July 23, 2014

In the Veggie Garden

I thought I'd show you how the vegetable garden is doing. After getting a late start this year - several late frosts, a broken tiller, realizing we had to fence the garden against our dogs - it's finally starting to look pretty good.

I've mulched the paths between the beds with paper feed sacks and cardboard, topped with old hay. It's doing a decent job of keeping weeds down in the pathways, although I need to add another layer now that it has been packed down over time. The veggie beds themselves are not mulched, and I do have to weed those quite often. I've said before that this must be the best stand of bermuda grass we have on the whole place. It's a never-ending chore keeping those runners and roots under control.

After I officially gave up on the carrot seeds I'd planted a month earlier, they finally began to sprout. A week later I counted ten tiny little carrot plants, from two packets of carrot seeds. A week after that I was weeding and couldn't find a single carrot seedling. I wonder if the grasshoppers ate them, or if something else is responsible. I am officially giving up on carrots, at least for this year. I'm going to plant turnips in the empty bed.

The grasshoppers feasted on the beans. I planted three kinds: yellow bush beans, kidney beans, and green beans. They looked so good for awhile and each plant had 4-6 leaves, then they ceased to exist. I guess beans were my catch crop this year - planted to feed the grasshoppers so they'd leave the other plants alone, at least for awhile.

Yellow pear tomatoes, a cherry tomato variety

Sixteen tomato plants have survived and thrived. For the two of us, that will be plenty of tomatoes to eat fresh and to can. There are oroma paste, yellow pear, homestead, mortgage lifter and one remaining Arkansas traveler. They are all loaded with fruit, with the exception of the Arkansas traveler which is weeks behind the others in development. I picked the first ripe tomatoes two weeks ago. The oroma paste tomatoes are fighting blossom end rot, so I've been amending the soil around those plants.

Homestead tomatoes

I found a huge tomato horn worm on one of the homestead plants the other day. I dropped it into the chicken run and watched Samson the rooster slurp it up.

Mortgage Lifter tomatoes

There are onions planted between the tomato plants and pepper plants, as well as the white onion bed in the garden, and yellow and purple onions in galvanized tubs. The tops of the white onion plants in the garden have been eaten off. I thought the culprit was a rabbit or a squirrel, but one hot afternoon I was outside and realized that the onion tops were covered with grasshoppers. I could put flour or whatever on the onion-tops, but then the grasshoppers might simply move and attack the leaves of other plants. Onions can grow with bitten-off tops, I think; so far they're doing ok.

I also planted four kinds of peppers: jepeto sweet peppers, bell, one paprika, and one cayenne. The rest of the cayenne and paprika plants were victims of the nibbling dog, and I was lucky to save one plant of each kind.

This is the cayenne pepper plant. There is a little light-green pepper right in the center, and several other flowers as well. The white on the leaves is flour to deter the grasshoppers. I am still looking for a better solution to the invasion, but this has worked to a point.

All of the peppers have flowers on them, there are several green peppers, and there's a sweet pepper ready to pick.

The beets are growing well. Canned beets and Harvard beets are in our future. I planted more seeds in the places that the first seeds didn't sprout.

I planted sunflower seeds; some of them sprouted but they too have disappeared under the grasshoppers' onslaught. This is a huge plant that I transplanted into the garden when it was about three feet tall, now it towers way over my head. My guess is that it's nine or ten feet tall now. I love the cheery flowers. This isn't a variety that is grown for food, it's just a wild sunflower. My goats would sure love to eat the big plant if I'd let them though.

The lettuce and yellow and purple onions were planted in tubs near the herb garden. The lettuce is finished and I harvested it all last month, and am deciding what to plant in that space next. There was a volunteer purple basil plant growing with the onions but the grasshoppers devoured that too.

My germination rate was very poor this year. I'm hoping to carve out more space in the house to start seedlings next spring, both to get a jump on the season and to get around the poor germination rate. A greenhouse is on my wish list, but I know it won't happen soon - and maybe what I need instead is a screen house to keep grasshoppers out. I'm also planning to use floating row covers over the tender crops as grasshopper-prevention.

How does your garden grow?

You might also enjoy:
The New Herb Garden
The Herb Garden in June
The Herb Garden in July

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at: 
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July 22, 2014

A Slice of My Life


My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at: 
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July 21, 2014

Blackberry Jam

I was so excited when we moved to Oak Hill and I realized we had wild blackberries. I love blackberries, and who can say no to delicious free food?

