No Slowing Down on the Weekend

It’s full on harvest season, and this weekend we stayed busy processing produce from our garden. We also took time out on Friday evening for a little R&R in the form of a date night – dinner & strolling the Front Street Art Studios, which we sometimes like to do. Bob is rather creative himself, though lately he’s thrown his focus into the garden. After all, it’s what’s we signed up for this time of year.

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late bloomer bell pepper

First things first: We FINALLY have a bell pepper growing! Usually these dudes should have been prolific by now, but we suspect too much rain earlier this season stunted them. That, or it’s just the nature of a first year BTE (no-till) garden that some plants struggle, and for us, that has been the bell peppers. I’m really thinking about getting a soil test done. In general, things are going well in our BTE garden, but I’m super curious. It’s in my nature to want to compare and contrast. So soil testing is in the back of my mind and probably will make it to an official To Do List soon.

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beans, cukes, and collards

Sunday Bob was up before me (he likes to let me sleep in on weekends if I can), and out in the garden harvesting another round of collards. After meandering into the kitchen all sleepy-eyed, I found him taking pictures of, among other things, his not-a-single-bug-bitten collards. He’s mighty proud of those collards, always. This year he used netting to keep the cabbage loopers off, which has worked quite well. Also pictured are some cukes, one of which must have been hiding because it got a pretty big. We’re not sure how that one will taste. The last big cuke we harvested was quite bitter and we composted it. The beans in this photo were harvested just before and just after we returned from Vacation.

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bean in jars

Bob received a fancy pressure canner for Christmas from his mother and father and finally gave it a try Saturday. We have a glass top stove, so he has been leery of putting that much weight on it. But turns out, it did just fine. I believe he said he did 7 quarts of beans. As with most gardening and homesteading tasks, there’s a learning curve. While waiting for the beans to seal (pop!), the lids buckled under pressure. After a call to his father, Bob learned he shouldn’t have tightened the rings down so hard. And it’s best not to pack too many beans in each quart because they swell a little as they take on water during processing, which could put pressure on the seals as well. BUT, when his father made the same mistake years ago, it turned out alright. His beans still stayed fresh in their jars for years. We will keep an occasional eye on them, though.

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pickle jars

Earlier this week, more bread and butter pickles were canned. If we have an apocalypse, we are going to be pickle eating survivors. lol

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jar cabinet

Speaking of stashes… we have a growing stash of canned veggies from this year alone. We have another shelf or two from previous years, which we are slowly eating up.

While Bob canned beans on Saturday, it was grocery shopping day for me. There was a trip to the Little Red Barn for eggs, Aldis for dairy/meat, Dollar Tree for zip lock bags, and Meijer for the balance. That just about does me in for the day!

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keto cookies

After sleeping in and watching Bob finish up freeze-packing the collards, I got to work in the kitchen making some low-carb treats for my daughter and I who are on Keto together. These are some almond flour based chocolate chip cookies, 1 net carb each. One batch I baked a little too long and they ended up looking a little toasty, but taste just like the 2nd batch which came out much nicer looking. The 2nd batch is pictured. Ashley said, “They’re good mom.” I like a Keto-win. 🙂

I also made some strawberry cheesecake fat bombs, but didn’t take a picture. However, after several hours in the freezer out the the garage, they still weren’t completely frozen, so I called over Bob to investigate the freezer situation. It turns out the freezer was all frozen up inside and he had move (STUFF) everything into the house freezer while defrosting the garage freezer. Fun. That is my worst fear about relying on freezers for preserving food. If it loses power, all those goodies that took a whole season to grow can go to waste! I’m so glad we caught it in time.

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chunked tomatoes

Don’t those look yummy?!?

Snacks weren’t the only thing on our To Do List yesterday. We also made our first attempt at homemade ketchup. I was aiming to make it keto-friendly, but that didn’t quite work out. It turns out Heinz does a better job at lower carb than we did, even though I used Swerve sugar replacement. Oh well. It was really fun working in the kitchen with Bob processing our home-grown Cherokee tomatoes. Several were splitting from too much rain and were ready enough anyway. So we cut them from their branches, weighed them (3 lbs) and made a half batch of Mrs. Wages Ketchup. The package did NOT say how to separate the seeds, so after blanching, we ran the smashed tomatoes through a strainer and that worked pretty well even though it was a bit labor intensive.

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ketchup jars, 2 are blue glass, so darker looking

Three pounds of tomatoes made 4 half pints of ketchup. We decided on half-pints because I didn’t want to have fresh ketchup last too long in the fridge and spoil. And since it came out as 5 carbs to Heinz’s 4 carbs per tablespoon… I am thinking about converting the half-pint I left uncanned into a BBQ sauce. I have not been able to find a low carb red BBQ sauce yet. A 5 carb BBQ sauce would be awesome. I just need to figure out how to spice it up into an acceptable BBQ flavor without adding any more carbs.

And that was our busy weekend! And although it was busy, it was very satisfying “work”, especially with my guy by my side. I love that guy so much! So bonus pic of today is: Bob in the kitchen, washing beans at the sink.

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Bob in kitchen

 

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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!