Monday, October 29, 2012

Cilantro, Cilantro

As the cooler temperatures came rushing in, I had to move the Cilantro into the garage for a few days. This was less than ideal because the window box planter it was in would not fit in the house very well. It was meant for outside and now we had the extra chore each day to pull the box onto the drive way to get some sun, then put it back inside the garage at night. So Pooka and I spent part of the other day repotting it.

Homegrown vs. Commerical
Here is the cilantro before. Remember how we did the experiment to see how well our home grown seeds would do compared to commercial seeds.  The left side is our home grown seeds and the commercial ones are on the right. Well as you can see the commercial seeds did much better then our home grown ones. I guess we will keep the homegrown seeds for coriander instead.

Clearance pot with a new hole
First I found some pots. This one I found for $2 at our local home improvement store. Gotta love clearance. However, it didn't have a hole in it. So Daddy put one in it with the drill and a masonary bit. We probably wouldn't of bothered with this blue planter if it had cost more. I didn't want to risk drowning roots.

Cilantro headed inside

Doesn't that $2 pot look so much better with a small plant. It is will hold the home grown seeds.
Ready to live inside
The pot from the purple basil plant got reused to hold the cilantro. It will be great having cilantro in the house for cooking all winter, or at least until my black thumb kills it. We have never had much luck bringing plants inside. However, up until this year, I would never of said we had much luck with plants outside and look what that turned into.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Freezing Peppers

Peppers are still coming
In an early post, I mentioned we were freezing all the sweet peppers and the poblanos. Well fortunately  our pepper plants are still producing. Pooka asked if we could show you how we are freezing the peppers.

Late harvest
Once we harvested the peppers, I washed them and then left them in the colander or on a plate  for about an hour or so to make sure they dry completely. You don not want to add extra water to the peppers.

Cored and seeded

After the peppers are dry, you core and seed them. Since these were poblanos, I wanted to get most of the seeds out to lesson the heat. WORD OF WARNING: Don't be silly like me and forget to wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth. You will regret it. I did. My eye was mad for a couple of hours.

 In this case we happened to have my Mom's handy dandy onion dicer in the house. This is a great way to make sure you are getting a uniform cut size (FYI to anyone out there: Christmas idea for Mommy). It is even better since it allows a Pooka to do the cutting. Place the pepper on skin side up. This allows it to get a better cut. If you do skin side down, it tends to have a harder time getting started.

Pooka's picture Diced Peppers 
 Once they are cut, they fall into the nice little catch area. I cut all ours at once before emptying out the basin. This way when I had more peppers in the house, I was able to keep track and I only cut them as I was ready to freeze them.

Ready for the big freeze
 Pooka then helped me spread them out on a silicone pie pan. We found this worked out better then a metal pan because A) the silicone we could bend to fit in the freezer easier and B) the frozen peppers could be popped off since we could again wiggle and flex the pan

Frozen peppers ready for use when you are

Put the pan in your freezer for a couple of hours. Once they are good and frozen, pull out the pan and "pop" them off. We just used our hands, and we never needed to dirty a utensil.  The frozen peppers were put in a ziplock bag that was labeled  dated and thrown right back into the freezer.

However, PLEASE remember if working with hot peppers to wash your hands (I didn't think again and checked Pooka for a tooth coming in. Yeah.. That didn't go well.) Please learn from my mistakes.

The frozen peppers have been used in meals already. They work great in anything that is cooking them. I haven't tried thawing and using them raw. I don't know if this would work well since when the water froze into crystals of ice, it may of damaged the cell walls of the pepper (thus possibly leaving them kinda mushy). However, for cooking with and adding to many a meal, its a quick and easy way to add peppers. Plus hopefully come middle of winter, we can still be eating from Pooka's garden.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why Hello there....

Yesterday morning was rough. One of those mornings where you are rushing, things are not going well, and even the happiest morning person is just not happy. As we rushed to the car, I had Pooka and Brother loaded in the car and ready to leave for school, I had forgotten something and rushed into the house. On my way back to the car through the garage, I noticed movement out the corner of my eye. I stopped and realized it was still moving and BLACK.

