Tuesday, December 25, 2012


 The winter blues started to kick in the other day, where I really missed working outside in the warm air and sunshine.  I pulled up some of my harvested pictures from my garden this year to put a smile on my face and warmth in my heart.

Happy winter everybody!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I've become obsessed with canning for the past week or so.  I work the 9-5, get home, and make a batch of jam.  A lot of what I have been doing this past week has been playing, learning and experimenting.  But this might now be an addiction.  If you follow me on Twitter (@sarahjoannee) then you've already seen a majority of these photos.  If not, then here is your recap:

First batch, Blueberry Jam.  Loved this recipe and it didn't contain any pectin!

Second batch, Cardamom Plum Jam.  This one is definitely a fall ice cream topper, with the cardamom being really strong!

Third batch, The Greatest Jam.  This one came from a recipe on a card sent from a friend.  It contains strawberries, blueberries, apple and peach schnapps.  I call it The Greatest Jam because I was listening to Cat Power while making it. 

Fourth batch, Bourbon Rainier Cherry Jam.  This one was made in two batches.  The first one I didn't put enough pectin in, and the second one came out perfect.  This is the most beautiful jam I have ever seen!

Fifth batch, Strawberry Serrano Pepper Jam.  The Serrano peppers came from my garden!  This one is awesome, where you don't get much of the pepper bite until the after taste kicks in.  

Sixth batch, Raspberry Jam.  There were a ton of delicious raspberries at the market the other day, and I wanted to make a basic jam as well as....

the seventh batch, Raspberry Mint Jam!  I have a ton of mint in my garden and came across a recipe that seemed like a perfect fit!

Fresh mint floating in a sea of raspberries!

 Batch eight was today, and it contained fresh beets from the garden.  So pretty!

The batch was only three jars, but I am so excited to have canned something directly from the garden!

My taste testers are still out there, stuffing their faces with jam so I can continue to perfect the recipes!  My garden is looking beautiful, by the way.  The tomatoes are starting to ripen and the peppers and eggplants are trickling in as well.  Horray for late summer harvests!

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Today was an awesome day off, with no plans but whatever I felt like doing at the moment.  These were some of today's moments...

It finally cooled off a bit to spend some time in the garden, and I sowed some lemon balm, lemon basil, savoy summer and broccoli seeds.  I've also pretty much taken up the entire fence/patio area.
Please note the creepy floating toy bird.

I also harvested some lettuce today, as well as some nasturtium flowers, and two sugar snap peas for a dinner salad.

(not pictured: sugar snap peas)

After that, while I was thinning out my beets, I came across this guy:

AND she has eggs on her!

After all of that, I harvested some of the most beautiful Swiss chard I've ever grown.


I also harvested some green onions, and then made my very first quiche.  It was a Swiss Chard and Feta quiche recipe I found online, and it turned out DELICIOUS.

I also baked some lemon shortbread cookies and received a beautiful bouquet of flowers, but we don't have photos of those.  Truly a lovely Saturday off!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I was leaving to take the puppy on a walk today, and while we were walking past the garden, I caught a glimpse of this little orange bud, and had a minor freak out.  IT WAS A NASTURTIUM FLOWER!!

So exciting!  I have been harvesting lettuce, and know these flowers will be excellent additions to my garden salads!  Has anyone ever done anything with the nasturtium stems and leaves?  I heard they are good to saute? Is that true??

I also spotted this lovely black krim flower yesterday:

And on top of all of that, I harvested some tiny green onions on Sunday:

They tasted delicious in my fried rice.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Tomato plants are my absolute favorite.  Their smell brings me back to my Great Grandpa Pustek's back yard in East Chicago, where in the summer we would go out back and pick the cherry tomatoes right off the vine and eat them.  The gardening seemed to skip a few generations in my family, where I am the first one since him to really take to growing my own food.

Remember that bad ass cherry tomato seed?  Well that hardcore dude was spotted today already making some flowers.  That guy has survived winter and caterpillars, and he is STILL the first to show off with some flowers! 

So pretty!

It's summer guys!  I couldn't be happier!!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012


It's been so warm here the past week that the garden (specifically the greens and tomatoes) have really taken off.  I wanted to get some tomato stakes in before it was too out of control, so today I went and bought some stakes and jute twine.

 This bed had herbs, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and black krim tomatoes.
Oh and a random sunflower named Mary Ruth.

Last year I had used the wire round stakes for the tomatoes, but they just weren't stable enough and kept falling over and it just became this big mess.  So I'm trying a different method this year that I hope works.  I planted a ton of tomatoes (Purple Cherokee, Roma, Cherry, and Black Krim) so a majority of the garden needed to be staked for their support. 

The bed to the left has roma tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and purple cherokee.

The whole process took up a good amount of time, but I'm really happy with how it looks so far.  I might need to push that top row of twine down to the middle section more when they really take off!  Yeah summer!

Also, on the caterpillar update, I found yet ANOTHER caterpillar on a Romaine leaf yesterday morning! So the battle continues, but I am feeling more confident in this round.


