Tiny Gardener 2013, A Year in Review

I was watching the news this morning, and this being the last day of 2013, they were of course going over everything that happened this past year. I thought I might do the same!

January - Not too much happened in the Yarden, but it was cold, and we hosted a foreign exchange student for a few months.

February - About the same as January

March - I met Joel Salatin!!! And we got our first double yolk egg! We had 3 devastating losses in our families, so in a little memoriam, We love and miss you G, Phyllis, and Bob!!!

April - The chickens got fenced in and we were able to regrow grass and walk through the Yarden cleanly

May - The first signs of life were really up and running in the yarden, but nothing truly epic.

June - I got my first real harvest from our cherry tree, and we took down the old chicken fence and made a nice patio

July - I got Husband to like beets!!!! And after something like, 30 or 40 days of really below average temps and many inches of rain, we got record highs and dries and the Yarden went into shock

August - I really started to learn how to use my camera (which subsequently resulted in less pictures on the blog?), we had an outdoor cat and then he disappeared, and I made an epic zucchini bread (recipe can be found in my recipes tab at the top of the blog) I also got my rototiller as a birthday gift, so Yarden was much easier to till up :)

September - My school semester really took off and the blog took a back seat, as well as the Yarden

October - Even less eventful than September

November - What the heck??? NO pictures on the blog at all?? Whats up with that?! Oh yeah, and the Pantry Cleanout Challenge began...

December - The semester ended, the Pantry Cleanout Challenge continued (and still does) and I started purging my kitchen of unneeded stuff, one drawer at a time... Again, barely any pictures...

All in all, not an epic year, but not a bad one either. I am not a resolution type person, but more of a goal person... Here are my goals for 2014:
~Build a nice living wall for the patio
~Build a hoop house type thing to grow our kale through the winter
~Clean and somewhat maintain the garage
~Get flowers sown and sprouted for the patio so I don't have to buy them!!!
~Keep better records of harvest yield
~Really keep up with the harvest in terms of preservation... This was an epic fail this year and we had a lot of waste.
~Get down to the farm more often to keep up with it. (After the cold temps and a month of rain, it was so overgrown it was nearly a total failure... Sigh...)

Happy New Year Everyone!!!


Christmas Loot

I think everyone in my family made out like a bandit this year!! Husband got sweaters, gift cards, coffee to go cups, and other various little things he loves. My mom (as always) was treated to a fancy new kitchen appliance and also got the snow plow for her lawn tractor and little baubles and ornaments from the grandkids. The kids of the family all got clothes from us and TONS of toys from their Gramma. We also had the treat of having our family friend Michael in from Pennsylvania to spend the holiday with us. He was truly not expecting any presents, so it was awesome to give him lots of goodies. My sister got lots of new clothes for her shrinking frame, and some awesome horse books from me.

Now for ME! I totally couldn't have planned it out better. I got a new seed shelf and 2 additional lights for Spring sowing, a squishy floor mat for in front of my stove, lots of pretty scarves, AND A DEHYDRATOR!!!!

This is where I need some help... The only thing I know to do with one of these things is fruit leather, jerky, dried apple and orange slices, and various dried fruit. Is there something more inventive I can do with it? I mean, is there something awesome I can do with dried food other than dried fruit snacks???

I hope everyone had a great holiday with friends and family and ate lots of good food!! I know I sure did!


Taking a Break from the Pantry

Hey all! I hope everyone is in good holiday cheer and all full of those warm fuzzy loving feelings!

Just a small announcement... The pantry clean out project and meal planning will be on hold until next weekend. We will be traveling, and going to parties, and not spending much time at home, so I don't see the need to meal plan and post about, etc...

But if you are hosting a holiday party, this should give you some great opportunities to use up some pantry goods!

Happy holidays all, see you in a week or so!


Planning for the 2014 Yarden

It so so dang cold today! This morning it was a whopping -5 degrees (With the wind chill factor, actual 10 degrees) and has risen to -1 (real 12). What better to do than stay inside, clean the house, and plan out the yarden for 2014?!

I got my annual delivery of garden porn, aka seed catalogs, and have been pouring through them. I am actually pretty good on the seed front, but there are things I will need like cucumbers, peas, eggplant, beans, and maybe some root veg.

I am really going to try to maximize my space next year by creating a living wall for the cucumbers, and should look something like this....
I am thinking the potting area will be 2 ft deep, 2 ft tall, and 8 feet wide. I have to measure the driveway where I plan to place it, but I think 8 ft will be sufficient. The trellis will be 4 ft tall since that is how it comes in rolls, and I have plenty of it. I plan on filling it with dirt from the chicken run so it will be plenty rich in nutrients from composted chicken poo. This whole thing will go across the driveway to create a living wall for privacy for our "patio" area. 

What I REALLY want to do for the living wall, maybe summer 2015 is to plant columnar apple trees in VERY large pots for the living wall. But so far, I haven't been able to find anyone local that has columnar fruit trees and I haven't found a place online to order from that I feel I will be satisfied with. Any help here will be greatly appreciated!! 

