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This Week In My Garden : : July 25

july 18 - 9

Last week, in the back garden. (July 18)

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This morning, in the back garden. 

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I had a few Charlie Brown tomatoes that I put in the ground as an experiment. They're coming along, far behind the others... but progress is made each day. I'm curious to see how they'll do by the season's end. 

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july 25 - 10

Here is an underbelly view of the tomatoes. We have five rows planted, 30 plants in total. This best shows just how much I am pruning from the ground up (many of you have asked). I was so nervous to do this but it seems they are very happy so far with many clusters of fruit. We also gave plenty of space between each plant. Our tomato mantra this year has been keep the air flowing... (or something like that). I now affectionately refer to my tomato plants as the "tomato topiaries."

Now, if only my chickens would please stop removing the straw from under the tomatoes. It's a game we play... they pull it off, I put it back... but they are the only ones that think it's a fun game.

july 25 - 9

 

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july 25 - 6

 

july 25 - 11

This week's garden upset seems to be with the red kuri squash. It doesn't look too dramatic in these photos (above), but I do believe we have a case of root rot going on. I'm not sure what to expect from here, my research tells me we'll likely see a downward spiral, with no real treatment or recovery. A bit of a wait and see game I guess... will it completely take out my red kuri... will it spread to the butternut squash in the next bed... will the delicata squash three beds away suffer too?

I'm pretty confident this was not caused by excessive moisture. All of our beds are raised and I have not watered this section of the garden at all. A careful eye on my neighbor's rain gauge tells me we've almost seen the necessary one inch of rainfall per week that vegetable gardens require - so, I've added no additional water. I'm pretty sure this was caused by pathogens in the soil

If you've had experience with squash root rot I'd love to know how you remedied or planned differently for future crops. 

july 25 - 4

Turnip and rutabaga are coming along. 

july 25 - 3

The beans are starting to burst now. A few more days and we'll be picking them by the basket full. 

july 18 - 8

Last week, in the front grden.  

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This morning, in the front garden. (Or more accurately, the jungle.) 

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It's been an uphill battle with our kale and collard greens, those darn cabbage worms! But the row covers have helped tremendously (even though our current homespun design is a little hard to access) and we are enjoying a fair amount of greens. 

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A new row of salad greens almost ready to start picking from, and those basil seeds that I threw in as an experiment in early July are coming along. I'm going to thin them a little and see how it goes. We just might have a little pesto-making basil harvest after all!

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Bok choy... looking forward to this!

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july 25 - 2

 

july 25 - 1

English Cucumbers are looking good. The tomato cage trellis really gives them the vertical space to grow as straight as possible. 

july 25 - 12

 

july 25 - 8

One of the reasons I love doing these weekly garden updates is because I'll be turning them into a book at the end of the season for our records. I think using Shutterfly or Blurb that should happen fairly easily and inexpensively - and what a useful resource to have from year to year, a collection of garden journals with plenty of photos. 

 I forgot to mention this over the last few weeks, but my carrots totally failed this year. I didn't spend too much time trying to figure out why... I was busy just trying to accept it and  move on, replanting new crops in their place (which all seem to be doing very well). I'll have to do some more research here as to what I did and what I need to do differently next year. It is disappointing though because I had a pretty good yield last year, especially considering I was a reluctant thinner. 

I don't have too much time today to write much more, hopefully these many photos will capture where we are at this week. 

This week we are harvesting:

  • swiss chard
  • kale 
  • collard greens
  • zucchini 
  • yellow squash 
  • peas - the last few
  • raspberries - 2 quarts
  • blueberries - 1 1/2 quarts
  • fresh herbs

 

Well, we are in the thick of it now! Thank you for visiting my garden today. :)

 

I'm joining Amanda today...

What's happening in your garden? Feel free to share a few thoughts (or a blog link)


On the Mend

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I feel like the only thing I've done in a week is tend to this poison ivy of mine. Not a very exciting thing to talk about, but it is pretty much what has consumed me so now it becomes blog content. There will be no pictures though... I have limits! ;)

As I said last week, it wasn't just having the poison ivy, it was having it all over both hands, rendering them useless. The right side of my face was covered too, that rash being worse actually, but somehow it bothered me far less than hands I couldn't use. I'd just sit here with my hands on my lap, slightly curled because of the swelling, thinking of the one million things I wanted to be taking care of...

