Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Loss and learning

I know I have said a couple of times that something was coming that would hurt. It was something I couldn't protect Pooka and Brother from. Today it finally happened.
 Today Pooka's Great Grandmother died. It was a calm death, but it was expected, if not by the children. This has come as a big shock for both kids and has hurt us parents as well. Now is a time for learning to grieve and try to refocus our lives without this constant in it.
So I am sure you will all forgive me when I say that we will be taking a small break for a bit. Right now Pooka and I will be focusing on healing and each other and trying to move on. I don't know exactly when we will be back, but we will. Gremo would want her Pooka to continue the gardening that she had done for years and years. Goodbye Grandma, We will miss you and love you forever.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Broken Broccolli

During a morning walk down of the garden the other day, I saw this small broccoli plant laying on its side. Completely. Well, I grabbed it and it turns out something caused it to break off its roots. It had a small floret of broccoli. We decided to harvest it and it made a decent snack. 
Broccoli down
When I looked at the end of it, I think it just broke off. What would of caused it to break off, I have no idea. However, I don't plan to find out anytime soon. I sometimes think I need to put a video camera outside at night to show us what is going on, but then I realize I am probably better off not knowing. I will leave it a mystery. Pooka decided to blame Bugs (the bunny) and happy moved on to more important things, like if her carrots are ready to be pulled.
the broken end of the plant

Sunday, September 22, 2013


We made siracha from our 5 color Chinese peppers the other night. This was a trial batch to see if we even like it before we invest into making more of it. Before I tell you how we made it, I do want to admit that we no longer call siracha well, siracha. Pooka decided that every time someone says the word siracha, then she breaks out dancing while saying "siracha-cha-cha." It is a very elegant little dance, which does remind me of some of my professional dancer friends. To start we took about 4 oz of hot peppers, which made about a 1/4 batch from a recipe I found here.
5 color Chinese Peppers
These peppers were chopped and mostly seeded and placed in a pot with some vinegar, salt and garlic. I will say the smell was a bit strong. Not too bad, but it did remind us to be careful. Also, please remember when using hot peppers to wear gloves.  
Cooking it down
Once they had cooked a bit, we tried using our immersion blender. The liquid level was a bit low for this, so instead we put it in the blender/grinder attachment for the stick blender. This worked quite well, but make sure when your done blending, you give it a few minutes after blending to allow everything to settle again before removing it from the blender.
Peppers all blended up
Then it was pour into a jar. Daddy said it tasted like siracha-cha-cha if it is a bit orange. Had we waited till we had enough red peppers, it would be more of a red color. However, we decided to try it before all the peppers were red, so our siracha-cha-cha is more of an orange color. If Daddy likes this, we may be planting more 5 color chinese peppers next year to give Daddy a whole year worth of siracha-cha-cha.
Finished Siracha-cha-cha

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Doing our evening walk down of the garden Monday night, Pooka found her largest tomato (that we have recorded), yet. It was just sitting there, on the vine in full view. I thought for sure we would have to dig for a good sized one. This is it sitting in a regular cereal bowl for size.
Big tomato in a cereal bowl
While I will admit our tomatoes this year have been on the small side. I think part of it is they are too close, and part of it is we have not been as great about watering this year. However, we have had a decent harvest, and I think next year will be better if we thin out the tomatoes. This is our big 12+ oz tomato next to one of our regular tomatoes. If I could show you the look on Pooka's face when she realized the big tomato was bigger then both her hands together, it was priceless. Here is to hoping for more good sized tomatoes.
Regular tomato vs. Big tomato

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lime tree is flowering?

It is official, the citrus trees are as confused about this weather as I am. Caroline the lime tree has started flowering. Since we bought her on clearance, I have never seen her flower. Maybe I will help her along a bit and maybe even hand pollinate her flowers and hope for a few limes out of the deal.
Flowers on Caroline
Meanwhile, Cave Johnson is full of baby lemons again. That thing will flower and set fruit all day. The trick is getting the fruit to a size the rest of us can use would be nice. However, if this proves he will be very productive as he gets bigger, I am not completely against it. Pooka has dreams of making fresh lemonade with the lemons. 
Baby Fruit on Cave
 Granted, if the big lemon that has been on Cave all summer would ever ripen, that would be nice. I am tried of looking at it and guessing what it is doing. I don't think there is much I can do at this point. The white on cave's leaves are a bit of frost burn. It got a bit colder then we were ready for outside one night. Now Cave and Caroline get brought inside on cold nights and soon they will be moved inside for good. Maybe the lemon will ripen before then, or maybe we will get a lemon for christmas.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sunflower seeds anyone

