Seeing Red

Well… let’s just say that I’m so glad I could write a nice garden harvest post before I left for the Labor Day weekend.

At that point we actually had produce to harvest and enjoy.

Then we left.

It was a record 107 degrees as we drove to my parents place and it stayed hot and dry the entire weekend. By the time we returned on Monday –  the garden looked post-apocalyptic.

All of the vineys – the squash, watermelon, cucumbers, pumpkins – everything was dead. Succumbed to the the deadly heat, drought, and dreaded squash bugs.

An they had fought so valiantly all summer.

A moment of silence please.

The corn was brown and dried up and the beans looked pathetic.

So much for a fall garden.

DSC_0132Well – except for the tomatoes. After waiting months for them to finally decide to ripen –  they all ripened at once.

Buddy and I picked bushels of them – 3 banana boxes full.

We were seeing red all the next day as we canned 9 batches of spaghetti sauce in a single day. Never before have I done that many at once.  Wowsa.

And they weren’t done.

A week later we picked another 2 banana boxes.

We have now canned 66 quarts of spaghetti sauce in 2 days.

And I can still see red ones when I look out the window.

Maybe someone should tell them there is a drought? They could slow down.

But I’m not complaining! Oh no – I’m just thankful to have any produce at all!

Really I am.

Anybody want to trade some beautiful red ripe tomatoes for some green beans? Zucchini? Sweet corn?Anything?

I didn’t think so.

Spaghetti sauce here we come.

Garden Bounty

I love cooking in the late summer!

Every meal starts with a quick trip to the garden to see what’s ripe – and then my creative juices get started!

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Maybe we should start with spaghetti squash – tossed in butter and garlic and Parmesan cheese.

Or some fresh green beans steamed till just tender with a pat of butter melting on the top.

Or maybe a salad with some beautiful red ripe tomatoes and fresh basil and a touch of balsamic vinegar.

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There’s even been a ripe watermelon or two – and one teeny tiny cantaloupe that ended up being one of the sweetest and best we’ve had all summer! Too bad there was only one.

Of course there will be poppers with our favorite Tam jalapenos.  And fresh sweet peppers to dip in homemade ranch dressing.

But everybody’s favorite is the king of the garden –

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Sweet corn.

Picked and cooked and on a plate steaming hot within an hour.

DSC_0399Then slathered with melted butter and salt and enjoyed.

In abundance.

An all you can eat corn buffet.

It’s late summer in Iowa.

And we’re eating good!

Abundant Harvest

There is something very satisfying about harvesting your own food.

Especially when the harvest was years in the making.

Like these luscious peaches – which were just picked from our orchard.

peaches

I could almost weep at the abundance.

We’ve had several years of discouragement.

Rainy years.

Dry years.

Years full of blight.

Years of trusting that someday these trees would bear fruit.

And this year – they did – in abundance.

homegrown peaches

It was a harvest worth waiting for.

I see similarities to parenting.

You invest years in your children.

Planting seeds of character and righteousness.

Watering them with prayer.

Waiting for fruit.

There are years of drought when you feel that you are not heard.

There are  years that are flooded with discouragement.

Then – finally – you see fruit.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control.

And you weep in the abundance knowing that your labor was not in vain in the Lord.

Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

 

Home Canned Salsa

SalsaI didn’t even look in the garden before we left for the funeral last week.

In this case – ignorance might have been bliss at the time – but it did leave us with a lot of very ripe tomatoes waiting when we got back!

The really overripe ones went to our red wattle pigs,  Diesel and Ethel. So instead of making spaghetti sauce with them – I guess we made pork. 🙂

The rest we’re working up now.  Next up – another batch of Mendi’s salsa!

I love canning my own salsa!  It costs so little and I can control how much sugar goes into it.

This is the salsa we use to make our very favorite easy black bean soup!

Home Canned Salsa
recipe from my friend Mendi

5 pounds tomatoes
3 cup chopped onions
1 cup jalapeno peppers, diced (this is optional)
1 cup cider vinegar
3-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar (I used even less and nobody noticed!)
1 cup green pepper, chopped
2 teaspoon garlic

Peel and chop the tomatoes into chunks.

Mix all the other ingredients with the tomatoes in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and cook until you get a desired thickness. (If I’m in a hurry – we have a thinner salsa. If I have time, we get a thick rich one.)

Make sure you use a heavy pot and stir often to avoid sticking and burning! (Ask me how I know this!)

Pour into sterilized pint jars, seal and process for 30 minutes  in a boiling water bath.

