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.

 

Springtime garden dreaming

native withch havelJPG

Hello. It’s been a while.

Like everyone else I know, I’ve been busy. I’ve been attending year end performances, cleaning out the garage, transporting children, filling out permission slips, trying to get a squeaky faucet fixed, and so on. And, of course, I’ve also been busy in my garden.

I started seeds, watched them grow, carried them in and out of the house to harden them off, and now, just this week, planted them outside.

I pruned a dozen inkberry bushes and then luxuriated in the resulting clippings and their glossy foliage and even made a wreath from the cuttings. Sadly, the wreath was a failure, as it turned brown about 24 hours after I hung it in my house, and before I took a photos of the final product, but the project was fun.

I’ve been Instagraming the flowers that have emerged in my garden and trying not to get too excited in anticipation of the ones I hope will bloom soon. (You never know when tragedy may stike in the form of a garden pest.)

I’ve been puttering, planting, and scheming about how to keep the rabbits from eating everything that’s not contained in the fenced enclosure around my vegetable patch. I’ve been thinking about moving some ferns and what to plant in their place.

may apple flower

I’ve been admiring my mayapple which came back five times bigger this year than last. In short, I’ve been happily caught up planning and dreaming in my garden, caught up in the spirit of spring. Happily, I am now caught up here on my blog as well. Happy spring my friends! I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am.

hot pink peony

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.

 

More is never enough

seed.packs

I’m so excited about my garden, despite the blanket of snow outside my windows. I’ve decided to try winter sowing this year and so I’ve been busy designing and dreaming, scheming and selecting seeds, and potting and planting them up.

In other years, I’ve planted early crops under a cold frame in March, but this year (and I’m a little late for it) I’ve stuck some seeds out in the snow. Here’s how: Save clear-topped plastic containers, order seeds, fill containers with damp soil, sow seeds, close containers (except for air and drainage holes) and place them in a sunny spot, outdoors. That’s the rough plan, anyway, and a reasonable one, at least, according to my internet search and wintersown.org.

planted.seeds

My internet search also yielded the quote, “More is never enough.”  More googling suggests Marty Rubin as the source of this quote. I have no idea who Marty Rubin is, or the context of the original quote, but feel that in the context of garden planning, it could not be more apt.

I am dreaming big right now. With spinach, arugula, water cress, broccoli, parsley, and a some foxglove now winter sown, I’ve also ordered three kinds of tomatoes, beans, squash, carrots, nasturtiums, zinnias and more. A whole colorful summer garden’s worth of seeds.

As I now consider adding shrubs, perennials, and roses, I realize that late winter garden dreaming is the correllary to seasonal garden ennui. Now is the time for ambitious garden planning. Now is the time when more is never enough.

winter.sown

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.

Starting seeds

As I begin this blog, I am thinking of spring, planting some seeds and dreaming of a lush and productive summer vegetable garden. I like to imagine my new garden will look something like this:

7749894.bin

Since my garden is currently covered in snow, I’m using a lot of imagination.

my.garden.under.snow

I’ve been perusing seed catalogues and websites and I finally settled on some seeds. I’ve ordered “pronto” beets, arugula, spinach and “True Siberian” kale to start under a cold frame as soon as the snow melts. I’ve ordered tomatoes (yellow pear, cherry, “stupice”) and “sugar baby” watermelons to start indoors at  the same time.

I can’t wait, but I know half the fun is in the anticipation. Hoping there are good times ahead, both here on this blog and in my garden.