Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Time To Get Growing!!!

It's finally spring and things are GROWING!!! I love how actions I took last year are echoed in the garden right now.

Back in October I planted garlic! Look at all of their little tops poking through!!!

My grandma told me I could plant horseradish in November!(almost December) She was right!

Last fall when I bought a bushel of squash, one was mushy so I threw it in my flower garden. If you look closely you can still see the stem of the old squash (To the left of the new plant) and the new plants that are sprouting right from it's seeds. The circle of life right there in my garden. Now I can't remember what kind of squash it was (I think butternut) and it's kind of inconvenient having a squash in the flower garden but I may just let it stay there as it is clearly thriving with no intervention from me.

And finally-More pictures of my new garden. I'm not digging any of the beds. I HATE digging beds and I found a new way to build up the beds instead called Lasagna Gardening. Rather than digging, you just pile organic matter up in layers and as it decomposes it makes a nice garden bed without all the work. You do need a lot of organic matter though. I have been using peat moss, grass clippings from my neighbor, and my compost pile. (which is completely depleted now before the last bed is finished) This weekend or next I am going to have some soil delivered to top it all off.

I'm also going to use slate that my friends Kristin and Michale took up at their house for the path through the garden. The little plastic Tupperware is in the garden to protect some seedlings from frost that sprouted from the compost that I put on. Again, some kind of squash-Could be anything really as we had 3 kinds of squash and a lot of pumpkins go into that pile!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

You can subscribe if you want!

I've added a subscription link to the side of the blog. You can subscribe so all new posts are sent to your email if you like.

Later when I have some time I'll add an RSS feature as well.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

There's Gold in Them Thar Hills!!!

Black Gold that is!

Translated: COMPOST!

This is the first year I've gotten to see the fruits of my (limited) labor come to fruition regarding my compost pile.

All of last year I added to my pile, turned it once in a while and added a little dirt and water. Little by little the scraps disappeared and come spring it was all a beautiful black loamy soil ready for use in the garden. (BTW, that picture is not my compost pile.)

Compost is really one of nature's miracles. It replenishes the soil and allows you to fertilize without using chemicals.

And it's easy. And FREE. Oh sure, you can buy some pricey composting units (and believe me, I've been tempted.) But I spoke with a guy who had both a composter and a plain pile right next to it and he told me there was virtually no difference.

Basically, my pile is in a somewhat shaded spot (just because that is where I have room) I compost:

All fruit and veggie scraps
Coffee and Coffee Grounds
Tea Bags
Wine Corks
Cut flowers that have died
Garden Waste/Cleanup
The soil from my planters at the end of the year
And just recently, I asked a neighbor for a bag of his spring cleanup raking that contained small leaf particles and grass thatch. (yes, I'm becoming a bit of a compost freak!)

NEVER use animal scraps or oil of any kind. They attract wildlife and are not good for your garden. Some people compost their newspaper but we don't get the paper. You can also compost your coffee filter (we have a re-usable one) if you do plan on doing that though you should probably get the unbleached natural ones.

Throw a little dirt in there once in a while. Turn it once in a while. Wait all winter! In the spring you'll be amazed.

You should probably also read up on this a little more but sometimes the books make it sound a little more complicated that I just have. It isn't! REALLY!

And another obvious benefit is less trash and less waste!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Everyone knows that beans are a great, cheap source of protein. And they taste great too!

Up until yesterday I've always used canned beans. At $0.89 a can, they seem like an obvious deal. I've conveniently ignored dried beans because, well, they seem so inconvenient.

But really can you call yourself frugal if you don't eat dried beans?

So, I took the plunge!

I pre-soaked them overnight-No biggie. Took all of a minute to rinse the beans and fill the bowl with water.

The next morning I boiled them during breakfast and cleanup. Maybe 30 minutes. (Maybe 40.) Anyway, it was pretty quick and painless. There was nothing to it. Dried beans are EASY too!

I had no idea how much 16 oz of beans ($1.39) would make. NO IDEA. It made 8 cups of garbanzo beans. That is a lot of beans looking at you from the bowl.

I made a big batch of hummus that we have had for lunch for 2 days now. Spread on Pita's with veggies on the side. We still have a bunch left!

This evening I made this super simple salad:

2 (1 lb.) cans chick peas
1/3 c. scallions, chopped
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 c. olive oil
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. dry mustard
Black pepper to taste
Salad greens

This was so yummy and I had everything on hand to make it. I controlled the urge to put feta into it because I wanted to see how good it was on it's own.

