In the Garden: Squashing Squash Bugs and Whining over Wilt

Zukes-and-Marigolds

Growing zucchini in Oregon took little more effort than tossing a few seeds over your shoulders and coming back in a month or two to harvest (and harvest, and harvest). Sure, a slug or two might eat your young plants, but if the zucchini plant outgrew the slugs, you were pretty much guaranteed more zucchini than you could possibly eat.

It’s not quite that easy here in Northeast Missouri. In fact, everything garden-wise is proving to be much less intuitive, and much more difficult than I imagined.  Pests can truly impede a home gardener’s ability to grow certain food crops.  Growing summer and winter squash is made challenging by the presence of squash bugs, squash vine borers, and cucumber beetles (which spread bacterial wilt disease) – and these are just the ones I have had personal experience with!  (This website has a great list of common squash pests and the damage they inflict.)

I planted five summer squash plants this season – one yellow crookneck, two yellow straightneck, and two zucchini.  The zucchini and yellow crookneck in particular have been incredibly healthy and prolific for the past month.  Trying to keep pests at bay, I dutifully checked the base of the stem every few days for signs of squash vine borers, and turned over leaves each day to kill any squash bug eggs I might find.

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The copper colored eggs of the squash bug

In the process, I found a few adults and some nymphs, which I promptly squished.  Things seemed to be under control.

Then, one day, I came home in the late afternoon to find my zucchini plant looking like this:

DeadZucchini

AHHHHHHHH!

Since I was unable to find any trace of boring activity, my best guess is that my plant was infected with bacterial wilt disease, which is commonly spread by the cucumber beetle.  When the plant did not perk up after a day or two, I removed it from the garden. As you can see, the plant immediately adjacent has not (yet?) been affected.

I had a chance to talk with a Farmer’s Market grower this weekend, and he says that his best success comes from planting in succession.  I’m making a mental note to leave space for this next year. On a positive note, I now have a bit more garden real estate in which to plant fall crops!

How are things growing in your garden?  Share a link, tell a story, or just say hello in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from you!

This post shared with the Homestead Barn Hop, Homestead Bloggers Network, and The Home Acre Hop.

Eat, Cook, and Preserve Peaches: Ten Delicious Recipes

Peach TitlePeaches are one of my family’s favorite summer fruits, and we eat them by the dozens when they are in season. Last week, my husband Brian brought home 3/4 of a bushel of ripe Missouri peaches that are dripping with juice, and sweet with a bit of tart.  I was not quite sure what I’d do with so many peaches – somehow the idea of canning in the 90 degree heat just did not appeal to me.  So I asked some of my homestead blogging friends for their favorite recipes, and compiled this list of ten different ways to enjoy peaches, fresh, cooked, and preserved.

FRESH PEACH RECIPES
Peach Basil SalsaFirst, a Fresh Peach Basil Salsa that we’ve been making every day because I am so in love with the flavor.  Brian actually told me he thought it was the most delicious non-tomato salsa that he’d ever tasted. I created it with inspiration from a few similar recipes online, and it is perfect on grilled white fish, or as a dip for tortilla chips.

4 ripe Peaches, pitted and diced

3 tbsp fresh Basil, minced

1/4 Red Onion, minced

a splash of Balsamic Vinegar (around 1 tsp)

Salt to taste

*********

Dani of The Adventure Bite shared her recipe for a Sweet Marscarpone Peach Tart, one of the most popular on her blog.  It is truly beautiful in appearance, and would be perfect for a summer celebration.


COOKED PEACH RECIPES

What is summer without cobblers and crisps? Here are a few tasty looking recipes to try:

Angi at Schneiderpeeps.com shared a simple Peach Cobbler recipe.

Julie at Growing Days adapted her Peach Crisp recipe from one by Alice Waters; it’s simple, but decadent.

And this Roasted Apricot Tart from Jennifer at Black Fox Homestead could just as easily use peaches – oh my, does it look good!

