Thursday, June 29, 2006

Time to make Jelly

It's jelly making time again. Since I have a 4 day weekend coming up, I think I will probably start making some of my wonderful jams and jellies. But, first I need to inventory what I have and stock up on jars, lids, etc. Time to count how many used jars I have so I know how many lids to buy and what sizes - check the supplies of everything and estimate how much I need. For me, it is just easier to buy the store out of jars now than to keep running and looking for them. Last year I kept a spreadsheet of my jelly making - and it is fun to look back at it and see that I made 176 jars of jelly last summer (all from fruit I grew myself on my small suburban lot!). That included 18 jars of rhubarb, 18 jars of strawberry, 8 jars of black raspberry, 11 jars of currant, 40 jars of yellow raspberry (always a popular request by friends and my husband), 17 jars of red raspberry, 40 jars of grape (always popular with families with kids) and 24 jars of apple. I used 104 cups of sugar and spent 26 hours in the kitchen making the jelly (I did not keep track of time spent picking the fruit - just the jelly making time). I went through 19 boxes of pectin. The jelly ended up costing (not counting labor) a whooping 67 cents a jar to make. And what wonderful gifts they make - you cannot put a price on the love that goes into jelly making. In addition to my jelly and jam, I also made other things which I did not keep track of - so this year I am going to. I made Salsa from the tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic I grew. I canned apple pie filling, apple sauce and raspberry sauce (seedless). I dried apples and tomatoes. And I canned whole tomatoes and tomato sauce. I am sure I am forgetting something - so it is time to document it all. Preserving food is a lost art, but such a wonderful extension of the garden. How do I find time to do it all? Well, last year I was unemployed for the first time in my adult life, so that helped, but I didn't do any more last year than I normally do. I do it when it is convenient for me. I pick the fruit when it is ready and then just stick it in the freezer. When I have the time, I simply thaw it and make the jam - keeps it at it's peak. What is the difference between jam and jelly? Jam is made from the whole fruit - just mashed or cut up. Jelly is made from just juice - the fruit is cut up and cooked to extract the juice and then you hang it in a jelly bag over a bowl to catch the juice. I will include some pictures of the jelly and jam making process here.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Fresh Black Raspberries. It is a very good year for them. I have 2 quarts now frozen and my son and I have eaten tons - and we have just starting picking them. The black ones are my favorites. My husband prefers the yellow and the traditional red are always good. My son doesn't seem to care - he just loves fruit - any fruit. Posted by Picasa


The pole beans are climbing nicely and should start flowering soon. The beans on the left are the yellow one - they seem to be ahead of the green ones on the right. Posted by Picasa


The cauliflower is starting to form nice heads. To keep your cauliflower whiter, you should "blanch" the heads - pull the leaves tight around them and tie them so the sunlight cannot get in. Posted by Picasa

Drying onions

Onion tops on the dehydrator. I made shish kabobs on the grill this weekend and pulled some onions from the garden to put on the skewers. Never being one who likes to waste, I chopped up the tops and dried them for use later in the year. Posted by Picasa


Fresh picked currants Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 23, 2006


When Andy notices something really cool, he stops and says Oh my gosh really slow, pausing after each word. Last night when he was watering his sunflowers, he stopped and crouched down low and said "Oh, my gosh" really loud and extra slowly. I went to see what it was all about - had something dug up all of his seeds? Was it a big worm or a caravan of ants? With my child it could be anything. As I approached, he turns and looks at me and says "Mom, you said my sunflowers wouldn't grow for several more days - LOOK!" Sure enough, a few sprouts are already pushing through the earth. Then, he adds "Good thing I've been good today and all of the yesterdays- I think God noticed and helped my sunflowers to grow faster - God can do that, you know. And I'm going to make sure God likes me and wants to be nice to me and my garden!" Every year I get a new appreciation for gardening by seeing things through Andy's eyes. I am so glad that he shares this interest with me.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Re-introduction

