Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Garden

The tomatoes are still doing well and the herbs are flourishing.  Many of the other plants are starting to dwindle under the heat.  The empty spaces will hopefully soon be filled with fall veggies.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Today's harvest.  It might be the last of my eggplant.  There aren't any blossoms or current eggplants growing but I will continue to let the plant be until it shows signs of dieing back in hopes of a few more.  I finally got my first pepper, it's tiny but at least something.  And my cherry tomatoes continue to thrive.  Last night I saw a large ripe yellow tomato ready for picking but when i went out this morning of course a raccoon, squirrel or something got into the plant and ate half of it.

Fall Planting

At the beginning of last week I started my fall plantings of various lettuce varieties, radish and cilantro.  I have had some empty space in my garden from the pulled carrots, onions, garlic and failed squashes that I have been ready to fill with lettuces and such.  However it has been extremely hot and dry.  Many of these plants would not have succeeded under these conditions. 

At the farmers market I asked one of the vendors I buy from regularly if they would have fall lettuces and they confirmed my opinions that their current planting have failed due to the heat and once it started to cool more they would be able to grow them.  I checked a fall planting calendar for my area and according to them I should have planted cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower back in July, my last lettuce planting should have been on the 25th and my last radish should be September 9th.  Well I am on time for my radishes but late in everything else.

I am going to get a second planting next week since we are soaring back into the 90s this week but then dipping back down.  Hopefully I will get a third planting in before it's too late and I hope to try row covers this fall/winter to extend our lettuces as long as possible.

Some of my empty space for the fall plantings.  Bamboo sticks guided my planting for where I will lay the soaker hoses after my seedlings become established.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Happiness in a Vase

I love fresh cut flowers!  Flowers just make me extremely happy.  Every week at the farmers market I browse over all the pretty blooms but restrain myself and don't buy any in an attempt to stick to a budget.  But this week I caved.  I used the excuse that we were having company but really it was just a cover to bring home this little bouquet of happiness.  I love the mixture and vibrancy of colors from these home grown beauties.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I grow basil because to buy it at the store is highway robbery and it never lasts.  But even more than that I grow basil for pesto!  I love pesto.  I especially love fresh pesto.  Store bought pesto is often good but too oily for my taste.  Fresh is better and I can then control the flavor and amounts of oil.  After my basil browning catastrophe a little bit back I only cut what I needed.  Even with proper cutting some of my basil turned brown just from the trimming.  Grrr.  I am however comforted that some long time gardeners/farmers also have trouble with basil and it's temperamental tendencies.  Read about it.  This time however I rinsed my basil just before using it in room temperature water a slight bit on the warm side and had great success.

I have followed recipes in the past but pesto is easy once you know what goes in it.  For the first couple of times it's good to read a few recipes and try them out to see what you like.  You can also make "pesto"by trading out basil and/or pine nuts and adding in other items, lots of fancy restaurants do this.  But for a simple classic pesto I use:
Lots of basil,  enough to fill the food processor
A handful of parmesan
A handful of pine nuts
1-2 garlic cloves depending on size
olive oil

Put everything but the oil into the food processor.  Turn it on and then stream in a little bit of oil.  I will even add in a little water (Gasp!) when it still needs to be thinned a bit more but I don't want to add in anymore fat.  I learned this trick from Cooking Light you just have to be careful not to more than 1-2TBS because it can quickly become too thin.  But don't leave the oil out, it helps give it the smooth consistency and rich flavor.  Once everything is blended I taste and decide if I need to add any more cheese, nuts or oil.  Its easy to add more but once you put too much of any ingredient in you are stuck.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


We have had trouble with our bell peppers this year.  Our first bell pepper didn't even grow half a centimeter after a month in the ground.  So I replaced it with a second plant that has grown a little bit and has a couple tiny peppers but the marigold next to it has grown like crazy.  I am not sure what the problem is but I have been disappointed that I haven't had any red bell peppers this summer.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Storing Garlic

Along with storing our onions it was also time to store our garlic.  I cured the garlic along with the onion.  I decided to try braiding the garlic for storage purposes.  Not really knowing the proper way to braid garlic I figured it was similar to french braiding hair.  While it isn't perfect and some of the heads of garlic are a bit loose I still think it was a decent job for a novice.  So for ladies and possibly men who can french braid hair you can also braid garlic.  If you don't know how to braid hair properly you essentially start with three garlic heads and then add one in at a time.  I do however wish the I could have braided the garlic while the stems were still a bit green, it would have made it easier to braid them tighter.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Eggs and Salmonella

The most recent outbreak of Salmonella in eggs doesn't worry me considering I have switched to buying eggs from a local farmer.  But it does scare me and is just another reason on the list of why factory farms are awful.  I keep wondering with all the different outbreaks of issues in spinach, peanut butter, eggs, meat, etc. why practices haven't drastically changed.  We will continue to support local, humane farmers who follow respectable practices.  Hopefully the rest of the world will join the bandwagon.

Storing Onions

It was finally time to put away my onions for storage this week.  I believe they had enough time to cure but it being my first time growing and storing onions I wasn't quite sure.  They laid out in the sun for a few days and then spent a couple of weeks in a basket in the garage.  I probably should have laid them out in the garage but I didn't really have the room. 

To store the onions I cut the tops off.  If they looked like all the papery layers had dried (like the first onion) they got stored.  The onions that had inner layers that hadn't completely dried like the second onion went into the fridge for use now. 

