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Well hello, friend!
This summer month of July began with cooler weather and a few rain showers, all promoting a beautiful green hue in the yard. Fast forward to today, where we’re ending with extreme heat, humidity, and super dry weather. But I’m so thankful for the rain we had, and while we’re still in drought conditions, it came at the perfect time to keep things thriving. In some ways, the middle of summer can be similar to the middle of winter. The oppressive heat and humidity keep me indoors, just like the extreme cold, but seeing the flowers outside my windows is still lovely (just like snow in winter).
This month also brought a big health scare for my French bulldog, Kip. So I spent much of July watching and worrying, but it ended with a happy outcome and lots more snuggles with my number one.
This month always feels like the beginning of the end of summer, but not in a sad way. The garden shows signs of change and the promise of fall. Nothing makes me happier than a new season full of anticipation.
I hope this newsletter finds you in a cool, air-conditioned spot with a nice view of the outdoors and perhaps a glass of iced coffee. I just added some milk to my shaken espresso, so let’s sit back and catch up!
Let’s talk about the garden.
July is when the last picking of my cabbage and cauliflower occurs. And let me tell you, I had a terrific year for both cabbage and cauliflower. Large, heavy heads, and by using row covers, I had nearly no worm issues. Towards the end of their growing, the plants became too big for the row cover, so I removed it and switched to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) spray.
The question I always get asked when growing multiple heads of cabbage is, “What do you do with it all?” The answer is threefold:
- I eat it. Whatever is in season, I eat and find ways to use every day. Whether it’s sautéing it in a skillet with some protein or shredding it to pair with my grandma’s cabbage dressing, it’s an excellent base for many things!
- I preserve it. I make so many preserved recipes using cabbage: sauerkraut (video coming soon!), pickle relish, stuffed pickled peppers, and corn relish.
- I store it. I have a second refrigerator in my garage to store garden produce, extending the season for weeks. I’ve been known to have a cabbage for six months in the fridge. They keep really well!
I usually would have planted my fall crop of cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower by now. But this year, the time flew by, and I never even started seedlings. That means no fall crop, but that’s okay. Every year can be different.
I’m beginning to harvest tomatoes (yay!), but also noticing signs of tomato blight. To counteract it, I remove the leaves as they turn yellow. This helps slow down the blight and allows the plants to put their energy into good growth of the tomatoes. I also water my tomatoes with a high-quality tomato fertilizer every other week to promote blooms. Here’s to fingers crossed for a good tomato crop this summer!
Let’s talk about food.
July’s produce makes it easy to prepare meals. I keep Grandma’s aforementioned cabbage dressing in the refrigerator at all times. Many nights I make a big bowl of coleslaw and add some chicken, tuna, or hardboiled eggs. Sometimes I’ll roast a sweet potato, but often I just cut a fresh tomato on top and am fully satisfied.
For me, this month is all about zucchini, grilling, peaches, and so much more. Here’s what I made that I think you’ll enjoy as well:
- Chicken zucchini meatballs have become my go-to, and I’ve been keeping them in the refrigerator at all times. The meatballs are perfect when served warm or used cold for lunches with a salad.
- My barbecue chicken sandwich recipe has been a recurring favorite for summer evenings. Again, this is great as leftovers. Sometimes I make extra chicken and shred any remaining for various weekly uses.
- The peach upside-down cake and peach crumb bars are perfect ways to use up all of the peaches I’ve been picking in the orchard. But honestly, the best way to use peaches picked from the tree is to eat them or slice them over ice cream. The baked goods are just an extra special treat.
Let’s talk about Kip.
Last month, I said everything about Kip was perfect. This month was an emotional rollercoaster, but it became a miracle by the end. Early in the month, I could tell that Kip was not feeling well and eventually got to the point of not eating or drinking. After a few trips to my local vet, including admission to their emergency room, we decided to have Kip admitted to the University of Illinois. The doctors had to insert a feeding tube for nutrition and IVs for fluids that did help stabilize him. But he was not getting any better. He could not keep food down, and his spirit was not improving.
Kip had two things happening: pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Various methods were used to aid in calming his internal inflammation, but none worked. After many sleepless nights and tears, we decided we needed to pick him up. The doctors felt he should have a few days at home, after which we may have needed to consider some hard decisions.
On the trip home, he started to drink water and showed signs of interest in food. That evening he ate and was able to keep it down. This was a massive shock since he couldn’t eat or drink without vomiting in the hospital. Slowly over the following days, he ate, kept everything down, and regained his strength. Now he is back to being his old self. He still needs to put on some more weight, but he is doing fantastic!
Kip will now be on a special low-fat diet and will be watched closely. I’m continually amazed at Kip’s perseverance and ability to fight, and I’m so lucky to have him! Just so you can see how good he’s doing, here are two pictures of Kip sunning himself in the yard this morning.
Until we chat again at the end of August, I hope you have a terrific beginning to the month with lots of summer activities. I’m sure it will be hot where I am, but that will make me appreciate the upcoming fall season even more. Here’s to seeing the joy in each and every day!
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