Friday, June 29, 2012

Green Bean Galore

We were late on staking up our green beans so they got a little woolly. Saturday evening I was about to complain about their messiness to Ashley when I discovered tons of beans ready for picking. Since then I have picked 3 gallon buckets of green beans. They may not be trained to their fences but they're doing a great job producing!

The red wagon, useful again as a place to clean beans (and other vegetables).

I am picking our beans when they are still young and tender because we like to eat them steamed and then sauteed with garlic. I am going to attempt to freeze a few to see how they do. I never like frozen green beans but I'll give these a try. If they turn out, we can do more next year. My mama always cans her beans but I don't have a pressure canner and am not willing to go through that effort this year. 

This was the first harvest of beans. I cooked them at Ashley's sister's house for Sunday supper. Yummy!

How do you like your green beans? Any luck/experience with freezing them?

Putting Up Corn

As I type this blog I'm waiting on our new chest freezer (GE, 7 cubic ft, $169 from Home Depot) to be delivered. Just in time, too, because I maxed out our kitchen fridge's freezer by putting up some corn this week following the instructions in my trust Blue Book.

Clean the corn, blanch it for 5 minutes, then plunge into ice water for 5 minutes.

Ashley joined me in the kitchen for this effort. He's a great kernel remover. I remember seeing this method of using a bundt pan to catch kernels a few years ago. Finally had a chance to try it this summer and it works great!

Because we don't eat huge bowls of corn at our house (I usually add it to a dish, such as succotash), we opted to fill small snack-sized Ziploc bags and then place groups of those in gallon freezer bags. 

Yum...looking forward to using this this winter! Ashley wanted me to own up to my not always cheerful attitude with doing things with our garden bounty. Although I usually am full of energy, this pregnancy is taxing my liveliness, especially by the end of the day. We have approximately 6 more weeks before we'll meet our newest little boy--just enough time to take care of most of the garden harvest, I hope (especially with Ashley's help!).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Haulin' in the corn!

Yesterday we had a big haul from the garden: Our first crop of corn was ready for picking! The boys helped by using their dump truck and wagon.

We planted bi-color corn and it did really well. The damage from worms/bugs was minimal and the kernels formed perfectly. 

And it tastes delicious, even freshly picked. Ashley and the boys munched on several ears while picking. 

You can't beat the Radio Flyer wagon. I had one growing up and it's still going strong. My parents gave the boys their own for Christmas and we use this wagon almost every day!

Yesterday's haul, stacked on the steps. We shucked off the outer husks because we won't be storing the corn long. 

Speaking of storing...we'll give a good bit of corn away (yesterday we gave 16 ears to friends) and eat some this week so for now Ashley hauled the corn over to our other crawlspace and it's laying there in the cool. We have to make do until we get a freezer. When we built this house, I planned to have my laundry machines in the laundry room with a second refrigerator; however, the laundry room isn't as big as I thought (or rather, fridges take up more depth than I realized). So now I'm in the market for a chest freezer.

Our favorite way to enjoy corn is quick-steamed on the cob. Last week I threw some leftover corn into the skillet when I was sauteing zucchini and that was delicious, too!

Friday, June 22, 2012

In a Pickle

Two years ago my great uncle Zelotese gave me a grocery sack full of pickling cucumbers. I took them because I love cucumbers, not because I had any intentions of actually pickling them. Until I thought about it and drove to Walmart late one night to pick up my own canning supplies. And now I'm hooked on making pickles. And even though I'm proud of winning a blue ribbon at this past fall's SC State Fair for my dill pickles, what really makes me feel good is seeing my boys enjoy eating my pickles. Our families and friends love them, too. Being pregnant (I'm at 33 weeks now), however, has zapped a lot of my energy and I wasn't sure I was going to tackle pickling this summer or not. 

But our garden continues to produce about a gallon cucumbers a day and our refrigerator was getting made pickles!

Here's the garden harvest from Wednesday. 

In the past I've always canned after the boys are asleep (after 8 p.m.) but I knew I wasn't up for the process late at night this year so I had a babysitter come over and watch the boys this morning from 9-11:30 so I could be "in a pickle."

I tried a new recipe this year, from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving--Hamburger Dills. Kosher Dills have been my specialty in the past but I'm going the non-garlic route this year to try a new taste.

Ashley bought me this food scale a while back. Finally I know how many pickles it takes to make 4 lbs!

For the hamburger dills, I sliced all of the cucumbers. I need to purchase a mandoline to make this easier--but honestly, I like chopping and dicing!

Prepping my work station...

Jar #1 ready to process!

For my next batch, I tried the Better Homes and Gardens' Plaid Cookbook's Dill Pickle Recipe. I made spears and chips for these and some jars had fresh dill while others had dill seeds. 

I always make notes on my recipes, including dating when I first make something. 

14 pints of pickles ready to go! Last year I made twice that many but I don't know if I'll get around to more this year or not. I'd like to try bread and butter pickles but we'll just have to see how my energy holds up. 

I can't promise friends or family that I'll be sending jars of pickles home this year--you'll have to come visit to try these out (they'll be ready in a month). 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Do You See What I See?

The namesake of this blog and our homestead has finally arrived!

Tonight I picked the first okra from our garden. Whatever I make tomorrow for supper will feature a quarter of a piece of okra each for Ashley and I and the boys....or maybe another piece will be ready and then we can splurge and have half each. Soon enough we should have lots of okra to enjoy and freeze--but this first one is especially exciting!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Growing for the Goats

We're keeping the goats. I seriously thought about finding them another home (my in-laws) because I didn't enjoy being charged at, bucked with horns, etc. and neither did the boys (can't say I blame them...who likes to have their shirt nibbled on or arm nipped at?). The change of heart came when Ashley and I were able to spend more time with just Waylon and Ziggy while the boys were at my parents. We moved them out of the large dog pen to a pen in front of our house (under the trees). They quickly made work of the underbrush there so we decided to they needed a larger space. 

So this past Friday Ashley and one of his employees completely fenced in the area below our house using hog wire. Ziggy and Waylon will have lots of room to roam about. We'll probably have to protect our trees from them (any thoughts on this???) but for now, I'm just happy they have a bigger space. 

The garden is growing along well. We had a problem with squash borers and lost most of our squash plants. Ugh. We've replanted and hope get some more yellow squash later in the summer. You can't see it from this picture but our cucumber vines are struggling, too...they've turned yellow. We're not sure if they got too much water during the recent rain storms or if they don't like growing upright. We may need to plant a replacer crop on them as well so I will have enough for pickling. 

Ah but the it's doing great! 2-3 ears of corn per stalk. There's evidence that raccoons may be lurking about so Ashley will set a live animal trap soon to take care them. 

Back to the goats...since we decided to keep them and because we have no plans for breeding them, we decided to have them castrated to become wethers.  A guy came this past Thursday to take care of this. He used the "slit" method, which is apparently pretty common (they're too old for the "bands"). Aside from laying around the first day, Waylon (the smaller, grayish-brown goat) is doing pretty good. His incisions are healing nicely and he's enjoying the new pen. Ziggy, however, is not doing so well. 

Here he is laying down. His previous owner came by to help us with him on Friday--she's in school studying to be a vet tech. His wounds are larger and aren't healing very well. Ashley has been on the phone with Mike, the guy who came to work on the goats--including sending him a picture (I won't share here because it's not at all pleasant to look at) of what may be an infection. Mike will come by tomorrow and help us figure out what is going on. Right now, we continue to wash the wounds with alcohol and iodine. And we figured out that they both like to eat peaches :o)

Poor Ziggy, he's living in this great new large space and hasn't been able to enjoy it (the picture below shows what is now fenced in). 

On a separate note, blueberries are in. We really on get a handful a day (enough to top my cereal and for the boys to snack on)--but they're delicious and I can't wait until the bushes are larger and produce more! My cousin made ginger blueberry jam and it was yummy!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Starting the Summer Garden

The gardens I grew up with were mostly summer gardens. Yes, my parents planted lettuces and tried broccoli, but the garden memories that stand out to me (in fact, my first childhood memory is a gardening one--I'm with my mama in the garden, munching on Fruit Loops while she picks cucumbers...I was around 3 at the time)--are the gardens full of tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and squash. These are the gardens that say "summer is (almost) here!"

So now that we've completed a full year of gardens (summer, fall, winter, and spring), and we're back to seeing cucumbers, squash and zucchini again, I'm reminded again of all those summers I helped my parents weed and pick. This year Ashley and I are building on lessons learned from last year's summer garden, including not planting a ton of squash, planting more okra (glad we did that, more in a minute), and fencing our cucumbers. Have a look around....

This is the patch of garden that grew the spring's lettuces, spinach, carrots, and peas. Now we have purple-hulled pink-eyed peas (a new try for us), corn, and okra. Notice the mini drip lines around the peas. Ashley is planning to convert our garden to drip irrigation instead of the overhead sprayers we currently use. 

On the side where we used to have potatoes and broccoli, we have tomatoes (in wire cages we made this year), cucumbers, squash and zucchini, green beans, and corn, plus a few eggplants and peppers. 

I'm most excited about the cucumbers because they are hands-down my favorite vegetable to eat raw. LOVE them! 

And I'm really excited about this wire fence Ashley built for the cucumbers to run UP instead of taking over the garden. 

We plant pickling cucumbers because I think they taste the best and I can a lot of pickles!

Our squash is producing, too; however, a few of our plants were attacked by beetles and we lost those. 

The corn is growing well, as is this volunteer watermelon plant. We have a few of these volunteers in our corn, as well as in the woods in front of our house. It's crazy how determined watermelons are! Lucky for us because we all love their juicy red fruit!

The current garden layout, early June. 

A sample of our harvests this week--squash, zucchini, cucumbers and eggs (thanks, girls). 

And while I sliced up cucumbers to put in vinegar and oil, our always curious second son tried out the zucchini and cukes.  

He's a funny one, liked eating the cucumber whole (skin and all) --but when I offered it to him peeled, he said no thank you. So for him, it's either straight from the garden or a pickle (his preference). 

Speaking of our pickle eater, he "helped" earlier this week and pulled up half of our okra row--that was growing along so well and almost ready to start producing. Ashley planted another row and we reminded Mr. Gardener-in-Training to not pull anything unless we ask him to (remember, he was the reason we pulled the carrots early). 

All this said, we're looking forward to the summer growing season. I just finished reading Barbara Kingslover's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and loved learning about her family's experiment of eating only local food for a year (which mostly included what they grew themselves). We're not aiming to become complete locavores, but the book had tons of great tips. Learn more at