Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Lionfish on the Menu

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on August 23, 2012 by PickMeYard

Have you seen a lionfish?  I’m sure you have.  They’re beautiful and graceful with their wistful and feathery fins.  Their venomous spines make them even more seductive to me.  I could stare at an aquarium and watch them for hours.

This is my fake lionfish on a stand.

So are they lethal if you’re stung?  It seems to depend on several factors such as how bad the sting is and the victims reaction to it.  If the victim is allergic to the venom then it could be lethal.  However, according to the FWC, a sting isn’t usually deadly.  Check out for some excellent facts on the lionfish (Pterois volitans and Pterois miles).

Lionfish are indigenous to the Indo-Pacific region. Unfortunately they were let go in our South Florida waters (probably from the aquarium trade) and are increasing in numbers at a rate never seen before.  They will rapidly destroy our marine ecosystem because they have a HUGE appetite for our native fish such as baby grouper and snapper. They’ll soon devastate our fish populations which will affect our algae growth balance.  This is a serious problem.

Please click here  for an amazing slide show with maps on the progression of the lionfish invasion.

They have no predators in U.S. and Caribbean waters… except man.  And the good news is that they taste super delicious!  I highly recommend The Lionfish Cookbook by Tricia Ferguson and Lad Akins.  The book is full of easy recipes, great information and loaded with tons of pictures.  The book also gives detailed instructions on catching, handling, cutting the spines off with scissors, spearing and of course… the preparation from start to finish with pictures. I bought my copy at Guy Harvey’s flagship store in Grand Cayman, where the lionfish are also a terrible problem.

In Grand Cayman, they are trying to assemble teams to hunt down these fish.  I’ve noticed lionfish on the menu more and more.  They’re being really proactive.

This young man in Grand Cayman hunted these fish with help from his father. I watched them from shore as they emerged with a bag of lionfish and their spears. Awesome!

How do we get rid of them in our waters?  There’s no recreational fishing license needed when using a pole spear and no limit to the amount you can catch in Florida (at least through August 2013).  It’s always open season for lionfish.  If there was a big demand for lionfish meat, then maybe there would be some chance to eradicate them… because there’s no other solution.  So go get a spear or find a restaurant with lionfish on the menu.

Speared lionfish for dinner.

More speared lionfish.

Come grow with us!

Hatching a Dinosaur Egg

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 27, 2011 by PickMeYard

We hatched some modern-day, baby dinosaurs out of their eggs this week … alligators!  It’s a fantastic experience, but it’s only legal at Gatorama in Palmdale, Florida (it’s the only place I know of in Florida, anyway).  Gatorama only offers this to the public for 11 days at the end of August.  We try to go every year, but sometimes we blink and miss it.

Alligators are a part of our life in SW Florida.  We have to be careful in our yard because they tend to lurk in the bushes at the edge of our riverbank.  We are always alert when walking around our yard.  It isn’t a frequent occurrence to see one in the yard, but it is very common to see them coasting around our yard.  It’s kinda like a moat that doesn’t quite go all the way around our castle.  So, forget the dogs, beware of the gators… it’s a dead-end.

Alligators are a threatened species in Florida, even though there seem to be a lot of them.  Apparently, only 2% survive into adulthood in the wild.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grants a special license or permit to handle the gators.  It is illegal to harass or feed alligators in Florida.  If an alligator is fed, they lose their fear of humans, and then we’re really in trouble.

Alligator feeding at Gatorama... Yikes!

A little girl holding a young gator at last year's Swamp Cabbage Festival.

An alligator nest... and big moma's always near-by!

That's me helping a baby alligator out of the egg.

Loring & Grayson hatching baby gators.

Helping baby alligators into the world.

The baby gator is still attached to its egg with an umbilical cord.

Enormous alligator skulls.

The owner of Gatorama holding a baby gator.

Alligators are a part of our environment in Southwest Florida.  There’s a lot of water around here.  We try to stay a healthy distance from them.  However, if you ever find yourself face-to-face with a gator on land, you can toss something to the side of its snout and it will go for whatever you tossed to it.  It might buy you a few seconds.

Come grow with us!

An Eight Legged Summer

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on August 18, 2011 by PickMeYard

This summer seems to be the summer of the spider in Florida.  Yes, the sunshine state is home to many, many species of spiders throughout the year, but they seem to be everywhere this summer.  My friends and family have noticed that I’m unusually obsessed with the eight legged critters lately.  My son has become equally enamoured.  We’ve spent a lot of time taking photos of them and researching them online and in books.

