Boating + An Almost Farm-to-Table Dinner

Greetings on this dark, but delightfully cool morning (at least in Richmond)!  I hope everyone had a great weekend.

We kicked ours off Friday with dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant and a movie–Red 2.  We saw the first one in the theater when we were still dating and loved it, and the sequel did not disappoint!  If you’re looking for a good suspenseful, action-packed, make-you-belly-laugh movie, I highly recommend Red 2.

On Saturday, we spent the day on the bay.  One of Andrew’s coworkers, Bruce, has a bay house (technically his mom’s) and a boat, and he invited us down for the day.

IMG_1472It was a gorgeous day–warm,with a breeze, but not hot; big fluffly clouds in the sky…

We spent most of the day in the boat, but stopped at a little island beach for a while to eat lunch and relax (you know, because riding around in a boat is so stressful ;-)).

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We also did some fishing from the boat.  Well, Bruce did some fishing (Andrew and I don’t have licenses.)  In a short amount of time, he caught five decent-sized croakers, which he cleaned and sent home with us!

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Driving home we caught this awesome sunset:

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On Sunday, after an excellent worship service at church, Andrew and I (…wait for it… this might surprise you…) worked in the garden.  😉  I weeded;  Andrew demolished a stump and tilled the soil so we could put the strawberry plants in the ground (rather than pots.)  We replanted the strawberries, and planted more green bean, broccoli, carrot, and beet seeds.  Our green beans are doing well and don’t take long to mature, and we just wanted more!  Our row of broccoli failed–one tiny head was starting to emerge just as the caterpillars destroyed the plants.  We planted the beet and carrot seeds in pots with store-bought soil.  As much as we tried to improve our ground soil, it still has lumps of clay and some rocks, which produce gnarly little underground vegetables.  (Exhibits A & B.)  We’re hoping the pots will be more of a controlled environment for them!

In sad garden news, I think we are losing our cucumber plants.  The leaves are getting yellow spots, then shriveling up and dying.

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Anyone know what that’s about?  Is it a disease?  Over/under watering?  I’m not very happy about it.

For dinner last night we enjoyed the fish from Saturday with green beans from the garden and some quinoa:

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We breaded the fish in gluten-free bread crumbs and pan-fried it (healthy, I know ;-)).  Apparently the tails are delicious, but you’ll have to ask Andrew about that.

And now, I’m off to tackle Monday.

What did you do this weekend?
What the heck is wrong with our cucumbers?

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June Garden Update

We have veggies!

In the last few weeks, we have really seen the vegetable garden thrive.  (“Thriving” is a nice way of saying, “Everything is out of control!”)  Perhaps it’s the heat, the rain, or a combination of the two, but it seems as though some of the vegetables came out over night.  I will let the photos do most of the talking today:

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Then and now

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Green beans

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Heirloom & cherry tomatoes

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Hot peppers & tomatillos

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Zucchini & all the viney things gettin’ crazy

Fun gardening fact:  Did you know that there’s a difference between straw and hay?  We sure didn’t.  Apparently we wanted straw to use as mulch, but we bought hay.  The difference?  Hay is comprised of grasses that still have the seeds and grains attached, which means that when we covered our garden with it to prevent weeds, we actually planted tons of grass seed (you can see it in the zucchini picture above.)  It has really been a joy to pull the weeds that we planted out of the garden. 😉

Despite the weeds, we are so looking forward to harvesting (and eating) all this produce!  We have put in a lot of hard work in the garden, and finally seeing the fruit makes it all worth it.  In fact, after seeing those peppers for the first time a few nights ago, I think Andrew was on a gardening high:

Andrew:  “Is it bad that I want to turn the entire back yard into a vegetable garden??”

Catherine:  “It’s not bad to want that… as long as you know it isn’t going to happen.”

😀

Garden Update + Homemade Organic Pesticide

Gardens require work, and for two people who are firmly against spraying any type of chemical on their plants, gardens require a lot of work.  We spend hours on our hands and knees pulling weeds.  We chase and yell at squirrels.  I’d like to share a less labor-intensive (and less your-neighbors-think-you’re-nuts) organic method we found for keeping bugs from eating our plants.  But first, a photo update:

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We spread hay last weekend as a mulch to hold in moisture and keep weeds from springing up.

 

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A row of broccoli + tomato plants

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Squash, beets, pumpkin, and strawberries

A couple of weeks ago I walked outside to check on the roses.  They had been looking healthy, and my primary motivation was to see if there were any buds yet.  When I looked at them, however, I saw that the caterpillars, aphids, and some other bugs were enjoying a rose buffet.  They were absolutely devouring the leaves and the new buds.

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I did some quick research and read in a few places that garlic-infused water is effective in getting rid of bugs when sprayed on plants.  I figured it was worth a shot!  Andrew and I crushed a bunch of garlic cloves, put them in a large bowl of water, and let them sit overnight.  The next day I removed as many garlic chunks from the water as possible (or what I thought was possible; apparently I could have done better…), found a spray nozzle, and doused the roses and bugs.

I did manage to break the nozzle, unfortunately.  A small chunk of garlic lodged itself permanently somewhere in the tube.  Andrew asked me if I strained the water.

“I did the best I could.  The internet said to strain it with a cheese cloth.  Who the heck has a cheese cloth sitting around??”

“What about a coffee filter?”

“I didn’t think about that.”

“It even has the word ‘filter’ in its name.”

😉

So, if you decide to try this method, definitely strain the water with a coffee filter.

I am happy to say that it worked!  The following day the bugs were completely gone, with the exception of one dead caterpillar that looked like it had been burned in half by the garlic.  (You’re welcome for that visual.)  While there are obviously still holes in the leaves and some of the buds, we haven’t seen any bugs in weeks.  Crushed garlic, for the win!

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The first rose of the season

We are looking forward to more bug-free roses throughout the summer as well as lots of fresh fruits and veggies!

Do you know any effective methods for controlling garden pests organically?  Have you tried garlic spray?

Friday Cheers, Hay, and Mother’s Day

It’s Monday morning, and Andrew and I had another full, but awesome weekend.

We kicked things off by heading to Friday Cheers–a summer concert series on Brown’s Island in downtown Richmond.  $5 lets you enjoy good music, nice river views, and excellent people-watching.  There are food trucks, and people park themselves on picnic blankets all around.

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(Source)

The bands playing this Friday were The Lone Bellow and Radical Face–I was excited about the former, Andrew the latter.  The music was good, as was the company (we met up with a few of my college roommates but ended up seeing about 30 other people that we know, including my brother!)  The only downside was that, in addition to the food trucks, a cigar store parked its truck on the island (I say that as if it just drove up and decided to stop, which I know isn’t the case;  it may have been a sponsor,) and so many people were smoking.  <Begin smoking rant here> Now, I know smoking is not illegal, and we were at an outdoor event, but as a nonsmoker it stinks to leave a family-friendly event with a sore throat because people decided to light up while standing in very close proximity to other people.  Be kind to your body, but if you aren’t going to do that, at least respect the fact that I am trying to be kind to mine.  <End smoking rant.>

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Playing with the panorama feature on my phone before the concert

Saturday morning I went with a group from our church to work with Shalom Farms.  We spent three full hours putting straw around the potato plants.  That’s a lot of pitch-forking, walking, and squatting!  Also, to add to the week of wildlife I’ve been having, we found a few giant spiders and a nice little snake.  By the end of our time there, I was itchy and never wanted to see straw again.

When I arrived home in the early afternoon, Andrew informed me that he had purchased straw that morning to put in our garden.  Hah.  He had no idea that I’d been doing that all day, but I told him that our little 10 x 20 garden would be a cool down after everything that morning!

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I have no idea how he determined the amount of hay we would need, but he better not quit his day job in favor of farm math;  we used maybe a quarter of one of those… bales?  (I better not quit my day job either in favor of farm terminology…yes, I’m sure that’s a paying job ;-))

Saturday night we went to a graduation party for our good friend Gabe after her graduation from VCU.  The party was held at the Center of the Universe Brewing Company up in Ashland.  We were given a brewery tour, enjoyed time with friends, played Corn Hole, and celebrated Gabe.  We are proud of you, my friend!

For Mother’s Day on Sunday we went to church in the morning with Andrew’s mom, then took her out to lunch to all of our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Vietnam Garden.  Sunday evening my mom and brother came over to our house, and we cooked burgers on the grill.

I posted this photo on Facebook yesterday in honor of my mom.  It’s one of my favorites from our wedding that I think anyone who has taken part in a wedding can appreciate:

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We were all so tired of taking photos, but desperately trying to get the Christmas card shot.  Whitney’s best friend Jeanine was behind the camera trying to make my nieces laugh–or smile… or just look in the general direction of the camera–and her strapless dress fell down, leaving her a bit exposed.  This photo captured everyone’s reaction.

My brother, however, posted the winning photo that captures the coolness of our mom.  When Ross was about ten, he got really into WWF wrestling.  He’d watch the shows on TV regularly, so my mom decided to take him to see it live.  This photo was taken before the show, sporting their WWF t-shirts, and honoring one of Ross’s favorites with the wrestler’s signature move:

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Hah!  Awesome.  Not much else can be said about this one 😀

We had a wonderful day celebrating our mamas and a great weekend with friends!

What was the highlight of your weekend?  

And Now We Wait (Garden Update)

All the vegetables have been planted.   We’d been spending a little time each evening this week putting seeds and plants in the ground, and we took a few hours Saturday to finish the work.  Now we wait.  And water.  And wait.

