Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Case O' Beer Seed Tray" Update!


Tah Da!! Look what I did??? Not bad for a novice eh?

It's been exactly 7 days since I started my beer box seeds tray. For the first few days absolutely nothing happened. I couldn't understand what was going wrong. Then I read a website about starting seedlings and the penny finally dropped. It has to be warmer inside the house than outside for the seedlings to think its spring. Duh! To save money we've been keeping the heat just above cryogenic and well, my little seeds just weren't having it. So how did I get around this little dilemma? Warmed those babies up they way I was warming myself. A hot water bottle.

I must have refilled it 5 times a day for 4 days and placed it under the box. I noticed the broccoli and beets popped up to about an inch over night and nothing was happening with the beans and corn. So I moved the bottle over and kept the plastic wrap over those to keep the moisture and heat in. Worked a charm. Am I clever or what?

You're supposed to use a "warming pad" under them but I just can't swing the cost right now so I improvised. The pro of using a water bottle is the cost, the con is always having to refill it. I left it alone at night and the seedlings didn't seem to mind. They need to get used to cold nights anyway. Now that they're all up I've removed the heat to see how they do. If they stay stagnant for too long I'll put the heat back.

Here are some close ups of their progress.


Gorgeous borlotto beans...


...see the corn and beets too?


Isn't broccoli pretty?


It's still too soon for the box to be that impressive so I'll wait a little while longer (just before repotting) and take a pic again.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Cajun Chicken Salad


Even though I'm the most creative (ahem) chef in my household, I still need inspiration from time to time. I had such great luck with Kylemore Acre's "Awesome" beef stew mix that I thought I'd give this cajun chicken rub a try.


These, and a couple breasts of chicken, are all you need to make it. Just mix the packet and oil in a bowl and saute on medium heat. It's not a spicy mix so you can add chili flakes or Tabasco sauce to the mix.

For a dressing I only had balsamic vinaigrette but a ranch or blue cheese would have been better. The vinaigrette made it low calorie and better for people watching their fat intake.

Salad Ingredients

Romaine Lettuce
1/4 Avacado
3 Cherry Tomatoes
4 Broccoli pieces
4 Mushroom
1 Carrot

Add or replace any ingredients you like. Make sure they are all fresh and washed thoroughly if they aren't organic.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Case O' Beer Seed Tray

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Ever since I was a kid I tried finding fun uses for things we would normally just throw away. Most of the time I just made a mess and it ended up in the bin anyway. But sometimes I’d actually make something work. I’m hoping this is one of them. It’s my case o' beer seed tray and this is how I made it.

Take an empty case of beer and cut it down to the divider inside. Take the pieces you cut off and put them, glazed side inwards, inside the box to secure the divider in place. Also place one on the bottom to prevent soil from falling through the opening and the box from getting saturated and falling apart.

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Then fill with potting compost and a gritty seed sowing compost for proper drainage. I chose an all-purpose potting compost for the bottom 2/3 and the grit for the top to help the seeds germinate.

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After sowing all the seeds in my new beer box seed tray I watered them with tepid water and covered it with plastic wrap for a greenhouse effect. Just remember to take the plastic off as soon as you see them start to germinate. Otherwise you’ll get stringy stems that aren’t strong and will most likely succumb to cold weather. (Learned that one the hard way)


The tray is roughly 4 ½ inches (11cm) deep. I’m going to use it for beets, corn, borlotto beans, and broccoli.

Once I've repotted the seedlings from this tray I'm going to throw it into the compost bin. By that time the box should be pretty broken down and ready to rot. Just hope it holds out until they're ready to replant. If not I've got plastic pots on standby.

I’ll keep you posted on if this beer box seed tray works out and how I’ll get the seedlings out of there once they’re ready to be replanted. That should be interesting.Wish me luck!

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Repotting Annuals


I had no idea repotting seedlings was so delicate. I looked at the full seed tray and thought "Now how do I get those tiny things into these bigger pots without killing them?" So I made a decision, cut the trays. I don't know if that's what you're supposed to do. Since I've never actually witnessed someone repotting seedlings I just did what I thought was right. If I'm right, yeah me! If not, please tell me what you're supposed to do.

Like I've said before I'm very new at this. Thankfully most of my seedlings are growing, rapidly, and surviving being outside most nights. I'm trying to toughen them up, and learn what they can tolerate at the same time. So far, no casualties.

I repotted my carrots in a wide deep pot usually used for bulb planting. My allotment is too shallow for really deep rooted vegetables so the pot is the perfect depth and width. If I haven't killed the seedlings during transplanting, I should have quite a few carrots to harvest. I'm going to plant them in succession to try and get continual harvesting. If the seedlings don't make it I'll just sow seeds directly in the pot to avoid root disturbance.

March is going to be a busy month for me. I have a tray full of seeds just waiting to be started. I'm going by what the packages say. I'm still too inexperienced to be that adventurous. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Roses Are Red...

This Valentine's Day my husband surprised me with a few gifts and one of them was this gorgeous red rose. I had to wait a few days to take a picture because it hadn't bloomed yet. Although the bud was beautiful, I wanted to wait for the full monty. I have no idea what kind of rose this is (if you do please tell me) but I'm hoping to be able to find one to grow in my back garden. I also need a trailing kind to grow up the fencing and block out the ugly driveway on the other side.

Eventually my ugly barren back garden will be exploding with colors and life. My tulips are coming up and should be making their debut in a couple weeks. For a while I thought I planted them too deep but I guess I didn't because they look strong and healthy so far. I planted some shallots in the new bed but they aren't doing anything yet (stubborn). Still too cold and not enough sunlight. But my garlic is beginning to show signs of life in seedling pots. Fearing rot I took them out of the greenhouse because it was too cold and wet. My courgettes (zucchini) are doing amazing. I have 4 seedlings going and have already repotted one into its adult pot. It looks so tiny and alone but in no time it will be huge and trailing out of the pot (fingers crossed).

My tomato seedlings are popping up finally as well. I had all but given up hope of growing those little suckers. And I know enough to plant them as deep as the first set of leaves to ensure further rooting and a stronger stem. Saw that on tv.

So if you're a novice (like me) or a seasoned gardener share some of your tips of the trade. What are you doing this time of the year?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Homemade Plant Tags


If you know me at all you know how frugal I am. In fact, I devoted an entire blog to it. So it should come as no surprise that, whenever possible, I will make something myself instead of buying it.

This is a prime example. Clothes peg plant markers. I bought 40 clothes pegs for under 2 euro and 2 permanent markers for 2.65 (they only came as a set). And, as luck would have it, there was a can of paint under my kitchen sink from when they built my house. Bonus!

I do have to mention that I did attempt to buy tags at the garden center but they hadn't gotten them in yet. But knowing how expensive things are in Ireland I'm going to harbor a guess that I did save some money making them myself. Plus it was a fun little craft project.

Clothes Peg Plant Markers in 3 Easy Steps:

1. Either keep pegs in tact or break them apart into 2 pieces.

2. Paint the pegs with any paint you have lying around the house. Try not to paint the part that goes into the soil to avoid contamination.


3. When dry, use a permanent marker to write the name of the plant on them. My penmanship is atrocious but I'm sure yours is a lot better.


And that's it you're done. Just keep in mind it may take overnight for the paint to dry. You can clip them to the side of the pot or put them in the soil like I did here. I like clipping them because they don't get as dirty and they're easier to read. But if you're using trays like I am you'll need to make both. Have fun!


Friday, February 13, 2009

Mixed Berry Crumble Pie


My finest creation yet. Tomorrow being Valentine's Day and all, I got inspired to make this mixed berry crumble pie. I wanted something red but not loaded with food coloring or fondit. I was going to attempt a spelt chocolate cake, but chickened out at the last minute, and it's not red. Plus I've gotten really good with making pie crusts. So I bought loads of fruit and voila!

Mixed Berry Crumble Pie Recipe

2 cups spelt flour (1 white, 1 whole grain)
1 cup butter
1/2 cup water
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients and knead into a ball. Flour counter top and roll out dough with rolling pin. Place into pie pan and shape. This will make a thicker crust. Half the ingredients for a thinner crust.

2 punnets strawberries
2 cups cherries
1 punnet red raspberries

Chop cherries and strawberries. Cook all berries in a skillet on medium heat. Cover to allow juices to cook out of the berries causing a sweet syrup in pan, about 3 minutes. Pour into pie crust.

1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup demerara sugar

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Sprinkle on top of berries and bake at 200 degrees Celsius (roughly 400 Fahrenheit) and cook for 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on it. Once the crumble has darkened it's done.

To finish off this perfect pie I also made a whipped cream topping. In a food processor combine 400 ml whipping cream with 2-3 tbsp demerara sugar and whip. You could also have vanilla ice cream, but it's still a bit cold for that. Enjoy!


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spelt Soda Bread


Went to the grocery store today to pick the spelt soda bread I've gotten addicted to. Decided to check the price this time and saw that the tiny loaf I've been buying costs 3.50. In times like these, becoming the baker I've never been has become more of a necessity. Here is the result of my latest attempt at baking.

where I found the recipe and cooking instructions. Instead of putting sesame seeds (which I was out of and didn't realize it) I added about 1/3 cup each of pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds and a 1/3 cup of sweetened oats. All giving it an amazing taste, more protein, and a small amount of essential fatty acids. The recipe called for molasses but I put treacle instead (all I had). It gave the bread a cinnamon taste that my husband noticed right away. A perfect complement to my favorite spread, peanut butter. And the last change I made was to put buttermilk instead of regular milk.

