September 25, 2010

A sunny day

It's been a dreary, cold & rainy week. It was fun to go out and dig potatoes today and see this sunny reminder of summer still holding on.

September 18, 2010


Raspberries are definitely a jewel in my garden. They are also a great example of how I have come from being a totally clueless gardener to well....I guess a slightly less clueless gardener. I still have much to learn but the successes keep me going.

First raspberry attempt: Latham- A spring bearing variety. They had a few berries on them in their third year (last year) but I'm not impressed. We will probably give them one more year to prove their worth. The plant remained small for the first three years. I trimmed it to the ground last year (knowing that it would not produce this year). It really grew this summer so we will see if there are berries next year.

Autumn Britten- Awesome! It is "everbearing". We trim it to the ground in the fall and it produces large amounts of berries starting in early August. They are huge and have the classic sweet with a hint of tang raspberry flavor. This is our second year and it produced lots for fresh eating, giving away and winemaking as well. We are still picking a fair amount and will until a hard frost. The quality deteriorated slightly in September (a less tender texture) but the taste is still quite good.

Jaclyn- We planted these last spring. They have not performed as well as the Autumn Britten did in their first year but I have high hopes for them. They are also an "everbearing" variety. The plants are small and the production has been quite low but the taste is excellent. They produce a dark colored, sweet berry. They are my husband's favorite. I miss the tart flavor raspberries usually have. These are more candy-like (in my opinion). I enjoy them but most will go to my husband if they do well next year.

Unfortunately we are running out of room for berry bushes. I'd love to plant more. Maybe it's time to look for a bit of land!

August 27, 2010

Freezer Pickles

It has been a bit of a rough summer for gardening here this year. The good news is that I haven't had to water much. The peppers, winter squash and cucumbers have done well. However the heavy rains we have had were rough on the tomatoes and potatoes.

I wanted to grow a mild flavored, prolific cucumber that wouldn't need peeling. White Wonder really fit the bill. We have had plenty to eat and give away with some left over for preserving. I didn't think I had time to make pickles but then a friend told me about freezer pickles. I had never heard of them but I found quite a few recipes on-line. I have about 10 servings in the freezer with more to come. They were easy to make and I have high hopes for them. Have you heard of freezer pickles? Here is the recipe I tried but there are a lot of variations too. The addition of hot peppers and or garlic sounds worth a try next time around. I may go from having too many cucumbers to running to the markets to buy more so I can enjoy these through the winter.

3 1/2 cups finely sliced cucumbers
2 small onions sliced
1 T salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar

Mix sugar and vinegar until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients. Place in refrigerator for 48 hours stirring once or twice a day. Freeze in zip lock bags. Thaw in refrigerator to serve. Serve as is or drain well and mix with sour cream.

August 1, 2010

Back to the garden

We enjoyed a trip out to Montana for dear hubbies family reunion. However, it also felt good to be back home. We were away for 8 days and the garden did a wonderful thing in our grew....a lot! The corn, cucumbers and peppers did especially well. Peppers have been in every meal since we returned and I really love the two varieties we selected this year.

The Hungarian hot wax pepper is pale green and packs a bit of heat. The early ones were mild but they are getting hotter as the summer goes on. I love hot peppers so they have been delicious to eat stuffed and grilled. For other family members (with their milder tastes) they work well chopped in with other things. The plants are PROLIFIC. I have picked quite a few every day and more await.

The Jimmy Nardello Sweet Italian Frying Pepper is a real treat. If I could stop munching them raw, then we could enjoy a few more grilled. They are tasty either green or red. The plants produce well which is a good thing because the sweet delicate flavor of these peppers makes them one of my favorites.

I wanted a light meal using the peppers and cucumbers. I didn't measure amounts much but I made a soup I really enjoyed. I heated a little milk with a teaspoon of potato starch and added roasted seeded peppers (3 mild, 1 hot), pickled garlic and creame fraiche and pureed with a stick blender. Chill. Just before serving, I added 2 diced cucumbers (more on those later but I have a variety of cucumber this year that I really like too). Strain (if you like) and garnish it with some chocolate cherry tomato wedges. I will make more for my lunch tomorrow. The season is so short but the garden will produce most of our food for the next 2 months or so. Hopefully the peppers will freeze well also....there really are a lot of them!

