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8 Garden tasks you should be doing this Fall

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Fall is the time to get your garden ready for spring planting.  If you tackle a few important tasks now in mid fall then your spring gardening will be so much easier.  So here’s a quick list of those last minute items you should take care of before winter sets in!

1.  Be sure to tear out all of your dead, dying or spent plants. 

This seems pretty basic but a lot of people get busy this time of year and never get around to pulling out all those old tomato plants or corn stalks.  Good hygiene is an important part of a successful garden.  Leaving old plants all winter in your garden gives lots of pests great places to hide.  Slugs and snails especially are looking for a nice warm spot to spend the winter, don’t give them somewhere to hide.  Many other pests will over winter in plants left in the garden.  Be sure you either dispose of all this seasons’ plants or even better compost them!

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2. Be especially careful to get rid of any diseased plant material. 

Tomato plants with sick leaves, that kale plant that is just covered in aphids, or those squash vines covered in powdery mildew.  All of these types of plants should be thrown out NOT composted.  Many of those types of diseases are carried in the soil.  If you compost those plants the problems will just be transferred to other parts of your garden.  Also be sure to completely clean up any loose leaves from diseased plants and get them away from your garden beds.  It’s also a good idea to do one last good weeding to get rid of any perennial weeds that might make it through the winter.

3. Do any tilling or turning of your beds now! 

If you beds need a tiller run through them or if you just need to turn the soil with a digging fork, fall is the best time to get that done.  In the fall your soil is usually nice and dry and easy to work so do all of your tilling now.  Then when spring comes you won’t have to wait for the soil to dry before you can plant.  All your beds will need is a quick work over with a rake and they will be ready for your spring peas, lettuce and Cole crops!

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 4. Add compost

No matter what your soil type, it needs more organic matter.  A good quality organic compost will improve almost any soil type.  And this time of year most of the nurseries and even the big box stores are trying to get rid of the left over’s.  So compost can often be bought at a big discount.  Try adding an inch or two of compost to all your beds before you till them or turn the soil.  Your plants will thank you next spring!!

5.  Rougher organic materials

If you are planning on adding grass clippings or leaves to your garden, fall is the best time to do that as well.  It takes longer for these rougher materials to breakdown in the soil.  While they are breaking down the bacteria doing all the work takes up nitrogen from the soil robbing your plants.  Till these rougher items into your garden in the fall and they will have all winter and early spring to breakdown and improve the soil before you start planting in the spring.

6.  Drain Hoses and Water systems

Be sure to drain any garden hoses that you have been using all summer.  Simply lay them out flat and then pick the hose up and walk along hand over hand with the hose above your head.  This will force all the water out the other end.  If you have drip systems or underground sprinklers in your garden, be sure they are all drained and winterized as well.  Also be sure to disconnect hoses from the hose bibs or they will cause the pipes to bust in your house if they freeze!!

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7.  Bring in all pots, decorations and movable structures

Winter weather is very rough on clay and plastic pots.  Stack them together and store them in a garage or shed.  If you don’t have that option then put them in a protected corner and cover them with a tarp!  Tomato cages, trellises and other garden structures should also be put in a protected space.  This will make them last a lot longer.  Also don’t forget your garden gnomes and other nick-knacks, their paint will last many more years if they spend the winter indoors!

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8.  Sweep for garden pests

As winter really gets closer spend some time in the cold part of the day searching your garden for hidden pests.  Look for slugs, snails, ear wigs and other critters and try to root them out of their hiding spots and destroy them.  The more of those little guys you get rid of this fall the fewer of their babies you will have to deal with next summer!

I know you may be a little tired of gardening right now but trust me you will be happy next spring that you spent some time this fall cleaning up and prepping your garden.

 

What garden tasks do you prefer to do in the fall?  Did I miss any?

Our Journey to Real Food

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Our journey to real food. . . . I am not sure where to begin.  My husband and I have always wanted to eat healthy.  We chose what we thought were the best alternatives for our family.   We don’t drink soda except on vacation or a few holidays and we tried to pick the most healthy breakfast cereals.  Let’s just say we didn’t eat a lot of junk food.  I always made sure my kids were eating their vegetables and fruits.  We never have liked buying a lot of produce from the store because of all the chemicals/pesticides that are used on them.  We decided long ago that we would plant a garden and get as much of our own fresh food as possible.  We have had a garden consistently for about 18 years.  Rick then took some classes and became a master gardener and then became an expert at winter gardening which helps us have our own fresh vegetables year around!  This is really how we began our real food journey by just doing our own garden.  We wanted to provide our own healthy organic food.

Our next step happened about 4 years ago when we slowly started switching most of the flour we use from white flour to whole wheat.  Two years ago we switched from store bought whole wheat flour to flour we grind fresh ourselves.

It was about a year ago that I was actually sitting down and watching TV(that doesn’t happen often).  I was watching a talk show that had Tosca Reno on it.  She was talking about her eat clean diet.  She also talked about how much sugar is in our diets and how it has become a drug that we are all addicted to.  I went to the library and checked out all of her books and started reading.  Most of her books talk about eating real food and about paying attention to the labels of the food you buy and look at  the sugar content.  Rick also had just finished reading a Michael Poland book.

We both started talking and when we would go buy our groceries we started looking at the labels of everything.  Wow!  I was shocked to learn how much junk was in the food I was eating.  I couldn’t even pronounce most of the ingredients.  What in the world was I feeding my family???  I thought we were eating pretty good but oh was I wrong.  My favorite book of Tosca Reno’s was “The Eat Clean Diet for Families and Kids”.  This was the best book for me because it helped me by giving me a simple guide to eating cleaner for my family.  She made it seem more manageable and affordable.  I also then started searching the internet for ideas of how to eat better.  I read blogs of other people who have tried to change to real food.  One of my favorite blogs was of course 100 Days of Real food.  Thanks so much to that blog . . .so much help and info and recipes to keep our family going.

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I want to share with you for the next few weeks our family’s experience with this journey toward real food.  I want to let you know how we started and what worked and didn’t work.   I must admit it wasn’t an easy road to take at first and we had a lot of struggles.  We have a house full of almost all teenagers and they have resisted our change of diet quite a bit.  We at first tried to do it all at once and it just didn’t work.  We decided that it would be best to start slow and change what we ate every few months . . . so the teens could adjust!  We are not perfect at eating real food all the time and we have our setbacks and yes, we are still trying to take some foods out of our diet; but we are trying and I think that is all the matters!!!

I love how we are eating now!!!  I feel better . . . I feel healthy and I have so much more energy when I put the right kinds of food in my body.   Has it been easy?   No!  But it is so worth it, once you get used to it.  I hope for the next few weeks as I post about this, that our practical approach to eating real food  will help some of you out there who are thinking about it and want to try it.   If you are ready to make the change,  decide now and go for it . . . believe me you will never regret it, nor will you ever want to go back to eating the way you did before.

So please check back often.  I will be posting a new article about our real food journey every week for the next month or so.  Next weeks post will be on our conversion to baking 100% of our own breads.

We will be sharing this post on several blog hops this week including:

The Yuck Stops Here

The Real Housewives of Riverton

Foodie Fridays

Monday Harvest Report – Still harvesting tomatoes!!

Wow!  I mean WOW!!!  The weather last week was absolutely perfect!!  Sunny and in the low to mid 70’s all week with overnight lows in the 50’s.  You just don’t get any better than that!  And here it is October 20th and we still haven’t had our first frost!  That is so unusual for us.  There have been years when we have had snow by this point in October.

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The main advantage of no frost is this!  We are still picking ripe tomatoes at a pretty good rate.  This plants are still looking pretty good for this late in the year, and despite a aphid infestation they are still producing strong.

