Valentines and Blue Berries

Valentines and Blue Berries

I’m not sure if after 10 years of marriage your view of a good valentines day date changes, or if as a couple, my hubby and I never had a traditional take on valentine’s day. But for me, this years was probably the best!

We started our valentines weekend with a family trip to Prosser where a berry farmer was selling off his field. As we were getting to the Sunny Side area, my son pointed out that “Uncle DJ” lives in the area. That was actually quite lucky for me. Digging berry plants with a 30 pound baby on your back would probably suck. DJ was awesome enough to take my place & let me be Mom with a camera.

We initally planned to get 20 plants, dug up 21, and decided to round it out to 25. Now we figure some wont do well with the transplant, but even if 1/2 die, we will have around 12 bushes. Thats more berries than I anticipated, but I’m sure they won’t go to waste.

We spent Valentine’s day afternoon transplanting the bushes, which leads me to my highlight (2nd to having a best friend over earlier in the day). Hubby taught me to drive a backhoe! I don’t have a picture, but it was awesome. Given the last tracter I drove I ended up banned from. In fairness, those gas tanks were plenty far away. The giant wood chip pile between us stopped me before we collieded.

Once the sun went down it was movie night. And nothing says happy valentine’s day like a Leathal Weapon marathon. It was the perfect end to the weekend.

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Weekend herbal garden build

Weekend herbal garden build:

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In the past several years I’ve become more and more interested in herbs. I didn’t have much exposure as a kid so my cooking with herbs has been a hit and miss trial process. My dad used to make stew and just dump a little of all the spices in…. it was awful! But over the years (despite dad’s teachings) I’ve gotten to be okay in the cooking department. I’ve kept this mainly under wraps. I’ve never minded being the wife that can’t cook. When working funky shifts it really came in handy, so I just played it up. I must have done a good job too, because when I finally made a true home cooked meal for my in-laws they were shocked and kept telling me “no, really, it’s actually good”. It was quite funny, ha-ha. Now my schedule has calmed down a lot, so I don’t mind playing the good wife role.

Anyway, back on topic. This is the first time I’ve ever had an herb garden, so I’m really not sure how this will turn out. I like using natural remedies whenever possible. Which may sound contradictive to some given I work for “the evil” Monsanto, ha-ha. No worries, I won’t go into pro GMO or anything. Anyway, I wanted to have herbs for food, basic remedies, and tea (because, I like tea).  After searching on-line I was having a hard time choosing which herbs, and finding one source for all. And honestly some were a bit extreme and reminded me of the time my dad took me to a gun show and we realized after we got in that it was not like the ones at our local fairgrounds, but more like a pro-Hitler gun club. Anyone remember the movie Rat Race and the Barbie museum? Yea, kinda like that, but I digress. So I found a set on Amazon that looked good, plus I’m a Prime member so I got free 2 day shipping. Can’t go wrong with that.

Here’s a pic:

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This can also be found at http://www.mypatriotsupply.com

Hubby built me a raised bed and we hit up some yard sales and freebees for planting pots. Some herbs help with fly control so I needed some that can move around as I need, and some herbs are an invasive species and will run wild if you let it. And honestly I’m not sure which they are for sure, so I may have to replant some if I guessed wrong.

On the raised bed I filled the bottom with these huge rocks that someone actually trucked in for “beauty”. Honestly this amazes me because this rock is so prevalent around most of Grant County you actually see rock walls made of it on people’s property.  So given my built in hatred for this rock style, I used some to take up space at the bottom of my raised bed.

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I also used a couple small old stumps I didn’t know what to do with. Once the bottom was filled about 8 inches deep I (and by I, I mean, Hubby) filled it with dirt until it was about 6 inches from the top. Next we put in garden potting soil.

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I added a few scrap pieces of wood to divide up the bed so that I could keep track of things a bit better. Then I laid out my seed packets to decide how to set it up. For now I wrote on popsicle sticks what is planted in each spot (I found a couple cute ideas on pinterest I may switch them out for later). I tried to have the tallest on the North side so that it won’t give too much shade.

