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My New Favorite Herb—Chives

Do you ever find yourself in a food rut? I used to all the time. I’d grab the same thing for breakfast every day and limited myself to a small list of options for lunch and dinner. I eat a paleo diet, and while most think that to be quite limiting, it’s honestly not. I was limiting. I did it out of boredom and convenience, plain and simple. When you are chasing after three kids, homeschooling and running your own business, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to make things easy.

I’ve was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, a thyroid auto-immune disease, two and a half years ago and with it brought a whole host of issues including a leaky gut (really that came first, I just didn’t know it) and food intolerances. And guess what causes food intolerances? Yup, you guessed it, limiting your diet.

Eating the same thing often is not only boring, it’s not healthy! For the past two months I’ve been doing an elimination rotation diet. What that means is I don’t eat anything that I had become intolerant to—through testing I discovered I have intolerances to gluten, eggs, dairy, all nuts and sweet potatoes—and I don’t eat anything twice in a four day time frame. No more eating the same breakfast every day or the same lunch just because it’s easy and convenient.

I was eating super healthy, just not with enough variety. I have found the best way to add variety to my diet is through the flavor palate. It’s easy to rotate through a different protein and couple of veggies every meal, but I began to crave new flavor combinations as well.

Chives are an herb that I have grown in the past, but never really enjoyed. Suddenly I love them!


I’m an avid albeit fairly novice gardener, so first off, the crop I planted of them last year winterized so it was like a gardening bonus this spring. Booyah! Turns out that they are a perennial bulb like others in the onion and garlic family. Duh, I should have thought of that when I first planted them, but the bulb is so small it’s easy to miss. I love a plant that will winterize since here in NY that can be tough.

Second, the flower is equally yummy as the typical leaf that you normally see. It’s big and purple much like a standard Allium, just not quite that large. It’s a beautiful herb and a nice visual addition to the garden.

Third, they are super easy to grow organically. Literally plant and water. They don’t need a heavy dose of fertilizer, they need very little  maintenance and pests leave them alone. Cut them about 1-2″ above the ground when you harvest (only cut what you need at that time and you can continue to have some all season) and once they flower you can cut the plant way down in preparation for next year, or do what I do and just continue to harvest until you put the garden to bed for the winter. They can be thinned at any time, and should be every 2-3 years, so they are easy to thin and share with other herb gardeners.

The flavor is milder than green onions in my opinion and excellent in stir fry dishes, on veggies, eggs, chicken, beef or pork, soups of all kinds,  and they make a great addition to pretty much any salad. I use my kitchen sheers, cut the long leaves up and shred the flower for my salads, along with some thai basil, cilantro and dill. Yum.

Chives have been around for about 5,000 years originating in China. Adding them to your foods can lower blood pressure and aid in digestion. They can be frozen or freeze dried, but they don’t dehydrate well. Bummer too since I love to use my dehydrator on my herbs.

So I highly recommend this herb as both a tasty and beautiful addition to your garden this year. And please leave a comment and let me know what herbs you are loving right now, I’m always on the hunt for more to add to our repertoire!




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New Raised Beds

Over spring break our family built new raised beds. It was such a fun project, and the whole family pitched in. Our old raised beds had rotted out after about 5 years of use. They were only 7 inches tall. We decided to make the new beds 10 inches higher. Must be the old woman in me – I really appreciate not having to bend down so far. Raised beds are great in that respect.

Building raised beds is a bit of a time and money commitment. But they are so rewarding when you consider how much more produce you get.  We are hoping that the plants will be able to grow even deeper roots in the taller boxes.


Nk rotted wood


In the photos you can see the boards of our old beds. They rotted because we used plain untreated wood.  I was a bit sad to see my old garden gate getting dismantled. But I am very happy about the new beds.  The new raised beds are made of redwood.

Of course, they are not treated with chemicals either, yet they are supposed to last a lifetime. The wood was a bit more expensive but hopefully we don’t have to rebuild again in five years.

We built a total of four boxes. It cost us about $300 (for planks of redwood, new fenceposts, and screws) and three days of labor. That includes the time it took to take out the old beds.


We covered one of the beds with old storm windows we found in our basement. Now the beds work like a miniature greenhouse. On warm days we take the windows off and let the sunshine warm the bed. During the last 3 winterstorms we closed the bed up to shield our small seedlings from the cold and ice.

Jonah with tools 2

NK raised beds


The children had fun using power tools to help build them. I am looking forward to the spinach, Swiss chard, and Kale already growing. Check out our first little seedlings! I can’t wait to plant more stuff.

garden fairy 2

I am getting ready to be in a local art show. It’s been a while since I exhibited my work at Madison& Main gallery. It’s a wonderful artist coop, and if you are in the vicinity make sure you check it out. I figured my little garden fairy would go nicely with this post. Maybe she can sprinkle some magic fairy dust to make our plants grow faster. If you would like to meet this  sweet Garden Fairy in person you will find her after May 1rst at Madison & Main. Unfortunately I’ll have to miss the grand opening of this show since I’ll be traveling in Germany by then.





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Reford Gardens/Les Jardins de Métis

Please let me lead you into a little piece of heaven on Earth from my region. It’s a beautiful garden that became a prime touristic destination in the area. In the summer of 1926, Elsie Reford began transforming her fishing camp on the Metis River into a garden. Located 220 miles north-east of Quebec City, at 48.51º N. latitude, the gardens she created over the next thirty years were the northernmost in the eastern half of North America. Known to some as Les Jardins de Métis, to others as Reford Gardens, the gardens have become famous since they were opened to the public in 1962. It was our usual end-of-year trip at my primary school and a favourite place to go when we had family coming over the summer. Last June was it’s 50th anniversary and the entry price was only 50¢ (the price from 1962!) so I grabbed the occasion to show the garden to a friend that just moved into the region and I also grabbed my camera, hoping you’ll enjoy the photo tour!

Gardening was by no means Elsie Reford’s  first calling. From the early 1900s she had come to Grand-Metis to fish the pools on the river. She also rode, canoed and hunted. She continued fishing until 1926 when an operation for appendicitis intervened. Ordered to convalesce following surgery, her doctor suggested gardening as a genteel alternative to fishing. She was 54 years old. During the summer of 1926, she began laying out the gardens and supervised their construction. The gardens would take ten years to build. The construction would extend over more than twenty acres. When she began, with the exception of a flagpole, a cedar hedge and a tree-lined driveway, the property was barely landscaped at all. The hay was cut to provide feed for the horses. Flowerpots were arranged on the veranda. It was, after all, a fishing lodge.

Note from Elsie Reford, July 13, 1954:

“Lilacs were marvelous, azaleas very brilliant but I sometimes wonder if the sweeps of blue poppies are not the most satisfying, for apart from their great beauty they outlast everything else for length of time of flowering. They have now been giving much delight for almost a month.”

The Blue Poppy Glade was so named because it was where Elsie Reford displayed one of her rarest and most enchanting plants. The Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia) is one of the marvels of the plant world. Native to the Tsangpo Gorge in the southeast corner of Tibet, it grows at altitudes of 3,120 to 4,000 metres (10,200 to 13,100 feet). These blue poppies are the progeny of the first plants that Elsie Reford grew from seed in the 1930s. Intrigued by the enthusiasm it generated, she was among the first gardeners in North America to try the seeds, obtained from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland. Nestled between martagon lilies (Lilium martagon var. album) and maidenhair ferns (Adiantum pedatum), the blue poppies bloom from the middle of June through the end of July. Notoriously difficult to grow, part of our success is due to the climate of the Lower St.Lawrence, which provides the plants with the humidity and cool night air that the Meconopsis enjoy.

This flower became an icon of the region, and it really is beautiful to see! Hope you liked the visit, and if you ever come into the beautiful region of Mitis, you’ll find that the people are as charming as the landscape.

