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.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cold weather again.

It is cold and stormy today in Utah. I didn't uncover my cabbage bed, will wait till it warms up again.
You can see some wood planks on the grass. It is for my new 2 garden beds, where I intend to plant tomatoes, eggplants and squash. I also bought 2 grape plants - Suffolk Red and Lakemont white. Both suppose to grow well in Utah.

I cleaned up my former Strawberry bed and that's where I am going to plant grapes along the fence. We just need to make some kind of trellis for it to climb on. I don't know yet which trellis should we make. I also got some more raspberries, they are sitting in the garage, behind the bike.

Here is a little Primrose flower, that I saved from dying in a local Department store.
It is doing much better today.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

First planting in spring 2011

I went to Home Depo yesterday and they had some cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli plants for sale. So I got some and planted them. I protected the bed with one of those "plant Blanket" from frost last night.
I also planted my blueberry into the container. I picked Northblue Half-high variety, so it wouldn't grow too high. I hope my plants survive.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Getting ready to plant my garden

Current obsessions: Gardening and Spring cleaning

I finally started to feel better and had enough energy to do some work outside. I pruned my bushes, which include 2 Hazelnuts, 1 Red Currant, 1 Black Currant, 1 Sand Cherry. I had to get rid of my Goosberry bush last year, because it was just a flowering variety - no fruits :( My Hazelnut finally brought some nuts last year, in fact quite a few. Here it is, after pruning
And here is one of my garden beds. It needs some more soil and compost. I am going to try Mel's mix for it too and dividing it into square feet for planting. On the background you can see tiny Red Currant and huge Black Currant bushes. I was able to can about 8 jars of black currant preserves last year.
And here are my raspberries. I need to plant more this year. I want to add everbearing variety and may be some blackberries and yellow raspberries. We never have enough of raspberries because kids just eat them off the bush.
I got all of my seeds for the upcoming season. I think I will plant my spring greens and radishes on Tuesday if weather permit.

Spring cleaning is in the air! Can you feel it? I organized my pantry with some wire baskets, that I got at Target's dollar section. I put together a snack basket for kids, school lunch items basket and a basket with Asian food items. Oh, and the one with pasta and spaghetti sauses. Makes it easier to see what we have and what we need.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Books and Movies

Current Obsession: Education Reform

I watched Waiting for Superman, rented it from the Red Box. Wow!
And I thought that here in Utah, we had it bad with schools!
 From my experience with our kids, schools do need help. The question is how to help them and what exactly needs to be done. One of the thing that was horrible in our local schools, is the curriculum choices that local School District made. For several years our School District was pushing a math program that most parents and teachers disagreed with, and which students didn't understand. However they (School District) completely ignored us all, used our tax money on materials, teacher instructions, etc. Till finally after about 7 years of using the program they were faced with the fact that the math test scores across the district were so much lower than any other district and the nation's, that something needed to be changed...yeah. So they promptly changed from the program that stated "no fact memorization" (like multiplication table for example) should be done to a "50 in a minute" program, when all the students have to do was timed test with addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. From one extreme to another. Can you imagine confusion of the poor kids. My daughter was in 2nd grade when the changes occurred and she would cry when it was time to do her math homework because she didn't have a clue of what she had to do. Later turned out that her teacher at that time was still teaching the old program in class, but gave them new program pages for homework ?!!!
Anyways, i did some investigation, and turned out that long time ago E.D. Hirsch, Jr. ans John Holder came up with the idea, that it would be nice if all schools across the nation will teach the same kind of basic knowledge to our kids. That if you moved from Utah to North Carolina your kids wouldn't feel like they are aliens at school, program wise.  His book series of "What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know", "What Your First Grader Needs to Know" etc., up to six grade, known as a"Core Knowledge", was adopted as the curriculum guidelines by most of the charter schools.  You can learn more about "Core Knowledge" program here     and   download free scope and sequence for this program from here
 Which brings us to charter schools. Charter Schools are public schools with independent curriculum and limited number of students. More information about Utah Charter Schools here  Limited number of students means that not everybody can get in. They have waiting lists and annual lotteries, when names are randomly picked. I submitted my kids names for 3 years to 4 different charter schools till finally last year, 2 of my 3 kids were accepted and my 3rd was put on "sibling's preference list". Am I happy that we got in? Yes. I would be happier though if our local public school would offer the same program. I just don't see a reason why they don't. I also don't understand why kids in Charter Schools and local schools both have electronic grade tracking system, but my son's teacher in local school "prefer" not to use it?! I don't understand why all teachers can get a tenure after 3 years, even if they are "bad" teachers and "great" teachers can't have a pay raise based on their performance. Don't you think they should?
I am very happy that the Charter Schools are available to us. I really liked new on-line charter school, that we used when we had to repeat the grade with my son- They offered wonderful curriculum and supplied all the materials, including laptop, and it was all free through our public school system. I would like to read your opinion about school system, even if you disagree with me.