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I can ferment sauerkraut with my eyes closed, but I have had a hard time with fermented pickles in the past (didn’t turn out well) … I just keep trying. Instead of using whole pickling cucumbers I decided to try my luck and go about it differently, so I sliced the cucumbers this time.

I did not plant cucumbers this year. I talked to my neighbor/friend about growing cucumbers this season because I grow most of my peppers and the zucchini in their garden and he agreed that this year we could share the cucumbers too. He has been growing Armenian cucumbers (actually in the melon family) for the past few years and he always has way more then he needs. The Armenian cukes are nice, but I want to grown pickling cucumbers again.

Fermenting - Day 1

Fermenting – Day 1

Back to my experiment… I sliced the cucumbers and put them in a glass gallon jar. I added the herbs and spices that I wanted (dill seed, celery seed, and garlic) and poured the brine over the top. The brine was 1 1/2 T to 4 cups water.

The big thing with fermenting is that you need to keep the vegetable below the liquid to avoid bad bacteria from growing. I could not find a jar that was big enough, yet small enough to fit down through the opening of the gallon jar. I had to resort to using a gallon zip-top bag with a little water in it, then I sunk a pint jar into the bag and filled the jar with some water also. I am not a big fan of plastic, but it worked. I will be either looking for the perfect jar to weigh things down or a different glass jar. As I type this and thing about it – I really could have used my fermenting crock.

The past issues that I had when fermenting pickles in the fermenting crock that I have is the weights. The whole cucumbers are so buoyant and the ceramic weights are a bit on the smaller side that the cucumbers can sneak up on the edges. Then they are exposed to air and things go quite wrong in a hurry.

It worked! I have successfully fermented cucumber slices (three times now!) Boy are they good! We now have a ton of them in the refrigerator and we are munching our way through them fast. I have shared several quarts with our neighbor/friend.

Day 7 or 8

Day 7 or 8

Next year I look forward to canning some pickles so we can enjoy them throughout the winter too, but in the mean time we are enjoying these fermented ones. I know they have more benefits to them (chuck full of healing probiotics!) I also look forward to the fall and winter garden to ferment some of the root veggies like carrots, turnips and onions.

Other post on fermenting:

Anyone else out there fermenting things?

Sincerely, Emily

We have a few neighbors and friends that like to garden. One of them brought us some fresh onions the other day.

fresh onions

fresh onions

They were beautiful. A beautiful gift.

What treat are you enjoying from your garden or local farmer’s market?

Sincerely, Emily

On Sunday I posted a photo of the quail eggs that I brought home from a recent barter.

They are so tiny and so beautiful. Each quail has its own distinct patter on the eggs that she lays – like a fingerprint. That is amazing, isn’t it?! Imagine my surprise when I started cracking them open and found some that were colored inside – a beautiful range of light blue/aqua. Nature is amazing!

Quail eggs

Quail eggs

I had no idea how many quail eggs made an omelet, so my plan was to just keep adding eggs until it looked like the amount of two chicken eggs. Well, I got a little carried away. The first omelet had 18 eggs in it. That was just too many.

Quail egg Omelet

Quail egg Omelet

We are eating a lot of things out of the garden right now. Peppers from the garden, along with beautiful onions from my neighbor, and local mushrooms from Kitchen Pride.

As I think back to the barter and all the wonderful things that I come home with, I smile when I think of the variety of eggs: Quail, Chicken, Duck, Turkey. All the eggs are beautiful.

What kind of eggs are in your refrigerator?

Sincerely, Emily

Quail Eggs! So small. So beautiful.

Quail eggs

Quail eggs

Sincerely, Emily

Wren nest

The wrens are at it again. Such persistent nesters. Motivated. Creative. Some of you might remember a few wren posts that I did a while back. You can read about there here and here.

I don’t know that I can call this a problem, maybe it is more like a situation. Brought on be me.

We leave the back screen porch doors propped open for the cats to come and go. See what I mean, all brought on my me. Wren NestThis time they have abandoned the idea of nesting in potted plants out on the screen porch. They really put some thought into this one. They know I will kick them out of the potted plants. The funny thing is that would not have been a big deal at this time. All the plants that are left on the porch are all dead and since I still haven’t moved many of them outside that would have been a safe place to nest.

No, this time they picked a baseball hat that is hanging on a hat/coat rack on the screen porch. I use it for things like my headlamp for grilling, a visor I wear outside when it is sunny, the ear muffs that I wear for hearing protection when I mow the lawn or use the chain saw, a rain jacket to use when I go outside to manage the rainwater tanks when it is raining, a huge bundle of drying cilantro including coriander seeds, and a nice camouflage baseball hat that clearly didn’t get worn enough or there would be no nest built in it. Wren Nest 1

It really is a perfect spot.  She and her mate have built an impressive little nest there using the inside of the ball hat and the arm of the hat rack that comes right up under it. The nesting female has a clear view to both outside doors to see who is coming and going. Ingenuity and good construction all that way.

