Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I died and went to flower heaven

Our neighborhood is blessed with so many beautiful flowers that start to show-off their beauty this time of year.  I love the effort that our neighbors have put into making the neighborhood so colorful. This time of year, yellow daffodils decorate the sidewalks, and soon tulips and dahlias will bloom.

The previous owners of our house were avid gardeners who grew a large variety of roses, white calla lilies, tulips and clematis. So far we have been lucky enough to reap their efforts, and we are trying to learn how to care for these so they keep coming back in bloom each year.

This year, in a fit of fury from a hard day at work, I managed to trim our rose bushes pretty low to the ground, so we are a bit worried about their comeback. But they appear to be resilient and are starting to show little buds. I am cheering and crossing my fingers for their success.

One of my favorite things about having so many beautiful flowers blooming outside is coming home from work and seeing how David creatively arranges them inside the house:

Sometimes I even discover new flowers that I didn't even know were growing in our yard, like these bleeding hearts.

 I hope we can plant some gerbera daisies soon, they're my favorite.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Oh great, another blog!

Hello there, thanks for stopping by! My name is Elena Knepprath and I am a twenty-something trying to figure out this thing called adulthood.

 So far, I've managed to find a meaningful job in the affordable housing industry, one that I look forward to each day.  I have a husband named David, who besides being my best friend is also the most thoughtful and hardworking man I know. 

Our recent adventures include purchasing a major fixer upper in 2011 and consequently discovering what homeownership and remodeling is all about. We are also dabbling in gardening and are continuously rediscovering what it means to live a healthy and balanced life.

As we are exploring these adult things, I hope to share what we've learned along the way, along with things that inspire a saner and happier life.

Thanks for joining on this ride, I hope you will share some of your insights with us as well!

Monday, March 10, 2014

What kind of tomatoes should I grow?

We were ambitious (nothing new here) and purchased 4 tomato starts last year at the Annie Ross Plant Sale. All proceeds benefited the homeless family shelter of Clackamas County.
 We had two cherry tomato starts, hot house tomato, and the pretty yellow pear tomatoes. We didn't know what to expect - how well these would grow, and which we would enjoy more. They all sounded lovely so we decided to go big. Well the tomatoes did grow big and plenty. We had more tomatoes than we knew what to do with. Here is how these three varieties faired for us:

Hot house tomatoes - these took the longest to ripen, but when they did they were huge! They had a lot of flavor and worked perfectly roasted, sprinkled with salt or sugar or as soup. Also could have worked well for salsa. 

Cherry tomatoes - these grow quickly and are very easy to eat. We liked these best roasted and added to pasta or in a caprese salad. These were also great as a snack by themselves, nothing else added. 

Yellow pear tomatoes - these were fun for the variety. They didn't produce as fruitful as the cherry tomatoes but they were definitely flavorful and worth the novelty. These were so cute we preferred them plain as a snack, and often thy didn't even make it to the house. 

Going forward, I think we will have one cherry tomato plant, one hot house and one heirloom. This produces a variety and will give us many options for preserving. This year my goal is to can some, make salsa, and donate the extras to the local food bank. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Recap from our first garden

Last year, my husband and I finally got around to getting our green thumb on. It was the first time that either of us took gardening seriously and committed to seeing our efforts through to the end, and the result was satisfying.

Here is a look at our gardening adventure.  My hope is that you can learn from our adventure and be inspired to have a gardening project of your own.  It really isn't an impossible task, especially if you live in Oregon!

1. Prepare the land. 
First, the house we purchased in 2011 already had a nice little garden plot that had excellent irrigation and a watering system. The challenge was discovering it under the weeds. After a few days of labor intensive weeding and tilling we cleared enough space to plant some seeds.

2. Decide what to plant when and where.
This was both fun and stressful at the same time. We wanted to set ourselves up for success so we consulted with OSU Extension Services and the Oregon Tilth for a list of low-maintenance vegetables and when they needed to be planted. We decided on radishes, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, and the assortment of our most frequently used herbs - dill, cilantro, basil and parsley.

We drew out a map of our garden and marked where we were going to plant what. We also discussed what would be best to plant from seed and what would benefit from coming from starts. In the end, everything we planted came from a seed with the exception of the tomatoes.

Now I admit, we were a little sloppy on clearly labeling where things were growing and where the paths were. This year, we will be more realistic in how much walking space we need and how explicitly we need to label our plants. This didn't negatively impact our results at all, but it did make for a few awkward moments navigating the garden.

3. Maintain the garden.
Living in Oregon, this was the easy part up until late July, early August.  Thankfully we had the great sprinkler system that covered the area of the garden pretty well, and then for some of our more particular plants we used a watering can.  This also included thinning out the radishes and keeping an eye on any plants being attacked by slugs and bugs.

4. Enjoy the produce.
This was of course the most rewarding and exciting part. We were blessed with an abundance of produce.  It was the most rewarding thing to come home from work, go to the garden and pick the vegetables that would dictate dinner.  I will share my favorite garden recipes in a future post.

I also took many instagram pictures. I was proud, if you couldn't tell.

All of that reflecting aside, we are excited to get an earlier start this year, be more strategic in where we plant and how we label, and also have a better plan for what to do with the produce.  Last year we had more than we could eat at one time, so this year I want to be more strategic with our produce.

Here's to happy gardening!

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