How have you been? Things have been well around these parts. I have no complaints. I’ve been thinking about trying to blog again on a more regular basis and told myself that I would start the first week of January!
Obviously THAT didn’t happen, but better late than never, right? Here’s what’s going on at the moment:
Remember the ditch from the front yard project? Here’s a reminder:
BOOM. Sorta. My first task this spring is to finish planting and mulching the ditch and the major project for the front yard will be installing a brick patio over in the corner. And I’ve got to clear out all of those blackberries back by the fence. Ugh.
I half-assed it in the vegetable gardens last year so I told myself that this year I would FULL ass it. So, I’ve got my planting plan completed, seeds purchased and I’m currently trying to start onion and leeks in the spare closet/grow room.
This weekend I’ll also start some spinach. THIS week, I’ll start some spinach. I also joined a garden club and even though it’s only been a week, it’s been SO HELPFUL ALREADY. I’ve been able to put together a planting calendar and garden maps!
I have a Grand Plan of installing a cutting garden this year, but I am always overly ambitious in the planning department and seem to under perform in the execution stage, so…fair warning to keep your expectations low on this one. I’ve winter sown some flower seeds in some old distilled water bottles like I did last year and have stuck them outside to chill. I’ve got a TON more to do still. Here’s the general area where the cutting garden will go:
Mainly where the black plastic is, on the right-hand side of the photo.
The next order of business is to get my soil tested. We did this when I was a member of the local community garden, but I’ve never actually taken the step and do it for myself. Silly!
I found out that what I was missing all those years was a partner. I need a partner…and I found one. Her name is Jinger and she is my co-worker (at my full-time day job). She is seriously one of the best people I have ever met in my entire life.
Jinger’s talent is hand lettering, which I totally suck at. She’s awesome and amazing at ton of other things and I can’t even begin to describe how magical it is to work with her.
Our business is called House+Heart. We create empowering, (hopefully) inspiring, beautiful art celebrating women. Jinger’s last name is House, but House and Mulherin doesn’t really flow very well and is not very catchy. Who’s going to remember that? I had started to incorporate hearts into the art I was creating at the time so House+Heart was born!
It’s taken us a year of collaborating and figuring out what the hell we are doing and we finally launched a collection of eight prints on May 1st via our Etsy shop.
This was a gigantic milestone, but we have a lot of work ahead of us. We are both super excited and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Let me share with you a dumb-ass rookie gardening mistake I made this past fall. This is something that I should know better by now…but for some reason it just didn’t click in my brain.
Take a look at the two turnips above.
One was sown in a bed that had peas and fava beans grown in it earlier in the season. One was (accidentally sown) outside of the bed in the walkway.
Care to take a guess as to which turnip was grown where? I’ll tell you: The awesome root turnip landed OUTSIDE the garden bed when I planted these seeds, and as a result, the root bulbed out because the soil IN the garden bed had WAAAAAYYYY too much nitrogen.
Why? Because legumes, like the the peas and fav beans are nitrogen fixers. This means they bring in a lot of nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots. This is perfect for plants that are heavy feeders like corn and tomatoes, or for plants that are leafy, like lettuce. Too much nitrogen in your soil is not awesome for fruiting. You will get great greens, but your beets, radishes, turnips…whatever will suck.
This is especially relevant for those who have soil trucked in for raised beds, which I did. In my case, when I built my garden, I had used a combination of topsoil and mushroom compost. This combo was super high in nitrogen thanks to the compost.
Last year I added bone meal and wood ash before I planted anything to add potassium and phosphorous to help balance things out, and it helped. I actually got some radishes. However, I didn’t even THINK about the fact that I had a high-nitrogen bed when I chose to plant the turnips.
I came across a little mantra a few years ago that I filed away in the “I’ll check that out later” folder in my brain: “beans, fruits, green, roots”. This is a simple little crop rotation reminder. The crops are basically planted in order of their nitrogen use.
So…I’m going to rip out the turnips and use the greens for something, then plant potatoes in this bed, since they are a member of the nightshade family (like tomatoes) they are technically a fruit.
Gardening is a lot harder than I ever thought it would be…but I still love it.
