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Two More Batches of Jam

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Yesterday was a busy day in the kitchen. I had planned on making a batch of both strawberry and blueberry jams. My wife had decided to do some full week meal prep the same day. Communication on each of our endeavors was, how should I say it, absent. We did manage to get our respective tasks done but I was crowding my timeline to get off to my evening workout at the gym! We were both successful!

Not an advertisement but a graphic visual of the low sugar pectin I have had so much luck and success with.

A short clip at an awkward angle of what a “full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down” looks like! It is a common question of novice Jam/Jelly makers.

The delicious foam scraped off of the jam after removing from the heat. I wonder if there is market for such a thing!

Finished product cooling and waiting for labels. I know, the pink towel really doesn’t lend itself to a quality “Good Housekeeping” type of food photo. I need to brush up on the technique.

I have at least two more batches of Strawberry Jam to make and blackberry season starts this week at Blakelock’s Berries out in Grangerland at my apiary location!

FYI, I inspected the bees out there yesterday and saw the most beautiful and large blackberries! Yes, just to ensure they were ripe, I sampled a couple before the birds had a chance!

TTFN

Bishop

Strawberry Quickie

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Maybe not what you were thinking but I went out with the camera this morning after the storm front had passed to check on the garden and in particular, the strawberries. I was greeted by clear blue skies, much nicer temperatures … a nice break from the mid to high humid 70’s we have been experiencing and a seemingly happy garden. The sun felt nice, the shade was cool and the breeze was stirring up the leaves not yet sequestered in my compost bins. While out in the garden I attacked some of the never ending supply of weeds, checked on the carrots, yes-the strawberries too, made notes to pull out the remaining pepper plants and checked on the internal compost bin temperatures…..getting pretty darned warm.

Take a gander at my strawberry shots below….I suspect that I will break the old record…I should have my first ripe berry in just a few days. My guess is February 3rd +/-. I may be able to thank global warming for the bounty. I am continuing my reading and knowledge building with the issues around global warming….an opinion piece will be coming in the near future.

Now for the feature presentation; Strawberries.

January 30th - Should be ripe soon!

January 30th – Should be ripe soon!

One of the Strawberry tower pockets headed toward a bountiful harvest.

One of the Strawberry tower pockets headed toward a bountiful harvest.

A look at one of the ground based plants. I will have to watch for competitors...There are some bugs that also enjoy juicy red berries!

A look at one of the ground based plants. I will have to watch for competitors…There are some bugs that also enjoy juicy red berries!

Another ground based plant setting lots of potentially sweet berries!

Another ground based plant setting lots of potentially sweet berries!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

 

Blossoms, Berries, Buds and Bounty

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Wandered out this Sunday morning with my new tool – A Nikon J1 camera – all of the photos were taken this morning except for the bees….their results are shown first in the line of photos busy bees and the end of the line. Click on the image to see it full size…

 

TTFN

Bishop

Longing For Dirty Hands

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I am away from the garden since Tuesday morning… My only interaction has been to follow the weather reports to see how the plants and beds have been treated in my absence. Well, the reports indicate that we continue to have a spring like winter in Houston so all is well. I am fortunate to have a wife and partner in life that understands my love of the garden. She will peek over the gate and will sprinkle some water if things look too dry and I thank her for that. She will also snack on the berries when they are producing……her snacking sometimes diminishes the harvest available for my jam and jelly endeavors. It really is a small price to pay for her continued support.

When l get on the plane tomorrow at 6:00 AM in Grand Junction, Colorado, I will be on my way to getting my hands dirty again…..Yes I can wait but it sure is tough!

Note to wife, Grand Junction is becoming well known as a wine growing region as well as for their wonderful peaches….Lots of beautiful mountains nearby, rivers, lakes and forest…I could probably grow a nice garden/orchard here and we could have 4 seasons not the 1.5 seasons that we have in Houston….Just a thought Hun!
TTFN
Bishop

Before and After – Ready for the Fall Season

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Well it has been brutal working in the garden, adding the extra touches and prepping for my fall growing season. As always I will be experimenting a little – it is all about learning.

When we returned from vacation the gourds and the indeterminate tomatoes had gone wild. There was not a clear and easy path down through the middle of my two biggest beds. Then there was the ankle biting Bermuda grass. You know, Bermuda grass is not so bad when you want it for your lawn, but in a vegetable bed…. it is insidious! I had tried to mulch the Bermuda out but it is just amazing how it can find a little light and burst out. I promise, scouts honor, to not let it get ahead of me this year. Yes, I was a Boy Scout…..not like my nephews that made Eagle Scout – congratulations Wesley and Wade, but I did make about 12 merit badges.

