Heat Blankets for the garden?

I’m starting to consider needing to run some of my Christmas lights out to the garden to run 24/7……

We had a cool to cold spring.  After an extremely cold winter that wasn’t unexpected though it did bad things to my pumpkin plants.

I wasn’t originally overly worried though.  Other than the pumpkins nothing else seemed to be having trouble with the chilly start to the season.

But now its the end of July, and although we’ve certainly had some hot days where we’re running the central air, we’ve also had ALOT of days where the temps barely hit 70 for the high, and lows are dropping not only into the 50’s, but even the 40’s in places not to far from me.

Tomatoes are slowly ripening, but the plants have mostly stopped growing.

Peppers seem to be ripening abnormally slowly.  There’s a HUGE crop of Jalapenoes out there, and not one of them has a tinge of red yet.

We’re certainly not getting the crop of zucchini I’d expected.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’d hoped to have enough to shred and freeze to use all winter…..

I’ve got the hooped plastic frost protectors, but I’m worried that’d be overkill during the days, even the less warm ones.

I’m seriously considering digging back out the christmas lights and running them down the rows….

Home-made tomato sauce, first try

Ok, this is mostly for my reference.

Uncooked untrimmed, 1lb 3.5ounces of tomatoes (Black Plum).

Cut out stem ends and weird spots.

Pureed in food processor, skin and seeds on, raw.

Simmered on stove w/glug of olive oil (didn’t measure, gonna regret that), a clove of garlic (Music), a little salt, pepper and oregano.

Pureed again in food processor.

Returned to stove to simmer to a slightly thicker consistency.

 Not quite filled 3 1/2 pint jars, which is fine, I planned to freeze this batch rather than can it.

Haven’t tasted it yet, and I think I got a bit to much olive oil in it.  But it smells heavenly.  We’ll be doing home-made pizza tomorrow using it!

Mustard update

Original post here.

We’re still eating this mustard, much better than anything in the store.  The only issue is that I’m not always able to make up a new batch RIGHT as the last one goes off.  And sometimes when I can, we don’t need it right away.  We’re not huge mustard eaters, just like to have it in the house for occasional use.

So I did some poking around and discovered that the Ball Book of Canning discusses canning mustard.  A look at their recipe, and mine has as much or more vinegar. 

So last fall I canned up several 1/4 pint jars of mustard.  It worked perfectly except that I didn’t boil it down to the right consistency.  Not the end of the world, and easy enough to fix once you open it, but still annoying. 

So today I jarred up another batch, and remembered to be sure to boil it down far enough.  For those of you thinking about doing this yourself, multiplying the original recipe by 2, boiled down to the right consistency (which I did on the stove as its easier to keep an eye on), makes exactly 6 1/4pint jars.

Chocolate ice cream

So a couple days ago I posted about an easy home-made ice cream.

Yesterday I wanted chocolate ice cream.

And hey, what do you know, over the weekend I had bought a quart of Creamline Chocolate Milk as a treat for Husband.

I used the chocolate milk instead of cream, but still added the sugar and vanilla.

O.M.G. that is decadent chocolate ice cream.

When Husband got home from work I made him some to try.

Next weekend I have to buy some Popsicle molds and a gallon of Creamline chocolate milk, we both agreed that it would make the most decadent fudgicle Popsicle…..


When I first planted watermelons I was looking up how to tell when they’re ready to be picked.  The answer across the board was “when the tendril where the fruit stalk meets the vine dies back”.  I figured that was easy enough.

Enter exhibit one:


There are TWO tendrils on the vine right at that connection!

And one died back and one didn’t.

So I went back and re-read the info on ripe watermelons.

The skin had gone dull: check

The thump test produced a dull “thud”: check

The underside turned yellow: check

So I dithered…..

This morning I picked it.

Should have gone by the other tendril, the flesh has only the barest tint of pink, and since these are the Sugar Baby’s it should be nice and red.

Oh well.  There’s another one on the vines thats even bigger, that has only one tendril, and a couple more a bit smaller, so we’re not totally screwed.  But I’d like to get this right before I have to pick the white watermelons, since they won’t even have red flesh to cue me in!


