Sunday, July 28, 2013


There's not much to report this week... I've not been posting as often because not much is happening.  The same things are just... still growing.  I'm looking forward to maybe seeing a little red in the garden (hint hint, cayenne peppers and tomatoes!) sometime soon.  In the meantime, I will rejoice that my cucumber plant has yielded enough for me to make my first batch of pickles!

I used the recipe for Garlic Dill Pickles from the website Food in Jars but did not bother to process the jars in a boiling water bath because we are going to eat them ASAP.  I had enough cucumbers to make one pint jar and one quart jar of pickles.  Mine also have a little something extra in them, because I mistook dried oregano for dill and added it by mistake to one of the jars.  Possibly a tasty error?  I placed the jars in the refrigerator and will let them "steep" for a day or two.  Cannot wait to enjoy these soon! The next batch I will definitely process so they can be saved for another time of year.  And with hope, the next batch can be bigger! (but the recipe is so easy it is no problem to make just 1 or 2 jars at a time)

Both coins and spears for my eating pleasure!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What a busy week!

Leaving home during a major heatwave and then returning 2 days after a substantial rainstorm has its benefits.  All kinds of things are growing like crazy!

There are tomatoes all over!  Every single plant has at least one, and most have many more than that.

The cucumbers are growing like crazy.  While they have taken the hint to grow vertically, I did have to spread these out a little since they are really favoring the right side.  But, messy or not, these plants are starting to yield some fruit!

Okay, two to be exact.  They aren't beautiful, but I'm growing them for pickling anyway and I think these will do the job!

If you'd like to see pictures from my vacation, you can visit my other blog.  I'll be keeping up with the garden updates here but will be posting my personal content on the other site for simplicity's sake.  If you share my dual interests in vegetable gardening and health/fitness, you may have found the right place!

Monday, July 15, 2013


I am on vacation and thought I had scheduled some things to post... But I guess not! Anyway, I look forward to arriving home a week from now and seeing what surprises my garden has produced. In particular I am keeping an eye on these cucumbers... So many flowers, but no fruit yet!

Also of course my favorites the tomatoes... Some plants have gotten really tall, and there are little green tomatoes starting to grow!

Unfortunately, I forget which plant is which... So the real surprise will be discovering what is what!

Monday, July 8, 2013


When I took a gardening class this past spring, I was surprised to learn that artichokes can be grown in Northeast Ohio.  I love artichokes, but thought they were only for milder climates like California or Italy.  Plus, I'd never seen seeds or seedlings for artichokes in any of the garden stores around here so it just never occurred to me to plant them.

However, on the recommendation of the class instructor (a local professional farmer/gardener), I found artichoke seeds online at Johnny's Selected Seeds.  For less than $5, it seemed a worthwhile experiment; plus, if the seeds didn't actually bear fruit, they supposedly produce pretty plants, so why not try?  I ordered a packet of seeds and sowed them directly in the ground in early May.

Here they are on May 21st.  At this point I still wasn't sure if they were artichokes or weeds, so I let them grow (as well as several others that did turn out to be weeds).

Then, above, a few of them on June 30.  These artichoke plants don't resemble artichokes just yet, but they have been absolutely thriving in the hot and humid weather we were having earlier last week.  The one in the top picture seemed to grow a few inches in less than a week!  Something does seem to be chewing on them a little, but I removed the really damaged leaves.  Now to just sit back and watch these grow, see if they become anything that looks like an artichoke!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Unsuitable Strawberry Ice Cream

Recently, I was gifted with a quart of strawberries deemed "unsuitable for eating."  My mother-in-law had received these from someone else, and re-gifted them to me.  I didn't mind, understanding that she knew I'd give them a good home, er, recipe.  The last time she'd stopped over, a friend and I had been making strawberry jam.  While I was a little jammed-out, I was happy to think of another creative use for strawberries.  There was nothing wrong with them - they were just a little ugly and misshapen.  Easy enough to chop them up and cook them into something.  I'd had a lot of recent experience slaughtering strawberries.

This time around, I decided to make ice cream.  I was inspired by two of my very favorite ice cream flavors in the world - Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk and Backyard Mint from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.  I highly, highly recommend her cookbook.  I combined these two recipes to make a hybrid that you could call Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Backyard Mint.

I will not go into all the details of the recipe here.  You can find Jeni's ice cream base at this link.  I used some buttermilk in place of cream - it gives the ice cream a tangy almost cheesecake-y taste.  I steeped torn up mint leaves in the base overnight.  Meanwhile, I roasted the strawberries (combined with some sugar) and blended into a puree, which I cooled and refrigerated overnight.  One really great tip from the Jeni's cookbook is to never add actual whole or chopped strawberries - they are too full of water and become icy chunks in your ice cream.  The puree adds a beautiful flavor and slight pink color while maintaining a smooth texture.  On Day 2, I strained out the mint leaves, stirred in the puree, and let it all freeze in our ice cream maker.  It is delicious.  One mistake  I made was to not include quite enough heavy cream - I think the ice cream needed a little more fat (it came out slightly icy).  But the flavor was really, really delicious.  I will definitely make this again, as I am always on the lookout for ways to use fresh mint! (although I think the June strawberry onslaught in Ohio is sadly just about over)

Also, if you are in Ohio, or if you are so serious about good ice cream that you'll have it shipped to you - I cannot recommend Jeni's enough!  And for home ice cream artist, the book is a must! (this is not a paid endorsement, I swear)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bad apples.

Ugh... we really have a problem!  It is the first year that our Macintosh apple tree is producing any considerable fruit, and something is seriously wrong... Sadly, I know nothing about apple trees so am sending this out to the blogosphere for help.  Any advice is appreciated.

Soft focus for emphasis only; I wasn't trying to make this pretty.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Labor Day Weekend

No, it wasn't really Labor Day, it was June 30, but it was a day of major manual labor.   This was my unfortunate payback for not keeping up with the weeds and general plant maintenance over the past week and a half.  Last weekend was incredibly hot and humid, and the past week was nothing but rain.  So I was unable (or, on the really hot days, unwilling) to do much, and the plants (and weeds) grew unabated.  You will see no photographic evidence of the mess - it was a total eyesore.  But I will admit that it took over two hours to pull the weeds.   Butch was so exhausted from the work that he had to take a nap.
Butch likes to nap under the hammock, and prefers his water refreshed regularly, thanks.

In my several hours of toiling, I was able to clear out most of the weeds, and get things back into a presentable state.  Here's a series of "after" pictures...

The tomatoes are now tall enough for a second row of string on their trellis system.

I also pruned the heck out of the tomato plants, aiming for the one single stalk.  Just about everything below the flowers got hacked (for more info, see here).
Even the cucumbers have gotten into line, and are growing vertically along their trellis.  Except for the outlier on the far right, but what else would you expect?
Swiss chard ahead!  These are so pretty.