Monday, April 07, 2008

DIY-Grow Your Own Potatoes in Small Spaces

I hope to put in a vegetable garden this year. I have a nice healthy herb garden and only need to expand on it...but my goal for this year is to grow some potatoes, carrots, peas and beans. I would tuck lettuce and a few other small, complimentary veggies alongside them, but I want to keep it managable.

Because our front and back yards are heavily shaded with trees, it creates quite a challenge. I figured I would have to dig up the middle of my back yard as it is the only sunny spot...except, this is where the kids play so I was feeling a bit guilty. So, when I found this article about growing potatoes in plastic bags I was thrilled. It would allow me to take advantage of the narrow sunny spots available in my yard and move them if necessary.

My only concern was the plastic and how heating plastic allows chemicals to leach into soil. I might try to track down burlap bags and if needed, set the burlap bag inside a plastic bag...but maybe I am worrrying about nothing??

Check out the article and attached link as it is very interesting.

Living in the city, it can be hard to find a place in your garden for potatoes. Potatoes, grown conventionally, take up a lot of growing space and are time-intensive when it's time to dig them up. There are benefits to growing your own potatoes though. You have a much wider selection than that which you get in the grocery store. You will also have a ready supply of baby new potatoes, considered an expensive delicacy if you have to purchase them but just another potato in your own garden. There are, however, many different methods to growing potatoes in your small garden that save time, space, and work. I have tried many of these methods but the Garbage Bag method is the easiest and most productive.

To use the Garbage Bag method of growing potatoes, all you need is a sturdy garbage bag, like Glad Force Flex, some compost, shredded leaves and seed potatoes. You can purchase certified seed potatoes from a nursery or use sprouted potatoes from your pantry. Seed potatoes are your best bet as they are certified disease free and come in many varieties and colors, from yellow to pink to purple and blue. Cut larger potatoes into pieces that have two or three eyes each. Let potato pieces sit out to dry overnight.

When you are ready to plant, fill garbage bag four inches deep with compost. Roll down sides of bag until just above the level of the soil. Poke holes with the point of a pair of scissors around the exterior of the bag just below the soil line. Site the bag where it will get at least 6 hours of full sun every day. It can be by a fence, on your balcony, or in a sunny unused area of your yard. Plant three seed potato chunks into the soil and cover shallowly. Water lightly. The black garbage bag will provide extra warmth to the potatoes in the spring and fall and they will grow faster than if they were in the ground.

cont'd here

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Springs warmth...

Today was finally warm, sunny and smelled sweetly of spring! I left church today feeling pretty flat and discouraged. However, ella really wanted to go outside, so together we went outside and started weeding the flower bed. It is a huge double sided bed with little flagstone steps seperating the two sides. One side is still wild and overgrown with grasses, and I am hopeful that this spring I will have more time to focus on my garden and make it something to feel proud of.

We spent the afternoon outside enjoying the warmth, working away without jackets and happy to discover the plants sending out their little fresh spring shoots! Ella's two little friends stopped over to play with her and while they played I enjoyed weeding and puttering. I always feel as though my thoughts become clearer as I pull the weeds! I can often work out things that bother me and put all those weedy thoughts into their rightful place!

So, even though half my yard still has snow...I feel hopeful that spring is here. No more looking back!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dreaming of Camping...

Every year we take our kids camping...all six of us, two tents, sleeping bags, and a million other things you need to camp in comfort and style! It takes me a couple of weeks to prepare and pack, then another week to unpack and put we limit our trips to 3-4 per summer season.

We always look forward to the meals and the fun times around the campfire. This year I definitely intend to try my hand at making bannock over the fire! Bannock is delicious made in the oven, and is one of those easy breads you can make in a pinch.

Irish Bannock

But, I do look forward to seeing the kids making bannock on a stick as a treat by the fire at night or in a fry pan or a dutch oven for breakfast with some bacon and eggs and fresh brewed coffee...yum!

Here are some interesting details and recipes for you to enjoy...I apologize, but I do not remember where I found these recipes or I would also include a link. I had it saved in my camping file.

What is Bannock?
Bannock is a bread that you can cook using little more than a fire
and a stick though it can also be baked or fried. Names for bannock
include bushbread, trail bread, grease bread and galette.

Bannocks origins are lost in the mists of time, but some believe
bannock was first made by the Scotts from the same oat flour that
gave their horses great strength and endurance. With stomachs fed
with hearty oat bannock those who became explorers and mountain men
in the new world introduced the bannock recipe to the Native
Americans and other outdoorsmen who lived in the wilderness.

The most simple bannock recipe consists of just flour of
nearly any kind and water. Kneaded into a dough and wrapped around a
green stick, this most basic bannock cooks into a fine tasting bread
that can be eaten alone or used as a basis for a full course meal.

Bannock on a Green Stick

The following recipe provides enough bannock for one day. Stored in a
waterproof bag, it is easy to carry a week or ten day supply.

1-cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk powder

Mix all the ingredients well, making sure the butter is evenly
distributed throughout. Sometimes I will melt the butter before
adding it to the mixture. Then slowly add water while mixing until a
dough ball is formed.

Cooking Bannock...Make the bannock dough into a cigar shape and wrap it
around a green stick. Try to keep the thickness of the dough about ½

Slowly roast the bannock over a hot fire, rotating occasionally until
it turns a golden brown. You will hear the butter sizzling and your
stomach rumble as the bannock cooks.

Multi-flour Bannock Recipe
This combination of flours, spices, and dried fruit makes the bannock
a delicious meal of itself and makes me hungry just thinking about
it. It can be cooked over an open fire on a green stick or formed
into a loaf and baked and makes a 3-day supply:

1 Cup Barley flour
1 Cup Wheat flour
1/2 Cup Rolled Oats
1 Cup White Sugar
1/2 to 1 Cup Raisins or other dried fruit
1 1/2 Cup Buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tbsp. Coarse Ground Salt
1 tbsp. Cinnamon
1 tbsp. Cloves
1 tbsp. Nutmeg

Fried Bannock
If you like fried foods then you need to try fried Bannock.

4 cups flour
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 can milk, mix with water
1/4 cup margarine/butter
2 eggs
1/4 tbsp salt

Mix all the ingredients so a dough ball is formed. Break off pieces
and flatten into rounds about ½ inch thick. Fry to a golden brown in
the oil of your choice.

Every camping enthusiast should know how to make bannock and
cook it over an open fire. The recipe your great grandfather used has
not changed and it remains an excellent food for the hungry survivor:

2.5 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
One cup cold water
Mix and kneed the bannock ingredients. Then place in a greased pan
over a glowing bed of coals; or better yet cook it on a stick.