Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays...

To all of you out there who take the time to read this blog, I hope this season has been good to you... more good posts to follow sooner than later, I promise!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A blustery day...

The wind here is crazy today.  It reminds me of last year when we lost power for close to a week!  The trees are having an incredibly hard time staying upright, and the 6 foot high chain link garden fencing is threatening to topple over at any minute.  Give those power lines a dose of heavy snow and they are going to start snapping, and we had our first snowfall a few days ago, so this is a real possibility.

This year we are better prepared for the inevitable power failure (see last years post here).  We have a generator, a stocked pantry (no electricity required,) and a game plan.  The house will stay warm thanks to the propane fireplace that doesn't require any electricity to function... (the fan won't work, but it will still heat).  We have talked to the kids about what to expect if the power goes out for a long period of time, and we have plenty of baby wipes, anticipating not being able to take a shower for several days.  We have books and crayons and craft projects, as well as lots of warm blankets and some comfort foods like hot chocolate.  The small television can be plugged into the generator, and we have kids music on my iPhone (which can also be charged via generator.) 

Last years power failure was really an eye opener for me.  Grown-ups might know what to expect when it happens, but children have lots of fears about the unknown, and its important for us to show them that there is nothing to worry about.  A few familiar things can make them a whole heck of a lot more comfortable, and when the kids aren't freaking out, EVERYTHING goes a lot smoother.

Are you ready to go several days without power?  What do you do to prepare your home and your family?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Goodbye to the Greenhouse...

After looking at the pictures of the 2010 tomatoes and cucumbers compared to what they looked like this year, and in 2009, I have decided to say goodbye to the greenhouse.  Well, not goodbye, exactly.  It will be transformed into next years potting shed!  Last year, the greenhouse was out of commission, so I erected a hot-house of sorts.  I bent some old tent poles into one of the raised beds and covered the whole thing with clear plastic.

By August, this is what it looked like in there...

2009 and 2011 the tomatoes and cucumbers were planted in the greenhouse.  There isn't a consistent temperature inside at all, and although I have a fan system set up, it doesn't seem to make much difference.  I don't have raised beds installed, so the plants are in large plastic rubbermaid buckets.  They were all spindly, putting out few branches and only providing 2 or 3 fruits per plant.  Seriously, it was so pitiful that I didn't even want to take any pictures in there this year!

So, the greenhouse potting shed, will be put to much better use next year, giving me a small area for transplanting etc., but more importantly, a place to store all my assorted pots and containers, as well as garden tools, or anything else I can fit in there!  Instead of growing the tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse, I will build a moveable frame (I practice crop rotation) to which I can attach plastic each year.  Then I can plant them in one of the raised beds and attach the frame over the top.  Hopefully, the harvest will be much more bountiful in 2012!

Friday, October 7, 2011

It doesn't have to be new...

What was old...

... is new again!

This project cost me exactly $3.00 in paint.  (Sunflowers courtesy of my wonderfully artistic Mother).  Just because it has seen better days doesn't mean we can't make it beautiful again!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Are you a consumer, or a creator?

Reading my blog roll this morning got me thinking about something important.  To the food companies, and the government, we are all just "consumers".  We buy whatever they put on the shelves, whatever they tell us we need to spend our money on.  New cars, huge houses, gadgets and gizmos that are outdated a week after we purchase them.  Buy this, buy that, work 80 hours a week so you can buy more of our products... after all, your neighbor has one... so don't you need one too?  My answer is a resounding NO!!!  Why should I spend every hard earned penny on pre-packaged crap and things that will break after only a few uses.  Why should I spend $50K on a new vehicle when my 11 year old truck is functional and already makes me happy?  Why should I trust a food company who just recalled a bunch of their "kid-friendly" meals because they are full of bits of wire, or feed my children from a package that has to shout out what is healthy about it, because when I look at the ingredients list, most of it I can't even pronounce, let alone know what it is?  Because my government tells me that spending all my money on this crap is the "American Way"? NO!!!  NO NO NO!!!

I refuse to be defined as a "Consumer" any longer.  I am a creator!  I created a beautiful, bountiful garden where there was just a pile of large rocks.  I create the most beautiful garden soil by being conscious of my waste around the house and yard.  I grow amazing tasting vegetables that have no unpronounceable ingredient lists.  I can create cheese, butter, beautiful jams and jellies, sew a $50 curtain from $5 worth of material, crochet a warm blanket for my children from the scrap yarns that were given to me, knit scarves and hats and gloves, bake rustic loaves of bread, build most of the garden tools I need... the list just goes on and on!  I am limited in my creations only by my own imagination, and for the government to tell me that I am an irresponsible citizen for not going out to spend spend spend is simply assinine.

