Gardening in the Blind

Heirloom Tomatoes – The colorful art of raising and preserving
August 26, 2009, 8:14 pm
Filed under: Cooking/Canning/Drying, local eating, outdoor gardening, Tomatoes

What does German Johnson, Cherokee Purple, Paul Robeson and Orange Oxheart have in common?  Easy.  Not only am I growing and eating them, they are all classified as heirloom tomatoes.  The great thing about heirloom tomatoes is that the seeds can be saved and grown year after year after year.  I urge all readers to take part in this.  This will produce your own tomato use to the soil and geography of your location.  But it also helps save the seeds.  (read this article for more information on why to do so)

Cutting Board of tomatoes before I canned them

Cutting Board of tomatoes before I canned them

So, while I am busy eating loads of BAT’s (Bacon Arugula Tomato sandwich) I am saving the seeds.  Alvin my neighbor who has been doing this for years told me how.  I take a tomato and cut it in half.  I spread a paper towel out and scoop seeds onto it.  I then take a spoon and gently smush them around.  That’s easy enough.  Let it sit and after it is dry (about 3-4 days) wrap up the towel, label it and put it in an envelope.  You now have seeds for next year.  It is that easy!

But when I am not saving the seeds, I am trying to can them.  This past weekend I canned 4 quart jars of tomatoes.  It takes approximately 7 tomatoes for 1 jar.  That is a lot of tomatoes I got in one week!  Wondering how I do it?  Continue reading.

To can in a water bath, you will need to have a few items.  A canner, jars with lids, an extra pot full of water, a small bowl to put the lids in, a bowl for the skins and a medium bowl full of ice water.  Fill the canner with the jars and water.  Bring to a boil.  In the meantime, put the extra pot full of water on another burner and bring to a boil.  Drop a couple of tomatoes in the boiling water and wait for 1-2 min. if large, less time for smaller ones. Take a jar out of the canner and pour the hot water over the lids. The skin should start to split.  Fish the tomatoes out and place in the bowl full of ice water.  Let set for a few seconds so that you can handle them and peel the skin off.  The skins should be saved for your compost bin.  Place the tomato in the jar and lightly smush it.  Continue until you have about 1/2 inch headspace.  Because we are just using tomatoes in their own juice, we can use a water bath.  Otherwise it is preassure canning bound!  Wipe the rim with a towel.  Put the lid on the jar and repeat until finished.  When finished, place back into canner and process for 40 min. (See here for helpful hints in canning and processing)


Garden treats for my dogs
August 25, 2009, 9:07 am
Filed under: Cooking/Canning/Drying, outdoor gardening
Potted beans for Gus and Tyler

Potted beans for Gus and Tyler

I went to the vet to find the dog training treats we have been using are taking a toll on the doggies!  They are too healthy as the vet said.  They need to eat a little less.  It was also recommended that we fed them vegetables as treats instead of training treats. 

So I have come to the conclusion that I am no longer growing a garden for Deron and I but for the dogs.  Gus’ favorite “treat” would be the green beans.  He goes crazy for them.  This is the only time I can get him to do anything I want!  Tyler’s favorite is a carrot although he doesn’t really eat it, he just crunches it and spits it out.  Gus “The Cleaner” wonder dog will pick up the leftovers.  Always fun to watch.  Tyler has been know to steal cucumbers as well so that he might crunch some more!

Cooking with my produce
August 23, 2009, 4:55 pm
Filed under: Cooking/Canning/Drying, local eating, outdoor gardening
Cabbage head forming

Cabbage head forming

I finally harvested some of my cabbage out of the garden.  This is a picture of the head forming.  It was almost ready to harvest when this picture was taken.  I still have 2 purple cabbage and one green head that are growing. 

After harvesting them along with the carrots shown in the previous blog, Deron was inspired to create a coleslaw to go with the pulled pork he wanted to make.  So off he went to shred.  Given all the difficulties I had with the cabbage worm, I told him to wash it carefully and I could not guarantee it would be worm free.  Surprises happen for me.  There were no worms found!

Coleslaw waiting for dressing

Coleslaw waiting for dressing

It just so happened that I needed to harvest some of my onions as well.  The tops turned brown and were laying on the ground.  Before I could even hang the group of onions up to dry, Deron snagged a couple to chop up into the coleslaw.

The beauty of chopping a lot is that you can freeze it without the dressing on it very easily.  When it thaws, it is still nice and crunchy, not soggy at all.  So in the middle of winter blues, you can enjoy a bit of summer!

Harvesting Carrots
August 20, 2009, 8:33 am
Filed under: outdoor gardening
A variety of Carrots

A variety of Carrots

I have had carrots growing for what seems like eternity.  When will it end?  I just want to can some and maybe freeze a bit for winter as well.  One of my problems is that I have three different kinds of carrots growing and no markers telling me where each are located. 

Every two weeks or so, I bend down and take my finger and gentle pull the soil back away from the stem to see the head of the carrot.  When they are about the size of a nickle I pull them.  When they need to grow more, I replace the soil around the carrot and leave it.  It is a long process considering I have to do it on either end of each row as each are different types of carrots and grow at different rates. 

This weekend I am in hopes that I will be getting more to pull.  I look for the taller, fuller leaves to look at the carrot.  Each one may or may not be ready.  The soil is too heavy I think for them.  Carrots like lighter soil.  Next year I plan on adding more compost to hopefully lighten the soil.

Growing for money
August 18, 2009, 3:38 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

There is something I really wanted to see if I could do.  I wanted to see if I could raise enough money this year on selling items from my garden to purchase all the seeds for next year.  This idea started after Deron and I were sipping a glass of wine and he bet me that I could not sell any of my herbs.  So I did what any individual would do.  I took a piece of wood, spray painted it to read “herbs $2” and stuck it outside to see if anyone would like it.  I sold to two people and then the next day to another couple.  It started me thinking, how else could I get money off of the garden.  After all to get the garden to work for me was the ultimate goal.  I mean working for me to produce the product but if I could get money as well, that was the best.  I started to do this but realized it was an easier theory then what I could actually do. 

So, I have under $20 to show for this.  How do farms survive?  I have even started to be creative selling my soapwort seedlings for $2 on craigslist.  I do have someone coming on Sunday to take 5 so I guess I could increase the amount to $30 but this is the far cry from $100 I wanted to get by the end of the season.  Between selling the herbs and saving seeds from the tomatoes that I am growing this year, I wanted to be able to purchase seeds without going into the negative.  This is not going to happen.  This led me to do a little research about farming.  This seems to be a huge dream for me.  Could this ever work?

The more I looked into this, the more I realized that about the only way to survive farming is to have a CSA if you are a smaller farm.  There are pros and cons about this.  I need to produce a lot of stuff (20+ acres in my calculations) for a small CSA.  They are popular right now, but what will the future bring?  Are they going to be constant in popularity or is this just another fad?  Is “organic” just the new buzz word or will people stick to eating what is better for them? 

I am lucky to say that I grew up with parents that valued organic products.  While my friends were eating and requesting chocolate cake, I was begging for a carob cake.  While friends were experimenting with fast food, I learned to like tofu and learned the value of fresh things.  With my food allergies growing up (dairy and eggs) my parents were able to embrace the natural size of things.  I have to say that it was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I love that I am open to all of this. 

I would like to say that I have worn off on my husband as well.  Given the chose, he now will grab the organic vs. conventional.  This is huge given that Deron would have rather had the chemical infested breads vs. homemade bread when I first started living with him.

So what does the future hold for a small farmer?  I guess we will have to wait and see.

The great garden and more
August 10, 2009, 3:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
My feverfew in bloom

My fever few in bloom

I have a couple of friends at work that I have had to spend a fair amount of time with punch listing a project.  During that time, they developed a way of passing time.  We would try to create as many Haiku’s that we could about anything and everything.  This past weekend, I was sitting outside and realized that I hadn’t done that lately, so I picked up a pen and started to create one.  For any who do not know, a haiku is a form of poetry mainly used in Japan.  It consists of three lines – the first is 5 syllables, 2nd is 7 syllables and the last is back to 5 syllables.  So, I thought I would share with you my poem about my lazy Saturday….

Toads are croaking loud,

Fire flies are having fun

I am feeling good!

Cucumbers arriving daily
August 6, 2009, 12:57 pm
Filed under: Cooking/Canning/Drying, outdoor gardening
One of my first picking cucumbers and last to be planted

One of my first picking cucumbers and last to be planted

I am being diligent about watching my garden.  I know know why.  My cucumbers are growing leaps and bounds.  It is taking everything just to make sure that I don’t miss one before it gets too big!  It seems the last cucumbers I planted are doing the best for production.  But one of the other locations is trying hard to catch up!  I can’t wait until I am harvesting enough to pickle.  I love to make kosher pickles.  Let’s hope it will be soon, Deron is getting antsy.