Saturday, March 15, 2014

Straw Bale Gardening - Our Conditioning Schedule

We have eight bales in our front yard.
Grow food not lawns.
Today we purchased eighteen straw bales and lined them in rows, half in our backyard and half in the front.  Tomorrow we will start the serious conditioning.  We will start by feeding our bales with an inexpensive lawn fertilizer. This is what the book we are following recommends for conditioning the bales.  

Ten bales in our back yard.

We purchased Stagrow lawn fertilizer, (29-0-5), from Lowes Hardware.  The first number indicates the amount of Nitrogen in the fertilizer.  The number must be above 20 for proper conditioning.  At this point, the second and third number, (Phosphorus and Potassium), don't matter.  It is important to use a product with no weed killers or herbicides. Also, look for a product that is NOT time released.

After ten days, we will switch to a 10-10-10 plant food.

Here is the schedule we will be following to condition our bales.

Day 1 - We sprinkled 1/2 cup of lawn fertilizer over the top of each bale. 

We watered well to wash some of the fertilizer down in to our bales.

Day 2 - Water well.

Day 3 - Feed again with 1/2 cup of lawn fertilizer and water well.

Day 4 - Water well.

Day 5 - Feed again with 1/2 cup of lawn fertilizer and water well.

Day 6 - Water well.

Day 7 - Feed again with 1/2 cup of lawn fertilizer and water well.

Day 8 - Water extra good.

At this point, I will fill nine five gallon buckets with water and let them sit over night to use for watering our bales the following day.  There are two reasons for this. First, I am on city water.  By letting the water sit over night, a good amount of the chlorine and fluoride will dissipate making the water cleaner. My second reason is so the water is air temperature.  That is quite a bit warmer than the water coming from the water pipes.  As the bales condition and compost, the internal temperature of the bales gets quite warm.  I don't want the ice cold water to cool them off. I will fill a watering can from the buckets and water with day old water from now on.

Day 9 - Feed 1/4 cup of lawn fertilizer and water well.

Day 10 - Feed 1/4 cup of lawn fertilizer and water well.

Day 11- Feed 1/4 cup of lawn fertilizer and water well.

Day 12 - Switch to 10-10-10 fertilizer.  Sprinkle each bale with one cup of fertilizer and water well. (I couldn't find 10-10-10 at Fred Meyer so I purchased 16-16-16)

Day 13 - Do nothing.

Day 14 - Ready to plant. Yay!!!!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Our adventure with Straw Bale Gardening

Each year I've been doing a little container gardening and growing a few tomatoes and zucchinis.  I enjoy picking the fresh organic produce from our yard and was planning to increase the size of our garden this year.

One day, while surfing some garden sites on the internet, I came across a book called, 'Straw Bale Gardens: The Breakthrough Method of Growing Vegetables Anywhere, Earlier & with no Weeds.'  I read the sample of the book offered on Amazon and was hooked.  I purchased the book and we started making our plans.  We are going to follow the instructions in the book exactly this first year.

We are very excited about our first year of Straw Bale Gardening.  This is a whole new thing for us and we are anxious to give it a try.

Our first ten bales in the back yard.
Why Straw Bale Gardening??

We have a terrible problem with crab grass. It has taken over most of our yard and has been well established for many years.  It's a battle keeping it under control in our flower beds.  I don't want to commit any additional time each spring and summer to weeding and pulling crab grass.  

Straw Bale Gardening is a different type of container gardening that allows people with the worst soil conditions to grow healthy gardens. The bale itself becomes the growing container. .This type of gardening keeps weeding and pests to a minimum and totally solves our crab grass problem. 

We will spend two weeks feeding and watering our bales to start the conditioning process and create a healthy growing environment for our plants Each year we will start with new clean bales.  This will help our garden grow disease free with no need to rotate future crops because the soil will never become depleted.  At the end of the growing season, we will cut the string on our bales, spread the straw with a rake and let it compost.

I plan to journaling our gardening schedule and activities here on my blog.  I want to keep track of our conditioning, planting dates, successes, failures, etc. I'll use my journal while planning our gardens in future years.

I welcome anyone who would like to follow along with us while we learn Straw Bale Gardening.

For anyone interested, I found the best price on this book at

Monday, March 3, 2014

Our Rescue Chihuahua, Sadie Mae

 Sadie Mae's Story

 Sadie Mae
Sadie Mae joined our family on November 18th, 2013, after I answered a free ad on Craigslist for a female chihuahua. The ad included pictures. She was so adorable and I wanted her so badly. It was love at first sight.  

It was late in the evening but I sent a text anyway.  The chihuahua owner, Nancy, answered almost immediately.  After exchanging a couple of texts, we ended up on the phone. Nancy had adopted this chihuahua girl eleven months earlier.  She said the two just had not bonded.  She wasn't sure why, but they just didn't click so she had decided to rehome her.  

She had placed her once already.  It was a home with several small children.  The dog was terrified.  The family returned her to Nancy because she would not come out from under an end table and was snapping if the kids got near her.  To me, this did not seem like the ideal chihuahua home.  Something about a five pound dog and a house full of small kids just doesn't seem like a wise choice.

I was told some history on the little dog.  Evidently, the first three years of her life were spent on a breeding farm. I know she has had puppies, but have no idea how many times. Eventually, she was sold.  That buyer kept her about a year and due to a hardship situation decided to turn her over to a shelter. She stayed at the shelter for three months before Nancy adopted her. Eleven months later, Nancy no longer wanted her. She was five years old and we would be home number five.  How sad is that??

She loves the sofa pillows.

I told Nancy I wanted the little dog.  I told her all about my husband & myself.  I offered references from my vet who has known me for more than twenty years.  I assured her we are a forever home.  Our pets are NEVER up for adoption.  Once they move in, they are here for life. Nancy said she thought I was the best home for the little girl.

After a month of phone tag and cancelled appointments, (on Nancy's part), we were finally able to meet this sad little chihuahua.  Nancy had told me of two  previous names this little dog had been given. I was also told she did not answer to either one.  Before I met her, i had already decided her new name for her new life would be 'Sadie Mae.'  

Hangin' out with dad at Christmas time.

Now, Sadie Mae is in her forever home.  She will not be homeless again. She has fit in amazingly well with us.   She has been wonderful with our four cats and both dogs. She is rarely at home alone.  She goes everywhere with me, including my work.  I can't wait for her first camping trip in April. Sadie Mae is such a good little dog. It's heartbreaking that it took so long for her to find a forever home.

There are thousands of chihuahuas out there desperate for a home.  They are everywhere and in every shelter.  They are the number two breed, only behind pit bulls,  currently being euthanized in our shelters.  If you have room for one more little family member, please consider rescuing a chihuahua.  You will truly save a life.

I'd love to hear how you adopted your pets.  Please share.

Thanks for stopping by.

-Jan ♥♥-

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Zucchini Spaghetti and Sauce made with the Paderno Spiral Vegetable Slicer

Tonight I tried out my new Paderno World Cuisine A49832799 Spiral Vegetable slicer.  I'm so pleased with everything about it.  I love it.

I have many plans for this baby and there are less carbs in our future.  I honestly don't know why I would ever buy regular spaghetti pasta again.

This was our first dish made using the Spiral Vegetable Slicer.  I made zucchini pasta, (Zoodles), and sauce and was very  happy with the results.  My husband really enjoyed it with a salad and glass of red wine.  I can't wait to try more new things.

I left the peels on my zuchini.  It looks much more like pasta if you peel it.
It took just minutes to spiral cut 1.5 pounds of zucchini.  Zucchini has a lot of water in it.  It shrinks down to about half when cooked.  1.5 pounds was enough for two generous servings.

I made a very simple sauce, but it turned out great.

This sauce recipe makes 6 - 1 cup servings.  By my calculation, one cup of sauce is approximately 220 calories.  A cup of cooked zucchini is about 30 calories.  That's a pretty generous serving size for about 250 calories.  I'm lovin' that.

I'll share the recipe with anyone who would like to give it a try.

Spaghetti Sauce
Olive Oil
1 lb. ground turkey
1 medium onion
3 cloves minced garlic
1 28oz. can diced tomatoes
1 29oz. can tomato sauce
1 1/2 Tbs. Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. cumin
Pepper to taste.  (I like lots.)

1. Lightly spray a large skillet with olive oil,  Brown the ground turkey and onion. Add the garlic a couple of minutes before the turkey is done.

2.  Add all other ingredients.  Simmer a minimum of 20 minutes.

3.  While the sauce is simmering spiral cut the zucchini. Lightly spray another skillet with olive oil.  Add the zucchini to the skillet and cook, while tossing, to desired doneness.  I cooked it until fairly soft as I wanted it as close to the consistency of real pasta as possible.

Give this a try. You won't be sorry.  We don't eat a lot of pasta because we try to be careful with our carbs. I'm looking forward to trying many new pasta dishes using zucchini instead of pasta.  I think this spiral cutter is the best purchase I've made for my kitchen in ages.  I'm excited about it.

For anyone interested......I comparison shopped in all the local stores in my town and all over the internet.  The best price I found for the Paderno World Cuisine A49832799 Spiral Vegetable slicer was at

Thanks for stopping by.

Jan ♥♥

Friday, December 6, 2013

Low Fat Pumpkin Pie -- 240 cals with crust, 130 without

Low Fat Pumpkin Pie

4 beaten egg whites
16 ounce can pumpkin
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp molasses
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
12 oz can fat free evaporated milk
9″ unbaked pie shell

1.  Preheat oven to 425 F.

2.  Combine all ingredients in above order.  Mix well.   Pour into pie shell -- (or into a Pyrex baking dish without the pie shell).

3.  Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

With the crust--per piece
 240 Cal
7 g fat
3 g saturated fat
7 mg cholesterol.

Without the crust pere piece
130 Cal
0 fat
0 saturated fat
2 mg cholesterol.

For a lower sugar version -- use Stevia instead of brown sugar & slightly increase the molasses.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Vegetable Beef Soup - Low Carb

This soup is simple to make and loaded with vegetables.  You can do just about anything you want for veges and spices.  This is totally a hit with my family.  My husband is sick today and actually requested this soup. He loves it with a spicy touch.

1 1/2 lbs, extra  lean ground beef  (You can use any type of beef you like, but ground beef makes it simple.)
1 large onion
3 stalks of chopped celery
3 carrots, chopped small
1 green pepper
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp. sea salt  -- (We eat very light on salt.  You may want a little more.  Add your salt to taste.)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 - 14 oz. cans of chopped Italian Stewed Tomatoes 
3 - 14oz cans of beef broth
1 - 14oz can of chicken broth
8 oz sliced mushrooms
2 cups, frozen green beans
1 cup, frozen corn
1 tsp. Thyme
1 Tbs. Parsley
1/2 cup water

To make it spicy, I add 1 Tbs of my homemade Cajun Seasoning.  

Also.......After the soup is served in to bowls, you can add broken tortilla chips to make a killer Spicy Tortilla Soup.  It's pretty yummy that way. 

My husband & I don't usually do the tortilla chips, because it adds too many carbs for us. 

1. Brown beef in a large soup pot over medium heat.  (You can add olive oil if you like, but I don't)

2.  Add onions, celery, carrots, peppers and garlic. Cook until onions are soft.

3.  Add salt, pepper, tomatoes, beef broth, chicken broth & water.

4.  Cover and cook over medium heat about 15 minutes.

5.  add all other ingredients, including herbs. Cook an additional 15 - 20 minutes until vegetables are cooked.

Enjoy!!   - Jan♥♥ -