Monday, May 24, 2010

Bean there, done that.

I spent some time at the family garden yesterday and I noticed that the purple podded pole beans are finally making an appearance. This is the first year I have tried growing them so I'm excited to see what they look and taste like.

We had a freeze warning in effect for our area last week and I was pretty worried about both the beans and the 500 baby corn plants that recently sprouted. I kept waking up in the night checking the temperature...(I know....lots of good worrying does) and we did have a hard freeze but luckily my dad got the sprinklers turned on the crops right away and all of our plants survived! Sheesh...with all that work I would have been so very sad to start over....but such is the life of a gardener....especially in North Idaho where it actually snowed on the 4th of July once..... I have made the mistake of planting too early before and as a result we lost several plants...I remember it was one year in early June and we got a freak freeze....we lost all of our cucumbers...that was not a good day....luckily I always go overboard on growing plants because we had enough left in the greenhouse to make up for our losses.
I won't plant the more vulnerable crops until the first or second week in June even though they are fairly hardened up. The tomatoes, cukes, squash, and peppers are all safe and sound in the greenhouse for a couple more weeks...although it is getting to be a bit of a jungle in there. Lol!

I will leave you with a few pictures on how the garden and the plants are shaping up:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Growing's on.

It has been a while since I showed the garden's progress... so today I decided to snap some pics.....I was pleasantly surprised when I checked on the broccoli plants today...some are beginning to form heads. Granted, we only have a few plants that are mature but still it's exciting to see the garden begin to shape up. This year we grew two varieties of broccoli; Broccoli De Cicco and Pac Man. Last year we grew our broccoli in raised beds at the family garden and it did very well. However, in my home garden it did not do as well...we had lots of aphids on the heads and it wasn't pretty....(note that to remove aphids from your broccoli and cauliflower heads you can soak them in cold salt water overnight and then rinse well.) Despite our aphid issue, I'm trying to grow them in rows again this year but I will inter plant marigolds in between them to see if that helps at all.

The Walla Walla Sweet onions don't look like much now but wait for a couple months and they will be as big as saucers....last year we only grew Texas Sweet Onions and they were a huge success...I planted several varieties of them at my home garden.

The tomatoes are growing like mad...I may have to transplant them again to larger pots if they don't sell soon. I have several varieties. To name a few...I have Cherokee Purple, Matina, Amish Paste, Costoluto, Nyaguos, Komohana Grape, Yellow Peacevine, Persimmon, Beefsteak, Sweet 100, Black Cherry, Razzleberry and many more. I love tomatoes!

The Salad Delight Cabbage is also doing very well....I can't wait to make homemade coleslaw....especially accompanied with Bent's pulled pork sandwiches...yum!

The cauliflower is looking good as well...this year we grew two varieties: Amazing and Butter cream. We had great success with cauliflower last year so hopefully the same holds true this year.

Don't go through life, grow through life.
- Eric Butterworth

Monday, May 17, 2010

Farmer's market - fun in the sun!

Our second Saturday at the Kootenai County Farmer's Market was a success....and the sun was actually shining this time. As you can see, I had lots of help...pictured at Mostly Sunny's booth # 29 (from left to right) is my oldest daughter Brittany, my granddaughter Abby, and of course daughter Meghan...aka Daisy Girl. I was very lucky to have all the help... we got so busy that daughter Brittany had to make a trip back to the greenhouse for more plants. Seems like everyone was looking for basil and while I had lots of it at the start of the market we sold out in less than an hour (note to self for next year; grow hundreds of basil plants). Other popular items were celery, Cherokee Purple tomatoes, (thanks Thomas!) broccoli, peppers, cucumbers, cabbage, and cauliflower. Lots of customers commented on the fact that our plants were very healthy and they liked our environmentally friendly pots.

Daughter Brittany is in the process of making me a sign for our Mostly Sunny business. The pic to the left is what it looks like so far....soon she will add the sun's rays and other finishing touches. I can't wait to see the finished product....she is very artistically blessed!

