Garlic Panic

That pink blob hovering over Kansas is full of snow, ice, and winter weather that is heading our way.  It is predicted to dump 2-4 inches of snow on us overnight.  Mother nature wasn't messing around with a nice, welcome to winter, here is a dusting of snow introduction to winter. No she decided to go full force with a winter storm that requires a 12 hour winter advisory notice.  I haven't even dug out the snow pants yet!

What a great time to realize that I have forgotten to plant my garlic bulbs.  I have had them for weeks, sitting in my dining room, just ready to find their winter home.  I have walked past them, picked them up and told them how excited I was to plant them.  Of course I never got around to doing so.

I am hoping that this snow will melt fast allowing me enough time to dig in the cool dirt to get my garlic in.  Better yet, bipass us all together.  Now that would be a great thing.

Getting rid of frost bitten garden goods

We had our first frost a couple weeks ago.  The night before the frost, I grabbed my kids, armed them with plastic bags and we picked as many tomatoes and peppers that we could find by the light of the moon.  Sure enough, we missed a lot.  I honestly hate to see all of the goodness go to waste but due to my busy schedule it was inevitable this year.

In order to complete this story, you must know a little history.  I for some reason have become the go-to person to find needed items and homes for animals.  This year alone, I have found good homes for several wonderful dogs, a couple cats and 3 pigs.  Yes pigs.  I have to give props to my circle of friends who always seem to come through with finding homes.

Towards the end of September, My friends at Quakerdale were having a festival that involved three donated piglets.  They hinted to me before the festival began that the piglets either needed to find a home or the old farmer was going to make them ground compost.  Find a home I did and the three little pigs were swiftly moved to an acreage and where they are now happily living with chickens, rabbits and a horse.  Apparently these pigs LOVE what we would consider inedible, nasty, frost bitten, mushy, stinky produce, especially tomatoes.  The pig owner knew the frost had arrived and hit me up for some of what the frost decided to leave me.  The first bag that I gave him was full of those nasty tomatoes, frost bitten green beans, swiss chard, egg plant, and mushy peppers.  The pig ate every last bite and of course wanted more.

This was kind of a blessing in disguise, I no longer had to feel bad that my busy schedule took me away from preserving what remained in the garden.  The three little pigs have been enjoying their goodies for a couple days and with our large load that we will be delivering over the weekend, after we clean out the garden, they will have quite a few enjoyable meals ahead of them.  In return we will be getting windows for cold frames, composted manure for the garden and when the time comes, farm fresh bacon.

I guess that the saying is true, when one door closes another opens.  Everything works out in the end and this truly is working out much better than I truly anticipated.  I love being able to add to my circle of people who are willing to trade goods for other goods just to help each other out. It's good to have people like that.


Canning Hot Peppers - in small batches

I don't know about you but I never ever had enough hot peppers to match the amount needed that is suggested in  canning recipes.  I usually have just enough to fill a pint jar.  Canning peppers is one of the easier things to can and since I figure I'm not the only one out there that doesn't have 14 lbs of peppers readily available, here is how I can individual jars.

Before you start the processing, make sure that your sterilized jars are in hot, even boiling, water as you will hot pack these babies.

Ingredients needed:

  • Enough hot peppers to fill a pint jar (anything extra just use right away)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water (note - you want to have equal parts vinegar and water. Reduce or increase amount if needed.)
  • 1 clove of garlic - peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt (optional)



I begin slicing the washed peppers about a 1/4" inch slice.  Seeds and all will go into the jar.  If you have smaller peppers and do not want to take the time to slice them, just cut an X into the peppers to allow them to "vent" and prevent them from exploding.  

Next, I mix equal parts vinegar and water.  A pint will take between 3/4"c - 1c total of the mix, depending on how tight you pack the jar.  Warm the mixture to just below boiling.

Pack the hot jar nice and tight. Stuff those babies in about 1/2 - 1 inch below the rim. Add the peeled clove of garlic and the salt. 

