Friday, April 2, 2010

What's in Bloom - March 2010

Perennial Variegated FORGET-ME-NOT
This was a gift from one of my preschool students 8 years ago.
I loved the one above so much I had to have another.

This is the first time this flower has bloomed in the 10 years it's been here.
Why, I do not know.
Bleeding Heart
I have several of them.
My white one is barely coming out this year. :o(
Darn dogs!

Flowering Current
This tree summons the hummingbirds back to my garden each spring.

Close-Ups of Flowering Current

There are more things blooming out there but it's been rather rainy & windy and not very condusive to taking pictures.
What's blooming in your yard right now? How about two weeks ago? Two weeks from now? I enjoy the everchanging landscape that my blooming perennials provides.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Garden Overview 2010

Be sure to check out my Garden Overview page from time to time. I'm hoping to keep a running record of the garden in progress this year. New posts planned monthly.

Jerusalem Artichokes, otherwise known as "Sunchokes"

Jerusalem Artichokes
Okay - here is a picture of one harvest from one pot, grown from one tuber in the pot shown here beneath the collander. Did you get that? All this from one tuber! This harvest was from a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday, I harvested the rest of the pots. Three pots of various sizes. Each yeilding a portion related to the size of the pot and each pot containing assorted sizes of bulbs. The bigger the pot, the bigger the bulbs. And visa versa. I will take pics of those tomorrow if it isn't pouring rain again.

My gut tells me I should not ever plant these babies in the open ground somewhere, unless I want them to take off and take over.

I'm fine with that. I'm currently in process of building a 3x5 box just for my sunchoke crop. No need to visit Betty's plant sale for starts this year. I've got PLENTY of bulbs to get me started with a plentiful patch of these delectable beauties.

WINTER CROP... gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Discovering Jerusalem Artichokes

Last spring I went to Betty's Annual Plant Sale and she talked me into buying some Jerusalem Artichoke tubers. She told me they grow very tall and have small sunflower-like flowers on them, which sounded very attractive to me. She also said that after the plants die back and there is a good hard freeze, I can dig up the tubers (which multiply like potatoes) and eat them. She raved about the flavor and all the wonderful ways one could enjoy them throughout the winter months.

Well, I liked the idea of being able to harvest something during the winter months and bring it fresh from the garden to the table. So, I bought 6 of them at 50 cents a piece.

I planted them in pots because she said that they would spread out and make "a nice big patch if left in the ground" and I do not have a nice big patch to offer. So, I planted one tuber in each pot of various shapes and sizes about 2-3 gallons each.

They grew to about 8 - 10 feet - taller than the bean teepee they were next to. They didn't flower until the end of the season, around late August - September. They blew over with the slightest breeze, which I made a mental note of in case I should want to grow them again.

Now to the yummy news: I finally got around to harvesting some of them today. One pot yeilded about a dozen tubers, maybe more. Never having eaten them before, I didn't know what to do with them. I decided to cut them into chunks and roast them in the oven.

I cut up some baby reds, purple onion, yam, and butternut squash too. I tossed them all in a big bowl with garlic infused olive oil and about 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced, and sprinkled a generous amount of kosher salt overall. Then, I squirted in some Bragg's for good measure.

I roasted this medley on a large jelly roll pan in a hot 4o0 degree oven until everything had browned and was fork tener - about 30 minutes.

Let me just say that I am going to be one of the first to show up at Betty's plant sale this year and I am going to buy ALL the Jerusalem Artichoke tubers she has to offer!! These are now my new FAVE! They taste like artichoke hearts only BETTER!

I wish I had pictures to show you. I'll have to make a point of it now that I know what a treasure they really are.

The Pain and Strength of Separation

Never do I feel as helpless as I do when one of my children need me and I cannot be there to support them. My daugher is suffering with extreme pain from an infection in a root canal gone bad. The pain medication is barely touching it. It leaves her dizzy, disoriented, and sick to her stomach. She is sleep deprived and weak. Daddy has to work, so she is at home with two little girls who are totally dependant on her for their sustenance, one of whom is an infant, one of whom happens to be sick right now. Poor babies!

