Irons in the Pot

I have had a lot of irons in the pot lately.

First of all, my garden won’t let go of me!  It is still producing vegetables, despite the date on the calendar!  It is true that I live (for now) in the Sacramento Valley of California and our weather is pretty mild in the winter, but jeeze louise – it’s time for the summer vegetables to stop growing, don’t you think?

Tomatoes blooming in November

Heaven’s to Betsy – it’s November 7th already – STOP BLOOMING !

And I still have hoards of tomatoes ripening on the vine.

Tomatoes on the vine in November

Ppffftt, and I was worried all of my tomatoes wouldn’t ripen before winter.

This zucchini got a late start (I had to replant because of the squash mosaic virus – see HERE) and I wasn’t sure it would produce anything, but here is it’s fourth zucchini growing, and it’s November for Pete’s sake!

Zucchini blooming in November

Can you believe the zucchini is still blooming? In November!!!????

I have also stopped picking my McCaslin green beans (I have enough frozen green beans in the freezer for a year) and so the ones still on the vine are being allowed to mature and dry.  They will be used in soups this winter.  I already have a quart of dried beans with much more to come!  Those plants are amazing.

Green beans to dried beans

McCaslin Heriloom green beans drying on the vine. What a wonderful and prolific variety this turned out to be!

On top of all the gardening, I have been experimenting in the kitchen.  My biggest project has been working with acorns, and you can see the latest post about some of my experiments HERE.  It takes 10 days to leach my acorns to get all the tannin out and a few more days after that to produce acorn flour.  My next culinary adventure with the acorns will be making shortbread cookies!  I’ll let you know how it turns out……. or doesn’t!  🙂

Leaching tannin from acorns

My refrigerator filled with acorn pieces and acorn meal slowly leaching the tannin out. My acorns are pretty bitter and full of tannin, so this is a 10 day process for me. Oh, the big jar on the left – that’s minced garlic.  I sure wouldn’t want to mix the two!

And then I read that you can make your own extract from lots of things.  My first foray into the “extraction” world was with stevia extract/syrup, which turned out great.  You can see that article HERE.  Now I am trying a lemon extract, using a tutorial from “The 2 Seasons“, and will follow that with orange extract, almond extract and vanilla extract.  I just need more vodka!     🙂

DIY Lemon Extract

Making lemon extract with lemon peel and vodka. The recipe suggested a little bit of sugar. I think I will wait and add my homemade stevia syrup to taste!

Between doing all of this, I am also working on some K-Cup Advent Calendars for my grandchildren.  You can find the tutorial to make one HERE.  My dining room table hasn’t seen the light of day for a few weeks because I can’t find more than a few minutes here and there to work on these!

DIY advent calendar

Oh my. Such a mess, but so much fun!    🙂

Up on our future homestead we have been working some summer and fall weekends on building an outhouse.  It’s finally at the stage where we can use it, but it certainly isn’t done.  We still need a front step, trim on all the outside corners, a rain gutter so we can collect water into a storage tank for summer irrigation, and then finish off the inside with a sink, mirror, and some tile work to make it easy to clean (easier than just plywood!)

Building an outhouse

A fully functional outhouse! Wahoo! We still have a long way to go with all the finishing details, but at least now it is useable and safe!

Speaking of bathrooms, probably the biggest iron in the pot, these days, has been the remodeling of our master bath.  In the end, it will be a complete gut job.  We are going from two rooms to one and replacing everything!  Originally there was a divider wall with a pocket door between the shower/toilet room and the sink room, which just made them both seem so small.  We are putting in new cabinets, new shower, new sinks, new tile counters, new lights and a new tile floor!

Bathroom remodel

In my mind this is going to be a beautiful bathroom…..some day soon I hope!

So, you can see, I have had a lot of irons in the pot.  But, truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

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Pretty Purple Potatoes

As an experiment this year in my practice garden, I decided to try my hand at growing potatoes.  I had one of those “cloth” like growing bags and had also been reading all about hugelkultur, so I thought a combination of the two would make an interesting experiment.

