Thursday, May 2, 2013

Garden Plans 2013

Well, it's May already! It has been about 6 months since my last post.  Unfortunately, I have not been motivated to post about all the fun times we've had since then. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, fun visits from family and trips to visit friends. It's been busy, people! All good stuff. :)

But, I really do want to post about my garden, if nothing else. I may be the only person reading this blog, and it has been really helpful for me to look back on the past two years to see what and when I did things in the garden.

I have created a new blog, Gone Crunchy, where I plan to post my garden updates and other insights on the things I'm learning about living a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle. :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Family Photo Shoot

Our good friends met us at the school behind our house for a family photo shoot. We had a gorgeous, sunny day to take pictures. We took turns taking pictures of each other's family and ended up with a LOT of photos. A few turned out well, many did not. There were some lessons learned, but over all it was a good experience.

I know that a lot of what the professional photographers do to make their photos look, well, "professional," is in the editing. Since I have a snazzy professional software package to play with, I did some editing of my own.

Here are some before and afters:

A little cropping, brightening, sharpening, leveling, etc. goes a long way!

I think we will try this again in the spring. Some of our lessons learned were:
  1. Time of day. We had time restraints due to evening activities, so we had to shoot in early afternoon and deal with some sharp shadows on faces. Next time we'll come at dusk.
  2. Photographer. We had two cameras going at the same time. Next time, we'll have the more experienced photographer take pictures, and the other parent focus on getting kids to smile and watch out for weird hands, straight clothes and getting kids to smile. Did I mention we need to make sure the kids are smiling? :)
  3. Wind. It was windy. A lot of good shots were ruined by hair flying into faces. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fall is fun!

Click here to view some family photos and commentary. It's fall-tastic.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Pumpkin Story

This was my first year of growing pumpkins.

It all started with a few seeds:
April 7, 2012
They grew nicely indoors:
May 7, 2012
And were successfully transplanted outside to the pumpkin patch:

Throughout June, July and August, I watered it faithfully and watched the vines grow wild and massive. But no pumpkins showed up until September!
Sept. 30, 2012

This one was the biggest of the initial three. We dubbed it "Big Al"

This one, Little Al, grew outside the fence. But he proved to outgrow Big Al! The third pumpkin broke off the vine and quickly rotted into nothing.

 This is Baby BooBoo who was very cute, but showed no promise of being edible.

Fast forward to the end of October and the vines had mostly died off from the frosts. Big Al was still rippening, however, and I wanted him to get as orange as possible!
Oct. 14, 2012

Baby BooBoo wasn't going to grow any bigger, but he hung in there.

Little Al didn't make it. He looked huge and ripe, but a close inspection revealed his stem had cracked away from the vine and a stream of bugs was crawling in and out of him.

I thought we could at least carve him as our jack-o-lantern. However, his insides were liquidy and rotten. He only lasted a couple days before he caved in on himself completely.

As for Big Al? He made it all the way.
October 20. 2012

From farm to freezer:

I admit that I did feel some pangs of sadness. Not unlike what I imagine a farmer would feel when slaughtering his first pig. So, I thanked Al for the joy of watching him grow and develop and for the wonderful nutritious food he would provide for us. Then I stabbed away with my knife and gutted him out. :) I think the moral of this story is to never name your pumpkin!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Twick or Tweet!

That, my friends, is what an Angry Bird says on Halloween. :)

I made costumes this year from a great tutorial found online by Dragonfly DesignsAngry Birds want candy!!!

Read more about our Halloween here.

Happy Halloween!!!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Cold Frame

One of the things on my garden "wish list" has been a cold frame. It is essentially a miniature, unheated, portable greenhouse that can be used to "extend the season." This means you can use it in spring to harden off new plants and also in the fall to protect cold-weather crops from frosts.

You can buy cold frames, of course, for a wide variety of prices. There are also many DIY examples out there for making your own out of an old window and straw bales, etc.  This idea, however, caught my eye as being something that would be economical and practical for my first cold frame.

It is a window well cold frame. I purchased two plastic window well covers from Menards for about $5 each. Then, I asked my dad to put together the hinged frame with some leftover 2x4s and an old door hinge. We screwed the window well covers to the frame and voila! A cold frame!

The purpose of the hinge is so you can vent it. On days when the sun is shining brightly, it may actually become too hot inside the cold frame and cook your plants. Give it a crack to vent and you'll keep things just right.

We've had about three frosts since I put the cold frame over my lettuce and basil. Here is an example of what it looked like about 9 am after a frost:

This is the temp outside vs. in the cold frame:

As you can see, it's not much different. But again, it is not supposed to be a greenhouse, but rather a means of protecting from frost and giving longevity to cold weather crops, like my lettuce. FYI: the basil did not weather the frosts well, even in the cold frame, and is turning black and wilty.

Here is a peek inside:

I'll keep you posted on how long the lettuce survives! It is fun to continue to harvest salad after the frosts have begun!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

September Garden Update

After freezing over 25 lbs of squash and making every kind of zucchini baked good known to man, I finally cried "uncle" and pulled out the zucchini and yellow squash plants from the left raised bed. All that was left were my two basil plants, which I transplanted to the right side. Now the left bed was empty and ready to "double dig."  When we planted this garden in April of last year, we covered the grass with newspaper and cardboard, wet it down, stabbed some holes with a pitchfork and filled it with dirt and alpaca poop. That was a quick and easy way to start a raised bed. Now that it's had 18 months or so to settle in, we decided to really do the hard work and make sure there is good, loosened soil to a depth of at least 12-15 inches. 

To double dig, you first remove about 10 inches of soil from the first end of your garden, creating a trench. Toss the soil into a wheelbarrow for later. 

Next, take a pitchfork or similar garden tool, and drive it into the ground at the bottom of the trench, wiggle it back and forth to agitate the soil and repeat down the length of the trench. Next, dig a trench in the next row, filling the first trench with the dirt from the second. You repeat this process to the end of the garden, at which point you fill that last trench with the dirt from the wheelbarrow from the initial trench.

Luckily we picked a time to do this after some significant rains, so the soil was not too hard. However, Doug did manage to break our pitchfork in the process! 

If you can see, the level of the soil is only to the first row of pavers. We'd like to fill this bed to the very top. 

You may also notice, we put down some black landscaping fabric in our walkways. We should have done this from the beginning, as weeds in the paths has been a big issue the past two years. Hopefully we can buy some gravel in the spring to fill in the gaps around the paving stones.

Sept 10th: "Little Al" had a growth spurt and is now bigger than Big Al!

Big Al still going strong:

Blueberry update: still standing!

Only one of the 2 original blueberry plantings has leaves:

My fall lettuce seeds are doing well! It's fun to harvest fresh salad greens. One of the transplanted basil plants is in the middle. It didn't really like the move too well:

My bush beans are also doing great! I plan to plant a lot more of these in the spring and fall next year.

Peppers: finally developing some fruit. All green though. I read that all peppers start green and then turn red or yellow as they ripen. So far there is no sign of that.

Sept: 22 Big Al is turning orange! We may have a ripe pumpkin after all! 

We had our first frost warning (Sept 22) and picked everything we could. I am hoping to ripen the tomatoes and peppers indoors in a brown paper bag. We harvested 1/2 lb of bush beans and they were delicious!