Friday, October 29, 2010

Giving a shrub a second life

Ever since I found out about Freecycle, it's been my new favorite thing. I subscribe to the emails in search of garden related items. I finally scored on Wednesday when I saw that someone was giving away their Lilac, Viburnum and Climbing Rose Bush. They didn't want the plants anymore because it was too big for their small Brooklyn backyard. Here's the catch... we had to bring a shovel and dig it out of this guy's backyard. When I told my husband about the free plants, let's just say he was less than thrilled about the idea, but he said he would do it. I called the guy and asked him how big the bushes were.  He said they were 5 feet tall.  Then I told him we would come to get the plants.   Here is where things started to go downhill.  The minute we pulled up to the house, it starts pouring rain!  Since it took us an hour to get to Fort Greene Brooklyn, (we hit crazy amount of rush hour traffic on the BQE) we decided to rough it in the rain and start digging.  When we entered the guys backyard, the first thing I thought was, man, I wish I had my camera.  The backyard literally looked like one of those yards you see on the History Channel show "American Pickers".  There was furniture, bikes, a sink, pots, wood, boxes,  chairs, all toppled on top of each other.  We had to climb over the mess to get to the plants.  Then when we saw the lilac bush I thought to myself, this is way bigger than 5 feet tall!  Don't get me started on the viburnum, it was like 10 feet tall and 3 feet wide.  I decided to only take the lilac and rose bush.  The lilac roots were well established, my poor husband was struggling to dig it out.  It took us an hour to dig out the bush in the pouring rain.  My husband looks at me and says, "You soooo owe me for this!" .... Gulp! Well, 3 hours later and completely drenched, we got both the lilac and the rose bush into our car.  When we got home it was dark so we waited until morning to plant the bush.  Here is the hubs digging a hole in our side yard for the lilac.
He dug a big wide hole for the plant.
We added lots of homemade compost to the hole then got the plant in and covered it with soil.
Here is the lilac in it's final spot.  Note the 2nd tall fence behind it?  that fence is 6 feet tall.  So this lilac is easily 7 feet tall!
Here is the rose climbing bush waiting to get planted.
And here it is in it's final spot.  This one was much much easier to dig up and transplant.
When all was said and done, I realized that this was a lot of work. My back hurts right now from digging, lifting and planting. I also am so grateful that I have such an amazing husband that puts up with my crazy ideas! He is so awesome beyond words. I also feel great that we were able to rescue two shrubs and to give them a second life. Now I have to cross my fingers that they survive!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Brooklyn's Best...

Cheesecake that is! My husband works in Brooklyn and the other night he came home carrying this box. I know this signature orange and white box from a mile a way.  As soon as I saw it, the first thing I asked him was, "okay, what did you do?". He said nothing, I just wanted to bring home a surprise! OMG -> he is the best husband EVER!  Just like the box says, Junior's does have the most fabulous cheesecake.
Some will argue that Junior's doesn't have the best cheesecake, since New York is known for their cheesecake.  Sure there is Eileen's too in Soho, which also has an amazing cheesecake, but for Brooklyn, it's Junior's.  My husband and I don't particularly like the food at Junior's.  We go only for the cheesecake.  It's dense, rich, not too sweet, and above all super creamy.  It's also pretty expensive for a cake, but it's worth every bite!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Buckwheat > Green Manure

When we were up at the family farm, we discussed with the hubs dad, (the farmer) our frustrations with how badly our garden crops grew this summer.  We had a really hard time with plants taking off, mostly because the soil was crap!  The hub's dad recommended that we add some amendments to the soil, "green manure" he said.  He gave us a huge bag of buckwheat seeds to take home with us.  Growing cover crops to add some nutrients to the ground is an easy way to add plant "food" to the soil. We spread seeds all over the raised beds we built. Before the buckwheat goes to seed, we will chop down the buckwheat and till it into the ground.  That's it!  So easy!  Buckwheat grows really fast, and decomposes pretty fast too!  He also recommended that we should get some hairy vetch seeds and also comfrey.  He had hairy vetch, comfrey, and buckwheat cover crops growing all over his farm, where ever he pulled the crops, in went cover crop seeds.  This is so great, so much faster and easier than waiting for compost to be ready from our compost bin!

