Friday, July 25, 2014

A Farmgirl Stuck in the City

The garden is bursting. The tomatoes are ripening, giving me my first tomato sandwich of the summer. The herbs are tall, full, and giving off their wonderful scents. The second seeding of lettuce has reached the almost-ready to pick for salads stage. Even the bush bean plants I bought--sickly, near death plants I was sure were too far gone to be saved--are full of lovely, long beans. And the seeds I meticulously planted in egg cartons back in March? The ones that I thought were duds and after ten weeks of watering along with setting out in the warm sun only to get not even a hint of anything growing? The ones I ended up throwing into the compost box? Well, I now have a hodge-podge of zucchini, squash, and tomatoes where I spread the compost in early June. I'm hoping the zucchini and squash produce, as they are thriving and flowering beautifully, but the tomato plants have a lot of catching up to do to produce. The cool weather definitely isn't helping, but there's still August and September warmth to come, hopefully giving that last, little push to all the plants. I love walking through my gardens, thinking about how the tomatoes can be a part of our next meal, how the cucumbers might become a lotion, and how to preserve all the herbs.

Last summer I had several hot pepper plants from which I picked tons of hot peppers. I had no idea what to do with them as I've never cooked with them before, and Hubby isn't a fan of anything that might have a little heat to it. Those peppers ended up in the compost box. This year, I vowed to do something with the peppers, something that I know will be eaten by the majority of us. Funny Delightful Son and I love grilled sandwiches made with goat cheese, strawberries, lettuce, and pepper jelly, and he even turned his girlfriend on to this tasty combination, so I decided to make hot pepper jelly. This morning, I spent several hours in the kitchen, chopping, measuring, and cooking to end up with six half pints of yummy pepper jelly. I used a recipe I found online as it had a pinch of saffron as an ingredient, and since I have some saffron that I bought awhile back, I decided to give it a go. When all the ingredients were mixed, simmering, and nearing the stage of ladling into the jars, I tested it. The jelly definitely lives up to its name: Naughty and Nice Pepper Jelly. The zing and sweet together create a scrumptious treat.

To date, I've made sour cherry jam, strawberry jam, cucumber-ginger jelly, and hot pepper jelly. I've reached the point where I need a space for all my goodies. I have a spot just off the kitchen/dining area that could become a spot for shelves just to display jars of deliciousness, so now I'm trying to figure out how to go about getting shelves put into place. I'm thinking small wooden crates might be the answer. Time to go junkin'. I'd love to find some soda crates or vegetable crates that can be turned into shelves. Could be a bit pricey, though, so maybe just making some from reclaimed wood is a better, more affordable idea. I do wonder, hmmmmmmmm, if I went to the grocery stores around town and asked about their fruit and veggie boxes, if I might find what I'm looking for. Maybe.

Next up is the tomatoes. I'm envisioning salsa, spaghetti sauce, whole tomatoes, tomato paste, and dried tomatoes. I know some of these require a pressure canner, something I've never used so don't have, but I could go the freezing route to avoid investing in the pressure canner. We do have the freezer space since we stumbled upon a brand new freezer at a yard sale a few months ago, still in the box, and got a great deal on it. Part of the freezer space is reserved for grass-fed beef, an investment I'm determined to make sooner or later. All of this would be much easier if I had my own farm, a place and space to raise my own chickens, beef, and goats. The animals along with the gardens and growing fruit would give us so much of what we need. I know of a 2.5 acre property available right now . . ..

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