Sunday, April 29, 2012

Take a peek...

There's a new magazine on stands near you 
and you have probably already heard some of the buzz about it...

In this magazine, among the many stunningly beautiful homes from around the U.S. and Canada,

and features about artisans, craftspeople, and farmers,

and tantalizing recipes,

and original project tutorials, and tips and info on collectibles, and so much more...

there's a log farmhouse in those pages that you might recognize if you read this blog.

 Yes, that's my house! Please, pinch me!  

Kimberly McCole wrote a most lovely article to complement Fifi O'Neill's styling and Mark Lohman's photography from last September, which appears in the premiere issue of Romantic Prairie Style magazine!  Wow, I still can't fully comprehend that this has really happened! My thanks to all three of you!

I'd also like to thank two friends: 

Karan Sjoberg of Fetch Antiques and Interiors, who whipped my house into shape for the photo shoot.  She has a wonderful eye for arrangements and vignettes and brought together the rooms so beautifully.  She also has an amazing shop in Hillsborough, NC, filled with gorgeous architectural salvage pieces, and lots of one-of-a-kind vintage furniture. 

Cindy Austin--also featured in Romantic Prairie Style magazine (she's the adorable lady wearing the straw hat in the photos above!)--who so kindly and generously lent several of her original oil paintings for the photo shoot to help fill my bare walls.  Fifi loved her work and so will you!

And as if all of this isn't totally overwhelming, check out the "Made in America" section of Romantic Prairie Style for a mention and photo of Harmony Farm Candles

So, please check out the premiere issue of Fifi's sumptuous quarterly magazine, Romantic Prairie Style.   The pages are simply overflowing with eye candy aplenty, terrific articles, and inspiration galore!

On cloud nine,

P.S.--I found the copy of Romantic Prairie Style previewed here at Target on Friday. The local Barnes & Noble said they will have copies on the shelf starting Tuesday, May 1st. Interested in subscribing?  Annual U.S. subscriptions are available for $24.97 for 4 quarterly issues via Harris Publications, 1115 Broadway, New York, NY  10160-0397.

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shabby creek cottage

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More Sq. Ft. Gardening: What I Planted and Resources for Your Own Garden

Before I finish the square foot gardening post I started last week, I want to take a quick minute to remember Lucille, seen here on the blog last summer.

She died today from injuries sustained in a possum attack last night.  Poor, sweet girl.  She's the only hen we've lost to a predator in the nearly two years we've kept chickens.  My husband--ever the avenger--made swiss cheese out of dispatched the possum so our other ladies won't be in any further danger.

Such is life in the country.

R.I.P., Lu. :(


So, back to square foot gardening.  Last week, I cleaned out two raised beds in our garden, added vermiculite to the preexisting compost/topsoil mix, and created grids with baling twine.

I then planted 10 heirloom tomato seedlings (4 Pink Brandywine and 6 Cherokee Purple) that my mom gave me.

In the rest of the squares of the two beds, my little helper and I planted these seeds:

  • Yellow Crookneck Summer Squash
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Black Beauty Zucchini
  • Cocozelle Zucchini
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Spacemaster Cucumbers
  • Blue Lake Bush Beans
  • Sugar Baby Watermelons
  • Detroit Dark Red Beets
  • Hearts of Gold Canteloupe
  • Chadwick Cherry Tomatoes
  • Chives

Planting peas

One more seed to plant in that square!

For information on how many seeds to plant per square, check out Plant Spacing for a Square Foot Garden. All New Square Foot Gardening does not have an exhaustive list of plant types, so this Web site was a great additional resource.

And I also found this spreadsheet on companion planting quite helpful as I laid out the grids and determined where to place seeds.

So that I don't forget anything, as I'm very prone to do, I'm keeping a notebook with diagrams of each bed, noting what and how many seeds were planted in each square, and when they were planted. 

Speaking of the seeds, all were from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange of Mineral, VA and Sow True Seed of Asheville, NC.  Most are organic and heirloom varieties native to the Southeast U.S.  Just trying to keep it local/regional!

If you're looking for vermiculite, it can be hard to come by as it's not generally carried in big box stores. I found this handy-dandy spreadsheet on My Square Foot Gardening that lists retailers by state.  For folks in North Carolina, Fifth Season Gardening (locations in Carrboro, Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh) carries vermiculite, as do a few other specialty gardening businesses in eastern and western NC.

