Tag: canning

Gardening Update 07/05/23

Gardening Update 07/05/23

It’s been a while since my last garden update so I thought I would write up a quick one today even though my garden is in pretty bad shape. It looks like my last garden update was in April of 2022. Every year I think […]

September 2022 Grocery Spending Wrap Up

September 2022 Grocery Spending Wrap Up

September was an expensive month for us as far as groceries go. All of our stock up trips seemed to happen this September and that caused our grocery total to be higher than usual. We also have been trying to eat healthier which of course […]

Garden Update 04.30.22

Garden Update 04.30.22

Welcome to the end of April when our garden starts to take off. We have been celebrating the emergence of our asparagus and planted many flowers and I am super excited for the summer when all of our plants start taking off. I am still working on getting my large garden beds in but hope to have them done by the end of this week. I put them on hold for a bit trying to get fence quotes but so far I am having a very difficult time getting people to even show up which is super disappointing. I thought I would do a brief overview of what’s happening in the garden right now.

Fairy garden.
Fairy garden.

Earlier this month the kids and I went to Lowes and picked up some flowers so they could make new fairy gardens. Our neighbors are moving and they gifted us some large pots which the kids very enthusiastically planted. We add flowers every year to their pots but their old ones have been taken over by the hens and chicks they planted several years ago so it was time for new ones.

flower garden
Flower garden.

This year is the first year my son has really gotten into gardening with me and he took it upon himself to finish planting all of my flowers. He did an excellent job of it in a section of the garden that was pretty bare. He even planted seeds which will hopefully sprout. I am not sure how deep they were planted but I always love to see my kids embracing gardening and taking ownership of part of the yard.

Hidden gnome.
Hidden gnome.

A friendly gnome showed up in the kids’ hideout mysteriously one day and they have taken great delight in moving him about to “surprise” everyone the next day. Everyone is in on the joke and it motivates the kids to go outside for a bit. Their hideout under the Hydrangeas hasn’t quite grown over yet but they have been enjoying it nonetheless.

Kale
Kale plant in bloom.

All of our brassicas are blooming right now. They overwintered well despite the snow and freezing temperatures and I have left them to bloom for the bees. I haven’t seen a lot of bees yet this year but it is still pretty cold at night and we usually don’t see a lot of them until May. I did however find a Bumble Bee nest next to my vegetable patch and I am super excited about that!

Squash and Peas
Squash and Peas

I started planting out some of my squash plants super early this year. They were damaged a little bit but I put covers on them and I am hoping they will do ok. I checked them today and they do look pretty good. Luckily the covers are tight enough that the slugs have so far not been able to get in there and eat them which is much better than last year when I lost most of my plants to slugs. I was also successful in getting some pea plants to sprout along one of my fence lines. So hopefully we will have a decent crop for the first part of the summer.

Apple Blossom
Apple Blossom

Both our apple and pear trees are beginning to bloom this week. I am hoping since they have been in the ground for about six years now that we will have a decent crop this year. I will need to cover the apples pretty soon to prevent the apple maggots that are so prevalent in our area from getting to our fruit. We had a particularly bad case of it last year and weren’t able to eat many of the apples we grew. Our apple tree is also not doing very well in general so I am not sure if we will eventually replace it or try to fix it more.

Tulips
Tulips

Of the hundred or so bulbs we planted last year only the ones in this pot did not get eaten. There are however more than I remember planting so I am not sure if they were split by our squirrels or I just am not remembering correctly. These are very beautiful and I am super happy that they survived. I may try tulips again next year in some of my garden beds since I am going to line the bottoms with hardware cloth to prevent the moles from digging up my vegetables. Tulips are very short lived though in terms of blossoms so I don’t know if I want to dedicate that much garden space to them.

Early seedlings
Early seedling plantings.

Last weekend I also planted a bunch of marigolds I got from Costco and the rest of the seeds I started indoors in March. I haphazardly placed them in my existing beds which I don’t recommend but if they don’t end up growing very well I will replace them mid-summer with my fall crops. Here I planted Brussels sprouts and maybe cabbage. I also planted zucchini, spaghetti squash, melons and yellow squash in other beds and pots. I am realizing that I just don’t get enough light in the early spring so next year I may have to change my planting plans.

