Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Super Project Phase 1

Super Project is getting each of my kids their own room. It involves getting rid of "The Playroom." That of course involved a bit of heartbreak on my part because being able to shut a door and have toys and clutter disappear is always a good thing. It also was hard on me because it wasn't even a year ago that I had a little makeover/reorganization party with that room. So it was a little hard on me to just give it up.
September 2012
But, my kids really need their own space, and my little boy? He's not so little any more and he needed more room. The playroom was the biggest room in the house besides the Master bedroom. No offense kid, but - FORGET ABOUT IT!

Remember that I was cleaning carpets a couple weeks ago?
Well, I was cleaning those carpets after I took out all the toys and well organized games...and dress up stuff. *sniff* WAHHHH.....
OK, OK. I'm moving on now.
So Phase 1 of Super Project was turning the playroom into a teenage boys room.
I can now say, mission accomplished!
He wanted something with a nautical feel that was fish themed and surf themed, too. I think I accomplished that. He also wanted 'not white walls and a wall that was blue' The picture doesn't do the walls justice. The tan is  creamy with a hint of grey and the blue is called faded denim. It really looks like a pair of jeans. Too cool!

To finish it off we added a tropical fish tank. It really adds to the tropical feel of the room.
 It seems like just yesterday he was just a little boy. Now he's getting ready to get his driver's license. *CHOKE* COUGH  *GAG*  But, I've got a little secret tucked into my back pocket. That headboard of his you see there?
Hehehe.... It's actually his old crib. :-) He will (whether he likes it or not) always be my little man. Even if he is now taller than me and he has a mustache. Every time I walk into the room I can't help but get a little choked up, and when I see that headboard it makes me smile and of course it adds to that lump in the back of my throat.
So Phase 1 complete. Phase 2 & 3 almost complete and phase 4... not so much. LOL.
See you soon!

Friday, May 24, 2013

New garden box

What was good for some, has not been good for others.
I'm not sure if it was the new soil, the new bugs, or the combination thereof. But, the cauliflower grown in the new garden box did absolutely amazing. The tomatoes are on fire. The zucchini looks great, the beans are doing well, The potatoes, however - not so much.
I dug up twice as many plants as I have previously this year in other beds to get even less potatoes. Most plants only had 1 or 2 potatoes of any decent size on them. Of the potatoes I managed to finagle out of the ground most of them were irreparably damaged by one type of bug or another. Ewww... Some of the potatoes were split, but most of them were simply - infested. Gross. and one was rotted.
Normally after pulling a plant and seeing that it wasn't very productive I would simply leave the rest to see if it would produce better if I allowed it to mature, but being that even the single potato that came up with the first plant had holes and I could see the damage, I decided to investigate further.... and of course I kept investigating. :-(
Once I pulled these 10 plants I realized I couldn't get to the last 2 plants because their roots are so close to the super productive romas. I'm not willing to risk those tomatoes yet. But, it makes me wonder HOW can the potatoes be so damaged by the bugs in the dirt and not the tomatoes? Well- the root systems of these potatoes are the healthiest I've ever had on any of my other plants. Without a doubt that is true. Is this something that will calm down once my soil establishes itself?
And here I had (wrongly apparently) thought I'd have at least a year or two of nematode free, pest (soil pest anyhow) free gardening. HA!

While I was disturbing this bed I figured I'd better check on the sweet potatoes as well. Good thing I did!

