Sunday, January 31, 2010

Germination Update

Today marks 1 week since Optimus Prime and I planted our first round of seedlings. As of today, 48 of the 72 seeds have germinated. I don't think you can see them all, but here they are:

These little peas are my favorites:

I still don't have many herb sprouts - none of the parsley, coriander, or dill have germinated, and only 1 oregano seed has sprouted. Fortunately 5 out of 6 basil seeds have germinated - I love making fresh pesto, but store bought basil is just too expensive! I'll give the rest of the seeds one more week before I replace them with something else. Those seed packets were a year old, and I didn't have any luck with the seeds by direct sowing last year. So, we'll just wait and see.

That does it for me tonight. I'm already beat, and I still have to repot my rosemary plant and wish on a star that somehow this will save her! :-)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Blogtastic Day

On a normal evening, I blog or surf the net while watching TV - and I don't miss a beat. I have an uncanny ability for multitasking that drives my husband crazy. Tonight however, blog writing is slow going.. Tonight's movie is in Spanish and well, it's tough to read the subtitles and write at the same time.. Perhaps I should have paid more attention in Spanish class... Well, anyway - here's hoping you can all forgive the typos I'm bound to overlook.

According to, "Blogtastic is a term used to describe something wonderful (think: fantastic) in the opinion of the blogger". For me, however, a Blogtastic Day is a day that is affected in a positive manner by the blogs we read. And today was a Blogtastic Day.

I spent two hours busting my bottom in the gym this morning, left famished, and decided tonight I needed a Great Dinner. So, I decided on Deb's Black Bean Soup with Toasted Cumin Seed Crema and Annie's Granny's Yeast Rolls. Talk about delicious!!! Both were extraordinary, and now we have some cinnamon rolls for breakfast tomorrow that I made with extra yeast roll dough(okay, dessert tonight - who am I kidding). The soup and rolls didn't last long enough for pictures, but I acted fast and was able to snap a few of the cinnamon rolls:

But that's not all!! I also got a very special package in the mail today. Jo over at 14 Acres had an abundance of seeds she had saved and was generous enough to share:

Butternut Squash
Sugar Pie Pumpkin
Round French Zucchini
Aunt Ruby's German Green Tomato
Beam's Yellow Pear Tomato
WI 55 Tomato
Trophy Tomato
Red Zebra Tomato
Amish Paste Tomato

They are germination tested and everything. Wow - thanks so much Jo! You really are too sweet!!

I have a Germination Station update for you, but I'll save that for tomorrow when I can get a picture of the progress. Sweet dreams till then!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A desperate call for help

My friends, I'm afraid the end is near. You see, She is covered with bald spots, crunchy limbs, and (gasp!) even white mold. I just don't think She can hang on much longer. Unless you can help?

This is my rosemary topiary:

When I purchased her from a local nursery about 6 weeks ago, she was beautiful. A nicely manicured, conical shape, with soft, aromatic branches. Now, despite my best efforts, this has happened:

And this:

She's a finicky plant. I water sparsely and she isn't happy. I water often and she isn't happy. I guess being fickle is a woman's perogative, but I'd like to find some way to save her.... Do you have any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Greatest Reward... watching The Student become The Teacher:

Especially when they don't know they're being watched...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Here we are - two days after I started my first seeds indoors, and what a crazy, hectic day it has been.

Today was One of Those Days. You know - the days where no matter how hard you try, you just can't seem to accomplish anything? See, The Child Formerly Known as Optimus Prime stayed at school for the after-care program this afternoon, which he L-O-V-E loves and insists on being the last child to leave. So I thought I'd take advantage of an hour or so of "free time". As soon as I got home, I dashed through the door, threw on my uniform (read: yoga pants and sweatshirt. Totally hot, right?), and tossed some ingredients in the bread machine so we'd have a nice warm loaf for dinner and sandwiches tomorrow. With my additional extra time, I'd planned on spending 45 minutes to an hour on the treadmill - I have a goal of at least 3 miles a day and had fallen short the last two days. As I walked to the treadmill and strapped on my mp3 player, I received an unfortunate message stating that I needed to resynchronize the player with the account on my PC. No big deal - it would take 5 minutes. I'd just have to walk a little faster, maybe even jog a bit.

