Saturday, October 12, 2013

Survey Cicada Damage

Surveying the Orchard after our bout with the 17-year Cicada this past Spring, we received a bit of damage to our young apple and pear trees. Though, we are hoping (fingers crossed) that most will rebound; we'll consider ourselves lucky if we only loose one or two trees. 

You can see the damage on this two year old pear. The female cicadas ripe the bark to lay their eggs. 
At least there is still green leaves and new growth. Promising. 

This two year old apple doesn't look nearly as promising.

We're hoping at least half of this two year old apple tree will survive.

This one year apple tree sustained a bit of damage to its upper branches, but the main trunk is unharmed. It will probably need an extra year to mature, but hopefully it'll survive. 

Our nut trees were hit the worst, no chestnuts, hickory, or walnuts this year! 

How did your trees survive?

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Run For Your Lives, 5k

The past couple years my sister has really gotten into running, and not just for enjoyment but in races. (I have to brag, big sister rights, she completed her first half marathon this past Spring.) She asked if I'd like to run with her, my response "If it's fun, I'll run." She found one right up my alley, so I couldn't pass it up! (I'm a sucker for Zombies!)

We ran in the 2013 Maryland Run For Your Lives , Zombie Apocalypse 5k Obstacle Course Race.

The race was set up with waves starting every 30 minutes, each wave maxed out at 500 runners. Our heat was at 10am and it was full, not all heats were sold out, so we were lucky (more runners = more humans for the undead to attack). Parking was about a mile away, they had shuttle buses to the start/finish line. This is also where check-in, vendors, and entertainment were located. They recommended arriving 2-hours prior, we arrived about an hour fifteen early and had plenty time. They also had a place available for camping, for the diehard racers. We were given a belt with three flags (similar to flag football). The goal of the race is to "survive" the Zombie Apocalypse, therefore to finish with at least one flag. The Zombies on the course try to take your flags while you're running. Everyone lined up at the start line; they didn't have it very well marked for the different groups based on race speed -Appetizer, Main Course, and Dessert. So, I'm not sure where we ended up.

The very first obstacle was to run through a muddy pit, and then immediately following was another muddy water pit, about four feet deep, with logs to jump, roll, or climb over. Wet and muddy within the first minute! I LOVED it! The rest of the course had a section where we sprinted to dodge the Zombies, these sections included curved dirt paths, consecutive hills to run up and down, and woodland trails - complete with natural erosion and tree roots.

Some of the obstacles included a "house of fog", which we belly crawled through, keeping our head down, there were live wires of varying length hanging from the ceiling. Rolling over huge hay bales, climbing over consecutive walls, crawling through huge irrigation tubes filled with muddy water, weaving through barricades, and climbing up a series of monster truck tires only to plunge down into 4 ½ ft deep water.

Our strategy -- we found it easier to get through the hordes of Zombies in large groups, so we formed alliances with other runners. But alas, we became infected! We didn’t “survive” the Zombie Apocalypse. All in all, it was a thrilling and amazing adventure – I will gladly do it again!

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Friday, October 4, 2013

Winter Luxury Pumpkin Soup

Well, I must say I've missed writing on here! It's funny, right when our gardens get growing and I have lots to share, the trees leaf out and block the Internet signal! Our Internet has been spotty and sluggish all summer, now that the leaves are falling...I'm back! 

Our pumpkin patch faired okay. It was hit hard by squash bugs and critters, but we got at least one of each variety. 

The Winter Luxury pumpkin grew very well, we have several of them. I gave a few to a coworker for pumpkin ale, in exchange for several pounds of Concord grapes (heaven)! 

Winter Luxury is a smaller pumpkin, with netting marking the surface, it is suppose to make a delectable pumpkin pie, with a velvety smooth texture. I decided to make a pumpkin soup with it, the pie can wait until next week! 

