Wednesday, June 20, 2012


  This time of year things get a little nuts for many of us who garden.  And this being the first year for us here, I'm going just a little nuts too.  I haven't had the time to stop and visit my friends on other blogs, much less sit down and "put pen to paper" here.  What with the feeding, weeding, picking, prepping, canning and drying I find myself plumb wore out come sunset!  Oh, toss the animals in the mix while you're at it!  LOL!
What a great life though!  The only clock I'm having to punch is natures own right now. What an awesome feeling.  Who would have thought that one year ago this didn't even seem possible.  

I experimented with a new recipe for making dill relish. I don't really use the stuff much but its great to have on hand for things like tuna, chicken or egg salad.  In the past I've always just bought a jar occasionally.  So I started searching recipes and 

found one I could try with all fresh ingredients grown right here.  I found one this past week and gave it a shot.  I'm not real pleased with the "look" of the final outcome but it is still pretty good.  Just not exactly what I was hoping to see.  It called for using cornstarch to thicken it up and I think that is where the weirdish color comes from.  

That being said, I put up 6 pints so I won't be needing any soon.  Next time around I'll try a different recipe.  Part of the fun of all this is being able to try new things.  Since I had the pot going I also put up a couple of pints of sweet banana pepper rings.  It looks and smells good but I'll know more after it sits a couple of weeks.  The reviews on the recipe were pretty great though.  Supposed to be like those pepper rings you get on a good sub sandwich.  `

I've been able to put up several quarts of purple hull peas, Cherokee Beans (yum!) two types of green beans, dragon beans and a couple of jars of of "magic beans" as well. Since it seems to take me forever to shell enough beans for a full run on the canner I've been trying something new to me.  I've been putting the beans (or peas or green beans) into the jars as I finish prepping them and then vacuum sealing them to keep them fresher until I get enough to can a whole batch.  So far it seems to be working well.  

 I'm already getting ready to save seed from the magic beans as they really weren't all that prolific. Next year I'll be sure to get them staked sooner. I'm pretty sure that's why I didn't get good yields from them. 

 Just a reminder if you are just starting out with a garden you really should consider making a garden journal.  I can't remember how many times in the past I've said "Oh, I'll remember this or that next year".  Trust me you won't remember! These carrots are a great reminder of that. 
 I know I planted them pretty early in the season but I don't exactly remember when.  Which makes for a hard time in knowing what time they should be ready. That being said.... they sure are tasty!

 Now for the confession..... I'm real behind in keeping up with my journal this year.  I sure do need to sit a spell with my notebook.  
 I've also been remiss in recording just what is producing and what isn't.  What bugs ate what, what we tried to kill them with, all that interesting stuff that folks always thing they will remember next time around.  

These days though if I'm sitting somewhere I've usually got a bucket of beans or peas or whatever beside me and a bowl in my lap.  I've had to lay down the knitting for now in deference to the snapping, peeling, shucking and other preparations to get ready to put food by.  

Why is it that in all the blogs I read ( when I get a chance) no one ever talks about the prep time involved?  It still amazes me that things like a  five gallon bucket of something like beans or peas only nets you about 4-5 quarts of goodness.  

                        ~~~  Hey... I'm Just Sayin' ... ~~~

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rinse and Repeat

Sometimes I have to wonder what in the world were we thinking.  I mean, this gardening thing can  be pretty overwhelming. Especially one this large after so many years of only having a small garden. The last guess as to how big the thing is?  About 9 one hundred foot rows. (More or less)This is starting to feel like a farm!   So much stuff planted and so much coming up just like it  was intended to.  Canning and drying season has begun.
It is a wonderful feeling though at the end of the day to be able to sit in the shade, shelling peas or "stringing" beans and watch the sun go down over that big ol' garden. To be able to see some progress out there with everything looking good (except for the squash and them dang bugs) makes me smile.  Things are actually growing!   I know .... What did I expect, right?

My life has changed so dramatically over the past couple of years that even some of my family still don't quite "get it".  They still think of me as "the old me".  The one that went to my BS job every day without fail.  The one that "piddled" around in the garden and the flower beds"  after work and on my days off.  The one that used to talk about getting away from it all.  They still can't picture me feeding the chickens, rabbits and assorted pets.  They don't see how different life can be if you just dare to be brave enough to try new things.

Now don't get me wrong... I'm not saying this was or even has been easy.  But it IS rewarding.  This is our first year with this ginormous garden and I can't seem to get Mars to STOP TILLING up more dirt.  There is never a day that goes by that I don't have a list of things that has to be done.  I sure don't want to get behind on weeding or watering or all that fun stuff.  And now things are starting to "come in".  So add in the picking and processing of all these goodies and all I can say is....  Much more to do! 

 We've been so lucky this far with most of the garden.  Now it's time to commence to canning and drying. (Both of which I've been doing every day for the past two weeks or so)  I really need to take the time to work on the garden journal.  I had it started with dates that things were planted but then kind of let it go.  (Kind of like I've been neglecting this blog)  Now that things are starting to take off I really need to get serious about writing it all down.  I don't want to make the same mistakes twice!  I've also learned a few things that would do me good to remember next year. 

I'm also having to realize that I just can't do all the things I was once able to in the same amount of time.  I've always had a real problem with not  knowing just when "enough" is "enough".  I can't move at the same pace I once could and things tend to take me longer to accomplish than they used to.  These days, things that take some folks a few minutes to do can take me at least twice as long. It's hard to admit but harder to deny.   I guess I'm going to have to start my days earlier cause I seem to keep running out of daylight! 

It's a good thing I make lists though.  Who knew what a good thing lists could be?  I have one started for today. (with a few leftovers from yesterdays list) 

Tomorrow.... ( which is today cause I wrote this yesterday.... Confused yet???)

1. Finish "snapping" the green beans.
2. Can up the green beans and purple hull peas
3. Spray the bug killer on the squash (lost cause) Tomato's, broccoli, peas and spinach
4. Mix up more bug spray
5. Cut up peppers and get into the dehydrator.
6. Pick and dry more basil, dill and parsley
7. Slice and brine the cucumbers to get ready to pickle
8. Pick beans, peas and peppers
9. Laundry washed and hung out
10. All that normal house stuff..... cook two or three meals,wash dishes, take out trash, sweep,feed and water the chickens, rabbits,etc....

11. Rinse and repeat 

I have to admit the more I do this ... the more I respect those who do so much more every single day.  I am humbled.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Still Kicking!

This past month went on the records as being the driest May on record for the state.  There are grumblings of the possibility of using the "D" (drought)  word if we don't get more rain soon.  We are several inches behind for the year.  I can't tell you how wonderful it has been to have the drip line irrigation in the garden.  As far as I'm concerned the 200 bucks we invested in it this past winter has already proved its worth.  There is no way I could water this garden any other way and see progress.  
This past week we've been getting some storms roll through but here on the side of our hill we have missed most of the violent stuff.  We were blessed with a few inches of good rain overall though.  I sure was glad to see it.  The amaranth was glad to see it too!  I think its probably grown about a half a foot in the past few days.  It really got off to a slow start but I'm sure some of that was my being on a learning curve with growing it.  Of course it doesn't help that to get water to it I have to hook together about three hundred foot of hose since it isn't irrigated.  Anyway, it seems the bugs are leaving it alone now and have stopped eating all the leaves.  It's finally putting out new growth and starting to get the pretty reddish pink seed heads that it is famous for.  They are only about an inch long now but are supposed to get to over a foot long.  Guess we'll see....

The gardens doing pretty well so far.  Well, most of it anyway.  I don't know how long I'll be able to keep the bugs off the squash before they totally take over but I'm trying.  Anyone have any suggestions on how to effectively and safely get rid of the dang squash bugs???  I've been lucky enough so far to get some squash out of it but the dang buggers are definitely winning the battle.  I've got a nice amount of yellow squash from it so far but I'm afraid it's not going to end well.  I'm also trying to grow a new one this year.  It's called Lebanese squash.  It is supposed to produce a nice sweet squash that gets to about 6-7 lbs each.  I've never seen such a HUGE plant!  We still haven't eaten any yet but hopefully (if the bugs don't get it first) we will soon.  
 I've been pretty busy with canning and preserving stuff too.  All the beans are starting to produce now, some better than others but all in all it's looking good so far.  The purple hull peas are starting to come on so I'm beginning to see some evenings shelling peas in my very near future.  I've been able to put up 21 quarts of beans so far this year and it looks like much more is on the way.  

Most of the pepper plants are starting to produce.  The first jalapeno, banana and bell peppers are starting to come on pretty strong and I've been drying them as they do.  I've still got to make some (ok alot) pickled peppers for the year but as long as they keep producing like they are that shouldn't be a problem.  Anyone have a favorite pickled pepper recipe they would like to share?  

I was able to dry a nice bunch of cilantro to put up as well as some dill, parsley and basil.  I'm thinking I might need to start some more cilantro since what I have planted is already seeding.  The timing kinda sucked for making salsa using cilantro since the tomato's are just now putting out nice green tomato's.  So maybe if I start some more now it will be ready in time to make fresh Pico de Gallo (sp) and salsa.  

We had planted another garden area on the upper side of the hill with two 85 ft rows of pinto beans awhile back and unfortunately none of them came up. Not one stinking sprout!   So I guess this week we are going to try again with some different beans.  The main reason for even putting them in is to help the soil but I wouldn't mind having some pinto's to put up!  I don't think its too late yet but I guess we shall see.  The watermelon, cantaloupe, squash and sweet potato's are all doing ok so far up there though. Everything is green anyway! 

I have to admit that its pretty awesome these days to plan meals.  There isn't a much cooler thing than to be able to walk out your door and "shop" from your garden.  Beans, squash, turnips, peas, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, chard, radishes, spinach....and soon corn, tomato's and okra will be added to the list.  Of course the lettuce is starting to bolt and so until the fall planting I guess we won't be having a "proper" salad with tomato's... but shoot!!!!!!!  Who cares!!  LOL!!

I'm happy to say that so far, even with the temperatures climbing up to the 90 degree mark some days that we haven't turned on the A.C yet.  There's plenty of shade and most always a nice breeze so we take advantage of it as much as we can. I'd much rather be outside than holed up in this little RV all summer!  Sure does help the pocketbook and I'm hoping that we might even make it through June without firing it up.  Now THAT would be a first for this ol Texas Gal!!  

P.S.  I wish I could take me a Cat Nap!!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Canning Guides for the Beginner

It's that time of the year!  Canning season!  I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it is to see shining rows of home canned foods lined up in your pantry. I remember my grandmother canning every year.  I was just to young at the time to be of much help with it.  Unless of course you count the hundreds and hundreds of peas we shelled on the back porch in the evenings.  
I didn't learn to can until about four years ago.  I'll admit I was a bit nervous and not quite sure where to start.  I had tons of questions and searched for answers everywhere.  My friend kymber and I found an on-line canning class and became "canning buddies".   I've learned a lot since then for sure!  But it would have been nice to have had a straightforward and easy to understand guide that answered my many questions.   I was thrilled when I found out that Patrice from Rural Revolution had written three awesome EBooks that covered most any question a person might have on the wonderful "art" of canning.  Simple, straightforward and easy to understand guides which are also easy on the pocketbook. 
If you have ever wanted to learn to can or have just been thinking about it but don't know where to start I highly recommend you check these out. I especially like the Canning FAQ's. 
 I've included the descriptions below.  Here's the link to this great bunch of books.Thanks Patrice for putting these great books together!!

Introduction to Water-Bath Canning

A comprehensive beginner’s guide to water-bath canning. It covers procedure, equipment, altitude adjustment, and safety tips. In addition, the reader is walked through detailed instructions on canning applesauce, peaches/pears, and tomatoes, all lavishly illustrated with photographs.
Introduction to Pressure Canning
A comprehensive beginner’s guide to pressure canning. It covers procedure, equipment, altitude adjustment, and safety tips. In addition, the reader is walked through detailed instructions on canning chicken breasts, green beans, and split pea soup, all lavishly illustrated with photographs.
Canning FAQs: 100 Basic Questions about Canning
A comprehensive beginner’s guide to canning, addressing 100 of the most common questions. Publication covers Basic Information, Equipment, Water-Bath Canning, Pressure Canning, Heat Sources and Alternate Equipment, Troubleshooting, and Miscellaneous Information. Special attention is paid to safety procedures.