Monday, August 27, 2012

Rain! and the First Day of the School Year

The weekend brought us the first good rainfall we've had since early spring--2 inches! I know we need a lot more than this to make it out of drought, but every bit helps and I'm so excited. Depending on where Isaac makes landfall we could see more rain later this week.

Our water district has lifted the mandatory water rationing and now I have to get serious about the fall garden. We've started some plants inside, but I'm still leery about starting anything outside because I'm still seeing a lot of squash bugs and Mexican beetles. In fact, the beetles are so bad they're getting into the house and my plants inside have damage. I'll have to make a decision soon, or else I will be limited to winter crops.

The house smells good with a roast cooking in the crock-pot. In a little while it will be time to pull off some drippings and do the Yorkshire Pudding. I have no idea what vegetable to serve with it yet, but suppose I'll raid the crisper and use up what needs used up the most.

Today started our first official day of the 2012-2013 school year. Though we school year-round, for the most part, we have to clock our school years somewhere and this counts as day 1. We're doing 1st grade and 4th grade and are using Sonlight again this year since we've enjoyed is so much. All in all, it was a smooth first day despite the schedule tweaks that come along with new books and new material. The kids even had time for a game of Math Dice which is always a hit.

I've spent the last several days organizing my school shelves and planning for our field trip to the Scottish Games next month. We've watched a documentary on our clan history and started an ancestry search into my husband's family tree to figure out what clan he belongs to. We're all excited for the festival, and if finances allow I'll be able to dig out the sewing machine and make kilts for the kids, though I think it will take some talking into for my son to wear one.

I'm anxious about the garden, but I'm curled up in my computer chair with the smell of good food in the air and a satisfying school day behind us. It's been a good day.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Recipe--Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread
makes 2 loaves

Pictured with the optional chocolate chips
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
3 large eggs
1 cup oil
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 tsp vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini
1 bag milk chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a bowl combine flour, salt, soda, powder, cinnamon and sugar. Add to that the oil, vanilla, grated zucchini and chocolate chips (if including).Combine.

Pour batter into 2 oiled loaf pans. Bake for 40 minutes to an hour.

Let cool 20 minutes and remove from the pans.

Enjoy and freeze the second loaf for later on!

This recipe also works well with yellow squash in place of the zucchini.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Goodbye to the Summer Garden...and Come On Fall!

The drought and persistent 100+ degree heat we've had all summer put a real strain on the garden. It's been about 6 weeks since our water district started mandatory water rationing, allowing us to water  only on Tuesdays, Thursday's and Saturdays. When the heat is 105 degrees or more EACH and EVERY day, it really doesn't matter if I water on my 3 allotted days--nothing wants to live. So, long story short: the garden suffered, the garden got bugs and then the garden died. Even the watermelons and the peppers. Ugh.

 I'm so thankful I was able to get a good garlic harvest early this spring and that I took that chance and planted my corn and pumpkins so early. But now it's time to say goodbye to the summer garden. All in all we had a pretty good year, most of it early on, but a good year nonetheless.


White California Garlic
Pickling Cucumbers
Straight Eight Cucumbers
Yellow Squash
Black Beauty Zucchini
Green Spineless Okra
Roma VF Tomatoes
Marconi Peppers
Big Bertha Peppers (though the heat kept them small)
California Wonder Bell Peppers
Ambrosia Cantaloupe
Hale's Best Cantaloupe
Sugar Baby Watermelons (we only got a few but they sure were tasty!)
Golden Bantam Corn
Old Timey Cornfield Pumpkin


Strawberries (dehydrated on the plant and came down with red stele)
Dr. Wyche's Tomato
Fairy Tale Eggplant
Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans (struggled then devoured by grasshoppers and blister beetles)
Kentucky Wonder Bush Beans (just never grew)
Henderson Bush Lima Beans
Black-Eyed Susans 
Ever Bunching Green Onions

Our temperatures started to break last week and our forecast calls for highs in the upper 80s and low 90s all week. Yay! It's sad when I do a happy dance about 90 degrees when my favorite temperature is 60, but it's been such a looooong summer. I'm just ready for it to be over. So I'm looking ahead to the fall garden. 

This morning we took down the dead remains of the three sisters garden (which actually ended up being a two sisters garden this year because my beans didn't make it) and started making plans for what to plant next in that location. It seems to me there's a pattern that's supposed to be followed, like corn one year, legumes next, then potatoes after that? I don't know, I can't remember. I need to go look that up.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

1 Zucchini, 2 Zucchini, 3 Zucchini, 4...

5 Zucchini, 6 Zucchini, 7 Zucchini, more....

Zucchini plants are the gift that keeps on giving...and giving...and giving. When I grew my first garden zucchini was the first plant to flourish and produce, and when it started producing it just wouldn't stop. A novice to gardening, I was beside myself and convinced I was the most amazing green thumb ever! I had this wonderfully dark green, lush looking, and incredibly humongous plant with amazing looking squash sticking out of it. I'd read all about other people's gardening woes, and had prepared myself for a year of failures. The people with these stories were, after all, the experienced country folks I aspire to emulate all the days of my life. Maybe it's not so hard as I thought--my plants look great! Who knew I was so amazing and talented? Oh glory day I can garden!

There was just one eensy weensy little problem. Okay I'll cop to it...there were a few problems.

The first was I didn't have a clue about gardening. I thought I was off to a great start. I had the passing thought my good fortune might just be beginners luck, but I confidently shrugged that off and went about my day. I'm not prideful at all. Never. Not me. Pride comes before the fall. I'm just sayin'. And I don't have any pictures documenting my early demise. Heh.

Another problem was even though I grew the plant and it produced lots of zucchini for me, I didn't have a clue when I should pick them. So I, being so amazing and smart, figured I'd do a trial of the first one and watch for signs it was getting past it's prime so I could determine the best stage to harvest. That didn't work--the damn thing just kept growing and growing, looking as wonderful and magnificent as ever. Anybody who knows anything about gardening could have told me this would happen, but I was new and stupid so I didn't know what to expect. The beast could double it's veggie size in a days time and it didn't show any signs of slowing down. We finally picked it when it was about the size of my arm, and my then 7 year old had the brilliant notion we should pick the rest when they got to be the size of the ones at the grocery store. Smarty pants. Why didn't I think of that?

The um...third problem was that I'd never actually eaten a zucchini before. You can laugh now. It's okay. Really. My husband said they tasted good and they sure looked good, so I went out and bought me some seeds and went right along my merry way. But there was bound to come a time when I had these things on my kitchen counter and had to do something with them, and the baseball bat sized one was intimidating. It's odd how I could be so proud and so scared of my prized vegetable laying on the counter top, but there you have it. Not to be deterred or bested by a damn vegetable, I set about on a recipe hunt. I was going to find a way to create a masterpiece with these things. It would be glorious and tasty and everyone's going to think I'm a kitchen goddess! Well...not exactly. I discovered a truth--I (cough) do not like (cough) zucchini.

For 3 years I've grown zucchini for the sole purpose of harvesting the first few for my husband to eat (he's the only one who'll eat it). I then ignored the plant and allowed it to succumb to squash bugs. Stupid things take up too much space anyway. It's awful, isn't it, that I'd let the thing die off rather than care for it? Does that lose me points in the country-girl sweepstakes? Does it show me to be just a sheep in wolf's clothing--a woman masquerading as a gardener and unfit for the title? Probably. Oh well.

But this year something happened. Financial Ruin. Thankfully it's temporary, but with the start of my husband's new business we've been going through two months of being b.r.o.k.e. NO Money. The first 6 weeks we didn't have ANY income. None. Nada. Our savings carried us through most of it, but there comes a point when it just doesn't carry you far enough. And with our financial demise of late, we found ourselves living off what was left in the pantry and what was growing in my little garden--in the scorching 110 degree heat and the worst drought to hit this part of the country since the dust bowl. With mandatory water rationing upon us, it didn't look good. But I tell you what--those zucchini plants sure were putting out a lot of food.


Back to the recipe search. We do, after all, have to eat.

So far I've learned to make a pretty awesome zucchini bread, a vegetable soup with zucchini and an awesome spaghetti sauce guessed it--ZUCCHINI. They are all quite edible, I assure you. And you know what?

I'm beginning to think I might like zucchini after all. If it's done up just right. (Shhh...don't tell anyone)

I'm still on the lookout for other recipes to try, but for now we've got a few to spread it around.

I'll post some of the recipes soon for anyone who's interested.

Now, if only I could find a way to make okra taste yummy...

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Four years ago I had a glorious future dancing in my head--of lush greenery, perfect rows of brightly colored vegetables and patches of huge, juicy watermelons spilling out onto the lawn. My pantry was stocked full of canned corn, homemade dill pickles and strawberry jam. On my kitchen counter sat a perfect loaf of freshly baked whole wheat bread. My deep freeze was full of home preserved goodness and a half side of beef from the neighbor down the road. Outside there were chickens at my feet, and inside my sewing machine was humming along. My perfect angels were seated around the kitchen table doing their schoolwork in companionable silence and there was the smell of fresh baked cookies on the air. I would spend my evenings on the back porch sipping homemade sweet tea with the feel of the breeze on my face and the smell of green grass permeating everything.

I had

What I didn't have was the knowledge I needed to actually fulfill my dreams, nor the staying power to see it through. I'm a product of suburbia. Lazy by nature, I see the beauty in Easy Mac and disposable diapers. I prefer staying up at night to getting up early in the morning and I do not like bugs or snakes or shoveling anything.

I have a lot to learn and a lot of work to do.

Growing up my days went from the morning rush to get off to the bus stop, to homework--dinner--dishes and bedtime at night. Day in and day out. Our canned veggies came with a Green Giant label, our "family time" marked by sitcoms on T.V., our weekends occupied with my brothers' football games. Don't get me wrong. I don't think back on my childhood as some awful, evil experience. Growing up I was taught responsibility and charity, values and faith. I was given time, love and attention. My interests were encouraged, my grades applauded, my help around the house appreciated. My parents were wonderful to me, and far more gracious than my teen-aged self deserved. To this day they still support me whether they agree with me or not. Over the years they've given of themselves in so many ways and I am and will always be forever grateful.

But I've come to understand that people can't give out what they don't have. At Christmastime my Mom can dress the house to the nines, but she doesn't own a sewing machine. My Dad can give all kinds of wonderful advice on starting up a new business, but he can't tell me how to double-dig a garden bed. The vision and desires my parents have for their life are far different from the desires I have for my own. It's alright. It's allowed. To each his own, right? I wouldn't dream of dragging Mom and Dad off to the old homestead and put a hoe in their hands, just as they wouldn't drag me off to a nice company dinner party and expect me to be able to hold my own with the people I'd find there. It does create a problem though, when a girl goes out on her own and tries to pursue her own very different dreams, for she discovers her growing up years left her wholly unprepared to do...well ANYTHING she wants to do.

So now, if truth be told, I find myself quite lonely on this homestead journey of mine. If I want the knowledge to follow through on all these plans of mine I'd better get my butt in gear and go look things up on the internet. With cussed stubbornness and the internet I can do anything I want to. I can grow vegetables I've never heard of and bake bread in 5 minutes and clean my bathroom with dry towels just like the hotel maids do. I can hack down brambles and spread gravel driveways. I can diagnose fungus and play "guess that bug". I am woman--hear!

Seriously though, I have to there anybody else like me? All alone in this journey, clinging to blogs and gardening forums....hoping and praying the neighbor lady doesn't notice the melons have taken over just about everything and the half sized corn stalks in their crooked little rows. Anybody else have sewing projects that just look wrong for some reason and dense bread on their counter?