Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Garden on the Deck: Upgrading to Grow Lights

Grow Light Shelves, 3/28/10.

Grow lights! This is impressive, is it not? I would love to take complete credit for the idea of rigging these grow lights, but the truth is, I did see a similar rigging/Ikea-hack at Digginfood (don't ask me how I found it). Our Ikea shelves (above), which have always held dishes, were incredibly easy to covert. Assemblage Time: less than 1 hour. Time at Lowe's: About an hour. I'm very easily distracted.After picking up the grow lights (light fixture dept. at Lowe's, $10-12/each), I grabbed a package of screw-in hooks (above) for the underside of the shelves ($1), 4 x 1-foot long chains ($2), and additional hooks that I used to attach the lamps to the chains. The rigging below is rather precarious because the hooks can slip out of the lamp, but they work fine for the time being.
And the results are...more and more seedlings pop up every day. Perfect timing...since I haven't seen the sun in a while and Rhode Island is drowning in floods right now. Apparently little old Cranston even made it onto the Today Show!
Spinach seedlings 3/30/10.

First sign of lettuce, 3/30/10.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Garden on the Deck: Spinach appears + more planting

Spinach Seedlings, 3/28/10.

7 Days ago exactly, I planted these spinach seeds, and already they're making an appearance. Last year I lost most of my seedlings. This year...grow lights (more to come).

And we planted our last batch of seeds on Saturday (3/27). I picked up this tray of 50 seedling pellets at Benny's about a month ago. Drop 1-2 seeds into the center of each pellet and add warm water. The pellets grow in size (held together by mini mesh bags), and seedlings should spout out of the top.
Rows (L-R): Hot Peppers (1), Lettuce Mix (2-4), Red Tomatoes (5), Striped Green Zebra Tomatoes (6), German Red Strawberry Tomatoes (7-8), Basil (9), and Marigolds (10). These are all seeds I saved and dried from last year's garden, except for the Lettuce (from Mike) and Marigolds (from Eliz).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Garden on the Deck: Starting Seeds Indoors

Seed Starting Tray, 3/21/10.

Last year, I grew very few plants from seed (peas & cilantro, which are planted directly into the soil outside, and only 1 cauliflower & 1 pepper survived my indoor seed start). This year, I'm planting more seeds to improve my chances of success! I picked up two seed trays--this small one (above) packed with 25 seed-starting soil pellets and another that has 75 slots/pellets. I'm saving that one for two weeks from now, when I'll plant everything else. And maybe buy a grow lamp, since my sunny window isn't as sunny as I'd like. Pellets exploding, 3/21/10.

Just add water to the pellet, and upon contact, the pellets explode into seed starting soil. These reminded me of the "snakes" we used to light on July 4th while camping in Missouri. Ahhh, good old days. Drop in a seed or two, cover with soil, set them by the window (if it's a very sunny window), and cover them with plastic wrap.
So far, I've planted Spinach and Eggplant seeds in this tray, and peas in a plastic spinach container from the grocery store. Those I'm growing just to have pea greens (not to grow the vines). Peas have officially been demoted to 'not going in the garden this year,' only be replaced by another climbing plant...Lemon Cucumbers. Bring it!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Signs of Spring: Pots and a new Grill

3/20/10 in the pm.
Hibernation over. We hit the 70s last week, and I tore the tarp off of my pots. Of course we're back into the 50s again this week, so I may have jumped the gun. Regardless, it was great to start process of turning last year's beds and working in fresh soil.
3/20/10, in the am.
Look how cute all those pots are after being uncovered...just waiting to be filled with growing goodness.

We also uncovered the need for a new grill. Thank you tax return check! The gifted grill we used last year had its run, and this thing will pay for itself very soon. Plus everything smells good over charcoal. Mmmm. Grilling.
Corn Tortillas on the grill, 3/21/10.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Garden on the Deck: Garden Planning

Re-usable markers 3/21/10.

Last year's garden just happened. My friends carried me through it with supplies, starters, and advice (from pruning to saving seeds). When I bought seeds, I couldn't even make sense of the calendar dates on the package: start indoors 5 weeks before planting outdoors, outdoors 2 weeks after the last frost date, 7 days to germinate, and 70-80 days to fruit. When do I put the seeds in the soil? So, I planted with no rhyme or reason and had a blast. The garden thrived (crazy!), but I planted things way too early or too late, and missed out on replanting cycles throughout the summer. Now I see that so much more is possible with a little attention to detail. I lucked out last year with my amazing 'gardening guides.' This year I've been edu-macatin' myself with books (thank you E), my organic gardening mag (thank you Anne), with new seeds & advice (thank you Mike), and in gardening workshops (thank you Rich), sponsored by the South Side Community Land Trust.
1st Garden Plan (choosing veggies & finding dates), 3/14/10.

Apparently when things go in the ground is rather important in gardening. Which means that making a calendar of sorts is the best place to start: (1) Start with a list of what you want to plant, (2) Find the last frost date for your region - Providence is May 10-ish, (3) Back track for indoor seed planting dates (I used multiple websites & seed pack week estimates for this), then and (4) Count forward from the indoor dates for your outdoor planting date (transplant date), for each veggie since veggies take longer/shorter times to be ready for the great outdoors.
Garden Plan 2nd try, 3/20/10.