You can go by the recipe verbatum or use it as a guideline and get a little creative like I did. Sometimes I can read a recipe and get a taste of the results before even baking it. If I think I won't enjoy it, I'll tweak the ingredients to my liking.

Update on my seedlings. Went and checked on them and noticed I'm getting really long thin stems. I don't think I'm over watering them and the second I saw them start I removed the greenhouse top to avoid this very thing. I just hope they get stronger before I plant them outside. If not, I'll just plant them deeper to support the stems. Sound like a good idea? Would anyone do anything differently?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I Did A LOT Today!


As you can see most of my back garden is either concrete slabs or rocky nutrient lacking soil. So what I did was section out the largest area without slabs, which is roughly 3ft X 7ft, and put 2 layers of compost followed by 1 layer of manure then another layer of compost again. It really needs to be built up a little higher with maybe another layer or two of compost. I want it to go up high enough to be flush with the back wood barrier.

There's a dripping pipe along the far fence so I put that 2X12 behind it to block it off. Plus I put loads of rocks for proper drainage so it doesn't leak into my garden. And now it's just about ready to plant seeds and my seedlings next month.

I've had great luck with my brussel sprout seedlings as most of them are shooting up. Plus a few courgettes are starting to poke their heads out.

This is the ambitious plan I have for my garden. Luckily the side area that's pretty dead can be used for my pots of peppers, tomatoes, and whatever else I come up with that pots well. Something tells me this isn't the last version of my plan either.

Two other quick things I did today was make an "Awesome" beef stew and blackberry pie. They came out amazing! I was so happy with myself. Here is the seasoning packet for the stew I found at the grocery store yesterday. What a tasty combination of herbs and seasonings. Plus the entire recipe is on the back of the packet. Makes cooking that much easier.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

February Fun and Frittatas


After this mornings frittata triumph I went for a walk around my back garden. I wandered onto the neighbors' property only to find this little gem. A rustic cottage with smoke puffing out the chimney. The scatters of clouds in the crystal blue sky made for an amazing backdrop. I love living the countryside.

Unfortunately, it's way too cold to plant anything new. I checked on my seedlings and I think I see a courgette starting to sprout. If I could get the cat to stop stepping on my seed trays things might progress a little quicker. Decided to move the seed trays to the spare room upstairs under the skylight. It's much warmer up there and away from kitty paws. That should make the little buggers happy. Realized I should have done a little more research before I planted my seeds.

Found out:
  • Small seeds (ie. strawberries) shouldn't be covered by compost, only set on top and watered.
  • Even adorable greenhouses you just bought still aren't warm enough for seedlings if it's unheated and only 4 degrees Celsius.
  • Water with warm water not cold until you see sprouts.
  • Take 8 seeds from each packet and put them on a wet paper towel for a few days to see how many sprout. If 1/2 do, that means the packet should contain at least 1/2 sprouting seeds.
  • You should draw up a calendar or journal for the seeds you have to organize when you sow them either indoors or outdoors and in pots or directly into your garden soil. Keeping in mind that even though the packet says what month to do what, your own climate might not meet the criteria.
Of course I learned this all after I was too impatient to wait and most likely ruined loads of seeds in the process. But at least you can learn from my mistakes.

Frittata Recipe

4 Free Range Eggs

1/2c Leeks sliced

1 Small Tomato diced

4 Button Mushrooms diced

1/2c Shredded Mature Cheddar

1tsp Black Pepper

*2tbsp Flavored Butter

In a frying pan add flavored butter, mushrooms, and leeks. Fry up for a few minutes over medium heat until they are tender. Scramble eggs in a bowl and add shredded cheese and black pepper. Stir. Once the veggies are ready, pour the egg mix into pan at medium heat. Drop tomatoes on top to preserve moisture. Turn oven on to Broil. When the bottom of the eggs are cooked, place on top rack in the oven and cook until eggs puff up. Cut and serve. No salt was added to this recipe. It wasn't needed.

*Flavored Butter- Red pepper, white onion, and parsley into a food processor until diced. Add twice as much butter and processes until blended. Add or change any ingredients you desire.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A New Direction


So I've decided to give my blog a less invasive atmosphere. From now on you'll see my gardening, cooking, and healthful recipes instead of showing you nasty brain worms.

It's all starts with the new house we moved into at the end of October 2008. I'm fortunate enough to live in a house with a private garden. Although the garden is small, I can still raise the bed, and pot up some flowers, fruits, and veg to grow to supplement us throughout the year (hopefully).

This is my first attempt at something like this so be patient with me. I've already made mistakes and I just started. Like I started seedlings in the house and nothing happened except the cat stepped on every pot. And I buried my strawberry seeds and should have kept them on the surface. At 4.29 for 15 seeds I wont be making that mistake again. Might just go buy strawberry seedlings and get over my foolish pride.

Here are some pics of what I've done so far and my brand spankin' new greenhouse. Ain't she pretty? I can't believe how warm it gets in there.