Archive for January, 2012

Potato Candy

During International Cultures Week at our school, parents are invited in to share stories, songs, games and food from our home countries. I used to think that the goal of this week was to share our own cultures with others, but now I see it is also a way to share my culture with my own children!  So, I always make an effort to teach them and their classmates something about Quakertown or Pennsylvania or Pa. Dutch folks.

A favorite activity from my childhood was making cookies and sweets for Christmas and probably the most unusual thing we made was potato candy.¬† It’s the perfect thing to make with kids because it’s fun and easy and magical things happen while you’re mixing.

Here’s what you do: mix about a tablespoon of mashed potatoes (the thicker the better) with LOTS of powdered sugar. Seriously, like almost a cup… [So, okay, it’s not the healthiest thing in the world…but low-fat, right?!]

Add the sugar by spoonfuls and mix. The magical part is how first it almost liquefies, but as you add more sugar it turns into a play dough like consistency that you then can roll into balls. The balls can be rolled in coconut or cocoa powder or nuts or sprinkles to finish them off. Or you can hide treats in the center – we always made some with peanut butter inside! You can also roll it flat, add something on top like peanut butter, then roll jelly-roll style and slice. Refrigerate before eating (if you can keep the kids from gobbling them down).


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Reason #1

Fresh salad for dinner last night. In January!

Corn salad looking green and yummy!

LOTS of arugula!

I should have taken a photo of the salad itself looking all yummy with feta and chick peas and tomato on top of those lovely greens, but I was too hungry and ate it right away ūüėČ

A couple  more garden photos of my fresh herb supply:




Reason #2

Going outside to harvest it.

Yesterday's sunset

Of course it’s like 4:30 in the afternoon, still way too early for sunset to my mind, but thankfully days are getting noticeably longer!

Anything to eat in your garden?


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The Hat is Done!

Not bad for a first effort…

The most important thing – the recipient LOVES it!

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Soil scares me

I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, in fact¬† I like it, but the first thing you read about in most gardening books is soil. How you really need to have it tested and it’s easy to do – just send it to your nearest county agricultural extension office. Well, if those exist in the Czech Republic they are a well-kept secret! I have no idea how to get my soil tested here. And so far, no one’s been able to tell me.

And my soil is bad…real bad. My first clue that it was perhaps on the clayey side was when my daughters started making sculptures from it…

Olivia made a bowl

Sofie made a horse

Yep, it’s clay alright!

But what else may be lurking there I have no idea. It’s fill that was brought in when our house was built 3 years ago. Is it acidic? Alkaline? Laced with heavy metals? All possible but I am unable to tell.

Meanwhile, I read about all the possible additives I might have to mix in. Blood meal, gypsum, lime, rock phosphate,  bone meal, rock dust, greensand РI have no idea what these things are, how to say them in Czech and where to go to get them. When I asked for straw at the garden center, they looked at me like I was crazy and asked me what on earth one would use straw for in a garden! And I thought that would be the easiest thing to get. Hmmm.

So, I’m terrified of my soil. I heap compost and mulch on it, but I don’t really know what’s in there or what I’m going to do if I ever find out.

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New Year – New Garden

This is supposed to be a blog about my garden, though you’d never know it so far!¬† So, about my (relatively new) garden…

My garden is your standard 1/4 acre on a new street backed up against the woods. There are empty lots on either side of us, but the rest of the street has filled in pretty quickly. We’ve lived here almost 3 years. The first summer the back yard was mounds of dirt from the digging of our foundation.

The second summer we were able to landscape a bit and have a small garden. This past summer of 2011 I was able to put in some plantings and add to the vegetable garden.

Here’s what I tried to grow in 2011:

pumpkins, lettuce, spaghetti squash, kalabash gourds, yellow summer squash, zucchini, corn salad, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, hot peppers, green peppers, scallions, onions, swiss chard, melons, arugula, string beans, decorative gourds, sweet corn, carrots, beets, turnips, sugar peas, a few herbs, strawberries, rhubarb

Mixed results – but some of that grew very well and we ate many garden dinners, mostly zucchini-based!

Biggest Accomplishments of 2011

  • 7 raised beds
  • strawberries
  • eggplant
  • enough tomatoes to can, though not as much as I would like
  • sweet corn!
  • rhubarb
  • amazing parsley
  • zucchini, lots
  • beans
  • peas

Dismal Failures of 2011

  • butternut squash – not a single one
  • only 2 pumpkins
  • cucumbers
  • peppers – I cut back on # of plants because we had so many last year, ¬†but it was not nearly enough
  • onions – scallions okay, but onion sets barely grew
  • turnips – total infestation of something that decimated them and went on to decimate the beets and kohlrabi, too
  • beets
  • kohlrabi

New year, time to get serious.

Garden resolutions for 2012:

    • get soil tested
    • grow potatoes in barrels as recommended in Urban Homesteading by Rachel Kaplan
    • figure out how to get manure and straw (where to get it and how to transport it)
    • build more raised beds
    • try garlic
    • build cold frames
    • put in fruit trees – cherry, apricot, maybe apples, but they are so plentiful and cheap here‚Ķ
    • put in small fruit shrubs –¬† currants, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, gooseberries
    • make a solar dehydrator
    • put in an asparagus bed
    • grow more herbs
    • plant in guilds and polycultures, like the 3 sisters guild
    • plant more cold weather crops
    • figure out out to successfully grow tomatoes here – lots of nasty tomato diseases lurking everywhere
    • do compost right
    • construct an herb spiral
    • try broccoli and cauliflower
    • find and grow Jerusalem artichokes
    • plant edible flowers
    • get better at succession planting
    • preserve more food
    • figure out what I can grow on the steep slopes in our yard
Looks pretty bleak right now…but on the first day of a new year I have nothing but hope!

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