Sunday, August 28, 2011

Greenhouse friends...

 It has been a busy weekend.  I harvested my vertically challenged carrots.  Made salsa and Jody's recipe rocks!  Made more raspberry jam.  Canned some cherry tomatoes.  To wrap it all up I am making a roast with my baby carrots and the potatoes that I manage to nick each one when I was digging them up.  I am still picking raspberries and now the chokecherries are starting.  I went down to our pond and harvested the sweetgrass.  I managed to get 3 braids.  The house would smell beautiful, except the onions and garlic are permeating the premises. 

You can't tell the carrots from the cherry tomatoes.  The onions didn't grow for some reason either.  They are in the leaf shaped dish at the bottom left.  Raspberries are in the upper right bowl and chokecherries in the lower middle.  My potato harvest wasn't earth shattering, but enough for one roast.  I know it doesn't look like a tremendous amount, but just knowing I grew it and am using it is worth while.

 I have some new friends in my greenhouse.  A little snake has denned up.  He is extremely shy and it took me forever to get this photo.  I don't mind snakes at all, so I'm happy to share the greenhouse with him. 
 I'm not as happy to share the greenhouse with this old matriarch.  She set up camp last week and I have had to be very cautious as to her whereabouts.  For some reason I have never been able to kill spiders.  I am going to Washington DC this week and my husband who detests both spiders and snakes has to water my greenhouse every morning.  I relocated the old girl today.  I'm afraid he is stuck with the snake. 

I'm going to leave you with this pickled cherry tomato recipe that I got from The Country Store by Stephanie Donaldson.  It is one of my favorite books.  I tried the recipe last night and I really like it.

Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
2 1/4 lb cherry tomatoes
1 t. salt per 4 cup jar
1 t. sugar per 4 cup jar
fresh basil or parsley
5 garlic cloves per jar
1. Prick each tomato with a toothpick.
2. Pack the tomatoes into a clean dry jar, adding the salt and sugar as you go.
3. Pack the jars with tomatoes to within 3/4 inches from the top.  Tuck the basil or parsley and garlic among the tomatoes.
4. Rest the lids on the jars, but do not seal.
5. Stand the jars in the oven at 250 degrees for 45 minutes.  The juice should be simmering.
6. Remove the jars from the oven and seal.  Store in a cool place and use within 6 months.

Friday, August 26, 2011

We have success...


We have achieved greenhouse success!  I am including some photos of my bounty.  My goal is to make salsa this weekend.  Thank you my good friend Jody for the recipe.  I also want to give a thank you to Susan at "My Mother's Apron Strings!"  I made your chocolate pumpkin cake as a birthday cake for one of my teachers.  It got rave reviews!  It has been a plentiful summer here.  Have been making jam, wine, fruit roll ups, harvesting seeds, and overall keeping pretty busy.  Sorry if I haven't been able to keep up with everyone's blogs.  I've been kept on my toes. 

red pepper

little baby pumpkin

My flourishing greenhouse, beehives, and berry beds.

If you look hard you can see a pumpkin, sweetcorn, and my tomatoes.

itty bitty turnips (I just like to eat the leaves)
This is Kelly's 'Sassy Saskatoon' wine.  Made out of our serviceberries.  I used the berry pulp to make fruit roll ups.  That didn't turn out too bad. 

Sassy Saskatoon

Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer time flowers...

My red/yellow bed is looking sharp.  I love those black eyed susans.  I got them from my neighbor, AJ, in Lead. This evening is the perfect time for a garden stroll.  The weather is cool and fall is in the air. 

This bed's summertime flowers are blackeyed Susans, Maximillian sunflowers, red bee balm, coral bells, red dianthus, and midget (not the official name) goblin's blanket.

Ella is always ready for a game of catch.  She pretty sure that is our duty. 

Aren't those colors beautiful?


 I love how the light goes through the leaves of this honeysuckle.  I transplanted a piece of wild vine three years ago and it is doing great.  It has never gone to berry like this.  They are a lovely addition.
This is the path between our house and the garage.  The bees love the lamb's ear.  The path is a tad dangerous while the lamb's ear is flowering.  The bees flock to it and get disgruntled when disturbed.

 I do not remember planting these lilies.  I don't remember seeing them last year.  I guess they snuck in.  I sure like them.

Well, that is the end of the summer stroll.  I hope the weather is pleasant where you are. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Grand opening of the Mason Bee House in our orchard...

