Fruits of my Labor

The harvesting has really been good these past two days (check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener for more info Two Days Of Harvesting.) Not the biggest harvests, but things are definitely picking up around here.

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Par for me though, I’ve also discovered yet another ailment for the tomato plants — Blight. Early? Late? Does it really matter? More on all that in my post The Continuing Saga of How The Tomato Grows.

Oh well, at least I’ve got vegetables to can, freeze, roast, and cook with, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Michigan Tart Cherries – The Most Wonderful Time of Year

Tart cherry season here in Michigan has been open for about two weeks. Last weekend we made a family outing of picking cherries and raspberries. The picking was easy because the fruit was very plentiful. If the family hadn’t spent more time arguing than picking, we probably would have been done a lot sooner, but then it just wouldn’t have been a true “family” outing if that were the case.

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Why is it that we can’t have just one family outing where everyone gets along? If I go out with Grace alone or Zeb alone or Hubby alone, everything is great. We have a good time, we laugh, we relate, we make some great memories. Throw anyone else into the mix though and it’s a constant battle. There’s teasing and picking on, ganging up, and bullying. By the end, actually it doesn’t even take that long, at least someone isn’t talking, someone is grumpy, and I’m left wondering why I even suggested we go out as a family!

The silence was deafening!

The silence was deafening!

I thought as the kids got older they’d mellow and we’d fall into an easy, getting-along stage. At ages 20 and 22, we haven’t gotten there yet. Perhaps Hubby at 53 and me at 48 are the problem. Who knows?

Actually though, for all the fighting and bantering, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave anyone home. While they all got into their little tiffs and exchanges of words, I kept my distance and enjoyed the day with each of them individually. I didn’t dare try to converse with more than one of them at a time. Separately they were fine. It was just as a group things weren’t going to mesh. So when we got home Grace wasn’t speaking to Hubby, Hubby wasn’t speaking to Zeb, and everyone was still speaking to me. That works for me!

Oh well, what’s the saying “This too shall pass.” I sure hope so. Growing pains aren’t much fun on family outings or vacations.

With the 20 pounds of cherries we managed to pick I’ve been busy canning. Recipes for Danish Cherry Sauce and Cherry-Rhubarb Pie Filling can be found at Simply Grateful Canning. I’ve also updated the Fruit Page to include sections for all the recipes from Simply Grateful Housewife and Simply Grateful Canning for Sweet Cherry Canning Recipes and Tart Cherry Canning Recipes. Check them out if you need some ideas for canning either of these fruits.

Michigan cherries are some of the best and picking them every year has become a tradition for me. It’s unfortunate the family couldn’t set aside their differences and make the most of the time we had together, but I didn’t let them ruin it for me. Family dynamics aren’t always easy, but taking them in stride helps ease the pain a bit, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Gardening Stops and Starts

I can’t decide if I take one step forward and two steps back, two steps forward and one step back, or if I’m just running in place. For everything that goes right in the garden, there is at least one thing that goes wrong.

Yet, I love it. I absolutely love being in the garden, tending to the plants, figuring out how to fix problems, and especially picking all the veggies!

Yesterday I picked our first cucumber. It was perfect.

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Grace and I split it and ate it like we hadn’t eaten in weeks. There is nothing like the taste of freshly picked, home-grown vegetables.

Last year I harvested about 200 cucumbers from the A-frame which was far less than the 300+ I’d gotten the year before. I moved the A-frame to a new location this year in hopes of returning to the 300+ again, but at the moment it doesn’t appear I have too many female flowers on the vines.

I’ll keep checking and pollinate when the bees aren’t so we can get as many as possible. Last year, practically every cucumber went into jars of pickles. This year I’d like to have a few more to enjoy fresh.

Other than the cucumber, I haven’t harvested anything else recently. Rather I’ve been dealing with slugs in my fruit trees and splitting tomato plants. Check out these posts at Simply Grateful Gardener for more information: Tomato Plant Woes – Splitting Down the Middle and The Cherry Slug.

It’s raining cats and dogs outside right now, filling the rain barrels and watering the garden. Tomorrow I’ll harvest the rest of the first crop of peas, possibly the remaining first crop of beets, and maybe I’ll even find another cucumber. Oh, and yeah I do have some blight to deal with in the tomato garden…the bad with the good, and still I am — Simply Grateful.

Relief From The Heat!

Todays Weather:

75 degrees, mostly cloudy, winds 10 – 15 mph, and absolutely no humidity!

What a difference a day can make. Yesterday it was 95 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, no wind, and humidity about 300% (okay, that last part was a slight exaggeration, but it sure felt like 300%).

Finally a day I could spend in the garden and not worry about heat stroke, sun poisoning, or dehydration and I took full advantage of it. I cleaned up the zucchini (check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener Taming My Zucchini), pruned all 72 of my pepper plants, clipped more of the cucumber vines to the A-frame, and weeded.

The best part of the day though was being able to harvest my first 6 zucchini and first 3 Romanian Bell peppers!

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Last year I harvest more than 1,000 peppers from the garden with less than half of the plants I have now. I wonder if I can top that?

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to start getting warmer again, but still bearable. Next week…well that’s another story. 90’s all week and humidity again. Oh well, at least the garden will enjoy it, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Surest Way To Make Sure It Doesn’t Rain

Over a month ago Hubby and I embarked on a rainwater harvesting expansion project in order to help cut the amount of household water that would be needed to maintain my garden. At the time I felt rushed to get the project up and running so as to get the most savings possible out of this new endeavor.

Last year our rain barrel supplied me with hundreds of gallons of water, thus saving us lots of money on water bills. My hope was to eventually have so many rain barrels full of water that I wouldn’t need to use the house water at all. A huge hope, but one can certainly dream.

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Hubby wanted to keep things a bit more realistic in our expansion and we compromised from my suggestion of 10 barrels to 5. I don’t know that this is really a compromise though because eventually, if things work out the way I think they will, Hubby will see things my way and we’ll be up to 10 in no time.

For two days we worked on the project, leveling, cutting, measuring (hopefully not in this order), and piecing together garbage can to garbage can. Although we had a few mis-drillings, which resulted in those cans becoming the “Compost” bins, in the end we ended up with 5 ready-for-rain rain barrels. For more information, check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardening Rainwater Harvesting.

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Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

June came and went with not so much as enough rain to make a dent in one of the rain barrels, let alone five of them. I began to wonder if I’d jinxed us getting any rain at all by putting in so many rain barrels.

Then came July and again we waited.

And waited.

And waited for seven days. Then, last night it finally happened.

IT RAINED!

For joy, for joy, we have been blessed!

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Yep, this morning I woke to five completely full rain barrels, a rain drenched garden, and inspiration to begin collecting more garbage cans for… “just in case!”

Happiness is a rain barrel full of water and a garden NOT in need of watering (that’s what I call security), and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Finding Solutions to Gardening Problems

I read the books. I watch the shows on television. I listen to the professionals when they talk. I even follow the directions (or so I thought), and yet, the gardening problems continue. Thank goodness for the Internet and the myriad of information floating around the web.

Although my harvest yesterday was bountiful, there were issues with both the radishes and the carrots. The radishes were inedible and the carrots, well for two plantings of three 6-foot rows, I’d think you should get more than a handful of finger length carrots.

After much research and reading some humbling information (humbling for someone who thought they were doing everything right), I have once again been shown the way and will hopefully not make these same mistakes again.

Check out my posts at Simply Grateful Gardener for my solutions for The Incredible Inedible Radish and Why Aren’t My Carrots Growing?

I don’t know why it always surprises me when I screw up in the garden, it’s not like I don’t screw things up in every other aspect of the household, so why should the garden be any different. That’s okay, every time I screw up and then figure out where I went wrong, I grow, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

What to do with those beets!

Planting beets has become somewhat of a tradition here at our house. For the past three years now I have enjoyed success with growing beets and because of this it was only natural that I would plant them again this year. The trouble with this is the pantry is already full of canned and pickled beets. Not that they’ll go bad or anything, but there is only so much space in the pantry and beets have taken up their allotment.

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Yesterdays Beet Harvest

In the past I’ve done four things with the beets we’ve harvested from the garden:

  1. Pickled Beets
  2. Canned Beets
  3. Beet Jelly
  4. And the last is Beet-Horseradish Relish which I made last year for the first time.

I posted the recipe for the Beet-Horseradish Relish on Simply Grateful Canning if you’d like to check it out.

Besides making the relish I also decided to try and make the most of the beet greens. We aren’t too big on eating a big variety of greens around here, but when I read I could freeze them and use them to make stock I figured what’s the worst thing that could happen? I’d end up throwing out a batch of stock if it didn’t taste good. The only precaution I read was that the beet greens would probably turn the stock reddish or brownish depending on what kind of stock you were making. No worries, I can deal with that and if it gives the stock another dimension of flavor, well that’s just an added bonus on top of the added nutrients.

The process for freezing beet greens is posted on Simply Grateful Canning Making The Most Of Your Beets, if you’re interested.

I plan on planting another crop in August for the fall. Why? I’m not really sure, but when I’ve had as difficult a time in the garden as I have had this year, I need a little gardening success. I might can them or perhaps I’ll just give them to the neighbors. Either way they won’t go to waste, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Does anyone have other ideas for canning or using beets?

Since the 4th

The 4th was a wonderful day of family, friends, food, and fireworks. I thought I was being clever by having Hubby, the kids, myself, and my parents all meet up at Planet Fitness for their FREE Pizza Night, but in the end I did just as much work (if not more) as I would have had I cooked dinner. Instead of dinner I made 6 appetizers for late in the evening and 6 desserts for after the gym. Two days in the kitchen cooking — so where’s the time savings?

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We did several of these lanterns. What fun and a lot safer than fireworks.

Oh well, when don’t I want an excuse to try a few new recipes and make a few old favorites? That would be never!

Now I’m enjoying the first true harvest from the garden and working on my first canning project of the 2016 garden season. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener for July 6, 2016 Garden Harvest.

July is still hot and humid, great for the garden, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Gadget Crazy

It doesn’t matter if it’s a kitchen gadget, a gardening gadget, a scrapbooking gadget, a house cleaning gadget, or really any sort of gadget — I love them all. So when I came across this little gadget to help figure out if I was watering my tomato plants too much or too little, I had to have it.

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It was cheap enough, compared to some that I saw online for over $30 and the one they had at Home Depot for $24.99, so I snatched it up when I found it at Wal-Mart for around $6.

Don’t know if it will be a tomato-saver, but along with some new pertinent information about my tomato plants, I’m hopeful that tomato leaf curl will become yet another stepping stone along my gardening journey. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener Tomato Leaf Curl Epiphany.

Some gadgets are bought and then get lost in a drawer or forgotten in a cupboard. This is one I think will be worth it’s weight in — let’s go with TOMATOES here — and for this I am, Simply Grateful.

Garden Update – July 2, 2016

For all the false starts, mishaps, and plain screw-ups I’ve had this year, overall the garden is progressing well.

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To read the whole update and see all the pictures, check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener Beginning of July and all’s well in the Garden.

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Looks like we’re in for a hot and humid July, just what the garden needs, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.