Hello, Mr. Oscoey here. If you don’t love garlic, you should probably just move on to the next post. If you love garlic as much as my family does, or you have a vampire problem, read on. I don’t remember when I first ran across […]
We have been getting a bunch of berries off of our raspberry bushes but nowhere near enough to make jam with. My kids eat them every day and they absolutely love the whole picking fruit from your own bushes and eating it immediately. Our big raspberry canes were planted last fall and they are producing a lot of fruit per cane but there are only five of them so overall it isn’t a lot. We also have a smaller Shortcake raspberry bush that spread quite a bit this year but it is done fruiting. We didn’t get very many berries off of it but the ones we did eat were delicious. I am excited for next year’s harvest!
Since we didn’t get a whole lot of raspberries this year and raspberry jam is our favorite we decided to go berry picking instead. There are several local farms in our area that have raspberries to pick. We have picked the Tulameen variety in the past and absolutely loved them but the farm we went to had something different this year. The berries were still good but we are definitely looking for Tulameens next year if our plants don’t produce enough fruit.
Our kids love to berry pick with us so they came too. We had an old friend in town so we made a day trip out of it.
The weather was supposed to be on the cooler side but even though there were storm clouds in the sky it was pretty hot out towards the end of our berry picking.
We picked for a couple of hours until the kids got antsy. Even a snack was not enough to keep the crankiness away from our son.
The kids were covered in dirt and our friend was ready to go so we headed back and bought some pre-picked flats to tide us over.
We had a great time and came home with a bunch of berries.
We may have overdid it a bit…four pre-picked boxes and 2 and part of another pick-your-own boxes. We love raspberries!
First things first I washed berries (one of the kids may have resorted to dumping dirt on the berries to keep busy…ahem…the one year old) and put them on a cookie sheet to freeze. It took a couple of days due to space issues in the freezer but I got 3 gallons of raspberries frozen for smoothies. We are sadly down to half a bag of frozen strawberries if that tells you how many smoothies we have been making. Our kids love smoothies and ask for them almost every day. I really wish we had picked more strawberries so I could have frozen at least two more gallons of berries.
After bed time my husband, oldest daughter and I got to work making raspberry jam. We made our raspberry jam kind of hap-hazardly and if I were to do it again I would probably have followed the recipe more. We used the same recipe card as the strawberries but there was some confusion with so many people in the kitchen and we almost had our proportions off several times. I think next year we will give everyone a job to do so it is more organized. We did not in fact follow the recipe exactly and I am not going to post the recipe we used but suffice to say we made double batches of jam (not recommended by most canning guidelines) and only used half the pectin with most of the sugar (I hope).
The first thing we did was crush up a bunch of raspberries. We used about 10 cups of raspberries per batch. We did not opt to strain out some of the seeds because we were using less pectin and raspberry seeds naturally have pectin in them. We have done no added pectin recipes with raspberries in the past and they have been wonderful but we used a little in ours this time just to be sure since we were doing double batches.
We cooked our raspberries according to the instructions and tested our batches by putting a little bit into the freezer. This test run was still a little runny so we cooked it a little more.
After cooking we filled pint jars and placed them in the water bath canner. We processed them for 15 minutes. We did have one jar break in the water bath which created a huge mess but it was towards the end of the canning process so we left the jars in there until the batch was done processing. Luckily the jar only broke into two pieces. This was our first jar break and it was one of our half pint jars. Our half pint jars are the workhorses of our kitchen and we use them all the time, even to store leftovers in the fridge. They have been used many times to can food and been run through the dishwasher so I am sure the jar was just at the end of it’s life.
We made a ton of jam! Only two of our jars did not seal so we will be eating them this week and I am hoping the rest will last the year. One of our batches is more like raspberry sauce and we can use that for waffles and pancakes. Sometimes batches don’t turn out all the way, even if you follow the recipe!.
Are you putting up raspberry jam this year?
We have had a busy week in the garden! Lots of flowers are in bloom and we spent many hours pulling ivy along the property lines in anticipation of our fence measure this week. We are very close to being done with the fence line and once that is done we will start clearing the center of our fenced area. I am really excited to finally be able to use our back yard. That ivy has been staring me in the face for almost two years. Once it is out we will be able to start working on landscaping the back and possibly adding our chickens.
North property line before ivy removal.
North property line after ivy removal. We took out a 3-4 foot buffer so that the fence company could measure. We don’t have room in the yard waste for the massive amounts of ivy we removed so we moved it towards the middle of the ivy patch where it wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. Next week I am doubling our yard waste pickup so that we can fill up two toters every week. That may still take us all summer to slowly add it but it is our best option at the moment.
View of the north property line from the bottom of the hill. The slope is moderately steep here. There was also quite a bit of native blackberry mixed in with the ivy and I am looking forward to checking it later in the summer for berries. There is a huge patch of it on the slope below my neighbor’s house on the public part of the ravine.
We also spent some time removing ivy in the south east corner. This area is behind a landscaped section and was pretty jungle like. I found a large amount of holly back here which I am pretty bummed about. It looks like the previous owners chopped down a pretty big holly tree at one point but left the stump which promptly sent out dozens of runners. I am not excited to remove them. We also cut down some of the lower hanging branches on the hemlock trees in this area since they would have interfered with the fence and were pretty dead looking. I did not get a picture of those before the light gave out but it looks much better.
In the ivy jungle I found an abandoned bird nest. It was pretty cool to find it and I am really glad the birds weren’t using it any more. One of the reasons we are pulling ivy out is because it provides shelter for rats to live in. I do not want to encourage them to live near our house, especially if we get chickens. The ivy behind our house has seriously damaged several large trees and needs to be pulled down so that the trees can recover and not fall on our house in a windstorm. English Ivy is nasty stuff and it will take many years to remove it from our yard but many of our neighbors have neglected their large trees and I am really concerned several will come down in the future.
In anticipation of a new fence we cut some of the lower branches off of one of our hemlock trees. They were starting to grow over our path down to the ravine and parts of them were very dead looking. Basically they were hair-pulling spider havens so they had to go. We were told last summer that we should cut some of them out to allow more light into the back yard and quoted $500-600 for them to come out and remove them. It took my husband 30 minutes with a ladder and our tiny chain saw to cut four or so branches down and open up the pathway. He spent a little bit longer cutting up the branches a bit and burning some of the smaller ones but we do that sort of thing after every winter storm so it wasn’t a big deal. It really goes to show that if you have a little know how and a willingness to work you can save a ton of money doing as much as you can by yourself. I grew up cutting down trees and clearing land and I am really enjoying working out on ours. We will have to hire someone to remove trees since they are so close to the house but we can definitely handle the smaller stuff!
On a more positive note our gigantic hydrangea bushes are in full bloom. They are absolutely gorgeous. I love hydrangeas and I am really glad our house has such beautiful ones!
Some of our other plants are finally blooming. Our butterfly bush has a few blossoms and the fuchsias are just starting to flower. I am really glad the flowers are coming out because I am having a problem getting my squash flowers pollinated.
Because my vegetables aren’t getting pollinated very well I went out and bought some lavender plants to put next to the vegetable garden. I am going to take out our boxwood hedge and make a lavender hedge instead. I am hoping that will solve my squash problem.
My daughter also wanted me to take some pictures of her fairy garden. It is growing very well. Everything is blooming and growing fast. I may have to talk her into moving it to a larger pot next year. She checks on it every day and we talk about how the flowers are doing. It is really sweet to see her take ownership of her plants and care for them so well.
Our fruit garden is doing well. The apples are growing and looking very healthy. We have been picking a handful of raspberries and blueberries every day. Thanks to my kids they never make it inside but they have a lot of fun picking them and eating them. My son is not a fruit person but he will eat fruit from our garden!
Our tomatoes still have a few fruits on them. Many of the other gardeners in my local community are having trouble growing tomatoes this year. Last year we had such a bumper crop I am not surprised. We had way too many tomatoes last year so having way fewer is totally ok with me.
My sunflowers were doing so poorly after being attacked by slugs that I went out and bought a dwarf sunflower to plant near the squash. I am hoping it will attract some bees as well as grow enough so that we can get a few seeds from it. Of course after I planted it my other sunflowers started taking off but that is ok. They are nowhere near close to blooming so I think it will help to have them blooming at different times.
I have one large yellow zucchini but there are also now some smaller ones so I have a little hope! The new ones happened after I planted the sunflowers and bought the lavender and I can’t tell if they have been pollinated yet but keep your fingers crossed!
There are two spaghetti squash out in the garden and this one is getting pretty big. It is about the length of my hand right now and it has doubled in size over the past few days. I love spaghetti squash so I am really excited about this one!
There are a few female pumpkin flowers. Most of them shrivel up shortly after blooming. This one was closed mid-day so I am hoping it has been pollinated. I tried hand pollinating another one so that we will get at least one pumpkin this year. Hopefully it worked!
My squash are completely taking over my beds. I have had to corral the pumpkin ones several times. They keep trying to escape to the neighbor’s yard. I honestly didn’t think many of them would grow so next year I will know and plant only a couple of them.
Our bush bean plants are doing very well. They just started flowering and I did see a couple of bees on them this morning so we should get at least a few beans out of them.
Our green beans are still struggling. They were pretty eaten up by slugs but are recovering. I need to put some netting over our bamboo poles to help them climb. I changed the watering system around a bit so that they are getting more water and they seem to be doing better now.
Our freeloading ground cherries are thriving despite being stepped on almost daily. A few of them even have a few fruits on them so we are excited to eat some and see if they taste as good as last year’s.
The carrots have finally started taking off. They have really been putting out a lot of greens and I am excited to try drying the greens this year to add to recipes. I found this excellent article on A Modern Homestead that details how to use carrot greens in your cooking. I am really excited to try some of her ideas!
Whew. A lot went on in our garden this week! I am really excited that our vegetables are starting to take off and hoping to start harvesting some of the squash this week. We will be spending a bunch more time on ivy removal and clearing up what we can from the back yard. I am already thinking about projects for next year and what we will do differently in the vegetable garden.
What is happening in your garden this week?
We have been trying to eat both healthier and cheaper in our house and besides beans one of the ways I have been trying to do that is to add more squash into our diet. I love squash. I am really excited about our zucchini and spaghetti squash plants. The rest of my family is more than a little apprehensive. The little kids are hit and miss when it comes to squash and my oldest daughter is strongly positioned in the squash is disgusting camp. My husband is not a huge fan but he will eat it…sometimes. Costco has organic butternut squash for a reasonable price that has been cured so it will store well in our pantry. I highly recommend buying and storing a couple of butternut and spaghetti squash in your pantry as part of an emergency kit/last minute dinner idea. As long as they have no blemishes they should be good for months in a cool dry place. We usually have at least one type on hand and when we are stuck in a vegetable rut or having a lean grocery week I pull out the squash. Usually one squash is good for a few meals since they are pretty large but it depends on how excited the family is about eating it that particular week.
This week I had a craving for my vegetarian butternut squash burritos. They are super easy to make and can be adapted to make rice bowls so they are gluten free. Sometimes I add a garlic sauce or some of my husband’s white barbecue sauce but if you are trying to eat healthier they should be eaten without the sauce. We always have rice and tortillas on hand so this recipe doesn’t require and extra trip to the grocery store for us if we have avocados on hand.
First thing to do is slice your squash in half and scoop out the seeds. I usually put the rice in the rice cooker at this point as well. You can make as much as you need but I usually make 3 cups of rice since we eat it with other things as leftovers.
Next your squash needs to be peeled. They can get slippery so be careful how you hold it while you peel.
While I was assembling everything the kids played with Play-doh. Luckily they didn’t make too much of a mess!
After peeling dice the squash and put it in a steamer. We have an old Revere Ware one that we inherited from my mother-in-law that is the true workhorse of our kitchen. You can find similar ones here.
Tonight I also made some roasted sweet potatoes in case the kids wouldn’t eat their squash. Good thing I did because the kids were apparently craving them and ate most of the three large potatoes I baked on their own.
After the squash and rice were cooked I set up our assembly station. I sliced avocados to order and it was an excellent meal. My son actually ate some avocados and my daughter ate a ton of squash so overall it was a success! We had oranges for dessert which is another way to keep the meal healthy. The kids had a post-dinner snack of most of the sweet potatoes which was hilarious because our son used them to get the dachshund to chase him around the house. He found it hilarious and she got a few pieces so it worked out for her as well.
Our avocados were not as ripe as they promised to be but they still tasted delicious with the squash and rice. I am hoping next year to grow our own butternut squash but for now, the ones I find at Costco are by far the most delicious. They have a smooth texture and a not too sweet taste that I love. For some reason this combination of rice, avocados and butternut squash is really appealing to me. The three ingredients really balance each other out and it makes a quick and easy meal that the whole family enjoys!
How are you incorporating squash into your meals?
Easy Vegetarian Squash Burritos
- 1/2 Butternut Squash
- 3 Cups Cooked Rice
- Large Flour Tortillas
- 2 Ripe Avocados
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Step 1 Cut your butternut squash in half and remove the seeds. The extra half can be stored in the fridge covered in plastic wrap for a few days or you can do the next step and put it in the freezer for later use.
- Step 2 Using a vegetable peeler carefully peel the skin off of the squash.
- Step 3 Once peeled dice the squash into bite size pieces and put in a steamer pot.
- Step 4 Cook for 20 min or until tender.
- Step 5 Slice your avocados just prior to serving.
- Step 6 Assemble your burritos! Start with a tortilla and add rice, avocados, squash, salt and pepper to taste. If you have some creamy sauce around you can add that as well but it will not be as healthy. You can also skip the tortilla and make a rice bowl if you want to cut out the wheat to make it gluten free.