Friday, July 3, 2015

3 Sisters Garden Planting

This was the year I decided to delve into a little "history gardening". 

In my yard, each new garden season brings with it some type of new project or planting experiment. I have long been intrigued by the Native American, and subsequently early colonist's, planting of the "3 Sisters" -corn, pole beans, and squash.  

The contents: "Indian" Corn, Pole Beans, Winter Squash

I wanted a dried corn that I can use. I purchased an heirloom corn, Cherokee Long Ear Popcorn, which will be ornamental, can be used for popping, or ground for corn flour. Since I bake my own bread, this was a plus. For beans, I chose three pole beans I had prior experience with: Rattlesnake, purple, and yellow Kentucky Wonder.  I personally use each of these as a fresh eating bean, but you can allow for them to dry on the vine for use as a dried bean. Last, for the squash, I chose several winter squash varieties for long term storage: Acorn, spaghetti, Long Island Cheese, Delicata, longneck, butternut, and one hybrid, Sugar Dumpling.

The Planting:

Next, I did some research on how to plant.  I found an article written by RenĂ©es Garden that explains simply how to layout and plant as well as some history behind the three sisters garden.  This is the plan I followed.

I chose my area and used a marked string to center my holes on.  Using a 5 gallon bucket, I made the outline for each hill, and placed a couple handfuls of compost on top of each one. This made it easier to see as well as was a great starter for the seeds.
A marked string & 5 gallon bucket made outlines for the planting hills
When all the outlines were completed, I went back and made hills around the outside leaving the inner compost as a depression in the middle.  This made a little "bowl" to help retain water.
Completed hills with center of compost for seed planting
The first item to be planted is corn, so 4 corn per every-other mound was planted. I had one volunteer squash from last year that just so happened to be In the middle of a hill.  I decided to leave that in place.
"Volunteer" squash was left in place
The corn planting was actually followed 1 week later with the squash seeds planted in the other hills. This is sooner than called for in the plans, but I was already late in my plantings and wanted to get things started.  I did follow the recommendation of waiting for the corn to be 4" tall prior to planting bean seeds.


I did keep a pretty constant eye on the progress. Two hills of squash did not germinate and had to be re-seeded. I also discovered while young, the corn tended to blow over in the storms we experienced and had to be uprighted and reinforced with some soil. Next, as the beans grew, I made sure they were climbing the corn vs. rambling the ground. Simply "wrap" the end gently around a cornstalk.
Beans climbing up the corn, squash between

Overview of entire planted area - Late June
So far, so good in this garden experiment. I feel a connection to history through this process. Due to time and "supply", I did leave out one "authentic" item in this planting (as my children pointed out)...I did not bury a fish in each hill. I originally planned on doing this but my fishing and garden timing were not in sync. Furthermore, our ancestors did not have spigots nearby and watered everything by hand.  I did this in the early phase when I watered the seeded hills daily, leaving the surrounding soil dry.

Follow me on Twitter @AlisonRolen, where I will continue to post progress on this and more.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Growing Now - May 31

I would like to thank Beth at More Than Oregano for hosting GrowNow2015. My participation in this event slows me down and gets me out in the garden with an eye and appreciation for what is happening, blooming, and budding versus just what more needs to be done. There is miraculous beauty all around and I've been too busy lately to enjoy it.

In Bloom:

Mexican Evening Primrose - stealing the show right now in the garden.
Growing around entire driveway island perimeter (below)
Driveway Island
Newly planted Jalapenos are tucked between Sedum & Primrose
continuing around entire perimeter
Shrub Roses just coming into bloom.
Coral Bells
Waterfall garden
Coral Bells - Japanese Iris
Wild Honeysuckle
The air is thick with their fragrance
Lambs Ears
They will soon be filled with bees

In the Veggie Garden:

Ruby and Neon Glow Swiss Chard
Almost time to begin light picking
Garden Babies
Baby loose head lettuce
Red Sails
My personal favorite lettuce
Yellow squash seedlings
From this week's planting

Grow Now Logo smWelcome to the GrowNow2015 Garden Tour. I hope you take the time to check out what's growing...or, better yet, join in with your own garden tour. Click on icons below to Tour or "Hop" over to view what's growing elsewhere.

What are you Growing?

If you would like to participate as well, click on the text below that says, "You are next." Follow the directions to link-up your post and share it along with the rest of us.  If you would like to show the entries on your own blog, after you've linked up, click "Get the code" and follow directions there.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Alison's Garden Tour - May 2015

Here is a brief tour of what's growing and blooming in my yard currently.  I am behind so far this year compared to where I usually am.  One too many spring projects.  
100+ yr. old Peonies - so very fragrant
seen with hardy geranium
These Peonies were given to me 28 years ago by my Mother in law.  They came from her grandmother.  I have another type as well, however they do not smell nearly as good. One of these blooms can fill a room with it's fragrance.  I keep one by my bedside.
Honeysuckle Vine
I have two of these climbers.  One alongside my house climbing a home-made trellis, another climbs up and around my bird feeder platform.
Red Knockout rose - from bush below

This red Knockout rose is huge.  I neglected to prune it back this year, so it is even larger than anticipated.  Behind it is a 4' fence and a bluebird nesting box (with babies).
One of many Iris, others have bloomed and are done.
Stella d'Oro - budding out
Blueberries.  New addition for 2015.
Hosta. So fresh this time of year.
Red Winter Kale - going to seed
One of the new 4x12 garden beds
We added three 4x12 raised garden beds in what used to be the swingset area for the kids. The pea gravel was existing as that was the base for the play area.  This bed contains heirloom tomatoes, basil, garlic, onions, direct sown yesterday - beets and purple carrots. Marigold edging. As you can see above, and below....I still have some "spring cleaning" to do around the yard.  

I have another row of raised beds alongside our pool deck.  Currently planted: lettuce bed, ruby and neon chard, potatoes, 4 standard tomatoes, 2 cherry tomatoes.
The lettuce is currently perfect.
 Picking from outside leaves prolongs harvest.
Peppers beginning their hardening off process
Pond area - prior to spring clean up
Rhododendron is past its peak bloom.
Well, that's the pretty, and not so pretty happening in the garden today.  I plan to continue posting updates on the garden throughout the growing season.  I hope you will enjoy following along.

I am participating in the Garden Tour 2015 hosted by Beth at More Than Oregano. Click on icons below to Tour or "Hop" over to view what's growing elsewhere.

What are you Growing?
If you would like to participate as well, click on the text below that says, "You are next." Follow the directions to link-up your post and share it along with the rest of us.  If you would like to show the entries on your own blog, after you've linked up, click "Get the code" and follow directions there.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Go-To Winter Soup - Warms you from the Inside Out

Fresh  Garden Vegs & Nice Spice

Chicken Sausage Soup
By Alison Rolen

This soup was created to be a low-carb soup for myself.  Everyone in the family liked it, so it has become a family favorite.  All ingredients are fresh, has a nice spice to it, and makes a beautiful presentation, especially when garnished with fresh, shredded Parmesan. Just as good the following day(s). To make gluten-free, check sausage and broth labels.

1 lb bulk sausage – Jimmy Dean has good flavor and acceptable fat
4 cloves garlic – minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼+ tsp cayenne red pepper
1 large Vidalia or sweet onion – diced
1 c. diced sweet red/orange pepper**
3 stalks celery – diced
1 c. sliced carrots
2 c. shredded and chopped cabbage
2 – 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes (or 1 quart home-canned tomatoes)
1 - 32oz box chicken broth (or 1 quart home-made stock)
If you have any reserved juice/stock from cooking chicken, add that as well
4 c. pre-cooked, cubed chicken – I use mostly, or exclusively, dark meat*
1 bunch green onions – sliced, including greens
¼ c. chopped fresh Italian parsley
Additional salt and pepper to taste

