Pulling Carrots + Black-Framed Round Mirror

I woke early this morning and decided to take advantage of the facts that (a) the air felt cool and the sun hadn’t hit our front yard yet and (b) no one had to be anywhere early, so there was no rush to shower and get gone — I headed out front to get the potted plants watered and the birdbaths topped off, and I decided to wet down the carrots so I could get them pulled up.

Several weeks ago my hubby pulled about the same amount from the back yard garden — we ended up with lots of carrots in our spring garden! Sadly, since the time we originally planted them, I’ve figured out, through an elimination diet and food challenge, that some of the intense pain I’ve been experiencing the past year-and-a-half to two years has been related to my body not handling oxalates in food properly. (More info about oxalates can be found HERE.) Carrots contain more oxalates than my body can tolerate in one food for the time being, so they’re out of my diet until . . . well, I guess until I can eat them even in a small amount without causing my body pain. Ironically, most of the things we planted this spring ended up being things that are higher in oxalate, so our fall garden will focus on low-oxalate foods. In the meantime, there are lots of dehydrated and lots of blanched veggies in our freezer to contribute to some yummy stews, soups, and side dishes for the rest of my family! It’s so very nice to not need to go into the produce department at the grocery store. I hope we’re able to keep this up nearly year-round, if not completely year-round.

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I found the perfect little round mirror to fill the empty spot above our telephone table.

It was 50% off at Hobby Lobby, so I paid a whopping $10 for it! It’s hard to see in the photo, but it’s faux-distressed to give the appearance of an undercoat of red . . . which ties it in nicely with the plant’s pot and the fabric covering the telephone table.

I like that the black frame of the mirror ties it to the rest of the framed things on that wall. I’d looked at a couple different rectangle-shaped things to hang or prop there, but I kept being drawn back to the round mirror . . . and now that it’s hanging there, I’m pleased I opted for it because I think it’s more visually-interesting than if I’d put yet another rectangle-shaped something on the wall.

There are several places in our house that I find my eye drawn to throughout the day, and this is one of them. I’m still on the hunt for something interesting-to-the-eye to fill some of the empty space beneath that table, but there’s no rush to get that done — I prefer to add a little, live with it a while, add a little more or shift things around, live with it a little while, and so on. I like for it to never be totally complete!

Squash Abundance + Cluckies

Our yellow squash plants are producing like crazy, so we had the opportunity yesterday to try out our new dehydrator and new vacuum sealer. New kitchen toys = wheeeeee!!

The four packages in the top row contain squash chips — thinly-sliced and salted yellow squash that was dehydrated, and which can be eaten like potato chips. That’s nine trays’ worth of dehydrated squash, which was something like ten or eleven raw squash.

The packages in the bottom row are the squash that wouldn’t fit in the dehydrator — my hubby blanched and froze them. They’ll be good cooked and tossed with butter or olive oil, or added to soups or stews. That was another six or seven squash.

And there are more on the vines ready to be picked!! I’ll be doing some more dehydrating tomorrow ;-).

Our dehydrator is the Excalibur 9-Tray 3900 (no timer), purchased through Excalibur’s website. Our vacuum sealer is a Food Saver V3460, purchased at Bed Bath & Beyond using a 20% off coupon, which you can get when you first sign up to be on their email list. I plan to purchase the wide-mouth jar sealer, which BB&B did not have, so that we can make use of the bazillion mason jars we have around here, which can be re-used time and again, unlike the Food Saver bags. We love the dehydrator and the vacuum sealer, both, and look forward to getting plenty of use out of them this growing season!!

I’m making use of the vacuum sealer to take larger quantities of items that are in our freezer and putting them into more useful portion sizes. Today I took what was left in our gallon pail of Tropical Traditions organic unsweetened coconut flakes (it was about one-fourth to one-third full still) and packaged up eighteen packages of 1/4-cup servings of coconut flakes. They’ll stay fresher longer in the small vacuum-sealed packages, as compared to being in the big pail.

I’ll do the same thing with the organic raw walnuts and the organic raw almonds in our freezer — they are the BEST-tasting walnuts I’ve ever had! but I’ve been too chicken to try the almonds yet — the potential for my body to negatively react in some way or another to them is high and I’m not willing, yet, to suffer the consequences if they don’t work out for me. So I’ll package the nuts up into small serving sizes and then they’ll stay fresh in our freezer for a good long while.

The vacuum sealer overheats quickly, so during the times when I was waiting for it to cool off enough to be ready to work again, I took my camera out back and had fun taking some snapshots.

I’d never really been around chickens before we got our own, and I’m still, eight months later, in awe of the beauty of their feathers:

 

Don’t let their beauty fool you, though — survival of the fittest is very much a part of their lives! They will peck each other in order to steal a juicy morsel (worm, beetle, moth, whatever) right out of the other’s mouth. One day my hubby watched one of them attack a sparrow that’d landed inside the pen/garden area to eat some grain. If they see you holding something that appears to them to be edible, they’ll jump and flap to try to snatch it out of your hands. I’m thinking that I don’t want to have an “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” moment around those girls ;-) . . . can you imagine calling Life-Alert and explaining THAT scenario!!

For Mother’s Day, my fellas surprised me with this huge, beautiful set of windchimes:

On the days the weather’s been nice enough to have the doors open, I’ve so enjoyed listening to the music of these chimes. They remind me of what I would expect to hear in a Buddhist temple. They bring a sense of relaxation and peace, when I hear them ever so softly chiming. I really do get the best Mother’s Day gifts from my fellas!!

Garden Update: 5-1-2012

It’s only been three weeks since the last garden update, but I’d prefer to post the updates at the beginning of each month so I’m jumping ahead a week to make that happen.

There have been good things happening with our veggies!! (You can go HERE to see April’s and March’s photos.)

The yellow squash are growing like gangbusters!! The cucumbers are coming along, as well.

Heehee, see my helpers waiting for me just inside the front door ;-).

Lookee . . . little baby yellow squashes! We’ll be pan-frying those in a week or thereabouts:

The carrots, green beans, and many varieties of tomatoes, plus some herbs and a jalepeño pepper plant:

I haven’t had raw tomatoes in almost a year; I cannot wait for these to be ready:

The cabbage and new potatoes:

The aphids are doing a number on our cabbage plants, in spite of my hubby having purchased some ladybugs that he let loose among the cabbage plants. We’ll probably go ahead and pick the cabbage by this weekend — I need to score some bigger mason jars so we can lacto-ferment some sauerkraut.

Garlic, bell peppers, and more carrots (my hubby had just watered the backyard beds, so the carrot tops aren’t as bushy as they are when they’re dry):

That garlic is soooooo tall!! The chickens will be thrilled when we start pulling carrots, because we chop up the leafy green tops and feed them to the girls (interestingly, though, chickens do not like the carrots themselves!).

Yay! Little bell peppers:

The onions and okra:

My hubs bent the stalks on the onions, but the onions will stay in the ground and continue to gain size. I haven’t had onions since October — oh how I’ve missed caramelized onions ::: drool drool :::.

Last, but certainly not least, our zucchini:

There are some little zucchinis on there. I like using the veggie peeler to make long strips of zucchini, which can then be used like pasta (which will be wonderful since my body’s not liking grains these days).

I *so* appreciate all the labor and TLC my hubby’s put into growing all this fresh produce. You just don’t realize what a treat it is to have fresh produce until you’ve gone months and months without it!! And what a relief it will be for me to grab a carrot and know exactly what’s in the soil in which it grew and that not one single “corny” preservative has been used on it, and to grab a potato or onion and know they are fresh and they haven’t been gassed with a “corny” preservative or something to prevent them from sprouting. It’ll be nice to not have that concern be a focus for those particular foods! I’ll be almost . . . dare I say it . . . normal ;-).

Garden Update: April 8, 2012

We’re at the four-week mark since I last posted photos of our garden, so how about an update! Everything has been growing like CRAZY, thanks to sporadic rainfall (which allows us to use caught rainwater to water the veggies between rains) and mild temperatures. We had four or five days of hot-Texas-summer temps, but otherwise our temps have been very moderate — which we’re enjoying because we know May is just right around the corner ;-).

I’ll put the pictures in the same order I used for the March 12th post, so it’s easier to compare “then” and “now”. (That link should open in a new window, so you can compare that post and this post side-by-side, if you want.)

This is the area of the front yard that we’re using for growing yellow crookneck squash and cucumbers:

We’d originally had only the squash planted there, but my hubby expanded the growing area to include room for cucumbers. I’m hoping to lacto-ferment some of the cucumbers, if we have success growing them.

The area we (“we” = my hubs) transformed from flowers and shrubs into a veggie garden is doing AWESOME:

The front row and down along the right side are green beans. We’d originally had sweet peas in those spots but something ate them up (the sparrows, maybe?). Right behind the green beans are carrots. In the black rectangle container right behind the in-the-ground carrots are two tomato plants. The black rectangle container catty-corner to the left of that contains more carrots, but those are little round carrots which don’t need to grow very deep. Towards the far left in the photo are a dill plant and a rosemary bush. In pots on the patio are a thyme plant and lots more tomato plants, and a jalepeño pepper plant that’s just outside the picture on the left side of the porch.

The cabbage and new potatoes are filling out nicely:

Worms are munching on our cabbage, so we’re picking the worms off and feeding them to the chickens. We keep a container of dehydrated worms as treats for the chickens, and when we’re ready for the girls to head back into their pen after roaming around the backyard all we have to do is shake the dehydrated worms container and the girls come RUNNING!! So we’ve dubbed the dehydrated worms “Chicken Crack”. Live worms are apparently equally as crack-tastic ;-). Worms on the cabbage, you have been warned!

Garlic, carrots, and bell peppers — the bell peppers replaced the sweet peas that got munched down to nothingness:

This is our first year to grow garlic. It’s our understanding when the garlic is ready, the leaves will turn brown and begin to fall over, like the leaves on potato plants do. If any of y’all grow garlic, is that correct?

Onions and okra (which replaced the sweet peas):

I haven’t had onions since October or thereabouts, so I’m excited about the onions!! (Grocery store onions are often corn-taminated and/or prone to containing mold — seen or unseen. In other words, bad news for my body!)

Zucchini:

I had second thoughts about having so many potatoes and so few squash, so my hubs made the swap for me. We do love our summer squashes!!

I can’t wait to see how much things have grown a month from now . . . and I definitely can’t wait until we can start harvesting some I-know-there’s-not-a-lick-of-corn-derivative-anywhere-on-or-in-’em veggies!!!

Garden Update: 3-12-2012

My hubby has been gardening like crazy in an effort to ensure I will have plenty of safe (corn-free/not corn-taminated) produce (thank you, Honey!!) and things are starting to sprout, so it seems a good time for a garden update!!

We don’t have room to add more raised beds in the backyard, so we’re making use, in a not-so-obvious way, of a bit of our front yard space. We have a decorative windmill on one side of the yard — usually we plant flowers at the base of it, but my hubby had the smart idea of planting summer squash there this year.

I asked him if he’d be okay with us removing the flowers/flowering shrubs from the front flowerbed and planting some veggies there instead, and he was cool with that suggestion so took it and ran with it. There are carrots and green peas growing there already, and then the empty middle container will be used for our tomato transplants (which should be delivered later this month). We also have plenty of room on the front porch to container-plant more tomatoes and any herbs I want to grow.

This is our cabbage and new potatoes raised bed:

This bed has garlic (planted around October of last year) and carrots and green peas.

This is NOT what you want to see when you walk out back:

If we can’t figure out some way to keep these girls (who *do* have clipped wings) out of the veggie beds, this is going to happen one time too many and there will be a chicken in the stew pot. Maybe we can add another layer of chicken wire that increases the height by about half again. The drawback to that is that I’m short and it’s already hard for me to reach into the middle of the raised beds that have chicken wire around them (they all don’t, just the ones from which we need to block the chickens).

The bed she’d trapped herself in contains onions and green peas. I want to take a better look at it in the morning and see if I need to replant any peas.

This is our last raised bed, and it’s solely for new potatoes. Although I react to grocery store potatoes (non-organic and organic alike), I seemed to do just fine with homegrown potatoes last year. Even if they don’t work for me, both of my fellas love taters, so they won’t go to waste!

See that faucet and pipe on the left in that photo? My hubby has piping running along the fence from our rain barrel to the garden. There’s this faucet, then another closer to the cabbage/new potatoes bed. Each faucet will have a hose attached to it, so that it’ll be easy-peasy to just turn on the faucet and water the beds. Smart fella I married!

Here’s our new 300-gallon rain barrel:

My hubs has it set up so water is diverted from our carport roof into the rain barrel. You’d think it’d take a lot of rain to fill it, but it didn’t! It was filled by a 1-1/2″ – 2″ rain!! We don’t get a lot of rain here, in fact we’re in the midst of an ongoing drought, so it’s pretty awesome to be able to catch that much water from that little rain. You can see in the picture how this rain barrel is set up to pipe water along the fence to the garden. We have two other, smaller, rain barrels on each side of the house to use for the veggies growing in the front yard.

Wrapping this up with a pic of our girls:

This was immediately after I fed them; obviously they were STARVING. Forget that I dumped food out of the tray before filling it up ;-) . . . oh, no no no, they were definitely starving!! Silly chickens :-).

All the veggies should be filling in quite well in a month’s time, so I’ll do another update in a month or so.