Friday, August 29, 2014

Death of a zucchini plant.

Some of the roots were torn off and in the bottom of the six pack I planted them in.  No sign of bugs so I think this must be the cause.  Roots are fragile. Handle with care.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Zucchini Plants

I transplanted the 3 zucchini plants yesterday and now today I find that one of them has died already.  I mean really dried up dead.  The other 2 are fine. I need to take a better look.  Perhaps the squash bugs are here.  

This is why I planted them on the porch to begin with.  The nasty squash bugs.  I haven't seen any yet.  I had believed I fooled them.  Like I said, I'll have to inspect it and see what happened.

I'll transplant some of the kale and purple sprouting broccoli in window boxes on the porch.  Flea beetles attack those veg.  I'll put most in a raised bed though.  Dust with diatemaceous earth.  Diatemaceous earth will kill them when they crawl over it.

Note to self:  do not promise anyone I will do anything for or with them on Saturday!!!  Work in the garden!! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Two More Garden Favorites

I love a colorful salad and radishes have to be one of the most beautiful ingredients in salad.  The ones I find in the store, however, are way to sharp of a flavor.  Biting and hot!  I think they're offensive.  I just love the colors though.

So anyway, I read the following description in a seed catalog and just had to give them a try.  I'm so glad I did!


HEIRLOOM 1879 An elongated radish, scarlet on top and white on the bottom. Tender and mild in flavor. Suitable for hot, dry conditions. 300 seeds. PLANTING: Outdoors- Sow 1/2” deep, 1/2 -1” apart in early spring. Thin to 1-2’ apart, soon after they emerge Harvest- 3-4 weeks after planting at 1” in diameter, pull them promptly as they rapidly decline becoming tough and pithy Tips- They need rapid growth for optimum results, provided by fertile soil and consistent moisture. For continuous harvest make successive planting every 7-10 days when weather is still cool.

I got the picture from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds.  Great Company.

The other "must have" in my garden are these beets:


HEIRLOOM 1880 These beets are shaped more like a fat carrot or a thin rutabaga than a traditional beet, 6 to 8 inches long and 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. The dark red roots taste great and are ideal for slicing, either fresh or for pickling. 300 seeds. PLANTING: Indoors – 1/2” deep, 4-6 weeks before the last heavy frost. Sow into individual cells, transplant out as soon as possible (when first true leaves appear.) 3” apart in early spring, as soon as soil can be worked. Outdoors- Early spring 1/2” deep 1-2” apart with soil temperatures at 50 degrees. Soaking seed overnight aids in germination. Thin seedlings to 3-4” apart. Harvest- Begin picking at 1” for baby beets and up to 3” across for the most tender and best tasting. For best storage cut off the greens 2” above the top of the beet. Tip - Use the thinning’s for beet greens or plant a heavily seeded row for baby beet greens. Sow every 2 weeks for a continuous harvest.

It's a lot of beet in a small area.  We can also plant these close together like we do the Masai beans and have a larger harvest.  While we are always on the lookout for heirloom veggies that meet the criteria for our raised beds, we felt we were in need of more space.  Then we saw Larry Hall's rain gutter garden idea.  There's several videos about these now on youtube.

We came to the conclusion that beauty wasn't everything in a garden.  It has to be all about the food.  Our raised bed garden area is a nice place to be, with the pond and sound of the small waterfall.  But it hasn't been able to really stock the pantry for us.

The rain gutters are doing a good job.  This was the first year we used this method and it has worked well.  We will make it larger and provide more support for the plants next year.  We are going to add onions but our list isn't complete yet.

Our Journey

Looking back over the years, starting from the time we first realized we longed for a very different lifestyle until now, the small advances and the failures, one thing became clear.  There was not enough time in the day to do what had to be done in order to achieve our goal.

For one thing, our home is not set up for it and it is too small. Storage is an issue for both necessary kitchen tools and processed food.  For instance, I had to eliminate 2 drawers to make a place to keep the pressure canner.  My lids and rings are in containers under the kitchen table.  This is just one of many similar problems.

So, the decision was made for me to work 25 hours a week so I can have time to organize our home for this lifestyle change, micro plan the garden (because of small space), care for the animals, cooking, canning and food dehydrating and storing!  

Opting for an organic lifestyle means taking on a lot more work.  I want to love the lifestyle and not resent it.  Time is now more valuable to me than money. Quitting my 10 - 12 hour a day job was our first serious move in the direction of the homestead.  A scary one too.  We cut our income by a little more than a third.  (Great Big Ouch!)

We are learning to adjust financially and have created a book to monitor what we owe, own, spend, save and give.  I think I will call it our Homestead Book. Eventually that is what it will be.  Full of information regarding our animals ~ the feed we purchase and where we get it from, how much it costs and what we can grow to supplement.  Future plans as well as our income information and bills, expenses.  We mess up a bit but we are getting there.  Also, the journey is fun.

I'm thankful for all I am learning and doing and the people I am meeting.  It's just all around good stuff ;).  Not one itty bitty regret.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

I'm looking for great veggies that don't have a long growing time to maturity so that I can make the best use of my limited space.  One of my finds is this purple sprouting broccoli.  This is where I purchased the seed:


The description: (35 awesome days to maturity!)
This purple version of Raab is popular in the North. An alternative way to grow it is to plant in mid-summer, over-winter it and then get two months of delicious cuttings the following spring. High in vitamins with a tangy flavor. 100 seeds PLANTING: Indoors - 4-6 weeks before last frost and 1/4” deep with soil temperature at 65-75 degrees. Liquid fertilize seedlings every 7-10 days. Transplant out just before last frost. Outdoors – Early spring until mid summer for fall crops. Plant 1/2” deep and 6” apart. Thin seedlings to 18” apart. Harvest- Pick when heads are tight before flower buds starts to open. For varieties that produce side shoots keep picked for a longer production Tips - A heavy feeder transplant/direct seed into well composted soil and side dress when buds begin to form.

I plan to use this as part of my fall/winter garden each year.  I'll try over wintering but some of our winters are far worse than others.  I suspect not all plantings will be successful.  However,  I think the kale will survive.  I've had it last till January with no cover.

Another favored veg in my garden is this early bean:


Green Bush Bean. Small plants produce huge yields of thin, smooth, flavorful beans. Plants are only a foot tall but are covered with 4 inch long beans, a couple dozen per plant. Several plants will provide a meal for two and due to the growth habit the harvest is quick and easy. The best bean we know of for container growing and a great choice for late summer planting. The fall yields appear to be almost as heavy as those we got in the summer. Reportedly Masai is now "the standard" bean in Europe. 2 oz packet ( 200 seeds)

What I love about this variety is that they are not only heavy producers, but they can be planted like 3" apart!  I can plant a whole 4 x 4 bed, harvest a couple times (big harvests) and then remove the plants to the compost pile.  I can then add compost and plant another short season veg.

Also from Pinetree Garden Seeds:

Some Of The Chickens

Here's some of the girls and boys. They are very well behaved. Especially when you have food!

Garden Stuff Busy!

Although I haven't been posting, I really have been busy.  Our weather is cooling and not sure if this is early autumn or just a passing thing.  I need to make protection for the peppers, tomatoes and eggplants.

After all this time growing, it would be tragic to lose the harvest!  So, as I'm finishing up with the cages, I'll have to come up with something for the gutter part of the garden.  Probably just some PVC pipe and green house plastic.

Now these little babies should be fine because they do great in cooler weather:
The picture doesn't show the whole tray but believe me, it's filled!  We have curly blue kale and purple sprouting broccoli.  Then there are 3 zucchinis.  Not sure if they will have opportunity to fully mature but I'm not happy with the zucchini harvest so far.  We'll see how it goes.
Information on the seedlings will follow shortly.  
Today is a shopping day with mom.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Day With Mom

Thursday was shopping day with mom.  Those days can be brutal, trying to get everything done in a few hours.  She lives 45 minutes (with traffic) away from me.  I leave my house around 9:00 and don't get home till between 4 & 5pm.  Then I get to cook dinner and clean up.  I try to get the outdoor stuff done before I go in the morning.

I picked up a treat for the girls.  It's like a trail mix for birds!  Seeds, berries and fruits.  I'll go out and see them before they want to go in the coop at night and give them a little snack.  These roosters aren't bad.  Pretty well behaved.  I'm happy with the flock.

Well, off to Bible study.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

To Be Prepared

Proverbs 21:5
The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty.  But those of everyone who is hasty surely to poverty.

Proverbs 21:20
There is desirable treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it.

It is wise to save resources so they will be available when we need them.  I'm not talking about hoarding.  I'm thinking about our ancestors who worked their land and then worked some more to put up until the next harvest.  Observing animals in nature teaches the same.  Those that store for winter have food until it is available once again.  (There are squirrels and then there are hungry wolves).

A few years ago I began to notice another "back to the land" type of movement at work.  Some of these people were fed up with the 9 to 5 and our stressed out society.  They were buying land in the country to live the good (and healthy) life, plain and simple.  (Free pdf file of the book)

Others say that we are depleting the worlds resources and will soon run out so they are digging up their front yards and planting gardens, selling the car to ride bikes and installing solar panels.  Buying local.      (also found on youtube)

Weather patterns are changing and major catastrophic events have been happening globally. Are these the signs of the end times?  Some people think so.  

Still others believe we are swiftly headed towards an economic disaster.  The pooh will hit the fan, life as we know it will end and the zombies will come.

I'm sure there are people with other reasons as well, but the above mentioned are very large groups of people.  I'm sure it is no coincidence that these very large, very different groups of people are all moving in the same direction.  

For me, I believe it is Jesus, the Good Shepherd of psalm 23 leading the flock to safety.

For Annie

We didn't do canning at home when I was growing up so I never learned how to do it until I was an adult.  When my children were young I was given a water bath canner from one of the church ladies along with a couple bushel of pears.  She told me what to do and we had our first batch of home canned food.

There's vacant land next to our home that has an old apple orchard.  Nobody ever came along to harvest the apples.  I inquired at the court house to find the owner so I could ask permission to harvest them.  They lived in Florida, so I harvested apples.  Then I had apples in my pantry.

My all time favorite though has been black raspberry jam.  We no longer have the wild bushes and it's been years now since we did.  All that water bath canning going on and I never had the chance to stock up on meats and veggies that could not be done in the water bath canner.

About a year and a half ago I came across videos on youtube that teach how to use a pressure canner and recipes for about anything you want to put up.  I knew I would be quitting my full time job in the near future and a pressure canner was on my list of things I had to get before I didn't have the money.

Here are the ladies that I have learned so much from and will forever be grateful for:

The first recipe is meatloaf.  She gives you a recipe to follow but if you have one you like then you should use it.  I like mine better than the one she shares.  The most important part of the video in this would be the procedure.

The next recipe is for meat and tomato sauce.  This video is the same lady.  I used her recipe for chili but stopped after the #10 can of crushed tomatoes but added the salt because that is necessary for canning. 

When I want to make chili, I open a quart of the meat sauce, put contents in my pot and add the peppers, cumin, chili powder and 1 Tbl. sugar.  Heat up and then add a pint of the beans that she also has a video on canning.  You could also use a can of store bought kidney beans.

If I use the meat sauce for spaghetti, I add basil.  I add 1Tbl. sugar to both chili and spaghetti sauce because I was told it reduces the acidity of the tomatoes.

This year I will have my own tomatoes.  I plan to process some in meat sauce and some alone.  I like having her recipe using the canned tomatoes though should I ever just want to stock my pantry with it.

I will post again with links to other excellent ladies who teach a number of valuable skills.  If we are going to be even a little self sufficient, we need the old skills.  