If the price of consumables skyrockets, (ha... "if".  Its happening right now, folks), I will be ok.  I'm not 100% self sufficient, but between me and my family, we can mostly take care of ourselves if it is required.  I have neighbors that I can count on to lend a hand, even though we all mostly keep to ourselves in our day to day lives.  I live in a small community which chooses to self fund their projects through raffles, community donations, and volunteers, (most recently a sports arena/hockey rink,) rather than asking the government for money.  I am a creator, and I choose to create a healthy, happy, anti-consumerist life for myself and my family.  And guess what... you can be a creator too!  There are people out there that will help you, teach you, guide you.  Its not as hard as the big corporations who want your money would like you to believe!  Reach out... try it... you can make it happen!  Your bank account and your quality of life will thank you!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why you should start a compost pile... right now!

We were discussing compost at my garden club meeting today, and it got me thinking about how many folks seem to be "afraid" to start composting.  There are so many different formulas out there, and so many people preaching this way or that way being the only way to make it happen.  Let me just say this right up front... there is no right or wrong way to make compost!  Put a bunch of plant matter in a pile and ignore it, and eventually you will have amazing compost!  You don't have to have exact ratios of green to brown, you don't have to turn it every day, and you don't have to add any starters or additives to make it happen!

What is compost?  All it is is broken down (rotted) plant material.  In nature, when plants die off, there is nobody there to remove all the dead material, clean up the space, and till the soil.  The plants die, the dead material falls onto the ground, it rots, and the rain pushes the rotted bits into the soil where they protect and fertilize the plant.  Mother Nature provides the earthworms to break down the bits into smaller bits, and the occasional animal to hoof through it and mix it up.  That's all it takes!

So, where do you start?  If you have some spare chicken wire or old pallets lying around, build yourself a small enclosure.  If you don't have an enclosure, don't worry!  Just make your pile wherever you want it (out of the direct sunlight is best, but NOT necessary,) and add your scraps as you get them.  I add all my kitchen scraps (no meat, just plant material,) all the vegetation that comes out of the garden, and any leaves that are floating around the yard.  Each time I start a new pile, I add a garbage bag of straw and chicken manure I get from a friend when she cleans out the chicken coop.

I like to start a new pile every fall.  I pile up the chicken manure, add anything else compostable that I have laying around, water it down really good, and ignore it!  This gives it the winter to start breaking down.  I don't turn it for the first time until the following spring.  When spring comes, I mix it all up and start adding my kitchen scraps.  I add to this pile all summer, bit by bit, and turn it whenever I feel like it.  By late July, my compost is ready to screen. 

I save the screened compost for adding to new plants the following spring, and the bigger chunks get spread on top of the garden beds.  There they sit for another winter, and in the spring I turn it all into the beds and start the whole process over again.  Don't worry if not everything breaks down right away.  Anything that is still recognizable ends up buried and it finishes composting right there in the garden.

This year I was fortunate enough to acquire some earthworms, meant for a worm bin.  I gave up on the bin fairly quickly, and just dumped all the worms into the compost pile.  When it came time to screen the compost, I pulled out literally hundreds of worms and gave them to my Mother, who keeps a worm farm.  The compost was beautiful!  The worms helped break down the pile much faster, and I will be adding them every spring from now on.  But if you don't have access to earthworms, don't worry!  If your pile is on the ground, the worms will find it, and work their magic on it without your help.  Adding worms yourself just makes the process happen a little faster!

Yes, you can turn the pile every day, monitor the temperature, carefully measure the ingredients, and otherwise fret over this garden gold, but honestly, why would you?  Pile it up, add to it, give it time, and Earth's natural processes will take care of the rest!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Funny how we develop routines without even realizing...

If you will look at this blog post from almost exactly 1 year ago, , you will find almost my exact dinner for tonight!  I just added some chicken to the pan this time!  Some things never change!

I made Crabbapple/Wild Blueberry Jam today, with apples from my sister's tree and berries my mom picked up north.  I also managed to make a batch of Mint Jelly, with the last of the mint from my herb garden.  We added some food coloring, at my son's request, and it is a very yummy emerald green!

The garden is officially put away for the year, as we have had a hard frost the last two nights in a row.  All the raised beds have compost and steer manure covering them, which will be turned into the soil in the spring.  The new compost pile has been started, and I covered the clematis, which isn't supposed to make it through the Alaskan winter, with old leaves from the edge of the yard.  I also put some of the leaves in a burlap rice bag and put that over the top of the whole thing.  I'm not holding my breath, but we will see if it works!

I didn't post any pictures of the garden this time, as I'm not sure you all want to see a bunch of bare raised beds full of compost and steer crap, but I'll take some if you want them!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Garden Friends

Just a quick picture of one of our garden visitors today...

Tiger Swallowtail has always been one of my favorite butterflies.  This one had an injured wing, but it didn't seem to affect it much.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It doesn't get much better than this...

These are the ingredients from last nights dinner:

Coho (Silver) Salmon I pulled straight from the ocean 2 days prior,
Turnip, Broccoli, Garden Peas, Radishes and Summer Squash, all fresh from my garden, mixed with a little olive oil and herbs from the herb garden.

I grilled the whole thing, and served it with some Basmati Rice.

