Squash Me!

squash and cucumbers
How many is too many?

Anyone who has ever grown squash knows you need a way to dispose of this stuff. I’ve heard that you can break a friendship under the weight of gifted zucchini, but my friends are stauncher than that. The fact that they are no longer taking my calls or answering the door when I stop by means nothing — for I know that come September they will be clamoring for the spoils of my early fall harvests. Who would turn down fresh basil, lettuce, swiss chard etc. (Although you’d think they’d take the squash to stay on my good side…)

Until then, I’ve been searching for a way to make squash disappear.

If friends and family stop taking this particular offering, do I really need to eat it myself? I know from my Weight Watcher days that veggies have zero points, but…the squash out of my garden this summer is so sweet that I’m pretty darn sure I can gain weight eating it. I needed more ways to dispose of squash without hurting relationships or myself.

My first thought, prompted by the sight of a rotten summer squash in my refrigerator’s bottom drawer, was to compost all the ones I couldn’t eat right away and move on to eating the other good stuff coming out of the garden. After all, the squirrels, raccoons, and possum would benefit from all this healthy goodness. But then I realized how much effort I would be putting into feeding the local pesky wildlife and put my thinking cap back on.

I called the Food Bank. That’s right. The local food bank will take produce! Eureka!

Squash mashes down to almost nothing in the food processor. You can pulverize it and use it to thicken soups and sauces. Works! Mmm. Pretty creamy too – and less bad for me by far than a cream sauce.

I considered putting it on the next-door neighbor’s porch and run like hell. Unfortunately, they have a gun and know how to use it.

Dried ZucchiniMy favorite by far is this next one. The newest thing in my kitchen is a dehydrator. ($13 from Good Will) A whispering fan sends warm air wafting upward through thinly sliced vegetables, drying them to thin crispy goodness. I sliced up one of my more robust varieties, sprinkled a little sea salt over the pieces, spread them out on the trays and left them whirring away overnight.

Voila! Zucchini Chips. They are so tasty I may have to market them. Oh wait, perhaps I should Google it first to see if it’s Been Done. Oh well, so I’m not the first to think Zucchini would dry well. It’s still a great idea.

If you’ve got any good squash tips you want to share – feel free!

Happy gardening,

Julie

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What Really Bugs Me

Feeling a tad frustrated with my WIP, not able to keep the characters in line and make the scene I was working on actually work, I abandoned my desk for the garden yesterday.
I keep milkweed growing in a variety of spots so that any stray Monarchs can stop awhile at the Butterfly Cafe, sip some nector, then lay their eggs before moving along. I keep the plant for what it offers the Butterflies, but sometimes it attracts less entertaining insects. Snapped this photo while I was walking out my scene trouble.
I had worried day and night about this guy killing the Milkweed — or worse, traveling across the driveway to the kitchen garden where it would wreck havoc on my tomatoes. Turns out it can be easily identified as a common Milkweed Bug.
Big sigh of relief later, I went out to the tomatoes to tell them the good news. This reminded me to do Stink Bug duty, so I trooped over to the volunteer squash vine that popped up in my new veggie row, a gift from last Thanksgiving’s decorations resurrection via the compost. Curiously, the stink bugs have only showed up in any numbers on that volunteer vine, not the tender baby Eight Ball and Zuccini I’d nurtured from seed. Having them concentrated on the volunteer vine made it much easier to control them.
“Hey, Stinky, look at at this plant! Ignore the human-loved goodness over there!” Gloves; smush! Presto, no more bugs! Using this neat bit of garden misdirection, I have managed to harvest a bumper crop of tomatoes, peppers and squash with minimal damage from the stinkers.
Misdirection? Mmmmm. Eureka! Proving once again that gardening is good for what ails you, that little walk through my gardens allowed my mind to relax enough to come up with a solution to the troublesome scene.
Happy gardening!
Julie
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Networking

Just had the best day tossing ideas around with Mary Saums and Deborah Adams. We shared news of our writing life, our personal life and our personal priorities. The reason behind this visit is that Mary had planted the seed of a possible joint venture. We three have a lot in common, being writers, women, and wives who believe strongly in personal responsibility, especially where it pertains to sustainable living. We decided the thing we most cared about right at this very second in our lives was our personal responsibility for the Earth and how we could make changes in our lives to help live sustainably.

