Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bearing fruit

Fruit is flowering!
One of my blueberry bushes. We just planted the 2 bushes this past fall.

Here is the main strawberry plant. We planted it last spring, cannot wait for FRESH strawberries!

One of the apple trees we planted this past fall is flowering as well, but we will not get any fruit this year. We have to pluck the fruit real early because the branches cannot support the weight of the fruit this year. It needs another year to let the trunk/branches mature and be able to bear the weight. We have been crazy busy with the garden. We planted pickle cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes and feed corn. We still have a little more to plant. Our upside down tomatoes were ripped out of their buckets 2 nights ago with the horrible wind/rain storm we had. We should have left the buckets on the ground with the tomatoes right side up for a week or 2 to let the roots mature more before hanging upside down, oh well lesson learned. So we start over and since I have still been growing seedlings we shall have another shot shortly. :) I have also been doing some research for next season already. There are a few things I want to try that I know we can't do this year. Happy Growing! :D

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Another addition to the garden

So my husband surprised me today. Not with flowers or candy, but with making me 2 more beds for my garden! :D
Here is the raised beds we made last year.

Here is the 1st addition Mr. Smith made.

Here is the other 2 beds he made. The one closest to the fence is for tomatoes since we didn't have enough buckets or places to put them or funds to build places to put them. So we will have some the traditional way, in the ground and others upside down. The 2nd is for feed corn for our chickens.

Here is the whole garden. Its HUGE and I LOVE it.

Our bed with onions and the strawberry we planted last year.

2nd bed of new strawberry plants.

Just planted today 12 transplanted green pepper plants.

Here is my biggest pepper transplant.

Here is one of the broccoli beds. Not all of the transplants made it. Only 12 did. I did not let them harden first. So I think this killed all the others off. I will be re seeding where those died off.

Here is a  broccoli transplant that is doing great!

Here is the 1st set of sweet corn seedlings I planted. We have decided to try an old Native American way of growing the corn. Its called the 3 sisters. Corn, pole green beans, and pumpkins. What they do is work off of each other and benefit and promote the growth of one another. The way it works is the beans put more nitrogen in the soil, which corn LOVES and the corn stalk helps the vine of the bean climb up the stalk and the pumpkins with their large and abundant leaves help retain moisture in the soil by providing shade to the soil and as the pumpkin vines grow they loose some leaves that are natural compost and mulch for the soil. All which work and feed each other. Its amazing how it works. I did not plant the beans or pumpkins yet...ran out of sunlight. my neck, face and back got enough of it though! HA HA HA Not going to hear the end of that for a few weeks. :)

Here is a transplanted sweet snap pea. These are a family favorite! We use the newspaper (shown) to prevent weeds and hold in the moisture of the soil and the mulch is also to help retain moisture, which is homemade and I LOVE anything homemade! :D

Here is my clothes line with the 3 gallon buckets/cherry tomatoes in the front and 5 gallon buckets/ beef steak tomatoes in the back.

One of our seedling cherry tomatoes, transplanted to the 3 gallon bucket this morning.

He is small now....but they sure do grow fast!

We were out working all day. We are almost completed with the sowing of all of seedlings and seeds. We are still planting in waves to keep the season going longer. This also helps my back and knees because this is less I have to plant at a time and less I will have to rush around to harvest and then can or freeze. Makes life a little easier. The weather man says its going to rain for the next 4 days....we shall see. I hope not, that would mean no farming! :(

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My tomatoes

Here is my 1st experiment into homemade upside down tomatoes. I grew these tomatoes from seeds indoors and let them sit outside a little over 2 weeks to get used to some cool weather before transplanting. We have only gotten to 2 of these so far since that's all the 5 gallon buckets we have at the moment. Next week we should have more. Crossing my fingers!!
We put 4 pieces of newspaper down on the bottom over the hole and filled it with a 3-4" layer of potting soil and then the rest is dirt out of a hill behind our garden. We didn't have anywhere set up yet to hang these so they are on my clothes line.

The hole Mr. Smith drilled is about 2". He cut an X in the newspaper and pushed the seedling into the bucket. It has been raining for the past 2 days, so I think they have enough water!

