Welcome Spring! FREE Printable Postcards

Welcome Spring! With free flower postcard printables

 

It’s officially the first day of SPRING!! And even if we have snow on the ground {or possibly more in the forecast} the idea that spring has arrived on the calendar is always welcome here in Alberta! To celebrate, I’ve put together a little collaboration with our farm biz, Happiness By The Acre. Download a FREE set of postcard printables featuring our farm fresh flowers! Print them on white card stock and you’re set to send some happy mail to friends.

 

Happiness By The Acre Flower Postcards ~ Download & Print

Welcome Spring! With free flower postcard printables

 

Happiness By The Acre Postcard Backs ~ Download & Print

Welcome Spring! With free flower postcard printables

*Each post card measures 4″x 6″. Once you print the flower postcard fronts, run the paper through again to print the postcard backs or simply fill in the back by hand, then cut.

 

Wishing you fresh air, warm sun & thawing dirt!

In the Garden: 2016 Garden Plan

Garden Planning ~ Happiness By the Acre (or square foot) ~ Backyard Veggie Gardens

Spring is in full swing, and that means it’s time to turn a bit of attention to the garden. Beyond the basic spring yard cleanup, we also undertake the planning & preparation of our veggie garden. Today I’m sharing a bit about how we plan out our garden, which produces an abundance of fresh veggies for us during the summer months & some stored food for the winter.
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In the Garden: Garden Planning

Gardening Planning ~ Blog post by Bubblegum Sass ~ Garden journals from Taproot Magazine
Seeds from West Coast Seeds and garden journals from Taproot Magazine

There might still be the occasional snowflake falling from the sky these days, but it is time to turn some attention to garden planning & prep. My hubby is truly the brains behind the operation, while I lend my hands & time to the work in the spring, summer & fall. He comes up with our garden plan each year, while he plans out the other yards for his urban farming business. Even the seeds for our own garden get lumped into orders for Happiness By The Acre.

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How Grows the Rest?

Yes, indeed, the How Grows It? post was really just part one of our yard. Here’s the remainder. I’ve saved the herbs for last. Some we enjoy fresh and others we simply dry for use throughout the year. In fact, last year, we dried so much sage that we’re still using it (and we put sage in lots of recipes). So here’s a peek at the rest of the garden:

Lovely, lovely dill! I've been enjoying the dill the most this year, on grilled cheese sandwiches, in salads, in mac'n cheese, in salad dressings, etc. So tasty!
Lovely, lovely dill! I’ve been enjoying the dill the most this year, on grilled cheese sandwiches, in salads, in mac’n cheese, in salad dressings, etc. So tasty!
Bunches and bunches of chives!
Bunches and bunches of chives!
Minty, minty, mint!
Minty, minty, mint!
First time growing oregano since we moved back from B.C. Doing pretty good so far.
First time growing oregano since we moved back from B.C. Doing pretty good so far.
Our sage container, not doing as well this year as last, but not too bad.
Our sage container, not doing as well this year as last, but not too bad.
Thyme plants doing well!
Thyme plants doing well!

How Grows It?

Time for a little garden tour! Of course, I can’t keep up with documenting the growing out there, so these photos are at least a week old, but you’ll get the general idea of how things are going.

First a peek at how it all started this spring. Here are our three main garden beds in May, after the first planting.
First a peek at how it all started this spring. Here are our three main garden beds in May, after the first planting.
Here are the main beds back at the beginning of June. Some bits of life starting to sprout up here & there.
Here are the main beds back at the beginning of June. Some bits of life starting to sprout up here & there.
Here are the main beds in full swing now. A green jungle with lots of yummy food being produced. What a difference a month makes!
Here are the main beds in full swing now. A green jungle with lots of yummy food being produced. What a difference a month makes!
Climbing beans are journeying up the trellis with a few blossoms.
Climbing beans are journeying up the trellis with a few blossoms.
Pea blossoms are so pretty. We've taken a few bowls of tasty sweet peas and snow peas into the house (and into our bellies) since this photo was taken.
Pea blossoms are so pretty. We’ve taken a few bowls of tasty sweet peas and snow peas into the house (and into our bellies) since this photo was taken.
Carrot jungle
Carrot jungle
Green onions needing some serious eating. Poor fellas have been a little neglected.
Green onions needing some serious eating. Poor fellas have been a little neglected.
Loaded with tomatoes! So juicy and sweet!
Loaded with tomatoes! So juicy and sweet!
Our precious broccoli. Or broccolini to be more precise. Lots being harvested off of these each week, and we've even begun to pull off the leaves and dehydrate them for our "super green" powder.
Our precious broccoli. Or broccolini to be more precise. Lots being harvested off of these each week, and we’ve even begun to pull off the leaves and dehydrate them for our “super green” powder.
Squash beauties with the cutest little squash and biggest blossoms right now! I always enjoy watching these gals grow.
Squash beauties with the cutest little squash and biggest blossoms right now! I always enjoy watching these gals grow.

