Friday, March 28, 2014

Meatless Friday - Vegetable Fried Rice with Garlic Bread

I am launching a new series here on my blog, called "Meatless Friday". Believe it or not, my husband and I used to be vegetarians at some point of our lives... and then we became hunters and farmers ;-) Lately we noticed that we eat way too much meat and so we decided to skip it on the menu couple times a week. And that is what brought me to this idea. I have been having trouble coming up with fun and easy recipes without meat and so I think it would be fun to hear some ideas from you! I will learn how to operate "link up party" and try it next week.
For now, here is my first recipe.

After you try this, you will never want to order Chinese take out again ;-) I got the rice recipe from Rachel Ray but alternated it to my needs. I changed some ingredients and their amounts. We made this kind of garlic bread in my house since childhood and called it "topinka". 

Veggie Fried Rice Ingredients:

2 cups of water
1 cup of rice (I use Basmati rice from Trader Joe's)
Oil (I use coconut oil)
2 eggs
1 big garlic clove
1 tablespoons of fresh grated ginger root
1/2 cup of shredded carrots
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 of leek
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1/4 cup of dark soy sauce

Garlic Bread Ingredients:

French Baguette (But you can use any European style bread, NO american soft kind please)
1 garlic clove

First boil your rice according to the instructions and set it aside. Then worm up oil in a frying pan (choose larger size pan as you will have to fit all the ingredients in it at some point) and scramble the 2 eggs. Break the eggs into smaller pieces and then add garlic and ginger and mix it for about  a minute. Add the carrots, leek, and pepper. Stir the mixture for 2 minutes and add rice. Carefully combine all the ingredients and fry them for about 4 minutes while stirring the entire time. Last add the frozen peas (still frozen) and soy sauce and mix for about another minute.

Slice the French baguette and worm up the oil on a pan. Gently fry the slices on both sides and when they get golden brown, quickly remove them.

Take the garlic clove and rub it on top of the fried bread.

Your side dish is ready!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Start Your Garden This Year - Location

Welcome to my Part Two on How to start your own garden... Before I started to write this, I couldn't decide whether I should limit my post only to backyard gardening or if I should also include some advice for people with limited options, such as having only porch, patio, or balcony. I think the best solution would be to write a different post that will talk about container gardening on its own. 

If you would like to read my part one on how to start your seeds indoors, please click here.

(I took this picture of my garden past summer. I have 6 garden beds in this area.)

Now we are getting to the fun part - picking the right spot for your garden beds. If you would ask any gardener what is the most important thing about starting a garden, they would all tell you - Location, Location, Location... It will be the first thing that comes out of their mouth, no doubt! So step into your yard, look around, and evaluate your landscape. if you don't know it already, watch your yard during the day and see which spot gets the most sun. Most vegetables need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight in order to grow happily... A great spot would be anywhere on the south side of your house because that is where the sun shines the longest during the summer. Make sure you have no trees to cast a shadow on your garden. If you are picking your spot at a time when the trees have no leaves, you might be surprised in the summer! Take that into consideration! I also wouldn't place my garden beds next to a treated fence or any other place that could be hazardous to your plants or your health. Find a sunny, peaceful spot, with soil that has good potential and is somewhat rather larger than smaller if possible. 

That brings me to the next point - Don't overwhelm yourself right away. I said find a larger space, yes, but not because you will be right away planting a huge field the first year. You might actually want to start small and experiment. Over the years I learned that I needed way more space than I had at the time and that is when I started to expand. But I am glad that I started on the smaller scale. It was enough work for me at the time and it helped me learn anyway!

If you pick a bigger area in your yard, it will also leave you some room for expanding your gardening area. If you start with two garden beds, you might dig up two more next year. We started with four beds and now we have six. Take a look at my garden 10 years ago.

Doesn't it look so cute? I love that it was spacey and it left me lots of room to explore and experiment. But after having kids and learning more about natural living, we needed more gardening space. 

That brings me to my last point for today - Do not be afraid to go out of your comfort zone. You come out there and look around your yard and you are just not seeing it. You can't imagine to break up your space, dig up some squares and change your landscaping forever... But trust me when I tell you that if you use your imagination and go with it, you will not be disappointed. Have you ever heard the expression "Grow food, not lawns"? You will find yourself in the middle of this exact quote and it will look beautiful!

