Low Carb Pizza

I have been trying out different ways to make a low carb pizza using our whole wheat sourdough starter. Frank and I switched to eating low carb in December 2014, and plan to continue eating that way forever. We have both lost around 45 pounds since we changed our eating habits, and this has changed our lives for the better. Because of this change, I have been experimenting with different low carb meals. Some are a success, some aren’t and some need a little more tweaking.

For the crust, I used whole wheat sourdough starter. I put olive oil on the plates, spread out some starter, then baked it for about 15 minutes while I got the toppings ready. I wanted it to be cooked before I added any sauce, so it wouldn’t be too wet.

I used some of the tomato sauce we canned a few years ago. I’m trying to use up the last few jars. To the sauce I added salt, pepper, basil, oregano, parsley and some of the garlic we canned a few months back.

The garlic has worked out very well. We have already used one pint and opened a second. I’m thinking we may need to can another batch of 16 pints.

I layered tomato sauce, browned sausage, onions, sweet peppers from the garden and some of our shredded mozzarella. 

After it was constructed, the pizza baked for another 10 minutes at 450*.
 

Our side dish this evening was a bowl of collard and beet greens picked from the garden. We think the turnip greens are better, but collard greens are just fine, too.

The olive oil didn’t work very well, and the ‘crust’ stuck a little. It was also softer or moister than I prefer, but the flavor was good. I think I’ll have to try making a dough for the crust sometime, but I’ll need to make it in the morning for the evening meal. That will give time for the starter to digest the carbohydrates in the whole wheat flour, which not only reduces the carb load, but releases many useful vitamins and minerals.

Now the final version. What Frank thought. “You can live on it. Maybe after it’s tweaked, you could live on it happily.” 

There are so many different ways to eat healthy. We try to find ways to grow or make our own with everything we eat. There are many, many low carb products on the market, but if it is feasible for us to make our own, we would much rather do so. It’s part of choosing. As long as we still have the freedom to choose, we choose not to participate in the processed, prepackaged, chemicalized items corporate America puts on the grocery shelves and calls food. It takes time and effort to learn, produce, and prepare real food, but it is worth it.

Until next time – Fern
 

The Current Garden

I figured it was time for an update on our garden, especially since the weeds are giving the vegetables a run for their money. When it was too wet and rainy, I couldn’t do much weeding. Now that it is hot, humid and dry, we are really busy with a number of projects, so I still have accomplished little weeding. I get a little done in the mornings when I go out to pick greens for the chickens, goats and pigs. That’s about it for now. The last few days have been in the 90’s with high humidity and intense sunshine. I know, I know, I really wanted some sunshine, and I’m glad we have it, but it sure has turned off hot rather quickly. Here are some pictures of our growing masterpiece, weeds and all.

 Not only are the turnips not a hot weather spring plant, these are having to compete with a lot of grass. I pull as much grass as I pick turnip greens for the chickens in the mornings, but it is still starting to overtake the bed. These pictures were taken around 5:00pm, when the lighting wasn’t the greatest. The wilting of these greens tells me it’s time to water the garden. A week ago I never thought I would be saying those words.

 

Collards, carrots and zinnias. I sprinkled the collards with diatomaceous earth a few days ago and I think it is helping with the slugs and worms.

 

Frank made the perfect DE (diatomaceous earth) dispenser for me out of an old fiber canister. Works great!

We have about 20 volunteer potato plants in this area of the garden where we grew them last fall. Even though we are not eating potatoes right now because of the high carbohydrate content, we view these as our seed potatoes for future consumption on a limited basis.

If you look at the size of the blade of grass in this picture, you’ll realize just how small this pepper plant is. Surprisingly, it is growing. There are a few more that survived the cats and the last flooding rainstorm. I need to plant more seeds and see if they will direct germinate in the garden.

The Buttercup winter squash hasn’t taken off as quickly as I would like, and one hill rotted from the rain, but it is starting to vine out and produce. These are really good, sweet squash that are great keepers. They taste similar to a sweet potato.

