Thursday, December 13, 2012

Seasons Greetings...

It has been a while since I posted anything substantial here, which is completely normal for me. This time of year I tend to be more focused on the holidays, making gifts and spending time with family. My writing usually takes a back burner for a couple of months, until the weather warms up and I start thinking about my garden again. Year's end is always a time of deep reflection and meditation, a chance to review my goals and values and renew my resolve. I need this down-time if I want to do amazing things in the coming year! I'd like to post some pictures of the gifts I have been making, but so many of the recipients read this humble little blog that I'd be giving too much away! I will say that my fingers have been very busy, and the kids have been really enjoying making gifts and cards for everyone!

The birds are at the feeder in droves now, and it has been a great learning experience for both my children and myself. When you have 6 or 7 different types of bird at the feeder at the same time, it makes it a lot easier to point out their differences so that the kids can learn which is which! So far, we've had Chickadees, Red Poles, Nuthatches, Pine Grosbeaks, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Magpies, Gray Jays, Ravens, Eagles, Ospreys, Owls, and even a Northern Goshawk!

I'm also happy to report that the snow finally arrived... hopefully before too much damage was done to the roots of my perennials. When you have longs stretches of below-zero weather, the snow actually insulates, keeping the frost from heaving the plants up out of the ground! I did use leaf-mulch on the plants that I thought would need a little extra help, so everything should be doing fine, but you never know what Mother Nature will decide to do when nobody is paying attention!

Now, I'm headed back to my Peppermint Tea, and the chicken stock I've been boiling to turn into tonight's Chicken and Dumplings! I sincerely hope that you all have a wonderful holiday, no matter if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Festivus, or any other version of it! Peace be with you all!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hand-made for the Holidays!

Here are a few quick pictures of some of the things I have been creating for Christmas gifts this month. (I can't show a lot of it, or it would give away too much to the gift recipients!!) The crochet is free form, rather than following a specific pattern...

Friday, November 23, 2012

No Spending On Black Friday

Just a quick post today, folks. I want to remind everyone that although today is "Black Friday", there are alternatives! The holidays are about giving and being thankful, not about getting into a fist fight or stampede, just to try to get the latest "thing" that will be forgotten the day after Christmas! Sales are nice, but must we turn into monsters just to get the deal? Today, step back from this ridiculous consumer culture, cherish who and what you already have, save some money and sanity, and if you must shop... shop the little guy, the local guy, the non-corporate Mom and Pop shops, where every dollar really DOES make a difference!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Turn Off Your TV!!!

About 3 years ago, my husband decided he wanted satellite television. We had been TV free for about a year, and I was doing just fine without it, but we DID hook it up, and started paying that ghastly monthly fee. Ever since that day, I have been trying to get him to turn it back off.

I don't like television! The last year especially, I have noticed my children begging for everything they see on every commercial. I have seen commercials play in the middle of children's programming that are COMPLETELY inappropriate for children to see. I have watched shows advertised for younger kids that send out completely inappropriate messages and values. I have flipped through hundreds of channels, over and over again, only to find that there is nothing to watch. The price has gone up, while the number of channels has gone down. In short, I am very unhappy with the service!

This weekend, however, something awesome happened... my husband agreed with me... and we turned off the TV! The satellite service is CANCELED!! He finally saw what I was seeing, and decided that for our family, the right decision was to get rid of it! We still have movies, and the internet is available if we want to stream a particular show, but the crappy reality shows and the over the top commercials are gone!

Have any of you decided to take back control of your home from the obnoxious advertisers and network executives? Do you miss your TV?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Getting over some frustration...

I've been silent for a little while now, and I want to talk about why. A week or two ago, a blogger, whom I considered a friend as well, crossed over the line with me. I was accused by this person of stealing a recipe and claiming it as my own. Mind you, it was a recipe I have been using and tweaking for MANY years, it was NOT the same as her recipe, and the blog post she made a few years ago with her recipe was NOT a post I had read before. This frustrated me incredibly. I was approached with anger and resentment for something I didn't even do, and in fact I had shared some of her ideas on my blog before, giving her full credit and providing a link to her blog each time.

I want to make it very clear to you all... when I share an idea or recipe that belongs to someone else, I will ALWAYS provide a link and credit to the originator. If I make a recipe out of a cookbook, I generally share the finished product along with a picture of the book I got it out of, and not the actual recipe, so that you can get the book if you want to make the same thing.