Let me take this moment to clarify something - I am NOT a runner (although I enjoy a very active lifestyle). In a perfect world, I'd like to be. It seems so cool to wax poetic about the joy of good running shoes on hard concrete or the inevitable runner's high. But let's face it - running hurts my shins and makes me whine like a little girl. But I was short on time. And I had 3 miles ahead of me. I'd suck it up.

So after I plugged in my MP3 player and as I was waiting for it to charge my stomach started growling. I peeked in the fridge for a quick something to throw in my mouth. Pepperoni. How healthful. At this moment I was actually thinking about how I'd get a stomach ache from the handful of preserved meat I frantically threw in my mouth, and how we'd all laugh when I blogged later about the unfortunate events that followed that fateful snack. But things never got that far.

After my tango with the fridge, I turned to check the status on my mp3 player. Still no good. So, being the time-frugal person I am, I used the next few seconds to check on my bread. I had to make sure we were getting a nice tacky loaf and that no additional flour or moisture was needed. Of course, I forgot that my mp3 player was strapped to my arm. And my computer. The realization hit, though, when I heard the crash. After recovering from the shock, I checked everything out and fortunately there was no damage.. but still. no. synchronization. Forget about the free time. May as well run to school to pick up my little dude. I could hit the treadmill when I got home...

Yeah right. My return home was quickly followed by a phone call to tech support who, eventually, solved my mp3 player problem. (Perhaps I'm a baby because I can't work out in silence?) By then, though, it was time to cook dinner. *sigh* Maybe I'll just do some situps while I watch American Idol. It's not my 3 miles, but at least it's something.

Oh yeah. Garden blog.. right. See, The Waiting ... is the hardest part. When it comes to waiting for me to get to the point and also when it comes to waiting for seeds to sprout. This morning I peaked in on my bed of babies to see how they were doing and to give them a little more water. Even though I knew I shouldn't expect sprouts so soon, I was still a little disappointed to see nothing and began to worry that I had done something wrong. This evening, I checked on them again, and this is what I saw:

What.. you don't see that? What about this?

No? This?

It's baby Baby Pak Choi! And baby Basil!! Yay!! So at least the first step wasn't a total bust.. I still have plenty of time to screw things up, though. :-)

And with that, I'd better get to bed. Getting up early to hit the treadmill so there's a slightly smaller chance of something getting in my way.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

It was a dark and stormy afternoon....

...and the foreboding skies would prove to be a tell-tale sign that The Caffeinated Mom would indeed not accomplish all she had set out to do. The World, afterall, was against her. There were piles of laundry to wash and fold, hungry mouths to feed (THEY EXPECT THREE MEALS A DAY!!!), bread to bake, coupons to clip, dishes to wash, lists to be made, and a Net Flix movie that The Uncaffeinated Dad was anxious to send back (but ordered just for her so she really had to find time to sit down and watch it). Not to mention the seeds that were supposed to be planted the previous day...

And with weather like this, all she really wanted to do was curl up with a good book (NOT STUDY MATERIAL) and a cup of coffee and, perhaps, even indulge in a nap. How would she overcome? How would she get all of her chores done before bedtime? The clock was ticking...

Thankfully, a hero came to her rescue:

Optimus Prime arrived just in time to fill the seedling trays with soil(less mix), gently place one seed (she hopes) in each one, and water the tray. The Caffeinated Mom was thankful Optimus Prime was the hero of the day. Luke Skywalker's flailing light saber may have been a bit too formidable for the delicate task at hand.

He also helped The Caffeinated Mom CAREFULLY place the tray on the new seedling mat, and under the new heat lamp:

With the seeds safely tucked away, Optimus Prime disappeared in a flash. With the hope of germination in her future, The Caffeinated Mom speedliy accomplished the rest of her chores. She even had time to veg out on the couch for a whole 90 minutes and 500 Days of Summer proved to be much to her liking (good choice, honey!). Now if only Optimus Prime knew how to make Lemon Chicken Piccatta...

