New Season, New Look

It’s been a tough stretch of weather, with blizzards, power outages and freezing rain, even though spring is officially here. There are a few signs, of course:

But most of the garden looks more like these tree peonies, buds curled tight and waiting out the cold:

So in the meantime, I decided to switch up the look of the blog to brighten things up. This June will be its sixth anniversary, so it’s definitely high time for a makeover. Let me know what you think!

New Year’s Resolutions, Month by Month: February

ICYMI: I decided to make my New Year’s resolutions last all year this year by working on 12 mini-resolutions instead of one big one. In January I gave up added sugar; for February, I decided to tackle something even more difficult: cutting out caffeine.

I really do love coffee, and when I was still teaching, I had quite a bit of the stuff — truly necessary fuel for someone who had to get out of bed at 5 a.m. every day and be stuck in traffic for close to 90 minutes each morning. 
It was not fun, but at least I always had a full — large! — travel mug of coffee in my hands to make the commute bearable.
Fast forward to this February, where I found myself six months into my new life working full time from home. I had somewhat cut back on the coffee just by using a regular mug instead of my double-sized travel cup, but now that I have been allowed to let my body decide when to wake up — emphatically not before the sun comes up — I no longer actually need  caffeine.
But I do still like to …

New Year’s Resolutions, Month by Month: January

This is a very belated post, but I did something different with my New Year’s resolutions this year. Instead of one big resolution, I decided to try 12 limited-term resolutions instead — one per month of the year for 2017. This seems like enough time to build a new habit — experts say it takes three weeks — but not so long that you’re deprived of something forever. It also offers a chance to pause and reflect to see if that new habit is one I actually want stick with or not.

The last time I talked about a New Year’s resolution on the blog, we ended up cutting $20,000 out of our annual spending, so I am expecting some interesting results — and success — with these mini-resolutions as well.

To play a bit of catch-up...

January: Giving Up Added Sugar For starters, I opened 2017 by giving up added sugar from my diet. After a long holiday season of lots of eating and drinking — and a whole lot of sweets! — this was a significant change. For my purposes, added sugar meant sugary drinks, des…

Homemade Nutella

Have I ever mentioned how much Tiegan loves Nutella?
Probably not. She’s kind of obsessed. I mean, I think the stuff is alright, but she would eat it all the time if we let her. (Note: We do not. It’s crazy expensive, and there’s a ton of sugar in it.)
Anyway, a couple weeks ago she got her hands on a recipe and gave it a try, since Kirk inexplicably brought home a bag of hazelnuts from the grocery store — and then had to buy a nutcracker to shell them. (None of this passes Trim the Fat Tuesday muster, by the way.)
Anyway, she had fun doing it, and it did turn out pretty well. You could modify the recipe to make it somewhat less sweet, I suppose. The end result isn’t as smooth as what you buy in the store, but I kind of like her slight chunky version better.

To make it, you’ll need to crack and shell 1 cup’s worth of whole hazelnuts (measured after shelling, not before). Then you blitz them in a food processor and add 1 cup of powdered sugar. Blend again and add 1/2 cup cocoa powder.…

The Owl on Kent Street

Throughout the summer and fall, on quiet nights after everyone else had gone to bed, I would swear that I could sometimes hear the hooting of an owl in the trees on the hill behind our house. I never actually saw an owl in our yard, of course, because they are so stealthy and secretive. I wasn’t even sure if I could trust my ears, but this area is full of interesting wildlife, so I figured anything was possible.
I have been proven right — on the possibility, at least. There’s an owl in Newburyport for sure.
Kirk came home from work at the hospital last week with a tidbit about there being an owl in a tree in the park down Kent Street. (I live in a town where the juicy gossip is about bird sightings, it seems.) 
We figured we’d check it out between snow storms, and here he — or she — is:

Newburyport and Plum Island are major destinations for serious bird watchers, so there was group of people gathered to see this owl. Many came prepared with serious telescopic lenses and binoculars, a…

2017 Seed Inventory

Somehow this task escaped us last year, but usually once the garden planning is done, we go through our seed inventory and decide what we need to stock up on. At this time we also choose new varieties to try or seek out more of the same if something did well.

Once the seeds are ordered and arrive in the mail, we sort them by type and store them in a plastic box in the fridge, where they keep very well in the cool, dry conditions.

For reference, here’s what we chose for 2017:
The Driveway Quadrant
Pole beans: Cherokee Trail of Tears Pumpkin: Small Sugar Pie Squash: Butternut JWS 6823 and Spaghetti Squash Cabbage: Red Express and Hybrid Storage Green Cucumber: Northern Pickling and Marketmore 76 Peppers: Ace bell pepper, El Jefe jalapeño, Baron poblano Eggplant: Galine Cilantro: Cruiser Head lettuce: Green Forest and Buttercrunch  Corn: Sugar Buns Broccoli: Arcadia Parsnips: Javelin Cauliflower: Snow Crown
The Workshop Quadrant
Cherry tomato: Sungold Zucchini: Dunja or Fordhook Cantaloup…

2017 Master Plan: The Patio Quadrant

The final planting quadrant is also the smallest, because it lacks the center C that the others have in favor of a patio area for picnicking. It also has a full bed of strawberries along with existing perennial plantings of roses, rhubarb and lavender, so there aren’t many areas left to fill.

Across the top row is garlic that was planted back in October. When this is harvested in July, it will be replanted with winter green like arugula, bok choy and turnips. The remaining section has Paisano paste tomatoes. 
Along the right side is a short trellis of snap peas, which will shade a patch of mesclun and other spring greens. Right now this is the site of our winter cold frame of mache and spinach, so our plan is simply to interplant the mesclun with these plants in early spring and gradually remove and replace things they bolt throughout the season. There are also both winter and summer carrots close to the house, where they can handle the shade that creeps in during the fall.
There’s a…