And then, on a whim, I decided to grow Peruvian Purple Fingerling potatoes!  Why?  Because I had a one sprouting in my cupboard.  Sounded like a good reason at the time. 😀

So, last spring I cut that little purple fingerling potato in half and let the cuts dry for a day. Then I placed each half on about 6 inches of soil mixed with compost inside the cloth grow bag, covered with dried leaves and some more compost, and watered them in well.

These are the two purple potato plants I started from one potato that decided it wanted to live and not be eaten!  I cut the potato in half and planted them using the "bag"method.  They seem to be happy so far

And the two halves of the potato grew taller, so I placed a layer of dried leaves and some soil around the plants with just the top peeking out.  It grew some more, so I placed some more dried leaves and then compost, again just letting the top of the plant see the sun.  This is a modified hugelkultur method, and I kept layering in organic matter and compost and/or dirt until I had reached the top of the bag.  If you want to learn more about hugelkultur, click HERE to see a video from my favorite nursery, Peaceful Valley.  But the potato plants just kept growing, spilling down the side of the bag and toward the melons!  I didn’t know potato plants grew that big!  Peruvian Purple Potato Plants

Through the summer I read lots of articles about how and when to harvest, and I could tell the time had come these last couple of weeks as the plants started to look wilted and the leaves were turning brown.  So, last week while I had my grandchildren visiting, Ray spread out a tarp and dumped the contents of the cloth bag onto it.  Wow.  It was like hunting for Easter Eggs!  I couldn’t believe how many potatoes we got out of those two little halves that were planted last spring – almost 3 pounds!  Peruvian Purple Potatoes

One thing I did notice was that there weren’t as many potatoes on the back side of the bag, which didn’t get as much water as the front side.  So – note to self – I must make sure the potato plants get plenty of water the next time I grow them!

All the while when the potatoes were growing, I did a little research on this variety, the Purple Peruvian Fingerlings, and what I found was pretty interesting!  Did you know that these (botanical name Solanum andigenum) are rich in the antioxidant anthocyanin (a type of flavonoid) which is usually present in blue, red and purple produce such as blueberries and pomegranates.  This antioxidant has been proven to be an immune system supercharger, protects against age-related memory loss, and is an important aid in the prevention of certain cancers. Potatoes are also good sources of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and iron.  Peruvian Purple Potato cut in half

The Purple potato is native to the high plains and mountain slopes of Peru and Bolivia and have been cultivated there for nearly 8000 years. The diversity of Purple potato varieties and their resistance to disease along with their defiance of harsh growing conditions has permitted their evolution for thousands of years into an important modern-day food.

All potatoes trace their roots (yes, pun intended) to the high plains and Andean Mountain slopes of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, but the Purple Peruvian Fingerling traces it’s heritage directly to royal Andean ancestors. 7,000 years ago the purple potatoes were served only to Kings of the Incan Empire.  Apparently these ancient people knew the nutritional value of this tuber!

Once I got the potatoes inside, I washed them.   I know, I know, I’m not supposed to wash potatoes, but I knew I was going to use them right away, so I figured it would be just fine.  The first meal I made with the potatoes was a simple beef stew in the crockpot. Crockpot beef stew with purple potatoes Beef, purple potatoes, green beans, salt and pepper.    Along with a few slices of fresh baked whole grain french bread, it was delicious.  The texture of the potato was much like a Yukon Gold potato – creamy but not too waxy and not dry.  It had just a bit of a nutty flavor and was really good! It also kept it’s color on the inside, which made the stew quite pretty!

For the second meal using the purple potatoes, I decided to mash them the old fashioned way, with butter and milk.  I wanted to see if the potatoes got mealy or dry when boiled and then mashed.  Nope.  These were really, really good! Mashed Peruvian Purple Potatoes

What I would like to know is, since these potatoes taste excellent and are so good for you, why aren’t they more popular in the grocery stores?  I think I need to start asking my local grocers to carry these potatoes in their produce aisles at all times – as a staple and not a novelty!  What do you think?  Will you join me?

 

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Vegetable Garden Lessons

🙂     🙂     Holy cow!  The garden is going absolutely nuts!     🙂     🙂

Baby corn cob

You can see here on this corn stalk a little baby corn cob starting to form! I’m not sure how long before we will actually be able to harvest, but my mouth is watering already!