First, I punctured it a few times with a fork. To allow steam to vent. And I baked it, whole, in the oven at 350-degrees until it smushed, about an hour or so. (It is a very old oven, please disregard the current state.)

The skin peels away very nicely, allowing you to use just about all of the pumpkin meat. 

The soup is very easy to make!

The final product is silky smooth, with a little bit of a kick for a pumpkin soup! 

Voila! Pumpkin Soup. 
What is your favorite pumpkin recipe?

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pumpkin Pie

I planted several pumpkins this year, most are said to be good eating, so I'm anxious to try!
Though I really wanted to try a Pumpkin Pie using the Winter Luxury pumpkin, I decided to use the Pink Banana squash first. 

Measuring just shy of 12", it was the perfect amount for a single pie.
I prepared to roast it, cut it lengthwise and scoop the seeds. I put it cut side down and baked it at 425 degrees until tender (about 45 minutes for mine). 

Remove from oven, let cool enough to handle, then scrape pumpkin. The pie recipe calls for 2 cups pumpkin purée. Other ingredients are:
12 oz evaporated milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs molasses
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in blender until smooth. Pour into pie crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 15minutes, turn down to 350 degrees and bake another 45 minutes, or until done. 

Voila! A homemade pumpkin pie! 
The Pink Banana has a wonderful pumpkin taste and smooth texture. I'll be sure to save one for Thanksgiving!  Though, I'm still anxious to try the Winter Luxury! 

What do you use for your Pumpkin Pie?
(I'm always up for new recipes too, I still haven't found just the right one!)

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Monday, September 9, 2013

Watermelon Rind Pickles

We harvested our first watermelon, it's a Charleston Gray!
And to put it to good use, I made Pickled Melon Rinds! They're easy to make and scrumptious to eat! You should try it with your next melon!

Remove the rind. The easiest way is to cut the melon as you normally would. Cut off all pink flesh (the part you typically eat), then using a vegetable peeler, peel off the green skin. Cut the rind into about 1" pieces. 

Prepare the brine. 
1/4 cup salt to 1 qt water. Put all cut rind chunks in brine. Let sit overnight.
Drain and rinse.

Prepare syrup. 
Mix vinegar, water, and spices. Bring to boil. 

Add rinds. Boil. Simmer about 30-minutes. The rinds should be clear. 

Pack rinds into jars, fill with hot syrup. Eat immediately or process for storage. 

I am in love and will never discard another melon rind ever again!
Have you ever had melon rinds?

This was shared at The Backyard Farming Connection, Share Your Cup Thursday, The HomeAcre Hop, and what i am eating.

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Spaghetti Squash

Last year one of our neighbors gave us a spaghetti squash, and I'll be honest, I had no idea how to cook it! Thanks to Google, I followed the simplest recipe and we used it in place of pasta for spaghetti. We all fell in love and decided to grow our own this year!
Our first harvest! 

Simple directions: 
Wash, cut lengthwise, scoop out flesh, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, bake at 375-degrees until fork insert easily (usually between 40-90 minutes depending on squash size). 

Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle. 
Using fork, scrape flesh lengthwise, should peel easily, resembling spaghetti. 

Voila! Noodles to be used for any pasta dish!

What do you do with spaghetti squash?

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rose of Sharon update

Remember my enormous Rose of Sharon that we pruned way back? Well, I'm happy to say it is growing strong!

Before (winter pruning)

After (taken today)

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pumpkin Patch 2013

We planted 7 varieties of pumpkins this year, in a patch 37'x50'. Just like my tomatoes and apples, most pumpkins are heirlooms. 
1) Rouge Vif d'Etampes
2) Lumina
3) Musquee de Provence
4) Connecticut Field
5) Luxury Pie
6) Jarrahdale
7) Jack o'Lantern

We've had a very wet season, most unusual for this time of year. Several of our pumpkins were hit with powdery mildew, and then finished off by squash bugs! The patch grew strong all season until this past month. In the course of 2 weeks several of our vines died. Luckily I think we'll get at least one pumpkin of each! The coloring is just starting to turn, they're beautiful! Now I am addicted to growing pumpkins!
I can't wait to carve, eat, and decorate with them!

