Friday, July 31, 2020

Oh, The Bounty!

More preserving done yesterday.  Another bountiful picking of shell peas that are now tucked into the freezer to join the first ones put by a couple of days ago.

I also got another dehydrator full of mint processed.  Seems the mint isn't growing back as quickly (after I make a harvest) this year as it usually does so I'm not sure I'll reach the same quantity I got last year.  There's still a lot of growing and harvesting time left for it though so I won't panic yet.

I dump a couple of trays of the dried mint leaves onto a sheet of wax paper and use the heels of my hands to crush it up a bit.  Then it goes into 1/2 gallon jars with a canning lid for storage.

I'm fairly sure there will be a good quantity of beans to harvest and process today.  They're an easy vegetable for me to grow, pick and process, and I always have more than enough for a year's supply.  Yesterday I got word of someone whose beans didn't germinate this year and who would be happy to take any of my surplus.  If the crop this year is anything like it normally is I'll have an overflow amount to send her.  She also said she'll take any and all zucchinis I have.  What a deal!

These are my bush sunflowers, a new variety I tried this year.  Although I didn't get good germination from the seeds I planted, the plants surviving do look robust, although not as "bushy" as I had thought they would be.  I can hardly wait to see what the flowers look like.

So, so close to having slicing cukes big enough to harvest!

The green peppers are coming along nicely, too.

Our honey bees are working the pie pumpkin blossoms like . . . well, busy little bees this morning.

Okay, time for me to get on with the day.  "Tis the time of year when the garden can't be ignored, not even for a day.  And for that I'm very, very thankful!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Rolling in Clover?

Nope, it's going to be more like rolling in peas this year.

I harvested our first shell peas today and ended up with twelve servings.  (A serving is enough for the two of us at a meal.)  Yeah, I understand why many folks choose not to grow enough peas for a winter's supply.  It takes a whole big bunch of pods to yield enough peas for a plate.  But we both love them and they truly taste fresh-off-the-vine all winter long.

Considering I put up only eighteen servings of shell peas last year (for some reason my peas did not do well in 2019) and now I already have twelve servings in the freezer and there are scads more under-developed pods still out on the vines, I predict we will have more than enough of them to last us all winter.

I thought my yellow wax beans and green beans were ready to be picked, too, but I must not have looked very carefully as this is all I got today.  The bowlful is nearly all green ones with just a few yellow ones on top.  That's okay as I had plenty of peas to keep me more than busy.

But I'm sure the beans will start coming in like gangbusters shortly.  Then more peas for sure.  And I'm thinking there will be our second picking of blueberries ripe and ready tomorrow.  When the garden starts producing, it sure does keep the gardener hopping.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Heat and Humidity Equal . . . Garden Explosion!

Although the garden seems to love this hotter-than-usual summer weather we've been having, the human population  on our little acreage is wilting.  And getting close to melting.  And not sleeping well.  And trying hard not to complain (a lot), but it's a tad more than just uncomfortable.  Seemingly not so with the garden's growth.

In this jumbled mass, we have a zucchini plant in the middle and nasturtiums on either end.  (Yes, the grass does need mowing in a big way, but neither of us has gotten up the gumption to tackle that sweaty job.)

I do believe this zucchini was six inches long and an inch in diameter when I checked yesterday.  Which brings me to a short conversation Papa Pea and I had a day or so ago as I prepared to haul another batch of monster zucchinis to the compost pile.

I've tried out a couple new recipes recently (as I do every year) for preparing zucchini.  Time to face the music.  Neither of us particular enjoys zucchinis.  (There.  I've said it.)  And I have many sweet bread recipes we like better than Zucchini Bread.

This caused my dear husband to ask, "Is there a reason you have to grow zucchini every year?"

"Uh, no." I replied.  There you have it, folks.  I have planted my last zucchini.

These are yellow beans.  Still looking more on the green, unripe side but growing.

The green beans are not ready yet either but a little ahead of the yellow ones.

I had predicted the shell peas would be ready this past week, but they've still got a ways to go to show enough "plumpness."

The Scarlet Runner Beans are doing a courageous job of reaching the top of the mountain trellis. At least the ones on the left side are.  I had to replant all of them twice this cold spring so I'm giving any of them credit for getting this far along.

This is the patch of Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins.  So far, all I've found are little green, golf ball sized fruit.

The pumpkins may be teeny-tiny yet, but here's another view of the same patch which shows healthy vines heading out for parts unknown.

We've been fortunate in that we've been getting frequent rainfall now along with the heat and humidity.  It doesn't seem to cool things down much but has been great for the garden's growth.  It's all good.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Earth Laughs In Flowers

This delightful quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson always brings a smile to my face.

I'm usually fairly adept at growing vegetables; flowers not so much.  Nevertheless, I love having flowers in our house and bring in whatever nature (with some amateur help from moi) allows me to grow.

The dianthus blooms have never been as beautiful and plentiful before.  (Ooops, yes, that is an empty wine bottle in the background.  This heat and humidity is causing both occupants of this house to drink.)

This variety of gladioli has been blooming for a couple of weeks now.  (Karen, the ones you sent me a couple/few years ago just yesterday showed a first blossom of the year.  Yay!)

My old standby cosmos (even I can reliably grow them) have been wildly prolific this year, especially this "Rubenza" variety.

The last couple of years the bush zinnias haven't produced well for me, and I almost didn't start them this year.  Now I'm glad I did as they are full of blossoms and a gazillion buds.  This small vase of them is on the back of our toilet.  (Aren't you glad I shared that info?)

If, indeed, the earth does laugh in flowers, I say bring 'em on.  We need the flowers and the laughs this year.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

It Could Drive A Person To Drink

The berries on our blueberry bushes are just starting to ripen.  There are enough of them that I've been hoping we'll get a better crop than last year.  Maybe a really nice crop.

Dear daughter stopped in tonight on her way home from work and as the three of us were chatting in the kitchen, she glanced out the window down toward the blueberry patch.  She noticed movement in the bushes and said she thought there might be birds helping themselves to some almost ripe berries.

Papa Pea went out and as he got closer to the area, about six crows flew up out of the bushes.  Oh, blast and dang.

Well, that meant only one thing.  We had to cover the bushes if we were going to get a blueberry crop for ourselves.

The rough ground you see in the foreground is an area we're working up for more planting space.  To plant out to feed the wild birds and assorted critters.  Not.

Bless our daughter's heart, she stayed and helped us get a covering of Agribon fastened down over the whole patch.

While we were in the process of doing so, a cute little chipmunk ran right under the tunnel I suppose thinking he would spend the night munching on berries on the low hanging branches.  Encouraging him to evacuate the premises was a frustrating task not appreciated by the three humans.  Methinks there will be traps set to further discourage Mr. Chipmunk and his relatives. 

I know it's all part of gardening, but these little frustrations are really . . . well, just that.   A frustration.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Thunder Boomers During The Night

And lots of lightning, too!  But the rain collected in the rain gauge this morning was just under one full inch so the loss of sleep was well worth it.

I took a walk through the drippy garden first thing this morning, and I would swear (but only with pretend words, none of the hard stuff) some things have grown 6" since yesterday.

My broccoli is getting close to being ready to harvest.  Gotta watch it carefully because the heads can go from not-quite-big-enough to separated and past prime in a snap.  As you can see, the same insect (I'm calling them flea beetles although I'm not sure that's what they are) that has been feasting on many leaves in the garden this year hasn't avoided the broccoli leaves.

I don't think we've ever had such lush potato foliage as this year.  Sure hoping this means lots of big, ol' taters underneath.

Aren't potato blossoms lovely?

I just may have found something that will willingly climb up and over the hoop trellis I have on one of the raised beds.  Scarlet Runner Beans!  I'm thinking the vines should be bigger (as in taller and farther up the trellis) by now but because of our cold spring/early summer I had to replant about 50% of them.

The three haskap bushes have been stripped of all their berries which are now in the form of 10 pints of luscious syrup and 8 pints of lovely jam.  And also 3 gallon bags fresh frozen for use in smoothies and another bag destined for a pie requested by Papa Pea.  I'm hoping this supply will last us two years because next year all the berries are going toward . . . WINE!

The blueberry bushes are showing more berries (albeit green yet) than I had expected to see this year.  Upon close inspection yesterday, I found only one single, teeny-tiny growth of the dreaded Witch's Broom that has been plaguing them.  Although we may not be out of the woods on this one yet, as of now I'm scoring one for our side.

The rain drops are still coming down in slow fashion now at mid-afternoon so all this moisture is invaluable for the health and growth of the garden.  And golly-gosh, did we need it!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Say Farewell to the Cauliflower

This is the last year I'm going to grow cauliflower.  (Will someone please remind me of this next spring?  Thank you.)

1)  It takes up a lot of garden real estate as the plants are tall and spread their leaves out a couple of feet in all directions.

2)  I dislike the task of tying up the leaves over the growing heads in order to keep them uniform and white.

3)  We don't eat cauliflower that much when we have a choice of other (more interesting and colorful on the plate?) vegetables.

At least I cut the number grown this year down to six rather than the usual nine.  This was because (I'm finally getting smart?  Nah, that couldn't be . . . ) I still have many servings in the freezer from last year.

Considering the fact that some very industrious, and hungry, insects ate so much of the leaves that they resembled lace, the heads themselves look fairly good.

I maybe coulda/shoulda let them grow a while longer, especially that little one on the front left, but I was super tired of untying and then typing up again the leaves when I checked the development of the heads.

Right now I've got the flowerettes soaking in salt water before I blanch them as I'm taking no chances with any relatives of the ugly-buglies that have been dining well on the leaves.  I even found one little green worm (eeek!) when I was cutting the heads apart.

What will I plant next year in the space previously allotted to cauliflower?  Oh, how about something that will give me real fits?  Eggplant!  I've NEV-ah been able to successfully grow that.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Freezing Asparagus So It Doesn't Turn Into Inedible Mush

I've been asked to explain the method I use for freezing my asparagus so it doesn't turn to mush when reheated and served.  Mushy asparagus?  Yuck, I wouldn't bother trying to freeze it if it turned out like that.  And canned asparagus?  Even worse.

Here is a small cutting of asparagus stalks I gathered first thing this morning after we had eaten some of it fresh with our breakfast. 

The bottom of most stalks is too tough or woody to be used so the pile of these pieces (on the right) is what I've cut off and will go straight to the compost heap as even our poultry won't eat them.

The bigger, but still tender, pieces I will keep and blanch go right into the blanching basket on the left.  The green bowl holds the tips and smaller more tender parts of the stalk.  I blanch the bigger pieces for only 2 minutes and the smaller most tender pieces get blanched for only 1 minute.  I know most preserving books and info on the Internet will tell you to blanch the asparagus for a longer period of time, but this is what works for me.

For the blanching, I use a pot that my blanching basket fits into just right.  After bringing the water in this pot to a rolling boil, the basket with the bigger pieces go into it for the 2 minutes.  I always use a timer which you can see running.

Immediately after the 2 minutes are up, the pieces in the basket get dumped into a bowl of very cold water to stop the cooking action.  Most info will tell you to use ice water but the water right from our well is nearly that cold so that's what I use.  Actually, I use two bowls filled with the cold water.  The asparagus goes into the first bowl for a few minutes, then into the second bowl while I do the next blanching process.

The small pieces and tips are blanched in the boiling water for only 1 minute and then follow the same cooling process as described above.

Then I put all the pieces together in a colander to drain for a couple of minutes.

From the colander the blanched asparagus gets spread out on a clean towel on the counter.  The big towel will hold a much larger quantity (and usually does) than I have here.

Then I roll up the towel so that more moisture from the pieces can be absorbed.  The drier the asparagus pieces are when they go into the freezer, the longer they will retain all the good stuff you want to end up on your plate and in your belly.  And the lack of moisture will keep ice crystals from forming on the vegetable.

