The Garden is Happy Too…Mostly

We’ve had our fair share of garden woes this year.  We planned our raised bed in the perfect location, only to realize that it got full sun only a couple of hours each day.  We’ve had slugs and white flies.  When the weather was unseasonably warm earlier in the year, our fig tree put out a bunch of fruit only to drop them all a few weeks later when the weather turned cold again.  Despite all this, our garden seems to be pushing through.  We’ve planted a bunch of things in containers, we’ve applied some B.thuringiensis to the plants and our fig tree is producing a whole new batch of figs.

Here’s one of the tomatillos around the time we first planted it…

and here it is now.

Our tomato plants are starting produce the first of the tomatoes.  I’m excited to can them and use them through the winter.

Here’s the Napa cabbage last month…

and here they are now.  I see kimchi making in the near future!

Our horseradish plant has gone crazy in the last 2 weeks.  It grew a bunch of leaves and started to flower as well.

Here’s our fig tree.  The big fig is the 1 fig leftover from before the tree dropped its fruit.  All the little ones just popped up this last week.

While the tomatoes in the raised bed aren’t doing as well as the one in the pots, the kale seems to be doing just fine.

The beets are starting grow nicely too.

The sugar snap peas, also in the raised bed, aren’t doing as well as expected, but we started seeing the first of the actual peas this week.

We’re enjoying our lazy, almost summer days…or at least Dwight is.

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The Carnivores Are Happy

I know we’ve been MIA.  Both of us have been rotating through various ICUs with crazy schedules.  Now we’re finally on a rotation with normal people hours, and it’s been grand.  Our garden has had its fair share of issues, but in general, the plants have gone crazy with the warmer weather.

Today, I wanted to share some photos of the flowers that have been blooming on the various carnivorous plants we have.  Also, if you want to get carnivorous plants of your own and you live in Northern CA, check out California Carnivores…it’s awesome.

 

 

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Knitted Slouchy Beanie

I’ve been working on a sweater forever, so I wanted to work on a smaller project that I would have instant gratification with.  Greg’s been wanting a slouchy beanie, and I found this pattern.  It took only 1 day to finish and it looks great!  I used Malabrigo Worsted in Rattan that I bought at Imagiknit in SF (thanks David for the gift certificate).
This is Greg in front of the lilac bonsai.

This is how not to wear it…

And, from our garden, our butterwort (a carnivorous plant) is throwing up a very pretty deep purple flower right now.  I’m excited to see it bloom!

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Garden Happenings in the Month of March

I’ve been slaving away in the ICU and haven’t been able to update the blog as much as I would like to.  There’s been a lot of stuff going on in and around the house to share and we’ll be posting about them soon.  For the last month, we’ve been putting  a lot of work into the garden, and we’re excited to see how much growth there’s been in just 1 month’s time.  We’ve been able to plant some plants in the ground and others we’ll be able to transplant this week.  Above is a row of arugula we planted that just sprouted.  This post has many “before and after” photos taken just a few weeks apart.

The photo below is our horseradish plant that, just a month ago, was a small, boring looking tuber and now is starting to flower.

We’ve been able to transplant kale into the ground.

Our tomatoes are growing a ton each day…

and so are the tomatillos.

Our fig tree has plenty of fruit.

The napa cabbage is flourishing.

And, as always, Pickle and Dwight are doing well.

In this photo, Pickle is playing with his new “toothbrush” chew toy.

Soon to come are posts about beer, knitting and stinging nettles.

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Garden. Version 2012.

Last year, we were so sad when we had to move right in the middle of prime gardening season.  This year, we’re excited at the prospects of staying in one place long enough to actually enjoy the tomatoes we grow.  A couple of weeks ago, we did a lot of work to prep the garden.  Here are some photos from then.

We wanted a dog-safe place to do most of our growing, and we found the perfect place on the side of the house.  This little lot used to have several more rosebushes, but I think that a veggie garden will come in more handy.  As you can see, the dogs can still enjoy the garden too, but they won’t be able to dig in it.

Greg built a nice raised bed, we filled it with soil and compost and topped it off with some of the worm castings we harvested.  Now it’s just waiting for our seedlings to get big enough to transplant.

Speaking of seedlings, here’s a picture of our seed starter with all the seeds that we planted.

This next picture is actually a bit outdated now…nearly all of the seedlings have sprouted.  We’re just waiting for the true leaves to come in before we transplant them into little pots and then into the garden.  We also plan to plant other things like beets, arugula, sugar snaps, Napa cabbage (mmm…kimchi) and radish to name a few, but these will go directly into the ground once the weather becomes more consistently warm.

We like to pick a few oddball things to grow each year, and this year, we picked horseradish.  We bought a root, and they say that you simply lay it horizontally and cover it up with soil and it should start to throw up greens.

Our asparagus that we bought last year are doing well and they are all growing asparagus again.  We bought a few more root crowns to add to the collection.  The asparagus from last year may or may not be ready to eat this year.  You’re supposed to let it grow without eating any of it for 1-2 seasons depending on how robust the plant looks.

Below is our container garden, full of herbs, the asparagus and horseradish and our fig tree!  I counted at least 30 tiny figs on it today…I can’t wait!

