The Girls…

Thanksgiving prep is in full swing at the EG household, but I thought I’d post a couple photos of the girls in their run.  They’re adjusting nicely and seem to be quite happy…

The Girls...

The Girls...

The Girls...

The Girls...

Of course I was so worried about the cold, but we had a couple very warm days and I wound up worrying about the heat!  Crazy weather!  And our resident hawks have figured out that the Coop is officially occupied – they had been scouting the area for weeks for signs of life (and it’s amazing to me that they know) – but they don’t seem to be testing the wire and netting thankfully.

And my children are working on names since we’re finally able to tell them apart – so far we have Feathers, Pecker and Roadie (yes, I thought that one was hysterical for various reasons), anyone else have any thoughts???

Happy Gardening (or chicken keeping!) everyone!

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Chicken Sayings

 

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Having immersed myself of late in all things chickens, I’ve come to realize how many common sayings have become a part of our verbal culture that originally came from the ‘coop’, despite most people being several generations away from the farm.  So enjoy my brief list of all things verbally chicken…

Birds of a Feather Flock Together…

Ain’t nobody here but us chickens…

Hen party…

Hen house…

Mother hen…

Nest egg…

Empty Nester…

Hen pecked…

Flew the coop…

Scratching out a living…

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch…

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket …

Don’t spend the egg money before the hen lays the eggs…

Feather your nest …

Up with the chickens…

You’re chicken…

Chicken out…

Ruffled your feathers…

Something to crow about…

Stick your neck out…

Strutting your stuff…

Cocky…

You might not use all of them consistently, but I bet a few are in your personal phrase books…

And in case any of you are curious how my chicken adventure is progressing, they have just moved out of the house today and will be spending their first night down in the COOP.  I was terrified of the plummeting temps in the Northeast so I’ve kept them in the back bedroom longer than necessary.  Needless to say it’s a disaster and needs to be thoroughly cleaned but I’m fairly certain the Girls will be ok in their new home.  I’m going to use supplemental heating in the form of a ceramic reptile ‘bulb’ (I also purchased the exterior lamp to go with it which is suspended from the top of the coop).  Tested it and it works like a charm with little fire risk and no extra light so they can sleep (and hopefully I will as well).

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

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Drying Herbs

 

Drying Herbs

Do you preserve your herb garden by drying herbs?  I feel like most gardeners and cooks no longer bother.  I grew up with a Mom who always had trays of herbs drying on the dining room table (sometimes the oven too which I confess I set on fire more than one time when I flipped it on, forgetting there was a tray of celery or something in there…).  Even though I’m a huge fan of places like Penzeys, I have inherited her gene and like to dry my own whenever I can.

I try and focus on either what I use the most of throughout the season or if something is impossible to find in the store, like the Citrus Thyme in the photos above.

All you need to do is harvest, wash in lightly salted water (kills the critters), give them a run through the salad spinner to dry, and then spread them out on a cookie sheet that you then cover with a towel to keep the dust off.  It takes a couple of weeks for them to really dry, but it’s worth it for the freshness and the intense flavor.  This year I’ve concentrated on thyme, sage and celery leaf and should have enough to keep cooking through the winter.  I lost one rather large tray of celery when my husband flipped the oven on – I’d been trying to finish some thicker stalks at a very low temp but they sadly went up in smoke… C’est la vie I guess!

Drying Herbs

My second batch of celery…

I know many of you live in climates that are kind enough to plants that you probably have fresh herbs to work with all season, but I’d be curious who out there still preserves their own herbs, or am I the lone dinosaur???

***And we have our winners for the strawberry popcorn giveaway!  Congrats to all of you and I’ll be (or already have) contacting you for mailing addresses.  Hope you have as much success and fun growing these as I did.  Happy Gardening!

 

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Veterans Day 2014

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In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Thankyou to all who have served…

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Garden Benches

Garden BenchesAll gardeners are in love with the concept of a seat in the garden.  A garden bench will be situated in the perfect spot, with the perfect view, someplace to sit and ponder the wonders of your gardening talent and green thumb with a glass of wine or a cup of tea.

