Monday, August 29, 2022

Garden Abundance

Hello, friends.  I hope your August has been going well.  Last week, I cut up our figs and pawpaws to use in fruit salad, and added beauty berries gathered on a walk to top it, adding nutrition and a little color.  Sweet potato pieces were fried.  Our cucumbers, pepper and tomatoes were used in a salad.  A book was returned to the library, and more were picked up.  When my sister was here learning to can, I gave her garden produce to take home.  She brought me a lovely homegrown bouquet.  My stepmom was visiting NC, and my sister, brother, SIL and I met her for lunch.  I brought produce to my SIL, and brought jars of tomatoes and tomato juice to my sister, which she had helped can.  While in Greensboro, I shopped at my co-op.  They had a sale on Southern Exposure Seed Exchange seeds for $2 ea., so I got three lettuce and a sweet pepper we haven't tried.  Pawpaws were prepped and frozen in 1/2 c amounts in muffin tins.  

To use some of the bounty, fig bread and zucchini bread were made, the latter with tromboncino.  I blanched and froze some cowpeas, enough for three meals.  Figs were used in a green salad, with beauty berries sprinkled on top.  I gave the zucchini chips another try, hand cutting them thicker this time.  Two trays were prepared, just to try them, and the dehydrator was otherwise filled with onions.  You may remember some time ago I braided onions.  They're doing great, but that was only about half of them, and the round J dug a bit later sat on the drying rack for weeks, which didn't do them any favors.  Several of them, particularly white ones, had started to rot, so I salvaged what I could, and dried it for onion powder.  The latest squash chips ended up being too thick.  I plan to try at least once more.  Another round of pawpaws were prepped and frozen.  A local farm with a CSA had told us they wanted to buy some, but did not in the end, so I'm freezing them for future smoothies.  I redeemed Swagbucks points for a $25 gift card. 


Between the tromboncino and cucuzza, the squash has gotten out of control.  I still have many canned quarts on the shelf, and early in the season, I canned up some pints.  I decided to make Burden soup with some, which uses up 2.2# at a go.  Still only a dent, but every bit helps.  On Friday, we gave away many squash.  Hooray!  I froze all the tomatoes, and will make tomato paste when there are enough to make it worth my while.  Laundry was dried on the line.  Some weeks back, I mentioned how much fun we had dancing at a gathering.  When we saw a local Inn was having a 70's dance party this past weekend, we decided to do it again.  We had a fun evening, the costumes were fantastic, and we were well taken care of for breakfast, despite all our quirky food challenges.  Garden produce was shared with our pet sitter when we arrived home.  Shortly before we left, J harvested most of the winter squash and pumpkins.  J harvested the last three cabbage.  One was used for dinner, and our yellow squash, onion and garlic in another dish.  Though not in the forecast, we received some lovely rain Sunday afternoon.  Wishing all in the US a happy Labor Day weekend!

Monday, August 22, 2022

Alternatives to Chicken Feed & A New Jam

Hello, friends.  Last week, I harvested several sprigs of rosemary, and made some rosemary lemonade, which was nice and refreshing.  On Monday, figs and pawpaws most needed attention, so I canned vanilla fig preserves, then pawpaw butter.  These were set aside for gifts, though I did have a small amount of the fig preserves left, and enjoyed it's goodness on toast.  Daily goals were made on Swagbucks each day.  Several cucuzza squash were grated, and frozen in 1/2 cup pucks in a muffin tin, to use in recipes over the winter.  My Mom's zucchini soup was made with our cucuzza, tomatoes, onion, garlic and herbs.  Squash has been cooked in many forms... in a dish with quinoa and lime, in my Mom's soup, and sauteed with onions.  Water from rinsing vegetables and from canning were used to water plants.  My gift cupboard is filling up nicely.  There have been two more batches added since this pic was taken, including Cantaloupe Vanilla Jam by Food in Jars, which Staci kindly shared with me.  It's really delicious.  