Mr. Smith hung the tomato plants before I could take a picture of the water/soda bottle in the soil. I am extremely short so I can't even touch the middle of these buckets. HA HA So I took a picture of the rest of bottles I have in my dish drain that we are using for the next round of tomatoes. We are leaving the lids off the buckets because we are growing basil on top, they are an awesome companion plant for tomatoes and promote growth and add to taste :) The point of the water/soda bottles to be in the 5 gallon bucket is to water in small amounts all day. The biggest problem I read about with these upside down plants (whether homemade or store bought) is the soil dries out too quickly. So solution to this is to bury a water/soda bottle into the soil, pour water into the bottle a few times a day(seems to be easiest here right after breakfast, during nap time, and right after dinner)there are a few holes pricked at the bottom to slowly drip water to the tomatoes all day and its less work on me! Which is always a bonus :D We want self sufficiency to be as easy as possible! Work smarter not harder ;)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Garden ....then food, lots of food :D

We planted our potatoes yesterday.
Here is what one of the potatoes we planted looked like. We just cut up regular potatoes you get from the grocery store and we cut them so there was at least 2 eyes per section. Here they were already sprouting in my cabinet. :) I cut these about 5 days earlier and put them into brown paper lunch bags to let them "scab" over. I wanted the fresh cuts to heal and get a tough edge to them to prevent rotting and disease.

1st row, red potatoes.

Better view of our small, 1st take potato bed.

Row furthest left is the red potato bed, middle row has a few red potatoes in it that we couldn't fit in the 1st row and the rest are russet potatoes. 3rd row furthest to the right has 5 cabbage plants then the rest of the russet potatoes. Cabbage and potatoes are companion plants and the bed next to this furthest away from the cabbage is our lettuce bed and lettuce and cabbage are NOT companion plants. So I wanted to keep them as far from each other as possible.

The 2 older kids were cleaning the wood Mr. Smith had chopped down so after all that hard work we had s'mores! 1st fire for the season. We seem to do this earlier and earlier each year! :D YUM.

This is a few meals I am writing about. I make almost every meal from scratch and I love to share recipes, so here they all are from the past couple of days.

Homemade Chicken & Cheese Quesedillas
2 cups corn flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups water
Chicken & Cheese:
1lb chicken pre cooked season with salt and pepper
1 8oz bag mexican 4 cheese shredded cheese
hot sauce (optional)

Separate the dough into 8 balls and roll flat. Cook on well oiled frying pan 2 minutes per side.
Then add chicken & cheese and whatever else you like to put on.

I used this to make the tortillas

I had to use a frying pan to flatten these because kiddo #3 broke my rolling pin. They are a little thick.

Here they are cooking.

Here is Mr. Smith's quesedilla....he loves the hot sauce.

Chicken & Dumplings
3 1/2lbs chicken
8 cups chicken broth
6 carrots
1 onion
1 (15oz) can peas

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup water

In a large, wide pot simmer the chicken in the broth until tender, 30 minutes or more. While the chicken is simmering peel and cut the carrots and mince the onion. Remove the chicken and set aside. Pour the carrots and onion into the chicken broth. Leave simmering as you skin, bone and shred into bite size pieces. Then in a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder & salt. Cut the butter into pea size pieces & distribute throughout the flour mixture. Add the water and knead 8-10 times. if the dough seems too sticky add more flour. Roll the dough out to 1/8th inch thickness and cut into roughly 1 inch squares. (I use a pizza cutter, soooo easy!) Bring broth with veggies to a boil, if your broth seems to be low add 2-4 more cups. When boiling drop in dumplings, cover pot and reduce heat to simmer for about 10 minutes. Overcooking the dumplings will cause them to fall apart. Then add the can of peas & chicken back into the pot and serve!

Veggies cooking! This makes the carrots very very tender where they melt in your mouth.


my raw dumplings

cooking the dumplings

DONE! It is soooo good! We don't have a problem with leftovers with this! They don't even realize they are eating carrots!

Italian Mozzarella Wings
12 chicken wings
8oz mozzarella cheese, cut into 24 cubes
1 large egg
1 cup garlic and herb breadcrumbs (You can use any, I use these because they make it taste like a mozzarella stick)
1/2 cup chopped up mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut a slit into the meatiest parts of the chicken wing. Stuff a cheese cube into the slit and press the meat back over the cheese. In a shallow bowl, beat the egg. In another shallow bowl combine the 1/2 cup mozzarella and the breadcrumbs and salt. Working one wing at a time coat each wing with egg then the breadcrumb mixture and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake until golden. It only took mine 20 minutes.

