Sunday Harvest

Our internet was down yesterday, but this was our harvest for Sunday.

Grace and I picked 2 1/2 pounds of beans.

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We also picked 1 pound of pea pods and a pound of early peas.

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The remainder of our beets – now I can replant for a fall harvest.

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The last of the turnips.

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And slow but sure the cucumbers are starting to come in. We picked numbers 7 and 8.

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The garden is booming and it’s still early in the summer. Tomatoes, pumpkins, corn, potatoes, parsnips, and peppers are still to come. A wonderful bounty, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

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1 Down — 299 To Go. Cucumbers Have Arrived!

Tonight as I was tying my bean plants to stakes I happened to glance over at the cucumber A-Frame and wonder of wonders there it was…

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The first cucumber of 2015.

Last year I picked just over 300 cucumbers from the A-frame. My goal was to have twice that this year, but seeing as I ran out of space and never got around to building another A-frame to put who-knows-where, my expectations have changed.

This year I hope to pick as many if not a few more as last year. I know this is a lot to ask of my cucumber plants, but with a lot of love, a little fertilizer, a lot of sun and water, and a little luck, there is always a chance.

One cucumber in the fridge for Grace and I to split tomorrow, and for this I am — Simply Grateful!

Garden Update – June 20, 2015

Things are proceeding quite nicely in the gardens. While we were on vacation the weather cooperated perfectly and upon our return we were greeted with flourishing green plants, spreading like wildfire.

Bush and Pole Beans two days before we left on vacation.

Bush and pole beans the day before we left. Hubby and I put the poles up the night we left.

Bush and pole beans the day before we left. Hubby and I put the poles up the night we left.

Beans one week later.

Notice how the pole beans climbed almost to the top of the poles in the week we were gone.

Notice how the pole beans climbed almost to the top of the poles in the week we were gone.

Cucumbers before we left on vacation.

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Cucumbers after I had to tie them to the A-frame one week later.

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Corn and pumpkins before we left.

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Corn and pumpkin vines that had grown beyond the garden and had to be flipped back towards the corn, one week later.

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I hope this pace keeps up.  Already there are tiny cucumbers on the cucumber vines and lots more flowers. The pumpkins have flowers as well.

It’s amazing how quickly things change in the garden.  Looking at it day in and day out I don’t always notice the changes. What a difference a week makes.  I’ll definitely have to start paying better attention, otherwise I might not witness all the wonders nature has to offer in the garden.

My garden is growing, growing, growing, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Fall Cucumbers – Can You Believe It?

This is what I harvested from the a-frame yesterday:

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32 Cucumbers!  Can you believe it?  It’s October and I am still getting cucumbers.

This is probably the last harvest of the year, but with yesterdays haul it brought the grand total for cucumbers for 2014 to 301 cucumbers.  Not bad for my first year’s attempt.  I attribute much of this success to my trusty a-frame.

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Now, the vines are shriveling and any cucumbers left on the vines are turning yellow.  It is sad in a way, but even in the drying leaves I see beauty.

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What I find most surprising is that the vines are still producing flowers.

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I think if the weather had held out for a bit longer, the cucumbers would have continued to flourish indefinitely.

It was a great year for cucumbers and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Sunday Garden Harvest

The cucumbers keep coming.  Today Grace harvested 22 cucumbers and there are more on the vines, but I was too tired to go through the a-frame to pick them.  Tomorrow is another day.

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This is my favorite one -- nice a chubby.

This is my favorite one — nice a chubby.

The cherry, Roma, and patio tomato plants are starting to produce more tomatoes and pretty soon I should have  enough Roma tomatoes saved up to make my first batch of tomato puree.

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The big surprise when I went out to the garden today was the broccoli.  With all the cabbage butterflies flying around and all the cabbage worms that are decimating my Brussel sprouts, I thought for sure that the broccoli was doomed as well.  I guess I was wrong.  It looks wonderful.  Not sure how this grows or when to pick, so I’ll be doing a bit of reading tonight.  For now though I’m excited to have a little fresh broccoli with dinner in a few weeks.

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The plums continue to darken and turn purple.  They are still quite hard and tart, but I’m sure with the nice weather that is predicted for the coming week, we’ll be swimming in plums very shortly.

A glorious day for the garden.  I made another batch of pickles this morning and plan on making some sweet relish tomorrow.  The pantry is filling and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Relish The Thought

Once the pickles were pickling, I decided to finish up the cucumbers I’d harvested by making a little more relish.  Earlier in the week I made a batch of Dill Pickle Relish using the recipe from Old World Garden Farms.  This relish turned out very good.  In fact, Grace and I had to make hot dogs that night as a snack just so we could open a jar and do an official taste test.  The only change I made to the recipe was to use 1/2 white vinegar and 1/2 white wine vinegar.  The only reason I did this was because I didn’t have the full amount of white wine vinegar.  It still turned out very good.  Definitely check out their recipe, I plan on making at least one more batch before the season is out.

