Category Archives: Garden

Rob Cleaned and Repaired the Greenhouse and Started Seeds-Jan. 2023

It’s hard to see in this picture, but one of our planting shelves/benches in the greenhouse was super warped and was not working any more to keep trays flat. Rob said that it was made from plywood and warped from water over the years.

He discovered this after he spent several hours over a couple of days cleaning out all the things he stores in there during the fall and early winter. There were lots of empty pots, boxes of kindling and more he needed to deal with to make room to plant.

He used scavenged wood he had on hand to rebuild the planting bench.

It came out beautifully.

He put one of the heating mats on it. The greenhouse is very cool most of the time and heating mats are how we get seeds to germinate. The other bench is still fine, but the mat is being fussy….. It’s very old, and this one is newer. Things wear out. We are waiting a little bit tp see if mat #2 is worn out or if it will revive.

He trimmed and cleaned up the overwintered geraniums.

He decided to use the cuttings and try to root some new plants. It will be amazing if it works!

He planted peppers. They take a long time to grow in our cool greenhouse. There are Anaheim 64, Ancho, Jalafuego JalapeƱo, another kind of Jalepeno, Green Bell pepper, Mixed Bell pepper, Lola (a light green long sweet pepper that really produces a lot), Hungarian Wax Pepper (zippy), and Carmen. We have been growing Carmen peppers for years. They are long, sweet peppers and ripen in our climate every year. You get a lot of peppers from each plant and they are large. We are trying a couple of new ones–Jimmy Nardello is one. I hope to pickle that one, as it is slim, long and sweet, they say. Our daughter, Lovana, brought some seeds here that she hadn’t planted last year, and there are a couple of peppers in there, as well, including a striped one I’m excited to try. I need 2-4 Serrano peppers each summer for my salsa. (Peppers, not plants–it’s a very small amount). We use Dollar Store seeds for that, and I told Rob I only want 2 plants, total, just in case one fails.

Many of my peppers are used in salsa. We can use 75-100 jars of assorted sized jars in a year, most years. It’s not unusual for me to be unable to grow enough peppers for salsa, relish and other items and have to buy some anyway, despite my best efforts. We try to grow as many as we can, though. I freeze the sweet ones in baggies and we eat them all year in breakfast scrambles, chili, sweet and sour pork or chicken, pizza, and more.

On another day, I planted some parsley. Last year, we did not get enough to dehydrate. When I was cleaning my food pantry, I noticed I’ve used all I dried a couple of years ago except one small jar. I do have some I bought from the store, but I want to dry my own again this summer. It’s easy and another thing I can grow in my yard.

He even planted the ends of the romaine lettuce we recently bought. Some people have great success getting a crop from them. We will see if we are one of those people. It never hurts to try! I know garden lettuce will regrow if we cut it, so if it’s not too cold, it should work.

The onions are planted, too. We’ve planted Red Bull, Red Wing, Patterson, a white one and Guardsman green onions. I used to have overwintered green onions in my garden, but the seeds I planted in the late summer look terrible this year, and I want to get some new ones going as soon as possible, as I do not have much hope that those at the edge of the garden will do much of anything. The storage onions will be planted out as small plants and we hope to eat the green onions straight from the tray and plant more in the garden. We shall see if it works.

We planted a lettuce called “All Winter Long” in the greenhouse. It’s a hardy mix from Pinetree. We also planted Romaine. If we get little plants and it’s not too wet, we will plant them in the raised bed for a super early crop. Otherwise, we’d be happy to cut the little plants off and eat the baby lettuce plants straight out of the greenhouse.

Hopefully, in a few days, we will start to see little green shoots peeking up from those trays of dirt. It’s so encouraging during this time of year to know that spring is on its way, despite the promise of cold, cold nights coming up this next week. I’ve dug out a small space heater, and we may need to put it on in there for a couple of nights, just to keep it from freezing–it’s supposed to get COLD!

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–Jan. 24, 2022

I finished tying up the raspberries this week. I have high hopes for them for this year, even though they are still in their dormant state and don’t look like much. I worked on cutting out the old canes and tying up this year’s fruit-bearing wood a week or two ago and was delighted to find a window of opportunity to finish. It’s a deceptive job. It looks like it would take about 10 minutes, but instead took at least 2-3 hours to do. I’m glad to be done. Now for the Marion (black) berries……

I pulled grass up from around their roots, but I can see I’m going to have a problem with that awful quack grass (or whatever its real name is) again this year. šŸ™

I will put coffee grounds around the base of their stems, as Rob read that they like them. We pick up grounds for gardeners from Starbucks in Safeway and anywhere else we find some. I will also fertilize a little later on so they can grow vigorously through the spring and hopefully give me lots of raspberries. I don’t want them to grow yet, it’s too cold and they would get nipped. Last year, we only got enough to eat as the summer before was so terribly hot the bushes did not do well. We still have a few packages in the freezer from 2 years ago, and I hope to finish those and fill more this upcoming summer.

