Its time I told you about the best trip of my life, Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine. We visited in late September of 2015 and were blown away by the raw beauty of the land, the kind people, and the quaint towns of New England. It is hard to compare ANP/Maine with the other vacations we have been on, like Everglades and Biscayne National Park, because they differ immensely. Its funny, however, because we went from the southernmost tip of the continental United States to the Northeast and the scenery could not be more different. To me there is no comparison, Maine is magical. I have always dreamt of visiting Maine and from the moment we touched ground, I was hooked.
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We decided to fly instead of drive since it was a one hour flight and a fourteen hour car ride, but the flight was pricy. That said, flying was a breeze and we were able to pack all our camping gear in the checked baggage; 50lbs on the money. Plus we had two carry-ons with our clothes and hiking gear.

This trip was certainly a rugged one, there were no heels or dresses packed and I surely didn’t need make-up or ‘nice’ clothes. This visit was all about the National Park and Mount Desert Island and I can’t wait to share it with you now…

Day one we arrived in Bangor, ME on a Sunday morning and Enterprise picked us up. Before we knew it we were in our rental car and on our way! After a few pit stops for camp stove fuel and groceries (peanut butter, bread, apples, cliff bars, bananas, water, firestarter) we were on the island! As you drive in through the Thompson Island Visitor Center area you are blessed with magnificent views of the mountains and lakes, which glistened the most beautiful hue of aquamarine. Chuck and I decided to camp on the quiet side of MDI the first three nights and stayed in Bar Harbor for three nights. As we made our way down and around the west side of the island we came up on Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound (previously Sawyer’s- same owner, new name) This place was awesome for lunch!! It’s a small joint where you eat outside, order at a window and wait at the picnic tables. People bring dogs and beer and enjoy the scenery. We had our very first lobster roll and the lobster was cooked PERFECTLY. It was one first and only Lobster Roll of the trip, but I am so glad we got to experience one.
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After our lunch we continued to the campsite about 10 minutes away, called Seawall Campground. This quiet campground is perfect for those who are looking to explore the park in a more quiet setting. Not much is in walking distance other than the Seawall picnic area but it was so easy to drive around the island that it didn’t bother us at all. Upon arriving we set up our site (B15/B16) which was located right next to Seawall Pond. It was serene, quiet, and the perfect place to rest. There were no mosquitoes this time of year or children for that matter. 😛 The bathrooms were in walking distance and immaculate! Seriously cleaner than some hotel bathrooms I have been in. The only downside is that there are no showers, but no worries because down the road at the Bass Harbor Campground where you can shower for 4$, unlimited time. **There is a place closer to the campsite that offers 4 minutes showers for 2$ (or something like that) but going to the campground was less money and we were able to shower longer. As a woman, it was nice to wash my hair without worrying about the water shutting off! Oh, and I totally blew out my hair using the heat in the car. Car camping is pretty awesome, despite how I loathed it before.
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After we got all set up we decided to hike the two trails located near the campsite; Wonderland Trail and Ship Harbor Trail. Both trails were really amazing! They were short, perhaps 1-2 miles on flat terrain, but the views were unbelievable. Around every corner was another majestic view, but each differed from each other. The tide plays a role in the scenery and if low tide, you can walk out and tidepool! The other neat thing was that it felt like we had every trail to ourselves. If you are on MDI, you must drive over to the quiet side to experience these trails.

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Once it got dark back at camp we walked over to the Seawall Picnic area with the camera gear. I got set up and tried my test to take night sky shots for the first time. I think I did well considering I am completely new to manual photography.

The previous week there was no moon and it was the annual Night Sky Festival, so I knew the week we chose would be perfect for privacy and that remote feeling. Photographers flock to Seawall to capture the Milky Way Galaxy in fact. It was fun and romantic to lay on the picnic tables intoxicated by the stars; never have I seen so many stars. It was pure magic.IMG_4849 IMG_6236 IMG_6245

The next day we got an early start and yellow blazed in the rental. We started at Echo Lake, where we went on our first major hike. Though it was only 2 miles, it was a vertical hike and our first. I believe we were on Beech Cliff Trail/Loop and then took Canada Cliffs Trail back to the parking lot. This was our first summit! (well, I guess we summited mountains in Shenandoah but this was the first time we realized we were summiting a mountain!)  The thing that is so special about Acadia National Park is that when you hike, you are starting at sea-level. So you literally go from zero foot elevation to whatever. It’s just different than Shenandoah for example where you are already at 4500’ feet) Once we were at the top we took time to soak up the views- the ocean in one direction, the mountains, lakes, and town in the other; simply breathtaking. We descended back to the car and headed over to Long Pond via dirt fire roads and trails through the park. It was fun to just drive through and around exploring areas that not many visitors get to see.

Below is Echo Lake, where we looked up at the mountain we were about to hike up…
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When all was said and done we were famished! It was getting late and the Eagles Game was coming on. Being in Patriots country we didn’t think we would get to watch the game… (EH, I don’t really care but my hubby is die-hard) I found this little bar called Joey’s Place bar in Southwest Harbor, super close to the campground which played all the football games. We walked in and no joke they were almost all Eagles Fans!!! I even sat next to an old friend from high school! Not only were they Eagles fans but they were NJ transplants; what a small world! Watching the game here felt like home or being at a friend’s house. I actually was not feeling well (probably from the driving up and down hills) and laid in a booth all sickly, while my husband cheered on the birds with our new friends. Unfortunately the birds lost, but what a day!

On the way back to camp I was able to capture these dusk shots thanks to Joey Jr’s recommendation:
IMG_6479 IMG_6516 IMG_6629 IMG_6631IMG_0169On day three we had a big kayaking trip planned in which we awoke at 5:30AM and heading out to meet Rich from the Natural History Center in Bar Harbor, whom we hired to take us sea kayaking in Somes Sound. This trip was worth every penny- not only was Rich extremely knowledge for all things kayaking but he is an ornithologist (bird expert) and told us all about the birds in the area and aquatic life. We even saw an eagle or two in the distance, circling the mountains we would soon be climbing. As a matter of fact, Somes Sound is considered the only fjord in America. Recently, they changed it to be classified as a fjard meaning it’s like a fjord but not up to the same fjord standards as say fjords in Greenland. In any case, we kayaked about 6 miles and had a blast. We started at 7 am and were somehow the only people on the water! There were a ton of lobster pots around and lobster boats and yachts off in the distance, but we had the Sound to ourselves. I didn’t know that I would love sea kayaking as much as I did, though my husband was not as much of a fan. No joke, I was kayaking circles around him!! Such a blast- I would hire Rich again in a second, for anything. He does kayaking, birding trips, hiking trips.. he will even take us to Alaska, or to hike Katahdin. So cool! I hope you enjoy these pictures, all of which were taken with my new Garmin Virb XE. (Chuck has a Garmin Phoenix II watch and can use the watch to take bluetooth pictures on the Virb)

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After our long kayaking trip we were starving and stopped at Milk & Honey for a bite to eat. What a great little spot hidden off the main road but right near the marina. We split a insanely yummy ham and gruyere sandwich but I am pretty sure anything on the menu would impress. Quality food for sure, don’t miss it if you are in Northeast Harbor.
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After our snack we decided to head over to the  Indian Point- Blagden Preserve to try to see seals. Rich recommended we visit and hike out to the beach, where seals are known to gather. We did get to see them from afar but I was not able to capture any good shots, but the hike itself was a blast. The forest is so different than anything I know here in NJ. On our way back to the vehicle, I somehow spotted a cemetery way back in the woods. When we reached the cemetery it was quite eerie but peaceful and moving as well. These graves dated back to the 1800’s and was a family site; the site of infant graves and groups of headstones all dating in the winter months of the same year told a sad story. We took a few moments, payed respects, and then carried on.
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Pretty sure we relaxed the rest of the day due to exhaustion then headed over to Thurston’s Lobster Pound on the West side of the island, in Bernard,ME. Some gorgeous views along the way… I believe this was driving through Southwest Harbor.

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Not much going on in this perfect little town other than lobster boats coming and going but when we got to Thurston’s they were jamming! We ordered soft shell lobster since we can’t get them in NJ and ate in the bar overlooking the water. I broke that bad boy open with my bare hands, cave-man style, and enjoyed every bit of that sweet soft shell lobster. After we left, the sun started to set and being that we were on the west side of the island, it was a magnificent sight. A perfect ending to a perfect day.
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The next day was our last at the campsite so we woke up and walked to Seawall Picnic area for sunrise again. It was perfect- alone, making our coffee in the jetboil, while the tide came in and the sun glistened on the water.

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After our early morning photoshoot, we drove over to Joey’s Place which is also a laundrymat- perfect, a bar and laundy, have a beer while you wait! It was too early for that of course, so we washed all our camp clothes prior to leaving and enjoyed coffee outside, taking in charming Southwest Harbor. We were very sad to pack up and leave but were excited to see what the second leg of our trip would bring! So, after checking out of camp we headed over to Bar Harbor. The trip was less than 45 minutes and we had time to stop for lunch before our rock climbing adventure. We were again blown away by the food but this time at a little place called Sweet Pea’s Cafe. It’s actually a farm and vineyard, I think, where they raise livestock, grow food, and have a small menu with super fresh ingredients. We had good pizza and the best bruschetta I have EVER had. The view outside was picturesque and we enjoyed every moment.

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Soon it was time to continue to our next adventure, rock climbing at Otter Cliffs! We set up a private guide as we have never been rock climbing before. I am so happy we did because Eli, owner of Atlantic Climbing School, taught us the ropes of climbing. (no pun intended) We picked him up in Bar Harbor and were on our way to Otter Cliffs! He was full of information as well in regards to MDI and the park, not just climbing. Though when we got to the cliffs, he was all business showing us how to use the equipment and what it means to rappel and belay and so on. I am slightly afraid of heights and was equally exciting and loathing the idea all that the same time. Before we began we walked carefully to the edge to see what we would be climbing- cliffs against the ocean! Where the tide causes the water to crash against the rocks below! Chuck began repelling first, over the edge he went, and with ease repelled down to the bottom! A tour boat came closer in the distance and watched as Chuck fearless climbed back up to the top. I was next and nervously repelled down, which was easy and fun! Climbing back up however, proved to be more difficult. I am only 4’ 11” so it was hard to find finger slits and reach far enough to pull my own weight up. But we carried on and climbed 3 other spots, each one harder and more fun than the last. The most memorable was called Chimney Rock, where there is a gap that you climb up using your back on one side and feet on the other and you shimmy back up. NO WAY, this was so hard for my small frame that I was scared to death! Anyone smaller than me should skip this climb, if you are not experienced, but man was it heart pounding and became fun after it was over of course. 😛 My husband was the winner in climbing..

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IMG_6849 IMG_6850 IMG_6855By the time we were done climbing every bone in our body ached. Perfect timing to part ways with Eli and check-in to the Snell House. The Snell House is a historic home situated off a quiet street in the heart of Bar Harbor. The owners, Mary and Paul, live behind the home and tend to the guests at the main house. We had the studio apartment which had a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette. They even stocked half and half and coffee for us to use- very thoughtful. Though there was no AC, it was cool enough to turn on the fans and open the windows. It was lovely to finally shower and relax on a real bed LOL. Once we were in town, we could walk everywhere and headed over to McCay’s Public House for dinner. It was a classy restaurant with outside dining and an local gentleman was finger strumming lovely tunes as we dined on local oysters and steak. It was a pretty good ending to the first day of the second leg!

By day five we were in the zone and waking up before sunrise with ease. We packed PB&J sandwiches, grabbed cliff bars, snatched all our hiking gear, and headed out to drive Park Loop Road. This is a main attraction of the park and gets busy with buses and tourists so we wanted to get an early start. We started at the Hulls Cove visitor center where we purchased souvenirs and gifts, as well as a road map which told you all the stops along the way.

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After stopping at several look out points we continued down until we came to the starting point of the famed Precipice Trail. With my fear of heights slightly tamed we geared up and decided we were going to hike the trail! Precipice Trail is a very well-known 1.8 mile trail rising 1,058 ft above sea level on Champlain Mountain, which is the fourth highest in the park. You cannot do the trail as a loop, else you’d be coming down iron rungs and ladders so it’s best to only climb up then take a different trail to the orange and black trail, to the road, then hike down the road back to the car. By the time we got done it was a four hour hike and completely exhausting. That said, it was a blast and I cannot believe we accomplished such a feat! Up and up and up we went, climbing ladders, thinking we were almost at the summit just to climb more ladders, after ladders, after ladders! There were some points where the climb was so intense- you are climbing literally on the edge of the cliff, using iron footholds to ensure you don’t fall. This climb is no joke and people have perished here. This was our first hike ever that had a sign that said so, it really made us realize that you have to give 110% and there is no turning back. It was invigorating and eye opening. Once we finally make it to the top, the views were out of this world. You can see Bar Harbor, the ocean, the islands, the main land. I have never felt so accomplished in my life and I will cherish the memories of working together with my husband to complete this hike. We relished the views and the achievement.

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Thats my ‘I’m totally scared but trying to smile face’

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On the way up… and up… and up

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Hmm…

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VERTICAL

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Climbing! Hard to do if you are under 5′

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This was probably the scariest but most rewarding part in my opinion. Standing on the edge, overlooking the ocean, it cannot be beat.

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We made it to the top!!

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By the time we made it back to the car we were completely exhausted. We drank tons of water, ate our lunch and continued. The next being Sand Beach where I took some fun pictures and went in the water! Then onto Otter Cliffs where we climbed the previous day, Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond, Bubble Rock, and all the rest. Each stop brought new sights, each better than the last. All in all, it took almost the whole day to complete the hike and the drive. We ended up hiking Bubble Rock trail too, not realizing it was going to be so long.. so by the time we were done we were in major need of a shower and dinner!

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Sand Beach

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Bubble Rock

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Thunder Hole

 Fast forward to dinner, Blaze Restaurant was a minute walk away and they were the only place in Bar Harbor with Oysters other than McCays, which we had already been to. We hit happy hour at Blaze for oysters then consumed copious amounts of seafood risotto, strip steak, and alcohol. It was extremely satisfying and so good we went back the next night for more oystermania. I cannot forget to mention Mount Desert Ice Cream, where we went shortly after for Blueberry Ice Cream. SO GOOD, holy cow- it was all homemade and delicious! We sat at the Village Green and ate our cones and people watched. What an amazing day and beautiful evening.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me discuss our last full day. Sunrise in Bar Harbor- perfect! We awoke early again and walked to Ocean Path to see sunrise. Ocean Path runs along the edge of Bar Harbor, where the water meets the land. All the boats head out from here and the hotels overlook the water. On the opposite side, you can see the yards and homes of some very rich people. The sunrise was truly magnificent and I tried again to capture manual shots, which I am pleased with!
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Immediately following breakfast we drove to the Jordan Pond House again to hike the carriage roads. I would recommend rending a bike or a horse drawn carriage ride to see the sights. Hiking the roads was exhausting but we got to see four Rockefeller bridges and even took a hike under one to explore the amphitheater. I am happy we got to hike the carriage roads even though we saw a small section of the vast road system. Afterwards, we drove up Cadillac Mountain to get my passport book stamped and to see the sights. Since Cadillac Mountain is the tallest in the park, and the highest on the Eastern seaboard north of Rio, it draws a lot of attention. Many hike/drive up for sunrise but I was happy to avoid the traffic and go mid-day. It was a perfect ending to our final last day.

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Saturday, day seven, was the last of our longest vacation ever. We went back to Café This Way for another great breakfast and walked through Bar Harbor buying more gifts and souvenirs. As a final hoorah in the park, we walked across to Bar Island at the perfect time, to an island that can only be accessed at low tide. Our last moments in Acadia, I will never forget them. 
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IMG_7500IMG_7462Here is a shot of Bar Island at low tide when people can walk across to the island and  below it is high tide!

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We headed back to the Snell House, cleaned and packed up, and headed out. Back to Bangor airport we went and before we knew it we were in Philly.

Funny story, we happened to arrive home the same day the Pope came to visit! After a surprise 160$ uber ride home to NJ (no thanks to the driver who ensured us all bridges were closed so that he could take us the super long way) we finally were able to see our pooch and get in our own beds! By then, I was happy to be home. Seven days is a long time, but it was truly paradise. Everything was well planned and executed perfectly.

Visiting Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island was the best trip of my life and I have fallen completely in love with Maine. The people were so kind and empathic when I was ill. Everyone treated you like more than just a guest or tourist. I can’t imagine any National Park coming close to the memories and adventures had in Maine. Though I want to visit every park, I cannot wait to go back to Acadia. I know we barely made a dent and there are hundreds of miles of trails to hike and beauty left to be seen. I strongly urge you, anyone, to go and explore. Families, couples, elderly- it does not matter you will be amazed.

Sorry for the book but I hope you enjoyed and thank you for reading. Writing these memories down brings me back to the excitement!

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Seriously, you cannot go wrong with these candied jalapeños. I have created and tested the recipe below and would like to share with all my WordPress friends.

This year, I yielded a ton (not literally) of jalapenos! Some were brutally hot and some just mild – so it was perfect just to throw them all together and make a delicious condiment.

Have your mason jars ready..
Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs fresh Jalapeno Peppers
  • 2 cups  apple cider vinegar
  • 5-6 cups sugar (obviously, I prefer organic)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 3 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cayenne Pepper
    *I did not have turmeric this time, so I left it out and substituted with ginger.

Steps:

  • Slice up your jalapenos to start. Be sure to wear gloves, open windows or have proper ventilation, and perhaps a mask… things can get kind of spicy. 😉
  • I used my mandolin to slice up all my peppers nice and thin, but feel free to make them as thick or thin as you’d like!
  • In a saucepan, mix all ingredients except the jalapenos and turn heat to low
  • Simmer the mixture until the sugar dissolves.
  • Drop in jalapenos, stir, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Remove jalapenos with a slotted spoon and place in a separate bowl.
  • Turn heat up on the syrup and boil rapidly for 5 minutes, to thicken.
  • Scoop the jalapenos into mason jars, try not to leave many air gaps.
  • When the syrup is done boiling, pour carefully over the jalapenos and voila.

Processing:

  • You can let these cool and place them in the fridge for immediate eating.
  • Or you can process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Easy! These candied jalapenos are SO good! You can add or remove the sugar, depending on how sweet you’d like them. Same goes for the seeds, to control the spice. I have enjoyed these in grilled cheese, as a condiment on burgers, hot dogs, chicken, in sandwiches, and so much more! Even cheese and crackers.. you cannot go wrong!

This will be a staple in my kitchen going forward, for sure. Please let me know how you like them if you make them!!

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My obsessive compulsiveness and extreme lack of patience prompted me to make these ridiculously detailed excel files for backpack and camping purposes. See, once we got back from Shenandoah I started meticulously planning and prepping for the Backcountry. It was almost a whole year from the equipment purchase to actually using the stuff. The wait was too much to bear, so I kept my mind busy. Below you will see my entire excel spreadsheet listing the Items, Group, Weight in Oz., Amount, Weight in Lbs., Season of use, and a column to track what Items are coming on ‘this’ trip. (In the screenshot below, ‘This trip’ = Acadia- Sept 2015) I also used this file and the corresponding pivot table for our first hammock trip in the backcountry.

These tables have been extremely helpful in planning because they gave me the ability  to easily determine what we need, what we have too much of, and all the weight calculations (most important!).

In column B row 2, you see the total weight in pounds is 73. This is our Skin Out Weight; meaning everything from what we are wearing to water and food, fuel, consumables, and literally everything else. Not considering the aforementioned items, our pack weight was about 20 and 25 lbs; which i think is pretty good for our first time. The list below also shows all items for all seasons- please keep in mind this is the all in list. If we had all materials (red being things we don’t yet own) we would be good to go anywhere at anytime. My goal was to keep my dream of two weeks in Montana in sight.image002This pivot table makes a good packing list… Its pulling data from above for ‘This Trip’ and S2 (which is Summer). I reworked the items I plan on bringing to Maine and its now 64lbs. (I removed a lot of food and fuel as 50lbs of the 64 will be checked, to fly) Obviously, I have a lot of stuff and will cut down on some things to save weight. I think I may have gone a little crazy with the First Aid/Toiletry Section. Five pounds is a little much…
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So, New Jersey is only 1% Wilderness- Our options of where we can kick it in the backcountry are extremely limited. In South Jersey, there are Primitive Campsites within Wharton State Forest, at the Mullica River Wilderness Campground and the Lower Forge Campground. There are other primitive sites, but these are the only ones where you must trek to; no motorized vehicles allowed.

