Exciting news on the homestead! 

Yesterday, we placed an order with Hoover’s Hatcheries for 15, day old chicks to be shipped to us the week of March 13th!  We are very excited, because CHICKENS and FREE SHIPPING! Our entire order of 15 female chicks, with Mareks vaccinations for all, was 65 bucks and change!

And free shipping! Like, we really cannot get over that… Other hatcheries that sell to Maine charge upwards of $60 for just shipping. And the prices for the chicks are only a bit more. Totally worth it (though, on a side note, the other hatcheries I looked at, Meyer’s  and Murray McMurray, have excellent prices on meat birds, and even with the shipping,so we’ll probably be going with one of those places… I mean check out this Fry Pan Bargain .)

This gives us two weeks to get a brooder set up, and supplies regathered.

So the lowdown on our new chicken breeds-

We are getting a speckled Sussex, a couple Polish, a couple new Amercuanas, an Asian blue, an Amberlink, a golden laced Wyandotte, a Welsummer, a Favorelle, and 4 hatchery choice rare breeds, which could be Silkies or Cochins or Buckeyes, anything considered a rare breed, really… depends on the hatch yield for that day. I couldn’t really make up my mind so I figured hopefully they’ll send me different breeds then what I ordered, and make sure they are cold hardy…. seeing as how they know they are shipping to Maine.

AND the other super exciting news for now, we ordered our seeds from Johnny’s Select Seeds, a Maine company that we really love and feel good supporting with our hard earned dollars. Included in that order, but not limited to- popcorn seed, beets, beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, peas, carrots, peppers and STRAWBERRIES. We got one hundred bare root Honeoye plants, one hundred bare root Sparkle plants and 1000 Alexandria seeds. We’ll be receiving the seeds this month, but the Roots won’t be here until may 17th or so. But that just gives us time to amend the soil to their needs! This is going to be an amazing spring.

Otherwise, its off to the daily rigamarole of housework and making pizza for supper.

Until next time, have a wicked good night!

Garden update 09.14.15 

So I know I promised a post about apple picking, but they aren’t as ripe as we thought they were. So for now I’m going to brag about our wonderful no hands garden.

 It’s been a bountiful year here at Gillis Gardens. So far we have pounds of green beans, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and zucchini in the freezer. We’ve canned tons of jam, pickles, relish and had a fantastic run at maple syrup. We enjoyed fresh salads and are looking forward to canning tomatoes, making sauce and salsa. We’ve had the best pepper season ever, and have dozens of assorted hot peppers drying. I’m making jalapeño poppers today- from peppers we grew!

We’ve had a long summer considering what a rough start we had this year. Winters are long and cold in Maine, but this last one seemed to hit us with a vengeance. As we turn the corner into autumn, we are reminding ourselves to enjoy the craziness of harvest- it’s already getting dark by 7:30… It really is only a hop skip and a jump til thanksgiving. 

Our zucchinis are coming in strong for now

  

Future poppers – recipe to follow sometime this winter I promise

  

These peppers are called Chocolate Bell Peppers, available thru Johnny’s Select Seeds

      

Another shot of our Chocolate Peppers- they turn brown as they ripen

 

This is one of our hot peppers- I think they look like little red lipsticks

  

Just one of our Serrano Pepper plants.

  

Oops! We really don’t like letting our zucchinis get this big, but what can you do?

  

A few onions- we only planted a small bed of yellows this year.

  

We only got the one watermelon to make it this year, but for no effort we’re happy.

  

One of our three cantalopes

  

A record year for our delicata honey boat squash.

  

We use marigolds to deter pests like potato beetles. Plus they’re a pretty addition to the garden.

  

Our days haul- peppers, squash, cucumbers, onions

  

The tomatoes we’ve picked over the last couple days.

  

These beauties will be the subject of a later post

 

Well I’ve got zucchini to shred and freeze, cucumbers to cut for more pickles, and a baby, house, chickens and kitty to care for. 

 

Izzybug and Pepperkitty

 
My next post is all about apples! We’ll probably my next 4 posts, actually. Apples are a big deal in this house. 

So until that time, have a wicked good day.

If you give a girl a zucchini, she makes a loaf of bread….

Give this girl a garden full of them and she’ll have zucchini bread all year long. 

The trick to keeping your gardens abundant zucchini harvest is to freeze it. But, unfortunately, it’s not as if you can just stick whole zucchinis in the freezer and walk away. Nope. You need to shred those suckers down. 

My favorite zucchini recipe only requires one cup of shredded zucchini, so I will be freezing my summer squash in one cup portions. I use my handy 1.25 cup Tupperware containers. This will give our shredded squash room to expand as it freezes.

For this project, get together the following

  • As much zucchini as you, your Tupperware and your freezer can handle at once. These six yeilded 7 cups of shredded squash.
  • Your one cup, freezer safe, comes with a lid, containers.
  • A large bowl
  • A cheese grater that has a small shred option
  • A one cup measuring cup.

    Supplies have been gathered

    First things first, get you zucchinis super clean. You don’t skin these before shredding, so be sure to clean them very well under cold water with a soft bristled veggie brush. We got this one at Walmart years ago and it’s perfect for delicately skinned veggies.

    I use a soft bristled brush to keep from skinning up the zucs

      

    Next, cut off the blossom end of you squash. 

    Using a paring knife, cut off the blossom end… or as Mr.Gillis and I call it, The Butt

      

    Now, shred that zucchini! I like this grater because the small holes are jagged all around, which makes it great for breaking down seeds and skin.

    This is zucchini number 1 down, and it only took about 3 minutes.

      

    Now, once you’ve shredded your squash, start ladling one cup into each of your freezer containers.  I love these little Rubbermaid ones. Well, I love all my Rubbermaid, so it’s a matter of partiality.
      

    I dont worry about getting exactly one cup- as close as possible is good enough

      

    Once the zucchini is in the freezer container, cover it tightly and tap it gently so it’s nice and compacted. Air bubbles are not your friend.

    Make sure to leave room for expansion as it freezes

      

    Three cups of shredded zucchini, ready to become squashsicles

      
    Make room in your freezer and let them sit for at least 24 hours. I’ve gone as far as 48 hours before. 

    This is my second round of freezing zucchini

     
     Once the squash is completely frozen, it’s time to get your Tupperware back by bagging it. If all you have is zip locks, that will be fine short term. But I cannot stress enough how amazing a food saver system is. We found ours for really cheap but we’d easily invest in one at full price knowing now how much money it’s saved us. 
     

    Behold, the squashsicle

      

    When you pull the Tupperware out, the covers might be kinda stuck. A quick fix for this is a bowl of slightly warm water. Dip the container in real quick. Not only will the top come right off, the squashsicle will slid right out as well. 

    Just dunk it in the water real quickly. Any longer then a few seconds and you’ll start melting your hard work.

      

    The top will pop right off at this point

      

    Slid your frozen zucchini, container and all right into your freezer bag.

    I find it easier to deals with if I put the container in right side up, and then flip the bag. I tap the Tupperware and the block falls right out. 

    Place your frozen zucchini in your freezer bag right side up

      

    Flip over the entire bag.

      

    Carefully remove the tupperware container

      

    Get the container out of the bag and close it up. With our food saver sealed bags we’ve kept frozen zucchini shreds for up to the next planting season. 

    Our trusty food saver, hard at work.

      

    One cup of perfectly shredded zucchini, frozen and ready to store for months in our chest freezer

     

    So far we’ve frozen and stored 14 cups of zucchini. In the middle of a cold Maine winter, it’s amazing to grab a block of this stuff, thaw it out over night in the fridge and make fresh zucchini bread. It’s a little bit of the harvest, in the middle of the grey. 

    Well that’s it- the key to keep all that extra zucchini that your neighbors won’t take anymore.

    Until next time, have a wicked good evening.