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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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.

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Into the Ground

It’s almost been a full week since our Happiness By the Acre Tree Planting Day out on the farm. Still feels like we’re recovering here or maybe it’s just that we’re still “on the go” so much that last weekend feels like a blur. I’m hoping that things get a little less hectic in the coming weeks, not just for my sake, but for Sammy’s. He sure has been a trooper, but some of the craziness is taking its toll.

We had an AMAZING turnout for the Tree Planting Day!! Loved that so many of our friends brought their little kiddos along too! It was a great way to share the day and build some of our first memories of the farm. We really appreciated each and every effort made by our volunteer team, big and small. There is NO WAY we could have gotten this project done without the help of family and friends. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!! We will not forget the smiles or the sweat that went into planting our one acre of food forest.

Food and hand wash station (we tried to keep everyone hydrated and their bellies full)
Food and hand wash station (we tried to keep everyone hydrated and their bellies full)
This is the first event I've made a real effort to do "low impact". We used real plates, napkins & utensils (no disposables), mason jars of cold water in the cooler, and as much locally sourced or homemade food as possible. It was tricky, took a bit more work, and I cheated a bit here & there (hello broccoli salad & cans of pop), but felt super satisfied by the end of the day. Only a half full bag of garbage to throw out after feeding more than 15 people :-)
This is the first event I’ve made a real effort to do “low impact”. We used real plates, napkins & utensils (no disposables), mason jars of cold water in the cooler, and as much locally sourced or homemade food as possible. It was tricky, took a bit more work, and I cheated a bit here & there (hello broccoli salad & cans of pop), but felt super satisfied by the end of the day. Only a half full bag of garbage to throw out after feeding more than 15 people :-)
The kiddos got much use out of these. We put them on tree watering duty. SUPER helpers!
The kiddos got much use out of these. We put them on tree watering duty. SUPER helpers!
Volunteers got to choose a tree to adopt. We've measured each tree and will send growth updates over the coming years. (Little Rylin did so well amongst all those boys. She even had fun picking up dirt, a first for her).
Volunteers got to choose a tree to adopt. We’ve measured each tree and will send growth updates over the coming years. (Little Rylin did so well amongst all those boys. She even had fun picking up dirt, a first for her).
Super helpers Joanna and Soren with their hazelnut tree!
Super helpers Joanna and Soren with their hazelnut tree!
Little helpers here & there! Thanks boys!
Little helpers here & there! Thanks boys!
We hope everyone had as much fun as Shauna! She's anxious for us to get moved out to the farm so she can come visit. Looking forward to it too, Shauna!
We hope everyone had as much fun as Shauna! She’s anxious for us to get moved out to the farm so she can come visit. Looking forward to it too, Shauna!

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Hundreds of Happy Trees

400 hazelnuts tucked into a trench awaiting Tree Planting Day
400 hazelnuts tucked into a trench awaiting Tree Planting Day

Have I mentioned our crazy plan of planting an acre of food forest out on our “big farm”? And when I say “crazy”, I mean it’s driving us a fairly crazy. Wowza! Hubby started feeling in over his head about two weeks ago and we’re seriously in the thick of it now! This is all a part our of Happiness By the Acre adventures.

We had 400 hazelnut trees arrive last week. We’ll be picking up 400 raspberry bushes, and a few dozen apple & pear trees at the end of this week. Yep, that’s over 800 plants to be planted. Oh boy…

That's what an acre of land looks like. Now picture it covered in a beautiful food forest (or food savannah as Marcus keeps correcting me)
That’s what an acre of land looks like. Now picture it covered in a beautiful food forest (or food savannah as Marcus keeps correcting me)

So we’re organizing a Tree Planting Day! On Saturday, May 24th, we’ll be trying to get ALL those plants into the ground out on our farm near Carstairs. If you’re interested in lending a hand & spending some time out in the country this weekend, let me know or check out our event page on Facebook. We’ll be providing tasty treats and cold drinks. Come for an hour or come for the day! Kids are more than welcome.

Sammy_with_shovel

This is your chance to be a small part of our family farm history in our very first project. And as a thank you to all the folks who come out to lend a hand, we will be letting each volunteer adopt a tree of their choice. Attach your name to a bit of history. Get your picture taken with your little tree and we’ll send you growth updates as the years progress. Plus you can pop by and check on your tree the next time you visit the farm.

I hope that some of you can join us on Saturday! If not, we could sure use some extra prayers to see this project through.

I’ll be sure to post photos from Tree Planting Day and let you know how it all goes. Until then, we’ll be continuing to run around a little crazed, checking things off the to-do lists, and praying for plenty of sunshine, and more importantly, that we can find a bobcat operator with an auger to dig 800 holes by Saturday. Oi!

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