Thursday, July 11, 2013

Blackberry Cordial

We here in Tennessee have evidently entered into some kind of parallel universe where there is no sun and it rains 24 hours a day.  Therefore, I have decided to work on some indoor things and just let the outdoors be until the planets can realign themselves. 

Ever since I read Anne of Green Gables, I have wanted to make cordial.  I came across a recipe for wild blackberry cordial on a blog that I absolutely love called The Essential Herbal.  You can find it here.  It is a very simple recipe.  I don't even think that I can mess this one up. 

The recipe calls for:
  • glass jar (any size)
  • blackberries (enough to fill 1/3 to 1/2 of the jar) 
  • maple syrup (real not fake)
  • brandy (80 proof)
I didn't have these items in my pantry so I headed out to do some shopping.  I got some blackberries from the local farmer's market . . .


and some organic syrup.


Next, I headed over to the liquor store to buy some brandy.  I don't normally drink brandy so I have no brand preference.  But E&J was mentioned so I went with that one. 


Then I headed home and I started to make my first batch of wild blackberry cordial.  I began by cleaning the jars and rinsing the blackberries.


I added the blackberries to the jars


Then, I added the maple syrup.
 

Finally, I added an equal part of brandy to the jars.


I put the lids on the jars and gave them a good shake.


 
I labeled my new concoction and set it aside to infuse for the next 10 days to 6 weeks.  
 

 I will continue to shake it occasionally until it is ready.  When it is done, I will strain out the fruit and decant the cordial into some pretty bottle.  They say that cordial will keep for years without refrigeration.  I figure the alcohol will kill most anything.

Et voila!  My first batch of blackberry cordial.  I am so excited.  I may even go back and read the Anne of Green Gables series again.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Serving the Tea - Liquid Fertilizer Update

What, you may ask, is that white pattern pictured below?


I don't know exactly.  It's the crud that grew on top of my liquid fertilizer while it was brewing.

 
It doesn't look good.  So, I decided to remove it and dispose of it.  I am just hoping that I didn't violate any hazardous waste laws.   I strained the rest of the "tea".  Then I added water to it using a 1:10 ratio and went looking for something to fertilize. 


Because I have never used this liquid fertilizer, I was very careful in my plant selection.  I didn't want to fertilize any of my healthy plants.  We have a saying in the South, "If it ain't broke, don't go fixin it."  I chose to fertilize the Lilliputian herbs first. 


The next test subject was the bean pot that hasn't come up yet.  If I kill any of these plants, at least it isn't a huge loss.


Fingers crossed.

Please Fit, Please Fit!

I was so happy when I came home and saw the little brown box with the smiley face!  I knew what was in it because it was a present from myself to myself.  I immediately started chanting, "Please fit, please fit, please fit, please fit."


I opened the box and there they were.  My cheery, colorful, make my feet happy, new garden boots.  They were beautiful.  I took a moment to just appreciate their beauty just in case I had to send them back.  I frequently purchase things over the internet, but rarely do I buy something that needs to be tried on.  "Please fit, please fit, please fit, please fit."


I have been wanting a pair of gardening boots ever since the first time the morning dew got my tennis shoes, socks and consequently my feet all wet - not to mention the bottom of my pants.  I thought that I had found a solution when I discovered an old pair of rubber riding boots in my attic.  They were certainly waterproof, but were really difficult to get off after a couple of sweaty hours in the garden. "Please fit, please fit, please fit, please fit."


They fit!!! Have boots will garden.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Comback Kids!

The tomato babies have made a comeback!!  All of them!!  I can't believe it.  I thought they were goners for sure.


Plus, they have a new friend.  The Beefsteaks and the Romas have been joined by the Cherry.  My neighbor came by and gave me a tomato plant.  I don't know if he felt sorry for me after what happened with the tomato babies or if he just had an extra plant.  Whatever the motivation, I am very thankful.   

 



Curb Stopping the New Dumpster Diving

Once a month, our city collects large items that people have placed at the curbs outside their homes for disposal.   Often people throw away things that they just don't want anymore, but that are still in good condition. The other day, I ran across these two pots.  Now I just have to decide what to plant in them.  One man's trash is another woman's treasure.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Lowdown on Love's Acre June 2013

I have decided to do a monthly garden status report, a sort of state of affairs.  I am hereby christening it "The Lowdown on Love's Acre".  Without further ado (because it certainly doesn't deserve anymore), here is the lowdown for June 2013.

The Little Lady Raised Bed is growing great guns.  I don't think that I have ever had plants last this long or grow this big.  They are all still mystery plants (except the carrots), but they are so beautiful.  Plus, one day something will start to form that will give me a better idea of what they are.


The Bean Teepee has sprouted.  Well most of it has sprouted.  There is still one pot that I am waiting on.  If it doesn't sprout, the bean teepee will become a teepee with a view. 

Bean Pot #1

Bean Pot #2

Bean Pot #3

Unfortunately the Herbs aren't fairing as well.  I have now renamed them the Lilliputian Herbs.  I'm not really sure what I did wrong.  Perhaps, they are lonely and need herb friends (meaning that I put them in pots that were too big.)  It could be that they are getting too much water or sun.  Maybe they are not getting enough fertilizer (because I haven't given them any.)  I certainly don't have the gardening skills to know.  I will be experimenting with them in July.  I had visions of growing beautifully large herb plants and drying the surplus to use during the winter.  Isn't it funny how the idea of a thing often falls short of the thing itself. 

Lilliputian Cilantro

Lilliputian Basil

Lilliputian Oregano

The JalapeƱo Peppers seem to be doing great.  I had originally planned to transplant them to the big boy garden too, but after the tomato massacre I am seriously considering just letting them stay where they are.


The Berry Bushes are hanging in there (with the exception of the raspberry bush which was a goner right from the start.)  I even have some blackberries growing.  I would really like to get some more berry trees planted.  I will have to check into that for next month. 


The Strawberries are a complete and utter fail.  They were just an experiment to see if I could get them to grow from old rotten berries (probably not my best idea.)  Plus, I didn't know if the berries were genetically modified or not (which I definitely do not want in my garden.)  So, maybe it is for the best.  I don't really feel that bad.  I will just have to go to the local farmer's market to get my strawberries this year and plan ahead better for next year.  They are on their way to the compost pile. 


Well, that is that state of things on Love's Acre.  I am looking forward to July's happenings.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Lavender

Ever since I spent a year in Aix-en-Provence, France, I have loved the smell of lavender.  Plus, it's pretty.  So, I have decided to try my hand at lavender.  I couldn't find any lavender plants, but I did find some seeds.  I read that when lavender is started from seed, it does better when it is sowed inside and then transferred as small plants into the ground.  (I am so having tomato plant flashbacks right now.) 

First, I gathered my supplies:

Lavender Seeds

Old Egg Carton

Then I filled the egg carton with potting soil.


I poured out some seeds to plant.  Lavender seeds are so little.


Next, I planted the seeds in the soil.  (They are the little brown things in the center that look like all the other little brown things in the picture.  I am really going to have to work on photography skills.)


Finally, I added a little water.  Now they are all ready for the wonderful Tennessee sun. 


They can take from 4 to 6 weeks to germinate so I will really be using my lifeskill of patience on this one.

The Great Tomato Massacre!

My tomato plants have been doing so well.  They are about to outgrow their first home. So, I decided it was time to let them graduate from their preschool pot to the big boy garden.
 

I would have preferred to build another little lady garden bed, but I am still working with limited resources.  So, I worked with what I had - the ground.  First, I dug some holes. 

 
Then, I put some potting soil into the holes hoping that it will give the tomato babies a more gentle start.
 
 
Finally, I put the tomato babies in the ground and backfilled with potting soil.  They were not at all happy.  Before I could even get them all in the ground they had started to wilt, each and every one of them. 
 
Massacred baby #1.
 
 
Massacred baby #2.
 
 
Massacred baby #3.
 
 
Massacred baby #4.
 
 
I killed them!!  I am so sad that I don't know what to do.  I am secretly hoping that this is some kind of temper tantrum and that the tomato babies will rebound in the next 24 to 48 hours.  Think good thoughts for the tomato babies.
 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bean Teepee!

One of the perks of beginning a new life is that you get to do what you want.  More and more, I am motivated by my own likes and desires.  I have always wanted to build a bean teepee so that is what I did today. 

I started with some inexpensive bamboo stakes that I got from the local home store.  I really wanted some longer ones, but 6 ft. stakes were the longest ones that the store had available.

 
Then I gathered some coffee filters and some rocks.
 
 
I chose the three largest terra cotta pots I still had.
 
 
Then, I lined the pots with the coffee filters and added the rocks.  The coffee filters keep the rocks from falling out of the bottom of the pots and the small layer of rocks at the bottom of the pots keeps the plants' roots from getting water logged - at least that's the theory. 
 
 
Then, it was time to pick a spot for the bean teepee.  I decided to use one of the places that I had cannibalized previously for topsoil.  The spot was already cleared so I didn't have to excavate a new spot or fill in the old one (two birds, one stone).  All I had to do was clean up the edges of the circle a little bit. 
 
 
I have heard that newspaper can be used to deter weed growth.  So I gathered some old newspapers.  As you can see, I am not a big sports fan.
 
 
They say that if newspaper ink is soy based it is safe to put around edible plants.  Well, this newspaper uses soy based ink.  The only problem is that the majority of the soy crops in the US are genetically modified.  I don't want genetically modified anything in my garden.  But once again, I was faced with making the best of the situation or not moving forward.  I decided to move forward and lined the floor of the teepee with newspapers.
 
 
I put in a wood, a.k.a. old sticks, edging and added some rocks that I had lying around for good measure.
 
 
Now it was time to erect the "poles" of the teepee.  I found some old twine and went about trying to figure out how to tie three stakes together so that they would stay in place - even in the wind.  I had no idea how to do that.  I have never been a boy scout or sailor so knot tying is not my forte.  I decided just to wing it and see what happens during the next storm.   I think it came out well!
 

Finally, I took the seeds that I had soaking overnight.  (It is said that soaking seeds overnight before planting them makes it easier for them to germinate.)  and planted them.  If all goes well, I will be harvesting cowpeas, a.k.a black-eyed peas, dark red kidney beans and Blue Lake bush beans in no time at all.