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!!

 

Homegrown Herbs: Basil Pesto

homegrown-herbs-basil-pestoMy herb garden has been doing exceptionally well this season. They are all growing so fast that it seems I can barely keep up with them. I have already cut them back multiple times this year and they just continue to grow! Which is a good thing, I’m not complaining! It seems like as soon as I get one batch dried and prepared for use, I’m out there cutting them back again. So far, I have 3 quarts of dried spearmint, 2 quarts of dried lemon balm and 1/2 quart of dried tarragon. And that is in addition to topping off my “working” supply of herbs in the kitchen. It definitely is exciting to be stocking up my pantry with lots of  dried herbs to use over the winter!

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With the abundance of fresh herbs that I have on my hands, I am always looking for recipes to get them used up. One of the herbs that I currently have an over-abundance of is basil. One of my favorite ways to use my fresh basil is making pesto! We like to mix it together with pasta and turkey sausage (chopped in slices). It is absolutely delicious! This year we discovered that we can make large batches of this in the summer (when we have more basil than we know what to do with) and freeze it to use later on. I’m very excited that we are stocking up our freezer with fresh herbs to enjoy all year long!

The recipe is really simple and it only takes a few minutes to throw together. The most time-consuming part is going to be washing and removing the leaves from the stem. So, give it a try. You are sure to love it!

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Basil Pesto

2 cups packed basil leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
4 minced garlic cloves or 2 tsp minced garlic

Place all ingredients in your food processor or blender.
Blend until basil is finely chopped and ingredients are combined.
Serve over your choice of pasta and enjoy!

Or…If you are making it to freeze, simply transfer the pesto to a quart freezer bag.
Seal the bag most of the way and gently tap on the counter to remove air bubbles.
Lay it down and then slowly flatten it out.
Once it is flat, squeeze out any remaining air and finish sealing.
Always make sure you label and date your freezer bags as well.

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If you have an herb garden, make sure you are preserving your harvest for the winter months and not letting it go to waste. Most of my herb plants can be harvested 3-4 times throughout the summer months. And I’m not talking a little harvest. I’m talking about a lot-Like my dining room table full of baking sheets of herbs drying.

If you have more herbs than you know what to do with, check out my post on how to dry & preserve your own herbs!

How do you like to use your fresh herbs? Share your ideas in the comments below! I always love to hear from my readers!!

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My 2 Week Meal Plan {The August 21st Edition}

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Hey Friends! Today, I’m sharing my family’s meal plan for the next 2 weeks! My hope is that my ideas will inspire you in your own meal-planning adventure! You know from my previous posts that I am pretty passionate about meal-planning. It has made such a huge difference for our family. It brings so much peace and order to our evening routine and makes my life so much less stressful! And who doesn’t like less stress-I know I do!!

If you haven’t already, check out my methods and tips for meal-planning here!
What’s for Dinner? The Reason I started Meal Planning
Tips for Successful Meal Planning

Week 1
Sunday-Tacos, Creamed Corn
Monday-Tortellini, Asparagus
Tuesday-Sloppy Joe Sandwiches, Tossed Salad
Wednesday-Venison Hamburger Steaks, Baked Potatoes, Carrots
Thursday-Basil Pesto Pasta & Sausage (We’ve been eating lots of basil pesto because my herb garden is going crazy! I will be sharing my recipe for pesto.. on the blog soon!!)
Friday-Pizza, Tossed Salad
Saturday-Lasagna, Green Beans, Garlic Toast

Week 2
Sunday-Shrimp Kebabs, Roasted Red Potatoes
Monday-Breakfast
Tuesday-Asian Meatballs & Rice
Wednesday-Chicken Tenders, French Fries
Thursday-Grocery Night-We always grab something while we are out for $10 or less
Friday-Taco Salad
Saturday-Pierogi Casserole, Cooked Spinach

If there is a particular meal that you would like to see the recipe for on the blog, let me know! Also, if you have any questions about my meal plan or need advice on making your own, please feel free to comment below or send me an email! I always love to hear from my readers!

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