Friday, 25 June 2010

Garden Update

Well, it has been a little while, since I last posted. But here I am again. Sitting down, eating a fresh blackberry muffin just minutes from the pan. You might be wondering where I got the blackberries, and I would respond and tell you. Up past the fence on our property along the bank of the highway we have wild blackberries. The canes are by the hundreds, and so are the berries! I think we have been picking for the last week or two. We either go in the early morning or evening, to beastly hot to do in the day time. I think I have picked a total of 1.5 gallons (translate it into cups). The others in my family have picked probably about equal to it.

So, we have gotten a good number of berries, and all for free! It has been great, I only wish we had known about this sooner. But, we didn't have a garden down by the fence to draw us near. Also, my cousin and I did a lot of clearing out near the blackberries, we cut down a lot of tall trees (I'm surprised no police man was driving by and stopped us! yipes! :). It probably helped produce this years berries even better, though I would have welcomed the shade!

Two days ago I got together 10 cups of blackberries. I was going to make blackberry jelly. Why? Because I have never made jelly, and I thought it would be fun, mostly. So, I cooked them up, mashed them, and than put it all in cheese cloth I have and let it drip. I let it drip from sometime in the afternoon, to the next morning, yesterday morning. I than poured the juice into a pot and boiled it. I boiled it until the temp. was 8-10ºF higher than the boiling temp. of water. So, at that point (it took a lot of boiling for 3 cups of juice!) I took it off the stove and ladled it into one pint jar, and than the rest into another pint jar, about 3/4 a cup. I put a canning lid on the full pint and put that away. The other I just left uncovered into the fridge. Mean while, with the pulp from the blackberries I put into another pot, added some dried grapefruit peel, a little lemon juice, and some sugar, and some juice we had. Cooked that up, when it was real hot I spooned it into our apple sauce 'maker'. I put it through that and that took out most of the seeds, or else made them small enough that you cannot taste them as well. So, I was able to blackberry jam and jelly out of it! I thought it was sweet! And because I used enough sour blackberries I didn't need pectin. Now, the jelly in the canning jar actually looks more syrupy than the jelly in the fridge, so we will see if that is syrup or jelly. But the stuff in the fridge really set up just like jelly! Just blackberries and sugar!

Anyway. Garden.

My zucchini are doing great. The first ones seem to be peaking in production, so I am glad that I have six more close behind them bearing fruit. I also have round zucchini I got from a friend, and that should be starting to flower in a couple weeks. So, hopefully I will be set with zucchini for the season. My beans are doing well. I pick enough for a meal every day or two. Though, my production is probably at about peak from the ones that are bearing beans. But I have pole beans that are flowering now. I went to Lowes yesterday and picked up two packets of green beans, radishes, and cucumbers. I think in a week or two my cucumbers will be peaking, so I want more cucumbers. So, I planted another plot of green beans. Mostly one whole packet, about 90 beans. And probably in a week or two I will plant the other packet. They say 60 days till harvest, but I am finding that hard to believe, 60? I mean, I guess they are pole beans.

I planted more cucumbers, not using up even a fourth of them. I hope to keep planting every week or two for the next couple.

Next year I plan to start my beans earlier, and I know which ones I want to do. My shelling beans are about ready to pick.

I have 3 acorn squash on one vine! I have been able to monitor more of the vines we planted with all the blackberry picking. I would say about half made it, half or less. Mostly lack of water is the reason why they didn't make it. Next year I want to do the same, except maybe add tomatoes to it. So that I will have tomatoes and squash and such up by the blackberries.

Tomatoes, none ripe yet, though I probably have over 30 green ones! Thanks to my cousin and a friend at church! I have never really intentionally planted tomatoes. They either came up from the compost, or I picked up a plant at Burger King. I get one almost every year! :) Right by the dumpster, a tomatoe seed sprouted! :)

Corn. The biggest stuff is 2-3 feet high. I have three plots of it, and the stuff that is in full sun is the smallest, partly because it was planted last, partly it needs watering and mulching more than I have given it.

