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Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

Winter Garden

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

The best part about living in Arkansas is the warm weather.

Yesterday I went out to check my winter survivors: kale, cabbage, thyme, and arugula. I found two 7++ inch stalks of asparagus!

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The raspberries and strawberries are coming up too. I let the spring fever get to me and despite wanting to hold off on my gardening, planted a bunch of radishes, lettuce, and spinach.

The Victory Garden

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

My in laws, Arnold and Diana, were just int town for two weeks. The entire time I had the theme to the PBS show The Victory Garden in my head. I used to love that show on Saturday nights while finishing off folding the 7th basket of clothes, just before watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and eating frozen pizza.

Back to the visit; we had a great time. We went out to dinner, we went to the Folk Art Museum in Mountain View, we went to a Halloween party all dressed up, and they got to watch my rock band play. I got to make them some bread, we canned a bunch of salsa and froze a bunch of spaghetti sauce. The more I hang out with them, the less I think how similar they are to my parents, but the more I think they’re really similar to Ty and myself. Maybe this is the anti-mid life crisis: not that you’re becoming your parents, but you’re becoming the type of person you would enjoy hanging out with…and for Ty, that his parents have raised they type of person they want to hang out with.

We played board games, watched movies, went to museums, and the entire time, Ty and I went to our regular jobs during the week. During the day, they would drive around and see the sights, water my garden, pick my garden, check out the RV parks, go grocery shopping, or just curl up with a good book. Seriously, you couldn’t pay money to have visitors like this.

Before they showed up, I took some video of my garden. If you want to know what my garden looked like in Mid-October, here it it is:

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

I’ll post some pictures from the trip later.

99 jalapenos

Monday, October 11th, 2010

I’ve been taking care of Sam’s garden, and this weekend I picked 60+ jalapenos off of one of her plants. The plant started tipping over it was so heavy with fruit. (I’ve got a cooler propping it up right now.

Between that bumper crop plant and a few other plants, I picked 99 jalapenos this weekend. I sliced and removed the seeds during the Razorbacks game, and ended up making the jalapeno salsa and easy jalapeno jelly from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preservation.

Notes on these recipes: the salsa recipe says to boil for 10 minutes. This makes everything in the salsa completely limp. As long as you know that, and still don’t mind, this will be a good hot salsa. It is not going to be a salsa one can eat a bowl full at a time. It will be a good salsa mid-winter when my husband wants to burn my eardrums out with mostly pepper, but slightly-tomato-with-some-cumin acidity.

The jelly recipe required 2, 3oz. bags of pectin. This is the firmest jelly I have ever made, and in licking the pan, the flavor was an awesome sweet hit at the front of the palette, with a slow burn working up for each additional lick. I can’t wait to schmeer this on some rustic bread or a Ritz Cracker with some cream cheese.

I did not add any green food coloring to the jelly. I did double the amount of jalapenos, and possibly, I over-pureed them, creating a butter-colored froth. Adding them to the boiling mixture, everything started to bubble and froth to the point where I had to remove the mixture from the heat or risk burned pepper-sugar vinegar crusting to my burners.

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Pink Pickle

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Recently Stephen Colbert spent a day trying to pick beans with immigrants, and he couldn’t keep up. In honor of his attempt, and in honor of the awesome green and purple beans my former immigrant neighbor planted, I pickled beans this weekend.

Thanks Sam, the beans are awesome!

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In the middle of October, we’re still experiencing 90-degree heat! The tomatoes are starting to ramp up again, and the basil is going strong. Some of Sam’s raspberry bushes even produced some fruit!

calling all zone 7-8 gardeners

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

I just went to the store to buy seeds yesterday. We are in the oven-like doldrums of August here in Arkansas. Nothing in my garden is doing well producing edible items except for the basil and the okra. We get an occasional japaneese eggplant, and some tiny ancho peppers, but that is about it. Tonight I made dinner: eggplant with a little chopped kale and chard, topped with copious amounts of pesto. I served this concoction on a bed of quiona, a nutty-flavored grain from South America.

After my Catskills vacation, I miss lettuce! I miss squash! I miss spinach! I miss tomatoes. Any lettuce or spinach I plant from seed outside doesn’t even come up in the baked 100F+ heat- indexed afternoons.

So I went ahead and did it. I bought seeds. The seed package says it takes 55 days for the chineese cabbage to be ready. That puts the harvest date at October 12. Weather.com says the average high/low for our location is 72F/52F…PERFECT FOR CABBAGE. I’m going to gamble, so I planted some yellow squash indoors also. Keep in mind that our kale lasted the entire winter last year to thrive in March.

I’ve also got a number of first-year asparagus plantings in. I waited way too long to get them into the ground, but they are doing better now. My established asparagus patch has become so thick, it blocks out the sun for my carrots and an eggplant.

Our tomatoes are nothing but a tangled overgrowth of overgrowth with the occasional cherry tomato trying to turn red in the heat.

But now, my triumph: I attended the Faulkner County Seed Swap in April. There were two heirloom types of okra there. I planted both to find one extra wide, and another extra long. The extra-wide type has grown to be 6 feet tall, and it is still going. The extra-long type really attracts ants. Both produce fruit that is tender at a large size, unlike the usual Clemson Spineless that I plant. However, I am really starting to get sick of eating okra. This week I gave in and purchased red peppers and spinach from the store.

Sometimes I think I should only plant basil and a couple of beefsteak tomato plants. If only I could plant mozzarella plants.

blackberry buzz 2010

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

The blackberries are ripe! I haven’t made a pie, but Ty made some smoothies.

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I can’t wait to try this recipe for blackberry buckle. Next I’ll try a blackberry smash.

Last year I made some blackberry cordial too, but that may be illegal. You see, I live in a dry county, and you can’t buy liquor just anywhere. Have no fear, a Facebook group has been created to remedy the situation.

I’m considering some civil disobedience on this blog. Right now the only liquor sold in the county is through “private clubs”. These laws have traditionally been used to keep “a certain kind of folk” out of drinking establishments. In Conway it is actually a step in the progressive direction, but still holds some bad connotations. What am I going to do? I’m going to post all of my “private club” attendance numbers on this website, and encourage all new folks to Conway to use those numbers. Sure, when we got here a “membership” was only $5 per year, and now it is $5 for a “lifetime membership” but why not just pull the plug on the entire system. What good is a membership number if everyone is using the same one and they aren’t immediately traceable to the actual owner? Stay tuned.

red and black season

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

One of my favorite blogs for all things crafty/gardening, Little House in the Suburbs, has marked this weekend with the sighting of the first blackberry.

I’m over 2 hours away from Memphis, but roughly at the same latitude. We saw our first blackberry on Ty’s birthday (yesterday). We ate 4 today. They’re almost completely ripe, but we thought we would pick them before the birds got the first few.

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Ty’s wearing his favorite shirt, blowing out the candles on his favorite cake (Grandma Jo’s Wacky Chocolate Cake).

We’ve had one cuke, and three cherry tomatoes. GASPACHO! I am gazpacho, oh, I am a summer soup! I cannot wait.

food of the south

Monday, May 17th, 2010

It is no secret that my favorite thing about the South is the weather. This feature goes hand-in-hand with the growing season. Last Tuesday we went to our first crawdad/crayfish/crawfish/mudbug boil, and it was super tasty.

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Crawfish can best be described as mini-lobsters. To prepare crawfish, you throw a bunch of live ones into seasoned boiling water for a few minutes. Then the deconstruction begins, separating the head from the tail. There are pincers, but they are too small to open without tools. Ty managed to get one opened and the meat was light like crab meat. After separating the head from the tail, the optional step is to suck the juices out of the head. Nintey-nine percent of the edible part of the crawfish is in the tail. That segment is encased in shrimp-like segments, but they usually have to be cracked open. After eating dozens of crawfish I had a slight bruise/bleed on my thubmb with a freshly cut thumbnail since the fresh skin was exposed.

The latest issue of the Oxford American
takes on food in the South. The climate makes the place, and the growing season, available ingredients, and preservation techniques make the food.

My garden has kicked it into gear. I’ve got tiny yellow squash, zucchini, egg plant, peppers, and tomatoes all ready to explode in the next month.

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Monday, May 10th, 2010

Ok folks, I’ve been super busy lately. My brother got married 2 weekends ago. I posted a bunch of pictures to my gallery.

I picked the Kentucky Derby winner last weekend, and Conway, Arkansas hosted another Toad Suck Daze. Ty and I ventured downtown for crawfish, a tornado dog, and sleep deprived people stuck on a truck.

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My kickball team also had our final game last weekend. Ty came out to watch our game and take pictures. It took all I had this weekend just to recover.

It had me feeling like this guy.

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I’ve got a fun garden anecdote. My neighbor Sam and I planted our cucumbers way too early. She lost 5 plants and I lost multiple others. I found volunteer cucumbers growing everywhere! I picked a few out from between the tomatoes and replanted them. I gave more to Sam. When I went to Nebraska I got some fun square foot gardening netting from Katie. I put up a trellis for Sam, only to find out that all of the cucumbers I gave her are either yellow squash or zucchinni! We’ll be good as long as the stink bugs and the squash beetles don’t take over.

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garden cheating

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Last week, I had three peppers become separated right above the ground. Is it a cutworm? Is it a bird? The peppers just seem not to be growing much outside too. It may still be pretty cold for them. So I cheated and bought an orange and green bell pepper plant. I also bought a poblano pepper plant for fun. The transplanted Hungarian hot wax pepper form last year decided to bloom out, so it can’t be that bad for peppers outside.

I also bought a Japanese eggplant. Hopefully it will do better than the eggplants I had last year that never created a fruit bigger than a baseball.

I have tried to grow leeks so many times this year. I’ve run out of seed and I had no seedlings to show for it. I also purchased a pot of leeks, and separated them out around the garden. I’ve never grown them before, but this looks like the only way I’ll be able to do it.

All of my green onion seeds have been duds too. Bought the last packet I’m going to buy, and we’ll see what happens. My mother planted a bunch of Egyptian walking onions in the compost pile last year, and those are going pretty strong. Maybe we can subsist of of those for a while. I really like to put green onions in salsa.

You can definitely tell the cherry/grape tomatoes from the other ones. The cherry/grape tomatoes are always much taller, and I’ll have to cage them soon! I haven’t even staked them yet.

This year, I didn’t buy compost. I scraped the bottom of the compost pile out back, and transferred and mixed that soil into last year’s beds. This resulted in 4 kinds of weeds: wild thyme, tomatoes, fennel, and cumbers. I’ve been digging out the cucumbers and transplanting them. Fennel gets pretty big, so I’ve only transplanted a few of those. The tomatoes and the rest of the fennel get ripped out!

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