Thursday, December 31, 2009

Garden Blogger's Death Day :: December 2009 :: The Wrap Up

Ding, Ding, Ding… bring out your dead!
Welcome to Garden Blogger's Death Day for the final month of 2009! This is the day for gardeners who overwater, underwater, maim, prune or otherwise neglect their plants to a state of dismal droopage or untimely death. This is the day for gardeners like me with black thumbs who kill more than they cultivate, for cadmium-green-thumbed gardeners who have a lapse in judgment and commit accidental planticide, and for any poor soul whose plants fall victim to that fickle mother who controls us all - Mother Nature.

I had grand plans of posting a wonderful Year in Review wrap-up story about what's lived and what's died in my garden in 2009, along with photos of the current state of things, but it just didn't work out. Between the new puppy, family in town, Farmer B off work, the boys off school and everything else involved in the holidays I just plain ran out of time to sit at the computer. But at 9 pm on New Year's Eve I am squeezing in a quick wrap-up before the year ends.
I know that this year brought some great changes to our household and it's amazing to think about how much life has changed in 12 months.
In January 2009:
  • I had a beloved dog called Baillan who was happy living out her golden years on a rumpled burgundy bed on the corner.
  • I had fantasies of owning chickens, but thought people who actually did own chickens were a little bit weird.
  • I had a 468 square foot vegetable garden that wasn't doing especially well and I was considering giving it all up.
  • I had two little boys who were facing their 3rd and 5th birthdays and asking all sorts of questions about preschool and "real school"
  • I actually didn't blog for the entire month of January 2009 - my first break from blogging, and from gardening for that matter.
  • My confidence level with gardening was about a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10 and we had barely had anything worth harvesting.
A year later, December 2009:
  • That beloved dog has passed, but a new little puppy has bounded into my life and is reminding me constantly of my old best friend.
  • I actually own my own hens and have come to enjoy chicken ownership, all things egg-related, and spending too much time on the Backyard Chicken Forum.
  • The 468 square foot vegetable garden is gone and in it's place are two raised bed square-foot gardens.
  • My two little boys are now facing their 4th and 6th birthdays and each has a year of preschool and "real school" under their belts. They've grown up so much in the past year and I'm having one of those "where did my babies go?" moments.
  • My confidence level with gardening is now about a 3.5 on the 1 to 10 scale and we've actually eaten all sorts of meals from the garden including some awesome leek soups and quiches!
  • I have found that gardening and blogging are two of my favorite things and I have no intention of giving up either, no matter how unskilled I may be.
So although my final post of the year was anticlimactic, the year wasn't. It was a great year with lots of change, plenty of death, but lots of new life and growth too. I'm looking forward to a new year of family, pets, planting, blogging and reading about the gardening lives of my garden blogger friends around the country.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The chickens were not amused

Turns out that Rommel and Saffie get along quite well if Saffie has a place she can go to avoid Rommel's teeth. If they're out in the wide open of the back yard it quickly becomes the National Geographic lion on an antelope scene, but if she has a place to squirrel away from him, they seem to understand each other.

Much to the chicken's dismay, her favorite place to hide from Rommel is underneath their coop. It's sorta muddy and gross under there - even more perfect for a bright white puppy.

She gets under that coop like a rat up a drainpipe. Then she sticks her head out and snaps at Rommel's face with her needle teeth.

It's kind of like a game of Whack-a-Mole. There are about 6 different spots where she can stick her head out. Rommel runs around trying to find her and whack her with his gargantuan paw before she pops her head out of another opening.

The chickens were not amused. Poor Maggie missed the whole thing because she was laying an egg. Maggie misses out on a lot of events due to her poorly-timed egg laying. Clementine and Sookie gave them both the chicken-stink-eye and disapprovingly bok'd the entire time.

And the dogs drew first blood today. White puppy - bright red blood. It looked like a crime scene. But Rommel didn't even seem to notice that she gave him a tongue piercing with her needle teeth, although Saffie seemed quite pleased with herself.

Just for good measure Rommel gave her a few good head-engulfing nibbles, just to put her in her place. They aren't best friends yet, but every day is a huge improvement so we're definitely moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

21 lbs of trouble finally has a name

I'm very careful about naming pets. I give a pet a name and see if it sticks. If it doesn't we move on to a different name - if it sticks, then it's official. My last dog went through a series of names for about a month before her name, Baillan, finally stuck. This little puppy's new name seems to have stuck.

Introducing Saffron - although the nickname Saffie is what she's being called the most.

Rommel is coming around to this new loud nippy little creature in the house. It's a slow process, but he's warming up to her. It's funny that each new day is a learning experience with the two of them. Just yesterday we learned that her entire head fits inside his mouth.