Rob worked on the greenhouse for hours this week. I will make another post about what he did. He is getting ready to start seeds very soon.

I filled the remaining space in the yard debris bin with rose clippings I cut and the remaining dead branches from the in-ground fuchsia I had not trimmed yet. I’m finding I never have enough time or dry weather to do big jobs outside lately, and am finding success by breaking the jobs up into more than one session and just feeling content with doing whatever part I can get done at that moment. Then, I get back to it whenever I can on another day. The key for me is to not start too many of these kind of projects, but instead try to keep one or two at the top of my list so they actually get finished. It’s a good theory anyway and works part of the time:)

I continue to work on using up every bit of food I can. These hard-boiled eggs got knocked out of the fridge and rolled around a bit before I could catch them. Rather than toss them, I peeled them, washed them, then smashed them up with some tuna and made tuna-egg salad sandwich filling for dinner last night. They didn’t take much effort to smash. Eggs are not as expensive here as elsewhere, but they are more than double the price they were last spring.

My pantry/garage-cleaning project continues. I have been putting food items that need to be targeted for immediate use in the kitchen on the counter. I have worked through so many odd items, along with some normal ones that add to meals. Tonight, there are only 2 items left there. Yea! Time to clean another area and find some more. Because I’m doing the job over several weeks, I’ve had time to use a lot of items as I find them without being overwhelmed.

Tomorrow night, we are cooking for the entire young adult/college group at church (25ish), rather than the 5-6 gluten-free that we usually do. I’m rejoicing in using so many targeted items making things for them. So far, I made pumpkin bread (with wheat since most can eat it) from a mix I found, some cookie bars with coconut, the last of the toffee bits from a couple of weeks ago, and more, and cookie bars with rolled oats and raspberry jam from 2020 I found. I will make some Western Beans from pintos I cooked today and of course, Rob will bbq chicken drumsticks. How awesome we got so many for such a reasonable price!

I shopped with my daughter, who was also shopping for her sister and items for both babies this week. We went to 4 stores to get what she wanted, her sister wanted and I wanted. It was quite an expedition. I was delighted to use a $20/off $100 coupon, plus a $10 reward coupon at Safeway. Even with items for all of us, I stilI had to run back for 2 more packages of chicken legs at the end, to get the $20 off. (At that point, it would have been like throwing away $20 of free food to me.). I ended up with 6 family packs of chicken legs. I had coupon for 99c/lb legs and can always use more at that price. I got things like powdered sugar, brown sugar, some paper products, produce, dairy products and more. Of course I downloaded digital coupons, as well. In the end, my part of that bill was only about $30 with all the coupons and the things that weren’t for me to pay for.

I found her a $10/off $40 at Fred Meyers (a Kroger) store, and let her use my store card and downloaded coupons right there in the store, as needed. Grocery Outlet was visited, but there are no downloads there. Still, we found some items on the list for good prices. Lastly, we hit Trader Joe’s for things she wanted. I got Rob a couple of treats, a birthday gift of flowers and a card for a friend, and some gluten-free bagels for myself.

At the end of the day, I was very happy with what I’d spent and with all the goodies the girls added to my fridge, freezer and pantry. Most holes are filled in the pantry already. Rob had picked up a few things like mushrooms and sliced olives the other day for a good price. I got a few more replacements Saturday. I’m still in budget and the pantry is already full again, even after all we’ve used up. I’m just not replacing a lot of those things, but instead making sure I have plenty of the things we actually use on a regular basis.

Rob and I went on a mini-date Sunday afternoon. We are easily amused, I know, but we wandered through Wheeler Dealer, a scratch and dent store, for entertainment. We found some amazing deals, although many of the prices are much higher there, as they are everywhere. We got cottage cheese for 50c/carton, fresh mozzarella balls for 50c/carton, jalapeƱos for 10c each, a head of boc choi for 33c, a can of sweetened condensed milk for 79c, applesauce pouches for the babies for 25c, and more. I was so glad to know exactly what I had in my pantry, and walked away from a lot of things that were cheap, but I absolutely didn’t need. I’ve already used a bunch of what we got in lasagnas, which used some targeted noodles and the rest of the sauce from last week.

Does anyone know if you can freeze those fresh mozzarella balls? The ones packed in water? I still have 2 cartons left, but they have a very short date on them…hence the 50c price tag. Please leave a comment if you have tried freezing them or something similar. Thanks!

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–Oct. 9, 2022

This week, we finished drying the onions. We got over 100 pounds of them from the garden. Not only have we been eating them since they were big enough to get even a small bulb from, we’ve shared many with family and friends and still have several mesh bags dried for winter.

My sister shared apples from her trees. They are super good and crunchy.

I canned some cinnamon red hot apple wedges, apple slices and also a few jars of apples studded with raisins and dried cranberries, a new recipe from my canning book. I only made 5 pints, but I think I will do a few more because it tastes so good.

