Berry Picking. Fermented Pickles. And A July Garden Update.

blackberries
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 I’ve been pretty busy the past couple of weeks. Sorry I haven’t posted much lately.

The wild blackberries are ripe now. Every couple of days I’ve been walking the land, picking berries. When we first moved here, I was under the impression that all of the berries would ripen at the same time, and that if I could just catch them on the right day I’d be able to pick enough to make jelly or something with. It always seemed that the animals beat me to the punch. I’ve since realized that I’ll need to pick berries several times a week if I want to collect enough to process. The berries ripen a little at a time instead of all at once.

raspberries

Our raspberries have been the same way. Jada (9 yrs) has been reading the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and has been pretending to be Huckleberry Finn every morning, choosing to go berry picking for breakfast. She collects as many ripe raspberries and blackberries as she can find, and satisfies her hunger long enough for me to get some eggs scrambled and on her plate. It’s so cool to watch her enjoying her foraging efforts.

zucchinis and cucumbers

The other day a friend up the road called me and asked if I wanted any zucchini and cucumbers. I was more than happy to take the produce off of her hands, and was glad I had some fresh eggs I could give her in return. I’ve been busy working my way through it all. She ended up giving us about 25 pounds of cucumbers, and 36 lbs of zucchini.

Seeing as I have plenty to play with, I thought it would be cool to try fermenting some pickles. I’ve been reading how amazing fermented foods are for your gut, so I filled a half-gallon jar today to see how it turns out. I followed directions posted at Nourishing Days. I thought it was cool that I had the grape leaves and fresh dill the recipe called for. I just love it when I happen to be growing the ingredients I’ll need!

fermented pickles

I’m curious to see how it turns out. I’ve never tasted fermented pickles, and I’ve read it can be hit and miss when you try making them, so we’ll see! I’ll have to let you know how they turn out.

tomatillos

My tomatillos looked like they were doing really well, until I got a closer look and found that almost all of the big ones had green worms in them, completely devouring the growing globe inside. I had to pick off several large tomatillos with worm holes in them. Which, of course, is a big bummer.

By the way, while I was weeding out the tomatillo bed, I came across a huge Black Widow. They live in the rocks I have bordering the bed. I need to figure out a way to get rid of Black Widows for good. It’s scary to have something so dangerous so close to where our kids often go. I always show the kids the spiders when I come across them, before I squish them, so they know what to always watch out for. As pretty as the rocks are, I’m considering just ditching them as a border if they’re just gonna harbor poisonous arachnids. It seems like every time I weed this bed I kill a couple of Black Widows.

tomatillo

I was still thrilled to find our first ripe tomatillo. I’ve never even eaten one before. Hoping I get enough to make something with.

onion bed

Our garden is doing okay. The onions are done producing and are starting to die back.

onions

I’m considering whether I should leave them in the ground, or harvest them all at once. Do I let the tops die back and then mulch over them to keep them for the winter, or do I pull them up and hang them to dry? I have no idea. Some are white onions, which I think store longer, and some are yellow onions. Any suggestions?

tomato plants

The tomatoes are completely out of control. I always regret not staking or caging them, and this year is no exception. In a desperate attempt to lift the sprawling vines off the ground, I’ve used everything I could find to trellis them. I’ve got some tomatoes in wire plant stands, some strung up in a Florida Weave using PVC pipes I rigged up with zipties, and even a couple of plants tied up around an old ladder. Hey, whatever works right? The other twenty some plants are a lost cause.

green tomatoes

They’re loaded with green tomatoes; I’m hoping they ripen and do well for us. I have had a few with blossom end rot, so I’m afraid I’ll lose more. I sprinkled Epsom salt around the plants hoping to stave off more rot. I haven’t used egg shells this year, just out of negligence. Definitely something I need to be sure to do next time around.

cucumbers

The cucumbers haven’t produced very much yet. Probably too much leaf mulch in the bed. I actually thought I planted cowpeas here, and was surprised to find cucumbers growing, hahaha. It’s good to always make notes of what you plant and when.

cucumber balls

All I’ve managed to get from our vines have been four little cucumber balls. I think I’m gonna give up on the small pickling varieties and stick to the larger cukes. The small ones aren’t worth the time and space they take, as compared to the longer ones, like the Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers.

green beans

I planted green beans a couple of weeks ago. Hoping to get a late crop.

cowpeas

I have cowpeas growing here for the first time. It’ll be fun to see how they do. I don’t even know if I’ve ever eaten cowpeas. Are they the same thing as black-eyed peas? I dunno. But if they do well we’ll learn to like them.

pepper bed

The pepper bed hasn’t changed much at all. It seems like the plants just don’t wanna grow!

cayenne peppers

Even though the pepper plants are small, they’re still producing little peppers. That’s encouraging! Here’s a cayenne pepper growing.

watermelon

The kids have little watermelons growing in their raised bed. Fun!!

And that’s pretty much it for the raised beds.

oregano drying

I’ve also been drying and storing our oregano. I can’t believe how well this stuff grows! I just hung small clumps of oregano on the clothesline I have over the bathtub, and then raked off the dried leaves into jars after about two weeks of hanging.

dried oregano

I’ve got a half a gallon of dried oregano put up, and tons more still growing. It’ll be nice not to have to buy it anymore.

So, there’s a little glimpse into what I’ve been up to lately! What exciting things have you been up to this summer?

 


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Kendra
About Kendra 1106 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

18 Comments

  1. Hey Kendra, I just thought I’d let you know that I have made 3 quarts of your fermented pickles. I did them in quarts because I used up all the half-gallon jars I have with tomatoes. I followed the recipe so I hope they will be fine. We shall see said the blind man! I’ll let you know how they turn out. Thanks, E

  2. I was so intimidated when I first started fermenting things, but it’s really easy. You’ll feel more comfortable the more you do it. You should definitely try the dilly beans!

    Another favorite of ours is carrots with garlic and onion. I slice the carrots on an angle, and add slices of garlic and onions. You really can do just about anything, as long as you have everything covered with a salt brine. I’ve done banana peppers, beets, radishes, giardiniera and sauerkraut, too.

    Ironically, the only thing I ever had fail is salsa. I still don’t know what went wrong for sure, and I haven’t tried again.

    Good luck, and your garden looks good!

  3. Your pickles look great, Kendra! We love fermented pickles. I’ve used our cherry bush leaves in place of the grape leaves to keep the pickles crisp and it worked perfectly. In my opinion, the most important aspect of good fermented pickles is keeping them crisp. Who wants to eat a mushy pickle? Yuck.

    Our favorite fermented recipe though, is dilly beans. So addictive! If you have extra green beans, make them exactly like your pickles (garlic, dill, grape/cherry leaves, salt brine), only stuff a quart jar with green beans, standing on end. We’re just finishing off our last jar I made last summer, and they’re still crisp and so yummy. It’s amazing to me that these are still good, after simply being stored in our fridge for a year. Amazing.

  4. Your garden looks great!! How exciting to watch everything grow. I tried fermenting last summer for the first time – it’s such great fun! My favourite ended up being fermented salsa. We always store our onions – but our ground freezes over and then gets covered with several feet of snow . . .

  5. Hi Kendra,

    I love to make Green Tomato relish with extra tomatoes. This is a recipe my mom gave me years ago. Definately a family favorite! Makes 5 to 6 pints so I double this:
    20 Green Tomatos
    6 onions
    Grind tomatoes and onions and pour boiling water over them. Let stand 20 minutes.
    Drain tomatoes and onions then add:
    4 hot red peppers (seeds in)
    3 and 1/2 cups sugar
    4 teaspoons salt
    1 pint cider vinegar
    Cook slowly for one hour
    Pour into jars, process in hot water bath.

  6. Never mind answering. I looked up the recipe from your site. Now I understand. The salt brine keeps them from spoiling in just water. If my cukes ever produce or if I can get my hands on some pickling cukes, I’ll give this a try. Thanks, E

  7. Kendra, I did use vinegar and I did can them to seal because I had so many we could not possibly eat or store if not canned. Now, tell me what did you use to ferment if not vinegar? E

  8. Hey Kendra, here is a good recipe for a natural pest killer that might help with your spider problem. Take one peeled onion, 2 cloves of peeled garlic, and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Put in blender and pulverize. Mix with 3 cups of water, strain, put in spray bottle and let it sit overnight. Coat plants and watch the slugs and aphids disappear. Should get other things as well. Solution will keep for up to a week in your fridge. Hope this helps with your bug problems. Onions, I have always harvested them, tied them together in bunches leaving all their foliage attached, then hand them in barn. The foliage will dry up, the outer skins of onions will dry and the insides will be good for almost a year like this. I have done this for both yellow and purple onions. Now the jar of pickles you made looks a lot like the pickles I’ve made in past called grape-leaf pickles. You use fresh dill, vinegar, pickle leaves and green grapes. They are so good. If you want recipe, I’ll try to dig it up. Anytime Michael and I have indigestion, we eat a pickle and it clears it up right away. Hope this helps. Now if we could just get the rain to stop for a few days, maybe we could get some veggies to grow in our garden. E

  9. I want to try fermenting pickles-if I ever get any cukes. I need to get some compost on them as I know they’re heavy feeders. Too bad about the tomatillos. I’ve never grown them. My yellow onions always seem to store better. Some of the best tomatoes I ever had was from plants I didn’t get staked. They sure were hard to harvest though! Great pictures from your garden.

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