July 5, 2010

The 4th of July and Red Currant Wine

Our red currants usually ripen close to the 4th of July. Since that is our wedding anniversary, we have developed a tradition of enjoying a toast with Red Currant wine and then starting a new batch for the next year. It makes a beautiful ruby red wine with a delicate slightly tart flavor. If we can manage to let the wine age for two years, it mellows to a rich flavor. The one we enjoyed yesterday was wonderful. The currants pictured at the right won't be wine for a while but we just like the way they look.

Red currants are easy to grow and are lovely in the landscape. We especially enjoy the way they look when they are loaded with fruit. They are delicious but slightly tart with large seeds. I like to crush some, strain them and make a Ruby Currantade (like lemonade but a more subtle flavor).

For anyone interested in wine-making, a great place to start is with Jack Keller. We enjoy his recipe for Red Currant wine.

June 26, 2010

Garden Happenings

This photo is of a plant I'm hoping that the hummingbirds will discover soon. This is a honeysuckle I planted last year. It is doing a nice job of adding color to what was a drab corner of the garden.

It has been a busy spring but we have had fun harvesting strawberries, peas, herbs, rhubarb, radishes, lettuce, spinach and asparagus. Even though I'm sad that some of those crops are almost done for the year, it's great to look forward to the tomatoes, grapes, potatoes, raspberries and other garden gems.

I picked the first pepper of the season today. It is a Hungarian Hot Wax and will be delicious mixed in with rice & beans. It adds just a nice hint of heat. I have two varities this year. The other is Jimmy Nardello. I like to try a different pepper or two- usually one that has some heat and another that is more mild. Any suggestions for next year?

May 26, 2010

Lilac Wine

We have two varieties of lilacs. One has lovely blooms and a nice fragrance but a bitter flavor. The other variety is "Miss Kim" and is a pale purple with a delicate spicy scent and pleasant floral flavor. Just about anything edible gets made into wine at least once around here. This is the second year for lilac wine. The first was excellent.

We just finished making a one gallon batch of lilac wine. We didn't get a lot of flowers on the Miss Kim lilac this year but we look forward to sipping the results next May. I'm not sure that I mind that there weren't many lilacs to pick. Pulling off the petals is a little tedious. This picture may make it look like we had a lot, but it is only about one cup of petals.

I'm sipping a little of last year's batch while I write. It has a lovely delicate flavor and is perfect for enjoying on a warm spring evening. This year's lilac wine is a lilac apple blend. It may sound a little unusual but hopefully it will equal the lilac, dried pear and elderberry blossom wine that I'm enjoying now. We have had some wines that have been a bit disappointing so it is fun when we are pleased with the results.

May 22, 2010

Cincinnati Market Radish

Cincinnati Market Radishes- two that are straight, one that is knot.

We have three varieties of radishes growing this year and we enjoy them all. The early crops are a fun treat while we wait for the potatoes, tomatoes, raspberries, beans etc...

The Cincinnati market radish is crisp with a mild flavor. This is our first year growing them. Most have been straight and 5-6 inches long. They look a lot like red carrots but have a delicious radish taste.

May 15, 2010

New home construction

I have 40# of seed potatoes sitting on the dining room table just waiting to find a spot in the garden. Dear hubby is always willing to make room in the garden for spuds. We have 5 varieties this year and I can't wait to try each of them over the fire pit.

The rhubarb is taking over the garden. My husband will pass on that treat while I enjoy some stevia sweetened cooked rhubarb/apples with cinnamon. It will be nice for an evening snack and on oatmeal in the morning. Not using sugar much limits the options for rhubarb recipes but I still enjoy it. I think that some rhubarb/raspberry wine will be in the works this summer. I haven't tried to make wine with rhubarb yet but I have had some made by others. I haven't been impressed but I think I might enjoy it if I go light on the rhubarb.

Lots of good stuff growing already including lupine, peas, radishes, basil, currants and lovage. I also have 2 varieties of green peppers, 4 varieties of tomatoes and ground cherries started in the basement and ready to head out to the garden after hardening off. Hopefully the peppers will fare well. I have about 3 trays (12 pots in each) but one really took a hit today. I was headed out to the garage with them took a misstep and started to tumble down the stairs. I managed to twist around and fall into the house (sounded much better than going down the stairs) and went face first into the pepper plants. I'm a bit sore but I think I did better then they did. I re-potted them and hopefully after another week or two of TLC they will be ready for the garden. Right now they look a bit rough.

I enjoyed sitting out in the garden this evening and admiring the lupine. They don't stay in flower for long but they are one of my favorites. Happy gardening!

April 17, 2010

Today's harvest

Yep, this is it. It didn't exactly take all morning to haul the crops in. However, it was a nice treat to drop the asparagus in the water I was cooking potatoes in, drain, add a hint of butter and eat. A tasty, tiny snack. Half of the spear went to my husband's lunch. The rhubarb will make for a nice glass of rhubarbade.

It has been especially warm and a lot of the plants in my garden are about a month ahead of schedule. We have been harvesting lovage and chives for a while. The clove currants are blooming. I'm just starting to see a hint of the radish and spinach plants.

It was a nice morning to get out into the garden, weed and see how much the plants have been growing. I've joined the "normal" work world this year so am mainly able to garden on the weekends. Hopefully, I can get out there a bit more in the summer. There is nothing like starting the day with weeding, watering and munching on fresh raspberries. I can't wait.

April 1, 2010

80 degrees on April 1st. No fooling.

I couldn't wait to head out to the garden after work. It's hard to resist the urge to get planting but I know that colder days will probably be ahead. However, it sure was fun to get out and play in the dirt. We got a lot done and enjoyed the evening. Now dear hubby heads off to work while I get some tomato seeds started. I settled for "only" four varieties this year. Well it's back to the basement garden station where we have the lights set up for seed starting. Happy planting!

March 20, 2010


Last week we enjoyed temps in the 60's and watched our snow disappear. It is colder now but the lack of snow has been nice. I've been out in the garden cleaning things up and getting the raised beds ready. I'll start the pepper and ground cherry plants indoors this weekend. This afternoon I enjoyed a trek out back looking over the gardens. I'll have to get my bike ready and continue my quest for more:

Signs of spring?

Happy Spring!

February 27, 2010

It feels great to be back home...sort of

Even though I was in San Antonio for a conference (which was great), we found time to get out and about to enjoy the city too. I loved the restaurants. I enjoyed delicious meals and awesome Mojitos. Friday was the nicest day of the week. We only had time to hit the touristy type places close to the convention center but still it was a blast to walk around the city.

There aren't too many cities I am in a hurry to head back to but San Antonio leads the list. Next time I would like to bring my hubby along and get a chance to see some of the surrounding area. The first three pictures were taken in San Antonio on Friday. The last one was taken this morning. It shows the weather that was waiting for me at home. We love Wisconsin but I sure would like to garden outside of zone 4 someday.

Sigh, I think I need to go take a look at some gardening catalogs until I get over this urge to immediately fly back to Texas. Last week I placed the last of my 2010 seed orders (no really, this time I mean it!). I'm looking forward to their arrival and having some time to plan out the seed starting and planting dates.
Happy Gardening!

February 21, 2010

Everyone wins!

You might have heard about the recent One World One Heart event. If not, scroll down for some info about it. It was fun and featured three things I enjoy: visiting blogs, giving things away and winning stuff. I won the jackpot on all three. I found some really fun blogs to follow and met new friends. The event would have been successful for that alone. However, I also won a prize at three blogs. Pictured is the first of the three to arrive. It is from Craftymoose and she does very nice beading work!

I also enjoyed the chance to give gifts. It is fun sharing things that I like using which includes the magazine and "smart pot" that were in my giveaway. Most of the bloggers in this event make wonderful crafts. I sure don't fall into that category. The closest I get to crafts is designing seed packets for the seeds I save and give. However, I loved the chance to participate anyway.

I'm really looking forward to this next week. I'm headed to San Antonio for a conference. Although the weather doesn't sound too warm, it will be an improvement over what we have here. It is a city I have very much wanted to visit so I can't wait!

February 14, 2010

♥♥♥Happy Valentine's Day♥♥♥

A valentine's day greeting featuring two things we love, Wisconsin dairy and potatoes.

January 29, 2010

Need more space, always need more space

One might think that that 12 raised beds and two large garden areas would be enough. They are not! I'm always looking for one more spot to tuck in a plant (or a few dozen). In addition to my usual annuals, I'm looking forward to putting in more raspberries, blueberries, currants and horseradish.

This year we will grow potatoes in a 4X8 raised bed garden, 10 smart pots/grow bags and quite a few large plastic pots. Potatoes are so easy to grow in most anything. I have heard of people growing them right in bags of soil. I've also seen them in a wide variety of containers including tires. I am always looking for a place to grow more potatoes. We have some food grade buckets we may use this year too. Drill holes in the bottom, add some good dirt, spuds and water then watch them grow!

Have you tried or heard of any unique methods for growing spuds? More ideas are always appreciated!

January 25, 2010

One World One Heart Giveaway

2/16/10- Prizes have been sent. Happy Gardening!

2/15/10- I have selected the winners. Congrats! It has been so much fun meeting everyone. I sure enjoyed the magic carpet ride!

1/26/10 update: for every 100 entries, I will be adding another prize.

Gift # 1: One year subscription to the Heirloom Gardener Magazine (added January 25). Won by Judy

Gift # 2: One 15 gallon fabric "Smart Pot". Perfect for growing potatoes above ground even if you have little space (added January 27). Won by Theresa

Gift # 3: A single sample copy of Heirloom Gardener Magazine (Added February 3). Won by Crystal

I enjoy chatting with gardeners around the world and learning more about them and what they grow. Garden blogging is a great way to bring people together who might not ordinarily meet. That fits well with the goals of The One World One Heart event which seeks to bring bloggers together. It is a great chance to meet people and the giveaways are an added bonus.

So on to my giveaway in this event: The Heirloom Gardener magazine is a virtual magic carpet ride around the world. It features articles on an intriguing international collection of seeds and plants. So it seems like a good gift to share with one lucky winner in my little corner of the One World One Heart event and this year's Magic Carpet theme. I find each issue of this magazine to be an adventure and would love to give a one year (4 issue) subscription to one person anywhere in the world (I don't have any ties to this magazine, I just enjoy reading it!). The winner will be selected at random on February 14 at midnight and announced on February 15, 2010.

All you need to do is comment below and include a link or e-mail address so I can contact the winner. It would be fun if you write something about your gardening experiences in your comment but it is not required. The Heirloom Gardener is a fun read whether you have never gardened or if you are a pro. Grow some unique flowers, herbs or vegetables and have your own adventure.

You may also enjoy visiting the One World One Heart link to find a world of interesting blogs.

January 24, 2010


More dreaming of spring......

I've bought my tomato seeds and that's it. No more! Unless I find another variety I absolutely cannot live without.

Last year I was given free seeds for Chocolate Cherry Tomato. They were richly flavored, sweet, delicious and also made a great addition to one of our wines. I didn't really want to grow it again (just because I like to try new varieties) but my hubby convinced me to include them in the 2010 garden. They did ripen early and produce well through the summer. That was a pretty good feat since last summer wasn't great for my other tomatoes.

I wanted to try the Black Plum Tomato this year. I haven't grown it before. The description of the sweet tangy flavor sounds tempting and we have never been disappointed with the dark colored tomatoes.