Almost every tomato is now picked, even the green ones. I’ve pulled many of the bushes and only left a few that still have a few sad and sorry looking tomatoes on them. There are a few on the porch in a box to eat fresh and I’m hoping the few green ones will ripen over time so we can enjoy them at least for a couple more weeks.

I got my salsa verde canned with green tomatoes.

I tripled the batch because we didn’t have enough last year and got 20 jars, a mixture of sizes ranging from a pint and smaller.

I made one last batch of pasta sauce with the entire box of tiny little red tomatoes I picked on Friday. Surprise! I thought I was done with tomato products, but……now I am. I got 3 quarts and 5 pints.

I’ve picked both broccoli and cabbage from my fall planting. There are a few cucumbers and zucchini left, but not many. Those bushes are looking pretty sad from powdery mildew, a problem we get around here.

I canned some diced potatoes from bags Rob got for a good price. I also have lots of potatoes left to eat fresh, so I made a potato salad one night when we were having company.

I cooked a turkey that I got last year around Thanksgiving. I made broth and canned 7 quarts. I have enough bits and broth to make a batch of soup, as well. I froze some packages of turkey for future use and we ate some.

I had lots of help with my cooking. Here, we are making biscuits. They came out good.

This was a week where I was very busy with the garden, canning, and seeing friends and family. We had company one night. A good friend dropped by for lunch one day. She lives out of town and was passing through, and we enjoyed every minute we had before she needed to be on her way.

The wedding last week was fun, but it feels good to put that project to rest and focus on my home life once again.

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–Sept. 27, 2022

Our fall crop of veggies is producing. We’ve been eating the new crop of broccoli, cabbage, the new cucumbers, the mixed summer squash (all sorts in the same packet from Pinetree), along with the tail end of cucumbers, tomatoes, green and purple beans, peppers, etc. Our squash and cucumbers from spring planting is succumbing to powdery mildew, as normal, so I usually plant a small bit of those for fall eating.

I was able to freeze a few more packets of broccoli, which was one of my goals for this fall crop. Now I have enough for the winter.

I pulled all of the beets that were still in the garden. Both Mom and I kept what we wanted to eat and I pickled 9 more pints.

I have started to pull onions, and clear away other plants in the garden that are finished. I’m hoping to get that done so it can be tilled before the fall rains begin. It’s a big job, so I will try to work at it a little most days.

On the same day Rob picked up my Azure Standard order and did a very small Costco run, the girls decided to buy a LOT of groceries. I believe it was around 10 bags full or more. Then, a few days later, Lovana shopped for her party food, which was many more bags full. I picked up the specials at Safeway last Friday, as there were a few things I needed. Then you add in the wedding food as Rob is doing all the meat for 175 people. It’s not a small amount. Our fridges are bursting. We’ve used coolers with lots and lots of ice for overflow. We have the kitchen one, one small one in the camper and one ancient, rickety college dorm-sized one on the porch. That’s it. I have declared this to be NO MORE SHOPPING FOR FOOD week. But, then I ran out of something. And we need 20 bunches of green onions and 12 cucumbers for the wedding that we can get at our local Safeway for a great price. What can I say? I’m sending Rob and Michaela out on Thursday. Everybody better eat fast between now and Thursday.

We were invited to Allison’s birthday at the group home she and Anthony live in. It’s the first time we’ve visited their new home and it is super nice! I’m happy for them.

We took Malcolm. Boy did he have fun. We had not realized we WERE the party, other then the residents, so we were super glad we took him along. Everyone enjoyed him so much and he was the center of attention as he pushed and rolled his cars along the floor and enjoyed his cake!

Lovana cooked and baked for a costume party for her friend’s birthday. It was a Marie Antionette-themed party and she made 2 cakes, decorated beautifully, brownies, cookies (more than one kind), and cupcakes. There may have been more items, but I can’t quite keep track of that girl when she bakes. She really has a knack for it.

She also arranged many, many flower bouquets for the decor. She said the party turned out really nice, but she couldn’t get any pictures in time:(. Now I’m enjoying this gorgeous bouquet every day.

This upcoming weekend is the big wedding for my niece. We are going to be working very hard to prepare all the food. Much has been done ahead of time, but there are many things that have to be done the day before or even the day of the wedding, such as cutting fruit for salad. There are several people coming to help. My sister and I will spend quite a bit of time Friday evening putting together “kits” with instructions so people can be handed a box with apples, for example, with instructions to cut them into bite-sized pieces and add to the fruit salad. Hopefully, that will get all the jobs done and leave no one standing around wanting to know what to do.

I picked up this picnic basket at a yard sale. Rob oiled it with a little wood oil after this picture was taken, so it looks even prettier now. The bride has asked for some of the wedding food to take with them on their honeymoon, as she feels she won’t get to eat much. We will pack the food in here with ice packs. She also wants an assortment of cookies from her cookie bar, so we will add those, too.

