Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Putting the Gardens to Bed for the Winter

We've never done it this late before, but the weather was perfect.  (A few years, we've totally skipped this step and I've regretted it in the spring.)  We put our garden beds to "sleep" for the winter on November 30 in the span of about two hours, with the little man in the pack on Daddy's back.  So we got some family time outside to boot.

How'd we do it?  We tried the lasagna gardening method, which was super easy to prep.  We started by laying out our layers of newspaper in the gardens after cutting back the old plants (and weeds!).  We collected these newspapers from friends and from our days of purchasing the Sunday paper and now we're using them in the garden, which means that we're totally saving green in both senses of the word.

The next layer was about a two inch layer of our compost.  Our composter was bursting at the seems from our kitchen scraps, yard waste, and what came out of our gutters after cleaning them.  It felt great to be able to almost empty the composter and put that black gold to good use!  We still had a few whole egg shells and citrus peels in there, but hopefully after composting some more over the winter, it'll be good to go in the spring.

Then, we added a layer of straw.  We'd purchased this straw bale about a year ago, and hadn't gotten around to using it as mulch between our raised  beds as intended, so we used it here to heavily mulch these beds.  We probably added a 3-4 inch layer of straw to each bed.  If we have time, I'd like to add a layer of leaves to the top when we clean out the ditch and culvert below the driveway.

I'm hoping that by doing all of this in the fall that our beds will be ready to go in the spring.  I'd love to plant one with raspberries, one with rhubarb, and one with asparagus.  We did go ahead and plant the bed that had basil in it over the summer with garlic for the winter, so we'll see how that turns out in the spring.  I'm hoping it had enough nutrients in it to support the garlic.  I've never planted it before.

And, can I just say how good it feels to have that bale of straw out from in front of the house and some of those newspapers gone from the basement?!  And they're being put to good use... even better!

So, what about you?  How're you living and saving green in your gardens this winter?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, December 1, 2014

December Menu Plan

This month is all about making the most of what we have so we can spare a little cash for holiday baking.  We'll be making the most of the pre-Thanksgiving sales by using potatoes, cranberries, winter squash, and turkey in lots of things.


We'll be having lots of muffins this month:  Cranberry oat muffins, espresso muffins, gingerbread spice muffins (all from Muffins A to Z, which I checked out for ages from the library before purchasing my own copy), The Prudent Homemaker's lemon poppyseed muffins, pumpkin (or winter squash) muffins, and my family's berry muffins.  We'll also be having bagels from Panera (thanks to gift cards), egg sandwiches, and baked oatmeal (from Simply in Season).


To use up the turkey, we'll have:

  • turkey soup (with barley, rice, or noodles) with homemade bread and herb butter
  • turkey tacos with winter squash, refried beans, and homemade peach salsa
  • barbecue turkey burritos or sandwiches with spinach salad
  • confetti fried rice with turkey (a great way to use up those tiny bits)
*We'll also make several batches of homemade turkey stock using the three turkey carcasses we've got in the freezer now (we gleaned a few).  Just put the carcass in the crockpot, fill with water, add an onion if you have it, and cook on low all day.  Then strain it and pick the meat off to use in soup, casseroles, or fried rice.

To use up the winter squash/sweet potatoes, we'll have:
To use the cranberries, we'll have:
  • whole wheat pancakes with cranberry apple crisp and bacon or eggs
  • open faced meatball subs with cranberry/tomato sauce
To use up the potatoes, we'll have:
  • slow cooker potato soup with bacon and cheese (using homemade turkey stock)
  • loaded baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese
Other fillers include:
  • jambalya with steamed veggies
  • broccoli and cheese soup with garlic toast
  • pesto pizza with veggies
  • spicy thai noodle stir fry (my riff on this recipe)
  • tuna casserole with peas or broccoli

As usual, lunches will be leftovers.  We'll be getting our order of fruit from the high school orchestra in a few days, so we'll have those grapefruit and tangelos to fill in lunches and breakfasts.  

Holiday Goodies

The holiday goodies we'll be baking/making this year include:
  • rosemary olive oil bread
  • chocolate dipped peppermint jo-jo's (these are from Trader Joe's and they're fabulous on their own, but even better dipped in white chocolate)
  • muddy buddies/puppy chow (people call it either, but it's the same peanut butter, chocolate-y goodness)
  • muffins for the work crowd
  • citrus marmalade
  • candied grapefruit peal
  • sand dabs --a family favorite, my uncle eats them by the triple batch, and Benny's not far behind! (some people call them wedding cookies, basically butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and pecans rolled into balls or crescent shapes)
We'll save some green by using what we have on hand, buying ingredients in bulk, and using the slow cooker like the work horse that it is.  We'll also save some energy on our heating bill, since the oven will be running more, and we'll batch cook as much as possible.

How's your December shaping up?  Are you keeping dinners easy to make time for holiday baking?  I'd love to hear from you!