12.31.2013

Tiny Gardener 2013, A Year in Review

I was watching the news this morning, and this being the last day of 2013, they were of course going over everything that happened this past year. I thought I might do the same!

January - Not too much happened in the Yarden, but it was cold, and we hosted a foreign exchange student for a few months.

February - About the same as January

March - I met Joel Salatin!!! And we got our first double yolk egg! We had 3 devastating losses in our families, so in a little memoriam, We love and miss you G, Phyllis, and Bob!!!

April - The chickens got fenced in and we were able to regrow grass and walk through the Yarden cleanly

May - The first signs of life were really up and running in the yarden, but nothing truly epic.

June - I got my first real harvest from our cherry tree, and we took down the old chicken fence and made a nice patio

July - I got Husband to like beets!!!! And after something like, 30 or 40 days of really below average temps and many inches of rain, we got record highs and dries and the Yarden went into shock

August - I really started to learn how to use my camera (which subsequently resulted in less pictures on the blog?), we had an outdoor cat and then he disappeared, and I made an epic zucchini bread (recipe can be found in my recipes tab at the top of the blog) I also got my rototiller as a birthday gift, so Yarden was much easier to till up :)

September - My school semester really took off and the blog took a back seat, as well as the Yarden

October - Even less eventful than September

November - What the heck??? NO pictures on the blog at all?? Whats up with that?! Oh yeah, and the Pantry Cleanout Challenge began...

December - The semester ended, the Pantry Cleanout Challenge continued (and still does) and I started purging my kitchen of unneeded stuff, one drawer at a time... Again, barely any pictures...

All in all, not an epic year, but not a bad one either. I am not a resolution type person, but more of a goal person... Here are my goals for 2014:
~Build a nice living wall for the patio
~Build a hoop house type thing to grow our kale through the winter
~Clean and somewhat maintain the garage
~Get flowers sown and sprouted for the patio so I don't have to buy them!!!
~Keep better records of harvest yield
~Really keep up with the harvest in terms of preservation... This was an epic fail this year and we had a lot of waste.
~Get down to the farm more often to keep up with it. (After the cold temps and a month of rain, it was so overgrown it was nearly a total failure... Sigh...)

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

12.28.2013

Christmas Loot

I think everyone in my family made out like a bandit this year!! Husband got sweaters, gift cards, coffee to go cups, and other various little things he loves. My mom (as always) was treated to a fancy new kitchen appliance and also got the snow plow for her lawn tractor and little baubles and ornaments from the grandkids. The kids of the family all got clothes from us and TONS of toys from their Gramma. We also had the treat of having our family friend Michael in from Pennsylvania to spend the holiday with us. He was truly not expecting any presents, so it was awesome to give him lots of goodies. My sister got lots of new clothes for her shrinking frame, and some awesome horse books from me.

Now for ME! I totally couldn't have planned it out better. I got a new seed shelf and 2 additional lights for Spring sowing, a squishy floor mat for in front of my stove, lots of pretty scarves, AND A DEHYDRATOR!!!!

This is where I need some help... The only thing I know to do with one of these things is fruit leather, jerky, dried apple and orange slices, and various dried fruit. Is there something more inventive I can do with it? I mean, is there something awesome I can do with dried food other than dried fruit snacks???

I hope everyone had a great holiday with friends and family and ate lots of good food!! I know I sure did!

12.19.2013

Taking a Break from the Pantry

Hey all! I hope everyone is in good holiday cheer and all full of those warm fuzzy loving feelings!

Just a small announcement... The pantry clean out project and meal planning will be on hold until next weekend. We will be traveling, and going to parties, and not spending much time at home, so I don't see the need to meal plan and post about, etc...

But if you are hosting a holiday party, this should give you some great opportunities to use up some pantry goods!

Happy holidays all, see you in a week or so!

12.12.2013

Planning for the 2014 Yarden

It so so dang cold today! This morning it was a whopping -5 degrees (With the wind chill factor, actual 10 degrees) and has risen to -1 (real 12). What better to do than stay inside, clean the house, and plan out the yarden for 2014?!

I got my annual delivery of garden porn, aka seed catalogs, and have been pouring through them. I am actually pretty good on the seed front, but there are things I will need like cucumbers, peas, eggplant, beans, and maybe some root veg.

I am really going to try to maximize my space next year by creating a living wall for the cucumbers, and should look something like this....
I am thinking the potting area will be 2 ft deep, 2 ft tall, and 8 feet wide. I have to measure the driveway where I plan to place it, but I think 8 ft will be sufficient. The trellis will be 4 ft tall since that is how it comes in rolls, and I have plenty of it. I plan on filling it with dirt from the chicken run so it will be plenty rich in nutrients from composted chicken poo. This whole thing will go across the driveway to create a living wall for privacy for our "patio" area. 

What I REALLY want to do for the living wall, maybe summer 2015 is to plant columnar apple trees in VERY large pots for the living wall. But so far, I haven't been able to find anyone local that has columnar fruit trees and I haven't found a place online to order from that I feel I will be satisfied with. Any help here will be greatly appreciated!! 

I also plan on putting my zucchini in pots next year. Really big ones of course. I hope this will save space for stuff that I value more, as well as preventing rot from the leaves and fruit sitting on the ground. I have never done this, so I guess we will see how it turns out. Even if we only get a few zucchini out of it, that will be satisfactory since usually come August, we are putting the extras in unlocked cars around the neighborhood to try and get rid of them. 

Is anyone out there already planning their gardens for next year???

12.10.2013

Cleaning Out the Pantry Recipe

Black Bean Soup. OMG YUM. I am still, always, working on cleaning out the pantry. I have not stuck with my meal plans lately because I have a terrible cold, and all I want is soup. So I have pretty much gone through my 8 quarts of stock from half of my Thanksgiving turkey bones, so tomorrow I will bust out the rest of the bones and make up another big batch.

Today I cooked up some dry black beans using my favorite method.... Just toss a bag of beans (usually a pound) into a slow cooker, chop up 1 onion, toss in some bay leaves, ground pepper, and cover with water about 2 inches from the top of the slow cooker. I have a small round one, maybe 6 quarts? If you have the large oval cooker, you don't need to make the water quite so high. I cook on low about 6 hours. Easy Peasy! No overnight soaking, no watching the pot... Trust me, this is the way to go! I use this method for ALL beans too...

So for the black bean soup, I kind of made this up as I went along, and I did NOT take pictures because it wasn't the prettiest of soups. Actually, it kind of looks like something you might give your dog, but trust me, very tasty. This makes quite a bit of soup, maybe 6 or 8 actual servings? But we eat a lot, so maybe just 4 for us.

Black Bean Soup
1 pound black beans dry weight, cooked (you do NOT need the cooking liquid). OR 4 cans black beans,                drained and rinsed
1 large onion, chopped
LOTS of garlic, minced - I used 8 cloves
about 1/2 pound carrots chopped small
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped small
1 cup frozen corn (I like a lot, so I may have used more)
1 quart stock - veg, chicken, turkey, whatever you have, just not beef
salt and pepper
dried chili flakes, about 1/2 tsp
ground cumin, about 1-2 tsp (more if you really love the stuff)
1 tsp chili powder
1 pinch cinnamon (really, just a pinch, a tiny bit)
1 avocado
small bunch cilantro
1/2 lime

~Saute your all your veg (NOT the corn) in a bit of olive oil in a soup pot until softened and slightly browned. Season with salt and pepper and spices. Add in your cooked beans and stock, bring to a boil. Use an immersion blender (or put a good few ladles into a blender) and blend in order to thicken the soup. Return the blended mixture to pot if you used a blender. Add the corn and bring back to a boil and allow soup to thicken.
~Cut up your avocado into a bowl and top with lime juice from 1/2 lime and some finely finely chopped red onion if you like it. Don't mash it like guacamole. Leave it in chunks. Chop up your cilantro.
~Serve soup nice and hot and top with the avocado mixture and cilantro and enjoy! Top with sour cream or plain yogurt if you please.

**Note** This is an awesome gluten free soup. If you use veg stock it will also be completely vegan!

12.06.2013

Winter Break Project #1

I have several things on my mind that I want to accomplish over my winter break. Mostly, I want to remove clutter from the house. We have too much stuff. Last week, I removed half of my kitchen gadgets from my drawers and counter tops, put them all in a box, and put the box in the basement. I figure if I can live a month without needing them, then into the garage sale pile they go!

Next thing thing was to move the microwave. It is a big black ugly thing that sits on top of the fridge. We have all white appliances by the way... That and I had a really REALLY hard time using it because I am short, and it was up high, and I spilled soup on WAY too many occasions. 

I wanted the microwave to go into my pantry, but uh, there are no plugs in there. However, the pantry is ion a wall that is the storage room, and there so happens to be a plug in exactly the right spot SO I busted out my drill, the 1 inch drill bit, and went to town. My holes were a little off in alignment, but I made it work. The storage room has a little hole now with a cord going through it, but whatever. That room is NOT for show. This is how it came out!
Clean and clutter free! That makes a happy me!



Yes, the pantry is still really clogged up and crowded, especially now that I lost a whole shelf to the microwave, but I am STILL on a mission to clean it out by eating what we have. It's all good though, because now I can reach the darn thing, AND keep it clean :)

By the way, How is everyone Clean Out The Pantry Challenge going??

12.02.2013

Dark Days

No, not the Dark Days Challenge, but a challenge none the less. Now, don't get me wrong, I am still excited (for some deranged reason) about the winter and snow and cold and soups and stews and Christmas. BUT. The darkness.... OH the darkness....

We have been waking up later and later every morning. The dog, Chelsea, usually wakes me us up every morning at the same time to go out and do her business. Even SHE refuses to get up before the sun. And may I remind you that the sun now is not rising itself until 7:40 or so.

And the chickens. We all know that the chickens rise and fall by the sun. So when I take out the dog and the chickens are staring and snickering at me like, "hey, look at that fool! Doesn't she know the sun isn't even up yet??" Yeah, effing chickens....

Is anyone else already falling into the darkness and despair of the season??

11.30.2013

Cleaning Out the Pantry, Week 3

'Tis the weekend of leftovers! Due to my overzealous nature, I am blessed with nearly an entire half of a 23 pound turkey. The bones are spoken for, half becoming stock now, and half will become stock later (they wouldn't all fit in my stock pot, believe it or not). There is a ton of meat - some of it will become sandwiches for lunches next week, some of it will become turkey pot pies, and the rest of it will go into stir fry.

So here is what the menu looks like for this coming week:

Saturday (Today) - Turkey pot pies (fridge mostly, using up leftover canned biscuits as the topping)
Sunday- Stir-fry (fridge, pantry, and veggies leftover from T-day)
Monday - Straight up leftovers
Tuesday - Grilled steak with bulgur and veggies (freezer, pantry)
Wednesday - Beef roast in the crockpot w/rice and veg (freezer, pantry)
Thursday - Leftovers
Friday - Pasta with tomatoes and cheese (pantry, fridge)

What does your week look like?

11.29.2013

Yay Me! And a NO SPEND December

First off, I hope everyone had an excellent Thanksgiving!!!! Ours was pretty good, except my dressing/stuffing (whichever you prefer to call it) turned into bread soup and I forgot to put out the cranberry sauce.

Ok, call me crazy, but I am having a SUPER RIDICULOUS PROUD AWESOME day!

I have, in one single day (HUGE thanks to my Momma), done all of the following:

~Cleaned up Thanksgiving dishes and put everything away
~Put away all fall decorations
~Assembled and decorated my Christmas tree AND put out all my decorations
~Shopped til I dropped and got EVERYTHING I needed to get with the exception of two people who have yet to tell me what they want or need
~Wrapped all the presents and stuck them under the tree
~Ate Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner
~Played a variety of Christmas movies and music, and watched a little of them too :)

So here is what I still have to do:
~Make turkey stock
~vacuum up all the glitter and tree needles

Yeah, I think I'm a little nuts. And I know you probably do to, and that is ok. As long as no one is in denial! As for my no spend December, considering I have all nearly all my Christmas shopping done, I think I will be able to pull it off. Here are the things I KNOW I will have to spend money on, and here is my alloted budget:
$500 SHOULD cover everything I need to get for the month of December and I do NOT want to spend more than that.
~Stocking stuffers for Hubby ($40)
~Two presents for family gift exchange ($150)
~a few holiday bags ($10)
~Fresh fruits and veg ($40 per week)
~A few toiletries from Target ($20)
~ Dog food ($20 I think....)
~ Stuff to make my designated Christmas Day treats ($50)

Everything up there should leave me with $50 for stuff I haven't thought of.... The 40/week of fresh fruit and veg should also leave room in case we need some milk or something, other than that, I am still on my cleaning out the pantry binge, so I am trying not to buy any groceries as long as I possibly can.

So how is everyone doing on their pantry clean out?!?!


11.25.2013

Cleaning Out the Pantry, Week 2

We've been doing pretty good on eating out of the pantry. I did do all of my Thanksgiving shopping this past weekend, except my turkey which is coming fresh on Wednesday; there was just no way I was going to be able to feed 15 people a complete and traditional holiday meal out of the pantry, so shop I did. I am actually really proud - sans turkey, I spent $90 for everything I needed and got mostly all organic local ingredients. Last year we went out for Thanksgiving, and spent $50 per person (and let me just say what a ginormous disappointment that was).