I’m bringing containers, plastic wrap, dishcloths, soap, knives, cutting boards, scissors, etc., etc., etc., as the venue provides nothing but appliances. I’ve got a huge pile already and it’s only Tuesday!!! You should see my sister’s living room. She has decor for the food tables and will have all the food. Yikes! Rob has the van completely full of his projects shown in the last post. Let’s hope that set up crew is on time and very, very strong.

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–Still Canning–September 20, 2022

The shelves are starting to fill up nicely. I have most items canned that I want to do, and a few blank spots to tuck away the remaining items. The boxes on the left are now almost filled and labeled with jars that won’t fit or that I have canned an excess of.

For example, there are 2 boxes of pears. I canned extra of those this year and don’t anticipate using them all this winter. So they can remain stored in a box and the shelf can be used for items for immediate use, but are always handy in case people around here start gobbling pears up!

Dealing with this many canned items is a big organizational task. There is always a lot of arranging and re-arranging during the winter. There is a constant parade of full jars marching into the house and empties marching out. I organize them in sections according to their size and whether they are small mouthed, or wide mouthed. I keep all jelly/jam and tuna jars in shoeboxes in a different location to keep them organized as they empty. I use baskets and keep empties on the dryer until the basket is full, then deal with the jars. I keep a few jars of food in the house to grab quickly, but the rest is stored in the shop. It’s only a few steps to run out there and grab more at any time.

I keep good records. I use a simple journal with blank lines I bought years ago at the Dollar Store, and it’s not complicated. I count what’s left from last year, and add what I did this year. I often refer back to last year’s record sheets to see how many we actually used. This gives me an idea of how many jars of a certain item I need to can this year. Sometimes I look back 2 or 3 years to get an average, as people are fickle around here. One year they may gobble a certain item, like cherries, and the next year they might stop eating them!

This week, I was able to get pickled sweet pepper rings done. I also got several more tomatoes products canned, including crushed, more salsa, whole tomatoes and juice. I did 2 canner loads of vegetable beef soup and also canned beef broth. The broth used all the beef soup bones in the freezer, as I like to clear them out in anticipation for the new 1/4 beef we get each fall. The soup used up some of the broth, many vegetables that were lingering in the fridge and all the small bits of this and that I could pick in the garden and quite a few tomatoes. There’s just a small amount of meat in it, from the soup bones, and lots and lots of good veggies and herbs for flavor.

I went out and found quite a few pickling cucumbers I was not expecting, so I started another small batch of sweet pickles. There are never too many of those and I really don’t need more dills. It’s so cute when my autistic son comes over, as he did this past week. Every time, he shyly asks for a jar of those sweet pickles. I’m happy to share.

Because I have such a bumper crop of tomatoes, I am purposely canning more than I need. We eat a LOT of tomato products, so that’s been a big job. I learned to do this the hard way years ago when I lost my entire crop, except 7 quarts, to a blight of some kind. I was again reminded that crops are not always readily available when you want them, when the peach crop was very, very small this year. I only canned a few jars, but thankfully have many left over because last year’s crop was so huge.

I also canned quite a few items for others, especially my niece, who is getting married in a couple of weeks. Between her mother and myself, she will start off with a good supply in her canning cupboard. I enjoy canning, so when she asked for that for her wedding gift, I was delighted to agree. Rob already took her the canned goods, and they are put away at her new apartment, ready and waiting for the newlyweds to enjoy.

Rob is working almost every day on items for my niece’s wedding. I’m going to do another post on those, this one is getting too long.

We did a few more activities this past week, although the main focus was food preservation. We stacked firewood that was given to us. The pile is getting huge, and we fell blessed.

I picked many veggies and used them in meals. We’ve also been utilizing the jars that didn’t seal, which you always get a few of when you can as many jars as I do. We ate soup that did not seal, another batch of soup I made from extra veggies, tuna noodle casserole, hamburgers, spaghetti, salads, chicken gravy over mashed potatoes, and a Costco chicken. It’s always a bit of a struggle to cook when I’ve been canning for hours, so the chicken really helped out and you can’t beat the $5 price tag. I’m pretty sure I only have a pint of tomatoes in the fridge that needs to be dealt with from the items that did not seal. I’ve had tremendous success in getting them to seal this year, and have only had a very few that didn’t in the hundreds of jars I’ve canned.

I was able to fill the yard debris bin this week for the first time in a while. There is much more yard work to do, but the canning has been a priority, so that felt good to at least get started.

Last, but not least for this week, we were able to collect a few seeds to save for next year. We’ve collected parsley, snap peas, beet seeds, and a few more. I will still buy many seeds, especially of a few hybrid varieties I like to plant, but it’s been fun to learn this skill over the past few years and to see that it really works! We have enjoyed many veggies from our own seeds this year, such as all pole beans–purple and green, most of the cucumbers and some green onions, and a few more, as well.

