Spring!

Whew. It’s been awhile. Sorry about that guys.

This year has been a tough year getting things going, I have a million things going on! It’s also an especially warm winter here in Utah so it’s been throwing my growing groove off.
Do people still say groove? groove.

Anywho… Anywho?

ANYWAYS.

I’ve had some up and downs. I tried soil blocking under the pretense that there was a good chance I would fail the first year. And I did. I got the blocks to form beautifully, and I even followed a recipe. I hate following recipes. But, I did anyways, and after the first few days in their little hut they started to smell STRONGLY of ammonia. Not a little ammonia. But like someone pee’d on it and stuck a plastic cover over it for a few weeks. I’ve read a few reviews on how you are supposed to let your soil blocking mix sit for a month to break down before you use it, so I’m going to try that and test it out. In the mean time, I’ve already gotten my seeds going in a pre-made seed starting potting mix, and they are chugging along quite nice.

Chugging…why do I keep saying weird things?

My tomatoes have formed true leaves and I’ve transplanted a few of the extra sprouts into their own container. Which, holy smokes, I thought I had lost them. With in 10 min they were flat on their backs and weaker than a candle in the wind. But with in a few hours they were back to their upright positions. Tip I learned: DO NOT GRAB BY THE STEM, only by the leaves. The stem is very sensitive and can be easily shocked.

Right after transplanting:

Shocked tomatoes, poor guys.

Shocked tomatoes, poor guys.

A few hours after transplanting:

Bouncing right on back!

Bouncing right on back!

And here they are now, a few weeks later. Lookin’ good ladies! (And gents..) I’ve also been giving them a few tablespoons of fish fertilizer once a week, and it’s been a great thing! Especially for the tomatoes that had some shock.

German PInk

German Pink

Bonny Best

Bonny Best

 

Sorry for the blinding light, but here are a few other things I’m growing so far: kale, oregano, chives, cilantro, broccoli, celery, parsley, basil, lavender and peppers. I definitely started the kale and broccoli a couple of weeks to early. So I’m going to try and transplant them outside and put covers over them till it’s a bit warmer out.

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I spent all yesterday working on our strawberry patch, removing the old mulch, weeding, and removing some of the strawberry plants that died. There are a few things that I’m going to do differently this year/next year. 1) Transplant some of the runners after the last harvest, that way that are in their semi-dormant phase. Yesterday, I removed some of the plants that were to close to each other and tried to replant them. I think they will be fine, but it took a tole on them. 2) Their roots are sensitive to moisture and light, so I’ll be more careful not to lay the bare roots out while I’m working on getting them replanted.  3) This year I want to fertilize them more. My strawberries did great last year, but I think they will really benefit from the fertilizer.  Tip: 1 lb of balanced fertilizer per 100 sq feet. With that water an inch per week throughout the growing season.

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Over the next 2 days I’ll be planting my lettuces, spinach, carrots, peas and potatoes! I’m a couple weeks behind on the peas, so we’ll see how well they do. Also, I’m growing potatoes for the first time this year. What is your preferred growing method? I’m short on space, so I was thinking about building some wire potato cages out of thick wire fencing. If you have a method that works, please share!

Overall, I think this is going to be a great growing season and I can’t wait to see what everyone else is doing and growing!

And to end, here’s a cute picture of my daughter 🙂

 

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Gardening Trays

Every year in my garden I weed, I pick, I pull, I trim and I harvest. I end up with handfulls, armloads, bucketloads of plants and produce. How do I move it? I use my hands, I use my shirt, I use bowls from the kitchen, I use the baskets that normally hold the throw blankets in the living room. Really anything that could hold something.

None of these things were really working well for me. I’d leave my kitchen bowls outside for a few days, my good shirt would now become another…gardening shirt. (Why do I always forget to put on the ratty shirts when gardening?!) My hands could never hold enough, and a few delicate tomatoes would go tumbling down the steps, and my basket used for blankets would eventually be covered in dirt and leaves because I would forget to clean it out before returning it to it’s rightful place. But the gardening stores around here never really had anything I liked. They had totes and cute baskets for holding fancy tea towels in..but nothing I wanted to fork out 30+ dollars for that was practical.

