Excuse me for a bit. I have some reading to do. 😀

It has been 3 eventful summers since I last posted about my garden. The saying really is true – time flies when you’re having fun!

This year’s garden is a whole lot smaller and in a whole new locale – Colorado!

Several years of budget cuts, furloughs and missing pay raises due to the fiscal crisis in the state of IL, and the potential impending build of a large hog facility (20,000 head of hogs) very near our home started the ball rolling on a change of locale for the cookgardensew family.

After saying goodbye to the chickens, the gardens, the berries, and the land and home we worked so hard to clean up for the past four years we cast the proverbial job net out. Not sure of where it would take us, we spent the summer of 2017 scouting out potential future locales.  By August the dust had settled and the pin had been placed on the map. We were headed for Boulder, Colorado.

Anyone aware of the housing market in rural IL compared to the market on the Front Range of Colorado will realize the task we had ahead of us. After many months of searching, we found our (hopefully forever) home just north of Boulder in Longmont, Colorado.

For you gardeners out there, Longmont is in hardiness zone 5a which is very similar to our zone 5 garden in Illinois. The only stand out difference is the arid Colorado air, which is wonderful for everyday outdoor life and a bit less wonderful for gardening.

In Illinois we rarely, if ever, watered the garden. We had rain every week for the majority of the summer and the air was quite humid. While I don’t miss the humidity at all, I realized quickly that the garden here wasn’t going to make it a week without me watering. Now that I have that down, all is well.

When we moved in at the end of April, the garden looked like this.

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Here it is after I planted all my Mother’s Day and birthday gifts. The best gifts grow, did you know that? 🙂

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And here it is today.

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All of the plants were purchased at The Flower Bin, a local garden store, because there was nowhere to start seeds indoors this year in our small rental. They all transplanted wonderfully. I would highly recommend The Flower Bin – they had everything necessary to get back going in my new garden and the prices were reasonable. They were also friendly and helpful, which was the icing on the cake.

As the summer heat started to spur on the plant growth in the yard, I realized happily that the previous owner of our house had planted a few other perennials around that I missed when we looked at the house.

Our berry plants at the old house were gearing up for their first really productive year when we moved, so I was super excited when I realized there are raspberry bushes along the back of our new house.

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There are also some very hardy oregano, chives, lavender, and sage plants. Anyone in Longmont need some sage or oregano?

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And this one took me a while, but thanks to some Google-fu I was able to determine that this leggy vine is hops. I moved around some fencing to give it something to climb and am watching it grow, since hops is new to me.

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We also have beautiful roses and flowers in the front, something I never added to our other houses but am thrilled to have here!

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One of the things I love about our new home city is how many beautiful and productive gardens are visible around town complementing all the small farms that we have locally. It is a powerful thing to see so many others with interests similar to my own.

I also love that Longmont has no issue with chickens and bees in town (so long as your neighborhood doesn’t prohibit them). Though it will be awhile before we get back to having chickens or bees, I love that the town embraces the possibility.

I miss having bees the most, even though the one hive we had in Illinois – started from a swarm that settled in our backyard –  wasn’t strong and didn’t make it through the winter. I learned so much watching the colony grow, and I hope that one day I can re-introduce bees onto our “urban homestead.” For now I will settle for watching the visiting honeybees on my plants – thankfully there are plenty around.

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I think the biggest takeaway from our cross-country move is that patience and persistence pay off. Sometimes you have to take a chance and see where it takes you.

There is beauty in so many places in the world, both in the people and the culture and I am excited to continue to explore the corner of it that we now call home!

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What I Planted: 2015

Perennials and plants that reseeded:

  • blackberries (wild and planted)
  • raspberries (wild and planted)
  • gooseberries (wild)
  • chamomile (reseeded in the garden)
  • mulberry trees (wild)
  • rhubarb (just found this near the old garden)
  • asparagus

Seeds started inside:

