Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Monday, August 29, 2011

I'm Nearing The Breaking Point ...

Every summer arrives with it's own workload .. and now that the workload is here, I'm dreaming about cool autumn days .. no lawn care .. no canning .. just lazing about for a few months.  Anyone else at the breaking point?  Here's to taking a break tomorrow and heading to the park, stopping for a cool drink at our favorite coffee house, shopping for school shoes and kicking back for awhile. 

Hoping to See ..

... a sea of red soon.

Yesterday I was watering the garden .. a 'chore' I enjoy doing by hand.  I had hopes of setting up a sprinkler system .. maybe another year .. but for now .. hand watering affords a better look-see at what's doing well and what needs to be pulled out of the garden on a more frequent basis.  And .. I spied a few tomatoes turning red!  So excited as the last two summers we've only had green ones picked just prior to the first frost.  Seems our oh so wet dreary spring has turned into a hot dry summer which has been good for the peppers and tomatoes.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Food Memories

equals = fond memories

Growing up we would trek across the country each summer landing smack dab in farming areas in Illinois and Nebraska.  We'd visit aunts and uncles (mostly great aunts and uncles) that still lived on big old farms.  One family raised hogs; the clinking of their feeders all night as I slept in a much too small youth bed in a guest room was quite interesting.  Pigs smell .. I remember that!  Another family had barn cats .. I would follow around with delight.  And, another family taught me how to milk a cow .. and eat farm fresh chicken for dinner .. ones that I'd been playing with in the yard earlier that day.  It seemed these families knew how to eat .. and eat well.  To remember the taste of just picked corn, pork roast, watermelon rind pickles, and everything made from food grown on the farms .. had quite an impact on my developing taste buds.  Then back to reality I'd go .. home and we'd have a typical 1970's style dinner of canned veggies and often noodles from a box with a sauce mix.  Maybe steak a few times a year (not very often) .. It was these early trips each summer that gave me the passion to develop my homemaking skills and learn how to try and replicate GREAT food.

With a little practice, a person can make healthy tasting meals with fresh ingredients grown in the backyard .. or picked up at the local farm.  Buying in season, in bulk, and learning how to store food for winter .. can all be achieved with practice .. one step at a time.  I recently read that it takes about ten years to learn the necessary skills to become more self sufficient.  Skills our not so distant ancestors knew how to perform as second nature can be nurtured with a little practice.  I wouldn't want to have to become totally reliant on my 'skills' to provide every need for my family.  But .. learning some gardening or cooking skills just makes good sense.  I've got my grandson with me three days a week.  You can bet I am nurturing his love for the garden by having him by my side as much as possible.  Last week he insisted eating a just pulled carrot like a bunny .. and even gnawed on it with his front teeth.  He will know where some of his food comes from .. and that is a step in the right direction.  Here's a quick little story about 'Growing Your Own Food: it's not elitist or impossible" .. enjoy  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tomato, Tomato, Tomato

a previous year's harvest at TTGH
I'm eying my 30-40 tomato plants with great anticipation of a bumper crop come harvest time!  They are ALL still green .. but plumping up nicely.  Oh .. and the aroma of tomato leaves as you brush up against the plants .. well .. intoxicating.  Of course, this means a few 'mean' days of kitchen work canning and freezing are in order.  The saving grace of all the hard work done each summer is the anticipation of sitting back and enjoying the changing of the seasons.  Well .. I'm not quite done with summer .. but soon. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summer Goodness

... At The Thrifty Garden Home

Yesterday was a 'work hard in the yard' day.  Every so often we need to get control of summer growth .. read weeds .. and take a string trimmer to the landscape.  Every muscle aches and yet feels sort of good after the workout.  My mind is ever 'expanding' the garden space and making mental notes for next year (which should be written down .. and soon .. lest I forget).  The strawberry bed is taking up too much precious ground inside the fenced garden area.  I'm hoping to develop a new home for the plants.  I have my eye on an area to grow corn that gets long hours of sunlight each day.   Soon we should have tomatoes coming out of our ears from the 30 or so plants in our 'square foot garden' area .. it's amazing how tall they can grow if given a chance and a good sturdy trellis.  Every year our garden grows a little bit .. and we become better at tending it.
I love when the birds 'plant' giant sunflowers :)

Hopes for next year (read, 'what failed this year;): 
  • Grow more cucumbers (find out what I'm doing wrong .. only one plant survived)
  • Plant twice as many green beans (so I don't have to buy any from the farm to can)
  • Add more soil to my deeper raised beds .. the sides cast shadows and cause some areas to have stunted growth
  • Plant more peas (read .. enough to freeze once they're shelled as most get eaten while I'm working in the garden)
  • Plant onions in the old garden .. they failed miserably in the raised beds
  • Amend the raised beds to include a little clay for better water retention .. or mulch heavily with straw

A bumper crop of good sized heads of cabbage
Triumphs this year:

  •   Green beans
  •   Tomatoes (crossing fingers)
  •   Raspberries
  •   Strawberries
  •   Greens
  •   Celery
  •   Herbs
  •   Pumpkins & squash (a triumph because we don't have zucchini coming out of our ears;)
  •   Peppers (still a work in progress)
  •   Cabbage
  •   Not a record .. but we have potatoes
  •   Assortment of flowers to attract bees .. and the chipmunks didn't eat all of the gladiola bulbs :)
What's thriving (or failing) in your garden?