Soil Enrichment -Compost

One of the ongoing struggles that I encounter is soil quality.   Mine is crush granite.   An absolutely terrible soil for growing things.

All the experts talk about soil amendments and improvements.  I am annually working organic materials into my garden beds.  My first choice is composted chicken manure and coop cleanings.   It is something that I have plenty of.    When I lived in the Midwest I could flip a couple fully worked compost piles a year.   Here even with diligent work the high altitude makes it much harder with less oxygen, drier environment, cold nights, and short season it really does take nearly two years to get a batch ready for use.  These are the only compost piles that the worms never move in to, and I think it is because no worms reside in the soil around my house.  Then once I add it to any garden bed or dress any tree in only a couple years any thing that I add is fully absorbed and my soil is back to the state it was before.

This weekend I put three tomato plants in a flower pots on the deck and am getting the new raised beds ready.I am moving to raised beds.  I am enriching each of these with my wonderful compost.      Raised beds allow me  to extend the period that the new improved soil lasts, but even then experience has shown that it quickly is absorbed in to my soils looking   for a better lot in life.    Lets see how this all plays out when I plant my cold weather veggies later.



Food on the Road

Last week I was on the road for work, which meant that I ate out all week.   Having been on a mission to incorporate more vegetables into my diet this week drove home to me how crummy your choices are when dining out.

Let me set my personal stage:   I am a meat eater and eat plenty of that at home.   I have multiple veggies with each meal.    At our house we do try to do one meatless meal a week.   My reason for this meal lifestyle  focus on vegetables is an effort to have a more  well rounded nutritionally balanced diet.  I really have come to depend the variety of tastes and textures that having an assortment of veggies with a meal. It makes me full and satisfied after a meal.

I ate many of my meals at the conference center/hotel restaurant.   In four days my choices for the vegetables was asparagus with a mornay sauce, or steam carrot/cauliflower/broccoli mix.   Based on that I can assume it wasn’t fresh, but likely some frozen “bag veggies.”  I also ate some meals at chain and local restaurants and found that my choices really no better.   Vegetables were absent for the most part.

I have come to the conclusion that the public is not demanding veggies and so restaurants are not providing them.  They are not inexpensive because we repeatedly are offered the same ones.   Now all this has me thinking of my next business trip, when I will be on the road for a full week.   What do I plan to do for myself to not go for a full week so few veggies?   I am not sure, but I have a couple of months to think about what I will do.   I would love to hear from others their thoughts on this challenge.

Three Vegetables

Three vegetables with every dinner is our family goal and potatoes don’t count.  That is a pretty ambitious goal in the best of situations.   I can give you a host of reasons why it is hard to achieve in our house:

  1. One of cooks in the house, my husband,  was raise with minimal to no vegetables.  They aren’t on his radar.  His take on vegetables when I married him: ” I eat corn because I like it and beans because they are good for me.”
  2. We grocery shop only once every 7-10 days
  3. I live in a spot in Montana where it semi-arid, and the growing season runs from late June to sometime in September.  Frost is common in July and August.
  4. Our farmer’s markets reflect the problems stated in number 3.
  5. Our grocery stores, though national chains, reflect a 60’s produce selection.  If you don’t shop on a day the truck comes in the produce is just so-so.
  6. Frozen veggies require more thought.   It easiest to pull them out of the bag and throw them in the steamer.    Steaming and serving gets pretty boring pretty fast.
  7. Dollar for dollar on a per serving basis fresh is more expensive.

Those of you following my blog, know that I recently started participating in Bountiful Baskets.  It is a traveling delivery co-op system.   It allows us to purchase a basket of fresh veggies and fruits and a reasonable price.   The downside is that you don’t know what you will get in your basket until you pick it up.    If you are willing to go outside your normal comfort zone it is a great way to get those three veggies in you dinner menu.   My husband is even getting into this.    Friday  he made sandwiches for lunch  and proudly announced he had included 3 veggies.  It is a sign that this goal of ours is finally becoming a normal reality for us, not just me but both of us.

Changes happen slowly, but with persistence change can become your reality.

A New Challenge Collard Greens

Regular basket for this week.

This week my Bountiful Basket included lots of fun goodies and only one of them may me think hmmmmm.   Collard greens.   I have never made or even tasted them in my entire life to my knowledge.   So I will be searching for a recipe on the net.    My husband said he is sure that Paula Deen has something that will use them with lots of bacon and butter.  Those two fats can make anything yum!

This week I ended up with a “conventional basket” (non organic).   I really feel like I got quite a stash for only $15.  Look at the picture to see how much produce we ended up with.

I am discovering it really is quite a challenge to get all my fruit ate.   Last week my DH had to bring a treat to work and he made a banana cake with a white cake mix.   We still ended up freezing a few mashed banana’s and now we start again.   We did freeze some cauliflower as well.

Tonight we ate a leftovers with homemade Margaritas on the rocks.  So we started already on the limes.   I grilled some mixed veggies as well. So started on basket even on the first day.   Tomorrow  will start menu planning to work on getting meals that utilize as much of our stash as possible.   I am not a honeydew melon eater so will likely share that with others.  Two English cukes is a lot and so will send one of those on as well.    Beyond that even if I am gone for three days lets hope that we can get through this all before we need to decide if we are in or out for the next box.

Let the next two weeks  journey into healthful eating start.

One Week Down – Update on Use of My Bountiful Basket

As promised here is an update on how we are doing with our first “Bountiful Basket.”

  • Chard – half gone.  We had it saute with sweet onions, garlic and finished with a splash of white wine.
  • cauliflower – Cleaned,  but yet to be served
  • green onions – half gone, served as part of a veggie tray
  • carrots (full sized) – on tonight’s dinner menu oven roasted, with a butter, honey and balsamic vinegar glaze
  • iceberg lettuce – half gone, two salads, on sandwiches  and a Mexican meal.
  • Chicory – been in salads, still have plenty left
  • broccolini  – on tonight’s menu as well
  • ginger gold apples – not yet
  • white nectarines – all gone, ate for breakfast.   These were probably the most disappointing in our basket.  They got soft on the outside and stayed hard in the middle.
  • peaches – breakfast food, only 2 left.  Fantastic taste.
  • watermelon – 2/3 gone.  Took it to office pot luck.


 case of tomatoes  – 1/2 gone, made fire-roasted salsa, served in salads, and made an Italian grilled veggies one night and a gallon of crock-pot marina sauce.

pepper pack (green and red bells, onions, garlic, dried ancho, and smoked jalapeno (chipolte).   salsa, grilled veggies, veggie tray, salads, only 1/2 of one red and green left, onions, garlic gone, one chipolte left and two anchos left.

I think we are doing pretty good for just the two of us. Both of us agree that this has forced our hand to eat better.  Our meals are more complete.  The idea we are able to eat organic, that is pretty special to us.  We are doing better on the fruit than we thought we would.  I will menu plan the rest of next week and blanch and freeze up what I think  may go to waste.  Am I going to do it again?   You betcha!