Considering the mood of my morning, I feared the worst. I was ready to scream and run and find SOMEONE to deal with whatever black thing it was. I turned and saw this.
It is black and it moves.... 
Now, I freely admit, I was quite relieved when I realized it was the butterflies. However, I was rather surprised. All my research had said they should sleep till spring. Since we didn't have much time, I grabbed the jar as well and continued to the car where I handed it to a very surprised Pooka (I only wish I had taken more time to see both kids reactions, but remember, we are running REALLY late here). I did however go BACK into the house and grab the camera so we could get pictures. The butterflies then went to school with Pooka.

Again, Pooka was the hit of the class. Her teacher had taken the aquarium of chrysalises home to winter in the garage (she was going off my info). So no one expected them to be waking up. She went home and grabbed the aquarium only to find some waking up as well. So Pooka's butterflies stayed all day in her jar in the classroom (while the entire school would come visit and look at them) while the class began to release the awakening butterflies into the prairie behind the school as they found them. 

Yes, I was silly and took the lid off, but it is a great picture
Once school was over, Pooka asked if Grandma could see the butterflies when she came over that evening. Now, yes this meant I would probably have to care for the butterflies for at least one more day, and since I had no idea when they woke up, so Pooka and I looked up what to feed them until the next day. A simple sugar water solution kept them happy and Brother was relieved to come home to find we hadn't released them without him.
A view of where they spent the night
This morning before school, I told the kids we had to let the butterflies go. Pooka was very very sad, she wanted to keep them, but I didn't give her much of a choice (besides, they weren't eating that sugar water solution and I would hate to explain death right now). 

I let the kids choose where to release them, here or next to Brother's school is a small wooded area. Pooka convinced us to let them free in our yard. 

Brother communing with a Butterfly
We took the jar out and opened them. Neither flew out, however the one that liked to hang out by the lid was looking around. I convinced Brother to put his finger out and it crawled right onto him. Brother was so happy but at the same time couldn't get it to fly away. I told them at since it was morning, it may still be a tad cold for them, so I had Brother put his hand next to the lavender plant and he crawled right onto it. 

Goodbye Butterfly
Now it was time to release the other butterfly. He was a bit skittish and I think he had gotten his wings wet in the sugar water. So I pulled out the stick they had in it and offered to let Pooka put this one on her finger. For all that girl's talk about having a butterfly on her finger, she got scared and nervous and worried it would bite her. So I let her hold the stick with the butterfly. She loved being able to bring it really close to her face to examine it.

We then placed the stick in the lavender plant and said our goodbyes. Pooka has been checking the lavendar all day to see when they fly away. She got to see the last one take off and fly away, in search of food. She is very sad they had to go, but I told her in the spring we will do it again and who knows, maybe come spring, we will find the kids of her butterfly to raise all over again.  

Goodbye Black Swallowtails and good luck, and stay out of the dill. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

All those Green tomatoes

I have shown the picture of Pooka's last big harvest to people. And the first thing they ask is "Whatever are you doing with all those green tomatoes?" I have people ask if we are doing fried green tomatoes, or chutney or what. Well, to be honest, we have never had ANY of those things.

The harvest
Apples and Tomatoes
Instead we are following Aunt Pooka's advice and we put them in brown paper bags with apples, which should force them to ripen. We bought Green Apples since that is what we tend to eat more of. However, when you look in the bag, sometimes it is hard to tell which is a tomato and which is an apple. When all the apples are ripe, we are thinking of making Apple Pie Jam out of them.

Bags of Tomatoes
They were ripening slowly out in the garage. We were not sure why it was taking so long. However, Daddy and I came to realize they may be because it was cold out there. We have now brought them into the house and are sitting on the counter. They are taking up alot of counter space, but if they ripen quicker, it will be worth it.

We have seen a huge difference. They are ripening faster. The ones that get mostly orange we pull out of the bags to ripen on the counter, letting the Ethylene (the gas the apples emit) go to the less ripe tomatoes.
Tomatoes ripened from the bags
 All these tomatoes have already ripened using this method. We are planning to make more canned crushed tomatoes today using the crock pot (another experiment).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

One last look

This week the frost/freeze hit pretty hard. I am glad I got outside Monday to take pictures of things before they started looking too bad. Since Monday, the cucumbers are very dead, the tomatoes are about half gone, but the peppers and broccoli are still doing okay. 