  • Tomatoes
    • Ropreco Paste (Seeds of Change, 2011) – 3/6
    • Rutgers (American Seed,  2011) – 3/3
    • Red Riesentraube (Baker Creek, 2011) – 2/2
    • Yellow Riesentraube (Baker Creek, 2013) – 1/1
    • Doublerich (Seeds of Change, 2011) – 2/3
    • Bonny Best (Baker Creek, 2013) – 2/3
    • Tappy’s Heritage (Baker Creek, 2013) – 3/3
  • Peppers
    • King of the North (Livingston Seed, 2014) – 9/9
    • Tequilla Sunrise (Baker Creek, 2013) – 5/6
    • Jalapeno (American Seed, 2011) – 3/3
    • Red Mini Bell (Baker Creek, 2011) – 6/6
    • California Wonder (Baker Creek, 2011) – 2/6
    • Melrose Sweet (Saved from 2014, probably not true) – 6/6
  • Other
    • Calabrese Broccoli (Baker Creek, 2011) – 3/3
    • Snowball X Cauliflower (American Seed, 2011) – 1/2
    • Stuttgarter Onions (Baker Creek, 2011)
    • Evergreen Bunching Onion (Livingston Seed, 2014)
    • Black Eyed Susan (Livingston Seed, 2014) – 1/1
    • Ground Cherry (Baker Creek, 2015) – 6/6

Direct seeded in the garden:

  • sugar snap peas
  • watermelon radishes
  • tom thumb lettuce
  • lettuce mix from Baker Creek
  • garlic (from the refrigerator)

This morning I noticed my favorite sign of spring – the first asparagus tips peeking through. The tall one is about the size of my thumb. Hooray!

 

Seed Starting 2015

This year I went ahead and splurged on a heat mat, since I had such disastrous failure starting peppers in our chilly basement last year. So far it has been successful. After almost a month, only 13 of the 36 cells I planted failed to sprout.

As it stands right now, these are my spouts, with the year the seeds are from in parentheses followed by the ratio of living plants to seeds planted.

Tomatoes

  • Ropreco Paste (Seeds of Change, 2011) – 3/6
  • Rutgers (American Seed,  2011) – 3/3
  • Red Riesentraube (Baker Creek, 2011) – 2/2
  • Yellow Riesentraube (Baker Creek, 2013) – 1/1
  • Doublerich (Seeds of Change, 2011) – 2/3
  • Bonny Best (Baker Creek, 2013) – 2/3
  • Tappy’s Heritage (Baker Creek, 2013) – 3/3

Peppers

  • King of the North (Livingston Seed, 2014) – 9/9
  • Tequilla Sunrise (Baker Creek, 2013) – 5/6
  • Jalapeno (American Seed, 2011) – 3/3
  • Red Mini Bell (Baker Creek, 2011) – 6/6
  • California Wonder (Baker Creek, 2011) – 2/6
  • Melrose Sweet (Saved from 2014, probably not true) – 6/6

Other 

  • Calabrese Broccoli (Baker Creek, 2011) – 3/3
  • Snowball X Cauliflower (American Seed, 2011) – 1/2
  • Stuttgarter Onions (Baker Creek, 2011)
  • Evergreen Bunching Onion (Livingston Seed, 2014)
  • Black Eyed Susan (Livingston Seed, 2014) – 1/1
  • Ground Cherry (Baker Creek, 2015) – 6/6

I am planning on transplanting a few of the spindly tomatoes into slightly bigger pots (where I can plant them deeper). After I get that done it will be time for round two, and possibly some outside planting. Sugar snap peas and greens here we come!

Side Note: They definitely look dry in that picture! I’m off to water them….

Do you have a Zojirushi bread machine? Do you have a go-to wheat bread recipe yet? Well, your search is over!

I have tried more than a few recipes for wheat bread in my Zo and I finally stopped when I found this one. It does take a little bit of programming for the HOME MADE setting on your Zojirushi, but it is well worth it – I promise!

To mix and knead the bread I use the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 Home Bakery Supreme. It looks like this:

Zojirushi BB-CEC20(Can’t see the image? Temporarily disable AdBlock and/or Disconnect in your browser.)

There is a newer model, the Zojirushi BB-PAC20 but I don’t have any experience with that model. If you do please let us know in the comments!

The bread comes out of the oven (yes, I do bake it in the oven –  in a Lodge cast iron bread pan) soft and fluffy, with a delicious sweet and wheat-y aroma.

Maple Whole Wheat Bread

 

Maple Wheat Bread in the Zojirushi

I started with Laura’s recipe over at HeavenlyHomemakers.com. She has loads of tasty recipes and a great sense of humor too. Check her out, especially if you are making this by hand. Her picture tutorial is awesome.

