We usually have helpful friends come lend a hand in the garden, but we’ve had too many unwelcome “visitors” this year. Here’s a few on our most wanted list:

Gopher: at first we thought it was a giant snake hole. A snake would have actually been helpful. Grrrrr. He defies my anger with his cuteness. Here he is on his front porch: my radish patch.

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Deer: they have to walk through an entire field of alfalfa to get to our garden, yet they decide to postpone their munchies and wait to eat the lettuce, corn and peppers – especially the peppers.

(I hope a picture isn’t necessary here)

Cucumber beetles: these are big problems. We will probably not have any melons this year because of these pests. They eat the leaves AND the roots!!!!! This is when I really wish I could just douse the garden with pesticides.

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Monster caterpillars: these are more amazing than problematic, but they could easily become a big problem. They are eating machines, and so far I have only seen them eat a certain weed. That’s a really good thing, but I’m just not sure they would stop at weeds. I’m pretty sure they will eat everything they can get to. And the site I read (Bug Eric has great info!) said that the momma moth can lay 500 eggs at a time, which would mean A LOT of “very hungry caterpillars”. It’s hard to get a sense of the size of these caterpillars from the pictures here. This one was about 5 inches long and as fat as my thumb, which isn’t visible to you, but is, I think, a normal “fatness”. Here’s a photo of his whole body and another one a little closer so you can see him using his baby t-rex arms to eat — awwww!

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I will neither excuse nor apologize for my long hiatus. The past is behind us. Here’s a new post, dedicated to Mary Lou Lauritzen!! Thank you for your encouragement to keep posting :)!

Radishes are so lovely and colourful, a perfect way to forget a cold colourless winter. But… what to do with radishes? I checked out NPR’s Splendid Table and they had a few suggestions. I tried the recommended pairing with cocktails without hesitation, but found it too salty for me. I haven’t tried the sauté she recommends, but while eating the last few jars of last year’s pickles, I thought pickled radishes sounded really good! I wanted to use my mother-in-law, Lynda’s, usual pail-pickle recipe, but in a seasonal-eating epiphany akin to when you first realize that peas and carrots CANNOT sit on a plate together, I realized that people probably started using dill and garlic in their pickles because it is available at the same time as cucumbers…. which is long after radishes are used up and gone. So, I tried a dill-less recipe I found online here: http://gardentherapy.ca/pickled-radishes/

Thankfully, Lynda found some of our garlic from last year patiently waiting on top of her fridge for just the right recipe. We generously unleashed our experiment on a large family reunion gathering of Lundgrens. It seemed everyone enjoyed the opportunity to try something new, but I don’t think anyone walked away thinking it was their new favourite relish.

I’m holding onto a gallon or so of fresh radishes, hoping they will last until I can get some fresh dill. I will update with the outcome.

An even better way to use them up, in my opinion, is in the traditional “cowboy caviar” as some call it. That recipe calls for black beans, red onion, corn and green bell pepper. I kept the same colour palette by substituting red radishes and (*gasp*) store-bought celery, and it was great!!!

 

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We’ve reached the point where, when people ask me how the garden’s going, I say something like, “Well, the plants are winning now.” This is very meaningful to you, if you have ever weeded by hand a 70×120 foot garden. When the plants start truly winning, they also start shading out the weeds that are still there, so the weeds don’t grow as much. It’s also a deep breath of relief because, hallelujah, it’s evident that you WILL get a crop out of this!

The peppers still seem slow however. They are taking part in the drip tape experiment, and I’m just not sure what’s going on. The only thing that makes me think we might still be ok is that it always seems like peppers surprise me. Suddenly they just go nuts and you’ve got jalepenos out your ears. I’m hoping for a big surprise. Until Saturday, we were also still worried about our yukon gold potatoes. I’m not sure what their deal is… we planted them at the same time as the pontiac reds, watered them the same, but look at the difference here (pontiacs on the right, yukon on the left).

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It is obvious the golds are fairing much worse. They didn’t even flower. So Lynda and I decided to dig one of the biggest ones to see if there was anything happening under the surface. Surprise!

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So, ok, don’t judge a plant by its “over” (ground… I’m trying to be clever here…). What’s weird though is that, as you can see, all the potatoes are clustered together very close to the surface. Usually they would be more spread out and go down deeper. We’ll see how they continue to develop. Let’s continue our tour of winning plants…

Spectacular lettuces, kohlrabi, squash are out of control, tomatoes (kids in tomato jungle), baby carrots – yum!, and these are the mere beginnings of our chinese noodle green beans. I’m pretty sure they need about a 10′ trellis rather than our measly 4′ chicken wire, but I guess we’ll see what happens and make adjustments next year. I planted these thinking they would be fun. They should grow beans about 20 inches long each. So is that like 1 serving of vegetables per bean??

Friday I harvested all our garlic. I thought they would be bigger, but I’m pleased regardless because they look so beautiful! From what I’ve read, they will need to cure like this for about 2 weeks before they are ready for long term storage.

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Where to begin?! I’m so far behind in posting it seems ridiculous to try to say it all. But hopefully this starts me back on track to keeping up a little better. We had our first farmers’ market of the year last Tuesday, July 2. Things aren’t that far along yet, so we were able to offer lettuce and garlic scapes as far as produce goes ;) But we bagged and sold popcorn from last year, and I made homemade noodles. And that adventure deserves a picture:

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I have to work out some packaging kinks, but they are darn good noodles, if I do say so myself! Special thanks to Karen Lindgren and my kiddos for their help, literally, cranking out the noodles!

We’ve had two sets of garden helpers already this year, which has been a huge blessing. Justin and Katie Fogel and Mohsen, Parisa, and Hamed Barkh each spent a day weeding with us, and it was incredible to see the difference a day of friendly help can make! THANK YOU FOR GIVING HELP IN EXCHANGE FOR GRATITUDE!! We love you guys!20130705-003710.jpg

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After his day in the garden, Mohsen threatened to write an article on the exploitation of immigrant workers when he returned to Vancouver. I told him he was whining and should get back to work. Here’s Mohsen and Hamed doing a great job! Jordan is supervising ;)

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Everything is planted, needless to say. We are a little larger this year, but mostly we are just making more effective use of the space, so there is more of everything. We tried a new method with peppers and tomatoes – plastic mulch and drip tape. It is fantastic!!! Warm warm soil, no weeding and very efficient water use. I’m expecting a bumper crop (fingers crossed!).

We also have had some deer trouble since Deets got run over last year (it happens). He was way more aggressive than Gus, who was recently kicked out of his barn living space by a tom cat. Come on, Gus, you’re a friggin dog! Start acting like it!!!! Look what the deer did to our FLAGS! WHAT??!

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So, every so often Jordan and Josh shoot bullets, or more recently fireworks, into the tree row where they live, and they’ve been backing off quite a bit.

We also put in some fruit trees: 2 plums and a cherry.

I also have 3 raspberry bushes that have had a very long stay in a few hanging pots, but NEED to be put in the ground… BADLY.

So, how’s that for some quick highlights? I hope not to wait so long to post again.

Peace.

I think the sprouts from last post must be getting me in the mood to start posting again. I fell off the wagon for so long, I suppose it feels good to be back, despite all my personal issues about blogging, such as there are millions, and the world DOES NOT need another string of random personal insights. I’m sorry to say, I believe the large majority of blogs should simply be personal journals. A personal journal, in those cases, would be more valuable to the blogger because of the privacy which allows for true authenticity, as well as the ability to shield themselves from who-knows-what might be done with their post in the future. Unfortunately, the world has forgotten the purpose and usefulness of this “very good” (similar-to-God’s-perspective-on-creation “good”) exercise and venue.

Nevertheless, our hopes for Glacier Gardens are large, and I feel like a blog is an important foundation for helping them come about. In our case, I view the blog as more a long-game marketing medium.

Moving on, here’s a super simple, super tasty breakfast casserole. We’re fortunate enough to get local, naturally-raised pork sausage from The Hermans (where we also butcher chickens and get our eggs), and we’re still using our frozen peppers from last year. They are so fantastic for any kind of cooking, but not for eating fresh. Today I tossed a handful on top of the casserole. Delicious!

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Easy Sausage & Egg Casserole

- Bread slices to cover bottom of pan
– 6 eggs
– 2 cups milk
– 1 lb (or less) sharp cheddar, grated
– 1 lb (or less) sausage, browned and drained
* optional: peppers, onions, or other veggies

Grease 9×13 pan. Line with bread. Sprinkle cheese over bread. Beat egg and milk; pour over cheese. Spread meat and veggies over top. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes, or until center is no longer runny.

I made a smaller casserole because today it’s just me and the kids for lunch.

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Also, I thought I’d show you a bag from my eggshell stash. Every time I make something that calls for more than one egg, I pull out the bag from the freezer and toss in the eggshells. I’ll put them in the ground under my tomatoes again, like last year.

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Last Saturday, April 6th, I started our tomato, pepper, and onion seeds. This morning we had our first sweet little greens emerge!

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Unfortunately, this is the other thing that sprang up today.

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ENOUGH ALREADY WITH THE SNOW!

…Because it’s so easy to post random stuff! For instance, I have been known to thaw a chicken on the radiator. You wouldn’t believe how handy it is. I got a wide shot so it would include the coincidental placement of Alice’s chicken.

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I can’t seem to get back to this blog over the gardening break; but I’ll be placing my seed order in the next few days, so there’s no denying it’s coming back soon! Thankfully, my mom sent a lengthy and positive review of the fruit relish I made last fall. So, here’s my guest contributor, Mary Liechty :)

I have the blessing of being the recipient of several great canned items from Glacier gardens. It doesn’t hurt that I’m the mother-in-law, mother, and grandmother of those that work coaxing bounty from that piece of earth.

Yesterday we had a gathering of family here in Texas, it was for the winter birthdays. We decided to do tacos, after all we do live in Texas. With our tacos I set out two items from Glacier garden. I had a jar of jalapeños. I also had a jar of fruit salsa.

No problem with jalapeños in Texas. They were heartily appreciated. The unexpected surprise was how much everyone loved the fruit salsa. I expected a few of the gals to try it. However, I was very surprised by the responses of the guys in the room.

Skeptical eyebrows went up as each took a “taste.” Then those eyebrows went up further as eyes widened while the fruity delight gave a new and refreshing experience. There was very little left at the end of the party. I saved it just because it was sooooo good.

We like our salsa hot and spicy in Texas. We like our tacos the same way. Yet, this chunky version with it’s sweet and tangy savor hit a cord here and was appreciated by all.

Can’t wait to see what the new planting produces.

I’m trying to imagine what this blog will be during the few months of complete garden inactivity. We are still working in the garden – yesterday Jordan was cleaning the garden of all rocks, markers, forgotten tools, twine, etc, to prepare it to be tilled before we get real snow cover. And as soon as the snow melts in the spring we will prepare the ground to be tilled again.

During those short, sometimes house-bound, months, we remember the bright green days of the garden at mealtime. There is a lot of satisfaction in carrying an armload of mason jars into the kitchen to prepare a meal, especially when the food is for friends and family who were part of your journey. They visit the garden, linger at the market to ask how everything’s going, listen to you talk about this or that specialty variety, maybe even help you weed once or twice.

So during the garden’s winter rest, perhaps this blog will veer slightly and follow the path parallel to the garden: the table.

 

 

Dry beans are great because they are so patient. You let them go while you have to feverishly harvest and preserve everything else, and then they just sit and wait until you are ready to thresh them. Thank you dry beans! You win the Produce Congeniality award.

We planted a small kidney bean called hidatsa red, which I planned from the beginning to let dry down. The butter beans were kind of a mistake – the limas were all ready at such a variety of times, and some seemed at different points even within the same pod. I have never grown limas so maybe I just need to adjust my expectations. But for the most part I decided it was too hard to babysit them to try and figure out when I could pick them, so I just let them dry down. Dry limas are called butter beans.

 

I wanted to thresh the beans outside, because I knew the chaff would be really messy, so on a 50ish degree day, I let Solveigh and Alice stomp them down to weaken the pods.

 

 

Then I rolled the kidney beans between my hands to break them down further. The lima bean pods were a lot tougher, so I actually shelled those one at a time (more about that later).

Beans are heavier than the chaff, so they fell to the bottom of the container, and I pulled off all the chaff.

There were still bits and pieces that needed to be winnowed out, so we set up a fan and poured them back and forth a few times.

 

Last step: poured them over a large screen and shook them a little.

BEAUTY!

A few days later, I did the lima/butter beans. The pods literally popped open like a spring hinge. Some were so dry when I picked them, they curled up on themselves. Crazy!

The pods didn’t make nearly as much mess as the kidney beans, so I just worked on them while we watched Breaking Bad for a few nights. We’ve got lots of good pots of chili ahead!

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