Friday, April 30, 2010

Cloches and seedlings

My seedlings now have two true leaves. This is a sign that they are ready to start hardening off to transplant outside. Hardening off seedlings is one of the garden chore I mess up the most. I have forgot about them and it got too cold, or left them in the bright sun for too long and they were shriveled and burnt when I tried to pull them back inside.... so many things can go wrong! Because of our vacation, my seedlings will either be set out much faster than they need to harden off, or set out when I get back, when they are starting to get root bound and will need extra care.

I have been trying to find a solution to get around at least one of these issues. Perhaps a cloche or cold frame?

A cloche is a glass barrier between the elements and your seedlings. Some types are VERY beautiful like the Bell Cloches pictured below (pictures are clickable to the source):

But they also have a hefty price tag, so I was considering a making a cold frame out of recycled windows:

But that seemed like far too much work to do this weekend along with all the trip prep we have to do (with a side of broken washer as a bonus afternoon. Ugh!). So I decided to stick with something super simple.

Those bells, aside from being very beautiful, are basically a large jar that you put over top of your seedlings to make the environment warmer and easier for your seedlings to deal with. They are not that different from a Mason Jar. So that's what I used.

My sweet little seedlings are now protected from the elements in my free mason jar cloches. I raised the jars a little bit with a piece of wood on the bottom for ventilation, and before we leave, these little peat pots will be put into the ground with their mason jars around them to keep them safe and warm. Until then I will be bringing them in at night, and hoping that 4 days is enough time to harden off. I didn't plant any truly tender annuals yet, so I think I should be safe.

Not near as pretty as the bells, but still, it will do (and it was free!)



Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ecolovies ~ How to make a glass garden flower

Catalina, a blog follower posted these amazingly beautiful glass plate flowers as inspiration for my blank slate garden last week and I was just in awe! (Here is a link to her beautiful creation.) I have to admit to being a bit out of my league with the 'plumbing and electrical stuff turned art supplies', but I finally found them. (After two days of looking and really helpful people trying to help me find the abstract things I was looking for, while trying not to laugh. In the end I pulled up this picture on my iPhone and just took it out whenever they would start looking at me as though I had three heads.)

You need:

"rain ready" silicone glue
3/4" EMT metal conduit poles (cut to 3.33ft and 4ft lengths)
plumbing bell hangers (3/4" size for most plates)
thrifted glass plates
colored glass florist pebbles
screw driver
rubber mallet

1. Now, if you are anything like me, your first question is "What the heck is a 'bell hanger'???"

This is a bell hanger:

This $1.57 piece cost me lots of time. I actually went to 5 (yes 5!) different plumbing supply stores. In the end, I found them at Lowes. I actually found EVERYTHING I needed at Lowes. They were not, however, at Home Depot or any of the local places I went to. So, if you have a Lowes around you, and want to do this project, go there. And if you can, bring a picture of what you need. It's helpful.

2. After you have all your stuff gathered, it's the fun part. You just simply glue the glass pebbles to the plates in neat patterns, and then wait for at least 3 hours for it to dry. Do this in a VERY well ventilated area as the fumes are strong (we were in the homeschool room with the slider open) and make sure not to get any on your skin (we did this while Logan was napping).

3. Just before you go to bed that night, remove the screws from the bell hanger, and glue the 'bell' part to the back center of your plate.

4. The next morning, with the rubber mallet, pound the EMT pole into your soil, (you don't want glass tipping over) and use the screwdriver to secure the bell hanger onto it.

That's it! Once you find the stuff, this project goes together in a snap. And they are so beautiful!



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Garden Art

In the garden, so much is usually going on that simple art is best. At least in my personal opinion.

These things that I have here were thrifted and put together in unexpected ways, making a few interesting spots to draw your eye while the plants are still taking hold.

With my kids help, we have worked hard to find and make some beautiful things to make the garden a little less of a blank slate.