'Cause now I've got myself some sweet tater fries waiting for me this weekend! I actually harvested the same amount of weight in viable sweet potatoes as I did in regular potatoes from this bed, and that was just from checking under 2 vines and seeing what I could see poking up. LOL. I <3 sweet 'taters! I left my giant trowel there for comparison. The 'taters are bigger than my hand. :-D I can't wait to eat them. No real damage to speak of on them. I could see one tiny spot on one of them that looked like something thought about messing with it and then moved on. I do worry though what will happen now that I took the regular taters out- will the displaced bugs go to the sweet potatoes?
I've simply never had to deal with anything like this and I don't know what to do about it. I've never had an ecological system so out of whack. The good news is I did find a couple of earthworms already making themselves at home in the garden bed. It's a sign that things are - or will even out. But, meanwhile - What would you do? I'm afraid to leave the sweet potatoes there and I have a new set of slips ready to plant out now (purple!)
Any advice?
See you soon!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What would you do? (zucchini)

I know that a whole lot of you are just gearing up for your warm weather. I, on the other hand, have had enough warm weather that my garden is beginning the end of the Spring glut. This means that all that extra zucchini that I've had around the house is starting to fade away now. This is something that a lot of people can't quite fathom.
But, I have a saving grace. Gardening in Florida may mean a very short Spring season, but it means I get to do it all over again in the Fall! Whoohooo!  I don't normally get completely sick of the amount of zucchini that I get from my garden. (Remember, I've got a very small garden space so I don't have a lot of plants) But, I do get an abundance of it when my plants are at their peak. I know a lot of people don't know what to do with all of their extra squash when it comes at them so fast, so I thought I'd throw this out there.
This is not an exact recipe as much as it is a cooking suggestion. This is because like almost everything that I make... I just can't seem to follow an exact recipe. Try as I might - I just can't. I'm forever changing things or just winging it. I can't help it. I even intentionally set out to measure everything I did so I could post it as this is a  constantly requested favorite. Go figure.
If you have a picky zucchini eater, or a lot of company, or just a glut of zucchini... THIS is just the thing for you!
Roasted Zucchini w/ Mozzarella & Tomato
Ingredients (roughly):
Zucchini - 1/2 pound (whatever you have on hand)
Your favorite seasoning mix
Sea salt in grinder
Grape seed oil or Olive oil
Mozzarella Cheese (shortcut alert! If you have young kids grab the cheese sticks!)
Fresh tomato - sliced
Preheat oven to 420*
Line baking pan with foil and spray with cooking oil
Slice zucchini ends of and slice in half lengthwise, if zucchini is very large slice again so that all zucchini is uniform thickness roughly for even cooking.
Score with a fork like so:

 Rub the grape seed oil or olive oil over the grooved side of the zucchini... yes the grooves are very important. DO NOT forget the grooves. They do two things. They help hold on to the ingredients AND they hold all those wonderful spices in. YUMMO! You don't want to miss out on all that wonderfulness!
OK, Now that you have the grooves all oiled you need to sprinkle generously your favorite seasonings and pop that sucker into the oven for a good 20 minutes. You may even need a few minutes longer depending on the size of the squash. DO NOT BE AFRAID. It really isn't too long to cook the zucchini, even at 420. I promise. It seems like  lot but this is what you get:

Note the wonderfulness. The smell from that is absolutely amazing by the way. It tastes OK, but then it just doesn't taste anything nearly as good as it will in just a few minutes! Now, add the mozzarella cheese and the tomatoes to the top of the zucchini and put it back in the oven. Keep an eye on this now because the cheese can get bubbly in about 5 minutes and while bubbly is nice, burnt is not so nice.
Sprinkle on the sea salt and serve OK and fresh ground pepper if you like that stuff!
(Don't forget this step it's important!)
You now have something even the teenager at my house will eat! That is right. I kid you not.
I would not kid about such an event. The boy is getting picky these days. He's almost 15 so you know, being cool is like- paramount, Dude. What? No one says Dude these days? Yeah, well, I do! (Dude.)
I gotta tell ya. I'm not the biggest zucchini fan myself. I prefer my zucchini in the form of a chocolate muffin. Disguised and quiet. I also only prefer it occasionally, but these I've been eating every chance I get. I even get cravings for them. Thanks to Sharon for starting the frenzy. The whole cauliflower pizza crust wasn't such a great adaptation, but this one sure did turn out great. Don't get me wrong. The cauliflower pizza crust? AWESOME flavor and it gave me the idea to do some cauliflower fritters just like my okra fritters that taste wonderful and are gluten free (Just like this recipe) but, to say it is a 'crust' eh, not so much. LOL.
Anyway... I give you my not so recipe recipe for Roasted Zucchini with mozzarella and tomatoes.
YUM! Now, You'll have to excuse me. I have to go make some more.
See you soon!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Harvest Monday 5.20.13

