Dec 26 2010

Nothing homier than a thatched cottage in Ireland.

The ingenuity of thatching fascinates me. What a frugal use of natural materials. If it interests you, you might want to click here to visit a site with practical information for thatched cottage owners and “roof maintainers.”

I enjoyed the video below after finding it tucked inside
 an e-mail this morning. See if you like it.

Join Mr. Gobnait O’Lunasa who’s writing his friend,
Nuala, about her lovely Christmas gifts.

For an attractive web site showing how to stay in an Irish cottage on your next visit to Ireland, kindly click here.

If you like thatched houses, you might want to
preview Lida Bulf’s book by hovering your mouse over this link:

Donegal Homesteads: The Disappearance of the Irish Thatched Cottage (Volume 1)

An Amazon reviewer says, “I have personally visited some of the scenes that Lida Bulf depicts in her new book and her rendition is spot-on. Most, if not all, of her subjects are from County Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula, “Ireland in Miniature,” and her tasteful combination of cottages and flowers and plant life is inspired. I highly recommend the book and know you won’t be disappointed.”

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Filed under: Comfort,Roof — admin @ 2:58 pm Comments (0)
Dec 25 2010

If I were not shy, I would bestow
My Greetings under the Mistletoe,
But as I fear you might take it amiss,
I’ll wish you a “Merry Christmas” through this.

December 25, 2010
Saturday morning at 8:00am

Hello there and Merry Christmas!

I hope you are reading this with a light heart while enjoying the day with some well deserved time off. If you have to work, like I have many times being in the medical profession, thank you for providing whatever valuable service you provide.

Here in Maryland, some of us have a long standing tradition of having Panned Oysters for breakfast on Christmas Day. We were out late last night, so we are getting a late start this morning.  That can happen without small children around to activate the Christmas morning proceedings. I haven’t even begun the Panned Oysters and will have to wait until everyone is out of bed.

We waited to buy the oysters until yesterday, Christmas Eve, to make sure they were as fresh as possible. You have to be on your “A” game, though, in getting them, because, if you wait too long, the stores will be sold out. And, you need to have a good organic bread upon which to serve the oysters as they are rich, especially when cooked in butter.  We toast the bread and cut it on the diagonal, twice, to make toast points.

Panned Oysters are simple to make, which is another reason they are favorites on a hustle-bustle Christmas morning. Just take a frying pan and melt a stick of organic butter from grass-fed cows. Use one stick of butter for up to two pints of oysters.

After the bottom of the pan is covered with melted butter, as
it’s melting, gently place oysters into the pan using a slotted
spoon so most of the oyster juice is withheld in the container.

Now, for extra flavor, add about three tablespoons of the juice
to the pan while cooking and add the rest of the oysters. Note:
Ignore teenagers asking whether we are having brains for breakfast.

The oysters should be cooked until the edges draw up and “ruffle.”

Once the oysters are “ruffled,” they are ready to be lifted onto
the waiting toast points. The butter essence is then spooned over
top and that’s it, you’re done. Yum! Yum!

So, I guess I better get hopping to make things happen around here. I’ll be hopping and hoping that you find some peace, love and comfort today and, in addition, that all of your dreams come true for the coming year in 2011.

Have fun throughout the holidays!

Much Love,
Fondly, Robin

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Filed under: Family,Heart — admin @ 2:56 pm Comments (0)
Dec 24 2010

Sugar Plums are a delightful, old fashioned treat.
Easy to make and healthy to eat, they do not require baking.

How to Make Sugar Plums
a recipe from Elizabeth LaBau


Ingredients for Sugar Plums

  • 3 oz (1/2 cup) chopped pitted dates
  • 3 oz (1/2 cup) chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 oz (1/4 cup) dried cranberries
  • 1 oz (1/4 cup) chopped prunes
  • 1 oz (1/4 cup) chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • 2 tbsp fruit jam
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Mix Fruit and Nuts

Start by placing the chopped dates, walnuts, cranberries, prunes, and hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor. If you don’t have a processor you can do it by hand and just chop everything together until it’s in very small pieces and starts sticking together.

