Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Garden Update

Greeting from what might be the last garden update of the year.  Over the weekend I went to the community garden and took stock of what was left.  I gathered a few small tomatoes, a surprising amount of green peppers both hot and sweet, but its definitely time to say goodbye for the season.  I'll put in a few rows of garlic and shallots, cut everything back to the ground, remove the coffee bags I use as weed suppressant, and lock the gate till next year.  I feel pretty confident that my pantry is pretty stocked for the year.  I still have a few more jars to fill, apple butter for sure, we eat it with Dutch babies and oatmeal all winter long, and I searched in vain at market today for some acceptable cucumbers to make a few more jars of pickles with.  Winter has taught me the valuable lesson, you can never have too many pickles.  For all my successes this year, I never did make ketchup. Oh well, something to aspire to.  

Since were on the subject of aspirations, I'm happy to say that this blog will be continuing onward!  It always seems like I lose interest after the growing season, but this year I plan on filling the space between the seasons with all my winter projects.  I've really enjoyed sharing and documenting my life and I've gotten really supportive feed back from all of my readers, and as I'm closing in on 2000 views from 27+ countries I'm hoping you'll continue on with me as I knit, sew, weave, and cook my way through this winter.  Other big news in October Jacob and I will be releasing his first short story under our own publishing company, speckpress!!!!!!!  With a hand printed cover by me!!!!  Which is also why it's been quiet around here, printing and assembling 200 books takes time.  I'm very excited to be announcing that our next project will be my first cookbook. I've been working on my first collection for a quarterly journal of seasonal recipes, I can't wait to share it with all of you. 

These watermelon have been the late bloomers of the garden, but suddenly our backyard is full of them.  I'm not 100% sure that they will ripen in time, but I'm thinking watermelon rind pickles?  Any thoughts or recipes would be greatly appreciated.  

It's been great sharing my passion for growing and making things with all of you, and I already have BIG plans for next year!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Preserving Flowers For Natural Dyeing

Preserving the gardens bounty isn't just for the kitchen and the medicine cabinet you can also harvest flowers and plants for dyeing fabric and yarn come winter.  You may remember the solar dyeing how-to blog post I did here last year.  I was looking forward to doing more dyeing projects this summer, but time has kind of caught up with me.  So I did a little research and came up with this method for saving some of the most prolific bloomers in my garden this year, marigolds!  Marigolds happen to make a beautiful yellow dye.  They work great with a dye bath for yardage or as a fun bundle dying project!

Step 1

Ok, so a bit of a no brainer, go find yourself some marigolds.  Pretty easy to do, because everyone plants them, I use them in the garden as a pest deterrent.  I'm not sure this actually works, but I love the way they look mixed in with the veggies, the flowers make beautiful bouquets, that smell great, and last for a week.  For all the container and city gardeners out there marigolds grow really well in pots, and are one of the easiest plants for city dwellers who want to try going dye plants.

Step 2

Get yourself some heavy duty thread, and a medium sized sewing needle.  I used quilting thread for this project.  I always seem to have it on hand, I really like to use it to reattach buttons because it is slightly thicker and sturdier than standard thread, but I also have used dental floss, no judgments.

Step 3 

Carefully thread the needle through the sturdiest part of the flower.

Continue till you have a long strand of flowers. 

Side note: The flowers can get surprisingly heavy, opt for multiple shorter strands vs one huge strand.  Much less likely to break.

Step 4

Hang to dry out of direct sunlight.  You want to store the dried flower heads in a sealed container, in a cool dark place and aim to use them in 6-8 months.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Tomato Season

So in the previous post I wrote about letting go of my garden for the year, and was super lucky to have Horse Shoe Ranch come through for me on 75lbs of tomatoes for my canning needs, I spent a very hectic few days trying to put as many of these babies away as I could.  I canned most of them as quarts using the raw pack method, many people wanted to know how many jars that makes,and to be honest not that many, I got 21 quarts of tomatoes.  Which isn't even enough for us to use a jar a week, let the rationing and counting down to next years canning season officially begin.   I was really looking forward to making ketchup this year, but it looks like that isn't in the cards, but I did find an amazing recipe for a tomato sauce that I love, if you've got 12lbs of tomatoes you need to get rid of I highly suggest you make this!

Tomato Sauce with Roasted Pepper and Garlic

6 garlic bulbs
4 medium red or yellow bell peppers
12 lbs tomatoes
3 TBS brown sugar, packed
2 TBS celtic grey salt
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
1 TSP black pepper
1 TBS red pepper flake
2 Cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 Cup lightly packed fresh herbs ( I used parsley and thyme)
6 TBS bottled lemon juice

Roast peppers and garlic in a 400 degree oven till the pepper skins blacken and the garlic is soft, 30-40 minutes, transfer peppers and garlic to a bowl and cover until cool enough to handle, peel peppers and discard seeds.  Add peppers and squeeze roasted garlic from skin into food processor or blender and puree till smooth.  While peppers and garlic are roasting and cooling peel the tomatoes using a hot water bath, if you like your sauce chunky chop half the tomatoes, and puree the other half, or you also can puree all the tomatoes if you prefer.  In a large sauce pan combine tomatoes, peppers, garlic, sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and allow to cook down for 60-70 minutes.   After reducing sauce, remove from heat and add fresh herbs.  Add 1TBS lemon juice to pint jars, filling jars leaving an 1/2 inch headspace, process in a hot water bath for 35 minutes.  Makes 6 pint jars.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Garden Update

So it's been pretty quiet up a the garden.  There's been very little rain these past few weeks, and I made the decision not to water.  The Wheatland Community Garden, while it does have a water source, the effort of watering a huge thirsty plot isn't really something I'm willing to do.  The garden has to pay for its water with a tiny budget, so I'm putting the garden to bed early this year.  I'm still harvesting small tomatoes, sweet corn, and flowers, but I've been letting the plants die back, and am looking forward to next year.  At the house we still have plenty of beets, carrots, watermelon, and tomatillos.  The farmers market has been pretty amazing!!  You can check out the photo below to see what I've been buying, and hauling around on my bike!  

I've been working on getting legs of steel lately.  Jacob and I decided to build a cargo bike, and because I pick up the majority of our groceries and we host fun bike events like coffee outside it's now necessary.  A second vehicle like a car really isn't something we find ourselves needing, we both love being petal-powered people, and are lucky enough to work close to home and have an amazing network of local stores and markets to fill our needs.  Stay tuned for more updates on the bike, its going to be a really fun build out, and we're both excited to share it with everyone!  The photo above is my market haul from the weekend, that pile of Italian prune plums made my day!!  They're a favorite of mine and was excited to see Taproot Magazine had a recipe for a plum butter sweetened with maple sugar that I'm hoping to make this weekend!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Garden Update

I feel like the theme from the garden this week is TALL.   This is a photo of my neighbors sunflowers taken from eye level looking up.  It really rather unbelievable to me that plants can grow so tall in one short season.  Mainly things have been pretty quiet up here, its been a bit drier this week and I was able to, with the help of Jacob and Moondog get some serious and much needed weeding accomplished.  We also added 20 gallons of compost from our home compost bed up to the garden.  My soil definitely is looking a bit depleted so I was really excited just to let a bunch of ground rest for a bit.  I'm trying to decide if I want to or should plant anything this fall.  We have huge kale and cabbage plants at the house, so it would be nice to tuck the beds in for the winter and enjoy not having to ride over, but I also really love watching the seasons from the top of the hill.  Last year we had a really late fall and long growing season so I'm curious to see how this season fairs.  To me, growing plants feels like I'm the student and the plants are the teachers, I tend them as best I can, but in the end I'm really just there to observe, and marvel in the magic.

The corn.  Notice how you can't see any of my neighbors sunflowers.  It's that tall.  I also get compliments on it!  Never thought I'd get such a thrill from a fellow gardener telling me "nice corn."

Garden shadow selfie!

Cosmos, so lovely....I'm hoping they re-seed themselves for next year.  Definitely planting more flowers again next year.  They bring me such joy!

My loves and weeding helpers Jacob and Moondog!  Moondog's request for next year is that we only plant carrots.

The un-sexy side of gardening....so many weeds.  But it felt good to get everything tidy again.  Also I got to try out the new garden wheel barrel.  It's and excellent addition to our tool shed!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Simple Summer Cocktail

Hey it's almost Friday, and to celebrate I decided that a cocktail was in order.  I had frozen some blackberries earlier in the week, and the mint growing in the container out back was looking like it needed picked...so it became a "use what you've got" situation.  

Blackberry Gin Fizz

5 blackberries
juice of 1/2 lemon
2oz gin (I used Barr Hill)
ginger beer
black pepper
fresh mint 

Muddle blackberries with lemon juice in the bottom of a glass.   Add gin, ice, and top off with ginger beer.  Add a sprinkling of black pepper and a mint sprig, and you're set to welcome in the weekend!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Spiced Sugar Plum Jam

What is it about plums?  They're tart and sweet,  ripe when yields to gentle pressure, but also magical when they're almost rotten, a sexy gooey mess when you add a little  heat and sugar.  Often overlooked in their dried form,  there is nothing sexy about a prune.  For a girl with a serious gummy bear addiction this is the closest nature gets to a sour berry bear.    Out of a love for plums came this jam.  I used sugar plums for this recipe, medium purple in color, the size of a large gumball these have an incredibly short season.  I see them for about a week every year.  If you can find them, grab them, but this recipe works well for the dark purple Italian prune plums which have a long season and are pretty easy to come by at most farmers markets.  This recipe calls for a quart of plums and it makes 2 half pint jars, but you may want to double the recipe.  The jam makes a great cake filling, it also is great in jam filled sugar cookies around the holidays.

1 quart sugar plums, pitted and chopped (But any plum will do.)
3/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
 1/2 inch knob of ginger sliced
juice of one lemon

Combine all incredients in a non-reactive saucepan, and heat stiring occasionally, until jam reaches desired thickness.*  About 20-30 minutes.  Making sure jam doesn't burn towards the end.  Ladle into two half pint jars, discarding ginger and cinnamon stick, and process covered for 10 minutes.  Turn heat off and allow jars to sit in canning bath for an additional 5 minutes uncovered before removing from bath.  

* I tend to like my jam a little looser.  Large chunks of fruit swimming in a lightly sweetended liquid.  Think jam that spreads with a spoon and not a knife.  By all means cook it to your desired firmness, you may end up with a bit less jam thats all!