I think I've hit the peak of harvests now. It will decline fast. So while I'm happy at the moment I know that it won't last long.
For instance? In the last 48 hours my zucchini plants when from having one green worm boring into it - to a complete infestation. the blossoms now have worms, the leaf stems have worms, the baby zucchini have worms. I do not have worms, but I do have a bad attitude. I knew it was coming, but I'm just NOT happy about it. If Mr. Giant corporation can come out with super germ warfare why can't it come out with a zucchini plant that fights back? LOL. Then again, as big as those plants get? Maybe having them fight back isn't such a good idea. What would happen if they decided they wanted to keep their bounty? That wouldn't be a pretty picture!

OK - On to serious matters. This weeks harvest!

 5lbs 6oz of new potatoes, a few bell peppers, jalapenos, 6lbs of tomatoes, the last of the snap peas (the vines are still there but no more weight will be recorded. The vines will come out this week)
Zucchini, Beans bush and pole, carrots, cucumbers, eggs (of course!) strawberries - but most get eaten in the garden because we only get a couple a day and a leek.

Oh, and that is 6.2 ounces of mint y'all! I made a few drinks this week that needed mint. Some hot tea, and some cold drinks. I'm weird. I really like cold mint. But I prefer it in my chocolate. LOL.
This weekend saw phase 1 of the big major project done. I"ll share here in a day or two. I also have a couple lovely recipes to share this week with some recent harvests. But, for now I'm late posting this so...
See you soon!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My old home. My next home

I am pretty sure I have spoken previously about the house where I started all this gardening mayhem.
It all started with a Key Lime tree in my back yard. Then I got some banana plants, coconut trees and form there my love of tropical fruits and plants? Well, lets just say it never quit.
Problem is, now I don't live in a zone 9b/10 area any more.
But the other day I had the opportunity to go by my old house. As we drove by I managed to get one decent picture with my cell phone. I also talked to the neighbors who tell me that the gingers and bananas are invading their landscape. They also say that they absolutely LOVE them. I'm glad I could help. LOL. Here's the picture I snapped on the way by - with some labels.
I was also awed by the fact that the original palms are still there. These palm trees were started from seeds that were swiped... uh picked up around different neighborhoods in the area and include several foxtail palms, triangle palms, hurricane palms and even a teddy bear palm. The sea grapes were eagerly trying to put on some fruit. The mango had fruit, the avocado had fruit, the citrus had fruit, and if I'd have had my way I would have looked over the fence to see what all was left in the back and side yards of what I had planted. Unfortunately hubby isn't into stalking so I didn't get to see back there, but at least I know the owners are taking care of the trees that were most important to me.
The mango is now so large that you can no longer see the home at all! I LOVE it! The avocado is about 30' tall...*sigh*
On one hand it makes me sick to think all the hard work that went into making these trees live past their infancy stages was reaped by someone else. I mean we only got two crops off the mango before we sold the house. These owners will have fruit for the rest of their lives - if they want it. The avocado was still young and had only given us 5 fruits. LOL. That one wasn't so hard to part with. The citrus was a cocktail tree with tangerine, ruby red grapefruit and Meyer lemons. YUM! We could see that the Key Lime tree was doing fabulously as well. Great news for them. The citrus in our county has all but been wiped out so I'm very jealous of those 2 trees.
More than anything what it's really done is make me think ahead. I've spent so much time and energy focusing on the trees here at our current house and only a little on the property in Alabama. But, realistically that is where I need to concentrate more of my efforts. Alabama is where I'm going to end up homesteading long term and where I'll need mature trees in 5-10 years. Trees take that long to truly get established.
So I've been talking quite a bit with the hubby and we have a new plan. It's not like we are going anywhere for the next 5-10 years so we still intend to continue to grow what we can here. Meanwhile this year I'm going to aggressively start rooting new plants from what I have here that will do well there. A lot of what I have needs a good rootstock there and will need purchased as small trees, but some things like my pomegranate, persimmon, thornless blackberries and blueberries can all be grown from rooted cuttings.  I'll also need to look into which of my guavas can be grown there. I know one of them can but for the life of me I can't remember if that is my pineapple or strawberry guava? Hmmm...
So that is a large project i"m going to start this year and I'm hoping that I'll have transplants to take with me next year. I could be getting ahead of myself. It may take longer for the plants to get large enough/strong enough. But I figure I have enough plants around to experiment with for now.
Oh, and on a side note- but a very good side note? Hubby agreed to buying a REAL greenhouse for up there so I can bring my (dwarf/potted) mango tree and a few choice citrus plants when we do move up there. BONUS! There is just something about growing up down here. I don't think I can live with out fresh tropical fruits. Now? Best of both worlds. :-) I'm wondering just how big I can get him to agree to on the greenhouse before he tells me no. ;-) hehehe.
OK - I'm off to make of list of supplies i need for rooting. This is all new to me!
See you soon!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Garden Bloom overview (partial/May)

