Thursday, October 1, 2015

End of season gardening sales

Just because it is autumn and cooling down it does not mean you should not be planning next year's garden.  Check out some of the online seed peddlers to pick up on some good discounts on this year's seeds.  Store them in a cool, dark place and you'll be good to go next year.  Especially tomatoes and peppers that take longer to go from seed to production and you'll need to start them flats in January or February.  Some online stores are even offering free shipping, so it is a good time to take advantage of the sales.

Short on cash, then sell something you're not using or have no use for if you have to, to take advantage of the end of year sales.  We've been trying to sell off some items just to squeak through to the end of the year.  The monthly insurance extortion payments are taking a good chunk of what is left of the finances.  I pay them in protest and curse them each time I sign the check over.  And please no suggestions to get a job... age discrimination is alive and well, which I am sure is result of the insurance companies (workman's comp).  What a racket.

Anyways, enough of the mini-rant.  The above is even more of a good reason to get up and start planning your outdoor gardens for next year.  Check out the online seed sellers and see what kind of savings you can get.  The cost of everything is only going to get higher (can't possibly be 'inflation', eh?) and that $2/head lettuce you purchased this week (from south of the border) will continue to jump in price.  Not to mention the recalls that have been going on for cucumbers grown there, too.   Grow your own.  Only you have you and your family's best interest in mind.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Another garden update

Just a quick check in.  We've had rain, frost, snow on the mountain tops and now back to 80-degree weather for the next several days.  Hope it pushes the peppers to ripen up.  Tomatoes doing well and have canned/frozen pints of juice.  Peppers have been pickled and at least another load to go. 

No pics of the activities since the camera went south (permanently).  The migrating waterfowl are also heading south but maybe not as permanently south as the camera. 

Scrambling to get the garden in shape for the winter and it is slow going since other 'projects' seem to pop up as fast as the weeds.  Still need to get the greenhouse in shape, too, for the sissy plants and the pepper plants that will get rudely evicted from the garden and go into the greenhouse to overwinter.  And I still need to get the dried beans off the plants and the plants pulled.  The kids have about half the beans shelled already.  Fairly good yields despite the heatwave that did a number on the garden.

This year I planted a short growing season corn called Yukon Chief.  It has a 55 day growing period.  I was a little pessimistic on the results when I was pulling the plants out but overall I was pleasantly surprised.  The ears came into silk when we had high heat and lots of wind.  Though the ears were pretty small there were lots of kernels per ear.  I did not plan on eating any of the corn from this plot this year.  It was simply to grow it to increase seed for planting next year.  It performed way beyond expectations.  Next year will be to see how well it tastes or if it is destined to be chicken food.

  Another surprise planting was with a squash called Burgess Butternut Squash.  85-100 days.  About 4-5 squash on each plant.  I planted 3 to see how well they would do and they did very well on very little water.  Next to see how good they taste and how long they keep.

As a side note, if you are looking for a nice tasting squash with lovely orange flesh and an excellent keeper grow Waltham Butternut squash.  I still have some left over from last year and though they have lost a little in weight/volume they still have kept their flavor.  And none rotted! 

Well, better get a move on.  Burning the midnight oil and need to get some shut eye.  Chickens are still in their molting adventures and the teenage turkeys have been put in 'jail' for their misdeeds.  More on that for another time.

Keep on, keeping on.... winter will be here sooner than you think and the storm clouds are a brewin'.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

It's that time of year, again..... MOLT!

The molt is on.  The coop, yard, pens and runs are starting to look like something horrible has happened.  I posted last year about it here about the adventures of molting the poor girls go through.  The goose isn't quite as dramatic as the chickens but the telltale signs of feathers in her cage indicate she is molting.

This cockerel below is missing his tail feathers.  All that is left is a short spiky stub.  He will have to wait a few weeks or more until it grows completely back.

This (Heritage) Rhode Island Red hen doesn't have her deep mahogany red feathers and appears as a muted common hatchery Red. 

This is what she should look like....

And some hens have very dramatic molts.

Some, not so dramatic.

But, generally, they will look pretty horrible for a couple of months until they regenerate all their plumage.

Just another sign that summer is about over.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Knee deep in harvest

Finally, a day that is not hot and smoky. The smoke has been strong and persistent.  It appears that most of the state has been under poor air quality warnings from the fires here and across the border.   For the past few weeks we have not been able to see the mountains because of the smoke.  And it has been hard to stay outside too long before your eyes and nose start to burn from it.  I hope and pray that the fires will be put out soon and all that are involved are kept safe.  Today a storm is rolling through but has delivered more wind than rain.  When it does rain, it downpours and is accompanied with thunder and lightening.  Just what we don't need.... more lightening strikes.  A restless night, it will be.

Sauerkraut has been canned and now working on a small batch of fermented pickles.  Day 3 and so far, so good.  Has some good bubbles and smells pretty good.  The jalapeƱos and yellow banana peppers have been pickled and canned.  I have at least another canner full of each and will can them after the storms pass.  Hopefully, the wind won't knock too many off.  They seem to be the only two varieties of peppers that are doing really well at this time.  The others  (Kimchee, Red Pimento and Ancho) are kind of struggling but if they don't freeze with the forecasted cold front, I should be able to harvest what is on them in a few more weeks.  If the reports are true about the cold weather I will have to cover them up, along with the tomatoes, and hope for the best.

Made up some Hamburger Dills and used a nifty little canner that doesn't take a whole lot of water to heat up and quick cleaning up.  I had never heard of one and I was loaned this one by the wife of the son whose parents used to own the homestead. It is nice to use.

It is called an Ideal Fruit Canner and it uses steam to process fruits, jams, jellies or pickles.  NOT TO BE USED FOR CANNING MEATS OR VEGETABLES.


Harvested two Collective Farm Woman melon.  Very sweet but they did not grow very large.  I think because they just didn't get enough water.  The casaba melons are doing well, though.  I will replant both next year and see if the Collective Farm Woman melon does better in a different location of the garden.

Squash bugs have worked over a couple of pumpkins.  So far, they are only in one spot so hopefully I have gained control of them and they won't spread to any of the other ones.  I have an organic spray that worked wonders on the spider mites I had in the greenhouse late fall last year. 

Another surprise was with the pea seeds.  I had a bag full, inspected and had quite a surprise inside.... BUGS!  Some kind of flying weevil/beetle that had bored through most of the seed.  Even the ones out in the greenhouse had been damaged.  So now I have to find the ones I saved for soup!  I hope it hasn't met the same fate.  Maybe I should have froze the bag first before storage.  I don't know.  Never had problems with bugs in saved seed.  If I had been relying on the seed for next year it would have been a complete failure.

No blooms on any of the citrus trees this year but I believe that is due to them getting zinged pretty hard by cold temps in the greenhouse over the winter.  They lost all their leaves but recovered really well.  Just no blooms this year, so no fruit.

The rest of the potatoes need to be harvested and sorted.  Lots of potatoes but a lot of them are small.  About half-dollar sized.  So the small ones will be tossed in a bucket and I'll cook them up for the chickens and turkeys over the winter when they can't get out and forage.  I'll also sort out some to plant for next year.

Some new additions to the homestead are Bourbon Red turkeys. They are very curious and, well, weird.  Someone is always on 'broom duty' to shoo them out or off of something.   But they are good foragers and clean up scraps pretty good.  Better than chickens, but they are still kind of goofy.

The weather appears to be about a month ahead of 'normal'.  Some of the trees in town have started to change color.  Maybe we'll have an autumn this go around unlike last year when the snow came before the leaves dropped off the trees.

Autumn will be here soon, things need to be prepped and fall vegetables need to be planted.  Wood needs to be sorted in the wood shed and a trip is planned to get a load of logs to add to the mix of wood.  It sure doesn't seem like there is enough time (or funds) to get everything done that we need to do.  But a blessing in the mess is the rain that is pounding on the roof, thank God for that wonderful gift! 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

This & That

Why does it always seem to heat up when you have to do a boat load of canning to do??  No air conditioning so I have to do one batch a day.  I'll be lucky if I get done by December at this rate.  Some day an outdoor kitchen will be in the works.  But the weatherguessers say it will cool off.  Now if only the smoke will abate, too.

