Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Totally Awesome Dairy Farm Visit!

We have been soooo lucky to be able to visit a working family dairy farm a few times recently.

The cows are so beautiful and well taken care of and it makes us so happy to be able to visit them. As Dozer says, "Feeding cows is so much fun!"

The cows are all milking cows. They are all named (awesome names, by the way!). The tags in their ears list their birth dates (for the younger ladies). Most are Holsteins, but a few are Jerseys, and some are some fancy shades that you don't often see . But I don't know enough about any of that to talk more about it-maybe after a few more visits.

This little girl was 5 days old. I already forgot her name. The cows are able to walk about an hour after they are born.

The young calves love to suck on your hands! Just like human babies, they love to suck. Their tongues feel kind of like a big cat tongue.  I think Dozer would stay all day just letting the cows suck on his hands. (I totally would stay all day doing this too!)

 These cows all eat hay and are let out to pasture to eat fresh grass. These girls were peeking out the window to get fresh grass picked by little ones.

I have seen a great sticker a few times recently. It says, "Who's Your Farmer?" I love the message of the sticker, and I feel pretty fortunate to be able to know some great farmers around here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Growing Your Own Garlic

Hello. I wanted to give you a quick update on the garlic season here. Last year, I offered some encouragement to anyone interested in planting their own garlic. I have been meaning to give you an update on ours-here it is. I will of course show you our harvest at the end of this year's garlic season (probably late July-ish).

Here is our garlic patch right now. Fairly weedy, which isn't a great thing. It would have been a good call to add some more mulch early season, or at least do some more weeding. We do have a couple of nice sunflowers coming up through, so good thing we didn't do too much weeding!

These super cute curlicues (Yeah, that is how you spell it-I looked it up.) are called garlic scapes. You can find them at some farmer's markets and farm stands.

At this point in the season (and up until bulb harvest) you should harvest these scapes from growing garlic plants. Just cut the scape off, or bend it and snap if off. If you leave them on the plant, they take energy from your totally awesome garlic bulb that is growing underground.

So, harvest them, and wait for it... Eat them! You can use them any way you would use garlic. They smell & taste great! Kids seem to love them. They are fun to harvest, and if you see them at a farm market, they are generally inexpensive and fun for kids to pick a few, and possibly sample whatever dish you use them in. (One can hope, anyway.)

Here is a shot of our first kale harvest of the season. I swear, I have a really awesome garden harvesting basket (rescued by my mom from a potential life in the trash) but I am going with the nice looking plastic grocery bag for harvest tonight-makes for nice blog pictures. I am going to try this recipe tomorrow (if the children's vomiting stops, that is.)

And one last quickie. Here is some basil. When growing basil, pinch leaves and stems from the plant regularly to encourage bushy growth (and lots of leaves). When it starts to flower on the top, pinch it off. This keeps your basil growing and tasting delicious.  Also, many recipes state to use just leaves, but consider using stems too-they have lots of good taste in there!

Happy harvesting (hopefully)!

Oh, I linked to Amy's Bloggers' Garden Tour too. Good gardens there to scope out!

Friday, June 24, 2011

End of School Year Stuff

Around these parts, we go to school late, to grow our brains super big! Or maybe because we have A LOT of snow days. Either way, we just had our last day of school this week. So, we have been busy with end of school year Thank You gifts to lots of school teachers and helpers.

Our gifts for lots of school helpers... Cake Batter Cookies. Probably have been around for a while, but I just found them through Stephanie Cooks. They are EASY & tasty & customizable any way! Here are some of ours-chocolate with chocolate chips and chocolate covered sunflower seeds. A definite hit! I included the recipe with the cookies and printed them on these awesome recipe cards I found at My Girl Thursday

Here is a teacher gift, coupled with a local farm gift certificate. A hand made (by Squirrel & Dozer with help) garden stepping stone. We got the kit at AC Moore. They have a lot of great choices, and you can buy more of the cement filling stuff and re-use the molds. This teacher loves turtles, so I thought that this was pretty cute. Now we have to make one for ourselves!

We are now in the midst of PARTY-ing, as Dozer says. This entails loud music, lots of dancing, junk food, wearing pajamas, blowing up lots of balloons (water & air), movies, snuggling, and saying that we are PARTY-ing! (PS-It is just us.) Our decorations for our dance party today...

SO love the Boom Box. I have no idea where the idea came from though!

This one below is hung this way for artistic effect I think.

Dance, dance, dance!

Hope you find your way to a party as cool as ours sometime soon! Or better yet, make your own! 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Behind the Scenes Garden

In the interest of 'keeping it real,' here is my Behind the Scenes Garden. I have interspersed some pictures of our real life gardening with the 'good' pictures for you all.

First up, going to check out the garden. Like the helmet? No reason, just because...

Next up, kale. I love this. It is very easy, super good for you, pretty tolerant of pests, and you can harvest it all season long (picking the outermost pieces, like leaf lettuce), up until the frost (and even after a light frost).

Next, elderberry flowers.

High bush cultivated blueberries. (Not even in the same ball park as Maine Wild Blueberries, but that is a whole other post! Later this summer, my friends!)

False Indigo.

The view from our front porch (near berries & flowers), complete with broken down Jeep, fallen arbor, shovel, dog ball thrower, used plastic cup, and containers full of kid made "compost."

Additional front porch view, with more awesomeness...

A close up of one peony gone by that has seen one too many rainstorms, and the crowning glory, our man hole cover! Mr. Rescued Goods decided (totally good idea, I agree) that it would be way easier to have this cover to access our septic tank when we need to (really, every couple of years when the person comes with the giant tank and a hose needs to). I think it looks beautiful in my front yard near my flower garden. (Right.)

My gorgeous Nine Bark Diablo bush, with weed catcher, weedy walkway, stroller wheel, and compost bags.

A close up of the pretty Nine Bark Diablo, where you can't see the behind the scenes glory! Side note, these Nine Barks root very easily, so in spring you can prune the bush and set the stems in water. Very soon you will have cuttings to plant. This is however one of those weird patented plants, so it is illegal to propagate & sell.  It may even be illegal to propagate at all. Not saying that I have ever done it, or anything. Here is the scoop on the plant-asexual propagation is prohibited, whatever that means...

One last view for you, my lettuce, onion, and strawberry bed (mulched with straw), with lots of hanging towels, which were drying until the rainstorm came... Side note-the green towel somehow got that giant ink stain on it from the sandbox. The mysteries around here...

 Have a great day, and embrace your behind the scenes goodness! (Please tell me you have some too!)

Linking this one up to Amy's Garden Tour!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Companion Planting in the Garden

So, first off. My camera is back!!! It was supposed to be 2 weeks-it was 5. Just got it today, and they said nothing is wrong with it. (It cost $100 to learn that!) I wonder how long it would have taken if something was wrong! 
PS I really hope that they are right, because I don't want it acting up again...
Moving on...

We have been in the garden a bit lately. Not nearly as much as we should have been, but some. I got a few pictures this evening as I was getting re-acquainted with the 'ole camera. 

I titled this post Companion Planting as I have a few companion plants here, but I plan to highlight a few more throughout the garden season. Every year as I am planting, I religiously refer to  Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, by Louise Riotte. It is a great book about companion planting-what plants to plant near (and away) from each other for the most mutual benefit.

First up, Borage. 
Borage is an excellent companion plant for pretty much any vegetables (or fruits-excellent for strawberry beds). It helps to keep unwanted garden pests away. You do have to watch it though, as it will self seed pretty quickly!

Next, Onions.
Onions are again an excellent companion plant for many fruits & vegetables in your garden. I have these Egyptian Onions in a bed with strawberries, lettuce, and violas (along with some volunteer pumpkin plants which grew on their own after I composted one too many pumpkins in this plot last fall). I love growing all onions, but the Egyptian Onions look very at home in an ornamental bed. They have small onions underground, a larger chive-like stem, and then little onions to use for seed that grow on top. I think they are very funky looking. And, you always have plenty of bulbs to share with friends!

It is also about companion planing, but focuses more on ornamentals, where the Carrots book focuses on edibles. So, another companion I have in my ornamental garden is,

Lamb's Ear. (Disregard the serious grass around it!)
Lamb's Ear is a good companion plant for Roses, and for Irises.  Lamb's Ear used to be nature's band aid. Before you could buy band aids in every imaginable color & design, this is what was used! It is soft and furry and very absorbent. We love to pick a leaf and rub our fingers on it-it is very soothing. Another self seeder though-I have these cuties all over my garden, whether I like it or not. But, if you are a gardener who has things under control, you can snap off the stem before it flowers (like right now in this picture!) so the seeds won't blow all over yonder in your garden!

Next up, not at all a companion plant, but pretty and still flowering, so it is in. 

Pretty peony. No idea what kind. I am a plant sale/hand me down kind of gardener. If you have extra and need a taker, I am your gal! Except I must say, I am a regular at my A #1 local farm-Meservey Farm. I get my seedlings here (after I kill all of my own), lots of vegetables, and some perennials too. If you are local to Southern Maine, check them out!

Lastly, no garden is complete without a fairy garden or two. 

For 'official' fairy garden guidelines (and a great story), check out Fairy Houses (The Fairy Houses Series) by Tracy Kane.

Now that me and my camera are back together, I should be unstoppable (HA!). Hope to see you again soon. Thanks for stopping by! Stay tuned for info about our new girls, our new boy Hank, and lots of garden updates.

PS I linked up to Amy's Garden Tour. Click here to see lots of pretty gardens!