Friday, February 11, 2011

Amateur Farmers At Work

Living in such a warm place has many benefits. Not many others in the nation can say they plant seedlings in February! This is actually considered our planting season...or one of them, anyway. Getting the little plants ready now will mean our garden will be incredible all summer long! Yes, a garden. We are growing strong.

Walmart was our place of choice to select all of our potential garden components. We found some Miracle-Gro potting soil, Jiffy Cups (which transplant with the seedlings and decompose to provide even more nutrients), and several types of seeds for tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. We don't really have a place for these transplants to end up...yet. Most of the little guys need about six weeks to germinate and be healthy enough to move to another plot of dirt. So that gives us a time frame of when we can work towards getting our garden boxes done! We bought pretty, green pots for the herbs to call home once they are large enough and strong enough to be outside. Though I'm hoping we are now away from the freezing temperatures every night, it still gets down to about 34 degrees. And that's a little too cold for new plants to survive. We want to provide every chance for them to flourish, so they are sitting on two windowsills in the house that receive the most sunlight. I'm going to buy a little water bottle today to help keep the little pots moist and prime for growing seeds. The greenhouse has begun!

To be honest, I really feel like I'm a fish out of water. I've always dreamed of having a garden, and having our own home is a good excuse to finally begin growing plants of our own. I'm intimidated, however, at keeping everything straight! I'm also a little worried about what to do with the food when it comes all at once. My sister and I have therefore begun talking about learning how to properly can. I'm on a mission to become more self-reliant with our food supply, and having our own canned goods in our pantry can be a big part of that independence!

We didn't buy enough Jiffy Pots, so I am headed back to the store today to get more of what we need. Then we can finish planting the seedlings for my herb garden, which I'm thrilled about and know I will use in my cooking! We will also be planting bulb onions and would have done so yesterday if I would have let John plant them randomly in our yard. I really want to do this right and have a place for everything. Without much concern for aesthetics, I am sure this approach frustrates my husband. I just want it all to look nice and feed us at the same time! I ask for too much.

Do you have any helpful hints or suggestions as we begin to design our waist-high garden boxes? Or any gardening tips in general? John is fine and knows what he's doing, but I never refuse reassurance!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Dough Girls

In normal circumstances, being called a "dough girl" would be considered a derogatory term...especially right after the holidays. Can I still use that excuse two months after the holidays? Good. Anyway, being a "dough girl" can have such negative connotation, unless one is referring to the Sour Dough Whole Wheat Pizza Dough batch that my sister and I made at her house yesterday afternoon.

We attended a high-end cooking store's class on how to make pizza and calzones about two weeks ago. Since then, T'liese and I both caught the fever to make homemade pizza for our families! After loading up on all of the necessary supplies, we gathered at T'liese's beautiful home in Gilbert to make a double batch of dough. The plan was to each get several plops (Micah's technical term for a ball of the good stuff) of dough for the freezer.

I am nice to my sister for many reasons:

1)  She's nice to me, so I think it's only right to return the favor.
2)  She has a very cute son who is rather sweet, too. If I wasn't nice to her, she probably wouldn't let me wrestle and growl with Evan.
3)  She has a Nutrimill and Bosch Mixer, two things required to make proper pizza dough.
4)  I actually kinda like her, and being nice is just a reaction to that.

First, we ground up our very own whole wheat flour using T'liese's Nutrimill. This thing is amazing...and twenty seconds later we had enough flour to make a double batch. After grinding up the wheat, the kitchen was already starting to smell like my Grandma's House in Ideeho! Then we measured the rest of the ingredients and added them to the Bosch Mixer. As much fun as it would be to take credit for "our" pizza dough, this mixer actually did all the work for us. Once we got it to the right consistency by slowing adding more whole wheat flour, we left it spinning in the mixer for eight minutes before removing the dough hook. T'liese and I couldn't wait much longer for the rising, so she fired up the oven to "warm" and put the dough inside. Just ten minutes later, the dough had doubled in size and was ready for packaging!

We cut the batch into eight pieces. T'liese formed the dough into plops, and I greased the bags to get them ready for the yummy-smelling dough. We scared away all the air from the bags and then twisty-tied them at the top to allow room for a little more rising as they cooled in the fridge. After being cooled overnight, the bags will be re-tied close to the dough and put in the freezer. They should last about four months, but I know it will realistically be more like three weeks for John and me! I left one dough in the fridge for our dinner tomorrow...that will give the sourdough two days to work its magic!

Needless to say, my sister and I were quite proud of ourselves. We were being so domestic, healthy, and economical in one application! For about $20 a piece, we have enough ingredients to make dough for both our families for the next six months. It doesn't get much better than that. If I gain ten pounds in the next few months, you will certainly know that the dough was a success. And probably well-worth the weight gain!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Wonderful, Free Discovery

It took me a few too many months in this house to realize I can do something small everyday that can have a huge impact on everything else I accomplish!

I openly admit that I'm way too Type-A to not make my bed every day. The three times I haven't made my bed have brought visitors to my door wanting a tour of the new place. Which has only led to my embarrassment that the one day my house isn't in top condition is when I get to show it to others. To avoid such emotional trauma, I now make sure my bed is taken care of every day.

To be honest, though, sometimes the bed doesn't get attention until later in the morning. I have finished my workout, breakfast, shower, and most of my emails by the time I finally get around to making the bed look purdy.

That changed last week, and I can't take any credit since it was accidental. I hopped out of bed and immediately made up the sheets and quilt behind me. And what happened next was nothing short of miraculous! My entire day saw improvements! I felt so much more "finished" in every task I undertook. I didn't wince every time I walked past the unmade bedroom, knowing I would get to it eventually as the morning passed. I got so many projects done and felt more motivated to tackle things that had been looming! Making my bed completely changed my outlook for the rest of the day!

So now I do it each morning, and I actually smile as I pull the crisp, white sheets into place. And then I accomplish so much more over the next sixteen hours! I feel a little silly that I haven't discovered this until now. But doing something so little has really had a positive and large impact on me!

Have you ever experienced a simple change that led to a big result? Please share!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Growing Gifts

We got a knock on our door yesterday afternoon, interrupting our Season 5 marathon of LOST after working in the yard all day. When we opened the door, we found a beautiful little lemon tree looking back at us! John's Uncle Bill and Aunt Ann had promised us a house-warming present of a lemon tree and found the perfect one yesterday while shopping at Home Depot.

I am absolutely thrilled. I use a lot of lemons for my cooking and baking. It will be so incredible to use our own lemons in the recipes. We even picked a spot for it in the backyard and will work over the next few weeks to landscape it. We want to make a beautiful home for our new little tree.

Bill and Ann gave us a tutorial on how to make this little beauty healthy (they have an incredible orchard in their backyard). We learned that the roots grow laterally, not deep. We only have to water it once a month in the winter! And we need to give it citrus plant food about three times a year. We can trim it if we like once it starts growing, but it won't get much bigger than six feet tall. Perfect! And, thanks to the blazing sun here in Arizona, we should paint the exposed trunk with a white latex paint until the leaves bloom out enough to protect the tree from getting sunburned. They are nursery professionals!

Until it warms up enough each night, we are presently keeping our new little buddy in the house in my ice bucket. It would die if it spent a night outside. I guess we now own something that we need to wrap on the cold nights, eh? What a generous, giving gift! We will have this tree for years to come and will enjoy the fruit it will provide.

I want to name the tree...any ideas?

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