Next add the warm vinegar/water mixture to about 1/2 inch below the rim.

Seal with sterilized lids and rims and water bath for 10 minutes at 1000 feet.


I can't guarantee that I will be eating any of these but I know my husband will put them to good use. Enjoy!



Canning Applesauce - Ingredients Apples

My daughter and I made our annual trip to the Apple farm that is conveniently located a mile away from our home. I love apple picking but what I love even more this year is seeing my daughters excitement when she realized that she was tall enough to reach some of the low lying apples. She couldn't stop giggling. 


We left the farm with 28 lbs of apples ready for eating, apple sauce and pies. We decided to start with applesauce as this was something that I knew a very busy and helpful 4 year old could help me with.   


We started by washing the apples.  (Please keep in mind that the absolute best way to wash apples is NOT to let them all sit in a bowl of water but to rinse and wipe with a dry towel. Any residue on the skins can resonate in the water and transfer over to the other apples.  Albeit an easier and less messy method when a 4 year old is involved.  Just make sure you rewash to ensure the apples are clean.)


Next core and slice the apples.  I left the skins on as I have a food mill.  If you do not have a food mill, peal the apples before cooking. 

I failed to take a picture of the apples while they are cooking. I'm sure all of you can imagine apple slices in a pot...cooking.  Be warned that at this moment, your house smells delicious. It will make everyone mouth water.  Cook the apples until soft and mushy.  About 10-15 minutes.  Be sure to stir often as to not scorch the apples on the bottom. 

Please note that I did not measure the amount of apples I was using.  I filled a 7.5 quart french oven with enough room to allow me to stir the apples. 


Once the apples are soft and mushy, run them through a food mill.  (If you peeled the apples ahead of time, you can use a masher, a hand mixer, food processor, something to puree the apples.) The food mill will remove most of the skins.  At this point, I highly recommend sticking a spoon into the bowl of hot freshly pureed apple sauce and taste.  Be sure not to burn yourself as it might be piping hot.  Repeat as necessary.


This is what the apple sauce will look like once pureed.  Be sure to have your jars sterilized and in hot boiling water before canning.  Remove the jars from the hot water and fill with applesauce using 1/2 inch head room.  (I used pints and my 7.5 quart french oven produced 5 pints of applesauce).  Seal and water bath for 20 minutes at 1000 altitude. 


Now some people add sugar, red hots, juice, water or even cinnamon.  The only thing that I added to 1/2 of the jars was cinnamon.  I mixed it in after I pureed the apples.  It was delicious.

My daughter snagged a bowl of the sauce right before I canned it which is evidence that it is good. 

Have fun making applesauce.  If I can avoid it, I will never buy store bought again.


My dream stock pot

My husband and I completed our hunters safety course this evening in a sportsman type store. After we received our certification, we took advantage of the large store and v-lined for the camping and grilling section.  The hubs has a bbq/smoker team so we always make a point to check out the goods.  I on the other hand check out the stainless steel dutch ovens and the outdoor cooking supplies. 

Tonight, my husband called me over to a shelf that apparently I absolutely had to see. What he saw made me gasp. My jaw literally dropped to the ground as I wrapped my arms around my next must have. The largest stock pot that I have ever seen was sitting on the shelf just waiting for me to take it home. It was 100 quart stock pot that would take up at the minimum 2 burners on my stove.

All I could think of is how many tomatoes at once I could fit into it and process. Having 138 tomato plants makes you think of these things you know. I also thought of how much soup I could make for my friends and family. All of the sweet corn I can blanch. Oh the opportunities!

In attempt to gain size perspective, I had to have the hubs help me out. Look how large the lid is! Oh, this is definitely on my wish list. Of course I need to find a place to store it in the off season and I have to make sure it will fit on my stove but wow. I think it will be somewhere in my house in the near future.



