Monday, April 30, 2012

Harvest Monday 4/30/12

Remember those nice, yummy strawberries I had last week?  Well it appears that the squirrels have decided they want some too.  Let me rephrase, the squirrels want every single strawberry including the ones that are not ripe!  I'm contemplating how I'm going to battle the squirrels, so if anyone has suggestions I'd love to know what works for you.  Anyway, despite the squirrels I harvested 6.6 oz of strawberries.

I ate quite a few salads from the garden this week with 4.5 oz of lettuce.  This is the first of my spring planted lettuce.  It is nice to have no salad scarcity between the winter and spring lettuce.  I'm hoping to keep the lettuce supply going as long as possible this year.  I'm planting every two weeks in the shadiest spot I have available, hopefully this will slow their summer bolting. 

I did lots of planting this weekend, which meant I had to finally clear my winter bed.  Most of this bed was filled with giant turnips and radishes with yellow and purple flowers along with some bolted lettuce.  However, there were some veggies to harvest.  They were hiding in the overgrown bed:

These are nantes carrots (1.4 lbs), which are suppose to be a sweet winter carrot.  I don't think our winter was cold enough for the carrots to convert the starches to sugar, but in comparison to my colorful carrot mix, these did taste sweeter.

I also harvested 1 lb of beets.  Many of these were puny, but it was time to make way for melons and beans.  I boiled the beets and have been adding them to my salads.  I never really liked beets before I grew them.  I had only tasted canned beets and discovered that fresh beets are so much better!

Also on the harvest list this week was 2.1 oz of Swiss chard that went into a recipe I will share on Thursday:

Finally, I pulled these two tiny radishes (0.6 oz) to put in my salad:

Weekly total: 3.3 lbs
Yearly total: 32.60 lbs worth $71.24

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week, to see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Happy Gardening!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Baby Birds Update

A few weeks ago I posted about the first little eastern phoebe to hatch in a nest on my front porch.  In watching nature and gardening you learn that there are successes and failures.  These little birds were no different.  Here's how they looked on April 19th:

Then a tragedy, one of the little birds fell out of the nest.  Well I suppose I should not be naive, the little bird may have been pushed out of the nest by his siblings.  Siblicide (that's siblings killing siblings) is common among birds.  Here's an article about egrets if you want to read more about it.  Basically there's only so much food resources available, so by removing a sibling the chance of the remaining birds surviving is higher. 

Here's the remaining three birds:

Today I wanted to take another picture because they were getting big and I thought they may fly away soon.  I climbed up the ladder with my camera and then the mom and all three of the chicks flew away!  I guess I will be seeing them around the yard and garden.  I read about this species and they are vegetarians, so I bet I will be seeing them in the garden.  I may not think they are so cute when they start snatching my fruits and veggies.  It will be another lesson in the successes and failures of nature!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard... Angel Food Cake with Strawberry Sauce

Nothing screams spring more than the first delicious strawberries from the garden.  Nothing goes better with juicy strawberries than angel food cake.  I had to withhold from eating all the strawberries picked from the garden for two days so that I would have enough to make a strawberry sauce.. that was very, very difficult!

As for the angel food cake, my original plan was to buy one.  However, when I was at the grocery store I thought the angel food cakes were too pricey and I had a bunch of eggs at home, so why not make an angel food cake?  I am not a baker, but I figured as long as I have a recipe how hard could it be?

In searching for a recipe, I decided on the Heavenly Angel Food Cake.  I discovered that I didn't have the kitchen equipment to make an angel food cake, so I had to buy a pan and sifter (I said I'm not a baker!).  Remember this all began because I thought the store bought angel food cakes were too expensive, but after I bought a special pan and sifter I could have bought three bakery made cakes!  Anyway, after I assembled everything I followed the recipe exactly:

Heavenly Angel Food Cake


  • 12 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar


  1. Separate eggs; discard yolks or refrigerate for another use. Measure egg whites, adding or removing whites as needed to equal 1-1/2 cups. Place in a mixing bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, sift confectioners' sugar and flour together three times; set aside. Add cream of tartar, extracts and salt to egg whites; beat on high speed. Gradually add sugar, beating until sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form. Fold in flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time. Gently spoon into an ungreased 10-in. tube pan. Cut through batter with a knife to remove air pockets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert pan; cool completely before removing cake from pan. 
And this is how it turned out:

I was so proud of this cake!  I sat there and squished the cake and watched it bounce back for probably about 10 minutes!  