So go ahead and transform your yard into a little farm like we did and enjoy your food straight from the backyard. Here are couple pictures about how we expanded the four original garden beds.

My husband is a genius and I am grateful that he knows what he is doing! Our garden beds originally hid behind the chicken coop but we decided to go out and break up our backyard. 

Here is the finished project - two extra garden beds with a cute fence around it so the animals don't damage our goodies. I will also later tell you how you can expand your growing space outside of your garden area and go all over your property. That is something we are in the process of doing right now.

Please, come back for part three and if you have any questions, make sure you contact me in the comments bellow or at my Facebook Page.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Our week in photos - InstaFriday

It was a special week over at our backyard farm! It started with a Birthday weekend that was just too much fun!

My special people got a great morning ready for me... It was full of sweets, flowers, handmade cards, and hugs and kisses! What else could birthday mama want?

The same day my special sister-in-law/awesome friend took me downtown to a Nutella Bar and also to meet this inspirational lady - Alejandra from the Home Organizing YouTube channel. 

What would be a weekend without a trip to an ice cream shop?

And on Tuesday we had a special visit in our art class from Georgia O'Keeffe! Even though the kids knew she wasn't real, they acted so giddy and shy ;-)

My girl and I are trying the magic of selfies ;-)

Hello ladies! They miss us during the winter not causing a riot in the yard.

At some point we took a family walk/bike ride. Please Spring, bring us some warmer weather finally!

What is left over from all the snow. The girls are so scared of that white stuff that this is the first time they were out of their coup for months. And look, they are still hanging carefully in the crowd, trying to stay away from it ;-)

Today, Friday, I got lucky that Whiney let me pick her up... She is usually shy but now she is sitting on eggs so this is supper easy. But of course, not good for her at all - poor girl thinks she is going to be a mama. So I enjoyed the backyard stroll with my girl in my arms.

Looking back at Insta - my week was pretty blessed! Here is to another. If you would like to follow me I am @littlebackyardfarm

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How to make fertilizer for seedlings

First of all, let me start with how annoyed I am with this year's weather around here. I am typically not the one to complain about too much snow or cold temperatures but this year it's stretching just a bit too long for my own liking. Last snowstorm happened just a week ago and we still have the aftermath on the ground... There is no way any spring veggies are going in the ground any time soon...
Because of all that I have felt a bit uninspired doing anything garden related and I was staring at my seed starting supplies for few days till I actually dug into those seed pockets and yogurt cups. (I still have 3 more cups to fill and I don't feel like it). Now the first veggies have small sprouts and I am waiting for the second set of leaves to start fertilizing them. Let me fill you in on how I am going about it...

First of all, when you start seeing these guys in your pots - good for you! The first part of the battle is won! Your seeds actually germinated (well at least most of them) and you see those first seed leaves, which are actually food storage cells. As you see I planted 2 seeds per pot and that is for couple reasons - first of all, in case only one seed germinates (so for back up) and second if both germinate then I can transplant one of them into an empty pot (or in this case into the middle one where nothing came up)

You should start making your fertilizer at this time. I grow my plants organic and so it's important to me that I use only natural fertilizers. The best is the one you can make at home for yourself. We own chickens but if you don't, find someone who does and ask them for some chicken poop. (don't be shy, chicken owners are all game when it comes to stuff like that, we know what is good and we know exactly why you would like some ;-) 

Here is the recipe:

1 Large Mason Jar
1 cup of Chicken Poop (sorry I just call it what it is)

Put it all together and close it tight (especially if you have curious kids around you).

And now wait, till you see the second set of leaves come up. That will be time to fertilize. (the mixture should stand for at least 1 week, the best would be for up to 3 weeks) They should look something like this.

I then strain the mixture using cheese cloth and keep it the entire season in the same jar for occasional use. If you are ready to use it, DON'T POUR IT STRAIGHT!!! You have to dilute it with water. You will make something like compost tea. Some people use the ratio of 1 part of mixture x 1 part of water... I will start slow, I will do 1 part of mixture x 2 parts of water. And I will also only fertilize 1 pot first to make sure no plants will get burnt! If after one day all is good, go ahead and water the rest. If you burned your plants, no worries, dilute your mixture even more and repeat the step. 

