The Beginning of Summer

Flashjpg_Page1The image on the left shows the final garden layout as planted (using Garden Planner), with the exception of the corn.  My germination rates for the corn was about 20%, so I needed to do a second planting/replanting.  I did the replanting a bit closer than before, and I staggered in a zig-zag pattern in order to have more corn and to provide support for when it is windy.  Wind damage was a huge problem last year.  The newly planted corn is coming up now, so I am expecting a good corn year.

The garlic is growing quite well, and the garlic scapes were harvested (and eaten) last week.  I am turning off the water to the garlic, and will check it in about 4 weeks to see if is ready for harvest.  A quick look underground revealed some nice large bulbs!10June2015_Garden  There are about 186 or so garlic bulbs planted, which should last us for a while.  I plan on saving a portion to replant, as garlic bulbs for planting are quite expensive. 

The image on the right is of our over-wintered onions and the potatoes.  The onions are going to seed, and since I have never done this, I have no idea what will happen, other than I will get some onion seeds.  Overall, we planted over 120 new onion plants, including a red, yellow, and sweet.  I also planted about 100 green onions.  Next year, I will be planting Walla Walla Onions in the fall rather than in the spring, in order to obtain larger onions.  I actually did not know that you could fall plant them. 

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The potatoes now have a layer of mulch around them for protection from the heat and for better water retention in the soil. The potatoes suffered a bit last year from dryness, and I hope to dramatically increase the yield this year with the mulch and the new irrigation system.   The mulch will be extended to much of the garden, with the future plan to establish a no (or limited) till garden.  For now, however, we do need to get some organics into the soil, as it is fairly poor, and I have yet to see a worm in the soil when digging. 

As for the irrigation system, it is working wonderfully well, and we are seeing an increase in yields already.  So far, we have harvested over 30 pounds of really large and sweet strawberries, as well as other berries, and now snap peas.  Overall, the garden looks healthier, the plants are bigger, and I am using over 50 percent less water than last 10June2015_Garden3year. 

The image on the right is of out Egyptian Walking Onions and Garlic Chives that are in the herb garden.  The Walking Onions are fun to watch grow.  We are leaving them alone for now, hoping to find a place to plant more in the future.

The image below left is of the garlic (on the left) and the onions (on the right).

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One thing I did is move my three hops plants into the main garden.  They were simply not happy where they were, and the only place that has water and support this year is the garden. 

Miscellaneous:  Hatched 3 chickens in January – All three turned out to be males.  They, plus one other year old rooster, and now part of the freezer inventory.  Our main rooster, who kept the others in line, died, and the others simply started tearing up the hens.  They will now soon be broth.

It Begins–Again!

GardenPlan_2015Once again, it is time to start the garden. On the left is a rather poor quality image of my garden design that was done in Garden Planner.  This is the second year I have used Garden Planner in Idaho, and I do enjoy it a bit better than paper and pencil for planning the garden each year.  There are some limitations, such as print quality, but overall it is an easy product to use, especially when changing plans.

The start to the gardening season was delayed by about a month, mainly due to the kids at school donating their various toxic germs to me.  But, things are starting to move along, and with the long growing season here, I have no doubt that we will once again produce more food than we need. 

Last year, I used soaker hoses for irrigation, but the hoses did a very poor job, with some areas receiving very little water, and some areas becoming flooded with water running into the furrows.  This year I amusing a Garden_2015_1ribbon system that has little slits every 8 inches to let the water drip out.  So far, the product is working amazingly well, and cutting my watering time down by at least half.  We will see what happens then things start growing, but the drip system has been watering the garlic and onions for the past month with no problems. 

The image on the right is of the garlic (6 different varieties) that I planted last fall, and the onions that we transplanted after cleaning up the garden last year.  The onions were hidden in the Tomato plants, and were very small, so I decided to try to over-winter them to see if they would grow. 

In the furrow you can see strips of cardboard.  We are in the process of lining the entire garden with cardboard and newspaper.  When that is done we will apply a thick layer of alfalfa as mulch.  This is an attempt at improving the soil, as well as using less water and having cooler soil temperatures during the summer heat.

The plant count so far is:

180 heads of garlic
200+ onion plants
144 corn plants (actually 288 as I always grow 2 plants per hole)
150 potato plants (3 varieties)
66 feet of sugar snap peas
150 or so carrots

I will be planting the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, melons, pumpkins and watermelon this weekend.  I plan on growing the cucumbers on a trellis system, and may try to do the same with the melons. 

A Bit of Catching Up!

DSC00004_1The summer has passed, and winter is now upon us. We were quite fortunate this year, with an abundant harvest, great health, and a generally satisfying life. We were able to harvest over 1,000 pounds of tomatoes, 1,000 pounds of various squash, a few dozen smaller watermelons and other types of melons, including two watermelons which weighed in at over 80 pounds. I was able to save a bit over 50 pounds of dried corn, 85 pounds of potatoes, thousands of individual sweet and hot peppers, a few hundred pounds of cucumbers, and much, much more.

The tomatoes and squash were preserved, with the tomatoes canned as either tomato2014_DSC00004 sauce, pasta sauce, or salsa, or dehydrated and frozen for later use.  The squash, especially the zucchini, was dehydrated, and the cucumbers were turned into pickles.   All together, we have over 350 jars of various things that I canned this year, and an entire chest freezer full of dehydrated fruit and vegetables.  We are still dehydrating peppers, making the upstairs a very spicy experience!

The chickens are laying around 40 eggs per week, though the cold weather has slowed them 2014_DSC00003down a bit this week.  Prior to this past cold spell which brought freezing temperatures and snow, I was able to plant  garlic, which consists of 7 types of garlic with a total of about 500 cloves planted. 

Planning for next years garden has begun, incorporating lessons learned from this year, including the elimination of some vegetable varieties, increasing other types of vegetables, and placing certain crops, especially the corn, in a more protected location that is out of the wind. 

A very small sample of some of the vegetables we harvested this year, and a small batch of tomato sauce:

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Peppers, Tomatoes, and Another Batch of Pickles, and More!

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It would seem that all we are growing are cucumbers, but we are really growing other things too. 

We are starting to harvest tomatoes and peppers now and carrots.  The peppers on the left are Anaheim and Banana, which are now strung up and hanging outside sun drying. Later this week I will also be harvesting some of the Pepperoncini Peppers for, well, pickling….  We have about 45 pepper plants of 13 different varieties.  Interestingly, I forgot to plant one of the peppers I really wanted, and one that we use frequently – Jalapeno Peppers.  I will make sure they are planted next year.

Some of the larger tomatoes are starting to be ripe, as in the Pink Berkley seen on the right.  25July2014_DSC_0010The others that are ripe are the Golden Nugget Cherry Tomatoes and the Principle Borghese, which is a paste tomato that is often used for sun dried tomatoes.  Instead of sun drying out tomatoes, we are using our dehydrators to dry them.  We have already completed one batch, which we vacuum sealed. 

Below are some of the tomatoes ready for the dehydrator.  The red ones are the Principle Borghese and the yellow are the Golden Nugget.  24Jul42014_DSCF7198

As I said, I made another batch of pickles using a different recipe. This time I used the Dill Sandwich Slices recipe from the Ball – Complete Book of Home Preserving book.

***One thing about the Pickle recipes that I post is that I do not include complete instructions. If you have never canned, or are unfamiliar with the processes I describe, please look up how to can, jar preparation, hot water bath versus pressure canning, and all other things canning related. To make it easy, you can just buy the referenced book.  Canning is safe, but you really need to understand what you are doing before you do it. ***

While I plan to process more cucumbers, I will more than likely not post the recipe unless it is something new.

Pickle Recipe – Dill Slices: 25July2014_DSC_0050

Batch Size:  9 – 10 Pints

Ingredients:

6 Tbsps. pickling spice (as discussed in this post:  Click Me!)
8 cups Braggs vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
8 cups Water (filtered)
1 1/2 cups white sugar 
1 cup canning or pickling salt 
10 each bay leaves 
20 garlic cloves
10 Dill Heads
5 tsps. mustard seeds
24 cups pickling cucumbers

Place 5 tablespoons picking spice in a cheesecloth bag, tying closing the top.  In a non reactive pan, place the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and spice bag.  Slowly bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes.

In prepared jars, place 2 cloves garlic, one dill head, 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds, and one bay leaf.  Pack pickles leaving 3/4 inch head space and top with pickling liquid, leaving 1.2 inch head space. 

26Jul42014_DSCF7205Process for 15 minutes (again, because of altitude, I did 20 minutes).  Turn off heat, remove canner top, and remove jars after 5 minutes.

In other news, we are staring to actually get a nice supply of eggs.  We are now up to 3 per day as the chickens are starting to get to the right age.  I am still not sure which rooster I will keep (we have two) as they are both getting along and are fairly calm roosters. 

Lemon Pickles

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One of the varieties of cucumbers that I planted this year was Lemon Cucumbers.  Though I only planted 4 plants, they have produced over 20 pounds of cucumbers, and are still going strong.  So, I decided that I would pickle some of them.

One nice thing about this batch is that I was able to use some of the Walla Walla Onions that I planted from seed.  The onions are still a bit small, but big enough to cook with in this case.  The smell from the onions was quite fresh and strong, but not harsh.  Fairly pleasant actually.

***One thing about the Pickle recipes that I post is that I do not include complete instructions. If you have never canned, or are unfamiliar with the processes I describe, please look up how to can, jar preparation, hot water bath versus pressure canning, and all other things canning related. To make it easy, you can just buy the referenced book. Canning is safe, but you really need to understand what you are doing before you do it. ***

Pickle Recipe – Lemon 1: 20Jul42014_DSCF7152

Batch Size:  7 – 8 Pints

Ingredients:

Brine –

8 lbs. pickling cucumbers 
3 lbs. onions
1/2 cup canning or pickling salt
Water (filtered) to cover cucumbers

Pickling Ingredients –

4 cups vinegar (Braggs) 
4 1/2 cups white sugar 
2 Tbsps.. yellow mustard seeds  
1 1/2 Tbsps. celery seeds 
1 Tbsp. ground turmeric

20Jul42014_DSCF7157Prepare cucumbers and into 1/4 inch slices.  Thinly slice the onions.  Combine onions and cucumbers, place in a non-reactive bowl and add canning salt.  Cover with cold water and store in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

When ready to process, in a non-reactive pot, add vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and turmeric, slowly bringing to a boil.  Boil for 10 minutes.

Drain the cucumber and onion mixture.  Add to liquid and slowly return to boil.

Take off heat and pack jars with cucumber mixture to within 1/2 inch or the top of the jar.  Add liquid to top off 20Jul42014_DSCF7160to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar.

Wipe rim with a damp towel, add lid and ring.

Process to 10 minutes (15 for me because of altitude), turn off heat, take off lid, and then take the jars out after 5 minutes.

This recipe made very good looking pickles.

Garden Harvest

11-July2014_DSCF7064The garden is starting to come along, with us being able to harvest some of the vegetables. Vegetables such as tomatoes, corn, and others will be available for harvest soon.

Most of the plants are doing well, but there are issues with the watering system that may have contributed to the death of 3 or 4 tomato plants. 

Unfortunately, I had to use some pesticides today.  The aphids and other pests were just too populous to even think about controlling with organic means.  I used a spray that will not be absorbed by the roots, and while that will not control everything, it will be good enough to save the plants.

So far, the total harvest is:

  • Kale: 6.7 pounds  11-July2014_DSCF7061
  • Cucumber: 19.69 pounds
  • Green Onions: 5.375 pounds
  • Zucchini: 55.109 pounds
  • Tomato (Golden Nugget): 7.5 ounces (they are just starting)
  • Lettuce (leaf): 20.962 pounds
  • Lettuce (head): 1.6 pounds
  • Beets:  4 beets

Grand total:  ~110 pounds

This is what we did with some of the things we harvested:

12July2014_DSCF7113    11-July2014_DSCF7117

Sausage

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I wanted to make some sausage since the Summer Sausage I made in February is gone.  I made three types of sausage, 5 pounds each type.  The sausages were a Polish without Marjoram, Polish with Marjoram, and a breakfast sausage.  The sausage was smoked using the A-Maze-N Smoker, with 3/4 Maple and 1/4 Apple wood.  The smoker was lit at both ends. 

One of the issues I have with the Cookshack AmeriQue it its inability to cold smoke without a heat baffle, and smoke evenly at cold temperatures.  Using the A-Maze-N Smoker, I can still get a good smoke at 130 F.  Now I need to find a fan mod to get DSCF7077better circulation in order to properly cold smoke evenly.  Of course, for regular smoking, the AmeriQue is a truly wonderful smoker.

This was also the first time I used the LEM 5 pound Sausage Stuffer.  The LEM was fast and also gave a better texture to the finished product.  The problem I had was with the casings, which seemed to be very weak in places.  But, in the end it worked well.

The Recipes:

Recipe (Polish 1):11-July2014_DSCF7081

Batch Size: 5 pounds

Ingredients:

5 lbs. Pork Butt (2267 grams)
1 cup Ice Water
38.54 grams Kosher salt (Real Salt)
1 tsp. Cure #1 
4.35 grams Cracked Black Pepper 
13 grams Minced Garlic

Recipe (Polish 2):11-July2014_DSCF7104

Batch Size: 5 pounds

Ingredients:

5 lbs. Pork Butt (2267 grams)
2 Tbsps. Yellow Mustard Seed
4 tsps. Kosher salt (Real Salt)
1 Tbsp. Cracked Black Pepper
1 tsp. Cure #1  
1 Tbsp. Marjoram 
15 Cloves Garlic – Minced

Recipe (Breakfast Sausage):DSCF7111

Batch Size: 5 pounds

Ingredients:

5 lbs. Pork Butt (2267 grams)
1/4 cup Ice Water
4 tsps. Rubbed Sage
4 tsp. Kosher salt (Real Salt)
3 tsps.. Cracked Black Pepper
1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp. Cayenne
4 tsps. Thyme
1 tsp. Rosemary
2 Tbsps. Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Nutmeg

The sausage turned out great, though the heat and the smoke in the smoker was a bit uneven due to, I think, the lack of air flow within the smoker. I am attempting to find a fan that I can put in the smoker to get a proper air current and an even heat and smoke at low temperatures.

The sausage was vacuum sealed and placed in the freezer

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Critters of Idaho

29June2014_300_2026We were walking around the garden and saw this little guy.  I was able to approach within a few feet and took this picture.  We think it is a baby robin, but are not sure.  Micha saw one in one of the bushes buy out house and I took another picture of it.  Then, the cat saw it and decided it would make a tasty mid-morning snack, and it grabbed it. 

Micha, seeing this, screamed (which was entertaining in itself), distracting the cat and the bird was able to escape.  Pretty funny actually, and I am glad the bird was able to escape, because knowing the cat, it would have dropped it off at 30June2014_300_2043the front door as a present for Micha. Look at the image on the right carefully and you can see the bird that the cat almost caught.

One of the things that I was disappointed with last year was the lack of nice butterflies around the property.  This year however, I have seen a few flying around, but they have not landed long enough for me to take a picture.  Finally, yesterday a butterfly was drinking from the lavender bushes by the front door, and I was able to take a few pictures.

 

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One Month Garden Update

13June2014_300_1990Well, The chicken laid an egg in the coop this time instead of under a tree.  Of course, we had to catch it and lock it up in the coop for a couple of hours, but hopefully it will understand where it should lay eggs.

I put a golf ball in four of the 6 nesting boxed to “trick” the chicken(s) into thinking that they were actually eggs in the boxes, hopefully letting them believe that this is the place to deposit the eggs.  Tomorrow maybe a new egg in the proper place without all of the fuss of capturing and locking the critters up – maybe.

The garden is now one month old and things are really growing.  Below, I have placed an image taken on the 23rd of May and beside it another image taken on the 23rd of June.  We have already harvested raspberries and blackberries, strawberries, lettuce, kale, and one pumpkin from the garden.  In the next day or two we will also harvest some zucchini and pickling cucumbers.  Additionally, Micha is continuing to pick apricots, which we are dehydrating.

The pictures:

23June2014_300_193523June2014_300_1984

The herb garden is also doing fairly well.  I am finding that some things that I thought would be easy to grow do not actually grow well in the garden (basil, oregano, sage, caraway, parsley, and a few other herbs), but some do exceptionally well (comfrey, lavender, rosemary, nasturtiums, petunias, different mints, and some others).

23June2014_300_2000

Planning for next year:  Build 6000 sq. ft. field for wheat, barley and oats.  Build 6000 sq. ft. field for a sustainable chicken garden.   Also, plant three more cherry trees,  two additional apple trees, and three other fruit trees that I am deciding upon.  Goats or sheep next year also – just a couple or three.

The Beginning, and The End

Simply, from this: 

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To this:

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