Tuesday, August 31, 2010

...And my garden keeps growing!

I've been tied up in jamming and canning lately I've been neglecting and falling behind on the garden chores. I admit, I forget to water, I forget to weed. It wouldn't be a huge deal if I wasn't so 'organic' in everything I do. Which means no spray, no powders... just man power keeps it rolling! So I went out and removed dead and lost plants yesterday, not as bad as I thought it would be.... removed weeds.... not so bad either thanks to lots of mulch this year.... and harvested a good amount of quality produce that wasn't torn up by bugs.

I also had more fall producing items then I thought. I've been a bit behind on planting for fall as well. I have packets of carrots and broccoli I'm still trying to find space for. I ordered garlic and onions... but they are not here yet so no rush there.

So I photoed what shocked me about my garden most after all the neglect... the fact things are growing and producing without me! :)
Beautiful leeks I planted in spring, they went dormant for the summer but I noticed they started back to growth recently.

One of 2 acorn squash on this vine looking happy and healthy. Though I saw ants going to town on the vine itself... I'm afraid there may be a vine borer at work somewhere in the tangle. I already lost 6 pumpkin plants to vine borers this month.
This was a fun little experiment I forgot about. This is a sprite melon. Very popular new breed melon in NC. I bought one at a farm stand and it was a nice melon for the size. About the size of your fist, green flesh, like a mini honey dew. Pretty yum.... so I save a few seeds and threw them out in the yard. Its a tiny vine, Maybe 18" long and it is showing to have 2-3 melons starting on it already. Hope there is enough summer left for them to ripen? We'll see.

I'll share more pictures after today. I made sure there was time this afternoon for daughter and I go out and at least plant her raised bed by her playhouse. She's just not going to be happy when I pull out the pole beans that FAILED to produce a bean larger then a safety pin. :(

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fruit liquors

I've done some poking around online and found some simple ways of making my own fruit schnapps and vodkas. I've been jamming so much I've bought a lot more fruit then I've needed, and I've picked more from my own yard then I can use in my jams. So what to do with all the left over fruit if I can't eat it all fresh fast enough? 

Why... preserve it in liquor form for future events!

So  with Christmas coming and Thanksgiving around the corner why not have special gifts and something to serve to guests! They are also simple to do. Pack your fruit in sterilized jars, and cover with cheap vodka. Aristicrat is like $11 a gallon. So MANY pints later I've jarred up Apple, Blackberry, Lemoncello, Pear and Peach. Now they will sit at the back of my pantry for 2 months (I will occasionally give them a sampling), and when they are just right I will strain through cheesecloth and bottle up in clean liquor bottles to give away or store for later use.

The lemoncello and blackberry with be transferred into bottles with 1 cup of simple syrup each (1:1 ratio of sugar and water boiled together and then cooled to room temp). I added 1 TBSP of sugar to the Pear and Peach mixtures now. I added nothing extra to the apple.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Homemade Pectin

Tired of spilling $2-$3 everytime you need a pack of pectin for the low pectin fruit jamming? I know I am... I've spent more then $50 on pectin this year alone! But apple season came around, and I needed a bushel... so I grabbed a few tart greens, and unripe galas along with my ripe ones for canning and eating. This is what I did.

First roughly chop your apples, and cover just to the top with water (don't peel or core, that's where the pectin is).

Bring it to a boil and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes. It will look like applesauce mush.
Now strain the mixture through a jelly bag, or cheesecloth, and you will have a liquid that will thicken over time. This liquid is your pectin. It will store in the fridge up to 4 months.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Disheartened Over Recent Contacts With My Congressman - About GMO Food Labels

Who doesn't want to know whats IN their food? I guess some of us don't care, and I hear many people say I'm over reacting with how 'bad' certain things are for us. The problem is a LOT of our food is bad for us. I just want to cut 50% of that out of my diet, I've been gaining a lot of weight over the years and I'm pretty active so I don't understand what's up? Do you ever worry about what is affecting your health? You read the nutrition facts on foods sometimes, right? The number of calories? The fat and sugar content? What about if GMO produce was slipped in? That's right genetically modified foods are in almost everything we eat now a days. Most corn that makes its way into processed foods are of GMO standards (and those all come from Monsanto).

