Friday, February 25, 2022

Garden Friday

Welcome to Garden Friday!
It's been a cool and wet week here in the Piedmont
of North Carolina.
Here's what's going on in our zone 7b garden this week.
The daffodils are bursting forth all over the neighborhood.
We've added a few more each year to our property
and they are quite the cheery greeting to springtime!

The hyacinth blooms are also appearing.
The color purple speaks to me,
so these are a welcome addition to the beds.

The tulips that were planted mere weeks ago,
have decided that the time is right to pop out of their cozy underground bungalow.
This is the first time I have planted tulips,
as we couldn't grow them in our former home in Florida.
It's such a treat to see all of this dormancy come alive!

The irises have yet to be moved,
but it's on the list I will get to it this weekend.
These share space near our mailbox,
but they would do well to be divvied up and distributed to other places.

Some cannas were spied yesterday,
although I could have sworn I dug them all up last fall.
These will be transplanted near the chicken run,
as they will add some interest and a bit of shade for the chooks.

A check on the blueberry plants found that some are awakening,
and some are not.
Looking back on my soil test from last year,
I am looking forward to seeing if adding the needed amendments
improved the acidity of the soil for this crop.

This new-to-me forsythia is starting to bloom,
and I need to find a proper spot for it,
so that it can get as wild as it wants to.
Any suggestions?

The strawberries seem to be coming alive,
although I have to say, that they never really seemed to mind
even the coldest temperatures.
I was hoping to create a larger bed for the entire collection,
but haven't yet gotten around to it.

Our first asparagus of the season was spotted yesterday!
I can hardly wait to enjoy this delicious treat.
No more buying asparagus at the store!
This crop can provide food for up to 20 years.

The potatoes that were planted just two weeks ago
have begun erupting through the soil.
Well, that didn't take long.
I will probably have to purchase some seed potatoes,
as the ones I planted from last year's harvest
won't likely last us too long.
We love our spuds.

I'm looking forward to watching the parsley
recover completely from the winter's frigid temperatures.
It never died back entirely,
and I'm sure it will bounce right back
with warmer temperatures and ample sunshine.

The cover crops will remain in place until I need this bed
for other crops.
I'll add them to the chook run to see if there are any takers.
They look pretty beat up after the last major snow we had,
but notice how most of it is still green.
Aren't plants just amazing?

Gardening is happening on the inside of the house too.
I'm using these clam shell containers to sprout my seeds before sowing.
They act as a mini greenhouse.

Just look how the snap peas are diggin' it!
The seeds are simply placed on a damp paper towel,
(you could use strips of fabric to make it zero-waste),
and left in the containers for a few days.

The Ruby Red Chard seems to enjoy the conditions as well.
I'm sprouting the seeds to get a head start on my crops for spring.
This year, I am planning to incorporate more food crops
into the landscape,
so I am sprouting more than I normally would.
It's all one great big experiment!

For each set of seeds,
I write the date and the variety on the towel
before placing it into the container.
It's so exciting to open up the bin each morning
to see what has germinated!

Another task we accomplished this week
was to clean out all of the birdhouses we have on the property.
I was so thrilled that my boy helped me with this chore.
He is a real bird lover,
so he wanted to make sure our feathered friends
have a cozy place to call home all season long.

Nests are always so fascinating to see.
We leave materials that might be useful to the birds
in the creations of these masterpieces.
In several nests, we found string from our bird seed bags.
Birds are the ultimate repurposers!

Unfortunately, we found a sweet chickadee
in one of the houses that had succumbed to something.
We gave it a proper burial near the garden.

In one of the bluebird houses,
we found the beginnings of a nest 
for this season.
We've noticed a pair of bluebirds making themselves at home here.
And we couldn't be happier.

The winter is winding down,
and we will be ready for spring
whenever She decides to make her appearance.
Until then, it's homemade candles in the morning,
and comfort food at dusk.


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Tuna Casserole


I've had a craving lately for comfort foods.
What's more comforting than tuna casserole?
Although I don't remember my magnificent mamma making this,
it brought home to me feelings of downright bliss with each bite.
As usual, I tweaked it to my liking, but
my version is loosely based on this recipe.
I used egg noodles and dairy-free cheese
instead of the traditional elbows and standard cheddar.
Next time I make it I will add more veg,
maybe peas and carrots or some kale.
Of course, it can easily be made gluten and dairy free,
by swapping out with gf pasta and olive oil
in place of the ghee.
Every mouthful fed my spirit as well as my hunger.
This one's a keeper!

Tuna Casserole
Half a bag of egg noodles
3 T ghee
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 C almond milk
2 T arrowroot powder
1 can tuna (I use this brand)
few slices of daiya cheddar cheese
1/2 t garlic powder
salt/pepper to taste
1 slice Deland oatmeal bread
Cook noodles until al dente.
In a skillet, sautee the onion in 2 T of ghee.
Once the onion is soft, add  arrowroot powder.
Cook a few minutes, just until it is covered with the ghee.
Add milk of choice and whisk until smooth
and thickened.
Add tuna and seasonings,
then transfer to a casserole dish.
Combine with cooked noodles.
Add ghee to crumbled bread slice,
then top the casserole with this mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Garden Friday

 First and foremost,
I need to send birthday wishes
to the best friend anyone could ask for!
Happy Birthday, my dear sister!

Welcome to Garden Friday,
where we share what's going on in our Zone 7b
Piedmont garden.
I know it's February,
but where did winter get to?
We've had daytime temps in the 50's and 60's.
What a blessing for those of us
who prefer to be outdoors.

