At Matthews Farm, 2016 will be the year that I defeat the squirrels and chipmunks. Each year my garden has grown bigger and bigger, and each year more critters come out to enjoy the harvests the night before I come out to pick the fruits of my labor.
This offseason I decided to build real cages around each raised bed, and my strawberry & carrot bed has a hinged top as well. The other bed cages will be organic, as in they will grow with the crops as needed. I plan to build trellis’s for the tomatoes, cucumbers & squash, and keeping those caged in will be an ongoing process.
Below are lots of pictures of the evolution of the garden, the planted crops, and some early seed bloomers (pole beans) that will grow in a bamboo teepee. I am also quite proud of the set of sawhorses that I built thanks to direction from familyhandyman.com.
I’m looking forward to a summer full of fruits and veggies from the back yard!
Here are some pictures to give you an update on how the summer raised garden is coming along. We have 30-40 tomatoes growing, one bell pepper which appears to be turning red, and some baby squash (I picked the first one too early and it was not ready). We had lots of blueberries but those were eaten soon after harvest. We can’t wait for those to mature so we can have gallons of blueberries in the summer! Until then we have veggies…
I followed the recipe just as it is, but instead made it on the big green egg using the plate setter and cast iron grate. Let me tell you that chicken was superb, juicy like no other I assume due to the brining. Anyway it’s a simple recipe using household items plus some basil and a lemon. I also used some basil to top some tomatoes. mm good!
Over the past year I have been drinking some sort of smoothie just about every day for lunch or dinner. The smoothies have evolved from heavy fruit with orange juice and a lot of spinach to tons of vegetables and a variety of fruit. The evolution had a lot to do with the blenders I was using. I started off with a Ninja bullet which did the trick pretty well as long as you didn’t mind chewing your smoothie. My next blender was another Ninja Professional Series which I thought was going to prevent me from having to spend $400+ on a Vitamix. The blender was fine but did nothing better than it’s predecessor. This year I caved in and bought a Vitamixat the Cook’s Warehouse. People have been raving about them forever, literally they have been around for a really long time.
It’s really clear why everyone loves them, there is no comparison. Before I was limited to soft fruits and even then I was chewing seeds and skin. With the Vitamix there is none of that and the ingredient list is out of site!
Here was my smoothie before the Vitamix:
2 Cups of Frozen Strawberries
1 Cup of Frozen Blueberries
Two handfuls of Fresh Spinach
Orange Juice and Water
Or Watermelon for Juice
Here is my smoothie recipe today with the Vitamix:
1 Cup of Frozen Strawberries
1 Cup of Frozen Blueberries
1 Cup of Grapes
Two handfuls of Fresh Spinach OR Kale (previously not an option)
Orange Juice and Water
1/2 of a Beet and Foliage (previously not an option)
1 Carat (previously not an option)
1 Whole Apple (previously not an option)
1 Tablespoon of Chia Seeds (previously not an option)
This makes a 32 ounce smoothie with 381 calories and endless health benefits. Over the past year I lost 40 lbs and 4 pant sizes drinking this smoothie, exercising several times a week (running around Chastain Park 3 +/- miles) and eating relatively healthy meals at other times. The “eating relatively healthy meals” was not and has not been consistent, but the smoothie has been, and I have maintained the weight I am at for 6 months. I say this because often times I eat what my kids are eating, whether it’s at the concession stand or Chick-fil-a. So far I have found that if I am consistent with the smoothie and exercise, I can eat whatever for dinner and they offset each other.
So for those of you out there looking for a healthy smoothie recipe, this is the real deal and tastes great!
In February I made some DIY hanging mason jar candles for the backyard of our house. With daylight savings I knew we wouldn’t be putting them to good use over the summer so today I bought some impatiens at Lowes and set out to make some hanging plants for the backyard.
Off the bat I know that drainage will be an issue since I’m not drilling a hole in the jars, but the impatiens cost less than a bottle of Gatorade so it’s worth a try. In an effort to prevent a soggy jar I broke up some old concrete that I had laying around and put about two inches of rock in the bottom of the jars. On top of that I put planting soil in and created a space in the center for the impatiens to fit inside. After placing the impatiens inside I filled any remaining spaces with potting soil.
