Friday, July 22, 2011

We are eating Tomatoes folks!!!

We picked our first tomato on July 5th! I personally think it is a great way to celebrate our Independence! We've even had enough to can 5 quart jars and of course we've eaten lots of fresh garden salsa and have already had BLT's a couple times. 
There's been some problems with our trellis design and we've had some plants fall over, but thankfully we were able to pull them back up and create a new cage around them. A few green tomatoes did fall off in the process but I think the plants themselves are going to pull through.

 This was our first big harvest of the year.
We've been eating LOTS of cucumbers. Julie's family has a favorite recipe of cucumbers with salt and mayo, and we made up a recipe of yogurt with lemon juice, dill and salt (kind of like Greek tzatziki, but with mostly cucumbers).  We've also been putting cucumbers in berry smoothies; we were surprised at how good it is!
Strawberries we picked in Iowa. 8qts in the freezer and we canned 12 pints of jelly

 These with some vanilla ice cream is one of our favorite deserts!!

Nice sized zucchini squash

 We like to grill them... enough said!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Harvest update - June 30th

So far, so good! We've already harvested so much more then or total harvest last year in the garden.
We are weighing a lot of the vegetables so we can keep record and compare for future years.

We've been eating lots of Lettuce and Onions. The Strawberries have been done producing now for a couple weeks, but we did enjoy handfuls of these special treats! We've already had a couple harvests of Green Beans and froze 7 packages, and we've eaten lots of Pea's. I've put up 6 quarts of our favorite Pea Soup in the freezer. Our Cilantro is bolting already thanks to the hot temperatures, and we've gotten lots of basil as well.
A sink full of mulberries is a beautiful thing, but a freezer full of them is even better.
We've also had some luck finding some wild berries- mulberries. If you haven't eaten any before, they are delicious. They grow on Mulberry tree's, which makes harvesting more easy and plentiful than bushes. We ate the first of our Raspberries last night, not very many but super tasty!


Turns into pesto!  We put it in ice cube trays and freeze it so we can have it all winter long!

We picked over 3lbs in one night!

You can see 8 from this picture and believe it or not, there are even more than that there!
LOTS of Lettuce!

Great BIG tomato!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gardening makes sense again

It's been a long time since we've written about the garden, due to some surprising circumstances with our family.  Nevertheless, we've still been busy getting everything in the ground on time, thanks to some help from Julie's parents and some good friends.

One of the social consequences that the industrial and electrical revolutions brought was that over time, neighbors didn't have to rely on one another the same way they used to.  Air conditioning brought everyone indoors to escape the heat, as opposed to out on the porch, and even if we see someone, we hurry into our homes where it's cool and safe.  People used to actually have to share an oven, so you'd rely on others to keep it going, and you'd do the same for them.  With cheap oil came cheap, long-distance transportation (which is fading quickly), and you could hire people in another hemisphere who have a lower standard of living than we do, so things got cheaper... but now we never see who actually built that iPod or grew and picked the tomatoes (if you can call them that) we get from the grocery store in December, and food production has some stuff in it that we wouldn't tolerate in our back yard.

That's why we get surprised when friends and neighbors really jump in and help out, but I think that sentiment is going to change very quickly.  It's really not like my neighbors were burdened while they came and helped us while Julie's been recovering. They all said they had a good time and would like to do it again.  What the what?!  They didn't even get the reward, or even the promise, of fresh picked produce (yet...), and they wanted to do it again?  Yep, it's true.

Now I'm a detail guy, and I know my fair share about economics.  There is an opportunity cost to taking more time from other activities to grow your own food.  Our economy has been on the upside of the standard-of-living bell-curve for 5 or 6 decades, so home-food production took too much time and energy, compared to getting it trucked in from somewhere else.  When we're looking at record unemployment, high inflation, and rising oil prices, it starts making sense again to put our hands in the dirt and grow our own food, even if a little bit.