After I was thoroughly impressed with my first successful angel food cake, I moved on to making the strawberry sauce.  

Strawberry Topping
  • 1 pint strawberries, cleaned and stemmed
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Cut all of the strawberries in half and set aside about 1/3 of them. In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine the remaining strawberries, sugar and vanilla. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. In a blender, puree about 1/3 of sauce, then mix back into remainder and add uncooked strawberries. Store in refrigerator.
 Here's the cake with strawberry sauce:

I would prefer more strawberry sauce, but that was all the strawberries I had at the time and this cake was not going to last long enough for more berries to ripen!

Finally, while I was on a homemade roll, I decided to make some whipped topping in the mixer.

Whipped Topping 

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar 
  1. In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, cream will then become lumpy and butter-like. 
Whew, my spring dessert is now complete and ready to eat:
 Yum!  The dessert's lifespan was very short- two days before it was completely devoured.  Now since I have all the equipment for making angel food cakes, I think I need to make more.

That's what has been cooking in my kitchen.  If you want to peak into other kitchens and see what others are cooking, head over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard at the Gardener of Eden.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Harvest Monday 4/23/12

This week has been all about yummy and delicious strawberries!  Definitely a sign of spring arriving here.  I could sit in the garden eating strawberries all day long.  Sadly, there's only enough to last a few minutes.  Here's a portrait of some in the brief time they survived outside the garden:

I harvested a total of 2.8 lbs of strawberries and they were quickly devoured.  I'll share a strawberry recipe on Thursday. 

Also this week I harvested 15.7 oz of beets.  They were roasted and eaten with some butter, salt, and pepper.

There has been plenty of salads this week (12.9 oz of lettuce).  Only one romaine got a picture.  This is the last of the fall/winter romaine as it is starting to bolt.  The spring lettuce is quickly growing so the salad supply should continue.  I also just ordered some heat resistant lettuce: Grandpa Admire's Lettuce.  I have never heard of this variety, but it is an heirloom butterhead that is suppose to handle the heat.  I'm hoping it can help extend my salad season.

This is also the last of the winter spinach at 11.7 oz.  I thought I would try to freeze some spinach, but I ended up making creamed spinach and eating it all.  I just realized I put the spinach at the end of the post, again.  Poor spinach is feeling neglected again!

Weekly total: 5.3 lbs
Yearly total: 29.32 lbs worth $64.39

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week, to see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Harvest Monday 4/16/12

It has been an exciting and colorful week in the garden.  The main excitement has been the ripening of the first strawberries!  I harvested and ate (while reluctantly sharing) 5 oz of strawberries this week.  The first ones did not survive long enough to have their portraits taken, but two today did:

Strawberries are so delicious and I was trying to think of places I could plant even more.  My solution was to replace all the lawn with strawberries!  Sounds delicious to me with the added benefit of no mowing!

Not to be delegated to the harvesting limelight was a colorful bunch of beets (14.6 oz) along with a little carrot that was accidentally pulled while weeding:

We have passed our last average frost date here, so it was time to clear out some of the fall and winter crops to make way for the spring and summer ones.  This included pulling the carrots (14.8 oz) that were planted back in October:

As you can see, I finally got some other carrot colors besides white and honestly I can't really taste a difference in the colors.  However, look how pretty they are when they are sliced:

The greens are feeling a bit neglected this week with all the colorful harvests.  So last, but certainly not least was 1 oz of lettuce, 10.3 oz of spinach, and 2.5 oz of swiss chard.  Please admire the lovely bowl of spinach, so that they do not feel neglected (there's nothing worse than pouting spinach!):

Weekly total: 3.0 lbs
Yearly total: 23.98 lbs worth $48.23

To see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Happy Gardening!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Baby Birds

Springtime is such a busy and exciting time of year- all the new and bright green growth, all the beds that need prepared, and all the seeds and seedlings that need planting.  We, however, are not the only ones that are very busy in the spring.  An eastern phoebe female has been busy making a nest on top of the front porch light:

Inside that nest are four eggs and the other day the first little bird hatched:

Is that not the cutest little baby bird ever??  

The little bird was quickly tuckered out and took a nap.  It is tough being such an adorable baby bird!

