Saving Seeds

Saving seeds is an extremely easy thing to do once you know how.  To me, peppers are the easiest.  Simply cut the pepper open, scrape the seeds onto a plate or the counter, rinse them and lay them out on wax paper!  Easy!  Some vegetables require a little more effort, like a pumpkin or squash.  They are a bit messier to collect and need a more thorough washing than pepper seeds, but well worth the effort when you don’t have to buy seeds in the spring.  Tomatoes and cucumbers can be the most tricky when it comes to retaining viable seed, but don’t be afraid to try to do it, it’s easy once you get the hang of it.  In order to grow the same type of plant in the spring that you are saving seed from, be sure to only save seed from Heirlooms.  Saving seed from any form of Hybrid will result in a different type of plant.  Hybrid seeds are not good for saving.  We only save organic Heirlooms to be worth our time and effort, not to mention we believe in eating only pure food, not something that has been created in a laboratory.

Here is an example where I used Yellow Pear tomatoes.  The same process works with any tomato and cucumbers too.  For this batch, I halved the tomatoes and scooped out the seeds and juice into a small jelly jar.  The shells were then dried for use on pizza, soups or whatever else I make during the winter that I can use them in.  Always, ALWAYS collect your seed from your best looking produce.

 

Once I have collected all of the seed that I want to save at the moment, I add a small bit of water.  For example, if I have 1/2 inch of seeds and juice in the bottom of the jar, I’ll had another 1/2 inch or so of water to it.

Always label your jar with what type of seed you have in it.  We save seed from many different heirlooms and at any given time, you will find many jars in our kitchen or greenhouse.  Without the labels, I would be lost!

Let the seeds set in the jar or cup for at least three days.  It will depend on how warm the weather is, but you will begin to see a mold growing over the top of the liquid.  The seeds are fermenting which is what is needed for you to have viable seed for both tomatoes and cucumbers.  It doesn’t look very pretty and sometimes doesn’t smell very pretty either, so you might want to pick a place on your porch or deck to leave them undisturbed instead of your kitchen.

I forgot to take a picture of the Yellow Pear seeds fermenting so here’s one of some other tomato seeds that have fermented in a cup.  Not all batches will create this much mold, but some do.  Don’t think you need this much for them to be good.  A good three to four days on a warm summer day will work just fine.

At this point, I simply lift the mold off and drop it into the garbage disposal.  Any seeds that aren’t any good will have come to the surface and possibly be attached to the mold.  Pour the remaining seeds and liquid through a small mesh kitchen sieve.  It needs to be small enough to catch the seeds.  My husband created one made of window screen for me to use.  (Thank you honey!)  Run water through the seeds until they are clean.  The seeds will stick to anything at this point from being wet, so carefully turn them onto a sheet of waxed paper that you have labeled.  Spread them out and let them dry.  It may take several days up to a week to make sure they are good and dry.  Dry them in a protected area inside the house so the wind doesn’t blow them around and so birds can’t get to them.  Once you are sure they are good and dry, sort them to remove any that don’t appear good.  Pour them into a labeled seed envelope and store in a cool dry place.

Saving seed is so much fun.  Knowing where your seed comes from and providing for yourself is a great feeling.  Passing the craft down to our daughter is extra satisfying, knowing she knows how to raise a garden and provide food for her own future family and to be able to teach her children the art is very important to us.  Just to think, her children may even pass it down to their children using the same seed from what we save today!  What a legacy to give to your family!

If you have any questions, simply leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them as best I can.

 

Posted in Garden, Heirloom, Organic, Tomatoes | 3 Comments

Plants and Produce!

Summer is here and it came early this year!  The plants are blooming, the bean vines are climbing, the Farmers Markets are out in full force and above all…..the bees are buzzing!

Here on the farm, we have built several new garden beds this year and are still making more.  Not only did I get carried away in the greenhouse, but the plants have been so successful that we are building beds as fast as we can in order to not let any plants go to waste.  Each year, however, we always end up with more plants than we can use and the rest are donated to the local homeless kitchen’s garden.  I would encourage everyone to look for their local community shelter to see if they have a garden to donate their extra vegetable and herb plants to, or maybe just your local community garden.

This season, we are growing Solly Beiler cucumbers.  These were recommended to us by one of our Amish neighbors.  These are an heirloom cuke, and we really like how perfect they were for all sorts of use last year.  The plants appear to be very heavy producers and if they are all we think they are, we will be excited to offer the seed for your next growing season.

