Well guys, it’s been a great ride, but I am incredibly happy to announce that we are done!!  Aside from some decorating in the future (already thinking a fountain in the center and trellis at the entryway), this garden is up, running, and functional!

This past weekend, we got the remainder of the dirt filled into the last  beds – and the top layer of mortaring done on the corner bed, as well as the backside wall.   Then we added some worm castings to the dirt and mixed it up!!  Worm castings, by the way, are AMAZING for the soil – and if you are starting from scratch, I highly recommend adding some to your beds before planting.  It’s relatively cheap and can be found at just about any nursery.

Next, we planted some tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers!  Check out our progress!

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Last thing on our “To Do” list – is wait.  (I hate this part)  I have more goji bushes, echinacea, and 25 strawberry seedlings coming in the mail any..day..now.  And I can’t wait to get them in the ground!  I’m also waiting on my herb seeds for that small corner bed.  :)  This is one of the best parts of having your own garden – planning what you are going to plant (and eventually harvest)!

Now, I do believe a celebration was in order this afternoon!  Nothing like grilling some grassfed burgers and corn, and having home-grown salad to go with it! But we needed something a little extra..

Remember those radishes we started as seeds in January?  They were ripe for the picking!  Just look at these beauts!

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Needless to say, our tummies were thanking us that day!  Cheers!

Comments Off on And We’re Done!!!, Written on May 4th, 2015 , General

Yesterday  was a great day for progress, but I am more than happy to be sitting at the pc uploading pictures today!  The temps are getting higher, and that means we have to finish up our project pronto!

We were hoping to get our gardens done yesterday, but it just didn’t happen as quickly as we had hoped.  We did, however, get 2 of the 4 beds completely finished – and that only leaves 2 more to go next weekend!

So, let’s take a walk down memory lane and see what we did yesterday…

We had the beds pretty much put together last weekend, however, they still needed to be mortared to hold the rock together.  Technically, you could skip this step if you wanted – but if you have children, pets, or a tendency to kick things as you move around, you would greatly benefit from having the sturdier frame in your beds. So grab yourself some mortar mix and get to work!

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Once our beds – and the exterior wall around our garden area were mortared and drying, we began to till the dirt inside the beds using a hand tiller.  You could also rent (or buy) a larger electric tiller, but this one worked out just fine for us.

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Next step is filling your beds with dirt!  Don’t get me wrong, it sounds like such an easy statement, but this was hour after hour of loading/unloading dirt from the back of my husband’s truck with a wheelbarrow – then dumping it in the beds.  Rough work, but we’re getting there!!

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First bed almost finished!  Take a break, drink some water, and get back to work!

We finished out the day with the large bed, and to commemorate the days hard work, I went ahead and put my 2 happiest goji bushes in their new home.  :)

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Don’t they look beautiful??  Not as beautiful as these beds are going to look once we’re all finished!

We have a busy week ahead – I have several plants coming in the mail I had ordered in January, and they have to go into the 2 finished beds pronto!  Then, next weekend, we finish out the other 2 beds and begin planning our summer/fall crops!  Excited??  I definitely am!

Stay tuned to see our backyard garden finale next week!

Comments Off on Almost There!, Written on April 26th, 2015 , General

Today, we will call “the day of granite”.  Decomposed granite – and granite rocks.  You’ll be lifting so much granite, you’ll never want to see it again!  Now, you might ask, “can’t you just use wood for the beds?”  Absolutely!  And it would be cheaper to go that route, fyi.  But one thing you have to remember with wooden beds, is that wood rots.  And it can be a termite attraction.  Not always, but can.  So best case scenario, you put a lot of work into your beds, only to have to redo the entire process again every few years as the wooden frames begin to break down.  Me, I’m not a fan of having to do anything over again if it can be prevented.  Plus, the granite looks a lot nicer – and can add value to your home!

Ready??  Here we go..

Take a trip to the rock quarry, and you’re going to need as much granite as you want for as many beds as you want.  In our case, we moved about 4 tons of granite today.  Yes.. 4.. TONS.  Insane, right??