I am really enjoying clear glass right now. We don't do plastic as much as possible in our house (even my toddler has glass cups) so for me, putting a bunch of plastic art in the garden seems odd. A few thrifted plates and this adorable glass snail perfume holder were just what I was looking for.

More to come.



Monday, April 26, 2010

Grains of the World - Part 3

This is a double post from my Homeschool blog, but so many people were interested in this project that I thought I would post it over here too. :)

How does our grain garden grow? Well, let's see. The rice has decided not to grow any further than it did in the jar... which isn't too surprising as we are still dealing with low 40's at night here. The oats (that didn't sprout) didn't grow at all, but the other four grains have gone crazy! They are about 2 inches tall and have taken on a beautiful color of green.

The corn hasn't come up yet, but it will be a while before it does. It likes to be really warm. I know we can grow corn here however, so I suspect that when we get back from our trip, we will have tiny corn stalks to add to the school bed grain mosaic.

Link to the other posts: Part 1, and Part 2.



Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cashew Noodle Stir-fry

Cashew Noodle Stir-fry


1 package rice noodles, cooked per package instructions

1 cup of cashews or cashew pieces

3 large carrots

3 stalks of celery

1 bell pepper (any color)

one large onion

1 head of broccoli

2 cups of whole sweet peas

Cut all veggies into similar sized chunks and stir fry, starting with onion, carrots, and celery, and then adding the pepper, broccoli, and peas a bit later as they take less time to cook.

When all are firm-tender, add in rice noodles and cashews and toss with the following sauce.


1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp ketchup (if you buy a kind with HFCS then bring the sugar down to 2 tea)

3 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp lime juice

2 tea rice vinegar

1 tea soy sauce

Mix together and toss with the stir fry. Salt to taste. (Ours didn't need any added.)

I think this dish could have a hundred variations... If you add meat, however, I suggest cooking it beforehand and adding it in with the cashews at the end of cooking.




Friday, April 23, 2010

Belated Earth Day Wishes...

While as many days as possible are Earth Days around my house, I wanted to take a moment to thank our beautiful Mother Earth for the gifts she rains on us every single day. For the beautiful flowers that are blooming all around my house, and the plants that are growing in my garden... I am grateful.



Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Grains of the World Study - Part 2

I was shocked and amazed when I pulled out the jars of soaking grains for the lessons! They had sprouted. Not only sprouted, but some of the new little plants were more than an inch long! Amazing considering they had just been grain on Friday.

Even the rice had sprouted... which I wasn't sure it would even do. But I do have to admit that the idea of the food still being 'alive' that I usually eat actually made me feel really good. If it can grow a small plant, then it certainly must be good for our bodies.

We did have one that didn't sprout at all... the Oats. I wasn't sure that they would, and I am not sure I will be able to find live Oat seeds anywhere but online. These were called "Oat Groats" and they were obviously processed somehow, and not just the whole grain. I knew that rolled oats wouldn't work... and steal cut oats will not work either. Any ideas on where to find live Oat seeds would be welcome, as I am kind of out of options and it is a important grain in our diets as a family so important to include if I can.

We took the sprouted plants outside and put them down in our school garden plot. Most of them were starting to root into the paper towels, so we just put the whole paper towel into the soil with the seedlings in it. (Note to those of you who want to do this project... you really only want to soak the grains until the plant emerges.... I waited too long, but we had a long weekend in between soaking day and planting day. If I had known, I would have started the seeds soaking on a Monday and then added planting them to the curriculum of the day whenever they were ready that week.)

Here is our sweet little cluster of Rye:



Grains of the World Study - Part 1

I spent quite a bit of time, looking for grain seeds that were sold in less than a 50lb bag, and I have to tell you, it was a much harder than I thought! Finally, I took to the natural health food stores and asked if they had any sproutable grains. Of course the health food stores were able to help me immediately and I found white wheat, red wheat, barley, oats, and rye all in a sproutable form. The millet was a bit harder to come by... We had to dig it out of bird seed! lol! Corn I ordered because I wanted to make sure it was organic and GMO free so we could eat it, but that came in plenty of time and we have them all started now.

