Sunday, April 29, 2012

Welcome to the Jungle

Gardens 6, 7 & 8
My garden resembles a jungle in some spots! Yet, it is thriving despite the crowding. Why? The Square Foot Garden can support such a demand on its nutrients. For someone with such a tiny backyard, I am growing a surprising amount of food for my family in our eight (8) Square Foot Gardens. We are harvesting haricot vert green beans already. I planted four squares with plants and it seems sufficient for our family.
We are harvesting every third day
and getting this much every time.

How I wish I could convince everyone I know just to try even one small 4 x 4 Square Foot garden in their backyard. I think they would be amazed at the amount of fresh food they could grow and be surprised by how easy it is. I do not have a green thumb people! And yet, look at these gardens!

My cucumber and cantaloupe vines have tons and tons of flowers. I am starting to see some tiny pickles and itty bitty cantaloupes. Every day I see something new popping up. Strawberries are growing, tomatoes are producing, peppers are loading down the plants.

Had a night visitor to our garden. Seemed to like standing in the soft mixture and dug around a bit. We are guessing it was an opposum. We kept the light on for the next few nights and he got the hint and left. 
Garden No. 5

Garden No. 4
My eggplants are doing very well. I have two plants that are covered in flowers and one plant has two eggplants. I recently bought another baby eggplant and planted it. We will have to see if it does as well. Each bed is a micro-climate unto itself. Depending on the soil composition and its position in the backyard, the same plants can give different results.
Eggplant thriving in Garden No. 4

Closeup of eggplant in Garden No. 4

Baby bell pepper in Garden No. 4

Loving breaking off a bit of this lavender from my garden

Squash plant in Garden No. 5

Just sprouted bush beans in Garden No. 3

Lots of green cherry tomatoes

lots of blooms on the cucumbers & canteloupe

baby "pickle"

Haricot Vert beans

tomatoes doing well

broccoli ready to harvest - think this may be the end of it 

A little beauty for the sake of beauty

Holy Basil going bonkers

still have plenty of Seven Wonders lettuce

Lavender bloom

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Super Not-So-Secret Organic Garden Bug Spray

I found this really good recipe on the web called "Garlic fire spray". I tried it out and it has shooed the bugs away effectively. Here it is:

Super Organic Garlic Fire Garden Bug Spray

2-3 garlic bulbs put through a garlic press (about 6-10 cloves per bulb)
1-2 Tbl. hot chili powder
1 Tbl. Cayenne (my addition - hey now, I'm Cajun. Everything is better with Cayenne! Except ice cream.)
1 Tbl. vegetable oil
3 squirts of liquid detergent (I used dish soap)
1-2 cups of water for the blender (you will add 5 cups of water after you take it out of the blender)

Put everything in the blender and blend on the highest speed. I had to strain it twice through a tea towel (if you don't it will clog your spray bottle). I got a cheap container at the dollar store to store it in. I used an old clean spray bottle. Keep it in a cupboard or shelf. Label it well so no one thinks it is some homemade hot sauce. Yuck!

Lower the water dilution rate if you are still seeing buggies. Spray gently on young plants. I haven't seen any damage to my young ones.

The smell is pretty garlicky, but isn't too bad. You have to respray frequently after a rain or watering. Spray  every few days until there is no sign of pests, then about every week or 10 days for any eggs or larvae that may have hatched. I especially make sure and get the bottoms of the leaves to kill eggs.

Kills ants, aphids, caterpillars, grubs... I wouldn't spray it on flowers so the bees aren't harmed when they come for a snack. Careful of the ladybugs and other beneficial bugs. It also deters pets, rabbits, gophers, woodchucks...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter 2012 or how my husband got his way

I love to entertain. I would do it daily if I could. Most of the time, I just plan a coffee with friends during the day while my husband is away. You see, my husband isn't a social butterfly like yours truly. Shocking isn't it. Tee hee. My friends are nodding their heads in agreement/pity.

We usually pack them in for Easter. My husband begged off of entertaining this Easter. He works full time and is a part-time student, so the poor bugger is T-I-R-E-D. I pouted for a bit but went about my usual Easter preparations even if it would only be for four.

I bought a HUGE leg of lamb, served two desserts (Ms. Becky's carrot cake and a purchased Key Lime Pie) and all the usual sides like peas, cucumbers, mashed potatoes and my favorite clover leaf wheat buns. My husband poked his head in the kitchen Saturday night and asked "Why are cooking like crazy in here? It's just us." "Uh, can't I cook for just us?" "I guess so."

The lamb was unbelievable. Seriously, it was the best leg of lamb I ever made, ate, or heard about. Crispy herb crust and juicy inside. It was cooking away in the oven while we were in church. The thought of it waiting for us was just a little distracting Sunday morning. Wait, was that my stomach growling in church? Ooops. My husband and kids raved about it. All you could hear Sunday at lunch was "mmm... ohh... mmmm"

I wanted to write the recipe here because at the next family celebration I will hear "honey, remember that lamb you made on Easter? Do that again."

Herb Encrusted Leg of Lamb
(this marinates overnight so prepare the day before)

Fresh Leg of Lamb with partial bone in (I found a beautiful local one at HEB)
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped thyme
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
Kosher Salt
black pepper
4 garlic cloves
garlic powder
onion powder
3 limes
Bacon Grease (save this from a few days of making bacon)
olive oil

Lightly rub down the leg of lamb with olive oil. Don't go crazy here.
Cut small slits into the leg and stuff with 1/2 clove of garlic
sprinkle with pepper, salt, garlic & onion powder all over
Mix the chopped rosemary and thyme and put on underside and on the top. Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit in fridge overnight.

The next morning:
Put in a rack in a pan (to keep it out of the drippings) with the fat side up. You will notice one side of the leg has more fat than the other.
Squeeze 3 limes all over the top of it.
Top with 3 large globs of bacon grease before popping in oven.
Set oven to 325 (no need to preheat) Rule of thumb is 30 to 35 minutes per pound. Lean toward the 35 minute time if you like it less pink in the middle. Mine took 3 1/2 hours. Lamb is supposed to be served a little pink inside.

You can make an unbelievable gravy by put the pan on your stove. In a separate bowl, mix 3 Tbl. corn starch and about 1/4 water. Add to your drippings and stir. You may need to add more of this corn starch mixture depending on how much drippings you have.

The most delicious leg of lamb!
Snugglebunny carving the leg of lamb

Ready for devouring. Just the right amount of pink inside. 

the spread
is your mouth watering? 

plated to perfection

too full to move to the sofa

stop taking pictures of me! I'm too full to stop you!

Ms. Becky's carrot cake

Home Improvement 2012

Following my thinking that "carpet is of the devil" (cause it is), we have thrown out yet more of this evil, nasty stuff in our house. Thanks to the ineptness of our mortgage company, we had a large overage this year and put it toward new tile which was needed badly in the guest room, guest bathroom, boys room and hallway. We wanted to balance the house, so we used the same tile we used in the Master Suite which is on the opposite side of the house. This is a great Italian porcelain that we purchased from Lowe's (using my handy dandy 10% off coupon from the change of address envelope at the post office). More details on the flooring here.

We wanted to do a little something special, but not over the top for our guest bathroom. I found some beautiful travertine mosaic tiles at Lowe's that matched perfectly with the porcelain. It was a simple design, but I think it adds something special to the flooring. After living on concrete for a while, the boys were not excited about giving up their "industrial" look. They were not convinced that the flooring would go with their room theme. Once it was all in, they were OK with it.

So that leaves only one room with carpet. The toy room (which also functions as an additional guest space and gaming room). It will go when we replace our laminate flooring in the great room. Here's hoping for more ineptness (fingers crossed) by our mortgage company.

Guest room

Guest bathroom

Beauty in the garden

Veggies can be beautiful. Especially when they are still in flower form. Here are a few beauties...

Eggplant flower is just stunning!

Green beans flower is a delicate beauty

"Magic Beans" flowers are a bright pop of color

OK - these aren't flowers but the first tomatoes of the season!
Stay away birdies!


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