Here we go…

Building…

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And building…

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And building!

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It’s actually starting to look like a garden guys!!  I know you’re not nearly as excited as I am, but just pretend for me, ok?  :)

Once the beds are laid out, compact more decomposed granite around them.  We are actually going to add another layer of granite rock to the actual beds in the hopes that the height will deter most rabbits from raiding our vegetables.  But a wire fence around the beds is always an option as well.

Next step, we’re going to mortar these beds so they are more stable, but that’s enough for today, don’t you think?

Here’s hoping our next work day finishes out the job!  And I think we’re close enough now, I can start dreaming about all the “farm-fresh” veggies we’ll be growing in no time!  Until next post, give those muscles a break!

Comments Off on Lookin’ Good!, Written on April 19th, 2015 , General

Alright guys, we’ve been going at this garden bed project for a couple weeks now, and we’ve got some awesome progress!  Let’s go step by step:

Step 1: Plot out where you want your beds – including how large you want them to be.  If you want a designated bed area like we are doing, there is a definite benefit  of not having to fight the grass all the time.  Once you have your area picked, you will need a sod cutter to tear up the turf.  (We were able to rent one from Home Depot pretty cheap)

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Once the ground is torn up, have the kids look for – and pick out the grubs.  :)  Those boogers will eat the roots of anything you plant in the ground, and you don’t want them there!  The worms, however, are extremely beneficial to the soil, so be careful around them.

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Fast forward through several trips to wheelbarrow the dirt away, and next you have to go around the border of the dirt and, using a shovel, create a small ditch around the exterior.  This dip will be filled in with a plastic border – this will further help keep the grass out of your garden.  Once you have the plastic lining in, push the dirt back in to support it.

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Getting tired yet?  If you want a really productive day, go around the exterior side of the dirt with landscape fabric, and use metal pins to keep it down.  This will discourage grass from coming up.  Bear in mind, we’re doing a lot of “a stitch in time saves nine” measures to keep the grass away in the future.  A lot of this could be omitted, but it will create more work for you in the future.  You could also consider grass killing chemicals, but I didn’t want to go that route.  Your garden, do it your way!

Next, you’re going to need a LOT of decomposed granite.  Eventually, you will cover the entire area (that is not part of your beds) with it, but for now, just go around the outside of the bed area.  Once you lay it down, use a steel tamper to compact it down.

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Ok guys, break time!  Next post, you’ll see how progress is coming!  Have a great weekend!!

 

Comments Off on No Going Back Now!, Written on April 11th, 2015 , General

It’s been a while since my last post – but for good reason!  We have been busy working on our backyard garden, and believe me, this is no easy feat!

Remember the seedlings we started in January?  They were way-past ready to go in the ground by March, and we had to act fast!  The majority of the seedlings made the transplant to a bigger space ok, but some of them were weak from being in such a small space for such a long time.

Now here’s the first lesson for today – just because you live in a state where the weather is pretty predictable EVERY year – it WILL have an “exception” when you decide to start a backyard garden.  In our case, snow – all the way up until March!  (I know, in TX, this was crazy!!)  So, unable to get my plants hardened off and moved outside in a timely manner, well, we had to make some sacrifices..

But for the seedlings that held on there – and made it through a slightly-rushed hardening off period, there was reward!  My husband and I had decided this year we were going to start our raised garden beds, and with that realization, we did not want to invest in a lot of pots/dirt when we knew that was not the final plan.  So in the meantime, we purchased “smart pots” to get our seedlings by until the beds were finished – and we purchased some additional seedlings to supplement our current garden.  We’ve got some broccoli, romaine, and kale here – all cool weather vegetables.

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This really was just a jumpstart project – to keep what we had alive, and to get some cooler weather veges growing until it warmed up – and we had the permanent beds built.  But the kids had a blast, and we’ve been enjoying just-picked greens for our morning smoothies for the last couple weeks now!

Seedlings..check.  Dirt..check.  Pots..check.  All we needed was the labor, and the kids were happy to help with that!  (Even the baby “got into it” – literally)

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Just look at these guys now!  And mind you, this is after I’ve been picking here and there every morning.  :)  FYI, it is a good idea to put up a wire fence around any veges you may have going – once the rabbits find out your backyard is gold, you’ve lost your entire investment.

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We also have some calendula growing in the top right corner there.  Remember the benefits of herbal calendula?  I also plan on adding some more lavender, yarrow, echinacea, and plantain to our final garden!  How exciting is this??

So, outdoors are calling, and we’ve got some land to prep!  Next post we’ll have some exciting updates for you!

Until then, get outdoors, and get your hands dirty!

Comments Off on Project Garden Commence!, Written on April 3rd, 2015 , General

One of my favorite parts of a good movie night are – of course – the snacks!  And try as I might to “think healthy”, I just can’t make carrot sticks and raisins a substitute for popcorn and chocolate.  Believe me, I tried!!

So when my daughter started planning our next movie night, I thought, “this time I’m going to do better!  This time I will make yummy snacks that I’ll enjoy – AND they will be healthy!”  So I got started on some amazing healthy substitutes, and I’m glad I did!

First on my list was yogurt bites!  You guys are going to love this!  All you will need is organic yogurt (whatever flavor you prefer), and a dehydrator with paraflexx sheets.
I poured the yogurt onto the paraflexx sheets like so:

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I dehydrated this mess at 125 for 12 hours.  Once it was finished, the consistency was that of taffy – and it was delish!!
Next, I pulled my yogurt “taffy” off the sheets, and placed on wax paper.  Use a pizza cutter to cut this mass into strips – which you then roll up into bite sized bits.

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Dehydrate the bits for one more hour so they don’t stick to each other in the container, and there you have it!  Something to satisfy your sweet tooth – that also helps get those pesky kernels out of your teeth when you eat popcorn!

(Speaking of which, of course we had popcorn too – only we used organic extra virgin olive oil, and Celtic sea salt to flavor it)  Try it, you will be surprised!

Lastly, I needed some chocolate!  But without the sugar.. I mean, we all get more than enough of that already, right??  And I’ve been doing soooo good on my resolutions – why spoil it??

You guys are going to LOVE this!  What you will need is:

1 Avocado
1/2 C Organic Almond Milk
1/4 C Organic Maple Syrup
1/8 C Organic Agave Syrup
3/8 C Organic Cacao Powder
1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1/8 Tsp Organic Cinnamon
Optional – a dash of Celtic Sea Salt

Place all ingredients in a high powered blender, and blend until smooth.  Trust me, you won’t even believe it was made from avocado!  It came out amazing!!  (And believe it or not, the consistency was exactly like pudding!)

Ok, so salty.. check.  Sweets..check.  Operation movie night was a success!

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Of course, if you want to add carrot sticks and raisins too, you are more than welcome to!  But at least you won’t feel deprived now.  :)

Comments Off on Movie Night!, Written on March 9th, 2015 , General

Does everyone have their vegetable garden seeds sprouting?  Just look at ours!  This is less than 1 week from when we started sprouting them!

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Now, this is the sad part (for me, anyway).  Once the seeds start coming up – if more than 1 came up per square, you are going to have to pull all but 1, so they don’t fight over the space.  I know, I don’t  like this any more than you do.  But once “the job” is done, the existing sprouts can grow to their heart’s content!

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(Just 2 weeks after sprouting!)

Soon enough, they will be ready to transplant – and that’s a whole new ballgame!  Hope you’re all seeing some “seedling success”, and if you’re not, don’t fret.  There’s always seedling sales in the springtime.  😉

Comments Off on Growing Growing Growing!, Written on February 28th, 2015 , General

Yes guys, we’re on a roll here!  It’s amazing how feeling better – from making great food choices – inspires you to try new, healthier things.  Not that we were eating all that bad before..but..there’s always room for improvement!

