Antietam Valley Farmers and Artists Market

A very lovely friend of mine recently moved to the Antietam area. She discovered and shared with me that they have an awesome farmers market on Saturday mornings. Their grand grand opening for the season was earlier this summer. The event is usually all outdoors but because of the rain they moved it into the rec center there at the park. This alone was super awesome.

We first did a circle to see everything. The worst thing to do at a farmers market is to buy at the first stand you see. You must walk around, see what everyone has and THEN go around and purchase.

My first purchase came from Conebella Farm. They are a dairy farm that has been owned by the same family since 1923, a whopping 5 generations. They have AMAZING cheese. After trying a few samples I was HOOKED and left with a 10oz block of Hickory Smoked Colby Jack. I purchased the Old Bay cheese  spread the last time I was there. It’s so good with pretzels. The prices are great for a local, fresh cheese!

Next came HONEY! Griesemer Beekeeping has fresh honey made out of Wernersville. I did not buy a jar of honey this time, but couldn’t resist a few honey sticks 5/$1. They have a variety of flavors and it was hard to pick just a few! Fun fact- buying local honey is also great for allergies!

Grow Your Own Freedom was my next stop. I am addicted to this stand. I’m just going to leave their website right HERE! I’ve been using their bug sprays all summer. At least once a year like this because of bites-IMG_7001

I usually swell and hurt and throb, it’s a nightmare. This year, I got ONE bug bite on my hand because I forgot to spray once. Even with working in the garden. Even in the middle of a swamp in North Carolina on vacation. NO BUG BITES. Seriously. This stuff is MIRACLE spray. The last time I was at the market I got their Vanilla Mocha chapstick. Uh. Holy. Moly. I can’t even. Or odd. So yummy. It leaves my lips nice and soft without being sticky. I am in LOVE. They make soaps, salves, scrubs- tons of all natural and locally grown/made stuff. Garden care is also a service that they provide and help with. Seriously. I think I’m in LOVE. 

We bought a few other goodies, but I will write about those in a later post. For now, enjoy this picture of me with a purple tongue from eating a pint of black raspberries all by myself.

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It’s Only Been A Week

It’s been just over a week since we planted our garden. We have had lots of growth and some death thus far.

IMG_5609Our strawberries are the only ones to have seen death. Out of all of the plants I put in, 2 have died. We specifically put so many in for this exact reason. It is still early, there may still be some loss, but as of now, the rest of them look like they are doing well. 

 

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IMG_5614Two of our 12 potatoes have busted through! There is evidence that at least 3 more will pop through in the coming days. This is the first year we are growing potatoes in this garden. I am excited to see how well they do.

IMG_5613Our mixed greens and leafy lettuce are flourishing. Fresh lettuce grows like weeds, and lasts FOREVER. We were giving it away last year because it lasts 3-4 weeks when stored properly. 

IMG_5612Our radish patch is doing quite well. We only planted in half of the area because we are going to rotate them out. So next week we will plant another 2 rows of radish, just in time for our first ones to be done in a few days time. They have a quick germination/maturity time. 
IMG_5611This is our singular bush cucumber plant. We planted 5 in the little plot. We’re hoping that by the end of the week we’ll have a few more. Mom wants to make pickles…even though she’s the only one that eats them.

IMG_5616I like to call this the “Mater Forest.” I feel like we have so much more than last year, and I know that once they really start growing up, it’s going to look like one as well. They haven’t had much vertical growth, but it’s still early. They’re more busy rooting that growing.

IMG_5610We planted about 8 sunflowers and 6 of them have already started popping! I took a shot of the two biggest ones. I will harvest the seeds in the fall and bake them! 

IMG_5608We are most excited for the green beans…ok….it might just be me. I LOVE green beans. I like them raw, I like them blanched, I like them sautéed in butter with garlic and onion, I like them fried. I haven’t met a green bean I didn’t like…except casserole. They are bursting forth in their little rows and I could not be more excited.

IMG_5618This little guy is not in our back garden, but I like it anyway. We planted 4 lavender plants in our front/side gardens this year. Lavender is not only pretty once it blooms, but it also smells good and is a natural bug repellent. It is also a perennial so we will not have to worry about having to replace it every year.

We are still waiting for the onion, peppers and carrots to pop. They should be showing up to the party in the very near future. The cosmos and zinnias that we planted around the vegetable garden are barely showing above the mulch. Our marigolds are thriving. Those 3 were planted as bee attractors and bug repellents.

From here out, I will post garden updates once the plants start producing or something super super exciting happens!

Happy planting!

Spring Gardening

In March, in the midst of a snow storm I spent the day planning our garden. This weekend, the snow has been gone for a few weeks, the sun has been shining and we were finally able to get stuff in the ground!

I had come up with beautiful plans and a beautiful layout, created with tons of research, love and care. screen-shot-2015-03-05-at-5-18-30-pmThen we got out there and my dad decided things needed more space. The really pretty garden layout that looked like the above, ended up looking like the below in reality. Which, is ok. It doesn’t look near as pretty in a chart like this, but it works. Sunflowers and cucumbers were added to the garden. The “walking path,” kinda disappeared for the most part, but there is plenty of space between plants so we’ll be just fine.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 9.26.29 AMWe also have an adorable little strawberry patch, I have claimed it as my own.10689423_10206003822511341_2734209453159910876_nAround the garden we planted marigolds, cosmos, and zinnias. Marigolds are natural (bad) bug-repellants, cosmos and zinnias are natural bee attractors. When you have a garden this big, with this much stuff in it, you want as many bees as you can get! 11206100_10206003822071330_2141622102369986064_n

11204480_10206003822311336_9176184884080786480_nWe have 24 tomato plants of 3 varieties, Roma, Celebrity and Brandywine. We planted red potatoes because we think they are better to cook/bake with. Mom wants to make pickles this fall so the cucumbers are small bush cucumbers. There are 15 strawberry plants in the box. I’m not sure that they’ll all make it, and if I do…well…if anybody would like some strawberry plants, hit me up. The rest of the garden is seeds, so I guess we will see in a few weeks how many of each we have!

Stay tuned for update posts and recipes throughout the summer!

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Snow Day Garden Planning

It is a winter wonderland right now. Seriously. We have over a foot of snow in our yard, a combination of the approximately 8 inches we got today plus what was already laying on the ground. My dad used our snow blower to created a doggy path in our back yard since our critters are a bit vertically challenged.

10437617_10206255174127735_8793836284818350200_nI am desperately looking forward to the days when our yard looks more like this-

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Last year was the first garden my parents did. This little plot is 8×10. This year, we are more than doubling that to a whopping 32×10. Yes, 32×10. That is 320 square feet of prime food growin ground. When you decide to grow a garden that big, you can not haphazardly throw plant in the ground. There is an art to this, a serious science. I have spent at least 3 hours researching, drawing, erasing and going back to the garden boards to plan out our vegetable garden this year. An excel spread sheet, and 2 tables later, I think I’ve got it!

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This is an excel spread sheet of all different fruits and vegetables we will be growing, whether in the main 32×10 garden, in a separate box, like our strawberries, or in our side garden, like the cucumbers. It features how deep to plant the seeds, how far apart to plant them, how many can be planted in a square foot, when to plant, companion planting info, soil info and sun preferences. Instead of having to search 18 different websites, I can simply pull this up and all of the info I need is right there in one spot!

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This is our 32×10 garden lay out. Below is the color key, black is walking space. It is a pain in the butt to harvest, weed and take care of a garden when you have no room to actually walk! What a travesty to have great plants and accidentally step and crush them! This helps aid this problem. Having it laid out also means no guessing when it comes to planting time. Each square will have 1-16 plants depending on what is being planted there. We LOVE canning homemade tomato sauce, and being able to harvest and freeze fresh green beans, carrots and peppers to use throughout the winter and spring. Nothing beats having fresh carrots and green beans in a good hearty pot of stew in the middle of December. We are also planting marigolds around the perimeter of the whole garden. There are numerous benefits of this, one of them being that they attract bees, which helps pollination, which in turn means lots of produce!

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 5.18.33 PMRight now, the wind is blowing and the snow is still kinda falling. By the end of the week it is supposed to bounce back up to the 40s and Spring will quickly be approaching. I still have our front flower gardens to plan and a few weeks before we’ll be able to till the ground and get our (organic/natural) soil additives in preparation for planting time mid-April. Though it seems so far away, like the snow may never stop and the ice will never melt, I know that in just a few short weeks I will have my toes in the dirt and seeds in the ground!

Garden Growth

GREAT PUMPKIN! I don’t think anyone quite understands the joy of having not one, but MULTIPLE pumpkins growing right now. Last year, we had a giant plant and no pumpkins. I LOVE pumpkins. Pumpkin carving and pumpkin seeds are two of my most favorite things in the world. I have not ventured to pumpkin soup. That might change this fall though! They’re still little, and look more like our watermelons, BUT THEY’RE PUMPKINS! Yeah, I’m that excited. Like a kid in a candy store.

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Of course, the tomatoes. They are HUGE! And we have had a few start to turn red. I can’t believe how big they are this year. We must have done something right to the soil. We didn’t get very many even close to the size of these guys. By the time I get back from Antrim I will have a bajillion to make sauce with! Thank goodness I have already set a day aside to do it!

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And the chickens. They are still growing. Their combs are slowly but surly coming in. They LOVE eating strawberries and have begun to associate me with feeding them the delicious little treats. The other day I saw one of the girls “assume the position.” I had never seen a chicken lay an egg and didn’t realize it was different from when they just kind of sit down. Eric, who has a bit more experience informed me that that is how they sit when they are laying an egg! No eggs yet but hopefully that’s a sign that they are coming soon!!! 🙂 I love their fluffy little butts too!

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Children of the Corn

Ok, I thought the play on words was hilarious. I have a very dry, off kilter sense of humor though. It’s ok. I know most of you will roll your eyes or not get it.

Honestly, I didn’t think it would happen. When Eric told me he wanted to grow corn I rolled my eyes. Everyone knows that in order for corn to be successful you must plant quite a bit of it in order to get proper cross-pollination. My aunt and uncle have been growing corn for years, and have had struggling crops more often than not. They do, however, have issues with varmints and deer that we simply do not. Reluctantly, I kept my mouth shut and said “Go ahead,” totally expecting very little to come of this venture. We could be planting green beans in that space! I was quite pleased as the stalks began to creep upward. I was still unsure of whether or not we would get ears of corn. It’s not unheard of to have plenty of stalks with teeny tiny, little to no ears sprout because of a lack of pollination. Today, Eric proudly sent me pictures of  4 baby ears of corn coming in. We have about 20 fuzzy little sprouts coming in.

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I must say, and admit, he was right. I am excited to see how big they get and how many more sprout up over the next few weeks! 🙂 I guess now I have to let him make next years corn area take up a bit more of the garden space.

Babies! And Not Just the Chickens!

We have lots of “little” things around the gardens this week! I can assure you I am NOT growing one myself. Just wanted to clarify so that my mother doesn’t have a heart attack. 🙂 We are hitting that point in the summer where everything is really starting to grow. We have more than just green beans and strawberries coming in! Though, let’s face it, nobody is complaining about either of those things!

First, we’ll check in with the strawberries! They are due for another shoot cut off and bury day in the very near future! They are producing like crazy and it’s wonderful! I love going outside to pick breakfast FRESH every morning!

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Next, the mater plants. It’s like a forest. We have beautiful baby green tomatoes! By the time I get back from my mission trip the first week in August they will be ripe and ready to turn into SAUCE! 😀

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Baby watermelons are the cutest. They’re just adorable. Our watermelon plants are monsters this year and I have a feeling we will have some monster melons to go with them!

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We trimmed the pumpkin back a TON so that the main plant, some choice leaves and the blooms have been left. This helps ensure that the good stuff can go towards making PUMPKINS! 😀

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We’ve got fuzzy little sprouts on a number of our corn plants. Whether or not we get some real ears this year will be the real question! They’re growing like weeds and looking good so we’re hoping we get SOMETHING from them!

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Last, but certainly not least- the ACTUAL babies! THE CHICKENS! I don’t think I can quite call them babies anymore being that they have all of their big girl feathers. They aren’t quite laying yet but we should be getting our first eggs by the end of August! They also, after well over a month, have figured out that they can roost all together in a row on the hockey stick, seen in the first photo in the top right corner. They have all turned gorgeous shades of red, mahogany and brown. Women pay big bucks to have their hair dyed the colors of these girls. Their combs are turning red and their beaks are getting darker. They have totally made friends with Miller, through the fence of course.

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The gardens are producing, growing, and taking over. There is something humbling, earthing, and beautiful about being able to go outside and get fresh fruit for breakfast and fresh green beans for dinner.

Jeremiah 29:5 “ Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;”

It’s all in the Dirt

It’s been a busy week for the dirt in the gardens! At Eric’s house I plucked our first onions. They’re a bit on the wee little side but they are packing a punch and delicious!

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The watermelon plants are budding! Last year we did sugar babies and weren’t very happy with the results. This year we chose a different kind and it is flourishing! There are buds EVERYWHERE! In the world of vine plants- BUDS=YUM! This goes for the pumpkins as well. As you can see in the first picture, the pumpkin is creeping in.

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Speaking of….he’s taking over our garden! Because our one watermelon plant is doing so well we are probably going to pull the smaller of the two that is struggling just a bit. And the rest of our onions will be out shortly. We have to get those guys out so our massive octopus of a pumpkin can roam more on the free side. The next step will be hefting the vines over the fence to let it free range in the yard! On the plus side, there are a number of beautiful blossoms! I’m hoping to ACTUALLY get a pumpkin this year! 😀

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What our pumpkin looked like on June 15th. I honestly can’t even get a picture with a wide enough view to show you how big the pumpkin plant is. Trust me, it’s become a monster. I’m hoping I get MONSTER pumpkins out of it too! The second picture is from June 26th. It’s much bigger than that even. Trust me.

I spent my afternoon walking through the sea of green beans. They are HUGE! And I still have one more row left to do! I set myself up a nice little system on the living room floor so I could watch TV and not be stuck standing in the kitchen. It’s amazing how quickly that colander fills up!

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First round- Row 1

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By the second round I got smart with a bowl for the tips, a bowl for the snapped and my colander in the middle. Rows 2 and 3

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I got to repeat the process with round 3, row 4. Yeah, there’s still another row left to do.

At my parent’s, my mom and I were investigating our carrots! They’re starting to show through the dirt but they’re just not ready yet! Hopefully by the end of the month they’ll be there.

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Each set of gardeners does different things to help their garden dirt. At my parents, my mom saves our coffee grounds, saves and crushes egg shells and sprinkles it all in the garden. They have been battling first year soil. In the fall they’ll be adding lime and peat moss. At Eric’s, he does lime in the fall and again about March a few weeks before we plant so that the lime doesn’t burn the baby plants. He also adds peat moss and sand. Now that we have the chickens and the gardens are so huge he has finally agreed/decided too…. COMPOST! YAY! We have the perfect spot for it behind our sheds at the back of the property. Egg shells, grass clippings, leaves, weeds, our garden clippings, coffee grounds, chicken poop, banana peals- it’s all going in! I’m sure I’ll be posting about THAT adventure by the end of the summer. 🙂

Early Harvest and Storage Prep

The last of the potatoes are in! I’ve gotten a number of inquires from friends asking what I do to the potatoes after  we pull them out of the ground. Really, what do I do to the fruits and veggies in general.

If they are a ground plant like potatoes I first collect them in a colander. Then I rinse the mud/dirt off.

Once this is done I put the plug in the sink and fill it with warm water and about 1 cup of vinegar. With the potatoes still in the colander I put the whole thing in the sink and kind of swish them around with my hands. I let them sit for 5-10 minutes, pull the plug, rinse with water and let dry.

I usually just put paper towels under the colander and let them air dry. Place in a cool, dry place until ready to use them!

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For green beans, the process is a bit different! I collect in a colander and rinse them with water just like the potatoes.

I then throw them in a pot of boiling water for a minute or so just to blanche them. This helps clean them and gives them a nice bright green color!

I strain, let dry and cool a bit, and throw them in a freezer bag or container. Then, they are ready to make at any time!

Strawberries are tricky. I have yet to find the best secret to having them keep. I still don’t quite get how you can buy them in the grocery store, stick them in the fridge and they last a week. After we pluck ours, it’s a race against the clock to eat them before they get mushy and shriveled. If anyone has any tips on that I would LOVE them! As of right now, if we are not going to eat them right away I simply rinse the dirt off of them, and throw them in a freezer container. This way I’ll at least have a shot to cook with them, add them to ice cream or something!

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On the flip side, out pumpkin has its first blossoms and our tomato plants are fervently popping new little maters every day! I will probably be making my first jars of sauce by the end of July! 😀

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Our watermelon plants are slowly starting to creep out as well!

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I love this time of the season when everything is really starting to take hold and burst with growth!

New Additions

Eric had a brilliant idea. Our girls love roosting together in a row and the balusters we set up aren’t too long. So he put an old hockey stick for them. GENIUS! Of course they weren’t hanging out on it when I went out to take pictures.

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Our gardens have some new additions as well! We have our first baby beans starting to burst through!

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Eric’s tomato plant was the first of them to have a mater bud.

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And the strawberries are coming in strong!

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I plucked a few before work. I meant to take pictures of them but uhhh oops! They were delicious!

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