Old World Garden Farms Dill Pickle Relish

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Before I’d found the recipe from Old World Garden Farms, I had printed off several other dill pickle relish recipes from the internet that I wanted to try.  Combining several of them, I came up with this version:

Dill Pickle Relish

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  • 7 Cups Chopped Cucumbers
  • 1 Cup Chopped Red Bell Pepper
  • 2 3/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Dill Seed
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. Pickling Salt

Trim ends off cucumbers and run through a food processor.  Trim and clean red pepper and run through food processor. Combine cucumber and red pepper and set aside.

In large stock pot stir together vinegar, dill seed, garlic, and salt.  Heat until salt dissolves.

Add vegetables and bring to boil.  Simmer 10 minutes.

Ladle hot relish into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Process in water bath canner 15 minutes.

This relish was different from the first in that the texture was crunchier and had a more natural flavor.  I liked the Old World Garden Farms recipe because it was very similar to the relish I’ve bought from the stores.  The second one is different and will give my pantry some variety.  Both recipes are keepers.

All the harvested cucumbers are now canned and the rain has hit us hard — thankfully.  No watering the garden tonight.  Next week we are supposed to have several wonderfully sunny days, perfect for my cucumber vines on the a-frame, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

In A Pickle

This morning I made two batches of pickles using tried-and-true recipes from last summer.  These recipes were the two out of four that I made in 2013 that we liked so I knew making these for the pantry would not be a waste of time or space.

The first was using the Ball Kosher Dill Pickle Mix that they sell in the stores.  I know this is sort of like cheating, but last year was my first time making pickles and I wanted to ease myself into it.

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The second batch I made came from a recipe I found on the internet from The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving for Fast Favorite Garlic Dill Pickles.  The only change I made to them was to add the Ball Pickle Crisp granules.  Although the pickles were very tasty, they were a bit soggy.  I’m hoping that the crisping agent will firm them up a bit.

Fast Favorite Garlic Dill Pickles

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  • 12-16 Pickling Cucumbers
  • 2 Cups White Vinegar
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 2 Tbsp. Pickling Salt
  • 4 Heads Fresh Dill
  • 4 Small Cloves Garlic
  • Ball Pickle Crisp Granules

Trim ends of cucumbers. Cut into quarters.

Combine vinegar, water, and salt in saucepan and bring to boil.

Remove hot jars from canner.  Place 1 head fresh dill and 1 clove garlic into each jar.  Pack cucumbers tightly into jars.  Top cucumbers with heaping 1/4 tsp. Crisping Granules.  Pour boiling vinegar mixture over cucumbers to 1/2 inch of rim.  Process 10 minutes per pint.

This recipe makes 4 pint size jars.  I have several other pickle recipes I want to try, but if I don’t find one that I like better than these two, I will probably make another batch of each.

These two recipes used about 2/3 of the cucumbers I picked the other day.  The a-frame is still full of flowers and baby cucumbers so next week there will definitely be more for the picking and more for the pickling, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

27 Cucumbers Today!

The hot weather and long sunny days have been perfect for my cucumber plants.  Every day the pickles have been trickling in and last night the count was at 27 total cucumbers since harvesting began.

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Today there were a bunch of cukes ready to be picked so Grace headed out to the a-frame to see what she could find.

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After quite some time she returned with a basket half-full (not half-empty mind you).  She told me that she probably missed a few, so a little later after the sun went down, I headed out to see what I could find.

 

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Grace had only missed seven, bringing the total for todays harvest to 27!

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Yep, we doubled our grand total in one day.  It will probably be several days before we get anymore, but that’s okay.  Tomorrow dill relish and garlic pickles are on the agenda and this will definitely keep me busy, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Peter Piper’s Peck of Pickles

Well, it’s not exactly a peck, but I did pick our first pickle from the garden today! Yea!

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It never ceases to amaze me how different a home-grown pickle tastes than a store-bought one. Grace and I fought over who was going to eat it. In the end we split it. Thankfully we are the only two in the house that like them.

As you can see though, there are going to be many, many more pickles in the coming days. What is even better is that only one side of the a-frame is actually filling up. I’m hoping that the delay in the other side will yield us pickles late into the summer.

