In mid August I started picking winter squash. I picked up several tiered baskets at yard sales this summer, which I plan to use for storing winter squash and sweet potatoes in the basement. I still don't have that root cellar I've been dreaming of building.
Lots of butternut, rampicante (which is also a summer squash, but I've left some in the garden to become winter squash), and delicata. This is the first time I've grown delicata. We roasted some the other night and everyone except Reid seemed to like it.
I have some blue hubbard as well, but it will be much too large for my basket system when I bring it in.
Last year my winter squash fared quite well in the basement, so I'm hoping this year will be the same.
Last month I made my first healing salve. My parents gave me some comfrey for the garden, and it took off. I picked some and layered into olive oil, then let it sit in the sun for two weeks so it would solar infuse the comfrey into the oil. I used a mason jar that was warped, since I didn't want to put this jar through the canner.
After two weeks were up, I strained the oil and made the salve by adding beeswax, plus a couple of healing essential oils. Comfrey is one of the best known healing herbs - perfect for bruises, cuts, sprains and wounds.
I got a sunburn one day from taking the boys to a water park (I used sunscreen, but didn't realize it was expired by a couple of years). I put the comfrey salve on it and it diminished the pain immediately - it felt so soothing. Paul got welts on his skin from removing a bandage, and he used the comfrey salve and found it speeded the healing and took away the itching.
I need to make some more! I made several jars, but everyone wanted some (which made me happy - I love to share the things I make). It's so handy to have in the medicine cabinet. I still have a big jar for us, but I thought maybe I should make another batch just for sharing. We have plenty of comfrey in the garden, so this will be a good project in the coming weeks.
A few months ago my mom gave me a vegetable spiralizer. I kind of forgot I had it and then one day I was trying to figure out what to do with all the squash I had, and decided I would try making zoodles (zucchini noodles). It turns out the spiralizer is super easy and quick to use. I made the zoodles and then went to work cooking a red sauce.
The zoodles cooked rapidly - it only took about 3 minutes to sauté them. Much faster than pasta!
Everyone in the family really liked the zoodles except for Reid. He complained a bit, but maybe if I make them more often, they will grow on him. What an easy way to use up excess squash!
A few months ago when Pierce left for a week of camp, I slipped a Garfield comic strip collection book into his bag. I remembered reading Garfield as a kid. Apparently, Pierce found this book in his suitcase and then stayed up all night reading it over and over by flashlight, snickering along the way. All that midnight giggling caused the camp to create a new 'flashlights out' policy. And in our house, it started a Garfield craze - we've been checking out books and movies of Garfield nonstop. I have to admit, even as an adult, Garfield is pretty funny.
Next thing I knew, the twins wanted a Garfield cake for their birthday. I did a vanilla cake with lemon curd filling and a coconut rum frosting.
I decided just to freehand this one. Considering the frosting wasn't completely smooth, I think it turned out alright.
Last year I wanted to make walnut tincture, but I missed the window of time when the hulls on the walnuts are green. This year I timed it just right. All you need to make it are a few walnuts and the strongest proof vodka you can find.
You need to chop up the hulls from the walnuts. The husks are antiparasitic, antifungal and antibacterial. They are designed to keep worms out of the walnuts. The second you cut into them they are yellow, but they instantly start turning brown and they will stain your fingers, so don't be like me -- wear gloves! My fingers were stained brown for days and nothing would remove it!
The tincture can supposedly be used like iodine to clean wounds. The walnut hulls smelled just like iodine when I was chopping them up. Black walnut tincture can also be used to deworm for various parasites. Some people use it to deworm their animals. Among other things, it may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and may treat heartburn and colic. It is known to be good for fighting candida or yeast in the system. Some even say it fights cancer, syphilis, and malaria.
Black walnut tincture is strong and you should consult your doctor before using. It is not recommended that you take it for longer than two weeks, and it is not recommended for use in pregnant women.
I think it will be handy to have around. I will let this cure for a month in a dark place before straining out the hulls and bottling it.
My grandmother told me to plant half runners this year, and I've been waiting for them to get long and plump. I finally had a day I could go pick a batch from the garden.
When I brought them up, I had a helper to string them for me while I chopped potatoes and onions and garlic.
Our HVAC had died and we were trying not to heat up the house, so I cooked them on the grill burner. They were delicious! I am hoping I will have enough to can a bunch in addition to eating them fresh. I love green beans.