If you do some research on representative in congress, the people who control the USDA and the FDA you will see a LOT of connections to Monsanto. But its out of our control... if the USDA says its safe and doesn't require tests outside of Monsanto you have to eat it right? Well, not exactly. There are some companies now printing on their labels "NO GMO FOODS USED IN PROCESSING" or "Corn Syrup Free" or "No Modified Produce Used". All these labels are wonderful, but not items using or not using GMO label.

I wish they would, just so I had a choice... The US is all about choices right? No one can take that away from you! So make your voice heard and simply write to your congressman and say you simply want those products labeled so you know. This campaign makes it so easy Millions Against Monsanto, you simply put in your zip code and it has an already written letter pleading with your congressman (according to your zipcode) to implement the labeling. Its that simple! Doesn't mean it will make a difference, but add yours to mine, to my friend's, to my friend of a friend's.... ect ect... and you may see these labels eventually in your shopping trips.

Now I sent a copy myself already once this week, I received a less then agreeable response from my congressman. Here's the letter I received and a copy of my response:

"Dear Mrs. Fogl:

Thank you for writing me to express your concern about the use of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops in our food supply. It was good to hear from you, and I appreciate your taking the time to share your views with me.

As you may know, our country is the largest producer of plants and foodstuffs using biotechnology. With it, farmers grow stronger, healthier, and higher yielding crops – crops that can resist disease, drought, and pests.  However, I understand that some Americans, like yourself, worry about the safety of genetically modified products and seek the labeling of such products. 

Our examination of this issue must be based on sound scientific principles and study. Technologies such as genetic engineering in plant science have been demonstrated and practiced for hundreds of years through plant breeding.  The relatively recent use of GMO technologies which add or remove genetic material to accelerate the process is substantially similar to long-tested breeding processes. As a farmer, former member of the House Agriculture Committee, and a father and grandfather, I share your desire to have the healthiest foods available for the American table, but I also have faith in the products grown and produced by the American farmer.  You can be sure that I will keep your thoughts in mind should I have the opportunity to vote on legislation regarding GMOs in the 111th Congress.

I am working with my colleagues in Congress and the Administration to respond to the challenges that face our nation.  Together, we will build a stronger economy, find common sense solutions to our energy needs, make sure every child gets a quality  education, and expand access to health care for all Americans.  It is an honor to represent you in Congress, and I welcome your continued input.


Bob Etheridge
Member of Congress
Dear Congressman Sir,

   I am very disappointed in your response as I don't see things your way, and you can't expect me to change my views from a short generic response like that. I do not believe there is anything natural or ok with GMO plants. I believe these high levels of resistance to bugs are unnatural and they won't allow resistance forever. Things adapt to the situation, they grow MORE resistance, they, in nature, mutate. I believe these high yields of product are hurting the farmer because you are saying, its ok that as a 'superpower' of food in the world, we should produce more so people pay less. Now farmers are working and spending more to grow more each year, to break even. These are not rich well paid people, obviously you left agriculture to do something better for the communities... but I don't think that is happening. You left the community behind.

   With no diversity in food, without actually paying for quality, Monsanto, McDonald's, Burger King, coca-cola, Walmart and all these great companies will continue to grow unobstructed by laws and codes. Though the potential for growth is great in the country, it is becoming limited in whom is allowed to grow. The American people are growing by leaps and "Pounds" though. Cheap food and genetically modified crops are not the solution. It just makes MORE for LESS. Cheap food is making for expensive healthcare. Now it appears, the only winners are the 1% who are lining their pockets with profits from others' suffering.

  With that said, all I ask if you are kind enough to label products for those of us who care. Because I care, because my friends and family care... I took the time to write you.

  I would appreciate it, if you had any 'scientific proof' as you stated would sway your decision that you would send me copy. I kinda like to know someone who wants my vote is taking the time to share what he 'knows' with the people, and not what he 'thinks'. I know what I think, and I am YET to find another but opinions from everywhere and not one lick of 'proof' in writing.

Still Concerned,

Mrs. Shannon Fogl"

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sun Drying Tomatoes In My Car

The process:

Well, its summer... who wants the oven on ALL DAY?! I already bake for a living and I have been canning at least 4 nights a week, so I don't want to add to that. I make a gallon of sun tea everyday, and I've thought about making a solar oven (Mother Earth News has some great info on how to on their site). So why not use the sun to make the old fashioned sun dried tomatoes Italy is famous for!?

I do fear they will not correctly dry as I've heard mold stories. I've also been warned about bugs, and we have a ton of them this time of year. I won't put all my trust into a screen to take care of it. So why not use my car, its like a giant oven when I get in it! So this morning I have put a tray of cherry tomatoes out in my car with 2 windows cracked for ventilation. I have no idea how many hours this will take, and whether I need to bring them in and finish them in the oven tonight? We'll find out though! Learning experience! :)

 Here's what they look like around 3pm today.

Update: 11:55am 8/18/2010

Later that night when it cooled down, I popped these in the oven at 195 degrees for a few hours before bed, then took them out. In the morning I moved them back to the car. Later in the day I was baking and I decided to move the tomatoes into the oven. At this point the smallest of the cherry tomatoes were done, and I removed them from the try before putting them back into the oven. Within 2 hours they were completely done. As my time is valuable I must admit I rushed to save myself some time. Honestly, if I didn't do the oven the tomatoes would have only needed 1 more day in the car. Luckily I didn't wait, we have over cast and cooler temps today... followed by even cooler temps all week! I may not get another shot for awhile. So I packed ALL the tomatoes in an 8 oz jar and poured some great EVOO in to keep them fresh in the fridge. I will also have some great tasting olive oil to cook with this fall/winter now too. Mmmm

Friday, August 13, 2010

Featured in Etsy's Blog!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to have an item featured in Etsy's blog, my Double Chocolate Biscotti! I would have posted yesterday, but I was kinda busy! ;) Check it out if you can.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Sometimes, the insects kill the insects! *No Pesticide Added*

Now, a tomato hornworm is no good to one's garden... especially if you like your tomato plants. A popular choice to take care of this problem is a wide range broad spectrum insecticide! Right? Not if you are concerned about what that pesticide will do to you, or your soil. So... You want organic then, so you go with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis). Right? Except there are issues where its not as complete as one would think. Some people say it barely takes care of 1/2 their problem areas and they are left to hand pick the rest off anyways. There is also limited research on long term issues to soil, and other insects in the area. Just remember, if something is intended to KILL, kill it will. You can of course leave it to mother nature to take care of some of it. Really?

I mean, really... infestations being controlled naturally? Not having to spray or do anything? Leave it to the predators?! Well, I am trying to anyways. I do have to hand pick a lot of stuff off my plants, but so is life. I missed some things...even vine borers ended up killing 2 (maybe 3) of my pumpkin vines this week. I have 4 pumpkin vines that do seem fine, just no pumpkins on them yet. Then what good is not spraying, or dusting? 

Today I was lucky enough to see mother nature's own pest control doing its job. This year I've barely seen a hornworm, 2 before the one I found today. I wasn't concerned, I just thought I caught a break... however, to see whats been happening is awesome... 

A Braconid wasp, a parasite wasp, has been so kind as to lay eggs directly under the skin of the hornworm. The hatching wasp larva then eat their way out, weaking and eventually killing the hornworm.

Reproduce on my little wasp friend! You are welcome in this girl's garden anytime!!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My First White Tomato

Yep, I'm ripe!

Though I have had a terrible time figuring out all my tomatoes this year, they've managed to grow all season! I was just disappointed that none of my tomatoes are what I labeled them as. In fact, I've been waiting patiently for this tomato to ripen to a pretty purple, after all, it was labeled "Purple Cherokee". Turns out to be 1 of 3 White Wonder Tomatoes I planted. The other White Wonders are too orange to be what they were labeled. This tomato is actually ripe... didn't realize what it was until I squeezed it and realized how soft it was. Tonight I will enjoy it sliced on a sandwich. :)