But here goes the meal plan for this week:

Monday - Leftovers or freezer food (gonna be a late night)
Tuesday - Leftovers or freezer food (another late night)
Wednesday - Going out for Mommy's birthday unless I come up with something brilliant (Maybe some delicious thing with farro or bulgur (Got any good recipes?????)
Thursday - Thanksgiving!!!!
Friday - Thanksgiving leftovers (There is nothing better than leftovers!)
Saturday - Thanksgiving leftovers reinvented (most likely turkey and cranberry paninis with greens and potato soup)

We are heavy on the leftovers this week... We do have some split pea soup left and some good crusty bread. We also have some good freezer food, burritos and pierogis, that are easy and quick to heat up.

11.17.2013

Cleaning out the Pantry, A Look at Week 1

Ok, so here goes my planned recipes for this week up Through Friday

Today - It's football day, so we will be out all day eating pizza :)

Monday - Balsamic Pot Roast w/Onions in the slow cooker (freezer)
               - Green Beans (freezer)
               - Brown Rice (pantry)

Tuesday - Will be home late, Leftovers

Wednesday - Another late night, leftovers or chicken chili (fridge and freezer)

Thursday - White beans in the slow cooker (pantry)
                - Sauteed kale and corn (garden and freezer)
                - Brown Rice (pantry)

Friday - Split pea soup with Canadian bacon and bread (pantry and freezer)

**Note to self** Although I am aiming to rid myself of my freezer and pantry items, I need to buy onions and carrots to make a veggie stock. I am feeling a lot of soups and stews in our future, and I have to have stock. Not to mention, Thanksgiving is coming, and I will NOT be buying stock from the store. Gross!

11.16.2013

Empty Pantry Challenge, Part 1

Ok, so I have recently realized something... Not only have I become my mother in many various ways (not a bad thing!), I have become my mother in an extremely odd way... I have become somewhat of a food hoarder. When I was little, there was always food to make whatever recipes you could dream of. And we made BIG grocery store trips. Why? I have no idea. But I have carried these habits into adulthood.

Now, its not like we have food sitting around and rotting, and our house is gross or something... But for real, my pantry is FULL. My freezerS are FULL (yeah, both of them.) Technically, on the freezer front, we have 3 freezers. 1 upstairs attached to the fridge, and 2 deep freezers in the basement - one for our cow, and one for veg from the garden.

So, I am giving myself the EMPTY PANTRY CHALLENGE! I am aiming to have emptied our freezers and pantry over the next few weeks to a month until Christmas time, at which we will be out of town for several days, and I get weird about having food sitting around anywhere. Also, I want to try and save some money for Christmas shopping, so I would REALLY like to avoid going to the grocery store for a few weeks, or longer if I possibly can.

Here is another part of the challenge... You don't have to follow this one... But in the spirit of saving money and eating what we already have, I am aiming to NOT EAT OUT until this challenge is over. This has been a big deal for me, eating out... I am busy, and no one is going to cook for me, so it is easier to go out. It is getting STUPID EXPENSIVE. And like I said, I want some extra money for Christmas shopping.

In part 2 of this blog post, I will be posting my planned meals and snacks so that I can have an easy reference for myself, and you, if you want a recipe here and there.

How about it?!?! Are you with me??? If you are, please post a comment. I will be trying to post about the week's recipes on Sunday evenings.

11.09.2013

Homemade Flavored Coffee Creamer

Ok, so I really REALLY love peppermint coffee creamer... You know, this one....
Have you ever read the ingredients in this stuff? It is as follows: WATER, SUGAR, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN AND/OR COTTONSEED OIL, AND LESS THAN 2% OF SODIUM CASEINATE (A MILK DERIVATIVE)**, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, CELLULOSE GEL, COLOR ADDED, CELLULOSE GUM, CARRAGEENAN

Most of that I can't pronounce making me really not want to drink it. And, I'm not so keen on having oil in my coffee! SO I took matters into my own hands, and made my own. I didn't really know what I was doing, but I must say, this turned out pretty good. 

Peppermint Mocha Creamer
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk (Ok, I'm gonna be honest here... I don't love this. Next time I am going to use half and half or heavy cream to mix in... This milk made my creamer kind of taste like cereal. Also, this will allow more sugar control)
the same amount of milk (just refill the can and don't make extra dishes)
         *I used soy milk here because it is what I had on hand. I'm sure any kind of milk you use would be fine, except maybe coconut milk (unless you want a coconut flavor or buttermilk.
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp pure peppermint extract
1tsp vanilla extract
1 + 1/2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder

This is simple, just empty the can and your regular milk into a small sauce pan, add in the cocoa powder, heat over low heat, and whisk until all is mixed well and the cocoa is dissolved. Stir in the extracts off of the heat so they down dissipate into the air. Pour into a container with a closable cap and refrigerate. Enjoy!

**I have no idea how long this will last in the fridge, but it's so darn good that I don't see it going to waste!

**Don't even go to the place where you say, but isn't peppermint Christmas-y? What about pumpkin spice creamer? I don't like pumpkin spiced anything except pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. Those fancy lattes that every goes nuts over gross me out. BUT if you DO like pumpkin spice, go ahead and skip the peppermint in the recipe and add in cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. I haven't made this for obvious reasons, so I can't give you quantities here.

***I got a comment stating that "just because you can't pronounce them, doesn't mean they are bad for you. You must be ignorant and you should educate yourself." OK let me just say, that yes, in actuality, I can pronounce those words, and yes, I actually do know what they mean. The point of saying those things is to show that I don't want to put processed ingredients into my body and the bodies of my family. Don't you also want to put the most pure things into your mouth and have them be delicious?? The more processed and ingredient is, typically, the more letters and syllables the word will have. Sorry if you think I'm an idiot because I want to eat and feed my family the best and most simple things I can find. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

10.20.2013

It was COLD this morning...

AND I LOVED IT!!!

I have no idea why, but I am super psyched to have it get cold. Cold, snow, hot tea (or chocolate!), soups, casseroles, fires, twinkly lights, sweaters, boots, snugly animals, big blankets... OMG!!!

We got the pellets for the stove yesterday, and even though it is a huge pain in the butt (I mean, who really wants to haul 80, 40lb bags of pellets down tp their basement for fun?) I am happy it is done. We even had a fire last night and this morning. Woo!!!

Is anyone else getting pumped for cold weather????

10.14.2013

Just Checking In

I haven't posted in nearly ONE MONTH... WTF is up with that?!?! Oh yeah, I can tell you... I am busy as heck! The garden is getting shut down for fall, we harvested the winter squash from the farm, and I promise you, I will get caught up on reading and blogging. Just wait for December when I am on break. And the spring semester is going to be cake, so I will blog a bunch then. But until then, thanks for hanging in there!

