Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

Summer Gardening and Pizza!

Summer is in full bloom and though there was no big garden this year, the couple of raised beds my daughter helped me build are coming along nicely. I haven’t had the first tomato off yet. I think they were a bit late, because we’ve had an odd summer so far. Until recently it’s been raining more than usual and the temperatures have been cooler than our norm for this time of year.

The tomato plants are full of green tomatoes and growing taller than the tomato cages. I went outside today trying to figure out some way to keep the vines from falling over so much. I’m afraid they’ll break off. I ended up tying some twine around a couple of the branches to kind of gather them together for support, then tied the other end of the twine to the top of the stake holding the cucumber trellis on one side and the top of a neighboring tomato cage on the other side. (Sorry the picture’s not better—from phone as computer won’t recognize the camera card for some reason.)

Tomato and Cucumber Plants

Tomato and Cucumber Plants

All of the tomatoes are beefsteak except for one roma tomato plant that survived(unfortunately the goat ate my other ones at the beginning of the season—a tale for another day). In the front of the tomatoes in the second raised bed are the cucumber plants trailing up the piece of fencing and some jalepeno plants. The fencing was a leftover piece from last year’s garden. There are lots of blossoms on the plants and a couple of small cucumbers beginning…a little over an inch long with lots of prickles.

The first raised bed has two tomato plants on the end nearest the second bed. The rest of the bed has bell pepper plants and nasturtium flowers at the front in a beautiful array of yellow, orange, and red blossoms. I’m glad I planted the flowers. I know they’re edible, which I haven’t tried to do yet, but they add a nice pop of color to enjoy. There are a few plants in pots too : basil, another beefsteak tomato plant, and an eggplant(it may or may not produce—it’s been kind of puny looking).

I’m not too worried everything is a little late producing as thankfully we have a rather long growing season in NC. I need to look at trying to plant a few things for fall, but haven’t gotten that far. It’s been busy around here just with day to day stuff and caregiving. I’m trying to get back to blogging more and will try to share a few more recipes.

I’ve been enjoying doing more with whole wheat flour. I even made homemade pizza from scratch tonight…all the way from the crust to the pizza sauce(just not the cheese and I don’t see cheese making in my near future…lol). It may not be cheaper than frozen; but it is cheaper than take out(we’re so rural we don’t have delivery), healthier, and boy does it taste good!

 

 

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Herbal Gardening Bits and Baking

Spring is here, but I can’t really tell by the weather. It snowed the first day of spring and it’s been cold all this week. When it was warm a few days a couple of weeks ago, I started working on the small herb bed. Many of the perennial herbs are already coming back : catnip, peppermint, oregano, sage, chives, thyme, and rosemary.

The sage looks like it needs some trimming, but I wasn’t real sure how to do it properly. Of course, the quick and easy way for an answer is to look it up online. I found an article at  Jim Long’s Garden with an explanation and pictures of how to trim sage plants. I’m going to try to do this soon, but while it’s cold I’ve been spending more time baking.

I’ve found a chocolate chip cookie recipe I LOVE over at apple a day blog. In fact she calls it Best-ever chewy chocolate chip cookies and I’d have to agree. I’ve now made the recipe 3 times and it’s never failed. The recipe doesn’t call for chilling the dough and I really wouldn’t as these cookies hardly flatten out. It’s that simple, mix ingredients and start baking cookies. 🙂

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I usually end up changing recipes a bit, but this one I’ve truly just left alone. There are only two things I’ve done a little different in the process. After using my scoop and putting the cookies on the cookie sheet(I always use a stoneware pan), I lightly flatten the tops a bit with my fingers, because I wanted my cookies a littler flatter than they were coming out.

The only other thing I did, was bake the cookies between 11-12 minutes, which is probably just a difference between ovens. The recipe calls for not baking over 10 minutes and at 10 minutes my cookies were still too gooey. These cookies are so delicious that the only hard thing will be trying not to eat too many. 🙂

Every now and then I have to make something none chocolate as not everyone in the house likes chocolate as much as I do, so the other day I made lemon crinkle cookies. These turned out great! They have a light buttery lemon taste and are a nice chewy cookie. It was from a recipe I found online at LDS Magazine(no reflection on my faith beliefs).

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Maybe it will warm up soon and I can get to gardening. Till then I’ll work on baking and some crochet projects. I’ll leave you with a picture of some of my tomato seedlings…roma and beefsteak, which I’ve already transplanted to some bigger pots. I started them out in one of those little seedling cell trays. These are proof you can often use older seeds with good results.

