Pretty in Pink- Chive Flower Vinegar

In the spring we, had a slight problem with overgrown chives.

IMG_0966

The rest of the garden had just been planted and they were spilling everywhere.  The purple flowers were pretty and I thought about bringing some inside as cut flowers….but the distinct onion scent wasn’t what I was going for.   So what to do with all of them because they obviously needed to be harvested and there was no way we were going to way that many baked potatoes??  Hmmmmm…

After some googling I learned that you can make Chive Flower Vinegar.  Different sites had slightly different procedures so I sort of mixed it all together and came up with this,

First, I harvested all the pretty flowers.  That basket was totally full.

IMG_1008

Then I washed them thoroughly and put them through the salad spinner to get all the excess water off.

Next, I put them in some glass containers with lids and then added boiling white vinegar over them.

IMG_1014

They sat in a sunny window for a week.   It was the perfect kitchen table centerpiece.

Then I strained out the flowers that were looking a little less purple.

IMG_1035

And was left with pretty pink vinegar with an onion scent.

IMG_1034

I bottled it in pretty jars and put it in the dark kitchen cabinet for another week

IMG_1221

So what does it taste like?  On a mixed green salad there is a slight hint of onion.  I think next time I will leave more of the stems  on and possibly refresh the flowers with new ones to increase the flavor.  But i love the color and it could make a great gift or look  fun on a table next to a salad when you are entertaining.  And best of all it is quick, easy, and uses parts of plants that were going to be composted.

Photobucket

Herbs on the Move

Know what my favorite thing about winter is?  How much it makes me appreciate spring. 

Because who can appreciate the absolutely gorgeous weather we have been having without going through the cold and incredibly long winter?

That is what I tell myself at least during the winter.  Sometimes it actually works.

Since spring is in the air, gardening is on my mind.  We are still in the iffy part of planting in good ole Zone 5 because we have been known to still have a random freeze this late.  But being the rebel I am, I decided that I could start planting my pots last week.  I know I am living on the wild side, but I figure that in the unlikely event we have a freeze, I can always pull them inside at night.

Since I am freeing up garden real estate this year, I decided all the the herbs were going to planted in pots on the deck.  There are two added bonuses to this.  First, most of them smell heavenly which brings a nice ambience to the deck space.  Also, all the flowers I planted in pots last year did not do very well so hopefully the herbs will succeed  much better.  And flowers can start to add up in terms of $$$.  So by replacing most of them with herbs I would be buying anyway, we are saving some money.

But then I stumbled onto a problem- pretty pots are expensive, especially when I plan on planting tons of herbs and some random flowers. 

I did have a stack of old terra cotta ones  in the garage and they are inexpensive for new ones as well…..but orange rust does not mesh with the color scheme of the outdoor decor I am going for. 

So I turned to my favorite thing for sprucing something up…..I bet you can guess what that is…..

IMG_0904

But terra cotta is not a material that you can just slap some paint onto and call it good.  It took some prep work and specific materials.  So of course I am sharing the how-to so that you can also score some cheap and springy pots.

The How -To

1. First, gather all your posts and scrub them with soap and water.  I used a combination of new and old pots and definitely spent a lot more time scrubbing the mineral deposits and grime off of the old ones.

IMG_0861

2. Let them dry for at least 24 hours.  Learn from my mistakes and do not set them on a cement garage floor if there is any moisture at all in the ground.  The terra cotta will suck it right up and they will never dry.  Which is not fun to discover when you are ready to start painting them.

3. Spray with a water proofer.   Terra Cotta is porous and when holding plants will suck all the moisture in from the dirt into the clay.  Which is bad news for your paint if you are expecting it to stick.  There are a lot of water proofers out there and some people suggest painting them with oil-based polyurethane to do the trick.  But we had cans of Thompsons spray water sealer laying around from some past project that I now have no memory of.  The terra cotta absorbed it right away and did not appear any different after spraying.  Spray every surface with this stuff- both inside and outside.  We went though a can and a half for all the pots pictured after applying one heavy coat.

IMG_0875

4. Paint with Patio Paint in your desired color on both the outside and the inside.  All terra cotta surfaces must be covered so that no water permeates any part and causes your paint to peel.  This includes the inside of the water hole.  I found my patio paint at a local craft store next to the terra cotta pots and not next to the acrylic paint which caused me a little bit of confusion.

IMG_0882

I covered everything with two coats of paint using a foam brush.  The yellow and the white did not cover as well, so I added an extra coat.  This paint dries really fast so the process did no ttake very long.   I also used the green on the lower inside part of most of the pots because I knew you would not see it but it covered very well.  And I had a big bottle of it.

5.  Let dry for at least 48 hours per the paint’s instructions.

6.  Fill with plants!

IMG_0892

We put a coffee filter at the bottom the pots so that water could seep through but the dirt would stay put.

7. Color coordinate where you want particular herbs and enjoy!

IMG_0905

IMG_0908

IMG_0907

Budget Breakdown:

$37 for pots (I already owned some)

$16 for paint

$0 for water sealer (already owned)

=$53 total…..which I think is great for 11 pots and some of them being large ones at that.

And I love what the color brings to the deck….I am so excited about how it is coming together.   Now I just need to figure out what I can cook with that monstrous sage that came back with a vengeance this year…..

Photobucket

Garden Report Card

Last year at this time, I was a gardening newbie.  Other than a couple of strawberries in a pot that were rather unsuccessful, I had never grown anything edible.

But I had grand visions and we built three raised beds.  And largely it was a success.  If I can do it with no background knowledge, so can you.

We started with three empty raised beds and a lot of gravel….

DSC02101

And planted some little sprouts in the them (wow my old camera was pretty crappy)…MOV02216

And by July we had this…DSC02382

Since it is now officially spring and am now a “seasoned” veteran, it is time to  plan for this year’s selections.

Should I have done this earlier?  Yeah probably.  Especially if I was going to start seeds indoors.

And this would be the case if that did not miserably fail at this task last year.  I blame the sunny window that was not sunny enough.

DSC01949

So this year we are sticking with plants that I buy and direct sowing seeds in the garden.  Once it thaws out I mean.

So here is what I planted last year -

DSC02292

Strawberries- A  We did not get a lot of fruit last year, but according to my sources that it normal and we should get a lot more this year.   Our lack of fruit also could be a result of a furry friend named Jack hijacking the fruit.  The entire summer, I was cursing the birds thinking they were the culprits.  Until Jack was caught not once, but four times with a perfect red wipe berry in between his paws.  Which he promptly ate as soon as saw him.  So even though this crop will not need to be replanted, a dog deterrent/fence will be in order.

DSC02298

Radishes- C  They grew very quickly and easily.  But I do not think we will replant this because Derek does not like radishes.  And other than an occasional one on my salad I am not huge on them.  So we decided that the garden real estate will be better served for something else.  But if you are new to gardening, this is a quick and easy crop to start with.

DSC02275DSC02202

Red Leaf Lettuce- B  I really learned last year that lettuce is a cold season crop.  Once it it gets too hot, it starts to bolt and then tastes nasty.  So this will definitely be repeated this year but I will not be afraid to harvest some of it early and will replant a second crop for late summer/fall when in cools off.

DSC02332

White Onions- A  These were easy and we used them a lot.  I started these from an onion set which was easier than seed.  And they stored well.  Will be a repeat this year and I may add some purple onions. 

Chives-B These would get an A except we did not use them as much as I thought I would.  But they are a perennial and are already looking very robust in the snow.  Even if they did not I would be replanting.

DSC02329DSC02219

Pole Beans-B  This grew after the bunnies decimated them twice (note to self to install dog and rabbit deterrent).  But the trellis I installed was not tall enough and I waited a little too long to harvest them.  So they were, well, stringy.  But I have learned from my mistakes and they should be spectacular this year.  At least I hope.

Sugar Snap Peas-F  One of the lowest grades in the garden because…well they never grew.  I replanted them twice and really thought that I had been successful.  But my “success” turned out to be giant weeds that I spent the summer fighting and no peas in sight.  But I will not be beaten by these peas and will be triumphant this year.  Hopefully.

DSC02505DSC02330

DSC02700DSC02523

Tomato-A  We bought this plant on a whim and ended up with so.many.tomatoes.  We are not huge tomato people, but the sauce and salsa and brushetta is already being planned for this year.

DSC02386

Jalapeño- A A random purchase and we ended up with tons of them.  Way too many for our Mexican nights.  So I gave a lot away and made jelly with them.  I was happy how that turned out and  a single plant does not take up too much space, so it is on the shopping list for this year..

DSC02385DSC02241

Mint-A  We bought it for the mojitos.  And it did not disappoint.  Enough said.

DSC02385

Basil- A+ Probably the most used plant in the garden.  So easy to grow and so easy to use.

Parsley-C Looks pretty and was easy to grow but I did not find a whole lot of uses for it.  But it is a perennial so it is back.

Cilantro-F The only other F in the bunch.  I killed it planting it.  But let’s try it again.

Sage- C-See parsley.  Exactly.

DSC02384

Raspberries- Since they fruit during the second year, I can’t comment on that yet.  But they grew really well and I have high hopes for this summer

Carrots-D Since Derek is allergic to uncooked carrots (i know weird) and I hate cooked carrots these did not used that much.  Not to mention I really struggled with unearthing them.  As in hours digging struggled.  So these will not be repeated.

DSC02843DSC02291

Pomegranate- B  I bought a dwarf pomegranate online last year.  And I had to plant it in a pot because it cannot survive the winter outdoors. So it is growing in my kitchen right now.  There is tons of fruit on it but I am a little unsure how big they will grow.  I can’t wait to see what it does this summer, especially now that it is in a bigger and prettier pot.

I am also planning on moving all the herbs out of the raised beds and into pots on the deck.  Why?  First of all I want to free up some space in the beds for some new things. And my hope is that if they are closer to the kitchen that they will be used more often.  And last but not least, the more pots I fill with herbs , the less I will have to fill with flowers.  There will be flowers of course, just not every pot.

So with all the new space what is going in there?

Here is what I am thinking, but I am open to suggestions and to my whims when I am staring at plants and I decide something looks good.

-Cantaloupe-  I love this fruit and they are not cheap at the store.  From what I read they take a lot of room but I am up for the challenge.  Maybe.

-Spinach- This will like lettuce in that we will not be munching on it in July, but we have been trying to eat more of it.

-Grapes-I really want a grape arbor.  Just need to figure out a place for it that will not look dumb.  We will see….

-Red Pepper- We use this a lot in cooking and hopefully it will as easy as the jalapeño

-Potato-  I am considering this but am still unsure.  They are cheap at the store and we really should not be eating them that much.  But I really like them.

-Asparagus-I think I might give this one a whirl because we should be eating more of it and it a perennial

So what do you think?  Anything I need to be adding or subtracting off my list?

Photobucket

"Secret" Family Recipe

Conversation at Home Depot last May-

J: Should we put a tomato plant in the garden since we aren't big tomato eaters?
D: Let's just get one and that way we will have just a couple for some salsa

Guess I need to stop fertilizing.......

Last weekend this was our "bounty" with still tons of green tomatoes still on the single plant. So we either needed to find a way to preserve them or set up a road side stand.

Derek's family is Italian and they love to make their own sauce so we had the idea to use the family recipe and all the tomatoes to make some homemade pasta sauce to freeze for nights we don't feel like cooking.

Some background on and Derek and my cooking styles- Derek is not a big recipe follower. A little bit of this, toss in some of that etc. No measuring cups or spoons are needed when Derek is cooking. I, on the other hand, like to follow recipes closely. I like to have them come out the same way every time and have been described by my husband as a "chemist" in the kitchen with all the measuring I do.

OK now that you have background, I bet you can guess how the family recipe was given to us. Yep totally in Derek's style.

