Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Seasons Come...

And seasons go…

With the end of my growing season, I have not done much in the garden. I should have, but I became rather dispirited because this was just NOT a good year to grow things! After a drought, and some VERY hot summer temperatures, my plants just did not fare well.

But never mind, I have a new plan of attack.

First up, I am getting one of these for Christmas. I have wanted one for a long time… since before I saw Elizabeth had one or Mary Ellen (really, I am not just being a sheep… my interest in herbs goes back YEARS).

I have also gotten some new garden books.

How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits: (And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) by John Jeavons

And Food Not Lawns by Heather C. Flores.

I have read the Jeavons book before, but wanted my own copy… and the Flores book was a new one I picked up because she had some interesting stuff in there about turning your suburban yard into a vegetable patch :) Hopefully these will help me grow some more food... I have already signed up for seed catalogues, which I have received a few of :)

This coming year, I plan to produce more heirloom varieties (or tasty varieties anyway LOL), and I will try to focus more on my true love... herbs :)

I have been feeding my mind with Real Food by Nina Planck, which nicely supports Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and even French Women Don’t Get fat by Mireille Guiliano. I think butter and lard will be working their way back into my pantry (much to DH’s delight!).

But now, as I watch the first snow of the season, I am thinking about making my little bird friends some treats. I loved Dawn’s idea of a ‘solstice tree’ for the birds, celebrating the return of the light of the world. Right now the little juncos and other winter feeder birds are going mad, looking for food. The weatherman assures me that it will warm again next week, but this is the bird equivalent of the bread and milk run to the grocery store every time it snows (central Virginians get a bit snow-mad… caused by the fact that occasionally an unforecast snow will leave them with several feet of snow to deal with and they are all unprepared ;)).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Loveliness of Leaves

The kids had some autumnal fun this weekend, with leaves...

Well, I guess they are technically not leaves, but needles, but I think it still counts. (image: Rebel builds M'Lady a "nest")

They did fall off the tree and the kids raked them up and built with them, reminding me of the times when I, as a child, loved to play with grass clippings. (image: M'Lady poses in her "nest".)

My husband told them about the forts he built with a weed called horseweed.
The kids were inspired! (image: Rebel rakes the needles).

It only added to the fun! (image: Rebel sits in the fort that he and M'Lady created after being inspired by their Daddy!)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Garden Friends

We worked on the house this weekend, Jacobite and I were cleaning the windows (ALL of them inside and out) and the kids were outside playing in the dirt.
I would have loved to get photos of them scraping holes in the dirt and throwing the clods into the air, but I had the pledge and windex going... and no room for the camera!

However, sharp eyed Rebel spotted a green snake, which Jacobite obligingly caught for him.
He was not precisely friendly... he bit Jacobite a few times, but luckily someone was wearing gloves.

We all thrilled to touch the little fellow, who's scaly skin was smooth and rather soft.
We left him to go back to the wilderness, eating bugs as he went.
The only garden excitement after that, was the harvesting of another bunch of limas.  Interestingly enough, the large lima beans appeared to love the lack of water this year.  Last year, our smaller bush limas did not do as well... something worth noting for the year to come!

Blogged with Flock

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Furry Little Friend

Nature study often begins in our back garden, as is the case with this little friend... The Yellow Bear Caterpillar, the larval form of the Virginia Tiger Moth.

He was a feisty little thing, and he did not want to sit still for a the camera, so this was the best shot I got.

M'Lady was not exactly happy with having to let him go though!

But not all of nature study takes place in the garden. Some of it takes place on a daytrip... like our recent jaunt down to Yorktown, which took us along the Colonial Parkway, at sunset.

View of the sunset over a branch off of the main James River.

The pink sunset reflects in the James River.

Ground level view of the sandy river beach and cliffs of the James River.

More Pink Water.

Another sunset view.

OK So I am not certain whether it is the James or the York River, deduction suggests James River :) But anyway, we all stood beside the warm river, watching the sunset, some geese and picking up blue quartz :D

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Nature Table

The nature table is a seasonal display of objects found in nature, or made to reflect those found in nature.
The kids put up there objects they find outside while walking or playing, or seasonal crafts. Think of it as the extension to your nature notebook... it might display a caterpillar or ant farm, a shed snake skin, birds nest or some robin's eggshells. Maybe you'll be braver than me, and place the wasps nest on the table rather than on the ground outside ;)

Ours is the top of a bookshelf in the kitchen, and also houses some of our religious things-- sort of a family altar slash nature table. There used to be a cross there but it disappeared, and I need to replace it, and the Bible occasionally rests there for a while ;) The kids have placed a bunch of rocks on there, and the two baggies hold some European Hornets ready to mail to collector friends! There are some shells and an empty frame that occasionally holds a picture made by the kids. The flowers are silk, I liked the colours and hope to get some real leaves soon!