Information and facts taken from the Reford Gardens website. All pictures by me.

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A Year in the Garden — Part 7

Pests! This post is all about pests. I’m not big on bugs. Some I can tolerate, but others I hate!

As you know, things were humming along quite well in my garden. All of a sudden though, my tomatoes were turning up rotten. Blech. Just when they were close to ripe, they would be spotted and rotten in places. Low and behold, I found some bugs on them. They were sneaky buggers, but they became more and more prolific.

My beautiful tomatoes rotting on the plant
The Culprit!
The results of their carnage.

Turns out that there are stink bugs on my tomatos. Who knew there are several kinds of stink bugs? Not me! I’m used to seeing the big green ones, but had no idea there were also little brown ones. Apparently they like to inject an enzyme into the tomatoes that turns the tomato into liquid so they can then drink the fruit. So, the tomatoes rot on the vine. The cure–picking the little beasts off by hand and sending them to their demise in a bucket of soapy water. Daily washing of the tomatoes with water can also help keep them off the plants.

I’m hoping that I can get them under control so I can enjoy a late harvest of tomatoes. We have a lot on the plants still, so there is hope.

Another little pest kept me from enjoying any broccoli this year. No clue what did the plant in, although I suspect some type of worm or caterpillar. If anyone knows, do let me know, I’d like to prevent them next year. Broccoli is my gardening white whale.

My poor broccoli plant.

Some pests are great for the garden though. Plant marigolds to attract ladybugs. Ladybugs love aphids, and will keep those out of the garden for you. Also, consider hanging a carpenter bee house near your garden, like the one pictured. They will do wonders for pollination and by providing them a home of their own, they are less likely to play house in your deck or porch railings.

Carpenter Beehouse
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Waste not Want not…

It’s been a tough gardening year for our family. We have had one of the hottest summers on record in Colorado with nearly 3 months of temperatures in the 90s and 100s. With great sadness we watched wildfires grow out of control and homes and even lives being taken.  Luckily we don’t live in the mountains. But our lives were directly touched in so far that we had to watch our garden and backyard wilt away in the relentless summerheat.

We never buy tomatoes at the grocery store.  I just cannot abide the bland taste of a hothouse tomato. It doesn’t compare to a real tomato grown in your own garden. But this year has been a real challenge for us. Our tomato plants struggled all summer, despite our diligent watering and nuturing them. Only in the last week or so we have had enough tomatos to slice up for sandwiches or make a favorite fresh pasta dish.

Strangely enough our other garden, our community garden patch, has done a lot better than our garden by the house. We have been harvesting vegetables every week. The carrots have never been bigger and better. We ate so many beets and beet greens that the children are sick of them. We have had peppers in many shapes and sizes. Enough to share with friends and neighbors. One small row of green bean plants has been providing beans for two families over the last 4 weeks. Our butternut squash and potatoes are almost ready to be harvested and stored away for the winter.

But there is a great mystery when I look at the garden patches surrounding our two rented plots. I see tons of produce going unpicked and rotting on the vines. Why would somebody plant a garden, water and nurture it all summer, and then never pick the food? It just boggles the mind. I look at giant zucchinis that could feed a family of twelve, feeling sorely tempted to take one home to make a yummy zucchini chocolate cake.

I found this situation so frustrating that I contacted the director of the garden plots last week. Isn’t there any way we could donate this food to the local foodbank, I asked her? It just doesn’t seem right that when so many families are struggling in these hard economic times that food should go to waste like that.

The other day I read somewhere that 40% of food in the US is thrown out. I could not believe that number. It guess it seemed so incredible because our family is very conscious of what we prepare and using up all leftover food. Sure sometimes something goes bad. But when I look at the field of little garden plots I do believe the numbers. It fills me with great sadness to see pounds and pounds of tomatoes, peppers, beans, and many more vegetables rot.

How do you feel about these issues of food waste?


