Prolific Peppers & Bee Stings


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?
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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:)

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Pickling


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.

Garden Update

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.

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Garden Update

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

Rain!


There’s been no rain for weeks, temperatures have been in the 80’s, the soil dusty and as dry as a bone. Finally, last night thunder storms rolled in. Relief! I’ve been working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week getting seeds planted and annuals set out. I’m almost done. It’s wet, hot and humid out today and the Mosquitos are swarming so I’m booking off and having my friend over. She’s a gardener by trade and needs a break too. Both of us are feeling (and looking) a little crooked and scraggly. We’re going to make stepping stones, drink tea and have eggplant and oatmeal cookies for lunch.

Asparagus, Seedling & Geraniums


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!

Seed sprouting, Jojoba, Lyme

Easter was great.  Easter Monday was a beautiful day.  It’s been cold and rainy since then but the  indoor seedlings are thriving, sending out their true leaves.  Thanks to the good advice of my blogger friends, the Friariello di Napoli pepper seeds sprouted right up after placing the tray on the radiator for a few days.

The power company took down a big maple in my front yard.  It’s a sad sight.

This morning, I made some bug repellant.  Having had Lyme disease and living in a state where it has reached endemic proportions, I have to admit it scares me a bit.  I take precautions.  I don’t want to douse myself or my dogs with pesticides so I’ve been using something home made instead.  I add 25 drops of rose geranium essential oil to 4 ounces of Jojoba and keep it in a dark, glass jar.  I  apply the mixture all over myself before getting into my gardening clothes. Other essential oils can be added but  rose geranium is reputed to repel tics.  Jojoba is a good carrier.  It lasts longer than a water based carrier.  It’s light, easily absorbed by the skin and has the benefits of being antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and  offers nutritive benefits as well.  It never goes rancid because technically it’s a wax, not an oil.   After gardening, all my clothes go right into the washing machine.  I immediately take a shower.  It’s an annoying routine but better than getting Lyme disease again.   So far so good!

Sprouting Seeds & Easter Daffodils

Seeds are sprouting all over the place. I may have been wrong, and cheerfully so! Looks like we might have daffodils for Easter after all. Does anyone out there know if Milkweed takes inordinately long to sprout indoors? (save the Monarchs!) Also, I think my seeds may have frozen in the mailbox. Not a single pepper seed has taken. If they froze, would that have ruined them? Everything else is fine.  Happy Spring!

Cabbage Patch, Calendula & Diamataceous Earth

I may have been a little over enthusiastic in sowing the seeds for my cabbage patch.  I have over 60 little plants.  Cabbage is great for saurkraut, of course,  and if you make your own you can add all sort of good things to it…carrots, kale, onions..even oranges.  Delicious!  I like to stir fry cabbage in coconut oil. It is  sweet, a little crunchy and doesn’t smell like sulfur when cooked this way.  Onions, fresh garlic and sea salt taste great with it.   Pea pods make a great addition too.

I have a lot of calendula started too.  Fresh calendula petals added to stir fries, salads..even fruit salads make things look pretty and add extra nutrition.  Dried petals retain their shape and color when added to glycerine soaps, vinegars and oils.  In the garden, they  are workhorses and make terrific companion plants.

I notice the fruit flies beginning to hover and multiply over my seedlings.  A little food grade Diamataceous earth sprinkled on the potting bench will take care of that problem in no time.  It’s non toxic and safe for pets.  Once it gets wet it is no longer effective. In the past, I’ve had issues with ants and japanese beetles in my old house.  Last year I sprinkled Diamataceous earth in all the windowsills, along the perimeters of the cellar and on top of the beams.  It really worked .

Speaking of Cabbage Patches and little sprouts…my daughter is having a baby!  The first grandchild!  I added the last stitch to this happy little quilt last night.

Snow, Seeds & Leeks

 

It’s still snowing like crazy. We got about another 10 inches so far.  As I was clearing the driveway, I made some final decisions on what to plant in next year’s gardens. I rewarded myself for the shoveling by ordering some seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  They have taken the “safe seed pledge”,  they don’t buy or sell genetically engineered seeds.  There’s a Safe Seed Resource list  online that lists sources from all over the world.

For the first time, I am going to try and grow leeks so I started some seeds indoors. In a few months, I’ll sow some more leek seeds directly in the garden to see which lot does better.

 

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Garden Update, Echinacea root tincture

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Some of the trees are bare and I’m ankle deep in leaves.   Nights are cold and the days have been warm.  I’m watching the temperatures, hoping for more red peppers before the first frost. Cabbage will soon be sauerkraut.


I tinctured some Echinacea root today. This is a chunk of root from a 3 or 4 year old plant. What’s left will grow back nicely in the spring.
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It’s best to use grain alcohol when tincturing roots or bark. There’s no need to dry the root first. It actually makes a superior tincture with fresh root. Wash the root well, cut and macerate the pieces and follow the same procedure I describe for the whole plant tincture.

The tomato patch is looking grim but the fruits are still ripening on the vines. There are still a few bright spots in the gardens.


This season is coming to an end but I’m still picking a few things every day.   This has been a wonderful year in the gardens and I’m already excited and making plans for the Spring.
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