Long term tomato storage

It’s finally starting to feel like fall here in Southern Ontario. We had an unexpected frost on the weekend that made me fear for our still growing garden, but we made it through fairly well. Sarah in Illinois is feeling the coming fall and looking to prolong her garden too. She’s here today to talk about how she’s trying to store that favourite garden fruit, tomatoes, for as long as possible.

Fall-like temperatures have finally hit Illinois and the cooler weather is a sure sign that the days for getting fresh vegetables from the garden are numbered. I posted earlier that I am learning the ropes of canning, but there are other methods for storing vegetables well after the frost arrives.

When I was choosing the tomatoes that I wanted to plant this year, I had on my list “Long Keeper.” Long Keeper is a variety of tomato by Burpee that is supposed to be great for winter storage. I tried to plant some from seed, but I am still struggling with the hardening off process.

A friend provided me with several varieties of tomatoes that she grew from seed, I was excited to discover that one plant was a “Red October” which is another variety of storage tomato.

Thankfully, this plant did very well and had an abundant supply of fruit.

So now that I have all of these tomatoes, what is the best way to store them?

The info I have gathered from several sources has a few things in common.

  1. Store tomatoes so they are not touching.
  2. Store in a cool (but not cold), dry spot.
  3. Check often for spoilage, since one bad tomato can cause the others to spoil quickly.

When I picked the tomatoes to store, I made sure to pick only the healthiest, firmest tomatoes. I figured that if they are already showing signs of over-ripening there was no reason to attempt to store them. I also picked them in varying degrees of ripeness. I am not sure if they will ripen well in the box or not.

Blitz quickly figured out what I was doing and added his red tomato-colored ball to my bucket. Man, it amazes me how smart he is!

I have a seemingly endless supply of cardboard boxes at work so I picked a shallow box and made a cardboard grid to keep the tomatoes from touching.

To make the grid I cut pieces of cardboard the height of the box (4 inches in this case) and then I cut them the length of the box. Some I cut the length of the short side of the box, and some the longer length. I ended up with 4 longer pieces and 6 shorter pieces. Each box of course will be different and you can adapt it to your needs, but in this case my box was 15 inches by 21 inches. So when I evenly spaced the slats I had 3 inch squares for the tomatoes to sit in.

To get the slats to fit together in a grid I cut slits evenly across each piece. I made sure to cut each slit more than halfway so that the grid fit together nicely.

I was able to fit my slats together fairly easily. None of my measurements were exact so thankfully cardboard is forgiving and I could work everything into place.

Once my grid was in place I was able to fill it with tomatoes.

I have chosen to store the box in the garage attached to our house. This way I can keep a close eye on them to check for spoilage and I know that it will be a while before it freezes out there.

This really is an experiment. I have no idea if I will have garden tomatoes in January, or if they only last into October. So I plan to report back on how it is going and anything I learn along the way.

Have you ever stored tomatoes long term? Any advice for me? Have you ever grown Red October tomatoes?

I feel like this is as good a technique as any, Sarah. I’m curious to see how it works for you.

I received an interesting preserving cookbook last Christmas called Batch, and it talked about how there are so many more preserving techniques than just canning. Cellaring (like what you’re doing) and freezing were two additional techniques along with several others (and yes, there’s a whole section on tomatoes).

I slow roasted a batch of cherry tomatoes on the weekend. They’re super simple to toss in the freezer and then toss onto pizza in the middle of winter. Unfortunately, I got distracted and didn’t check them soon enough and they were beyond roasted by the time I pulled them out. I’m still mourning them a bit. But they’re in the composter now, so I may have some volunteer tomato plants next year.

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Harvest report from Illinois

You saw on Monday that our last hay harvest of this year happened on the weekend. In Illinois, harvest is also underway, although there’s some variation in the crops. Sarah is here today to share a crop report.

Harvest 2017 is officially underway. I say “officially” but that just means that I saw my first combine this week.

If you remember back to some of my spring posts, we had an extremely wet season.

Of course it affected my planting but more importantly it affected the farmers’ planting. Most farmers either had to wait to plant, planted then had to re-plant, or some were just lucky enough that the first planting made it.

With these three scenarios, I find it fascinating that fields that are usually all ready to harvest about the same time are now looking completely different.

