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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Seeds - The Promise of Life

I'm feeling lazy today. I have only 45 tomatoes and 6 trays of sweet and hot peppers started. I really need to start 2-3 more varieties of tomatoes and 2 varieties of peppers soon! But it is snowing and I'm feeling like reading a book instead of tromping out to my greenhouse to get more pots.
I like to start my seeds in pots that I've placed on a heat mat. The heat gives the little seedlings a boost. They can be purchased in gardening catalogs, and, I'm sure, nurseries.

After the seedlings appear I take them off of the heat mats and put them about 2 inches from grow lights that I've suspended from a metal shelf (purchased at Costco). As they grow, I lower them down so that they are always about 2-6 inches below the lights.

I learned the hard way that starts don't like to be in a warm room. They get leggy really fast. So I keep my operation in my garage that is about 50-60 degrees.

I also learned that if you put kelp in the water or soil, the seedlings grow stronger root systems and therefore the plant is healthier, stronger.

I put a picture here of my newest "toy". It is a pesticide sprayer. Of course, I avoid all pesticides, but have just been introduced to this handy-dandy tool as a great watering system. You can purchase them at Walmart for $9-$15. I've been delighted with the ease this allows my watering time. It is gentle on the little seedlings and is tidier than a water can or dipping system.

Let me know what you are starting and how! - Nanette

Monday, March 30, 2009

Our Very Own Time-Share

I promised you all a peek into my seed starting operation, but we had so much fun this weekend that I want to share about that first. As I said in my last post, I had reserved a National Forest Service cabin about 1 1/4 hours from our home. It turned out to be even nicer than I had expected! The cabin was nicely furnished and cozy warm. The water had not been turned on for the season, so we had to haul our own, but it was not difficult.

The cabin overlooks a large meadow and the surrounding hills are lovely. We put on our cross-country skis and headed into the meadow and then into the woods. We followed several sets of tracks, some very small, which we decided must be fox, some medium, which were coyote. But
what really interested us were the large (about 4 inch in diameter) tracks.
We decided these must be wolf tracks. Later, we chatted with a ranger and he confirmed that they likely belonged to wolves. Here is a picture of one of the wolf tracks juxtaposed to the track of a ski pole. It was amazing to realize that, according to the snow fall, the three wolves had to have come by the cabin while we were there. Too bad we didn't see them or get to hear them howl.
It was so fun to see how much the kids have improved in their skiing. We went through the woods,Mr. Blueberry Eyes leading the charge much of the way. He took us over countless logs and around in circles. We found meadows, creeks, and followed tracks, trying to piece together a forest story!

Saturday afternoon we were blessed with a visit from dear friends, bringing a German Chocolate cake to celebrate The Wood Artist's birthday. They visited until evening. The rest of the time we spent playing board games with the children and reading books.

In the end, our family voted to make more frequent use of the U.S. Forest Service's cabin plan more often! It is like having your own time share - only more affordable and closer to nature!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mountain Retreat

We're leaving for the weekend. We found a forest service cabin that has electricity and heat for a very reasonable price. I had originally planned this weekend as a getaway with girlfriends for scrapbookin/faithbooking, but they each canceled out, so we decided to spend the weekend as a family. We are taking books and games and x-country skis and lots of yummy food. We will celebrate The Wood Artist's birthday in spectacular fashion - with bunkbeds and apple pie!
My tiny seeds are starting to sprout, so my next post will explore my experiments with starting plants indoors.
Have to finish packing, practice violin with Mr. Blueberry Eyes, and make a bed, so will say, "TTFN (Pooh-ese for Tata For Now) - Nanette

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kale and Sausage Soup

1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 pound cooked sausage, such as kielbasa, cut into bite-sized pieces (Since I'm of the vegetarian kind, I use Prosage, a vege-sausage)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, ribbed, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 jalepeno chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. ground cumin
1 large bunch kale, stemmed, well washed, and coarsely chopped (8 cups packed)
6 cups Chicken Stock (I use 6 cups water and 2 1/2 T Bill's Best Chicknish seasoning)
2 cups tomatoes, fresh or drained canned
1/2 c. brown rice
Salt to taste
Pepper if you like.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, red pepper, chile, and garlic, and cook them until they soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin and cook for 1 minute.
A handful at a time, add the kale, stirring each addition and letting it wilt before adding another handful. Add the stock and tomatoes and rice and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and partially cover the pot. Simmer for 45-60 minutes. Add salt and pepper as desired.

I got this recipe in "From the Cook's Garden" by Ellen Ecker Ogden. The pesto recipe is also Ellens from her book, "Growing & Using Basil"

Basil Pesto

Here is my promised recipe for pesto. I usually leave out the parmesan cheese and it really does not impact the flavor that much. (And I'm picky about flavor!) I often make huge batches during the summer harvesting and freeze in serving sized bags. This makes yummy pasta, pesto swirl bread, and the best pizza you ever ate.


2 cups fresh basil leaves, removed from the stem
1/2 c. fresh parsley leaves
1/2 c. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste (optional - I don't use it)
1/4 c. roasted pine nuts
1/4 c. fresh Parmesan or Asiago cheese

In a blender or food processor, puree the basil, parsley, oil, garlic, salt, pepper. Add the nuts and the cheese and process briefly until the pesto reaches the desired consistency.
Makes 2 cups

Dull Moments

First of all, my apologies for such a long pause in writing. I know some of you check my blog regularly and I didn't mean to let you down. My silence has not been indicative of nothing happening! Indeed, I have a lot to write about!
The Wood Artist and I decided yesterday that we are going to start penciling into our daily schedule "dull moments"! What a hoot! Can you imagine coming to, say, 2:45 p.m., and saying, "O.k. everyone, its time for a dull moment!" I really wish we could!
I've been planting my garden starts like a mad woman. I have around 100 pots of lavender, about 1000 basil plants, 36 cabbage pots, six trays of hot and sweet peppers, and 30 beefstake tomatoes. I have 4 more varieties of tomatoes to plant, 3 more varieties of peppers, and quite a few flowers! Will I have extras? Probably. I might try my hand at selling some of the plants.
Another "dull moment" in our house was the kids getting sick. Laughing Water had a fever of 103 degrees for 3 days. Mr. Blueberry Eyes didn't get so sick and even felt like playing his violin a little (see photo).
Our gardening meeting at the library went very well. I heard that there were over 50 people there! I had a wonderful time meeting great new gardening friends! Can't wait to chat with them more.
Some of you have requested recipes for my Pesto and also my Kale Sausage Soup, so I am going to post them here. I hope you enjoy!
In closing, I just want to say that my heart is with the families of the victims of the plane crash in Butte, Montana. One of the mothers was a piano student of mine a long time ago and her father was my Anatomy and Physiology teacher in college. My prayers and thoughts are with all of the grieving families!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Geese are Flying North

The sun is shining brightly now. This morning was below zero - colder than I typically think of for March! I finally got four trays of basil planted. I planted my old stand-by - mammoth basil and added a few more varieties - purple, lime, and sweet Genovese. I have more that I would like to plant, but haven't wanted to go out in the cold and shovel my way into my greenhouse for more trays! I'll have to remember next fall to bring them in so they aren't stranded in the snow!
I was delighted to see geese flying North today! Spring must be coming!
I've been asked to share a little about my corn seed saving & grinding at a community meeting at the library tonight, so I'm off to that.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Blizzard

We're having a rip-snortin' blizzard right now. The wind is blowing so hard that I don't like to have the children walking between our reading therapy classroom and the house. A tree could come down. Why do I love blizzards? I don't know. I just do.
The kids finished ice-skating lessons yesterday. School is going well. The house is nearly clean. There isn't much to write about.
I keep thinking that it is time to get some plants started in my garage under the grow lights, at least some of the slower starting herbs and eggplant. In a couple of weeks the tomatoes, tomatillos, flowers, cabbages. But I'm having a hard time kicking it in gear.
Tonight we will have pizzas made with tortillas, almonds, fresh tomatoes, capers, leeks, cheese. Yummy!
Our new consultation for tonight canceled due to the weather. The canyon near us has been shut down. I just have one student and then I can do something fun or productive. I think it is time to make myself an organized sewing area, despite my teeny, tiny house. I need my own creative nook. I think I should stop rambling! - Nanette