A few of our raised beds that are home for Heirloom Tomatoes
We've been working the garden beds over since mid fall with green cover crops of peas and beans and agri musturd being turned in to the soil. Layers of mulched leaves cover most of the garden as well as chicken poop and our homemade, rich and beautiful compost being worked in. The milestone of the organic garden is getting your soil nutrient rich as deep as possible. Earning some beneficial nematodes and earthworms takes a whole lot of shovel and wheelbarrow time. A lot of onions will be planted in the raised beds this year, as well as in other parts of the garden.
Our onion starts arrived on December 29th. They were shipped to us by Dixondale Farms located in Carrizo Springs Texas in only 2 days after they were ordered. Dixondale specializes in onions and have been in business since 1913. They have a fantastic planting guide to help you know exactly when to start your onions going by your zipcode and then they help you determine which varieties are best for your area by mapping out an onion zone for the United States. We could have actually been planting our onions in mid December because of our zipcode on the Gulf Coast. Because of being is such a severe drought for such a long time, we decided to hold on a bit for some rain. Our zone calls for growing the short day varieties of onions. However, this year we are experimenting a bit by ordering a couple intermediate day varieties as well. The storage is actually longer for intermediates so we thought we would at least try and see what they do. Our short day varieties keep stored for about 3 months. I'll keep you updated on the experiment. We also are planting Lancelot Leeks, which are not daylight sensitive and can be planted in any zone. They are so pretty in the garden mixed in with all the lovely spring blooming flowers. Leeks are fabulous to cook with and even better chopped up fresh in salads and summer time veggie dips!
This is a picture from the beginning of our 2009 harvest of onions layed out on the drying racks. We grew a few hundred that year. We have 600 or 800 to plant for 2011. The racks are located near the south side of the garden and get plenty of breeze to dry, but also sheltered by the little roof and by a few trees to keep the rain and sun off of them. The onions begin to finish up in May in time for the other vegetables to take over the garden. The drying racks will be used again for potato harvesting and I always seem to be throwing flower heads on them to dry for saving seed.
I'm so happy to be getting a chance to play in the garden again. I've been dreaming of the spring garden, going through catalogs and planning and ordering a few new heirlooms. It's a good time to be finding out your zones and not miss out on some sweet organic onions this year.
I can let my imagination go wild when making English Muffins. I've found myself bringing my garden indoors by adding snips of Herbs like Rosemary, Basil and Thyme. Sprinkle in a bit of Parmesan cheese and a pinch of fresh minced garlic and you have the makings for a mini pizza. I bet you won't find anything like that in the store. English Muffins are one of the things I like to make in double batches so I can put them in the freezer. They're great for the early morning risers to grab as they're heading off to work and school. These can be made up with a precooked sausage patty, ham or bacon and cheese ahead of time for the freezer as well. English Muffins are a healthy breakfast when made with whole organic grains, flour and oils. I make them all kind of ways depending on what I have on hand. I think my favorite are with golden raisins and cinnamon added. In the toaster it goes with a dab of pure raw honey or homemade blackberry jam and a cup of coffee. There are so many variations of the recipe, so I will give you the basic one and a list of options you can experiment with. They are all wonderful and easy to make.
English Muffin Ingredients
1 cup hot water 1/2 cup milk 2 tsp. raw honey 1 tsp. sea salt 3 cups all purpose unbleached flour 1 cup organic wheat bran 2 tsp active yeast 3 tbsp butter or organic oil (sunflower, sesame, saffron, canola) cornmeal
First, mix together the hot water, milk, honey and salt in a warm mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of the flour and the yeast. With the paddle on your mixer, blend well. Cover the bowl to let rise for about an hour.
Replace the paddle with the dough hook and add the oil and the one cup of flour and one cup of wheat bran to the bowl. This is the point where I add extras, like flax or sesame seeds or even raisins and cinnamon. Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds are also wonderful in English Muffins. Mix until the dough begins to pull away from the bowl.
Sprinkle your surface with corn meal and roll out the dough to about a 1/2 inch thickness. I use a drinking glass to cut my circles. Lay them out on a jelly roll pan and cover to allow them to rise to double in size. This takes about 45 minutes.
I use a heavy cast iron skillet to cook my English Muffins. It needs to be well oiled and on medium to medium low heat, depending on your stove. If they seem to cook to fast turn it down a bit. Lay them gently in the skillet and when flipping over so they don't deflate. It takes about 5 minutes for each side to turn golden brown. Let them cool on a wire rack.
They divide in half easily with a fork. Try them with some of your favorite herbs and you have the foundation of some great mini pizzas.
After the Christmas tree and all the trimmings are up, it's time to put on your Christmas scents. It's looking a lot like Christmas at my house, but the scents of Christmas are what gives life to all the decorations. I've given up on burning candles and buying cans or bottles of scents. For one, I'm a very frugal person on a budget. To buy the real scents and candles made of pure ingredients can be quite expensive. The majority of commercially made scents and candles are mostly made of toxic chemicals such as toluene and benzene and harmful paraffin's that can cause asthma as well as other illnesses. In order to keep my family breathing healthy air as well as the joy of being creative, I'm feeling great about making my own scents. I love using pure and natural herbs, spices and selective items from nature and my garden.
Every year I collect items for a fresh basket to place on top of the fireplace. This year I'm filling it with pine cones, rosemary cuttings, cinnamon sticks, simple homemade potpourri, pomanders and a few pine tree branches.
I also enjoy keeping a simmering pot on the stove top or in my crockpot filled with things like lemons, limes and orange pieces, along with cinnamon sticks, cloves and vanilla extract in a little water and sometimes even a little apple cider. It fills the entire house with warm and cozy intoxicating scents throughout the day. Simply keep an eye on it occasionally to be sure it has liquid in it and keep the heat on the lowest setting.
I love the look of an old fashion grapevine wreath filled with lovely items from my garden along with warm spices. This year I'm trying a few new things that I've learned on Growing Herbs for Beginners Holiday Craft Classes online. The classes are very nicely done with a video and a print out page with instructions for making it simple to create an array of beautiful Christmas crafts and scents. The first thing I couldn't wait to try was the cinnamon applesauce dough. She shows how to shape fruits, beads and several adorable cutouts with the dough. I went for the gingerbread cutout and some beads. It's been all I can do to keep my husband and son from trying to eat my crafts!! I can't believe how intense the cinnamon and apple scents are. I'm thinking these will retain the scent for the entire year if I keep them out for display to enjoy. Visit Growing Herbs For Beginners and sign up for the Christmas Craft Classes by clicking on the Texas logo on my blog "Guest Blogging for Growing Herbs for Beginners." Once on the website you will find the link for Herb Classes.
Welcome to Thyme Square Gardens. I am an organic gardener in Southeast Texas with a passion for preserving heirlooms and herbs for future generations. I rant about growing healthy gardens by incorporating natural habitats in and around your garden. I believe that Native Plants and Companion Planting play an important role in both your garden and to the health and future of our planet. I love to bake, so please enjoy some of my special recipes. Visit me at Natural Family Today Magazine were I share my love for natural gardening methods. Please take a stroll and share a cold glass of iced tea with me and please drop me a note in the comments! I love hearing from you! Happy Gardening! ~ Pammy