I also plan on putting my zucchini in pots next year. Really big ones of course. I hope this will save space for stuff that I value more, as well as preventing rot from the leaves and fruit sitting on the ground. I have never done this, so I guess we will see how it turns out. Even if we only get a few zucchini out of it, that will be satisfactory since usually come August, we are putting the extras in unlocked cars around the neighborhood to try and get rid of them. 

Is anyone out there already planning their gardens for next year???


Cleaning Out the Pantry Recipe

Black Bean Soup. OMG YUM. I am still, always, working on cleaning out the pantry. I have not stuck with my meal plans lately because I have a terrible cold, and all I want is soup. So I have pretty much gone through my 8 quarts of stock from half of my Thanksgiving turkey bones, so tomorrow I will bust out the rest of the bones and make up another big batch.

Today I cooked up some dry black beans using my favorite method.... Just toss a bag of beans (usually a pound) into a slow cooker, chop up 1 onion, toss in some bay leaves, ground pepper, and cover with water about 2 inches from the top of the slow cooker. I have a small round one, maybe 6 quarts? If you have the large oval cooker, you don't need to make the water quite so high. I cook on low about 6 hours. Easy Peasy! No overnight soaking, no watching the pot... Trust me, this is the way to go! I use this method for ALL beans too...

So for the black bean soup, I kind of made this up as I went along, and I did NOT take pictures because it wasn't the prettiest of soups. Actually, it kind of looks like something you might give your dog, but trust me, very tasty. This makes quite a bit of soup, maybe 6 or 8 actual servings? But we eat a lot, so maybe just 4 for us.

Black Bean Soup
1 pound black beans dry weight, cooked (you do NOT need the cooking liquid). OR 4 cans black beans,                drained and rinsed
1 large onion, chopped
LOTS of garlic, minced - I used 8 cloves
about 1/2 pound carrots chopped small
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped small
1 cup frozen corn (I like a lot, so I may have used more)
1 quart stock - veg, chicken, turkey, whatever you have, just not beef
salt and pepper
dried chili flakes, about 1/2 tsp
ground cumin, about 1-2 tsp (more if you really love the stuff)
1 tsp chili powder
1 pinch cinnamon (really, just a pinch, a tiny bit)
1 avocado
small bunch cilantro
1/2 lime

~Saute your all your veg (NOT the corn) in a bit of olive oil in a soup pot until softened and slightly browned. Season with salt and pepper and spices. Add in your cooked beans and stock, bring to a boil. Use an immersion blender (or put a good few ladles into a blender) and blend in order to thicken the soup. Return the blended mixture to pot if you used a blender. Add the corn and bring back to a boil and allow soup to thicken.
~Cut up your avocado into a bowl and top with lime juice from 1/2 lime and some finely finely chopped red onion if you like it. Don't mash it like guacamole. Leave it in chunks. Chop up your cilantro.
~Serve soup nice and hot and top with the avocado mixture and cilantro and enjoy! Top with sour cream or plain yogurt if you please.

**Note** This is an awesome gluten free soup. If you use veg stock it will also be completely vegan!


Winter Break Project #1

I have several things on my mind that I want to accomplish over my winter break. Mostly, I want to remove clutter from the house. We have too much stuff. Last week, I removed half of my kitchen gadgets from my drawers and counter tops, put them all in a box, and put the box in the basement. I figure if I can live a month without needing them, then into the garage sale pile they go!

Next thing thing was to move the microwave. It is a big black ugly thing that sits on top of the fridge. We have all white appliances by the way... That and I had a really REALLY hard time using it because I am short, and it was up high, and I spilled soup on WAY too many occasions. 

I wanted the microwave to go into my pantry, but uh, there are no plugs in there. However, the pantry is ion a wall that is the storage room, and there so happens to be a plug in exactly the right spot SO I busted out my drill, the 1 inch drill bit, and went to town. My holes were a little off in alignment, but I made it work. The storage room has a little hole now with a cord going through it, but whatever. That room is NOT for show. This is how it came out!
Clean and clutter free! That makes a happy me!

Yes, the pantry is still really clogged up and crowded, especially now that I lost a whole shelf to the microwave, but I am STILL on a mission to clean it out by eating what we have. It's all good though, because now I can reach the darn thing, AND keep it clean :)

By the way, How is everyone Clean Out The Pantry Challenge going??


Dark Days

No, not the Dark Days Challenge, but a challenge none the less. Now, don't get me wrong, I am still excited (for some deranged reason) about the winter and snow and cold and soups and stews and Christmas. BUT. The darkness.... OH the darkness....

We have been waking up later and later every morning. The dog, Chelsea, usually wakes me us up every morning at the same time to go out and do her business. Even SHE refuses to get up before the sun. And may I remind you that the sun now is not rising itself until 7:40 or so.

And the chickens. We all know that the chickens rise and fall by the sun. So when I take out the dog and the chickens are staring and snickering at me like, "hey, look at that fool! Doesn't she know the sun isn't even up yet??" Yeah, effing chickens....

Is anyone else already falling into the darkness and despair of the season??