I modified Laura’s recipe to use maple syrup because I have quite a bit of it and also to use coconut oil instead of butter for the same reason, though I do still butter the crust. The result is scrumptious and disappears quickly around my house.

Laura mentions – and I concur – that this slices much easier when cooled. I dare you to wait that long though.

Ingredients

-4 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly milled hard white wheat)

-1 3/4 cups warm water (divided into 1 1/2 and 1/4 cups)

-1 1/2 cups white flour

-1/3 cup maple syrup

-2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

-1 tsp sea salt

-3 Tbs coconut oil (or butter)

-1 Tbs butter for crust

Directions

  1. Set the HOME MADE settings on your Zojirushi for the two cycles as listed in the Notes section.
  2. Add 3 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 ½ cups of warm water in the Zojirushi pan. Choose your first homemade setting (see the notes section) and press start. This will mix the water and flour. Allow this to sit for about 30 minutes.
  3. While the wheat and water are mixing and resting, mix together maple syrup, yeast and 1/4 cup warm water. Let this rest for 10-20 min until bubbly.
  4. Place coconut oil in a small bowl and melt in microwave or over another bowl of warm water.
  5. Open the zojirushi and add salt, melted coconut oil and the yeast mixture to the flour and water mixture.
  6. Start your second homemade cycle. It will be a bit wet and “splashy” at first. Gradually add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of wheat flour and 1 cup of white flour as the mixture kneads.
  7. Close the lid and let the Zojirushi knead the dough and go through the rise cycle.
  8. When the cycle is complete, lightly oil your hands and lift or dump the dough onto a lightly greased counter. Gently knead for a minute or so.
  9. Divide the dough into two even sections (or one larger and one smaller depending on your pan size).
  10. Shape the loaves to fit your pan. If you only have one pan, you can shape and freeze one (or both!) loaves now. Place loaves in oiled pans.
  11. Cover the loaves with a cloth and allow them to rise until doubled, about an hour.
  12. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. If the bread crust starts to darken, you can tent the loaf with foil about halfway through cooking.
  13. Remove from the oven and tip out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool. Rub top with butter for a delicious crust!
  14. Enjoy!

fawn in the front yard

We happened to catch a glimpse of this fawn today. No mama in sight. It nibbled on some drop apples and then ran off.

Chicken Abruzzi

Chicken Abruzzi on Plate with fork

This is a wonderful lunch or dinner meal that can be made largely from your garden! It makes delicious use of zucchini, kale, peppers, and anything else you might like to throw in. It is modeled from the Chicken Abruzzi that is available at Olive Garden (a delicious choice if you happen to be stopping in). The recipe is adapted from one by Olena at iFoodreal, a blog that I came across the other day and am excited to check out further!

The recipe called for 4 chicken breasts, but since I was the only one eating this I just used one from a chicken I baked the night before. You could use more if you have more folks eating with you – there are plenty of veggies to go around. You could also use shredded chicken or leftover chicken pieces from baking a chicken. The veggies would be good all by themselves too!

Chicken Abruzzi

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A wonderful light lunch or dinner with healthy garden ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1-4 chicken breasts (depending on how many you are feeding), or leftover rotisserie chicken
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 zucchini, cubed
  • 1 small yellow squash, cubed (mine was a lemon squash)
  • 1 or 2 sweet peppers chopped (if you like hot peppers a little might be good here!)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour (or cornstarch or arrowroot powder
  • 1 can cannelloni beans, rinsed & drained
  • A large handful of kale, cut into thick ribbons
  • 1 tsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme, dried

Directions

  1. Coat chicken with salt, pepper, and half of the crushed garlic and cook until done using your preferred method. I reheated mine in a cast-iron pan. Set the chicken to the side and tent with foil to keep warm.
  2. Heat skillet over medium, and add oil, onion, and the rest of the garlic. Saute for a few minutes.
  3. Add zucchini/squash and peppers and continue to saute, stirring occasionally.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, flour (or another thickener), thyme, and salt/pepper to taste.
  5. Pour broth mixture over vegetables in the skillet, and add the beans.
  6. Bring to a boil, stirring to mix. Simmer veggies for 4 or five minutes, until sauce thickens slightly.
  7. Turn off heat and stir in kale.
  8. Once the kale has softened slightly you are ready to serve! Spoon veggies onto the plate (I used a shallow salad bowl) and lay chicken over the top.
  9. Enjoy!