 

Thank you for reading our quick garden overview for April. Come find us on Instagram at Oscoeyzamph for more up to date garden pictures.

 

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2022 Garden Supply Purchases

 

Low Spend April 2022 Grocery Spending Mid-Month Check In

2022 Garden Supply Purchases

2022 Garden Supply Purchases

For 2022 we are really expanding our garden and possibly adding in some chickens later in the year. We are garden zone 8b in the Pacific Northwest located in the Seattle area. Our weather is wet a lot of the year and we have been […]

Gardening Update: 04.04.22

Gardening Update: 04.04.22

Hello spring! I am very excited for the garden this year. I have been out in it every day checking things out and seeing what is coming up. One of the beautiful things that has come out of our gardening over the past few years […]

March 2022 Spending

March 2022 Spending

For 2022 we are focusing on our grocery spending and trying to find ways to reduce it despite all of the price increases. In January we completed a pantry cleanout challenge and in February I focused on eating through the odds and ends in our freezer. Unfortunately we had some family issues come up in February that we are still dealing with at the end of March and I was not able to post our February spending. I may go back and post it later when I have time but at this point it might be too late. I did not worry about our grocery spending for the second half of February and the first part of March since I was swamped with taking care of my family member so our low spend goal went a little bit sideways.

 

January 2022 Spending

 

Looking back at my January spending post we aimed to keep our groceries at about $800 a month which was reducing our spending down from about $1000 a month. We do not include items such as cleaning supplies, paper products, dog food and coffee in our total since I track these separately. We do not eat out ever and we have quite a few dietary restrictions which can be expensive. I started tracking our coffee separately at the beginning of the year since I was drinking so much of it and wanted a good baseline for it. I only track the beans we buy and when we go out for coffee, not the cream or milk that we put in it since we use those for other things as well. Recently I have reduced my consumption so it will be interesting to see at the end of the year how that plays out.

One expense besides groceries that has been increased lately is for our larger dogs. Luna (bottom) had some skin issues and required a couple of visits to the vet. We also needed to hire a trainer and buy tons of toys to keep their brains stimulated in different ways. For some reason I totally forgot some of the tricks we used for George (top) to keep him occupied during the teenage puppy months so it was super helpful to get some ideas for Luna. They plus our dachshund are now eating through about 40 pounds of dog food every 2.5 to 3 weeks which is insane to me. We switched them to one of the Kirkland brand foods and they seem to be doing ok on it which is great since it cut our dog food bill significantly. Even though we are experienced dog owners we have never owned a herding dog before and Luna has proved to be a challenge in ways our other dogs were not so we felt hiring a trainer to get through the next few months before she turns a year would be helpful and after one visit we are already seeing improvement.

Gardening
Gardening is one of our go to free but fun activities.

For March my goal was to be at $625 for the whole month since we had inherited some food from a family member and we had stocked up in both January and February. What we actually ended up spending was….

 

Whoa. We really blew past our budget and then some. I looked back at what we bought and we ended up stocking up on some items that were on super sale that we eat a lot at Costco (gluten free supreme pizza I am talking to you), shelf-stable items our picky eater loves and that frequently go out of stock such as fruit leather, and pantry basics that I realized we were low on like oil, beans, spaghetti sauce and bread. Yup. We ate up most of the bread I bought in January and we had to do another bread run at the Franz Outlet. I also went through our emergency supplies and realized we had no canned vegetables or fruit so I bought enough for about a week. We are heading into spring and our garden will be in full swing in about a month or two so I am not as worried about having cans of veggies and fruit on hand. We have a ton of frozen blueberries, strawberries, peaches, broccoli, potatoes, peas and green beans in our freezer and my kids will not really eat canned food so I am hopeful that if we do have some sort of emergency without power we will be ok with just the few freeze dried cans I bought. If all else fails they can just have the dried fruit we have on hand and skip some of the veggies for a bit. I would much rather go without veggies for a week or two than have to use up a month or two’s supply of canned veggies every year but that’s just me.

