I put away my first small batch of pickled peppers this weekend to have on hand for summer barbecues. This batch is for those with delicate tastebuds who can’t take the heat. I paired banana peppers from my garden with a bunch of cheyenne peppers I bought at the farmer’s market.
We will use this as a condiment for burgers on the grill. I modified a recipe I like from Food Network, using what I had on hand:
A raised bed built for me 5 years ago changed my life. It was my introduction to gardening, which became a passion. It changed how I ate and what I fed my family. So this year I made it a goal to learn how to make a raised bed and to give it to someone else. On Saturday, I made one. My mom will get it for Mother’s Day.
This particular bed is 2×4 feet and 31 1/2 inches high. The bed’s depth is 10 inches, which is fine for herbs, flowers, lettuces, peppers, cucumbers, bush beans — anything not too tall such as corn or too deep like sweet potatoes. It is good for beginning gardeners or those who don’t have large spaces. It about the size of a foosball table.
My friend, Art, gave me the building plan last weekend, which I posted and urge you to follow. I updated the tools list to include a few more that I needed. My contribution here is primarily step-by-step photos and tips. Like Art, I am not experienced at building things. This is my first carpentry project unless I count a pig-shaped cutting board from 8th grade woodworking class. Because I had never used a circular saw or electric drill, my husband, Lars, showed me how but then stood back and watched as I cut boards and put the pieces together.
If you want to save time, ask your lumber store to cut the boards to the final dimensions. I didn’t because I wanted to learn how to cut wood. It took me more than 3 hours to make the bed, not counting breaks.
First step: Make a corner of the bed using a 4-foot board and 2-foot board. Im using a cordless drill and 2 1/2 inch self-tapping screws.
Raised beds are selling as fast as my neighborhood garden center can stock them. My friend, Art, took measurements of this tabletop bed and decided to build two for his wife, Doreen. It only took him a couple of hours and a few trips to the hardware store.
Doreen will plant herbs and flowers in her new tabletop garden bed.
“If I can do it, anyone can do it,” he said, confessing his lack of experience building things. Art’s success has given me the confidence to build two of my own raised beds this weekend. Don’t tell me mother, but I’m making her one for Mother’s Day. I’ll blog about it this weekend and show pictures.
Art told me what to buy and how to make a 2×4 ft. garden bed. He had the building supplies store cut the wood to the dimensions he needed.
I made a body lotion with essential oils recently that was rich, creamy and perfect in almost every way except one – the fragrance was barely noticeable. I used grapefruit essential oil to give it a citrus aroma, homage to my Florida roots. But a friend who also was using it confirmed it needed a stronger scent, so I set out to create a new fragrance. I wanted something that would set it apart.
Whether we realize it or not, fragrance is part of the sensory experience of using body creams. When making your own you have to find that balance between leaving no impression and one that knocks you over. The recipe I sought to improve had 8 drops of essential oil for 6 ounces of cream. Here are the original ingredients:
My sour orange pie, recipe courtesy of Liz Dannemiller of Green Flamingo Organics
At a recent field-to-table dinner, I ate one of the best pies of my life. And that’s saying something because my mother makes awesome pecan and apple pies. The sour orange pie I had at Green Flamingo Organics’ dinner on the farm was sublime. Finally, I had found something that deserved to be on the same table as my mothers’ desserts.
So when farmer Liz Dannemiller emailed recipes to her dinner guests, I made the sour orange pie for Easter.
I am happy to report it turned out just as delicious. Not that I was counting slices, but it was eaten just as quickly as my mother’s Lemon Lush.
I learned a cool trick from farmers about how to keep birds away from your garden. It involves no chemicals, no nets and no shotguns. But I did have to sacrifice a long-forgotten taped episode of “Charmed.” Let me explain.
How to keep birds away from your berry bushes
I have 17 blueberry bushes in my front yard garden that are full of blueberries. They are just now beginning to ripen. I know I could throw bird nets over them except that may draw attention in my HOA-regulated neighborhood. (Read here for the tortured but ultimately happy ending of my garden landscape battle.) I was mentioning this to some farmer friends, and they suggested I tie strips of VHS tape onto the bushes.
The slightest wind makes the tape flutter, resembling a black snake. I guess birds don’t have very good eyes. The farmers said it saved their mulberry crop. I think it would work for blackberry and raspberries, too.
As it happens, I have a few old VHS tapes stashed away in a cabinet. After checking to make sure I didn’t mistakenly sacrifice the wedding video or my son’s college football highlights, I struck gold with an old “Charmed” episode. Mothers of teen-age boys need no explanation for why the TV show was taped in the first place.
New produce vendor sets up shop at Winter Springs farmers market.
I received a rude surprise at my local farmers market Saturday. The two local farmers I have been buying from for the past four years didn’t bring their pesticide-free produce to market — in protest — because the market manager brought in another vendor who had more variety.
That’s variety in the form of vegetables out of season and not from this country.
Lisa and Amy, my farmers, have a four-acre family farm 14 miles from my town, Winter Springs. They bring their own produce to market, offering what is in season for Central Florida. I understand seasonal variations because I grow my own food, too. I use their crops to supplement mine.
The new competition, more of a produce vendor than a farmer, had a wide selection of fruits and vegetables. Most of it was from three or four Florida growers in small towns such as Plant City, Hastings and Lakeland. A few of the vegetables offered Saturday were pesticide-free, most were not. Next to the beets and carrots from Florida was Dole-tagged asparagus from Mexico. Tropical fruit hailed from Costa Rica, Peru and Mexico. I know because I asked the vendor.
“It’s part of the 1000-mile food chain,” John Files, the vendor, explained when I questioned its appropriateness at a local farmers market. ”People want it,” John said. “I have to support my customers.”
Those who follow my blog know I am trying to limit my exposure to toxic chemicals in cosmetics and other common products to improve my health. It is one of the reasons I garden with no pesticides — I want to be healthy and live longer! So I perked up when an advocacy group, Women’s Voices for the Earth, started a new campaign called Secret Scents to force better labeling of fragrance and less toxins in our moisturizers, shampoos, deodorants and other products.
This weekend my vegetable garden got a radical makeover. It was time to retire the winter vegetables to make room for the spring garden. This was no small endeavor. I spent a couple of hours Saturday harvesting greens and yanking out spent plants to make enough room for all the spring food I wanted to grow.
Harvesting mustard greens for an Army.
This winter weather has kept me guessing. Lulled by the unusually warm January and February, I planted beans, arugula, kale and beets in my raised beds more than a month ago. Snap peas also went into the ground early and are already climbing a trellis in the back yard. I started other vegetables from seed in trays. But the first half of March brought more cold weather to Central Florida than the rest of the winter combined and made me hesitate on planting the rest of the garden.