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The trouble now is going to be restraining myself from eating all the pickles raw. I purposely planted pickles so that I could can them, but they are so GOOD, it is hard to consider tainting that wholesome goodness with vinegar.

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Bell checking out the pickles.

It’s good to know that I can always order a bushel from a local farmer just a few miles up the road, so I think we’ll eat our fill while we can, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

No Mechanical Inclination, My A-Frame!

When I was in junior high, my eighth grade class was issued a series of tests.  I’m not really sure what they were designed to indicate, but there were standardized tests for reading, writing, math, and science along with a few others more specific to our developing abilities.  One of the tests was designed to test our mechanical inclination.  I don’t remember any of the other tests, just the mechanical inclination.  I remember it well because I scored a ZERO on it.  I didn’t get a single question right.  The test was made up of 3-dimensional figures that were flattened out.  The object was to assemble the figures in your mind and choose one of three 3-dimensional figures it would most resemble.  I remember struggling with the concept, staring at the pages, and finally filling in the circle on the scan tron that I was sure had to be the right answer.  WRONG!

How could someone get every question wrong?  If someone was trying to get them all wrong, I doubt that they could have succeeded as easily as I did.  I remember this vividly because my teacher called a special meeting with my parents to discuss this terrible handicap I would suffer with for the rest of my life.  It wasn’t like junior high was all that stellar to begin with, and here they just added insult to injury.  Thanks!

Anyway, as I got older I began to care less and less about my so-called inability to incline mechanically.  I found it rather humorous that of all the things I could be lacking, mechanical inclination was at the top of the list.  If this was going to be my worst attribute, I could live with that.

Funny thing is, for the past 20 years here at our house I am responsible for the assembly of all furniture, toys, storage units, and appliances that comes through our doors.  My husband does enough of that sort of thing at work so when he comes home, he is not in the mood to put a crib, a bookcase, patio furniture, the grill, or any of the kids toys that blatantly lie about “SOME” assembly required, together.  It was do or die — and I did it.  There were some mishaps when I’d have to unassemble and start over, but after 25 years of this, I’m pretty darn good at it now.

For Christmas many years ago I didn’t get pajamas or perfume, I got my rechargeable power tools, micro-precision tool set, and a rolling toolbox for my ever-growing collection of tools.  There aren’t a whole lot of power tools I don’t use on a regular basis, but I do admit, a full size circular saw does give me pause.  I think it’s the noise and possibility of death or dismemberment if I slip that makes me leery.  Still, when it comes right down to it, if I have a lot of wood that needs cutting, I’ll pull out the circular saw, set up my saw horses, and get to it.

Today my to do list consisted of, among the standards, building an a-frame for the garden for the pickling cucumbers I wanted to plant.  I found a picture of one online with some general instructions, and decided it was something I could handle.  Thankfully I had 1 x 2’s left over from some Christmas window frames I had disassembled last year.  This meant all I had to do was buy 3 additional 1 x 2 x 8 pieces of wood and some twine.  I probably could have found some twine stuck in the back of a drawer somewhere too, but figured — don’t slow me down, and bought a fresh spool.

It took me about 40 minutes to assemble the frame, wrap it with twine, and plant the pickles.  I think I did a pretty good job if I do say so myself.  I’m not sure I’ll get cucumbers this year or not, as I’ve said before I’ve not been very successful at gardening, but I think my a-frame looks pretty good.

Here is the link from the website I refered to: http://yearroundveggiegardener.blogspot.com/2012/04/frame-trellises.html

 Bell checking out the boards I've laid out for assembly.

Bell checking out the boards I’ve laid out for assembly.

First I screwed one side completely, then moved to the other.

First I screwed one side completely, then moved to the other.

After the sides were assembled in the garage, I moved them to the garden for final assembly.

After the sides were assembled in the garage, I moved them to the garden for final assembly.

To make the frame more secure, I put a side bar on each side.

To make the frame more secure, I put a side bar on each side.

Once assembled, I dug 1.5' holes to hold the frame in the ground.

Once assembled, I dug 1.5′ holes to hold the frame in the ground.

The secured a-frame in the ground.

The secured a-frame in the ground.

The final step was to wrap some twine on the frame and plant the cucmbers.

The final step was to wrap some twine on the frame and plant the cucumbers.

I wonder sometimes what schools are thinking when they test children and use these scores as an indication as to what they will be good at or capable of in the future.  In my opinion I find this restrictive and damaging.  Telling me that I was not mechanically inclined could have influenced me to give up and accept my would-be handicap.  Instead, I embraced it, accepted the challenge — prevailed, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Of course, let’s hope my handiwork  lasts the summer!