None of these seeds came from a 'gardening seed package', so I thought it would be a good idea if we sprouted them first, before we tried to put them in the ground.

To keep them all properly labeled, I had the kids write the names on huge craft sticks and then we placed one in each mason jar. At the bottom of the jar, we put a wet (really wet) paper towel, and then a heaping teaspoon of seeds, and another wet paper towel on top.

This is the bed they will go in when we are all finished. The corn is going to take up the 4 squares in the middle, then around the outside will be the different grains. I have made them a graph with the grains names on them so they can follow up with how fast they each grow in our climate.

This is the kids school garden bed and is located at the top left of my garden (pics here). It is 4ft by 4ft and Alex measured and marked it off for a square foot garden.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Homeschooling and The Garden

Lately, just like everything else, our homeschooling has been focused on the garden. My kids know more about plants and where their food comes from than most adults. I alternate between finding this amusing and a little bit scary. But whatever else my kids do or do not learn from our educational endeavors, they WILL be able to feed themselves. Always.

Currently, we are studying the Grains of the World. Their history and origins, as well as cooking with them and growing them. One of my 4X4 ft beds at the top of the garden has been set apart as a school garden this year, and in it we are growing rye, red wheat, white wheat, barley, oats, millet, corn, and rice. Yes, I am attempting to grow rice. Who knows if all of them will grow in this climate, but even if they fail and die here, that will teach us something too!

On top of the garden that is set aside for school lessons, last week, each of the kids made their own 6X4 ft garden bed. They put them together on their own, and filled them with the new soil on their own.

They each have a garden notebook they are keeping growth notes/charts in, their garden journal and any plans or dreams they have for their garden beds. They each made a detailed garden plan showing what they want to put in their beds. They have big plans to have a street side vegetable stand outside our house this summer with the things they grow available to all who come by... for a modest fee, of course.

Because of their limited space, they are very careful about their plant selections. Alex is all about using his space to make the most money possible. He is turning into quite the entrepreneur. He chose a variety of tomato (with my help) called "Mortgage Lifter" which apparently produces the most pounds of tomatoes per vine and still has a decent flavor. Cyan, not being as interested in making money as Alex currently is, chose a tomato variety called "Sweet Pea" which is a tiny current tomato that is ripe when it blushes pink, and then filled the rest of her bed with things she likes to eat and flowers she wants to sell.

It is a mix of my two favorite things... homeschooling and gardening. I am just thrilled to be able to play in the dirt alongside my kids, and teach them about the food we eat as a family. Who knows? By the end of the season, I could be buying Alex's Mortgage Lifter tomatoes to add to our family meal. ;)



Saturday, April 17, 2010

Local Living once again...

And so starts another season...

April is not an easy time to live locally around here, but as soon as things start coming in, I start to buy them. This produce is from our local farm (as are the eggs) and I am excited that to see spinach and other greens popping up in more than just my garden beds. :)

(Please ignore the Monster can. That is my husbands vice and not something I endorse on this blog... at all. Although I have gotten him to drink the 'mostly juice' ones. So his liver damage so far is minimal. Sigh... small steps. Small, tiny steps.)



Friday, April 16, 2010

A little corner of my yard

While I was on my mini-walkabout today, I decided to cut some flowers for inside. Things are blooming EVERYWHERE outside, and it is all so lovely! But this little corner of the yard took my breath away.

I have had the Spanish Bluebells in my yard before, many times. They are very common here. But I have not ever seen their white cousins in such force before. I looked it up here and they are relitively rare, but I can find no source about them being in the Pacific NW. The sources I found were mostly from England.

Aren't they beautiful?

I currently have them matched up with red tulips from another corner of the yard for a center piece for my kitchen table.

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