Posts Tagged With: Garden

Tomatoes Three Ways

Last week I shared my simple salsa recipe as a way to use up some of that end of summer tomato glut.  Well, we’re still deep in the red around here, as I went up to the CSA this weekend and picked another 50+ pounds.  Here are the ways we are putting away the toms for use over the winter.

We mainly picked Roma tomatoes.  But Rick wanted a few sweet slicers to save.  Since slicing tomatoes don’t hold up as well to other preservation methods, and since it’s the easiest method to do, I put up those first…

This is the simplest thing.  If you have the space, you might even be tempted to use this as your only tomato preservation method (we did for the last two years).  First, wash and dry the tomatoes.  Next, label your gallon size freezer bags.  Finally, place as many tomatoes in the bag as it will hold, zip it up, and put it in the freezer.  Done.

The tomatoes should not stick together, so you can take them out one or two or three at a time and set them in a bowl on your counter to defrost.  As they warm up, the skins will just slip off.  They will make great sauce or soup, and be as sweet as the summer time.  They will be soft, so I usually dice them when they are still half-frozen and toss them straight into my pan to finish defrosting as they cook.  Yum.

This is the main method we are using this year.  Most of those Romas are getting diced and put into jars.  There are lots and lots of posts out there talking about canned tomatoes and how the process works, so I’m not going to retype that here.  Instead, here is a link to a great tutorial.  The only thing I do differently is I chop those suckers up so I don’t have to do it on the cooking end when I open the cans.  -Note that I’m experimenting right now with whether or not it’s worth it to dice them, or if it just as good crushing the tomatoes.  I’ll let you know. –   And please, please ignore anyone who tells you to seed your tomatoes.  WHY?  Seriously.  If you don’t like tomato seeds, you probably don’t like tomatoes, so why are you even bothering.  These are the same people who always peel their potatoes.  To me, this is a total waste of time and energy.  But whatever.  Maybe I’m just lazy.  😉

No matter the recipe you use, make sure to adjust processing time for altitude if you live here in Denver.  Last week I put up just over ten quarts of canned tomatoes (some diced and some crushed).  Looking to get another 15-20 quarts out of these.

Mmmmm… sun-dried tomatoes.  But without the sun.  I totally use the dehydrator.  It’s faster and I have two little boys in the yard, not to mention the chickens.  All of them, tomato hounds and dirt-flingers to boot.  Dehydrator is much safer – I might actually get dirt-free, uneaten tomatoes this way.

I picked through my boxes of Romas to find the small and the weird.  These tomatoes tend to be labor intensive to peel, which is awful for canning, but makes them perfect candidates for drying.  You don’t peel your dried tomatoes, and you can just cut out the really weird spots.

So wash them, slice them, arrange them, season them and you are good to go.

Some of the bigger weirdos had to be sliced long-ways into thirds to fit in my dehydrator trays.  I sprinkle mine with salt and thyme.  I don’t seed these tomatoes either.  That might make the drying time faster, or possibly make the trays easier to clean afterwards, but I don’t care.  I just want to get the tomatoes off the counter and into the pantry as quickly as possible.

My dehydrator will take 12 hours on 135° to dry them all out.  For those that will tell me to use my oven, sorry, that’s a no go.  I run my dehydrator outside so I don’t have to heat up my kitchen.  We have no a/c around here and I can actually fit more into the dehydrator anyway.  If you don’t have a dehydrator though, that is a viable option.

There you have it.  What are your favorite ways to save summer’s favorite fruit for the dark days of winter?

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Food, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Boiled Weeds

Quick tip this morning before I get to peeling roasted chiles.  A few weeks ago Rick discovered something that should have been quite obvious.

Boiling water kills weeds.

In the past, when we’ve done some canning, Rick takes the boiling water out and dumps it on the weeds growing between the cracks of the sidewalk to kill them.  One day we realized this water would kill not just the weeds poking through the cement, but the weeds in the garden too!  (Duh!)

Be careful with this – boiling water will kill any plant, good or bad.  But if you need an easy, cheap, chemical free weed killer – boiling water will do the trick!

Any other obvious tricks out there that we don’t know yet?  I’m sure there are a billion.  Please share them here!!

Sometimes it’s the little things.

Categories: Garden, Thrift, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Fall at the Homestead

The first day of fall was last week, and we are entering one of the busiest times of the year around here.  Of course it’s harvest time – which means much of our work moves from the garden to the kitchen.  You’ve seen all my posts on jam lately, but I’ve been canning too.  A little over ten quarts of tomatoes so far, and we’re going Sunday to our CSA farm to help pick more toms and to pick and roast green chiles as well.  The tomatoes will also be canned and the chiles peeled and frozen.