The truth is of course, that we might have the perfect seat in our gardens, but we rarely get to use it!  Regardless of that reality, I went shopping (meaning I pulled out my iPad and planted myself on the couch with a glass of wine) and found two perfect and fairly inexpensive benches.  The only drawback to these beauties is/was that they needed to be assembled and that required power tools.  I think any of you that know me realize that I should NOT be allowed to use power tools.  I soldiered on though and borrowed the Hubbies cordless drill.

Garden Benches

Garden Benches

Garden Benches

Garden Benches

I guessed how to assemble the first bench, not realizing that there we’re actually instructions on the back of the illustration.  Oops.  There were only a couple extra screws when I finished…  No big deal, right?…  I confess they we’re actually super easy to assemble.  By the time I realized there were instructions I felt like a pro.

I loved these benches when I saw them on-line.  They’re inexpensive (ish), solid wood and they have some nice details…

Garden Benches

Garden Benches

My supervisor…

Garden Benches

I picked them up at Grandin Road and they’re on sale now too (and no, I don’t receive anything from them for that plug)…  I’ve placed them both down in a spot where I can watch my children play,  though I think one will migrate over to the chicken coop soon so I can watch the action in that part of the garden.  I dare to dream!

Happy gardening everyone!

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Homegrown Strawberry Popcorn and a Giveaway!

Homegrown Strawberry Popcorn

Nature is always amazing to me, it’s miraculous that you can plant a seed and go from this…

Homegrown Strawberry Popcorn

To this…

Homegrown Strawberry Popcorn

Last year (2013), I planted a couple rows of traditional white corn (organic cuz the GMO thing freaks me out) in an effort to teach my children that corn doesn’t come from the grocery store or the farm stand, that there is a living plant that had to be nurtured through a season, in a field, with all the worries that accompany planting and gardening.  They could have cared less.  My garden efforts on their behalf were underwhelming.  There was corn a’plenty at the farm stand all season and my tiny little harvest didn’t even register on their radar.

So this year I decided to plant something that would really capture their attention – popcorn! They LOVE popcorn, it’s one of their favorite snacks but of course they’re used to it from a jar or a bag, direct from the grocery store or movie theater and into a bowl whenever they desire.

I wanted to find a variety that would somehow capture their attention and after combing through the catalogs and looking at all the options available, I thought strawberry popcorn would fit the bill.  With cute, mini ears and spectacular color, my logic was that even if the popcorn didn’t ‘pop’, it would still make amazing fall decorations.

Homegrown Strawberry Popcorn

Homegrown Strawberry Popcorn

I started it inside but I think I could have waited and just planted straight into the garden.  It was very simple to grow, decent soil and constant water, and didn’t really take up too much space.  One of the nicest aspects of growing popcorn was I could just leave it on the stalk to dry and cure on it’s own.  When it was ready I picked it and removed the kernels with a little gadget I bought ( if you try growing popcorn get this gadget, it will save your thumbs! Here’s the link…).

Homegrown Strawberry Popcorn

Thumb saving corn gadget…

Homegrown Strawberry Popcorn

And popping was a huge success.  I did it the old fashioned way – a couple tablespoons of oil in a metal pan, put the lid on and keep it moving over a high heat.  I added a sprinkle of salt and that was it.  Virtually every kernel popped and the flavor was fabulous.  The most rewarding part of course is that my children realized that we grew this, and they want to save seed for next year.  Lesson complete!

And now for the giveaway!  These we’re fun to grow and I want to share so I’m offering three bags of 50 seeds each.  The rules?  Very easy.  Just be an active email subscriber (which means if you’re a new subscriber when you send in your email you’ll receive an email back that you must click to activate your free subscription), and leave a comment on this post.  I’ll choose the random winners on November 12th and contact you via email.

Thanks so much for reading EG!  Happy gardening!

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Pity Party for Me

Once in a while I must whine, and today is that day…  While planting bulbs this weekend I lost one of my favorite bracelets – it was a birthday gift a couple years back and I loved it.  I’m virtually certain it’s planted with the bulbs since I retraced my steps meticulously and couldn’t find it.   Am I an idiot for keeping it on while I worked?  Yes.  Still sad though.  My youngest son optimistically pointed out to me that ‘Maybe it would grow?’  That would be cool…

My Favorite Bracelet

***UPDATE*** – Thanks to many hours of searching with a metal detector I found it!  Psyche!…  Thanks to technology for the help!

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Preserving Parsley

Preserving ParsleyLike all gardeners I tend to over plant something every year, I get overly enthusiastic after trying some random recipe and plant that one ingredient in crazy numbers… – This year my ‘oops’ planting was parsley (the recipe plan revolved around middle eastern salads).  I ripped out my cute little strawberry border and replaced it with about 40 Italian and curly leafed parsley plants.  Believe me, we had ample parsley!  Our woodchuck seemed to enjoy it for the first few weeks too, but then even he got sick of such bounty.  This leaves me with a crazy abundance and a need to make the guilty effort to preserve a bit.

Preserving Parsley

My first effort was to chop quite a bit, roll it in paper towels and stuff them in the freezer in a Ziplock bag.  This is a great way to preserve for soups, stews etc. it’s fast and it takes up very little room (remember if you do this though it needs to be super dry before it goes into the freezer), but I tried something new too, I froze huge quantities of it in unsalted butter.

Now, I’ve made compound butters before, but they we’re pretty little things destined for the table.  This was/is purely utilitarian and it was easy to do.

Preserving Parsley

Chop

Preserving Parsley

Mix with pre softened butter.

Preserving Parsley

Stuff into some sort of container – I used mini muffin pans, and freeze.

Preserving Parsley

Pop them out and store them in an airtight container in your freezer.

When you’re removing them after they’re frozen, let them sit out for a moment – they’ll be much easier to pop out.

I’ve already used a couple of these on roast chicken and scrambled eggs… It worked really well and it’s a great way to preserve a bit more of the harvest before the hard frost comes.  So what do you do to preserve herbs in your garden, dry, freeze etc… ???

Happy Gardening everyone and I hope you have an amazing weekend!

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R.I.P. to and amazing gardener – Oscar de la Renta

Oscar de la Renta in Punta Canna

The world lost an amazing gardener yesterday, Oscar de la Renta.  He was most notable for the fashion he designed and the women who wore his clothing, but his two gardens, one in Kent, Connecticut and the other in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic were stunning.  Rosemary Verey, friend and consultant to Oscar de la Renta said of him “He has the hands of an artist, but they are useful hands that can dig as well as draw and paint.”

Requiescat in pace Oscar…

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Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden - Yucca

When my plants and flowers start to die back and the urge to cut them down and throw them in the compost starts, I resist and leave almost everything standing.  Why?  Primarily because it provides food and shelter for critters of all kinds during the fall and winter months, but it’s also quite beautiful to look at when the landscape is bleak (a patch of frosted plants with the sunlight shining on it is stunning).

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden - sunflower

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden - sunflower

Birds of all kind will go crazy for sunflower heads.  They grow very easily and you can even save a few seed heads for the winter months.  Just cut them when they’re dry and store them where rodents won’t get to them (I use a small metal garbage can in the garage).  Come winter, tie them someplace you can see from the house and watch the birds go crazy!

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden

Probably my favorite garden visitors are the birds that come through and quite often stay for the winter  (sorry about the blurry photo above – it’s from last year and he kept bouncing the sunflower).  They add life to the garden in all seasons and I love that I can do something small that helps them a bit.  I also try and provide water, but keeping it ice free can be tough.

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden - perennial sweet pea

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden

Echinacea (above) and the yucca seeds at the top of the post are magnets in my garden for finches.

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden

I admit the fennel can get a bit out of hand when left to stand, but they’re fairly easily managed with a bit of weeding and if something else that’s fun sprouts (like the echinacea), I pot them up to share with friends.

And heres a link to the Audubon Society…  They have a wealth of birding information if you’d like to ID any of the little guys nibbling your seed…

So whats your garden strategy?  Do you cut and compost first thing or do you let them stand?

Happy gardening everyone!

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