Herbal Salad Dressings

Garlic Vinaigrette
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1 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar (or aged Kombucha)
3 tablespoons honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
Optional: sea salt, black pepper, dill
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1 – Blend all ingredients in food processor or blender.
2 – Enjoy!
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Herbal Dressing
2 lemons, juiced (about 1/3 cup)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or aged Kombucha)
1/4 cup loosely packed, minced fresh herbs (basil, mint, oregano, dill, your favorite or a mix)
salt and pepper to taste
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1 – Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender.
2 – Enjoy!

Favorite Pesto Ever!

This pesto skips the terribly expensive pine nuts in favor of equally nutritious, great-for-your-heart walnuts. It also includes my beloved kale, to up the nutrition intake and skyrocket the flavor!

Basil-Kale-Walnut Pesto

1 cup packed, washed basil leaves
1 cup packed, washed, de-stemmed kale leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2-4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbs butter

1 – Place basil, kale, EVOO, walnuts, garlic and salt in food processor, and blend until thoroughly combined.
2 – Add parmesan and butter and blend 5-10 seconds more.
3 – Just before serving, add 2 tbsp hot pasta water from cooked pasta. Serve over pasta!

Location, Location, Location!

Location, location, location! Whether you are looking to sell or buy a home or are searching for just the right spot to grow a kitchen garden for your family, location matters!

It can be completely overwhelming to consider putting in a garden. For those who did not grow up with a garden in the yard or community, the mere word “garden” implies unpleasant things… like the “Three W’s”. Work. Weeds. Watering (endlessly). And then you end up with (click link to finish article) http://www.simplyfamilymagazine.com/online/2013/04/kitchen-garden-primer-location-location-location/

$40 to Start Your Garden Special 2015

salad
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Gardens shouldn’t be a big WORK effort, and they also shouldn’t be a big expense!
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Our “$40 to Start Your Garden” special this year includes:

  • Site visit/survey within Billings/Lockwood city limits. During that visit I will help you determine the best place, size, style etc. for your garden.
  • We’ll talk fences, compost, soil, sunlight, water, and your availability to maintain your garden (which helps us determine the size and focus of your garden).
  • We will discuss what types of vegetables, flowers and herbs grow well in our climate as well as what your family would eat.
  • I will give you area-specific information on seed starting and garden planting dates, varieties that do well in part-shade, and about the benefits of organic gardening.
  • We will determine the best approach for your garden bed building itself, with detailed instructions given on how you/your family can implement this approach.
  • I will draw out a map with plant spacing and locations, so when it is time to plant, you know exactly what to put where (including seeds and seedlings).
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    Let’s talk Gardening!

The Lawn Ranger

I despair when I see the lawn care chemical trucks start rumbling through town in early Spring. The little flags go up to warn folks to stay off the grass… I nervously check the wind, call my barefoot children in from outside, sometimes have to close the windows on the side of the house sharing frontage with a neighbor out to murder their weeds.

We have been on a journey, removing toxic chemicals from our foods, our home environment, our lives. Despite my always having believed instinctively in the concept that an organic garden was a healthier, happier place for me to while away my time, I had no idea that I would be so “crunchy” about so many other aspects of life once I became a Mom. But first the boy, then the girl, came to change the way I thought about consumption, being a consumer, and being a participant in the world at large.

Seven years into this journey, I now grow a greater portion of our family’s vegetables. I grow enough to do some major preserving come harvest time – from dehydrating to canning to freezing. My canning total in 2011 was 353 jars. I scaled back (due to a better idea of what we used and when) in 2012 with less than half that, but increased the amount I dehydrated and froze. The theory is simply to grow what we will eat, and to eat what we can grow.

Somewhere along the line of our Urban Organic Farmer growth, my eyes turned to the lawn. From this article at (http://www.organiclawncare101.com/dark-lawns.html):

  • “researchers reporting in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that exposure to garden pesticides can increase the risk of childhood leukemia almost sevenfold. Contact with low levels of pesticides increases miscarriage rates, and a study recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology documented a link between residential pesticide use and breast cancer risk in women. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that frequent exposure to pesticides increased the incidence of Parkinson’s disease by 70 percent.

OK, so pesticides applied to lawns – and these can range from our personal front- or backyards to those surrounding businesses, churches, parks and sports fields – can seriously increase the potential for harmful and even deadly disease. Besides the pesticides and herbicides themselves lie danger in the “inert” ingredients, which are not even required to be labeled. Heavy metals, anyone?

Here’s a very informative site about easy organic lawncare. Wait, EASY? I thought anything organic meant a lot harder to accomplish? Not really. Honestly, what grows a healthy lawn is the same thing that grows a healthy garden (which grows a healthy person), and that is healthy soil. Natural, God-given, nutrient-rich, earthworm-active, biologically-exploding soil! http://www.richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp

From sites like Richsoil.com and Organic Lawn Care 101.com, I find that the reasons my grass tended to struggle a bit in the summer are twofold: first, we mowed too low. Setting the mower higher, the grass is sturdier, stronger, takes up more nutrients and fights off the bad guys (aka weeds). And second, we were bagging our clippings. Now, in our defense, we were either feeding the clippings (remember, these are untreated, natural grass with no chemical dressing) to our small flock of urban hens, or using them as a mulch in the garden, or using them to make compost. They were not going in the dumpster to drive on down the road… however, even alternating mowings and leaving one to self-fertilize the lawn and taking the next for the abovementioned activities, the lawn still benefits.

So… there are my thoughts about urban lawnkeeping! I have to admit that a bigger chunk is retrieved from our front lawn every year as I keep expanding my gardens. Even in a front yard, with graceful lines edging the beds, and the beds themselves a lovely cottage-garden style of mixed flowers, herbs, and attractive vegetables, I find no reason to make a garden look like a mini-farm. A birdbath here and there, some foundation flowering or evergreen shrubs, attractive woodchip mulch, and you have a front yard that feeds the senses as well as the body, helps along the avian wildlife that keep bugs minimized, and reduces the amount of water and energy that are strictly for “show”… ie, an American front lawn. But there is a place for most everything, and if it is integrated well and has a purpose, and we are good stewards of the land under our care, even a lawn can be healthy, attractive, and easy!

How to Get the Most Bang for your Gardening Buck

Following are a few varieties to consider for your own backyard. They offer the biggest “bang for your buck” as far as time and initial investment, and compared to their bland counterparts in the store.

Asparagus: Imagine with me…

(click here for more) http://www.simplyfamilymagazine.com/online/2013/03/kitchen-garden-best-bang-for-your-buck/

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Pop-Up Greenhouses

walk-in greenhouse

Have you seen or are you considering something like this? They actually work pretty well, with the caveat that you need to be prepared to open them up on warm days so they don’t *cook* your seedlings. The biggest problem with them is that here in Billings (or for any other northern climate), we are setting them up in early Spring on frozen ground. Thus the cold is trapped inside and temps can get dangerously low/freeze on cold Spring nights.

An option might be to first lay out heavy black plastic on the ground slightly bigger than the footprint of the greenhouse. Stake it down, then erect the greenhouse over it. The sun will quickly heat and thaw the covered ground through the absorbant black plastic – you are also safe from mud because of the plastic barrier – and you get some radiant heating action.