I took pictures on my way home one night of different fields of soybeans all in different stages of harvest.

Not at all ready to harvest:

Starting to show signs of the foliage dying:

And almost ready:

The corn is in similar stages:

None of these examples are from the fields that Steve farms. He says that he is about 2 weeks away from cutting his first beans. I think this is going to be a long drawn-out harvest season.

How are crops doing in your area? Have you seen any signs of harvest approaching?

It seems like this has been a good season for hay in our area. The wet weather has meant it just keeps on growing. The farm across the road had at least three cuts, I think. You have me curious about beans and corn, Sarah. I’m going to have to find a field and take a look.

Lots of eggs in Illinois

The flavour of a fresh, home grown egg can’t be beat in my opinion, so an over-abundance of eggs would be welcome around here. Abundance is exactly what Sarah in Illinois has. Add a few chickens to your household, and the eggs quickly pile up. Sarah is here today sharing some of her favourite egg recipes. She’s also seeking suggestions on other ways to use up her bounty.

We still have 7 healthy chickens so that means we have 6-7 eggs to collect every day. Those eggs add up quickly. I really hate to have any waste, so after I have given eggs to our immediate family, I try to use everything that is left.

The most obvious use for eggs is breakfast. I like to scramble a few and add fresh chives and dill from my herb garden before I leave for work. On the weekends, Steve fries them or makes his favorite: omelets. His specialty is filling the omelets with green peppers, onions, tomatoes, cheese, sausage and fried potatoes.

Probably the most common way we prepare our eggs is hard boiling them to have for breakfasts or an easy to grab, high protein snack.

Blitz’s favorite breakfast? Boiled eggs mashed up with butter. No lie.

Our go-to carry-in dish is to make deviled eggs. This past weekend I made them to take to our family reunion and used a basic recipe of mixing the yolk with mayo, mustard and relish. Then I added ranch dressing to thin it out a little. This isn’t Steve’s favorite, but the kids and I like it.

However, even with all of these uses, we still have plenty of eggs left over. So I decided to search for more recipes.

Growing up mom often made a quiche. I think I am going to try this one by Paula Deen.
One dish that I have always been curious about is Eggs Benedict. I have never tried it before but I think this would be an easy recipe to try.

I keep telling myself to make a batch of these scrambled egg muffins and freeze for a quick breakfast on mornings we are running late.

One of our overachieving hens laid this double-yolker.

What would make your egg recipe list? How do you like your eggs for breakfast? What are your favorite ingredients in an omelet?

Mmmmm… eggs. I love eggs. (BTW, I love that spiral egg rack too.) I’m a poached egg person usually. I love dipping toast fingers in the yolk. We also make our own version of McMuffins some weekend mornings. Omelets, quiches and frittatas are a go-to for an easy dinner. If you’re looking for something a little fancier, a strata is a good go-to. I’ve made this one a few times and it’s good.

Mid-summer garden in Illinois

We’re deep into summer, which means the gardens are at their peak (well, they should be… ours is a bit behind as you’ll see later this week). However, Sarah’s garden is going gangbusters in Illinois.

My garden is in full swing. I think the pictures can mostly speak for themselves.

Brussel Sprouts

Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes! Wow!

Tomatillo

Side note on my tomatillo: this is my first time ever growing a tomatillo. The plant looks very green and healthy however, I have not seen anything that resembles any fruit. I only see blooms. I was at first worried that maybe it didn’t get pollinated, but the other day I saw a little bee working hard going from bloom to bloom. I really hope something comes of this little plant!

Watermelon

Peppers

So what am I doing will all of this produce?

Quite a bit is eaten fresh in salads and snacks.

Sometimes I roast it for a delicious side (my favorite way to eat green beans).

And finally, I am learning to can. We brought my mother-in-law over to show us the ropes in canning and so far I have canned:

Ten pints of hot peppers.

Nine quarts of tomato juice. And there will be many more to come. The tomatoes are just now ripening.

And finally 24 quarts of green beans.

I am learning a lot about canning.

For example, when the directions suggest using rubber gloves when canning hot peppers, DO IT!

I am also learning vegetables ripen quickly and all at once. So just because you thought you didn’t have anything planned for the evening, one trip to the garden will change your plans to a late night over a steaming stove top.

