Saturday, August 28, 2010

August 28th, 2010

The heat of August took a toll on my garden. It actually survived much better than the neighbors gardens did. I still have lush green tomato plants, while many have almost withered away. The weather is starting to cool down, so through September and October I will likely continue to harvest tomatoes.

My thoughts have turned to preparing for next season and I am preparing to move hay and manure from the goat and chickens to the garden for next year. This is best done in the fall, so it has time to compost before the next spring planting.

Speaking of goats, I've been very busy keeping up with and learning about caring for my new doe, Holly and new wether, Harry. Holly is currently at a friends house being bred and Harry appears to be very lonely without her. We are adding on to the goat pen, keeping up with the chickens, and preparing the soil for next summers vegetable crops. Oh, and I should not forget keeping the baby fruit trees alive through the summer heat.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pears, pumpkin and tomatoes

This week I have been canning a lot of pear sauce. I make it exactly as I do applesauce, only I do it with pears from mom and dad's pear tree. Here is the recipe that I use: How to Can Applesauce I experimented with using different amounts of cinnamon this year. I also canned pear halves instead of the traditional pear sauce. This is the first year that I've done pear halves and I was amazed at how beautiful they turned out. Definitely a canned product I would give as gifts. Here is a picture of the canned pear halves.

Some of the canned pears I will later dry during the winter months. I love dried pears and to get the the sweet, candy-like flavor similar to those found in stores, you have to can them and let them soak up the canning syrup for a few months before drying them.

In the past I have also done Pear Butter, which is basically a very cooked down version of pear sauce. Similarly, you can make apple butter by cooking down applesauce.

The weather has been unbelievably hot and dry, but despite the heat and lack of rain, the tomato plants are producing wonderfully. My favorite way to use tomatoes is to simply wash, half and seed them. I then place them in freezer containers and freeze them. The skins just peel off after freezing and I can use them however I wish throughout the year.

I had a pumpkin vine pop up out of the compost bin this year, so I just let it grow. It bore a pumpkin before the heat killed it. Tonight we used the pumpkin. We baked it in the oven, then pureed it in the blender. We used the pumpkin puree to bake a pie. The smell of cinnamon and pumpkin has me looking forward to fall already. Off to enjoy pumpkin pie in August!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

August 4th, 2010

Busy, busy harvesting peaches and pears from the tree. Freezing all of them and running out of room quickly! We will easily get enough peaches and pears to have them once a week all year long!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

July 8, 2010

I just finished canning a batch of gooseberry and blackberry jam. The gooseberry and blackberry mixture was an idea from Gail Martin, who often writes of her memories growing up in the Kansas prairies in the 1930's and 1940's. Her writing is sheer joy to anyone with a pioneer spirit. The idea for the jam comes from her article, "How to Have an Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving." It was delicious. I am only sorry I ran out of gooseberries.

Ben harvested mulberries from our mulberry tree in the backyard. It is the only time we have done it this year. He said they enjoyed eating the mulberries as they picked them. I combined the mulberries and some grapes for jam as well.

The zucchini are growing abundantly this week and I've been comparing notes with Facebook friends about the best way to use them. When someone mentions frying zucchini, I envision battering and deep frying. I do not like them this way, but if you combine them in a pan with a little butter, potatoes, onions, corn, tomatoes and garlic they are heavenly. I couldn't stop eating them. I also made some zucchini whole-wheat bread. I'm going to be trying zucchini brownies, lasagna, and as a vegetable vinaigrette mixture later this week.

The lemon balm needs to be harvested and dried very soon.

We have picked a few of our first tomatoes of the season. I am looking forward to many, many more.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Peas and Radishes

Ate peas and radishes from the garden today, 5/6/10. Yum. Still haven't transplanted the tomato plants outside. Was going to do it tonight, but it started to rain.

Friday, April 30, 2010

How to Grow Organic Stawberries at Home

Strawberries may be one of the easiest fruits to grow at home. All you need to do is prepare the soil before planting and put them in a sunny location. It may be a good idea to grow your own strawberries too, because conventionally grown berries are one of the most pesticide polluted berries out there.
How to Grow Organic Stawberries at Home

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Repurposing for the Garden: Using Unwanted Items and Household Waste for the Garden

The garden is an appreciative recipient when repurposing many household items and always provides an abundance of ways to put unwanted items to good use.

Plastic milk jugs can be turned into garden cloches, plastic and scrap lumber are also great for larger scale protection of garden rows during a frost. Pop bottles and milk containers also provide pots for growing in small spaces or sources of drip irrigation for traditional gardens.

Read more: Repurposing in the Garden

Friday, March 19, 2010

In the garden 3/18

Yesterday, the weather was beautiful enough, I got out and cleaned up the garden while I could. It was in the upper 60s. I turned the compost that I've been collecting all winter. What a rich, black, fertile soil composting makes. I picked up the leaves from the garden bed with plans to shred them and put them back down for mulch. Snow is expected in our forecast this weekend. :(

I also got the peas and radishes in the ground. The tulips in the front yard are beginning to spring up. The dandelions aren't around yet this year, but I expect to see them very soon. I used the many of the weeds last year to prepare Herbal Tinctures.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Early March and Starting Seeds

Seeds for eggplant, tomato, and peppers can be started indoors in zone 5 late February. It is mid-March and I am just getting my seeds started indoors. As soon as the last chance of frost has passed, they can be transplanted outdoors.

I am also planting outside at this time white potatoes, and radishes.

To learn more about what can be planted and when in zone 5 see my article about starting seeds.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Growing Corn in Zone 5

In zone 5, where I live, corn is started around the first week of April. That is one week prior to the last expected frost date, which occurs on April 15th. Corn will not germinate until the ground is warm enough, but there is no harm in sowing the seeds just before the last frost.

A lot of home gardeners prefer not to bother with corn, because it is pretty inexpensive to buy at the store, but organic and heirloom varieties of corn are so much better! The kernels are smaller and more flavorful. They make the grocery store varieties taste like the bland fertilizer pumped up crops that they are.

Beans and squash make ideal companions for corn in the garden. The principal is based on "The Three Sisters" Native American traditions. All of these plants are to be planted just before the last spring frost and have synergistic benefits when grown together. To read more about this and other tips on growing corn visit: How to Grow Corn at Home

Monday, March 8, 2010

Natural Dye from Food

Today, I am experimenting with making natural dye from foods. I am using the dye to color eggs and hollowed egg shells. Of course, I didn't want to waste any food, so I used old things I had in the fridge.

An old pomegranate made a beautiful yellow dye. I also used some old blackberries thinking they would make beautiful purple, but interestingly enough, the dye wasn't very strong. I am currently working on black walnut hulls.

Eggs dyed from food have more subtle pastels than eggs dyed with food coloring.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

GMO Seed

Spring nears and my thoughts turn to seeds and planting. Today at church our pastor, who is also a dedicated farmer, mentioned the high price of soy bean seed. You see soy is one of the most widely grown GMO crops in the US.

Seeds, being part of nature and created by God, not man, remained unpatented for many years. However, that changed several years ago. In today's world a large corporation, known as Monsanto, is allowed not only to alter life by genetically modifying the seed given to us by God, but they are also allowed to patent it. To claim ownership of the genetic components of the seed itself.

For those of you that aren't bothered by eating genetically engineered food, let me explain why this is still a problem. Historically, farmers stored their own seed from this years crop to germinate next years crop. Genetically modified (GMO) seed ended that tradition because the seed from the vegetation is not fertile. In other words, if I grew GMO soy beans, I could not use them to grow more beans next year. You must buy the seed from Monsanto. Furthermore, the soy crops spread to other heirloom crops inbreeding with them.

In time, we will all rely on Monsanto for seed and they will have a corner on the market charging anything they wish for their GMO seed. Not only that, but heirloom (or non-GMO seeds) may not exist any longer exist. It is no surprise to me that the cost of soy bean seed is rising. Soy beans are one of the most widely grown GMO crops in our country.

Give Monsanto time and the rest of the seeds will be equally expensive and we will be at their mercy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lavender and Sage through the Winter

It has been a harsh winter here in Kansas. We have had more snow and ice than usual. Today, it is mid-February and we finally got some sun and a high temperature in the 50's. I made it out to the garden on the side of the house to dump my compost. I was surprised to see the sage, and lavender are green. I had no idea that they would stay green all winter when I planted them. They are near a retaining wall which blocks the harsh North wind. I was also pleasantly surprised to see my onions left in the ground throughout the winter were sprouting and reminding me that spring is just around the corner. :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Use of Herbs for Medicine

I have written many how-to articles explaining how to use herbs as medicine. For children, herbal syrups work well. For adults an herbal tincture might be more appropriate. Herbs are not generally dangerous unless they are overdone. In fact, the use of herbs in moderation is no more harmful that cooking with them. People tend to get nervous when you start talking about using herbs as medicine. But, it is important to understand that throughout time, before there were doctors, people looked to foods and herbs as a way to cure ailments. They are by no means substitutes for your doctors advice and if you are seriously ill, see a doctor. Herbs are useful as a first measure of prevention for treating your body naturally before resulting to more potent pharmaceuticals.

How to Make Herbal Medicine at Home

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Eating Seasonally

Throughout time, people have eaten with the season out of necessity. In our modern world, eating foods that are out of season is common. There are benefits to eating foods that are in season. Energy consumption from storage is reduced. Transportation costs to transport food to areas where it is not currently in season is avoided. There is also data that suggests our bodies crave and benefit from eating foods that are in season. To learn more about eating seasonally visit: How to Eat Seasonally

A favorite seasonal food of winter is nuts and seeds. This is because nuts and seeds harvested in the fall can be stored without energy consumption throughout the winter. The native Americans had a process for harvesting, storing and using acorns that I find fascinating. Acorns are the fruit of the oak tree and are abundant in many places. To use acorns the tannins must be leached from them.

To use other types of nuts, raw peanuts, raw black walnuts, or any other raw nut your heart desires, I suggest making raw nut butters. The are created by adding a small amount of raw honey to the nuts in a food processor and processing well. Yum!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tomatoes from the Garden

Obviously harvest is over and it is time to cook using the bounty from the garden. I have experimented with various ways to use the tomatoes I grow. I have found freezing tomatoes, rather than canning them is the most efficient way to store them. Why?

Canning skin-free tomatoes requires blanching. I have a few canning recipes that do not require the tomatoes to be peeled, or blanched, prior to canning. However, freezing tomatoes causes the skin to become loose, when you thaw them, the skin slides off easily. Freezing is also the healthiest way to preserve food.

I freeze my garden tomatoes and thaw them to add them to stews, sauces and pastas all winter. If I want to make spaghetti sauce, I simply thaw them, slide the skins off, then puree them and cook them in a sauce pan with some spices.

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