Monday, July 30, 2012

Do You Know How to Make Butter?

I think making your own butter is one of those critical skills you will find quite useful if you ever have to live without electricity for any length of time - say like the two to three weeks the east coast just experienced. Under such circumstances, having butter for bread would be a real morale booster!  It is also fun and easy to make for everyday use. The best part, is you don't need any special equipment.

Just like in your great-grandmother's time, it is not necessary to put butter in the refrigerator. I will show you how to seal it so the butter stays fresh on the table- just as your great-grandmother did.

There is a shelf stable cream that you can add to your food storage program that works well to make butter. With this type of cream you can even make (and eat) butter without using electricity! I have purchased and used this cream.  It is delicious, good for cooking and makes good whipped cream as well as great butter.  I would take a picture of one of my boxes, but I am out at the moment.  I usually don't purchase it in the summer because it has to be shipped to my area. In the heat, I am afraid it will go bad. You can purchase it in stores if you live in Utah. I will resupply my stock come fall.

Here is a picture of the type of cream I use. I purchased mine from here

Today, I am using cream I purchased at a grocery store.

The first step is to prepare the cream. If using cream from the store, let it sit out on the counter until it is almost room temperature.  If using shelf stable cream, refrigerate it until it is chilled. If you don't want to chill it, that is OK, it will just take longer to turn to butter. 

I usually make butter in a quart canning jar. This makes it easy to see what is happening throughout the butter making process. Fill the jar half way with cream.  Whatever container you use, don't fill it more than half way because the cream will expand to fill the jar as you are making the butter.  Here is my glass jar.

 Now, all you have to do is shake the jar. That's it!  Really!  If using room temperature cream from the store, it shouldn't take more then 5 - 6 minutes.  If using shelf stable cream, it can take up to 30 minutes. Here is my jar after a few minutes of shaking.  You can see how the cream expands to fill the jar.

The first phase you will see the cream get to is whipped cream.  Since everyone knows what whipped cream looks like, I won't show a picture.  The next phase you will see the cream go through is a grainy phase.  The butter is just starting to form and is in small bits.  The cream hasn't separated yet, but has a grainy look about it.

Keep shaking, it is almost butter!  The butter will soon separate from the buttermilk.  You will know when it has separated. It looks like a ball of butter sitting in a jar of milk. That is real buttermilk - great for making bread!  Please don't throw it away. This is what it looks like.

Shake it for a few more minutes to make sure you get all the butter out of the buttermilk. Then, using a slotted spoon, remove the butter from the jar.  The slotted spoon is key here because you want to drain the buttermilk from the butter. 

When you take the butter out of the jar, place it in a bowl of cool water.  You can also add a few pieces of ice to the water the first few times you make butter.  This will firm the butter up a bit and give you better control over it. After you have a bit of experience, you won't need the ice.

Next, wash the butter.  You must wash the butter to get all the buttermilk out. This is not a step you can skip.  The butter will not be edible if you don't wash it. (Ask me how I know this!) 

To wash the butter, you are going to knead it in the water until the water turns milky white. You can do this one of two ways - you can knead it by hand or you can use the back of the spoon to press the butter against the side of the bowl.  When I first started making butter, I would knead by hand.  Now, I use the spoon and press the butter against the bowl. A slotted spoon is key here  as it makes the work go faster. Our great-grandmothers would wash their butter on a butter table and squeeze the buttermilk out with a rolling pin.

The picture does not show how truly milky the water is, wait until you try and you'll see for yourself.  The next step is to change the water and repeat the process.  Press the butter against the side of the bowl until the water turns milky white. Change the water and repeat, again.  You will continue to do this until the water is completely clear after pressing the butter against the bowl.  Then, change the water and repeat twice more. I picked up this bit of advice from Carla Emery in her book, The Encyclopedia of Country Living. After having tried it many times, I agree with this advice 100%. It is definitely worth the time and effort. The butter tastes better if rinsed very well. The total washing time is about 10 minutes.

Now, it is time to drain the water from the butter. At this stage in the process I put my butter on a sheet of freezer paper.  If you chill the butter now, the water will pool out faster.  However, it isn't necessary. I place mine on a cookie sheet at a slight angle and let it drain.

After the water drains from the butter, you can now add salt if you want.  I lightly salt mine and then mix well by folding the butter on itself.  I then taste and add more salt if needed.

Once the butter is drained and salted to taste, transfer it to a storage container.  If you want to put it in the refrigerator, you can use any kind of container. If you want to leave the butter on your counter or kitchen table, you should place it in a butter crock.  You can purchase a butter crock from many different places over the Internet.  You can find more information about a butter crock here.  This is my butter crock. The butter goes in the top piece.  The bottom is filled with water.  When you place the two pieces together, the water creates a seal around the butter keeping it fresh. 

In my experience using this crock, the butter will stay fresh for about 15 days in the summer (78 degrees in the house) and 30 days in the winter (68 degrees in the house).

And there you have it!  Your own homemade butter!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cooking without Electricity: A Number 10 Can Stove

This is the sixth post in the series Cooking without Electricity.  I really enjoy experimenting with different ways to cook without heating up my kitchen.

I have been wanting to make a small stove top with a number 10 can for a while now.  I saw this posted on another blog a few years ago and added it to my emergency binder.  Here is the original post that I saw: Tin Can Stove.

This post is my interpretation of  cooking with a number 10 can and the lessons I learned with this method.

Let's start by making the stove.

Start with a used number 10 can that has been washed.  For the number 10 can, you will need tin snips.  The second can in the picture is a tuna can.  It will hold the heat source. The aluminum foil will be used to control the flame.

Start by making four or five holes in the can for the chimney. A simple, old fashioned can opener works well for this purpose. 

Next, make a 'door' opening for access to the flame.  The directions in the original post said to make two cuts in the can, 3 inches long and 3 1/2 inches apart.  That is what I did.  I broke the tin snips in the first picture (they were really old) so I had to get new ones. Be sure to wear eye protection when cutting metal with the tin snips.

Make the heat source.  Begin by cutting the top of a cardboard box into strips. Use corrugated cardboard and cut across it so the holes show. The strips should be about the same width as the tuna can.

Then, roll the strips tightly, and place in the tuna can.

Melt some paraffin and pour into the tuna can.  The wax is used as a the fuel, the cardboard as the wick.   Please be careful when heating the wax, use a double boiler, follow the safety precautions on the package of wax, and have a fire extinguisher handy.

As an alternative, you can cut some paraffin and melt it on top of the cardboard. Light the cardboard and then place a piece of paraffin on top. Do not do this inside. Use reasonable safety procedures. For example, I lit it on my grill  just for the added safety.

I had a bit of difficulty getting the cardboard to light. But, once it started going the wax melted easily.  I added two pieces of paraffin, the equivalent of one of the bars in the box of wax. 

Be particularly careful with this stage of the project. After I lit the cardboard and melted the wax, I could not blow it out.  I had to get another can that was slightly bigger to cover the lit wax and cardboard in the tuna can. This did smother the flame. One of my key take away's from this was to prepare a simple cover capable of smothering the flame and keep it close to the tuna can.

When ready to cook, gather all the supplies. Notice the cover for the tuna can in the picture? Before beginning to actually cook, you will need to create a damper so you can control the flame.  I used heavy duty aluminum foil. Cut a sheet about 18 x 15 and fold one end at the three inch mark.  Continue folding over until all the foil is used.

Since I wasn't familiar with this method of cooking, I wanted to keep the first trial simple. Toward that end, I decided to just boil water for instant potatoes.  Since I wasn't going to cook directly on the can, I used a can opener to remove the top of the stove. 

I must reiterate the need to use common sense here.  I put this stove on a cookie sheet that was placed on a cinder block.  The block is on my patio.  The block was well away from anything that could catch fire. This type of stove should never be used indoors.  Have a fire extinguisher handy when you light the flame.

I lit the cardboard, and placed a number 10 can on top of it. Then I placed a pan of water on top of the can.  (I soaped the bottom of the pot to make it easier to clean when I was finished.)

In this picture you can see the flame.

 It only took about 2 1/2 minutes for the water to start boiling!

A few lessons I learned in making and using this stove:
  • It was easy to make.  If you have food storage, you will have plenty of number 10 cans and tuna cans. It's not difficult to cut the cans.
  • I was not happy with cardboard and wax as a fuel source.  When I lit the cardboard and added the wax, it smoked quite a bit and had a strong odor.  I am not sure if it was from the tuna can or the wax or a combination of both. The combination of smoke and the odor was quite strong. When I lit it again to heat the water,  I tried to use the damper to control the flame, but the damper didn't help much on the smoke and odor.  Again, I think it was the odor that bothered me the most. 
  • If you want to cook something without anyone else noticing, I don't believe this is the method to use.  Both the smell and the smoke carried well. They would make it difficult to remain discreet.
  • It might be possible to use this method with an alternative fuel source.  In an emergency, I may try it again with Fired Up! or maybe camping fuel in a can.
  • I think think the next time I want to boil water I will use a Kelly Kettle or a Dakota Fire Hole

 I just got a Kelly Kettle so expect a post on that soon! 

Have you ever used this method to cook with?  If you have, I would love to hear your review and lessons learned in the comments!

If you liked this post, you may also like other posts in the Cooking Without Electricity series:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Garden Update: My Version of the Three Sisters

Native Americans grew vegetables using the three sisters as a staple.  The three sisters consist of corn grown in hills, pole beans grown up the corn for support and pumpkins or squash grown between the hills. The three plants are perfect companion plants and seem to thrive when together.

This year, I tried using the three sisters method. However, my interpretation of this type planting is probably a bit different from both the early Native Americans and most other modern gardeners.

First:  I used an experimental hybrid sweet corn. My choice had nothing to do with efficient gardening, I got the seeds for free. It seemed like a perfect way to put them to good use.  You are supposed to plant the corn in a mound of dirt - I didn't do that because it was hot outside and I didn't want to stay out in the heat. Since I planted them on a whim anyway, I didn't do a whole lot of soil preparation.  Instead, I made a mini mound out of commercial potting soil and then added some fertilizer.  Then I mulched with pine straw.

Second:  I planted Seminole Pumpkins for the squash.  Even though these plants are called pumpkins, they act and taste more like winter squash.  They do extremely well here in the hot and humid south.  Bugs don't bother them and they are highly disease resistant.  A perfect winner in my book. They went in the raised beds about 20 feet away from the corn and are growing in the direction of the corn. I suspect they will also surround my fig tree before they are done this fall.

Third:  I planted some pole beans that I bought two years ago but never used.  They are called Kentucky Blue.  They are a cross between Kentucky Wonder and Blue Lake.  Both of  these two pole beans are open pollinating (OP's).  And the cross produced a stable OP called Kentucky Blue.  I am excited to finally try them. The beans went in last - I just planted them about 9 days ago.  They are now up and growing.

All of these plants are 'late' plantings (too late if you listen to the experts).  However, I have approximately 85 days from today until my first average frost so I routinely plant summer crops until late July.  I just make a mental note to plant varieties that will produce within a 90 day window.  All three of these plants will produce this year.

Here is my three sisters garden.  Since the beans just came up, you can't see them in this picture yet.

Here is one of the beans.

I also transplanted one of the tobacco plants to the front yard landscaping.  This one is right by my front door.  I noticed all the tobacco had aphids on them when I planted this one.  Easy enough to fix, I washed most of them off with the hose and then sprayed each plant with tomato leaf spray.  You can find out how to make tomato leaf spray here.

 Tobacco in my front yard landscaping.

I planted the last 100 green beans last week as well. To can the green beans this year, I had to order a new dial pressure gauge for my pressure canner. The old one didn't pass the calibration test at the county extension office. I am glad I didn't plant all 260 green beans at the same time! My freezer would not have been able to hold them all. The new pressure gauge should be here next week and I can start canning. 

I am up to 45 summer squash and counting.  I hope I can make it to 200 by October 1st. I need at least 121 to make it all year without buying any, however, I would like to get to 200.  At this rate, I think the final number may be closer to 160.

Nothing yet is happening with the soapwart seeds. But, I FINALLY got the woad to germinate!  I am thrilled - next year I can use it to dye some of the yarn I am spinning.  If you haven't read any of the previous garden update postings, woad has been used for centuries to dye yarn.  It would be very common to see woad growing in herb gardens of centuries past.  I have had a bit of difficulty getting this to grow in my garden- but not any more!  I will take a picture and show you when the plants get a few true leaves. 

I hope you are having a fun and successful season in your garden this year!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Canning the Summer Harvest

This is the time of year that God gives us a bountiful harvest. A wise and frugal person would take full advantage of the season's lower prices on fresh produce at the grocery store.  Or, even better, take advantage of the wonderful summer weather and grow some produce yourself. 

When the bounty comes in, what are you going to do with it all?  You can blanch and freeze excess vegetables and fruits. However, unless you have a extra large freezer you will soon realize that this is not the best solution.

One idea you might consider is canning your extra produce. Once you get the hang of it, it really is quite easy to do.  The key is to watch the temperature and timing.  I can a lot of different things: green beans, applesauce, apple juice, apple pie filling, cranberry sauce, tomato sauce, pizza sauce, blueberry pie filling, orange marmalade, mustard, ketchup, and peaches in light syrup. 

I would like to add to that list. If I ever get enough carrots and/or peas at one time I plan to can those as well.  In addition, I have a goal this year of canning some chicken.  It would be really convenient to use canned chicken in a quick meal when I am super busy at work.

To show you how easy it is to can produce yourself, I thought I would give you an overview of the steps involved in canning.  Now, different recipes required different canning times and low acid foods (vegetables and meats) require a pressure canner. The best book I have found on this subject is The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. The recipes in this book have been tested for safety.  When you strictly follow the directions in this book you can be assured that the food you can will be safe to eat.

In the south, July is the month for peaches. It is amazing to me that peaches taste so sweet when picked right off the tree. If you have an opportunity to pick your own peaches, do so!  It is a lot of fun and the peaches are the best!  We recently took a day trip to a peach farm and bought a bushel of peaches.  That is about 46 lbs of peaches!  After eating more peaches than I can remember, it was time to do something with the rest.  I put some in the freezer.  These will be used to make peach yogurt and peach ice cream.  The rest were canned in light syrup.  Here is what I did.

I like to can peaches in slices.  I found that more fit in the jar when they are in slices (vs. halved). So the first things that must be done are to peel the peach, remove the pit, slice and treat for browning.  Peaches will brown when exposed to the air (just like apples). To treat the peaches, I dip them in a bowl of water mixed with a few teaspoons of ascorbic acid.

 While doing this, start to prepare the syrup.  Traditionally, fruit has been packed in light, medium or heavy syrup. However, in the Ball Canning Book, there are now recipes to pack fruit in unsweetened apple juice, pineapple juice, white grape juice or even water if you prefer.  I am using a light syrup.

Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar, stirring until it is dissolved. Once the syrup mixture is boiling, turn the heat down to simmer until you are ready to can. When the peaches are ready, add a layer of peaches to the syrup and heat for one minute.  Then, add another layer.  Repeat until all the peaches have been added to the syrup.

There are directions in the Ball Canning Book for hot packing the peaches (heating them first) or raw packing the peaches.  I usually hot pack.  Since I am hot packing, I let the peach sit in the syrup for a few minutes while the jars are heating up.

I would like to stress again that I am not providing complete instructions here, just an overview. Do get the Ball Canning Book and follow the directions provided in the book.

I place clean pint jars (you can use quart jars as well) in the canner and let the water get to just below boiling. 

Also while the jars are heating up, I wash new lids and set them on simmer.

When everything is hot, I pack the peaches in the jars.

When the jar is full, add some syrup to 1/2 inch from the top of the jar.  There is a tool you can use to help you measure.

Also, gently insert the tool down the side of the jar to remove any air bubbles.

Next, place the lid on the jar.  Wipe the rim of the jar with a wet cloth to ensure it is clean. The lid won't make a good seal if the jar isn't clean.

Place the lid on top and screw on the canning ring.  This ring should only be finger tip tight.  It will loosen during the canning process but that is OK. You will need it loose so air can escape. Then place the jar back in the canner.

 When you have filled all the jars, place the lid on the canner. This recipe only requires a water bath canning.  However, different elevations require different processing times. This means when the water is at a complete rolling boil, start the timer and process the peaches for the time indicated at your elevation.   

When the peaches have been processed for the required time, remove the canner from the heat.  Remove the canner lid and wait five minutes for the jars to cool slightly.  After five minutes, remove the jars and let them cool on the kitchen counter.

After the jars are completely cool, check each lid to make sure it is sealed.  The center of the lid should be tight to the jar.  If you hear a popping or feel the center of the lid move up and down, the jar did not seal.  Wipe down the sealed jars and place in storage.  If you have a jar that didn't seal, place it in the refrigerator and use the contents within a few days.

And there you have it!  Food you have canned yourself.  Your great-grandmother used to call it 'putting food up' or 'putting food by'.  Back then, it was critical to can food in the summer to ensure the family survived the winter. It is still important today because it allows you the freedom to control the ingredients you put in the jar rather than just accept what you find in the canning isle of the grocery store.

I encourage you to try your hand at canning - it's fun!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cooking without Electricity: Non-Electric Kitchen Appliances

Cooking without electricity in a power outage doesn't just mean finding an alternative way to cook food. In our modern world, most of our kitchen appliances are electric as well. If we were ever without electricity, we would need an alternative way to complete the tasks that are now accomplished using appliances. A few years ago, I decided to solve this problem in my house by replacing my electric kitchen appliances with non-electric ones. I didn't go purchase all new ones at one time, but as the old appliance needed to be replaced, I purchased non-electric alternatives.

So, let me introduce you to some of my favorite appliances.  These appliances all run on human power instead of electricity.  None of them were expensive, especially when compared to the price of a KitchenAid Food Processor.

I no longer have a standard mixer. Instead, I now reach for the two hand crank beaters shown on the left. Need to make spaghetti or macaroni noodles? I use a hand crank machine to make my pasta. Same applies to the apple peeler, corer and slicer. My Victorio strainer allows me to make tomato sauce and applesauce without electricity and a green bean slicer helps me to make french cut green beans the same way.

If I need to grind flour or chop nuts, I usually use these.

 My journey to all non-electric appliances is not complete. I hope to get a hand crank blender soon and I want a hand crank ice cream maker as well. 

This does not mean that I have abandoned ALL my electric kitchen appliances. For some situations the convenience of electric appliances just far out weighs the advantages of hand cranking. In other situations, the only alternative to electric appliances would be to purchase processed food at a store. For example, when my job gets very busy and I have tight deadlines, I will use a bread machine. 

My bread machine is really on it last leg - it makes horrible noises when the paddle moves. However, I really don't want to buy a new one - I would rather do without and make it all by hand.  I was mentioning this to one of my friends from church and she told me about another friend who had a hand crank bread machine. Really! I had to go and see it. She was kind enough to let me take pictures of it.

Isn't this thing amazing? To give you some scale, that bucket is big enough to hold dough for nine loaves of bread. When her children were young, she used to make bread once a week and made nine loaves at a time. She told me it is easy to crank and does an excellent job on the dough. Imagine, no more kneading by hand! 

In case you are thinking you can go buy one of these, this machine was made by her father. He made one for her mother when she was a small girl and then made one for her and each of her sisters when they got older.

As you read through the Cooking without Electricity series and print some of the ideas for your food storage binder, don't forget to think about how you are going to prepare your food for cooking. You may want to acquire some kitchen tools that use human power instead of electricity.

If you liked this post, you may also like other posts in the Cooking without Electricity series:

Here's even more posts you may like about Living without Electricity:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Where Do You Put Your Food Storage?

How are you coming with your food storage plan? I know the idea of food storage is new to some of you.  If you don't have a basement, you might be thinking you have no place to put any additional food. This is the time to think creatively!  I don't have a basement either and I have a year's worth of food storage. 

So, I'd like to offer a bit of encouragement and show you a few of the places I put my food storage. I should note that this is the way my closets look.  No cleaning was involved here - I opened the door and snapped the picture.  (I think the statement about the lack of cleaning the closets will be obvious when you see the pictures of them for yourself!)

Now, just for clarification, this does not include the items I am currently using in my pantry.  While I do have some food storage in my pantry (most of it spices), the majority of my food storage is somewhere else in the house.  Let me show you some of the places I put it.

The majority of my stuff is here, under the stairs.

I have a door to the space under the stairs.  It has a concrete floor but I placed plywood over the concrete. What you see here is the food I have stored on the plywood. The boxes to the right hold Number 10 cans full of freeze dried vegetables, fruit and meat. There are five gallon buckets of varius types of wheat in the back with some food on top of them like mayonnaise and peanut butter.  Since all good food storage programs should also include water storage, on the left you can see some of my water boxes. It should be noted that it is not necessary to purchase containers for your water storage, you can use old soda bottles (two liter) that have been cleaned. I know a lot of people who store water this way.

Here are some additional five gallon buckets of wheat. This closet is where we store our winter coats during the summer.

Up on top of this closet is where we store our first aid supplies.

Another closet with some items purchased at the LDS Cannery. This is rice, instant potatoes. pinto beans and some hard white wheat. It is all stored in Number 10 cans. Notice the vinegar in front of the boxes! I got it at Sam's Club. The brown box on top contains some apple juice that I canned myself.

Unfortunately, I do not have any additional closet space that I can devote to food storage. So, I had to get creative.   I've found a handy spot most people don't consider for storage is the space under the bed. Here is what I have under one of our beds This space is reserved for food that I have canned myself from the garden. The boxes that house the jars were originally sent to me in the mail. The dust ruffle is tucked under the box springs for the purpose of the picture.

Here is another bed with some grocery items under it.

I also use my book shelves for storage of canned foods.  Here is one of my bookshelves with a close up of what is behind the books.

To keep it all straight, I have a food storage binder with everything listed in it.

Most of the time, I can find what I want when I need it. However, I must say that sometimes it is a workout removing all the boxes to get something out of storage when it is in the box on the bottom. Someday, I hope to have a room dedicated totally to food storage! 

Where are you putting your food storage? Let us know in the comments!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cooking without Electricity: Campfire Charcoal

It has been raining here all week and I have not been able to test some of the cooking without electricity methods I wanted to show you. So, this week I will share a link to a cooking method from Pioneer Living Survival.  I don't have any current plans to build this thing, but if I found myself without electricity (as recently happened to the east coast), I would have no problem building one of these. 

Your food is less likely to burn when using this cooking method (as compared to an open flame).  I have cooked over an open flame before and something usually ends up burning on the bottom and not completely cooked on the top.

How to Build a Campfire for Cooking

I printed these directions and added them to my food storage binder so I can have it available if I ever needed it. 

If you liked this post, you may also like other posts in the Cooking Without Electricity series:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Garden Update

I am having a frustrating week in the garden.  We  are having nightly thunderstorms and last night's storm knocked over some of the corn.  This morning I moved some of the soil up around the base of the plants to help, but I am not sure it will work. I may have to stake them until the plants are bigger and the severe thunderstorms pass.

I am also having problems with green beans.  I have ants herding aphids and they are everywhere.  (The aluminum foil works wonders on most pests but unfortunately, it has no effect on ants or aphids.) Eliminating this problem requires two steps: get rid of the ants and get rid of the aphids.  Each problem requires a different solution.

The aphids are easier to eliminate and keep off. This is because tomato plant  leaves have toxins in them that kill aphids. The toxin won't harm beneficial bugs, pets or humans. (Well, as long as you don't ingest it.); but to the aphid bug, it is toxic. You can use the toxin as a natural pesticide. Here is how you make it:

Chop enough tomato leaves to make two cups. I prefer not to chop with a good knife or use a cutting board so I cut them with scissors. Don't chop the stems - this works best with just the leaves.

Making an insecticide with tomato leaves.

Soak the leaves in two cups of water.  It is best to soak them overnight. If the aphid infestation is severe and you can't wait for the tomato leaves to soak overnight, spray them off with a blast of water while you are making this insecticide. 

After soaking, the water will turn brown. Strain the leaf pulp from the liquid and discard the leaves. I used some garden insect fabric so I could just toss it when I was finished. It is dark at the bottom of this picture, but you might be able to notice how brown the water is after soaking overnight.

After straining, pour the liquid into a spray bottle.  Add an equal amount of water.  My spray bottles are small and they only have a two cup capacity.  So, I added one cup of the tomato leaf liquid and one cup of water. Now, add a few drops of liquid dishwashing liquid and you are ready to spray on the aphids. Be sure to always label your bottles for safety.

This can be used on any plant but I am only going to spray the green beans. As I mentioned in previous posts, I had an aphid problem on the grapes as well. However, that problem was solved by the ladybugs that made my backyard their new home.

I found what I needed to take care of the ants at a visit to a garden center.  This is what I bought.

Diatomaceous Earth is extremely effective on any crawling insect. However, it is only effective as long as it stays dry.  After it rains, you will need to re-apply it. Sprinkle it around the base of each plant.  Make a ring around the plant so that the ants will contact it if they try to climb the plant. As long as you don't breath it in or get it in your eyes, it is safe for humans and pets. You can even purchase food grade diatomaceous earth and use it in your food storage grain buckets to keep the bugs out. This box is not food grade quality.

While these organic bug solutions may take a bit more work to make and apply, I definitely think it is worth the time if keeps the garden bug free without chemicals!

On a good note, the strawberries continue to flower and I am also still picking blueberries. I apologize that the blueberries in the picture are a little hard to see.

The strawberries are still flowering.

 We are still picking blueberries.

 The peanuts are now flowering.  The picture below shows Spanish peanuts. You can see some of the yellow flowers at the bottom of the picture. The Virginia Jumbo peanut seeds I purchased this year were bad.  They didn't germinate at all.  So the few Virginia Jumbo peanuts I do have growing are from last year.  I am going to have to save them all for next year's seed so I do not have to purchase additional peanut seed next year.  I also had a bit of a germination problem with the Spanish peanuts. The germination rate on the Spanish peanuts was about 60%.  That is what I get for purchasing seed from a company I didn't know! 

Peanuts are flowering.

Everything else in the garden is doing very well.  The tobacco is getting tall.  I will take a picture of it when I transplant it to the front yard landscaping. The squash is producing like gang busters! I have lots of tomatoes and the pumpkin vines have almost reached the corn!

If you are having a gardening problem you can't solve, email me or comment below.  I would be happy to help!

Happy Gardening!