Monday, August 20, 2012

The Garden is Huge!!

  I was away for 2 weeks and when I got back the garden had grown so much I hardly recognized it! The tee pee is totally covered! Check it out!! This is my first green bean tee pee and I have to say I'm thrilled. I always wanted to grow one and here it is! It's so fun to pick green beans too. Most are pick-able from inside but I still do a circle on the outside, daily to check there too. We're getting a couple handfuls a day. Haven't hit the peak yet as there are hundreds of blossoms.  It still fits 2 chairs and it's fun to sit inside. 
My grand-daughter loves her green bean tee pee!

The view looking up.

This is Stella eating a green bean in her tee pee. She is 15 mos old now.

The view peeking out through the doorway.

I trimmed the bottom of my tomato plants to give better air circulation and to let the plants direct their energy toward the fruit.

The cucumbers are going crazy! We pick anywhere from 2-9 per day, so far. Still lots of blooms here too. It's taken some training to get the cucumbers to climb the little fence, but once they grab it, they really climb. It's nice to pick the ones hanging, nice and clean.

I made a half batch of bread and butter pickles to help use them up. My moms recipe that I remember from childhood. Yummy!!

Look how everything has filled in! the tomatillos are almost as tall as the tee pee!

In the sandbox I made a little maze. I had grown the new crop of peas in 2 pots but had no place to put them in the garden. I took a partial roll of fencing and uncoiled it in part of the sandbox. I placed one pot at the opening and one on the inside. Hopefully they'll grow on the fencing and will be a fun place for Stella, my grand-daughter to play. We'll see if it works. You can see the compost pile on the right. While I was gone Bob shredded massive amounts of paper so that's what is on top of the pile.
My rain barrel is upside down because I needed to drain it. We had a couple nice storms that filled it. I decided to use this precious water on the garden last week but could only get a trickle to come out. Now I realize I need to build a platform for it so that it will drain when needed. I think 2-3 ft off the ground should be sufficient.

The russet potatoes are getting big.

The tomatillos are almost as tall as the tee pee!

Here they are in their little husks. If you squeeze the husk you can feel that, at this point, the fruit inside hasn't grown enough to fill the husk

The sweet potato plant is overflowing!

An abundance of Roma tomatoes. Only a few ripe ones so far.

All my cherry tomato plants cross-pollinated with the Roma's so now we're getting tiny Roma's. I'll grow the cherry tomatoes in the front yard next year.

Lots of flowers in the garden brings the bees.

I love my sunflowers even though they didn't get very tall this year.

Here's a view from the compost pile.

Canned a few jars of carrots.

We canned 27 pints of peaches. Bob loves his peaches!
We got organic peaches from Morton Farms. They bring their peaches down from Palisades, CO. We got them at a peach festival. The north slope peaches are the best!!

Here's a batch of fruit cocktail. I put peaches, red grapes, green grapes and pineapple. Got 12 pints from this batch. All together we bought 4 lugs ( a box  weighing approx 18 lbs) of peaches. I've frozen a lot as well, for smoothies every morning!

I believe we're caught up. More to come soon!

Update on the Vanilla

The Tahitian beans finally came! I went to CA for 2 weeks and when I got back they were here!

I'm happy to say that I'm a Grandma again! My son and his girlfriend, Melinda, had a baby boy, Aiden. It was great to spend time with them. We made blackberry jam and had a good visit.

 This is Melinda with some of the jam we made.

 This is my son Ryan, Melinda and Aiden

 Back to the beans.

 This is the Tahitian after 6 days.

 The new beans made 4 jars of  2c. each. Three jars have 18 beans, one jar have 12 beans. I bought a half a pound.

Update on the Madagascar beans. Showing a nice color.

The Mexican beans are also showing good color.

This is the card that came with some of the vanilla beans. Very helpful. On this card it says to shake every day for a month. Some other info I found said shake every day for 5-6 months. I don't shake it every day. Not a big deal. I do it when I think of it, every few days. It's still doing it's thing. The Tahitian is a month behind the other two, but by Christmas
it should be caught up or close enough.
I'll be giving a set of three kinds of vanilla with beans in each bottle.Along with it, I'll give a small bottle of vodka to refill them. As an avid baker, I would love to receive this as a gift!

This is the company that sent my beans the fastest! They were here within 4 days of ordering.
I'll do another update in a month or so.

Monday, July 23, 2012

We Made 3 Kinds of Vanilla for Gifts

  A few months ago we received a bottle of Mexican vanilla as a gift. My husband, Bob, and I just love this vanilla!
  It's much stronger and has a better taste than what was in my cupboard. It has a fruity, floral and caramel taste. It's wonderful in tapioca pudding and anything else we've put it in. After looking online for this product, (they don't sell this exact kind online), I decided to make our own vanilla extract.
  I settled on three kinds of beans. Madagascar, Mexican and Tahitian.

 These two kinds of vanilla beans are what we made extract from yesterday. I also ordered Tahitian beans but they haven't arrived yet. In 5-6 months we'll have a lot of vanilla extract! 
  I plan to give gifts of 3 bottles of extract, one of each kind. It'll be a fun gift. I think I'll make some vanilla sugar to go along with it. I plan to leave bean pieces in each bottle so that vodka can be poured in, making a non- stop supply. I'll give each set with a tiny bottle of vodka for refilling.

 The Mexican beans were the most expensive, that's why I only got 25 beans. The Madagascar beans were the cheapest so I got a pound of those, which worked out to 80 beans.

  It's very easy to make extract. Put 8 beans, (cut the beans into 1/2" long pieces) into each 8 oz. of vodka. Store in a cool dark place and shake every day for 5- 6 months.

  I did use the Tattler re-useable lids. I know the regular lids aren't good to use with acidic fruit like tomatoes so I didn't want to take a chance with the alcohol.

 This photo to the left shows Madagascar beans before we poured in the vodka. They were very woody and harder to cut through than the other kinds.

  These are the near gourmet beans that I got free from Vanilla Products USA. They gave them to me when I bought a pound of beans. They were plump and full of oils. We decided to save these for baking.

  I didn't take pics of the Mexican beans. I got busy cutting before I realized I should be taking pics. I get a little excited with new projects. The Mexican beans were flatter and looked drier.

  Bob and I will shake these for the next 5-6 months.

   I was pleasantly surprised to see so much color after just 1 day!

  So far this is what we've got. One quart jar and 10 pint jars. One pint has only 1 cup liquid. When I get the Tahitian beans we'll finish it up. Then it's just shake and wait, shake and wait.......
  I'll give updates every once in a while. We should have a nice rich extract by Christmas. Yeah!

  My 1 oz bottles came today!!! I have 5 months to design some labels. I've been working on it a little already.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

We're Eating Squash and Cucumbers from the Garden

The squash are giving us lots to eat! They're loaded with blooms and producing 2-3 squash every other day at this point. That will increase as they grow.
Today I picked 2 zucchini.

The squash grows so fast this time of year. We had a nice rain last night so I don't have to water today. My rain barrel is full! I'll use that on hot days to water instead of the city water. The plants always have a growth spurt when it rains. They love that rainwater!

The green bean tee pee is filling out and has almost grown to the top! Another week, I predict.

The sweet potato is getting big! I love that it was growing in my pantry and now we'll get food from it!

Here's one I pulled out of my pantry yesterday! I must have bought too many and we didn't eat them fast enough. One more plant to find room for. My garden is full and all the big pots as well. This one will have to go in the front yard, in the flowerbed.
We won't be able to enjoy our sweet potatoes till we cure them for a few months. It will be worth it! I might even can some if we get a good crop. We're trying to eat more sweet potatoes anyway so now we'll grow our own. 

Here's one of 4 russet potatoes I planted. Two are in the garden with the tomatoes and squash, 2 in

The tomatillas have grown beyond they're stakes. I'll have to re-stake them with taller sticks. They have lots of blooms.

The pot of herbs are growing fast. The basil is taking over and will have to be transplanted into another pot. The oregano is on the left and cilantro and chives on the other side. I've already used some basil in some pasta sauce made from our tomato sauce from last year. I pulled out several quart jars of sauce, added mushrooms, onions, garlic, red, orange and yellow sweet peppers, Italian sausage and lots of Italian spices, and let it cook for 2 days. It was so yummy! We used it for chicken parm and a couple other dishes, and then froze the rest.

The tomatoes are full of fruit and blooms. Fried green tomatoes are where this guy is going. 

It's a tomato jungle down both raised beds of tomatoes. I planted my plants 12" apart. I've learned I can crowd them a bit as long as I trim the lowest branches from the plants. They need air circulation.

These are beefsteak tomatoes.

These are baby Roma tomatoes.

The cucumbers are loaded with fruit. This is where the peas were planted till they were done producing.
With some coaxing the cucumbers are climbing the fence. I have carrots planted on the edges but they're not very big yet.
We've eaten one cucumber so far. It was so good having been warmed by the sun. Love it!

Here is some spinach coming up.

Here are some peas coming up. The first crop was so good I thought we needed more.

Kym helped us pick some plums from their tree on Sunday. I canned these on Monday (yesterday). Just need to remove the rings, wash them up, label them and put them in the downstairs pantry. I got 15 pints out of it. They'll be great next winter. I'll give some to Kym so they can enjoy them too. I used the re-useable canning lids, Tattler. I bought 3 dozen large mouth and 3 doz regular mouth lids this year.
I'll just add some each year till I have enough.

Here's Kym trying to catch the plums as Bob knocks them down. If they hit the driveway they smashed so we were scrambling trying to catch them.

Here's my handsome, helpful husband climbing the plum tree.

Here's a little fountain I made in no time. I won't go into how to make them, there are instructions all over the Internet. It took about 15 min total time. I really like the pot, which I got at a bargain when a local store went out of business.

I wanted to show how I've used the apple branch panels this year. They were in the garden last year.
When we moved in February, we found we wanted some privacy on our covered porch in the new house. I tied them up and now we have vines growing up. It's a nice cool place to sit. We eat a lot of meals out here.

The vines cover it nicely.

 The view from under the tee pee.

Be happy, it's summer!!! Put your feet in the pool, have a pop-cycle, find some way to have fun!
If you're not smiling, thinking of a fun thing to do, then I have a picture that will make you smile.

This is Stella, our grand daughter. She only has 2 teeth but really wanted to try to eat corn on the cob. She actually was able to get some corn off the cob. What a cutie!