Garden Love...for FREE!

As the clutches of an icy cold winter begin to relax it’s time to think about the most important part of your garden. Dirt.

I HEART dirt!

But it’s really more magical than simple dirt. What you need is soil. And soil needs your love. Soil needs to be nurtured as much as the plants, canes and trees that make their home there.


Healthy soil will in turn yield plants that need less water, have better disease resistance and simply produce better. Every micro farmers dream right!?!

The best bang for your effort will come as you evolve your dirt to soil.

And it’s easy.  And you already paid for it.


Do you pack a banana in your lunch? How about an apple? That broccoli stem you cut the florets from for dinner last night? Onion skin, garlic skin, winter squash skin too?

Inedible for us but guess who craves this goodness? Your soil.

Alas, ALL of your fruit and veggie waste is not waste.

These scraps generated from everyday living generate an opportunity to do something spectacular for your soil.

Ummm, my soil is still frozen or so soupy it’s a bad idea to venture into it. What am I supposed to do?



  1. Designate a container - Costco sized cottage cheese bin, plastic ice cream pail or a fancy stainless steel version

  2. Place container next to your sink so it’s not forgotten

  3. Place inedible fruit and veggie scraps in bin -banana peels, apple cores, strawberry tops, pineapple rind, mushy inedible grapes and stems, potato skins, green pepper innards, broccoli and cauliflower inedibles, carrot skins AND anything that has done turned (cue Mater’s voice) from your crisper into your awesomeness bin.

  4. When your bin is full or has a special stank to it it’s time for phase 2.

  5. Grains are welcome in the bin too

  6. DO NOT save meat or oil to compost. It attracts vermin = no Bueno.


  1. Place soil booster in a 5 gallon bucket on your back porch and wait for spring.


  1. Simply dig a trough and dump the contents from your collection into the trough, cover with soil and wait a few weeks.

This method works just the same if you use raised beds AND you can even just place a shovel full of kitchen waste in the soil around your favorite plants.  FYI - roses LOVE banana peels!

Most things will be decomposed within a few weeks. Pineapple tops seem to take the longest to break down in my soil but eventually they do. 

What is left behind?  Enriched happy soil ready to do its best.

We have filled 3 buckets so far this winter. They do freeze and thaw but they don’t stink. Occasionally our curious magpie buddies come along and find something they think they need. If you have critters that may think these treats are for them simply cover with a screen and a brick to keep them out.

My kids and even hubby have been trained to bring apple cores, orange peels and banana peels back home in the empty lunch containers.

And it won’t cost you a single extra penny AND you offset that waste from ending up in a burn plant or landfill.

Pat yourself on the back. Mother Earth thanks you too!

Happy Collecting!


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Too many Tomatoes? Solve Your Problem with This Recipe!

Tomato lover? Here's how you can tell.

  • You own and use wall-o-waters.
  • You may or may not admit to saving egg shells to add to your soil where you plant tomatoes.
  • You grow heirlooms for flavor adventure but know they take forever to ripen so you have hybrids too.
  • You have tried several types of cages and almost drooled when they finally started selling heavier gage wire cages in cute colors.
  • You don't buy store tomatoes.
  • You would rather NOT have a tomato than eat one that tastes like cardboard.

If you are overflowing with tomatoes it's time to FREEZE them. Yes, you know I am obsessed with freezing everything but this one is a no brainer. Quarter, (freeze on a silpat), pile and cram until your gallon bag is bulging. We use these frozen tomatoes several ways:

  • in our fruit and veggie smoothies
  • in tomato bisque soup
  • in tortilla soup (will post in a few weeks)

Today, I share with you my Tomato Bisque soup that can be made with fresh or frozen tomatoes.

Oh and if you were wondering if it were any good ... ALL 5 of us eat it. That says A LOT!

AND I served it to friends at a Christmas party last year.


Tomato Bisque

  • 8-10 cups quartered tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6-8 Tbsp whole wheat flour (white whole wheat or regular whole wheat)
  • 5 cups water
  • 5-8 Tbsp Bouillon ( I use the Organic Better than Bouillon Chicken Flavor)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp powdered thyme (or 2 fresh sprigs if you have it)

If using frozen tomatoes, set them out a few hours ahead of time. I just dump 1/2 a gallon sack into my 8 cup Pyrex mixing bowl. They need to be able to blend down and be smooth so you don't want them frozen solid. You can also thaw in the microwave and add some of the water (5 cups) it calls for toward the end of the recipe to thin them down so they can blend smoothly.