What if every family with an unemployed person planted a garden this year?  Community and rooftop gardens (like the one Rick Bayless has on the roof of his Xoco restaurant in Chicago) make it possible for those without backyards of their own.  It wouldn't bump them off of unemployment benefits, nor would it be worse than sitting around watching television all day.*  We have an obesity problem that comes from lack of exercise and eating processed foods.  Let's kill the 2 fat birds with one readily-available stone.

*I don't think that every unemployed person is fat and sits around watching TV all day... but I'm sure there's a couple.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Plant Update

Pepper Plant
Tomatillo Plant

 It's now week 5 for most of our plants, here's some updated pictures.

James and I put the fence up around the garden last week to keep deer and other animals (including Oscar!) out.  We increased the size of our garden(s) by 1/3 this year! Very exciting! We also switched to the raised bed method. James dug down 16" last fall and put compost on top of each bed. The snow melt really broke up the soil and it looks much better then last year! Because of the cost of wood (and the time it'd take) we're not boxing them in, but I think they'll be fine without the border. We're really excited to have all that depth of soft soil for the roots to grow in!
My mom and I planted cabbage, lettuce plants and seeds and onions over the weekend. James and I are going to wait a week before planting peas (it's killing me!) because of next weeks temps in the 30s and 40s.

My mom and I planted the cabbage plants on 3/20
Tomato Plant
Our Garden

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Foraging in Early Spring: To the woods we go!

(Written by Julie)
This weekend my parents came to visit and we took them out foraging. We were looking for an edible weed called Chickweed and Stinging Nettles. About a month ago James and I had already went out and successfully found chickweed. The Nettles are just now coming up. From what I've researched chickweed grows even though the winter, its just a matter of finding it because of snow on the ground.

We did find both chickweed and the nettles. We found the majority of Chickweed on little hills facing South or West where the sun has most exposure. It also was more common growing under or right next to trees or fallen logs. I think most of that has to do with the deer getting the easily exposed stuff.
Stinging Nettles - We brought a pair of rubber gloves to get pick them, they will sting you if you touch them with your bare hands! These we just found randomly springing up here and there. There did seem to have a quite a few patches around each other. They're very young right now and just sprouting up from the ground.

We're anxious to look for Morel Mushrooms in a few weeks.. we searched last year without finding any but we're hoping to make the find this year!

Stinging Nettles

Chickweed- We have put on salads, sandwiches and in smoothies. I think it can be used just like lettuce or any other green.
Nettles- These MUST be cooked up to 120 degrees in order for the stingers to break down. We put some butter and seasoning on them and they tasted much like cooked Spinach. More information at the end of this post is a link to a syrup that can be made for allergies.


is an excellent source of vitamins A, D, B complex, C, and rutin (an accompanying flavonoid), as well as iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, sodium, copper, and silica.

Stinging Nettles have to be one of the most nutritious foods out there.
Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, anti-anaphylactic,anti-
rheumatic, anti-asthmatic, anti-convulsant, anti-dandruff, anti-histamine, astringent, decongestant, depurative, diuretic, haemostatic, hypoglycaemic, hypotensive, galactagogue, immunomodulator, prostate tonic, stimulating tonic.
Indicated for:
Seasonal allergies, arthritis, bronchitis, bursitis, gingivitis, laryngitis, prostatitis, rhinitis, sinusitis, tendinitis, BPH, rheumatism and other inflammatory conditions. High blood pressure, hair loss, anaemia, excessive menstruation, haemorrhoids, eczema, gout, sciatica, neuralgia, haemorrhoids. Alzheimer's disease, asthma, bladder infections, hives, kidney stones, multiple sclerosis, PMS, prostate enlargement and sciatica

Numbers indicate mg per 100g of Nettles,
Calcium (2900) Magnesium (860) Chromium (3.9) Cobalt (13.2) Iron (41.8) Phosphorus (447) Potassium (1750 )Zinc (4.7) Thiamine (0.54) Riboflavin (0.43) Vitamin A (15,700IU) Niacin (5.2) Protein (10.2%) Manganese (7.8) Selenium (2.2) Silicon (10.3) Tin (2.7) Vitamin C (83) Sodium (4.9) Copper, Sulfur, Vitamin D, Vitamin K