I dump the contents from the towel into a bowl and measure out the amount I know is adequate for a serving for the two of us and put it into a small plastic bag.  I lay the bags out flat on a cookie sheet until solidly frozen and then pack the smaller bags into a larger freezer bag for long term storage in the freezer.

To serve I take the frozen bag out of the freezer and . . . 

. . . dump it into a small amount of boiling water in a small saucepan.  (Hunh.  Optical illusion here.  It looks as though there is asparagus in the water here, but it's just the small amount burbling of water.)  I cover the pan and, keeping it over a relatively high flame, leave the asparagus in the water only until the water comes back to a boil.  Immediately turn off the water, drain the asparagus and add some butter to melt, and serve.

Done this way our asparagus tastes as close to fresh as you can get it.  No, it doesn't taste exactly like that you harvested straight from the garden, but it's not mushy and still retains a bit of nice crispness.

I've never tried to freeze asparagus I've purchased so I don't know how that would work.  Using our own from the garden, I try to always process it within an hour or two of cutting it and I do believe that helps with the whole process.

Hope this helps a bit so none of you have to be subjected to mushy asparagus.  Yuck.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

If I Thought I Was Busy Before . . .

One would think that not being able to do any socializing (or very little of it) and staying at home close to 24/7, the days would be long and quiet, I'd be napping in the hammock regularly and the livin' would be easy.

Not so when full-time summer arrives.  The garden is starting to produce the hoped for goodies which means they have to be harvested and processed.

We got our first two six-inch long zucchini squashes this past week.  Sliced, sauteed with onions, mushrooms and halved cherry tomatoes?  Mmmm, good.  As Papa Pea said, "Now that's the way to make a zucchini taste good!"

Our strawberries are proving to be big and plentiful.  We're been eating them fresh, of course, and my picking a couple of days ago yielded ten and a half pounds.  That was enough, plus ample extra, to make a double batch of jam.  If I can get enough this morning to make two more cups of mashed berries to add to what I harvested yesterday, I'll be making more jam.  Have you experienced the aroma of strawberry jam cooking?  It makes the whole house smell delicious.

Today we'll also uncover the haskap berry bushes to see if they might be ripe for the picking.  Grape jam used to be my favorite until I made haskap jam.  Papa Pea is happy if he has his strawberry jam while my jars of haskap jam more than tickle my fancy.  I also want to make haskap syrup again this year as I did two years ago.  It was wonderful on pancakes and waffles during the winter months.

I have nearly a whole bed of spinach I'll harvest today and get in the freezer.  I planted Samish and Space varieties.  The Samish is bolting, but the Space is not.  Wouldn't ya know it.  Space is a hybrid and I'd rather stay with the old heirloom varieties if I can.  But I seem to regularly have trouble with spinach bolting so I may stick with Space for a while now.  The leaves are flat and slightly savoyed and we've never tasted a spinach with such good, crunchy, yet tender, flavor.

More asparagus was blanched and frozen yesterday.  Although it seems as though this year's crop has been lighter than in previous years, by checking my records from last year, I currently have only three servings less in the freezer than my total for last year.  And the patch is still producing.  I guess that's where our minds can't hold all the information so actual record keeping pays off.

Oh, how I wish I had the time to be in the kitchen experimenting with all those yummy sounding recipes I've clipped and saved to use with the fresh produce coming in.  If I have time to toss together a big salad and defrost some soup from the freezer, that's about all I can currently manage.

Where's my clone when I need her?  Or a full-time, hired cook who would create wonderful new dishes with the fresh produce I bring in to her from the garden?

Summer time, when the livin' is easy.  Pant-pant, keep moving, take advantage of this wonderful time of year and the true rewards of the hard work that goes into gardening.  I will.  I do.  And I'm grateful for all of it.

Friday, July 3, 2020

When You Start to Despise Robins

The berries on our haskap bushes are j-u-s-t about ripe.  But apparently the robins don't care if the berries still have a little time to mature before reaching their peak.

 Yes, those darling little Robin Red Breast birdies have attacked our bushes with gusto so we've had to drape all three bushes with netting in the hopes of being able to harvest the berries FOR OURSELVES (I know, I'm not being very sharing) in a couple of days.