Tuesday, July 30, 2013

hand pollination update

 A while back I talked about how I was hand pollinating my melons for the first time this year, since they are growing in a hoop house. With quite a bit of fruit growing now, I thought I'd report back. Pollination has been pretty successful.

This melon is the largest of them (and seems quite large for this variety's average size!), and was the first one I pollinated. I started out pollinating with a little piece of jute, but found that a small watercolor paintbrush really made the job easier. I picked up a little bundle of watercolor brushes for less than a dollar at the thrift store.

I count 4 or 5 melons that I know for sure I pollinated myself, but I have also had more help than I expected, so I've gotten lazier about doing it myself.

I spotted a honey bee in the hoop house one day, and there have been a number of mason bees as well. It's definitely not buzzing with bees in there, but apparently there are enough, because there are quite a few fruits on the vines.

And speaking of mason bees, the houses we put up have some residents. Within a week, 6 holes filled up in the first house. We were able to watch some of the action even. The second house, which we put up a little later, has one hole occupied. It's pretty late in the season, so this might be it, but it was great to see them go to use so quickly. Next year they will have an earlier start.

Did anyone try making their own mason bee house? 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

a little bit wild

My garden is pretty different than my vision for it was early this spring, and from any previous year. It has taken me a while, but I am finally fully appreciating and enjoying it for what it has become. Instead of seeming haphazard and messy, it now seems full, textural, thriving and beautiful.

This year I have acted more on cues from my plants than from a preplanned idea. I have worked in defense from pests, and in response to things that might not have worked out as planned. As a result I feel like my garden is really thriving, more than ever! I've even been able to grow broccoli for the first time (not been easy here) and I have made it through a number of problems that came up this year.

When my kale started to suffer from root maggots, for example, I experimented with home remedies (I talked about one of those remedies here) and I quickly started to interplant with onions, arugula, rocket and nasturtium. I let calendula grow where ever it had self sown last year.

 When much of my first planting of carrots didn't come through, I re-planted in and amongst other plants that were already getting established. In the light shade of these other plants, germination was quick and easy, and I didn't have to water the "carrot bed" 3 times a day. 

The mix of flowering herbs and greens has added a lot of beauty to the veg patch. I didn't have to plant any calendula this year, yet there is an abundance. I have many volunteer ground cherry, fennel, chamomile, bean plants and more. I plan to let some of my arugula go to seed right in place this year, as I am loving the ease of this kind of self-planting, and the fun of the unexpected.

Though my studies haven't been super in-depth or intensive, my long time interests in permaculture, companion planting and high density gardening have no doubt had their inputs. It's been fun to see new ways of doing things take shape, and I am already feeling excited for next year, with my new knowledge and experience.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

a favorite recipe: herbed summer squash & potato torte

lets talk about a recipe that's worth heating up the kitchen even in the heat of the summer. i am almost always against turning on the oven in the summer. it makes for a hot house & a cranky family. of course, i needed something that would make a fine meal from all of those potatoes, red onions & summer squash we harvested from the garden. this recipe came into my life just in time.

meet the herbed summer squash & potato torte. 

that smitten kitchen lady knows how to make magic happen with a handful of vegetables. i found this recipe on her blog & with a handful of adaptations, i was able to craft up a delicious meal with simple ingredients from my pantry. 

i want to give this lady full credit for her recipe, but i would love to share my version with the ingredients we already had on hand. 

instead of crooked neck squash, i used patty pan squash. it was a wonderful use of an otherwise forgotten vegetable. i also added a handful of red onion, some sprigs of oregano & a couple of snips of lemon thyme. i am always trying to sneak in a few fresh herbs & the extra bit of seasoning really added to the dish. finally, i substituted the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour & parmesan for mozzarella. i baked it all in a 9x13 cake dish & it made for a lovely dinner. 

i would love to hear some of your favorite summer recipes with fresh ingredients from the garden!

- natalie 

Monday, July 8, 2013

An English Pea Supper Galette

Earlier in the year I mentioned that we bought a new variety of English peas for our garden. I'm happy to report that Laxton's Progress No. 9  is quite lovely. The plants are low to the ground and don't require staking, and they are big producers for such little plants. We are just harvesting the last of them.

Tonight, we planned a pea-inspired supper. It's a summer galette filled with spring onions, English peas, broccoli (Fiesta is the variety that I'm loyal to), and some leftover Sunday bacon.

I just knew I had to share this recipe with all of you.

Summer Galette with Peas and Broccoli

For the crust:

1 cup of AP flour
1/4 cup of rye flour
Stick of butter
1/2 tsp salt
Ice water

Combine flours and salt. Cut in butter. Mix in ice water by hand until the dough comes together. Chill in the fridge while you work on the filling.

For the vegetable filling:
2 spring onions, chopped (green and white parts)
1 medium head of broccoli chopped (including stem)
1 cup of English peas *
1 garlic scape, minced
3 pieces of cooked Sunday bacon torn into small bits (optional)

For the cheese mixture:
2/3 cup of cream cheese
3 TB prepared mustard
Sriracha to taste

Saute onions, garlic scape and broccoli in oil or butter until softened. Add English peas and cook for a few minutes more.

Roll out dough and spoon the vegetables into the center. Top with the bacon bits. Dollop the cheese and mustard mixture on top.

Bake in a 375 oven for 35-40 minutes.

**With all of your leftover pea pods, be sure to make a vegetable stock. We made one tonight with pea pods, 4-5 spring onions, sprouting garlic from last season, fresh herbs (oregano, parsley), and sea salt.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

farm livin'

i know i said earlier this season that we would be living in this home & tending to our backyard garden for several years, but thankfully, with a bit of luck & a whole lot of prayers, we are moving onto a little homestead at the end of july. our homestead. 

it all feels like magic. we are purchasing our first home on a handful of acres with open pastures & a pond. when we first walked the property, we knew this was home. we weren't quite looking for a place to call our own just yet, but serendipitously this place fell into our laps & we couldn't be happier.  

we are dreaming of a larger flock of chickens, pigs & bees. the current owners & friends of ours are gifting us five goats! there is a large established organic garden, two barns, a workshop & the entire property is already fenced in. we are smitten.

you can read more about our mini farm on my blog. i look forward to sharing with you all about this new adventure in the (very near) future. 
- natalie

Monday, July 1, 2013



A new edition to the garden has been some local straw mulch. Our vegetables seem to be enjoying their new ground cover.

One of my spilanthes plants in bloom. I had all intentions of making a mouthwash but I just keep popping the buds in my mouth when I'm in the garden. If you've never tried it, it's a really intense experience. Spilanthes causes salivation to increase and also makes your mouth tingle.

Snap peas before the afternoon storm.

Our garlic scapes have been harvested, which means it's time to pickle them. This is our very favorite recipe. We love bringing pickled scapes to gatherings. Our friends love them too and have been known to fight over the last scape in the jar.

After my weekend away, I was very happy to see the Musquee de Provence pumpkins growing.

My breadseed poppies are about to bloom.

Whenever we're in the garden lately, we're always snacking on English peas. The peas may not be making it to our freezer but their pods are. We will use them to make vegetable stock.

I must say that out of all of the flowers on this property, I prefer my neighbor's. Particularly these...

and these.

Happy July!