Indoor Seed Starting Time It is that time of year again when I start to think about what seeds I need to start indoors. This is our third year gardening at our house and the second year for us starting seeds indoors. Last year […]
One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the […]
We have had a super busy summer and I was really bummed that we missed the July blueberry picking season. Our bushes are only a couple of years old and don’t produce anywhere near enough berries for us to freeze. They were eagerly eaten every day by the kids with very few to spare. I was super excited to hear from another mom at gymnastics that there was a local U-pick farm that still had blueberries! We cancelled our plans to try an easy hike with the kids and headed out to pick as many blueberries as we could manage.
The farm we went to was super close and I am really glad I found it because the blueberries were delicious! My blueberry hating husband even liked them and actually ate a few. The kids of course ate themselves silly and enjoyed every moment of it!
We grabbed a couple of smaller buckets and one gigantic 5 gallon bucket to consolidate our berries into. It was a pretty hot day and we were worried about the kids overheating so we picked at lightening speed. Luckily blueberries are much easier to pick than raspberries or strawberries because you do not have to be super careful about placing them into your container. I just placed my bucket underneath a large blueberry covered branch and let them fall into the bucket as I massaged them off of the branches. It took us less than an hour to fill our five gallon bucket with over 20 pounds of blueberries!
The biggest issue we had was the fear of losing one or both of the kids. The bushes were overgrown and touching each other in many places so you could not see down the rows at all. We split up with one kid each and made the kids wear their hats for both eye protection and visibility. I highly advise buying your kids neon hats and jackets so you can easily pick them out in a crowd of people or when you are outside with them. It was really easy to keep track of my son’s bright orange Tigger hat even when I couldn’t see the rest of him.
I don’t remember what type of blueberry we picked but they were not organic (which I found out later on). Next time we will try and find an organic blueberry farm to pick from or I will see if the farm we went to has some that are organic. There were tons of them on the bushes though and we did not have to walk very far to pick all that we needed.
We did however come home with two half flats of berries and I am super excited to eat them this winter!
I immediately started freezing our berries in batches on a cookie sheet. We froze about three gallons total and I still have a half flat left. We have made blueberry jam in the past but we typically do not eat enough of it so we decided not to this year. We also have tons of raspberry jam which will be plenty of jam for us!
All week we have been eating blueberries on our cereal and our ice cream and the kids and I absolutely love it! We haven’t decided what to do with the rest of the berries yet and we may try to dry some of them in the dehydrator but I am really hoping my husband will make his famous blueberry peach pie!
Did you pick blueberries this year? What are some of the ways you prepared them?
Summer is upon us and the vegetable garden is in full swing. My pumpkins have taken over the garden space and the spaghetti squash is not far behind it. The kids and I are harvesting berries, green beans and squash every other day. I have […]
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 […]
This week not a lot got done in the garden besides watering and weeding. We had a busy week with the oldest daughter graduating from high school and Father’s Day so we were pretty occupied. We spent a lot of time doing maintenance type stuff around the garden so that it looked better for the party. I in no way got it looking nearly as nice as I wanted it to but the weeds were more in control and the lawn was at least mowed.
I have been really pleased with the growth in our vegetable garden. All of the plants took off when the sun came out and we have quite a few vegetables growing. Most of them are squash but now that they are starting to grow I can tell which plant is which. It is very helpful!
I pulled the last of our seedlings from the indoor grow area and started hardening them off this week. My ground cherry is growing well and has a couple of fruits on it. Yay! It looks like most of the other plants are bottle gourds. I am a little tight on space so I will have to find somewhere else to stash these. I am thinking of planting them near the hydrangeas in our front bed for now and install some netting so they can grow vertically. I also have some room over by the blueberry bushes but that area is very weedy and I don’t know if that will be a problem later. I might have to super mulch and see if that solves the problem.
The bush bean plants have gotten super tall. They seem to have grown a couple of feet in the last week or two. We have been checking them every day but we missed a day for graduation and they seemed to grow overnight.
I am really excited about our carrots. We grew this variety last year and had no luck. They doubled in size over the last few days and I am hoping that they are growing some nice roots down in the soil!
We have a few pumpkins! I am really hoping they aren’t eaten by the pesky squirrels and crows. I seem to be missing 95% of my strawberries and I think I know who has eaten them…
Our squash plants are taking over the bed. I planted way to many of them for the area. I honestly was not sure if they would even grow. We should hopefully have a bunch though so I can freeze a bunch for the winter. They are mostly summer squash so they won’t keep over winter.
Yellow squash! I took this photo a couple of days ago and they are much bigger today. I didn’t get a picture but they almost looked big enough to eat. Yellow squash is one of my favorites!
Our Luffa plants are starting to grow up the trellis. I need to trim them back a bit but I am waiting for the first flowers so I can do it all at once. These really are my experiment this year. I am hoping they do well so we can switch to natural sponges instead of synthetic.
We have a couple of tiny cucumbers. I am going to have to train these with some string so they can find the fence behind them. I didn’t plant them quite close enough.
Our green beans are doing ok. They have been attacked by some slugs and many of them lost their leaves. I am going to start another batch next week and set up a beer slug trap as soon as I can get around to it. Hopefully that will help.
Do you see these? These popped up in the garden a couple of weeks ago and I have been watching them carefully. They first appeared to be weeds but I was hopeful and decided to let them grow a bit before I pulled the plug. I am fairly certain now what they are since I compared them to my seedling from the laundry room. Do you know what they are? I am pretty sure they are volunteer ground cherries from our plant last year. We planted it in this spot and many of the ground cherries were either squished or left under leaves since we had a very successful harvest last year and missed a bunch of them. I am really excited about it if they are because that means next year I can just save some seeds, I don’t have to search high and low or stress about how many seeds germinate next year. I was also really nervous about our one not so great looking plant but even though it has been growing ever so slowly it looks really healthy so hopefully we will get quite a bit from it.
That’s it for our short but sweet garden update! I may look into some netting for our strawberry plants but honestly I have spent my budget for gardening for the year and my kids aren’t missing them so I may not. Hopefully it will keep the birds off of our raspberry plants. I am excited about the possibility of baby squash to eat next week! Yum!
What’s happening in your garden this week?
We have had some excitement in the garden this week. Our plants are continuing to grow super fast from our week of excellent sun and we harvested our first few strawberries. I got some more seedlings planted and we spent quite a bit of time […]
A few days ago I posted about our strawberry picking and how we froze and dried the berries. We have been snacking on the dried berries all week and they are delicious! On top of drying and freezing our berries we also made two batches […]
When my husband and I first started really looking into our food many years ago one of the first things we looked at was high fructose corn syrup. We discovered it was really difficult to buy jam without out it so we decided to try making our own. Since we lived in a townhouse with no yard we became huge fans of U-pick farms. For a few years we would make the trek out to the farm, pick a bunch of berries and then bring them home to freeze, make jam and sometimes dry them. We stopped making jam about the time we had our second child because life got busy and we started to stray from trying to be more self-sufficient. When we had our third child we strayed even farther and a few months ago I realized although we were cooking a lot of our own food still, processed foods had crept back into our diet. Our garden is still young and we do not have a lot of mature berry plants so this year I was determined to make all of the major U-pick seasons (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and apples).
Last weekend we went strawberry picking with the younger kids and we had a lot of fun! The key is to go after a few sunny days so the berries are sweeter and early enough in the day that the fields are not so hot that you are miserable in the sun. Our three year old is a total foodie and has inherited my love of fruit so she spent most of her time eating everything she picked. Our son will not eat fruit unless it is cooked in something or comes in pouch form so he wandered around telling me about the plants and watching all of the people. It was great because both kids had fun in their own way and my husband and I were able to pick a couple of flats in a relatively short amount of time.
The farm we went to had a little play area with shaved ice so after we picked our berries we ate a snack and some shaved ice. The kids ran around and played some more which guaranteed a nap for the youngest in the car on the way home. It was a great way to spend the morning as a family. We are also firm believers in involving our kids in the whole food/cooking process so it was great to have them help with picking berries. It was still relatively early in the season so the strawberry plants were very full of berries which made picking faster and easier than in the past when we have gone towards the end of the season.
The first thing I did when we got home was slice up our berries and fill the dehydrator. Dehydrated berries need to be very fresh and blemish free so the sooner you get them in the dehydrator the better. It also takes 8-12 hours (or more) so make sure you time it so you aren’t having to wake up in the middle of the night to pull them out. For a long time we used a small dehydrator with a top fan that had been passed down from many people and worked okay but last fall my Dad bought me an Excalibur dehydrator for my birthday and this was my first time using it. Man, there was a huge difference. My fruit was much more evenly dehydrated and having a temperature setting with a timer seemed extra luxurious. I even forgot to rotate the trays until well into the process and they still came out very evenly dry. Our old one you had to rotate every two hours and it still ended up taking way longer to dry out the food no where near as even. I highly recommend saving up for the Excalibur it was a completely different experience for me this time around. I really wish I had bought the fruit leather trays so I could have made fruit leather as well but maybe next time. There is also a dehydrator cookbook that I would like to try as well.
Our strawberries came out of the dehydrator while our kids were eating breakfast. It is important to check that they are dry before you put them into long term storage so that they do not develop mold over time. My kids were hungry so I just put the not so dry ones into a small glass dish for them to eat and honestly they did not last until lunchtime since everyone was snacking on them. My son actually ate a few pieces of dried strawberries which was a huge win! I made 5 trays of berries and it filled about 1/3 of a gallon Ziploc bag. We are not huge eaters of dried fruit so it will be enough for us.
While the fruit was drying I cut the tops off of more strawberries and placed them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. We freeze them this way so that we can take a few out as needed for smoothies. I leave them in there for a few hours then transfer them to a gallon Ziploc bag. We probably need three gallons of frozen strawberries to last us a year but we simply did not pick enough berries for that this year. I froze two trays of berries and it made 1 1/3 gallons of frozen berries. Next year I think we will pick 3, maybe 4 flats of berries so that we have enough to freeze three gallons and make some fruit leather. It is always a learning process and I am really glad we are figuring out the kinks so that in the future we can know how much we will need.
My kids love smoothies so we have already eaten quite a few of our frozen berries and they were delicious! With all of the recalls on frozen food I am really glad we have some berries stashed away for future use! About a year ago when Costco had most of their frozen veggies recalled I had to completely change how we bought our vegetables since we eat a lot of frozen peas, green beans and corn. Every year I want to add to what we grow ourselves so we will no longer be reliant on store bought fruits and vegetables. Stay tuned for our next post in the series about the delicious jam we made from our strawberries!
What foods are you replacing with your garden this year?
We had a really busy week this week with playdates for the younger kids and prom for our oldest. There were errands to run and the one year old didn’t nap all week. Both little kids must be growing through a growth spurt because I […]