Thursday, June 30, 2011

Family Garden: And They're Off!

Garden Front and Back

We have melon vines racing through the backyard! Seriously, those vines belong to two plants...amazing! It's been a bit of a challenge training LittleBear to be careful and not step on the vines, but he's doing better with it. I tried wrapping them around the garden box, but that didn't really work. Other than that, there's not a lot new going on with the garden. We've been asked to restrict our water usage due to the drought, so I backed off a bit on the water. We'll see how that goes.

At the moment, we've got three bell peppers, and a sweet pepper growing. There are also at least five baby honeydews and I suspect there are more that I haven't found yet. We've also got some more green beans on the way. The beanstalk is still growing and has decided to go sideways along the top of the trellis.

My mom says she thinks the melon vines might make it to the fence. We'll see!

Box #1:
Box #2:
Box #3:
Baby Honeydew!
Green Bean Blossoms!
Much healthier Cantaloupe plant:
Beanstalk reaching for the sky:
Sweet Pepper:
More baby melons growing!
Purple Broccoli Plant is actually purple (look at the middle of the stem)!
Cherry Tomato Blossoms:
Bell Pepper Trio:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Guess Who's Two!

LittleBear is two years old!

Wow, we seriously cannot believe it has been two years! LittleBear is a most active little boy who keeps us on our toes, but is also a sweet, gentle, observant, curious and sensitive little man. He eats like a champ and is learning an incredible amount every day. All the while, he is showing us the world in a new light each time he discovers something new.

We wanted to honor him through a birthday party that would be really fun for him, so we came up with this: a splash party with bubbles! But what do you do when you've planned an outdoor splash party and the forecast high is 105 degrees?

We were armed with 3 gallons each of lemonade and sweet tea. We had chocolate stuffed raspberries, goldfish, chips & salsa, and Chex mix. We also had carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and homemade ice cream cake (if you're interested in hearing about how the ice cream cake was made, you'll find a summary at the end of this post).

We had a lovely time with friends and family!!! At least as far as we've heard from party-goers, the heat didn't feel nearly as severe as it should have. It took LittleBear a while (like, most of the party) to get into the pool, but once he did, he's been wanting to go in every minute since! We even spent a good deal of time in it the afternoon of Father's Day.

Thanks to everyone who shared in this day and helped make this party so special and fun for LittleBear. We're so blessed!

Or click here for a photo gallery of the birthday weekend.

Also, here are some videos from the day:
And now, for the ice cream cake recipe. I (Bethany) combined several recipes that I found through blogs I follow and made a few changes to suit our tastes. As for an ice cream maker, I use the Kitchen-Aid mixer ice cream maker attachment and it is wonderful!

Anyway, the original recipe for the cake can be found at Finding Joy in My Kitchen. It consisted of a layer of chocolate ice cream, followed by a hot fudge sauce/chocolate wafer (minus the espresso) crunchy middle, then a layer of vanilla ice cream, topped off with a bit of whipped cream. If I had it to do all over again, I would have put the hot fudge sauce/chocolate wafer layer on the bottom and skipped the whipped cream all together, but it was still really tasty the way it came out. I also would have substituted whole wheat pastry flour in the chocolate wafer recipe (replacing the all purpose) and would have lowered the sugar increments a little on each recipe. Even so, it is a recipe that I'll definitely be making again!!!

Happy birthday, LittleBear!! We love you so much!!!!!!!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Family Garden: It's Still Here!

We had a bit of a scare with the cantaloupe...all but one, tiny leaf shriveled up and it looked like it was done. I'm happy to report there are now three tiny green leaves on the cantaloupe plant and it looks to be recovering.

The honeydew melons are all over the place and seem to be quite happy. One of the pepper plants has three peppers on it, but they are looking a little scorched. Another pepper plant just started growing a pepper and has several blossoms. Thankfully, these 100 degree days haven't totally killed the garden, but I don't think they are helping it either. My watering routine has been that I water each square with the watering can in the morning (about 8am ish) and then turn the wavy sprinkler on for 15-20 minutes around 3:30pm. It seems to be helping and we haven't noticed a huge increase in our water bill!

Thankfully, the broccoli has recovered from the caterpillar invasion, although we're still waiting for flowers. At least it's still growing!

Here's what things look like now:

Box #1:
Box #2:
Box #3:
And here are some shots I got around the garden.

Well, hello little ladybug:
Happy Tomato!
Scorched pepper (CA Wonder Pepper) :(
Other pepper (Emerald Giant):
Happy Broccoli:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Family Garden: Fare Thee Well Zucchini...

The zucchini is definitely on its way out. I think the combination of the high 90s degree heat and the bugs that ate out the inside of the stalk did it in. I did get five zucchini off of it in its lifetime and I will definitely plant two plants of it again for the fall (& will watch more closely for bugs). I'll pull it out sometime this week. I did pull the dead pea vines out this week.

The broccoli continues to grow new leaves (no caterpillars in sight this week) and we've got green beans now! The little cantaloupe vine had at least six blossoms on it and I'm thrilled that the flowers came out so quickly. I expected it to take a bit longer to flower. The two honeydew plants also have a few flowers, but not as many as the cantaloupe.

I added two lemon basil plants to a couple of the empty squares in the hopes that we'll have some yummy basil for homemade pesto, which is rapidly becoming a LittleBear favorite. Here's what the boxes look like as of this afternoon.

Box #1:
Box #2:
Box #3:
And another view of the whole garden from the opposite side:
Green beans!
Honeydew on the lam!
Happy Pepper plant:
Beanstalk going for the power lines:
I leave you with a fun 4 minute video of LittleBear playing in the garden with a beach ball and the wavy sprinkler...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Family Garden: Bethany & the Beanstalk

The garden is still going! In fact, the beanstalk is now much taller than me! It's almost to the top of the trellis, which is somewhere around 8 feet tall. I harvested one zucchini this week and have my first baby bell pepper! I've never been able to grow a pepper from transplants, let alone from seeds, so if this little pepper becomes a big edible pepper, I will be quite thrilled! The pepper plant also has three more flowers and several more buds on it, so hopefully we'll get many peppers (I love to snack on raw bell peppers...yum!).

We've also got onions, bush beans, broccoli, melon plants, tomatoes and additional bell pepper seedlings all growing, which is fun. The caterpillars have abandoned my broccoli, so that's happy news. Damage has been done there, but there are new leaves coming, so hopefully we'll still get some broccoli out of it. I've got four squares vacant right now and I'm thinking of planting some basil as I've recently come across a really good pesto recipe that LittleBear and I both really enjoyed.

Our zucchini is still growing, but it's having a hard time. Between the bugs eating the inside of the stalk and the really hot afternoons we've been having, I don't think it will be around much longer. I think I've gotten rid of the bugs eating the stem with my homemade pesticide, but the damage has already been done. It looks wiped by the end of the day, but perks up overnight. I'm not sure how long this will go on. I am planning on planting two zucchini plants for the fall.

My routine right now is watering first thing in the morning and then giving the plants a sprinkle in the afternoon with the sprinkler for about 30 minutes. So far, this has been working really well for us and our water bill hasn't had too big a spike. Here's what we have:

Box #1:
Box #2:
Box #3:

Here are a few snapshots of what we have as of 10 minutes ago...

Honeydew plants:
Bell pepper plant:
Baby Pepper:
Tomato seedling!
Super Tall Beanstalk:
Onions with Bush Beans behind:
One last view from the other side:

This garden has really been a great learning experience. Prior to this, I would have called my thumb black because I had not been able to grow anything successfully. But I'm really excited with the way things are turning out! If you've ever thought about trying to grow herbs, veggies or even flowers, give it a try! Even if it's a one pot container garden, learn all you can about it and go for it! Personally, I've always loved this idea :)