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how to make your own seed tape

how to make seed tape how to plant seeds

Seed tape is just a fancy term for seeds (usually very small seeds) attached to paper to make planting easier. You lay the seed tape in the soil, cover it with a bit more soil, and boom, you’re done. Super gratifying. You can buy seed tape from most seed suppliers, but it’s $$, and seed suppliers have very limited varieties of seed tape. If you make your own seed tape, it means you aren’t limited by what the seed houses carry – you can have any seed you desire!

This project is pretty simple, and one the kids can help with 😉 Seed tape is usually reserved for very small (easily lost/hard to see), direct sow seeds. It’s definitely not necessary for larger direct sow seeds, like peas.

What do you need to make seed tape?

To get started you’ll need:

  • seeds! your choice 😉 
  • “paper” – newspaper (avoid colored ink), toilet paper, paper towels, or tissue paper
  • scissors
  • toothpick(s)
  • ruler – to measure spacing
  • marker – to mark seed spacing
  • small plate (for seeds)
  • small bowl – to mix paste
  • flour and water (2 to 1 ratio) – consistency of thick pancake batter
  • envelope(s) (labeled) to keep seeds until planting time
  • damp cloth for cleaning up any drips

Let’s start with the paper. Even though newspaper is about the simplest (and usually free!) to obtain, it’s not my favorite for this project (but it does work). In my experience, newspaper tends to get “brittle”, making the seeds want to pop off, even with adequate paste; and it doesn’t press into the soil as nicely as other materials. My favorite paper (though admittedly, it’s a sensitive topic right now) is toilet paper. Toilet paper will break down much faster than the newspaper (after all, that’s what it’s designed to do 😉 ). Use what you have and are comfortable with.

Cut the paper into strips about 1-1 1/2” wide. I like to cut the strips to fit the length of the bed I’m going to plant in, but if you don’t know what the size of your planting area will be, I’d start with 12-18” strips. You can always tear them to size at planting time.

make your own seed tape toilet paper strips

Seed tape works best for tiny seeds that can be easily lost in the soil, and for crops like root vegetables that can’t be transplanted. It’s also wonderful for keeping your plant spacing spot-on. There are always a few seeds that don’t germinate, so you might want to plant knowing you’re planning on thinning the seedlings later. About 2x the recommended rate would be plenty (unless you’re dealing with very old seed).

how o make seed tape seed packet

Use a ruler to make marks that following the spacing recommended on your seed packet.

how to make seed tape

In a small bowl, mix a bit of flour and water in a small bowl to make a paste. It should be about the consistency of a thick pancake batter. A little paste goes a long way. One teaspoon of flour mixed with about 1/2” teaspoon of water is about right. 

Using a toothpick, put a small drop of paste on each of your marks. Use enough paste for the size seed you’re using. If you have something small like carrot or lettuce seed, a small drop is usually enough. For something larger, like beet seed, you probably want a drop of paste about the size of a small pea. 

Put one seed on each drop of paste. I like to use a toothpick with a tiny bit of paste on the end to pick up the seed, and place it on the paste drop.

Place the seed on the paper, and while the paste is still damp, fold the paper in half over the seed to seal it in.

Label your seed tape!

Allow them to dry completely. Store your labeled homemade seed tape for up to 1 year in a cool, dry place.

When the time comes to plant your seed tape, one thing to remember – seed tape will need some extra water, because you aren’t only keeping the seeds most, but the seed tape, as well.

Good luck, and have fun! And if you’d like to share pictures of how your seed tape turns out, I’d love to see it.

until next time, keep the green side up,

~Beth

a new planner, the Get To Work Book review…

get to work book review

I have a new planner, the Get To Work Book. It’s kinda awesome.

Irony: Buying a new planner and a few days later getting an email from your previous planner company asking “Why did you leave us?“. True story.

I’ve been using my new planner for a little over two months now, so we’ve had time to get comfortable with each other (i.e. I’m not unfairly comparing my new planner to my old planner). 😉  Before we go too far, here’s a little disclaimer: I am RIDICULOUSLY picky about my planners. I’ve gone through more planners over the years than I can count, and rarely repeated any. Looking for my perfect fit is a process.

My goodness, how the planner game has changed!

This year’s planner search started several months ago. My preference is for the academic planner (July-June) rather than the standard January-December. I like the way it sort of forces me to have a mid-year review of the progress toward my goals. Plus, I’m already familiar with my planner for when the New Year planning time rolls around.

get to work book reviewPretty early on in my planner quest, I came across the Get to Work Book, created by Elise Blaha Cripe,  but immediately dismissed it due to two factors. First its size (7×9). I’ve learned over the years that anything smaller than an 8.5×11 leads to frustration for me. It would be great if a smaller planner worked for me, but experience has proven otherwise. Second, at $55, the Get to Work Book was the most expensive (non-leather) planner I looked at. But after two months of looking, I found myself comparing every planner to the lovely, clean layout of the GTWB. With only two weeks remaining in my current planner, I caved and placed my order.

get to work book review

In true Beth style, after stalking my planner shipment online, once it arrived I didn’t open it. Just looked at the package…put it in the closet for a few days… Don’t question it. I’m an enigma to myself.