We have a regal jumping spider that hides inside her thick, cottony web on our gate and she is very perturbed with us. We know her hiding spot and check on her several times a day. These spiders are considered to have the best eyesight of all bugs.  We have one living in our mailbox too.  I think I know why they’re called jumping spiders… because they make me jump!

A Regal Jumping Spider that lives on our gate. Can you see her in her web?

The highly venomous black and brown widows have also made their homes all around our yard.  I admire them for a second and then I quickly squish them.  There’s not enough room for both of us for obvious reasons.  I’ve run across several of them in my garden and I don’t let them out of my sight for a second, not even to get my camera.  Their egg sacs are a tell-tale sign that they are close-by.  The eggs look like mine bombs… round, light-colored and spiky.

Widow spider egg sacs in our macadamia nut tree.

A spider that we are seeing in every square foot of our yard (not really, it just seems that way) is the beautiful and intimidating orbweaver.

The tropical orbweaver weaves her massive web every single evening at dusk and then removes her entire web every morning at dawn.  It took us awhile to figure out what she was doing.  Since Grayson and I milk the goats late at night, we’ve gotten used to the nocturnal critters, (especially the skunk that the dog keeps bothering).  We analyze the spiders every night and try to get as close as we can to get a good look.  It’s never comfortable though.  All it takes is a quick tap on the arm and a “watch out!” to send me to the moon.  Either I get Grayson or he gets me but it always ends with a scream.  I know he’s going to do it too and it still scares me.  I think we freak these poor spiders out way more than they freak us out.

A big, beautiful and nocturnal tropical orbweaver.

A tropical orbweaver in her nighttime web, right next to my car.

The garden orbweavers build their webs every morning and take them down for the night.  Isn’t that amazing?  As the female gets older, she gets bigger and scarier looking.  They’re colorful and big and build elaborate webs.  They are as intimidating as a spider can be, in my opinion.  However,  they are not venomous to people and are rarely known to bite.

A colorful garden orbweaver.

A garden orbweaver on the riverbank. She is one of hundreds along the bank.

I was wrong.  The Golden Silk Orbweaver is as intimidating as a spider can be.  They tend to have huge, golden bodies and long spindly legs with tufts of black bristles… yikes.  Every Floridian knows this spider well.  They’re very common here. They look like they would be terribly venomous, but they’re not (to people).  I’ve been told they will bite, but a wasp sting will cause you more pain.  Fortunately, I don’t have first-hand knowledge of this.  However, I have had them land on me many times when trail riding with my horses as a kid.  The spiders would always want off me fast.  The frantic screaming must have scared them away.

We have a golden silk orbweaver living outside our back door now.  I keep holding my camera up close to her so I can get a photo, but she starts to bounce up and down on her web when she sees me.  Sooo, there’s no photo.  These spiders are often referred to as the Florida banana spider as well.  I found a great website that has lots of Golden Silk orbweaver photos and great information about them… click here.  The site says they always have banana spiders throughout their barn in the summers.  On one particular summer, they took notice that every spider packed up and disappeared a week before a major hurricane hit.  This might be a good reason to keep them around.  If the spiders are too much to handle though, they can easily be relocated without touching them.  Tear down their web and they will rebuild it somewhere else.

For a really fun bug blog, check out The Bug Lady.  My favorite post is the one about the Brazilian Armadeira spider… it tries to kill you.  It is also referred to as a banana spider, but this species is the most venomous spider in the world.

I hope I didn’t give you the heebie-jeebies with this post.  We all live with spiders, even in the big cities.  If it makes you feel any better, Florida’s Fabulous Spiders says that bees and wasps kill more people in the U.S. every year than spiders and snakes combined kill in ten years.

A garden orbweaver spider in our garden with her dinner... a lizard!

Come grow with us!


Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 17, 2011 by PickMeYard

I love St. Patrick’s Day because I don’t feel pressured to buy anybody anything.  We can just enjoy the holiday and wear something green.  Is it a holiday for the Irish only?  Does it matter?  Click here for a history reminder of St. Patrick’s Day.  It was my favorite holiday when I was a kid because we went to school ready to pinch people who forgot to wear green.  I don’t think that’s tolerated in schools these days.  It’s reserved for family members now.

