Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Hot Summer Days

There are only a few hot and humid days left this year.   I am enjoying the final ones reading a good book and drinking homemade ginger ale on the porch.  

During the really hot days, the chickens keep to the shade of the woods and only wander in the yard occasionally with their wings slightly flared to catch a breeze.  We think they look pretty funny with their wings out like this! 

The honeybees form beards outside their hives at night to bring in the cool air. 

And Jon and Paul make homemade ice cream.  Just when we are about to complain about the humidity, we remember the frigid January days when the pipes froze last year and we were huddled under blankets.  We are grateful for all of the time outside and soak up the heat when we have it!


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Composting at Work


A gardener can never have too much compost.  It seems every gardening book proclaims that just about every plant needs compost.  This nutrient-dense stuff not only feeds the plants but is a mulch for water retention and weed control.  Jon and I throw every possible scrap into our compost but the pile never seems to get large enough for all of our needs.  One way to help bulk up the compost pile is to collect scraps from those who don't compost.  One area that is often overlooked is our workplace.  Jon collects coffee grounds at work and sprinkles the grounds around the blueberry bushes.  I would consider coffee grounds a pretty easy item to collect, unlike banana peels and fruit pits and cores because there isn't the issue of fruit flies.  The fruit flies wouldn't be a problem if the compost wasn't left for a few days but Jon isn't always there to collect it.   The coffee grounds have been collected for about 6 months now and perhaps in the future we could find a way around the fruit flies and collect the other items.  A perk to composting at work is that coworkers start asking questions about gardening, where their food comes from, and the importance of eating local.  You never know what changes you will make by starting a compost system at work!.

Our blueberry plants really like the coffee grounds!


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Meals from the Garden

My family absolutely loves Thai food and the summer is the best time to make it with all the fresh veggies.  Here's what we add to our thai dishes from the garden: edamame, peppers, cabbage, chard, zucchini, carrots, garlic, onion, eggs, peapods, basil, tomatillos, okra, broccoli and mushrooms.

Pasta dishes are an old stand-by whether they are pesto or spaghetti, most everything comes from the garden.  Even the egg noodles are homemade using eggs from the chickens.  And of course, the side vegetable always comes from the garden.  I'm still trying to perfect the best homemade spaghetti sauce and every time it's a little bit different.  This recipe includes homemade meatballs using ground venison.  The sauce includes tomato paste, stewed tomatoes, hungarian wax peppers, oregano, mushrooms, onions, garlic, tomatillos, and okra.

A good ol' fashioned stew is the perfect meal to have on a cool evening while sitting around the fire.  Venison, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, and oregano.

Kohlrabi with mashed potatoes and corn.  

Eggplant Parmesan and corn.

And for a delicious dessert, Ground Cherry Crisp.  This is the first year growing ground cherries and we absolutely love them!  When made into a dessert they taste almost like peaches. 


* I look forward to your comments. If you have trouble commenting, please contact me using the form at the right. Thanks!

Tomato Blight and Using Green Tomatoes

This summer got away from us and the tomatoes received the brunt of it.  You can see from the above picture how quickly late blight takes over.  The only green in the picture on the right side are the prolific weeds.  It's a heart-wrenching feeling to rip the plants out of the ground while the fruits are still green. 

Every year Jon and I learn a little bit more about gardening and create our own tips and best practices.  This year Jon discovered the best bean trellis, and this year we are one step closer to understanding how to grow tomatoes.  Using wire fencing was far better than the flimsy tomato cages and log and twine trellises that rot and fall over.  This year the rows were spaced "properly" according to seed packet instructions, but they were still too close together making weeding downright impossible which explains the excessive overgrowth of weeds and airflow is crucial to minimize disease spreading.  Next year: eliminate the congestion and plant the tomatoes in one long row instead of a patch. Do you have any recommendations to keep blight away? We think it's taking over our potatoes now too.

Some of the tomatoes will ripen off the vine so we put them on the porch where they will receive some sun (if the cloudy rainy weather will pass!).  In the picture there is a seed-saving experience gone bad.  We saved seeds from a pie pumpkin that must have crossed with a zucchini.


Cherry tomatoes typically don't turn red after removal from the vine.  Instead of throwing them into the compost, I made Green Tomato Hot Dog Relish.  It's super easy to make.  You begin by washing the tomatoes and throwing them in a food processor without removing the skins. 

In food processor, puree green tomatoes until you have 1 quart.  Puree 1 large onion and 1 large red pepper.  Combine tomatoes, onion, and pepper in a large bowl with 2 T canning salt.  Let sit for 1 hr.

Drain and rinse.

In a large soup pot combine pureed mixture, 1 cup sugar, 1 T mustard seeds, 1 tsp. celery seed, 4 whole cloves, and 1 cup vinegar.  Bring to a boil and simmer 20 min.


Remove cloves before filling jars.  Process half-pints 10 minutes in water bath.  
Makes ~6 half-pints.


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Homemade Soap Gone Bad

So...I'm cleaning out cupboards and came across a box of soap that looks like this.  The soap should be a pale, creamy color.  This castile soap was made several years ago and it went bad.  It's a shame to throw it away but it's considered caustic at this point and not safe to use.  It may have not traced properly or the bars didn't receive enough air during storage.  Whatever the reason, I have to toss it.    




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The Best Bean Trellis Ever


This summer we finally have a sturdy bean trellis.  In the past we used the traditional tepee design using logs tied together at the top.  The picture on the left was taken the previous season.  The problem with the tepee is the height and lack of airflow.  When the vines reach the top, they twist on themselves resulting in fewer flowers and beans.  It is a gnarly mess, and by the end of summer, the logs are sprouting mushrooms.  This year after removing the greenhouse plastic, Jon decided to use the frame as a trellis.  This trellis has produced great results!  There is plenty of airflow and space for the vines to sprawl without twisting on each other. Every day we walk through the greenhouse to gaze up at the hanging beans.  It is pretty to look at!  I included some pictures taken from different angles (click to enlarge).








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Snapshots of a Summer Day

It's been awhile since I wrote a post about a typical day here at the Wolfe house.  Our day begins with opening the chicken coop and closely watching the hens scatter into the weeds to lay their eggs.  With the snake coming and going from the coop, only two hens lay eggs in the coop.  Finding the nests in the weeds have been a challenge because the hens only lay in the same spot for a few days before they make a new nest.  The nest in the picture was located next to the creek where a very large snapping turtle lives so I promptly moved the eggs.  We would love to have baby chicks (in case they get broody), but the snapping turtle is a bit of a threat.

The snake left for about a week but promptly returned to devour two eggs before I gathered them.

Most days we throw something outside the garden fence or patio door for the chickens to eat.  In the picture above they are devouring a squash that was half rotten.  We did cull one of the barred rocks a few weeks ago.  She was the runt of the litter who was bullied by the other hens and she even started pulling out her own feathers.  When she stayed in the coop all day and lost a lot of weight, I decided it was time to cull her.  For weeks there were eggs in the nest box without shells and ones that easily broke when touched.  It was no surprise that when she was culled, she was egg bound.  Her grooming habits had lessened and she also had a terrible case of lice.  I promptly treated the flock with Poultry Protector even though they all looked really good thanks to daily dust baths.  


Fresh produce decorate the kitchen counters all summer long.  This year we have a beautiful assortment of tomatoes.  The yellow ones are Wapsipinicon peach.  With the temperatures being somewhat cool this summer, we have been enjoying fresh bread as well!  Using the oven and keeping windows open all day long is a treat!

The garden is a jungle right now with so many weeds, sprawling tomatilloes, and never-ending squash vines.  I'm not sure how or when this happened, but the tomatoes took over!  In the picture above there is no room to walk and you can barely see two distinct rows.  This crowding is a bit of a concern for spreading of disease and picking the tomatoes without damaging the plants.

Many of the tomato plants have some blight but these black tomatoes are looking terrific!  The stalks and leaves are healthy and the tomatoes don't show signs of rot.  We aren't sure what the actual name of these tomatoes are because we saved the seeds from a tomato our friend Anna, so we affectionately call them "Anna's Black" tomatoes.

And of course, it's not summer in our home without the small room next to the kitchen cluttered with preserving supplies...canning jars, food dehydrator, canning pot, cider press, etc.  It is nice having this extra space so I don't have to put things away after each use.

This summer the honeybees have been left alone to do their own thing.  Each hive started with not even 10 frames of partial comb so harvesting honey was wishful thinking.  During our recent inspection, one hive was very prolific with four frames of solid capped honey whereas the other had not a single frame of solid honey.  Both hives look healthy with a good population and laying queen.  Entrance reducers were put on both hives because last August, the hives were robbed by the yellow jackets and wax moths.  The entrance reducers should help the colonies defend their home and reduce any robbing that may occur between the two hives.  In the picture above you can see Paul wearing very little while my friend and I are performing an inspection.  He is not afraid of the bees and is always present during inspections.  The last incident of a honeybee sting happened when he was 2.5 years old in a small pool.  Three years later he is still running around barefoot through clover wearing only a pair of underwear all summer long.  Paul is a pretty care-free child who runs across gravel barefoot and rolls in the weeds filled with chiggers.  

Every year we use a different trellis for beans but we are never satisfied with the results.  The beans always seem to run out of room, trellises fall over, or the beans are too crowded.  This year Jon came up with a brilliant idea to use the greenhouse as a bean trellis!  There isn't much use for the greenhouse during the summer because of our hot and humid temperatures so we removed the plastic covering and planted things in and around the greenhouse frame.  I will be blogging about the bean trellis soon but everyday we stop by to marvel at the number of hanging beans and to observe the pollinators on the sunflowers.

And after a day of hunting for eggs, preserving produce, pulling weeds, and making plans for the next day, we take some time to walk around the garden and mini orchard to enjoy the fruits of our labor.  It is so easy to get caught up with all the work that needs to be done, but we stop and do what we call a "walk around."  This is a time for meandering around to observe everything and pat ourselves on the back.  While Paul runs ahead of us to marvel at how much his asian pear tree has grown; Jon is squeezing a peach to check for ripeness; and I watch honeybees make their final trip home for the day covered in bright orange pollen.  


* I look forward to your comments. If you have trouble commenting, please contact me using the form at the right. Thanks!

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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