In my tasty June Garden

allium purple sensation is now “finished” in the garden

When it comes to the garden there are changes going on all of the time.  Just like in life, time moves forward whether we are ready or not!  The garden has moved from showing off spring flowers on to growing our fruit and veggies and showing off some early summer flowers. We live in County Louth, and although other parts of the country have had rain, it has missed us for the good part of 4 weeks.  I can really see and feel the dryness in the garden.

A very dry veggie and fruit garden

Look at that grass! Granted, we don’t pay any attention to the grass other than mowing it (probably too short, I might add), but it is usually *green* and not yellow.  Anyway, this is an early June look at our pumpkin and zucchini (courgette) plants, along with our blueberry and strawberry plants, and our pear tree.

organic zucchini (courgette)

The organic zucchini plant was given to me in May.  Actually, I did a little bit of a swap, and traded sunflowers for zucchini.  It is great to find someone who grows organically and likes to share! We mixed in a good amount of our compost when we planted them.

organic pumpkin plant

The picture above is of one of my pumpkin plants.  Pumpkins LOVE compost.  We worked in as much compost as we could into this bed.  The seed for this plant is actually from the pumpkins I grew in 2016.  While I did try to grow from last year’s seeds, they didn’t produce anything.  So I then tried the seeds from the previous year, and “Bob’s your Uncle” – they grew! 🙂

blueberries

The blueberry plants are overladen with berries this year and the berries are growing to a nice size!  I am still trying to figure out if my soil has enough acidity for blueberries, as some years they do well and some they don’t. I’ve given them lots of my compost early on in the season, and I’ve kept them watered during this dry spell.  We’ll see how it ends up!

green strawberries

The strawberries are still *very* green, and not very big.  They, too, were lucky recipients of our compost (there is never enough compost, so I have to pick and choose which plants get it!).  I’ve also made sure to water them, so again, I’m hopeful that over the next week or two we’ll get some nice color in them (and a little bit more growth!).

baby pears in early June (strawberry beds in the background)

Our pear tree is doing well again this year.  It is only in the past few years that it has produced fruit, but boy was it worth the wait!  These guys are teeny tiny right now, and only the width of a small finger.

This picture is of our pears in September 2017 (they were delicious!)

another look back at our fall garden of September 2017 with sunflowers, pumpkins, pears, and blueberry plants which have pretty red leaves

a full bed of sunflowers early June 2018

I have tried a new location for sunflowers this year.  I’ve alternated garlic and potatoes in this bed over the past few years, so it was time for a change.  We apparently didn’t dig up all of the spuds last year, as there are some growing up between the sunflowers…  These lovely plants are all grown from my sunflower seeds from last year. My father-in-law kindly started them for me in his greenhouse.  They have really shot up over the past number of weeks, and look to be quite happy!

You have to be sure not to wait too long to collect the sunflower seeds as the birds LOVE them and will clean out the entire flower heads before you know it! (sunflower from our garden Fall 2017)

I really should write a post just on compost, because it is so beneficial!  I’ll put that on my to-do list.  Here’s a look at our “summer” compost heap:

Compost heap (top layer is all new season grass) with a fab overhang of Elder trees!

Underneath all of the new grass is aged compost from last season

It is worth digging the good stuff out from underneath the grass!

I have a separate tumbler for food compost, but I think I will leave that picture for another post!  Thankfully, no one can really see our compost heap, and the sight of it certainly doesn’t bother me given how good it is for the garden!  But I really don’t want to end with pictures of my compost.  I’m going to first show you a picture of tulips and our Hawthorn trees when they were beautifully in bloom with white flowers.  This year I really think the flowers came and went too quickly!  And then I’m going to end with a picture of an early summer plant (peony).

Queen of the Night tulips with a backdrop of Hawthorn trees in flower

Paeonia Bowl of Beauty – all four pictures are different flowers but from the same plant

I hope you have enjoyed this little tour of my June garden. Anything tasty or pretty growing in yours?

In peace,
Dana

Time for a cuppa? Zucchini bread with crumb topping is perfect for your break!

Zucchini bread tea break.

Zucchini bread with crumb topping on Vinegar Hill pottery.

Zucchini (courgette) are fairly easy to grow, even in Irish weather.  Just a couple of plants will yield plenty of zucchini in one season.  I have to check on them daily as they grow, because they can get quite large rather quickly.  It is better to not let them get “out of control huge” as then they lose their tastiness.

There are so many different ways to use zucchini.  We often just slice them up,  lightly coat in olive oil, add some Cajun spices,  and throw them on the outside grill.  It’s too easy!  I think our  favorite thing to do with zucchini though, as rated by family and friends, is making zucchini bread.  Only after moving to Ireland did I start to think that the name is a bit off: it should be called cake!  It’s perfect to have with your cuppa of choice, whether coffee or tea.  It isn’t a common dessert here, so I like giving it to friends and family as a way of sharing something different.

A friend from Syracuse, New York, Charlotte, shared her recipe with me last year.  I hadn’t seen crumb topping in a zucchini bread recipe before.  What a hit!  I do realize this is not a health food. 🙂  But I did make a couple of changes to the recipe to make it more healthful in my eyes:  I added some whole wheat flour,  increased the amount of zucchini, decreased the amount of sugar, and changed the sugar from white to Demerara (unrefined cane sugar), and I added nutmeg.  Yeah, I know, it still has oil in it, but ya gotta live a little!

There wasn’t any sun shining when I took my pictures (have I mentioned the weather we’ve been having this summer???).  I have my plate and cup as close to the window as possible, which isn’t a very nice set up (sorry).  The pottery is my newest addition from County Wexford. It is called Vinegar Hill, and I absolutely love it.  We met the artist and it was so nice to get the story of the historical meaning of the pattern.  But that is for another post!

I hope you get to enjoy a lovely cuppa with some zucchini bread sometime soon!
Dana

Zucchini Bread

Dana’s adaptation
of Charlotte Santella’s recipe:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour & 1 cup white flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (can substitute ½ cup apple sauce & ½ cup oil)
  • 2  cups Demerara sugar (unrefined cane sugar)
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups grated zucchini (usually takes 2 large zucchini to get this)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Crumb Topping:

  • Crumb Topping: 1/2 cup regular oats, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup cold butter (2 oz) cut into small cubes.  Combine dry crumb topping ingredients, add cold butter and mix (I use my hands) until combined.  Add this to pan 5 minutes into baking.

Directions

  1. Grease & flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon & nutmeg together in a bowl.
  3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Stir in dry  ingredients to the wet  mixture, along with zucchini (and nuts if using) until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. 5 minutes into baking sprinkle crumb topping over top of  loaf pans.
  4. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.   (mine are rarely finished before 60 minutes – I think because I heap those measuring cups with zucchini!).

Enjoy!

Zucchini bread with crumb topping on Vinegar Hill pottery.

Zucchini bread with crumb topping on Vinegar Hill pottery.

Zucchini bread with crumb topping on Vinegar Hill pottery.

Zucchini bread with crumb topping on Vinegar Hill pottery.

Vinegar Hill pottery.

Vinegar Hill pottery from County Wexford.

Zucchini (courgette).

My Zucchini (courgette).

Zucchini (courgette) growing great in the raised bed.

Zucchini (courgette) growing great in the raised bed.

Zucchini (courgette) growing really well in the raised bed.

Zucchini (courgette) growing really well in the raised bed.

Wild flowers.

I couldn’t have a post without any flowers in it! 😉

An August garden tour – Potatoes, Blueberries, Pumpkins, and Apples!

I love having a vegetable garden.  It is really cool going out into the yard and picking something for dinner.  Yeah, and at the produce shop, I have a little conversation with myself that goes something like this: “No, I don’t need to buy potatoes ’cause we have lots of them. Nope, I don’t need any zucchini cause we have too many of them! And no, no peas for us this week because we have them, too!”  And I smile to myself 🙂

I like it.  We’re still learning. And growing. And changing.  But I think it is all good.  I tend to only put “pretty” pictures in the blog.  I’ll change that this week.  One picture shows what should be the pretty pumpkin flower, but this one is eaten by slugs.  We have had so many, many, many slug this year!  It’s amazing we have an abundant harvest given how much was sacrificed to slugs.   We’ll be changing the layout of the fruit orchard this winter.  The strawberries needed more space than we planned so we’ll be spreading them out.  Now about the pumpkins: they take up a lot of space!  But I love seeing their flowers so late in the summer.  We’re hoping for some pumpkins this year – if they survive the slugs!  Luckily, our potatoes haven’t been affected by the slugs.  Our main crop variety of Organic Sarpo Mira are delicious.  The soil is excellent after the compost worked through it.  It’s quite easy to fork up the spuds, wipe off the dirt, and boil them up!  I think they just might be our favorites of the garden (for the moment, anyway).

I hope you have access to fresh garden vegetables this summer!

Dana
P.S. I changed my blog around a little bit. I hope you like it!

A view of the fruit orchard. The rhubarb has been cut, strawberries are overgrown, and the pumpkins are taking over! Apple trees are happy.

Another view of the fruit orchard. The blueberry plants on the right aren’t very big, but we were surprised by all of the yummy fruit!

Our eating apples coloring nicely.

The pumpkins growing like crazy.

Pumpkin flowers.

O.K., here is the ugly picture: the flower on the right has been eaten. I decided not to show you the picture of the slugs 🙂

I have a bunch of these tiny little pumpkins … I’m not sure if they are too late to develop fully. We’ll have to wait and see.

My “Before” picture of some of our blueberries.

The “After” picture of some of our blueberries! They were sweet and delicious!

The bed of Organic Sarpo Mira potatoes, our dinner’s worth, and the fork to lift them out with!

They really are a great size! We’re delighted with their taste, too.

I have to have a picture of flowers in my post! This was about 6 PM this evening. After yet another very wet day, the evening was simply beautiful. And for that I am very, very thankful.