Stargazer and lilacs
The lilac's and the stargazer are doing well. They have been sheltered against the house most of the summer, so they are not in too direct of light. I am so glad the lilac's are still alive and doing well. I am planning on bringing them in once they drop their leaves since everyone I have talked to said that they may not do well in the pots especially if we get as cold a winter as predicted.
Dill and zombie parsley

The big dill plant is still flowering. It seems to have fallen a bit in the pot, and I am planning on adding a bit more dirt to stabilize it. I can probably pull the empty bottle out as well. The baby dill is doing well and has been pulled in the house already. It seems to be doing okay on the counter. The parsley came back to life in the garage, so it is in the sink right now since we watered it yesterday.

The containers are doing well. The basil was all picked and dried last weekend. Although the Sweet Basil plant had new growth on it yesterday. It has been in a garage with no sun for a week. I still can't figure that out. The strawberries came back, but they need moved inside for winter, and most of the herbs still out here I am trying to decide if I want to bring in or see if they make it (Oregano, thyme, ect). The rosemary and lavender should be okay.
Poblano's and Broccoli
 The broccoli is still producing. It should produce well into the fall/early winter. The poblano's are doing well. They still produce, so I walk outside and check for good sized ones. All the peppers from the big harvest have been diced and frozen and put in ziplocks in the freezer to use all winter. I guess I should explain how we do that (But that's another post).

Sweet Peppers and Green Peppers
 The sweet peppers and green peppers are still doing well. All the fruit from them has also been frozen and put away. I keep finding peppers on both plants, so we are going to leave the peppers until they start to look really sad. We never did get anything out of the store bought yellow pepper plant.  I am not buying the plants ever again. That GIANT sweet pepper plant (second closest to the stairs) is my best producer. I am going to miss that plant.

Cucumbers and Tomatoes
 The cucumbers are dying here. Today they are very dead. I really need to pull them, but we are trying to finish the front yard a bit so we can lay some of the dead plants down as compost for the winter. The green bean plant is in there behind the sign. It didn't do much again this year, and I am seriously thinking about not doing those again. However, this year I know it got choked out by the tomatoes and cucumber. I may leave it up to Pooka next year.
The tomatoes look really bad. Remember the big harvest, it got to a point where we just started hacking and breaking the plants. They still look rather big here, but you can see the torn down bits of them and that they look rather sad. They look worse today, but again, until we are ready to lay them all down, I haven't pulled them yet.

That is what the plants looked like as of Monday the 8th. Overall I think we got our money back from them and probably made a profit. Maybe next year I will weigh what comes in for giggles.  I am planning on trying to get some pictures of the structures holding up the plants as we get things pulled out. Over the winter, I am hoping to updating the blog with our indoor gardening efforts as well as other odds and ends as it pertains to Pooka and her gardening love, and before I know it, I will have to start/get seedlings ready to go in next spring. I have a feeling this may be around for awhile. Especially after yesterday when she wrote a song about it.

"I love gardening, yes I do.
I love gardening yes I do.
I am going to garden forever,
because it makes me happy." - Copyright to a Pooka who was sitting in the car.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Spooned.. on purpose?

You may remember when I cleaned out the lettuce boxes, the dirt went into a planting bed in the front yard. I had plans for that bed, and I actually got the plans into that bed about 2 weeks ago. I just haven't had a chance to let you all in on the changes.

What is going to go here? 
Now, I need to preface this with the fact that Daddy and I are horrible at landscaping. We bought a house that was "professionally" landscaped and within a few years the outside had gotten overgrown. Not horribly overgrown, but not as nice as it was when we bought it. Part of that is the fact the previous owners had planted these NASTY purple leaved, giant thorny bushes in all the planting beds in the front of the house which is never fun since I tend to be a only wears shoes when required to by law kinda people. For YEARS now, I have cursed and hated and wanted to set fire to those bushes, especially after we trimmed them.