J- How much onion should I chop?
D- I dunno....my mom said a lot
J- How much is a lot? Like how many cups? Or even how many onions?
D- Don't know....chop up one more and that looks right.
J- What do you mean it looks right....how do you know that your definition of "a lot" and your moms is the same?
D- Trust me

So we boiled, chopped, smushed, mixed and simmered. The house smelled awesome all day. And I have to admit it tasted awesome too. Which works out well considering this is what our beer fridge freezer now contains-

No more Ragu for us! I would post the recipe but as you can see from above it probably would not do you much good. I am sure there are tons of awesome ones online and overall this was a great way to spend some time on a Sunday preserving food.

But as of tonight here is our counter again-



Maybe salsa next???

Two Pieces of Paradise

I am not usually a big houseplant person but ever since I saw this picture years ago I have been in love with those plants. Of course now years later I have no idea where/who this picture is from...I believe it was someone on the Nest if I had to guess. I also saw a similar picture (same room, different angle) on one of the blogs I read regularly a couple of weeks ago. But now as I am writing this post I cannot find that post anywhere. I know, my Internet research skills suck.

But anyway, I started to hunt for this plant last winter for the kitchen. Of course I had no idea what the name of it was. I went to a nursery and all their indoor plants were way more than I was willing to pay for a single plant. Nothing at Home Depot either. But then I found one at Lowe's for under $20 and this baby has been growing beautifully in my kitchen for the last couple of months. (It is called a Bird of Paradise in case you were curious).

So when our master bedroom was needing something with height, presence and you know earthiness I went out and bought a bird of paradise mini-me. (This time only $8.50 whoo hoo)
The Houseplant family

Here it is all ready to grow in its new big pot.....

I think some more miracle-gro is in order to achieve that height and presence thing....


All the pots for the plants are Homegoods scores. I could never bring myself to drop a hundred bucks on a ceramic pot but I found the big pots at my favorite store for 39.99 and the smaller one for under twenty. They are glazed ceramic and weigh a ton (which is why we put the wheely thing on the one on the carpet) so if you are on the hunt for nice large pots check it out.

It is Not the Prettiest Garden Accessory....

But it is super functional so our rain barrel has a new place in our garden. What is a rain barrel? It is a giant barrel that collects water from your downspout. You then use this water for your plants, lawn or some other non-drinking water activity. So you conserve water at the same time you are not flooding your yards. It is amazing how fast it fills up with just one downspout. It only took one rain storm to fill the entire thing, so I will have a lot of watering to do. Here it is hidden behind the deck-
I have been thinking about getting a rain barrel for awhile since I do so much watering over the summer and our sump pump is constantly running when we have any rain. And maybe I will even admit I was jumping on the "going green" bandwagon. If you look for them online they are expensive and I was not going to spend $100 on something just to save some water, bandwagon or not. So when I got an email that they were doing a free workshop at the local high school I signed up. Or rather I signed us up.....I was worried that I would not be able to carry it to my car by myself so Derek got roped in under the pretense of "It will be fun!" I don't think he fell for it but he did go with me. What a good husband:).

The process was very quick and easy and we did not actually have to crawl into the barrel to install the spigot like This Young House did. But it wouldn't have been bad if we had to since our rain barrel contained Mountain Dew syrup in it's former life and you can still smell the sugary sweetness.

So how did we make a rain barrel in less than 10 minutes? We drilled two holes....one for the spigot and one for the overflow hose and then screwed in the accessories. We drilled the spigot hole as low as possible and the overflow hole as high as possible.


The plastic pieces were provided as part of the workshop but looked like something you could pick up at your local hardware store. The spigot did leak slightly after the first rain, but Derek fixed it very easily with a little plumber's tape.

The top of the barrel was already cut and had a black plastic flower pot in it. We added a screen on top to keep out mosquitoes and other dirt that runs off the roof. That was the extent of the rainbarrel making, so it was very quick and easy. They did say you can paint them and I am thinking that I might try that next year to make it blend in more. Or maybe covering it with bamboo fencing...... oh the possibilities


So we brought it home and carried it to the backyard. Then we set it up on cinder blocks and Derek diverted the downspout so that the water runs into the barrel. If you are installing one, make sure it is on level ground so it does not tip over. They are very heavy obviously once they have water in them and you don't want gallons and gallons of water spilling all over your yard.

Can't wait to get watering without turning on the hose!