Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Grillin'

Why I leave grilling to the men in the family:

(the blackened results of my attempt to grill a marinated tri-tip steak for Father's Day)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sage Advice

Growing sage is easy as pie. 

Forget to water?  It's drought hardy. 

Cold climate?
It winters in Minnesota without special accomodation.  

Bad experiences with other weedy herbs (oregano, peppermint)? 
It's non-invasive.  It's really just a small shrub.

In the fall before your sage slumbers for the winter, snip a few sprigs.  Bundle them and hang upside down to dry in your kitchen. When you make turkey, chicken or stuffing, rub a few dried sprigs between your hands and let the savory bits sprinkle over your food before you cook it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Marshmallow Feeding Frenzy

Last weekend we had a going away party for our au pair Bara.  I just love this picture of all the kids flocking to the fire when the s'more materials came out.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Thistles, Thistles Everywhere

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
   since from it you were taken;

If thistles were a cash crop, I'd be rich.  Our house was vacant for a year before we bought it, and a jungle of weeds sprung up in the lawn.  Did you know that one Canadian Thistle can colonize an area 3 to 6 feet in diameter in one or two years?*  Did you know that pulling thistles make them worse?  The stem breaks and sends up two shoots from the broken stem.  They have a huge underground root system (horizontal roots may extend 15 feet or more and vertical roots may grow 6 to 15 feet deep*).  And let's not forget all the seeds thistles send flying in the wind if you let them flower.  Ugggghhhh!  I read all these things when trying to figure out a way to control them without herbicide.  These plants have an amazing set of survival mechanisms.

This summer, I broke down and succumbed to having a lawn service.  I hope one summer of this will get the thistles (and other less daunting weeds) down to a manageble level.  Even so, here's a shot from my freshly-planted tomato garden to illustrate the problem.  Those little sprouts next to the tomato plant are Canadian Thistle.  It's still hand-to-hand combat in the garden.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Suburban Gardens

Cocoa bean mulch, oh how I love thee.  Let me count the ways:

- You are so full of chocolately goodness.  I love how you smell when I water the garden.
- Next spring, Dan can just till you right back into the soil, and you will loosen it nicely.
- O course you're mulch, so you keep down the weeds and keep in the moisture.
- You make my gardens look oh so pretty.
- You're not toxic (except to dogs, but I don't have one) or full of dyes or weird stuff.  Apparently it is even organic.  See link above.

Since we moved into our new house just over a year ago, we decided to turn the two backyard flower beds into a pepper garden and a tomato garden.  But of course, since we live in Suburbia and have about a thousand neighbors, these little side gardens cannot just be functional.  They must look pretty too.  To accomplish this, I use cocoa bean mulch.  I seriously love this stuff.  I just finished my tomato and pepper gardens tonight.

Pepper garden as seen from the deck.  We grow a mix of sweet and hot peppers.  I pickle the hot peppers and we eat all the sweet ones fresh.  One of my favorites is a sweet Italian heirloom pepper called "Corno di Toro."  I discovered this variety last year.  The multi-colored (red, orange, yellow, green) peppers are huge and so sweet!  I also snuck a tarragon plant into the middle this year.

The tomato garden curves around the posts of our deck.  The tomatoes are backed by a few miscellaneous perennial flowers, as well as a beautiful sage plant (show in the front left of the picture below).

I don't grow enough tomatoes to can, but I make really delicious "sun-dried" tomatoes in my mom's dehydrator.

Look for a post later about the "big" garden.  It doesn't look so pretty yet.  Plus I still need to plant red pototoes, pumpkins and watermelon.