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!