We’ve been tossing around a few ideas for gardening trays that would be useful in the garden. You could rinse your produce in them, shake off dirt, use them to hold your weeds or carry gardening pots outside with them (and whatever else you could imagine using them for.) Here’s our first draft.

Sketching out the ideas

Sketching out different ideas and measurements

Picking out different woods. Poplar and Oak.

Picking out different woods. Poplar and Oak.

Beautiful oak

Beautiful oak

Sawing sawing sawing

Sawing sawing sawing

Oak box and a poplar box

Oak box and a Poplar box

So there they are! This is definitely the rough draft, things weren’t quite even in some places, and we are still working with what type of screws/nails to use on the boxes, especially the Oak boxes. I like the idea of using Poplar, they are easy to put together and affordable. We will definitely need to put a linseed finish on both of them (or something similar.) The Oak boxes are very sturdy and they just feel good in your hands. They are a bit heavier than the Poplar, but will withstand weather and use for a very long time. They aren’t as affordable as the Poplar, but I think they will be worth their weight in gold once finished. Also, I think we’ll do a couple different varieties and sizes. Make the Oak one with a mesh bottom and the Poplar one with wooden slats, maybe do a few smaller varieties for those that mostly have berries and herbs. Let me know what you all think! 

Update

The ground is frozen and has about 10 inches of snow on it, with more still coming. I couldn’t pretend to garden even if I wanted to! I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my blog until February (when I get my seeds going again.) The winter months here in Utah can be a little blue. The pollution settles in and the sun is often foggy, not to mention feet of snow covering everything. We try and get out and do things like cross country skiing and snow shoeing, but it’s just been so much colder than the last few winters! Plus it seems with it getting darker and colder all we ever want to do is eat soup and stay curled up in blankets!

I’ve also been looking into getting chickens this coming spring instead of expanding my garden area. I love the thought of not buying eggs that are being trucked thousands of miles just to get to my plate. And also  knowing that my chickens are being taken care of and loved with free room to roam and eat. My only real concern, and I know this shouldn’t be a HUGE issue, but I’m worried with the cold temperatures in the winter that I’ll wake up and all my chickens will be frozen to death! Talk about traumatizing. So, if anyone has recommendations of great books about raising chickens let me know!

We’re also working on opening a store through Etsy selling gardening baskets and possibly some other tools! They will be great for harvesting all your produce, carrying your weeds and scraps to the compost, and hopefully some baskets for your trips to the farmers market. We’ll start working on them in January and hopefully have some up for sale towards the middle of February.

Hope everyone is surviving the winter so far! I’ll post a few more updates on our store progress after Christmas 🙂

So what’s with heirloom?

So let’s talk about HEIRLOOM. I started growing heirloom varieties of my favorite fruits and vegetables this year and I fell in love. Everything just felt, tasted and looked better. I swear my garden was fuller and greener this year than it ever has been before. Some might call that chance, but I call it heirloom seeds and a good soaker hose.

I asked a few skeptics why they doubted heirloom seeds and gardening. Here were their top questions they had, and here are my answers!

What does “heirloom” really mean anyway?
What does GMO mean?
What does Hybrid mean?
What’s so good about Heirloom plants?
Is it worth spending the extra .50 cents-1 dollar on each package?
What’s all the hype about?
Is production going to be higher or lower?
How do I even know that the seed I’m buying is actually heirloom?
What are the negative affects of GMO’s?
What are the negative affects of Hybrids?
Are heirloom plants harder to grow, will the average number of seeds grow better?
What’s the difference between organic and heirloom?


What does “heirloom” really mean anyway?
There are many definitions of heirloom, but generally it’s a type of fruit, flower, or vegetable that was being grown before WW2 era. Before WW2 big agriculture hadn’t taken over, so the demand to produce more, faster and bigger wasn’t an issue.

Ethne Clarke, editor of Organic Gardening magazine gave a perfect visual about what heirloom means. He said: “I think a lot of it has to do with the romance of history, growing something that perhaps grew in your grandmother’s garden or came from your native country. I just planted some peas that came from Ireland, they’re native to Ireland. My grandfather was an Irish farmer.