Here’s a little progress update on the the grand Front Yard Project. We (mainly Jefe) have been busy tearing out the chainlink fence that was crushed by a tree that fell during an ice storm a few years ago:
It’s a mess. There was a TON of blackberries and weeds we had to take out. Not to mention trees that actually grew THROUGH the fence:
It’s a lot of work! I still don’t know if we are going to build the new fence ourselves, cialis canada sovaldi sale or hire it out. We got a quote and…OUCH! I am of two minds about this: we would save so much money if we did it ourselves, but if we hired it out it would DONE in a week and we wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.
Aside from the fence, one of the first projects in the Front Yard I am going to tackle is converting the ditch in the front to a bioswale, or rain garden. Here’s the ditch:
To give you some reference it’s about 75 feet long. The first thing I am going to do is solarize the grass and weeds with black plastic. It’s going to look like crap, and I am a little embarrassed, but then I have to remember that our yard has looked trashy for years, so what’s another month or two, right?
The landscape designer I hired last year came up with a list of plants for the bioswale that I am starting to source. In order to save money I am trying to start as many as I can from seed, which so far isn’t going all that well. I decided to try the winter sowing method using old water jugs that are turned into mini greenhouses. I planted these back in January and only one has sprouted so far.
Here are the jugs! Not all of them are for the bioswale specifically. Only the Elks Blue and Slough Sedge.
And only the Slough Sedge has sprouted. These plants are suited for wetlands and will be planted in the bottom of the swale because…well…they can handle water. Variegated golden sweet flag, which is another pond/bog plant will also be planted. I actually found some of these at my local Lowes but I haven’t purchased them yet. Also on the list and not purchased yet are dayliliies, which will be planted higher up on the slopes. The other plant I am trying to start from seed is Juncus patens ‘Elks Blue’, another grass suited for wet places like rain gardens. I bought more seeds this week and am going to try going the traditional route of starting them under lights since they don’t seem to like the jug.
And…last but not least…a landscaping strawberry will be planted along the top edge on the street side. I actually have some of these in my back yard I think I can just transplant. Every little bit helps!
I love the new year! I love the idea of a blank slate, viagra sales buy cialis “let’s start fresh!” flush the toilet of the past year mental state. It works with my love of planning and list making. So…here is what my potential 2016 Plan looks like:
Sew more…or, generic more accurately, FINISH what I sew.
Seriously, people. I have FOUR dresses just needing to be hemmed. And a jacket. I guess I hate hemming, so I’m going to work on that. Part of this action item is also about stash busting and not just buying, buying, buying more fabric.
It’s so expensive! That’s been my excuse so far and I’ve got some funky sized stuff, so I either need to bite the bullet and pony up, or figure out how to DIY it. I actually have a lot of house things I need to do this year. I need to continue with the repainting of rooms and we also need new carpet for our stairs and second floor in THE WORST way.
Landspace the Front Yard
Our house looks like a crappy college rental from the front and it’s super embarrassing. I’ve been focusing in other areas of our giant yard and the poor front yard has been seriously neglected. Last year I hired a landscape designer to come up with a plan, and this year I am going to start implementing it. I see a summer of sore backs ahead…
Ramp Up My Fitness
I started experience insomnia after my Monday evening yoga class this summer, which was both really weird and really shitty. The insomnia also put a wrench in my morning workouts and it’s taken a few months iron it all out and get back on track, and I’m still not quite back to normal. So…instead of yoga on a Monday evening I’m going to take pilates on a Saturday morning. I actually just started a class yesterday, so YAY me!. Off to a good start. My abs are so sore right now.
My food goal for the year was going to be to finally learn how to make my own pasta. I got a Kitchen Aid pasta attachment for Christmas and we made ravioli on New Year’s Eve so…technically I need to new food goal. Jefe bought us a sous vide contraption for Christmas which we used to make ricotta for the ravioli, so…food wise 2015 went out with a BANG! To be honest with you I’ve sort of lost cooking inspiration and desire this past year. I’ve been trying to eat healthier (pasta attachment might not have been the best option) and most of the time I just want something easy.
I’m feeling super energized and excited for what 2016 has in store for me!
