Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Take-Apart Shears: The Perfect $10 Stocking Stuffer for Gardeners and Cooks

Growing and harvesting green and purple basil in the kitchen garden 1 - FarmgirlFare.com
Harvesting basil in the June kitchen garden with my new favorite scissors.

Realization of the Day:
A few months ago, I wrote a long post about pesto and my 2011 banner basil crop, put a bunch of photos together, and then never got around to actually publishing it all. Here's the short version: That bad luck with basil I had in May? It eventually turned out to be really good. Like well over 5 pounds of basil from 10 plants good. Yes! (You'll find all my basil growing posts here.)

Realization #2:
There's nothing like a little early December snowstorm to remind you of just how much you took all that fresh basil for granted.

When I was getting ready to post my Holiday Gift Ideas for Bakers and Cooks: 16 Favorite Kitchen Essentials (Most Under $25) this year, Joe asked me if I had added anything new to the list. I said no, I'm still loving and using all the same great stuff. But I was wrong. I'd forgotten about my new scissors (and my awesome Oxo food mill).

I bought these Fiskars Take-Apart Softgrip Garden Shears ($10.15) back in early spring, and hardly a day goes by when I don't use them at least once in the kitchen or garden.

They're called herb & veggie garden shears on the package, but Fiskars also makes identical, general use take-apart shears without the softgrip, and that link is full of glowing reviews from people who use theirs to cut up everything from plastic blister packages and fabric to the fins off fish (some of them for over 20 years).

I probably have a dozen pairs of cheap scissors scattered around the farm that I've used for pretty much anything you can think of over the years (I love scissors!), but now these are the the ones I always want to reach for.

The stainless-steel, serrated blades are heavy duty and sharp, but of course what's best about them is that they quickly come apart for easy and thorough cleaning. How cool is that? You can even put them in the dishwasher.

If there are gardeners and cooks on your holiday list, these dandy $10 take-apart shears are sure to be a useful, long lasting, and much appreciated gift. If you're buying them for yourself and you don't live alone, you might want to order an extra pair. In fact, I think this is just what my hunky farmguy needs in his stocking this year—maybe with his name written on them.

© FarmgirlFare.com, where it's never too early to start planning (and dreaming about) next year's bumper basil crop.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wondering What To Do with Swiss Chard? Favorite Recipes and Ways to Use My Favorite Garden Vegetable

Swiss Chard & Artichoke White Pizza (recipe here)

Realization of the Day:
It's time to start putting those seed orders together!

My Pinetree Garden Seeds catalog arrived last week, and I've already marked everything I want to order. I showed extreme self control, if I do say so myself. Of course this is just the first catalog of the season.

Since tomatoes are technically a fruit, that means Swiss chard is my number one vegetable in the kitchen garden. I've said it before and will no doubt say it again: If could only grow two things, they would be tomatoes and Swiss chard.

Swiss chard is extremely heat tolerant and cold tolerant, incredibly versatile (it can do everything spinach does and more), and easy to grow from seed. You can sow chard seeds directly in the garden or start them indoors, and it does exceptionally well when grown in containers.

I grow Swiss chard year round in my unheated greenhouse, which gets as cold as 2°F in winter and heats up to 128° in summer. When it gets below freezing, I cover the plants with floating row cover and old bedsheets and blankets.

More below. . .

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Garden Journal 10/29/11: Twenty-Five Degrees this Morning

Frosty kale in the kitchen garden on a 25 degree morning - FarmgirlFare.com
Cold kale in the kitchen garden

Realization of the Day:
Sometimes it's better to wait until the sun hits the garden before venturing out to see how your plants survived the cold.

Last week it dropped down to 24 degrees, and this morning it was 25. Everything was icy, but it's amazing how quickly the cold hardy plants recover as soon as they defrost in the sun. A few hours after snapping this photo, you couldn't even tell the kale had been totally frozen.

Our official frost date here in Missouri is October 15th, but this year we had our first light frost nearly two weeks before that. Since we're located down in a little valley, we often have earlier fall frosts and later spring frosts than predicted. On clear nights, it also gets colder down here than 'up top' during the fall and winter, which means if the forecast says low 30s, we figure on low 20s. Now if only that were true in summer, too.

The weather has gone up and down this month, and we've had everything from sunny days in the 80s and rainy nights in the 50s to days in the 50s and plenty more frost. In other words, it's been a typical October.

Despite a dry September, the autumn color has been beautiful around the farm this year, thanks, in part, to an unusually wet August; you can see some of it here.

Summer is definitely over, but there's still a fair amount going on in the garden:

More below. . .

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Will Green Tomatoes Ripen Indoors? Yes!

Green Tomato Harvest 10-17-09
Not to worry—you can pick green tomatoes and ripen them indoors, off the vine.