One of the new garden beds we put in was for what was, by far, our most favorite tomato that we grew last year….the Millionaire.  It is an extremely sweet tasting pink tomato that is extremely meaty and can be used for every thing you need a tomato for.  These are meaty enough to use for any sauce, large enough for one slice to cover your entire sandwich, and overall the best one we have found so far.  Of course we have fun growing all kinds of tomatoes and trying new heirloom varieties each year…..so I know we will discover other great tomatoes to tell you about too, but I can’t imagine not growing these for our own personal use every year.   The new one we are growing this year is the Yellow Brandywine.  I know this variety isn’t new to a lot of you, but we just began growing yellow tomatoes last year.  We have heard excellent things about this one and I’m excited about learning to create many different sauces with many different colors of tomatoes.

Don’t forget that with any heirloom variety, you can save the seed and start your own every growing season.  Make sure to only save the seed from the best looking fruit at all times.

The garden is calling me……happy gardening!!

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Spring in the Greenhouse

I love the promise a greenhouse holds…the warm damp scent of the soil, the warmth that you step into upon entering, the sight of rich deep green leaves…the very essence of life, creation and of course, resurrection.

So many things are happening in the garden and greenhouse at this time, it is difficult to keep up with it all.  I was so excited to learn a new method for germinating tomato and pepper seeds that I tried it immediately.

Has anyone ever started their seeds in an incubator?  That’s right, an egg incubator for hatching eggs!  You can set the temperature exactly where it needs to be depending on the seed and it remains that way until the seeds have sprouted.  Then I simply moved the trays of tomatoes and peppers into the greenhouse without worry of developing leggy plants.  Now….those few trays have grown into almost a thousand tomato plants and several hundred pepper plants.  That’ll teach me to take a new concept and go a bit too crazy with it.

The above picture is of the 4 x 4 square we put in the greenhouse to fill up with beans early this spring.  Late last summer when I put beans out, something kept eating all the tops off.  I’ve not had that problem in the past, but this spring I didn’t want to go through the same thing so I figured I’d put a 4 square in the greenhouse to keep that from happening.

We laid down the matting and put the 4 square on top of it.  Then I mixed the soil-less mix in the wheel barrow.  All our seeds begin their journey in soil-less mix.  We begin the base with Organic Peat Moss and add manure.  I know everyone warns against using regular cow manure due to the seeds in it, but in the spring, our cows haven’t had any access to plant seeds.  Plus, manure from our cows is free.  Then Vermeculite and Organic Blood Meal is added to the mixture.  This mixture is a terrific base to begin any seeds in.  We have had great success with it.

Well we planted the 4 square with Jade green beans and faithfully checked them only to sadly discover little holes where some miserable critter had snuck into the greenhouse and dug up the seeds!  As I replanted the seeds over the course of the next few days, a few others sprouted.  After a few more days I entered the greenhouse to discover the miserable critter had eaten the tops off of my newly sprouted beans!  Well I knew it couldn’t be no rabbit sneaking in so it had to be a mouse.  Now I have always felt that if the field mice will stay out of the house, I won’t set out poison for them, but this was war.  Needless to say, all the beans have now sprouted and are beginning their second set of leaves.

A new herb bed is being built…..we’ve planted several kinds of Basil, Thyme, and there is some Rosemary, Sage, Oregano and new this year is some Stevia.  I can’t wait to learn how to cook with such a wonderful natural sweetener.  Also…..we pick our bees up tomorrow!  I’ll take the camera along to post about it next time!

I hope ya’ll are enjoying your spring time planting too!

Posted in Gardening, homesteading, Organic | 3 Comments

Planting Ideas

We had a beautiful snow storm last week.  A snow so pretty, that we were left without a care in the world about planting season coming!  Thankfully, we got over it a few days later and now our minds are back on our lengthy list of what to plant and when; how much dirt to have trucked in and how soon to begin the newest garden addition.

We have our preliminary list of what we will be planting this year, not in any certain order.  This list is bound to grow and at the same time, some things that I am listing now, may not get planted due to lack of room, time and/or strength!  One thing is for sure though, we begin each year with a preliminary list that we begin with as our foundation.  Each year, we learn so much about new heirlooms and seeds we trade, that we usually double our beginning list easily by mid spring.  We will work at keeping everyone informed of our changes, additions and any and all growing bloopers that will surely come our way!