The weather actually lessened up a bit a week ago then another round of monsoonal moisture came up from the south and with it fire weather warnings to the state.  And it has delivered as promised.  The southern part of the state is on fire.  We have had smoke-filled skies for nearly a week.  The neighboring state has sent some smoke and now the northern part of the state is getting their share of fires, too.  I read that there are evacuations are in effect and some homes have been damaged or destroyed.  With all the monsoonal storms that blow up from the south give us high humidity (don't get much rain with them anyways) and temperatures pop over 95F degrees.  And we get lots of lightening which in turns burns up landscape.

The low humidity/high temperatures are not good conditions when you are trying to hatch out chicks under a poor ol' broody hen whom we allowed to set on a batch of eggs.  August is usually the hot month and even if it did get hot in July, that the temperatures would be combined with the humidity.  That just did not occur.  Four hatched normally, 4 needed assistance (they pipped the shell but the membranes were so dried out that the poor things were literally being shrink-wrapped inside their shells), 2 died while hatching (weak chicks) and 4 died in the shell.  The lack of humidity appears to be the blame for the poor incubation.  We lit up the incubator near the end when we were seeing the shrink-wrapped chicks to increase humidity to help them hatch.  Out of the two that hatched in the incubator (with assistance), one is a little on the small side but she is doing much better today.  Both have now been put out with the other chicks.  The one chick we'll still keep an eye on her since she is a little slower than the rest (in growth) but she is active and eating/drinking. That is a plus but you never know with nature.

Well, best get onto my 'projects'.... I did get the corn cut and processed in the pressure canner, sliced the jalapenos for pickling (they needed to sit overnight),  but didn't get the yellow pear tomatoes scalded and peeled for jam and only the laundry was done.  And who knows what other unforeseen project(s) will pop up, disrupting the 'schedule'. 

Below is a photo 'log' of the projects at the ol' homestead.... stay cool, and don't forget to keep an eye out for those end of season seed sales!!!  And all the canning supplies sales that are going on, too!

"Go away... it's nap time"

Tomato patch


Last of the potatoes and corn

Rattlesnake pole beans in the corn

Corn stalks bent by wind

Pumpkin hiding in the corn
Morning harvest

Morning glory in the pumpkin patch

cherry and yellow pear tomatoes... make a pretty salad by themselves!


corn waiting to be cut for canning

Friday, August 7, 2015

Cabbage and bacon recipe

Couldn't find my picture of the dish but the title says it all.... hope you enjoy it.

Cabbage and Bacon

3 pounds cabbage - cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes or you can slice thin
1/2 to 1 pound of hickory smoked bacon, chopped/diced
1 tablespoon honey (or sugar)
1 tablespoon salt ****  (if the bacon you use is really salty, you can omit the salt completely or use less according to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Cook bacon in 10 qt Dutch oven pot over medium heat.  Remove bacon when crispy.  DO NOT EMPTY DRIPPINGS - there should be about a 1/4 - 1/2 cup of drippings in pot (add a little oil, if needed).  Add cabbage into the pot with the drippings and cook without stirring until it browns, about 3-5 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients, stir to combine and cook until cabbage is tender.  Approximately 20 minutes.  Add the cooked bacon and stir.  Serve.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Mid-season garden assessment

After a few days of 100+ degree days, today gave a bit of relief and in a day or two will drop back into a more reasonable temperature range of around 90.  Hard to believe about a week ago some of the mountain regions had frost.

With parts of the garden being harvested now is a good time to assess the garden's success or failure at this point in time.  The corn did not do as well as last year and I can only guess that it was because when it went to tassel we had some crazy storms that went through that brought a combination of extreme heat and high winds that it affected pollination.  There are some stalks that are bent over from wind damage, too.  So not many ears of corn this year.  Too late to plant another crop but that is okay because we do not eat a lot of corn.
Peppers are not doing as well as I had hoped but I do have peppers on them.  They are mostly of the hot variety but they are plugging along.  They did start to grow pretty good upon transplant but those few days of cool night temperatures may after transplant may have affected them in their growth.  A lady in town has the same problem - small plants with small fruits but her friend who lives on the hill has good sized plants with nice peppers that set.  So go figure.
Like I stated before, gardening is a crap shoot!  I'll just dig out the peppers later in the season and overwinter them so they can be transplanted next year.  Sometimes peppers will do better their second year, anyways.

