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Well hello, friend!
I keep hearing others say that it seems like January has stretched on for a long time. But I feel like the month has gone by so quickly for me. And that’s why this newsletter is arriving in your inbox on the last day of the month.
January is usually the month when I look forward to staying indoors, bundled in a blanket every evening as a polar vortex hits. But this year, the month has had many abnormally warm days. I even managed to run a few times outdoors! Instead of strictly snow, we’ve had a few days of rain. That’s weird for this time of year in Iowa and makes me feel a bit out of sorts! I’ve mentioned before that I look forward to winter as it’s my time to hibernate and not feel guilty for staying indoors. I need time to rest indoors before taxing my body in the garden during the spring.
In some exciting news, I emptied the entire second floor of my house this month in preparation for a remodel. The wiring in my upstairs is the old knob and tube, and it’s way overdue for an upgrade to something a bit safer. More on that in February’s newsletter – stay tuned!
All this made the month go by quickly and left me still wanting some winter weather. As with many other things, I’m sure the old saying “If you don’t like the weather in Iowa, just wait until tomorrow” will hold faithful, and winter will come. But that may mean that February and March (and maybe even April) will have the brunt of the winter winds. My prediction: we’ll have a cold spring this year, and gardening will start later than it did in past years.
January is usually slow and quiet, but we have a decent amount to catch up on. I hope you are holding something warm to drink as we chat about all that’s happened.
Let’s talk about the garden.
There’s no outdoor gardening happening this month, but I often check on my plant room. In case you didn’t know, I retrofitted an old insulated work room on the farm with windows and grow lights. I store all my tropicals, agaves, succulents, ferns, and tender plants in this room over the winter so I can keep them from year to year. During the colder periods, I check the room more often to ensure the radiant heaters, of which I have two, are working correctly. Even on the coldest days, they manage to keep the room at 70°F or more, but I need to adjust the heaters as the temperatures fluctuate between cool and warm.
Monitoring the heaters allows me time to check on and water my plants. When it comes to watering, it’s been my experience that allowing plants to stay on the dry side works best, as too much wetness can be a breeding ground for root rot and pests. So instead, I let my plants dry out well before giving them additional water.
The one important exception to this watering logic is ferns. They like to stay a bit more hydrated than some of the other residents in my plant room. In particular, my Kimberly Queen ferns need frequent water. This is likely because they’re root-bound, meaning their roots are beginning to outgrow their container. And you know what that means? They need to be re-potted, and I plan to do that when I bring all the plants outside in the spring.
The only outdoor garden project this month, which thankfully didn’t involve actually going outside, was ordering seeds for the vegetable garden. I don’t buy all new seeds each year, but I do take the time to find and dispose of those seeds that are three or more years old. These seeds could still be good, but the germination rates do start to decline at this age. Thus, I often purchase new seeds to hedge my bets and ensure the best germination rates.
It’s also a great time to check for any new seeds I want to grow. I know that may sound funny, but as a gardener and lover of fruits and vegetables, new and unique varieties are fun to buy! That’s mainly the reason I start my own vegetable plants. Many of the types my mom and I grow are heirloom, which are either unavailable or hard to find at garden centers as seedlings.
If you’re looking to order seeds, make sure to check out my favorite places to shop:
Let’s talk about some food.
When we’re discussing food, I’m not too fond of the phrase “new year, new me.” Instead, I’m the same “me” and enjoy all of the same foods. I don’t put pressure on eating differently or aiming to be healthier simply because it’s a new year. All meals should include a sense of balance and be healthy if made at home.
On my website, January has been a month full of delicious food. Let’s run through some of my favorites:
- Skillet sausage with white beans and kale is a quick one-skillet meal full of flavor. Plus, it’s healthy and filling.
- One skillet lemon chicken with orzo and kale is another one-skillet weeknight wonder. Yes, it has kale, too, but every meal needs some greens. The chicken is flavorful from a quick marinade, and the orzo soaks in all the flavor.
- An easy-to-make French bread was a recent recipe that everyone seemed to love! I’ve received so many pictures of beautiful bread loaves coming out of the oven. A few people said that bread always intimidated them, but this recipe changed their minds. Nothing makes me feel happier! So if you’ve been scared to bake bread, try this recipe!
- My classic blondies were also a hit, and how couldn’t they be? The bars are stirred in one bowl and baked to perfection in no time.
In a recent short video, I made one of my favorite side dishes: roasted broccolini. It’s a vegetable you see in the grocery store but don’t necessarily know how to prepare. Here’s what I do:
- In a skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp of avocado oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add 1 bunch of broccolini and let it sauté for 5-7 minutes. When the broccolini starts to char around the edges, add 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp rice vinegar, 1 thinly-sliced garlic clove, and 2 tsp grated ginger. Mix everything together and allow the soy sauce to dissipate slightly. Remove from the heat and eat immediately!
Let’s talk about Kip.
Kip is at one of his best points. He’s walking well, his bladder is functioning as it should, and his urinary tract infection has been cleared up as of late. We’ll need to watch the UTI, as it could come back after his antibiotics have run their course.
The one thing I wish I could help him with is feeling better around strangers. Before his diagnosis and paralyzation in 2021, Kip loved anyone and everyone he met. But during his healing, he’s been suspicious of strangers and will sometimes growl when meeting someone new. I believe it all stems from the time when I had to leave him at the hospital for a week. I’m sure it was a traumatic experience, and he’s likely fearful that anyone new he meets will take him away from me.
Overall, this is a small thing compared to where he was a year ago, and I’m glad it’s all I have to worry about now. Hopefully, as time goes by, his attitude toward strangers will soften, and he’ll return to his happy-go-lucky self.
That’s all for this first month of the year! Whether it’s been long or short for you, I hope you enjoyed it and have a fresh outlook for February. We’re still in the throes of winter, so let’s buckle in for another month of snuggling on the couch with dreams of what spring will bring.
Until next month, stay warm!
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