Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Seed Hauls - Baker Creek & Victory Seed

I have begun to order my seeds for my 2013 garden.  There is so much going on with the holidays and everything that I just haven't kept up with my blogs.

I'll backtrack here...some exciting changes have been made here at the "farm".  We now have chickens!  I'll be posting more on that soon....

Until then enjoy the seed videos!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Putting the garden to bed....

I'm in process of pulling the last of my plants, with the exception of the broccoli, cauliflower and brussels, and getting ready to turn the soil under.  I've been thinking of planting a cover crop, but I'm not sure which one.  They all seem to have their place and function.

After consulting several books I have decided to plant a mix of buckwheat and winter rye.

I've never done a cover crop, and I think, from what I've read, I'll have to maybe mow it down before it seeds and hopefully before frost it may grow up again in time for it to die off naturally.  I have never done this before so you will be learning along with me! 

I'm also going to start tilling the plot and planting a cover on the new garden.  It's going to be a 60' x 60' plot.  I have learned so many things about the garden this year and hope to learn from these experiences, even though I'm moving the garden.  The old garden I'm going to leave in place but plant just corn and potatoes and maybe a few melons amongst the corn.  This will be a good place to experiment with interplanting.  I also read that pole beans are great to plant with corn as they will use the corn to climb.  We shall see!

I'll be sharing my lessons learned in an upcoming post and share what I plan for next year. 

Until then...happy gardening!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Making chicken stock...

I want to start off by saying I'm sorry for not taking pictures.  I don't know why I always think of that AFTER the fact!

But I want to share my process with you anyway. 

Making stock is not hard, don't be afraid to make your own.  It's more delicious than what you can get in any store and you decide what goes in it.  Mostly things you can spell and pronounce!  Have you ever read the label on one of those commercially made stocks?  Yikes!

I started of with some chicken bones from the chicken I boned out and froze.  Don't throw those bones away after you remove meat.  If you don't use them now, throw them in a freezer baggie and wait until you have enough.  Just make sure you use them before they freezer burn.

I added in several packages of the chicken still on the bone in my pots.  I added chunked carrots, celery, onion, garlic, a few bay leaves, fresh thyme, fresh parsley, salt, pepper, ground sage, and poultry seasoning.  Exact measurements?  Well I don't do exact.  I was taught at the "little of this little of that" cooking school.  I don't really measure anything unless I'm baking.  Then I think it needs to be more precise!

For the veggies, I don't peel the carrots, just cut whole carrots into three pieces or so and the same with the celery, big chunks.  You are only after the flavor here and bigger chunks are easier to get out!  I cut the onion into halves or quarters and a head of garlic in half.  The rest gets tossed into the pool with the rest of the ingredients.

I add cold water then bring the whole thing to a boil.  Let it boil for 2-3 minutes and then reduce to a simmer.  How long you want to simmer is up to you.  I usually let mine go for 2-3 hours.

After simmering, I remove it from the heat and fish out all the big pieces of vegetables and the chicken bones or meat on bones.  Go ahead a remove the meat from the bones after it cools.  The carrots and celery I save for my dogs.  It's a nice treat for them and good for them too.  Just don't give them the onions!

Skimming the stock is easy too and the way I do it seems to pull a lot of the fat out as well.  I start with a fine strainer and then line it with a cotton dish towel.  It gets more of the particles this way.  This last batch I did, I didn't skim any fat off the top before I strained it and the final product had almost no fat accumulation at the top.

Take a look at this wonderful stock!

Not anywhere in any store will you find stock so rich and deep amber in color.  My yield after canning 14 quarts of chicken soup was 6 quarts and 1 pint.  Not too shabby!

Happy canning!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chicken soup anyone?

Last week my store ran a sale on split chicken breast.  $0.99 per pound.  I called and ordered 40 pounds! 

At first I was thinking..."SCORE" for the price.  Then I picked it up and jammed all the packages into my fridge to await processing.  Then I thought OMG!  What was I thinking getting this much chicken?

I ended up roasting 2 packs of chicken, removed from bones and saved bones for later stock making.  I did make some really awesome chicken salad with it.  Wow, even my 12 year old who won't touch anything with mayo in it ate it up.  Score one for mom!

On Sunday I finally bit the bullet and got busy making my chicken "stuff".  I boned 6 packs of chicken breasts.  Got 9 packs of chicken vacuum sealed, 2 breasts in each pack.  I separated the tenders and they will get done in 1 pound packs.  Still to be done.....

The rest went into the stock pots, yes pot(s), along with some veg and herbs from the garden and 12 hours later I ended up with 14 pints of chicken soup or in our house it could, well most likely will be, chicken and dumplings.  Along with 6 quarts of stock and 1 pint of stock.

Here's a jar of the chicken soup/starter.

This quart jar contains 1/2 cup each of carrot, celery and onion and 1 extra full cup of chicken.  The rest is filled with the stock. 
It took a long time but I'm sure it will be worth it.  You can see the stock is a deep amber color, full of flavor!  Not like that watery looking stuff you get from the soup cans at the store. 
Canning isn't hard, just time consuming.  But what better way to know what your family is eating.  I put the stuff in the jar myself, so I know what they are eating!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Garden update 2012 and plans for next year...Return to Eden gardening

I know it's been a while since posting.  Our schedule has been pretty hectic with baseball and now football, along with a garden explosion. 

I have to say on the garden front, it has been a wonderful year.  Our plants did exceptionally well and bugs have been at a minimum.  I'm sure I should be knocking wood about now.  The squash, cucumbers and potatoes are all done and harvested.  Potatoes were just dug up this week.  While I haven't planted potatoes in almost 7 years, I thought I had done better with yeild in the past.  It's hard to say.  I do know that our ground here is terribly rocky and I tried something new this year with the potatoes.  After planting, I used straw to "mulch" the potatoes instead of hilling them with dirt, or in my case rock!    The potatoes are really nicely round and not like they grew amongst rocks.  Just wish I had more...  I planted 2 varieties, red new potaotes and Yukon golds.  The yukon never worked out, only a few plants came up, while the red went wild.   Next year I think I'll do the straw mulch again, just getting it on the plants earlier.

Next year I plan on doing a modified Return to Eden garden.  I know they say DON'T TILL but I'm going to till anyway.  I think the previous owner had farmed the back field and grew potatoes.  I found a tag in our garage from a 50# bag of potatoes, so that lead me to believe that he may have planted them.  And the field has a definate "roll" to it.  And my neighbor told me a few days ago that he plowed his field before planting his clover crop that there were hardly any rocks.  Not like our other garden areas.  So, I want to see if there are less rocks too and I need to flatten out the plot.

I have my broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels in now and that will be the last crop this year.  I'm already planning next years garden and marked off the new 60 x 60 garden.  Maybe this time I'll have enough room!

Friday, June 22, 2012

We are starting to pick veggies!

Plants are doing great.  Despite the god awful hot weather we are having.  Wednesday was around 93 degrees and today around 95.  It's just hot, hot, hot.  I did my rounds in the garden about 7 this morning and I was sweating.  Soaked!  And all I did was walk around!  

Brandywine Tomatoes.  I've been trying to keep up with pinching off the suckers.  Miss a few here and there but the plants are getting tall and very strong.  Plums are doing well and so is the Cherry.  We have a mystery tomato plant that just showed up to join the party.  Not sure of the variety but it has flowers and should set fruit soon.  It will reveal itself shortly!

First planting of sweet corn.  I'm crossing my fingers this year.  Last year we had a terrible time getting this to grow.  It rained endlessly and most of it didn't come up.  The second planting did, sort of, but the ears never developed any significant corn.  Hoping this year is different.  On the right you can just see our 2nd planting of corn.  It was planted 4 weeks after the first went in.  At the far end we have and experimental interplanting of Canteloupe.  So far so good.  

This is the canteloupe that is planted in another bed.  It is occupying what will be blueberries next year.  These guys were just little plants about 6 weeks ago.  We put some black plastic down to control the weeds and the 2 days following that plastic installation the plants almost tripled in size.  They must love that plastic and they are trying to take over the entire garden!  These have been fenced in too due to critters.  One year the neighbor lost all of her fruit over night.  Now they can't get to it!  hehe...

Pepper plants are loving this hot weather.  Starting to set fruit.  Some of these are red and yellow but I'm no sure who is who.  Time will tell!

Morning haul of squash.  There is plenty more coming.

This is an crazy photo but it is of the strawberry plants.  I tried to pick on with lots of runners.  They are really setting out the runners and we have to keep them in line before they are all over the garden!  The rows are covered in plastic as well and it's doing wonders for keep weeds away.

So that's what we have going on, it's not the whole garden but things are doing great, for once!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pictures June 13

I'm a bit behind here as usual.  Things are really hopping in the garden. 

These pictures are from June 13.  It is now June 21 and you would be amazed how this plants are growing.  The garden is the best it has ever been.  It's been A LOT of work weeding and general maintenance but we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Cherry Tomatoes

Straight 8 Cucumbers

Yellow Squash.  Lost a few with blossom end rot but still going strong.

Zucchini and Squash Plants

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Status Update

With everything almost planted, with the exception of lettuce and a few quick growing seeds, things are looking ok.

Beans, however, are being quite troublesome.  I have yellow and green bush beans planted.  Each 20 feet long and a foot wide.  I'm trying to do some wide rows this year.  Only the green have sprouted, and only in a 5' portion of the row.  The rest are one here, one there.  The yellow on the other hand, I think only 3 plants emerged in the same 20' wide row planting arrangement.  I'm not sure what is happening to these plants.  We once again, like last year, have replanted the beans.  Hopefully this time they will come up.

Peas are doing really well.  In fact I have to pick them tomorrow morning.  They all of a sudden just took off and are growing taller! 

First planting row of corn is up and looks awesome.  Last year it fought us as well.  2nd row just went in today.  This is a good spacing for us.  2 rows of 60' of corn staggered by 4 weeks.  Plenty of time to pick, eat, and freeze the harvest.

Tomatoes are growing like crazy.  Picking off the suckers and it's getting time to put string on the support.  Trying a new method this year, 4 stakes and string.  We'll see how this goes.  It's trial and error.

Peppers are good and strong.  Planted more bananna and some Jalepeno.  They are looking a little small but I did give them some fertilizer and the color has improved a bit. 

It has been ungodly hot these past few days.  Thunderstorms are around but seem to always miss us.  We could use some rain.  I'm filling 1 gallon jugs with water to transport to the garden.  No hose out there yet but we'll made due.

I have some pictures to post but have to transfer them from my phone.  Check back in a day or two.

Oh, and we have a yellow summer squash with a flower!  It's so exciting to see the fruits of our labor!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The main garden

The main garden has been tilled and fertilized with a 10-10-10 fertilizer.  I'm still learning what all those numbers mean but it's a general fertilizer so it went down!

I do have plant food for during the season fertilization.  I'll probably put that down in a few weeks.  Let the plants get established first.

One thing I have found that is a huge help in the garden is Preen.  I put it in with my Pansies and peas and onions and have had almost no weeds come back.  The main garden, unfortunately, has some deep root weeds.  The worst is the thistle.  They have a huge tap root and if you don't get the whole thing, just like a dandilion, it will be back.  Preen won't help with them but every few days I get out there with a new favorite tool of mine and dig them out.  One day, I'm hoping, they will give up and not come back! 

So far as of this post the following have been successfully planted...

  • Potatoes - Red and Yukon Gold
  • Tomatoes - Brandywine (heirloom), Plum and Grape
  • Bush Beans - Green and Wax Yellow.  These are in a wide row this year.  Experimental!
  • Detroit Golden Beets - these looked cool, when cooked they turn yellow.  So we are trying them!
  • Corn - 1 row so far.  Another going in shortly to stagger the season. 
  • Peppers - Bell, green/red, yellow and orange and a banana.  I'm going to get more and also try interplanting with the tomatoes.  Another experiment.
  • Eggplant - just 2 traditional
  • Zucchini and Yellow Squash
  • Watermelon
  • Cantelope (some interplanted with the corn)
Whew!  Can you tell we've been busy?

Friday, May 18, 2012

My helper, strawberries, asparagus and a new toy...

So, I know that this gardening thing is going to be a benefit to our family, financially as well as just plain old better for us food.  You can't get much better than raising your own veggies (oh and soon to be chickens!) and knowing exactly how they were grown and what if anything was used on them.  Our cucumbers will not have any of that wax stuff on them and the beans taste much sweeter than any store bought or canned or frozed version.

The first thing we did this year is invest in a new tiller.  We have a compact tractor and plenty of land so to make my life easier and to get a better till on the land we took the plunge.  It's not going to take too long to recoup that investment.  I think it's already paid for itself this year!

I do have a smaller tiller, a Troy Bilt Horse, but it's just nice to have a bigger rotary tiller to do the big jobs.  At the end of the season I can easily turn in the garden and get it ready for the cover crop, our green maneur.

The first planting was asparagus and strawberries.  Ok, strawberries are a no brainer to plant.  Dig a hold and stick the plant in.  Space them 12 inches apart and rows ..... well I guessed here and did 3 feet apart.   In hindsight I probably should have done 4 feet apart.  I guess I'll know better next year if I did that right or not!

Asparagus, well that was an interesting planting.  As you know from my "farm" name, Rock Hill wasn't just a cute name.  I meant that!!!  Getting deep in the ground will never happen here really unless I use dynomite.  It's really that bad.  So I asked the lady I purchased from and she said, "oh you only need to plant a few inches deep".  Ok so that's what I did.  Then I read you should plant 12" deep.  OMG!!!  My plants are going to die.  So after a few shoots FINALLY started to show up.  I swore I killed them all since we got a few frosty nights in March and April, but more and more started to poke through.  Guess they just needed a little more warm days.  I did get some top soil and put it over them.  I figure they are about 4" or so below  the surface so I should be ok.  I have another reference book that said to plant them 3", 4" and 6" to stagger the growing and extend the season a bit.  I'm just about in the middle so I don't feel too bad now.

I know you can't really tell, but the asparagus are planted right in front of the garden shed and then the strawberries just below them.  This poor shed has seen it's days of travel!  Started out in State College PA and spent some time at a campground until it found it's way to Rock Hill Gardens.  It's in good hands now!

And here is my little helper.  He's watering a strawberry plant, or making mud, I'm not really sure here.  But he's wearing his favorite boots - on the wrong feet of course but he loves them!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Peas & Onions again...

Just sharing a picture of my peas and onion patch.    They are doing amazing!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Peas and Onions

Peas and onions have been in the ground since February 12, 2012.  I have them in an area that is easy for me to work without having to get out the big gardening tools.  Just hand tools.  This is my first year growing snap peas and I love them in Chinese food! 

At this date they are up and starting to produce the veggies and the few I have tried are so good!  There are tons of flowers so there will be tons of peas soon!

Here are a few photos for your enjoyment!

March 20 - Just starting to sprout

March 24 - Leaves.  My how they grow so fast!

May 6 - First flower!

May 10 - I see a pea!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why the name Rock Hill Gardens....

Rock Hill Gardens.  If I could make money growing rocks I'd be rich beyond compare!  We till and till and the garden looks fantastic.  Then it rains.....and then they show up.  The rocks!  They weren't there before and just appear.  Sigh.... 

I have pulled bucket loads out of the garden and have to just realize that I'm not going to win.  No matter what I do there will always be rocks.  They don't hurt the plants or growing, although I planted potatoes this year and I expect some interesting shapes due to rock, but they beat up the tiller!

I'm hoping that the compost and other natural compost I put in will help diminish the rock situation...hopeful but maybe not practial.  We shall see.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Welcome to my blog about my garden(s).  It's now May 14th, 2012 but I started my garden this year in February.  It's been warm this winter and the ground has been ready to work early this year. 

For the next few weeks I'm going to be starting to play catch-up on this blog and get you up to speed on what has been going on.  Most of the vegetable garden is planted and I have started a new section of garden for perennial plants.

My neighbor and I have each had gardens in the past years.  Each year we fought the same battle...critters.  Deer and groundhogs have been the worst violators, but I have been seeing a few bunnies and a rather large fox around recently.  About halfway through the seasons we had given up the fight and the garden went to them, reaping us little reward.

So two years ago we combined our efforts to one garden.  We figure that with the two of us we can fight a better battle against the garden violators! 

Last year worked out great except our battle was with Mother nature.  She gave us so much rain that our seed rotted in the ground we were forced to replant.  Unfortunately she won and our crops of beans and corn never really survived.

This year I WILL NOT FAIL!!!  I got out my garden books, made a plan, measured, plotted on graph paper and drove everyone crazy with my planning!  So far so good.  Plants are in, seeds are in and fence is going up.  I feel good about the plan!  Of course I tweeked it several times, but that's to be expected.

So stay tuned.  I've planted some standard garden faire and then some experimental plants.  Can't hurt to try, they may turn out to be something we like!

Stay Tuned.....