Tomato Seedlings

Tomato Seedlings

Share any thoughts or projects you’re working on or maybe your favorite thing to bake on a cold day?… 🙂

Renewal and New Additions

I’m planning to renew my blogging on Kittrell Country Life with vigor. It’s been a busy winter around here and I’ve hardly had a chance to slow down, but life is settling some. We’ve had some new additions to the barnyard arrive last week. My daughter and I bought four hens from Walk Ahead Farms in Youngsville. I’m looking forward to having fresh eggs again.

Chickens(Lydia, Lacewing, Rose, & Georgette)

Chickens(Lydia, Lacewing, Rose, & Georgette)

Another Picture of the Ladies

Another Picture of the Ladies

Another nice arrival this month was the snow, for the first time all winter it finally snowed more than a few flakes. It was beautiful and we were glad to make snow cream to eat, but I’m ready for spring. It’s right around the corner, less than one month now. As usual about this time of year, I have some seedlings growing in the house.  The top of the dryer near the back door and the kitchen window sills get good light and turn into my nurseries in the spring.

View of Snow Through Kitchen Windows

View of Snow Through Kitchen Windows

The only plants I’ve started so far are roma tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, and dark beauty eggplant. I’m planning to start more real soon. In case you’re not much of a gardener and didn’t know, you can use older seed. I’ve had pretty good results, better than 50%, but it’s best to plant at least 2 or 3 seeds per spot if you’re using seed older than a couple of years as some may not sprout. Some of the seeds I used this year were four years old.

Gardening is just one small part of homesteading I do. Homesteading is a lifestyle, which involves becoming more self-sufficient. This means being able to provide more for your own needs without having to rely so much on outside sources. Usually, most of us aren’t capable of becoming fully self-sufficient, but I figure the more I’m capable of doing, the better. Just don’t look for me to start making my own nails or homemade paper any time soon. 🙂

As I continue to learn more about homesteading, I’ll share about things as I go along. There will definitely be some recipes and links to recipes coming soon. I’ve really been doing a lot of cooking from scratch and baking. Trying to be more frugal to save money in this economy is good incentive to learn to do things for yourself you may never have done before. I’ve even become pretty adept at making homemade bread.

I have several boards on pinterest if you’d like to go take a peek. My favorites are the Gardening board and the Favorite Recipes board. Both have a lot of ideas I’d like to try and some I’ve already attempted. I try not to spend too much time on pinterest, but I do like being able to pin ideas so I can find them easily.

 

 

 

Cookies, Flowers, and Flops

Life has been busy and I’ve been working a little more, so there has been less time for my other favorite pursuits.  Oh, well, I’m just taking things day by day.  Thought I would share a bit from the kitchen and the great outdoors.  I’ll always somehow manage to find time for baking and gardening.

I love to try new recipes and am usually very good at following a recipe.  Every now and then I have a recipe flop.  I couldn’t figure out my flop till just now while writing this post, but oh well.  I made these lemon coconut cookies the other day and I love the flavor as well as it’s a nice chewy cookie.  It didn’t take long to get the dough ready and then it just has to chill in the fridge for at least an hour before you make them.

Lemon Coconut Cookies

Lemon Coconut Cookies

The batch of cookies I made did not raise the way they were supposed to, but I think I forgot to put the baking powder in, so no wonder the cookies didn’t raise up properly.  You can find the recipe over at the Once Upon a Recipe blog.  Even flopped, the flavor was so good I’m for giving it another try.

Another flop has been my garden.  It’s not done as well as I had hoped this year.  It’s probably a combination of not enough rain, maybe not enough fertilizer, poor dirt, and at present has a bit of excess weed growth.  I think I will start pulling up some things soon, which are done producing and see if I can’t start some plants for a fall garden.  Here’s a photo of my one sunflower, which grew this year.  It’s beautiful!

Sun Flower

Sun Flower

Squash, Zucchini, and Projects for the Day

Flower of the zucchini plant.

Flower of the zucchini plant. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We finally had some much needed rain last night.  Some time after supper it began raining and it rained for hours.  I could hear it just pouring outside.  This is wonderful for the garden and I won’t have to water the garden today.  It’s also cooled it off nicely outside.

As you probably know, I planted the garden a little on the late side, so we haven’t had a chance to enjoy much from it other than a few salad greens and some herbs.  Well, we are finally getting a bit more from the garden.  Last night we had fried squash and onions with squash fresh from the garden.  It took a few days to get enough squash, but it was worth it.  There will be tomatoes and jalapenos soon too.

I have a couple of zucchini, which we decided not to fix in with the squash.  I’m thinking about making zucchini bread.  I love the taste of zucchini bread, I’ve just never made any.  This means finding a recipe and grinding some wheat.  The recipe will be easy and I’ll probably end up modifying it.  I usually do.  The wheat will take a bit more work.

I am blessed to have an electric mill, but the thing is so loud it sounds like an aircraft taking off.  It also spews flour dust in the kitchen even though I’ve changed the filter.  I’m not sure why it continues to do this.  The solution I’ve come up with to take care of both these problems is to grind the wheat outdoors.  I just plug the mill up to an extension cord outdoors and lug a pail of wheat out too.  It’s not so loud since it’s not in an enclosed space and who cares if you get a little wheat dust on the grass.

So I guess I have at least a few projects to work on today.  I’m going to add to the list, because I’ve realized I need to do a bit of garden research to answer some questions.  As I was doing my usual morning garden walk around, I thought of a few things I didn’t know the answer to.  One, would be if carrots and onions grow in the ground, how do you know when they are ready?  I’m also wondering how long do eggplant plants take to reach maturity?

If you’ve read some of my past blog posts, you might recall that the big garden is a bit of an experimental garden.  I’ve been playing around with companion planting and trying to grow some things I’ve never attempted to grow before, such as watermelons and pumpkins.  I’m going to try to keep notes, so I know what worked and what didn’t.  For example, I know in our garden dirt, beets and bunching onions don’t seem to like it.  Neither would grow this year.  One of the things I thought interesting about Thomas Jefferson was learning he kept journals about his gardens.

P.S. – How’s that for easy?  Found a couple of zucchini bread recipes(found below) as I was finishing up this post.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve learned while gardening?  Any experiments in your garden this year?…

Garden Vegetables…Fresh Produce Begins…

The garden is not producing a lot right now, but it’s beautiful.  Thought I would share some photos. I just came in a little bit ago from checking on the garden and doing a little weeding. Luckily I have not had much deer or rabbit damage this year.  Something nibbled a few leaves from one zucchini and one okra plant, but the plants look like they’ll be fine.  Here are some of the vegetables I picked this morning, a zucchini and a couple of squash.

Zucchini and Squash

Zucchini and Squash

This is the first year I’ve tried to grow watermelon and I’m so excited.  There are a few baby watermelons on the vines.  Here is the largest baby “sugar baby” watermelon in the garden. It’s about the size of a half dollar so far.  You can also see how hard and rough our soil is, but at least some things still manage to grow and feel at home in it.

A Baby "Sugar Baby" Watermelon

A Baby “Sugar Baby” Watermelon

Tomatoes are my favorite in a garden.  This year I planted roma and beefsteak tomatoes.  Here are a few of the roma tomatoes getting a little bigger.  I’ve been enjoying tomato sandwiches with greenhouse tomatoes from our favorite farmer friend, but I can’t wait to eat some with a fresh tomato straight off the vine.

Roma Tomatoes

Roma Tomatoes

 

 

Garden Helpers…

There has been more rain and warmth, which is helping the garden to blossom.  The tomato plants are getting nice and tall with more flowers.  The other plants are growing taller as well, but not flowering just yet.  I can’t wait to be able to start eating some vegetables fresh from the garden. 

I usually go out first thing in the morning to look over the garden to see how it’s doing and make sure the deer or rabbits haven’t caused any damage.  I’m the early riser in the house, so it’s my chance for a bit of peace.  Our dog Savanna enjoys keeping me company and likes to wander about the garden as well. 

Gardening with Savanna

Gardening with Savanna

Yesterday evening it rained, but I managed to get a few gardening tasks done while it was still cool.  I put up a support for the cucumbers.  Next, my daughter and her boyfriend gave me a hand putting up the support for the green beans.  We barely made it, but managed to get done before the rain started.

Both supports were made from pieces of found fencing from previous gardening years.  We used pieces of twine to tie the sections of fencing to plastic stakes pressed in the ground.  The stakes are the black ones about 3 feet tall with a piece sticking out at the base above the spike, which is used to press your foot onto make it go into the ground.  We got them at the Tractor Supply store a couple of years ago.

The other thing we got done yesterday was to move the swing.  It’s under a nice tall tree for shade in the front yard and is in a good position for a nice view of the garden.  Love the swing!  No picture of the supports or the swing, I’ll have to post one another day, but here’s one of the largest squash plant in my garden. 

Squash

Squash