Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Top Four Garden Vegetable Picks for 2012!

I really don't like to share garden photos this time of year because the garden itself looks REALLY overgrown and wild...however, this is a sign of lots of vegetable activity and this year was a bumper year for produce.  It was the perfect gardening summer; lots of sun, hot weather and decent rain (supplemented by our rain barrels) made for all around great growing conditions.  I always try new vegetable varieties every year, and this year I found four stellar performers that will definitely be making it back to my garden next year...

These plants were chosen because of taste, ease of growing, and how much it produced.  

My first fave is the Hot Hungarian Wax Pepper (the yellow peppers pictured in the middle.)  It's a garden classic, not a new variety, but that doesn't stop this plant from putting out pepper after pepper!  It's tops in productivity and taste!  It's a medium-hot pepper, the heat is anywhere from 1,000 to 15,000 on the Scoville rating list.  We found them to be hot enough for our eating tastes; they were great in chicken fajitas, quesadillas, chilis, get the idea.  If the heat isn't enough for you, you can certainly bump it up to jalepenos and such, but this is a great beginner hot pepper for anyone.  We froze all the ones we didn't eat.  I may possibly pickle the last of the lot as they are excellent for canning and drying as well.  Any way you dice it, this pepper is a winner.

Next on my list is the Japanese Eggplant.  Now, I've grown eggplants for over a decade.  However, mostly in the the traditional egg shape.  I like the larger eggplant for parmesan and to grill up for an eggplant panini, but to be honest, my other eggplants didn't fare to well in the garden this year.  It could have been the location, but thankfully, these two Japanese plants gave us LOTS of delicious eggplants and in a compact size we could use up faster.  So, for a quick growing, versatile variety, you may want to give this kind a try.  Try these sliced up in a stir fry for something a bit different.  This plant was a favorite.

When it comes to zucchini, I'm a bit picky.  I don't like the type of zucchini that is really watery, I prefer a dryer, meatier variety and this heirloom round zucchini is perfect.  It grows ideally to about a softball size or smaller for the best eating quality, but of course, we would inevitably miss some or not get to the garden and ended up with bowling balls.  However, if you cut out the seeds in the middle and peel the skin, this zucchini was still tops to eat.  Nice firm flesh and mild flavor made it a great squash to have on hand.  I stuffed half a dozen of these and roasted them in the oven...fabulous!  The extras, I grated, drained and froze.  AND I managed to dehydrate many more as well for mid-winter soups and stews.  These are a great zucchini to have on hand and they keep a long time in storage if they've gotten bigger.  I've stored them in the pantry for a month and was able to use them after peeling.  Try this one's a Spanish heirloom variety  and I found the seeds in a local grocery store, but you can find some here.  Oh, one more bonus, these plants keep a nice bush form which makes them a space saver...perfect!

Yes, I'm on a squash kick and if you know winter squash, you'll know these are the basic butternut type.  The big difference with this one though is the fact it's a bush variety, more specifically called, "Burpee Butternut."  I have a very small garden space and bush varieties are of vital importance if I'm going to grow squash.  So, this one was perfect for us.  Relatively small plants put out many large squash with a sweet full flavor.   We got about a dozen from only a few plants.  A nice amount for us and these will be perfect diced up in our winter beef stews, pureed in soup and diced and roasted in the oven.  I love this variety and if you are looking for a space saver, this one will satisfy.  I found these seeds in our Walmart, but you can find them online here.

Well, there you have it, my top four faves!  Hope this is helpful!  If it is, pin this so you can plan for your garden next year.  I know these lovelies will be growing for us in 2013.

What were some of your top garden favorites this year?  Blessings!

Linked to these blog hops; Frugal Days, Sustainable WaysCountry Homemaker Hop , Rural Thursday , Homestead Revival Barn Hop , The Chicken Chick , Living Green Tuesdays , Backyard Farming Connection Hop , Simple Lives Thursday , Small Footprint Fridays

Friday, September 21, 2012

Flower Photos in the Rain...

