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.


Some of you have noticed that I haven’t done any garden posts this spring

It’s just too depressing.

And humbling.

You see – my seedlings are rather pathetic.


They were planted a little late, then it was so cold in the basement that we brought them up to Angel Girl’s room and put them in her windows.

Which was a good idea – except that it was so cloudy and overcast that they didn’t get the sun they needed.

I still thought they were doing okay – until I stopped at the Amish greenhouse for a few things and saw their plants.


Amish cauliflower on the left of the screen. My cauliflower on the right.


They also gave us a tomato plant.

DSC_0155Theirs is the one with actual tomatoes on it. Mine are the pathetic little ones with three tiny leaves and the spindly stem.


At least the tomatoes have a few more days to get bigger and harden off before they get planted.

The poor cauliflower and broccoli got planted directly in the garden. Poor things. I felt like I threw them right off the high board into the deep end.

Grow little plants! Grow!

Meanwhile the rest of the garden spot is looking more and more like a part of the lawn. Maybe when things settle down again we’ll get it tilled.

And planted.

And the rains will come.

And the plants will grow.

And I will bask in all the luscious veggies.


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.
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.


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!

Garden Check

Things have finally slowed down a bit around here!

Matt is safely in England, the kids are finishing up school, and we’re still eating graduation buns (and will be for some time to come!)

I guess it’s time to think about the garden again!

We enjoyed both lettuce and radishes from the very few early things that actually made it in the ground several weeks ago.

Sugar Snap PeasAnd the peas are ready to pick! The bad news is that we only got one kind planted – the sugar snap variety. The regular pea seeds are still in the packet and it’s much too late in the season to get them in the ground.

The kids are not going to be happy when they realize this fact.

Not. at. all.

They all love fresh peas. Some of them don’t even like stir fry.

There will be no sitting in the pea patch eating fresh peas and shucking the pod over the fence this year.  Nope. Instead there will be great weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We did manage to get the rest of the garden planted though.

In one night. During graduation week. It isn’t pretty.

Some of the corn looks more like a corn maze than corn rows!

But it’s in.

PepperThe peppers – both sweet and hot – are perking up now that they are in the garden!

Grow little jalapenos! Grow fast!

With the nice rains over the weekend, the green beans are sprouting! I planted Jade green beans for the first time this year. A friend brought me some last year and I loved them!

Instead of getting fat when left on the plant – the Jade beans just get longer.  I do have a packet of my stand-by Blue Lake variety for mid-season planting if I need them.

TomatoAnd then- there’s the tomatoes.

Would you believe that I initially planted 50 of the tomato plants we started from seed. Yes – 50! And I still had at least that many plants left!

So I started giving them away – to my mom , my sisters, my neighbor – anyone who looked like they needed a tomato, or two or three.

On Sunday I took what was left to church and blessed people with them.

Angel Girl somehow squeezed the remaining 4 plants in the garden – bringing our grand total to 54.

Someone asked me on Sunday what in the world we were going to do with that many tomatoes.

Umm – eat them?

It could be a busy summer!

I’ve linked this post up with the Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage.

Fresh Picked

I love this season of the year – when my meals are planned around what I pick fresh from the garden.

Corn on the cob – all you can eat. Green beans – lightly steamed and dripping with butter. Summer squash in every form imaginable. And what about the tomatoes!

TomatosIs there anything as wonderful as a fresh, vine-ripened tomato?

Unless it’s something made from that fresh, vine-ripened tomato! Something like BLT’s, fresh salsa, bruschetta, or our favorite – pasta with fresh tomatoes.

Just peel 8 medium tomatoes. Chop, seed and drain.

Combine 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 clove of garlic (crushed), 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley chopped, 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 of a green pepper (chopped) and 16 black olives, sliced.

Add tomatoes and set aside at room temperature.

Cook 8 ounces of pasta according to directions. Drain and place in serving bowl. Add tomato mixture and toss. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.


We’re still in the honeymoon stage with tomatoes- enjoying all we can eat fresh – but don’t have quite enough yet to can.

WatermelonThen there’s my pride and joy – my watermelons – both of them.

The melons didn’t like the heat and drought of July. But thanks to the boys faithful watering, we saved one watermelon plant with 2 watermelons on it.

I was a little scared to pick the big one – but my friend Martha just gave it a thunk and proclaimed it done.

She was right – it was perfect!

I may just have to call her to come and thunk the next one in a few weeks. 🙂

So what’s on tonight’s menu?

All you can eat fresh corn on the cob (Pedro holds the record with 6 ears at one meal) and chicken wraps (with roasted yellow squash, green peppers, onions and garlic for the more adventurous eaters!)

Lip-smacking goodness!

True Confessions

lettuceI feel like I must confess here.

After all my noble efforts to start my own plants this winter – well – ahem – things haven’t worked out so well.

Let’s start with my pathetic cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plants.

They were so bad that when I was shopping with my sister at the Amish stores – in a moment of weakness I bought all new big and beautiful plants and planted them in my garden.

That’s not all – the spindly little cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower starts that I’ve been nursing for months got yanked out of their pots and – are you ready for this – fed to the chickens.


But wait – there’s more!

Most of cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkin, and squash plants looked fabulous for a while – but then started shriveling up and dying. Anything that had at least one green leaf got planted in the garden this week.

I think I will need to do a lot of replanting!

But on the bright side -we’ve have several meals of asparagus, a few tiny radish and our first garden fresh salad. The lettuce I planted was a mix of different varieties – some I am not familiar with.

Pedro took one bite of lettuce last night and announced, “I think I just ate a weed!”

I must confess that since my garden is not exactly weed-free that I”m more that a little worried he did!

Speaking of lettuce – during that same shopping trip with my sister Teresa – I also bought 2-4 packs of  head lettuce to put in the garden – thinking they would give me a head start on salad.

Two nights later there was a bunny convention in my garden and all my beautiful heads were served as the entree. Let’s just say that was some expensive bunny food. 😦

But then there’s my tomato plants. We moved them into bigger pots a few weeks ago and planted them in the garden this week. They are doing great!

My friend Mendi asked me at Matt’s Graduation party just how many tomato plants I actually planted this year. Would you believe I didn’t even know?!

But since this post is a confessional of sorts – I sent Angel Girl out to count.


Yes – I need to confess to going slightly overboard and planting fifty-eight tomato plants. I may be handing out bags of ripe tomatoes to random strangers come mid-August! 🙂

There – now that all of my garden blunders are out in the open – I have nothing more to hide.

They say that confession is good for the soul – I hope it’s good for a laugh or two as well! 🙂

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

Homemade Ketchup


I’ll admit that I don’t have fond memories of homemade ketchup.

There was one year growing up that my mom decided that since all five of us kiddos loved ketchup, she would use some of her bumper crop of tomatoes to can up a homemade version.

It did NOT go over well. It was runny and didn’t look or taste anything like the kind from the store that made the Heinz family millionaires.

So spending time making homemade ketchup was never on my to-do list.

Until we were enjoying a 4th of July barbecue at the home of some friends. Our kids were scarfing down hot dogs and burgers slathered in ketchup.

My host made the comment that my kids sure loved her homemade ketchup.

Her homemade what? I couldn’t believe that my kids were not only eating, but enjoying homemade ketchup! Come to think of it- so did I.

Needless to say, I left with the recipe and it has been a staple in our home ever since.

I bet Mom is laughing right now.

Homemade Ketchup

4 quarts tomato juice (I run my raw tomatoes through my Victorio strainer*)
3 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups vinegar
1/4 cups canning salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
2 small cans of tomato paste (6 oz. each)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves OR 1 tablespoon whole cloves (Take out after cooked)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon allspice

Mix all of the ingredients together and boil for 1 hour.

Dissolve 3/4 cup of cornstarch in a little cold water. Remove ketchup from heat and add the cornstarch, stirring well. bring back to a boil.

Pack hot into hot jars, seal, and process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes.

I always keep some empty ketchup bottles around to pour my homemade version in before I serve it. It’s easier to serve from a squirt bottle and you can fool unsuspecting children and visitors!

*The link is to a similar brand.

Plant a Salad Garden

Salad With the price of food so frightfully high, and the danger of salmonella in fresh tomatoes, it may be time to consider planting a salad garden. All you need is a planter, potting soil, and some seeds. I would recommend leaf lettuce and spinach to begin with.

Plant the seeds according to the directions on the back of the seed packet. Then keep it in a sunny location, such as a deck or patio and keep it well watered. In a few weeks you should be able to start eating the baby greens.

If you plant a new garden every 3 weeks or so, you will have fresh greens all summer. Enjoy the greens until they start to go to seed, then just pull them out and replant.

Why not try a cherry or grape tomato plant in another pot? Or a sweet pepper plant? Or even jalapeños! Try different kinds of lettuce for a unique salad combination.

You don’t need a huge country garden like mine to save money on fresh salad all summer long. Being creative with the space you have is a great Thrifty Thought!