It is sad that so much knowledge has been lost with our ancestors. Technology has taken over and many skills have been long forgotten. Skills that are still very valuable especially on the homestead! I'm grateful that there is an emerging trend to re-learn these skills. One such being how to make a pectin free jam and preserving other homegrown foods!.
There is still one thing that baffles me, the copious amounts of sugar. Surely our ancestors did not use this much sugar! One recipe we looked at called for 6-7 cups of sugar to 5 cups of fruit! That much sugar surely erases all the health benefits of the fruit!
Salads are such an easy meal for summer time and a great way to get all our greens (7 cups a day!). Some people are intimidated by growing lettuce and shy away from it but there's no need, it easy!. Today I'm going to give you my best tips for growing lettuce so that you can have a continuous supply for quick and easy summer time meals that don't heat up the house.
I love to garden. I always have and always will I'm sure. I've done it since I was a small child with my mother and sometimes my dad as well. I can't think of a time when I didn't garden. Even in high school I helped here and there. My first apartment balcony was filled with flower pots, and as soon as spring hit, the side of the steps of my first house was adorned with flowers.
It started with flowers then I incorporated garden vegetables and now I have the best of both worlds in this little paradise of a farm we are so blessed to live on! The best part about it is that my kids are right there next to me. And they actually enjoy it! They are just as excited about growing as me! Even about eating all those tasty vegetables!
I'm telling ya people, garden with your children. It can bring them a lifetime of healthy eating habits and endless memories of spending quality time learning something new with YOU!
To get you started I have made a list of the best plants for gardening with kids. The criteria to make this list includes ease of planting, ease of care, kids preference to the flavor, and the abundance of fun it is to grow. This is just a starting point. I hope that once you get going you venture into new things.
*I've included links to the varieties we use. I am in no way affiliated with rareseeds.com or Baker Creek (same company). I just truly love the variety and quality of their seeds! I know they are just as much against GMO's as me which gives me a piece of mind when ordering from them. I'm sure you will love them too!
The Best Plants for Gardening with Kids
Gardening season is upon us and we are here to guide you! Many of you may know that I've been working on a gardening book, "Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Garden." It's done! It will be released on Tuesday May 14th and available for purchase here on our website and on Amazon
To kick off it's launch I thought I would do book giveaway! Yeah! To be entered into the giveaway is all you have to do is leave a comment below telling me what excites you most about gardening. Simple! That's how we like it and that theme carries through to my book. A simple guide that won't confuse you or give you a bunch of unnecessary tasks. Yuck! My book outlines everything you need to do so you can have a garden THIS YEAR! Yes please!
There are numerous book on the market about grading-so many that it can be overwhelming for someone who is just starting out. Where are you to begin?
We are so grateful to be able to share fresh organically raised heirloom produce with our customers. It is truly a blessing. In doing so we pray that more people will learn about the importance of "clean" food, going non-GMO, and knowing where your food comes from. But it all began to provide our family with all that aforementioned good food, so we would know exactly what we are eating and what went into it. So our children can learn how to raise their own food and the difference between homegrown heirloom produce and commercially raised GMO counterfeit food. So far it looks like we have succeed (thank you LORD). Our kids love gardening and eating the vegetables. Heck, they don't even bother washing the dirt off. A few swipes of the hand is sufficient enough for them. Oh, it's great!
So with this comes canning, drying, freezing and fermenting. That is a lot of work but once again my kids love being a part of it and that helps tremendously. It takes a lot of food to feed this big ol' family!
Most likely your great grandparents did it, maybe even you grandparents. They saved seeds. Why? Well there weren't as many options back then for one but more importantly they knew the value in it.
Saved seeds are not the same as purchased seeds. All seeds grow- well, except for the GMO terminator seeds that produce sterile offspring. You know just a little insurance that the farmers have to go to the big ag/chemical companies to buy their seed. Sorry side tracked, but I couldn't help it. Anyways, most seeds grow so what is the difference? Each seed has a genetic make up that helps determine how well it will grow, how much fruit it will produce, and how well it will cope with the pressures of the environment that it is in. Lets take a Rainbow tomato for example. All the seeds collected from a rainbow tomato will produce a rainbow tomato but there are slight differences in each plant. You can capitalize on this with just a little effort.
Did you have several plants that did better than the others? This is where it all begins. In a year of drought like the one we just had there are going to be some plants that do better than others. Some that tolerated the drought better. If you save seeds from these plants and plant them the following year then save seeds from the plants that tolerate less water that year and so on you will soon have a drought tolerant variety.
Maybe it isn't drought tolerance you are after. Perhaps you get plenty of rain where you are but your tomatoes are prone to blight. Then you would select those that are most tolerant to blight. And the same goes for any plant that you grow. Isn't that awesome! You do not need a seed company to plant a garden. Most seeds are very easy to harvest. As simple as letting the plant go to seeds, collecting the seed, then letting them dry and storing them. (I've included a mini seed saving guide below)
Some varieties take a little more but nothing that you can't handle. Lets start with tomatoes. If you slice open a tomato and take a look at the seeds you will see that they are surrounded by a gelatinous sack. We don't want this gelatinous sack but it is very easy to get rid of. First slice your tomatoes down the middle horizontally. Now squeeze the seeds into a small bowl. Do this with all the tomatoes you are wanting to save seeds from being sure not to mix the seeds of different varieties and label each kind. Next add a little water to the bowl and place it somewhere that you will not be able to smell it. It gets a little stinky but it is only for a few days. This is where we get rid of that gelatinous sack around the seeds. Leave the bowl with the added water to sit for about three days. It will ferment and grow a thin layer of mold on top. This is what would happen to the tomato if it were to be left outside. The tomato would rot freeing the seeds and then come spring they would sprout. Once they have grown the mold add a little more water then use your finger or spoon to swirl the contents around. Carefully pour out the floating contents. The fertile seeds will sink to the bottom. You may have to do this several times and you will loose some good seeds so be sure to account for that when you are determining how much to save.
Now all that is left to do is let the seeds dry-make sure they are completely dry, then place them in a plastic zip-lock bag or mini manila envelope and label with the variety and year. You did it and you are on your way to tomatoes that are perfectly accustomed to your growing conditions! Pretty easy right?
*Please not that you can only save seeds from open pollinated varieties. Hybrids will not produce a true to type seeds and may not even be fertile at all. I suggest using heirloom varieties.
Here's a little recap-video form:
Saving other seeds
Beans- let them fully mature on the plant then pick them, let them dry completely, take out the beans and store.
Cucumbers- let the cucumbers grow until they are overly large and turn yellow. Bring them inside and let sit for an additional two weeks. This give a higher fertile rate. Cucumbers general don't produce a lot of fertile seeds so save plenty of cucumbers. Once the two weeks are over scoop out the seeds and process the same as tomato seeds.
Peas- let them grow to full maturity then bring them into dry. Harvest the seeds from the pod then store.
Spinach- allow plant to go to seeds then wait for the seeds to mature and dry. Once it has turned brown pull off the seeds and let it dry completely then store.
Peppers- choose fully ripe peppers. Slice down the middle, extract the seeds then allow to dry before storing. If you are working with spicy peppers be sure to wear gloves or you will have burning hands.
Swiss chard- Much like spinach, allow seeds to turn brown before collecting then bring them in to finish drying before storing.
Squash- Allow the squash to grow until the skin is hard and can't be easily puncture with a finger nail, cut it open, extract the seeds, clean the flesh from them then allow to dry completely before storing.
Herbs- For most herbs is all you need to do is allow the plant to flower and go to seed, wait for the seed to turn brown then carefully remove the seed. Bring it inside and allow the seed to finish drying before storing.
Carrots- Carrots are biennials meaning they only go to seed every other year. That means they have to overwinter then come back up to produce seed. I have had plenty of carrots go to seed the first year which can be handy for the seed saver in zone three where carrots do not regularly overwinter. When the carrot does go to seed collect in the same way as herbs.
Onions- Onions are biennials as well but they don't usually have any problem overwintering. Just leave a few in the ground and the following year they will come up and bloom. Once they have bloomed and begin to dry it might be a good idea to put a paper bag over the bloom to catch the seeds. because they will start to fall while you are waiting for them to dry.
May this encourage you to start saving your seeds and help you grow many successful gardens!
Happy, healthy, clean living,
Well we have made it past the average frost date of Sept 20th. We actually made it TWO weeks past that. That is quite amazing! Thank you Lord for the extra time! This is only the second time we even made it to the average frost date. Normally we get a frost by the end of the first week in September. See, quite amazing!
We have spent the last weeks harvesting and preparing for the coming months. With harvesting comes canning. Lots of canning. Then we harvest some more and continue to can. Sunday we got everything harvested that wouldn't be covered for the frost that is coming on Tuesday. The only thing besides the cold weather crops that can take temps down to 27 degrees is the eggplant and poblano peppers which are under a plastic row cover. They will stay plenty warm there until we harvest them later this week.
We have been making lots of pizza with the abundant harvest of roma tomatoes. Doesn't it look tasty? Did I mention it is also gluten free? You would enjoy this pizza whether you are gluten free or not. The week after I made this pizza we tried a deep dish version in our cast iron pans. You don't want to miss this recipe!
Have you ever heard of cardoon? It is a tasty relative of artichoke. When prepared it tastes just like that artichoke relative. Instead of eating the flower, like artichoke, you eat the stalk like celery. It is also blanched like celery. That is why it is all tied up. The great thing about cardoon (besides the fact that it tastes like artichoke), you get way more from it.
We have been canning these for a super yummy, dare I say better, alternative to marinated artichoke hearts. These are soooo good and I'm very excited to pull out a jar of these this winter to make some cheesy "artichoke" dip, or how about some "artichoke" pasta, or maybe I'll just grab a fork and eat them straight out of the jar.
Keep checking back for these yummy recipes and more updates. For now I have to get back to canning.
Garlic is one of my favorite things to grow. Every spring when it comes up it reminds me that summer is not far off and I'll be outside planting soon. It also seems to withstand hail pretty well. Aren't we happy about that! The stem got beet up pretty bad but the bulb was safe and sound several inches underground.
I started my garlic 4 years ago and have been building it up since then. Each year saving more and more back to plant and thus increasing my stock.
After the garlic is pulled it has to sit out of sun and rain for a few days to a week. When they are done curing then the roots and tops are trimmed. They are then ready for storage. In the fall we will bring out the some of the bulbs to plant for next summer.
In North Dakota it is best to grow a hard-neck variety. This is a long day type. Long day refers to how many hours of sunlight the garlic need. Long day type need more sunlight hours so they work great in the northern parts of the country where summer days are long. Short day is just the opposite and need fewer hours to thrive. They are grown in the southern stated.
The hard-neck refers to the top or stem. It is indeed very hard. It must be cut off with sharp knife or kitchen shears. Hard-neck garlic can not be braided like soft-neck garlic for this very reason.
A few weeks ago we harvested the garlic scapes. Garlic scapes are the blooms of the garlic. They are very funny looking things. The stem grows up several feet then curls over and around with the bloom on the end. You cut them off about eight inches below the bloom and that is your garlic scape. It can be used just like garlic or you can pickle it like we like to do. It is absolutely delicious spread on a sandwich.
They look like miniature garlic cloves don't they. We are excited to grow garlic from these tiny little bubils!
Happy garlic eating!
P.S. If you are looking for the post on the hail damage you can find it after the post on multiplier onions. Just keep scrolling down.
