I’m Baaaaaack.

 My camera was on the blink.   Actually, it turned out to be operator error, and the sad part is, I’m still not sure what I did wrong.   It all started at my son’s graduation.  I couldn’t seem to get it to work in the low light.  But did get a few pics.  I know this isn’t about gardening, but so far my kids are about the best thing I’ve ever grown.  The graduate and his sister.

The garden is looking pretty sad right now, so it might be a good thing the camera has been on the blink.    It may have something to do with the fact that we have had a winter storm, complete with snow and temperatures around 29 degrees.  We had this same weather last year and I’m not complaining.  At least, not about the snow.  The snow covers all the dead stuff and it looks lovely.

I have covered my lettuce mix, arugula and watercress with frost covers.  That is working really well.  They are in pots, so it is easy to cover and easy to harvest.  I had a salad with fresh lettuce, arugula and watercress this week and it was wonderful!

There is still some green in the garden.  Garlic is growing well.

I also wanted to show you my carrots I harvested.  This picture was taken on Christmas eve day.  I cleaned them up and took them as crudite for our holiday snacking.  They were soooo sweet!  They are called Romeo and are small and round.

I am especially proud of these, because I have never been able to grow carrots.  These seeds came from my friend Patty.  Thanks Patty!

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Fall Garden update

The Fall garden I planted is now up and growing. Slowly.  Our weather has been fairly mild with a few really cold days thrown in.  We’ve even had a couple of  frosts and the weatherman is speaking of  snow flurries tomorrow.  My feelings about that are to ignore him totally, because I don’t want to get my hopes up.

You may remember the empty pots of dirt I showed you.  They really weren’t empty. See.

This is arugula.

A lettuce mixture.


Another lettuce mixture.

My romeo carrots have grown quite a bit.

I am so excited, because for the first time I have …

Carrots!!  I love these baby carrots, aren’t they cute?

I have been covering the pots with frost cloth whenever I hear the weather may dip below freezing.  So far, it is working.

I also planted swiss chard, beets and radishes.  They have sprouted but aren’t growing very much.  I’m not covering them with the frost cloth.  I am afraid they are on their own.

My garlic has sprouted also.

My poor little Porter cherry tomatoes are hanging in there.

So I have had a few more tomatoes.  But don’t get too excited.  only a few

I am amazed they are still alive, much less producing.  Porter tomatoes were originally introduced to grow in the heat of Texas.   I haven’t been covering them with the frost cloth either, so they really are hardy.

Now if my lettuce would hurry up before my tomatoes are all gone, I might have a salad.

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Oops, I Did it Again.

It looks like I won’t be writing that book on jam/jelly making anytime soon.  I’m still not sure WHAT I am doing wrong.  I used the thermometer again, but also the freezer test on the plate.  I cooked and cooked the heck out of this jam,  but it never “set up”.

The consistency is not as syrupy (is that a word?) as the previous peach jelly but not quite jelly or jam.  I suppose I should have kept cooking it.  Any ideas? Anyone?

Here is the process and results.

BUT.  I have to say this is THE most delicious something I have ever tasted.  It has the consistency of a really thick honey.  Still good on hot buttered biscuits or toast.

So what is it?  It is “supposed to be” ground cherry with chamomile jam which I found at  http://straightfromthefarm.net/  She has a wonderful post on this which you can read here AND she knows how to make jam!  She got the idea from yet another blogger David Matthew which you can read about here .

This has been a labor of love.    It has taken me two years to get enough ground cherry plants to make this jam.  Next year, I should have plenty as these ground cherries will be coming up everywhere.  (Note – they could be considered invasive )

My “jam” is much darker, which I think may be due to the honey I used.  My honey was much darker than straightfromthefarm’s.  At any rate, I will consider this a semi-success as the 6 cups of ground cherries were not wasted and this stuff is really, really good.

I am putting up my jelly making gear for the winter, but come Spring I am going to conquer this jelly/jam making business!!


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Fall garden – I’m ready

I  finally “readied” my beds for planting.   Only a gardener can truly appreciate the meaning of “readied”.  Back breaking, 40 lb. bag lugging, turning the soil, hoeing, and raking.  Whew!

This year I planted garlic in those “readied” beds.  The variety is             

   which I got from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  It was the best place to find garlic in a small quantity (8 oz = 4 large heads), to plant.  Many of the other sites minimum was a lb. of garlic.   Way more than I needed and cost about $25-27.  A little pricey for my uses.   This variety is a softneck which is the best variety for the South.

