December 29, 2009

Oh the weather outside is frightful....

....but the books are so delightful. My hubby and I received many wonderful gifts this year. We especially enjoy anything to do with bees, birds, butterflies and growing our own food. I'm looking forward to spending the cold winter evenings by the fireplace- reading and dreaming of spring.

December 2, 2009

Enjoying the harvest

It has been a while between posts. We have been keeping busy with cleaning up the garden, enjoying our harvest and a new job for me.

Using our harvests has included lots of grilling and fire pit meals along with some wine making. The potatoes have been great cooked over the fire. Our favorite has been the fingerling we grew- Rose Finn Apple. We look forward to trying several different fingerlings next year. It has been fun to grow them in pots and any other containers we can find. We just empty them into the wheelbarrow and have delicious spuds without the digging. I especially like the versatility of the Rose Finn Apple. It is wonderful grilled and for thickening soups and sauces.

Our fruiting plants are still a year or more away from being fully productive but have already provided delicious for fresh eating and wine making. Yesterday we re-racked our Ruby's Garden wine. It is made from all the garden left-overs including black currants, raspberries, strawberries and black cherry tomatoes. Don't laugh. It has a delicate, fruity flavor and it is definitely a one of a kind wine. The black currants lend a lovely red color.

Although we still have plenty to keep us busy, I'm already working on the garden plans for next year. Definitely more raspberry and blueberry plants. I also will give my ground cherry plants a head-start indoors. The toughest decision is which potato varieties to try. We want them all!

September 23, 2009

September 16, 2009

Better with chocolate

Ground cherries have a subtle pineapple flavor and are great alone or made into salsas, pies and relishes. They are simple to grow and are fun to experiment with in recipes. I saw a few blog posts over the winter featuring ground cherries dipped in chocolate and couldn't wait to give it a try. The cute "paper wrapper" they grow in makes a great handle for dipping. I also rolled few completely in chocolate. Since I had the chocolate all melty and ready to go, I figured that a few raspberries should make the plunge as well. They were all delicious.

August 27, 2009

Fresh from the garden: Raspberries!

When we were putting in 25 plants on a hot spring day, I don't think my husband was too impressed with my idea of planting raspberries. However, it was worth the effort. We are getting some every day and will soon have enough extra to save for wine and ice cream. This years "special" will be a raspberry, black currant, elderberry and grape wine because well.... that is what we have. It is fun to be able to make wines that are entirely from our "vineyards". Our other plants are doing well too but this cool summer has affected things. The cucumbers, ground cherries and tomatoes are very slow to ripen. Hopefully we have enough warm weather ahead to still get a good harvest.

August 18, 2009

Ground cherry adventures

Ground cherries have been an interesting plant to grow. The first year we had them I bought a few plants from a garden center and they did well. The next year, I started some from seed and had volunteers all around the gardens from the previous year. Both the ones started early indoors and the volunteers did equally well. It was a bumper crop for fresh eating, wine-making and recipes. So this year I decided to just count on the plant reseeding itself. I left ground cherries where I wanted plants and figured they would take care of the rest themselves. Well, it didn't quite work that way.

I have ground cherries in odd spots where I never grew them and ZERO plants where I encouraged them. The ones I have are gangly because they popped up among the squash, tomatoes, beans, raspberries and other plants that shaded them. We will get some to try in recipes but not as many as I was hoping for.

Next year, I will go back to starting some indoors to make sure they grow where I want them to. Oh well. Never a dull moment in the garden. Besides I had an appetizer of just picked "chocolate cherry tomatoes" and raspberries tonight out in the garden so I am happy!

August 12, 2009

Tree house?

We saw this on our travels through Chippewa County in Wisconsin today. Couldn't resist stopping for a picture. It was a gorgeous day for traveling through the scenic Wisconsin countryside.

August 10, 2009

Happy gardening

Another happy day harvesting and weeding out in the garden. Now it is time to put together a meal including a cucumber from a neighbor, a small white/yellow cucumber, mountain rose potatoes, salad burnet and a few other herbs from our raised bed gardens. I snacked on a few raspberries without sharing. Please don't tell my family. The grapes are Swenson Red and are nicely turning color. I'll share those.........maybe.

August 6, 2009

Berries, wines and other garden treasures

This isn't the first raspberry from our garden this year but it is the first one we didn't munch before we could take a picture. We planted these this year and so far we are pleased. It is called Autumn Britten and they are huge with a delicious tangy sweet flavor. It looks like we should have a good yield with plenty for eating and sharing with a little left over for wine making.

We started a wine this week with our red currants and blackberries from a friend. So far the flavor is very good. Hopefully the delicate fruity taste will survive the fermentation process.

