Garden

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weedsandokra

We headed to the garden this morning, my little helpers and I. The animals had been milked and Daddy and Elijah were working at a neighbor’s house for the morning so it was my four youngest buddies and I. The okra, once again, needed picking and all of us were ready to head outside.

pumpkinssept

The pumpkins are nearly done, at least the main patch. A second patch was planted a few weeks late and they are still ripening. We now have a root cellar with pumpkins sitting in its depths. I can hardly believe it.

greens-garden

potofgreens

Do you remember when I decided to plant seed balls? I kind of figured most of that seed was old and anything that came up would just be a bonus and maybe cover the ground a bit in the meanwhile. I hadn’t been out to the “field” portion of the chicken field in at least a week because, well, okra.

Leafy greens are something I am always trying to get into our daily diet and they are costly so we are forever trying (and often failing) to grow more and more. Much to my delight I found a good deal of large, harvestable mustard and turnip greens along with enough sweet potato greens for several weeks of salad. We have had very little rain and zero irrigation since I planted those and what a gift they truly are!

ruthiesunhat

As an aside, this little lady likes her sunhats. And she generally skips out on the picking beans thing we came to the garden for and instead quietly tiptoes her way through the chicken field in her ongoing pursuit of sneaking up on the illusive grasshoppers.

joshiefield

And Mister Man here likes to play the kind of hide-and-seek that gets Mama’s heart racing. Let’s just say that I am thankful for a garden with a gate… that locks him in because he excels at hiding.

okrabucket okraseptember

While the okra factor is getting almost comical at this point, I really am very grateful for every little bit that we harvest. It is all a gift but I am guessing you are tired of hearing about okra so we’ll just move along…

fallsprouts

… to delivering a wheelbarrow of weeds to the cows and goats.

And then I came in to water our fall starts since the ones we threw in the ground didn’t make it. You just never really know when those seeds go in the ground what might come of them but we trust the Lord knows exactly what we need and surely we are not owed any of it. So every leaf or pod or pumpkin or egg or quart of milk that comes to our table is truly a gift.

So sometimes the seeds just don’t grow, and sometimes you get a patchy field of unexpected greens… and okra! Did I mention I added okra to my seed ball mix? Oh yes I did. The squash and pumpkin and tomato seeds that we added never did sprout but the okra, well it is some kind of irony that it looks absolutely fantastic.

Good soil, gratitude, and a sense of humor are probably equally important when gardening. And, apparently, so is a good pickled okra recipe.

dehydrated-okra-three

Every 24-48 hours I head out to the garden, usually in the evening. It is often when I am standing at the clothesline as the sun begins to fade that I look over to see the okra – as tall as me now – waiting to be picked. So Joshie and I play a game of hide-and-seek while I fill the bowls and try not to get too itchy from the spines in the process.

Besides the occasional sneak-in when I’m making chili or stew, most of the okra is now being preserved. I’ve canned some, I’ve fermented some, but mostly I’m dehydrating it.

Last year we put up a bunch of dehydrated summer squash and okra. The summer squash was a bit tough, even after letting it soak in boiling water before cooking thoroughly in soups or stews. Thus the 50+ quarts of canned squash this summer.

The okra we treated in the same manner and it was tender and delicious and dare I say not noticeably slimy. So this summer, it has been my go-to preservation method. After all, I know we’ll eat plenty of soups, stews, and chili throughout the winter and no one will notice the extra handful of okra here, a jar of canned squash there, right?

We’ll see.

dehydrated-okra-two

The other thing I really like about dehydration is that it is dead simple once you have a dehydrator set up. Our dehydrator is this handy dandy guy from Cultures for Health that works really well in our fairly dry climate. There are also more economical options and a simple internet search for “homemade solar dehydrator” will yield you plenty of ideas if you want to DIY it.

To dehydrate the okra, I follow this simple process:

  • Chop okra into 1/4 inch or thinner slices.
  • Spread out into a single, evenly distributed layer on dehydrator trays/screens.
  • Cover to keep off flies and other bugs and allow to dehydrate 3-7 days, depending on your climate.
  • Remove to a glass storage jar and repeat.

dehydrated-okra-four

To Re-hydrate for Cooking: Either add directly to a pot of soup that will simmer for at least 6-8 hours or cover with boiling water and allow to re-hydrate for about 20-30 minutes before draining and adding directly to whatever dish you are cooking.

We get about a quart of dehydrated okra per round in the dehydrator and have been refilling the dehydrator every time a couple of big bowls come in from the garden. And since these guys don’t seem to be slowing down and we don’t have plans for this bed for at least several more weeks, I will continue with dehydrating and fermenting until then.

What are you busy squirreling away as fall approaches?

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