Let The 2014 Garden Begin

Hey, friends! I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend and aren’t too hung over/tired/burnt this morning! We stayed home this Memorial Day weekend but have started and done so much. Renovations are back in the swing, and so of course is the garden. Speaking of the garden, I realized I’ve barely written about it this year!

This past growing season confirmed to me that I really wanted to get serious about growing some of my own seeds. In the past I’ve tried winter sowing, but I had decided it wasn’t for me. After lots of research on different methods I decided I wanted to go with soil blocking. It’s literally what it sounds like, creating blocks of soil and starting seeds in those blocks. There’s a lot of great soil blocking material online so I won’t write a ton about the method, but good places to start are to search “Eliot Coleman soil blocking” and to check out Johnny Seeds, which is where I got my soil blocker. Personally I don’t do mini soil blockers, I stuck with 2″ and then moved up to pots for the items (like tomatoes) that needed to be potted up eventually.

DSC_0380-01First was deciding what we wanted to start from seed, what seeds we wanted to direct sow once it got warm enough, and what started seeds we still wanted to buy from our local green house. I knew hands down we were going to start tomato seeds. I really felt I could grow stronger plants by transplant time, but I also wanted more control over the varieties I grew. Beyond tomatoes I wasn’t positive what I would do. In the end I went with tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, celeriac and tomatillo’s. I’ve yet to see how the cabbage, cauliflower and tomatillo’s do and if they’ll be big enough to transplant anytime soon (pictured above). They also got a bit leggy since I forgot to turn my grow light on for two days. Oops. The celery, celeriac, and tomatoes all have done very well. The broccoli I’m not sure what to think of. It looks okay, but it suffered a little after potting it up. I’m not sure if it will do well once it get into the garden so I’m just crossing my fingers.

DSC_0341-01 DSC_0342-01Outside of soil blocking, we have a lot going on in the garden already. So far we have peas, cylindra beets, red ace beets, peas, garlic, onions, and as of yesterday, eighteen of the twenty-eight tomato plants!

DSC_0347-01 DSC_0350-01 DSC_0353-01 DSC_0355-01 DSC_0356-01We also expanded our asparagus patch with the asparagus I bought at the Fedco Tree Sale. Our patch was about 1 ft. by 2 ft. and it’s now about 4×4 which is a pretty good size. To plant  I first air dried the crowns for about twenty-four hours to get any storage mold dried, built the trenches, laid in the crows and covered with soil. We already have a few sprigs showing up from this year, but we won’t pick them. The second and third year asparagus has been delicious, while we’ve let the one year old asparagus go to seed.

DSC_9684 DSC_9697-01 DSC_9714-01 DSC_9731-01DSC_9694-01DSC_0345-01In the other areas of the yard I decided to transplant the strawberries to go in with the blueberries. I figured the acidic soil would be better, it would keep all of our fruit in one area, and it would allow me to build a 2×40 bed behind one of our stone walls to move our squash into as part of a crop rotation plan. At first I was worried the strawberries weren’t going to make it. Turns out though, weeks later, they are thriving in their new home. I really think the change in soil was perfect for them.

DSC_9701-01 DSC_9705-01DSC_0361-01Beyond strawberries the deer got at our blueberry and raspberries this winter since it was so harsh. I really wasn’t sure our new raspberry vine made it but sure enough, it did! Along with the raspberries, the blueberries and rhubarb are also in bloom. I’ve cropped the rhubarb pretty heavily already, but it’s still going.

DSC_0357-01 DSC_0363-01 DSC_0367-01 DSC_0370-01 DSC_0372-01We also expanded our orchard to include two peach trees and two more apple trees. Andy had the great idea of keeping one of the apple trees by the stone wall where the blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are. While all of them are doing good, the one by the stone wall seems to be doing best. There must be something about the soil around that wall, because everything seems to thrive over there.

DSC_0373-01If it seems like a lot has been going on around here, you’d be right! Thankfully I have my new handy broad fork to thank for a lot of the work in the garden. We originally tilled the entire lot, but as I’ve needed beds I’ve been aerating with the broad fork. Unlike tilling it helps keep the nutrients deep in the soil and also doesn’t expose weed seeds—a big issue we’ve been battling for a while now. This no-engine, no mechanics, simple piece of steel equipment is absolutely my favorite gardening tool I own.

DSC_9689-01In the end, that’s what’s been going on so far! Since spring is a bit behind I decided to wait until next weekend to buy the rest of the seedlings and direct sow most of the plants. I might put in the celery and broccoli this week, but I’ll be playing it by mother-natures ear. It’s a ton to do, but so far, so good.