... the fabric that sits on my sewing machine waiting to be turned into new skirts, the highly perishable raspberries that sat ripening on the vine, registration details for the fall session of Whole Food Kitchen to write up, the weeds... the weeds... the weeds. 

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However... I'm moving on! My hands are now 80% healed and I'm using them more and more each day with the belief that use will speed up the healing process. Not sure my hands agree quite yet, but they'll see that truth soon enough. 

Like so many of you, we've been experiencing the hottest, stickiest weather. Yesterday the heat broke just a bit and I spent a few hours out in the garden removing a heaping wheelbarrow full off weeds. I knew the rain was coming today and wanted the garden to be all dressed up and ready for a nice long soaking.

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When I woke up this morning it was indeed pouring outside, music to my ears! I went to let the chickens out but they decided it wasn't quite worth it and stayed put right in the coop. Even though their pen is entirely under cover... still, I guess they felt no need to face the world on this soggy, cozy day. 

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I hope the rain continues a little longer. Today I'll be at my desk by the window as I prepare final details for registration to open tomorrow - the rain falling outside would be the perfect music to listen to while I do this. 

It's time to get back to regular living, these hands of mine have been idle for too long. 


This Week In My Garden : : July 18

july 11 - 7

Last week, in the back garden. (July 11)

july 18 - 9

This morning, in the back garden.

july 18 - 10

This first row of beans doesn't need the poles, we just haven't taken them out yet. A miscommunication between the garden designer and the pole system builder. ;)

july 18 - 11

 

july 18 - 12

 

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Fall crops! In this row - rutabaga, turnip and delicata squash. 

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Keeping the base of our tomato plants well pruned this year for optimal air flow and decreased late blight risk.

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I was nervous trimming back the plants so heavily, but they are proving to be happy so far, with lots of fruit appearing.

 

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july 11 - 1

Last week, in the front garden.

july 18 - 8

This morning, in the front garden. 

This garden always seems to look like a mess from a distance, but it really isn't! Take an up close look...

july 18 - 6

 

july 18 - 5

I'm so pleased with our cucumber trellis system this year. Simply turn tomato cages upside down then bend in the wire that is sticking up. It forms a rounded cap that you won't poke your eyes on. The cucumbers seem really happy so far!

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Soon we'll have potatoes!

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july 18 - 2

 

july 18 - 1

Mmm... bok choy.

On Saturday morning I weeded around our back deck for an hour. It looks great now, free of any overgrowth and plenty of air flow. It really isn't good to have too much plant material close to wooden houses and such. At least where I live, a relatively moist climate. 

For one day I was feeling good about checking this job off the list... and then the poison ivy came. Both of my hands are pretty much immobilized (you should see my new typing method - ha! - it's like I'm six years old again) and the right side of my face is covered too. My face is easier to deal with, I can basically just treat the itch and carry on with my day - but my hands? Goodness hands are so important! I haven't been able to do much the last few days other than read, watch movies... repeat. 

Because of the poison ivy, not too much has been happening in the garden on my end (I'm the official weeder) aside from some hand watering and plant gazing. Getting in there and weeding just isn't happening this week. I suppose if this poison ivy had to happen at all, now is a good time because we are right in that place where vegetables are appearing on the vine, and if there aren't veggies yet there are flowers (and pollinators!!), so veggies will soon follow. We have about a week or so of waiting going on... things are pretty settled around the garden so taking a little break is okay. 

One thing that has been helpful this year is creating semi-raised beds for everything. Then those beds are mulched with straw which keeps most of the weeds down (except for that sprouting straw issue I had which was kind of mild and easy do deal with). Mostly when I set out to weeding, the majority of my time is spent in the pathways leading up to the beds - so if it gets a little unruly this week while I'm in the infirmary, the plants will still be in good shape. 

Oh! One thing I wanted to mention about the sprouting straw... I had one bail that was left in the rain for a few days and became extremely water logged (but not moldy). I used it on a few rows of tomatoes and of all the sprouting issues I had, these three rows sprouted the least, almost not at all. So, you bet in the future I'm not going to take any chances and I'll soak (or let the rain soak) future bails for a few days before spreading it around. An added bonus - the wet straw wasn't dusty at all to work with so that was nice too.

