It’s Only Been A Week

It’s been just over a week since we planted our garden. We have had lots of growth and some death thus far.

IMG_5609Our strawberries are the only ones to have seen death. Out of all of the plants I put in, 2 have died. We specifically put so many in for this exact reason. It is still early, there may still be some loss, but as of now, the rest of them look like they are doing well. 

 

IMG_5615

IMG_5614Two of our 12 potatoes have busted through! There is evidence that at least 3 more will pop through in the coming days. This is the first year we are growing potatoes in this garden. I am excited to see how well they do.

IMG_5613Our mixed greens and leafy lettuce are flourishing. Fresh lettuce grows like weeds, and lasts FOREVER. We were giving it away last year because it lasts 3-4 weeks when stored properly. 

IMG_5612Our radish patch is doing quite well. We only planted in half of the area because we are going to rotate them out. So next week we will plant another 2 rows of radish, just in time for our first ones to be done in a few days time. They have a quick germination/maturity time. 
IMG_5611This is our singular bush cucumber plant. We planted 5 in the little plot. We’re hoping that by the end of the week we’ll have a few more. Mom wants to make pickles…even though she’s the only one that eats them.

IMG_5616I like to call this the “Mater Forest.” I feel like we have so much more than last year, and I know that once they really start growing up, it’s going to look like one as well. They haven’t had much vertical growth, but it’s still early. They’re more busy rooting that growing.

IMG_5610We planted about 8 sunflowers and 6 of them have already started popping! I took a shot of the two biggest ones. I will harvest the seeds in the fall and bake them! 

IMG_5608We are most excited for the green beans…ok….it might just be me. I LOVE green beans. I like them raw, I like them blanched, I like them sautéed in butter with garlic and onion, I like them fried. I haven’t met a green bean I didn’t like…except casserole. They are bursting forth in their little rows and I could not be more excited.

IMG_5618This little guy is not in our back garden, but I like it anyway. We planted 4 lavender plants in our front/side gardens this year. Lavender is not only pretty once it blooms, but it also smells good and is a natural bug repellent. It is also a perennial so we will not have to worry about having to replace it every year.

We are still waiting for the onion, peppers and carrots to pop. They should be showing up to the party in the very near future. The cosmos and zinnias that we planted around the vegetable garden are barely showing above the mulch. Our marigolds are thriving. Those 3 were planted as bee attractors and bug repellents.

From here out, I will post garden updates once the plants start producing or something super super exciting happens!

Happy planting!

Advertisements

Spring Gardening

In March, in the midst of a snow storm I spent the day planning our garden. This weekend, the snow has been gone for a few weeks, the sun has been shining and we were finally able to get stuff in the ground!

I had come up with beautiful plans and a beautiful layout, created with tons of research, love and care. screen-shot-2015-03-05-at-5-18-30-pmThen we got out there and my dad decided things needed more space. The really pretty garden layout that looked like the above, ended up looking like the below in reality. Which, is ok. It doesn’t look near as pretty in a chart like this, but it works. Sunflowers and cucumbers were added to the garden. The “walking path,” kinda disappeared for the most part, but there is plenty of space between plants so we’ll be just fine.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 9.26.29 AMWe also have an adorable little strawberry patch, I have claimed it as my own.10689423_10206003822511341_2734209453159910876_nAround the garden we planted marigolds, cosmos, and zinnias. Marigolds are natural (bad) bug-repellants, cosmos and zinnias are natural bee attractors. When you have a garden this big, with this much stuff in it, you want as many bees as you can get! 11206100_10206003822071330_2141622102369986064_n

11204480_10206003822311336_9176184884080786480_nWe have 24 tomato plants of 3 varieties, Roma, Celebrity and Brandywine. We planted red potatoes because we think they are better to cook/bake with. Mom wants to make pickles this fall so the cucumbers are small bush cucumbers. There are 15 strawberry plants in the box. I’m not sure that they’ll all make it, and if I do…well…if anybody would like some strawberry plants, hit me up. The rest of the garden is seeds, so I guess we will see in a few weeks how many of each we have!

Stay tuned for update posts and recipes throughout the summer!

IMG_5564

Snow Day Garden Planning

It is a winter wonderland right now. Seriously. We have over a foot of snow in our yard, a combination of the approximately 8 inches we got today plus what was already laying on the ground. My dad used our snow blower to created a doggy path in our back yard since our critters are a bit vertically challenged.

10437617_10206255174127735_8793836284818350200_nI am desperately looking forward to the days when our yard looks more like this-

10295692_10203915015585234_973748627609679709_n

Last year was the first garden my parents did. This little plot is 8×10. This year, we are more than doubling that to a whopping 32×10. Yes, 32×10. That is 320 square feet of prime food growin ground. When you decide to grow a garden that big, you can not haphazardly throw plant in the ground. There is an art to this, a serious science. I have spent at least 3 hours researching, drawing, erasing and going back to the garden boards to plan out our vegetable garden this year. An excel spread sheet, and 2 tables later, I think I’ve got it!

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 5.18.14 PM

This is an excel spread sheet of all different fruits and vegetables we will be growing, whether in the main 32×10 garden, in a separate box, like our strawberries, or in our side garden, like the cucumbers. It features how deep to plant the seeds, how far apart to plant them, how many can be planted in a square foot, when to plant, companion planting info, soil info and sun preferences. Instead of having to search 18 different websites, I can simply pull this up and all of the info I need is right there in one spot!

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 5.18.30 PM

This is our 32×10 garden lay out. Below is the color key, black is walking space. It is a pain in the butt to harvest, weed and take care of a garden when you have no room to actually walk! What a travesty to have great plants and accidentally step and crush them! This helps aid this problem. Having it laid out also means no guessing when it comes to planting time. Each square will have 1-16 plants depending on what is being planted there. We LOVE canning homemade tomato sauce, and being able to harvest and freeze fresh green beans, carrots and peppers to use throughout the winter and spring. Nothing beats having fresh carrots and green beans in a good hearty pot of stew in the middle of December. We are also planting marigolds around the perimeter of the whole garden. There are numerous benefits of this, one of them being that they attract bees, which helps pollination, which in turn means lots of produce!

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 5.18.33 PMRight now, the wind is blowing and the snow is still kinda falling. By the end of the week it is supposed to bounce back up to the 40s and Spring will quickly be approaching. I still have our front flower gardens to plan and a few weeks before we’ll be able to till the ground and get our (organic/natural) soil additives in preparation for planting time mid-April. Though it seems so far away, like the snow may never stop and the ice will never melt, I know that in just a few short weeks I will have my toes in the dirt and seeds in the ground!

Baked Chicken Legs and Marinade

We are hard-core grillers, and by “we” I mean my mom. She loves to grill and does it just about anytime of year. Well, it’s been just a wee bit cold up here in Pennsylvania and she’s given up until it gets a bit better. But we had chicken legs, and I love chicken legs. We normally reserve them for grilling, but I needed something to break up the monotony of winter dinners. So I decided I was going to bake my chicken legs.

Ingredients:

Chicken legs

1/2 cup EVOO

1/2 onion

2 lemons

1/4 orange juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

3 garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon Rosemary

1/2 teaspoon Thyme

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

Salt/Pepper

1. In a large container combine: the juice of 2 lemons, olive oil, chopped onion, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, 3 minced garlic cloves, rosemary, thyme, brown sugar, salt and pepper. With a fork, mix everything together to distribute the ingredients.

IMG_4964

2. Place your thawed (or mostly thawed) chicken legs into the container, put the lid on and shake around to distribute the marinade over the legs. Let marinade for at least 3 hours, or over night. I would re-shake every so often to redistribute the goods.

IMG_4965

3. Pre-heat your oven to 350. Place your chicken legs and marinade into a large baking dish, skin side up, and cover with foil. Place in the oven while it is still pre-heating. Bake for at least an hour and a half, or until the meat reaches 160 degrees using a meat thermometer. For the last half hour, remove the foil to crisp the skins.

4. Optional, remove foil and turn on your broiler. Everyone likes that awesome crunch skin and this is the best way to get it when you’re not grilling. Broil until the skins are turning golden brown and crunchy!

5. Remove from the oven, and let rest. Serve with sides and enjoy! We had rice and a veggie! 🙂

IMG_4972

Throw Together Hash

Obviously school has started again. My posting has once again become sporadic. I’m hoping to change that now that I am in more of a routine. The other day I had no classes and spent the day running errands with dad. I had promised mom I would make dinner, and I couldn’t take that back. I had pulled out ground beef that morning with no idea what I was going to do with it. We had finally had some green peppers come in, so I plucked one of them. We had an onion in the fridge, some left over breakfast sausage and potatoes. So, in true Anna fashion, I threw it all together.

Ingredients:

1lb lean ground beef- you can substitute turkey, pork or any combination of ground meat really

Breakfast sausage links- optional, we had some left over from our big Sunday breakfast

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 rough chopped onion

1 small green pepper- I would have used a red and yellow as well if we had had them!

3-4 medium sized red potatoes

Herbs/Seasonings of your choice

Sour Cream/Cheese as optional toppings

1. In a large pan, brown the ground beef with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, basil, garlic powder, parsley on medium-high heat.

IMG_4154

2. While the beef is browning, chop your vegetables.

IMG_4153

3. Boil the potatoes until cooked through. They just won’t cook in the pan.

4. Throw in your chopped onion, pepper, and cut up breakfast sausage with the beef. Turn the stove down to medium-low, stir and cover. Check and stir every few minutes to keep from burning on the bottom.

5. After the potatoes are done cooking, strain and add to the pan. Mix in, and let them hang out with the rest of the hash for a few minutes to pick up the flavor.

Serve in a bowl with toppings like sour cream and cheese. This is obviously a super flexible dish. You could add lots of different veggies, eat it in a tortilla- what ever floats your boat. My dad was afraid of it, and then had 3 helpings. haha.

IMG_4155

It’s all in the Dirt

It’s been a busy week for the dirt in the gardens! At Eric’s house I plucked our first onions. They’re a bit on the wee little side but they are packing a punch and delicious!

IMG_6180

The watermelon plants are budding! Last year we did sugar babies and weren’t very happy with the results. This year we chose a different kind and it is flourishing! There are buds EVERYWHERE! In the world of vine plants- BUDS=YUM! This goes for the pumpkins as well. As you can see in the first picture, the pumpkin is creeping in.

IMG_3323 IMG_4170 IMG_6272

Speaking of….he’s taking over our garden! Because our one watermelon plant is doing so well we are probably going to pull the smaller of the two that is struggling just a bit. And the rest of our onions will be out shortly. We have to get those guys out so our massive octopus of a pumpkin can roam more on the free side. The next step will be hefting the vines over the fence to let it free range in the yard! On the plus side, there are a number of beautiful blossoms! I’m hoping to ACTUALLY get a pumpkin this year! 😀

img_2678   IMG_2869.JPG

What our pumpkin looked like on June 15th. I honestly can’t even get a picture with a wide enough view to show you how big the pumpkin plant is. Trust me, it’s become a monster. I’m hoping I get MONSTER pumpkins out of it too! The second picture is from June 26th. It’s much bigger than that even. Trust me.

I spent my afternoon walking through the sea of green beans. They are HUGE! And I still have one more row left to do! I set myself up a nice little system on the living room floor so I could watch TV and not be stuck standing in the kitchen. It’s amazing how quickly that colander fills up!

IMG_2936

First round- Row 1

IMG_2939 IMG_2941

By the second round I got smart with a bowl for the tips, a bowl for the snapped and my colander in the middle. Rows 2 and 3

IMG_2946

I got to repeat the process with round 3, row 4. Yeah, there’s still another row left to do.

At my parent’s, my mom and I were investigating our carrots! They’re starting to show through the dirt but they’re just not ready yet! Hopefully by the end of the month they’ll be there.

IMG_6540 IMG_9197

Each set of gardeners does different things to help their garden dirt. At my parents, my mom saves our coffee grounds, saves and crushes egg shells and sprinkles it all in the garden. They have been battling first year soil. In the fall they’ll be adding lime and peat moss. At Eric’s, he does lime in the fall and again about March a few weeks before we plant so that the lime doesn’t burn the baby plants. He also adds peat moss and sand. Now that we have the chickens and the gardens are so huge he has finally agreed/decided too…. COMPOST! YAY! We have the perfect spot for it behind our sheds at the back of the property. Egg shells, grass clippings, leaves, weeds, our garden clippings, coffee grounds, chicken poop, banana peals- it’s all going in! I’m sure I’ll be posting about THAT adventure by the end of the summer. 🙂

Pocket Chicken and Potatoes With Green Beans

When it is in the 90s the last thing you want to do is turn the oven on in the house. Even with the AC on full blast the oven is a bad idea. But the taste of the grill isn’t always wanted every day of the week. Here is my way around both problems.

Ingredients-

4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breast

Salt

Pepper

Olive Oil

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Parsley

1/2 cup onion

2 garlic cloves

Butter

Pakricka

1. Thaw chicken breasts.

2. Pull out 2 large pieces of foil and make the shape of a plus sign. Spray with non-stick spray and drizzle some olive oil to keep the meat from sticking.

3. Finely chop your onion and garlic, kind of mix them up in the same bowl

4. Place about a quarter of the onion and garlic on the top piece of foil

5. Season each chicken breast on underside and place on top of onion and garlic.

6. Season the top side of the chicken and spread the rest of the onion and garlic on top.

7. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and add small pads of butter on top of each breast.

IMG_2899

8. Wrap the chicken up nice and tight!

DO NOT POKE HOLES! The whole point of this is to partially steam the chicken. It stays nice and moist this way.

IMG_2897

9. Turn the grill on High and place the pockets on the grill. Our grill at that point cooks at about 400.

10. Cook for 10 minutes, go out and turn the pocket. Cook for another 10 minutes.

11. Turn the grill down to Medium for 15-20 minutes.

12. You can pull them out just to add a few grill marks or remove them from the pocket and place on a plate to serve.

IMG_2905

Serve with fresh veggies!

I was super excited to make the potatoes! It finally gave me a chance to use the ones we dug out a few days ago!

Ingredients:

Potatoes

Olive Oil

Butter

Garlic

Rosemary

Onion

Parsely

1. If needed, cut potatoes. I used a lot of our smaller ones that only needed cut in half or not at all!

2. Lay out 2 piece of foil just like the chicken. Spray with non-stick spray

3. Add potatoes to the center

4. Drizzle with olive oil, seasonings and herbs

5. Top with a few pads of butter

IMG_2893

6. Wrap up nice and tight. DO NOT POKE HOLES!

Cook along side the chicken- see directions above and below

IMG_2900

7. Turn the grill on High and place the pockets on the grill. Our grill at that point cooks at about 400.

8. Cook for 10 minutes, go out and turn the chicken pocket, FLIP the potato pocket. Cook for another 10 minutes.

9. Turn the grill down to Medium for 15-20 minutes.

IMG_2904

And last, but not least, actually my favorite part- THE GREEN BEANS!

Tonight was our first night of having our green beans FRESH out of the garden! Absolutely, hands down, favorite and best thing about having the garden!!! Traipsing through the green bean forest is quite fun as well!

IMG_2903IMG_2901

Green Beans

Garlic Clove

1 Tablespoon Butter

Olive Oil

Minced Onion

1. Blanch/cook your green beans to desired level of crunch! We like ours a bit on the crispy side still!

2. While the beans are cooking, finely mince garlic and mince onion (or use the dried stuff)

3.. Drain water and put beans back into pot.

4. Add butter, a squirt of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon garlic, and 1/2 tablespoon of onion.

5. On medium-high heat melt the butter and keep everything moving as to not burn it.

6. Once the beans start to show signs of frying and the garlic and onion are thoroughly infused, remove from heat.

That is one yummy, fresh, flavorful summer dinner!

IMG_2907

 

Blooms Away!

The plants are a blooming! A few weeks ago Eric and I got our plants and seeds in the ground!

get-attachment.aspx

Back when the maters, onion, taters, and peppers were just wittle baby sprouts!

The beds had been thoroughly limed, sanded, peat mossed and turned. We tilled and limed the beds in the fall so that the lime could soak into the ground. We limed again in March so that it could get into the ground enough that it wouldn’t burn the plants. PA soil is naturally not very acidic and needs some help. We added in the peat moss and sand at this time as well. It keeps the ground loose for the roots to grow into and adds nutrients. After we planted the tomatoes we added epsom salt around the bases to help them out a bit. They LOVE it. Once they really get going Eric found a natural pesticide somewhere that worked wonderfully last year.

We lay down a breathable, water penetrating plastic between and around the plants so we don’t have to weed. We hate weeding.

get-attachment-4.aspx

The strawberry patch kicking butt! The big bright huge green one in the center is our all-star from last season.

get-attachment-5.aspx

So. Many. Green Bean. Plants.

get-attachment-8.aspx

Wide view of the first garden. The far section is a few rows of corn.

get-attachment-6.aspx

Onions….not quite sure what we’re going to do with all of them but they’re coming in tall and strong! New addition from last year.

get-attachment-7.aspx

Our potato plants have exploded and done way better than we could have hoped and expected. These are another new addition and I’m praying the taters under ground are just as big and awesome as the plants above.

Eric and I are in competition this year as to who can grow the better tomato plant and the better tomatoes. I post mine and he puts his in cages. Obviously my way is better. I will keep you updated as to who is in the lead and the most successful throughout the summer.

get-attachment-12.aspx

Mater plants. The ones with the white are Eric’s. The ones in the back are mine.

get-attachment-9.aspx

Wide view of the second garden with the pumpkin, watermelon plants and pepper plants.

The potatoes have just started blooming so hopefully by the end of next week we’ll be digging them up! Our strawberry plants have been producing like crazy already this year. Everything else will take most of the summer to maturate.