The corn must be over 8 feet high and is already starting to get little cornlets!  Unfortunately, I guess I wasn’t thinking when I planted them all in neat little rows at the same time!  I should have staggered the planting so that we could have an extended season of fresh corn on the cob. I think at this point I will have to freeze a lot of corn! Lesson Number One:  Don’t plant all the corn for the year in one day!

Yellow summer squash

The zucchini and yellow summer squash all seem to be doing well, despite their potential problem with mosaic virus. So far we have harvested at least 20 pounds of squash and the squash just keeps on coming!

 

 

The squash, despite possibly having the squash mosaic virus, has been giving hubby and I an overabundance (hello neighbors) of zucchini and yellow summer squash.  Wait – it isn’t even summer yet!  Holy Cannoli!  Lesson Number Two:  Plant the squash further apart and plant only two of each kind!

Caden’s Sunflowers are getting ready to bloom!  I can’t believe how tall all of the sunflowers have become!  Isn’t it a miracle how it seems we can get something out of nothing.  I mean, it’s just dirt, water and sunshine and look what happens!  The only problem is that the squash plants are so big that I can’t get to the sunflowers (please refer to lesson number 2).  However, it doesn’t look like they need me right now.

Pepper Plants

The Anaheim Chile Peppers are a bit behind because I couldn’t get any to grow from seed! They seem to be coming along nicely now and each plant has a few blossoms on it.

 

The peppers are coming along slowly but surely.  Each plant has at least a couple of blooms but I don’t see any peppers forming yet.  I’m sure that will come in time, but it’s hard to wait for my BBQ pepper poppers (see the bottom of this post for the recipe) Lesson Number Three:  learn how to germinate pepper seedlings and get an earlier start!

 

Zinnia buds and blooms

I think these Zinnia are going to be really pretty! At first I planted them to use as cut flowers, but I don’t think I have the heart to cut them now!

Also, the zinnia are starting to flower.  You can just see a little bit of color peeking out of the center of the bud.  I intended to use these as cut flowers for inside, but I planted them just at the edge of the garden where they will be pretty.  I think I should have planted a whole bunch more flowers to make the whole garden prettier.  From what I have read, they also attract the bad pests away from the vegetable plants (think aphids) and yet bring in the good ones (honey bees).  I also read that Marigolds impart a kind of bug resistance to some vegetables.  Lesson Number Four:  plant more flowers in and around the vegetable garden next year.

Black Beans

The black turtle beans with their beautiful pinkish-purple flowers are already loaded with beans! I can’t wait to try out these beans when they are dried!

 

The green pole beans and the black turtle beans are also going crazy!  I can’t believe I already have some little black turtle beans on the vine.  The beautiful purplish hued flowers of the black turtle beans are plentiful, which tells me that I should have quite a lot of beans to harvest. Lesson Number Five:  beans are very easy to grow! Grow more next year.

 

Fingerling Potatoes

These were grown from one purple fingerling potato that I cut in half as an experiment. I guess the experiment worked!

The purple fingerling potatoes are growing like gangbusters!  If you remember back, I planted two halves of a small purple fingerling into a 20 gallon (I think that’s how big it is) bag as an experiment.  I don’t know how many potatoes I will get just yet – if any – but at least the plant is doing well.  I have soil almost to the top and the plant has pushed the sides down and has almost engulfed the entire bag!   Lesson Number Six:  get bigger potato growing bags!

Water Lillies

The water plants in our little pond (there is a huge goldfish in there somewhere) seem very happy! Unfortunately, I think they may be crowding out the lilies.

 

Even the water plants in the pond are blooming!  Does anyone know what kind of water plant this is? I don’t, but they seem to grow more beautiful every year even though the pond is severely neglected.  Lesson Number Seven:  beautiful things happen despite our shortcomings in the garden!

 

We are truly blessed!

 

 

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Squash Mosaic Virus

Oh no.  I think I have a virus – squash mosaic virus!  I went out to the garden a couple of days ago and found the squash on the left hand side of the picture below.

Squash Mosaic Virus
Nuts! It looks like the squash on the left has squash mosaic virus, which is supposed to be fatal for the plant. But, the two squash on the right were harvested two days later and look okay! Does anybody know what is going on?

