How I cured blossom end rot in my squash

I discovered a very disturbing visitor in my squash patch.  Blossom end rot. 

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I lost close to all of my squash to blossom end rot over the past few weeks.  The few I did get were perfect, but I certainly didn’t have the tons of zucchini that makes the squash famous. 

I had been reading about how many plant diseases can be traced back to a nutritional deficiency in the soil.  I also read that blossom end rot can be cured by adding a supplement of calcium  to the planting hole.  Unfortunately, these plants were two months old.  But fortunately, I had a natural, organic, source of calcium that lives in my yard:

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We collect the shells as we use them in this cute little dish by the sink:

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Because I didn’t put them in the planting holes I had to speed up the break down of the shells… so I put them in my food processor…

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And blended them to a fine powdery type substance…

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Then I added them to the base of my squash plants.

And for a while I didn’t notice anything.  Then, I started to see more and more flowers.

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And all of them became squash. 

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And not one of them rotted away or fell off. 

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And now, I have over 30 tiny squash that are healthy and growing well in my garden patch.

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And although it isn’t the most scientific type of experiment, I am sold.  There will be egg shells in the hole that I put my squash in from now on to prevent Blossom End Rot.

Happy Gardening!

{this moment}

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{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}

{this moment}

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{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}

Super simple cherry pie filling

Yep!  That’s right folks, it’s canning season again.  When that free food starts rolling in I just can’t help myself!  I have to put it away for winter. 

This pie filling is perfect for putting over ice cream, tucking in to tarts, or (of course), making a wonderful pie!  It tastes JUST like the pie filling from the can that I used to beg my mom to buy when I was little.  I used to eat it with a spoon straight from the can.  True story.  So this is actually filling a void in my homemade/homesteading life that I didn’t even realize was there.  I may or may not have eaten about a pint of this stuff as I was putting it away…

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My friend Ryan just bought a house.  His new back yard is covered with neglected fruit trees.  He has apples, pears, plums, grapes, and cherries that are all in stages of neglect.  Many have to be pruned as soon as we are able, but for this summer, we are leaving them to do what they can until they are dormant and we can cut them back. 

Last week Ryan texted with a picture of his leggy little cherry tree just FULL of little tart cherries and asked if I would use them. 

Um… that’s a big, fat, emphatic “YES!” 

Not wasting any time, I picked his whole tree clean and set to work cleaning, pitting and canning them. 

For a full day my hand and wrist were stained with cherry juice and my kitchen smelled heavenly… and now I will have 5 cherry pies to warm our bellies later this year.  (I may even share one with Ryan.)

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Super Simple Cherry Pie Filling

  • 5 cups of pitted tart cherries
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 Tbs corn starch

Place pitted cherries in a large pot and add in sugar and lemon juice.  Turn heat on med and allow cherries to get hot and start cooking down and releasing all of that yummy cherry juice.  Stir often.

Mix water and corn starch together in a small bowl and add into the hot cherries.  Bring it to a boil. 

When the mixture starts to get nice and thick, you may can it (according to the Ball Complete Book of Preserving that means “waterbath process for 35 minutes for both pint and quart jars”) or you can place it in a prebaked piecrust and eat the amazing pie you have ever eaten or you can do what we did and eat with a spoon!

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Happy Summer!

Progress - The chicken coop side of the yard

In previous posts I have talked about how the process of making a backyard homestead is a long one.  It’s starting to move faster now, like a snowball effect that is rolling downhill.

We are about done on the chicken coop side of the yard.  We have done SO much over here this year that it’s hard for me to even remember how different it looked.  So before I take you on a tour of my new critter space, let me take you on a trip down memory lane… all the way back to March.

March 2013

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These two buildings were our shed and chicken coop.  Neither were in great condition and then the 2012 ice storm punched holes in the roof of each, making mold and wet chickens a common thing.  That is not so awesome.  So we decided to bite the bullet, buy a shed and have it installed.  To date, this is one of my most favorite purchases ever.

April 2013

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New shed was put in and the holes in the fence were fixed as best as they could be.  We were ready to build the coop in the shed and the run outside.

I took this picture below to build a design for the chicken yard. 

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And this was that design:

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We ran into a few bumps with this design.  Mainly, the HUGE tree that is close to here and whose roots run all over and the huge rocks that fill my entire yard.  In the end, we could NOT dig holes for the beautiful wooden poles I wanted to set.  So we settled for pounding cyclone fencing poles instead.

This is now!  June 2013:

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Pounding the cyclone fence poles wasn’t even as easy as we were hoping.

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Notice the pole to the right… yeah, it hit a rock half way down and is now bent.  I am considering it my Amish Humility Pole and I am letting it go.  (Myth or not, it’s a great lesson for a perfectionist like me.)

Inside the new shed, I built a coop similar to a storage bin, but much larger.  It spans the entire 8ft shed and is just over 3ft deep.  The doors lift up.

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I added a few things that I needed in there, like my jars of garden supplements and baskets of chicken and rabbit gear.  Then I also added this shelf, which I use as a mantel to display all sorts of chicken funnies and seasonal beauty.

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At this same time, the rest of the shed was organized and all our tools were put into place.  It was VERY exciting to be able to sharpen all of my tools and know that they would not be rusty when I came out to use them because the roof doesn’t leak!  We have a very neat shed now and it makes my heart happy just standing in it.  Yes, I am a homesteading dork.  But man, it’s the little things… like this wall of neat, sharp, *dry* tools. 

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Then we got started on integrating the two flocks and making this space a home for all our bitties. Here’s what the interior of the chicken area inside the shed looks like:

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I even put weather striping inside the coop doors to keep the dust inside the shed to an absolute minimum.  Chickens produce a LOT of dust!

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Outside I built up our waterer so that it stayed clean, put up the fencing and attached it to the shed.  Then I took a leap of faith, and cut the hole in the wall for the door.  I remembered to use the measurements for the Chicken Butler, which I will eventually own, but for now, it’s just a piece of plywood that moves up and down to keep the bitties safe at night.

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So far I LOVE this coop!  It is a great mix of fun and functional that stays clean, is easy to maintain and works for everyone.  Including the birds:

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And of course, I love the little moments it helps me create.

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And at the top of my list is this fresh, farm, organic eggs from our happy, pampered hens!

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Happy Homesteading!

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