Turns out I’m one of those rare people who have a delayed reaction to yellow jacket stings.  It still wasn’t a severe reaction, but it was highly disconcerting when suddenly, a full SEVEN days after the original sting, my arm swelled up and started itching like mad……

I’ve now lost two cucumber plants.  I’m blaming the cucumber beetles, as the deterioration looks like bacterial wilt, something that they’re known to spread.  Neem oil/insecticidal soap/hand picking is just NOT CUTTING IT for controlling them and they’re all over the garden.  I’m considering putting down beneficial nematodes in the entire garden to control the larva, and considering an actual pesticide for the adults.  I don’t want to, but they are literally everywhere, and if this IS bacterial wilt I want to stop it NOW.  I’ll probly be putting down the nematodes regardless.

We’ve got a steady dribble of tomatoes, and for all that neither of us is a big fan of raw tomatoes we’re both eating these, they’re good.  Which is good, cause at this rate I’m not going to get enough at one time to actually make sauce with.

Cross your fingers, we’ve got at least two Sugar Baby watermelons ripening, and at least a couple more growing.  At least two white Watermelons (Cream of Saskatuwans) growing.  Three cantaloupes.  The fancy cantaloupe finally has female flowers on it.

Onions and carrots look good. 

Zucchini finally has babies growing. 

I’m actually getting sweet peppers this year!  I can’t wait for them to ripen! 

The jalapeno’s look awesome, going to be a bumper crop there.  Looks like most of the mystery peppers are Hungarian Hot Wax peppers, and they’re all producing madly.  Two look like they may be habanero’s, now to see if they’re whites or chocolates. 

I don’t think we’re going to get any pumpkins this year.  The plants are still less than a foot long.  I think the cold spring just did them in.  I’m on the hunt for a variety thats more cold tolerant.

Potato plants look good, I’ve not tried digging through the straw to check for actual potatoes though. 

One variety of lettuce has sprouted and is growing well, neither of the others appears to have even germinated.

Corn…..well, I’ll be happy if we even get a couple ears, that was a massive failure this year.

Blueberry plants didn’t produce any fruit this year, I didn’t even see a single blossom.  I’m blaming the extreme winter and cold spring.

Golden raspberry plant is producing well.  Boysenberry has produced a few berries, we’re waiting for them to ripen.  There are a couple berries on one of the blackberries.

Fruit trees….well, the one apple that didn’t produce last year (at all) has a good crop of fruit on it.  The rest of the apple trees have one or two apples, or nothing.  And there’s no pears at all.  Again, blaming the winter/spring for that one.  They all bloomed, and I didn’t think we got cold enough after budding to cause problems, but maybe we did.

My cell phone has developed a problem.  Its a Motorola Droid 2, so its not exactly new, but suddenly its developed a mind of its own and is randomly hitting options on the screen without any input from me.  This DID start after I dropped it (again) so I suspect a physical problem rather than a virus, especially since I’d not installed any new apps in the previous couple months.  It’ll be fine for a week or more, and then suddenly do things on its own.  Lotsa fun.

We took Arty to his first Barn Hunt practice last night.  I knew his prey drive was high, and he’s finally figured out how to use his nose, so I was hoping this would turn out to be something that I could take him too, and expose him to more things, that he’d enjoy.  And yup, he did very well.  There’s another practice in a few weeks, we’ll be taking both dogs to that one.  Though I don’t expect Apollo do well at it.  He’ll pass the instinct portion no problem, but for the actual runs the dog needs to go through a small tunnel, and I don’t expect to be able to convince Apollo that its worth his time to crawl through a tunnel.

Icecream in a hurry, without an icecream maker

This was one of those things that goes around Facebook.  I mostly ignore them, but this one caught my eye.  Ice cream in a bag.

We’ve debated getting an ice cream maker but for various reasons haven’t, among others, would we really use it enough to make it worth while?

But at the same time there are times when I want ice cream and we don’t have any in the house, and I don’t want to run out to get some.  Plus some of the store bought stuff is less than stellar…….

