Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gardens and Pests.

     We've entered into that time of year when the tomato plants have green tomatoes on them, the pumpkins and squash are growing, zucchini and green beans have already been harvested, and everything is coming along swimmingly. Oh, except for all those nasty pests! My zukes, pumpkins, and butternut squash have been plagued by vine borers. These monsters burrow into the vines of your plants and kill them from the inside out. I'm just praying the pumpkins and squash that have already set will survive. It looks like I'll be needing floating row covers next year to combat these insects. The Japanese beetles have decided that my Vermont Cranberry beans are way too good to pass up, so now I'm going to be out there everyday killing the darn things. This is one of the reasons people are wary of going organic. When you have a pest problem, you can't simply go out and spray. You need to prepare diligently for these things ahead of time (I should have put floating row covers out in the early summer) in order to manage the pests before they're actually a problem. Of course, I'd rather put in the extra work than ingest toxic pesticide residue.
     Despite these issues, the garden seems to be holding it's own. Enjoy the pics.
Roma Tomatoes

Vermont Cranberry Bean

New England Pie Pumpkin


Red Pear Cherry Tomato

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Freezing the Harvest

     I am exhausted. Maine is finally winding down from the heat wave that had our thermometers reading 101 degrees Fahrenheit, and I'm winding down from a very busy weekend. I started the weekend off with a second job (part-time), swimming at my mom's house, and then going to the drive-in to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, and Horrible Bosses. We finally got home around 1:30am Sunday morning.
     Today was busy with the usual Sunday things: dog walking, chicken coop cleaning, house cleaning, laundry, etc. I also had to shred and freeze a bunch of zucchini from the garden. I shredded about seven small to medium zucchinis, which filled a quart freezer bag. It'll be good to have for making zucchini bread later. I had three zukes left, so I used two to make zucchini fries and have one left over. The zucchini fries were tasty and I would recommend the recipe from That being said, I think I beat the egg whites too much so the breading clumped on the zukes instead of coating. They're good but won't be winning any food presentation awards.
Shredded Zucchini
     I also had a bunch of green beans ready to pick from the garden. Already eating the zucchini, I blanched the green beans and froze a quart. Blanching is easy, but involves quite a few bowls, a stock pot, and a colander so get ready to do some dishes. You can find blanching directions here.
Zucchini Fries with some un-breaded zucchini.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blueberry Oatmeal Bars and the Garden

     My mom and I picked a nice hot day to hike a mountain and pick blueberries. It sounds like a terrible idea, but it actually wasn't bad since there was a nice breeze up there. I always forget how long it takes to pick blueberries, particularly the small wild ones. I like to pick them clean (making sure there are no stems or leaves attached) before I put them in my container, which makes the cleaning process faster at home; just rinsing and a quick look over. These berries have so much more flavor than berries from the store and they're free, so the effort is worth it. I cleaned them as soon as I got home and then made blueberry oatmeal bars. I got the recipe from The Fat Free Vegan Kitchen blog. There are a ton of good recipes on this site for using up veggies. After the blueberry oat bars were done and the rinsed berries had dried a bit, I froze the rest of the berries whole, leaving a couple handfuls in the fridge for snacking. In the end, I froze one and a half quarts of whole berries to use later.
Blueberry Oatmeal Bars fresh out of the oven.
     Meanwhile, the garden is coming along nicely. I've picked a ton of peas (well, maybe not really a ton, but a lot). I have four pumpkins growing, as well as tiny green beans and Vermont cranberry beans. The cucumber plants are growing nicely, as are the tomato plants. The potted Roma tomato plants both have tomatoes already growing on them. The first site of small green tomatoes forming is so exciting. Finally, the herb pot is out of control. The basil is starting to flower even though I keep pinching off the tops, so tomorrow I'm going to try making pesto and freezing it in ice cube trays.

     The chickens are growing fast and I'm pretty sure I heard the maybe-rooster trying to crow yesterday. It was a pretty pathetic sound and he was doing it while hiding in a bush while the hens gathered around outside the bush looking in curiously. Apparently, he wants to practice unseen until he gets a good crow going. I can't wait till the hens start laying, but I still have to figure out what to do with this rooster.

This black chicken insists on sitting on the wheelbarrow when ever I bring it out.

Chickens found a shady spot on a sunny day.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Strawberries, Peas, and Chickens- Oh My!

     After about three years of missed PYO strawberries, I finally made it! I went to a local orchard with my mom and picked a flat of strawberries. She made jam because she's a lot braver than I am. I went the easy, and yet still delicious route, and mashed the berries with sugar to freeze in bags. I ended up with three and a half quarts frozen with enough left over for one bowl of berries to munch on in the fridge. I find mashing to be one of the easiest ways to preserve strawberries. I removed the stems and leaves, rinsed, cut the tops off, sliced in half, and then mashed the strawberries in a big pot (you could use a big bowl since no heat is needed). I mashed in batches until all berries were done, and then I added about 2 cups of sugar. I like them sweet but you can add as much sugar as fits your taste. After they were all mashed, I used a measuring cup to fill three and a half quart bags. I left about half an inch of head space for expansion and popped them into the fridge. Voila! Done. Today, I ate some of them poured over granola and it was delicious.

     I also enjoyed some fresh peas from my garden today. If you've never had fresh peas, you're really missing out. They are juicy and sweet, and they're really more like candy than a vegetable. It's a satisfying feeling to pop one in between your teeth and have that sweet juice squirt out. They're like healthy Gushers Fruit Snacks. The Mischievous One enjoyed a few empty pods. The Snuggler prefers strawberries.

     The chickens are doing well, although I still haven't figured out what I'm going to do with the suspected rooster. Here are some updated pics.