The Backyard

The Backyard

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Where Have I Been?

There's WAY too much social media these days and after last year's 1/2 ton harvest, my on-line socializing and updates went to the simplified Facebook more often than naught.   Blogging is time consuming.  Writing is creative and informative, yes, but also takes a good chunk out of a busy day.  Retirement gave me happiness to be in the garden and exercise as much as my little heart desires.  But living in the moment (the key to happiness), has taken me on a path that puts a smile on my face every day, no matter the situation -- and I'm NOT always in the backyard garden or on a bicycle seat.  Thus, that path didn't include a trail to the blog everyday.  Today, is the first time in months I felt inclined to share on this blog what's going on in retirement life and the backyard.  There have been regular updates on Facebook.  The garden is still a real thing and while everything is pretty much put to sleep for the winter, I'm endeavoring to find out what exactly lurks under the soil.  My curiosity the past couple years of why aren't there any worms in the manure led me down a road to the realization that the horse manure likely contains GMOs from the ingredients in the horse feed (soybeans, grain "products").  Horrified, I'm trying to find a laboratory that will provide an affordable test for glyphosates.  Standard soil and compost testing will NOT give that information (but are quick to tell you what to ADD to your soil - no thanks - my produce is beautiful).  Some folks say the composting process will break down any pesticide residues in the manure.  But studies show that's not the case. I have no worms.   So this quest continues.  Outside of the garden, my aging mother gets attention every day.  I'm grateful for living next door to her and being able to walk down over the hill and help her out with whatever she might need.  She makes me smile -- even when she's in her pessimistic moods. Mothers are special people. Dad's too.  He's 83, but is super-healthy.  My 94-year old mother-in-law passed in the Spring, so hubby and I are in the process of cleaning and doing small maintenance jobs at her home to get it ready to sell.  We're finding ourselves spending a great deal of time there -- but it's fun and I'm enjoying the fix-up projects (I always did like cleaning and making things "pretty").  And of course I'm always moving and exercising doing something.  I took up stand-up paddling in whitewater and spent a bunch of time this summer on the Lehigh River in Eastern Pennsylvania.  I still run, bicycle, mountain bike, lift weights, do yoga, and hike.  I try to mix it up everyday to keep it interesting -- whatever I feel like doing is the rule of thumb.  So there you have it.  Visit me on Facebook.  It may be awhile until I blog again!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Unplanned Easter Sunday Celebration in the Backyard

Yesterday was filled with outdoor play for hubby, myself, and several of our friends.  We paddled the annual 7.5 mile Red Moshannon Downriver Race in north central Pennsylvania -- hubby as a spectator, myself as a racer. I raced on a stand-up paddleboard and needless to say, I was exhausted by the end of the race and couldn't wait to get home, eat, and rest.  My shoulders/arms hurt and my lower back was ached.  But alas, no rest for the weary and the mailbox was stuffed full of onions that I ordered.  They weren't supposed to be delivered until next week, but I guess the onion grower was anxious to get their orders out.  It was a bittersweet moment -- happy to start planting, but SO tired from the day I couldn't even think of bending over to plant 400 or so onion plants.  Sure, they could wait until Monday or Tuesday, but the weather prediction for today and tomorrow is rainy.  What's the best time to plant things??? Yup - just before a rain. There's truth to the farmer's saying "make hay while the sun shines."  With an achy back and sore shoulders, I trudged to the garden this morning to plant the onions.  Easter Sunday or not, the planting must begin.  (Don't worry, I gave thanks while in the garden).  Dixondale Onion never lets us down with a couple extras in the order.  I ordered 60 leeks, 120 yellow Spanish and 120 Red Zeppelin onions.   What I received and planted was 110 leeks, 170 yellow spanish and 206 red zeppelin.  The onions and leeks are in the ground.  Time to praise.  Let the rains come.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