The Cour di Bue tomato was a free sample that came with a seed order. I wasn't sure if I would keep them or give them away. However, the mention of them being good for saucing convinced me to give them a try.

I would love to hear about your favorite tomatoes. I've thought of trying a green variety and I'm sure I can always find just the right spot for a cherry tomato or another tomato for sauce. Any suggestions? A larger garden might be the first place to start!

January 18, 2010

Spring planning

Another spud post? Sure, why not. My favorite way to deal with winter blues is to place my seed orders. Picking out the potatoes to grow this year is especially fun. This photo is of our 2009 harvest. Hopefully 2010 will be a successful potato growing year. The 2010 spuds are:

LaRatte- supposedly creamy when pureed so I'm looking forward to trying it in soups and sauces like I did with the Rose Finn Apple potato. The "rich chest-nutty flavor" sounds worth a try.

Purple Peruvian- a purple potato? I have to try it just because it should look great on the plate. Hopefully it tastes great too!

Peanut- I like the description of it being firm after steaming so it can be sauteed with other vegetables. Sounds good. I enjoy potatoes tossed with peppers, onions and tomatoes and topped with a hint of smoked cheese. Should be a nice fire-pit spud too.

Irish Cobbler- "makes the greatest mashed potatoes". What other reason do I need!

Inca Gold- I love the yellow color. We might appreciate the fact that it is described as a good keeper if we manage to not eat all the spuds in the fall.

The question is: Will I manage not to give in and buy just one more (or 2) variety of potatoes to grow this year? Only time will tell.

January 15, 2010

Potato review

Although we don't care too much about store bought potatoes, my husband and I are hooked on the wide variety of spuds we can grow ourselves. Unfortunately, this picture is of the last of the potatoes from this years crop. However, we are left with tasty memories and fun plans for next year. This year we grew Adora, Carola, Mountain Rose and Rose Finn Apple potatoes. Although they would all be worth trying again, we will be growing 5 different varieties this year. I just want to try every variety of spuds I can get my hands on at least once if possible.

If I ever decide to grow a variety I've tried before, it is likely it will be Rose Finn Apple. It is a fingerling and was wonderful roasted whole on the grill or fire pit or used as a thickener. I peeled them and pureed the Rose Finn's into soups and sauces. It makes for a smooth and delicious thick soup.

The Mountain Rose is just a beautiful spud. The rose coloring makes for unusual but lovely mashed potatoes. They were creamy and delicious. This potato was also great fried in slices or wedges on the fire-pit. I like them for the taste alone but the pretty rose color is a nice bonus. They really dress up a plate. A spoonful of the pink Mountain Rose mashed potatoes looked nice next to a spoon of the mashed golden yellow Carola spuds. I can't say much about the storing qualities of either the Mountain Rose or Rose Finn Apple, we ate them up before they could be put to the test.

The Adora and Carola are both good potatoes but I wouldn't rush to grow them again. They were good on the fire-pit (all spuds are) or boiled and the Carola made a richly flavored mashed potato. Both were excellent keepers. We don't have a root cellar yet (it is in the dreaming stages) but they stored well in a slightly cool basement.

I haven't found a potato we don't like yet but there are some we really love to grow. Our favorite treat will always be digging new potatoes, splashing them with the garden hose and putting them on the fire-pit without them making a trip into the house. Although we enjoy trying to eat a "Hundred Mile Diet", nothing beats the 50 foot diet. You can't get more local than that.

January 2, 2010


Sometimes I am very motivated to work out. Unfortunately, this winter isn't one of them. Once spring comes, it gets much easier and more fun to exercise. However, I have a plan that is working well. Garden catalogs! As soon as they arrive, I bring my favorites downstairs and put them on the rack of my bicycle. I can only read them as part of my cool-down after a spinning workout. I'm so addicted to my garden planning that I don't procrastinate working out like I tend to in the winter. Weird plan but it works. I sure never expected that I would get this hooked on gardening.

Time to go seed shopping...
I mean bicycling.

Thanks for visiting!