Our cool weather this summer is slowing down the tomatoes a bit. However, a few are taking on a hint of blush and we hope to have some ready to eat by next week. The green peppers look good even without warm temperatures.

I planted one squash variety this year: Thelma Sanders sweet potato squash. The seed catalogs identified it as being "enormously productive". That is proving to be true in my garden (maybe I shouldn't have planted so many). I hope they store well! I guess it is time to get my husband working on improving our basement storage area for squash and potatoes. However, I also don't want to distract him from his latest project which is making more raised bed gardens for me. I definitely need more room for corn and potatoes next year.

July 30, 2009

Happy Birthday

It can't be just a coincidence that the beginning of my potato harvest occurs within one week of the birthdays of the only 2 guys I know that would consider mashed potatoes to be a great birthday gift!

These are the adora potatoes and they are delicious. They have been especially good baked and as oven fries. Next week they will be making a short trip from the garden to fire-pit with just a brief stop at the water hose.

The weather has been a bit cool for the peppers and tomatoes but it has been nice to get some rain. We have picked the first two Autumn Britten raspberries and they are wonderful. Hopefully there will be many more to come. We put in 25 plants and 22 of them look like they are doing very well.

July 13, 2009

Hanging out at the vineyards

We think it is cool that we are finally getting grapes on the vines. I guess that the term vineyard might be overstating it a little since we have about 10 bunches of grapes. They will probably be for fresh eating this year.

Our big success is the red currants. We enjoy the tart slightly sweet flavor and think they are very pretty as well. We have started harvesting them and are looking forward to making them into wine. Last year we had a smaller yield and they were mixed in with other fruits. The currant and strawberry wine was a real treat. It looks like our raspberry plants will produce well and they should be good mixed with the currants. We hope to have more red currant bushes next year so we can also make sauces, relishes and other treats with them. They are perfect for a slightly shaded area we need to fill in. The hard part is harvesting them when they look so nice on the plants.

July 7, 2009

A work in progress

The good news is that we have a lot of room to work with in our yard. The bad news is that the weeds can easily fill in the spaces before we do. Our lawn wasn't in great shape when we moved in and hasn't been worth the effort for us. We prefer our flower gardens, fruiting shrubs and raised bed vegetable gardens. Three of our favorite projects are pictured above. The hollyhocks bring back special memories because they are from seed collected by my mother-in-law years ago. The bee balm pictured in the center is a favorite of ours because the hummingbirds love it. The red currants are special because every year near our wedding anniversary, we pick them and make a one gallon batch of "Ruby Lady" wine to be enjoyed the next year for our anniversary. The yard is definitely a work in progress with much left to do. However, we are enjoying ourselves along the way.

June 26, 2009

Rhubarb, rhubarb and more rhubarb

I'm very pleased with how the gardens are doing. I've been picking a lot of peas, lettuce and herbs this week. The rhubarb is doing especially well. I haven't had time to try any new recipes but have come up with a tasty way to use it up. I have mixed rhubarb and dried fruit with juice and cooked it over medium heat until it begins to thicken. I add a little stevia or other sweetener if needed. Chill and serve. Tonight's combo was dried mango, cranberry juice and rhubarb. Yesterday I used dried apricot, rhubarb and orange juice. I didn't measure very carefully but it seems to work with a little more than a cup of chopped rhubarb, a little less than a cup of dried fruit and about 3/4 cup of juice. I look forward to experimenting with more rhubarb ideas until the tomatoes, beans and potatoes begin to take over the garden.

June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

I had just enough time this morning to weed and then harvest a tasty breakfast of snap peas, alpine strawberries and lettuce. It went nicely with a glass of "Rhubarb-ade". Now I'm headed to Minneapolis for a nice celebration with family.

June 20, 2009

Why do I garden?

These pictures answer that question! Yesterday morning, I was able to walk bleary eyed out to our garden and pick fresh snap peas for breakfast. Add one deviled egg and it was the perfect start to the day. Just last weekend we saw the first bloom on the snap peas. A few days ago there was one lone pea pod to be harvested (I broke it in half and split it with my husband). Today they are really taking off. In theory I plant these mostly to give to my Mom. Giving them away seems like a great idea.......until mealtime :)

June 12, 2009

Wines from the garden

Some of our cool and rainy days this week weren't good for doing much in the garden but were perfect for wine making. We are getting ready to bottle our elderberry wine and have enjoyed a bit of it already. Its rich flavor went very nicely with grilled buffalo steaks. I'm hoping to be able to get some more elderberries this year for an elderberry grape wine.

I just started a gallon batch of the wine that only I seem to be excited about. It is made with lilac flowers, elderberry flowers and dried pears. It is just starting to ferment and has a very delicate flavor that shows promise. Now if you just can't wait until next year to try your own batch of lilac wine, you might even be able to order it on-line. My husband and I have found a few fun North Dakota wineries in our travels. Maple River Winery has some good sounding wines including Lilac, Aronia, Pumpkin and Honeycomb Plum (I've only tried one of their wines so far but look forward to getting more on our next ND trip). They also have Dandelion Wine which is something I was sure I wouldn't like. My brother-in-law made a batch once that had a lovely delicate flavor which has left me wanting another sip of dandelion wine but not wanting to spend hours picking off the petals to make it.

All of our wines have been fun to try although I do have a tendency to prefer making the quirky ones. My husband prefers the plain fruit wines which is why I planted 25 raspberry bushes this year. I on the other hand am eyeing a recipe for Pea Pod Wine.

June 7, 2009

Remarkable Rhubarb

Rhubarb is pretty impressive nutritionally. One cup of diced rhubarb has 26 calories, 6 grams of carbs, 2 grams fiber, 9.8 mg Vitamin C (16% DV), 105 mg Calcium (10% DV) and 351 mg Potassium (10% DV). Unfortunately it seems to be at its best when loaded down with sugar. I'm still looking for savory rhubarb recipes. I just came across "The Rhubarb Compendium" which is filled with recipes and information. I am especially interested in trying this page of recipes. The Pork with Rhubarb sauce sounds interesting. I will have to try a few of the recipes and report back on the results. I just have to save enough for a batch of rhubarb wine. I may well go from wondering what I'm going to do with all the rhubarb to wishing I had more to experiment with.

June 2, 2009

Today's harvest

I spent an enjoyable day with friends making (and snacking on) delicious butter and ice cream along with a bit of Sangria (homemade and awesome) and breads. I had to head back home to sleep before working the night shift tonight. After all the good but rich foods earlier today, supper was light and fresh from the garden. We have been picking quite a few hailstone and french breakfast radishes. The greens are also at their peak. All I needed to add was a dressing made out of lovage, basil, salad burnet and chives. It was good with a glass of rhubarbade ( made with stevia). I'm still looking for good rhubarb recipes if you have some. I try to limit sugar (although I wasn't too good at that today) but it is hard to find good ways to use rhubarb without sugar. Of course, we will make rhubarb wine one of these days! We have bought rhubarb wine before but didn't like it much. We will probably try to make it with strawberries or raspberries.

May 31, 2009

Lupine & Columbine

We have had such beautiful weather the last few days that it is much more tempting to head to the garden after work than to the computer. However, I have been wanting to post a few photos. We don't grow many flowers because we concentrate on edible landscaping but we do have a few things planted for the hummingbirds and butterflies. We haven't seen any butterflies around the lupine but the hummingbirds have taken to the columbine. Now I'm headed back out to the garden to work in the last bit of daylight. Hope all is growing well wherever you are!

May 16, 2009

Spring report

Today marked my official end of grad school for now and the beginning of gardening season. The yellow rose was part of the graduation ceremony and seemed just ready for a photo.

It will be nice to have some time to get out into the garden. However, the lows here may be close to freezing tonight so I'm not going to put tomatoes, peppers, melons and squash out yet. I hope things will warm up next week. The front yard has the scent of lilacs while the fragrance of clove currants is wonderful in the back yard. The alpine strawberry plants you see in the picture are doing well. They are a bit tedious to pick but are a wonderful treat. Even though it is still early in the season, we have been able to harvest lovage, baby greens, asparagus and rhubarb. We are even thinking of "harvesting" the lilacs after having seeing a recipe for lilac wine. Sounds good or too weird to try?

May 7, 2009


We spent the afternoon transplanting herbs and flowers

Our meal was asparagus straight from the garden

The lilacs will be in full bloom in a few days

Sunny day with wisps of clouds in blue skys

Temps in the mid 70's


Just waiting...

I love growing herbs. They are an easy way to add a lot of flavor to a dish in no time. I always include room for thyme, dill, rosemary, chives and lovage in the garden. However, basil is one of my favorites. This year, I started bush basil plants from Pinetree Garden Seeds for my garden and to give away. The plants will be lovely, delicious and just waiting to be picked as they sit in a pot by the front door of our house. I can wait to toss basil, rosemary and salt with tomatoes fresh from the garden!

The basil plants pictured here are just waiting for warmer weather before they head outside.