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Here is what I planted:

Food –

Sage

Oregano

Thyme

Parsley

Cilantro

Basil

 

Tea- (some double for medicinal)

Wild Bergamot

Anise Hyssop

Chamomile

Lemon Balm

Lemon Mint

Peppermint

 

Medicinal-

Catnip

Hyssop

Culver’s Root

Nettle

 

 

 

Planting is fun for all! Love my little helper.

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Irrigation is in!

 

 

Irrigation water is in! However, I rarely start the pump, so when my son wanted me to turn on the sprinklers I thought, ya I can do this. Just might take me a couple tries to remember how it works. Well, this is what I learned: open the valve, work the manual pump thing till water fills the pump, next is the most important part, TURN OFF THE VALVE! That would be the part I forgot about, as as you can see from my picture, I got soaked! And at 55 degrees my brain wasn’t functioning enough to get out of the way and turn it off from the back, so here I am getting sprayed turning on and off valves at random till the water stopped. It was COLD! Course, my son thought this was great, and then afterwards says “mommy you should have asked, you have to turn this part off before you filp [the power] on”. Thanks buddy, figured that out.

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On a different  topic, I participate in a food coop called Bountiful Baskets. With the food restrictions of diabetes and just trying to have a balanced meal plan for the family, it is really great to be able to have a fresh supply weekly for a fair price. Given this is the first season for our garden, we also don’t have anything frozen or canned from last year. This has been great for us.

Here is what we got yesterday:

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We had to google the big white root, but it appears to be a horse radish, which I have no idea what to do with. Maybe I’ll make horse radish (sauce), but I’m not a fan, so I’m not real sure about that. Every week there is always one weird vegetable in the basket. Last time it was artichokes. I’m not supper up on my veggies, so I tend to have to reach out to Facebook and google for answers. One week I got Swiss chard; it looked like a rainbow leaf.

But seriously, look at this, its freak salad. Didn’t we learn in grade school or middle school or something that bright colored things are poisonous?

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http://www.bountifulbaskets.org

Compromise

I seem to be in project mode. But my project mode is quite different from my husbands. His looks like this:

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Mine looks like this:

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And we compromise and do this:

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I say compromise because pickled asparagus is disgusting. Actually, pickled anything including pickles completely gross me out. But I did the good wife thing and said “yes honey I’ll help”. Quickly followed by “if this makes my house stink like pickles were done”.

Now I must tell you not only do I not like pickles I absolutely hate the smell to the point that hubby only recently got pickle privileges back. Now get your mind out of the gutter, and I’ll explain.

Back in the day before we got married we were living in the cute little cottage I called the doll house. It was so tiny our living room furniture consisted of a papasan chair and a hope chest with cushions on it. So anyway, the fridge had one shelf on the door that the tray had broken on so it was just a shelf with no rail. Obviously we didn’t use this shelf. Apparently hubby was moving stuff around in the fridge and set the pickles on the shelf then not thinking about it closes the door. Is he the next one to open the fridge, oh no, it was me. As you can imagine pickle jar falls out breaks splashing pickle juice everywhere. The house stunk! It was awful. So needless to say, I banned pickles. Happy wife happy life right? He accepted my crazy and we moved on. So for reasons that may fall into crazy, I’m hesitant to bring pickled anything into my space. But, homestead-ish wife, blah blah blah.

So “we’ve” been gardening:

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pickling:

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and modifying:

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My house smells like a Strawberry Shortcake Doll

My house smells like a Strawberry Shortcake Doll

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Spring is here! One of my favorite parts about spring besides the lack of freezing temperatures is foods. All the best snacks start coming back out. Our strawberries aren’t out yet, but someone’s are so we stopped by a fruit stand and bought a flat of strawberries. They taste amazing. Plus strawberries make a great snack option since our house is working to be more diabetes friendly.

Now I will admit I am horrible. I’m trying, but I’m basically the diabetes equivalent to a chain smoking wife with a husband with lung cancer. Luckily, or somewhat anyway, hubby doesn’t like the same junk food I do. I’m a candy eater; he goes for chips and baked goods. I don’t like chips, and the only baked goods I really go for are chocolate chip cookies or cake batter. There is a good chance my son will also have this struggle, so I really see the value in ditching my sugar (though I usually just take it to work). It’s really hard. But I digress, I’m trying.