Wrong Colors!

My niece is on a soccer team and every year around this time her team sells mums to raise money for uniforms, the bus, and other team activities. I like to support fundraisers like this so I put in an order with my sister to get 3 mums for my front yard. I told her to order for me 2 rust colored mums and 1 purple mum. Well, last week, my husband and I went to pick up the mums and this is what she gave us! I told my sister she was color blind! Instead of rust, we got burgundy and instead of purple we got white! My niece told me that the mess up must have been because when they picked up the mums, nothing was labeled and all the plants had closed buds so everything looked alike. (sigh) I guess I have to deal with mis-matched mums this season.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An American Classic

Thank you everyone for commenting on my panic attack of the garlic sprouting.  I am so relieved that everything is normal. Thanks also for all the tips you all provided.  It's great to know that there is a wealth of knowledge out there in the gardening blogosphere. I don't know where I can find straw in my area, I might just cut my grass and let it dry so I can use it as mulch.

I was going through photos on my camera and came across these photos that I forgot to post.  My friend and I met up in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn 2 weeks ago to go shopping.  Well, she did the shopping, and since I'm on a budget I just "window" shopped.  Boerum Hill has a lot of cute boutiques, vintage furniture stores, restaurants.  While walking around, I saw this garden store called Dig.   They had nice plants and awesome containers and plant supplies. There were so many things I wanted to buy, but I resisted because I am trying to spend only on what I need, not what I want. It is SO hard to resist, but I'll come back when I have saved, and can spend money there.

After all the walking around, we were famished.   We went to the The New St. Clair Restaurant because we were in the mood for burger and fries.   The St. Clair is a "fancy" diner.   Burgers are such an American classic, and yet, sometimes it's hard to find a good juicy beef burger!  This was one of the best burgers that I've had in a really long time.  The burger I ordered was called the Mexican, it had avocado, jalapeno peppers, salsa and cheddar cheese.  So good!  And the fries were crispy and perfectly cooked.
With the burger, I ordered an egg cream.  I don't know why they call it egg creams, when it's just chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer.  It's one of my favorite drinks!  Before the burger came out, the waiter brought out cole slaw, dill pickle and a toasted piece of bread with brushetta on top.  Everything was so fresh and delicious!  The cole slaw was freshly made and had apples and yellow raisins in it.  I don't normally like raisins but it was so tasty with the cabbage.  I'll have to try to re-create it.  I love home made cole slaw.
When we left the diner, we were stuffed, so full!  But then we eyed this deliciousness in the window of another restaurant down the street.  It literally stopped us in our tracks!
I had to bring one home for the hubs since he loves, loves, loves cupcakes.  His favorite is chocolate, so this is what I brought home.  Dark Chocolate ganache cupcake.  It was sinfully divine!

First Garlic Bed: And a Bit Worried

So I planted garlic over 2 weeks ago and for mulch I put leaves over the bed.  I haven't watered the bed at all, but it's rained a few times since planting the cloves.
Then today, on closer inspection I noticed that some of the cloves have sprouted!  This is my first time growing garlic, so I don't know if this is a good or bad thing.  I'm so worried now that I may have planted my garlic too early??  Should this happen so soon after planting cloves?  I'm seeking advice / tips from all those gardeners out there that plant garlic.  Should I be worried?  Should I do anything?  Add more mulch maybe?  Help!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Harvest

Even though we are well into Fall now, we are still getting a trickling of produce from the garden. Most exciting, we got our first fall cucumber from a plant I put in the ground back in late August.  And the red pepper in the middle, it's not a bell, it's a habanero and it's so HOT.  The pole beans have been producing so well.  Every week, we are picking this many beans!  This whole bowl was turned into pickled cukes and dilly beans.  Yum.
I gave up on the bell peppers turning red or orange.  These were pulled and given to my parents.  Our one and only broccoli plant that produced a crown, grew a 2nd round of smaller crowns.  Nice!
See what others are harvesting this Fall at Daphne's Dandelions.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Free Plants!

When we brought in the mint plant, I noticed that it had sent out runners. Everyone warned me about how mint reproduces like crazy, but I love mint, so I don't mind having an overload of it.
I clipped the little plants so that I could plant them in their own pots.
They have roots growing already, so all I need to do is to plant them in soil.
Who doesn't like free plants?
I took another photo of the enclosed porch.  Yesterday, I wrote about how crowded it was getting.  There are a lot of plants in here, but I think I can squeeze a few more in!!


I'm feeling a little claustrophobic lately. Why you may ask? Because we brought in every plant that needed or wanted to come indoors. Crowded much? Our front enclosed porch is now filled with a hibiscus, a gardenia, a meyer lemon, a meyer lime, 3 pots of mint, 2 pots of basil, 5 pots of bell peppers, 1 oregano and 1 pointsetta. Most people would just let the herbs die off until next year, but I love fresh herbs so much that I want to see how long it will last indoors. I'll take another photo from a different angle later so you can see how our porch has now become our greenhouse. LOL!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Best Spaghetti Ever!

Remember this? Using 1 jar of homemade sauce and 1/2 a jar of oven roasted tomatoes, I turned it into this plus some fresh basil from the garden. Simply Heaven!
For more Garden to Table challenges, go to Greenish Thumb.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sweet Dill Pickle Recipe

Many of you have asked for my Sweet and Spicy Dill Pickle Recipe. I'm so sorry in the delay of posting. I actually had this in my draft folder and never hit "publish". Then the Frugal Gardener reminded me of it. This is the BEST pickle recipe I've ever had. Seriously good stuff! I like it so much, I use it for dilly beans too.
PS -> if you do like spicy food, do add the spicy peppers, it adds such a kick. And if you don't have habaneros, use jalapenos or your spicy pepper of choice.

PPS -> If you do this as refrigerator pickles, I never have the patience to wait the 10 days, I usually pop open the jar by day 3. It's still so good!!

I do an adaptation of the recipe that is found here.

Sweet Dill Pickles Recipe

8 - 3 to 4 inch long pickling cucumbers like kirbys
2 cups water
1 3/4 cups white vinegar
6 sprigs of chopped fresh dill weed
1/2 cup white sugar
8 cloves garlic, chopped (it has a strong garlic taste, you can add less if you don't like garlic, like sometimes I add only 5 cloves)
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse Diamond kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
3 additional sprigs fresh dill weed for jars
(optional) - for extra kick, I added 1/2 of a habanero pepper - it makes it a bit spicy, omit if you don't like spice.
(optional) - 1 medium sliced onion

1. Sterilize your jars and lids by boiling in hot water for 10 minutes.
2. Remove jars from hot water bath. Be careful, HOT.
3. Prep cucumber. Slice cucumbers into chips for sandwiches, or cut as spears or leave whole. I like to put my pickles in sandwiches so I slice them into 1/4 inch chips.
4.In a large bowl, combine the all the ingredients. Stir, and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, until the sugar and salt dissolve.
5. Remove the cucumbers to three 1 1/2 pint wide mouth jars, placing cucumbers into each jar. Ladle in the liquid from the bowl to cover. Leave 1/2 inch headspace at top of jar. Place a sprig of fresh dill into each jar, and seal with lids. Refrigerate for 10 days before eating. Use within 1 month.

Alternatively, you can also do this as a hot water bath, in which you can put the jars back in the pot of water. Make sure the jars are immersed in water and boil for 12-15 minutes. Remove jars and let cool. It should vacuum seal. Should last up to 1 year.

Surprise Morning Glory

I'm so amazed with the resilience of plants. In the spring I had planted some morning glories that I grew from seed near the edge of the fence in the garden. Then we were hit with a really hot hot summer and the plants really wilted and I thought the morning glories died before ever blooming. However the other day, I saw this one blooming! It's amazing how it bounced back!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Feeding the plants while on vacation!

