Summer Roses

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”– Abraham Lincoln

 

The last of the summer roses are blooming here at Stoney Acres.  Just a few left, fall is coming soon.  We woke up this morning to temperatures in the low 50’s.  Frost can’t be too far off!

Preserving Corn

We love to eat corn on the cob around here but we really don’t have the space to grow much ourselves.  We have tried several experiments over the years none very successful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year we tried two small 4×8 patches and we also tried planting in hills in a flower bed.  We did ok but we really don’t get more than a few meals worth.

So we rely on the local farmers market to provide the bulk of our corn.  There is a farm that sells at the market that has pesticide free corn for a very good price.  To top it off the farm is less than 2 miles from our house so we feel good about supporting a local farmer.

We buy corn from the market 3 or 4 times a year.  We usually get a dozen to eat and a dozen to save for winter.  We have tried the more traditional methods of preserving corn by cutting the corn off the cob and freezing it, but we found that to be a huge pain in the neck and our kids wouldn’t eat it.  Then one day we were walking though the supermarket and we saw frozen corn on the cob.  We thought, “why can’t we do that?”  So a few Google searches later we found instructions and we were off and running.  We have also found instructions for freezing corn in the Ball Blue book and that is the method we use now.  I would recommend that before you start preserving food that you get a current reference book that will give you good instructions.

The method is really easy.  Just blanch the shucked and washed corn for 8 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the cobs and throw it in the freezer in a freezer bag or other container.  Then enjoy it in January when the snow is 10 inches deep.  Okay I’ll admit it’s not as good as fresh picked corn in summer time but it really isn’t bad and it makes for a good change from the salads we eat most of the time from the winter garden.

Free Loading Chickens

The Chickens arrived here at Stoney Acres on Memorial Day May 30th.  Here’s a picture of them the day they arrived.

 

First Day Home

We decided to not try and tackle raising chicks with our first flock of hens.  So we bought these 9 week old pullets from a local guy who raises a bunch of chickens.  When it is time to replace this flock, I’m sure we will give raising day old chicks a try.  This year between getting a coop build and taking on animals for the first time in a while we just thought pullets would be the easier course.

We have 6 hen’s all of them red stars or red comets.  We chose this breed for a few reasons: First they are a sex-linked hybrid which means we were sure to get all hens.  Second they are a relatively docile breed and fairly easy to handle.  Third they are a good producer of large brown eggs.  Most red stars start producing eggs between 18 to 22 weeks.

 

 

Flash forward three and a half months and our hens are now 24 weeks old; they look great, have adapted well and are doing a great job of keeping the bugs down, eating all our garden scraps and producing lots of material for the compost bin.  There’s just one problem; NO EGGS!!  The dang free loaders!!!

Big bright red combs are a sign that hens are getting ready to lay.  If you look closely at this picture you will see two have nice combs, two are coming along and two still look like pre schoolers.  I have talked with a couple of long time chicken raisers and they assure me that I just need to be patient, the eggs will come.  AUGHHH!!!  That’s easy for them to say, they are already getting eggs!!!

 

As you can tell from my ranting I’m not a very patient person.  I’m just a little excited to get eggs.  Over all the hens have fit well into our life style.  They give the kids some animals to take care of so they are learning responsibility.  We have really enjoyed having them around.  We try to let them out of the coop for at least an hour each evening and we have a blast watching them run around the yard chasing bugs and each other.  Now if we can just get some eggs!!

Harvest Monday 9-12-2001

The garden keeps rolling along here at Stoney Acres.  Here’s a look at what we harvested last week:

 

Two more watermelons finished ripening including this 6 pound Crimson Sweet and a very small 2 pound Sugar Baby.

 

Crimson Sweet Watermelon

The strawberries are still humming along with another 5 pounds this week.  We now have 3 big gallon size bags in the freezer for toppings all winter.  These two never made it to the freezer!!

The raspberries are slowly gaining speed we picked 2 small bowls like this one in the last 2 days, they should really start coming on next week.

Yellow crook neck squash is over running our kitchen.  We planted a lot of these this year so that we could feed some to the chickens.  It turns out  chickens don’t really like it all that much, so I guess we will have a freezer full this year.

The weather really cooled this week and that has slowed the ripening tomatoes, we only picked  a couple this week but the plants are loaded with a bunch that are almost ready so we should be back canning next week.  There were a bunch of cherry tomatoes that we ate today along with a few cucumbers.

The tail end our our corn harvest has arrived.  Although still very tasty about all we have left are more like these tiny ears we picked on Saturday.

The big numbers came from our onions this week.  They were dug three weeks ago and finished curing today.  The final weigh in for onions this year was 68 pounds!!  That’s a solid 20 pounds more than we will need to take us to next spring so we will be sharing a bunch with family and neighbors.

Harvest Monday 9-5-2011

Late August and Early September is the big harvest time around Stoney Acres.

I’ve decided to participate in Daphne’s Monday Harvest  series.  Each Monday I will post a quick report on what we harvested the prior week around our place.  I’m not really big on weighting every little thing that comes out of the garden.  I tried it a few years ago and it was just too big of a pain.  But I do like to weigh some items including tomatoes, potatoes, onions and strawberries.  I’ll try to do a little better on the weighing so that you have an idea of how much we get.

Tomatoes were the big producer this week.  We picked 18 pounds of Celebrity and Beef Steak and almost a pound of cherry tomatoes.

We got about a dozen ears of corn this week, that was supplemented by corn we bought at the farmers market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ever-bearing strawberries are going crazy.  We pick them about every other day and we harvested almost 6 pounds for the second week in a row.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had our first ripe water melon this week, it weighed in at 7 lbs and was delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This weeks totals were rounded out with a zucchini, 4 or 5 crook neck squash, 2 peppers and a hand full of raspberries.

