Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fixing a 65 pound pumpkin

That darn thing has been sitting patiently on my kitchen floor since we picked it. Today my husband and I took care of that pumpkin!
This is how thick the rind of the pumpkin was. It varied from two inches to 4 inches thick. It smelled so good as we were cutting through it. It was easy to cut the outside peeling off and easy to scoop the rind and seeds out. We cut the pumpkin into large chunks, just the correct size for stews and froze them in small plastic bags. I kept enough aside to cook in my two large dutch ovens. After they were cooked I pureed with my stick blender and measured out the pumpkin into two cup portions and froze them. We only threw out 4 gallon pails to the horses which was really quite amazing.
What surprised us the most were the small amount of seeds that this large pumpkin had buried in it's pulp. No wonder the seeds are so expensive in the seed catalogs, there aren't very many. I had bought a pumpkin at the grocery store just for the seeds. I hate to waste anything, so I cooked up that one too. It smelled terrible! I threw it out! The home grown pumpkin was far better smelling! I found that really strange.

My pumpkin seeds are air drying on the counter so that I can grow more next year. In all my years of growing pumpkins, this was the first year I was this successful!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Time to Harvest Sunflower Seeds

 This is my sunflower seed crop. Pretty descent considering that I never watered them for most of the summer and that we didn't get any rain. Tough plants.
 This head was about 12 inches across with nice juicy plump seeds. The birds were already diving into them.
 I made the mistake last year of cutting off the heads and bringing them into the garage to dry. They all went moldy. I understand why, if one breaks the head in half, you find that it is really nice and soft and spongy with lots of moisture. No wonder farmers have to wait until November to harvest these or even Spring.
This is my bowl of seeds. I still have to dry them out as they still have a really high moisture content. There is about two ice cream pails of seeds in this large bowl. They are currently drying on my counter spread out on an old towel. We tasted them, they are delicious! Once dry, I will be saving some of the healthy seeds for next year. I'm not even going to bother to cook them, they are just as delicious raw.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Late fall flowers

We rarely see flowers of any kind this late in the season. Just thought I'd share a few photos from my flower garden from last week. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cooking and freezing pumpkin

Before the hard frost, I brought in all of my pumpkins. Now, I've started to cook the pumpkin to make a puree that I freeze in two cup packages for various recipes. 

First of all, I wash the outside of the pumpkin. Taking a long sharp knife I then proceed to cut into the pumpkin and if not too large, I slice the pumpkin in half. Take a large spoon and scoop out all of the insides and seeds of the pumpkin into a large bowl, set aside. Next, I take a large roaster and pour about an inch of water into the bottom. Now I cut the pumpkin halves into smaller but good size pieces. The lid goes on next and I pop them into the oven to cook at 350F until soft, about an hour. The roaster is then taken out, the lid removed and the pumpkin allowed to cool enough to handle. Next, with a large spoon, the cooked pumpkin is removed from the skin and placed into a large bowl. Once all scooped out, I take my hand blender and puree the pumpkin. The puree is then measured out into two cups and placed in containers or freezer bags and frozen.

I love pumpkin pie but hate making pie crust. So when I found this Pumpkin Pie Square recipe in Taste of Home Magazine in the '90s, I had to try it. I have not made pumpkin pie with a pie crust ever since. My family loves this square and I serve it often.

Here is the link to the recipe: Pumpkin Pie Square

Don't throw away the seeds, here's the link on how to cook them up! Cooking pumpkin seeds

Since I have so much pumpkin this year, I will also be freezing uncooked peeled pumpkin that has been cut into chunks and frozen to add to soups and stews. Pumpkin is such a versatile and delicious squash!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The quick way to make sauerkraut

The best part of gardening is that you get to make really good food with the most delicious ingredients! I picked ten medium sized cabbages. So I went looking for a good sauerkraut recipe. My mom made some every fall for us and we use to love to sneak and steal it and eat it raw. I still have the crocks to make it in but I wanted to downsize as it's only my husband and I now most of the year. I didn't want to can anything, just don't have the time to spend doing that. So I researched making sauerkraut and found it it's now called Fermented vegetables.

There are three videos that are pretty good:

1) A very technical one with all the measures and correct temps for fermentation...well worth the watch:

2) a kitchen cook's version:

3) a fun version to watch: (not too sure about the feet stomping lol

I used half gallon canning jars that my mom had stored in her basement. I went with the directions in the first video and will store them in the refrigerator when fermentation is done and eat them within three months. Upon doing some research on the health benefits of fermented vegetables, I came across these two videos:

I found them interesting in regards to regaining health and living a healthy life. I'm always looking for healthy ways to eat and cook good fresh ingredients.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The BIG one

Our squash harvest for 2012. They're announcing frost for later this week, so, while I had extra men in the house, we picked garden most of the weekend. My pride and joy is this huge Atlantic Giant pumpkin that weighed in at 65 pounds! What is even more amazing is that we haven't had rain in over three months. I shudder to think what size it would have been had it rained! The other giant pumpkins weighed in between 36 to 38 pounds. For the most part, the squash crop was average this year...except for the Atlantic Giant that took a couple of guys to bring into my kitchen. Lots of yummy pumpkins seeds!