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Here’s the big picking for the week which came on Friday evening.  14 pounds in this box.  Combined with a few from the borrowed garden we had 20 pounds again.  That was more than enough for another batch of tomatoes but we are out of bottles so instead this box is going to be used fresh all week in a bunch of yummy soups!!

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I was ripping out the last of the pumpkin vines on Saturday when I came across this little surprise.  I had totally forgotten that back in July I planted a small hill of zucchini in a empty spot.  This was an experiment to see how late I could plant zucchini and still get fruit.  I planted this on on July 23rd.  Only a few weeks later the pumpkin vines over ran this section of the garden and I promptly forgot this plant was even there!  Well it turns out you can get fruit planting that late.  There is one nice sized fruit that I picked Saturday and another is set and should develop as long as this weather holds.

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The kids were excited to see the zucchini and they all begged Valerie to make the chocolate zucchini bread recipe that she discovered last week.  Okay lets face it, this recipe isn’t really healthy but it sure is delicious, I will have to get her to post the recipe soon.

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The warm weather is also helping our very late planted lettuce crop.  All of these plants are finally well established and starting to grow again but all the rainy weather in August and September really set back our fall garden and I’m afraid it is going to turn into a spring garden instead.  We’ll see, but our window for growth is really getting small.  I think I may end up overwintering all these plants instead of harvesting them this fall.

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We had a nice little picking of strawberries again this week.  I think we may have one more picking at the end of the week and then they will be done for the year.  The patch is in a spot where it doesn’t get much sun this time of year so  they are really slowing down.

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I also noticed that the fall broccoli is starting to head up.  Now we need a good frost to sweeten it up and kill all the dang aphids that are attacking the plants!!

Not pictured are another zucchini and a few cucumbers that were picked throughout the week.

Here’s this weeks totals:

Borrowed Garden
Tomatoes – 6 lbs

Home Garden
Zucchini – 3 lbs
Tomatoes – 16 lbs
Strawberries – .75 lbs
Cucumbers – 1.25 lbs
Total – 21 lbs

Our total for the home garden is now a respectable 618 pounds which really is pretty good considering we didn’t get any melons this year from the home garden.  The other big news is that our tomato total reached 157 pounds.  That exceeds last years total by a pound and gives us our biggest tomato harvest ever!!  And we will really shatter the record because I’m sure we will get at least 10 to 15 more pounds this week!

We will be joining several blog hops this week including the Tuesday Garden Party at an Oregon Cottage, Garden Tuesday at Sidewalk Shoes, The Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead and of course the Monday Harvest Report at Daphne’s Dandelions!

 

Monday Harvest Report – Winding down for the year

Wow I sure love this time of year!! The weather is perfect! We had mid 70’s all week long with nice cool but not cold nights. I’m starting to see the leaves turn here in the valley. The mountains are about done, I can still see the yellow Aspens but most of the other colors are gone. Down here in the valley we are starting to see lots of red, yellows and orange!
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I brought this box of tomatoes in on Wednesday and Valerie just sighed!

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When I brought this box in on Saturday she just about cried!! We are kind of “tomatoed” out at the moment!! We have canned 55 quarts so far this year and these two boxes will give us another batch of 7. I think we will try to do this one last batch and then any others we get will either be eaten fresh or given to neighbors. I spent some time in the garden Saturday cleaning up for the fall and there are still quite a few tomatoes that are close to ripe. The weather is looking cooler for the coming week but not so cold that we have to worry about frost, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see another 20 pounds of tomatoes.

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Here’s our pitiful celery harvest for the year. We only had 4 plants to begin with but for some reason 3 of the plants bolted to seed early in August, long before they were ready to harvest. So this is what we got from the only one that didn’t bolt. 1.25 pounds of very small stalks. i think the celery really suffered from our crappy clay soil. Next year I’m going to try some fresh seed and a spot with a lot of compost!!

We had a few cucumbers and one zucchini. The cucumbers are pretty much done for the year. There are 4 or 5 more small ones on the vines that I will leave an see if they get any bigger, but the cool weather pretty much put an end to them. The zucchini on the other had still seems to want to produce. There is one other fruit that is about ready to harvest and I noticed a couple more that have set!

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We finally were able to harvest a few Crenshaw melons from the borrowed garden. 7 this week. Ripeness is questionable on these. Most of them still have a lot of green on them. But they are soft on the blossom end (which is how you pick a Crenshaw) so we have been picking them.

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We are letting them sit in the garage for a few days before we open them and I’m not counting them in my totals unless they are use-able when we open them up. So far we have cut up 3 and given away another 2 and they were all great!!

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Here’s the fun harvest for the week! We picked a total of 70 ears of popcorn! Our youngest daughter and I sat out on the patio on Saturday morning and shucked all of them. Of the 70 ears more than 50 of them are really good sized. They weighed in at about 1/3 pounds each. The other 20 or so were smaller but still great!

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Since there is not rain in the forecast for the week we are going to leave them out on the patio in the sun to help them cure. I’m actually really excited that we were able to get such a good harvest. Of course we will use most of this for popping, but you can actually use pop corn as a grain. You can just grind it up in your flour mill and use it as corn meal. I kind of like knowing that. If the zombie apocalypse ever happens at least I know we can grow a grain crop in our garden!! :)

We also had a few small hand-fulls of raspberries and about 1/2 pound of strawberries this week.

Here’s this weeks totals:

Home Garden
Zucchini – 1.75 lbs
Tomatoes  – 18.50 lbs
Strawberries – .40 lbs
Cucumbers – .50 lbs
Celery – 1.25 lbs
Peppers – .25 lbs
Popcorn – 17
Total – 39.65 lbs

Borrowed Garden
Tomatoes – 6.50 lbs
Crenshaw Melon – 35 lbs
Total  – 41.50 lbs

That brings our Annual total in the home garden to 597 pounds and 610 pounds at the borrowed garden.  1,207 pounds is just crazy!  Of course almost 400 pounds of that are melons the bulk of which were sold.  But still 1200 pounds!!  What a great year!

We will be joining several blog hops this week including the Tuesday Garden Party at an Oregon Cottage, Garden Tuesday at Sidewalk Shoes, The Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead and of course the Monday Harvest Report at Daphne’s Dandelions!

Chip Dilemma – Making your own Homemade Tortilla Chips

Chip Dilemma

Homemade salsa…ahhhhhhh….. need I say more.  It is one of my favorites!!  We just can’t wait until those first few tomatoes start to ripen so we can make homemade salsa.  It is so yummy when it comes from your own garden tomatoes.  It has so much more flavor!   The only problem with salsa is what to eat it with?   My kids love chips and so do I, but have you ever looked at the ingredients list???

We have started to eat real food now and so I wanted to find a way to make my own chips.  I wanted to still get the yummy, salty, crunchy goodness like the ones from the store.  I looked around on the internet for some ideas and came up with a recipe.   I even tested it out on our extended family.  We had a birthday party at our home and I had chips and salsa as a snack.  No one could believe that these were homemade chips.  They thought for sure they were store bought.  I even had chips from the store that I put out just in case no one liked them.  Everyone ate up the homemade chips and left the chips from the store alone.   They really liked them too!!  It is so super easy!     I had no idea how simple it was, otherwise I would have been making them all the time.

 

Homemade whole wheat tortilla chips

8 whole wheat tortillas- I roll them out pretty thin. (We use our Homemade Tortilla’s)

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Spray tortillas with olive oil spray or brush on

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Layer 4 tortillas on top of each other and cut in triangles with a pizza cutter.

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Arrange single layer of tortillas on cookie sheet.   I end up using 3 cookie sheets.

Shake some sea salt on them.   Cook at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, remove the tray from oven and turn the Homemade chips over and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.  You will need to watch them closely so they don’t burn.

Once they are done let them cool, they will crisp up as they cool.  And voila you have your own yummy homemade chips to snack on.   I don’t even feel that guilty eating them because they only have 4 ingredients and are so much healthier for you than those greasy gross chips from the store.  So go ahead and indulge and enjoy that salsa and homemade chips!!!

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We will be sharing this post on several blog hops this week including:

The Yuck Stops Here

The Real Housewives of Riverton

Foodie Fridays

 

 

Monday Harvest Report – The last of the Fall and Winter planting

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What a beautiful week!!  Temps were in the low 70’s all week.  It was just perfect fall weather!  I sure do love this time of year.  The warmer weather helped to finally dry things out enough to get the last of our fall planting done.  We got this tray of lettuce in on Saturday.  They are 2 weeks behind schedule because of all the wacky weather we have been having.

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I went a head and put out a cold frame before we planted these.  We have had a couple nights where the temps were low enough that we were worried about frost.  We lucked out both nights but the first frost could come any time now!!  Like I said we are about 2 weeks behind in getting these lettuce starts out.  That has me worried that they won’t mature before the really cold weather sets in.  I’m going to try and off set that by watering them with fish emulsion several times over the next few weeks.  I’m hoping the extra nitrogen will hurry them along!!

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Our harvest totals from the home garden were huge!!  It was our biggest one week total from here at home, with over 100 pounds.  Most of that came from the pumpkin harvest!  The two smaller came from last week but the 5 big ones were all harvested on Thursday.  78 pounds of pumpkins for the week!  They are all perfect jack-o-lantern size so the kids are excited!  There are still 2 more in the garden that are not quite ripe so if the frost holds off we should have another 20 or so pounds!

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We had another nice picking of tomatoes on Tuesday.  There was a pretty big chance of frost that night so I brought in all the tomatoes I could.  There were another 20 pounds here so we got another 7 quarts of tomatoes which we canned on Saturday.  There is one more box of tomatoes left in the kitchen, we will do those tonight and then I think we will be done canning for the year.  The few tomatoes that do ripen before the first frost will just go to fresh eating and salsa!

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I noticed the popcorn was getting ripe so I picked a few ears over the weekend.

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Valerie saw then and immediately had to have them for her Halloween decorations!  With the nice weather forecast for the week I think I will try leaving the rest on stalks for another week.  Then I will bring them all in and they will need to cure in the garage or house for a few weeks before they are ready to take off the cob.  Just out of curiosity I counted all the ears left on the stalks.  We will end up with around 60 ears of popcorn of various size, but most are nice big cobs like the ones above!  That will make for a very nice popcorn harvest, probably 4 times the amount of the first year we tried!!

I was terrible about taking pictures this week, but we also harvested some cucumbers, a bunch of green peppers and a pound of strawberries.

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While I was helping family do some moving on Saturday, Valerie got busy in the yard and cleaned up the front flower bed.  Everything was looking very spent and the zinnias and 4 O clocks had really over grown and were looking scraggly!  So now this bed is pretty much ready for winter, other than it could use a top coat of compost!

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Cleaning up the beds revealed these beautiful geraniums that we had almost forgotten were there!

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Look at this crazy color.  It’s beautiful, but almost doesn’t seem real.  Like one of the kids when crazy with a highlighter!!

Here’s this weeks harvest totals:

Home Garden
Tomatoes – 21 lbs
Pumpkins – 78 lbs
Peppers – 4.25 lbs
Cucumbers – 2.80 lbs
Strawberries – 1.25 lbs
Total – 107.30 lbs
Leo’s Garden
Tomatoes – 2 lbs

That’s a weekly total of 109 pounds and brings the home garden total to 558 pounds.  With the few summer crops left to harvest (pumpkins, popcorn, tomatoes) I think we will break the 600 pound mark pretty easy.  But that is well short of my goal of 775 pounds.  The fall and winter gardens aren’t going to contribute much this year, we have had a huge aphid infestation that has ruined all of our kale and maybe our broccoli.  And leaf miners have really hurt our fall spinach and chard crops.  So I think I will be tickled if our annual home total reaches 625.  Not too bad for the first year in the new garden, it matches what we had most years at our old place

We will be joining several blog hops this week including the Tuesday Garden Party at an Oregon Cottage, Garden Tuesday at Sidewalk Shoes, The Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead and of course the Monday Harvest Report at Daphne’s Dandelions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Harvest Report – Rain & Tomatoes

Monday Harvest Report

Well after stubbornly resisting for over a week, fall has finally arrived.  And with it came a bunch of rain!  We had temps as high as 90 degrees all week but late Friday night the first of a series of storms came in that has broken the back of summer and launched us into fall.  The forecast has the highs in the 60’s and low 70’s for the coming week with quite a bit of rain expected!

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But here’s the good news.  Finally we got some tomatoes to ripen!  We had two big pickings of tomatoes this week.  The first was on Tuesday and came in at 21 pounds.

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The second came on Saturday, and was a nice 11 pounds.

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These two pickings combined with a small box from Valerie’s folks meant we spent a lot of time in the kitchen canning!  We were able to can over 20 quarts this week so our winter supply is looking much better!  We are now sitting at 40 quarts.  I’m hoping for a couple more batches, then we would have at least one quart per week.

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Our Brandywine tomatoes are also starting to produce.  I’m a little embarrassed to say that this is the first year we have ever grown a Heirloom tomato.  We have always just gone with the standards, celebrity, early girl and beef steak.  But we will be keeping Brandywine in our rotation!!  The are definitely not very pretty but they are sure tasty!!

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We also had a great all green basket early in the week.  Cucumbers and peppers!!  Both are winding down for the year, we should have about another week of cucumbers.

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Another nice basket of strawberries, with plenty of blossoms still coming.  I think we will still have another month of berries unless we get an early really hard freeze.

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This was the last big picking of cantaloupe and only about half of them were really worth eating.  This time of year these later setting fruit that ripen in the cooler weather never seem to taste as good.

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I think these will be the last zucchini.  They were all picked in the rain on Saturday morning.  There are a few more blossoms but with this cooler weather I doubt they will develop.  Also this is the first Crenshaw melon of the year.  It’s a very small one and it came from the home garden.  It will need to sit on the counter for a few days and we will see how it tastes!

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These are the first of the pumpkins!  These two are pretty small, both came in around 6 pounds.  We will use them to decorate around the house for a few months and them cut them up for there seeds some time in November.  They have 6 big brothers that will be ready next week and there may even be 2 or 3 more if they end up ripening.

Here’s the totals for the week:

Home Garden
Pumpkin – 11.50 lbs
Crenshaw – 2.50 lbs
Zucchini – 4.75 lbs
Tomatoes – 32.50 lbs
Cucumbers – 4.75 lbs
Peppers – 2.33 lbs
Strawberries – 1.50 lbs
Raspberries – .17 lbs
Totals – 60 lbs

Borrowed Garden
Tomatoes – 1.75 lbs
Cantaloupe – 7.25 lbs
Totals – 9 lbs

That brings our annual total in the home garden to 450 lbs.  The borrowed garden total is 566 lbs.  Our combined total topped 1000 pounds this week!!

Thanks so much for reading our blog!  I’d like to encourage you to like us on Facebook and subscribe to our news letter!

We will be joining several blog hops this week including the Tuesday Garden Party at an Oregon Cottage, Garden Tuesday at Sidewalk Shoes, The Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead and of course the Monday Harvest Report at Daphne’s Dandelions!

 

 

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