Monday, May 11, 2015

At a Loss for Words

Hi Friends! No, I haven't given up blogging. I started a new job at the beginning of March, and as is usually the case with new-to-me things, I fell down the rabbit hole while I was getting started. I also find that since my job is public facing, I spend almost all day talking to customers... which is completely exhausting to an introvert like myself. I enjoy the work immensely, but by the end of the day I'm tuckered out and can barely put together a sentence when I get home. It's not surprising to me that writing has been equally challenging, as of late. I'm grateful for things like Instagram where I can still post photos about what's going on, but keep the actual words to a minimum!

That being said, it's my goal to get back to posting here on a more regular basis. The posts may not be long, but I need to get back in the habit of putting things out there.

The garden is chugging along nicely this year- the peas are nearly 2 feet tall already! I'll be heading over to my favorite farm store tomorrow to pick up some more veggie starts, and hopefully the majority of my planting will be done for now. I still have succession seeds that will need to go in, but those are pretty much one-offs throughout the season, so it's not a huge undertaking all at once.

How are your gardens coming along? Are you trying any new veggies this year?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Breakfast on the Go

Now that the chickens are in full production mode again, I like to find ways to use up large numbers of eggs at a single time. Hard boiled is definitely a mainstay, but switching it up from time to time is definitely appreciated. Enter the "mini-quiche"- it's a quick way to use up nearly a dozen eggs in one shot, and line up breakfasts ahead of time.

(Now that I think about it, it's probably more accurate to call them mini-frittatas, as there's no cream or milk in the eggs. Call them whatever you want- but definitely give them a shot!)

Here's what you need:

Muffin Pan
10 eggs
3T water
Ricotta cheese
One bag of baby spinach, lightly chopped
8 medium-sized mushrooms, diced
1 large shallot (or small onion), diced
Olive oil or Butter
Salt and Pepper

First, in a large skillet or frying pan, saute your shallot and mushrooms in the fat of your choice.

Once the shallot is translucent, go ahead and add your spinach. Put the lid on the pan for a couple of minutes, to wilt the spinach faster, and then finish the saute. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Get your muffin pan ready. Be sure to grease the cups well, or the eggs will stick. Divide the sauteed veg evenly between the 12 cups. Add a teaspoon-ish sized dollop of ricotta to the center of each cup.

In a large bowl, scramble your 10 eggs along with the 3T of water with a whisk, until the egg mixture is nice and smooth. Pour gently over the veg and cheese, dividing evenly.

Bake in the center of a 300F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the eggs are set and very lightly browned at the edges.

Let the pan cool completely, and then move them from the muffin tin to a freezer safe dish before storing in the freezer. To serve, I just warm them up in the microwave for about 1 minute or so. You could also reheat them in the oven, if you're not a microwave fan- just thaw them overnight in the fridge, first.

Besides being portable and fast, these little egg cups are easily customized. Bacon and Cheddar? Ham and Swiss? What about some taco meat and beans, for a spicy start to your day? The possibilities are endless! Just remember to cook your "filling" thoroughly first, or you'll need to adjust the baking time/temp.

What's your favorite make-ahead breakfast?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Finding Bee-Friendly Plants

At the end of last season, our closest local nursery went out of business after over 20 years. Even though their plants were slightly more expensive than the big-box stores, I was able to get a great variety of healthy, pesticide free flowers and veggies. They also had a wonderful selection of trees and shrubs that were well suited to our area.

With their closing, the nearest local nursery is now about 20 miles away from us. For me, it's well worth the extra miles to buy from a reputable grower. Many others, however, aren't going to travel- they're going to head over to the nearest Lowes, Home Depot or Walmart to get their plants. Here's the catch- many of the plants sold at big box retailers are treated with neonicotinoid pesticides long before they arrive at the store. Neonics are the pesticides linked to the bee colony collapse problems, and plants treated with them are not required to be labeled as such.

So what's a responsible gardener to do? Not everything is easy to start from seed, and let's face it, not everyone has the time, either. But, if you can start from seed, I highly recommend it. Here are some other tips:

  • Buddy up. Talk to your gardening friends and neighbors and organize a plant swap. It's much less intimidating starting one or two kinds of seeds, and then trading the starts with your friends.
  • Buy local. Farmer's Markets and Farm Stores often sell plant starts. You can talk to the farmer about their plants, and find out if the starts have been treated with anything.
  • Support your small garden centers. Take a moment and run a quick Google search on nurseries in your area. You might be surprised at how many there are! Once you're there, you can talk with the growers and see what chemicals they do or don't use. 
  • Plant wildflower seeds. Most bee and butterfly mixes require little more than sprinkling the seeds on the ground, raking them in, and watering. The more bee friendly plants we can grow, the better off they'll be. Plus, many wildflowers will attract other pollinators and beneficial bugs to your garden.
  • Vote with your dollars. It's not just about signing petitions and sending letters to corporations. If you don't like what's being sold at the big stores, don't buy it. Every time you do or don't make a purchase, you're telling companies what you want. If we stop buying questionable pesticides and/or plants grown using those products, they will eventually get the message.
  • Check your local extension office or community college for plant sales. Garden clubs also frequently have fund-raiser sales in the spring and summer. Not only will you know what you're getting, but you may also find a group of like-minded folks to connect with.
  • Health food stores and Feed Stores. Our local Co-Op grocery brings in loads of local, organically grown plant starts each year. Same thing goes for my feed store, and yet the prices are comparable to the larger stores. 
What about you? Can you suggest any other ways to bring plants into your garden that you know are safe?