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Andrew is proud of this garden.  Don’t you forget it. 😉

Looking at the photo above, here’s what’s in the ground:  on the right, tomatillos, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, pimento peppers, green beans, broccoli, carrots, and Swiss chard.  On the left, cantaloupe, cucumbers, pumpkin, zucchini, yellow squash, and watermelon.  In the pots we have strawberries and lots of herbs.

We planted the broccoli, Swiss chard, beets, and carrots almost two weeks ago, and they are starting to emerge from the ground.

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We transplanted the tomatoes and peppers this week and are still using popsicle sticks to help some of them straighten (the cages will be great when they are bigger, but they aren’t doing much at the moment.)

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We decided to buy 4-packs of herbs rather than grow them from seed for no reason other than impatience. 🙂

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Oregano, cilantro, thyme, parsley, rosemary, and basil.  (Not pictured: dill, peppermint, and lemon balm)

In addition to the edibles, most of the flowers are in bloom now too!

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I’m going to miss the tulips when they are gone…

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I will not miss the one odd azalea on the left 😉

I don’t think I can fully, accurately convey my excitement about the vegetable garden, but this photo brushes the surface:

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What are you growing this summer?

April Garden Update

Based on the weather, it seems we’ve skipped spring completely and gone straight from winter to summer.  Yesterday the observed high for Richmond was a record-breaking 91 degrees!  Even the squirrels are struggling with the heat:

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We have a bunch of white squirrels in our neighborhood (which we find awesome, in case you were wondering. :))  When I arrived home yesterday I found this one resting in the shade under our wheelbarrow planter.  He stayed there for a solid 30 minutes!

The plus side of the heat is that it is finally warm enough to start planting the vegetables outside.  This week we planted broccoli, Swiss chard, carrot, and beet seeds–all of which can handle a bit of cold, and we have a few 40-something-degree nights on the horizon.

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We also transplanted the plants we started inside in February from the seed starting kit to individual plastic cups (with holes cut in the bottoms for drainage.)  We were way late doing this, and now we are having to do some popsicle stick scoliosis treatment for the tomato plants.  I think they are beginning to straighten…

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This is only half of the plants, and the two giants in the top photo are tomatillos that our friend Matt gave us this week (thanks, Matt!)  We’ve been putting them on the back deck for a few hours each day to let them adjust to the outdoors before it becomes their permanent home.  (If that sounds crazy, you should know that when Andrew comes home from work he says, “How are the babies doing?” in reference to the plants. 😉 )

The downside to the heat is that my tulips–which I’ve been eagerly anticipating since I planted them in the fall–are blooming overnight, opening completely by the afternoon, and losing their petals by the evening.

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DSCN7747Pretty, nonetheless 🙂

By the mailbox:

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You can check out the “before” pictures from a month ago here.  It’s crazy to see the difference!

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Even if each tulip only blooms for a day, I plan to enjoy them while they last. 🙂

The Garden Bed: A Work in Progress

On Saturday, during the few hours of warmth before the cold and rain blew in, Andrew and I began work on our vegetable garden bed.  As I’ve mentioned before, last summer we grew our vegetables in pots, and while we experienced mild success, we have been dreaming much bigger for this season.  Rather than pots, we measured and marked a 10 ft x 20 ft plot in the back yard for the veggies.  Because that is a relatively large area, we rented a rototiller to help with the digging.

The before:

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Don’t be fooled by the greenish hue you see;  it is not grass, but moss. 🙂  First, Andrew dug a few holes to find a cable line we knew was buried so we could be sure to avoid it.  Then we brought out the big guns:

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Using a rototiller is NOT easy.  I had no idea.  Andrew did most of the hard work of breaking up the ground, which was predominantly clay.  A few hours, a lot of rocks, and one hidden tree stump later, we had this:

garden bedPlease note the piles of rocks and roots.  We discovered lots of treasures, including large chunks of cement (seriously?  Why were those buried in the back yard?) and the aforementioned stump from a tree that the previous owners had obviously removed.  That alone was an hour of fun, axing, and shoveling 😉

Next, we amended the soil clay.  We added gypsum to break up the clay and organic compost to add more nutrients.  Let me remind everyone at this point that Andrew and I have only a vague idea of what we are doing.  It’s very much a learning process.

I used the rototiller to mix everything together, which was not as difficult as the initial breaking-up of the soil, but it was still a full body workout!

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Andrew brought home some scrap stone from work (one benefit of being married to a mine engineer) that we used to create a mosaic path through the bed, forming two 4 ft x 20 ft beds.

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Now we wait for slightly warmer weather so we can actually put some plants in the ground and not just have a backyard mud pit (which is exactly what it is at the moment after all the rain we’ve had since Saturday. :))

It is a work in progress, but we are pleased with how it looks so far!