In The Kitchen

There’s lots of time being spent in the kitchen these days. It’s not the weather that’s keeping us in there, it’s just the season. Growing season means lots of preserving to do. Chopping, freezing, drying, and boiling. Repeat. So how about a little peek into the kitchen over the past couple of weeks?

It's rhubarb season which means lots of pie making. Some in the freezer, some in our tummies, and lots of extra rhubarb frozen & waiting to be made into things (like ketchup, salad dressing, and muffins)
It’s rhubarb season which means lots of pie making. Some in the freezer, some in our tummies, and lots of extra rhubarb frozen & waiting to be made into things (like ketchup, salad dressing, and muffins)
A new weekly chore, harvesting fresh herbs from the garden (only just learning how to "properly" dry herbs... I've always removed & chopped leaves before drying, but apparently that's not the best method). Always learning.
A new weekly chore, harvesting fresh herbs from the garden (only just learning how to “properly” dry herbs… I’ve always removed & chopped leaves before drying, but apparently that’s not the best method). Always learning.
The first official harvest from our garden: dandelions blossoms, lilac blossoms, thyme, oregano, sage, dandelion greens, chives & radishes (that didn't make it into the picture). This was from last week. This week our harvest included LOTS of lettuce & arugala, ALL the radishes, and the first of the broccoli. Green onions are calling too!
The first official harvest from our garden: dandelions blossoms, lilac blossoms, thyme, oregano, sage, dandelion greens, chives & radishes (that didn’t make it into the picture). This was from last week. This week our harvest included LOTS of lettuce & arugala, ALL the radishes, and the first of the broccoli. Green onions are calling too!
The sweet smell of bubbling dandelion syrup filled the house one evening this week. Now there's a beautiful jar of it sitting in the fridge, waiting to be poured over some yummy waffles one morning!
The sweet smell of bubbling dandelion syrup filled the house one evening this week. Now there’s a beautiful jar of it sitting in the fridge, waiting to be poured over some yummy waffles one morning!
Hubby was at his first Farmers' Market of the year with the YYC Growers & Distributors. He brought home these beautiful flowers from Seed + Soil. They make the kitchen such a happy place.
Hubby was at his first Farmers’ Market of the year with the YYC Growers & Distributors. He brought home these beautiful flowers from Seed + Soil. They make the kitchen such a happy place.

From Weed To Yummy

Confession: Our backyard is a sea of dandelions.

They’ve taken over any area that we left as lawn. In past years, we tried pulling, mowing, even spraying them with vinegar (we refuse to spray any chemicals). This year, I’ve given up and I’m treating them like just another crop to harvest.

Dandelions are such a cheerful thing to harvest.
Dandelions are such a cheerful thing to harvest.

Here’s some tips I’ve found handy so far:

  • If using the greens, harvest fresh or no more than a day before. They keep in the fridge, but they really are best eaten as soon as possible.
  • When preparing to de-petal the dandelions, pick them no more than a couple hours prior. They are easiest to de-petal when the blossom is big and open. Dandelion blossoms tend to close up and wilt very quickly. In general, I pick a big bowl of blossoms right before making dinner and then 2-3 hours later, after Sam heads to bed, I get comfy on the couch & start to de-petal the blossoms. You can still de-petal dandelions even after they close up, but it’s just a trickier task.
  • Dandelion petals can be frozen! Once you de-petal the blossoms, pop them into a freezer bag or container (I measured out 1 cup bags). This makes life easier when you want to tackle bigger dandelion projects (like dandelion wine) or if you only have a small crop of dandelions and therefore have to combine multiple harvest days to accumulate enough petals.
  • I tried washing the dandelion blossoms, letting them dry, and then de-petaling. It was kind of a fail. Now I don’t even worry about washing the blossoms to de-petal them. You can clean off any bugs you come across while you de-petal each one. Our yard is chemical free, and pet-free, so I just don’t worry about it. I do wash the greens in cold water after I harvest them (just treat them like any other salad greens).
  • I choose to wear rubber gloves while de-petaling. Besides my struggle with eczema on my hands, I just don’t love the sticky, &  yellow stain mess that is involved with de-petaling. Even with pumice soap, it’s tricky stuff to get off. Then again, I spend a couple hours at a time de-petaling, so maybe if you’re only doing small batches, it wouldn’t be so bad 😉
  • Fact: Children love to play with dandelions. They are an easy crop to teach kids to harvest. Sam has really enjoyed helping me pull off blossoms. Even got him de-petaling for a little bit one afternoon. So dandelion harvest time can definitely be a kid friendly task.
Dandelion petals ready to be frozen.
Dandelion petals ready to be frozen.

