Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mini-Farm Progress

Summer time is heating up here in the south. Most of the plants are starting to suffer at this point and I am having to look at replanting many of what we started out with, but it will just have to wait a few weeks because between the extreme heat, humidity, weeds and the bunches of creepy crawlies almost nothing survives August here. Being Organic is very tricky and challenging. I guess it is time to look at starting a fall crop of seedlings in the next
couple of weeks.The mystery vine in the compost pile turned out to be a pumpkin. On the whole vine(and it was huge) so far there are two pumpkins that are growing. I have never seen a pumpkin vine
with leaves as big as these. The kids could use them as umbrellas, really.

The eggplants that were planted are still struggling to grow and the leaves are beginning to get eaten. I refuse to use anything on the plants to keep the bugs away. I have noticed several good bugs in the area that I am really excited about. We have seen several praying mantis in the
garden in the last few weeks.

The squash started out doing really well and was beautiful, then they produced a few squash, we were able to pick one and the others just disappeared. I'm thinking rabbit. It just got too hot for them and they would wilt in the middle of the day.

All of the pepper plants got eaten by some kind of bug, and most of the onions are just gone. Our cucumbers just never got established very well and are barely hanging in there. I am pretty sure that we have some soil adjustments to make for next season.

The tomato plants are having a hard time in the heat and with the nasty tomato hornworm(the chickens love the worms), but they are hanging in there and starting to actually ripen some really great tomatoes. We have been picking some cherry tomatoes the last couple of days and just recently our larger varieties are beginning to turn colors too. I just can't wait to bite into one of those beautiful yellow boys that are growing.

The watermelons are growing and so far there are 4 small sugar baby melons growing. The moon and stars have not started flowering yet, but are beginning to grow to. The cantaloupe are struggling at this point and we just may have to wait until next year for those.

The blueberry bushes still have some unripe blueberries and are not in the ground yet, because I want to wait until fall and still haven't figured out which area of trees to clear out to put them in.

The chickens are doing great, we are eagerly awaiting our first eggs which should be soon.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chocolate Syrup

My boys love chocolate milk in the morning. We have coffee and they have chocolate milk. Lately we have really been trying hard to reduce and eventually eliminate our use of High Fructose Corn Syrup(HFCS) in our diets. It is a very difficult battle that has caused me to start cooking and baking a lot more than I used to. Most of what is on the store shelves has HFCS in it whether it is needed or not(usually not in my opinion). We have been out of chocolate milk for a few days now, and in order to stop the whining that comes with not having something they really want, I made a batch of Chocolate Syrup. I started to follow a recipe that I found on the internet then modified it a bit. The next batch will also be changed up a bit more, because I found this one to be very sweet(too sweet).

The recipe on the internet with changes:
1.5 cups of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of water
1 Tablespoon Butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup of chocolate chips

Mix the Cocoa Powder and sugar until the cocoa is no longer lumpy. Add to a pot and add water and butter. Cook until boiling. Continue to let boil for a minute or two then turn the heat down to low and cover the pot do not stir* let it cook for 3minutes. Take off the heat stir in the chocolate chips until melted and let it cool add the salt and vanilla and stir well. Let it cool completely and store in a glass container.

*Stirring and scraping the sides of the pot will create sugar crystals in the mixture and make it grainy. By letting it cook with the cover on it reduces and sometimes eliminates this problem. Alton Brown taught me that on his fudge episode(really great episode). Just don't cook at too high a temperature.

My changes for the next batch:
1.5 cups of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
1 Tablespoon Butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips(Ghirardelli are our favorite)

Now, if only we had ice cream in the house!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Welcome Evelyn Grace Zerangue

We would like to introduce the newest member of our family. On 21 June 2010 we were blessed with Evelyn Grace. 9lbs 8oz. 19.5 in long. In the last couple of weeks there has been lots of sleepless nights, lots of adjustment time, lots of frustration, but she has been a joy and a blessing to us all. I can not even begin to express how special she is. The boys are just crazy about her, and she has instantly become daddy's girl.