Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer Heat

I really, really didn't want to do our long run this weekend, but I finally ran out of excuses today.  First, it was rainy all day Saturday and then Sunday we just *had* to go to cherry picking.  Well enough was enough come Monday, so we got up early and hit the road.  We hoped the early run would help us escape the heat and humidity.  I hate to even imagine what it would have been like if we waited a couple hours because it was pretty dang miserable already.  Bleh!    I guess we have a couple more weeks of summer running before we get used to running in this mess.

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Running over a wooden bridge.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Monday Garden Update

So, according to my insane nifty plan I need to start my broccoli and cauliflower seedlings sometime soon if I want a fall harvest.  Pretty much all of the plants I grew from seed this Spring did not grow as strong as I wanted (with the exception of the squash) thanks to a lack of light.  As such, I had Nick build me a set up similar to Feet Off the Table's in our crawl space.  Just like Ali, I'm putting the lights on a timer so all I have to do is come in and water as needed.  My plan is to raise the lights with S-hooks as the plants grow toward the light. It is much cooler in the crawl space then outside during the summer and warmer in the winter so it should be a good location.  It also keeps the plants out of the house and away from grabby toddlers. Let's hope the new set-up yields some nicer looking plants!

on to the garden...

I'm going to say that about 25% of the peas are ready for picking.  I don't know if I should wait until more are ready or what...  so I'm waiting, but things are looking good.

We have patty pan squash on three different plants!!!  You may or may not remember this awesome pattypan recipe from last year!  I'm SO EXCITED... this is our first year for patty pan!!!

We also have zukes!!!

I had this awesome zucchini dish at Carraba's a while back while traveling and I wasn't able to shake just how delicious it was.  It was roasted zucchini with some italian bread crumbs and garlic and just a hint of parm cheese.  It was sooooo good.  So, I researched a bunch of different recipes trying to find something that resembled what I remembered.  I have a new **FAVORITE** recipe for zucchini!  Check it out here.  I will say I made with and without the olive oil with little appreciable difference so this is a great low-fat, DELISH option for zucchini.  We gardeners know that when zukes come, you need to come up with a lot of ways to fix it or they will begin to tire on you because summer squash plants are crazy productive!

Yummy Zucchini Casserole

Happy Memorial Weekend Everyone!!

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Cherry Picking

Apparently cherry picking season started last weekend here.  The season is only expected to last another two weeks so it was a perfect excuse to get out today and enjoy some of this humid, hot weather we are having.    I don't mind excessive sweating or even greasy sunscreen running into my eyes.  I love the hot weather and I LOVE SUMMER!!!

Road Leading to the Orchard
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 Greeneyes Hanging Out
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Ladybug and the Human Ladder
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Mom preferred to climb an actual ladder

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Posing by the cemetery

Now what are we to do with all these cherries?  Jam, tarts...  eat 'em plain?!   :)

Oh summer, I missed you...  I really, really missed you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Broccoli Harvest

Life is delicious these days at Out in Them Sticks, that's for sure!  We harvested a bunch of broccoli today. Between the broccoli and the salad greens we haven't had the need for many grocery store vegetables lately!

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Home Grown broccoli is milder/sweeter in flavor than grocery store versions and absolutely fabulous !  Below are 3 broccoli heads I harvested today.  We have at least 12 other heads that have yet to mature in the garden so a lot of good eats await us. For dinner tonight we ate one and half heads along with some salad and roasted pork loin.  Yum! Ladybug asked for thirds on the broccoli and GreenEyes scarfed his down too...  makes me all gushy inside!

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend in Review

We didn't have a lot of sunshine time this weekend but when we did we were outside.  We managed to fit both a long run in (10 miles) and a little leisurely biking despite the on and off showers.

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I also stuffed myself with an unbelievable amount of strawberries.  You wouldn't belive how many strawberries didn't make it to the bowl! 

Monday Garden Club (a day early)

We have been getting a lot of intermittent rain showers recently so it has been a bit of a lazy week as it's been too soggy to do much gardening.  It's been great for the broccoli so we harvested our first couple plants this week and it was delicious.  We have plenty more too.  We are thrilled!

