Sunday, January 25, 2009

Education is the key!

This weekend, I made progress towards my garden goals by making some plans for the dreary winter month of February. First, I signed up for a class at Seattle Tilth. For Christmas, Jake said he would pay for me to take a class at Tilth, so I finally found one that I can really get some use out of, Indoor Seed Starting (2 day intensive). I'm super excited because I really have no idea what I'll need to grow seedlings inside and I recently discovered, through reading and planning, that in order to grow some of the vegetables I want to grow like broccoli and cabbage, I'll need to start the seeds indoors. I also know that it's best to grow tomato plants from seed by starting them inside, but was too intimidated to do it last year so I just bought a seedling from a store. This season, however, I'm ready to take on the challenge. This class will be great too because I learn best when I'm with others in a class setting. I think it will be amazing.

The next thing I did was put the Northwest Flower and Garden Show on my calendar.I've heard about the show before, but have never been really motivated or prepared to go (meaning, I usually hear about it while it's happening or shortly thereafter).I looked through all of the seminars and events that will be happening during the show and made an unofficial plan of all the seminars I plan to attend. For $29, I can go to the show on both Saturday and Sunday and attend seminars like: Gardening in the Pacific Northwest, Year Round Vegetable Gardening, Grow Fruits & Berries Anywhere, Glorious Container Gardens, and Portable Balcony Composters. The list goes on!

I started mosaicing a garden gnome for my garden this weekend too. When we cleared out my new backyard garden space, we unearthed 3 concrete stepping stones that were just begging to be mosaiced. Jake had the fabulous idea to mosaic a garden gnome on to one so that I would have one of those kitschy things in my garden too, only cooler. It's not finished yet, but I love him already. Jake named him Carl.

Finally, I'm getting a worm bin together to have at school. This year, I volunteered to head student council and we (my student council 4th and 5th graders and I) worked together to organize "Green Week" at my school this week - a spirited week of all things green and eco-responsible. I thought it would be a fitting week to get the worm bin going in my classroom. It won't have worms in it this week, but it's a start. Turns out, I have to order them (the red worm variety). When I mentioned this to my students, they looked at me incredulously and asked, "Why would you buy worms, Srta.Stacy? We can go out and get them for you." But I guess, your typical night crawler earth worm does not like the small space of a worm bin. To make a long story short, I'm going to try to get my worm bin together this week so that my students can put their food waste scraps in there and start helping me make compost for my garden. They're helping me with my garden and they don't even know it yet. It actually will connect to our curriculum eventually (we study plants/seeds in science in April), for those of you who are wondering how I am getting away with putting my kids to work. If you get creative, you can make almost anything work out. :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Now that's more like it!

Today was amazing!!! First, I handled the fence situation. The fence lady came out and leveled the fence and it looks 100% better. Then, Gabe, my brother-in-law, and Jake spent the day helping me completely clear out and level the ground that is now part of my back yard since I pushed back the fence (the part of the yard that will house my new raised veggie beds).So basically, all of the grass that you see in the first picture (where Beans is standing) is now removed. It was incredible. They worked so hard. It would have taken me weeks to do what they did today. It turns out asking for help works out pretty well. Normally, I just try and do everything all by myself. I'm super lucky to have such an awesome boyfriend and brother. The yard looks fantastic and I can't wait to spend my summer in it harvesting tons of organic vegetables. It is going to be awesome! Check out this series of photos to see how my backyard got transformed. Yay!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The happenings of an urban gardener

A lot has happened since my last post.

1. I had an amazing white Christmas. Jake and I went to Portland and had another fabulous trip there. This is trip number two to Portland for us. As you can see by the picture, we went to our favorite place - Powell's Books. This time, we split up - Jake spent his time at Powell's Technical Books browsing computer books and I spent my time in the garden and cooking section, looking for some new books to further inspire my New Year's endeavor. I managed to find a ton of fun books, but had the self control to only buy two. I bought a garden book called Square Foot Gardening, which outlines how to grow the maximum amount of vegetables in the minimum amount of space (literally how to use every square foot of space you have). I love it!

2. I used the new cookbook I bought at Powell's, Local Flavors by Deborah Madison, to cook some new (for me) and interesting vegetables. I made Celery Root and Wild Rice Chowder, which was super delicious. Celery root (see the before and after pictures) looks pretty gnarly, but once you cut away all the growths on the root ball and dice it, it has the texture of a potato and a lot of flavor. I also made Purple Potato and Cabbage Gratin with the most beautiful cabbages I have ever seen. My new cookbook inspired me to make Sage Oil too. I absolutely love sage and thyme. It reminds me of fall, probably because they are the predominant spices in Thanksgiving stuffing. To make the oil, I put 24 fresh sage leaves in 1/2 cup of olive oil and cooked it over low heat for about 10 minutes. Then, I put some of the sage-infused oil on roasted spaghetti squash with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and it was amazing! The sage oil is super easy to make and gives the food a really deep and delicious flavor. Tonight I made Sunchoke (otherwise known as Jerusalem Artichoke) Bisque. Sunchokes look like overgrown pieces of ginger and taste pretty mild and nutty. Turns out, sunchokes are pretty good. I'm glad I decided to give them a whirl.

3. I took the first step towards creating my new backyard garden. I hired someone to take my old backyard fence out and build a new one, 11 feet back (to the end of my detached garage). My yard looks huge! It's amazing how much wasted space I have been missing out on. Unfortunately, the fence did not quite turn out according to plan. The fence is not level on the bottom and there is a big gap (big enough for Beans to sneak out of) because of the uneven ground back there. So now, there are retaining wall stones temporarily filling that space until I can get the woman I hired back out here to finish the project the way I want it. I assumed that we had the same idea in mind and I guess I should have known better because you know what they say about making assumptions... (you remember that silly middle school quote, don't you?). I'm a little disappointed because I want it to look But luckily, I have enough vision and imagination to see what is about to become of my backyard in my mind. I'm getting closer and I can already see (crook-eyed fence and all) that it's going to be great! I'll post photos of my new fence when it looks a little more like the picture in my head.

Finally, I know this blog is supposed to be all about my garden and my goal to be a localtarian, but I'm feeling compelled to write about all the crazy crafting I've done lately too. And, as it turns out, most of the projects I've done, beautify my kitchen and I guess this "bird walk" does fit into my post somehow. During my two weeks off from school for winter break, I made mosaic garden stakes to keep track of the veggies I plant (see previous blog post); I painted my dining room table and chairs and made chair cushions for them; I made my sister and me "Recycled Jeans" aprons; I gussied up my "green" grocery bags; and I made the cutest clutch purse ever with an Amy Butler pattern and delightful Amy Butler fabric (my new favorite creator of cute and savvy patterns and fabric). While Jake and I were in Portland, we came across this amazing fabric store called Bolt, which had tons of cute and hip fabric. Jake dipped out for a cup of tea across the street while I stayed in that store for over an hour. The hardest part about it was choosing which fabric to buy. I couldn't be happier with the fabric I finally picked out for my purse though. It's like carrying my garden around with me.