 

The tomatoes are blooming and have been worked into the trellis on the right. They are healthy, sturdy plants that are growing vigorously. The Buttercup squash is on the left in this picture, with carrots beside the tomatoes on the trellis to the right.

  

We have lots of zinnias growing here and there throughout the garden.

 This small trellis was supposed to have cucumbers growing on it. Instead, I must have planted some yellow squash seeds that we saved last year. The cucumbers I planted while it was still raining, are still in a tub on the porch. See the empty space on the right? That is where I planted the cucumber seeds I saved last year. Only three of them germinated. All of the plants on the left are from a packet of seeds I bought.

 The planned yellow squash patch is between the tomato and green bean trellises. The grass and weeds are especially happy here.

 Some of the squash is happy, and some are heat stressed and need watering. I applied diatomaceous earth to all of the squash mounds in an effort to impact the vine borer and squash bug populations. I planted nasturtiums around the squash hills this year, which are very pretty flowers, and supposed to be bug deterrents.

 



 The green beans are growing well and blooming, but the heat is getting to them as well. Some of the bottom leaves are yellow today. There are carrots growing down each side of this trellis, in spite of all of the grass and weeds. I’ve been able to clear out parts of the weeds, but there are still more than enough to pull in this area.


The Cushaw winter squash grows very well here. It took off early despite all of the rain and is producing a number of young squash. It is hardy and healthy.

The cowpeas have more than enough grass to keep it company. Some of the seeds I replanted made it and some of them didn’t. There are supposed to be two rows of okra growing in between the cowpeas, but the rain either washed away the seeds, or they rotted. I will be replanting them next week.

 I may be able to harvest a head or two of cabbage after all. They got a hefty dose of DE after it quit raining and since then I haven’t seen much more damage. I’m tempted to harvest the largest head just to see if the worms and slugs are hiding out inside where I can’t see them.
 

The Michilli cabbage has been disappointing. It didn’t do anything besides grow loose leaves that were rather tough, then start bolting to bloom. I have used these as animal feed instead of human feed. Now I am pulling up the plants a few at a time and feeding them to the pigs. I will plant some cantaloupe or honeydew here.

  
The only thing that is planted in the new part of the garden for now are pinto beans on this trellis. As time allows I will till some of this area and plant sunflowers and cowpeas.

  

There is enough spinach for salads, even with competition from the grass.

The beets are doing well. There are some here and there in the cabbage patch as well as some back down by the collards and turnips. But there aren’t enough, and I need to plant some more.

I attended my bug class today and learned a few interesting things I will share in another article. It was geared more towards habitats for pollinators than beneficial garden insects, so in that respect I was disappointed. But, on the other hand, I learned some useful things about beneficial insect habitat that I will be able to incorporate into our garden and landscape environment.

It is 94* today with high humidity and little to no breeze. I hope this is not an indicator of how the rest of the summer will be. After having cool, rainy weather for so long, this quick onset of hot, summer weather has been difficult for gardens, animals and humans. I some ways it reminds me of how the events in the world, and particularly in our country, are heating up. If we’re not all careful, vigilant and prepared, we could suffer heat exhaustion or have a heat related crisis, in more ways than one. Remember to protect yourself from the heat, meaning the temperature and the climate of your neighborhood, city, state and country. It could be a matter of survival.

Until next time – Fern

Garden Tour, End of April

We have had far more rainy, cloudy days this month than sun, and it shows. The garden is getting off to a slow start, but it is growing. I didn’t count the number of sunny days compared to the cloudy ones, but this year, it would have been an interesting statistic. There are still many folks around that are just now trying to get things planted, and it is still very, very wet. The weeds are starting to get a foothold, just like the vegetables, and with the sunny weather we are having this week, everything should take off. Our garden is no longer all dirt, God’s masterpiece has begun again. Here is the tour.

