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Morris is proud of his pepper plant! There are several peppers to pluck every few days, and on this particular day, there was a small load. Morris was proud!IMG_2702

Easy-Going Salsa

My sister-in-law inspired me to make salsa using fresh ingredients and a food processor, instead of canning. 🙂 There’s no measuring, just dumping, tasting, and adding more of this or that. This is my kind of salsa!

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Tomatoes

Onion

Cilantro

Lime Juice

Green pepper (optional)

Hot pepper (optional)

Salt (optional)

Morris loves to push the button on my food processor, so I let him go for it.

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I must say, my salsa was the best I’ve tasted! And I think the “Easy-Going” addition to the name is perfect as it easily disappeared, or went away in two nights…because I ate it all.

I Hug Cucumbers

Today I picked nine cucumbers! I collected the hugful from Rex’s, Jude’s, and Daddy’s garden. WOW! With that many cucumbers, I decided to make Refrigerator Pickles like I did last year.

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The recipe is quite simple…but it took a while to convince myself to do it. Canning is no quick job, even canning that doesn’t do the final, boiling step, like this recipe. But I can’t let them go to waste!

Whenever I can, I am reminded of my Great-grandma Candy who lived in a small house on the acreage where I grew up. On hot summer days, I could always find her in a long sleeve blouse, pants, and a head scarf, raking or weeding her garden, which must have been a fourth of an acre. She loved to spend time in her garden, and she loved to can cucumbers. She always made spicy dill pickles, and my brother and I would challenge each other at suppertime to see if we could eat a whole one. Grandma Candy loved to can, no matter how hot it was outside or how hot her little house became on the inside when she got busy with this task. She loved to share her canned goods, and she also stored many of them in an old-fashioned, underground cellar.

So finally, this weekend, I followed the Ball Canning book and boiled:

1 cup of vinegar

3 cups of water

1 tbsp of pickling spice

2 cloves of garlic

3 sprigs of dill (dried from our garden)

Then, I had Jude pack the jars with cucumbers I sliced. He helped me last year but only wanted to do one jar this year. I’ll take what help I can get.

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After the brine came to a boil, I poured it into the cucumber-filled jars and screwed on the lid. With traditional canning, the final step would be to boil the jars with the cucumbers and brine for 10-15 minutes and wait to hear the seal pop. This is the speedy version, however I did hear the seal pop simply from the hot brine inside.

We made of batch of six jars with plenty of brine left-over. So, I used my cucumber scraps and the two remaining cucumbers and made a batch to eat right away. These jars are supposed to be stored in the fridge for one month before eating, and they’ll stay good for up to three months.

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Pretty…but Not Perfect

There are some pretty things growing in our gardens… The cauliflower is purple and white. The tomatoes are red, orange, yellow, and green. The chili peppers are yellow and red, and they point up in a friendly way. There are little, purple buds on the green bean plants, and the slow eggplant finally has some lovely blossoms. The cucumbers are a soft green and white, scattered here and there. It is beautiful to see a living garden.

But our garden isn’t perfect, either. Those seeds we planted at the beginning of the season didn’t quite work out. The hollyhocks never grew, which is a bummer because they’re from my grandma. I think we’ll try again next summer. The squash and pumpkin plants grew initially, but then I didn’t plant them because I couldn’t find the right place, and it was too late. We did plant one squash in Morris’s garden, but the single fruit fell off the vine and never matured. We’ll try again next year. Our green bean plants have not been as productive; last season they bloomed and we picked over and over. And, the eggplants still don’t have any fruit, which Jude’s did last season by July.

And, there’s more. The Japanese beetles ate holes in our cucumber leaves. Squash bugs attacked some cucumbers, and those nasty tomato hornworms really attacked Rex’s tomato plant, and therefore, reduced his crop.

Plus, we’ve weeded much less this season, so random weeds have found a home in our garden beds…

We know there’s no such thing as a perfect garden because the gardeners aren’t perfect either. But who needs perfection? The pests and weeds and unpredictability make it interesting!

Jude Grew Potatoes!

Jude’s potato plant looked dead: brown and wilted. Earlier in the summer, it grew full and green and had white blossoms at the top. This was exciting and new as the potato he planted last season never even grew a stem… And he was so hopeful.

Therefore, he was not sure about planting a potato this season. He didn’t dedicate much space – only one square foot – because he didn’t want to waste the room on a plant that didn’t produce.

So, he buried one and surprise! – eventually a little plant grew from the earth. Then that plant got bigger and bigger and almost too big for it’s square foot. But this was new and encouraging.

Toward the beginning of August, the plant started to wilt, and it was time for Jude to dig, to see if any potatoes had grown underneath. He pulled the stems out first, then started to dig with his hands…

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And he was thrilled! Jude found three, little white potatoes, barely bite-sized, but still potatoes! Success! Jude grew potatoes!

Veggies for Sale!

Jude is an entrepreneur. After our second harvest, he wanted to make some money. He decided we should sell their vegetables at the end of our driveway…that day.

Well, we didn’t have any signs, and it was getting late in the day, so I promised him we could make his dream come true tomorrow.

And, we did! We bought bright orange poster paper, and Jude made signs announcing the sale, the cost ($1 per vegetable), and the time (4:30-6:00). (These signs are absolutely adorable… He was so careful and proudly added a smiley sunshine. 🙂 )

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Rex and Jude washed and packaged green beans, basil, mint, and chives, and Morris put them in a box along with some cucumbers.

We carried our chairs, a small red table, a box full of vegetables, and two signs to the van and drove to the end of the driveway. The boys set up their table, carefully placing the best cucumbers and bags of herbs on their table. One sign was staked by our mailbox, one sign was waved in the air by a boy – in 10 minute shifts – at the end of the driveway.

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It was hot! Thankfully, the boys brought their sunglasses and water-bottles, and thankfully, our first customers arrived 10 minutes into our sale. Aunt Mary and Cousins Ethan and Eli drove over from a few miles down the road to buy cucumbers. They bought two to marinate with vinegar and onions, and they helped the boys feel successful. Priceless. As they left, Jude said, “It was so nice that they came!”

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Many vehicles passed with waves, smiles, turns of the head, but our next visitor was giant tractor we saw coming from a long way away. The farmer didn’t stop to buy anything, but he dropped a 5-point antler shed from his seat and said it was better for us to have it than to have it stuck in one of his tires. The boys were pretty excited to receive this gift!

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Our next visitor was our neighbor up the road a few miles, Von, whose family is close friends with the Owens. How nice for him to stop after work and buy a packet of mint and a packet of chives! He gave us sweet corn the first summer living here, and I think we’ll have to drop off some more mint on the house.

A long time passed. Lots of 10 minute shifts switched between Jude and Rex. Morris and I camped out under the back of the minivan with our favorite cat, Coco. We were sweaty, and the boys were a little discouraged, but it wasn’t 6 o’clock yet, and I reminded them we were having a great experience.

With 15 minutes to spare, our next door neighbors, Meryl and Sherri, showed up on their four-wheeler. Meryl had driven by twice checking on his fields; how nice to come back to buy from the boys! They bought three baggies of veggies and helped finish up the night with a success.

The boys headed home at 6 o’clock sharp, $7 richer, and satisfied that they finally sold some of their vegetables. There was a little discussion about trying again tomorrow, but temperatures in the 90s prevented that. Maybe we’ll try our Veggie Stand again next week.

Great job, Boys!

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