Showing posts from 2011

Preparing for Autumn....The Fall Garden

Yes, we are preparing for Autumn. Even though to us these temperatures make us hardly wince.  To Sourdoughs from Alaska, 60 degree temperatures mean either late spring, early summer or early Autumn.  Still we try to follow the calendar for this area as it seems so do our plants.  I guess they know better than us that it's time to quit, no matter how hot it still feels to us.

Our tomatoes have almost completely thrown in the towel.  They know they're done.  They're just begging to be taken away.  Still though, we've left them to allow those few green tomatoes to ripen naturally.  Later those will turn into our Ketchup for this year along with others we've picked and frozen.  Within the next two weeks Fava Beans and Rye will be planted in our tomato bed and our eggplant and bell pepper bed.  This will help with the nitrogen levels and of course add more organic material back into the soil. On the other hand our winter garden is just getting going again.    We've go…

Growing Shitake & Oyster mushrooms

It's been about a month since we received our packages of shitake and oyster mushrooms.  So far the oyster mushrooms have been producing about a half a pound every other week.  Sadly, the shitake has produced ....nada. That's right. Zip. Zero. NOTHING.
Oddly enough in the past I have found Shitakes to be the EASIEST to grow but once again I am learning that now that I've moved to a different locale, I have to learn new ways to grow plants that I was once an expert at.
In the beginning, when we first received our package I think our mistake was not to shock the shitake block in the fridge and then submerge in water.  We just set them up hurriedly and told them verbally "Okay, time to grow guys" Ha ha. Yeah, like that has ever worked for ANY plant!
Since then we shocked our shitake block once, submerged once and still NADA.
Okay. Back to square one.
Tomorrow we will be doing a repeat of everything we have already done and on top of that scouring our guide to grow…

Battle of the pests-Flea Beetles

This is my second year growing eggplant and oddly enough I did not have issues with flea beetles last year.  I don't know why they suddenly decided that THIS year they will come to my yard to munch on my eggplants and tomatilloes.  One day I walked out and just suddenly noticed all these tiny holes in my leaves of my eggplant.  Upon closer inspection I found the tiny beetles sitting all over the leaves, munching away. 
Now I do know after a bit of research that from now on I will probably always have them in this garden, thats even with tilling come Autumn. Unfortunately once the flea beetles figure out you have yummy plants in your garden the adults will hide in your soil during the winter and then emerge once again in the spring to feast on your young seedlings.  Especially if you have mulch or straw on your bed. 
There are very limited ways to get rid of these guys unfortunately, especially using organic means. 

Flea Beetles
Diatomaceous earth: This is by far the most effect…

No honeybees for me

Well the housing office FINALLY responded back. I am not allowed to have honeybees because they are not "domesticated"
I must admit I'm a bit sad. I was kind of looking forward to trying my hand at beekeeping. Ever since I read the book Farm City by Novella Carpenter I really wanted to try this.
So obviously there will be no honeybees in my immediate future. Just wasps.
By the way, if you haven't read Farm City and you're interested in being self sustainable, enjoy food and you enjoy growing your own food then you'll enjoy this!
Oddly enough I first heard of Novella Carpenter on Youtube on the CHOW Obsessives channel. It's really inspiring what she has managed to accomplish! She also keeps a blog at Check it out!

I'm so tempted to try something else. Maybe rabbits? Or Tilapia? I've heard of other people raising Tilapia but I've never really looked into it. I can't imagine the military housing office thro…

Battle of the pests-Cabbageworms

This year was my very first year dealing with these little monsters!  I've never tried growing Kale, Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts or Kohlrabi before.  These types of plants are VERY susceptible to attacks from Cabbageworms.  They will actually attack almost any type of brassica plant.
Amusingly enough, around mid summer I noticed these lovely little white butterflies with little black circles on their wings.  I even commented on how pretty they were as they flitted from plant to plant.  We had loads of them in the backyard!  How lovely! 
UHHHH YEAH right!  Once I discovered what those lovely butterflies were they didn't look so lovely. 

