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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pantyhose In The Garden

If ever you've wondered how to use up your old pantyhose in the garden........ here it is. I have lots of onions to harvest this year so after I picked them and cured them for a week in my garden shed, I move onto the next step.

I went to the thrift store and bought up all their unused pantyhose. I suppose you could use your own clean used ones but I didn't have any. I didn't have the heart to tell the gal working there what I was using them for. The bonus was they were all "Queen" sized and more onions fit in those.

I place one onion in the bottom and then tie a knot as close to that onion as possible. Then another onions get placed on top of the knot. This continues until the leg is full. I cut mine in half, leaving the control top portion on there so that they will hang with a stronger top. After all my hose are full I hang them from a rod in my pump house where it never freezes in the winter and have onions until I run out. Last year that was at least January and I didn't have nearly as many as I do this year. Fun and interesting idea for food preservation, don't you think?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Ugly Truth

The plain, cold truth about my end of summer garden, is simply that it becomes ugly. No longer green and lush and bordering on uninviting. Not that I get to stay out of it. It does however continue to yield massive amounts of produce for me to can or feed to the chickens. The corn patch was roughly 70x15 and gave about 450 ears of corn. A little over 200 of those we put up and the rest we shared. It was very sweet and done to perfection.

This is my sea of Roma tomatoes. The tall ones in the background are Celebrity and Better Boys. They are all doing well. I have canned loads of crushed tomatoes, made V8 juice and will try my hand at sauce tonight. Apparently many others in my area don't have red tomatoes yet. I have been harvesting mine for 4 weeks now. I am getting kind of tired of them.

I ordered some cool green tomato spirals for trellising from Gardener Supply this spring. They would have done beautifully had I not overburdened them with the tomatoes I chose to put in there. The Celebrity is such a prolific grower that these spirals would have been great save for the not big enough part. I will try some other variety in them next year.

We do have a couple of these huge pumpkins on the vine. Pumpkins are a total waste of space in my opinion but my hubby loves them so there you have it. He's the muscle behind all of these projects so pumpkins it is.

I admit the cucumbers have totally gotten away from us. They turn from usable to football sized in one day and I am not exaggerating. Those things don't mess around. I haven't been pickling like I thought I would so we give them away as fast as we can. Chickens love them too. Good thing. Doyle is slowly but surely removing the corn rows and drying some of them for the goats to chew on this winter. They like dried stuff so he hangs them in the barn to crisp up. Spoiled goats.

This photo shows just how tired the squash and zucchini end of the garden is looking. The sunflowers are doing their part to beautify the garden but the beans are tired and I have been ripping them out as they become done. I still have to can one more harvest of green beans and finish shelling the dark red kidneys for storage.

This assemblage of photos was to show that a practical garden doesn't normally look pretty all season. The reality is; as the fruits and veggies become harvestable, the plants become less attractive. I like (need) things to look nice and clean, green and healthy. When the late summer hits and things become less aesthetically appealing, I find my interest waning. Yet, there is still so much to do. Try to tell the tomatoes I don't want to play with them anymore. I think I can hear them laughing now.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Random Garden Images

As the summer begins to wind down in my part of Idaho I thought I would share some pictures of what I see in my garden now.

My porch rail pots did well this summer. I normally have hanging baskets above these in each of the five spots across my front porch but this summer I thought it would look too busy. I like it like this. Less clutter in the flower world.

I have pots like this planted and sitting on each corner of my patio. I won't plant that light green coleus again as apparently it is a shadier plant than I forced it to be. It did all right but had burn spots on it all season. Think maybe I should have read the tag in the basket stuffers I bought. Live and learn.

I also thought I would be able to keep my chickens out of the main yard and interest them in keeping to the orchard area only. Boy was I wrong. They like the shade and interest of the yard around the house better. They just go right under my gate. Silly birds. So far they don't seem to be too destructive.

This is one of our giant sunflowers we thought we would grow for wild bird food. They are 6.5-7 foot tall now and don't seem to be done growing yet. We have at least two varieties and all seem to be doing well. I actually have not seen one bird on them yet, they must still be developing their seeds.

