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This blog chronicles the adventures I share with my husband, daughter and son. It is also a place to share what I am learning as a homemaker, gardener, book lover and homeschooling mother. Welcome.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

pattypan squash

Part of our everyday is to now search out squash bugs and cucumber beetles (to kill them!), harvest from the garden, and freeze what large portions of vegetables have accumulated. This morning I processed six large squash, two of which were the beautiful squash seen below, called White Scallop or Pattypan. This is the first year we've grown this squash variety, and we are more than pleased. It is a hearty grower, our largest producer this year so far, is a harder squash (as compared to zucchini that are so watery), and are sweet to the taste. 

I love dicing these, removing the seeds, sauteeing in olive oil and served with a dash of sea salt. Simple and so good! These are also great for freezing, just like any other squash, and visions of soup are in my head for a cold day. Our days are filled with so many fresh vegetables in June, July and August that I really desire to figure out how to extend the goodness to the rest of the year. I think each year we do better and better. Although we didn't intend to add any more garden boxes this year (for next year's growing season), when my husband mentioned last night about expanding the garden I admit that I got excited...





Monday, July 21, 2014

cock-a-doodle-do! {uh-oh}


As previously mentioned, soon after we brought home four new chicks in early Spring, Barred Rocks, we had a feeling that two out of the four were male. We're giving the farmer who sold us the chicks grace on this considering the chicks cost around $2 each and this breed can be difficult to differentiate between male and female. Lesson learned regarding Barred Rocks. 

Besides the fact that roosters are not allowed in our city, we don't even want them! All we want are happy, contented hens laying eggs. That's all.

As soon as I saw two of the chicks acting mean (pecking the each other to the point of drawing blood) and not wanting to be held, I knew that I would be having a fresh chicken dinner in the Summer.

Last week was THE week. The end times for our roosters. They had become large enough to where we knew we would get enough meat for dinner off of them, AND, they were crowing. At first the crows were funny attempts at these guys strutting their manliness, meaning it sounded more like croaking than crowing. However, near the end of their days their crows were loud, clear and frequent throughout the day. 

"dinner"

My husband did the deed. I thought I'd be brave and view the actual process of "taking care of" the roosters, but I couldn't bring myself. Jesse did the work after sundown to make it easier on himself AND the chicken. He took two separate nights for the two roosters, because it is a bit of work to kill, skin and cut the meat so that I am willing to accept it in my refrigerator. The first rooster actually provided a great dinner. I simply rinsed the meat, put it in the crockpot with broth and herbs and let it cook on low for the entire day. I cut it up and added it to saffron rice and sauteed garden vegetables for a stirfry. It was a great dinner!

I wasn't brave enough to tell the children before dinner that they were eating the rooster, but near the end of the meal when their plates were almost clean I said, "well, kids, tonight you ate one of the roosters." All they did was smile and say, "Really?!" Whew! I was worried there would be tears since my kids adore animals, but I don't think these roosters found a place in their sweet hearts. The other meat is resting in the freezer waiting to be cooked for another dinner.

We've toyed with the idea of growing meat chickens, but haven't committed to it. We need to find a four month window of time to take care of them, and then have the time to process them. After enjoying our rooster stirfry meal, maybe we'll pursue that interest sooner than later.






Friday, July 18, 2014

freezing days

July is here and so is the garden bounty! 
Check out these monstrous plants.

cherry and grape tomatoes

cucumbers

pole green beans

roma tomatoes

from left: pole green beans, squash, pole lima beans, squash, potatoes, zinnias, morning glory
(if you squint you can see the roof of our home)

All the plants in the pictures above are a good 5-6 feet tall, 
except the squash which grows out and is 5-6 feet long!
The kids have found that playing with water guns among the garden beds 
provides great hiding places and have requested 
that we make the entire backyard a garden to make the game even more fun.
Who am I to say no to that request?

With all the goodness it's time to eat lots of veggies and freeze them for cold Winter days.

 blackberries

 carrots

 french cut green beans

 patty pan squash and yellow zucchini

Besides these vegetables I've also been making sauce with the roma tomatoes for the freezer.
Something new for me this year is adding cucumbers to my fruit smoothies.
With such an abundance I've been pureeing the cucumbers,
pouring it into ice cube trays, freezing, and then bagging them up.
I probably have close to 150 cubes of cucumber in the freezer
reading for smoothies.
I call that a whole lot of awesome.
I don't have any greens in the freezer, but maybe I'll have a large harvest in the Fall
(we recently planted cilantro, lettuce, swiss chard, spinach and kale)
to add that as well.

I hope to post some pictures soon of what we've been eating fresh from the garden.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

eastern tiger swallowtail

"Mom! It's an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail!"

And do you know? The resident 10-year-old naturalist was right. 




 


Monday, July 7, 2014

early july gardening


One Bed of Potatoes Harvested

Sweet Peppers

Yellow Zucchini

After lunch each day I've been taking a stroll around our vegetable, flower and fruit gardens in the backyard. It's usually bright, sunny, hot and a fifteen minute stroll is enough, but I do love seeing all the blooms and growth in that setting. It's usually quiet as the children and dog prefer the cool of our home...we are enduring the Midwest heat and humidity after all.

Last year we planted 12 blackberry bushes which began a new section of the yard...the fruit garden. Technically, it is not an orchard since the fruit is not grown commercially. Fruit garden sounds fine to me. Discovering a sale recently, we went ahead and purchased an apple tree, peach tree and two dozen strawberry plants. No, this isn't the ideal season for planting, but the sale was so good, and we lovingly tend all that we grow, so are hopeful that these new additions will be healthy, grow and eventually produce. (We've used Stark Bros. for our fruit and have been pleased so far with the company.)

Usually on my walks I eye the blackberry bushes, which are growing as long vines or canes. They frequently need to be trained within their support trellises and I gently weave a few of these canes each day. The berries have been a beautiful red color, for some time, and firm to the touch. 


In order to be consumed, however, we are anticipating a deep purple and soft to the touch. My eye caught one such berry today, and before I could contemplate my action I ate it. What amazing flavor! This was the first edible from the fruit garden, and we're so excited to reap more. Growing fruit is absolutely foreign to us, but we'll take it just as we've done the vegetables, with hard work and cultivating good soil. 

We are currently enjoying, potatoes, green beans, lettuce, swiss chard, carrots, sweet peppers, tomatoes, squash and herbs for our meals. The abundance is so great that I'm able to go ahead and freeze some produce for the winter, which I love. My daughter recently helped me pick and cut the beans seen below. 

Green Beans cut French Style



We're also so fortunate to have an amazing amount of pollinators in our yard. Many, many bumblebees bumble about the yard from flower to flower. They're actually quite comical to watch, tumbling about. 

The second creature above is a new one to us. Snowberry Clearwing is it's amazing name, and makes it sounds like it should belong in a fantasy world. It is in the hummingbird moth family and has a long proboscis, similar to a Hummingbird, by which it drinks nectar from plants. In the photo it is enjoying a Butterfly Bush bloom.

Here are a few more blooms. This is such a beautiful season to enjoy.