The Backyard

The Backyard

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Planting is Upon Us

The onions arrived and hubby just had to get his toy out to prepare the garden. My preference is to work a little and dig it by hand, but he just loves playing with his mechanical thingy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How NOT to be Overwhelmed With Spring Chores

This weekend was a test. The weather on Saturday was a beautiful spring day in central Pennsylvania, with temps hitting the high 50's and sunshine. It was a day to be out in the garden starting the spring clean-up and prep for planting and growing season. But alas, my time in the garden this spring will be limited due to my bike training schedule for my 7-day stage race that starts on Memorial day. Not to mention, every Saturday morning (sometimes Friday mornings when I have rides scheduled for the weekend) is now dedicated to helping my elderly mother. Needless to say, Saturday was not the day for my garden to get attention. Luckily, because of a book I partially read this winter, I practiced focusing on the living in the moment philosophy and cleared my head and focused. The Karate Kid movie does the same thing -- no thoughts, focus. This weekend I tested it and it works! Saturday was focusing on helping my mom in the morning and a nice long bike ride in the afternoon. I ignored the patches of green herbs screaming under the dried dead stuff to get this scrappy dried stuff off of us so we can grow. Sunday morning was dedicated to the garden but that was the real test. It normally takes me weeks to clean everything up and start planting and every year on that first day, I near kill myself trying to do everything at once. I'm impatient. This year though, there's no room for impatience. Instead, the work is broken down into little chunks with each one getting a priority. That way, you get done what absolutely has to be done and what doesn't, can wait. In my garden, the can-waits are things that don't put food on my table. The ornamental herbs can wait (yes, the little green monsters screaming at me will force themselves through like they've done in the wild for millions of years) and the perennials and roses can wait. The top priority chunk this weekend was prepping the onion and pea patch. I didn't get any horse manure on the garden last fall, so yesterday morning was manure spreading day. It only took 3 tubs and little digging in. Rick will be rototilling it in deeper when the plants arrive and its time to plant. I caught myself not focusing on the priority yesterday and started to whack away at something that wasn't on my priority list for the day. "Jill...stop it. You need to go for a bike ride and this wasn't on your list for today." The bike ride felt great and it helped me focus on the task at hand. So don't be overwhelmed! Take it a chunk at a time, and take your time. There will always be another day, another week, or even another year.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Broccoli Seed Starting #2

Lesson learned: don't forget about your seeds after you start them or they'll get leggy and start laying over. The same legginess can occur if you don't have plant lights. Right now, my 72 broccoli plants are growing beautifully, but laying over with the weight of every new leaf. In another two weeks, they will be a matted mess that will be difficult to separate when planting time comes. What to do? Absolutely nothing at this point in time. This flat is going to be headed to the garden a little early this year. I'll take a chance letting them in the flat too long to become more tangled, and I'll take a chance planting them a little too soon and a freeze may get them, so in the garden they will go - possibly next weekend. Yes, broccoli can withstand frosts and even a mild freeze or two. These young babies will be planted very deeply to get the stems strong again. They'll go in the ground almost to the leaves. And if these guys pull through and make it, I'll REALLY be over run in broccoli because I just started a second flat of 72 because I was worried about this first flat not making it. I had an extra pack of seeds from two years ago I thought I'd try. If they sprout and grow, I think I may be selling some broccoli this spring.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What To Do With Kale

Kale is king in my garden. It's cheap to grow from seed right in the ground, you can start it early in the season (my seeds are going in with the sugar peas on St. Patty's day), it tolerates frost, and is super-charged with nutrition even though the flavor is ho-hum in my opinion. There's only so many things you can do with kale to make it a tasty dish. A co-worker of mine had a comical statement, "I thought it was just a decoration on the salad bar. I didn't think people really ate it!" Alas, my friend, yes, you eat kale and its actually good for you too. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse packed with protein, calcium, and a plethora of minerals and vitamins. Nutritional experts hale it as one the top foods to include in any healthy diet -- vegan, vegetarian or meat eaters alike -- although vegan nutritionists really zero in on this nutrient-laced leafy green. Dr. Fuhrman, author of Eat to Live and other healthy eating books, puts it on the very top of his nutritarian pyramid. So how to make it? You can start harvesting it when the leaves are as little as two inches long -- they actually taste better when young and tender. The older and bigger the plants get, the more bitter they become. Soups, soups, and more soups are always a good choice in cooking kale. You can never go wrong including kale in soup because the soup spices and other vegetables nearly always drown out the kale flavor. Two recipes I found palatable beyond soups are Confetti Kale and Kale with Crimini Mushrooms (kale, mushrooms, onions, and a squirt of soy sauce). But today, I tried Crispy Kale. Bingo -- another awesome way to make kale edible. The recipe, courtesy The 30-Minute Vegan:
1 large bunch kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt.

Lay the kale flat in pieces on cookie sheets. Bake at 350 until crispy (10 minutes -- but watch it - it browns and dries quickly). Put in large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, then the yeast and salt. Store at room temp.

Wow.... I almost ate the entire bowl in one sitting. Like eating chips, but healthy chips! It truly was hard to keep my fingers out of the bowl. And yes -- it only took 30 minutes.

And the The 30-Minute Vegan is my latest cookbook this recipe came from (I have WAY too many cookbooks. I'm good for at least 1 a year). So far, the cookbook is 3 for 3 with awesome recipes. First was Tofu Saag (tofu, frozen spinach, and Indian spices), 2nd was Pasta Florentine (whole wheat elbows, spinach, soymilk/nutritional yeast and spices), and now is the Crispy Kale. All were fantastic and yes, quick. I highly recommend this cookbook.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

72 Broccoli Babes

Success. I now have 72, and some to spare, baby broccoli plants clamouring for light. I say clamouring because I forgot about them for 3 days while they were sprouting and they were all reaching desperately for the window when I finally remembered to check them. When I remembered I forgot to check them as we were driving to work on Friday morning (they were started Sunday evening and I checked them once on Monday evening), I thought for sure they'd be dried up. But the greenhouse effect of the cover on the tray really kept them nice and moist and I think by my forgetting and NOT opening the cover to see what was going on actually kept them nice and toastie inside their little greenhouse -- perfect sprouting conditions. They look awesome. The lights have started and they are on their way. I didn't get brussels or cauliflower seeds in time to start them also, so it's just the broccoli plants.