This year the canes are just covered with berries; I've never seen so many in our ten-plus years here. Granddaughter and I went out picking three times and there are still plenty of red berries ready to change color and end up in my bucket and then in something yummy.

We enjoyed fresh berries for breakfast and for dessert. Then I made a cobbler, and then blackberry jam. This time I seeded half the berries through a sieve to reduce the number of seeds in the jam. Sometimes I make jelly instead of jam for the same reason - the seeds - but I prefer jam to jelly, so this is an experiment of sorts.

I used Sure Jell low-sugar pectin, in the pink box. The instructions inside called for 5 cups of crushed berries and 4 cups of sugar.

Making jam is quite easy. Get everything that you'll need ready before you start: wash the jars, lids and rings, fill the water bath canner half full of water and put on the stovetop on medium heat to warm up. Keep the jars warm until you can fill them - I keep them in warm water in the sink. Put the lids in a saucepan and pour boiling water over them. Gather the ladle, jar lifter, spoon, etc.

Put 1/4 cup of the measured sugar in a small bowl and add the box of pectin, mix well. Add this mixture to the fruit and juice in a large saucepan and stir to combine. If you wish, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of butter to prevent foaming. The blob in the middle of the picture is the butter.

Heat to a full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly so it won't burn. Pour in the rest of the sugar (3 3/4 cups) and stir well. Return to a full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off any foam.

Ladle jam into half-pint jars, wipe the rims with a damp cloth, and put lids on the jars. Screw the band on until it's finger-tight. Put jars in canner using the jar lifter. The water should cover the jars by at least an inch. I insert the handle of a wooden spoon to the top of a jar, then look at the wet portion of the spoon to know how deep the water is. Add more boiling water if needed.

Water bath the jam jars for 10 minutes, adding time if necessary if your altitude requires it. Start timing when the water in the canner begins to boil.

When time is up, remove the canner from the burner. Remember to open the lid away from your face. Remove the jars with the jar lifter and place them upright on a folded towel in a draft-free place. Listen for the lids to start "pinging" - what a beautiful sound.

Leave the jars undisturbed for 24 hours, then check the seal by lightly pressing the lid with your finger. The lid should not move up and down; if it does, the jar did not seal and should be refrigerated and used promptly.

I love these jars full of summer sunshine! There's nothing as good as home-canned blackberry jam on a slice of homemade bread with real butter. Yum!

What is your favorite jam or jelly?

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at: 
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July 20, 2014

Silver Sunday and Being Thankful

I am thankful to the Lord, my God, for:

- celebrating our wedding anniversary 
- watching the sun rise while walking the puppy
- the full moon shining through our windows
- record-breaking cool days in July
- a pair of blue herons flying overhead
Silver Sunday

I will extol the Lord at all times; 
His praise will always be on my lips.
Psalm 34:1 NIV


July 18, 2014

Friday Follow-Up

This week:

-- Our granddaughter went home this week. Her visit this summer was shorter than usual and I crammed a lot into it. It's so quiet without her. I'm so thankful that her mommy lets her come stay with us each summer.

-- I've been catching up now that she's gone: mowing the yard, weeding the garden, and so on. It's interesting that weeds love the heat while people don't, and grasshoppers love vegetable plants and don't like grass and weeds. I wish the hoppers would lay waste to the grass and weeds in my garden and leave the veggie plants alone.

-- The wild blackberry crop this summer is the largest I've seen since moving here nearly eleven years ago. We have a surplus of blackberry thickets and new canes come up each year in the hayfield. When our neighbor cuts and bales our field, he cuts down the new ones. They do end up inside the bales, but my goats and his cows don't seem to mind. I just have to remember to wear gloves when I portion out the hay each day.

I've been out picking berries three times so far. Granddaughter and I ate blackberries for breakfast every morning. I sent a pint home with my riding buddy. I made a blackberry cobbler, and canned blackberry jam, and still have more in the refrigerator ready to be dealt with. There are so many red berries still on the canes. By going out every couple of days, and heading the opposite direction from the last time, I pick the berries that have ripened since my last picking trip.

 -- I have several water buckets and dishes for the dogs and cats in various places. One morning this week we had a visitor in the dishpan:

-- We've had such strange weather this week, but I'm not complaining at all! Thursday's high temperature was cooler than our usual low temperature, and we received more than an inch and a half of rain. In JULY. In Oklahoma. Nope, not complaining.


My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at: 
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