Monday, December 6, 2010

First real snow of the year.

I had planned on posting many times over the past few weeks.....erm...months.  I wrote up a few drafts to fill with pictures later and then post, but never actually did it. I might do it later still.
Of course this time of year is hectic for everyone.  We pretty  much have everything under control here but life itself is busy in its own right these days.

So the last few things i did with the garden was to remove all the hoops and the sockets.  The sockets were easier to pull up than i had expected.  I had a medium size pair of pliers to grip the pvc sockets and pulled.  The hoops stayed in their partly bent shape and i just stacked them one by one against the shed, the sockets went into some plastic totes i had. The tomato cages had to be cut from the deceased vines and stacked then set aside for next year.

One cool thing i noticed is that late planted dill and cilantro is much hardier than i expected. I was out the day before Thanksgiving to look and despite a number of hard frosts, the cilantro and dill (though short and compact) were still green and very much usable. I haven't been out to look recently nd we had some sleet and freezing rain  the day after Thanksgiving, but i wonder if the herbs are still kicking.

The brussels sprouts did try to bud up, but i know i planted them rather late in the spring and they got woodchuck damage which set them back, but i have left them where they are and stripped the leaves to see where they would get- that was the same day i last checked the  dill and cilantro.

ABout a week before that i had dug up my rosemary and set it in a medium sized black tub i found at the Dollar Tree, about a 3 gallon.  I put all the plants that 'looked' good so there's probably a good dozen going on.  So far they have done well indoors and they smell delightful when brushed.

My Meyer Lemon bloomed impressively, i think it still has one bloom that is maybe only a day old, but it had fresh blossoms from early November until right about now. I used a small paintbrush to distribute pollen, but i don't think it is self-fertile- no fruit has set this time around. It was a real treat to sniff the blooms whenever i wanted.... The Venous Orange is looking good too, the fig looks confused. I think it is normal for it to drop all its leaves, but it has a few clinging yet. Its not dead but i think it can't decide if it wants to put out more leaves or take a nap.  The only plant that bit the dust was the Key Lime...  it was guaranteed for a year so i might request a replacement from Henry Field's.  It croaked about midsummer when the other plants were thriving under the same conditions.

Oh, that gets me to the grapes, the ones that came to (way late) had done their best to catch up i'm not sure if they  got themselves ready for winter well enough to survive until spring, but we will see.  I was fascinated how quickly a moderate frost affects grapes. It just wipes the leaves right out. From lush and mostly still green one day to brown and gone with the wind the next!
The blueberry plantlets put on a little red showing for fall and i cannot wait to see how much growth they put on this spring.

I never got to the flower beds along the front of the house.  Its been a painful season for me.

I did manage to dig up the parsnips i planted. I got a few nice and large roots and a number of rather small ones. I roasted them up with a bunch of other root veggies (including my Jerusalem artichokes- more on those later) beneath a whole chicken, seasoned with herbes de provence, olive oil and salt & pepper.  Then i used the veggies and drippings in a uniquely seasoned vegetable soup.  The soup is inspired by a local restaurant called The Sedgley Place, theirs is a creamy soup full of various veggies. They key seasoning is white pepper, cumin and tarragon.  When we go to the restaurant, its a given that i order that soup. Their French Onion is divine as well, but i absolutely crave the veggie soup.  I don't have a real recipe for it, i go by taste, available ingredients and tweak it to my liking. Its always just a bit different. Ok, so that was a real treat to have and i admit i cheated on my normal eating plan to allow myself to indulge in something worthwhile!

The Jerusalem artichokes-  i didn't get to harvest them all- too challenging for me- but i did get plenty to sample and make the decision that they are well worth the space they use. As a 'famine food' i think that they would be more than welcome at the spartan table.  There is a noticeable difference between the varieties i planted.  The stampede type bakes up like a creamy dumpling. I didn't have to peel any of them, just scrubbed them well and baked. The fuseaus are more dense and retain the water chestnut like texture when cooked along with the stampede, the red rover has a stronger flavor than the others- more earthy but pleasant. I didn't harvest the whole row so i didn't get to taste all the types i had. The stampede did give me one gigantic tuber, bigger than my open hand, i was going to photo it, but my hands were too muddy and cold to play around. But it was impressive and had to be cut into chunks beofre cleaning.  I can't comment on the gassiness of the food that sunchokes have a reputation for. Any time i stray from my chosen dietary plan i experience bloating and.....toots.... so i couldn't blame it entirely on the 'chokes.

The rutabagas did well, i got a number of huge roots and plenty of small ones. I made a delicious rutabaga mash out of some of them. The rest were roasted or simmered with beef.

I did dig up the salsify and the burdock, but not being quite sure what to do with them, and not having the time, they got shrively  and put into the compost.

I have been using the dehydrator quite a bit. I was able to get out to the grocery store a few weeks ago and i found a stack of strawberries in boxes for $1 a pound.  I bought up all the ones that looked good, got them home and sat down with my huller and knife. They were sliced and placed in the Excalibur.  I think i bought 10#, got 8# after trimming and cleaning.
I had also gotten some cheap mushrooms at the same time, those were processed after the strawberries were finished- later that night.
I also peeled, sliced, blanched and dehydrated a couple of my Carnival squash, the flakes have been used in a few soups as well.

SO, the dehydrator has been awesome- i make the rollups out of yogurt quite often and i have made jerky more than a few times- i even used chicken tenderloin hubby found on sale- it came out very well.

Well that is it for now, i have a few garden related emails that i have neglected to reply to- to my shame because i was very interested in answering to them....

oh, i have also begun getting seed catalogs in the mail. Pinetree Garden seeds was first and One Green Earth came just days ago. I have them set aside for later perusal.  I still have my copy of  "A Countryman's Year" waiting to be read when spring fever becomes acute.  I have so many seeds right now i don't think i could need any more- but i know i will conveniently forget that my garden is only about 30x30' and that i cannot physically do all the things i cook up for myself to do even if i didn't have a bad

So that is it for now!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Black Swallowtail

I never got the chance to look up how long it takes for a Swallowtail butterfly to metamorph once it pupated....  so i was surprised the other morning to see that time was up!

Such beautiful wings and contrast of color.

Outside with the jar....

Ready to fly!

Its kinda hard to make out, but the second fence panel from the end toward the driveway- that oval blur is the butterfly. It was about 10 feet away from me.  The wind picked up and off the little critter went.

Over the fence and toward that tall yellow tree ...

It made for a nice morning. :0)

Herbs, ornamentals, peppers and other things...


The Basil really did well.  Nice plants reaching almost 3' tall.  I had picked a bunch of it this summer and made some yummy pesto with macadamia nuts and olive oil.  I also pulled some more plants this past weekend when it looked like we were going to have a frost- the one that didn't happen.  I washed, dried the big stems and then plucked the leaves for the dehydrator.  They are taking forever to dry.  I don't know why, maybe it was sheer volume and the low setting. The heat has to be on the lowest setting, just gently warm.  But its still taking a long time,  and the humidity up here had been rather low for those days.  I'll have to keep trying.

I think i might try a variety with much larger leaves though. It might make harvesting it easier.  Its a thought i hope to remember later.

The Rosemary is still doing great out there, its more hardy than the basil so it will look nice for a while longer.  I'm still going to harvest and dry as much as i can.  I might try and bring in a few of them for the winter. I have never successfully kept a rosemary plant alive long term in the house, but its worth a try with my own seedlings.

I get to make some hand-bashed herb mixtures and sauces now that i got my big stone mortar and pestle.  I have been ogling these things for years.  I have a medium sized ceramic one, but its not the heavy duty granite thing i just got.  Its a lot like the one i first saw Jamie Oliver using how long ago?  They were almost impossible to find then, but i kept looking. Then i found them about 5 years ago, but to ship a 26 pound mortar and pestle was craziness...  until i went looking again about a year ago and found
They sent me THIS  Mine is the 8".  They only charged me $8.98 to ship it, Priority. I ordered it Sunday evening and i have it today.  It really is very nice.  Such a great company!

Ok, ok.... back to the garden stuff! lol

Shiso (Perilla/Shisho)-   It took its time growing but it did start to take off as the summer went on. It has a really brilliant mahogany-red and the scent of the leaves is somewhere between basil and fresh tangerine rind.  Its very interesting.  I might pull it and try and see if it makes a good house plant since i haven't done anything with the leaves yet other than pluck a few to sniff.

The peppers this year just didn't impress.  I think the ZsaZsa  were so tempremental, by the time i got the seeds to germinate the plants were way behind. It has one singular fruit on one of the plants, but it is small and i don't think its going to grow much more before frost.
Same thing with the New Ace- i did get maybe 3 reasonably sized peppers from it.  Not nearly grocery store sized, but tasty enough.  The "Fooled You" Jalapeno were interesting...  they were not hot at all...  which is what they were described as.  But i guess the joke was on me cause a green pepper without heat is.....guess what?  A sweet green pepper.  I guess i was expecting the pepper to retain the musky, smoky flavor of hot peppers but without the heat.  But it didn't happen that way,  without heat a pepper loses those traits, at least in this case.  So it was a disappointment in a way, but not because there was something wrong with the seeds or the plants,  it just wasn't what i had hoped it would be.
I won't bother with it again, i'll grow the jalapenos that keep their heat. Since i live in a cooler place they may not be as ripping hot as the ones grown in the South anyway.

Ornamental stuff-
I guess i could say the Ornamental Eggplant, the Birdhouse Gourds and the Job's Tears should fit here.

The Ornamental Eggplant really delivered the "Pumpkin on a Stick" that i was hoping for.  A bunch of brilliant orange, tiny, pumpkin-like fruits are all over the stems.  I need to pick some for a little fall display on the dinner table. I need to pick them for a picture anyway.

The Birdhouse Gourd was both a success and a pain in the row.  It tried to take over the back half of the garden earlier in the summer. Even after being chopped, clipped, and dragged into submission it still got designs.  Every time i looked at it i have the Pinky & The Brain cartoon theme song stuck in my head.
But, though i have not plucked them yet, it looks like i have some really nice gourds to dry out.  One is huge and the rest are more manageable. I won't grow these again in  a garden so small as mine, but i might get to use the space in my parents' garden next year. They haven't been using it much in the last few years.

The Job's Tears are doing really nice things. There are a lot of seeds still on the 2 plants and i have picked a small handful.  The only trouble i have had is knowing when to harvest the seeds.  The ones i tried were a bit too young. When they dried their coats got a wrinkly texture and turned a shiny white instead of the expected shades of slate and graphite gray.  I was worried that the seeds would mature so fast on me that i'd miss picking them and they'd drop to the ground and be ruined for beads.  Or that frost destroys their looks too.
I tried picking some more a few days ago, some of the seeds were getting very dark brown and a clean straw-colored shade. Those seem to be drying naturally and are showing the expected lustrous greyscale colors.  I'm quite happy with them actually. I can't wait to mix them with other beads of natural materials like shells, earth tone stone beads, coconut,  fresh water pearls....  They've re-inspired my interest in doing hand made jewelery.  I even dug out my bead stash and made a few things in anticipation :0)   I think its the neatest thing to be able to go out into the garden and harvest my own beads.

Fresh picked:

Comparison of dried and fresh.  Drying takes about a week for color to develop.

The darker the fresh seed the more blue-grey the bead ends up.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Carrots and Onions (and Shallot) 2010

Wow, the carrots really did well.  I got lots of them. I don't remember if i did weigh them. I can't imagine that i didn't- but i don't remember doing it.
They were sweet and crispy, the roots were thick and a bit on the short side- but i think the varieties i had weren't supposed to be the ultra long and thin type- so they may have been as perfect as they could be- which was great. I only had 4 or 5 that were bifurcated, cracked or shaped oddly, the rest were straight, smooth and not 'hairy'.  The color of both types was hard to differentiate, the skin on both was a vibrant garnet red. The cores were small, one type more tinged with green than the other, but otherwise the inside color was the usual carrot shade of orange.  They pulled up easily- a few broke from their stems but the soil had stayed so nice and loose they were easily pulled out.

I love how light my soil stayed in the planting rows. Even now, this late in the year after all the watering and recent rain, if i step into a bare spot in any planting row, my foot will sink at least an inch or two. I'm used to soil with a higher clay content so this is recognisably different than the garden soil i traipsed through as a kid.

Now the onions-  I decided at the beginning of the year that if i got one or two onions the size of a regulation baseball, i'd be happy enough.  I got my wish and then some,  i got at least a half dozen that were of good size and plenty of sizes close.  I got plenty of little tinkers too- and i like the range in sizes actually.  The little golf ball ones are great for the morning omelet.

I got plenty of white onions, and the red onions did catch up in size-  they seem to grow at a noticeably different pace than the white ones. I probably could have waited to harvest the red ones until the tops were more dried than they are, but we were getting so much rain for a while there i was afraid they'd just rot in the ground. So i pulled them.  They will get diced and frozen for convenient use through the winter soon anyway, they don't need to store well whole after all.   I never did get to the root cellar yet. Hubby has been working on the basement now and then but there was a lot going on down there and he isn't finished yet.   So not having a root cellar for storage this fall isn't a problem since i don't have a big need for it yet anyway.

Oh, and the Shallot...s....  Well, i don't know what was up with those things, the variety was named "Mirage" and i'm thinking that they were that very thing! lol.  I planted a number of seedlings, but it looks like i only pulled one or two up. The seedlings may have gotten slugged,  and the other thing that i think contributed was the volunteer pumpkin plant that hubby asked me to keep.  It was self-seeded in the center of one of my walking rows and it vined in the direction of my shallots. I think it shaded them too much despite my trying to keep those leaves down to a minimum and the vines out of the planting row.  So whatever it was, it probably wasn't all the fault of the variety of shallot.  I have them green-lighted for next year.

Corn and beans, 2010

Corn started out quite well once harvesting time came.  It was a small patch so i wasn't expecting a high yield or anything.  I don't eat corn (too starchy though i used to love it), so it was mainly grown for the rest of my family to have.
As a reminder to myself i planted:
Golden Bantam
Stowell's Evergreen

I had planted them in blocks in the order listed, the Stowell's in the back.  The Golden Bantam and the Incredible did quite well. The Incredible seemed more insect resistant tnan the Golden Bantam. I did try throwing around some Seven Dust early on to keep the darned earwigs out of the husks and i used BT sporadically in attempt to quell the earworms.  This seemed to help a bit- still got some nasties but not too terrible in the end.
The only real disappointment was the Stowell's Evergreen.  I think it germinates slower, matures slower and that put it at a disadvantage. I got some very large  ears on the stalks- but out of these 10"+ ears, only maybe 20 kernels were filled out.  I understand this is a pollination issue.  I'm not sure if it was because the soil in the back 4' of garden was cooler than the 8' in front of it that the rest of the corn went into (it was all under row cover at the time of planting IIRR- i'll have to go back and look)... i don't know if it was the lack of water---  the silks on the whole plot of all three types dried out as if they were ripe and ready well before they were- which made harvesting tricky.
The stalks of them all are browned out now so i know whatever was left on them is past now.  I knocked the stalks down the other day so they might break down better over the winter and early spring.

I had planted some of the purple podded string beans between the corn stalks for kicks, but i think the dry weather with the lack of direct sun didn't do the beans any favors.  I'm guessing that beans may be best grown with corn when the corn is planted in thin rows, not blocks.  The beans mostly ended up with woody pods even when they were small enough that they should have been tender.  I got about a 1/4 pound of the purple beans before the next batch came in almost inedible.

The Provider bush beans, however, were stellar. They are definitely on the list for next summer.  I lost count of how much i picked, but it was every other day about a pound for more than 3 weeks.  They got ahead of me eventually,  i probably could have gotten a few more whole pounds out of the planting if i hadn't lost track.
I'll possibly double the space for them next year so i can keep freezing them, get some canned and still share them out.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall Rreport-

Well i have a lot of catching up to do. I have been taking pictures as things go on so hopefully i'll manage to bust out a few entries about separate things in the next few days.

We were warned that we might have our first frost last Monday- but it didn't happen and as of now, there is no frost in sight according to the weather forecasts.  Normally for my area, the first frost comes before now (before October begins i think).  Its not making too much of a difference though, because the days are rather cool (high 50's to mid 60's) so there isn't a whole lot of growth or extended ripening going on.

We're getting rain today- its funny that we have gotten more rain in the last few weeks than we got all summer.  But that is just the way it goes.

Did i mention that i sort of let my summer squash go by too early.  It got away from me and i let the veggies get that gourdiness to them. There wasn't enough water going on i think.
So i didn't get to make as many squash chips like i had hoped i could.

Goodness, i'm so far behind i don't know where to start.  Maybe if i just start a few entries by subject, finish them off separately as i go and them publish them all when i'm done.
Sounds like a plan!

Monday, September 27, 2010


I keep trying to find the time to do a full entry here but it isn't happening. lol

This isn't a dead blog and i have not lost interest-  its a time and health thing.

I have taken pictures of a few harvests with the idea in mind of recording it itno the blog, so its not like i haven't had anything to write about.
I have been spending my time listening to audio books while i struggle to keep up with general housework. When i start feeling pain too much to do any more work i try to keep occupied by crocheting- still while listening to audio books, sermons or current events radio programs.
I have been getting so tired that chewing food can be exhausting-  i am looking into finding out why.

I haven't even kept up very well with the blogs i love to follow. Much to my own annoyance, lol.

So that is what is up.  I plan to be back soon with an update-  it was a great Summer, i learned a lot and was greatly blessed with some beautiful produce. Oh i can't wait to use what i learned this year on next year's garden.

God Bless!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

And now for something completely different

The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king. (Monty Python's Holy Grail)

you know i had to do that.... 

Ok, so it finally arrived a short while ago.  Where it had been delayed in shipping, i was a little concerned that maybe it had gotten damaged and FedEx was doing whatever it is that they do when they realize they've destroyed something.  But it turns out that nothing of the sort was going on.

The box was perfect

Oh, it is nice!  I had read a few reviews at Amazon before i bought it. Some people were whining that it was basically a plastic box with a fan in the back.  Duh.  An oven is just a metal box with a heat element in it.

I was expecting plastic that might feel a tad flimsy but i wouldn't mind.  What arrived is far sturdier than i expected.  It is a very solid piece of equipment.

The other thing i wasn't sure about was the noise.  Its really not that bad!  I mentioned before that i have two older dehydrators to compare this with. One is a Durabrand and the other is a NESCO FD-39.  The Excalibur isn't quite as silent as the Durabrand, but it is much quieter than the NESCO.  The Durabrand is only that bit quieter because it is much smaller really.... the NESCO is just plain annoying.  But, yes...  definitely i can see running the Excalibur throughout the day and night and it not be a disturbance.
My model has an on/off switch on the temperature control- and i love that. I don't like appliances that only turn on by being plugged in.

All i need to do now is wait for someone small and cute to get ready for her nap so i can empty the clean dishes from the dish washer. Then i can run the dehydrator trays and mesh through some hot vinegar water to clean them for use.
Hmmm,  what to dry first?

If i want to make jerky it will have to take time to be prepared- marinated.
So i think i'll try some of those extra bags of frozen veggies i have taking up space in the freezer. They shouldn't take too long to dry and the machine will be free to use for jerky tomorrow.

Sounds like a plan.


I don't like those mornings when i wake up too early and can't get back to sleep.  Today it was about 4am. I tried to catch up on some stuff but i am not with it enough. I thought i had more comments to try and catch up on replying to, but i can't seem to find them.  Maybe they were on the other person's blog.  That is something i wish i was better at keeping up with. I like having blog conversations, but i'm terrible at remembering where i  replied and remembering where i wanted to but didn't.  I wish there was a feature that would show me where i have been. :o)
I did check the tracking on my dehydrator and it has arrived at the FedEx facility in my town, expected to be delivered today. Yay!

I picked another big bowl of tomatoes yesterday. I wonder what i'll dehydrate first? Jerky or tomatoes, lol.

I bought a bunch of oxygen absorbers from Honeyville and they arrived yesterday. I have plenty of new quart jars for storing dried items.  I still have the dehydrator book from the library.

So i guess this is as exciting as its going to get for a while. lol

Monday, September 6, 2010

I was hoping to catch up with a big post, but i'm not sure how this will go.  Usually if i wake up before the little one does, i have a good 20-45 minutes to myself. This did not happen this morning....  so i am going to try and pick at this post throughout the day.

I have had a few weeks of simply not feeling well and i have had a few doctor visits, so my time in the garden has been limited.  The weeds got away from me and things like the green beans and summer squash have been left to run amock. Good thing about the green beans is that they make good dried beans if left to themselves, so that is what i plan to do with those.  Let the pods mature and dry on the plants then gather the seeds and use them as baked beans.

I am annoyed with FedEx once again. They were supposed to deliver my Excalibur on September 4 and i had intended to be drying tomatoes and veggies and beef jerky all this long weekend. But instead, my dehydrator is hanging out somewhere in Reno, Nevada according to the tracking info.  So that has gotten me bummed out.
I have no room left in the freezer, my fridge is crowded with things i don't want to can (or the time ). I can't freeze anything more because there is no room.  I have had to throw some garden produce in the compost because we can't eat it all and by the time i gave up on it, it was too far gone to share out. My older neighbors seem to have been away from their home in the last few days so i  haven't been able to put together a basket for them anyway.

So, the problem is not the production level of the garden, its the challenge of putting all of it up. So i'm not really complaining, i'm just noting the reality of  it all. lol

I got some nice corn the other day.  I went through and started picking whatever looked ready. There were a few borers in a couple ears- which has to be one of the grossest things ever.
Most of the ears were on the small side, i don't know if this is a dry weather thing or its because i tried planting them so close this year to keep them from falling over- that did work by the way.


There are 3 types of corn in there, the ones with the smallest kernels are "Incredible" a SSE, it got the best reviews from the family.

It did look like we were going to have to deal with hurricane Earl earlier last week, so i was watching it closely.  By Thursday it looked pretty promising that we were going to miss the worst of it and then i simply hoped we'd get the rain we needed so badly. We did get 3 inches over Friday night and Saturday i think it was. It came down steady and not too fast so there wasn't a lot of wild runoff.

My apple tree....  boy do i wish i had managed to keep up with the spray applications! Turns out that it would have been a great year for apples. Some of the orchard owners were really worried about Earl, if we got the winds it would have knocked away their bumper crop and may have even torn their trees apart. We are all thankful that it didn't turn out that way.
We still haven't put up the buried support post for the tree. We have to raise the back fence a bit and the post will be installed after that.

I have gotten some great tomatoes. This huge one is a Pruden's Purple. Its a Brandywine type and is very sweet and juicy, not to mention huge.

I picked all this in one day- i was pretty impressed to get this much from a garden that is under 750 square feet.

 I enjoyed the colors.
The yellow pear tomatoes are delicious, but next year i plan to give them much more room. I forgot that cherry types are even more vigorous than other indeterminate types. I also have to seriously learn to prune tomatoes properly. I simply can't reach some of the fruit all the way in the middle and the limbs are intercrossed...  its quite a mess!

My onion tops are beginning to fall over and dry off, so it won't be long before i can pull them and cure them to store.  They are looking good. Ailsa Craig Exhibition onions will definitely be on the list for next year.

I'm not sure if its too early to tell or not, but the red onions didn't fare as well as the white...
I'm not sure where the shallots went....

The Brussels sprouts had it pretty rough. They have had to replace their leaves a few times over the course of the summer so i don't really expect them to get too far unless we have a long, mild Autumn.

I did actually get one nice looking head out of the Point One cabbage and a few more are heading up. One feels quite solid.  The problem is that i was unable to eat the first one because i kept finding frass and slugs in each layer of leaves. I don't gross out too easily, but it was so yucky that i couldn't bring myself to use the cabbage.
I'll have to keep up with the applications of BT and DE (diatomaceous earth) next year.

The cabbage butterflies are just loving my garden,  they lay their eggs on absolutely everything. I think the BT and manual egg squishing has helped keep most of my leaves free of the buckshot look.

My Swiss chard seems to be more than willing to produce, so i really need to try eating it again. I'm hoping that muddy smell goes away when its cooked and isn't as prominent as it seems to be when it is raw.

I have not gotten around to installing the edging around the grapes and the berries yet.  The front and side flower beds have also not been touched.
Its not for lack of enthusiasm....

I have managed to get a few trips to the thrift stores in.  I found a great stack of old crochet magazines with some great patterns in them. Lots of doilies and afghans. I also found some yarns. In one large bag was a bunch of unfinished work by the former owner. There were also some hand written patterns and a few copies of patterns that were put down with a typewriter. Now i'm one of those people who would consider these things a Treasure.  I have some of my Great Grandmother's patterns, booklets and yarn supplies, to me they are keepsakes.  I find it hard to see someone giving their grandma's stuff to a thrift store, at the same time i am glad to have them as i consider such things to be of value.

I also managed to get some time to escape the house and go to Jo-Ann's  and buy some new yarn. They were having a pretty good yarn sale and i got the extra 10% off everything coupon in my email.  I bought  about a dozen skeins of Caron Simply Soft yarn in the bold colors.  I love that yarn.
I know a lot of people are into the boutique yarns and i really admire those too, but i'm still a beginner with this craft, so even when i can get my hands on some yummy yarn i don't dare to use it.  I also can't handle wool of any type.  Just handling the skeins in the store makes me itch.  I can't afford the good stuff anyway.  I'm a cotton girl really.  But the Caron SS is so nice for an acrylic, it holds up well, has a drape i like and the colors are great.
I bought a bunch because i want to try and see if i can crochet a bunch of preemie hats and coats (the coats will be the next challenge) to donate to the hospitals.  Both my girls were premature and we were given a few donated pieces of tiny clothing when they were in NICU. I was so touched by that i have often wanted to return the gesture.  I also have a large stash of polar-type fleece fabric that i'm sure could be used for making little preemie hats and coats. Fleece is light and warm and it won't ravel if it needs to be cut to make way for the wires and tubes that the little babies often need to have.
Hopefully i will be able to do this.  I have great ambitions but the ability often falls flat. lol
Well here's my first shot at a "Hunnie Pot" preemie hat.  It came out ok i guess. I had some issues,  the first one is that i failed to notice the part of the instructions that said to crochet in the back loops only, so the hat isn't as tall...  i also decided to just finish it off so i could start over on a second try, so i skipped the rest of the instructions for that one. I think it will fit my oldest daughter's American Girl dolls, so i'm giving it to her.

Oh, what else is going on....?  Not a whole lot i guess.  I made salsa yesterday with my Pruden's tomatoes and some fresh cilantro.  I am making some lacto-fermented, whole, ripe yellow pear tomato pickles. 

My hubby picked me up a large  George Foreman (Precision GRP99) counter top contact grill from the free pile at the Recycling  Center.  We looked it up and its a $70 machine.  Its a nice one, looks like its been used maybe a handful of times. The grill plates pop off and are dishwasher safe.  I found the instruction book online in PDF for free.  It cooks fish perfectly!  It has a digital readout, temperature control, digital timer. Its really quite nice.  I have an old GE contact grill that has to be 10 years old, its very worn out from use, all the Teflon is worn off the plates. I didn't want to get rid of it but didn't want to spend the money on a new one either.  But the issue has taken care of itself as it often does.

The double-flowering Rose Of Sharon is in full bloom right now. It looks nice, i'm more a fan of the single flowered types but this isn't bad. Its a plant that we inherited when we bought this new land.

When picking Japanese beetles and hornworms off my grape vines, i discovered that Marechal Foch decided to sneak in a secret bunch of grapes.  It must have rebloomed and set this bunch after i had removed the first three earlier this summer. The vines are so vigorous looking i think i'll see how far this bunch can get before the cold hits.  I think the heat wave we just had helped them get some size, but i don't expect much more since it has cooled off dramatically.

The jerusalem Artichokes have passed 10' tall at the good end and it looks like some flower buds are at the top there.

The Globe Artichoke is maturing, its kinda pretty.

The grass did great, it got watered about every other day, we had high humidity in the heat wave so things didn't dry out as quickly as it could have so the grass really filled in.

Still waiting on the watermelon...

I have a couple large bird house gourds, and a number of small ones

The Topsy Turvy has done ok... they are very hard to keep watered they dry out so quickly. This took daily watering during the heat wave and it still looked peckish at times.

The Autumn Olive is doing great!
The Hardy Kiwi is doing quite well also

I got Alpha (the beta fish) another new bowl. Its a standard gallon size glass fish bowl.  I loved having him in the giant brandy glass, but the glass was so thin if it got hid just wrong, i'd have a mess and a poor fish on the floor.  So when i saw the bowl at the thrift store for $3 i grabbed it.  A good cleaning with vinegar and hot water did the trick.
I'll get a picture of Alpha in his new digs later. Camera battery is low.
So i think that is it for the catch-up post today.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Yesterday i managed to complete my first canning session.  All by myself.

I had 8# of tomatoes collected up. Which seemed to take forever since everything is ripening so slowly.
I found a good recipe for stewed tomatoes (hubby loves those). I washed, blanched, skinned and chopped them, cooked them in a pot for a few minutes to get things hot. I used my dishwasher to heat the jars and keep them hot.  I packed the jars and put them in the cooker.  I didn't have as much trouble adjusting the lid as i thought i might. By following the directions it was fairly fool proof.  The cooker heated and pressurized faster than i had expected- not in a bad way, but i had imagined waiting forever for the water to boil---  as if it were a full stock pot.  But it turned out to be pretty efficient.  I vented it for 10 minutes- used my digital timer and kept an eye on the gauge and the jiggly weight.  When the time was up i shut everything off and let it depressurize, which also happened faster than i had imagined it would.
The lid came off the cooker pretty easily and i used the can lifter thingie to remove the jars to a soft towel on the counter top.
The can contents bubbled for much longer than i expected, so that was interesting.
I did have a few cans that puked out some contents inside the pressure cooker, this made the inside of the aluminum discolor unfortunately- but its cosmetic i guess.
This morning it looks as if the cans are all tightly sealed. Maybe i lucked out.  I think i didn't do a good job removing any air pockets when i packed the jars. Also my tomatoes were pretty dry.  I have planted romas before, but this year was not ideal growing conditions being so dry in the last few weeks. I think there were a lot of internal air pockets within the flesh and pulp.
I do have a few jars whose contents are lower than the others.  I don't have enough experience to know whether or not if this is caused by the cans puking during processing or from the contents softening and losing volume.
So that is how my first try went.
I unscrewed a few rings to test the seals, they all seem very tight so far.

I think i need to reorganize the pantry. Its a flipping mess.

I asked over here at Fresh Preserving Forum  if i could try canning carrots with sugar to make an easier "Candied carrot" dish. Canning the carrots in a light syrup should allow me to simply add butter to the drained and heated carrots and serve them.  There's the matter of safety though, carrots are low acid, but i have a pressure canner so it should be possible, somehow.  But i'm making sure.  They are pretty helpful over there. If it might be risky, i will be told without any beating around the bush. Heh.

I might not get much of anything more out of my garden for canning, but i'm sure i'll get plenty of practice with apples. We go to a local orchard every year and always come back with too much. We have so much fun picking that we get carried away. We buy a good deal of apple sauce so making it at home won't be a waste. I'm also interested in making canned apple pie filling.

I have been enjoying the scent of orange blossom for the last few days. My venous orange has developed its flowers better and they have a scent now.  Only one at a time though, so i don't think any self pollinating is going on.  I'd like to see fruit, but i don't expect any. I love the smell, its not strong enough to float through the air from just one bloom, but getting in close and braving the little spikes is rewarding.

I'm having a watermelon dilemma. I have no idea how to tell if they are ripe.  I read that thunking them can work, smelling them, the patch on the bottom should be a certain color...   I can't decipher the thunk,  i can't get down far enough to sniff, and there is no patch on the bottom.  I'm sort of going by the one cantaloupe melon i have. Its netting is still green so i know it isn't ripe, i imagine if it is not, the others aren't either...?

The overnight weather has been too cool for much more growing to go on, the herb seeds have begun to germinate and we had some good rain last night and yesterday.  Its been needed. The rest of the week is supposed to be sunny and in the high 80's. So i'll be watering again soon.

I have gotten a few more ears of corn. Most are still small, but i have gotten one or two really good sized ears.I'm told the flavor is excellent.  So far the "Incredible"  has won for flavor.  There are a few small corn borers in them occasionally, they aren't too big so far but they will get bigger. I think its too late to do much about them since they are inside the ears no pesticides will reach them. I may just grab all the ears i can right now, clean out the bugs and serve the corn.

I was able to order my Excalibur dehydrator yesterday as well.  I can't wait for it to arrive. Between my Food Saver and the dehydrator i should be able to put together some instant meals without preservatives. 
I think this should conclude the kitchen collection.  I can't think of anything else i might want at this point.
Supplies are all i need.
I found a website called WebStaurant that sells vacuum bags that should work with my FoodSaver, they are a thicker mil number than what Tammy at Dehydrate2Store suggests. They might be even cheaper than the inferior generic bags at WalMart. I think i will try the oxygen packs that Tammy uses,  i'm not looking for doomsday level storage, but where i might not be confident that i have gotten my foods to the proper state of  dessication, the oxygen packs will add a level to my peace of mind. Honeyville seems to have the best price and the most fair shipping rates. Especially since it is the only thing i should need from them $5 shipping is great.  I found other places that carry the oxygen packs, but the prices are nothing special and the shipping is ridiculous.

I hope this method works for me. I'm tired of freezer-flavored veggies. The bags they come in from the store are no good for preventing flavor leaching and freezer burn. I use frozen veggies for soups the most, so drying them will be the best way to keep them for this use.

I found another planting guide chart. The type that help gardeners plant according to feeding a family of determined size. It looks good, but it shows me just how small my garden really is. Even with intensive methods i don't think i could get my plot to produce on this scale.  But it does great as a supplemental, hobby  or snacking garden.

The recently seeded grass enjoyed the recent rain, looks almost ready to mow

On Wednesday i found a caterpillar.  I was hoping to attract one of these by planting carrots-  its a swallowtail caterpillar, maybe a black swallowtail, but i'm not certain. They like things in the carrot family, dill, parsley, fennel etc.
It was getting ready to pupate when i found it, so it attached itself to the side of the jar i put it in almost immediately.

Its hard to get pictures of something inside a glass jar....
When i woke up this morning, it was the same as last night (above picture) by the time i had mad my first cup of coffee, fed all  the animals and looked at the caterpillar again, it had pupated:

I forget how long it takes these guys to metamorph...  so i have to do some research. If it looks like it will be too late in the year for this one, i should be able to refrigerate the chrysalis  and then let it warm up again in the spring to be released.

So, that is what has been going on around here! :o)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kale and rain.

This has been a rather dry summer. We are finally getting some rain today. The New England area has been getting drenched with the exception of my area. It really seems as though the clouds split apart as they are heading my way. We had clouds all yesterday but no more than light sprinkles on occasion.  Today we had masses of clouds that looked promising, but it has taken until now to get a steady rainfall.  Supposedly it is supposed to continue lightly most of the night, but not amount to much more than an inch in total.  Too bad because we need many inches to catch up. Luckily the weather hasn't been hot or things would be turning brown everywhere.

I decided yesterday that i love Red Russian kale. I made a soup last night and put in a whole bunch of fresh leaves in it.  Wonderful flavor, very green but not bitter at all.  It wasn't tough either.  I think i'm going to need more than  6 plants next year.

I'm spending most of today reading and trying to keep up with housework, so i'm not writing much. But i did want to remember about the kale and mention the weather.