The shipping was super fast, even with my order being placed on a weekend. Kudos on that one. The planner was beautifully and thoughtfully packaged, and arrived in perfect condition even though the post office was hard on the box.

get to work book review

Once I finally got around to opening it (thanks for the kick Sara), the very first thing I noticed was a bit of a disappointment; the back cover was flimsy. In the video introducing the Get To Work Book, the creator specifically talks about the front cover being nice and thick (and it was), but the back cover, which has a little half pocket for storage, was half the weight of the front. It won’t last long the way I use a planner. Overall, if you are someone who takes their planner with them, I feel the covers are a bit “soft”. So for a measure of added protection, I took the clear plastic covers off my old planner (a 8.5×11), and cut them down to use with this planner.

The next frustration I experienced was with the 0-ring binder. Normally I love ring bound planners (and am changing my photography workshop planners to ring binding for 2016!), but this one just gives me headaches. It was so loose, I was able to just slip the clear covers in. That also means the pages slip out. I’ve “tightened” them by squeezing them a bit closer, but those rings bend almost every time I put it in my bag, no matter how careful I am.

Another binder related note, the planner is so thick, and the columns placed so close to the rings, I have to prop one side of the planner up on a book to “level” the sides out enough to use them. That’s kind of a pain, especially when I don’t have a book handy.

get to work book review

  • Note: Apparently I was not the only person to be frustrated with the issue of the back cover.  A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Elise (creator of the GTWB) offering a replacement back cover.  FOR FREE!  Yes, the woman stepped up and did the right thing. I am so impressed with this bit of customer service, I went to her site looking to see if there was anything else I could buy from her.

get to work book review

After (finally) cracking open my beautiful new planner, you know the first thing I did …? Take out all the inspirational quotes on the heavy card-stock.

Sentimental, aren’t I?

get to work book review

I felt a bit guilty doing it. I’m sure a lot of thought went into them, but twelve of them (one for each month) make the planner about 1/4″ thicker, and when you carry your planner with you, the size matters.

The layout is clean without distracting colors or graphics. It also maximizes use of the available space. Love me some efficient design!

I know there are those who want a “pretty” planner, with lots of colors so that they feel motivated to use the planner. My motivation to use a planner is needing to get $#!^ done. Maybe I’m a bit of a planner purist since I value function over flair. If you like to personalize your planner, the clean layout leaves plenty of blank canvas for you to washi tape, color and doodle.

get to work book review

get to work book review

There is plenty of space to make the planner your own, without unnecessary distraction. There is also plenty of room to stash my collection of sticky notes that are a mainstay in my planners. I use them for all those things that aren’t “set in stone”, and might need to be moved to another day.

The paper is a nice weight, and there was no bleed-through using my favorite Sharpie pens. The paper color is also a perfect off-white, which is easy on the eyes.

The next hiccup I experienced with this planner are the monthly tabs. They stick out well past the edge of the cover. My planner gets carried with me e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. and that means these will get banged up. I’d love to see the next generation of this planner have the cover extend far enough to provide protection for the month tabs.

 

get to work book review

There is an “extra page” of graph paper at the month tab before the month calendar layout – for me, this is super frustrating.  When I grab the month tab, my expectation is for it to open to the monthly calendar. I ended up taping the pages together so that the monthly tab opened to the month. I miss having the extra pages for notes, but this was the workaround.

get to work book review - monthly view

It would also be nice if the major holidays were noted on the monthly calendar. I realize this planner ships all over the world, but it would be a great addition.

get to work book review - week view

The weekly layout is wonderful.  Near perfect. And I’m in love with the Monday-Sunday week! I hate having my weekend divided, so this is my preferred way of viewing the week. One of the major reasons I chose this planner was because of this weekly layout.  The MAIN reason – VERTICAL COLUMNS for the weekdays! Oh my goodness! L.O.V.E. I’m a list maker, and my brain works better seeing things listed in columns rather than rows. This is so awesome I would hug Elise just for this one feature, and y’all know, I’m not a hugger!

get to work book review - daily action items

The weekly layout has other inspired touches as well.  There are three spots at the top of each weekday, and they are a dream for noting those things which are the important/do not forget/must do items of each day. They are also perfect for keeping my workouts front and center, and meal planning.  Kinda crushing on them. <3

If I could change one thing with the weekly layout, it would be to change the weekend columns (Saturday and Sunday) to share one column (so two half-columns stacked). The weekday columns feel just a bit cramped, and that would free up a little more room in the weekday columns for writing.

get to work book review - weekly action items

I also love the three big Action Items for each week.  this is perfect for ongoing projects (ie. a to-do from the Project Page, see below), or things that will take more than a day to work on.

While this planner is smaller than I usually like, the layout is so efficient (no wasted space) it works like a larger planner. That said, I would still love to see this in an 8.5×11 size. Again, just a little bit more room to write would be divine.

get to work book review - goal worksheet

The planner also includes Project Pages at the end of each month, and they are pretty neat. For those goals or projects that you need a convenient way to break down, these pages have a lovely layout. And there is another sheet of graph paper opposite for more specifics for your goals, notes, or what ever you need.

get to work book review - monthly review

After the goal page there is a page for review. Just a little personal “check-in” about how the month went. This is a nice touch.

get to work book review - month tabs

 

Another tiny annoyance. No page bookmark/divider. Nearly all planners come with a bookmark. To me, that’s a necessary part of the planner. Again I created a workaround by first using a paperclip to keep my page marked.  Later I cut down an album bookmark from one of my Project Life kits to use as a bookmark.

  • Note: a bookmark has been created since I purchased my planner, but does not come with the planner. It is an additional cost/purchase.

On a closing note, I love that this planner is designed and made entirely in the USA.  I’ll pay a little more for that. The customer service is impeccable, and Elise has been very responsive to her customers, and more than willing to help make sure you are happy with your purchase.

That’s my rundown of the Get To Work Book!  Hope it helps you in your search for the perfect planner for you 😉

The 2016 planner is shipping now.

play hard, and have fun,

~Beth

This post is about my planner addiction search, and my thoughts about the Get to Work Book planner.  This planner was my purchase, and I’m not affiliated in any way with the Get To Work Book.  These are just my first impressions of my new planner.

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5 tips for growing your healthiest tomato plants ever…

tomato plants - how to grow the best tomato plants ever

My passion for good food is no secret.  

Neither is the fact that I plant a large garden each year; which provides most of that good food.

Whenever anyone visits my garden, the one thing they always remark on are the tomato plants. The plants can easily reach 5 ft. tall, and are loaded with healthy fruit. This always leads to questions about how I grow tomato plants that look like that. Most of the time people assume that because we live on a farm and Mr. Awesome is in agriculture, that we have access to some special “fertilizer” that “regular people” can’t get. Yes, I have been asked that, and uhm…no. It’s all in the preparation. Really. Today I’m sharing my 5 tips for growing your healthiest tomato plants ever!

1.  Prepare the soil – add compost

Before you go to your local nursery and breath in that warm, moist, earthy-smelling air, – you know the air that makes you get all plant crazy – take a little time to get your vegetable bed in order. This part isn’t glamorous, but this is where your plants are going to live. If you skimp here, your plants will pay the price later in the season.

tomato plants - how to grow bigger tomatoes

Dig deeply where you want to plant your tomato; at least 14 inches wide, and 18 inches deep. Incorporate compost (NOT potting soil) with the existing soil. Blend it together with the existing soil until it’s a uniform consistency.

  • If this is a new vegetable bed, add enough compost to make a blend of 50% compost to 50% existing soil.
  • If you have very heavy or clay soil, this may need to be a 75/25 mix.
  • If you want to add a little slow-release fertilizer, this is the time. Mix it in well with the soil you just prepared. You want the nutrients to be available in the root zone you just created, but you don’t want the fertilizer in direct contact with the roots.

2.  Select strong healthy plants 

Now it’s okay to go to the nursery and breath in all those heady plant smells! *sigh*

tomato plants - how to plant tomatoes

This part may seem like a no-brainer, but every year I see folks at the nursery select yellowed, and wilted plants because they’re bigger (read taller), over the green, sturdy plants that are smaller. Go for the healthy green and sturdy plants. The vitality of a good plant will have it outgrowing a weaker, larger plant, within a few weeks. And that healthier plant will outproduce a weaker plant all summer long!

3.  It’s all in how you plant it

Gently slide your plant out of its little plastic pot. If the plant is in a peat container, gently peel away the peat (you can throw that peat into the planting hole). If the roots are completely wound around inside the pot (root bound), and you see more roots than soil, return the plant for another.

tomato plants - how to grow bigger tomatoes

This plant looks perfect. Beautiful white roots, with plenty of soil visible and no wrapping around inside the pot. Gently pull apart the roots at the base, so that they will spread out when planted.

tomato plants - how to grow the best tomato plants ever

This next part is hard. We’re gonna take that beautiful new plant you we brought home, and start yanking a bunch of the stems and leaves off. It seems counterintuitive – plus it’s just hard (for me at least) to destroy any part of a health plant – but I promise, it will be worth it.

tomato plants - how to grow bigger tomatoes

See all those little leaves and stems along the bottom few inches of the plant? Just pinch them off. It’s okay. Honest.

tomato plants - how to plant tomatoes

Tomatoes will throw out new roots all along the stem of the plant. Bigger, healthier root system = bigger, healthier plants.*

tomato plants - how to plant tomatoes

Place your plant into the hole you’ve prepared for it. Gently spread out the roots, and hold the plant upright as you slowly backfill the planting hole with soil.

tomato plants - how to grow the best tomato plants ever

The stem that you stripped of leaves should be below soil level, and just the top few inches of leaves will be visible.

*You can’t do this with most plants. If you plant them deeper than the soil level of the container they were in, they will rot and die. Tomatoes are special 😉

4.  Direct the water where it needs to go

When it’s watering time, it’s easy for the water to run of the top of the soil and not get to where it’s needed most; the root system. Take a few minutes after you’ve planted your beautiful little tomato, and create a moat around your plant. This creates a dam for the water, and will help direct it down into the root zone.

tomato plants - how to grow bigger tomatoes

Now water your new plant. Make sure to give it a good soaking.

5. Protect and support your plant

Finally, give your plant the support and protection it needs. If you are in an area where the temperatures dip down at night, a water wall can help keep the plant warm and cozy during the chilly nights. Just remember to not leave the water walls on during high daytime temperatures, or you will damage (or kill) the plant you were protecting.

tomato plants - how to grow the best tomato plants ever

Give your plant enough support. Select a sturdy plant support. A good quality tomato cage or support will last not only this season, but many more.

tomato plants - how to plant tomatoes

These wonderful plant supports have ben with me for the last five years, and are about to begin year six in the garden!

tomato plants - how to grow bigger tomatoes

Just in case you need a little reassurance, this photo was taken only a month after planting. You can see the tomatoes (the plants closest) are plenty big!

Follow these simple tips, and enjoy the healthiest, most productive tomato plants ever!

p.s. please recycle your plastic plant containers after planting. Most facilities now accept nursery pots 😉

keep the green side up,

~Beth

how to make a Rubik’s cube tissue box cover…

how to make a rubies cube tissue box cover -

Today I’m letting my geek out (more than usual, anyway 😉 ), and doing a little crafting that’s perfect for those hurry-up-and-wait moments.  It’s small, only a few pieces, light weight, and doesn’t take an engineering degree to figure out. A couple of years ago I saw a Rubik’s Cube Tissue Box on an episode of The Big Bang Theory and knew I had to make one for myself.  It took a while to figure out the correct sizing, but it’s finally done. I made a few mistakes along the way that I’ll share with you – here’s my take on how to make a Rubik’s Cube tissue box cover.

supplies:

  • plastic canvas – enough for 5 pieces measuring approx. 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches (the piece I purchased was 13 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches, which game me enough to have some left over if when I made a mistake)
  • yarn – red, yellow, orange, blue, green, and white, approx. 4 feet for each color block (up to 36 feet per color)
  • yarn – black approx. 40 feet
  • needle – large-gauge blunt

Rubik's Cube Tissue Box Cover instructions - as seen on The Big Bang Theory

You’ll need to cut the canvas into five pieces. Each piece will be 37 lines x 37 lines (or 36 open squares), they will be just under 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches. This means each color block will be 12 open squares. For the fifth piece (the top) you will need to cut a hole in the middle for the tissues. Measure in 13 lines from each side to cut the hole.

Rubik's Cube Tissue Box Cover instructions - as seen on The Big Bang Theory

To make it easier to get the multi-stranded yarn threaded through the needle eyelet, put a little piece of tape on the end. Snip off the tape before you start pulling the yarn through the plastic canvas.

how to make a rubies cube tissue box cover -

With my first square I tried “covering” only the outside (the part you see) of the canvas with the yarn, but this lead to two problems. First, the plastic canvas showed through the strands of yarn more than I liked.

how to make a rubies cube tissue box cover -

Second, it made the piece curl up. I had to take it all out, and start over.

Rubik's Cube Tissue Box Cover instructions - as seen on The Big Bang Theory

When you start each color block, leave about 1 1/2 inches of yarn to tie the ends together.

Rubik's Cube Tissue Box Cover instructions - as seen on The Big Bang Theory

Once you’ve stitched the color block, pull the yarn underneath, and tie the ends together. Next, stitch between the color blocks with the black yarn, covering the plastic canvas. When you’ve completed all five sides of the cube, use the remaining  black yarn to “sew” all the pieces together. It’s that simple! 🙂

Rubik's Cube Tissue Box Cover instructions - as seen on The Big Bang Theory

This next step is completely optional.