Edited to add the list of seeds I started today.. Uh - that is the point of the garden blog, right? :-) So, for my records:

Pak Choi
Maestro Peas
Red and Green Lettuce Mix
Buttercrunch Lettuce
King Midas Carrots

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Meet Lucy and Today's Agenda

Last year when I made the initial garden purchases, I came in a little under budget. And right by the register, there was 1 baby Meyer Lemon tree and I just had to take her home. I think it was fate. You see, I had recently discovered The Incredible Meyer Lemon and was quickly tiring of the 30 minute trip to the nearest Whole Foods just to pick up a few (overpriced but beautiful) lemons. I knew next to nothing about growing meyers, but figured the price of the tree was a small price to pay for the opportunity to grow my own lemons. And with that little intro, I'd like you to meet Lucy. Yes, I named my tree. She's special. I'm not insane. No matter what they tell you.

And the blossoms. Oh, the blossoms!! I think heaven must smell like Meyer Lemon Blossoms....

Lucy is a good little tree, despite the fact that I know nothing about how to keep her healthy. She did, however, have a few problems:

But somehow or another healed herself. Those scarred, baby lemons disappeared, as did several other larger lemons. At one point, she had about 24 lemons growing (I hand pollinated) and I think it was too much for her to handle. I never did find any lemons on the ground by the tree, though, so I wonder if some wild animal took a liking to them. Or if the guys who mow our lawn thought they were limes... Ha ha! Joke's on them!

Even though she's small, she provided me with enough lemons to make Meyer Lemon and Cranberry Scones, Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake, Winter Fruit Salad, Meyer Lemon Marmalade, and even Preserved Meyer Lemons (which are sitting pretty in my fridge waiting for me to figure out some way to use them... anyone have any ideas?).

This was our first winter together, and although I tried, I accidentally left her outside a few nights when the temps dropped below 28 degrees. Sorry Lucy!! But, she persevered (she's a strong little tree) and she's still alive and kickin it, although she's looking a little rough. Today, I'm going to give her soil a little boost with some liquid whey (leftover from yogurt making - perhaps I'll post about that sometime soon). I hate throwing the whey out, so I hope the good bacteria will benefit Lucy's soil.

Also on today's agenda: starting seeds for peas, lettuce, bok choi, and carrots. This will be my first attempt at starting seeds indoors. I've purchased this grow light and indoor greenhouse with heat mat and hope to set them up and make them productive today:

I also need to pick up something to start the seeds in. I think I'll give Jiffy peat pellets a shot. Although I've heard good and bad things about them, they seem mess-free and easy to use. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have some pictures for you of the entire (and hopefully working) Caffeinated Mom Seed Starting System (R).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Nemesis

Good morning, World.

I took the day off from work today to cram for a really difficult licensing exam I'm taking tomorrow. Naturally, I'm blogging instead of hitting the books. Hey - I need my morning coffee to take effect before I can be expected to think clearly anyway. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

While it was on my mind, I wanted to take note of last year's garden invaders, along with my strategy for overcoming them this year. I had three nemesises nemesi nemeses (google says it's right so it must be true) that quickly proved to be the bane of my existence. In no particular order, here they are:

Offender #1: Mr. Peter Cottontail

Sure, he LOOKS like an innocent woodland creature. But Peter and Petunia (whom I did not get a picture of) really took a liking to my lettuce seedlings. I was SO looking forward to that mesclun mix. Darn you furry villains! This year the bed will be surrounded by a chicken wire fence. I'm not quite sure what I'll do about keeping them out of the containers yet - hopefully the height will be enough of a deterrent? If not, I may have to invest in Smith & Wesson..

Offender #2: The Green Monster

No - not that Green Monster (although my husband would disagree..) THIS Green Monster:

This disgusting ectozoon and his band of beastly brothers made the deadly decision of munching on my maters. Each one was sentenced to Death By Spade, a gruesome squashing that turned both my mulch and stomach green. This year I'll try some of that fabled BT spray early on and hope for the best.

Offender #3: The Mexican Bean Beetle

Much to my disappointment, these are not cute little bugs that show up with sombreros and maracas. These rapscallions obliterated my pole beans in one fell swoop. My beans were alive and healthy one day, the next skeletons of their former selves. This is a stock photo. You see, they came, they saw, and they conquered before I could capture their image myself. I've heard that neem oil will keep them away, but I'm trying to keep things as safe for my family as possible. Does anyone know if neem oil is dangerous for human consumption?

