Just a little blog about me and mine.

Why I’m Always Tired on Mondays April 27, 2009

Filed under: family,food,gardening — Katie @ 2:52 pm

PL is in the middle of finals, so I’ve been trying to be as helpful as possible around the house so she can just study.  It’s a nice feeling to be so useful, and I actually enjoy thinking of especially nice things to do to make PL’s life easier and happier (like buying PL and her classmate chocolate peanut butter cheesecake brownies from the Farmer’s Market or getting a pot of coffee ready to brew whenever she wants to turn it on).  1, 2, 3…Awwww.

Her law school study partner has been at the house almost all day everyday since last Monday except for sleeping–which they aren’t doing a ton of anyway.  I realized that when someone is around for an extended period of time your normal routines become public–cooking, cleaning, exercising, eating ice cream at 11pm. Our closest friends have been around while we’re doing laundry or dishes, but even with them we usually just hang out with them and save other chores and cleaning for another time.  Since PL and her friend were studying, I continued on with my usual activities, but felt a little self-conscious at times about putting our household operations on display. For example, I wanted to organize the pantry, but felt like that would make me look way too OCD and industrious. (fyi: I did eventually organize the pantry, but did it while our guest was gone.) 

So, here’s what I did while they studied, and studied some more, followed by more studying. 

I started by weeding flower beds in the yard and then sprayed lots of Roundup on more even more weeds since pulling them up wasn’t going very fast. I  made a little more progress in our front yard garden bed, but it was really hot by noon so I went inside and took a shower.  I organized the pantry-it did actually need it by the way-and went to Lowes (along with half of the population of Atlanta) to buy some plants.

With the plants unloaded from the car, but with the sun being too hot, I stayed inside and watched Superbad on DVD…I just love Michael Cera.  The whole time I had laundry going too, lest you think I just sat around and did nothing for 2 hours.   

As it was getting dark and cooler I planted Gerber daisies and Mexican heather by the mail box and spread some grass seed on our giant dirt patches in the backyard…probably an exercise in futility but one can dream of having grass one day.  (I’ll post pictures soon…after I find the camera and remember to take them, and upload them)

Then I cooked a yummy dinner of apricot glazed chicken (I checked our recipe blog and I never posted that, so I’ll get on that soon too), sauteed yellow squash, and green beans for my law student.  It’s not too hard of a recipe and really delicious, but it does involve the food processor. 

I went to Sunday school and church and stopped at Chipotle for lunch.  I enjoyed sitting under an umbrella on their deck by myself watching the cars and street traffic, but I didn’t stay too long since I had other errands to run.  After lunch I went to the Farmer’s market–and got all our weekly groceries there.  That’s right, all of them, which I don’t normally do but I’m reading yet another Michael Pollan book and felt like we needed organic milk this week. 

When I got home I prepared 60 pounds of chicken leg quarters for the dogs to eat-I used every container we have for the dogs’ food plus a couple more that I found and they are now set for their meals for 20 days. I only cut myself once, and just in case you were wondering, it takes me 2 hours to get that much chicken ready.  In case you are also wondering what in the world I’m talking about (I did say my normal private routines became public) our dogs eat a raw diet…and it makes them very healthy and happy.  Luckily PL’s study partner already knew that our dogs ate this, so she was intrigued but not grossed out by the fact that we had 60 pounds of raw chicken in our kitchen.  Damn dogs.

After filling our freezer with containers of chicken, I went back outside and planted pansies in the flower bed by the front door, planted our side yard flower bed (moss rose, more pansies, and some other flower that I thought was pretty but can’t remember its name).  Daylight was still my friend so I planted herbs in the backyard herb garden-basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, flat leaf parsley, mint, bee balm (no clue what this is good for but it makes pretty flowers), and sage.  I had enough daylight and energy to put mulch around the newly planted things and hang up the bumblebee windsock that I bought.   

After a shower since I was covered in dirt and mulch, I cooked organic tofu stir fry with garlic, carrots, broccoli, snow peas and green and orange peppers (peppers cooked in a separate pan since I can’t/don’t eat them) and brown rice for my law student plus her study pal.  I am totally a keeper. 

Then I did another peculiar chore that is not usually put on display–I made vegetable bags for me and PL.  So, vegetable bags?  This is a long story, but we learned a long time ago that we actually will eat more vegetables if we cut up fresh vegetables and put them in bags for at least a few days during the week.  When we pack our lunches we can just throw a bag in our lunch box usually along with some fat-free ranch dip.