I read that a good way to store onions is in pantyhose.  Sounds odd, I know.  I had a few pairs that I don't use so I decided to give it a try.  You put the onion in a leg all the way to the toe and then tie it off followed by other onions. Then hang the onions in a cool, dry, dark place.  I hung ours in the storage room in our basement.  Our onions ended up on the small size so I will probably use them up too quickly to really test this storage method but we will see how it goes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This Week

Here is this week's harvest.  We have slowly and steadily been harvesting tomatoes.  This might be our last squash, our plant is looking quite sad.


I harvested the rest of my carrots this week.  I should have done this weeks ago.  Some of the carrots got way too big, started to get lots of hairy roots, and some were quite disfigured.  Because I waited so long to pull them they don't have the sweet flavor I love from baby carrots.  Instead I have chopped them up and frozen then in smaller batches for pot roasts and stews this winter.  This was my first year for carrots.  I am not sure if I will do them again next year.  Sowing the seeds was easy but thinning was a little tedious.  I also have a hard time knowing when to pull them since you can't monitor their progress in the ground.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Champagne Grapes

Look at these teeny tiny grapes!  I found them at Trader Joe's and they were just too cute to pass up.  I wish they had been available when I threw my sister her bridal shower then I wouldn't have had to halve grapes for the tarts I made.  They taste just as good as the full size version, but more fun to eat.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Browning Basil

I am not sure if I am doing something different this year but my basil is turning brown extremely fast.  As soon as I have torn the leaves off the stem and rinse them they are already starting to turn.  This is extremely frustrating!  If anyone knows what I am doing wrong please help me, I have never had this problem with my basil.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jam Labels

Found this link on Martha Stewart's website and wanted to share it.  Labels for homemade, canned jam.  They are cute and dress up cans of goodies that you would like to give as gifts!  Click here and download them.

Pressure Canning

With all that produce we brought home I canned a bunch of it!  I got to use my new pressure canner that was handed down to me from my Dad.  It is a little beat up but I am a bit proud of that because it means it has done lots of successful canning!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Veggie Wash

Even though we grow everything without chemicals I still wanted a wash to rinse off the veggies when we bring them in because they are grown amidst bugs and we do use natural sprays.  We also bring home produce we can't grow from the store and this food needs something better than a rinse under water.  The following recipe uses all household items and I feel like it is better than rinsing with just water and is safe to use.  The vinegar and lemon provide high acid levels to clean away germs and I am assuming the baking soda aids in cleaning due to it's fizzing reaction to vinegar.

1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
2TBS lemon
2 TBS Baking Soda

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


It paid off to have family who lives in the country and have the space to grow plenty of their own produce.  This is the loot we brought home which included: tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, swiss chard, green beans, bell pepper, banana peppers, broccoli, and cilantro.  We were quite happy to take their overflow of food. I have quite a bit of cooking/canning to do!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bowling Green

Over the weekend we went up to Bowling Green to spend time with my Dad for his birthday, visit the fair, and celebrate my cousin's graduation.  Here are some of the highlights of our trip.  Our favorite part of the county fair is always the animals but this year I couldn't help but wonder as I was walking through the barns things such as: was this cow grass fed, did these pigs get to roam fields, or I wonder if these were given growth hormones?
This picture needs a bit explaining.  At the graduation celebration I was touring my uncle's large gardens when we stumbled upon a bit of National Geographic happening in real life.  The frog was still alive and moving.  I was scared of the snake, feeling bad for the frog and not wanting to watch; but I just couldn't help but stare. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Canning Expedition

As promised I made some of the blueberries we picked on our anniversary into jam and then canned it.  This was my first experience canning and I really enjoyed it!  I used the Ball Blue Book canning guide for my recipe and canning instructions.   It was quite simple as long as you follow all of the directions.  I was advised that they their recipes use a bit too much sugar so I cut out 1/3rd and I think I could have cut 1/2, it all depends on your taste preference.  The trickiest part was having the canning pot with simmering water ready to go while keeping the jars hot in another pot and making the jam in another.  All of the items almost didn't fit on my stove top. 

I did read the book a bit before starting and so once I got to actually canning I had a firm grasp of what I needed to do.  I highly suggest going out and getting the book it has great step by step instructions and some have illustrated instructions.  I am definitely looking forward to canning other produce this year and for years to come!

Jam in the works

Cans getting ready for jam and measuring the head space before attaching the lids to get a proper vacuum seal.

Ready for processing.

Final Product!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


We spent our weekend in and around Indianapolis to visit my sister Tiffany and her husband Tom.  Knowing my penchant for local, organic, sustainable food they made sure to take us to places that would fulfill these preferences.

Our first stop was a local cajun, creole shop called Yats.  They make all sorts of stews, etouffees, and curries atop rice.  It was quite yummy but I was too busy eating to take pictures.

The next stop was a cupcake place called Holy Cow.  They used to sell their cupcakes at a Farmers Market but sold out too fast that owner has opened up a full shop. 

They took us to their local butcher shop and I was in heaven!  I only wish I could find somewhere like this in Cincy.  All of their meat was free range, humanely raised, grass fed, and never given hormones or antibiotics.  They also sold wild, sustainably caught fish which can be even harder to find.  I am very jealous of this shop.

For brunch we went to a cute, local restaurant called Bubs.  They grow their herbs and some of their veggies in the back of the place.  The decor inside is bright and welcoming.  Orange juice served in wine glasses and water in glass jars.  The food was excellent and even though we had to wait awhile the free coffee, and walk along the Monon (bike trail) and downtown Carmel made it worth it.

We had a wonderful weekend trip with Tiffany, Tom, and of course the fur baby Reagan.