Canning Apple Sauce: Step-by-step instructions to can apple sauce, Applesauce Pancakes

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As I mentioned the other day, I’ll be doing a series of posts on how-to freeze and can your garden fresh produce. I’ll provide you with step-by-step instructions on canning many things over the next couple months. This is a busy time for me and I thought it would be great fun to show you the process by which I feed my family. I hope you’ll learn something that will last a life time while encouraging you to step out and try new things.  I want to inspire those who are seeking knowledge in this area to see just how easy it can be. I want nothing more than to know you are learning a skill that will help you feed your family.  All I ask is that you teach someone else… especially your children or grand-children. Don’t let this art be lost over another generation.

Early apples have arrived and many other varities are soon on the way! I thought it’d be timely to show you how easy it is to make and can apple sauce so you can have this wonderful staple on hand all winter long.

Here are step-by-step instructions as well as the supplies you’ll need!

Supplies you’ll need to get started.
*Victorio Strainer **see note at end of blog for info on this machine
*Large dish pans/ tubs/ bowls/ kettles
*Clean Jar’s, lids and rings- not necessarily new
*Jar filler and lifter
*Towels, hot pads or/and cooling racks, several
*Ladle or small pot with handle
*Wet and dry dish rag
*Water bath canner or pressure canner- you can use a pressure canner to water bath, just don’t seal the lid

Step-by-step instructions:

1. Have all jars you’ll need ready to be filled along with lids and rings for the jars. Be sure to wash jars in hot, soapy water.  Be sure to check all jars for any fractures or cracks and chips off the rim. Discard if you find any. Be sure if you are re-using lids that there are no rust spots on the inside, the rubber seal is still attached to the metal and that it is not bent inward at all, if any of these symptoms appear, discard.

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2. Wash all the apples; sort any yucky ones and discard.

3. Quarter the apples; cut the stem and blossom end off along with any bad spots. Don’t worry about skins or seeds, the strainer deals with that.

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4. Put about 2 inches of water in the bottom of your kettle; fill kettle with quartered apples right to the top; cover with tight fitting lid; cook on medium heat until the apples are soft. Stir occasionally, watching that the apples do not stick and scorch.

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When apples are soft and have cooked down about a third, remove from heat. Time will depend on size and quantity of apples.

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While the apples are cooking, set up your Victoria Strainer at a table where you plan to work. I recommend a kitchen or dining room table with plenty of room.  This will be your work station.

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5. Have your Victorio Strainer set up along with jars, rings, lids, jar filler, ladle or small pot and cooling rack, towel and  dry and wet dish rags ready in your work station. Place hot pot of apples on cooling rack or hot pad.  Have a bowl on the floor under the handle for drippings, a pan to catch the sauce as it comes out and a bowl to catch the skins and seeds that come out the slop shoot.

Have jars ready and set up on a towel on the table. Do not leave them on your counter or table because the jars could crack.

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6. Carefully fill the hopper off the strainer and start pouncing down while cranking.

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7.Place the jar filler in your first jar and start filling; leave about an inch head space in each jar.

8 Once all the jars are filled, wipe each rim to be sure there is no sauce on it. If there is, the jar will not seal- new lid or not.  Once all the rims are cleaned, place lid on and secure with ring tightly.

9. Place in water bath canner or pressure canner and process quarts for 30 minutes and pints for 20.  Place on a cooling rack or towels on your counter for up to 24 hours to ensure the jars have sealed. Remove the rings and put your yummy jars on your beautiful canning shelves.

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10. If any of your jars did not seal, either store in fridge for up to a week or place in freezer. You can also try to change the lid and re-can. That’s one beautiful thing with sauces, you can’t over process!

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If you don’t have a Victorio Strainer but would like to look into getting one, here is the direct link to the company. I have had mine for over 12 years and I use it very hard. I suggest you ‘shop’ around, but at least you can look at the product and get a good idea.
http://www.victorioproducts.com/store-catalog

Apple sauce goes a long way and has many uses other than simply enjoying it as a yummy fruit dish with a meal.

Apple Sauce Pancakes

2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. salad oil
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup applesauce

In a bowl, beat eggs, then add remaining ingredients, except applesauce. Beat until smooth, then add applesauce.
Yields about 16 pancakes.

Happy Day,
Jean

Canning Beets: Step by step instructions on how to can your beets, recipes too!