Now, it’s been YEARS since I’ve had jello – for obvious reasons.   Gelatin made from unhealthy animals = not all that great for me.  Add in the sugar, food coloring, and GMO ingredients – and I’m wondering how anyone can say there’s anything decent in there for you!
But I realized something the other day – my older kiddos are 5 and 3 – and they’ve NEVER had jello before!!  I know, right?  They’re so deprived!  I made a mental note to fix that, but in a way that didn’t make me cringe with every bite they took.

Today, we’re doing (healthy) split-second jello!  Well, not including refrigeration time, anyway.

So, I’m going to have you gather the following ingredients beforehand – because once you start playing with gelatin, it’s a quick process to get it in the pan to firm up.

What you will need:

1/4 C Water
1/4 C Hot Water, fresh off the stove
1 1/2 C Organic juice (I tried cherry this go-around)
1 Tbsp Gelatin powder (I use Great Lakes Beef Gelatin – its grassfed!)
8 X 8 Casserole dish – or larger if you choose to double the recipe

Now, this is the fast part.  Pour the cool water into a medium mixing bowl – add the gelatin and mix well.  It will thicken pretty quickly.  Add the hot water – this will thin it out again.  Add in the fruit juice and mix it up!  Pour into your casserole dish:

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Looks good, doesn’t it??  But now we wait..

Cover the casserole dish, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours – then serve!!  Yumm-O goodness without the guilt!

And.. since this jello took a whole 5 minutes to prepare – I even had time to make up a batch of these!

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Homemade marshmallows!  (Well, I already had the gelatin out).  😛

I had posted the recipe for these goodies a while back – here it is for quick reference, as well as a couple gummy recipes that will surely please the kiddos!  (As if the jello and marshmallows weren’t enough??)

Now you can enjoy all these sweet treats without the guilt – and WITH the nutrition!  Enjoy!

 

 

Comments Off on DIY Split-Second Jello!, Written on February 19th, 2015 , General

Alright guys, we’re hitting February now, which means it’s time to get those seeds for your Spring gardens going!  Soon enough, it’ll be time to harden them off and transplant them to the garden – so plan now what you’re going to grow, and get started!

I thought it would be fun to get the kids involved from the bottom up this year – rather than just have them share the spoils at the end.  There’s a lot of work that goes into a garden, and it never hurts to have extra hands that know what they’re doing!  So I had the kids take a class on seed starting this past weekend, and we (of course) had to leave with an armful of seed starting supplies to get the kids excited to try their hand at everything they learned.

We tried to focus on veges that preferred cooler soil temps, so that we wouldn’t have to worry *too much* about a cold snap killing everything once they were in the ground.  So we got some kale, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, and calendula flowers (HAD to get those for my herb garden!)  The only reason I didn’t get tomato seeds is because I didn’t want the hassle of dealing with a warming pad underneath – and an overhead plant lamp above them.  With young kids, that would just be too tempting – so I’m opting for tomato seedlings later in the spring.
FYI – the radishes make a GREAT starter plant for the kids!  They grow FAST, and you could pick the radishes, and eat them right from the growing tray within 25-40 day of dropping the seeds in the dirt!  This is great motivation for kids, who want to see the fruits of their labor quickly.  This should keep them happy while you’re waiting for everything else to produce.

Some other vegetables that do well with cooler soil temps (50’s F) are: Onions, Broccoli, Cabbage, and Kohlrabi.  Enough variety to get you started?

So, if you haven’t done this before, there are a few things you will need:

Organic Seeds of your choice (preferably local so that you have a higher chance of them living/producing).
A germinating tray – I chose an organic coconut lined tray so that I could simply remove each seedling later and place directly into the ground without disturbing the roots.
Special dirt for germinating seeds – regular dirt is too thick and doesn’t allow much oxygen in.  You need the lighter, less dense dirt to coax those seeds to sprout.
Water bottle (to mist the tops once you’ve placed the seeds in the dirt).
Popsicle sticks to write (in permanent marker) what you’re growing – transplant date – and maturity date.  This info should all be on the back of your seed packets.