I made a total impulse-buy this weekend and bought a fermentation crock. I’ve been thinking a lot about kimchi lately because I’ve got a couple of cabbages still hanging around in the garden that I’ve been needing to do something with, cialis sale cialis but I was mainly suckered into buying it by the very charming and adorable lady who was working at the shop.
So far it seems pretty easy: chop your vegetables, cover them with the weights that come with the crock and then add a brine. The crock has a lip around the top where you add a little water after you put the lid on which acts as a seal. In three to four weeks I should have some sauerkraut! There’s nothing like being able to leave food out on the counter for days and days and have it actually be good for you. Here a look at the inside:
I’ve been feeling to need to do something mindlessly crafty this winter and decided on this constellation quilt from Haptic Labs. I’ve not gotten very far:
The top is a black batik that looks like a night sky, and I’m backing it with a cream dot that also sort of echoes the star theme. I have to be extra neat with my stitches because they are going to show on the back, which is sort of a bummer for an impatient person such as myself, but I am finding that I cannot WAIT to rip the pattern off so I can see what it looks like. It’s a good activity for cold, dreary nights.
I thought about it a lot! That counts, pharmacy right?
This year was the BEST garden year ever and it’s pretty much because of all of that drip irrigation I installed AND we had an A-MAZ-ING weather year. It’s like I was back in California. There were hits (cucumbers) and misses (beets) and instead of chronicling it in excruciatingly boring detail, I’ll just post some sort of before and after shots so you can see the transformation. Here’s the above garden in its current state:
I got my first seed catalog in the mail this past week and I’ve already highlighted the crap out of it. I’m also going try really HARD-ER to blog more. For reals.
Hello! I am currently doing a little site-redesign/re-org so things might look a little funky for a few days…
I am FINALLY installing drip irrigation! Holy cow! It’s taken me long enough. I started this project last year and got ONE BED done and then…well…you know. I have that problem with finishing things I start. So…a few months ago I read a blog post by Garden Betty where she described her set up, viagra usa malady which uses the same drip kit that I already had, see just configured differently. I liked hers so much that I ordered a few extra bits and elbows and other bits and have been busy assembling said bits. So, viagra good thing I only did one bed, right?
And since I am sort of on the topic of finishing things…
Boom. Cold frame. DONE. I got that window from a coworker over a year ago (at least) and it’s just been taking up space in the garage this whole time. It seriously took Jefe and I maybe an hour to build it. I’ve got some veggie starts under lights that are almost ready to transition into their awesome new home!
I planted sunchoke, or jerusalem artichoke tubers in a spot in the back of the kitchen garden. I’m excited to see what they do this year. Also planted but not shown: potatoes, garbanzo beans, peas and fava beans.
On a whim I decided to start saving egg cartons and toilet paper rolls because I often see people use them for veggie starts. I tried it in the past and it’s never really worked for me, but this year I COMBINED THE TWO and I feel like magic happened. I feel like a recycling genius. Although, I am positive someone has probably done this a million times before.
Look at this little pallet house! My next grand project is going to be a pallet planter for some bamboo, so I am all about pallets right now. I saw this at a local garden center and fell in love with it. It’s not practical in any way, shape of form, but it’s just so clever I can’t get over it. I’m hoping to tackle the planter project a couple of weeks so I’ll let you all know how THAT goes!
This is my finished piece from the first week of the Make Art That Sells course I am currently enrolled in. The theme was toy trains and winter holidays, viagra sale cialis sale and the market we were exploring was the paper market, cialis generic which would be things like cards and the like.
I LOVED working on this, especially the train, which surprised me…so I am trying to remember to keep an open mind about subjects that on the surface don’t sound all that appealing. It was also an opportunity to experiment painting a shiny gold effect and overall I am quite pleased with the outcome.
My poor african violets finally got transferred in to some larger, viagra canada ambulance brand-spankin’ new pots. A local store had pots on sale so I was able to give a bunch of my house plants new digs. I am finding that attractive, viagra sales medicine AFFORDABLE pots are really hard to come by, which seems strange. I guess next time I am IKEA I need to stock up.
I am all about weeding right now. This is the “kitchen garden” and the first bed I am going to be planting into is the long skinny one in between the raised beds and the pathway. It’ll be filled with things like spinach, lettuces and peas.