There are lots of interesting things to make out of dandelions. There’s a good collection of ideas & recipes on The Prairie Homestead blog. I started out simple, just making come dandelion green salads. There’s really no end of possibilities when it comes to salad combinations. Just think of some of your favourite salads or dressings, and add or substitute dandelion greens. For example, I love broccoli salad, but there’s no broccoli ready to harvest in the backyard, so I used dandelion greens instead, added my usual raisins, nuts, and cream dressing. Viola! I tend to like adding sweet things to salads made with dandelion greens, just to cut the slight bitterness of the leaves. I’m thinking strawberries and sunflower seeds next time around or maybe a sweet rhubarb dressing. Just have fun experimenting with it!

Dandelion green salad with fresh chives, raisins and pumpkin seeds. I made a simple creamy dressing of mayo, vinegar & a touch of sugar.
Dandelion green salad with fresh chives, raisins and pumpkin seeds. I made a simple creamy dressing of mayo, vinegar & a touch of sugar.
Dandelion green salad with fresh chives. I simmered dried apricots and prunes with coconut oil and a bit of water to form the dressing. Sooooo tasty!
Dandelion green salad with fresh chives. I simmered dried apricots and prunes with coconut oil and a bit of water to form the dressing. Sooooo tasty!

There are several things I want to try making with the dandelion blossoms and petals, including syrup, fried blossoms, and wine (if I’m super ambitious one week). We made dandelion cookies this week from some of the fresh petals. They were yummy and a hit with Sam. I used a recipe from the Dinner For Everyone blog. Since they are basically oatmeal cookies with dandelion petals, I want to try adding raisins to them next time around.

Cookies made from dandelion petals. Yummy, but next time I'm going to add some raisins.
Cookies made from dandelion petals. Yummy, but next time I’m going to add some raisins.

Have you ever done anything with dandelion greens or blossoms? Would love to hear about it! Also, should let you know that if you happen to be one of those lucky folks who don’t suffer from dandelion invasions in your yard (or don’t have a yard), chances are you can purchase dandelion greens from your local urban farmer or grocery store. Here in Calgary, you can check out the YYC Growers & Distributors booth at some of their upcoming farmers’ markets. Some of the greens you purchase from them might just be from our yard.

Is it green?

If it is, then there is very little chance that Sam will eat it. He’s always been picky when it comes to vegetables. It’s why we were thrilled to discover that he really liked kale, which we made into chips for dessert and slipped fresh into his morning smoothies. So as the garden was drawing to a close, and we were staring at bushels of broccoli leaves to pull & haul to the compost, we decided to try a little experiment.

Sam helping with broccoli dehydrating 2

With my little helper at my side, we harvested some big bowls full of broccoli leaves, and batch by batch, loaded up the dehydrator. Each batch took about 8.5 hours on a low temperature setting (approximately 115 degrees). Once the leaves were dehydrated, I ran them through a hand blender, removed some of the tougher stem bits, and then ground it all into a finer powder with a good ‘ol mortar & pestle. Some of this could have been simplified if we owned one of those electric spice grinders. It wasn’t too tricky and at the end of it all, we had a lovely bowl of super green powder. That might not seem all that exciting to some folks, but in my mind, it means we now have the ability to sneak some more veggie goodness into Sam’s morning smoothies. I haven’t given it a try yet (we just finished up the last of our kale), but hope to soon.

DIY Super Green Broccoli Powder by Bubblegum Sass

From garden to plate

I thought it was high time I shared some of the yummy things we’ve been making with the harvest from the garden (especially since the garden is close to being finished for the year). Hubby has posted good photos & recipes of some of the dishes he made. My dishes consisted mainly of tomatoes, tomato sauces, and soon a whole lot of tomato paste.

Zucchini & fresh herbs
I made a very simple dish with sliced zucchini, fried in a pan with olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh sage & thyme.

Tomatoes, spinach, & onions
One of my tomato sauces included loads of spinach, onion, chives, & fresh herbs.

Tomatoes
And this pile of green tomatoes is currently ripening in our basement. Once they are bit more on the red side, I will set to work on making tomato paste (to freeze).

Feeling like I need to get a little bit more experimental with my vegetable cooking. I swear, cooking is definitely a muscle that requires constant flexing. Too much time away from it and you fall into such a sticky rut. Anyway, there was a great deal of tasty fresh veggies enjoyed this summer and plenty that has been frozen to enjoy in coming months.