Yesterday I checked on the nest and now that first little bird has company:

All four eggs have hatched!

Here's busy mama bird:

I will definitely be watching and taking photos as the little birds grow.  I don't want to disturb mama bird and the babies too much, but it's difficult when the nest is next to the front door!  Yesterday I spent a lot of time working on the front flower bed and mama bird was not happy about my presence. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bringing the Blooms Indoors

I have a new goal of cutting flowers to bring inside.  I find it hard to cut beautiful blooms, but it is so wonderful to have fresh bouquets inside.  Here's my first little arrangement of snapdragons (which surprisingly survived the winter) and radish flowers.  I'm no florist, but this simple little arrangement makes me smile and makes my coffee table a much happier spot!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard... Beets and Pasta

This week's dish is a bit of a random concoction.  I'm normally very much of a recipe person.  I like instructions and not too adventurous when it comes to cooking- trying to change my ways!

Here's my beet and pasta recipe (not much of a recipe- more likely loose guidelines):

First, I roasted the beets in a baking pan with about 1/4" of water in the bottom and covered with aluminum foil.  I baked them for about 45 minutes.  After they cooled a bit I removed the skins and quartered them.  I sauteed the beet leaves in olive oil and tossed with pasta.  I added the roasted beets, some cilantro, and sprinkled with mozzarella.

I love all the different beet colors.. yellow, dark purple, and red.  I very easy dish plus I ate beet leaves for the second time!

That's what has been cooking in my kitchen.  If you want to peak into other kitchens and see what others are cooking, head over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard at the Gardener of Eden.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Gardening Goals

We are already well into April, so I guess I should get started on what needs to get done this month.  This is going to be a busy month in the garden and also at work.  I'm going to stick to the essentials, which is getting the seeds and seedlings in the ground.  All those gardening projects are going to have to wait for when I have more time! (17 work days until summer break.. not that I'm counting ;)
  1. Make plant labels - ok, so this is the one project I need to do so that I can label everything as I plant.
  2. Plant sweet potatoes - This is my first year trying sweet potatoes.  I'm going to try to grow them with my corn and see how that goes.
  3. Plant seeds outside: peanuts, beans, corn, beets, carrots, radish, swiss chard, sunflowers, marigolds, nasturiums, yarrow, borage 
  4. Plant herbs: ginger, lemon grass, dill, sage, basil, chamomile
  5. Transplant: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, melons
  6. Start woodland garden:  There's a shady spot in the front yard that I want to convert to a woodland garden.  This year the goal is to plant some shrubs and understory trees.
  7. Work on front flower bed:  The flower bed looks lovely in spring, but the winter appeal is horrible.  I want to add some evergreen shrubs and maybe an evergreen vine to make it a bit less dreary in the winter.  There's also some spaces that need flowers to fill.
With all the warm weather this spring has brought, it has been tempting to set things out earlier.  Now I'm glad I didn't have the time because we have a frost advisory tonight!  My main concern is the strawberries that are already flowering and fruiting, so I covered them.  My other worry are all the flowers that have bloomed.  Keeping my fingers crossed that the frost isn't too bad.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2012


    I spend so much of my time in my vegetable garden that I often neglect the flower garden in the front yard.  However, with the arrival of spring it is impossible not to notice the vibrant blooms and wonderful fragrances.  I wish I could make the photos scratch and sniff so that you could enjoy the scents too!

    Overview of left side of front bed:

    And now for the details:

    Clematis growing on the arbor which is on the far left of the photo above

    Clematis closeup 

     Climbing roses


    Dianthus are popular with the ants

    Another dianthus with more ants. 

     These are the red imported fire ants, which are an unpleasant invasive species.  I've been researching organic ways to control them because there's nothing worse than weeding the flower bed and stepping into a fire ant nest and getting covered with stings.  If anyone has fire ant suggestions I would love to know what works.

    Blue salvia

    And now for the right side of the front bed


    This is a crazy columbine.  I tend to buy flowers at the end of the season when they are past flowering and nurseries put them on sale.  This was one of those sale plants and when it started flowering I wondered what it was.  It has definite columbine leaves, but the flowers were not like any columbine I had ever seen.  Turns out it is a double columbine.

    Another rose bush


    Bumblebee visiting the weigelia

    Take a lesson from Domino- stop and sniff the flowers! 

