Saturday, June 28, 2014

June Monthly Moos {Welcome To My Garden}




My garden is growing by leaps and bounds and starting to produce.  I thought I would tell you a little bit about how I choose to prep, plant and care for my garden!

(If you are a new reader, or haven't read the story of my garden you can read about it here.)


We started back in the middle of March getting the soil prepped and ready.  Eldon has a tiller he can pull behind the tractor and that takes the hard work out of turning the soil.  Then I plot it all out on paper and figure out where I want everything to go.  I try to rotate the vegetables around each year.  


I have a trick that I use for weed control.  Here it is.  After I form my rows, but before I plant, I purchase a roll of "end roll" paper from our local newspaper office.  (It is what is left on the end of the roll after printing.  It has no ink on it and is just simply paper.  And it is very cheap.  This 30# roll was $6.00.)  I roll this out over each row and then cover the paper with straw.


It is a really huge, back breaking job.  BUT, it saves me hours and hours of hoeing and weeding all summer.  It does not completely stop the weeds and Johnson grass from pushing their way through the paper and straw, but it certainly limits it.  And because the straw absorbs the rain and dew, the ground is always moist underneath so any weeds that do make it through are just a quick pull to remove.  

I love that the straw and paper is just naturally absorbed back into the soil by summer's end.  It isn't a plastic product that has to be removed and disposed of, or a product that adds things to the soil that are undesirable.  The draw back is that in order for the soil to break down the straw it uses nitrogen to do that, so nitrogen must be added back to the soil in the spring, which we do in the form of cow manure.  One of the advantages, besides the weed control, is that since the straw absorbs any moisture, the plants always have moisture underneath the straw.  And the ground is full of earth worms!


I plant the seeds by just poking through the straw, paper and into the soil.  It is actually quite easy.  The above picture was back in the middles of May when things were just starting to take hold.


I love that the straw gives the garden a very neat and tidy look.  


This is what my garden looks like from the top of the hill.  I think I mentioned before that we have the garden down in our bottom pasture because the soil is rich and fairly rock free.   (The above picture was my garden just a month ago.)


This is my garden today, about 8 weeks since laying the straw.  You can see that I keep a center walkway that I don't lay straw down, the grass grows and I just use my wonderful string trimmer (weed whacker!) and keep it mowed down.  You can see bits of grass and weeds coming through the straw; about once a week I spend an hour or so going through and pulling them out.  


I'm super excited about our corn.  It is heirloom, non GMO corn and it is gorgeous.  Some of it must be over eight feet tall.  


The first ears are starting to form.  I'm a little worried about the raccoons getting to the corn.  We think we will put our dog Belle in the garden at night when the ears are getting ready to pick!  She'll keep those raccoons away!


My tomato plants seems a little delayed but they are starting to produce now. 


And there is my cucumber patch.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I got quite carried away.  I happen to love cucumbers.  Last year I didn't end up with even enough cucumbers to make very many pickles, so you can be sure I planted enough this year!!!  (I actually planted three different Heirloom varieties and love them all.)


Jillian and Rosetta spent the night with us last night and we had baths and were in pajamas ready to play a game of monopoly before bed when the girls asked Gramps for a ride in the Ranger.  So off we went for our Ranger ride and stopped off at the garden.  Jillian was picking cucumbers like a pro.  (She's the official cucumber and green bean picker in her Momma's garden.)


Rosy was happy to be in charge of the bucket!  (See those round yellow squash, they are an Heirloom squash called Lemon Squash - shaped like a lemon and taste just like the crooked neck but are supposed to be resistant to squash bugs.  I'll let you know if they really are!)


And tonight I made my first 10 pints of pickles.  I have a feeling that my pantry will be full of pickles at the end of the summer!



And here it is... the end of June already.  I realized that I started my Monthly Moos Posts exactly a year ago this month and I'm a little sad to look back at how quickly the time has gone.  

(If you've missed any of those and want to read them, they are all located here.  They seem to generate the most amount of traffic on my blog, so I will continue them as long as I have something from the farm to write about!)

I hope your summer is hot and wonderful like ours is.   I am very happy to admit that I have completely adapted to the humidity and I honestly love it!  I've had quite a few people ask if I miss the dry heat of the desert where we were from out West and the answer is NO.  I do not miss it one bit.  I just love the rain, the dew every morning, the green grass... and yes, the cucumbers!




Hopping over to the FarmGirl Blog Hop - join me!


Monday, June 23, 2014

The (Not So Typical) Gulf Coast Vacation




Eldon and I just got home from a wonderful vacation on the Gulf Coast.  We didn't want to do the whole "stay on the beach" touristy thing so we did some looking at vacation cottages online and found one that sounded promising.  


It was a darling little cottage on the Bon Secour River in Alabama which runs into the Bon Secour Bay in the Gulf of Mexico.  The cottage was located almost at the mouth of the Bay so it was definitely an ocean feel - a bit salty water, all the ocean birds and dolphins running up the river!  Probably the biggest draw for us was that it came with its own pier out into the water!


There was even a comfortable old wooden swing on the end of the pier.  (This is the only picture I have of it - maybe because I was always sitting there?)


Our cottage was located between two large seafood stores - Billy's and Aguila's.  So, that meant that every morning we sat and watched the shrimp boats come rolling in with their catch.  And then we watched them roll out in the evenings.


The shrimp boats are such neat boats.  



Eldon did a lot of fishing off the dock.  


We did a lot of crabbing off the dock.
(I've never had so much fun "fishing" as I did crabbing!)


The cottage we rented was absolutely perfect.  It looks small from the outside, but it was plenty roomy inside and so comfy.


There was no back porch and not much of a front porch.... but not needed anyway because the pier was our porch!  


The living room was very roomy.  