When we went on our vacation to the family farm I was worried about all the plants in the garden and the indoor plants.  We were leaving for 5 days and since we are new to the neighborhood, we didn't want to ask the neighbors to water our garden.  I've always seen those commercials of the Aqua Globe that you stick in the containers to water the plants, but being as frugal as I am, I'm not into buying a $10 globe.  My neighbor across the street said they use soda bottles, so I started collecting bottles like crazy.  LOL.
I put at least 30 bottles all over!  If you were my neighbor, you would have thought we were weird to see all those water and soda bottles scattered throughout my yard.  But it worked!  Check it out, the plants were all alive when we came home. Awesome.

Pumpkin Love

When we were up at the family farm, we picked out 2 pumpkins for our front steps. I just love pumpkins as decoration.  I definitely need to grow some next year in the garden.   I picked up these mums at Home Depot. I had a buy one get one coupon. Score. I don't love the look of mums when they are a big ball, however, I can't pass up a buy one get one. LOL. I think I'll plant these in the ground so they can grow more free form next year. I haven't decided yet... My mom leaves the mums in the containers and they come back year after year. What do you do, do you leave them in the containers? Or do you plant them in the ground.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The best thing about farmer's markets!!

My favorite thing about the farmer's market near our house. This delicious nugget. Apple donuts with powdered sugar! An awesome treat for eating my veggies! This is the season to indulge in all kinds of apple treats! Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Organic Weed Killer and Fungicide

Back in August, Dave over at The Home Garden was having a giveaway and I was the lucky winner. I meant to post about this earlier, but life got in the way. So here is the awesome giveaway package that arrived in September! There is a weed killer, a fungicide, an insect repellent and insect killer!! Woohoo!  I love the fact that these products are 100% organic, and best of all, I tried the weed killer and it works!  I also tried the insect killer on all the ants that have been getting into the porch and it works like a charm.  The ants were annihilated and the spray is completely non-toxic.  We are adamant about having an organic garden, so what a nice complement to have organic pesticides!  How awesome to know that there are no toxic or harmful chemicals in the products and that there is only all natural ingredients!  Thanks again Dave for hosting this fantastic giveaway!  I can't wait until next summer to try out the insect repellent!  We have a ton of mosquitos in our backyard so this is going to definitely come in handy!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gorgeous Green Bell Peppers!!

Even though we are well into October, I'm still harvesting gorgeous vegetables. Among them are those infamous bell peppers. I gave up on leaving them on the plant to turn red / orange. I planted 3 kinds of bell. Orange, red and green, and I never saw any of them turn orange. Only 1 turned red. I think the fall brought in the cold weather so fast that the peppers didn't know what hit them. Does anyone know, do the peppers change color after you pick them?? Or must they ripe on the plant? Since I'm not a fan of green bells, I gave this whole harvest to my friend Ruth. She'll enjoy more than I will. But shhh!! don't tell my husband! He loves green bells.
See what others are harvesting at Daphne's Dandelions!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Nasty Surprise

Last week I posted about my harvest of my one and only  bell red pepper. Of all of my pepper plants, only one pepper turned red! It's such a beauty!  So we couldn't wait to harvest it and eat it.
I cut it open and just look at the nasty surprise I found.  UGH!!  There was a black mold of some sort all inside the pepper.  My one and only red bell pepper and we didn't even get to taste it.  Yuck!!  Has this ever happened to you before?

Taste of Autumn

Even though I am really sad about the end of summer, I am so excited about the smells and taste of autumn. We were so lucky to get some organic Long Island cheese squash, hubbard squash and spaghetti squash from the family farm.  I just love how these look.
We had a dinner guest over last week so I decided to bake one of the Long Island cheese squash.  Look at the color of this beauty!  Gorgeous!
My favorite way to cook squash is the cut it into pieces, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and for some of these I added chili powder.  The spiciness of the chili powder adds a nice kick to the sweetness of the squash.   I didn't add chili powder to all of the pieces so that we could enjoy the squash au naturel as well.  If you have never eaten Long Island cheese squash, it reminds me of a milder tasting pumpkin.  Stunning colors, beautiful taste, hello autumn!!
For more garden to table yumminess, visit Greenish Thumb.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sweet! But oh...Rotten!