This summer, I had enough, and while I won't talk about what is going in place of said nasty evil spawn of Hades bushes, I will tell you that empty patch in the front of the house is one of the places the bushes were. We pulled it out a good 2 months ago, to give it time to rest before we continued our plans.  (That bucket of rocks was from under the bushes, it has since been reused elsewhere).

On Sept 30th, Pooka and I got to work starting the revamp of the front yard. Daddy and I decided that would be a great place to plant garlic of all things. We are a big garlic family, and Daddy and I had talked most of the summer about where we should start it, but since we plan to till the beds early next spring, I didn't want to accidently destroy the garlic.

First thing we did was run out to a local organic grocery store. I had actually read this was the cheapest way to start garlic. We brought it home and proceeded to tear the cloves out of the bulb, making sure to keep the bigger cloves (the tiny ones we cooked with dinner).

Garlic it's whats for planting and dinner
Pooka and I went outside and started to work. We kinda just started in the corner of the bed and dug a hole about an inch to 2 inches deep (you can see in the picture, I went a bit deeper then I should). Then we placed the clove in with the root side (or flat part when it was in the bulb) down and the top (pointy bit) facing up.
Flat part in the added dirt, pointy bit up.
Pooka covered it up and then we went about 7 inches before the next hole was dug. Now the book I read this from said it only needed to be 3-5 inches apart, but since this is an experiment and I didn't test the soil before hand (bad scientist) to know how good it would be, I wanted to give them a bit of room.

I have no spacial relations, a measuring tape is a must
However, after the first couple of cloves, I started to forget where I planted things. I knew my short term memory was bad, but this was really bad. What was worse is that I knew if I couldn't remember where I put it now, then how would I remember it in the spring. Like any good scientist, we decided to label/mark our test plot. But what could we use? Normally we use Popsicle sticks, but those wouldn't survive the winter, and I didn't want to buy fancy (expensive) markers. I did however have a gallon sized zip lock of plastic spoons (when we use plastic for entertaining, we never seem to use the spoons), so I grabbed a bag and spooned my own yard in white, clear, blue and purple. It's not pretty, but it worked.
After about 4 rows, I shrunk the distance between to about 5.5-6" for the rows which allows me to get 5 in a row instead of 4. (Please remember, the spoons are approximate, they are where I stuck it after I got the hole filled in).

More SPOONS....
In a few hours (we were SUPER busy that day, so it was 10 minutes here, 20 minutes here, ect). We had the 46 garlic cloves planted. Will it grow? I don't know yet. Hopefully it will grow and look nice next summer when people walk around it to go to the front door. It may not, in which case, we learn from our mistakes and try again next fall. This spot gets sun during the first part of the day. It is pretty sunny there from Sun up till it goes over the house (the house faces east), this picture was taken about 4 pm after the sun had gone behind the house.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Frosts and Freezes

Over the weekend we had our first real major frost, followed by a couple of nights where it was below freezing. I know I keep promising to talk about that patch of dirt out front, but the frost gets first pick since it is a wake up call.

Friday night it only frosted, so we went out and put sheets and tarps on some of the plants. It worked quite well actually, which was good since Saturday was the BIG FINAL HARVEST. 

I was fortunate enough that this big harvest came when we were having our family over for the weekend. THANK YOU to the 6 of you who risked the garden. I know I couldn't have pulled this off with out you. For those of you who weren't here, it took 8 people plus a Pooka 45 minutes to do the last harvest. This is what was brought in. As it was, we lost one of Pooka's Uncles into the tomato plants. At one point, all we could see was his knees and below. 

We harvested everything that might be hurt by cold, so all the peppers (which you don't see much of here since they are under other things, A TON of cucumbers (that whole bowl in the back plus half one of the tomato ones) and lots and lots of tomatoes. Yes, at one point we ran out of bowls and started using pots. At least one person said we might of been better off with a Trash bag, it would hold more.