Monday, August 11, 2014


Okay now, this won't be pretty so don't be expecting a lot.  I should have taken more "before" pictures and then you would see what I had to dig out.  I still have 2 paths of patio stones to dig and then the long path to the pond of creek bed rock.

I'll take those ones tomorrow.  Okay, first picture is the cucumber beds.
The garden is terraced, having 2 beds on each level.  It's hard to tell but the two on the right are higher up. Those white poles are left from what my husband did last year to protect our plants from the chickens.  He had chicken wire wrapped around them. Me, being 4' 10" short, couldn't handle disassembling them every time I needed to work in them so I didn't do much gardening.
This year I've been making cages to go on top and I'll put plastic over them to stretch the season a bit.

This is about the center of the garden with the two beds on the right the second level and the two on the left the bottom level.
The 2 cages there are what I built. They aren't sitting level because hubbies poles are stuck in there. They will be removed.
The very leafy bed on right are acorn squash!  Yum.  I stuck a few swiss chard plants in there too because I didn't want to let them die.  The kale and swiss chard bed is on the left.
The weed patch in the front center is for the toads :)

Tomatoes are my not-so-early-girls. Weather did an about face and we had frost in June.  Most of what I started out with died or got stunted. My Romas haven't begun to ripen yet either.  These are up on the deck with my zucchini.
My poor neglected pond.  It used to have a waterfall and clear water.  The fish and toads are thriving though.  I know the toads are loving the privacy the weeds give them :)

These are Boston Pickling cucumbers.  They should be picked at the smallest size for slicers.  The 3 larger ones will be pickles.
Another victim of neglect.  We used to sit out there at night.  There were chairs and a table.  A yellow light mounted on the post.  We had solar lights scattered in the garden that gave it a beautiful dim glow.  I used to grow blue morning glories up the bird house pole and scarlet runner beans up the garden arch.  Angel trumpet vines up behind the pond in a bed where our oil tank is burried.  We had a lot of hummingbirds.
Husband took everything out of the garage to clean it out.  A neighborhood clean up day is coming up in a week so we can get rid of it.  The wood is for a project and will go back in the garage.  Always so much to do.

This is Bertha the heirloom Prudens tomato.  Sharing a bed with her are Danvers carrots.  I planted them last week in hopes they will have enough warm weather to grow.  Their flavor is improved with cold weather so if we can get them grown enough until then I'll be soooo happy!  The chicken wire laid out over the bed is so the chickens don't peck and scratch all over it.  A new coop and run is being built for them.

So tomorrow I'll get more pictures!  We have brand new baby chicks!  Yay! Pictures soon.

Son Peter Rebuilding Garden Beds For Me

Built all 6 Beds in 2007.  Thank you Pete
Picture taken on a phone from around 2005!  

Just In Time Before The Rain

I do feel blessed.  I got everything done at the top of my list before the rains came.  My outdoor list anyway ;D

  • Shoveled dirt and weeds from more patio stone paths and deposited it into the empty garlic bed.  The dirt leaked from the bottom of the beds and included compost and rotted manure.  It really is beautiful dirt and I couldn't bring myself to throw it in the compost pile.  The garlic will adore it I'm sure!
  • Tiny clean up in the lower deck/shelter.  waiting for husband to remove his wood so we can use it again.  why does everything with a roof get used as a shed around here?  :/
  • Fed the gold fish, visited with the resident toads.  I used to have a little toad house but it was never occupied.  One day when I was weeding around the bed corners I uncovered a toad.  I've decided to leave a bit of weed patches around for them to hide in.  They have a little habitat here. every year they lay eggs in the pond and we have tadpoles to watch. When they come out of the pond they go everywhere.  I want them to stay and eat the bugs.
  • Fed Bertha my only surviving Prudens heirloom tomato plant.  This is irritating, I sent pictures from my phone to my email an hour ago and they haven't arrived.
  • Planted seed.  Blue curly kale, purple sprouting broccoli, cashflow zucchini just in case current plants poop out on me ~ they look as though they might.
  • I want to plant turnips.  Love mashed turnips with butter.  Not sure I'll have space for everything now though.
  • Staked the not-so-early Early Girls.
Now for the indoors list.  Bye.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Garden bed cages

I have (2) 4 x 4 cages built so far and enough materials for one more.  One covers the acorn squash, one covers swiss chard and kale.  The third one will cover the garlic when it is planted.

When the season began, we really didn't have a plan for the raised beds.  I started cucumber seeds and knew I would have the east side of two beds growing vertical.  This left about 1/2 of each bed for something else.  


  • BED #1 with cucumbers have 2 vines went rogue.  It would have caused damage to the plants to try and adjust them so they now have the whole bed.
  • BED #2 with cumbers didn't do well.  Only 2 out of 5 survived the chickens until we put up some chicken wire.  The 2 survivors aren't very prolific and if I can get some purple sprouting broccoli started I will remove them and replace with the sprouting broccoli.
The kale I have is the Nero variety.  Never got the curly ones planted.  I may still have time.  Today I will start the curly kale and purple sprouting broccoli. I do have some turnip seed I may also give a try.  30 days to maturity is definitely do-able.

I have one Prudens tomato plant that survived the June frost and it lives in the south west corner of bed #5.  I chose that spot because it gets the sun for most of the day.  It is huge indeed!  It shares the bed with Danvers carrots that I only last week planted.  I'm praying the good Lord will bless them and cause them to grow us a good harvest.  The seed is a couple of years old.  If I don't see any growth in the week I will plant the fresher seed of Chantenay.  

Bed #6 is the kale and swiss chard, Bed #3 is reserved for garlic, Bed #4 is the acorn squash.  My 2' x 10' bed lies fallow this year.  Next year it will probably be filled with onions.

Meanwhile, the rain gutter garden thrives!  PTL!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Finally Doing A Little Canning!

A friend of mine gave me several pounds of elderberries!  I've canned 4 quarts so far and will get another 4 quarts of what I have left.  I'm taking them off the stems and it is tedious.

I also have kale that I'm blanching and freezing so yay!  My harvest has finally begun.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Harvesting Zucchini

After being a stay at home mom for about 15 years (with the exception of the occasional part time job), I went back to working full time in 2002.  While at home I tended a fairly nice organic garden.  

We took it from a triangular plot approx. 21 feet x 15 feet to (6) 4' x 4' raised beds terraced plus a 2' x 10' down the left side of the other beds and next to our compost pile.

We added a small 5' x 6' goldfish pond with a roofed deck beside it (complete with rain barrel) and this is where we began to spend our early evenings before bed.

It had become a place that required constant maintenance, which I was most happy to do because I loved it!  However, the longer I worked, year after year, it became more neglected.  We rarely had a good harvest from anything but garlic, kale and zucchini.

The patio square block pathways became covered with dirt and weeds, as did the creek bed stone path that had taken so long to collect and build.  The last 2 years we didn't bother to even turn over the dirt in 4 of the beds. 

Our little deck where we sat and talked summer evenings had become a storage place for wood and windows.  Thankfully the goldfish are still alive!!
Well, my job to restore all this has not been an easy one but I'm nearly there. Husband has been faithfully caring for our new rain gutter garden in the back so we should have an abundance of tomatoes, green peppers, Ancho chili peppers and eggplant!

I've started harvesting Boston pickling cukes from the raised beds and will make refrigerator pickles with them.  As the title of this post states, I'm also harvesting zucchini.  I'm leaving a link to a recipe I'm making today but please search Gina's recipes.  You will be very happy you did!

This isn't a very exciting year in the garden, but since I'm 1/2 way home we are having a come back and I'm already making plans for next year.

We are dividing the flock of chickens we were gifted and helping a lady get back on her feet.  Her former flock was killed by something that got into her coop last year.  We'll have to see how that happened and repair it before making the transfer of the birds.

Well, I'm thankful for where we are, what we've got and where we are headed. Thanks Lord!  Amen.