Over a couple of weeks, I started to harvest sunflowers. Whatever was making a meal of the sunflower seeds was not leaving that many seeds for us. So we decided to do something we have never done before, harvest the heads and then let the seeds dry in the garage.
Sunflowers are being eaten
I will say we had sunflowers EVERYWHERE. They were hung on tool racks with the garlic and the coriander (both of which need dealt with as well). We hung up the two really good sized flowers from the mammoth sunflowers. Sadly, we didn't get many sunflowers from these since the critters seem to love the taste of them. 
Things drying out to be saved
We also had bags and bags of sunflowers sitting on Daddy's table saw. We are letting them dry, but we should have plenty of seeds for us, for the school's butterfly garden and some to eat. We will probably even have enough for swapping like we did last year. I know Pooka's Aunts love sunflower seeds. I guess I need to figure out what the price of sunflower seed for seeds are, as well as the price of roasted sunflower seeds. I think this year is our last year having bought sunflower seeds.
Bags of sunflowers
Although I have a feeling we will need to deal with these soon since Daddy seems to want his table saw back. Pooka is so lucky to have a very understanding Daddy.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A day alone

With Pooka now in big girl school with brother, I occasionally find myself home alone with just the animals. I will not say it is comfortable yet, but it does me good to keep busy when they are gone. This particular day, I wasn't as good at keeping busy, but I did decide to get to work on preserving some of the herbs. I went outside to the front bed and brought in all of this. Over an ounce of hot peppers to make siracha-cha-cha (Pooka has a little dance she does whenever someone says siracha), herbs to dry and 15+ ounces of basil. I did save some purple basil as well to make Purple Pesto for Pooka (those leaves are in the measuring cup).
A short days work. 

I ended up making 2 bags of nut-less pesto since we do have a nut allergy in the family. I am hoping this will become a go to meal for when we forget to thaw dinner. It sadly tends to happen in spurts.
More herbs dry. Not necesarily these, 
I did get over an ounce of herbs dried. It wasn't these per say, but when you have seen one pile of herbs, they all look the same.
2 bags of pesto.
Out of the 15 ounces of herbs, we got a half quart of purple pesto and a quart of pesto. The purple pesto had already been in the freezer, and while I tried to lay it flat, I think it shifted on something. Now to cut back the basil outside before it frosts and make more. Sadly the siracha-cha-cha will have to wait till another day.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Garlic powder

With the abundance of garlic we had this year, Daddy and I decided to try and use the single clove heads of garlic to make our own garlic powder. It is a fairly simple process, but it does take some time and some effort on our part.
Garlic that has cured for awhile
This is one bulb from the smaller garlic plants. They are 1 clove of garlic in the bulb, and perfect for this since they are pain to use for cooking (too much peeling to do multiples of). However, the first step, like anything with garlic is to remove the peel and cut off the root end of the garlic.  
That is 1 clove of garlic
Yes, this is the size of one clove. I was trying to use my thumb for scale. As you can see they garlic is good sized for one clove, but fairly small if that is suppose to be a whole bulb. Next you slice the garlic into thin slices.
Drying Garlic
Once sliced into thin slices, you lay the garlic out on the dehydrator rack. We tried to keep all the slices the same thickness, but due to what we were slicing, we did have some variation. The thinner your slices, the shorter the drying time. I think we let ours run most of a day or so until they were fairly brittle.
Garlic powder made the old fashioned way
Then comes the turning it to powder part. I would love to say I used the mortar and pestle for ALL of our garlic powder, but I would be lying. We tried the mortar and pestle and it worked quite well, but took forever, and since this was something where I really really didn't have all day to spend grinding, we decided to use our emersion blender's chopper bowl attachment. That worked quiet well but make sure when you are done, you leave it closed and off for a long time before opening to allow all the dust to settle. 
Homemade Garlic powder
We poured it into a empty glass spice bottle and threw a label on it. Daddy has decided this tastes light years better then the commercial stuff. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bye Bye Squash and Corn

Well, I finally did it. I finally got some of the backlogged gardening caught up. Not all of it mind you but on Sunday, Pooka and I took the chance of being home alone to get some work done. The squash was easily dead. Honestly, we didn't get anything off the corn, but the 2 ears we had rotted before they were able to be harvested. It looks like if we want to do corn again next year, we need to get our act together.
Dead and deader
We ended up with a bunch of empty pots when all was said and done. Mostly for giggles, Pooka planted some more pea plants in the pots. This variety should be fairly cold tolerant, and now that Pooka takes lunches to school daily, she loves being able to take the veggies she is growing in her lunch box. 
Not empty for long
Now to see if we get anything off these peas. Hopefully they handle the cold as well as they say they should, as well as their short growing time. But no matter what, Pooka will be happy to see things going and I will just say if we don't get any peas off the plant, I planted the seeds to put some nitrogen back in the dirt. The beans and peas in the corn pot were still quite happy and healthy and producing, so we left them alone the best we could.
The Green beans are doing okay
 As for the nastiness that was pulled out of those pots, it went out to the curb with the rest of the yard waste for the city to dispose of. I don't see us composting anytime soon.
That is alot of dead plant material

