Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Precious Gift of Eyesight

It was one of those days (and weeks) when I didn't think I could be any busier.

But within a few minutes, everything grinds to a halt and nothing on my agenda appears important.

Our four year old was playing out in the woodshed when she came in screaming with her eyes squeezed shut. I tried to pry her eyelids open and flush out the dirt she apparently got in her eyes. After a few minutes I could see that there was still some white matter on her iris. Her eyes were swelling and she was obviously in pain. Ed came home, took her to ER, and spent the rest of the day at the eye doctor. Today he took her to visit a cornea specialist.

Returning home from the ER. She was so happy with her little hospital gown that she was given when her dress got wet! 

We still don't know exactly what she got in her eye, but apparently it caused a chemical burn. An abrasion is on her left eye. The good news is that she has vision in both eyes. Praise the Lord. We don't know yet how it will affect her future vision but we are praying for complete healing of her eye.

Today she is opening her eyes a little. Yesterday she would not open them unless the doctor put drops in her eyes. She squints at bright lights but I'm so relieved to see her blue eyes again!

I know this isn't my usual blogging material, but right now I'm not feeling up to sharing recipes. Will you remember our little girl in your prayers?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Make Your Own Tomato Cages

I like to use tomato cages. They are much easier than staking tomatoes and keep the plants off the ground to avoid disease and make the tomatoes easy to pick.

When we married, Ed's parents gave us some of their tomato cages. (Since I married their youngest child, their garden was downsizing the same time ours was expanding!) They are so much better than most of the cages that you can buy at the garden center. I have no idea how long they used the cages but we've used them for eleven years. They have served us well but are now starting to rust out.

Time to make some new tomato cages.

Ed had a roll of concrete reinforcing wire left from another project. It is an inexpensive way to make cages. The children helped unroll the wire and cut it into lengths with metal cutters. (Someone had to sit/stand on both ends of the wire because it wanted to keep rolling up!)


We cut the wire in three different sizes in hopes that we can store the cages inside each other to save space. I'm not sure if it will work since they were only a tiny bit larger, but we will try to combine them in the fall!

We cut the wire next to a "block" so that the long end of the wire could be used to attach the two sides together. We just bent the wire to connect the two sides.

In less than an hour, we had a dozen new cages for our garden. Since our tomatoes usually grow huge (apparently they like our soil) we like to use strong metal  fence posts to tie the cages to. We can get high winds at our place and a full grown tomato plant combined with some wind can pull a little stake right out of the ground. I still have some of my tomato plants covered with milk jugs because they were so little and the winds last week were terrible!

Do you use tomato cages? What kind do you like?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Four Homemade Salad Dressings

This time of year we eat a lot of salad. It is wonderful to be eating fresh produce out of our garden again.

Salad dressings are so easy to make yourself. A few ingredients, a whisk or blender, are all you need. Making your own salad dressings allows you control over the ingredients. I can avoid the vegetable oils and high fructose corn syrup that are found in most dressings.

Like granola recipes, we go through various "favorite" salad dressings. Here are four recipes that have been in our fridge this spring.

These dressings that are pictured above are listed below beginning from the left.

Caesar Dressing 
From Amy

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 T water
2 T olive oil
1/2 T lemon juice
1-2 garlic cloves (minced)
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp parsley

 Blend together with whisk, blender, or food processor.
This dressing is wonderful on a baked potato!

Catalina French Dressing

2/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup honey
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 minced garlic clove (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
2 T minced onion

Blend together with whisk, blender, or food processor.

Italian Dressing

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp paprika

Blend together with whisk, blender, or food processor.
This dressing make a great marinade too!

Honey-Mustard Dressing

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/8 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp salt

Blend together with whisk, blender, or food processor.
This is the dressing my children always ask for.

Do you have a favorite homemade dressing? I'd love to try your recipe! 

Friday, May 17, 2013

New Member of the Homestead

I'm not a pet lover.

But every child loves a kitten.

In the last week or two, Smokey has become a well-loved friend. And even I think she is cute enough to squeeze!

Hopefully she will grow up to be a good mouser and chase the rabbits out of our garden!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Graham Granola

I guess you could say we get stuck in a rut.

For years we ate peanut butter granola. Then it was soaked granola. I didn't even look for another recipe. We liked our granola recipe so well. But recently I was looking for a change and tried this Graham Granola. It was love at first taste.

This granola has the flavor of a graham cracker and our children love it. Ed is known to pull this out for a bowl before bed. With warmer weather coming (We hope! Last night we had a frost that blackened the leaves of the potatoes.) we will turn more often to simple breakfast of yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit.

Graham Granola

6 cups quick oatmeal
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup coconut
1 1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cup butter or coconut oil

Mix dry ingredients together. Melt butter and honey together in saucepan. Pour over dry ingredients and stir well. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Stir every 15 minutes.

I double this recipe, place it on two jelly roll pans and put both in the oven at the same time. Halfway through, I rotate the pans from the top to the bottom rack.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Today we have a guest post by Cherlyn Beidler. I've admired her food photography and thrilled to have her stop by today.

Hi Home Joy readers! I'm so happy to be here and thanks to Gina for inviting me to share one of my recipes. My name is Cherlyn Beidler, and I love cooking! I think a big part of it is how much fun it is to feed my appreciative family.  I want to share with you a recipe for cake that got a great rating from my family. Rhubarb is a seasonal item so enjoy it while you got it!

1. Choose fresh, crisp rhubarb.
2. Chop rhubarb into 1/4-1/2" pieces.
3.Melt butter in a medium-size skillet over low heat. Add brown sugar and diced rhubarb. Continue to fry for 2 more minutes.
Remove from heat and set aside. If you are not using a cast iron skillet remove the rhubarb from the pan to a small baking pan.
 4.Batter: In a small mixing bowl cream together butter and sugar.
5.Add egg and vanilla, mix until incorporated.
6.Combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Add flour mixture and milk to  batter and mix until combined.

7. Pour batter over the rhubarb. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.
8.Remove from oven, and run a knife along the edges to loosen cake.
8.Turn upside down onto a plate. Serve hot or cold with milk or cream if desired.

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

2 cups fresh rhubarb (approx. 3/4 lb.)

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoon butter


1/4 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

2 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Choose fresh, crisp rhubarb. Chop rhubarb into 1/4-1/2" pieces. Melt butter in a medium-size skillet over low heat. Add brown sugar and diced rhubarb. Continue to fry for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. If you are not using a cast iron skillet remove the rhubarb from the pan to a small baking pan.

Batter: In a small mixing bowl cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla, mix until incorporated. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Add flour mixture and milk to batter and mix until combined. Pour batter over the rhubarb. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, and run a knife along the edges to loosen cake. Turn upside down onto a plate. Serve hot or cold with milk or cream if desired.

Recipe adapted from the Mennonite Community Cookbook

Cherlyn is twenty one years old Christian girl, who lives with her Dad and Mom. She is the only girl in the family, right in the middle of six boys. Besides cooking, she read lots, sews some and does the book-work for her dad’s equipment business. She also writes a recipe column that runs several times a month in a local newspaper. She lives in a 200 year old farmhouse in the beautiful Susquehanna Valley of central PA.

Thanks Cherlyn for sharing your recipe!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Four Ways to Use Row Cover

Row covers are in use in my garden twelve months of the year. Here is how I put them to use.

1. Frost Protection
Row covers help to extend the garden season by insulating my plants from early or late frosts. In a cold spring like we've had this year, plants definitely grow faster when covered.

2. Cover for a Hoop House
One way I extend my garden harvest is to plant a small hoop house beside my garage. The concrete wall helps to protect this bed. I use Tunnet row cover which is strong enough to withstand our snow storms. I plant lettuce and spinach in this bed. In the dead of winter, the plants will go dormant, but as soon as it becomes warm, the roots send out new shoots.

I could cover the hoop house with plastic, which would have a similar protective effect. But I'm a lazy gardener. If I covered the hoop house with plastic I would need to remember to open it up to water. On sunny days, I would need to ventilate it so that it wouldn't overheat.

Since having children, there is only so many living creatures that I can remember to feed and water. The Tunnet row cover allows air and water to pass through so I only need to open it up when I want to plant or harvest.

3. Insect Protection
My favorite use of row covers is to avoid insects. I don't like to spray my broccoli, but the alternative is picking lots of little tiny worms out of the broccoli heads, which can ruin any appetite. I can avoid worms on my broccoli as long as I don't allow the cabbage butterfly to land on the plants. Row cover is perfect for avoiding flying insects like butterflies. As long as I keep the edges sealed well, I can enjoy worm-free, chemical-free broccoli (and cabbage and cauliflower) all season.

Row cover is also good for vining plants, like squash, to protect from cucumber beetles and stink bugs. It can help get the young plants off to a good start without insect damage. But the row cover will need removed once the plant is blooming so that insects can pollinate the blossoms.

4. Peacock Protection
There is probably no other gardener who battles peacocks in their garden.  But I do. Especially in the fall, when nothing much is growing in the garden or pasture except my late fall broccoli. Our neighbor's peacocks like to browse on the succulent plants. In one afternoon, they can turn broccoli leaves to only the veins.

This spring, before I had my broccoli plants covered,  the peacock was already enjoying a snack of the young plants. Since they can jump or fly over any fence, row covers are a way to hide their favorite snacks.

I'm guessing that row covers wouldn't be as affective for burrowing creatures like rabbits and ground hogs, but I have proof that it works for peacocks!

If you ever need to know!

What uses have you found for row covers?

Linked at Tuesday Garden Party

Friday, May 3, 2013

Row Covers - Mikroclima and Tunnet

One of my favorite garden tools is floating row covers. I wouldn't want to garden without them.

Over the years, I have written numerous times about the pleasures of row covers. I often receive questions about row covers. One question I get is  "Can I get row covers at my garden center?" The answer is "Yes. Sort of."

There is two different kinds of row covers. The most popular is a bonded  fabric. A popular brand of this kind of row cover is Reemay but there are many manufacturers. This kind of row cover is inexpensive and is typically used for only one season. With great care, we have sometimes been able to get more than one year out of a piece of bonded row cover, but soon there is so many holes that effectiveness is lost and it needs to be replaced. This is the kind of row cover that you will find at your garden center and in seed catalogs.

The second kind of row cover is a woven plastic netting. This row cover is much more durable and designed to last several years in your garden. We have used a piece of this type of row cover for five years and except for being dirty, shows no sign of disintegration. We use this row cover on our hoop house and it will even stand up to snow in the winter, something that the bonded row cover would never survive.

But where to get this kind of woven row cover? That was a good question. I felt guilty showing friends the wonderful row cover in my garden, without a good source to suggest they purchase their own. My piece of row cover had come all the way from Australia. If you are in that part of the world, I'd recommend that you buy it from VeggieCare. But what about those in the US who wanted cheaper shipping? I had no place to recommend.

Until now. I recently found a US source of woven row cover,  SFG Supply. I ordered a piece of row cover from them and they graciously sent me more than I asked for, in exchange for some word of mouth advertising! Their service was very fast and I'm excited to have a good company to recommend for US growers.

Woven row cover comes in several different weights. The basic weight is called Mikroclima. This is perfect for giving your veggies some frost protection and protecting your plants from insects.

Tunnet is very similar to Mikroclima - only a little heavier. This is the type of row cover I have used the last number of years over my hoop house. Tunnet would be perfect to cover cold frames or small greenhouses.

This photo show Tunnet on the left and Mikroclima on the right. You may not be able to see the difference but the strands on the Tunnet are just a bit heavier than Mikroclima. But otherwise, the two products are the same.

There is also a thinner kind of woven row cover that I have not used called ProtekNet It is used for insect protection in the summer, especially in warmer climates when you do not want any thermal qualities.

Woven row covers are more expensive than the bonded row covers. Mikroclima sells for about $2 a foot, and Tunnet for about $3 a foot. But I have bought bonded row covers that fell apart like a paper towel after a month in the garden. I'd much rather spend a little more for a product that will last a number of years.

Right now, I have a piece of Tunnet over our little hoop house cold frame. I also have Tunnet and Mikroclima covering my broccoli and cabbage in my garden. For now they are just lying loosely on the ground hold down with some pipes and bricks but I may get some more flexible tubing to make some hoops for this bed. I have used the floating row cover both ways (with hoops and without) and both ways work. I think hoops  help keep the row cover a little cleaner.

Thanks to SFG Supply for providing more row cover for our garden! I'm looking forward to our best garden yet!

Next I'll share the reasons I use of row covers.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Spring Green

There is nothing like the first spring greens!

 After an extra cold March, we loved the April sunshine. 

And we enjoyed many salads from our little covered raised bed by our garage.

This little bed gives us a head start on eating fresh vegetables in the spring. I actually planted this lettuce and spinach in the fall. The plants went dormant in the cold of winter, but as soon as it began to get warm, they began growing again.

Tomorrow I'll tell you more about the row cover I use to cover this bed and all the other ways I use row cover in my garden.


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