My tour of a self sustaining farm using Aquaponics

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit a facility called Quakerdale.  The company that I work for has been a long time supporter of the organization and through them, I volunteer my time.  Quakerdale is based in the country south of Eldora, Iowa and has facilities throughout the state of Iowa.  They are a not for profit organization that provides a safe environment for hope and healing to children and also doubles as a family setting learning environment called the Promise Academy which produces NCAA level basketball players. This year, they started to convert their farm into a self sustaining farm that would produce its own food to help cut down on their expenses, while teaching the kids a unique learning environment, different levels of responsibility and potentially offer them job skills. 

Part of this facility included Aquaponics. I can't tell you how excited I was to see their set up.  I knew before hand that they had successfully created a aquaponics structure that was already producing vegetables.  The thought of having this system in my basement, allowed me to wake up well before my alarm clock went off.

I arrived for my tour and was greeted by Lalaina, a super sweet, incredibly focused young lady that I have had the pleasure of knowing for well over a year.  She was kind enough to take time out of her day to show me around their 600 acre farm.  We started in the garden where they had herbs and flowers in raised beds.  Of course it is September and this is their first year so things were looking as if they had the fall.  You know that time where you just allow things to go since you know it is the end of the season and the plants don't look as lush and beautiful as they do at the beginning of the growing season.  A little further off was where they had pole beans, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and maybe some other veggies that I failed to note.  This area will also grow with time. 

(I need to note that Quakerdale started this garden with volunteer help and through donations.  Since many of their employees are already stretched for time and responsibilities, the garden must evolve as time allows)

Next in line was my most anticipated part of the tour, Aquaponics.  Lalaina took me inside an out building where they had two large tables with grow lights, pea rock and plants! Inside! Aquaponics is the combination of fish raising and hydroponics.  The system filters water filled with the fish by-products through a pump which enters one side of a bed full of pea rock. This pea rock is where the seeds are planted which of course eventually grows, using the fertilizer of the fish as nutrients. As the water filters through the pea rocks, it essentially is cleaned and then dumped back into the fish containment area. This system will allow the facility to provide fresh produce and as the fish mature, fresh fish to the students.  By the way, all of the materials that Quakerdale used was repurposed and donated items.  They were extremely grateful for all of the help the community has given them.  What an incredible learning tool for the students and those in the community that help grow their self sustaining property.
This is the fish containment area where water is pumped out and
clean filtered water is pumped back in


Two large areas that will contain fish for their
outdoor aquaponics area

Lalaina then took me outdoors to what will eventually will be their outdoor Aquaponics area.  Being in Iowa, of course this area will be heated.  I can't wait to see how this evolves over time.  As I was taking this tour, I was sending pictures to my husband showing him what our next project will be.  If it will happen, I don't know, but a girl can dream.

Quakerdale also has two cows that they are currently trying to breed. Eventually this will provide their meat and possibly some to sell to raise more money.

Quakerdale has 6 locations throughout the state and runs on hard work and donations.  To learn more about Quakerdale and all of the wonderful things they do, please visit http://www.quakerdale.org/ and to learn more about their Sustainable Agriculture program, please click here

I hope to visit again in the spring when they begin planting their garden again.  I may even start to volunteer, granted I have time.  What an incredible opportunity to teach others about gardening and for me to learn more about aquaponics.




***You may visit Quakerdale by visiting their website at www.quakerdale.org, or call them at 641-497-5294, for more information. If you would like to get a tour of their facilities, please call and ask for Dean Kruger, Sustainable Agriculture Director. Or visit the Quakerdale Farms website.

Garage Sale pet peeves and tips

My in-laws, the hubs and me held our annual fundraiser garage sale over the weekend. We were exhausted beyond belief.  All of the items were donated to us from friends and family & most of them already marked from previous sales.  When it was all said and done, we raised over $1,300 for our scholarship fund and were able to donate 2 truckloads of nice items to Goodwill. 

