Friday, September 13, 2019

Garden Friday

Welcome to Garden Friday!
Summer's fading fast and cooler temperatures are on the way!
Here's where the garden is on this 2nd week of September.

The okra forest is getting ready to be removed.
With fall planting ahead,
I need to make room for our new raised beds.
Next year, less okra will be planted (it was a prolific producer),
and they will be settled into straw bales.
The harvesting is much easier because they are off the ground,
and they do quite well in them.

This was yesterday morning's harvest,
which allowed me to make two jars of pickles,
and have another dozen for roasting.
The two varieties grown this season were
the Clemson Spineless and the Bradford Family Heirloom.

The runner beans seem to enjoy the hot, dry conditions.
This is a new crop for me and I think I will grow it every year.
It's been trouble-free and very low-maintenance.

 The sweet purple blossoms were an added bonus.

 The dried beans are picked off of the stalk and left out to dry.
I hope to have a Mason jar full of shelled beans to use throughout the year.
They also make great sprouting beans.

So far, the t-shirt slings seem to be keeping the melons cozy.
We have 5 or 6 that are growing and doing well.

 Some have been overtaken by critters.
I didn't bother to do anything about these,
just let things run their course.
I'm hoping the beneficial insects will balance things out.
That's something I've been leaning more toward,
trusting nature to keep things in balance.

The loofah took its time getting started,
but once it did, it never turned back.
There are still a ton of blooms on the trellis,
attracting all sorts of pollinators.

 Some of the gourds are turning color on the vine.
I've been told that it's best to let them get brown and dry before harvest.

There are more than I can count at this point.
I love me a carefree crop!

The strawberries in the straw bale looked almost dead at one point.
For some reason, they've perked up.
If I can keep them alive a little while longer,
perhaps we will be in for a tasty treat.
I'm thinking they may need to be covered with loose straw over the winter. 
Research is in order...

The white sweet potatoes have taken over the entire east side of the garden.
With dozens of blossoms and vines running amok,
they don't look close to being ready to harvest.
I'm waiting until the foliage starts to turn brown and dry up
before I begin the treasure hunt for spuds.

sweet potato blossoms

The orange sweet potatoes are far behind,
but are at last climbing the arches.

 The eggplant has been getting picked weekly.
There are two varieties growing, 
the long purple (Japanese) and Diamond.

milkweed seeds

Although I tried to locate them,
the four Monarch chrysali could not be found,
although I know that all four caterpillars grew to adult size.
It's probably too late in the summer to count on any more
making it to that stage. 
Hopefully, next spring and summer, 
we will have many to enjoy.

Look at this amazing spinner I found yesterday.
S/he was dangling from the maple tree
and appeared to be suspended in mid-air!

 This week, Big K and I were finally able to go and pick up
some free mulch, offered by our county.
This will be used in flower beds and underneath trees,
once we get our layer of newspapers laid down.


The new rain gauge I got for my  birthday a couple of weeks ago,
has regretfully not had much use.
We are dry, dry, dry,
but ever hopeful that rain will grace our garden.

I'll be taking some time off from blogging,
but will be back here next week for Garden Friday.
Wishing you continued blessings...

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Soup's On! (gf, df, sf, cf)

One of the crops we grew this summer for the first time
was butternut squash.
It's a favorite for roasting or creating one of my favorite soups,
Butternut Squash soup with Coconut Milk.
This crop was a breeze to grow,
and a lot of fun to watch climb the 8-foot trellis.
It also provided a lot of food for the pollinators in the garden.

 We harvested them a few weeks ago,
and left them to cure in the house for a couple of weeks.
They are ready for use and were put to work in this recipe.
It is based on one of the recipes we made recently in 
a Cooperative Extension cooking class.
I changed a few things to my liking
and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
This allergy-friendly soup is soothing, nourishing and filling
and will no doubt be made over and over this winter.
Soup is a great meal anytime of year,
and I am trying to  
w i l l 
cooler weather here
by cooking up a big ole' pot of this winner.
This soup freezes well so there is some for now
and some for later.

Butternut Squash Bisque

1/2 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 T grated ginger
1/2 T thyme
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 large butternut squash, diced
3 C vegetable stock
3/4 C unsweetened almond milk
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in large pot over medium heat 10 minutes,
or until caramelized.
Add garlic, ginger, and herbs and cook 1 minute.
Add squash and stock and bring to a boil,
then reduce to medium and cook, covered, 25-30 minutes
or until squash is tender.
Puree the soup with a hand or standing blender,
until the desired consistency is reached.
Pour back into original pot and add almond milk
and final seasoning of salt and pepper.
Serves 6-8.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Garden Friday

black-eyed Susan vine

 The garden is beginning the transition to fall,
with new transplants added, plans for new beds,
and the pollinators stocking up for the cool change that's sure to come.

 The Red Ripper beans have really come into their own in the past week,
with the vines covering the arch.

 The beans are harvested when the pods turn tan,
and the shelled beans are left out to dry for a week or so.
They will be added to the pantry for future soups, stews and sprouting.

 The cukes from the garden have been quite refreshing,
although I have to admit,
it's one of the few things I have pretty much ignored in the produce aisle.
We are still getting a few of these each week
and have had some to share with neighbors.

 Okra is picked nearly every day
and it shows no sign of slowing down.
At least not until we get our first cold snap.

 No matter how many different angles I view the plants from,
there is always one or two that escape my vision
and don't get picked at the right size.
Ah well, that's what compost is for, right?

The loofah continue to amaze us with their size,
and it will be fun to harvest and collect seed for next year.

We've now lost two of the watermelons,
one due to the weight of the melon on the trellis,
and the other that somehow escaped the sling.
This one looks better everyday
and will hopefully remain in the sling until picking time.

Green bush beans have been transplanted
into one of the amended beds
where butternut squash had previously resided.
This weekend I hope to be able to direct seed lettuce to fill in the space on the perimeter.
The nasturtiums will remain to deter bugs.

Lookee what I spied on our milkweed plants!!!
They have been furiously eating and getting chunky.

 We are proud of our Monarch Way Station status
and feel honored to help them along their journey.

 The four that are enjoying our goodies will soon be 
looking for a place to form their chrysalis and transform themselves.
I've been checking them daily so that I can capture it on my camera.

Plenty of seeds will make their way to other parts of the property,
ensuring that future Monarch butterflies make their home here.
The white, wispy material helps the seeds float on air,
so that each time the wind blows, more of it gets scattered about.

With the temperatures still in the high 80's this week,
it seems that summer wants to hang on for a while.
We are ready for a change,
but will wait patiently for it to come.
A gardener must be willing to embrace what is.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Cooking Class

The Extension Center in Lincolnton offers up all kinds of classes.
Last week, a cooking class was on the docket.
Anything related to gardening or clean eating is appealing,
and this class was no exception.

The bonus was that several of my Master Gardener friends
decided to take it at the same time,
so it was a social gathering as well.
Most of us grow herbs of some sort in our gardens,
so this class gave us the chance to learn how best to use or preserve them.

The handouts provided included information about harvesting,
drying and using the herbs we grow.
We were also given a half dozen recipes,
and we broke up into groups of two to create our concoctions.

Everything was provided for us,
including ingredients, tools and kitchen appliances.
All we had to do was follow the recipes and do a taste test!
Along with instruction about the food items we were using,
we learned more about knife skills and utilizing the proper equipment.

The main dish included a chicken recipe
with a side of mashed cauliflower and a green salad.

Two of our members produced a delicious dessert using lavender.

My partner and I were on soup duty.
Sweet potatoes were transformed into a luscious bisque.

The chicken cacciatore looked so colorful,
with all of the different veggies mixed in.
This one-pot wonder would be great over rice or polenta.
The mashed cauliflower is an alternative to mashed white potatoes,
with a few more health benefits, including fiber.

The bisque turned out quite well,
if I do say so myself.
This vegetarian dish is allergy-friendly
and will keep well frozen, if you don't eat it all up!

The lavender sugar cookies were delicate and crisp,
with a soft center.
The lavender added a subtle difference in flavor.

We learned, we cooked, we ate and chatted away.
What a wonderful way to spend an evening.
The Cooperative Extension Center is such an integral part of our community.
They offer classes, clubs, and so much more.
I'm honored to be able to partake of all of its offerings.

Want to find out more?

Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Center

Friday, August 30, 2019

Garden Friday

Yesterday we woke up to 61 degrees,
and enjoyed a cool breeze most of the day.
It seems that fall may be arriving a bit early.
You won't get one complaint from me!

With autumn hinting at staying a while,
it seemed like a great time to do some clean up in the garden.
The ride-on tractor and little trailer are so helpful
and save me lots of steps.

The leaf pile sits in a corner of our side yard
and holds last autumn's bounty.
It breaks down over the year and is then used
to amend the beds.

Leaf mulch tends to attract earthworms and other beneficial organisms,
which will enrich your growing medium.
It can also act as an aerator and balances out the nitrogen in soil.
When grabbing a forkful from our pile,
there were tons of these lil' critters doing their work.

The remainder of any spring/summer veg was pulled from the hugelkultur bed,
except for some leek, basil and nasturtiums.
When I get to planting in earnest,
these can continue growing without being in my way.
The shredded leaves were added to the bed,
along with some fresh soil, compost, and worm castings from our worm bin.

I also decided to remove most of the larger logs from the bottom of the bed.
Since they hadn't broken down that much in a year,
I will save them for future beds that will be a bit deeper.

The whole kit-n-kaboodle was covered with the straw
left over from our potato towers.
It had been sitting for a while, breaking down over time.

This straw was actually the remains of the dismantled straw bales
that I grew lettuce and kale in last year.
It gets recycled as mulch in its final stages
and helps to retain moisture and deter weeds in the growing beds.
The $3 per bale I paid certainly gave me a lot for my money.
With two beds ready to plant,
it was time to get to a few tidying chores.

This compost bin was here when we moved in,
an unexpected treasure!
We use several coffee cans to collect our food scraps (usually kept in the freezer),
which are emptied into a 5-gallon bucket on the back deck.
Once a week or so, we empty the contents of the bucket
into this bin, then add leaves and a bit of compost.
I relocated it closer to the house and took a look at what remained behind.

The pile seemed quite compressed,
with lots of earthworms and other critters enjoying the bottom of the pile.
The top layer still had visible food scraps.

It's always sad to pull up the sunflowers at the end of the summer.
These had been blown over in a fierce wind,
and I couldn't prop them up.
This was a colossal collection of sunflowers,

this one being the tallest, at over 9 feet!

I like to leave them in the garden for as long as possible,
because they act as a food source for birds and pollinators.

Some of the heads were removed and added to the pollinator bed
so that perhaps the birds can still enjoy them.
This bed will be planted with fall blooms
to attract pollinators to the garden.

Black-eyed Susan vine climbing sunflower

This was the first time we've grown watermelon,
and unfortunately, we lost the first one
when it was too heavy for the vine,
(we're growing them vertically),
and it fell down before ripening.

With several more still growing on the arches,
I was hoping to find a solution to save the rest.
I found some rags in the rag bin and cut them into rectangular shapes.

The melons were placed in the slings,
so that the weight of the fruit is displaced,
and hopefully, it can grow to fruition on the vine.

The top was simply tied onto the arches.
I've been checking on them this week,
and so far, they seem to be doing the trick.

 The remainder of the butternut squash was picked,
and it is curing inside for a week or so.
This bed will be the next to be amended,
so that our fall planting can begin in the next two weeks.

 We're still getting a smattering of cucumbers,

while eggplant and okra are coming on strong.
This veg picked a few times a week
promptly makes it onto a sheet pan and is roasted.
So far, one jar of pickled okra has made it into the fridge.

sweet potato blooms

 These were discovered this week, and I am SO excited!
The milkweed we planted is doing well
and is serving as a host to several monarch caterpillars.
We are a Certified Monarch Way Station and are so happy to provide what they need!
What a miraculous transformation!

As summer draws to a close,
we welcome the changes to come
with cooler temperatures, less humidity,
and bugs taking a hiatus for a while.
Gardeners in our area have yet 
another season to look forward to.
What a blessing!