 Have I ever mentioned we have a baby orchard?  We do.  Our orchard consists of: 5 sand cherries, 5 wild plums, 5 Naking Cherries, 9 buffalo berry ( I LOVE buffalo berries), 2 apple trees, 1 cherry tree,  5 chokecherries, 3 Red Lake Currants, 2 mulberry trees, 4 riverbank grapes, 2 black walnuts, and 2 hazelnuts.  I don't expect the nut trees to live, but I'll try anything that cost $3. 

 This year my husband and I have slowly made progress on our fancy fence around the orchard.  He digs the post holes and I watch (as you are all aware I HATE digging post holes).  My job is to use the tamping bar to break things up and loosen rocks.  I also measure and hold things as they are being drilled.  You can't see it very well, but there is a wire fence attached to the back of the posts to keep the deer out.  We may have to attach eye bolts and a swaying rope along the top, but so far the deer have stayed out.  We figure if the plants do die, we have a corral for a horse:)  Not a bad idea either.   
I was finally able to put the mason bee house up.  Since so many asked about mason bees I will add a little educational information:  The orchard mason bee is a wonderful little creature. It does not live in a nest like other bees; it lives in wooden blocks, but does not drill holes and destroy wooden items like other bees. It uses holes that are already available. The male orchard mason bee can not sting and the female rarely stings.  Taken from the National Wildlife Federation website.

In case you didn't guess from the contents of our orchard and my last few posts, I'm a berry fiend.  All of my plants were little twigs from the county extension agency.  I got the Grandma's Jam pack last year and when the plants made it through the winter, my husband and I decided the orchard was a go.  Thus, the fence.  I ordered the fruit and nut pack this year.  

My plants are pretty small.   I do have to practice patience, as it will take years before I see the fruits of our labor.  The pun was intended.  I did get currants.  Not enough for wine or jam.  Any suggestions on what to do with 1 cup of currants would be appreciated.  Except, now that I think about it I don't remember where I put them.  Humm? Busy summer.  Still, they are somewhere, probably the freezer, so I'm still entertaining ideas.  Next year I want to add to my raspberries and try some super hardy blackberries.

We decided to put an orchard here, because the past owner just bulldozed the trees.  I guess to make it look like a nice spot for a house.  We did cut a few trees, because here to plant a tree you have to cut two.  Planting trees is in my blood.  Growing up we planted hundreds of trees on the prairie.  I had to put the rocks somewhere.  I thought a cairn would be appropriate.

 I would also like to use this time to sing the praises of our little Snapper mower.  We've had this mower for 17 years.  The first 7 were spent outside, as we didn't have a shed to put it in.  It has never had the oil changed, and I don't remember the last time I put oil in it.  She starts on the second pull every time, even though the string is shot and I have a twig wrapped around it.  The last 10 years it has only been used for extreme mowing.  The orchard may look flat, but it is full of ruts and old stumps.  It has been a good mower. 

That is about all there is to know about our little endeavor.  I have high hopes that 2 or 3 years from now I will add to the berry posts.  If not you will be seeing photos of a pretty paint pony.  Ha.
Year 1 of the orchard endeavor.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Have you ever heard of thimbleberries?  I'm not talking the quilt shop either.  Well, they are another berry that grows plentifully on our property.  Another name for them is snowberries.  With the amount of snow we get in the winter I am not surprised that we are loaded with them.  Normally I don't do anything with these, except walk around like an old sow bear and eat them as they ripen.  This year I was determined to make something with them.  They are a difficult berry to use, because they fall apart the second they are touched.  They taste somewhat like a raspberry.  I was wavering between making wine or jam with them, when I read how easy it was to make jam I swayed towards simple.  As with the last post about unusual berries I am including a description of the buggers.  This time I used good old Wikipedia:

There is a Thimbleberry bush in the close center of this photo.
Rubus parviflorus (Thimbleberry) is a species of Rubus, native to western and northern North America, from Alaska east to Ontario and Michigan,and south to northern Mexico. It grows from sea level in the north, up to 2,500 m altitude in the south of the range.  It is a dense shrub up to 2.5 meters tall with canes no more than 1.5 centimeters in diameter, often growing in large clumps which spread through the plant's underground rhizome. Unlike most other members of the genus, it has no prickles. The leaves are palmate, up to 20 centimeters across, with five lobes; they are soft and fuzzy in texture. The flowers are 2 to 6 centimeters in diameter, with five white petals and numerous pale yellow stamens. The flower of this species is among the largest of any Rubus species, making its Latin species name parviflorus ("small-flowered") a misnomer. It produces a tart edible composite fruit around a centimeter in diameter, which ripen to a bright red in mid to late summer. Like other raspberries it is not a true berry, but instead an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets around a central core. The drupelets may be carefully removed separately from the core when picked, leaving a hollow fruit which bears a resemblance to a thimble, perhaps giving the plant its name.  The species typically grows along roadsides, railroad tracks, and in forest clearings, commonly appearing as an early part of the ecological succession in clear cut and forest fire areas.

I picked berries all morning.  Thimbleberries, raspberries, and service berries.  I have learned that when one picks thimbleberries it is best to put them in the container you are going to freeze them in and don't mix them with the other berries.  Otherwise you are going to have a gooey mess.  I came out with about 3 cups of thimbleberries.  I'm sure I will have plenty more by the time they are done, since they don't all ripen at once. I did some Internet searching and found a blog by Henry Kisor that has a simple recipe.  I found that all you need to do to make jam is add as much sugar as you have berries.  Pectin isn't even recommended.  I gave it a go, but I did add a little pectin just to be safe.  Yummm!!!

Wild Thimbleberry Jam
2 quarts of Thimbleberries
2 quarts of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon pectin

Boil until it looks right.  Enjoy  and always share:)

My berry picking partner is pooped!

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Lately we've been lucky enough to have company every night.  The doe's name is Croppy, because of her cropped ears.  She's been around for about 4 years.  Sorry the shots aren't the best.  I couldn't get them to pose.

Maybe someday he will grow up to look like this beauty we saw at the Praire Island Deer Park in Winona, Minnesota.

I am so thankful to be able to look out my back door and see a beautiful fawn every summer. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Service Berries...

Sorry, I have been out of service for a bit.  Had to make a quick trip to Minnesota for a family reunion and my brother's birthday.  A good time was had by all.  I will talk about all of that later, I promised berries for the next post, so berries it is. 

Have you ever hear of service berries?  I call them South Dakota's version of the blueberry.  They are edible and are very similar to a blueberry, except maybe with a nutty after taste.  Here is the official definition from

Saskatoons - It is also called the Western or Pacific Serviceberry, Saskatoon Berry and Alder Leaved Serviceberry. They are very similar to blueberries. It is a Deciduous shrub/tree, to 40 ft (12 m), spreading to erect. They like well-drained moist soils. They are cold and drought tolerant. Flowers small, white, fragrant appear in early to late May or early June, and the purple fruit ripens in early to late July.    Fruit is 1-1.5 cm, rounded, purple-black, edible, sweet. Hardy to USDA Zone 4. Native range from southern Alaska to California, east to the Dakotas, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Arizona, mostly along river banks and moist thickets and forests.  Apparently, the fruit tastes a bit like a blueberry. The berries have a pleasing and unique flavor, and are also high in iron and copper. They are good eaten fresh or in desserts. Native peoples used them in soups, stews and pemmican. They were also used in medicines for stomach and liver problems, and the juice was used as a dye. They can be propagated from seed, cutting, or suckers. 

If you haven't guessed by now I am lucky enough to have a passel of these plants on our property (say that 3 times fast:).  I went berry picking before we left and I think I have about 20 cups worth of service berries.  I poured them into cake pans and froze them.  Then I used the food saver my Mom got me for Christmas (thanks Mom) and froze them in 3 or 4 cup packages.

Of course, before I went to all of this work I figured I'd make a pie to see if they taste good.  They do.  Both my husband and father-in-law were suspect of my berry identification skills and did their own research on service berries prior to partaking in pie eating (am I on a tongue twister roll or what?).  Once the pie was deemed edible we agreed that service berries taste similar to blueberries.  I'm happy about that since blueberry pie filling is $5 or more per can.

This recipe was taken from my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.  The cookbook was new in 1951, but a good recipe never goes out of style.

Blueberry (Service Berry) Pie
2 1/2 c. fresh berries
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour
dash of salt
1 T. lemon juice
2 T. butter

Combine berries, sugar, flour, salt, and lemon juice.  Fill pastry-lined pie pan.  Dot with butter and adjust top crust.  Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.  You can add a dash of cinnamon for additional flavor.