Nov 052014
 

Garden Update 2014Late last week, the weather forecast included lows that were below freezing.  Due to the location of the majority of my raised garden beds, I have avoided the light frosts that have visited us up to this point.  Once before I thought I would lose most of what was left to a frost, so had harvested all the remaining green tomatoes, onions, and herbs that were still hanging around.  Turns out I was wrong then, but did not want to chance it again.

The night before the forecasted freeze, I harvested all the green tomatoes, including the cherry and roma tomatoes.  With the last harvest of green tomatoes having been just a few weeks before, I did not think there would be many on the vines.  Yes, they have been loaded with blooms but the temperatures have been cool after all.  Well, I was wrong.  We ended up with a large bowl full of tomatoes of various sizes.

The same assumption was made in regards to the herbs, but again I was wrong.  I came away with a huge handful of parsley.  I chose to leave the basil, as I did not feel like I had time to give it the attention it needed before going bad.  As for the onions, they had not had enough time to mature, so I pulled them and laid them over so they could breakdown in place.

I also make one last pass through the marigolds, collecting seeds to use next year.  I have wanted to have enough seeds to start selling some on the stand in the Spring time, but had never reached that point.  This year, I made a point to collect seeds from dead heading with that goal alone in mind.  Yes, I will use some to grow for myself, but really want to take a step in trying something new (for me).

Looking at the bowl full of green tomatoes and wondering why I would find the time, and motivation, to deal with them, I realized that this was very much a job George could handle.  As for the flower seeds, Jack could very much do that.  This also meant that they could have jobs to do with me next to them or beside them.  They love when we get a chance to work together and they actually contribute.

green tomatoes food processor

The next day, I told George I had a job for him and showed him what I needed him to do.  He brought in a step stool and went to work.  First he took the green parts off the tops (I removed them from the plant in a hurry because it was cold and getting dark).  Next he added them to a colendar to rinse off.  Lastly, he put them into the food processor and pureed them.  I did the final step of measuring them out into bags to freeze for future use.  Since we were freezing them, having a few tomatoes that were starting to turn red did not make a difference to the process.

My husband was not so sure about this process when he realized that George was using the food processor “on his own”, but I reassured him that I was right there and George knew what he was doing.  Having allowed the kids to ‘help’ when they were younger by pushing the button with me, adding things through the shoot, cleaning the parts and so on, meant this was not the first time he had done this ‘job’.  It just mean that this was the first time he had done most of the steps by himself.  I have never allowed them to handle the actual blade yet, that will come in time.

gathering marigold seeds unlabeled collage

As for Jack and the flower seeds, we have not done that ‘job’ yet.  The seeds need to dry anyway before we put them away for the winter, so this is not a time sensitive activity.  It will most likely happen this week or weekend, but if not we will get to it next week so I can finally get the large envelopes of seeds off my counter.  Having marigold seeds spill out everywhere is not a fun thing and is something I have had to be conscious of when ever I move the fruit bowl; it is holding the envelops upright.

The plants in the garden still need to be removed, as it did freeze the night the forecast said it would.  Thankfully we have had some warmer days to be able to finish some last minute yard work, and for the work on the garage to start.  I had a bad dream about that last night, which means I am a bit worried that something will go wrong before they get a chance to start.

While thinking of putting the garden to rest for the winter, I am also thinking of what needs to be done to prepare it for next year.  I am needing to find a source of manure to add, hopefully before our first snow, and maybe a source of wood chips for the flower beds.  The compost pile is doing really well, though it also needs to be turned before freezing weather become a norm.

I can not help but think ahead to what I would like to do the same or different next year as compared to this year.  When the blackberry bushes started to send out canes that would root into the soil, I tried to place them where I wanted new plants to grow, and also put some down into post so I would be able to transplant them to a new location next year.

Strawberry bed year 2

 Strawberry bed, year 2

I need to give thought to the strawberry bed as well, realizing that I should have given these thoughts to it when I first put it in.  It is not beyond ‘fixing’ but will take a bit of intentional work to do so. Sometimes we learn as we go and have to go back.  Better to learn eventually than never I suppose.

