Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Time to Plan the Garden

The winter months can sometimes seem to drag on forever, especially when the temps stay below freezing and the snow is flying.  What really makes winter furn for me is planning my Kitchen Garden.

Fall Prep

In the fall I pull out the spent plants, loosen the soil, and rake in some organic materials.  I use straw and manure that was previously cleaned out of the hen house, crushed egg shells, dead leaves and wood ash from our fireplace. I rake that into the beds and let the garden rest for the winter.  These organics replenish the depleted nutrients. When the ground begins to thaw, I occasionally turn the composting soil. You can read more about how we originally built and composted our garden beds.

Layout and Plant Selection

My kitchen garden is not that large (16'x16'), but I can pack a lot veggies and herbs in it by utilizing a vertical and square foot gardening design. It is so easy and fun to lay out and plan my garden with garden planning software.This is my new layout for my 2015 garden. (Click here to view my detailed garden plan with a full description of the plants.)

Maple Grove Kitchen Garden 2015 Plan
 There are a number of Internet sites that have useful tools and resources for planning a garden.  I really like this one at Smart Gardener the best. Using this free tool, I am able to lay out my garden, select plants, and decide where and how many to plant. When you click on an image it gives you information about that vegetable. It also gives you a planting schedule, weekly to-do-list and a place for journaling notes.  (I don't have any connection to Smart Gardener; I just think it is a fantastic free tool to share with fellow gardeners!)

Purchasing and Planting Seeds

Next I'll be purchasing seeds and before long it will be time to start growing seedlings indoors. The last two years I grew heirloom plants.  This year I'm going to try some hybrids for comparison.

Looking Forward

I've only had my Kitchen Garden for a few years. I love planning and dreaming about it as much as I enjoy planting and tending it and harvesting the produce for cooking and canning. I am inspired and learn when I look at pictures of others' gardens. That's why I share mine here, to hopefully inspire others. (Click here for photos of my Kitchen Garden.)  You don't have to wait for spring to start enjoying gardening now!

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers! Amazing!

Peppers are easy to grow and plentiful at the end of summer. In my garden, I planted sweet bell peppers, bull horn peppers, and jalapeno peppers. There are plenty of recipes for using peppers. One of my favorites is Cheese-Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tomato Pie Fresh from the Garden

I still have lots of tomatoes in my Kitchen Garden.  I've canned them diced, in sauces and salsas, we've had slices in salads and soups and on sandwiches, and we've still got tomatoes coming. So for a change of pace, today I made a tomato pie.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hanging Mason Jar Candleholders and Dangling Bead Strands

It started out as a summer project, but it was the winter that surprised and gripped me!  Mason jar candleholders and shiny beads to hang in our beloved Maple tree!  Summer evenings bring grilling outdoors and sitting around the fire ring.  How lovely it is to linger under the canopy of maple leaves and see the candles glowing in the jars and the strings of beads dangling in the breeze.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gourmet Cupcakes

For delicious gourmet cupcakes, through and through, try these easy steps to delight your family and guests!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rustic Winter Mantel Display

A home can look so bare and empty after the Christmas decorations are taken down and packed away.  Usually I automatically leap to the typical, expected Valentine's decorations.This year I felt like I needed a change, but what?  Rather than go out and buy new decorations, I decided to rummage around the house and see what I have that I could use to decorate the fireplace mantel for the remainder of the winter.   

Monday, November 25, 2013

Maple Grove Chickie-Babes are Meyer Models

2014 Meyer Hatchery Catalog
I am so eggcited (tickled pink, actually) that the Maple Grove Chickie-Babes are models for the 2014 Meyer Hatchery Catalog.  The photo above shows two of our Chickies representing their breeds in the new catalog: "Henny Ha-Ha," our New Hampshire Red and "Aussie Umbra," our Black Australorp.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Maple Pumpkin Pie with Salted Pecan Brittle

Pumpkin pie is a holiday favorite.  I love traditional pumpkin pie, but I'm always happy to find a new twist to it.  I found this recipe recently and couldn't wait to try it out. The filling of this pumpkin pie has a touch of maple flavor and is a lighter filling, more like a chiffon.  I've already made it twice for two different parties, and everyone was asking for the recipe.  It's a winner!!!  (The bonus . . . you'll also love the recipe for the Salted Pecan Brittle.  Yum, yum!)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Home Canning for Beginners

2013 Canning Season: Applesauce, Apple Pie Filling, Peaches, Pickles,
Tomatoes, Spaghetti Sauce, Salsa, Red Pepper Relish, Pumpkin Cake

If you've never done any canning before but you've been thinking about giving it a try, I'm here to tell you that it's easier than you might think.  I always wanted to try canning, but for one reason or another, I never did. I had never even watched anyone can before, so it was a bit of a mystery for me.  I felt a little intimated by it, thinking that I wouldn't do it right, that the jars wouldn't seal, that it wouldn't turn out good, or worst of all that I'd give my family and friends food poisoning.  Finally, last year, I canned for the first time. Last year I was a beginner, but this year I am an experienced canner. (That's how it is.  If you've never done it, you're a beginner.  If you have, you're experienced.)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Over-Wintering Geraniums

Two of my favorite flowering plants are Hydrangeas and Geraniums.  Hands down.  No doubt about it.  I'm not sure why. I think it's probably because of the lush green foliage and their large vibrant-colored blooms.  I'm just really attracted to them. That, plus the fact that they are so easy to grow and take care of.

Hyndrangeas are perennials and come back every year.  Geraniums are perennials in the warmer temperature zones, but in the northern areas like where I live in Pennsylvania, they are treated as annuals.  I love them so much (and I love being thrifty and re-purposing whatever I can), so I over-winter my Geraniums and plant them again the next year.  You can't do this with most annuals. But you can with Geraniums!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lasagna with Meatballs - Original Recipe

Lasagna happens to be my favorite meal.  It has been for as long as I can remember.  There are so many different ways to make it. I've been experimenting for years and have landed on my favorite original recipe . . . all from scratch! I make homemade egg noodles (of course . . . the Chickie-Babes provide the eggs, so why wouldn't I!?). I make homemade pasta sauce (this year using heirloom veggies and herbs that I grew from seed in my Kitchen Garden). And I make homemade meatballs.  Yes, I put meatballs in my lasagna!  I like the texture of them better than browned ground meat.