Archives For Gardening

2016 Garden

Our garden is doing pretty good this summer and we’ve been enjoying tomatoes for several weeks now. Tomatoes are my favorite vegetable to grow!

I’m always amazed at the growth this time of year. Our cantaloupe, watermelon and sweet potatoes have all grown out of their beds and appear to be taking over the garden. It definitely is no longer neat and tidy but it is productive!

Garden

This is what our garden looked like on July 8, right before I harvested the corn.

Garden in April

Here’s the same view from April 24. It’s amazing how things grow so fast!

Squash and Cucumbers

I purposely planted fewer cucumbers this year but they are very prolific and we’ve been picking cucumbers for weeks. I’ve made several batches of refrigerator pickles as well as canned Bread and Butter Pickles and Dill Chips.

Our squash and zucchini have done very well this year too. We’ve eaten quite a bit and have blanched and frozen some to add to stir fry this winter.

Corn and Vegetables

We had a decent sweet corn harvest. This was our second year to grow corn but the first year in a raised bed. We only had 12 corn stalks but they produced  pretty well.

Garden Harvest

I have several Marigolds planted throughout the garden and I think they’re just lovely. I’ve enjoyed picking small bouquets of marigolds and whatever other flowers are blooming.

We’re also still getting CSA boxes each week (the bottom right picture is one of our CSA boxes).

Canned Tomatoes and Pickles

This past week, I canned Dill Chips and Tomatoes. I ended up with 7 quarts of tomatoes which will be used as the base for chili and vegetable soup this fall and winter. I’m hoping to can quite a few more quarts of tomatoes and hopefully salsa in the coming weeks.

Harvest

Now that our tomatoes are in, our garden pictures are much more colorful! I’m enjoying our Cherokee Purples the most – they are an amazing tomato! I eat them plain or with bread and mayo for a simple but delicious tomato sandwich. Our yellow pear and cherry tomatoes are doing quite well, I’ve been adding them into my scrambled eggs each morning and that is so yummy. We’ve also picked two of our sugar baby watermelon (top left picture). They’re tiny but taste pretty good!

I’m starting to plan our fall garden and am looking forward to many, many more weeks of gardening and backyard produce!

Oh, how I love the month of June when the garden is full of surprises with nearly trip outside. The squash is starting to produce and there are tiny tomatoes all over tomato plants and we’re eating so many fresh vegetables and beginning to preserve our harvest.

We started gardening around mid-February when we planted our sugar snap peas, kale, collards and carrots. Our kale did very well and was harvested in early May and our sugar snap peas did very well this year too. We picked lots of sugar snap peas over nearly a 4 week period. Our kiddos favorite way to eat them was straight from the vine but we also added them to stir fry, ate them with hummus and I even tried a quart jar of refrigerator pea pickles (the kids love pickles but don’t love these just yet!)

Around mid-April, we had planted most of our garden for this summer. We planted onions, tomatoes, cabbage, squash, zucchini, cucumber, sweet corn, popcorn and peppers.  In early May, we added even more tomatoes, potatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes.

We also added in 3 new raised beds this spring and I want to expand our garden even more!

Garden - April 24

This is our garden as it looked on April 24th.

Garden - June 6

This is the garden from earlier this week on June 6. It had rained nearly every day the previous week and all of our plants had experienced explosive growth (it had been very dry).

Sugar Snap Peas

Here’s one of our large pea harvests.

Broccoli and Squash

This is our very first squash of the summer and two broccoli crowns. Since we don’t spray, we battled cabbage worms for a couple weeks. Since we only had two broccoli plants this spring, we simply picked worms off every evening to try to prevent them from completely destroying the plant.

Little Farmer

Last night, Weston joined me and we harvested 3 squash and 1 zucchini. Harvesting is always fun for me but harvesting with my kiddos is even more fun.

Our garden is the largest we’ve ever had and we anticipate eating from our garden quite a bit this summer and hopefully preserving quite a bit, especially tomatoes. However, it’s still not large enough to fully feed us so we decided to join a CSA this summer.

We purchased a half share from a local-ish farm which has a drop in our area. The half share was $400 for 24 weeks which breaks down to just over $16.50 per week. We’re 3 weeks into our CSA and receiving our boxes each week has been such fun, I feel like a kid at Christmas every week when I dig into our box.

We joined the CSA to support local farmers as well as to try new vegetables and hopefully find more foods that we enjoy.

CSA Week 1

 

Week 1 box – This one included cherry tomatoes, peas, broccoli, baby collards, radishes, turnips and cabbage.

The baby collards, radishes and turnips are not vegetables I normally purchase. In fact, I didn’t even realize that radishes were a spicy vegetable. And, nobody in our family is a fan of the radishes, at least not yet!

I sautéed the baby collards, chopped them up and added them to a quiche, it was delicious.

I had cooked turnips only once before and nobody liked them, including me. I found this recipe for Scalloped Turnips which was super simple and very, very good. John David said they were the best turnips he’d ever had.

CSA Week 2

Week 2 box – Lettuce, cabbage, zuchinni, squash, tomato, broccoli, cucumber and daikon radish.

I was thrilled to have my first fresh tomato of the summer. I promptly made a loaf of sourdough bread and enjoyed a tomato sandwich which is my favorite way to eat tomatoes!

No one in our family loves cucumbers, unless they’re pickled. I’ll eat them but they’re not my favorite. I ate one with hummus and then added it to a salad, then other I tossed into pickle juice to make refrigerator pickles.

The daikon radish was a completely new vegetable, I had never even heard of it. I chopped it up and added it to a stir fry which seemed like an easy way to eat it. Neither John David or I liked it, the taste was pretty mild but it was quite stringy and I did not like the texture one bit.

CSA Week 3

Week 3 box – Tomatoes, turnips, cauliflower, squash, cucumber, collards and beets.

My kiddos were super excited about this box because it had beets! They watched an episode of A Chef’s Life a few weeks ago where Vivian made a beet cake and they’ve been hoping beets would show up in our box so we could make a beet cake.

I found this recipe for Fudgy Beet Cupcakes. I followed it exactly, except I did substitute milk for almond milk. The kids helped me prep the cake and were super excited to eat the cupcakes. They were surprisingly delicious. They were very moist and chocolatey but had a slight earthy flavor from the beets. Weston wasn’t a huge fan of these but everybody else really enjoyed them.

And, following the ‘waste not, want not’ motto, I even used the beet greens! I sautéed them in olive oil with onion and added them along with potatoes to a quiche was was pretty good.

We’re having the collards for dinner tonight with beans, cornbread and zuchinni relish which I’ve made from last week’s zuchinni from our CSA box and our zuchinni we’ve harvested.

I’m looking forward to harvesting even more, branching out and trying new veggies and recipes with our CSA veggies, preserving as much as I can and planning our fall garden in the weeks ahead.

Do you garden? What are you growing? 

Waiting for the Dream

We have a dream to own a small farm.

John David and I both were raised on family farms, we met through the FFA and we both have a BS in Agriculture. Agriculture is just a part of who we are.  When we were first married, we often talked about our dream to live and raise our family on a small farm.

Last spring, we started pursuing the dream after finding a house, barn and 7 acres. After much prayer and thought, we realized that wasn’t the best move for our family at that time.

Even though we knew it wasn’t the right time last spring, the dream was still there.

At the beginning of this year, we came across another small farm with a barn and 20 acres. We loved the setting, the house was about 1,700 square feet which would give us a little more room for our family to grow, it was set off the road and was mostly fenced and perfect for livestock.

We felt like the timing was right and submitted an offer. That offer was flat out refused, the owner wouldn’t even counter.

A few weeks later, the seller dropped his agent and started the ‘for sale by owner’ process. We went back to look at the house and met the owner. We felt like this house, land and location was a great fit for our family so we decided to put our home on the market.

Our hope and prayer was that our home would sell quickly and that we could reach a pricing agreement with the seller and move to the farm by spring.

We’ve had a little bit of interest in our home but no serious inquires or offers.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve sensed a need to just wait.

After a conversation we had about feeling like this might not be the right time, while doing my morning Bible study in Psalms, I came across this verse:

“Wait for the Lord;

be courageous and let your heart be strong.

Wait for the Lord.’

Psalm 27:14

We are in a season of waiting. We’re waiting for the dream of owning a small farm.

We are uncertain about how long the wait may be. It may be weeks, it may be months or it could take years. While waiting is not the answer we wanted, we know that we are where we are for a reason. We may not fully understand exactly why we are still in the waiting process but we know there is purpose in the waiting.

We also are content where we are. Yes, the desire to have a farm is still alive but we are living on an acre with plenty of room to grow things! Instead of being complacent because we hope to move soon, we’re starting our garden and getting excited about this growing season. And, if our wait ends up only being a few more months, the new owners of this home will hopefully be blessed by an abundant harvest!

Compost in BarrelWe don’t put any food into our trash can.

The main reason we choose not to put food into the trash is because those scraps are valuable, as food for our chickens and as rich compost! A bonus of not putting food into the trash can, the trash doesn’t smell!

Our priority is to prevent food waste and not have much to throw out but there are peels, seeds, cores and bones that are inedible.

The scraps we do have fall into 3 categories:

  1. Scraps for chickens
  2. Scraps for composting
  3. Other scraps (like bones/cooked foods) which go to a pile in our woods

Starting to compost can be intimidating because there’s the fear of the smell of collecting food scraps in the kitchen. Plus, many people think they need a fancy kitchen collection container and an elaborate composting system outside. You don’t need these things to begin. Composting really can be simple!

Here’s our simple composting system:

Compost Bowl

We keep a bowl on our kitchen counter to collect scraps to go to compost. We only put peels, seeds, cores and uncooked food into this bowl (no meat or cooked foods).

Full Compost Bowl

Once the bowl fills up, it’s time to carry it outside. We dump the bowl an average of once a day (some days we’ll go two days before dumping, other days we fill up two bowls to carry out).

Compost Barrel

Once the bowl fills, we bring it  out to our compost barrel and place it inside the barrel.

We have the barrel to speed up the ‘cooking’ process for our compost but it’s not necessary.

You can just dump your kitchen scraps in a pile outside, you do not need anything fancy and don’t have to spend a dime to start composting!

Compost in Barrel

The compost barrel contains the scraps that are breaking down into rich compost.

If you look closely, you can see scraps of denim and a piece of leather. I cut up a pair of old jeans and a leather notebook cover and am experimenting with composting them!

Growing in Compost

Underneath our compost barrel is broken down pile of compost. It does not have a bad odor, it just has a rich, earthy odor to it. And, you’ll notice there are things growing in it, I’m pretty sure these are cantaloupe plants which excites me!

Composting really can be simple. All you need is a bowl to collect scraps and a spot in your yard to dump them!