The south facing bed next to the house is fairley small, about 2′ by 6′, and located under the eves of the house.  If it rains hard enough for the gutters to overflow, then the water falls halfway into the bed.  However, for the past several years we have not had rain that hard, so this bed is in full sun and lacks the opportunity to get that soft rains that we got this year.  I often forget to water it as I should, meaning it has not done well the past several years.  I am thinking of re-purposing an old hose into a drip irrigation sort of solution for this.  Easier for me to turn on and off at the spigot, rather than water it by hand every week.  The one okra plant that came up in another bed, rather the one that surivived my ‘week’ efforts earlier in the summer during dusk hours, did fairly well.  I love the look of the plants and we thinking of planting this bed into okra next year.  With the added water, it would not only do well, but grow tall enough to fit visually in this area – the window above it is about 8 feet off the ground.

Due to difference in growing zones, some of you may be looking at starting your gardens while others have been finished for a while.  I have lived in both places and found it hard to adjust my internal ‘garden clock’.  Would your rather live in a zone that has a clear end to the growing season for several months, or one where it is more of a break with the new one starting a month or so later?

Oct 232014
 

1414078687005-512958192

With various bushels of apples sitting in my kitchen, it was obvious what I really needed to do today.  The process actually started last night by making 6 quarts of sliced apples.  Today my goal was to turned a bushel into sliced apples as well.

I tried using a hand crank apple peeler.  This is a handy tool, but does not work well if there are soft spots or if the apples are too large.  In the end I used a knife and hand-held vegetable peeler.

1414078997377-631878098

Peeling apples takes time, and with it being just me here (besides Olaf who is 2 and not much help in the area of peeling apples) this might take a while.

The boys get out of school early today.  When Olaf’s mom asked if we wanted to join them after school for an outing, I jumped at the opportunity to spend time with my friend.  Where are we going? … A local apple orchard.  🙂

Enjoy your day.

Oct 182014
 

Garden Update 2014

 

The beginning of the week was taken up a lot with phone calls and arrangements, as well as normal life, so not a lot of garden related things happened.  These past few years have taught me that even a little here and there can add up.  Also, sometimes those seemingly large jobs and be broken down into smaller jobs over several days.

Pizza Sauce

Pizza sauce was definitely on the agenda for this week.  It takes about 20 lbs of tomatoes to make 6-7 pints of sauce.  To make the 25 or so pints we use in a year, we need 125 lbs or so.  Thankfully making pizza sauce is pretty simple to do.

However, it is also pretty comparable on price to buy organic pizza sauce once you figure in the price of tomatoes and your time.  If at a point in the future I can not dedicate time towards making pizza sauce, or am unable to have that many tomatoes, this is one area I will begin to look for deals online and at stores.  By making that decision now, I will not feel guilty about it later and will already have a plan in mind.  I like plans.

I processed 100 lbs of tomatoes on Thursday and cooked them down.  Friday night I added spices and processed the jars.  We now have 21 pint jars of sauce sitting on the counter.

Apples

Apples also showed up at our house after I was able to buy some at the produce auction.  Paying about $9 per bushel meant getting them for approximately$.21/lb.  These will be used to make applesauce, pie filling and shredded for future use.  We will also eat them as they are – George and Jack seem to have increased their appetites again.  They would be okay with 2 breakfasts, lunch, 2 snacks, dinner and a dessert. Every day.  And still say they were hungry.  With George’s recent increase in shoe size, I am pretty sure a growth spurt is in our near future.  🙂

Yard and Garden Work

Today will find us outside most of the day working on all the small projects that seem to appear with the arrival of Autumn.

  • Sweeping and blowing leaves
  • Clearing off the porch of squirrel eaten pumpkin and adding new things
  • Emptying pots of plants that are on the decline
  • Digging up an herb that a friend wants
  • Gathering seeds from the marigolds

We also are going to take up the border of a bed that will be removed soon.  I plan to use the border in another section of the yard come Spring.

I am also wanting to post something on our local For Sale group.  Right now it is collection leaves on our front porch.  Not exactly helpful or wanted.

The garden is not quite ready to put to bed for the year, but will be there soon.  For now, the fence will remain up and the plants in the ground as much as possible.  I am thinking of planting garlic, though really need to get a move on that if I am wanting to do it this fall.

 

 

Oct 112014
 

breakfast collage bacon eggs hashbrowns coffee

Saturday mornings used to find us heading to Big Town to eat out breakfast and do some activity.  While we still like to do that at times, we have learned to make as yummy of a breakfast here at home for a lot less.  This morning I decided to listen to more of You Bet Your Garden while cooking.  I began yesterday while cleaning up my kitchen and processing some green tomatoes. The most recent podcast talks about drying hydrangeas, how to save tomato seeds, amaryllis and more. (The last link may not take you to the exact episode I was listening to, but it should take you to the most recent one.)

Farm Market Swap

Last Saturday I joined several other friends for a few hours.  We talked gardens, family, farms and many other topics.  The main reason for getting together, though, was to swap items.

“If you made it, grew it, baked it or canned it, bring it to swap with friends.  Make sure you also bring a box or bag to take home your new goodies.”

Chocolate Raspberry Sauce collage

This is the second year I have joined in and loved it just as much this year as last year.  Knowing ahead of time that this event was going to take place, I have been thinking all summer what I wanted to bring.  Last year I brought some “normal” items: crushed tomatoes, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, a few different jams.  I ended up taking too much, as the group was not that big and most people only brought a few items.

This year I was thinking of more unusual things, items that perhaps people do not usually make.  I ended up taking blackberry syrup (I used this recipe, but did not let it thicken into a jelly) and chocolate raspberry sauce (pictured above).  Not only was it easier to take 12 jars, as compared to 24+, but it was nice to have just two things to display.

I also did a quick pick of the garden that morning, so put them in a basket .  No one needed up wanting to swap for them, but they sure did look pretty on the table.

Farm Market Swap collage

Next year, I think I will take Jack along, if he keeps showing interest in canning.  My hope has been to raise both kids to know how to do this and love doing so.  My way of passing along the ‘art’ of this skill.  So far it has worked.  We make canning fun and kid friendly.  No actual canning or use of the stove yet, of course, but there are many ways they can help.  Above you can see how Jack helped smash the raspberries, add the ingredients and then stir up the sauce before I put it on the stove.  Once it was done, I let him lick the stirring spoon and thanked him for helping me.

Green Tomato Pie Filling collage

Green Tomato Pie Filling

Green Tomato Pie Filling was a new thing for me to try this year.  Early in the week I was afraid there was going to be a frost, so I picked all the tomatoes that were ripe.  There were so many green ones out left on the plants; I did not want them to go to waste.  If I had waited till after a frost, they would have been unable to be canned.

As with any new recipe, there was a chance I would not have like this one.  I have never tried it and do not know of anyone else who had made this recipe before.  There was the chance I was not going to like the recipe, which I hoped would not happen as it was a more involved canning recipe than I am used to doing.

After making a batch and filling a canner load of jars, I tasted a bit that was left over.  My batch resulted in just over 6 quarts, instead of the 7 noted in the recipe.

It was good!  Almost like a fancy apple pie flavor.  I  am not sure I will make this every year, but will keep it on file for future use.  For now, I know what I am taking to Thanksgiving dinner.  If I tell my extended family what it is, they will not try it.  To say they do not like to try new food is a major understatement.  If I call it “Apple Pie” then they will try some.  Once one or two taste it and deem it good, then the rest will follow.  Not sure how I came from this family, cooking wise, but thankfully my husband has encouraged me to try new things.  You never know what you may like.

potatoes first year 2014

Potatoes (and new friends)

I dug up all the potatoes plants  put in late this year.  It was a trial planting, as I had never planted them before AND it was basically July by the point they got into the ground.

George and Jack had a grand time sorting through the dirt in their wheelbarrows looking for potatoes among the shovel fulls of dirt I kept adding.  Every time they found one a cheer went up.

