Pumpkin Cranberry Oat Agave Muffins

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I still enjoy baking with agave instead of cane sugar and I recently found a fabulous recipe for pumpkin agave muffins (I added the cranberry part) on the blog, Hell Yeah It’s Vegan!  (This link will bring you right to the recipe.)  They are moist, not too sweet and full of pumpkin-y goodness.  The only other tweak I made was switching regular flour for whole wheat flour.

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I made them a second time around and reduced the flour to 1 and 1/4 cup to make way for adding 1/3 cup of Coach’s Oats (also interchangeable with Old-Fashioned Oatmeal).  And Pumpkin Cranberry Oat Agave muffins were born!  I brought them to a morning work meeting and they were a hit!

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Summer Beauty

I’ve allowed the Cinnamon Basil to flower because darn it if I can’t bring myself to pinch those lovely purple flower stems.

An enticing pumpkin flower beckoning the sun and the bugs.  Look closely and you can see a baby pumpkin peeking out in the lower left corner.

Love. The plant, the berry, the colors.

Pole green beans

Lemon cukes hanging out on a lazy Friday morn.

Mandevilla. This year I took a stab at growing it for the first time and I’m a fan. The secret? Fertilizer. It likes to dry out between watering, too. Here is graces the hen hang out around their coop, adding some soft lines and color to the dirt digs.

All 5 girls are broody. They just sit in here. All. Day.

Sighs from the absence of delicious eggs aside, I’ve come to accept, even feel relief when broodiness ascends upon my Silkies.  It gives them a break from so much production (an egg a day for each hen) and it gives me a break as well from overlooking while they’re out and quieting morning squawking.

I don’t try to break them, dip them in ice baths or isolate in a cage.  I wait the few weeks for them to finish their cycle and start laying again on their own.  No stress.  I let nature do it’s thing.  That is, after all, why I have them in the first place.  To live a bit closer to nature and to go with the ebb and flow.  Have a good, calm, natural life, sweet hens.

Things Are Heating UP!

Now that Summer is officially here and has brought with her consistently high 70’s daytime temps and low 60’s nighttime temps, my veggies (and I) are thanking her.  The tomatoes are starting to really set fruit, whereas for the past month the flowers were just falling off before swelling into fruit.  The Moon and Stars Watermelon is starting to actually look like a vine instead of a little seedling.  The peaches on the no-name peach tree are nearing full ripeness.  Cucumbers are happily weighing down my trellis.  Baby pumpkins are peeking their little selves out of the vines and all is right with the world.  Or at least in my garden, anyway.

Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato on it’s way to ripening.

The Moon and Stars Heirloom watermelon has started to take off in recent days.

Peaches giving a rosy “Hello! Here I am!”

This Cherokee Purple Heirloom tomato is growing in a grow bag! This is my healthiest tomato plant and has set more fruit than any other Cherokee Purples around the garden. GO Grow Bags!

Case in point.

And more from the same grow bag tomato plant.

Lemon Cukes are ready for munching!

And I’ll leave you with a photo of my most recent harvest. Long Live Homegrown!

My First Sunflower

Mammoth Sunflower points it’s head toward the morning sun.

I saw this sunflower from my kitchen window as I made breakfast this morning and I knew I had to share.  There’s something inherently happy and serene about these flowers.  (And they even have edible seeds!)

The yellow scallop summer squash is starting to produce!

A young lemon cucumber.

The pumpkin patch is off to a roaring start! Even with last year’s experience, I still underestimated their prolific nature. Good thing they can sprawl out and around.

A 3/4 shot of one of my beds. Hi Silkies!

Success and Struggle

Let’s begin with the success.  Whenever given the option, I always chose the good news first.

Jarrahdale pumpkin in the making.

This Australian heirloom will mature into a bluish-grey beauty.  I planted these seeds a mere 8 weeks ago and the vines are growing up a storm, complete with baby pumpkins.  One of my most favorite things to grow, by far.

Persian Little Finger cucumbers climbing up the trellis netting.

Last year I grew my first cucumber plant, which happened to be a lemon cuke.  This year I added one more type of cucumber to my arsenal.  I’m super pleased with the Persian Little Finger’s growth and prolific cucumbers.  They are mild and slightly sweet.

Now here comes the struggle I’ve been facing and attempting to remedy.  I can only assume that mice have been living in my yard since time immemorial.  With the addition of the chicken coop and veggie garden, either their numbers have increased or they’re just becoming lackadaisical in their sense of stealth.  I’m willing to bet it’s a bit of both.  No matter how many I catch, there just seem to always be more.  I was first humbled by their presence in early spring when my potato foliage started disappearing.  I’ve learned that one of their most favorite snacks out of the summer vegetable garden is the beans.  I have had about 14 pole green bean plants of different types.  The mice go right for the main stalks of the plant, biting them right in half.  About 5 tall beans that had been making their way up the trellis with dozens of little green bean flowers started wilting while the others were doing just fine.  Upon closer inspection I could see that the stalks had been severed.  Talk about one of the biggest bummers of the spring plantings.  However, the silver lining of these rodent shenanigans is that I’ve been able to leave the plant base in tact and they have regenerated.

Now since I’ve been told that I have one of the largest melons (brains) in the animal kingdom, I hatched a plan to outwit my fellow green bean lover.  And it happened to be free, without even a trip to the local home improvement store.  Plastic bottles.  Yup.  Since the mice were only causing damage around the base, I was able to fashion a sort of collar for the bottom 8 inches or so of the plant.  The types of bottles that I used were slick enough that perhaps the mice feet cannot find any traction to climb up.  I cut the tops and bottoms off of CLEAR plastic containers (juice, milk, gatorade, water) and one cut through from top to bottom to get it around the plant.  Voila.

My poor decapitated beans.

So far so good on my homemade mice deterrents.  Take that!

April Garden Update

Here’s my great Lifetime Raised Garden Bed bursting with heirloom tomatoes, golden beets, lettuce and Cosmic Purple carrot seedlings along the left perimeter.

The other day I planted some marigolds in and around my veggie beds.  I’ve read that  annual marigolds can be used anywhere to deter Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, aphids and whiteflies. They are also known to repel harmful root knot nematodes (soil dwelling microscopic white worms) that attack tomatoes, potatoes, roses, and strawberries. The root of the Marigold produces a chemical that kills nematodes as they enter the soil.  Plus they add a pop of color!

Now that Spring is in full swing and the soil is consistently above 50 degrees, I am direct sowing seeds into the garden.  In this bed I have various tomatoes, lettuce, Di Cicco broccoli, golden beets and some cabbage that is ready to harvest.  The other half of this bed is below:

The Sharpblue blueberry at the bottom of this photo is doing very well since I planted it in January.  Above it along the vertical trellis are lemon cucumbers and pole green beans.  In the middle of the bed are edamame and broccoli.

My Persimmon and Pineapple heirloom tomatoes that I purchased as seedlings are doing well in terms of growth, but are both experiencing blossom drop and early blight.  Damp, cool weather can create a fungus on tomatoes called early blight, which looks like small dark spots on the lower leaves.  I’ve never dealt with this issue before, but after some research, I have trimmed the most infected lower leaves and sprayed the entire plant with an organic copper solution.  I also sprayed a calcium spray on the flowers, which is supposed to help prevent blossom drop.  They could also be dropping due to damp conditions.  So much to know!  Once the weather corrects itself, so the speak, the tomatoes may pull out of it.

Here's one other tomato falling victim to early blight. You can see how I've trimmed out the lower effected leaves.

I’ve also been battling significant potato problems.  I had my heart set on growing sweet potatoes this summer, but we’ll just have to see on that.  Maybe next year!  I thought that a rodent of some kind was gnawing  the foliage due to the significant breaks on the stems, so we put chicken wire around the grow pot.  The no avail, it’s still worsening.  I went out last night to check out the situation, hoping to catch the varmint and only saw slugs.  Could they be doing all of this??  I will probably have to prematurely dig up my potatoes.  I’m not sure how they can survive this.  Hopefully it’ll at least be a small crop since they’re been growing since December.

All within the last week I’ve planted from seed:

  • Moon and Stars Watermelon
  • Charentais melon
  • Red Warty Thing pumpkins
  • Fairytale pumpkins
  • Jarrahdale pumpkins
  • Sunburst yellow / Peter Pan green pattypan scallop summer squash and ………drumroll please………..
  • Alpine Strawberries!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve heard that growing strawberries from seed can be trying and difficult (they take 3-4 weeks to even sprout!), but when I saw their seed packet today at the nursery, I could not resist.  I asked the garden specialist what she knew about growing them from seed and she laughed, saying, “We don’t even carry them.  You may want to just but a six-pack.”  Then I showed her the packet in my hand and she was shocked!  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen them in any store.  They’re already out in the garden, working their magic.  I’ve got a good feeling!

I Am Officially In Love

In the spring garden I find myself appreciating life’s sweet simplicities.  I am out in the garden so much now, that I’ve contemplated pitching a tent, which would also help me get the snails and slugs in the middle of the night.  No, not really!  (Well it may have crossed my mind.)  Watching my vegetables and fruit grow day by day is a true simple pleasure.

As spring gets into full swing, I can’t help asking myself if I’m growing everything my little heart desires.  With the new bed, I can really sink my teeth into this whole veggie gardening thing this year.  Here’s a list of the fruits and vegetables that are currently growing in my garden:

  1. Broccoli
  2. Potatoes ( Yukon and Blue)
  3. Sugar snap peas
  4. All Season Butterhead Lettuce
  5. Cosmic Purple carrots
  6. Cucumbers (Lemon and Persian Baby Green Fingers)
  7. Golden Beets
  8. Green beans (Rattlesnake, Purple and Blue Lake pole)
  9. Edamame
  10. Heirloom Tomatoes (Rainbow Cherry, Black Krim, Persimmon, Old German, Pineapple, Purple Cherokee and Brandywine)
  11. Grapes (Green Thompson Seedless and Purple Thompson Seedless – both of which won’t fruit this year!  Bummer.)
  12. Burgundy Plum (will not fruit this year)
  13. Double Delight Nectarine (will not fruit this year)
  14. No Name Peach
  15. Diana Fig
  16. Various herbs

Oh! And don’t forget sunflowers (Teddy Bear and Giant Mammoth)!  I am definitely planning on collecting and roasting those sunflower seeds…and maybe leaving a few for the birds.

One of the many Mammoth Sunflowers seedlings that I planted along the back perimeter of the south-facing bed.

Hmmmmmm.  After seeing that list, I’d say my heart has nothing left to desire!  Being the practical gal that I am, I strive to grow things that my family eats on a regular basis.  There are so many unique veggies out there, but with my limited space, do I really want to use up room on Bok Choy that I’ll have no idea how to cook?  (Please don’t get me wrong, Bok Choy lovers).  I’m sure down the road my wandering eye will motivate me to try new things, but for now we’ll stick with the basics.

In about May my pumpkin seeds will go in the ground.  I am in love with growing pumpkins!  I’ve got all new kinds this year that I’ve never tried before.  Red Warty Thing, Big Mac, Fairytale and the mystical blue Jarrahdale.  It’s difficult to save the space for them as I’ve been planting so much lately, but the garden is teaching me about succumbing to the present and trusting in tomorrow.  It’s crazy how philosophical I am these days.

My recent seed purchase. They are both stringless with great eating and baking quality!

Pumpkin Patch and Predator Protection

Today’s post is all about the 4 P’s.  Pumpkin patch & predator protection.  Say that 5 times fast!

Bates Nut Farm - Valley Center, CA

Yesterday we braved the crowds where I believe to be the biggest, most popular pumpkin patch in San Diego County.  Bates Nut Farm is open year-round, but they hit their peak in the fall with their amazing display of pumpkins.  There are 2 huge patches dedicated to Big Macs.  I must admit that I totally stole some seeds from one that was broken open.  These will be so fun to try next year!

The stolen goods!

Family Fun!

Not only does Bates have pumpkins, but also a petting corral, turkeys, chickens, ostriches, ducks and geese.  It’s a bit like a county fair, with bad but yummy food and an arts and crafts section.  We had the best fudge I’ve ever had.  In my life.  Salted dark chocolate fudge with a ribbon of carmel.  WOW.  It melted in my mouth.  Wish I’d taken a pic!

Then today my sweet hubby tackled an impending veggie garden project aimed at deterring bunnies and newly acquired silkie chickens!  He’d put up make-shift chicken wire surrounding two areas which were growing seedlings and had been mowed by a bunny.  Now that the yellow squash and pumpkins have come out, I’ve planted all season romaine, Detroit red beets, cosmic purple and red cored chantenay carrots.  Since the seedling are emerging, the chicken wire had to be extended, stat!  (Plus I had him extend the veggie garden by about 2 feet to add 8 more square feet).

The last stragglers. Their vines were all brown and dead, so I knew it was time. These should all orange up in about a week's time in the sun.

Fall Garden

The yellow crookneck squash is still hanging on!

Heirloom tomato "Stupice" getting ready to ripen already!

Stupice is a prolific grower. So glad I have 4 of them.

The sugar snap peas are starting to really take off.

My first lettuce! This is a second planting after the first set was mowed by a bunny.

The lemon cucumber is VERY happy. I had to prune the main shoot to control it's height. There are so many baby cucumbers for one plant.

Baby lemon cucumber

The cherry tomatoes are still producing well.

After the first wave of green beans, these vines had a growth spurt and I'm expecting another large crop.

The bells should be turning orange and yellow pretty soon!

The majority of the pumpkins are harvested, which gave way for new planting. Yesterday I sowed Detroit Red beets, cosmic purple carrots and all season romaine.

A late bloomer pumpkin finishing up.

Here we have beets, carrots, cabbage and spinach. The spinach sure is taking it's sweet time.

The nasturtiums are popping up with the cooler weather. Great on salads!