I loved the little kitchen and it had everything we needed for the week.  We saved money by cooking breakfast and supper and eating out for lunch!


I didn't take any pictures of the bedrooms but there were two bedrooms downstairs and an open loft with four twin beds upstairs.  


The little community of cottages (there are seven of them) share the pier.  But the whole week we were there using the pier every morning and evening we only had to "share" it once.  And that was lovely as the elderly neighbor lady was so very sweet.  The little neighborhood was extremely quiet as several of the cottages are vacation homes and were empty at the time we were there.  

You can check out this vacation cottage here.  If you are looking for an affordable vacation cottage just a very short drive to the Gulf Shores area, this is it!  


We had a lovely week.  I'll be sharing more about the area, a few things we did, places we went, and food we ate.  So check back in a few days for more on our vacation!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My Pantries And The Magazine Winners!



My daughter wrote a blog post earlier this week about the magazine that she and I contributed to.  In her blog post she had a picture of my kitchen pantry and mentioned how she styled it for the magazine.    (The picture above is the one my daughter took for the magazine and we moved all my usual stuff out and put the home canned things in.)  I had numerous emails about it as well as a few comments about it on her blog.  I went back to my kitchen post and realized that somehow I missed talking about this little pantry.   



It is located in a very neat place, basically it is part of the refrigerator cabinet.  I do not take credit for this.  Nancy, at the cabinet shop, suggested it to me when I was going over my kitchen design with her, and it is just the greatest cabinet.   In the above picture it is the cabinet on the left side of the refrigerator cabinet.   It takes up very little room but yet it holds an amazing amount of items.



My daughter said if it was hers she would take the doors off and display all her canned goods.  I do like that idea, as I love the dark stain on the beadboard backing.  However, I have another pantry in my laundry room (two steps away!) that has the screen door and it is the place I actually designed for my canned goods.  So this little pantry ends up being the perfect spot for any canned goods I actually buy (which aren't many) and other items that won't look pretty in my other pantry.  



It is not a deep pantry at all, but it is actually pretty amazing what it can hold.  I do buy a few canned things in bulk from Costco and it all fits in here perfectly.   The shelves are adjustable of course so I could easily change them to hold taller things like cereal boxes.  


I use the very top cabinet for things I don't need frequently as it is pretty high and rather inconvenient for frequently used items.  



It is a great pantry that is so convenient but uses space that would otherwise be wasted.  I recommend one of these cabinets to everyone!  



Then there is my large pantry in the laundry room that I believe I told you a little bit about here.  Eldon custom built it to what I had wanted.    Including the screen door!




It has deep shelves for my graniteware canning pots, pressure canner, and my large strainer and pestle.  I can put these items on my top shelf where I don't need to get to them that frequently.



I've also ended up using this pantry for my dry bulk items that I buy at Costco.  I like to transfer things to glass jars that are labeled with chalkboard labels.  The bottom of the cabinet is great for my large bins for paper towels, coffee pods, and my potato and onion bin.  


You can see that I have more empty jars than full now, so that is a sure sign that canning time is just around the corner!  I'm thinking that I will have to do a lot of re-organizing to make room for all this summer's produce.  (I'm pretty sure I planted too many cucumbers, so expect to see jars and jars of pickles!)



So many people have said to me that they could never have a pantry with a screen door and in such a visible place (you can actually see it from my living room!).  However,  I have found that I love it because it forces me to keep it organized and neat and tidy.  I feel like the layout of it really helps to keep it from getting cluttered too.   Plus, it actually goes with my farmhouse decor so that makes it actually just blend in!




Now for the winners of the two magazines.  Honestly, I wish I had a free one to send to everybody.   Kathleen and Emily are the winners.  I've notified both of you via email!  Congratulations!


The magazine is in most stores where magazines are sold.  I saw it in our local Walmart this week, I'm sure Barnes and Noble carries it and someone told me they got theirs at Tractor Supply.  


Hope you had a very good week.  We've been watching for a calf to be born to Old Red.  I have a little friend, she's ten, that has begged to be here to see a calf born so we were really hoping that Old Red would cooperate and have her calf during the day.  Nope!  She had it finally this week - in the middle of the night.  And that very morning, she brought her to meet me at the garden where I was working!  There is nothing sweeter than new calves!

Have a lovely weekend!

P.S.  Thank you to all my readers who comment on my blog.  It means a lot to me and I love every comment I get.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Magazine Feature and A Give Away!


A super exciting thing happened to me and that was that I got to work with my daughter on a segment  for the magazine, New American Homesteader.  She was asked to contribute in the Canning and Preserving section and it ended up being a package deal, which was really fun for me.  


It was sort of a dreamlike experience.  I couldn't believe it when we were saying things like, "The magazine gave us a deadline for the photos" or "We need to sit down together and proof everything we've written before submitting it to the magazine"!  



As usual, there are some really great articles in this magazine.  It doesn't hit news-stands until tomorrow but I've had the privilege of having my copy for a couple weeks now.  I've read it from cover to cover and loved all of it.  You will too.  

My daughter, Andrea, and I.

So, how about a give-away?  I've got magazines to give to two lucky winners.  

 In order to be entered to win, just answer this question in the comment section below:  Do you call it "canning", "preserving", or "putting up"?  (Here in the South the old timers refer to it as puttin' up!  I always have to think a second when they ask me "Did you get any tomaters put up yet"? )

I'll do a random drawing on Friday of this week!  (Be sure an email address is attached to your name so I have a way to notify you if you win!)

If you don't win,  I hope you will purchase the magazine!

P.S.  One of the most fun things about working with my daughter on this project was watching her at work with her camera.   She is such an inspiration for me in her photography.  Notice the cover photo on the magazine... that is hers!  (The very last page in the magazine is one of my photos!)