And so we did this on a stormy day in June 2015, the day before Father’s Day. Chuck and I left around noon and procured our permit at the Batsto Village Office, then strapped on our gear and headed out! It was a beautiful day but they were calling for storms later. The weight on my back (25 lbs.) was nothing as I have been conditioning myself to carry weight. That said, 25 was a little high as I only weigh 100 lbs., so I was carry 5% more than I wanted to. For the record, I carry an Osprey Hornet 46 and Chuck was wearing an Osprey Atmos AG 50. Chuck on the other hand, was having some issues as his pack was brand new and he has not been conditioning.

Backup a year- we decided to get everything we need for backpacking and fit it into my pack; then when Chuck bought his pack it would be an easy split and both packs would be relatively light. This is true, however, Chuck never got to train. (He couldn’t wear my pack as it was too tiny) Which put us in this situation…

Anyway, we schlepped along the Mullica River Trail, enjoying the beauty and peace surrounding us. It was a four mile hike one way to the site. (We could have gone from Atsion as well, which is slightly longer) We made it in only 2 hours, but the last mile it started to downpour. We acted quickly and threw on our jackets and pack covers, then arrived to the site. No one was there! I thought since it was Father’s Day weekend it would have been crazy but there was literally no one else there. Our site was site 8 and it was perfect. Across the path from the river, it was remote and quiet. There were also three perfectly placed trees to try out all our hammocking gear on. Still in the rain, we strung up our ENO HouseFly and ENO Single Nest hammocks in a flash. The HouseFly was awesome and did a great job of keeping out the rain, though with all the lines, it may be easy to trip when walking around camp. The two of us were able to get in side by side without any issue.

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Batsto Lake

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The water was ripping

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Old logging building at Batsto

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Chuck on the trail; early on the trail

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there were SO MANY blueberries on the way!

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Pinelands = sandlands

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Aggravation setting in?

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Mile 2 perhaps, the mileage wasn’t very well marked.

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Finally made it! After setting up, the rain subsided.

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Sleepy Chuck.

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2 perfect trees, one split.

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Nice setup, at the time.

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site 7, another good hammock spot.

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Two hammocks side by side.

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Site 9- right on the water but not really a launch site.

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We were not able to get a fire because of the rain, but we were able to relax and I went hunting for blueberries and other wild plants. Soon people started to show up by canoe, but they were located on the other side of the campground. We needed to do a real field test on the JetBoil Flash, so I had prepped dehydrated baggies of ‘Thanksgiving Dinner’. The JetBoil worked perfectly and boiled up water in a flash (hehe). The water was enough for both our meals. I made dinner at home the day before using organic Mashed Potato Mix, Organic Stuffing, Organic Turkey Bacon (that I cooked until jerky-ish) and Organic Freeze Dried Corn, plus some non-organic gross gravy power which was much needed.

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After we ate it started to pour again and was just getting dark… this was a perfect opportunity to cast some lines! We love to fish and found some break down rods at Dicks Sporting Goods in which we can put both rods in a carrying case and it fit perfectly on my pack. We may need think about smaller reels but two reels and some lures packed away nicely in Chucks pack. Unfortunately, no fish were biting but the mosquitoes started so we retired back to our hammocks.

Now for the real test- night time was here. We tried to fall asleep around 9PM, thunder and lightning booming in the background. We should have slept sound but everything went downhill at this point…

The bugs funneled in the HouseFly to escape the rain and by doing so, brought them closer to our bodies. Regardless of the awful Off-deep woods spray that we doused all over the hammocks and tarp, the bugs were relentless. Because it was 90 degree weather, we did not bust out the BugNet as it would have easily made it 100 degrees. That said, our butts were absolutely freezing (common for hammocking) so I slept on my rain clothes instead of using the UnderQuilt as I was fearful to get out of the hammock. I could feel the gnats, flies, and mosquitos swarming around my feet, legs, face. After a sleepless night we packed up at 5AM, more quickly than anyone has ever packed up before, I’m sure, and headed off miserable and tired. We walked to four miles back to the car silent, swatting flies along the way. Thank goodness I had snickers bars hidden away, which we ate for breakfast at 7:30AM, as soon as we reached the car. When I got home, we found that I had more than 60 bug bites, upwards of who knows how many. I had bites on bites on bites! Chuck only had ticks, apparently all the gnats and mosquitoes were drawn to me. I think we slept from 9AM – 5PM on Father’s Day; missing my Dad’s birthday/father’s day lunch. I looked like a damn thru-hiker and was only out for one night!

What did I learn?

1)      I LOVE Hiking, even with 25 lbs. on my back.

2)      I can backpack, it is possible!

3)      The JetBoil is totally awesome – just wish I could have tested the coffee press out…

4)      There are no fish in the Mullica River

5)      I find trekking poles extremely helpful

6)      No need to reinvent the wheel…bye bye hammock system!

For an entire year I thought we were going to blaze the backcountry, sleeping in our hammocks. I was dead wrong. We returned about $500 worth of ENO gear to REI. The ENO HouseFly, one ENO hammock, the Topquit, Underquit and Chucks Atmos Pack which weighed in at almost 5 lbs by itself. (though the anti-gravity was awesome) In its place we bought the new Marmot Tungsten 3P tent (comes with a footprint) and two Marmot Maverick 30 Sleeping Backs, as well as two Therm-a-Rest Sleeping Pads and a little Black Diamond tent light/flash light.

I LOVE this tent. We both fit comfortably and can house gear that needs to stay dry, cell phones, books, personal items… no bugs, no water, and after all the returns and purchases, we still had money left over! Also, the gear is lighter. This was a really good lesson to learn prior to our trip to Maine. Could you imagine? Another realization is that if we plan on visiting campsites to hammock in, they need to be scouted first to ensure there are trees to hang in. I totally understand why tent camping is the tried and true option. We kept one of the hammocks because they make great camp chairs and plus, I really do love lounging in the hammock just maybe not sleeping in one…
We are going to head out to Goshen Pond in Wharton in a few weeks to do a field test of the new gear. I’ll be sure to let y’all know how it goes. In the mean time, hike on.

In May 2015, Chuck and I went on the best vacation ever; hands down. This vacation blew Mexico out of the water and was probably half the price…

We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and stayed with friends for a few days, relaxing and catching up. They showed us the local color and we explored Hollywood Beach. It was really nice to see old friends in their beautiful state.

After a few days we picked up our rental (Always Enterprise, thanks to their awesome gov’t discount) and headed down to Miami Beach! This was my first time south of FLL and I could barely wait to see the ocean. Side note- when driving in Florida please keep in mind that car insurance is NOT required, like in NJ. People drive kind of crazy and never, ever use their blinkers. I’m taking, cut across five lanes with no blinker during peak times. Crazy… in fact, the speed limits are two numbers; 60 max no less than 40. Some people even would slow to a stop on the highway. I was happy Chuck was driving. Not for nothing, this is coming from a New Jersey Turnpike driver. I own the turnpike, but I’m scared of Florida. LOL

Otherwise, driving into Miami Beach was picturesque. We stayed at the Impala Hotel which was the best decision. (See my Trip Advisor Review here) The hotel was an escape from the bustle of Miami Beach. A beautiful garden welcomes you into a what seems like a hidden entrance to the Impala Hotel. We were kindly greeted and shown to our room. The rooms here are very ‘rustic-Italian’, as you can see in the pictures below. There was complimentary coffee, water, beach towels, a beach bag, and chairs as well as a blow dryer and iron. To our surprise, the room was quiet even though it was a block off of Ocean Drive and 12th. For those of you who don’t know, 12th and Ocean is where the Palace Bar is and the gay beach. If you want to people watch, sit across from Palace on a bench by the beach. Or if you like to be part of the fun, sit outside at the palace for some cocktails and food and enjoy the show. It was fun for all ages as long as you are open minded… Because Miami Beach is such a melange of people, the people watching is second to none and highly recommended.

I can’t not mention the gorgeous beach. The water was perfect and cool after cooking in the heat. Note to the wise, go early or late- not mid-day. Also, I was stung by what was a apparently a Portuguese Man of War jelly fish, which they (the lifeguard and the hotel) said is pretty common. As far as I know, this is a dangerous jelly for the elderly and young children, but I did just fine. Though when it happened, i could not feel my leg at all. We had to go to the hotel for ice and a antihistamine. Then we went back in the water. Can’t keep me out!

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There was some seaweed down by the pier but not on the 12th st. beach

This area also happens to be the Art Deco district and on your walks you can view the iconic retro buildings that make Miami Beach so special. If you are like most tourists, you can line up at the Versace house to get a glimpse of, well, the house. My favorite part of Miami Beach though, was walking to the South Pointe Park Pier for sunset (a great place to see the cruise ships go out too!) and walking back to the hotel barefoot on the beach, at night! Night beach walking is not allowed in NJ, where we go, so this was a real treat. To sit where the water meets the sand and gaze up at the starts, in perfect blackness was pure bliss.
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If you are up for nightlife, which I am not (yeah, I sound fun right?) this would be a good time to go to the bars and clubs to enjoy those late night shenanigans. Chuck and I were sleeping by 9:30 each night because the AMs were filled with adventure.

Speaking of adventure.. Biscayne National Park and the Everglades National Park was the highlight out our trips. We ventured into ENP first, departing at 6AM. It’s about an hour drive from Miami Beach but we didn’t make it to the park entrance until 8 due to a Dunkin Donuts debacle. We made our way to Ernest Coe Visitor Center to start. There were no trails here, but it was a gorgeous morning.

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We continued down through Homestead on Ingraham Highway making various stops to hike and see the sights. We even got to see Rock Reef Pass, a high elevation point, at a whopping 3′ elevation! This is the kind of NP where your hopping in and out of the car, not a hiking park, though there are a few 5+ mile hikes. Not too many for good reason because in my opinion the Everglades seemed more like the Serengeti! People could become dehydrated quickly and that never goes well.

We did arrive at the beginning of the wet season, as I was hoping to miss mosquitoes but they found me and took a few pints. It wasn’t too bad though, I’ve had worse days in the Pinelands. However, there was one 2-3 mile hike we did in Flamingo (Guy Bradley Trail) that went along the mangroves and we got killed by mosquitoes and biting flies.

Rock Reef Pass:
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Some memorable hikes included Mahogany Hammock, Anghinga Trail, Guy Bradley Trail, Pa-Hay-Okee Trail, Gumbo Limbo Trail. We stopped to view the scenery at Hells Bay (you can kayak here too, but no thank you), Royal Palm Visitor Center, Nine Mile Pond, West Lake, Flamingo Visitor Center, and some others I can’t recall. Unfortunately, we did not see any crocodiles, panthers or manatees, but we saw tons of other wildlife! Had we gone on a boat tour through the mangroves, we could have seen both manatees and crocs. One of the rangers at Ernest Coe told us a panther just killed a deer on the road down to Flamingo so I was hoping to see that (is that weird? I don’t think so) but Rangers cleared the road and vultures took care of the rest.