But for now, here is a little sample of what I've been doing. This is a picture of the moon I took tonight through my telescope. It's pretty sweet, and I intend on getting an "A" for my environmental science project. Yeah, I know, I'm awesome.

9.22.2013

Herbal Interest

Everytime I get a cold, my interest in herbal teas and remedies spikes to an annual high. Some things I am curious about are mullein, pleurisy root, goldenseal, marshmallow (not the white fluffy kind), and pine (yeah, like a tree).

Do any of you awesome homesteaders have any experience with making and drinking teas using these? Do they work? How hard are they to grow (other than a pine tree obviously)?

9.11.2013

Time Flies...

Especially when you don't have any! Sorry I haven't been around much!

The garden has been hanging and holding steady since the massive tomato harvests last time I blogged. I pulled out the zucchini and cucumbers. They were just completely covered in powdery mildew, and I couldn't take it anymore. They were so ugly and unproductive. I've been pulling the beans slowly but surely, a few plants every time I go outside. The kale is STILL going strong! In fact, I need to do another major harvest. Maybe Sunday... It's a good thing they are holding out because all my seedlings (kale, cabbages, lettuces, broccoli) got totally decimated by cabbage worms in about 2 days. No fall garden there. Unless I get my act together and plant more trays, but I doubt that will happen.... I will still plant my direct sow plants this weekend, but it won't be near what I was hoping to get with the trays of brassicas.

Opie hasn't been around much, but we have been having random kitty visitors such as Baby Stripes, Freddy, Smokey, and Chicken Stalker of course. The chickens are good and healthy, but starting to look like hell. Blondie is in full on molt and hasn't laid an egg in 2 weeks. Maybe more, I have lost track of time. She actually has NO butt feathers left at this point. The other girls are starting their molt, but look nowhere near as bad as Blondie. Every time I go outside to feed them or grab an egg, the coop looks like someone had a huge pillow fight and left feathers all over the place, just like a bad 80's movie. I will try to get a picture of her, but she may be too camera shy since she is so far off from her normal beauty.

What else? Oh yeah, my life is nuts now. This semester is really kicking my butt, and I am only 3 weeks in. The name of the game right now is projects, projects, projects. This is the main reason I haven't been blogging much, so sorry if you missed me! I have been trying to keep up on reading all your garden stories, but haven't had much time to comment. Even at home, I rarely get to spend quality time with Hubby, our newest most often used phrase is "Love you, see ya when I see ya" said usually in the morning when either he or I is running out. I don't even know the last time I made a real dinner....

I've taken up running, and am now in week 7 of dedication. I can run 3 miles now! Well, more a walk/run thing, but I can still do it! I've even gained a couple of running buddies, so that definitely helps. This week I took a day off from my running routine because I just can't deal with this heat. When you run, your body makes it feel about 20 degrees hotter than it really is. I don't know about you, but getting psyched up to run in 80 degree heat at 7 am isn't my kind of fun.

Speaking of heat, what the hell?!?! It SEPTEMBER for gawd's sake! Yesterday we hit NINETY SIX degrees. 96!!!! Ridiculous! This weather is doing nothing for my attitude except dragging it down. Big time. Like, I can't even fathom smiling right now. Ugh. It needs to end so I can return to being normal.

Well, it's been great getting to catch you up on why I've been absent, but I have to get back to work!

9.02.2013

Harvest Monday

Holy harvest totals Batman!

So last week my fall classes started, and I am BUSY! I admit though, I have been really slackin off in blog land. Especially when it comes to Harvest Monday. Again, I slacked off on taking pictures for you over the last few weeks, but you all know what vegetables look like... So here is what we have gotten since the last Harvest Monday I participated in...

Beans: 21 oz
Beets: 3 lb 8 oz
Basil: 3 lb 4 oz
Cucumbers: 1 lb 12 oz
Eggplant: 6 lb 12 oz
Kale: 1 lb 10 oz
Peppers: 3 oz
Tomatoes: 55 lb
Zucchini: 8 lb 5 oz

We also got in the big garlic clean up this week, and it amounted to.... 10 pounds 5 ounces!
We divided it up into 2 categories, plant this year and eat this year. We have 3.5 pounds dedicated to planting, and the rest for eating. I can't remember how much we replanted last year, and I don't think I recorded it, but it was exactly enough to get us through to the harvest this year. Dang, I wish I could remember!
You can really tell the size difference between the eating ones and planting ones. We ONLY plant the biggest and best garlic for next year.
 Annual total:  123 pounds 4 ounces !!!!!!!!!!!

8.22.2013

Zucchini Cakes

Another way to bake with zucchini. AND IT ISN'T BREAD!!!

I found these chocolate zucchini cakes at Martha Stewart, and decided to adapt them, Tiny Gardener Style.


Chocolate Zucchini Cakes
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (you can use butter here)
3 Tbs plain greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, divided
38 walnut halves (or pieces)
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Preheat your oven to 350.

Melt half of the chocolate chips either in the microwave or in a double boiler. I do the double boiler because I am notorious for burning chocolate. Allow to cool slightly.

Mix all your wet ingredients together in a mixing bowl, then add in the melted chocolate. Remember, sugar is a wet ingredient!

Mix your dry ingredients together, including the non melted chips. Pour the dry stuff into to wet stuff, and mix until just incorporated.

Pour ONE Tablespoon of batter into each compartment of a mini-muffin tin. Top each batter cup with 1 walnut half.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

I got exactly 38 mini cakes. Holy crap, they are good.

**Update** I put these in the fridge so that they wouldn't go bad before we ate them all. I pulled one out just now, and it was almost fudge like! Yay!



I put the recipe into a recipe generator thing, and it turns out, each little cake is 75 calories, so go ahead and indulge in a couple! They are super nice, not too sweet, and a couple satisfied my sweet tooth.

















Laundry Soap Sagas

I thought it would be a really awesome thing to try homemade powdered laundry soap because I saw it on, where else? Pinterest!

In all honesty, the lady who made the blog post did a great job and made me think that I would really prefer her powder soap over my own liquid soap.  Basically her recipe called for the same ingredients as my soap, but instead of melting everything in water, you just grind it all up in a food processor until it is super fine.

The problem? I wash every thing in cold water to save energy, money, the environment, etc. The powder soap doesn't dissolve in the cold water and doesn't effectively clean the clothes. I hung our laundry out to dry, and I could still smell the sweat and deodorant in Husband's shirts. It was kinda gross and super annoying that I had to waste time and energy rewashing the clothes.

Not only did the powder not do a good job, it also doesn't last as long... I went through half a batch before I gave up, and that was only about a week. My liquid batch lasts me over 3 months.

So here I am, making laundry soap. Liquid laundry soap. Is it kind of a pain? You bet. Is it worth it? You bet.

8.14.2013

Zucchini Bread

Ok, I know... Everyone and their mother, and sister, and cousin, and neice have all made some version of zucchini bread. Some are awesome, some are not. I am now in full swing of zucchini hell madness, so I am eager to get these put up in some form or another.

Just a little caveat about putting up zucchini- I have tried that whole, shred it and freeze it and bake it later thing. That does not work, at least for me. The zucchini loses all body it had by turning its high water content into ice, making your later to come breads watery and gross. So bread is my favorite way to preserve the abundant squash.

I tried about 10 different recipes before coming up with my own modified version (doesn't everyone have one?) and I am pretty happy with the results. This one has a tender crumb, enough spice for me (I often double the spices in recipes like this, so just know, I already did that for you), and is sweet enough that I can eat a slice for dessert. I went a little nuts today, and I made 3 mini loaves and 3 large regular loaves.




 Zucchini Bread
Makes 2 loaves

3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil (watching your calories? Sub in applesauce or mashed bananas)
2 cups sugar (you could also sub in honey for this at 1/2 the amount, so 1 cup, just make sure to add a little more flour so the batter isn't to liquidy)
2 cups shredded zucchini (don't fret if you have a little more or less than 2 cups. It will be fine.)
~~~~~~~
3 cups all purpose flour (You can substitute up to 50% whole wheat flour if you like)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbs cinnamon (if you lost your T measurement, this is 3 tsp)
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped nuts (use what you have, today I used walnuts, almonds, and pecans)
~~~~~~~
Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare your loaf pans. I use glass pans lined with parchment, always. 

Combine all your wet ingredients in a mixing bowl.

**See Note Below**
 Add in your dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined, but don't overdo it.  Divide your batter evenly amongst your 2 loaf pans. Or your mini loaf pans. Which ever you like.

Bake at 350 for 40-60 minutes or until a wooden skewer or knife comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans for 10-15 minutes, then turn out into a cooling rack. You can slice it hot (be careful!) or room temp, but make sure to enjoy with a smear of butter. Yum!

**My little note** A lot of recipes say to sift all your dry ingredients together in a bowl, then add in increments, blah blah blah. I don't do that, but I do know that cinnamon does NOT mix into wet ingredients well, so I put everything onto one of those flexible chopping mats, stir everything together with a fork, and then dump it in my mixing bowl. It only adds one more thing to wash, but makes sure that your spices and salt are evenly distributed in your batter. I also mix my nuts into the dry ingredients first for the exact same reason.

Hey! Add some variation and toss some shredded carrots in this one. Yummy!

8.12.2013

Effing Varmin

Last year, which was sadly named The Year of the Groundhog, we did major battle battle with bastard groundhogs. I think our neighbor ended up, uh, getting rid of, over 12 of them, not to mention several possums and raccoons.

This year, we thought we had that groundhog problem in the history books... Well, not so much. A few days ago, we had a groundhog sighting in the driveway, and then again yesterday. We set the trap out in the neighbors yard to try and get him. No luck.

This afternoon, I spotted him in my yard munching on tomatoes, which I promptly threw on some clothes and chased him off with a shovel. I came back in, took a shower, then as soon as I got out, he was back there again literally picking my green beans. I gathered up the trap and reset it in my yard, in the path to the tomatoes and the beans... Its now been like, a week, and still nothing. Maybe my chasing after him with a shovel scared him off. 

So, not only do we have groundhogs again, we are doing battle with sparrows. A LOT of sparrows. They really enjoy chicken feed, just in case you didn't know. I switched the girls over from crumbles to pellets in hopes of thwarting the tiny beaked bastards from eating it as much. It isn't perfect, but its better.

And then we have the mice. Since I changed the girls over from a typical upside-down gallon water thing to a tub of water, I have at least one dead mouse a week in there. Gee, its such a pity they can't swim...

8.08.2013

First Eggplant

I know everyone is drowning in zucchini just about now, myself included, and we are FINALLY starting to get other vegetables. Eggplant to be exact.

By the end of the weekend, I should have 6 or 7 more of these beauties! This one weighs in at exactly 1 pound. This is the Listada de Gandia eggplant from Baker Creek. Not only are they super awesome looking, but they taste great too. Not too bitter, and the skin isn't tough so you can leave it on when you cook with it. It does lose some of it's color striation when cooked though...

I think for our first meal with it, I'm going to grill it up simply with zucchini, slice up a tomato, and put it all in fresh ciabatta bread with some basil and mozzarella. Yum!

8.07.2013

Kale and Mushroom Pasta

I am really on a mushroom kick lately. The kale this year is excellent, as the summer hasn't been hot enough to make it go bitter, and it is just growing like crazy! Delish! Last week I made a mushroom and kale lasagna, which was totally killer. This week, I was inspired by a post on, what else? Pinterest! It was actually a mushroom stroganoff recipe that I made my own. I didn't use sherry or Worcestershire, and I added kale. Yum!

Just a couple of notes before I get into it... If you don't like kale, substitute whatever greens you like. Vegan? Don't use sour cream. Meat eater? Add some sliced beef or chicken. Dont have fresh pasta? Use your favorite dried pasta. Don't like garlic? Leave it out. My recipes are NOT rules, just guidelines. We like a lot of "stuff" in relation to our pasta, so this was enough for 2 of us. Have more family members? Add more pasta, more greens, etc... Just go with the flow. 
 

Kale and Mushroom Pasta
This will take about 30 minutes, and I made enough for 2 VERY hefty servings. If you are feeding more people, just add more pasta. 

1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 pound shitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (remove the stem on these, they are very tough)
1 large onion, sliced thin
8 oz fresh kale, cleaned and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 large sprigs of thyme
4-5 fresh sage leaves
1 T steak sauce (ordinarily I would use Worcestershire sauce for that umami goodness, but I didn't have any. I had to improvise)
1 cup sour cream (I used light. The brand I chose didn't have added sugar, so I was cool with it.)
8 ounces fresh pasta (Don't fret, dried pasta is good too!)
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Do this first so that your pasta can cook while you are making the "stuff."
 
Saute your onions and garlic in olive oil over medium/med-high heat until golden brown and fragrant.
Add your sliced mushrooms and chopped herbs, salt and pepper to taste.

The mushrooms should give off enough water to cook the kale... Add in the steak sauce or Worcestershire and stir into the mushrooms. Add in the chopped kale, cook until bright green and chewable, but not mushy. Then, add in your sour cream.
Stir everything together and let the flavors gently simmer on medium-low heat while your fresh pasta cooks. A few notes here... Fresh pasta from the freezer will cook in about 2 minutes of rapidly boiling water. Whole wheat fresh, about 3 minutes. Dried pasta, about 10 minutes. Just time this accordingly. Fresh pasta will float when it is done, so that is your signal and you don't have to burn your fingers doing a taste test.
 

