Tuesday, May 21, 2019

2019 Garden Season has Begun!

Hi friends!

It's been awhile since I've updated on here....nearly an entire year!  This winter was rough...and long.  Ashlyn started school full time, I went back to work part time and life just seemed to get busier and very overwhelming.  But, the kids and I only have two weeks left of school/work and are ready to take on summer full swing!

The past two years, we've planted our garden on Mother's Day.  This year, it was a brisk 45 degrees on Mother's Day....so no garden planting for us!  Instead, we waited until this past weekend where we planted the garden on our warmest day yet - low 80's and sunny.  It was such a beautiful day!

Most things were planted by seed.  I did purchase tomato, tomatillo, hot pepper, cabbage, and sweet potato plants.  Tomatoes and peppers are hard for us to grow by seed due to their longer germination period.  Cabbage and sweet potatoes were impulse purchases ;)  Due to our terrible season dealing with Squash Vine Borers last summer, we decided to not grow any types of squash this year.  We're hoping by taking a year off, they'll disappear.  #fingerscrossed

The kids were spending the day/night at Jason's parents last Saturday so it was the perfect opportunity to get the garden planted.  In just under 6 hours, we were able to plant most of our 3,000 sqft garden.  We planted everything except the potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cabbage before we called it quits for the evening.  Here is a little view of the garden before the planting began:

We went big this year - nearly every available space has been taken up in our garden.  We started with the tomatoes.  We planted 48 canning tomatoes and 47 roma tomatoes.  I have yet to be able to can enough tomatoes to last us through a winter...so that's the goal this year!  Next, we moved on to corn.  We ended up with six rows this year - approximately 220 corn seeds were dropped in the ground!  Last year, we decided to mark our rows of veggies with marigolds. 

For beans this year we just went with two varieties - one pole bean and one bush bean.  Sixty-six black bush beans and 94 pole beans were planted. 

Another large planting this year was onions.  We went with onion sets this year instead of seeds (wise choice!) and ended up planting about 120. 

We tamed down on cucumbers this year and only planted half of what we planted last year.  We still have a shelf of pickles in our garage fridge so we just planted six mounds for eating.  We are also trying cucamelons for the first time this year.  I've never grown them nor eaten them so I'm pretty excited about those!

Another new thing we're trying this year is tomatillos.  I've become quite the fan of Salsa Verde in the past year or so, so I'm excited to grow these for the first time as well!  We went light on peppers this year as well - four jumbo jalapenos and four Hungarian Wax peppers.  I just wanted some for salsa and that are big enough to stuff and grill.

We ended up with about 120 peas in the ground, a small row of beets and a row of carrots and radishes as well.  I ended up picking up four cabbage plants and thought that we should give sweet potatoes a try as well...so we have three of those in the ground.

We went with two types of potatoes this year - fingerling and Yukon gold.  I planted 100 potato starts in the ground.  ONE HUNDRED.  If they all sprout and produce potatoes I don't know what we're going to do!

Well, there is a little update on our garden.  The plan is to keep updates a'coming....but we all know how busy and crazy life gets!  Hoping for another beautiful weekend so I can get more/better pictures posted.  Maybe even a little garden tour???

Until next time,

~ Sara

Monday, July 23, 2018

Mid-July Garden Update

It's been over a month since I've given an update of our garden...so, let's do a garden update!

This summer has been crazy hot, humid, and dry for Michigan.  We always have a week or two where we reach 90+ temps, but this year, it seems like that was the temperature for most of June and into July.  It was quite the change after our soggy, soaked spring.  We ended up losing quite a few plants due to all of the heavy rain in late spring.

But, I'm happy to report that this is the best our garden has ever looked!  We've kept up on the weeds a lot better than we ever have and just simply paid better attention to our plants.  That's helped us be proactive in fighting blight and nasty garden pests.  We had a party last weekend and Jason proudly gave garden tours to anyone who was interested.  He said that a lot of our friends complimented us on the garden and were impressed.  Music to our homesteading ears!! :)

But, enough blabbing...let's get on to some pictures!

We have lots of wild black raspberries all over our property.  I was able to pick enough to freeze one gallon sized bag that I will most likely turn into jam one it cools down (it's waaaay too hot to can right now!).  I thought that they were mostly done, but went for a little walk around the property last week and was able to find quite a few.  No bowl?  No problem!  Well, as long as you're wearing a shirt!

Inside the garden, our corn is thisclose to being ready to be harvested!  This is our third time trying to grow corn...we're hoping third time's the charm because we haven't had much luck to this point.  But, they look better than they ever have before.


