Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My love/hate relationship with Cantaloupe

As far back as I can remember, I have hated the taste of cantaloupe. So why is it the best growing thing in my garden? A few years ago, I was living in a small home on a small corner lot with no room for a garden. I decided to plant a few tomato plants next to the house anyway and try a cantaloupe seed just to see if I could get it to grow. Grow it did! I was so excited to see tiny little cantaloupes trailing out over my lawn. I thought, just maybe I will like it because it's homegrown! Nope, still hated the stuff.

My kids love it though. And I LOVE to grow it. Cantaloupe always grow exceptionally well in my gardens. I love the looks of the plant, the leaves, the cute little round fruit. I get so excited when I see those very first little fuzzy green fruit. I just wish I loved to eat it.

 I think I'll be passing a few off to my neighbors this year. Out of 1 plant, I have 5 fruit nearly ripe and another 7 or 8 (that I can see) just getting started. And to think I would have double that if I hadn't accidentally pulled the other plant up while weeding :(  I hope the warm weather holds out until they are finished.


I have been thinking about composting for about a year now. I'll be honest, at first it all seemed very complicated. I was a little put off at how much work it looked like and have pushed it out of my mind most of the summer. Finally I decided to check back into it and do more research. This second time around didn't seem quite as daunting. I've looked at manufactured composters, tumblers and homemade bins. After weighing all the pros and cons, we decided to make our own. We repurposed some wood pallets from my husbands work. Not only are we recycling, they were also free! I'll never complain about NOT spending money. We used 1 pallet for the floor, to keep air circulating under the pil,e and chose to only have 3 sides. Hubby still wants to put a door or something on the front. We'll figure that out later. I'll use a tarp to cover the top if we are getting too much moisture. I decided to go with 3 sides so that I can maintain it easily as far as watering and turning. We will see how it goes for now and modify as needed.

I found this great article at www.gardeners.com, All About Composting . It pretty much explains everything you need to know to make good compost, including types of bins. This is where I got the idea for the pallets. Before seeing that, I was leaning more toward a wire bin.

I've started with some dead dry weeds, kitchen scraps, dirt from the garden and a little bit of grass clippings. I'm so excited to have somewhere to throw my kitchen scraps instead of my trash! It's all a lot of practice for now, but like the saying goes 'Practice makes Perfect'!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Canning Corn

A friend of mine had too much corn for her own family this year and offered up her field to anyone that wanted some. Since I didn't grow any this year, I jumped at the chance for fresh corn! I took home 28 ears. I saved 6 for dinner that night and decided to bottle the rest. This was the first time I have ever bottled corn or used a pressure canner. It was eventful to say the least. Let's start at the beginning... First I shucked and washed the corn.

Next I cut all of the corn from the cob. This is time cosuming and I did cut myself once or twice.

After that, I put all the corn in a pan, covered it with water and boiled it for 3 minutes. While waiting for the corn to boil, I started getting my bottles ready.

After the 3 minutes were up, I started filling my jars, sealing the lids and placing them in the canner.

Once the pressure canner got going at the right pressure, it was time to watch and wait. 102 minutes of waiting! Finally time was up! I took the pressure canner off the heat and let it sit while the pressure inside dissipated. After about 30 minutes, I took the lid off. I let it sit for another 30 minutes or so before deciding to remove the jars.

Now,  future reference for anyone canning for the first time DO NOT let the hot bottle touch anything hard (such as a countertop) or this will happen....

Yes! They do become corn bombs! The jar slipped from the bottle gripper just as I was getting ready to set it on the pad and it barely touched the lip of my counter. The jar exploded into corn, glass and steaming liquid shrapnel! Luckily, I only ended up with 3 tiny burns from the scalding hot liquid. I've heard of it happening and honestly was a little afraid of it happening to me. But, it did, i survived, and now I know better. (I let the batch of green beans sit in the canner for about 5 hours before attempting removal!)

In the end, I have 4 beautiful bottles of corn. Picked, shucked, cooked and canned all by myself!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Freezing Summer Squash

I have an overgrowth of summer squash this year. I pick at least 3 a day, which is way more than we can eat. Instead of letting it go bad in the garden, I have started freezing it. A year ago I didn't even know you could freeze squash! Thanks to taking steps to learning how to store my poduce I have learned many new things this year. Here is how I do it....

First, pick the squash and slice it (however you like).
Then get your water boiling to blanch it before freezing. I blanch mine in boiling water for about 3 minutes.

Next you move your squash immediately into ice water. This stops the cooking process. You will leave the squash here for another 3 minutes.

After you have cooled the squash, seal it in a freezer bag making sure to push as much air out as you can. I also like to dry my squash a little before putting it in the freezer bag. I lay down a clean dish towel and use a slotted spoon to scoop the squash onto it. Then pat it with another clean dishtowel. This helps keep the squash firmer and not so mushy when you defrost it.

Who would have thought preserving all that summer squash could be so easy!? You can also use these exact same instructions for zucchini and green beans!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Living a life of simplicity is not exactly an easy thing to accomplish in this day and age. I was not raised with chickens in my backyard and a milking cow in the barn. I was born and lived most of my childhood in a very large city. We did have a small garden most years, although it was more of a hobby to my parents than something to sustain life. We have always owned horses, but more for fun than anything else. In my teen years we moved to the "country". We did have chickens and ducks for a summer. We had a cow for another summer and now my parents keep 5 goats along with their 4 horses and 3 dogs. All of these are pets. My dad loved the idea of living on a "farm" but never really had the motivation to actually keep livestock. The animals only purposes were for the entertainment of us kids. Which was great until they got big or we got bored. But, at least I have a little knowledge to start with as I venture into a life of simpleness.

The new kids born this year (born in Feb. 2012)

Because of the economy and instability of the country (and well....world), we have decided to start keeping food storage and becoming more self sufficient. I also want my family to be greener and lessen our impact on the environment. My little family grows a garden every year. We get to eat wonderful fresh vegetables all summer/fall, but then it goes to waste. I've never canned/bottled anything. I have dehydrated a little fruit here and there for snacking, but nothing in such an amount that it would hold us over in an emergency. But for the most part, 70% of my home grown bounty goes bad before it is ever touched. This year I made a change. I planted things that we will eat and are able store. I will try my hand at canning and freezing. In fact, I've already frozen some summer squash and zucchini. A pretty good start if you ask me. My carrots didn't grow this year. I still haven't figured out why. I must have had a bad batch of seeds or something. My tomato plants look sickly, but we get about a handful of cherry tomatoes daily. My squash is growing like weeds! I have way more than I know what to do with. My green beans are kind of in the middle, have some growing and plants look great. We have quite a few jalepenos almost ready to pick (too bad we don't have any tomatoes to make fresh salsa with). I am growing cantaloupe like a mad woman! I hate cantaloupe, but I love growing it and my kids love eating it. We also planted 2 apple trees last year and a raspberry bush that tripled in size this year and gave us quite a good amount of perfect fresh berries. This year we planted 2 concord grape vines. They are doing well, but we won't know for another year or 2 how great the fruit will be.
This was our first pick of the year (5 squash, a handful of tomatos and peas, 3 peppers)

For now I will start this journey with learning to compost for next years garden,  growing and preserving our fruits and vegetables and stocking up my pantry. I hope to have a few hens next year for eggs. I also just started making my own laundry detergent (much much cheaper) and cleaning supplies (also much cheaper and family/environment friendly).

I am really excited to learn to live better and with less dependency on my local big box store and bank account.  Until next time...