Tips & Tricks: Compost

Have you ever discovered a technique that makes you feel like a genius even though you didn’t create it? Or at least, once you start doing it and realize how much easier it makes your life, you ask yourself why you didn’t start doing it earlier? I have!

I know freezing your food scraps for composting isn’t anything new, but I started doing it this year and every time I put another banana peel or cucumber end or apple core into the grocery bag in my freezer, I feel like I’m somehow beating the system.

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Banana peels! Eggshells! Cherries past their prime!

My compost bin is nothing fancy. The top is hard to get off. Although, raccoons figured it out, prompting me to keep a big ol’ rock on it. Worse, it’s at the bottom of what I call our “canyon,” which is at the back of our backyard.

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You can sorta-kinda see the compost bin sitting there in the shadows at the edge of the woods.

This picture is deceiving. It’s a steep hill and such a pain to walk down just to deposit an apple core. Not too mention mosquitoes and the possibility of snakes (I’ve seen one before). I don’t like going down there. And, I’ve done the counter-top compost container to hold scraps. Blech. As if I need a pot of mold sitting on my counter.

I am a lazy composter. I don’t bother with making sure my ratios are right–adding enough “brown stuff.” And, I rarely turn it. I let Ricky Raccoon and his family do that. See, they chewed through a vent near the bottom and every time I add, they come along and scoop whatever their creepy little paws can out of it.

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Raccoon Aftermath

I feel like I’m somewhat co-existing with these creatures. Because they get compost scraps, they don’t come up the canyon. (Although, we had a teen-aged raccoon in our garbage can twice this summer, prompting us to put a big ol’ rock on top of THAT.) They end up “mixing” my compost because when I make my journeys down the canyon, I’m always sure to use a shovel to scoop up all the debris they’ve scattered.

Anyway, because I’m now freezing my food scraps, I only head down to the bin once a week. Maybe every week and a half. It’s wonderful! Why didn’t I do this sooner?!

Jalapeños from Garden to Jar

On a whim, I added a jalapeño plant to my garden. I figured I couldn’t go wrong since I love spicy foods. This past week, I had 4 gorgeous jalapeños ready to be picked.

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Four beauties all in a row.

I mean, my crappy phone pics taken with range hood lighting just don’t do the deep, lustrous green color of these peppers justice.

The problem with just having one plant is that I’ll never get enough to do anything significant with. I doubt I’m going to make poppers with just 1 or 2 or 4 jalapeños. And, that’ll never be enough to can.

That’s why this year I’m doing this:

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Garden Chart

I’m recording how much I’m harvesting this year. It should give me a good idea of how many plants I need if I want to can the produce.

I digress, though, back to the jalapeños. I did find this recipe from Simply Scratch for refrigerator jalapeño slice pickles. It looked easy enough and it didn’t make a gallon of pickling juice, so I was in.

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I didn’t do anything crazy to increase the heat like roll them and I wore kitchen prep gloves, because I’m not a fool.
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Warming everything up.

Let me tell you how much I love garlic. I love the smell of fresh garlic. Maybe next year my garden will be all jalapeños and garlic. I was concerned about the amount of sugar, though. I didn’t want these to be sweet. But, in the end there’s just a little hint of sweetness that is perfect!

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Into the jar they go!
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It’s a good thing my older sister cans and sends us jams and jellies for Christmas. This half pint jar that originally held her creation was the perfect size.

My 4 peppers didn’t even fill a half pint jar! It may or may not be because I taste-tested a couple of rings while they were soaking in the warm juice. These are so good. I am so happy with how they turned out! They’ll be perfect for topping pizzas, adding to tacos, or shoot, just for snacking.

I’ve never done refrigerator pickles of any sorts, but I’m adding this recipe to my repertoire for when I don’t have too much of anything to do a big batch of canning. I love growing pickling cucumbers and I already have visions of doing spicy pickle slices. Mmmmmm!

Right Now at Combs Canyon

I’d like to report the months of June and July missing. I know we’re still in July, but so much of it’s gone and I don’t know where to. I guess summer likes to speed by.

There’s been so much rain this summer that only once has our rain barrel run dry. This is not only because the rain keeps it full, but because when it rains, we don’t have to water the garden as much. Go figure. It’s hard for me to say we’ve gotten too much rain, because I don’t want to be in a drought. But, I think the copious amount of precipitation did my zucchini plants in. They simply rotted away. I’ll just have to make it a priority to buy some at farmer’s markets. (Especially since last year I found a double chocolate zucchini bread recipe that I really want to make again.)

Our other veggies have done well, though. Let’s take a look around Combs Canyon, shall we?

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The garden from afar. Those Earthtainers are the best. Our tomato plants get so bushy and produce more fruits than the plants in the raised beds. I think next year 100% of our tomatoes will be in Earthtainers.

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Okra in the back. Basil in the middle. Pickling cucumbers in the front. We’ve gotten a lot of cukes this year. It really paid off putting in more plants than last year.

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I don’t like to fight Nature. So, when I noticed a pickling cucumber vine taking hold around one of my okra plants, I went with it and set the vine onto a nearby okra plant for more stability. So far so go. Plus, dangling cukes are easier to spot than ones on the ground obscured by leaves.

So, a few weeks ago, a deer or two thought our garden was a salad bar. They ate the very first of our cherry tomatoes that started to turn red. They also nibbled the leaves of my pickling cucumbers. (Fun fact, the pickling cucumbers themselves are actually kind of prickly. You have to rub off these little “spikes” before eating and deer can’t do that, so they leave the cukes themselves alone.) Last year, I had hung some car air fresheners around the garden and the animals seemed to leave it alone. My husband confirmed this method with some Internet research and we bought a mess of those Magic Tree air fresheners. You know what I’m talking about. Seriously, the deer haven’t come back. Talk about a cheap and easy solution.

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We just picked these today. There’s nothing like throwing a few fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes into your dinner salad. (Or snacking on them!)

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Because Combs Canyon is only in it’s second year, we have to go elsewhere for other produce. One Saturday morning, we got up early (for a weekend) and picked blueberries for 2 hours. There’s about 24 pounds here.

We got those blueberries from Rouster’s. Quite possibly the best reason to get up early on a Saturday.

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The next morning I made blueberry waffles. How could I resist? I have plans for muffins and a crisp or two. And, maybe I’ll try my hand at new recipe or two.

Enjoy the weekend, folks!