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Memoirs of an Arizona Gardener

I lived in Germany for many years. Each year, I made it my goal to get acquainted with the earth. The first year I dabbled with bulbs. The second year was the year of the strawberry. The last two years in Germany, we had quite the garden going. We had tomatoes, green beans, peas, tons of strawberries, a sunflower, carrots, tons of herbs, tomatillos, and more. We succeeded in just about everything we grew. We did have a little trouble with cucumbers because the slugs kept eating the blossoms. My point is that it was so easy to grow food. Throw out some seeds and then you’d have a plant.

Fast forward to the Fall of 2013 . . .

We moved to Arizona and bought a house with a garden bursting with yummy goodness. I thought, “Great. My garden is going to be even better next year.” Then, I decided to plant a winter garden.

I planted a winter garden. And then, I replanted it. And then . . .  I  . . . replanted it . . . again. Actually, I kept replanting all fall and winter long. I even broke down and bought some little plants to put into the garden. My winter garden is best described as an epic failure.

Why? Well, I was convinced rabbits were eating all my seedlings. I would see all my seedlings popping up and the next morning when I went to water my budding garden, all the seedlings would be mowed down. The first leaves would all be missing and little itty bitty stems would remain. And then, the next day the stems would be gone entirely.  Rabbits, mice, rats, birds, or lizards. You pick.

This happened every single time I planted my kale, lettuce, spinach, and such. Then, I finally bought some kale and lettuce and planted it. I thought that since they were sizable plants that they might have a fighting chance. They did. For about a week. The kale seemed to slowly disappear. I felt like I was in an episode of Looney Tunes.

We put up a garden fence to keep out the rabbits. This was in addition to the woven wire fence around my yard that is reenforced with chicken wire. This did nothing to keep my garden vermin-free. Then, I decided to walk the perimeter of my yard and find out exactly where the rabbits where coming in. I found all kinds of holes and spaces where they were coming in. I piled rocks and filled in holes and did all kinds of stuff to keep them out. By the end of winter I had three lettuce plants and they were looking really bad. And of course, I found two rabbits in my yard! They could get in, but couldn’t find their way out. Annie took care of them for me, but the trend hasn’t ended.

Now it’s spring, and I’ve planted again. I guess I’m hoping that the rabbits will find tastier treats outside the yard now. I put rat and mouse traps in the garden and have caught nothing. I planted a few weeks ago and have had quite a lot of seedlings coming up. And guess what? I’ve noticed that they are starting to disappear again!

I started some seeds indoors (another fiasco). I’m afraid to plant them out in the garden. I have rosemary, parsley, cilantro, and celery outside. They seem to be just fine. It’s everything else I plant. I even have carrots and nothing has been eating them!

I’ll be honest. I have never had this much difficulty in having a garden. How do farmers do it? There’s no way to keep rabbits, mice, birds, and lizards from destroying your garden.

I’ve replanted my spring garden for the second time this year. This doesn’t include all the time and effort that I dedicate to the indoor seedlings. I’m pretty sure that this will be the last time for a while, with the exception of planting my indoor babies outside. I’m running out of motivation and feel discouraged. Apparently, I’m really great at growing marigolds, mesquite trees, and crab grass in the garden – all reseeded & not planted by me, of course.

Re-seedingly yours,

Ginger

 


Market on the Move

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Matt and I braved the wind this morning to stock up on veggies. We recently discovered that the Market on the Move comes to our area. What a great opportunity to stock up on fresh vegetables at a low, low, low price. A semi truck unloads boxes upon boxes of vegetables. I mean boxes! Then many workers help direct you through an assembly-line. We stood in line and were handed two boxes. Then we paid $10 to have a go-around. You can pay $20, $30, etc. and then receive the […]


The New Baby

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We have a new little baby boy in our lives. He was born January 1st, 2014 and he bites. We named this little bundle of teeth, Hank. We named him after a character in one of Gavin’s favorite series of books, Hank the Cow Dog. He is a Blue Heeler (a.k.a. Australian Cattle Dog). Before bringing him home, the boys built Hank and Annie a dog house. I only agreed to have another canine if they stayed outside. Since our weather is mild in the winter, this is acceptable. Matt […]


Release the Beasts

Sunday was the first day we let the chickens free range. It was exciting and we were a little apprehensive.