Have you ever heard of Multiplier onions? They do just as their name implies- multiply. Instead of planting them in the spring like regular onions you plant them in the fall. Then in the spring they have a race with the garlic to see who comes up first. It's usually a very close race. Once they come up they start multiplying. You can get even ten onions from one. Five to seven is more common and what I actually prefer. They seem to grow bigger when there is fewer.
One of the nice things about Multiplier onions is that they are ready to harvest before spring planted onions. They're not usually as big as spring planted onions but they are very reliable, always tied us over until the spring planted onions are ripe, and have been a part of many, many jars of salsa. I can't see myself ever not growing these.
Before onions are harvested you fold over the tops and let them sit like that for a few days. This stops the sap from flowing to the stem and puts all the energy into maturing the bulb. Once the tops start to brown you can harvest them. You can see that the tops on my onions aren't brown. Two things are going on here. The first is that these are multiplier onions. Onions are biennials. That means they bloom and produce seed every two years. So the onions that were planted in the fall shot up a stem that produced a blossom. We snip off the blossoms so that they will put the energy into the bulb. This stem though, is a thick stem that is not soft like those of first year onions. The new onions that grow from the one planted in the fall don't have this, just that fall planted ones. These stems don't lay over well. They sometime break. The other issue is the hail damage to the tops.
Now that we have harvested them we will plant a cover crop in their place. The cover crops protects the soil and then will be used for green manure- it will be left on the soil to add nitrogen and organic matter. As an added bonus we get to feed our birds the grains and some of the greens from the cover crop.
Quick Garden Update
I said it was horrific right? Quarter size hail and winds as high as 70 miles an hour. Yeah, it was horrific, but we have hope (make sure you read to the end). Everything got hit pretty bad. That being said, somethings recover better than others. Before the storm, all the tomatoes had fruit on them and the peppers were blooming if not setting fruit. The pole beans were just starting to bloom. Any fruit that was on the plants were damaged. Branches were broken and the vegetation was stripped off. The lettuce was shredded. The squash and cucumbers were shredded as well. The cucumbers taking it worse than the squash.
These Picture of the hail were taken two hours after it had stopped hailing. There was so much that it was still there two hours later. You can see the size off the hail, again, two hours later, is still bigger than the circumference of my rings.
The picture don't do the damage justice. These were taken two hours after the storm. The next day they looked even worse because all the bruised vegetation that hadn't fallen off, shriveled up and began to fall off making the plants even more bare.
We Still Have Hope
As horrible as the hail damage is, we know that God doesn't make mistakes. Let His will be done and may we learn from it! And may He help the garden to rebound and flourish. OH, and thank you God for eliminating almost all the flea beetles. That's a plus. Please keep them away!
The tomatoes are getting new growth and are even blooming, The zucchinis have blooms and even new fruit. the lettuce has perked up and we were able to salvage some of it. The poultry have been filling their bellies with the rest. I have planted lettuce and spinach every week since early spring. There is new lettuce coming up and will be ready to harvest before too long. We had planted some the day before the storm. Most of it has come up but there is still some that I'm not sure if it got washed away or not. It really is a miracle that it didn't all wash away. The eggplant is blooming and recovering nicely. There are some beans that survived. I planted over 500 plants between the pole and bush beans. There were a lot that just broke at the stem but like I said some survived. There was a row of pole beans next to a low tunnel that fared pretty well and are blooming now. The bush beans are planted in front of the green house. The ones closest to the green house didn't seem to get damaged. Most of the winter squash seems to be recovering well too. The peas were damaged but they are hanging in there and blooming. The grapes didn't seem to get damaged much at all. They look really well. Thank you!
Hello, I'm Jaci. I love wandering around in my gardens admiring God's creation. I'm passionate about whole foods and clean eating. I look forward to sharing my farming and homestead adventures and helping you reach your gardening goals! If you have any questions then don't be shy, I'd love to hear from you. Send me a message and I will be glad to help!