I was telling a friend about the unique nesting spot and she requested a photo. I wasn’t sure if the nest was in use, so I inched my way closer to it, got the camera up there for a good shot and out shoots mama-wren. Man, she was really hidden in there. Now that she was off the nest, I turned on the flash and could clearly see the eggs. Yup. She is staying, I told it was alright.

The next interesting phase of this plan will be when the chicks are starting to fall out of the nest, how they will get outside! I guess I need to clear the way below, after all, I think the coriander seeds are dry by now! Another thing I need to think about is the cats.

Our cats are real wimps. One of them won’t even go out on the screen porch right now because she has been watching the wren activity (“oh no, there is something moving around out there and I don’t know what it is.”) One of the cats goes in and out all day, but he doesn’t seem to pay attention (well, that is what I am calling it – he is old and really can’t see or hear that much anymore.)

These wrens are really motivated.

Have you have any nesting birds in unique places?

UPDATE: This morning (14 July) when I headed out the back door I head tiny baby birds talking. The wren eggs have hatched. Without getting too close, I can see 4 tiny heads sticking up and screaming for food.

Sincerely, Emily

 

Enjoyed watching this happy bee collect pollen on the beautiful magnolia blooming in our backyard.photo 2(7)

So happy to see bees in the back yard. So happy to see his back legs covered in pollen.

Sincerely, Emily

I mentioned in my last post (about the chard stalks) that I have worked to shade parts of the vegetable garden this summer.  Creating shade for the garden has been on that endless list of mine for the past 2-3 years.

Not only are our South Texas summers hot, but I have full open exposure to the garden to the west, so everything is in the garden roasting until the sun goes down and that is really hard on the plants. There is a magnolia tree that is growing on the west side of the garden. It was planted before we moved in, and it is growing well, but it will be many, many years before it is tall enough to provide any afternoon shade for the garden.

Over the past few years I have cooked up a lot of idea for creating shade in the garden. A few years ago, I had lambsquarter growing on the west side of each raised bed to provide shade. While that helped, it just wasn’t enough.  We had a friend that lived with us a few years ago, and I was thinking that he could weld up a frame for over the top of the garden and then I could put shade cloth over the frame. I think that one would have worked, but he doesn’t live here anymore….

Shade Cloth with rebar

Shade Cloth with rebar

This year I though of two ideas. One was to create a “wall” of shade cloth on the west side of each raised bed. That would create shade from the west sun, and also some of the morning sun, limiting the amount of direct, hot sun the plants would get throughout the day. The other idea I had was to purchase a 10′ x 20′ car canopy and put it up inside the garden fence. I really thought both ideas would work. Both of my gardening neighbors sort of laughed and chuckled when I told them about the shade cloth “wall.” They didn’t seem to have a lot of faith in them. I did, so I went out and bought the supplies and moved forward.

Car Canopy shade

Car Canopy shade

The shade cloth “walls” I could mostly do on my own, but the car canopy I needed help to put up. One neighbor helped me by cutting the rebar to the length that I wanted, and my husband helped me put of the car canopy.

Shade cloth walls Pros:

  • With the shade cloth wall, the plants are exposed to some direct sun throughout the day.
  • When it rains, the plants benefit from the rain.
  • I can leave the rebar in place and just take the shade cloth off for the winter.
  • I could set it all up on my own (other then the neighbor that helped me cut the rebar – We did have the tools for that, so technically I could have done that too)

Shade cloth walls Cons:

  • I was able to tie one of the rebar posts to the garden fence on one side – without that, the structure would be more wobbly, and I would have had to add one more vertical rebar support post in the center (not a big deal, just another post for each box)
  • Having the wall of shade cloth on one full side of the raised bed, you are limited to harvesting from the other side. My beds are 3′ wide, so this hasn’t really been a con for me.

Car Canopy Pros:

  • No obstacles for picking and harvesting – completely open under the canopy

Car Canopy Cons:

  • Prevents the rain from getting to the plants
  • The canopy will disintegrate over time (maybe one summer season here) and the cost of a new canopy is around $100 (I think I could find one for less that might not fit exactly, but would work) My plan it to replace it with some other shade cloth that would allow the rain to come through but still provide shade.

There are definite pros and cons to both of these ideas. They both work and that is the good thing. With both systems, over time, I will need to replace the cloth/cover. I think ultimately the best thing would be a frame build over the top of the garden where I could over the entire area with a shade cloth of some sort that would provide great shade in the summer, yet still allow the rain to come through, and then remove the cloth in the winter for more full sun.

The garden fence is not high enough to just add a flat cover  over it – I could never stand up.

So for this year, I am thrilled to have some shade in the garden that is working.

If you need to, how do you shade your vegetable garden from the harsh sun?

Sincerely, Emily

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