Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Harvest Season is Winding Down

We still have a plentiful supply of fresh fruit and veggies.  Today our lunch salad included heirloom tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, green beans, farmer's cheese, apples and pecans dressed a balsamic reduction and a generous amount of olive oil.  This was served over a thin slice of whole wheat spoon bread.

However, Fall has arrived and the first frost is right around the corner.  Since we are eating local, we'll soon have to switch from our fresh veggies to our canned ones.  We are canning like crazy here and another batch of tomato sauce came out of the canner this morning.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Our First Homegrown Peaches

Last year I chronicled our planting of a tiny backyard orchard.  The peach trees bloomed their heads off this spring and were covered with tiny little peaches.   Sadly, one of the trees dropped every single one of its fruits.  However, the other tree managed to hold on to about six peaches. 

We allowed them to grow and I've been diligently checking on their status.  Today I went out to find that three of the six had disappeared (squirrels?) and that their remained three perfectly ripened peaches.

I quickly snatched them from their branches and commenced eating.  Now these were not your perfect, food store, pesticide protected, peach specimens.  We did not expect this.  They were covered with blemishes.  Despite their imperfections, once picked, washed, and skinned they were simply divine.  Halfway through my meal, I remembered to stop and snap a picture of this historic harvest.

Next year may bring more bugs and disappointment, but this year gave me high hopes for our future crops of homegrown, backyard, Maryland peaches. 

It feels as though we've one the lottery.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Homemade Blackberry Syrup and Herbal Teas

Our First Batch of Blackberry Syrup
The blackberries have been plentiful this season. Yesterday I used the last of them to make two quarts (plus a little extra) of sweet, delicious blackberry syrup.  This syrup - which is made with blackberries, dehydrated, organic cane sugar, and lemon juice - turned out wonderfully. 

Earlier this month, I harvested armloads of lemon balm and peppermint and then air-dried and crumbled the herbs to make delicious homemade tea.  Just a pinch each of organic green tea and home dried peppermint and lemon balm makes a delicious morning breakfast tea.  This morning I added just a touch of our homemade blackberry syrup.....heavenly!

I can't wait to taste our syrup on my son's yummy, whole wheat waffles.
An Infusion of Organic Green Tea, Homemade Lemon Balm and Peppermint Tea, and Homemade Blackberry Syrup

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It's Salsa Time!

Yesterday I harvested the first tomatoes from our 2014 garden along with jalapenos, cilantro, and sweet orange, red and green bell peppers.  Since we also harvested our garlic just a few weeks ago, everything was ready to make a small batch of salsa. 

Four pints were canned and one was kept to use right away. The 14 jars we put up last year were not quite enough to last us through the year, so I'm going to try and put up 21 pints this year. 

The best part, of course, is enjoying this fresh, delicious, and chemical/pesticide free salsa.  However, I must confess that knowing no jars will have to be recycled after their use is also quite satisfying.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Let the Canning Begin!

These are our first canned green beans of the season along with our first, freshly-dug garden potatoes.  

The green beans s were picked yesterday afternoon; the potatoes were harvested just a few minutes ago.  No pesticides, no GMO's.  Just fresh, nutritious produce.  Satisfying work and mouthwatering results.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Everything in its time...

We've eaten tons of asparagus, lettuce, carrots and strawberries.  Sadly the asparagus are done for the year; the strawberries have slowed down and what few we have are being consumed by the birds; the lettuce is getting bitter with the heat.

However, for the past two weeks we've been eating deliciously sweet, homegrown broccoli.  Here's a picture of what we harvested today.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Homemade Chevre

Started this yesterday and finished the process this afternoon.  Fresh, raw goat milk, chevre flavored with garlic, onion and parsley.  Will be delicious sprinkled on our dinner salad.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

American Guinea Hog Update

We have had the guinea hogs a month now.  This morning I took them some strawberries and snapped a few pictures so I could have a record of their progress.  Boy oh boy do they love garden-fresh strawberries!    The pasture is holding up well, the sow is filling out, and the baby hogs are growing.  The boar is still fat, fat, fat.  The area they are grazing was cut for hay three weeks ago and has grown back nicely.  The other half of their pasture was fenced off and cut for hay yesterday.

The little bull calves that are sharing the hog pasture are such lovely creatures.  The brown and white one was licking my hand this morning.  This was a first for me....he is just a darling.

All the hogs are friendly except the sow.  Hopefully she will mellow out.  If not, a replacement will be sought and, sadly, there will be a smoker in her future. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

First Carrots of the Season

What a delight to pull and taste the first, oh-so-sweet
First Carrots
of the 2014 Season
carrots of the 2014 growing season.  These carrots were planted inside one of the cold frames very late last fall.  As hoped, the seeds germinated quickly and then did not grow much until early this spring. 

Many of those planted are still too small to harvest, but these two made the grade.  We will definitely plant more "coldframe carrots" next fall in order to get a jump on the growing season.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Breakfast from the Garden

Our Morning Harvest = Sunday Breakfast
This year I am not going to track the weight of everything coming from the garden.  However, we have had a bountiful harvest of lettuce and asparagus and now the strawberries are coming on strong.  This morning we will enjoy fresh asparagus, strawberries and quail eggs fresh from the garden.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

We Have Hogs!

We are very excited about our new American Guinea Hogs.  We purchased an adult breeding pair for an ongoing meat supply.  We also bought four young males which will be raised for meat.  They will be living with our Mennonite friends and in the fall, when butchering time comes along, our two families will be sharing the meat. 

These are the smaller, old-time, heritage hogs that used to be quite common on family farms and were often called "yard hogs," as they kept the farmers' yards free of snakes and other vermin.

They won't be living in our yards, but rather will be pastured in a lovely, three-acre alfalfa field and will receive no GMO feed.   If all goes well, we'll have baby piglets come fall, and later, when weather turns cold, the four young males will have grown enough to allow us to make homemade (nitrate free) sausage, bacon, hams, etc.   

Monday, March 17, 2014

What Corner?

This past Saturday it was 70 degrees outside and, even though I've been feeling a bit under the weather, I spent most of the day out in the garden
  • pulling weeds (yes we have all sorts of perennial weeds that grow throughout the winter), 
  • rejoicing at the sight of  the garlic that has grown so tall that it has pushed its way up through its thick, protective cloak of leaves, 
  • checking the newly-planted fruit and nut trees for signs of life and finding them all alive and well, 
  • admiring the multitude of earthworms that have taken up residence in the manure and leaves that we used to blanket and safeguard the young artichoke bed from the bitter winter weather,
  • and even planting a few onions seeds into the cold frames just to see if I could get them to sprout and bulb up. 
On this glorious day I couldn't resist taking more than a few moments to simply sit quietly in the garden, listen to the singing birds, blissfully soak in the warmth of the sun, and revel in the fact that spring was just around the corner.  It was quite therapeutic. 

That was Saturday.

This morning, just two days later, I woke up to this.....
Snow Covers the Garden......Again!

and this......

and this....

Our Ash-Bucket Snow Gauge
Now those who know me are fully aware that I love the snow.  While almost everyone around me has whined and complained about our unusually frigid winter, I have loved every minute of it.

However, as I sit by the fire this morning, enjoying the view, and sipping a lovely cup of tea, I can't help but recall a conversation that was relayed to me just two short weeks ago on another particularly bitter and frosty morn. 

On that day a friend shared with me the story of how he had encountered another of his friends who was complaining about the unbearable cold.  In an attempt to cheer her, my friend encouragingly replied, "Take heart.  Spring is just around the corner."  His chilly friend flatly refused to be cheered and replied, "yes, but what corner?"  

This morning, despite the lovely view outside my window, I must confess that I share her sentiments. 

What corner?  Indeed.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Onions and Leeks - Germinating and Planning

Tiny Onions Just Beginning to Emerge

The onions and leeks are starting to come up!  One hundred seeds were sown in each of the pots, so there are many more seeds to germinate. 

Rather than planting our onions in one bed (as we did last year), I've decided to plant them throughout the garden alongside those plants with which they are most compatible. 
Here's a clip from a great book I'm reading called Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte:
Onion (Allium cepa) 
Onions and all members of the Cabbage family get along well with each other. They also like beets, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, summer savory, and chamomile (sparsely), but do not like peas and beans. Ornamental relations of the onions are useful as protective companions for roses.   
Since onion maggots travel from plant to plant when set in a row, scatter your onion plants throughout the garden.  
Leek (Allium porrum) 
Leeks are good plants to grow with celery and onions, and also are benefited by carrots. Returning the favor, leeks repel carrot flies.

Friday, February 21, 2014

And the winner is.....

The First 2014 Seedlings
The first seeds to germinate and pop up were the broccoli seeds.  I can't tell you how good it was to peer in the flats yesterday and see the tiny broccoli plants peeking back at me.  This morning the Mexican Mint Marigolds were up as well, but the first place prize definitely goes to the broccoli.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Expecting Wonders

Though I do not believe that a plant 
will spring up where no seed has been, 
I have great faith in a seed. 
 Convince me that you have a seed there, 
and I am prepared to expect wonders
Henry David Thoreau  

I started a bunch of seeds today so it's official....the 2014 growing season has begun and I am expecting wonders.  

Into the pots and seed starting trays were sown Broccoli, Bell Peppers, Celery, Celeriac, Mexican Mint Marigolds, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jalapeno Peppers, Artichokes, Forget-Me-Nots, and Oregano seeds.  I'm praying for excellent germination and can't wait to experience the wonder of seeing those tiny seedlings push through the soil.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A New Growing Season Begins

A Treasure Chest of New Seeds
It has been a record-cold winter, but the days are lengthening and despite the cold, I can feel Spring approaching.  We used up most of our old seeds last season, so we ordered new seeds this year.

We will still be using some remaining seeds from last year, but here's what our treasure chest of seeds contained:

NOTE:  * means we have either never tried to grown this...or have yet to succeed at growing it.

*Artichoke (Imperial Star)...We are not giving up on artichokes!
Lettuce, Red Summer Crisp (Magenta)
Lettuce, Green Romaine (Coastal Star)


 Broccoli (Green Magic and Bay Meadows)
*Brussell Sprouts (Diablo) 

Cucumbers (Diva Specialty)
Melons (San Juan and Sarah's Choice)
*Squash, Spaghetti
*Squash, Winter (Delicata and Sunshine Kabocha Orange)
Squash, Zucchini (Costata Romanesco)

*Arugula (Astro)
Basil (Genovese)
*Chervil (Vertissimo)
Cilantro (Calypso)
*Fennel (Orion)
*Marigold, Mexican Mint - seeds failed last year
*Marjoram, Sweet (Common)
Parsley (Giant Italian Leaf)
Sage (Common)


Beans, Snap (Amethyst Purple and Cosmos)
Peas, Shelling Type (Penelope, Sienna)


 Celery, Stalk (Tango)
Chard, Swiss (Bright Lights, Multicolor)


 *Husk Cherry (Goldie)
Pepper, Bell (Green to Orange and Green to Red Varieties)
*Pepper, Hot Drying (Red Rocket)
Pepper, Jalapeno (Jalafuego)
*Tomatillo (Toma Verde)
Tomato, Grape (Five Star)
Tomato, Red Short Vine (Defiant)
Tomato, Salsa/Sauce/Drying (Paisano)


Carrots (Nelson)
Celeriac (Brilliant)
Leeks (Lancelot)
Onions (Pontiac Yellow Storage,  Ruby Ring, Cabernet and Sierra Blanca)