Friday, November 27, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
We have beets and carrots and onions making a strong appearance. Even some lettuce. Cabbage failed to appear despite two plantings. Spinach showed up and then mysteriously bit the dust.
So yeah, about my month long absence.... I guess "while I was gone" isn't quite accurate. More like "How I took a tiny break from the garden and that snowballed into a solid month of avoidance during which time Bill from the Extension diligently watered and even planted more greens and I'm a rotten leaker."
Yeah, guilt. I'm good at that. Dropping the ball? Yup, sadly sometimes I do that too.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Cold temperatures at night mean a little extra insulation is in order.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Beastly vegetarian creatures no less. And clearly, their mothers never taught them to finish their plates. It's just a little snack from here, and another from over there.....
The problem we are up against is that these rotten animals may decide to winter in the high tunnel. And that will pose big, big problems for our fledgling greens this fall and next spring.
Feeling a bit like Mr. McGregor, only my pests aren't dressed in cute little blue jackets. Beatrix Potter anyone?
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Bill says they beat the rubber tomatoes available in the supermarket come February, but honestly, truly, I beg to differ. The don't stay firm. It's like they go from green straight to mushy.
Maybe it's all in my head. Who wants to set up a blind taste test for me to see if I can spot the vine ripened fruit? And by vine ripened, I mean that vine should still be attached to roots, in the ground. Sigh.
Tomato season is just too dang short!
Monday, October 5, 2009
Thinking about getting me a little bistro patio for the inside. Would be a stellar place to enjoy a coffee and a paper this fall.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
(And you thought I only did jam.)
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Note: The original post has already been modified somewhat, altering readers to its unsuitability for canning.
I checked with the Extension folks, and they sent over a new recipe (below). Also, I've been informed that salsa should only be canned in pint jars.
Tomato/Tomato Paste Salsa l
3 quarts sliced tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped
3 cups onions, chopped (3 medium whole)
6 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
4 long green chilies, peeled, seeded, and chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 12-ounce cans tomato paste
2 cups bottled lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin (optional)
2 tablespoons oregano leaves (optional)
1 teaspoon black pepper
Yield: 7 to 9 pints
Jalapeno peppers do not need to be peeled. Peel and prepare chili peppers.* To peel tomatoes, dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split, then dip in cold water to remove skins. Core and chop tomatoes. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and heat, stirring frequently, until mixture boils. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot salsa into clean, hot pint jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe jar rims and cap with properly pre-treated lids. Process in a boiling water bath canner. Process time in a boiling water bath canner for hot pack pint jars at the following elevations:
0-1,000 feet 15 minutes
1,001 – 6,000 feet 20 minutes
My sincere apologies. (Sigh.) Not a fun post to write.
On a lighter note, the red pepper above weighs a whopping 14oz.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Not my personal favorite, but it is another fresh, simple dish. The recipe comes from my husband's family and, inexplicably, the recipe card says 'NOT' to change ingredients. Huh. Well you can guess how I feel about that. The original only called for cucumbers, but it works just fine with tomatoes too.
1 cup mayo (or a lot less!)
1 tbl. vinegar
2 tbl. milk
1 tsp. sugar
salt & pepper
I'm thinking a nice dose of dill would be good in here too. What else?
SEEDs for De Pere, a part of Main Street De Pere, Inc., a program of the De Pere Area Chamber of Commerce, will host a composting workshop at 10 a.m. on Sat., Sept. 26. Participants should meet at Vanevenhoven De Pere Hardware, 1045 N. Broadway, De Pere.
The workshop will be led by Dave Haupt, a well known area home gardener, and will include a visit to an area composting site. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Rosalie Shier, 336-5870, email email@example.com.
Above is a photo of my own compost bins. I picked up the black bin on the left off a neighbor's curb. Best garbage score ever! This is a stacking style bin with hinged lid that sold for ~$75 when it was on the market. I love it. My husband made me the bins on the right, and after more than 10 years of use (and one move across town), it is starting to fall apart.
Plus, here's my own personal compost problem. Maybe someone can help me solve it:
I left the bottoms open on my homemade compost bin and I think roots from the nearby trees crept their way up into my bins. All I know is that I have two compartments so choked solid that I have to fight like mad to get my shovel in and get anything out. I laid weed barrier under my third bin (the new black one). Meanwhile I'm trying to put off the day when I have to tip the other over, fight it all down, and start over. Think it's really roots? Or maybe seed matter in my compost material?
And by the way, we are a composting neighborhood. Here's a shot of the bin next door:
Someday I'll post of picture of my parents' bins. Now THOSE are something to see. Compost maniacs, I'm telling ya. Whenever Mom and I do the area garden walks together, she wants to know where their 'messy area' is hiding. In other words, where are the compost bins? Unimaginable that any gardener could be without.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Times I've left the house since making these: About 3.
Times I've remembered to pick up tortilla chips: 0.
With the exception of the bell peppers and some of the onions, all of these ingredients were purchased at the farmer's market. Got a large flat of tomatoes on Wednesday night for just $8. Score. Made all of this and still have some left over. (Tomatoes in the high tunnel are starting to ripen, but not enough for mass salsa production.)
NOTE ADDED SEPT. 24: This recipe is not deemed safe for canning. And salsa should only be canned in pints. Please see this safe salsa recipe. Use this recipe for fresh salsa only.
This is my brother's fresh salsa recipe:
2 medium onions
1 sweet bell
1 small can tomato sauce
1 tsp garlic
1 tbl. salt
1.5 tbl. white wine vinegar
2 tbl. fresh cilantro
(And that's a Seinfeld reference in the title, for those of you scratchin' your heads.)
And do splurge on the good mozzarella--the kind that comes in the round balls.
(That's another thing I need to learn to make: fresh cheese!)
Friday, September 18, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
That's the time of year when, no matter how hard you try, you can't keep up with all the produce on your kitchen counter.
Despite two batches of jam, I couldn't get through all the pears generously donated by an aunt and uncle. So after watching swarms of little winged buggers hovering over this bowl, I decided to move it outside.
I'll step out the door if I want a piece of fruit. (Provided the critters don't find a way onto my patio table, that is.)
What doesn't get eaten will go to the compost bin, and that's okay. The best thing about a compost bin is that I don't have to feel guilty about wasting produce.
'Bye, bye soggy smelly greens. See yah, slimy pepper. Later...whatever you were molding in the back of my fruit drawer. Have fun with the coffee grounds. We'll meet again in year or so.'
Monday, September 14, 2009
This weekend's total output was rather low, but that's only because I switched to some low sugar recipes -- hence all the opaque jars you see above. Only the last was made with regular commercial pectin. See how the light shines through? That jar is alllll sugar.
From left to right:
Crabapple Jelly. Made traditionally, this would have been a beautiful, pink, jewel-toned jar. I had the sugar all measured and ready to tip in the pan, but at the last moment I couldn't do it. Nine cups it wanted, for seven cups juice! So I made this with Pomona's Pectin instead. One cup of sugar to four cups of juice. The flavor is true to the juice, but it's really a bit too mild for my taste. Next time, I'm thinking a little jalepeno cooked in the juice and then sieved out at the last minute would really add some flavor interest.
Ginger Pear. No pectin at all. 3# pears to one cup sugar. Cook the ginger slices in the fruit and then fish out before jarring. I wish the ginger flavor was stronger. I have a different book that calls for preserved ginger that stays in the jam, but I haven't been able to figure out exactly what that is or where I can buy it. I don't believe it is simply candied ginger, but I'm not sure. I cooked this batch down quite far and only got 2.5 jelly jars for my effort.
Blackberry Crabapple Cardamom. LOVE IT!! This was really going to be a 'throwaway' batch of sorts, to use up my leftover blackberry pulp and crabapple juice, but then I saw a recipe that called for the same combination, only it used apples instead of crabapples. So I figured I was good to go.
I think I overdid it on the cardamom -- used one tablespoon of lightly crushed caradmom seeds. But I like the strong flavor. This is another one where the seeds get cooked in the juice (in a tea bag or cheesecloth) and then fished out before jarring.
I got this idea (although not the exact recipe) from one of my least favorite jam books--one in which the author provides all sorts of not-so-helpful directions like "use the seeds from three cardamom pods." Yeah, and if I just have the seeds....????
This was also made with Pomona's Pectin and a 4:1 juice to sugar ratio.
Pear & Frangelico. Recipe from Well Preserved, one of my favorite jam books. The flavors go so well together, and the Frangelico really stands out. Six and 3/4 jars from this, thanks to all the sugar.
Now...do I have the energy for grapes and elderberries yet? Or perhaps a better question, do I have enough people on my gift list?
Friday, September 11, 2009
Remember, we have lots of insulation around the base of the high tunnel. That and the air protection above ground should help us stretch our harvest season quite far. Harvesting in January or February perhaps?
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I had way more than enough for a batch of jam. Happily, I found a Blackberry Cabernet Sauvignon jam recipe in that 175 Best Jams book I told you about earlier. Also happily, I only needed a cup for the recipe, so some of my sainted berry-bearers stuck around to help me drink the rest of the bottle.
That's two favors they did for me in one night. How lucky am I?
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
What you're looking at is a healthy batch of pesto from my own home garden. I have very little sun space for growing edibles, but I do make sure to have some basil plants every year.
These "blobs" have been frozen and are waiting to be bagged and tossed back in the freezer for some quick grab-n-heat pesto pasta dinners.
What do you like to do with pesto?
Thursday, September 3, 2009
We kind of thought we might be in for a big harvest back in late July when I couldn't resist seeing how the potatoes were doing. That's about when we had "fingerlings."
Anyway, we harvested 30 pounds 2 ounces out of the high tunnel last night -- planted in a 9 ft space. That's on top of the 40 pounds harvested out of a 12-ft outdoor bed, and about 8-ish pounds from another outdoor location.
Comparing high tunnel to outside -- you'd have to declare it a tie. I was disappointed (I REALLY wanted to win) 'cause our potato plants were so prodigiously big and gorgeous. I was positive we'd have the higher yield.
Ah well, it's still all and good on the potato front. Bill says we were expected to get 20 lbs of potatoes for every 1 lb of seed potatoes planted. Well....that was 1 lb of seed potatoes total, across three locations, and very nearly an 80 lb yield.
Not bad. Even if I didn't win.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
As far as I'm concerned there is ONE, unequivocal best way to eat green beans -- lightly steamed and tossed with a dijon dressing with feta and tomatoes. Ummmmm.....I can't help but gorging every time I make it.
I use an old Martha Stewart Food recipe with slight variation. The original called for scallions (which I skip) and halved cherry tomatoes (which I generally replace with chunked romas.)
For the dressing - 1/3 cup white wine vinegar with 1 teaspoon (or more) dijon mustard. I like the fancy Grey Poupon stuff.
As for the beans, tomatoes and feta, I dunno. Eyeball that. I think this was about 3 oz feta in last night's dish, maybe four tomatoes, and my steamer kettle full to the brim with beans.
Best warm, but plenty fine served cold too. Love it!!!
The fork is about 20" wide and has five tines, I think, to lift and aerate the soil. It worked quite well in the high tunnel, where space is tight. Really, a powered rotatiller would have been totally unnecessary. Because we haven't been trampling the soil all summer, it was still nice and light. I'd say it spent all of 15 minutes, maybe, loosening the soil in two rows.
It was HOT in the high tunnel though, even with the sides up, and I was fresh from standing outside working a golf outing all day. So I must admit that when Bill asked me if I didn't prefer that to a machine, I hestitated.
Now, in retrospect, in the cool breeze of morning, I can say that yes, the broadfork was WAY better than pushing some heavy machine into the tunnel and standing behind a hot, loud motor. It's just at 80+ degrees in a heavy weight polo and pants, just about any kind of labor seemed offensive.
That's okay. Took a super fast shower after the garden and then headed out to hear some jazz at Heritage Hill. They have a very nice 'carry-ins welcome' policy for their Monday night concerts, so I carried in some local red wine. Yes [sip]....I earned this.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
That's okay, I guess, 'cause we're doing some FALL PLANTING tonight.
Speaking of fall planting, Bill put a new row of peas in an outside bed, and they're already popping up nicely.
Friday, August 21, 2009
175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades & Other Soft Spreads by Linda J. Amendt
These are my two favorite jamming books. Both available from the Brown County Library. (In fact, if you look closely you can see the one of the left IS a library book.) I own two others, but these are the best.
Why do I like them? Well, they both rely on commercial pectin and I appreciate the low-work, no-fail results you get with products like Certo and Sure-Jell.
Second, both books push the 'Strawberry-Rhubarb' envelope with fun new combinations that incorporate ingredients like preserved ginger, citrus, vanilla bean, spices and liqueurs.
Using these books last year, I made pear & Frangelico, cranberry jalepeno, peach brandy, raspberry rum, and blueberry lemon in addition to more traditional flavors, currant and elderberry. (Wow, that was kind of a lot!)
Would love to learn to make more artisan-style jams without commercial pectin, but I want a personal teacher for that. Every time I try, it's a failure and I hate to waste all that fruit. Sure, it makes good pancake topping, but there's something about failed jam that just doesn't say 'Merry Christmas' to me. (You didn't think I was eating all that jam by myself, did you?)
I've also done some experimenting with Pomona's Pectin, 'cause you can cut the sugar way way down, but that too can lead to failure if you don't have the right recipe. I started keeping a jam log last year so I can start to learn and experiment rather than just following a recipe all the time.
Anyone know of an artisan jam class in Wisconsin?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Last year my batch of 'blueberry lemon' was the runaway favorite. While I don't exactly taste the citrus, I think it really brightens the flavor.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Did you read any of the Five Little Peppers books when you were little? No? Well me neither. But I know they were some of my mother's childhood favorites. Maybe it's time to visit them.
These are five dark purple peppers harvested from the garden yesterday. Most of the plants from our "rainbow" mix appear to be purple. And they're going gangbusters right now.
So far I'm only seeing two other colors -- one yellow plant and a few green. Those green better be turning some shades of orange and red, or I'm going to have words with the seed folk. Colorful words.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
(Below) And these are the tomatoes outside, taken with the camera at HIP LEVEL.
It's been a cool, cool summer and our heat-lovin' plants are not exactly thriving. My cousin said they've just started to harvest the early "Fourth of July" tomatoes in her garden plot.
All I can say is that they better get going, or we're all going to have to go southern and start eating a lot of fried green tomatoes this fall.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Does this bode well for my someday-kids? Will they be eager veggie eaters too? (Just so long as they don't roll in dead fish and sniff other kids butts.)
Anyway, the variety you see here is Benary's Giant. Their description is.....high yield of long sturdy stems with fully double, dahlia-like blooms.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Totally non-toxic, the clay reduces the insects and birds who bother the fruit, and is considered an organic solution.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
My husband and I made a batch of this syrup several years ago and were disappointed with the cherry flavor at first. Seemed like the jars were much better after a few years of maturity. We gave the last one away this spring, so I was bracing myself for a few years without.
But I was pleasantly surprised with the strong cherry flavor in this batch. We're ready to go right from day one. The difference, I think, may be because I pitted all these cherry and chopped some up, instead of boiling them whole. (I was prepping to make jam. The syrup was a last minute adjustment.)
At any rate, I'm decidedly pleased. Maybe even a little smug. (It's just soooo pretty.)
Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
It's been a few years since I pickeled, and I had forgotten how FRUSTRATING it is. You see, the little package of Ball pickling mix tells me to cut up 7 pounds and prep 8 pint jar. Well seriously. No way.
I was able to get HALF that quantity into seven jars. And it took all the hot pickling syrup I had. So I guess I'm a really bad pickle packer. (Hmm...I think there's a Seuss book there.)
What am I supposed to do--carefully place these chunks in the jar one by one like puzzle pieces?? When I woke up this morning I saw that all my pickles have floated to the top of the jar, leaving like an inch of juice below. Arrgh!
Anyway, I quit at 7 jars because I was packing them about 11:30 p.m. last night when I remembered my boiling water canner only holds six jars at a time. And noooooo way was I saying up to boil two batches. The extra jar went straight to the fridge.
But seriously, I'm assuming most canners hold the same quantity as mine. So why wouldn't the Ball recipe be designed to produce batches in increments of 6?? Would seem a bit of a waste to run that canner for 15 minutes with only two jars.
And another thing, local grocery store which shall remain nameless.....why, oh why, wasn't the pickling mix with the rest of the canning supplies in aisle 1? Or maybe the pickle aisle? Or the spice aisle? Or even the produce department? What mysterious logic says, "Pickle mix. Yeah. That goes with the Jello."
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
DJP over at the Vegetable Garden gives an extensive explanation of the apple bagging process, so I'll refer you to him. He's a former extension staffer and was an early pioneer of this bagging technique.
The UW Extension also has an apple bagging video on its site.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Was a little fearful when I reached in to get him 'cause the bees were sure plentiful this morning....
Rolling up the sides lets all those helpful critters in.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Our high tunnel tomatoes aren't really any further along than anyone else's this summer. It'll be a while before these three paste toms are ready to eat. All the plants are big and healthy thought.
The real test will be to see how late we can get tomatoes this fall. These plants fall in the tiny and might-not-make-it category. Can you even see that poor naked little stem about an inch in front of the stake??? We have a whole row of little cherry tomatoe buggers like that. If they make it, we might be harvesting in October. How cool would that be?
Live, little plants, live.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
This week’s spotlight will show small-scale farmers how hoop houses can extend the growing season. The program will cover the uses and benefits of hoop houses; different structure types; how to manage crops, fertility, pests and weeds; and the economics and marketing of hoop house crops.
Host Jeff Birkby, outreach director for NCAT’s ATTRA – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service project, will be joined by NCAT horticulture specialists Tammy Hinman and Andy Pressman.
Hinman holds a Bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University in horticulture food crops and entomology and a Master's degree in food system studies from Antioch University. Pressman has a Master’s in sustainable systems from Slippery Rock University. He is a certified permaculture designer. Hinman and Pressman both have market farming experience as well as experience building and growing in hoop houses.
Featured on the Green Talk Network, this is part of a weekly series on sustainable agriculture, running through early October. Archived files of each show will also be available on the ATTRA Web site.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Maine's Potato Blossom Festival starts today.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Organic gardeners should be able to recognize these eggs. These elongated, yellow eggs on the underside of a leaf are lady beetle eggs. They are good and we want them in our garden.
This will be especially important in the winter and spring because we want lady beetles to eat the aphids that will try to attack our salad greens.
Monday, July 6, 2009
The Extension folks installed a "backflow protected automatic draining freezeless sanitary yard hydrant." How's that for a mouthful?
The water line to the hydrant is buried four feet deep. Come winter the hydrant must be operated at full flow, through the diverter, for a minimum of 30 seconds before and after each use to drain the hydrant and prevent freezing.
Here's the spec sheet with lots of details on our yard hydrant.