Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Garden Update for Beginning of Summer

We are almost a week into summer and I thought I'd give you an over all update on the garden. I'm loving the weather now finally. It seems like summers of five years ago though not as hot. On average, from 7AM to 5PM it sunny and breezy. From about 6PM to 7AM it rains. My gardens are loving it too.

I'm two weeks into the green bean harvesting of the first planting of this vegetable and the second planting of four 4'x10' rows is just starting to come to size for picking. Since I'm planting the bush variety, they tend to all ripen within two to three weeks of each other. They'll get another burst of flowers but the harvest will be smaller. I planted my fourth succession planting two weeks ago and they are already ankle high. This will give me a continuous harvest until fall.

My sweet, bi-colored corn that I planted the beginning of spring is over waist high and doing wonderful. Unfortunately the dogs and chickens have wrecked so much havoc upon them only five out of twelve survived.  But that's okay. I filled in the spaces with baby, green limas and pumpkins to make it into another three sister grouping. I still have my three sisters sweet corn (30) that are doing well. If you remember two years ago, I got 30 ears of corn to can and freeze whole. I just pulled the last jar I canned. So even if I only get one savable ear plant I'll have plenty. The limas are putting out stringer towards the corn and are flowering. The squash is developing flowers too.

The temperature seems to have settled down again, although the nighttime lows are still in the 50s, I finally feel it's safe enough to plant my Roma tomatoes in the garden. While Mel planted heirloom Beefsteak tomatoes in her bucket garden experiment a couple months ago, They've just come out with their third set of true leaves. The weather really delayed them. Meanwhile, my Romas have had the  benefits of inside temperatures of 70+ degrees to grow in so they are bigger. No, they do not have tomatoes nor flowers on them yet. They have been on the porch steps for a week now so they are ready to go into the ground. I'll have to burn holes in the weed cloth a little bigger for them to fit and run the fence between the rows. None of my marigolds sprouted.😒 I guess the seeds were duds. I'll have to go to the garden store and purchase some to go around the tomatoes.

On Mel's experimental garden, only the green beans did not come up. I've replanted them with an extra yellow squash and two basil plants in the two empty buckets. As I said above, the growth was stunted somewhat because of the weather but they are doing well. The cucumbers are almost a foot tall and I gave them each a 5' stake to climb up. She planted wild flowers in the buckets also. I harvested some nasturtiums for some peppery high notes in our salads.

I split my rosemary plants between four truck tires along the front of the garden. They reseed or propagate themselves over time. I gave each plant a severe "haircut." Some I brought in to root to propagate and the rest I dehydrated. My stores needed the boost. So far I've dehydrate 5 lbs to fill a quart jar full. It always amazes me how little there is left after dehydrating. Next week, I'll be clipping some more for skewers for my grilled chicken. Yes, it will have grown long enough again to do this with by then.

I'm still cutting and replanting oregano into new spots. So far, I've harvested 8 lbs all from six little oregano plug packs three years ago. Of course, this herb reseeded and propagated itself many times over the years. I love perennial herbs for this very reason. I hardly do anything for them either. In early winter, before the first frost, I'll clip it all back to about 3" lengths, throw some well rotted compost on them, and cover them with straw. In the spring, I'll leave only a thin layer of straw on them, water them in well, and leave them alone. Soon, green stems and leaves begin forming again. It's instant oregano! Just add water and give them space to grow. It's so thick that it blocks most weed growth.

So the race is on to grow, harvest and stock the stores building out building again before the first freeze. I don't know if we'll make self-sufficiency levels because everything got such a late start, but I'm trying. All I know is canning season has begun for me with the green beans. May it continue for the next 4 or 5 months.