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Hell’s Bay

At around 9AM, when we reached Royal Palm Visitor Center we hit Anhinga Trail. This is probably the favorite of the park and I can see why! We saw HUGE gators! There were lots of cool grasshoppers, birds, gators and fish. Note that the visitor center offers tarps for your cars, as the vultures like to eat the rubber off the wipers. They didn’t bother any cars when we were there though and no one used the tarps. After Anhinga Trail, we did Gumbo Limbo Trail which brings you through dense forest with Gumbo Limbo trees, which are really cool. We saw a baby gator and an owl up in a tree!

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Anhinga Trail

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He was huge!

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Bedrock

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Huge spider on Mahogany Hammock Trail

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A lake on the way to Flamingo

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One of the lakes…

We then continued down to Flamingo and noticed the landscape change. You go from what seems like wide open, blazing hot spaces to swamps and lush greenery. Once we arrived in Flamingo we explored and relaxed for some time. There is no concessioner any longer, which means you either bring food or get some at the boat place by the docks. I’m talking microwavable hot dogs and plastic wrapped roast beef sandwiches.. perhaps bring food and plenty of water. We drank a case of water between the two of us. The water at Flamingo is pristine. You can sit on the ledge and look out to the mangroves, channel, and keys in the distance. We toured the visitor center but no one was there which is kind of a shame because this could be a popular area! In fact, the mangrove tours leave from the docks and there are campgrounds near by. I hear this is a great location to see gators and crocs. Actually, the only place in the world! But they didn’t want to be seen by us. 😦
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We were sure to stop at Robert Is Here for smoothies, which were pretty good. I liked the key lime strawberry personally. They have farm animals in the back and a kiddie play area. Also, there are rainbow eucalyptus trees! I have never seen colored trees, so that was a treat.
IMG_0041That completes my Everglades trip! The next day was to be our trip to Biscayne NP, on the water. Biscayne National Park is predominately made up of water. There is a visitor center in Homestead area but we did not go there. I was dead set on being on the water, thats how I wanted to experience it.
On the way home I called to confirm our previously booked snorkeling trip to Biscayne NP with a company I will not name, but they are the only ones who offer snorkeling inside the NP. To my dismay, they cancelled our trip and never called to tell us or refund us. (I booked it in early April) I was a mess. Biscayne NP was to be the highlight of our trip. What do i do now? My heart was broken… I may have cried!
Well, we grabbed some Cuban take out and hung out in our room for the rest of the night trying to find someone to take us out! Finally, I found Captain Alex with Miami Inshore Fishing. He agreed to take us out fishing the next day (the day before we left) at 6AM! WooHoo!! I didn’t care if we fished, snorkeled, or just toured, I just wanted to get out on the water. We met up on Key Biscayne and off we went, first to catch bait fish then to our destination. The boat ride itself was an adventure. It was just the three of us and plenty of room on the boat to relax and enjoy the ride. I was able to bring my Canon Rebel T1i that I shoot with and it was totally safe from the water. (put away when in motion) The water was clear as glass and it was truly a perfect day. You could barely tell where the ocean turn to sky and for some crazy reason, we were the only ones on the water! Seriously!

When we reached our fishing spot within the National Park we starting fishing! Right of the bat we were hooking onto Barracuda! One, two, three, they just kept biting!

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We moved onto another area and set up for Grouper. They bite hard! Chuck was able to land a few but they were too much for me. I think I had a big one hooked that I lost because the fight was more difficult than the Barracudas I caught.

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It was around may 10AM and the fish weren’t really biting anymore so we made our way over to Boca Chita Key, one of the few Keys that are park of the NP.

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IMG_5480When we arrived and hopped off the boat, we were SWARMED with mosquitoes. This was unlike any mosquito attack I have ever encountered. Captain Alex quickly gave us some special spray (I’m not a fan of any chemicals but I had no choice) and we doused ourselves; it worked and they disappeared. Chuck and I had about 30 minutes to wander around the Key and we found a hidden beach! It was’t really hidden, but there was no one else on the island so we had it all to ourselves. In seconds we were in our swimsuits and in the water! There goes the bug spray but oh well. Swimming in a what seemed like our own private beach on our own private Key was truly paradise. Eventually it had to come to an end and we were on our way back to Miami Beach.

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To our surprise, before we left the park Captain Alex gave us a tour of Stiltsville. Stiltsville is a group of stilt homes built on the flats in Biscayne Bay and are part of Biscayne NP. In the days of prohibiton these homes were used as speakeasies. Unfortunately many of the stilt homes have been destroyed from storms. Luckily we were able to take a special tour of one, the A-frame home!

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(we were allowed here and did not enter inside)

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We made our way back to the harbor with Miami creeping closer and as it came into sight, it was like a city rising out of the water. This was truly the most perfect day and Chucks favorite National Park. I am so happy that first company cancelled on me…

We left for Philly the next day and landed in 50 degree weather, vacation over. 
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Just so ya know, I found the food in Miami Beach to be underwhelming and extremely over priced. Remember the 18% gratuity added to all checks, so don’t over pay. It just felt like everywhere was a tourist trap and we gave up on food on day 3. From that point, the trip was only about national parks. Otherwise, it was a perfect vacation.

Hope you enjoyed the book.

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | July 10, 2015

Honeymoon do over and moments from the first..

As most of you know my husband and I did not have the greatest Honeymoon. Shenandoah National Park was perfection, but we left abruptly and did not get to experience all that we could have; we got about three days in, i think.

Just because I loved it so much, here’s a quick recap-

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We ventured out to Luray Caverns to see the depths of the Earth. Pretty cool and worth the tour. Not recommended for the elderly or though who cannot handle lots of steps; both up and down.

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Gorgeous, isn’t it? Unfortunately, we left before I got any shots of the inside and we never got to hike to any waterfalls. But, everything happens for a reason. Which brings me to Mexico…

After returning home and taking some time, we decided we HAD to try to get away and stay away. Friends had just gotten back from Mexico and said what a great time they had, so we went all in and tried El Dorado Royale, a Spa Resort by Karisma. Located in beautiful Playa Paraiso, Mexico. (Flew into Cancun; about 30 min. out) Go here to see my trip advisor review.

This resort is a Four Diamond(AAA) resort and they grow all their own organic food!!! How awesome right? When we arrived, we were driven back through lush gardens to a gorgeous hotel and were greeted with champange and cold towels. We relaxed at the bar until our room was ready and then got a ride from one of the many golf carts to our room.

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We went for a hike in the Jungle and saw monkeys! It was CRAZY!!! also, kind of scary.

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The grow facility

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Mexican organic gardening

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Playa del Carmen

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Cigars drying in Playa Del Carmen

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There was LOTS of tequila on this night. We made friends with Martin and Marta from Poland.

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Tequila!!!!!

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new friends

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Next time Florida 2015 – Everglades NP and Biscayne NP!

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | July 8, 2015

Hello old friends! Yearly Update

Its happened again. My last post was nearly a year a ago; July 14th 2014 to be exact. I have been upset with myself for not posting, but it is hard to find the time. That said, I work from home two days a week now, and theres no reason why I can’t post every now and then. The thing is, there is not that much to report on!

In my personal life, things are fantastic! I got TWO promotions in the past year! plus, working from home two days week (makes it a lot easier to garden before after work!) I may have bought myself a little congratulatory gift…

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We went to Mexico for a ‘honeymoon do-over’; still hurting too much to visit Shenandoah again. Then I needed a NP in my life again so we went to Florida to visit friends and hit the Ever

glades and Biscayne NP! I will be sure to post about them later..maybe later today.

Like every year, I started my seeds indoor starting in January. Unlike years past, I have regularly fertilized with Bat Guano on the seedlings and transplants. This has proven to be effective as my plants have grown much larger than years past! I have also planted way more seeds than I have before. Succession crops of corn, string beans, radishes, turnips, lettuce, pole beans, and the list goes on.

Now that I am in my 5th year of backyard gardening, its getting easier. I will share my excel file like I did last year, which is conditionally formatted to tell me what to plan and when, as well as when to harvest. I’ve learned that my busy months are when the seedlings are young and under the light. (It also makes vacationing impossible between February and May) Below I have shots of my plants from seed to present. Luckily, the garden is thriving and in another week I should have an abundance of home grown organic vegetables.

So, now that I gave an update there are some other things I wanted throw out there. In the past year, I have visited 3 National Parks; my first National Parks. These experiences truly changed who I am and how I think. All I can think about is the Wilderness. When I think about my plans for the future, I am torn between travel and homesteading. Can I have both?

I am thinking about taking JerseyOrganic in a different direction… I don’t want to limit this blog to posts about just my garden. Yes, I need to document the growth of my garden and the fails and wins but I also want to start to document all the amazing places that I get to experience.

Enjoy the garden pictures below. I think my next post will surely be about my recent NP trips and hiking adventures. Perhaps, I’ll even revamp this blog. JerseyOrganicAdventures anyone?

2015 Growing Schedule

 

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January, seeds and light- check

January, seeds and light- check

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The beds in early Spring. Planted under the row covers are spinach, lettuce, carrots, turnips, and radishes.

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Late March in the grow room. Everything’s getting big!

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New grow light makes everything yellow but really brought the plants to life!

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Before picture of lettuces

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After picture of lettuces. This crop lasted for nearly two months! outside too

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I put a whole egg an a banana (or an egg and whatever) in th whole prior to planting my tomatoes. Also, lots of organic matter and nice rich soil.

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Little lettuces

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New garden with zucchini, corn, pole beans, and cantaloupes. Three sisters method. This was taken at planting, in late May.

These pictures were taken today-

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The herb garden. Also tomatoes up a trellis. Carrots, cukes, lettuce, etc.

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Watermelon!

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Baby watermelons!

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Corn, cukes, zuchinni, pole beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes.

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Cantaloupes!

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Corns, should be my first successful year.

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biggest zucchini ever!

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Dozens of yellow squash

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Zuchinni

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pole beans growing up corn

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Spaghetti Squash

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Entire bed of string beans, succession plantings. Plus four cucumber plants.

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Radish, Basil, cabbages

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Super Sioux Tomatoes

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Tomatoes growing in cages. I did not cut back any shoots and there are WAY more tomatoes!

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Carrots, beans, corn growing down border.

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Cantaloupes, my favorite.

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My first Cantaloupe.

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Sicilian Fig Tree

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Today’s Harvest! Tomatoes (super sioux, cherry tomatoes, beefsteak), Cukes, Zuchinni, Jalapeño, Cherry Peppers

I will leave you with this-

 

Next time, Mexico Honeymoon 2014!

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | July 14, 2014

Plantasia- The Gardens in July

Beautiful dwarf sunflower about to burst!

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What a Summer it’s been.. the grass is growing, the tomatoes are forming, and the peppers are plump for the pickin’! Not too much is ready for harvest as of now, but everything is growing, and growing, and growing. We are in the heat of summer now here in 6B..or is it zone 7 now? I guess we will find out come Fall, when I may or may not be harvesting tomatoes throughout September! 😛 In this 90 degree weather, the cool season crops have ceased and thus I have harvested the last of the peas, radishes, and lettuces.

This weeks harvest:

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I am still planting of course! Succession plantings of string beans have been going in the ground every week. I absolutely LOVE homegrown string beans, you just can’t beat them. In fact, thats about the only veggie that I am currently harvesting. Thanks to my ever-evolving excel file below I know it’s also about to be prime time for Blackberries and Plums! You can see below, in regard to the conditional formatting, (ahem, excel geeks..) that Strawberries and Cherry season already passed, and we are in the midst of Blueberry season.

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I have almost finished this spreadsheet and am going to post it when complete. Its really been a big help if I keep the file open on the computer and check it daily. In a nutshell, its alerting me when something needs to be planted, harvested, canned, etc.

Back to Blueberries..

Blueberry season here in New Jersey is a very, very big deal. Shortly down the road is Hammonton, NJ, AKA “The Blueberry Capital of the World”. This has recently gained some attention thanks to HBO’s series Boardwalk Empire in which the characters are shown driving through Hammonton, NJ, unfortunately it wasn’t to pick blueberries…

This lovely town really does live up to the name, everywhere you look as far as the eye can see, are blueberry fields. When I am lucky enough to have a few hours on a Saturday available I get to canning Blueberry Jam!

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Canning Jam isn’t difficult. You just need some tools to get the job done and a little bit of patience. Blueberry Jam is relatively easier than most. Lets say you have 2lbs of blueberries to make it simple. Rinse them, pull off any stems, and get them in a pot. I don’t like the jam too sweet, so I add 1 cup Organic sugar to 2 lbs berries. Squeeze fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon in as well, and set your pot to medium heat. With a potato masher, carefully mash away. Don’t overdo it as theres no need, the berries will cook down over time. About 15 minutes in take an Organic Granny Smith Apple and peel off the skin. Grate it with a cheese grater right into the pot. The Granny Smith Apples are replacing the Pectin which many people use as a thickener. I prefer the organic method…

Let it cook down for 30 min to an  hour, stirring occasionally. This mixture will thicken up nicely, then you can can! Pour mix into sterilized mason jars, leaving a ¼” headspace. Lightly screw on lid and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Easy as blueberry pie.

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On another note, something interesting is happening with my Pepper plants. I grew a flat of Jalapeños and a flat of Bell Peppers and for whatever reason, only jalapeños are forming on ALL the plants!!! I grew them in separate beds, however they are right next to each other. I will have to do some research to see if they can cross pollinate. The result has been sweet jalapeños… the only way I can tell them apart is because the hot peppers are pointy and the sweet jalapeños have rounded bottoms. Crazy right?! I don’t want to end up with a bumper crop of sweet jalapeños so I  think in a few weeks I am going to make some Jalapeño Jelly. Basically going to follow the same recipe above (the Blueberry Jam) but I will run it through a civ so its a clear jelly. I plan on using all the sweet jalapeños with a few hot ones, just for the spicy factor.

Jalapeños- sweet and spicy

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What else..what else… Let’s go on a tour, shall we?

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Tomatoes are coming..

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String Beans!

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Zucchini growing in the middle of my path!

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Eggplant getting bigger each day..

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The cucumber plants are still growing up and producing cucumbers.

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Thats about it right now. It is nice to not have to worry about weeding and planting so much, especially since its so hot. I can relax, enjoy the harvests, and get cooking. Until fall that is, then its back to chores!

To end, I will share these special tiger lilies that are almost 6 feet tall!!

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Posted by: JerseyOrganic | June 22, 2014

Hellos and Goodbyes.

Hello Summer   It’s been some time since my last post…I’d like to say its because I was off on my honeymoon in the beautiful mountains of Virginia but there’s more to it… Yes, Hubby and I were on a real vacation (our first real vacation in about 9 yearsand on day three we got an urgent phone call. At the base of the mountain, in the hills of the Shenandoah Valley, we received word that my father-in-law suffered a massive heart attack and was being taken to the hospital. We rushed to the cabin, gathered our things, and frantically started the drive back to New Jersey. We ended up making it to the hospital around midnight. Unfortunately we lost 94 (thats what we called him) on 6/3/2014, only 60 years of age.   Goodbye
For there is no death, only a changing of worlds

Sparing the details, the next week was filled with overwhelming emotion, arrangements, family and loved ones, and thus the funeral. It’s still hard to believe, even two weeks later. He will be greatly missed by many but never forgotten.
During all the commotion I immediately got sick with some sort of virus and was sick for about a week, it still lingers….and now back at work. THAT is why I have not blogged.

During all this time, my garden was forgotten. Well, I didn’t forget… it was burning in my mind.. the Peas, the Beets, the Radishes!!!! Bolting lettuce, bolting Broccoli Rabbe, and Peas that had no sweetness left in them! ! ! But you know what, it’s okay. Not the end of the world. I took some time and got to work back in the garden. It was quite calming, healing, helping….

So in regards to the veggie garden, there has been a lot of progression. Now that Summer is upon us, let me take you on a tour..
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The peas have grown nicely up the trellis and are still going strong. I did remove the screens as the the trees aren’t dropping seeds anymore. Plus, its easier to harvest the peas. Try to harvest peas in the AM, when the pods have grown with defined peas inside. Eat, or blanch to freeze immediately or like corn, their sugars will turn to starch. In fact, as soon as you harvest peas they start to get starchy. Small peas will be sweeter than larger peas and whatnot.

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Tomatoes are getting massive!! Taller than me already 😛 Peppers are also fruiting and I think there will be a bounty this year. The cukes are also growing like crazy. The ‘Sumpter’ pickling variety are still small, but have little cukes on them. The ‘Straight 8’s’ have grown about 7′ already up the trellis; no fruit yet.

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(tomatoes and peppers)

Jersey Organic                                                  Cukes are feet taller than me!
IMG_2519                             Sumpters on Left, Straight 8’s on the Right

IMG_2543                                                          Sumpters for pickling

IMG_2525                                                  In the strawberry patch….

IMG_2528                         Hot peppers growing- Jalapeños, Cherry Peppers and Long Hots

I’ve had quite a lot of strawberries but a lot of them are getting eaten by Sap Feeding Beetles. Currently, all ripe fruit was harvested and the plants are flowering again. I think by the time these fruit, the sap beetles will have already left the area. We will see…

Corn is browning well in the green house and the garden however the plants in the greenhouse already have tassels. This is super exciting because I have never been able to grow corn successfully. I think hothouses and row covers are the trick.. I will need to plant more next year.
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Lets see, what else… I planted another succession of string beans today. They will be going string all season, in a 5×4 bed.

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I have harvest a lot of food already.. the Spring Harvest. Lettuce, radishes, beets, spinach, string beans, all the herbs, strawberries!

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I had just enough String Beans for dinner and made a beautiful salad from the greens mentioned above (with carrot greens too) with roasted beets, glazed pecans, goat cheese, red onion, and a champagne vinaigrette.

This morning I actually canned some Jam. I LOVE this jam. Homemade freshly canned strawberry blackberry jam and blueberry strawberry raspberry jam. I’m still working on a set recipe, so when I figure it out I’ll post it.

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It feels really good to be back in the kitchen prepping and accomplishing things in the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | May 21, 2014

Out of the grow room and into the garden!

AND FIRST HARVEST! Wow, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks… but I’ve managed to get everything out of the grow room and into the garden. At this point, all the plants are either in the ground or hardening off. I am happy to be turning the light off because I don’t have to worry about it, but I do miss being down there…

Anyway, it was a truly productive weekend full of chores and fun in the garden. After mowing, edging, mulching!, and housework we were finally able to get some things accomplished. I laid cardboard in-between all the raised beds and covered them with straw. I like to have a bail or two around because it makes for great mulch in and out of the beds. I use it around the strawberries as well, so the fruit doesn’t touch the  soil.

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Bibb Lettuce on left, first succession of String Beans on right, and second round in middle

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Strawberry Bed with tiny corn and a cuke plant

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This season I set the cucumber transplants out early and its paying off. They are thriving and I hope to have a high yield. There are 6 straight eights and 6 pickling plants so I hope to have enough cukes to each fresh and to pickle for later. The two zucchini plants are doing well in their pots, safe from vine borers which have killed previous seasons crops. I have covered the larger plant with a row cover made for pots and the other is inside the new greenhouse. I’d like to see which plant makes out better.. I have never grown plants inside a green house.

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Cukes – Straight Eights

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Zucchini in pot with row cover to keep Borers out

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Yummy Lettuce growing next to cukes

So far I’ve only been able to harvest lettuce. Don’t get me wrong, its fantastic but the treat of the day was my first radish. Easy to grow as it can be grown anywhere theres a few inches of space and can be harvested in as little as 3 or 4 weeks. It tasted amazing raw, peppery and fresh. I knew it was ready when the radish showed itself above the soil, around half an inch.

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Beets, Broccoli Rabe, Carrots, in shade!

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Sweet Corn in a pot with drip irrigation and lettuce in the center; tomato cage support to wrap later

 

I think I am off to a good start this year. With next weekend being Memorial Day I’d say I’m ahead of schedule. I have a three day weekend for Memorial Day and I plan on getting even more done. All the peppers will go into the ground first thing Saturday and then I can do a final drip irrigation inspection. Once all the plants are in the ground I only have to turn a valve on to water. Other than pruning and some weeding theres nothing to do but wait!  I may end up mulching the backyard while hubby barbecues:)

I leave you with this, my favorite spring flower…

 

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It’s been a great past couple of weeks…Its gorgeous in New Jersey right now !