Slit at the top on the left and slit on the bottom on the right. Cheese shoved into both.

Breadcrumbed and ready to go into the oven. You can see the extra cheese chunks on the outside.

DONE! :D these were sooo good. I might just have to make them again this weekend.

Homemade Yogurt
My kids literally INHALE this stuff! Not that I mind....its good for them, but it takes up a lot of my food budget. So I tried to make it on my own yesterday/last night.
2 quarts milk (or 8 cups)
1 cup dry powdered milk
1 cup plain yogurt with active live cultures listed on label
2 tablespoon jam or jelly

1. Add milk & dry milk to crock pot and stir well.
2. Turn crock pot on, cover with lid and heat up to 185 degrees
3. Turn off crock pot and remove lid and let cool to 115 degrees
4. Add 1 cup plain yogurt and stir well
5. Replace lid and wrap crock pot in 2-3 towels. You can leave it on your counter if your house is fairly warm or in your oven (NOT ON) The yogurt needs to stay between 90 degrees - 110 degrees during this time. Let sit 6-8 hours or 10 hours for a thicker yogurt with a stronger taste.

milk and dry milk going into crock pot

Yogurt I used

If it does not say this on the label then it will not work to make your own yogurt.

Dry milk I used

Wrapped in 3 towels shoved in my oven right before I went to bed.

Woke up and this is what I found. YOGURT!

I mixed in 4 tablespoons of the homemade strawberry jam I made a few weeks back.

I used a 2nd foods baby food to show how much I got out of this recipe. It is a lot! You need to put sugar into the yogurt as well to taste. It is quite bitter if you don't. I am letting mine completely cool in the fridge to start taste testing again. Learned my lesson! HA HA This is also a lengthy process. It took 3 hours for my crock pot to heat up to 185 degrees and 45 minutes to cool to 115 degrees. Then I put it into the oven to keep warm (my house tends to be cool) and it took all night while we were sleeping. I added more strawberry jam because I didn't really get a good strawberry taste when I taste tested it. I also found out how bitter yogurt can be! :) If you look even on the big plain yogurt container I got there is 17 grams of sugar in there. So they know, the taste of yogurt needs some sweetening.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

New garden beds

Here is the expansion to our garden this year.
 We had old beams from a really really old building that fell down and we used them to make our raised beds.

Here is Mr. Smith using our 1970's tractor with tiller attachment. It makes farming soooo much easier!

First run through. It was like a jumping kangaroo trying to get through all those roots.

Mr. Smith ran through the dirt about 4 times per side of each bed. he is going to do another run through tomorrow to work through more of the clumps. I am planning on putting my potatoes in there. Russet, Red and Sweet.

I made spilt pea soup in my crock pot since I knew it was going to be a working day and who wants to think about cooking after a hard day out in the "fields" Ha Ha What I do is when I am making breakfast I get my crock pot out, pour the peas in and 4 cups water, turn on high and add in a pork or beef bone that was leftover from the packages I buy of either to make our own ground beef or sausages. (We use EVERY part we can! We don't like to be wasteful) Then I turn down the pot to low after an hour and just let it go. About an hour before serving I add 1 1/2 more cups of water, stir and let it go. Right before serving I scrape the meat off the bones and stir in salt and pepper to taste. During nap time I make Irish Soda Bread, I make it every time because they are just so scrumptious together! :D
Irish Soda Bread
4 cups flour
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoon butter
1 cup raisins
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 3/4 cups buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.
2. Using your hands work butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then stir in raisins. In another bowl, beat egg and buttermilk together, add to flour mixture. Knead with hands.
3. Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased baking sheet (it will flatten out a bit on the baking sheet) Using a serrated knife, score top of dough about an inch and half deep in an "X" shape. This is to help get the heat into the center of the dough while it cooks. Transfer to oven and bake until golden brown and bottom sounds hollow. About 35-45 minutes. Insert skewer, if clean...then done!

Here is what my coarse meal or flour mixture with butter looked like.

My bread before.

The knife I use.

Right before it goes into the oven.

20 minutes into baking. As you can see 2 of the peaks are a little scorched.

So this is what I do to prevent that from happening and only do it halfway through cooking. Its a tin foil tent. It will still cook the bread the right way, but prevent further scorching of the top of the bread.


This bread is amazing. I skip the raisins because only kiddo #1 likes them and I use milk versus buttermilk and it tastes the same.