    Monday, April 9, 2012

    Harvest Monday 4/9/12

    Busy, busy, busy.. that's how life has been lately.  Spring has brought plenty of garden work, the final stretch of the semester has arrived with too much to do, add to that Jeff's birthday, Easter, and a camping trip and I've been neglecting harvest Monday!

    This is a double week report.  Most of the harvest recently has been lettuce (5.4 oz), carrots (2.1 oz), and radishes (2.1 oz), so I've been having plenty of salads.  The other harvest was beets at 1.53 lbs:

    I boiled the beet roots and seasoned them with salt and pepper.  I added the beet leaves to a quiche along with onions and mushrooms. This was my first time eating beet leaves and I was happy to discover that they are tasty.. at least in a quiche!

    The garden seems to be between seasons now with most of the winter crops done or bolting.  I can't seem to get myself to pull the flowering radishes and turnips because every time I'm in the garden the bees and butterflies are all over them. 

    Two week total: 2.0 lbs
    Yearly total: 20.97 lbs worth $40.23

    To see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

    Happy Gardening!

    Sunday, April 1, 2012

    Revisiting March Garden Goals

    • Start seeds inside:  I have basil (Sweet and Big Leaf), one little lamb's ear, chamomile, cucumbers (Middle Eastern and Lemon), melons (Heart's of Gold, Congo, Sugar Baby, Banana, Honeydew), and squash (Sweet Mama Hybird, Trombocino, Hubbard) all happily growing in the potting shed.
    • Plant seeds outside: Outside I have planted kale, kohlrabi, radish, turnip, spinach, beets, peas, swiss chard, carrots, and lettuce.  The only thing I haven't planted outside that it is time to plant is parsnips.  I've never grown or eaten parsnips before and I'm still debating whether to plant them.  I guess I can plant a few just to see how they do and whether I like them.
    • Plant potatoes:  I planted yukon gold, red, and white kennebec potatoes this month and they are sprouting.  Next year I want to branch out and get more exciting potato varieties- like purple ones and fingerling ones.  Although they are so much more expensive they the plain varieties I get at the local farmer's exchange.

      • Plant onion sets:  I was planning on growing onions from seed this year, but I had mass causalities from the combination of the heat mats and upper 80 degree days.  So I got some onion sets and planted them this month.
        • Transplant seedlings:  I transplanted Chinese cabbage, pac choi, head lettuce, a few broccoli and two cauliflower to the garden.  Something has been munching away at the pac choi and cabbage leaves.  Several seedlings are now leafless!
          • Prep beds for planting:  I've been doing this as I plant.  I did cut the cover crops, but the wheat and the rye just keep sprouting back.  I'm going to have to turn the soil to plant my seedlings in the cover crop beds otherwise they are going to get overgrown with grasses.
            • Fill raspberry bed with soil:  Raspberry bed was filled with a mixture of alpaca manure, soil, and compost.
              • Fill potting shed bed with soil:  This bed was much bigger than the raspberry bed, so we got a garden soil mix at a local landscape place.
                • Planting templates:  I made square foot gardening planting templates and you can read about the project here.  They are very convenient and make planting much quicker.  However, I'm not sure how durable these are going to be and I may end up making wood ones for next year.  

                  • Plant raspberries:  Raspberries are planted!  They look like a row of five sticks right now, but hopefully they will grow and make lots of yummy raspberries.  The variety I planted was Caroline, which is suppose to do better in our hot climate.
                    • Plant grapes:  I planted two Reliance grapes- one on each side of the arbor in the garden.  They also look like pathetic sticks right now.
                    • Plant asparagus:  I planted 13 asparagus crowns.  You can read about how I planted them here.  All of the crowns have sent up stems.  I wish I could harvest and eat some this year!

                    •  Get and plant blueberries:  I got two blueberry bushes- a Georgia Gem and a Powerblue.  They are planted behind the garden, which I discovered is just out of hose reach!  I may get another one or two bushes, but maybe not this year.
                      • Paint potting shed shelves:  Well, this didn't happen this month- too many things to plant to worry about potting shed shelves! 
                        • Make plant labels:  I did start this, but I'm not quite finished.  Next month!
                        Spring has definitely arrived with all the garden activity this month!  Things are going to remain busy through April and probably May too.  It's a lot of work, but I just love spring!