July 20, 2011

Holy Moly Melons!

We have melons. Lots of them! I was expecting two, maybe three to form from this one little plant. As it has grown, I've observed many male flowers and an occasional female. I had my eye on one blossom that had a swollen fruit but it never grew. I was beginning to think I may never get a melon this year.

Last evening I went out to tie up the tomatoes and water the plants. This heat wave we're experiencing in the Midwest has kept me inside until late in the evening. I couldn't believe my eyes when I glanced over and there was a HUGE melon growing along the fencing. Upon further inspection, I counted ten melons, some already lemon sized, some still little. I need to figure out some sort of support for them. I've heard of using pantyhose as slings. Good thing pantyhose are cheap. I need a lot :)

July 3, 2011

Garden Surprises

Found lots of great things in the garden this last walkthrough. A volunteer cucumber plant, jalapeno pepper, and two roma tomatoes. Chopped up the pepper and had it in our eggs this morning. Moderately hot and yummy!

June 24, 2011

Growing Good

What weather we are having here in central Indiana. The springs are more unusual by the year. It is raining at least three times per week and the temperature fluctuates from 90s one day to high 60s the next. Most people I know are sick of the rain, and I was too until I was able to plant the garden. Now, I say bring it on!

The Cherokee Purple is out of control. In fact, I did some heavy handed pruning today. It is the only one with a tomato growing. No, the Early Girl has one, too, but it's still in its infancy. I am excited to see the Black Krim doing well. Two years ago I tried a Black Krim and something ate it down to the soil line and it never recovered. The Roma is bushy with flower buds and the Pink Brandywine has two large buds. The poor German Queen was growing sideways and when I tried to stand her up, I heard a crack in the stalk. Forunately, it had another, smaller, stem growing out of the soil so perhaps that will take off.

Cherokee Purple

Pink Brandywine

German Queen

The peppers all look great for the most part. It looks as though birds are trying to eat the leaves. There are long tear marks in some of them. There are flowers on most and a few fruits starting to grow on the green bell. The melon has several flowers, most of which appear to be male at the point. Rosemary, thyme, and parsley are holding their own. Cilantro bolted immediately and my son finished it off when he ripped it out of the soil. *sigh* Three year olds. At least he didn't pick my tomato.


June 17, 2011

Adventures in Strawberry Jam

I finally did it! My very first jam. I'm a little teary-eyed thinking about it.

The whole shebang couldn't have gone any better. I picked up fresh strawberries at Waterman's Farm. $14 for 4 quarts. Once home, I hulled, washed, and sliced them into a bowl. I mashed them with a potato masher to help them release their juice and reduce cooking time. I combined the mash with sugar and a little lemon zest. Once cooked, I added liquid pectin and followed the instructions from there. Easy Peasy! And tastes delicious, I might add.

June 12, 2011

Progress in the Garden

In years past, we had a tilled area for the garden(roughly 15'x15'). I made makeshift rows or planted in patches. Weeds inevitably took control of the garden and the crowded plants were a jungle. This led to a jaded temperament on my behalf and failure in the garden. This year, we changed it up. We sectioned the garden off into four quadrants and boxed them in as raised beds measuring 6'x6', leaving a 2' walkway in between. Compost will be added regularly in order to build up the soil level. Once the soil reaches the tops of the board, I envision adding another board to really make some raised beds (and save my back)! Eventually, I'll add mulch or hay to the walking paths and perhaps a little picket fence around the garden.

Everything was bought from the store this year. I had too many time constraints with the pregnancy and delivering to focus on starting them all from seed. I am finding the 6x6 to be a bit large, having a slightly difficult time maneuvering around. That is why you see big empty spaces in the middle, which I am not happy about. I did have a zucchini planted with the melon, but something ate it. I want to give the melon plenty if room, so maybe I'll save that space for planting garlic in the fall. Any suggestions are appreciated.

Below are pictures of what I have planted for this year. Like I've said before, we are focusing on a "salsa" garden. Although, the cilantro bolted the day after I planted it. I lost the ID card for the melon, but it promised a bumper crop.






May 24, 2011

Where For Art Thou Daily Bread?

Still searching for that perfect daily sandwich bread. Something great to grill up a cheese sandwich, slather PB&J all over, or butter up in the morning with breakfast. Apparently that's too much to ask.

I've had a break for baking for awhile now. My second son, born early April, and the elder have demanded much of my time and attention these past weeks. Taking an hour to mix and knead bread wasn't happening, until today. My husband, who we will call Mr. AntiAgricorporatarian, has recently expressed an explicit desire to purchase as much food locally (meaning, within our county) as possible. We have been using Green B.e.a.n. delivery through the winter and spring months, thinking we would be eating more locally grown organic produce. It's not as local as I had anticipated, but it is organic and they try to keep it regional if not from the state (although I'm pretty sure those tomatoes they gave us four weeks ago weren't from this region). I decided I needed to start baking our daily bread if we wanted to achieve this goal.

A co-worker had given me this recipe prior to my maternity leave. The original recipe only calls for bread flour, however my co-worker along with many of the reviews state they substitute whole wheat regularly. I never had much luck with whole wheat. It's difficult to knead and has little rise to it. It also tends to be rather dense, at least when I make it.

It mixed together easily, but I did add 1 c. extra flour for proper consistency. The first rise took a little over an hour. The second rise wasn't impressive and there was little oven spring. I'm undecided. It's delicious without a doubt but its density is what I'm up in the air about. It's a moist dough and certainly the closest to good sandwich loaf bread to come out of my oven. It just feels heavy and underdone. To be fair, I subbed 2 c. whole wheat flour and 1/2 c. flax seed meal, and reduced water by 1/2 cup. My first judgement came early, as I sliced into it without a cool down.

The texture improved somewhat with time, but it still remains heavy. Slathering butter on a toasted piece helps, though.

Speaking of butter, can we discuss butter crocks for a moment? I recently purchased one because I was sick and tired of 1) using margarine, and 2) impossibly spreading cold butter. Crocks have been used for centuries and are on the vast majority of French counter tops. So why do Americans insist instead on ingesting an inferior product? I blame the post-war, mid-mod revolution: convenience.

It's a simple thing to use. Pack a stick of softened butter in the bell, fill the crock with a little water and leave it on your counter. The water creates a seal thus preventing rancid butter. Now, anytime you need it, soft spreadable butter! Do something great for yourself and your family. Buy the crock!