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Gardening Gadgets

Since I have shared the past two weeks about planning, preparing, and planing sping crops, I wanted to share a cople of my garden gadgets.  I won’t be planting anything else until the weather warms, most likely the middle of May.  

The first gadget I’m sharing is a row cover.  I purchased it last year on Amazon.  It’s long enough and wide enough to cover all 4 of my beds if I wanted to.   It’s great to use when the weather gets really cold, like this past weekend when snow was predicted and there were a couple of heavy frost.  It was 30 degrees Saturday morning.  It’s made of material that feels and looks like a cheese cloth.  Light can still get to the plants, but are protcted from frost and snow and harsh wind.  We use wooden post to hold it in place.  

Our newest gadget is this Night Guard light.  It is solar powered and at night has a red blinking light.  It is used to detour various animals who won’t come near the light.  We originally bought it to attach to our chicken coup (our latest adventure).  I thought if it will keep animals like racoon away from the chickens then it should keep animals away from the garden as well.  We have deer that have wreaked havic on our garden in the past.  The rabbits and racoon also like to visit the garden.  According to the directions, the light should be placed at about eye level with the animals you wish to keep away.  We have only had this one for about a week.  We plan to buy a couple more and place in locations around the garden area at various heights. (We’ll buy the chickens a new one too.) This light was purchased at Northern Tool for $20.  Northern Tool 

Buying clean barrels and placing them under downspouts is great for reducing the water bill. Remember raised beds must be well watered everyday.

This water pump is used to pump water from the barrels to the hose so we can quickly water the garden.

The journey to a great garden isn’t always easy, but with the right gadgets and a little know how, the end result will be worth the effort.

Spring Planting- The Cold Crops

In last week’s blog I talked about planning  your garden.  This week I want to discuss choosing plants and planting spring cold crops.  Cold crops meaning they can with strand the lower temperatures that are likely during the spring months.  I visited my local plant store over the weekend. (I prefer my family owned hometown store rather than the big box stores.)  As I said last week, my plan was to plant peas, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.  So I went to my local store and browsed through the plants.  I decided on 45 day and 80 day cabbage, and red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and I also decided on buttercrunch lettuce, and an additional strawberry plant.  (The one I planted last year has already started growing, is running, and looks good.)  Look for plants that look healthy and soil that feels damp.  Plants should not look dry, yellow, or wilted.  Buying healthy plants is vitial to a successful garden.  I didn’t purchase pea seeds because I have seeds left from last year.  Seeds can be kept from year to year by storing them in the freezer. I would only use them for a few  years before buying new.  I did a little research that says seeds kept in the freezer are good for a minimum of five years and some can last up to 20 years, depending on variety.  

I came home and began planting .  All my plants had damp soil so they came out of the packs easily.  To get the plants out of the packs pinch the bottom of the packs upward and gently pull the plants out. Next, lay out the plants where you want to plant them to check for spacing. I recommend reading the tags that come with the plants to know how far apart to space them. In raised beds, plants can be a bit closer than tratidional gardening, but the tags give you good information.   Then, loosen the roots by gently pulling them apart.  Next, use a spade to pull back the soil and make a hole.  Place the plant in the hole and cover with dirt. Gently pack soil around the base of the plant.  Always water plants after planting.  I do recommend that you never water plants in the sun.  Either plant and water  in the morning before the sun gets to high or wait until near sunset to go back to your plants and water. This rule applies throughtout the gardening season.  Never water when it’s full sun/hot or it will hurt the plants.

Gently pull the roots to loosen.

Make a hole as deep as the root system.

I planted 3 rows of peas.  Use the spade to make a trench or ditch.  Sprinkle peas down the row and cover with dirt.  Peas like to climb so creating a trellis is a good idead.  We simple use a piece of wire attached to one of the arches.  Since I planted 3 rows, I will place another piece of wire later once the peas begin to grow.

Lastly, raised beds must be well watered everyday.  Catching rain water is a good way to cut down on watering cost.  If your plants don’t seem to be doing well after a few days it may mean that they need some extra nutrients, either fertilizer or Epsom Salt, which acts as a fertilizer.  Once again find a good website, a gardening book, someone at your local plant store, or county extension office to help answer question you may have or to get advise.  

I hope this little bit of information helps you.  If you have never gardened before, I encourge you to make it part of your journey.

Gardening- Spring Planning for Spring Planting

One of my favorite times of year is spring because it means it’s time to start the garden. From my earliest memory my family had a garden ever year.  Over the past few years I have come to truly realize the benefits of gardening: better quality food source, saves money, freeze or preserve for winter, healthy activity, and pure enjoyment of wathcing the benefits of your hard work.  My family always made traditional gardens.  Last year we dicided to try something new- raised bed gardens. Raised beds require a little less work than traditional gardenting so they are good for people with a busy schedule. They also require less room and produce more.  We did pretty good our first year but I’m looking forward to making this years garden better.  Over the next couple of months I will be blogging about gardeining and sharing tips.  I hope you find it beneficial.

As spring approaches, its time to start planning your garden.  What kind of garden do you want, traditional or raised bed?  If you want raised beds you will need to build them.  There are many options. Books, websites, and your local garden center will all help you decide what kinds of bed to create. Next, what vegetables, fruits, or herbs do you want to plant?  I strongly suggest buying a book that will help you to understand which plants do better planted near each other and which plants need to be planted apart.  Then, draw a diagram of your garden and label where you want to plant each crop.  My next recommendation for strating a garden is to make sure you plant by the signs and moon phases. Underground crops should be planted when the between the full to new moon. Above ground crops should be planted between the new and full moon. The Farmers Almcanc is an excellent resource for this kind of information.  This has been done for hundreds of years and yes it does help your crops to grow better. Next, make sure you know the planting times for your area.  This past weekend we prepared our beds for the season by adding compost.  We also planted our potatos and onions.  In East TN, potatos and cold weather spring crops can be planted from mid to late March.  Next weekend we will be planting peas, cabbage, broccli, and cauliflower.  Lastly, before planting you will need to prepare the soil, in tradational garden, by tilling up the soil or add compost to your raised beds and loosening the compost already there. Make sure you purchase compost from a repitable company that has good quality, well “cooked” compost.  Once you have made your plans and prepared your soil or compost you are ready to begin journey as a gardner. 

Draw and label your garden.

My beds are 4X8 feet. The bottom is screen so moles can’t get to the crops. Never use chemically treated lumber around food.  Ours are treated with Linseed Oil. Electrical PVC  conduit is used for the arches and holders. By aligning them in rows they can all be covered by one large row cover (I ordered one from Amazon) in colder weather, like last April when it snowed! 

Filling the beds with compost.

Planting potatos….

Yoga

So I recetnly attended my first Yoga class. I wasn’t too happy about going, but I went anyway.  (My gym changed the schedule and my normal Monday night class was replaced by Yoga.)  I decided I should at least give it a try.  I must admit I did enjoy the class but was worried because I felt like I hadn’t done anything. I’m used to aerobic classes that raise my heart rate and make me sweat. So, I left the gym that first night feeling good about the class but wondering had I really done anything to benefit my body. So, I did a little research.  Yoga has been practiced for approximately 5000 years.  It originated in India.  Benefites include: improves flexability, builds muscle, perfects posture, prevents cartilage and joint breakdown (by taking joints throught full range of movement), protects spine, better bone heatlh (many yoga poses are weight bearing), increases blood flow, boost immunity, ups heart rate, drops blood presure, regulates adrenal glands, increases happiness, lowers blood sugar, helps focus, relaxes you, improves balance, improves sleep, boosts immune system, helps lung capacity, eases pain, and helps prevent some sicknesses.  Believe it or not there are more benefits than those I listed!  It is the streatching and movements involved in the practice of yoga that help the body in a multitude of ways.  Yoga helps various parts of the body to streatch and move in ways that normal everyday living does not allow.  I have learned that there are different types of yoga and also different yogis teach differently.  I would suggest that yoga be a part of your fitness routine. It’s now part of mine and I’m enjoying it.  I also suggest that you talk with the instructor before beginning in order to find the right class and instructor for your needs.  Make yoga part of your journey!

    My favoite things…Egg Cooker

    I just recently purchased a new kitchen gadget and I LOVE it! I bought a Cuisinart Egg Cooker. I purchased my cooker on Amazon for $36.  Yes, I realize that cooking eggs on the stove it not hard, but this machaine does makes it even easier, less time consuming, and less cleanup.  I don’t know about you, but I always either over cook or under cook my boiled eggs because I get distracted, don’t see the water start to boil, and don’t start the timer when I should.  My new egg cooker solves that problem.  No pot or skillet to wash either.  The Cuisinart Egg Cooker  will soft, medium, and hard boil eggs, poach, and make omlets!  Since eggs are such a great protein, I am trying to eat them more often and this machine helps me to do that. The machine comes with all necessary parts and pieces to make delicious boiled or poached eggs or a 3 egg omlet.  Eggs are an “egg-celent” source of protein, 6 grams per large egg, and low in fat, 5.3 grams, and calories, 78 per egg.  They also contain several vitamins and minerals. Compared to other proteins they are very inexpensive. Eggs are great to eat for breakfast, add to a salad at lunch for protein instead of meat, or as a quick snack before or after a workout to help restore your muscles.  This machine is just one way I have found to make my journey as a working mom and wife a little easier. Remember, eating well isn’t hard……  you just need to plan and invest a little in good gadgets!

    All parts and pieces to boil, poach, and make omlets.

    Cook 7  boiled eggs

    Add an accessory to make 10 boiled eggs.

