Category Archives: Gardening

Garden Project

We’re adding a couple of raised beds in one portion of our garden this year, and thanks to some friends, we have free pallet wood to do it with. It’s not as easy as it looks! Dad and I worked on this all afternoon. We have 4 to make, the one below being the biggest at 3×8, and the others being 3×5.


Baker Creek Seed Giveaway

Jacqueline at Deep Roots At Home is hosting a giveaway of Baker Creek heirloom seeds!

We ordered seeds from Baker Creek for the first time this year, and are really looking forward to our heirloom vegetables! I WILL be posting about our garden (with pictures) very soon!

Go on over and enter the Baker Creek Gardener’s Giveaway!

Yes, Indeed! No laughing, please…

A few weeks ago, we received a never-before-heard-by-us automated phone call – using what Daddy said is called a “reverse-911” system, we were alerted to the fact that our neighborhood was being sprayed for mosquitoes. Between the hours of 9PM and 3AM we were to turn off our air conditioners, close the windows, and keep all our pets inside. … there was a shocked pause in our living room as this news was related. This has never happened here before! But we have had a horrible year with these new zebra-striped Asian Tiger Mosquitoes.

Great. {hear the sarcasm dripping?} So our first thought was that our three outdoor rabbits would have to be brought in overnight (done it twice – once because of extreme heat, and another time because of loose dogs attacking them), but following on it’s heels was a picture of our nice little organic-ish backyard garden covered in chemical residue. Eww. After a short consultation everyone broke off to their individual tasks. Cages were wiped down and prepared for rabbit habitation, newspaper was spread in the kitchen, rabbit food bowls were refilled, AND… tarps were pulled out of the garage. Yes indeed, we are going to protect our garden no matter how difficult they make it! 😀

The next morning, I couldn’t resist going out to take some pictures of our strange-looking yard.

from our back porch

our yard

looking into our neighbor’s yard where we also have things planted

The mosquitoes do seem a little more manageable, but we can’t decide which was the greater of two evils: nasty stripey mosquitoes, or disgusting chemical spray.

More Canning!

We’ve had a very interesting gardening year! One of the more amusing incidents has to do with hot peppers, Yellow Hungarian Wax peppers specifically.

At the beginning of the year as we were going through our seed collection, Lady L noticed that most of our hot pepper seeds were a few years old. We’ve had problems with germination on seeds this old in the past, and weren’t sure how they’d do this year, and then also, if we didn’t use them all, if they’d even be worth trying next year. So she and Daddy came to the conclusion that we should just plant all our remaining hot pepper seeds. No one bothered to count how many little seeds were actually in those poor flimsy paper packages. They just started planting.

Lady L started feeling a bit of mis-giving when the seeds didn’t seem to stop coming, and the pots full of dirt and seeds kept piling up. But hey, we could always sell some extra peppers, or even give some plants away, or whatever, right? Besides, the germination rate should be in the 50% range! We had Jalapeno, Anaheim, Pablano, Cayenne, and those lovely Hungarian Wax peppers. When the seeds finally sprouted, the grand total count came to 109 plants. And we decided to keep them all.

But I’m a little off-topic – this was supposed to be about canning. Of all the pepper varieties, the Hungarian Wax did the best. That’s probably an understatement. They did TREMENDOUSLY well and were beautiful with all the shining peppers pointing their tips towards the sky. We decided to make hot pepper rings with our crop, and they turned out amazingly well and delicious. Our family has already eaten into the second jar of them!

At the same time we made pizza sauce with our own garden tomatoes, awaiting some cooler weather before the actual pizzas are made.

Aren’t the labels adorable? And there is no stickiness left on the jar when you remove the labels! Yay! Here’s where Lady L found them, via Pinterest of course. 😉 BUT I’ll not digress and gush over how I love using Pinterest to find things.

In current canning news, the last few days have been spent making 11 pints of pasta sauce, and preparing 24 pounds of tomatoes by washing, skinning, and chopping them, for 38 cups of sauce, or 19 more pints. A post on that should show up soon!

“Homesteading” Updates

According to author John Seymour, “urban homesteading” incorporates small-scale, sustainable agriculture and homemaking. (from Wikipedia)

I put homesteading in quotes because I feel like we’re really just taking a stab at it, and that only in what limited capacity we are able to with a small town lot. But for what it’s worth, here are our homesteading attempts.

Pickles and Green Tomato… uh, stuff

An adventure in canning! Lady L really wanted to make pickles this year, so she planted pickling cucumbers in the Spring, but we haven’t gotten enough at any one time to warrant canning. So we picked up some pickling cucumbers at our produce market for only $1 a bag. Amanda and Lady L used a short brine, and canned them the next day. Now we’re waiting for them to “age”… “ripen”… (whatever they’re supposed to do!)… before we try them.

At the same time, Daddy brought home some green tomatoes that had fallen from his boss’s plants. For the past two years, a guy that Daddy works with has given him a jar of cold-packed green tomato pickles that he and his wife make. Daddy and Lady L love them! Daddy wrote down the “instructions” but 1) it isn’t making much sense a year later! and 2) they really did want to can them, instead of cold-pack. So Lady L found a different recipe to try. Amanda and Lady L did these “Pickled Green Tomatoes” at the same time as the regular pickles, since everything would already be out. Unfortunately, you have to cook tomatoes to water-bath can, and the end result was something akin to sweet-and-sour-green-tomato-marmalade-relish. Oh, well. Some people like it for what it is and it won’t be wasted. Lesson learned: green tomato pickles need to be cold-packed.

(I’m afraid it was a busy two days and I only got a few pictures!)

The green tomatoes and onions ready to be salted.

A lot of salt!

Pickles on the left, and Green Tomato stuff on the right

Blanching Kale

We like Kale… but mostly in soups. And this is August. Ugghh! So we blanch the majority of our Kale and freeze it for winter. Once again Amanda and Lady L were on preservation duty, and picked LOADS of fresh Kale and then blanched it down to two freezer bags (a.k.a two batches of soup). It was kind of deflating. The conclusion of the day was that they should do it in larger batches!

My sweet, smiling, busy sisters! *happy sigh*

Bare stem, leafy green, and stainless steel.

Washed, cut, and ready for the boiling water

After boiling, plunged into ice water to arrest the enzyme things happening

From the ice water to the drying towels

The magic of a straw + lung capacity + zip-seal bag. Who needs a machine?!

“Only two of these!”

Bulk Grain and Honey

Fresh flour. What can beat it?! We have a grain mill, but have been struggling to find grain at a good price. We finally ordered from Wheat Montana with a co-op about an hour away. However, it wasn’t the best experience, and we hope to get our own group of people together to order in a few months.

Along the same lines, we found a good source for local, raw, organic-ish, wildflower honey. We order in bulk and get wholesale prices. It’s too delicious to speak of! 😀 I even use it in my coffee, something I had tried before and not liked. But the honey from this farm is truly my favorite out of all the ones that I’ve ever had.

Rolled Oats, Spelt, Hard White Wheat, and Soft White Wheat

A 5lb container of “liquid gold”

Sidewalk Container Gardening

And finally, I tried something new this year in gardening. I’m not typically too involved in the gardening (besides the weeding and cooking aspects!), but I really wanted to use our space more efficiently for growing food. I thought edible landscaping was a cool idea, but we don’t have landscaping. We have sidewalks. We do however put decorative flower pots on the sidewalk in front of our house each year. So the obvious connection was edible sidewalk “flower-pots.” Below are the results. I now know NOT to use mint, and to give the squash a little more soil room as well as padding under the stem on the pot edge.

Front to back: Yellow Squash, Green Chard, Celery, Purple Basil, Chocolate Mint, and Kale

At the front of the house… they DID look better in the beginning of Summer

First Garden Planting!

Our first seeds went into the soil on Wednesday! Lady L already had some seeds starting in a makeshift nursery in the basement, but I’m talking actually in the garden, outside! 😀 On Tuesday evening, Lady L and I had a great time together cleaning up some dead bean vines on the fence from last year (hehe, yes we were late with that), and then on Wednesday I took a bunch of pictures, while she tried to plant around me. We got done just in time too, as it started to sprinkle as we were planting the last few things.

"Space" is actually a Spinach variety... not just empty "space", as confused my dear sister Amanda

Planting Romaine

Still planting Romaine... lots of it! For us, anyway. 🙄

The things "we" planted on Wednesday.

In other news, it’s been raining for most of April so far. We’ve been trying to find a good time to do some work outside, but it’s so wet right now! For the last several years, my mom and I have joked that I’m a fair weather person – no rain, no droughts, no cold, no heat. Always bright and sunny, always temps in the 70’s, always green and lush, always dry enough for a pleasant walk. I am often tempted to be unhappy with the weather and wish for something “better,” leaving trust in God’s perfect will and his wonderful sovereignty over all events completely out of the picture. To learn the lesson of Paul’s life, to know his contentment and acceptance of God’s will – oh, what a desire I have for it! Lord, humble me before you. May my every thought be for your glory, and cleanse me from all personal motives. My earnest prayer is to be conformed to the image of Christ in all things – faithful are You who calls me, who also will do it! Thank You, dear Savior.

Also, our family would appreciate prayer for tomorrow. Daddy and an electrician friend will be installing a new breaker box here, and will have the power off in the house for a few hours. Their safety is of utmost concern of course, but also that no unexpected issues pop up, which is altogether possible with a 150 year old house and a few corner-cutting contractors in the known past! For the morning and afternoon, Amanda and I will be at a huge booksale by ourselves (not selling, but buying *sigh*). That all that we do throughout the day, both those at home and those at the booksale, would glorify God is our utmost prayer.