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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Easy Candied Ginger Recipe and Fall Garden Treasures

This is truly a belated post given that my plan was to do this last week, but here I am and ready to share and document my recent adventures in the back yard. 
 Whats up rutabaga?!! If you haven't tried some before, grab some at the grocery store or grow them because they taste like potatoes and are easy to grow in the colder months when bugs are slowed down by frost. My skeptical wife was pleasantly surprised by how good they tasted. The smell of  chopping rutubagas is unique and I could only describe it as soapy and familiar. There are recipes out there for cooking the rutabaga greens which resemble smooth German kale. Their similar appearance can be explained by their shared genus brassica, which are part of the mustard family.
The lemon seedlings have grown considerably large in their first year given they all started from seed. I plan on taking these babies with me to whatever home we move to in the future as I fully intend on cherishing them as long as they are around. They most likely won't bear fruit until year 4 or 5. The smallest one made a full recovery after some critter ate every last leaf off of the plant. In facing growing challenges with plants I have learned patience, hope, nature does the hard work, and long term investments pay off.
I know......
I had to take a picture of this haunting scene.
All poor St. Francis wanted to do was take care of the birds and animals. I have no idea what earthly creation turned him bright white in some spots. St. Francis and the chicken run were both covered in crawling cherry tomato plants. The early morning frosts had finished off most of the tomato plants resulting in sour rotting cherry tomatoes everywhere. The chickens don't mind a sour cherry tomato, but I do.

How can you not love this photo? Fluffy chicken looking for grub.

Batman made a special visit to help me pick out rutabagas and to make sure the chicken pest control team was doing a good job. There is nothing funnier than hearing your son shout out from the other side of the yard every time he digs up a worm "Dad, I got a squishy worm!", which was about every 45 seconds and every time without hesitation I said, "Awesome son, keep digging!" This went on for about 15 minutes which is a long time in 4 year old minutes, a lot of worms, and concluded to making 5 chickens grateful and happy.. Is it bad that a part of me felt bad for the worms because they were earthworms and they are pretty much free miniature farmers that tend the earth which = THE BOMB.COM
Time was spent on trimming the perennial herbs so that they would grow back strong next spring and they were simply covered with a leaf mulch. I will be using leaf mulch to feed all the plants all throughout the garden and I fully intend on filling the leaf compost area back up with this Fall's leaves. I've read that leaf compost is pretty amazing when it comes to feeding your plants. The amount of decomposition that occurs is evident by looking at the before and after picture below.

 One of the newest tricks I've borrowed from other social media websites was using tarps for collecting loot from potted vegetables and herbs. It came in handy for my first home grown ginger.
Pour your excess dirt back in the pot and wash or brush off the dirt from your crop. These bunches of ginger look promising.
One of the ginger plants that grew much larger was cut back up and placed back into the original pot plus two other pots for next growing season. They are slow to grow, but are easy-peezy. You know it is ready to pull up when the leaves start to die back, as you can see the yellowing of the leaves in the pictures, hence the huge ginger root below and a happy gardener plotting what to do with his loot.
Candied Ginger Recipe

1) Spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray and set it in a pan lined with parchment.

2) Peel 1 lb of fresh ginger root which takes a hot minute.

3) Slice the ginger root into 1/8 inch thick slices using a mandoline slicer. You can use a knife, it just takes a while.
4) Place sliced ginger into a 4-quart saucepan with 5 cups of water over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 minutes or until the ginger is tender.
5) Transfer the ginger to a colander to drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Weigh the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar. 
6) Return the ginger and 1/4 cup water to the pan and add the sugar. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
7) Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes. 
8) Transfer the ginger immediately to the cooling rack and spread to separate the individual pieces. 
9) Once they are cooled, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Save the sugar that drops beneath the cooling rack and use to top cookies, ice cream, or sweeten coffee.
Chickens are such a joy!

Happy Fall Harvests!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Happy Garden is a Happy Hen

Figs coming in strong

The weather has finally gave North Georgia a Fall tease. As the summer is coming to a close, there are new things to grow and harvests are around the bend. After dropping my son off at preschool, it was my goal to throw some boots on and get my hands dirty. I had a plan and it all worked out perfectly as I got into every hand full of dirt I could! Literally...
I started off with setting a trap for the new chipmunk or chipmunk family for all I know and I hope to have one by tomorrow. Next, I took a large cutting from my fig tree and planted it after checking on my one surviving cutting that will hopefully grow much larger over the next few years. 
Then, it was off to the compost piles where I was delighted to find that the pine shavings and chicken poop I have finally decomposed after a year of waiting. It was earthy, crumbly, and felt great in my hands which is everything you hope for in a compost. My chickens have learned at least one thing about their owner. If I am holding a shovel, they eat like queens. If queens ate grubs that is. Not just a few grubs, but close to 100 of these little morsels of protein. The grubs that I run into are root grubs and of course feed on "roots" which aren't great candidates for the garden, so I take every hand full of dirt and check it for these free protein gummies for the girls. The first compost pile must of had roughly 60 of these bad boys and my chickens were eternally grateful. You have to take a moment and appreciate that I can throw 15 grubs in the chicken run and they are devoured in less than 5 seconds with nothing to spare. Pretty impressive! I almost feel bad for the grubs...not really.

So, a little backstory. Roughly a year ago, I happened upon some worms in the ground when digging up some plants and decided to put them in my compost pile that was relatively new at the time. I thought...well maybe they will like it there and make some babies, and with any luck I'll have top notch worm castings. Well these little worms get an A for hard work! With every shovel of dirt, worms would fall out and be squirming wildly on the ground below. So I threw some of the worms back in the dirt, fed them some mulched leaves, and merrily took my beautiful worm castings and priceless compost to the garden. One worm was longer than my hand from fingertip to wrist, which is amazing!
It is important to feed your garden routinely as plants take so many nutrients from the ground. Of course, use whatever resources are convenient to you given what is available. I layered both of my main garden beds with an inch or so of compost and made 2 inch deep rows for planting seeds. I chose to plant two different varieties of rutabagas and some smooth German kale. The smooth German kale seeds were from seeds I harvested which I highly recommend if you looking to be self sufficient and practice seed saving.

The gourds have grown rapidly and I'm thinking there are a total of 6 to 7 of these beauties. Can't wait for them to dry out so I can get their seeds and the natural sponges inside. 

Here is a photo tour of other things going on in the garden. Check it out! Good luck out there with your garden and happy growing!
Fall plants for me this year. The little bag
has my own smooth German kale seeds that
I saved.Bought from Seed Savers this past year
and my plants did really well. I recommend them!
Ginger has grown superbly!

I have about double the amount of the wood shown here and
I'm ready for winter!! Romantic fires are my favorite!

Beautiful Banana Spider??
My son asked me to take him outside to
see the spider 3 days in a row after I showed
it to him. 

Fig tree is bearing lots of fruit and expanding

These two beauties were volunteers and
they made my morning.

I started these lemon trees this spring and
one is already a foot tall from the base
 of the seedling.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Garden Envy

Yall, I don't know what to say, the garden is so beautiful and ripe. Mother nature has been watering like a rock star and the garden gives me eye-gasms. The garden is overdue for weeding, but the weeds don't grow as well when the plants create a canopy shading the ground below. I have installed two rain barrels and am pleasantly surprised as one of the 60 gallon barrels filled up after just two days of rain! I use the rain water to feed my potted plants and I have yet to run out of water. If you have ever thought about using rain barrels, just do it because you won't regret it. I made mine for roughly 35 dollars a piece including the spicket, fitting, and rain barrel from craigslist. Pests are at a minimum outside of a few slugs and I'm harvesting zucchini, squash, ground cherries, beets, Swiss chard, Kale, bell peppers, lettuce, and herbs every few days. Hope you enjoy the photos!
Almost ready to be eaten!
Every morning before work I step out to feed the chickens
and appreciate the gift of nature.
Rain Barrel - Cost $35 - free water!
Squash Blossom which the honeybees love every year.
Golden Zucchini
Sadly, I often want to leave them as they are and not eat them.
Look at how many of them there are! Yum!
Smooth German Kale Flowering
Personal Favorite - Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
Ground Cheeries
Most of the plants have been staked for added support in the
case of high winds.
So far, there have been very few pests! A few slugs...
The corn towers at close to 11ft
Eggplant flower
Put tomato cages around the corn to
keep them upright 
Leaks are doing well
Lavender showing its beautiful flowers
I love how they track the sun. Simply stunning and amazing.
Happy Herb Garden
Loot - Buttercrunch Lettuce
Gargantuan Beets!