Many things are flowing in from our garden’s right now and beets are one of them. I’ve been getting so many requests for tips and lessons on canning, so I thought I’d share a step-by-step photo demonstration on beets today.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting article’s like this one to help you along in your canning endeavors!

If you’d like to see lots more canning tips and photo’s along with great daily posts, stop on by For Dragonflies And Me Facebook page… you can “LIKE” it from right here or click this link and go right on over to it! https://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651

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So here we go!

Step 1: After you’ve harvested your beets, trim the greens off (SEE RECIPE below to use the greens), leaving about an inch of the stem end on. DO NOT cut into the beet. Do NOT peel the beets. Leave the root on; wash your beets.

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Step 2: Put your cleaned beets into a large kettle, leaving about 3″ empty to allow for boiling. Cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil on high heat, then reduce heat to medium to maintain boil. Boil until the beets are soft enough that you can insert a knife all the way through.
HOW LONG TO BOIL: golf ball size beets, about 20-30 minutes; tennis ball size, about 40-50 minutes; baseball to softball size beets, about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.

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Step 3: Once your beets are soft, drain the water carefully. Place the beets in a sink of cold water and let cool to where you can handle them. You may have to drain and refill your cold water sink. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, cut the root and stem end off.

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Step 4: You will then ‘slip’ the skins off the beets. They will literally just slide off with no effort. Run under cold water if they get hot to handle again.

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Step 5: Once all your beets are peeled, chunk them. About 1 1/2 inches by 1 1/2 or so. Do not dice.

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Step 6: Fill your washed jars with the chunked beets about 1 1/2 inches from rim- to the shoulder of the jar. Put 1 tsp. salt for quarts and 1/2 tsp. for pints. Fill jars with water, leaving about an 1″ empty. Put your lids and rings on.

Step 7: Process in a pressure canner: Quarts for 40 minutes and pints for 30 minutes.

Step 8: Leave on counter for up to 24 hours to ensure a good seal.

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Now how about a couple yummy recipes to use your beets in along with those leaves? Enjoy friends

Poached Beets

3/4 c apple juice
1/2 c water
1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 1/2 to 3 cups canned beets
Salt & pepper
Honey
1 Tbsp. snipped fresh parsley

1. In a large saucepan combine 1/2 c of the apple juice, the water, and  brown sugar.  Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Add beets.   Return to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, about 45 minutes or  until beets are tender & can be pierced with a fork, stirring  occasionally.  Drain. 2. Transfer beets to serving bowl.  Sprinkle remaining juice over  beets.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  If desired, drizzle  with honey.

Swiss Chard, Spinach or Beet Greens. Combine all if you want to!

15-20 leaves
1/4 c Olive Oil
2 or 3 eggs
1/2 c shredded cheese– your choice
Salt to taste

1. Wash leaves, cut out white or colored midrib. 2. Tear leaves into bite size pieces 3. Stir fry leaves in hot oil till evenly coated and wilted– sprinkle w/ salt. 4. Place leaves in baking dish– pour beaten eggs to cover– sprinkle cheese over top. 5. Bake @ 350 until eggs are set and cheese melted- Appox. 20-30 mins.

Happy Day,
Jean

Freezing Vegetables: A simple guide to freezing your gardens bounty

It’s August and the garden is overflowing with her beautiful gifts of that earthy goodness… fruits and veggies are abounding into our outstretched hands as if to say, “Thank-you!” for the tender care we provided from seedtime through the harvest.

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The watering and weeding… mulching and now tenderly picking it’s gift telling them in their plant language to keep on going, just a little bit longer. Until we finally say, “All done!” and with broken heart of yet another completed life cycle we pull out that tired and faithful friend. But it’s not done there… now it’ll be composted and then in newness of life return into the soil into which it came next spring… once again aiding us into the new birth of yet another gardening season.

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I love to write about gardening… it’s a passion that my soul hungers and thirsts after.  But more importantly, I love to teach you, my reader friends about this passion. I long to stir up a desire in you. To create that longing. A burning desire to touch the soil. To dig. To toil. To reap.

What we sow we will reap… if, if, and only if we toiled for it. The reaping is at hand and the bounty is in. My can shelves and freezers are filling up and time is ticking. They’re lives are coming to the end…. and my dear little plants know it.

The nights have been strangely cold for what we would expect from our Michigan August. Sunday morning at 6:30am it was 49 degrees… that’s cold… too cold for tomatoes to ripen, even in the hoop house.

