Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Harvest Totals: July 2012

I knew July was going to be our biggest month this year--but it wasn't until I saw the spreadsheet that I realized JUST how big a month it was.

We harvested 180lbs of produce, 70 eggs, and it all had an estimated value of $789 (based on local farmers market prices).  That's 6x's the poundage of any other month this year!

Our big producers were the tomatoes. We got 100lbs of Rutgers tomatoes, and over 20lbs of Sungold tomatoes.  We also harvested half of our potatoes at the beginning of July (25lbs).  The shitakes, while not huge in poundage, made a big contribution to July's value (with over 7lbs).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Holy Shitakes!

My husband and I were outside harvesting crops and tending to the garden (as we do every day).  And while harvesting some tomatoes, I decided to take a peak under our rain barrels to see how our shitake logs were doing (the answer has always been 'nothing' before).
Me: 'Holy Shitake!!!'
Husband: 'What??'
Me: 'You've got to see this!'
Husband: 'Is there a shitake?'
Me: 'Seriously, you've got to see this!'
Husband [peaking head to see logs]: 'Holy Shitake!!!'
This is what we were seeing:

Shitakes on oak logs--finally producing!
Shitakes on oak logs!
We harvested the ones in the bowl below the first night, and were pleased to see this amount was about a pound.  We spent about $60 on the supplies to inoculate our shitake oak logs last year.  Shitakes in our local grocery stores are in the $12-14 a pound range.  So far, we've harvested over 7lbs: so it looks like they have paid for themselves in their first flush!
1 lb harvested shitakes.
Now we are enjoying shitake egg scrambles, shitake omelettes, shitake and rice, shitake EVERYTHING.

We have more than I can eat, so I'm also drying some to use later: more on that to come!!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

This week in the garden: 7/22/2012

Now that we are in the heat of summer, the garden has really taken off! Here are some pictures.

We finally decided to harvest all of the beets.
We got 3lbs and have already eaten them all.

This praying mantis has been guarding the
eggplants for weeks.

Long purple eggplant --we are FINALLY having the
eggplants start to produce, we still haven't harvested
any yet.

Tobago seasoning pepper. These plants are
covered with peppers!

Chickens are laying well.

Cucumber Drink! Click to see a post on how to make it.

Rutgers and Sungold tomatoes. We've harvested
over 50lbs of tomatoes this
month already!
How does  your garden grow!?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A way to use cucumbers: Cucumber Drink!

Last year, we found ourselves with an overabundance of cucumbers.  So we had to start trying some creative ways to use them. 
Cucumber Drink
We started making this drink, which we creatively named 'Cucumber Drink', and it soon became our favorite way to use cucumbers.  

I love it because it takes me about 2 minutes to whip up. And because it has lemon juice in it, it is like a refreshing lemonade! This drink tastes best when the cucumbers are picked when they are small and not bitter.

 Cucumber Drink (makes 6 cups)

  • 3 small cucumbers, ends chopped off (roughly 0.5 lb)
  • 5 cups cold filtered water
  • Lemon juice to taste (I add about 2 tbsp)
  • Sugar or Honey to taste (I add about 1 tbsp)
  • Thinly sliced cucumbers as garnish (optional)

Directions: Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend on high until smooth. Serve over ice, and garnish with cucumber slices (if using).

Note: We have a Vitamix blender which is able to blend even the skin to a smooth consistency.  If you aren't sure if your blender can do this, you can just peel the cucumbers before adding them to your blender!

Do you have any creative uses for cucumbers? I'd love to hear!

For more fun posts, check out the Monday Homestead Barn Hop!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Squash Vine Borers: I declare war!

Picture Credit

About 6-8 weeks ago, upon discovering a bug that looks like the one pictured above, my husband and I had a conversation that went something like this:

       Me: Hey, check out this cool bug! I wonder what it is?

       Husband: That’s cool! I think it looks like a bee or wasp.

       Me: So, you think it’s a beneficial insect?

       Husband: Yeah. Look how CUTE it is!

Fast forward to present day:

Not cute. NOT CUTE AT ALL!!!!!!

If only we had known then. This little bug is single-handedly responsible for the loss of my ENTIRE squash crop.  It’s not a cute little native bee or wasp – it’s a MOTH!  And not just any moth, it is the squash vine borer. 

The squash vine borer is a weird moth in that it is active during the day.  They overwinter in cocoons in the soil, then they emerge in late May or early June in our area.  They mate and lay eggs at the base of squash plants.  The eggs hatch and turn into these guys:
Picture Credit
The larvae literally bore through the squash vine, hence the name.  As you can imagine, boring through a plant’s main stem doesn't make for a very happy plant.  This usually results in the death of the plant.  In my case, it resulted in the death of ALL my plants.

Luckily, there are a number of chemical-free suggestions for dealing with squash vine borers. 

Squash vine borer defense squad.
Destroy infected plants. If you have an infected/dead plant, you should discard of it so the larvae can’t come back as an adult next year.  I gave all of the dying squash plants to the chickens. If you have chickens, you will know that the only thing more destructive than a flock of chickens would probably be fire. My chickens took great delight in shredding and pecking the vines.  I’m pretty certain if they didn’t eat the squash vine borer larva, they at least stomped them to death.

Plant as early as possible.  The squash vine borer emerges from its winter slumber in early summer – late May or early June in this area.  By planting early, you can give your vines a head start on the squash vine borers. (I wish I had done this. I didn’t plant my squash until mid-May.)

Use a floating row cover.  If the moths can’t get to the plant, they can’t lay an egg.  You should plan on using row covers when the adults are active (late May, early June).  Keep in mind that a row cover will prevent bees from pollinating!

Set traps to know when they have emerged. You can tell when the squash vine borers are emerging by looking for the adults, or by setting a yellow bowl full of water in your garden.  The moths are attracted to the yellow, and get trapped in the water.  When you find one in your trap, you know it is time to take action against them. It is also a sign to start looking for eggs on the stems.

Protect the stem.  Block the moths from laying eggs by wrapping aluminum foil or pantyhose around the stem of the vine. I might give this a try.

Plant vine crops that are usually not attacked by squash vine borers. Try butternut squash, cucumbers, melons, and watermelons. I planted out some butternut squash a couple weeks ago. I hope they do well!

Hand pick and destroy eggs.  I think this one might be hard to do, but I'd be willing to give it a shot.

A second planting of summer squash made in early July will mature after adult borers have finished laying eggs.  I’m doing this: I have multiple summer squash plants started inside that are ready to go out now. This might not be a guaranteed strategy because our area can have two generations of squash vine borers.

Till the soil in fall. This will expose the larvae to freezing temperatures, and it will allow you to find and destroy them.

Here is a nice publication about squash vine borers from the University of Tennessee. 

Watch out squash vine borers. This is WAR!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tonight's dinner brought to you by: Your backyard!

These days we're eating something (and usually multiple somethings) from the backyard every day.  But last night's dinner actually came exclusively from the garden:  

Summer garden meal

2 fried eggs, mixed fresh green beans, roasted yukon and red potatoes, sliced rutgers tomato, and a few sungold cherry tomatoes.

It was delicious! And there is plenty to have this again tomorrow. :)

Yesterday's tomato harvest.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The epic garden battle: Woman vs. Deer

A few weeks ago, I was wandering around the garden when I noticed some missing cherry tomatoes.  My immediate response was 'Nooo! Tomato hornworms!'

But after inspecting the plants carefully, I couldn't find any sign of a horn worm.  And it struck me as odd that all of the damage was just on one side of the tomato plants.

Missing cherry tomatoes?
That's when I glanced down and noticed the following footprint on the ground:

Deer print in the garden.
DEER!!!  A darned deer had gotten into my garden.  With this realization I ran around the rest of the garden and noticed all of the other damage -- multiple missing tomatoes, some munched peppers, a bunch of 'pruned' bush beans.  A deer can do a LOT of damage in a short amount of time.

Prior to this, our 4 foot fence was enough to keep the deer out. Yes, a deer CAN jump it, but I think it just didn't seem worth the effort to them before. I mean, I have PLENTY of tasty flowers that they had been eating on the other side of the house.  But now the deer has worked up the nerve to enter the garden and taste my delicious crops. Which means it will be back.

I entered panic/trouble-shoot mode.  I needed an immediate (and cheap) solution to keep the deer from returning in the evening and causing even more damage.

So here is what I did:

I had some 8 foot 2x2's laying around, so I attached a few of them to some of the 4 foot posts with screws.  I then strung  clothes line at 6 feet and 8 feet.  Next, I tied some strips of white fabric to the line.

Not the prettiest anti-deer wall.
Now, it's really not much of a physical barrier, but the deer won't know that.  I'm hoping it will be more of a visual barrier to them -- if it looks like a wall, it should prevent them from trying to jump in.

Would you jump into this?
Two weeks later -- I have found plenty of deer prints outside of the garden, but we have had no more deer visit inside the garden. Looks like this strategy is working out just fine!
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