I also want to make it very clear that when I do share one of my own recipes, I WANT you to use it, tweak it to suit you, and share the results! I see this blog as an opportunity to share and learn with each other. Please share my content, and credit me if you feel it is warranted. We can't build this community if we are focused on attacking and accusing, and when those accusations prove false, it weakens a path that could benefit everyone.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reader Ideas...

We are coming up fast on the holiday season. Its a time of such heavy commercialism and debt mentality that I always get really frustrated with society as a whole. I'll be writing a post or two on bucking the consumer holiday culture, and I want to know...

Do you try to avoid the commercialism of the holidays? Do you have any traditions that don't involve spending money? Do you participate in "Black Friday" or max out the credit cards at Christmas time? What's the relationship between money and the holidays in your home?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Homemade Bird Suet Cakes

For those of us who love to watch the wild birds in our yards, it is once again time to start putting out bird feeders and filling suet cages. With stories in the news lately of bird feed companies intentionally adding anti-spoilage chemicals to the seed they sell while knowing that the chemicals were harmful to the very birds the seed was marketed for, I think now is a great time to share my Homemade Bird Suet Cake recipe!


1 pound of beef tallow or lard (preferably organic & pastured)
1 cup natural* peanut butter (optional)
2 cups black oil sunflower seeds or other bird seed mixture of your choice
1 cups organic whole grain flour
1 cup dried fruit (chopped)

Melt the tallow and peanut butter (if using) on medium heat in a large saucepan.

Add whole grain flour to the melted tallow mixture, whisking until well blended.

Remove from heat.

Add the seeds and chopped dried fruit, stirring until well coated.

Spread the mixture evenly into a large cake pan or baking dish, lined with wax paper.**

Chill until solid, but not frozen.

Cut mixture into 6 squares, wrapping and freezing individually to store.

*Be sure to use natural peanut butter, as the more typical versions have a lot of sugar and added preservatives

**The seeds will float to the top, but if you stir the mixture a second time, before it is completely solid, it will help to mix it more evenly

These little beauties fit perfectly into the typical baskets designed for store-bought suet cakes, and they make great Christmas gifts! It makes me feel better knowing that the food I am providing isn't full of ingredients that the birds don't need, and the birds love them!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mmmmm Dinner...

On the menu tonight...

Vegetable Beef Soup & Fresh Baked Dinner Rolls

All from scratch, all organic, all delicious!!!

We eat good around here...

Just a reminder...

Hey folks... if you haven't joined us on Facebook yet, please click the icon on the right of this page... you are missing out on lots of good stuff that doesn't happen here!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Vegetables...

I just finished harvesting the last of the carrots from the garden. I got almost 10 pounds this year, and it really didn't take up that much space in the raised beds! I roasted a chicken the other night, and now I have leftover chicken, onions and fresh carrots simmering for chicken and dumplings tonight.

Homemade chicken stock smells AMAZING!!

I also have the carcass boiling away with the leftover onions and brussels sprouts from the first dinner, as well as the stems from the herbs I cut from the herb garden and added to the chicken and dumplings. This stock will go into the freezer to cook with later. I love that I can get 3 good meals (that serve 4 people!) from just 1 chicken and some veggies from the garden!

I also bought my first pumpkin of the season last weekend! I love pumpkin, and I hope that someday soon it will grow in my own garden, but for now I was just happy to see it on the grocery store shelf! There are so many ways to cook it, and the flavor is adaptable to most any dish or seasoning. This one will be roasted and pureed, most likely, and eaten with just a touch of salt and pepper.

Do you have a favorite fall vegetable that you look forward to all summer?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sometimes Husbands are listening and thinking, just not saying anything!

Last night, for the umpteenth time, I attempted to talk to my husband about getting chickens. He has been adamantly saying no for about 5 years now, but I have been faithfully been pestering him in the hopes that he would at least tell me why. As I said it again, I braced myself for the usual "I don't want to talk about it right now", but instead, he threw back "I am actually VERY interested in getting chickens now, and what do you think about getting a cow?"


A cow! That is not something that would happen any time soon, but my husband has been listening to me after all! Our conversation briefly touched on raising pigs and rabbits as well, and I can say with some confidence now that this IS going to happen. When my Husband has been thinking about something enough that he starts talking about it, it means that he's already weighed the options in his head, and that part of the battle is won. Now lets just hope that Mr. Super Planner doesn't go overboard on the coop!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fall Harvesting with the Wisconsin Vegetable Gardener!

