4/22/14

10 Dollar Square Foot Garden




Making a square foot or container garden can be easy and thrifty.  This size and style is handy because from any side of the container you can easily reach into the middle to pull weeds, water or harvest. Not counting the soil it was about $10.

4/20/14

Seed Balls: Toss & Grow Gift

Making Seed Balls is a fun, easy gift to make. What is a seed ball you ask? A seed ball is a dirt or paper ball infused with flower or plant seeds.
wedding favors

 Then when out on a walk, hike or around the city, if you see an area that you think could be made more beautiful with flowers, just toss a ball or two in that area and let nature take over and before you know it, flowers or plants are growing in an otherwise barren area.
wedding favors

Seed balls are a wonder wedding favor or Mothers Day gift. They are thrifty in cost, unique and fun!

There are mainly two types of seed balls. Dirt based and paper based. Today I am making both of them for you!

Besides flowers you can also embed edibles such as leafy greens, herbs into the balls also. Perfect for tossing on a hike, and feed the wildlife in the area.  I chose a packet of bee friendly flowers for my friend who has bee hives and a butterfly friendly mix as well as seeds for  herbs and greens all mixed in together.

I consulted with a Wildlife Biologist, and she loved the project, but advised that you should use native plants for the area the seed balls may be going. So since I am sending some to my step-mom in Idaho, I will be looking into what native wildflowers grow there before making her seed balls.

Jan's Tip: The Dirt balls use powdered clay as a main ingredient. The clay helps hold the ball together and dry it out. Clay is available at either pottery supply stores or I got mine at Vitamin World. The powdered clay is also great for making your own facial masks, so the $5.00 I spent on the jar will NOT go to waste!


 Printable Directions
Printable Gift Bag Topper (I'm not much of an artist, but your welcome to  use the printable copy for personal, non commercial use. Please link back here if you share it.)

Seed Ball (Dirt Version)

Supplies:
Powdered Clay
Soil
Seeds
water

Directions:
  • In large bowl or container Mix together:
          5 parts dry clay
          3 parts soil
          1 part seeds
  • Slowly mix in 1 part water. Mix well.  You are looking to make the mixture wet enough to hold together like play-dough  but not sopping wet either.
  • Add in the second part water as needed. Mix well.
  • Roll into desired sized balls.
  • place on a baking sheet or other flat surface and let dry completely. Usually 8-24 hours depending on humidity, temperatures, etc.
Do not seal in bags until completely dry or they may sprout!

Jan's Tip:  I got a dozen small 1/2 inch sized seed balls by using the following amounts: I used tablespoons today. So I used 5 heaping tablespoons clay, 3 heaping tablespoons soil, 1 (ok maybe more like 1 1/2 Tablespoons) seeds, and I actually needed about 3 Tablespoons water for this batch to hold together.

 

 
 Seed Balls (Paper Version)

Sorry I don't have exact amounts of paper and seeds to this version. I used a whole bag of yellow gift bag shred and got about 24 balls/heart shapes out of it. The purple paper I used about 2 sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 scraps of paper and got about 4 heart shapes. Hope that helps.

Supplies:
Paper torn into shreds/scraps(can be newspaper, dryer lint, colored paper)
water
seeds
bowl
blender, food processor

Directions:
  • In a large bowl place paper shreds and cover with water.

  • Let paper soak 2-4 hours till paper is easily pulled apart/broken down.
  • Run scoops of the paper and water through a blender or food processor till it breaks down into a paper mush.(You will need to do this in several smaller batches)
  • Put the batches of mush in a fine mesh strainer and let some of the excess water drain off, but do not yet squeeze all the water out. You'll need some to form the balls.
  • Dump the paper mush into a bowl. When all the batches are done, sprinkle in the seeds
  • Scoop up some of the paper mush and squeeze it in your hands to ring out the excess water, while also forming a seed ball at the same time. (Sorry this picture was of the yellow pulp)
  • Set ball on a flat surface to dry. (see my dirt balls and my paper balls together?)

Using Molds
  • I used these silicone ice cube trays from the dollar store:
  • If you want to mold the seed balls, like these hearts, lightly ring out a scoop of the paper mush in your hands but not completely. 
  • Press it into the molds.
  • When the molds are full take a towel or paper towel and press firmly on each mold to draw out as much excess water as you can ,while at the same time compressing it together as tightly as you can. (this will help it to hold together when it's dry)
  • Takes about 24 hours to dry in the molds.
 
I found this version to be slightly more crumbly than the balls,so pressing and compacting them well in the molds will help. Also no large seeds, it'll  break apart.( I lost 2 hearts due to large seeds and not compacting them down as much as I could on my first trial)
  


4/18/14

Growing Garlic Part 2: The Spring Growing Season

This is part 2 in a continuing series on growing your own garlic. To read the first post click here. At this point you should find yourself in springtime. The garlic has survived the winter. In early fall when you planted it, it developed a root system and sent some green leaves up through the soil.