Do you grow pumpkins? What do you do with them through the season?

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Garage Update, August

Almost done! The past three weeks have been VERY productive!

Framing done.

Walls done.

Roof done. 

Electric wired.

Dutch doors, aren't they pretty!

Siding and trim done. Doors and windows done. Insulation done. 
Next step, inspection and finish electrical work.  

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Garden Therapy

Life is full of stress! I believe your stress threshold and coping mechanism help shape your life...less stress, the happier you are. It's not to say you can't be happy, and have a stressful life, you just need to find a way to channel your stress...

I rarely get stressed...but I typically deal with stress by diving into books to escape reality. Which I've done now...I'm hooked on the Mortal Instruments series! However the stresses of work are more than usual right now, and on top of that my Mom is very sick. So I've found another, more productive, de stressor...Garden Therapy!

Before, gardening was just gardening. Now, its something I look forward to, as opposed to it being a chore. I'm not sure what it is, but something about digging in the dirt and smelling the fresh earth, is calming and relaxing. Not to mention the physical exertion needed to pull weeds, squash bugs, prune plants, and retrieve the bounty....are all great activities that just melt away the stress! I always feel very calm, relaxed, and renewed after having been in the garden. 

How do you cope with stress? 

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Thursday, August 1, 2013

First taste of Cherokee Purple

This year we tried a few new tomatoes to see how we liked them. Our list of newbies include, Cherokee Purple, Rutgers, Pink Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, and Early Girl.

Our review thus far? 
Rutgers are great producers, with a nice even shape and red-orange coloring. Great for mixing in, especially a fresh garden salsa, but eating plain by itself it lacks a big punch of flavor. 

Mortgage Lifter, mixed reviews. The first were large and slightly sweet. However, lately we're only getting small ones. Flavor is still present, but not as strong. This is the one that was hit by the Horn Worm. 

In the picture, Rutgers on the top, with two Mortgage Lifters below.

Cherokee Purple, we are very impressed with! Not only is it beautiful, look at the coloring! But the size is huge! The taste is unforgettable, slightly sweet, smooth taste. This is my favorite of the season thus far and it will become a regular in our garden!

We're still waiting for our first Early Girl and Pink Brandywine...but should be any day now! 

What is your favorite tomato?

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

(These are our opinions, and several factors can alter the taste. So if you disagree I'd love to hear your opinion. Maybe there is a trick for growing a certain variety you can share! )

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How is your garden?

I have been so busy with work, late hours and traveling, I haven't had much time for anything else! But despite all the neglect, the garden still do the weeds! I lost most the garlic because I waited too long to dig it up, now it is lost in the dirt! But I got most the onions, they are pulled and curing. The potatoes are another story...I got most the Kennebec's, but I either lost the Yukon Golds to beetles or to the dirt, either way we got a decent harvest. And the eggplants never rebounded from the battle with flea beetles. 

All the lettuce bolted, but the beans and peppers are coming in strong! And the tomatoes are just starting to ripen. We even have a few volunteers that self seeded from last year...a brandywine and yellow pear that grew up in the middle of the potatoes! The squash, pumpkins, and melons are all doing well, as is the corn!

I hope you enjoy a tour of my gardens!

The Children's Garden

Jack Be Little pumpkin

Baby Boo pumpkins

Volunteer tomato plants

Pink Brandywine

Cherokee Purple



Pink Banana 

Jimmy Nardello 

Sweet Candy Apple

First pepper and bean harvest

Pumpkin Patch

Birdhouse Gourd bloom

Spaghetti Squash (hiding under the leaves)

The entire patch is buzzing with pollinators!

Musquee de Provence 

Connecticut Field

Melon Patch

The entourage...

And the bodyguard!

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler