Welcome to Bepa's Garden!
This blog is about organic gardening, healthy eating and healthy living.
Each month I will be posting Garden To-Do Lists, Tips & Techniques, Garden Project Plans, Photos from the Garden, Recipes and Book Reviews.
I hope you enjoy reading and I hope I can inspire others to start a backyard garden!
Happy Gardening!
~Rob~

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Following my path ...


 "If you are facing in the right direction, 
all you need to do is keep on walking" 
- Buddhist saying

It's getting close to that time when I like to reflect back on these past 12 months and look ahead to what I would like to accomplish in the upcoming year. It seems a little early to start thinking about this, but for some reason it has been on my mind a lot lately. I think it's because over these past few months I have been participating in several blog hops and have "met" some really inspiring people. It has really made me take a good look at where I am in my life and see just how happy I am doing what I am presently doing.

I am a self-employed architectural designer. I design high-end complex stair systems and cabinetry for multi-million dollar homes. I have worked with a client developing and designing a telescoping temporary stair system. I have created a successful business and have built a good reputation for myself. I absolutely love being self-employed and can't ever imagine working for someone else again. It is very enjoyable work, most days, but it doesn’t satisfy my soul. I do love to design, and I will probably always do it to some degree, but I yearn to be out in nature doing something more fulfilling with a greater purpose.

I love gardening and have a passion for growing healthy food. Being a part of this movement to take back control of our food supply is exciting and very important to me. I have been attempting to grow organically on my 1/4 acre suburban lot for some time now, each year learning and expanding my crops, but this isn't satisfying or who I really am. I see myself on a 5+ acre farm, living in an old farmhouse with a barn, a greenhouse and an orchard. I envision a  pond with ducks and chickens roaming the yard, an antique farmall tractor, and a roadside stand where we sell our organically grown produce and fresh baked pies. I have dreamed about buying another piece of property to start a small organic farm for some time now, but that dream always seems to get lost in the day to day bustle of my life.

There have been several events these past few months, some good and some bad, that seem to have sparked a new fire inside, motivating me to start taking steps to get my life where I want it to be. New opportunities seem to be popping up and I have opened my eyes wide enough to realize that I need to follow this path that is rising up in front of me.


I have a couple big projects that I am going to start working on immediately. The first is to attempt to sustainably and organically grow as much of our own food as possible on our 1/4 acre lot for our family of four. I will be blogging about this from planning to harvest and keeping a "journal" of the progress. The next big project is to redesign my website to include as much information as I can about growing, in a seed to seed layout (from planting seeds to saving seeds and everything in between) with an emphasis on heirloom varieties. I will be going through all my blog posts and garden journals to organizing the information into an easy to use online format so others can benefit and hopefully be inspired. I don't consider myself and expert on growing, but I have been keeping garden journals for some time, experimenting with several different techniques and I would be happy to pass along the information of what worked, or didn't work for me.

There are some other things I will be working on as well, like improving my photography skills, especially with nature and plants, to hopefully be able to someday make something of it, expanding my greenhouse so I can start selling seedlings and flowers in the spring, attending more NOFA workshops to better educate myself, creating a better blog format to include more gardening tips, healthy recipes, garden project plans, book reviews and resources, and become more involved in writing about organic gardening. 

"Happiness is not a goal ... it's a by-product of a life well lived."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

I am going to start taking these quantum steps to get to where I see myself in life and work towards living a more sustainable, earth friendly and fulfilling life.

I am not sure where this path will lead, but I hope you will follow me along this journey and I hope I inspire you to also follow your dreams!

~Rob~

"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the upmost, 
to reach out eagerly and without fear of newer and richer experience."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gardener's Giveaway!


Looking for a unique gift for a fellow gardener or yourself?


Deborah Jean's Dandelion House is having a Gardener's Giveaway!

She has been kind enough to feature my blog, Hand-Carved Garden Dibbles, and FarmMade Shop on her blog.

For a chance to win a Hand-Carved Garden Dibble pop on over to her blog, say hello and enter the contest!
A lucky winner will be announced next Tuesday 12/4/12!


**For those that may not win the contest but would still like to purchase a dibble, I am offering
a 20% discount at my ETSY store from Dec.1st thru Dec.7th! 
Enter code DEC20 at checkout to receive the discount!!

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lazy Sunday Photos ...

It's a blustery day here in New England, overcast and in the upper 30's, but the ducks don't seem to mind the weather too much!



We finally named them, meet Bert and Ernie.
This is what happens when they realize I am picking kale...
then the other one comes running over...

and this is what happens after they eat all the kale!

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Sunday Morning Sunrise...



When you arise in the morning, 
think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
Marcus Aurelius
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wishing Everyone a Happy and Safe

Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Reflection ...

Today I have a guest post from Amanda (who just happens to be my daughter!). She wants to be a writer and has recently started her own blog "Words on a Journey".


Reflection
by
Amanda

Every year the leaves turn golden
right before they fall,
a blanket of color covers the ground.
I’m grateful for the serenity of the woods,
the beauty of the trees against the autumn sky.
 Maybe it’s the chill in the air
that reminds me of Thanksgiving approaching,
or the way the leaves are scattered about the surface of the pond,
how they spin in slow circlesto create tiny ripples
that supply me with a sense of comfort.
In admiration of the pond, I reflect on other things
I am appreciative of.
My family who is always there for me
with a welcoming hug or words of advice,
my friends who can instantly turn a terrible day around,
warm hugs that make me forget any worries I’ve ever had,
how fortunate I am to have a roof over my head,
privileged enough to attend school.
Once again a mirror image of the sky above
replaces my thoughts as I glance into the water.
The image gives me warmth on the November day.
The only addition to the reflection now
is my smile.

Shared at:

The Chicken Chick

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What are you thankful for ...

I am thankful for:

A beautiful, loving and supportive wife, 
 two beautiful and intelligent daughters,
having a loving family and caring friends,
my health, and the health of my family,
being able to do what I love, and earn a living at it,
being able to share my life with my two dogs, four cats, two ducks and a rabbit,
(even though some days I feel like taking them to the pound!)
living in an area where I can experience the spectacular colors and wonders of nature,
and being able to appreciate it,
 having had a grandfather that instilled in me the love of gardening,
a grandmother that taught me how to cook,
and having had the opportunity to spend part of my life with them both,
  being on the path that I am on in life,
 and having the means and support of my wife to be able to keep following it!

What are you thankful for?
 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Building a Backyard Habitat: Birdhouse Plans



The days are turning colder and the yard work has pretty much come to an end. It will soon be time to start thinking about what to plant in the spring and begin planning for next years gardens. While you are doing your planning, why not think about building a backyard habitat and consider adding some birdhouses to attract more birds!


Birds will help keep a balance of nature in your yard. Adding some birdhouses for them will help attract even more which can be very beneficial to you garden. The birds will eat insects that may damage or destroy your plants and also help clean old seeds off the withered plants in the fall.  Just remember to use netting or row covers in the spring when you plant so the birds don't eat your seed!



I have added some birdhouse plans to the Garden Project Plans page on my website.
Feel free to download them and build some for yourself!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Growing Sprouts



The gardens are done providing fresh lettuce and vegetables (unless you grow a winter garden), but do you still crave those nutritious greens? You can easily grow them, regardless of how cold it is outside, by growing sprouts!

Sprouts are healthy. They are natural sources of energy, amino acids, minerals, vitamins and nutrition and consuming sprouts provides wholesome nutrition to the body. Sprouts also contain vitamin C which increases the body’s immunity and also prevents the risk of cancer.


There are several different ways to grow sprouts and several different devices to use. 


Sprouts can be grown in mason jars with mesh on top for draining or you can buy an inexpensive commercial sprouter. I started off using the Easy Sprout (shown on the right). It is basically a plastic container with an inside vestibule that you can remove to rinse and drain the sprouts. These types of sprouters work well, but because they have a narrow bottom the seeds don't all sprout and it seemed a bit wasteful. I ended up switching to a Bioset Kitchen sprouter from Johnny's Select Seeds.


There are several different places to get sprouting seeds. You can grow several different varieties of sprouts including broccoli, alfalfa, mung bean, onion, buck wheat, diakon radish, mustard, fenugreek and others. You can order then from online places such as Johnny's or Sprout People, or you can get them from your local Whole Foods or Health Food Store. Wherever you get them from be sure they are specifically for sprouting to ensure they have been tested for E.Coli and Salmonella.

Sprout People have tons of information on their website where you can find everything you need to know about growing sprouts.