Heirloom seeds and plants are not hybrids and have not been genetically modified. When you plant heirloom seeds, you’re planting something that will work well in a natural ecosystem, that will give you usable seeds for next year, and that will give you the healthiest produce available.


What does GMO mean?
Short answer: It’s an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.

Long answer: GMO’s stands for Genetically Modified Organism. Scientist take any foods that can be changed at a gene level, and alter them for various reason. They take the little seed and genetically alter and change it so it can withstand all the chemicals and pesticides they are putting on it. They also alter it so it can do other things like repel certain bugs, make produce look bigger, and or stay on the market shelf for a whole lot longer than is normal. By doing so they risk  permanently changing the blue print of the plants. And with that they are affecting not only the soil but the nutrition of the plants, the health of the soil, and the ecosystem as a whole.


What does Hybrid mean?
A hybrid is a cross between two different plant varieties to get the best of each variety.


What’s so good about Heirloom Plants?
It’s the old school variety. Which means, they haven’t been genetically modified yet.

Tom Torgrimson said, “We say that with heirlooms, every seed has a story to tell. This variety was created somewhere by someone and was maintained over time, so there must be a reason. I think the most common reason is it was saved because this is a tomato somebody liked, and it was saved by a family.”

Here are the three different types of seeds a gardener or farmer might use:

  1. First Generation (F1) is a hybridized, patented, often sterile line of crop which can’t propagate further seasons on its own (that means you can’t save the seeds from your plants and plant them the next year).
  2. Genetically Modified (GM) seeds have been fiddled with in a lab to allow combinations of genes not possible through breeding — some lines of corn use information from cold-water fish to make themselves more frost-hardy, for example.
  3. Heirloom seeds are where it’s at. These varieties are allowed to pollinate naturally, with traits only selected for by generations of breeding. They might have been developed quickly in the last 50 years, or proudly tended and passed from generation to generation since the Civil War.

Original source


Is it worth spending the extra .50 cents-1 dollar on each package?
YES! Since heirloom varieties are open pollinated, you can save the seeds from your plants. So if you are careful all you need is to buy heirloom seeds once and you are set for a really long time, if not for life!


What’s all the hype about?
More and more people are starting to realize that the cleaner and more whole our food is, the healthier it is to eat. GMO’s have been found to increase all kinds of things you don’t want, including (but not limited to) the following:

  1. Allergies
  2. Toxins in the foods
  3. Contaminations between GMO’s and non-GMO’s
  4. Antibiotic resistance
  5. Changes in the nutrient levels of the food (in a bad way) (And this is just for corn!)
  6. Environmental damage along with the creation of the ‘super weed’.

Here are some other great links on environmental damage that has or could happen because of GMO’s: ISB News Report, Seed varieties disappearingNational Geographic’s Food Altered and Better Nutrition’s Say NO to GMO.


Is production going to be higher or lower?
I like what Rebsie of Daughter of the Soil said:

“When two dissimilar varieties are crossed, the result is a hybrid which will often be bigger, brighter, faster-growing or higher-yielding than either of its parents, which makes for a great selling point. But it’s a one-hit wonder. Subsequent generations don’t have the same vigour or uniformity, and the idea is that you don’t save seed from it, you just throw it away and buy some more. This is bad for the plants, bad for the garden and bad for you, but the seed companies make a packet out of it and gain increasing control of what we buy and grow.”

So to answer the question, growing heirloom might not give you as big of a yield as growing hybrid or GMO’s, but in the end it is worth losing a few tomatoes to grow a plant that is healthier for you and the soil. Also, when growing heirloom you will get the same type of plant every year after (using the seeds you collect) compared to hybrid varieties that may or may not grow the same after the first generation.

Ethne Clark, editor of Organic Magazine, said “The same reasons people are driven to conserve the rainforest, we need to think about conserving the biodiversity of plants that grow in our gardens. One of the best ways is growing heirloom varieties.”


How do I even know that the seed I’m buying is actually heirloom?
All companies that sell heirloom seeds are 100% heirloom, guaranteed. You will also find out the year after when you plant your harvested seeds.


What are the negative affects of GMO’s?
Scroll back up to the question ‘What’s all the hype about’ to find your answer.


What are the negative affects of Hybrids?
The biggest problem with growing hybrid is they don’t reproduce true in the second generation, making it near impossible to save your seeds. Making you rely on seed companies.

Dawn from Small Footprint Families said it best: “When the peasant farmers grew these new hybrids, they were indeed more productive, even though they required more fertilizer and water. But when they collected and saved the seed for replanting the next season—as they had done for generations and generations—none of it grew true to the parent crop, little food grew, and these poor farmers, having none of their open-pollenated traditional varieties left viable, had no choice but to go back to the big companies to purchase the hybrid seeds again for planting year after year.

U.S. companies like Cargill intentionally disrupted the traditional cycle of open-pollinated seed saving and self-sufficiency to essentially force entire nations to purchase their seeds, and the agricultural chemicals required to grow them.

Most of these poor subsistence farmers never had to pay for seed before, and could not afford the new hybrid seeds, or the new petrochemical fertilizers they required, and were forced to sell their farms and migrate to the cities for work. This is how the massive, infamous slums of India, Latin America, and other developing countries were created.

By the 1990s an estimated 95% of all farmers in the First World and 40% of all farmers in the Third World were using Green Revolution hybrid seeds, with the greatest use found in Asia, followed by Mexico and Latin America.

The world lost an estimated 75 percent of its food biodiversity, and control over seeds shifted from farming communities to a handful of multinational corporations.”


Are heirloom plants harder to grow? Will the seeds sprout as easily as GMO’s?
Heirloom seeds sprout and grow just as easily as hybrid or GMO seeds. That being said, because heirloom varieties haven’t been developed in science labs to withstand sprays and extreme weather conditions, heirloom seeds can be more vulnerable sometimes.

But that makes you a better gardener, a more natural gardener. You have to learn about the actual vegetable/fruit, like your grandparents and their parents did. You have to weed them, water them, and care for them, just how nature intended. Additionally, after harvesting, you can keep the seeds from your heirloom plants and plant them the next year without any problems. Good luck doing that with your GMO or hybrid plants!


What’s the difference between organic and heirloom?
Organic means living things grown with out pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Heirloom is just the description of the plant. So you can grow heirloom plants and still use pesticides and such.

WHEW. Long post. Hope that answered any of the questions my skeptics had. If anyone has anything else to add don’t be shy!

Horseradish

There’s a surprising number of people who are scared of Horseradish. Don’t get me wrong, it’s weird stuff and smells funky. But when you put it on a warm roast beef sandwich, *mouth salivating*, it’s just about the best thing the world has to offer.

Just give it a try, if you haven’t already.

Seriously. Right now.

….

It’s also SO EASY TO GROW! It grows everywhere and in almost any climate, (up until Zone 3.) People often grow it separately from their main garden plot because it’s pretty much impossible to get rid of. Every tiny piece that breaks off in the soil when harvested WILL turn into a new plant. Talk about fertile 😉 So consider planting your horseradish in containers.

Unfortunately, I didn’t plant my horseradish in a container and I totally broke up a ton of pieces in the soil…good thing we’re living in a rental!

Growing Horseradish:

In the spring find a very sunny spot in your garden for your horseradish. They can flourish in almost any type of soil but waterlogged soil. So if you are using a drip system in your garden for your water loving greens consider planting them in a separate part of the garden OR in a container.  There, I’ve said it twice. I’m going to listen to my own advice next year.

Once you’ve found your spot, add all your compost and manure and work it in about a foot deep.  Place your root (with the buds facing up towards the surface) at a 45 degree angle or straight down. Cover with 2-3 inches of soil and give it a good water. After that you only need to water during really long dry spells.