And finally I have learned that the small area we had set aside for the few things that my mother-in-law had canned in previous years is way too small and will require new shelves and storage area and a minor remodeling of our laundry room. But of course, that is material for another post.

What do you do with a large harvest? Do you can? Freeze? Dehydrate? Any suggestions on how to use 10 pints of hot peppers?

What an awesome harvest already, Sarah. Well done. I think canning is a necessary part of gardening. We turned most of our tomatoes into ketchup last year, and Matt’s talking about salsa this year. We also pickled a lot of beans. I was skeptical, but I really liked them.

Freezing and dehydrating are also good. My secret with the cherry tomatoes came from Chiot’s Run: garlic, olive oil, roast overnight in a low temperature oven. They turn out almost like sundried tomatoes. Then I toss them in freezer bags and into the freezer. Really good with pasta or pizza.

How to rescreen a screen door

Fresh country air is one of the best parts of summer living on the farm. But summer on the farm also means bugs, so screens are an absolute necessity. Sarah in Illinois is here today to share how she fixed her screen door after it had a few too many encounters with a puppy who was enthusiastic to enjoy the country air in person dog.

I don’t think you can live in the country without a screen door. Unfortunately screen doors and young energetic dogs don’t mix. Blitz gets so excited to head outside that he pushes the door open with his big paws.

The screen became damaged enough that I decided that it was time to try my hand at re-screening a door.

I started with buying a screen replacement kit at our closest home improvement store. It comes with a large roll of screen, a roll of spline and a spline tool. The only other tools that I needed were a utility knife and pick.

I started by removing the damaged screen and using the pick I pried all of the old spline out of the grooves.

I compared my old spline to the new spline. My only concern was making sure that they were the same diameter. If the newer spline was too large it wouldn’t fit in the groove, if it was too small, it wouldn’t stay in place. Thankfully, it was close enough to work well.

After all of the spline was removed and I cleaned the door, I was ready to start putting the new screen in place.

I carefully centered the screen over the opening and laid the spline over the groove. Working with just one side I used the spline tool, which is basically a handle and a roller, and pushed the spline down into the groove. It was a tight fit, but not too tight, just enough that I knew that it wasn’t coming out.

I worked my way around all four sides pulling slightly on the screen to keep it taut.

At the corners I had to use the pick again to squish the spline down tight where the spline tool couldn’t reach.

Once I felt that the screen was in securely and pulled tight, I trimmed the excess screen off with a razor blade.

In the case of our door, there were two separate screen areas so I repeated everything on the second half of the door.

I was then ready to rehang the door.

I was nervous tackling this project because I was worried that it would never look like it did when the door was new. But honestly, this was such an easy project and cost me less than $10 for the kit.

Now we’re ready for this guy’s next adventure.

Well done, Sarah. It looks really professional. We love having the windows open in the summer, but I’m realizing a few of our screens are in need of repairs. We’ve found ourselves chasing moths or even the occasional mosquito in the house. In the past, I’ve patched a hole. Rescreening sounds pretty easy and straightforward. Plus I’m ensured of not missing any holes.

How to make a light box for tracing

Hand up if you’ve ever found yourself standing at a window, trying to hold two pieces of paper steady while you traced a pattern. My hand’s definitely up. It’s awkward, right? For crafters, tracing is an important part of a lot of projects.

A light box is a handy tool that makes tracing much, much easier. Sarah in Illinois is sharing how she made a light box for her quilting mother. 

I hinted a few posts back that I was not making good progress on my “one project a month.” If you remember, my three projects for the second quarter of the year were

  1. Light box for my mom
  2. Grill lighting
  3. The garden

Starting from the bottom, the garden is doing well. Very well. Plants are growing, we’ve picked some veggies, had some setbacks, but overall it’s doing very well. I decided to write a separate post on the garden, so I will just say I am very happy with the progress so far.

The grill lighting is on hold. When we hung the decorative string lights on our awning this year we decided that they give off enough light to make sure our hamburgers aren’t burnt. And since we are not sure what we want in permanent lighting we decided to do more research before we make the money and time commitment. So not done, but on hold.

As for the light box, I can say it is done.

So what is a light box? Basically, it is box with a transparent top and a light source inside.

