Sunday, Meal Making Day

Updates: Added, photos & some notes of meals after being made.

The morning is slipping away towards afternoon, and here I sit still, with the backdoor open to let the not yet too warm air waft in.  The birds are chirping and the breeze gently swaying through our neighbor’s maple tree branches.

My tea is long gone, but here still I sit… wondering what will I do with my day?

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My cuke stash 😀

There’s a couple cucumbers ready to pick again today, one of which is really FAT.  And this is my chance!  Bob has been pickling everything!  It’s time to get my hands into the mix.  I’m the newbie, and I am discovering I need to take what I can get and run with it.

Refiningcotten posted a recipe for Spicy Cukes that I really want to try.  I just need to figure out how to make my own Chili Lime seasoning instead of driving all the way across town to a Trader Joe’s.

Update: The fat cuke was bitter!  Now I know!  I used the skinnier one.  Here’s the result of my using fresh ingredients instead of the spice from Trader Joe’s (except for chili pepper -used powdered).  It was pretty good.  

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Refiningcotten’s Spicy Cukes

Also on my list of things to do today, is making another batch of this wonderful shrimp alfredo dish, made with some zucchini left over from what I picked up at the farmer’s market last weekend.  I make at least one main dish for me and one for my daughter each weekend for us to take to work for lunches all week.  We’re losing weight together and this helps us always have at least something on hand to reach for instead of all the wrong stuff.  We’re 6 weeks in and meal prep has really been key.  She’s about to turn 19 at the end of the month and so this has also been a God-send for helping to teach her not only to cook, but to cook from whole foods.  I never thought I’d see the day! Struggling parents everywhere can rejoice in my personal victory. lol

Update: Even with a group effort, we could NOT find my Veggetti Spiralizer. 😦  So I used my mandolin which made wider strips of zucchini.  I just made sure to steam them a bit longer after all was combined.

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Last week we made low-carb lasagna. It’s delish!  Even Bob is loving it!  I really love making our meals ourselves like this.  I didn’t make the sauce from scratch, but one day… I will.

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BBQ woes… on left: Stubb’s, on right, a North Alabama white bbq sauce (low carb)

In fact, last night was the second dinner lately that I really wished I had a good homemade BBQ sauce recipe that I can make low, low carb somehow.  I have been searching stores high and low for a red low carb bbq sauce that actually tastes good and doesn’t have bad for you sugar substitutes.  It’s been underwhelming. So, the plan is to make my own, though as of yet I have no recipes to go by.

I want to make my own ketchup, too.  Unfortunately, we did not plant any roma tomatoes this year. So, I will have to pick some organic ones up wherever I can find them.  I might have to go conventional. We’ll see.  But next year, roma tomatoes are going into our garden, no doubt.  Eventually I want to make large batches of the BBQ sauce and ketchup and can it, for the sake of convenience.

As a random little bit of sharing at the end of this post, totally unrelated.. have a look at the fruits of our no-till garden, a cute little mushroom (inedible!).  Fungus in the garden is a great sign of soil health.  And since this is our first year employing the no-till method, I’m super stoked to find a variety of mushrooms from time to time.  Here’s one from this morning.

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Garden Bugs

Gardening brings bugs, bugs that like to munch your plants to live “high on the hog” as my self-described hillbilly boyfriend would say.

This year is no different than any other. So far we have dealt with Flea Beetles on potatoes and beans, Japanese Beetles on the beans, and the infamous Cabbage Loopers on collards, kale, and broccoli.

I’m still getting to know all these foes of our garden, when they come, what phases they look like what, how fast they can inflict damage, etc. But the most important information is how to eradicate them, organically of course.

For Cabbage Loopers Bob built a little mesh tent over the collards. I should have done the same for my kale and broccoli, but I didn’t. I still got some broccoli and kale, but I’m sure it could have been more. I learn my lessons the hard way, I guess. Bob, protected his babies, his collards, and he’s on his third or fourth harvest.

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By the time the flea beetles ran rampant, the potatoes were well established and weren’t in any danger of being killed off. It turns out they survived their infestation, because the potato beetles have been gone for a while now. But when they were here, they also got on the beans. Those poor half runners! They have had and are having their challenges!

After surviving the flea beetles when they were little, those half runner beans have grown taller and bushier than Bob says is usual (I’ve never grown them, but he has). But now those guys are fending off some Japanse Beetles. Not many, but we’ve tried to keep on top of it and spray them with neem oil once a week during the past couple weeks. Now when I go out there, I don’t see a single one. My fingers are crossed.

The worst thing our tomatoes have faced was the tendency for lower leaves to get splotchy (it’s common and we trim them off). Other than that, one or two might have a hole that’s healed nicely or have started to split from too rapid growth. Those dudes are really nice sizes. I have a feeling we might get more of that with the amount of rain we’re due.

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Splotchy lower leaves

It feels like a fall day today. This is the second such day this July! Is that normal?

As Bob and I made our evening rounds through the gardens, we found a couple of bugs we’d like to show you. One, we have no idea what it is. The other, we know, we just think they’re awfully cute looking – for bugs. 😉

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This looks like it may be a cocoon of some sort. It’s on a tiny blade of grass next to a cucumber plant. Have you ever seen a striped pod like this before? For size perspective, here’s that same tip of grass, which I plucked for the photo, next to a 16 oz glass bottle. It’s tiny, right?!?

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Bob identified the other bug, and made me touch it. It looks like it should have a hard shell, but it’s a soft worm body. He picked one up and put it in the palm of his hand and it pooped on him. haha This is a potato worm, he says, well… two of them.

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They are kind of cute, don’t you think? Yeah, it’s a stretch. The potatoes are dying back just from reaching this point in their growing season, so we won’t worry too much about them. Otherwise, we would douse them in neem oil. That stuff smells soooo musty!

We feel like lazy gardeners this year. Neem oil, some mesh, and daily rounds to pay attention to what’s going on with each plant is all we’ve had to do. Maybe Bob steaked up plants, or gave the potatoes more and more soil, and sometimes he watered his big garden and I watered my small garden…. but overall, we’ve just enjoyed the life that we’ve fostered. Those are all our babies. Next year, I want to grow more flowers that attract bees, BENEFICIAL BUGS!

Aloe Overhaul

Saturdays are supposed to be grocery days.  Let’s just say, it’s looking a bit iffy!

Instead, we ended up at the farmer’s market downtown, looking for large zucchini and organic corn.  We must have piddled in the garden too much this morning, because the vendor who advertised organic corn, was no longer there by the time we arrived.  So, no farm fresh corn for us. 😦

But, I was able to find large zucchinis.  My daughter and I plan to make a low-carb, grain-free lasagna from a recipe she found online.  She and I are both 5 weeks into trying to lose some weight together.  It’s working, so we keep at it.  And that means Fridays we choose recipes, Saturdays I shop for ingredients, and Sundays we cook for the week ahead.  Tomorrow is looking like a double-header, groceries and cooking.

Today… well, I got side-tracked.  It’s the little inspirations that I enjoy the most….  like writing a blog or getting my hands in the dirt.  Today, I’m doing both.  In my world, getting side-tracked on something personally fun and satisfying is the whole point to life!

Down at the market, I found a lady selling some Aloe Vera.  Mine at home is so neglected.  (I’ll show it to you in a second.)  I thought, I’ll just buy a new one, and start over.  The lady was selling a decent sized pot that was utterly overflowing with it, for SIX BUCKS!  I couldn’t pass it up.

As promised, here is my neglected aloe plant.  I can’t remember where, but I heard somewhere that aloe plants like deep pots, and that they can flower!  I never knew that! And looking at this guy here, it’s no wonder I never experienced such things with my sad aloe (foreground plant – obviously haha).

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In the background is my new $6 aloe cache.  These guys had lots of roots and were very  healthy… compared to mine anyway. 😉

As I was preparing to transplant the new aloes, I started feeling bad for my sad looking old aloe.  So, I trim him up and put him in a deeper pot.  We’ll see if he recovers any.  He didn’t have any roots, just the main stem, poor guy.  It will be an experiment to see if he recovers well.

Mr. Aloe

When I started pulling the new aloes out of their planter, I found there was one large bundle, 6 medium bundles, and 6 tiny baby starts!

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I put the largest and the 6 smallest all together, for now.  The mediums ones went into the large pot that my old aloe was in.  They’re not quite as large as that guy, so their roots will still have room for some time to come.  And when they get bigger, Bob says I can gift them out.  That will work for me. 🙂

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I put some stones in the bottom of the planters (except this big one that wasn’t very deep), and then cactus potting mix -for the sandy consistency-, and hope I planted them at the right depth.  I saw on a you tube video not to water them right away, to wait a day or two, so…  well, I hope I did this right.  Obviously I could use some aloe care-taking advice.  I often do far better with my garden goodies than my indoor plants.

 

Us, and Our Garden

The story of “Our Garden” begins with the story of “us”. But don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the long version of “us”. As magical as it feels, it’s not something that can be portrayed with words alone anyway.

We met on an online dating site way back in the blogging heydays, circa 2005. Back then, you could not have paid me to go out in the yard and do anything except that which the city required by law, like keeping the grass mowed.

Before we met, I was encouraged to “make a list” of traits I would like to have in a relationship. I made the list, and within a couple months he appeared in my life. We fell hard and fast, albeit long distance. On that list was that he would “have a green thumb”. During those early days of our relationship, I had no idea he had that particular trait. At least, it wasn’t the focus back then. Remember, I hated yard work! I just knew that I admired those who were good with it. I felt it was a nurturing quality, and if a man had it, then he would probably be naturally nurturing, too. I wasn’t wrong!

In that first few months, we “didn’t work out”, or so we thought, and our romantic relationship came to an end… or so we thought. In reality, we never ceased being in contact, by email and occasionally an online chat. Other relationships came and went, yet we remained cherished friends in each others lives.

In 2015, after a decade of seasoning our souls, we rekindled our romantic relationship and it flared up into a roaring fire!

He moved 6 hours to come live with my kids and I. And we lived happily ever after, and all that jazz! haha True enough, but never as simple as just that (as we all know from our own experiences).

It was during this rekindling of our love that we both reveled in just how much the other person was really into gardening! In the in-between years, I had suffered a corporate layoff which left me unemployed for 6 months and financially devastated, even with a nice severance package. It was during that time, when I sunk emotionally and began to loathe society and how it backs us in corners time and time again (in too many ways to detail here). What brought me out of that dark night of the soul, was the idea that “at least I can grow unpoisoned food for myself and my family – they can’t stop me from doing that!”

And so I began gardening in 2012.

By 2015 my best friend and soulmate and I were back together, and he too was very much into gardening, self-sustainability, tiny houses, homesteading… you name it. Oh, and fishing & stargazing. ❤

So this is “us”, Theresa & Bob. We are currently suburbanites in south western Ohio, but working towards moving to a farm at “first solid chance”.

Everyday, we discuss what we’re doing now and how we will do it “when we have our land”. Between now and then, we are learning as much as we can ahead of the move, so that we have less of a learning curve to handle during the move… the land set up, and the house building (if needed). This includes finding financial strategies that will help us be self-sufficient as well. And that leads me to the purposes of this site.

  • To share our gardening journey with other interested folks
  • To dive deeper into our coming rural life together, and document it
  • To double-down on a lifestyle we both want so much!

Welcome to The Waterbearer211, that’s me, born Feb 11th and always carting my rain water in buckets to my plants. Hmm, I wonder how I can improve on my rain water collection system???

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Our First Garlic Harvest

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It’s my seventh year gardening, and I’m still learning new things, like how to grow and cure garlic.  Technically, this is my second year attempting garlic.  But between you and me, last year’s effort was a complete flop.  I had no idea that the cloves were supposed to be separated when planted!  That’s the kind of flop I’m capable of.  But this year…  I did much better.

This is German Red garlic, a hardneck variety.  Hardnecks grow a center shaft that would produce a flower if left alone.  But instead, that’s harvested to be eaten in late spring/early summer.  We froze many of ours to use as needed.  The rest of the garlic plant continues to mature even after the scape is harvested.  We use our scapes in scrambled eggs or anything that calls for a garlicy-onion type flavor.  They are delicious!

Once the bottom leaves on the garlic plants die back, it’s time to dig up the garlic and cure it.  We hung ours with twine and paperclips of all things, right under the eave of our house.  This is suburbia here.  We’re not on a farm, yet.  Those guys need to hang there to air out for about 4-6 weeks.  So far, it’s rained at least once, and they stayed nice and dry.

As happy as I am with this year’s garlic harvest, many of our 26 garlic bulbs were noticeably smaller than store bought garlic. I think where I had them planted near my shed prevented them from getting enough water to grow larger.  Next time I’ll plant them somewhere else, or be sure to water more frequently.  Fortunately, some were large!  The largest and healthiest ones are the bulbs we’ll use to replant more garlic this fall for next season.  The rest will be tasty no matter their size.  Mmmm.