Early Evening

The birds are singing, the grass is growing AND in addition to the rediculous amounts of outside chores, we finished our (only) bathroom remodel, and somehow managed to do it in just one week! Now we are moving on to redo our guest bedroom which must be completed before we go on our honeymoon…
I took some time away (4.18.14 to be exact) from the remodel and was also able to plant the last round of indoor seeds; which include carrots, corn, spinach, lettuce, parsley, and more radishes and beets! They germinated quickly..

Last Round of seeds indoors

Chuck and I spent a grueling three days tending to the backyard flower and veggie gardens, and I even cleaned out the shed!
For it only being the last full week in April, I’m surprised at the flourishing flower gardens! Everything is coming up so beautifully.
The front yard spring garden is booming with tulips and daffodils. But it won’t be ready to mulch until after the helicopter seeds fall in a week or two. By then, the spring bulbs will die back and I will cover them with mulch to hide them. A late cold snap killed off the hyacinths (my favorite) and obviously theres a ton of dandelions but who cares, they pollinate.

Just for fun, this is what our front yard looked like when we bought out house a few years ago…
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This is a shot of of what the yard looks like in Summer now, without the beautiful, but misplaced Oak tree.
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Here is what the front yard current looks like- the spring garden. Unfortunately, the specimen tree didn’t make it past the 3rd year and we haven’t yet planted anything new.
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Tulips

 

In the backyard I have cleared out the herb garden and installed the cuke trellises! It’s ready to plant herbs which I plan on doing this weekend.

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The veggie garden has been prepped and is patiently awaiting the arrival of transplants. We covered the pepper and tomato beds with plastic to retain heat and keep the tree seeds out and I assessed the drop irrigation lines.
The empty beds are open for the cold season crops which I am hardening off, as I started them indoors. I do have one bed with some Bibb lettuce plants that are growing quite well. The opposite side of this bed has my first succession of green beans, which have not yet germinated. By the time I get to succession #4 the lettuce will be harvested. Yum!

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The peas are growing nicely! We have added some screening to keep those annoying seeds out of the soil. My drip line runs along side the plants. I also planted beets, radishes, and spinach on the opposite side of the pea bed. See the little guys?

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I prepped the old blueberry beds for a row cover where I plan on housing some cool, shade tolerant plants. I am thinking broccoli rabe and maybe some lettuce or spinach in the warm months. Just need to get the row cover on the bed..

As for the backyard flower gardens… I still need to do some work weeding. We still need to dig in the border and mulch but I think I have plenty of time for that. Even though the beds aren’t looking too hot, the flowers and shrubs are thriving.

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And for the grow room, all the little transplants are getting bigger! I can harvest lettuce and start hardening off this week!!

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I love this time of year- it’s so exciting planning and preparing, and then executing the job. By Sunday night, I can sit back with my little glass of something

strong ;P and enjoy the view.

Until next time friends..

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Posted by: JerseyOrganic | April 14, 2014

So my sister asked what organic really means…

🙂 I think this is a good time to discuss this word, especially since this blog is called JerseyOrganic. Organic, in regards to agriculture, has multiple definitions-

Organic farming: agriculture conducted according to certain standards, especially the use of stated methods of fertilization and pest control
Organic certification: accreditation process for producers of organic products
Organic horticulture: the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants by following the essential principles of organic agriculture
Organic food: food produced from organic farming methods and often certified organic according to organic farming standards
Organic movement: movement of organizations and individuals promoting organic farming and organic food

My husband and I, through JerseyOrganic are part of the organic movement. We strive to live an organic lifestyle consuming only what we can grow; in hopes to one day live off the land completely on our (future) homestead. That being said, not all products are readily available as non-gmo or organic… so it’s tough to do but people are catching on.

I mentioned non-gmo, as this is really what we care about.

By definition, Genetically modified organisms is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Organisms that have been genetically modified include micro-organisms such as bacteria and yeast, insects, plants, fish, and mammals. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods.

The word organic can be slapped on any product who’s owner is willing to pay the large sum to the USDA to be labeled as such. I am not interested in labels – as they lie.
For instance, peanut butter can be “all natural” because the ingredients are just peanuts, sugar, and oil. BUT because it’s natural and not organic, than the seed itself was genetically modified. The plants were still sprayed, and that ‘sugar’ is actually derived from genetically engineered Sugar Beets (most likely) which are also sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals.
Another example is people think because you can peel a banana, it’s okay because the spray was on the outside… But what about the seed itself? GMO?

If it’s non-gmo than it’s guaranteed that chemicals weren’t used and the seeds weren’t compromised. I’m talking heirloom seeds decades old, the food your grandparents ate; pre Monsanto.
This is where things get heavy…
Have you seen what agent orange did those living in Vietnam during the war and present? The terrible impact that these chemicals had on young developing children, pregnant mothers, and all people effected?
Have you SEEN the images ?
I could go into detail but I will spare you…

Per an article on http://www.organicconsumers.org
August 10, 2011 marks 50 years since Agent Orange was first used by the US military in its war against Vietnam. Agent Orange was used for a decade, but its effects persist to this day, with three generations of exposed Vietnamese families and American veterans suffering from horrific birth defects and disabilities.

The 50th anniversary of Agent Orange will not be acknowledged with regrets or reparations by the US government or the American chemical companies, primarily Monsanto and Dow, who profited from its production and use.

Monsanto and Dow contaminated the land of Vietnam, destroyed the forests, killed, maimed, and crippled millions of people, but never admitted responsibility or paid a cent in compensation to the victims and their families.

Instead, Monsanto and Dow continue to profit from their poisons. In fact, they are currently seeking approval for genetically modified crops that can withstand massive doses of 2,4-D, one of the herbicides used in Agent Orange.
And now, scientific evidence is mounting that Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide RoundUp also causes birth defects. A new generation of babies born near fields of “RoundUp Ready” (genetically modified) soy in Argentina are suffering birth defects as terrible as those found in the Agent Orange contaminated areas of Vietnam. A new report published this month alleges that regulators and the pesticide industry have long known about the RoundUp-birth-defect link – some for more than two decades – but kept the details hidden from the general public.

According to the report, co-authored by a number of scientists and published by Earth Open Source, Monsanto’s Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world, causes birth defects as well as “endocrine disruption, damage to DNA, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and cancer” at amounts equivalent to pesticide residue found on produce. END

So after the war, these companies were able to extract chemicals and use them on crops. For the last 30-40 years we have been spraying and consuming Gmos without knowing the long term risks. And this is the argument used by advocates for conventional growing methods. Insane right??
There are so many interesting things you can read online. Just today I read that more recent studies show GMOs are being found in breast milk!
No wonder why allergies, mental and physical development in children, and other medical issues are becoming more and more common…
Read articles from around the globe- you will learn GMOs aren’t tolerated in most countries, even 3rd world countries fear the impact of engineered crops.
There is so much light to shed on the effects of GMOs and this wasn’t a rant on how evil Monsanto is, or how more people should eat organic..
I really wanted to just get this out there. This is the reasoning as to why chuck and I (and subsequently our families) are choosing to lead an organic lifestyle. It’s healthier, I FEEL better and don’t get sick anymore for no reason- may I say after 20 years of chronic stomach issues.
We are fulfilled by growing our own food and knowing exactly what we put in our bodies.
I urge you to research and read about the differences between conventional and organic. Don’t believe everything you read, you never know who owns the company who wrote the article and who has bias opinions. Please let me know if you have any questions.
I hope my sis now understands! 😛

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | April 8, 2014

April Showers

Happy April! The weather is getting warmer, the flowers are coming up, its raining..and raining.. but that is okay because my hubby and I have spent every second inside working on the new bathroom instead of out in the gardens! 😛
This was a HUGE project for us being it is our only bathroom and luckily the timing worked out. We took off of work for a week and completely gutted and remodeled the bathroom. It was stressful of course because we didn’t have the proper facilities for a whole week. Special thank you to my parents who let us use their shower as late as 11 pm on a weeknight. We really pulled some long, long days but in the end it was well worth it. I will post pics of the bathroom project just for fun when we finish up this weekend.

Anyway, all my seedlings have been under the light growing away and the only maintenance needed was watering every other night. Because the bathroom has been a distraction, I worry I will fall behind with other chores..another project for early spring is yard clean up. A few weeks ago I got a head start and spend some hours outside doing the leaves and getting the vegetable beds ready. There is still plenty to do out in the flower gardens, all the bulbs are starting to appear.  I did finally manage to get the Peas and Spinach in the ground, it was about a week after St. Patty’s Day.

Peas!

Peas!

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Its about time to get the black plastic down on the beds to retain heat and keep the whirlybirds out. As long as the plastic goes down before the seeds start falling from the trees, than its fine to wait. Also, before we transplant and harden off our plants I’d like to pick up some straw to mulch the strawberries and lay down in between the beds. I will also need to mound all my flower beds and get them in order before mulch time. It will also be time to prep the herb garden 🙂

This past Saturday I spent a few hours in the growroom. It was time to transplant the tomatoes into larger sized pots and put all the plants on the floor under the light. I also turned on the light rail system so that all the plants get the appropriate lighting. The Light Rail allows the ballast to glide over your plants spreading light further than stationary systems.

Light on Track

Light on Track

You can see below that the plants are getting bigger and there is no room left on the table. At this point, the light is only 13.5″ above the plants and I don’t want to compromise them. I removed the table and now all the plants are on the floor. Subsequently the light has been lowered to 14″ above the plants, and thats that.

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Little Plants! Lettuce, Cukes, Jalapeños

Plants under light

To transplant the tomatoes just remove them from the 4″ pots and place them in larger pots, then back fill with moist soil. Put the tomato base at the bottom of the new pot, or as deep as you can go. Any covered stems will grow rooms and make for stronger plants. This is also a good time to feed the plants and they won’t need food or to be transplanted again until they go outside.

Tomato Plants -Left: Transplanted  Right: 4" Pot

Tomato Plants -Left: Transplanted Right: 4″ Pot

It’s super exciting to see all the seedlings grow, especially the new plants I am trying this year. First year with beets and radishes, as well as corn and carrots indoors. The reason I wanted to try carrots inside is because they are one of my favorite plants to grow, but if you don’t have deep dug soil, than you wont get beautiful straight carrots. My issue is the neighbors Silver Maple tree. These trees (the ones with the whirleybirds) have shallow root systems that spread out widely. All the root suckers weave through any root crops and steal all the water; not ideal. This is what happens when you try to stick a veggie garden in a suburban backyard…
I am also trying carrots in a gallon sized pot in hopes I can just grow them right in there. I may do a bed of pots outside with carrots, that way no suckers can get in. If this works I might adapt this idea to potatoes and asparagus in future. As for corn, the one year I tried corn they were ravaged when they were about 3 feet tall by a raccoon. Thought I would start them indoors and see what happens.. If I decide to put them outside, I will have to come up with a plan to protect them.

I have high hopes for this season.
Until next time..

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | March 14, 2014

Signs of Spring

Veggies under light for 2014 growing season

A Sign of Spring
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
So its St. Patrick’s day weekend and Spring is in sight despite the forecast of snow. Looking around, I have lots of seeds getting ready to germinate. Today I planted a TON of vegetables and worked on the tomato plants which have been under the light for about a week now. 
Below is whats going on in the grow room…
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I mentioned that we usually plant peas this time each year, but I’m noticing the snow is hanging around later and later. It was a windy weekend too, so I decided to wait until next week to plant peas and spinach. Instead I cleared out the garden beds and did a major backyard clean up. I have several piles of leaves that need bagging still…I know it’s off topic but I think I will post about my backyard. It was a blank canvas when we bought our house and I think it’s come a long way.

Anyway, next weekend before I put the peas and other seeds in the dirt, we will cover all the beds with black plastic to warm the soil and keep the helicopters out.  When the time comes, we will stick the tomato cages in the ground and cut a hole for the tomato plant. I am trying the tomato cages and for the first time. Previously, I had tomatoes on bamboo stakes but after three years they are rotted to nothing. I think cages are they way to go, a little expensive but they won’t rot!

Bamboo Stakes for Tomatoes

Bamboo Stakes for Tomatoes

Bamboo Stakes for Tomatoes

Bamboo Stakes for Tomatoes

Bamboo Stakes for Tomatoes

Bamboo Stakes for Tomatoes

Down in the grow room I can work on ‘mounding up’ the tomato seedlings and getting in round two of planting. Today I planted spinach (inside or out) and cucumbers. I thought I’d give corn another try and wanted to try carrots inside, in containers. Oh, I also have one radish in-between the four corn seeds.

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The light has been 14″ above the plants, running each night for about 15 hours.
In addition the tomatoes, I now have hot peppers and lettuce under the light…

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We had the first hiccup of the season.. The sweet bell peppers didn’t germinate.  They were planted on 2/27 and I checked to see if the seeds sprouted, they did not. The seeds were three years old so I ran out and got some organic seeds then planted them immediately.
Back to tomatoes…See how leggy they are? Stretching for light. What I did was position them in the pots and ‘backfill’ with soil a bit. This is in an effort to keep them in place and packed down but new soil will also feed them so no need to fertilize yet. You want to cover the stem with soil as roots will grow from anything before the soil line including off of leaves. By doing this now and again at transplant time your tomatoes will have deep roots resulting in healthier and stronger plants! You can see below the before and after.

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Now I am off to do some more yard work… spring is near but just for fun, pizza anyone? 😛 I had made dough and thought why not? Putting the bowl on the heat mat worked great.
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Next week, we will get our peas in the ground and prep all the beds. Preparing for the growing season is one of the most exciting times.

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To new growth and new beginnings. Until next time..

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | March 9, 2014

Grow Room Lessons..and life lessons?

So today is the day. After about 10 days my tomato seeds have successfully germinated! Time to talk about grow rooms…. I am also planting lettuce indoors today as well as basil and and some spinach.


Now, before we get started there is something that needs to be discussed. There are certain things that come along with having a grow room, especially like the one I have. I am not referring to the higher electric bills, or daily chores.. what I’m talking about is the simple fact  that you have a “grow operation” in your house.  Consider this a disclaimer; the local and state police may or may not show up at your door with a Consent to Search. Obviously, there is a stigma associated with grow rooms. Remember, it its NOT illegal to go to a Hydroponic store, it is NOT illegal to have a ballast, lamp, or ventilation in your home, and it is most certainly NOT illegal to want to grow your own flowers or plants for consumption or medicinal purposes. It IS illegal however to grow any sort of herb, plant, or flower that could be used or sold as a drug. (Any particular weed come to mind?) My advice is to just be honest if the police do knock at your door. A consent to search is not a warrant- the police aren’t going to ransack your house and accuse you of being a drug dealer. Let them in, show them your grow room, and who knows.. maybe they’ll even compliment you for having a cool setup. Now, the cops aren’t going to show up for no reason of course. Remember, you may need to hire contractors to work on your home. Perhaps the water guy needs to move a line (which just happens to be in your grow room.. ahem ahem) or maybe a neighbor noticed a glowing light from your house all night long.. its not uncommon for concerned citizens to tip off the police. Can you really blame them though? Just food for thought.

ANYWAY, on a lighter note..you may have noticed my plants are a little leggy in the above picture. They grew fast and tall but that’s okay, as they grow we can add soil and they will turn out just fine.
The peppers will take a little longer than tomatoes but in any case the grow room is ready for seedlings. I spent last Saturday cleaning it out as I use it for storage when not in use. Vacuumed a bit, cleaned the light and table, now we are good to go. There was an addition this year- we added a fan. My hubby was kind enough to pick up a 16″ oscillating wall mount fan which will help harden the plants before setting outside. There is also a vent with a fan to outside to help with humidity. This was installed through the basement window.

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You can also see the reflective lining on the wall as well as an automated light rail system. For a few hundred dollars you can have a professional grow operation.

So as far as my setup goes, I have a 400 watt MH lamp and a light rail system that allows my ballast to reach my plants from seedling up to transplant size.
Before I get ahead of myself lets talk about lighting. For growing plants in the vegetative state (not flowering) I use Metal Halide lamps. If you are trying to flower and fruit in your grow room, you should switch to HPS (High Pressure Sodium). I just move everything outside instead…

Lamp in Track System

Metal-halide lighting is  is an electric light that produces light by an electric arc through a gaseous mixture of vaporized mercury and metal halides (compounds of metals with bromine or iodine). It is a type of high-intensity discharge (HID) gas discharge lamp. These have a whiter and more natural light generated, perfect for green growth.

When using your MH light, you want to make sure the light is the appropriate distance from the plants. I keep my light approx. 12-18 inches above the plant. As they grow, I will move the plants to the floor and subsequently lower my ballast and light. Its best to keep your light on a timer- the plants need to get used to having long periods of light and dark; the grow room should mimic nature. My timer is set up to go on at 6PM and turn off at 9AM. (I know this is technically opposite of nature, but we thought it would be more safe to have the light on at night versus while we are at work.)

Tomatoes under Light

As for the keys to a successful grow operation…
Humidity and Temperature:
The lower the humidity, the more water is lost from a leaf. At the same temperature of 70ºF, a leaf placed in 10% relative humidity loses more water compared with the leaf placed in 50% relative humidity.
The higher the temperature, the more water vapor the air can hold, and the more water will be lost from the plant. At the same humidity of 50%, a leaf placed in 90ºF air loses more water compared with the leaf placed in 70ºF air.
Understand? Basically you want your temperate between 70-75 degrees and the humidity around 50%.

It’s most important that when you put your seedlings under your light that the soil is moist. The close proximity to the light will remove moisture from your growing medium more quickly. Be sure to check the seedlings often and spritz the soil as needed.

Now that I have one heat mat open I think ill plant some more tomatoes for friends and family and the lettuce and basil. Lettuce is a succession plant, meaning that there will be one indoor planting and then a new round of outdoor planting every 2-3 weeks thereafter. This will result in a continuos harvest of salad and spinach. Although its not time to plant yet, herbs, carrots, peas, string beans, beets, and radishes are all great succession plants too.  

When you plant lettuce you do not need to put them on the heat mat, as lettuce needs light to germinate. As you can see, I lightly sowed seeds in the soil and then barely sprinkled more soil on top. This tray will not sit at the end of the table under the light. Lettuce loves water, so be sure the soil doesn’t dry out. Lettuce, under light, should grow quick and truly tastes amazing. If I could leave my light on all year, I would most definitely succession plant salad indoors. ….For the record, I’d also have a dwarf lemon tree, lime tree, the all important Black Mission fig tree, and maybe a vine tomato, and cucumber plant. Oh, and of course as many herbs as I could fit… lol see why I don’t grow indoors in winter?

Then the basil, beets, and radishes get planted similar to the peppers from two weeks ago. Get them in your soil and on the heat to germinate. 🙂
As the seeds sprout you can continue to put them under the light and soon enough in the ground!

3/9 plants
seedlings

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Just for fun after all this seriousness… my lovely neighbor shared this garlic with me today. If we broke it up and planted each in the dirt with the green shoot sticking out, a new head of garlic would form. A lot of garlic from just one head.. Cool, huh?

The next time we meet will be to discuss Peas! The first seeds to go in the ground, the actual dirt! Typically, this can be done around St. Patty’s day but I think it may snow so peas may be on hold for another week.
Until next time…

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | February 24, 2014

DIY Tree Stump Side Tables

Weekend Project with all the wood from the Delaware ? Chuck and I have been collecting…

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | February 23, 2014

Seed Time!!!

Okay, so today is the day. We are going to plant Tomato and Pepper seeds for the 2014 growing season!
Hopefully its easy to view the picture of my excel spreadsheet- but I put this together each year to get an idea of what to grow and when, this includes succession planting. So today is 2/22, and the estimated Last Frost date for our area is 04/11/14. Therefore, I can figure peppers and tomatoes need to be started 8 weeks prior to the last frost date. Now, keep in mind there are Micro- Climates, which by definition is ‘the climate of a very small or restricted area, esp. when this differs from the climate of the surrounding area.’ The reason I bring this up is because I live in a micro-climate. Hilltop is called Hilltop because of the slight undulation. The wind for instance whips through my backyard due to this, and I know that when I set my tomatoes out I need to shield them or wait an extra week before putting them outside to harden.
Okay, time to get started…

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So before we put any seeds in the soil, there is some preparation needing to be done.
First, do you have a warm, dark area to place your seeds for proper germination?
Do you have seeds, starting soil, cells or 4×4 pots?

Below is what I use- each of these items can be found at your local Hydroponic Store. In fact, I love hydroponic stores especially when they have grow room setups. Its great for inspiration when you need some.. Hardware stores also have what you need to get started, but hydroponic stores have the best soil. It’s always organic and full of what is needed for a plant to thrive. You will only need to amend when transplanting.

