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Fall Garden Update (and, Here We Go Again)

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Part of today’s harvest.

A little late to the party, I finally planted some carrot, kale and lettuce seeds today. What took so long? I had to clear out the dead and dying summer plants first and amend the soil in the beds. Between recent hot weather, travel and laziness, today’s 70-degree weather was my first opportunity to garden in a while. I did get some peas planted a few weeks ago and those are coming along.

So how did my summer garden grow? Wild. I had pumpkins everywhere, and there are still some long-neck canning pumpkins on the vine in my compost pile, waiting to be picked. I got one usable baby pie pumpkin — pests got the other two that had ripened. Phooey.

My tomatoes are still producing, so I haven’t cut those down yet. I finally pulled up the cucumber plants, but found a few cucumbers buried among the detritus that are hopefully still edible. I accidentally grew a cantaloupe plant (also a compost volunteer), but the solitary fruit it bore fell victim to pests in recent days. I was able to harvest some coriander (cilantro) seeds, which I’ll probably save for planting next year, rather than consuming.

Lessons learned for next year?

  • Put in more beds
  • Give the squash plants even more room than I did this year
  • Plant more of everything
  • Plant strawberries and melons (on purpose)

I still have a fair bit to do in the garden before wrapping things up for the cold season. I need to clean out around the beds and better prep them for next year. The landscape fabric alone didn’t do enough to keep the weeds down. I’m going to pull that up, remove the weeds and dig out still more hostas in the sunny corner of my garden. Next year, the area will get at least a good mulching, if not another covering of fabric before the mulch goes down.

I’ve turned one large bed along my garage into a new compost pile that I want to separate into three caged areas for more efficient composting. I’m also composting a bed outside my kitchen (no food scraps though, since it’s so close to the house) that gets a lot of shade and has only grown weeds. I’m hoping to try lettuce, possibly in containers, there next year.

I also need to clean up the fruit bushes I planted. The blackberry plants became very leggy and I didn’t do a very good job of training them onto the supports I set up. I need to tend to them and the only raspberry plant that pulled through. Not sure if I’ll try more of those next year.

Here We Go Again

Some of you may remember that last summer I went on an allergen-free diet for a month before slowly re-introducing foods to discover what food allergies I have (eggs and a wheat intolerance revealed themselves). Well, I need to do it again. I’m having a reaction to something and it’s been a miserable couple of weeks recently. The suspects are dairy and processed sugar, the latter of which has only slipped into my diet on occasion. I’ve also been eating grains other than wheat, so those may be a culprit as well.

So Monday’s the day I go back to eating only meat, veggies and a little bit of fruit. No dairy, alcohol, legumes or grains for a whole month. Honey will be my only sweetener. I plan on making lots of homemade, oven-baked sweet potato fries to help me pull through.

I’ve been treating myself in the meantime. I splurged at the gluten-free bakery today and feasted on Chipotle’s chips and guac last night. Not sure what my beverage of choice will be tonight, but last night’s was red wine.

I’ve already started stocking up on things to tide me over for the next month. I found myself eating way more protein than I normally would last time I did this. I bought a ton of chicken and ground bison today. I found beef sticks from Cedar Run Farm at the farmer’s market today and they have no preservatives or chemicals in them. Score! Perfect for snacking. I bought a bunch of kale and green beans, frying peppers and acorn squash to cook this week too. Bananas (not from the farmer’s market, of course), figs and raspberries will be my fruit splurges.

Wish me luck! Deciding to pursue this diet is often harder than the diet itself. I know I’ll feel so much better a month from now. And I’ll be done before the holidays hit. Hopefully by then, I’ll have figured out whatever it is that’s causing problems so I can avoid it. Fingers crossed it’s not alcohol or cheese!

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Christmas-in-July Haul

Sweet summer.

Sweet summer.

It’s my favorite time of year again! Nothing beats that first blackberry of the season. Absolutely nothing. I demolished half a pint of these just in transporting them from the sink to the fridge. Here’s what else I bought at the market today:

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 huge jar of local honey
  • 2 lbs ground bison
  • cute summer squash (since mine never happened this year)
  • lettuce
  • jalapenos
  • scallions
  • marinated feta
  • cantalope

Garden Update

Garlic and tomatoes.

Garlic and tomatoes.

I told my tale of squash-plant woe at the market and the conclusion is that it’s most likely squirrels noshing on my squash blossoms. The chicken wire around my largest container doesn’t seem to be keeping them at bay. I’ve never seen one in the vicinity, but I think I might make some cayenne spray to see if that deters them in the future. I want pumpkins, dammit.

Other than that, the garden is doing pretty darn well. I started hand-pollinating the pumpkin plants since that seemed to work well for the cucumbers. I have been noticing more bees frequenting the veggies in the morning, so maybe they’ll start doing more of the work for me.

My super-steak tomatoes are finally starting to ripen. I harvested one of them and the first garlic this morning, but I probably should have waited until the soil had dried out for the garlic — I’ll leave the rest in until then. We had massive amounts of rain yesterday.

The blackberry canes are really establishing themselves and there’s even some green berries on one of them. Can’t wait to see what they do next year.

Last weekend, I concocted a weed spray of vinegar and dish soap. I used it right before the sunniest time of the day. It worked really well and fried the crabgrass around my driveway. I didn’t pull it up in time though and they’ve come right back. Gotta work on my timing, but it’s nice to know you don’t need chemicals to kill weeds.

In other news, my compost tumbler is all but broken. The plastic warped where it connects to the spindle and it’s only a matter of time before it pops off. Then I have to decide whether to keep using the barrel in a spot where it won’t kill the grass or to set up a compost pile somewhere. I don’t have a large lot, so it would be close to my house, which isn’t that desirable. I could buy a different compost bin, but I’d rather save my pennies. I need to do some research on building my own.

The Haul: Busy Day Edition

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Meet Maggie!

The Easton Farmer’s Market returned today and what a perfect day for it too! My haul was kind of small because I already had a lot of fresh produce at home:

  • Lettuce
  • Yellow onions
  • Honey
  • Bison brisquet
  • Bison bulk burger
  • Bison chew sticks
  • Chamomile tea
  • Dog cookies

What’s with the dog treats you ask? Maggie is my new garden companion! Here she is enjoying one of the chew sticks.

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Maggie really enjoyed meeting all of the other dogs at the market.

When we got home, we spent most of the day in the garden. I planted four raspberry canes and set up my Nourishmat. This is a really cool idea that originated at the University of Maryland. It’s a complete system for planting vegetables, herbs and flowers in your yard.

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This photo was taken in the middle of using the incorporated drip system to water the mat. It doesn’t look like it, but this area gets plenty of sun during the day. I planted seed balls for a number of items — from chard to cilantro to dill. It will be interesting to see how this does. I put it in an area of my lawn that I hate to mow due to its shape. I tried raking away as much of the grass and weeds as I could, but there was still quite a bit left. My hope is the mat will smother what was left behind — we’ll see.

Last weekend, I set up another garden area using a very large grow bag. I haven’t planted anything in it yet — it is reserved for warmer weather produce like squash. Today, I set up the chicken-wire fence around it to prevent cats from using it as a litter box (there was evidence of that happening already).

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Also last weekend, I planted lettuce, carrots, kale, arugula and onions in my Vegtrug. I spied a few seedlings peeking out today. A couple of weeks ago, I planted blackberry canes and I noticed new growth on those today. Neither the blackberry nor raspberry plants will produce much this year, if at all, but here’s hoping for a few to snack on.

Last, but not least, I picked up 15 bags of mulch today and will probably need to go back for more. I’m going to start putting down newsprint and layering mulch on top in my flower beds tomorrow. Fingers crossed that the newsprint keeps down the worst of the weeds.

Needless to say, Maggie is exhausted from all of her adventures today. She’s snoring away as I type up this post.

Gluten-Free, Egg-Free Meatballs: Version 2

Yes, Virginia, you can make cocktail meatballs without breadcrumbs or eggs. (Note: Okay, I lied. I said in my last post that this post would be about pineapple. That’s the next post, I promise).

I started out with this recipe, written by my grandma:scan0104

2013-02-23 03.34.12I of course had to tweak it. I used powdered egg substitute for the eggs. I bought blackberry “fruit spread” in place of the grape jelly (lower in sugar and I *love* blackberries). I couldn’t find traditional chili sauce at my organic grocery, but happened upon some Thai sweet chili sauce instead. I was dubious about it, but it worked out in the end.

I halved this recipe because I only had one pound of ground beef (yes, actual ground beef this time; not bison). Since the original recipe didn’t call for much cornflakes to begin with, I wasn’t worried about omitting them entirely. I was worried about the chili sauce. I didn’t think it was the same consistency as that called for originally. I ended up adding a tablespoon of tomato paste and 1/4 c. of water to the sauce before simmering everything together. I probably could have halved that amount of water and been fine, but I’m glad that I added both.

I was a bit concerned that the recipe didn’t advise to brown the meatballs before simmering, but that ended up being unnecessary. They soaked up the color of the rich sauce. Per the recipe, it was definitely necessary to spoon off the fat from the sauce.

The result was spot-on taste-wise! I’m thrilled and can’t wait to make this again. That’s two successful meatball recipes without gluten or egg. The sky’s the limit from here.

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The Haul: Shopping-While-Hungry Edition

I broke one of the cardinal rules of food shopping today and left for the markets before breakfast. The result: I bought a ton of food!

I started at the open-air market. I had already resolved to buy a bunch of tomatoes for freezing. I also bought:

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 2 pints blackberries!!!
  • 1 1/2 pint raspberries* (part of breakfast)
  • a bunch of sweet potatoes
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 2 cucumbers
  • figs!
  • bison skirt steak

And I wasn’t done yet. I needed to go to the Amish market for sausage meat. Last week, I made this pork sausage recipe and it was really, really good, but I passed by the pork this week because the line was really long and got mixed ground turkey again. But, this weekend there’s a pig roast out in the parking lot! So, I also got suckered into buying:

  • 1 pint peach ice cream
  • homemade Amish potato chips (many of which became part of breakfast)

I also had resolved to buy fish to cook this week so I crossed the street and bought at Captain’s Ketch:

  • 1 bag of onions
  • 1 pound of wild-caught Coho salmon
  • 1 1/2 pint of their amazing shrimp salad (also part of breakfast)

What’s more, I haven’t even touched the watermelon and butternut squash that I bought last week. Also, the plums I bought last week were far from ripe and so those have been hanging out until they soften up a bit. I still have some of the peaches that I grilled to eat too.

Oh, and after purchasing everything that I did today, I forgot to buy greens like I’d planned.

*It didn’t occur to me, until there were only a few left, that maybe instead of eating the entire half-pint of raspberries in one sitting, I could have frozen them for baking or something later. This is the second time this week I’ve downed that many at one time. The farmer’s market at UMD had them this week too. In my defense, the ones I bought at work were so ripe, they wouldn’t have survived until I got home and I did share some with my coworkers.

Amish hand-made potato chips (a.k.a., breakfast).

Allergy Update

It appears that wheat, and also probably gluten, are among my allergies. I’m still trying to figure out the gluten thing though. I can drink beer, but not wheat beer. I was able to eat non-wheat flour bread last weekend, but presumably it still had gluten in it? I did, happily, find flourless, eggless cookies at the UMD farmer’s market this past week. Definitely going to stock up on those!

Garden Non-Update

Not much to report from the garden. I still haven’t planted what I said I would. I had hoped to do some planting today, but now it’s raining. Hopefully, tomorrow.

The Haul: Sad Panda Edition

It’s been a couple of weeks — I was traveling last weekend. And I missed the last of the blackberries. This makes me sadder than you can imagine.

I consoled myself by buying really deep purple, shiny plums. They’re California plums and probably not organic, but I really want to relive that taste from my childhood. I’m planning on roasting these (I can’t eat them raw) like I did with some locally grown plums a couple of weeks ago. Those just didn’t taste like the ones I remember — they were a smaller, tarter variety. They weren’t bad, just different.

Here’s what else I bought:

  • 2 kinds of sweet pepper
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 1 quart yellow peaches
  • 1 seedless sugar baby watermelon
  • 1 quart tomatoes
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 butternut squash (already!)
  • 1 loaf of very dense rye bread that contains sunflower seeds, but no wheat
  • 1 pound of brats
  • 1 bunch dandelion greens

All of this weighed a lot and I walked to the market today because it’s so nice and cool. I’m contemplating a run to the Amish market for ground turkey to make more breakfast sausage. Also, I forgot to buy cheese at the open-air market, so I may buy some there.

Garden Update

All that’s left in the VegTrug are the chives, basil and rosemary and a couple sad-looking carrots and onions. I think the onions are done and I’m tempted to pull them to see how they turned out. The carrots, I’m hoping, will bounce back when the weather cools. My kale is finally fading so I’m going to pull it out and plant new (I keep saying that — I really mean to do it).

I’d really let the weeds go around the VegTrug and so spent some time pulling weeds around that part of the garden last night. I’ve learned that piling the pulled weeds on top of other weeds smothers the underlying weeds while the pulled weeds compost themselves. I’m trying that around the VegTrug.

The stinkbugs are still decimating my pumpkin plant. No pumpkins from my garden this year, I’m afraid. I still have the trap out there and it has caught a few. In speaking with a friend, what I really should have done early on was pull all the ones I found and dunk them in a bowl of soapy water to kill them and keep them from procreating. I’m doing that now with the ones that are big enough for me to catch, but there are so many tiny baby ones, it’s kind of a fruitless endeavor.

My tomato plants also are done and I started trimming them back in preparation for pulling them out and taking down that container and cage.

Allergy Update

Well, I tried the rye bread that I bought today and that seems to be working out okay. I tried chocolate yesterday and no reaction to that either. Yes! I have been thoroughly enjoying the return of dairy to my life. Still staying away from wheat, but I’m getting by with corn-based products. So happy to be able to eat the crunchy tacos at Chipotle when I go there.

The Haul: Hot and Buggy Edition

Boardwalk Fries (with malt vinegar, of course) at the beach!

I took a break from blogging last week while I was on vacation at the beach. It was splendid. But I returned home late Friday night and was back at the markets yesterday. Here’s what I got:

  • 1 quart peaches (for grilling/broiling; I’m allergic to them raw)
  • 1 eggplant (also for grilling)
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 canary melon
  • 3 pints blackberries (the farmer asked if I freeze them for the winter and I said I hadn’t been able to yet because I eat them so fast!)
  • 2 peppers (1 purple and 1 very light, almost white one)
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 1 pint honey yogurt (!)

Isn’t this such a pretty eggplant?

Then I headed to the Amish market and bought one pound of ground turkey (a mix of light and dark meat) for making my own breakfast sausage (see my next post on that) and some chicken breasts for grilling. I also stopped at the seafood market and bought shrimp salad (!), flounder and salmon.

Garden Update

The garden tomatoes awaiting me when I returned home.

Here’s where it gets hot and buggy. I didn’t bother having my neighbors water my plants while I was gone. The stinkbugs have completely taken over. They don’t seem the least bit bothered by the lavender oil I sprayed on them and they mocked my marigold efforts by taking up residence in one of the pots and all but killing that plant. WTF? I guess I should have suspected that if either were really a tried-and-true solution, stinkbugs wouldn’t be the scourge that they are.

I resorted to buying a stinkbug trap, despite the bad ratings I found about them. I need to try something, otherwise, I’m afraid the stupid things will set sights on my house when the weather turns colder. Blargh. So far, the trap has only caught one bug (and not a stinkbug). Double blargh.

Despite not really getting watered (I think Easton had some rain while I was away though), my tomato plants produced quite a few ripe, red fruits (and a couple mushy/half-eaten ones too — thanks, stinkbugs). These may be among the last as the plants are yellowing and brown now and there are no new flowers budding.

The pumpkin plant continues to grow while the stinkbugs eat and lay their eggs on it. I suspect that I should have developing fruit by now though and none have appeared yet (and I’m sure they’d be devoured anyhow). Sigh.

The remaining squash plant is all but dead. Ah well. I have better plans for those plants next year. Now I can clear it and the spindly pepper plant out to seed some broccoli, kale, carrots and arugula for the fall. The stinkbugs appear to be leaving the remaining kale plants alone.

Allergy Update

I experimented while on vacation and the results are muddled. Wheat and/or gluten appear to be another issue for me. I can drink most beer without a problem, but had issues after drinking a wheat beer one night. I tried funnel fries on the boardwalk one day and also had issues with that. I’m going to look into what wheat-free baked goods are available to me at the “crunchy grocery” later this week and see if there’s a way to test things out further. I’m also going to give the wheat beer another chance (it happens to be my favorite type of beer). Triple blargh.

My dairy experiment, on the other hand, seems to be going well. I have eaten small quantities of cheese without issue and had yogurt for the first time in months this morning, also without a problem. The seafood market shrimp salad also went down nice and easy. Yay! Ice cream next! 🙂