Early Potatoes

We love potatoes here at Stoney Acres.  Especially new red potatoes!!!  Every year we risk frost and muddy ground in March to be sure we have some potatoes in June to eat with our fresh peas.    Mrs. Stoney’s cream peas and potatoes are to die for!!!!

Early potatoes have never been a big producer for us, usually we get around 20 lbs. from the 8×12 foot spot I allocate for them.  But they are always welcome and they give us 4 or 5 meals worth of yummy new potatoes in June and early July.

BUT . . . this year I tried something different.  Our cold frame that we use for winter lettuce cleared out a little earlier than usual and was pretty much empty by the end of February.  I really didn’t have anything to go in that spot and the local garden store finally listened to my requests and got their seed potatoes in early.  So I decided to plant potatoes under the protection of the cold frame.

10.5 lbs. of potato seed yielded a whopping 52 lbs. of potatoes this year, more than double my normal production from the same square footage.  Needless to say we’re pretty excited.  I dug up what we hadn’t eaten about July 20th and that amounted to about 35 lbs., more than enough to keep us eating fresh potatoes until the main crop potatoes are done and ready to eat in September or early October.

I cleaned these baby’s up and sorted them by size and stuck them in the extra fridge downstairs.  Normally you want to let the potatoes sit for a while before you clean them off and put them away.  This helps the skins harden up a bit and helps them last longer in storage.  But this is another advantage of early potatoes.  The 35 lbs. I dug in July don’t need to last well into the winter, they will be eaten up in the next month or so, this means I can just clean them off and put them in the fridge, much quicker than the process in the fall.

Main crop potatoes usually go in around the last frost date or just a little before.  For us here in zone 6 Utah that means May 15th.  But if you are willing to allocate a little space and offer some protection from the frost you can plant potatoes as early as March 15 th.  Usually we are able to start eating the early potatoes around June 20th although you could probably start sooner; you would just have smaller spuds.  As you can see these early spring potatoes are never as big as my main crop but they make a welcome addition to summer meals.  In fact we just ate some yesterday, we cut up the last of the small potatoes, added some carrots, onions and a hamburger patty and cooked them in tin foil on the grill!!

Do you make space in your garden for early potatoes?  What have your experiences been?

September Garden Tour

Time for a garden tour.  I will try to give my readers a look at what’s happening in our year round garden at least once a month.  September 1st is about half way through the really overwhelming time in our garden.  Right now we are being flooded with fresh produce, a lot more that we can eat, so it means we are trying to preserve what we can for winter eating.  The big producers right now are the summer squash, Strawberries and tomatoes. 

We planted a few extra Zucchini and yellow crook neck squash plants this year thinking we could feed the excess to the chickens.  The Zucchini hasn’t done really well because it got such a slow start in our wet spring and it turns out that chickens really don’t like crook neck squash all that well.  So we are a little buried right now.  We already have all of both that we need for the winter put way in the freezer so we might need to resort to leaving bags of squash in unlocked cars and on door steps in the neighborhood.

 

The tomatoes have really started coming on strong this week.  We have already picked 9 lbs this week and we will have about twice that much to pick over the weekend.  It looks like we will be canning tomatoes over the Labor Day weekend!!  The netting you see in this picture is to protect the tomatoes from birds, not the wild kind but our freeloading chickens who seem to treat our garden as their personal salad bar.

 

We picked our first ears of sweet corn this week with quite a bit more to come.  We only have two small patches of corn for fresh eating.  Corn takes up so much space that we really only plant enough for 5 or 6 meals worth. 

 

We did try an experiment this year with corn.  We planted several hills of corn in a long flower bed we have.  It was planted a little later than our other corn but seems to be coming along well.  The corn being planted closely in hills allows the plants to still be pollinated, each plant seems to be growing at least 1 ear so it  may not be a huge success but we will get a few extras meals out of it.

 

Our peppers are doing okay this year.  The wet spring really seemed to set them back and they never recovered, but we will get enough off our spindly plants to put some away for winter cooking.

This years potato crop is coming along well.  You can see that the vines are really starting to die back.  This is a sure sign they are ready to eat.  We are still eating the last of our spring potatoes right now so we will probably leave the fall crop in the ground for an other month till it cools off and we have a cool place to store them in the garage.

 

We have a few pumpkins coming along well.  They should still size up and ripen assuming the frost stays away for another month or so.

 

This is our one and only cabbage for the year.  Last year we were giving it way we had so much.   This years wet spring really brought out the slugs and snails.  The bed our cabbage and broccoli were planted in this year was attacked by our slimy friends and they caused a lot of damage before we got them under control. 

 

We also planted a little patch of popcorn.  This is our first attempt with popcorn, it is tucked away in a corner far from the sweet corn to prevent cross pollination.  We have quite a few ears on the plants so we will see how they do. 

 

Fruit is the only thing we are really lacking here at Stoney acres.  Of course the strawberries are doing well.  We also noticed the first ripe raspberries today.  The coming weeks will bring a lot of them to eat and freeze. 

Our melon patch was also slowed down by the wet cold spring, but they are finally sizing up.  The first sugar baby watermelon will be picked in a day or two.  And there are several cantaloupes that will be ready before the frost.  I will have to do a separate post some time about the benefits of home grown melons.  The taste is so much better than at the grocery store that you may never buy there again.

 

The winter garden is also coming along well but I will save those pictures for another post.  Of coarse produce is not the only thing we grow around here, it’s prime time for sun flowers.  If you look close in one of the flowers you’ll see a bee that must have had too much pollen and decide to make the sunflower it’s final resting place.