 

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Harvesting Worm Castings

We just harvested a ton of worm castings from our vermicomposting bins.  We use a 3 level system.  Initially, we were filling just the middle bin and letting the juices drain out to the bottom bin.  As the middle bin became full, we started to fill the top bin a few months ago, allowing the worms to naturally work their way up to the more active bin.  Last week, we decided to harvest the worm castings to prepare for the new garden.

This is what the compost looked like in the bin.  As you can see, there are some bits that are not completely broken down, but for the most part, it looks and feels like soil.

This is our active bin, and if you look closely, you can see some of the worms.

We wanted to make sure that most of the worms stayed in the bin when we harvested the composted.  We used the dog’s pool as we were sorting through the compost.

Look how much we got!  Pickle’s impressed!

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a good time

the past 2 weeks of vacation have been pleasant.  eunice and i had the opportunity to take the dogs to big basin state park, visit my friend matt in santa cruz (who has an incredible backyard with garden, pond, swing, and sauna!), and even get fancy with a night in SF with dinner at benu.

much has been accoplished, including much needed respite from the hospital.  regardless, i think we both feel another 2 weeks is warranted.  i almost completed all the tasks on my list: trim bonsai, put in a raised bed, plant seedlings, work on ottoman, explore with the dogs, brew beer, ferment kombucha, a wilco concert, repair bathroom plants, purchase a new succulent.  last but not least on the list was a trip to the snow to try out my our snow shoes.  hesitant to the possibility that there was no snow, we headed to hope valley a few days back and had an incredible day.  got to shoot some video on eunice’s canon 60D and make my first attempt with imovie.  below is the video and i am pleased with result.  hopefully more videos in the future.  as you can see, the dogs had a blast.  and a recent purchase, mushers secret (made from 100% natural waxes!!!!!!!), was a great success at preventing frozen paws.

now looking forward to getting back into the swing of things at work and trying to integrate our homesteading lifestyle into a busy residency.  more to come for sure as winter turns to spring over the next several months.

(may i suggest full screen and volume up)

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Orange and Lemon Marmalade

Despite the odd winter that we’ve had, there has been plenty of citrus around.  I wanted to preserve some of it, and marmalade seemed to be the perfect way to do it.  I’m feeling a bit lazy, so I’m not gonna type up the recipe but will show you the basic process through photos. I will say that if you are inspired to make it, it’s in a cookbook called Canning for a New Generation…an awesome resource for canning with great modern recipes.  I definitely recommend it!

You start by zesting several oranges with a veggie peeler. You then julienne the zest into marmalde-sized pieces.

Section the oranges using a sharp paring knife. Save the pith, skin and seeds and place in little cheesecloth pouches.

Throw the sectioned oranges, a diced lemon, julienned zest, sugar, water and the pouches in a pot.  Boil until the zest is tender then take the pouches out. Simmer until the mixture has a nice jelly texture. You can test this by placing a small amount of the marmalade on a freezing cold plate.  If it’s ready to be canned, the marmalade will crinkle when pushed with a finger. Place the marmalade in sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace and boiling for 5 minutes to process.

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Kombucha

We love Kombucha, especially G.T. Kombucha’s Trilogy flavor. To our delight, we saw a make-your-own kombucha tea kit at the co-op and we couldn’t resist.  Part of me is a bit grossed out, but if this is successful, that’s a lot of money we’ll save.  The process is pretty straightforward.

The kit comes with instructions, tea, sugar and a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY) sitting in kombucha.

All you do is boil a gallon of water…

steep some tea in it, add a cup of sugar…

pour the tea in a clean non-metal container and let it cool to room temp.

Once the tea is cool enough, you pour the SCOBY along with the kombucha and cover with cheesecloth.

Now, we’ve left it in a warm place and we’ll get to taste it in 7 days.  It’s supposed to get fizzier and tarter as the days go by, and you can let it go for 30 days even.  When the kombucha has developed to your liking, you can add fresh fruit juices to it, sweeten it, water it down or drink it straight. Apparently, the SCOBY is reusable and it’ll grow in size. You just store it with a cup of kombucha in a closed jar until you’re ready to start the process all over again.  If this turns out well, we may have SCOBYs for any of you that are interested!

Pickle and his rabbit toy were a big help in making the Kombucha.

As were Greg and Dwight.

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Vacation

Ready...

We’re on our vacation now, and it’s been glorious. The dogs especially are happy to have us around and we’ve been on quite a few adventures already. We’ve been to the Vic Fazio Wetlands between Sac and Davis a few times this week. These first 3 photos are from there.

Set...

Go!!

We also took them out by Cache Creek for a short hike to a small pond call Frog Pond. It was a very pleasant hike and the dogs ran around like crazy!

We saw some snake skin and some pretty moss on trees.

Dwight had made himself so tired, that he was having a hard time catching his breath. He was breathing so hard with his tongue hanging out so far that you could’ve literally intubated him without a laryngoscope. It was probably the best look at vocal cords that I’ve ever gotten…I wish my patients were like that.

Anyway, he required some of our water and some time sitting down like this…

and then he was ready to move on. Pickle enjoyed a little rest as well.

There were lots of manzanitas on the hike.

And, at the end, the dogs got to take a little dip while we enjoyed our lunch.

We’ve been doing a lot this vacation, so look forward to hearing about our garden, art/crafts we’ve been working on, brewing, canning and even homemade kombucha.

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