I recently scared off a potential convert. I had been negotiating with my friend John to add a 4X4 bed to his existing 4X4 raised bed. Once he saw my jungle at the end of July and followed my efforts to reclaim/re-tame my plot he backed off. I think we can get him to do another 4X4 – walk before we run.

So, the experiments; I planted tomatoes in August in order to get another bountiful blessing before first frost. The Carmello variety is setting some nice big flowers that may bear fruit. The jury is out on the others. The pole beans are climbing like crazy so I am optimistic for them. The Serrano Pepper plant is loaded with blossoms – 100’s. They just need to set. After solarizing my problem bed for 5+ weeks, I pulled the plastic off a couple of days ago and have begun planting it. I am trying Bush Cucumbers, Swiss Chard (always does well), the first of some staggered lantings for my beet rows, sugar snap peas and I will get some carrots going this weekend. I will continue to stagger plant beets and carrots about every 3 weeks. I have a couple of recently planted squash plants that have not shown signs of distress so I am hopeful. Lettuce will come in another few weeks. I have 150 strawberry plants being shipped the first week of November. I had very few survive this brutal summer.

I also poured a walkway down through the middle of my large beds. I used one of those forms that looks like irregular stones .Kathy wondered why I was pouring during the 105 deg weather and not waiting until December. I didn’t have a good answer other than I just wanted to get it done!  I think it looks good and should keep the mud away…..if it ever rains again. We are over 20 inches behind.

Here is a link to a cool site for backyard farming;

http://www.homefarming.com/

Look for another installment in a couple of weeks.

TTFN

Bishop

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I think my wife really does love me. I was out of town on a job in the Midland and Lubbock areas of West Texas and unable to tend to my gardening chores. I flew home early last Saturday morning and she surprised me with a big basket of my home grown strawberries. Wow, what a gal!!!! I finished filling one of the 1 gallon freezer bags already partially filled in the freezer and started a new bag. I need to make another batch of jam this week and may fill the next bag by the end of the week….. I will be swimming in my heavenly strawberry jam – Yum!!!!

Today was a partial day in the garden and I only sweated through one T-shirt. I weeded, watered and finished pulling up the last of my Detroit Red beets. I still have a very beautifully leafed beet variety that I forgot the name of yet to harvest. Very nice looking tops and we will see about the beet taste soon. I made a pickled beet recipe today to eat like a cold salad – it is pretty tasty.

 I used about 3 + cups of skinned and sliced up roasted beets. FYI – drop the hot roasted beets in ice water and the skins nearly remove themselves. I boiled ¾ cup of cider vinegar and ¾ cup of beet juice….. I poured almost a cup of hot water over the beets in a bowl to make the beet juice. Once that mixture was boiling I added 2 tbs. sugar, 2 whole cloves, 3 whole black peppercorns, a bay leaf, about ¾ tsp. of sea salt and about a cup of chopped red onion. Brought it back to a boil and poured over the beets. Refrigerated for a couple of hours and man, they are pretty darned good! Recipe is almost exactly like one I found in allrecipes.com. Great recipe resource!

Updates;

The Mason Bees. They are rapidly depositing eggs and filling the tubes. I have about 11 of the tubes filled and sealed. Should have quite a few more next season.

The worms. I checked on the poor guys Saturday when I returned and they were trying to escape. I had neglected both the food they need and the bedding necessary for their comfort. I was able to feed them a big a big batch of strawberry parts and tops – see the comments about my lovely wife above, some old bread, beet cuttings and other veggie scraps….. They seem to be back to work and not complaining now.

My Green Beans. The Kentucky Pole beans are leaping and now blossoming. The bush beans look to be on the same time table.

Asparagus. Slowing down and will let them fern out. I put some Martha Washington in a few weeks ago and they are sprouting.

Tomatoes. Slow but setting fruit….except my Brandywine – I do have a few blossoms on one but I have my fingers crossed. The Juliet tomatoes and Creole tomatoes are doing well.

Cucumbers. I put up twine to let them climb this morning….part of the sweaty shirt stuff. My cucumbers in my friends backyard ( I put a 4×4 patch in his yard) are blossoming and way ahead of mine! Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Enough for now, hopefully blackberry news soon!

Bishop

The Harvest is Ramping Up!

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Well the harvest is ramping up and it appears I may have some competition. My wife snapped a picture of a night raider hanging out by our backdoor. We have seen him, or a relative, making regular treks out from the garden area near the midnight hour on several occasions. I see the tracks but no evidence of thievery yet.

I have had some brussel sprouts off the crowns and now the side shoots are plumping up, yummy  beets and beet greens, asparagus for the first time, the strawberries are really producing and vey sweet and my dwarf Meyer lemon is blossoming and producing.

The green beans are really starting to crawl up the poles and the bush beans are 4-6 inches tall. My swiss chard is a little slow this year but 2 or 3 plants will overwhelm us (really just me… Kathy won’t eat it) Cucumbers are really slow this year…. may have to replant the armenian variety as well as the pickling variety. It is still pretty early in the season so I am not worried. My tomatoes are in the ground –  the Brandywine tomatoes are absolutley the best tasting but they do not seem to be responding well. Fed them some fish emulsion today to help them along.  The Roma, Creole, Mortgage Lifter and Juliet are doing well as are the peppers and eggplants.

I made a cold pasta salad with roasted beets, beet greens and penne pasta last week and it was pretty good. It was my made up  recipe but lacked a little for seasoning/complimentary flavors so I will experiment again. Just picked some very nice beets this morning while bringing in the morning’s strawberries and asparagus harvest. I will try again over the weekend if I just don’t eat the roasted beets as they come out of the oven.

Kathy took excellent care of my green babies while I slaved away in Dallas this week. She won’t pull weeds but she does a nice job of watering and picking….. even froze a bunch of berries so I can make jam a little late this springr. My blackerries are beginning to leaf out so the May harvest may be a very good one.

The worms were fed today and they said hi to all y’all!  ; )

TTFN

Bishop

After the Winter Hiatus

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Not today’s image!!!!

This is in my dreams for later on this spring and summer. Reality is much more grim!!

 
The garden is pretty bare right now – a few Brussel sprout plants made it through the freeze along with some of the sugar snap peas and an abundance of the beet varieties planted this past fall.
 
I have pretty well filled the compost bins with leaves and shredded leaves to be used for mulch in the near future.
 
I did transplant some lettuce plants yesterday but the labels have faded and I have no clue which variety will grace my table. The small half long carrot seeds planted last week have yet to show their tops. I will plant another round of carrots this week and continue some staggered plantings into early spring.
 
My friend John is allowing me to continue working the 4X4 plot I placed in his yard last year. He loved the abundant returns from the Juliet tomato plant. He had a good number of cucumbers as well as a handful of Texas A&M sungold tomatoes. We may even add another 4X4 adjacent to the first one. Making backyard gardening converts one by one. He has some beets poking up and I planted some chard for him last week.
Checking on my worms – the bottom bin looks done. Almost all of the little guys have moved up to the penthouse for the fresh food. Will probably sort the bottom bin this coming weekend and feed the plants. Speaking of plants – the strwberry plants are full of blossoms and I noticed a few berries that are a week or so away from taste testing. Can’t wait-  but I must!!!!!!
TTFN
Bishop

I am back limping into my garden.

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My Gecko Helping Patrol for Pests
Mmmmmm Good My Blackerries
Bunches of Juliett Tomatoes - Can't Wait!!!!
Cucumbers are Getting Big

I am back limping into the garden and enjoying the veggies. The weeds got a little ahead of me but the Gecko is keeping most of the bad bugs scared off.- I wish LOL. He still looks good even if he does not eat much.

Everything is growing so well! My Roma and Juliet tomatoes are kicking butt. Unfortunately my Brandywine plants are green, healthy and tall – but won't set tomatoes. They taste so good but I may not get any this year.

At least the blackberries are doing very well. Lucky for me that my wife Kathy is out in California because she loves fresh berries. I do too but I really like to gather enough to make jam. I have a gallon in the freezer, have snacked on the fresh ones and will probably get another gallon or two before we head off to Australia. The strawberries have slowed down but there is an increase in blossoms so I should have another round of the luscious red delights very soon.

A cluster of green Juliet tomatoes. They do incredibly well in the Houston heat. One plant will overwhelm a family so that's all I plant. They are so tasty and look a lot like a miniature Roma tomato. I hope the Brandywine's will at least set a few for me!

Now another bounty! The cucumbers are kicking in and as always I have planted more than we can eat. So friends and neighbors bet to share in the bounty.

My experiment in my friends backyard is doing OK. It was doing very well, his dog was ignoring it until …….. until I added some fish emulsion. Well, his Golden Retriever Pismo dug up the spots where I placed the fish emulsion several times but now the scent is gone and the plants are undisturbed. John has used some of the Rosemary and we have a few tomatoes setting as well as the cucumbers beginning to stretch up toward the supports. Salad components soon!

I'll be back!

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