Monthly Archives: February 2011

NW Flower and Garden Show Discoveries

Discovery #1: I am obsessed with succulents. I actually started to realize that before I went to the garden show, but now I know for sure.

Anytime I saw a mound of succulents in a display, I was instantly drawn to it. Grown vertically, in the ground, on a roof, or in a container – I love it all!

The display that had succulents grown in a plethora of found containers was especially inspiring. I think I might have to rethink my original, plain Jane window box idea…

Discovery #2: Ranunculus! Why have I never seen this amazingly beautiful flower before?? The way the delicate petals are layered one on top of the other, it looks like a tissue paper flower. Apparently, according to my initial research on actually growing this beauty, it is a tender perennial and might require more tender loving care than I have time for at the moment. Regardless, it stopped me in my tracks and is now on my radar.

Discovery #3: Vintage tablecloth skirts! Near the end of my visit to the show, I found these skirts. I couldn’t decided which one to get so I got both! I probably wouldn’t have been so impulsive if I knew I could think it over and find Rose-Marie, the fabulous seamstress that made these creations, again. Besides, my rule of thumb is always that I don’t buy something unless I absolutely, without a doubt, love it and there was no doubt that I loved these unique and lovely handmade skirts. I just can’t wait until it’s warm enough for me to wear them!

Discovery #4: Farm Chicks Show in Spokane – I loved these skirts so much, I asked Rose-Marie where I could find her skirts outside of the show. She doesn’t have an online store or I’d link it for you. She mentioned, however, that she sells them at a few choice shows around the area and one in particular caught my attention, Farm Chicks. It’s an antique/craft show in Spokane during the first weekend in June. I think a spring field trip is in order!

A Dirty Job

Today I did some serious labor. But I have to back it up a bit to when this project all began…in August.

Behold the lawn (and all the lush vegetation – be still, my heart!) in August. May it rest in peace.Well, it didn’t all go away, but a big chunk of it did. It’s just too sunny of a spot to not use for growing more vegetables!Here is the lawn after I started the take-over. Rather than labor over a shovel, trying to dig out or turn over the sod, I used the sheet mulching method instead to smother the grass. Here is how Seattle Tilth describes sheet mulching:

Sheet mulching smothers unwanted plants or grass with a semi-permeable layer of cardboard or several sheets of newspaper topped by a layer of organic material. The sheet mulch is left in place to decompose both the weeds underneath and the materials placed on top. The result will be soil that has increased fertility, more organic matter and few weeds, and it will be ready for planting in about six months.

I am lucky to have an abundance of chicken manure-rich bedding, so I used that as the mulch for my site. I used sheet mulching for the purpose of ridding myself of the grass as easily as possible and planned to put raised beds in the area since I like the ease and look of them. However, given how sheet mulching can enrich your soil, especially if you’re mulching with chicken manure, I probably could have had a lot of success just planting right into the ground.By the time I let the chickens into the area in early February, the cardboard had completely broken down and the grass was gone. No digging required!If I could have gotten a better picture of the chickens tilling the ground, I would have. But the space was teeming with so many worms, the chickens just wouldn’t stay still – best day of their lives, I’m sure.

This week, during my mid-winter week break from school, I set out to work on the infrastructure that would occupy my newly cleared space. The plan was to create a U-shaped formation of three raised beds with an aisle in the middle. I moved the soil in the bed that was already in the space (see the picture at the top) and swung it around. That will now be the top of my horseshoe formation. Then, I built two 3 foot by 10 feet cedar raised beds. Today, I set out on an adventure to fill them with soil.

I got my dad to come with me on my field trip to Cedar Grove out in Everett, to help me secure the load and for general moral support. I rented a truck from Handy Andy and we made our trip up north. In the past, I would have made my own soil mix using the Square Foot Gardening ratio, but it’s a lot of work and is really expensive. This time, I decided to spend my money on a local company and buy soil enriched with compost that comes from our local waste system. Easy it was not, but certainly worth it. I’m still kicking myself for not bringing my camera. It was so cool to be on-site at Cedar Grove, the company that puts our yard and kitchen waste to use. The company that has supplied me with many a bag of compost. They were so nice too! I even got a punch card – buy 5 yards and get a 1/2 yard free! But I tell you, there’s no way I’ll ever be able to redeem that benefit, nor does my back have any interest in it.

I purchased a yard (the equivalent of approximately 30 bags of compost/soil) of Vegetable Garden Mix for a mere $23 and then pulled the truck along side huge piles of compost and soil. An older gentleman came rumbling up in a huge earth mover, filled what seemed like barely a quarter of the dumper with the soil and slowly, but surely dumped it into the bed of the truck. At the risk of sounding like a total garden nerd, I have to admit that it was exhilarating to be sitting in the cab and feel the power and weight of all that soil being dropped into the back. The old man yelled to me over the rumbling engine that he gave me a little extra, about a half a yard more. The incredible job of moving all that soil, which awaited me, did not spoil my excitement. I am the queen of over-confidence.

It took me about two hours to load and move around countless wheelbarrows full of soil. Between the shoveling and pushing a wheelbarrow laden with soil up the driveway and up the walkway to its final destination in my garden beds, I got a full body workout for sure. At one point, I stopped to fill up the wheelbarrow wheel with air because it seemed so flat and hard to move. I discovered, however, that it was just flattening with the weight of the soil. Good times! And Jake, if you’re reading this, please know that I have much respect for the strength it took to move the yard of gravel you had to wheelbarrow around to make the foundation for my coop. Soil is unassumingly heavy and I can only imagine what it would be like to have done the same thing with such a heavy material as gravel.

My friend Kathryn showed up just in time to help me finish the job and as usual, we had some fun. What better way to get the rest of the soil out of the truck then my projecting it into the wheelbarrow she was holding? Oh sure, I tried the same process without Kathryn’s assistance, but the wheelbarrow just tipped over with the sudden force of it. Plus, it was way more fun this way. I only wish we would have started videotaping sooner!

In the end, I ended up filling up two 30 square foot beds, topping off a few existing beds, and storing probably around 1/2 a yard on a tarp on my driveway out back. That’s just another project waiting to happen.

Before:

After:

Let’s recap:

Lumber for two 3′ x 10′ raised beds = $100
One and a half yards of soil = $23
Renting a truck to haul it = $70 ($64 for a one day rental plus gas)
A much needed sandwich post labor = $7
The pride of knowing I’m strong enough to do a dirty job like this on my own = priceless

Cardamom Ginger Steel-cut Oatmeal

I love me some oatmeal. I eat it every day and have been eating it every day for years now and never seem to get sick of it. I’m a creature of habit that way, I guess. I do, however, need to mix it up a bit and this new recipe, if you can call it that, does just that.

I probably don’t have to remind you how much I love blueberries in my oatmeal. I picked and froze around 57 pounds of organic blueberries this summer so that Jake and I would be able to have blueberries in our oatmeal everyday until the next glorious blueberry season. We literally sat down and did the math to calculate how many pounds of blueberries I’d have to pick in order to have about 1/4 of a cup of blueberries in our bowls every morning. I recognize that that’s a little over the top for most people, but I tell you, it was worth it. Those blueberries make me happy every morning and now that I’m eating them on my own, I don’t have to measure anymore.

What I discovered last week that makes those blueberries taste even better is cardamom. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve mixed spices with blueberries – I made many a spiced blueberry pie last summer. But this is the first time I’ve reached for any other spice besides cinnamon when it comes to oatmeal. And it won’t be the last. The flavor was unique and delicious.

The inspiration came from this amazingly flaky and delicious Cardamom Ginger Apple pocket pie from Hot Cakes that I splurged on at the Farmers’ Market a couple of weeks ago. It was fantastic and got me thinking that it was time to think outside the cinnamon box.

The last thing I want to mention is how easy it is to make steel-cut oats using this method. It has rocked my world. Because steel-cut oatmeal is the whole-grain, less processed version of classic oatmeal, it takes a long time to cook and I certainly don’t have time to make a pot in the morning before work. Rolled oats are one thing, but whole-grain steel-cut oats are another. But with this method, I can make them on Sunday night and have steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast through Thursday. It’s great! Steel-cut oatmeal is a creamy and delicious breakfast alternative.

Cardamon Ginger Steel-cut Oatmeal
Adapted from Whipped

Once I’ve cooked the oatmeal on the first day, I store the pot in the refrigerator and microwave portions of it throughout the week. It streamlines a time-consuming breakfast.

Makes about four 1 cup servings.

1 cup steel-cut oats
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ginger
4 cups water

The night before you want your oatmeal, put the water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil.

Once it starts to boil, add the oats and spices and let cook for one minute. I literally set the timer for a minute. Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit over night. I just leave the pot on the stove.

The next morning, put the saucepan of oatmeal over medium heat and simmer, stirring frequently so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, for about 10 minutes or until it’s heated through.

Serve with blueberries, chopped walnuts, raw pumpkin seeds, and delicious local honey. Enjoy!

Wish List: Mason Jars and More

And the Etsy wish list continues

You better believe I’m going to splurge on one of these mason jar sconces from Lamp Goods.

I’m not sure where I would put a vintage canning jar chandelier, but I might have to get creative. It’s just too delightful for words!

This vintage milk glass pitcher has been sold since the writing of this post (and not to me…boo). You snooze, you lose! I do, however, know about this shop (Estate of Grace Vintage) now because of it, which has tons of other great finds.

Ok. Seriously? Isn’t this the most precious use of a vintage blue mason jar you’ve seen in a long time? This is one of those things that I suspect I could make pretty easily, but I might have to support a fellow, creative artist and buy one from Midwest Finds instead.

In the same shop, you can also find DIY hanging mason jar kits, so you can make a few lanterns of your own. Love it!

Happy Tuesday!