How was your tomato season? Ours was pretty disappointing, and while I'm already making plans for a bigger and better tomato crop next year (build sturdier cages, get plants in the ground earlier, pray for a cooler June!), I haven't written this one off completely yet.

My six late planted Roma tomato plants are finally loaded with fat green fruit, and the fresh tomato-crazed gardener in me refuses to give up.

October is often fairly mild here in southern Missouri, so I'm going to hold out for a while in the hopes that some of them will ripen on the vine—or at least until I get tired of covering them (as well as my other 15 tomato plants and all of the basil) with floating row cover and old bed sheets each night to protect them from the cold. (Why is it only windy on autumn nights, not summer nights when you're drenched in sweat, wishing for even a hint of breeze?)

If you're ready to call it tomato quits for the season, don't despair over all those green ones still out on the vine. My most popular post this time of year is How To Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors the Really Easy Way—and it really is easy.

© FarmgirlFare.com, loving autumn on the farm and thrilled to be picking tomatoes, no matter what the color.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Garden Journal 8/28/11: BLT Season Has Finally Begun! (and a Classic Sandwich Bread Recipe for the Occasion)

BLT on Farmhouse White bread with heirloom tomatoes from the organic kitchen garden - FarmgirlFare.com
Does anything taste better than a BLT made with homegrown tomatoes on homemade bread?

Realization of the Day:
It's the little things often turn into the biggest celebrations here on the farm.

Traditional holidays usually pass us by with little or no fanfare. That's partly because it's just the two of us, and both our families live in other states. But it's also because living on 240 acres with 100+ critters makes it nearly impossible to make and keep any sort of plans.

Just getting dinner on the table at a specific time is usually a challenge. An entire roast turkey dinner in a space presentable enough for guests? Forget it. We don't even have a dining table, let alone a dining room—in the new house (which we're sort of moved into!) or The Shack.

People often ask us why we never go camping. It's because living miles from the nearest neighbor in middle of nowhere is a lot like camping, complete with wild animals, beautiful scenery, and bathroom issues. Right now we're actually using a Luggable Loo. See? Camping.

We really don't mind, though, and the whole lifestyle suits us. We whoop it up when we feel like it and create holidays for the silliest of reasons (Pop the cork, it's Champagne Thursday!).

The opening night of BLT season each summer is always cause for celebration, and what's nice is that we get to decide when it takes place. This year it was last Friday night. Yum.

More below. . .

Monday, August 01, 2011

Garden Journal 8/1/11: Attack! Using Organic Diatomaceous Earth on Blister Beetles and Other Pests in the Garden and Around the House and Farm

This was supposed to be a short post about the blister beetles, but once I get started talking about diatomaceous earth it's hard for me to stop because it has so many great uses. Even if you're lucky enough to not know what a blister beetle is, you may still want to read on.

three blister beetles on bean leaves in my kitchen garden - FarmgirlFare.com
A blister beetle sighting in the garden is always distressing.

Realization of the Day:
We've reached that point in the growing season where the fact that I (once again) didn't get around to planting everything I wanted to in the spring has actually turned into a good thing.

As in, it's a good thing all these raised beds aren't full, or I'd be spending a lot more time standing out here in the blazing sun watering (although I am loving my new 150 feet of super lightweight Water Right garden hoses—and wish I'd bought these awesome brass quick connectors 17 years ago).

Or, it's a good thing there isn't more stuff out there for the blister beetles to eat.

It's a twisted way of looking at the bright side that usually works for me.

The blister beetles—who seem to prefer hot, dry weather—have arrived, and they are hungry. So far I'm mostly seeing them in the pepper and tomato beds, and sometime while I wasn't paying attention during the last 48 hours, they managed to devour an entire small pepper plant and decimate several large tomato plants. And their disgusting black droppings are everywhere.

Unfortunately I'm not the only one being attacked; one of the most popular posts on In My Kitchen Garden over the past few weeks has been How To Deal with Blister Beetles in the Garden: Organic Pest Control Methods.

Lots more below. . .

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Five Years Ago Today: A Little Scuffle in the Garden

Thai pink egg tomato patch after about three minutes with the scuffle hoe.

Back on June 30, 2006, a month and a half after declaring myself to be Baby Cary's mother, I declared my love for the scuffle hoe in this post: How To Use a Scuffle Hoe to Weed the Vegetable Garden - and Why I Love Mine So Much.

It was far from love at first sight for me and my scuffle hoe, but the hard won feelings of affection have endured, and after all these years, I'm still enamored with it.

This little old garden tool isn't put into service that often (mostly because the weeds in my garden seem to go from two inches high to two feet high in about an hour), but it always does its one job well.

Do you use a scuffle hoe? Any tips, techniques, or amusing stories to tell?

© FarmgirlFare.com, where we're very big on mulching but are still always needing to do some weeding.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Garden Journal 6/23/11: Growing Garlic, Harvesting Garlic, and Green Garlic

Love garlic? Learn How To Grow Your Own Garlic here (it's easy!). And you'll find links to my favorite recipes that call for garlic at the end of this post, along with links to other garlic growing posts.

Freshly harvested green garlic (on the  mature side) that's been cleaned, trimmed, and is ready for cooking.

Realization of the Day:
Garlic is a lot hardier than I thought.

Green garlic, also known as spring garlic, young garlic, baby garlic, and garlic shoots, is simply an immature garlic plant. It's milder and sweeter than mature garlic, with a wonderful flavor.


The green garlic pictured above is on the mature side. I've never seen green garlic for sale here in rural Missouri, but in photos I've seen of green garlic, such as this one and this one, the bulbs haven't started forming, and it bears a closer resemblance to scallions or baby leeks. It's edible at any stage.

Green garlic season starts as early as February in places with mild winters, like the San Francisco Bay Area, and has come and gone here in Missouri, but green garlic must still be available in some places because my spring green garlic post is still showing up as one of the ten most popular posts on In My Kitchen Garden this week. (The weekly top ten posts are listed in the left sidebar of every In My Kitchen Garden page).

6/24/11 Update: Today's weekly e-mail newsletter from the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) reports that the green garlic season is 'winding down' at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Look for green garlic at farmers' markets, in your CSA subscription box, or try growing some yourself.

Like with onions, you can grow green garlic in zero extra garden space by double planting your garlic and then thinning it out by harvesting half of it when it's young.

I accidentally missed green garlic season this year. Early last fall, volunteer garlic plants began sprouting up in the bed where I'd harvested the 2010 garlic a few months earlier because I'd left some of it in the ground while digging. Sometimes it pays to be sloppy.

More info and photos below. . .

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Garden Journal 5/22/11: Tips for Planting and Growing Sweet Red Peppers

No time to read, just need to get your peppers planted? Check out my previous post, How To Transplant Sweet Pepper Seedlings, the Extended Version. Then learn how easy it is to freeze your beautiful bounty (no special equipment or boiling required) here.

Raised garden bed newly planted with King Arthur Sweet Bell Peppers and Red Rubin purple basil seedlings - In My Kitchen Garden.com
8 King Arthur red bell peppers, 3 Red Rubin purple basil plants, and 1 Tough Tortie Topaz

Realization of the Day:
The completion of a planting project feels even more rewarding when you finish up right before it starts to rain.

Any gardener who has ever flipped through a seed catalog knows that the best thing about growing vegetables and herbs from seed is that you have a much larger variety to choose from. Sometimes even too large, as any gardener who has ever suffered from Eyes Are Bigger than the Garden Syndrome can attest to.

Those of us who usually start our plants from seed quickly become spoiled, especially if we need to purchase pepper seedlings in a place where, as my Amish neighbor who moved here from Ohio a few years ago and sells his extra garden bounty once put it, "Nobody around here likes sweet red peppers; they only want green." Green peppers are one of the few foods I despise.

Of course any pepper plants are better than none, and so you do the best you can, plunk down nearly $4 per scrawny little specimen when you must (even if it almost kills you), feel grateful for what you are able to find, and vow to do more than just paw through your large stash of marvelous heirloom red, orange, and yellow sweet pepper seeds next year.

Lots more below. . .

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Garden Journal 5/4/11: Bad Luck with Basil and Some Basil Growing Tips

Love basil? You'll find links to all of my previous basil posts, as well as my favorite basil recipes, at the end of this post.

Things are looking pretty bad in the basil department.

Realization of the Day:
It's starting to feel like somebody up there doesn't want me making any pesto this year—which sounds better than saying I'm an idiot with a pathetic memory.

Bad things happen to good gardeners; that's just the nature of gardening. But this is starting to get annoying. Three basil strikes by the fourth of May—and basil is one of my few never fail crops. I mean never fail. Basil always does well in my garden. Until now.
More below. . .

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Going Greek for Easter and Celebrating Earth Week in a Big Organic Way

I'm Giving Away a $520 Earth Dinner Package!

Greek Oregano in the Greenhouse - In My Kitchen Garden
Greek oregano going gangbusters in the greenhouse (the left side is shorter from harvesting).

Realization of the Day:
I think this just might be the Year of the Herbs in my garden.

The oregano, chives, lemon thyme, English thyme, sage, purple sage, and lemon balm are all doing great. My two little rosemary plants are a looking a little scrawny—no doubt due to my snipping them to within an inch of their life last fall in order to make just one more batch of White Bean Artichoke Dip with Rosemary, Romano, and Kalamata Olives—but I have high hopes for them. (You can read more about growing and using rosemary here.)