As a mother and an Oma, I just want to get in my car and drive! Drive straight over to her so I can "be there" for her... for the little ones... for the family. But, it's a 9-hour round trip! I have my own responsibilities here at home and no one knows when she will get in for the needed surgery or how long she will be in "need of support".

What's a mother to do?!

All there is that I can do is pray. So, miha... I am praying for you and for your precious family. My mommy heart is heavy, but is made lighter knowing that our loving Heavenly Father is with you. His strength is made evident in our weakness.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hallelujah! You're back!

The tulips are coming, the tulips are coming! Upon inspection, I see that they're all out of the ground, poking up about 1-2 inches tall right now.
I get a little excited when I see things popping out of the ground this time of year. The anticipation of being revisited by these lovely beauties and others that will soon follow... well, it's just so rejuvenating!

Late Winter/Early Spring is my very favorite time of year. People always ask, "Why? It's so..... wet." Well, it's also full of the resurrection power of life - before unseen. It always reminds me of Jesus making His reappearance after being laid to rest in the tomb. Seemingly dead and gone, but NOT! Yay!

So, to this I say, "Hallelujah! You're back!"

Snap Fitness

I've been encouraged to blog about the fact that we joined a new gym in town called, Snap Fitness. For our family of four - hubby, me, and two kids (Grandson and Daughter, both age 12) it's $60 a month on a month-to-month basis. No contracts! What a deal!!

They are open 24/7 and have wonderful on-line tools to help you develop/customize your workout routines, track your progress, develop menu plans, etc. I'm impressed and having fun with it.

The manager, Mike, gave the kids and me a full orientation on all the machines and equipment. He was really great with the kids. Very encouraging and respectful to them and I was happy with how he was able to motivate them and make them feel more than capable.

As a result, the kids and I have gone to work out every day this week. They are so stoked! Grandson is starting to discover his developing muscles. During our orientation, he was really motivated to work on buffing those up.

I've lost 1.8 lbs since I weighed in the day before yesterday and gained some sore muscles, but the best perk of all is my increase in energy. This is wonderful since I've led a very sedentary lifestyle these past few years and it doesn't take much to wear me out now that I'm about 60 lbs. overweight, soft, and flabby.

This week I discovered just how weak I've gotten. I just can't pull the weight I could a few short years ago when I was a bit more active. It's true... if you don't use it, you lose it. My endurance levels are embarrassing. Really. 5 minutes on the cycle machine is my limit. I can do 20 on the treadmill. Forget that eliptical thingy. Pathetic, I know, but it's the sad truth. The weight training is going a little better. Anyway...

The flipside and the encouraging part is knowing that if I keep working at it, I can recoup some strength and endurance. I'm already feeling more "fit" than I have in a long time - even though I'm not at all "fit" yet.

I measured myself to calculate my BFP (body fat percentage). It was a shock to me. I won't talk about it, except to say that it was a real eye-opener and a good motivator! Yikes. (Oh... BTW - Stretch denim lies!)

I'll keep you posted as to our progress. Maybe. We'll see how it goes. If it's good news, I'll post an update. If it's not, I probably won't! :o) That's how I feel about that right now!

***One more kudo for Mike, the manager guy... Today he told hubby and me about the Open House and ribbon cutting ceremony they are having tomorrow. It's a big deal for any new business, right? So, he's telling us about it and sharing how they'll have sandwiches and stuff for lunch so we don't have to plan anything for lunch. "That makes lunch easy, right?" I replied, "Well... sometimes being vegan isn't that easy." to which he replied, "No problem! We'll order up some veggie sandwiches from our friends at Quiznos and we'll have some fresh fruit too." Isn't that great? So, I guess we'll be in the big blow up wall poster cuz they're going to take some photos and he wants "everybody" to be in the wall poster. I told him, "Only if you do another one 6 months from now... BEFORE and AFTER pictures. That's only fair."

Makes sense to me! I mean, who wants a bunch of soft, fat, and flabby people representing your gym?!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Planting Schedule Resources

Here is a pdf file of a great Planting Schedule that I use from Portland Nursery.

This schedule is for the Willamette Valley, so if you are in a different climate zone, you should plan accordingly and alter the dates to coincide with your own last/first frost dates.

Find your PLANT HARDINESS ZONE by zip code here:

Order you FREE Territorial Seed Catalog here:

This extraordinary catalog is brimming full with invaluable information on growing fruits & vegetables. A great resource to have in your garden library - IF you can keep the temptation to buy too many wonderful seeds and plants in check and within budget! Did I mention it's FREE?!

Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening books also have great planting schedule charts. I photocopied the charts, put in my own last/first frost dates and labeled them accordingly for easy reference.

You can be sure to find a copy at your local library.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam

By special request, one of this family's all-time favorite ways to enjoy our garden grown Rhubarb and Strawberries. It's very simple to make. As a general rule of thumb, never double batches of jams or jellies. Strange things happen to the consistency of the finished product and you may be sadly disappointed with the results. Second rule - very important - always use the freshest ingredients when making jams and jellies. FRESH lemon juice, not bottled. There are scientific reasons having to do with chemistry which are mysterious enough to me not to be able to explain... you can research it or just go with it. My rule is, FRESH is best.

I make several batches of this recipe each year because it flies off the pantry shelf (part of that is due to our visitors not ever leaving empty handed).

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam (from the Ball Blue Book)

Makes about 6 half-pint jars

Ingredients :

4 cups strawberries, crushed
2 cups rhubarb chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 (1 3/4 ounce) package dry pectin
5 1/2 cups sugar


  1. Combine strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice and pectin in a large saucepot.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil.
  4. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  5. Remove from heat.
  6. Skim foam if necessary.
  7. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
  8. Wipe jar rims carefully.
  9. Adjust two-piece caps.
  10. Process 10 minutes in water bath.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Valentine's Day Recall

Valentine's Day is coming... Last year I baked this vegan chocolate cake with white vanilla frosting, filled with raspberry jam. It was a big hit with DH and I think it calls for a repeat. It took me three years running to finally find a chocolate cake/white frosting combo that was reminiscent of his fond childhood memories (I think his mom must've used box mixes, which is something I do not care to mimic in any way... yucko).

Now......... if I could just recall which chocolate cake recipe it was then I could repeat my success and post it here for future reference.......... hmmmmm

Bear with me. It'll come back to me. (Lord, I could use a hint, please!)

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Foodwise, I am vegan... 98% of the time, anyway. I also aim to eat primarily organic, whole foods and use organic products as much as possible. It can be expensive sometimes and I am on a fixed grocery & household budget. I've had the same budget for 4+ years now and while the cost of food has risen, I've had to make changes in how I feed the family in order to stay within that same budget.

I've gotten creative in how I shop for my staples and other products. Recently I started a co-op for a wonderful company called "Azure Standard". They carry thousands and thousands of natural, organic food and other products (from supplements, pet supplies, and garden stuff to household products), many of which they produce themselves on a family run farm of 2,000 acres in Dufur, Oregon. If you live or work in Hood River, Oregon and are interested in joining our co-op, let me know.

If you are not in this area, but are interested in their products, they deliver to 7 states. Check them out!

The Buzz on Mapping out my Garden

It's good to have pictures of the garden to refer back to this time of year. Not only is it inspirational, but it serves as proof that life exists beneath the surface of this seemingly barren soil. Right now, the garden looks pretty bare. Although I know there are bulbs and root balls just waiting to sprout new life in a few short weeks. As a matter of fact, the rhubarb has already popped its' pink little heads up through the surface, smiling up at me, making my mouth water for a fresh new season of crisp, juicy produce.

