Mustard and Canning Peppers???

Mustard and PeppersThis was our last harvest of the summer (almost…). We picked 28 lbs of tomatoes, 11 lbs of green beans and 9 lbs of peppers. I am on a food preserving roll as you can imagine. The canner and I are one…

Well we farmgirls can get a little confident at times can’t we? I did and so much so that I got a little sloppy and negligent.

I had experienced great success with my pepper jelly earlier, so when it came time to pickle some hot peppers, I was feeling in a groove. I rinsed those beautiful cubanellas, jalapenos and serranos off and they were beauties. Bright and bold. I was so proud. I read the part of about wearing the plastic gloves–you know that part about they can burn your eyes or get in a cut. Well, I really wasn’t sure where the gloves were since our house is in major remodel and is in upheaval. And well, I have sliced hot peppers before. And I will just take precautions. NO TOUCHING ANYTHING WHILE I SLICE THESE. So I set the rules, the peppers understood and off we went. Slicing and pushing out seeds. And I did not touch anything. No pain at all any where. I washed my hands thoroughly and admired the peppers.  Aren’t they beautiful?


While those were processing, it was time to take on the tomatoes. I had water boiling to blanch the skins, I had jars being prepped in more hot water, I had a canner going, I had my kettle on whistling and I started blanching and skinning tomatoes.


My hands were on fire. You know that feeling that you get when you burn yourself cooking and it will not go away fire? That hot that is not calmed with cool water? Every time I neared a hot pot it got worse.

I HAD PEPPER BURNS! Those little beauties had done me good!

I grabbed my handy burn cream and yes, I went I found my plastic gloves so the acid in the tomatoes would not be in contact. The burn cream did not help however.

Hubby, who is a problem solver, dropped everything and started to google a solution. I continued on with burning hands; I had to get these tomatoes done afterall! A little pain wasn’t going to stop me.

And then he approached and said “put your hands out.”


Yellow mustard! We don’t even eat yellow mustard since we are seedy and dijon fans. But we keep some on hand for guests. Lucky for me because he told me to rub it all over my hands.

Rub mustard

Mustard on Hands



And MAGIC! The pain was gone. Wow. I had never heard of this DIY cure, but it is a miracle potion that little yellow stuff.  Write this one down or Pin it, but do not forget it.

I did wear gloves for the rest of the day as I had more peppers to do. But my hands feel great.

I do wonder if I am going to feel hubby nibbling on my fingers in the middle of the night. They do smell like mustard and he does like hot dogs; I’m just sayin’.

Happy Unleashing,


My Green Babies are BURSTING with Color!

It is so good to be “back.” I have been away from my personal computer and away from my garden 🙁 for a couple of weeks.  Travels to see the grandbaby were SO fun, but my garden was ignored during that time. When we returned our life was full of hustle and bustle since we are in the midst of a remodel. By 7 a.m. the crew is at the house, banging away and looking for direction from us so that keeps me up at the house rather than back in the gardens. AND rain has stopped me in my tracks when I have been able to carve a bit of time out.

Confession— I had not done anything in my gardens since 8/17.  Confession— I was in a panic over that! I KNEW that everything would be eaten (remember those army worms I discovered on my last outing?). If not eaten then strangled from the crab grass! If not eaten or strangled then slumped over from too much rain or not enough. My mind was a terrible place to visit. I was sad about my neglect, worried about what I would find and pretty much paralyzed to hop in Ms. Tupelo and have a discovery run up there.

BUT as I loaded up Ms. Tupelo yesterday morning I felt my spirit lifting.  AND yes the grass was out of control and super long. But as we made it up our hill to the gardens, a wonderful sight was before me. The gardens were BURSTING!



There were beets, green beans, squash, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, cucumbers, peas, chard and basil. I could not believe it! WOW! They did just fine without me (lesson learned).


The beans had broken the trellis from their weight. The squash had grown over my rope so I had to reset it.



There were so many tomatoes, that even after I filled a homer bucket with 30 pounds of them it appeared that I had not picked anything!



