Planting Day - April 12, 2014

Planting Day went just as planned! Everything looks bare and dirty right now but it’s great to take first-day pictures so that you can look back and compare for progress.

2014 Garden Bed

My husband spent several hours getting the garden bed set up. Tomorrow, everything is going in the ground! This year we’re doing a 10’x2’ bed and using the square foot garden method again. I’m planting 8 varieties of tomatoes, leeks, spinach, chard, lettuce, and radishes. Additionally, I’ll have basil, cilantro, and sage in pots. The weather is supposed to be lovely and warm this weekend, so hopefully the babies will get a good start. :) 

Seedling Update, 3/15

The tomato seedlings really took off this week in terms of getting stronger and developing some “true leaves”. Today is the day that they get thinned out to one per plot. This week, I’ll start putting them outside in the shade for a few hours at a time to harden them off. Only a few more weeks until these babies can go into the ground!

These are the seeds I started one week ago. Look how much they’ve already grown!

The first tray has rainbow chard, leeks, sage, and lacinato kale seedlings. Of the four, the kale is really taking off! I poked a few more chard seed pods into the peat today, because the packet indicated that they had a low germination rate. 

The second tray has six kinds of tomatoes: Gold Medal, Italian Heirloom, Dester, Velvet Red, Cherry Roma, and Lemon Drop. They are all sprouting nicely! I will never be able to plant all 36 of them so I plan to give a lot of them away to friends and coworkers that also garden.

The seedlings are enjoying their first day in front of a window. They might not get a ton of sunlight, though, because we are due for a massive snow storm tomorrow night. We’re crossing our fingers that this is the last one before spring.

My seeds came! I planned ahead and ordered from Seed Savers Exchange this year. Six varieties of heirloom tomatoes, rainbow chard, lacinato kale, leeks, Aunt Maye’s Bibb lettuce, white sage, watermelon radish, cilantro, spinach, and basil. They also sent me a bonus packet of Eden’s Gem melon seeds, which I may give away.

My seeds came! I planned ahead and ordered from Seed Savers Exchange this year. Six varieties of heirloom tomatoes, rainbow chard, lacinato kale, leeks, Aunt Maye’s Bibb lettuce, white sage, watermelon radish, cilantro, spinach, and basil. They also sent me a bonus packet of Eden’s Gem melon seeds, which I may give away.

Raspberry scones

Raspberry scones

Orange “chicken” seitan with veggies and rice.

Orange “chicken” seitan with veggies and rice.

I haven’t had the creative energy to post lately, but here’s what our valentines day dinner looked like. We were going to have dinner at fabulous Vedge in Philadelphia but the weather and my hubby’s back injury prevented that from happening. So we made nachos (with tofurkey “chorizo”) and I baked pineapple upside down cake from Isa Does It, which is “Isa-ly” my new favorite cookbook.

Perhaps I will order some seeds today and start planning the garden. After the ridiculous amount of snow and cold temperatures we’ve had, I am dreaming of spring!

Heirloom Tomato Soup

The last harvest of tomatoes from a few weeks ago finally all ripened in the fruit bowl. After the big Thanksgiving dinner last night, I needed some simple food for my tummy today. The solution was this bright, orangey-yellow heirloom tomato soup. I roasted the tomatoes for 30 minutes at 450 with garlic and onion, then simmered everything in a quart of veggie broth (and a few TB of Earth Balance) for about an hour and puréed it with the immersion blender. Add some basil (I didn’t have fresh, so I used dried), and voila! Delicious tomato soup with a really fresh taste, perfect for a cold day.

Now I’m extra bummed that it will be so many months until tomatoes are back in season.

We are being hosted for Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house. This is what we are bringing over— a vegan apple berry pie that I baked this afternoon. Recipe here. I also made some cashew whipped cream to go with it.  Happy Thanksgiving!

We are being hosted for Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house. This is what we are bringing over— a vegan apple berry pie that I baked this afternoon. Recipe here. I also made some cashew whipped cream to go with it.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Changing Seasons, Changing Habits

I wrote a little bit about this last year, but it’s time again. I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain that happens when the days get shorter and there’s less sunlight. This results in me being less energetic, maybe depressed (sometimes for weeks on end), needing more sleep, and generally being a lot less motivated than I am during the rest of the year. This isn’t a big confession. I’m pretty frank about it with people. It’s a disorder that’s not my fault, and it’s not some kind of shameful secret. There is undoubtedly a lot of stigma regarding mental illness, but I prefer to operate as if there isn’t. It’s also a lot easier for my friends and loved ones to be supportive if they know what’s going on with me.