When you put a print and a blank piece of paper on top of the box, the light shines through and makes it easy to trace the original print. This is great for crafters wanting to copy patterns. In this case, my mom wanted one for making quilts.

I started by cutting 45 degree angles for the 4 sides of the box.

Then I got to play around with the router. Honestly, I had not used our router before. It is kind of Steve’s toy, but using some practice boards it was fairly easy to get the hang of. The reason for the router was to cut a groove in the sides of the box for the transparent top to sit in.

I also used the router to curve the edges of the boards to give it a nicer look.

So this was the point where I would have started assembling the pieces. Except I came home and found that Blitz had put his mark on two of the pieces, quite literally.

It aggravated me of course, but who could I blame but the person who left them where a 10 month old pup could reach them? In case that wasn’t clear, that person is me.

So after redoing half of my work I began putting the sides together. Simply put, it is like building a frame for a picture.

The finished dimensions are 13 inches by 15.25 inches with the “window” area being 12.5 inches by almost 14.75 inches. Obviously I didn’t work by any plans, I just wanted to make sure it was large enough to use a standard 8.5 by 11 piece of paper for tracing.

I pre-drilled my nail holes and put three sides together.

It was at this point that I put the first coat of white paint on all of the pieces. It has been extremely humid here which is not the best weather for paint to dry. I got several scratches and finger prints on the pieces that had to be touched up once I was done handling everything.

I slid the “window” into the channels that I routed and attached the fourth side.

For the window I used a piece of plexiglass that I cut with a razor blade and snapped to break. To hide the inside of the box and to dull the brightness of the intense lights that I chose, I sprayed the plexiglass with a frosted paint.

It was at this point that I turned the box over and installed the light source. I chose this LED tape at our local home improvement store. I wanted LED so that heat did not build up inside the box.

This tape is 6.5 feet long but came with instructions on how to cut it to the correct fit. I used both the adhesive back and the small mounting brackets that came with the tape. I cut a small hole near the bottom to run the cord out of.

I was pleasantly surprised that the light tape came with a switch so that it will be easy for Mom to turn on and off as needed.

And finally I screwed the back to the box. I chose to use screws so that I can remove the back if I ever need to make any adjustments or repairs.

I am happy with the results and can’t wait to give it to Mom for her to try out.

That light box looks great, Sarah. It’s super professional with the routed channel for the plexiglass and the LED strip. I’m sure your Mom will appreciate it. Maybe you’ll get a new quilt out of it. 🙂

Connecting with like-minded folk in Illinois

Since starting our own journey in country living, I’ve realized that there are lots of people following a similar path, but each of us are doing it in our own way. Gardening, animals, permaculture, homesteading–everybody tackles things slightly differently.

There is a lot of information online or in books to help you learn how to do things and what works for you. However, sometimes it’s really nice to talk to people in person and learn from their experience first hand. Sarah in Illinois has found a group of like-minded family and friends who are doing just that.

Last fall a few family members and friends decided to start a small group with the common interest in gardening and homesteading. We had a very informal “meeting” where a few people shared areas that they had interest and knowledge in.

We discussed that when selecting a seed you may see words like open-pollinated, heirloom, hybrid, organic or non-GMO and what those words mean. We learned that if you plan to save some seeds from the crop that you plant this year, you must select an heirloom variety. A couple people brought extra seed catalogs that they had, and we talked about the suppliers that we have had good luck from in the past.

We talked about composting and that it is important to get a good mix of “green” and “brown” ingredients. We also looked over a list of things that you should never add to a compost pile such as meat, bones, pet waste, fats and dairy.

Another cousin brought up the topic of what you should plant and how much. She suggested making a list of, on average, what your family actually eats in a year. Then you can use this list to decide what you will use and also not overplant so that you don’t waste food.

She also gave us a list of books that she has used that she thought may be of interest (not affiliate links):

We ended the evening with a short demonstration on how to make your own yogurt, and a friend brought some for us to sample.

We joke that we are kind of nerdy, but when it is a topic that you are truly interested in, I don’t think you can get too much information.

Then we created a private Facebook group where we could share tips, pictures, successes and failures.