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A Year in the Garden — Part 6

All the talk in this series this year has focused on vegetable gardens. Our gardens have more than just vegetables in them though, as I’m sure do yours. One of the biggest features in our yard is our hydrangeas. With many different types, including some heirloom and climbing varieties, they are full of show and heavy with blooms all summer long.

The blooms are just now beginning to burst so they are at the perfect stage for picking. Did you know that if you pick them when the stamen has burst, they will dry perfectly? They won’t wither at all, they will stay just as you picked them, but will fade to a beautiful desaturated version of their summer glory. Something to brighten up your home all fall and winter long.

A few other interesting tid bits about this gorgeous plant—they bloom on third year wood, so when pruning simply cut off the stalks with dried blooms on them after the hard winter, and the plant will stay a well behaved size. If you want to let them grow unchecked, just pull off the spent blossoms after the winter and all the stalks will leaf out. Many varieties can change bloom color by changing the pH of the soil. Experiment with yours to get a wide range from deep blue to brilliant pink.

This year the blooms were so plentiful, they weighed down the bushes.
One of the more rare varieties in our yard, this one is always the best shade of pink.
Ready to pick and be dried.
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A Year in the Garden — Part 5

Wow, the summer always sneaks up on me and then bam! it seems to end. This has been a funny year in the garden. The tomatoes are taller than I am, the pumpkins are threatening to take over, and the zucchini and squash have been bigger than ever! How has the garden been for you this year?

About this time, the cool weather crops are long gone and the harvest is at it’s peak. Maintenance in the garden is simple, just pull the occasional weed and pick the veggies when ripe. Easy peasy. But that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. This is the perfect time to harvest your vermiculture compost to be mixed into the garden soil before closing the garden for the winter. It’s also a great time to do any repairs to the garden boxes, trellises, and other garden features. Just a few hours spent now can save you lots of time in the future!

Here’s a glimpse at what’s growing here, and a pic of my little garden helper. He loves to pick the veggies and is thrilled each time he sees a new one growing.

Super Tall Tomatoes


Sugar Pumpkins
My Little Garden Helper
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Desert Gardening

“If you are going to take a stand in the desert, do not be unsure of your purpose.  More than anywhere else that I can think of, this land does not reward partial commitments.” 

This quote from the book, How To, edited by Susan McAllister, Jessie Rogers & Wade Patterson, describes gardening in the desert so well.  There are no “partial commitments”.  You are either all in or all out, as a gardener.  With blaring sun and little to no sky water gardening in the desert seems to be quite a feat.  And yet with a little tending life prevails.

This is the first year we are using the square foot gardening method.  This picture was taken soon after planting earlier this Spring, mid- April.


And here it is now.  We have very limited space for our tiny, backyard garden.  Just this little fenced in area for one garden bed, a palette herb garden with some containers on top & a small in ground bed to the left.

Vine tomatoes & two zucchini plants are growing well here.  There’s also some basil & marigolds in the center of the bed.


We’re harvesting zucchini’s semi regularly now.


The tomatoes are starting to turn from green to rosy.  The other day I counted 81!


The basil has given us many a pesto!


We’ve harvested a handful of cucumbers.

There’s something so beautiful about how the cucumber vines find their clingy way.


We have three cantaloupes growing strong.


And some Sunflowers growing along the perimeter of the yard.  They thankfully have kept the grasshoppers busy & away (mostly) from the garden.



The pallet herb garden is starting to work after a slow start in the dry heat.  We have parsley, sage, a newly planted oregano & basil.  And here also is my constant garden kitty companion.  I think she loves the garden as much as I do.

The wonderful thing about desert gardening is that we have an extra long growing season.  I hope to add more square foot garden beds here and keep them busy year round.  Wish me luck!


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Leif’s Garden Adventure

This is my Summer home in the Pear tree

It has been a long winter indoors and I have enjoyed doing handcrafts at the kitchen table, but I am so eager to spend time outside! Spring has come at last & life is bursting forth everywhere! I live high in a mountain climate  near Mt . Shasta, CA.  Spring and Summer come later than in the low lands. Together we will look around the yard that is my home. In my yard there are fruit trees, flower beds, Toad ponds, vegetables, herbs and lots of bird houses! Beyond the yard there are woods, fields and ponds, but they are very wet and we will visit those another time!
My summer house is in a little pear tree in the yard. I like it there because it is shady in the hot summer sun and honey bees visit me in the Spring while looking for pollen in the flowers. Many birds stop by looking for insects on their way to the bird bath or home. So we will start our adventure here in the Pear tree!

The pear blossoms are lovely white and there are so many bees collecting pollen in the tree that you can hear the hum of their busy wings clear across the yard! Bees are our garden friends who pollinate the trees to make help lots of fruit. Honey bees are very busy about their work in the Spring and Summer when it is warm. They need the flowers to collect their pollen from. In the colder seasons, they hibernate. Honey Bees and Bumble Bees are quite friendly and like them all!

Next I am going to hop to the ground and look for Jedediah, one of the garden toads. Jed always suns himself in the same place on the edge of the Toad Pond. He is one of my best pals, always friendly and so helpful in the yard. He eats all the bugs that eat the plants! He also eats mosquitos and flies. During the winter Jed digs a hole in the ground and hibernates, which is like a deep sleep, until the sun warms up the Earth and he can come out again. I will also drop by his house so you can see where he lives! Toads like houses to have a shady place when it gets hot and to rest in when they are not eating bugs or spending time in their pond.

Jed is sunning himself and watching for bugs on the edge of his pond


Jed's House made of stone and copper and is next to the toad ponds

It is such a nice day, it just makes me want to run and jump and skip! I am passing by the lovely little blue veronica speedwell, a helpful plant named after a Saint! We use this little blue ground cover to fill in all the empty places and let it cascade about the rocks and stones. It is the first plant to flower in the Spring after the daffodils, it is very hardy and comes back every year!


Running through blue the Veronica Speedwell!


Now I have reached the vegatable patch and have found strawberries in bloom! This is always exciting because the beautiful white blossoms will turn into sweet red strawberries, such a wonderful treat to eat! The strawberry patch always smells so good!  We also grow squash, lettuce and green beans in the garden. We have a short growing season where we live because of the high mountain climate. Spinach, broccoli and lettuce can grow even if it get’s cold at night.


Leif is showing us the pretty strawberry blossom

Next to the strawberries I also found some Lemon Balm, a lovely herb that smells just like lemons. In the summer we put crinkled leaves into a pitcher of ice water or make tea, both refreshing and relaxing. So nice to have all these useful plants around & the toads to watch over them! They  also get to watch over the calendula flowers in the herb garden.  The calendula flowers, sometimes called “winter marigolds” are very important to us.

Calendula flowers in the herb garden
Calendula flowers in the herb garden

Calendulas are very useful and healing to the skin. We make soap using both the flowers and the leaves infused in a vegetable glycerin base. Over the summer we make enough soap  to last all winter and use for Christmas gifts for family and friends. We put lemon grass, sage and ylang ylang oil in the soap too to make it smell good. The lovely green color is the natural color made by using the calendula plants.

Home made Calendula Soap

Now I am going to the near by fence to climb up the post to vist one of the bird houses. The songbirds work with the toads to eat pesty bugs and take care of the garden and yard. They also fill the air with their lovely songs and help wake us up with their music at dawn. The house I have reached is being used this year by Mr. & Mrs. Tree Swallow. Such a beautiful blue color and bright white chest they have. Did you ever notice that some bird pairs look different, the male bird being brighter than the female bird? And other kinds of birds, they look both the same? Well, the pairs that look just the same are birds that stay together their entire life and the different looking ones find a new partner each Spring. So let me introduce you to Mr. & Mrs. Tree Swallow! They have raised a family of 4 in this house! After the baby birds come out of the house and fly for the first time, they stay in the area feeding and making their wings strong for their flight south in when Winter comes.  They will return again in the early Spring of the following year. It is very good for us all to help the birds by putting out houses for them as often it is difficult for them to find places to make their nests.

Leif visits Mr. & Mrs. Tree Swallow

Across the yard from the Tree Swallow house is our Summer work table. This is a big table we made from  old lumber that we use to work on as well as eat outside, sometimes for breakfast and for summer evenings.   It has a shade structure over it and is next to the toad ponds. This is a peaceful and inspiring place to work, next the gardens, herbs and toad ponds.


We have been making Fairy, Elf and Gnome dishes the last few days!

A lot of the work we do is hand work, making things out of wool and felt , putting oil and beeswax on the wooden houses, drawing and painting pictures and sorting seed pods and pine cones. All this work is pleasant to do where we can hear the birds singing, the wind blowing in the tall pine trees and the toad plopping into the water of their pond.

I love helping with the work!

The last place we will visit today is one of my favorite places! The bird bath! This is a place birds come to get a drink and also take a bath!  Birds need to take baths too! They also need a place to drink all year.  In the winter we try to keep water that is not frozen available for them in the winter.  Every day about 4:30 the yellow warblers stop by to twitter and hop about in the bird bath! I like to sit on the edge & watch them!

This is the large bird bath and fountain. I am visiting here with my friend!

Thank you everyone! Thank you for going with me ! It is going to be a busy season with lots of time out of doors and longer days. We will be gathering sticks and wood from forest and then collecting acorns and other seed pods when they fall from the trees in late summer. We also collect plants for summer tea and and dried grasses for fairy house roofs. Maybe we can meet again in the Autumn  and see what we have made! Bye~~~!

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A walk through Nairobi (Toy on a Walk Series)

Hello all!

Greetings from Nairobi, Kenya!  We are bunting baby dolls from the ziezo label and we would like to take you around our garden and neighbourhood, now that we woke from our nap under the baby pawpaw tree.























This is the flame tree, with gorgeous red – orange flowers blooming now that we are reaching the end of the long rains.














When we lay under the pawpaw tree, these are the dark skies of the rainy season. . . the sun is hiding behind the clouds.













The two of us like to climb trees and bushes, and there are plenty of those around in our neighbourhood and garden.  Here we are in a baby banana tree and a mango tree, unfortunately there are no fruits on them at the moment.























Here we are in a small acacia tree.  It’s difficult to climb this one, because of the long thorns.  Did you know that giraffes can eat the leaves from these trees despite the thorns?  There is something in their saliva to soften the thorns and then they pluck the leaves off with their tongue.























Once in a while we visit the Waldorf Kindergarten in Kileleshwa, and we then like to hang out in this lovely shrub that smells so nice and is commonly called “yesterday, today & tomorrow” (Brunfelsia) because of the different colours the flowers turn.























If you go for a ride in Nairobi, you have to be ready to wait, traffic jams are the matter of the day because of the number of cars, the state of the roads, and ongoing construction for the “Vision 2030” plan.  Here’s a view of the Nairobi Arboretum at the bottom of the hill, and some of the road construction around it.












And in some places the old road has been replaced by a new dirt road to allow for road improvements, while you also can see the rapid construction of new apartment buildings that are replacing the single standing houses.












However, after a bumper to bumper drive to Karen, reknown from Isak Dinesen’s (a.k.a. Karen Blixen) ‘Out of Africa’ it is also nice to be ending up in the lovely green environment of the Nairobi Waldorf School there.


































Nairobi and its environs have lots of sunshine (even in the rainy season), but one thing that is always certain as you could see in most of the pictures, there is never a lack of some dreamy clouds in the sky with many imaginative creatures.












We liked taking you on a short tour and know that we soon join our friends in the ziezo Designs shop to find a new home and explore new places on this lovely earth.  However, now it is time for a nap again. . .