I harvested most of my leaf lettuce last night for supper. I am surprised it has lasted this long. Though, with it being small, and mostly in the shade, thanks to the zucchini, I think that helped a lot.

My parsnips and onions are HUGE! Both are getting near 24 inches tall! My carrots are doing well also. Most of my brassica is bolting. :( All except the cabbage I think. So, I need to compost all that. Next year if I could get most of it out about a month earlier, even 3 weeks, I think it would be enough. Though, we had a pretty warm spring early on, even though we had a severe winter. We had a harsh winter that was fairly short, and a hot spring.

I am selling cucumbers, 10lbs of zucchini, and beans to a friend today! So, that is cool.

Well, I guess that is about all. I could go one, but I think I need to eat breakfast with my siblings and get the day started! :)

English Vintner

Monday, 21 June 2010


I harvested 4 cucumbers early this morning. I then cleared away the weeds (I have my cucs growing on the property fence behind my greenhouse) and hoed it, keeping it cleared of weeds.

Maybe it is because I don't have to do much hoeing that I enjoy it so much. I really enjoy hoeing around plants and such. But, the method I use doesn't really offer me a whole lot of space to hoe because I plant my plants close enough together that all the weeding is done by hand because a hoe won't fit inbetween the plants.

Later this afternoon, around 3pm I went back out. I planted the rest of my corn that I had. I am planning on doing the three sisters, except it will be two sisters cause I don't have beans to plant with the corn. So, it will be corn in mounds and squash growing around. I planted most of the corn in mounds in one terrace, and than I did one row of it on the next terrace up. Mostly because it will provide some shade, and look nice. I think I have enough other corn to keep us going. :) If I get half of what I plant it will be plenty. I think I have planted 500 corn stalks. About 200-250 were planted in a 2x20ft row behind the strawberries. And than I planted some where the lettuce was. And than I planted a small patch in one of the terraces we made, and than another spot. So, I have it in four different places. I think the first ones will be ready to eat mid August, and than I planted the other ones a week later, 2 weeks later, and than 4-5 weeks later. So, we will be getting corn late into the year.

I planted some summer lettuce when I planted some of the corn, and that is coming up. I still have some leaf lettuce left, it seems to be doing alright. It is on the other side of the zucchini, so it gets a fair amount of shade.

I watered the corn I planted. I than ate two black raspberries, it was my reward for gardening. It was the first time I had ever had a black raspberry, I like them. :)

I mounded some of the potatoes I planted. I have them planted in a square and sectioned off into four sections. Two of the sections have quite a few potatoes, the other two are not doing so well. I wonder if a lot of them rotted in the ground? Anyway, I mounded it with compost and leaves. I hope to get to the other section soon as well.

I did a lot of weeding, mostly in the potato plot and around paths.

Well, I can't remember what else I did, though, I did cut some oregano. Maybe we will go blackberry picking this evening!

Till next time!

English Vintner

Thursday, 17 June 2010


I went out to the garden, to check on all the vines we planted up past the fence on our property. A lot of the vines were doing well. A saw a few good watermelon vines, they probably need help with weeds though. I got distracted and picked about 1 1/2 cups of blackberries, growing wild. I left hundreds more, and hope to maybe go out with siblings tomorrow morning.

I probably need to harvest a couple more cucumbers. I didn't get down to the garden until it was too late in the morning, and all the zucchini flowers were closed. They open early in the morning, and close in the heat. I would guess 6 hours maybe they are open?

I have two more raspberries that will be ripe in two days. And than probably a few dozen red ones later, and than a dozen black raspberries. For some reason the yellow raspberry canes I got, they bore fruit, but than the flowers/fruit shriveled up. So, probably it would have born fruit, but the trasnplanting disturbed the roots and so it couldn't keep up with the fruit. My guess anyway.

I should harvest a few zucchinis tomorrow. Beans soon too. I need to freeze the ones I have I guess, if we are not going to use them soon. I have figured out what kind of beans I want to save for next year. I grew mainly 3 different kinds. I grew bush bean that were suppose to be eaten like green beans I think, but they are big and fat and kinda weird for eating like green beans. But, I grew two kinds of green beans and I really like those better. So I will save some of the seed for next year. I have planted all my bean seeds for the year. Some of the ones I plant should be flowering in a few weeks, hopefully tiding me over to August or later.

