The onions, beets and strawberries are looking good, and the rhubarb is ready to harvest again! This crazy weather has just messed with the garden too much this year, but next year will hopefully be more productive! I'll post some more pictures next time!

Monday, June 22, 2009

She's here!


Obviously I haven't posted anything in about a week. Lily was born last Wednesday, and my posts may be few and further between until we get into our routine. I'm an overwhelmed Mommy at the moment!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I just couldn't help myself

So I broke down today and purchased 2 cucumber plants from the local greenhouse. They are now living happily amongst the peppers, tomatoes and eggplants. I had moved my herb garden out of the greenhouse to its more permanent outdoor location, and there was this empty space on the shelf that was just begging to be filled, as well as 2 pieces of soaker hose that was just watering the floor. I have actually never tried growing cucumbers before, so we'll see how this goes. Really, everything in the greenhouse is an experiment this year.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Today's Garden Happenings

My one Lily is happily blooming away, while the rest sit and think about it.





Spinach and Kale are officially in the raised beds now, and they seem quite happy with their new living arrangements.




This years compost pile.




Last years compost pile.


The main event in the garden today is the compost. I finally got around to turning and watering last years compost pile, and I was pleasantly surprised! There is still a lot of dried garden waste (mostly last years tomato plants), but there was lots of earthy smelling dirt as well! This is the first time I have turned this pile, so I expected to find a lot of organic matter that hadn't really started decomposing yet. This is my first attempt at composting, and I have a 3 year plan in mind.

Year 1) Start a fresh pile each year, in the fence to keep the critters away, no turning, just piling.
Year 2) Turn and water (occasionally)
Year 3) Turn and water (occasionally) and turn into the raised beds in the fall

I figure this plan will give me compost with a minimal amount of work or attention, and give the organic matter time to fully decompose even though it freezes every winter. This means that starting next fall, I will begin to incorporate my compost into my garden. I want to garden exclusively organically, and I figure this is the best way to go about it. I am contemplating adding aged steer manure in year two, but I haven't decided on that yet. Eventually I will also be getting my chickens going, and I will add their manure in year one or two as well. Give me a few years, and my garden should show a marked improvement... I have nothing but time!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sustainable dinner...


On the menu for tonight:

Salmon and Broccoli Alfredo
Cranberry/Rhubarb Crisp


Made an awesome dinner tonight that even the kid loved! The alfredo is simple... Bake a Salmon Fillet (Fresh caught King Salmon, which you probably guessed if you read my blog regularly,) with olive oil and fresh herbs, make your favorite basic alfredo sauce and add the baked salmon and some broccoli florets (which would have come out of my garden if it weren't only June). Mix it all together, add a little sea salt, and serve over your favorite noodles.

Now for the best part...
(I used fresh cut Rhubarb from my garden and cranberries I had stored in the freezer from last year)

Cranberry/Rhubarb Crisp

1 cup chopped rhubarb
1 cup cranberries
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt (if desired)
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour

Place the cut up rhubarb and cranberries in a shallow 6" x 10" baking dish.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and salt.
Melt the butter over low heat and add the sugar and flour until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal, spread over the rhubarb/cranberry mixture.
Bake uncovered in a 350F oven until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
If the rhubarb and cranberries are frozen, increase baking time by approximately 20 minutes.
Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Good news in the garden!

The Pole Beans and the Carrots have finally broken ground! This means that my entire garden is officially growing now! I also just transplanted the Shrimp Flowers into a bigger pot, where they should be able to grow all summer. Hopefully I will get lots of seeds this year so I have more to plant next year! I'll post some pictures when the seedlings get a little bigger.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Garden Happenings...

Here's some photos of the progression of the garden so far...


Mixed Radishes



Wild Raspberries



Sitka Roses (behind them is where my Rock Garden will eventually live)



Lots of Cabbages!!!



Snap Peas



Broccoli



Zucchini



Rhubarb



Spinach



Kale


This is not everything in the garden, obviously, but gives a pretty good representation of how things are doing.... And remember, its only June 4th, and this is Alaska... I have no complaints so far!