Thursday, August 20, 2009

Peck of Pickled Patty Pan

We were given a sack full of cucumbers from a friend's garden. We ate a few and I pickled the rest. Since I had a huge batch of pickling solution mixed up I went ahead and pickled the patty pan squash from my MIL's garden too.

I first peeled, seeded and sliced the squash in 1/4 inch slices.

I found it easiest to halve them, then scoop out the seeds, then peel with a veggie peeler. The skins could possibly have stayed on, but sometimes they are thick and I did not want them to ruin the pickles.

The slices were then placed in a big bowl with 1/3 cup of canning salt, and crushed ice. The salt helps to draw out the moisture through the process of osmosis. Basic idea behind osmosis is that nature wants all solutions to be of even salinity, so the salty water pulls the not-salty water out of the veggies. After a 1 hour soak the veggies were nice and salty. I'm not sure what function the ice served except to keep the mixture very cold.

I mixed up the pickling solution (apple cider vinegar, sugar, dill seed, celery seed)according to the recipe in my cook book. The mixture was heated on the stove until the sugar melted.

The veggies were added to the pickling solution and heated through (I kept the cucs and the squash in separate batches). The pickles were then ladled into sterilized jars, then processed for ? minutes.

We have no 'real' canning equipment yet. So we used our Aggie ingenuity to make do with what we could find. I used silicon baking mit to handle the jars, a stew pot as a canner.

spaghetti tongs to lower them into the water

I put a toaster oven rack on the bottom of the pot to keep the jars from touching the bottom of the pan.

We put towels over the jars to keep them from cooling too quickly and possibly breaking. I'm not sure how anything could cool off in my kitchen, it gets very hot in there during summer evenings.

Ahh, pickles! We made a mistake and put juice and veggies in all at once for the cucumbers (on the right of the picture). The squash we used a slotted spoon and filled the jar to the brim before adding the juice. Much better.

Of the 9 jars we processed only 2 did not seal properly, which is fine by me because I have the excuse to taste the product early. I am very pleased with the squash pickles, the texture is a bit mealier than a cucumber, but overall it is a very nice texture. I"m afraid my vinegar was a little old, so they all have a strong vinegar smell to them, but I'm learning to like that. I craved vinegar during my last pregnancy. I would make up batches of pickles then eat them all before hubby even got home. The funniest part was that people teased me that I was pregnant, and I was, but I just did not know it at the time.

Beans up

Despite not getting any water, the beans I planted on 8/9 are already coming up. I planted a mix of three varieties of bush bean. One is up before the others, from the color of the stem, I"m guessing it is the purple bean.

My fall tomatoes and eggplant have been a real disappointment. Despite daily light watering, the tomatoes are barely growing and look puny. The eggplant has been attacked by something and the leaves have a lacy appearance. Too bad.

The cucumber I planted is totally gone. Something snipped the stem in half, it wilted, then by the next morning the whole plant had been eaten or carried away. Too bad.

The okra and peppers are growing great. They thrive in this heat. Also the Swiss chard looks very good. I may start harvesting again soon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Babies in the Garden

No, not pictures of my kids again... I met two new babies in the garden this weekend (August 8th/9th).

Meet 'Baby Green Anole" I'm not sure when he was born, but boy oh boy is he ever cute! He cannot be more than just a few days old. He was small enough to fit inside a drinking straw (no, I did not try it). He was very shy, even more so than the adult anoles that frequent the garden.

Follow the brown leaf down to near the base and you can see the little cutie's head.

Here he is out in the open.

The second new addition was discovered at the SAME TIME as the baby anole. Meet 'baby fence lizard".

He lives on the arbor and I have seen him each time I have gone to the garden since our first meeting. Baby Anole has been hiding.

The first day I saw them both, they happened to run to the arbor at the same time and I was able to get a picture of them together.

Baby fence lizard is at the center of the frame and baby anole is on the gate in the upper right of the frame.

Welcome new babies! I love it when nature is happy in my garden.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

2009 Spring/Summer Harvest log

Here is the 2009 spring/summer harvest log from our garden. I had been picking since early April, but did not pull out the scale until June 2nd. Oh well, 85lbs is not too bad, but I was hoping for more than my body weight. Maybe I can still reach that goal if the fall garden does well.

the formatting is a mess, I'll have to work on how to post a chart neatly in blogger.