Our fruit trees are heavy with fruit even with the squirrels and birds. Our harvest season for the fruit trees are about a month behind the usual harvest seasons. The early fruit drops were minimal. Our peaches and apples are almost the size of baseballs now. I'm honestly looking forward to getting a harvest. The cherries should be ready next month, if the birds will leave them alone. We loped the middle trunks of each to five foot during the early dormant season last year. The blue berries are ripening so Mel and I grab a few ripe ones when we work on the new chicken coop and run in part of the orchard tiers. The raspberries, I'm sad to report, died back in winter and did not return. I'll need to replant them later in the summer or early fall. The grapes are having a slower start this year. Although I'll have grape leaves for pickles, they haven't even flowered yet. It's doubtful as to whether we get enough grapes to make Mel's (and Whirling Dervish's) wine ration this year, but there's still time.

Well, there's my beginning of summer garden update.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Cooking with Chef Jo: Canning French Onion and Mushroom Soup

I've had two six packs of Yuengling beer sitting in my refrigerator forever just taking up space. I know one six-pack has been in there for five years because it was in the refrigerator when I got here. The second one was purchased by a friend of Mel's over a year ago. I don't know how long beer keeps but it still fizzed so I figured I'd use them. Of course, I'd asked Mel before I did. She said she didn't.  I could hear her now, "Soup is such a waste of good wine." Now, I haven't drank alcohol in 35+ years so I wasn't going to drink it.  Would you chance drinking it? I also had a surplus of onions that was starting to go soft that I had to deal with. I was thinking of dehydrating them or freezing them, but what I decided to do was a good way to use them too.

There are several recipes I could have made with the beer like beer battered fish or onion rings, but I couldn't use that much to empty my refrigerator of the beer. Unless I fried them and put them in the freezer. But, I was looking forward to a bumper crop of tomatoes too that would eat into my freezer space. My other one was filling fast with meat, a side at a time. I guess I could always can the meat to free up some space too.

I took one bottle and tried it making my French Onion and Mushroom Soup, instead of red wine, with it and it turned out fabulous. It went into a 8-serving batch. It cooked for hours at a simmer, so any possible alcohol that was left in it was a moot point. After dinner, I asked Mel if this was another recipe I could can up? Basically did she like it well enough and she gave a definite affirmative answer. To reinforce the affirmative answer, she added, "I could stomach having it at least once a month or more." I knew I had the answer for the 11 bottles of beer left in my refrigerator. It turned out so well that I thought I'd share the recipe with y'all.

I created a concentrated recipe so you'll have to add a half or full jar of water when you make it for a two servings depending on how much water you add of my canned soup recipe. I have to conserve space in my storage pantry out building. So one pint will make about four servings of soup or two very large servings. I also did the conversion for roast beef 'Better Than Bouillon' instead of beef bone broth for you if you didn't can your own because honestly, I debated whether to use my own bone broth or use the store bought version. 😄 Homemade beef bone broth, while healthier, would be expensive and could be used for other things.

Jo's French Onions and Mushroom Soup
Makes 16 pints or 8 quarts
What you'll need
10 lbs of onions, diced into 1/2" pieces*
4 lbs of mushrooms, I use a combination of baby bellas and white, shaved*
4TBS butter*
2TBS olive oil*
1 whole garlic bud, smashed and minced
12 bottles of lager type beer
2 TBS dried thyme*
3 Medium Bay leaves, or 2 large, or 6 small
4 qts water + 1-3.5oz  container of Better Than Bouillon roast beef
                                                             4 qts beef stock or beef bone broth
                                                             1/4 cup + 1TBS Worcestershire sauce, 5 ozs.
                                                             1 qt of water, divided
                                                             1 cup Clear-Jel
                                                             1 1/2 TBS noniodized salt*
                                                             2 TBS black pepper

Notes- * Most standard recipes for this soup calls for the onions to be thinly sliced, but I prefer dicing the onions so you get onions with every bite to the last drop of broth.
*To shave mushrooms either 1) use a mandolin, or use a knife, slicing the mushrooms paper thin. A food processor doesn't cut them thin enough for what I wanted.
*Use dried thyme for this recipe. With fresh thyme, first you'd need 4 TBS and when canned and stored the thyme breaks down to mush in over a year.
* Salt to taste or just below. Salt tends to intensifies while canning. Remember there is salt in the broth too.
*Oils and butter tend to be a no no when canning, but you will find very little of these left after the onions caramelize. Be sure to wipe your rims with vinegar just in case before putting the lids on. Mixing the oil and butter allows for a higher/longer cooking temperature.