I splurged on one plant to see what it was all about this spring. I'm glad I did. It was a "super Roma" tomato plant, and so far, it's been SUPER! It's taken our extreme temperatures and my lack of care and spat back loads of tomatoes.
Zucchini is still going strong for now...and the potatoes are still taking turns flowering. This is the last of the taters to flower. In the back you can see the single radish I've let go to seed. This bed hasn't been productive in a year, except for radishes so I figured why not?

The apple tree is blossoming. The first blossomed failed. I wonder how the trees are doing in Alabama?
I'm so curious, and my hubby is going on a quick trip in 2 weeks. It should be early blackberry season there, too. Wondering if I can talk him into bringing back some and taking pictures of my trees...

Pomegranates are doing well this season. I can't wait for them. It takes SOOO long for them to ripen. It nearly hurts to wait so long!

I've got grapes on the vine, too! Not as many as last year, but that is my fault, and it's OK. I knew better with my choice of plants but I just had to have the Concord grapes because I love them so much. They are worth it. Delectable little jewels that they are. 
There is so much more just since the 10 days that I took these pictures. The mulberries are blooming again... Joy? The cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, string beans, Lima beans, all going like gang busters right now. 
The weather is changing daily again. I know that everyone has been talking about how weird the weather is, but well and truly I've never in my lifetime seen 50's in the middle of May, and yet this morning that is what I awoke to. Absolutely amazing.  
Oh, did I mention I fixed a sprinkler head that my hubby tried to fix for the last year? He even replaced the entire head and that didn't work. It was the pipe that was stripped causing the sprinkler head to sit wrong. It just took a little finesse and a lot of muscle and determination to get it right. I do get the feeling at some point in the future we'll have to re-do the entire line section there, but for now it's working again, and I'm rubbing it in that a woman fixed what the man could not.
See you soon!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Harvest Monday 5.13.13

It's Monday again. This time it comes directly after Mother's Day weekend. I hope that you have a lovely weekend. I know I did. I didn't just have Mother's Day. I had Mother's weekend. :-)

But, as for the harvest. It was fairly meager pickings this week. I actually harvested more than I care to admit because a rather large amount got eaten in the garden. I pulled the pea vines and well, any peas got eaten while I was there. We had a few cool days so there were more than I care to admit. But the vines were well and truly shot and our hot weather is upon us and not relenting so I knew the vines had no hope. I also ate about a half pound of blueberries. I now have 5 pounds in the freezer, so a decent amount for the year. Not enough for our large family, but a good start!

As for what I can actually attest to?

