Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30, 2012

A 'Superfreak' warted pumpkin grows to 20 pounds.
Rich tomato sauce.
It's true, gardening has numerous health benefits, but to us it's also an excuse to enjoy a touch of something special.  We would probably never buy so much fresh organic produce, or make gourmet recipes featuring garden vegetables if we did not grow them.  We're willing to work hard on the gardening end, because we like the product.  So when we pick a bushel of paste tomatoes and process them into fresh, thick juice; then reduce it down in a stock pot to rich organic tomato sauce, we're usually thinking of pizza sauce, garden spaghetti, skillet barbecued pork chops (see Note 1 below), and the like.

Cicada and its molted shell.
Fruits of harvest are ripening as cicadas buzz from tree to tree, signaling that midsummer has gone, and late summer is come.  The end of July is time to take stock of all we have brought in during the last four months.  Summer 2012 has been wilting, but copious (abundant) thanks to sufficient rain.  Our pantry and freezers are stocked to capacity.  We know much of the country can't say the same, and due to extreme drought, the price of food is going up.  Interestingly, weather sources are saying an El NiƱo will take hold by December.

Bumble bee on a pumpkin flower.
It's our traditional time to start mixing up salsas, and this year we may try some corn salsa.  Our second crop of sweet corn is ready to be enjoyed as individual ears reach maturity.  By this weekend, we will pick the whole corn crop and freeze what we will not be eating fresh.
Sweet corn ready to harvest.

4-6 Bone-In Pork Chops
1 T. Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Chopped Celery
3 T. Brown Sugar
2 T. Lemon Juice
1/2 t. Dry Mustard
3/4 t. Salt
1/8 t. Pepper
16-Ounce Jar of Tomato Sauce

In large skillet with tight fitting lid, brown chops in oil over medium heat.  Pour off excess fat.  Sprinkle celery, brown sugar, lemon juice, and seasonings evenly over chops.  Pour tomato sauce over all.  Cover, simmer over low heat 1 hour or until tender.

Skillet Barbecued Pork Chop with corn and melon.

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23, 2012

7-pound cantaloupes/muskmelons are coming 5 per day. 
It's not hard to tell what the kids have been into when their hands are sticky and they come with sweet juice dribbling down their chins.  This week we harvested 8 of the first melons coming this season.  With all the rain we have received (not complaining), we were afraid they might be bland and watery; the smaller melons aren't quite as sweet as the thick big ones, but they all win taste tests compared to supermarket produce!
Jars of tomato halves canned for spaghetti and goulash.

We've wiped our hands of corn for a while, though what we have stocked in the fridge should hold out until our second crop ripens by August 4.  We've done more tomato canning, halves and juice.  Onions are curing well in the barn, and green beans have revived after their mid-summer slump and are producing enough to keep a daily helping on our dinner plates.  We're picking fresh carrots and cucumbers as needed to go with  tomato slices.

On our "to-do" list this weekend was, gather brown and air dried dill seed and save it in an envelope to plant next year.

Onions curing in an airy dry shelf in the barn.
We're having more fun hand-pollinating and watching pumpkins of all sorts, shapes, and sizes grow daily; some of the 'New England Pie' variety are even starting to turn orange; we've picked a few 'Jack-Be-Little'.  Our hopes are high that a 'Prizewinner' which set last week and that grew the size of a melon in just 7 days will end up being a show-stopper to display in the front yard this autumn.  "If you grow pumpkins, you will be happy when you pick them.  Savor what you feel, in addition to what you taste.  Enjoy the blossoms - if pumpkins were rare, gardeners would pamper them in greenhouses just for their extraordinary flowers."  --J. L. Hudson as quoted in The Perfect Pumpkin, by Gail Damerow
This 'Prizewinner' pumpkin grew to the size of a melon in just 7 days.

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16, 2012

Pumpkin, gourd, and squash fruits are setting.
Can you guess this vegetable?
Part of our corn harvest.
Brussels sprouts seed planted a week ago are unfurling two green cotyledons (the first embryonic leaves) on a window ledge in our barn, where they are protected from voracious green worms, but receive plenty of sunshine for stocky growth.

All heirloom paste tomatoes.
This week meant corn and tomatoes in a BIG way.  The first half of our corn patch (20 ft. x 12 ft) came ripe; we went through and picked well above 200 ears.  The number 200 is our standard, benchmark, goal for corn production; it means we had a really good year.  Cut off the cob, we froze 24 quarts.  Earlier last month, the SC State Climatology Office reported that corn across the state was growing so well it looked "fake" (see note 1 below).  We could certainly say the same is true here, especially after our week of generous rains.  Corn crop two is topping out taller than crop one, and is now in silk; it will be ready to harvest by August 4.

The garden looks like a jungle after last week.  We will be canning tomatoes on a weekly basis through July, and when we get tired of canning them whole, we will put them through our strainer/sauce maker for thick, rich sauce.

Melons are still swelling, but they aren't hinting of turning ripe.  Pumpkins are setting every day, and one of our Prizewinner giants has set fruit; we will allow it to set up to three fruits before determining the best one to leave on the vine to mature into a hopeful 100-pound pumpkin.  

As part of routine maintenance this weekend, we summer pruned all our peach and apple trees to remove water sprouts and crossing branches.  And if that wasn't enough to do, we pulled and cleaned our onion crop, which is now curing on a shelf in the barn.
"The walkway."  Pumpkin vines have claimed our pea fence to the left
and make the walk to our orchard kind of cozy.
Experienced gardeners may guess:  it's a bloated, ripe cucumber!  Eastern European homesteaders
settling the plains would slice a yellow cucumber in a pail of fresh milk for a cooling
and nutritious summer meal.

Note 1 -

Monday, July 9, 2012

July 9, 2012

Sweet corn - what we've been waiting for all summer!
First everbearing 'Ozark Beauty'
strawberry of July.
We harvested our first sweet corn on the 4th of July, what a treat.  Last summer, corn ear worms were in most of the ear tips, but this year we haven't seen any.  In addition to disking the field well to turn up overwintering cocoons, we planted a different, resistant variety.  Every ear is beautiful and filled to the tip.  Of everything we grow, we have the best success with corn.  We have perfected our growing technique: rotating fields, using a nitrogen-fixing cover crop, planting when soil is warm, and cultivating until plants are knee-high using a hilling technique that helps plants stand up to wind storms.  Lots can still go wrong, animals for example, and we have live traps if we need to transport a critter to the next county.  What we cannot eat fresh from this year's first perfect crop is being blanched, cut from the cob, and frozen for winter enjoyment.  A second crop is just now tasseling out and will be set to harvest around the first of August.

'Granddaddy' tomato, a little bigger than the bun!
July is reaping and preserving time in our little homestead; we've already canned dozens of quarts of green beans and dill pickles, and we have frozen bell pepper halves and chopped pepper pieces.  Beans, cukes, and peppers are slowing down as summer heat rages on, and a couple of our zucchini plants are turning yellow - they must have been hit with vine borers; we have two more. 

Tomatoes are really coming in now, and melons are swelling for a late-July harvest.  We will be appreciating the first everbearing strawberries joining our summer ensemble as peaches continue through this month.

Pumpkins, the latest crop of our summer garden, are just getting a growth spurt and are opening fruiting flowers for pollination.  Want brussels sprouts for Christmas?  Now is the time to plant seeds indoors so they are transplanting size by September.
The garden in July.

The pumpkin patch is just getting going; fruiting blossoms are open.

About Me

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Dedicated to the responsible production and preservation of healthy home-grown food to the glory of God. Isaiah 55:10 The rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. Organic, or not? We try to raise vegetables organically, using compost and manure. The addition of chickens to our hobby farm means plenty of organic nitrogen to compost! This site gives credible reference to planting information contained in the Farmer's Almanac (