Be that as it may, our table is just starting. If you like, take a look at Katherine's table for a great idea!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Nature Tables and Wasps

Last weekend, Jacobite and I decided to clean the house. Not the inside, it's pretty clean already, but the outside. This necessitated a day of power washing, and a few run-ins with wasps and such, including a swarm of these fellows: the European Hornet.

This is not my photo... mine would just show a dead hornet, because we killed a bunch of them... but these things like to swarm our porch-light at night and bump into the doors and windows. I never really paid much attention to the sounds, until Jacobite discovered the culprit! Now we need to find their nest, because we really don't want these things around the kids!

But onto something a little bit more interesting.

The Nature Table.
I always wanted to have one. Indeed I have, several times attempted to start one up, but they always fell by the wayside. Then I decided to read some of the seasonal activity and craft books out there and it popped up again... so I have decided to dedicate a shelf for a nature table.
It still has not happened... the shelf is ready. I just don't have anything to put on it. We did have a wasp nest I considered, but the idea of the bugs in it were too creepy for Jacobite who stomped on it!

So here is Faerie Rebecca to the rescue with a picture of hers!!

Thanks to Alice, I just discovered MacBeth has a BLOG!! Yahy!! She is definitely worth the visit!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Harvest Waning

Indeed, the season of plenty in my garden is drawing to a close. The corn died an unhappy death as we had another year of 'not-quiet-enough-rain' to keep it going. Of course I could have watered it, but I prefer nature to take it's course.
I did enjoy a couple of peppers from my plants, but the tomatoes were just not happy campers this year!

In spite of that, we have been observing in the garden.
First there were the ants. Indeed, we did not have to go to the garden for this, as they were quite happy there in our house for a while, but we stopped that.
A day or two later, DH discovered these ant 'volcanoes' in the garden... a veritable city of them!

Then there are the baby birds which have been visiting the feeders. I managed to capture this mother and baby on top of our feeders... but excuse the blur, I had to do it through the window without disturbing her!
There were pawpaws ripening on our pawpaw trees this year.
See... I even have proof! But unfortunately, some bandit animal took them. Again. We never have yet managed to eat the pawpaws ourselves!
And the hummingbirds have been visiting, I swear. They often get close to us, they are very friendly... BUT they are SUPERFAST and I never have had my camera ready!
Soon the autumn season will be on us, and I have different plans this year... including the nature table. More about that another time... once I have started!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Some other Peoples Gardens

Some of the ladies on the 4 Real Forum had fun this year, following along with Susan Lovejoy's Book Sunflower Houses. This is a great inspiration for parents who want to garden with their kids!

Maria had great success growing HUGE sunflowers with her kids! I was definitely impressed with the size of them!

Joann managed to actually get a house out of her sunflowers... but they aren't done growing yet!

If you'd like to make your own sunflower house next year, check out this page for instructions and some fantastic pictures of sunflower houses in action!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Garden Fun

I have been gardening... sort of. Now the dog days of summer have come, I have formed opinions.
1. Store bough seeds suck. The varieties suck. The crop sucks. Next year I will have heirloom tomatoes... and the cherokee purples (the ones I had such luck with last year) and sungold (the ones I discovered I LOVE at the farmer's market) are top of my list!
2. Zucchini/Courgettes suck. Stupid bugs love them. However, their cousins the yellow squash are great. I will look at heirloom varieties of them too!
3. Cucumbers hide. While looking for the fruit you thought didn't come, you will suddenly notice the mother of all cucumbers. It will be huge. And for some reason the store where you bought them, had PRICKLES on the cucumbers. For a girl from England, used to LONG, SMOOTH cukes, that is just gross.
4. Why were my plants so late in fruiting? Not enough sun? Planted too late? They will go out earlier next year, even if I have to build special 'mini-greenhouses' for them.
5. Panicking over the neighbour putting up a fence BEFORE he does it, is premature. It will not actually shade your garden at all! PLUS you will discover you have more yard than you thought, because you forgot you over-estimated the amount of space on the other side ;)
6. Time to sign up for seed catalogues to buy REAL seeds.
7. Cats (specificallt neighbour cats) suck. They will go to the toilet in the square in which you planted your pumpkin seeds at the very last possible minute >:.