I am seeing a lot of new visitors to my site, so I thought I would take some time and re-introduce myself. My name is Kathi and I live in Minnesota. I was born and raised in rural Wisconsin and also lived in the desert in Arizona for 12 years before coming to MN. I have lived in MN since 1994. Gardening has been a part of my entire life. My parents always had a large garden - we had a whole extra lot next to our house which was our garden. My parents grew a lot of the vegetables that we ate all year round. We had a stinky root cellar basement for storing the root crops and canned goods. My earliest summer memories are of my and my father out in the garden planting potatoes or picking beans and with my mother picking raspberries. When I was real little, Dad mostly did the veggies and Mom grew some flowers. We also had a bee hive under the apple tree and sometimes had chickens. As I grew older, my Mom started learning about organic gardening and built a compost bin. We had moved out in the country by then and did not have any trash pick up - you took everything to the dump or burned it (or if you were my father, you might have even just dumped it in the edge of the swamp), so composting made sense - reduce the trash naturally. But my Dad kept using all of his chemicals and my Mom wanted pure organic food - this was in the 70s when very few people were aware of organic gardening. Finally my mom created her own garden with a compost bin in the middle seperate from Dad's and they had a contest to see who could grow the best tomatoes. I think my poor
dad over fertilized his tomatoes trying to beat mom - I just remember you couldn't mention tomatoes in our house for a couple of years without Mom gloating and Dad sulking. When I married for the first time in the late 70s, I started my own garden and it was strictly organic. I don't really remember my early efforts that much, but I know that the first year or two a lot of things didn't grow real well and I was shocked since I always remember my parent's gardens flourishing. I didn't realize how much they had learned from trial and error and I was planting some new things that they had never grown (and perhaps that is why). But I kept with it and from the beginning, I did not want to waste anything - so I learned to can and make jams and jellies. Over the years I realized that the canning and jelly making was a lost art - everyone loved it when I gave them some jelly. When I divorced and moved to AZ, I had to learn gardening all over again, but in the end I conquered the desert and had a nice garden. When I moved to MN, it was nice to be in a more gardening friendly climate - even if the winters can be harsh - I do love the 4 seasons and gardening here is so much easier than in the desert. Over the years I have continued to can and preserve my garden produce. Every year in December I make baskets for my son's therapists, teachers, daycare workers and my and my husband's friends, family and co-workers. I include jams, jellies and other things as well - canned apple pie filling, dried tomatoes and dried apples and salsa - all made from ingredients I have grown myself. It is so much fun to put these baskets together and also it adds a new dimension to my jelly making. Andy loves to help me pick the fruit and gather the stuff for the canning and as I work in the kitchen I picture who we will give them to and how it will make them feel - and we talk about that as well. It is so cute to see Andy handing out the jams and jellies to people and say "I made this for you" and then as an after thought - "my Mom helped" and then "OK, my Mom made them and I helped". My circle of friends has grown international as I have found community and support on the internet. It is so nice to be able to connect with other parents of children with Autism and Celiac Disease as well as other working moms. I have started to share my jams and jellies with them as well. I have wanted to keep a diary of my garden for years and I have started to several times, but I just never seem to keep it up - it is just too much work to write it all down and if I want to take pictures and then get them developed, etc. So the idea of a blog appealed to me for 3 reasons - 1. it could be that gardening journal, 2. it would allow my friends that I give my homemade gifts from the garden to to actually see the ingredients being grown (and see how Andy helps with it) and 3. perhaps it would help me make new friends. I am old enough that we didn't have computers when I was in school, so I don't know how to do a lot of fancy stuff on my blog. But I do use a computer daily at work and I know enough to keep a basic blog and post pictures. So, that in a nutshell is who I am - Welcome New Friends as well as old ones. I do hope you enjoy what you see.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Peaches are Disappearing

I knew that when I planted a peach tree that I was going out on a limb in Minnesota, but it was developed for colder climates....even so I did not allow my taste buds to start watering - after all, it would be several years before it produced fruit. Even when it bloomed for the first time this spring, I didn't get my hopes up - after all, there were not that many blossoms and who knew how many would set fruit and we all know that not all of the fruit that is set makes it to maturity. But somewhere along the line as the fruits grew and I wasn't losing any, I started to get excited. As of Friday I still had a dozen, but last night when I was watering I didn't see two that I knew should be there - surely they were just blending in really well - I looked from every angle - even getting down on my hands and knees (it is still a small tree) and looking up from below - they were no where to be found. So I counted again and could only find 5. I looked on the ground to see if they had fallen off in the storm Friday night - but there were none on the ground. The birds must have discovered them. I must admit I am disappointed - I do hope at least one makes it to maturity. But even if none make it - it has been fun seeing the peaches make it this far in this northern climate - next year should be a better year as the tree will be one year older.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Bell Peppers that are planted in the Earth Boxes are between 10 and 11 inches tall. All of the bell peppers were started on the same day and then transplanted on the same day. Last year I grew some in a Earth Box and some in the Raised Bed garden and I didn't see a whole lot of difference. This year I planted half in an Earth Box and half directly in the ground (new garden area - heavy clay soil) and the difference is pretty remarkable. Posted by Picasa

The Bell Peppers that are planted in the ground are between 5 and 6 inches tall. Posted by Picasa

Black Raspberries

The black raspberries are ripening! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Recipe

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Posted by Picasa

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pastry for 10-inch 2 crust pie
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill GF mix)
¼ cup instant tapioca (my secret ingredient in all pies to keep them from being runny)
3 cups fresh rhubarb cut into ½ inch pieces
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare pastry. Stir together sugar, flour and tapioca. Add fruit and mix well. Pour into pastry lined pie pan. Cover with top crust. Seal, flute and cut in vents. Put pie pan on a pizza pan (to catch the drippings) and place in oven. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through the slits in crust. If edges brown too fast, cover them with foil – remove foil for last 15 minutes of baking.

A great summer meal

Barbequed Beef Spare Ribs Posted by Picasa

BBQ Sauce

1 cup gfcf ketchup (I use Heinz)
¼ white vinegar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon gfcf soy sauce (I use San-J Organic Tamari Wheat Free Soy Sauce)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch celery salt
Pinch mustard powder

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Store in a glass jar.

Kathi's Baked Beans Recipe

Good old fashioned baked beans. Posted by Picasa

Kathi’s Old Fashioned Baked Beans (can also be made in the slow cooker)
1 pound dried navy or great northern beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
2 cups ketchup
6 tablespoons maple syrup
6 tablespoons dark molasses
½ cup soy sauce
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Rinse and pick through the beans. Soak them overnight in a large pot of water.
Rinse the soaked beans well under cold water, and place them in a heavy saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered until tender – an hour or two. Drain.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and cook until wilted – about 5 minutes.
Add the brown sugar and stir over medium-low heat until it has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Stir in ketchup, syrup, molasses, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Pour Beans into an oven proof 2 quart casserole dish. Pour sauce over them and mix well.
Cover the casserole and cook in oven at 300 degrees, stirring occasionally for 3 hours.
Uncover, stir and bake uncovered until the sauce is thick and syrupy.

Kathi's Potato Salad Recipe

Fresh Potato Salad Posted by Picasa

Kathi’s Potato Salad

I must admit I never measure ingredients – I tried to pay attention when I made it to get the proper amounts – if you want more or less of an ingredient, just adjust it to suit your tastes.

3 lbs Red Potatoes, boiled and cut into bite size pieces
8 Hard Boiled Eggs, cut into bite size pieces
½ cup fresh Green Onions, thinly sliced
3 – 5 Radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup mayo (I use Spectrum Canola Mayo)
1 squirt of yellow mustard
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar

Lightly toss together Potatoes, Eggs, Onions, and Radishes in a 3 quart bowl. In a small bowl, mix mayo, mustard, sugar and vinegar. Add to potato mixture and mix well. Chill for several hours before serving.

Andy is planting his sunflower fort. We decided to make it square instead of round. Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 16, 2006

A fort made of sunflowers

Yesterday I took Andy to the dentist and while we were waiting, we read a Children's Magazine and it in they showed how to make a fort to hide out in by growing sunflowers. The boy in the article and his dad planted sunflowers in a circle and then when they grew, he and his friends used the inside as a fort. What a cool idea! It is a bit late - but sunflowers grow really fast - so tomorrow Andy and I are going to go to the store and buy some sunflower seeds and plant his own sunflower fort! I hope it turns out as cool as the pictures in the magazine. What a great idea to get kids interested in gardening.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Last summer spoiled me

I was unemployed last summer and I don't think I appreciated it as much as I could have. I don't know - maybe it is still adjusting back to work (I found a new job at the end of January), but I am really wondering how I will ever have enough time to really devote to my garden this year - and yet I have always been a working mom with a garden.