Fish out or strain your pasta, toss it with the saucy goodness, and serve in a big bowl. If you want it saucier, add in some starchy pasta pater before your strain your pasta. Top with some parmesan cheese if you are feeling feisty, and enjoy!

8.05.2013

Opie!

Or to be correct, O.P... as in Outside Punkin. Yeah, We kind of have an outside cat.



There are lots of stray and feral cats around our neighborhood, so when one decides to be brave enough to come up to me and let me pet them, I like to say I've adopted them.

We call him O.P. or Opie, because he is orange, and Punkin is orange, but this guy lives outside. So, Outside Punkin is his name. He likes to hunt mice in the garage during the day, and lounge in the shade, and eat treats. He is a little sweet heart!

7.30.2013

Husband Approved Beet Recipe(s)

It has to be said, I made Husband hate beets... A long time ago, I grew some beets and made roasted beets, and way overcooked them, and he of course hated them. I thought I had scarred him for life... Until now...

I grew beets this year with the intention of sweet pickling them, which is honestly my favorite snack on the face of the planet. I will eat them til I puke... And then eat some more. Anywho, Hubby was talking to a client (who is Greek fyi) and told him how he hates beets and that I'm terrible for growing them. Client said, she needs to make them Greek style... Cut them up with onions and garlic. And so I did... And Hubby LOVES BEETS! So here is the recipe (again, we ate them up and I failed to take any pictures, but just trust me on this.)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Greek Beets
1 pound beets, boiled until done, like a potato but not mushy, peeled and sliced bite size
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch or 2 of oregano (dried or fresh is fine)
salt and pepper

Ok, saute your garlic and onions in olive oil until translucent, but not really browned. Add in your salt and pepper and oregano, and the beets. Stir to combine and eat!

It has to be said that these beets are awesome paired with their greens sauteed the exact same way but finished with some honey and balsamic vinegar. YUM!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So, us only being 2 people, we did NOT finish the beets from last night, Hubby asked if we could have a repeat beets and greens type dinner, and of course I obliged. So tonight, I made the sauteed greens (I had to substitute some kale mostly) and paired them with homemade wheat pasta. Holy crap was it good... Here's how I did it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Beets and Greens Pasta
8 or so ounces of chopped greens
1 medium onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
balsamic vinegar
honey
salt and pepper
basil (dried for this one)
4 or so ounces goat cheese (don't have any? use Parmesan. None of that? Use cream cheese)
salt and pepper
fettuccine pasta
Leftover beets, reheated

Bring some salted water to a boil for your pasta, toss it in. This takes no time to make!

Saute the onions and garlic in olive oil with salt and pepper until slightly golden brown. Add in a sprinkle of dried basil and the balsamic vinegar and honey (honestly, I never measure this... I would say to taste based on how sweet or bitter your greens are). Stir in the goat cheese and enough starchy pasta water to create a sauce to braise your greens in. Add the greens and cook until chewable, or to your faveorite level of doneness. Add in the cooked pasta and toss together.

Top the pasta with the reheated beets (or fresh if you're feeling frisky!) and eat!

I would recommend NOT cooking the beets along with everything else in this dish otherwise everything will turn pink.... I don't know about you, but I don't find pink pasta very mouthwatering to look at.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You are welcome!

7.29.2013

Harvest Monday

Last week was a good week in the yarden. I was out of town this weekend, and came home to kale, beans, beets, broccoli, and TOMATOES! Yes!! Tomatoes!!

I got one small Purple Cherokee, a few black cherries, and a couple reisentraubs. Yum! I'm gonna whip up some fresh pasta for this week, and hopefully by Friday we will have enough to have for dinner.The kale I picked yesterday went straight into a creamy mushroom and kale lasagna, which was freakin awesome! I will post the recipe below. I really should have taken pictures of that...
Punkin loves harvest days too!
 This week: 1lb 12oz beets & greens
                    12 oz tomatoes
                    1lb 8oz green beans
                    1lb 4oz kale
                    6oz broccoli shoots
                    2oz various herbs
Annual Total:  41 lb 4 oz


Kale and Mushroom Lasagna
1 lb kale, cleaned and chopped small
1 large onion
as much garlic as you want (I use a lot, or leave it out if you want)
1 lb mushrooms, chopped (use whatever kind you want or have on hand. I picked some baby bellas up on sale)
1/2 box lasagna noodles, cooked halfway OR fresh pasta sheets uncooked (yum!)
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
8 oz mozzarella cheese
5 oz parmesan cheese
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
various herbs chopped fine (I used basil, sage, and thyme fresh from the garden... Rosemary would be awesome in this also)

This is so easy, you will make this a go-to dinner. At least I will! This recipe will make one really large lasagna or 2 small ones (which I made and stuck one in the freezer)

First off, boil a lot of water to cook your noodles in. Salt it well! Only cook the noodles about halfway, they will continue to cook in the oven. Combine the milk, flour, herbs, nutmeg, and salt and pepper in a sauce pan. Whisk to combine and cook on medium until slightly thickened. Turn the heat off and add in most of your cheeses (save some for the top!)

Saute the onions and garlic in butter/olive oil until slightly golden and fragrant. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden. Add in your kale (you can substitute any greens you want - spinach, beets, mustard, anything you like!) and cook until bright green and slightly soft. Don't forget to season with salt and pepper. Pour in the cheese sauce and stir to combine.

Butter or spray oil your baking dish of choice, and put a little bit of the veggie/sauce mixture in the bottom to keep noodles from sticking. Place a layer of noodles, a layer of sauce, noodles, sauce, noodles, sauce. I got 3 layers total, and it was plenty tall. Make you you end with a layer of sauce so the top layer of noodles doesn't dry out. Top with more cheese, and bake at 350 covered for about an hour, remove foil and bake another 15 minutes until golden brown on top. Allow lasagna to rest slightly so it doesn't run all over the place when you slice it up. Enjoy!


Don't forget to hop on over to Daphne's Dandelions and check out lots of other gardens and harvests!

7.22.2013

Harvest Monday

Woah, I need to catch up on my harvest totals! Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures, but I am sure you can imagine what kale and beans look like :)

This past weekend, we caught up on garden work since it FINALLY wasn't so hot you felt like you were literally melting... Weed pulling, pulled the garlic and got it started on drying, pulled out a cabbage that wasn't going to produce, cut grass, harvested, cleaned up the front yarden, you know... Just garden chores. 

Cherries: 4 lb 8 oz
Garlic scapes: 5 lb 2 oz (unfortunately, I slacked off, and most of these ended up going to the chickens) 
Kale: 17 lb 12 oz
Basil: 1 lb
Broccoli: 9 oz (only got 2 actual heads that were really small, just keeping up with side shoots now)
Beans: 1 lb 4 oz
Zucchini: 4 lb 9 oz (These are really starting to come in now, and with 2 LARGE plants, I don't think we will have any shortage of squash. Already made zucchini bread and zucchini risotto)
Beets (including tops): 1 lb

Season Total:  36 lb 8 oz

7.18.2013

Oy Vay, It's Hot

It's probably a good thing I picked up a mister for the chickens this morning (and then had to exchange because it was cracked and sprayed water everywhere instead of misting) to keep them nice and cool.

7.17.2013

Keeping the Gang Cool

Just got back in from checking on the chickens, and they seem to be riding out the heat wave in true chicken style... Digging holes in the ground.

I put out clean cold water with ice every morning (except today, I ran out of ice, but they did get cold water) and I put a fan with a big bowl if ice in front of it to blow a cool breeze on my girls. I sprayed down the run to make the dirt nice and cool, and the girls didn't mind the cool shower either. Usually, they run away from water mysteriously falling from the sky, but today, they welcomed it. I stopped after a few minutes because I was nervous those bird brains would turn their heads up and then drown. Morons.

The cats and Chelsea are doing OK. We have one air conditioned room in the house, and we all have been hiding out in there all day. I toughed out the heat until about 3 pm when I decided enough was enough. I turned on the air, took my second cold shower of the day, and then hid away with the dog and cats. The room is just big enough to fit a queen bed, a side table, and a little TV. But the animals and I don't care, we just like having a little retreat. We all pretty much only leave the room to, ya know, take care of business.

We are supposed to get some heat relief come Friday night, and honestly I can't freakin wait. Maybe I'm a sissy, maybe my blood is too thick, whatever you want to call it, but I hate this heat. I try and embrace it, telling myself it isn't so bad, but I really do hate it. Even though I love my garden, and I love barbecues and all the fun summer stuff, this is my least favorite season. I can't help it, I was just not made for summer.

After all, you can always put on more clothes when its cold... When its hot, you can only be so naked without getting arrested...

7.15.2013

Getting Ready for Winter

Huh? With temps in the 90's? Winter? Are you insane Tiny G?!

I am pretty sure that we gardeners are messed up in the head. We have dreams of tomatoes and peppers in January, and dreams of row covers and brussel sprouts in July. Kind of like horse show people (I mean, only an insane person would wear jeans, leather chaps, and long sleeved heavy jackets in the middle of Summer to get a tiny piece of crappy polyester they call a ribbon.)

But all judgements aside, you read me right, I'm getting prepared for winter. Well, really I'm getting ready for the fall garden. I've never actually grown a designated "fall garden" before (unless you count leaving tomatoes and peppers in until it snows), so like most ventures in my life, I'm gonna fly by the seat of my pants.

But, unfortunately, I do have to plan for this, just a little bit. The thought came to me yesterday when I noticed the garlic is about 5 days away from harvest, and Hubby said "What are we going to put there?"

Obviously, nothing! No wait, why not? What grows in the coldish weather? Kale, brussel sprouts, carrots, beets, radishes, lettuces, peas (PEAS!!!), cabbages, broccoli, and spinach. I'm sure there is more stuff, but this short list just about sums up what we eat.

So how do you go about this fall gardening thing? Well, first off, figure out when your first frost is (ours is about October 18) and count back 12 weeks (this weekend for me!) and that is when you should start your brassicas indoors. Let them go for about 3 weeks, then set them out into the garden. Then be crafty and look up when you should direct sow the root stuff and leafy greens like lettuces. This will depend on the variety of seeds you have, your weather patterns, etc... (I'm no expert here, flying pants and all). I'm pretty sure you could do a direct sowing of lettuces and spinach every couple of weeks and have a continuous supply until the snow starts flying, but don't start them too early or else the heat will get to them and they will bolt and go bitter.

And don't forget about the garlic! Plant that goodness towards the end of October. I usually get to it by Halloween, but no later. You could also do a green manure crop to add some good organic matter to your soil for the upcoming Spring.

So what about y'all? Are you going to do some fall gardening? Any tips for me?


7.14.2013

Sometimes, All You Have to Do is Open Your Mouth

Complaining about my Neighbor should be nothing new to those of you who read regularly. And up until yesterday, I'd kept my mouth shut to the Neighbor.

Until Yesterday....

Yesterday, I was out in the Yarden pulling weeds, and noticed that I was pulling an awful lot of crap from the other side of the fence. Vines and ivy were growing from the fence onto my tomatoes, my basil, my garlic, and my eggplant. I pulled it off and swore all the while. Then I started pulling weeds from the ground growing through the fence. And I swore more.

I took Chelsea inside and marched my fired up butt next door to wake the neighbor out of his hangover sleep. As I was knocking forcefully on the door and ringing the bell (with other neighbors watching and waiting, mind you) some dude pulled up to the house and asked me if I was the angry girl from the bar. Uh, no, I am the angry girl who lives next door.

He continued on to say, Oh, I see... I live just over on the other street, and I know Neighbor and you won't be able to wake him right now. I said, do you know Neighbor?? Can you call him?? He said he would call him... I then went on a rant about how ridiculous it is that everyone on this street takes care of their yard for the most part, and he can't even pull weeds. Everyone tries to make the street nice especially for The Old Italian Lady who has lived here for 70 years and especially since there is a festival parade through the neighborhood tomorrow. Its ridiculous that I have to clean up the crap growing from his yard into my garden AND the dude's (behind me) crap growing into my garden IT ISN"T FAIR!!!! I shouted in this nice guy's face. Then I immediately apologized for yelling at him since he obviously does not live next to me. 

He promised to talk to Neighbor about his yard. I walked away thanking him for being so nice and apologizing for unloading on him when it should have been Neighbor who got my wrath.

I went on about my day, thinking that nothing would actually happen. Then it came to be about 5 pm and Hubby and I left to go to a friend's cookout. I told him all about my day and how I didn't think anything would come of it.

Then we got home. We took the dog out... And HOLY CRAP!!! THE YARD IS CLEAN!!! I mean SO freaking clean that almost every plant is gone, even the ones that could have stayed. So now it is a weedless, grass-less patch of dirt that looks FABULOUS!!!!!!

So sometimes, all you need to do is open your mouth.

7.09.2013

Garden Update Pics

I haven't done an update in pictures in awhile, and besides, I needed a break from studying. Only 2.5 weeks left of the biology class from hell, and I can't wait. Hopefully the garden doesn't really start producing until its over, because I have NO time for it. I hate to admit that, but oh well. I have a goal.

Woah, get back on track Tiny G! Ok, here are the pics.
Broccoli... I don't know that I will grow it again... It's a huge plant and so far, very little return

Side Yarden... The cabbages are doing great, and so is the kale. The kale is truly in desperate need of harvesting and preserving, but it's going to have to wait until tomorrow after my exam. Today, I am busy cramming.



Zucchini plants... Oy... 

This little buy will probably be ready tomorrow. Bring on the zuke recipe ideas!

Garlic Bed... Probably ready to harvest in another week or so.

Basil. I gotta harvest this too. I am thinking about making a solar dryer... Any suggestions?

Tomatoes....

And more tomatoes....

Peppers and cucumbers. I'm having a little bit of a hard time getting the cukes to actually grow on the fence. I've got some work to do!

same bed, different angle

Beets. There are some baby beets ready for harvest, but again, I'm going to wait until this weekend I think.

Bush bean bed! I can't wait to harvest these!

Baby bean!

more tomatoes

the other side of the garlic bed. I harvested these scapes immediately after taking pics. This side of the bed never actually curled around, so I put off harvesting the scapes. I hope I didn't end up waiting too long...

7.03.2013

Jam-akin Me Crazy!

Hahaha, get it?! Oh, I kill me!

I can't help it that my jokes suck, I have been too busy making jam to come up with some good ones. In the last few weeks, I have made 8 pints of strawberry jam, 9 half-pints of sour cherry preserves, and this weekend I made 4 pints of apple preserves.

The apple preserves were a kind of, by the seat of my pants kind of thing. I had gotten a huge amount of organic apples several weeks ago (maybe a month?) and we never got through them all. So, I pushed em through my juicer and made jelly-jam. What came out of the juicer was like a really liquidy apple sauce stuff, and I don't have any jelly bags (nor the patience for them), so all of it went into the pot.

I debated putting cinnamon into the preserves, but I decided against it. If I want cinnamon on my biscuits and jam, then I can put it on there, but I can't take it out.

So anyways, I think we are set on jam for a long, LONG time. We have a grand total of 16.5 pints of jam in the pantry and about 4 pints of all sorts in the fridge. And my neighbor is going to let me come over and steal grapes from his vines, so I'm thinking that will be another 4-5 pints.

Jam-akin me crazy!

6.30.2013

Beans, Beans, Beans

Dried beans, not green beans. At least not yet.

I saw on Pinterest the other day about cooking your dried beans in a slow cooker and then canning or freezing them yourself rather than buying cans at the store. So I did it.

The method was super easy, just pour about 1 pound of beans into the slow cooker, add a chopped onion, pepper, bay leaves, and 6-7 cups of water. Then cook the beans on low for about 4-5 hours (just tender) and then add 1 T salt, then cook one hour longer. The method says you can freeze or can from here, but I just put them in the fridge for the up coming week.

Let me tell you, the beans turned out awesome, but they are way salty. I am going to cut back the salt to 1 teaspoon instead of tablespoon next time.

I did some math to see if the canning effort was going to be worth it. 1 pound of black beans cost me $1.75 at the market, so that comes out to about 35 cents per cooked cup of beans. Then if I were to can them, that would be about 2 cups per pint, so 70 cents per can plus the lid which brings the total to $.91 per home canned pint of beans. I can get organic black beans on sale for $.99 each, less the work and water and electricity of canning my own.

What do you think? Is it worth it to you to can your own beans? Or do you just cook what you need? Or do you freeze them?

6.29.2013

Knock On Wood!

I am about to say something, and I don't want to curse myself, but I'm gonna do it anyways.

I think the Bastard Groundhog has moved on.

Ever since the behemoth house behind us was built (where the BG lives(d)) he hasn't been around.... Ok, truthfully, he was still around during construction and all that, but really since they graded the yard and have been landscaping, he hasn't been around. I haven't even found dig sits under the fence, whereas last year he had practically a tunnel running the length of it.

We still have the kale and brassicas fenced off, and they will remain that way. But everything else is flying free, with the exception of the chickens who remain content in chicken prison. They still get all the weeds and grass clippings and kitchen scraps. I think as far as their happiness goes, as long as I keep their maws full, there will be no chicken revolt or egg protests.

I will always keep my eye out for that BG, but so far, nada.

**Our neighbor on the other hand has a vacant lot and caving in garage and other various fun city things behind him, and he has been on a pest-killing rampage again this year. I think he said he is up to 3 possums and 2 groundhogs for the year.

6.25.2013

Woah, it's been how long??

Sorry Y'all! I've been slacking on the blog front, but it really because I've been so busy out in the Yarden! This past weekend was Garden Walk Cleveland, so we were busy getting everything pretty-fied for all our guests. Honestly, I think the garden walk was kind of a bust, we only had about 10-15 people each day. Last year, I can remember an almost constant stream of people. One guy we talked to said he thinks the organization dropped the ball on marketing, but I am not a part of that, so I can't say much there. I just know it was slow.

So all that and my summer classes started, and my first class is only a 6 weeks long (they crammed 18 weeks into 6!) so it is keeping me busy.

Anywho, I am back now that the yarden is totally cleaned up, and I have no upcoming harvests except my now constant picking of kale. Just in case you were wondering, The cherry tree was fully ripe this weekend, and so I spent yesterday afternoon pickin, pittin, and preservin. This is what I came up with.. FOUR lbs, EIGHT oz of CLEANED fruit. Just cherry goodness and no pits. I can't believe that our little tree put out that much fruit. We are tying to figure out places to put more trees!

I love the jam I ended up with, but I am happy I don't have to make more until next summer... It took me almost 3 hours to pit these things! They are so small and soft (not soft, but not as firm as sweet cherries) that they just popped through the pitter and the pits didn't come clean off, so I had to engage my fingers in helping to rid them of the pits. 

6.11.2013

Non-Edibles in the Yarden

So, I tried to take the best pictures I could of my flowers, but for whatever reason, they just look stupid... But here they are anyways!
flower row... Yeah, there are herbs in here, but mostly flowers

Hanging basket by back door... Don't ask me what these are because I truly have no idea. Yes, I bought and planted them, but that doesn't mean I remember their names!

Hanging basket by chicken window

flowers on top of chicken run

so this is the chicken area... I put the most potted flowers back here because it is the ugliest part of the patio. 2 hanging baskets, 4 potted pots, and 3 potted window boxes... They are all supposed to get long and viney so the area will look more lush (hopefully)

Front Yarden... The hydrangea will be in full bloom just in time for the Garden Walk!!! I am really so proud of the front yard.

The back door... 2 hanging baskets, 1 large potted lavender, and flower row... Just in case you are wondering what the sign on the door says, it is "Please be careful to latch the door completely! Punkin is very Sneaky!"