Before the poison ivy hit I did a little more succession planting which puts us at about nine new crops in the ground so far for fall.  

Pests. I continue to battle with cabbage worms on my dark leafy greens, even the ones under cover (in the future covers will go on when the seeds go in). I envy those of you who do not have this problem, it can be so discouraging! We've been handpicking spotted cucumber beetles (just a few each day) and japanese beetles (a lot of those right now). Other than that nothing too serious to report. 

Well, my hands are telling me I need to wrap this up and stop typing for the day. I had a few other garden things to mention but I'll have to save those for next week. 

Until then...

 

This week we are harvesting:

  • peas
  • kale (2 kinds)
  • collard greens
  • swiss chard
  • romaine lettuce
  • raspberries (2 quarts)
  • blueberries (2 quarts)
  • fresh herbs

 

july 18 - 7

 

july 18 - 17

 

july 18 -18

 

I'm joining Amanda today... thanks for making it through all these photos! :)

What's happening in your garden? Feel free to share a few thoughts (or a blog link)


The Garden Porch

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This summer, more than any summer I can recall, feels different. Though last year was our first on this property it is this summer that I feel we are coming into out own here. With the huge expansion of the back garden, the fine tuning of the front garden, the ripening of berries, those chicken friends of mine that are getting closer and closer to laying eggs, and the hope of all that is to come, still. Well, we have found our rhythm, and I do believe it is one I am loving to pieces. 

This summer has also been incredibly hot. Not like 115 degree Texas heat (not to undermine that in least!), but 95 degrees with swampy humidity at a level that seems to only exist in The Last Green Valley (totally exaggerating... sort of). 

Still, we have wonderful soil and plenty of rainfall mixed with sunny tomato-ripening days... summer is good, as sticky as it may be. 

As a gardener in this area, you have to decide - do you want to contend with the bugs and humidity of the early morning and evening, or would you prefer the heat and humidity of midday to do your work? Either way, the work must get done. We tend to go for a mix of both. Donning big garden hats with head-nets, we battle mosquitoes and horseflies during the cooler hours, and mix that up with a few twenty minute sunny intervals during the heat of the day. 

All this to say, weather aside, gardening is happening every single day - and lots of it!

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We have a small screen porch on the back of our house that was initially set up for typical screen porch enjoyment when we moved in. Lately however, and especially with shoes that just might have chicken poo on them, we are using this back porch as our transition space before entering the mudroom. Because really, I don't even want chicken poo shoes in the mudroom. It's also been where garden things like twine, harvest baskets, harvest logs, etc have been collecting. 

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I've noticed though that they're collecting in a not so cute and orderly fashion. I wanted to fix that because I like cute and orderly. Well, mostly I like cute. It wasn't terrible, but we decided we'd really like to maximize this space as our Garden Porch, in addition to it being our Screen Porch. So, keeping two of the adirondack chairs on one side of the porch, we shifted a few things around on the table and chairs side.

And...

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... I couldn't be more pleased!

Aside from true potting supplies (which are still kept right next door in the garage), everything is here now. From bug spray to head-nets to baskets and shoes. I even keep a scale for weighing things as they come in and logging that in our garden journal (I do not weigh every little thing) . There are a few seed packets for succession planting and scissors for cutting up t-shirts as the tomato plants call out for support. Enamel bowls are stacked, waiting their next trip to the garden for the chickens morning salad - they'll  be filled with anything on its way out or  greens that need thinning. 

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This Garden Porch has quickly become a favorite space. One so simple and practical, filling a need and pulled together with random pieces already on hand. This summer, despite the heat, has just gotten a whole lot better. 


This Week In My Garden : : July 11

july 4 - 1

Last week in the back garden. (July 4)

july 11 - 7

This morning in the back garden. 

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july 11 - 9

 

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july 11 - 10

 

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july 4 - 5

Last week in the front garden. 

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This morning in the front garden.  (Where's my center pathway!?)

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july 11 - 5

 

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When I stepped into the front garden this morning, the first thing I thought was oh my, this is not going to make a pretty picture. Aside from the usual well-into-summer-jungle that most of us see in our gardens, we had torrential rain last night and all of my potatoes are pretty much a flattened mess. Stems are not broken though so I'm hoping for a strong recovery over here.

