Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pumpkin Bread

I couldn't sleep the other morning, so shortly after five o'clock I pulled out my thawed out pumpkin that I pureed this summer.  I was going to make pumpkin bread and surprise the love of my life with irresistible homemade bread for breakfast.

These are the dry ingredients and the spices used for making the pumpkin bread.  In one large bowl, mix:
1 1/2 cups all purpose white flour
1/2 tsp each of salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice
1 tsp each of baking soda and ground ginger

In another bowl:
beat 2 eggs
add 1 scant cup of sugar and 2 tbs brown sugar
add 1/4 cup water
add 1/2 cup Canola oil

Add 1 cup well mashed/pureed pumpkin to the ingredients in the "wet" bowl and blend well.  Finally, add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the flour and blend well.

Other:  1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts will do fine for pumpkin bread.  Mix with the flour

I didn't have any nuts but I had left over dried and chopped cranberries that I used and it turned out very nice and moist..

I baked in a 350 F degree oven for 50 minutes and checked with a wooden stick for doneness.

This is a rich bread full of calories.  My husband added margarine to his slice of bread and he enjoyed it very much.  I enjoyed my slice too.  Now we have to go out and work it off on the Back Forty.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fresh Pumpkin Puree

Only lately have I heard that there are special pumpkins for Halloween and that there are special sugar pumpkins for cooking and baking.  Quite frankly, I didn't know there was a difference.

Sometime during this summer, there was a squash like vine growing by its lonesome in my garden.  I waited to see what would develop and pretty soon one fruit or vegetable emerged.  I nursed it and put a Styrofoam tray under it to keep it from rotting.

Eventually, I had a nice size orange pumpkin to harvest and I proceeded to cut the top off so that I could reach in and pull the seeds out.  I cut up the pumpkin into large chunks and cooked them (with the peel still on) in my big enameled pot.

I cooked the pumpkin until the meat as well as the skin was soft, at least 3 0 - 40 minutes.  I don't remember exactly how long.  When softened, I drained the water out and let the pumpkin cool.  The meat came off so easily and I could mash it, put it into a plastic bag, and store it in the freezer.  My pumpkin yielded about a cup and half of  mashed meat.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Squirrels in the Soffit

Colder weather is definitely on its way because the squirrels built a nest in the soffit above the summer kitchen.  The soffit is the boxed in area under the eaves.  When the builders made the screened in porch (summer kitchen), they failed to seal the area between the soffit and the roof to the porch.

We have had squirrels around the house and the Back Forty for the ten years that we have lived here and they have left the garden alone.  They have plenty of pine cones to eat and they seem to like them very much.

This fall two squirrels decided to make the suffit above the summer kitchen their winter home.  When we came out to make our breakfast, they started to stir around.  When evening came for us to enjoy our summer kitchen, the squirrels did too.  They had no problems running up and down the fence and leaping from nearby trees.

Wait a minute!  We have to have some rules here!  Squirrels do not come into my house is one rule, but how do I make that known to the squirrels?

My husband got the ladder out and removed a couple of small vents in the soffit and you would not believe the nesting material that he pulled down.  It consisted of fine cedar strips and shavings.  My husband said that he respected the squirrels for their selection that would not attract bugs.

We decided to fill a small water bottle with ammonia and insert a rag into the bottle, making sure that the rag was soaked with ammonia.  We then pushed the bottle with the ammonia in through the vent and left it where the squirrels had made their nest.

It seemed to be working because the squirrels did not come back to that area but they were still coming back into the soffit  We tried to plug up the entrance area by using flashing but they pushed it aside and continued to come.  Smart squirrels!

We filled another bottle with ammonia and inserted a rag into the bottle, soaked it with ammonia, and put it at the back of the entrance so that the squirrels couldn't push it out:  they would have to drag it out.

The ammonia is a strong and humane deterrent against squirrels.  It is harmless for vegetation if sprayed.  It dries quickly and leaves no odor.

Guess what?  The squirrels finally got the message and left but they are still in the Back Forty area.  They seem to watch me with great caution when our paths cross.

The picture is downloaded from Free Digital Photos.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Sun Rise over the Garden

Another week and we are going to have to get up earlier in the morning to get out and work in the garden and clean up around the yard for the cold weather is lurking.

It is time for us to close up the Summer Kitchen and move inside for our meals.  It's been so special to sit out on the screened in porch and linger over breakfast before we head out to the Back Forty to pick butter beans and snap beans for lunch.

Beach View

The weather people are predicting a beautiful weekend and a great time to visit the beach for wading in the still warm water, picking up shells, watching the sun rise, and enjoy the morning.

Porch View
The sky is so blue with a few wispy clouds floating away.  They remind me of cotton candy which reminds me that this is the season for all sorts of country fairs to enjoy while the weather is so perfect for outdoor activities.

Have a Wonderful Weekend!

Come Monday, we garden.

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Deep Fried Green Tomatoes

Earlier this fall, my husband and I made a short road trip to Steffen's Restaurant in Kingsland, Georgia, for some good ol' fashioned home cooking.  The restaurant is on Route 17 and you know that you have found it because the parking lot is filled with cars and motor bikes.  It's a homey place for town's people to meet and eat as well as for tourists to taste some local fare.  This time Deep Fried Green Tomatoes was on the menu.

My husband set out a row of various tomato plants a while back and they are producing a lot of greenery and a few blooms--wrong season, wrong kind of plants (maybe).  I did pick three (3) cherry tomatoes yesterday and I spotted a few green tomatoes.

I bought the green tomatoes for my recipe at a local grocery store closer to home.  I was surprised to find them this time of the year.  Of course, I couldn't resist getting a couple and trying out for Deep Fried Green Tomatoes.

I have found that to deep fry vegetables, I need a plate of all-purpose flour, a plate of fine bread crumbs with seasoning, and a deep dish to hold a beaten egg with a little milk.

To make the Deep Fried Green Tomatoes, I cut rather thick slices of the tomatoes and doused them with flour, dipped them in the egg concoction, and finally in the seasoned bread crumbs.  For seasoning, I used minced onion, garlic, paprika, and dried crumbled parsley.

I fried the tomatoes in a generous amount of Canola Oil in my frying pan.  I let the tomatoes get golden brown on one side, then turned them, and let them brown on the other side.

The golden brown Deep Fried Green Tomatoes were served with Ranch Dressing.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Deliscious Pear Jam

The other day I went to the local grocery store and when entering, my eye caught beautiful large pears for a reasonable price on display that couldn't be missed.  Pears must be in season.  It is fall.  I couldn't resist buying some for us to eat and some for making jam.  I have a recipe that is so sweet, simple, and versatile.

Five (5) large pears made six (6) cups finely chopped pears (2 cups is 1/2 liter or 5 dl)
Three (3) cups sugar

I like to keep the peel on my pears and in this case the peel was rather delectable; however, I removed the core and finely chopped up the pears and they made about 6 cups.

I added 3 cups of sugar to the chopped pears in my enameled pot, stirring, and let it come to a boil.  Then I turned the heat down to a slow simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently.

Towards the end of the simmering time, I added the spices: about 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon, easy on the nutmeg, ground cloves, and allspice.  I prefer cinnamon sticks that I can remove, but I use what I have and what I like.  The jam without the spices is sweet and delicious, too.

I check to see if the jam has jelled by spooning out a dab on a small plate.  If it does not run, it is ready.  How simple is that test?

I poured the pear jam into clean jars (about 4 cups), sealed with hot wax, and put into the cupboard when cooled.  I left some out to spread on toast to enjoy immediately.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The New Owl

I feel compelled to share a recent visit from the new owl to the Back Forty.  He is brazen and  fearless.  He has found himself a school of shimmering goldfish that is within his reach--morning and evening meals.  There is only one problem:  a netting across the pond.  He has bounced on the netting like it was a trampoline.  It should break any time, right?

This owl has had to endure the chase from large noisy crows and a slew of smaller birds that have joined the chase:  not in my backyard, you don't.  The birds in the neighborhood are ganging up on him; they are mobbing him.  They do not want this owl to steal their eggs or their peeps.

When the owl comes without entourage, he makes no noise.  His wings do not make any sounds, no swooshing is heard.  I only notice him when a movement in the trees catches my attention.  He wants to rest and spend the day sleeping, undisturbed, somewhere in a treetop.