Tissue boxes are not square, but Rubik’s cubes are. The Rubik’s cube tissue box cover will be bigger than your tissue box. When the cover was finished, it was a bit floppy because of the size difference, so I grabbed some black foam core that I had left over from another project and made a frame to reinforce the shape.

how to make a rubies cube tissue box cover -

To make a frame to “firm up” the cover, cut two pieces of foam core to 5 1/4 x 5 1/4 inches, and two others to 5 x 5 1/4 (the foam core is about 1/4 inch thick).

Rubik's Cube Tissue Box Cover instructions - as seen on The Big Bang Theory

Assemble with your trusty duct tape, and slip it inside your awesome new tissue box cover. The two pieces cut to 5 x 5 1/4 inches will sit “inside” the two 5 1/4  5 1/4 inch pieces, to keep the frame square.

how to make a rubies cube tissue box cover -

And Bazinga! you’re done!  When you create your own Rubik’s Cube tissue box cover, I’d love to see it. Please stop by and post a pic of it on my FB page. Until next time.

keep the green side up,

~Beth

p.s.  Don’t feel like you need to follow my color block design, but I would strongly suggest creating your design from an actual Rubik’s Cube. The first design I created, while pretty to look at, turned out to not be possible on the cube itself.

p.p.s. If you have more questions feel free to ask, and check the comments for helpful tips from other readers!

5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now…

5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now - raised bed garden

early summer garden – in raised beds

This year we will be celebrating 50 years of Earth Day! This seems like the perfect excuse to chat a little about backyard gardens! I’m the first to admit, there is always more to learn about gardening, and like most people, I’m out here planting stuff that I think will be yummy to eat 🙂 While I have some training, most of what I’ve learned about gardening came through years of experience; trials, successes, and failures.

Honestly, it’s a miracle I enjoy gardening at all, considering my early years of gardening were relegated to digging out rocks, and pulling weeds in my parents garden. As a kid, I never got to do the “fun” parts of gardening, like planting things, picking things, and watering things! And while I loved my parents, don’t make the same mistake they made with me, get your kids out in the garden with you – and let them do the “fun” stuff! Let them dig trenches, plant the seeds, water the plants, and pick & eat food right there in the garden. Here are 5 things you can do in your garden, right now, to get ready for the growing season.

5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now - gardening in raised beds

raised bed in garden

 

1. THINK ABOUT YOUR CROP SELECTION, REALISTICALLY

Seed catalogs have been arriving in my mailbox since January – you might have a few as well (and if you don’t, they’re easy to request). These catalogs offer a much larger selection of seeds (and often, seedlings) than what a garden or big-box store will carry. They are also more likely to include heirloom varieties. Choose things that are well suited to grow in your area. I get the majority of my seeds from Territorial Seed Company. Why? Because they have test gardens in my area of the Pacific Northwest. That means I know that the things they grow, will most likely grow well for me. Keep in mind as you make your selections, of the mature plant size. It’s easy to get excited with all those plants and seeds, and then overcrowd your garden plot. This will lead to reduced yields, and disease. Resist the urge! 🙂

  • plants that sprawl include: pumpkins, squash, melons, (indeterminate) cucumbers…
  • plants that get big include: zucchini, (indeterminate) tomatoes (especially cherry)…

5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now - raised bed garden

Lettuces – Flashy Trout’s Back, Red Sails, Bullet, Outredgeous, and Hyper Red Rumple

2. LEARN ABOUT YOUR GROWING CONDITIONS

Having a successful garden requires you to understand your growing conditions. A little bit of observation and research now, will lead to a healthy and successful garden later. Make sure you know if your garden plot gets full sun, partial sun, or is shaded. Then make sure to choose plants that will thrive in those areas. If your garden plot gets shade for much of the day, you may never see a ripe tomato, which would be sad, but that same plot could be perfect for lettuce, spinach, chard, and other crops. You also need to know the average first and last frost dates, for your area. Your local state extension office may be able to offer more detailed information. Know these dates before you make your plant selections. Choosing a tomato that takes 100 to mature when your growing season is 90 days, will lead to disappointment.

  • full sun = 8+ hours of sunshine – tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons…
  • partial sun/shade = 4-6 hours of sunshine – root veggies like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets…
  • shade = 4 hours of less of sunshine – lettuce, chard, spinach, kale…

5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now - deer in the garden

deer are garden pests

3. BE AWARE OF PESTS IN YOUR AREA

This covers a wide range of critters, bugs, and possibly a nosey neighbor 😉 Learn about the major pests: deer, rabbits, squirrels, birds, etc. and develop a plan to deal with them before they do damage to your precious plants. My biggest pests are deer. They eat everything, and have a special affinity for hot peppers, tomatoes and watermelons (just before they ripen 🙁  ). This required me to build an eight foot fence, and I also use water scarecrows to help keep the deer away.

5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now - Sun Gold Cherry Tomato

Sungold Cherry Tomato

4. IF YOU DON’T WANT TO EAT IT, DON’T BOTHER GROWING IT!

This will be unique to your particular family, and there is no right or wrong. If you never eat tomatoes, don’t plant them. Love salad blends from the grocer? Plant a lettuce mix! Plan to make your garden a place you will enjoy, full of food you will actually eat. Involve your family in this process, and if you have kids, honor their input. An exception: if your pea-hating child wants to grow peas, let them! It could be an excellent way to help them get over their dislike of trying new foods. One year I let my daughter plant Fennel, because she thought it was pretty. I’m still trying to get rid of that plant, but she loved it, and that made it worth it. 😉

5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now - mushroom compost

mushroom compost that I mix with my garden soil and homemade compost

5. MAKE A PLAN FOR MAINTAINING YOUR GARDEN

Maintaining a healthy garden does require quite a bit of work between the fun of sowing seeds, and the yummy conclusion of harvest time. Plan now to get any necessary compost, watering hoses, garden tools, water walls, cages, trellises, etc. so that you have them when you need them. Little seedlings can go from healthy to dead in a matter of hours if the soil moisture isn’t maintained. If you have to be away for an extended time, get a water timer to make sure those precious seedlings stay moist. A great source of information for me here in the PNW are my lovely Sunset books; The Sunset Western Garden Book, and Sunset Western Garden Book of Edibles. Simple and comprehensive, a truly lovely combination.

Remember that every season is unique and has its own set of challenges. Every crop failure, or success, is a lesson learned in what we need to do. And when you eat the produce from your own garden, you will know that all the hours spent in the garden, are completely worth it.

Do you have a garden?
Do you have a favorite vegetable that you just have to have? Please tell me about it, I love trying new foods 🙂

keep the green side up,

~Beth

*disclaimer – I’m not affiliated with the business or products I recommend in any way, I just think they are awesome, and wanted to share with you. 😉

roasted hazelnut pie base… aka your favorite pie, but better…

pumpkin pie with hazelnut crust

When it comes to good food, Thanksgiving really gives us a chance to shine. There are a few things I make that seem to create a lot of interest. Earlier this year I finally responded to the requests about how to make homemade yogurt, and this time it’s my pie. The great thing about this recipe for Roasted Hazelnut Pie Base, is that it’s simply an addition, and it will enhance nearly any pie. It’s your favorite pie, but better!

Roasted Hazelnut Pie Base works wonderfully with pumpkin (my favorite), apple, and berry pies. And being that I do live On The Nut Farm, it’s just possible that I may have more recipes featuring hazelnuts than your average Joe. 😉 

Roasted Hazelnut Pie Base  aka… Your favorite pie, but better

3/4 c. toasted and finely ground, hazelnuts  (about 3/4 – 1 c. whole nuts)

1/3 c. brown sugar, firmly packed

4 T. butter, softened

1/4 t. vanilla

salt, just a pinch

Mix the ingredients, just until they come together into a paste. Press into the bottom of you favorite pie crust. Bake at 450˚F for 10 minutes, until bubbly. Allow to cool completely, then bake your pie as usual. Your favorite pie, but better!
* this makes enough for one deep-dish 9-9 1/2 inch pie.

The details…

toasting hazelnuts –

This is a super simple process that greatly enhances the flavor of the nuts, so don’t be tempted to skip this step 😉 Oh, and you may want to have more nuts on hand than the recipe calls for, because they are oh-so-yummy, when toasted!

Spread the nuts in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toast in a 350˚F oven, shaking the pan every few minutes, until the nuts are lightly browned and fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. You will know they are almost ready when the skins begin to crack. Be careful not to let them burn 😉

roasted hazelnuts with cracked skins

Pour the warm nuts onto a kitchen towel (one that’s a little rough is best), and rub the warm nuts vigorously to loosen the skins.

roasted hazelnuts skinned

This is one of those recipes where making substitutions will not give you a good final product. Please don’t be tempted to use margarine in this recipe. The water in margarine does not play nicely with the oils from the nuts, and you will have a disappointing mess.

hazelnut pie base ingredients

grinding hazelnuts –

Again simple, but a little care is needed. You can grind the (cooled) nuts in a blender or food processor, the key is to do just a few at a time.  Go slowly, just a few pulses, otherwise you will end up with hazelnut butter, which is super tasty, but not what you’re looking for in this recipe.

ground hazelnuts hazelnut meal

Press the hazelnut base evenly into the bottom of your pie crust.

hazelnut base pressed into crust

Get ready for the most intoxicating smell! Oh my goodness, this is the best part. Watch the baking time closely, and you may want to place some aluminum foil, or a pie crust guard, around the edges of your pie crust to keep it from burning.

baked hazelnut pie crust

Once your pie base has cooled, use as you would any other pie crust.

pumpkin pie with hazelnut pie crust

That’s it, simple and sumptuous. Enjoy!

until next time, keep the green side up,

~Beth

weird critters you find on the farm…

In today’s edition of Weird Things You Find On The Farm, I give you something squirmy, and waaayyy bigger than you would wish a slimy critter would be. Be warned, if you don’t like “gross” critters… just click away now.

If you follow my Facebook page, you know I found something gross. Well here it is, as promised.

A Stag Beetle Larvae.

Stag Beetle Larvae

Quite the looker, isn’t he? 

I “found” him when I was spreading filbert shells in the landscape. They only eat decaying wood, so he was pretty happy in my pile of shells.

Have you ever found anything “gross” in your garden? If so, share with the rest of us, we might as well all be grossed out together! 😂

until next time,
keep the green side up,

~Beth

how to make homemade yogurt…

how to make homemade yogurt with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries

my breakfast – homemade yogurt with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and some Grape-Nuts

updated: March 2020

How do I make homemade yogurt?

People who know me, also know I’ve made my own yogurt for years (decades) now. Some have asked in passing about a yogurt “recipe”, but for some reason I never got around to it. So, as Laura recently told me “give the people what they want!”.😂

Making your own yogurt is easier than you think, and the taste can’t be beat! My family of four goes through 1-2 batches (a batch being eight, six-ounce jars) a week through the winter months and 2-3 batches per week through the spring and summer. In the spring and summer there is so much fresh fruit available to mix in, plus we make a ton of smoothies, and I use the yogurt in place of mayo and/or sour cream in some recipes, especially dips and sauces. Everything you need to make homemade yogurt, you probably already have on hand (with the exception of the yogurt maker, if you go that route). Simple recipe, simple ingredients. In some of the pictures you’ll see the Donvier Yogurt Maker and jars. The Donvier is now away at college with Thing 2, so I now use my oven and canning jars, and prefer it. There are a lot of different methods out there, this is mine…

Items you will need to get started…

  • clean, sterilized jars(*) I use 1/2 pint, and pint canning jars
  • milk (6 cups for this recipe)
  • yogurt starter (2 T.)
  • a large bowl that is easy to pour from (I use an 8 cup Pyrex glass measuring cup)
  • a small bowl
  • whisk
  • candy or other cooking thermometer
  • a consistently warm place such as an oven with a light you can leave on (optional: yogurt maker)

 how to make homemade yogurt - jars for homemade yogurt

note: If you choose to buy a yogurt maker, it will most likely be your only real expense in undertaking your own homemade yogurt. If you buy a yogurt maker, get extra jars, you will need them. Otherwise you will have to empty all of your jars every time you want to make a new batch, and it’s a pain. Yogurt makers can generally be found at specialty kitchen stores, and of course, online. I originally chose the Donvier yogurt maker because:

  • 1.  it was recommended to me (I’m big on listening to people I trust)
  • 2.  it held 8 jars instead of 6 or 7
  • 3.  it has very simple operating instructions

Milk:  use what ever milk you usually drink as long as it is pasteurized. You must use pasteurized milk because yogurt is all about growing the specific yogurt bacteria, and you don’t want to grow anything unintended. I drink fat-free milk, so that is what I use.

how to make homemade yogurt - Chobani yogurt

Yogurt starter:  you need about 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt. This is probably the most important part of this process. If you want to make yogurt you like, you need to start with yogurt you like. Novel concept, huh? 🙂 If you don’t like it when you start, you will not magically like it when you’ve finished. You MUST select a plain yogurt with NO artificial anything.  NO added sugar or fruit, nothing.  PLAIN yogurt. That means the ingredient list should consist of cultured pasteurized milk, and live and active cultures. That’s it. Personally, my favorite is Chobani Plain Greek(**). I LOVE the flavor of this yogurt, and I really can’t overstate the importance of finding a yogurt you like. You can also find a selection of powdered starters in some specialty stores (or order online). While this is a perfectly viable option, it is not the course of action I would recommend unless you really have no other choice, since you have no idea how this yogurt will taste until you’re done.

Bowls:  a large bowl that will hold at least 6 cups of milk plus a couple of tablespoons of starter and leave you plenty of room for whisking it all together. Unless you are extremely talented at pouring liquid from bowls, I would advise something with a spout. You will also need a small bowl to mix the starter and milk. You can use one of the yogurt jars for this, but I prefer to just use a separate bowl.

Whisk:  any medium to large size whisk will do, as long as it fits in both of the bowls you will be using.