Tomatoes are starting to take off so will be canning and freezing them soon.  The cherry tomatoes have really taken off.  The yellow pears were a little behind but they are giving the cherry tomatoes a run for their money.  I staggered the transplanting of the larger varieties to see if I could control the harvest time a bit only so we're not overwhelmed with canning and freezing.  So far, so good.  I just hope we don't get an early autumn.

Beans, well, they got zinged by the heat wave earlier and despite regular waterings did not recover as well as during last year's month-long, 100-degree plus heat wave.  They are the Blue Lake variety and have done really well in the past, even in the heat.  The wax beans did not like the heat either and performed okay.  Seeds have been saved and some replanted because they grow fast and I should get a few more harvests in before the season's end.  The only thing I did differently was that I used inoculant on the seeds.  I did a test plot of inoculated seeds and non-inoculated ones, so we'll see if that was the issue or something else (like the need for more compost?).

Carrots are doing great with the exception of the small part of the patch that is showing rot.  Water sits there and is affecting one part of them.  Next year they won't be planted near corn or beans.  The potatoes are ready to harvest.  Lots of potatoes but on the small side of things.  I think every single seed potato I planted grew.  The really small ones will get cooked up for the chickens and I'll save some decent sized ones for next year.

Squash and pumpkins are happy, as are the bees who LOVE the blossoms. There are even a couple of pumpkin plants dying off and the pumpkins will be harvested.  Did run across some squash bugs so will have to get the poultry netting out and around the tomatoes since it appears I'm going to have to employ some hens.  None of the melons are ready yet so will have to wait a couple weeks for them.

The dill is just about done with so will harvest the patch and dry it for later use.  I don't know what variety it is but it's from saved seed that I got from a lady in town last year and it did very well.

Cucumbers are starting to produce so will be pickling an a couple of weeks.  One variety is not doing well (Russian Pickler) so if it doesn't perform it won't be in the garden next year.  It appears that only the hybrid cukes are going to save the day.  I'll have to do some research for a good heirloom pickler and salad cuke.

onion (weed) patch
Lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli were a bust this spring.  I will plant a fall crop of lettuce so hopefully it will go better than the spring crop.  This is the first time I have planted mangels (like a giant beet).  They have struggled but that was from inconsistent waterings since my 'assistants' did not know they were planted and skipped watering them for about a week.  What did pop up is now competing with the weeds that went crazy during the last heat wave and the lack of my attention due to it being focused elsewhere on the ranch. The onions are buried in weeds, too.  But, I must admit, I don't pull all the weeds like clover or the 'volunteer' tomatoes, buckwheat or tomatillos since the bees really like those blossoms... unless they are competing with another plant.  Then they will get pulled.

Cabbage.... well, got a crock of sauerkraut started and have already feasted on a few (cooked with bacon, of course).  Still have several smaller heads and to prevent them from getting damaged by this latest bout of extreme heat I covered the heads with some of the large leaves from the harvested cabbage.  My mom said when she was a kid that Grandma used to cover them with old rags to keep the heads from getting sunburned.  Hope the leaves will work the same.

The little barley patch has been harvested and most of the heads cut and stored in a bag.  Grasshoppers decided that the grains were delicious so had to get the patch cut before the insects had a grand feast.  Once I can get the poultry netting up around the tomato patch a (supervised) gang of hungry hens are going to be sent into the garden, but if it heats up again they will seek shelter in the tomato patch and that would be another set of problems.  Hens + ripe tomatoes = bad hens (with their crops full of tomatoes!)

This year's weather seems to be about a month ahead of 'normal'.  We don't usually see a lot of praying mantis or grasshoppers until around the end of August.  And I've already seen a woolly bear caterpillar.  It will be interesting to see if the hummingbirds disappear soon, too, since they usually leave around the first week of September.

If you planted gardens or container gardens, now is a good time to assess your mid-season successes/failures since it is time to get those fall gardens ready and going.  The first frosts will be here before you know.

Minnie... wanting some attention