April 24, 2009

Introducing: our first veggie of 2009

A few days ago, we were concerned that our asparagus bed wasn't going to produce at all. Yesterday we were seeing little hints of greenish white poking through the soil and today we have a few lovely spears. The 80 degree days and rain have really helped. Now it will be wet and cold for a few days.

This is our third year with this bed so we will harvest lightly. I ate one raw while I was working in the yard. There is something special about munching veggies while still out in the garden. Although asparagus is great raw, I would also love it if you have any good recipes to share.

April 22, 2009

Urban Garden Project

The Urban Garden Project is relatively new but I find it to be a great resource. They have had interesting posts and great "how-to" videos for projects. Their goal is to encourage and catalog the creation of 100,000 urban gardens by 2020. If this sounds at all interesting to you, I recommend checking out their blog.

We started gardening in 2002 with the goals of seeing how much of our food needs can be met from our gardens and reducing the amount of grass we grow. It has been a fun project that was greatly helped by turning over our backyard to raised bed gardens. Soon after we moved in to this house, we decided that a small scraggly patch of weeds/lawn directly in front of the house was not worth the effort of trying to grow grass. We dug it up and planted red currants, alpine strawberries and flowers. One of the fun parts of it has been the red currant wine we make each year. This years red currant strawberry wine has been a real treat. Definitely an improvement over lawn which I suspect does not make a good wine.

Next we turned our sights across the sidewalk to our good sized front yard. It would be a bit unusual in our neighborhood to use it all as a garden so we have taken this slowly. At first my husband reluctantly agreed to a few feet of garden next to the front sidewalk. This small garden has taken off and creeps forward a foot or so every year. It has a variety of flowers in addition to ground cherries, lemon balm, sage, thyme and lovage. This summer I'm ready to add some marigolds, dill and rosemary.
I was out working in the front yard gardens today and it is great to see many plants growing already. The loveage and chives are doing well and I harvested some of both that I will make into a salad dressing tonight. My seed starting has gone well too and the marigolds are just waiting for our last frost date before making their appearance out in the gardens.

Writing about this garden brings me back to the Urban Garden Project. They had an interesting post on Front Yard Gardening in case you are thinking of giving up the lawn. If this sounds interesting to you, you are already lawnless or even if you plan to keep your lawn, I would love to read your comments here.

April 10, 2009

Growing potatoes

Do two people really need 20# of seed potatoes? Apparently my husband and I believe that we do! Last year we grew Purple Viking and they were very good. They made especially tasty mashed potatoes but we enjoyed them roasted over the fire pit as well. We ran out of them in January but they stored that long fairly well. We also planted some Russets. We hadn't planned on that but our co-op had some on sale that were sprouting so we grew those too.

This spring we will plant Carola, Adora, Mountain Rose and Rose Finn Apple along with Purple Viking. It sure looks like a lot of potatoes to grow in a small area but it works well. Last year we used five Smart Pots and a 4x4 raised bed for potatoes planted in a mixture of leaves, grass and soil. We hilled more of the same mix on top as they grew. We really liked the Smart Pots because we just had to pour them into the wheelbarrow at harvest time. The russets were planted right into the soil in one garden and then hilled with more soil later.

I know that spuds are cheap at the grocery store but there are so many fun varieties to try that we will only get by growing our own. Next year 30# of seed potatoes?

April 5, 2009


What a difference a few hours makes. I worked the night shift, went for a snowy bike ride this morning then went to sleep. I woke this afternoon to SPRING, or at least what passes for spring here. I went for another short ride. It just feels great to be back to outdoor riding. The picture was taken with the nearby Chippewa River in the background. Not even a hint of snow was left on the ground. I also made it out to the gardens to continue preparing the raised beds and listen to the birds singing. A good day!


Just another beautiful spring day. Looks like a great time for a bike ride! Maybe I better bring out the mountain bike tires again. I thought I could retire them for the season. Well at least the snow is likely to be gone by later today. That is the best thing about spring snows.

After a short ride, it's nice to head down to the basement to check on the seed starting projects. The dill, parsley and basal look great. It is still about 5 weeks til our last frost date but it is nice to see some green. I hope things are a little more springlike in your neck of the woods!

April 1, 2009

We have a plan!

It snowed overnight, the skies are gray and the temps are in the upper 30's. Not a great day to work outside but nice for planning and dreaming.
Gardening and yard work became much more fun once we decided to reduce the amount of lawn we have and add raised beds. However, I have been too busy with school to really use our gardens to their full potential. This summer will be my first in a while without homework so I am planning on really having fun with gardening. We especially enjoy growing fruit and vegetables. Here are the areas we have to work with. I hope to report much tasty success with this years projects:

The Fenceline Garden: Has wild blue lupine, lovage, red currants, black currants, blueberries, raspberries, ground cherries and rhubarb. With a little luck I will get some butterfly weed to survive and thrive next to the lupine plants. I also plan to add some coral honeysuckle.

The Triangle Garden: is new and will have raspberries planted along with miscellaneous vegetables.

The sunny part of the 4 Tree Garden has elderberries, raspberries, lovage and horseradish and I will plant swiss chard. The rest will be ferns and other shade lovers.

The Postage Stamp behind the deck has hollyhocks, bee balm and false dragonhead.

The middle of the yard is our raised bed gardens. The blue squares and rectangles represent what we already have. The purple shapes are on my “dream list”. I’m told by my builder/husband that they will appear late this summer or next year.

The diagram is a little rough and not to scale but it gives some idea of what we are working with. We also have 2 garden areas in our front yard. Overall, we don’t have a lot of space to work with but it is not bad for an in town property I guess. I can’t wait to post the tally of this years crops. The hardest areas to work with have been the shady spots. They still need work but have been a nice cool place to escape to during a warm day of yard work.

March 27, 2009

If I could only have one garden tool...

Well I really couldn't choose just one tool but I definitely have a favorite. I bought the Twist Tiller last year and really used it a lot. The feature I found handy is the cross bar at the bottom where you can use your foot to push it into the ground. The tiller is very durable and easy to use. I was out with it yesterday getting some of my garden areas ready for planting. It won't replace our mechanical tiller for big areas but it is nice for working on the many little spots I have to till. No this isn't an advertisement. I just like my little tiller. I would love to hear about what item is indispensable in your garden.

March 21, 2009

Happy Spring!

The weather in Wisconsin can be so weird and wonderful. Two days ago, all the snow had melted and it was perfect gardening weather. Last night we had a very pretty snowfall of huge, fluffy flakes. Today it is back to being comfortable gardening temperatures again. This morning I was out crunching through the snow and gardening in t-shirt and shorts. Happy spring!

March 18, 2009

Garden Therapy

Temperatures are in the mid 40's this morning and the sun is shining bright. I had no choice but to do a little work in the garden today! It was so relaxing to be out there again. It's way too early to plant but a good time to start cleaning things up. I will have at least 10 raised beds to work with this year and I'm really looking forward to it. We have a relatively small space but are trying to grow as much as possible in it.

So far the raised bed tally is:
(2) 4 X 8 beds
(6) 4 X 4 beds
(2) 3 X 8 beds
Still to come this year or next:
(2) 4 X 4 beds
(2) 4 X 8 beds

March 16, 2009

Ground Cherries

This evening I was looking over recipes using some of the things we grow. We planted ground cherries a few years ago and are finding as we expected that ground cherries are forever. They reseed very easily but that is fine with us. They have been nice for fresh eating, wine making and chutney. I just ran across a recipe suggestion for chocolate covered ground cherries. I will have to give it a try. This year I will also make a ground cherry pie. I usually don't eat wheat but this looks like a nice recipe to make for guests. They can eat the pie while I sip on some ground cherry and pineapple wine. If you aren't familiar with ground cherries
click on this site to learn more.
Ground Cherry Pie
2 1/2 cups ground cherries
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water
1 (9 inch) pie shell

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
Wash ground cherries and place in unbaked pie shell. Mix brown sugar and 1 tablespoon flour and sprinkle over cherries. Sprinkle water over top. Mix together 3 tablespoons flour and 3 tablespoons sugar. Cut butter in until crumbly. Top cherry mixture with crumbs.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 375 degrees F and continue to bake for 25 minutes.

March 3, 2009

Looking for Ruby

As I noted in my last post, my husband loves to have plants that attract butterflies. For me it's the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird I look forward to seeing. Sure a feeder placed on our deck has been an easy way to attract them but I'm trying to plant flowers they may like too. They always check out our hollyhocks that are by the feeder but avoid anything low to the ground that I would usually expect might attract them. This year we will add a few planters on the deck rails and try some new plants too. I've ordered Lonicera sempervirens (coral honeysuckle) 'Major Wheeler' from Niche Gardens and I have hopes that it will both fill in a large open area we have along a wood fence and bring in the hummers. I always enjoy watching their spring trek to my backyard at this site.

I've had fun looking over my seed packets and getting ready for my April seed-starting. However, I am especially eager to get my plant orders this spring. I will be done with school and have a little more time for gardening. So far I'm planning on adding more elderberries, raspberries, strawberries, plums and blueberries in addition to quite a few perennials I will start from seed. It will be a lot of work and I can't wait!

Thanks for visiting!