Crunchy Mama's Urban Homestead

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Cool down…back to work! Tending to the plants and making notes for next year

It’s back to work this week as surprisingly cooler weather has blessed us here in the Great Lakes region.

Since Sunday, I’ve mostly been tending to the two dozen or so tomato plants that I have growing all over the place (many of which are over 6 feet tall).

  • I’ve been tying up fallen tomato plant branches to keep the fruits off the ground.  This year I am using zip-ties.  They are cheap and easy.  I don’t like that I cannot re-use them (at least not without a lot of fine motor movement to undo them).  Got any hints?
  • I’ve been cutting off the little branches that have only leaves (no fruit).  This will make it easier for me to see the ripening fruit.

I’ve also been making notes in my gardening notebook to help me plan my garden next year.

  • I’ve noted how well certain plants are growing (or if they are not growing well in the place that I planted them).  I’m disappointed and surprised at how many things did not even come up.
  • I’ve also started getting into the habit of making my Sunday to-do list in my gardening notebook while walking around the homestead.  Sunday is our big chores day.  (We have our family, fun, relaxation and church day on Saturday.)  I’ve started doing this because by the time I walk around and make mental notes about what needs to be done I will have forgotten most of them when I walk back into the house. Oy!

I need to start compiling lists of recipes that use some of the plants that are doing well such as my Malabar spinach (mostly I just use it in salads but I need to figure out other recipes too!).

Sliced and cut cukes ready for lacto-fermentation!

Lastly, I was given about 20 lbs of cucumbers last weekend.  I am experimenting with lacto-fermenting them.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I’d like to have some non-canning preservation techniques to use for two reasons: 1. I think that canning is the least healthiest way to preserve most foods and 2. I really don’t like how much energy (and HEAT) canning requires, especially the heat — the very moist heat!  (I have mentioned that I don’t like hot and humid, haven’t I.)

So, what’s going on in your garden?

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I’m hiding

I love enjoying nature and working outdoors most of the year but July and August are like January and February to most other folks around my area.  I’d rather be inside reading a book.  Mid-summer’s heat, humidity and mosquitoes are just the pits!  I almost like January and February’s cold better because at least the bugs aren’t attacking me.  But I’m not complaining really.  It’s just part of the year’s cycle and so I adapt.

My garden is growing strong.  I have tomato plants that are well over 6 feet tall.  I can barely walk down the walk-ways.

The weeds are growing, too.  I’m a horrible weeder.  I do some here and there but I’ve never been consistent or thorough about it.  And you know what?  It hasn’t mattered.  Most of the weeds in my garden are edible anyway, even though there are some that I haven’t actually tried yet.  I happily pick wild spinach (aka lamb’s quarters) almost daily as well as purslane for salads.  I’m fine for them to go to seed — actually I want some of them to go to seed for new plants next year.

I’ve got at least two types of amaranth — haven’t gotten around to researching how exactly you prepare and eat the green shoots.  Same for black nightshade.  Not deadly nightshade (that would be belladonna).  Of course, there is debate about the edibility of black nightshade.  I plan on trying some of the ripe berries this year but I’ll probably wait until next spring to try some of the properly prepared shoots.

Back to weeding.  I’m not sure if it’s because I have very rich soil (thank you, chickens) or because it really doesn’t matter but having lots of weeds in my garden has not stopped my cultivated plants from producing bumper crops every. single. year.

So, I don’t put a high priority on weeding, especially when it is hot, humid and buggy.   The mosquitoes are merciless (even with my homemade bug-off formula) and I don’t like to be out in my garden except long enough to check the plants for growing (and ready) fruit and  for problems (such as pests or falling over and needed to be staked/trellised/tied up better).  I want to say that it was Steve Solomon who wrote that the best fertilizer is the gardener’s feet.  It really is good to check on the garden daily — which is why being on vacation for 6 days in early July was a dumb move on my part.  I won’t make that mistake again!

Protection from crazy, swarming mosquitos

Yesterday I had it with the mosquitoes and I determined that I would gear up this morning so that I would not get eaten alive.  I got my DriDucks rain jacket with hood on and a mosquito head net over that.  It WORKED!  Oh those b*st*rds tried like crazy to get me but they couldn’t get through the barriers.  It was hot but I’d rather have hot and sweaty than a bazillion mosquito bites.




So, I am hiding  inside  enjoying my time inside reading some really great books.  I’m almost done with Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes.  I will most definitely be reading through it again and will be posting more on it in the coming months.

But really I am researching and reviewing preservation techniques in anticipation of another bumper crop of food.  I already know how to can and freeze and do some fermentation.  However, I have borrowed a book called Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by The Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante.  The appeal to me of these techniques is that they use less energy to process and store than canning and freezing.  They also hold promise to taste better than canned food.  Personally, I’m not a big fan of canned food but it does have its merits.   And, lastly, they are uncomplicated; they do not require fancy or expensive equipment.  I’ll be sure to post on my successes and failures in trying these methods.

Some of the recipes that I have ear-marked are: cherry tomatoes preserved in oil, vegetable medley preserved in oil, Pistou (a French version of pesto), tomato puree balls stored in oil, and whole tomatoes preserved in brine.  I’m still reading through the book so I’m sure that there will be more recipes that I’d like to try.

Lastly, a few days ago I started 2 quarts of sauerkraut using only cabbage, caraway seeds and Real salt.  Thanks to my blogging buddy Survival Sherpa for the terrific post on how to make sauerkraut.  I’ll let you know how it tastes.

Thanks for taking the time to read.  If you like what you’ve read, please consider subscribing via email or following me on Twitter or on YouTube.

PS I know y’all down South think I’m a wimp about the heat and bugs but at least I know my weaknesses. 😉  I suspect that I might be part Eskimo 🙂  Have  great day wherever you are!

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