One last thing, I’ve already been canning! This is our first year with rhubarb growing on our property and I realized it was a use it or lose it moment. Sunday I scoured my Ball Company canning recipe book and found one for Victorian Barbecue Sauce using rhubarb. Over all it’s a really unique sauce and pretty darn tasty. I ended up with four small jars and enough left over to use on the pork tenderloin we had last night for dinner.

10401791_310803725740660_785031501_nBesides all of this, the first week of graduate school is done! Only seven more weeks of this class to go and then an eight-week break until the next session! Thank goodness too, because that will be prime gardening time!

xo,
Heather

 

Peter Pipers Pickling Party {Dill Relish & Bread and Butter Slices}

I need to figure out Peter Piper’s method for was growing veggies he could pick a peck of  that were already pickled. Until then, August is pickling season. Once again our garden has inundated us with mass quantities of cucumbers, within the last week. So I spent this past rainy Sunday in the kitchen processing about 14+ pounds of cucumbers. First up was 8 pounds of relish, and then about a gallon of bread and butter pickles. This is the first year I made relish, and it was a great way to use up the cucumbers that weren’t up to par for pickles.

My most favorite addition to this years harvest has hands down been my mandolin. It’s really important keep your pickles uniform so they heat evenly, and the mandolin allowed me to get slices of the same thickness.

For the recipes on this post I used the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This post is in no way paid for/sponsored by Ball, I just think they are a really great source. If you’re unfamiliar with home preservation techniques, I suggest you read the book and do some research. It’s extremely important your fruit is washed and unblemished, your jars are sterilized and your kitchen is clean before you start with everything laid out as you need it. The last thing you want is any sort of bacterial introduction, and/or to be running around grabbing things when you’re ladling hot liquids.

Dill Pickle Relish (taken from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

  • 8 pounds cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup picking/sea salt (do not use table salt for canning, ever)
  • 2 tsp ground tumeric
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups finely chopped onions (I found a mandolin worked great for this)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp dill seeds (I had no dill seeds, so I used a hefty portion of dried dill. I really wanted super dill relish though. Remember whatever you use will get stronger over time).
  • 4 cups white vinegar (about 5% acidity)

Directions (abbreviated from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, with notes from myself added in)

1. Finely chop cucumbers in small batches, transferring to a glass or stainless bowl as you finish. A food processor works great for this. Sprinkle with pickling salt and tumeric. Cover with water and place in fridge for about 2 hours.

2. Drain cucumbers and rinse thoroughly. Press extra water out with your hands in small batches. I initially use a couple books to press the water out.

3. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
4. Combine vinegar, dill, sugar and onions in large saucepan. Add in drained cucumbers. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce and boil gently, stirring to prevent sticking. Do this until slightly thickened and vegetables are heated through. This will take about 10 minutes to reduce.

5. Ladle hot relish into jars leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe rim, and seal handtight. My advice is to only fill one jar at a time and seal. Don’t leave the jar uncovered once filled.
6. Place jars back in the canner, until completely covered with water. Once the water is at a full rolling boil again, time for 15 minutes (this will depending on your altitude, research proper processing times for your area). Wait 5 minutes, remove jars and cool. Do not tilt jars to dump water off the top when you pull them out. This water will quickly evaporate.
Store in a cool dry place and give a few months for optimal taste, though it can be eaten within a few days.

Bread and Butter Pickles (adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

  • 10 cups sliced pickling cucumbers
  • 5 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup Kosher salt
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
 Directions (seriously abbreviated from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, with notes from myself added in)
1. Slide onions thinly and cucumbers into rounds of the similar size – this is where a mandoline comes in super handy! Combine cucumbers, onions, salt in a glass or ceramic bowl. Cover with water and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours. I cover with plastic wrap to keep anything out of the mix.
2. Rinse the cucumbers then drain thoroughly.
3. Combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed and mustard seed in a large pot until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
4.  Turn to low, add the cucumbers and heat through, about 10 minutes. Do not boil. Turn heat off if using gas, or remove from burner if using electric heat. At this point they will already taste pretty much awesome.
5. Add cucumber first to the jars and then fill with pickling liquid to cover pickles. Leave a generous 1/2 inch headspace.  Clean rims, add hot lids and rings. Process about 15 minutes in a hot water bath at a full boil. Remember “processing time” doesn’t start until it hits full boil.

After a long day in the kitchen over boiling water and vinegar, in the middle of August, I was ready for nothing except to take a shower. So tomorrow’s lunch will be almond butter and jelly. {If you lost me – I normally make lunch for the next day at night, and I was done with the kitchen}.

I’m shuddering looking at all of the equally green tomato’s in the garden.  I may need to nip this in the butt and make some green tomato salsa.