This week someone took a video tour of their garden, and we were all so excited to see it that several of us made tours of our own gardens. We all live in about a 30 mile radius, but this allowed everyone to view the gardens when they had time and it was very convenient.

It was so interesting to see the different crops, different sizes of gardens, different methods for weed control and really just about every aspect of gardening and small farm animal production. (My cousin has 11 goats!)

My tour ended up being 21 minutes long. I toured the fruit trees, the garden, the grape vines, my chickens, my compost pile and my herb garden. And I also rambled quite a bit.

I am going to put a few short clips on my Instagram so that you can view them.

As much as I have learned from my parents and in-laws on gardening, I feel like I have so much more to learn. But each year I have a better understanding, better results and a deeper love of growing my own.

Do you belong to a formal or informal gardening group? What areas of gardening do you want to learn about? Have you ever made a garden tour video?

If you’re nerdy, Sarah, I’m right there with you. This sounds like a really inspiring group to be part of. Country living is a constant learning experience, in my opinion. It’s great that your family and friends have come together in this was to share their experiences.

Real life in Illinois

Unfortunately, nothing seems to be going well right now for Sarah in Illinois. But philosophically, she says, “That is life!” She is here today with a chicken, fruit tree and garden update.

I’d love to start this post with a tale of how I walk out into my back yard, with my dog at my side. We walk to the chicken coop where we lovingly pet the chickens, gather more eggs than we could eat, then walk over to the garden. We pick multitudes of strawberries, sugar snap peas, rhubarb and gaze at the full garden of healthy, thriving plants that will soon provide healthy vegetables to all of our meals.

Unfortunately, this is real life. And life doesn’t care about your plans.

This post will be full of things that have gone wrong. But I promise, I am keeping a positive outlook.

Chickens

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know what I am going to write here. One of my chickens died. I don’t know what happened.

Last weekend our neighbor texted Steve and said that she had some type of predator that has been getting in her barn, and it killed two of her young kittens. So Steve went to help her, and the plan was to set a live trap and hopefully catch the culprit.

The next evening I went to close up my chickens and I found the Rhode Island Red dead in the corner of the coop. The other three chickens are perfectly fine.

I inspected the coop and run and found no point of entry. There was no blood and no damage to the body of the chicken. So even though I have been on alert with my neighbor having an issue, I really don’t feel a predator killed my chicken. I think it must have had some problem that I was not aware of. But believe me when I say, I am keeping a much closer eye on the coop.

Fruit Trees

I posted a few weeks back that we had planted two cherry trees. I had ordered them through a seed and plant catalog, and they came bare root. If you have seen a small bare root tree, it basically looks like a stick.

I had confidence that with all the rain (more on that below) I would see some sort of life in our two “sticks,” but after about 4 weeks they showed no sign of life, no leaf, no bud. In fact one was very brittle and Steve was easily able to break the top off.

One day we were at our local “buy everything in one stop” store and there was a 4-foot cherry tree with healthy leaves and even a couple cherries hanging from it.

We decided it was time to give up on our “sticks” and purchase trees that were about 4 years further along in the growing process.

While we were there I told Steve that we should go ahead and pick up a peach tree. They looked healthy and peaches are Steve’s favorite fruit. He looked them all over, made sure the leaves looked healthy, made sure the trunk was straight and we made our purchase. When we got home, we dug a hole and when we lifted the tree to set it in, we saw the tag hanging off of it: Apple Tree ‘Pink Lady.’

We got a good laugh out of how both of us could inspect this tree so closely, look at the leaves that were obviously not peach tree leaves and still bring home an apple tree.

The next day we went back up and picked up two peach trees. We checked and double checked the tags this time.

Garden

In my last post, I talked about how much rain we had.

In 6 days we measured 9.7 inches of rain in our rain gauge. Since then I haven’t kept as close record, but I know for certain we have had at least another 3 inches. I looked online and our average rainfall for the month of May is 4 inches. We have had over three times our normal rainfall.

As I write this, the forecast is calling for 80% chance of thunderstorms tonight and 50% chance tomorrow. So the fact that I have ANYTHING growing in the garden is close to a miracle.

I have had to replant potatoes, but thankfully the second crop has broken ground and is much more likely to make it.

We also replanted cucumbers and sugar snap peas, and they also look much better.

