Friday, December 8, 2017

Garden Friday

Here's how our container garden looked earlier in the year
when we were just getting started.
At that time, there were warm temperatures
and abundant sunshine.

But we are in the throes of colder weather
and I spent some time on Wednesday getting the crops ready for the severe change.
A few sheets, some stakes and several clothespins later,
 the garden is ready to face the coldest winds.
The stakes were used for the taller crops,
to keep the sheets above the tops of the plants. 

For the shorter seedlings,
these  empty pots were simply inverted to use as covers.
Then I placed a brick on top to keep them in place. 

With little sun expected in the next few days,
these pots may just stay covered until we see brighter skies.
This is our first fall garden on this property,
so I'm not really sure what to expect.
Hopefully, everything will come out just fine.

What precautions do you take in the garden 
during colder weather?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Upcycled SnowPeople

When we moved into this house in summertime,
we acquired styrofoam in some of the packages we received.
Unfortunately, it is all too often the choice of packing material,
and it doesn't sit too well with my Earth-lovin' self.
I reasoned that if I could reuse it for some purpose,
having it around would be better than sending it to the landfill.
(I also listed it on a local Swap site,
hoping that maybe some art teachers could find a use for it.
So far, no takers.)

With a few other materials,
the winter project was begun.
The white strofoam reminded me of snow or ice,
so I thought it might be a good idea to fashion snow people out of the remnants.

Using a pencil, details were outlined on the foam,
and then traced over with markers and paint.

These skewers were used to attach the heads to the bodies.
If you have toothpicks or small dowels,
that would work too.

I'm no artist, but am happy with the results.

A white blanket acts as a snowbank,
so these two will be right at home
for a good, long stay.
We may be getting a dusting of the white stuff tomorrow!
That is so exciting to someone who spent over 40 winters in balmy Florida.

We will be hunkered down for the next few days,
enjoying our cozy nest and (hopefully) getting some holiday baking done.
What do you like to do on cold, (almost) winter days?

bucket o' "snowballs"

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Going Local-Santa's Forest

Happy Birthday Farmer Lynn!
I am SO thankful that you were born!


December has surprised us with beautiful, clear blue skies
and mild temperatures.
That is supposed to change later this week,
but we were happy to enjoy a field trip in the great outdoors this past weekend.
It was time to procure a Christmas tree
and we knew we wanted to support a local tree farm,
rather than make the purchase from a big box store.

We found a tree farm that has been selling trees for more than a dozen years,
and they are mere minutes from our home here in Lincolnton.
at the Herter Nursery .

This 30-acre tree farm has been in the Herter family for generations,
having had many transformations over the years.
We feel blessed that they are so close to our location
and offer so much,
but it was a bittersweet discovery, as I'll later explain.

The farm offers White Pine, Green Giant, Leyland Cypress
as well as Frazier Firs, which is always the choice for our holiday tree.
This is a choose and cut farm,
which means that you can cut down your own tree
to get that homesteader experience of olden days.

There were still a good selection of trees from which to choose,
and we made our way through the rows,
enjoying the fresh scent of Christmas.
The farm was having a special sale this year,
any tree from the choose and cut area was only $20.

These saplings were also for sale,
and I'm thinking about revisiting them to pick up a couple for our property.
We have an abundance of deciduous trees on our lot,
and it would be nice to have more evergreens 
to retain some privacy 
for our neighbors and ourselves in the winter.

Here's something you don't often see.
Bread and popcorn are left near the pens
so that visitors can feed the goats and pigs beyond the fence.

The sign outside of Bella's run was fair warning
that she doesn't take too kindly to strangers invading her space.
We are grateful that she came through Thanksgiving unscathed.

This character is busy people watching.
A bounce house and a playground area were available for kids to use up some of their energy,
as well as an ornament hunt that children could enjoy.

The fire pit was the perfect place to roast marshmallows,
which are given to every guest at the farm.
There was also a concession area
where hot dogs, chips and drinks were available for purchase.

It was a great day for a ride on the zipline!
For a nominal fee, folks up to 150 pounds could
 get a birds' eye view of the farm.

The hayride was more our speed,
and was probably the best part of our visit.
There was no charge for most of the "extras" at this venue,
including this relaxing tour of the farm.
Just sitting together on the hay bales,
drinking in our surroundings and relishing the chance to be together.
What could be better than spending time with those you love?

The day was absolutely gorgeous and 
even C said he thoroughly enjoyed himself.
That's not always the response we get from our teenaged boy.

One of the three barns on the property was the backdrop
for our family photo.
A fellow visitor to the farm
was kind enough to take our picture in front of this lovely structure.
I can't think of a better way to end our visit.

