Crafting with Nature and Beets

beets bottle branch blog

It probably won’t surprise you to know that, in my kitchen, I have a pineapple plant grown from the top of a supermarket pineapple, a motley collection of house plants, and a red oak seedling pulled from my garden with roots in tact, and now growing in a bottle of water. In short, I’m often tempted to experiment with the bits of nature that come my way, either by way of the supermarket, the garden or the greater world outside.

crafting with nature book bottle branch blog

So, when I first opened up Amy Renea’s book, Crafting with Nature, I was immediately smitten. Want to make a lavender wreath? Here’s how you do it. Want to find something to do with your bumper crop of lamb’s ears and sage? Try this! I was thrilled by the variety and volume of ideas and more than a little tempted to drop everything, and whip up a few all natural lotion bars and luscious healing whips.

growing beet tops bottle branch blog

When I flipped to the section on beets, I knew that would be the right place to start. Beets have long been one of my garden stand-bys, and I was happily surprised with some ideas I had never thought of. How had I never thought to slice off beet tops and keep them growing for baby beet greens?! Or, to boil the skins to make dye?

beet dye and beet tops bottle branch blog

I still haven’t decided what to do with the beet dye (too many choices). Maybe I’ll stick it in the freezer and use it for a frozen cranberry wreath this winter. (Another enticing idea!), but in the mean time, I’ll be happily sprinking those beet greens in smoothies and salads.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive a free copy of this book to review, but I was beyond thrilled to take a look inside and give it a try. I will undoubtedly be trying out lots of the other ideas/ recipe/ crafts in it, and in fact, I’ve aready got another one in the works. But I’ll tell you about that one in another upcoming post.

 

July is the month for blueberries

beetsandcarrots

I haven’t been posting much about my garden this summer. In truth, its been a little disappointing. In June, rabbits chewed my zinnias down to twigs, munched my dahlias, and decapitated my yarrow. The spinach bolted before it had any leaves to harvest. I even managed to sow carrots over beets. I just didn’t have the heart to pull them out, so there they are, growing together.

And yet, I’m still making plans and planting. I’m still scheming and dreaming about what I’ll do next in my yard. Just this week, we’ve planted a blueberry patch with a few high bush and low bush blueberry plants, both native to New England.

When I worked as a biologist, I sometimes worked in a wetland* which was filled with blueberries during the month of July. On breaks, my co-workers and I would stand in our rubber boots, calf-deep in water and muck, and devour blueberries. We used to collect, bring home and freeze buckets of blueberries. We used to move noisily through the bog* lest we startle the black bear known to loiter and gobble blueberries by the pawful.

I’m not expecting any black bears to show up in my own little blueberry patch, but I am thrilled to be creating a naturalized thicket in my yard. I’m looking forward to puttering and tending these new shrubs. I hoping to enjoy some berries straight off the plant. That is, assuming the rabbits don’t get them first.

high bush blueberry
not quite ripe yet!

 

*technically it was a fen, a specific type of wetland, but I didn’t want to go all biology geek on you. Thats a side of me better left out of the blogosphere.

 

Beets, beets, and more beets

beet print
Print by Haley Polinsky – click to see etsy listing

It seems I am not the only person who uses beets as a motif/inspiration/subject matter. My recent etsy search revealed beet linocut prints (see above), beet napkins, beet notebooks, beet onsies, and even other beet inspired tea towels.

notebook by burdock and bramble - click to see their etsy shop
notebook by burdock and bramble – click to see etsy listing
root vegetable tea towel by Jenna Rose - click for etsy listing
root vegetable tea towel by Jenna Rose – click for etsy listing

Nor am I the only person who loves beets. Many thanks to all of you beet lovers and blog friends who left comments on and thus entered the drawing for last week’s beet tea towel giveaway. Its truly a delight to receive each comment – thank you, thank you, thank you! I hate having to choose only one winner! But I did (using a random number generator as in my last giveaway) and entry #6, Britt, is the winner! Congratulations, Britt, this little scrap of linen is coming your way.

beets tea towel

Printed beets tea towel giveaway.

photo 1-7

Last summer, I was obsessed with beets: Growing them, photographing them and eating them. So, its no shock that I used them as an inspiration for one of my summer printing projects.