I know $0.89 doesn't seem like a big deal. It isn't too me either. BUT the cost of the dried beans worked out to be roughly 1/2 the cost of the canned. Still not convinced? Would you pay $10 for a steak when you could pay $5? In the name of convenience I don't think there is anything wrong with canned beans but I think I'm going to try a lot more dried beans in the future. Also, I bet of I looked around I could find beans cheaper than $1.39 lb, thus making my savings even greater.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Kick The Can

Last Sunday, I watched the premier of the National Geographic Special, "Human Footprint" which shows what a typical American will consume over their lifetime. From diapers to bananas and everything in between. It was fascinating. It was scary. You really should watch this show. (they are repeating it.)

One of the things I found most interesting was that over a lifetime, a person will use 43,000 soda cans!!! OH. MY. GOD! Most of these cans are NOT recycled. By just recycling these cans, you save enough energy to run a TV for 14 YEARS!!!!!!

But think of the energy that you would save if you didn't even buy the can in the first place. If you didn't have to drive to the store, spend your money, and then worry about recycling at all. Nothing of any nutritional value comes in a can anyway. Seriously.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit I was fighting a pretty tough battle with sparkling water a bit back- I would drink a bottle A DAY. I'm down to 2 a week now. I do recycle them of course.

But mostly the drink options in our house are:
-Iced Tea
-Hot tea
-Juice-watered down 25% juice, 75% water
-Most recently, I've added Almond Milk to my cart each week but I'm kind of up in the air on that one. It comes in a waxed cardboard container (not recyclable) and is the most expensive drink option we have-I'm using it for smoothies though, not for thirst quenching.

So kick the can-For your wallet, your health and the environment!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Green is the new Black!

It seems everywhere you look these days, someone, somewhere is touting a new "Green" product. One can now buy Organic Cotton sheets, bio-degradeable dog poop bags, overpriced bags for grocery shopping (My $.99 re-use ables from Wegman's suit me just fine thanks!) Even Clorox (of all entities!) has a new line of environmentally friendly cleaning products called Green Works.

While I think this is all well and good, one thing to note is that these are still all products. They still needed to be manufactured and shipped to you. Most come in plastic. You still need to burn gas (and $) going to buy them. I think we sometimes overlook that often the "greenest" thing you can do (regarding stuff anyway) is nothing at all. Sure, if you really need sheets, choose the best ones you can and get organic cotton if you can. But really, keeping the sheets that you have IS the greenest option.

A friend recently told me of her decision to switch over to all natural cleaning products. She would be throwing her old products out, in the trash. In a plastic bottle. Her other option was dumping them down the sink. I think she would be better to just use up what she has and then get new greener stuff because now her old products are polluting the environment and she hasn't even cleaned anything with them. The damage wrought by her products has been completely pointless.

Obviously in the above example, she may be also switching for the health of her household so there is more to the equation than that. But before we go all green with our products lets remember that consumption in general is less green than nothing at all. Use what you have before you decide you need something new!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Stealing My Plants

About 18 months ago I moved about a mile from my old house into a new (to me) home. I left 9 years worth of gardens there. Beautiful plants. A nice healthy herb garden. An asparagus patch....(an asparagus patch for goodness sake!!!)

Anyway, the heartless soul-less new owners RIPPED IT ALL OUT. I drove by one day to check on how it all looked (yes I know how crazy I sound) I came home crying. I loved that yard and I loved those plants. I had ones that were presents from family and I planted white mums after Sept 11th (Yes, I know I didn't own the stuff anymore) but more, I felt like someone was telling me that what I did wasn't really all that special.

I got over it. (Kind of. All you dinner guests at my house the other night just be quiet right now.)

Fast forward to tonight. I went out to dinner with Leighanne and when she drove me home I told her to drive by it. I wanted someone else (besides my mom) to witness the destruction of my lovely plants. It was dark so it was hard to see.

As one final insult, they had kept the ugliest rhododendron in the yard until today. It was all ripped out and laying by the road. I made Leighanne slow down. It was dark. I made her drive past slowly and told her to turn around. I told her I was getting my bush back. She reminded me it was no longer my bush. I said "Shut up and turn around!" She did. She slowed down. I opened the door and pounced! I grabbed the bush and briefly thought about hauling the paper bag of yard debris as well knowing some of my other plants could possibly be in there. Being that Leigh really likes her car I didn't think she would take kindly to that idea. As soon as the bush was in the car I hugged it and said " Don't worry baby, mommy is here!!!

We brought it home. She looked at it and said "Can you really save that?" I'm thinking in the back of my mind-Do I even want to?? I have a beautiful 12 ft tall Rhododendron in my front yard that looks amazing in bloom. This one had never quite lived up to it's potential. It looks worse now from neglect and (I imagine) a lack of love.

Right now it's sitting in one of my new urns but tomorrow I'm going to find it a new home.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Finally, after a long winter of staying inside, this weekend was nice enough to work outside in the garden.

Oh, that doesn't look like a garden, well it's going to be! Look closely and you can see the faint strings that I laid out over the weekend outlining it. I had to do it twice because the first time it was not large enough. This took me much longer than you would imagine thus, this is really the only gardening I did!

I have been dreaming of a 4 square herb garden for a few years now and have not yet had the time or inclination to follow through. The center where the birdbath is will be a circle filled with Lavender.

I'm having a lot of trouble with a theme for the garden. And I REALLY wanted a theme garden! My original intent was an heirloom garden (in 4 square design) that would showcase what people in the 13 colonies had available to them. It would be food and herbs as well as plants used for dyeing material and ornamentals. But the in speaking with the garden head of the Genesee Country Museum, he informed me that in general, common people did not lay out their garden in such a design. (and I really want that design!) So apparently what I want is all in my head. He was nice enough to point out that I could still plant in that design and call it an heirloom garden...Um yeah, but I'm a stickler for accuracy....

So I based the design on a picture in the Colonial Gardens Of Williamsburgh book which was for an herb garden only. In my research, Washington and Jefferson (who would have had more use for a formal (English) designed garden-Washington more than Jefferson actually) separated their edibles and ornamentals. And their vegetables were laid out in traditional row styles.

So this is turning out to look more like a French Pottager if you will. The French pottager does have it's roots well before the 13 colonies but the theme is not supposed to be French.
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More later on how I'm building up my soil!

Um can you tell I'm excited about this?!?!?!

Happy Birthday Bloomin' Onion! -Product Review

My latest review is not so much a product review but an announcement of sorts!
Outback Steakhouse is celebrating its 20th birthday and with that comes the anniversary of the Bloomin' Onion, the first item ever on the Outback menu. (I mean seriously I don't need to review the onion itself because WHO HAS NOT had one of these yummy babies!) I remember the absolute bliss I felt when I first had this colossal onion!

In honor, Outback has created a select number of special menu items available through April.

Some fun Onion Facts!

  • Outback has sold more than 133.5 million Bloomin' Onions.
  • 15 million Bloomin' Onions are sold each year.
  • Before it is "bloomed," each onion is specially grown to be 16 ounces big and 4 inches wide.
  • The Bloomin Onion remains true to its original recipe: 17 different spices to flavor the onion and an additional 37 spices in the dipping sauce.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

April 6th at Home Depot

Today was my first trip to Home Depot this gardening season.

In some parts of the country the garden stores and home centers are bursting with color and flowers. Veggies are out and pansy's are smiling their pretty faces waiting for you to take them home.

Not so in Western NY! Today was a sunny and somewhat chilly day. No one is going to garden stores yet really.

BUT, I needed Peat Moss (more on that later!) and while walking around I saw two of these wonderful urns from last year! On sale! For $20!!! (Um yes, I know, I said I wasn't going to buy anything I didn't need! I can't even pretend I need these! ) I bought both, one for each side of my front door.

That said, they are made of lightweight fiberglass and are quite large (not sure if you can tell by the picture.) I have wanted 2 large black urns since we moved here but could not justify paying $50 per pot. $20 I can deal with!

And there were more deals to be had. (I didn't though!) I think they must be getting the shelves ready for new stock because all of the pots were on sale. They had some lovely ones that I truly did NOT need.

Now I can't wait to fill them (Which will be a little while.) In the mean time, I'll be visiting my favorite website for container gardens, Provenwinners.com, where they have a section devoted to telling you what exactly to put into the pot to get the look you want! (With Pictures!)
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

You may recall, that as of the 1st of this year I pledged that I wasn't buying anything new (with a few exceptions Anyway, it's April so I though I would give a little progress update! Mind you, I'm not talking about the stuff I alluded to that I would still buy new, although there was not that much.

In February, we went to Florida. I recall a jar of play dough and some Kids Cutlery made by Dixi, which was a complete waste of plastic. Other than that I'm clean! All I bought myself were those crappy $145 shoes. Ok I probably didn't need those, per say.....

March was a bit more complicated. A new all in one printer/copier/fax machine for my business. The old printer died. I tried looking on Craig's list nothing that would be suitable (or so I told myself!) I got a great deal on a new one. I'm feeling ok about that.

Easter-I didn't buy that much but I recall an Easter basket, some plastic eggs and yellow plastic grass that served no purpose but to mess my house and get thrown away quickly (that grass was a really bad purchase!) I didn't buy a new Easter outfit for my girl actually-It was like 20 degrees and snowy-She wore a cute brown and pink dress she already had! She's not in therapy.
We are saving the eggs and the basket for another year. I also bought some COMPLETE crap that I said I would buy as a fund raiser for my daughter's school. Mostly bad food and giftwrap. (note to self-Take the fund raising buyout next year!)

I bought some gifts those months and tried to make them the consumable type. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not.

There is probably some more but I think I'm doing ok. Part of it is I think I already was not buying much new anyway.

Gardening season is right around the corner so the real temptation is yet to come!