Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

Summer update

July 22, 2009

OK, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Really I haven’t. We’ve just had such had such a busy summer that I almost wish I would fall off the face of the earth just so I could get some rest. Things are still busy, but in a couple of weeks we should be back to normal; that is, no one travelling and no one visiting. That is part of why I haven’t posted much. The other reason is that we have lost some animals and that is upsetting and not fun to post about.

We lost two of the New Hampshire hens one evening at dusk. The kids and I were out of town, so things were quieter, I’m sure. Perhaps that is what gave the predator the nerve to get them so close to the house. We also lost two of Mama Cat’s kittens and one of Little Gray’s. We found a dead kitten on our lane and buried it and we assume it was Muck. The other, Muggy, just disappeared. Her other two kittens, Stinky and Vicious, are still around and Vicious has even gotten to be pretty friendly with the other cats and with us. Of course, it could just be that she is in heat! I am quite sure Mama Cat is pregnant again, too.

Little Gray’s kittens are cute and playful and friendly. In fact, I have Swirly Junior on my lap right now. He sleeps inside with us at night and we all love him. We did lost Scotchy Junior, about a month ago. He was under the couch and got stuck in the mechanism for the recliner. We didn’t realize this until the next morning as we were getting ready to go away for the weekend and I was making sure all the kittens were outside. It was horribly, horribly sad and I feel guilty that a kitten died because of our own carelessness.

Anyway, the garden is going OK. Things are growing despite my almost total neglect. I’ve used some lemon basil from the garden twice and made a yummy chicken dish. We have green tomatoes, lots of herbs, cauliflower and carrots. I need to plant more for fall, so maybe next week I will find some time to do some more planting. I did lose all the corn, probably to some deer that ate it while the kids and I were out of town. I think that the kids are a great deterrent to animals that think of coming too close to the house.

The chickens are doing well. The Buff Orpington chicks are growing and are now in the coop/dog kennel thing. It is working well enough for now, though it won’t work well for winter. We are still planning on building a coop, but it it turning into a fall project rather than a summer project. We have at least two Buff Orpington roosters, possibly a couple of more. I think that Lula Mae is getting ready to lay very soon. She has been making lots of noise and clucking when she goes into the coop at night. Her comb and wattles have grown and gotten quite red, which is also another sign. The other hen, who we have named Holly, doesn’t seem quite as ready, but I think she is getting there, too. Chicken Joe wasn’t crowing much when we still had the other rooster around, but now he is crowing very nicely.

That’s all I have for now! I will post more pictures someday soon. I have to take some first! I think next week things will be calmer, despite the fact that Tom will be out of town. I will be home with the kids and Tim and will try to play catch up with the garden, the mowing, and the blog.

I’d rather be gardening

May 30, 2009

I never have enough time to work in the garden, it seems. I think we only stayed home one day this past week. Unfortunately I was not feeling particularly energetic that day. It didn’t much matter because I couldn’t mow because of the rain and couldn’t work in the garden because we hadn’t been to the nursery to get plants, compost, and vermiculite. Now it is Saturday and I didn’t get as much done as I had hoped. I think that is probably how spring is. It’s been so long since we had a real spring (spring in Phoenix is subtle and doesn’t last long) that I have forgotten.

I weeded a bit and am grateful that I haven’t had to do more. I think the square foot/raised bed gardening works well at keeping weeds away. I have had some problems with grass growing, but mostly along the edges and the corners. The Pie Bed (rhubarb, strawberries, and blueberries) has had the most grass growing in it. I did not dig in that bed, and then I added turned over sod on top of the partially dying grass. However, even that bed did not have a lot of grass. Soon I will probably be pulling out saplings since the cottonwoods are doing their cottonwood thing. It’s really cool and looks like it is snowing. The muddy areas on either side of the driveway looked like they were covered in snow. 

The Herb Bed is beautiful and mostly full. It has three squares of dill, four squares each of oregano and parsley, one square of chives, and three squares of cilantro. The final square was a dill transplant that I started from seed, but it didn’t survive. I have more basil to transplant, as well as some lavender, mint, and rosemary. I will grow the mint and rosemary in containers so that I can contain the mint and bring the rosemary in during the winter. 

The tilled area of the garden is doing OK. The bad news about the tilled area is that the grass is starting to grow back in places. The good news is that the soil is still nice and loose, so it’s quite easy to pull or rake the grass out of the soil. I spent some time making more mounds for the corn, beans, and squash (Three Sisters) so that I can plant some more. Some of the corn is about 4 inches tall, which means it is time to plant the beans and squash, according to Renee’s Garden, which is the plan I am using. You can do the Three Sisters in a square foot garden, too. Since we have plenty of room I figured I would used the tilled area instead of using more wood to make the boxes. 

I posted a few pictures of the garden on the May 2009 page, where you can also read my incredibly detailed garden notes if you are so inclined. I’m not sure it makes very interesting reading, but it will prove useful next spring, I’m sure!

Eat your weeds

May 19, 2009

For some reason, when I am interested in something and thinking about it, the universe seems to send me information. I know that sounds silly, but it is weird how often that seems to happen. About two weeks ago I wrote about mowing and how we really need less grass. Since then I have read so many things that are related to my need to have less grass. The first thing I found was Erin’s post about what she is doing to her yard to eventually have no grass to mow, which includes planting only perennials. Don’t get me wrong, I do want some grass. It is nice to have some to put out a blanket for a picnic. Although, after seeing the pictures on her blog I see how no grass looks and it does look lovely.

In my searches I found some interesting reads, such as this article about edible landscaping. Now, I’m not sure I’m ready to forage and eat wild things, but it’s definitely an interesting idea and a way to let things go wild. I already knew dandelions were edible. You can eat the greens, and according to Scott the Farmer, the flowers are pretty tasty if you deep fry them. The kids love dandelions, or “dandy lions” as they call them, and pick them for me all the time. They are pretty when they are yellow and the seeds are fun to make a wish on. I thought they weren’t so pretty when the seeds spread and all that is left is the reddish stems. However, today when we were driving up the lane, I noticed these pretty splotches of rust colored something which turned out to be these reddish stems of the dandelions. So they can be pretty, even after the yellow flower is gone. Besides, there’s no way to totally get rid of the dandelions around here without the use of heavy chemicals since they are everywhere. So I am trying to make peace with the dandy lions. 

Then Deborah at Antiquity Oaks wrote about natural lawn care and how she wants to really cut down on the use of the gas powered equipment. They have a scythe and goats. She moves her goats around in a movable electric fence. Apparently using goats is gaining in popularity since Deborah mentioned in the comments to her post that you can type in “google” and “goats” to a search engine and read about how Google has been using goats to mow and cut down on weeds. Really, just type those into a search bar and you will find plenty of articles to read. Onen commenter suggested that the founders of Google probably got the idea from another company that has done it for a long time. So, the idea is nothing new for farmers and homesteaders, and is apparently not that new for companies, either. Some combination of cows, sheep, and goats is in our future, and not just for lawn care. 

A copule of days later, Tom bought me the latest issue of Hobby Farm Magazine for Mother’s Day. It, too, had an article called “Food Foraging: Wildings you can eat.” Guess what that article is about? Apparently you can eat may apples (Erin, those pictures I took that you said looked like May apples definitely are!), but only when ripe. You can eat wild carrots, but you have to be careful not to confuse it with hemlock, which is highly poisonous. There are many other examples in the article and the website has a Safe Foraged Food Guide.

The final article I saw was while rereading Radish Magazine. There was a short, informative article about invasive, but edible garlic mustard plant. There were even a couple of recipes. Now that I think about it, there was an article about foraging in Mother Earth News. After searching for the article in my memory, I found the following:

Have I mentioned how much I love this magazine? I found all these articles, but not the one I had in mind (I remember what the picture looked like). I didn’t find it in Mother Earth News because it was in an issue of Vegetarian Times, and is called “Sink Your Teeth Into Foraging”

Foraging for wild foods is not exactly the same thing as getting rid of grass or even replacing it, but the ideas definitely overlap. You can get rid of grass by letting wild things grow, especially edible wild things. So many “weeds” are actually edible plants or have medicinal uses. Stinging nettles are a great example. I wouldn’t want to walk through a patch of them, but Scott the Farmer says they are also edible. Sometimes I wonder if he is pulling my leg, but so far he hasn’t. Stinging nettles are indeed edible and have medicinal uses, including conditioning your hair and getting rid of dandruff.

Replacing grass is good for the environment as it cuts down on gas usage for mowers and weed eaters. Replacing grass with plants that can be eaten, used medicinally, and/or grow back every year is good for your pocketbook and for the environment. As Erin says, selling annuals is a big business. It also cannot good for the environment since the seeds or plants would have to be shipped to nurseries. Also, the potting soil that nurseries use is made up of several ingredients, so who knows where those come from or how far away they come from. 

Now I know this post is already quite long, but to sum it up, it seems that there are several things you can do to replace grass. You can let it go completely wild, you can replace grass with perennials, edible weeds, medicinal plants, herbs and/or a garden. You can plant more trees and put a big circle of mulch or bark around the bases of the trees. If you have a few acres, you can plant an orchard or mini-orchard and grow your own fruit. It’s a good idea to plant things native to your area, whenever possible. Those plants will be best adapted to the soil, climate, and local animals. Also, try to use plants that attract bees, birds, and beneficial insects, such as ladybugs.

If you live in town and have a small yard, it should be fairly easy to replace a lot of your grass, though there may be regulations for weed control. If you don’t want to eat your dandelions, you can plant perennials and other ground covers instead. If you live in the desert and don’t want grass, there are alternatives to “desert landscaping” which is basically just a yard of rocks! We did have a couple of neighbors in Phoenix who had yards of wildflowers and other desert plants. I suppose they had rocks, too, but not just rocks. In the desert, going with native plants makes a lot of sense because it also saves on water usage. I always thought it was silly, not to mention a ton of work, to have grass in the desert. If you have a few acres or more, you can certainly keep some grass (or in the desert let your land go wild) and use it as pasture. Animals turn grass into foood, and even if you are a strict vegan, you could still raise sheep and goats for their wool.

Once you have less grass, you can go really low tech to decrease your gas consumption by using a reel mower, a scythe, or moving your animals around to mow for you. If you have a lot of acres, that might take some time, but I can personally say that is my goal. It will take some time to replace our grass, but it’s a lot better idea than my original idea.

Garden plans

April 7, 2009

I planted some more herb seeds today (chives, rosemary, dill, and oregano). This time I also washed out the pots, which I should have done when I planted the first batch of herbs and spinach seeds. I will have to find more containers before I can plant anything else! I am reluctant to buy anything else because consumption is not good for the environment and because I saw some great ideas for reusing containers to start seedlings. Eventually I will probably start an area outside for the herbs, but for now I was planning on having them indoors. I have a nice, big window sill above the kitchen sink that should work nicely for herbs, assuming I can find a different home for all the other plants currently live above the sink.

As far as the garden goes, we are still waiting for the people from the nursery to come by and till our garden area. It’s been cold and rainy and wet, and it’s really a bit early to plant outside anyway. Everyone keeps telling me it’s still early and I know they are right, but I am excited/anxious to get started. I feel like I need more of a plan for the garden, though, so I need to work on that. I have figured out some things already. I plan to use square foot gardening, which I read about a few years ago, based on the suggestion of a friend in Phoenix (Hi, Joline!).

Square foot gardening appeals to me on many levels. First, the author, Mel Bartholomew, mentions that using rows is really good for big farms where they use big tractors and need room to get down the rows. Well, I don’t have a tractor and neither do most gardeners. Also, square foot gardening is a type of raised bed gardening. Raised beds are supposed to be good for a lot of reasons: more productive per square foot, and better soil because it is not compacted by being walked on, for example. Another great idea he has is to plant only as many seeds as you need, instead of throwing down a bunch and then spending all that time thinning them out later. That makes a lot of sense to me, as it seems so wasteful to spread a bunch of seeds (even though they are incredibly cheap) and then pull up half or more of the plants later. He also talks about successive planting so that you don’t have to harvest everything at the same time. There are a lot of good ideas in that book, and I hope to be able to put those ideas to good use and have a good, productive garden. Now, I say all this but I have never really had a garden, so who knows how it will work out. I just know that when I read the book, his ideas made a lot of sense.

The other plan I have is to grow things organically. I did not buy organic or heirloom seeds. Instead, I bought seeds from the local farm supply store. I know this is not the best option, but I figured it will do for this growing season. Other than the seeds, everything else will be done organically. So far, I’ve used organic potting soil for all the seedlings I’ve planted. We won’t spray or use chemicals. Luckily, I know an organic farmer who can give me advice if we have some problems and need to get rid of some pests. So my garden will be organic, even if all the seeds were not organic.

So that’s the plan so far. I will, of course, write about the garden more as we do some more work and get things going. Maybe tomorrow we will put the chicks in the movable coop and make some more boxes for the garden. I can keep an eye on the chicks while making the boxes, so that if they get too cold we can bring them back in the house. I know the will absolutely love the fresh air and having more room!

Managed chaos

March 26, 2009

I have been a bit busy the last couple of days. My dad and his girlfriend visited yesterday and we had a good time. The kids loved showing them the trains and the chicks.

We planted a few seeds for herbs and spinach in little pots to start inside, and that is fun. Personally, I will want the garden to be organized (which I need to work on a plan for that) so that we can plant some things now and then keep planting so that we don’t have things all needing harvesting at once. I’d like to know what is where and when it should germinate and when to plant and all that. Planting seeds with the kids is not organized! At best, it is managed chaos. That’s OK, because I don’t know which herbs are in which pots, but we’ll figure it out when they start growing. I did manage to mark the pots that had spinach seeds in them, so at least that will be predictable.

We are getting the garden tilled, and are waiting on the people to come do it. They are waiting on the weather and for it to not be too muddy and things like that. So soon we will be working hard on the garden. I plan on having two little planting beds for each of the kids to plant whatever they want and take care of it however they want. They can learn some things about gardening. I already know that Moira loves to harvest, especially cherry tomatoes. She did that in Phoenix and her and Tim would eat them all up so that they never made it into the house.

The other thing we did yesterday was feed some earthworms to the chicks. I hadn’t planned to do that, but I went outside to feed our outdoor cats their late breakfast and found a little worm on my pants. Now, I am a bit squeamish about bugs and worms, so of course I called to the kids to come get this worm. As I’m calling to them, I’m thinking about how much the chicks would love the worms, so I asked Moira to go up and feed the worm to the chicks. The chicks LOVED it and went crazy. It was so fun to watch that we went out and dug up some more earthworms to feed to the chicks. That was a lot of fun.

Anyway, I have a ton of things on my mind and a big post I am working on. It might turn out to be more than one post as it’s a bunch of things that are interconnected and related but not in an obvious way. So I have lots of different threads of ideas feeding into this one post. I don’t have much time to put it all in words that are coherent, though, so it will probably take a while to write. Of course, the more it’s on my mind, the more new information I get and the longer I will take to write it.