And that, dear friends is why I have not blogged about my garden for a while ;) Heat and humidity, are NOT friends to me... but I do wonder if the dog in the neighbours yard will scare away the bad cat (whom the kids and DH nicknamed 'GreySkull')

The Mysterious Garden

What a wonderful post I discovered online... a REAL homeschooling moment for a Mother, as they let the mystery plant grow!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Home-grown Food

I made up a recipe the other day, for breaded chicken. I wont hesitate to say it was delicious, so I will share it with you. It is definitely in the interests of a garden blog, because I picked all my herbs garden fresh, and the squash/courgettes were farmer's market. Of course there are many people out there that will have their own squash sooner or later ;)
I modified the squash recipe a few days later, adding peppers and tomatoes, and I use the Near East Whole Wheat Couscous brand, Garlic and Olive Oil flavour.

Breaded Chicken with Couscous and Squash medley.

Breaded Chicken

4 Chicken Breasts
1 C Whole-wheat Breadcrumbs (I used my homemade bread and crumbled it up, freezing it until needed)
2 T Fresh Thyme (1 T dried), chopped fine
2 T fresh Sage (1T dried), chopped fine
2 T Fresh Rosemary (1T dried), chopped fine (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste or Mrs. Dash to taste
1 egg, beaten.

Mix the seasonings with the breadcrumbs.
Dip the chicken breasts in the egg, then coat with the breadcrumbs.
Cook in a saute pan over medium high heat, until cooked through, turning halfway through.

While chicken is cooking, make the squash medley (recipe below) and couscous.

Squash Medley

1 T Olive oil or butter
2 Zucchini/Courgettes, washed and diced
2 Yellow Summer Squash, washed and diced
1 Poblano pepper, washed and diced
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloved, minced (optional)
1 tomato, diced (optional)

Saute the squash, onion, peppers and zucchini in the olive oil, over medium-high heat. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and tomato if desired, and cook for 2 minutes, or until heated through.

The tomato is not entirely necessary, but does add a good deal of colour to the medley, as does the poblano pepper. I did not use garlic, but it would definitely give your meal a bit of 'zip'. The squash medley, mixed with some concentrated tomato puree (the kind in a tube) and a little sugar to sweeten it, makes a delicious pasta sauce. Serve it with whole-wheat pasta and some grated cheese on top... YUM!

Monday, July 02, 2007

And more to harvest

Yes, this weekend was a harvest weekend. My onions' tops had fallen over, so I pulled them. And some of my beets... and the rest of my turnips! I realise that most of these could have grown a little longer, but you can call me impatient. I ate them for the vegetable part of my lunch... beets and turnips roasted in a little olive oil and salt, with an onion (not mine, I am letting them dry out a little). Yes Mum, I ate the beets... fresh are definitely better ;) In fact, I ate the beets and the beet greens... after all, that's what Swiss Chard is. Only mine was the real deal!

Then there were these:

The neighbour found them underneath his porch, and we believe that they might be snake eggs. I kind of hope they are really turtle eggs! I can stand a box turtle!
Then there was the fox that ran across the road in front of us, less than a mile from our house! He was an American Grey Fox... and looked a whole lot like this picture... only running ;)

Cute isn't he? The kids were thrilled to see him, and M'Lady even drew a picture of him on the 'magnadoodle' thing we keep in the car for her.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Harvesting Again

I managed to get the broccoli harvested… it was quite delicious! But then the cabbage white butterflies came… and well, the last cabbage should show you the result of that! I don't have a good closeup though! They got ALL of my brassica veggies. Otherwise, yes, the garden is quite blooming and growing.

Our beans and corn are growing well… in fact I managed to pick a goodly number of beans the other day. I am hoping the squash will start to fruit soon, I HAVE spotted a few blooms ;)
The tomatoes have a few baby tomatoes and although all my peas are done, we did get to eat a number of them.
I would show you pictures, but in reformatting my computer, it looks like I forgot the most recent photos :(
Oh well... life goes on!

Friday, June 22, 2007

sorry for the delay posting

and I hope to be posting again soon... now my internet is up to speed!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Loveliness of Gardens

I have been offline all week, or I would have mentioned that Jennifer has hosted the Loveliness of Gardens of which I am honoured to be a part :)

On another gardening note, I have noticed my limas, green beans and corn all sprouting…
Here are the beans:

And here is the corn:

I have also rescued several bean and corn seeds from the pooing cat, along with a pepper plant. My experiment with citrus peel to deter it was mildly successful… it kept the cat away for about 4 whole days before the rain obviously washed some of the citrusy smell away. I am thinking of that orange-cleaning stuff next!

