Less Noise, More Green: July 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Peanut plants reach the next step in development

I might actually have peanuts to harvest this year! They have survived the rain and one hundred degree temperatures, as well as attacks from squirrels. You can read about my troubles with the little peanut thieves here and here.

What you see in the photo above are pegs. These appear after the plant flowers. The peg is the flower's ovary and the embryo is at the tip of the peg. The peg grows down into the soil and the peanut  forms at the end. A plant will send many of these pegs into the ground. This is such an interesting little plant. I always thought peanuts grew out from the roots, like potatoes, then I got me some education.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dill Pickles and Plans for the Front Garden

My husband and son, to be referred to here after as Computer Man and Computer Boy, LOVE dill pickles. After an apparently disgusting dalliance with refrigerator pickles (I still hold there was a mistake in the recipe),  I am back to making traditional canned dill pickles. This year I am using not only my own cucumbers, but my own dill seed which I harvested from the spent dill plants in the garden.

 Dill flowers are so beautiful and the seed heads are stunning. It's so easy to harvest the seed. Just wait until the green seeds are brown and gently rub the seeds off the plant. I should have plenty for several rounds of pickles and use throughout the year. I'll be sure to save some to plant in next year's garden, too.

New Providence Journal Blog

Read about my adventures with eggplant!


Monday, July 29, 2013

Art Girl Creates Canning Labels

My daughter, Art Girl, is thinking about going into graphic design as a career. She is very talented, especially when it comes to computer design. I try to give her assignments to help build her portfolio, so lately I've been requesting canning labels. Here is her design for Black Currant Jam. She drew the black currants, in case you were wondering.

Proud of you, Art Girl.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Thank you mother nature for black currant muffins

This morning, I used up the remaining black currants to make muffins.  These muffins smell and taste divine. They are truly a little piece of heaven. Bite into one of these muffins and the berries burst, filling your mouth with tart, juicy, lusciousness.  Hallelujah, forever and ever, Amen.

This recipe comes from the New Zealand Blackcurrant Cooperative. I have Americanized the measurements. Here are a couple of notes on the ingredients:

Self -raising flour can be hard to find in the US. To make your own, use this recipe. For every cup of all purpose flour, add 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and ¼ tsp. of salt.

Golden Syrup is a staple in British pantries. It is sugar cane syrup and I find it here at Whole Foods. It is made by Tate and Lyle and is less processed than corn syrup and has a richer flavor. I recommend it.

New Providence Journal Blog

Posted new entry in the Journal this morning about beneficial insects. Check it out!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Powdery Mildew Makes its Annual Appearance

Every summer.  Every single summer I’m ‘blessed’ with a visit from my old friend powdery mildew. Hot humid weather is just the condition it likes and crowded plants are all the invitation it needs. Hello, Mildew. 
Powdery mildew is especially partial to the squash family and it spreads really fast. Leaves start out with small dots of what looks like white powder. This rapidly intensifies to where the whole leaf is covered, turning the leaves yellow, reducing the yield, wilting the plant and eventually killing it.  

If you catch and treat it early enough you can fend it off. I use an organic remedy which I apply at least once a week and more often if it rains.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Providence Journal Garden Blog entry

Here is the link to my latest Providence Journal Garden Blog entry:
Black currants are the bad boys of fruit



Sunday, July 21, 2013

Black Currant Jam

Today we made a pilgrimage to Maple Lane Farms in Connecticut, to pick black currants. Black currant jam is my favorite and this recipe makes a fairly loose jam which I love because it works beautifully as a sauce. Try this over vanilla ice cream and your life will be complete! Currants need to be softened and soaked overnight or the skins don’t break down leaving you with unpleasant tasting jam.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pumpkin Pie is now Pie in the Sky

I am a Master Gardener, but yesterday I didn't feel like one. Yesterday morning I ripped out all of my pumpkin plants and my dreams of homegrown pumpkin pie along with them. The worst part is I made several mistakes that could have been avoided because I know better. I'm a better gardener than this.

This is the first year I have tried to grow pumpkins. I know they need a lot of space, yet I decided to plant them in a bed where there was not enough room for the plants to breathe. I planted too many seeds thinking I would thin the plants out if they all germinated. Well, they all germinated and I didn't thin them out because I have trouble pulling healthy plants.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Providence Journal Post


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Being Productive

I like being productive. When I can get a lot done it’s a good day. This weekend I spent a lot of time at the Community Garden as our Master Gardener Produce Donation Project was on the MG Garden Tour. I also spent time repotting vegetable seedlings for my fall garden, making blueberry jam and refrigerator pickles with the cucumbers that are now coming fast and furious from my garden!

A trip to Rocky Point Blueberry Farm is an integral part of summer for me. Just a few miles from my house, near the water and tucked into a beautiful neighborhood, its urban farming at its best.  Oh, and the blueberries are wonderful! 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Look into my Kitchen and My Philosophy

One of the joys of urban agriculture for me is eating what I grow. I cook eighty percent of what we eat from scratch. This is time consuming but I love learning new skills in the kitchen. How to make cheese, yogurt, butter; how to make chutney and jam. How to preserve the vegetables and fruit I grow for the winter. The meals I make for my husband and I are seventy percent vegetarian. My kids like to eat more meat. I buy organic produce if it is on the dirty dozen list or if I can get it for a good price. Our meat I buy natural and free range and grass fed when I can find it. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My Patch of Earth

I want to introduce you to my kitchen garden. I live in the suburbs of a Rhode Island city. Plot size varies in my neighborhood between 5,000 to 10,000 square feet. I have the former, which once you account for the house, garage and driveway and a little patch for the dog, doesn’t leave much space for growing food! 

I have typical urban agriculture problems. I have more shade than I would like, a pine tree dropping acidic needles all over my backyard beds, neighbors that are too close and a garden in the front that gets the best sun but that I have to keep “pretty.”  It’s challenging to say the least but I am constantly amazed at what I can do with what I have. Each year my fruit and vegetable beds expand, the soil improves and the yields are better. I’ve learned how to use the shade to my advantage and to maximize every last square foot of growing space.  I’m always looking for new ideas and new skills to learn. Now the back beds are under control I can focus on the front of the house. Boy, do I have plans, but that’s for a future post. 

I see a change in the neighborhood. As I walk along the streets with my dog I get glimpses of container gardens and raised vegetable beds in backyards. Some are boldly planting right in full sight of their neighbors – my heroes! I see tomato plants, kale and beans among the flowers. There are rumors of chickens and bees.  It brings me joy to see it.

My family will never be self-sufficient on this patch of earth but each year I bring us a little closer. For me, the reward is found in the learning along the way and the food on our plates and in our pantry.

Visit again soon,