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But onward we go with what we have and so we must put-up all that garden goodness.  With it we can continue to linger in the garden through winters dead days, if only in a faded memory, as we prepare our meals and relish in that victory of self-sufficiency.

Canning, freezing, dehydrating, dry-curing and fermentation are a few of the methods to store the food that we have grown and raised.  I thought I’d touch base on the two that I have the most experience with, freezing and canning.

Today lets look at freezing fruits and veggies. Learning to put-up the produce that you have grown or have purchased is a key ingredient into self sufficiency and food freedom.  You know what you’re putting into that jar or baggie… you are in control, especially if you grew it. But even if you didn’t, get to know a farmer that you can trust and get organic produce that you can feel safe and good about feeding your family.

Here’s a Guide to Freezing Fruit.
I found this guide at Mother Earth News… and thought, “Why try to re-invent the wheel?” So here is their info with a link to more below.

“Depending on how you intend to use it, there are three ways to freeze fruit.”

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Dry Pack: A dry pack is good for small whole fruits such as berries. Simply pack clean, dried fruit into a container, seal, label and freeze. A tray pack is an alternative that can make fruit easier to remove from the container. Spread a single layer of fruit on shallow trays without letting pieces touch, and freeze. When frozen, package and return to the freezer—fruit pieces remain loose and can be poured from the container easily.

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Sugar Pack: Many fruits freeze well packed with sugar. To prevent darkening, first combine lemon juice or ascorbic acid in water (about 1/2 teaspoon per 3 tablespoons) and sprinkle over fruit. Pour sugar over fruit and mix gently. Let stand until juice is drawn out and sugar dissolved, about 15 minutes. Package, label, seal and freeze. Sugar packs are effective for sliced apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, raspberries and strawberries.

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Syrup Pack: Nearly all fruits can be preserved in syrup. To make syrup, dissolve sugar in lukewarm water (a medium-heavy syrup is 1-3⁄4 cups sugar to 4 cups water), mixing until solution is clear. Chill syrup before using. Use just enough cold syrup to cover fruit in the container (about 1⁄2 to 2⁄3 cup syrup per pint). To keep fruit under syrup, place crumpled parchment paper or other water-resistant wrapping material on top, and press fruit down into syrup before sealing the container

Read more: http://www.motherearthliving.com/food-and-recipes/food-preservation/guide-to-freezing-food-zmoz13jazmel.aspx#ixzz2buFiyDsI

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Here’s a simple guide to freezing vegetables.
Vegetables are a little different because they typically need to be blanched or steamed, with a few exceptions. I only steam my veggies because as soon as the produce is submerged into the water (blanching), the nutritional benefits decrease significantly. Steaming doesn’t take as long either because you’re not dumping your water every time with the vegetable.

You’ll need to decide how large you want the packages. I do most everything in 1 quart (4 cups). This allows each of my family members to half a 1/2 cup serving.

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Each vegetable has a different steaming time due to it’s size, density and thickness. Here’s a guide that I found that will give you almost every ‘common’ and a few not so common steaming times for over 40 vegetables. This was a keeper for me.
http://www.healwithfood.org/chart/vegetable-steaming-times.php

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Here’s what I do with the veggies that don’t need any processing.:

*Zucchini and yellow summer squash- I freeze 2 cups of shredded summer squash in freezer bags because most recipes call for that amount.

*Onions are easy to freeze and are so handy to have already chopped, diced or sliced.  I typically use ‘snack’ sized baggies and place 1cup of onion into it. Then I place as many of the baggies as will fit into a gallon size freezer storage bag. Every time I need chopped onion for a recipe all I need to do is grab a baggie and toss the onion in. Great for soups, chilies and anything that calls for sauted onions.

*Peppers- hot or sweet again are great to have in the freezer. I chop and slice these- I like the chopped ones for chilies, omelettes and homemade pizza, while I prefer the slices for fajita’s and stir fries.  I typically lay the slices onto cookie sheets and place in the freezer. Once nearly frozen I use a turner to pop them up and then keep them in one gallon ice cream buckets. I like to put the chopped pepper into snack size baggies like the onions and store them the same way.

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Here is my Pesto recipe that I freeze! Enjoy friends.

Pesto

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2 cups Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
2-4 whole, de-skinned garlic cloves- end trimmed
Put all these ingredients into a blender and blend until completely mixed.

Add 1/2 cup, packed tightly fresh parsley leaves; blend until thoroughly  blended.

Add 1 cup, packed tightly fresh basil leaves; blend until thoroughly blended.

Put into 1/2 cup pint jelly jars or plastic containers. Freeze for up to 1 year.

Enjoy over pasta with some yummy homemade dinner buns!

I hope this not only taught you some useful, but also got you excited about getting your hands and kitchen dirty. I always say, “I’d rather spend a day or two of hard work putting up food so my family can eat good for the whole year!”

Happy Day,
Jean

Grow veggies in the shade and some yummy recipes!

My 2014 raised bed garden plan

My 2014 raised bed garden plan

Gardening is therapy for me. Being able to run my fingers through freshly mellowed soil… holding some tiny seeds in the palm of my hand and then dropping them in a carefully made furrow… gently covering and patting the soil… watering to help it come alive… Gardening is pure passion…

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I’m very blessed to have ample area’s of sunny spots to garden in, although I realize that this is not every gardener or gardener-wanna-be’s situation. Well don’t despair~ if you have at least two hours of sunshine a day, YOU can garden too!

I have some shady area’s that I need to plan for in one of my raised bed gardens. The photo above is my plot plan for next year’s plantings in this garden (photo below). The bottom two rows of beds ( in drawing)  get a substantial amount of shade from the large tree beside it. As you can see in my plot plan I have several of the things listed below planted in those beds, with the exception’s of squash and basil.

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Many people think this is an impossibility, but not so! Gardening in the shade is possible. There’s actually several wonderful garden veggies and herbs that will tolerate only two to five hours of direct sunlight, while producing a fair amount of produce for you.

You can plant many of these crops right now for a fall and winter harvest.  Check your zone and the maturity dates before you plant.

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~Here are some culinary herbs that will produce well with only two to five hours of sunshine per day:
*Parsley
*Oregano
*Mints
*Sweet Marjoram
*Chives
*Cilantro

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~Here are some Veggies that will tolerate some shade with about four to five hours of sunshine per day:
*Greens you can plant include lettuces, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, arugula, Asian greens, mustard greens and mesclun mixes.
*Peas, both shell and snow
*Beets
*Carrots
*Radishes
*Potatoes
*Turnips
*Beans
*Rhubarb
*Scallions (Green Onions)

You will have great success with many of these crops if you harvest them as ‘baby’- greens, carrots and potatoes.   These crops will provide a fair supply, just on a smaller size scale.

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Gardening in the shade does require a bit more patience. Things definitely take a bit longer to mature, but they will… and the rewards will be worth the wait.

Here are some recipes to use some of your garden goodies!

Sensational Cilantro Dip

4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro finely chopped or 2 Tbsp. dried
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice, about 4-6 limes
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 Tbsp. green chilies, chopped finely
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Combine all ingredients and serve with tortilla chips or use as a topping for taco’s or rice.

Yummy Feta Chive Muffins

2 to 2 1/2 cups organic white flour
3 tsp. aluminum free baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbles without the juice
1/4 cup fresh chives, snipped or 2 Tbsp. dried.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Combine all dry ingredients; In a separate bowl, mix eggs, mild and oil; stir gently into dry ingredients.
fold in feta chees and chives.
fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Serve warm!

Happy day!
Jean

Fall Planting Guide: Enjoy fresh greens and more until the snow flies!

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My garden is so forgiving… it never gets angry or shouts at me, even when I miss a weed or two. If I don’t get it watered, well her roots will go down a little deeper and rather then wither up and die, she’ll work harder to become stronger for me.

Each spring she rises up with rejuvenation and power… through the cold, hard surface life bursts forth. And if that wasn’t enough, she creates new off spring so I can I have more of her beauty. Just when I didn’t think I can take another miserable day of nothingness, she suddenly appears. As if to say, “Here I am dear. I’m back for you tend” …and most lovingly of all, she’ll never leave me.

The garden’s are screaming, “Harvest us! Harvest us! We’re cold out here!”
“It’s just the beginning of August my dears… we’ve got more time…” I whisper to no one in the garden, yet to all things green… but time is ticking.

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Now is the time I start my fall planting so my family has fresh greens and more, right through until the snow flies… I’ve even drawn up next summers raised bed gardens. I’m a planner 😉

Here is what you can be planting now in your gardens! Please remember that I live in Zone 5 and this guide is for folks gardening in similar climates.

*Snow Peas~ Dwarf White Sugar- 50 day edible pod. This plant will produce with several frost, they’ll actually make her sweeter!

 

 

*Broccoli~ can be sown now as well. I recommend the hybrid Marathon. A 50 day variety that will do well with several frosts.

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*Cold hardy lettuces are a wonderful addition to the fall garden. Here are some of my favorite tried and true Heirlooms.~Red Sails- 40 day loose leaf with maroon tinged leaves

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~Ruby Red- 40 day loose leaf with beautiful glossy bright-green frilly leaves with heavy intense red shading. One of my favorites!
~Speckles- 45 day a dense bibb like head with apple green leaves flecked with red brown polka dots- Amish Heirloom
~Tango- 40 day loose leaf resembles endive but a darker green. Plant forms tight erect rosettes and deeply cut leaves. Very nice lettuce.
~Merriveille De’Four Seasons- 45 day French bibb type with reddish leaves producing a pale blond green tight head with excellent flavor. This is by far one of my favorite varieties!

*Kale is another wonderful cold hardy crop with lots of great nutritional value along with a wonderful nutty flavor!  It will tolerate several frosts.

Red Russian Kale in our hoophouse

Red Russian Kale in our hoophouse

~Red Russian 25 day for baby- 45-50 to maturity. This is the variety I use for it’s short day length to maturity and it’s nice thick, purple leaves. It’s wonderful fresh snipped into a salad or steamed with a splash of plum vinegar on it.

*Spinach is a cold weather loving green that is delicious tossed into a salad mix, all on its on as a salad or steamed. I love to toss into a stir fry, omelets and quiches.
~Rushmoor is a 40 day quick grow.
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~Bloomsdale- 45 days is my old stand by. Nice small leaves and will continue to produce after many frosts.

*Swiss Chard is a wonderful addition to your winter greens mix. I typically grow Fordhook and Rainbow.
~Ruby Red and Rhubarb Red-30 days for baby chard are both beautiful red stemmed varieties with tender leaves
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~Fordhook – 30 days for baby leaves. This is a white stemmed variety that is the standard.

*Radishes are a great choice for your fall garden with their fast production and love of cool weather. Here are a few of the quickest to maturity.
~Champion is the fastest at only 20 days. Bright red globe with a true radish flavor
~Cherry Belle- 21 day is the old time favorite!
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~French Breakfast at 24 days is one of my personal favorites. With it’s oblong half white and half ping… it is just pretty on a salad.
~Pink Beauty at 27 days is a nice, firm quarter sized radish with a milder flavor. This is much nicer for folks who don’t the spiciness of a standard radish.
~Purple Plum at 28 days is very similar in size and flavor as Pink Beauty.

A couple tips to keep the harvest going longer:
*If you have access to straw bales, make a straw bale hot bed. Follow this link for a great how-to. http://www.ehow.com/how_12166098_build-bale-bed.html

*When there is a predicted frost, cover your tender plants with bed sheets, being sure to secure the edges with rocks or another heavy object so it doesn’t blow away if it becomes windy. Do not use plastic to cover your plants, because this will actually ‘burn’ the plant causing black ‘burn’ spots where it touched.

*If you experience an unexpected frost, you can sprinkle the damaged plants lightly with a sprinkler or hose as long as the sun has not touched the plants. As soon as the suns direct light touches the plants it will be too late under most circumstances. Some plants will come out of it.

If you’re interested in more info on growing crops through cold months, a great resource is “Winter Harvest Handbook,” by Elliot Coleman. This is my go-to book for everything with regards to winter harvesting! It’s a must have for every gardener!

Elliot Coleman's Winter Harvest Handbook is a regular go-to for me!

Elliot Coleman’s Winter Harvest Handbook is a regular go-to for me!

For more information on season extension growing, check out Michigan State Universities website on hoop houses. Follow this link http://www.hoophouse.msu.edu/

If you’ve never tried a fall garden, now’s the time… go for it and enjoy your gardens until the snow flies!

Be sure to check out my Facebook page for daily tips, photos, recipes and lots more fun. Follow this link or simply click on the icon on this page! Enjoy friends!
https://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651

Happy Day,
Jean

A Dreamy Garden, Rhubarb Harvest Tips, Rhubarb Pie Recipe

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Gardening stirs up a passion in me like no other. I often find myself thinking about a new project or a dream I have in the middle of doing something not garden related at all.

It seems that we gardener’s tend to do that…

I live in my mind’s garden dreaming of what I imagine will be.

Projects.

Projects seem to line my mind’s eye… and now Facebook page!

I imagine my entire property a sprawling garden…
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I imagine our beautiful old barn a sought after B&B… a retreat for the weary and heavy laden
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I imagine beautiful garden’s abounding…
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I imagine our back field filled with raised beds overflowing with veggies, herbs and flowers…
…that will feed our guests… and my family
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I imagine gardeners and gardener-wanna-be’s coming to take classes where I and other’s teach…
…teaching how to love your gardens… how to let them be for you… how to live in them…

I imagine my life with nothing to do but garden… and of course writing about and sharing it… with all of you.
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I imagine a place where people will want to come for farm to table dinner events…
I imagine harvesting the good food right from the gardens…preparing… and serving to those guests.
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Do you have a dreamy garden? What will it take to get there?

Well, some of my dreams are unreachable… at this point, but I have them… I cherish them and I won’t let them go, no matter what. My gardens are my souls sincerest desire…

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I’ve been able to create some of my dream gardens here at The Garden Gate Farm.
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Most recently we are working on a fish pond that will be connected to the rose garden. Don’t stop dreaming… no matter what you do, don’t stop.

So lets talk about springs first fruit here in Michigan, rhubarb. Yes, I said rhubarb. Yes you can still harvest and enjoy it.

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Here are a few do’s and don’ts for a full season of enjoying springs gardens first love!
*After you’re regular spring harvest, let your plants go to seed. This is when the plant shoots up the flower stalks.

*Once all the flower stalks have fully seeded out, you can harvest lightly again.
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*The most important thing to keep in mind when harvesting rhubarb is to always leave at least 1/3 of the stalks on the plant. NEVER fully strip the plants stalks- at anytime of year.

…and now… drum roll please…
Taylor’s Homemade Rhubarb Pie (of course all my ingredients are Organic 🙂

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

1 9″ unbaked pie crust
2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. white flour
1 cup sugar

1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until rhubarb is completely coated.
2. Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake for 45 minutes or until rhubarb is soft.

Serve with some homemade vanilla ice cream… enjoy friends!

I recently posted my first video on For Dragonflies And Me Facebook page. I gave a short demonstration on how to properly harvest rhubarb. Stop by and check it out! Hope to see you there!
Here’s the direct link to the video. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=184040798434306

Happy Day,
Jean

Designing A Potager

Here I am harvesting basil

Here I am harvesting basil

I’ve always tried to encourage others to plant something… anything. The thrill that you get from placing the seed or the little seedling into the pleasant earth… then waiting and watching for the first signs of life to come springing up out of the soft ground… then suddenly one morning there it is… a tiny sprout or the first blossom on your tomato plant. As you patiently await the first signs of fruit… then the ripening… then the harvest.

As you stand there holding your pleasant reward, staring at it and re-thinking the whole process and the time and tender care that it took to get this into your hand.

Garlic I just harvested

Garlic I just harvested

…when you eat that first thing you’ve grown… you’ll close your eyes and savor the taste, taking in the flavor and enjoying it like no other thing you’ve ever eaten.

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…a new respect you’ll have for the seed and the dirt… a new passion will be stirred up in you.

I love gardening…

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Some may think that starting a garden is a difficult task, but not so. A garden is like anything else. You’ll need to do a bit of research and planning; you’ll need to think over what you’d like to grow and the amount of space that you have available. I have five acres, and if I could, other than the house and outbuildings, it would all be gardens… just an expanse of gardens.

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Unfortunately my dreams are bigger than my reach…

Potager’s or more commonly known today as Kitchen Gardens were historically a mainstay for many families. My heart and soul are simply thrilled with the resurgence of home gardening and canning over the last decade. I love to hear about all the urban gardens, the thrill in the voices of my market friends as they tell me what they’re harvesting out of their little home gardens… especially when it’s from the plants they purchased from me earlier in the year.

Kitchen garden

Kitchen garden

The definition of this French word, potagère is simply vegetable garden and is properly pronounced: “por-ta-jj”, giving credit to the French who inspired this style of ornamental kitchen garden’s.

The potager is most similar to the traditional English cottage garden but is mainly based on vegetables and other edible plants and herbs, often incorporating some cut flower plants for the household.

Historically plants were chosen for their form, color and taste, with seasonality and continuity of fresh vegetables for the household in mind and were typically low maintenance and closely planted. This is very similar to raised bed gardening (another blog ;-))

herbs

herbs

What you include in your potager is all about you and your family. What you like and love, although I do suggest trying at least one new thing each year…I do!

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Veggies~ This is a matter of personal prefference. We like to include one zuchinni, four hills of potatoes, two pepper plants, several lettuces, spinach, kale and chard, two tomato plants- one Roma and one salad type, short rows of carrots, onions and garlic. I also like to include a cucumber that I typically grow up on a trellis.

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Herbs: We use lots of fresh herbs in our cooking. I wanted to incorporate an herb section in our potager. Herbs have a tendency to ‘get out of hand’, so all my herbs are in containers of sorts.
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Here is a photo of part of my herb section.
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My perennials include- sage, oregano, chives, sorrel, thyme, and biennial parsley. Calendula reseeds itself each year and I plant purple, lemon and Genovese type basil each year.

Flowers- try edibles: I grow nasturtiums and day lilies in my potager, along with marigolds along side the tomatoes. I also have several other perennials incorporated simply for beautification. The potager is beside the pergola which has several sweet autumn clematis and climbing roses along its side. I also have some hosta’s, a white bleeding heart, Astilbe and bee’s balm .
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I believe, as the gardeners of old that all three… vegetables, herbs and flowers all belong balanced together in a potager.

No matter what you decide to grow, make your garden’s a reflection of your soul… a passionate place that you can escape to from all the cares of life… a meditative place to commune with the almighty One…

Happy day,
Jean

Child Friendly Gardens

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I love including my children in the gardens with me…

Follow the link below to my new post at The Detroit News, The Good Life for fun ideas!

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/thegoodlife/2013/06/26/child-friendly-gardens-bring-your-children-into-the-garden-to-make-lasting-memories/

Happy Day,
Jean

More Garden Junque: Wonderful Windows

I love this time of year. As each day grows warmer and brighter with the suns rays shining down upon me, I feel those butterflies well up in my stomach. I’m enjoying the time that I can spend outside cleaning my flower beds, dividing my plants and mulching my gardens. March and April were quite difficult to take for us gardeners, at least for us in the Thumb of Michigan. I really can’t complain though… after all, I have my greenhouse where it’s summer everyday.

Well, lets move on with more garden junque- that is sure to cure the faint of heart! I’ve seen lots of great ideas on windows lately and have been able to get lots of great photos. You can see lots of them on For Dragonflies And Me Facebook page at
https://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651 . Please take a trip over there and LIKE & SHARE my page with all your gardening friends.

Here are some nifty ideas on how to re-purpose old windows:

Here I have an old paned window on the side of my potting shed.

Here I have an old paned window on the side of my potting shed.

*Simply hang a window on a porch wasll or the side of a potting shed to give the illusion of a window. I like to put grapevine or bittersweet over the window, cascading down on one side to give it a warm and homey feel.

This window is on the wall of my front porch over an old table.

This window is on the wall of my front porch over an old table.

*Paint a picture on the glass of a window.

*Make a coat rack! This photo is actually a French door… but there just a bunch of windows, right!

This is actually a French door.

This is actually a French door.

*Use a window for the back of a potting table.

Cute back to a potting table

Cute back to a potting table

*Create an organizer.

window pane organizer

*Window pane mini greenhouse. I’ve shown this idea before, but thought it was worth sharing again.

This is my mini window green house. It's so happy!

This is my mini window green house. It’s so happy!

These are only a few of the many ideas. If you have some ideas that you’d like to share, please go to Dragonflies Facebook and post your photo there. I’d love to see them.

Happy Day Friends,
Jean

Spring To-do List, Using Old Ladders In Our Gardens, Yummy Soft Boiled Eggs in a ‘Green’ Nest

Spring is a time of new birth and rejuvenation. It’s when we look around and simply stand in awe at the beauty surrounding us… forsythias vibrant yellow… the sweet aroma of apple and cherry blossoms… lavender lilac bouncing in the breeze carrying the scents through the open windows… searching out the first tips of rhubarb and asparagus.

This is a hedge of 'Miss. Kim' lilacs we planted in our front yard three years ago.

This is a hedge of ‘Miss. Kim’ lilacs we planted in our front yard three years ago.

Spring… there isn’t quite anything as perfect in my mind.

Yesterday I was walking to the greenhouse when my feet went ‘squishhhh’ in the mud… I loved it, especially wearing flip-flops. Yes, I know it was cold, but it was almost 85 degrees in the greenhouse when the sun was shining! Neil was helping me and his feelings were a tad bit different… more of exasperation from the heat- he likes the cold. I’ll take the heat and a sweaty brow any day of the week over bundling up to keep warm.

Spring is also a time ‘to-do’ lots of stuff! As most of my dragonfly readers can testify, I strongly encourage lists- for everything! Garden and yard projects are no exception. I love the feeling of making the list and scratching off each item as it’s accomplished. I’m a visual person and I think that’s why lists make so much sense to me… plus they keep me on track.

This photo is of my chalkboard in my office where I keep my 'daily' lists.  I add sticky notes below as things need to be done.

This photo is of my chalkboard in my office where I keep my ‘daily’ lists. I add sticky notes below as things need to be done.

Scanning through my yard and gardens I’m seeing the multitude of things I need and want to get accomplished this season. I have a couple windows of opportunity before and after my ‘busy’ times, so I must utilize that time wisely. I thought it would be interesting to share this years list with all my dragonfly friends… now don’t be alarmed when you see it… I have lots of helping hands around our farm!

My list of outside jobs to do this year…
Painting:

back of garage
potting shed
front of greenhouse
back of hoop house
repaint back door where dog scratched

2. Fix arbor in front of hoop house- put new lattice on sides and top
3. Put post up at small herb bed for wisteria
4. Move raised beds from beside hoop house to cut flower raised bed garden
5. New flower bed around potting shed

6. Plant:

Pink climbing roses at back corners of potting shed
Rose of Sharon at back corner of house in back yard
Rose trellis on front of house at living room window

7. Finish Patio:

planters
floor and sides

8. Ladder trellis on side of garage over tea bed in Potager

Here is the photo I mentioned a few blog posts back. I got a photo of it the other day.  I'm so excited to do this on my garage this summer!  Can't you just see it covered with pink roses!

Here is the photo I mentioned a few blog posts back. I got a photo of it the other day. I’m so excited to do this on my garage this summer! Can’t you just see it covered with pink roses!

Number eight is one of the topics of this post. I often talk about my love for garden junque, it’s one of my favorite things about cottage gardening. I love being able to artfully incorporate what I absolutely adore, even though some people consider it trash. There are oodles of items that can be used, but lets look at old wooden ladders today.

A few posts ago I mentioned this ladder trellis- well I stopped the other day and took a photo of it… not the greatest, but you get the idea. I plan on doing this on the side of my garage over the tea bed in our Potager and planting… you guessed it, a climbing rose… but first I have to find them! So if you read my guest post at Flea Market Gardening ( http://www.fleamarketgardening.org/2013/04/04/flea-market-windows-how-to-make-a-decorative-mini-greenhouse/ ) you’ll understand how patient I can be!

Uses for ladders…
*Ladders can also be used in your flower beds to put potted plants on (see photo).

This is a really cool old ladder that I picked up at a garage sale for a couple bucks... so cut with pots!

This is a really cool old ladder that I picked up at a garage sale for a couple bucks… so cut with pots!

*I also have a ladder on one of the columns on our front porch that a climbing rose uses.
*Lattice/ trellis- I have a few ladders that go across the top of my pergola for the vines.

To many they are just something to climb up, but on my list, they have a much higher calling 😉

Spring is here and greens are coming in abundantly… and so are the eggs! Here’s a yummy recipe to use what you have- Enjoy friends!
Soft Boiled Eggs in a ‘Green’ Nest

Farm fresh eggs just laid in one of our farms many nesting boxes!

Farm fresh eggs just laid in one of our farms many nesting boxes!

1 Bunch of Chard, Kale or Spinach, stems and ribs discarded
1 1/2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Red Pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 Eggs

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Chop your greens into bite size pieces and toss in the oil and seasoning to coat evenly. Spread evenly in the bottom of a 10″x10″ glass baking dish and bake for about 30-40 minutes, till crisp. Remove from oven and divide into 2 bowls and create a ‘nest’ with a hole in the center.
2. While greens are baking, bring a 2 quart pot of water to a rolling boil and gently lower eggs into water, turn off heat and cover. Let eggs sit in water for 6 1/2 minutes for soft boiled eggs.
3. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water and let sit for about 1/2 minute. Working carefully and quickly, peel eggs, and place in center of nests. Season and serve immediately.

Be sure to come on over to Dragonflies Facebook for lots more photo’s and extra info plus tons of great links to other interesting sites. Hope to see you there…
https://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651?ref=stream
Happy Day,
Jean