Meanwhile, here we are in the dead of winter, thankfully with the holidays finally behind us. The perfect time to settle down and focus on mapping out the garden plot for this year. As with any style of gardening, it is always prudent to rotate your crops. So, every year I sit down with my previous charts and get on with the buzz-ness of mapping out the vegetable garden. Each year is a new experience. I focus on several rules of thumb when planning my garden:
  1. crop rotation
  2. companion planting
  3. continuous planting (harvest a square & then replant something in its' place)
  4. sun/shade patterns
  5. water requirements of the plant groups
  6. soil requirements of the plant groups
Sound complicated? Well, it does require some thought, some time, and some experience. First of all, it helps to know the plants' requirements. Therefore, it helps to know your garden location's sun/shade patterns as well as the condition of your soil... ph balance, soil type... what kind of amendments are needed to grow strong, healthy plants.

This picture was taken the first week of May, 2009. Twine marks my squares. Labels are for identification, planting date, and expected harvest date - - for continuous crop planning.
I have a raised bed garden for growing my vegetables. I use the Square Foot Garden method that Mel Bartholomew is famous for but instead of using the cup & bucket watering method he suggests, my husband blessed me by installing an automated drip watering system. This is a huge time-saver and a literal crop saver for those times when we are out of town for a few days or more. I initially dug down and amended my soil with peat moss, manure, vermiculite, and perlite. THEN I built the boxes up and put in Mel's original soil mix, which is a lot more complex than the new and improved soil mix which is SIMPLE: 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 course vermiculite, and 1/3 good compost. I am very fortunate to live near a commercial organic mushroom grower. So, I get loads of fertile organic mushroom compost with a ph balance of 6.5 and a balanced NPK.

This is an overview of my raised beds... well, most of them... from last spring. As you can see, I do like to intersperce flowers - even inedible ones, if they win my heart over - like these tulips that Livy's grandma sent over from The Netherlands. So far, they haven't "gotten in the way" of producing an abundant harvest, so for now they will not need to be moved into the outer perimeter of the yard where they are in harms way of our chi's who like to feast on the young shoots just before they bloom!

Taking seasonal pics helps me "remember" where my permanent fixtures are... chives, carnations, thyme, tulips, echinacea, arnica, bee balm, and a few others. As the season progresses, I take other pics which help me recall where I've planted things in the past year or so, so I can plan accordingly. As mentioned, crop rotation is an important aspect of sustainable organic gardening practices. Why? Well, it helps with pest control, soil balance, and management of diseases - especially soil borne ones.

ANYWAY... I like to use my excel program for mapping out my garden. I created a template with my boxes all mapped out for location and with my permanent fixtures already in place. Excel is perfect for mapping out each box with the individual squares for planting. I have a file on my harddrive full of graphics of each type of vegetable I grow, which I then insert into the individual squares for a full visual map of my garden plan for the year. I used to use graph paper and write the names of things in... but this is so much easier to move things around as I progress in the planning stages! I love, love, love it.

Each year, I make a list of what I want to grow & how much I want to harvest and I go from there. I know I can't grow my tomatoes in the same place as they grew in the past two seasons, so I start with those. They grow up a trellis and shade others nearby, so I go from there. What grows well with tomatoes and doesn't mind some shade? Same goes for my pole beans, cucs, melon and squash. Those all grow vertically and affect the plant groups around them. So, I start with those and go from there. I have a limited amount of space and a maximum of 6 hours of sun in certain coveted spots of my yard... less than that in most other areas of the yard. So, I have to make the most of my trellises and the "sunny" areas that I do have.

SPEAKING OF RHUBARB... this year, I need to move one of my rhubarb plants. One is producing well, the other one peters out after the initial harvest. It needs deeper ground and more sun than what it's getting. So... I need to find a good 3 foot square area somewhere in my perimeter beds where it can thrive - OR - give it away to someone who can appreciate it as much as we do! Hubby's Favorite Rhubarb Pie, May 1st, 2009.

Looking at this picture reminds me that I have some rhubarb left in the freezer! I think I'll have to surprise DH with a pie this afternoon. Oh my, won't that go well with a cup of tea while mulling over my garden maps?! :o) Doesn't get much better than that!