It's always good to get a different perspective.  We tend to view life from one way of seeing things, and I think we end up missing out on other stuff because of this tunnel vision we have at times.  This hit me one day while it was raining outside.  I realized we have no problems seeing beauty in life around us while every day is sunny, but when the rains come; can we still see the beauty?  This led me outside to my little front patio.  It's just a small little nook, but I have it filled with flowers as a visual retreat for me and others.   But I noticed something while it was raining...

I noticed that everything was pretty darn amazing!  I mean, the rain brought out the colors of the leaves and flowers, and everything looked so lush...

It all looked clean and refreshed.  The pavement color was richer in color too...a nice short-lived makeover without any work on my part.

The leaves of these coleus were all glistening and shiny...just like Christmas in September!  You could really see the richness of the colors and it's beauty.

So real.  So wet.  So beautiful.

Even the rain drops on the plant were beautiful.  

A totally different perspective.  Seeing beauty during the rain; in the middle of it, (I was trying to get pictures before I got soaked!) and realizing that even on dark, rainy days, life is beautiful.  It takes rain to bring out true loveliness.

It's just learning how to see it through a different lens...

Hope you're able to see the beauty on all your rainy days...blessings!

Linked to these blog parties...Life Rearranged ,Thursday Thoughts ,Farmgirl Friday , Lisa Leonard Online , Homestead Revival , The Country Homemaker HopFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways

Sunday, September 16, 2012

How to Make Free Lavender Plants for the Garden...

Lavender; it just isn't an herb garden, (or should I say a garden), without it.  It's gorgeous gray foliage, beautiful purple blue buds and flowers and it's irresistibly delicious scent make it one garden plant that leaves you coming back for more!  

Photo credit

And that's where I come in.  I have this beautiful lavender hidcote plant, (well, it WAS beautiful this past spring!) a smaller variety of lavender that makes it perfect for walkways or borders.  

The problem began when its neighbors, echinacea or purple coneflower, notorious for its abundance of progeny...aka a self-sower,  began to infringe upon the lavender's territory.  I also planted the lavender on the side of the flower bed where it didn't get all the full sun that this Mediterranean plant really loves.  SO, finding I had an open space in one of my flower beds on the south side of my house, I decided that I will transplant this little guy.  But, the empty space I have is pretty big and these plants stay relatively compact, so I really need some more.  But I don't want to buy what to do?  Make some more!  

And that's why you're reading this.  Luckily, it's super easy to make your own lavender plants, or thyme plants, or any woody, low growing plant for that matter.  All you need is a sharp knife, a rock and with any type of gardening, patience.  But I am willing to problem.  This is the best kind of planting because it's so easy. 
 This technique is called "layering" and it's been around for a long time. This really should be done in the spring, but I'm taking my chances with the nice weather we've been having and doing this in late summer.  Hopefully I'll have my little plants and be able to plant them in the spring. I would suggest at least a few good months of frost-free weather before doing this to give the new plants time to root.  Otherwise, you can plan this for your spring garden.

So, first of all, locate a woody low growing branch(s) of the plant.

Take a sharp knife and nick the bark being careful not to cut all the way through the stem...

Now, if you have rooting hormone, then apply that to the cut area of the branch.  I didn't have any so I just went ahead with the next step.  The rooting hormone is nice insurance that the plants will root, but I've made plenty of plants without it.

This step is important, make sure the nicked part is thoroughly covered...

Find a handy large rock and place over the buried branch area.  It's SO important for the branch  to make good contact with the soil. 

I made several of these cuttings and found another rock.  So my plant looks like this with the prospective new plants on the sides.

One more close up.  I made several cuttings and used one large rock to cover them all.  That's it, wal-ah!  Now, isn't that the easiest gardening you've ever done?  I check it periodically to make sure the branch stays buried but the rest is up to time.  I'll check it again late next spring.  I'll know if the new plants made it by pulling on them gently and the branch doesn't move.  Then you know they've formed their own roots.  Then, you can cut the original branch and carefully dig out the plant and locate where you want it!