A bunch of clovers. She picked them for our table centerpiece.

A clover leaf. We heart St. Patrick's Day.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Come grow with us!

Chalkboard Art

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 18, 2011 by PickMeYard

I’m straying from my usual topics today to show you some chalkboard art that my daughter and her friend worked on.  I think it’s just too cool.

Finally, a reason to jump on the bed.

I painted one of the walls in my children’s bedroom with chalkboard paint that I bought at Home Depot.  It seems like the chalk dust would settle on the beds that are pushed up next to the wall, but I haven’t had a problem with it yet (I painted it about 5 years ago).  My kids and their friends are always creating works of art on it.  My original plan was that Grayson would use the chalkboard to practice spelling words and other school related things.  That never happened.  It’s always been used for fun instead. (The chalkboard paint comes in many nice colors, not just black).

The girls drew picture frames, a light switch, an outlet and a chandelier.  I got the idea from a clothing catalog, forwarded the idea onto them and … voila.

The dots at the top of the chalkboard are painted-on dots with glow-in-the-dark paint.  The dots spill over from the ceiling which is covered with “stars”.  When the lights go out at bedtime, the kids feel like they’re sleeping under the stars.  They dots are barely visible during the day on the ceiling, but they’re a bit noticeable against the black chalkboard paint.

Come grow with us!

Water Kefir

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2010 by PickMeYard

Water kefir is our latest obsession.  We love it!  I  recently heard about it for the first time and I had to get some.  I wonder where it’s been all my life.

I find water kefir to be very, very interesting.  Some refer to it as “grains” and some call it “crystals” because that’s what they look like.  The water kefir culture is a mixture of friendly bacteria, yeast and water in a cute little compound.

Water kefir grains… really, really good-for-you bacteria.

The water kefir grains are  loaded with millions and millions of probiotics.  Probiotics kill off bad bacteria and are proven to be beneficial to your health.  A lot of people pay a lot of money to buy probiotic supplements in the stores.  They lose their effectiveness each day that they sit on a store shelf.  Water kefir grains are a fresh source of probiotics.

I researched for hours to find out where water kefir originates.  I’ve found stories about it coming from Mexico, the Caucasus Mountains, Tibet and England.  I’m not sure what to believe.  I do believe that it has been around for centuries… maybe even dating back 1,ooo years.

Are you wondering what to do with them?  The water kefir grains are added to water and sugar.  The grains eat the sugar and create a delicious, carbonated, lacto-fermented drink.  It’s basically a homemade soda.  If we add vanilla, it turns into a cream soda.  Our favorite flavor is ginger-ale made with our backyard-grown ginger.  We also really enjoy it when it’s fermented with dried prunes.  Sometimes, we like to add a slice of Meyer lemon from our tree (we know there are no pesticides on it which would kill the kefir grains.)  

This brew was fermented with dried prunes, dried currants, dried cranberries and dried raisins. The color varies depending on what is in it.

Water kefir grains require maintenance.  They need non-chlorinated water and sugar about every 2 days.  I try to filter my grains out of my current brew and add them to a fresh batch of water and sugar every day.   They always stay at room temperature on my counter, not in the refrigerator.  The grains need oxygen to grow, so the top of the container should only be covered with a paper-towel or cheese cloth and secured with a rubber band.

Jars with fermenting water kefir grains, sugar, dried fruit and water in them. They’re covered with cheese cloth so they can breathe. They are placed in pans with water to keep out ants…just in case.

Once the grains are filtered out of the beverage, then it can be put in the refrigerator.  It’s really refreshing when it’s cold.  If we want to make a really bubbly drink out of it, we leave it at room temperature in an air-tight container for about 1-2 days.  (The kefir grains have been strained out of it at this point and will be used to start a new brew).  I’ve had it produce so much carbon dioxide that the bottle popped like champagne when I opened it.  The fizz hit the ceiling.  My family laughed, but I wasn’t laughing with them.  I had to clean it up,  though it did taste yummy. 

The water kefir grains  grow and mulitply like crazy.  My son has already started a science experiment with his share.  I’ve given some of my extra grains to friends and family and I’m starting to do my own experiments with it. 

My grains love dried fruit.  I make sure it’s unsulphured (sulphur is anti-bacterial) and preservative-free.  We never ferment the grains with honey either.  Honey is an anti-bacterial.  The honey could be added to the drink when the grains have been removed.  I try to use sugar that is made from dried sugar cane juice.  The grains love that too.  I’ve recently started adding a few drops of trace minerals and a smidge of liquid coral calcium to my brew.  This has to be one nutritious drink!