Most of us live a little above our share of the carbon footprint we’re entitled to here in the United States. We all enjoy the lifestyle, but how many of us are truly aware of what each day’s activities use in terms of resources?
I thought I’d share what I tote up living on our eight acres back home outside Houston. I eat mostly local food, use renewable energy for electricity in our home, drive less than 150 miles a week, drive a high-efficiency car, fly 4 – 10 hours each year, and recycle everything that isn’t nailed down. Despite this the footprint calculator tells it would take 4.2 Earths to sustain us all if everyone lived my lifestyle. That is really scary since I know most who live in the area around me use far more resources to sustain their lives. NASA needs to go out and find a bunch more viable planets to keep us all in cars, convenient good things to eat, and A/C!
So is my lifestyle choice of having a large garden, getting my meat from local producers (Pastured beef and poultry) and writing books a valid one even though it takes so many resources to live this way? I think so. Certainly as valid as those neighbors who commute an hour each way five times a week to produce widgets of one sort or another. I provide food for my family, some for friends and neighbors, and hopefully produce a book a year for the public’s reading pleasure.
My goal is to get my footprint down to three Earths by the end of the year. I may have to whack off half the house to do this, but I’m game.
Now if only my tomatoes would look anything like as healthy as Deb’s.
Happy Gardening!
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Hurry Up and Wait

How many of us set goals, and then race through our days striving to reach those goals so that we can set newer, better goals toward which we can strive?

I used to be very goal oriented. I truly thought I could accomplish anything, 1 – 2 – 3. Next!
Then life showed me how it really goes. Moved to Texas. Married. Had children. I was 30 before I finished my first book, 40 before I completed my Master Gardner certification, and 50 before I had the time to put in my first honest-to-gosh kitchen garden.
Gardening has taught me a new outlook on life. I have to wait for everything. Wait for the seed catalogs to be posted. Wait to make up my mind what kind of vegetables to plant. Wait for the seed to come in the mail. Wait for the seeds to sprout. Wait for the seedlings to be robust enough to plant outside. Wait for the plant to fruit. Wait for morning to come so I can pick the vegetables and fruit at just the peak of flavor…then wait all day for my husband to get home so that we can cook dinner together. (Getting a few weeds and new pages for the work-in-progress out of the way while I wait…Blogging occasionally when volunteer duties allow.)
Philosophy of the second half of my life: Wait to hurry rather than hurry up and wait.

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Where Art Thou, Free Water from the Sky?

The temps here in southern Texas have reached the high 90’s and we know Summer is upon us. I confess I don’t enjoy this part of our weather. In addition, the humidity is high, although not as high as it might be — no rain for four weeks helps in that respect. The garden, however, needs water. So I’ve rigged up a water catchment system off the barn roof. Thus far I can catch 100 gallons per one inch of rainfall in the spare horse trough I have placed under one of the four downspouts. In addition, I have a 50 gallon barrel under the eves of the house. I use three gallon cat litter jugs to empty as much of the water between rainfalls. This makes me feel very good about the water I’m using on the garden. Let happy, however, about the amount of busy work involved in this. I had explored a water catchment system over a year ago, but never got it built. I can see that time — and my tricky shoulder — demands that I get to this project.

Here are the links to the plans…hope to have pictures sooner rather than later. For those who don’t feel like exploring a 500 gallon system, look at this system which is a bit more attainable.
Happy Gardening!
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Alien Tomatoes

This week I am planting the last of my spring tomatoes. I found an amazing variety of tomato — the Vorlon. This variety is named for an alien species in one of my all-time favorite Science Fiction shows, Babylon-5. Can’t help but wonder what would happen if I planted them next to the Vulcans? (Or, as my good friend,Deb Adams, suggested — put the Vorlon tomatoes next to the Carbons and see if we don’t get Shadows.)

My next chore will be to assess the compost and turn the heck out of it because I will need to top off the beds currently planted in onions and garlic and get summer cover crop seed planted before the high heat takes over.

Just finished a combined business trip to the University of Central Florida’s Inaugural Book Festival and visit with my Florida cousins. What a wonderful time for a trip to the sunshine state! Glorious weather, beautiful beaches, and long talks with people who have known me since birth. Can’t imagine a nicer way to spend a weekend.

Happy gardening!

Julie

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