Cabbage
Cabbage and kale from the garden with eggs for a cheap and healthy breakfast.

At the moment our freezers are full and our pantry shelves have only a few spots where I suspect we will need to stock up either this month or the next so I am feeling pretty good. My goal for April is to keep our grocery spending under $600. It is a pretty tight goal but I would love to eat through some of our freezer again this month to make sure we are rotating through everything in a timely manner. I have some freezer meals we need to eat up, some meals I prepped for lunches and I would love to do an inventory mid-month when we have eaten through some of what we have to plan our spending for May.

Cobbler
Cobbler has been one of our favorite freezer clean out desserts.

I would also love to do a deep clean of our garage fridge which takes emptying most of it out to scrub everything down. I honestly have not really taken an inventory of what is in there since my husband uses parts of it to store things he has made which are never labeled. Maybe this month we can go through it together and clear out what needs to be tossed. We do have a crate of 90 eggs which my mother-in-law dropped off last week that need to be eaten before I can clean it though. I am not really sure what to do with all of those eggs, especially since we had just bought 5 dozen from Costco. I gave a dozen to our oldest daughter and I am toying with the idea of pickling two gigantic mason jars worth of eggs with some of the rest. We do eat a lot of eggs in our family but this is way to much for even us so I will most likely give some away on our local Buy Nothing group.

Cranberry Lake
Cranberry Lake at Deception Pass.

For now we will continue to eat through what we have and keep a running list of what we need as we avoid going to the store for as long as possible. We are trying to keep our expenses down in other areas as well and are taking cheap or free day trips over spring break instead of going on vacation. Last weekend we drove up to Deception Pass on Whidbey Island and had a wonderful time exploring Cranberry Lake. We packed lunches and had a great time. This trip cost us only about $20 total and most of that was from the ferry trip home where all passengers are free.

 

What are your grocery spending goals for April?

 

The Importance of Walking in the Wood With Kids

 

Gardening Update 11.07.21

 

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 4

 

Gardening Update 11.07.21

Gardening Update 11.07.21

A lot happened in the garden since my last post in July which can be found here. We had a large crop of green tomatoes, lots of greens, successfully grew two nice sized pumpkins and many other vegetables. We continued to battle pests throughout the […]

Covid – 10 Months and Counting

Covid – 10 Months and Counting

We are about 10 months into dealing with Covid and things don’t seem to be letting up any time soon. I was looking back over pictures from the year today and I was struck by how sudden everything was last Feb/March when everything shut down. […]

Gardening Update 09.05.2020

Gardening Update 09.05.2020

As the nights get cooler and the days shorter our summer 2020 garden is winding down for fall. This summer our vegetable garden stepped up a notch and I planted way more than previous years. We also had a huge pest problem with rodents, ants, slugs and pill bugs decimating some of the plants. I planted a full packet of green beans and got only one viable plant. I was very bummed about the lack of green beans this year. Fresh green beans off the vine are one of my favorites!

 

Zucchini harvest.

 

We had a bumper zucchini crop this year with so many grown that I contemplated becoming one of those gardeners that leaves baskets of zucchini on neighbor’s doorsteps and runs but seriously, we shared the wealth with relatives and the local food pantry during the height of the season and my husband became an excellent maker of zucchini fritters and muffins which everyone loves. My goal this weekend is to blanch and freeze a bunch of it and maybe try canning but honestly I am not sure if we will eat it once it has been canned. The PNW is scheduled for our annual September last gasp heat wave next week and once that is over my summer squash plants and tomatoes will be pulled to make room for fall crops. I will miss checking the zucchini plants daily with my kids to see how many we have and how big they are but we are getting just a little bit tired of eating it so it will be nice for a change.

 

 

Cabbage harvested from the garden.

 

This was our first year growing cabbage with mixed success. My Nappa cabbages were much anticipated but didn’t end up working out. All of the ones I direct sowed into the garden were munched to the base by slugs and the couple that I started indoors were crowded out and then eaten by a variety of bugs and not good to eat. We did however get a couple of nice green and red cabbages although they were pretty small. I have started some more cabbage seeds for the fall garden and hopefully they will work out better with the cooler weather. We had a massive cabbage butterfly problem at the start of the summer and my daughter and I spent weeks scraping off butterfly eggs by hand every day to keep it in check until the cabbage plants were big enough to fend them off which made me pretty sad because we love butterflies but there were literally hundreds of eggs and the cheeky butterfly in question was aggressively laying eggs while we were scraping so I am sure a few made it to the end.

 

 

Our potato harvest.

 

I should probably confess my massive impatience with our potatoes. I may have been super eager to free up some garden space and to see if our potatoes had actually grown and dug them up a little bit early. I probably should have left some of them longer so that we had some larger potatoes but overall I am pretty happy with the harvest. I wish I had measured the pounds of everything we harvested this year but that will have to go on the list for next year. Our potatoes did mediocre for how many spuds I planted. We ended up with about 20 plants and got about 3/4 of a dish pan of potatoes total. I went back through the potato beds a few weeks after our harvest and dug up about 15 more small ones. There were also quite a few starts that I left in the dirt that might sprout next year for some surprise potatoes but if they don’t I am not worried. I am formulating a better plan for potatoes next year. We need to move them to a different spot that is easier to harvest and I need to leave them in the ground much longer. I haven’t decided where to put them yet but I am definitely thinking about it!

 

 

Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts

 

Our Brussels Sprouts our growing slowly but surely. This is our first year planting these and we did have a huge slug problem with a couple of the plants but now they are growing really well and I am hoping to be able to harvest in another month or so but honestly we haven’t done these before so I am not sure when they will be ready. I may have over planted these just a little bit with 5 in a decent sized pot but I was running out of space and I really wanted to try them this year. A large part of our garden this year was experimenting to see what works and where to put plants. I am not sure if we will grow these again next year because it was a lot of work and it looks like we will only have a few meals worth of sprouts. Our space may be better off growing something more prolific but I am waiting to see how they turn out once we harvest them. If I do Brussels sprouts again next year they will be in the ground and not in pots though. It was too hard to keep them watered and they need more soil.

 

 

Pumpkin!

 

We have three pumpkins growing this year. Two of them are pie pumpkins and we got one medium sized jack-o-lantern one whose shape is pretty lopsided. I love getting a bunch of pumpkins for Halloween so we will be buying more from the store or hopefully from the local pumpkin patch if they open. I would love to grow a bunch of varieties of pumpkins but they take up a bunch of space and we just don’t have the room. Our ripest pumpkin should be ready in a couple of weeks and our kids are pretty excited about it. I am really hoping that they don’t get eaten right before I pick them since we have been watching them all summer to see how they grow.

 

 

Tomato

 

We had mixed results with tomatoes this year. I could not get my cages to fit in the pots we planted our tomatoes in so they were not very well supported and lots of branches were broken. I won’t be doing them in pots next year because the amount of watering needed was ridiculous. I had to water twice a day most days this summer and even that wasn’t always enough. We planted three varieties which were cherry, roma and beefsteak. Our cherry tomatoes are doing well and we are getting a handful every day which the middle child promptly eats. Our roma tomato plant has lots of tomatoes on it but only a couple are ripe. I have been trimming the flowers and I put a sprig of ripening cherry tomatoes over the romas to try and speed up ripening but I am not sure if they will ripen quickly enough. After our heat wave next week I am pulling all of the tomato plants and hopefully any that aren’t ripe will ripen indoors.

 

We have one sad small beefsteak tomato on our plant and I am not hopeful that it will be remotely ready in the next week. For some reason this plant did not flower until a few weeks ago even though we used the same type of soil and fertilizer as the others. It was actually the healthiest plant but only produced leaves. I am doing more research into tomatoes for next year and hopefully we will have a better crop next year. Everyone in our area struggled with tomatoes this year though so I am not surprised our crop wasn’t that great.

 

Spaghetti squash

 

Our spaghetti squash crop has been surprisingly great this year. I almost pulled the vines in late June because they simply weren’t growing but I am really glad I didn’t. I have harvested 4 or 5 good sized squash so far and there are several more on the vines that should be ready in the next couple of weeks. We also lost probably 4 or 5 smaller ones to squirrels and slugs which was pretty sad and I am harvesting the last few a little bit smaller so they do not get eaten. I had better luck with the squash that were up off the ground this year, even though in the past it wasn’t an issue, so next year I am planning on trellising these somehow. We grow spaghetti squash every year and it is one of my favorites. The variety we grow does not get that yellow color you see in the store but once the rinds are hard they can be stored for a up to a few months. I keep them on my kitchen counter so I don’t forget to eat them.

 

 

Massive sunflower.

 

By far our most impressive garden growth has been with one of the five sunflowers I got to grow this year. I planted about two packets worth but most of the seeds were eaten by squirrels and the rest that came up were chomped down by the slugs. I have a few smaller ones that were planted in the kids’ fairy gardens but only one of those will flower in time. I am not sure if our massive one is an American Giant or a Mongolian Giant sunflower since I planted both varieties but I do know that it is so tall I have to go to the neighbors yard to check the status of the flower. I am really hoping it will open soon and we will get a few seeds from it. Next year I am going to start my seeds indoors and hopefully we will get more sunflowers but this year I was late starting my seeds and magically out of sunflower seeds when I went to do my spring seeds. I ordered a bunch more seeds for next spring already in anticipation of shortages again next year.

 

 

Winter Squash

 

We are not huge fans of winter squash at our house but I ordered some buttercup squash seeds from Territorial Seeds this year to try. I was low key worried about supply chains last spring and I figured since we were expanding our garden and trying to grow new things that adding a couple of winter squash in there wouldn’t hurt. Seeds were in short supply when I ordered them in March and there weren’t a lot to choose from so I got buttercup squash since they store well and are easy to cook. They are very dense and I have accidentally picked three of them just trying to see how heavy they are. We did cook one of them a few weeks ago and it tasted like winter squash for sure so we may have some difficulty eating these. There is at least one more small one on the vine and this variety is supposed to produce four to five squash per vine that are about four pounds each. I did weigh our largest one and it was about 3.5 pounds which is pretty good. These plants did not appreciate our wet spring and early summer and a large number of the first fruits they put out rotted on the vine. I am going to have to plant these away from the summer squash next year and farther apart so that water on the plants dries faster and to prevent rotting.

 

 

Apple tree crop.

 

We are going to have a decent amount of apples this year mostly because I did not thin them enough. We have a tree from Costco that produces several varieties of apples and it looks like the Fujis are the most prolific this year. I am not really sure when they all will be ripe but we have been harvesting a few and picking up the windfalls and so far I would say we have picked about 5 pounds of apples and there are still lots more on the tree. I am making applesauce out of some of them this weekend and maybe fruit leather. We are having an issue with our apple tree leaning heavily to one side and I have been researching ways to fix it. We cleared out all of the bushes that surrounded the tree and we are going to try staking it to the house as well as doing a meticulous trim of the branches after all of the apples have been harvested this fall. I cut it back every year but it grows so fast that I can’t really keep up. I am going to work on the shape of our tree and thin the apples much better next year so that the tree isn’t so overloaded.

 

We have had a great time gardening this summer and it has really broken up the monotony of being stuck at home. It has been a great bonding experience with my kids and we have loved eating food that we have grown! My fall seeds have been started indoors including cauliflower, cabbage, onions, kale, and broccoli so I am eager to get those in the ground in a few more weeks. Look for an update after our fall seeds are in the ground and happy gardening!

 

Helpful links with no affiliation, just things we enjoy:

 

Seattle Urban Farm 

 

Territorial Seed

 

Buttercup Squash Recipes

 

June Gardening Update

 

 

 

Gardening Update 6.14.2020

Gardening Update 6.14.2020

This year is the first one in a while I have been excited about my garden. Working from home for the past few months due to the Corona virus has greatly reduced my commute time from 3-4 hours a day to nothing and this means […]


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