Like all puppies she plays hard, chews constantly, yaps when left alone and sleeps a lot. She had a few very noisy nights where I thought my brain might just explode, but last night was a bit better.

She loves to chase the boys around the yard and is like a little shadow to them. My youngest son thought he'd outsmart her by running up the slide.

Turns out she went up too. And grabbed his pants.

And pulled him down.

And dragged him off the slide.

And then attacked him in a mad puppy frenzy.

Right now the only thing getting us through the day - and night - are Kong toys stuffed with peanut butter and then tossed in the freezer until we have a frozen puppy grenade. Throw the grenade in and run fast. She's 21 lbs of trouble and today we've officially had her one week.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Look what I got for Christmas!! WOW!

Farmer B took the boys out for some last minute Christmas shopping on the 22nd. He went awfully late in the afternoon and was gone a bit longer than I anticipated. When he got home he called me from the driveway and told me to meet him outside, but to leave our German Shepherd inside, which I thought was strange.

He had this in his arms.

Wow, huh? Do you see the size of those paws? Complete with pot-belly, milky breath, extra skin, a soft head and that new-puppy smell.

She was born on October 2nd and she was flown in from Tennessee. Apparently Farmer B and the boys were at the airport picking this fat little bundle of joy up from the cargo center.

She is yet without a name, but we welcome suggestions.

What an amazing Christmas present, huh? She's adjusting well to life in our family. She's slept through the night both nights and has already scared the feathers of the chickens just by looking at them. Rommel is a bit put out by this new creature in the house, but he is coming around fast. He's been an only dog for only the past 10 months, so we know he'll get used to her quickly.

I think she'll fit in just fine.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

We rode the Polar Express!

We took the boys to Sea World the other day to show them some of the Christmas awesomeness at the park. The big highlight of the trip was the Polar Express exhibit. It's held in The Wild Arctic ride, which is a motion-simulator ride that takes guests to the frigid north and once you get there, you walk through into the cold exhibit with the beluga whales, polar bears and walruses. At Christmastime they change the simulator ride to a Polar Express ride and decorate the entire exhibit to match the scenes from the movie perfectly.

Like most little kids, my boys are huge Polar Express fans so they were coming out of their skin when they saw the Polar Express sign. When you first walk in they lead you to a small room and show you a short movie on the screen. This time the room was decorated just like the boy's room from the movie, complete with a hanging airplane from the ceiling and a radiator under the movie screen that let out steam when the train pulled up. The screen looked like a window, so when the train pulled up it was totally believable.

When his bedroom door opens, you're led to an area that looks like it's covered with snow - complete with the oven mitt snowman from the movie. The Wild Arctic ride has been painted to look just like the Polar Express train. The employees are in conductors outfits and they're pumping in a very realistic pine tree smell into the room that smells nothing like the little tree that hangs from the rear-view mirror of a car and everything like a real forest.

When you board the ride, it starts a simulator experience like you're going to the North Pole - just like in the movie. The boys were squealing with excitement. When the other doors open, everything is completely decked out with lights and garlands, but it's dark and cold and the beluga whales are swimming in a faux-ice enclosure. They're pumping a freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie smell into this area, which was so amazing.

They have a real-ice wall that my Florida boys are completely intrigued with and in the middle of the room is a replica of the big Christmas tree from the movie.

On the other side of the tree is something that made my boys do a dance and run around and stare - the Santa and sleigh from the movie, complete with the big red sack of presents. Do you see my little one looking up at Santa with a total WOW vibe?

The rest of the exhibit is filled with little props from the movie, from Billy's present to the Believe ticket.

Just past the polar bears you come to a stand where they're selling cups of hot chocolate for a dollar. They're also pumping a nice rich chocolate smell into this area, which all but forces you to buy some hot chocolate. Since sodas are about $5 at Sea World, getting a drink for a buck was great.

It was just a super fun experience for the boys and really added to the magic of the season for them.

When we left there we went to the sea lion exhibit and I got some great photos of a mama sea lion and her baby and a big fat sea lion that reminded me of my Lab that passed away earlier this year.

A note to parents: If you buy a basket of fish for your kids to throw to the sea lions, be sure to PICK UP your three-year-old so they can easily throw over the plastic barrier. If you don't, you risk the child chucking a fish at full force into the barrier causing a spray of raw fish juice to cover you and said child that doesn't go away for the rest of your day. I'm not going to say how I know this….trust me on this one.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's a Christmas miracle!

One of my biggest backyard gardening fantasies became a reality today! No, not that one you sickos! My fantasy of eating SOMETHING from the garden as a main course!! Because dividing up 12 green beans isn't exactly a main course and chopping up a few radishes and dumping them in a salad isn't either. But making the Swiss Chard quiche of my dreams is!! Okay, okay, I know I made a lot of leek soups already, but this was something substantial. Something that could be cut with a knife. Something that required side dishes.

You know when I was fresh out of college if someone would have told me that I'd be giddy about making and eating a Swiss Chard quiche I'd have laughed in your face. Funny how times change.

But my armyworm-eaten Swiss Chard made a valiant comeback and was looking like it wanted to be eaten by an even bigger carnivore today. I got five eggs from my hard-working hens and a nice handful of Chard and made a most delicious quiche. I added some baby portabella mushrooms, Swiss and Monterey Jack cheeses and whipped that baby up.

Un-freaking-believable. A Christmas miracle indeed. I will now continue this ridiculous gardening gig…just in case something like this happens again.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Have you picked your snowman nose yet?

My little square foot of snowman noses seems to be coming along quite well. Although every time I think I've successfully thinned the noses I take a photo and find that there are a few who have managed to survive the slaughter and need to come out. The boys think it's hilarious that our carrot patch has been renamed "snowman noses" and they joke constantly over who's going to pick the first snowman nose. I'm not sure at what point I explain to them that we won't ever have the snowman to go along with the nose.

Remember the coconut painted like a jack-o'-lantern that my mom's friend sent to the boys for Halloween? The boys were quite attached to it and didn't want to get rid of it just because Christmas is here. But a bright orange pumpkin vibe wasn't gelling with the Christmas vibe out front. So we painted it.

He's now a snowman! And fits in perfectly with our Christmas d├ęcor outside the front door.

Friday, December 11, 2009

'Twas the Night Before Christmas - A Gardener's Version

'Twas the Night Before Christmas - A Gardener's Version
by Kate

'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the yard,
Not a veggie was growing, not even the chard.
The trellis was strung by the green beans with care,
In hopes that an edible plant would grow there.

The chickens were nestled all snug in their nests,
While visions of pasta worms danced in their heads.
Farmer B with his light beer and I with my wine,
Had just settled down for some nice TV time.

When out in the garden I heard a big noise,
I leapt from the couch and tripped over some toys.
Away to the screen door in four seconds flat,
Flipped open the gate latch and tripped on the cat.

When what to my bloodshot eyes did appear,
But a master gardener with a new pair of shears.
He was pushing a wheelbarrow so heavy with plants,
That I started to do my best happy dance.

He was dressed all in green from his hat to his boots,
And his pants were all muddy with dirt from plant shoots.
A bundle of seedlings he had flung on his back,
And he looked for a place to begin the attack.

His trowel how it twinkled - his hoe was so shiny!
His spade was brand new - his gloves were so tiny!
His droll little mouth was drawn up in a smile,
As he worked with his tools in a whimsical style.

He spoke not a word as he started to plant,
And took out some seedlings that he could transplant.
He filled all the raised beds with veggies galore,
As I stood there watching from my screened back door.

And laying his shovel right next to his hoe,
I knew it was time for the gardener to go.
But I heard him exclaim as rolled out of sight,
Happy Gardening to all and to all a good night.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

On the 12th day of Christmas my garden gave to me…

12 green beans!

Instead of being frustrated that four boxes in the garden were dedicated to these green beans - two boxes to the yellow wax and two boxes to the green wax - and only 12 measly little beans grew big enough to eat, we decided to allow ourselves to relish in our grand harvest.

Aidan went outside with his safety scissors from his kindergarten box and 'carefully' cut off each bean. And by carefully I mean he lopped off a few plants and even cut a branch off my big tomato plant as he walked by for good measure.

He was amazed by our awesome harvest, which shows me two things.

1) He's only five and finds all of nature's beauty astounding and new.
2) His mom is a crappy gardener if the poor kid is giddy over a 12-bean harvest.

It's important that you realize there will probably be no more beans from these plants. The plants are only a few inches high and withered and droopy. They can't possibly have any more bean production power left in them.

So our 12 beans was a Christmas miracle of sorts.

We cooked them divided them up between the three of us (Farmer B was at work). You should have seen our plates at dinner with four little green beans perched on each plate next to the sausage and pasta. It was definitely Bob-Cratchet-inspired proportions.

It was so sweet to see Aidan savoring each green bean and telling me how great food from the garden tasted. It was so typical to see my 3-year-old take about 2 bites of pasta, then deem everything on his plate inedible and go without dinner again. As soon as he slithered off his chair and slunk under the table I stole his four green bean ration and slowly savored every single one. Sure I could have shared them with Aidan, but he was already on to his ice cream at that point and sometimes eating eight green beans you grew in your garden can be just what a mom needs to make it through the day.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A $200 gas card is up for grabs!!

Do you remember months ago when my article on Blue Spring State Park was featured on Road Trip Journal's website? And enough people voted for me that I WON their Reader's Choice contest for April and received a $100 gas card in the mail as my prize!! I can't begin to tell you how much I loved using that gas card and how sad I was when it eventually ran out.

I was beyond excited when I got an email from Road Trip Journal the other day telling me that in December they hold a "Best of the Best" competition on their site. All the bloggers who won the monthly awards go up for one BIG award in December. The winning blogger gets a $500 gas card. You read that right - a $500 gas card! Swoon!

And to make people more likely to vote, Road Trip Journal is going to randomly select one of the voters and award them a $200 gas card!! I can vouch for the authenticity of the gas cards since I happily used the one I received in the mail for winning the monthly contest. In my books the best kind of gas card is a legit gas card.

So here is my shameless plea for votes. If you'd like to get yours truly one step closer to winning a $500 gas card, please visit Road Trip Journal's webpage and vote for me to win the "Best of the Best" award for 2009. It's pure numbers that will determine the winner, so I need all the votes I can get.

Here is the link for you: Vote here

When you visit the page you'll see a listing of the 11 entrants. There's me hanging out in spot number 4 on April for Blue Spring State Park. On the upper right of the window you'll see an "Enter the Survey here" button. When the form opens, just vote for "Blue Spring State Park, FL" (or any of the entrants if another one is your favorite - after all, it is a democracy) and then enter in your email address, hit submit and you're done.

And if you've got any friends who might like a chance at a $200 gas card and think voting for me is more exciting than Christmas shopping, maybe you could send them off to vote too?

Because I have chickens to feed. And it's a long drive for their food. And nothing's more depressing than a skinny chicken.

Not really. I was trying to tug at your heart-strings. I wouldn't make a very good politician. But I'd be lying if I told you that our little family couldn't use a $500 gas card for Christmas. And I'm sure yours could do with a $200 gas card too!

Thanks all!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

An age-old question has finally been answered!!

What sort of idiot dresses up a chicken?

That's an age-old question, right? Right?

Well it was late in the day and the boys were bored… and I had a left-over Santa outfit that came with a ceramic duck that broke years ago thanks to an incident involving the boys, the dog and a frightened cat on the run.

So one thing led to another and next thing I know we were in the yard with the chickens and the Santa outfit and...

...well... know what came next.

And a big FYI if you ever want to do this.

1) You can put any sort of cape on a chicken and they don't seem to mind, especially if you throw down some oats for them to eat. With their affinity for capes, chickens obviously make good superheroes - or so say my boys who often tell stories of the three superhero chickens that live in their back yard. We have Kung Fu Chicken (Maggie), The Bionic Hen (Clementine) and Captain Chookiepants (Sookie).

2) Never ever try to put a Santa hat on a chicken. They really do seem to mind. Really. You can see it discarded behind Maggie in this photo. Part of it is missing. Don't ask.

3) Don't show the pictures to your husband. He'll never look at you the same again.

4) Make sure the neighbors aren't watching you do this. They'll have the same reaction as your husband.

...Because although it seems like it might be a fun thing to do, you really just end up being that crazy chick who dressed up a chicken. And for what it's worth, the chickens don't do much posing to even make the photos worthwhile.

They do a lot of walking away from you pecking at the ground.

They also do a lot of charging the camera to get the oats that are in your other hand.

And even if you Photoshop all the chickens together it doesn't turn out that well.

So probably my best advice is that only a true fool dresses up a chicken in a Santa outfit so maybe you shouldn't do it after all. And I'm well aware that my phone will begin ringing as soon as I hit the "Publish Post" button from my real life friends and family members who are probably organizing a chicken intervention at this very minute.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gotta get-get some Black Eyed Peas

My black eyed peas are growing nicely and completely overtaking the rest of the raised bed. I had a feeling they'd do well because they meet my criteria for success:

1) I didn't care if they grew and don't know a thing about growing them.
2) I have never eaten one before and don't know how to prepare them.
3) They were a packet of seeds my son picked out and I thought it'd be fun to let him pick something completely random that we knew nothing about because they probably wouldn't grow anyway.

If I was looking forward to them, loved to eat them and had my heart set on them, they'd be a big fat failure. But of course, they are doing great.

They're doing so great in fact that they have snaked all around the fencing, on top of the leeks, overwhelmed the parsnips and have terrified the green beans. I don't know when the pods are ready to be picked, but I think they have to be around four inches to be good to go. My little pods are about one inch, so I have three inches of growth for my black thumb to kick in gear and decimate them.

An interesting fact about black eyed peas - if you try to research black eyed peas online you can find out a lot about the band, but not so much about the pea. Thanks to my research I now know more facts about Fergie and Will I Am than I care to know, but still don't know much about this big green plant that's overtaking my garden. I do, however, find myself wandering around the house singing... I like that boom boom pow..growin' my cowpeas now… and realizing how completely and totally uncool I've become.
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