Those almost completely killed my brussel sprouts, they did kill two kohlrabi plants, and thoroughly munched on my Red Russian Kale!


Bacillus Thuringiensis: This I have found is the most successful way to get rid of these pests.  It's quick and efficient.  Once I discovered what was going on with my plants I purchas…

Battle of the pests-Hornworms

I've decided to start a running guide on how to deal with pests.  My first one was Aphids. 

Now I've dealt with hornworms the past two summers and I've done numerous things to get rid of hornworms.  Some have worked great and some have had some not so great results.

LadyBugs: These are only beneficial when the hornworms are still just eggs.  The ladybugs will eat the eggs which, of course, means no more hornworms.  My only issue with this is I've only had very limited success with this.  I've had ladybugs in my yard but I've also still had hornworms so obviously the ladybugs didn't get to the hornworms before they could hatch.Cornmeal:  This is a tip I received from another gardener and I really am not certain if it truly did work.  Lightly spray your tomato plant (or any plant that is being attacked by hornworms) with a mist of water.  Then sprinkle the plant with plain old cornmeal.  Supposedly the hornworm will eat the cornmeal covered leaves a…

I think I've gotten spoiled.

I never thought this would possibly happen but I guess it has.  Recently due to a potluck at work I needed some tomatoes but I had none ready to pick in the backyard (wouldn't you know, the tomatoes were ready about 3 days later.  Goes to show you can't rush a good thing)
So I bought some at the grocery store to help top a seven layer dip I made.  I ended up using only a portion of the store bought tomato because the thing tasted like water with a slight tomato taste. EWWWW!  The worms got the rest.  I'm sure they were probably put off by the lack of taste as well.

I've gotten used to sweet, tangy, tart tomatoes.  Tomatoes that just TASTE like summer.  I couldn't stand the fact that I even used some of the grocery store tomatoes on my dip. Same goes for Cucumbers.  My cucumber vine is just about dead.  It has barely produced at all recently (not its fault, the whole placement thing which is our fault. The tomatoes are hogging all the sun).  So I had to also purchase…

Planting our fall garden and other miscellaneous tidbits

Today we FINALLY got around to planting our Fall Garden.  We were supposed to do it last weekend but thanks to Hurricane Irene that got put off a bit.
So while I worked on shucking and preserving corn from the farm nearby my hubby plowed the bed closest to the house and prepared it for planting.  A few weeks ago we purchased some sand, more top soil, and a bit of composted manure (since none of the Craigslist advertisers answered back about their free manure.  Oh well, can't really complain too much.)
After working all that in thoroughly into the bed we started planting.
First row in that bed is Leeks.  Some of these will be started from seeds I already had, some will come from the bottoms of already grown but cut leeks.  See one of my previous blog entries for that!
Next is sweet onions grown from cut bottoms of onions or seeds.  I'm not quite certain what kind of onions the seeds will grow so I guess I will have to wait and find out.
Next was celery.  Once again, one of the…

Okay, THAT was a big disapointment

Well we finally did it.  We opened the potato bin so see if we had anything there.
  And this was the result.
What an utter disappointment. No blues, no reds, no any special potatoes. Hardly anything at all.  Depressing.   Still though, I told Edward that "hey this was our second time growing potatoes, our first time growing them THIS way so we should be happy with WHATEVER we get!   I still can't help but be depressed by this photo.  By God I WILL get better at growing potatoes! It looks like these possibly grew from either some baking potatoes that we haphazardly threw in there or some fingerling potatoes.  Not sure which.  
Now while the potato harvest was meager this was the other stuff we collected tonight. Kohlrabi, Eggplant(black beauty), 1 brandy wine tomato, several Amish paste, several black cherry tomatoes, 3 lemon cucumbers, several okra and that's all folks.  Not bad at all. 

And that all being said, I'm going to bed.  I now have a Kindergartner in the house and…

Mail day!

Too exciting!  Today we got the rest of our seeds for our Autumn garden. I received the following seeds from Peaceful Valley & Garden Supply.  Organic Kohlrabi, Spring Salad Mix for our sprout tray, Organic Bean Adzuki Sprouting beans also for the sprout tray, Organic Mung Bean sprouts also for our sprout tray.  I still need to get another sprouting tray.  Ours has lost a lot of the little siphons on the bottom of each tray.
I also FINALLY managed to find some dandelion greens. These have been extremely hard to find! I've been scouring several sites and kept turning up empty!
Talk about super yummy and SUPER healthy!  Saute some fresh dandelion greens with a bit of garlic in olive oil and you have a delicious side dish!  Just a note, I do NOT suggest picking dandelion greens in your local neighborhood unless you know for certain that no animals have been defecating or urinating on those as well as no pesticides or herbicides have been applied.   EWWWWW I also managed to get som…

To Bee or not to Bee, that is the question

Lately I've been thinking more and more that it would be great to have honey bees in the backyard. Two reasons actually. First and foremost is the honey production.  Next reason however is because they're great pollinators.
Now here's the big issue.  I live on a military post.  They govern what I can and cannot do in my yard and house.  So today I approached them with the question.  Can I have a honey bee hive in my backyard.
I told them, "Look, I already have wasps a plenty.  I don't want them.  I want honeybees.  They can only benefit the neighborhood as they go from plant to plant pollinating.  They don't tend to sting quickly unless provoked.  Wasps are worse then they are.  And last I have a large garden in my backyard.  Its a garden that's an inspiration to other neighbors. It's a great hang out spot.  People love it".  Oops.  Why did I have to go into so much DETAIL?  I sure hope I didn't just get myself caught.  Originally they told m…

Tasty Ideas

Recently I intended on making a strawberry jam marinated pork chop recipe however that morning I completely forgot that we were supposed to marinate the pork chops according to the recipe we were using.  I did have the pork chops out in the fridge though so I figured I might as well use them and see if I couldn't just make up my own recipe.
Now, I consider myself to be a pretty good cook but I don't usually come up with really inventive recipes so the success of these pork chops was really amazing (and tasty).
These turn out very tender, sweet and savory.  
White wine and strawberry jam Pork Chops Ingredients: 4 medium sized pork chops 1 cup white wine 1 cup chicken broth 1/4 cup strawberry jam(I used our homemade strawberry lemon marmalade from last year) salt and pepper to taste
Salt and pepper pork chops while olive oil is heating in large pan Saute pork chops in olive oil till brown.  Remove pork chops temporarily to a plate  Now add white wine to deglaze pan Add chicken broth and str…

Cutting Our Grocery Bill

Okay first let me say that yes, we have been eating out of yard a lot.  And from the farm nearby.  And from the dairy. 
Now oddly enough, our grocery bill has barely gone down.  My husband, Edward, and I think it's simply from extras that we buy here and there.  Plus, Edward has pointed out that many times we've gone shopping at Walmart instead of the Commissary or Shoprite and we've gotten things for the house/yard that just get wrapped all up in our budget as "Groceries".  Then July was a bad month for groceries.  We had a big surprise (the surprise meaning "surprise we're all coming to your house this weekend) party for the 4th of July.  Since I had almost no time to put something together I purchased a good portion of the supplies. Chi ching. $50 worth of groceries. My birthday was at the end of July and we threw a big party which meant we purchased about $75 worth of "snack" items to go along with some of the fresh dishes I served.  June …

Cooking with natures bounty

Saturday night in order to use up our excess cherry tomatoes we decided to have beef shish kabobs.  Unfortunately I don't have mushrooms going yet so the button mushrooms(blog coming soon on my new mushroom farm!) on this weren't mine.
However the onions and tomatoes were!  We used black cherry and Christmas Grape tomatoes here along with onions picked that day from the back yard.  I really gotta start leeks here soon.  I dried all our others since they were really needing to be picked.  Great news about drying just like canning is I can use these later.  I plan to make Cock a leekie soup this Autumn which is one of my sons favorites.  Serve that with some fresh bread and herb butter or olive oil and you have a great hearty meal!