We picked out our Frasier Fir and loaded up.
It was a wonderful experience and we hope to repeat it in years to come.
The bittersweet part of this story
is that Santa's Forest may not be selling trees next year.
They are considering taking a hiatus or possibly even discontinuing the event altogether.
Everyone we came in contact with at the farm
was so kind and thoughtful.
Thankfully, we read about this magical place in time
to get at least one visit in before they close their doors to Christmas tree enthusiasts.
We certainly wish them well.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Garden Friday

Where in the name of Mike did you come from?
It's hard to believe that we've been in our new state
for almost a year already.
Wow, did that go fast!

Today's Garden Friday is back after a couple of weeks' hiatus.
There just hasn't been much to report.
Here's what's going on in our Piedmont garden this December 1st.

 I've pretty much shelved the straw bale garden until spring.
These snap peas were planted on October 1st,
so by now we should be able to harvest, or pretty doggone close to it.
The bales didn't germinate well in general,
and what did germinate grew at a slow crawl.
It's probably something I did or didn't do right,
so we'll chalk it up to being a newbie in this arena
and start again in the springtime.
At the very least, I can reuse the straw in the composting of the new beds.

 Over in the container garden,
I've been able to harvest the Vates kale fairly regularly.
It is delicious, and I'm glad I tried this variety.
This crop actually did much better than my old standby,
dino kale, which I also love.
No pest issues with this Vates,
so it will stay in the pots all winter long.

 The Detroit Supreme beets are still growing.
I haven't picked any yet, as I'm waiting for them to size up.
I'm hoping that they will continue growing during the cooler weather.

The garlic seems happy enough.
Once it emerged,
it hasn't stopped growing.
It will be exciting to increase our garlic plantings next season.
It's one veggie we use almost every day.

 Hey, what do you know?
The shallots finally decided to take a peek out of the soil!
Although the squirrels used this tub to bury acorns in,
it didn't deter the shallots from sprouting up.
It took them a few weeks to germinate,
but they seem to enjoy the cooler overnight temperatures.
This is another crop that will earn more space in the garden.

 I love watching the leeks do their thing.
They are filling in this container and getting thicker.
They may need to be banked one more time before harvest.

This one will be ready for a stockpot in no time.
Potato leek soup, anyone?

 I'm so happy to see this lil' guy!
Broccoli is one of my boy's favorite veggies,
so I can't wait to serve him some home-grown!
This Pacman variety puts out numerous shoots
after the main head is harvested.
That means yummy vittles for a good, long while!

 These Pacman starts will be transplanted into pots in the coming week.
The leaves are also edible and make a great addition to salads.

Although I'm not sure how long I can keep lettuce going
without a hoop tunnel,
these Red Salad Bowl seedlings are doing well
and will be put into bigger pots that I can keep on the back deck.
It might be the only way I can keep them from freezing
later on in the season.
 One variety of spinach, called Winter Giant, looks promising,
and so far, it is doing just fine out there.
I'm thinking about starting up sprouting in the kitchen too,
so that I can have greens all winter long.

Our first year with this garden has been a testing period,
and we learn as we go.
One exciting thing that happened this week,
is that I signed up for The Master Gardener Program
through our local extension agency.
I've always wanted to take the course,
but was unable to, as it has only been offered during the week.
Thankfully, Big K is off on the day that the class meets,
and so I will be able to fulfill a longtime desire.
Feeling so blessed!
I will be sharing what I learn as we make our way through
the 14-week course.
It's a North Carolina version of Farm School!
 Hot diggity!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Quinoa Blackbean Chili (vegetarian)

We are SO enjoying this fall
with the changing colors and cool temperatures.
Having been in Florida for the past forty plus autumns,
it's so refreshing to experience the world the way Nature intended it.

One of the best things about cool evenings is being able to eat 
warm, comforting foods.
Here's a twist on chili that I fixed last week.
Since I don't eat meat,
I often use beans as a stand-in for beef or poultry,
although you could certainly add those to this dish.
Rice is usually a staple with chili,
but this time it was paired with quinoa
and the results were fantastic!
We were out of of chili powder (how did that happen?),
so I substituted cayenne pepper instead.
Beans are cooked ahead and placed in the freezer
for just these types of meals.
Here's the way we do it.
This could easily be made in the crockpot,
but I cooked it in a soup pot on the stove and let it simmer for a while.
Mmmm, mmmmm!

Quinoa Blackbean Chili

1 C cooked black beans
2 t olive oil
4 carrots, sliced 
1/2 onion, diced
cayenne pepper
salt to taste
3-4 C homemade veggie stock
1/2 C quinoa 

On medium heat, drizzle olive oil in medium sauce pan.
Add veggies and saute about 5-6 minutes.
Add spices, then beans and stock.
Let simmer on low (mostly covered) for at least 30 minutes.
Add quinoa and continue simmering another 10-20 minutes.
(The longer the quinoa simmers, the thicker your stew will be.)
Adjust salt to taste.

Homemade Vegetable Broth
Easy Beans
Barbecued Lentils
White Bean Ragout
Ever Heard of Quinoa?