We are still mostly eating early summer crops but so many things are on the cusp of producing. I think within the next two weeks or so I'll be filling my garden basket daily (and hopefully my aunts down the road too) with our food for the day.

My new morning routine has me out in the garden at about 6am with two bowls - one for the chickens and one for us. The chickens get to enjoy second rate greens, the latest head of lettuce that has bolted, and some kale or collards with a few more bugs than I care for in my smoothies or soup pot. In our bowl goes whatever is looking good on that particular day. This week it's been a mix swiss chard, peas, lettuce, kale, and collard greens. 

After weeks of relentless hand-picking spotted cucumber beetles, the squash plants are looking really good right now.

When I was assessing the toppled over potatoes this morning, something looks amiss with their leaves so I'll be spending a little time figuring that out today. I do hope all remains well with those potatoes, they really are the "meat" of the vegetable garden... and they are starting to flower so we aren't too far from harvest!

Tomato plants are flowering and there are even a few small fruits.  I'm so nervous about the tomatoes. After losing 48 plants within the span of two days last year I'm suffering from a little gardener's paranoia in this regard. But look at all that space I gave them -perfect for as much air flow as can be mustered during this painfully humid summer. 

I feel like this year I've been on top of the garden and weeds more than in year's past but when I look at these photos it doesn't look like it at all! We'll keep plugging along and getting the work done... the garden has truly become my favorite place to be this summer, even if the extreme heat and humidity means I can only stand it for 20 minutes at a time. 

I started a few second plantings - bok choy, leeks, mesclun greens, rutabaga, turnip, delicata squash and even basil have all been seeded and most have come up already. The basil is kind of an experiment (so much of my garden is) as my transplants this year did not have a strong go of it and they all died. Facing a year of no basil harvest (especially after last year's memorable harvest) seemed a little depressing. I had some seeds left so I figured, why not, let's see if basil directly sowed on July 5th produces anything. We shall see! I'll keep you posted. :)

 

This week we are harvesting:

  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Swiss Chard
  • Kale 
  • Collard Greens
  • Blueberries 
  • Raspberries (just starting)
  • Fresh Herbs

 

july 11 - 12

 

What's happening in your garden? Feel free to share a few thoughts (or a blog link)


Honey Lemon Balm Jelly

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Long before the internet, and certainly long before there were ecourses, I enrolled in an Herbalist course the old fashioned way. Carefully cutting a registration form out of The Herb Companion magazine, I mailed it along with my check (a check!) to Rosemary Gladstar, who would send my course materials from her mountainside home in Vermont. 

Rosemary's course is amazing. I refer to those materials still, and found her format to be a perfect fit for me. I think she was quite ahead of her time really, offering an alternative education that didn't require a specific location on behalf of the student. Everything was beautifully designed and the content progressed in a logical, thorough manner. 

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Prior to signing up for her course, I took another workshop with Rosemary's assistant at the time, Janice Dynsdale. I believe it was a Winter Remedies class. Janice urged us to deepen and trust our intuition when it came to the herbs we might be in need of on any particular day. In other words, each morning she stood in front of her herbal pantry with a quart sized mason jar in hand, selecting the herbs her body was calling for - then her quart of tea would be made with the day's selection. She made a quart of tea in this manner each morning and sipped it as a tonic throughout the day. 

This is something that applies to the food we eat, as well. Some days call for more greens, an extra handful of berries and nuts, or a larger piece of fish... other days call for a break from sweets and grains, or even too many raw vegetables. Tuning in to our own rhythm, our own schedule, and even our own geography can help us to find the answers to the questions what to eat, and what herbs to use... on any given day.  

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Recently, my lemon balm has been practically jumping out of the garden! Begging to be used in new and tasty ways. I adore lemon balm (although next year it is being moved to its rightful place in the ever invasive mint garden), and enjoy it in iced tea quite often. Though too much of it can lead to an overabundance of summertime naps due to its wonderfully calming and sedative properties. Maybe that's a good thing!