Offender #4 would have to be our terrential rains last year. For a state that had suffered from a 3 year drought, we certainly made up for lost time. Everything was soggy. Nothing dried out. Unfortunately, I can't combat the weather, so I'll just take it in stride. And with any luck, Mother Nature will be kind this year, and the garden won't be plagued with blight or squash beetles. Positive thinking is a powerful thing, right? Right...?

I'm off to hit the books for real this time. Promise.

Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

So what are you growing, anyway?

Once or twice a week I actually find myself with enough time to take a REAL lunch break (you know - where you actually leave your desk and sit down to eat something more healthy and substantial than Cup O Noodles?) and without a doubt one of my (un)lucky coworkers will ask what I've been up to lately. I'll grin with a slight glimmer in my eye, and immediately they know they initiated a conversation with the wrong person. Before long, they'll feign interest out of politeness for my excitement and before they can stop it, The Dreaded Question will fall from their lips: "So what are you growing, anyway?" Well, I'm glad you asked!

Here are the seeds I currently have in my possession. Hopefully they'll all make it into some sort of planting medium before next Christmas.

- "Pompeii" Roma Sauce Tomato
- "Garden Candy" Tricolor Cherry Tomatoes
- "Celebrity" Bush Tomato
- "Sweet Greens and Reds" Farmers Market Lettuce Blend
- "Green Fortune" Baby Pak Choi
- "Garden Babies Butterhead" Container Lettuce

- "Jade, Gold, and Emerald" Tricolor Zucchini
- "Summer Scallop Trio" Tricolor Pattypan Squash
- "Galia, Earlidew, and Solid Gold" Three Flavor Melons
- "Garden Oasis" Mediterranean Cucumber
- "Lemon Cucumbers" Heirloom Cucumbers

- "Green, Yellow, and Purple" Tricolor Pole Beans
- "Crimson, Gold, and Orange" Jewel-Toned Bell Peppers
- "King Midas" Long Sweet Carrots

Just a few quick notes.. Yes, the tricolor pole bean package is open. My 6 year old son wanted to see if the seeds were green, yellow, and purple. In case you were wondering, no they are not. Although each seed type is different, so I'll be able to ensure planting the same number of each. And don't you just love Renee's Garden packaging? I adore each of the watercolor paintings. I ordered these from No Thyme Productions via Amazon. I'm a Prime member, so I usually only order things that get me free shipping, but that seed selection was rather limited. No Thyme Productions charged a flat rate of $4.95 and shipped my seeds in a bubble envelope - plus, they arrived MUCH sooner than expected. No, this isn't a paid endorsement. Neither Amazon nor No Thyme have ever heard of me and wouldn't notice if I slipped into a black hole.

I also have some seed left over from last year. I'll save you images of the wrinkly packets, but here's the list:

- "Little Marvel" Pea
- "French Breakfast" Radish
- "Tomatillo" Tomatillo (no fancy name?)
- Coriander
- Oregano
- Chives
- Rosemary
- Parsley
- "Summerlong" Basil

Until tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Welcome to My Garden Journal!

About this time last year I got a bite from the Garden Bug. I had never had a vegetable garden before, but I was armed with the internet... and do you really need anything else? I started with a small plot - just 4x8 - and I proceeded to haphazardly cram it with anything I thought would grow. I was inexperienced, to say the least, but the garden was relatively kind and it rewarded me with some very yummy treats... enough to make me impatient to get things growing again!

This year I'm determined to plan the garden a little better - and to actually keep records. I'll be expanding, but in containers. We have a certain neighbor who threatened to report me to the HOA board for putting in a "permanent raised bed" without signatures from them (which they kindly refused to provide in the future). Containers aren't permanent, so....

Throughout the rest of the week, I'll post about the seeds I've chosen, garden plans, and how in the world am I gonna start those seeds anyway? If there are any gardening experts out there, what material do you use to start seeds (peat pellets, soiless mix, etc)??