Harvest Log
date items weight (lbs)
6/2/2009 squash, green beans 0.75
6/4/2009 green beans 0.1
6/5/2009 8ball squash, 2 big zucchini, green beans, onions 3.5
6/7/2009 very small potatoes 1.5
green beans 0.5
Kennebec White/Yukon Gold 4.5
Russet 8.25
Red lasoda 10.5
6/8/2009 sqaush, green beans 0.75
6/10/2009 caserta squash, green beans, 2 marconi peppers, bell pepper, tomatoes 1.1
6/12/2009 caserta, patty pan, 5 sweet 100 tomatoes, 1 round squash, 1 pepper 2.5
6/13/2009 1 better boy, 1 beefsteak 0.5
6/14/2009 2 roma, 1 little porter 0.1
6/15/2009 Roma, beefsteak, porter improved, chetrry, green beans 0.5
6/16/2009 zucchini, roma tomatoes 0.75
6/17/2009 patty pan, 4 roma, 1 porter improved, 2 small zucchini, 1 better boy 1.4
6/18/2009 3 roma, cherry tomatoes, 1 pepper 0.8
6/20/2009 1 black krim, 3 better boy, roma, cherry, beefsteak, 2.5
2 caserta, 1 zucchini, 1 yellow crookneck 2
2 cucumbers 0.4
potatoes, 4.1
onions, shallots 0.6
6/22/2009 tomatoes 1.5
6/23/2009 patty pan, peppers, cucumbers, better boy, black krim 3.2
6/25/2009 6 super fantastic, 1 better boy, 1 black krim, 2 roma, 2 zucchini, 2 round, 1 cocozelle, 3 cucumbers 7.5
6/26/2009 tomatoes 3
squash 7
cucumbers, peppers, okra 1
6/29/2009 black krim, beefsteak, super fantastic, 4.5
7/5/2009 tomatoes, squash, okra, beans 6
7/7/2009 rutgers tomatoes 1
7/9/2009 bitter cucumbers
7/15/2009 okra, cucumbers, rutgers tomatoes, beefsteak, roma 1.5
7/21/2009 patty pan squash, okra, peppers, tomatoes, 1 cherokee purple 2

Ever hear a tomato scream? Maceavelli comes to the garden

Just as planned this year, we decided on July 23rd to get ready for our fall garden. The hard part, the part it still makes me shudder to think about is that to plant a fall garden, we had to rip out the lovely spring garden I had just spent the last 5 months doting on. That is where the screaming tomato comes into it. Luckily for me, my hubby is heartless and ruthless and bloodthirsty (or is it sap thirsty?) and destructive and OH the horror of seeing my plants ripped from the ground. But it was all for a good cause. All of the old, woody, buggy, non-producing disease ridden plants were ripped up by that plant destroyer and once the dust had settled, I had three new sections of fresh soil to plant it. I'm sure I've botched the Greek history reference, but was it Machiavelli that said the end justifies the means? So in the end it was all clear for me to plant again.

After the destruction was done. I put the dead plants into the compost (and next to it, and behind it--there was a lot of dead plants) and then raked the old straw mulch into a big pile. The plan was to let the hot sun bake the garden for a few days in hopes that any bugs would leave before the new plants went in. Curtis took down the sun shade for me to accelerate the baking effect.

We let the garden sit for a week and on Sunday, August 9th, I shoveled, forked, hoed and raked the soil until it was loose. Despite it being miserably hot, it felt good to do physical labor in the garden again. All of my hard work paid off in a blister on my hand--interestingly enough, shaped like a perfect heart. Hubby said it was because "I heart gardening"...

Next step was to lay soaker hoses and re-do the watering systems in the fresh garden areas. I had purchaced three new tomato plants (Tim's Chery Tomato, ? and ? ), a Eureka cucumber, Fairy Tale Eggplant, two malabar spinach, and a packet of bush beans. The plants were placed in the south side bed (old potato area), the squash were planted in the west bed (old tomato area), the beans were planted in the north bed (old squash area) and the pepper and okra bed was left alone from the spring-hmmmm-- why is it that the only area that was not attacked by the plant destryoer was his own pepper plants? (this was planned ahead of time, the peppers look great and are still producing so they got to live through the attack).

I set up the 8 way octopus drip irragation system in the bed with the tomatoes and secured each of the 8 drip legs to the tomato cages and it hs been on a very slow drip since.

I ran a soaker hose in the bean and squash bed and planted directly under the soaker hose in hopes of maximizing the water usage.

Ahhh, fresh dirt!