You have to understand that each mixture will have different strength as you brew it using different amount of time, different kind of poop and have different environment conditions. So be careful at first and experiment... Good thing we planted extra seeds, right? (now you see my point?)

Never pour the fertilizer straight at the plant and never spray it on the plant leaves or stem. You want to water small amount of the fertilizer around the stem right by the soil. 
After the first feeding, watch your plants and use the fertilizer again only when you see that your plants stopped growing their usual pace.

Please, come back in few days for some tips on how to fix or avoid leggy seedlings!

I hope your garden will only bring you closer to your roots, nature, and that it will bring you peace in everyday life!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

InstaFriday - our week in photos

What a week of crazy weather over here at our little backyard farm! We finally got to 50s, only to go back down and get some good snow storm in the middle of the week. By today, the snow is nearly gone again ;-) Take a look at how we managed to have fun thought all this.

Drive to the city! We were taking the kids on a field trip!

A photo from the Museum of Science and Industry... kids think it's the coolest place on Earth - as think the mothers ;-)

Here comes the fresh snow. Our little backyard farm got completely covered - only for 2 days...

Another great excuse to get out of school, but how can you say no? This might be just about the last time we get to sled before the spring comes. They both finished school work fast and we went out to have some fun.

... and we got to snuggle our girls! They are due for some attention ;-)

I hope your week was as blessed as ours and have a great weekend everyone!

I am joining the InstaFriday over at LifeRearranged

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Start Your Garden This Year - Part 1.

You know you want to! You have always thought about it but maybe thought that it would be too difficult or too much work... I am not going to lie, you will not be able to eat fresh tomatoes this summer if you sit in your chair all day. But to tell you the truth, gardening is not that much of hard work - most work happens at the beginning and then you just maintain what you created.

Imagine picking this amount of produce almost every day during the summer months!

If you made that first and the most important decision, so now what is next...

You need to make another decision - will you start your seeds indoors by yourself or when the time comes to plant outside, will you purchase seedlings from the store? Personally, for your first year, my advice is to wait and purchase the plants when you are ready with your garden beds. But if you are the adventurous type, or this is your second year, or you have kids who would completely LOVE this activity, you can start some of your seeds indoors. If you would like to do that, go over to my posts from last year and gather your supplies.

Go here for supplies list

Last year I created  post about what plants to seed indoor and which ones will do just fine if you seed them directly outside into your garden bed. After reading my blog post from last year, go buy your seeds! Organic non-GMO is the way to go!

Go here for list of plants

And finally it's time to plant. 

Go here for your first steps 

I also have a post on how to thin your seedlings and other useful tips right here.

I hope you are excited about this decision! It will bring you back to your roots, it will connect you with earth, it will give you energy, and you will spend great time outside and away from the TV. Did I mention the joy and pride you will feel picking your own produce? Don't you wish that learning about how to grow your food would have been taught at school... What more do we need to survive than food?

Come back for part 2 - How to pick the best location and building your garden beds!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Our week in photos

This week I am a day late with my InstaFriday post... but at least I made it. These are not in the order they were taken (I am in a rush)

Yes, I went out there with my kids' chair just to take a photo for fun. I just liked the idea of a contrast that the red chair would create with the snow. Well, at least I provided some entertainment for the neighbors ;-)

I finished this leg warmer, which is a gift for someone ;-) My first time doing embroidery... EVER! Now I want to do that on every single of my creations - it gives the leg warmer some spark, doesn't it?

My name is... (I am a part of #fmsphotoaday on Instragram)

This week the kids and I finally planted our seeds. It should have happened at least a week ago but again, at least it happened. The weather is pushing us back a bit.

First time I made home made tortillas! I had this on my mind for at least a year so why did it take me so long? Good question. These were awesome! I will make them fresh from now on!

Like the Yoga Girl says - "Yoga Every Damn Day"... I wish... but I will take what I get :-)

That's it for our lives this week... we were too busy, having too much fun, work, and homeschool... Have great weekend!