 Putting it all together
  • The day before, dice the onions, shave the mushrooms, and mince the garlic. Store in Ziplock bags separately in the refrigerator. Do this the night before because this step takes hours!
  • In a large stock pot, place the oil and butter. Heat until melted.
  • Place the onions in the oil mixture. Toss onions to coat. Turn the heat to medium low. Put lid on the pot. You won't be able to put all the onions in the pot in the beginning unless you have a very large commercial pot. No worries. The onions will shrink as they cook so you can add more.
  • Add 2 tsp of salt, it will help the cooking onions break down faster.
  • Stir about every ten minutes. Add additional onions in as space allows.
  • Once all the onions are in the pot and cooked down, remove the lid and increase the time in between stirs to every fifteen minutes. 
  • Gradually as you stir you will notice a color change to your cooking onions.  They will begin to caramelize and turn yellow. This step will take 45 minutes to an hour. Add the garlic and the mushrooms, and stir well. Continue cooking with lid off for ten minutes.
  • Increase temperature to medium. Add the beer to the onion mixture and continue cooking until most of the liquid has simmered away...approximately 30 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
  • While the liquid is simmering away in the onions, prepare the soup base.
  • Pour beef stock in another pot.
  • Add Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Add enough salt until you barely taste it. Remember you salted the onions already. Bring to a boil.
  • Add 2 cups of water to the pot.
  • Mix clear-jel to the remaining 2 cups of water and dissolve into a slurry.
  • Add clear-jel slurry to the broth by halves. Bring to a boil while stirring. Check the consistency.
  • Add more clear-jel 1/4 cup at a time. Bringing the mixture to a boil after each addition.
  • When the consistency is like a thin gravy, stop adding the clear-jel.
  • Stir well.
  • Taste it for salt. Remember to err on the side of not quite enough. You can add more when preparing to eat it. Mozzarella cheese is fairly salty.
  • Ladle soup into hot jars. The onions will sink to the bottom of the jars. Ideally, you will have 1/3 to half each jar full onions.
  • Wipe, lid, and ring the jars finger (armpit)tight and place in the pressure canner.
  • Pressure can, weighted for your altitude, 45 minutes for pints or 60 minutes for quarts.
To serve- place in a saucepan with half to a full jar of water. Bring to a full boil. Taste for
salt and adjust to taste. Toast a thick slice of baguette until crisp. Pour soup into an oven safe container. Be sure to divide onions evenly between servings. Top with the baguette. Place a thick slice of mozzarella cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese is toasted and melted. Serve hot.

This recipe is time consuming but well worth it!  It can also be used in other recipes too. I served this with a green salad. With all that beef flavor and goodness, what else do you need? Oh, I also made strawberry mug "shortcakes" for dessert. Ya gotta have something sweet, right?

Y'all have a blessed day!
  Chef Jo

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Crazy Weather Affecting Plant Growth

It used to be that you could predict the weather by the seasons. Especially here in Georgia. Even though I moved to the northern part of the state, it's still Georgia. Maybe it's the climate change, but the past few years it's been insane. You can't predict nothing.

In the past three years we've had...
  • 100+ days of drought.
  • A category 1 hurricane hit us in these mountains.
  • Torrential downpours, flooding, washed out roads, etc even in these mountains.
  • Snow and ice in March and April.
  • Unseasonably late cold snaps.
  • Unseasonably late or no seasonal changes (a two day spring and fall)
This year alone, it's the normal expected temperature for a few days or maybe a week, and then it's be cold again. Our poor garden doesn't know what's going on either.  It's supposed to be summer. But yet, the weather went from a normal highs in the 80s & 90s to a high of maybe 70 for a week, and then back again.