So once all of your fruits and nuts are in the work bowl, pulse the processor several times until everything is in small pieces and is well-mixed.

Add Ingredients and Mix into a Ball

Now add the jam, cinnamon, and cloves. Give it several long pulses until the mixture begins to come together in a ball. Here’s a bit of trivia while you’re mixing: sugarplums get their name from the prunes, or dried plums, in the recipe.

Stop and check it once it starts to come together: when you press it between your fingers it should hold itself in a ball, but you want to retain some texture and be able to see individual pieces of fruit and nuts. Don’t blend it so much that it turns into a sticky paste!

Roll Candy through Sugar

To finish your sugarplums, place the granulated sugar in a bowl. Roll the candy into small balls, and roll them in the granulated sugar. To make it a bit healthier, you could roll them in chopped nuts or coconut instead.

How to Serve and Store Sugar Plums

To keep things neat, serve them in paper candy cups. These sugarplums last for weeks if you keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This mixture also makes an amazing natural energy bar, so you can enjoy the fruity, nutty flavors year-round.

To watch Elizabeth LaBau make her Sugar Plums, click here.

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A very Merry Christmas!

We LOVE you!


What an eye opener!

For the original web site of this post, click here.
For more background on the origins and history of the poem and its author, click here.

Thanks to Brett Kramer, who wrote us yesterday with the correct information, we have learned that the beautiful poem sent to us some years ago by one of our “web friends” is a modified copy of the original circulated on the internet for some years. The original poem’s true author, James M. Schmidt, was a Lance Corporal stationed in Washington, D.C., when he wrote the poem back in 1986.

The true story of the poem, as told by Lance Corporal Schmidt: “While a Lance Corporal serving as Battalion Counter Sniper at the Marine Barracks 8th & I, Washington, DC, under Commandant P.X. Kelly and Battalion Commander D.J. Myers [in 1986], I wrote this poem to hang on the door of the Gym in the BEQ. When Colonel Myers came upon it, he read it and immediately had copies sent to each department at the Barracks and promptly dismissed the entire Battalion early for Christmas leave. The poem was placed that day in the Marine Corps Gazette, distributed worldwide and later submitted to Leatherneck Magazine.”

Schmidt’s original version, entitled “Merry Christmas, My Friend,” was published in Leatherneck (Magazine of the Marines) in December 1991, a full two years before it was supposedly “written” by someone else on Christmas Eve 1993 (and had appeared in the Barracks publication Pass in Review four years before it was printed in Leatherneck).

As Leatherneck wrote of the poem’s author in 2003: “Merry Christmas, My Friend” has been a holiday favorite among “leatherneckphiles” for nearly the time it takes to complete a Marine Corps career. Few, however, know who wrote it and when. Former Corporal James M. Schmidt, stationed at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., pounded it out 17 years ago on a typewriter while awaiting the commanding officer’s Christmas holiday decorations inspection . . . while other leathernecks strung lights for the Barracks’ annual Christmas decoration contest, Schmidt contributed his poem to his section.”

Over the years the text of “Merry Christmas, My Friend” has been altered to change the Marine-specific wording into Army references (including the title: U.S. Marines do not refer to themselves as “soldiers”) and to incorporate line-ending rhyme changes necessitated by those alterations.

We reproduce below Corporal Schmidt’s version as printed in Leatherneck back in 1991:

Merry Christmas, My Friend

By James M. Schmidt, a Marine Lance Corporal
stationed in Washington, D.C., in 1986

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.

I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I’d seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I’d heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps.”

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.

Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

I didn’t want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said “Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all secure.”

One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

Reports are that after leaving the Corps, Corporal Schmidt earned
a law degree and now serves as an attorney in Los Angeles and is
director of operations for a security consulting firm.

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Filed under: Growth,Head — admin @ 6:07 pm Comments (0)
Dec 20 2010

What a great e-mail video I received over the weekend. If you love animals and all of the love they give back, you also will love this spritely version of “Deck the Halls.” Imagine the work it took to get everyone to sing on cue. Here’s hoping this enhances your holidays.