I still need to put in an order for seeds, but some changes have gone on that will make me change up what I am buying.

Anyway, time to go!

English Vintner

Monday, 14 June 2010


I harvested my first cucumber today! I have two more that are getting close, and a whole bunch of little ones. I hope to get a good crop of them this year! I hoed around them, and than mulched them with compost.

My onions are doing great, tall and thick stems! My parsnips are doing well also, very bushy tops! I should have another zucchini crop coming in soon.

I had my first raspberry yesterday, and should be getting a few more soon.

I don't know if i will get any black currants this year. I was looking at the berries and they seem to be drying up, and molding. I don't know if they didn't get pollinated, or what.

Anyway, I should get a harvest next year.

Time to go.

English Vintner

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Quick Garden Update

The garden continues to grow! :) My dad and I were able to fix the greenhouse yesterday. It was 100º+F up inside the roof of the greenhouse, sweat was pouring off both of us. We got it fixed, using ductape, before we had used packing tape, but that just doesn't stick to things like ductape. I am looking at trying to make a 'shed' out of the north west corner of it. Replace the side with wood and maybe shingles, make a roof of some sort to block the sun, and maybe a slightly raised floor. Before I was thinking of a greenhouse I was thinking of building a small shed down in the middle of the garden.

I checked on my cucumbers, they are doing great, I have two small cukes! The onions are doing well, most are 12+inches high. I mulched the onions in the top terrace with compost, over the hay mulch, so I shouldn't have very many weeds at all in the onions. My carrots are doing quite well. My zucchini took a short break, they tend to go through days when they produce a lot of female flowers and than in a week I have tons of zucchini, and than it backs off. But I have 6 more zucchini plants that are now producing flowers, so I should have zucchini for a good 2 more months at least. And than just 2 weeks ago with my younger brother and sister we planted some round zucchini. So, I think as far as zucchini goes we should have plenty. :)

My brassica is doing quite well. Cabbage starting to head up, cauliflower and broccoli heads are getting big! It is exciting! Reminds me, it is about time to start planting brassica for this fall and winter. I harvested the mustard I planted 4 weeks and composted it all. It attracts the most bugs, so it wasn't that great for eating, but it is great for the compost. My rutabaga are doing well, I harvested one yesterday to see how well they were doing, it was about as big as a small childs fist. I don't know if the hot weather coming up is going to do much for them, but I would like to harvest them when they are as big as a mans fist, or bigger, we will see.

The peas all died while I was at the BWS Conference. So, I finally got around today to pulling up all the weeds and the withered vines. I actually found one pea that tasted alright. It makes sense that the gardener is the one who gets to eat the last one. :)

I got up at 7:30am went down to the garden, harvested some beans. I think I am getting an idea for what kind of beans I want to grow next year. I picked a few purple bush beans two days ago, but I am letting the rest all go to seed for next year. I started out with 9 seeds two years ago, this year 18 plants. Hopefully I can get about 30-40 seeds this year. And get a bigger crop for next year for eating. Its kinda fun to be saving the seed from year to year. The beans I am growing for shelling are getting quite big!

My tomatoes are doing well. I have a few that are defficient in something. I think probably magnesium, which I can amend by adding epsom salts around the plants. Either that or calcium is what they are defficient in. But, I should have tomatoes in less than a month and they should go quite late. I am hoping that I can make a lot of sauce with them and freeze them.

My garlic is not doing as well as I would like. It had been doing quite well, but now it isn't doing as well and the weeds are getting to them. I wonder if it was all the rain we had recently. I've heard too much water can be bad for them. That would be a bummer. I hope to do as much garlic this fall.

My potatoes are doing well, definitley need mulching, or earthing up of some sort. I have lettuce still. I hope it doesn't get killed with the hot weather we are getting in the next few days. I am hoping I can harvest most of it for Tuesday when we have a big party for a friend. Mostly leaf lettuce, a little bit of summer head lettuce that is small.