They are supposed to be a yellow squash, but had all these weird green markings on them.  So I quickly decided to do a little research on the internet and what I found was very disheartening.  Apparently I have squash mosaic virus, which can be transferred by squash bugs or aphids, or it can apparently be in the seed.  Since I know there were a few aphids on the plants when they were young, I am betting that they were the culprit!  According to several of the articles I read on the internet, a plant cannot heal from the virus and will eventually die.  Boy, was I sad to read this.  But this morning when I went out to see if there was any squash to harvest, I found the ones on the right.  These look fine!  Go figure.  If I do have squash mosaic virus and it does kill the squash plants apparently it won’t be any time soon.  Besides, I already have a drawer full of them in my refrigerator.

The squash plants are getting huge and are still producing tons of squash, but I have noticed the leaves getting a bit off color and the edges getting kind of crinkled or even ruffled this past few days.  I sure hope it isn't the beginning of the end of my squash.  It isn't even officially summer yet!

The squash plants are getting huge and are still producing tons of squash, but I have noticed the leaves getting a bit off color and the edges getting kind of crinkled or even ruffled this past few days. I sure hope it isn’t the beginning of the end of my squash. It isn’t even officially summer yet!

The zucchini looks like it may be infected also, but those plants are also still producing like crazy!  In this picture you can see that the new leaves on the squash (zucchini on the left, yellow squash on the right) are looking a bit strange – a bit crinkled.  You might even call it ruffled.  However, take a look at one of the monsters that must have been hiding from me the last few days!  Without exaggeration I can tell you that from squash blossom to harvest time is only about four days!  If anyone knows more about the squash mosaic virus or has had this happen to their squash, please leave me some advice in the comment section below.

Zucchini gone wild

Uh-Oh. Big zucchini – BIG ZUCCHINI! This one was apparently hiding from me the last few days! “Zucchini gone wild” Oh well, it will still be good in muffins! See recipe below – it’s a good one.

I would like to know if that is definitely what is happening to my plants and, if so, if this virus can be overcome. I’m hoping that my plants are healthy enough to withstand the virus for at least another month!  Or, should I just bit the bullet, pull them out, and plant new ones that are resistant to the virus?  I think poor hubby is already a tad bit tired of squash, so I have been looking for new ways to fix it and came across a recipe for zucchini squash muffins!  I have already made them a couple of times and have tweaked the recipe a little bit.  Here is my version:

SHREDDED ZUCCHINI MUFFINS

1-1/2 cups of flour (I used 1 cup all purpose and 1/2 cup whole wheat)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt (sea salt is best)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (we love cinnamon, so I used 1 tsp)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (again, adjust to your taste)

In a bowl sift all these dry ingredients together.  Start heating your oven to 375 degrees.  Now, in another bowl, mix together:

2 eggs (beat them a bit first)

1-1/2 cups grated zucchini

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup olive oil (original recipe called for canola oil, but I stay away from that now)

Once all wet ingredients are mixed together, add the dry ingredients and gently stir together, just until moistened.  Careful!  If you stir muffins too much, they can become too rubbery!  Fill the muffin tins about 2/3 full.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until they are golden brown on the top.  You can eat as is, with butter, or with cream cheese frosting.  Yum!

shredded zucchini muffins

These muffins are absolutely fantastic! You can adjust the recipe a bit to suit your own taste. They are moist but not too dense and are really good straight out of the oven with a pat or two (or three) of butter.

The next recipe to try is a lasagna that uses zucchini squash sliced thinly lengthwise instead of pasta!  I also found a recipe for zucchini chips!  In the meantime, I am shredding my zucchini and freezing it in one cup bunches.  I am using my sucky machine (that’s what I call my Food Saver 🙂  lol) so that the frozen shredded zucchini will last longer without an off odor or freezer burn.  I will be able to make these muffins along with zucchini bread or even the zucchini lasagna (I will have to freeze some slices of zucchini) in the winter!  I know that frozen zucchini can sometimes be mushy when it thaws, but if you are baking it anyway – who cares!?  If anyone else has another great recipe for zucchini, please pass it along!  My hubby would be ever so grateful!

 

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