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Anyway, we bought the flat of strawberries and I’ve been cutting them up and dehydrating them. We use an Excalibur food dehydrator, but there are many options. I like ours because its square and you can remove trays for taller foods. Dried strawberries make a great snack option for hubby to take to work, and I can also add them to oatmeal or yogurt, or mix up a trail mix for the “snack shelf” for our son to grab.

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When dehydrating strawberries or any other heavily water based food I make sure to cut them a bit think, usually about ½ inch slices.

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I take the end pieces or berries that seem a bit small for drying and I place them in a bowl (cleaned and trimmed as needed). After I’m done putting the berries I want on the drying trays the other slices get put into food saver bags and thrown in the freezer for later. Frozen berries work great in the summer as a replacement to ice cream or popsicles; they’re our son’s favorite warm weather snack. We also make homemade ice cream for home BBQ gatherings, and they work great as a topper once thawed.

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I’ve had a helper with the food prep, though I think it was mainly so he could steel fresh berries.

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After we cleaned up our mess, my son  volunteered to give scraps to the chickens. He likes all the squawking from the chickens when you bring treats.

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Diabetic note:

Some fruits contain a very high amount of carbohydrates that can cause high blood sugar levels in diabetics. The 30 grams of carbohydrates found in a banana, the 50 grams found in a mango and the 52 grams found in a 16-ounce serving of orange juice can be too much for some people with diabetes. Checking your blood sugar levels after eating is the best way to determine whether the foods and fruits you eat allow you to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Strawberries and most other berries tend to contain less carbohydrates per serving and constitute excellent fruit options for all diabetics. – more information at: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/can-diabetics-eat-strawberries-1678.html

 

Seed starts & fly control

Seed starts & fly control

I’ve given up on winter. No snow, 40 degrees in January, raining at 28, I’m over it. So, in honor of moving on, we planted seeds. Yes, it’s a bit early, but the thing I learned last year is that we need a natural pest control system. With the location of our little mini farm, we have flies. Gross I know. As a kid my step mom had 20-25 horses on 10 acres, we had flies, but this is worse. I grew up in dry land wheat and cattle ranch country. Now I’m in the land of irrigated corn and feed lots. We don’t live so close that we smell the feed lots, but there are at least 3 within 10 minutes of our home. And we have an irrigated cornfield on each side of our property.

Back to the seed starting.

There are a few herbs that work as natural fly repellants: basil, lavender, mint, rosemary, and bay.

We plan to have a handful of plants in the house, then several planters full on the patio around the back doors and probably one out front, hence, starting early.

Here are a few tips for starting seeds:

  1. Hedge your bets: choose plants that are easy to start. Basil is a good one, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes are also easy-ish.
  2. Timing is everything: you can find planting guides for all regions. The back of seed packets will list how deep to plant, germination rates (how long to sprout), and a general guide on how long till maturity.
  3. Have a drain tray. You can use nursery flats or punch holes in the bottom of a container that is about 2-3 inches deep, and set it on a tray or plate. By having the holes in the bottom you don’t have to worry too much about over watering, and that’s my style.
  4. If you’re just starting out, buy seed starter mix. Yes you can make your own, but I’d wait till you’ve been starting your own for at  least a season, that way you won’t be adding more unknowns to the learning process.
  5. Mini-greenhouse: cover your seed starts with plastic wrap, glass, or a tray cover and keep them around 70 degrees. Keep the soil moist.
  6. At the 1st sign of sprouts, move to the sun.
  7. Once they have germinated they don’t need to stay as warm. About 1 week before replanting outside, start to acclimate the starts to cooler temperatures. Set them outside for a little, do so more and more each day.

For us, one of the big parts of living in the country is the ability to raise our son in a way that he is able to learn lessons that have been passed down through family generations. I want him to know and understand the strength of his heritage.  He comes from a family of farmers, ranchers, and service men and women.  Above all he comes from hardworking people that take care of their own and step up to help others.

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