My heat loving veges like tomatoes, okra, squashes, peppers, eggplant, and melons are happily dancing in the sun producing flowers and fruit one week to having their leaves curl up and dying off the next. We experienced gardeners are left scratching our heads at a loss of what to do, what to plant, and praying that we get a crop this year. Others, who just started gardening this year, are wondering if the "new age of victory gardens" is a cruel joke and are disheartened.

I mean normally by now, I'm in shorts and tank tops, and praying for a cool breeze. I still haven't packed up my flannel shirts in various thicknesses. Every time I wash them all intent on packing them away, the weather turns cooler again and I'm grabbing them again. It's the end of June already!

Does this mean we are facing a later longer fall season? Your guess is as good as mine. There is no second guessing Mother Nature. Of course, with greenhouses you could combat some of this unpredictability. If this month was any indicator, I would have raised or lowered the vent sides four times or replaced the plastic with shade cloth and back again. My corn (and other plants) will be knee high by the 4th of July but will be stunted in growth with this weather.

Bees and other pollinating insects do not like the cooler temperature either. Many a morning (earlier than 9AM), I'm finding bumble bees in my garden on the ground too cold to fly. I'll gently pick them u in my gloved hand to warm them. Once they are warmed, they'll fly away and get busy. If they don't work, we don't eat. Yes, it's taking my life in my hand to do this. I've already stated in here that I'm highly allergic to bees on this blog, but if they get too cold, they'll die and I need them. The sun has been up a few hours already, but they are still too cold to fly. It's summer fer God's sake! Luckily the smaller bees and wasps that frequent our garden are busily working on my green beans, peas, and other vegetables that are flowering. And yes, even though it's almost July, my English peas are still growing and flowering! My lettuces and spinach still haven't bolted yet. I'm still waiting for my potatoes to flower. I should have harvested them by now. At this rate, it will be time to plant my fall rotation of cooler weather  crops again by the time these spring garden plants die off and are fully harvested. Is that insane or what?

I know it's the same all over the country because I read other bloggers. Except for maybe Florida, Texas, or California... farmers are complaining. Meanwhile, my orchard grass needs to be cut, dried, and baled. We don't have rabbits anymore that will need to eat it. Sigh! The only high point in gardening this year is a mute point. Only the
her blog
grass crops are doing well. We really don't eat the grasses, but we may have to learn. As much rain as we've had I should have planted the upland rices like Leigh over at 5 Acres and a Dream did, but I didn't. Isn't hindsight wonderful?! But it all goes back to how unpredictable the weather has been.

Well enough complaining and back to work in the garden and the critters. We've had a total of two of Mel's hens get loose and are now part of Big Red's harem. I have no idea where they are laying their eggs and I'm not about to challenge him again to get them back with the rest of the girls. It took me almost three weeks for the puncture wounds to heal from our last battle.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Cooking with Chef Jo: It's All About The Fruit Now

With the temperatures reaching 90 degrees, it's too hot to cook in the kitchen again. I'm canning, dehydrating, jamming, jellying, and preserving fruit while waiting for the vegetables to ripen. So this waiting period is all about fruit and so is this post. Last week I talked, about our wild blackberries, now it's the beginning of the peach and blueberry harvest season. I also noticed the prices for pineapple is dropping. Occasionally, I'll see sale prices for under $2 a piece and I'll snatch half a dozen or so the can for later enjoyment.

We've been eating a lot of fruit salads with dinner. It has a way to hit all the taste buds with a well rounded dinner. It also serves for dessert. I happened to find pineapple at my local wholesale produce market so I snatched a dozen. The price was $1.50 a piece! Bananas prices ($0.99 a lb) had dropped too! And one of the local farmers still had sweet, juicy strawberries ($12 a flat). With my fruit bargains in hand, I hit the local dairy for milk and heavy cream.

On the menu tonight was Banana Split Salad! When I was working as a cook for the local hospital deli, this was one of my hottest selling side salads. A combo consisted a meat/vegetable sandwich, a side salad/side, and a 20 oz drink. Each day, I handcrafted two different salads/sides to go in my  6'x 4' deli case. The "special" of the day varied from day to day as did the salads/sides to go with it. The 30-serving sides had to be different than what was offered in the salad bar and utilize leftovers/over purchased goods which presented a challenge. Whenever I made this salad, the cell phones came out with hurried calls to the various floors, clinics, and departments. "She made it! How many do you want?"

This salad would sell out within thirty minutes after opening. You see unlike the Fluff (dippable marshmallow), this salad was made with real whipped cream. So you got everything you'd get with a real banana split except for the ice cream. Relatively high on the glycemic index because of the bananas and pineapple, but lower in fat than the real version of banana splits even with the heavy whipping cream. I've pared down this recipe to four 4oz servings for you here. Everyone was clamoring for this recipe and nothing could be simpler to make. It just looks decadent and elegant.

Jo's Banana Split Salad
Make 4 4oz servings
shown here with mini chocolate chips

What you'll need
6 strawberries, hulled half/quartered depending on size
1 cup fresh pineapple, cubed 1" pieces*
1 banana, sliced 1/2"-3/4"
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream*
1 TBS lemon juice
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
1 oz chocolate syrup* or mini chocolate chips
Maraschino cherries

Notes *You can substitute canned pineapple.
* You can substitute a vegetarian/Vegan alternative
* I make my own and can it in 4 oz jars.

Putting it together
  • Chops and slice all fruit as directed.
  • Place fruit except banana slices in a large bowl.
  • In a small bowl toss the banana slices in the lemon juice until coated.
  • Add banana to the other fruit pieces.
  • Whip the cream into stiff peaks form. 
  • Toss fruit lightly and well with the whipped cream.  
  • Place in fruit salad in a serving bowl.
  • Drizzle with chocolate syrup ot mini chocolate chips. 
  • Sprinkle peanuts on top
  • Top with maraschino cherries because everything is better with a cherry on top, isn't it?
Serving suggestions- This goes with any summertime meat dish. Change up the recipe for the 4th of July by substituting the pineapple for blueberries for a red/white/blue themed dish. Make all you can eat in one serving. Bananas tend to get mushy and the whipped cream tends to split when combined with fruit juices if kept in refrigerator overnight.  Or, for something more exotic substitute Lychee or Rambutans for the banana. I especially like it with BBQ or grilled rosemary skewered chicken kabobs.  While I'm thinking about it I'll give you the rosemary kabob recipe below. It's been a while since I did a twofer.

Jo's Rosemary Skewered Chicken
4 servings

What you'll need
2 lbs of chicken breast or boneless thighs, cut into 2" cubes*
4-12 fresh rosemary sprigs, depending on the size
1/2 bottle or recipe for Italian dressing
1 clove of garlic, minced*
1 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp spicy brown mustard

Dipping Sauce
Leftover marinade
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream

Putting it all together
  • Strip rosemary leaves off the woody stems leaving 1/2"-1" of leaves at the very tip.
  • Mince 1/2 tsp rosemary leaves for the marinade. Dry the remaining leaves for use in other recipes.
  • Mix your Italian salad dressing with minced garlic, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp minced rosemary, and mustard. The mustard adds to the emulsification of the dressing so it shouldn't separate as quickly.
  • Place skewers and chicken in a plastic bag or covered bowl.
  • Pour the dressing/marinade into the bag/bowl.
  • Shake/stir well to coat and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Stirring/shaking once during this time.
  • Place chicken on skewers and wrap the rosemary tips with foil.
  • Place skewer over hot coals, turning every five to six minutes until are sides are cooked.
  • Take the leftover marinade and put in a small saucepan on one corner of the grill. When mixture comes to a boil, remove it. Stir in the mayonnaise and sour cream. Whisk until smooth.
For service- remove foil from the rosemary tips and serve with dipping sauce. Serve with Banana Split Salad or alternative with some fried green beans, or baked beans, or other picnic/cookout fare. For a make ahead option, the chicken in marinade can be prepared the day before.Come to think about it, I just gave you part of my 4th of July menu. 😁 It's easy to transport to wherever you want to go either raw or cooked. If you are lucky enough to have fresh rosemary (mine's planted as a hedge at my front garden gate), you can cut the rosemary any length you want, but if you buy it at the grocery store, you'll be stuck with the 4" stems.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Chef Jo