So this part is easy – first, mix your dirt with enough water (by hand) so that it clumps loosely when you squeeze a handful.  You don’t want it soaking – or too dry.  Now, fill each cell of your germinating tray about 3/4 full with the dirt.  This part, the kids LOVE to help out – so let them!

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Place your popsicle sticks on the side of each cell to label what you’re growing there.  Poke a tiny hole in the dirt, according to the depth on each seed packet, and drop 2-3 seeds in each hole (in case you have some duds in there).  You can always remove the weaker seedling should more than one come up.

Cover with dirt, and mist gently with your spray bottle.  You don’t want a heavier spray to disrupt the dirt/seeds once you have them planted to the desired depth.

Cover your germinating tray, and you’re good to go!  Place in a lighted area, and mist as needed to keep it moist – but not saturated.

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Now, when your seedlings start to come up – and have a couple leaves on them, you will begin to water the bottom of the tray, rather than misting the top.  This way, you don’t get the leaves saturated (they will wilt) – and the seedling will be able to soak up the amount of water they need (not necessarily what you think they need).  Me personally, I’ve always had a problem with over-watering.  I just always assume they’re needing water – big mistake!

Also, once the leaves start to grow on your seedlings, you will no longer need the top on your growing tray – they will need air circulation to grow strong before we harden them off for transplanting later.

So get started on those seeds now, and later, we’ll talk about getting the best dirt possible to move those seedlings into!

Happy Planting!

Comments Off on Sproutin’ Seeds, Written on February 9th, 2015 , General

Hello everyone!  Intrigued by the title?  Today’s post is going to put a healthy spin on a blast-from-the-past candy treat (I’m sure) we’ve all enjoyed as kids! Behold!  The healthy pixie stick!  A probiotic packed way to get another serving of organic fruit into your kiddos (or yourself), as well as Vitamin C.  :)

This is going to be great guys – let’s get started!  Here’s what you will need:

Fruit (I chose bananas)
Organic Coconut Sugar
1 Probiotic Capsule
Paper Straws (Or make your own using regular straws)
Ascorbic Acid (Powdered Vitamin C)
A dehydrator and paraflexx sheets.  (If you do not have one, you could use an oven – or worst case scenario, purchase organic freeze dried fruit)  If you choose to buy pre-dehydrated fruit, make sure it is a crisp, hard form – not a leathery, chewy one.

For the first step, make an ascorbic acid solution of 2 Tbsp vitamin C powder to 4 C water.   This solution will give the fruit a nice tangy flavor, a vitamin C boost, and it will help slow the browning process in the dehydrator.  If you are using a citrus fruit, you can skip this step.

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Next, I sliced about 2 bananas to 1/8″ thick.  Soak them in the vitamin C solution for 2-3 minutes.  Once finished, place the pieces on a paraflexx sheet, and load into your dehydrator.

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I dried them at 125 for 10-12 hours.  Time always depends on the humidity in your area, so keep an eye on it.  You want them crispy, not leathery.  Once they are dried, let hem cool, put them in a ziploc, and place them in the freezer for about 8 hours.

Once the time is up, take the bananas out of the freezer, and blend them into a fine powder.  Add an equal part of organic coconut sugar, and open up a capsule of probiotics into it.  Blend the powders well so they are fully mixed.

Now we didn’t have paper straws to use, so we improvised with regular straws.  My husband used pliers and a lighter, and clamping the end of the straw shut, held the lighter underneath so the ends would melt into each other, sealing the straw.

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Using a funnel, fill up each straw with your fruit powder mix, and there you have it!  A pixie stick treat that will give your kiddos a vitamin C boost as well as their probiotics!!  (Who said you can’t have fun taking your vitamins??)

Experiment with flavors – you could always do strawberry banana, pineapple goji, or papaya mango!  Use your imagination, and have some fun with it!  After all, that’s what candy is all about, right?  😉

 

 

Comments Off on Operation: Probiotic Pixie Stick, Written on January 31st, 2015 , General

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