August

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The first Brandywine grown from seed – amazingly delicious

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Never ending piles of zucchini – I keep thinking about zucchini pickles

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The chickens are getting big – I think they call me “the bringer of treats”

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Nate and I got one last camping trip in before school started again

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I grew a monster zucchini so that I could save the seeds. It weighed in at 16.3lbs!

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I went to the Denver Zoo for the first time. The elephant show is awesome!

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We now are harvesting POUNDS of tomatoes each day. I need to can these ASAP. I will probably make oven dried tomatoes, as well. 30 tomato plants is a lot. Nate is happy because this is the first time in his life that he’s ever had more tomatoes than he can eat.

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This orange striped bee has been visiting our wildflower patch lately. I’ve never seen one with this coloration before.

I really want to make a pair of these leggings in some merino wool and as running tights, too bad the pattern is ridiculously expensive.

I’m excited for fall. We are going to try some cover crops and some fall crops with row covers. The big hen house is nearing completion, the girls are definitely ready for more room. I’m ready for sweaters and boots and knitting and chai. Summer into fall always seems to make me introspective.

On my gardening reading list

I love to read. I keep dreaming about gardening. Here are some books that I want to read.

The Quarter-Acre Farm: How I Kept the Patio, Lost the Lawn, and Fed My Family for a Year by Spring Warren

I started reading the preview of this on Amazon (yeah, that’s their little preview logo above) the other day and got completely absorbed in it. I think the title is pretty much what you need to know about this book. There are also recipes. I laughed at the part where she ate only zucchini for what seemed like months and lost 15 pounds and was so healthy her husband was worried. I’ll probably pick this up on Kindle soon. I don’t think it’s going to be earth shattering or anything, I just think it’ll be an amusing read.

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses

I’m fascinated by the idea behind this book. I want to learn how to harvest vegetables year round! I fear that the space requirements will be more than we will have access to. But I’ll just have to read this to find out I guess. I’m guessing a small greenhouse, cold frames, and row covers will be what we can manage. We’ll be eating a lot of kale and cabbage next year if I have anything to say about it. Until we hate kale and cabbage, most likely.

The Complete Book of Potatoes: What Every Grower and Gardener Needs to Know

Potatoes! I love potatoes, actually. I jokingly blame it on my Irish ancestry. Give me some potatoes, and I’m a happy gal. They also go great with cabbage or kale! Colcannon anyone? But, the one time we tried to grow potatoes, we ended up with 3 tiny baby potatoes about the size of a matchbox car. Seriously. So, I think I probably need to read this book and figure out what I did wrong. I really, really, really want to eat potatoes that I grew myself.

The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower's Guide

I really want to grow my own beans. I like eating beans a lot and I know I’d get such a kick out of eating beans that I grew myself. I’m silly like that. I’ve read that beans take up a lot of space. But they are also really good for your soil, they are some of the few plants that fix nitrogen into the soil. For some reason I’ve known that fact for most of my life, even though when I was a kid I had no idea what that meant really. This looks like a really pretty book. And, I usually prefer the pretty books over the not pretty books. Go ahead, call me a snob. I can’t help it, I’m a really visual person.

Aquaponic Gardening: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Vegetables and Fish Together

I’m really curious about this. I’ve seen it done at the GrowHaus here in town. Last time I was there, they were raising tilapia and trout, and growing the most amazing vegetables. I’ve heard that tilapia are super easy to grow. You can even just raise them in a pond. I need more information.

Any good gardening books on your radar? What should I be reading?

Brain Dump

I’ve had a few things kicking around in my brain lately that I figured I’d share with everyone.

First off, Nate and I are going to buy a house this year. We have a few requirements that I think we can actually work around. We want a small-ish house on a large-ish lot. 2 bedrooms at the least. A kitchen that is not tiny (it doesn’t have to be huge either). It’s actually been really fun talking about our dream house, or what we’d do to any house to turn it into our dream house. Our budget is rather small. But we are really frugal so we realized that we already have enough for a down payment.

And everything else stems from the decision to buy a house.

Gardens! I’m obsessed with gardens right now! I’ve ordered about 12 seed catalogs so I can plan an imaginary garden in my head. I’m reading about all the things that I want to grow so that I will know what to do when we finally get a house and yard.

I’m totally obsessed with maximizing our food production in whatever size yard we have. And along those lines, here are some links I’ve been loving lately.

How to build the best raised bed - Sunset Magazine

Nate really wants to build raised beds in our yard. Well, first, if there’s not a basement, he wants to excavate a root cellar/basement area somewhere in the yard. It doesn’t even have to be under the house! And then he wants to use the dirt we excavated to build raised beds in the yard. This is a plan for a super nice raised bed (with hoops for row covers!) that will last a long long long time because of the wood they suggest. It’s not cheap though.

Thyme-fringed pavers - Sunset magazine

I LOVE this idea! Creeping thyme (Thymus praecox arcticus) is planted between paving stones. Thyme is one of my all time favorite herbs and creeping thyme stands up to being trampled. The fact that it is growing in between paving stones means that it’s a bit more protected than if you were just walking on top of it by itself. Our goal when we get a house is to have no grass to mow. Nate hates mowing and is allergic to grass, but never seems to let me do the mowing. We’ll see how well we can accomplish that goal.

Grow vegetables in the front yard - Sunset magazine

I’m a firm believer that you can grow veggies in the front yard and have it still be as attractive as a landscaped front yard. You just have to plan it better. There’s no need to have traditional rectangular bed shapes either. Let your garden beds flow with the shape of your yard! I think that the pavers with thyme would be even better in between the beds in this picture than the gravel. And, no lawn to mow or water!

Urban Columnar Apple - Better Homes & Gardens

Urban Columnar Apple - Better Homes & Gardens

I’m really fascinated by this idea. It’s an apple tree that grows about 2-3 feet wide and only 8 feet tall. I need to do some more research on this. I want to say, is this really real?!?! Because if it is, I TOTALLY want a few of these in my yard. Apples without the space that normal apple trees take up? Yes, please! Especially in the city. Hence the name. There are apparently several varieties that they have bred into this columnar shape. Cool!

Espalliered Apple Trees - Better Homes & Gardens

This is another idea I’ve been kind of obsessed with for a while. Espalier is a traditional way of training trees to grow horizontally and was originally reserved only for fruit trees. It makes harvesting easier, it takes up way less space. You could do this with any kind of tree I bet, but I really want to do it with an apple or pear tree in our yard. Either against the house or against the fence.

Potato Box Project By The Seattle Times

Also along the lines of maximizing space: Grow 100 lbs of potatoes in 4 square feet via TipNut describes how to build the planter pictured above. Essentially, as the potato plants grow, you add more rails to the box and also add more dirt, causing the plant to keep growing up. As it grows up, it will produce more potatoes under the new dirt you have added. And to harvest, you can just take off one of the bottom rails and dig around for potatoes instead of digging all the plants up.

Tigress’ Can Jam!

It’s official: I’ve signed up for Tigress’ Can Jam!
Click for tigress can jam food blog challenge

Here’s the deal: every month of 2010 we’ll all be canning. Each month there will be a “secret ingredient” that everyone has to can with. It’s like the Iron Chef of Canning! The 3rd week of the month is recipe week, so look for my recipe then. This month’s secret ingredient is [drum roll, please]:

CITRUS!

Only one thing, I try and do things as locally as is sanely possible. So, any one know if there are any local citruses in Denver? In January?

I really want to buy a dwarf Meyer Lemon tree, or maybe a kumquat tree, and grow it in a container indoors. But I haven’t yet. I don’t want to kill it. I’m working on my green thumb skills right now and my green thumb is a bit brown. I have 2 plants. One is thriving. The other hates me. I can’t grow rosemary to save my life apparently. But I badly want to.

Back to the topic at hand.

Canning with any kind of citrus you can imagine. Anyone have a lemon tree in their house in Denver and want to share their lemons?

I’m leaning towards a marmalade just by my first instinct. I heart marmalade. The farmer’s market is tomorrow. I’ll have to see what they have and ask around. It may be that January is not going to be local for this challenge. Florida, California, you’ve got it easy with citrus.