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A few days off…

I got 10 days off of work in which we dealt with e~learning and finishing some remodeling projects. Between classes youngest has been a big help playing handy manny. (For those of you that know youngest had an obsession with the show Handy Manny and we some times still holler “Come on tools!” whenever we are working).

So… we worked on putting up trim in the house.

Currently have a batch of tomatoes on the stove to turn into spaghetti sauce, and we need to make a run to the grocery store and hardware store. (We ran out of stain).

It’s been raining off and on today so I keep staring out to the garden thinking I need to grab the last of the summer harvest and plan on a big canning weekend. The fall plantings are doing well, and I even spied a few green beans this morning! Hopefully the impending doom of an early frost stays away. Farmers almanac is predicting an early fall this year, and a few of my homestead buddies out west are reporting the same! Noooooooooo I’m not ready!

I’m not ready for fall ESPECIALLY because we need our propane tank filled and when I called to check on the schedule they are delayed because… wait for it… THEY DO NOT HAVE ANYONE TO DELIVER THE PROPANE!!! This possibly made me hit my all time anxiety level panic button!!!! We heat and cook on propane!!

As the summer plantings slowly fade, and wither I can’t believe that it is almost September. Having just realized that Labor Day is fast approaching, and oldest made the VARSITY football team these are all signs of colder weather…

Oddly they are also panic triggers for me. Did I can enough? Freeze enough? Dehydrate enough? I don’t know why I always think that. Probably that fall hoarding anxiety kicking in full swing.

Another odd anxiety is if the kids have enough warm clothes? Do they still fit in their winter jackets? Bets are probably not. They grow like weeds, which reminds me… the mystery itching weed of death and destruction still is unidentified and I’m STILL getting more itchy spots of grossness.

Sigh. When anxiety knocks at your door, make a batch of homemade spaghetti sauce, and remember to live a simple life.

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Fall planting

Thankfully there is still plenty of time to get some fall plantings in!

Youngest and I just planted more spinach (giant noble) and carrots (Dante’s).

This is the first time we’ve ever planted for fall… hopefully it’ll pan out.

Have any of you ever done fall plantings?

Did you like your rate of return?

So far we do have green beans gearing up to grow… I can’t wait!!

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Ye Ole Barbershop… part two

Since my previous blog rambled off into the shop local campaign I realized my intent of the blog and here’s part two… the real story behind the story.

While chatting about summer break I asked the barber if he had gone on his family vacation. Six weeks ago, the distance between haircuts, he had mentioned looking forward to the trip. Every summer his family, brothers, sisters, and parents get together at a remote cabin in Colorado. The family also meets back up between thanksgiving and Christmas.

He talked of long hikes in the mountains and the beauty of it all. Just finding a large rock to sit on and watch the world go by he said we so serene.

Last night I took his words to heart. I sat on the back steps (my local rock) and watched the world go by. I watched the pink tipped clouds become overwhelmed by the dark impending storm clouds only to emerge again. Once tipped in pink they were now more profound. Larger, brighter, and burnt orange and red by the setting sun’s rays. It was serene, soothing even; and very relaxing. So much beauty passes us by and most don’t even see it.

Today on my weekly Sunday drive I wandered down back roads that led to the unknown to me. It was forty miles from home that I found this amazing little park in the middle of nowhere…

The park had a calendar garden which I had never heard of… so I walked the path and took pictures of our birthdates….

The whole park was amazingly simple and calming. Not only was my drive full of calm, I had now stumbled upon a park that serenity seemed to have built. I sat down upon my rock and watched the world go by.

I took a moment to smile to myself and gave upon all of God’s glory, as I was indeed surrounded in nature herself.

Take the road less traveled.

Sit upon a rock and watch the world go by.

This….

This is the simple life.

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The battle with tomatoes

The weather has not been forgiving lately… rain, rain, and more rain. Temps have fallen to the 70s, and although humid it’s not great tomato weather.

The other day I noticed the dreaded early blight or septoria leaf blighting the tomato plants. For those of you unfamiliar with this menace to the garden you’ll be able to identify it easily. You’ll notice yellowing leaves towards the bottom of the plant. The leaves themselves are dotted in a blackish gray.

The menace of the garden… early blight

Early blight happens when spores are thrown up by splashing rain. This is a fungal spore that is always present in soil. When it is wet and cool the spores thrive.

Starting at the bottom the early blight will move upwards damaging leaves and the tomatoes themselves.

To combat this menace I quickly got out my garden shears and began removing the lower non fruit bearing leaves and branches. By doing this you remove any leaves that could get splashed by rain, and give the plant a chance to dry up and fight this menace.

After using my garden shears on the removal of diseases leaves I wash them with rubbing alcohol. I believe that the cleaning will keep me from distributing the fungal spores to any other plant in the garden.

Hopefully my crop of tomatoes will survive and produce many jars of salsa and spaghetti sauce for the cold months ahead.

When Mother Nature gives you cool weather and rain, and produces early blight, and more work for you… remember to live a simple life.

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WTF do I do with BEETS??!!

You may have been gifted some beets from the resident gardener in your neighborhood, and now you are asking yourself what the F*** do I do with BEETS? ah, the disgusted childhood eye looks back upon these odd wonders of the soil. Kind of a dirty brown color, with reddish purple tops. As children we could smell beets a mile away, and prayed to God above that Timmy’s mom would let you stay for supper and evade the blood red vegetable.

Whether you have outgrown that loathe of this root vegetable, or are curious about it I can fill you in, and give you some ideas on how to actually USE the beet rather than throw it in the trash.

First of all, let’s learn about the beet. Now, by no means am I going to say that this is the new incredible edible thing, but give me a second and we can think about it. Beets are a hardy root vegetable, which is why every neighborhood garden probably has them. Often described as an “earthy” and yet sweet flavor these beets are full of nutrition. They range in color from deep red to a bright purple. The red color of beets comes from betalains which have powerful antioxidant effects. Beets are said to be helpful in reducing inflammation because they are full of nitrates. The combo of nitrates (they remove harmful compounds from your bloodstream) and betalains are said to fight inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, or the ever growing fibromyalgia.

Said to improve heart health by reducing blood pressure those nitrates in beets are a super food. Naturally low in fat and cholesterol leads them to the front of the pack for people concerned with stroke risk and or heart disease. A nutrient-dense root vegetable that is low in calories, cholesterol and fat, beets are a heart-healthy choice.

Granted that still doesn’t send everyone running to the produce section, and believe me I would have been the last in line from childhood to recent times. Honestly, I can’t tell you exactly when it happened, but it was probably when I was pregnant with my son. I was eating all kinds of whacky food combinations. At any rate, one day…. probably in 2011… I. Ate. A. Beet. Thus beginning a slow love affair over the years that some times leads me to think, “You know, a beet sounds good right now.”

Canned beets

I enjoy taking canned beets (either commercial or home canned) draining them, and topping them with my favorite Italian dressing and a decent serving of feta cheese.

Putting them in a salad isn’t too shabby either.

Straight up out of the can to the side of my plate I still can’t manage. It’d take a lost bet at this point to conquer that feat.

The Neighborhood Beet

Straight from the garden to your unwilling home I have a few ideas for you.

Beet Chips. After you peel away the dirty skin of the beet simply slice them finely, and place in your fabulous dehumidifier at 160 degrees for two hours. Nice crispy snacks await! If you don’t have a dehydrator you can also bake the chips in the oven at 300 degrees for 45-60 minutes. I like the beet chips as a healthy nighttime snack.

Photos that follow are the process of chip making…. with short instructions, after all it is pretty simple.

The “earthy” beet in its natural state
Peeled beets…
Tops and skins from beets
I cheated and used a stand mixer attachment to slice the beets. I’ve never been able to evenly slice anything.
Put on the dehydrator tray
Put in the dehydrator, and life is simple! LOL

Pinterest to save the day also offers a lot of beet salad ideas, and roasting recipes.

Honestly, I guess you could also can them, but if you don’t know if you like them why would you go to the trouble of canning them.

Dyeing with beets

If you find you want nothing to do with beets at all a cool project is dyeing fabric with beets. It’s an all natural way to dye fabrics and yarns for other projects. Reader be ware… it takes a little bit of time to dye with beets. At least it did on the diy site I found. I was going to attempt it this weekend past, but hours were involved and that was something I couldn’t schedule in that day. So I saved the tops and peelings of all the beets I turned into chips. I plan on dyeing some tea towels here in a few weeks, and I’ll let you know what a disaster that turns out to be.

In short when it comes to beets you either love them or you hate them. Either eat them, or put them to use as a fabric dye. Whatever you choose to do with your gifted beets… remember… to live a simple life.

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Louffa Gourds

Remember these?

The things I’ve been trying to grow for 3 years now? The failed attempts over and over? Year one nothing sprouted, year two they drowned in tsunami rain storms, and this is the tale of year three….

I planted the seeds around the electrical pole in the backyard with my son. Thinking it’d be the perfect place for them to climb and be virtually maintenance free. Their flowers would be perfectly pollinated by the butterflies and hummingbirds coming to our little wildflower patch. It’d all work out perfectly this time.

This year after waiting for what seemed months the louffas sprouted, and day before yesterday they were happily climbing their way up the electrical pole. The day before yesterday they were probably a little over a foot off the ground. As of yesterday they are taking the eternal dirt nap we call compost.

What happened?

The power company came out and did inspection on the area poles. They uprooted the plants, torn ferociously from their happy home, and leaving me utterly upset. This was going to be the year!

I was going to have sponges for the shower, for the cast iron, for general cleaning purposes, and now I’m left empty handed.

On a side note they also trampled the butterfly garden… which appears like it will bounce back, but the louffas are laid to rest for this year… Rest In Peace

Next year I’ll try again. Next year I’ll build my own trellis for them to climb. Far, far away from the electrical pole.

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GRIT magazine, Bloody Mary’s, and smoking supper

The ribs have been smoking since three o’clock, the chicken since four, and Bloody Mary’s have been drank since five…

As I sit here sipping Bloody Mary’s, I’m reading the latest installment of GRIT magazine.

So far I e learned from @gritmagazine that switchel is the way to go for a Gatorade replacement, that the correct fat is good again, and that my theory is correct. Our ancestors ate better than we do! Even with all that fat!!

The bloody Mary’s are refreshing in this heat, and the smoker is maintaining nicely at 225 degrees.

I dropped youngest off at his first away sleepover, and the bloody Mary’s sounded good.. so here I sit with #grit, the beverage, and a smile on my face.

Oldest and Rooster have asked when supper would be ready…. for snacking purposes.

Supper will be ready shortly, boys.

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Storing Herbs

There are many different ways to store fresh herbs from your garden from drying to freezing. Using these various methods allows you to have fresh herbs the whole year through. It’s and easy task for any method I’ll show you how!!

DRYING…

Drying herbs has been my go to method for years. All you need is paper towel and an air tight container. Easy enough right? Some people probably have a dehydrator and that would speed up the process, but what’s the fun in that? I’ve heard of people using their air fryer, but the herbs get blown all over…

I had an ancient dehydrator that last year nearly burnt the joint down. Whenever I get around to replacing it I plan on getting the Cabella’s ten tray dehydrator. My folks have one and love it, and it’s under 200$ so that wouldn’t really break the bank after a month of saving….

For drying herbs I simply harvest from the garden, wash, and blot dry on paper towels. From there I get fresh dry paper towels and fold the herbs within and place in a safe place to dry. I use the top of my microwave for safe keeping,, but you’ll find your spot.

You can repeat blotting dry until the herbs aren’t dripping wet. You don’t want mold to develop. So repeat as necessary!

Check back on your safely stored herbs weekly to make sure mold hasn’t developed and that they are drying nicely.