I am mulching with my compost that is mostly finished. It resembles manure with some mostly composted leaves. I figure it is either going to turn into compost in the pile and than I add it to the garden, or when it is mostly composted I add it and it decomposes the rest on the garden and acts as a mulch.

My celery is doing pretty well. Probably about time to transplant. It's about 6" high. I have probably 12-20 'hearts/heads' of celery. Not as much as I would have wanted, but a pretty good amount.

My hop plant is 10' tall. And growing inches every day. Over when I was gone it grew nearly 3ft tall. It is amazing! I definitly need to get something taller, or work something out with the string attachment. I have a few ideas on it.

My basil is growing well. I have some that is 8" tall. After looking at my cousins garden I realize how much better his soil is than mine, as far as nutrients. But, I am working on that, after all, this is my first year. So, hopefully by next year it will be starting to get there. I wish I had a pickup truck to haul manure in.

I am considering starting over with my strawberries. This is the third time they have gotten eaten, and the bed is quite over grown. So, I am thinking about this fall putting in strawberries in another bed, and building a chicken wire cover for the bed. And turning the strawberry bed into two deep beds. I could always use the space. :)

I am hopeing to make a batch of mimosa wine soon. Maybe today, if I get some white grape juice. I don't know when the best time to pick the flowers is, though I would assume morning, before too hot.

Well, that was longer than I thought it would be, but it feels good to write about it. So, I will now be signing off, I need to go make some root beer, see if it can be ready for the party on Tuesday. ; )

English Vintner

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Home again

Well, I am home again. My cousin and I went to bed Sunday night at 11:30 and woke up at 5:40. We walked around their property and looked at soil. We wanted to till up some space to plant corn and other stuff, but the ground ended up being too wet.

So, we went back to the house and did some hoeing and some planting. Planted beans and tomatoes. Finally went inside to see what everyone was doing. Than Uncle Tim, Casey, Isaiah, Emma?, Jether, Lynnea, Londa and I got in Uncle Tim's truck and drove down to their mailbox and picked up wood from a tree that had fallen. We collected it and drove back up. Dumped it. Than we picked peaches off of their peach tree, the ones that are rotten. Than we talked about stuff and had fun hanging out, and went back to the house. Where between two trees was strung a metal pipe, and running through it was a rope. So we had fun racing to see who could climb the tree, go across the pole and back the fastest. Finally we went in and ate lunch. After lunch, finally we left. We stopped by the shed and picked up carpenter bee traps and Casey gave me some ginseng (thank you Casey!) plants.

We got on the road and headed over to Uncle Dan's. We got to his house a little before 4pm. We hung out for a while and around 5pm we headed down to their camp site by the creek out back. We got a fire started and talked until all the people were down and the food was down at the camp site.

We had fun, the food was hot dogs, corn bread salad, and smores. Everything was high fructose corn syrup free! I was surprized they were able to get stuff without it in it.

We left their house at 8:38pm. Isaiah drove and talked, and I tried to stay awake. Around 11pm Papa and I switched places and I was in the front seat. I think Isaiah was probably the only one who didn't fall asleep at one time. I kept my self awake by first, taking a drink of ice water and spewing it down my chest! :) Second, by slaping my face. Third, by eating an apple. But, by about 1:13am I couldn't last any longer (I had been up since 5:40am) and went to sleep for about 22 minutes. And than I was half asleep and half awake till we got home.

WHen I got home I harvested a zucchini that was growing right outside the house.

I got up this morning at 9:27am and went down to the garden. Everything was SO big! Including the weeds! Good thing I mulched before I left! :) I harvest 3 more zucchini, bigger than they should have been.

I found a deer came last night or the night before and ate some bitter lettuce, a few tops of beans, and trampled all over my beds. :) I wasn't too sad, it didn't do much. My greenhouse is in very bad shape right now. I am hoping that Thursday maybe I can get it fixed. Basically I am having trouble keeping three pieces of plastic on my roof. I am going to try ducktape this time, in the past I used packing tape.

So, that is where I am. At home again. But, this afternoon we leave to go camping. We will stay until Thursday morning I think the plan is. So, I need to go roast some coffee and help pack!

English Vintner

Thursday, 3 June 2010

One more full day left (and a few sessions this evening). Last year when I finished the conference I was convinced I wanted to come back. When it was time to come I didn't really feel like I wanted to come. But, now I remember what I felt last year, you have such a good time.

On the way up I talked with our Intern who was taking the van of us up to the collage about the dangers of aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, and GMO seeds. I didn't remember but he works or worked and Earth Fair, and so he knows all about that kind of stuff, so it was fun to have someone who understands it, and talk to them about it. Once you say no to aspartame and high fructose corn syrup that basically means you can't have any gum or candy. I do enjoy gum once in a while (use to anyway) but I never really have bought candy or gum. I tend to save on those things. When it comes to food or something of consumption I usually try to stay as low budget as possible. But now that I am not consuming aspartame that means no gum, unless its made with xylitol.

Frankly, I enjoy xylitol and wish that it was as cheap as sugar. In a lot of Europe and Finland especially it is used in things. It was first produced in Finland after World War I or II, whichever one that they had a shortage of sugar. It was derived from birch trees. Xylitol is present in a lot of fruits, and some vegetables. I also like stevia. I like to put it in baking a lot because most of the rest of my family doesn't like the taste, maybe Elijah and I like the taste, but the rest of the family doesn't really care for it. So I will cut back on sugar and use some stevia. I would like to look into Lo Han, a fruit in Southern China. It seems to be something like stevia.

Mean while, it would still be hard to get rid of sugar entirely in baking, because sugar plays a much bigger part in foods than sweetener. It serves to help it cook, brown and other things. That is why something with a low amount of sugar will not brown very well because the browning is the caramelizing of the sugar in the baked product. So, consume sugar in moderation, as with most things. :)

The other thing I am being introduced to is shortening. I don't think we are going to buy the shortening from the store any more. I think if we do buy shortening it will be palm oil shortening, which I believe is all natural, not hydrogenized (or however you spell it). It is often said by people that the food budget should not be the place to cut spending. That is why I am trying to grow as many vegetables a possible, to cut down on our food budget and still eat healthy. It is still fairly expensive to buy organic for a family of 10. So, that is why having a garden will cut the costs a lot. I will say though, with the large movement of organic the prices do seem to be coming down.

I am looking forward to seeing my cousin, and than going camping with most of the family (Josiah excepted (to use Shakespear english)), and to be back at home. The food here is alright, better than a lot of campuses, but home cooking is always better. Also, I am sure the garden needs me. I can't wait to see how big everything is getting. Besides seeing my little brothers and sisters again. I am looking forward to spending some time with my youngest brother Mattiniah, just getting down on his level and playing with him and talking to him about what he is doing. I just enjoy getting down to his level and seeing the world through his eyes.

Anyway, the audition went well. The audition was for the talent show on Friday night. I think they want to see how long your piece is, and make sure it is appropriate. I am going to be playing Tell Me, Fair Ladies from the Marriage of Figaro.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Going Well

Well, I am enjoying my self here at the conference. And I am looking forward to seeing my cousin and my family this weekend! I am a little disappointed that first Joel Belz had to leave and now Gary DeMar. It means they won't be doing any more lectures and they won't be answering questions. I think both of them are probably some of the students favorite speakers. One of the main reasons being that they didn't have notes. So, they were not tied down and having to stand behind the podium. Instead they could walk across the stage and interact better with the students. This is one thing that almost all the speakers did well last year. Jeff Roach spoke last year and had a power point, but what made him so popular was that he interacted A LOT with the students. He didn't have notes, and walked across the stage and asked a lot of questions from the students. The third best speaker is probably Pastor Robbins. Speaking on the fruit of the Spirit. Although he stays behind the podium he has a way to capture the students in a way some of the other speakers find harder to do.

All said I am enjoying the lectures. I am looking forward to the talent show (I will be playing my flute) on Friday night and the skit that some of the students do every year of Q&A of the speakers.

Anyway, cheerrio!

English Vintner