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Well hello, friends!
I should start this newsletter with a different greeting, but I only find the words: “How did August come and go already?”
Honestly, I’m ready for both August and the summer heat to be over. But don’t get angry with me! I love every season and know many people do not look forward to cooler months. On one side, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the warm weather and soaked it in with nightly meals on the front porch with Kip by my side, of course.
On the other side, I didn’t manage the drought well this year. I let it get the best of me. My yard is brown. Here in Iowa, the grass always goes dormant during the summer, especially in the countryside. Still, the grass is extra dry, with the last measurable rainfall worth discussing falling back in May. I’ve been watering anything newly planted or tender and am now ready for cooler weather.
But as I type this, some great news! Today brought half an inch of rain! And just like that, my mood has improved.
August has been full of new and delicious recipes, fall plantings in the garden, and the anticipation of the new fall season. But before we move on to September, I love to have this moment to sit with you, maybe drink something (still a shaken espresso for me), and reflect on life’s happenings.
Let’s talk about some produce and recipes.
While July seems like the big summer month, August is when so much of the garden produce is ready. So far, I’ve harvested tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, Swiss chard, and cucumbers.
With so much produce ready at once, what do I do with it all? I can it! My mom and I have spent two afternoons canning around 28 pints of salsa and an additional afternoon canning six pints of stuffed peppers. Six pints sounds like a small number for an afternoon of work, but these stuffed peppers are a labor of love. My late grandma loved to can these cute miniature peppers, so Mom and I continue the tradition to this day. I have a video of this coming next week, so stay tuned.
In my kitchen, I’ve canned/preserved the following this month:
- Hot pepper mustard
- Corn relish
- Bread and butter pickles quick pickles (affectionately known as quickles!)
- Pickled beets
- Mustard pickles
- Sweet corn (frozen)
- Peaches (both canned and frozen)
It’s been a busy month!
The first question I typically receive when I show what I’m canning or growing in the vegetable garden is, “What do you do with all that food?” Sometimes I even receive a message or two declaring that there is no way I use all this food. I love to explain that I do eat or preserve all of it!
First, I tend to eat more vegetables than many people find humanly possible. And second, the beautiful part of growing food is extending the season by preserving it. So rather than gobble it all up in one month, I preserve it for use in winter and spring.
I also love to use the produce I grow in fresh ways, including a few weeknight meals. Some of my most recent favorites include:
Lately, I’ve shared some of my favorite super quick recipes in my daily stories and videos. While these recipes don’t have a place on my site (yet!), this newsletter seems like the perfect space to write them out. So here are a few bonus recipes, just for you:
- Sungold tomato vinaigrette: In a bowl or large measuring cup, combine 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp black pepper, 1 garlic clove, ½ small shallot, 2 tsp honey, ⅓ cup olive oil, and 1 cup Sungold tomatoes (or your favorite cherry tomatoes). Using an immersion blender, combine all ingredients until smooth. Use this vinaigrette as a dressing or a dip!
- Marinated cucumber salad: In a bowl, combine ¼ cup white wine vinegar, ¾ tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, ½ tsp black pepper, 2 tbsp chopped dill, and ⅓ cup olive oil. Whisk all of the wet ingredients together until combined. Then add 12 oz thinly-sliced cucumber (about 2 cups) and ¼ of a red onion and toss to combine.
- Basil aioli BLT: In a bowl or large measuring cup, combine 1 egg, 1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard, 1 garlic clove, ½ tsp salt, 2 tsp lemon juice, ½ tsp black pepper, 10 leaves fresh basil, and 1 cup neutral oil. Blend all ingredients to form the basil aioli. Spread this on toasted bread and top with tomato and strips of bacon (or whatever else you love on a BLT). *If you’re concerned about raw egg, start with mayonnaise purchased from the store and add in the fresh basil leaves.
Let’s talk about the garden.
As we head into a new month, the garden will continue to produce tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables. But to supplement for fall, I’ve planted a small area of cooler-weather crops. I had a late start with my seedlings, so we’ll see how they mature. Here’s what I planted:
- Three heads of cabbage
- Two heads of Romanesco broccoli (which never does well for me, but I keep trying)
- Four heads of cauliflower
- A row of radish
- A few rows of leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, and kale)
I find a fall garden almost more enjoyable than a summer one. The slow attitude of the season is relaxed, and we start seeing cooler days, which helps the seemingly unending task of watering become so much easier. Also, there’s less pressure! I try to adopt a carefree philosophy in the fall without the worry about how much produce I’ll get.
So when does someone start a fall garden? A fall garden depends on when you expect your first frost date. In southeast Iowa, we have until mid-October before we need to worry about frost. This date means there is a long growing season yet to come. I look at a plant’s days until maturity and work backward to know when each seedling needs to be in the ground. Since garden centers do not get in cabbage plants or anything else for fall, I start my own seedlings just like I do in the spring.
Let’s talk about Kip.
Kip had an excellent August! You may remember that June and July were hard for Kip, with a long bout of colitis. The doctors found a slight B-12 deficiency and didn’t know whether prescribing this vitamin would make a significant difference. We started the B-12 supplement in July, and the colitis symptoms disappeared almost instantly.
Miraculously, Kip has also been even more energetic and happy this month and seems to enjoy this late summer weather as much as I do.
Kip’s somewhat delicate condition means there could be a flare-up at any time, a medication that may not work well, or something like colitis waiting in the wings. Since Kip continues to be the best thing I could’ve asked for, I must always ensure I’m on the lookout. But right now, I’m counting all my blessings that Kip is in a good place and can enjoy life!
I managed to get this newsletter out to you right on the last day of the month, which seems like it’s becoming a trend. But I think it’s a great way to truly reflect on everything that happened in the past month, both the good and the bad.
Until we chat again, enjoy the end of summer and bask in the anticipation of what’s to come!
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