When we were up visiting the family farm, the one thing that we noticed is how close the community is. When one farmer needs help, neighbors do not hesitate to help out.  We found out that one of farmers that my father-in-law is friends with had a tragic fire in his barn and all of his livestock perished.  This is really sad since this is his livelihood.  My father-in-law decided to give him 2 of his pigs that he's been raising on the farm to help him start over.  I thought that was pretty awesome.

The brown pig in the photo is a pig that my husband and I purchased to be raised on the family farm.  He's been raised on 100% organic feed and organic vegetables grown on the farm.  I got a lot of flack when friends and other family heard that we are raising a pig to later be our consumption, and that my husband named him "Yummy"...but to be honest, I rather know that my pork was raised ethically and organically.  He gets an outdoor pen to run around in and a stall in the barn to sleep in.  I can't say for sure how the plastic wrapped pork that I buy at the supermarket was treated or what they ate.  Since my father-in-law gave his other two pigs away, we decided to share the brown pig with my in-laws.  It's the least we could do for raising Yummy for us.

When we were at the farm, one of their neighbors dropped off a gigantic watermelon for us to take home.  How nice is that??  They heard that we were visiting and they dropped it off!  So sweet. 
I couldn't wait to try it.  It was sweet and delicious!
As I continued cutting the watermelon, I noticed that the bottom half of it was all rotten!  Oh no!!!  It was a wet mess.  I managed to salvage half of the watermelon that wasn't rotted.  Everything else that was inedible went into our compost so nothing went to waste. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Soaking up the Last Weeks of This!

Every Saturday during the summer, we were lucky to have a farmer's market in our neighborhood. A five-minute drive brought us here!
The market is smaller now, with less vendors as the season winds down.  There are still some amazing produce to be had, check out these beautiful peppers.
And look at these radishes.  Oh how I wish ours grew like this.  I don't even like radishes, but my husband eats them like candy.
A farmers market in the fall season always has a vendor selling apples!  I have been doing research on food dehydrators.  I really want to invest in one but don't know which one to get, and the really good ones seems to be expensive, $150.  If I get one of the less expensive ones, do they work?  If I had one, I definitely would have picked up some apples to dry them.  I love dried apples.  Do you have a dehydrator?  Would you recommend the one you currently use? 
I loved these crates of watermelon.  I didn't buy any because we were given a huge watermelon as a gift from a family friend up in the North Country.
We bought leeks and carrots! I plan to make soup with these.  I can't wait!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Planting Garlic in Raised Beds

Yesterday I blogged about how we made 2 raised beds. For one of the beds, we knew we wanted to grow garlic.  When we were up at the family farm, we bought this amazing garlic from a farmer that the hub's dad knew.  He mentioned that it's the best garlic he ever tasted.  Oooh, I love love love garlic so I was completely intrigued.  Aren't these beauties?  I'm not sure what variety they are but they are hardnecks and they are very flavorful.  Best garlic I've ever tasted!
I never grew garlic before so I followed the wisdom over at Daphne's Dandelions.  She has a step-by-step guide on how to plant garlic cloves!  It's excellent for beginners like us.  I soaked my cloves in a water and baking soda mixture overnight.
And I peeled all the cloves.  I left a few unpeeled just to see what the differences would be in growing.  I ended up peeling 40 cloves to plant.
One of the things I like about this garlic that we bought from the North Country farmer was that the cloves themselves are giant!  This one is a good 2 inches!!  And the flavor packs a punch!
I carefully measured out all the holes just like Daphne suggested.
And planted all 40 cloves.  It took up one entire bed.  I covered the bed with shredded up leaves.  I am so impatient, I just can't wait to see what comes up in the spring!  I'm also looking forward to garlic scape!  I never had those before but read so much about it throughout the blogosphere! 
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