Zucchini made a major come back this week. This one in the picture is only one of 10 that we ate. I grilled a few, but this wasn't out favorite this week. Our favorite is oven roasted with grape seed oil, mozzarella  garlic, spices and tomato..oh - YUM. Even picky teenager eats it like it's going out of style.  We try to take major advantage of it this time of year because it doesn't last long. I have two very strong plants right now but the bugs have come out this week and that means the plants (not just the zucchini) are going to be suffering soon.
I knocked the tomato off the vine but it is nearly ripe now. I also took one that was starting to blush and ripened it with a banana. That was the one we used for the zucchini oven roast. The snap peas are still giving and looking O.K. The vines are hanging tough for now. Not producing well, but still just enough to save their booties.
The blueberries are just giving  the bare minimum they can now. The mocking birds found the fruit this week and I got dive bombed by 3 of the suckers Saturday. I may have to invest in a pellet gun. Wonder if Mockingbird stew is any good? Kidding...sort of.
I'll be back to give details of my weekend later. For now- I'd better get back to work.
See you soon!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A day at the 'Pet Spa'

I'm off on one of those posts that get me side tracked.
See I was working on one of those BIG projects that I've been talking about the last few weeks.
Sneak preview alert:
Ah - just a blank slate for now. This WAS the kids playroom just a few short weeks ago!
 But, I got to the point where I was cleaning the carpets, and one of the kids came in. The tears were falling and through the hiccuping and sobbing I managed to make out that her doggie needed a bath.
Now, I have to warn you. This is no ordinary dog. It's stuffed. It's also not of a size that I could just toss into the washing machine and call it a day. Besides. She sleeps with this dog, she eats with this dog. This dog is a part of our family and... well - Have you ever seen what happens to the animals you toss into the wash? I mean there are desperate times and all but this animal? There was NO WAY it was going into the machine!
So,  in a brilliant Mom move (I mean, Hey, I've had that title now for almost 15 years it's time I earned it, right?) I dropped what I was doing and we had a Pet Spa day. We brushed those tears off her little cherub face. Stuffed a cookie in her mouth and quickly proclaimed this as the Pet Spa rather than my newest project room. Hey, whatever works for the moment. So. I ran and grabbed a laundry basket to be the 'tub' and a blow dryer. I already had the rest of what I needed...

One dirty dog.

Clearly you can see why the child was distraught. This would be the child with OCD, ADD, and just a touch of ME. LOL.

I had my 'PET Cleaner" (cut off the car part of carpet cleaner and watered it WAAAAY down by 80%)

I simply sprayed the stains on each appendage and then vacuumed them off. Some of the set in stains had to be sprayed and vacuumed more than once, but ALL of the stains came off. Even the marker! Of course this Mama is not dumb. This house only has washable marker around anyway. But after sitting around for so long I would have thought that the marker would not have come off or would have left some staining, but NOPE!

After Vacuuming we brushed and blow dried the pup, giving it the full beauty spa treatment. Luckily my kiddo has no idea about painting doggie toenails or the whole bandanna thing that the real groomers do at their shops. I'm not sure if i could have found a bandanna around the house. Maybe a boa would have done?

At the end of it all the whole process only took about 1/2 hour and my kiddo and her pup were reunited. Of course this Doggie has her own pups and they were happy to see each other as well. I told you that it was part of the family.

But there is something I learned from this experience that I will use over and over again. It's SO MUCH EASIER to do it this way! The animal is cleaner and not all beaten up. The child is less traumatized and she truly enjoyed helping me in the process, too. Besides now I don't have fluff falling out or a tail that needs reattached, an eye falling off or any of the other assorted injuries that happen to these animals in the washer. Of course there are times that a washing machine would be the only way the animal could be saved. After all kids get sick - but for the animals that are just loved a little too much, what a great solution. I'll never go back to the old way again!
So hopefully if you, like me had never heard of anyone vacuuming their stuffed animals clean - now you have! Spread the word because it's too easy to ignore.
See you soon!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Harvest Monday 5.6.13

Monday - Already? You've got to be kidding me! This weekend went SO fast!