Fa-La-La-La-LA  La-La-La-La!

Felted animals, made with wool roving and teased
into shape with a needle, are easy to make and
very appealing. If this interests you, hover your
mouse over the link below:

Little Felted Animals: Create 16 Irresistible Creatures with Simple Needle-Felting Techniques

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Filed under: Beauty,Music — admin @ 5:42 pm Comments (0)
Dec 18 2010

~WHEN to Plant Seeds Where You Live~

The old time practice of planting by the moon
works remarkably well.

6) WHEN to plant seeds

When I started reading books on how to grow a vegetable garden, I found that many authors discounted, or at least, failed to mention the tremendous advantage of planting by the moon. In planting by the moon, plants that produce their edible assets above the ground are planted BEFORE the full moon and plants that produce in the ground are planted AFTER the full moon. I had an Amish friend who ran a green house in the 1980s and I remembered she always planted by the moon cycle, so I was ready to investigate the practice and see for myself.

I tried it and and truly was overwhelmed at the ease of germinating the seeds, especially when also using the controlled conditions of the Park’s Bio-Domes, heat mats and thermostat heat mat regulators. I now am a BIG fan of planting by the moon and wouldn’t considered planting any other way.

Time lapse of some bush beans growing from seeds.
The video was shot over a 24 hour period using a
Canon GL2 video camera, and sped up 3000x.

So, guess what today is?  Today is December 18 and the full moon will be on December 21. That means today is three days before the full moon. From now until the full moon, it is the time for optimal planting of above ground crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, corn, melons and lots more. Afterward, on Wednesday, December 22, will start the days for optimal planting of below ground crops, such as beets, rutabagas, carrots, onions and peanuts. Now, it’s too cold and too long before spring to plant any crops, but that’s how it will work when we go to plant next year. I just want to get you thinking about the moon and its cycles as a dry run for our springtime efforts.

Determining the days for planting by the moon and finding the last frost date in the spring for your gardening zone will determine WHEN you plant to germinate your crops. We’ll work together on figuring out the optimum days when the time comes, and I will let you know what I am doing so you can follow along. But, now that I have you thinking about ordering or shopping for your seeds, equipment and helpful books, you have my permission to relax and enjoy the holidays!

If you have an interest in the moon cycles, this is a
great book that comes out every year and is specific
for each year’s optimum planting dates. Hover your
mouse over the link below to preview:

Gardening and Planting by the Moon 2010: Higher Yields in Vegetables and Flowers

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Filed under: Food,Veg Garden — admin @ 5:32 pm Comments (0)
Dec 17 2010

~HOW to Germinate Seeds with What Equipment~


When we seriously started to grow food, we had
limited funds, so made use of things we had on
hand to make our seed germination nursery.


5) HOW to germinate seeds

Dixie cups, egg cartons and tin cans can all be pressed into service to start a vegetable garden full of life sustaining nutrients. Fancy equipment and the “best of everything horticulture” is not required. Here is the set-up I used in 2008 to produce more food than we could eat that summer and fall. I had an old grow light that I put into a clamp-on shop light shade; used a piece of plywood on saw horses for a surface located near windows and placed the whole stand over an electric plug-in radiator to provide a consistent heat source.  You can see the thermometer I used to monitor the set-up on the table, just one that had been on the back porch for years. The fan provided air as tomatoes need air movement to sway their stems when they are germinating to grow strong.

Under the Dixie Cups, we had metal cookie sheets with sides from the kitchen. Over top of the Dixie Cups, we  covered the seeded Dixies with sheets of Saran Wrap plastic film to hold in moisture and create a small greenhouse. Each Dixie Cup had a Popsicle stick with the plant name and date the seed was planted.

Tomatoes like to be transplanted, in fact I usually transplant them four times by the time they have gone into the garden.  Working with what we had, tomatoes were started in Dixie Cups, transplanted into recycled tin cans, then into cut off gallon water jugs and finally placed into the garden where they lived until the frosts of autumn.

Here are tomato plants in the later stages of growth
before going into the garden, having been transplanted
into cut off water jugs from recycled tin cans. Although
the Dixie Cups in the photo hold other plants, they were
the first stage for the tomato plants as well.

If you are the frugal side of life, watching every penny, then this is the way to go for next spring’s seed germinations. Your money should be spent on seeds, a grow light if you don’t have one, a shop light to hold the grow light, a heat source and a thermometer. The rest of the equipment can be saved between now and then. Save various sizes of tin cans and larger cans or jugs dependable on what you have. A tip for those in hard straights is to take a walk around the neighborhood on recycling day and get what you need out of other peoples’ recycle bins. Buying a box of bathroom size Dixie Cups and the Saran Wrap type plastic wrap will complete what you need to germinate in the spring.

Now, when things get better financially, or if you can afford to invest now, here is the equipment I just LOVE for seed germination. Park’s Seed Company’s Bio-Domes. They are really great. Problem is, the first year I went to buy them, in February, when I needed them, it was way too late to get them.  They had been sold out since before Christmas! Now, Park’s Seed company seems to be ready for the demand, so they should have them, but don’t wait too long to order, so you are high on the wait list should they have any thought of running out.

With a 60 well Bio-Dome, you can start 60 plants at a time. That’s probably enough if this is your first attempt at serious food production.  But, if you are ambitious or experienced and want to try many types of plants, I can share that I own three 60 well Bio-Domes.  That’s because I like to start plants with different optimum germination temperatures, and three 60 well Bio-Domes allows me to have the flexibility to germinate at three different temperatures, all at the same time. So, read about Bio-Domes and see what interests you.

The Park’s 60 well Bio-Dome is a tiny greenhouse complete
with air vents and watering tray. It’s a heavenly nursery for baby
seeds. They will grow up to thank you by feeding you well.

Now, with the Bio-dome, you also will need to get a heat mat and an automatic temperature control or thermostat. You will need a heat mat and thermostat for each Bio-Dome you want to buy. Each 60 well Bio-Dome come with 60 Bio-Sponges that fit in the wells, but I would suggest getting an extra bag of refill sponges for each Bio-Dome. That way, when you move out and transplant your first batch of seedlings, you can start new plants right away by putting refill sponges in the newly-empty wells.

To go take a peek at the 60 well Bio-Dome, click here. To order more 60 well refill Bio-Sponges, click here. For the 20″x20″ heating mat that will hold two 60 well Bio-Domes, click here. Once again, if you want three 60 well Bio-domes like I have, I would get three heating mats, even if three heating mats accommodate six 60 well Bio-Domes, because that way you have the flexibility to move your Bio-Domes around and can put two of them together on a certain temperature mat if you would like. For the thermostat to accurately control the heating mat temperature, click here. Once, again, I would get a separate heating mat and thermostat for each 60 well Bio-Dome purchased.

Here is a video I found showing a gardener setting up an actual Bio-Dome system. As the film is accelerated, the busyness of the action might be nerve-racking, especially when he starts moving all of those wires around with multiple plugs in extension cords. I would suggest using using multi-outlet surge protectors rather than the extension cords. But, the video is well worth watching to get an idea of the ease of setting up the Bio-Domes themselves.

Setting up a 60 well Bio-Dome, heating mat and thermostat
system will make you feel SO GOOD about your seeds, you
will fall in love with them before they have even sprouted.

I haven’t mentioned the fluorescent bulb style grow lights the gardener is shown using in the video, but I use those as well. They are readily available from Lowes or Home Depot. I bought inexpensive fluorescent bulb style shop light banks capable of holding two bulbs and then bought grow light bulbs to place in them. They seem to be readily in stock, but come to think of it, maybe I should go over the lights in a future post to make sure everyone has what they need before the countdown to spring seed germination begins!

Coming tomorrow, Saturday, December 18: WHEN to Plant Seeds

Now, here is another book that you must ORDER RIGHT AWAY! The Park’s famous Success with Seed book written by Karen Park Jennings. It has been out of print and has just recently been REPRINTED. Now you can own one all by yourself. To preview Success with Seed, click here.

