Monday, June 29, 2009

Independence Days Update

1. Plant something: No. I have no room currently, and anyway I am seriously questioning the wisdom of planting too much stuff this time of year here in the low desert. There isn't that much that does well apparently apart from okra, Armenian cucumbers, basil, and probably melons, and squash, and the veggies I already have are requiring a lot of water. To be honest I am not feeling too good about this as usual. I am needing to water twice a day, and our water usage has increased again as a result. The okra I planted aren't doing well mainly because they have been invaded by pumpkin plants, and are fighting for water and space. I am kind of feeling recently as though I should treat these few really hot summer months like a Midwest winter, during which time one plans for spring, although spring for me will be Fall. August will be here soon enough and then I can start over again.

2. Harvest something: Less then there has been in recent weeks but still a few tomatoes, (which are definitely coming to an end), cucumbers, eggplants, basil, and of course zucchinis. I have lots of pumpkins growing all over the garden. In fact the pumpkin plants have totally taken over the entire garden. All the more reason to get the sand box finished and filled with top soil so that they can have a place all of their own. I cooked up lots of eggplants into a great pasta sauce as suggested by Judy, and it was delicious! (Thanks Judy). I have also found a recipe book with several great eggplant recipes so I am happy that I have more options for my eggplants in future.

3. Preserve something: Just more pesto to feed my ever growing pesto obsession.

4. Reduce waste: Better this week. Composted a TON of garden waste, and did all my usuals of recycling, cloth bags, reusing zip locks, line drying the washing etc, etc. I can't ever feel good about reducing energy waste though when I wake up each morning to hear the AC running already because it is going to be so hot. Not good, and no easy solutions except to keep the air at 83 as always, and shutter everything up during the day. I suppose some consolation is that during the winter we seldom use too much energy to heat our home.

5. Prep and storage: Nearly done with preparing the new sandbox veggie bed, (pictures soon). Got the new recycled trash can compost box which I am still delighted with, continued chicken coop and chicken keeping planning, and all the reading I usually do.

6. Build community food systems: Had an excited response from our neighbour across the street when we told her we were getting chickens. She wants to help with them as much as possible which is great. (I hope everyone else in our rather stiff street is as excited! :) Was asked again to talk about veggie growing in the desert with another friends hubby. Don't know if it will happen because I get asked a lot and then nothing happens, but it will be nice if it does because of course this is my passion. Was asked by another friend to give her any surplus eggplants we may have because she loves them apparently.

7. Eat the food: Did quite well again. Made pasta sauce with eggplants, tomatoes, zucchinis, and basil. Had a few salads with cucumbers, and tomatoes, and added basil to everything as usual. I swear I am totally addicted to the smell of basil but I suppose there are worse things to be addicted to.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Honest Scrap

I am delighted to have been given the "Honest Scrap" blog award by Gail over at Fort Rock....Glimpses. Thank you so much Gail!

I now need to divulge ten honest things about myself and then pass the award on to "a fellow blogger whose blog’s content or design is, in the giver’s opinion, brilliant.”

The ten honest things aren't so hard, but deciding which blogs to choose will be because I love all the ones that I read regularly.

1. I am an open book, and find it impossible to hide my feelings.

2. Leading on from that, when I have something on my mind I need to talk about it and process it so that I can resolve it. Thank goodness for husbands and friends!

3. I love all animals, but especially dogs. I simply melt every time I see a dog, which is probably why we ended up with four.

4. I have aways felt that I was meant to live in the Pacific Northwest, and that it is "my place". (I have to say though the White Mountains are competing with that vision since we were there the other week!)

5. I have a very low tolerance for stress and will avoid stressful situations as much as possible.

6. I love digging in the dirt, it is my main passion in life which will probably be obvious by now to those of you who read my blog, or know me.

7. I always dreamed of being a Mum to two dark haired, dark eyed little girls, and I am SO happy that my dream came true.

8. I hold some very strong opinions but am not very good at expressing them to others because I often worry about what they will think. I need to work on being stronger in who I am, and in what I believe.

9. I love being at home. I am a "homebody" and always was, even as a child, so I feel very lucky to be able to work from home.