I'll be cleaning out the mustard greens this week, and converting those beds to sq. ft. beds.  I need to pick up some corn and okra seeds, and probably a few more varieties of herbs, to add some diversity to the garden. And with all the rain we've had lately, hopefully we'll be seeing some sprouts in the coming weeks!


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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Square Foot Gardening: The Work-With-What-You-Have Edition

Spring arrived early here, much like in the rest of the country, and I've had gardening on my mind ever since!

We still have lettuce, spinach, mustard greens (ick--can't stand 'em!), onions, and garlic in the raised beds in our backyard leftover from fall plantings.  And until earlier this week, we also had two beds full of kale, which had bolted earlier in the month.

My husband usually takes the lead on our garden, but this year he said he just wasn't feeling it, so since I most certainly want a summer garden, it was up to me to get that ball rolling!

Jason takes a more relaxed approach to planting the garden, usually broadcasting seeds into the beds, waiting to see what comes up, then thinning and tending to the plants.

Well, I needed a bit more structure--or more like someone telling me what do--so I read Mel Bartholomew's All New Square Foot Gardening.  I quickly realized how simple, straightforward, and logical the system is, and decided that's how I'd plant and grow our summer garden.

Now, the basic tenets of SFG are:
-forgetting all you've been taught about planting gardens in rows--that systems works for producing food on a very large scale; home gardens needn't take up nearly as much space
-building raised beds in dimensions of 4 feet (ex: 4'x4' {the ideal} or 4'x8', etc.)
-filling the beds with a mix of compost, top soil, and vermiculite to minimize weeds and ensure quality soil
-making grids to go on top of the beds to delineate each square foot
-planting seeds and/or seedlings densely in each square foot block
-maximizing the amount of food grown in a small area of square footage

Mel gives guidelines on how many plants to grow in a given square foot, based on the mature plant size.  For instance, a single tomato plant encompasses 1 sq. ft., while 9 beets can be planted in the same amount of space.

He also states that by using the SFG system, one adult can harvest enough food from three 4'x4' beds (48 sq. ft.) to eat a salad and have dinner vegetables every day of the growing season, plus have enough extra produce to preserve and put up as well.  Pretty impressive, huh? 
Our large beds--of which there are 8--are 5'x10' and constructed of 2x12s, so they were workable enough for the SFG system. 

Since building them in 2010, we originally filled them with a compost/topsoil mix, and then amended the beds with more of the same mix last year, plus leaves, grass clippings, and some horse manure compost from a neighbor.

For this project, I decided to start small(ish) as Mel recommends and convert the two beds of bolted kale to square foot garden beds.  As the spinach and lettuces and greens wilt with the heat, I'll clean out those beds and convert some of them to the SFG system.  I may leave a few beds alone and use them for more sprawling plants like watermelon and pumpkins since we have the space, though you can technically grow them semi-vertically with the SFG system!

Anway, here's one of the beds of kale.

I ripped all that out:

Took a 4 cu. ft. bag of vermiculite:

  And emptied the contents into the bed and worked it into the soil:

The vermiculite prevents the soil from compacting and allows for better drainage

Now, the official way to do the SFG grid is to use wood lathe and make a permanent grid to lay on top of the raised bed.  After looking into several options at the local home improvement stores, we'd either have to spend a bundle on wood lathe long enough to span the 10' beds, or buy a table saw and rip 2x4s into thin strips of lathe, which isn't exactly the safest thing to do.

(This is where if you make your beds the recommended 4'x4' dimension, you can get lathe in 4' lengths for a cheap price.  Plus, a 4'x4' bed is easy for most people to reach in from all sides--another reason why Mel recommends those magic dimensions.)

Anyway, in the name of thrift (and instant gratification), I went against Mel's advice of building the wood grids. I already had 5,000 feet of baling twine and plenty of screws on hand.  And even if I have to replace the twine next year, I figure I'd rather use what I already have first than spend any money.   Plus, I could make a grid of twine without any assistance and get it done quickly.

So I marked off each foot around the perimeters of the beds and placed the screws: 

Then I took lengths of twine and tied them off, first along the 10 ft. lengths:

And then across:

The OCD/anal retentive part of me is totally loving all those neat little grids!

And tah-dah, Square Foot Gardening beds!  

My son and I planted the beds today, but it's dinner time now so I'll be back in the next few days to give a quick rundown of what we've planted so far.

Do you use the SFG method?  Have you been working in your garden yet?  What have you planted?


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Romantic Prairie Cookbook Arrives!

Last week, when I opened my mail box, a fat manila envelope lay inside.  The return address revealed the package to be from publisher Ryland Peters & Small in New York City.  And inside the envelope was a copy of Fifi O’Neill’s new book: The Romantic Prairie Cookbook!

After winning a copy of her first book, Romantic Prairie Style, serendipitous circumstances led to a photo shoot with Fifi and photographer extraordinaire Mark Lohman at my home.   

The September photo shoot was actually two-fold: the first part of the day was spent shooting the house for a magazine while the latter part was spent styling and shooting food.  (But at the time, I couldn’t share that  tidbit of information since it wasn’t publicly known that the follow-up to Romantic Prairie Style would be a cookbook.)

In the ensuing six months since the shoot, to say I’ve been eagerly anticipating the cookbook would be a massive understatement.

The Romantic Prairie Cookbook is a feast for the stomach and eyes

And when I cracked open The Romantic Prairie Cookbook, it was quickly apparent that Fifi and Mark delivered once again. 

The styling and photography in The Romantic Prairie Cookbook are simply breath-taking. Mark and Fifi visited many gracious properties and people in their journey to create the book, and so not only are there plenty of mouth-watering food photos, but interspersed with the recipes are charming portraits of farm animals, children, pets, and country vistas.  

The recipes featured in the book are wholesome, family-tested, and honest.   There is no pretension here, just good food, often from ingredients straight from the garden or pasture.  

My husband and I prepared five dishes and we were honored that they all made it into the book.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Spaghetti Squash with Fresh-Grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Venison Stroganoff

Jacob enjoying a Lemon Cupcake

Apple Crisps with Fresh Whipped Cream

all photography by Mark Lohman

I’ve savored leafing and re-leafing through the book, and can’t wait to try out the many recipes I’ve already marked.  Even though this is technically a cookbook, it could easily double as a coffee table book, too!

Though I'm obviously biased, I can't recommend The Romantic Prairie Cookbook enough.  It will hold a special place on my kitchen shelf along with other treasured cookbooks. Many thanks to Fifi and Mark for the opportunity to be a part of this!


Saturday, April 7, 2012

The One Where I Forsook Blogging for Traveling, Pinning, Playing with Coffee Filters, and Other Things

Well, hello.

I took an inadvertent blogging break there.  Almost 6 weeks--yikes!--between any real posts.

With spring's early arrival in North Carolina, I find myself outside as much as possible, taking walks on our country road.

I may have to mow the yard every five days, but I'm loving how green everything is!

And I've been up to a few fun things, which have kept me away from blogging...

The first was going to the United Kingdom the first half of March!

I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to travel with two girlfriends to England and Scotland.  We left the husbands and kids at home, boarded a transatlantic jet and visited:


The Cotswolds



Since returning home, I've been slowly tackling my office/craft room.  Here's a shameful view of it a few weeks ago. 

I swear I'm not a hoarder or slob, except, obviously, when it comes to this room.  However, supplies and fabric are being organized, furniture has been moved, and within the next month I shall unveil the new and improved space!

I've also been spending far too much of my internet time on Pinterest.   I can honestly say some of the pins have been pretties like fabric, project ideas, crafts and houses.  You know things that are normal and age-appropriate for grown women.

But, really?  Mostly, I've been pinning Handmade Ryan Gosling and Hunger Games memes. 


But we won't judge me dwell on that, okay?

Finally, in the last week, I've been making oodles of coffee filter posies.

See, I volunteer and serve on the board of my local Friends of the Library.  April 8-14 is National Library Week and a few months ago, I proposed the idea of holding an appreciation breakfast for the staff on the 10th, which is National Library Workers Day. 

Among other tasks related to the breakfast, I volunteered to make centerpieces.  Since the weather has been so wacky and we weren't sure what flowers might be available from members's gardens, and since the cost of real flowers add up quickly for a non-profit organization, I said I'd make coffee filter flowers instead. 

So pretty, no?

I used an amalgamated technique from tutorials by Aunt Peaches and Homemade Serenity.   The flowers are easy and fun to make.  The assembly is a little time-consuming, especially considering how many centerpieces there are. But to have flowers that last--theoretically--forever?  Not bad.

Well, I hope everyone is having a lovely Easter weekend.  I promise it won't be another 6 weeks 'til you hear something substantial from me.  Actually, I'll be back Monday as I received something very exciting in the mail last week and I can't wait to share it with you!