Blend 1/2 the tomatoes in your high powered blender until seeds are obliterated.

In a large saucepan or medium sized pot add butter and oil over medium heat. CAREFULLY add onion and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent.

Add 6-8 Tbsp whole wheat flour to onion mixture to form a roux. Cook for a minute, stirring constantly, to cook the raw flavor out of the flour.

Add roux to blender with 1/2 the tomatoes you all ready blended smooth. Blend mixture until smooth. It will take a minute or so on high to get the texture smooth and lovely. Add mixture back to the pot. Blend remaining tomatoes until smooth and add to your pot. Add water ( I measure with the tomatoey blender to rinse out the goodness into my pot not the sink), boullion, bay leaves and thyme. Let it simmer for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves and fresh thyme (if you used it). ENJOY!!!!

Each packed 1 gallon bag makes 2 batches of soup.

We love tomato soup with grilled cheese. We discovered cutting the sandwich into soldiers (rectangles) made for a better dipping experience.

Freeze your tomatoes! Do it now and pack away as many as you can. 

Last year I froze about 15 gallons for our family. I only have 4 1/2 gallons as of today but give me a week or two and all I'll have my 15 gallon supply of tomatoes all nestled away in their icy tomb.

Stay tuned for a similar tomato based recipe for Tortilla Soup in a few weeks. Another awesome recipe to use up your tomatoes when the chill sets in!

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Happy Freezing!


Using Your Garden to Help Pay for College Part 1 of 2

Part 1 of  2

After WWII, my grandparents bought a used Army bus and converted it into a mobile grocery market.  My grandparents were solving the problem of food deserts before the term was coined.

Suppose it was in our blood to do the same. Deliver the good stuff, right to the people.

About 7-8 years ago my kids started their own mobile green grocery store with the extra pumpkins grandpa had grown for them. Their mobile market was a little red wagon and their customers, gracious neighbors.

Ligtbulb moment.

Making a few bucks off pumpkins several years ago has evolved into our own CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) of sorts. We sell veggies and a little bit of fruit by the box each week to a set list of people who want our fresh, home-grown love. Proceeds go toward college.

  • My kiddos use my garden (and my dad's) to help pay for college as they pick produce and deliver it each week to their customers.
  • Here are the deets on our College Savings Garden Boxes the kiddos sell to our gracious friends and neighbors.
  • Produce is picked by the entire family once a week from our garden and at my parent’s house.
  • Everything that is fresh and ready to go that week gets divided up equally into the boxes - think seasonal, low-carbon foot print micro-farm.
  • Boxes are delivered – not only does it ensure I’m not babysitting boxes of produce with no room in the fridge should someone forget to pick it up, it creates a real connection with the people who receive the tasty garden treasures.  I’m told people love our boxes as much as they love the visit with the delivery. Yes, it takes longer but it’s time well spent.
  • Money is piled up. We charge $10 per box and deliver 9-11 boxes weekly depending on availability of customers and if we have “back up homes” for the boxes. I have been told more than once by more than one customer we don't charge enough. *Shrugs*
  • A weekly box can be too much for some families so we do have a few who get them every other week.
  • Our season begins in early June with just bags of peas (shelling and snap) - $2.50 for quart bags stuffed full(actually sold $10 gallon bags this year too).
  • Boxes start around mid-June with a handful of anxious regular customers until we can put together the volume needed to start delivering to everyone around mid-late July. The picking ends when the frost hits.
  • If the kiddos don’t help pick they don’t get paid. Our first grader may only net $20 this year because he only likes to help deliver. His sisters are totally cool with not having to share too much with him. They have math skills.

Kids are bitten by mosquitos, fight over who is picking what, take too long to pick the green beans, eat gobs of blackberries when they should be picking and are learning how to sweat until the job is all the way done.

With peas and box delivery the kiddos counted up over $700 last night. We still have 5-ish weeks to go in the season and will easily surpass our goal of $1000 a season.

We are able to do this because we have refined the process over the last several years. Start with a wagon full of extras, evolve to a few boxes and see what you have the energy and time to support.

Next Tuesday's post will be about what is actually in a box, an excellent idea if you only have time and space for one "crop", how to make money with produce without having a garden and how I tricked my kiddos into having a tangible feel for how much college costs.

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Happy Growing!