Fresh herbs from the garden are a low cost, low maintenance luxury. This time of year you can often find sturdy little herb seedlings for sale at nurseries and farmers' markets for about the price of those tiny packets of 'fresh' herbs at the supermarket. No garden space? No problem. Many herbs will thrive when grown in pots.

More below, including details on my biggest giveaway ever. . .

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Ten Most Popular Posts this Week - and the #1 Reason I Haven't Been in the Garden Very Much

Clare Elizabeth's triplet boy
Thankfully it's an extremely cute reason.

Realization of the Day:
I keep composing garden blog posts in my head—but little lambs keep popping out instead. We have 17 19 to date (including three sets of triplets!), with many more on the way. If you need a break from playing in the dirt, you can catch up with all the barnyard cuteness here.

So what do sheep have to do with gardening, besides keeping me from doing much? Sheep manure! You can read all about this wonderful stuff in the post I wrote last season around this time, Using Sheep Manure as an Organic Fertilizer in the Garden (and What's Keeping Me from Working in Mine).

I have managed to sneak in a little quality garden time during the past week in between round the clock barn checks:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Garden Journal 3/20/11: Spring Has Sprung!

Lilacs! (see them in all their sweet scented glory here)

Five more photos after the jump. . .

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dragon Langerie (Dragon Tongue) Bush Beans: Easy To Grow from Seed Heirloom Favorite #5

I'm always interested in hearing about gardeners' favorite varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers to grow from seed, so I thought I'd start sharing some of mine.

Previous posts include:

You'll find links to lots more of my favorite things to grow at the bottom of this post. And I hope you'll share your favorite kinds of beans to grow in the comments.

Dragon Langerie (aka Dragon Tongue) bush beans in the kitchen garden
Dragon Langerie beans in my kitchen garden.

Realization of the Day:
I currently have 14 packets of bean seeds in my stash—and I haven't even placed this year's seed orders yet.

Since one of those packets is Dragon Langerie beans, I'll probably just skip that section of the seed catalogs this time around. Maybe.

I did a major sort through and organization of all my seeds the other day, and while it was a smaller job than last time (see the comments sections of that post for lots of seed organizing and storing tips), I still ended up with a quart size bag packed with seeds I again left in the magazine free box at the library—and it definitely felt good.

Seed catalogs specialize in seductive descriptions; how else can they make you go from I'm just going to order a few packets this year to Grand Total: $93.00 in under 60 minutes?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Freckles Lettuce: Another Easy To Grow from Seed Heirloom Favorite

Love lettuce? You might find my post How To Grow Your Own Gourmet Lettuce from Seed: It's Easier than You Think! helpful. And there are links to lots more favorite things to grow at the bottom of this post.

Homegrown Freckles Lettuce and Radish Salad with Easy Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Realization of the Day:
This lettuce could probably qualify as a Daily Dose of Cute. I mean after all, a dish of baby carrots did once.

Is it okay to grow something just because it makes you smile? Of course. People do it all the time with flowers and other ornamentals. And what's nice about growing cute vegetables—like these heirloom carrots, for example—is that you also get to eat them. This Freckles lettuce is cute and tasty.

According to Pinetree Garden Seeds in Maine (from whom I ordered my seeds), Freckles, which is pictured on the cover of their 2011 catalog, is a unique and attractive romaine (Cos lettuce). Medium green leaves are freckled and blotched with burgundy spots. Flavor of the meaty leaves is great and they are very slow to turn bitter. Will add interest to any salad. 500 seeds for $1.25.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Garden Journal 1/13/11: New Year's Gardening Resolutions

vintage metal garden buckets
Vintage metal buckets filled with garden plans, ideas, and dreams—and yesterday, lots of wonderful donkey manure for the compost pile.

Three or four years ago, I found myself wide awake with insomnia at 3:00am on January 1st, scribbling down a ridiculously long list of goals and plans for the new year. I don't think I looked at the list again until I found it months later in a pile of paperwork clutter, and naturally hardly anything on it had been accomplished. Talk about a downer.

It's good to have goals (and I've always been a list maker), but this year I'm keeping things straightforward and simple.

These are my garden related resolutions:
1. More gardening.
2. More garden blogging.
3. More compost making—or at least more some compost pile turning.
4. Keep my new beagle puppy out of my very unbeagleproof-fenced garden.
And last but not least, always on the list but rarely ever accomplished (some of you can guess what's coming here):
5. Keep better gardening records!

I think I can do it. Okay, maybe not the puppy part. But definitely everything else, especially since, for various reasons, I didn't do much of 1, 2, 3, and 5 in 2010. Here's to a bountiful new year!

So what are your gardening hopes, dreams, goals, and plans for 2011?

© FarmgirlFare.com, the dreaming and scheming foodie farm blog where my garden plans have a habit of growing out of control during the frozen and snowy days of winter. Yours, too?