So, looking for other flavorful but perhaps less concentrated uses for lemon balm, I decided to make jelly! This isn't really the kind of jelly one would slather between two slices of bread with some peanut butter... but a dollop on a cheese plate (oh, how I love a good farm to table cheese plate), warmed up and drizzled over vanilla ice cream, swirled into plain yogurt, served over goat cheese, smeared onto a few almonds or pecans, or even used as a glaze in the last few minutes of cooking chicken or fish? Oh yes, that's where something like Lemon Balm Jelly really shines.

And the sweetener I use? You guessed it - honey! No longer must we use all that sugar in our jelly and jam making. There is flexibility in this recipe, with the amount of honey and with the amount of lemon balm used.

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A few recipe notes:

Honey - Unlike fruit jelly, the base of Lemon Balm Jelly offers zero sweetness, so you'll notice call for a little more honey than in my fruit jams. Adjust as you'd like, but I assure you the called for amount of honey does not yield an eeww too sweet jelly. 

Lemon Balm - I really like this to be quite herbaceous so I call for 3 packed cups of lemon balm leaves. You could reduce it to as little as 2 packed cups and it is still yummy... but the 3 cups would be my recommendation. And if your lemon balm is like mine, it's spilling out of your garden right now and you've got plenty to work with!

Straining - It is best when making jelly to move quickly. Once your jelly reaches gel stage, be ready to pour it right into your clean, hot jars. If you don't move quickly enough (like me) and it starts to get cloudy, funky spots, don't worry, you can strain the jelly through a fine mesh tea strainer. See photo below. In this particular recipe you'll lose the lemon zest if you strain it, so it is best to try and get it into the jars quickly.  

Flavor - This recipe is wonderfully herbal and mellow tasting. It is not a bright lemon citrus jelly. The flavor intensifies as it is jarred up then cooled. So if you give your hot jelly a sample test, the final flavor will not be revealed at that time. 

Sterilizing - To sterilize my jars I run them through the dishwasher on the hottest setting and time my jam/jelly making for when the cycle is just finished. It is also important to steralize all your instruments. such as funnels, scoops, spoons, strainers, etc. To do this I just toss them into the boiling water of my canner for a minute. It is sitting there ready to go on the stove so why not? Works perfectly! (See photo below.)

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A tea strainer inside a wide mouth funnel is great for straining jelly directly into jars if necessary. 

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A quick and easy way to sterilize your canning tools.

Drop them in the boiling (though not in this picture) water of the canner for a minute or two. 

Okay, ready?

Let's make jelly!

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Honey Lemon Balm Jelly 

 Makes approx. 8 half pint jars.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (packed) fresh lemon balm leaves 
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/2 - 3 cups local honey (choose amount that suits your tastes)
  • juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 8 teaspoons Pomona's Pectin powder
  • 8 teaspoons calcium water (made using calcium powder that comes with Pomona's Pectin, instructions included in package)

Directions:

  1. In very hot water, wash and rinse 8 half pint canning jars. This can be done by hand or in the dishwasher. Do this right before ready to use so jars are still hot.
  2. Add lids and rings to a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a strong simmer but do not boil. Keep lids and rings in hot water as you prepare jam.
  3. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and stir in the lemon balm . Remove from heat, cover, and let the mixture steep for 20 minutes. Strain the "tea" squeezing the leaves to remove all the liquid.
  4. Stir in the fresh lemon juice, zest and calcium water. You should have very close to 6 cups of liquid after the lemon juice is added. If you don't, add enough water to make 6 cups. 
  5. Measure honey and pectin into a separate bowl, stir thoroughly (you can start with less honey and add more later).
  6. In a saucepan over the highest possible heat, bring the "tea" mixture to a boil then add the honey/pectin mixture. Check (taste) to see at this time if you would like to add more honey. Bring mixture back up to a hard rolling boil, time it for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Now it is time to transfer the jelly to jars.
  7. Using a sterilized wide mouth funnel and small measuring cup as a scoop, fill hot/clean jars leaving 1/4" head space at the top. Place lids on the top and screw on bands, not too tightly.
  8. Process jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. (Add one minute more for every 1,000 feet of elevation.)
  9. Using a jar lifter, remove from water once processed. Allow to sit in one spot and cool completely. 
  10. Add to your pantry!

 

Print Recipe -  Honey Lemon Balm Jelly

 

Happy Lemon Balm Jelly making, friends!

 

(PS ~ I've been doing a little more blog reading over the last few weeks with all this heat and slow summer rhythm we are having. I'm loving the new to me blog, Cinnamon Girl,... thought I'd share!)


Honey Strawberry Jam

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Summertime calls for jam making. No matter the temperature outside, when the fruit ripens, canning it all up is on my mind. 

Most years I miss strawberry jam making, June is a notoriously busy month for us (mid-June is prime strawberry season in my area). Blueberry, peach, and apple season are all met with eager jam, sauce and butter making plans - but strawberries usually go straight from the field to the freezer for smoothies and such.

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This year was a little different though. Heavy rains delayed the strawberry harvest by a couple of weeks, so I was able to get through the busyness of June and went to the farm at the very end of the month. With most of our June commitments behind us, I set about turning the many pounds of strawberries into jam. Two dozen 8 ounce jars of jam to be exact. 

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And then I made Lemon Balm Jelly, but we'll talk about that in my next post. 

I didn't always make jam. For much of my adult life jam-making seemed like a way to preserve a whole lot of sugar with a very little bit of fruit. Sounds delicious, but I couldn't convince myself this was a good idea for the health of my pantry supply. Then along came Ponoma's Pectin (or at least my discovery of it)! 

With Ponoma's you don't need all that sugar. You don't need any in fact! You could skip it all together, or use something like honey, stevia, or maple syrup. (I talk a little more about how Ponoma's Pectin works in this post.) For much of our summer fruit canned goods I use honey. When we get into apple season I'll be pulling out the maple syrup - apples and maple go together so perfectly. 

Meanwhile let's make some Honey Strawberry Jam!

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Honey Strawberry Jam 

 

Ingredients:

  • 16 cups mashed strawberries (start with about 8 quarts washed berries - pulse them through the food processor)
  • 3 cups local honey (you can use more or less honey to your liking, depending on tartness of berries)
  • 8 teaspoons Pomona's Pectin powder
  • 8 teaspoons calcium water (made using calcium powder that comes with Pomona's Pectin, instructions included in package)

Directions:

  1. In very hot water, wash and rinse 20 half pint canning jars. This can be done by hand or in the dishwasher. Do this right before ready to use so jars are still hot.
  2. Add lids and rings to a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a strong simmer but do not boil. Keep lids and rings in hot water as you prepare jam.
  3. In a very large pot combine mashed strawberries and calcium water. Bring to a boil. Stirring often to prevent fruit from sticking to the pan. 
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine honey and pectin. Mix well. A small whisk works does a nice job of this.
  5. Add honey/pectin mixture to the boiling fruit. Continue to stir and boil for 2 minutes or so, until jam begins to thicken. Skim off any foam that forms on the surface of jam.  
  6. Jam thickens upon cooling, so to best test your jam's doneness, put a teaspoonful on a saucer and refrigerate for a few minutes. Check for “jam” consistency. Cook another minute or so  if not thick enough.
  7. Using a wide mouth funnel and small measuring cup as a scoop, fill hot/clean jars leaving 1/4" head space at the top. Place lids on the top and screw on bands, not too tightly.
  8. Process jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. (Add one minute more for every 1,000 feet of elevation.)
  9. Using a jar lifter, remove from water once processed. Allow to sit in one spot and cool completely. 
  10. Add to your pantry!

 

Print Recipe - Honey Strawberry Jam 

 

strawberry jam 4

This recipe makes a perfectly fruity, not overly sweet, jam. By the way, did you know if you find it is too hot when the berries come in you can just freeze them and make jam at a later date? Say... September 20th when there's a cool breeze blowing through the windows? Ahh, that sounds good too. 

Next, we'll make herbal jelly using lemon balm!


This Week In My Garden : : July 4

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Last week, in the back garden. (June 27)

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This morning, in the garden.

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Last week, in the front garden. (June 27)

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 This morning, in the front garden.

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july 4 - 9

A grey day out there for taking pictures. The garden looks so pretty in the morning when the sun peeks out over the tree tops, but we haven't seen too much of that lately. I wanted to be a little more creative with my garden pics today and show you much more up close detail of things but the feasting mosquitoes and my dying camera battery had me moving pretty swiftly out there. I'll try to slow down a little more next week. 