Ok, in all reality – I love it. I love not having to buy this stuff. I love having on the go gifts. I love putting up produce we grow and harvest right in our back yard. A garden is a great thing to have.

Happy Pickling,
Heather

Mason Jar Wedding Invitation Set – DIY Template

Update: January 29, 2015

Unfortunately someone peed in the pool, in fact, multiple people have peed in the pool and so the pool party is over. It will never cease to amaze me how one person believes it’s okay to steal another persons design and then portray them as their own, and profit off of them. It’s straight up unethical.

Thank you to everyone who has used my design responsibility for their events. I truly appreciate it. However, the only place you may now find this design for download is through The Wedding Chicks.  I have given them exclusive permission to offer the designs for free. Unfortunately this means the file is no longer editable to use for any other purpose than a wedding.

I’m sorry everyone to shut the pool down. It just hurts my heart too much to see other people ripping my designs off for a profit, when I, as the creator, don’t even sell them for a profit. So, with that said, I have removed all downloadable files below, information on what fonts were used, and how to edit these. I have also watermarked the images so they cannot be lifted and manipulated easily within a program.

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PLEASE NOTE PRIOR TO USE: This design is for personal use only and may not be downloaded, used, or altered in anyway for commercial use. This design is Creative Commons protected – as noted at the end of this post. Wedding Chicks is the only vendor with an agreement to use this design commercially. Wedding Chicks will be notified of listings found to be using any part of this design for profit. All blogs who wish to offer this template, or a version of it, for free are welcome to do so with clear and proper acknowledgement and a link back to this blog.

Unauthorized replications of designs, for profit or for free without acknowledgement, is disheartening and disrespectful to the intent of this design and to all designers who work hard to produce original content. For those that have used this template personally and have loved it, thank you so much for your support. I choose to believe the majority of people who use this are doing so personally and the notes I’ve received of gratefulness are the reasons I’m still keeping this download up for now. Thank you again.

Lesson: Don’t pee in the pool, it ruins the fun for everyone.

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I have a confession.

I bought our wedding invitations before we were even engaged. I guess I should back it up and say that we would have been engaged by then had I not lost my job. We just couldn’t merit that kind of money at that point. A couple months later once I got a new job, we got engaged.

So really, while unemployed with lack of cash flow, what inspired me to get invitations suddenly? The price.

You might want to sit down.

Sitting?

Good.

The story goes as follows: Go to staples for soap business supplies, take a look at clearance table to see if there is anything on it I can use, see wedding invitations. Marked down from $40 a box to $7.50 for 50 invites – I can deal with not loving the design (plain with a tiny bouquet of flowers on top). I scoop up a few more boxes than I expect to use,  just incase.

I get to the cash register and I nearly fall over giggling with pure joy and shock. Then I do some sort of Top Gun high-five with the guy behind me in line (okay, I didn’t but it crossed my mind). Why all the celebration? They rang up as .50 cents a box. I confirm the price and gleefully skip out of the store with all wedding invitations for $2.50 cents and a savings of $197.50.

When Mr. A walks in the door I bubble over about my find.  Through the look of utter confusion and gears turning in his head, I get approval. We’ve been together for almost 6 years at this point, he’s really not too baffled by my antics, and was impressed by the savings.

I spent all of yesterday designing and figuring out the wedding and rsvp design since they do need to go out this month. We have a mason jar theme (much like my life). I designed the outline of the jar, in my vector editor, after a picture I found because mason jar pictures so hard to come across. Okay, that was slightly sarcastic.

So without further ado, the invitation set. Cost?  $0.01 cent each (not including labor or ink).

The invitation was printed and cut around to leave a small border. The invitation paper was off-white with tiny flowers on top. I lined these up to print below the flower design and chopped it right off.

The RSVP’s took a while to figure out how I wanted them worded. When it came down to it, I wanted a cute front that incorporated the jars and went for an nontraditional approach to the wording on the back.

So how did I format the wording for these? Mad-Lib style!

I am excited about these and can’t wait to get them all printed and sent out in the mail. I have to confirm the time with the church first but once that’s done my printer won’t know what hit it.

Oh, and if you did the math ($2.50/.50 cents a box = 5 boxes*50 per box = 250) we don’t have nearly 250  people as it turns out. We went with about 100 less than that. Thank God.

Happy Wedding Crafting!

Heather

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DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS:

Due to stealing of this design for profit, all downloads and download instructions have been removed. The Creative Commons license for this design remains in effect. This design is for personal use only. No commercial uses or for clients. Reproductions must be attributed back to Like A Cup of Tea. Please see Creative Commons License below.

Creative Commons License
Mason Jar Invitations by Like A Cup Of Tea is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.