Sunday, July 31, 2011

Switching Gears

The time has almost come to switch gears for the fall. Some evening this week I'm going to pull out the peppers and the eggplant. Nothing in that bed seemed to do well this year. Not sure if I'm going to grow the eggplant again as I really don't like it very much. Peppers just seem to give me fits year after year. I've never gotten a bell pepper and this year the jalapenos are scarce as well. Thinking I may either try a location closer to the tomatoes or nix them altogether next year.

The second planting of beans is doing well, but this endless hot weather is taking a toll on everything else. I tried to get a trellis up for the beans this morning, but by 7:30 AM I was dripping sweat and the kids were clammoring for breakfast so I didn't make the progress I had hoped. Maybe I'll try again later.

It's almost time for me to get some of the fall crops in, but I'm thinking I may wait a few weeks longer than I usually do because of the heat. I can direct plant so that's not a problem, but if I go ahead and do it now, things may not go so well since September can still be pretty durn hot around here. I am going to try a row cover of sorts for my cabbage. Do y'all think a layer of tulle will keep the moths off?

On an incredibly positive note, I've never had a tomato year like this before! We've canned three batches of salsa, had some for fresh eating, dehydrating, giving away and now I've made the one batch of tomato-basil soup and have put away two more bags of tomatoes in the freezer for winter use AND I've got enough tomatoes to make a third bag. This is awesome!!

I broke out one of the pesto bags the other night and had an awesome dinner. I just love, love, love it!
Now...hold your breaths. I'm about to show you something you wouldn't believe if you didn't see it. Behold! For the first time in their lives we've experienced Lego Bliss!

When we visited Chicago, my aunt gave the girl her very own box of pink Legos. The boy graciously alotted her a small corner, a very small corner, of the dining room table for her very own and they played together quietly for quite some time. Just so you realize her fashion sense isn't just a fluke, the flannel footed pjamas and velvet princess dress on top in the middle of a GA July is her own doing.

Good news coming later today/tomorrow. Well, good news in my little world, anyway. It's been-done time, for this if you ask me.

The morning comes early...and it's more than welcome again. ;)

Sweet gardening dreams.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Watched Garden Never Grows

Or so the man said when we came back from our mini vacation yesterday when he spotted all of these tomatoes on the counter. We were only gone for four days and the tomatoes and beans went wild. I spent this morning peeling, seeding and freezing two batches of tomatoes for tomato basil soup. The soup was so good when I made it last week, but it really needs to get out of the high 90's to appreciate a good soup. Hopefully, freezing the toms won't hurt the texture of the soup too badly.
I've got a lot of blog reading to catch up on. We just got back from 4 days in Chicago. Four days certainly is not long enough to see all of the family and sights, but we managed to cram a lot in a short trip. This is just about the only marginally acceptable picture of the four of us. We had just gotten back from a day at the Museum of Science and Industry and I was wore slap out. The kids loved the museum, but they really need to update a lot of it. What they taut as progressive is about 10 yrs old or more by now. It's got to be so hard to keep a museum like that current.

The boy's favorite part of the vacation was the trip to the Lego Land Discovery Center. He planned the whole trip himself - we had no idea there even was a lego land there - and he kept that goofy grin the entire time. The girl is learning that you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick....well, I suppose you can when he's made out of Legos.
We also spent a morning at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The boy had a blast and the girl showed true and real fear at the bats. It was really rather funny how quickly she went from placid to sheer terror.

The kids got to jump on my cousin's trampoline which they loved. It's very, very old and not used very much anymore....

And they got filthy. I had to throw them in the tub at her house - there's no way they were getting in a white rental car. I was never so glad that she had a black bathtub so it didn't show the ring these kids left in it.

When we came back, the garden greeted me with her bounty and the mailman gifted me with the ribbon I have been waiting for!!!

Yes, my chicken ribbon for Keychains for a Cause came in!!!!

I'm totally doing the chicken dance. I love them!!! I'm thinking long and hard about switching out my UGA keychain for one of the chicken ones. They're so cute!