So as you have seen before, here is under my steps with my two heat mats. These bad boys are set to the proper germination temperature and are perfect for 4 flats of seeds which is about what I end up having for peppers and tomatoes. It usually works out perfectly, because by the time the tomatoes and peppers sprout and are ready to be moved, I am planting the next group of seeds.

First thing I like to do is take a large container of some kind and put a good amount of starter soil in there and  mix it with water. You are looking for the perfect consistency, not too wet and not too dry.
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Let the mixture sit for a while if you can.

For peppers, you want to use your four-inch pot and you want to fill it about 95% with soil. Place about three seeds per pot and cover with soil. I like to use a skewer. You can use the pointy end to make a hole if needed and the blunt and to push your seed down to the proper depth, based on what the seed pack says.
You can see, I plant a variety of peppers both hot and sweet.

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For tomatoes, you will only want to fill the four-inch pot halfway. This is so that when the seedlings start to grow you can keep adding soil until you’ve reached the top of the pot. (This will occur after being moved to grow room or under light) Adding soil to tomato plants as they grow increases the strength of the plant and adds nutrients at the same time. Tomatoes are cool plants, you can actually plant 90% of it in the ground, and they will grow huge and strong while producing plenty of fruit.

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Now that your seeds are planted be sure to note the date and what you planted. Get them covered and put them on your heat mat or whatever warm, dark area you can find. Be sure not to give them too much water as condensation will occur and continue to moisten the seeds. Be mindful if you’re using Peat, it tends to get moldy and I urge you against it due to the environmental impact.

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Give it a week or so and you’ll start to see seedlings..in another week you’ll see true leaves. At this point, before they get long and leggy, you will want to move them to the light.

You should probably start thinking about where these seedlings are going to go after they germinate. I have my grow room which is fully equipped with lighting, ventilation, air and temp control, and is large enough for my needs. A sunny south facing window may be enough, but it wasn’t adequate for me. Plants needs at least 12 hours sunlight when in the vegetative stage. If you are buying transplants, you don’t have to worry about any of this.. But it’s part of the fun and is a learning experience.
I will shed more light on grow rooms in another post..

Please let me know if you have any question and good luck!!

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | February 16, 2014

Plan, planning, planned

Hi 2014, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted.. Busy at work, busy with life- but growing season is about to begin, so I’m back!
Things are different now that I work full time and it seems like every weekend is filled anymore. I can’t promise daily or weekly posts, but in order to properly garden, IMO, you need to note how the season went. What went wrong? What seeds produced bigger yields? Why did my jalapeños grow sweet? I want to get back in the swing of posting on this blog, and it’s starting now, as growing season starts next Saturday.

Looking at past posts, I always start posting in May. That is certainly too late. Although it’s snowing, something fierce, I’ve already begin planning. (My favorite thing to do!)

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Let’s start at the beginning. Plan your germination site.

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Under the basement steps is the perfect spot for me. It’s dark but there is light if needed and have two heat mats, which is adequate enough for the amount of seeds I plant. Nearby is water and the grow room.
Remember, not everyone needs a setup like this. If you’re just staring out and are planning on two tomato plants, a few pepper plants, a cuke or two and some herbs than you don’t need a grow room! Save all the money and grab 5$ organictransplants in spring from a reputable garden center. If your from South Jersey, http://www.magnoliagardenvillage.com always carries certified organic plants, but not many places do.

Back to germination…
Now that you have a dark, warm area to start your seeds it’s time to put a game plan together.
The big question is what do you want to grow? Below is a spreadsheet off all the plants I now grow. Looking at this I know that tomatoes need to be started next Saturday!
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Today I went out to the local hydroponic store and purchased bags of starter soil. This is light and airy but filled with essential nutrients that will last until I transplant into 4 inch pots.
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If you are unsure of what to plant and need detailed information I suggest purchasing The Vegetable Gardeners Bible. This has been the only book I’ve needed in all the years I’ve been gardening. You should also visit http://www.seedsofchange.com if Organic Seeds are not available locally. Coincidentally, Bjs Wholesale sells Seeds Of Change Microwavable rice, thats amazing… quality stuff.
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So do your research and pick your favorites. Buy your organic seeds and come back next week and we’ll get them in the dirt.
Then we can talk about The Grow Room and light setup.

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Posted by: JerseyOrganic | May 12, 2013

Saturday chores and lessons learned

So I had a very busy Saturday today- it was great to get so many chores done. I woke up thinking it was going to downpour all day and in fact it turned out to be a pretty nice day. I started in the garden around 8AM and got my first succession of string beans planted (yes, I should have done this a few weeks ago) as well as a strip of lettuce seed tape. I LOVE seed tape. Although, if you are going to use seed tape watch out for the birds. Try to start the seeds in a cold frame or if you have some old screens laying around throw them on top. I frequently cover seeds and small plants with a screen to help prevent helicopter seeds from falling in the open beds. Any beds not being used (most of them right now) are still covered in plastic heating up, with the exception of the new string bean bed of course. 😀

Today was also a big day for my indoor transplants. Unfortunately, my indoor operation did not thrive as it has in years past. This is due to my grow light being spaced too far from the seedlings. I started my seeds at the correct time, had the temp and humidity correct, as well as ventilation. But somehow I measured incorrectly and the light was just too far away. This resulted in small plants… Usually by Mothers Day the grow room should be a jungle and instead my plants are stunted, at around 8″ tall. That being said, I lowered the light to about 16″ above the plants and transferred all my tomatoes from 4″ containers to half gallon pots. When transplanting, I made sure to put about half of each plant in the container and filled with soil. Of course, now the plants look 4″ tall again but this will help to create deep, healthy roots. Even though I am slightly behind a week or two and have stunted plants, they will still grow big and strong just as long as I take the time to properly harden them off and get them in the ground by Memorial Day. I did sit the tomatoes outside today as the overcast and intermittent sunshine is the perfect hardening off scenario.

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I was also able to get all of the cucumber plants and basil outside. They are housed in my temporary cold frame which will help shade them from the sun and winds until they get acclimated, at which time the cukes will get moved to the trellis and planted in the ground. Funny enough, when I was setting up the cold frame around the base of the trelis, I found surprise seedlings! They look to be like cucumbers so I am going to keep them at trelis #1. You can never have enough cucumbers, especially when they’re organic. You gotta figure, a cucumber is 95% water so… I prefer a non-pesticide pumped cuke!
Below is my little herb garden with horseradish, chives, and mint in pots.

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Surprisingly allll that took a few hours, following by mowing my front lawn and weeding all the flower beds, front and backyards.

Speaking of my flower gardens, they are looking beautiful and growing exponentially. Last week the remaining tulips died back, so there is only green growth in the garden right now. But boy, I am in love with tulips- definitely my favorite spring flower. The flower beds are not much to look at right now with the exception of my mailbox irises which are in full swing. Gorgeous!

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As soon as my tiger lilies and catmint bloom I will have plenty of pictures to post. Soon we will mulch and plant annuals, as well as transplant veggies into the kitchen garden. Plenty to more come…

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | May 9, 2013

A long hiatus but back for good

So I have been gone from this blog for a very, VERY long time. Unfortunately life gets in the way sometimes and prevents you from doing the things you love and enjoy. That being said, I have to focus on JerseyOrganic as being a diary of sorts as opposed to a blog I want the world to see. If I have followers and I can help gardeners learn and grow better vegetable gardens then that is absolutely wonderful, but at the very least I need to keep track of what I’m growing, when I’m growing it, and how I can grow things better each year thereafter.
It’s a new growing season, and I’m very excited. I’ve started all my seeds indoors this past February from seeds saved last season. This year I’ve cut it back a bit from 300 seedlings to about 100. I have been very busy with work and fear I cannot take care of a HUGE garden this year..
This is not my best indoor grow year as I had my light too far from my seedlings and the plants are not growing as big as they did in years past. That being said, as long as I give them the proper water and nutrients and sunlight, and hardening off properly, they will grow just fine in the garden.
Anyway, I’m growing all different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, string beans, every herb imaginable, as well as some other things here and there.

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I will be hardening tomatoes, cukes, and peppers off this week to go in the ground around Memorial Day! It’s unseasonably cool for the third week in May but I look forward to getting all my transplants in the garden, I know it’s going to be a great year.
So far out in the garden I’ve planted sweet peas, strawberries are growing strong and are ready to fruit, and string beans will get their first succession planning this very weekend. Because of the unseasonable coolness that lasted well into March I pushed back planning my peas by nearly three weeks. Usually this is done around or on St. Patricks day but I believe there was snow that weekend hence the delay. Additionally this weekend I will be planning spinach, lettuce in a shady area, as well as some carrots and herbs. It will also be time to check my drip irrigation lines to make sure there’s no holes and everything is flowing as it should be. Once Memorial Day comes it will be all systems go!!
I am very excited to be back in the game. Documenting everything from planting seeds, to when they propagate, to when they go in the ground is very important to help me grow as a home gardener. I want to be able to provide for myself and Chuck as much as I can this year. I promise, there will be more to come!

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | November 2, 2011

My extended vacation…and my appologies

 I know, I know.. I have been missing in action for over 2 months! I’m sorry, I have not bailed out, just busy; as life does happen.
In August Chuck and I went on a two week vacation:) We went to Atlantic City for one week and enjoyed the Atlantic Ocean, and the other week we took day trips. One of which was to the ever inspiring Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA.



 

 

 

 

 

 

I made it to the Gardens just in time. Shortly after we got our first frost here in South Jersey. Actually the entire east coast got slammed Halloween weekend with a snow storm. I was however able to get into the garden and harvest the last of my tomatoes and peppers. Even the green tomatoes went into a brown paper bag on my counter and after a week they were perfectly ripe. Everything else had previously stopped fruiting, so they all just died back with the frost.
Carrots however are certainly something I will be growing again and with ease. If you have a raised bed and are able to have it covered for a portion of the summer, carrots are for you.
I cut off the green about an inch above the carrot and placed them in a large Ziploc bag with some holes for circulation. These little guys will last for months in the crisper! and they taste better than any carrot you have ever had.

 

 

 

 

 

 
So now that everything is harvested,  and frost came, my backyard looks go.. dingy. I look at my garden in anticipation for  next year.  Even though things were great this year, next year will be different. It will be bigger and better. I am already devising a plan to set in motion after the New Year.
It feels really good to be back at JerseyOrganic; I really missed it these past few months. 
Even though winter is coming, I do not plan to stop posting. I will be cooking up a storm using greens and veggies from the garden that I saved by canning or freezing, as well as fall and winter crops.

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