Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Has Sprung!

A lone tulip, peeking out of the ground. I didn't know if I would get ANY tulips this year, because of having to move my entire garden. I did not intentionally bring any along, I was in too much of a hurry to dig in the dirt for bulbs. But....I think a few snuck along with all the irises. It is only the fourth week of March, and things are growing. That is SO exciting, because last year, winter seemed to drag on and on until May. Then the summer didn't get very hot, and nothing seemed to grow. The early and continued warmth so far this year is such a blessing.

I was also very worried abou how much of my garden would survive, considering I was moving it rapidly in late October. It is so encourgaing to see so many things started. The irises are starting to send up little green poky triangles. I believe this above is could be tarragon, too. The oregano has 3 or 4 clusters of leaves (see below)...that is one of my favorites because last year it went so crazy. I am new enough to gardening that I still love when something reseeds itself and I find it in other places in the garden, or it goes under the bricks and cement and shows up in other flower beds. I love anything I plant that mass produces itself.

In the shade bed, I found astilbe, lady's mantle, hydrangea, and of course my hellebore growing. Correction, the hellebore is blooming. In other gardening news, I assembled my new hose cart. It remains to be seen whether I will like it or not. First of all, it took several hours to put together. (Granted, I took a few brownie and beverage breaks during that) Then,

while trying to put the hose onto the cart, I noticed that you really have to put some weight onto it to keep it from flipping it over while you reel it in. I finally got the hose on, but I can't get the end of their hose to match up with the spicket coming off of the house. I'm going to have to have my guy look at it, I might need an adaptor.

I think it is two females. I thought the cart might be helpful, because I have a lot of hose, and the wheels allow the house to be moved around from place to place. I have spickets on the front and back of my house (it is built into the side of a hill) and flower beds on all sides. Now I shouldn't have to drag the hose around the house...I should be able to unhook the cart and wheel it around to the other side. It also keeps the hose neat, and when it is wintertime, I can just drain out the hose and wheel it into the garage. No more big piles of hose next to the house.

So, we will see. I am sure there will still be swearing and throwing of the hose, nonetheless. I am just happy to be outdoors and messing with the hose, right now.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Me and All My Boys...At the Zoo

These are my boys. At least some of them. The front two are my son is center, and my brother is the big bald one. We had a family visit this week, which culminated in a trip to the zoo in Omaha on Friday. Unfortunately, the weather guy must have been on drugs recently, because it was supposed to be partly sunny or clear, and almost 60 degrees. What we got was very cloudy, looking like it was going to rain, very windy, and maybe 50 if we were lucky. We had fun spite of the weather.

My nephews had not been to the Omaha zoo before...maybe once, but they were very young. The older will be four this summer, and the younger turned two last fall. My son has been to the zoo several times, he remembered several of his favorite places. All the boys were very excited to see the animals.

I think their favorite was the aquarium. They were impressed with the sharks, manta rays, and jelly fish. I could my brother's temper was getting short by the end of the day though. He was trying to wrangle two boys under the age of 4 for several hours in very crowded settings. No thanks. I will take my single 5 year old.

Lunchtime was fun. We wanted to eat at the tree top restaurant, the only 'indoor' cafe at the zoo. Since it was threatening rain, we opted for this choice. Unfortunately, there was a very long line. A very, very, very long line. We were excited to make it out of the hallway and into the actual cafe, only to find out that there were many zig-zags of those fence things. We were trying to keep all those little boys quiet for about 45 minutes until we got up to the food. It wasn't too terrible, price-wise. My son and I spent about 20 bucks for lunch.

We also had Christmas in March. We were supposed to go down for Christmas, but they all had the flu. We brought their Christmas presents (which I had neglected to wrap). I put them under the Christmas colored blanket, said, "Close your eyes", and they got to pull it off. Much more exciting than wrapping paper. We also made our traditional Christmas family dish, "The Tray". You might not think that sounds very exciting, but my brother and I look forward to it every year. My mother made a big traditional turkey dinner for Thanksgiving, but for Christmas we would have crackers, dip, snacks, deviled eggs, and fried oysters. It is not a Christmas for us now, without the cream cheese tray.