Sprouting seeds in the Bioset Sprouter is easy. Just fill each tray evenly with about a tablespoon of seeds then stack the trays and fill the top one with warm water. The water will fill each tray below, soaking the seeds and then will drain into the tray on the bottom. Once it is done draining empty the bottom tray. Fill the top tray with water twice a day - the moisture and humidity are controlled through the bioset. Keep the sprouter out of direct sunlight and at room temperature. Once the sprouts grow and have their leaves you can provide a little sunlight so they can green up a bit!


Once the sprouts are ready, usually in 3 to 5 days depending on the type of seeds you used, rinse them under running water and eat! You can also store them in the refrigerator in plastic bags. If you do, just be sure to thoroughly dry them otherwise they will spoil faster. I use a salad spinner to remove all the moisture.


Growing sprouts is easy and fun way to get those healthy vitamins and nutrients during the winter!

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Looking for Product Reviewers!

Would you like to be a product reviewer and then get to keep that item for free? 

I am looking for a few people who would be interested in testing and reviewing some of the products that I now sell and will be developing in the near future.

 I will be selecting a few people, out of everyone interested, to try out and test an item and then write an honest review that I can use on my website to promote my products. 

I will send you a specific item based on a questionnaire and for your efforts you will get to keep the item!

Right now I am looking for people to try and and review:


Hand-Carved Garden Dibbles



6'-10" x 8'-0" Greenhouse Plans

** You can click on the item in my ETSY store in the side bar for a description **

If you are interested in reviewing a product, and would like to also be considered to review future products, including garden tools and other garden project plans, please send me an email with "Product Tester" in the subject line and tell me what item you are interested in reviewing.

Thank you!

~Rob~

Friday, November 9, 2012

Photo Friday: Taking the time to really look at things.



While looking through some old photos I came across this picture of me taken at my grandparents house when I was little. I have seen this picture many times before and have always just set it aside thinking it was just another old blurry photo of my childhood.

The photo sat on my desk, and as I worked and I kept glancing over at it remembering how much fun I used to have playing at my grandparents homestead, picking apples and pears off the trees, eating juicy raspberries from their raspberry patch and helping my grandfather in his greenhouse. Every time I looked at this picture I would always focused on me, never really taking the tome to look at the entire photo. This time as I stared at the picture my eyes started wandering, first noticing the wheelbarrow in the background and then the garage with his greenhouse attached behind that ... and then ...my grandfather standing in the corner! I never realized that I was looking at him in the picture as he was pulling down a branch!

I have had this picture for twenty something years and have never noticed him standing there before. Suddenly this out of focus picture of me that I hadn't really cared much about before became a precious reminder of the time I spent with my grandfather!

I recently did an interview with Gretchen from The Backyard Farming Connection for her Homestead Highlight section of her blog. I was a little hesitant at first because I thought it would be difficult to find enough to talk about, but once I got started it all just started pouring out and the memories of why I am so passionate about backyard farming came flooding back. As I said in the piece, my grandfather is a very important part of who I am today and one of the reasons why I am on the path that I am on.

Take the time to really look at things, you just may notice something important!

~Rob~

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Homemade Granola




Granola is a staple breakfast in our house and is usually eaten year round. We have two different recipes that we make, the first is a basic granola and the second is a cinnamon spiced granola, which I will post next time we make it.

Basic Granola Recipe:

2-3/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup oat bran (or wheat germ)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup agave nectar (or honey)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Stir together oats, oat bran and sunflower seeds in a mixing bowl. Heat oil and agave in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to blend. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Stir in peanut butter and mix until it is completely mixed together. Add mixture to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Spread on 11 x 16 cookie sheet with sides. Bake at 225° F for one hour, but check every so often and stir if browning unevenly. Remove from oven, cool and add raisins and nuts.
YIELD: 5 cups granola.

Optional additions:
Fresh or dried blueberries, cherries or other fruit.

When we make our granola we usually make a triple batch so we always have some on hand.

Enjoy!

Shared at: 

Gastronomical Sovereignty
The Backyard Farming Connection
Eat Make Grow
Fresh Eggs Daily
The Chicken Chick, Clever Chick's Blog Hop #8 
Sunny Simple Life 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Frosty November Morning ...

A frozen leaf warming in the morning sun ...

Frost crystals glistening on the deck ...

