Garden Bounty

This spring, we weren’t sure how much of a garden we would have going at the Anthill. Late last year, we decided to put in some raised beds, but only managed to get one built before the ground froze. So before we could do any gardening, we had to build beds in which to put the plants. Not an easy project, as the ground took a while to warm up. And our time down in Confluence is limited, we have so many adventures we need to find time for, and building several gigantic beds takes a long long time, and yadda, yadda, yadda…. We also wanted to experiment with several different mulching and watering systems, so we really thought this year would be more of a learning year. Lots of experience, maybe not so much production.

Boy, were we wrong…

As you can see from the photos, we have had a bumper crop of veggies and flowers this year.  The photos below show the results of one harvesting session.  There have been several others with similar yields.  With all this produce comes the need to DO something with it, so it’s been a busy summer of cooking and food preservation.  We’ve canned, frozen, pickled, jammed, dehydrated, fermented and eaten fresh.  This past week was filled with outstandingly delicious food that we either produced ourselves, or picked up on one of our  “Taste of Pennsylvania Country Ramble” trips.  (Oh, and by the way, yes, there was a second ramble.  I’ll have to post about that later. )  We had pot roast made with local Angus beef, served with home grown carrots and green beans.  And homemade bread.  And corn on the cob, fresh from the garden.  And more homemade bread with strawberry jam (from our garden strawberries) and with raw honey from another nearby farm.  And pickles, straight from the crock (which has been lending a lovely pickle smell to the house since the fermentation kicked into high gear). And saurkraut from the other crock.  Elderberry wine, found on one of our rambles.  And fresh milk and cheese, from another.  I could go on and on, but I will stop here because I am making myself hungry and it’s far too late…I should be sleeping and not snacking.

Another highlight of the garden has been the flowers.  I will take absolutely no credit for these- the flowers are strictly Blueberry’s department.  My only job when it comes to the flowers is to cut them and bring them into the house.  And it’s actually quite a hard job with all the flowers to choose from…. this week it was mostly zinnias and sunflowers, which are peaking right now.  I did one arrangment with some hosta flowers which I was surprised to discover have a really nice scent.  It’s not strong enough that I ever noticed outside, but once I brought the flowers in, you could really smell them.  I also had a vase of dill flowers out in the living room which made it smell pleasantly herby  (and went perfectly with the pickle smell drifting in from the kitchen)

Which is not to say that all has been perfect in the garden this year.  Our potato crop was pitifully small.  We had purchased seed potatoes 3 or 4 years ago, and every year since we had just replanted the leftover potatoes from the previous year’s harvest.  Which tended to be the teeny, tiny ones.  Which may not have been the smartest strategy, as this year we planted the teeniest potatoes of all (so small I just planted them whole, rather than cutting them into pieces), and got the teeniest harvest ever.  I think it’s time to pony up for a new batch of seed potatoes in the spring.

The other problem was the arrival of the dreaded late blight.  Luckily, the potatoes were spared, else our teeny harvest would have not existed at all.  But the tomatoes got it, and fairly badly.  We were lucky in that Blueberry got on the problem fairly quickly, pruning back dead leaves, and spraying with an (organic) anti-blight spray.  That was enough to put a halt to the spread of the blight, and the fruit on the plants was thankfully undamaged.  So our tomato bed is rather ugly looking, with scrawny, nearly bare plants with only the top sets of leaves remaining.  But the tomatoes are still delicious, so who cares about pretty looking plants?

All and all, I have to say this year’s garden has been the best ever..and it’s still going!  Right before we left this weekend we pulled out the cucumber vines and replanted their area with some peas, in hopes of getting a fall crop.  I think we’ll try and get some lettuce and spinach in too.  And then it will be time to put the garden to bed for the winter, head inside, and spend our time pouring over seed catalogs and dreaming of next year…..

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Brown’s Candy Kitchen

The final stop was the candy shop in Mt. Pleasant. The store is in a big ole white house on Main Street at the bottom of the hill near the train tracks. Mt. Pleasant is also the town where we got Skunker, the black and white Ford Ranger that lives at the Anthill, our house in Confluence.

It was a lovely day exploring the cusine of Southwestern PA. Rumor has it we’re headed out for another ramble on Friday.

Sandhill Berries

The third stop on our country ramble was Sandhill Berries. They are a berry farm that has recently got into making wine. We picked up a variety of wines, including a black currant port which I am particularly excited about. The woman told me it can be kept at room temperature for a year or so after the bottle has been opened but somehow I doubt it will last that long.

They also have a little cafe that serves up berry smoothies and sundaes. We tried the rasberry version of each and they were sweet and tasty.

Friendship Farm

The country ramble continues. We stopped by Friendship Farms, which is near LaTrobe and was established in 1795. They raise cows which are later turned into Angus beef. Also they bake loads of bread which can be purchased on site and at a variety of locations in Pittsburgh. We picked up a loaf of Saint Bennidict, which is a whole wheat variety with the wheat berries baked into it. We also bought some homemade ketchup, raw honey, and a pastured angus eye of round roast.

The farm is beautiful and the baking bread smells delicious. While we were there a chicken broke into the bakery and provided some entertainment.

Pie Shoppe in Laughlinton

Out on the ‘taste of PA country ramble part 1,” we stopped by the pie shop in Laughlinton and picked up loads of goddies. I had a meatball sub and a blueberry turnover for lunch. We also picked up 4 frozen chicken pot pies, a dozen cookies, and a peach pie.

Highly recommend the Pie Shoppe.