The peas have been going crazy and started to crowd out the parsnips so we had to do something.  Nick is a pea expert and had explained to me prior to planting that we didn't need to use a trellis for them because they would just fall over in the wind. He knows this because he used to drive a pea combine.  While they probably would have been fine, we didn't give them enough room for that so Nick threw up some stakes and some kite string to make me an impromptu trellis for the peas.  It's better but we should have done that a while ago.

The potatoes were starting to wipe out the onions so I had Nick stake 'em so they'd go more up than out.  I don't know if this will help, but whatever.  I planted them too close.  I just can't help myself!

These little nasty black bugs are eating the crap out of my potato and eggplant plants.  I put some organic insecticide on them to absolutely no avail.  :(

Nothing is bothering the tomatoes yet and another tomato plant is bearing fruit.  :)

Our pumpkin plant is getting huge already and has a little itty bitty pumpkin thingy growing. 

The rainy weather has been great for the rhubarb.  Pardon the weeds.  The rain has helped the weeds too and I haven't had much of an opportunity to remove them.

That's all for this week at Out in Them Sticks.  Check out Feet off the Table's Monday Garden Club for more garden blogging from around the blogosphere.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Our Oven is Functioning Again

Per our last post, we've been coping with the loss of oven function.  It's been rough but we've been surviving by doing a hell of a lot of grilling....  OK, so maybe it hasn't been so rough.  Nick has been doing all the cooking the last day or so and I've been enjoying a nice break. 

Nick must have gotten tired of it quickly though because as of today we no longer have an oven issue.  I had noticed about a month ago that there were some weird plastic burning odors coming from the oven.  I told Nick about it, but he didn't seemed phased.  Well, come to find out, some wires had melted and fused together resulting in loss of power to the stove.  Go figure.  See below.

Melted off Terminal Block (or in wife terms: Wire Holder)

 Melted Power Supply Wire.

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Nick finishing the fix-up job.  
(Please ignore the dirty state of the oven!)

Moral to this story:  When you smell plastic burning smells coming from your stove and you don't really know where it's coming from, do something about it.  Seems logical, doesn't it?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Adventures in Pizza Making

I'd like to preface this post by mentioning that Nick used to work in a frozen pizza factory when he was in high school.  He wanted me to let you all know that little factoid, in case you already didn't (he only mentions this as every opportunity given to him).

As you may remember in previous posts, I'm a bit of coupon freak and I've been able to get Tombstone pizzas for around $.50 or less a piece (they have even made me money).  Nick is addicted and I admit, I love the convenience.  BUT they are full of junk with ingredients a mile long and I just can't stand buying them anymore even at that price.  I, myself do not eat them (I tend to eat a Kashi frozen meal instead on Tombstone night) but my kids do because dad eats it and they love it.  It's our go to meal when time is tight or whenever a pizza strikes Nick's fancy which is fairly often.

I love to cook, but I don't have the time to wait 2 to 3 hours for dough to rise every time my husband feels like pizza. Besides, the whole reason we like frozen pizza is for its convenience, right?  We used to buy fresh pizza dough from Trader Joe's when we lived in "the big city" but we don't have that option anymore (the nearest Trader Joe's is an hour and 15 minutes away, though I hear we will have a Trader Joe's in our area within the next year!)  Another pizza we used to make was a "Flat Out" version here.  You use a pre-made low carb bread as the dough.  It's very low cal and delicious.  When we started to coupon though, the cost of the bread became a factor.  A package of Flat Out bread runs about $3.50.

So, I've decided to go wild and try making our own from scratch and freezing it ahead of time. All I have to do is thaw the dough in the refrigerator a day or three before we need it.  Then when I need a super quick meal, it's right there in the fridge in no time at all without all the preservatives and without costing a fortune!  Why haven't I been doing this all along?

Sunday night I went crazy and tripled a recipe for whole wheat pizza crust I found here.  Tripling the recipe produced 6 thin crust pizzas and it only took me about 20 minutes of preparation time (it technically took about 3 hours with rising time).  With my coupons, I get cheap to FREE, no-hormone cheese to put on the pizza so I'm guessing with sauce these pizzas will be about a buck a piece not including toppings.   Cheap, easy, fast, AND good eats.

Foamy yeast.

Resting dough.

Ta-da!!  Ready-made pizza dough in the freezer!  (I may have skipped a few steps)

I froze the dough packs on Sunday and then thawed one pack of dough this morning to use for dinner tonight.  I spread out one crust, added the topping like usual and put it in the oven.

Then, our oven failed.  Son of a !@#$!  Right in the middle of cooking, no less.  My poor, experimental pizza could have used 10 more minutes in the oven. 

The result: delicious but undone pizza.

Prior to oven failure, Nick had already rolled out and dressed a second pizza (I had the audacity to think our family could get by on one pizza.) and now it was too thin to transfer to another pan and yet too big to put in our convection oven. 

The result: pizza rolls.

Certainly, not what I expected from our pizza experiment.  I'll be calling the repair man first thing in the morning.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Garden Update

It's Monday and you know what that means: it's time for Monday Garden Club at Feet off the Table!

We've been enjoying salad greens for some time now.  My favorite greens to grow are musclun mix (i.e. a rainbow of everything).  The flavor is phenomenal and they are so easy to grow.  I do think greens season is coming to an end here but I am going to sow two more short rows tomorrow for experimentation purposes.  June is usually too hot for these babies but we've been having cooler weather than usual.  I'm probably jinxing myself and now we are bound to have some narly a$$ heat wave, but whatever.  Aren't they beautiful? We've been having salad every single day for the past couple weeks here at Out in them Sticks!

We have little grape tomatoes hanging out already!  It'll be a while of course though...

We have little pea pods!  It'll be a while until we harvest those too, but it's progress!

Here are the eggplants and a pepper (in the corner) I mentioned in last week's post.  As you can see they aren't doing to great, but they look better than just a few days ago. I still think I'll be replacing them, but I'll give them a few weeks before I make any drastic decisions.

The blackberries have stopped blooming and are showing fruits now.  We are just a month or two from some delicious wild blackberries!!

I planted some sunflowers last week by the shed for the fun of it.  I'm excited to see what they do!  If they do something, that's great.  If not, I won't be shedding any tears from it.  I just thought it'd be cute.  If they grow, we'll save 'em for the bird feeder (that is if the birds haven't eaten 'em already).

Last but not least, I think we may harvest our first broccoli this week?  How much bigger will they get?  I have no idea.  Should I pick now, or wait, or what?  Any advice is welcome!

How is your garden growing these days?  Check out what Ali and others are doing over at Feet off The Table's Monday Garden Club.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hiking the AT, Strawberries, and More

It's been a packed weekend here at Out in Them Sticks.  The garden chores would have to wait until the work week because we had big plans!

Saturday we went for a wonderful hike on a portion of the Appalachian Trail (AT).

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 Nick and Ladybug on the AT

It was just one of those days that would be a sin if you weren't outside.  We hiked up to a small overlook and had a small picnic lunch there.  Usually, we'd have lunched on the big rock outcropping with the amazing view but that would be just a little too insane with the little ones.

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 Nick and Ladybug at the Summit

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GreenEyes and Mom at the Summit

Instead, we opted to lunch at a spot just off the trail (see below).  The total hike was only 3.7 miles round trip but it felt like a moderate hike with the 40+ lbs. strapped to our backs.

We got home completely beat.  While Nick was making his bimonthly biweekly trip to the dump, I couldn't help but indulge myself in an hour long siesta.  Despite the nap, I still slept well that night!

On Sunday, we took the kiddos strawberry picking for some not-so-energy-consuming fun.

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We came home with about 6 lbs. of strawberries so I guess we will be having strawberries for dessert, breakfast, lunch and dessert again for the next few days.

Lastly, Nick complained mentioned that he was in a desperate need of hair cut so when we got home I ripped out the cutting shears and got hacking away at the boys. As you can see, cutting GreenEyes hair is as easy as pie.  He doesn't squirm one bit. 

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I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!  See you tomorrow for Feet off the Table's Monday Garden Update!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Week in Review

Nick mentioned to me last week that he needed to take a business trip up north for a conference.  It was located at a drivable location so I had the option of actually attending this time.  It took me a millisecond to weigh this decision:  

Option A:  Stay at home in isolation with two little terrors


Option B: Hang out in a hotel for a week of no dishes, no garden chores, no kiddos to clean up after...  oh and no dinner making.

So I spent a nice week of sloth and gluttony.  That's right; sweet, lazy bliss.  :)

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Enjoying a little Mexican.

Did any of y'all see yesterday's Today Show?  It was "NO makeup day" so all the ladies didn't wear makeup (oddly, men were allowed).   Nowadays I think I'm lucky to get out of the house with a smudge of mascara and maybe some lip gloss (as I did above).  But now, as it has been revealed in the same photo, I seem to have lost a good bit of my eyebrow hair.  I'm hoping they just got lost in the camera flash.  If not, I might want to consider an eyebrow pencil or maybe some old lady eyebrow tattoos.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Monday Garden Update

As you may have seen in yesterday's post, we are done with the landscaping around our house and we couldn't be more thrilled. It was the most amazing mother's day present to have it DONE!!! On Mother's Day we actually found the down time to do a long run (9 miles) as well as do some tiding up.

As for a Garden Update, we have a lot to report. First, we have broccoli people! No, not enough to harvest yet, but we are very close to it!!! Check it out below!!!! Third time is indeed the charm!!! I will try for a fourth time this fall by seed starting indoors in June.

Oh broccoli, you can be a pain in the ass, but you will be worth the extra effort I have gone through in the last month when we have you for dinner and you nourish my family with your folate and Vitamin C. :)

I'm a little scared about carrots after reading on some other garden blogs about how hard they are to grow. I know they are cheap in the grocery store, but I couldn't help myself and give them a go in the garden. They are one of Ladybug's favorite. We go through about 2-3 lbs. a week of the stuff. They are my go-to vegetable when Ladybug needs a snack. I bought a special variety called "Royal Chantenay" for less than ideal soils which I figured would be fool proof. As you can see below, I need to thin them out ASAP... parsnips too. For that matter, I need to plant more green beans, parsnips and carrots too. It never ends (but secretly, I LOVE THAT!)

The Carrots.

The peas are blooming! They bloomed the day after last Monday's update. That means we should have some peas in about 3 weeks, maybe?

I have officially given up on my eggplant and pepper plants. They are so spindly. I couldn't take putting them in and out of the house to the greenhouse anymore because I didn't have much hope for them anyway so I just planted them in the garden and said the hell with 'em. Now, they really look like crap. (The photos are too painful and sad to post.)

We will have to get a better seed starting set-up next year for sure. I threw a row cover on 'em because they love the heat and its been on the colder side. I expect that I will be purchasing a plant or two from the local co-op to replace them in a few weeks. I consider this a live and learn. At least it wasn't all for naught with the broccolis and cauliflowers!

I think that's all for this week. I'll leave you with a few overall pics of the garden's progress.

Upper Tier

Overall View

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Landscape Project Phase 5 of 10 is now complete!

We've come a long way in the the last two years. Whereas, once you only saw the side of the house when you got to the driveway, this is what you see now: a lot of gorgeous forest surrounding our humble home.

When we bought the house it had absolutely no landscaping, just grass and weeds.

Now we have just enough landscaping to make it feel like home. Everything looks small right now but in time everything will fill out

Whereas once there was no sidewalk or even front porch stairs, now it's very clear where the front door is and how to get there.

I think we finally have solved the issues with the house that made it unsellable and we are looking forward to enjoying it for many years to come!

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Good Seed

My life revolves around food. I pretty much go to bed and wake up thinking about it so my favorite part of gardening is letting my inner foodie get its fix without breaking the bank.

The key to a indulgent, varied, and flavorful harvest are great seeds. There are so many awesome seed companies on the web, it is a little overwhelming to a newbie such as myself! Last year we mostly ordered from Territorial Seed. We were in a bit of rush at the time and had done little planning so our choices were all done rather hastily. We had just moved, had a new baby and a crazy toddler running a muck so it was all overwhelming.

Somehow, we managed to scrape a garden together that spring despite all the challenges and I was shocked at what we accomplished. The Cabernet grape tomato plant we purchased from Territorial grew to be 8 feet high and produced an amazing amount of fruit!

Our Awesome Cabernet Tomato Plant '09

This year, we were much more prepared but we had enough left over seed from our hasty purchase that we didn't need much this year. We supplemented last year's purchase with some purchased at the local co-op and called it a day.

Recently I came across this company, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I have to say that I'm very impressed!! I may just have to keep them in mind for next year. They have 1400 heirloom varieties. Already my taste buds are tingling!!

Do you have a favorite seed company? If so, leave a comment and let me know!

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Monday Garden Club

I'm really busy on Monday mornings so these posts may have to come Sunday night.

We were elbow deep in dirt all the weekend getting in our landscaping. I wish I could say we are done, but we still have quite a bit of groundcover plants to get in the ground. I love the outdoors so anytime spent outside is a real joy but I have to admit, I spent more than just a few moments fantasizing about spending the weekend doing something a little more relaxing... maybe a nice wine festival or something? The constant, back breaking work is getting old and I'm missing my runs. I only got one run in last week!

Here is one of the completed portions for a little preview. As you can see, it's nothing amazing but a huge improvement. (Forgive us, we have a bit of clean up to do yet!)

Nick found this sleepy frog in one of our newly planted pine trees (see below).

The wild blackberries are blooming everywhere! They make me salivate!

The parsnips actually look like parsnips now. It took a good 4 weeks for these babies to even show themselves. I couldn't tell them apart from the weeds until this week.

Most of the potato plants are now over 12" tall so Nick mounded up the dirt around them to promote tuber development. I love the word tuber.

The strawberries are starting to bloom. I had to pluck all the blooms which totally bites, but this will promote prolific fruiting in following years. Next year baby!

Gardening is definitely a practice in patience. At least the strawberries only take 2 years for a harvest. It'll be 3 years before we can really harvest the asparagus. Below is a pic of the feathery asparagus plants for my friend Sara. Sara had asked that I post pics of them. They first start off as rigid spikes like what you see at the grocery store. After that they start to feather out and get fern-like. I planted 6 rows of asparagus and all but two rows took off. As a result I had planned to put a squash plant in place of the two rows that didn't produce. What do you know, two little boogers decided to show themselves today!!! Better late than never I guess!

Lastly, we've got some strange weeds growing in our shallot and onion beds.... tomato plants!! Our current shallot bed is where we had tomato plants last year. Pretty cool! I'm going to transplant some of them and see what happens.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Potty Power

First, I apologize for the boring nature of this post, but I am enthused mom and can't help myself.

I am very pleased to announce that GreenEyes has made it 3 days without diapers (with the exception of course to sleeping hours)!!! After several weeks of repeated Potty Power DVD watching, he started showing some initiative (i.e. ripping off his diaper and sitting on the potty on his own). The timing wasn't ideal but I realized he was ready.

The worst part about potty training is that ever-elusive initial pee on the potty. The waiting can be excruciating. I waited a good hour and half next to GreenEyes in the bathroom, singing, reading books, singing some more... Finally, he couldn't hold it anymore and had to go. He started to squirm and squeal. But we held steady, I assured him it'd be OK... then.... Success!

Once you get that initial pee, it's get easier from there. Sure, there was a lot more waiting in store, but nothing like the first time. Nothing can be accomplished on a day like that, so Nick came home to a sink full of dishes and a messy house. He didn't care though, because he was off the hook for training. I had to constantly remind Green Eyes that first day and watch him like a hawk, so though successful, it was only the first step. By the end of the day he was taking initiative on his own. Unlike Ladybug, he didn't even care about number two so I didn't have to do separate training for that. He just did it on his own!

On day two, I let him take the lead and I didn't remind him so we had two accidents from the get-go. I even questioned whether he was ready or not because he wasn't at all into it that morning. But with some gentle coaxing, he took initiative the rest of the day and we had no more accidents. I even put a diaper on him for his nap and when he woke up, he took it off immediately. It was dry and he had waited to go! He ran right for the potty upon waking.

By day three, today, he woke up ready to go. I have not reminded him at all and he has had no accidents. I still don't want to say we are done with diapers just yet but I'm hopeful. Our next step will be going somewhere and having him use the potty on the road and the big potty at the store. Still, this is a huge success!! :) Way to go GreenEyes for graduating to big boy status!!