In large stockpot:
  1. Add minced garlic to pot.  Add and Brown the sausage, breaking up into small pieces as it cooks.
  2. Drain off only excessive grease (some is needed to cook veggies).  Add spices to top of sausage: cumin, paprika, red pepper.  Stir, coating sausage well.
  3. Add in: onion, celery, carrots, cabbage – stir to incorporate seasonings over all, cover and cook about 10 minutes to begin to soften the vegetables. 
  4. Add in: all chicken broth, tomatoes including juice, any/all reserved juice from cooking chicken, add some water if more liquid is needed.
  5. Cover and bring to a simmer.  Cook until raw vegetables are desired softness – about 1 hr. total.
  6. Add in cubed chicken and green onions.  Simmer (do not boil) about 10 minutes to heat chicken through. 
  7. Taste broth and adjust red pepper, salt, and pepper to taste.
  8. Add in chopped parsley, simmer for 5 minutes more, serve.

 Garnish: fresh shredded Parmesan cheese to top bowl

Variation:  I have also added in greens (kale, chard, or spinach) - raw with vegetables, or with chicken if pre-cooked (unseasoned)

*I bake 2 chickens, serve for dinner 1st night, then remaining white meat goes to chicken salad, dark meat here.  
**Sweet garden peppers are chopped and frozen in 1c portions ready to drop in this soup

Friday, January 9, 2015

Seed Catalogs...where do I start?

Before I pick up my first catalog, I review my past year.  I am looking for places (plants) I can improve upon, items I didn't have enough of, things I wish I had grown (based on my current cooking and preserving).  

This past year: most things did well.  My first year at making salsa, left my family wanting even more.  In fact, all the "hot" items I made and canned were family favorites and they have overwhelmingly asked for "more hot peppers."  My canned mixed veggies were not, however, a hit and I will not be making them again.  I, personally, like pickled beets so as a treat to myself, beets are added to the list.

After I make a preliminary assessment of what is needed for the next growing season, I then take an inventory of my current left-over seeds.  

Seeds will keep for several years if kept dry and cool.  I keep mine in a plastic "shoe box" with some desiccant packets (the kind you find in shoe boxes).  This has served me well for years.  Most times when I purchase seeds, I have more than I can use in any given growing season.  Therefore, I have many packets I use year after year, only replacing them when they get low or after 3-4 years.  

After all that is done, my list is made of what I need and I begin from there.  

Why do I take all this time and planning?  I am like a kid in a candy store when that first catalog is opened.  I begin to circle item after item and end up with a list if items that I could never plant and take care of, let alone, afford.  Doing these things helps to keep me "in check." 

Now, true confession.  In the process of writing this post, I jumped on the opportunity for "free shipping" from a company I purchase some of my seeds from.  What do you think happened?

Homeschool: planting a different kind of seed

I homeschooled my four for 13 years.  I had those wonderful "bluebirds chirping around my head" moments and those "small ship being tossed by a raging sea" moments.  If you homeschool, or if you are considering it, I want to extend my "olive branch" of knowledge and encouragement.

January is one of the "tough months" for homeschoolers.  The holidays: excitement, vacation, play time, "sugar", is over and it is back to work.  A struggle for student and parent alike.  The bleak, grey days don't help.  It was in these days I would change gears a little and focus on a little less "book work" and more on covering the topics through projects, experiments, dioramas, and games to supplement math assignments.  Mind you, not all at once, but nonetheless used as a means to add some creativity to the work and help ease the transition back into the "grind" so to speak.  

So, dear homeschooling parent.  Keep up the good work and your spirits.  Remember that homeschool isn't about "bringing the classroom into the home" but an opportunity to encourage your child(ren) toward a lifetime quest to learn. When was the last time you wondered about something and "googled" it to find an answer.  That is the love of learning you want to pass along.

Happy homeschooling.