10. This next honest thing answers a question Esther had for me. She asked how I ended up living in Phoenix. Here goes Esther.......I moved to Phoenix ten years ago on an 18 month travel nurse contract. I intended to leave at the end of my contract, and work my way up to the Pacific Northwest, but of course then I met Robert, fell in love, got married, had babies, and ten years later here I am, still here! Funny how life works out sometimes. :)

I now pass on this award to the following bloggers with admiration for all that they do, and all that they are:

Esther at Esthers Boring Garden Blog,
Amanda at Cooking in someone elses kitchen,
Mid life midwife at The Urban Homesteader,
Judy at My Freezer is Full,
Michelle at Sugar Creek Stuff,
Titania at yesterday, today, and tomorrow in my garden,
Leaner at Three Snakes and a Rooster,
Bodaat at Blogging One Day At A Time,
Spooky Dragonfly at WishnikWoods,
and last but by no means least, Amy at Extraordinarily Unextraordinary.
I would also have nominated Amber at Care and feeding of Wild Things, but someone beat me to it. :)

One Little Pumpkin

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A winner all round

The City of Phoenix disposal services department has a fantastic system of turning old and damaged trash containers into compost bins which the general public can purchase for a mere $5!

This is mine which I collected this morning.

Although my existing compost box is great, I really have needed another to accommodate all the garden and kitchen waste we produce. This is the perfect solution.

Seriously, what could be better? Old trash cans are reused, preventing them from being dumped, while the people of Phoenix are offered perfect compost boxes at a fraction of the cost of store bought ones. I am sure this also provides motivation for people who may not otherwise compost to give it a go.

Simply call 602 262 6598, or 602 262 7251 to enquire about the location of your nearest Phoenix City waste disposal facility. I found it a little confusing to find the exact area to collect the bins once I was within the facility, but everyone I asked for help was more than courteous.

I am truly delighted with this entire process, and strongly encourage any of you that live in Phoenix, or any other cities that offer similar services, to go buy your bin, and get composting!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I have officially abandoned all attempts to remain positive about summer and the extreme heat it brings for us desert dwellers. Pathetic I know. It's not even the end of June!

It stayed in the mid nineties all last week while we were away, and of course has been much hotter since we got back, around 105 or so, with hotter temps predicted later in the week. Meanwhile it has been cool, and rainy up in the White Mountains since we left. Typical!

I haven't felt much like going outside to tend the garden over the past few days but I will have to force myself tomorrow because there is so much that needs to be done out there. I will feel much better after I make the effort I am sure.

For the past couple of days the girls and I have been hiding inside during the hottest part of the day, while I feel guilty about the AC running almost constantly. It's only going to get worse too. Gosh, aren't I a little ray of sunshine this evening!

One small comfort for me is that the dew point is on the rise which is a sign that the monsoons are on their way. While it is usually oppressively hot and humid during the monsoon season, We also get a welcome break in the monotony with storms that bring much needed rain. I don't mind that at all.

My poor girls, they are missing those mountains almost as much as I am.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Independence Days Update

Missed last week because we were away in the lovely, cool mountains. So this is for the past two weeks.

1. Plant something: No, 'fraid not.

2. Harvest something: Lots of zucchinis, lots of different kinds of tomatoes, lots of cucumbers, my first ever pumpkin, small but perfectly formed, and oh so ORANGE. (I think it was supposed to stay on the vine until the vine died, but Robert picked it while I was away, and I didn't have the heart to tell him. I think it will be OK). Many Ichiban eggplants which I am afraid are still sitting in the refrigerator looking at me every time I open the door because I am running out of eggplant recipe ideas. (I know, that is sad but honestly, I was never hugely enthusiastic about eggplants, and now I seem to be growing mountains of them). Lots of basil. (Can't ever get enough of that!)

3. Preserve something: No, not even the eggplants I am afraid. Can one even preserve eggplants? Does anyone know?

4. Reduce waste: Not good here. I feel as though we created more waste than ever during our week in the mountains with the way we cooked and ate, although I tried hard not to. Since being back I have of course done all my usuals, cloth bags, recycling, composting, etc, etc. We got the very last of our window shutters fitted which we have been gradually doing over the course of about 5 years, and I kept the old blinds which will work great I think for shading the chicken coop during the hotter months.