I didn’t plant garlic last year, and I sure did miss having it.   I am hoping this crop does well.  It went into this bed.

I also planted a few weeks ago Romeo carrots, in a pot, which certainly have a lot of greenery up top.  Hopefully, carrots below. 

I also planted in pots, some watercress, arugula and a lettuce “salad” mix.

Now wasn’t that exciting looking at pots with dirt in them.

I also planted in another “readied” bed – swiss chard, beets and radishes.  I planted these last year as well, but no luck with the beets and radishes.  Which is pretty sad, as radishes are supposed to be the easiest garden vegetable to grow.  It’s the one children usually start out with.  yeah.

I have decided to be the manure queen this winter.  I am determined to have my beds so soft, you can stick a fork in them.  about two feet down!  I am always adding compost but this winter it is going to be pure doo.

Fall bounty so far has been rather pathetic.  I planted cherry tomatoes late in the summer and have this to show for it.

Yes. one.  there are a few on the vine but I’m not sure they are going to grow anymore. sigh.

I also harvested A single  bell pepper from each of these two pitiful plants.  Poor things.  It’s like the whole plant had only enough energy for one pepper each.  

  I also picked the rest of the hot peppers. 

But what I did have the most of were ground cherries.  I harvested all the plants and this is what I got. 

 Next year I will have ground cherry plants coming up everywhere.  I have started the jam making process and will show you the results in my next post.

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So Sorry

I am so sorry I haven’t posted in over a month.  I had minor surgery and couldn’t lift or bend over …etc.  Try gardening with THOSE restrictions. bleh!

But this weekend I am itching to get out in my garden.  There are a million (no exaggeration) things to do.

See you soon.

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Doing what I do best.

 Growing weeds. 

I am not talking about your run of the mill dandelion, chickweed, crabgrass, nut grass, Dallas grass, and many more I can’t name.  Although, they have  been in my garden at one time or another (and still are).

No, no, no.  I am speaking of the weeds I actually tried to grow on purpose.

Let me explain.  The first was the butterfly weed which I showed you here and now out of the blue, I have another weed to show you.

Milk weed.

The truth is, when I say “doing what I do best” I really mean planting seed and then forgetting about it.  OR  pulling up the plants not realizing they are a weed I WANT.  But these guys are really hardy and survive despite me.  The plant pictured above (sorry for the blurry photos) is called Common Milkweed and doesn’t require special preparation before planting.

Thank goodness, because both of these plants attract Butterflies!, especially Monarch butterflies.  Butterfly Encounters here has THE best information regarding milkweed.  They have several varieties for sale and even have a great video showing how to prepare the seed for germination. 

If I can grow them, anyone can.

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Can I tell you that I have had a nano ipod for quite some time now (it’s embarassing how long) and am just NOW putting the tunes on it?  It may have to do with the subliminal thought “I bought this to wear while exercising” so if it is ready to go, then I should be exercising.  Naaa, I’m sure that’s not it.

But what I do have (in addition to my new tunes – why did I wait so long?) are pods in the garden.  First, my Moonflower pods.

Which have turned into these.

Aren’t they gorgeous?  They open their blooms at night, hence the name Moonflower, but you had probably figured that out.

And, these pods which are the seed pods for the Moonflower.

and my Butterfly Weed pods. 

Which I hope will make more of these

After being over 100 degrees for …Idon’t know… like 20 days, NOW it is raining to the point of flooding.   But the real weather fantasmo happened yesterday while I was at work.   A TORNADO came right at our building, we saw the funnel, the debris cloud and then it went back up into the wall cloud.  It came back down and hit about a block away moving a semi truck and damaging some buildings.  Very surreal.

Hopefully this weekend will be back to normal weather ( whatever that is) and I will be able to work in the garden.  I think I will be able to gather enough ground cherries to make some jelly!!  Can’t Wait!


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Texas Wine Country

This past weekend I went to the Hill Country for a Wine Stomp.  We had been to this particular winery/vineyard for a wine tasting last year, and decided we HAD to come back this year for the Stomp.

The winery is called Dry Comal Creek Vineyards and Winery.  It is located in New Braunfels, TX. (between Austin and San Antonio).  You can read more about them at www.drycomalcreek.com .  My daughter was sweet enough to water my plants for me while I was gone.  Good thing, because our temperatures have been over 100 for EIGHTEEN DAYS.  You see why we needed wine.