My son wants nothing to do with the tray. My ex husband caused quite the hullabaloo the first Christmas he spent with our family, by going down to the kitchen Christmas eve after everyone was asleep, assuming the tray was 'leftovers', and eating a third of it. My father and brother nearly killed him. Luckily, my current guy doesn't care for it, so there is much more for me!

We have plans to get together will all the kids, including the older ones, this summer. We would also like to meet up in Nebraska and go camping. We only get to meet up a few times a year, but it is important to us to have our kids feel like a family, and know each other.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nothing Better Than a Clean Pig...

After a while, the guinea pigs start to, well...stink. When I announce to my son that it is time to give the pigs, as we call them, a bath, he is jubilant. "I want to help, I want to help!" he chants. The funniest part is putting them in the tub and watching them swim. Oh, you didn't know guinea pigs could swim? Well, let me tell you, guinea pigs are FINE swimmers. I did not realize this until I accidentally discovered a youtube video of swimming guinea pigs. Of course I immediately had to try this out on my own.

Here you can see a small sample in this video. It is hilarious. The pig at first tries to resist. They stand up and up on their tippy-toes, straining their noses up out of the water. I never fill the water past their mouths, I don't want them to accidentally drown. Usually, you have to remove them from their safe standing spot and push them into the deeper end. Then, they swim like little otters. My son LOVES this. He jumps up and down and claps.

Next comes the soap. We scrub them all up. Their little undersides get very dingy from sitting in their pine bedding all the time. They pretend like they don't enjoy the bath, but I know better. After that we rinse, and then drain the tub. They stand there looking pathetic as the water drains away. The part they really like is the blow drying. Unfortunately, this takes quite a while.

They stand there and half shut their eyes, purring blissfully in the warm air. My son helps, but I have to make sure he doesn't hold the dryer too long in one spot. We don't want any skin burns. Something else you have to watch out for is the shake. Like a dog, they will shake off the water after they get out of the bath. This will spray anyone within 4 feet with pig water.

They are SO nice to cuddle after they are all blowdried. They smell great and are very soft.

On another note, we had a great day out. This was my first day of spring break, so my son and I went and did a bunch of fun stuff. We went to Ames, did our recycling, had lunch, played Lunar Mini Golf. He was really excited. Everything is painted dayglo colors and there are no lights except blacklights. Very cool. It was a little expensive, but you can play up to three times for one visit. We don't keep score, we just keep going until we finish each hole.

After that we hit the video games. We drove some motorcycles and shot some bad guys. I think we disgusted the tweens that were trying to hang out in there and look bored. They looked irritated and left. Imagine that, someone actually playing the video games.

Another cool thing we discovered today is the indoor farmers market in ames. It is year round, and has a really good selection of free-range, organic, horomone-free meat and eggs. They also have honey, lotions, soaps, and in season, mushrooms and greens. We bought some towels and a cool canning apron, since we were stocked up on meat and eggs. The people in there were really nice. I plan on going back when there is some produce going.

Check it out. We are trying to go more and more local as we can. Anyways, the weather is going to be beautiful the next few days, so hopefully, I can get out in the yard.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Do You Smell Smoke?

Oh my God! Have you ever seasoned a wok? I received a wok from my dad last Christmas...and I hadn't used it yet, because it sounded like a big hassle to 'season' it. Evidently, with woks, as is with all non-nonstick cookware, you have to heat it up and get it all oily a few times before you can cook with it. But, I wanted to use it to make stirfry tonight, so I was ready to try it out.

I lost my little sheet off the packaging on how to actually do this, so I consulted the EHow website, to see what they said on the matter. Step one...wash the wok. Check. Step two...put wet wok on stove and turn up the heat REALLY high. Okay. Check. Step 3...feel with hand (above wok) to see if wok is hot enough. Yes it is. Check. Step 4, add oil and swish around. it. Step 5...prepare rag or paper towels to rub oil into wok. Alright...I dig around to find a rag...paper towels just doesn't seem thick enough for me. Step 6....OIL AND WOK HAVE BURST INTO FLAMES! Okay, that wasn't in the directions, but that IS what happened in real life.

I stand there with my jaw dropped open. Rag in hand, looking at the 8-inch flames leaping from the wok. My fiance walks into the room at this point, and looks at me, takes a cookie sheet and puts it over the top of the flames. It took a second, but the fire went out. All I could say was, That was NOT in the directions!

I re-read the directions again, looking for some precaution, or step I'd missed. It appeared I had followed their list as written, yet somehow my oil caught on fire. One interesting note, it said, don't worry if your wok turns black on the inside, that is the way it is supposed to look. Okay, blackened, burnt-looking wok. Check.

Moving on...I decided it was 'seasoned' enough for my tastes, and proceeded with the stirfry. I did garlic, chicken, edamae, carrots, water chestnuts, and soy sauce at the end. I couldn't believe

how fast this thing cooked. The garlic was browned in a minute, the chicken pieces cooked in less than 3 minutes, and the veggies were done in less than 5. I threw in the soy sauce, mixed with some brown rice I had leftover in the fridge, and VOILA! Very yummy. Altogether, only about 10 minutes cooking. I had to make sure and prep everything in advance, because it cooks so fast, you don't have time to chop while you're cooking. I will definately be using this a lot, now that is is 'seasoned'. Very impressive.

On another note, I have conferences this week, then spring break. Woo-hoo! I get to stay inside and stare outside at the cold for 10 days! No...hopefully it will be nice enough I can get out. I would love to work in the yard. I will be going away overnight with my fiance, taking my son to visit my brother and his family, and going to the garden show in des moines next week. All very exciting, with or without super warm temperatures. Stay tuned for more cooking adventures with Garden-MOM!!!!!!

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Local Pizza!

I am so excited! Today my son and I made our own pizza for the first time. Maybe that doesn't sound so marvelous to you, but we made our own crust for the first time, too. Maybe you're still not impressed. Well, did I mention that the flour that made our pizza crust was grown on a farm only 15 miles from our house?!!! That is the coolest thing I have ever heard of...the only thing that will be cooler will be when I start making my own cheese. I have to wait for the rennet and the cheesecloth to come in the mail. This is the website of the farm where I got my flour.

I am planning a trip out there this summer when the wheat is up. There are several local farms that I want to visit when the weather is nicer. Another place I want to go is PicketFence Creamery. I buy all my milk there-their website is:

They have sample days, where you can try all their products. Plus, they sell local meat, produce, and other products in their store. You can even see the cows wandering around when it is not milking time. They are about an hour's drive, I think. Of course, they don't use horomones or antibiotics with the cows, unless they get sick, and all the cows are pasture-raised. That is becoming more and more important to me. Where my food comes from, that is...knowing what has been done to it, what is put into it, who grows it, etc... That is why I ordered all my seeds from Seed Savers Exchange this year. They are:

The seed isn't hybridized and it doesn't have chemicals in it. They are mostly the seeds that have been handed down through generations , some brought from other countries, some developed right here in the United States. But they all will bear resusable seed, that you, the consumer, can save yourself, and replant next year, without having to buy more seeds from them. That is a big difference from most seed companies, where all they care about is making money off of you. So anyways, my seeds came today, and I am very excited about that. I already have been saving toilet paper tubes for months. I am going to put the tubes in a tray
filled with seed starting mix. Each seedling will grow in its own little tube, ready to transfer into the ground come May. Then the tube biodegrades in the soil, without me having to try to dig out seedlings and not destroy them. Of course some seeds I will still direct sow, because that is much easier, but I really wanted to try growing my own heirloom tomatoes this year. Those you can't get in the greenhouses around here, so I have to try and start from seed. And then if I have extra seedlings, all the better, I can give them away.

More on the seeds later, I am sure that will be an exciting process, getting them all ready to sit in my window. I am sure my guy loves this time of year. He regards my passion for gardening with a sort of bemused tolerance. I think deep down, he believes me to be a crazy environmentalist in high heels. Maybe it's true. No reason you can't love the earth and look good.
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