Garden Update-August 22, 2022

The garden continues to grow like crazy, although some things are running later than usual, due to the wet, late spring. These are both picking cucumbers and slicing cucumbers and they are over-running the onions, basic, trying to climb the dahlias and are climbing the bean poles! I’ve made sweet pickles, and sliced some for meals, but that’s all so far.

Just in the last week or so, the cherry tomatoes are ripening in abundance, instead of one here and one there. The Sungold were first, and the Chocolate Cherry have just started.

The large red, tomatoes are just starting to ripen, with one here and a couple there. I have Beefsteak, Roma Cordova, Fantastic, Carmello and Oregon Star.

The Glacier tomatoes (extra early) are not as early as normal and are just getting going good. They are always on the small side, but this year are even smaller than ever before, some only reaching the size of a large cherry tomato. They sure taste good, though.

I’ve pulled all the spent green and yellow beans. I canned what I needed and now we will use the purple and green pole beans for eating fresh and freezing if there are extras. This dirt area will not be replanted this summer.

You can see the lemon cucumber bushes at the base of the trellis and the huge Tromboncini Zucchini plants on the far side of the trellis. There must be 10 huge squash on there already! I can’t keep up with it:)

There are peppers ripening everywhere. These are Hungarian Wax peppers and are spicy. Just ask Jake. And Malcolm. They each though they’d take a bite. Jake even got me to take one. They have an after burn! Just WOW! I plan to chop them small and freeze for using judiciously.

We’ve used a couple of green peppers that fell off by accident. More are coming along. The Carmen peppers, which are long and red when ripe, are long and green now, so it won’t be long. I’ve picked a few Jalepenos, left the Serranos alone until I make salsa, and used an Ancho or two. I also have Lola, a long, light-green/yellowish sweet pepper, and I have used a few of those already.

I’m becoming hopeful that we will get ripe cantaloupe. I haven’t tried growing it for many years, so didn’t know what to expect.

There are even a few tiny watermelon. These are supposed to be a personal-sized melon that grows under cooler conditions. To even reach “personal” size, this one has a long ways to go, but I’m hopeful!

Most of my snow peas are dead now. I do have one tiny section that gives me 3-4 peas every few days. They don’t like the hot weather we’ve been having. But, there are a few snap peas hanging on and giving me a handful every few days. The next crop of snow peas should bloom any day (you can see them below), and the next planting after that has just broken through the ground, so we will be back in business soon.

Lettuce is somewhat of the same story. This planting is almost big enough to pick some from, and there’s one more place that has semi-good lettuce. Otherwise, I just pulled the rest up today. It’s so bitter. There is a small bit in the fridge, but instead of daily salads, we’ve only had one this week. That’s fine. When we take a little break from a certain vegetable, I find we enjoy it more when we get it again.

There is basil everywhere. Some was planted, some just came up volunteer. That’s good because I want to make pesto to freeze. We love it in vegetable soup. It gives it a special flavor.

The raised bed in the front of the picture has tiny lettuce seedlings that came up nicely. There are only a few spinach, but the snow peas came up well and the Boc Choi is up, also. The kale is growing just fine, despite the heat. I pulled up old plants in the far bed today and will replant with green onions, and possible cilantro or more snow peas.

The new planting of broccoli and cabbage is growing fine. So are the weeds! As you can see, I liberated a few of them today, but there are quite a few more to weed out. Most of the old cabbage has either been used or has burst and needs to be pulled, although there are a couple good ones left. I got a good red one today. It will be good to have another crop.

One of the spring-planted broccoli plants escaped being pulled up with the other ones because it was so much later and looked good for whatever reason. It’s decided to give me more broccoli. I’m glad I left it! I plant the Hybrid Broccoli Blend from Territorial and they do come on at different times, as it is a mix of varieties.

The everbearing strawberries are ripening a few each week, just enough for one person to have a small dish. The blueberries are all but done, so I have just been getting a couple of handfuls every few days. The Marion (black) berries are completely finished, as are the raspberries.

We have so many dahlias. This is the section with smaller blooms. You can also see a volunteer sunflower on the right, and another planting of later pole beans on the left. Rob grew most of this section from seeds he bought off the internet. He started the tubers in pots in the greenhouse for the rest with birthday gifts or paper bags full of tubers that people gave him when they heard he wanted to grow dahlias this year. It kind of became a joke, we were given so many. I cannot tell you how much I’m enjoying them. We’ve picked so many bouquets already.

He has been experimenting with seed-saving the past few years, and all the pole beans, both purple and green, are from his saved seeds this year. Many cucumbers are, too, but not all. He’s got lettuce, dill, carrots and even a couple of beets that are setting seeds for him to save this year, and will save seeds again from whatever he can that is not a hybrid variety.

Dahlias are along the shop, across the back of the garden, in the front of the house in the flowerbed, and in pots.