More information : and 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Seeds started

This year we decided that we were going to plant our garden from all heirloom seeds; no hybrid plants at all.  We bought a bunch of seeds from Baker Creek Seed Catalog, and got them started in trays in mid-February.  At first we were growing them under a single-bulb fluorescent light we had in the basement, but it was hard to get everyone good time close to the light.  We went to the Habitat ReStore to try and find a fixture with multiple bulbs, and we found a 2x4' fixture with room for 4 bulbs (the kind that usually hangs in drop-ceilings) and the results were amazing!  Every plant started growing exponentially better and fuller.  I'm not quite nerdy enough to calculate this precisely, but it seems like the leaves have 20% growth every day.  We also got some handy advice from a local organic farmer (who is also leading a wild-plant foraging trip on April 15th near our house) to surround the light with aluminum foil, since it reflects something like 98% of the light.

As the little seedlings started getting bigger and their true leaves sprouted, we transferred them from their seed-starting trays into 2-liter bottles that we got from a lady on craigslist.  We cut off the tops, washed them, and then drilled holes in the bottom for water drainage.  Julie's idea is to keep putting more dirt in there as they grow taller, so that new roots shoot out from the stems, so by the time they make the journey outside, the root structure is 6-8" deep, instead of 2-3".  I married a brilliant woman.

 As of today, we're at the point where we need more 2-liter bottles, so we're going to go recycling-dumpster-diving at a recycling center this afternoon.  Hopefully the thing is full, so I don't have to actually "dive" in, but some of our tomato plants look like miniature trees and have outgrown their little 1" seed cutting tray.

There's so much information and energy in those little seeds!
Edit:  Wife took some pictures!!!

These are the little guys pre-germination.  We started them in the bathroom was the warmest, darkest place in the house.  It's small, so all the heat gets trapped in there.  Started on Feb. 13th.
The tomatoes had germinated by the 17th!  So crazy! (The normal time is 7 days)
That's our celery and lettuce enjoying their new light
This is where the action's at folks.  It's sitting next to the south window for maximum natural light too.  The aluminum foil really makes a big difference in there.
One of our tomato plants at 3 weeks. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Big Picture of God's Plan

When God created the heavens and the earth, man and woman in His image, He put us in a garden.  This wasn't happenstance, or something convenient; He planted the garden Himself.  There were things about His heart that He wanted to show Adam (and the rest of us) that couldn't be done in a library.  He had to experience it to really get it.  Adam had to feel the cool breeze blowing on his face, the birds flying above his head, the mud squishing between his toes.  Every sense was there to experience God.  They walked in the cool of the day together.  God communing with man in context, not some outer-space gas ball.  Man and Woman were on the earth to have dominion and subdue it.  What God says here in these first few chapters of the Bible is massively important.  It's the pattern for a world without sin, and the first part of the story of redemption hinges on it.  Then came the fall, but God wasn't surprised: He created all men disobedient, that His mercy might be displayed (Romans 11:32). (Side note: Guys, stop blaming Eve... God held Adam responsible.)

The second part of the big picture of God's plan is the cross.  Jesus, the sinless God-man showed us the express image of the Father, calling all to repentance so that His kingdom could come on earth.  The prophets blurred the two comings of Christ, and everyone who thought they knew something about the Messiah, but had their heart far from God totally missed it.  He came to His own, but His own didn't recognize Him (John 1:10). He showed Himself as the gentle, mild Lamb of God.

After Jesus is crucified, buried and resurrected, Peter preaches to the Jews Him "whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21).  What things are going to be restored?  ALL things: heaven, earth, our bodies, our minds, the original intent of His heart when He put us in the Garden.  The second coming of Jesus is the transition from the age where sin rules the world to the age where the perfect God-man Christ Jesus establishes His kingdom.
"The Kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdoms of our God and of His Christ."  Revelation 11:15
He's motivated by zealous love, and He's coming for a Bride who has made herself ready.  And together, they'll commune and have dominion over the earth and subdue it.  We're going back to a garden in the end, and He wants us with Him where He is.