Oh man, teachers have it good, don't they? Summers off every year. Wait, my Mom was a teacher and I don't remember her having summers off - she went to summer school every year. And during the school year she worked late and brought work home with her - not to mention buying school supplies for her classroom out of her paycheck - OK, I guess teachers don't have it so good, but I still want summers off to garden and goof off with my kid.

I only worked a half day today because Andy had a dentist's appointment - afterwards we came home and he played in the yard all afternoon running through the sprinkler with Vinny next door. To be young and carefree in the summer again. At least I was able to do some weeding while they played and the sprinkler did get some water on my garden.

Somehow, the gardening and the canning and everything will get done - it always has - and what doesn't get done - oh well, can't let it worry me. And while I do like my current job, I am going to keep searching for that perfect job that pays well and allows me to have my summers off! I'll post and let you know if I find it!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The lettuce continues to thrive - I don't harvest whole plants at once unless it looks like they are getting close to bolting (going to seed) - I pick the outer leaves off - I have already picked lettuce 4 times this year and it is ready to be picked again. I love a fresh salad with a mixture of types of lettuce in it. And I must be doing something right because Andy eats lettuce real good. Posted by Picasa

The beans are starting to climb up the tower. There is nothing like fresh beans from the garden. I like to pick them young and tender - I can't buy the bigger ones like they sell in the store or Farmer's Market - I just love the tender young ones. Posted by Picasa

Baby Peaches. Yum, Yum, Yum. I sure hope at least a couple make it to maturity. Dan doesn't care for peaches that much, but Andy and I love them - and growing them in Minnesota is a nice novelty. Posted by Picasa

The Currants are also starting to ripen. It won't be long until I will be sick of picking them. Andy loves currants as much as I did as a child - and I just love making Currant Jelly because it is not something that most people go out and buy. Posted by Picasa

The Black Raspberries are starting to ripen. I also grow Yellow and Red Raspberries, but they are fall bearing, so they ripen much later. I just love Black Raspberries! Posted by Picasa

The bushes in the front of the house are in full bloom. As much as I don't like these bushes, they are pretty when in bloom. It's not so much that I don't like them, it's that there are so many of them and they are planted in front of other things and obscure the view. The front definitely needs to be redone. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 11, 2006

What crazy weather!

Memorial Day weekend it was hot enough to be the 4th of July. Two weeks later and we haven't seen 70 in several days. Either it is too hot to get out in the garden for an extended period of time or too cold - not much in between! Some things don't seem to mind the crazy weather and are thriving: Lettuce, cauliflower, beans, potatoes, onions, garlic, dill and radishes. Some things are still hanging on and I am giving them extra TLC, but they are either not germinating and coming up or if they are ones I transplanted, they are just hanging on and I am not sure if they will make it or not: carrots, parsnips, beets, pumpkin and zuchinni. Everything else is somewhere in the middle - not thriving, but doing OK. I have about 8 peaches growing on the peach tree - not bad for a first year with just a handful of blossoms. So far the little boys in the neighborhood haven't noticed them and Andy and I aren't pointing them out to them - we still have to get past the birds and bugs to see if any of them make it to ripen and eat. Next year should be a better year - what fun, peaches in MN! I did get out and weed a little bit yesterday in spite of the cold.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Here is my main garden. You can see the lettuce in the back and the beans in the front. Onions are along two of the sides and garlic along one. I also have carrots, parsnips, beets, basil, dill and more lettuce planted here that is either not up yet or so small you can't see it yet. Posted by Picasa

This is my area "behind the fence" in the back of my house off the alley and next to the garage. Those are potatoes you see coming up and I have pumpkins planted on top that can vine down over the potatoes. Posted by Picasa

Here are my currant bushes - they are planted along the side of the garage. You can't see it in this photo, but they are loaded with green berries that are just starting to turn red. It will be a good year for the currants. Posted by Picasa

This is along the back of the garage. The garage is built into a hill and the steps lead to a large storage area. I have my rhubarb, coneflowers, hot chili peppers and some other flowers along here. Posted by Picasa

Here are my concord grape vines along the fence - looking into the neighbor's yard. I have red swanson grapes on the other fence. Posted by Picasa

This is along the back of the house - just past the earth boxes. I have day lillies, cucumbers, bell peppers, zuchinni and some new flowers there (I can't remember the name of them). Once the plants are all up, I am going to cover the black plastic with mulch - it is not a solid plastic, it does allow the rain to go through it. Posted by Picasa