The garden is looking awesome overall, and I'm about ready to harvest some collards and more lettuce!  Possibly some green onions too! 

I'm also looking into starting to can preserves and such soon.  This could shape up to be a really awesome and productive summer.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I finally caught the culprit in the garden on Saturday.  Just as I was collecting all of my sticky cards, since I was only catching flies and dirt on them, I found this guy:

What a fatty!  This guy it totally guilty of eating up my sunflower and those tomato leaves! I did feel awful that he got stuck to the card and I couldn't get him off.  Said a little mantra for him as I put him away.

Then, I was digging around in my carrots again to see what has been up for the lack of leaves sprouting up, when I saw this guy:

Gotta look close on this one...

These little moth caterpillar buggers!  Gah!!!  So now I'm trying to find ways to protect my seedlings that don't include foil, etc.  I'm trying to soap water method again, and I hope that works.

In other, much better news: I harvested some lettuce today!  It was good to see that the caterpillars didn't destroy all of my lettuce.  This lovely lettuce was part of my lunch today, and it always makes me feel amazing to eat what I've grown and just harvested.

Yes, this is an instagram photo. 

If anyone has a solution to my moth madness, please leave a comment!  I'm open to suggestions!  A big thank you goes to everyone who has helped me identify these guys and suggested ways to deal with them so far! <3

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Something has been destroying my kale seedlings, as well as my blue lake beans, and noshing on my sunflower (remnants from last summer) as well as a couple of tomatoes.  Yelling at the bugs to cut it out hasn't been helping, and I don't know where to purchase ladybugs here in the city.  The next step was to buy some sticky cards.

Reading this article from the University of Illinois Extension helped me get a better idea of what might be going on.  I did some research on various cards that work in the garden specifically, and ordered some Universal Insect Monitor Cards.  They have two sides, one yellow and one blue, both sticky.  They also have a grid to help monitor the buggers.
Here's a card by my blue lake beans

I put the cards out today, and hopefully with the help of my oh-so-smart biology friend and the internet, the case can be solved and my seedlings can grow in a much happier state.

Poor kale! :(

Card by the sunflower

If y'all have any tips or suggestions on what else I could do in the meantime, it would be much appreciated! Fingers crossed we catch these little buggers!

Thursday, May 3, 2012


My last two garden beds were completed a week or so ago, and since the cold spell finally broke last week I decided to get my gardening in a little early.  I also really needed the therapy of being outside and working with my hands (aside from knitting and sewing).  Many, many bags of soil later, we have the 2012 garden!

Many of the seedlings were still small, but I felt like they would do better in the warmth of natural sunlight and getting a light rainfall on them.  I also sowed many of my greens, as well as beets and baby carrots.  The one thing I learned this season is that seeds from last season are funny little things, and when you start transferring soil from one bed to the other, things transfer.  I have A LOT of randoms in many of the beds (mostly flowers) but I decided to just let them do their thing for right now and hopefully they will add some spice to the bed later on in the summer.

My green onions are doing well, as you can see!  I'm pretty excited about these guys, being something I have never grown before.  Might have to do some thinning out soon; they're looking a little all over the place.

Mamma also bought this lovely flower combination to put in the garden for some color while we wait...

Have I mentioned how impatient I am?
Is it July/August yet?

Saturday, April 14, 2012


About a month ago I was starting to clean out my garden beds and get organized with the new ones that are being built. Last season I had a habit of just tossing rotted tomatoes and peppers into the bottom of the garden bed, so it could compost on its own. Well, turns out I had tossed some hard core cherry tomato plants in there. I found the shell/skin of one of the tomatoes still in the bed and was going to toss it, until I saw this happening inside of it:

I kind of freaked out. This little guy survived the fall/winter season and is ready to make a come back! I had to give him a chance! I put him in a container and brought him inside to make some friends under the grow lights. It was pretty cool to see the changes the next few weeks...

Finally pushed through the skin

Taking in the light

Where he's at today

I am noticing a few other seeds from last year are growing on their own in the beds too. Mostly flowers, but did spot two other tomato plants growing outside in the same beds. I'm gonna keep letting them do their thing before I move them anywhere though. I just think the fact these seeds are making it happen on their own is so fascinating!

More seedlings starting in the garden bed

Friday, March 16, 2012


Well, I did something right. Only 24 hours later, did my kale and collard seeds start germinating! I kind of figured these would be the ones that would germinate first, only because last season I sowed them directly into the beds and they came up crazy fast. Either way, the whole seed to food process still fascinates me.

Little germinating Collard seed

My favorite seed so far has to be the Rainbow Swiss Chard. I'm a sucker for anything with obscure texture and color. So when these little guys started popping up, my heart melted a bit.

Rainbow Swiss Chard

Overall, both beds are doing great! I'm so happy, and really, this is all much easier than I anticipated. I'm still getting the outside ready for planting; I did toss some flower seeds in some of our containers today since it was so nice out. It might be a little early, but I figured why not and see what happens!

More of the little guys

My puppy and some spring flowers