Tuesday, August 25, 2009

galloping just to stay behind!

would you be shocked if i told you that we've been a little busy around here? i know you might be, because I've never said that before!

so kidding.
it seems as if it has truly been busier than normal around here, with a plethora of things to do~ and that's just the list for the AM!

we did 350+ ears of corn on Monday, and with all of us working at it, we were done by lunch time. (which was good, considering that we still had 3 bushels of tomatoes to do up into spaghetti sauce!)
every one had corn for breakfast. and dinner.

we were able to borrow a turkey fryer, and we did the corn outside. not so starchy and sticky for the new kitchen= Happy family.

everyone helped- whether it was with husking, blanching, cutting the kernels off the cob, freezer bagging, cleaning up or washing the dishes. it's a ton of work, and we only have a little over half the corn we need, but i did want to get the bulk of the corn done before the kids left for college. (on Friday!!!)

after lunch we did the "divide and conquer" game plan, with some of us finishing up the corn, and others washing and cooking tomatoes, ready for the squeezo. in spite of the fact that the kitchen stove did its level best to either die or blow up, (or both!) we managed to churn out 40+ quarts of spaghetti sauce. and perhaps even more amazing, they were all our own tomatoes, wrested from the evil and determined clutches of the tomato blight! additionally, both the peppers and onions that we used for the spaghetti sauce were also grown in our very own garden. as were the herbs. but I'll stop bragging now.

then, as if there wasn't enough going on this week, we just butchered 11 of the buff orpington roosters. because 12 roosters is clearly too many.


add to that freezing green peppers and the occasional mess of green beans, and i would say that everyone should just be happy with clean underwear.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday's Livestock and Garden Report ~ Week 21

it's been a busy week, with the garden finally starting to produce. i can brag about an impressive list of veggies that we've been harvesting: onions, peppers, summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, beans and of course the old stand by, potatoes.

we've picked green beans several times this week, being diligent to stay current on the picking. the beans are of course much better that way. when the green beans/ground cover ripens in the UG, there will be tones of beans! probably way too many~ but we'll just sell the extra, and feed the extra of the extra to the pigs.

the ducks have fallen out of favor this week. although we enjoy watching them wander through the yard and play in the puddle, they did a very naughty thing. (as A would say!) i had planted my second crop of peas, counting on the cooler weather and delayed frost to harvest my own instead of buying. they (the peas) were coming up nicely, and all 6 of the double rows were about 3" high. one afternoon soon after i let them out, the ducks were observed eating straight down the rows of tender pea shoots! they were quite happy, wiggling their tail and muttering among themselves. almost as if they were saying thank-you! thank you for planting a row for each of us. thank you for putting them in such a neat and straight line. grrrr! well, fortunately for me and my family, the local grocery store had a sale on this week: Bird's Eye peas ~ 1 pound, 1 dollar. so my freezer is stocked with peas, and since that's what i set about to do, i guess i don't have much to complain about.

it was a rough week for the meat birds, too. we lost 13 or so, which was quite a blow. it's a combination of heat, water, crowding and stupidity. (of the birds, i mean!) that just reinforces to Dave and i that we need to take a much more active role in supervising the livestock and instructing in proper care. but we can console ourselves with a pithy little nugget that a farmer friend shared with me after church on Sunday: "if you have livestock, you're going to have deadstock." how true, how true...

we are harvesting tomatoes, although the plants are quickly dying off. they look really terrible in the garden, but as long as I'm getting some tomatoes, I'll let them suffer through. we've been eating fresh garden salsa and i even made some spaghetti sauce. I'll be able to make many more quarts of sauce, just not in the big quantities that i prefer.

N, G, A and B helped me transplant, mulch and water all the cauliflower and broccoli that we put into the high tunnel. I'm holding out hope that we'll be able to harvest these veggies, too! (we will not put the new plastic on the high tunnel until it gets much cooler, as the cauliflower and broccoli prefers the cool weather.)

this week we purchased 8 of the big round bales of hay for mulch. today G and Dave were working at spreading a layer of hay over the parts of the LG that are done. the LG is pretty much done producing, but alot of the potatoes are still in the ground, so of course we can't mulch there yet. the plan with the hay is to improve the soil for next year. some portions of the LG have had 2 rounds of buckwheat, and now the hay. hopefully next year we will see an improvement in the soil fertility.

which leads me to think that maybe, just maybe, we can work our way up to being a CSA, providing food for 10-12 other families besides ourselves. somewhere between Dave's pessimism and my optimism lies the reality. as we continue to work together to improve our little spot of soil, we learn and grow together. we've been inspired by this blog this week, and keep thinking, maybe we can do this after all! (and we cant' whine about living in zone 5, because they do, too!)

I'll leave you with a few recipes, so you can enjoy your own garden's bounty!