Its harvest time for The Wisconsin Vegetable Gardener! Check out their latest video... and look for Woodside Gardens to be featured a little over halfway through!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

From Scratch Chicken Noodle Soup!

My husband has been feeling under the weather for a few days now. He is always asking for chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles. I had never made noodles before, so yesterday, I decided that I would learn!

Basic Homemade Noodles:

2 cups flour
1 tsp dried herbs (such as basil, sage, or rosemary) crushed *optional*
1/2 tsp salt 
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup water
1 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup flour

Stir together flour, herbs, and salt. 
In a separate bowl, combine eggs, water and oil. 
Add to flour mixture and stir to combine. 
Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup flour onto clean kneading surface. 
Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). 
Cover and let the dough rest for 10 minutes. 
Divide dough into four equal portions. 
Using a rolling pin or pasta roller, roll each portion into a 12 inch square, about 1/16 inch thick. 
Let stand, uncovered, 20 minutes. 
Cut as desired. 

You can dry it to cook later, or make it right away! Boil for 10 minutes or so, and you're good to go!

 Hanging my first ever homemade noodles! Why have I never done this before?

The soup was a hit, especially with the 3 year old, and we'll be eating the leftovers for dinner again tonight! It was made with carrots from the garden, and the chicken stock was some that I had made previously and stored in the freezer. Honestly, the noodles were so simple to make that I don't see myself buying them any more! Home cooked may take a bit longer, but what a great feeling to share this wonderful meal with my family, knowing that there are no chemicals or preservatives anywhere in the meal!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Emergency Power Supply...

For those of you who follow Alaska's weather news, you've probably heard about the double whammy of storms that have hit us (especially Anchorage) the last 2 days. There are still a lot of folks without power, for the second day.

The local (Anchorage) newspaper is reporting this today.

I'd like to re-share an article I wrote a few years back...

Emergencies, and why we aren't as prepared as we think we are...

I can't stress enough how important it is to be prepared BEFORE a disaster strikes! Something as simple as no electricity will make things miserable very quickly!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Today's Harvest...

Despite the mediocre harvest due to this year's wonky summer weather, there were plenty of successes as well! Today Lily and I decided to harvest the potatoes and the carrots...

From 4 seed potatoes and 1 garbage bag came this...
 3 pounds of perfect little potatoes!

Next we pulled the carrots... (well 2/3 of them, the rest we are saving for another day)
6 pounds of beautiful, sweet, crisp carrots!

Lily wanted to eat ALL of them!! I love teaching her where food comes from, and I really look forward to the day that she plans and plants her own garden!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Making Home-Made Bread...

Most of you have probably noticed that the cost of groceries is starting to get out of control. Prices are always high in Alaska, so this just compounds the problem. Bread is one of the things that is most noticeable to me right now. A good loaf of bread, even the grocery store brand, is running between $5 - $8, and its bound to go up more. I have written in the past about my favorite bread book, but I think its worth sharing again. I am not paid in any way for this post, and the authors of the book have never contacted me.

First off... this is THE book.

(I'd be willing to bet that your local bookstore or library will have a copy as well!)

I bought this book a couple of years ago, and have not made any other bread since then. It has a ton of recipes, and its fantastic because I can make a rustic bread loaf, pita bread, even awesome sweet rolls... all from the same batch of dough!

 The bread from last nights dinner...

Breadsticks to go with some homemade bean soup tonight...

My son has recently discovered a love of clam chowder, so I'm going to teach him how to make it, and some bread bowls to go with it!

Do you have a no fail bread recipe that you use?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Re-Useable Shopping Bags...

I have gotten very lax about bringing my reusable grocery bags with me lately. Its just too easy to forget them at home, or even in the car when you go into the grocery store. I have also discovered that the bags you buy at the grocery store are actually kind of inconvenient. They fold flat, sometimes, but they don't stay folded, and they take up a lot of room when they aren't being used. Now I'm on a quest to find a pattern for the perfect grocery bag. It will give me a chance to get more familiar with my sewing machine, which I really need to learn how to use properly.

Does anyone have any good links to free shopping bag patterns that they would like to share?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Feeding Cars Instead of People During a Drought...

This year has been a disaster for many farmers in the United States. It has been such a hot, dry summer, that entire farms are having to be mowed down for lack of production, and in some cases, lack of even germination! All the talking heads are rambling about being prepared for food prices to skyrocket this winter.