The garage sale was massive.  It filled the entire garage and then my in-laws driveway which is long enough to fit 6-7 cars.  We had everything, cupboards, skies, stove, clothes, shoes, books, shelves, furniture. Everything but the kitchen sink was stashed away in 3 garages until the set-up day.   Anyway, with my experience with garage sales, my suggestions to have a successful sale would be the following:

1.  Purchase the already marked price stickers. They are invaluable, easy, and efficient.
2. If you have time, mark sizes on clothing
3. Organize clothing according to gender, size and season
4. Mark tables indicating sizes of clothing on each table.
5. Do not hang things up. For some reason, these items are not looked at as often as items on the tables.
6. Put large items at the front of the sale to draw attention
7. Do not expect the clothing tables to stay organized.  Thus #4 will help customers find what they are looking for.
8. Place bins of toys low to the ground where kids can see them. This will do one of 2 things. Keep the kids occupied while the parents shop and/or get them attached to a toy that they will beg/plead/throw a temper tantrum until the parents buy it for them.
9.  Put shoes on a table or on a box/rubbermaid container.  For some reason shoes are always a huge seller at my sales.
10. Have a power source available for customers to test electronics before purchasing.
11. Group household items.  Christmas items, kitchen items, wall decor, etc.
12. Books are always a good seller. Sellers will tend to purchase more if they can see the titles.
13. Customers like to pay for small items with large bills at the beginning of the sale.  Be sure to have plenty of 1's, 5's and 10's.
14. Greet customers when they arrive.
15. Stores often are willing to part with a sleeve of plastic bags.  These may come in handy if your haven't saved enough.
16.  Jeans are always a great seller.  $2-$3 for jeans in our area, regardless of quality, is generally the standard price. 
17. Maternity clothes usually are not good sellers. Mark them lower than what you would like to.



This leads me to the customers.  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate everyone that stops by but I also have some tips and pet peeves that have helped me with the customer suggestions below.  Sometimes it is hard to believe the way some people act at garage sales. 

Tips:

1.  Try not to use big bills at the beginning of a sale, especially if you only have a small, low cost item.  The seller most likely has change for you but unfortunately so many others pay with large bills, this potentially can wipe out the seller's change making it difficult for future buyers.

2. Sellers will be more willing to bargain with you towards the end of the sale.

3.  If you have a pile of items and want to bargain, it is best not to try to bargain on each individual item. Let the seller give you a total and then ask for a reduced price. This makes it easier than remembering the discounted price for each item.


4.  If at all possible, do not ask for a bag to carry a single onesie, a pair of socks, or one very small item. Unless the seller has gone from store to store and kept every bag that they obtained during the year, this may wipe the seller out of bags. Remember, if you are asking for this, then someone else is too.






My Pet Peeves

1. If you do not want to dicker with the price, do not take the tag off the item.  Most likely, the items were recently tagged and the seller knows what they priced the item.  The seller will be less likely to deal with you if they know you removed the tag.

2. Do not switch tags. In my opinion, this is stealing.  After you switch the tags, do not have the nerve to try to dicker with the seller.

3.  Do not ask the seller how much the price of an item is and then tell them what the sticker says on the item as if to prove them wrong. 

4.  Do not whine, complain, insult the seller for the prices listed on the items. 

5. If you whine, complain, and insult the seller about the price listed on the item and if they agree to lower the price, do not pull out a wad of money to pay for it.

6.  Do not whine, complain, and insult the seller about a price of an item to the point that another customer gives you money to pay for it and then pull out a wad of money to pay for the item.

7.  Do not whine, complain, and insult the seller about a price/color/item/quality of an item. IT IS A GARAGE SALE, not a retail store.

8.  Do not let your kids run wild across the yard, through the sale, climb in the seller's trees or designate them to explore other items on the sellers property to see if they are for sale.

