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Creamy Cucumber Salad

July 6th, 2012 · No Comments

Ok, I have to admit that my garden is a dismal failure this year.  Between the drought and temperatures above 105, it has just burnt up.  The cucumbers and squash were going gang busters until last week when wilt got the cukes and squash bugs apparently attacked the squash.  There is nothing worse than having wonderful healthy plants one day and dead ones the next.

The cucumbers did produce enough for pickles and with some left over for our favorite summer salad.  This recipe produces a cool, refreshing cucumber salad that keeps well and is definitely better the day after.

Creamy Cucumber Salad

Creamy Cucumber Salad

Creamy Cucumber Salad

2-3 Cucumbers, peeled, quartered and sliced

1/2 lg onion, chopped

8 oz sour cream

1 tsp Dill Weed

1 TB Vinegar

Mix sour cream, Dill and Vinegar until creamy.   Add cucumbers and onions and stir well.  Refrigerate overnight.  Note:  You can add more dill or vinegar to taste.   If it is too sour, you can add a tsp or two of sugar to take the bitterness or sourness away.

This salad is simple to make and my family likes it well enough that it’s often eaten as an afternoon snack as well as with meals.  I hope you enjoy it.

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What to do about Weeds

June 25th, 2012 · No Comments

I find my garden struggling this year.  Nothing seems to want to grow and some plants have just kicked off quicker than I can get them in.  It’s very discouraging to walk by the garden and see the weeds thriving and the veggies struggling.  I have decided that if you can’t beat them, eat them.

Plantain

Broad leaf Plantain

Broad leaf Plantain

Many of our common garden and lawn weeds are not only edible but tasty.  Anyone who has a yard will have known the frustration of plantain fruit jumping up over the grass.  Kids love to shoot the fruit by twisting the stalk into a knot and popping the end off.  In researching them, I have discovered that they not only are edible (my goats and horses love them) but also have been used as a medicinal herb for centuries.

Medicinal Uses

Externally, plantain can be used for insect bites, poison ivy, bee stings and any other kind of dermatitis.  It is said to draw the poison out and has antiseptic properties.  Simple to use, just bruise or crush the leaves and apply to skin or better yet, chew the leaves and apply as a poultice.  It can also be made into an oil and salve.

Internally, plantain is high in riboflavin and B1.  The seeds contain psyllium which is the major ingredient in Metamucil.  The leaves brewed into a tea have medical evidence to confirm uses as an alternative medicien for asthma, emphysema, bladder problems, bronchitis, fever, hypertension, rheumatism and blood sugar control.

A decoction of the roots is used in the treatment of a wide range of complaints including diarrhoea, dysentery, gastritis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, haemorrhage, hemorrhoids, cystitis, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, coughs, asthma and hay fever. It also causes a natural aversion to tobacco and is currently being used in stop smoking preparations.

If You Can’t Beat Them, Eat Them

Plantain

Plantain

If you are at a loss for a dinner vegetable, you can go out and pluck some plantain leaves right out of your yard.  The young, tender leaves are recommended as the older leaves can be tough and a bit bitter.  You can toss them in a salad with other weeds like lambs quarter or you can boil or steam them as you would spinach.

I did find a recipe for Creamed Plantain Leaves which just sounds yummy.  You can also use them for pesto.  It is recommended that you add plantain slowly to your diet as parts of it can have a laxative effect.

I am still searching out recipes and will update with the results as I try them out.  I love pesto so I believe it will be the first to try.

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10 Places to Buy Vegetable Seeds

April 6th, 2012 · No Comments

If you are new to vegetable gardening, one of the big decisions you will need to make is whether to buy seeds or plants and where to buy them.  You can buy plants locally at your neighborhood walmart, garden center or home center.  If you are buying seeds, you might want to check out some of the seed companies.  They offer more variety and different quantities.

10 Places to buy Seeds

  1. Eden Brothers is located in Dahlonega, GA and offers vegetable, flower and heirloom seeds.  They also offer both small packets and bulk seed.
  2. Organica Seed offers heirloom seed that is organically preserved and untreated by chemicals.  It might not be as user friendly as some of the big companies but if you know what you are looking for and value organic, it’s a great place to shop.
  3. Burpee Seeds No list would be complete without Burpee.  They are probably the most recognized name in seeds of all types.  The website offers an endless list of vegetable, fruit and flower seed as well as all kinds of garden gadgets.
  4. Park Seed is another well known seed company.  They offer everything from seed starting kits to vegetable and flower seeds.
  5. Gurney’s Seed is another large company with a huge variety of seed offerings.
  6. Johnny’s Seed is located in Maine and offers a selection of heirloom vegetables to medicinal herbs. It’s not as flashy as some of the more commercial companies but it’s nice to work with a smaller company at times.
  7. Harris Seed offers a great selection of organic seed.  They also offer tips for new gardeners, seed starting, ect.
  8. Henry Fields Seed and Nursery offers seeds, shrubbery and other trees and bushes.  Great choice if you have room for some fruit trees or berry bushes.
  9. Seeds of Change is a company with an eye on changing the world.  They offer some really cool kits to get you started.
  10. Main Street offers bulk purchases and if you are going to garden in a big way, it might be worth your time to check them out.
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Richmond Mayor Urges More Community Gardens

April 5th, 2012 · No Comments

Channel 12 reports on Mayor Jone’s call to create more community gardens in Richmond, VA.

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones is going after blighted, vacant lots.

He’s urging the creation of more community gardens in the city and he’s even asking City Council to pass an ordinance offering neighborhoods and organizations, empty and under-used city property as garden space.

The community garden in the Chimborazo neighborhood opened a few years ago. And this is exactly what the mayor is hoping to bring to more areas of the city. His office has even identified 31 pieces of city-owned land that could be used for growing and planting.

“They make a healthier Richmond, all the way around,” said Lisa Taranto. She helped bring seven community gardens and even farm to urban Richmond.”

Community gardens help teach people about gardening and help to provide food for the less fortunate.  They also provide a use for vacant lots and can create a sense of community among the residents.

Is there one near you?

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5 Ways to Have Homegrown Vegetables without a Garden

April 5th, 2012 · No Comments

Fresh Garden Tomatoes

Fresh Garden Tomatoes

There is so much in the news about commercial vegetables making people sick;  listeria in cantelopes, salmonella and e coli in lettuce, etc.  Most grocery store vegetables are shipped in from all over the world.  They are grown in factory farms, picked early so they can survive shipping and then processed in factorys for shipping.  Is it any wonder that buying local and growing your own is becoming more popular?

No one who has ever bit into a fresh homegrown tomato can deny the advantages of growing your own vegetables.  However, I often talk to people who long to have fresh, homegrown vegetables and fruit but don’t have room or time to have a garden.  The following is a short list of ways that you can have local, homegrown vegetables without the room or time to have a garden.

5 Ways To Have Homegrown Vegetables without a Garden

  1. Find a Community Garden.  Even if you live in the city, there is a good chance that there is a community garden near you.  Community gardens are any plot of land that is gardened by a group of people.  You help out with planting, weeding, cultivating and/or harvesting and you then get to share in the produce.  You can find a nearby community garden here. If you can’t find one, consider starting one.
  2. Find a Faith Based Community Garden or start one . Faith based gardens are started by a church or faith based group.  They are often right on the church property and can feed both body and soul.  There is a great sense of peace and well being created when you nuture the earth.
  3. Pick Your Own Pick your own farms are a great way to buy and preserve fruits and vegetables.  In a few hours you can pick your own fruits and vegetables.  Even though we have room for a garden, there are some things like Strawberries that I prefer to pick at a local PYO farm. Many farms have PYO corn, tomatoes, berries.  Find one near you here.
  4. Find Fresh Produce at a Farmers Market. Most cities and towns have a Farmers Market.  This is a place where local farmers come to market their produce.  If you just have no time to garden, it might be the answer for you.  The markets are usually open one or two days a week.  You can find all kinds of vegetables, fruit, dairy products at the market.  You can find a local Farmers Market here.
  5. Food Cooperatives Perhaps the easiest way to have fresh produce in your fridge is to join a farm cooperative.  These are formed by farmers who sell shares in their produce.  You buy one share or more and you then get a package delivered on a regular basis that contains fresh vegetables, fruits or whatever produce that the farm raises.  You get the benefit of a fresh produce with none of the time and labor involved, however, be prepared to pay for the convenience.  You can find a food cooperative here.
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Gardening Time!

April 4th, 2012 · No Comments

Spring Gardening

Spring Gardening

I spent a few hours getting my raised bed gardens ready for planting.  It mostly consisted of pulling up last year’s plant remains and raking the soil to get rid of weeds.  One of the benefits of raised bed gardening is there is no plowing or tilling required.  The soil stays pliant and is easily worked even after several months of dormancy.

I have doubled the size of my beds this year.  Instead of one 4 x 22 ft bed, I have two.  I am making changes based on last years successes and failures.  I am going to be spreading out the beans as I planted too many too close last year.  I will not be planting corn as it is a space hog and did not produce well in the raised beds.  I can get fresh corn locally.

Tomatoes and Gourds

Tomatoes and Gourds

The tomato and gourd plants did so well on our little hill that I will be replanting tomatoes and trying yellow squash there.  I hope that we can produce the same kind of results with a little more order.  The tomatoe plants will be staked as they just ran a little too wild there last year.  We did harvest about 12 gallons of tomatoes though.

It’s been an early spring and I am trying not to rush out to purchase tomato and pepper plants.  Mother nature may have a few more cold nights left in store for us.  I would prefer not to have to replant or cover them.

Have you started planting yet?

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Fresh Strawberries and Strawberry Jam

April 30th, 2010 · 5 Comments

It is that time of year when the pick your own strawberries are starting to ripen.  I don’t do many pick your own fruits or vegetables anymore because I have found that you can buy them at the Farmer’s market for about the same price but when friends called yesterday and said they were going to pick strawberries, I couldn’t resist.  I probably paid the same price as for the pre picked ones but it was fun picking and joking with friends and I got to sample a few along the way.

Pick Your Own Strawberries

Pick Your Own Strawberries

It didn’t really take very long to pick a box as the plants were literally dripping with red ripe berries.  I ended up spending $17 on strawberries and it took me about 45 minutes to pick them.  I ended up with about 2 gallons of sliced strawberries.  So what do you do with 2 gallons of strawberries?  I got them with the intention of making jam and it turns out that I am actually going to have enough left to freeze about half.

SugarFree  Strawberry Jam Recipe

This is the recipe from the Sure Jell No Sugar box:

  • 3 pints of strawberries
  • 1 box of Sure Jell No Sugar Added
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup splenda

Preparation is key in canning anything.  Make sure your jars are hot and sterile.  Soak your lids in boiling water while preparing and make sure you have all your ingredients measured and ready to go.  You need to stir the jam constantly so will not have time to measure ingredients.

Prepare strawberries by washing and de-stemming. I sliced mine as well.

Clean sliced strawberries

Clean sliced strawberries

Slice or not, you then mash them until they are about 3 cups with some chunks of fruit remaining.

Crush strawberries with a potato masher

Crush strawberries with a potato masher

Put the crushed strawberries in a 3 quart pan.  Add sure jell and 3/4 cup of water.

Strawberries cooking for jam

Strawberries cooking for jam

Cook on high heat until they come to a full rolling boil that does not stop when you stir.  Continue to boil for exactly 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

Rolling boil

Rolling boil

Skim any foam that formed on the top and ladle into hot, clean jars.  Fill to 1/4 to 1/8 inch from top.

Ladle into jars

Ladle into jars

When you are finished filling the jars, wipe the rims with a wet paper towel to remove any jam that might be there.  Put hot lids on jars and screw down with rings.  Let rest until the ‘tops pop’ and the jars are cool.  This completes the sealing process.

Strawberry jam jars resting and cooling

Strawberry jam jars resting and cooling

Voila!  That’s all there is to it.  It took me about an hour to make 4 pints of sugar free jam and 8 pints of  regular jam.  I used about half of the strawberries so the fruit cost of the jam was about $8.  I used 4 cups of sugar in the regular jam recipe which costs about $1.  1/2 cup of splenda which might cost 50 cents and $5 for the Sure Jell.   It works out to about $1.21 per pint.  I honestly don’t buy jam or jelly much but I know the cost comparison is favorable and I have the added benefit of knowing exactly what is in it.

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Garden Calendar: When the Whippoorwil Calls

April 26th, 2010 · 1 Comment

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joiseyshowaa/

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joiseyshowaa/

I live in an area where almost everyone  learned to plant from their parents and grandparents.  You plant corn when the whippoorwil starts calling.  You plant above ground vegetables in the light of the moon and root crops in the dark of the moon.   This is the way things have been done for generations.

Being new to farming as a living, I thought I would research it a bit.  It seems that there may be some basis in fact although it has not been scientifically proven.  According to Marian Owen of PlanTea, it may have something to do with the water tables rising during the gravitational pull of the moon.

We did decide to plant this week because the moon is waxing (coming full) this week.  The danger of frost should be well over by the time the seeds sprout and we are expecting showers through the coming week.  All signs that indicate a good time to plant.

In the ground today, are butter peas, thorogood limas, Contender green beans, Golden Queen and Silver Queen corn.  It is still a bit early to plant corn but it will give it a bit of a head start and we will plant another few rows of late corn in early June.  We also planted half a row of crook neck yellow squash.  It’s probably a bit on the early side for that as well.

The cabbage slips are starting to recover from being transplanted and are actually growing a little.  The broccoli plants are looking great and I have tiny lettuce starting to spring up everywhere.  Not a sign of the spinach or beets yet though.  The beets were planted on the right moon phase but the spinach was off.

Cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers are going to be the last thing in the ground as they really need the soil to heat up before they will start to grow.  I think I am going to have to have another bit of a garden just for them as our main garden is full to over flowing already.

Do you plant by the moon?  Do you use the Farmer’s Almanac?  How do you decide when to plant??

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Garden Calendar: April 13, 2010

April 13th, 2010 · 2 Comments

Packman and Major Broccoli slips

Packman and Major Broccoli slips

I have decided to document the kinds of vegetables that I plant and their progress through the year.  I have been experimenting with different types of the same vegetables and really need to keep track of how they do.  Last week we planted 30 cabbage slips.  I believe they were Market Pride.

Today I put down 18 broccoli plants of two different types, Packman and Major.  The Packman plants looked much healthier.  It’s not a lot of broccoli but it’s late to be planting it and I am not sure how it is going to do.  We still should have some to freeze and some to eat.  I also planted Bloomsdale Savoy spinach and Salad Bowl lettuce.  Salad Bowl is a leaf lettuce, it does not head up but it grows quickly and is delicious.

We also planted a whole row of yellow onions.  We added lime to the row this year as they did not fare terribly well last year.  They didn’t die but they weren’t much more than an inch in diameter.  Hopefully they will do better this year.

We decided not to plant black eyed peas or any of the dried beans that we eat on a regular basis.  When I can buy a bag of dry beans for about a buck, it just doesn’t make sense to plant them.  The money for seeds and the labor to harvest them is better spent on something that is more expensive.

We are champing at the bit to get the real summer favorites planted.  It’s still a bit to early to plant tomatoes, peppers and squash.  I have lost them too often to a late spring frost.  The cabbage type plants will actually winter over even if it’s in single digits so I don’t worry about a few chilly nights for them.

Randy is laying off rows with the tractor.  This is a new experience for me but he SWEARS we will not be over run with wire grass this year.  The tractor means that we have much, much more space between the rows and we are planting them lengthwise in the garden instead of across the width. This will allow him to cultivate between the rows with the tractor.

Now the bunny rabbits are a whole different ball game and I am still considering putting up a small fence around the garden but it will have to be moveable so he can get the tractor in and out.  If you remember last year, the wild bunnies ate almost all of our green beans.  We eat a lot of green beans over the year and not having them from the garden really hurt our budget.

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Rites of Spring

April 11th, 2010 · 2 Comments

Preparing the garden

Preparing the garden

Spring is here!  Although last week, I thought we had jumped right into summer with temperatures in the mid 90s.  This week we are back to spring with temperatures in the 60s and 70s and nights in the 40s.

The garden has been plowed and disced and then smoothed with the harrow.  You might notice that we have upgraded our tractor.  I am still not sure how a tractor this big is going to cultivate between the rows but Randy assures me that it will.  For the moment, I am thrilled that we don’t have a ton of wire grass already.

We got a row of cabbage planted yesterday.  Last week I had despaired that we had left it too late but the cooler temperatures are encouraging.  I want to get brussel sprouts and broccoli planted tomorrow along with some onions.

Iris

Iris

Last month, I planted raspberry, blackberry and blue berry bushes that my daughter and grandson brought me.  Randy made a spot for me in the back yard.  They should get lots of sunshine back there and it’s in an out of the way spot so the mower won’t run over them.  They may not bear a ton of fruit this year but in addition to the wild blackberries, I should have enough for a cobbler or two this year.

My raised bed gardens are probably going to be put on hold for the year.  I know I am going to get one for a salad garden but the rest will have to wait until we have more time.  I’m disappointed but I have had to face the fact that there are only so many projects that I can manage.

Wild violets

Wild violets

There is always time to enjoy the first spring flowers.  The yard is dotted with wild violets.  They spring up everywhere and add color to the spring grass.

It’s fun to walk around the farm this time of year.  Flowers spring up in the most unlikely places.  There are clumps of sunny yellow daffodils back behind the pack house in the pasture.  I suppose they survive because they taste bad enough that nothing will eat them.

The redbud trees are blooming along the edge of the woods and if you look closely enough you might even find a jack in the pulpit hidden among the trees.

The iris are blooming early this year.  I don’t think they bloomed until May last year.  I’m afraid that all of the spring flowers will be over before spring is done.

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