Category: Gardens and Food

It’s a Jungle Out There!

DSCN1199It has been so hot! Too hot to go out and weed, until this morning, and now we have a jungle forming in the garden. At long last the plants are starting to kick it into gear. We had things in seedling form for two months; they just didn’t grow. It was discouraging. We came back from California, expecting a noticeable change and there was very little. UGH!

We had thought the problem was that the compost was getting too hot for the little seedlings, because it does get very dry. We spread straw all over before we left for graduation, hoping that the whole garden would look better when we returned. Not so. We resigned ourselves to getting rid of the noxious weeds this year and little, if any produce. Next year!! (sounds just like my farmer uncles)

DH is a soil man, and he was perplexed. All that wonderful compost and things looked terrible…he finally decided that it might have been a nitrogen fixing problem with the compost. That, and the cardboard we laid to deal with the noxious weeds, might have been too much for the little seedlings. The pure compost was busy fixing (I don’t understand that, so I can’t explain it) and until it was finished, the plants couldn’t get the nitrogen they needed.

The areas that weren’t in raised beds started growing first, especially the tomatoes which

we had really babied along. (It takes A LOT of tomatoes to make a quart of tomato sauce!)  Some of the corn was actually “knee high by the 4th of July” which I understand is necessary to get corn.  (The buckets are to collect extra rain water when we get it.) Some of the corn, (it’s very spotty) is as tall as me now, and I found a baby squash this morning while weeding.

DSCN1205However, the canteloupe, which was an after thought and where we used our little bit of personal compost was going crazy!

 

 

 

Earlier this week I noticed that one pepper plant DSCN1198in the raised bed had suddenly turned a darker green and was sprouting leaves everywhere, also buds…hurrah! He’s the dark one in the lower left.

The green beans are starting to pick up steam now, after looking sickly since May, even with the second planting I did.

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The sprinkling of carrots is taking off, though the onions and garlic are likely a lost cause for the year, as are the turnips, rutebegas and cabbage. We may have a chance now with some beets, and a replanting of spinach should be fine.

 

Get this, though, the lettuce started growing this week. DH keeps reminding me that this is God’s garden, and He will provide the food we are supposed to have from it. If not from here, it will come from somewhere else.

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Seeing this lettuce is a delight; it is called baby romaine, and I was really looking forward to salads. Maybe I’ll get some just when the tomatoes are going, and maybe a lone cucumber or two. (another fail, though one plant is determined, it is only 2-3 inches tall, but is sporting one very nice bloom.)

SOME of the sunflowers have gone crazy now…look at this monster! They are still pretty short, but some are literally growing close to an inch a day I think!

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The grapes are in their glory! They are now four years old, and they have literally covered their corner of the fence. We have grapes in visible clumps, getting bigger by the day, and looking VERY happy. There will be plenty for eating fresh, maybe a batch of jam, and some juice. We will attempt to do raisins, but with the crazy little birds, that might not work so well. We’ll try. No photos of this, they are just a huge wall of leaves!

Too bad I took all the pictures before I spent an hour weeding. By sunset, it will look much better out there, with all the contraband dried up! You probably noticed that we have what looks like grass every where. That is the straw sprouting…its wheat. We  pull the larger clumps and just lay them on the ground, for extra nitrogen. In the fall we will let whatever is left go, and collect the stems. Last year I actually ground a bit up for whole wheat flour, I think I gathered up maybe a cup of wheat kernels, which grinds into a cup of flour.

 

Fantastic Bake Along

Thanks to Emma from Emma Crafts Design for the recipe for this month’s Fantastic Bake Along—Quiche. I had to make a trip to the grocery store, so we had our quiche tonight for dinner. There is a definite advantage to being one of the last to post; you can see everyone’s modifications, and change your recipe accordingly!

I stuck with Emma’s basic pastry recipe, using my Betty Crocker cook book to find some American measures in the same proportion. I did decide to try the olive oil instead of butter, so added a bit more flour as advised by Betty Crocker. However, I thought my crust was a bit on the dry side and a little difficult to work with. I ended up rolling it between waxed paper.


For the quiche, the big experiment was trying some of our dehydrated eggs instead of all fresh. I added the requisite water to them early this afternoon, so they would have plenty of time to reconstitute (about 3 hours).  My plan was to try half dehydrated and half fresh, and see how that affected the taste and texture. I also added some spinach and kale, (Girl #2’s influence) because I didn’t have lots of bacon. Finally, we went with our favorite, cheddar cheese.

35 minutes in the oven, and we were ready to enjoy!

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I am happy to report that no one could discern that the eggs were different from fresh! I was a little worried, because the reconstituted eggs do seem a little bit grainy, so I really wondered it that would be the case after baking, but happily the texture was identical to quiches where I have use all fresh eggs. A good thing to know if we ever end up having to use emergency rations for a period of time. 🙂

Check out the other participants at these sites:

Mountain Vistas

Mountain Vistas

The Big Horn Mountains contain wonderful high meadows, forests and snow at the tops of the highest peaks. During our camping trip we enjoyed the cooler temperatures and the wonderful vistas. I especially loved the variety of the mountain flora. Click any photo for a larger picture.

We did some hiking, and enjoyed some gorgeous views, especially during the hike into the Cloud Peak Wilderness.

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There were some incredible trout fishing areas here, though neither of us fish. We just enjoyed the gorgeous scenery!

We were also treated to some interesting wildlife. The chipmunks and squirrels enjoyed teasing Max, driving him to distraction at times. I was able to capture one cheeky squirrel who had no fear.

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But the best was seeing Mama Moose and her baby one afternoon. They were just across the road from our campsite, browsing along the river.

It was a welcome respite from the hot days in Rapid City, where temperatures have been in the mid to upper 90’s (35-37 Celsius) for a week, and are expected to continue indefinitely, with no rain.

We camped at two different places, one very near a bubbling creek, which Max the dog LOVED. He kept hopping in and laying in it, then chasing squirrels, hopping in again, etc. We finally had to put him on his chain so that he would dry off before bed time! The second was at a Forest Service campsite, which had the standard picnic table, trash, bathrooms and potable water. We have a Berkey water filter, so we have the option of camping anywhere there is a water source. (We use it at home too, to remove many of the chemicals from the city water.)

We have a great time cooking while we camp; here’s what we ate:

Friday supper: Red beans and rice with Andouille sausage, which was made ahead at home, and warmed up over the Coleman propane stove, which we use to prepare the morning coffee while the fire is readied for cooking breakfast.

Saturday: Sausage patties and pancakes made over the campfire for breakfast and roast beef with mixed vegetables made over the coals for supper.

Sunday:  Bacon, eggs and biscuits for breakfast, and green chili beef burritos with refried beans for supper (from the leftover roast beef, and peach pie for dessert. (I should have taken a picture!)

Monday: Sausage patties with fried potatoes and onions for breakfast, and pepperoni pizza for supper. DSCN1137

We have a cast iron griddle, skillet and Dutch oven, which really expands what you can do with a campfire! If anyone is really interested, I will do a post on how I prep for these types of camping meals. They are a fun challenge, and really yummy!

We had a great time cooling off, and just enjoying creation, but it was good to get back today and get everything cleaned up. I am going to enjoy a very long shower here in a bit!

Orchard Update

It’s been a while, and we have some new additions to our indoor orchard. 

The lemon trees are doing well, and the grapefruit trees have been moved into new pots. 

 
 
Our newest addition is an apricot, a single  sprout from 8 pits we found in the big freezer! 


We came home with some Valencia orange seeds and some mango pits to try. The oranges are in little starter pots, and we planted several mangos in one large pot, and have the last two soaking in water. There are also two avocado pits soaking, but no sign of a crack yet.

  
Finally, while it isn’t a tree, I was thrilled to find a bud on one of the African violets when we returned home! This makes me sooo happy, because I bought it on clearance from Walmart to use it in the 4-H Horticulture judging class last August. I kept it alive for a year and it even bloomed! That is not the usual for me!


So, I wonder which of these will sprout? Have you ever had any luck with mangos? Avocados? Pineapples?

Fantastic Bake Along-Pizza!

This post is coming to you through the magic of scheduled posts, I am actually in CA right now, and NOT baking pizza! However, the recipe for pizza dough from Brenna is the same one I use, and I had planned pizza for Tuesday night, so why not!

Now, for you busy moms out there, here are some FYI’s you may find very helpful!

  1. You can half this recipe and use the dough cycle on a bread machine. That dough can be frozen for later use. That’s what I’m using today!
  2. If you prefer thin crust pizza, 1/4 of Brenna’s recipe will cover a 9×13 cookie sheet with a little rolling pin action. (Or half of what comes out of the bread machine)
  3. Want a super crispy, thin crust? Use tip 2, then pre bake the crust for 7 minutes at 425. Add your toppings and finish baking for 8 minutes, again at 425.