Remove from the canner and let cool for 24 hours on clean towels on your kitchen counter so that everybody who walks by with be impressed with your homemaking skills!

Enjoy all winter long when garden fresh tomatoes are but a distant memory!

Garden Update – Drought Edition

I haven’t done a garden update for awhile because it’s been too sad.

The really high temperatures and no rain has done a number on some of the plants.

Just look at this corn.
Corn
Sad isn’t it.

Now look at the corn just a few feet down the row. Same amount of water.
Corn2The difference? Shade. We have a large maple tree that shades part of the garden for awhile every day.

It was just enough time to save some of the corn.

I saw some neighbors who put up tarps to shade some of their garden – it’s not a bad idea.

BeansSame thing with the green beans. Half the rows look like this. The other half look better. There are a few little beans on the plants, but most of the blossoms are just dropping.

But it’s not all bad news.

The peppers are doing okay.

PeppersThey don’t seem to mind the heat. As long we keep them watered, they keep on producing. We’ve even enjoyed our first poppers of the season!

With the frequent watering, the guys have managed to keep the melons, squash, and pumpkins alive, too.

Then there’s the tomatoes. We’ve seen a lot of dry rot on my all-time favorites the Rutgers and Amish Paste.  But the hero of the garden this year is the Jersey Giant.

Tomatos

These tomatoes are amazing! The plants look green, the tomatoes are huge with very little spoilage – even in the heat. These are definitely a good drought tomato!

All in all – we’re counting our blessings.

Some produce is coming in. We’ve had enough water to keep things alive – even if we had to manually apply it!

And at least we don’t have to do any weeding!

Raspberry Marshmallow Dessert

Berry DessertIt’s a hard time of the year to be allergic to poison ivy.

Every day I go out and walk the trails on the property being very careful to stay in the exact center to avoid the nasty stuff that grows in abundance on both sides.

But the worst part is watching the black raspberries ripen and not be able to pick them! They sit there taunting me  – just out of reach –  surrounded by poison ivy like guards around the crown jewels.

<heavy sigh>

Thankfully I have children who are sensitive to their momma’s plight, take pity on me and pick those luscious berries and then share them.

The first few we traditionally eat on ice cream – but when the harvest picks up – so does our creativity!

Angel Girl tried a new recipe this weekend –  a yummy marshmallow and raspberry concoction that got rave reviews.

We made it with black raspberries – but it’s pretty versatile and can be made with red raspberries, blackberries or even strawberries.

Raspberry Marshmallow Dessert

Crust :

1-1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter (melted)

Filling-

50 large marshmallows
1 cup milk
1 carton (8 ounces Cool Whip

Topping –

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons white corn syrup
1/4 cup raspberry jello
1 quart fresh raspberries, washed and drained

Combine the crumbs and butter, press into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, stir the marshmallows and milk until the marshmallows are melted. Cool to room temperature. Fold in Cool Whip and spread over crust.

In a medium saucepan combine the water, sugar, corn starch and white syrup for the topping.  Cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly.  Remove from heat and add jello. When cool, add 1 quart of fresh berries and mix carefully. Spread over the top of the marshmallow mixture and chill.

Enjoy!

Mutant Gourds

PumpkinsA spotty frost finally wiped out the mess of vines that had taken over the lower half of the garden – leaving the produce in full view.

Instead of a giant game of seek and find – we now had a recovery mission.

I sent Angel Girl and Buddy in the patch on a beautiful fall afternoon to find and harvest all the pumpkin and squash.

They gathered over 50 sugar pumpkins and about the same number of butternut squash.

Oh. my.

At least our squash-loving wood chuck left us a few! Ha!

I guess I need to find some friends or we’ll be eating a lot of pumpkin pie this winter. 🙂

But that number was nothing compared to the real surprise we found under the dead vines –

Gourdsornamental gourds.

Millions and millions of them.

And we didn’t even plant them this year.

We obviously missed a few gourds in our cleaning up last fall and they seeded themselves and came up as volunteers.

We also obviously missed the fact that they were gourds when we were weeding. But then – it’s amazing how similar the leaves look to both pumpkins and squash. Really it is. 😉

But we are determined to not make the same mistake again. No sir.

We spent hours picking up gourds this week and composting them FAR away from the garden on the wood pile in the north pasture.

Pedro dumped over 10 wheelbarrows full of gourds.

We’re talking thousands of the pesky things.

At one point, as we were braving the cold north wind on our hands and knees picking up the mutant gourds,  Dagmar looked at me and said, “We’re never planting these things again, right Mom?”

Never again! Although if we miss one of these this fall – we may not have to plant them!

And if we don’t burn that compost pile in the north pasture soon enough, by next fall they may have overtaken it, too.

Oh well. We’ll worry about that next fall.

But for now we have free ornamental gourds! All you can use! Come early for the best selection and bring your own wheelbarrow! 🙂

Apple Picking & Changing Seasons

Sunday afternoon was one of those perfect fall days – with the sun shining and warm temperatures.

And we spent it in apple trees.

ApplesWell – actually one apple tree mostly – but it had 2 kinds of apples growing in it.

No – I’m not kidding. It is one tree with both the tart Jonathon and the sweet Yellow Delicious apples growing together, side by side.

It’s one of those apple trees from the seed catalogs that’s supposed to grow four different kinds in apples in one tree – except that only 2 of the grafts survived.

An older couple from church planted it several years ago and have blessing people -including us – with apples ever since.

But this year was a little bittersweet.

Apples 2After we spent several hours picking the bumper crop, filling up every container we brought with us, removing the back seat of the van just to get the apples in, and still leaving half of the apples hanging in the tree – we drove in to see their “new” house in town.

Sometime in the next few months, they’ll pack up and leave the farm.

It’s the end of era.

On one hand – I’m so happy and excited for them! They were almost like newlyweds as they showed us around the new house and served us ice cream cones.

But on the other hand – the move will be hard. While they are leaving behind the work and upkeep of the farm, they’re also leaving their home of over 50 years, their livelihood, their lifestyle.

It’s a needed change, but not an easy one.

Bittersweet.

Kinda  like a tree that grows both tart and sweet apples side by side.

Poppers

popperTomatoes best friend- the peppers – are finally starting to really produce. We’ve been waiting all summer to start feeding our popper cravings!

Now I know some people get really fancy with their poppers – with breading and bacon and the whole nine yards.

Personally – I really love them that way, but just can’t justify the time or extra calories several times a week.

So we’ve come up with a much simpler version that allows us to each poppers 3 or 4 nights a week – which is a very happy thing!

We wash the jalapeno peppers, cut off the stem end, and slice them lengthwise. Then we use a metal measuring spoon to dig out the seeds and fill the cavity with cream cheese.

We put them on a foil lined baking sheet and bake them at 350 for about 30 minutes. When they are soft and the cream cheese is brown and bubbly – we just put the entire pan in the middle of the table and feast!

And I do mean feast! It’s every man, woman and child for themselves! We call it the “popper roulette” because you never know whether the one you choose is going to be a hot one.

Every once in a while the chef may leave a popper with the seeds and membranes in it so that one unsuspecting victim will get a a real kick! 🙂

As we shoveled them in tonight, Dagmar wondered if there were any other crazy families out there who sit at the supper table and pop poppers like candy?

I sure hope so! It’s one very tasty family tradition!

I’ve linked this post with Tasty Tuesdays at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace.

It’s a Jungle In There

It’s a jungle in my garden right now!

The entire bottom third of the big garden is one solid mess of vines – mostly butternut squash and sugar pumpkins.

MelonsAnd I do mean a solid mess.

There must be a ga-zillion squash and pumpkins in there – but I really don’t venture too far in to explore.

You see – the other day I tried it and something furry and four-legged rustled through the vines ahead of me.

It’s probably just a bunny – but you can never be too careful about things like that. I’m remembering our recent woodchuck with a fondness for winter squash.

He may have friends.

Maybe if I wore hip boots. Do you think a wood chuck could bite through rubber?

On second thought – maybe I’ll just wait for a nice frost so the vines die away a little! 🙂

TomatosThen there’s my monster tomato plants.

These things are like small trees!

They are huge and they are everywhere. It’s a nightmare to pick them.

You know how tomato vines make your arms turn green and leave a sticky slimy stuff when you touch them? I get covered with it every time I pick! I have to literally claw my way through the plants and reach way inside the tomato cages to finally get the tomatoes.

It’s a nasty job and nobody wants to do it.

I think my kids would rather scrub the bathroom floor with a toothbrush than go into the garden and pick tomatoes!

Note to self:  next year plant the tomatoes much further apart.

And get more and stronger tomato cages!

But in all seriousness – I love this season in the garden! It’s all about harvesting and enjoying – about planning your meals around what you just picked.

Even if it means wearing full-battle gear to get the harvest!

I’ve linked this post up with The Tuesday Garden Party over at The Oregon Cottage.