9. Be courteous of the sellers property.

Phew, I feel better.  Thankfully, we wont have another sale until next year.  I think it will take me that long to recover. 

Update on New Pole Bean Area

I had posted a couple months ago about the new pole bean area the hubs had built for me.  Here is the original post.  And here is what the area looked like just as the beans were coming up.



This path was my favorite area from the beginning and continues to be my favorite place in the garden.  Look what it looks like now. 


Its a tunnel!


The vines are climbing nicely to the pergola above.

The beans are easy to reach and harvest since the hang within arms reach.


I have allowed some to go to seed to keep this area going year after year.

I have harvested close to 10 lbs so far from this area alone and with all of the bee activity around them, I'm sure to double that.

Spicy V8 or Bloody Mary Mix - Canning Tomatoes

Fellow canner and old classmate of mine posted on Facebook that she was canning Spicy V8 juice that would eventually be used as a Bloody Mary mix or in chilis.  She was kind enough to provide me with the recipe that I am now going to share with you.  Her husband gave the seal of approval for taste, if and ONLY IF salt was added.  He said it is needed.  At this point, I am unsure how much salt however you may be able to use the recommended amount noted in my previous Bloody Mary Mix recipe.

Thank you Shan for the recipe!!!

Spicy V8 Juice

15 lbs ripe tomatoes, chopped (you want 8 quarts chopped)
1 large bell pepper; chopped fine
2 large onions, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups celery; diced
2 bay leaves
12 fresh basil leaves or 2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp prepared horseradish
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 tsp sugar (we left that out)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup lemon juice
SALT - Regular or Seasoned


Place all ingredients, except lemon juice, in a large pot and bring to boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Press through a food mill. Return juice to pot, stir in lemon juice and bring to boil. Pour into clean hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Process for 35 minutes at 1000 feet.

I hope you enjoy the recipe. If I have enough tomatoes I will be making this recipe over the weekend. I promise to give you updates.

..

Salsa Recipe for Canning

My husband brought home a jar of homemade salsa that was given to him by a coworker.  It was delicious! I have tried several Salsa recipes over the years and this one topped the list.  They said that the recipe is a baseline recipe and they tweak it every time it is made.   So here it is, experiment away and consider this just a foundation to the salsa goodness. 

Tricia's Salsa Recipe

1 pkg Mrs Wages Salsa Tomato mix (this can usually be found in the canning sections of Wal-mart or Hy-Vee)
1/2 cup vinegar
12 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes
2 white onions chopped
2 green bell peppers chopped
6-12 jalapeno peppers seeded and chopped
4-6 other peppers (sometimes we do this other times not they could be banana peppers, or wax peppers)
3-4 garlic cloves - pressed
1 tablespoon cilantro
2 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon lime juice

Sanitize and warm jars.  Warm salsa to about 180 degrees for a hot pack.  Fill jars and leave about 1/2" head room.  Seal and water bath for 30 minutes at 1000 feet.

Enjoy!  If you make tweaks to it please feel free to share. 

Saving Radish Seeds

It has been a long time since I posted.  I need to get back with it.  Over the past several months, I can't even count how many times, I took pictures and thought of things to write about.  Life and my busy hours got in the way.

Last year I wrote about the heirloom radish varieties that I purchased from Seed Savers.  In the post I mentioned that I would let one variety go to seed each year to prevent them from cross pollinating.  This year I chose the Philadelphia White Box.

Saving radish seeds is quite easy, just tedious and repetitive.  Although a great thing to do while watching your favorite program on TV and is easy enough a 4 year old can help.


Radishes that go to seed will flower then develop a pod in place of the flowers. I allowed the pods to become completely dry before I harvested them.  The easiest way I found to remove the pods is to slide my hand down the tiny branches collecting the pods in my hand as I go.

After I collected the pods, I simply broken them open to reveal the seeds.  The average seed per pod was 3. Sometimes the larger pods would hold 5 or 6 so my suggestion would be go for the larger pods first then the smaller if you are still needing more.

