Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Essential Bookshelf for the Self-Sufficient Life

I am just getting started with my Essential Bookshelf for the Self-Sufficient Life, but the few books that I have are really good ones (IMHO).  These books represent the basics for all of the things that I am interested in learning: gardening, baking bread, canning and cheese making.  I am always on the lookout for new books to add to my tiny collection.  If you have the time, please let me know what books you consider "essential".  Or better still, post a picture of your essential bookshelf (with readable titles, if possible) on your blog. 

Here are some pictures of what's happening on our little piece of land.  Finally, a little less chores and a little more "smelling the roses".
 Day Lilies going crazy.
New Hydrangea "Cityline - Venice"
 Front flower bed filling out.
This week's farmer's market purchase #1
Farmer's market purchase #2

Hope your weather has cooled off as much as ours.  Those 90 degree days came on a little too quickly for my taste.  Next time: Independence Day Challenge update.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Garden Status- Early June 2010

The deck container garden is coming along nicely with tomatoes, green peppers and herbs.

The garden is fully planted now and we are looking forward to eating some squash and onions later this week.
We have had a fair amount of rain over the last month, so my only concern now is staying ahead of the critters and bugs.  Last year, I lost the squash and cantaloupe to squash vine borers.  This year, I am spraying the soil and stem around each plant with insecticidal soap and I have put a small tinfoil shield on the soil around each plant.  The insecticidal soap is supposed to kill any eggs that may have been laid by the adult moth and the tin foil is supposed to confuse the moth so that it won't lay eggs in the first place.  Not sure if either idea will work, but I am giving them a shot.  I try my best to stay organic, but if pushed hard enough, I have been known to run for the nearest chemical.  If you have any additional ideas for prevention, I'd love to hear them.  Please leave a comment.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


No man but feels more of a man in the world if he have a bit of ground that he can call his own.  However small it is on the surface, it is four thousand miles deep: and that is a very handsome property. 
-Charles Dudley Warner 

I spent the last few days on a business trip to NYC.  Of course, while I was there, I was anxious to see any evidence of personal gardening in the big city.   I wasn't disappointed.  Wherever I looked up I saw small rooftop gardens hanging over the edges of many buildings. On the street level, there were pots filled with flower mixtures and there were small 2 ft square plots around trees filled with pansies and impatiens.   But, the most interesting thing I saw was a small 4 x 8 area of soil that was surrounded on all four sides by sidewalk.  It had a variety of flowers and veggies snuggled up together inside of it with supports in place where appropriate.  The amazing thing is that it was also surrounded by a six foot chain link fence.  That tiny piece of land with homegrown vegetables and flowers was evidently very near and dear to the gardener's heart.  I completely understood the value of that little bit of land.  It made me realize how very fortunate I am to have my three-quarters of an acre (which I ignored and planted with grass for a dozen years).  On that note, here is how I used my land since the last IDC post:

1. Plant Something: pole beans, dill, marigolds, purple cone flower, May Night Salvia
2. Harvest Something: lettuces, spinach, beet greens, radishes, garlic (fall planted), rosemary
3. Preserve Something: no
4. Waste Not: regular composting, etc.
5. Want Not: scored a free gardening book and cookbook for my budding library. Purchased a dying perennial for $3 and nursed it back to health.
6. Build Community Food Systems: attended local farmer's market and spent targeted $10+ dollars. Purchased goat's milk soap and cheese and a packet of dried herbs.
7. Eat The Food: lots of delicious salads!

That's it for this week.  Happy Memorial Day to everyone and happy birthday to my brother!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Farmer's Market Treasures

On Saturday, Dh and I spent a nice morning strolling around the local farmer's market.  Our mission: to spend at least $10 on locally produced goods.  The movie, Fresh, introduced us to the idea that if everyone would spend at least $10 a week on locally produced goods, we could sustain local farming.  So, we got out there and spent our $10.  First, I chose a small Borage plant to tuck into the last spot in one of my garden boxes with Better Boy tomatoes, mild peppers and Spicy Globe Basil.  Then, it was Dh's turn.  He chose a jar of locally produced Honey Jelly.  We weren't sure what Honey Jelly was, but it sure sounded good.  Turns out it is a delicious treat that tastes like honey, but spreads more like jelly - Honey Jelly (Duh!).

We were delighted to find that the farmer's market had grown since the last time we visited.  We enjoyed checking out all of the new and returning vendors, but we particularly enjoyed sampling the spreadable goat's milk cheeses, sniffing the goat's milk soaps and chatting in the Master Gardener's tent about the many uses of Borage. We are already looking forward to next week's treasures.

After the morning spent at the farmer's market, I was inspired to get my deck container garden planted.  This year, the deck is host to 2 Sweet 100 cherry tomato plants, 2 Yellow Pear cherry tomato plants, 4 Bonnie's Green Bell peppers, Oregano, Thyme, Parsley, Bee Balm and one lone Petunia.  We had very good luck with the plants on the deck last year, so we have high expectations for this year. What have you had the best luck with in containers?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Apple Cake

This cake is a terrific way to use dehydrated apple rings.  All I had to do was remove the rings from the freezer and soak them for about an hour in water with a little lemon juice before preparing the recipe.  The resulting cake is not too sweet which makes it just right for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert!  My favorite recipe is the Fresh Apple Cake recipe found in the Very Virginia Cookbook, by The Junior League of Hampton Roads

I still have a few more packets of dehydrated apple rings in the freezer- any ideas for other good ways to use them?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Independence Day - First Post

I have been inspired by all of the wonderful bloggers who participate in the Independence Day Challenge.  So here goes my initial post:

1. Plant Something – Continued adding plants to the garden. It is about 80% planted.

2. Harvest Something – Picked 3 gallons of strawberries from a local farm.

3. Preserve Something – Gave one gallon of the strawberries to my parents. Hulled and froze 1.5 gallons in a single layer on cookie sheets. Then put them in 3 one gallon bags in our new, old freezer. Will plan to make jam out of them in the fall when apples are ready for picking.

4. Waste Not – Composted kitchen scraps. Continued to collect leftover coffee grounds from pots at work.

5. Want Not – I have been borrowing my favorite books from the library, but I have renewed them the maximum number of times. So, I purchased Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (new), Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (new) and The Victory Garden: The Essential Companion (used) from Amazon with a gift card from my awesome family (Dh, Dd15, Ds21 and Dd24) for Mother’s Day.

6. Eat the Food – Enjoyed .5 gallon fresh strawberries. Used apple rings that we picked, dehydrated and froze last fall to make a Fresh Apple Cake. 

That wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.  Now, I'd better get moving on week#2!

Garden Status - Early May 2010

Here is a picture of our garden.  At this stage we have:
Tomatoes - Better Boy, Early Girl and Roma
Peppers- mild for salsa
Sweet Basil
Shallots & Garlic - planted last fall
Rosemary - overwintered (even with all the snow!)
Cucumbers - slicing
yellow squash
lettuce - Green Leaf & Gourmet Mix
Zucchini - planted in a separate flower bed