Happy New Year! (A Future Toast and Dandelion Redux)

Dandelion Wine (from Allrecipes)

Happy New Year to all!  Wisconsin’s January still means we are still in winter’s grip, but that reality doesn’t stop my thoughts of upcoming warmer days or garden planning!  I’d be lying if I wrote that I wasn’t thinking about what to plant and harvest in the upcoming year, even though we are still a ways away from anything resembling spring planting weather.  New this year for our family and for my blog will be recipes for homemade baby food.  I am hoping to avoid store bought mush as much as possible.  But first- a springtime recipe more for adults!

We are in pre-dandelion status, and I have written before about my ‘natural’ and dandelion-strewn lawn.  Now that we have a larger yard and undoubtedly a forthcoming abundance of the not-a-menace-for-me, I thought I would find a recipe to eventually try making dandelion wine.  I never have before, but there appears to be no shortage of recipes online.  (It almost goes without saying that it likely is not a good idea to spray your lawn with herbicide if you intend to make some…)  Cheers to 2015!

The Great Pumpkin!

Happy Thanksgiving! There is never a bad time to be thankful and enjoy food (even if you aren’t in the U.S. for this specific holiday)!  If you have not yet had your fill of Turkey Day delicacies, perhaps some pumpkin will tantalize… and not that stuff in the can, either:

(via http://www.marthastewart.com/1089860/diy-pumpkin-pur%C3%A9e#1089860)

Hmm… a pseudo-pumpkin is filling our store shelves?

I grew the sugar pumpkin variety this year to a fair level of success.  I may have to expand to the additional variety he mentions, as well!  I have used pumpkin as a base for a risotto- it can be so much more than dessert… the recipes abound (for slow cookers and more.)  And who can forget the not-quite-so-unexpected bonus of toasted pumpkin seeds- sweet or savory? (After saving some to plant for next year, of course.)  I enjoyed ours fresh from the oven with a little salt.  (Parchment paper was a good tip to keep them from sticking/burning and to cut the fat.)

Enjoy!

 

State of the Garden Address

Friends and Fellow Gardeners,

My wife and I had the blessing of quite a bit of outdoor space with the purchase of our new house.  I wasted no opportunity to start our garden this spring.  I had a box full of old seeds, so I wasn’t expecting a true garden of eatin’.  Space was no issue (though I do remember the days that our patio was our garden).  It took a few passes with our trusty tiller to carve out our space.  The previous owners had no garden, so the sod stood in our way.  Given this reality, it has been quite the battle  (as you may note) to keep the weeds out.  gardenI’ve had others tell me that it takes about three years to eliminate some of that, so the tiller will be busy.

One other battle has been with the critters of the area: birds, chipmunks, deer, and rabbits.  All seem to frequent the garden at different times.  We lost most of our peas that were already on the vines, and something has been digging by/eating our potatoes!  I cannot say I have seen that before.  I had a garden out in the country growing up and had seen my share of creatures.  Being near a somewhat large highway doesn’t do much to scare anything away.

Yet another battle has been with what I think is an occurrence of a plant disease.  I mentioned something similar earlier on the blog.  So far, much of our tomato crop is in the process of succumbing.

tomato with plant disease  Whatever it is, it has also affected the nearby clover and a flowering vine.  The tomatoes have all had similar issues- the leaves have turned grayish silver and seem to have stopped growing.  We still have had some tomatoes ripen (though some critters have helped themselves…)  Regardless, we’re not planning to compost any of these so nothing spreads, hopefully.

The weather has been somewhat bizarre.  We had a cool spring, so no early start this year.  We had a steady pattern of rain, but now we are behind for July- and only one day above 90 degrees so far.

On a more positive note, our vines seem to be growing well enough.  More of the garden germinated than I was expecting, but the weeds have kept some of that in check.  The potatoes may hold out if something stops eating them.  The radishes earlier this season were robust, and the cucumbers have been producing.

Thus, there is much to improve on for next year, but a garden is a process- with fun and frustration (emphasis on the fun for me).

Keep gardening, friends!

 

What have you planted this year?  Successes/difficulties?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flight of the Bumblebee?

flowers in field

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We just purchased a house with some additional outdoor space, and we are reaping lots of color in our first growing season here!  I plan to add plenty to this blog about some of our gardening projects around the new place as we dream them up.

As I have been maintaining our greatly increased lawn space, I have been fortunate to notice more than a few bumblebees in the area.  As a gardener, this is definitely a major positiveHoneybees and bumblebees have been facing some tough times.  Colony collapse disorder is very real, but not fully understood yet (though there are some possibilities).  I don’t know that we currently plan to have a hive nearby or take a beekeeping class yet, but at the least, some of our field will stay as it is.  A few more native wildflowers may make an appearance, as well.

(The honey is a bonus!)

Insidious Invasives

Certain invasive plants and animals receive greater media and government attention (for good reason). In our part of Wisconsin, the Emerald Ash Borer has been one of these species.  Similarly, I recently came across a news clip about giant hogweed as an invasive plant in Michigan.  What I did not realize was the danger in even trying to get rid of it:

This plant is also on one of Wisconsin’s lists, which also include some aquatic and wetland plants.  Invasive species will vary by location, but the potential negative impacts are similar: native species can be affected.  Wisconsin has Administrative Code NR 40, (the invasive species rule) which “makes it illegal to possess, transport, transfer, or introduce certain invasive species in Wisconsin without a permit”.  The counterpoint to this is the benefit of researching, planting, and promoting native species.  As planting season has arrived/is arriving, take a few minutes and make yourself aware of your region’s invasive and native species.  Report any invasives you find.  It could save you and your neighbors some trouble.  And watch out for the giant hogweed!

Some additional national resources:

http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/index.shtml

http://www.invasivespecies.gov/index.html

 

 

Oh Cannoli!

Chow Ciao logo

 

 

 

Chef Fabio shows us a fan-selected favorite: how to make homemade ricotta into quick cannoli filling.  (Perhaps the perfect dessert for an Italian Easter brunch – with p!&$ed off eggs?)  It is easy to adjust the ricotta for flavor variety and is perfect for the recipe.

(I’m also a fan of the cannoli in the dessert case at Tenuta’s in Kenosha.)

What are your Easter favorites?