Almost every website that mentions water kefir on the internet says that it shouldn’t come into contact with metal.  That means no metal spoons, containers or filters.  However, Dom’s Kefir website says that he can find no evidence that metal damages the grains.  Dom’s website has a wealth of information on kefir… it’s my favorite. 

I’ve found several recipes for making water kefir.  I’ve been sticking to 4 cups (1 quart) of non-chlorinated water and 1/3 cup of sugar.  I don’t measure my grains, but I’m probably adding about a 1/4 cup of them.  The grains feed off the sugar to produce lactic acid, alcohol (ethanol) and carbon dioxide.  The grains look like they’re alive as they move around the container.  The CO2 gets trapped in the grain and they float.  When the bubble escapes, the grains fall to the bottom.  The longer the kefir ferments, the more folic acid it will have… and alcohol.  It can have from .5% – 2% alcohol depending on how it’s made.  Increasing the sugar, dried fruit and fermentation time will increase the alcohol content.  Brewing it in an air-tight container will also increase the alcohol content. 

I ordered my first batch of water kefir grains from Marilyn Kefirlady.  She also sells the dairy kefir grains, which are an entirely different culture.  I paid $15, plus $5 shipping.  It’s been worth every penny to us.

The best part is… the grains last forever.

Come grow with us!

*Note to Lynne – please contact me again.

Garden Boots

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 7, 2010 by PickMeYard

We’ve been outside enjoying our beautiful weather all week… just in case you noticed that my blog posts have been lacking.  It’s time for Florida vegetable gardeners to get seeds in the ground, so that’s what we’ve been up to.

I planted some succulents in my husband’s retired, Red Wing boots about 9 years ago.  I put them in an out-of-the-way spot and pretty much abandoned them.  They’ve been moved a couple of times, but always forgotten about again.  I just moved them to a new spot where I can see them every time I walk out my door.  After 9 years of zero attention, I can’t even believe how great they look. 

My husband's retired boots.

Garden Boots.

I’ve got another pair of retired boots that my husband just gave me.   

Grayson's next container for his succulent garden.

Come grow with us!

Summer Critters

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2010 by PickMeYard

Gardens sure do attract the critters.  I can go out to my garden armed with my camera (any time of the day or night) and get lots of fun shots.  My kids do love all the wildlife.  They especially love the hunt to find them.  When one is pointed out, they come running.  “Let me see, let me see!”

Our favorite critter books of all time are the Florida’s Fabulous Insects and Florida’s Fabulous SpidersThere’s an entire series of these books (mammals, birds, waterfowl, butterflies, reptiles & amphibians).  They’re loaded with colorful photos and tons of information.  We have the series and they’re used over and over again. 

A giant tiger moth caterpillar.

The caterpillar of the Isabella Tiger Moth is called a woolly bear.  We’ve seen several other moth caterpillars this summer too.  They’re just too cool.  Some of the moths that these caterpillars turn into are gorgeous creatures of the night! 

A tiger moth caterpillar playing dead.

An Io moth caterpillar... don't touch!

The Io moth caterpillar has stinging spines which can cause you pain if you touch them.  We were so enthralled with the one we found.  We are always afraid to touch a spiny caterpillar… so we just don’t.  To see a website with some fantastic photos of moth caterpillars, click here.

This is an adult antlion.

We had no idea what this critter was when we found it.  I took a picture and we looked it up in our Florida’s Fabulous Insects book.  The antlion eats ants and is nocturnal.

The Lubber Grasshopper.

An outgrown suit of armor (exoskeleton) from a singing cicada.

This baby tree frog was the size of my pinky fingernail. That's a stink bug to the left of him.

Beetles eating our sunflower.

A yellow rat snake. They can bite, but they're not venomous.

A bull frog that needs to join a band... somewhere else.

This bull frog has gotten so used to us that he lets me get right in his face with my camera to take his picture.  I think that now he actually poses for the shots.   I’ve taken so many pictures of him, he must think he’s a star.

Come grow with us!

Fishing for Dinner

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on August 28, 2010 by PickMeYard

It’s so wonderful to catch a fish, clean it and gently toss  it into the frying pan.  My 9-year-old, Grayson, recently made this task look easy on a  visit to Grand Cayman.  He caught and fried his own meal two days in a row.  The first afternoon we were there,  he went out fishing with a friend at around 1 p.m.   He came walking in with a cleaned fish and a big smile about 30 minutes later.  His grandma turned on the stove and put some oil in a frying pan for him.  She helped him season the fish and with a little guidance, he did the rest.

Grayson and his grunt... lunch!

Grayson loves to play “survivor” in our yard.  He spends the entire day outside building makeshift forts and collecting his sustenance from edibles he finds.  He’s learned to like things he would never even taste before.  He thinks figs are delicious now.  He says his favorite fruit is the Simpson stopper berry.  However, now that  the muscadine grapes are ripe, they have definitely taken first place on his list of favorites. 

He discovered some wild grapes growing on the riverbank the other day and brought them to me to find out what they are.  He was bummed when I told him they’re not safe to eat.  We don’t spray our yard with any pesticides or herbicides so Grayson can safely eat straight from the yard.  However, I’ve taught him to be certain about what plants and berries he is putting near his mouth.

 On a recent trip to Washington D.C., we bought a book at the Museum of Natural History that we fought over.  This book was such a great read that we were constantly sneaking it away from each other.  It’s called Wicked Plants:  The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities, by Amy Stewart.  Grayson has a whole new outlook on the power of a plant and what it can do to you if you’re not careful.  After reading this book, I know Grayson won’t eat a plant or berry unless he’s absolutely sure of its identity.

Grayson fryin' up his lunch.

He didn't cook the potatoes, but he cooked and ate the fish he caught.

Grayson has always been a very poor eater.  I constantly try to trick him into something nutritious.  However, when he grows his own food in his own garden, he will usually taste his harvest and almost always loves it.  He only ate this fish because he caught it and cooked it.  The next day, he caught two fish.  He cooked and ate both of them.  I’m so happy that he’s finally discovered how delicious fish are! 

I think he should  relish the fact that he can even eat fresh fish.  This may not be something we can do in the near future.   Check out the documentary End of the Line  if you really want to take a glimpse into our future world without seafood.  We don’t feel comfortable eating the fish we catch out of our river at home in Florida.  Sometimes there are health warnings on the fresh water fish in the polluted water from Lake Okeechobee.  We typically just avoid eating our catch.

Grayson caught his dinner... a grunt and a snapper. He was fishing in West Bay, Grand Cayman.

Fish fry.

Grayson cooked & ate his fish. I stopped him mid-meal to get a pic before there was nothing left but bones and a head.

Guy Harvey painting in progress at his store in Georgetown, Grand Cayman. Guy lives in Cayman and happily signs autographs and poses for pictures when he's not off the island.

Robert Thompson... a natural born fisherman. He taught Grayson some awesome fishing secrets!

... and his brother Johnny Thompson.

Nuh badda mi. Mi gone fishnin! (That's how they say "fishing" in Cayman).

We went on some serious botanical hunts in Cayman, but the fishing adventures really expanded Grayson’s young mind.

Come grow with us!

Our Beloved Gulf of Mexico

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on July 2, 2010 by PickMeYard

I don’t feel like picking anything out of our yard today.  I’m edgy and feel compelled to write a post about our current events.

I took this picture on Sanibel Island in early May. I never imagined the oil would still be flowing in early July.

Our beloved Gulf of Mexico.

A sand dollar on Ft. Myers Beach. Nooo... we don't keep them. They're alive with a furry exoskeleton. They stain your fingers yellow.

They are so amazing.

A star fish. They tickle.

The Gulf of Mexico and life as we know it is going to change, obviously.   It feels like there’s a storm coming, but it’s not a hurricane.  It feels like a monster is coming.  I’m nervous but I’m trying to keep the facts straight.  Normally, when a hurricane is coming we run around like chickens with our heads cut off.   We prepare everything and batten down the hatches.  This storm is different and the only preparation I can do is gather every tid-bit of information I can find and sort through the truth and fiction… and wait.

The truth:  Corexit 9500(A) and 9527(A) are oil spill dispersants that were applied to the Gulf of Mexico until supplies ran out.  They include VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that have long-term health consequences that are very serious, including cancer.  Benzene is included along with hundreds of other chemicals.  For the Material Safety Date Sheet of Corexit 9500, click here.  For the MSDS on 9527, click here

I’ve spent hours reading websites pertaining to the BP oil spill.  YouTube sucked me in… I required help to get away.  The government website made me think that it isn’t so bad after all.  People must be fear mongering.  Then I snapped out of it.  OMG, I almost believed them.  In my opinion, one of the best links I’ve found for information based on fact is  a paper written by an M.D.  He’s a Professor of Internal Medicine and Director for the Environmental Cancer Program at Wayne State University.  He was also the Medical Coordinator of the Kibumbe Refugee Camp during the 1994 Civil War in Rwanda.  Click for his website.

If you haven’t already gone crazy looking for information on this spill, you probably will soon.  I found a great blog called the ‘Ladies Guide to the Apocalypse‘ that has tons of  links.  Her blog is a great read but… is not for kids due to the language. 

How far-reaching will the effects be?

Are we breathing benzene right now and don't know it?

Will the government be truthful with us and tell us if we need to evacuate?

Is the low probability that a methane bubble could burst and send a massive tsunami over Florida becoming a higher probability with each passing day?

Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only after the last river has been poisoned, Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten. -Cree Prophecy-

What a mess mankind has made of our environment. Pure, undeniable greed.  I hope it’s possible to learn something from it this time.  I hope it’s not too late.  The poison that has been let loose in our back yard is mind-blowing.

Ask the right questions and demand the truth.  Who’s looking out for our best interest?  This is our life, our children’s lives and the life of our planet. 

Come grow with us!

Passiflora, A fruit with Passion: Part I

Posted in Fruits of our labor, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on June 15, 2010 by PickMeYard

Our passion fruit vine last year.


Our passion fruit vine this year.

Passion fruit is an exquisite fruit.  When the fruit is ripe, I just cut it open and scoop out the seeds and pulp with a spoon and eat it all.  Some people don’t like the seeds and go to great lengths to separate them from the pulp.  We really like the seeds. 

The pulp and seeds are so yummy when they're blended into a milkshake.

There are many different varieties of the passion vine (Passiflora).  The variety in the above picture is called “bounty” because it gives a bounty of fruit.  We could barely contain our excitement when we finally had a ripe fruit to taste off our vine.  It was deliciously tart with a hint of a floral flavor. 

This bud will open into a passion flower.

This passion flower will close and a fruit will form. The flower has a lovely smell.


The passion flower closes and the fruit will soon form.


This is my husband's big hand holding a passion fruit. I'm just sayin'... that's a big passion fruit.


This fruit is in a much smaller hand.


When the passion fruit is ripe, it will turn purplish and will wrinkle up.


It's delicious!


There is so much to learn about the gorgeous Passiflora.  It comes in so many varieties.  We’re growing many different kinds of our own and can’t wait to see what they turn into.  

Did you know that the passion fruit acts like a sedative?  We always sleep well after we scoop it onto our vanilla ice cream before bed.  We’ve got lots more to share with you on this amazing plant.  Check back with us for part II on the Passiflora

Come grow with us! 

Happiness Grows Where Seeds of Love are Sown

Posted in Seeds, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2010 by PickMeYard

Grayson planted lots of sunflowers this year.  We just harvested the seeds out of one of the flower heads.  We dehydrated them and we’have them in a bowl on the counter for everybody to munch on.

Sunflower seeds from our garden for snacking

There are many varieties of sunflower (Helianthus annuus).  We thought we had a favorite but we’ve decided that we love them all.

Loring is trying to communicate with the sunflower by showing it a "baby yellow flower".

Did you know that the faces of most sunflowers turn to the sun and follow it during the course of the day from east to west?  At night they return toward the east direction.  It’s called heliotropismThere is a flexible segment of the stem that is just below the bud.  When the bud stage comes to an end, the stem stiffens and the flower blooms.  When they bloom they lose their heliotrophic activity and freeze in an eastward orientation.  Isn’t that amazing?

Sunflowers need full sun to grow and are easy to grow.  Some varieties grow to heights of 12 feet.  There is a report of one growing to 26 feet in Northern Italy.  After the Chernobyl radiation disaster, sunflowers were planted to extract uranium, cesium 137, and strontium from the soil.  They are also planted to remove lead and arsenic from soil.

Standing at attention, facing East

Sunflowers should not be planted in the same place each year as this helps to control problems with pests and diseases.

A sunflower growing a flower bud

The same sunflower as in the picture above

The sunflower is forming seeds in this picture. The petals have fallen off.

The sunflower seeds are now ready to be picked.

The sunflower seeds are mature and ready to be picked when the backs of the heads are yellow.  The sunflower head takes a long time to dry… patience.  They can spoil easily in warm weather.  The seeds will have black and white stripes and are easily picked out when they are ready to harvest.

The kids are picking the seeds.

Grayson is proud of his harvest.

We soaked our seeds in water and salt for a few hours and then dehydrated them in our dehydrator.  I left them in the dehydrator overnight at 105 degrees.  They are best stored in the refrigerator.  If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can place them in the oven on a cookie sheet and roast them for about 4 hours at 150 degrees.  I recommend getting a dehydrator if you don’t have one.  They are inexpensive at Wal-mart and Amazon.  They use a very minimal amount of electricity and you can make some of the yummiest food ever in them.  I have never used mine to make beef jerky, although many people do.

Do you have to soak the seeds first?  Nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors.  When they are soaked, it releases the toxic inhibitors and removes bitter flavors.  It is important to discard the water after soaking nuts or seeds and rinse them well. We have all eaten plenty of nuts and seeds that haven’t been soaked and that’s okay, but they are more digestible and taste better when they have been soaked and dehydrated.  If you were going to make a spread with the sunflower seeds, they could just be soaked (skip the dehydrating) and easily blended.

Sunflower seeds are high in potassium, calcium, and phosphorus.  They contain 24% protein, 20% carbohydrates, and 40% fat.  They also contain zinc, magnesium, and vitamin E.  The shells are also edible and high in fiber. 

There is even a National Sunflower Association and a magazine called” The Sunflower“.

Come grow with us!

Our Family Garden: Part I

Posted in Fruits of our labor, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2010 by PickMeYard

Our yard was beautiful before we started our garden.  It was simple.  I started noticing that we weren’t going outside much.  We would go outside to play a game or two, but even that happened less and less. 

Our yard before we started a garden

I started a small vegetable garden and realized that we were going outside all the time to look at the garden.  It wasn’t long before we turned the small vegetable garden into a large garden…and every year we make it larger.  We go outside every single day now.  Sometimes we spend the entire day outside enjoying our yard. 

Our Yard Now

Fenced-In Toddler Play Area

Last summer we fenced in a large area with chain-link for our toddler.  We wanted her to be able to play outside while we worked in the garden.  We are able to keep an eye on her and know she is safe, yet we are still be able to pull weeds.  Now that she is a little older, she is helping us pull weeds. 

Our Barbeque Pit

Last summer I also made a barbeque pit.  I envisioned the family sitting around it while I cooked our dinner over the fire.  My husband was irritated that I sacrificed one of our garden beds for the barbeque pit when I made it.  He got over it when he realized how much we used it over the past winter. We cooked a ton of marshmallows, hot dogs, and beans over the fire while we told stories.  The kids love it. 

Cooking over the barbeque pit

I do a lot of gardening in containers.  The black pots in the picture below are my favorite.  They are big but they don’t get too heavy.  They are made of plastic which is light and retains moisture.  I can move them around easier than heavy ceramic pots and the black color keeps the soil warmer in the winter.  However, I’ve decided that I don’t like the look of the black plastic and I am currently working on a new look. I’m going to paint them a natural green to blend in better with the surroundings and not stand out so much.  I tend to move them around a lot and “re-decorate”. 

Containers with Lettuce in Our Garden

Loring Working in Our Garden

Our Garden Beds

 Our garden has transformed over the course of many years.  It is always changing and we are always learning. 

Our Outdoor Chess Board

We love to play chess here.  I had Grayson help me build the chess board with concrete pavers and paint.  We collected the chess pieces from various discount stores.  I taught Grayson how to play chess and now I rarely win a game against him. 

Our Ship Playground

 This ship playground has brought my children many, many hours of sheer joy.  We added solar lights all over it that look like antique lanterns.  It looks like a Disney World pirate ship at night.  We’ve got solar lights in the garden beds that flicker to look like candles.  The effect is very pleasing.  There are several other assorted solar lights to up-light some small trees and light up the walkways.

Everybody Loves the Outdoor Couches

We find it difficult to leave our yard now.  We would rather stay home than go anywhere else.  Our perfect weekend is when we don’t have to go anywhere and we can just go outside to play in our yard with our animals and enjoy our garden. 

Our Ever Changing Garden

Come grow with us!