A quick check in the pollinator box
showed that the candytuft made it through
the winter with no problem.
Can't wait to see this bloom again!

Spring is still weeks away,
but try telling that to the daffodils.
They are already popping up all over the neighborhood.

The irises in the mailbox bed are waking up as well.
These need to be divided,
so I will try to find some folks who need some.

In the veggie beds,
the leek are getting some weight to them.
In fact, this one is ready to harvest.
More leek will be planted soon.
It's one of my favorite crops,
as it is easy to grow through colder times and really has no pest issues.

Even the lettuce,
which had been bitten by old Jack Frost
(and his sister Jill Freeze),
is crunchy and delicious.
Lettuce will be another direct seed planting coming up.

These potatoes are from our last harvest.
They had been placed in a bag
so that we would have seed potatoes for the spring.
Well, I guess they got a bit impatient.
They went absolutely bonkers!

About a dozen were planted in one of the raised beds.

I placed 2 in each square foot spot
and covered them up with the moist soil.

I also decided to try growing them in a bucket.
A five gallon bucket with holes drilled
into the bottom was used.
This should make harvest time a cinch!

Some of our homemade compost was added,
so we're hoping for good things.
With the warmer temperatures,
I'm expecting these to take off fairly quickly.

 I'm happy to say that we have completed the new run for the chooks.
We like the more streamlined look.
We used conduit and welded wire and it went in without any trouble.
The chooks have a bit more space to roam now,
and we will continue to work on the area.
Next I want to reposition the arches
and see if I can find new shade covers.
I'm also planning on moving the smaller coop
(seen on the right side),
to the middle of the run.
Our hope is that someone will get broody 
and it will be used for hatching.
If we end up with no broodies,
a friend is willing to hatch some eggs for us.
Our egg production has picked up,
but having some new layers will ensure
that next winter we won't be without.
And who can say no to more chooks?

Friday, February 4, 2022

Garden Friday

Welcome back to another Garden Friday,
where we share what's happening in our Zone 7b Piedmont garden.
Well, the snow is gone, but the winter chill is not.
The temperatures are usually in the 20's or 30's in the early morning hours,
but sometimes it has gotten up to the high 50's during the day,
thanks to abundant sunshine.
Today we will have rain all day long.

It took me a while, but I finally got the loofah sorted out.
I'll be listing this online to see if anyone can use it.
Our crop was not as prolific this year,
and the gourds never got a chance to dry completely on the vines,
so we ended up with a lot less than last year.

I'll keep a couple for us and look forward to growing it again this year.
One thing with loofah, 
there are plenty of seeds left for growing again.

While working on a closet organizing project,
I discovered that some of our sweet potatoes 
have started to sprout.
Not to worry, they will be saved in a brown paper sack
until it is time to create slips for this year's crop.
I also found a bag of white potatoes that are even further along
and they will get planted as soon as it warms up just a bit.

We started our work on the new chook run
using this welded wire and conduit.
In the fall, our rooster, Gandalf,
was attacked by a stray dog,
and was quite badly hurt.
This is our attempt to keep them all safer.

The conduit looks more streamlined than using t-posts,
and are much easier to install.
Simply pounding them with a mallet does the trick.
In no time at all, the posts were put in the ground.

 You can see here that the new run will give them
quite a bit of extra room to roam.
The girls will be happy to have more space
to get away from Gandalf's romantic advances.
Once the fence is completed,
the inner flexible fencing (shown here on the left),
will be removed.
That will be used for allowing free ranging during the afternoon.

Another idea I'm working on
is creating what I call "grazing tractors"
using cattle panels that have been cut in half.
These frames were originally used on the raised beds
so that row covers could be used in the winter.
I'm finding that they are a bit too tall
and the row covers are not completely covering them,
so I decided to make new frames for that purpose.
These cattle panel frames will be covered in either bird netting
or 1x1 wire so that the chooks cannot escape.
It will also keep any stray critters from getting at them.
They can be moved around the yard every day.

This is another "grazing tractor" idea I had,
using some leftover wire and shaping it into a rectangle
with the bottom open for grazing.

 I'm trying to use what I already have on the property,
and it looks like Queenie doesn't mind being in there one bit.
(At this point, the ends were open
and she willingly walked in there with no prompting.)

On other chook news,
someone is blessing us with blue eggs again!
We've gotten 5 over the last two weeks,
and we're hoping it starts a trend!
The girls have been on an extended laying break,
and I've had to buy eggs from other chicken keepers.

I was able to get my self-made "shed" moved this week.
It was too far out into the garden space.

The easiest way I could get it moved
was to lay it on its side
and drag it to its new location.

It's tucked underneath some trees
and nestled right next to the compost bin.
I need to clean up the leaves around it and lay down some wood chips.
I also tidied up the equipment after moving it.

 Now I have another area in which to plant,
as well as room for the mower and trailer to get by
in case I need to dump compost or soil in their designated spots.
The mailbox, which contains my tools,
will be moved closer to the "shed".
I'm thinking about planting an azalea here
that our neighbor gave us.
This spot is between our houses, so she would get to enjoy it too.

Can you believe this?
We rescued a squirrel from the inside of our gutter pipe.
The poor thing got himself stuck up there and it took
a swift yanking of his tail to get him out.
He took off for parts unknown and we wish him well.

It's been a fairly cold winter,
but I'm not complaining.
I absolutely adore living with the seasons.

How do you feel about winter?