I’ve learned over the past few years that in order to succeed in the winter (defined here as anything between “Fall Back” and “Spring Forward”), I have to change my daily habits. The changes I’ve made to my routine have really helped to lessen the effects of S.A.D., especially last year, when I was only depressed for about three weeks. If you suspect you have S.A.D. or Winter Blues, you could try some of these for yourself:

1. No alcohol in the winter. If you’re already tired and depressive, downers just make things worse. It might not feel worse at the time, but I’ve found that having a few glasses of wine makes me more depressed for a few days afterward. I’m sure I’ll have a glass of champagne on my birthday (December 31st!) but other than that, it’s just not worth it to me. Your results may vary.

2. Exercise daily, outside if at all possible. Now, I really don’t like the cold. And in the winter, the last thing I feel like doing is leaving my warm-ish apartment and going outside in the cold and wind and grey for an hour. But daily walks (especially in the morning, but any time is good), interspersed with some jogging, really gets those endorphins up and makes me feel energized and positive. The sunlight you get is a bonus. If it’s icy outside, below freezing, or otherwise dangerous, a treadmill is a fine alternative. Of course, as anyone who has ever been depressed will tell you, it can be difficult/impossible to drag yourself out of the house. That’s why I think it’s important to get into a routine while you’re still feeling pretty energetic and happy.

3. Clean eating. Winter is famous for its “holiday pounds” from eating pie and what-have-you. But all that sugar+white flour will make me feel nice in the moment, and then I’ll crash. Not to mention, putting on extra winter weight when I already feel sad/bad about myself is not helpful. My main “comfort food” in winter is soup. Hot, steamy, creamy (cashew cream, that is) soup. Butternut squash, kale, potato, yams… I make at least one big pot of soup per week, and then I bring it to work for lunch. Winter also tends to be the time I relapse into eating dairy, but I am going to really watch it this year.

4. Light Therapy. I can’t stress enough how much sticking to a light therapy routine helped me last year. I bought a therapy lamp and set aside an extra 30 minutes each morning for light therapy. This time of year, I sit in front of it for 10 minutes a day. In the dead of winter, I’ll up it to 20. I also highly recommend this book written by the doctor who came up with light therapy for S.A.D. 

5. Humor This is something I also started last winter, and it stuck with me all year. When I get home from work at the end of a tough day and everything seems overwhelming, I throw on an episode of Arrested Development or The Big Bang Theory. You might scoff and say, “Watching TV? Really? That’s your coping method?” Yup. But I only watch funny shows, because what I’m really aiming for is to laugh. Here’s some info about the health benefits of laughter. It really works for me when I feel myself sliding into a mental pit.

So, there you go. That’s my plan for avoiding S.A.D. this year. By the way, the links and products I included are just because I really like them, not because anyone paid me to say that.

Final Harvest, 2013

The low tonight is below freezing, so I figured it was time for the final harvest of this year’s garden. I came away with a large bunch of basil, some baby chard, two giant sunflowers’ worth of sunflower seeds, 30-ish green tomatoes, and an eggplant and a half. Many of the green tomatoes will ripen in the fruit bowl. I’m going to buy some more bananas today and the ethylene gas will help that process along. The rest of the tomatoes are bound for frying or pickling. I’ve never done either, so that will be an adventure.

I am sad that gardening season is over, but I’m already excited to start planning for next year. The 2014 garden will have more tomatoes, more herbs, and more greens. I’m also going to make sure there are more lovely flowers to attract bees and the good opinions of neighbors.

I wonder what I could grow inside over the winter.

The weather’s been awfully chilly and the plants are still producing, but slowing down a lot. Here’s a small harvest that I gifted to a friend last week in exchange for a tasty lunch, good conversation, and craft supplies.

The weather’s been awfully chilly and the plants are still producing, but slowing down a lot. Here’s a small harvest that I gifted to a friend last week in exchange for a tasty lunch, good conversation, and craft supplies.

A quick note!

I’m around; I just haven’t been posting. I’ve been focusing a lot of my energy on cleaning up my diet. Other than a sticky bun in a moment of crisis, I’ve been eating completely animal-free for the past two weeks. It feels good. It’s not difficult. It’s actually MUCH easier because I recently found a local grocery store that carries a ton of vegan products (Daiya cheese! Vegenaise!). There are a lot of big health-related victories going on, here, but none of them are really photographable. Just getting back to basics. I’ll be back when the creative urge strikes. :)

Seeing the blooming sunflowers we grew from seed is incredibly satisfying. It’s a small reminder of just how miraculous life is. That big, beautiful flower, standing four feet tall, used to be a tiny seed in the soil.
I wonder what I could become with a little time and sunshine.