I now also have baby peas...

And broccoli (does anyone know when to harvest this? I'm hungry! I think it might be ready NOW!

We don't just have vegetables blooming with health, but also some flowers. Take this peony for instance:

Or my beautiful Valerian:

Or one of the many wonderful (and scented) roses in the garden.

(This one is my new New Dawn rose :))

And now to answer some comments ;)

Yes, the peach-dressed girl grows in the garden… in fact it is a problem keeping her OUT of it! (She especially loves to go in there when we are about to go out shopping!!)

Thank you ALL for the compliments… I had my second harvest of the season the other day with tacos… we used the rocket/roquette/arugula in place of lettuce :)

And yes, the gate does make it look secret gardenish… perhaps that is why I love it so :)

People who live in the garden must also work there though! ;)

Monday, April 30, 2007

First Harvest

It has been almost two months since I started gardening this year, and quite a while since I updated you all on the garden!

I had my first harvest. A few radishes, a few taste testers...
and the general consensus of "They are O.K. but taste a little bit spicy!". Erm... Sorry kids, but that's a given... they are radishes!
My first seeds were sown at the beginning of March, inside in peat pellets. Those have all gone outside now, into my all new square foot garden. In the other SFG squares, I planted corn, green bean and Lima bean seeds. In a couple of months, God Willing (and if the cats steer clear) I should have some corn and beans to harvest!

The older square foot beds are doing exceptionally well...
I believe I will have peas soon (so long as it doesn't get too hot for them),

and the cabbages, broccoli and all are growing well!
Check out the gift the Easter bunny brought me!

Then there are our new gates and fence... they are there to serve two purposes... 1. To define the garden so certain explorer-minded children will not go beyond the invisible boundary previously there (I don't recommend invisible boundaries... children claim not to see them ;)), and 2. To deter the other neighbourhood children from entering the garden. Somehow we seem to have communal property here... just not communal work!!
The newly re-located patio looks great on the other side of the circle... and is much more pleasant to sit on. You feel much less like a goldfish there!

The tent caterpillars have been their usual pesky selves... only this year we have someone to give them too... unfortunately, she is not so fond of anyone *GASP* killing them!!

Finally, my herb garden. It looks great... and I can't wait to make chive blossom vinegar with those chive flowers (because I normally leave them and all the seeds make baby chives in the path, which I just pulled up and planted making into a chive hedge... and I think I have enough of those!!).

Friday, April 20, 2007

Nature Study Fridays

Some time ago I set aside Fridays to be our Nature Study day. There were a variety of reasons for that, but the biggest one had to do with the fact that Fridays are my most flexible day… I can actually go out on field trips on Fridays.

So I organized a small playdate with a friend and her children, and agreed to meet her at the park at 10:30 am. Actually, I jumped at the chance since I knew the weather would be nice today! Since I don’t drive, Jacobite was going to have to drop us off before work. We arrived at 8:30 am. Since the kids are usually not even up this early (they stay up late for Daddy) this was tough ;)

But worth it.

Here is the first thing we saw… a LAMB. GREAT homeschooling opportunity… we had been learning The Lamb by William Blake just this week. So we recited it to the lambs… who promptly escaped from the field.

The Lamb

by William Blake.

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee.
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

So we went off to tell one of the people who worked there. He seemed to think it was OK, and he invited us to come and see some newly hatched chicks. They were precious… the mother hen still sitting on the last three eggs, which we suspect were not going to hatch. I did not take a photo of them out of deference to the mother hen :)

After this, we visited the pigs and horses, which seemed a little bit of a let-down. We identified a couple of flowers, and then, we took a nature hike.

This was a great way to use up those hours and to use up a Nature Study Friday. We saw some wild flowers we could not identify… the very common tent caterpillars (which I practically had to drag M’Lady away from since she LOVES caterpillars) were quite in evidence too.

A few streams and a pond later… we spotted some rather attractive fungi. How appropriate, considering we were just looking at Beatrix Potter's pictures of fungi... and her lifelong fascination with them :)

And then, right before the end of our walk, we spotted it. A stunning native orchid… This one is a Cypripedium acaule, a Pink Ladyslipper or moccasin flower. It positively made my day!

After this, the nice chat with my friend, and the play of the kids was just icing on the cake. Thank goodness the weather turned!