Monthly Archives: July 2010

Pesky Free-Rangers

We have put a lot of work into restoring our chicken coop from its original dilapidated condition.  The result is a very solid, safe, comfortable and cute home for our chickens.  Despite their fancy digs, our chickens love being outside any time there is not snow on the ground.

They spend hours wandering around, digging and laying in the dirt, eating grass, bugs and just doing their chicken thing.  I like the “idea” of having free-ranging chickens and I enjoy seeing them meandering around the farm.

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Filed under Animals, Chicken coop, Chickens, Outbuildings

Cooling Off in the River

Hot and humid days have graced us here in Minnesota lately and finding relief from the heat is a necessity.  Since summer is so short, it seems wrong to always escape the heat by hunkering down in the air-conditioning.  At least that is what I tell the kids.

“Let’s get out of the house,” I tell them.  Sometimes they suggest if first.

So, off to the river we go.

Stepping into the water offers immediate relief.  We have been enjoying the river a lot more since we cleared an area to hang out and relax on the shore.

Before long, friendly splashing begins.  A splash here, a splash there…

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Filed under Daily life, Kids

Dilly-icious Beans!

Thanks to the ranting and raving of various people, I have discovered a great new way to use all of those green beans and wax beans that I am harvesting at the moment.  Over the past few years, when discussing preserving the garden harvest I have heard numerous people mention dilly beans and how much they love them.  I must admit, the thought of pickled beans did not sound that good to me at first.  At some point, however, I just could not ignore the fact that a LOT of people seemed to like these dilly beans.

When the bush beans started producing a few weeks ago, I dug out my canning books and looked for a recipe.  I found several variations and decided to use the following simple recipe out of  The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving:

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Filed under Food, Freezing and Canning, Gardens, Vegetable

Eat Your Vegetables!

The harvest is on and I cannot pick the vegetables fast enough to keep up.  Although I try to stagger my planting times, every year it seems that everything ripens at once.  At the moment, we have wax beans, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, zucchini and onions ready for harvesting and eating.

We have been eating several servings of vegetables at each meal and I keep trying to come up with different ways to slice, dice, chop, spice and serve them to the family.  My kids are pretty picky eaters, however, and their contributions towards vegetable consumption is limited.  Nonetheless, I just keep reminding them to, “Eat your vegetables!”

As any of you that grow your own food already know, produce picked fresh out of the garden and prepared the same day bears little resemblance to store-bought food.  It really is quite unbelievable.

Consider potatoes, for instance.  I have always rejected suggestions of growing potatoes because they are so inexpensive in the store and why would I bother?  We went ahead anyhow and planted them for the first time this year.  Over the last week or so we have started harvesting some to eat.  They are tender, moist, and flavorful!  Butter is no longer a necessary topping (but it is still really, really good).  We never imagined home-grown potatoes could be so much better than those purchased in the store.

And then there are the carrots.  I planted scarlet nantes and rainbow mix carrots this year and their sweet, mild flavor far exceeds the woody and sometimes bitter carrots we usually purchase.

So, we will continue to enjoy these fresh flavors from the garden as long as possible.  I will do my best to harvest, prepare and preserve our home-grown vegetables during our short growing season here in Minnesota.  Then, in the dead of winter, when I am at the grocery store buying produce, I will try to ignore my memories of these summer flavors and console myself with thoughts of next year’s garden bounty.

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Filed under Food, Gardens, Vegetable

July in the Perennial Garden

The month of July is a time of transition in the perennial garden.  Many of the early blooming perennials are starting to wind down, allowing others to take center stage.  Aside from an early infestation of aphids on my Lupines, I am having a good year in the flower garden.

I planted some White Coneflowers last fall and I am enjoying their first season of blooms.

I rescued these pretty pink Delphiniums last July from a plant sale at one of those temporary nurseries set up in the grocery store parking lot.  The leaves were severely damaged from inconsistent watering and dwindling attention as the peak planting season passed.  The 75% off sale price convinced me to take a chance on the sad plant and much to my surprise, it came through the winter strong.  The Russian Sage was a new addition this spring.

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Filed under Flower, Gardens

Smiling Sunflowers

I have planted sunflowers the last several years because I love seeing the beautiful blossoms towering above the garden.  They are such happy flowers that seem to smile all day long in the sunshine.  Of course, they have the added benefit of providing the birds with some tasty snacks once they go to seed.

I plant them along the north fence in the garden so that they do not shade out any of my plants.  The fence is also a strategic support, especially for the Skyscraper sunflowers that grow really, really tall.  I love these gigantic plants and the huge flower heads they produce.  I will definitely post pictures of them when they begin to flower.

Last year I planted Pastiche Sunflower seeds along the barn, in the pumpkin patch, but had very poor luck with germination.  The beautiful pictures in the seed catalog made me forget that experience, however, and I ordered them again this spring.  I planted them along the north fence with the Skyscraper sunflowers and this year they did not disappoint.

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Filed under Flower, Gardens, Vegetable

Watching the Garden Grow

It has been a good growing year for the vegetable garden.  The plants are huge and everything looks good.  At the risk of jinxing myself, I am happy to report that the garden does not have any major pest, bug or disease issues.  The weeds are growing just as vigorously as the vegetable plants, however, so finding the time to weed is a necessity.

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Filed under Gardens, Vegetable