This is our newest resident. He (or she?) has taken up between two rows of tomatoes and is making it very difficult to pick them without disturbing her. She caught herself a huge grasshopper today and I am still itching having spent so much time trying to get a good photo of her. Pretty industrious little (big) spider.

Things are still pretty busy with harvest time upon us. Finally the corn is all done and the beans are starting to be over too. Yeah! I am tired of putting up beans, the drying kinds are actually fun though. I will have to find more variety next year.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why Not Another Island Bed?

I have been working on a new three wall flower bed all summer. It has been a long project mainly because I wait for heavy equipment to dump the dirt over the fence for me. My two dump truck loads of dirt were dumped 5 acres back on our property and my flower beds that need dirt are in the front. That's a lot of trucking with a whell barrow. So I wait.

But I thought, after those are done, why not add another island bed in the open area in the middle that doesn't have anything but lawn? I am trying to eat up lawn, after all. Flower beds hold water longer than lawn does.

So my design phase always consists of the longest garden hose I own. I like to play with the shape for a few days before doing anything drastic. And since one of these days I am going to get the rest of my dirt dumped over the fence, now is the perfect time to build another one right near it. Yes, my husband shakes his head at me and gracefully keeps his mouth shut. I have no idea how he has such restraint.

You can see the outline of the new bed in progress behind the outline of the hose. I thought taller plantings in the middle of the island bed would tie in nicely to the taller plantings I plan for the back edge of the new bed behind it.

The white areas in this drawing signify the new flower beds I was already working on. The big green expanse of lawn in the middle is where the new island bed will go. I never did get the stone walkway done and now I am glad I did not. Plans always change in my world if I don't hurry. I am trying harder to be patient because sometimes better ideas come to me if I am forced to wait. I haven't actually taken Round up to the lawn in this new idea or the tiller or sod cutter but I am darn close. Just want to be certain first.  But now my best friend since kindergarten is coming in September so I have a time frame. And yes, my whip is out. No one slacks until this is done!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Onions, Anyone?

Ok, so I have read and also found to be true from personal experience, that when your onions start to fall over; it's time to harvest. I had already started to pull my onions out when I remembered to photograph this so I promise there were more here when I started.

In this bed in the new garden, I had planted red, white and yellow onions from sets. I only pushed them into the ground 3/4 of the way and hoped this would yield a larger onion than in years past. Sets intrigue me but honestly I think I get a nicer onion from actual plants. Who knows?
I just tugged on the tops and out popped my pretty little onion. I love easy harvesting, it makes my heart sing. It makes everything..... Groovy. Sorry, I just had to. That song has been popping up for days.

This handy gadget with 1/2 metal mesh is my compost sifter but for today it doubles as my onion curer. Onions are ready to harvest when most of the tops fall over. You are supposed to leave them on the dirt to cure for at least one week but so much else still needs to be watered in the big garden that I can't water harvested onions with a clear conscience so I moved them to my garden shed to cure. Curing means they will develop that pretty papery shell on the outside that protects them for storage. After the curing stage is over you're supposed to clip the tops to within 1/2" of the top of the bulb but that seemed messy to me so I jumped ahead a week. Waiting was probably the more prudent thing to do. It's a problem I have. One can then store them in a cool, dry place for winter use.

Last year I got hold of all the old (not gross) pantyhose I could find and cut the legs out of them. I would then slip one onion into the toe and tie a knot above it. Then I would slip another onion down on top of the knot and so on. This kept the onions from sitting directly on one another and made it easy to get one for dinner time use by just cutting below a knot and taking it indoors. I did not buy an onion until January this past winter. They store quite nicely. Not the sweets, they don't store for beans but most of the others store like a dream.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Does anyone remember my Great Potato Experiment of 2009? Well it was not as successful as the Smartpot claimed it would be.

I ordered these cloth pots from Gardener's Supply this past winter. Their sales pitch sold me and it made sound, logical sense to grow in a container that would do the root pruning for me and yield 10-13 pounds of potatoes per bag. Hah!
My pototes grew beautifully and I was so sure that they were full to capacity in there.  They got so tall I was worried they would fall over before they were supposed to.
The directions say that when the greenery starts to die back they are ready to harvest. So harvest we did.
Doyle dumped the grow pots into the wheel barrow and Maecy and I dug for the potatoes I was so sure were in there. Of course like most teenagers, Maecy wasn't on board with helping but my hubby reminded her that this was just the same as Easter but the eggs were under the dirt. Reluctantly she agreed to be helpful. Sometimes my husband cracks me up. Sometimes, not so much.
I will say that we had plenty of marble sized tubers in there. It was a sad day in potato land for sure. 
We ended up harvesting 27 pounds of Yukon Golds, Red LaSodas, and Red Norlands. Not great but not a total failure. 
Next year we will plan to plant them in the ground. I can hill potatoes the old fashioned way. My lazy man's way out was not what I had hoped. Sometimes my experiments are first rate and a staple for me and sometimes they aren't quite what I had them chalked up to be. This was one of those ones. But oh well, I do live in the Potato State, I can probably find a decent potato if I have to. Better luck next time!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups

I took another canning class this past Saturday and they capped it off with info about drying fruits and veggies to preserve them. I can honesly say all I have ever dried was cherry raisons so I thought it would be fun to have a new dehydrator. The one I was using only had a heating element in the bottom and for the ultimate in food safety it also needed a fan as well, so we bought a new one.  In this picture I have pureed the cherries, strawberries and homemade applesauce. It was yummy just like this, actually.

 Then I spread the fruit smoothie onto special fruit leather trays that I bought for this dehydrator. That way the pretty fruit stuff doesn't fall through the tray spokes.

I then turned the dehydrator to 135F for 14 hours and taadaaa.... I have fruit leather. One wants to have the fruit dry enough to be pliable but no longer wet in any way. It will be sticky. Instructions come with each specific dehydrator, I am sure.
Then while they were still warm, I tore them in half and rolled them into plastic wrap. Now I will store them in an airtight container and my hubby and daughter can take them for snacks. I think they turned out quite well. They are kind of tart but I did not add any additional sugar to them, so only the fruit sweetens the leather. Heather Lawrence, Domestic Goddess. Haha.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Chickens' Grand Adventure - The Search For Bugs and Worms

Last night we decided to let the chicks out of their run. We have always planned to allow them free range but they needed some size to live through it first. None of our animals are vicious but cats will be cats and bird dogs will be spanked. Just kidding!

Yes, you see shade cloth on the west wall of the chicken run. It also wraps around to the south for about six feet. It just got too hot for my little peeps so I created a sun block. Clever, huh? Here they are wondering why I left the door open for them.
In this photo you can see the ones in the back wondering what the hold up is. "Run for it, would ya?"
Here they are actually realizing there are bugs in that grass! Grasshoppers be gone! Gone I say~

And of course the goats have to come check things out! They didn't stay long as they really weren't sure what the heck the chickens were. Ollie could not have cared less, he used to live in a coop with the chickens in his last home. I think he was staying away so we didn't put him back in. Maybe he likes other goats more now.
And of course, Monica is still the only photogenic bird we have. She poses for pictures and then jumps in your lap. She isn't shy. Love her!

So all in all, I think they girls (and two boys) had a wonderful time on their first adventure. Shooing them back in wasn't too difficult but it helped to have two of us. We were even rewarded with the sound of a rooster crowing this morning. Anyone want a rooster? Free to good home!

Friday, August 7, 2009

First Corn Harvest

This morning it rained. Yeah!!! Which, I might add, makes it the perfect day to put up corn for the freezer. This is our first year in many that we grew our own corn. We stayed pretty basic with our variety and only planted Bodacious. Next year we will try something different. Doyle picked them and shucked them outside and then brought them to me to clean the silks off and blanch.

Here they are ready to go in the big boiling pot of water to blanch them. The corn was really quite pretty and so far not buggy.

After blanching, we plunged them into an ice chest full of ice water and cooled them down. Then onto a towel to dry for a minute. Then Doyle used the electric fillet knife and a bundt pan to remove the kernels.
I bagged the corn into pint sized Foodsaver bags and vacuum sealed them. This tends to work best for us.

When it was all said and done, we put away 32 pints bags of corn and that seemed a great start to the corn harvesting season. Of course we tried it after it was taken off the cob and it was yummy. Fresh corn is so far superior to what one can buy in the supermarket. We will definitely grow this again.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Blackberry Mojo

It's been a good day for picking blackberries! Last night I found an ad on Craigslist for U-pick blackberries, $1 per pound. So bright and early this morning I gave them a call and made arrangements to pick. I drove 1 1/2 hours to New Plymouth, Idaho and spent about 90 minutes picking these monsters.

I plugged in my MP3 player and listened to my e-audio book while I picked. I did not know these folks so I let plenty of people know where I was going and a time I thought I would be done. Turns out the folks were very nice and even charged me tax so I was fairly certain they were trying for a legitimate self pick farm.

It didn't take too long to fill all the buckets I took with me and I ended up with 21 pounds of berries. I have honestly never seen blackberries like these before. They were huge. The owners told me they were planted 2 years ago and that they were a variety called Apache. They were truly the ugliest blackberries I have ever seen but they were firm and juicy and the vines were thorn less.  Well, maybe not really ugly but not attractive, just giant. I am freezing them on cookie sheets now and will vacuum seal them with my foodsaver in a little while. I plan to render them into juice when the other things I am harvesting are finished. I love using the steamer/juicer and then can them so I have a while before I need to make jelly out of it. It sounds like a lot of steps but it really does save me time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tomato Time Around Here

It's finally tomato time around here! I planted 38 tomato plants this year and I am so excited to start making stuff with them. Last night was my first official harvest and I weighed 17 pounds on the scale. Not to shabby for the first picking.

More than half of my plants are Roma-style tomatoes and the others are a combination of Celebrity and Better Boys. Since it was hot and I was tired I decided that I would make simple crushed tomatoes and can them. Now that I am set up again, the next batch will be salsa or juice or sauce or something interesting. But for this one time it was easy.

I did not season the crushed tomatoes nor did I salt them. I am sharing my harvests with my mom and they don't like salt. I tend to add it to most things I cook in the form of spices anyway so I left it out. The recipe called it optional and I took them seriously. I canned pints using the boil bath method and added 1 TBSP of lemon juice to each pint jar before I added the crushed tomatoes. This assures the proper acidity for this method of canning. Last year I used up all the jars I had canned and this year I ought to have tons of tomato products lining my shelves. And yes, I am still thinking hard about making my guest room into a pantry. No one uses it much anyhow. The guest can just sleep in an awesome pantry. That would be a novel story to tell all their friends when they leave my house.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Idaho Huckleberries

This weekend we finally left the house. Whoohoo! We went camping and it was  very nice to get out for a minute. We didn't go far, only about an hour away but it was 20 degrees cooler and no one was around. We have created the little farm and big garden we always wanted but that has meant that leaving for a couple of days is somewhat of a fiasco. We watered and mowed and watered and thanked my mom profusely for keeping an eye on things. I don't think she knew what she was getting herself into.

These pictures are of huckleberries. This berry is the Idaho state fruit and darn fun to pick. They are generally smaller than a blueberry but similar in shape and appearance. They turn dark purple when they are ready and grow wild in the mountains of several western states. Mine is one of them. They are quite tart and tangy when you eat them fresh off the bush but are the most delectable thing ever when added to homemade sourdough pancakes. We make muffins with them too but the pancakes are my favorite! 
Even one of my dogs, Marley, appreciates just relaxing in the woods.
Our camping trip ended up just being Doyle and I and it was nice to just read and pick berries and sit in the shade without the guilt associated with knowing I should be doing something else. I got three novels read and a stack of magazines looked through and didn't think once about not having internet until Doyle asked how I was doing without it. Then I missed it. I know that I love camping (in a nice camper) but I could never be shipwrecked on a deserted island without modern conveniences. No world wide web access would kill me. For sure.

About This Blog

We started this blog in Feb. of 2009 to help us stay motivated and to track our progess in the garden. We live on 5 acres surrounded by Idaho farmland. We have wildlife galore and are attempting to attract more in the bird catagory. This is our journal. Welcome!


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