My son thinks I'm the best cook in the whole world!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Harvesting the garden...

I can't believe that we are eating out of the garden already!  Last night, we ate our first head of Broccoli with dinner!  Broccoli is so yummy when its fresh from the garden!

Lily and I decided to do some more harvesting today... Lettuce, Turnip, Radishes, Lemon Balm and Cucumber for lunch, and more Broccoli for the freezer.

The tomato plants have all set fruit, and some of them are getting rather large already.  The squash has the biggest blossoms I have ever seen, and the little squashes are dark green and beautiful!  I'll follow up with some more pictures soon!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Garden Progress (with photos!)

My good camera died a slow, pathetic death.  The following are taken with my iPhone, so please bear with me!

 Snap Peas, with Kale in front that you can't quite see yet.

 Broccoli and Red Cabbage

 4 types of Summer Squash, Onions and Cauliflower.

 Spinach, Turnips, Kohlrabi, Red Cabbage, Radishes and Lettuce

 Carrots and more Radishes

 Impromptu Willow Trellis with Sweet Peas

 The Potato experiment!

 The new Herb Garden

And last but not least, what's left of my bush beans.

I discovered the little visitor that was decimating my beans was none other than the cutworm.  This is all that is left of the 80+ bean plants I had in here.  The survivors are now protected by some bottomless plastic cups, sunk about 2 inches into the soil.  I killed approximately 40 cutworms today, and although I'm sure I didn't get them all, this should solve the problem.  Fortunately, I have more little bean seedlings available, thanks to my Mom's garden, so all is not lost.

Bean Killer

SOMETHING is in my garden, enjoying all of my bush bean seedlings.  Half of them have been chopped off, right at the soil level.  Anyone local have this problem, or a solution to this problem?  At this rate, I won't have any green beans at all this year!  :(

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The garden is in and growing!!

This years inventory:
Bush Beans
Summer Squash (4 types)
Sweet Peas
Large Herb Garden
Snap Peas
Tomatoes (2 types)

All the seeds have officially sprouted, and everything looks happy and healthy. What's growing in your garden?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Getting ready for this years garden...

So much is happening around here, I am finding it hard to sit down long enough to post about this years garden happenings!  The snow is all gone, and my raised garden beds are thawed out and warming nicely!  I have prepped all the garden beds, and so far have planted lettuce, turnips, spinach and snap peas.  I have also planted potatoes for the first time ever!  I am trying the black garbage bag method, as this is the cheapest, easiest route for me this year.  Also, I have officially started a worm farm!  Vermicompost will be nourishing my tomatoes this year, and I am very excited about it!  I don't have any pictures yet, but I will work on that for all of you yearning for a little garden porn!  What are you all doing in the garden right now?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I wish this was a post about starting seeds for the garden.  Unfortunately, due to an impending house remodel, (the little one is so big she needs her own room!) I will not be starting any seeds in my house this year.  I have a ton of seeds which will be planted directly in the garden this year, but my tomatoes, cukes, and most likely summer squash, will have to come from the local nursery this year.  I don't feel too bad, because the local nursery is not a chain store, and the owner lives (and starts his seeds) only about 5 miles from my house.  I am looking at this as an opportunity to support a local small business.  But of course, if anyone close has extra seedlings that need a new home, I would be happy to be a foster-gardener!

I have been watching the snow melt, ever so slowly, and my garden is starting to come into view again.  It is making me ache to get my hands in the dirt!  I have so much to do this spring, and waiting for that snow to melt is a slow torture for me!  Fences have to be moved, compost needs to be added, and I need to get the greenhouse ready for its new beds!  At least the greenhouse will be productive this year!  Last year it was out of commission due to it needing a new location in my yard.  Now I just have to build the new beds inside, and fill them up from the lovely compost pile I have been nursing for a few years now!  I'm so anxious to see the green and smell the plants, I can't hardly contain myself!  Hopefully my next post will be about getting those garden prep chores out of the way.

Bring it on, Spring.... I'm waiting!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wonderful, Glorious, Sunshine!!!

The sunshine is pouring into my living room right now.  I can feel it warming the back of my neck, which means that the sun is actually close enough to feel warm again!!! Spring is coming, people... what are you planting right now?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Weary of Winter

Its that time of year again.  The days are getting longer, the sun feels warmer, the weather starts to warm up... then you wake up the next morning and its -10F and you are knocked right back into reality.  This is February, in Alaska.  Spring is NOT just around the corner, although it is only about 2.5 months away now.

My mind is already on my garden.  I'm thinking about what I will be growing, where everything is going to be planted, how will the greenhouse be set up this year etc.  I have several things that I am sure will be in the garden, but I always try to plant one or two things I have never grown before.  Its not always a success, but its fun!  And that's a big part of having a garden, the fun of it!

What will I be growing for sure this year?

Snap Pea
Summer Squash

Any suggestions from my readers for the "Something New" column?  What's your favorite "fun" plant to grow in the garden?