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mantis failure

Well, I don't know if we missed it, but we are calling the praying mantids a failure. They never seemed to hatch and since it is getting so late in the year, I doubt they will. In fact, they better not because the food the company sent to feed them has died off. 
unhatched egg sack
Now it is very likely we did something wrong. I may of missed a step or something, but we never saw anything. So the other day I convinced Pooka that it was time to let Mother Nature do her thing. We removed the egg sacks from the little house and Pooka loved being able to touch and look at them. She was amazed that something like this held eggs.
Egg sack in it's new home
Pooka decided that we would place the egg sacks in the herb garden just in case they actually do still hatch. That garden is doing well, but I think some natural pest control would not be a bad thing. Pooka is still a bit upset by the whole idea, but I promised her next year we will try again earlier in the year. I also told her that we may even try ladybugs. I swear my house is slowing becoming a haven for insects. At least they are the good kind for now.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Looking ahead

Last night I did something. Something I swore I didn't have time for. Something that makes me wonder what I have gotten myself into.

I ordered garlic online for next year. While our garlic harvest hasn't been great, it is something that Daddy and I use a metric ton of. I swear we always have at least 3 bulbs in our fridge.

Part of this years's harvest
Add to that the fact that we have started making our own garlic powder. Yes we are making garlic powder, and Daddy has decided he really likes the homemade stuff light years better then the store bought stuff.

Homemade garlic powder
So next year, we are going to try a hard neck and a soft neck garlic. One is even purple for Pooka. I am not going to lie and say the garlic is for her. Its for Daddy and I, but she got to pick one, and it was the purple. Now to see what it looks like when it gets here.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

That time of year

In some ways, I love this time of year. It is cool in the evenings which makes for great sleeping weather. The garden is producing food and we are canning and drying to prepare for winter. This time of year, I start to feel we are almost done with the garden, and that soon the cold and the snow will be here.
Food getting ready for winter

However, this time of year comes with a double edge. There is so much that needs done. We have sunflower seeds that have been pulled from the plants that need harvested, I have coriander that needs pulled from its plant. We have herbs to dry, canning to be done, hot pepper flakes to be made.
Sunflowers need cut down
The to do list seems overwhelming, and I fully admit I am so overwhelmed I do not know where to start some days. I know I need to start pulling the dead plants. Daddy picked up some more pea seeds that are cold weather tolerant which will be good in the kids lunches. Even aside from all the garden work that needs done, there is garden club starting, baseball, and scouts and all the other kids activities with school going.
Dead plants need removed
There just never seems to be enough hours in the day. It will get done. It always gets done, even if it feels like I a going nuts in the process. Pooka helps quite well for someone her age, but she is only 5 and she has the attention span for some of these things like a 5 year old. I guess it all comes down to getting it together and doing stuff. So if you will excuse me, I need to get back to work. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Rainbow Salsa

Recently we had to clean out the fridge. The garden had produced some much that we really needed to do something. We had tomatoes, but we had so many peppers and onions we decided to make salsa. But none of the recipes we found really encompassed everything we had, so we decided to make Pooka's Rainbow Salsa. It got its name from the rainbow of colors that went into it and Pooka loves making things colorful.

Tomatoes, onion, purple, sweet and Jalapenos all in the pot.
Into it went:
19 cups of tomatoes (including Roma, Beefsteak, Betterboy, Fireball and colored Cherry tomatoes)
6 cups onion (red and white)
9 1/2 Jalapenos
3 cups Bell peppers (Red peppers, Sweet peppers and cubanelles)
3 purple 5 color peppers
1 bulb of garlic
3 cups of Cilantro

Rainbow salsa all ready to go
We ended up making 11 pints of Rainbow Salsa. They look so good, we are only hoping it is not too hot with all the purple peppers in it. We will see, but it definitely looks pretty good. It looks a bit less colorful in the jars, but it should taste good.
Close up of the salsa

Friday, September 6, 2013

"What did you do this weekend?"