I have been so busy with the market that I haven't posted anything on what's growing in the garden...I hope to do that later this week...but until then...Happy gardening!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Growing celery is a cinch

One item we will have at the Kootenai County Farmer's Market this Saturday is Tango Celery. Many people shy away from trying to grow celery because it takes a long time to mature and it's a rather heat and cold sensitive plant. My experience however, is that it's really not that difficult to grow. First of all, celery likes a soil that retains moisture so I mix some rich compost in with the dirt. This is probably where most gardeners fail in growing celery... If the soil does not stay evenly moist, (not soggy) it will negatively affect the taste of the celery. Another factor in growing celery successfully is sunlight. Celery needs about 6 hours of sun but some shade is preferable during the hottest part of the day. In the same token, you will not want to put your celery plants out until temperatures are consistently above 50F. You will also want to fertilize your celery during the growing period....I use an organic fish emulsion. One final note on celery is that you can blanch your celery plants. The idea behind blanching them is it's supposed to make the celery more tender. The down side to blanching is you lose some vitamins from the plant...after blanching the plant turns from its dark green color to a whitish tone. I have never tried this method yet but here is what you do: You can slowly build a mound around the base of your celery plant...every few days add a little more dirt and at harvest time the plant will be fully blanched. Another method is to cover the bottom half of the celery with dark brown paper or cardboard a few weeks before harvest. So there you have it....growing your own celery is pretty easy and the flavor is spectacular.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Now our team is cooking up more than food...

I am taking a break from cooking tonight, so I thought I would sit down and catch up with "Mostly Sunny's" blog here, and share some observations. I also want to explain why I have been absent - except for a few comments here and there.

Those who know me personally, and some of you who have followed The Beer Garden from the beginning know why this blog was started. You know that we did this partly as a healing tool for our family. The gardening brought Sunny's side of the family together in tough times, and you folks got to witness that as it played out on this blog. Over the course of a little more than year we have over 108 posts focused on all sorts of family activities, but as Sunny picked up the pace with her posts, I have slacked off. I have been busy with house projects and another hobby I decided to jump into with my brother Bobby.

Bobby has been following this blog from its beginning as well and he said it inspired him to start blogging about his new hobby: BBQ. He started his blog, The Smoker Pit, in January. As some of you know, I used to post a few BBQ pictures from time to time, so he asked me to join him in getting his blog going. I did that and that's when our adventure began!

If you made the jump to Bobby's blog, you can see that we made a pretty good attempt to get that blog moving and then all of sudden it trailed off and just sort of died in February -- with one post in April. That is not because we lost interest, it is because our interests intensified. We decided to enter a professional Pitmasters BBQ competition that will be held in Coeur d'Alene on Father's Day. It is the first one ever held in our area, so we decided to make it happen, and since it was Father's Day, we invited our dad to join us -- plus we know our dad is a killer cook and he does nothing in half measures. We figured at the worst, we all might just learn something... and we certainly have done a lot of learning.

At the time, we knew we had committed to something big, but we didn't realize how big. We have been researching and testing recipes. Reading countless books, and seeking out online resources to help us learn what we need to know. We have practiced cooking until our family and co-workers are sick of BBQ (if you can imagine that). We've invested countless hours of of time and large amounts of money into forming this team ... and somewhere along the way we became competitive.

Sunny wrote about our first success in the post below, so I won't bore you with that. But, I will tell you that when my dad, Bobby and I marched up to collect all our ribbons and trophies, I saw something changing in us as we glanced back and forth at each other in amazement... I could literally feel space in our lives opening up for each other, and I could see priorities begin shifting. I realized just then that we are onto something bigger than BBQ here, my side of the family is sort of healing now ... instead of growing distant, we are starting to grow together again and I like that.