Remember last year when I overdid it on the radishes? We we took a much better approach this year, and my crop is a lot more manageable.

However, our tomatoes and green peppers are showing signs of stress from the excess rain. The leaves are starting to yellow. We planted 2 green peppers on little mounds hoping that would help, but I am still not sure about them.

As you can see, our garden is struggling a little bit. But it is still early and I have high hopes that it will come around. Looking closely at my pictures, you can see I have some weeding to do.

As soon as it is possible we still need to plant green beans, squash, cabbage, watermelons and sunflowers. I will plant pumpkins sometime in early July for an October harvest.

That looks so, so soggy, Sarah. You’ve had some tough breaks. I love that you can still laugh about apple-peach trees and look ahead to a successful harvest.

New life for an old patio table

As the temperatures warm up, I love being outside. For us, being outside usually means working outside because the one thing missing at the farm is a good outdoor living or dining area. But Sarah has a great spot at her home in Illinois. She and her husband Steve recently tackled a project that upgraded a key feature of that area–the dining table. Read on to see the results. Spoiler alert, they’re pretty amazing.

One of the favorite spots in our yard is our deck. Several days a week we head there as soon as we get home from work and have a drink and discuss the day and throw the ball for Blitz. It’s also the spot we head to after a full day of sweaty yard work. We have a nice awning to sit under and a patio table and chair set to relax in.

However, the table was starting to show some wear. It is a metal frame and had two inset panels that were supposed to resemble slate or some type of stone. I am sure when it was new it looked very nice, but over the years the compressed material that made up the fake slate absorbed water and warped. It got to the point where we could not set a glass on it without it falling over. So we started talking about how we could replace it.

I wish I had taken a good before picture but here are the fake slabs that we took out of the table.

Our first thought was to put a thin board in the recessed area and then to tile it. I think that would have looked very nice, but our concern was how much weight it would add to the table. It is not a light table to start with, and we move it into our pole barn every winter to try to help it last longer. Plus, the backing for the tile would have to be pretty thick to hold up the tiles, and we didn’t know if there would be enough room for the backing, the thin set and the tile in the recessed area without really altering the table.

One day when we were looking for something in the barn, Steve saw a pile of old tongue and groove barn wood. He grabbed a measuring tape and said that it was even the right thickness for the area in the table. We talked about if we stained it dark and added some polyurethane, it might look kind of nice in the table.

We removed the fake slate and measured the barn wood to fit in the section of the table. Since it was tongue and groove the boards fit nicely together. Steve did have to add an extra piece of metal across underneath since we were now using several different boards instead of one slab.

With a nice coat of stain, we were pretty happy with the results.

Then we started talking about the two-part epoxy that we see on home improvement shows. I did a little research online and made a quick Amazon purchase. Two days later this arrived.

This is where I should tell you, this post is not sponsored. I paid full price for this kit. Famowood does not know that I exist. I chose this brand because of reviews I have read. I have not tried any other brands to compare.

We had to do a little prep to the table to pour the epoxy over it. There were small gaps and cracks and holes that we had to fill in so that the epoxy did not run out. We weren’t worried about anything staying in place permanently. Basically it just had to stay in place until the epoxy dried. So we just used some of the already opened tubes of caulk that we had sitting around and filled all of the gaps underneath. So it’s not pretty, but it won’t be seen.

The reviews that I read stressed to follow the directions exactly. So we did exactly what they said. We added equal amounts of part A and part B and stirred for six minutes, then put it in a new container and stirred for another six minutes.

My biggest concern was trapping bubbles in the epoxy. No matter how careful we were when we stirred, there were lots of bubbles in it. What I read online suggested using a heat gun to draw the bubbles to the surface.

Steve and I worked together at a quick pace because we didn’t know how much time we would have before it started setting up. So I didn’t get any pictures of this stage. I definitely recommend two people working a project of this size, especially if you do it in warmer weather. The day we chose to pour was cool so we had a little more time, but we still worked quickly. We used a squeegee to move the epoxy around and the heat gun to remove the air bubbles.

We had put newspaper down thankfully, because even with the caulk we had several drips. The instructions suggested pouring a thin coat first if you were pouring over wood. The wood was likely to release more bubbles into your epoxy. So we poured a first coat, waited the recommended hours then poured a second coat.