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More Crazy Talk - The What's For Dinner Edition

Well...dinner snuck up on me again. Funny how it keeps coming around at the same time day after day. When I went down to start it, the tomatoes on the counter stared back at me. This is by far my best tomato season ever. Granted, it's a small harvest in comparison to many of y'all's (can you really have two apostrophes in one word?), but it's huge to me. They've been slowly growing in number and I haven't been using them nearly fast enough. I've dehydrated some - which I TOTALLY recommend, cooked with others, but there was enough to make a fourth batch of salsa. - which was TOTALLY not going to happen. So, I decided to do something I've never done before with fresh tomatoes or even store bought tomatoes and certainly would never consider doing in the summer in Georgia. I made creamy tomato basil soup! Crazy Talk! I know!! and I'd do it again. It was amazing!!!

First I sauteed some carrots and red onion in olive oil for quite some time, then added garlic for the last minute.

Then I added the basil, chicken stock, tomatoes which since I don't have a food mill I had already peeled and deseeded before I chopped up, salt, tomato paste, pepper, and sugar and boiled for about 40 minutes.

Then came decision time. Since I don't have a food mill, I could easily have just left it at that, but it wouldn't have that blended consistancy, so I used a slotted spoon and got out as much of the chunky stuff as I could and ran it through my trusty blender.

I added the heavy cream and returned it to a boil to heat it back up.

It was just outstanding. I'm a huge fan of tomato soup and this is right up with the best I've tried. I thought the carrots and onion were a bit weird - red onion at that - but it was just fantastic.

Here's a link to the full recipe. I only used half of the sugar it recommended after reading the reviews.

Finally, I leave you with the visual proof of why the girl will not be applying her own make up any time soon.

The picture is rather one sided - you're missing the four hair lollies on the other side of her head and the three hanging off of the braid in back.

Granted - she is accessorizing, but imagine that heavy hand with electric blue eyeshadow.

The morning comes early. Sweet tomato soup dreams.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What the Buzz is All About

Whereas last year I didn't have any luck with fruit, this year I tried again and I have one lowley cantaloupe on the vine...however...
There's also a cut in the stem - bad picture I know. It's not deep, but deep enough that I don't know if the plant is going to make it. We'll see. Regardless, next year I need to get the fruit in a place that gets a lot of sun. Thinking about the side yard for next year.

The asparagus beans have turned into a jumble of a mess! They've flopped over the back of the trellis and are just going nuts! I've pulled a handfull of beans, but nothing major. Good thing it only takes two or three to make a dish out of, although I've learned they don't store very well on the counter or fridge. Not even for just a few hours. They get limp and floppy. I need to harvest them right before I need them for the best results.

Here's the tomato harvest today as shown in my handy-dandy, fancy pants tomato basket.

I've got another batch of tomatoes going in the dehydrator now. Sure beats them going rotten on the counter. I don't have enough at any one time for sauce, but I'm not eager to make another batch of salsa. Dehydrating for snacking seems to be the way to go with these since the neighbors are already saying no to taking more tomatoes.

I've lost the little honey bees, haven't seen one of those in ages, but these bumble bees are working all day long. They're power houses!

Other than that, we had about 4 days of very mild weather. Very mild - almost disturbingly so. We got a lot done in the garden and the peppers just bloomed out of control. Hopefully they'll produce something - besides a few tiny jalapenos, I haven't gotten any peppers worth mentioning this year.

The new bee ribbon just came in for the keychains! It's a thinner ribbon for the thinner webbing. I like it a lot. Still can't wait for the chicken ribbon. That's when I'll be doing my happy dance.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fun With Pictures

I remember thinking it was just ridiculous when Mom pulled out of a garbage bag in the basement all of my old dressesthat she saved from when I was a kid. Especially since, at the time, I was pregnant with the boy and knew he was a...well...he.

I have to hand it to her. She was on to something. It's been fun watching the girl dress up in clothes that I once wore, especially when we can get pictures like these:

MAN! Did my Holly Hobby lunch box rock or what!? Although the skirt length sure wouldn't meet dress code, Ma. What were you thinking about sending me out in a dress that short. At least it was set off by some stellar knee socks and Buster Brown shoes.