The food was sorted out to cucumbers, peppers and broccoli, and then tomatoes, which were then sorted out to big and little, which were further sorted out to shades of green and red. Another big thank you goes out to the Aunts and Uncle that sat down with Daddy and I and played sort and bag the tomatoes. That took a bit of time, although I don't think anyone timed it.

What did we do with the green ones you ask. Well dear Aunt Pooka said that if we put them in brown grocery bags with apples, they should ripen so they can be canned. We are currently trying this. The apples went in the bags today, bags were acquired on a shopping trip on Saturday night.

Saturday during our big family BBQ, we had fresh veggies from Pooka's garden of cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, peppers and broccoli. We still had some food left over, but most went quite well. 

We did end up having enough cucumbers left over from our BBQ to can 3 quarts of dill pickles, make a good sized bowl of cucumber salad (from the ends and small cucumbers, nothing goes to waste), and 2 pints of crushed tomatoes. 

After the big harvest, we kinda let the weather at the plants. Last night it got well below freezing outside, and the cucumbers look the worst hit. They are fairly sad looking.

Frost and freezing
Maybe next weekend Daddy and I will go out and start tearing it out. The hope is the new bed out front will be ready and I can lay some of the plants there so we can use them to keep the top soil down (when they are held down by scrap wood) over the winter then till them into the beds come spring. But as of right now, it is a HUGE weight off my shoulders knowing that almost all the food is off the plants. We are pretty sure some tomatoes may still be in there (cherry tomatoes) but they are an offering to the gods and goddesses of Farming, Pookas, and Family. May next year the harvest be as bountiful and may we learn from our mistakes (like spray the pepper booster earlier in the spring, and spread the tomatoes out a bit more). 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Warning... Fall approaching

Aside from the neighbors trees having begun to turn and the fact that Pooka needs to wear sweaters daily now, I hadn't seen many signs of fall. It hasn't been that cold in the evening, we had one frost advisory a few weeks ago, but nothing since. I also admit with the cooler temps we haven't been watering much. Mostly leaving that to Mother Nature since our lives got hectic again and we don't want water sitting on the plants in the cooler parts of the night.  That is until yesterday. I walked outside to this. 

floppy plant
It looks as if the strawberry plants are going dormant. At least I am hoping this is going dormant and not "I am dying...dying...dying...dead."  Either way, probably means I should go clean off the plant of the remaining fruit and clean off those leafless stems.
Do Strawberry leaves change colors like trees?
Even the radishes are looking sad. I was fairly certain this was a cold weather crop, so I am thinking it may have something to do with overcrowding as well. I don't know for sure, but it looks very floppy like the strawberries. However, aside from these 2 types of plants, everything else looks very happy. I don't know how long it will last, but I guess I should get ready for the cold weather.

Floppy radishes??

However, then I get mixed signals, like brand new flowers on the tomato plants. Here is to hoping I get the green tomatoes ripened and the new peppers grown before things get too much colder. 

New flowers in OCTOBER? 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Cleaning up

This weekend I finally did something we have been meaning to do for awhile. I finally pulled the bolted lettuce. You see, we planted lettuce and well no one really liked the very strong flavors of the spring mix I bought. So it grew, and grew and grew and eventually bolted to flower. Finally this weekend I cleaned it out.

I admit in the sea of the tomatoes, its hard to see how badly neglected the poor lettuce is. Once I moved them to the garage to be cleaned out, I realized how sad they really were. Now granted, I picked up a part of broccoli leaf on the way around the house, but the rest look sad. Even the little plastic water bottles we used to water the plants during the horrible horrible heat (I swear I made a post on it, but I can't seem to find it now. Such is life I suppose) now looks more like litter.

Very Sad looking Lettuce 
The greens mostly went into our bucket of yard waste that goes to the city. Now, yes, we should compost it, but that is a step Daddy and I are not sure we are ready to dig into. However, we did save some of the roots and greens.

Maybe one day we will compost, but not today
The dirt that was in the boxes (and the bits of greens we kept) we tilled into a flower bed in the front yard. A very empty flower bed. A flower bed that we pulled the bushes out of awhile ago. Now we tilled in the new soil and finally have a plan for that space. What is the plan? you ask. Check back later this week and I will tell you.
What will this become?