I think the final result speaks for itself.

We could not be happier with our table. I am so proud of the job we did and I can’t wait to come home each day and sit and admire it.

I want to call a few points to your attention.

1. We chose to stop adding epoxy at the point we did, and it did not fill all of the grooves between the boards. We liked this look, but I am sure if you wanted it to be completely smooth, a third coat would have filled everything in.

2. The epoxy kit we chose said NOT for exterior use. We know this. There is an awning over the patio that will shield most sun and rain and like I said, we take the table inside every fall. If you are looking to do a similar project keep this in mind and maybe look for a kit for exterior use if you are concerned with that.

3. Also, read the directions completely and have all of your tools (mixing cups, stir sticks, tape, squeegee, heat gun, etc.) ready when you start. There is a time limit to this product and you don’t want to waste time running around trying to remember where you put the heat gun.

Holy moly. What a transformation, Sarah. I’ve heard so much about epoxy, but I’ve never used it. Your results are really impressive. I like the addition of the barn wood. It’s great you were able to use material that you had already and extend the life of your table. I’m sure you’re enjoying your evenings on the deck even more now.

Wading into the vegetable garden in Illinois

Illinois is soggy for Sarah these days, so her gardening is on hold. But before the flood arrived, she got a great start on planting. She’s sharing some of the progress in her update today.

Julia may be “tiptoeing into the vegetable garden” at her house, but we have to wear muck boots in our garden right now.

Well, no I wouldn’t even attempt to step one foot in our garden. This morning before I wrote this post, our garden looked like this:

And they are predicting constant rain for the next 48 hours for our area with a total of 5 to 8 inches according to our local weather. So all of our gardening has been put on hold.

However, I want to share what we accomplished before the rain began.

We like to get our potatoes in the ground on Good Friday, and we were only a day late. On that Saturday we were able to plant potatoes, carrots, radishes, lettuce and kale. The next day we got a hard rain. We didn’t get much volume of water. It just fell hard.

I am learning every day about gardening and farming, and what I learned is the rain somewhat compacted the top layer of soil in the garden and then it dried. So when I went back to check on what I had planted a few days later there was a “crust” of soil on top of the seeds.

The radishes were able to break though but the more fragile plants like the carrots and lettuce were not able to break through the “crust.” It looks like we will be replanting those crops.

About a week later Steve and I got several more things in the ground.

We planted two holly trees.

Two cherry trees and four grapevines. Steve set three poles for our grape vines that we will eventually string with cable. Of course right now the vines are about 12 inches tall so not much support is require yet.

Three blueberry bushes.

Then we planted cucumber, sugar snap peas and new asparagus crowns in the garden.

I have planted trees before, and my mom has always taught me the importance of watering. In fact, she has told me, “water every day for a week, every week for a month and every month for a year.” So every day after work I made sure to do that.

Of course, I get a little break right now with all of this rain.

When it does dry up, I have a few plants ready to go.

I have some cabbage, bell peppers and tomatoes sitting near my window. I try to start tomatoes from seed every year and as I have mentioned before I really struggle with it. I had bought Black Krim and San Marzano seeds, and I have starts that are about 3 inches tall but they do not look very healthy.

A family friend of ours starts hundreds of tomato and pepper seeds every year and gives us nice healthy plants. I told her of my struggles and she said that she does use grow lights but she also plants by the moon. That is something that I have heard of but never attempted myself. I think I should really rethink that though when I look at her plants.

This year she brought Celebrity, Early Girl, Better Boy, Rutgers, Roma, Orange Slice, Sunny Boy, Jet Star, Brandywine and a cherry tomato.

We divide all of the plants up between my parents and my brother, so I have a small selection to plant at our house. I hope to mark all of the varieties clearly so that I can keep somewhat of a record of which varieties I like best. I love that she not only gives us strong healthy plants but also we get so many to choose from.

My mom also brought me a couple of Mr. Stripey tomato plants for my garden so we are going to have a rainbow of tomatoes to choose from this year.

Of course that is if we ever see dry ground again.

Oh, Sarah. That’s a ton of rain. Good for you for making so much progress, though. You have so many great plants. Hopefully the weather cooperates for you this year and you harvest a ton of great food.