Thursday, February 14, 2013

What's for lunch??

   ...I hear that everyday from my kids around noon. I enjoy making our meals from scratch. Store bought foods are so full of junk these days. The best way to avoid the artificial additives is to make it all yourself as much as possible. Today, as lunch time was getting closer, I started thinking about what we'd have. With the excitement of the chickens starting to lay again with the warm weather (including some of our young first time egg layers) I have eggs on the brain. So, I decided to make egg salad. I'm going to share with you a few recipes that were included in our lunch today. Homemade mayonnaise and homemade whole wheat crackers. Give them a try and enjoy! ~Jenn


Homemade Mayonnaise

This is a very good mayonnaise and is thicker than store bought mayo.

1 large egg (fresh is always best!)
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp honey
1 cup good vegetable oil (you can use part olive oil)

Break the egg into a blender. Cover and blend on high for 30 seconds. Add the dry mustard, salt, lemon juice, and honey and blend again on high speed for 15-20 seconds. While the blender is still running, add the oil in a very slow, steady stream. As the mayonnaise thickens you may have to stop the blender and stir some of the oil in then turn the blender back on an continue blending on high. With a spatula or spoon, scrape the mayo toward the blades. Continue to blend until well mixed and thick. I usually let this sit in the fridge over night until using/eating it so the lemon will "cook" the egg. This makes about 1 1/2 cups of good thick mayonnaise.

Whole Wheat Crackers

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or dust with all-purpose flour. Put all the ingredients except the water into a food processor and pulse until combined. If you don't own a food processor, mix the ingredients by hand in a bowl until little balls form. Add the water and keep running the machine (or mixing in a bowl) until the mixture forms a ball (add a teaspoon of water at a time until you have a dough ball). Dust your counter with flour and roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch thick. Transfer to the baking sheet, add any additional spices, and cut into 24 pieces. ( I sprinkled sea salt on top of my crackers before baking today.)  A pizza cutter works great for cutting the dough. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Store in a container at room temperature for a few days.

Without Thy love we'd not be fed, We thank Thee for our daily bread.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Choosing Productive Plants For The Small Garden


   Today I would like to discuss the most challenging yet exciting part of our spring planting. That is choosing which plants to plant. Now this may not be a big deal if you have several acres to plant, and if you do I hope this will still help you in choosing your plants. As for us and the other thousands of small gardeners out there, this is very important. Why is this so important you might ask? Well if you are gardening a small area the first question you ask yourself is " How much produce can I grow in this small area? " Our plant choices revolve around this question and also plants that are Heirloom, which I will cover later. When it comes to small gardens I say stick to the basics. Here are some of the plants that we choose to plant.

              1. Green Beans - Any pole or bush type bean will do well. We prefer Kentucky Wonder and have even done very well with just a bag of pinto beans. We plant our beans about 6 inches apart on rows 20 feet long. We usually do at least 2 rows of beans because in our family we eat a lot of them. We can get 80 plants in 2 rows and at peak production get up to 15 or 20 beans per plant per "picking." You can see how this can add up quickly and have not used much space at all. We usually pick beans every 3 days at peak production. Now are you understanding why Green Beans are a must have in the small garden.

              2. Tomato - There are 2 types of tomatoes that we like to plant, and each serving their own purpose. The first being Rutgers. We choose these because number 1 they are an excellent heirloom variety. Second, if you use the right fertilizer and the right amount of water, "both subjects to be covered later in the week", these can be so meaty that when sliced there is very little room left for seeds. Have you ever picked up some tomatoes from the store and when you slice it, it just fell apart and most of it is just seeds and juice? These are grown too fast, watered too much, " yes too much". These tomatoes are developed to grow big and fast. The only way to do this is to fertilize with chemicals and pour as much water to them as they can handle. All of this water just fills the shell. Like everything else on the farm, slower is better. Choose an heirloom variety and give it the 10 to 12 days longer to ripen and you'll be glad you did. The second tomato we plant is the cherry tomato. There are some good varieties out there. The one we use is just simply large cherry tomato. This tomato has performed very well for us. I have actually measured them after they fall over their cage at 12 feet from the base to the end of the vine and have counted up to 90 tomatoes on one plant. These are great for salads and eating them fresh or just canning them whole. They are a little sweeter than the Rutgers and make a great salsa. These 2 varieties are excellent choices for small gardens and producing a lot of tomatoes.

               3. Squash - This is probably my favorite plant of them all. I like squash any way you can cook them. We also plant 2 different squash in our spring garden. There are numerous summer squash and winter squash, but we will just stick to the basics today. These 2 are straight neck and zucchini. There are different names for each one just choose an heirloom. We choose straight neck for our yellow squash simply because they grow bigger and have plenty of meat. Crook Neck tend to be a little smaller and have less meat. Remember we are working to get more produce in a small area. We use both of these squash the same, in fact we even cook them together and freeze them together. Both are excellent sliced thin and fried to make chips with them. This is a great snack idea for the kids. We usually plant at least 12 to 16 plants half and half of each. This will give you 3 to 4 of each per week. More than enough to cook and to freeze or can. About 2 squash cut up will be enough to feed our family along with the other foods in the meal.

              4. Cucumber - We use mainly only 1 kind of cucumber and that is the pickling cucumbers. They come in either bush type or vine type. We have used both. The bush type favorite is Pickle Bush. If you are really limited on space this is the way to go. It has a high yield in a small space. The other cucumber is the National Pickling Cucumber. It is a vine type and will be covered in blooms every 2 inches up the vine. You can save space with these as we do and grow them up instead of out. We use a wire panel such as a cattle panel that you can buy at the hardware or feed store. They usually come in about 16 foot lengths and about 4 feet tall. You can grow all of the cucumber you want on this. You may ask why do we grow pickling cucumbers. Well we love pickles. Our kids can eat a quart jar a week. Also you don't have to pick them small. If you let them go another day or two you will get a nice slicing cucumber. They will get as big as a straight eight just not as long. Give these pickling cucumbers a shot and you will not be disappointed.

              5. Corn - Last but not least is corn. I know you are thinking I am crazy about writing corn and small garden in the same article. Just hear me out and you'll be doing it to. Find you a good heirloom variety an area about 15 x 15 and you can plant all the corn you will need. Plant your seeds 4 to 6 inches apart. Really get them in tight. This will give you all the corn you need, also it will encourage the plants to grow tall as they will be competing for sun. On your heirloom varieties you will get about 3 ears per plant. If you can get 300 plants in this area that's 900 ears of corn. This will give you all of the whole, cream, and cob corn you want. Try this one out if you are still not convinced. Also this will keep so much wind damage from being done during spring storms. They will support each other. Corn will no longer be the plant you skip over when planning you garden.

            You do not have to follow these exactly.  There are so many more things you can plant. And there's more that we plant too. Some of you may not like these types of produce. That's fine. I just want you to know that there is a way of making that small space work for you. There are families out there growing every thing they need in planter boxes and raised beds. Just think of it this way,  every amount of produce you you grow and put on your table makes a difference. The way things are grown now days whether it's animals or plants, you can't get something that's actually healthy. Go with heirloom, save your seeds and use them to replant. There is a lot of satisfaction in doing this and putting food on the table that you actually grew yourself. It doesn't matter if you are planting 100 acres or a 10 x 10 area. Remember to maximize your production by growing high yield plants. In today's world we need more for less. Check back in a day or two and I will share with you how we fertilize.       -Joe

"...Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest."
                                                        John 4:35

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Starting Seedlings



   This afternoon we did a little work in the greenhouse. About a week ago we set out our first seeds and already we have nice seedlings up. Starting seeds is much more affordable than buying plants at the hardware store. The kids really enjoy it too. We started growing our own plants a few years ago. We've chosen to grow heirloom variety plants this year so we can save and plant our own seeds. 

   We tried something new this time with some of our seeds. We planted them in egg cartons that we poked small drain holes in. We closed the lid which held in the moisture and heat better. These seeds shot up quickly. This can be done just about anywhere not just in a greenhouse. The egg cartons can be put in a window, on the porch, anyplace that will catch the warmth of the sun. We also use foam cups which work great. Without a greenhouse it does work better if the cups are covered with plastic wrap or something that will hold in heat and moisture. 

     Like in the past, we planted all of our seeds in composted rabbit manure that we dug up from behind the barn. Rabbit manure makes beautiful compost and is our favorite fertilizer. 

    The kids helped us finish planting the seeds in cups and labeled them for us. Many hands make light work you know!
   After working in the green house we decided to pick us some supper. We still have a few things growing in the raised beds we made just outside the kitchen. We picked mustard greens, turnip greens, a few turnips, and some radishes.    
   Be watching  for our next blog entry. Joe plans to share with you some good organic fertilizer options as well as ideas on how to have a productive garden even if you only have a small space to work with.


"And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him,"
                                                                         Genesis 26:12

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Preparing the Ground

   I remember being a little girl walking behind my grandpa as he tilled his garden. I'd step in his footprints in the soft ground. To this day I love to walk barefoot in freshly tilled ground. As I watched my husband till our garden plot this morning I breathed in the sweet smell of wet dirt and let my mind wander down memory lane. My days working with Grandpa in the garden make up some of my best childhood memories. I look over our the tilled ground with anticipation. I can't wait to get my hands in the dirt.  I can already see plants coming up out of the ground.

He who works his land will have abundant food....
                                            Proverbs 12:11