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Freedom Haul

Today’s haul was all about freedom (4th of July was on Thursday, after all). I had a very stressful week and I chose to leave all my cares at the sidewalk once I got to the farmer’s market today. I splurged. I loaded up. I saw lots of friends and Maggie and I made some new ones. It was a good (if hot!) morning.

photo(1) copyHere’s what I got:

  • Beautiful white onions, just because
  • Purple and green bell peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Cantalope
  • 2 pints blueberries
  • Breakfast sausage patties
  • 1 pound backfin crab meat (talk about a splurge!)
  • Portabella mushrooms
  • Sweet corn (I cooked this already)
  • Gluten-free sausage roll (I ate this already)
  • Gluten-free glazed almond mini bundt cake
  • Cordova White marinated feta
  • Vanilla sweetgrass oatmeal soap
  • Natural deodorant*

* I’ve gone chemical-free on so many things, but not this yet. We’ll see how I do with this. One of my aunts once wondered how deodorant/anti-perspirant can’t NOT be connected to the rise in breast cancer — you use it so close to that tissue.

Garden Update

Lots more lessons learned this season. I planted several seeds of many varieties of plants with so-so luck. For most of my squash varieties, only one seed for each type took. I’ve picked a couple of zucchini so far. My yellow summer squash plant is all but dead though. Something is eating right through the stems of many of the plants and I can’t identify the culprit. I’ve pulled slugs, a few stinkbugs and a cucumber beetle off the plants, but haven’t figured out what’s doing the most damage. I haven’t seen any of those pests in several days anyhow. The butternut and spaghetti squash plants are humungous. Fingers crossed they produce some good squash!

I do have several varieties of pumpkin doing really well. Some I deliberately planted and a few are transplants from my compost pile. I have mini pie pumpkin plants, French blue pumpkin plants and gooseneck pie pumpkin plants. All have had blossoms, but I haven’t noticed fruit yet. Not sure if the culprit mentioned above is responsible or not. There’s still a couple of huge pumpkin plants growing in the compost pile and encroaching on the alley. One neighbor is so excited to see what results from those plants.

My blackberry canes are busy establishing themselves, but I won’t see much fruit from them this season. Only one of my raspberry canes is still with us. Ah well.

I’ve been hand-pollinating my cucumber plants and finally have some growing on those vines now. I’m going to pick a couple of them tonight to try. My bush beans are getting crowded out by the squash plants, but have been producing. I haven’t picked those yet and will probably do so tonight. I have a ton of rainbow chard, but don’t really care for it. Not even bacon grease could make it palatable for me. Anyone reading this who is near me is welcome to help themselves.

My Thai cherry tomatoes are producing nicely ripening fruit. The supersteak tomatoes are looking good but haven’t started to turn red yet. I added more fertilizer to the soil in that container as the plants were looking a bit anemic. No blossom end rot this year — hooray!

I have one rogue broccoli plant that has a teeny little head of broccoli on it. I pulled up a few carrots this morning and had them with my breakfast. When you grow it yourself, you can’t wait to eat it. My kale has been doing pretty well — I noticed the youngest plants weren’t growing so I added compost to those last weekend and they’ve already perked up.

As to the lessons learned: I gave the squash more room this season, but I really need to spread them out more and plant more of each type to ensure a good harvest. Looks like more of my lawn is going to become vegetables next year!

I put down landscape fabric around my beds to try and keep the weeds down, but it wasn’t opaque enough. The weeds are still growing underneath of it and it’s a constant struggle to keep the fabric tied down. I need to put mulch down on top of it, but have been too cheap and lazy to do so yet. I may wait until the fall at this point.

Finally, I need to completely refresh the soil in my tallest container next season. The plants in there aren’t thriving as much as they should with the weather we’ve been having. I’ve been amending with compost in the meantime.


The Haul: Flower Power Edition

Today, at the open-air market I bought:

  • 3 pints blackberries
  • 1 canary melon
  • 1 cuke
  • 1 purple bell pepper
  • 1 pint assorted cherry tomatoes
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 bison flank steak
  • 4 bison burgers
  • 1 jar local wildflower honey
  • 5 sunflowers!

Garden Update

Sad times in the Vegtrug last night as I put the zucchini plants and one of the squash plants out of their misery. The zucchini plants never produced fruit and their blossoms were all withering. I left one of the squash plants as it still had developing fruit on it, but by the state of its leaves, it’s not long for this world either.

BUT, removing all those plants allowed me access to harvest my first planting of carrots! One of them is quite ladylike:

I’m still struggling with blossom end rot among my tomato plants. I have managed to snag a few tomatoes off the plants as they start to turn orangey and before the rot sets in. They ripen pretty well on my window sill. I ate two last night with dinner. Yesterday at lunch I ate the only bell pepper I’ve managed to harvest so far…

I keep telling myself this isn’t that bad for my first year with a real garden. Lots of lessons learned. I am not drowning in produce as I had hoped, but it’s still a lot of fun and I’m eating really well.

Sunday Special

Tonight’s dinner was exciting for two different reasons. First of all, I re-introduced CHEESE into my diet for the first time in 6 weeks. So far so good. Fingers crossed that there are no issues and I can continue to enjoy this most essential item.

I was debating whether to go French and expensive for my first cheesy trial, but I was afraid of having a reaction and then having a bunch of pricey cheese I couldn’t eat. I settled on simple fresh mozzarella from the local Italian market and made a caprese salad with that, some of my basil and a farmer’s market tomato. Delish.

The other excitement at dinner was this:

Broiled petite filet wrapped in Amish maple bacon with rosemary sprigs.

Oh yeah, it was good. As the meat was finishing in the broiler, I popped a couple of sliced yellow squash from my garden onto the tray in the oven. Served it with my daily cocktail of sparkling water and cranberry juice. Leftovers of everything — already looking forward to dinner tomorrow night!

Sunday dinner.

Garden Update

This heat is absolutely frying my squash plants. Many leaves are crisping up into nothing. I’m still getting a couple fruits from each plant every few days or so. The zucchini plants aren’t producing, but I think they’re too crowded.

My tomatoes have been frustrating me — they’ve produced plenty of fruit, but they aren’t ripening. I read up on how to correct this and pruned back the plants a bit yesterday. I noticed a few already starting to redden today, but on closer inspection, they all had end rot. Bah! There’s no quick fix for that from what I’ve found. I’ve picked off those fruits and I’m going to back off on the watering a bit to see if that helps.

In other news, while trying to weed around my pumpkin plant early on Friday, I noticed there weren’t just bees perusing the clover that has taken over my lawn. There were yellow jackets flitting about too. I. Hate. Yellow jackets.

I tried to figure out where they were coming from with no luck. I’m assuming they have a nest in the ground nearby. I definitely don’t want to find it accidentally. The past couple of days I haven’t noticed as much activity from them, so maybe they were just passing through. I’m going to keep an eye out though. Those things are nasty evil when they are stirred up.

In the good news category, two of my kale plants are still producing (love roasted kale) and I have one good size green pepper almost ready to pick (wish there were more though).

I’ve started compiling a list of lessons learned for next year’s garden. Here’s what I have so far:

  • Plant the squash and zucchini on the ground and further apart
  • Peppers should be in their own container(s)
  • Plant spinach earlier
  • Plant garlic; plant more carrots and onions
  • Carve out a new plot for in-ground planting or a raised bed (there’s a portion of my lawn that is perfect for this)
  • Put in raspberries and blackberries behind the Vegtrug — it’s just wasted space right now.

Garden Update: Prison Break Edition

Lesson learned: squash plants need their own VegTrug. I got greedy and planted two yellow squash plants and two zucchini in the VegTrug and the yellow squash plants especially are taking over. I never really payed attention to how squash plants grew before and obviously wasn’t expecting these huge leaves and thorny stems. I had to cut away some of the leaves today in order for the pepper plant to get more light. The squash leaves are living up to their name and squashing the other plants around them too like the rosemary and arugula.

I already see at least one squash developing. And there are many blossoms.

The cherry tomato plant has a few green tomatoes on it and there are buds on all of the other plants.

I’m happy to report that the pumpkin plant has bounced back. The initial blooms died off, but there are several others either in bloom now or budding.

Elimination Round

Scrambled eggs with arugula and Old Bay.

This blog’s going to be taking a bit of a different tack over the next few weeks. I’ve been advised to try an elimination diet to rule out any food allergies that may be causing me problems. I am already aware of several allergies that I have to some tree nuts and fruits. I’m going to start out this diet eating only meat, veggies and a little fruit (no grains, no caffeine, no alcohol). I’ll have to stick to it for a few weeks before I can gradually start adding things back in.

Earlier this weekend, I lived it up, eating pizza, drinking beer and sangria. I gradually weaned myself off of my daily green tea and so far, so good. I haven’t had a headache yet today. I did allow myself two glasses of decaf iced tea.

Herbed grilled chicken.

Breakfast was three scrambled eggs with arugula and chives and a sprinkling of Old Bay (above). Lunch was an Italian tuna salad salad from Piazza Italian Market. I picked up some raw pumpkin seeds and roasted them for an afternoon snack. Dinner was herbed grilled chicken and grilled veggies. I nursed a lemonade throughout the day (yep, I’m counting that as fruit).

Herbed grilled veggies.

All told, it was pretty easy to follow the diet today. I’m concerned about sticking with it at work. I cooked enough chicken and veggies to take some with me for lunch tomorrow. I hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, which I’ll have with some strawberries on the side. I picked up some green grapes and carrots to snack on, along with the pumpkin seeds. Here’s hoping I can resist the temptation of all the processed foods at the downstairs cafe of my building.

Garden Update

My squash plants are gigantic and there’s already several buds on both. The zucchini plants are doing much better. Three of my tomato plants are thriving. The fourth is the runt of the litter, but I hope it will still do well. I scored a pumpkin plant from friends over the weekend, though I’m not sure it’s going to make it. The large leaves wilted on the drive home. I planted it and watered it right away, but only the baby leaves appear to be surviving. Fingers crossed. It would be so cool to grow pumpkins. I planted it in front of my tomato planter, dislodging several spring bulbs in the process. Ah well…

The Haul: Sweet and Sour Edition

I didn’t make it to the markets this weekend because I was visiting friends, but they happened to have a sour cherry tree that was ripe for picking in their backyard. I scored enough cherries to make a pie or crisp at a later date. It was a lot of fun picking the cherries with their fam (pitting them, a little less so). We probably picked enough cherries for 10 pies and the tree was still laden.

The Haul: Feta Compli Edition

O. M. G. Fresh rosemary feta. That is all.

Well, not really, I was quite loaded down when I left the open-air market today, but I was most excited about the fresh feta from Chapel Country Creamery. They had samples out and were selling quite a lot of it.

I also bought:

  • Vanilla yogurt
  • 2 quarts strawberries (plus one more quart yesterday at the Amish market — can’t get enough of them!)
  • Baguette (pictured with the feta)
  • Cranberry orange scone (second breakfast)
  • Asparagus
  • Bison sloppy joe mix (to replace what I used this week)
  • 1 dozen large free-range eggs
  • Potted chives (I already have chives growing in a pot, but they’re being suppressed by mint that is in the same pot)
  • A potted bell pepper plant (my seeds never germinated)

Which leads me to…

Garden Update:

I’ve been harvesting tons of kale and had to cut back the original arugula plant, which had bolted. The two younger ones are still producing small, tender leaves. The zucchini plants I transplanted last week seem to be bouncing back. I finally thinned out that squash plant with yellow leaves — the other two were gargantuan in comparison.

I planted the pepper and chives that I bought today and watered everything thoroughly since it’s going to be so hot the next few days. I also tried direct seeding some parsnip seeds today — the only surviving seedling bit the dust this week.

I think some of the originally planted spinach seeds finally germinated. It will take a few more days to see if it was just a weed invading their pot instead.

Baby Tomatoes!

The tomato plants I bought last week are doing well and the cherry tomato plant already has buds on it!

Garden Update — Tomatoes Are In

“Tomato Success Kit”

I spent a lot of time out in the yard this weekend (man, my legs are screaming). One of the things I did was put together my “Tomato Success Kit” from Gardner’s Supply Company and plant the cherry and Rutgers tomato plants I bought at the farmer’s market yesterday.

First, I had to clear out a bunch of weeds and dying spring perennials. I installed the tomato container in front of the VegTrug where it will get plenty of sun. I appreciate that it came with a cage that will keep out the cats and provide a support for the plants as they get taller.

Earlier this week, I transplanted my squash and zucchini seedlings, plus the second planting of arugula. In a last-ditch effort to save them, I moved the one spinach seedling and surviving parsnip, too. I don’t know how that’s going to end, but I don’t have my hopes up too high.

Not quite sure what’s going on with the one squash plant that has yellow leaves (they were like that before transplanting). Looked it up and that could be a result of over-watering, under-watering or a type of disease. But the other two squash plants are flourishing. The zucchini’s not doing so hot either, so I seeded some more this weekend, just in case.

I complained to one of the farmer’s market vendors that I’ve had a really hard time getting spinach to germinate and he said that for ever 200 seeds he tried to start, maybe only 12 germinated. He thinks it’s something about the weather this year. That made me feel somewhat better.

The arugula and kale that I transplanted a few weeks ago are doing really well and I harvested some of both for dinner tonight, along with some parsley.

And dinner ended up being chock full o’ veggies — I made scrambled eggs with some of last night’s leftover asparagus (also some grated halloumi cheese), sauteed the kale in olive oil, salt and pepper, and then made an arugula-strawberry salad.

In other garden news, my peonies are in full bloom. I cut a bunch to put in a vase — they smell great too.