Fall Garden

Normally at this time of year I’m ready to be done with the garden.

Ready to pick the pumpkins and winter squash – then ignore it’s very existence until January when the gardening bug hits me again.

pumpkinsSometimes I even pray for a frost so it will go away.

But not this year.

This year I planted more.

Crazy, right?

I had a few empty places where a crop had finished – so I decided to try some fall plantings of cool weather crops. Things like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.

purple cabbageIn the spring I start my cold weather crops inside and transplant them when the weather is right. For these fall crops I planted my seeds directly in the ground.

Germination was very spotty. It could have been too hot, or too much rain, or maybe Buddy and I didn’t prepare the soil quite as well as we should have for these much smaller seeds.

Whatever the reason – I figured it was worth the experiment! We already had the seeds and the ground was just sitting there. Anything that grew was a bonus.

kaleLike my first homegrown kale.

Happy, happy, happy day!

I wonder just how long we can stretch this fresh food season?

Farm Fresh

DSC_0008Kinda excited today.

Not only are we packing up for our annual amazing July 4th camping trip with my family –

but I just realized that much of the food I’m bringing for my assigned meal, we grew or raised ourselves.

The broccoli in the broccoli salad – yep – I planted that one as a tiny black seed back in March.

And the bits of bacon sitting so pretty in the same salad came from our own pigs.

That container of lettuce big enough to feed an army – I grew that, too. And spent all morning washing it.

Those 2 ice cream buckets full of peas in the pod were picked fresh this morning.

We raised the ground beef and sausage in the meatballs. Oh – and the spaghetti sauce that they will float in – yep – I canned that last fall from our garden tomatoes.

I’m kind of amazed.

All that hard work.

All that fencing.

All those pig chases.

The bugs. The rain. The drought. The weeds.

And it worked!

Not gonna lie – it feels pretty good.

Yep – kinda excited today. 🙂

Sowing Seeds Part 2

DSC_0097Buddy and I have been watching our flats of seeds very carefully to see any signs of life.

The broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and eggplant came up quickly, followed by the tomatoes.

But the entire flat of peppers remained barren.

There was no change.

A niggling of concern entered my mind.

Another week passed.

No sprouts.

Concern turned to worry as I envisioned an entire year without jalapeno and fresh peppers.

Every day we studied the dirt filled holes searching for any signs of life.

Finally – today – we saw our first tiny sprout.

And then another, and another.

Such a relief.

I was powerless to make those seeds sprout.

I had done all I could do. I planted. I watered. I kept them warm. And I waited.

It’s the waiting that’s hard.

God understands.

He said in Mark 4: 26-29 – “…This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

“All by itself the soil produces grain.”

I can’t break open each seed and force the spouts out.

I can’t pull each sprout into a stalk or create a head.

I cannot create or ripen one piece of fruit.

But I can plant.

I can prepare the soil.

I can water.

And I can wait.

Because the soil itself will produce the grain.

Everyday we have the opportunity to sow seeds of kindness, of love, of grace, of forgiveness.

But we cannot make those seeds sprout.

Or grow.

Or produce fruit.

Sometimes we want to dig in the soil a little and see if there’s any life. We want to force growth, create change.

But we are powerless.

We plant the seed.

And wait.

 

The Night Before the Killer Frost

apple harvestTwas the night before the killing frost,

and all thru the house,

not a creature was stirring,

because they were all outside frantically picking apples!

And jalapenos and tomatoes and green beans.

But mostly apples.

Red Delicious. Golden Delicious. Red Rome. Granny Smith.

It was a bumper crop – limb breaking actually.

We filled every box and bucket we could find.

And still we had apples.

We’ve been slowly picking apples for the last two months, picking a box or bag as needed. There are several bags in the freezer, several quarts of apple pie filling on the shelf, and many, many crisps and pies consumed.

I see many, many more pies and crisps in our future.

But not tonight.

Tonight I want a hot shower, and a big cup of tea.

And maybe some chocolate.

Auntie M’s Famous Spaghetti Sauce

spaghetti sauceWell… since my friend Sandy requested it, and it seems to be all I’m doing lately… I thought I’d take a minute between batches to post my famous spaghetti sauce recipe.

Okay, maybe it’s not so famous.

And I guess it’s not exactly mine – I got it from my sister-in-law Karen. But I have made it for years and served it often to family and guests.

I call it spaghetti sauce – but it’s really an all-purpose Italian sauce that we also use on pizza and in lasagna and cavatini.

It’s not hard – it just takes time!

First – get a bunch of tomatoes.   And I do mean a bunch! Then wash them and make them into puree.

My favorite way to do this is with my handy-dandy Victorio strainer. I purchased this amazing piece of equipment 20 years ago at an Amish store and love it! You can buy them on Amazon – and I highly recommend it! Mine paid for itself the first year and has saved me money (even made me money!) ever since.

If you don’t have a Victorio – you can also skin the tomatoes, blend them in a blender and push them through a sieve to remove the seeds.

Once you have the puree – you measure it, do the math to figure out how many batches you have and begin.

Auntie M’s famous Spaghetti Sauce

33 cups of tomato puree
1 whole onion (just cut it in half)
1 or 2 green peppers (just cut it in half and seed it)
6 bay leaves

Put the tomato puree in a large, heavy pot. Throw in the onion, pepper and bay leaves. (Don’t worry about fine chopping these – we’ll fish them out later!)

Bring to a boil over high heat, watching it carefully that it doesn’t boil over and stir it often.

Once it has boiled, cook for 2 hours, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, make your “slurry”.

What’s a slurry you ask? It’s the short cut to making a rich, thick spaghetti sauce without cooking tomatoes on the stove for hours.

The secret – tomato paste.  I mix the tomato paste and the spices to make what we call the slurry. Then I add the cooked tomato sauce and mix it to bring everything to the perfect consistency!

Slurry

9 – six ounce cans of tomato paste
1-1/2  tablespoons black pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
4- 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 up to 1 – 1/2 cups of sugar
3 tablespoons dried basil
5 tablespoons dried oregano leaves

In a very large bowl, mix together the tomato paste, pepper, garlic powder, salt, sugar, basil and oregano.

Carefully ladle the hot tomato sauce through a strainer (to fish out the well-cooked pepper and onions) into the slurry mixture.

Stir till combined.

Pack into sterilized jars and can in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes.

Makes 7 quarts.

Some hints –

I always double the recipe and put it in my heavy 18 quart stock pot. The heavier the stock pot the better. Flimsy light weight ones will cause scorching and frustration. Trust me – I learned this the hard way.

As for the sugar – you can add as much or as little as you wish.  I use 1/2 cup per batch which is just enough to take down the acidity of the tomatoes.