Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Once you start composting, you just can’t stop. Especially once you've spread it on your garden to give your soil a boost with musty, earthy organic matter. Makes you feel like such a farmer. Plus, it’s fun to see what sprouts from your compost bin or grows in your garden that you know you didn’t plant.
In my case, I have baby butternut squash growing, which I definitely didn’t plant.
It got a late start. I planted spinach in this bed last November, and was rewarded with it coming out of the ground by March. The bed is also home to my dill weed, which seeds itself every summer and grows like mad in early summer. We ate spinach throughout the months of May and June and I gave dill away to anyone who would take it throughout July.
I planted cucumbers in the bed sometime in late May, since I knew the spinach wouldn’t last. When I finally pulled the spinach stalks in late June, I added compost from my bin to give the tired soil a boost. After all, it had been hard at work, giving sustenance to the spinach.
The cucumbers grew, and I didn’t realize an alien was also growing until it began to flower, with the gigantic, orange-yellow blossoms that identify it as some sort of squash. I had to wait for it to form a little squash before I knew what it was. This pic doesn't show the flowers, but they're there. It does show how hard it is to tell the cucumber vine from the squash, though.
The funny thing is that a fellow gardener from work is having wild success with butternut squash this summer and is freezing it for use this winter in soups and stews. I thought it was a great idea and couldn’t wait to do it next year. Now I don’t have to wait for next year, but do hope that it doesn’t freeze before I get my first squash.
My gardening buddy, Jan, has an even better compost growth. Her bin sprouted a watermelon, and now she has three fairly big ones growing on the vine. How cool is that?
By Geri Anderson
Friday, September 10, 2010
We have a favorite fruit stand where we buy sweet corn and jalapeños mostly. Last week my husband stopped by this fruit stand and bought a box of jalapeños and six mega-green peppers plus onions and a large red pepper!
See, last year we’d made our standard bread and butter pickles from cucumbers from our garden—plus many white onions from the grocery store and lots of Heinz white vinegar, sugar, garlic cloves, pickling salt, and three spices—just a heads up, we bought whole mustard seed by multiple boxes—and sometimes had to visit more than one store to find it in pickling season!
Well, I digress. The point is supposed to be that last year we overestimated how much of the brine we’d need for the cucumbers on hand, so we ended up with quite a bit extra. So, we decided to make up a recipe. We chose to slice green peppers, red and orange peppers, white onion, and jalapeños and pickle them using the bread-and-butter-pickle recipe.
Last year we had perhaps 20% jalapeño in the mix. The Spicy Relish was attractive due to the variety of colors, and on a scale of 1 to 10 for heat, probably a 2. It was popular—we ran out of last year’s supply last month.
Look at the number of jalapeños we used this year!
And aren’t the vegetables beautiful?!
We canned 36 pints of Spicy Relish (in addition to more pickles from our garden’s bounty)! My husband sliced 268 jalapeños!! He diced the six mega-green peppers. I think I used 2 ½ boxes of the mustard seed.
This year the first batch of 24 jars was 60% jalapenos. Ooh-la-la!! He loves it! I do too, but user smaller quantities!! On a hotness scale, it’s a 6. To the last batch of 12 pints I added additional colored peppers and onions, partly for the additional color, but also for toning down the hotness. It’s a hotness of a 4 or so. When we labeled the jar lids, we labeled the hotness scale number too. And we intend to enjoy peppers all winter long!
By Carol Clark
Thursday, September 9, 2010
I woke up early Sunday with a plan. Go to church...buy peaches...can peaches. As church started it was announced there was a truckload of free peaches in the parking lot - FREE PEACHES. An orchard had someone order a truckload of peaches and not pick them up. They were ripe and ready for canning. I looked around, - no mass exodus. It was safe to be polite and practice patience. Anxiously, I waited for the service to be over and wished we had sat near the back of the room. It's a youngest child thing... always getting the leftovers!
Not wanting to look like the glutton I am, I took only one box, but a sweet man who overheard me say I was canning grabbed another and put it in my trunk. I didn't protest.
The rest of the day was full of peaches - 18 quarts peaches in ultra-light syrup and seven small jars of Peach Rum Sauce, (sinful, I know).
So, thanks to the good orchard grower for sharing, and thanks to the Good Lord for providing a bountifully stocked pantry.
"..put your hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."
As penance I am giving you the Peach Rum Sauce recipe. It is not as good as fresh peaches on your ice cream but I think it will taste like heaven in the dead of winter.
Peach Rum Sauce
from "The Complete Book of Home Preserving" by Ball
Makes seven 8-ounce jars.
6 cups pitted peaches, treated to prevent browning and drained
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup rum
1 tsp grated lemon zest
Prepare canning jars and lids. In large stainless steel saucepan, combine peaches, brown sugar, granulated sugar, rum and lemon zest. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles and adjust head space. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.
Serve warm over ice cream or other desserts.
By Laurena Mayne Davis
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Creatures great and small
We’ve had our share of interesting winged visitors to home, lawn and garden lately.
Some have been helpful, such as this praying mantis, who patrols planters by our front door and hunts in nearby potted basil:
Some have needed help, such as this frightened hummingbird, which became trapped in a garage and was freed by my husband, Scott:
Others have been puzzling, such as this giant, nocturnal beetle, whose size we tried to indicate in the photo by tossing a quarter near him/her. Note to self: Giant beetles don’t like having coins heaved in their direction. You should have seen how quickly we back-pedalled:
Thanks to Google and Larry Robinson, co-owner of Mount Garfield Greenhouse, we’ve determined that this nearly 2-inch beetle is a wood-borer. We found it near our wood pile, so I’d like to believe it was feasting on dead wood and not our live trees. Did you know that an estimated quarter of the world’s animals are beetles? If they ever decide to join forces, we’re in trouble.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
In years’ past, I’ve always purchased flats of petunias, snapdragons, mossflowers or anything else that catches my eye to plant in my flowerpots on the back deck. This year, I planted flowers from seed, as part of my insistence on frugal gardening. I bought a packet of giant zinnia seeds from Bookcliff Gardens, even though I’ve never been a flower gardener and couldn’t have told you what a zinnia looked like.
I love the way they look in my flowerpots. Very bright, summery and huge, which is good because some of the other flower seeds I planted didn’t come up.
Even better, they’ve attracted visitors:
The hummingbirds visit throughout the day, giving us something to watch out our kitchen window. I think I like it better than a hummingbird feeder.
One last thought about hummingbirds. I interviewed someone from the Audubon Society for a story a month or two ago, and just because I was curious and figured she'd know the answer, I asked her where my backyard hummingbirds go in the winter. She said most of them go to Central America. Whew! No wonder they spend the entire summer sipping zinnia juice from my flowers. That's a lot of flapping for such itty bitty wings.