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Filed under: Food,Veg Garden — admin @ 5:30 pm Comments (0)

What a surprise to come to the table and see these GIANT eggs.

It’s lots of fun to surprise your family and friends with these big “dinosaur” eggs. Although they really do look like eggs sunny side up, they are actually two organic canned peach halves on beds of organic whipped cream. Try this bit of fun on those you love and watch their expressions when they come to the table. It’ll be a hit!

If you have an interest in recipes that children
love to cook, bake and eat, hover your mouse over
the link below:

Williams-Sonoma Kids in the Kitchen: Fun Food

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Filed under: Heart,Kids — admin @ 5:25 pm Comments (0)
Dec 16 2010

~Selecting WHAT Seeds to Plant~

If you’re new to growing your own food, start with some
sure bets that will save money and feed plenty. My top
four? Tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers.

4) WHAT to plant?

WHAT luck! Just when I was getting ready to write about selecting seeds for planting, the best thing in the world happened. My Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog arrived. It’s the first seed catalog I have received for this coming growing season and what a catalog it is. Later in the week, I will dedicate a post to Baker Creek Seeds, so look for it under MONEY opportunities as growing your own food will save lots of money.

But, right now, I want to encourage you to order your seeds so that whatever variety you want, there will be plenty in stock waiting for you. With home gardens becoming more and more fashionable, the demand is growing so the companies run out if you wait to order.

So, right away, I would decide on ordering from websites or signing up for paper catalogs in order to be ahead of the pack. Here are web sites where I’ve had good luck for the past few years:

For Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds click here.

For Park’s Seeds go to this web site.

For The Chas. C. Hart Seed Co. try clicking here.

All of the seeds sold by Baker Creek are organic and non-GMO (non-genetically modified.) At Park’s and Hart’s Seed companies, be sure and buy from the organic sections of the web sites. In addition to others that might catch your eye, definitely try:

Tomatoes: Brandywine, Risentraube (cherry), Sungold Select II (cherry), Cherokee Purple and Mortgage Lifter

Cucumbers: Marketmore, Bedfordshire Prize, Parisian Pickling and Ruby Wallace’s Old Time White

Lettuce: Oak Leaf, Henderson’s Black Seeded Simpson, European Mesclun Salad and Arugula

Peppers: Emerald Giant (sweet), Sweet Chocolate (sweet), Anaheim (mildly hot) and Chinese Five Color (HOT)

To share my excitement of growing tomatoes. cucumbers,
lettuce and peppers, here are four videos, one for each.


Baker Creek Seeds visits an heirloom tomato grower.


Vertically grown cucumbers are easy to fit in a small garden.


Clipping off outer lettuce leaves, leaving the heart to
grow and having fresh salads every day seems miraculous.


Hot and sweet peppers are easy to grow and add lots of variety.


Coming tomorrow, Friday, December 17: HOW to Germinate Seeds with What Equipment

I hate to be too forceful on recommending these gardening books, but YOU”D BETTER GO OUT AND GET THIS ONE! I am a BIG fan of Jerry Baker, having first seen him in infomercials on TV. His presentations are entertaining and elementary making things seemed ordered and easy. Here is what one Amazon reviewer has to say:

“I’ve always loved Jerry Baker’s tips and knew I had to buy his vegetable gardening book when I decided to start my very first garden in 2001. I liked the fact that he included both gardening organically and with the use of chemicals. His ideas and tonics are simple and environmentally friendly which I think is very important today. He also encourages planning first and then planting. My first time out I had great success and am looking forward to planning next years crop. I highly recommend this book for beginners as well as those of you who don’t want to waste time experimenting but learning from someone who has been gardening for many years.”

To preview, click on this link:

Jerry Baker’s Fast, Easy Vegetable Garden

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Filed under: Food,Veg Garden — admin @ 5:22 pm Comments (0)
Dec 15 2010

~Planning Food Growing Spaces~

Optimizing time and garden spaces takes many things into account.