Sunday, June 21, 2020

English Peas- Disappointing Harvest

Harvest hopes dashed!
I'm not sure what I did wrong, but my projected harvest for English peas is way off. I'm averaging one to two peas per pod versus 6-10 peas per pod. The harvest started out well, but has now dwindled down to this. I'm thoroughly disappointed. Even with 99% germination of the seeds, there's no way I'll meet my goal of self sufficiency in this vegetables unless we have a very productive fall crop.

I believe part of the problem was over worked pollinators. When the peas flowered there was direct competition from the peach trees, apple trees, clover, and assorted other things in bloom. I wish I wasn't so allergic to bees. I'd keep a hive or two. Even after four years of being here and eating local honey, I still have to grab my Epi-pen when popped by the local population. It doesn't happen very often, but it does happen once or twice a gardening season.  Epi-pens ain't cheap. If my airway didn't  try to close off with swelling, even when stung on the leg, I would bother, but it does. Anyone with this severe reaction has no business being around bees, but they are a necessary evil for a garden.

The other part of the problem was the seed itself. While I got 99% germination. I'd never planted this variety before. The variety, Lincoln, I usually planted was sold out when I purchased the seed. I had to go with an unknown heritage variety. Needless to say, I won't be buying it again. It had a no star rating. Now, I know why. But at the time, there was no other choice. At least I made up for the cost of the seed...just barely. Lesson learned! 

Meanwhile, the first plantings of Tendergreen bush green beans have flowered and the bees are busy with those. I'm getting ready this week to add compost and plant another three 8' rows more this week. The first plantings of sweet corn that survived the chickens and dogs will be knee high by the 4th of July while the second planting of the 3-sister mounds will be a little over mid shin worth of growth. The dent corn is once again planted in the orchard area.  It is at mid shin level, I'm not worried about it though. It'll catch up and be harvested before the first frost. The black eyed peas, kidney and lima beans, and the squashes have sprouted They look to be strong shoots. I've sowed the pumpkin seeds closest to the far end of the garden from the house. They'll have plenty of room to spread out. 

The cantaloupe and watermelon have been once again trellised to grow vertically once again on the repurposed metal DVD rack Mel picked up at a store closing liquidation sale, No sign of rust in 7 years of use outdoors and its bear to move. More than enough support for two Sugar Baby watermelons and cantaloupes on each 3'x 6' side. It's easy to train the vines up the rack.

I'm still hoping to produce enough to get us by for at least a year. Here. we're crossing our fingers for no more disappointing harvests.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Cooking with Chef Jo: Blackberry Jam Without Seeds in Your Teeth

Jams, jellies, and pickles are most people's entry into the world of home canning. I'm no different. The first thing I made and canned independently of my mother and grandmother was strawberry jam. I was in my first trimester of pregnancy when a girlfriend suggested we go berry picking at a local u-pick farm. The year was 1976 and I've never bought store brought jams and jellies since. Since then, I've made multiple gallons of this food staple every year.

I've harvested wild strawberries for the past month. They have been turned into jars of jams, syrups, pie filling, etc and frozen whole berries. Now, it's wild blackberry's turn. I picked a gallon basket full without even breaking a sweat today. That's saying something because this afternoon's high was 89 degrees. I barely brushed the surface of the blackberries without delving into the thicket.

It's going to be a good year for blackberries this year. I picked the ripest, juiciest berries on this pass picking a coule handfuls of reddish black berries. The reason for picking a few under ripe berries is they have a higher pectin within the blackberries. I can make jam without  adding pectin.

Seedless Wild Blackberry Jam
Makes approx. 4 pint jars

What you'll need
10 cups blackberries
1/4 c water
3 cups sugar*
2 lemon*

Note* You may use a sugar substitute if you wish.
* You may use any high pectin fruit peel and juice as a subsitute.

Putting it all together
  • Blend the berries into a puree and water.
  • Zest and squeeze the lemons.
  • Place in a large heavy bottomed saucepan.
  • Bring puree and water to a boil.
  • Boil for five minutes and remove from the heat.
  • Strain the puree through a fine mesh strainer. 
  • Push as much of the pulp through the strainer. Discard the seeds.
  • Return puree to the saucepan.
  • Heat over medium.
  • Add zest and lemon juice to the puree.
  • Add the sugar. Stir well until the sugar dissolves. 
  • Stir frequently to prevent burning.
  • Heat until thermometer reaches 225 degrees.
  • Scrap away any foam.
  • ladle into clean, hot jars.
  • Wipe rim, lid, and ring the jars.
  • Water bath can for ten minutes.
In 12-24 hours when the jars have cooled, check the seal, clean outside of the jars 
and store.

Excellent on any baked goods; toast, English muffins, or pancakes.  Enjoy!
Y'all have a blessed day!
Chef Jo


Sunday, June 14, 2020

New Adventures in Gardening for Me

I don't know anyone who enjoys pulling weeds. Do you?

In the orchard area, we simply lay down cardboard, rough compost, and straw/hay every fall. We are still conditioning the soil in that area from hard, compacted, clay soil. We sow orchard grass seeds in the spring, and deer forage in the fall. We've tilled it all under once. Each year the weeds we don't want grow less and less as the plants we do want produces more and chokes out the weeds. Our orchard area is 1/4 acre of terraced hillside dropping a total of 300 ft. There's no way I'm hand pilling unwanted weeds there.

My 2020 garden experiment
In our summer garden in front of our house, we are trying something new I saw on YouTube, landscape fabric. I know we've tried it before with little to no success, but we'll be trying a different tactic, as Living Traditions homestead does. To try it out, I bought a heavy duty landscape fabric like they did. It's 4'x50' and much heavier than we've used before. After Dave's grandson tilled the garden, we let the rains settle the soil a bit. We laid two 25' rows of the weed cloth down. We pinned it down about every  8"-12" and overlapped the edges about 6," I burned holes in the fabric every 2' for the transplants to go in. So it looks like this. The black area is the landscape fabric. I'll put 6 cattle panels anchored by T-posts between the two rows of tomatoes to support them. I'll also be putting a drip hose line between the rows and on the outside edges, so 3 lines total.

For the other two rows of Roma tomatoes, I'll do it the same way I always have. If this works, I'll buy more landscape fabric for the other areas of the garden. This should make it easier to work smarter, not harder in the future. None of us are getting any younger. FYI (for your information), I rotate where I plant my vegetables every two years. I planted my tomatoes where my 3 sisters row is in 2018. I planted them a foot apart and that was way too close together so this year I'm giving them 2'. Even after all these years of organic gardening, I'm still trying new things to make it better, There's no absolutely right way to garden. You can read dozens of books but until you get your hands dirty, get out there, and do it, you'll never find what works for you. You take the basic principle, tweak it, and make it your own.

The only bit of bad news is that our last remaining angora died. I believe the same parasite that killed Buddy Baby was the reason. So we are out of the rabbit fiber business. There goes my instantly usuable rabbit poo tea and time release fertilizer. Well, we've got plenty of chicken manure. It'll just have to be composted first.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo