Planning and Preparing our Vegetable Garden: Part 3

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Today, I will be sharing with you the next set of steps in the process we followed to ensure that we set ourselves up for gardening success! This is the third post in a series of four total, sharing our experience-From the planning stages through to the finished product, trouble-shooting throughout the season, and improvements we plan to make next year. So, make sure you continue to check back so you don’t miss any posts in this great gardening series!

If you missed the first post, check it out here!

If you missed the second post, check it out here!

So far we’ve covered the planning process which included planning out our garden, choosing the best location and what supplies we needed to be successful. Next we covered how we got our garden plot ready, including building our fence and preparing the soil….Now what’s left? In my personal opinion, the best part of the whole gardening process-choosing and planting our veggies and seeds!!

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This is the largest garden we have ever planted, so we had the opportunity to plant a lot more variety than we have in the past. We have a “core” group of vegetables that we like to plant every year which include tomatoes, bell peppers, kale, beets & carrots. This list also usually includes green beans-however, we still have quite a stock of these canned from previous years, so we decided to skip them this year. When you are choosing what to plant in your own garden, be sure to consider what your family likes to eat. Make sure that you choose foods that you use a lot of and your family loves to eat. Also keep in mind the quantity that would be fitting for your family! Sometimes, you can be very surprised by the quantity that even a small garden produces over the course of the summer. If there is going to be more harvest than what you can eat fresh, make sure that you have a plan in place for what you are going to do with the surplus. You can store root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, etc) in a cool dark place like a root cellar or even in your basement. Other vegetables can be preserved by canning, freezing or dehydrating. It’s important to have a plan, so that your harvest that you put so much time and effort into, doesn’t go to waste!

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We typically plant a variety of both plants and seeds. Some plants, I just find harder to start from seed because we would have to start them inside. I don’t know why, but we have always struggled with starting seeds indoors prior to garden season beginning. This is just not a talent I have acquired yet. So typically we like to stick with buying plants at a local greenhouse for a few vegetables and the rest we sow directly into the garden.

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Let’s get right down to the details…here is what we planted…

Plants

12 Tomatoes
8 Bell Peppers
8 Kale
3 Jalapeno Peppers
Strawberries (a whole bunch!)*

Seeds

Arugula*
Swiss Chard*
Lettuce
Cucumbers*
Cantaloupe*
Delicata Squash*
Acorn Squash*
Butternut Squash*
Pie Pumpkins*
Turnips*
Beets
Carrots
Peas*
Sweet Corn

All of the vegetable listed above with an asterisk beside them are ones we were planting for the first time. As you can see, there are quite a few vegetables that we were planting for the first time this year.

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We did run into some soil drainage issues so unfortunately we did not have luck with some of our seeds. Our greens (arugula, Swiss chard and lettuce) did not come up. Our root vegetables (beets, carrots, and turnips) did not do well either. They started to come up, but then the seedlings did not survive. We planted a second round of root vegetables later in the summer. They did grow, however they did not produce very good vegetables. Even though we ran into some issues, we were still very happy with our overall results! Take a look at our garden yields…

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Tomatoes: We picked well over 14 dozen red tomatoes from our 12 tomato plants. This isn’t including the ones we picked to eat fresh, this is only counting the ones picked for canning. These were made into stewed tomatoes and tomato soup. We also picked a large quantity of green tomatoes before our first frost (not included in the total count). We made these into salsa verde.

Bell Peppers: I didn’t keep as close of a count of these but my estimate is 40-50 peppers.

Jalapeno Peppers: We picked 105 peppers from our jalapeno  plants. A portion we pickled and canned. And the second portion we smoked and ground into chipotle powder.

Potatoes: Our potatoes didn’t do extremely well, however we had enough to can some for the winter. And we also enjoyed one meal of fresh roasted potatoes! They were delicious!!

Squash: Overall, our squash plants did not do well because we got a bad case of powdery mildew pretty early into the season. I had never had issues with this before, so by the time I realized there was something wrong with my plants, it was too late and it had already destroyed the plants. This caused quite a hit to our squash yields, but we still have enough to enjoy throughout the fall! Here are the individual numbers for our squash…

Butternut Squash: 8

Acorn Squash: 2

Delicata Squash: 2

Pie Pumpkins: 2

Sweet Corn: We got 37 ears of corn! This was our first time planting corn, so that was an exciting result!! Some of them were pretty small but we still harvested enough to have one fresh meal of grilled corn and some to freeze for the winter!

Kale & Peas: These I do not have an exact “harvest” amount on. We just cut these as they were ready to eat and had a pretty steady supply throughout the entire summer!

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Check back soon! Part 4 will be covering how we resolved the issues that we ran into throughout the season. I will also share what improvements we plan to make next year to have better results!

What are your favorite fruits or vegetables to plant in your garden? What are your tips & tricks for planning & preparing your vegetable garden? Share your thoughts in the comments below-I love to hear from my readers!

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Bringing Home Baby: 4 Tips To Make Your First Week Easier

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It has officially been 1 full week since we brought home our first baby from the hospital! It has been an incredible week filled with both highs and lows, and I wouldn’t change a second of it. Our first week has truly been a week of learning and adjustment. But overall, I feel like it has gone smoothly, without too many bumps in the road! Today, I want to share what I’ve learned and my advice to any first-time expectant moms on their journey to motherhood in the hopes that it may make your first weeks a little bit easier!!

#1 Ask Questions!

While you are in the hospital, take advantage of the knowledge and experience that you are surrounded by. (After all, a few short days after giving birth you are sent home and expected to do this all on your own without the constant 24-hour help and advice of your doctors and nurses.) I am very thankful that I did this and have felt much more confident as a new mom back at home because of it. I asked every single, silly, little question that came to my mind before I left the hospital. There was a wealth of knowledge at my finger tips: from educational videos available for me to watch from the comfort of my bed, to nursery nurses who were willing to teach me one-on-one how to do anything from cleaning my baby’s umbilical cord to how to bathe him, and of course the patient & knowledgeable nurses who answered my one million questions about how to care for both myself and my newborn when we returned home. And to go along with this, remember to take a notebook to write down all of the answers to your questions. You may think that you’ll remember everything, but trust me, those first few days postpartum are a blur and you will be glad that you wrote everything down once you return home!

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#2 Prepare Ahead of Time!

You will be glad that you did! I put quite a bit of thought and effort into preparing ahead of time to ensure that our return home and first few weeks postpartum would go smoothly. Here are a few things that I did ahead of time that I was so glad that I did:

Meal Preparation: If you know me at all, you know I can’t go without talking about meal planning! The month prior to my due date, (with the help of my mom) I prepared a bunch of freezer meals so that dinner time would go smoothly in the first several weeks! I am so glad that I did this! It has made dinner time a breeze and both my husband and myself have really been enjoying having a hot, homemade meal for dinner every night!

Keep the House Clean: In the weeks leading up to your due date, try to keep the house clean and in order because you never know when the moment will come for your little bundle of joy to enter the world! Your last few weeks of pregnancy, you will definitely be tired and exhausted, so don’t overdo it. Pace yourself and just do a few things a day. I don’t know about you, but if I have tasks undone, it stresses me out! It is much less stressful to know that you don’t have anything hanging over your head and everything at home is in good order for you to return home to.

Relax and Rest: Make sure that in your flurry of nesting in your final days of pregnancy that you don’t forget to take time to prop up your feet and rest! After all, these may be your last days to get a long afternoon nap, watch an uninterrupted movie or get a full nights sleep! Take advantage and rest your body for the marathon of labor, delivery and newborn care that is right around the corner!!

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#3 Have Confidence in Yourself!

You can do this mama! Yes, there is a lot to know and so many worries and questions running through your mind, but you can do this!! You are strong and capable and before you know it, you will be a pro! You were made to do this and so much of it will come as instinct to you! But when you have a moment of doubt, call your mom, a mom-friend or your pediatrician to answer those nagging questions!

#4 Accept Help When Offered!

When friends and family offer you a helping hand, by all means, accept their help! Whether it is picking up a few groceries for you or running the vacuum while they are over for a visit, take advantage of your loved one’s generosity. You will be focusing on caring for your baby and your own recovery, so this is one time in your life when it will be impossible to keep up with your normal tasks and errands. Accept other’s help, you’ll be glad you did!

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And one final thought, make sure you take time to enjoy every single second! I speak from experience! This first week has flown by entirely too fast! Treasure & cherish every single second of this experience because you will never get it back. Just consciously pause often and remind yourself what is going on! In the moments of a contraction ripping through your body, you don’t think you will ever be sad that this moment has passed. But, you will be. These moments pass too quickly, so be sure to pause and enjoy! From the first contraction, to the first cries of your little one, to your first night at home: pause, soak up the joy & excitement of each moment, and remember to cherish each and every second with your little one. Because time is so fleeting and before you know it, you will be longing to relive those times!

These are just a few things that I could think of and I’m barely scratching the surface. I’m sure that there are many more pieces of advice that I could give. I am definitely not a professional in this subject but just wanted to share my thoughts after experiencing my first week as a mom! It has been exciting, rewarding and so very fulfilling! I am excited about this journey of motherhood that I have begun and look forward to the many special moments that lie ahead of me!

What are your memories from your first week with your first child? What lessons did you learn? What surprised you most? Share your thoughts and comments below in the comments, I love to hear from my readers!

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2016 Garden Results and Canning Totals

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Well, we had ourselves quite a busy summer! Thinking back to the beginning of the season, it is hard to believe how far we have come. We started out from scratch with our vegetable garden in the springtime. This is our first year with a garden at the new house and there was a lot of work involved with getting it ready. I’ve been writing a 4-part series on our garden planning process…check it out here.  It was much larger than any garden we have ever had before. However, now that we have made it through the end of the growing season, I can say that it was definitely worth all of the hard work and effort that we put into it! Now, in the coming years planting will be a much easier task because everything is set up-the fence and water source. We will just need to till up the ground, add some fresh nutrients and get to planting! Take a look at our garden results and canning/preserving totals…

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Garden Yields

Tomatoes: We picked well over 14 dozen red tomatoes from our 12 tomato plants. This isn’t including the ones we picked to eat fresh, this is only counting the ones picked for canning. These were made into stewed tomatoes and tomato soup. We also picked a large quantity of green tomatoes last month before our first frost (not included in the total count). We made these into salsa verde.

Bell Peppers: I didn’t keep as close of a count of these but my estimate is 40-50 peppers.

Jalapeno Peppers: We picked 105 peppers from our jalapeno  plants. A portion we pickled and canned. And the second portion we smoked and ground into chipotle powder.

Potatoes: Our potatoes didn’t do extremely well, however we had enough to can some for the winter. And we also enjoyed one meal of fresh roasted potatoes! They were delicious!!

Squash: Overall, our squash plants did not do well because we got a bad case of powdery mildew pretty early into the season. I had never had issues with this before, so by the time I realized there was something wrong with my plants, it was too late and it had already destroyed the plants. This caused quite a hit to our squash yields, but we still have enough to enjoy throughout the fall! Here are the individual numbers for our squash…

Butternut Squash: 8

Acorn Squash: 2

Delicata Squash: 2

Pie Pumpkins: 2

Sweet Corn: We got 37 ears of corn! This was our first time planting corn, so that was an exciting result!! Some of them were pretty small but we still harvested enough to have one fresh meal of grilled corn and some to freeze for the winter!

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Supplemented

We didn’t really need to supplement too much this year, however, we have never had luck with tomatoes in the past. So, I got nervous and bought some extras just in case!

Regular Tomatoes: 1/2 bushel
Roma Tomatoes: 1/2 bushel
Pie Pumpkins: 3

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Canning Totals:

Stewed Tomatoes: 17 Quarts
Tomato Soup: 17 Quarts
Salsa: 27 Pints (14 jalapeno salsa & 13 regular salsa)
Salsa Verde: 6 pints and 1-1/2 Pint
Pickled Jalapeno Peppers: 12-1/2 Pints
Potatoes: 9 Pints

Miscellaneous Preserving:

Frozen Bell Peppers-4 packs: 8 bags (We use these for stuffed peppers.)
Frozen Pepper Slices: 7 Bags (We use these for sauteing for sandwiches, etc.)
Frozen Pumpkin Puree: 8 Quart Freezer bags, 12-17 oz each
Frozen Corn: 4 Quart Freezer Bars

Overall, I am very happy with our gardening and canning results this year! We did have a few bumps in the road that hindered our productivity, but I’m excited to try again next year and hopefully overcome these issues! My goal is to eliminate the need to supplement by buying at farms and be able to completely supply our own vegetables! We have definitely made a lot of progress and I hope to continue to make progress in the coming years!

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How did your garden do this year? What are your favorite vegetables to can? Share your thoughts in the comments below-I love to hear from my readers!

Planning and Preparing our Vegetable Garden: Part 2

planning-and-preparing-our-vegetable-garden-part-2Today, I will be sharing with you the next set of steps in the process we followed to ensure that we set ourselves up for gardening success! This is the second post in a series of four total, sharing our experience-From the planning stages through to the finished product, trouble-shooting throughout the season, and improvements we plan to make next year. So, make sure you continue to check back so you don’t miss any posts in this great gardening series!

If you missed the first post, check it out here!

Part 2 will cover how we got our garden plot ready, including building our fence and preparing the soil!

Once we got past the “planning” stage, which included choosing where we were going to plant our garden and what preparations we needed to make in advance, we were ready to dive in and get to work! It felt like Spring would never come! But before we knew it, Spring had arrived and we were getting busy!

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First of all, we marked out and measured the area for the garden. We knew approximately how big we wanted the garden, however, a huge contributing factor was the fencing we had picked out. We chose 6 foot welded wire fencing and it came in a 100 foot roll. We only wanted to buy 1 roll, so we measured out a 24 foot square. We placed 8 foot, 4-inch round, treated posts every 8 feet around the perimeter. Several of the posts we secured with concrete for some added stability. This included the corner posts, the post for the hose to be mounted, and the posts on either side of the gate. (In hind-sight, we wish we would have secured all of the posts with concrete.) Once the fence posts were in place, my husband ran the water line out to the garden from the shed and mounted the hose to one of the posts. He also added a hose rack so that we could leave the hose in the garden rather than carrying it back and forth from the shed to the garden every night.

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Next step was to add the welded wire fencing to the posts to enclose the area. This was quite a project and we got some extra helping hands to get this job done. We had 4 people total to get this job done: my hubby, myself, my father-in-law, and my nephew. We dug a small trench along the perimeter so that we could bury the fence a few inches to keep out the critters. We had 2 people stretching & pulling the fence, 1 person nailing the fence to the posts and 1 person kneeling down ensuring that the fencing was going in the trench and also pulling the fence tight for the person nailing it down.  Once that was finished, the last step was adding the gate. My hubby built the door and we got it mounted in the entrance. Despite measuring things out ahead of time, we still ended up with some gaps. So we placed a board in the ground, at the bottom of the door, and attached some rubber pieces on the sides of the door to keep out any unwanted critters. When you are working on a big project, sometimes things don’t turn out exactly as you planned. However, the important thing to remember is to always be flexible and look for ways to make it work. Try to be creative and make due with the supplies you already have on hand. This will save you lots of money in the long run!

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Once the fence was built, it was time to prepare the area for planting! This basically consisted of us digging up the area with our rototiller. We didn’t do much else with the soil this year. Since it’s our first year planting, we just wanted to test out our soil to see how it did by itself. Overall, it seemed to do pretty well. Next year we will most likely add manure and peat moss to add some additional nutrients to the soil. The main problem that we ran into was poor drainage. The front portion of the garden does not drain well, and at the beginning of the summer when we had a lot of rain. We had planted our tomatoes, peppers, and lots of seeds in this area. The tomatoes and peppers were stunted some at the beginning of the season. However, once the rainy period past and the summer sun came out, they perked back up and ultimately ended up doing amazing!! However, I think we would have had even more success if they would have had a good start. We also planted most of our seeds in the front half of our garden and most of them never came up. We had a small patch of lettuce that came up and that was it. Over the winter months, I plan on researching to see what I can do to help improve the soil drainage so that it isn’t a problem next year.

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Overall, this was one of the most time-consuming parts of the entire process. Also, the most expensive part of the process. Now that we have everything set up, it should be much easier in the years to come.

Check back soon! Part 3 will cover my favorite part-what we planted in the garden this year!

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What are your tips & tricks for planning & preparing your vegetable garden? Share your thoughts in the comments below-I love to hear from my readers!

August & September 2016 Homestead Update

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August and September have been very busy months for us! A combination of social activities, errands and household & garden chores have consumed what seems like every spare second! Around the house it has mainly been a month of upkeep inside the house and out in the yard & garden! The garden really got taken over with weeds, so much so that I can barely seem to keep up with them. We have had really hot, humid temperatures throughout the month of August and into the first couple weeks of September. Since I’m pregnant, I’ve really found that I need to pace myself. I get tired a lot easier and I need to make sure that I’m not over-doing it. So, I’ve been going out early in the morning when it is still cool and working for 1-2 hours, just dependent on how much energy I have. With a full-time job during the week, I only have time to do this once or twice a week. Some weeks, I don’t even get the chance to do that. So, the weeds just seem to take over in between my weeding sessions. I’ve been slowly making progress though and things are starting to look a lot better, which is great!! I will talk more about “My 3 Worst Enemies in the Garden this Summer” in an upcoming post and I’m thinking you can guess what 1 of them is;)

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With the end of the summer growing near, we have also had the wonderful task of harvesting produce from our vegetable garden. We have been enjoying fresh, juicy tomatoes, crunchy bell peppers, sweet snap peas, crisp kale and lettuce. Our corn tassels turned brown, so we were able to pull back the husks and take a look at what has been developing over the past several months! This is the time of the year when you really see all of your hard work and efforts pay off, and it is very rewarding! It’s so exciting to watch your garden start from seedlings poking through the soil, through the growing season and finally seeing the fruits of your labors! Harvest time is such a wonderful time of year for a gardener!

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With all of the wonderful vegetables we have been harvesting, we did a lot of canning & preserving over the past 2 months. Tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, corn and potatoes. Stay tuned for a post all about our produce yields from the garden and what we were able to put up for the winter-coming soon to the blog!

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We have also been spending some time preparing for the upcoming addition to our family!! We purchased and built most of the nursery furniture. The crib and changing table/dresser are assembled and in place! We still need to purchase the rocking chair and end stand but we will be purchasing this once the baby shower is over. We also attended a consignment sale where we were able to buy a nice selection of gender neutral onesies, sleepers and socks. I’m sure we will get more clothes from the baby shower, however, we wanted to ensure that we at least had a few clothes to get started just in case. At the sale, we were also able to pick up a swing that will work nicely with our infant car seat. The car seat just snaps right down into the frame and becomes the swing! It’s really nice because it makes our car seat serve a second purpose and it is also more compact than traditional swings. Another way we have been preparing is by collecting lots of free samples! Many companies, especially formula companies, send very generous welcome packages including formula and coupons! I am still waiting to receive a few of my welcome packages, so I will be sharing the contents in an upcoming post!! I’m very excited for the upcoming months-October and November will be packed full of baby preparation!

With all of that being said, our thoughts are now shifting to the next season. We have several things that we would really like to get taken care of before winter comes.

Goals that we want to achieve before winter:

Finish plumbing in shed. My hubby already ran water out to the shed and then from the shed to the hose in the garden. He just needs to finish running the water lines and add the sink!
Installing new lighting in our garage-it currently only has 2 bare bulb fixtures and does not provide sufficient light when my hubby is working on the cars in the garage.
Adding insulation to the garage walls.
Run co-ax cable from our attic to our basement for a t.v. antennae. We are planning on eliminating the expense of cable t.v. in the near future.
Adding shelving to our shed for organization and to add more storage space.

We already have a pretty good jump-start on our list and we have been continuously making progress towards getting everything completed.

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So, that’s what we have been up to over the past couple of months. Next month will be packed full of wrapping up the herb garden & vegetable garden, prepping for the baby and getting things cleaned up in the yard for the winter season. We typically get everything outside completed during the month of October because you never know what kind of weather November will bring! I’m sure that October will be a very busy month for us, so stay tuned for next month’s homesteading update to see what we accomplish!!

What tasks have you been accomplishing around your homestead? Share in the comments below. I always love to hear from my readers!!