Here are some pics from the weekend.  I’m in the orange shirt.

Since I couldn’t bring you all a glass of wine, I will leave you with Dry Comal Creek’s recipe for their wonderful Sangria.  (Pictured in the carafe in a previous picture.)

Franklin’s Cheap Sangria

1- 6 oz. frozen concentrate limeade (mixed with one can of water

1-6 oz. frozen concentrate orange juice (mixed with one can of water

1 liter Hll Country Fair Grapefruit Soda, well chilled (you can substitute with Squirt)

1 bottle Dry Comal Creek Foot Pressed Red Wine  (add another bottle of wine should you desire more wine taste)

Blend limeade and orange juice concentrate with water.  Add Foot Pressed Red wine.  Add chilled prapefruit soda and put in freezer until slushy. Serve slushy.  Garnish with orange and lemon slices.  Makes 10 cups of Sangria. www.drycomalcreek.com

Printable recipe here .


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Suzy Homemaker?

As I have mentioned before, I am a nurse.  But before I became a nurse,  my degree was Home Economics.  I know, what a switch, right?  But, the truth is I LOVE all of the art, science and crafting which is a part of Home Economics and Homemaking.

Sometimes, it’s even harder than it looks.  For example,  the past few weekends I have been trying to master decipher the art and science of canning.

I have had an abundance of lemon cucumbers and peppers.  I HATE to waste food and especially produce from my garden.  But, sadly I have from time to time.  So, I decided THIS year, I would can some of my bounty.

Martha Stewart is right when she says you must have the right tool for the job.  This is especially true in canning.  So I trecked over to my local Walmart and bought a 21 qt. canner with jar lifter like this one, wide mouth funnel, a magnetic wand here (this is maybe the most important tool I purchased) a case of 12 pint size jars with lids and rings, and extra lids and rings because that’s how I am.

I also bought this book

which is wonderful.  It is very informative, has amazing recipes, gives step-by-step instructions and even has a section to help you figure out where you screwed up.  Invaluable.  More on that later.

My first attempt was to make spiced peach preserves.  The peaches I used were not from my garden,  but purchased from a local orchard.

I did everything , I thought, correctly.  But, my preserves didn’t jell.  Evidently, I didn’t cook the fruit/syrup long enough (per Ms. Costenbader).  I used a thermometer, thinking this would be the  most accurate method, but next time I will use the freezer test, also.  As you can see, they didn’t jell.

Sad.  However, they are a delicious spiced peach syrup  which is excellent on pancakes and ice cream!   And isn’t the color gorgeous?

The next attempt was to make bread and butter pickles from a recipe in the book using my lemon cucumbers.

Well.  Evidently, I should have used more of the lemon cucumbers than a regular pickling cucumber because I ended up with way more of the liquid than cukes.

Rats.  Next time, I will use 6-8 quarts of  lemon cucumbers instead of 4 per the recipe. I am also going to cut them in chunks instead of 1/8 inch slices.

 Yet another foray into canning produced these pickled peppers.  Can you identify the problem?

Yep, floaters.  Not too big of a problem, I should have just packed them tighter.  For this recipe, there was no processing needed.  Simply, prepare your jars, cook your vinegar solution and pour over your peppers.  I used David Lebovitz’s recipe here.  I substituted hatch chile peppers and pepperoncini peppers.  They are supposed to cure for a week, so I’ll get back to you on how they taste.  Because, other than being free of botulism, taste is the most important part.  Don’t you think?

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Dog Days of Summer

It is indeed the dog days of summer. Our temperatures have been over 100 for the past five days and are to continue throughout this week.  I am dreaming of cool, crisp days… but,  I spent this past weekend,  pulling up my bug-infested purple hull pea vines and spent tomato plants. I also took out all of the bean vines I had planted.  I got one batch of  haricot vert beans and a few pinto beans early in the summer.  After that, they gave up.  The only thing my butter bean vine produced was leaves.  sigh.   But all is not lost, my ground cherry plants are really starting to rev up,

This is what I have collected so far.  I need a whole lot more for jam. but I still have quite a bit of fruit on the plants so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

My lemon cucumbers are taking over this area of my side yard.

My pumpkin vines are growing with itty bitty pumpkins forming.  How cute is that?

And then there are the peppers…

Would you like a few?

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