After sitting in two workshops on seed starting & garden planning this past Saturday, I'm teeming with information. One teacher advised us to think in terms of 3 types of plants: early spring plants (leafy hearty greens), warm weather plants that go in after the danger of frost (Italian cooking: basil, tomatoes, eggplant, oregano), and fall weather plants. I learned about companion crops (friends in the garden) and that soil rotation can even help container gardens. The calendar ends up being a giant puzzle in terms of which plants will go in which containers, given what I grew last year. And while none of this extra work is necessary for a garden to do well and to be enjoyable, I am loving the process. Cannot. Get. Enough.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Recipe Rusday: Crafty Fresh Spring Rolls (Yup Nim Chow)

Spring rolls, 2/14/10.

When Danielle and her friend were in town last month, Chris and I were trying to plan a few fun meals to make together while they were here. Our friend Elizabeth had recently had a dinner party with lots of people, where we all made spring rolls for dinner. Filling, affordable, and fun to make. Plus, it borders on a craft-night, for me. I had made these at home in the past, but had forgotten how good they are. They're perfect for the new spring weather!
Another batch (this time with grilled shrimp), 3/21/10.
Spring Roll Wrappers
Rice Noodles (optional)
Flavored tofu (optional)
Bean Sprouts
Carrots, julienned or shredded
Avocado, sliced thin
Peanuts, smashed up or chopped,
and some kind of dipping sauce (peanut sauce, sesame/wasabi dipping oil, etc).

Ingredient Notes: Use the ingredients you have! Use mint instead of cilantro, shrimp instead of tofu, lettuce or rice instead of the noodles-- the options are endless. The wrappers, noodles and bean sprouts can be found in an Asian market (and will be more affordable there, than say, WholeFoods).

Directions: Cook the noodles in boiling water according to the package directions (only a minute or two, until tender). Then, lay every ingredient out in an assembly line, setting the wrappers next to a wide larger bowl of room temperature water.

Dip one wrapper into the water until flexible and lay out on a plate. Now fill the roll with cooked noodles, and vegetables. Add the sauce before folding the roll up like a burrito, or use as dipping sauce after.

** For more recipes, check out the RedPepperFlakes Recipe Archives.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

FL: Then things got Country

Do you know who Tommy Cash is? Well it's Johnny Cash's brother, of course. Tommy Cash had a ton of top 100 hits over the years, and he performed at Siesta Bay, where my parents have a place in FL. He played a number of his brother's hits--and sounded eerily like his brother--as well as a few of his own. "16 Horses" was one of his own (1969 hit) that he performed (youtube video here).
There's nothing odd about Tommy Cash, per se. But when we saw Tommy Cash, who sounded eerily like Johnny Cash, it made us feel like we were in a time warp. Then Tommy invited up a guy named Tugboat Jerry up on stage, to sing a song. That was really odd. I'll let his website speak for my experience of the whole thing: Tugboat Jerry's website (self designed?). Then I came down with a flu and puked like I hadn't puked in years. Then a few days later we went to a "Siesta" in the community where my parents have the place. Chris declared "I feel like I'm in a Salvador Dali painting". A hundred or so people just sitting in lawn chairs, in the freezing cold, congregating for hot dogs and beer, and 50s music. Anyway, it was all good, very fun. But some of it, odd. Bingo was grea

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sesame Street Songs

Linkshare: Check out my friend Laura's blog -- she's posted some great videos of songs on Sesame Street (Jason Mraz, Fiest, and Norah Jones). Cute!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

FL: Giganto Shrimp

Ft. Myers FL, 2/28/10(mom's photo above). Early in our Florida visit, we headed down to the docks in Fort Myers to a somewhat hidden place where shrimp are sold right off the boat. The shrimp we purchased were brought in the previous day and were scrumptiously tasty when we ate them later that night.
Mom on the pier (Ft. Myers 2/28/10).
This particular pier was hidden behind a restaurant and fairly hard to find. My aunt Liz gets credit for finding this place -- she received the recommendation from a guy sitting next to her, on her last plane trip home. He was practically a local and could recommend the best place to buy shrimp. The shrimp boat was docked at the very end of the pier and Dad bought a few pounds right from the Captain. I love the idea of eating fresh, locally produced/caught food.
The Captian, packaging up our shrimp. 2/28/10.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

FL: Uncle Rick & Liz

We've been heading to FL to visit with my parents every year for the past 5 years or so, by now. It's incredible to think we've been doing this for so long; and yet, when we get down there, we feel incredibly at-home at their place. Despite cooler weather and my getting a stomach virus (I'll spare you the details), this visit was wonderfully rejuvenating.
Uncle Rick on Sanibel Island, 2/28/10

My Uncle Rick and Liz were there a few days before we arrived, so we planned for our trips to overlap. It was great to visit with them both. Liz is a delight and I love being around my uncle Rick's constant (and contagious) laughter. He looks serious in this pictures below, but the first photo captures his personality perfectly.
(my mom's photo - with the date stamp...and the wrong date).
The beaches were loaded with shells this past week and everyone collected unusual ones. I thought it was funny that everyone had their butts up in the air.
Shells on Sanibel, 2/28/10.