After I picked the goodness, I sat in the back of Ms. Tupelo and wrote my thoughts for a bit. One thought is that no matter how long it has been since I have been outside gardening, the joy of being out there and seeing the goodness that is happening, far outweighs the stuff that is negative. And yes, along with all the goodness, I discovered that my cucumbers have mosaic virus. I filled a homer bucket with that also!



The grass may be long, but that is a sign of good things–we are still getting rain, the ground is fertile and I found myself thinking of all the nitrogen my plants must be getting with all that green between rows. I want to add an under cover crop in my gardens next spring, but nature has just done it for me this year. The beets, soybeans and green beans do not seem to mind at all to share their turf.


So, what did I harvest yesterday you may ask? (Even if you are not asking, I am DYING to show you!)







Isn’t that the best ever?????? All this I grew from seed.  Sorry to be busting with pride but this is my first time starting stuff from seed and not buying starter plants.  I am such the proud mama here! Look at the smile and blue skies…


And my little flower bed gave me some love yesterday also.



IMG_20140903_113502280When I came in, I made me a great big tomato and basil sandwich! Oh my goodness, can you just taste this? It was so good, I even skipped the cheese!


Today, I am heading over to visit my mom and dad.  I will be sharing the goodness with them in the form of bags of produce and a crock pot of fresh tomato sauce that cooked overnight in the crock pot.


 So my garden is bursting and so am I! I hope you simply burst with delight over something today too!

Happy Unleashing (and bursting!)


Green Babies Thriving in my Absence!

Sometimes life happens and the best laid plans…. well you know!  We farmgirls (even us newbies!) are busy, busy, busy. We plan, we act, and we hop off the trail when other duties call. My new role of Mimi has pulled me away from Big Sky Acres lately. It is well WORTH it!  Spending these couple weeks here, cuddling with Arlo and seeing my daughter become a mommy– well as VISA says it is “priceless.”

As you might remember I have some green babies! I started my tomatoes and peppers from seed this year (I am still a novice at this veggie growing thing) and they have been my pride and joy. I have 100+ green babies and some are quite tall right now and getting blooms on them.

However, my plans of a weed free, beautifully planted area for these little babies has gotten sidetracked more than once this season. Rain, back issues, cold weather and all kinds of things have side stepped my plans. My traveling has not helped either.  Some tomatoes are in the garden–it is not weed free or pristine, but you know what??  They don’t seem to mind. They are thriving and hubby sends me pictures of them growing. These green babies are doing just fine in the sunshine and soil. I can’t wait to see them next week!

tomato and weeds

I still have many to plant. Next week, when I get home I will do that, but for now they are still in pots on my deck. I gave them a good spray of fish emulsion before I left and they don’t look too bad.  They are patiently waiting for me and growing while doing so.

tomatoes on deck


peppers on deck

So, I am late, late with the garden chores. But as a year around gardener (in the making) that is OK! I am reading in my Indiana gardening book that I can still plant beans, peas, squash and all kinds of things in July.  Yippee!! When my CSA is finishing up on their cycle, mine will follow. My other bed is full of lettuce, radishes, chard and peas. Those morsels will be awaiting me next week to hop on a dinner plate.

Best laid plans… we don’t make them! I love my “distraction” of baby Arlo and my green babies are thriving in my absence and will continue to do so when I return. Have I “got my garden in?” Well some it, not all of it, but if I embrace the idea of growing in a constant state, year around there is no “get my garden in” date. It is only about what’s up today. For me, Arlo is my focus today, the plants are focusing on sunshine and all is right in both worlds.

Happy Unleashing!


Adjusting to Four Seasons

I love living in an area with four seasons.  I have loved the fall colors, the snow, the lillies in the spring and hot, humid days of summer. BUT I still don’t seem to really be in sync with the four seasons.  In the south, on Jan. 2, you basically are blowing leaves off the driveway, ordering your pinestraw to put in the beds and if you plant you are planning and getting going on the garden Feb/March. My friends in the south are posting pics of veggies and garden fresh dinners and I am feeling behind!

