Friday, July 31, 2009

Then & Now - July Review

Today's a double post day - be sure to scroll down & see what else is happening out there!

It's time for some before & after photos! When we see our gardens every day, sometimes it's easy to lose sight of just how much has happened over the past few weeks. Here are some comparison photos to show growth for the month of July.

June's green beans weren't looking so great. Sickly and yellow. I think it was too much moisture.

Much improved for July. They are behind last year's beans though. Last year by this time they had produced the bulk of their crop. So far this year, I've only harvested a handful.

The tomatoes are plugging along...

They're hiding, but they're in there! The storm clouds rolling in today looked a little nasty, so this is my attempt to offer a little hail protection. I have a few green tomatoes but not huge amounts. They are still producing flowers.

This one actually surprised me!

Once the corn finally gets going, boy does it grow!

Finally, what's likely the most impressive thing growing in my garden...

I have about 10 or 12 of these babies growing on the ladder!

Strawberries - 2 oz
Sugar Snap Peas- 22 oz
Broccoli- 4 oz
Radishes- 2 oz
Cucumber- 3 oz
Lettuce- 49 oz
Garlic (untrimmed) 44 oz
Zucchini- 11 oz
Potatoes- 17 oz
Scallions- 1 oz
Beans-(green & yellow) 2 oz
July total: 157 oz = 9 lb 13 oz
June total: 69 oz =4 lb 5 oz
May total: 10 oz .
Total: 236 oz = 14 lb 12 oz

Fresh from the Rain

After a few warm dry days, our stormy weather returned. We had temperatures near 90 at the end of last week then a cold front came through and dropped us to about 60. I think Colorado Springs had a record low for the high temperature yesterday. Today warmed back up to around 80 or so, at least until our afternoon storm arrived. We've gotten another 2 inches of rain this week! Last July was apparently one of the driest on record. This July is the total opposite!

Between rains, I went out for a few pictures.

The daikon seed pods are finally starting to dry.

My first blush of tomato color! Strangely, this is probably the smallest tomato plant I have.

Soon, I'll get to taste a Pattypan!

I don't think this is good... This potato plant (I think it's Yukon Gold, I forgot to check the tag) has black spots all over it's leaves. It doesn't look as healthy as it's neighbors. I'll have to look this up.

With all the hail that our area has had recently, I've been concerned about the garden. I've been covering what I can. The tomatoes have a chicken wire cover over the top (2 layers, overlapped to make the holes smaller) to hopefully protect them from any whopper hailstorms. Since I can't easily toss fabric over the top, I wrapped it around the sides. I don't think the fabric will stop huge hail but it should at least protect against smaller stones. Since I've covered plants, the hail has skipped us (thankfully). Of course, now I'm a little paranoid - I'm afraid the day I don't cover will be the day the hail comes...

I have one little bell pepper starting. This is a purchased plant though one of my seed starts looks like it might actually kick into gear and bloom soon.

The first borage bloom opened today.

My sugar snap peas have passed their prime. While I keep thinking I should cut them down, they still produce just a few peas. This is why I haven't cut them yet..

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I wanted to plant bushes of some sort near one corner of the fence this spring. While trying to decide what to plant, I read about Saskatoons. Saskatoons are edible, they should grow well here and they weren't very expensive at all (I think they cost me about $8 for the pair after discounts), so I decided to try them. Gurney's markets them as a blueberry for the west as they live in alkaline soils. I figured if I didn't like them, the birds would and I'd still have bushes that bloom, fruit and have nice fall color.

For those unfamiliar, Saskatoons (Amelanchier) are also known as Serviceberry, Shadblow or Juneberry. I'm not absolutely positive that these are all 3 the same thing, but everything I found sure makes it sound like they are, or they are very close. They grow as an erect shrub to about 20' tall (taller in rich soils). Compact clusters of fragrant flowers appear in spring followed by sweet, blue berries in summer and long lasting orange-red fall color. They are native to the western United States and Canada.

I tried to highlight the Serviceberry in this photo from the Xeriscape gardens for an idea of how they look when more mature though it's still hard to distinguish between it and the bush behind it..

For my $8, I received two little Saskatoon sticks, one of which bloomed in early June. They have chicken wire around them so the dogs don't accidentally run them over. They are still really hard to see.

View from above...

I wandered out to check on my little sticks today and look what I found!

I picked the two ripest berries to taste-test. I had been told they have pretty big seeds for a little berry, so I cut one open to look before I ate it.

Compared to a currant (which have huge seeds if you've never eaten them), the seeds aren't too bad, but there seem to be 4 seeds per berry, to they are certainly noticeable. Probably twice the size of raspberry seeds. These two tasted pretty good. They may have been a little over-ripe, but not bad at all. They didn't have a really strong flavor and I'm not sure how to describe it. even though I went back and picked the two next-ripest berries. Maybe when I have more of a handful to eat, I'll come up with something. For now, the best I can do is they were sweet and un-offensive though the seeds were certainly noticeable (I ate some & spit some). So far they look like they'll be productive though. This fruiting plant isn't even 3' tall yet.

On another note, look what the cat found the other day. I actually saw one toad last year and was so surprised to find one out here in the dry prairie. This year might be nicer for them (I'm guessing, I don't really know) as we've had a lot more moisture. This guy is a little messy looking since he had crammed himself between a clay saucer with a few plants awaiting their big move to the new flower garden and the exterior wall of the garage where the spider (whom I need to eyeball - it looks to be a black & shiny one) lives. Mr. Toad is traveling with some bug bodies stuck to him.

Since my darlin' Annie was trying to smack him on the head and if he moved from his spot wedged behind the saucer he would be sitting in the hot mid-day sun on the sidewalk, I nudged him into an empty pot and moved him to the cooler ground under the little lilac. The cat found him again so she had to go inside. Sometime after I went inside, Mr. Toad moved on. Who could blame him? Maybe next year he'll find some nice spots to hide in the new perennial garden and he'll decide to stay a while.
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

An Apple a Day...

I picked these up last week...

They're Yellow Transparent apples from an orchard in Penrose (CO). I replied to an ad on Craigslist and had a really nice chat with one of the orchard owners. I hope to pay them a visit during the fall apple season. I was able to pick these up in Colorado Springs this time.

Yellow Transparent apples are an early variety that originated in Russia (or thereabouts) and were introduced into the U.S. in 1870. I had never had them before, and when I tried to find out more about them, I kept reading posts like "my grandmother always used these for applesauce" or "my grandmother used them for apple pie" or "they're hard to come by and tend to be expensive", so I decided to give them a try (though at $15 for a 30# box, I didn't think they were too expensive).

They have a flavor that is tart like a Granny Smith but with a texture like a McIntosh. Since I wanted apples in the fall for applesauce (but didn't end up getting any), that was my plan for most of them.

I was well supervised, as usual.

The first batch, I cooked about 10#. I added about a cup of water and cooked them at low/med heat. I also added a little citric acid powder to this batch because the recipe I was looking at said to (and I had some). I don't really need a recipe for applesauce, but I was using one for guidance on the amount of water and sugar to add. It turned out not to be so helpful. Although I multiplied the amount of water they recommended, it wasn't enough for the size pot I used, and I ended up scorching the apples on the bottom and I still had to add more sugar for the right taste.

I made more last night. This time, I added 2 cups of water and had much better results.

10 pounds of apples, quartered and cored

Cooked until tender

Pressed through the "applesauce smusher" as I've always called it, though an Internet search last year told me it's really called a chinois

I know there are more modern & efficient ways to make applesauce, but this is how we did it it when I was growing up and there's something I find satisfying about it.

After "smushing" I set the pan back onto the warm (turned off) burner and added the sugar. I added cinnamon to the first batch since the scorching darkened it and cinnamon seemed like a good idea. I didn't add any to the second batch. I added a splash of orange juice instead of the citric acid powder to the second batch.

I hadn't really intended to turn the ENTIRE box into applesauce. I planned to slice and freeze some for apple pie and other apple goodies as well. Thing is, I didn't get to it quickly enough. After a couple of warm days (we don't have A/C), the apples were fading fast (did I mention they don't keep very well?). By last night, they no longer had the crisp texture they had just last week and they were beginning to discolor in their centers. I didn't think they'd make great pie anymore, so into the pot they went! After letting the sauce cool a bit, I spooned it into containers and froze it. So, I didn't get the variety of uses (though one can use applesauce for many things) I did get the homemade applesauce I was looking for (and can I just say YUM!).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Garden Helpers

I had a little "help" in the garden the other day. I know I've posted photos of the dogs, but once in a while, these two show up to "help" too (though I seriously suspect they were trying to get me to go inside and feed them).

Meet Gabby (who's giving me an earful here). He's my 15 year old I've had since he was a kitten. He's actually the only one of mine who didn't come from the shelter or from the streets.
He recently had some dental work done and is showing off his missing fang in this photo. Poor old guy just had 5 more teeth pulled. He doesn't really have many left on the right side of his mouth. He has almost all of them on the left though - go figure.

This is Annie. She's 13 now. She's a Manx mix (hence the lack of a tail) who showed up as a stray at the flower shop where I worked in Texas. We think she was 8 months old when we took her in.

Gabby & Annie, bellied up to the catnip bar. I started a few catnip plants from seed this spring. I don't think they'll get a chance to grow out of control, at least not this year. They're keeping them well trimmed.

Something distracted her from her grazing...

Hanging out in the corn...

Again, my ever-hopeful girl, Veronica. Since I fed her a couple sugar snap peas, this is what she does while I'm in the garden with an occasional grumble to remind me of her wishes.

My boy, Wilson isn't so excited about veggies, so he just pops by to check in once in a while, so no photos of him this time. He'll make an appearance here again soon I'm sure.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Squash Blossoms & Sweet Corn

I was reading a post over at Daphne's Dandelions yesterday and she mentioned adding squash blossoms to her salad. I've heard of people eating them battered and fried but I don't remember hearing of others eating them raw. I decided to try it out tonight, so tonight, you get to see some more food photos!

Tonight's salad is pretty similar to the one from the other night- Simpson, red & Baby Romaine lettuce, borage, radish, Sugar Snap peas, broccoli (I remembered it tonight) and of course, a squash blossom, all from the garden. Actually, I think it's pumpkin but that crazy spaghetti squash may easily have crept over to the pumpkin side, so I'm not actually sure which it was. (Carrots from the store & cucumber from the farm stand).

Truthfully, I didn't really notice much of any flavor from the flower, but if sure did make the salad pretty! Perhaps I may have noticed it if I had fewer ingredients, but I really like the variety when it's so easily available. I did notice the fuzziness of the borage leaves in a couple bites tonight which was a little weird, but still ok.

On my way to town this afternoon, I discovered we have a farm stand in our little town! We have one corner that in the time I've lived here (about 1.5 years) has had a garden center (no plants, just other stuff), a different produce stand (from the western slope of CO), a car dealer, and now this farm stand. This one brings veggies from Rocky Ford which is a couple hours southeast of here. I bought a cucumber (mine are nowhere near ready) and three ears of Peaches & Cream sweet corn. I was pretty excited to find the corn and was especially happy that it really tasted pretty darn good (especially for an early corn). I think I was spoiled with the fresh corn my mom always picked up at the farm on the way home from work. Vermont has some really really good sweet corn. My husband thought he had tasted good corn until I took him home with me one summer. Of course, it ruined him for most of what we seem to usually find. I might just have to go back for some more tomorrow. The guy told me that it was fresh picked this morning and he intends to continue that practice for the rest of the summer. I hope he does!

I'm not sure how much I can call this a garden meal, but I so enjoyed the corn and the pretty salad I decided to post it. I roasted another head of (garden) garlic (I did a better job of cutting the top this time so it squeezed out much better- of course, I took it out just a little too soon, so it didn't spread well on the bread but it still tasted good) and I added some peppers to the top of the pork chops that I still had in the freezer from last year's garden (it was a nice idea but it kept the breading from getting crispy -bummer). There was a bit of fresh thyme on there and the bread crumbs came from a loaf of whole wheat bread that I messed up a while back (I think that one over-rose then fell and it was so dry I just crumbled it up and put the crumbs in the freezer). The pork chops weren't my best work but at least I have one left over to eat later. That corn is history though...

Look what I got today! More to follow on these...

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Garlic, Potatoes & Dinner!

I decided it was time to harvest the garlic this weekend. When I have tried to grow garlic in the past, I've waited until the tops were brown, as in all of the tops. After some reading on the GardenWeb forums, I learned I should pull it while some of the tops were still green (5 green leaves seemed to be the conclusion). Pulling while some are green means fewer heads break off and need to be searched for. I pulled 28 plants with an untrimmed weight of 2.75#.

(do you like my modern scale? It's pretty accurate actually. I believe this scale sat on the porch at my great-aunt's house. I think she used it to weigh her garden veggies).

The largest heads seemed to be the plants that did not form a scape. The ones I removed the scapes from appear to be slightly larger than those I left intact. I also had a handful that were very small heads or just bulbs. Of course, I don't have enough plants to actually draw hard & fast conclusions about scapes & bulb sizes, but it would appear that they do reduce the head size somewhat. I don't think it's a major reduction in the bulbs I left intact, but if you're going for big, it might matter.

As I was sorting my little batch of garlic on the back deck, I was well supervised. She's trying to look innocent, but don't think she wouldn't have snatched some if I left her alone with it. I watched her carefully since I think garlic really isn't good for dogs. I don't worry about a little garlic in foods or some garlic powder in their treats but I'm guessing a head or three might have unpleasant consequences.

I'm quite sure though that she was hoping I'd walk away, just for a few minutes...

I poked around in some of the potatoes today. When I removed the straw from the sad looking patch in my previous post, I did find a couple of potatoes. They were way down at ground level, but at least there was something there. I put the straw back and I hope they'll continue to grow a bit more. I also had one of the smaller pots that had died back last week. I had planted two red potatoes that sprouted in my pantry into a nursery pot about 14" diameter (I'm guessing). I had run out of larger pots, so I plunked them in there & hoped something would grow.

Something grew...
It's not much at all (a whole 4 oz), but better than a rotten mass of goo!

I was having one of those days today where it was seeming nearly impossible to get motivated, or when I did, somebody would call me, I'd chat for a bit, and all motivation was gone again. I took a late afternoon trip to the garden and returned with my little potatoes and one of the zucchini I mentioned the other day. This little zuch looked like it was growing but it must not have actually been pollinated. The end was starting to yellow, so I decided to eat it. So, I have my potatoes & zucchini and suddenly I realized, I too, could have a garden dinner! (Well, make that a garden dinner that isn't just a salad). I was actually quite inspired by everyone's garden dinners, so I'd like to thank you for motivating me to eat a decent meal tonight. Chances are good I would have just gone for something quick that fit my lazy mood for the day. This was much better.

I don't know if I mentioned it before or not, but my DH is usually the one who cooks. My cook is in Korea. I'm doing well when I eat something other than spaghetti and Parmesan cheese when left to my own devices. I am generally doing better with it this time (though I did have spaghetti for lunch...) and I do think the garden has had a lot to do with my eating better.

I did have a salad with my dinner rather than for my dinner. Tonight's salad had from the garden:
Lettuce: Black Seeded Simpson, Baby Romaine & something red from the Mesclun mix
Borage leaves (first time I've eaten these. They seemed pretty fuzzy but I cut them into thin slices and they were a nice flavor addition)
Sugar Snap Peas and a
(the carrot was from the store)

I just realized I forgot to add a little broccoli. Oops.

My garden dinner was a sauteed mix of (from the garden):
Red potatoes
unpollinated Zucchini
Sugar Snap Peas
English Thyme

I also added (not from the garden)
Olive oil, salt & pepper & some leftover grilled chicken.

(yep, I grew up in a dairy state, I drink my milk with dinner)

I had enough dough in the fridge for one last loaf of bread (it's an Artisan Bread in 5 min a day recipe) so when I decided to make a real dinner, I pulled it out and let it rest for about 40 minutes. While it was baking (I don't really cook but I do bake) I put a head of garlic in to roast. I have never had (or made) roasted garlic before. I think I should have cut the top a little lower, but is there some neat trick to get the garlic OUT that I missed somewhere? It was a pretty messy process. The garlic had a surprisingly mild flavor. I'm assuming that's due to the roasting (and why so many people like it).

I followed up with a bit of vanilla frozen yogurt with strawberry sauce (not from the garden this year, maybe next?).

Yes, it's a little heavy on the strawberries, but I didn't have enough for 2 servings (it was leftover from last week), so what choice did I have?

So there it is, my first official garden dinner. It was pretty tasty and really helped me get motivated today not to mention much healthier than what I might have eaten otherwise!

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