Friday, June 24, 2011

Garden update for June

After all the spring moisture and cool weather my garden keeps on growing.
Here is a detailed progress on each of the garden beds.
Root crops are doing great. I made some turnip greens with bacon, and some Swiss chard with pork chops the other night.
I picked all the broccoli and cauliflower heads and let some side shoots to bloom. My arugula is flowering too. The flowers suppose to be edible, but I didn't find the courage yet to try it. I planted more arugula though, I liked the leaves in my salads.
Here is a shot of my asparagus/sorrel bed. I actually made "Green Borsh" for my friends, with sorrel, some dill and parsley, and it turned out just how I remember it from my childhood! Yay!
 On the background fennel around the grapes is doing pretty good too. Both of my grapes finally sprouted leaves and started growing.

My peas are flowering and I even picked some pods. The only problem I have there, is my markers for peas all washed off and I can't tell which is which yet. I hope I will be able to figure it out - which one is Sugar Snap, which one is shelling pea and which one is Snow pea.
I planted my tomatoes and basil, some cucumbers and squash. Only after I planted it, I found out that you actually not suppose to plant squash and tomatoes close to each other. Oh well, I will keep it in mind next year.
And here are some pictures of my edible landscaping out front.


There are some fennel and artichoke plants, hiding in between the flowers.
I also finally figured out what kind of mint is growing by my raspberries - Curly Mint.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Coupons!

I never paid much attention to coupons printed on the inserts of the News Papers, the products that the coupons were for seem almost always too much money for us. About 2 weeks ago my sister-in-law mentioned Extreme Couponing show from TLC http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/tv/extreme-couponing and said it was pretty interesting. I don't have cable or dish, however I found some of the videos on TLC web site. Wow, those people really had it all figured out. Turns out you can use coupons for any product and save money if you know HOW to do it. You need to find a right sale in the store that preferably doubles manufacturer's coupons and has store coupons that can be combined for the same item. If you find something like that, you hit the Jackpot!
Since my grocery bills lately seem to get bigger and bigger with the growing prices, I decided to give that couponing business a try. The question is, other than News Papers, where so you find reliable coupons? Here are some sites that were most helpful to me:
http://www.totallytarget.com/
http://hunt4freebies.com/coupons/
These guys are constantly on alert for new deals and publish each of them as soon as they are available.
The site http://www.weusecoupons.com/  has free virtual classes, that explain you in detail how to use coupons, how to organize them, which store doubles coupons and when, etc. They got it all.
I am going to try coupons for 3 months and see if I really so save money and how much. I will report back with the results.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bird feeder guests

Every day I have quiet a company on my bird feeder. They mostly fight for a place on it and yell at each other and sometimes eat.


Here is a list of guests.
Once I counted 8 Lazuli Bunting males at the same time. They are very pretty, with showy blue heads and wings and red chests. I think, I started to see females too, but not so sure.
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/lazuli_bunting/id

Lazuli Bunting Photo'
Next, I have couple House finches, males and females. They are better behaved and don't fight as much, probably because of the smaller numbers.
Adult male

The guest with most self confidence is a male House Sparrow. Even being the only representative of his species, he can easily out yell or outfight any other bird or even several.
House Sparrow Photo

That is pretty much it for the constant day to day birds. Once in a while I get some visitors that only stay for a short snack and then fly away into the wide world. Couple days ago I saw a couple of Blackbirds, I think, they were Blackbirds. And today in the morning I saw this guy
Black-headed Grosbeak Photo Black-headed Grosbeak. Since he was bigger then any other birds on the feeder he was given a wide space.
The other birds that mostly occupy themselves on my lawn instead of bird feeder include a robin and couple European Starlings. Yesterday I saw one of the Starlings taking a bath in a birdbath on my flower bed. There wouldn't be anything unusual in such behavior, except it was during pouring rain! I guess this guy prefers bath to a shower.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

April snow showers bring... May snow, lots of rain and food to my table :)

On May 1st we woke up to ... snow again of course! What did you expect? Flowers? Not this year!
The weather did changed  eventually. Snow changed to rain and a LOT of it. So far it turned out to be a wettest spring here, since I moved to Utah. Almost like being in Kiev again, only without chestnut trees everywhere. I like being comfy and warm inside my house during those rainy days. Baking cinnamon rolls (thanks Karlson for it) or chocolate chip cookies. Ya mm.
I had to wait awhile to finish my garden beds which meant that my poor seedlings by the window grew spindlier and spindlier. I don't have a suitable light source for them, and instead of sunlight outside we got clouds pretty much everyday.