I worked on a project for the chickens. I forgot to take pictures while I was working because i was by myself, but now that it is almost finished I have to go back and take photos. It's worth it. I turned the door around to their pen. I always hated the door leading to their run. I still do, but I hate it a little less now. LOL.At least I can OPEN the door now. See, it used to open in, and the little chooks always seemed to toss all the shavings wood chips and anything else they could find right in the path of the door. I fixed that! It did impede on their space a little, but there is only 3 of them and they do have a good sized run for just a couple of them. I have a few other things up my sleeve for them this summer, too. Just a couple things to help in the way of boredom and keeping them occupied during our seasonal rains. :-)

Ah, but that isn't why you are here is it? It's not just Monday... it's HARVEST MONDAY! Of course! This weeks harvests included the first potatoes and zucchini of the year. I threw those on the grill with some pork chops Friday night. I love it when a meal comes almost entirely from the garden, and ALL local. :-)

Also harvested more carrots, another cauliflower. This one topped out at a decent 2lbs 9oz. a few strawberries a pound of blueberries (not all pictured) and ... well... Oh yeah! One H.O.T. radish. I'm guessing that the weather is just getting too warm for them now.

The zucchini are full bore now. I've got a good 6 on the 2 bushes/vines? Hmm... Anyway We'll be swimming in them the next couple weeks which is good. They tend to only last a few weeks now as we get into May and June so we will be sure to take advantage while we can!

The potatoes I pulled up are the ones that are planted around the blueberry bushes. I didn't like the idea of leaving them to grow to full size under the blueberries and damaging the bushes roots. I knew the longer I let them grow the more likely I'd have a hard time digging them out and end up hurting the bushes. Since they flowered almost 3 weeks ago I've been keeping a close eye on them. Turned out to be the perfect time to pull this little bush we each got a small potato perfectly proportioned for us!
I would love to show off to you my first blackberries of the season as well, but my lovely daughter decided that she wanted to pick me a bouquet of flowers... (Can you see where this is going?) Just so you know when you cut a blackberry flower it only last a few hours in a vase. Also, just so you know it's REALLY hard not to cry when you realize just  WHAT the flowers are that your well intending child handed you with a smile on her face. 'Happy Mother's Day' she says. Happy Mother's Day, indeed. What a gem she is. Every. Single. Bud. And from the thornless canes no less. LMBO.
Ah, well. I suppose it wouldn't be gardening without trials and tribulations, now would it?
OH! Guess what else weird just happened? My blueberries REbloomed! Check it!
How Weird it this? I talked to a local blueberry farmer about it and more than half of his crop re-bloomed as well. He thinks it is because of the really late weird frost/freeze we had a few weeks ago. We had another weird cool spell just Saturday night - it actually got down to 59*. For us in May... that is just freaky. The blooms this time aren't as pretty and I'll assume they won't be as large of fruit, but so far on the bushes that have re-bloomed I have about half again as much fruit. That is good because I didn't get as much fruit this year because we didn't get but about 40 chill hours total. The bush in the picture is only a second year cutting so the fruit wont be kept. It's too small to support it yet. Next spring I'll allow it a small crop.
I'm rambling now. Off to work.
See you soon!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sale? Oh, YES!!!

It's THAT time of year again!
I tend to forget that this happens right around Mother's Day.
To me, the timing couldn't be better. What other way do I have to guilt my Honey into buying me MORE plants - Plus they are all in one place at one time. What could be better!?
So, if you are finding yourself anywhere in the area I suggest that you make the time to get there. You know I'll be there! Now I've just got to figure out WHERE exactly I could fit anything else.
So far form this this sale I have brought home pineapple guava, strawberry guava, Pom Wonderful, dwarf pom, persimmon, apples, figs, grumichama, barbados cherry and surinam cherry. What will this year bring?
See you soon!