Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dirty Rotten Slugs!

Last time we weeded we noticed a lot of holes in the leaves of our pepper plants. We couldn't figure out what in the world was eating them. Photo Dude and I went out a few night later around dusk and I noticed that there was a SLUG! on one of the leaves. We had found our culprit. We did a search online to find out how to get rid of these pests without chemicals since we are trying to garden organically. One website suggested to make a trap using a jar with corn meal in it. It seems that the slugs eat the corn meal and it then kills them a bit like a seagull and rice I guess. I don't really want to kill the slugs but I also don't want them in my garden. Photo Dude put together the slug trap and it seems to be really working! We haven't noticed any new holes in our plants since putting it out there. This is a photo of the slug trap. You can see one slug in the jar and another outside in the spilled corn meal. The same website also suggested using buried cups filled 80% full with beer because the slugs are drawn to the liquid and then I think they drown. We have been getting so much rain that this system didn't seem to be a very good one for us. But the idea of drunk squirrels running around could have been hilarious! If you have any suggestions to deter slugs or other garden pests I would love to hear them!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fun Food Friday: Vegetarian

Welcome to the very first ever Fun Food Friday!!! Hosted by Alisha G.
My goal is to every Friday post at least one recipe from the week. I may post more than one or link to my flickr account with extra food goodies and recipes. Especially for ones that I don't come up with on my own. So for the first ever Fun Food Friday, I will be posting a super easy veggie salad, and vegetarian chili with cornbread and strawberry shortcake for dessert. This is sort of an entire meal. But these recipes are so simple and easy that I can post them all at once. I will keep the amount of photos to a minimum and keep the recipe with the photo for ease. SO! On with the food!

First up is my super simple easy, veggie salad.
Mine here has
1can drained and rinsed Black Beans
2c frozen(thawed) corn
1 whole seeded and chopped Green Bell Pepper
1c shredded carrot (from a bag because I am that lazy)
2c halved cherry tomatoes
and enough Fat Free Zesty Italian dressing to coat.

You could easily add more or less of  veggies take out what you don't like or add in things like diced red onion a bit of garlic, celery, black olives, etc etc. This salad is only limited to you imagination.

For my next recipe I give you my all in the pot Vegetarian Chili.
This chili has just about everything but the kitchen sink!
Using baby portabello mushrooms as the base you can build on this and add anything you like.
Mine has onion, carrot, green pepper, corn, 1can diced tomatoes and chillies,1 jar chunky salsa, chili powder mix(from the seasoning packet aisle), black beans, zucchini, lima beans, and tomato paste.

Add a little cheese and sour cream and you have a super filling meal! You can add any kind of veggie you like or don't like.

No chili is complete without cornbread! This is super simple!
I used Jiffy Mix and replaced the milk (I think it was) with vanilla rice milk. You could also use soy milk. This turned out amazing!

No dinner is totally complete without a delicious dessert! So how bout classic strawberry shortcake but lighter and with less calories? Simple easy angelfood cake from a mix to replace that shortcake or the biscuit.

And strawberries mashed with stevia! you can add as little or as much as you like to make this sweet. You could even use honey or agave. Or nothing at all!

Top it all off with some delicious light whipped cream (or you could make your own) for a delectable light dessert!

That's it for today's Vegetarian Fun Food Friday! Hope you enjoy your day!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Garden Update

I can't believe it has been three weeks since Photo Dude put our new garden in. We have had absolutely ideal conditions for planting. There have been lots of great rain storms coming through about every day so we haven't needed to water the garden at all. I'm sure as the summer goes along we will have to start watering but until then I'll happily take Mother Nature's help. Today was the first day that we really needed to get out and weed. Photo Dude has gone through a few times and pulled up more of that stupid rhubarb that we thought (hoped) we had killed off. The kids seemed really excited about weeding until we actually got out there. Jack took off right away to play with his toys and one of the neighbor boys came over to play with him. It was probably better that way. Molly helped a lot and got into spots that we had a harder time reaching. She is going to be a great help when harvest time comes and the plants are even bigger than they are now. We unfortunately lost two of our tomato plants to unknown reasons. And since they hadn't been individually staked we won't know which ones they were until the rest come in. We also lost most of our pea plants only one of the four is still a viable grower the others were just dead sticks. We weeded for a while and then Photo Dude got out a claw looking tool to break up the soil a bit. We've had so much hard rain that the ground had a hard top layer. Our soil is also fairly clay-ish so a little aeration was needed. Almost everything has done amazingly well. As we tended the plot we started talking about what we would do differently next year and we are thinking of doing some raised beds because this has taught us that it is really easy to plant too deep to reach everything. But look at this our very first tomatoes are starting to grow! This is the Fourth of July tomato that we planted first. It is huge! I think that it is definitely going to live up to the promise of ripe fruit by early July. Our pepper plants are starting to get flowers so we have high hopes for them as well. The squash and cucumbers are growing very well with big gorgeous leaves but no blooms yet. The green beans are growing but they don't seem to be getting as big as the others. I don't remember having them in the garden when I was growing up so I have no idea what to expect from them. Thanks for taking a peek at our garden and I would love to hear what you guys are doing in yours or even if you have any tips for us to keep our little plot going strong. Have a wonderful day!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

I want to say Happy Father's Day to all the dad's out there and to the mom's that have to do the work of two. I could go on about how wonderful dad's are but this is my first Father's Day with out mine and I'm finding it hard to think about without crying so I'm going to share a few photos of the wonderful man I married and the most amazing dad my kids could ask for.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Strawberry Break

We are going to take a quick break from gardening to do a little cooking. Here in Michigan our strawberries have finally come in! Whoo hoo! I purchased a flat of strawberries for $25 at the farmer's market. A flat is eight quarts, that is a lot of strawberries. I spent one evening cleaning and hulling half the flat to freeze so that we can thaw them when we get extra time to make jam. And since I was working I thought that we all deserved a little treat here at Four Rocks Homestead. After cleaning and hulling the strawberries I chopped them up for strawberry short cake. Look at their gorgeous ruby red color and they smelled so amazing. You could walk into our house and smell fresh strawberries it was incredible. After the chopping came the sugar just a quarter cup because these babies were already super sweet. Isn't my Pyrex bowl pretty? My mom gave me that but that is a story for another day. After the sugar the bowl gets some wrapping and then into the fridge over night. Really that is the hard part, knowing you have something so very yummy in the house that you can't eat right away. Then the filling for the short cakes. Normally I would just throw the strawberries on some biscuits but I really wanted to make an extra special treat for us. So I took one brick of softened cream cheese and one half cup of powdered sugar along with one tablespoon of orange extract and creamed them together. This is also set aside to rest overnight. The filling is a bit like cheese cake it just tastes better the next day (you know if there is any left over that long). The next day I cheated an bought biscuits because it was hot, humid and icky and I did not want to turn the oven on. A little of the yummy cheese spread, lots of the sweet strawberries and of course some whip cream that I had left in the fridge. Voila! A delicious summer treat for all!Recipe for filling

1 brick softened cream cheese
1/2 C. powdered sugar
1 TBSP orange extract
cream these ingredients together and let sit overnight. You can then smather some on biscuits or you could get all fancy and use a pastry bag and star tip to make your creation look gorjous! we're down and dirty at our house so smathering is right up our alley!
Happy cooking!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Big Planting

These are the plants I purchased at the Flint Farmer's Market. These are the plants that set the whole garden building into motion. I love these plants. Actually only half of these are in the garden because the other half belong to one of the other blog writers. I'm hoping to get pictures of what she did with her's because she is container gardening since she lives in a town house. Molly was Photo Dude's helper for most of the planting until the mosquitoes drove her inside (or until the stress of her possibly breaking the stems became too much I'm not sure which). We read each of the labels to that we knew how far to space the plants. It is hard to imagine these little things getting as big as the labels say they will. For a quick run down Maria and I picked out lots of peppers possibly more than we needed to but we got a little caught up in all the fun colors available. There are Chocolate peppers, Red peppers, Yellow Banana peppers, Orange peppers and Purple peppers (isn't purple peppers just so much fun to say?!). I think that is all the colors we got two of each color. I guess I'd better start finding pepper recipes!We also got Yellow Tomatoes, Roma Tomatoes, and a Beefsteak/Roma Tomato Hybrid. These tomatoes along with our Fourth of July tomato will hopefully keep our tummies happy for most of the summer. I loved canning my own tomatoes last year and I'm looking forward to doing it again this fall although I know that I'll still be buying a good portion of the tomatoes from the farmer's market.
Wow look at that all planted. The white stakes in the ground are pieces of left over PVC pipe from some other project that now are labeling what plants are where. Oh! We also planted peas, green beans, yellow squash, and pickling cucumbers. I think that is all the plants. One of the summer projects the kids and I have are to start a garden journal with all our plants and we are going to try to measure them each week and do some sort of graph for the growth. Gotta' try to keep the math going all summer right?
The final touch in the garden is the tomato cages. We tried to convince the kids they were there to keep the tomatoes from escaping the garden but they weren't buying it. Maybe they aren't as gullible as I was as a kid. We also planted the vine plants around the edge so we can train them to climb the fence. That way there is no need to add another structure for them to climb on. We will see how that works out.

Just a reminder all comments in green are the random thoughts of Jeff AKA Photo Dude

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Final Touch

The last thing we did in the garden was put in our first plant. Maria (one of the co-writers for the blog) told me about a tomato plant that was guaranteed to have fully ripe fruit by July! I can't imagine anything better than heading to a Fourth of July BBQ with home picked tomatoes in hand for the burgers. We'll just have to see if this little bugger lives up to expectation. Sorry for the delay of this post I was supposed to have done the final check on Friday. The next post will have the full planting of the garden.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fence It In

After Photo Dude ran the rototiller back to the rental place he started building the fence for the garden. The fence will hopefully keep out things that don't need to be in the garden (like the rabbits that live under our pine tree) and it will also give the vine-type plants a place to crawl. At least that is the theory that we are going with here. The whole ordeal started with burying the posts for the fence we bought eight but ended up only needed six. The others are stashed in the shed for 'next time'. I do recommend buying the T post style posts. They are only about 60 cents more per post but are much stronger. Also make sure you get long enough posts. Our fence is 36 inches high so I bought the 5 foot 5 inch posts.

After the posts were dug the actual fencing stuff got wrapped around the posts. My job was to take photos and hand Photo Dude parts when he needed them. In hind site I would recommend on looking up how to actually put the fencing up. I kind of winged it a bit but it seems to be holding well.The bad part about this was our freshly turned dirt got compacted a bit.

At this point our new garden looked a bit like a small pig pen. Wonder if I can convince Photo Dude to buy me a goat instead of a dog? He did come up with a pretty cool idea for a way in and out of the garden. He has these S hooks so that the fence hooks on it self. This should work great as long as the kids don't mess with it I think. I used the S hooks for a cheap and easy way for a gate. I did leave extra length in case plan A does not work I do have a B and C plan but hope not to need them.

All done! Whoo hoo! Now the hard work starts I think.
This is Photo Dude. All of the comments I have added are in green. If you are just now finding this blog I would like to add a explanation of why my lovely wife calls me Photo Dude. My hobby is photography. Here is a link to my photo website.