I am convinced none of this would have happened without this blog and the effort our family and friends put into making it successful... So I felt it was time to thank you folks for stopping by to read and support us in our endeavours, and I am now committed to posting a little more frequently again. Well at least until you get sick of BBQ and beer... (like that is going to happen :-)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Market Day and Barbecue Madness

It was a very busy but incredibly fun weekend.... Saturday was the opening day of the Kootenai County Farmer's Market and it was also the Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association's cook school. As many of you know, Bent is an avid barbecuer and has decided to take his skills to the next level of competition grilling. The cook school is a precursor to the "Smokin the Coeur d' Alenes" Pitmasters competition on Father's Day weekend in which Bent, his father, brother and a few friends are all competing. Bent and his gang spent 12 hours learning various cook methods and then cooking 4 meat categories on Saturday. Bent was paired up with an admitted novice griller named Mike and Bent's dad and his brother formed a team. (From left to right in the photo is Bent's dad Dave, Bent and Bent's brother Bob.) Overall, there were 13 teams that competed...Bent and his partner were very successful as was his father and brother...Bent won grand champion and his father's team won 3rd place. They also scored 2nd place in chicken, 2nd in brisket and 4th in the rib category. As if cooking all day and attending school wasn't enough for one day, the team packed up all their equipment and headed to Q' Emlin Park where they began an all night practice cook similar to a real pitmaster competition. They battled high winds, rain and chilly conditions but they pulled it off and served a fabulous dinner to over 50 friends and family members on Mother's Day. Next weekend there is yet another competition they will compete in...this time the meat category will consist of ribs only....I understand the prize is a Weber grill....(as if Bent needs another grill)

I spent my Saturday selling plants at the local farmer's market. Luckily, I had my daughters Britt and Tylah helping me out. The weather was very cold and windy but there were still lots of people out shopping. Considering the conditions, I sold quite a few vegetable starts and most all of my herbs. If the weatherman is weekend should be near 70F and that should get people in the mood to buy plants and get their gardens growing.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Introducing Mostly Sunny

Tomorrow is opening day at the Kootenai County Farmer's Market. I chose the name of our farmer's market business to be "Mostly Sunny". We went with this rather than our blog name of The Beer Garden because we obviously can't sell beer at the market. The Beer Garden blog got it's start on The Spokesman Review's blogroll on Huckleberries Online and many of our local friends know me as Sunny and they know Jeff as Bent. These names were simply monikers that originated from the Spokesman's blog world. Hopefully, this clears up any confusion...

I am very excited to be a part of the market this year and I must admit....I'm a little nervous as well. I have no idea what to expect and I know that many folks who participate have much larger growing operations than we do. So I guess my only real fear is we won't have as much to least not in the front end. I heard from a fellow market vendor that some vendors simply don't show up until they have produce to sell. Nevertheless, we want to be there on opening day just to get a feel for how the market operates...if I run out of plants to sell then rest assured we will be back to the market when harvest time comes around.

Here is a preview of some of the plants that we will be selling tomorrow:

Straight Eight cukes
Cabbage - Amazing
Various Herbs
Various Peppers
Various Tomatoes

Monday, May 3, 2010

The great pumpkin takeover

Okay, so maybe I was a little premature in starting our Dill's Atlantic Giant pumpkin seeds....but who would have thought they would get so incredibly big so fast.....My dad decided it was time for the giants to move out of the greenhouse and into the ground so he built another cold frame and into the dirt they went. (Thanks to my husband and my brother for getting the plastic attached.) Our night time temps are going to be close to 30 F for the next week and we have had very windy conditions lately so I hope the hoops hold up....

We decided we might as well utilize the space around the pumpkins with the broccoli that was in the greenhouse. It needs to be hardened off anyway and we need more space in the greenhouse for more plants....and if you know me...there's always more plants... : )

The blossoms are beautiful!

Miss Stella snuck away when no one was looking and found a place to dig (as evidenced by the dirt on her nose)....she is so busted...naughty girl : )