Tag Archives: whole food

Glorious Eggs

This weekend, I got to do a big sigh of relief.  Building the brooder, sweeping up feathers, building a coop, chasing chickens out of my garden for 4 months…it’s all been worth it.  Know why? Because this weekend, we found THIS!

Yayy!!

Yayy!!

We’ve gone through approximately 200 lbs of feed, 3 rolls of chicken wire, dozens of lost tomatoes, and countless fights between the hens and the dog, but it was all worth it!  We’re now at about half a dozen, although we keep eating them, so I can’t prove that! It looks like just one hen is laying so far (the one we thought looked like a rooster!), but hopefully the other 5 aren’t far behind.  Look out friends! We’re about to have eggs!

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Filed under Chickens, Self Sufficience

A Day of Canning

Well, this post is only a week late, but I’m writing it! What can I say? It’s been a busy and distracting week.

Rain rain, go ahead and stay!

Rain rain, go ahead and stay!

Last Sunday, we woke up to a nice, rainy morning.  Now, there will come a time later in the year where I do tend to complain about rain quite a bit.  But August in Southeast Texas is not one of those times.  We decided to put the rainy day to use, and got busy in the kitchen!

Pretty Cans

Pretty Cans

We knew when we planted our garden this year that we intended to can as much as possible.  We’d hoped for more tomatoes, so that we could can those, too, but those darn stink bugs (actually leaf footed beetles, but po-tay-toe po-ta-toe) so we ended up with just enough for a jar or two of salsa.  Those are still in the freezer until I decide to splurge at the grocery store for the rest of the ingredients.  So, our canning was put on hold a little this year, but now our okra are coming in like crazy, and my grandmother’s friend brought us this:

Bag of Figs

Bag of Figs

Not only could we not even think of eating all of those figs, but they were also already frozen.  sigh.  The only option left was to make fig preserves, which are the best thing ever on a buttered muffin. If you haven’t tried them, go ahead.  It’s almost impossible to be disappointed.

We figured since we were at it, we may as well harvest our jalepeno plants as well, and make some jalepeno jelly.  Some will go out as Christmas gifts (oops, spoiler for family and friends), some will be brought to social gatherings, and others will be enjoyed at midnight with a cube of cream cheese and a sleeve of crackers while I watch re-runs of Scrubs.  Don’t judge.

Canning fig preserves

Canning fig preserves

So, we got to work.  8 hours, 3 big messes, 5 dirty pots, and 43 jars later, we were done.  And tired.  But our first day of canning for the season was a big success, and a lot of fun. We ended up with about 24 1-use sized jars of jalepeno jelly, 8 cans of okra, and 10 cans of figs.  Yes, I realize that adds up to 42 and not 43 jars, but believe it or not, one jar actually exploded in the canner!  That was definitely a first for us, but apparently it can happen if you’re re-using a jar, or the jar is too cold when you put it in the hot water.

All in all, it was a fun and productive day.  We’ll have to do it again really soon, too, since we’ve already got enough okra to go through it again! This time it will be on a much smaller scale.

Do you can produce from your garden? What are some of your favorite recipes? For those of you new to canning, stay tuned for a canning 1o1 post real soon!

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Filed under Canning and Preserving, Self Sufficience

Garden Surprise

Have you ever been surprised by the plants in your garden? What I mean is, we usually go to the nursery and pick out plants based on a plan, so we know exactly what will grow, where.  Well, this year was our first year trying out a local nursery, instead of buying starts at a big box store.  I loved the prices (.99 a start!) and service, but we have now ended up with two garden surprises!

The first one was simply the wrong kind of pepper- it was labeled jalepeno but we are pretty sure it is a banana pepper.  It’s a great producer, though, so no big deal.  However, we’ve now got a big (and I mean big) surprise in our garden.

That's not a cucumber!

That’s not a cucumber!

Remember how I said that right after we planted our garden, we suffered a really late frost and lost a few plants? We had to replace 2 of our cucumber starts.  They seemed kind of puny for the longest time, and I didn’t have much faith in them.  Suddenly, the vines branched out so fast I didn’t even have time to train them. They went everywhere.  Optimistic that this meant we would get a lot of cucumbers, I didn’t mind.  What we thought were cucumbers were popping up everywhere and growing at an exponential rate.  I finally asked in a gardening group, “what kind of cucumber is this?”  Obviously, I was told it’s not a cucumber at all (in my defense the photo was of a much smaller one, but still really big for a cucumber). I’d never seen them get this big, or have quite this pattern on them.  I feel kind of silly, now, but seeing the above photo, this obviously isn’t a cucumber.

I thought it was a cucumber!

I thought it was a cucumber!

We’ve now got 3 good sized watermelons growing in our garden.  I feel kind of silly that I picked a few when they were smaller, but hey! When you’re told it’s a cucumber, you assume it’s a cucumber, right?  I’m a little disappointed that we won’t be getting any pickles this year, but hopefully soon we’ll be enjoying some fresh watermelon straight from the garden! Now, the trick is to know when they’re ready! I honestly have no idea, since I’ve never grown a melon.

Has this happened to anyone else before??

 

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Filed under Gardening, In the Garden

In the Garden This week – June 1-7

I haven’t shared any photos of our garden the last few weeks, and thought now would be a great time to do so.  We were outside Monday evening and the light was just perfect and all of our plants looked so good that I just couldn’t help but pull out the camera and snap a few pictures.  It’s fun to see the changes over the season.  I hope you agree.

Tomato Plants

Currently, my favorite plants in the garden are my tomato plants.  We have 14 in varying varieties, and they are all producing really well.  The best production so far appears to be Romas and Cherries, but there are tomatoes and blooms on all 14 plants, and they are just looking so green and lush.  I couldn’t help but take this picture of all of them in rows.

Roma tomatoes on the vine

Roma tomatoes on the vine

Cherry tomatoes on the vine.

Cherry tomatoes on the vine.

As you can see, I’m getting some beautiful cherry and roma tomatoes this week.  These pictures were taken after our tomato harvest that day, where we got about 8 tomatoes that were fully ready.

Recovering jalepeno plants

Recovering jalepeno plants

Probably one of the biggest improvements I’ve seen in the garden this year are our jalepeno plants.  A few weeks ago, most of these plants had lost their leaves.  They were still producing fruit, but had mysteriously lost almost all of their leaves.  They were just twigs in the ground with tiny peppers coming out.  After some good pest prevention and organic fertilizing (more on that later) they’ve made a drastic recovery in a short amount of time. There are even some new flowers!

Bell Pepper Plant

Bell Pepper Plant

So far, we’ve only got one bell pepper growing on the 3 bell pepper plants we purchased, but it is getting pretty big.  It’s supposed to be a red bell pepper, so we’ll see what happens! So far, it’s bigger than the peppers that came off our plants last year, and it’s not even starting to turn red.  One of our bell pepper plants we assumed was totally done for.  In fact, even the main stalk had turned brown and drooped away from the stake holding it up.  Then, suddenly, it turned around! It’s now green and growing again.  I’m optimistic for later in the season.

Baby Carrots

Baby Carrots

Okra starts

Okra starts

We planted okra and carrots from seeds back at the beginning of May (or end of April? I can’t remember).  I didn’t weed around that area from the point of putting in the seeds until this past weekend, because I was paranoid about actually pulling up starts.  I wanted to be sure I could tell the difference before I started yanking.  Needless to say, in Southeast Texas, those weeds went rampant before I got to pull them up.  When I finally had a few hours to dedicate to wedding, I was shocked to see just how good this section of my garden looks.  In fact, I realized I have room to plant a lot more carrots! This week I’ll be mulching around the okra and planting new carrot seeds, but for now, I’m just enjoying how clean and well kept it looks.

baby orange on the tree

baby orange on the tree

baby lemons and blossoms

baby lemons and blossoms

Baby lemons on the branch

Baby lemons on the branch

My citrus trees are also doing pretty well.  Our crop won’t be nearly what it appeared when we first started getting baby fruits, but since I didn’t expect any fruit this year, I’m still happy.  As you can see in this last photo of the lemon tree, we keep getting little babies that turn yellow and fall off.  The same thing happened on our orange tree, even after we fertilized (although I believe we did that pretty late). Our lemon tree also lost a lot of it’s leaves when we transplanted it, but what is still there looks healthy, and as you can see from the second photo, we’ve still got some green lemons getting big!

Figs!

Figs!

We also have a new addition to our backyard garden this week.  2 Fig trees! This is the smallest of the 2, a Texas Everbearing fig tree. We also bought a Celeste fig tree that is much bigger (about the size of the lemon tree), but it also lost a ton of leaves when we transplanted, so it didn’t look pretty enough for a photo this week!  Hopefully it recovers quickly.  Both trees were loaded down with fruit when we bought them, so fingers crossed that they get ripe for us this year.

Mimosa tree: a pleasant surprise

Mimosa tree: a pleasant surprise

Some Pink Oleander Blooms

Some Pink Oleander Blooms

And, finally, I just wanted to share some pretty pictures from around the yard.  I’ve had so many pleasant surprises this spring.  Whoever lived here before us must have really loved to spend time in their yard at some point before they got too old to handle it (this was an estate sale, so I can actually say that). We’ve found some gorgeous plants and flowers that I didn’t recognize until they bloomed.  As you can see, we have a beautiful Mimosa tree in the back corner of our yard.  We also found a huge Oleander bush along the fence line as well.  And yes.  I’ve read the book White Oleander, and do realize that these plants are poisonous.  We have no intentions of ingesting any part of the plant, and Pistache believes that the fairies will not come to our yard if she harms any living plant, so she doesn’t play with it, either!

So, that’s it for this week! I hope you enjoyed the “stroll” around our garden.  I know I sure did.

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Filed under Gardening, In the Garden

Let the Harvesting Begin

I can’t believe the day finally came.  It always seems to take ages for the first harvest, but today, I picked the first ripe veggies from my garden (not counting the occasional green onion clipping).  It feels so good! I just can’t wait to put these goodies to use.

first harvest

 

Today, I had a jalepeno pepper (or at least it’s supposed to be jalepeno…that’s a pretty light pepper!), 2 cherry tomatoes, a green onion clipping, a cucumber, and another handful of berries.

So far, the garden is doing better than we could have hoped.  As long as all the peppers and tomatoes hanging on our plants right now ripen, we’ll be doing loads better than our garden last year!  Hopefully, we’ll be harvesting more veggies in the next few weeks, but I’m so excited to already have ripe food straight from the garden.

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Filed under Gardening, Healthy Eating, In the Garden, Self Sufficience

Surprise Carrots

Yep, you read that title correctly!  If you have read my blog from the beginning, you’ll know that our first garden struggled.  We planted lots of carrots and we were really excited about them.  According to the seed packet, we expected to wait a little while for our crop, but still expected carrots by mid-summer.  Unfortunately, while the tops sprouted up really quickly, we only ever got tiny orange slivers underground.  Eventually, we gave up, and then moved.

This past weekend, we went back to our old garden site to pick up a few things (it’s in my grandmother’s back yard, so we still have access), and when we drove back there, we were surprised to see a garden bed nearly full of carrot tops!  Curiously, I went and pulled up a few to inspect them, and sure enough, I had a garden full of carrots.  They’d clearly reproduced and made a second crop, too, because some of the carrots were smaller and some were huge.  I didn’t expect much from all of them, since they were so huge and basically abandoned, but I went ahead and filled 2 5 gallon buckets with carrots to bring home and clean.  I couldn’t believe it!  We got to cleaning and ended up with a lot of carrots.

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I still can’t believe we found these a full year after planting, and that they still tasted good!  We discussed what to do with these, and decided to try a recipe we found in our canning book.  We’ve tried it before, when some friends made it, and it’s a really interesting, different dish that we really enjoy during the summer!

Image

So, Cage Free Dad and Pistache got to work in the kitchen Sunday night after dinner, and got to work on our dilled carrots.  Those two love canning together!  We ended up with 9 cans, which should be ready just in time for Easter dinner.  If you have the Ball canning book, I suggest you try the recipe yourself! It’s a great, different way to enjoy carrots, especially when you have too many to eat before they go bad.

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Filed under Canning and Preserving, In the Garden, Self Sufficience

Life’s a Garden (Dig it!)

This weekend was the first weekend that Cage Free Dad was home after his 2-month-long training course out-of-state.  Needless to say, Pistache and I were very excited to spend time with him! Not only that, we had many projects to complete now that he was back to help.  The most important was to start our veggie garden! We’ve been really looking forward to our garden this year, after using last year as a learning experience (hello, fertilizer and compost!)

Not only did we do a lot more to our soil this year, but we also re-thought our growing plans.  Last year, we thought it would be fun to grow a wide variety of plants so we’d have lots of different veggies to eat all season.  However, the few plants that did produce last year, didn’t produce enough to keep us from buying veggies at the store.  So, this year we decided that instead of coming up with a long list of plants to grow, we’d rather fill our (much larger) garden bed with just a small variety but a lot of each plant.

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The final planting verdict in our bed this year (which is about 10×20) includes:

  • 8 jalepeno plants
  • 8 okra plants (a little early)
  • 14 tomato plants
  • 4 cucumber plants
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 4 chives
  • small patch of carrots

We’ve got a separate bed in a different part of the yard that includes 5 strawberry plants as well.  All in all, I’m excited for our prospects this year! I’m envisioning lots of fresh and canned tomatoes and pickles, as well as salsa and fresh carrots on the table this summer. Yum!

If this bed is a success this year, we’ve already got plans to make another bed the same size for next growing season, and we’ll add green beans and purple hull peas to the mix as well.  So, let’s keep our fingers crossed for a great growing season and a successful garden!

Have you planted your garden yet? What are you growing?

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Filed under Gardening, In the Garden, Uncategorized