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.

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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.

 

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!

Don’t Beet Me Up With The Facts!

Last week I harvested about half of my first crop of beets for the year. I planted three different types this year and although they might not have been as large as they could have been, I wanted to pick them while they were young, small and sweet.

The round beets were between 2 and 3″ in diameter. Perfect for the Beet Slicer and not a bit woody.

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The long beets ranged from 3 – 6″ long and for the most part were not woody.  I did notice that the longer they got, the more of a tendency they had to be woody, so picking them before they get too large is a good thing.

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The golden beets were few and small, but so beautiful.

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I absolutely loved how they looked in contrast to the red/purple beets after I cooked them for canning.

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Of course Grace had to burst my bubble when she came in and saw the golden beets sitting in the bowl of red beets by informing me, “You know, they are just going to turn purple if you can them all together.” She told me this after I’d told her I thought the yellow beets would look so cool in the jars of pickled beets in contrast to all the purple.

DON’T TELL ME THAT! THAT’S NOT WHAT I WANTED TO HEAR!

Sometimes the truth hurts. She was right. Unfortunately there were so few golden beets, which the package warned me that they were much harder to grow than round or long beets, that there weren’t enough to can even a small jar of just golden beets. Oh well, maybe when I make the final harvest of the first round of beets next week I’ll have just enough for a jar or even half a jar of just golden beets. If not, I’ll always have the pictures of the freshly peeled beets all sitting together so nicely before I canned them.

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One batch of Pickled Beets packed away in the pantry, 7 pints, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Running To The Garden

One of the greatest parts of having a garden is being able to “run to the garden” rather than “run to the store” when I need a carrot, some scallions, a few peas, or some greens. In a couple of weeks, possibly as long as a month, there will be even more vegetables that I’ll be able to walk out the back door and harvest from the garden.

The other day while making some soup for dinner I realized I didn’t have any carrots.  Even though our carrots are still a bit young, I headed out to the garden and picked just a few to put in the soup.

First carrots from our 2015 garden

First carrots from our 2015 garden

They really hit the spot and were just what the soup needed to make it the best it could be.

There are so many rewards to be gotten from gardening — one of the best being the bounty, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

First Crop Of Radishes – Picked & Eaten!

It’s hard to believe, but before the first of June, we had already picked the entire row of cherry radishes I’d planted just 30 days prior.

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In all we harvested 50 radishes to eat and share,

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losing just a few to baby slugs and one to a worm.

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Next on my agenda is to replant the row and hopefully harvest again in 30 days.

Making the most of every warm day, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Harvesting Radishes!

This afternoon I ate my first home-grown radish!  Can you believe it? It’s only May 13th and already the radish are ready for eating.

Well — actually they aren’t quite ready for eating, as they are only about the size of a nickel right now.

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When I went to check on them this afternoon, however, I noticed two radishes that were touching.  I’d missed one while thinning.  When I pulled out the smaller of the two, I was rewarded with a teeny, tiny radish about the size of a raisin.  I could have easily just tossed it, but it was red, round, and looked like a radish, so I figured, Why Not?

I brought the little guy into the house, pinched off the top and bottom with my fingers, washed it under some cold water, and popped it in my mouth.  It was wonderful.  I’d have taken a picture and shown you how perfect this radish was, but in all the excitement, I forgot — next time. Sweet, crunchy, and so fresh tasting it took everything in me not to run back out to the garden and pull more of the baby radishes to snack on.

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Patience!  I figure by the end of the week or possibly beginning of next, I’ll have more radishes than I’ll know what to do with, then I can replant!  I love that.  Only 25 days from sowing to harvest.

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Too bad more vegetables aren’t like that, but radishes are, 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.

Canning Plums – Not For The Faint Of Heart

This morning I began the arduous task of canning the plum harvest we recently made from our abundant orchard.

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Okay, orchard might be a stretch, but abundant doesn’t begin to do our harvest justice.

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Although I am ever so grateful for the bounty our tree has blessed us with for the second year in a row, plums are by far the worst fruit to can — hands down.  They are tedious and time-consuming, far more than peeling peaches, pitting cherries, or seeding strawberries.  So far today I have washed, stemmed, pitted and sliced 10 pounds of the 80 to 90 pounds I have in buckets and it took me nearly an hour and a half.  Being that they are not free-stone, pitting is almost impossible.  Thankfully I learned a neat trick several years ago and use a melonballer to assist, otherwise I’d probably still be working on them.

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Last year I made plum pie filling and froze it.  It was quick and easy, other than the pitting, but freezer space continues to be an issue, even more so now that I have peppers, tomatoes and zucchini taking up space.  Hubby really needs to give some serious consideration to my request for a second chest freezer.  I did my research and it would only cost about $55 a year to run.  Until then, I’m going to can all my pie filling and store it in the pantry.

Plum Pie Filling

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  • 6 Quarts Washed, Pitted and Slice Plums
  • 6 Cups Sugar
  • 1 Cup + 3 Tbsp. Clear Jel Dissolved in 1 Cup Water
  • 4 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Lemon Juice

Pit and slice plums.

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Place slices in water containing Fruit Fresh to prevent browning.

DSCF3715Bring large stock pot of water to boil.  Place 6 cups of fresh fruit in boiling water and return to boil.  Boil 1 minute.  Drain and keep fruit in covered bowl.  Continue until plums are all blanched.

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Combine water, sugar, and Clear Jel slurry in large stock pot.  Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and begins to bubble.  Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute.  Fold in plums.

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Fill hot jars, leaving 1-inch head space.  Adjust and process in water bath for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, let rest 5 minutes more in water before removing.

This recipe made 7 quarts plus 1 pint of plum pie filling.  One more batch and I should be set for the year.

Ten pounds down and 7+ quarts in the pantry for the winter, for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

 

Plum Goodness

Today was the day!  Yep, it was time to harvest the plums from our plum tree.  It has been many months since the first flowers began to show on the barren branches that soon became lush with green and finally thick with plums.  The plums were so thick again this year, that it was as if grapes were growing on our tree rather than plums.

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It took us several hours this afternoon to pick a good portion of our plums.

Hubby picking plums

Hubby picking plums

Here I am picking plums.

Here I am picking plums.

NOTE:  BOTH THE LADDER THAT HUBBY IS ON AND THE ONE I AM ON WERE PICKED FROM THE TRASH FROM NEIGHBORS IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.  THEY STILL WORK!

A couple that harvests together...

A couple that harvests together…

Even Grace joined in the harvest.

Grace up the plum tree.

Grace up the plum tree.

While we picked, we had several grades of plums.  There were the keepers:

Keepers

Keepers

The rotten ones:

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Rotten

And a whole bunch on the ground that required us to pick every one of them up and put them where they belonged.

For awhile we picked the plums from the branches on the tree, but eventually Hubby decided that some of the branches had to come down, so he cut entire branches laden with fruit and dropped them down to us.

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In the end, we picked two full buckets of rotten fruit and nearly 90 pounds of usable fruit.

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I have my work cut out for me in the coming days.  For now, I spent several hours this evening looking at every plum we picked and putting each into one of three categories:  1.  Green  2.  Purple but hard or 3. Ripe and ready to use.

Most of the plums fell into the purple but hard category.  We learned last year from picking over 200 pounds of fruit from our tree that waiting until the fruit is completely ripe makes for a difficult and overwhelming week of canning.  To avoid the race against time to can before the fruit spoils, we picked about 85% of the fruit today before it was completely ripe or rotten.  Canning will probably start in a day or two when the purple plums begin to ripen enough for me to start.

Hubby ate at least a pound, took another pound to his parents, I gave about three pounds to a neighbor, and the rest are covered with a tarp on the patio (don’t want the kitchen to become infested with fruit flies).  Pie filling, juice, and plum-cranberry sauce are on the list of things to can for the coming week.  Lots of work, but lots of food to put in the pantry, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.