A few neighbor boys came down to play and joined in the fun.  These boys are new to our neighborhood and soon their mom followed along to introduce herself. It was good to get to know another household that we may not have had a chance to meet.  They are not our immediate neighbors, nor on our street.  Sad to say, after living here several years, I still do not know everyone on my block.  I do know most of them around us on our side of the streets, and across the street, just not all of them behind us.

large white pumpkin at stand

Produce Stand Winding Down

At the beginning of the week I would have told you that this may be the last week for our produce stand.  That statement would have been false.

The stand now is very Autumn oriented.  I am just not sure if those who stop by are as wanting of these items as they are of tomatoes and peppers.

When we first began putting a table of produce out front, I listened to others and what worked for them.  It was a failure.  See, every area is made up of a different group of people who like different things.  We are not on a major thoroughfare, not do we got to the marker in a Big Town.  A lot of the people who stop by are older, though some are young families.  Most are looking to see if we have something they might need before heading to the store.  Organic or nonGMO or pesticide free does not matter to most of our shoppers.  Low prices and the appearance of tomatoes and peppers is the main things.  Beyond that other items sell well, though not in as large of a quantity.

The squash we have on the table may sell, though I am expecting to either store or can up a lot of it.  We have not tried corn stalks or field corn before, so that remains to be determined.  The pumpkins may go, but it is going to require us to mark them down.  (I did this change this morning.) While the large white pumpkins may sell for $8 or $9 each, or could be sold by the pound, somewhere else, for us that is too expensive. (We have sold 1 in the last 3 weeks.) It is something we keep in mind when trying to decide what to plant, or look for, to add to our stand.

Next weekend holds an event in downtown Small Town.  If I have nothing else going on, I may take these items and set up on a corner down there.  With more people, and some not from our area, we may see some of these items sell.  George and Jack would also like the adventure and it may give me time with a friend, if she is available, to catch up.

Note: sometimes a picture can show us a truer view of what is right in front of us.  For example, I noticed several things in this photo after coming inside to post it:

  • my wagon is in dire need of a good cleaning.  Harvest season here brings lots of dust.
  • the tape for the sign has left unsightly marks.
  • we sold a pumpkin!  🙂  I did not even notice it missing when I was there, but it obviously is not there now.  Seems marking down the price worked for at least one pumpkin today.

When I stand back from the stand, or take a picture and look at it inside, it gives me a view that perhaps someone driving by or stopping by for the first time might see.  Sometimes I see areas of improvement and other times I can see more clearly what is working.

Yard

We did the last planned mowing of our grass.  The first blowing of the leaves also needed to be done, but they ended up being mowed instead.

After a trip to the hardware store to get a new broom I will do my first fall sweeping of the front porch and walkways. The boys broke my other one in half.  In case you were wondering, no you can not catapult your brother off the steps by having him stand on the handle and you press on the end of the broom that is handing off the edge.  You know, if case you wanted to replicate the experiment.

The squirrels found my pumpkin decorations on the stoop and made a good meal of them. I will have to wash these off and rearrange things.  Past experience told me this would happen, which is why I put the pumpkins out there that are starting to go anyway.  No use having them eat up the good pumpkins.

Things that did not happen

Pizza Sauce, Apple Sauce and Roasted Pumpkin were also on the to-do list this week but were not accomplished.  The day is still not over, so one or more may be done.

 

How has your week gone?  I would love to hear how your garden is doing, or if it is already at an end what you miss about it.

Oct 022014
 

this week in the garden october 2 2014

What a week this has been.  Today has been the first morning that was relatively “free” to do with as I please (read: canning, finally!)  Then a call came, “You haven’t dropped off the plans yet this week.  I can come pick them up or were you coming here?”  So, again, plans change and the canning gets delayed.

This may be a blessing in disguise.  As I was reviewing how I made blackberry syrup last time, I came across a note where I said I would not do it again unless I had a jelly bag or the right amount of cheese cloth.  Perfect.  I plan on stopping by Walmart for a few things, so I will add a jelly bag to the list.