Here’s the horror that is currently what I am calling “the south garden.” This one used to be beautiful, but I got super lax on mulching, then it got ran over, and now holy cow the weeds. Looking back, I should have planted fruit trees here. We are also sort of, in a fantasy kind of way thinking we could put a tiny house in this space, so…I’m just trying to keep it under control. I am mainly going to be growing potatoes in these beds this year.
It doesn’t’ look so bad from this angle. Well…minus the hoses and crap lying around. I’m thinking a chicken coop would totally fit in this space. I’m like the only person I know that doesn’t have chickens. Urban Gardener fail!
I also got my growing closet sorted out and will be starting some celery, celeriac, leeks, onions and cabbages in the next few days.
And as far as projects go we bought ourselves a fancy compound miter saw for Christmas, and I have a window and extra lumber in the garage that is just screaming COLD FRAME! Yeah!
I just got back from spending some quality time with my best friend and her family in Richmond, best viagra prescription Virginia. These photos were taken before a gigantic snow storm descended upon us and kept us locked inside the house for four days with two sick children. They are my people, viagra generic sales I love them. But I am GLAD to be home!
I wish I could have spent more time exploring the area. So many beautiful old homes in like, ailment a two block radius.
In other news, as per usual at this time of year, I am totally obsessed with the garden. I got my tree collards in the mail while I was gone, and I just ordered some jerusalem artichokes, and I’ve pretty much got all of my seeds. I’ll get my potato seed from my local urban farm center next month, and I think I’ll be all set.
I told myself this week that I would spend an hour each evening after I get home from work (if it’s not raining) preparing the garden beds by weeding. I ALWAYS forget this step when I am planning my weekend garden activities and what usually happens that I get outside and realized that I need to weed, which takes up most of my energy and time, and I poop out before I can get around to the real work. Tonight will be my first test, so I’ll let you know if I actually weeded or if I sat on my butt with a cocktail.
I have gardening on the brain right now. I just watched this awesome show by Alys Fowler I found on YouTube about edible gardening and it’s got me really inspired. Now that the seed catalogs have arrived, generic viagra site I’ve gone through my stash and am starting to figure out what will go where. I am still surprised how hard gardening is. Not only the physical labor, cialis buy buy but the timing, the soil, the pests, the weathe, crop rotation…so much goes into it. My grandparents and great grandparents were able to feed their families with produce from their garden and I would totally starve if I had to depend on what I grow. Each year I get a little better, and I am hoping this year will be the best yet!
I actually like that succession plan, but I don’t know where that info or idea came from. I wish I would have taken better notes. It’s also a tiny bit confusing. I guess that’s the good thing about giving things time…you can come back to them with fresh eyes.
I am going to focus on companion planting this year, which I did year before last, but not so much last year and I noticed a difference in the health and beauty of the garden. I also have a lot more space to fill up that I’ve had in previous years which is another challenge.
The main concept I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around is crop rotation within a growing season. I understand that you don’t want to grow the same thing in the same spot year after year, but I am still new to the idea that lettuces sown in the spring are going to peter out in mid summer, and I need to have something ready to stick in their place, like cucumbers or squash. And whatever that thing I choose in stick in that spot needs to be a companion to the other things that are already there and still growing, like onions. It can get confusing. Add to that the idea of succession planting, which is planting things spaced out over the course of a few months so you don’t end up with a glut of food, but a steady supply. I have NEVER been able to master that. I think I am going to have to bring in the big guns and use a Google Calendar.
I think I have finally got it figured out. I hope!
Holy COW. What the heck have I been up to these last SEVEN months?
Meh. Not a whole lot. Mostly binge watching shows on Netflix.
But…it’s a new year and I told myself that I would be BETTER about blogging in 2015. And then I promptly forgot I said that and was sort of like…”Oh yeah…crap. I was gonna blog. Better get on that.”
So. I’ll just give you a few higlights to sum up the past half a year so we’re all on the same page:
Attended the School House Craft conference last fall and got super inspired and met a bunch of great, discount viagra talented people. It was inspiring and I am really hoping to start my own thing in 2015.
