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Sneaky Snails Slaughtered My Seedlings!

The sad remains.

I even caught the little bastards in the act. Yes, they were fed to the chickens.

Let me start by saying that, despite a few past attempts, I’ve never successfully grown my own transplants so I went into this whole thing with pretty low expectations of success. Now that said, damn this loss stings! Particularly because it was going so well up until now.

I started cucumbers and three kinds of tomatoes — Texas Wild Cherry, Punta Banda, and Cherokee Purple. In an effort to mimic a cold frame setup, I kept the flat in a plastic bin with a clear front window that I moved out into the sun during the day and back into the house at night as I went too and from the chicken coop. I was even remembering to water them, sometimes twice a day!

I just read How to Grow More Vegetables, so once the seedlings were big enough, I followed John Jeavons ‘pricking out’ method. I really was trying so hard to take good care of them!

Cucumber close-up.

Seedlings about to be ‘pricked out’.

For two weeks, I kept them up on the deck. Then, after watching them for a few days, it seemed like they weren’t growing very well. I thought maybe a little more light and heat might help so I put them on the ground in the greenhouse. Bad call. The next day the little plants I was so proud of were just sad, chewed off stems. And now even the stems are gone. To say this makes me a sad panda is putting it lightly.

In order to harvest before the heat becomes an issue, these plants would have gone in the ground around March 15th (two weeks from now) so it’s too late in the season to start again with these vegetables.

My only consolation at this point is that I made some progress this year. I can get seeds started now and I couldn’t before, so I’ll just have to be satisfied with that and this painful snail lesson for now.

Lemon

I chose lemons as my ingredient for November specifically because I could use my own, homegrown lemons! I made eighteen jars of Spiced Honey to give away as holiday gifts and two Creamy Lemon pies for Thanksgiving.

My Lemon Tree

My Lemon Tree

My Lemon Tree

Four years ago, for my 30th birthday, my brother and sister-in law gave me a Satsuma tree. I loved it so much that every birthday since, I’ve gotten myself a new citrus tree companion for it. This Dwarf Meyer Lemon was the first companion, 2010, my 31st birthday. It’s my favorite by far, (Sorry, Satsuma), because it’s been the most productive. This is the third year I’ve gotten lemons from it — the first year I harvested four, last year eight and this year eighteen.

Spiced Honey

I chose the Spiced Honey recipe from my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for a few reasons: I thought it would make a great gift, I had enough lemons for it, and I could buy honey in bulk from the farmers’ market. (Next year, when I make this again, I hope to make it with honey from my own hives, in addition to the homegrown lemons.)

Since I’ll be giving the jars of honey away as gifts, I’ve made the recipe its own page and will be including the link on the jar labels so that anyone who likes it can make it again.

Lemons floating in honey

Clove-studded lemons and cinnamon sticks floating in honey.

I made two batches and tripled the recipe both times. The first batch, I mis-read the instructions and cut the lemons into wedges. I realized my mistake and cut the lemons into the rounds pictured above the second time.

The first batch was delicious — the honey was much less sweet, with very subtle hints of the lemon, cinnamon and cloves. We used an entire jar in one weekend, just in our tea. But I’m sure it would be just as good on biscuits or freshly baked bread.

We haven’t tried the second batch yet, but I’m curious if the lemon flavor will be more pronounced in those jars with the lemon rounds, as opposed to the first-batch jars with the lemon wedges.

Creamy Lemon Pie

This pie is quickly becoming an annual, holiday tradition for us. I made this lemon pie recipe for the first time, three years ago, and it was the first thing I ever made with an ingredient I had grown myself. I proudly took it to Thanksgiving that year and it was a huge hit. I made it again last Thanksgiving, that time with two of the ingredients coming from my yard: the eggs and the lemons.

This year, I messed the whipped cream topping up and wasn’t going to put my pie out for Thanksgiving (there were seven other pies after all), but despite the whipped cream flub, it ultimately ended up on the table by popular demand. (‘Demand’ being the key word there.)

Anyway, I love making this pie for a many reasons that have nothing to do with how it tastes. (But don’t get me wrong, it tastes amazing!)

Lemons being juiced for the Thanksgiving Lemon Creme Pie

Juicing the lemons for Creamy Lemon pie.

* The title of this post is totally a nod to the U2 song. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since I started writing this.

Persimmons Aplenty

I went out to the Farm this weekend to see if there was fruit on any of the American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) trees.

American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) tree in mid-October.

American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) tree in mid-October.

I felt a few of persimmons and they are still rock hard. I found out after I got home that I probably should have harvested some while I was there, since they will ripen off of the tree just fine. Hopefully there will still be plenty next time.

From Wikipedia: “The fruit is high in vitamin C. The unripe fruit is extremely astringent. The ripe fruit may be eaten raw, cooked or dried. Molasses can be made from the fruit pulp. A tea can be made from the leaves and the roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute. Other popular uses include desserts such as persimmon pie, persimmon pudding, or persimmon candy. The fruit is also fermented with hops, cornmeal or wheat bran into a sort of beer or made into brandy. The wood is heavy, strong and very close-grained and used in woodturning.”

These trees are doing so well on the Farm, I’m curious about grafting Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) varieties onto them.