5. Prep and storage: Really not much except planning the chicken coop, and the usual browsing and reading I do constantly.

6. Build community food systems: I took some cucumbers, and tomatoes with us up to the mountains, and shared them with the lovely people we stayed with. They are only just now starting their veggie growing season up there.

7. Eat the food: Did well here. Have been eating lots of salads with cucumbers, and tomatoes. Ate a few eggplants in another veggie bake thingy, but still have pounds left I am afraid. Added basil to anything I could think of, and have been using zucchinis in bakes, stir frys, and as a side dish. I still have the pumpkin. I need to look at it for a bit longer before I make it into something. The good news is that I have at least six more growing on other vines now!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Heaven On Earth

We are back from our foray into the wilderness of eastern Arizona. I can honestly say that I am forever changed after visiting such a bewitching place.

I ache for the feel of the cool breeze on my face, the sounds of the wind blowing through the pines, and the sight of my children playing happily, all day long in nature.

I am already planning our next trip. I feel as though I have finally found the place where I belong, and I left a piece of my heart there.

My heaven on earth.

Friday, June 12, 2009

And we're off

I wont be around for a week because I am taking the girls up to the beautiful White Mountains with a friend, and her children.

Robert will stay home for most of the week with three of the doggies. Lilly is the lucky pooch who gets to come with us because Robert thinks she is the most annoying one. (I just think she is a sweetie of course!)

Needless to say everyone is very excited here in our house this evening. :)

Have a good week my friends, and bye for now.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I seem to have grown a pumpkin!

Do I sound surprised? Well that is because I am slightly. I mean I did actually plant pumpkins a few months ago, but I don't think I really expected them to produce any.

Pumpkins have always seemed to me to be the kind of vegetable that "real" gardeners grow. You know, the kind of gardener that knows the latin names of all the plants, and produces those flawless looking tomatoes that look like they have come from, well from an actual garden I suppose.

Pumpkins for me have always been about everything that is special and exciting about the Fall, a season I adore, especially here in the States.

Pumpkins are of course totally Halloween, a holiday I greet with the excitement of a child.

And they are Thanksgiving too, a holiday I adopt each year with the extra gusto and enthusiasm of one adopting new customs and traditions. I relish the timeless act of making pumpkin pies every Thanksgiving Eve, although I have to admit that the pumpkin I use to make my pies habitually comes from a can.

And so, I am quite frankly amazed that I have a pumpkin growing in MY garden! It feels like a milestone, one that signifies I am moving along a path towards becoming the sort of gardener that grows.......... pumpkins!

And it signifies that the Fall traditions I love so much, and embrace so hard here in my adopted country, will mean more than ever.

And I can just taste all that cinnamoney, sweet, smooth, pumpkin pie, loveliness right now. Mmmmmmmmm.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wonders will never cease!

All Things Considered, June 10, 2009

"In an effort to reduce what goes into landfills, San Francisco has adopted strict new guidelines for trash and recycling. No more throwing coffee grounds and orange peels into the garbage."

Listen here for the full, and glorious story.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Independence Days Update

A day late, but better late than never right.

1. Plant something: Nothing this week. I am afraid I am out of space.

2. Harvest something: several large handfuls of cherry tomatoes, 2 1/2 lbs tomatoes, 12 oz's Ichiban eggplants, 1 lb of cucumbers that have finally started producing, and 14 oz's of zucchinis that are taking their time, but are starting to come in now.

3. Preserve something: Nothing.

4. Reduce waste: Saved some big boxes that I am going to use for "lasagna gardening" once I have enough space cleared. All other stuff as usual, composting, using cloth bags, buying locally, trying to reduce energy use, and reducing water use as much as possible. I have started turning off the shower while I wash, and then turning it on again to rinse. That is supposed to save a few gallons. We have a very leaky faucet again on the bath in the bathroom, it is the same one as last year, and is driving me crazy like it did last year. Robert is going to fix it this weekend, but until then I am collecting the water and using the water on the garden, and Robert is using it to flush the toilet. (My husband never ceases to amaze me!)

5. Preparation and storage: The usual ongoing task of creating more space for the garden slowly. I haven't done as much this past week as I would have liked, life has been getting in the way. Bought some bulk beans to keep.

6. Build community food systems: Found out about a community garden close by from a friend. I will go and take a look after we get back from the mountains next week. It seems everyone is interested in growing their own food these days which is great.

7. Eat the food: Ate the last of the beets, more pesto, loads of tomatoes, and cucumbers in salads. Last night I put eggplants, zucchinis, tomatoes, basil, (and potatoes and onions that I didn't grow), in a baking tray with olive oil, and a little salt and pepper, covered them in foil, and baked them for a little over an hour. They were really delicious.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

My Lovely Family

A couple of weeks ago Kendra "graduated" from preschool.

The school held a little graduation ceremony for all the children, and I was thinking it would all be a little over the top before I went. However, I have to admit that it was actually very moving, and beautiful, and brought more than a few tears to my eyes.

Here are a couple of pictures of my lovely family.

I really do appreciate the time and trouble so many people took to make the morning a very special one for us all.

Now I am off to enjoy the balmy low nineties temperatures we are having here in Phoenix this weekend with my lovely family!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009

Independence Days Update

I missed last week, so this update is for the past two weeks.

1. Plant something: I finally got around to planting Armenian cucumbers, and okra. However if you have seen pictures of my garden recently you can tell that they wont have much space to thrive. I SO need a bigger veggie garden!

2. Harvest Something: During the past two weeks I harvested:
5 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, 3 lbs, 9 oz's of beets which was all that was left, 3 lb's of swiss chard which was also the last of that, (I miss it so), a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes, lots of basil, 1 lb of carrots, (small but delicious), 1 1/2 lbs of zucchinis that are finally producing well, and 1 lb, 11 oz of Ichiban eggplants.

3. Preserve something: Not much here, haven't tried canning again yet, but I did freeze some leeks, some leek and potato soup, and some pesto. I also spent some time going through our chest freezer after reading this interesting piece written by Sharon about the drawbacks of using freezing as a food preservation method. I was pleased to find that things were quite organized in there despite outward appearances, and I don't have a ton of food that has been buried for years way down in the bottom. I do love my freezer, I use it a lot and I would have a hard time giving it up I think.

4. Reduce Waste: I have realized how great my DH is for the way he will eat leftovers for days on end so that we very seldom have any food waste. He even cooks them all up into special stir fry's that appeal to the kids. Have kept AC at 83 as usual, but have been very aware of how much it still runs even with the shutters closed all day. Our house is a total energy hog, and no amount of line drying of my washing is really going to change that I am afraid. My "off grid" dreams are still a long way off I think. Have been composting madly as ever because even my DH wont eat leftover vegetable scraps.

5. Preparation and storage: Hmm, the usual ongoing reading of all my back issues of Mother Earth News. I have started reading my Mark Bittman book, "Food Matters", and I am enjoying it. Still working on digging out the sand box, (haven't done much with that recently though), and of course I have all the usual garden planning stuff going on in my head constantly.

6. Built community food systems: Went to the local, little Farmers market. I have conversed frequently with friends from my local permaculture group about chicken coops and the like. I have vague, and probably overly idealistic ideas about whether Kendra's Elementary school would be interested in developing a veggie garden because I know they don't have one. Probably shouldn't get too excited about it at this point though because I don't want to upset the PTA before we even start going there! :)

7. Eat the food: I made eggplant parmigiana for the first time ever. It is a dish that has fascinated me since I was an angst ridden teenager, and I read about it in a book by Judy Blume. It has taken me this long to try it, and I loved it! I am happy to find another way to use my eggplants because I have to admit that they are not a particular favorite of mine. I made leek and potato soup, (the potatoes weren't grown by me I am afraid), and I shared some home made pesto, and tomatoes for lunch with my friend Bo. Have been eating carrots, zucchini, swiss chard, and tomatoes with our meals in various different ways. I have also eaten some of the beets, (but of course my family hasn't).