I’m doing the Make Art that Sells course, which started last fall and starts up again in the spring. I sorta sucked at it (in a good, learning sort of way) and I only managed to finished 2 out of 5 assignments (because I suck)…but I told myself I would TOTALLY DO BETTER NEXT TIME, which starts up again in March. So here’s one of the assignments I managed to actually complete, a children’s book cover:
And! The seed catalogs are arriving in the mail, which means it’s almost GARDEN TIME!
I think for now, since I am dipping my toe back into the blogging world, I am going to try to start with one post a week, which will be on Fridays. SO. Have a great weekend! See you next week!
I’ve been really enjoying the beautiful weather we have been having this spring. I’ve seen a ton of dragonflies sunning themselves on my pea trellis. I have been a super lazy gardener this year. I had a lot of things eaten by deer (which may have sent me into a mini-meltdown) but I rallied and decided not to worry about it.
That’s my gardening philosophy this year.
I had some friends over on recently for a little get together. One is a current co-worker and the other is a former co-worker. You know when you have an awesome friend at work and they get another job that they totally deserve and leave and it sucks for you? Yeah.
The premise was that I was going to show them my photos from my trip and we would watch Amelie, buy viagra store and I did manage to show them my pictures, sovaldi sale the rest of it was nothing but chatting and gossiping and cackling like hens. Oh! And eating, of course.
I served Rhubarb Macarons, and I am happy to report that this batch was much better. Perfect, in fact. I decided to go with the rhubarb buttercream route using the recipe that I found and I LOVE it. It’s actually a French buttercream, which aside from fitting into my theme, is my new FAVORITE. I love it because it’s not too sweet and, as I mentioned previously, it uses the yolks of the egg. I feel like this makes the macaron itself more balanced in the sense that I am using the whole egg – the whites for the shells and the yolks for the filling. That just makes me feel good.
I strained my rhubarb beer jam to remove any excess liquid and folded most of it into the buttercream. The final result was not overly sweet which let the tartness and flavor of the jam really come through. Especially the beer, which was surprising.
The best part was the texture of the macarons shells. I think I finally did it. Now that I know what a macaron REALLY should be like in terms of texture, I was so happy to discover that I totally nailed it. They were light, the shell had a nice crisp texture without being too hard, and the inside was soft and chewy. And best of all: NO AIR POCKETS!
*I checked out a book from the library called The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux
which I am totally going to get because it’s great, but I found this post by Fancy Toast contains the recipe for the Rhubarb Beer Jam as well as a little more about the book! If you are a pickler or jammer type you would probably enjoy it.
A few months ago we had to take out three of my garden beds so that a truck could drive over them in order to get to our well house to replace our pump.
There is no recovering from being run over. What REALLY screwed me is that I got all lazy with not mulching and…well…WEEDS. Jefe’s been wanting to put a yurt or something over on that plot for his man-cave escape and I’ve been all like “No!! That’s my garden!” but now I’m all like “Dude. Yurt On.”
The issue is that I just cannot bring myself to even BEGIN to think about shoveling and wheel barreling more soil to replace those beds. It was SO hard the first time. Even though Jefe did a good portion of the work. I guess (and this is tough for me to admit) that section of the yard was probably not the best location for the garden. SIGH. Don’t tell anyone I admitted that though, cialis buy sales okay? That’s just between us.
Once I get some new mulch put down it will look a lot better. I decided that I am going to plant the long-term-ish staple-type things like potatoes, capsule onions, garlic, and winter squash over in this section of the yard. I’m also toying around with the idea of growing some stuff in straw bales, tomatoes in particular.
I read somewhere once that your kitchen garden should be in a location that is close to your kitchen. (!) This is especially true for lazy people such as myself. So…with that in mind, I decided that most of the garden this year will be planted in what started out as my garden before I decided to move the garden.
The bonus is that the beds are already filled with soil and there is actually workable dirt in the areas that don’t have raised beds. I can dig a hole and plant something in it. I can’t do that over in the other (south) garden, as there is about a two foot layer of large pebbles/river stone which makes digging completely impossible, hence the raised beds.
