Welcome to Bepa's Garden!
This blog is about organic gardening, healthy eating and healthy living.
Each month I will be posting Garden To-Do Lists, Tips & Techniques, Garden Project Plans, Photos from the Garden, Recipes and Book Reviews.
I hope you enjoy reading and I hope I can inspire others to start a backyard garden!
Happy Gardening!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Reunion!

Chick that hatched on 4/04/10

This week I had the opportunity to visit the chickens I hatched this past April. I ordered a dozen Buff Orpington hatching eggs from a hatchery and put them into the incubator on 3/16/10. The first chick to hatch arrived on 4/4/10, Easter Sunday, it was a nice Easter surprise. Out of 13 eggs, I ended up with 10 that hatched. The first chick to hatch, for some reason, was smaller than the others. She was always easy to pick out of the flock because of her size.

Pictured above are the chicks on 4/14/10. They were playing in a pen I set up in the backyard. The sun was out and the weather had warmed up enough to let them play outside for a while in the afternoon. They were scratching at the dirt and looking for bugs. I knew I couldn't keep them, I checked with the town (which was probably a mistake) and was told I didn't have enough land to raise chickens. There are many cities and towns that have changed, or are changing their zoning laws to allow homeowners to raise chickens. There has been a huge uprising in home gardening and folks wanting to keep chickens mainly for eggs. Usually you are limited to 6 hens and no roosters. Luckily I was able to find someone to take them, who happened to be a friend of my daughter, so I am able to visit them and watch them grow.

Here are the chickens on 7/20/10. They are huge compared to the last time I saw them. Out of the 10 that hatched, there ended up being 3 roosters and 7 hens. A nice looking flock! Seeing them again made me wish I could have kept them and raised them. It was a very memorable and exciting experience hatching them, something I hope to do again soon.  Who knows, maybe I'll petition the town to try and get the laws changed!

A great book for anyone interested in raising chickens is The Joy of Keeping Chickens by Jennifer Megyesi.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garden Pests

Tomato Hornworm (photo by C. Terry)

Now that the garden is coming in nice the pests are starting to attack in full force. This past weekend while weeding I came across the tomato hornworm (pictured above) eating my potato plants. This is the first time I have seen one in my garden. Johnny's has a very informative video about this ugly pest. Last year we noticed the hummingbird moths flying around in our butterfly garden and didn't realize that they lay the eggs that turn into the tomato hornworm. I check my garden every morning handpicking any pest I might see, so I noticed him right away and he didn't have time to do too much damage. I also use row covers early in the spring when I plant to keep the pests from laying their eggs on the leaves of the plants. Using row covers along with applications of compost tea seems to work pretty good. I still get the occasional pest, but not nearly as many as I used to.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rasbperry Sloosh

I finally got around to trying my hand at making raspberry juice, like my grandmother (Mema) used to make. The first batch was good, but didn't really taste like Mema's. It was clear and a little watery, even though I didn't add to much water. The second batch came out excellent! The key, as I remember, is to use over ripe raspberries, the one's that are deep red, almost dark purple and about to fall off the bush. They are the juiciest and seem to have the most pulp. The second batch cooked down nice and was cloudy, pulpy and thick, just like I remembered!

This is the recipe I used:
  • Thoroughly rinse the berries and place them in a heavy pot with just enough water to make them float. Less water is better for a thick concentrate.
  • Bring to a boil, mash down the raspberries with a potato masher and then bring back to a boil.
  • Line a strainer with several layers of cheese cloth and pour the mixture through collecting the juice into a bowl. Let the strained mixture sit for a bit as the juice will continue to drain.
  • When most of the juice has drained and the mixture has cooled, fold up the cheesecloth into a bag and gently squeeze to get the remaining juice and pulp. 
  • Put collected juice back into pot and add sugar to taste. I used only a 1/4 cup of sugar, you can add more later if needed. Bring back to a slight boil to make the mixture thicken up.  
  • When the mixture cooled a bit I poured into mason jars to store in the refrigerator. You can put into a canning bath to preserve the juice for later use, but I know it won't last long in my house so I just put it in the refrigerator.
The mixture you end up with is sort of a thick concentrate. To make juice I diluted it in 3 parts water. Add a fresh lemon slice and enjoy!

There is nothing more refreshing that a nice cool glass of raspberry juice on a hot summer day!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

We be jammin'!

Since I am the one whose creative efforts produced these wonderful jams, I am allowed to be a guest contributor. I feel honored because my husband is usually really picky about his projects and this blog is one of his "babies". Since he wants me to keep making treats for him, I guess he really doesn't have a choice in letting me be a contributor. I love ya' honey!
For years I have been meaning to make homemade jam. I always talked myself out of it because the task seemed so daunting. This year we have more raspberries than we know what to do with. That is even after giving a ton away and letting the birds have their fill. So with a quick Google search and a little encouragement from Rob I gave it a try. I was amazed at how easy jam is to make! Once you have the equipment you need, jam making is a breeze!
Besides berries, pectin and sugar you do need some special equipment. I found everything I needed at Walmart and it was cheaper than anyplace else I searched. A canner is essential. A canner is basically an extra large stockpot with a lid and handled basket and to hold your jars. You also need a jar grabber (self-explanatory), wide-mouth funnel, magnetic lid grabber, and jars, and lids. The grabber, funnel, and lid grabber come as a kit at Walmart. I bought everything I needed for $33.83!
I won't go into specific details about how to make the jam, there is an easy recipe in each and every box of pectin (gelling agent). What I will say is follow them exactly and you will have perfect results. I'd also like to comment on how satisfying it is to take berries grown in your own yard and turn them into little jars of jeweled sunshine! Seeing the delight on my family's faces as they spread the jam on fresh baked fluffy biscuits sends my heart soaring. Hearing their "yummy noises" makes me proud to be carrying on the traditions of my mother and Rob's grandmother. Knowing that I am giving my children treasures that aren't materialistic solidifies my belief that it's the simple things that make this journey we call life richer and more wonderful!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Vegan Raspberry / Blueberry Cheescake

Vegan Raspberry / Blueberry Cheesecake

We have been looking for recipes to use with all the raspberries that we have been getting this year. This recipe comes form Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Diet. I have modified the recipe slightly after making it a few times. This is a vegan recipe that doesn't contain dairy. It is absolutely delicious!


1/2 cup Earth Balance Butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (12 oz) package silken tofu
1 cup nondairy cream cheese
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy milk
2 teaspoons arrowroot
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh raspberries and blueberries for topping

Preheat oven to 350 deg.
Oil an 8" or 9" spring form pan.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in graham cracker crumbs. Press the mixture into bottom and slightly up sides of spring form pan. Bake for 5 minutes and then let cool on baking rack.

Combine tofu, cream cheese, oil, syrup, soy milk, arrowroot and vanilla extract in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Pour the mixture into the graham cracker crust and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature. Toss fresh raspberries and blueberries with 1 to 2 teaspoons of maple syrup to create a slight glaze. Top the cheesecake with the berries and chill until ready to serve.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bursting with Berries!

The raspberries are just about up to their peak yield. They should be producing consistently throughout the summer and into the fall. The bushes are so loaded with ripening berries they are starting to lean over from all the weight. The birds seem to be leaving them alone, although I have caught the occasional squirrel sitting on the edge of the deck snacking in the afternoon.

We have been picking about 4 to 6 pints daily (plus 1 to 2 pints consumed while picking!) and have been enjoying them for dessert after dinner. Tonight we are having raspberry / peach cobbler! This weekend (for fourth of July) I am making a vegan raspberry cheescake.

This year there is definitely a greater yield than last. There is a bunch of new growth and new plants starting. I am going to try and weed some out to start another patch. The canes for the 2nd crop are staring to grow tall. They will end up being over 8' tall when they start producing in August. We are going to try making raspberry jam this year with all the extra raspberries we are getting.