Harvesting Horseradish:

Horseradish needs about 12-18 months to reach full maturity, but if you live in Zones 4-6 and you planted it in the spring you can harvest a decent root for your fall dishes. Make sure you harvest the roots when they aren’t actively growing! That means in the fall  after the first hard frost or early spring.  Examine all your horseradish and use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the plants that are at least 1 inch in diameter. Once you remove the roots cut off the tops and side shoots and replant in the same spot, adding in compost along the way.

Eating Horseradish:

Scrub all your roots and peel with a potato peeler. Cut into small chunks and toss into a food processor or blender and grind up to the consistency you like. Add 2-3 TBL of vinegar to every cup of horseradish. To have a milder horseradish, add the vinegar in immediately, and for a stronger horseradish wait 3-4 min and then add in the vinegar.  Then, ENJOY!

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Getting ready for winter

Let’s talk about winterizing. A lot of people, including myself, thought you could just let the garden go once you collected all you wanted from the garden. But I’ve realized over time that it would be like having a one way friendship with someone, it just doesn’t work.

First lets go into WHY winterizing your garden is important:

  1. By composting all your left over annual plants and vines it prevents the build up of diseases.
  2. It also gets ride of nasty bugs that would hang around in the dead plants waiting for next year’s vegetables. (Composting reaches high heat levels which kills off diseases and bugs that otherwise would live if left in the garden.)
  3. Cleaning out your annuals gives you a chance to build up your compost and get some great dirt filled with nutrients for next year’s garden.
This is about half of the garden scraps we have so far. All going into our compost bin!

This is about half of the garden scraps we have so far. All going into our compost bin!

How to winterize your STRAWBERRIES:

This was my first year growing strawberries and it was such a fun experience. We had about 20 plants that produced all summer and are still producing a few berries today!

JUNE BEARING STRAWBERRIES: One/two weeks after they have stopped baring fruit take a pair of scissors or use a lawnmower and go over your berry plants to cut them back. This will help increase your production for the following year.

EVER BEARING STRAWBERRIES: I’ve heard of a few people that will cut their berries back the same way they do their June Bearing plants, but most people recommend leaving them be. But make sure you cut off all the runners and replant them or compost them.

FOR JUNE BEARING and EVER BEARING STRAWBERRIES: Before the first hard frost sets in, cover your strawberries with 4-6 inches of straw and cover with a wire mesh of sorts to keep the straw from blowing away during the season.

This haven't been winterized yet, but should be sometime this week.

These haven’t been winterized yet, but should be sometime this week. (Lows in the 30’s this week!)

How to winterize your RHUBARB, ASPARAGUS, HORSERADISH, GARLIC, and other Perennials:

Mulch, mulch, mulch and more mulch.

Rhubarb: Mulch with organic matter and well rotted manure.

Asparagus: Mulch with 4-6 inches of chopped leaves, hay or straw. Remove the mulch in the spring.

Horseradish: Mulch only if you live in particularly harsh areas. Otherwise no mulch is needed.

Garlic: Mulch with chopped leaves, grass hay or alfalfa. Avoid grain straw if you can which can host curl mite that can attack garlic.

mulching

WINTER GARDENING AND COVER CROPS:

Instead of closing up shop after clearing out all the summer plants, plant something that can grow and keep your garden alive. Kale, collards, leafy greens, garlic, rhubarb, shallots and carrots are a few great things that you can start late in late summer and harvest in the fall. Your garden can also work as a great ‘root cellar’ of sorts, to store things like carrots, potatoes, onions and cabbage. Just burry in a few inches of soil and place a marker over the spot so it can be easily found once winter sets in.

Something else to consider are cover crops! I have never done a cover crop but I really want to try one this year. I love that they keep your soil healthy and in place.

Why cover crops?

“Cover crops help to retain the soil, lessen erosion, and decrease the impact of precipitation on the garden by slowing the runoff of water. They also reduce mineral leaching and compaction, and suppress perennial and winter annual weed growth. The top growth adds organic matter when it is tilled into the garden soil. The cover crop’s root system also provides organic matter and opens passageways that help improve air and water movement in the soil.” -Cornell University

Great cover crop options:

covercrops

 

Portia Westesen

Turn your scraps into garden gold!

Let’s talk about compost. I LOVE compost.