Ice Cream In a Bag

1-quart sized ziplock

In it put:

1 cup of cream (or half and half, or even regular milk according to the comments on the recipe)

2 tablespoons of sugar

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract (or flavor of your choice)

seal the small ziplock (squeeze the air out best you can) and put it in:

1-gallon sized ziplock bag (I recommend a freezer bag, they’re sturdier)

with enough ice to half fill said bag (took about 2.5 trays for me) and

1/2 cup of salt (rock or other “chunky” salt works best, but I understand table salt works too)

Seal the gallon ziplock (you don’t actually want to squeeze all the air out, just some of it) and “shake it for 5 minutes”.  Since my hands are cold sensitive I basically just kept flipping it over and over and over.

At the end of 5 minutes pull the smaller bag out and rinse off the salt (don’t forget inside the lips of the seal!), I found it to be a bit soft to my taste for ice cream, but that’s probably perfect if you want to mix in chocolate chips or something.  Pour them into the ice cream back, seal it back up, and squish it around to mix them in.  I then put the ice cream bag into the freezer for 5 minutes while I cleaned up the mess from the ice, and refilled the trays.  After that point it was almost perfect, a bit firmer than soft-serve but not truly hard ice cream.

Garden Update

We lost a cucumber plant.  It appears to have rotted out from the root.  Since all 3 are in the same container I’m not sure what got that one that didn’t get the others.  One of the others is defiently fine and growing, the middle one looks a little iffy, we’ll see.

I picked my first 3 tomatoes today.  I’m not a huge tomato fan, but I’m hoping to get enough to do sauce with…..

After the peas died back I planted small amounts of three different kinds of head lettuce.  Once Iceburg, the others mini varieties.  Only one of them has sprouted.

Back when I planted out the peppers I was worried about the jalapenos.  They were the smallest of the pepper plants.  Today they’ve taken over their container, you can barely see the carrots planted in the other half, and it looks like we’re going to have a bumper crop this year.


I picked the garlic today and hung it to dry in the garage.

Per online instructions I waited till the bottom few leaves had died back, but the rest of the plant was green.  I also left a few of the scapes on them as some instructions said that when the scapes stood up the garlic was ready.  The scapes stood up at about the same time as the bottom few leaves had died, so I picked them.

The heads are mostly very small, this could be the result of several things: grown in containers, planted to close together, very cold winter/spring…..

Several of the heads had already burst through the wrappers.  I hung them up to dry with the rest but I suspect those will rot.  Obviously I needed to pick them a bit sooner. 

I also found a large number of good sized white grubs in the soil as I dug up the garlic.  I don’t know if the grubs have anything to do with the size or condition of the garlic, but I’m now looking at a way to eliminate them in that container and presumably the others.

Yellow Jackets–bleg

So, last fall I buried the blueberries in straw for the winter.  I don’t know what caused me to do so, but considering how cold the winter got I’m glad I did.

This spring, I decided the blueberries needed new weed barrier around them.  The original barrier was laid when I planted them, 3yrs ago, and never mulched over, and so its REALLY REALLY ragged.  I laid new weed barrier right over the straw figuring the straw would deteriorate and provide an extra layer of nutrients for the plants.

Turns out that might not have been the best idea.

The plants aren’t producing this year, I suspect the cold winter was to much for them though they’re greening up nicely at least.  So I’ve been mostly ignoring them, but the weeds poking through the gaps around the plants got to be to much for me finally and yesterday I went out to pull weeds and adjust the weed-barrier.

There’s ground burrowing Yellow Jackets under the weed-barrier around the plant furthest from the house.

Yes, I found them the hard way.  Though I only got stung once.  And no, I’m not allergic, it barely even swelled infact though it hurt like someone had stabbed me with a burning nail, this morning my whole lower arm aches like hell.

So, I don’t normally have a problem spraying stinging insect nests with wasp spray.  My SIL is allergic and she does visit on occasion, so we try to keep down the number of nests on the property, however this is my first ground nest and with it being RIGHT NEXT TO the blueberries I’m reluctant to spray heavy duty pesticide on them.  And I have no clue where the OTHER entrance to the nest is, and everything I’ve read on it says there probably IS one.  Which makes me a bit nervous about mowing around there now though I’d expect its under the weed barrier too, probably next to one of the plants I didn’t get to….

I’m off to pick up a couple yellow jacket traps, but this time of year that won’t get the queen…..

I don’t suppose anyone has any ideas on how to handle this nest?