Monthly Archives: June 2009

June Challenge Update

Now that summer’s (finally) in full swing, it’s time for a gardening challenge update.

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Plant:

  • most of my planting was done back in spring, but I have added succession carrots, bush beans (purple, green and wax), lettuce,  more zinnias and morning glories 

Harvest:

  • lettuce, scallions, dill, parsley, chives, sage, thyme, snap peas 

Preserve:

Reduce Waste:

  • continue to carry water bottle, reusable bags, reusable containers, cloth napkins, etc.
  • compost

Preparation and Storage:

Build Community Food Systems:

  • the biggest development was the birth of the little horse, who will help build our local food system by attracting children and adults alike to our farm market
  • visit local farmers’ markets
  • of course, visit my family’s farm market for anything I can (strawberries!!!)
  • Ed continues to help at his brother’s aquaculture business

Eat the Food:

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Back to School…

After three whole days of vacation last week, which were dominated by Annabelle’s new baby, I headed back to school today.  I’m taking a course in my Environmental Education program called “Analytical Techniques and Instrumentation.”  In the next two weeks, we’re going to learn how to test samples for contaminants, visit New Haven Harbor to take sediments to test for heavy metals, test our own tap water, and visit one of the Thimble Islands off the coast of Branford to study the rocky intertidal ecosystem.  In addition, we’re going to set up and maintain a salt water aquarium and monitor for a variety of different factors.  I’m excited that I’ll actually get to learn how to do all the chemical testing I’ve been reading so much about, so when I see results published in journals or in the news I’ll be able to understand them better.  Today was introductory lab stuff, practice using balances, pH meters, micro-pipets and the spectrophotometer.  It was a blast for a science dork like me.

After a busy day, I came home to see my hydrangeas wilting in the first real heat of the summer, even though I watered them this morning.  I went around to the back garden, where I left the hose this morning, and when I got there I saw a huge black snake going into a hole in my flower garden! I would estimate that it was five feet long.  I screamed for Ed and he killed it, but I have vowed to never weed in that garden again.  Now I’m off to do my homework!

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Summer Garden

Sunday Stroll

It finally feels like summer around here! Yesterday, as I spent about five hours standing in the sun watching the baby horse, I got really sun burned.  I hadn’t planned to stay that long, but visiting mom and baby has a way of making time disappear.  It has rained almost every day for the past three weeks, so my skin wasn’t ready for that much time in the sun.  All that rain helped the weeds take over my garden, too, so Ed and I spent yesterday morning catching up.  I ripped out the lettuce because it was all rotting on the bottom, I assume from so much dampness, but everything else in the vegetable garden is doing well.

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One corner contains herbs that I started from seed last year and this year: chives, basil, lavendar, dill, parsley, thyme, sage and borage.

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Dill in bloom

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Bush beans- green, purple and yellow

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Potatoes

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Carrots

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Snap peas

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This corner contains tomatoes which are surrounded by sunflowers and marigolds.

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I made an effort to add some flowers to the vegetable garden this year.  Johnny jump-ups are doing very well in the shade of the fence post.

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I’m anxiously awaiting the blooms of hot pink and lime green zinnias.

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Borage is attracting pollinators.

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Speaking of flowers, the lace cap hydrangeas in the back garden are in full bloom, a gorgeous shade of purple-blue.

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And of course, no Sunday Stroll would be complete without the showy mophead hydrangeas from our front garden.

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What’s growing in your garden?

To see who else is strolling this week, visit the Quiet Country House.

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In the Pasture

We took Annabelle and her baby out to the pasture for the first time today, in an area that was partitioned off from the other animals.  We stayed with them for a few hours, to make sure they were comfortable, and to visit with anyone who stopped by to see the new horse.

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After a little getting used to, the filly decided to run around the pen, nurse, and check out her new surroundings.  Annabelle got right to grazing.

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It was all so exciting, and we could tell she was getting tired.  But she didn’t want to go to sleep! (Do you see gold bug?)

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Finally, she couldn’t stay awake any longer and drifted off to sleep.  Annabelle stopped grazing and stood over her baby as she slept.  It was so sweet.

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Little girl, you’ve had a busy day.

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Filly’s First Day

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Nursing

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Proud Mommy

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Majestic, like mom

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Sleepy eyelashes

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Will you be my friend?

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Barn swallow Mommy

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Strawberry Jelly

Note: If you have never canned before, I highly recommend Joy of Cooking: All about Canning and Preserving and the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.  These books will help you learn about safe canning practices and the equipment you will need.

To me, the most important thing about making jelly successfully is following the measurements.  If the measurements below don’t match the recipe on the package of pectin, follow that recipe instead to get your jelly to set properly.  I’ve made jelly in the past that doesn’t “jell” and remains a liquid, and it’s mostly because I tried to sneak in more juice than the recipe calls for.

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Start by crushing 4 quarts of hulled strawberries with a potato masher in a large pot.  Cook for about 5 minutes.

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Strain the berries using a jelly bag or cheesecloth.  Let the juice drip into a bowl for an hour or more.  You can save the berries to make fruit leather.

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When the berries have drained, sterilize jars by boiling them in a large pot of water for 10 minutes.  Let them sit in the steaming water until you are ready to use them.

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Measure out 3 1/2 cups of strawberry juice.  If you have extra, you can freeze ice cubes of the juice, which are especially good in lemonade.

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Slowly stir in 1 package of powdered pectin, and start heating the juice over high heat.

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Add 1/2 tsp butter to help keep the mixture from boiling over.

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Bring the mixture to a rolling boil for 5 minutes.

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Then add 4 1/2 cups of sugar, and stir to dissolve.  Continue to heat the mixture over high heat.

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Boil hard for 1 minute.

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Skim off any foam, then ladel into the sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Place caps on and screw on rings.  If you have a half-full jar, cap it and use it right away, storing it in the fridge.

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Return jars to the hot water.  Bring to a boil, and process for 10 minutes.  Remove jars to a towel or cutting board and allow them to cool, undisturbed, for about a day.

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Label jars and store them in a dark place.  Yield: about 6 1/2-pint jars.

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