January Blues - Getting Garden Ready

It's January and it's been 4 months since the last blog post.  When the tomatoes got blight last fall and they all were removed, I opted to take a break for awhile and "refresh."  I went for a 26 mile hike, ventured down a 7-mile stretch of a whitewater river on a stand-up paddle board (twice), started and finished the 3-month P90X training program, and just enjoyed retired life for a change.   Now its time to get back in the swing of things and get ready for garden season 2013 (but still do my fun-stuff in between it all).   I learned a lot from last year's growing-our-own-food quest.  I overwhelmed myself with a LOT of food and now that we're in the heart of eating what I harvested, preserved and stored, I can make a fair judgement on what to add or lessen this year.  Here's the initial thought:
  • Less canned pickled beans, more frozen local ham and green beans.
  • More frozen green beans -- we gobbled those up first.
  • No white or red potatoes - we just don't eat that many.  Can buy fairly cheap at the farmer's market. 
  • Grow a couple BLUE potatoes - rich in antioxidants.
  • May not grow dried beans - a lot of work and garden space for a relatively small harvest.  Dried beans are inexpensive to purchase.
  • The onion harvest was PERFECT. 400 seedlings ordered.
  • Butternut Squash goes back to the main garden.  It was grown on a slope in the herb garden last year and didn't do well. Hubby and I both missed our beloved butternut squash this winter.
  • Sweet potatoes are getting started from my own harvest last year.  Had great success starting my own slips (last year was an experiment... this year I'm not purchasing slips).
  • More sweet corn. Didn't have enough for storage.
  • No soybeans.  Didn't do well.
  • Broccoli soon to be started.
  • Shell peas this year and sugar peas only to eat.  Sugar peas didn't freeze well.
  • I found out hubby doesn't like tomatoes nor cucumbers!  So no more cukes.
  • Tomatoes mostly for canning for winter.  Only 1 or 2 plants to eat fresh (heirloom of course).
  • Peppers only for freezing... had to make WAY too much salsa last year (although my friends and family enjoyed the jars they received as gifts). May still do that.
  • Lots more to come.... just beginning the process.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Quazi End of the Season Tally

There's probably two more months of good produce-growing left in the season, but I'm calling it quits for the year.  My tomatoes got the blight and were all pulled (about 20 plants), and the pole beans were blown over by a wind and killed them.  Since I met my goal of a half ton, it's truly time to celebrate and relax a little.  I'll continue to harvest some odds and ends like carrots and spinach, but besides the white and red potatoes to get out of the ground, most big harvests -- and definitely preservation -- are done for the year so I can get a little R&R.  Here's the final tally of everything.  The total tomato harvest takes the top honors at 184.5 pounds. 

Food 2012 Total Weight
Asparagus 5.00
Beans, Lima 1.75
Beans, Kidney 1.75
Broccoli 36.75
Carrots 12.00
Celery 11.50
Corn, Sweet 114 total 45.25
Cucumber 31.00
Fennel 0.50
Kale 4.50
Leek 0.25
Mesclun Mixed Greens 4.25
Greens, beet 2.00
Green Beans 39.50
Onions 164.50
Peas, Sugar 13.25
Peas, Snap 13.00
Peppers 72.50
Potatoes 26.50
Radicchio 0.50
Radishes 7.00
Red Beets 26.25
Rhubarb 5.75
Romaine Lettuce 6.00
Squash, Butternut 20.50
Squash, Dumpling
Squash, Spaghetti 11.75
Spinach 3.00
Sweet Potatoes 77.50
Swiss Chard 1.25
Tomatoes 184.50
Total Vegetables 829.75
Black Raspberries 10
Strawberries 36
Watermelon!  85
Cantaloupe 38.25
Red Raspberries 11
Grand Total 1010.00

Thursday, September 6, 2012

One Half Ton Celebration

I'm having a BIG glass of wine tonight to celebrate the half ton mark of harvested produce from the backyard in 2012. The wine will help my aching back relax a little too after hauling in the 68 pounds of sweet potatoes and 30ish pounds of tomatoes that put me over the 1/2 ton mark.  The tomatoes gotta get cooked up this weekend along with the 10ish pounds of peppers that also gotta get picked.  Banana peppers salsa here we come.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Harvest Monday - September 3, 2012 - Closing in on 1/2 Ton

896.75 pounds with this week's 59 3/4 pound harvest.  I never, in a million years, thought someday I'd be hauling in a half ton of food into our house from the backyard.  I have to be honest though - I'm tired!  I've never wanted frost to come as I am wishing for it this year.  I even started pulling live, producing plants out of the ground.  Two peach tomato plants were pulled that were vining everywhere --  into the sweet potatoes, onto the other tomatoes, on the pepper plants -- they were truly invasive and just lost their life.  But don't fret folks, there's about 3 other plants still producing WAY too many peach tomatoes.  Oh, and the green  beans are about to die too.  I hit 33 pounds of green beans with this week's 10 pound harvest.  That's plenty of beans to get me through the winter.  So here's the tally for the week:

3/4 pound Kidney Beans (disappointed with the kidneys: only got 1 3/4 pounds total)
5 pounds carrots
1/4 pounds mixed greens
10 pounds green beans
6 3/4  pounds peppers
1 pound red beets
18 pounds tomatoes
16 1/2 watermelon
1 1/2 red raspberries

59 3/4 total for the week

896.75 total for the year

Friday, August 31, 2012

Green Bean City

Earlier this year, our area experienced a quazi-drought and while everything continued to grow, it was a slow process.  As the blossoms were appearing on the beans, the dryness came and it stunted their growth.  My harvest at that time was about 14 pounds.  I thought the beans were about finished.  Then the rains came.... and a month later the beans decided to go wild and already at another 14 pounds with possibly that many more to go have been picked.  Hubby loves beans.  So this year I'm learning new ways to use up the green beans.  We've made many fresh and gobbled them up, and I froze a couple bags but am not a fan of frozen green beans.  I'm not canning them because of the need for pressure canning (and I don't have a pressure canner).   Earlier this week, I found a recipe in the Ball Canning cookbook for Pickled three bean salad.  Bingo!  I used two beans and subbed the kidney beans for the limas since my limas aren't quite ready yet (they too are experiencing a re-growth and I may be overrun with lima beans in another two weeks also).  The results were incredible.   I told hubby I found a new way to use up green beans.  Last evening, while picking the beans, I decided to make ham, green beans and potatoes today and thought why not make a BIG pot and freeze some?  So that's what's on tap for this weekend.   Oh the mighty green bean... and everything else in the garden.  Love it!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Harvest Monday - August 27

Just at a time that I'm wishing for frost, the garden is experiencing a regrowth. I had a flush of tomatoes and green beans about a month ago after the first rain following about a month of dryness, then they sort of diminished, NOW they are coming back. At least the green beans are right now, and the tomatoes are not far behind judging by the amount of green tomatoes on the bushes. No sign of late blight here. Wow... just lush, green, viney, non-stop tomatoes. Holy tomato-picking.  Peppers are in full swing and the freezer is getting very full of bags of peppers.  Red raspberries are also a daily picking from now until frost.  I'm averaging about 3/4 of a quart a day.   My total poundage is tapering off for the week with only 63 pounds of goodies, but I know that will kick pick back up once I start digging up the potatoes and sweet potatoes in a few weeks, not to mention the second flush of tomatoes and all the peppers yet to be picked.  Come on frost!  (really!).
Harvests this week:
Watermelon:  20 pounds
Red Raspberries: 4 3/4 pounds
Celery: 2 pounds
Green Beans: 5 3/4 pounds
Peppers: 10 pounds
Red Beets: 1 1/2
Sweet Potatoes: 3/4 pounds
Tomatoes: 18 1/4

Total for the week:  63 pounds

Nardello red peppers

Corno di Toro Rossi Peppers.  Beautiful.

Traditional bells for mother dear.  She got about 10 pounds so far.

Beets are still in the ground from May/June. 

Tomatoes everywhere... especially peach tomatoes which I found are best eaten like fruit.

The regrowing green beans. 


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard - Finished Chow Chow

Three days in the making, the results are in:  it passed the mom test.  You can't imagine the joy when the words, "mmm... tastes good"  rolled off mom's tongue.  And when I asked if the texture was good of each vegetable and did I cut them up to the right size, she said yes to the texture and that I cut mine a little smaller, but that's ok... she doesn't like the bigger pieces.  I was elated.  My first experience with chow chow was truly a learning experience.  I had no idea what  I was getting myself into and realize now the work involved over a multi-day period.  First is the harvesting, then the preparing: cutting up, cleaning, shelling the lima and kidney beans, cooking until al dente and in some cases, not cooking at all.  I had vegetables stuck in every corner of the refrigerator and almost forgot the celery until I looked over the recipe one last time before assembling everything in jars.  I pondered over the brine... was there enough?  My grandmothers recipe called for only 1 1/2 cups of vinegar which is hardly enough for two gallons of vegetables.  My mom couldn't help me on what to do.  Luckily, the Ball canning book had a recipe very similar and I used that measuring of liquid.  It still didn't completely cover the vegetables, but I'm told they will still be fine other than the vegetables not covered my discolor with time.  I have a feeling we'll eat it all before that happens.  I ended up with 11 pints and 1 quart.  And the better part?  I'll be making it again... possibly even this year yet.  It was a big hit in the family.  We're all thrilled to be eating Chow Chow again.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Harvest Monday - August 20, 2012

Crazy busy!! Very quick harvest post this week:

Kidney Beans - 1 pound
Celery - 1 pound
Cucumbers - 2 1/2 pounds
Green Beans - 2 1/4 pounds
Peppers 7 1/2 pounds
Sweet Potatoes 4 1/2 pounds
Tomatoes (pick of the week): 43 1/4 pounds
Watermelon 7 pounds
Cantaloupe - 20 1/2 pounds (about 7 melons)
Red Raspberries 3 3/4 pounds

93 pounds total for the week.

774 for the year!  I'm fairly certain at this point I'll hit the 1/2 ton marker.  I never imagined.  (This was the first year I weighed my harvests).  Holy heavyweights.  We eat that much!?