Corn is probably the most important piece in America's farming puzzle. It has taken over the world, thanks to some *smart?* people who have figured out how easy it is to play God with our food supply. Go to the grocery store, and there is corn in probably 95% of the products you see on the shelves. The price of corn goes up, the price of ALL food goes up.

Our government has established a law that we must put ethanol derived from corn into all of our fuel. Its not a suggestion... its a requirement. So in the middle of one of the worst droughts we have seen, when people are having to cull entire herds of animals due to lack (or cost) of feed (most animals are not designed to eat corn but that is an entirely different subject.), and when the price of food is going up, we will be using some of this resource in our gas tanks rather than feeding people and animals. According to the New York Times, over 40% of US Corn is grown for fuel!

There are so many acres of land growing corn destined for fuel tanks... imagine what would happen if half of that land was planted with a diverse array of produce instead. Companion planting uses a more balanced amount of nutrients from the soil, and plants grown together harmoniously can feed and protect each other, as well as build up better soil! Local communities would have fresh, local produce, and local farmers could make a decent living WITHOUT corn subsidies! Unfortunately, as long as the government creates this market for corn, and pays subsidies on top of that, the rest is really hard to turn into a reality.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How did I forget to tell you guys???

I mentioned it on my facebook page, but somehow I forgot to let you all know, which is a shame because you were my original audience!...

I was recently asked to become a contributor to Townsquare49, which is part of a great website,!

Because of all of you reading and sharing my work, I'm one step closer to doing what I hope to be doing... writing to a MUCH bigger audience! So please share my blog and their website if you feel it is worth reading!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Perennial Edibles in Alaska

There are a number of annual vegetables that do well in Alaska, but did you know that there are several perennial vegetables, herbs, and fruits that thrive here also? In my quest to make my property a major source of nutrition for my family, I have focused on bringing in only trees that will produce edible fruit (there's always the exception, of course!), and I am working on plans to create a perennial wing in my vegetable garden.

Here's a list of the Perennial Edibles that currently grow on my property:
Crab Apple
Choke Cherry
Black Currant
Red Currant
High Bush Cranberry
Low Bush Cranberry
French Tarragon
Sheep's Sorrel
Mint (Chocolate and Apple)

Here are a few I would like to add to my property:
Grafted Apple (Norland and Parkland)
Indoor Citrus
Jerusalem Artichokes

Making space for perennials in your garden is an important part of any good permaculture plan. It is imperative that you plan for the long term when selecting a location and creating a space for the roots to thrive. Pay attention to not only the soil you nourish them with, but also the amount of sunlight they will receive, the space they will require when they are fully mature, and the amount of shade they will cast onto the surrounding areas. Just about anything can benefit from a fork full of compost at the bottom of the hole before planting, and plenty of loose soil beyond the edge of the root ball will give your plant room to wiggle its toes and settle happily into its new home. If you pay special attention to watering and pampering your plant for the first season or two, they will happily produce for you for years to come, with no more investment needed!

What types of perennial edibles do you have on your property? Do you have plans to integrate more in your garden?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Because Pictures Speak So Much Louder Than Words...

I hate to even say it, but my garden is starting to wind down for the year. We have been enjoying fresh turnips all summer long, and they are wonderful, but I was looking to try something new with them. I had a few dozen still in the ground, so this morning the kids and I headed out to the garden for one final turnip harvest. We ate a bunch of them raw, and then I set about finding a good canning recipe for the rest. Below are photos of my newest creation... pickled turnips! It doesn't sound appetizing, but it is absolutely amazing!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Soooo good...

This is happening in my kitchen right now...

Apple Mint, Cucumber, and water. No sweetener, no artificial colors, no artificial flavors. Just pure fresh garden goodness.
Who needs soda pop?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Roasting Garlic...

Growing garlic is something I have long wanted to do, but have yet to attempt. I put garlic in almost everything I cook, which means it is a crop that I need to be growing.

I absolutely LOVE the smell of fresh-roasted garlic cloves, so today I brought out my trusty clay garlic roaster and put it to good use.

I bought this lovely thing at a local thrift store a few years ago for a whopping $2.00.

Roasting garlic in a clay roaster is super easy...

1)  Submerge the base and lid of the clay roaster in water for 15 to 20 minutes before use.

2)  Trim the tops off of the garlic heads to expose the tips. (Leave the peel on the garlic.)

3)  Place the garlic heads into the roaster and drizzle lightly with olive oil.

4)  Set the lid on top of the roaster and place in a COLD oven.

5)  Set the oven to 350 F and leave the roaster in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half, until the heads feel soft and smell fragrant.

You can use this roasted garlic in just about anything you cook. Just break off a clove or two and squeeze the roasted garlic out of the peel. Store any unused garlic in a air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Remember to use nothing but boiling water to clean the clay roaster, as it will soak up any chemical cleaning agents you might use.

Here's the finished product...

I can almost smell the garlic just by looking at this picture!

Do you make your own roasted garlic? Do you have a different method of doing it?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Transitioning to a New Compost Pile...

It is officially that time of year again, when I start a new compost pile and start preparing the old one to be spread on the raised garden beds. This summer has been considerably colder and wetter than most, and my compost is not as far along as it normally is.

The old compost pile...

I am no longer adding anything to this pile, and I will be turning it every few days, in an attempt to get it to break down as much as I can in the next 2 months, before it starts freezing outside. As I dig through it, I am finding a ton of very large earthworms, which is a happy sight! Most of them will be spending the winter happy and warm inside a worm farm. Between the worms and the more frequent attention, this pile will look very different, very soon.

Because I can't add anything else to the old compost pile, it is necessary, of course, to start a new one! Fortunately for me, my friend just cleaned out her chicken coop a week or so ago, so I had a couple of bags of old straw and chicken manure just waiting to be used!

The new compost pile...

I moved the fence to the new compost area, behind my vegetable garden. The straw and manure are simply heaped into a pile, and I've been dumping my kitchen waste on there for a few days now. I'll probably turn it in a week or so, and then once or twice before it frosts.

Here's a link to one of my most popular posts...  Why you should start a compost pile... right now! ... in case you want more information on starting your own!

As I was turning the old pile this morning, I heard a rustling in the fireweed along the side of the vegetable garden fence...

Can you see the little guy hidden up against the fence?

I have been seeing this little rabbit around the compost pile the last week or so. He is fairly tiny, and I don't see much evidence that he has been there, other than actually seeing him. He seems to be after the compost rather than the vegetable garden, and the raised beds are tall enough that he wouldn't get into them easily, so for now, I'm just watching him. All wildlife is welcome here, and I'm honored that he is comfortable enough to let me see him. I even made sure that a bit of fruit made it outside of the fence, so he can find himself an easy snack!

Are you composting this year, or planning to start a pile soon?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Today's Harvest...

Today I harvested Lavender buds from the 3 plants that I left in the garden last winter. This is especially interesting to me because the new plants haven't even started to send up flower shoots yet. I'll be curious to see if this years new plants will be on the same schedule as these next year, or if they will continue to be later bloomers.

Volunteers in the Garden...

I actually have a hard time getting seeds to turn into flowers around here... at least when I plant them intentionally. But apparently if I fill a pot with rocks and a solar light, the flowers take care of themselves! Anyone know what this might be? My camera did NOT want to focus, so here's a blurry side view of the same flower...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Seriously, fresh baked bread is the easiest thing EVER...

This beautiful thing just came out of my oven. Thanks to my KitchenAid Mixer and the worlds best bread book (Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day), this loaf of deliciousness took me a total of about 5 minutes of effort, just like the title of the book claims! I don't eat a lot of bread, honestly, but when I make something like steak and potato soup for dinner, like I did tonight, a loaf of crusty bread is a prerequisite! (I'd like to note here that I am not being paid in any way for this post, and have never been contacted by anyone regarding this book... I just love it!!) Fresh bread can be such a treat, and its great to find a recipe that works easily and consistently.

I have a lot of recipes that I rotate throughout the year, depending on what the weather is like and what is producing in the garden. Spring and Summer are always full of fresh salads and lots of raw vegetables, whereas Fall brings lots of soups and hearty breads, roasted veggies and lots of baked squash. All of these recipes are centered around fresh, wholesome foods, so I really can't make many of them year round, and it works well for us because we never get tired of them this way!

Do you rotate your recipes seasonally, or do you eat the same way year round?

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Solar Clothes Dryer...

I hang my laundry out to dry for a lot of different reasons. One of the most important is to save electricity. It may not add up to much per load, but when you add up all the loads you save over the course of the year, or even just the summer, it makes a big difference! Another reason is to make my clothes last longer. You know that lint trap that you have to empty after every load? That's little bits of fabric that were worn from your clothes, making them a little bit thinner every time you wash them. Hanging on the line keeps the fabric stronger! Sunshine is a natural stain bleacher also... so if you have a stain that just won't quite go away... point it to the sun! And don't forget about that sunshine smell that you can't get anywhere else! Line-dried laundry is one of my favorite classic summer smells. I intentionally located the laundry line close to my lilac bush, but even when the lilac isn't blooming, that fresh laundry always smells fantastic!

Lily and Piglet love to come with me when I hang a fresh load. She plays in the
toes of the pants and helps hand me clothespins.

I must admit that there is a rebellious side in me that likes the idea of going against the mainstream whenever I get a chance. Hanging your laundry is definitely not the norm in America... which is kind of sad, actually. Going through the motions of hanging the laundry on the line is a bit of a meditative practice. It is very grounding to be standing outside in the pure sunshine, repeating the same sequence over and over again, without really thinking about what you are doing. Many people could benefit from this brief quieting of the mind.

Do you ever hang dry your laundry? Is it even allowed in your neighborhood?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What Would Nature Do?

Anyone can garden. I used to think that it required too much planning, and they certainly do require a bit of hard work, but I love that my garden takes on a life of its own now. I'm almost more of an observer than an active participant, which is what works best for me. You might not be able to farm acres of land, but with a little experimentation, you WILL find something that works for you.

There are so many different styles and philosophies when it comes to gardening, how do you know what advice to follow? Ultimately, it boils down to what is best for you and your individual situation, and what information seems to ring true for you. I have chosen organic gardening because my mind simply could not rest once I learned what conventional methods consisted of, and I am fortunate enough to have plenty of space and time, which makes a big difference. I like to take a very laid-back approach, which works for me because I have been gardening enough years now to know what I can get away with. I try to only interfere with my plants when I have too, preferring to let things grow the way nature intended them to. I don't fertilize at timed intervals, I don't pinch plants for maximum output, and I'm not looking for the highest volume of tomatoes per plant or perfectly straight carrots. My philosophy has always been that the happiest plants... and the happiest soil, comes from letting nature do its own thing.

In many of my pictures (like the one above), you will notice that there are always weeds in the garden beds. I don't weed my garden very often. I'm careful to not let the weeds go to seed, but for the most part, they help the plants like any other mulch would. They help keep the soil cool during the day, and warmer at night. When I do weed, it is selective... mostly just the largest ones,  or any that are getting ready to flower. Weeds are much easier to pull when they are a bit larger.

I do not fertilize my growing plants AT ALL! I feed the soil every fall with homemade compost and steer manure, which sits on the top and continues to break down over the winter. In the spring, I lightly turn the soil, plant the garden, and focus on building next years compost pile. That's it!

I have started to develop non-edible flower beds, which is really a new thing for me. The very first thing that I discovered was that perennials were a MUST because the annuals were to much work and required too much space. Now, instead of worrying about a bunch of little seedlings every spring, I simply remove the leaf mulch from a few lucky plants that won my sympathy, and watch as everything comes back to life, all without so much as a nudge from me!

My garden works for me because I have designed it to only require the amount of work I am willing to put into it. What about you? Does your garden defy convention, or do you do it by the books? What works for you?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Providing a Space for your Wildlife...

It amazes me sometimes, the abundance of wildlife in my yard at any given moment.

I have birds everywhere. Not just at the bird feeder, which is really more of a squirrel feeder, but all over the yard. In the grass, in the flower beds, at the feeder, taking a bath in the fountain... everywhere! I love to sit outside and focus on one individual bird going about its business. Pick a bug here, investigate a flower there, dive into the fountain and then sit on the wattle fence all fluffed up and happy. I have been watching whole bird families grow up this year. I've seen Mama take all the babies around the yard and teach them how to forage, and watched the babies play with each other like your standard basket full of puppies! Birds have such fun personalities, and its a treat to have the opportunity to recognize that.

There are actually 4 or 5 birds in this picture, on the ground below the bird feeder. They just blend in EXTREMELY well!!!

The squirrels have been providing us with endless hours of entertainment as well. We have 3 (at least) that all tend to want to eat from the bird feeder at the same time. This results in amazing squirrel acrobatics, usually followed by a squirrel tumbleweed rolling around the yard, hilarious chatter noises, and 2 pissed off squirrels that didn't win feeder rights this time around.

The rabbits are a bit harder to catch a glimpse of, but they are definitely here. When I do catch sight of them, its usually near the fountain, and they disappear just as fast as you can spot them. That fountain really attracts the animals!

Foxes are always around, probably enticed by all the rabbits. I have seen Red Fox, Silver Fox, AND Cross Fox in my yard, all at different times. They are beautiful, and I consider myself blessed when they show themselves.

As I create this space, I find myself thinking more and more about how I can make it more of a sanctuary for the little critters. I feel exceptionally lucky to have them here, and that they allow me to mingle with them as they do their thing. Little details, like placing birdbaths amongst several of the flower beds, makes a huge difference. Next I will be turning my attention to building and placing bird houses, and maybe some bat houses also!

What do you do for the wildlife in your space?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Some New Additions to the Garden This Year...

I've done a lot with my garden this year, and its time I updated you all on the progress. Up to this point, it has just felt like some boxes of dirt with a fence around it... but now, I feel like my garden has finally started to develop some "bones". It has become a destination, rather than just a designation. Here's some pictures of what has been added...

I made good on my promise to turn the old greenhouse into a potting shed. This is my new greenhouse. It is detachable, and will fit onto any of the four existing raised beds so I can easily practice crop rotation, even with my tomatoes and cucumbers. There are four door panels, which can be opened individually, so I can control the temperature AND the cross breeze.

I designed this new flower bed to give somewhat of a visual screen to the compost pile. I kept with my tradition of using materials off the property, so I hand-picked all the rocks and built the wattle fence in the background out of willow and alder that I thinned from the endless supply along the edge of the yard.

The entrance to the vegetable garden was lacking in character, so I decided an arbor was in order. This was built out of recycled materials, mostly leftover from last years house re-model, and more willow and alder from the yard.

I needed another trellis to accommodate my beans, so this was the solution... also made from willow and alder.

In the near future, I'll post some photos of how the vegetable garden and surrounding flower gardens are looking now that everything is green and beautiful. The garden is absolutely bursting right now!

For future posts... does anyone have questions or need information on a particular topic? Ask me!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I love coffee...

Coffee may just be one of the most marvelous drinks on the planet. It warms you up, wakes you up, AND feeds your garden! If you are anything like me, you need a cup of coffee or two to get you moving in the morning. My question is... what do you do with all your spent coffee grounds and filters? Here's a short list of possibilities...

Compost -
Coffee grounds do marvelous things in the compost pile. They are considered a green, not a brown. Coffee grounds actually have about the same nitrogen content as fresh cut grass! Just mix the whole thing, filter and all, right into your pile.

Worm Candy -
Worms love this stuff, but you have to be careful when adding it to your worm bin. Coffee grounds are acidic and abrasive, and if you give too much to your worms, they will be unhappy. Also, watch the moisture content of your worm bin when adding coffee grounds, as they tend to retain a lot of water.

Slug Repellent (and Snails and Ants also!) -
Because the grounds are abrasive, slugs and snails don't like to cross them, so circle your plants with some, like you would do with eggshells. Ants don't like the acidity, and will tend to steer clear as well.

Garden Fertilizer -
You can bury the grounds, top dress with them, or scratch them directly into the soil around your growing plants, especially those (like Rhododendrons and Azaleas) which like their soil on the acidic side. You can also soak your spent grounds overnight and use the brew as a simple liquid fertilizer.

Mulch -
Coffee grounds make a great mulch! They look great (and smell good too!) and they work as a slow-release fertilizer at the same time!

Plant Rx -
Coffee grounds are known to suppress late blight in tomatoes. Top dress or mist the plants with water that has soaked the grounds overnight.

Most of us have an abundance of coffee grounds right in our kitchen, but if you don't, you can most likely get them from your office coffee pot, or maybe your next-door neighbor! Starbucks also offers spent coffee grounds for free. All you have to do is ask!

What's your favorite way to recycle your coffee grounds?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Just a Lack of Inspiration, I Guess...

To be honest, I'm not sure why I haven't posted in so long.  I guess I feel like I have run out of things to talk about.  I have so much I could share, but what's the point if no one is intersted...

What would YOU like me to write about?  Organic gardening in general?  Recycling in the yard and garden? Compost?  Tell me what matters to you!