    Graduated measuring cup tells how much water to add to the well,  based on what you want to cook and how you want it cooked.  The cooker senses the amount of water and knows how much to cook what ever type of eggs you are cooking.  They come out perfect everytime.

    To make an omlet- crack 3 eggs into a bowl.

    Add in your omlet ingredients of choice. I use Thrive Life green and red peppers, spinach, cheese (shredded from a block or course with my Pamper Chef cheese grader).

    Pour into the lightly buttered omlet tray. Place the tray onto the cooker. Then cover with the egg shaped lid and turn on the cooker.

    About 12 minutes later ….. (Caution, the lip gets very hot during cooking.  Use a pot holder or towel.)

    The omlet turns out onto a plate without sticking.  I cut it up into pieces to either eat or make a breakfast burrito.

    Now for clean up…let the machine cool and wipe out the bottom of the well. (White vinegar can also be used to claen it, see instructins with cooker.) Next place the omlet or poacher tray onto the top rack of the dish washer or simly hand wash.  That’s it!

    (Note- I’m not a fan of poached eggs so I have not tried to cooked poached eggs with this cooker yet.)

    Picky Eaters and the Kitchen Table

    When my daughter was a baby her favorite foods were squash, green beans, and sweet potatos.  The best part is she still loves these foods.  I stongly believe thtat she still loves them because I continued to feed them to her.  I get very discouraged when I see kids who will not eat healthy foods.  You know the ones…they get labeled as “picky eaters.” So why are they so picky?  They ate healthy food as infants.   So what happened?  I feel like kids aren’t offered those foods any more or at least not very often once they begin eating foods other than baby food.  Society does’t help much considering that every kids menu has nuggets, fries, mac and cheese, and hot dogs as choices.  I’m not a fanatic.  It’s ok for kids to eat those things sometimes. It’s important to remember that fast food and foods with high amounts of presertatives are addictive. Kids will not want good nutrucious food if they are given the addictive kind too often.  So how can this be improved upon? First, parents need to talk to their kids about eating better and make a committment that all family members are going to eat better.   Second, get the kids involved with food choice and preperation.  Let them help shop and cook.  They are move likely to eat what they have helped to prepare.  Even kids as young as two can help.  In order for kids to eat healthy food parents must prepare/offer these choices to their kids.  Next, kids look to their parents for an example.  So go ahead to load up your plate with good nutricious fruits and vegetables.  Lastly, sit down at the table and eat.  I’ve always been a fan of the dinner table but after doing a little research I’m now a HUGE fan of sitting down at the table together and eating.

    • Kids ages 9-14 who ate at the table ate more fruits and vegetables, drank less soda, ate less fried foods, and ate more nutrients
    • Eating at the table provides a good opportunity to introduce new foods
    • Eating at the table fosters more portion control (restaurant meals are 60% higher in calories than meals prepared at home)
    • Kids who eat at the table are less likely to be depressed or committe sucide, have less eating disorders, and delay sex
    • Eating at the table together 5 times per week lowers teen smoking rates, drinking alcohol, and drug use
    • Teens who eat with the family less than 3 times per week are more likely to get lower grades on report cards
    • The table provides the opportunity for conversation that helps expand vocabulary
    • Eating at the table also lowers stress for all family members
    • Familis who eat at the table together save money on food cost

    So what are you waiting for…journey over to your kitchen table tonight, share a meal with the family, talk.

    My favorite things…Food Saver

    As a working mom I don’t have time to go to the grocery store or my local bulk food store that often.  That’s one reason I menu plan and write out my shopping list accordingly.  Buying in bulk or stocking up when I find a sale helps me with my menu planning.  I can journey to my deep freezer rather than planning a trip to the store.  One thing I buy in bulk/on sale is meat.  That way I always have what I need.  It’s also cheaper.  However, I don’t like that way meat looks after being in the freeze for more than a couple of days.  You know that look…brown, ice covered, burnt.  

    My new kitchen gaget is the solution to that nasty looking meat.  It also works great for freezing frutis and vegetables, espically if you garden!  A few months ago I purchased a Food Saver. The Food Saver is a machine that vacuum seals your food into individual bags.  There are two options for bags: bags of various sizes  or a roll that can be custom sized.  The Food Saver is quick, easy, and improves the quality of your food.  The box comes with specific instructions for using the machine and instructions for using both the bags and the roll, which ever you prefer.  It also comes with your first package of quart size bags and one roll of material.  Once you package out your meat just freeze as usual. But, when you decide to use that meat you will be pleasently surprised.  It will look just the way it did the day you bought it.  No brown, icey, burnt mess. There are different models of the machine so do some research before purchasing to find what works best for you, but do purchase a Food Saver….they are awsome! 

    Food Saver

    This meat has been frozen 2-4 weeks and still looks fresh!