I’m glad we had the CSA to fall back on this year as my tomatoes were so sad.  I was actually a bit worried.  It sure is nice to see the pantry shaping up after all.

Lots of Christmas gifts here too.

This coming weekend is the second annual chicken coop tour.  Locals can purchase tickets here or here.  We participated last year as well, and we are excited to show off again this year.  The coop had a couple of improvements this spring and summer and I really wanted everything in place for the tour. Rick bought me two galvanized garbage cans – one for the chicken food and one for finished compost, but when I started harvesting the compost, I had enough to fill both, plus half a wheel-barrow-full that I pawned off on the neighbor (it was a hard sell, trust me).  The chicken food is still in the garage for now, and there are almost two bales of straw under a tarp out there.

The hens seem excited to have straw in the coop for the first time.  We’ve always used dead leaves or pine shavings in their coop, but the “fall” part of the season has yet to happen here and we wanted to coop cleaned up for the tour.  We were hoping for some wood chips to spread over the ground before the tour too, but it looks like we’ll have to go with out.  Despite that, the chicken area looks nice.

The extra straw, not for the coop, will be used to mulch the garlic that we ordered and saved for seed.  I ordered two varieties this year and saved ten bulbs from a third.  We hope to plant around 125 cloves after the first frost hits.  That should yield us enough garlic for the year next year, including some to save for seed in 2012.

A couple of weekends ago, Rick and H put up my clothesline for me.  I was so excited to get the line that Rick’s mom had promised me.  But once we got it home, we actually couldn’t manage to get it into working order.  After fighting with it for a couple of weeks, we ended up buying a new one, and I love it!  I’ve used it everyday, but I’ve realized I need more clothes pins.  The line holds a lot, and C’s diapers (and inserts and wipes) take up all the pins I have.


We harvested our concord grapes – one whole bunch!  There would have been two bunches, but I accidentally knocked off the second bunch early on in the summer  when I was trying to get the vine on the trellis.  Not too bad for it being the vine’s first real season – we just planted the cutting last spring.  We hope to use this vine to make a few more cuttings when the pergola is done.

Speaking of the pergola, Rick’s uncle brought us down our first pieces from the mountains.  The posts are here!  We will be setting them on poured concrete footers this fall and we’ll begin laying the patio in the spring.  This was the goal of the tree removal project.  I had hoped to have it done all in one summer, but it really was a huge undertaking to manage on our own.  Not to mention having a baby this summer too.  (There’s that old excuse again!).  😉

There is a huge amount of beetle-kill pine in our forests here right now (a heart-breaking 4 million acres in Colorado and Wyoming), so we plan to build the whole pergola out of salvaged logs.  Once it’s constructed, we will plant and train grape vines over it.  I am very excited about it, but it’s been slow going.

Fall is also the time when we start filling the freezer back up with meat.  We actually got a good look at the forests this year as we did some prep work for hunting season.  Rick sighted in his rifles at the range up on Highway 40, and we did a little grouse hunting and some fishing.  We were skunked on the grouse, but Henry did catch his first fish!  He let it go so it could grow up a bit.  Nothing was added to the freezer yet, but the trip was great fun anyway, and we’ve ready for big game in a couple of weeks.

So that’s what we’ve been up to lately – I’m hoping the tour participants will give us grace on the yard still being half done.  Oh well, they’re coming to see the coop, right?  😉

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Chickens, DIY, Garden | Tags: , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Five Things I Learned in the Garden This Year

Last week, The Crunchy Chicken blogged about her Top 5 Biggest Food Gardening Mistakes.  Usually I just comment on the blog, but I thought my comments from this year warranted a post of it’s own, instead of taking up a page on Deanna’s blog.

This year was the first year that I was quite successful with getting my early spring crops in the ground in a timely manner.  This led to great lettuce and spinach and peas!  Hooray!  I am a garden champion!  Look at me!  And then the lettuce lingered and instead of calling spring gardening done, I let the early crops limp along delaying my main summer planting.  And, as a result I learned some valuable lessons…

1.  Don’t plan on planting summer crops in the same place as your spring crops.  I actually thought this would work.  But the spring crops will inevitably take too long and if you don’t plant your zucchini until July, expect to be the crazy woman who asks her neighbors for zucchini (who actually ASKS for zucchini?).  My neighbors were shocked when I came a knockin’.  Really.  Instead, next year, plan to plant fall crops right behind the spring crops.  Keep the summer garden area sacred… a few extra early peas are not worth my beets and tomatoes!

2.  Don’t water by hand.  Normally, we run a drip system in the garden.  It saves water and it saves on weeding.  This year, we kind of rearranged the garden beds and Rick needed to make a new drip configuration to match.  This spring was really rainy so making the system was delayed.  By the time it got hot, we were in baby-prep mode and it never happened.  We watered by hand.  This means, sometimes we watered and sometimes I forgot, and we had an awful lot of weeds.  We still have an awful lot of weeds.  Tomatoes dried out and then were soaked.  What, are we amateurs here?  Get a drip system.  They save water.  they save on weeding.  They save your plants.

3.  Don’t plant your tomatoes in the same place every year.  Again with the amateur mistakes.  I KNOW these things.  I really do.  But for whatever reason, I just didn’t pay attention.  The 13 varieties of heirloom tomatoes I carefully planted (on time!) have produced exactly squat this year, and they’ve been dying of some mystery disease starting on the West side of the garden and moving East.  Yi.  I know better.  So does Rick.  But we did it anyway.  Boo hoo.

4.  Plant more garlic.  This one actually came from a success!  We planted garlic last fall for the first time.  Garlic is like a miracle!  One clove of garlic becomes this gorgeous full head by late spring.  Amazing.  Delicious!  Victory!  Plant more!  And along these lines, get your neighbor gardening too.  Our neighbor’s garden was wonderful this year.  He enjoyed it, we enjoyed it, and we worked together on it.  now he’s already plotting and planning for next year.  I see a giant pumpkin in my future yet!

5.  Cut yourself some slack.  This is gardening, not nuclear fission or some other super crazy hard sciencey thing.  It’s supposed to be fun.  And it is, no matter what.  So what if we didn’t have any zucchini this year – every one always has extras of those lying around.   Boo hoo that my tomato plants bit the dust.  Instead I was able to find a local farm that will sell me a perfect box of organic Romas that I didn’t have to pick myself.  And they were really perfect.  Oh yeah, and I had a baby in July!  Seriously – it’s ok to rely on the CSA produce some years.  The great thing about gardening is that you get to try again next season.  These mistakes are not permanent!

How about you?  How did your gardens do this year?  What have you learned?

Categories: Garden, Top 5 | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

Late Summer Snapshot

It’s been almost three weeks since I’ve made it onto the computer.  I’m sure you were wondering if I had some sort of mysterious injury related to a grub hoe and a compost bin.  But I assure you, everything is fine.  The sun has been out, and things have been growing like mad, including both boys and C.  So the blog has been collecting dust!  In the mean time, I’ve been able to get a few things done around here.

We picked cucumbers up at our CSA and put up 48 quarts of pickles.

We got the tree trunk and stump hauled away to a mill.

And we put some 7 pounds of elk meat into the dehydrator to become jerky.

We harvested corn and our first potatoes with the neighbor.

I have to say that harvesting potatoes is one of the funnest things ever – it’s like a treasure hunt!

We ended up with 40 pounds of fingerlings and 50 pounds of Desirre red potatoes!  We will have plenty for seed next year and hopefully enough to store through the winter.

We also have a neighborhood BBQ in the works and have been spreading the hens’ good will via eggs and some extra garden onions.

We are getting ready for some berry picking and peach picking in the next week or two.  I am excited to get some preserves into the pantry as well.  We are going to take a walk tomorrow to the house with the concord grape vine and see if the new family there will share some grapes with us this year like the last tenants there did.  We are bringing some 2010 jam with us to give them as an incentive!

The late summer/early fall is one of the busiest times around our homestead.  Harvests are coming in, the dehydrator is running, and we are trying to see if we can manage to get the yard back in shape in time to participate in the second annual Denver Botanic Gardens chicken coop tour.  If you remember, I made some improvements on the coop this spring with the tour in mind, and last year was a lot of fun, so it’d be really great if we can pull it together in time.   More updated posts in the coming days – I am finally getting back on the ball around here, I think.  😉

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Chickens, Community, DIY, Garden, Independence Days, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Slow Harvest

It’s been a month since I did an Independence Days update.  I really like this method of keeping track of what we’re doing on the homestead to work towards our own independence.  The end of July and into August seems like a time we should be pulling a lot from the garden.  We were really on the ball this year with our spring and fall plantings, but our summer crops went in extra late (except the tomatoes), so our harvest has been slower than I was hoping it would be this year.  Of course we’ve had our hands full with family matters too. 😉  I’m really wishing the carrots, beans and watermelon would kick into gear.

Plant something – fall crops of beets, peas, beans, kale, turnips, and bok choy went into the ground.  After the virtual homestead tour last week, I had someone ask for a picture of the whole garden.  After we did some weeding and put in the fall seeds this weekend, I took a couple of pictures.  It looks so empty without the big squash plants of summer that we usually have, but here is what our main garden currently looks like.


Left picture:  clockwise from top left, Kohlrabi, newly planted peas onions still growing from seed, onions and beets we picked, newly planted spinach, late zucchinis still growing, just planted bush beans.  you can see some tomato plant tops there at the bottom left corner of the pic. 
Right picture:  from top left, tomatoes, cukes and pole beans on the trellis, peppers in front of the trellis, bee hive in the back and kohlrabi on the far right.  In the row with the peppers is bok choy, kale and the bush beans. 

