Table of Contents
Well hello, friends!
July is the essence of summer: warm, sunny days that bring so much growth to the garden. Since June, my corner of Iowa has missed most passing rainfalls and maintained a dry, hot climate. In water-lacking times like this, watering the vegetable garden becomes my focal point, as I preserve much of what I grow and need it to survive. My top priority is ensuring the vegetables have the hydration they need. It’s crucial to remember what needs to be watered when and create a schedule to keep track of it all.
Between my rounds of watering, I’m starting to plan out all of the preserving that I’ll be doing in the next month. Even though July is the heart of summer, most summer vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, are just beginning to be ready at the end of the month.
At this time of year, the content creation or blogging world can be misleading. Many people start pushing fall in August, but that’s when I do all my summer canning. So don’t worry. This newsletter is not going to mention fall at all. I’m still entirely about summer and all the goodness that comes with it. I always look forward to this time when we can sit down together, maybe with some coffee or tea, and catch up!
Let’s talk about the garden.
As I write this, I just went and checked on the garden. At this time of summer, there are two main vegetables that I’m nurturing: peppers and tomatoes.
Right now, the peppers are loaded and ready to be picked. I plant all the hot peppers in my vegetable garden and the sweet ones at Mom’s house. This month, I’ve received many questions from worried gardeners about their peppers being the wrong color. Don’t worry! All peppers start off a different color, usually green, and ripen to their correct color. Years ago, I often answered the phone while working at a garden center. Funnily, there were many calls from angry customers who’d lament that the peppers they purchased were the wrong color. Rest assured, nature is impressive, and the peppers change color.
During the first two weeks of July, I removed suckers from my indeterminate tomato plants, which ensures they have good air and light circulation. In mid-July, I stopped removing the suckers as the plants were setting their fruit. The plants are now growing over their nearly 5-foot cages. This is the time of year when it’s obvious how much support indeterminate tomatoes need to be sturdy. Of all my tomatoes, the sun gold tomatoes are already incredibly prolific this year, as they usually are, and I’m super excited to start getting this sweet variety off the vine.
At the end of July, I remind myself not to stress. The grass may not be green, and watering may seem stressful, but the vegetables are doing well. Plus, a new season is on the horizon. In fact, it’s time to start planning for a fall garden. Turnips, beets, and carrots can all be planted right now in my growing zone (5b) for an October harvest.
Okay, I mentioned fall once, but that’s it, I promise!
Let’s talk about yummy summertime food.
Summer makes food seem so much more fun and downright easy. Maybe that’s because much of the fresh produce is already packed with flavor and needs minimal adornment. Or perhaps it’s because it’s such a laid-back season where the standard food rules don’t apply.
My zucchini is starting to get ahead of me. How does that always happen? And do you have that problem as well? It’s far too regular an occurrence that I check the zucchini one day and find everything that’s ready is already picked. The next day, there are multiple zucchini the size of a small boat! Again, how does that happen? Thankfully, I have a few favorite zucchini recipes that I can whip out when this happens:
- My family’s chocolate zucchini cake recipe. It’s spiced with cinnamon and clove, which may sound odd for a chocolate cake, but it works beautifully.
- My grilled zucchini salad with basil dressing. It seems like we relegate zucchini only to desserts, but it can be so flavorful and easy to use in healthy ways, like this salad.
- My brand new tomato zucchini summer pasta. Ready for a quick weeknight meal that goes together in 30 minutes or less? Then this is your recipe!
- Cooked with ghee in a skillet and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I just did a Reel on this the other day! The zucchini can be the base of a salad, a side dish, or sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Take your pick!
When the tomatoes and peppers are ready, I’ll be canning with Mom. And there’s so much that we preserve:
- We’ll start with our salsa. We usually do between 20 and 30 pints and often share some with my sister.
- Next, we’ll move on to tomato juice. Many people find the amount of juice we can sort of surprising. But home-canned tomato juice is a fantastic ingredient. I grew up using the juice in soups, sauces, and even Mom’s meatloaf.
- I’ll be making a video soon on how to can hot peppers. We pickle them, and it’s my favorite condiment for anything Tex-Mex. Stay tuned!
If you haven’t been on the website lately, here’s what you’ve missed:
Let’s talk about Kip.
Kip had a lot of ups and downs this month. We’ve ended the month at an up, though. At the end of June and beginning of July, Kip started having excessive diarrhea. Numerous visits with my local vet lead me to try various medications, different food, and a change-up of the routines. But nothing seemed to help.
Kip was experiencing diarrhea up to eight times a day. His spirit never changed, though, and his appetite was good. Better yet, he was always ready to play.
After more testing at the University of Illinois during his regular monthly visit, they discovered it was colitis but did not know the cause. A test finally found a vitamin B-12 deficiency. It was a long shot, but the doctors thought it could be the cause of his issues.
Let’s fast forward to today. Kip has been on a B-12 supplement for two weeks and is doing great! There’s no more diarrhea, and he once again has more pep in his step.
Kip turned four years old on July 26. Those four years have been the best of my life. Even with Kip’s paralysis in 2021, I feel like the luckiest guy to have him in my life. I now realize what it means to have and love an animal. He’s a part of the family, and I would do anything to ensure he has everything he needs. Kip deserves to live his best life, and I’m honored to help him do that.
So that’s July in a nutshell. What’s fun about these newsletters is that they serve as a quasi-diary for me. I’m usually moving at a hundred miles per minute, so this gives me a chance to sit down once a month and reflect on the past 30-odd days. If you aren’t already a journaler, maybe take a minute this week to reflect on how your July turned out.
Until then, stay cool and enjoy some summer sunshine!
If you enjoyed this newsletter and want a way to support me, you can send me a tip here! And thank you to everyone who tipped last month!