With that I converted diy lanterns into diy hanging plants.
Several years ago Martha gave me a Big Green Egg for Fathers Day. I felt unworthy then and still do now, but it’s a really amazing tool, and until this point has lived in a “nest” with fold down arms. For my 40th birthday Martha sort of gave me a new Big Green Egg table for it to live in. The reason I said sort of was because I had to call the guy and order it, go pick it up, and stain/seal it before I could use it.
A buddy of hers gave her a link on craigslist of a company in Auburn Ga that makes these unfinished cypress tables for the Big Green Egg. I pulled it up, found the one I liked on their website www.CypressGrillTables.com, and placed my order around 8:30 on a Thursday morning. It took me about 45 minutes from Buckhead to drive to their shop which is located off of Highway 316 on the way to Athens. I got there at 10:30, loaded up the table, in and out in five minutes or less.
Here is a picture of the unfinished table in my man room ready to get stained:
To get it finished I went to Ace Hardware on Roswell Road as they are all knowledgeable in the Big Green Egg arena. They pointed out everything I would need to go from what I had, to the finished product. I decided that I wanted it to be a darker color to offset the beating it will take over it’s lifetime, burn marks, dents, scratches etc. I used MINWAX Wood Finish (Special Walnut 224) which gave it a nice rich brown color. I applied one coat of that and let it dry overnight.
After the stain dried I put on the first coat of the sealer which is MINWAX Helmsman Spar Urethane. It is a clear semi-gloss water based sealant. Now this had to be applied 3 times all over the table which took a few days to get through. The can actually says 4 coats are needed for exterior use but I went with the guys recommendation at Ace and did three.
The final touch was to go to Lowes and buy some robe hooks that might go on your bathroom door. They are an oil rubbed bronze and look great with the table.
Here are a few pictures of how it turned out. I could not be any happier with the results.
Tonight I made a beer can chicken for the first time on the Big Green Egg. I’ve been on a grilling hiatus since December 31st. For some reason that I’m not aware of I have been taking a break… Glad to be back. I used several BGE toys for the first time including the sittin’ chicken, iGrill and some of my new tools that I got for Christmas. It was pretty easy; I simply rubbed the chicken with lemon pepper from the Fresh Market, filled the sittin’ chicken with a beer, put the chicken on top and stuffed the neck with some quartered onions. I cooked it on the Big Green Egg for about an hour and a half at 375 give or take.
The iGrill was awesome and totally eliminated the need to open the egg while it was cooking. My phone went off when the temperature was 170 degrees and we were done. It was simple and the taste was amazing. I was not expecting the boys to eat it, but they devoured it! When we were done at the table they both went to the counter and picked the chicken apart until it was gone. The chicken cost $7.94 at the Fresh Market… now that’s money well spent.
This was a very simple recipe as I didn’t want to get too involved the first time through, but the flavor was right on with so little effort. There are more extravagant rubs that will probably make it even better, and you have to think a different beer could enhance the flavor as well. We shall see.
This weekend the kids wanted to build Gingerbread Houses, so we stocked up on Goldfish and lots of icing and candy. Unfortunately Martha and I ate most of the candy, so we stocked up again the next day and got to work. The building went into the night and even the next morning, but the results were fantastic. Henry’s house has a detached garage, swimming pool with spa, and even a Seattle Space Needle replica. Here are some pictures:
In one of my former lives I was a cook at a restaurant called the Rocky Mountain Oyster. The Rocky Mountain Oyster wasis located under the Mangy Moose in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We mainly served breakfast and lunch to folks heading out to ski at Teton Village. My absolute favorite dish to make and to eat was this grilled chicken sandwich served on a thick flatbread, wrapped up with lettuce, tomato and a creamy dressing. This week it popped back into my head and I decided to try and replicate it for dinner. Here is how I made it:
*Sliced grilled chicken breast marinated with Lawry’s Mediterranean Herb & White Wine 30 minute Marinade and McCormick Montreal Chicken Seasoning.
*Shredded lettuce mixed with Marzetti Sweet Italian Dressing
*Sliced Tomatoes and Vidalia Onions
All wrapped in a piece of white flatbread heated on the grill.
While it was not exactly like the original, it was really good, easy to make and brought back great memories.