PRESERVED PEACH RECIPES
I was amazed at some of the innovative recipes that were shared with me. I’m usually just a peach and honey or sugar kind of preserving gal, but these recipes are making me reconsider!

For instance, this Pickled Peach Recipe from Jenn at Frugal Upstate.  The pickling spices are cinnamon, clove, and ginger.  Yum!

Jennifer at Black Fox Homestead contributed this unique jam recipe – a Peach Rosemary Jam that she says would make a great poultry glaze, or topping for a croissant or scone.

Untrained Housewife‘s how-to post on Home Canned Peaches walks you through some of the basics of canning fresh peaches, with the skin on.

Peach-Refrigerator-Jam-Recipeimage courtesy of Erica Mueller

Erica from MomPrepares shared her very simple Refrigerator Peach Jam that only has four ingredients and can be made in under an hour. I love freezer and refrigerator jams because they capture the very essence of the fruit.

Peaches-to-Freeze

Finally, the method of preserving that I opt for most frequently – Frozen Sliced Peaches.  After quickly blanching peaches in boiling water, I peel, pit, and slices them.  They get a splash of lemon juice and some sweetener – either honey or sugar.  Then I place them in quart sized Ziploc bags until it’s smoothie making time!

Ten ways to eat and preserve peaches. Which shall I try next?

What is your favorite Peach Recipe? 

If you like, you can share in the comments below.

This post was shared on the Homeacre Hop, Homestead Bloggers Network, From the Farm Blog Hop.

Building a Tiny House

Today, I’m excited to give an update on our house-in-progress.  All along, we (meaning Brian, with occasional under-skilled help from me) have been steadily building, working on a sub-floor here, framing there, planning and purchasing as we go. In the back of our minds, a vague deadline looms, and motivates us to finish before cold weather arrives and makes camping with two small children unreasonable.

This house will be tiny – just under 200 square feet for 4 people. While I am definitely a fan of a small footprint, it will be interesting to see how we will all fit comfortably in such a small space.  But as we laid out deadlines and timelines for building, we were faced with a tough decision: Do we take longer (years?) to build the timber framed strawbale house that we ultimately want to live in, while paying rent to live somewhere for the winters, or do we build something small and quick – a guest cottage, really – and live in that for a few years while we slowly acquire the funds and materials to build the strawbale home?  We opted for the latter.

Way back in April, the house looked like this:Cabin7

A roof, some White Oak posts and beams, and floor joists.  The floor plan for the house is really quite simple – three-quarters of it will be our living space, and the other quarter will be an insulated mudroom (seen here on the front left)

Cabin8

Brian used some Osage Orange, an exceptionally rot-resistant wood, to create foundational posts for the mudroom entry way.

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It’s a construction site!  It’s a playground! It’s a Dining Room!  It’s a Living Room!  

Seriously though, we are essentially living in our construction area, because it is one of the few shady spots on our land. We sited the house according to passive solar principles, and it is exciting to realize that even though the house is directly south-facing, it still remains cool and shaded in the summertime, thanks to the roof overhang.

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On the west side of the house, a little bit of trenching and earth-moving to create a flat “patio” and to drain water away from the foundation.  Brian collected some free “urbanite” from a local company, and used it to build up a sloped area between the house and the outdoor kitchen.

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One of our questions was how to protect the floor insulation from critters.  Living on the edge of the forest, we have already experienced mice, bats, wasps, and two kinds of birds nesting in our house.  Brian first laid down some Wonderboard before laying down rigid foam insulation.

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One of the challenges of building, in my mind, is balancing cost, environmental impact, and ease and speed of building.  We have made choices that were not our ideal choices in terms of material choice, for the sake of speed and efficiency.  For the floors, we opted to go with rigid foam insulation.  For the ceilings and walls, we’ll work with blown cellulose, which is considered a more “green” option.

Cabin13

One of my special tasks:  screwing in the sub-floor!  I have gotten pretty good with the impact driver, but still manage to sink half of the screws too deeply.  Still, it’s nice to participate in the building of our home, in whatever way I can!

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I love this photo!  You can see how we’re truly living right in the midst of the construction, and how our children are intimately involved with every aspect of building our homestead.  It’s simultaneously exhausting, and completely inspiring.

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Party on the sub-floor!  Yesterday, we finished the sub-floor in the mudroom, with the kids helping.  Everett passed me screws, one at a time, and Ella handed Brian nails.  They truly want to be involved with every task, and when we can take the time to include them in a patient and meaningful way, we all win.

So there we are!  Kitchen and mudroom sub-floors are in, kitchen is framed, and the mudroom will be framed today.  We have a pile of doors and windows that Brian purchased at a building supplies clearinghouse.  There are gorgeous high quality windows that were mis-purchased or over-purchased, and thus are sold for a fraction of their original price.

Oh, I should also mention the wood that we’re using.  While we have purchased some plywood for the floors, all of the wood used for framing is local wood, mostly oak, with local cottonwood used for the mudroom sub-floor, that was milled locally by the Amish.  The exterior siding will be reclaimed lumber from a barn tear-down, a beautiful old homestead that has outbuildings that date back to the 1860’s.

As always, please do feel free to ask any questions in the comments below!
Teri

This post was shared with the Homestead Bloggers Network, Homestead Barn Hop, From the Farm Blog Hop, The Backyard Farming Connection, Homeacre Hop, and Natural Living Monday.

In the Garden: Tobacco Hornworms

That is kind of a sad blog post title, isn’t it.  But it’s time to talk about the devastation of the Tobacco Hornworm. First, a clarification: I originally thought that I was dealing with the Tomato Hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata), but truly, the caterpillar that is chomping on my tomatoes is the Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta).  The two are very closely related, and are often found on the same plants, primarily members of the family Solanaceae (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants).  You can distinguish them by appearance: the Tomato Hornworm has eight V-shaped marks on each side and their horn is straighter and blue-black in color, whereas the Tobacco Hornworm sports seven diagonal white lines on the sides and a curved red horn (below).

Hornworm4Having never experienced Hornworms before, I had no idea what to expect of them, only that I had been told by countless Missouri gardeners to “just wait”.  On Friday morning, I went out to check on my sweet little tomato plants as usual, and instead of finding beautiful, lush green foliage, I was greeted by this sight:

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Look at that defoliation!  No wonder – the Tobacco Hornworm can grow to 4 inches long!  You might also find their poop on your plants:

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If so, look closely, particularly on the underside of leaves, because there is probably one or more of these eating machines lurking on your tomato plants!

Hornworm1

My action plan?  I’ve started a find and pick regimen that involves going out into the garden several times a day (I’ve heard that dusk and dawn are the best times to look), hand picking the caterpillars off my tomato plants (creepy!), and feeding them to my chickens.  The chickens are giving them mixed reviews.  I can’t blame them. I don’t think I’d want to eat a 4 inch caterpillar either!

Next time In the Garden: Squash Bugs – They’re Here!

 

This post was shared on the From the Farm Blog Hop and the Homestead Bloggers Network.

The Sexiest Chicken Coop Around

In between house building, blacksmith work, and all-around handyman activities, my husband Brian has been hard at work building our chickens a home. Back in Oregon, he envisioned a moveable chicken coop on wheels and created this:

ChickenCoop6

Nest boxes on both sides that were easy to access from the outside for egg collection, a large fold-down door at the rear for bedding changes, bike wheels for easy transport, and a front door that led into their run.  Functional, very practical, but not really sexy.

Building this new coop provided Brian with a chance to create what he always envisioned – a gypsy caravanesque structure that is as adorable as it is functional.ChickenCoop1

A trailer tongue sticks out from the base of the coop for easy transport.  Ella stands in front of the door to the nest boxes…

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…which folds down for easy access to eggs!

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The chickens enter and exit from this ramp, which folds up at night to keep predators out.  Feed is hung to minimize scratching and wasting. The hanger came from a barn tear-down, and while we do not know what it is, it’s mighty cool looking!ChickenCoop5

The front door opens wide to allow us entry for cleaning, repair, etc.  The first few nights, we noticed that all the chickens wanted to be on the upper roost, so Brian has since added a second high perch.

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Look how much they love their new home!

What I love about this coop is that it is really functional, super cute (with a blue roof that matches our house-in-the-making!), and was made almost entirely out of reclaimed barn wood.  The hardware and the roof were the only components that were purchased new.

Now we wait patiently for the not-soon-enough day when we’ll once again be collecting our own eggs, from this sexy little coop.

Solar Oven Blueberry Banana Mini Muffins

BlueberryPicker

It’s blueberry season here in Northeast Missouri, and we’ve been picking!  Three visits to the local U-Pick, and many more visits to the bushes at our friend’s house.  I like to go into the winter months with at least 6 to 8 gallons of frozen berries for baking, smoothies, pancakes, and eating.  And of course eating them fresh is one of the true joys of summertime.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I am a big time baker – cookies, muffins, granola, and quick breads are my favorites.  Camping on our land has made food selection and preparation somewhat trickier – for instance, it’s really hard to keep meat for more than a day with no refrigeration (we use coolers filled with frozen jugs of water that we change out every day or two).  But baking on hot sunny days is easy, fun, and almost effortless thanks to our Sun Oven. (And no, I’m not getting paid to say this – I just truly adore my Sun Oven).

Using a Sun Oven on a hot sunny day is pretty much exactly like baking in your home oven.  I make sure to move the Sun Oven periodically so it tracks the sun, and thus achieves maximum temperatures (which for me is usually around 300 – 325 degrees on a very sunny day). I have also learned to use smaller pans for more even cooking – pie tins, small loaf pans, and mini muffins work great.

When I found myself with a brown mushy banana and a cup of fresh blueberries the other day, I threw together this recipe.  Moist and naturally sweet, with bites of tart berry.  Delicious!

Mini Muffins

1/4 cup butter

1/3 cup honey

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 overripe banana, mushed

1 large egg

1/4 cup milk

1 1/4 cup flour (I used half whole wheat and half white)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

3/4  cup fresh blueberries

Prepare mini muffin tin by greasing with oil of your choice.  Melt butter and honey in your solar oven (or on the stovetop). Add this mixture to mashed banana, egg, vanilla, and milk. Combine wet ingredients.

In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and stir just to combine.  Fold in blueberries, taking care not to overmix.

Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes (or adjust as necessary if you’re using a solar oven).

This amount of batter made 12 mini muffins, plus one mini loaf bread.

Enjoy!

 

This post was shared on the Homestead Bloggers Network, Homestead Barn Hop, From the Farm Blog Hop, and Natural Living Monday.

“I Can’t Wait Any Longer” Salsa Recipe

Around this time of year, my taste buds get a hankering for the fresh, piquant taste of homemade salsa.  While I do can tomato and tomatillo salsa for year-round use, there is nothing like walking into the garden to select a ripe red tomato, dicing it into chunks, adding some cilantro, salt, onion, and a jalapeno and devouring an entire bowl of salsa fresca in one sitting. It is something we do on a daily basis during peak tomato season.

The only problem is that I don’t have ripe red tomatoes (yet)!  But I do have beautiful cilantro from the garden I manage, sweet onions in my spring garden, garlic from last summer in Oregon, and just-ripening Gypsy sweet peppers.  In a moment of salsa desperation, I thought maybe, just maybe I could cheat a little bit and use canned tomatoes and achieve a similar taste sensation? Give it a try and see for yourself!

Salsa Recipe

1 16 oz can of diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Organics Fire Roasted)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 small sweet onion, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small sweet or hot pepper of your choice

Salt to flavor

Lime Juice to flavor

Combine all ingredients, sample until you’re satisfied with the flavor, and enjoy!

 

Shared on Homestead Barn Hop, Natural Living Monday, Homestead Bloggers Network, From the Farm Blog Hop, and The Backyard Farming Connection.