Both sets of our pole beans are thriving.  We've been harvesting our Golden Gate Beans (the long, flat, yellow ones) for nearly a month now.  Our Kentucky Blue are just beginning to be harvested.


Onto the Roma tomatoes.  Our poor - yet still producing - Romas.  I'm not going to lie, they are struggling!  We are pretty sure they were hit with Septoria Leaf Spot early on...basically a blight or fungus that is caused by leaves that remain wet.  I spent six hours crawling through all 58 of our tomato plants picking off leaves that were affected.  We also stopped watering them overhead and purchased soaker hoses.  The blight affects the plant, but supposedly does not affect the fruit.


On the other side of the garden, however, our canning tomatoes are thriving!  They too were hit with the blight, but don't seem to be as affected as the Roma tomatoes.  Maybe it isn't the blight that's affected the tomatoes after all?  #somuchtolearn


In other sad plant news, both of our zucchini plants got hit with Squash Vine Borers.  This is our first year battling these terrible little you-know-whats and hopefully the last (ha! not a chance).  Basically, they bore into the squash vine (hence the name) and kill your squash from the inside out.  This is one of our plants after pulling a few out of various stems.  Such a sad little plant.  Both have been attacked, but we've got our fingers crossed that at least one will survive and continue to produce.  We were lucky enough to get a few zucchinis before the plants met their possible demise.


All of our melons seem to be thriving.  We've got a few good-sized watermelons on the vine with lots of babies behind those.  We've also got some baby cantaloupes a-growing!


I did notice some yellowing/drying of leaves on one of the watermelon plants so I snipped off the affected leaves just in case it was a fungus.  It seemed to have helped, but I'll keep my eye on it.


It's a darn good thing that we only planted two kale!  They are HUGE!  I did harvest quite a bit late last week to make my Kale Salad...but a lot of what I trimmed off is already coming back.  Look at these babies!


Our broccoli is looking good as well.  In fact, we thought we had lost two of the plants, but they sprung back to life and are looking great!  We even have a little baby broccoli head forming.


The cabbages are looking lovely and I was able to harvest one recently for our favorite coleslaw recipe!

Our peppers are growing better than ever!  We ended up with some pale yellow bell peppers...we'd never seen them this color before.


And the jalapenos!  Oh, the jalapenos.  Can you see how LOADED these eight plants are!?!?  Some of the plants are taller than the cages they're in.  Definitely our most successful jalapeno year BY FAR!

Here are our fingerling potatoes.  They haven't grown very tall, nor have they flowered yet.  So...we'll let them keep on growing!

The Yukon potatoes are ready to be harvested...although only one plant actually produced flowers this year.  I have dug up two plants so far and only found 4 potatoes total.  Pretty disappointing, I must say :(

Carrots are also ready!  We just picked our first carrots the other day.  They were sweet and delicious.  This is the first year we've (successfully) grown carrots :)

The cucumbers are going crazy!!!  So thankful that our kids love fresh cucumbers.  Cause we've got lots of them!


Our black beans are done growing, but now we wait for them to fully dry while they are on the plant.  I'm SUPER excited about these.  We eat so many black beans in this house.  If these are successful, we'll probably need to quadruple the amount we plant next year.

Hard to believe the summer is over halfway over!  We are starting to have bountiful harvests every day which is what we live for.  Here are a few pictures of some of the harvests we've had so far this summer:




Happy Harvesting!!

~ Sara :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Cucumber Salad

This ranks up there as one of my favorite summer side dishes!  It takes me back...waaaaay back.  My mom would make this every summer while I was growing up.  I ask her for the recipe every single year, but I was never able to recreate it quite like hers.  Until this year.  This year it came out almost as good as hers ;)

This salad is so simple, too.  Very few ingredients and, if the thought of just mayo and vinegar as a dressing makes you turn your head, I'm asking you to just give it a chance.  I'm not the biggest fan of mayo, but it's amazing how just a little bit of vinegar added to it totally transforms it into something different.

Of course this could be made anytime of the year, but it truly tastes the best with fresh picked cucumbers.  If you have fresh onions and tomatoes (I don't add tomatoes in mine, but some do) - even better!  We have cucumbers coming out of our ears this year, so you better believe I'll be making this salad often :)

Cucumber Salad


3-4 freshly picked cucumbers, sliced (4-5 cups)
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 roma tomatoes, sliced (optional)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2  1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt


1.  In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo with two tbsp vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Add the cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes and stir to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Serve and Enjoy!

~ Sara :)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Patriotic Taco Dip

We are lucky enough to have great friends that throw an awesome Fourth of July party every year.  This year, I decided to get extra festive with one of the dishes I brought.  Introducing the Patriotic Taco Dip.  I was so proud of my creation!  I made sure evvvverybody knew that I was responsible for this masterpiece.  :)

This is an incredibly easy, festive dip that you can make/layer however you'd like!  Below are the ingredients I used, but there is no set recipe - add/subtract anything you like!

Patriotic Taco Dip



1 can (15 oz) refried beans
8 oz sour cream mixed with 1 tbsp. taco seasoning
16 oz guacamole
16 oz salsa, drained
1 bunch (6-8) green onions, sliced thin
1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro
8 oz shredded cheese
1 large handful blue tortilla chips, crushed 
Mozzarella, Provolone, or Monterey Jack cheese cut into 50 small pieces
3 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
4-8 oz sour cream


1.  In an 8x11 rectangular dish, layer the first eight ingredients.
2.  Using the remaining ingredients, create a 'flag' on the top of the dip.  I recommend either using squeezable sour cream or using a pastry bag.  Serve with tortilla chips.  Enjoy!

~ Sara :)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Cherry Cobbler

I am lucky enough to have parents that love gardening as much as we do and always has fruit and veggies to spare.  One thing they have a ton of is cherry trees.  The kids and I went over there late last week and came home with probably 20 quarts of sour cherries!  I had told her that I wanted enough to can 2 quarts...well, I ended up canning 4 quarts plus 10 pints!  I also have plenty of cherries leftover to dehydrate and juice leftover to make homemade grenadine.

Another thing that I decided to make?  Cherry Cobbler.  Cobbler is such an easy dessert and this was tart, sweet, and delicious!

Cherry Cobbler



1 Tbsp soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar 
1 cup flour 
2 tsp baking powder 
1/2  cup milk
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 pint (2 cups) sour cherries 
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
Boiling Water


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and 8x8 pan, and drain cherries reserving any liquid.

2.  In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, 1/2 cup sugar, flour, baking powder, milk, and salt until a smooth batter is formed.  Spread batter in prepared pan.

3.  In the same bowl (no reason to dirty another!), combine the sugar, drained cherries and almond extract.  Add enough boiling water to the reserved cherry juice to measure 1 1/2 cups.  Add to the cherries and mix well.  Top the batter with the cherry mixture.

4.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the batter rises and begins to turn golden brown.  Remove and allow to cool.  Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Moving the Chickens - Part Two

After being moved to the run in their own space for about a week, it was time to integrate our newest flock members in with our remaining two original chickens - Libby Mae and Bork.  I had some 'supervised visitation' with all of them for about 30 minutes one day and, well, it didn't go great, but it wasn't terrible.

We knew we had to do something because it was just a matter of time before the little chicks figured out a way to fly up and over our 8 foot tall fence into the garden or the yard.  Once we walked in and found them on top of their makeshift coop and roosting on the door, we knew it was time.

We were cautiously optimistic and decided to move the little chicks into the coop with Libby Mae and Bork at night while they were roosting.  Once we got them in and shut the door, there was a little squabbling, but nothing to be concerned about.  The next morning, all was fine....as long as the chicks kept their distance from Bork.  Ha!  She's a feisty little b.... if you know what I mean.  

As long as I threw out lots of treats, the chickens could semi-cohabitate together.  Again, as long as all the little ones (and, who am I kidding - Libby Mae too!) gave Bork plenty of space.


We were hopeful that the little chickens would follow the two bigger ones into the coop at night.  This was a pretty silly thought on our part considering they were scared to death of them!  Needless to say, that didn't happen.  When we would go out to check on them at night, they would all be up on top of the kennel/coop (we had it closed so they wouldn't roost inside of it) all huddled together.  So, just like we did with our first flock, we had to put these chicks on lock down inside the coop.

So, in the coop they went and in the coop they stayed for four days.  This trains them that this is their home, their safe place, and where they need to return to every night.  Now, we did not want Bork and Libby Mae to be locked in with them so we locked them out of the coop and turned the small chicken coop/kennel into their coop for a few days.

It's been a little over a week since the coop training and I'm happy to report that all of the chicks are going to the coop at night.  Yay!!  They still aren't BFFs with Bork or Libby Mae, but they are definitely cohabitating better.  Well, as long as they stay away from Bork's food!

~ Sara :)