Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sunrise, Sunset



I fell off the blogging wagon.  Actually, the garden got neglected as well.  It began with shopping for shoes.  
 Then school uniforms.  Pencils, crayons, paints & paper.  Socks.  A thermos.  Last chance visits to the zoo
and trips to the park.  Chasing the toddler who's really a runner.  Then the morning rush out the door, tending to the needs of the little ones at home, busy afternoons of homework and cooking.  It was an accomplishment just to bring in some chives to throw in with the rice.

I didn't harvest the basil.  I didn't bring in the green tomatoes before the first frost.  The last of the green beans are just turning into compost right where they grew.  

We did get some zucchini, eventually, and used most of it.  We kept the strawberries picked and even have a few bags in the freezer.  I dug one out yesterday and made a smoothie.  We do have several bags of frozen raspberries, waiting for me to decide to make some pie.  

Next spring, we will try again.  Next summer, I will try to harvest better.  The kids are begging for pesto pasta and I am so regretful that I didn't process that basil into bags of frozen pesto.  

In the meantime, we are so blessed to live in view of a great mountain that gives us spectacular shows more often than not, especially on our coldest days.  Both of my Mount Rainier pictures were from yesterday, December 11.   Now about paying off that neighbor to trim back their tree....

Monday, July 15, 2013

Green Beans are Here

Today, I picked our first green beans for the season.  I brought in my pickings and decided, out of curiosity, to weigh them.  I got one pound, 1 ounce of beans today!  Quite a big bowl for our family.  I will be hard at work every day for a while now, keeping the garden beans picked as they get ready.   Remind me next year to grow only pole beans.  I'd rather pick beans standing up than crouched down on the ground!

We are still waiting on our first zucchini.  A couple had promise, but they died off before they grew big enough to harvest.  I think we might have one ready in a couple of days.  

We have picked 7 little red tomatoes so far, from the Northern Delight and Glacier plants.  Oh, and one from the Sweet Million Cherry.  We really enjoyed fresh tomato slices in sandwiches today.  They are so sweet and juicy, but little at about 2 inches diameter.  I have learned to grow small tomatoes in our climate.  They ripen up faster and more reliably.  No pictures yet.  We just eat them too fast.  The Stupice tomatoes might be my "big" tomatoes this year.  They keep growing and are still all green.  It will be fun to see how big they do end up getting and we still have plenty of time this summer. 

We are keeping the raspberries picked, plucking them off when they are just a bit under-ripe.  I wash and drain them, spread them on a towel to dry, then freeze them on a tray.  Once frozen, I bag them up and put them back in the freezer.  Once I have enough, I plan to make a raspberry pie.  (Yes, it takes a while when your berry patch is as small as mine!)  I am keeping them frozen in case that fruit fly has already laid eggs in them.  At least by freezing them, I keep any potential creatures from further developing in the berries.  There will be some sugar in the pie to make up for the tartness of the slightly under-ripe berries. One way to save the harvest.   I'm also still letting the kids pick whatever they want to snack on while they are playing in the yard.

I guess that's it in my garden for today!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Not to Brag, but...

We will have tomatoes in July!

We had a few hot days and a lot of warm weather, which I predict will give us our earliest tomatoes since I started gardening.  If all goes well, these should be ready soon!
Northern Delight Tomatoes

Glacier Tomatoes

Sweet Million Cherry Tomatoes

Blue Lake Bush Bean Plants
 The bush beans have a lot of blossoms so we're hoping for a good harvest of beans soon.  The scarlet runner beans have already grown taller than their cages.  They really should be grown on poles or a taller fence, but the 4-foot cages are what I had at the time.

Scarlet Runner Bean Plants

Vegetable Garden View

Another Garden View

Sweet Million Tomato plant is almost 4 feet tall

The peas are totally done for the year.  The hot weather did them in, but in exchange, we have blossoms on the cucumbers and zucchini, as well as plentiful tomatoes.  I should pull out the pea plants and put in some lettuce for the summer.  Once those tomatoes are ripe, it would be nice to have fresh "home-picked" lettuce to make some great summer salads. 

We are still getting a few strawberries each day as well as raspberries.  The raspberries are looking OK so far, just a little damage from the stink bugs.  I encourage the kids to eat whatever raspberries they can find as soon as they ripen, and so far we've been able to keep up and avoid fruit fly damage. 

Yesterday, I harvested some savory with preschooler's help.  We dried it for about 18 hours at about 100 degrees in the Nesco food dehydrator until the leaves were crispy.  Husband peeled the dry leaves off for me and put them in a zipper bag for storage.  Now the goal is to remember to use the savory.   We should dry the oregano next. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Land of the Giant Strawberries

Giant Strawberries Held by Eldest Child

Wow!  These strawberries are huge!  One of them (on left) even looked like a double berry.   I believe these are the new Totem strawberries I planted this spring, but one or two could be Hoods.  For some reason, a few of them decided to be giants.  The majority of the berries were regular sized.  We have been watching these grow out there in the patch.  I let them sit on the plants for one more night last night, just hoping the bugs or slugs wouldn't get to them as they finished ripening.  First thing this morning, we went on a strawberry hunt and I picked these giants.  Not a blemish.

The lesson to this story is:  Don't pick off all the blossoms the first year you plant strawberries!  Why does all the information out there about berries tell you to pick off all the blossoms the first year???  I get that you want the plants to get nice and strong.  I did pick off the first several blossoms for each plant, but after that, the plants were so large and healthy, I thought they could surely stand to produce some fruit, so I left the rest of the blossoms.   I must have gotten them planted early enough in the spring to grow fruit the first year.  So fun to still be picking strawberries after the Seascapes have slowed down for the summer. 

In other news, last weekend I did go buy a half flat of raspberries and put up 4 pints of  raspberry freezer jam.  I also bought a half pint of strawberries for another batch of freezer jam.  I liked the first batch made a couple weeks ago so much, I knew we needed more.  I used the low/no sugar pectin to make lower-sugar jam as the amount of sugar called for in jam with regular pectin just seems overkill to me.  It is fun to let the kids eat the berries we grow, without too much rationing, so I've decided to buy what we need for processing and enjoy our fresh berries just to eat. 

While at the farmer's market, I saw they had tomato and pepper plants on sale for the season.  I could not resist!  Picked up a Hungarian Yellow Wax pepper and an Early Girl Tomato.  Got them planted tonight.  The pepper is in a large pot on the patio and the tomato is tucked under the eaves on the south facing side of the house in my "Tomato Alley".  The tomatoes I ordered from Territorial have been growing like crazy and we have bunches of green tomatoes already.  Will update with pictures soon. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

First Raspberry of 2013

We have been watching this raspberry grow.  It was the first blossom on the plant and the blossom I posted earlier.  We watched it start to turn yellow, then pink, and finally today that raspberry red.   I was out in the yard with all three kids.  Baby-now Toddler, had already finished off what was left in the strawberry patches and was wandering the yard looking for more red to eat.  I stepped away from him for just a moment to check out the raspberries.  Upon discovering this one looking ready to eat, I called all the kids over for a look.  I had my eldest "test" the berry by gently tugging to see if it would release easily or not.  She plucked it off the bush and handed it to me.  I pulled it easily into four equal pieces and we all shared that first raspberry.  Toddler immediately began making the sign for "more".  I don't know, it was still a bit tart for me but the kids exclaimed that it was great!   Toddler kept looking around for more and hovered by the snapdragons growing nearby.  I think he thought the red blossoms were more fruit! 

These raspberries, I must admit, have been causing me much stress.  What with worrying about the impending arrival of the spotted winged drosophila fruit fly and frequent sightings of green stink bugs, I am having a hard time enjoying growing these berries.   I have had to remind myself that this is simply a hobby.  This garden has nothing to do with my livelihood.  I can easily pop down to the farmers market, buy a flat of berries, make some freezer jam, and be done with it.

But oh, how excited I was to grow my own.  Before the SWD fruit fly.  My current plan is to simply pick the berries just before they are ripe.  The idea is that the fly lays its eggs on ripening fruit, so if you pick the fruit and eat or process it right away, before it is fully ripe, you won't see the larvae.  Sure there might be eggs in the fruit, but you won't notice them.  Let the fruit sit or ripen up for a few days and you start to see those tiny worms.  Maybe that's why the farmer's market and supermarket berries are always a little under-ripe, aside from making them easier to transport.  I guess this will be OK.  The kids don't mind them tart and they will be fine for cooking with. 

As for the stink bugs, I guess they just suck on the fruit.  Fine, as long as they aren't leaving larvae behind, I will try to keep them off my mind.  But I have considered going out there with our electric bug zapper/swatter and frying a few of them.  Husband reminded me that might singe the plants so I'll have to be careful.  I'm certainly not going to spray pesticides, as I have bees and ladybugs hard at work out there.  And I guess you don't want to squash stink bugs for fear of the smell. 

But again, before I get too worked up about it, remember it is just a hobby.  Pests are part of the deal. 

An awesome part about gardening with the kids is showing them how to really be human.  It is so human to plant a garden, harvest, to know what each plant can be used for.   Just today, my eldest noticed the chamomile flowers in full bloom and exclaimed that is must be time to pick the chamomile and make tea.  She harvested her little pile and this evening, after dinner, I showed her to pluck the blossoms off and fill the tea strainer.  I showed her how to hook the strainer over the glass and brew the tea in hot water.  She enjoyed her own tea with honey, shared with preschooler.   I just feel such a connection to generations past when doing these simple traditional things with my kids. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

We Have Peas

The snow peas have arrived.  I was wandering around the garden on Sunday and was surprised to see some past-ready to pick peas already!  I quickly grabbed a bucket and picked as many as I could see.  More on Monday and more today.  I was out playing with the kids and preschooler complained of hunger, so I handed him some peas.  It is really convenient to have snacks available in the yard. 

Tonight, for dinner, we had turkey enchiladas with some garden fresh cilantro and parsley mixed in.  Along with a freshly picked lettuce salad topped with garden fresh snow peas.  My late night snack was freshly picked strawberries (picked after putting all the kids to bed....yes, I love the long days!) mixed with vanilla yogurt.

One of the cucumber plants has a blossom.  I have several tomatoes growing.  Glacier tomatoes are looking very well.  The yellow crookneck squash plants are really waking up and the beans are still growing.   A few raspberries are getting a yellow tinge, which means ripening to red isn't far away.  Everyone is looking forward to the longest day!  

Friday, June 14, 2013

June Gardening

It is mid-June and we have nearly reached my favorite day of the year:  The Longest Day!  With the long days, everything (sometimes I refer to them as "everyone") in the garden is growing quickly.  I have spotted some pods forming on the shelling peas and the red-runner beans have sprouted and are growing at lightening speed.   We've had plenty lettuce for super-fresh salads and I finally pulled out the leeks and extra chives.

Today I went out with some copper soap spray and treated my tomato plants.  I noticed a bunch of black spots on the Northern Delight plant and I'm so worried it might be early blight.  I am really hoping the spray wasn't too late.  The Glacier had a few black specks as well but the other plants look fine.  So now we will be on a once a week regimen of copper spray for the tomatoes.  It is WAY to early in the season to put up with sick plants, so if Northern Delight doesn't appear to recover, I will just run down to Carpenito's and pick up an Early Girl to replace it with.

I also planted two new Basil plants I picked up at Carpenito's yesterday when we went in to buy a whole flat of strawberries.  The kids keep my berries well picked, and I can't complain since they are eating their fruit.  It just doesn't leave me with much to work with.  So I used the flat of berries to put up 8 pints of freezer jam and three freezer bags of whole berries (to use in smoothies).  We still have some extras to make strawberry shortcake tonight.  I will have to update with what I use to make gluten free shortcake, but I have yet to figure that out.

Also today, working quickly as any mother can imagine as nap-time was nearing its end, I spread some compost between a few stepping stones to prep the areas to plant more lettuce and cilantro.  The self-seeded cilantro is starting to "bolt" but I happily harvested much of it for the freezer a week back.   My gardening must be done in small starts and fits but I do find that if I use those few minutes here and there, things do take shape.   For example, yesterday, during baby's nap, the older kids were quietly making a huge mess in the basement and I took the moment to sneak out front and pull out most of the past-bloom bluebells as well as some chrysanthemum weed.  The nice thing about the mess is, it takes them a while to clean it up, so while they cleaned later on, I prepped for making jam.

So, lots going on in the garden and home!  Time for me to look into making that shortcake. 

Shortcake update:  The recipe I used to make shortcake on Friday wasn't good enough that I want to share it with you.  However, in the past, I have used Betty Crocker's Gluten Free Bisquick and followed the biscuit recipe on the box, with a touch of sugar added.  I make them with regular Smart Balance instead of butter.  The GF Bisquick shortcakes are very good!