Baby Plant Update April 21, 2009

Filed under: gardening — Katie @ 4:20 pm

April 21st baby plant update:

1. Tomatoes and Peppers are growing strong and have real leaves.



2. The Basil just sprouted! We got these seeds as a favor from a baby shower, and planted them a few days ago. (and, I really like this picture)


3. The garden bed…looks pretty much the same, and still isn’t finished.


We’re having a lot of people over to the house for a party on May 2nd, so I hope that by then I’ll have the garden bed ready, or I’ll at least just move the tools to the shed.


ATNTFTB: A Novice In Search of Bounty+ Bonus Baby Plant Update April 3, 2009

Filed under: gardening — Katie @ 6:09 pm

There’s a renewed interest in gardening taking place these days, and the New York Times just published the first article in a new series on starting a vegetable garden.  The first article, today’s All the News That’s Fit to Blog, is by a Minnesota writer who, along with his daughter and girlfriend, hope to start their first garden this Summer.

It’s less of a “newsy” article and just good reading.  Here are a few enjoyable parts:  “So, in the stifling whiteness of January, I resolved to plant a brand new vegetable garden. The plan is to transform my family’s diet, save a few coins, make over the property — and, maybe, receive a congratulatory note from Michael Pollan for my new green virtue.”

He also consults a gardening expert and gets advice on what he should grow.  He wants to grow things he likes to eat, and also things that are easy to grow.  Easy to grow? The garden expert he consults tell him, “Easy is a relative term.”

He concludes:  “My garden, as it lives in my mind, is perfect: undulating and bountiful and soft underfoot. Sometime in the next week, though, the first dumb green shoot of that artichoke will grope its way out of the dirt and start screwing everything up.”

Right now my garden is also still perfect in my mind, aside from the fact that it’s not ready yet.  The baby plants are hanging tough.  They graduated from the dining room to the living room near the window.  Here’s what they look like right now–taken on April 2nd.


The tomatoes (on the top right and bottom right ) are getting stronger and a few peppers (in the middle right) are finally starting to sprout.  The Brussels sprouts and broccoli (middle left and bottom left) are pretty tall but kind of weak looking and flopped over.

Since the last set of photos, I had to thin out each pot to just leave the strongest plant.  The logic there is that not every seed will sprout, so you plant 2-3 in each pot and then keep the weakest one.  I didn’t like doing that, since it seemed like such a waste of good plants, so I think in the future I’ll just put one seed in each pot and not worry about it if some don’t sprout.  On the top left section of plants there wasn’t anything planted so when I thinned out the seedlings to leave just the strongest in each pot, I just left everything there–so that explains what’s going on up there if it looks strange on the photo.

The next step will be to transplant them to their own bigger pot when they develop 2 sets of real leaves. Right now everything just has a matched set of tiny baby leaves.  The leaves there now are just the seed leaves. Everything that has has sprouted so far comes from seeds that are dicots (remember AP biology?) so there are 2 leaves at first. Something like corn is a monocot and will just have one leaf when it sprouts.


A thumb that’s sort of green-ish March 26, 2009

Filed under: gardening — Katie @ 9:53 am

I wanted to do a quick update of my recent gardening adventures–about the only thing I’ve done besides work, watch basketball and sit in meetings in the last couple of weeks.

A few weeks ago I got started on the Front Yard Garden Relocation Project. I dug up some grass, got some blisters, pulled some muscles, and then stopped and left the tools in the yard. They’re still there. In the rain. So here’s a before and an after, although it’s actually an “after I quit, but before I finished.”



If the rain clears up by this weekend I’ll actually have time to do some more work to get it ready for planting in mid-April. What’s exciting is since that picture was taken (March 6? wow, that’s a long time to leave my tools sitting out in the rain) some lilies and other unknown plants along with elephant ears have begun to sprout from the ground under the window.

I also started some plants from seed for the first time ever. I spent $19 on seeds and the planting greenhouse. Many of the seeds (carrots, sunflowers, squash, lettuces, peas) will be planted directly into the ground, and then probably promptly dug up by squirrels, but others are best to start as seed and plant as little seedlings. I’ll probably end up buying some actual plants later, but I thought this was a small investment of money and a good learning experience. If even one plant from each set of baby plants gives me some food, I figure that seed packet almost paid for itself at around $1 each.

Here’s what’s happened so far:

March 21st:
Roma Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Green Peppers, Brussel Sprouts and Broccoli seeds planted, covered with the greenhouse lid and hanging out on the dining room table (a spot some sun coming through the curtain, but not much).



