Monday, December 29, 2014

Winter Harvests

I don't always plant a fall/winter garden, but when I do I am always reminded of how nice it is to have a winter garden. The crops are so much easier maintenance than a summer garden. And the flavor of fresh picked broccoli and English peas is divine!

This year I have broccoli, which we are harvesting at least 3 times a week now. We have English peas, which are just starting to produce pods, Then there is Swiss chard, which I love, and am so glad to have in the garden again. I had really missed eating Swiss chard.

I also have 3 cabbages, which look really good.

I tried to grow 2 types of onions from seed. The seeds all sprouted and looked good until I transferred them into the garden. Now I have 2 little sections of about 10 onions in each. I don't know what happened. There were probably 100 of each variety before I transferred them to the garden. Maybe I didn't water enough. I don't know.

I also planted some garlic, which looks great.

I hope to plant some bok choi and Red Flowered Fava beans next week. I may plant more Swiss chard, too.

That's it for me. See what others are harvesting on Daphne's Dandelions. Happy New Year!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Harvest Monday Labor Day Edition

This week, I harvested the last of my tomatoes and pulled the plants. They had wilt in a bad way and I found a tomato hornworm on the plant when I pulled it. (yuck.)

I am starting to harvest more okra than I was. I guess it is coming into its own. The plants look really good and healthy. The okra makes me so happy!

Every day I harvested some okra.  Every day I also harvested Lima beans, Mississippi Cream peas, and Ruth Bible beans.

This week, the local news was talking about sweet potato harvests in town, so I harvested my sweet potatoes. They looked really good. I don't know how many I should have gotten out of the number of slips I planted, but I feel pretty happy with the harvest. That bucket was pretty heavy and the sweet potatoes in the photo with the tomatoes are not the same sweet potatoes. I put them on the picnic table to start curing them. And then I brought them into the garage to finish curing. It was about 24 big sweet potatoes and quite a few more little bitty ones.

I am linking up with Daphne's Dandelions for Harvest Mondays. Go on over and see what everybody else is harvesting!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Harvest Monday August 18, 2014

I have only been gardening for 3 years. Here is a picture of my first garden.

Yep. That was it. 3 four by four squares of soil. Wow, how times have changed. Here are a couple of pictures of it now.

I am grateful for all the posts people write for Harvest Mondays. I kept trying because of all those posts. Thank you to every person who has posted a Harvest Monday post. I read your posts and they have inspired me. And to Daphne, thank you for hosting it all these years.

Strawberries on the vine

A representative harvest basket from this week.

okra, green beans, strawberries, and lima beans in the harvest

Linking with Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Monday.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Harvest Monday July 14, 2014

A big thank you to Daphne from Daphne's Dandelions for hosting Harvest Mondays!

Okra, cherry tomatoes, pears, and cucumbers

crushed tomatoes in their own juices

okra, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes


Here are some pictures from this week's harvests. The tomatoes are not from my garden. I went to a you pick place and bought enough to can some crushed tomatoes in their own juices.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Blueberry Crunch Recipe

If you have an abundance of blueberries and are looking for a good recipe in which to use them, you might try this recipe. I changed the amount of blueberries to 3 cups and, therefore, used 3 T corn starch and 3 T lemon juice.

Blueberry Crunch

I love it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Few Life Hacks for Canning Jars

I was talking to my husband this morning, wondering why anybody would buy these (theoretically affiliate link)

when there are things we regularly purchase that are the size of regular mouth canning jars. He said that he thought most people did not know these things would fit. Well, I thought I would tell you so that you will know from now on.

examples of regularly purchased products that fit canning jars
Canning jars with these lids on them. I am currently storing
dried basil in the one on the left and the 2 on the right contain
my pepper sauce.
The smaller size peanut butter jars fit perfectly on regular mouth canning jars. Most mayonnaise lids do, too, but Bama Mayonnaise does not for some reason.

I haven't yet found a lid that fits perfectly on wide mouth canning jars, but I have something that works really well. I will try to explain it to you.

That jar on the left in the picture is the type of coconut oil I regularly buy. Its lid is just slightly too large for the large mouth canning jars.

Here is what I did to fix that.

Take a large mouth canning ring and the lid you want to use. 

Snap the lid over the top of the canning ring. 

Press hard. It's tight, but the fit is good. 

Here's what it looks like when you have them connected. 
Then you just use it as you would any lid. It fits perfectly! I love finding ways to use everyday things!
It is better for the environment. And it's better for my pocket book.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Harvest Monday July 7, 2014

I am joining Daphne's Dandelions for Harvest Monday today. I want to send a big "thank you" to Daphne for hosting this event. It's fun. You can see what others are harvesting by going to the link.

