Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cleaning up the yard

I do realize that there are two months of winter left, but these 50+ temperature days have started me day dreaming about spring.  I am one of those people that leave the perennial plants untouched in the garden to over winter.  It gives the beneficial bugs a place to live during those cold months.  It's also a reminder for me, when I look at the beds and see the skeletal remains of summer flowers and shrubs mounded with snow, that spring is getting closer with each sunrise.

Did a lot of clipping and cleaning up in the yard this weekend. I filled four 20 gallon buckets and two other garden bags, and this was only the first round of clippings.
After putting it through the chipper shredder, it reduced down to these two buckets.  It makes a good ground cover for our clay path along the fence.  Then I filled the empty buckets one more time. 
I think I made best use of those relatively warm days.
It sure feels good to have that clean up done this early.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Meyer Lemons and Basil

The lemons are growing and soon it will be time to use them.  According to Wikipedia, this citrus fruit is native to China and thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange.  The fruit is more round than a typical lemon, and it's skin is fragrant and very thin.  The juice tends to be sweeter and less acidic than a true lemon.  They have a compact size which makes them suitable for container growing.
This is the third year my dwarf Meyer lemon has produced fruit.  Each year the crop gets a little larger.  Right now there are 12 lemons.  Unfortunately we knocked a few off when we brought the plant indoors late in October.
Prior to setting fruit, the flowers are white with a purple base and and share their wonderful orange blossom fragrance.
I wanted to try growing basil hydroponically this winter.  Two of the containers are clear plastic and the center one is made of green glass. I filled the 'pots'  half way with clay balls then carefully held the basil plants with their long white roots in place while filling the container with more  balls.  Then I added water to just below the surface line.  The most important thing to remember is to get every bit of soil off the plant roots before putting it in this water environment, or the roots will rot.  I've been enjoying fresh basil all winter and will have good sized plants to set in the ground when the time comes.  I'm calling this experiment a success.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bees flying in January?

Today we saw the bees doing something they've never done before.  Since our temperatures reached the mid 50's, apparently it was enough to wake the bees up and send them outdoors.
Look, here they are trying to find a way to get into our hot tub.  Not quite sure what it was they were looking for..water, warmth, steam...who knows?
So we opened the cover, to give them access, a little worried of what we might find.  Some of them had  already wrangled their way underneath the insulated cover and were clinging to the edge, seemingly, enjoying themselves.  By 5 o'clock, just before sunset, all but three that needed to be prodded, had  flown off.
This is January 23, right, the middle of winter?  I don't think I've ever seen bees out and about at this time of year.  There's always something that makes you go...'hmm'.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Homemade Vegetable Bouillon

I don't know about you, but I use a lot of vegetable bouillon.   I rarely have the time to make a big pot of vegetable broth ahead of time, so with the start of the new year, making vegetable bouillon was on my list.  I've been saving this recipe from Jennifer Perillo's site, www.InJennieskitchen.com, since 2010.
It's really quite simple:
4 carrots, trimmed, scrubbed & cut into large pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 leek, white part only, sliced
1 small onion, peeled & quartered
10 sun-dried tomato halves
1 1/2 cups cremini mushrooms (caps & stems), cleaned & quartered
2 cloves garlic
generous handful of fresh parsley, including stems
7 ounces salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it forms a wet paste and is well combined.  I added half the ingredients and mixed until I had the right consistency, then added the remainder.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or separate into smaller portions to store in the freezer.
To use, combine one measured teaspoon with one cup boiling water.

Jennifer reminds us:
Yes, this recipe really does need 7 ounces of salt. Remember, you're curing the vegetables, and the salt ensures they do not go rancid.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Chia Seed

Happy New Year!  It's time to try something new, the Chia Seed.  Remember the Chia Pet?  Well, it's the same seed, only this time around, we are going to eat it, not grow it. There are many great health benefits that come with eating the Chia seed.
According to Chia Seed, by Andrew Kissee,  The Chia seed is an ancient super food that was once a staple of the Incan, Mayan and Aztec cultures, along with the Native Americans of the southwest.  "Chia" is actually the Mayan word for strength, and these seeds were used as a high energy food.  Andrew also writes that the Chia seed is very stable, and can be stored dry for 4-5 years without any deterioration in flavor, odor or nutritional value.  You can substitute Chia in any recipe that calls for flax.
The Chia seed is very tiny and resembles a mixture of black and white sesame seeds.  It's high protein content combined with it's yield of iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, magnesium, niacin, folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids shine the light on why it is a 'superfood'.
I made this Chia Oatmeal, a simple breakfast from the Chia Seed and was surprised with it's staying power.
1 Cup of water
2 TB Chia seeds
3 TB Hemp seeds
1 TB palm sugar (I used date sugar, but I'm sure brown sugar would be fine)
fresh fruit of your choice.

Add Chia seeds to boiling water while stirring, so seeds do not clump.
Add Hemp seeds to mixture and stir, mixture will gradually thicken a little.
Add sugar, fruit and stir.

I used strawberries, black berries and pomegranate seeds.  I ate half of this and refrigerated the rest for the following day.  It was just as good the second day as the first.

Here are a few other facts about the Chia seed that I found amazing:

~2 times the protein of any other seed or grain
~5 times the calcium of milk, plus boron which is a trace mineral that helps transfer calcium into your bones.
~2 times the amount of potassium as bananas
~3 times the reported antioxidant strength of blueberries
~3 times more iron than spinach