Compost is like natures way of recycling. It’s good for everyone, so why not do it?! Composting feeds hundreds of thousands of organisms in the soil. Not only does it help improve your garden it improves the soil structure and makes it easier for plants to grow! The more variety you put in your compost the more diverse your organisms will be WHICH means more benefits for your compost and in turn for your garden.

When I say composting is easy, I really mean it.

Take all those used and smelly waste from your kitchen, garden or yard and, instead of just tossing it in the garbage, toss it into compost box. Don’t know what to use to hold your compost? Just use a large plastic tub, trashcan, or make your own out of wood! Nothin’ special.

Here is a list of things that can be composted: (this list is probably only the beginning, but it’ll give you a good start)

  • fruit and vegetables, skins and all.
  • eggshells (crushed)
  • farm animal manures
  • flowers
  • grass clippings (in THIN layers)
  • hay
  • leaves
  • oats and oat straw, and most other hulls, straws, moss.
  • peat moss
  • potato skins and vines
  • shells (from sea creatures, make sure they are ground and buried deep in the pile)
  • tea leaves
  • weeds

Two of the biggest elements in composting is carbon and nitrogen. You generally want 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith has a great article on composting, his trick to remembering what the difference is between the two is “30 parts brown (for carbon) and 1 part green (for the nitrogen).”

Composting BROWNS:

  • Straw-oats, barley, wheat and rye. (generally, most people prefer this type for composting)
  • Hay
  • Cornstalks and vines from pea and beans
  • Autumn Leaves
  • Wood Shavings and Sawdust
  • Pine Needles

Composting GREENS:

  • Any plant (fruit, vegetables, flowers) material as long as it’s not diseased
  • Grass clippings
  • Seaweed
  • Weeds (make sure there’s no poisons on it!)
  • Bird feathers
  • Manures
  • Alfafa hay

What NOT to compost

  • Meat and Dairy, mainly because they attract animals.
  • Diseased plants and the roots of the cabbage plants
  • Weeds that have gone to seed
  • Ashes
  • Manure from animals other than herbivores. Like cats and dogs.
  • Plants that have herbicides on them

This is my 2nd year really composting and I’m really enjoying all I’ve learned from it so far! Good luck and don’t be afraid to ask questions or google more about it! Composting is so easy and so beneficial for your garden!

Portia Westesen

Organic gardening: how to get rid of slugs.

Has anyone else noticed the gross, slimy, new neighbors that just moved in? They’re really annoying. Always asking for food and leaving their trash everywhere. Really inconsiderate if you ask me.

The problem with slugs is they affect just about everything, feeding on the soft tissue of your fruits and vegetables leaving huge gnarly holes on your leaves. When I was a kid my brother would pour salt on them and I would sit there crying, begging him to stop, wondering why someone would be so cruel. I’ve now had a change of heart and I might be just as cruel as he was.

So how do you get rid of them once you’ve caught them? There are a ton of organic and natural options out there, although they might be more work, they are completely worth it! Here are a few options:

Picking and Soaping. My preferable option of termination is handpicking them off my plants and dropping them into a soapy cup of water. I do this in the evening or in the early morning before the sun is up. Also keep in mind, that for every slug you find there are 20 more you haven’t seen, so be vigilant! I’ve also noticed they love soaker hoses, so check near those as well.

Booby Trapping. Turning over pots and wooden boards are great ways to temporarily catch slugs and snails, just make sure you check before the sun rises or after the sun sets to catch them and scoop them into some soapy water before they leave. Also, sprinkling wood ash or sawdust around the plants sucks moisture away from the slugs and deters them from crossing.

Poisoning. Wormwood tea is made from Artemisia. It’s a botanical poison that repels most bugs, snails, and slugs. If you use it in the fall it will also kill all burrowing slugs that are hiding and/or hibernating. To make this wonderful tea Steep 1 cup of Artemisia in 1 quart of warm water for 24 hours. Strain the liquid and add 1 tbs of castile soap. Add 8 ozs. of tea to 1 quart of water and spray on the soil.

Shocking. Place copper strips or foil around your garden. The copper is supposed to send an electrical shock which keeps them at bay.

Pesticiding. If you have a more serious infestation you can buy iron phosphate baits at your local gardening store. THIS IS NOT ORGANIC.

Mother Nature. The most important thing you can do is create a happy ecosystem by encouraging certain bugs into the garden. Ants, beetle grubs, earwigs , birds, snakes, toads and turtles all love snacking on slugs!

Good luck in the hunt!

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Portia Westesen

Pancakes

I decided to introduce a little bit of garden cooking here on my blog. It probably won’t happen very often, since usually what I use my produce for is very simple, throw together meals that don’t really have a recipe. But maybe this will force me to be more creative!

So pancakes. Lets talk about pancakes. Where to start, where to start! ….I love pancakes. When I say that it’s more of a grabbing the nearest person, shaking them uncontrollably, yelling ‘DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND HOW WONDERFUL PANCAKES ARE?!’ I’m not going to deny it’s a bit of a problem. I probably make pancakes 3 times a week for breakfast. Magnolia has joined in the obsession as well. Couldn’t be more proud.

As everyone knows zucchini takes over the garden, smashing everything near it, growing tall and growing wide. Already I’ve harvested 7-8 zucchini’s, and the plant is just getting warmed up! I’m determined this growing season to not waste any produce, so we will be making lots of dishes, breads and cakes with our zucchini. I was thinking about making some zucchini bread this afternoon but opted for this AMAZING zucchini bread pancake recipe. Now don’t shut it down just yet. I know there’s a lot of people out there who turn their noses up at squash, but just give it a chance! Zucchini is so moist, and with a little sugar makes everything it touches amazing.

I got this recipe from Smittenkitchen.com, just click on the recipe below and it’ll take you right to her website. Also, I just did mine in a normal skillet on the stovetop, worked just as well with a lot less work.

photo (14)   photo (15)

Zucchini Bread Pancakes

Makes 10 to 12 pancakes

2 large eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons light brown, dark brown or granulated sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk or 2 tablespoons each of milk and plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini (from about 9 ounces whole, or 1 1/2 medium zucchini), heaping cups are fine
1 cup all-purpose flour (half can seamlessly be swapped with a whole wheat flour)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
Butter or oil, for coating skillet

In a large bowl, combine eggs, olive oil, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla until smooth. Stir in zucchini shreds. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir dry ingredients into zucchini batter, mixing until just combined.

Preheat oven to 200°F and place a tray — foil-lined if you’re into doing fewer dishes later — on a middle rack.

Heat a large, heavy skillet (my favorite for pancakes is a cast-iron) over medium heat. Once hot, melt a pat of butter in pan and swirl it around until it sizzles. Scoop scant 1/4-cup dollops of batter (mine were about 3 tablespoons each) in pan so the puddles do not touch. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook another minute or two, until golden underneath. Transfer pancakes to prepared pan to keep warm as well as ensure that they’re all cooked through when they’re served. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm. Repeat next weekend.

Enjoy!

Portia Westesen

Are Earwigs bad for my garden?

I’m grateful at times for living in Utah. The climate is perfect, dry and sunny, and you don’t really have to worry that much about bugs. Which is a great thing for those vegetables that are prone to bugs. And although we don’t have a ton of bugs, we still have a few pesky ones that drive me crazy.

I went out into my garden yesterday and saw A TON of holes in my plants. WHAT?!

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I was a little on the panicky side for the entire day, thinking that my garden, along with a few gardens of some friends, would be eaten by bugs. Later that day I was trying to re-arrange my zucchini from taking over all my onions and shallots (BAD day for shallots) when I found these guys hiding in a trellis:

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….earwigs….

….I hate earwigs….

Not to mention the horror stories you grew up hearing about them crawling through your ear and eating your brain! (Which, FYI, is false).

But I have some good news about these guys, they aren’t all bad! And although they can make a few plants look like they have leprosy, they don’t  necessarily hurt them. Earwigs are also known for eating larvae, slugs, snails, and other garden foes. So in the long run, they might be worth keeping!

Portia Westesen