Thursday, February 28, 2013

An Apple a Day...with a Healthy Dose of Imagination! How to Keep the Doctor Away

An Apple a Day...or Two.

Wow!  Being that it has either been super cold here or raining like Noah should be building another Arc, most of us have been cooped up inside for way too long this winter!  The weather here can get quite nasty, but usually there are spells of 'lets get outside' kind of weather, but not so much this year.  Spring and Summer ~ you guys have to make up for all of this!  I can see why people in super harsh environments go stir crazy...and we aren't even in that kind of climate!  Bring on spring!  But all of this dreaming of summery days has me looking back to summer's past, and the fact that I try to get my middle daughter to eat different kinds of fruit.  She's pretty finicky when it comes to stuff like that.  She eats apples and fresh from her garden cantaloupe, and some grapes...must be red, sweet, and she usually likes the seeded ones.  That's about it on fruit!  Last night, I made her try some pineapple...and...she liked it! Yay.  But just before she tried it, she said "I eat plenty of fruit!  And apple a day...or two!"  So that got me thinkng.

This was a good day...we found so many apples.  My Mom planted these when I was a kid, and they have gotten so big.  They grow along our treeline marking the property line, and to help keep animals on their own farms!  This tree was loaded with sweet and crisp reddish apples.  I don't remember the variety, but a wonderful crisp snacking apple!

This is a golden delicious tree, and my youngest daughter's preference.  It was loaded too!

 Sometimes it's not just apples that can keep the doctor away, I think a good dose of fresh air can do wonders. No hurry, no phone, no TV or internet...just fresh air and a mind for exploration.  I love days when we can just explore!  I have no idea what this weed is, but it blooms very prolifically in the fields around the farm.  It's gorgeous, and the yellow sprays sort of cascade towards the ground.

This is an old piece of apple wood near the big old trees on the hill.  We decided that this could be passed off as an old dinosaur skeleton!  A two horned dinosaur.

Along the banks of the pond are tons of plant life.  I've always called this pig weed,  I'm not really sure of the proper name, but again, it's plentiful around here!  Garter snakes love to hid out at the base of these weeds and the water line of the pond.  We got to watch one as it was sipping some water, or at least that's what it looked like it was doing!  Snakes don't gross me out at all, they are wonderful for my garden.  I like the black rat snakes too, but they are much more likely to be found near the woods, not the pond.  Snakes are like a natural critter control!

This frog, was just floating in the middle of the pond as we walked by, motionless.  I wasn't sure if it was even alive!  We took a tight zoom shot here, so we couldn't see that he was most likely hunting the smaller tadpole in the upper left of this shot.  As it float motionless in the middle of the pond, we tossed a rock in to see if it would move, and it lightning!  It wasn't until we got back to our house, and uploaded these pics, that we realized we cost him his lunch...but we did, at least, prolong the life of that little tadpole!  But we did interrupt time we see a frog floating in the pond....we'll leave it alone!

Well, I shall continue to dream of warm sunny weather and keep looking at lovely summer memories on the computer. Till next time...have a great one!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gardening...It's a Family Affair

It's still too cold to get outside and play in the dirt to get my garden and hopefully my new chicken coop ready and running for the summer season yet, so I continue to dream and plan big.  Mother Nature better give us the warm break we need soon, because the more I'm cooped up inside, the more ideas I get for the garden...oh, the ideas swirling around in my head!  I need my own full time garden staff!!!  Really.

This is my family, minus my oldest who now lives in the Arizona desert...a whole different world and different gardening world too.  My hubby and girls like to explore around the farm usually while I work in the garden.

They do get involved though, my youngest found and planted a volunteer tomato she found growing, and this is what came of it.  I think it's the parent of some Sweet 100's I had planted nearby the previous year.  Sweet 100 is a hybrid, so the seed from them may or may not come true to what was planted, ususally not.  So this is most likely an heirloom at this point, but I'm not sure the variety, some are smaller like cherry type tomatoes, but some larger than than a golf ball.  They were however, very sweet and the plant took up about one half of her raised bed!  She grew this tomato, cabbage, and kohlrabi.  Somehow this kid, doesn't like brussell's sprouts!  Go figure!

My hubby's love is hot peppers.  The hotter the better.  I guess it's a guy thing.  I can barely take any heat at all!  These are Ristra Cayenne peppers.  We got the seed from Burpee, I haven't seen it anywhere else.  They are a hybrid and mature to very bright reds, oranges, some yellows.  It can be eaten at this stage, and is quite hot, I think just hotter when they mature.  Peppers like the heat too...they love hot dry summers!  We were lucky last year, we got a great crop for his salsa.  Salsa is another story and another post.  Making it from scratch is definitely a labor of love...hours of chopping tomatoes, peppers, onion, parsley (I like parsley over cilantro, but I make some special jars just for the hubby with the cilantro).  Also, once you eat salsa made from the garden veggies that you grew and nurtured yourself, it takes on a whole new level, not only is it something you put on the table with your own hands and hard work, but the taste is not comparable to store bought salsa...I call it 'summer in a jar'.  The taste and texture are incredible.  My sister says it isn't salsa, it's a summer salad because you can literally eat it with a fork!  It's incredible. Yum.  I"m hungry just writing about it!

My other daughter is more into flowers right now.  She planted an entire raised garden bed with these beauties...Cockscomb Celosia.  Thomas Jefferson grew these in his Presidential Garden at Monticello.  His were scarlet, on of the colors of these, they bloomed in a variety of colors; reds, pinks, orange, yellow, and cream. This one is just starting to bloom, but the flower heads get huge...the size of your hand, and contain hundreds and hundreds of tiny florets that make a great show in the garden.  The bees and wasps absolutely loved to visit them, which in turn was great for my veggies...flying critters are the best pollinators and absolutely essential for a successful garden.  She also loves cantaloupe fresh off the vine.   It's the only melon she'll eat...Hale's Best Jumbo.  They are pretty and have an intense aroma on and off the vine.  That's how you can tell they are ripe, the aroma is unbelievable! The taste, again, not comparable with anything you can buy in the store.  I don't usually like cantaloupe, but I found out it's because of the shipping and handling, and them not being fully ripe when harvested.  When you pick one off the vine, it's intensely sweet and crisp...nothing mushy or soft about them, and no blah flavor.  She also fell in love with cosmos last year, so she'll be planting some this year too!

So, this is a mix of our was a great year for them.  There are some Pinot Nior's here (the purple blush ones) that we primarily eat fresh, that is when my younger brother doesn't get to them first...they are his favorite.  Also shown are some regular sweet belle's cayenne, Thai Red's, Ristra, and Pinata, another hot hybrid from Burpee. They are similar to the Ristra, but offer more yellows and are brighter.  A good salsa pepper.  Actually, all but the Pinot Nior's are salsa peppers.  Just like a great apple pie, I believe a variety of flavors and tastes is what makes a great salsa!

One of my greatest loves are birds.  Any birds.  I find them fascinating...modern day dinosaurs.  They are so graceful in flight and amazingly efficient while hunting, foraging, nest building, and taking care of their young.  Each one is adapted for it's environment, as are plants.  I grow sunflowers just for the birds. Well, other critters too!  I have any kind of bird around visit them, minus hawks, but they will come around to hunt the critters that feed on the seeds...squirrels, chipmunks, smaller birds sometimes too, but they prefer the four legged critters!  I even have hummingbirds visit too for the pollen in summer.  This was a surprise to me, one day my next door neighbor told me that she saw 4 or 5 visiting at one time!  Incredible!  For years, I thought they only liked red.  My Dad used to buy only red or purple flowers just to attract the hummingbirds!  If only he knew they loved the sunflowers too!  They are natures perfect food for the animals  In the foreground of this pic are some of my daughter's celosia's.  Notice how some are spiked?

This is another post topic too!  Compost piles!  I always have something growing out the sides of mine, but I"ve started to intentionally add potatoes to the bottom of the pile.  Through the growing season, I just add to the pile as normal, but don't turn it except to mix the top.  I do add some dirt along the way to help things break down easier since the whole thing isn't turned until fall, but I found I can get a great harvest of potatoes this way.  Potatoes grow along with the compost pile and need hilled up anyway throughout the year, so I just add kitchen scraps, weeds, leaves, dirt, hay, paper, whatever, and dig the whole thing up in the fall.  It's fun for the kids.  They love to dig the potato crop from the 'black gold'!  I pick an all purpose potato for this, the season is long for them, and when the vine dies, we know it's time to harvest the potatoes!

I think these are the favorite components of our family garden, everyone's individual favorites.  I love that they love food fresh from the I just have to figure out a way for them to love to help me with all of the planting, the weeding, the mulching.  They are pretty good at helping with the harvest and enjoying the beauty of a garden, so that's a good thing...but I still want them to love the planting and weeding part of it too!  Maybe I should bury some money and prizes in the soil and tell them the one who finds the prize gets to keep it...really, I think that might be a good idea. And then there's the dream of adding chickens to the mix this year!!!

Till later, have a great one!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Winter Finally Giving Way to Spring....Ahhhhh....

The dark eyed juncos are gone for the winter.

The cardinals are getting bright to attract a honey for the spring and summer.

The downy woodpeckers are looking for a honey too.

I saw my first robin a few weeks ago.  They are cold this past week with all of the cold weather we are having here.

The sap is coming up in the maples, and the squirrels are enjoying chewing on the ends of the branches.  They must taste good because they are all over the yard.  The blue skies make these colder days feel so much better!

The crocus' aren't out yet, but will be soon.  My daffodils and hyanciths are already peeking out of the ground. 

I can't wait for spring.  I think it might be most anticipated season of the year, at least around here.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Only Sometimes Clever Blog Giveaway

I love to's in my blood, and I'll grow just about anything I can get my hands on.  That's why I love to enter contests for seed giveaways.  Only Sometimes Clever is conducting such a giveaway of a wide range of seeds from Botanical Interests.  Here are a few of the favorites in our summer garden.

I love brussel's sprouts!  They are divine, and I can never seem to get enough of them.  I've found my 'new' favorite way to prepare them is sliced in half and baked or pan fried with just a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of asiago cheese (any grated fresh italian type cheese is delicious!)  Add just a dab of butter right at the end, and the side dish suddenly gets a lot of attention!

Our garden isn't just about vegetables.  We grow flowers and veggies together harmoniously!  This is a cockscomb celosia, grown by my daughter in her raised garden bed that Botanical Interest's carried a few years ago, unfortunately, they don't carry this particular variety any longer, but since it's an heirloom, I can save the seeds, and luckily we did.  It also reseeds itself quite nicely, at least in our area, southwest PA, zone 6.  They are so gorgeous, and we have a mix of several colors.  They are stunning in the garden, and my daughter's favorite!

Now this beauty is a cabbage plant grown by my other daughter in her raised bed.  She's more of a vegetable farmer and loves to grow cabbage and tomatoes!  See how this one has some holes in the outher leaves?  No worry, the head of cabbage was just fine, we grow an organic garden, so sometimes the little critters get a bit hungry and can't resist the cabbage!  Bad critters, but hey, the cabbage is delicious and healthy, I can see why they would want to sneak a bite!  It's more work and more frustration to garden in an organic way, worth it to me in every way.

Now time for my fun favorite thing to grow, for pure pleasure. Sunflowers. They are amazing in every way. They grow strong from the start, rise above everything else, wake up and smile at the sun every morning, and provide a snack to eat and a perch to rest upon for so many birds in my yard and garden!  The squirrels and chipmunks love them too!

 Now, the thing I love about Only Sometimes Clever's blog giveaway, is that there is wide variety of prize packages; a children's garden, a flower garden, and container garden, and a heat tolerant garden for hot, dry climates.  Something for everyone!

Now, I shall continue to dream of spring, and thawed soil, and May when I can get my little baby seedlings and seeds into this chilled Pennsylvania soil!  Have a great one!