Personally, I love when people ask us "What did you do this weekend?" Some weekends I have nothing fun to say. Sometimes I can answer with this:
24 Half pints of peach jam
Well, we got peaches from the neighbor's tree for free and made 24 half pints of jam and 4 pints lazy peach preserves.  With the cucumbers from our garden we canned 5 pints of classic dill pickle spears and 1 pint of classic dill pickle chips. We also froze 7 3\8 oz of sweet peppers, dehydrated 1/8 oz dry parsley, 1/4 oz dry oregano, and 1/2 oz dry purple sage. We even went out of town for a birthday party for Pooka's cousin at a Zoo with all the aunts and uncles.
Pickles anyone? 
I wish I could say after all this my house is flawless. That there are no dishes or laundry out of place, or even that the lawn got mowed, but I wouldn't be honest. Not when a good chunk of the weekend is devoted to spending time as a family and being together. In fact, let us not discuss the state of a Pooka's room that I really should of made her clean before we went picking peaches at her friends house.
Newly dried herbs
A long holiday weekend comes in handy. Too bad we can't make every weekend 3 days long. But even on short weekends, it is about doing what you can and spending time together in whatever ways you can.

Frozen peppers.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

September first pictures

I know this post is late, life has kinda been a tad nuts with all of us trying to get into school routines. Sadly, the garden is showing signs of neglect, but I am hoping to work on that this weekend and fix it back up. I know a few plants have given their last out there.
The front small bed is looking rather nice. The dill has taken off and the milkweed is blooming again. I remember just a month ago this bed looked so barren. It has filled out and is looking very alive.
 Sadly, yes the front bed is overgrown. We are trying to get back into the habit of drying herbs and cutting it back, but its been a bit harder to figure out how to get it all lined up right. However, it is nice to still be about to walk outside and just grab some herbs, which was the whole point. Next year we will probably cut back a bit on what goes in there.
This is the basil circle that is suppose to go around my lilac. The tree itself is looking rather sad, but the basil has gone to flower and I am having a hard time keeping up with it. However, you can see the pretty colors of Pooka's 5 color chinese peppers through all the basil.
The sunflowers are about done. Most have lost their blooms and I either cut the blooms away to save the seeds or the animals have gotten them. This weekend we are hoping to go out there and kill most of it off. We also need to figure out something better for dealing with the weeds. But that will be a discussion over the winter. 

The small bed under the window is doing well. We haven't gotten any broccoli off these plants yet, but last year it was about now the broccoli started to come in and these plants were started a bit late. We just transplanted some new Pak Choi into this bed so thats why they look a tad wilted. They were mad I had uprooted them from their pot.
We have a few new green bean plants starting, but the peas have yet to sprout. I am thinking I may go out and buy another package of peas if I can find them and put them in. It all depends. there is also another Pak Choi plant in here as well as the way overgrown basil. Again, the herbs need cut back. Work never ends it seems.
The pepper plants are going strong. They have liked this heat wave we are getting and I am collecting sweet peppers right and left. We finally had enough to freeze the other day. The tomatillos are still a question on if the fungicide will work or not.
 I think the corn is dead. I think there is one ear in there I need to go pick, but it may of rotten a bit. That one I just didn't give the attention to this year. I promised Kiddo we will try again next year. However, the beans in the peas in that pot are doing well, as well as the peas in the back pot. The squash I think is done. I need to pull it but that is part of this weekends clean up I think. 

The broccoli is doing well and we are due to have broccoli again tonight. I did realize this year we need a few more cucumber plants to get what we need. As Aunt Pooka told us this weekend, its a balancing act figuring how much you need but not getting too much. This is the part I find hard. Too bad no one says "This many tomatoes, this many cucumber for a family of 4."
Oh, tomatoes, tomatoes. They are everywhere. While our tomatoes may not be as tall as they were last year, they are covered in nice pretty giant green tomatoes. I just hope the season stays warm enough to harvest them all. I will say we did decide next year to cut back the tomatoes plant number a bit, but like with the cucumbers, we aren't sure how many is "enough".
The cherry tomatoes have started to reach a nice height. We still have not seen any purple ones, but Pooka is loving having yellow cherry tomatoes. They do drive Daddy nuts since he has a hard time deciding when they are ripe. The jalapenos are doing well, but the poblano peppers have yet to have much on them. The plant is finally starting to produce, but we haven't been able to harvest anything yet. I think this may be the year for bad peppers. then again they like HOT weather and it has been cool.
The celery is doing well, the marigold and the snapdragons are blooming again. I also really need to cut the scallions back, but that is a good problem to have. I think I may cut them back and try to freeze them for later this winter. Pooka loves using our "chopper box" to cut the veggies, this would be a good one for her to use.
The deck is a giant mess, which is why I only took one picture. Most of the squash is dead, or dying, and I need to pull some bolted lettuce and restart it. All in all, the deck is overgrown, but it is producing, which is the point. We even have 4 eggplants on one plant. Maybe those deserve space in the yard next year. Those and the free yellow squash since we actually found we like that fresh but not store bought. Pooka was so happy to try new things and even happier to know she likes them.