So, my cucumbers, pumpkins and squash had to put up with horrible light conditions. When I was finally able to transplant them into garden only squashes and couple pumpkins survived.
So now I have 2 Straight Neck Yellow squash plants, 2 Black Zucchini, 1 Patty Pan Scalloped squash (never tried this one before, would be interesting to grow and cook it). I am just hoping that I can plant my cucumber seeds directly in the garden and they will still have enough time to grow.
In the meanwhile when rain gave us couple hours break I was able to plant my root vegetables - turnips, carrots, beets and parsnips. Also some beans and corn. My kids were excited about planting "magic beans" - Royal Burgundy, - they suppose to grow purple, but turn green in the process of cooking.
Here are my root and bean garden beds:
 Turnips and beats.
 Kohlrabi, Swiss Chards and carrots.
 Beans are poking out.
Peas.

On the last picture above, on the background, you can see my bundled up tomato cages. Right after I planted tomatoes, we got a freeze warning again! Luckily they survived. I am loving my very versatile row cover! I think it saved me a lot of pain this year. Without it, being impatient gardener, I would probably end up with lot  of dead plants on my hands. With row cover I just need to pay close attention to the weather forecast.


With all the cool weather and extra moisture I got some fast crops of greens, radishes and broccoli. I tried and loved Arugula in my salads and on my sandwiches, and I love, LOVE snacking on my sorrel leaves!
Arugula.


 I keep planting my radishes approximately 2 weeks apart and I was able to have some fresh radishes on my table at least twice a week, every week so far.
 Broccoli is almost ready for harvest.
Rows of sorrel.

All and all I like the look of my vegetable garden in May.

And here, finally are the flowers, after all the April and May showers :). Below are some of my favorite front yard non-edibles - Lilac and ready to bloom peonies.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Book review and Musing of an Immigrant

The only kind of literature that I have been reading lately was Cook books and Gardening books. I will talk about those later. First I want to talk about book, that I accidentally picked up the shelf at Target  Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes  .  True it is still kind of cook book, since it contains some recipes. But it has so much more to offer. There is a romance, an adventure, some politics mixed in, and what appeals to me the most - an immigrant's point of view. Even if it is about life in France, not America, there are a lot of similarities in lives of immigrants everywhere.  Trying to "fit in" into the new culture, looking for friends, work, dealing with language barriers and ...food :) People here often ask me if I like living in America more then Ukraine. The truth is, I can't even compare. First of all I grew up in a Soviet Union, the country that does not exist anymore, so almost everything that I associate my childhood with, isn't there either. Second, the adult part of my life in independent Ukraine was different because I was young and single and for the most parts care free. Now I am older, married and a mother of three kids. So of course it is very hard to compare. Do I miss seeing my family? Of course. The reality is lots of my relatives passed away, some moved to different parts across the globe and my Dad remarried. So when I think about parts of my life in my former home, my nostalgia is about my memories from the past, not present. I miss the vacation and holiday times the most.
 For example every May when the weather got warmer and flowers and trees started to bloom, my parents, me and couple neighborhood families visited Botanical Garden http://www.dbs.dn.ua/about.htm together. We lived pretty close, so it was about 20 minutes ride.  First we all visited a "formal part" we bought our tickets and went on a tour - there were so many different plants! Lilacs, peonies, tulips and roses - I can't even tell how many types of roses they had. By the way our city used to be called a "City of Million Roses", at one time. There were also different kind of trees - shade trees, flowering, fruit. I especially remember pretty fences that separated parts of the garden, the fences that were made out of growing trees - espalier fruit trees. It looked like this  . It looked even prettier in the Spring when those trees were in bloom. After taking a tour our families went across the road to the "other" part of  our Botanical garden. That part consisted of several meadows, couple ponds and some groves made of different kinds of trees. We had our picnic there. We shared our food and then played games like badminton, Frisbee, tag etc. Often my family attended plays at Drama, Ballet and Opera theatres, Puppet theatre and Circus performances ( we had a permanent circus building in our city, that hosted performances of many touring circus groups).  Every summer we managed to go on the family vacations - to the sea shore, or river bank. Those were good times.
Of course here in America, we had made lots of good family memories together too. Here in Utah we visited many National Parks like Arches, Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon, etc. The views are breathtaking!  Our vacations here are usually shorter, only 3-5 days at a time, unlike 2-3 weeks, that I got to spent on vacation with my parents, as a child. I think it is because life is more intense here and it is hard to put work problems aside and relax. There are more opportunities here - better car, bigger house, better position at work, etc. On my opinion this makes people feel that they are in a constant race, and makes it hard to slow down and "enjoy the sunset". 
Anyways, I really enjoyed reading the book. It made a contrast to  Sarah's Key , the book that we read for our book club last year.  That book was actually pretty good and had an two interesting story lines, one about events that took place in France during the Second World War and the other one about American journalist investigating those events in present time. I liked it, but to me it contained too many stereotypes about France and French people.  I do not like stereotypes in general. On my opinion, each person is different, no matter where that person lives. There are so many individual experiences and events in our lives that shape our character, it is almost impossible to generalize us in categories. But again, that is just what I think. May be I am so opinionated, because I am Russian LOL!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