We were concerned about a host of things:

Will they find their way back to the coop? Answer: Yes, they were tentative about leaving the run and made several trip to and fro. They did have a little trouble figuring out where to go in and out. The doorway was confusing and remains troublesome for a few.

Will they fly over the fence? Answer: This hasn’t been an issue yet. They don’t venture far from The Big House and appear to only use their feathers to pick up speed or threaten others.

Won’t something eat them? Answer: Possibly and very likely. We have a few brazen hawks in the area that perch just above our property. Tristan has thrown rocks at one. The chickens also have great hawk eye-sight. They see them flying around and they shriek, run, and hide. Plus, we’re hoping one of our roosters takes the role of big boss. We have one now that I’ve noticed acting roo-like. I’ve noticed a few of them actually scare off the little LBJs (little brown jobbers).

So far so good. We keep an eye on them when they are out. Earl Grey met them on Tuesday. He was out prancing about in the garden and had an informal introduction to The Professor (the Blue Ameraucana), with two layers of fence between them. They both seemed to be thinking, “What are you?”

Annie is not too sure what this free range thing is all about. First, the chickens were nicely packaged in a chicken run and now they get to roam around the big backyard. Life just isn’t fair!

 


Lettuce Turnip the Beet

I just wanted to share something with you.

I like fresh fruits and veggies. I do. Matt does. And so do our little tough guys. We have been receiving a Farm Box weekly from Sunizona Farms.

What is a Farm Box?

A Farm Box is also called a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Basically, the wonderful farmers put together a mix of seasonally available foods and drop them off somewhere for you. Sometimes you can pick and choose from foods that are available, but we are wild and crazy kids and we like them to pick for us. I know . . . WILD and CRAZY.

So far we’ve had:

  • kohlrabi
  • micro greens
  • baby lettuce
  • tomatoes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • apples
  • oranges
  • grapefruit
  • bok choy
  • turnips
  • beets
  • radishes
  • pizza crusts
  • eggplant

And that’s just for winter. I can’t wait until spring and summer.

 

 



Chicky Mommas

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You have chickens.

You are crazy (either just plain crazy or crazy because you like chickens. It doesn’t matter which).

You live in Cochise County.

And you are a lady (no boys allowed).

Those are the requirements for The Crazy Chicken Ladies of Cochise County. This is where a bunch of women get together to talk about all things related to fowl, family, and farm.

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Our Feathered Friends

The chicks

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It’s been a while since we’ve posted on our new feathered family members, so I figured I’d give an update. They’re all about 8 weeks old now and getting bigger every day. A few weeks ago, they made the move to the big outdoors, otherwise known as “The Big House”, thanks to Tristan. Fortunately for our birds, they live in beautiful Arizona, so even though it is winter, they get plenty of outdoor time. 60+ degree days help them out there, though I’m not so sure how happy they’re gonna […]


Melomakarona

I have made this recipe several times. They are so delicious and super easy.

I usually half this recipe and have found that it turns out great, too. They have become part of the Barker’s Baking Repertoire for Christmas. Enjoy!

Melomakarona

Melomakarona

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups olive oil
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 2 tsp. baking powder
  4. 1 tsp. baking soda
  5. 8 T. orange juice
  6. 1/2 T. ground cloves
  7. 1/2 T. ground cinnamon
  8. 7-8 cups flour
  9. Syrup:
  10. 2 cups honey
  11. 2 cups sugar
  12. 2 cups water
  13. 1 cup walnuts (finely chopped) I substitute with pecans

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk sugar and olive oil to form a thin paste. Add the baking soda (dissolved in the orange juice) and remaining ingredients. Dough should be pliable enough to form a ball.
  2. Shape into oblongs. They will resemble footballs.
  3. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile make syrup. Combine honey, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Turn off heat and skim the foam off. Drink it with a straw. Just kidding. Let cool.
  5. You may want to set up a cooling rack that is placed within a roasting pan or another cookie sheet to catch the drippings.
  6. Take a few cookies and soak them in the syrup (each side for 2 minutes or so). Place the dripping cookies on that rack and sprinkle them with those walnuts (pecans). Repeat for maximum deliciousness! Pour any left over syrup over the finished cookies (or pour it in your coffee).
http://www.justusbarkers.com/2013/12/melomakarona/


Bird Brained Theology

Have you ever witnessed something so small and innocent struggling? How about someone not so small and not so innocent?

It’s not for the faint of heart. We immediately want to intervene. We want to stop the pain, stop the suffering, and offer up solutions.

I can imagine an exhaustive list of struggles that we encounter. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some struggle with patience or self control (no more Christmas cookies for me). Still, others struggle to believe that they are loved and forgiven.

I’ve heard it said that “Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” I think that this sentiment can be true. I don’t think it is always true. If it were, we would all be walking around like superheroes. In contrast, let us consider “Whatever doesn’t kill you, can make you stronger.” The word “can” changes this entire saying doesn’t it? It’s a slight change, but significant, nonetheless.

Flashback: Chicks Hatching

Imagine this: The chicks are just beginning to hatch in the incubator. The conditions are set (humidity & temperature) and now we just watch and wait. Some chicks just seemed to have materialized all on their own. One moment their eggs were intact and then *boom* there was another chick flopping around. And let me tell you . . . I was checking them all of the time.

But then, I witnessed one, two, three chicks struggling. Honestly, I didn’t keep count. There was just too much excitement and anticipation in the air. Their struggles to break out of the eggs, were all different. Some took hours, while others took less than an hour. One even hatched fairly quickly and then died afterward. I asked myself, “How could he have died after all that work to break free?” There were a few other eggs that just weren’t cracking all the way open. I just wanted to open the incubator and help them! I will save you!

One egg I was sure was going to hatch. We could see him in there for two days, trying to bust out. I mean, I could see him, his beak, and half his body. The egg was flexing and contorting. That chick never did hatch.

The struggle to break out of the egg actually strengthens them. It prepares them. When you remove the egg for them, you set them up for failure. I know what you were thinking . . . that I am mean and wouldn’t save the chick.

HOLD ON! 

God sees us struggling. He’s watching us trying to break free. If He intervenes and removes our burden, our struggle, we may not be made stronger. We just might be made weaker and perish. He gives us what we need and that is sufficient. It is important to know, that although we are struggling, we are not alone. Not ever.

Picture me standing over all these eggs. I was saying “Come on little guys. You can do it.” I can just imagine God doing something similar. He’s rooting for us. He wants us to give Him our burdens because His strength is what keeps us moving forward. I can do all things, in Christ, who strengthens me. He is standing on the sidelines, cheering me on. He’s cheering you on. He is your biggest fan! He is the proudest parent!

I guarantee that all of your problems are not going to ever go away. Nope. Sometimes we have to endure the pain. If I have to struggle, I would at least like to know that I have a cheering section.

If you are struggling, please know this. There is no one more familiar with your hardship than the LORD.

The question is, are you going to let your burden wear you down? Because it will if you let it. It can also make you resentful, bitter, and hard-hearted. No warm, fuzzies in that package.

Anyway, this is what was on my heart the other day as I was reading through Mark chapters 6:45-52. Jesus watched the disciples struggling with the boat and waves. He let them struggle for quite a while until He thought they were ready to see Him walking on the water. The Bible says that Jesus was going to walk right past them. But when He saw the terror on their faces, he had compassion on them and calmed the sea.

Ginger