March 25th:


The broccoli and Brussels sprouts are the biggest so far, which is good since they like cooler weather and need to get planted sooner rather than later. It might already be a bit late, and those are also fall plants.  We had some beautiful broccoli plants last year, but we also had a cute bunny who liked them more.

In a few days I’ll move these seedlings into a spot with a bit more sun. And then move them outside, probably under a tree to toughen up a little. April 15th is usually our last frost date, so that’s my target for getting the first round of things in the ground.


Potato, Potato February 19, 2009

Filed under: family,gardening — Katie @ 10:30 pm

p2190100For many years my dad kept a journal of his gardening activities and wrote down dates of planting, diagrams of his evenly spaced rows, and recorded his failures and successes (such as tomatoes so large you only need one slice for a BLT).  After many years, he didn’t need to do that anymore.  He remembers by instinct after a lifetime of working his grey dirt (unlike us unlucky folks with red clay) that, for example, you plant red potatoes on Valentine’s Day.

I was with my dad on February 13th this year, so it was no surprise that after dinner we went to the farm store and bought a big bag of seed potatoes.  I went home with about 25 pounds of them in my car.  To put that in perspective, each seed potato will yield an average of 3 plants, so I probably have 100 or more potential plants worth of potatoes in my car right now.  Last year PL and I had 4 potato plants and we grew more potatoes than we could eat.  Needless to say, I’m looking for some eager potato growers.  There’s still plenty of time left to plant them–the Valentine’s Day planting date is pushed forward a week or more with no problem, especially since it’s usually a bit cooler here than where my parents live.

I do have to admit that I’m a bit hesitant to give the seed potatoes away for several reasons:

  1. I just don’t know that many people, and if everyone I know is growing potatoes too, then I don’t have anyone to take my extras.
  2. Potatoes are so easy to grow that if you knew how easy they were, you wouldn’t be as excited when I give  you a bag of  pretty red potatoes.
  3. I don’t know if you can be trusted with the secret and ancient knowledge that although it’s cool to see big potatoes when you dig up the mounds at the end of the growing season, it’s even better to sneak your hand in the hill and pull out the tiny ones (don’t peel them!) and cook them–they are like butter (said in your best “Coffee Talk” voice).458176377_ieup2-l1

Before we can plant potatoes though, we have some major garden preparation work to do.  We have one raised garden bed in the backyard that I built the day after we closed on our house–seriously, we had no furniture, or even electricity, in the house, but we had tomato plants.

As our family grew to include 2 homeless mutts, our tiny garden bed has become a digging pit for the dogs and their friends.   That’s a  fine activity I’m sure, but not something that fragile baby plants enjoy.

Since the backyard has gone to the dogs, literally, we decided to move the garden to the front yard, and to just plant things directly in the ground.  It’s sunny and lovely in the front yard, and I hope it turns out to be a good spot.

So, this is what the yard looks like right now.  In front of the house (resting underground, waiting for summer) are the world’s largest elephant ear plants and some lilies and other flowers of indeterminate heritage.  The grass is already in sorry shape, so there’s no shame in digging it up and putting cow manure on top of it.  If I’ve never mentioned it, our gardening philosophy is primarily governed by things that people give us for free–I got some assorted bulbs from a coworker, so that’s what’s planted in our flower beds.



Bounty (and a lesson in plant chemistry) July 17, 2008

Filed under: food,gardening — Katie @ 12:18 pm

Look what we have.


We also have this, which isn’t as exciting….

It’s called Blossom End Rot.  That’s the bottom of the tomato, where the blossom was.  It is caused by a lack of calcium in the baby tomato cells.  Luckily, it’s not a disease, and won’t spread to other plants.  The same condition also often occurs in watermelons and peppers.  It happens after:

a) periods of rapid growth followed by a dry spell
b) heavy rains that cause calcium loss in the soil 

We’ve had both while our tomatoes were growing.     

When we planted the tomatoes, we added a couple of tablespoons of lime (maybe not enough?) to give them a calcium boost.  We also used a 10-10-10 fertilizer.

Gardening Lesson:  The numbers on a bag of fertilizer represent the percentage by weight of the main nutrients plants need–nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium–always in that order.  
More ideal would have been a fertilizer low in nitrogen, but higher in phosphorus.  The 10-10-10 was free though and we garden and landscape our yard based on what we can get for free or really cheap.   

A spray containing calcium (in the form of calcium chloride) can be used on the plant to help increase calcium levels and prevent Blossom End Rot on later ripening fruits.  Follow the directions though.  It’s a concentrate and using too much can burn the leaves.