Another thing I decided to do differently this year was not to start all of the vegetables under lights. This is mainly because our trip to Paris would have totally messed with that endeavor AND I lost the use of one of my closets in a spare bedroom. I purchased some starts this past weekend and am kicking the garden off with those.
I AM going to start some seeds indoors, mainly things that I can’t find at the Farmer’s Market. Like Celeriac.
In other yard news, I am meeting with a landscape designer today to have a discussion about hot mess that is the front yard.
I need some professional advice as this part of the yard is highly visible and I feel like I need help in figuring out how to deal with all the issues (like the septic tank!) I’m excited to see what she’ll come up with!
While we were in Paris I took a class on a Sunday morning at the Cooking with Class cooking school. The class was awesome. The chef, discount cialis store Constance, cialis sales was charming and funny and a wonderful teacher.
I was most interested in seeing the technique in macaron making called the “macaronage”. It is the process of combining the almond meal/powdered sugar/ liquid egg whites with the whipped egg whites. This step has been shrouded in mystery for me as some recipes call for an exact number of strokes and often tell you that you know you are done when the mixture is like “magma”. That is very specific and somewhat vague at the same time. I’ve watched a million YouTube videos and looked at tutorials for this step but there is nothing like seeing it in person.
It wasn’t actually that big of deal. No secrets or specific strokes. The main thing I got out of it was that I have been over mixing my batter and knocking too much air out of it. It was just one of those things that I had to see for myself.
I decided that (once I got over my cold) I needed to make a match of shells as soon as possible in order to see if what I learned in class actually made a difference in my home kitchen. I am happy to report that I got an almost 100% shell success rate, which is awesome. I think I need to play around with the cooking time but I am really pleased.
Three out of a hundred…not bad! These came from the center of the baking sheet and because of the way my oven works, the center doesn’t get as hot as the edges, so the macarons in the middle of the baking sheet tend to stick. During the cooking class, Constance showed us how to make a jam for the macarons. She used frozen blackberries, sugar and dumped in a little powdered pectin. It was the easiest thing the world. We tested for doneness by dropping little blobs on to a plate and checking to see if they were “jammy” and jewel-like. Once it was done, the mixture was dumped out onto a plate, a piece of plastic wrap went on top and into the fridge it went. Easy. Did I mention it was easy?
I wanted to make a seasonal flavor and decided that I would try rhubarb. I found a recipe for a Rhubarb Beer Jam, got the supplies, and macerated the fruit with the beer and sugar overnight per the recipe’s instructions and was planning on using the same technique that we did in class.
The too-long-don’t-read version of my jam is this: it didn’t work. I don’t know what the heck I did or didn’t do…perhaps I didn’t cook it long enough? Too much liquid with the beer added? I don’t know. I only know that it did not jam and the rhubarb was starting to scorch. It turned out more like a fruit puree.
I tried to salvage the mess by mixing a little of the not-jam with some cream cheese. I filled a few shells and let them sit overnight as is required. I sort of knew in my gut that the filling wasn’t going to work, and I now understand why macaron fillings are usually buttercreams or ganaches. The point of letting the macarons sit overnight is so that the shells absorb what little moisture is in the filling, which softens them slightly and allows the flavors to meld. If the filling is too moist, you will end up with soggy macarons. Like these:
So. How do I make this work? I still have half my batch of shells and about a cup and a half of the not-jam. Here are my options:
I’m thinking the buttercream. I’ll let you know how it goes. I almost forgot to mention the fact that I created my own colored sanding sugar by adding the gel coloring to some turbinado sugar. It worked like a charm!
Hello! How have you been? I hope all is well in your land! I am currently hacking my lungs out on the couch with a cold I caught on the plane back from our AWESOME trip from Paris. Poor Jefe was sick the entire trip and I was expecting to succumb sooner than I did.
I felt like the past two months my life was consumed with preparing and researching for the trip. Now that it’s over I feel like I can get on with my regularly scheduled program: Preparing for my next trip to Paris!
I plan on sharing all the fun details of our trip with you but for now I’ll leave you with my covert attempt to capture some adorable pugs that were coming our way while we were walking down a Parisian street. I was trying to be all sly and not alarm the poor lady who was walking them. I don’t think it worked judging by the look she gave me. What can I say? I have a soft spot for pugs.