When everyone is home I make two thin crust pizzas, but when there’s just the two of us, I bake one and put the dough in a ziplock bag and freeze it for later. To use, I take it out at noon the day of and leave it on the counter. IF you work all day, you could probably put it in the fridge early in the morning, and then pull it out as soon as you get home. I also make sauce and freeze what I don’t use, for the next time or two.

Here we are, ready to thaw..
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Our pizza is very simple, pepperoni and cheese, with other ingredients from the garden when it starts producing…a little green pepper, maybe onion, fresh basil sometimes sundries tomatoes from the garden.


A pre-baked crust. I had some air bubbles this time so used a fork to puncture them. Had I used the fork before I put it in the oven, I could have prevented them.


We like cheese!


Come and get it!


Check out the other participants…we all make modifications according to what works in our family, so everyone’s will be a little different.

Garden Update June 9

If you want to compare from the last report, you can go here. Progress is slow, or at lest seems slow to me! We have survived two 90 degree days along with NO rain. The grass on the front lawn is crunchy again. We did get a 1/2 inch of rain, and a thunderstorm with .2, but there has been a lot of hoses moving in an effort to get the seedlings to the point that they can be mulched before we leave for graduation.

The big news for this report is that the grass is up! Not a lot yet, but a definite twinge of green, especially in the shaded area. I am guardedly optimistic, that we will have lawn by the end of the summer, though sooner would be so nice.

At this point the only no shows are the pumpkins and the strawberry cuttings; I think the pumpkin seeds were not good, either immature, or didn’t like the freezer, and the strawberries may not be OK in the barrels. We may have to do real plants in order to get them what they need.  The beets and garlic are not doing well, not sure they will make it, but we can hope.

The morning sun is so bright, it is hard to get good contrast, but hopefully you get the idea! We are still too early to yell Hurrah, but there’s definitely hope for many of the beds now. South Dakota summers can turn on a dime, and we could still get a heat blast that dries those seedlings beyond help. We’ve lost a lot already, but hopefully these will hang on, especially with the straw coming in this weekend for a little shelter from the hot sun and wind. (15 mph all day with hot temps is difficult to fight!)

How’s your garden growing?

 

Alas, I am the Only One!

That likes rhubarb that is! I am a true northern Minnesota Norwegian–Spring is for rhubarb! Pie, sauce, jam, cake, muffins, we should have it everyday, and there is no need for strawberries. DH doesn’t care for it, and my girls were always luke warm but I can’t get enough! This is especially troublesome when our bachelor neighbors across the unfenced yard could care less about their patch. So I did the neighborly thing, and asked if they wanted their rhubarb. When Neighbor C looked at me like I’d come from Mars, I knew I had found a goldmine!

Now that I had secured the goods, what to do with it?  Freezer jam sounded promising, so I made a batch…4 cups rhubarb, 3/4 cup of sugar and 2 Tablespoons of water, dumped into the sauce pot, and turned on low until it looks like applesauce. I have a small bowl in the fridge and two half pints in the freezer…just enough. Then DH says, that might be good on ice cream…..Uh Oh!

What to do? Make some sauce!

So this morning, I sauntered over to the rhubarb patch, and thinned it nicely, coming up with about 2 pints of sauce. There really isn’t much difference between sauce and jam, but I think the jam is too sweet for ice cream, so of course I HAD to make more.

If you have helpers or you are a novice, rhubarb sauce is an easy dish to make.

Start with the rhubarb…I go for medium sized stalks from the patch.

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Remove the leaves, which are toxic, and the ends.


Take out a medium sauce pot and measure 1/2 cup of water and sugar. Stir it and put it on medium heat. You want it to come to a boil.

While the syrup heats, chop your rhubarb. Chop them into pieces between 1 and 1.5 inches long, keep cutting until you have 4 cups. Once the syrup boils, dump in the rhubarb and turn down the heat a little bit.


Let it come back up to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and you are done!

You can serve the rhubarb sauce alone, warm or cold. Variations might include a bit of cream poured into the sauce, or serving it warm over ice cream, or over a piece of vanilla cake, pound cake or angel food cake.

I am going to keep the jar in the fridge for DH to try, and try freezing what’s in the bowl for later.

Do you have a favorite food that doesn’t make it to the family table? How do you get your fix?