How do you know they are dry? Herbs should have a definitive crunch to them. They should not be “chewy” or bendable. They should most definitely crunch between your fingers. If they’re not ready, or if you’re in doubt simply leave them another couple of days and check them again.

When dry and crunchy you are ready to store in an air tight container.

I prefer to use jelly sized mason jars for storage.

FREEZING

Freezing is definitely the closest to fresh from the garden in my opinion. I follow the same process as drying by washing the herbs of choice and blotting them on a paper towel.

I wash and throw the herbs on a sheet pan until I’m ready to blot dry…
Basil ready to freeze for fresh pesto this winter

When I’ve blotted the leaves a couple of times to ensure they are dry I place them in a ziplock bag. Make sure to get the most air out as possible as air leads to freezer burn, and you don’t want to ruin your precious herbs with that!

Once stuffed into the ziplock I make sure to label the bag. Usually with the name of the herb and the date I threw them in the freezer. The date helps me rotate through my stock pile to be sure to use the oldest first.

Future pesto

And there you have it folks! Two methods that I use to store fresh herbs from the garden. I usually analyze what herbs I need or want dried for different applications. Dried works in those lovely winter stews just as well and frozen. So it’s really up to you and whatever suits your needs.

Remember whichever method you use… live a simple life!

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To Mulch, or not to mulch… THAT is the question.

For the many, many years that I have been gardening I’ve tried many varieties of weed control. Finally this year I may have the answer to the age old question to mulch, or not to mulch. I say mulch! There are many reasons why; that we will explore in this blog post.

First off let me start off by telling you in my early gardening years I over gardened. By this I mean in all honesty I bit off more than I could chew, and there was NO way one person alone could have kept up with that garden. At least not while working a full time job! It was ridiculous! A never ending battle pulling weeds, and buying into a garden gimmick hand tiller that never worked well enough for me. Have I mentioned that I am a dreamer, and think that I am the original Superwoman? LOL

So a few years into gardening I heard about using newspaper to control the weed population. It may work for some people, but for me it was a complete mess. It must have been non-stop gale force winds all season it seemed. I’d come home after a twelve hour shift to find newspapers all over the yard, in the tree line, and anywhere you could think that a newspaper would like to travel to.

the new york times newspaper
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One year I used grass clippings as mulch. Dumbest idea ever when you realize a little too late that your yard is infested with dandelions which you have now introduced to your freshly tilled garden. As you can imagine I actually thought about trying to make dandelion wine, jam, and whatever else you could make with a full crop of these yellow bastards.

shallow focus of clear hourglass
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Fast forward almost twenty years…

Last year we salvaged the landscaping mulch when we switched over to rock. Taking that mulch into the garden worked well except it was a dark mulch, and tended to cook the younger plants in the beginning of the season, but if you water it enough when it’s cool in the mornings it seemed to help. As the plants grew this mulch worked surprisingly well. Sure there were weeds here and there where I didn’t put mulch thick enough, but for the most part I was super happy with the mulch. I was able to spend more time harvesting and preparing our veggies.

white rabbit in brown wooden box
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This year is a new mulch and so far I am very happy with it. I purchased about 8 bales of pine shavings from the local co-op, and have been using that as mulch. Mulching with this material has shocked me in so many ways! First of all unlike it’s cousin the landscaping mulch, this is lighter in color and isn’t cooking the plants. Second it is maintaining moisture in the soil very well even in this sweltering heat we’ve been having. Third, if it’s thick enough it does cut back on weeds, and if there are any determined bogies I just plop more shavings on top of the problem area, and presto. Smothered weeds.

The garden this year is full with the companion planting, but it also looks nice and neat with the mulch that we used. While it’s not as cheap as recycled mulch the pine shavings are not too expensive. I think in total we probably have 50 dollars in pine shavings. The mulch from the store would have costed probably double in price. The saving grace of mulching your garden is time saved from back aching weeding and hoeing.

So, I say mulch! And keep living that simple life!!!