We feel very blessed to have such a prolific garden. I enjoy working in it, and am reaping the benefits of all this produce and exercise. I have to accept that I simply cannot pull ALL the weeds, so I try to get some each day. On the days I am harvesting and processing food, though, it’s a challenge to find time to weed as well.

I am happy to report that my neighbor is still my friend, despite all the zucchini I’ve handed over the fence:). That reminds me….maybe she could use more tomorrow…….It’s worth a try:)

Thriving In My Thrifty Week-Aug.22, 2022

My sister has a peach orchard. Their crop was terrible this year. They did not have enough to open the orchard for u-pick at all. Walking through the orchard, except for the one section, the other trees are completely bare. I feel so bad for them. There were enough of one kind to offer to family and friends, and we picked some on Saturday.

I froze some. I ended up with 3 trays, which is about 9-10 quart baggies full.

I dried some. I did not can any. Thankfully, there are still 50 quarts left over, since last year was such a good peach year and I did extra. That will be enough. This is one reason I always try to preserve extra of everything when I can get it.

I had a jam-making day. I did one batch of peach jam from the fresh peaches. I pulled frozen peaches and frozen raspberries and made a double batch of peach/raspberry. We did not freeze any raspberries this year, our crop was so poor we easily ate them all, and I was glad I had extra peaches and berries from last year. While I was at it, I pulled the California strawberries I had purchased one carton at a time on super, super sales and froze and made a batch and a half of strawberry jam while I was at it.

There is a fruit stand where our family buys pears and apples if we need them. Rob will call again tomorrow and see how those things are ripening up, but the owner indicated to him a few weeks ago that those things would be readily available–no shortage was expected.

50 quarts gives one jar per week, most weeks. I expect there may be some weeks where people eat more pears and applesauce then they have in the past, so I will do a little more of those 2 items, especially since there are only 13 jars of pears left on the shelf! After years of no one eating many pears, they have suddenly become the favorite. Who knew? That’s how it goes around here. It keeps me on my toes.

Although some crops aren’t doing well this year, the zucchini is taking over! This is a tromboncini zucchini. There are so, so many, along with the yellow and green traditional ones. And, oh yes, the scallopini ones. Hmmmm. What was I thinking when I planted so many?

We are really starting to work on the logistics for the reception for my niece’s wedding. My sister and I have a good plan, we have Rob building a few things, and we were able to tour the venue last Friday. The mother of the bride took us all out to lunch so we could all keep making plans, and we had a really nice time. The dahlias and white zinnias are growing nicely in the garden, and I keep dead-heading the spent blossoms. Hopefully, we can keep them blooming until the wedding, because we plan to use a lot of them at the reception.

Thriving in My Thrifty Week–July 31, 2022

This has been 2 weeks of ups and downs! I guess that’s how life tends to be.

Rob went out with Malcolm to turn on the barbecue and shut the shop door. Instead of the relaxing evening we had planned, or the meat and grill basket of veggies we were going to eat, he accidentally tripped and got jabbed badly on his leg in 2 places by a stick of wood, and we ended up at the urgent care. The huge blessing, especially since we were towing both Jake and Malcolm at the time, is that the second place we drove to was willing and able to see him right away. Within an hour, we were picking up his antibiotics. Amazing! He is healing now, thank goodness, but has a ways to go. Poor Rob!

A real highlight of the week was an event at the church called Family Fun Night. We took Malcolm and there were all kinds of water activities set up. It was blazing hot and all the kids enjoyed themselves so much.

This past week, we have had to contend with temperatures near or above 100 degrees F. every day. It has been a challenge to keep the garden from dying. I’ve been watering almost every day and running an extra setting on the garden during the hottest part of the day, most days. The beans are blooming and will drop their blossoms and not set fruit if they get too hot, so I try to cool them down a bit. I was able to can 7 quarts and 10 pints on the hottest day of all. I have a knack for growing things that ripen during the hottest days of the year, I’ve been told:).

Despite the heat, my latest crop of lettuce is not bitter yet, so I have been picking lots of it early in the mornings. I’ve been sharing it with anyone who wants any because it will bolt and become bitter quickly in this weather. I was able to weed a few times early in the morning and my newly planted lettuce, snow peas, cucumbers, cilantro, spinach, summer squash and cabbage and broccoli transplants are growing well. Zucchini is ripening daily and I’ve grated some for winter, stir-fried it, and given it away. The current batch of snow peas was finished up and there will be a gap until the next planting gets ready. I pulled some exceedingly large and ugly carrots, which I will can when the weather cools a bit. I’m getting just a very few tomatoes, both cherry and large, but there are many green ones coming on. I even got a few small cucumbers.

The heat caused the blueberries to ripen quickly. I used some left over from last year to make a few pints of blueberry pie filling. I picked several times and froze fresh ones for the upcoming year. We’ve eaten a few strawberries, blueberries, a few remaining raspberries and some Marion (black) berries.

The dahlias are in full bloom now. There are so many kinds and colors. Behind the beans, where you can’t see them, are about 30-50 plants of the kind with small blooms. There are more plants with large blooms out in front of our house, including a pale yellow one with a bloom the size of a dinner plate! I have picked bouquet after bouquet already!

Yesterday, we had both babies for 10 hours.

We’ve been keeping busy around here. Through it all, we’ve been able to stay quite frugal, although the heat kills my joy for cooking and I didn’t alway feel like doing that job!

I cooked several times exceedingly early in the morning. One day, at about 4 am, I made gf bread from a mix I had been given and also some flatbread. I made 2 different noodle casseroles to microwave in the evenings. Rob picked up some lunchmeat and we’ve had sandwiches and salads several times. He asked that I NOT make soup this week:).

A very good friend’s family has contacted Covid. Rob left food for them. I sent noodle casserole, scones and cornbread from mixes, and salad. Rob stopped at Costco and got us and them each a cooked chicken. $5 can’t be beat! I made the food I cooked early in the morning. This was an excellent way to use a cornbread mix I had been given, but could not eat, as it contained wheat flour. The ones who can eat wheat around here had some and we shared the rest.

Our heat pump, which runs the air conditioner, broke yesterday (Saturday). (Did I mention we had both babies for 10 hours?). What a day for it to break! Rob called a friend who is in that business, but lives over an hour away from us, to ask if he knew of anyone reputable in our area, and he came and fixed it! He “happened” to have another call in our area. That, my friends, was God looking out for us, for sure. We had feared we would have to just live with it until Monday. We might have had to move into church all day Sunday:). But our house is cool and comfortable today. What a blessing!

I have been stacking wood. We have been given many loads of wood and it is so nice to see our woodshed and wood stack slowly grow week by week.

The schools near us are handing out free lunches for children again. We were able to find time to get them 3 times, and they contained apples. Jake has been in an apple-eating mood and has been enjoying them very much. I don’t have an apple left in the house, including the ones we bought. He has cleaned me out! I’m going to send Rob over there to get them those lunches again tomorrow if he has time. Let’s hope for more apples! I just didn’t have time or energy in the heat to shop this past Friday and we are happily making out with what we have on hand and garden produce. Except Jake, who wants more apples:). I will just make a list of what I run out of and buy extra next week, if needed.

It is supposed to cool slightly this week. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to canning more beans tomorrow and having more opportunity to get outside with the cooler temperatures.

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–Gardening, Gardening, Gardening!–July 18, 2022

We started last week off with 90 degree temperatures, but it quickly cooled off. I seized the opportunity to do some extra yard and garden work.

I picked all the remaining peas over a 2-day period. My mom came over and helped shell out the first batch. The second batch felt like it took all day, but it really didn’t. We ate some and froze some.

After dealing with the last of the peas, I pulled all the vines up and put them in the compost heap. Compost was spread on the area from a finished bin and tilled in. The small cabbage and broccoli plants Rob grew were planted in that spot. More lettuce (Buttercrunch, a mixture, and Drunken Frizzy-Headed Woman) was planted in several places, along with spinach and snow peas. At this point, despite the few hot days we’ve had, we have had enough lettuce to eat and give away all anyone wants.

Although good help is hard to find, I found some. He will work for berries and peas.

And rides in the wheelbarrow!

Despite all my help (of course I mean “since I had so much help”), I was able to take out all of the broccoli that was finished, leaving 2 plants that looked like they had some shoots still coming. I cut and used several cabbages or gave them away, and lots of lettuce was harvested. I cleaned out patches of lettuce, as some was starting to bolt. It was still good, though, so I gave some away and ate some.

Both the yellow and green zucchini are ready to start harvesting and we’ve had a few small ones with many more to come.

Some onions are sizing up enough to use. I just used the last one from last summer’s garden so will pick a few of the new ones, use them, then pick some more, as they will only gain in size until it’s time to harvest them for winter.

I picked and froze the Marion blackberries. I got more than I thought I would. I picked and we ate the raspberries. It is a very small crop this year, so we are just eating them fresh. I have leftover frozen ones from last year, thank goodness.

I pulled weeds in the garden and the flowerbeds. There are enough left to keep me busy another day. And another. And another.

Rob’s dahlias are starting to bloom. Whenever I get stressed, I just go take a little walk down the rows and it calms me right down. They are so lovely. They seem to be every shape and size and color you can imagine. I’ll be taking more pictures, as you can imagine.

I also have a large cleaning/rearranging project going on. My sister and aunt came and helped me one day. I’ve gone through and sorted or filled so many bins, boxes, etc. Our garbage can is stuffed for the second week in a row. I’ve carried many, many bins upstairs into the shop attic. I have a growing pile up there that will be for a yard sale in the future. I have many items packed away that I don’t use often. My house is getting less cluttered all the time.