Thermometer: any cooking thermometer that will register as high as 185ºF and as low as 110ºF.

Step 1:  you will need to scald your milk (bring it to 185ºF-190ºF). You can do this on the stove-top with a double-boiler, but most of the time I just use my microwave. If you choose to use your microwave, it will take a little trial and error on your part to figure out the exact timing. My microwave is rated at 1100 W and I heat my milk for 5 minutes, take it out and stir it, and then another 6 minutes, and stir it again, to reach the necessary 185ºF.

how to make homemade yogurt - hot milk for homemade yogurt

Step 2:  once your milk has reached 185ºF, remove it from heat, place it on a hot pad or trivet, and put it in a safe location to cool down to 110º-115ºF, stirring occasionally to keep a skin from forming. Make sure you check frequently so you don’t miss the “temperature window”. For me this takes about 40 minutes in a 68º-70ºF house.

homemade yogurt starter in small bowl

While the milk is cooling spoon about 2 tablespoons of your chosen yogurt starter into the small bowl and let it come up to room temperature. This is also a good time to set out your jars, and make sure everything is ready.

cooling milk for homemade yogurt

Step 3:  when your milk reaches the 110º-115ºF temperature window, pour a small amount of the cooled milk – just a couple of teaspoons-  into the yogurt starter and gently whisk until you have a smooth even consistency.

homemade yogurt

Repeat this step until the yogurt/milk blend is a very runny liquid.

homemade yogurt

Step 4:  slowly add your starter/milk blend to the remaining milk, whisking constantly until it’s fully incorporated. Whisk enough to blend well, but not so much as to create foam.

homemade yogurt

Step 5:  pour your milk into the jars and place the lids on top.

homemade yogurt in Donvier yogurt maker

Step 6:  place jars into a baking dish with 1-2 inches of hot tap water, and place into oven with the light on <or> put the jars into your yogurt maker, and select the length of time you wish for the yogurt maker to run and press Start!  It’s that easy! 🙂

homemade yogurt

Step 7:  when your yogurt has finished, place it in the refrigerator to chill for 8 hours or overnight.

Step 8:  enjoy!  Stir in your favorite fruit… make a smoothie… use it on your tacos instead of sour cream…

Random tips:

  • making your own yogurt has all sorts of awesome benefits, which I’m sure you already have looked into. But one amazing benefit that no one tells you about…? how amazing fresh, warm yogurt smells!  Mmmm… It’s almost as good as the smell of fresh bread.
  • for reasons I have yet to understand (freshness of the milk, cycle of the moon…) occasionally my yogurt has more whey separate  than usual. Whey is a thick, clear-ish liquid along the sides or on top of the yogurt. If it bothers you, you can strain it off (but you will lose the protein contained in it), or just stir it back in when you are ready to eat. Remember, you just made fresh yogurt without all those chemical interventions, it might look a tad bit different than you are used to. 😉

  • when you are ready to make your next batch, just use 2-3 tablespoons of your last batch as the new starter.
  • when I get an unexpected result, I buy a new container of yogurt for starter, and start over.
  • if you want to use your yogurt to replace mayonnaise or sour cream, you will want to strain it first to give it a thicker consistency. I place a coffee filter set into a mesh strainer, spoon in the yogurt, and set it all in the refrigerator until it’s reached the right thickness. I don’t use yogurt to replace ingredients that need to be cooked as it tends to break down.
  •  yogurt will get tarter and firmer the longer it develops so if you like a softer, sweeter yogurt, you might want to ripen your yogurt for about 7 hours and see if that’s about right for you. If you like your yogurt a little firmer and tarter start at around 10 hours. I really don’t like sweet yogurt, so I let mine go for 12 hours.
  • I frequently let my yogurt develop overnight, and it’s ready to pop in the fridge the next morning.
  • fresh, plain yogurt can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks.

So that’s it.  Pretty easy huh?  I’ve never created a recipe for something I just “do” before, so if there are any steps that need a little clarification, please ask! I’m happy to answer any questions you have, and hope you tell me all about your first batch of yogurt! Oh, and send pictures of course! I’d love to add any of your experiences to this post. 🙂 Thank you to those of you who requested this, it was a lot of fun to put this all together for you!

keep the green side up,
~Beth

*  I sterilize my jars by running them through the sanitize cycle on my dishwasher.

**  Greek yogurt is yogurt that has been strained of its whey for a thicker consistency and higher protein. Unfortunately, as greek yogurt becomes more popular some companies are cutting costs by using thickening agents and protein powders to mimic the taste, texture and high protein. The latest information I can find says Chobani and Fage still make their greek yogurt by straining it.

***  If you have the Donvier Yogurt Maker it comes with a handy-dandy little thermometer that has two little lines to let you know when you’re in the right range.

originally published March 2013