But... things are still growing! So far we've been relatively pest free with the exception of spotted cucumber beetles (they love the red kuri squash leaves) and a small presence of cabbage worms on the kale and collard greens. Two or three times a day I do a pass through of the squash and cucumber plants and hand pick the beetles. I think so far I'm staying on top of it as the plants still look really good and I'm only removing two or three beetles at a time. I know if I let them be their friends would come and together they'd destroy the plants - I had that happen last year. 

As for the cabbage worms, we have four rows of kale and collards, two of which we put row covers on last week (taking the time to hand pick leaves with any signs of worms or larvae first). Hopefully today we can cover the other two rows. Fingers crossed that this works because otherwise I just don't think I'll be successful at growing kale here. Well, maybe in the very early spring but that's it. Some people have good luck "sharing" a bit of their crop with pests, but I haven't found the critters around here to be so generous. They seem to want it all for themselves!

Purslane grows abundantly and voluntarily in one of our gardens. Right now it is quite the under growth for our shallots and cucumbers. I'm letting it get just a little bigger before I harvest it for our salad bowl, trying to time it just right so we can enjoy this nutrient rich "weed" while protecting the happy and healthy growth of our shallots and cucumbers. 

We are in the last few days of lettuce it seems which means a nice little section of the garden is in transition. Hmm... what to plant, what to plant.

I wish I planted three times the amount of peas. Next year. 

Tomatoes are now staked and looking nice and bushy. You may be able to notice in my pictures that there is quite a bit of spacing between tomato plants in my garden - after suffering through late blight last summer we are taking every precautionary measure we can think of and have been taught to take. 

  • We are not planting any tomatoes in the garden where we had blight last year. Tomatoes are now quite a distance from the soil of that garden. 
  • Plenty of spacing between plants. 
  • Plenty of mulch to protect the plant from dirt splashing up in the rain or during watering. Speaking of watering - only water the earth/base of the plant, not the leaves. 
  • Finally, and I'm told most importantly, we're removing about 12 inches of foliage at the base of each plant. This is for air circulation as well as keeping dirt from splashing up and making contact with the leaves. 

In general we have given our plants plenty of space this year and I think that is paying off right now because the weather has been so rainy and humid. I'm not sure the garden would be holding up as well as it seems to be if things were closer together. 

To sum it up - things are good! Wet, hot, humid, and with a small dose of pests... but overall it's looking good out there! 

 

This week we are harvesting:

  • lettuce 
  • swiss chard
  • peas
  • strawberries
  • blueberries (!!!)
  • fresh herbs

 

july 4 - 10

 

july 4 - 11

 

What's happening in your garden? Feel free to share a few thoughts (or a blog link)


Knitting :: Swimming :: Blue Skies

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swim - 2

The day ended right where it began, at the kitchen sink washing up and putting things away. In between, we embraced summer.

We headed out to visit friends who are so fortunate to live year round on a beautiful lake. We've known this family since Emily was in preschool and have been close ever since - they are more like sisters than friends. These girls are there for each other through thick and thin, through distance and separate schools. We treasure them. 

Upon walking into their house I noticed a beautiful display of knitting across their piano, Ciara's latest creations. Such a talented young lady. Knitting is taught and practiced daily in Montessori elementary classrooms and some kids really take to it as a life-long skill and craft. Ciara, at 15 years young, certainly has! I think the first time I've shared some of her knitting here was when the girls were seven years old... so cute!

I brought my latest finished project (still not blocked) to share with her and we oohed and aahed together. She gets it. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Ciara owned a little yarn shop someday. She talked me through adding a thumb to fingerless gloves and I think I get it now which I'm pretty thrilled about. 

The afternoon was spent swimming and knitting, never quite getting to that game of Qwirkle before the day turned into dinnertime and we headed home for the evening. On the way home we stopped by the church that I attended vacation bible school at as a little girl and took in the glorious blue sky, corn fields, and a cool late afternoon breeze. This area of town has always captured the essence of where I grew up, and where I now live again with my own family. Old New England homes, farmland, stone walls, corn fields... these things leave me feeling rooted in the past, yet comforted to know they still live on here in the present.

More than once during this day, a day where nothing out of the ordinary happened, I thought to myself - this is summer. These are the memories I want her to have.