The blackberries I am going to use are actually from last year.  I have 2-3 gallons in the freezer that I have been wanting to use up.  1 gallon will remain there to use for glazes this winter.  Last year I was able to pick berries from bushes belonging to a friend of a friend.  The bushes were huge and more than that family needed.  My friend has also already picked there and had more than she needed.  At the end of last summer, the family decided to mow down the bushes and let them regrow this year.  They really were huge and made quite the bramble.

I am glad now that I froze the extras to use as needed later.  By using these up now, turning them into something we are short of, I am also freeing up space in the freezer for  other things we may be needing.

frozen blackberries

The garden has slowed down.  It has not stopped, but is not growing as quickly.  I was able to pick a few strawberries yesterday, something I have been unable to do with the unexpected warmer weather these past few weeks.  First it got cooler, than a spell that was warmer than it has been all summer.  So goes the life of a gardener.

There are still some okra to pick, as well as cherry tomatoes.  I am going to leave the larger tomatoes to see if they will turn red.  If not, I will pick them green, puree them, and freeze the results for green tomato bread in the upcoming months.

salsa in unwiped jars

Yesterday I was able to process 21 jars of salsa.  The picture above shows the results.  If you notice how messy the tops looks, well that is due to our water.  I added vinegar to the water bath canner, though I think it could have used more.  I will remove the bands, wipe the lids and label them before storing them away.

At the end of the evening I was looking back on the day and trying to figure out why it took me all day to get the salsa completed.  That is when I realized I was viewing the day wrong.  It was not solely a “canning day”.

  • I dropped my car off in the morning to have work done
  • Met with yet another contractor to talk about the house
  • Made several calls (to the utility company, to the city building office)
  • Did some laundry
  • Had Olaf come in the afternoon
  • Walked the mile or so with Olaf to pick the car back up
  • Picked up the kids from school then proceeded to deal with the frenzied excitement when they found out that Olaf was having a ‘slumber party’ with us
  • Handled everything from after-school through bedtime all by myself as my husband has class last night.  I even was able to get all 3 kids to sleep by 8 p.m.!
  • Finished unraveling the first sleeve of the first wool sweater, resulting in 9 cores for wool dryer balls.
  • And to top it all off, all the dishes were clean when I was done … well, except the coffee cup I used after finishing the kitchen to reward myself with a homemade cappuccino.

Canning 21 pints of salsa while doing the rest was actually a great accomplishment for me.

Aug 282014
 

food mill pizza sauce tomato 2

Canning season is upon us; has been for a while now.  I am finally getting to the tomato canning portion of my “want to preserve for winter” list.  The first steps I knew pretty well:

  • wash tomatoes
  • quarter tomatoes
  • put through food mill
  • cook down

The next steps were ones I had to reference past posts to find what I liked (here and here).  For some reason, this part intimidated me (I know, you can chuckle) and I put it off till late last night.  A quick search of posts brought up these two from years past.  My memory clicked and I laughed at myself, “It is so easy.  You were making it into a bigger deal than it really was.”  Story of my life right now.

So, with a few chops of onion here and dices of peppers there I had a large pot of mostly thickened sauce cooking on the stove.  What is a girl to do?  Was the dishes and sit down with a book of course.

spaghetti with spices canning

As you can see, I still need to clean up around the stove as it splattered out while pouring it all into one big pot and while cooking.

pot of spaghetti sauce to can

This will be easy since I did a larger scrubbing even on the stove top earlier this week.  Nothing like cooked on burnt tomato sauce to give your arms a work out.  In years past I gave up on this, as our stove seems to turn everything that falls on the stove top into a burnt mess.  When I tackled it earlier this week I took the ‘easy’ way out:

  1. Spray multi-purpose vinegar cleaner
  2. Top with scrubbing agent
  3. Let sit overnight

Tuns out the ‘easy’ way has been The Way to do it all along.  The burnt on food and spills wiped right up, no extra super-human arm power needed.  I have tried this in the past, but never let it sit so long.  Now I know exactly how to handle any spills that inevitably seem to happen when canning tomato sauces.

IMG_20140826_065641399[1]There was one spot that decided to be a stubborn.  As I had run out of cleaning powder at that point, I decided to wait until the canning of tomatoes was finished before going through Round 2.

Today I will be doing another 80 lbs, or so, of tomatoes.  If all goes as planned, I will begin canning up the sauce tonight and finish in tomorrow morning.

Update: In the end I had 27 jars of spaghetti sauce to add to my shelves.  With these and the ones remaining from last year’s canning, we will be good through the upcoming year.  I love that feeling.  🙂

 

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Tuesday Garden Party

Jul 312014
 

Weekly Goals collage May 2013

My goal for the week was to knock several outside chores off my list.  The list still contains most of the items, but a few have been completed.

One of the items on the list was to get new house numbers.  The ones we have blend in with the color of the house too much to be noticed.  Not being able to see the numbers has been an issue the whole time we have lived here.  I have been putting off getting new numbers because, honestly, I do not want to spend money to do so.

While thinking this over earlier this week I also remembered a can of black spray paint I recently saw in the garage.  “I wonder ….”  A quick search online revealed the steps to paint the numbers a different color and save the cost of having to buy new ones.  I am not sure why it took me so long to think of doing this, as I have done it with other things around the house.  The important thing is I actually thought of it before going to buy new numbers.  Once I finish painting the porch trim I will removed the old numbers, paint them, and put them back up.  I am not sure I will put them in the same place.  We will see what they look like at that time.

Saving money in small ways adds up over time and is something my husband and I have made a habit of trying to do.  Even with our upcoming remodel my husband went through the expected expenditures and found that we would be able to save a couple hundred dollars by printing off documents ourselves rather than having the contractor do so.

kid shredding zucchini

Here are some items I have actually accomplished:

  • Wash the porch floor and railing
  • Painted the outside of the porch railings and most of the pillars
  • Moved random rocks, left by the previous owners, from our backyard to our front yard – these will be used as stepping stones … eventually.
  • Moved an old dehumidifier from the basement to my car’s trunk to recycle.
  • Threw out some old make-up, realizing I have stopped actively removing clutter back in May.  🙁 I need to start that again.
  • Made some DELICIOUS blueberry muffins.  The kids wanted to share these so we took them to several different neighbors.
  • Got eye exams for school taken care of.
  • Took the first step in working with our architect for drawing up plans for the changes we want to make with out house.
  • Realized I probably “weeded” most of my okra plants this past Spring when I tried to do work in the semi-dark.  Next year, they will go into one of the actual garden beds.
  • Requested some gift cards from Swagbucks
  • Found a solution to a problem we have been having with our bed
  • Shredded 46 cups of zucchini
  • Cut corn off of 3 dozen ears of corn and froze
  • Took a morning to go to the playground, and another one to go to an event at our library
  • Took the kids to the hardware store to purchase some items with their own money.  (Apparently being cute helpers at the stand has its perks.  3 different customers told them to either keep the change or intentionally gave them money.)  An hour later and I think the kids had fun and maybe, perhaps, hopefully learned a few financial lessons in the process.  Even if they didn’t, I had fun with them so I am counting it as a good time.
  • Gathered up more seeds from the marigold plants

There are still a few things left on the list:

  • Add netting to the blackberry bushes
  • Paint the inside of the railing on the porch and a missed spot on the ceiling
  • Give a second coat of paint to the outside of the railings
  • Paint the porch floor
  • Touch up missed spots
  • Figure out how to raise the netting over the strawberry plants
  • Purchase items to fix our bed

gathering marigold seeds unlabeled collage

Honestly, I was feeling as if I had not done anything this week.  Seeing it all written out makes me aware that taking things one at a time really did add up this week.

I am done with zucchini, or at least until someone offers me some for free.  Same with corn.  Actually I was just given another dozen today, so I think I’ll modify the menu plan to included grilled corn.

Our local hardware store had tiki torches half off today.  I could have waited for a yard sale, though that would have also meant more of the berries going to birds.  While I will still keep my eyes out for some at yard sales, I went ahead and bought several to get me started.  (If you are not sure what I am talking about, check out the Facebook page.)

 

Jul 222014
 

Garden Update 2014

  • I harvested and (finally) processed some of the green onions from the garden.  While almost half are still out there, I made room for some fall crops and got almost a gallon bag of onions for the freezer.  These will be used in stews and other dishes this fall/winter.
  • The strawberry plants are producing more, resulting in larger strawberries.  My plants are prolific producers of runners, which I think is keeping them from producing more.  Once I get a better set-up for my netting over them, I am going to start limiting the number of runners.
  • The blackberry plants are also producing, though I have not had the opportunity to cover them, so we have not actually gotten to eat any of the fruit yet.
  • My volunteer tomato turned out to be a roma tomato plant.  This is by far the best growing tomato plant in my garden this year.
  • The stevia plant in the herb garden is going to be removed this year.  It is a great growing plant, but not something I use.  The only reason it is still there was because my neighbor and friend was interested in it so I offered to let it grow.
  • My blueberry plant is making a comeback from being decimated by squirrels last year.  Still no blueberries, though I do not expect any for another year or two.Dicing an onion

Today, I am off to the produce auction for the first time in several months.  A friend is coming over for the day, from out of state, to join us.  Perhaps I should have titled this post “Onion Week”.  I am hoping to add some larger onions to my stores, dicing and freezing the majority for the upcoming  year.  Not having them in the freezer at the end of Spring made me realize exactly how much I use onion in my cooking.  It is cheaper to get them now to freeze than to buy them as I need them throughout the year.  

Last year I hung several bags in the basement toward the end of fall, hoping they would last through till this June/July.  They didn’t.  Somewhere around March and April several of them were starting to go bad and dripping dark juices onto the floor.  I had to throw away two bags worth because they were no longer usable.  They lasted about 6 months hanging from the ceiling in my dark, cool basement.  Not bad all things considered.  The plan for this year, then, was to buy throughout the growing season, using fresh as needed and freezing bags of pre-diced onions for the freezer.  As for the ones I will again store in the basement, if they even begin to look like they are going bad or growing tops, I will take them down and freeze them also.  Hopefully by not trying to process 60 lbs or so all at once I will not overburden myself and give up on doing something with them.

I have even thought about drying some of the onions and making either dried onion flakes or onion powder.  Anyone have experience doing this?  Any tips?

Jul 152014
 

Garden Update 2014

♦I harvested all the onions from the raised bed pictured below.  I knew that if nothing else got planted this year, I at least wanted a large crop of green onions.  With all that has been going on, the harvesting of these kept getting put off.  I decided to use some time outside, when the kids wanted to play, to week around my bed and harvest these.  There are probably several that were missed, so I’ll do a quick search again in a day or so.  The wood chips made harvesting easy – I could either pull them up, or turn over the wood chips to reveal bulbs who’s tops had already disappeared.

♦While putting up the onions mentioned above, I figured out what the rabbit had been so interested in in this area – it has been trying to build a nest.  I think I kept chasing it off in time.  Next garden project, new stakes and a fence with smaller openings.

♦Blackberries are beginning to turn.  I really  need to cover them and am not quite sure how to go about it – drape bird netting over them or make a frame.  Any suggestions?
♦The potatoes I planted VERY late are growing well.  I need to mound dirt up around them … after I pull weeds first.  Wonder if they will actually grow any potatoes or it the squirrels will get to them first?

onion sets may 6 2014

♦Jack “discovered” a long line of ants migrating in mass down our sidewalk.  Curious boy that he is, he discovered where they came from, then tried to follow them to their end destination.  (I stopped him when he started to get too far away.)

Then he tried to stop them by putting his toys in their way.  Then he tried his wagon.  Boy was he upset when I made him bring all his cones and wagon back as he was completely blocking the main sidewalk (people regularly use this side walk) and had gone further than I told him – “It is not okay to try something if you have to disobey in order to do so.”  Hard concept for a young boy to learn.

After I thwarted his plans, he decided to take to the road with his bicycle (i.e. he ran them over).

Soon thereafter he comes to me and says, “Mom, these ants don’t bite.  You were wrong.”

“Oh, how do you know this?” I ask back.

“Because I stuck my hand in the middle of them,” he replies very simply and matter of fact.

Yes, he is very much a hands-on learner.

♦The day following the above adventure, the ants were still out and about.  How do I know?  This “news flash” from Goldbug, “Mom, I was wrong.  Those ants do bite.  One just bit my back.”  Now, I’m not sure how it got on his back as he was riding his bike.  I didn’t go there.

Not 5 minutes later George come running to me, crying and screaming “Get it off!  It hurts, it hurts!  Mommy!”  Yup, he had an ant that found its way into his sandal and was not happy.  Thinking logically, I asked him if he had not heard his brother just a few minutes before?  “Did you think he was telling story or something?”

“I was not on the sidewalk.  I was in the grass (along the sidewalk) watching them.  Mommy, make it stop hurting.”  Much wailing proceeded until I could calm the kid down.

Good thing we do not live in fire ant country anymore.  These kids have NO idea what pain from an ant bite really is.

♦Had a family get together with some relatives we had never met – actually recently “found” them.  Made me think about George and Jack and how adoption can make things like tracing your heritage and knowing your blood relatives harder.  Also showed me just how different things are now than they were a few generations ago.

♦Have four kids this past week would have been a whole lot easier if swimming lessons had not also been happening.  OR if I actually had a vehicle that could hold this many kids.  Walking to the pool took about 10 times as long as it would have driving.  This made making lunches difficult, so I used the crockpot as much as possible and reverted to sandwiches only one day.

May 062014
 

Garden Update 2014

This week seems to have been a turning point for many things in the garden.

Mulch has been spread around the beds were it was previously just piled.  I also found a set of solar lights at a garage sale last week for $2.  With new batteries, these are looking great along our entry way.  We’ll see how they do come summer when the shade has been greatly increased during the day.

The onion sets I planted turned out great.  It seems the snow two days after planting did not harm them.  Now if the squirrels would only stay away …

onion sets may 6 2014

The strawberry plants have perked up wonderfully had are growing.  I see several blooms on each plant.  The bird netting will soon have to be put into place.

strawberry plants may 6 2014

The location for the dwarf peach tree I bought this spring was not ready in time to plant the tree.  Instead the peach tree was placed into a large pot and this location will be used as a temporary veggie spot.  I hope to improve upon the soil between now and this fall, when the peach tree will be planted here.

deck bed may 6 2014

I was able to place 18 lilac bush sprouts into pots.  The summer will probably hold more.  Lilacs root sprout easily and I know we did not get all the roots out of the ground when we removed the bushes.

Lilac root sprouts potted

This week I was in the mood to start planting something other than onions.  I started first with a container I have on our deck.  On the top 2 basil plants, 4 herbs, 7 marigold and zinnais were planted.  Hanging from underneath are 4 tomatoes plants, though I put two plants in some of the holes as some of the seedlings looked a bit weak.

raised container may 6 2014

Having accomplished the above planting, I was even more in the mood, so I proceeded onto the bed under my kitchen window.  (That bed really needs a new name.)  This bed gets a lot of sun which has presented me with a challenge these past couple of years.  I am hoping the significant amount of mulch added to it this past winter will help these plants not wither away like some in the past have.

In order to plant here I also needed to add a fence around the plants.  It is just too easy of a buffet for the local rabbit population.  In all 12 pepper plants, two rows of beets and a scattering of zinnia seeds were added to this bed.  I added more plants than I have in years past, as I find myself midsummer lamenting the wasted space between the plants.  Again hoping this will help keep the soil cool and not as dry once the sun comes on full force.

kitchen bed may 6 2014

And just to show that I am not all work and no play, this is how I started out my week working in the garden …
Sandbox

How is your garden coming along?