I've used this method different times, especially with thyme plants.  Sometimes the plants just layer themselves and I will transplant these new little freebies to their new home.  You've gotta love it and any kind of gardening that's easy is a true bonus!

So there ya go, layer your plants away and multiply your garden, make them as gifts for your friends (my plant was from a friend).  Pin this article and you'll have a great technique for the spring all ready to go...blessings!!

Linked to these blog hops....Homestead Barn Hop , Tuesday's Living Green , Take-A-Look Tuesdays , Take it From Me Tuesdays , Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways , Simple Lives Thursday ,The Chicken Chick , Backyard Farming Connection Hop

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Great Geauga County Fair: An A-Fair to Remember

A curious thing happens every time September rolls around...we get this tremendous hankering to go to our favorite fair.  Not sure why it happens.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that we live in a tightly packed lakefront community with nary a chicken around.  The only beasts that inhabit our neighborhood space are the canine variety (in all the largest sizes) and your random three wheelers that roar down the streets at any time of day.  We love where we live, but there is something very compelling about visiting the barnyard animals, crafts, and food of the fair.  This fair has the distinction of being the oldest county fair in Ohio and it's the vintage parts of the fair we enjoy the most.

So, join us for a quick visit around.  I tried to condense as many of the pictures as possible so you get a good idea of what it's like.  If you live locally by this fair, you will really want to make it next's too fun and sweet to miss.

On our way!  First stops are at the fair buildings housing all the art, crafts, baked goods, and produce...

The apples looked amazing..

 I always think I'll enter some of my vegetables like this Delicata winter squash pictured above right, but I never remember in time.  However, there's always next year!

One of my next favorite stops; gardening, arts and crafts.


SERIOUS arts and crafts!

And it's not the fair without all the animals..


 This wascally wabbit won a blue ribbon...had to get a picture of him.

Drawing inspiration from the duck barn, we have the classic "duck face" pose.

We love to support 4-H and milkshakes seem like the perfect opportunity...

The fair has a huge section complete with man made lake to showcase the park system of the northeast area of the state.  They have dog demos showing retrievers in action, fishing for the kids and archery.  Not to mention nature/bird displays as well as a few classes.

Music, from folk to classic band is always around the corner.  This shady spot away from the midway was a great place to relax and take a break from the sweltering heat that day.

Just a glimpse inside a fabulous day but I must leave you with one more memory....

Visit the Great Geauga County Fair and you can own your own too...blessings!!

Linked to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways       Country Garden Showcase
 Lisa Leonard's Hello Monday  Take it From Me: Welcome Wednesdays , Life Rearranged

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Free Kindle Ebook on Home Remedies!

Get this free e-book called, "Homemade Health - Home remedies your grandmother knew - Simple & effective treatments from the pantry (Herbology At Home) 
Found this link on Facebook on a FB page called, "Just Eat Real Food."  It's great to carry around on your Kindle information that is available on the web AND is available for free.  After scanning the book, I found it to have a small section on kitchen herbs and their medicinal uses.  The next section covers the remedies of small ailments from acne to warts, to bee sting to back ache.  It's a great resource to have on hand and I always enjoy reading remedies from a long time ago. 

No matter if you're a novice to home remedies or have been practicing them for years, this is a valuable resource to have on hand...

Click on the link below for your free copy and blessings!

(***Update: At the time of this post, the e-book was free for a limited time.  It's now available for $4.95 if you're still interested.)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Why Making Your Own Chicken Stock is SO Healthy For You...

So many of you already do this and realize the importance of making your own stock.  This seven minute You Tube video talks a little about the science behind why making your own bone broth is so good for your body.  So, if you're already making your own broth, awesome!  If you're not, it may encourage you to think about giving it a try.

In an upcoming post, I will share how to make bone broth via the pressure cooker which makes it MUCH faster and is easier.  

So, if you have seven minutes, give this a quick's a bit campy but the information is good to check out... Blessings!

Linked to these blog hops; Living Green Tuesdays

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Do These Green Cleaners Really Work?

I have been noticing quite a few postings on Pinterest of recipes to make your own "Green" cleaners.  So, I thought I would share what I have experienced from using them personally.  After all, reviews are an excellent way to make a decision about a purchase or a recipe.  I know I always check out reviews...and to be honest, they are pretty legit.  I have yet to be steered wrong from them.  I make sure I read a lot of reviews.  I read the best and I read the worst and make my decision based on how bad is the worst and why it's so bad.  

So with all that being said, let's return to the cleaners.  I found a Pinterest recipe for a Citrus Vinegar Cleaner.  It's pretty basic and super easy, which automatically is a pro for this cleaner.

Get your lemon/orange peels and place them in a jar.  I used quite a few lemons, but oranges are great too.

Grab your vinegar, the white stuff, at pennies an ounce, is perfect for this recipe.

Pour and...

That's it.  Now you just let it steep until the vinegar turns yellow or orange or a mix of the two since I put both lemon and orange peels in together.  It may take a few weeks, but I get one started and keep one going so I don't run out.  Then you strain through a simple strainer and put in a spray bottle to use.  You can dilute this recipe too if you want.  I did on the second batch, and it's up to you how much you dilute it.  I didn't too much as I wanted it to be pretty potent. 

I used this cleaner in the bathroom to disinfect the sink and the toilet area.  It cleaned it as well.  It was hard to tell if it worked as I mainly was using it to kill germs which vinegar does do. Check out some more info here about how vinegar at 5% strength (undiluted) is a great germ killer.  Here's another site that gives you ten ways to use vinegar around your house.

The Results: Vinegar works!  It really does.  I've used it for years as a floor cleaner too.  Be aware that it's acidic and will rust the metal parts in a mop.  But, it works.  It's a great window cleaner and best of all, it has kept the bottom of my toothbrush holder clean from mildew.  That's worth every penny there.  You couldn't use a regular chemical cleaner for that!

The Drawbacks: It has that lovely vinegar aroma, but the smell will go away and at least you know the aroma won't kill you.  It didn't clean the mildew as well as I would have liked in the shower.  You do have to spray it a lot and make sure you start out with a clean surface to begin with.  It's also not as quick to clean as a heavy duty chemical cleaner...but I'm willing to wait.  I also don't know if you really need the citrus.  It may help with degreasing, but for general cleaning, straight vinegar is good enough for me.

Overall, it's worth using for sure and I find I am cleaning more because I don't have issues with the highly toxic odors from the chemical cleaners.  In other words, I'm stocking up on vinegar!  (Oh, and I do use it for laundry too!)  The lemon/orange peels are optional, but their essential oils probably add a little to the cleaner.  I just don't think they are super necessary.

Baking soda is in a class all of it's own and I've only begun to scratch the surface all of its cleaning uses.  Not bad considering you use this vital ingredient in quick breads and cookies.  My one use that I love is simply's great at scouring the tub.  Yep, no more Comet cleaner for me.  It works well and yes, I do have to use some elbow grease but that's the way it goes with certain types of cleaning. 
But this cleanser is a win-win.  You can cook with it, you can clean with've got to love that.  My mother used to use it as an antacid.  Good to know, but I think I would have to be desperate for that one!  She also used it as toothpaste.  I've used it for that too.  It's abrasive but gentle on your teeth.  Here's a great link for 51 uses for baking soda.

So, my final verdict is that these two pantry staples not only stay in my kitchen, but I'm going out to buy more.  Hopefully in the largest sizes I can find!  

So add my review to others you may find.  It's worth a read and maybe will help you decide about using these two wonders as cleaners.  The best thing about vinegar and baking soda is there is NO recipe to try to remember.  Just use them the way they are...perfect.

What are some of your favorite uses for vinegar and/or baking soda?  Blessings!

Linked to these blog parties, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways  
Homestead Barn Hop , Take It From Me Wednesdays