We have a house with 1,100 square feet. 3 small bedrooms and one bathroom, a modest living area, a dining room so small the table barely fits, an adequate kitchen and tiny laundry room. We use the garage for extra living space, but mostly put junk out there, and some of my food storage. We have many, many people and babies that go through this space, and a dog.

One adult daughter will be staying here for a short time in-between rentals. It was time to clear the clutter and move some things around. Although there is always work to be done and things to sort, this one part of the project is done. She has a place to stay, I have the things I want accessible to me, and the rest is stored. I’ll bet when I put it all back before long, I’ll get rid of more. In the process, several areas got deep cleaned and one room is almost entirely empty. It is so clean right now. I love it!! (Except for all the toys spread across the living room floor……always more to be done!)

Through all these projects and gardening, we did our best to stay frugal. We took our nephew and grandson to the park and on walks.

I made several batches of popsicles and also fed them ice cream purchased on sale because the weather turned hot again.

The little pool on the deck continues to be a blessing during these hot days.

Vegetable Garden Update-June 11, 2022

We did quite a bit of work in the garden this past week. Despite the seemingly constant rain, we are finding some times when it is dry enough to work in there without ruining it by compressing it too badly. I weeded several times.

The blackberries and raspberries almost died during our record-breaking hot summer last year. There are not very many fruit-bearing vines this summer as a result. However, the bushes are sending out numerous new vines that will fruit next year. I have paid special attention to those berries this spring. I have weeded beneath them, added compost and fertilized them.

You may notice baby corn next to the fence. We found some old (like 2018) seeds in the bottom of our seed box. Rob planted them in the greenhouse, just to see what will happen. It was amazing how many sprouted. This is just part of them. I normally plant corn in blocks, so they can be pollinated well. I have no room to do that, so I planted 2 rows next to the garden fence, and will see what happens.

On the right you can see red, white and yellow onion plants, English peas, lettuce, more onions, cabbage and broccoli. On the left, the tomato plants that are starting to look better and better. They started out pretty sad, as we couldn’t get them in the ground due to rain.

I decided to try the potato box again. Rob made it a couple of years ago and potatoes didn’t grow well in it. I think it was a location problem, so I got sprouts from the compost heap that grew from potato peelings and am trying again. The idea is to add dirt and more surrounding boards as the bushes grow so they grow more potatoes.

Peppers are scattered throughout the garden. They are in groups, by variety. They would love some warmer weather, but are struggling along.

I didn’t grow very many bush green and yellow beans this year, as I have quite a few jars left. You can see that they came up well and I will can this section. It takes about 8 weeks to get a crop, and they produce in a concentrated harvest.

I do have some green Blue Lake pole beans, and some Purple Podded pole beans in other places for fresh eating and freezing. They take longer to grow, but will produce until frost.

There are 2 raised beds by my deck. This kale and cilantro overwintered and are about ready to pull out. The snow peas have just started to make peas, so will be done before long. I have tiny lettuce, cilantro, a few flowers, and some basil planted to take their places. I added a bucket of compost wherever I removed plants and put in new seeds or seedlings to keep the nutrition of the soil up. The other raised bed by the deck is full of English peas that are making pods, but not at all ready to pick and shell. It will be a few more weeks.

I have a long, double-length raised bed on the side of the house. It gets warm there. I planted some BlackTail watermelon. It’s an experiment. They are supposed to grow with nighttime temperatures in the 40’s…we shall see. As you can see, I have some strawberries in there. They aren’t doing super well, but were only put in there last fall. I have more runners to add this year from the plants that are in my flowerbed out front. Next year may be their year to shine. You can see more snow peas, as I succession plant those and have new batches going all over the place. In the back are sugar snap peas to grow up the fence. The part you can’t see has some left-over peppers–a mixture of kinds, and some overbearing strawberries that are going to be removed. They are so sour. I’m not loving them.

Some work has been done on the compost heaps in this area. They are both ready to empty when I get some time. The worm box on the left has been renewed with red worms, and fresh compost, and scraps for them to feed on. The worms that were in there before were released (sounds good, doesn’t it–actually a lot of them escaped–oops!). Our garden is becoming a fertile area where you can find those red worms when you dig around. When we first moved here, we found very few worms of any kind. We constantly take gardeners’ coffee grounds from the Starbucks at Safeway when we shop. The worms seem to like some of those, as well as the scraps.

We have eaten artichokes a time or two, and more are on the way.

Cucumbers, dill and basil are starting to grow. (And more snow peas, of course!)

The cabbage and broccoli are doing fine in this cool, wet weather, as is the lettuce. (And the new batch of snow peas). We are getting so much lettuce we are eating salads almost every day. I have seeds, small plants, red, green, multicolored, romaine and head lettuce here and there, in all stages of maturity. I planted the latest batch on Friday. I’ve now harvested all the spinach and boc choi I planted, and filled those spots with other things.

I’m happy with the way things are growing, despite the struggles we have had with the rain. The things that love cool weather are super happy, and I haven’t had to water very often, which has been nice.