This past weekend has been extremely busy as we rushed to use up all our tomatoes, banana peppers, cucumbers, and bell peppers.  We managed to put up 5 pints of Ratatouille.  One of which didn't seal so we'll be eating that can next week.  Then …

One last addition.

We discussed this and decided, it was time to harvest one more of our Blue Hubbard squash.  The most mature of the two.  We have theorized that this squash plant cannot produce more than two at a time of squash so we took one off.
I don't know if this is a correct assumption,(please correct me if I'm wrong) I just know that our squash so far will not produce any more adult squash while two are already on the vine.
This guy was 7.5 lbs on the scale!  I can imagine this will feed us several meals, pies or what have you!  WOW! Heck maybe next year I'll grow more winter squash vertically! Possibly butternut or acorn.  We'll see!

Harvest time

Whew.....let me say that again...WHEW!  Lately life has been hectic.  Full of harvesting each day and then choosing what is to be dried/dehydrated, what is to be canned and what is to be eaten as soon as possible.  First  I just want it known, at this moment I'm really SICK of eating tomatoes.  I eat them for snacks, I eat them with dinner, I eat them for breakfast.  Still more come.  I am sick of them yet I don't want to complain too loudly because I know that come February I will be craving fresh home grown tomatoes.  Lately I've even been drying any tomatoes that come off the vine with splits.  I figure might as well dry them so I can use them later.
I've been contemplating even making sun dried tomatoes(yes I know they're not REALLY sun dried but they are dehydrated so that should count for something) in olive oil.  I just don't know how long they would be good for.
I found out today that I can also dehydrate cucumbers.  I cannot tell you the relief I fel…

The battle of the pests-Aphids

This year I have encountered pests I NEVER knew existed!  Here I thought aphids were the worst of my battles.  Whew. I had a lot to learn.

For all of these recipes I use (except for the ladybugs of course) a cheap Walmart spray bottle.  Don't need any kind of fancy sprayers. 


Ladybugs: Whether I have to order them or they just naturally occur LadyBugs can cause massive death to Aphids. Soap water: I've found that water mixed with a little dishwashing soap(about a tsp of soap to a cup of water) and then liberally sprayed on plants does wonders on Aphids.  That is unless you live in Alaska.  Oddly enough, aphids in Alaska must be a more hearty bunch.  They tolerate almost every trick I know in Alaska.  Hot Pepper spray: Mix about a cup of water with about a tsp of dishwashing detergent. Mix in about a 1/2 to a full tsp of crushed hot pepper. (Chile peppers, cayenne, jalapeno, they all work) Put the mixture in a spray bottle and let sit for about a day or two.  As time go…

The Plants get graded~Mid term

So of course part of the reason I keep this blog in the first place is to simply keep track of what I have done wrong, what I have done right, successes, failures, and of course also my own opinion on each plant.  This way I know which varieties NOT to grow the next year, which pests I need to be aware of and how to deal with those pests. 

First, let me start with the plants themselves.  And also berate myself for NOT WRITING DOWN THE HEIRLOOM TOMATO PLANTS THAT I PURCHASED! Dummy!
So here I'm GUESSING about the plants I have. I could probably hunt down in a message board somewhere or another but that would most likely take me a week or two.  Forget it! TIP HERE! When canning tomatoes take any tomatoes that are your intended victims, uh I mean, tomatoes you intend to cook up, and throw them in the fridge till they're chilled.  Later start boiling your water to a full boil.  Now start putting a few tomatoes in at a time for about a minute.  No more or your tomatoes will start …