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

                                           Rudyard Kipling, “Just So Stories” 1902

I now approach planning gardens with a journalistic mind.  Just as every newspaper article’s first paragraph should answer six things: who, what, when, where, why and how, “The Five Ws and One H,” the planning of growing spaces requires consideration along the same lines. See if you agree with me.

I’ll be switching the order of “The Five Ws and One H” a bit, but here, first make a list that describes you and your vegetable gardens, as you are now thinking about them:

1) WHO is going to be working on the garden and who is going to be counting on eating the food it produces?

Important questions because if you are one person trying to produce food for ten AND trying to hold down a full time job, the garden in addition to a job will be too labor intensive. But, picture the difference if, like Capt John Smith in Jamestown, Virginia, 1607, you establish a “No Work, No Eat” policy. Then, all of a sudden you’ll be able to enlist nine other pairs of hands to sow, transplant, weed, nurture and harvest. BIG difference. So, count who’s in and who’s out right from the get go.

Recycling an old mattress provides a strong bean trellis
from the springs and nice stakes for plant supports if money
for growing aids is a problem. It’s easy with some help.

2) WHERE do you live?

And that’s important in a BIG way and in a SMALL way. To properly assess our germination and growing strategies, we need to know: A) the zone for your part of the country, which you can find by clicking here ; B) the pH, or acid/base balance of the soil where you live and C) the amount of sunlight on the beds where you intend to plant. The pH you might already know, but if you don’t, you can test the pH of your soil by getting helps found here and here. The zone where you live and the pH of the soil will determine what you can easily grow and when you can plant outside, judging by the date of the average last frost date in the spring.

Now, both of these parameters can be modified depending on your willingness to do more work! If you live at a certain zone and the plants you would like to grow thrive at a warmer zone, you can germinate the seeds inside and then transplant when the weather is correctly temperate. And, if the plants you want to grow need a more acid or more alkaline pH than you find where you live, you can still grow them, you will just have to work to amend the soil to accommodate plants needs. We’ll go over the details of what to do next spring, but that gives you an idea of what to expect and how to pick your seeds.

Testing the pH of soil.

The third part of “where,” the amount of sunlight each area of your yard receives everyday, cannot be easily modified. You have to submit to planting shade loving plants in the shade and those requiring full sun in the sun. If you aren’t aware about the light levels in your yard, you will soon notice some spots will be sunny all day long while others will be in shade and others still will be mixed depending on the time of day. Transplanting plants to a light levels they enjoy insures a thriving, food producing dynamo.

You may know the basic light levels of where you want to plant. But, if not and if you love gadgets like I do, try hovering your mouse over the link below to preview a great “soil pH, moisture, temperature and light level tester” that I have just decided to buy and try out myself.

Digital 4 Way Soil and Light Tester for Plants and Lawn – pH, moisture, temperature and light level

So, think about your yard, the gardens already present with non-edible ornamentals that can be transferred over to food producing vegetables and about the lawn with non-edible grass that might better be used to feed your family. Get some graph paper and after pacing out the yard, make a drawing of what stays and what goes within its perimeter. Then start planning the shapes and size of your available planting space.  It can change a hundred times before spring and that’s part of the fun. It’s a good exercise, though, to start getting your thoughts down on paper.

3) WHY do you want to plant your gardens?

And, finally for today, are you planning on just eating fresh, nutritious food everyday or would you like to plant an excess, more than you can eat, in order to can food for the winter of 2011? These concepts are not as pressing as the decisions needed above, but are ideas to think about for the rest of winter. Thoughts of quantity and intent will help us plan what seeds to germinate and where to plant them in the days and weeks to come.

It is also important to define goals to assess limitations and recognize that each step of the process adds MORE WORK. For instance, do you know how to safely can food? Or will that be a new skill required to process your harvest? Not to worry. This is all part of the fun as we sit with hot chocolate and pour over seed catalogs with their glorious photos and compelling ideas to dream of our new found vegetable freedoms. Why, looking ahead, the cold of winter will just fly by!

Coming tomorrow, Thursday, December 16: Selecting What Seeds to Plant

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