Store the seeds in a cool, dry place for up to 5 years.

Honestly it is a lot of work for a couple seeds. But like I said, it is easy enough to do while watching TV and you can always have your kids/niece/nephew/paper boy do the work.

2nd Day

Today is the second day without power. Why you might ask? Oh because we had a huge storm blow through approximately 4am Monday morning and literally blew our power sources over.

The sirens went off shortly before 4. It was calm, dry, almost peaceful out. The sirens indicated that something was heading our way and after this years tornadoes in Joplin and Alabama, we take those sirens seriously. So we gathered the kids and tucked them under a heavy duty table in the back corner of the basement. My husband and I did what we always do, I streamed our local am station on my phone and he looked up the radar. Just as I said, we should probably get the flash lights the power went off.

But what seemed to be forever, things were still silent. A gust of wind here and there but nothing that would indicate danger. Then the wind picked up and my husband and I decided we better take cover. I gave quick instructions to my son to cover himself and his sister up and get as far back in the corner as possible. My husband joined them under the table. I on the other hand grabbed an area and crouched in a corner between the washer and the wall. We were sitting in darkness listening to the powerful wind pound on our house.

This is the first time as a couple that we have taken cover. I mean and took it seriously. This is the first time I had images of destruction and what if scenarios going through my head. But before we knew it the wind stopped just as fast as it began. It was over.

Once we determined that it was safe enough to leave the basement, the hubs and o grabbed our flash lights, left the kids in the basement and went out to inspect the neighborhood. It was about 4:30 am. We went out the front door to see our neighborhood in tact. Our neighbor across the street yelled at us to make sure everyone was ok. Then we started to notice damage. Our friend kiddy corner from us lost a tree. It narrowly missed his house and car. An enormous branch that hovered over our driveway was ready to drop with a gentle breeze. In our back yard, the swing set was thrown 20 feet and mangled in my compost pile and the kids pool was now sitting on top of my giant pumpkin patch. The tomato plants that Max gave me were wind damaged but safe.

All of our neighbors were safe. Max's wife, our friend with the tree and confirmed by cell phone, our family.

We left for work that morning thankful that the hot water heater still had hot water. The news predicted that it was going to be 105 that day with the heat index. We didn't understand the gravity of this until we saw the rest of the town. It took my husband 45 minutes to get out of town after checking on a friends. this normally would take 15 minutes. Trees were everywhere as if a 1,000 of them were dropped randomly on homes cars and the street. 4 lane streets were reduced to a 1/2 lane. It was crazy. I felt for those having to clean up in the heat. (Thankfully God decided to reduce the humidity and the heat to a comfortable manageable level)

As I left town to go to work, I noticed the beautiful velvet corn fields were so flat it appear as if a heavy duty paver went over them. Those fields were a complete loss.

The storm also destroyed the main power connection to the two major power stations knocking out power to our entire community as well as people 40 miles away.

From what we heard, we might be without power for up to 7 days. That night we manages to find a generator 45 miles away. We purchased it and hooked up our fridge freezer and set up camp in the basement where it was cool.

We are extremely blessed in the fact that we have a gas stove so we could still cook. That we still have water that is safe to drink and that there wasn't a single I jury due to this storm that brought 80-100 mile per hour winds.

Our kids have played outside, our neighbors had a block party, others gave a helping hand to others clean up efforts. Although it has changed our routines, we really aren't complaining much. This slower change of pace is kind of nice.

Please forgive odd spellings as I am writing this with my thumbs on my phone. Technology I tell you.
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RIP my dear friend Wilson

I'm not quite sure how to write while filled with raw emotion.  My husband thought that it may be good therapy, a relief and a tribute to a man that was very dear to me.

For several years, my neighbor and I would talk over the fence that split our properties.  He was the older, wiser gentleman who loved to talk gardens, from seed to plate.  He would always have stories of friends gardens and his once incredible compost pile that the older ladies in the community would take buckets of for their gardens.  He would make fresh horseradish and give me a warm jar. We would experiment with new ways to grow plants, like our vertical potato boxes last year.  We would exchange seeds, plants and our harvest.  Our talks, over the fence line is why I called him Wilson.  His real name is Max. 

Max passed away today of lung cancer.

My heart is breaking but I know that Max will no longer be in pain.  This is a blessing that I must focus on. To the end he remained optimistic, even when it was too difficult to walk through our adjoining gate to give me seedlings of his favorite plants. He had a good soul, he loved our God, and knew that one day, he would be able to have the most magnificent garden in heaven.

Before he passed, Max gave me three varieties of his favorite tomato plants.  This simple gift will allow me to remember him each year that I plant the seeds of these plants.  From one gardener to another, I believe that he knew that I would cherish the seeds and the plants.  That I would always remember what his favorite tomato was. He knew.

Max, you will truly be missed.  You have blessed this family with just being able to know you.  Enjoy God's beautiful gardens.

Love your friend,
Ruth

Garlic!

Today I harvested the rest of my garlic. I have been randomly taking bulbs out of the garden for cooking for a couple weeks, but today I deemed as harvest day.  It was time as they were bent over and the leaves were starting to dry.

I had my husband smell these and he said, "Oh".  Not is the not interested type of oh but the wow those smell good, I wonder what we can put these in kind of oh.  The OH MAN! That smells wonderful kind of oh.  The larger bulbs are Chet's Italian Red a softneck heirloom variety.  You can read more about them in my previous blog here.  


I am thinking that this should have been harvested a little earlier as it gave birth.


I removed as much dirt from the roots as I could and hung them under my porch to cure for about 2 weeks.  I have one more variety in the ground yet, the Elephant Garlic.  They seemed to be going strong without much drying.  Those suckers should be huge.

New Pole Bean Area

With the addition of the greenhouse, I had to move where my pole beans grew.  My husband built two boxes for me out of old untreated wood that we reclaimed from my in-laws house as they tore it off.  The boxes line my entrance to the garden from my greenhouse.  Over the boxes is a pergola of sorts. 

Just recently the green beans decided to grow which meant I needed to provide them with a support system.  I had roll of twine that I thought would work perfect.  I hammered finishing nails into the box at an angle and then hammered them down to hold the twine.  Just loose enough that I could, without too much work, remove the twine in the fall to save it for next year. 
Please ignore the weeds in my onions.  Looking directly at the box everything is nice and uniform. 



Looking into my garden from my greenhouse door.  My husband said that this set up is already beautiful.  That it is going to look fantastic when the beans start to climb.  On the opposite end on the left side you will see where I have a cucumber plant designated to climb the post.  I can't wait to see how this turns out this summer.

Hay!

An old classmate of mine, one that I really haven't seen since I graduated many years ago, a person who happens to be a Facebook friend, Facebook'd me over the weekend.  This old classmate just happened to live on an acreage. An acreage with a big beautiful barn. A big beautiful barn that had a loft. A loft that was half full of loose, 10+ year old hay.  Hay that he was going to burn {cringe} because he didn't want it. Hay that he thought I might be able to use as mulch in my garden. 

I think the man upstairs was looking after me again.  I was just about to purchase the much needed hay for my garden.  I had the number and phone in my hand and right at that moment, a person who I really haven't spoken much to at all in the past 17 years thought of me. Seriously, how incredible is that.  How thoughtful of this classmate. How grateful I am. 

Of course I didn't pass it up.  My wonderful husband put the trailer on the truck and we headed out to the country.  I climbed into the loft to find it about half full and 2+ feet deep.  After about an hour of pushing it out of the loft door we had a complete load and over to the farm we went to dump half of the load.

I have never used black weed barrier before so I wasn't prepared as to how warm the soil below would become.  Common sense I suppose but obviously I was not with much common sense that day of laying the barrier down.  The majority of the hay was placed around existing plants and then spread randomly on the barrier.  Once I transfer more plants to this site, the hay will take on a more uniform appearance. 


This poor guy showed me right away what the heat the barrier cause was doing.  Some of the leaves were scorched. 


This is the first plant that I transferred out to the farm.  It pouted so much it lost most of it's leaves but shows determination that it will not let the move get it down.


Moving, old, dusty hay is a dirty job, but someone has to do it.  We were so covered with so much dust and grime by the time we got home that there was a ring around the bath tub.  Oh but it was worth it.  Thank you again my classmate.  You have completely made our garden year.  For some reason, I believe that this will be one of the most weed free garden seasons I have ever had.

The Farm day 2

Yesterday, I visited the farm to finally get my plants in the ground.  At least most of them.  I had Cantaloupe, Cucumbers, yellow squash, watermelon and several mystery squash plants.  I also decided to take what I some of the 105 volunteer tomato plants and move them to the farm. 

I spent about 3 hours there cutting the tarp, digging the holes and hand watering the plants. I was alone out there.  It was a beautiful, quiet, sun shiny day.  I only had the company of some birds chirping and the distant sound of tractors in the field.  It was incredibly peaceful.  It was one of those days that I couldn't help and just sit and look at the simple beauty that surrounded me. 

Look at those colors! Bright blue sky the beautiful green fields.


What a beautiful day it was to be gardening!


This bird along with others were singing to me.


So after I sat and enjoyed my surroundings I finished planting my plants.  To the front of the picture are my cucumbers and cantaloupe.  The hubs is going to build me a trellis out of left over wood for them to climb on.

Here are my volunteer squash, watermelon and yellow squash.  If you click on the picture, you will be able to tell which ones came from my green house and which ones I transplanted from my garden.  Squash likes to pout when they don't get their way.  I am hoping they get over their disapproval and liven up again.  With 3 days of rain in the forecast, I don't think they will have a choice. 

 This is the start of my tomato plant transfer.  I believe most of them are indeterminate so supporting these may be an issue.  The hubs said he will build something to support them.  Got to love the hubs. 

The first visit to the farm

Finally! Between bad weather, traveling, and just flat out not enough time, the hubs and I made it out to the farm to prepare our plot.  Despite my farmer friend discing it with his tractor in March, the plot was covered with weeds due to our late arrival. 

I have the plants ready for this area in my greenhouse and some that have been living happily in my garden area.  They just need to be moved.

Let me say that my husband in awesome.  He is such a tremendous support to me and my gardening craziness.  Knowing that we would have a weed issue, he took a large riding lawnmower out to the farm and mowed everything down to make tilling easy.  This is what it looked like when I arrived. 


It almost resembles a yard if it wasn't for all of the green stuff being weeds.

This is what it looked like prior to my husband mowing it.

Here is the hubs tilling for me.  Beyond him, do you see how incredible the fields look?  In Iowa, we are having a great farming season.  The ag reports say that we have over 90% of our fields planted and growing which is at top of the rest of the US. 


This is what my plot looked like after we were done.  I sprung for weed barrier this year.  I found it on sale and after weighing out the my options, decided to purchase.  The farm has mutant weeds, layers of newspaper and hay/straw/grass clippings are absolutely no match for the weeds at this place.  Last year, I could have weeded the plot 2 times a day and still would not be able to keep up.  I figured the cost of this protector would be replaced by a better crop than I had last year.  I also decided to use the cardboard box the barrier came in as barrier.  The open area will be home to my potatoes.  I am chancing planting them this late.  Early potatoes are always good.

This is the first plant I planted at the farm.  It is a mystery squash and the poor guy is so unhappy that I moved him.  I hope he comes back and that I didn't off him. 


Before we left the farm for the evening, the sun was saying goodnight behind the clouds.