Here's what you need to know to keep your garlic growing as healthy and big as possible.

Watering:
Every few days-once a week:


Garlic likes moist soil but not too moist. Too much moisturer encourages mold and plant disease. To check if it is too moist, push your finger through the mulch and into the soil near the root base of a few of your garlic. If the soil is muddy and super wet, then remove some of the mulch to help it dry out the soil. If your fingers come out dry it's time to water.

How much water? It depends on how hot and dry your spring is. Usually about an inch or so of water per week is enough to keep the garlic happy, but do not let them dry out too much.


Growing:
Every plant expends only a certain amount of it's energy on growing as a plant. The following tips will help you direct that energy into growing the garlic bulb as large as possible.

The leaves that started growing in fall will continue to grow. Keep them trimmed to about 8-10 inches. Any longer than that will inhibit the growth of the bulb.

In late spring you should start to see green curly scapes growing from the center of the leaves. Clip these off near the base. Do NOT throw the scapes in the compost pile. They are not only edible (think the green part of a green onion/scallion) but are delish in your cooking! Just steam or stir fry them and add them as you would the green parts of a green onion!
Photo Credit http://extension.umd.edu/learn/vegetable-profiles-garlic:

Weeding: 
Keep the garden bed weeded as much as possible. Garlic likes to have room to grow and doesn't like being too crowded, so keep those weeds down to keep your bulbs growing large.

4/15/14

Dehydrating Green Onions

Dehydrating Green Onions is an easy way to preserve them if you find yourself with a garden overflowing. I do freeze them as well, but love to dehydrate them along with other herbs and turn them into a savory herb blend or even just plain green onion powder to cook with.

 
I do find that larger pieces of green onions do not really rehydrate well.  They turn rather stringy and tough, so I find it's best to freeze the onions I want to mix into recipes for soups, salads, etc. and  turn the dried onions into herb blends and powders to season with.
 

To dehydrate cut green onions into small pieces. (You can cut them smaller than I did!)
Dry on lowest setting (if you can adjust your temperature) for 4-5 hours till completely dried and the onions are easily crumbled.

From here you can puliverize into powder in a food processor or crush into small pieces to mix into a Savory Herb blend with dried herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage

Store in cool, airtight container.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


4/13/14

Handwritten Recipes Gift Ideas

If your parents are anything like my parents, they don't NEED anything, and never give you any gift ideas either. Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Birthday's become such a challenge!

For the month of April  I decided to post one no cost or low cost, yet meaningful or fun Mothers Day  gift idea for your mother, or even your daughter every Monday. Last week I wrote about making your own "Where I'm From" gift.

In today's digital world, our children are growing up learning to cook by reading recipes off their tablets or smart phones. This is great, but there is something missing in that. Something personal. There is just something about pulling out an old recipe card, with your mothers or grandmothers handwriting on it, faded some with age, and tattered a little from use that just makes the food taste better! It's the love, the heritage!
A few months back,  I ran across an old birthday card written to me years ago by my grandmother. Oh, how I had forgotten what her handwriting looked like. I recognized it instantly without having to read the signature on the card. It made me feel like I had a piece of her again.


It may seem like a simple gift now. And even maybe underappreciated when you give a set of handwritten recipes to your daughter, grand daughter, or nieces. But life is that way. When we are young we don't always cherish what we should, but as we get older and lose our precious loved ones through the years, those simple gifts of time and thought become priceless and treasured.

This year, think about hand writing out a few of your best loved or well known recipes onto simple index cards or paper. No need for fancy recipe cards, they never look as good copied over the years (and believe me, someone in your family is going to want a copy later on from your daughter of your famous salad, cake, etc.)

Here are a few of my favorite ways to share those recipes!
  •  Write them on cards, stack them up and tie a pretty ribbon around them. Write a note or better yet share a story of you learning to cook or when you burned something etc. They'll realize that no one starts out great. We all have beginners mishaps (ok even not so beginners mishaps too!)  Encourage them, remind them of how food brings families together.


  • Turn those recipes into kitchen towels! I have an old post from a few years ago that will show you how! Recipe Dish Towels  I have had children make them for their mothers or grandmothers writing "their" version of those favorite cookie recipes and I have made them for my Step mom for a mothers day gift from old family recipes also.
     


  • Copy those handwritten recipes at a copy store and have them bound into small cookbooks. Share photo's  and stories.  I recently made a scrapbook style cookbook for my daughter with preserved recipes, photo's and stories from both my side of the family and my husbands and was able to go back at least 4 generations. It took planning and asking relatives for recipes, photo's and stories. I took a year to do it, and gave it to her at Christmas. It's a one and only copy. I did manage to scan in every page to a photo website so I can print out a cookbook for my son's wives at some point. Yours doesn't have to be this ambitious, but printing a cookbook is a great way to share them with multiple people at once.




What do you do to share your families treasured recipes?
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