To make these tea towels, I carved a couple of beet stamps out of  “speedy carve” material, cut the “leaves” off from the beet part, and then used water soluble fabric inks to stamp each section separately.  I printed golden beets, beet colored beets and a few beets with twisty trailing roots.

all.beets.folded

Like my other printing projects from the summer of 2013, I gave most of them away, so it was a surprise when I found this “bonus” tea towel, left over from last summer’s printing spree, and stashed in with my printing supplies.

photo 2-8

I’m not sure if I’ll revisit this project in the next few months, or try something new, but I’m thrilled to have found this ‘bonus’ tea towel and thrilled to be giving it away! I’ll send this last beet- stamped tea towel to a randomly drawn winner. To enter to win this 100% linen, hand printed tea towel, please leave a comment below. Since there’s a holiday weekend coming up (in the USA atleast) I’ll randomly select a winner next Friday, July 11. If I don’t actually know you in person or Facebook, please make sure you include your email address in the comment form so I can contact you. (It won’t appear online.) I’m pretty sure the competition will be sparse so give it a try!  I can promise you it’s really fun to win a giveaway, no matter what the stakes.

 

P.S. Looking at this now, makes me dream of the beets of last summer. Sigh.

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Garden Ennui

garden.september.small

As the summer winds to a close, I have to confess to feeling a little weary of my vegetable garden. I am not quite ready to yank the gangly plants out of the ground. (Though the never-to-flower watermelon, the past prime green beans, the tomatoes threatening to tip over their cages, are kind of asking for it.) Yet, the thrill is gone. When I look at my garden, I see many things I can and should do in it, but my response is less excitement and more, meh, I’ll do it later.  If I were a better gardener, I’d be working on fall crops. Instead, I’ll settle for a few more tomatoes, a bit of arugula in a few weeks, and of course, more kale.

It has been a good garden summer – mountains of kale, piles of beets, bowls full of tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and carrots, many of which have appeared in my instgram feed or facebook page. If there is a name for someone who posts way too many photos of their garden vegetables, I have earned it this year.  And my garden, which has given me as much pleasure as produce, has earned its keep despite my current seasonal ennui.

Garden Update: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Here I go again, bragging about my garden. Only its not exactly bragging. It might even be over-sharing, because I plan to share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

tomato plant in june
After two weeks in the soil, Green Zebra Tomato, still looking pretty small

The good. Two weeks ago, I planted the tomatoes I grew from seed: yellow pear, green zebra, ‘stupice‘ and red cherry.  For now, they look tiny but the seed packets promise they will reach 7ft, especially with my new tomato cages. (mother’s day present) I am positively rubbing my hands together in anticipation.

Mmmm.. freshly watered kale plants
Mmmm.. freshly watered kale plants

The bad. We’ve already cycled through one crop of arugula and one crop of spinach. This is bad only because it means we have only kale ready to eat in the garden and everyone at my house is starting to get testy about those kale smoothies I keep offering to make.

Yucky beets greens: what am I doing wrong!?
Yucky beets greens: what am I doing wrong!?

The ugly. The greens on my beets are starting to look like someone doused them with acid. I have no idea why. Actually, I am wondering if beets do not like to be top watered? Thoughts, theories, suggestions most welcome.

Happy June, everyone!

Starting Seeds

planting kale

Finally. I’ve planted some seeds for my vegetable garden. Last Monday, I sewed cool season crops: arugula, beets, kale and spinach. I was so excited to get started, I probably didn’t amend the soil enough, but I did manage to turn the soil with some slow release fish fertilizer. Hope its enough.

indoor.seed.planting

Yesterday, I started tomatoes and a few watermelons indoors, in jiffy pots. This is the first time I’ve used Jiffy pots. For years, I used an elaborate tray system with a wicking layer to keep the soil moist, but those seemed to have “disappeared” during a shed clean out. I suspect my husband.

planted.beet.seeds

I can’t wait to see these seeds geminate – its probably my favorite part of growing from seed. The sight of a tiny white root (botanically speaking, “the radicle”) sticking out of a seed never fails to thrill me. And when the curve of the first shoot sticks up from the soil as it unfolds out of the seed? Even better.