Spaghetti Sauce

½ bushel tomatoes (roma is best)
3 lb. onions
4 red peppers
2 green peppers
1 stalk celery
1-2 T parsley
2 T sweet basil
2 T oregano
1 ½ c. sugar

process tomatoes. (wash, cut out bad spots, boil and run through the squeezo) put onions, peppers and celery through food processor. combine with tomatoes and sugar and bring to gentle boil on stove. BE CAREFUL not to over boil, or your sauce will get dark and bitter. (don't ask me how i know this, just trust me.) if you're using dried herbs, you can add them at the beginning, but wait until the end if you're using fresh.

prep your jars and lids, and have your hot water canner already boiling. into each quart jar add 1 T lemon juice. hot water bath 30 minutes.

(this sauce is thinner than the store bought that has all sorts of nasty thickening chemicals added to it, but i often add 1 can of tomato paste, especially when I'm making spaghetti)

Garden Fresh Salsa

chop up a bunch of tomatoes. (about 2 cups) if you're using beef steak toms, squeeze out some of the juicy stuff in the middle. salt semi-generously, and set aside.

now cut up equal amounts of green peppers, purple onions, cucumbers and even summer squash if you're feeling particularly brave (or healthy)

drain the tomatoes and combine all the chopped veggies. add lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro. serve immediately with tortilla chips. yummy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday's Livestock and Garden Report ~ Week 20

Glory Be and hallelujah! my garden is finally starting to produce something other than potatoes!

my very optimistic late planting of summer squash is flowering! and look: there's even a baby squash gestating. we're doing a little happy dance up and down the garden rows!

the onion sets from Gurney's are done growing, and this week G and the little girls helped me pull them. we got about a bushel.

some were very small; hardly bigger than when we planted them back in April. makes me wonder what they've been doing with themselves these last 4 months!

we ordered and planted 6 bunches. hopefully next year we will have better fixed the fertility issues in the lower garden. I'll still plant more onions next year, but this is a good start!

the potatoes are growing like gangbusters! these are some big ones that i pulled out to show off, but i should have put something (like a coffee mug) next to them to show how big they really are. the biggest one on the right is bigger than 2 fists!

we dig fresh potatoes pretty regularly, and pack them in bags that i make from our multitude of feed sacks. 10lb. for $5.

the produce stand is bringing in some small, but steady income. red Pontiac potatoes definitely seem to be the favorite, so next year i plan on planting more than 50 pounds of that variety.

the honour system works pretty well in our rural county, and we've not had too many issues with stolen potatoes. (with the exception of one day last week when someone took 20 pounds of potatoes and left me 29 cents!)

the peppers are doing nicely as well. dare i say that we're being inundated with fresh produce?

the 5 ducks are quite happy. (the 6th died unexpectedly a few weeks back) every afternoon we let them out to free range, and they are quite comical to watch as they waddle (all in a row) where ever they go.

the morning glories right outside the back door have finally grown taller than the cherry tomatoes (it was a neck-and-neck race for the sunlight) and are cheerily blooming every morning.

A is quite proud of these sunflowers that she planted with the nasturtiums.

the chipmunks planted all the rest of the sunflowers. all over the flower gardens there are little sunflowers randomly and eclectically coming up. the goldfinches are enjoying them, and we like to see the diversity of birds that comes for a snack.

the cherry tomatoes are almost prolific~ A and B really like to go out to see if any are ready, and beg for someone to pick them a fresh 'mater. i really like having the cherry tomatoes right outside the back door, and plan on putting them there again next year. once they start producing, it's really hard to keep up with them. having the plants in such a convenient spot makes that task almost effortless.

we're getting a few tomatoes from the upper garden as well. it's really a horrible year for tomatoes, so the yield is disappointing.

again, A and B enjoy eating a fresh tomato just like you would an apple. (all my kids have done that)
the tomato plants themselves look horrible. they are all brown and dead from the bottom up, and the Florida staking system fell over after a recent heavy rain. we were busy cooking for the roofers, and i never got out to fix it.

that being said, i really like the Florida staking system and plan on using it again next year, just implementing the things that i learned from experience this year: taller and stronger stakes.

the broccoli and cauliflower in the cold frame is doing very well, and i plan on transplanting the seedlings to the high tunnel in the next few days.

due to the tomato blight, the tomatoes in the high tunnel were a total flop this year. nevertheless, we plan on trying again next year, applying the things that we learned: only 2 rows of tomatoes, plant indeterminate and train them up string, or longer and stronger stakes for the Florida staking. I'd also like to grow some cherry tomatoes in hanging pots, to better utilize the upper space.

our second planting/cover crop of beans is growing nicely. (lots of "growing nicely" in this post! but then again, it's about time for some good news!)

these are the beans that i planted around the tomato cages. they are training themselves right up, and are even taller than i am now. i really like having them on the tomato cages, and plan on doing that again next year, as well. (i thought up that idea myself, and I'm quite proud of it!)

these are the cover crop beans, and even though they are pole beans, i don't plan on staking them. they'll just have to produce despite the benign neglect, or just be tilled under!

look closely- you'll see the baby beans! Dave "took care" of the groundhog problem in the upper garden, so these beans actually had a chance to do their beany thing!

and look~ real, live beans! from our very own garden! we'll have some for lunch, and I'll freeze some, too. there should be another picking in a few days.

we still have lettuce, too. since it's been such a cool summer, that has extended far longer than we thought it would. i have the 4th planting in the second cold frame, and this time planted spinach, too.

we planted 10 pounds of onion sets, and while most of them did not get exceedingly big, they made a respectable showing.

next year I'll definitely plant more purple onions, maybe as much as 7+ pounds. i like to use them in recipes, just for the extra color.

the beets were a disappointment, but that was for several reasons. the lower garden is not very fertile, and compound that with the fact that i could just not bring myself to thin out the beets, (it feels so wasteful!) they did not get very big.

before bringing the beets to the house, we stopped off at the pigs and gave them the too small beets, as well as the tops of the beets we were canning.

we managed to eke out 12 pints of pickled beets. not too bad, considering that i don't' even like pickled beets! (the jar that i entered in the county fair won second place!)

I'll end this lengthy post with my recipe for pickled beets- just in case you want to preserve some of your own summer bounty to dislike on a cold winters day!

Pickled Beets

harvest whatever beets you've managed to grow and that haven't been eaten by the deer, woodchucks or rabbits. top them all, and scrub clean. put beets in large pot, covering with water. boil until tender. drain, reserving beet juice. cut off tops and root tap, and slip off skins. pack hot into pint jars. cover with pickled juice.

pickled juice:

2 cups sugar

2 sticks cinnamon

1 T whole allspice

3 ½ cups vinegar

1 ½ water ( use your drained beet juice)

simmer this for 15 minutes, and then ladle over your beets in jar, leaving 1/4" head space. remove air bubbles. process pints (and quarts) 30 minutes in boiling water canner.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

we enjoyed an evening at the county fair

we worked really hard while putting the new roof on our house, so we were especially looking forward to relaxing at the county fair for an evening.

it's fun to take the whole gang and go see all the sights: animals, quilts, people and food!

the baby goats were both curious and friendly.

looks like this one would like to sample the juice from A's cup!

baby B is so much like her daddy. she was almost mesmerized by this tractor, and was fascinated by the tire!

this is the tractor that I want! how much easier it would be to keep my garden weeded and under control! (and how much fun would it be to drive a cool little tractor like that?!)

a trip to the fair would just not be complete without the required dosage of cotton candy. B was intrigued with how it just melted away in her mouth.

we were so pleased to see that both our Yukon Gold and Red Pontiac potatoes received first place! now we can honestly advertise at our produce stand that we have the best potatoes in Bradford county!

i entered 8 things in the home arts section of the fair, and 7 of them received a ribbon. i was disappointed to not have received any blue ribbons for first place, but then there's always next year!

Monday, August 10, 2009

the best gift of all!

when A recently turned 3, we didn't want to lavish her with tons of presents. balance that with desiring to tangibly show your little one how much you care, and it can be a delicate harmony to achieve.

M came up with the perfect solution: a coupon book! M cleverly fashioned a coupon book out of index cards for A: 6 perforated paper promises for a trip to the playground!

(and of course, B was welcome to come along!)

the girls (all 3!) had fun at the playground each time they went. and A can look back with happy memories to remember that her big sister gave her the present that really means the most: time!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

"Skwaps to Waps" ~ a day with our church family

on the 4th Wednesday of every month, we leave the guys at home to fend for themselves and the girls and i head to church for a wonderful day of fellowship and encouragement. Scraps to Wraps is our church's women's sewing circle and we work on making quilts to share with those in need: both locally and around the world.
i enjoy the time with other women from my church family, and always come away refreshed (but exhausted!)

Lorraine donated all this fabric, and after her mother cut it all into squares, M had fun helping sort out the colors.

even baby B had fun with the sorting, and A was right along side lending a hand. after we had the squares sorted by color, M and i paired them up into 4 patch squares for Lorraine to sew.

most of our quilts we tie, and it's surprising how many we can get done in one day: sometimes as many as 6!

i especially love that all the women are loving and tender with A and B. with no local family to lavish them with hugs and attention, the little girls are bonding with some of the older women in our church.

it seems so old-fashioned and wholesome to have the girls sitting under the quilt frame playing quietly. just like a scene straight out of little house on the prairie!

the girls are right alongside us all day long as we work: these are the future quilters!

no matter the housework, schooling or gardening to be done on Scraps to Wraps day, you'll find us in at church sewing. while we go to help make quilts to comfort those in need, we are really the ones who are benefiting: with love, fellowship and deeper friendships.


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