Beans:  Contender, Jade, Greasy Grits, Chinese Red Noodle

Carrots:  Parisienne, Berlicum, Kuroda Long 8″, Shin Kuroda 5″

Lettuce:  Little Gem, Mueslix

Peas:  Sugar Ann, Sugar Snap, Oregon Sugar Pod II

Radishes:  Rat Tail, Pink Beauty, Japanese Minowase Daikon

Cucumbers:  Bishop Sally Beiller Pickles

Melons:  Crenshaw, Missouri Gold, Banana Canteloupe

Gourds:  Birdhouse, Bushel Basket, Apple, Dipper

Peppers:  Albino, Quadrato D’ Astro Giallo, Habanero, Banana, Sweet Chocolate, Jalapeno, Cayenne, Golden Treasure

Tomatoes:  Bison, Mountain Princess, Amish Paste, Brandywine, Arkansas Traveler, Millionaire, Candy Stripe

Squash:  Butternut, Sweet Dumpling, Black Beauty Zucchini

Watermelon:  Moon & Stars, Wilson’s Sweet, Carolina Cross

HERBS:

Lemongrass, Fennel, Chives, Cilantro, Feverfew, Rosemary, Lemon Bee Balm, Russian Tarragon, Hyssop Blue, Lavender, Common Thyme, Anise Hyssop, Dill, Cinnamon Basil, Sweet Thai Basil, Dark Purple Opal Basil, Thai Holy Basil

FLOWERS:

Morning Glories: Chocolate, Scarlet O’Hara, Carnevale di Venezia; Zinnias, Pansies, Sweet Peas, Tiger Eye and Mongolian Giant Sunflowers, Moonflowers, Bachelor Buttons, Hollyhock, Nasturtian-Spitfire, Pumpkin, Rouge Vif d’ Etampes

There will also be plenty of onions, potatoes, garlic….and much more I’m sure I’m not thinking of at the moment!

HAPPY PLANTING!!

 

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Is Spring Here Yet?

Christmas and New Years have come and gone.  Daydreams of long rows of beans, tall trellises of cucumbers and the big deep green leaves of summer squash keep sneaking up on me.  We’ve already made long lists of what to plant and where to plant it with the room that we have, but it has become obvious, that we have more to plant than we have room.  The question isn’t if we need the garden space, the question is where will we put it?

I’ve been hearing so much lately, about planting seeds in eggshells, then when the seedlings are ready to plant, directly planting the whole plant and egg shell directly into the ground, that I’ve decided to try it.  We have an abundance of egg shells, thanks to the chickens, and it seems they make great planters plus they add calcium to the soil as they break down.  What a great idea!

The greenhouse has been such a blessing this winter and I’m ready to put it to some serious use (something more than lettuce etc.) within the next month.  Also on my list of things to do is to set up a couple cold frames right over some of the outside rows in order to directly sow cold crops into the ground this month.

I have visions of plowing half an acre in the cow pasture and fencing it off from the cows.  More visions of clearing an acre on the south slope and building tiers for tomatoes and who knows what else.  My dear husband simply smiles and says…….yes dear.   He is very familiar with the January garden itch that comes over me.

I’ll soon make a list in the sidebar of what we plan to grow this coming season.  It’ll be interesting to see what I “plan” to grow and what we actually end up growing due to size, space, bugs etc.   I do know that we will be growing Habanero peppers again!  Having them to spice up meals throughout the winter sure keeps the taste and colors of the garden fresh in your mind and the sweet/hot Apricot Habanero Jelly spooned over cream cheese on a Ritz cracker……YUM!!  I’d have to say that between the jelly and the salsa, peppers were my favorite thing to grow last season.

Oh! Also, while doing some clean up garden and yard work, we came across two praying mantis egg things.  I’m not sure what their proper name is , but I’m excited that we have that type of activity for our garden!  They are THE most wonderful organic pest control I have been able to find so far.

What are everyone else’s garden plans?  Any new neat ideas that you’re going to try?

Posted in Garden, Seeds | 1 Comment

Christmas Figgy Pudding Recipe

Ever wonder what exactly is figgy pudding?  We hear about it year after year around Christmas time so this year I wanted to finally figure out what it was.  What I have found out is that it isn’t actually a pudding, but a moist cake.  If you are like me and have never had this scrumptious dessert, you are in for a treat!

Figgy Pudding

1/2 cup soft butter

2 large farm eggs

1 cup molasses

2 cups finely chopped dried figs

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 cup buttermilk (use your own from making butter or buy some)

1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts (here in Missouri, we collect our own black walnuts)

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and flour an 8 x 4 souffle dish and set aside.

Cream the butter in a large bowl until fluffy.  Add the eggs and molasses, and blend well.  Add the figs, orange zest, buttermilk, and walnuts, and blend for 1 minute.  Add the remaining ingredients, and mix until blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared souffle dish.  Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted off-center comes out clean.

Spoon onto plates, and serve warm with cinnamon whip cream or ice cream.

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Looking for Snow

Snowflake. Small microscope kept outdoors. Sna...

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Today is December 10th and it is supposed to warm up to 52 degrees today! Now I’m all for longer growing seasons, but it’s December, Christmas is approaching and it sure would be nice to see some snow!  We have had some pretty cool weather already, getting down into the low teens, cool enough to kill any plants left outside. We’ve even had a small flake or two floating around here and there and a thin coating of ice.

After living in the North Woods of Wisconsin for several years, I surely miss the big heavy snows.   It is funny to listen to the weather man here in comparison to the weatherman in northern Wisconsin.  Here in Missouri, you will hear the weatherman declare that we are going to get slammed with possibly 5 inches of snow and people flock to the grocery stores to empty the shelves.  It makes me laugh :)  In northern Wisconsin, the weatherman will report a small accumulation of possibly 8 to 12 inches and people step outside to rejoice and prepare all of their winter toys like the snowmobiles, skis and sleds.  If a week or two goes by with no snow, the weatherman can actually be heard apologizing for the lack of snow!  I don’t think I have ever heard that down here in southern Missouri.

The other day, I actually caught myself telling our daughter to not sit outside playing with the chickens after her chores because it was too cold.  It was only in the mid 20’s with a light breeze and the sun was shining.  As soon as I’d said that, I remembered waiting until the temperature registered zero degrees in northern Wisconsin before she could go outside to play in the snow.  Those were the good days when it got above zero degrees!  Believe me, there were times it was too cold to breathe up there.  Now I realize that some of you live in the northern climates and know exactly what I’m talking about, lol.   I do believe we will be receiving some of your arctic air before the weekend, but no talk of snow yet.  I would love a cooler of snow for Christmas if any of you northerners care to send me some!

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Cider-Glazed Squash

Acorn-squash

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If you garden with heirlooms and have an abundance of acorn squash or simply enjoy the autumn taste of acorn squash from the farmer’s market, you might like to add this tasty recipe to your menu of ways to cook acorn squash.  It is the perfect side dish for roasted pork and apple chutney.

Cider-Glazed Squash

2 acorn squash

salt and pepper, to taste

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 cups cider or unfiltered apple juice

2 Tablespoons sugar

4 Tablespoons butter

freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly grease an 8 x 8 inch baking dish.

Halve the squash, and remove the pith and seeds.  Brush with the olive oil.  Season the squash with salt and pepper, and place cut side down in a baking dish.

Bake for 40 minutes.

While the squash cooks, reduce the cider in a saucepan over medium heat.  When the cider has reduced to nearly 1/2 cup, taste and add sugar if needed.  Stir in the butter.

Remove the squash after 40 minutes, and flip the halves so cut side is now up.  Brush the cut areas with the cider mixture, and pour the rest evenly over the squash.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the squash are fork tender.

 

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Thanksgiving Ice in the Ozarks

Part of the glory of living in the Ozarks is learning how to deal with freezing rain.  The important thing to remember is to watch the skies above and listen to your weatherman.  During this time of year when the weatherman states that he doesn’t know for sure what will happen other than a mixed bag of precipitation, you better make sure that your pantry is full.  When the weatherman states that we will be receiving “accumulating” ice, it is time to fill up the buckets and tubs with water unless you have a generator for your well.

The freezing rain we received on Thanksgiving will be enough to finish off most of the herbs that were still growing, other than that, it is a beautiful sight to behold.  This morning we enjoyed our coffee watching the sun come up through the trees, dancing off Continue reading

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Harvest Chicken Noodle Soup

This is one of my favorite recipes during this season and throughout winter.  It is a great way to use cold crop produce and fresh herbs for the garden or greenhouse.  Perfect for a cozy evening against the damp cold!   I am listing the conventional ingredients, but in the directions I will explain how I make it since I use what I have on hand and use as many fresh ingredients as possible.  I try to cook completely without preserved items from stores, keeping as true to the earth as possible and as close to the food as God created it.  In todays times, this isn’t always easy and I find it to be a constant learning process.

INGREDIENTS:

1 Tbsp Butter (use the real stuff, make your own or support your local dairy farmer)

1/2 cup chopped onion Continue reading

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