This is the time of year when my squash gets out of control and does whatever it wants. It takes over all the nice rows I've laid out. My husband is irritated it climbs over the fence he built around the garden. He says, "you need to do something about your squash".
What, exactly, am I supposed to do? Ground it? Remove privileges? Send it to its room? You can see in the picture below where two different types of squash are escaping their prison.
Aside from the fact that my squash is trying to take over the world, it doesn't seem to hurt anything when it climbs out of the garden. I do have to wear muck boots now in the garden, as I can't see very well and there is a black snake that likes to hang out under the shady squash. Not to mention that neighbor of ours that got bit by a copperhead when picking peppers in his garden is never far from my mind. Here is one area I now call squash row (this area is primarily rampicante and blue hubbard):
I know I've got rampicante, blue hubbard, butternut, and delicata growing. There is also a pumpkin and zucchini, but they are planted elsewhere. There may also be some spaghetti squash in there somewhere - I did plant some. It will be a nice surprise to hopefully stumble upon at some point
We were so late in getting up hay this year. We didn't get it up until the end of July. Mostly because we had lots of storms on a daily basis this summer. The weekend we got up the hay had temps in the upper 90s so it was rough work. Here is our hayfield on day two of getting up hay (we were over halfway done at this point).
Our little hay barn isn't big enough for all the hay we get, so we try to have people come buy it directly from the field as much as possible.
Bo, being smart for a second, and getting in the shade after running like a wild dog all over the pastures.
I'm always glad to see the hay in the barn and the field nice and neat, and to know we won't have to do it again until next summer!
I heard about rampicante squash last year on a podcast. It's an unusual Italian squash in that it can be a summer squash, similar to zucchini (only more creamy and less watery) or it can be left in the garden to cure and become a winter squash. I planted them this year and instantly became a huge fan. I just love these squash! The plants have been doing so well I decided to make dill pickles. I usually try to get about 10 pounds to make pickles.
I used a pickle mix this time which made it easy. After they cured for 24 hours, we ended up with 18 pints of pickles!
I thought to myself, this is a crazy number of pickles. Too much. But then that day for lunch the boys went wild for these pickles and ate an entire jar in one setting. At that rate? Shoot, maybe I should make a couple more batches!
Cort and Reid are celebrating 7 today. Here's a recent picture from when I took them to get back to school haircuts. They both wanted mohawks and crazy colors dyed in. Fortunately, we were at a place that didn't do dye. But they did get mohawks. Happily, under all that hair glue, their hair is fairly clean cut.
Throughout the year I do their haircuts myself to save money, so they always enjoy getting to have a professional cut right before school. And I confess I like having a break from doing the haircuts myself.
A while ago my mom loaned me a book called The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. A memoir, it sat on my bookshelf for a while before I read it and discovered it was so much better than I ever expected. I fell in love with the quirky used bookstore in Big Stone Gap, and suggested to my parents (who both enjoyed the book, too) that we go there.
Big Stone Gap is waaaaayyyy down in the deep southwest of the state. It took us a while to get there. On the way we stopped at a farm to table restaurant in Meadowview called Harvest Table where I got the best grilled chicken sandwich ever. I never even knew chicken could taste like that. On homemade focaccia with a remoulade sauce, it was the most tender, most flavorful chicken in existence. If you are ever out that way (and you probably won't be), be sure to stop in.
Eventually, we made it to Big Stone Gap, deep in the Appalachian mountains. The bookstore didn't disappoint. The boys had a blast exploring all the rooms and carrying around the six (!) foster kittens in residence. We all found a few books we needed.
On the way home we took a little detour through Lebanon so I could see the area where my grandfather's family lived. I enjoyed seeing his old stomping ground, imagining him as a young boy there with his siblings.
It was a lot of driving for one day, but included unique experiences, and I got to see some beautiful areas of the state I had never seen before. Plus, that chicken sandwich? Totally worth seven hours of driving.
Readers - have you ever gone out of your way to see a place from a book or a movie?
Another couple of firsts for me in canning this year. While I've done pickled beets before, I have never canned beets plain. Now that I have my pressure canner, I can do so. I canned 9 pints of beets and then the next day opened a pint to make beet hummus. Very tasty!
Then I dug up yet more carrots from my garden and used those to make a carrot cake jam recipe that I found in a book from the library. The house smelled so amazing when the carrot cake jam was bubbling. It has spices in it as well as coconut, pineapple and pear. Really fantastic on an English muffin with cream cheese.
If I get enough carrots, I may try to do another batch of the carrot cake jam. I think they would make good gifts.