Our Dixie Lee & Iron and Clay cowpeas had been dehydrated so far.  I wanted to freeze some fresh, and blanched and froze four bags.  They'll cook more quickly, and I generally prefer the flavor over dried beans.  Two quarts of figs were chopped and frozen.  We lost the cantaloupe fight.  All the ones in the house had soft spots, and some had started growing mold.  I tackled them, and saved maybe half of the melon, gave the seeds to the chickens, and composted the rest.  Though I'm not sure what we'll do with all of it, it's chopped and in bags in the fridge, joining the already chopped melons in there.  Most years we've had no luck growing them.  Feast or famine.  I've been listening to lots of podcasts and videos while doing chores, particularly during the time I'm in the kitchen dealing with the harvest.  A favorite is Three Rivers Homestead.  I believe I've mentioned the chicks we bought as supposedly Rhode Island Red pullets are Modern Game Bantams.  We're now sure that the one on the left is a rooster, as he's been crowing away.  Sheesh.  They're such fast movers, this is the best pic I could get.

Knowing I won't have all the fresh produce coming in to use for chicken mash during the cold months, I've been gathering some things to use to supplement their diet, as I've been doing this summer.   J had two large bags of cereal he no longer wants, being he can't have milk (& doesn't care for plant milk), so I've saved them to crush up as part of their mash.  When he organized our seeds, he brought me a basket of corn cobs we had saved for seed.  As we're not planning on growing corn any longer, and I can't eat it on my current lifestyle, I'll grind the corn for the chickens.  I've also found homemade bread crumbs in the freezer, from pre-GF days, so they will also be used.  We've left a couple vines of tromboncino to ripen into winter squash for them, and quite a few are already huge and turning color.  Much of the year, I can also bring them various greens, and I'm thinking of collecting some of the numerous seed heads of dock on the homestead.  I feel better knowing if there are supply chain issues, or the price of their feed becomes too much to bear, I have a number of foods to give them to at least stretch any bought food.

In the garden, we harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, tromboncino and cucuzza squash, figs, apples, pears, plums, cowpeas, carrots, basil, parsley, thyme, cantaloupe, honeydew, and pawpaws.  I tried making "zucchini chips" with cucuzza for the first time.  They tasted nice, with salt, dill and lemon juice.  A mandoline was recommended for cutting, but they were paper thin once dehydrated, and stuck to the trays.  Though I do have stainless mesh to go in the trays when needed, my experience has been that very thin items stick just the same.  I'm disappointed, as I was really hoping to be able to provide my own snacks for a time, instead of buying them.  I may try hand cutting them thicker, but the mandoline sure did make quick work of it.  If you've made them before, I welcome suggestions.  For purchases for my business, I used a 15% off code, and went through Rakuten for 10% back.

A few more flower seeds were found at Dollar Tree, to use in my Garden sets, but when putting them away, I noticed 4/6 packets were from '21.  They only charged me .10 a packet, so I can't really complain, but that was something I never thought to look for.  I have been hearing about people buying expired food in these times, so I guess it pays to look at everything.  Sweet potato leaves were harvested to have in my morning smoothies.  It's a super easy way to get in more leafy greens, and is not even noticeable.  On the way to the library, I dropped off cucumbers and squash to a friend.  Magazines were dropped off at the library's free basket, when dropping off a book.    Leftover small steamed potatoes were fried with our onion and sweet pepper.  With a little smoked paprika and garlic powder, they were yummy, and all homegrown, except for the oil and spices.  It's a great way to use up the smaller potatoes, and I want to remember to make more of these during the winter.  

I woke up very early one morning, and made hummingbird food and golden paste for the pups, then packed orders and wrapped soap until J woke up.  I made my Fall soap last week, Pumpkin Chai, so it's curing on the shelf, and should be ready to wrap Labor Day weekend.  We had J's family reunion to go to on Saturday.  I made GF pawpaw oat bars, a vegan broccoli mac & cheese, and brought a big salad for myself.   My niece and sister have both recently expressed interest in learning to can, which really excites me.  My sister is coming today to learn to can tomatoes, and has asked for some canning supplies for Christmas.  I love sharing this simple lifestyle with others.  We have a fun date night coming up this week.  May your week contain many good things.  

Monday, August 15, 2022

Eating From the Garden & Putting Food By

Hello, friends.  Last week, a small bouquet was cut, to enjoy in the house.  I dehydrated tomato tops, which will be turned into powder, once more are collected.  I harvested basil, and made pesto.  Sweet potato and a few buckwheat leaves were gathered, and added to smoothies.  I harvested spilanthes, lemon verbena, thyme and stevia, and dried them.  From the garden, we harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, yellow, cucuzza and tromboncino squash, butternut and other winter squash, green beans, cantaloupe, honeydew, apples, figs, and pawpaws.  Apple Cinnamon Zucchini muffins were made with tromboncino.  I made them GF and vegan, and they turned out well.  A bread end was dried for bread crumbs.

Twice the past week, I saw mention of making cabbage steaks.  Having our cabbage that needed to be used, I tried it for dinner one night.  We thought it was pretty good, though I'm sure real butter would make it better.  Another new dish was tried, using our eggplant, tomatoes, broth, basil and garlic.  I'll be making it again.  While the cabbage was baking, sweet potatoes were added to the oven.  By deferring shipping on some amazon items, I've got $4.50 in digital credit, which will be used for either books or movies.  After a soap delivery, I went by Dollar Tree, and picked up parchment paper, scissors, wax paper, gift wrap, tissues, and a few more packets of seeds for my Garden sets.   I was happy I'd purchased scissors, as my kitchen & garden pair broke at the handle over the weekend. 

Are you aware of the difference in ingredients the major food corporations put in US foods vs the UK's?  Just another reason to grow as much of your food as possible, and cook from scratch.  I canned another round of tomato paste, ending up with another pint.  Though we've been having cantaloupe pretty much every day, and have shared some, we still weren't keeping up.  I researched, and tried dehydrating some, and made salted cantaloupe jam, which is actually pretty good.  We're not so sure about the dehydrated melon, or how we'd use it.  Our garlic, rosemary and homemade broth were used in soup.  As I can't have mayonnaise, (no eggs or vinegar), I needed to figure out how I could have a tomato sandwich.  Mashed avocado on one slice of GF bread works well, and some basil and salt added makes it yummy.

August has always felt like damage control around here, taking care of the produce that most needs attention on any given day.  Eggplant and squash needed using, so I tried a new recipe for cucuzza squash, which also used our tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs, and made eggplant in plum sauce, using our garlic, herbs, and plum sauce made previously from our plums.  All laundry was dried on the line.  Just about every day, we're picking cow peas, and shelling them.  I cut our first honeydew, and it was sadly a long way from being ripe.  J found one cracked another day, which was ripe.  It's hard to find that happy medium.  I cut a watermelon that was found chewed off the vine, a lovely yellow one, which was thankfully nice and ripe.  

Dear friends invited us to their lake house, for some very needed down time on Sunday.  Once we got all the things done on the homestead, we headed in that direction to spend time with old friends, eat well, and soak up the sunshine.  Cucumber salad and cantaloupes were brought to share.  Now, we can get back to it, with a refreshed spirit.  We're having a rainy morning, which I'm delighting in, rare as they are these days.  Wishing you a most lovely week, friends.

Monday, August 8, 2022

All About the Harvest

Hello, friends.  Last week was all about the harvest.  Tomatoes were cooked down for paste, which was my first time making it.  They simmered most of the day, as we don't grow paste tomatoes.  They ended up reducing from 18 pints down to 1 pint, plus a pint of tomato juice.  I then canned our carrots, which added six half pints to the pantry.  Four pans of figs were halved and frozen, and some were added to a smoothie, with banana and pineapple.  With leftover pasta, I made a salad and opened jar of caponata canned last summer.  Wheat and GF rolls were warmed for the caponata. I went through Rakuten for 10% back on an order, while the site had a 20% off sale.  Swagbucks is usually better, but this time, they were less than Rakuten, at only 6%.  I cooked using the toaster oven a couple of times, using solar power instead of propane with the regular oven.

For a dinner, I made a pasta dish that used tromboncino, plus our onion, garlic and oregano.  I made a loaf of fig bread for J, using our eggs and figs.  Cucumbers were shared with our mail carrier, J's business partner, and friends, and tromboncino with friends.  The cantaloupes have started ripening, and the first honeydew was harvested.  While he was nearby, I asked J to return books to the library.  I dug around the recently planted potatoes to check on them, and found the slightest bit of growth on one, one had rotted, and the others hadn't done a thing.  I uncovered most of the soil off them, and as they hopefully grow, I'll replace the soil.  It was another very dry week, but thankfully on Saturday night, we got some good rain.  So very thankful for it.  Warm up water and water from washing lettuce was used to water plants.  

I cut up all the apples that had fallen on their own, or with the squirrel's help.  Though I have an apple peeler/slicer, it doesn't do well with fruit that isn't round or is soft, and they were pretty small as well, so it was a labor of love.  Though I never like to waste anything, it seems especially important this year.   I ended up with two gallon bags of slices.  Being it was dinnertime when I got to that point, I froze them, and will can them another day.  The squirrels have pretty much eaten all the hazelnuts, though the nuts were a long way from being ripe.  After an appointment, I found two canisters at a thrift store, of which at least one will be made into a compost crock.  The other is a handmade pottery piece, and I may keep it, though I haven't decided yet.  I received the 5% senior discount at the grocery store.  

A potato and green bean salad was made on a day in the mid-90's with high humidity.  Neither of us wanted much more, so I made a green salad using our figs, and sliced some tomatoes to have with it.  When I filled up my car, I was very happy to see it had been 20 days since my last fill up.  All laundry was dried on the line.  I gathered seeds from the mizuna.  Though it wasn't my favorite, the chickens liked it just fine.  I've also gathered marigold seed heads.  The latest pest in the garden are leaf footed bugs on the tomatoes, which mostly just damage them cosmetically, though they can also cause tomatoes to drop.  The June bugs are eating a large amount of our figs.  Thankfully, there is plenty to go around this year.  J has sprayed with pyganic, an organic insecticide, to hopefully, cut down on their numbers next year.  Being surrounded by hay fields, their preferred habitat for laying eggs, it's challenging.  

J tilled in the patch of buckwheat.  We were both sorry to, as there were so many pollinators enjoying it, but the purpose of planting it was to build the soil.  We were a little late, as there were already some seeds, so it's possible we'll have another round of it before frost, which will be just fine.  We enjoyed a night out with friends, for dinner and a concert.  The band are local folks that we've enjoyed seeing several times, pre-Covid, and tickets were reasonably priced.  I was excited to find the restaurant, as it was vegan, but found out the following day they were closing.  I'm glad I got to enjoy it.  A dish was made using our squash, tomatoes and onion.  J harvested watermelon, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, Iron & Clay cowpeas and lots of cantaloupes.  I planted several more potatoes, in hopes of a harvest before frost.  I'll probably leave it at that, as I expect I'm pretty much at the end of my window of opportunity.  I hope you're finding ways to put some food by, whether homegrown or purchased.

Monday, August 1, 2022

New Recipes & Homestead Challenges

Hello, friends.  Our buckwheat plots are buzzing with many pollinators, a lovely sight to see.  Last week, I found a recipe for vegan GF zucchini bread, and made a loaf with the tromboncino squash.  I picked it because it had many 5 star reviews, and it didn't disappoint.  I'll definitely make it again.  I finally found a GF loaf bread I liked.  I'd been unable to find one that was recommended, but saw Rudy's Sourdough in the freezer at Harris Teeter.  It's the first one that doesn't feel like I'm eating a sponge, and tastes good too.  I'm happy about that!  I harvested carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, tromboncino, eggplant, a beet, yellow squash, blueberries, apples, figs and pears.  I planted a third variety of collards J wanted.

In a green salad, I used our figs and blueberries, and toasted some pecans.  I use honey and lemon juice for my dressing.  I requested books that were all at other libraries in the county to be picked up at my local branch.  A new baked dish was made, using our yellow squash, tromboncino and tomatoes.  It was good, but we agreed to try adding onion next time.  I added onion to the leftovers, and we thought it improved it nicely.  I made a vegan form of parmesan cheese, which is surprisingly good.  Not cheese exactly, but very salty and savory.  Tomatoes and tomato juice were canned.

Upon researching, we've decided we've got Modern English Game Bantams.  Interestingly, they have different legs... one has green and the other has yellow legs, as well as different coloration of feathers, so they're apparently not even the same breed.  We incorporated them into the main flock last week, and they're settling in well.  I was worried about them being so small, but they're fast, so can move out of the way quickly when it's needed.  It's the first time in a couple of years that we've had everyone in one coop, which cuts down on my chore time a bit.  I foraged chanterelle mushrooms and lambs quarter, and used the chanterelles, tomato, lambs quarter, and onion in a veggie scramble.  I cleaned my cutting board with lemon peels, after using it for lemon water.  

our first, and only aronia berries

There was a good article on using tromboncino as animal feed.  We'll try growing some out this year for that purpose.  We think there are much better tasting winter squash, but we'll grow them for the chickens winter mash.  I crushed a pan of egg shells, and placed them around the pepper, eggplant, and tomato plants.   It looks like that's allowing the peppers to grow to maturity.  Tomato plants that grew outside the cage while I wasn't looking were tied up with garden twine, as well as the staked eggplants.  A new eggplant recipe was tried, which was OK, but not a keeper.  I printed a few more to try.  Figs were harvested, halved, and frozen. 


I picked up honey I bartered my time for, and tried to buy a lidded jar there, to replace my broken sugar jar, but she kindly gifted it to me.  I shared cucumbers and tromboncino squash with her.  Though it wasn't a need, I found a lovely simple natural linen dress marked down at Marshall's for $20.  It's the sort of piece one can layer over different pieces.  I picked up books at the library.  At the grocery store, I found our dogfood on sale for $7.30 off per bag, and lemons for $2 off per bag, and got two of both.  None of our cabbage sprouted, so J replanted it, as well as more carrots and beets, and a few more collards.  A lovely fern had come up along our walking path.  Not wanting to mow it, I transplanted it to the shade garden.  

There were challenges on the homestead last week.  There was an abundant harvest, a nice increase in sales in my soap shop, as well as several sales in our metal home goods shop, all good.  The bad included the squirrels finding our hazelnuts, which was just a matter of time.  They also ate every last one of our peaches.  I checked them a couple of days earlier, and they were still hard as rocks, but by Saturday, the peaches were all gone, and they continue stealing the apples and pears.  Our pond lettuce experiment was a fail.  The lettuce never germinated, and the set up got under our floating dock, so when J went to check on it, the styrofoam cracked under his weight.  He used the neighbor's backhoe to remove a stump, so he could more easily mow around a persimmon, and in the process, lost track of and demolished the persimmon.  Oops!  The June bugs have been eating a large amount of our figs as they ripen.  While helping me pick figs on the tallest branches, J got stung by a wasp, to which he's allergic.  Thankfully, no epipen was needed, though his hand was painful, and now itchy and swollen..  Ah well, life is always interesting on the homestead.  Here's to a bit more ease in the coming week.