We are at May 15th and I have been in a panic about getting my tomato babies outside!  I “feel” like I am behind.  My brain is still on the schedule I have had for 20+ years.  Last weekend we prep our big bed for them at BSA (Big Sky Acres).  It is 33 x 25 (Garden Bed #6) and had a cover crop on it during winter.  We went out and turned the cover crop, we laid out a wonderfully measured grid with string, I laid out the plan of what tomatoes and what peppers where going where in a beautifully color coded spreadsheet.

garden grid


Yes it is a little geeky, but I am in technology by day don’t forget. 🙂

It has rained this week and now we have cool temps.  AND I have been in this upheaval about getting these tomatoes in the ground (like yesterday!).  It had to happen NOW! I mean it is about the middle of summer (isn’t it?)

This morning, when the temps were showing 48 degrees and my forecast didn’t look much better, I took a breath and paused and asked myself if my tomatoes were worrying about leaving the warmth of the pole barn and their heated mat or was it just me who wanted to throw them into the cold because I was on an old time frame in my head. I mean look at my forecast!



I had not even checked my soil temps yet!  I can just about guarantee that they are not in the 70’s yet and certainly not approaching 80 degrees.  Then I asked myself “when did I plant tomatoes last year?” Well…. that would have been June 10th I said to myself sheepishly.

THEN I MADE A DECISION!  I need to remember I am in Indiana.  My Indiana guidelines say NOT to plant until after mid May (which I am just now approaching and my hubby’s mamma said her rule of thumb here was Memorial Weekend).  I am NOT in the south.  I love Indiana. My mantra became–

I love and embrace my planting schedule!

So for today, my tomatoes and peppers will stay with their heat mat and lights. I will begin to harden them off next week. Garden Bed #1 that is also prepped will today receive seeds of spinach, chard, peas, lettuce and radishes.  ALL of which love 45 degree soil and planting at this very time in Indiana.

I am in Indiana. I am not late on my garden. I am in perfect timing!

Happy Unleashing in whatever gardening zone you are in!



Texas Chili-Veggie Style

DSCN3760Yesterday it snowed and snowed and snowed.  Yipee!  Nothing like a blanket of white to get you in the Christmas spirit AND in the spirit of making something in the crock pot.

I love Texas Style Chili– to me that means spicy, thick, beef cubes and beans.  This time however, I left the meat out and tried something a little different.  What came out was fantastic! So take off your filters about what chili has to have in it and come along to try a twist on a pretty traditional chili recipe.

What do you need:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 C chopped green and/or red pepper (I grabbed this from my freezer as I freeze chopped peppers when I pick them)
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
  • 28 oz canned tomatoes (I canned this year so grabbed these from my shelf)
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 C veggie stock (see my recipe if you want to make your own)
  • 1 lb of chickpeas, cooked (more on this later)
  • 2 Tbl chili powder
  • 1 Tbl cumin
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp sugar


Dump everything in your crock pot, mix it up a bit and set on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8.  Easy huh?  No cooking anything in a saute pan, just toss it all in the crock!

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So easy! As evidence of that I will tell you that I had 18 minutes yesterday before I had a call that I needed to get onto.  I set my timer, and I had 3 minutes remaining after I completed this AND cleaned up the dishes!  That is EASY and FAST!

A side note about the chickpeas (or garbanzos which they are also called).  A few months ago I converted from using canned beans to dry beans.  One, they are cheaper and two, I think they taste so much better!  I use chickpeas when I make hummus (recipe in the future) and I always have some chick peas left, which is what made me think of using them in the chili.  To get your chickpeas ready, I use a crock pot.  One pound of dry beans, cover with water and add 1 tsp of baking soda.  Set crock on high for 4 hours and you have perfect chick peas.  I saw Alton Brown do this and figured if it was good enough for him, then it was good enough for me! 🙂

Or you can do your chickpeas in a pressure cooker.  I have never done this, but on our Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop yesterday, Clearwater Farm shared how she does this.

