Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Green tomatoes and more

Last night they forecasted temperatures in the 30's in the Detroit Metro Region. Not wanting to take a chance, I went ahead and picked almost all the fruit left in my garden.
Some of the tomatoes were either already ripe, or had at least started to ripen,

Some were the "striped" heritage tomatoes bought by the roadside near Kent City Michigan (I got both red and yellow varieties), 

Some were totally green and had not even started to ripen yet.  Anyone have a good pickled green tomato recipe?  I have at least 1/4 bushel of these. 

I had four varieties of pepper.  The black ones are "Kaleidoscope", evidently the red and yellow plants of this variety are harder to germinate because my germination rate was low, and the only peppers I got were the black ones.   Also had a green bell, a yellow sweet banana pepper, and some peppers that were advertised as "jalapeno" at the local flea market but I suspect are "cherry bombs".

These gourds were volunteers this year.  I don't know what to do with them except to use  them for decorating.  They are pretty.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Mission Accomplished

Mission accomplished!

I picked almost a full bushel of tomatoes (some just starting to turn pink) and canned 7 quart jars of tomatoes and 6 pints of salsa.

Now to label them.  I've been printing labels using Avery shipping label forms (10 to a page) and my own logo. On the label I put my logo, my "bright meadow farms" name, the name of the contents, the ingredient list, the date processed, and a favorite quotation.  But sometimes the "sticky" on these labels doesn't hold up to glass jars and long storage.

Today I noticed that on I had enough points entered to get a free page of stickers from   Exploring their site, I found they had labels designed for food storage-- but didn't allow custom artwork. But then I also noticed they have a sister "make+print" site that allows uploads.  The problem is, that I will need to wait to receive the labels!  I assume that "free" means I will pay for shipping... and it is only one sheet. Ordering in quantity would mean hand-writing some of the information, at a minimum the date.  I typically can in batches of 7 jars, since that is what the canner will hold, not 9, the number of labels on one sheet.

 hmmm.  I also noticed their "store locator" tool and find that the local Hobby Lobby carries some of their blank labels. 

Friday, September 07, 2012

Tomatoes and Daisies

Tomorrow my dear husband will be attending the Henry Ford/Greenfield Village Old car show.  So I will be canning tomatoes. 

I checked out the availability of tomatoes in my garden tonight, and I found that I've got well over 100 ripe tomatoes ready to be picked and preserved.

I plan to get an early start. It may be a long day.

I also checked out my front flower beds tonight.  The bindweed is rampant, and I haven't had time to go and pull it.  The flowers look like morning glories but I understand once you have flowers, you will have seeds, and that will be an issue for next year. 

My plan of attack is to dig up all the perennials, especially the Shasta daisies which are so ugly once the flowers have finished blooming.   Then take them to the back forty and either plant them or toss them in a hole.  Then I will pull as much bindweed as possible, then fill in with fresh topsoil and mulch.  Lot of work.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Green Beans

Green beans, yellow beans, purple beans...

We went to the farm this weekend and I was surprised to find that there were green beans that were at the peak of harvest time. 

They were not ready in August when the kids visited.  In a normal year they would have been ready for harvest the second week of August.

With the extreme drought conditions, there weren't many ready then. 

But although the plants are quite stunted, there were a lot of green beans.

I spent the whole day today on green beans.  My dad's comment last year was "why spend so much time on a low value crop?"

Last night when we arrived at the farm I picked two rows.  This morning I picked one more row plus found some I had missed last night. 

These were VERY LONG rows.  I had a lot of time to think while picking.

Stoop down.  Pick 3 beans.  Stand up.  Move to the left.  Stoop down.  Repeat. 

After I while I realized that maybe if I didn't have so much up and down movement I would go faster.  So I tried hands and knees for a while. 

Suddenly I realized that I do not have as much upper body strength as I had when I was a toddler.  After 100 yards, I decided to stand, stoop, and pick again.

Picking beans, you have a lot of time to think about many things.  I thought about inventing a bean picker.  My husband later told me it's already been done.  We just don't raise enough beans to make owning one a wise investment. 

I thought about my job.  I thought about my family.  I thought about people who pick beans for a living.  We all want to eat beans, but in order for us to do that, someone has to pick the beans.  Planting the beans with an old planter takes an hour, but picking the beans takes a lot of time. 

If you leave the bean plant in the ground, it will flower again and produce more beans.  If you pick the whole plant and take it to the barn, you can sit down while you pull off the beans, but the harvest is finished.

I left an entire row unpicked.  I knew I needed to process the beans today.  You have to snap the ends off the beans before you can freeze or can them.  I did not have a pressure canner at the farm, so I chose to freeze them (It's easier and faster anyway).

First I sorted the beans by color. 

The yellow beans were a little more mature, in general, than the green and purple beans. 

The purple beans were not as prolific as they have been in previous years.

I was really impressed by the performance of the green beans.  The pods were full and the beans were long.  Even though we have been in extreme drought, when I found a plant with beans, there were 3-5 beans on each plant.  I will re-order the same variety next year.  I hope we do not have another drought year next year. 

Next I blanched the beans.  The green ones were blanched for one minute because they seemed very tender.  The purple beans were blanched for 3 minutes because they were not quite so good.  The yellow ones were blanched for four minutes because they seemed very tough. 

I packed them into zip-lock bags, labeled them, and threw them into the freezer.  About 15 quarts in all.  Not so good for as many as we planted, but considering the weather conditions, not so bad after all.

Our freind William visited while I was snapping the beans.  It evidently reminded him of down-home cooking.  He had quite a few stories about cooking coons and chicken feet.  I am not interested in these recipes. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Made 10 jars of salsa on Sunday.  I have yet to print the labels for these.  I also canned several jars of "V-3" juice. 

The Salsa "recipe" is as follows (it is more of a process than a recipe):

Cut up all the tomatoes you have ripe into quarters, removing the stem ends and any damaged spots. 

Put these into the food processor with the knife blad and process for a few seconds until the tomatoes are diced small, but some chucks remain.  Pour into colander in a kettle, letting the tomato juice flow through.

Chop about 1/4 as many onions as you have tomatoes. 

Chop about half as much jalapeno peppers as you have onions, and about half as much of sweet bell pepper or sweet banana pepper.

Put the resulting juice aside, put the vegetables into the saucepan, and bring to a boil.  Add herbs and spices to taste as follows:

Cayenne pepper
Ground mustard
Garlic (minced fresh, or powder)

If you like, add juice of 1 to 2 limes.

When the mixture has simmered for 5 minutes, using a slotted spoon, pack into sterilized jars.  Put lids and rings on and process for 20 minutes.  The remaining solids and liquids at the bottom of the kettle can be given a whirl in the food processor and added to the juice to be preserved, as well.

My jalapeno plants did not produce well this year, so I bought jalapenos at the local flea market/farmer's market.  One of the vendors added two "cherry bomb" peppers which should make the salsa hotter than normal this year!  Yoo Hoo!

Monday, August 06, 2012

The grandkids have been visiting. It is difficult to wean them from the DS, but they love harvesting vegetables from the garden.  Today we visited Henry Ford Greenfield Village, I hope it give them some appreciation of labor needed prior to mechanization of the Industrial Age...

Friday, August 03, 2012

Wacky Wabbits

As I sit at my kitchen table looking out at my garden patch, I am watching 2 rabbits hip-hopping their way through it. 

The neighbor lent me a live trap to catch and relocate these critters.  I baited it with an apple.  The first day, one of the rabbits went up to the trap, hopped all the way around it, hopped all the way around it again, then went on his way.

Now they just ignore the trap.  They don't seem to spend a lot of time IN the garden, just traipse through it every morning.  I guess I have moved from anger to acceptance.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Green Bean harvest

It has been so hot and dry this summer that the pumpkins and watermelons we planted at the farm did not have a good germination rate.  The deer and the groundhogs have been eating the edamame beans.

For some reason, the sunflowers came up.  Next week when I am there I will take pictures. The sunflowers in our back yard, here on the east side of the state, are very tall, but do not have very big flowers yet.  I still have high hopes although many of our neighbors have sunflowers that have been blooming for weeks.  The variety we planted here is "Mammoth" which promised 9-foot tall flowers.  They are at least 7 feet tall.  I am thinking of planting a fall crop of lettuce, beets, and perhaps some radishes in their shade, if it is not already too late. Maybe even some winter cabbage.

Ed called me last night when he arrived at the farm and said I needed to come and pick green beans, they are as big around as a pencil and 4-5 inches long.  I won't be able to get there until Tuesday of next week.  I hope they don't get tough.  The grandkids will have fun picking, washing, and freezing them! (we planted some LONG rows, LOL)

Early retirement?

It is official.  As of October 31, 2012, I will be leaving my current employer under an early retirement program. 

I have a short length of time to decide if I will jump back into the corporate world with another employer, or take the opportunity to make a life change and spend more time farming, gardening, knitting, weaving, embroidering, planting a vineyard, etc. 

There are many advantages of either choice.  Some of the advantages are even economic!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

First tomato

The first tomato of the year was harvested yesterday. Unfortunately, the marker identifying the variety was not stuck in the soil under the straw...

 Also, I harvested FOUR tomato hornworms.  UCK! I crushed two underfoot, then realized the fish might want the protein.  Threw the third one in the pond. It floated. (ICKY) The fish swam up to investigate.  Then they swam away.   I crushed the fourth underfoot.

Farming is somewhat violent.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Tomatoes are in

Originally written as a draft approximately Memorial Day weekend.

Last night we finished planting the last dozen tomato plants and some of the peppers.  The temperature was 91 yesterday, so we broke the rule of never watering at night and ran the sprinkler for an hour or so.  It is expected to be even hotter today.

I am using old cages this year.  Last year I did not stake the tomatoes and several times as I reached down to harvest a particularly lovely-looking fruit, I would turn it over to find that some rodent had harvested the bottom half of the fruit before me.  Last night I picked up a plastic bucket of compost that had been left overnight and E. noticed that a critter had tunnelled up through the soil, only to be stopped by the bucket bottom.  When I moved the bucket, the mole stuck his head up to say "hello".  A shovel was handy, so he said hello and goodbye at the same time.  Hopefully keeping the fruit off the ground this year will reduce the temptation for our guests.

Some of the cages need repair, as the welds have broken.  This will be a good job to put on the list for next winter.

The lettuce I planted in March is just reaching table size, with the long days of sunshine having finally arrived.

I am in the process of tuning the compost pile.  I am shovelling out the finished compost at the bottom of the pile and incorporating it into the soil round the roots of the plants.  The unrotted stuff floating at the top of the pile will end up on the bottom once I have removed the dark crumbly earth from the bottom.  I keep threatening to cruise the suburban developments around us at night, looking for yard waste to bring home to my compost pile.  I just can't get used to so much sand in Michigan!

Bright Meadow West

Today I am feeling particularly blessed.  There are black raspberries in the orchard just starting to ripen.  Some are in the shade. and are escaping the effects of the drought that are being suffered by any of the bushes that are in full sun.    I was checking them out, riding the gator through the old orchard, when I surprised a very small fawn. It was so young it did not immediately even try to get up and move.  I was as surprised as the fawn. I didn't even think to reach for the camera, just enjoyed the moment.

Later, I checked out the elderberry bushes to see how they are doing.  It looks like they are just finishing up blooming, and the berries are starting to form!

There were volunteer turnip greens growing in our string bean field that had not yet been disked. I gathered an armload of them and brought them in to clean (triple-wash!) for lunch.  

 After lunch, E disked the bean field.

The temperature outside is over 90, but I am enjoying the air-conditioning inside.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

My wonderful husband just called me from the Ray Township recycling center. Someone was "recycling" several cases of Mason jars with rings.  He wanted to know if I could "reuse" them instead of "recycling" them.  No hesitation here!   

We have planted a lot of peas, beans, corn, sunflowers, peppers,pumpkins,  and still have a lot left to plant.   I haven't put any zucchini or yellow squash out yet. We will have lots of use for canning jars. We are always running into issues with plastic containers not matching the lids to the container, but with canning jars, it is never a problem, there are only two sizes, and Lehmans carries plastic lids for both.  

Last week we were at the farm on vacation.  We visited the township offices to discuss the change from "agricultural" status to "residential" status.  The township supervisor came out of his office and wanted to know if we were the people who were fighting about the bees. 

I told him we were NOT fighting. The neighbors are fighting. We are accomodating them by moving the bees to another location on our farm. (Even though they want us to give up the bees altogether.)   He mentioned that he did not think the "bee situation" was covered by the Michigan Right to Farm act.  I told him I believed absolutely it was.  He said, well maybe, a couple of hives, but not a commercial apiarist ---again, I told him absolutely it was.  The document for 2012 Generally Accepted agricultural management principles specifically mentions acreage requirements and number of hives.   Hopefully he will look into it on his own. I would rather not embarrass him by correcting him.  As he said, it is not his jurisdiction, if they want to take us to court, let them.  We will prevail, as the law and justice are on our side.  Hopefully we can have our legal fees assigned to them.
My grandson Aiden was with us this week and helped us pick rocks out of the field as well as planting the bean seeds, pumplin seeds, and sunflower seeds. He is a great kid and did not complain about the hard work, he acted like it was fun for him.  I love him so much!

Thursday, March 22, 2012


It has been an exceptionally warm spring, with temps in the 80"s.  I planted spinach, lettuce, turnips and chard in the garden, so far only the lettuce is germinated, is it possible that the soil temp is too high?

I've started more lettuce, chard, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, and kale, in seed trays under lights in the garage.  The electric heat mat seems hotter than usual this year, and some of the peppers are not up after two weeks, although the tomato seed I saved sprouted just fine in the same tray. Possibly bad seed?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ed and I, and other Wolcott farm center volunteers,  had a lovely dinner with the park staff on Wednesday.  Fellow volunteers range from teenagers who help out with park events to senior Master Gardeners who maintain the flower beds to the guy, active with a local antique tractor group, who helps with the tractors, to the beekeepers that maintain the hives.. Recognition awards were given to the volunteers with the most hours.   I am glad to be associated with this group of people and hope to increase my involvement this year.  The park is only a few miles down the road and the location is quite convenient for me.

My involvement so far has been limited to a couple of events.  At the spring Fleece Fair, when the farm's sheep are sheared.  I have given demonstration of spinning yarn from the wool.  Schoolkids are generally fascinated by the whirling wheel, girls because of the yarn/fashion aspect, boys often seem to be attracted more to the concept of how the "simple machine" works.  Last Halloween I poured thousands of cups of apple cider for farm visitors.

This year's schedule is posted on the park's website

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