My favorite, to be sure, is a dress the girl wore that used to be my mother's. I need to hunt down a picture of Mom in that dress and do a side by side of that one!

Sorry for two posts in one day, but this was too much fun not to share. The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

A Whole Lot of Gardening Going On

So much to report this week! Last week I made the third batch of salsa solely from the tomatoes and peppers in the garden. Yes, I did have to buy onions from the store, but that's minimal in comparison to all the other years where I've had to buy the tomatoes as well! Now I've got 21 cans...that should last, but....I've got more tomatoes ripening on the counter!
I also put all of those cherry tomatoes in the dehydrator. Fantastic results!! I can't wait to use them in pastas and salads. How else can I use them?

I also tried to dehydrate some of my cucumbers. Yes, it, I'll most likely not do it again. Not so worth the time/effort. I think I'll just plant fewer cucumbers next year.

Here is the fallout from the winds the other night. Most of these tomatoes will ripen on the counter. I'm not sure about some of the cherry ones, but I'm playing the wait and see game with them.

The boy's beans have sprouted wonderfully. He's excited to watch them grow.

Today was an amazing day with low humidity and highs only in the mid-upper 80's by noon. We spent about two hours this morning cleaning up the garden. I pulled up all of the cucumbers as they're mostly bitter by now and I've already made two batches of pickles. Not much else to do with them now, so they're gone. In their place I planted some Kentucky Wonder beans. I'll throw up a trellis when they're ready. In the first 3x3 box with the flowers I put some more spacemaster cucumbers. We'll see what they do. No high hopes really, but hey, the box isn't just sitting there.

I also pulled out the Fortex beans that had really just tapped out with the Japanese beetles running all over them. I planted KW beans and the rest of the Fortex I had. Again, the trellis will go up in a few weeks.

Then, I must say I got an email last week that said, "Football, soccer, baseball, basketball, cheerleading, tennis? Where's the love for lacrosse?" Here it is, baby! I never would have known to have it on hand unless someone had asked.

I did order both chicken ribbons and the bee ribbon. I simply can't wait until I get those in. I'm crazy excited about them.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Give and Take

We had a fierce storm blow through here last night. It was a real toad-floater. We needed the rain. We really needed the rain. What we could have done without is the wind. It gave us the rain for sure, but it took the tomatoes. It's been a while since I've done a film, so here it is. I tried to upload it to youtube, but everytime I inserted the link, it shut down my browser window. Here's the URL for the youtube film if you need to see it that way.

Please note the awesome entry system to the pool. They'll start the deck the first of August, but until then, the ladder's pretty durn classy, but hey, it works!

School begins in two weeks for me, three for the kids, and I'm as ready as they come. I'm ready to go to the bathroom by myself without having to carry on conversations through the door. I put the smack-down when they kept coming in to interrupt my shower. The boy decided to improvise and slide a note under the door. He's entering second grade and his spelling/handwriting isn't the best, but you can get the gist of what he's asking. I hate the television. They're not going to sit around all summer glued to the T.V. It's likely good he sent the message this way because he knew I wouldn't let him anyway. Then, I noticed the writing on the back.... Get it? "Sign language" as in he made a sign.

Pretty punny, but no, they couldn't watch the movie. It's rainy today so maybe I'll surprise them with an afternoon movie if they play nicely today.

The morning comes early. Sweet signing dreams.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chickens and Bees!

Off topic for the garden blog...sort of, but I just purchased this bee ribbon for Keychains for a Cause! I just love it. IT should be coming in next week some time.

I'm driving myself nuts trying to find chicken ribbon. You'd think there'd be so much out there. I've found one that I totally love, but it ships from China...don't know if I'm so excited about that part, but I may just have to cave. Has anyone stumbled across any?

Found this:

But the price is rather impressive at $6.00 a yard.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Love/Hate Relationship

There's no need for this heat. None at all. There's no reason I should go tomato picking at 7:45 in the morning and come back in at 8:00 AM with my shirt soaked through and sweat pouring off of my face and into my eyes. No reason at all. It's no wonder our upstairs air conditioning froze over yesterday. It seems okay now, but according to the man (I wasn't home) the river it poured out from the attic when it defrosted was impressive.

Here's the haul I gathered this morning. Those Black Cherries are the most prolific tomato I've ever planted. I wish I got as many Yellow Pear.
I still have all of these Black Cherries left over from earlier this week. What in the world do I do with the cherry tomatoes besides just eating them as they are or putting them in salads. They're a bit small to blanche and freeze, but I don't know another way to keep them.
I don't like them very much because of the thick skin. Next year I think I'm going to try Sun Gold. My girlfriend is growing those and I like them a lot. Thinking of ripping out the Dragon beans soon and planting some more cucumbers as well.

My problem now is the Japanese beetles. When the blackberry bush was in full swing, they ignored my beans but now that the bush is dying back, they've found me. The Fortex may need to go as well. Good thing I still have time to replant for another fall crop! They tend to rust a bit more in the fall, but you've got to love this long growing season. Maybe I'll do Kentucky Wonder instead. and since I ripped out the squash and zucchini, the squash bugs are looking for purchase on anything they come across.

I also got out there and gave the sweet potatoes in pots a bit of a hair cut. The pots worked so well for me last year and I learned that if I trimmed the vines I got larger potatoes instea of scraggly ones. They obviously need water, though.

It should get a bit cooler this week - heat index only in the mid to upper 90's (Woohoo?), so maybe I'll get some of the replanting done then. Erin, you're right. This heat stinks even if the tomatoes love it.

The morning comes early. Sweet cherry tomato dreams.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fightin' Words and a Generally Uninspiring Dinner

I tried one of your tips last night and took the ends off of a cucumber and rubbed them on the cut ends until it foamed. This was supposed to take out the bitterness. I must say I hesitated even before I tried the cucumber after that. You just can't get rid of that bitter taste once it's in your mouth. However....It worked! Assuming the cucumber was bitter to begin with, but since a whole string of them were, I bet this one was as well. I was able to make a nice cherry tomato and cucumber salad for dinner.
The two picked yard long beans were the perfect sized serving for my children who eat like birds. The boy said they were the best he'd ever eaten, but the girl was generally uninspired by the whole affair. She was out cold.

Good thing she didn't see Big smack her in the face with his glove. Them's as close to fightin' words as a dog can get in this picture below. That's her coveted Rapunzel blankie he's on. He smartly positioned himself in front of the stairs, and when he saw her approach, he bailed like a ninja. She was none the wiser.

The boy decided to plant green beans in his box. I wish I could remember if the bush beans I planted earlier were the foremost or the contender. Whatever they were, they were fuzzy and I didn't like them one bit. The ones he planted were the foremost. Hopefully they'll turn out okay!

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Redecorating and Harvest Monday!

I was so amazed when the man with the bobcat did not even graze my boxes in the other corner yard when he came to dig out for the pool. However, I knew that the far left 3x3 box was just going to be too close for comfort. The man put down some railroad ties to edge the pool with this weekend and whereas it did not overlap the box, they sure did come close. Even without the ties, I still found myself walking up through the boxes to get to the other side of the pool. This wasn't going to work either way. The box had to go. The other corner yard is an odd duck. It gets relatively good sun in June and July, but not sun at all in the late fall through early spring. It's also so far away from the real corner yard that I need to use a different hose to water it. This year I used it for my herbs which worked out nicely, but that one left box was actually empty right now so removing it wasn't a problem.

I was so happy and surprised when the man picked up the box and said, "Where do you want it?" I thought for sure that I'd have to give it up since I've basically used all of the other remaining space and the man needed what was left to run his lawnmower through. I was so excited to get that box to the other yard to soak up some more sun. We wound up putting it between the two boxes I put in last year.

From this vantage point, it's a bit crooked, isn't it? Anyway, it will do very well here. The deck that's going to be built around the pool may cover the last foot or so of the long box on the right. I could slide it forward a bit, but that would mean emptying the dirt, and that's a big box, so I may just leave well enough alone and let the deck cover a foot or so.

The boy wants this to be his box. We'll go through the seed box this morning to see what we can find for him to plant.

I harvested my first two long beans today! Now I don't know what to do with them. Erin said stir fry, but I don't know for how long to cook them or do I need to boil them first? I'm so helpless. I have decided that the only cherry tomato I'll plant next year is the yellow pear. The chocolate cherries are beautiful, but the skin is very tough. I'm overrun with them right now. The bag on the chopping board is also filled with cherry tomatoes. The kids want to do a veggie stand with them and the cucumbers, but the last few cucumbers I've gotten were so bitter that I'm scared to put these out there for people to take home and get the shock of their lives. There's nothing worse than a bitter cucumber.

Yesterday I made and froze some more pesto. I accidentally left out the garlic, so I wrote it on the bags to remind myself I needed to add it when used. I was able to also make my second batch of salsa using only my own tomatoes - mostly brandywine and cherokee purple. This had me very, very excited as I usually have to use store tomatoes, but the price of store tomatoes hasn't gone down this year. The difference in taste in this salsa and the one from last year is amazing. It's deeper and richer. I'm very excited about it. Now my salsa shelf is stuffed full with 14 jars. It's very exciting.

I'm off to see what the boy wants to plant - other than corn. We'll really have to look at putting in some corn early next year.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Crazy Talk

Had to post this link - poor women is facing 93 days in jail for her garden. Granted it's in the front yard, but it's in well maintained raised beds.

Do any of you garden in your front yards? Do you get any harassment for it?

Catching Up

Anyone else around here go about their daily business, taking pictures to blog from and then go back and realize you've been side tracked and never used a single one? This is that day for me! I sat down to post two pictures of the asparagus beans and sure enough found picturures I never posted. So, let's catch up!

Here's my harvest from July 2. The tomatoes are really coming in well now! Those were the last two zucchini. I finally ripped all of the plants out. Most were so eaten by SVB that they just fell apart, leaving their stems in the ground, but I raked all of that up before I replanted.
Here's the harvest from July 3. All of the cucumbers are pretty much worthless now. They're all incredibly bitter. It doesn't matter how much they're watered, they're just nasty. Anyone know of a good cucumber that resists bitterness?

I had enough veggies laying around to make a tray for July 4. ;) When is there ever a lack of veggies around July 4! I love it.

This was my harvest yesterday. I'm starting to harvest the tomatoes when they show a hint of color. Every one that I've let go to maturity on the vine has somehow ran into problems, but all of the ones I've picked early are fantastic, so I'll stick to that game plan.

I replanted the squash and zucchini beds with tomatoes. I figured they're always a crowd pleaser and will have enough time to ripen before frost, or I can at least take the green ones and put them in newspaper in the basement until they ripen. For the first time and since adding the two new beds last year, I can say I have more plantable space than I need. That's a good thing to be able to say!

My first two asparagus beans are hopping right along. From this angle you can see the jumble that is the back side of that trellis. It's a mess!

On to garden dinners - see, I told you I was behind on pictures. A friend suggested we try stuffing the zucchini with onions and tomatoes and then melting cheese on it. I added salt, pepper and basil and it was wonderful!

Appetizers the other night consisted of jalapeno poppers. The boy and I had a great conversation about capsaicin that he keeps telling everyone he can about. See, gloves again. No only do I eventually learn my lesson, I learn it for more than one time. Most of the times, that is.

One good thing about the new pool is that it wears the kids slap out. I think this girl barely got her clothes on (and fancy clothes they are) before she fell out on the couch.

Still with me? I've been finding that several people have been finding my Keychains for a Cause site with searches for owl keychains. Who would have known? I have the white owl ribbon, but found this cute one on a black background to add some variety to the selection.

While picking that up, the girl nabbed three rolls of a shimmery ribbon. It's not glitter, but more of an astroturf. She, of course, made sure I got a pink and an aqua one as well. This one is really more green that it appears here. All of this will be up on the website later today.

If you've stuck with me, you're caught up! Tonight the kids are spending the night with my sister-in-law and I'm headded to see the man's band, Velvet City Mercy play.

The morning comes early. Rock on!

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