This owl may not have a mate; we have never heard him call or his calls have been too low for our ears.  He is different from the owl that have visited before:  he is not quite as hulky, smaller.

It is no doubt in my mind that he knows us.  Good heavens, he has seen us more times than we have seen him.  He has observed us and he knows our habits when we are outside.

The other night, just as dusk was falling, my husband went out to feed the goldfish.  He called me before he reached the small pond.  What?  What?  He told me about the owl sitting on the PVC pipes that holds the netting.

I got my camera and approached the pond.  The owl was watching me and he was watching my husband. I've got you guys in my sight, he seemed to convey.  Most of all, he was keeping an eye on the the pond.

My husband got close enough to throw in a handful of fish food but the owl left silently before the second helping was tossed.  He didn't fly too far, he was still watching our movements,  I was sure.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fighting the Nematodes

Fighting the nematodes is an uphill battle especially in the hot and humid weather in North Florida.  I have ignored these microscopic worms but when I pulled up some of the okra stalks the resulting damage was clearly visible.  The roots were abnormal and knotted which is a sure way of recognizing the damage done by the nematodes.  Other signs of nematodes are yellowing of the foliage, wilted plants, and a poor harvest.

There are no good news about nematodes from the University of Florida IFAS.  They maintain that there are no chemicals that will destroy the nematodes; however, there are a few preventative measures that we can take to minimize the nematodes and some we are already practicing.

  • Solarization where you till the soil and remove debris from the ground, wet down the smooth ground and cover with clear plastic that will remain for at least six weeks.  Our garden is utilized year around so it is not feasible and it will only reduce the presence of nematode. 
  • Ground Cover.  During the summer, we sow legumes in the areas that are fallow.  The legumes enriches the soil, keeps the weed at bay, and makes for additional edible food as well.  After the harvest, the foliage may be turned into green manure in the garden..  I usually remove the roots and the thickest stems.
  • Mulch from the compost pile is a good addition of new soil and it is a deterrent for the nematodes.  It will also keep the weeds at bay and conserve the water.
  • Plant Rotation. simply means that you do not plant the same crop in the same place year after year.  Mix it up so that the nematodes cannot find the food that they have come to expect and like.
  • Nematode Resistant Plants.  When you buy plants or seeds, you may find that some of them are nematode resistant according to the labels.
  • Sunshine is one of the better methods to combat nematodes.  Till the garden several times and let the soil dry in the sunshine.  I have been out on the Back Forty and turning the soil to plant some greens for the fall.  
The nematodes do not do well during the colder months of the growing season.  Keep adding mulch, rotate the crop, and hope for a lot of sunshine.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Plants for Fall in North East Florida

According to my planting schedule from the local seed store September, October, and November are considered the fall months in North East Florida. September is gone and the monsoon season is well over and we are heading into the serious part of planting the vegetable garden.  The following plants are well suited for the fall:

Beets from seeds germinates in 7 days and matures in 50 - 70 days
Broccoli matures in 100 - 130 days
Cabbage matures in 75 -120 days
Carrots from seeds germinates in 6 days and matures in 100 - 120 days
Cauliflower matures in 120 - 150 days
Chinese Cabbage matures in 75 - 80 days
Collards matures in 60 - 80 days
Kohlrabi matures in 60 - 80 days
Mustard matures in 50 - 60 days
Onions matures in 140 - 180 days
Radishes from seeds germinates in 6 days and matures in 28 - 36 days
Spinach matures in 40 - 65 days
Turnips matures in 45 - 60 days

It is recommended that cauliflower, strawberry plants, and turnips (from seed) be planted only in October.  Beets, carrots, and radishes are sowed from seeds.  Lettuce are available in seeds and plants and the same goes for spinach.  I was surprised to find mustard plants and kale (9 in a pack) last year and they did very well.

I use this list for planning purposes only.  The planting, germination, and maturity information are usually available on seed packets and sticks inserted in the vegetable containers.

Of course, seeds are available for most of the above vegetables but I find it much easier to plant established plants and they are also easier to replace if necessary.  Although I have a shopping list for the vegetables I want to plant, I have to go with what is available in the garden centers.

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