How Does Your Garden Grow?

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Down with the groundhog I say!

Today is the first day of Spring and up here in the Northeast there is no sign of it… anywhere!  Instead, Mother Winter continues to drop snowflake upon snowflake.  If I’m not mistaken Punxsutawney Phil did say, “And so ye faithful, there is no shadow to see, an early Spring for you and me.”  You were surely mistaken… you… you… you rodent!

Okay, so let’s just pretend Spring is upon us.  We can now start planning and planting seeds for the garden!

In the past our homestead has done a combination of starting seeds indoors and directly planting in the ground from plants purchased at our local garden store.  This year we’re taking a bigger step and starting all of our seeds indoors using grow lights.  It’s probably a good idea we’re doing this since warmer weather is no where in sight.

My favorite part of garden planning is deciding what to grow.  We always do the standard… tomatoes, peppers, radishes, beans, peas, beets, lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, carrots.  We take a further step and also grow potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, squash, kale, swiss chard, pie pumpkins and edamame (soybeans).  In addition, I always like to pick a couple of ‘testers’ crops.  Two years ago I tried okra and got three.  I consider that a success since the okra was forced to grow up here in Maine.  Last year I took a stab at a few artichokes.  No luck.  However, I hear artichokes are perennials, but also hear they can’t survive winter.  We shall see what happens.   I also have tried bok choy, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and hot peppers.

This year I’ve decided on three ‘testers’… sweet potatoes, peanuts and banana peppers.  It is always fun to try out something new in the garden.  Who says you must stick to standard crops you find in the grocery store?  Even if you don’t know what kohlrabi is, or have no idea what to do with bok choy, watching them grow is almost as enjoyable as cooking and eating it.  You can always give them to your neighbor.  Or, better yet, you might find a recipe and a new found love!

If you’re not quite ready to try an unusual crop consider the commonly grown vegetables that come in an array of colors and varieties that you can’t find in the store.  How cool is it to pull up purple carrots?  Blue potatoes?  Zebra tomatoes?

Carpe diem fellow gardeners!  Carpe diem!

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This post was featured at the Homestead Barn Hop.

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This Week’s Project Download…

It was another whirlwind week here on the homestead.  And this morning it was tough programming the kids to wake up earlier than normal because of daylight savings time.

I am proud to say that the derby car is complete!  Just in time for the races this coming weekend.  Just some minor sanding and paint touch ups.

I’ll have a special blog post on this project and my many lessons learned.

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I didn’t have time to do many projects this week (I’ll get to that in a minute).  I was able to make a peppermint citrus scrub though.  It is extremely easy to make.  You can use sugar or salt, both will gently exfoliate the skin.  The cooling sensation of the peppermint oil helps soothe itchiness, and the coconut oil (or another other oil you choose to use) moisturizes.  I like the citrus because it is very invigorating and immediately wakes you up and has a wonderful clean, spring/summer scent.  We definitely need that up here in Northern New England!

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Here’s how to make the scrub:

  • 1 cup granulated white sugar or salt.   (I personally buy the cheap stuff since I won’t be eating it)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil .  You can substitute olive oil, almond oil, apricot oil, avocado oil, or even use a combination.  
  • 2-4 Tablespoons orange zest.  You can also use lemon or grapefruit zest, it’s really your preference.
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable glycerin.  I’ve read it’s optional, but it does add extra moisturizing properties.  
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil.
  • 10-15 drops orange essential oil, or any other citrus of your choice.   

Instructions:

Mix sugar, oil, zest, and vegetable glycerin together. Depending on what type of oil you use, you may need to add more or less to get the proper consistency. Make sure there is enough oil to make the sugar stick together, but not so much that it is floating on top.

Gradually add in the essential oils until you’ve reached the desired scent. It may take more or less, depending on the type of oils you use.

Store your sugar scrub in a glass container.  I put mine up on the kitchen window sill.  The great thing is that this scrub also makes an awesome gift, especially in the summer when we’re all out in the garden getting our hands dirty!   Just rub a small amount of the scrub on your hands or body and rinse with warm water.  

Honestly the sky is the limit on this scrub.  You can add any scent and oil you choose.  I think my next one will involve lavender and rosemary.  

This week I really had to focus on my daughter and her school work.  I was so nervous about her learning and study habits.  Thankfully, everything turned out just fine.  I just need to ensure I stay on top of her and encourage her.  She has been reading “My Life as a Book” so I read it as well.  I must say this has been of my favorite books she’s brought home so far!  Maybe it’s because the main character reminds me of a cross between her and her devious brother!

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The kids enjoyed a wonderful few days with dad as he made a quick visit home (thus the lack of projects I could complete – there was too much excitement at home).  Unfortunately, the visit was short lived and he’s out patrolling our waters again.  It’s only for a few weeks and he’ll finally be back home for a decent amount of time.  Just in time to get the garden going!

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This Week’s Project Download…

Ever have one of those weeks where you feel like nothing was accomplished, yet it was so busy you were relieved it was over?  That was my week.

Between a snow storm, power outages, homework, after school activities, and doctor’s appointments it was a hectic week on the homestead.  I wasn’t able to get many projects started, or even finished for that matter.

The derby car is still a work in progress.  I only have two weeks to get it all done!  A lot of painting and priming to do, and then it’s on to the wheels and axles.

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I had to hollow out a couple eggs for my son’s school project this week.  He is making ‘cascarones’, eggs filled with confetti and broken over a friends head at the completion of Lent.  My son’s class will fill the eggs with birdseed instead and break them over their class tree.  He will enjoy this project so much!  Thanks to YouTube I quickly learned how to blow out the eggs and empty them out.

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A trip to the grocery store for fresh Italian parsley got me cilantro instead (apparently I have no idea what either look like).  I’m not a fan of cilantro so it is in a handy mason jar growing roots.  The cilantro sits nicely on my kitchen window sill, along with the basil, mint, bamboo and aloe so I guess it’s a keeper.

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I did make another batch of elderberry syrup and vanilla extract.  We go through about a 1/2 pint of elderberry syrup a week.  The extra vanilla extract will stay down in the basement until the holidays.  It should be extra yummy by that time, and a gift our neighbors will surely enjoy!

As far as reading…  I’m old school… I still love the feel of the paper in my hands.  This week I didn’t have much time to read so I settled for a Kindle book, “Wait for Me” by Elisabeth Naughton.    Mystery, heartache, joy and, yes, a bit of passion.  I don’t care much for the cover of the ebook though.  The cover gave me the impression the story would be “fifty shades’ish”, but that was not the case.  It was a quick read and I enjoyed the story.

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This week is an exciting one at the homestead.  My husband is making a brief stop home and will be here for a couple of days.  The kids don’t know so they will be extra surprised to see him!  As quickly as he arrives he’ll soon be back out on the steel boat patrolling our ocean.  We take what we can get!

Which reminds me… I better buy some bird seed!

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This Week’s Project Download…

Happy Sunday!  It’s snowing at the homestead this morning.

This week I had one focus… derby car.  We’re slowing making progress!

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I was able to make a quick batch of homemade vanilla extract.

It’s so simple… vodka & vanilla beans.  Just add 6 – 7 vanilla beans (split down the middle and cut in half) to about 4 cups of vodka.  Store for 2 – 3 months and that’s it!  I purchase my vanilla beans from Mountain Rose Herbs.  I paid $23 for 4 oz of vanilla beans (about 25 – 30 long beans).  That is a lot cheaper than my local grocery store.  They had ONE bean in a glass jar for $11!

Pure vanilla extract.  Not that imitation stuff!  And they’ll make fantastic gifts for the holidays!

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This week I also started (and finished!) another book borrowed from my daughter’s teacher.  This was a great book!

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This Week’s Project Downloads…

Happy Sunday Folks!

Here is a quick run-down of the recipes I completed this week:

Homemade Chick Stock

Homemade Chick Stock

Crock Pot Refried Beans

Crock Pot Refried Beans

Crock Pot Granola

Crock Pot Granola

Head on over to my Facebook page to get the refried bean recipe and granola recipe and read about how it turned out!

And I finally finished the book my daughter’s teacher so kindly let me borrow.  “Three Times Lucky” is an excellent book for young readers.  It was such a treat for me to read.

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Next week I have a few projects in mind.  It’s winter break so my fingers are crossed the kids drive me too crazy so I can complete them!

Homemade Elderberry Syrup…

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A few posts ago I wrote about my phobia of germs.  As we were at the height of flu and cold season I really needed to find something to ease my paranoia of the whole family getting sick.  My research led me to elderberries and elderberry syrup.  It is sold at health food and vitamin stores, and most grocery stores.  A small bottle can cost up to $11, and will last my family less than a week.  As you can see, the price can quickly add up.

A fellow high school alum read my post about elderberries and decided to make her own syrup.  I patiently waited for her to post the results of her concoction before I took the leap in to making my own (her syrup turned out great, by the way).

You can find various recipes online. Here is how I made mine:

  • 1/3 cup dried elderberries
  • cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • Tbsp of fresh chopped ginger
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup wild honey (I used raw honey)

Combine everything except the honey. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until liquid is reduced to half. Strain. Use spoon to squeeze juice out of the berries. Mix in honey. Enjoy!

My family takes one tablespoon every morning.  My kids love this syrup more than the store bought versions.

My love of elderberries continues.  I was lucky to receive two jars of elderberry jelly from my awesome mother-in-law, and recently purchased some local elderberry wine.  Seeing how much I have fallen in love with this berry my husband recently went on one of his crazy splurges.   Wondering what it is?  See the picture below.

A post on this latest project will follow soon…  stay tuned ya’ll!

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      This post was featured at the

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The Latest Craze… Juicing.

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Alert: there is a juicing craze out there!

Okay, so maybe I’m behind the bandwagon a bit… I am just now realizing the fascination America is having with juicing. From time to time I’d stumble upon a Facebook post on someone’s latest juicing recipe, followed by a colorful Instagram picture of the scrumptious juice in a tall glass. So this got me thinking… maybe I should be yet another follower and check this curious phenomenon out. I mean, I like juice. My kids like juice. However, I hate the price of juice, the ungodly ingredients in juice, and the fact that it takes a picture of the American flag to let the consumer know the fruit in the juice is actually grown in the U.S. And, yes, I did watch “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” and “Hungry for Change” on Netflix. If that doesn’t motivate someone I don’t know what will.

After much research I found a juicer that would fit my family needs best, an Omega brand. It’s not the most expensive model out there. However, it is pricier than other models you can purchase in the box stores. The Omega juicer is said to extract the most amount of juice, and works well with greens. You can find many reasons as to why you should juice. And there are just as many reasons out there why you shouldn’t. Each person differs. For me, the primary reason was not to fast or put myself on some crazy juice diet. I just wanted to be able to make fresh, wholesome juice. And to combine a couple of carrots, a celery stalk, or even a beet in my juice.

I also like my Omega brand because the model I purchased allows me to make my own nut butters, baby food, and even pasta! On top of that it homogenizes and even grinds coffee beans! The grinding of coffee beans means a lot in this house. Not because we are huge coffee drinkers (which we are) but because last summer my husband’s military duty to his country took him to South America. That trip to South America landed this household with 40 bags of coffee beans… from Columbia. Folks, we have a lot of coffee!

Juicing has gone well so far. My daughter has really enjoyed it. She even drank a spinach, pineapple and carrot juice I made the other day. My son, on the other hand, sticks to just plain orange or apple juice. When he’s not looking though I throw in a carrot or two. We’ve also made pasta which turned out really well and my son LOVED. I think he had three helpings of spaghetti that night.

Down the road I look forward to making some baby food with this gadget. Spring is around the corner and soon the garden will be thriving. I can’t wait to make some jars of baby food for the newest addition to our family!

Cheers!

Juice