Broccoli

Store bought cabbage

Green cabbage

Michilli cabbage


Cabbage leaf with green lacewing eggs mixed in bran sprinkled on it

And I have to tell you. I think the green lacewings eggs that I sprinkled on all of the garden plants are really making a difference. They are too small to see, but the directions said the evidence would be a decrease in insect damage to the plants, and I think that is the case. We just might have our first ever cabbage crop this year. I am very hopeful. I will do a more in depth article on my beneficial insect experiment later on.

The new Comfrey bed is doing great. I harvest here almost daily.
Cowpeas are trying to make an appearance

Okra does not like cool wet weather and is not very happy….yet

Cushaw squash with nasturtiums

Yellow squash with nasturtiums

The tomatoes got off to a hard start with lots of flea beetle holes. I think the green lacewings have made a difference there, too. But the tomatoes don’t like the cool, wet weather any more than the okra. It’s been in the 40’s the last few nights with highs in the 70’s. Today was the first day of sunshine in about a week.

One of the apple trees has a surprise this year for the first time

We each had a strawberry for breakfast this morning. The first of the year.

More on the way

The new strawberry bed is growing despite all of the slugs I pick here every morning.


We have beets planted in several places that are just starting to grow well.

The carrots are happy.

We’re trying collard greens for the first time.

Cucumbers are just getting started.

Onions are finally putting on some growth.

In just a few days, these turnips have just about doubled in size.

And the Clematis is just beautiful.

It won’t be long before the garden will be in full swing and need much more tending than it does right now. That means we need to get a few more projects completed while we still have a little more time. You know the old saying, “April showers bring May flowers.” Well, with all of the April showers we’ve had, the wild and tame blackberries are blooming in profusion.

And the honeysuckle won’t be far behind. I pick it almost daily for the goats. It’s good for expelling worms.

We watch the garden grow with great anticipation for that first fresh squash, that first pan of turnip greens, that first red, ripe tomato and much, much more. So, tell me, how is your garden doing this year?

Today we drove about 100 miles to the east to visit one of Frank’s family, which took us through rural eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. We noticed along that way that there weren’t many gardens planted. This is sad. Why aren’t people raising their own food? Sad.

Until next time – Fern
 

Gardening Before it Rains….Again

I’m sorry we’ve been MIW (missing in writing) for the last few days. We’ve been working very hard on getting the garden planted before yet another round of rain comes through. It’s springtime in Oklahoma when we have a few days of rain, then a few days of semi dry, then a few days of rain, then a few days of sunshine. It is always a gamble when we will be able to get the garden planted. Well, we’ve had a few hot, sunny days that we took advantage of and did a lot of planting.

I’m going to treat you to some pictures of dirt. There are newly planted seeds hiding under all that dirt, so you will have to use your imagination for now. This is the beginning of the transformation of bare ground to overcrowded, abundantly (we hope) producing vegetables. Our friend Grace recently sent me an email that described her garden as an empty blank slate. That’s what most of ours looks like as well. But her comment got me to thinking, and my response to her was, “It’s waiting to become a master piece.” You know, that is what gardening is. Through the miracle of germination, photosynthesis and the blessing of rain, millions of tiny little seeds each year turn into an amazing abundance of food. I am always in awe of this yearly miracle.

Here is the garden tour for now. Since we increased the size of the garden by almost a third, I changed the garden plan quite a bit. The original plan is now quite scribbled on, but I know what it says, even if no one else can decipher it.

Remember when we told you that one end of the new garden piece kept breaking the tiller shear pin on the tractor? Well, Frank broke out the disc for the first time ever and broke new ground in one of our pastures, that we have called the garden pasture for many years. We have amended part of this pasture many times with gifts from the chicken house and the barn, so it is very fertile. This year is the year. We are going to plant this area with animal feed. It can also be people feed, but our goal is to decrease the amount of feed we purchase for our animals dramatically. Yea! Another dream come true, almost. Of course, we will have to fight some very vigorous weeds and briars, but I think we are up for the battle.

While Frank had the disc on, he also worked over the new part of the garden that the tiller couldn’t handle. There are some tremendous rocks down on one end of this area. It was so rocky, we couldn’t get the last t-post in for a trellis, so we pounded it in with the bucket on the tractor. But, this is what happened to the first one we tried. Now it looks like a boomerang and is useless as a t-post. After we moved down the row three times, we finally got the last one in.

Now for the dirt tour. Here is the trellis with the stubborn t-posts in the new area of the garden. We have planted pinto beans on both sides of the trellis. If the weather wasn’t trying to fire up with severe thunderstorms, we would also have planted two rows of cowpeas on each side of this trellis. We chose these crops for their ability to help enrich the soil, and for the food they can provide both us and the animals.

 Next up is one of the turnip patches that has been planted for a while. The seedlings are coming up, along with plenty of grass. As soon as the turnips are big enough, this will be one of the first places that needs weeding.

This next beautiful patch of dirt is planted with alternating rows of spinach, carrots, collards and beets. The blank area of dirt to the right is still empty. The pepper plants will go there, but for now, they are too small to set out. It will be a week or so before they are ready.

The trellis behind this patch in the middle of the row, is planted with cucumber seeds we saved year before last, and zinnias. And speaking of zinnias, they are liberally planted all over the garden, to discourage pest insects, and encourage predator insects.

The new strawberry bed is behind the cucumber trellis. These are the extra strawberries that had escaped the original bed and moved into the garden. They just got planted today and are ready for a drink. I am hoping the rain that is coming will do that for me. (It did.)

The permanent trellis against this building has hops and clematis growing on it. They are both doing very well this year.

If you use your imagination, you will be able to see some small hills in this area. This is where the Buttercup winter squash is planted. For the past two years we have planted our winter squash in July or so. This has not worked out at all, so I am planting it at the beginning of summer, just like our yellow squash. Not only will these be stored for our use, but they make great animal feed. We will be planting them up in the garden pasture as well. The small trellis to the right, by the building, is planted with pickling cucumbers. I plan to try my hand at fermented pickles this summer. If I understand it right, this will give us crunchy pickles, which we like, along with the benefits of fermentation.

The next trellis will support our Rutgers and Arkansas Traveler  tomatoes we grew from seed. Down both sides of the trellis carrot seedlings or seeds have been planted. It really is true that carrots love tomatoes. I have tried this for several years and they grow very well together.


 

On the other side of this trellis you may be able to see some more squash hills. This is where the straight neck yellow squash will grow. I have tried to separate the squashes simply to confuse the bugs. We are growing quite a bit of squash this year, but instead of putting them all together, I’m experimenting with alternating them with other crops. We’ll see how it goes.

Next is another trellis with pinto beans planted on both sides, with carrots planted down each side about 10 inches out from the beans. We are going to use immature pinto beans for green beans this year. A friend of ours told us about this practice. We can pick them young and can them as green beans, then when we have enough canned for the year, we will let the beans mature into pinto beans and can them as well. Kind of like a dual purpose bean. I will be very interested to see how this works out.

Our last type of squash is planted next to this bean trellis, which is a Cushaw winter squash. I planted the seeds we saved from one of our few mature squash from last summer. We hope they are viable and will produce a good crop.

The next area is another experimental area. I planted two rows of okra with a row of cow peas on either side. Last summer I was surprised at how long and vine like the cowpeas grew. This year we are going to see if the cow peas will grow up the okra plants.

The other end of the new portion of the garden is planted in a similar fashion. We put one row of okra down the center with cowpeas on either side. Then we filled up the rest of the bed with three rows of peanuts on either side. The okra will not improve the soil, but the cowpeas and peanuts will.

Next to the okra/cowpea area in the garden is the portion that was planted previously and we have already shown you. The onions are starting to grow, kind of. The broccoli, green cabbage, Chinese cabbage and beets are growing well. 



Beets
Broccoli
Chinese cabbage

Cabbage

  

 

I planted the new comfrey roots over in this corner. I originally planned to spread them into a larger space, but they were outgrowing their tubs and it will still be a while before the rest of the area is ready to plant.

The salad fixings I planted in front of the herb bed are doing okay. I will be giving them some of the manure tea and whey sometime in the next few days. 

Kohlrabi
Lettuce

Lettuce
Lettuce
Spinach
Swiss Chard

The turnip patch by the herb bed is doing very well. It will be time to thin the plants and pull some weeds before long.

So there you have it, our garden of mostly dirt, for this year. I still need to plant the peppers when they are big enough, put the cowpeas into the stubborn end of the new bed, plant a few more onions, and figure out what I want to put in an empty portion of the new bed in front of the herb bed. And then there is the new garden in the pasture to play with. This is our blank slate awaiting to become a master piece.


I hope spring is treating you well, and you are able to make a dream or two come true in your life. It usually takes a lot of work to realize a dream, but it is well worth the effort.

Until next time – Fern

Starting the Fall Garden

Now that we completed the unscheduled plumbing repair, it is time to start planting our fall crops. This is the area where we grew potatoes in the spring.

 

We dug them up and tilled this space again to use for some of our fall crops. We are trying to reclaim some of this area. It has been left to the weeds for a few years and they are very happy there. It has been tilled several times this year and we plan to use a heavy mulch around the fall crops in an effort smother out more weeds.

These corn stalks will be part of the mulch back against the fence area. It will add some good organic material as well as help with weed control. Or at least that is what we hope, we will see how it goes.

Some of the seedlings we planted last week are ready to go in the garden. It doesn’t take long for winter squashes, melons and greens to be ready to plant.
 

The broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, snap peas, spinach and kale will be ready to plant in a few days. Today I thinned out the seedlings. It is good to know that the 3 year old seeds I planted are still viable. 

Now that I have rolled up more pots, it’s time to start more seeds.

We are growing Detroit Dark Red beets for us, but I am also trying some Sugar Beets for goat feed. They are a mangel beet that has been used for stock feed in the past. They are also good for beet sugar which we will try to make if we have a harvest. We are planting collards, turnips and parsnips, too. This is part of our effort to grow at least some of the feed for our animals. We are very interested to see how these will grow and store over the winter.

And then we are trying carrots again.We are encouraged by our spring carrot crop even though they were rather gnarled up. We tilled this end of the garden deeper (thus, finding the grey water line), so we hope our root crops do better this time.

For now, the winter squashes are planted.

 

The Buttercup, Cushaw and Acorn are all tucked back in this corner. Since they vine out and tend to cover a lot of ground, this corner will be filled before long.

The melons are tucked in between the new overgrown strawberry bed and the potato patch.

We are planting potatoes that we grew in the spring. Since a spring potato crop is ready to harvest in June here, the potatoes don’t keep all winter very well. We have wanted to try a fall crop of potatoes for a number of years. Here it is. We hope it produces well.

This is another area that has grown an abundance of weeds for the last few years.

It is very fertile since we ‘stored’ a load of  barnyard there a while back. We are going to try the pumpkin patch here with heavy mulch and cross our fingers.


The mixed baby greens (on the right) were planted in the herb bed between the green tea, lemon balm and oregano. It will be nice to eat a few of these, but I plan to dry most of them for the goats.

This area in front of the winter squashes will be for the beets, carrots, parsnips and turnips. Then there is the cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, collards and spinach to be tucked in somewhere. Oh, and don’t forget the snap peas. They will be finding a home here as well. Yes, we do an intensive garden, using as much space for production as possible. So, it’s always an obstacle course to get to what we are trying to harvest.
We will keep you updated on our progress with the fall garden as we learn to grow more food – for us and our animals.
Until next time – Fern