Monthly Archives: July 2017

A Garden Dinner

Over the last week we have been so busy with digging and storing garlic to dry that some of the things we would normally do fell by the wayside. Two of those things include planning and preparing a good dinner and tending the garden. We finished up the garlic tasks yesterday morning and decided it was time to play catch up. My husband worked in the garden – weeding, harvesting, and thinning rows. He brought home a nice size bag of fresh veggies that we decided to incorporate into our dinner. I cleaned the veggies and prepared them for our meal. This is what was on the menu. All of the vegetables and herbs were home grown.

Salad – Three types of lettuce, radish, cucumber

Salad Dressing – Basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, garlic, onion powder, sea salt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar

Garlic mashed potatoes – I minced several cloves of garlic, mixed the minced garlic with 1/2 stick of butter, then mixed it into the mashed potatoes.

Baby beets with beet greens – The beets in the garden needed to be thinned so even though the beets were only about 1 inch my husband brought them home. After cleaning them I trimmed the long roots off the cut the leaves off leaving a couple inches of the stem attached to the beet. I put the greens and the beets in the steamer and cooked until the beets were tender.

Grilled pork chops – Since we don’t raise our own pork (yet) the pork chops were not something we produced, but they were seasoned with minced garlic and fresh dill. They complimented our garden dinner nicely.

My husband and I MMM’ed and wowed as we ate our dinner and even after dinner we continued to rave about how much we enjoyed the meal. We could truly taste the nutrition in the foods we were eating. Honestly, my favorite fresh garden vegetable is probably potatoes. They have flavor and texture that I have never found in store bought potatoes and are definitely worth the work it takes to grow them.

If you are growing a garden this year I hope that you too are enjoying the fruits or vegetables of your labor.

Tonight’s menu will include potato salad, sautéed swiss chard with garlic and grilled Italian sausage.

A Year In Growing Garlic (Part IX)

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I just wanted to do a quick update to let you know that we have started our harvest and at this time we are up to our ponytails in garlic. Well, I am up to my ponytail in garlic, but my husband who doesn’t have a ponytail is in just as deep.

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To harvest the garlic we have to dig it out of the ground, remove most of the dirt from each bulb, tie the bulbs in bundles the store them in their drying area where they will remain for about three weeks or so until the bulbs are cured. There really is a lot of work involved, at least if you are growing 1000’s of bulbs of garlic.

So if I seem to be MIA for the next week or so there is no need to worry or send a search party or anything. If you do send a search party we will probably hand them a shovel or give a quick tutorial on how to clean and bundle the garlic and put them to work. Hmm, on second thought, go ahead and send the search party. 🙂

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I will do a more in depth post about this as time allows, but I just though I would let you know that if you are growing garlic and have not yet dug it up, you probably want to do it soon. If the bottom leaves are turning brown and drying up it is probably time. A good way to be sure it to do a test dig. If the bulbs are a decent size and have formed cloves it is time to harvest.

 

What We Are Up To

Summer is in full swing and we are well into all of our summer farming activities, planting, watering, weeding and harvesting. While most of the planting is done, we like to stagger the planting of some crops to extend the growing season, so my husband might yet plant a row of carrots or some more beans.

Since I’m not sure I could write an interesting post about weeding or watering, I thought I would share with you what we have harvested so far this year.

Rhubarb – We stopped picking rhubarb after a late season frost, but I was able to put some in the freezer for future desserts.

Asparagus – Our asparagus crop was certainly not what we had hoped for. Heavy spring rains severely stunted growth this year but we enjoyed it fresh for a few weeks and I froze most of our excess.

Dandelions – If you have been following my blog you know that I have used dandelions for making soap and that we liked it so much I went dandelion hunting in order to be able to make a second batch.

With dandelions being so plentiful in the spring I’m not sure why we have not yet added them to our diet as well. http://www.moneycrashers.com/eating-dandelions-health-benefits-leaves-greens-roots-flowers/

Mint – Peppermint, spearmint, and chocolate mint have been picked, dried and stored for use as mint tea, oil infusions, soap, culinary uses, and maybe a bottle of mint vodka. I dry mint and most other herbs by either hanging it in a bunch or laying it in a single layer on my drying screen.

Oregano – I’ll use lots of oregano when I make spaghetti sauce in August/September so I picked and dried a lot.

Strawberries – The weather seemed to have an ill effect on the strawberry crop as well. The berries this year were small so even if there were as many berries as last year the crop size was still reduced. I did make 8 pints of strawberry jam, a strawberry rhubarb pie, and I have several quarts in the freezer.

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Elder Flowers – We have been trying to grow elder berries for about the last five years. It has proved to be a challenge first to get the bushes to grow since the neighborhood deer seem to consider them a delicacy. I’d guess we have planted somewhere around 15 elder berry bushes, and out of 15, two have been able to grow large enough to produce fruit. Even though they are large enough to produce fruit I have not been able to harvest the berries for the past two years because the birds get the fruit before I do. Over this past winter I learned that elder flowers have wonderful medicinal properties. http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-elderflower.html So I have harvested the flowers for tea and tincture and although I may not be able to make elderberry wine, I won’t have to battle the birds to harvest the medicinal properties of elder.

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Tart Cherries – Despite three early morning frosts while the fruit trees were in full bloom our cherry tree produced a nice crop. The first batch that we picked I decided to make into juice. The next batch was made into a cherry pie (one of my husband’s favorites). We told our next door neighbor to pick some so he too could have cherry pie, and even after that I was able to pick enough to freeze another batch of cherry pie filling. This was probably one of the best cherry harvest’s we have had from this tree.

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Garlic Scapes – I put up 6 pints of pickled scapes before our scapes went to market https://donteatitsoap.com/2017/06/26/garlic-scapes-at-nino-salvaggio-international-marketplace/

Thyme – I don’t often use thyme in cooking but I grow lots of it because the bees like it. I am aware that thyme is said to have many medicinal properties and decided I should have some dried thyme on hand. http://www.healthline.com/health/health-benefits-of-thyme#1

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Currants – “You are a better person than I am,” my husband said to me as I was picking currants. “These berries are worth their weight in gold,” I told him. It has only been in the last year that I have come to really appreciate the value of currants. They are indeed a super food. http://www.madaboutberries.com/health-benefits/health-benefits-of-blackcurrants-and-redcurrants.html In the past I have made currants into jelly and wine. Last summer I began making juice from them and found this to be like an energy drink. In order to preserve the vitamin C I make raw juice. I simply wash the berries then blend them, stems and all, with some water in my nutri bullet blender. I then pour the blend into a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds.  My husband likes the juice with nothing added, but I like to sweeten mine with a little bit of our raw honey. We have been drinking the juice regularly, but I have also been able to put some in the freezer.

Picking currants can be a long and monotonous chore, but currants are not something that I can just pick up at the grocery store, and if I was able to find them at a farmers market I’m sure they would be priced beyond my budget (have you checked the price of gold lately?).  Fortunately currants will stay ripe on the bush for quite a while so I can pick a quart or two a day and go back for more a day or two later. We also grow 4 different varieties which ripen at different rates, so while I am about finished picking two varieties, one variety is coming into it’s prime and the last on is just beginning to ripen.

Plantain – It grows wild everywhere and unless you have applied a weed killer to your lawn you can probably find it growing there. I have been using plantain for medicinal purposes for a few years as a topical by infusing it in oil to make a balm and by infusing it in alcohol to make a tincture. http://www.naturallivingideas.com/plantain-benefits-uses/  When my husband and I both came down with a cold, I discovered that I was out of tincture so I used fresh leaves to make plantain tea. Plantain, like dandelion, is a plant that we should probably add to our diet.

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Blue Berries – Our blue berries are currently ripening. We weren’t sure if we would have a good blue berry crop this year because last fall we moved all of our blue berry bushes to our fenced, field garden. One thing was for sure, if we were going to get any berries at all we would have to protect them from the birds. The bushes have adapted well and my husband put in some wooden stakes and draped netting over it to deter the birds. It is a bit of a challenge crawling on our hands and knees under the net to pick the berries but we appreciate them even more.

Blue berries are the easiest fruit to deal with post harvest. A quick rinse, since we don’t use and chemicals on them, then I freeze them on a tray. Once they are frozen I put them in freezer bags. We use blue berries mostly in pancakes but I have also discovered that they are wonderful when baked into a loaf of banana bread.

Swiss Chard – This happens to be our favorite leafy green vegetable. We start picking it when it is young and tender and it just keeps coming back. We think of swiss chard as a hardy spinach and use it in the same ways that we would use spinach.

One of my favorite ways to use swiss chard is in an omelet with crumble bacon or sausage and asiago cheese. YUM!

Stinging Nettle – Believe it or not I actually planted this “weed” on our farm. Since it is competing with other weeds or wild flowers that grow in the area it is slow to spread, but each year I am finding more. I had used nettle leaf in capsule form for allergies for years, and when I was finally able to harvest my own I began making tea and tincture with it. Nettle is another “weed” that we would do well to add to our regular diet and if our crop ever gets large enough I suspect we will.

Lettuce – While the rest of the salad vegetables lag behind we have been able to harvest some of the several varieties of lettuce that my husband planted. So combined with some store bought veggies we are enjoying our lettuce as salad. It also complements sandwiches and burgers.

When I clean leafy greens such as lettuce or swiss chard I put them in a bowl of cold water and add about a 1/4 cup of vinegar. I give it a swish and let it set for 5-10 minutes. The vinegar will kill any bugs that might be on the leaves. I then rinse each leaf individually before using it in my meal.

I expect that the next thing that we will harvest will be garlic so watch for a post on that soon.

 

 

 

Rescue Roses and Mystery Roses

Rescue Roses

When we bought our farm it was 7.6 acres of vacant land. It had been sitting untouched for many years and was overgrown with countless types of vegetation. It was so much fun exploring the property and discovering various trees, bushes, and wild flowers.

One of my great disappointments was when I realized that I was going to lose a beautiful wild rose bush when we dug our pond. “We will move it,” my husband said. We decided to plant it next to theses large rocks. Rocks that we had decided we would never move again.

We cut down the bushy part of the rose and dug up as much as the root as we could and replanted it next to the rocks.

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We have since found 4 or 5 more rose bushes which would need to be moved so we didn’t destroy them as we developed areas of the farm. All of theses rose bushes were replanted near the rocks in what has now become our rescue rose garden.

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These rose bushes thrive in their new home.

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I am always excited to see these rose bushes blossom in the spring and they have a lovely fragrance.

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It is gratifying to know that we were able to preserve this beautiful part of nature.

Mystery Roses

Another rose story I want to share is what my husband and I are calling the mystery rose. The yellow rose bush was a given to me as a Mother’s Day gift from my children several years ago. My oldest daughter had picked it out, and she selected yellow because I had told her that bees tend to like yellow and pink flowers but not red flowers. That was something I read when I was researching honey bees. We planted the rose in the center of our prayer garden.

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Yellow Rose 2015

Despite giving it lots of TLC, watering when needed, fertilizer, and protecting it from the deer, the rose bush struggled. Last year I pruned it way down because the top had died off and dried up. I was sad because whenever someone gives me a plant it is a reminder of that person. In this case it represented my 4 daughters.

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Yellow Rose Is Red In 2017

Several weeks ago my husband asked me if I’d seen my rose bush. “It has one blossom and lots of buds.” he said. A couple days later I was baffled as I checked on my rose bush. “That was a yellow rose.” I told my husband. “Now it has red blossoms.” He didn’t really remember it being yellow, but he didn’t accuse me of being crazy. To make sure I wasn’t crazy I looked back through my pictures and found the picture above.

I decided that there were one of two explanations for this change. The first one would be that someone had replaced the dead rose bush with a live one and had put in red rather than yellow. If this had happened I’m am certain I would have seen evidence of the digging and replanting.

The other thing I thought may have happened was that the yellow rose was a grafted bush and the root stock that was used was a red rose. I wasn’t sure if roses were grafted or if this scenario was possibly so I did an internet search.

This link from the MSU Extension explains that indeed my second explanation was indeed plausible. http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/why_are_my_roses_changing_color   Apparently I had pruned the rose bush down below the point where it was grafted. The root stock that was from a red rose was strong enough to survive and seems to be thriving in our garden. I do love this beautiful red rose and it will continue to remind me of my daughters.