So, back to chili….the spices and tomatoes and onions and peppers all worked perfectly together with the chick peas.  We topped with some shredded cheddar.  You can see I have a pup that is a willing participant of licking up any cheese shreds that may happen down to the floor.  She is on duty and waiting!

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We also added some diced green onion and jalapenos.  Serve with a side of tortillas (recipe here) and you will be in heaven.  It was the perfect cold weather meal.  We may just do that again tonight!



What is your favorite chili recipe or ingredient?

Happy Unleashing with a new chili recipe!


Drying My Cayenne Peppers

pickedpeppersAs a newbie at gardening some of my judgment calls were a little off when I decided on plants and how many of them were needed last spring.  Yellow pear tomatoes were one of those.  We had 10s of thousands of those.  They are super yummy, but even after I pulled the plants we were still harvesting from them. 🙂

Peppers were no exception—poblanos anchos, cayenne and habaneras were bountiful to say the least!  I charred the poblanos/anchos and froze them. They will be a welcome addition to many recipes in the next few months.  The habeneros had limited use actually for us.  I LOVE hot, but these are a little too hot and I cannot serve a dish in them for company!  They were awesome however in making pepper/garlic spray to keep the bugs away and the garden smelled like salsa every time I sprayed (no complaints there!).

The cayenne peppers are so pretty on the plant and I can use them in some of my dishes.  BUT these plants put out ALOT! So I decided to dry them and make my own crushed pepper to sprinkle no things instead of buying the stuff at the store.  Have you ever dried with a dehydrator? I did not have one so I compared many and this is what I got-Nesco FD80.  I have dried basil so I figured I would give it a try on the peppers.

I picked a bunch, rinsed them and then started slicing them in half.  Remove as many of the seeds as you can. WEAR GLOVES and don’t touch your face or eyes while you do this unless you really enjoy that burning feeling.

gloves  removeseeds

Then lay them flat in the dehydrator. They should not be touching.  They need the airflow to dry.


The length of time and the settings are based on your dehydrator.  It took my peppers about 48 hours to dry.  When they came out I gave them a whirl in my small food processor.


Oh my goodness, did I sneeze while this was chopping!  My hubby walked in the room and started at it also! 🙂  It was pretty funny!

Look how pretty they are?  I used a little glass jar that I had washed and saved.  I cannot wait to sprinkle this on some pasta or pizza or kale… or whatever!


Do you dry any of your food?

Happy Halloween and Happy Unleashing!

More Gardening- Just Do It!

Me in the TruckOne gardening season is coming to a close and I really just wanted to keep it going.  Then after tapping into books by Elliot Coleman and others, I see that it doesn’t have to end. But being a novice, I am not even sure what all this means– seems I can extend the season or over winter garden or use cold frames or frost blankets or plant stuff now for spring.

Well, I don’t really know about all these things, but then again I knew nothing in the spring either when we started gardening either, so once again I am just going to for it!  And that means, I am reading as much as I can, calling people with questions but bottom line is I am JUST DOING IT and we will see what happens.

Two of the summer beds are almost completely cleaned up now.  But the peppers…oh the peppers.  Most are pulled up but there are 6 that are still producing.  Some of these will hit the dehydrator.

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The basil is beautiful.  One plant is pulled and dehydrator.  The others will continue to dress our meals until I pull them right before frost and make a bunch of pesto to freeze.DSCN3490

We picked our last tomatoes this weekend and ate the last yesterday (except for the canned ones). It was bittersweet eating the last of them.  They were still so so yummy.  I do not believe I will be able to do grocery store tomatoes during the winter.  I will just wait until I can pick them again next summer.  There was nothing like it!

last tomatoes

The little yellow pear tomatoes just kept on going even after pulled for compost!  So I sat on the ground for a bit and picked out the flawless little guys.  They are still so yummy.  Who knew they would just keep on going even after pulled and tossed aside.



Bed 3 still has some carrots in it.  They are yellow and red and orange and so, so pretty.  I fixed them for my mom and dad this weekend and they were amazed at the colors.  They tasted incredible too!  Bed 3 also has some late summer things in it that I planted in August.  Lettuce, spinach, kale, collards.  Those are looking good right now and we have started to eat from this bed again.

The other bed (#2) still has pumpkins which are about ready to come off.  These two beds will get cover crop.  It is a mix of seeds that will help condition our soil which we are in need of since we are the first to work this land. I love that I did not even know what the term cover crop was 6 months ago and now I am buying it and planting it!

SO, we need more!  More garden beds!

We prepped 5 new beds for fall, winter, next spring… for whatever.  They are now prepped and ready to go. Beds 4 & 5 were planted about a month ago.  Spinach, Corn Salad and Kale  are in there.  They are smaller than the others as they are 7×12 but perfect for these greens. The little plants here are about 2 -3 inches now. They are looking happy growing in these brand new beds.

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We really want to expand our tomatoes next year and try corn and give the squash some more room.  So with that in mind we prepped 3 more beds.  One bed which is 25 x 33 is done and is planted with cover crop.  This will help prepped the soil for the tomatoes in the spring.  The bed is also in mostly sunshine and I think that will be good for the tomatoes as well.  I am also trying to rotate stuff since I understand that is good for the soil. The others are fairly large also and have arugula, onions, spinach,  and fava beans.

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I planted some garlic also, following MJF great instructions. We use so much garlic, I am excited to have our own next year.  I planted 40 cloves.  It is now covered with straw like a little hiding present.  I can’t wait to uncover it next year to see what I have in there!

I love, love, love Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Their catalog is more than a means to purchase seeds.  There is so much info about the seeds, varieties and planting info.  There staff is great too and has spent some time with me in helping me decipher much of what I don’t understand! So I ordered my stuff based on things that were supposed to be cold tolerant. I was so thrilled when my box came!


I also got frost blankets.  The maternal side of me is going to love tucking my babies in at night when frost is in the forecast. 🙂

So how long will I be able to eat from my gardens?  What will come up?  What will fail?  What will be a major success?  The answer is simply “I don’t know”.  It is the same answer I had in the spring.  But there really are not failures, only learnings. I am learning a lot from the successes and challenges.

I am really thrilled to have gone for it and continued planting.  I love it so much.  It is not all about the outcome but the journey.  And that is already a success!

Happy unleashing today!


Farmgirl Patience

Patience is not always a word that is associated with me. That is why simplifying and living out in the country has been and IS good for me.  Patience has been taught to me over the last year in a number of ways in our new home.  When I run out of something I just have to wait to get it on my next errand trip which is probably several days away rather than 15 minutes, mail takes a little longer from here to there, trips to anywhere are a number of miles rather than blocks, dryting clothes outside is rewarding, but slower than the dryer, etc.  I have totally loved all these changes and I definitely feel calmer on all counts.

BUT, my lovely tomatoes and red peppers have been hanging at green for weeks.  I find myself constantly looking at them, talking to them and PLEADING with them to all turn red.  I started to think something was wrong—too hot, too cold, too sunny, too shady, too many pests, too little compost…. what could it be???  I am gardening organically and have been quite confident in this choice even with the naysayers saying “it can be done around here.”  BUT with hundreds of veggies looking at me and staying green I began to wonder what I did wrong?

So GOOGLE to the rescue.  Believe it or not, when I googled “tomatoes not turning red” I got a TON of hits. Seems that  I am not the only one experiencing this phenomenon; misery loves company you know!  I read and read and read.  All the blogs, forums and articles brought me to my issue…..


Yep, patience.  I need to be patient.  Some varieties take 60 plus days to turn red after the blossom is fertilized.  It is not unusual at all for tomatoes to turn in September even.  AND I found out our temperatures of low 80’s are perfect for our tomato plants. WHEW!!!!  Ok, so now I feel better; the only err in my gardening my tomatoes seems to be with me—patience!  Yep.  Another lesson and a happy one.  I will patiently await the onset of lots of red tomatoes and peppers.  In the meantime, I will enjoy the few that I am getting now.

Patience… how about you?  What challenges your patience?