It has been a pretty good harvest week for me. First up, I will talk about my pears. I gathered 2 baskets full. That's wonderful! I have had trouble with Japanese rust on that tree for the past few years, so it hasn't had fruit on it. There was a little Japanese rust this year, but someone told me that if I put Epsom salts under the tree to the drip line of the leaves every time it was getting ready to rain, it would help. I tried it, and it helped more than this expensive and hard-to-apply organic stuff I bought.

My mother-in-law really loves pear relish, so I made her nine pint jars from the first basket of pears. I have to dole it to her one jar at a time or she will eat so much of it she makes herself sick. I didn't grow up with it and it isn't my favorite, but it makes her happy.
Pear relish to the left and a basket of pears to the right. 

Pears. You can see a little of the Japanese rust on the very top

Pear relish
 Then, I made 2 quarts of spiced pear sauce.  I added 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and a ground cloves. YUM! I think it is good enough to eat as a dessert. :)
Spiced pear sauce (like apple sauce, but with pears)

I don't have the best luck with corn, but this is better than the first time I grew it. We got four edible sized ears today and have about 8 more in the garden.
The okra is coming in pretty well. It's just getting started, so it should hit its stride pretty soon. We all love it and are happy to be eating it again.
Stewart's Zeebest okra
 My son is in a 4-H Junior Master Gardener program. It's been a great experience for him. He planted 9 hot peppers in the garden, because of the class. We weren't sure that we would get anything off of them, because they looked very poorly for a long time, but they are bouncing back and we got our first hot pepper this week. He has several different types of hot peppers, so I hope he can at least taste all the different ones. Maybe he will become a chili head! He's only nine and really loves spicy, so we will see.
Hot banana pepper
 The cucumbers are providing us with tasty cucumbers every day. I have squash vine borers on the cucumber plant (argh!), so I don't know how long we will be able to get them, but I am going to enjoy every one that we can get. They taste so wonderful!
And last, but not least, the swallow tailed kites are back in town! Out whole family just loves these birds! They are relatively rare birds in much of the country and several states have them listed as endangered and/or threatened. We love to watch them swoop, soar and dive. And as a bonus, they eat a lot of snakes. It is so neat to see them carrying a snake through the sky, holding it by the middle, both ends of the snake flying behind them like a banner. 
swallow tailed kite behind our home

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Why I Put Up My Own Salsa

This week I took my kids to the you pick place and bought 2 five gallon buckets of tomatoes, and a bucket of hot and bell peppers. We bought a few onions, but most were spoiled, so we didn't buy many.

I went to the local grocery to supply the rest of the onions and the fresh cilantro.

And I have been chopping, slicing, dicing, peeling and processing ever since.

tomatoes I have left after canning 12 quarts of salsa.
So, after standing on my feet for three days, chopping and canning, I was beginning to wonder....
Quarts of salsa

Why am I doing all this?

Here are my answers.

  1. I have control over the ingredients.
  2. I can use local ingredients in season.
  3. My salsa requires less packaging than store bought.
  4. I have less waste than stores would, because I dry the tomato skins.
  5. Dried tomato skins equal free tomato paste, so there is even less packaging/shipping waste.
  6. I don't have to worry about the BPA found in store bought packages.
  7. My packaging (canning jars) are mostly re-usable. 
  8. There is less transportation and therefore less gas is used to gather and process them. I did drive an hour to the you pick place, but in a regular processing situation for the stores, the farmer would have had to drive the produce to the processing plant, the processing plant would have to deal with it, then it would be taken to a regional store, then a local store and then I would have to drive to get it.
  9. I am sure there are no fake ingredients in my salsa.
And the last on the list, but probably the most important reason:

    10. It tastes better!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Potatoes in Grow Bags

The potatoes in grow bags, looking  great and healthy.
I was really hopeful about the potatoes. I bought the best seed potatoes I could afford.

I added 4 bags of soil into the grow bags.

I read up on growing potatoes in grow bags through the Kenosha Potato Project.

So, all signs pointed to a nice potato harvest.

I harvested them June 10, 2014, and well....

We harvested 36 potatoes, including the ones smaller
than Dum Dum lollipops.
Yeah, um, 36 potatoes. Not 36 pounds. Fail.

I guess I don't know how to grow potatoes. Sigh.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Scrap of a Poem

by Wendell Berry

The mind still hungers
for its earth, its bounded
and open space, the term
of its final assent. It keeps
the vision of an independent
modest abundance. It dreams
of cellar and pantry filled,
the source well husbanded.
And yet it learns care
reluctantly, and late.
It suffers plaintively from
its obligations. Long 
attention to detail
is a cross it bears only 
by congratulating itself.
It would like to hurry up 
and get more than it needs
of several pleasant things.
It dreads all the labors
of common decency.
It recalls, with disquieting
sympathy, the motto
of a locally renowned
and long dead kinsman: "Never
set up when you can lay down."

You can read most of the rest of the poem here.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Blueberry Picking -- Some Numbers

Temperature: 93 degrees F.  (34 degrees C)

37 minute drive to the u-pick farm.

One picker. (me)

Three hours picking.

Price paid: $41.

Total picked: 14 gallons.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Swiss Chard

I really love my Swiss chard.

  1. I love the way it grows so happily in mostly-shady situations. Some of mine grows where it only gets about 3 hours of sunlight a day.  
    Swiss chard growing beside my house. It only gets
    about 3 hours of sunlight, and that in the afternoon.
  2. I love the taste of it.
  3. I love that in my Southern garden, I can grow it most of the year.
  4. I love that Swiss chard is pretty enough to grow in the front yard garden. 
The only time I can't grow Swiss chard is when it is going to seed. Luckily, this year, my son's Junior Master Gardeners group took the Swiss chard they had growing out and I was able to plant this plant to tide me over until the seeds come in and my baby Swiss chard plants are big enough to harvest.

Swiss chard given to our family by the leaders of the Junior Master Gardeners
Swiss chard going to seed. 

Baby Swiss chard in the garden. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

71 Pounds of Peaches!

I stored the peaches in the garage to finish ripening,
to lay them flat and to keep them out of the way
while I worked on other peaches.
The picture above is the only one I took of the wonderful, amazing beautiful harvest of peaches my 3 year old tree gave me. Before it was over, that 8 foot table was covered with peaches, even though
I was peeling, cutting, removing seeds and processing about a basket-full a day.

All told, it took me almost 2 weeks to completely process 71 pounds of peaches. I would work on them at the table every day for as long as I could stand it. My hands got sore and crampy from peeling and cutting that many small peaches. My shoulders cramped from sitting in basically the same position for hours at a time. Thank goodness I had Young Living Panaway and Young Living Stress Away. I used Young Living Panaway on my hands to relieve the cramping and I used the Young Living Stress Away to get rid of a massive headache I got from sitting in that one position for hours on end. (And I do mean massive. The headache was one that 2 Aleve normally wouldn't touch. Stress Away relieved it in less than an hour.)
peach jam

I ended up with 3 pints of peach-pineapple jam with almond extract (totally yum!), and 13 pints of peach jam, and 5 really full gallon bags of frozen peaches. And the whole family ate peaches all day long for the last two weeks.

I am really happy about this, because this is the first harvest for me that really feels abundant. I have been grateful for every harvest I have ever gotten, but I would read other blogs and think, "That isn't how it happens here." So I am really glad for something that feels abundant.

You can see what others are harvesting at Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Mondays.

**I do distribute Young Living Essential oils. If you are interested, you can sign up through this link.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Close Up Views of the Spring Garden

By the front door. 

Crimson Flowered Fava beans. I just love this plant! It is stunningly
beautiful, has the most heavenly scent and (if I am lucky) gives me
seeds to save for next year. 

Pipevine plant. I added this plant to the butterfly garden because
Pipevine Swallowtails use this plant exclusively to host their caterpillars. 

Overloaded peaches on the tree. I need to thin. I have been working
on it, but all the limbs are covered that completely, and it is
taking awhile to get it done. 

Overwintered Swiss Chard with garlic in the center. I covered
the Chard over and over during the winter, and am hoping to
save seed. 

In the Garden Now April 2014

Occasionally, I post pictures of the way the garden looks right now. The last time I did this was May 1, 2013.

It was a hard winter, and many of my garden plants died. I also added many things to our little property. I think it's time for another one.

The Butterfly Garden by the front door. Notice the butterfly stepping stones
my kids painted and the old bird bath at the back of the picture. That
old bird bath has been painted and contains two types of mint.
The green in the front left is all Easter lilies. The green in the badk
left is lemon balm. 
I added the border to this bed a couple weeks ago. The green at the top
is oregano (with dianthus in the middle). The rest of the bed had
to be completely replanted. I lost everything that was here. It has
daffodils, renunculus, freesias, echinacea from Melissa at Ever Growing Farm, and some
baby zinnias.

The most up-to-date view of the peach tree with the new strawberry bed. 

Braeburn apple. 

Paw Paw tree. 

Pineapple guava.
 Do you think this pineapple guava will live? It's hard to tell from the picture, but there is a lot of brown on the older leaves. I covered it every time it got even moderately cold, but it still looks very burned and weak.

Hazelnut tree. 

The newly added garden beds. The orange you can see
is potato grow bags. 
 The hazelnuts, pawpaw trees and the pineapple guavas are all really small. I have the tomato trellises around them to keep the kids and their friends from stepping on them.