April weather

April weather keeps my gardening plans at bay.  Too cold and windy and too much snow. The first picture is from last Sunday, April 3rd and the second one from today - April 9th. Can hardly tell the difference.

However in between rain and snow and cold, Spring is sending her minions forward! Here is my Sand cherry starting to bloom:


and here are some Cress sprouts, made their way up:
Still, I can't wait for warmer weather. I have a "Logan" Blackberry and "Tutameen" Raspberry sitting in pots by the window, waiting to be planted in a garden. I also have to dig up my new garden beds and change my flower bed in front of the house to a curved line from the straight one. I am SO ready to see more green color instead of white and brown.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Last day of March and Attack of the Easter Bunnies.


My new obsession: Felt softies.

Beware of the Easter bunnies!
Here they come! If you leave some carrots and celery unattended, the Easter bunnies will sneack  on you.

Find your veggies.

Do some taste tests.
And run away with your lunch!

Didn't even leave a chocolate egg for me! Bad bunnies!

The weather keeps changing everyday. Cold, raining, snowing, warm, and so on. However under my fleece cover my Brassica plants (cabbage or mustard family), I just learned this word :), seem to do pretty good.



Slugs found it out too, unfortunately, and have been feasting on my Brussels sprouts and Chinese cabbages. I heard that grounded eggshells around the plants help to keep slugs and snails away. I will try that.
In my second garden bed, after throughout digging for rocks, adding mix of manure, peat moss, compost, and vermiculite, I planted 3 rows of pea seeds - shelling, Snow and sugar snap. I still have to put up some kind of a trellis for them. I plan to add some more once I see the sprouts and plant some beans in the same bed.
My black currant looks nice and green.


I'm thinking about ordering some more red currant bushes and gooseberries. May be even planting those in my front yard, they look very pretty in all seasons and unlike black currant they don't have a strong smell.

Monday, March 21, 2011

True Meaning of "Rocky Mountains"

Last weekend while working on my second garden bed, I learned a true meaning of the name "Rocky Mountains". I dug out 2 huge piles of rocks just from my humble 4'x8' raised bed.


As you can see the rocks came in all sizes - from pretty small ones, to medium, to boulders! I am wondering if I can use them to make an edge for my round strawberry bed. I am planning to put a strawberry bed in the center of my garden patch. On the sides I am going to put 2 more 4'x8' beds, which my nice husband is already making for me.

He also helped me to plant my new "3-in-1" Pear and Apple trees.

Now I have a Sweet Cherry tree, Japanese Plum tree, new Pear and Apple trees and my 3 year old Black Mulberry tree which grows in the front yard. I plan to add next year a Peach tree and may be an Apricot. I heard that Neem Oil  is safe and effective spray for fruit trees. I am going to try spraying my trees this year.