The above two photos are examples of our freely growing squash that came up all by themselves in the garden. Guessing that these are a cross between an ornamental gourd and a spaghetti squash. We left them be and never watered them...the darn things did remarkably well for what little they had. Cut open one of the bi-color ones and this is what they looked like inside. They smelled like pumpkin. The rind was pretty tough and so the horses got them. They thought they were rather chewy.  Anybody have any really good squash recipes?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Great Potato Barrel Myth

As you can see, the potato plants in the barrels have died off and were ready for harvest. Each barrel had 10 seed potatoes planted at the very bottom, so we should have harvested at least ten gallons of the least.

As we tipped the barrel on it's side, the results looked really promising....

As we started to dig, we found very few potatoes...3/4 of a gallon in the first barrel to be more precise and about the same in the second barrel. We had a few larger potatoes but most of them were small.

So what went wrong? I had done my homework and looked at all kinds of blogs and Youtube videos telling about their successes and their disappointments. Potatoes like lots of room to grow, so I had made sure that the soil was rich with peat moss. At the bottom of the barrel where I planted the seed potatoes, I had placed about 6 inches of good rich garden soil to get them started. There was good drainage. I watered regularly. The only thing I can think that stopped the growth of tubers was the barrel was too hot. The barrel should have been full of spuds, they had perfect growing conditions by all accounts from my research.
So this potato barrel growing myth is BUSTED in my opinion. Growing potatoes in the barrel took a lot more watering and so for that reason alone, is not viable for me. Although, if I had gotten my ten gallons of spuds per barrel, I may have had a different opinion. I guess I did have a bit of suspicion when I found all kinds of videos on the net showing how to plant a potato barrel but only one harvesting a descent crop. There was one video of a fellow that had I think 1 potato that he harvested out of his potato box. The other videos of how to do the barrel planting never posted an after video of their crop. I guess they couldn't because they didn't have a crop. Ah well, c'est la vie!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blossom End Rot

Blossom end rot on tomatoes is often the result of uneven watering and calcium deficiency. Some years, I don't get any but other years like this year, I get a few. These blossom end rot tomatoes appeared in my raised boxes. I'm not really a fan of raised boxes in the garden, they were a trial run. I had used a container soil with extra manure but I think next year, I'm going to put a layer of top soil in them instead. So as a recap to my earlier post on tomatoes, plant your young tomato plants with a couple of tablespoons of crushed egg shell at the bottom of the hole, place a handful of soil on top of the egg shells and transplant your tomato plants. Water less and more often, but don't soak the plants because tomatoes don't like wet feet.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Preserving dill weed

Dill grows wild in my garden. Every year, dill pops up all over the place and we leave it grow and go to seed. When I have way too much, I harvest the dill weed. Some I wash and dry in my fruit/veggie dryer and some I freeze. A friend of mine of Ukrainian heritage, told me that she always freezes hers just like her mom taught her how and how her mother taught her how. The fine dill weed is washed and then let to drip dry on a towel and then frozen in baggies, no blanching involved. So this year, I dried some and then I froze some too. The dill in the photograph is in flower and will go into seed. Some of the seed I will save and the other seed I will leave so that come next Spring, more dill will grow wild in my garden once again. Dill is a no fuss no muss herb that grows like a weed.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Garden in full swing

Yes, I have been neglecting my blog! Or blogs in my case. We have not had rain in almost two months. Luckily, I have been using my reserved water sparingly. I'm down to my last quarter of a tank from the original 1200 gallons. Watering has been a challenge. I've been spot watering to conserve water and watering alternatively different parts of my garden every night. Today, I'm happy to share photos of my wonderful garden!
This is the great excitement in my garden....a tiny watermelon that has doubled in size in three days. I have tried for years to grow watermelons and cantaloupe and my garden is not frost free long enough for them to mature...this year, I may taste my first home grown watermelon! 
All my cabbage family plants are growing really well. The broccoli and Chinese cabbage  have also grown really well this year. We've been keeping down the population of caterpillars and so far minimum damage to the leaves.
My tomatoes are finally setting fruit. It has been so hot that many of the plants in my garden were not setting fruit. We had a few days of Grace and the bees were very very busy! My tomato plants love this heat and are up to my waist in height! They are full of blooms and should yield a great crop!

The apples and plums and cherries are not having a good year. We have very very little fruit. Too cool a Spring, then too wet and now dry hot weather. We have been watering to save them. The little bit of fruit we had is not in very good shape.  I guess, it's next year country!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mother Nature's Bounty

6 AM and I was out picking beans and peas before the heat of the day. The yellow beans were ready as well as the green...purple beans are a bit later. A few of the peas were ready and so we picked those too. The surprise was the potatoes as we haven't had much rain and haven't had time to hill the I thought I was just going to check to see if there were small potatoes near the top that needed picking. Lo and behold I had good sized potatoes ready to pick! Lunch today consisted of potato/onion packages on the BBQ with steamed green beans and fresh peas. You just can't beat that. This is one of the main reasons I garden...good food cooked simply.
We also ended up picking potato bugs off the plants. Tonight, when there is no longer a breeze, all the potato plants will be treated. Hungry baby potato bugs can eat a potato plant in short order if they are not taken care of.
The heat has literally made the squash and corn explode over night. There's no more room in the garden even to walk in some places! This year I just have an incredible garden!
 My first baby cuke. He's about an inch and a half long. My cucumbers had a rough start. First of all, I planted 5 different kinds of seed. None came up...probably too cold and wet OR wire worms got the seeds. Planted a second time when it was warmer and they came up really well. In the mean time I planted two greenhouse cucumber plants and the wind decided to beat them silly. So between the seeded plants and transplanted plants, there's not much difference. I find when I seed them myself straight into the garden, that they grow a lot better than the hot house transplants. 

So far, this year, my garden is growing beyond my expectations. Way better than last year!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Making Freezer Jam

It's amazing how quickly one forgets how to make freezer jam when one hasn't made any for a few years. I took out my box of pectins and concoctions ready to make jam. My liquid pectin had turned to gel and was unusable and then I came across an envelope of powder pectin made by Club House for reduced sugar freezer jam. I made a batch of that one I remember how good home made jam tastes! With one and a half gallons of raspberries, I made one full sugar batch and one reduced sugar batch. I had a partial jar from one batch and that one went directly into the refrigerator for tomorrow morning's breakfast! I did take most of the seeds out of the raspberries, hate it when it gets stuck in dental work. With all the moves we've made, it's been a while since I made any homemade anything...I'm back on track now!

I'm hoping to make some freezer Strawberry jam also, with the lack of rain, I'm not getting large crops and the guys I live with, eat them all up. Which is fine, but I'd like enough just to make one batch of freezer jam! Just one! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Soooo much to pick and eat!

Fresh raspberries from my mom's garden, she brought me over a gallon. I picked a half a gallon this morning and if we get rain, well, let's just say I'm going to be freezing my fair share.

Saskatoons from my mom's tree in town. My trees are only three years old and so are just starting to produce. Tonight my son and I head out to pick more Saskatoons from my mom's tree in town.
Strawberries are quite nice this year, even though we haven't had much rain. I'm currently mulching my patch with coconut husks and then I'll be fertilizing with horse manure tea. They should almost be done producing for now and then they will rest and will produce until a hard frost. 

At this time of year, when the garden is so plentiful, it's hard to choose what to pick first. So much good organic food for the table. You just can't buy this stuff!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fresh broccoli!

Last year it was a bust for any of my cabbage family plants...just did not grow well at all. This year, the plants are crazy! Take broccoli for instance, I have huge heads and they grew over night almost!
I cut them off the plant and then soaked them in salt water for an hour to get those little cabbage butterfly worms that like to hang out in the heads. The plants had been dusted with rotenone (sp?) three days earlier and were safe to eat. Fresh with dip, they are delicious! I'll keep watering my plants as they will now only produce florets, which is OK because they will be produced until it freezes. Lots of broccoli for the freezer to make wonderful soups this winter!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

First broccoli of the season

One of the vegetables that I enjoy the most in my garden is fresh broccoli. Once the initial head has been picked, only florets will grow for the remainder of the season. That's OK because there is so much to eat out of the garden during the summer that all those little florets get blanched and frozen for winter soups. Broccoli has one disadvantage being the cabbage butterfly larva that can destroy any cabbage family plants in days if left unattended. As soon as I see those cute little cabbage butterflies fluttering around, I take the organic powder out and give all my plants a dusting. The only cabbage member that the larvae don't seem to like at all are the purple cabbage...I never powder them...for some reason the bugs don't like them. I usually soak the broccoli heads in salt water, weighed down by a plate to submerge them to drown any larvae hiding inside the head. Up here, starting cabbages from seed outdoors is a bit pointless as our growing season is so short. The easiest way is to purchase the bedding plants at the greenhouse and set them out in the garden. Otherwise the cabbage heads are too small. The cabbage family is tolerant of cool temperatures so one can set them out really early in the season. If the cabbages don't get enough water, it will show up as dry heads...meaning the cabbage isn't very juicy. Napa cabbage grows very well up here if you buy the bedding plants. This year, my greenhouse did not carry them. Napa cabbage is used in egg rolls and just makes them tastier in my opinion. There's always next year!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Colorado Potato Beetle....Gotcha!

I've been on the lookout for these guys because if you let them get out of hand, they can destroy your potato crop and tomato crop and eggplant crop. The Colorado Potato Beetle female can lay up to 800 eggs under the leaves of the plant it's attacking. You'll know that you have babies if you see little orange bugs with black spots going down both sides of their bodies. They are very prolific because they easily develop insecticide resistance. They're smart too, if you're picking them off the tops of the leaves in the morning. To get away, they immediately drop off the plant so you can't find them and then crawl back up to eat some more. So if you're picking them, you have to make sure you have a container under the leaves to catch them. My grandfather use to have a jar with gas at the bottom and use to pick them and drop them in the gas. Instant dead. When my potato bugs get out of control, I buy an organic but bug deadly powder that I dust on the potato plants. It's made out of rotenone and works really really well. I have so many potatoes that if I do have an infestation, I buy the stuff by the gallon. It doesn't take long before they are eradicated!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

There's Just Somthing about spending time in the garden...

After a long day at work, I retreated to the garden to water last night. Even though there have been lots of storms around us with all kinds of rain, we've been missed so far and spared the ugly stuff like hail. So I was out watering for several hours and weeding in between moving my hose. It was just so peaceful and the air smelled so fresh and my plants were all smiling...yes smiling! The heat has made them double and triple in size in a very short time. I added the last of the soil for my potato barrels last night. So now, all they have to do is flower and produce. My son picked a nice bowl of strawberries. I have lettuce coming out of my ying yang and it is sooooo good. The everlasting spinach is ready...I just have to wash it and it's ready to steam. There was a slight breeze and the skeeters stayed away until the sun started to I put my Off skeeter machine on my belt and started the fan...a couple of minutes later...they were all gone and I finished watering in peace. I'm hoping for a good rain soon, we need it. Garden angels please keep the hail away from my plants!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Yes you can grow grapes in Saskatchewan!

I took this photo on the weekend, these are my jelly grapes growing on the South side of the house. They are planted and mulched and watered occasionally. They love it there!
These are grapes I grew at our old farm. The plants were well established and I picked enough off of two plants to make several batches of the best grape jelly I've ever eaten! I did move my old vines to the new place but the neighbor's dog dug up all the plants that I transplanted that fall and summer. So I started again and planted Beta and Foch grapes one more time. I did add other varieties but those grow the best for me in my climate. The jelly made from these grapes are so flavorful and the jelly is more like a really thick syrup. Just thinking about that jelly makes my mouth water. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Love my Roses

The photograph does not do justice to this dark salmon colored rose, it is truly exquisite.

Hot pink roses that bloom profusely.

Delicate pink blossoms that just bloom forever.

Not sure what this one is, was suppose to be a red climbing rose...this is what I got. Tiny flowers, love 'em!

Nothing as beautiful as a rose bud. There are no yellow roses as I lost them all this winter. Starting again, none have flowered just as yet.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Peak into my garden

Bought these red prairie lilies at Wally World last year. The plant had one stalk on it and was a bit on the ragged side. This year it came up beautifully with lots of blooms. This particular plant is in my front flower bed (mulched) on the South side of the house. I can't believe the change from a year ago. I'm really happy with my choice!

I grew up on this lettuce and continue to grow it every year. It's called Prizehead leaf lettuce and it tastes amazing. Of course growing up on the farm, this lettuce was served with farm fresh cream and a bit of salt. It grows well and once cut will grow back a couple of times. I have seeded more a couple of weeks later to keep us in lettuce for the summer. I'm about to put my third row in for the fall.

This is one of my cabbages that I bought from the local green house, it's a later season variety and I've added marigolds to the bed to help discourage the cabbage butterfly and the canola beetle. So far no signs of either! Knock on wood!

Here are my peas growing up to attach themselves to the twine that I've strung between two metal posts. Peas don't need a lot of moisture to flourish. I'm hoping by providing support that they will continue to grow up and continue flowering to the end of the season. We shall see if they do!
My potatoes are in flower. Once the flowers dry up, then three weeks later, I should be able to steal some new potatoes from the plants to eat fresh! Mmmmmm can taste them already!