I had a fun day at my friend’s house. She brought home cabbage,kale, purple cabbage and lots of squash from her sister’s organic farm. We spent the morning making fermented sauerkraut with the kale and cabbages. While we were chopping and salting, we had her oven filled with baking squash..Delicatas, Hubbards and Butternuts. Once the squash were cooked and cooled we skinned and seeded them and mashed the pulp. With that, we made lots of “pumpkin” bread. She added cranberries and nuts to some of the loaves. Once baked and cooled, most of the loaves went into the freezer along with the mashed squash that was left over.
My own squash crop was dismal but I did have a volunteer vine that grew from the compost I added to the asparagus bed. I let it go and it turned out to be acorn squash that yielded a few nice little gifts.
I harvested a delicious basket of peaches from the tree my daughter gave me for Mother’s Day. After eating our fill, I made a couple of jars of peach butter from what was left. I cooked about 12 smallish peaches, pitted but not peeled, on top of the stove with a little bit of water until they were soft. Then I put the mixture through the food mill. I ended up with 3 cups of pulp and juice. I added 1 1/2 cups of sugar (2 to 1 ratio), cinnamon,allspice and ginger to the pulp and simmered it slowly and gently on top of the stove until it was thick, stirring it so it wouldn’t burn. Then I poured it into hot, sterilized jars, sealed them up and processed them in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. It came out delicious! I think it will be really good on fresh, warm buttermilk biscuits .
It’s been weeks since we’ve had rain. Temperatures have been in the 90’s for a while now. Berries shriveled on the canes, the gardens are brown and crispy. I’ve had to be careful about watering, we have a well. I’m trying to save the newly planted fruit trees, bushes and some vegetables I’d yet to harvest. That may not even be possible.
At least the water hyacinths are cheerful. Once it gets cold, I’ll snap off a few plants and overwinter them in a basin of water in the basement. They multiply quickly in the spring and the roots make good breeding habitat for the goldfish.
I squeaked out one last jar of fermented dilly beans. These things are delicious. Next year I’m expanding my bean plot.
I have black currants steeping in vodka for a few weeks now. Soon it will be ready to finish off and bottle for Christmas cordial. I came across a recipe for blueberry cordial in an old herbal almanac and decided to try it with some frozen blueberries. Cordials are easy to make. It’s basically a matter of crushing the fruit and totally immersing it in alcohol. I used gin for the blueberries. Keep it sealed in a dark, cool place and shake the mixture daily. In a few weeks strain it, discard the fruit and add a simple syrup (water and sugar) to the strained alcohol, to taste. At this point, bottle it up, seal in sterilized glass and set it away for a couple months. Once it’s opened, it should be kept in the refrigerator. Of course, if at any point mold shows up, (very unlikely) everything should be discarded.
I spied a particularly fat and juicy blackberry in the patch yesterday. As I reached over to pick it, a bee swooped in and stung me right in the armpit. Ouch! A paste of baking soda and water works like magic to take the pain away. Luckily, it was just a honey bee that stung me. I saw this ominous looking creature in there today and backed off. Does anyone know what this is?
This summer has been so dry here. The gardens are looking very stressed and haggard. The cucumber patch finally succumbed to powdery mildew so I cleared it out and discovered a metropolis of moles. Ugh… my nemesis. They’ve infiltrated the blueberry bushes too.
Calendulas are still plugging away. I add the dried petals to the soap I make.. they retain their color and shape beautifully. The rest of the heads, I steep in jojoba, olive or grapeseed oil. After a month or so, I strain the oil and use it as a base for skin cream.
The heirloom Napolitan peppers I had so much trouble getting to sprout earlier,ended up being good little producers. 15 plants yielded over 100 peppers. I’ve had my fill of them so I’m seeding, coring and slicing these and whatever else comes in and popping them into the freezer to use over the winter. The seeds I’ll save for next year.
It’s cool out today. I have chicken soup bubbling on the stove and oatmeal cookies baking in the oven. My kitchen smells so good. I’m going to pack it all up and bring it to my daughter.
I hope all of you are having a wonderful day! Thanks for stopping by:)
I stayed with my daughter for a few days, helping with her new baby. I’d forgotten how exhausting being on call around the clock with a newborn can be. It was good to be a mommy again, fixing healthy meals for my daughter and pampering her a little. Keeping her company at 3 am in a cozy nursery while she fed the baby was special and kind of emotional. Lots of memories from when she was little and hopes and dreams for our new little girl.
I came home to bring my youngest back to college. She’s all settled in and I’m catching up here.
The last of the beans, cucumbers and red peppers are picked. I made a couple more batches of pickles and dilly beans. Everything that was left, I fermented together and added garlic, onions and fennel seeds. Since my tomato crop is so sad this year, I won’t be pulling out my food mill any time soon. Any extra tomatoes I have this year, I’m just coring and freezing whole…..I learned this from my blogger friend from New Gardener Blues last year. It’s a good tip… so quick and easy.
The blackberry crop is wonderful. I made a batch of jam and have lots of blackberries in the freezer with still more to pick on the bushes. The second flush of raspberries looks good too.
The mornings are cold and the very first leaves are starting to turn. There’s still lots of cabbage and kale in the garden. The pears are knobby but I’ll put them to good use and I might even get a few peaches.
It’s good cleaning weather. Now that everyone is gone again, I’m starting the fall cleaning and organizing. That includes tackling the attic. There’s lots of good coats and things to donate up there, before the weather gets really cold.
I’ve gotten over 20 pounds of cucumbers and they’re still coming so it’s pickle time. Last year I cultured all my vegetables using sea salt and whey. This year, I’m doing a little experimenting. I brined the whole cucumbers in a sea salt solution for 3 days and then transferred them to the refrigerator. They’re nice and crunchy. The spears I also brined in a sea salt solution and I added a starter culture… Caldwell’s. For the relish and beans, I used the starter culture as well. Everything came out crisp and flavorful. The crispiness is due to the sea salt. The starter culture supposedly increases the nutritional value and the strains of beneficial bacteria.
I prefer cultured vegetables to canned because of the nutritional benefits. They offer a lot more in the way of vitamins and minerals and increasing healthy gut microbes. A lot has been written on that subject by Dr. Mercola
and Sally Fallon
. I recently read the book, ‘Brain Maker’
by David Perlmutter, MD. He’s a neurologist and also a big proponent for implementing cultured foods in the diet. It was a good read and had some interesting cultured food recipes that I’ll be trying soon.
I should have made pickles today, I have loads of cucumbers. But… there was a beautiful bag of frozen red currants in the freezer that’s been calling my name. This is the first year my red currant bush fruited. It only yielded about 4 cups, not even enough to make a pie with. Still, I wanted to make something special with the berries.
I remembered making grape jelly with my Grandmother. We had an arbor in the back yard that was loaded with dark purple, thick skinned grapes. They were so delicious. Jelly day started early, picking and preparing the grapes and sterilizing our jars and lids. The kitchen steamed up and smelled all sugary, like candy. In a few hours we had rows of glistening purple jars lining the counters. That gave me the idea of making a jar of jelly.
I found a beautiful page on the Internet : David Lebovitz, living the sweet life in Paris , that gave simple and perfect instructions.
I gently cooked the currants until they were soft, then put them through a food mill. Weighing the juice on a postal scale, I came up with 6 ounces. The ratio between fruit and sugar for jelly is 1 to 1 so I knew I needed 6 ounces of organic cane sugar, which I also weighed out.
I brought the juice to a boil and skimmed off the scum that came to the top and stirred in the sugar. Everything was then brought to a boil for 5 minutes. It was at the perfect jelly stage! Everything took less than an hour.
When my daughter came home, I made us a snack. Homemade, buttered sourdough toast with red currant jelly and a cucumber smoothie, lol. I don’t want to waste these cucumbers! A combination of cucumber, frozen pineapple, frozen blueberries, a squirt of lemon juice and a spoonful of honey made a really good and refreshing drink.
All the hibiscus are blooming. A few raspberries and green beans are still trickling in. The cucumbers are taking over with a vengeance. Once again, my squash succumbed to mildew and I wish I had planted more potatoes.
The sourdough starter I made last week was ready to use Monday and I baked its first loaf of bread yesterday. I stuck with the recipe from, My Sister’s Kitchen. It never does me wrong.
The days are busy picking blueberries, drying herbs, weeding and filling the house with giant bouquets of Bee Balm and Annabelle Hydrangeas. I made a big batch of sauerkraut and we have fresh garden salads every night. The last of the garlic has been harvested and I’m keeping watch on the tiny beans, cucumbers, peppers and squash that have set. They’ll be ready for picking soon.
I haven’t had to take any measures against bugs yet. There’s just been the normal wear and tear that goes with gardening organically. A few holes in the cabbage don’t bother me. Everything is doing really well except……my tomatoes are dismal. The plants are sparse and spindly. I tried a new variety this year, Granny Cantrell. Last year I grew Ace..also an heirloom variety and I had gorgeous plants and was swamped with tomatoes. I’m not sure what the problem is. Maybe its just not my year for tomatoes.
Lazy was a 4 letter word, according to my Grandmother..one of the worst. When I was taught how to do something, my Mother would say, “do it right or not at all…do it again.” When I’d finally get it right she’d say,”now do it faster.”
Those lessons have a way of sticking with me. I don’t want to be a slacker but on the other hand, there are some days when getting lots of things done quickly and efficiently just doesn’t happen.
Yesterday, I was picking currants and the frogs were making a racket. I ended up visiting with them for a long time. I started weeding but there were so many bumblebees I couldn’t resist trying to take beautiful pictures of them like the ones I see on Derrick J. Knight’s blog. (his photos are fabulous, I’ll spare you mine). Then I had the urge to try to pet the bumblebees.. I read on Mary Tang’s blog that people actually do that. The bees kept buzzing away from me but I’ll try again another time.
Back in the house, I started cleaning but got distracted looking around my house thinking about redecorating and changes I want to make. That led to a rummage through my material.
Time got away from me so for dinner, I just made a salad. Kale, greens raw peas and pods from the garden with tomato, chopped onions and feta cheese. I thinned out plain yogurt with pickle juice and added some minced garlic which made a surprisingly good salad dressing.
After dinner, I had some laughs with my cousins and read for a while.
Definitely not a productive day but a good one, nonetheless.
The strawberries are almost done. My daughters came over and we had strawberry sundaes. I added sugar to whole, fresh strawberries and cooked them down over medium low heat until the mixture became thick and syrupy. After it cooled, we spooned it over strawberry ice cream and topped it off with freshly whipped cream. My pregnant daughter added bananas and chocolate sauce to hers.
My 2 year old red currant bush has set out some nice berries that I’ve been harvesting and freezing. It will probably yield only a few cups of berries in total this year. They will taste good combined with raspberries in a crisp or crumble.
I like blue lace cap hydrangeas. They send out runners, like the Annabelle hydrangea. In early Spring, the runners can be easily dug up with the roots and soon you have a whole new bush. A few years ago, I started with 2 bushes and now I have 6. I planted some of them in with the blueberries and lavender. I had read that all the blue flowering plants camouflage the blueberries from the birds. I’m not sure it has proven to be very effective but it’s a pretty combination.
Flora had her bath. Since she spends most of her days roaming around with me in the gardens, she’ll look dirty in no time. I figured I’d take a picture of her while she’s nice and clean. Have a good weekend everyone!
This has been a good season for strawberries. We ate a lot of them and then froze another 8 quarts. There’s an easy way to freeze strawberries so the berries stay separated instead of sticking together in one big lump. Wash the berries, take their leaves off and pat them dry. Spread them out on a cookie sheet so they aren’t touching each other and set them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the strawberries into containers or freezer bags and then back into the freezer until you want to use them.
Garlic should be sending up scapes pretty soon. I always direct sow squash, beans and cucumbers seeds into the garden. I think they are heartier than transplants and they are doing great. My heirloom peppers are pitiful, doomed from the start.
Calendulas are blooming. Another favorite of mine! For now, I’m adding the petals to salads, smoothies and into whatever I put through the juicer. They have a mild taste and contain antioxidant carotenoids..lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene. Later in the season, I’ll use the flowers to make skin products. Calendula is known as the ‘Queen of Cosmetic Herbs’ and for its healing properties. Tomorrow, my dog Flora is due for a bath. In the past she’s had skin issues. To keep things sweet, I’ll infuse a few flowers in some water and add that to her bath.
Today kicked off the first day of this season’s local Farmers’ Market. It’s held on Sundays from 11am until 2 o’clock, on South Farms. Buying from the vendors there is an affirmation of many of the things that are important to me. It gives me the opportunity to support local businesses, organic growing practices and farmers that raise animals that are allowed to run free, are well cared for and are not pumped up with hormones and antibiotics.
I stocked up on groceries and couldn’t resist buying some beautiful alpaca yarn from Stan. Wool itches me but I learned today that there is no lanolin in alpaca yarn so it won’t itch. The skeins I bought were from his alpaca named Victoria, lol. Thank you Stan and Victoria:)
Pond’s Poultry Farm is new to the market. Dwayne Pond has a beautiful, young family and a farm in town. He raises small flocks of chickens and has a couple of pet goats. Turkeys are on the way. He’s a funny guy, check out his t-shirt. I think the picture I posted of the plaque in his booth states his intentions for his small farm perfectly.
The gardens are doing pretty well. Peonies are just starting to bloom. All the vegetables are up and growing but not as energetically as they normally do this time of year because it’s still so hot and dry. I lost most of my roses from a combination of the tough winter and voles. Even the tough old bushes, William Baffin and Lake Champlain had to be cut back severely and are shadows of what they have been in the past. Roses are challenging in the best of times here for an organic gardener. I miss them but most likely I wont replace them. Foxgloves took their role as star of the show this year…things always have a way of working out. happy days
Today’s full moon is called ‘Strawberry Moon’ by the Native Americans. Right on cue, the strawberries have started to ripen. I am wondering how this season will pan out with all the erratic weather. The temperature dropped more than 30 degrees, it’s barely made it into the 50’s the last few days. Cold temperatures have come with heavy rains and flood warnings.
The peach tree I planted in early May is looking distressed. Leaves are turning yellow and dropping. I’m hesitant to dose it with anything. Transplant shock, extreme temperatures and water fluctuations are most likely the cause. I took a superstitious route instead and planted Hyssop around it.
The blueberry bushes are chock full, Clematis is just opening and the Irises are winding down.
The rainy days have been good for catching up on indoor work. I finally cornered my college girl into going through her clothes and weeding them out. No easy task! Her older sisters send everything they don’t want her way so we waded through a LOT of things and donated more than we ended up keeping.
My oldest daughter is 7 months along with her pregnancy already and she is doing great! The baby is now the size of a coconut and weighs over 4 pounds. I have a tiny room upstairs I’d like to make into a nursery for when baby comes to visit. I’d planned to use the crib I had from when my girls were little but my daughter wants me to buy a new one with current safety standards. Hmmm… I understand her wanting everything ‘just right’. This is her first baby and she’s the first born herself…very much a type A personality, she’s a lawyer. I think the crib may just be the beginning, lol.
My Grandmother set a lot of store by her plants. Cabbage was a big favorite of hers and she grew a lot of it. She made all kinds of delicious things with her cabbage and used it medicinally as well for stomach problems, spring tonics, growing pains and skin conditions.
Bridal Wreath bush (Vanhoutt spirea) was another plant she kept. She grew them from cuttings. When my Mother got her own home, Grandma planted a Bridal bush in the yard right away because she said it would help to keep my Mom’s marriage sweet. She planted a Rose of Sharon too, saying it brought the protection of a Mother’s love. A Lilac tree had to be just outside the back door of every home. I don’t know why. Could be, my Grandmother just liked Lilacs. She never cut them unless a big rain was on its way. Then she would gather as many as she could before they’d ‘rust’ and be ruined on the tree.
Lilacs are blooming. This one opened today and is so beautiful I couldn’t resist snipping a little and taking its picture. It smells just as good as the standard lilac.
Lemon Verbena doesn’t look like much but it makes up for that with its extraordinary fragrance. It’s tangy, not sweet and very fresh and clean. When I had my shop, I used to go to Gilbertie’s Herbs wholesale greenhouses, to buy plants to sell in the store. Mr. Gilbertie showed me a gigantic lemon verbena plant that he had in one of his greenhouses for many years. He rustled a few of the branches and the most wonderful lemony scent filled the air. Lemon Verbena is only hardy in zones 8-10 but is easy to winter over indoors in a sunny windowsill. It has a woody stem and with a little simple pruning, the plant can formed into a pretty tree shape. If it is repotted as needed into a larger pot, it will get huge! I saw this little verbena at the garden center and decided to give it a go. Maybe it will get as big as a miniature tree some day, like Mr. Gilbertie’s. Fingers crossed.
Violets are in full bloom throughout the garden so I made some sweet violet syrup. A spoonful in a cup of herbal or darjeeling tea is delicious. A splash in a glass of iced water adds a tinge of color, subtle flavor and a bit of sweetness. It can be added to fruit salads, lemonade, iced tea or cocktails.
I picked violets without the stems and washed them in cold water. Then I loosely packed the flowers into a clean glass jar and covered them with boiling water. Eight hours later, I strained the infused water and measured it . There was 3 cups. I put the violets, infused water and 3 cups of sugar (same measurement as the infused water) into a non reactive pan and stirred it over low heat until all the sugar was dissolved. I added the juice of 1 lemon. (Lemon is optional. I like the taste better with the lemon but it does change the color of the syrup, giving it a pinkish hue instead of purple.) I strained the violets out with a fine mesh strainer and poured the syrup into a sterilized glass jar. Once it cooled down, it went into the fridge where it will be stored.
I should probably mention that violets that may have been exposed to pesticides, lawn fertilizers or sprays should never be used. Also, I took some shortcuts from traditional methods. I infused the violets for 8 hours and most recipes recommend letting them sit for 24 hours. I used organic cane sugar which isn’t pure white and I didn’t remove the green parts at the bases of the flowers, probably compromising the color of the syrup. Here’s a link for a recipe without the shortcuts and with some more good ideas on how to use the syrup.
I saw a bluebird going into the house I put up! ..bluebird of happiness
… I embroidered one right in the middle of the quilt I made for the little baby coming our way. Speaking of which, I was hoping lilacs would be nice to cut for the baby shower next week. It’s been in the 80’s here and dry so I’m not too sure that’s going to work out.
Viburnums and spurge are looking beautiful and the apple blossoms are opening. Giant bumblebees are everywhere. I am glad I decided not to get beehives this year. I have a good local population and I didn’t want to meddle with it.
I’ve been planting out cabbages, bok choi and some herbs. I still have a a lot more planting to do. I should have started the kale sooner. I’m glad I did extra tomatoes though. I broke 12 plants by dropping a light on a tray and last night my husband tripped in the dark onto another tray on the back porch.
My daughter will be home from her first year of college this weekend, just in time for Mother’s Day.
Today I’m off on a little road trip with my friend Pat. About an hour away is a giant garden center. People visit from miles around. These days, I’m hesitant to buy anything because I don’t want to bring flowers into my yard that may have been sprayed with something that could kill the bees. I never would have even thought of that 10 years ago. I think that is sad.
On a happy note, we’re getting a much needed drizzle today. I planted 25 more strawberry plants and dug a new bed for my homeless potatoes yesterday so they’ll get a soak. A new bed isn’t ideal for potatoes but as I’m going to build the soil up anyway as the grow, I think it will be fine.
The bleeding hearts are looking gorgeous and my little pond is filled with tiny black tadpoles! I wonder what kind of frogs they are. They develop into tiny black frogs, only about 3 mm. long.
I finished the bag I started a while back. All ready for Spring!
So thankful to wake up to sunshine, flowers and WATER! Our water was restored yesterday. Early in the morning until late afternoon.. all weekend long, this small business owner worked to replace our water pump and tank. The pump was 200 feet down into the ground! I am so thankful to him. He went above and beyond what I expected. There are still business owners that care, do excellent work and have a lot of integrity.
The flowering trees are still blooming, the currant bushes are in blossom too. The funny fritillaries didn’t seem to help my mole problem but I like the whimsical note they bring.
Asparagus is coming in. There’s nothing like it….freshly picked from the garden, blanched in boiling water just until the color turns very bright so it is tender yet slightly crisp. I melt a little butter on it and add a sprinkle of sea salt. I had it first thing this morning, out in the garden with some coffee and cream.
I planted the apple trees this weekend. A few years ago, my cousin in South Carolina gave me an odd tip; when planting fruit trees, she adds a handful or 2 of dry dog food into the hole. I’ve done it ever since. I wonder if that is a common thing?
The days suddenly seem too short, there is so much to do. Most of the seedlings are brought outside during the day. The tomatoes are suffering a bit, too much too soon for them maybe. They’re sensitive at this age and it won’t be safe to set them in the garden until the end of the month. Cabbage, kale and bok choy stay out all day and night and will be planted out sooner. All the wintered- over geraniums are out too. They’re a bit leggy but once they get used to being outside, I’ll cut them back and repot them. If the temperatures dip too low, I’ll have to bring them in.
Picking up my seed potatoes, I couldn’t resist a gorgeous bundle of 2 year asparagus plants. Beware of impulse buys! I have an asparagus patch already, about a dozen plants. They’re just starting to peek through. I really didn’t need more but there’s nothing like fresh asparagus and they are perenniels.. Oh well. Asparagus beds have to be prepared properly. I used the space I had allocated for my potatoes. It was already prepared with good compost. I set the plants in and covered them with 6 wheelbarrows full of soil I have brewing beneath leaf piles in the back. I’ll continue to build up the bed on a weekly basis, adding more soil and amendments.. eggshells, compost, coffee grinds, etc. The process with potatoes is similar except I wont have to be as conscientious about keeping their plot as rich.
A couple dwarf apple trees and a tayberry bush arrived in the mail. Those will be planted out today. The trees are bare root so I set the roots in a bucket of water until I’m ready to go. Happy Spring!
There’s lots of different types of daffodils blooming in my yard now.
The seeds planted back in March are doing well except for the Milkweed. Not a single sprout in sight. The growing seedlings get a boost of a tablespoon of fish emulsion dissolved in a gallon of their water twice a week. Kale, some herbs and cabbages are set out now, during the day. The sprouted peas are planted in a potted trellis that held black eyed Susan vines last year.
Meanwhile, tomatoes, peppers and tender annuals continue to grow in the basement under lights. Our last frost date is in just 5 1/2 weeks and by then, everything will be planted out in the garden
The rhubarb is unfurling and things are coming alive. The fritillaries I planted are looking good but seem to have had no effect on deterring moles. My front yard is a giant mole hotel. All the roses except the rugosas are ruined, the roots eaten to nubs.
It’s raining so I’ll be spending the day in the kitchen. I have more seedlings to transplant, (they are taking over the house!), and I want to catch up on some cooking. There’s chicken broth on the stove. We buy local, free range chickens and not a bit is wasted. Even the bones are used.. burnt in the fireplace and composted.
If I have time, I might work on some needlework later and make some berry crumble with the last of the blackberries and raspberries, in the freezer from last year’s crop.
Happy, productive days!
I’ve been really inspired by the Grow Food not Lawns movement. The past few years I’ve been transitioning my massive perennial borders and front flower beds into mixed gardens, integrating my existing plants with vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit. This combination can be beautiful and practical. Rhubarb, zucchini and most vegetables are so attractive and look great among the flowers and shrubs. Lots of flowers are edible and pretty… Bee balm, calendula, violets, nasturtiums, roses and lavender, to name just a few. Strawberries and creeping thyme are great ground covers and borders. Currant and blueberry bushes are easy to grow, attractive when they come into flower and even prettier when they set berries. Columnar fruit trees are another great option. Cabbage and kale are great fill ins. Lancinato kale has a lot of visual interest but it gets eaten up by little green worms here so I grow the Green Scottish Curled instead. Herbs offer so much in the way of flowers and color..echinacea, catnip, lemon balm, variegated mints, borage..The list goes on and this post is getting long. As the season progresses, all the little plants filling my tables under lights crowding the sunny windowsills will hopefully be big and strong and make their way into the gardens. Ideas are percolating for artful/ edible combinations and integrations. I’m hoping this gardening season is productive and beautiful for all of us!