What's left of the kale after the ducks have been feasting on it ...

Ice crystals on the cold frame plastic.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

November's Book Review

The Sustainable Vegetable Garden

A Backyard Guide to
Healthy Soil and Higher Yields

by John Jeavons and Carol Cox

Now that the gardens have pretty much finished producing, except for the winter beds in the cold-frames, it's time to sit down and make my winter reading list. Throughout the year I pick up farming and organic gardening books that I find in Acres USA, NOFA or other resources that look interesting. This winter I have a particularly big stack of books to get through with some interesting titles like "Eco-Farm, an Acres USA Primer", "Foundations of Natural Farming", "The Organic Farming Manual" and "The Soul of Soil" just to name a few. Winter, for me, is a time to learn new techniques and plan the gardens for next year.

This months book review is "The Sustainable Vegetable Garden, a Backyard Guide to Healthy Soil and Higher Yields" by John Jeavons and Carol Cox. Throughout most of my posts on planting I talk about using the Biointensive Method for growing. Biointensive Gardening Technology is a sustainable farming method that is actually thousands of years old. This book is a condensed version of "How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine". It is geared towards people trying these methods for the very first time, as well as the seasoned gardener looking for more streamlined information on these methods.

The Biointensive Growing Method focuses on the soil. By creating a living, healthy soil the gardener will be able to grow health-giving food. This method starts with deeply prepared garden beds whose growing area, with it's closely spaced plants, can produce up to four times more than on equivalent shallow beds planted in rows. I have used this method of growing for several years now and have had some astounding results. It takes time to build a healthy soil and after a few years I am really starting to see the results. The biggest difference I have noticed is the root systems on my plants. When I first started growing I used to get a shallow root system, now I get a deep root system with the main plant roots extending deep down into the soil with a large web of roots around it. I have healthier plants with less weeding, less watering and less pest problems.

The Sustainable Vegetable Garden walks you through all the steps to grow Biointensively. Some of the chapters include:
Thinking about Raising Food Sustainably
Before You Start
What Do You Want to Eat? Choosing What to Grow
Preparing a Biointensive Bed: Double-Digging
What to Feed a Biointensive Bed: Compost
Seedlings
Planning and Planting Crops
Growing Compost Crops
Growing More Calories
Arranging What Goes into a Bed: Companion Planting
keeping the Garden Healthy
and
Seeds for Next Year's Garden

This book is an excellent primer for getting started using the Biointensive Growing Methods and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in growing using more natural methods. As you learn the processes and want more detailed charts and information including when to start certain crops and all the planting and spacing information for just about every crop then I would also recommend getting How to Grow More Vegetables. I have both of these books and use them each year when I am planning and planting the gardens.


Shared at:

The Backyard Farming Connection
Down Home Blog Hop

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Preserving Memories

   My grandparents are the reason why I am so passionate about gardening and healthy food today.  My best childhood memories are working side by side with my grandfather, planting seedlings in his greenhouse or picking fields of raspberries and selling them to the local grocery store.

 My grandparents passed away when I was 14 years old and their home was sold, along with the greenhouse, barn and raspberries. I have many memories of them, but unfortunately not too many pictures. One of my most treasured photos I have is this old 2 x 3 of my grandfather, Bepa, standing next to one of his cold frames.




For many years this picture has sat on my desk where I look at it often while I am working, planning my garden projects or sitting down to write a post.  I have always wanted to enlarge this picture and hang it on my wall in my office, but the quality of this old photo just wasn't that great.

My brother-in-law, who is a photographer, was looking for old photos to restore. I gave him this picture and he was able to scan it into his computer and digitally restore it to an unbelievable quality while still preserving the essence of the photo.


A couple days ago I was completely surprised by a FedEx delivery. 
It was a large package that contained a framed 8 x 12 picture of my grandfather, the one my brother-in-law had restored for me. He took it upon himself to send it out and get it professionally framed so I could hang it on my office wall because he knew how much this picture meant to me. I can't even begin to express how much this gesture means to me ~as my eyes begin to well up as I write this~,
Thank you Kevin!


My grandfather is a big part of who I am today, and now I have this cherished picture hanging above my desk to remind me every day why I do what I do and why I love gardening so much.

If you have some old photos or cherished memories that you would like to have preserved, check out my brother-in-laws website for more information.

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