Harvest something –  eggs, onions, beets, peppers, tomatoes, kale, chard.  We have tiny little cucumbers on the vines and could probably pick some kohlrabi this week too.  Otherwise I feel like things have been slow.  I and just waiting for all the tomatoes to really come on… then I’ll be wishing things would slow down just a bit, I’m sure.

Preserve something – nothing since the baby was born… no wait, I take it back, I cut the necks off the garlic bulbs and sorted the ones we’re saving for seed and the ones we plan to eat.  Yum yum!

Waste Not – compost, scraps to chickens, recycling, etc.  We’ve done quite a bit of eating from the freezer – all the things I saved up for C’s arrival.

Want Not – We found out about a co-op here that sells grains and chicken feed for a great price.  We got 65 pounds of organic layer feed (whole grains and seeds!) for less than $27!

Build Community Food Systems – Our neighbor, Doug, harvested some carrots and onions.  His carrots look like they belong in a story book or on a seed packet!  He shared the first ones with our boys.  And I actually got a picture of him!  His corn is getting close to harvest too – I bet he’ll get some ears this week.

I really wanted to participate in the first ever Denver County Fair this year (Rick makes some amazing zucchini bread), but the fair dates fell about 10 days after we had C, and it was a little early to be walking around the fair just yet.  But we did get a call about joining the Denver Botanic Gardens chicken coop tour this year.  The tour is in October, but we’re on the fence still, since with all our projects this year, we’re not sure the yard will be in any sort of shape to have people touring it.

Eat the Food – We’ve been eating a lot from the garden.  This is my favorite time of year – when we make whole meals from food we grew ourselves.  We’re also on our last jar of grape jam, and only have a few packages of peaches left – perfect timing since we should be picking more by the end of the month.

Categories: Food, Garden, Independence Days | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Virtual Homestead Tour

Welcome to the Schell Urban Homestead’s end of July virtual garden tour!  I was really excited when Erica at Northwest Edible Life invited me to participate in letting all you Nosy Neighbors peek over our garden fence!

Here’s how the Lazy Homesteader does the Nosy Neighbor Virtual Homestead & Garden Tour:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The first part of this tour that makes me really excited is that I’m actually documenting what the whole garden is doing at a given point in the summer.  I never remember when we get the first tomato (this week!  A Silver Fir Tree Russian heirloom).  The kohlrabi is a giant variety that Rick’s grandpa brought us from Slovakia.  It will get to be over 8 pounds and will not be woody.  It also keeps great all winter, and it’s starting to bulb up to about baseball size in the last few days of July.  Rick’s parents shared cucumbers with us last week and the week before, but ours have only just begun to flower.

The unexpected thing that I am loving about this tour is the truth of it.  In the pictures of the onions and watermelons, you can see both the weeds I’ve neglected to pull, and the light-colored, hard clay that we grow in here in Colorado.  Normally, I’d make an effort to hide both the weeds and the soil, because the shiny-happy blogger in me wants you to think that my garden is perfectly groomed and full of rich, dark, beautiful loamy soil.  In fact, some people do think that.  Rick’s grandparents even commented this week on how they couldn’t grow something that we could because their soil (about 25 miles from us) is hard clay.  Rick and I burst out laughing.  So here’s the proof.  We don’t have perfect soil.  This is how it looks after eight years of work amending it.  And I’m glad I let it show.

Some of my other favorite highlights from the slideshow (the shiny-happy stuff):

Corn from our neighbor’s garden, actually.  His corn is peeking over our front yard fence.  Well, not peeking, so much as towering.  We are actually sharing our harvests this year, so that is how I’m justifying including crops that belong to someone else in my garden tour.  😉

The hundreds of tiny cherry tomatoes on H’s plants make me giddy.  And I can’t believe how big those two plants are.  Over six feet high!

The garlic I harvested in the week before C was born is drying in the garage, and the beets I pulled a few days ago are beautiful, although we might have pulled them about a week earlier if we weren’t in new baby mode.

We’re still waiting on the first eggs from the pullets, but we are getting two or three a day still from the older hens.

I was really hoping to include a picture of our raspberries this year, but they suddenly quit producing just last week.  Luckily I found something in the strawberry bed to show you instead!

Be sure to check out the other homesteads and gardens in Erica’s Nosy Neighbor Tour.  Thanks for stopping by!

Categories: Beekeeping, Chickens, Community, Food, Garden, Hugelkultur, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Garlicky Love…

Does harvesting your garlic in the pouring rain count as nesting?

Oh heavenly garlic love…

Categories: Food, Garden | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: