Sunday, June 30, 2013

Blossom End Rot (BER)

Their are a few things that can happen to your garden that are devastating. One such thing is while checking on your tomatoes, which are growing well and producing well, you notice the bottom of the tomato has a large dark spot! You have Blossom End Rot (BER)! While this condition isn't isolated to tomatoes, it is very common among them. But this can also occur with cucumbers, peppers, melons, and I'm sure more. 

BER is caused by the lack of calcium. There is a foliage spray you can apply for a quick boost and immediate results. But it is not a long term solution. 
You can also add Lyme to your soil, so long as it won't affect th proper pH required by your plant. 

The lack of calcium can be caused by several factors, and knowing which one will help you prepare better in the future. 

1) Applying too much fertilizer, specifically Nitrogen and/or Phosphate. Be sure to amend your soil properly. 

2) Rapid growth followed by dry conditions. Tomatoes don't like their legs to dry out. When they are allowed to dry out, the uptake of calcium is slowed or diminished. Try a nice even watering on a routine basis. 

3) Periods of heavy rain will leach the calcium from the soil. This is a hard one to combst because its Mother Nature. This is what struck us this year. We've had a very wet season, most unusual for this time of year. We've used the spray (above) with much success. But haven't found a long term solution yet. 

Have you ever experienced BER? What have you done to combat it? 

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Sour Cherry Preserves, a Guide to canning

Several years ago my mother-in-law taught me how to can jelly, jams, and preserves. She got me everything I'd need to get started and I've tweaked my equipment a little since. The very basic equipment needed to can are...a large stock pot, tongs, ladle, and funnel. You can buy canning sets which include the funnel, a jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter, and bubble remover. I've added a couple dish towels; they come in handy for holding the hot jars while filling, and wiping clean the tops before sealing.

To get started you need something to can. I have about 2 cups pitted sour cherries from our wild sour cherry tree. Since the wild cherries are much smaller, they're harder to pit. So I put them in a pot, with a little water, and warmed them up. Then I dumped them in cheese cloth over a heat proof bowl and let the juices drain. If i wanted cherry jelly I'd stop here- discarding the pulp and only using the clear juice. However I wanted Cherry Preserves, so I mushed the pulp all up, which popped out the seeds. Then I removed the seeds and returned the pulp to the juice. I am sure their are easier ways, but this worked for me. Next transfer all to a large pot, I added a little water to make 2 cups liquid. 
Also, it's time to get your jars ready. Choose the size jars you want, this batch I'm using 4 oz jars. Clean jars with warm soapy water, rinse well. Place clean jars in your stock pot. Some people like to use the canning insert, but I choose not to. So I put in extra jars to fill in space. Also, put in the lids, but not the bands. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the jars by about 1-2". Warm the water, but do not boil. 
While the jars are being prepared, let's get our preserves ready! Warm the cherry juice and pulp, gradually adding the pectin. (This batch I used 3 Tbs powder pectin, it set pretty firm, next time I will try only 2 Tbs pectin.) Stirring to dissolve. Bring to rolling boil - one that you can't stir down. Add sugar, all at once. (This batch requires 2 1/2 cups.) Stirring constantly, bring to rolling boil. Boil hard about 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim off any foam (it makes the final product prettier). This recipe calls for almond extract, so I added 1/2 tsp and stirred to distribute. 
Grab a dishcloth and tongs, remove a jar from the hot water. Place funnel in jar, ladle in enough preserves to fill jar, leaving about a 1/4" headspace. 
Remove funnel, using your nifty bubble remover tool, place in the jar and swipe around the edges to remove any air bubbles. Take another cloth, wipe the rim of your jar to ensure it's clean and dry for a good seal. 
Using your magnetic lid tool, get yourself a lid from the hot water. 
Screw a band on and using tongs, place the jar back in the hot water. 
Continue the process until all preserves are gone. Process jars in boiling water for 10-15 minutes. 
Remove each jar. Let them sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Check the seals by pressing down on the center. If it doesn't pop, you're good to go. If it didn't seal, you can refrigerate and use within 3 weeks, or reprocess with a new lid. 
It's fun to experiment with new flavors and try new things! Have fun this summer canning season!
What are you canning? 
-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Herb drying rack

I've always wanted a herb drying rack, hanging from the ceiling...reminisce of an English country cottage. Well, inspiration struck when my husband was disposing of an old screen door.
He popped out the screen...
I grabbed some cup hooks and picture wire...
Voila! Ready for herbs and curing garlic and onions.

How do you dry your herbs?

This was shared at The Creative HomeAcre Hop!

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lemon Balm

Melissa officinalis, or better known as Lemon Balm, is a refreshing herb largely overlooked! With its mild lemon flavor and many medicinal properties, this little jewel warrants inclusion in your garden. 
Lemon Balm aids in digestion problems- upset stomach, bloating, vomiting, colic; pain relief- headache, toothache; and has a calming effect that is good for- anxiety, restlessness, sleep disorder, nervousness...and the list goes on, to include high blood pressure, tumors, and insect bites.

On these hot summer days, what's better than some refreshing ice tea! This time I made my ice tea with Lemon Balm! 
It's easy to make...but beware, it doesn't last long! First, heat up hot water on the stove, while it's heating up go grab a handful of Lemon Balm. Rinse the leaves and steep them in the hot water for 5-10 minutes. 

You can use a tea infuser to hold your leaves, but I just toss them in loose. 
Discard the leaves, add sweetener (with sugar or honey), and enjoy either hot or cold! 


-Live Simple, Be Happy- 
Magnolia Holler

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bee n Garden Updates

It's been three weeks since we received our first bee hive; and we've preformed three inspections.
  1. The first inspection we didn't see the Queen, however she was out of her queen cage and we found eggs in the burr comb (or wild comb, the comb bees make not on the frames)! That was not only exciting but promising. Though, we did found many (like close to 100) dead bees in the hive top that's a mystery!
  2. Just before the second inspection I saw hords of ants entering and exiting the hive! I was so worried for our girls. I also found lots of dead bees immediatly in front of the hive. However, during the second inspection all looked good, we saw the Queen, and they had drawn out three frames.
  3. Then we had all that rain! Which I'm sure wasn't good for our colony. Yesterday we performed our third inspection and found several adult small hive beetles (SHB) and their larva! We saw the Queen, though no larva or capped brood. We think the SHB larva must have ate them! Now I'm very concerned!
Fingerscrossed they're strong enough to survive until the first batch of bee eggs hatch, which will not be at least 3 weeks!

Now on to a more positive topic! Our Garden...
Though our garden has been a bit neglected, it grows! This is the Traditional row garden, with Potatoes (far left), tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, beans, winter squash, and cucumbers. Also mixed in are a few herbs and flowers (basil and calendula).
Surprisingly our Eggplant, which had a terrible Flea Beetle problem, is producing fruit! And I may have found a solution to the flea beetles -- 1 cup fresh lemon juice, pulp and seeds strained; mixed with 1/4 cup water. Put in spray bottle and spray leaves liberally! So far, they're staying off!
All of our tomato plants are blooming, and one is already producing tiny fruit -- Mortgage Lifter!
The peppers are blooming, and the Cherry Pepper is producing tiny fruit!
The lettuce is holding strong! Our favorite is the Crisp Mint, and by cutting it back to about 2-inches, it'll grow back! (And we have a little friend protecting it too!)
The snap peas are blooming!
Baby Boo pumpkins not only have blossoms, but have female blossoms!
And my son has found several toads around the yard, so we transplant them all to the garden!
How is your garden growing?

This was shared at The Country Homemaker Hop and Share Your Cup Thursday!
-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Clover, a hidden jewel!

Many of us, myself included, always thought of clover as a weed.
Recently, watching how much our bees LOVE it, I started finding out more about it...yes, it's good for the garden by putting nitrogen back into the soil. But, did you know it's also full of sweet honey-like flavor? I had to try jelly...

I needed two cups of flower I enlisted my husband and sons help. (The white clover is much smaller than the red clover flower. We picked both, but didn't mix them. Two separate batches.)
Red clover flowers. (Isn't it funny that these are called "red" clover, yet they're actually purple...)
Next, I steeped them in two cups hot water overnight. (I covered the bowl with cheese cloth, to let a little air in, and my cats out!
The next morning I strained the mixture, with the cheese cloth, and squeezed as much water out of the flowers as possible! Hoping for as close to two cups as possible, adding water to reach it if needed (but I didn't need to).
I was left with a pretty mucky looking liquid. I froze the white clover liquid, to be turned into jelly at a later date. And I used the red clover liquid for my first batch.
 The recipe I followed called for four tablespoons lemon juice; (it was good, but next time I'll probably try only two.) And interesting...when I added it, the liquid turned a beautiful soft pink color! Amazing...

I added one packet pectin and four cups of sugar. Processing as usual.

I ended up with a beautiful jelly! Tasty too. Not too sweet...perfect!
Do y'all have a yard overrun with clover? Don't overlook this precious jewel!

This was shared at the Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop, From the Farm Blog Hop, The Country Homemaker Hop, and Share Your Cup Thursday!

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A wonderful surprise...the mulberry!

We found a mulberry tree in the back, however it's never produced fruit so we thought it a male. Many Mulberry species are dioecious, which means their is a male and female tree, and you need both within a certain distance in order to produce fruit.

Just last week we were talking about taking it down, it is partially dead and grew very high (almost too high for berry harvest).

Well, much to my surprise (and enjoyment) I found berries on it this year! It is a female! There aren't too many, not nearly enough for jam...but just enough for teasing the taste bud! I picked a few ripe ones to sample! They are lightly sweet, and perfect for eating fresh!

Now we're debating pruning it this winter and trying to revive it. Or still taking it down and planting new ones, which we can control the height...decisions, decisions!

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Friday, June 7, 2013

Breaking Ground

My husband is building us a new garage! WooHoo!
So first the old one had to go...

This is the old one, and the site of the new one! (Above)

Demo of the old one.

Progress so far...
And now we have all this rain!

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Sunday, June 2, 2013

First harvest of 2013

We had our first harvest of 2013...lettuce and radishes!

They were peaking out at me, like Easter eggs hidden in the garden! (Now I know where they got their name from!)

And my husband doesn't like radishes, but he said these were pretty tasty!

The lettuce needed to be why not have a salad!

Have you harvested anything from the garden yet?

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Eggplant and Flea Beetles

HELP! The flea beetles are eating my eggplants!

Im declaring war! I've tried several things...
1) Plain soapy water
2) Cayenne Pepper and soapy water spray
3) Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
4) Crushed mint leaves

The only thing, so far, that has seemed to work (other than the DE, but it washes off with rain, and I worry about our bees), is the crushed mint. That worked instantly, however, only about 12-hrs. I was thinking about making a soapy water and mint spray to see if that does the trick.

Do you have any tricks to deter this pesky little guy?

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler