Friday, July 30, 2010

We have another woodchuck.

Its about time....
This one has gone for the collards,  He's eaten 3 of them pretty bad.  The plants are big enough to recover by now,  but he took quite a chunk out of them. Its amazing how much they can eat. 

So i have the Havahart trap set and i hope i catch him quickly so he can find a new home.
I spread some blood and bone meal out in the garden to see it it can maybe keep him out and make the bait look like a better deal.
Only problem is that the dog thinks the bags were full of treats (the bone meal smells like cheap dog treats- for good reason) and she was almost howling while i was hand-broadcasting it. She thought she was being teased i guess.
I've concluded that Bassets are totally ruled by food. lol

I think the green beans are about done,  but i haven't been able to get out there and pick. There were a lot of little ones still starting the last time i was out looking closely. I'll try to make it a priority.  I should get another pound or two out of them if they haven't gone by.  A lot of them were coming out crescent shaped, i was told that this happens when things get dry and it was dry for a time there.
My legs hurt so bad last night that i was nauseous... so i don't know if i may have to send my oldest out to pick or maybe hubby will be willing to.
I don't know if he has ever picked green beans before. :oP  My oldest only picks cucumbers.
But i need to try and do it cause i promised the neighbors some more summer squash and i haven't gotten it to them yet. I have some in the fridge, but there is something in me that won't allow myself to give them 3 & 4 day old produce.

I keep forgetting to update the harvest record on the side bar. I really wanted to keep it going so next year i have some idea of what to expect and to decide what to do if i expand a little.  I guess i'm just not that dedicated, lol!

I have gotten well over 30# of food so far from green beans and squash to cukes and Swiss chard.  That's not so bad considering i never got any cauliflower and only 2 nubs of broccoli, and i harvest the SS so small.


 I'm trying to revive my Kefir grains.  They got neglected in the refrigerator about 5 months ago. I wasn't finding the time to refresh them every day and drink the milk so i set them in the fridge and lost track of it.  Its hard to tell if they are kefiring or if the milk is just souring,  it smells like Kefir, but i think i'm going to discard the milk for a few more days just to be sure.

I gave the grapes some bone meal as well as the berries.  I couldn't find anything else at the store with a higher P number that didn't look like fruity pebbles cereal or cost an arm and a leg.

I think that's it for today... and i am awaiting delivery of my canner.  It is like Christmas in July!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This and that

I got the email that my  canner has been sent out, ETA is tomorrow, which is sooner than expected.  But who's complaining?
I showed it to my hubby (the item listing) and he said it looked a lot like his grandmother's, only hers had a gasket.

Its going to be fun to see if i can get enough out of my garden at one time to use it to capacity and if i will have enough time to pick and prep enough to use it.

If not this year, there's next year.

I learned a lot so far this year. The most important things were regarding the sun direction and where shade is coming from.

I think i might run my rows in the opposite direction next year. My dad suggested this becuse the way the slope goes, having raised my raised beds against the flow of water will trap the water for the plants.
If we have a wet year, this might work against me though.

I could put the tall things all the way to the back  and the shorter things will come forward.

The way i have things now, nothing in the garden really shades anything else in the garden, but that is not always such a good thing.  I think my kales and collards should need shade.
Good thing is that hubby likes the garden well enough this year that he thinks we might add another row to it,

Corn is starting to tassel, i think Golden Bantam  was the first (closest to the tomatoes) and next is Incredible, Stowell's Evergreen was the one that didn't germinate so well or as quickly- but that was seed from 2008 anyway.  It is catching up though.

I picked a few carrots yesterday to have a sample. They were small, maybe a nickel size diameter, but they were longer than i expected them to be.  You read about soft, sandy soil and how carrots need it, but i  wasn't quite sure if my soil fit that definition having little to compare it to.

I have only gardened in my family's soil for the most part, and even now most of my soil came from the same 10-15 acres i grew up on, how many people get to say that?  I get to stick my toes in the same dirt i grew up running around on as a kid.

Anyhow, the carrots were a little less tender than i hoped, but i wouldn't call them tough, they were a bit bland, i was hoping for a sweeter taste, but maybe that comes later.  I'm sure my test sample of 4 were picked a bit early.  But i at least saw enough to know that the soil is a good texture for them and they showed no sign of insect damage.

I'm sure i have some more cukes to pick, one of the slicers was getting about grocery store size and it rained last night.  Cukes stop producing if their fruits mature too far and i didn't plant enough to make us happy as it is, so i can't let them stop producing too early!

One of the Carnival squashes are getting huge.  When i grew them in my tiny garden they didn't get much bigger than normal acorn squash. They were about the size for one serving for two people when cut in half.

I did find out that Jerusalem Artichokes can be canned, its in the Ball "Complete Book of Home Preserving". Its a relish recipe that sounds nice.  I should be able to get enough to try making some.
I do plan to grow less of them next year and give the extra space to the asparagus, but i had to start out with so many to be sure i'd have enough to try myself if something tried to eat them on me.  I planted a few pounds in my parent's garden many years ago and chipmunks ate them all.  So i overplanted my sample plot in case they attract chipmunks.  Right now it looks as if they don't.

I thought it was interesting that USDA and Ball don't even recommend canning summer squash anymore.  I guess its no big loss, even freezing it 'ruins' it.  Its great to add to sauces like that, but after any type of processing its definitely best as a secondary ingredient. Its not "butter ready"  from a can or freezer bag.

There is a bird that keeps spearing my unripe apples. I found one last week that had peck marks in it, so i pulled it off and tossed it.  The other day i found another one with the same marks.... this time i left it. Maybe the bird will remember that he's already sampled from this tree...  Where i missed a couple sprayings i have misshapen apples, but its not a big deal, i wasn't counting on much from this tree this year.  I mainly wanted to see if it would survive to produce after being neglected so long and to get apples big enough to try and have the type ID'd.  We are still going to go to the orchard this fall where we will end up picking three times as many apples as we need.   But maybe this year i could can some pie filling and make sauce.

I need to get back in and catch up with weeding again. I have let it go a bit since the plants are big enough to not get smothered easily, but i can't let the weeds go to seed or it will be another uphill battle next year.

I also ordered some bare root Bocking Comfrey from a place called Horizon Herbs. They ship Priority Mail with about a $14 minimum so i  looked around and they also have Clove plants for a decent price. This is guess is the first time they have had any to sell. Its a different name, but according to Wikipedia they are synonomous-  Syzygium aromaticum and Eugenia aromatica-   why they are different names i have no clue.  But anyway i figured buying one was a better way to justify the price of shipping the Comfrey roots.  If they do well for me i can share any future comfrey plants out.

My current clove tree is doing fine, it isn't really doing anything, but it does not appear to be dying at least! :o)

I also put in an order with Bountiful Gardens, some berry plant seeds and they have SeaKale which i think i can wintersow.  I can wintersow all the seeds i just ordered, which is why i figure i should get them sooner than later.  Either they sit in my fridge or theirs.

Monday, July 26, 2010

video post

It is giving me trouble, takes 20 minutes to upload each 2-3 minute clip and i had a hard time getting it to let me place my paragraphs so the videos would be in order.  To keep the filesize well within the allotted size i had to shoot in the lowest resolution my camera had.  So forgive me the wind, my getting flustered and not-so-smooth camera handling, lol

But it was fun to play with this feature!


Tomatoes and corn

video...

Peppers, eggplants, cole crops

video.....
Parsnips, houseplants, sweet tater......nettles!....summer squash, burdock.

  video
Salsify, rosemary, cauliflower...- no,  brussels sprouts, beans, rutabagas, beets n' carrots....


video....
Cukes, havahart trap, winter squashes....

video....


..

The rest of the yard, asparagus, Jerusalem Artichokes, berries and grapes, dirt...
video














So that is that.

I'll probably try it again later this summer and see if i do better. 
Oh and the blue thumb, that is the remains of a manicure my oldest daughter did for me for 4th of July.  My nails were a mix of blue, red and white. Only my thumbs still have paint on them. lol

Tomatoes....

They have 4 days to ripen if i am going to meet my goal of garden tomatoes before August.
I have never written it down anyplace that i can remember but i don't know for sure when tomato season usually starts.

A lot of them are getting pretty big but no obvious ripening yet.

I tamed the Birdhouse gourd yesterday. I had been pulling at it and trying to redirect the way it grew, but it was going where it wanted anyway.  So i got the big kitchen scissors out. Anything going toward the center of the garden was removed.  I discovered a few little watermelon fruits were hiding under all those leaves.  Some are oval and plenty that are perfectly round.
The gourd was also crawling over my rosemary plot and the two strawberries from seed that made it (those are looking good actually)  and the Shiso plant.
I'll have to look back at my seed list to remind myself of which plants are watermelon, and which are cantaloupe type, also which ones the oval ones belong to.  I know Pony Yellow is a round type, but that is as much as i am sure of.
 

I also toned down hubby's pumpkin. It was getting impossible to get past it in the row and it was encroaching on my onions.  I also had to trim and redirect my summer squash plants. They were trying to crawl into the aisles and they were shading out my globe artichokes.  I had expected my globe artichokes  to be taller in their first year than they turned out to be.  They are barely 8" off the ground, if that. I have no idea if that is normal.  One did try to produce a tiny choke about the size of my thumb. The plants are  fairly wide but not tall at all.



I have lots of things to take pictures of to keep the monthly/weekly growth comparisons current.












From the back:





 

 

 

 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Its almost August?!!!

Summer is going by fast. 
The garden is good, we've gotten some nice rains in the last week.  I have blanched, vac-packed and froze 4 pounds of green beans and 2 pounds of  summer squash.

I love my new Foodsaver.  It is so easy to use compared to my old one.  Now the old one wasn't bad, but it was like driving a stick-shift compared to driving an automatic with cruise control.  They both work fine, but one is way more comfortable to drive.
My new Foodsaver has settings that the other one didn't. It has a 'gentle' setting so it won't smash things like blanched summer squash, and it has a setting for 'wet' foods- also like blanched summer squash.  This means that it won't vacuum so hard that it sucks out the water and ruins itself.  Any water remaining in the blanched foods did not become a vacuuming issue even with the heat seal- which i noticed is almost 2x as wide on this machine as my old one.
I'm sure part of the difference in the way they work is because of the brand name bags.
I had been using the generic food storage bags that i could get for about $1 less at WalMart.  It had been so long since i had used real Foodsaver bags that i didn't notice there is a difference in them.  The new Foodsaver came with a roll of bags and a whole packet of pre-cut bags.  The brand name plastic has a different texture, almost rubbery. 
I had tried using the generic bags to store things like pet food and dehydrated apple rings, but those items had sharp edges that broke the bags so the air leaked back in after a few days.  I bet the brand name bags would work better if i try that again.

The reason i tried vacuum packing cat food was because my cat eats Solid Gold brand cat food.  Its not a cheap food and we normally buy it in 5# bags.  When i worked at the same pet store we bought the food at it was easy to buy 3 bags at a time and my employee discount made it a better value anyway.  After the accident and since i don't always feel up to a trip out to get pet supplies hubby took over most of  the grocery shopping duties. He thought we'd save a few dollars and a trip or two if we bought the big bag of Solid Gold.
Problem is that we have one cat.  By the time he eats the whole bag the last half is stale.  He also likes his dry food to be cold. I have always stored his food bag in the fridge, (one main reason for that is because we had ants that were attracted to the meaty smell and the fats that are in it) so he is used to a fresh bowl of food having a different temperature.
Anyway, you can't fit a 20# bag in the fridge.  So i tried measuring out and vac-packing 2 week portions in the generic bags.  I figured i could probably clean and reuse the bags on more cat food a few times if it worked.  But it didn't because the food punctured the bags.  Since the bags were ruined and could not be reused, what we saved on the bigger bag of cat food was lost in trying to keep it fresh until it was eaten. 
I don't know if i would ever bother trying to use it for cat food again (unless i think it may have some emergency food storage applications like a Bug Out Bag for natural disaster evacuations- which are almost unheard of around here- but you never know!), but i do think i will be trying the brand name bags for foods that are dried to a crisp.
Now that i can compare the bags side by side, i don't like the generics very much at all,  I'll pay the extra for the real ones.

I'm not sure why my apple slices dried so crispy though,  the slices i get at the health food store are leathery.  In my dehydrator, the apples were either too soft and obviously not done and then they became crisp...no in between- or i missed it.  I have read books on dehydrating, but i don't remember what i read about apples...  maybe i need to borrow the book from the library again.

On to grapes...

The Frontenac has decided to wake up and show signs of life! It has just unfurled some small leaves.  Of course it would do this after i completely gave up on it and spoke to the company it came from.  They have a pending order to send me a new one in early April 2011.  So i feel weird now.  BUT both Burpee and Stark have unconditional guarantees- "if for any reason you are unsatisfied....refund or exchange will be granted".
I hate to complain,  i might do it a lot in some things but i don't enjoy it.  But i really was unsatisfied with the grapes from Burpee and this one from Stark's.  Everything else met or exceeded my expectations, so maybe i should stop feeling dishonest when i accept my refund/replacements.  Bottom line is that i don't know if these 3 grape plants will even make it through the winter considering how late they began above ground growth.  They may not have time to harden off this Summer's wood. If that is the case, i will be correct on two fronts.  I was shipped plants that not vigorous enough to grow well their first year, this could delay my years till harvest time frame.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and feeling bad for not being happy. I don't like to be ungrateful about anything, even little grape cuttings. I think i need to get off the guilt trip, stop feeling bad about being displeased and let the companies do their job and make it right.  Why is that so hard for me?
But i have decided to do it.  So i will.

My lilies bloomed a few days ago.  These were bought as Stargazers but i remember Stargazers as having more white along the edges.  Maybe its my growing conditions.  They are on the back side  of the house and you don't see them when they open, you smell them.  I planted 2 bulbs about 3 years ago, this year i got to pick them and bring them in the house before the bugs got to them too bad.  The three blooms perfume the whole house.


Yesterday my dad brought over 3 loads of topsoil for us




And then he spread it out with the big tractor.



Today he plans to stop by with the littler tractor and drag a weighted pallet over it to smooth it out better.  Hubby will put down some seed and with luck, we will have a nice lawn to enjoy next summer!

Update on the Koolickles.  They are delicious. Something like a bread and butter pickle but more tart. Not as sweet as a sweet gherkin but maybe its because i used a sugar-free mix.  I can't actually taste 'strawberry' flavor, but it has the tart/tangy/salty/sweet thing going on. I bet adding a hot pepper will make it even more interesting.  Anyway, the flavors don't clash at all like i thought they might. I plan to keep a supply of these going indefinitely. 

I need to update my harvest record on the side bar. I haven't done it in about a week, but the garden is really beginning to supply what i finally feel comfortable as calling a "harvest".  I have been able to give away some produce even.  The tomatoes are not red yet, but there are a lot of green fruit on all of the plants.  The tomatillo has even gotten a husk on it.

I have not done any further work on the flower bed, but the neighbor husband has picked out a few plants they wanted to have (my hubby told them to go ahead if they wanted or they could wait for me to save them some)  he replanted them in their back yard where it looks like they are creating a sort of pocketed terrace on the slope.  It looks like it will turn out pretty neat if they continue to enlarge the beds. I'm glad he felt free to come in and take what he wanted, that way i'm sure they can feel more in control of what they see out their window.

Hubby is now painting the door to the shed.  He has been doing the shed project gradually. It used to be a screenhouse, but we hardly ever used it. The screens let in dust and after a couple rainy summers things started to get moldy. We had a table set out there that got covered in dust and pine pollen, then in the damp it all grew mold. Took an hour to clean it up whenever we wanted to use it a few times a week.  So we stopped using it.  The screens were also disintegrating.  So we decided that we needed a shed more than a screenhouse and hubby got a few sheets of plywood and closed it in and painted it up nicely.  It was a few weeks longer before he could get the door made, but he did and now it needs a coat of paint to finish the job.  He's pretty pleased with himself since he really did it all on his own.  Its a good sort of manly ego boost. :o)

I plan to get more pictures of the garden, i have to keep a visual record so i can compare years against the others.
The pictures from this Spring compared to this Summer are always quite amazing.  I don't know why i forget every year how quickly and large the plants end up growing. Its funny.

I'm really tired today so i hope to spend much of it simply reading and picking away at small household tasks.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Success and failures of an assorted nature...and drama too.

A couple times over the last few days i have tried to put together a video "garden tour" for fun.
I have run into a number of problems.  For one, file size. Blogger only allows 100MB videos. At low resolution and with my camera, this means about 4 minute clips.  Which isn't that bad.... but...it means i have to film in short increments and watch the camera timer.
I also have trouble keeping a steady camera. My camera is a decent one, but it has no in-film zoom, so i have to move the camera in close.  The more the camera is moved, the harder the video is to watch.  My limp does not help things and the harder i try to keep it steady, the jouncier it seems to get.  This would be almost instantaneous motion sickness for easily affected people like myself.  In fact, thinking about it makes me a little nauseous.

Another issue is that (and i never would have imagined this)  even though my garden is tiny, it takes me more than 15 minutes to film it all and point out each variety i have planted- even if i prattle on really fast.  If i have to speak slowly and move the camera slow and steadily, that time will increase further.



Now, for me, this is not actually such a bad thing. I could put up with most of the above myself. But where i have decided to make a public Blog of this garden... i should probably think of the people who are nice enough to stop by and who may want to watch the videos.  I wouldn't mind an array of ten, nine-minute videos of my garden to watch some day in the middle of February, but its unlikely that as nice as my fellow gardeners can be, not everyone will be as fascinated with my garden as i am! :o)


So i'll need a balance.  But i really want to do this, so i plan to keep trying. Its been frustrating, but its fun and i do like a challenge!


On the weather:
Wednesday, we had some big storms roll through.  I think we managed to get about 1.5 inches of rain. We needed it very much. We were lucky to not get much for high winds, but in Southern Maine there were some actual tornadoes that touched down. This is highly unusual.  I have not read or watched the news reports, but hubby has and he said there was a lot of damage.


Cuttings- the ones a dear friend sent me.... well there was a lot of failure on my part.  They didn't take for me. It may have been the soil i used, the surrounding temperature, the moisture level, any trauma they endured travelling through US Mail...lol
But i did have one glimmer of success! One of the hardy kiwi cuttings has taken root and is pushing up some new leaves.  Its pretty thrilling since this turns out to be an "against all odds" result.  The type of hardy kiwi is unknown, the sex is also unknown, but i think some research will help these questions be answered. Whichever it is, i will need to buy it a mate if i expect to get any fruit from it.  Of course that will be at least a few years out ahead and it still has a Winter to survive.

You can see the shiny new leaves:

 And here's the Autumn Olive from seed, while i'm posting pictures.




I have started work on the side flower bed.  This has caused a little bit of friction with our nice neighbors. When we bought the house, there was a short fence along the side in question.  About a year after we moved in, the fence was so rotted we had to take it down.  The fence had been placed so that it was right through the middle of the flower bed, cutting it almost in half lengthwise.   Our neighbors eventually started tending that little strip of escaped plants because it buts right up against their pavement and would have just become an eyesore.

The fence could not have been installed because of the paving, but where we now know the lines and the pavement is breaking up, we will be able to get more precise.
The end to the right is where some goldenrod and the raspberries are taking over.  The goldenrod will be removed and the raspberries will be salvaged.


When we bought the new lot we had our entire property surveyed.  My premise was that i wanted to have every inch of soil that i owned, but i didn't want to take anything that was not mine even by mistake.  The surveyor pins show that the entire flower bed does belong to us (as well as a good bit of their pavement), however, they have been tending it for at least a few years so she is not wanting to let it go.  The neighbor lady is also not happy that we are planning to put a fence back there.  The neighborhood kids (that we refer to as "The Hooligans") use our yard and theirs as a highway and step on anything in their path & steal things along the way, so we want a fence to stop this. 
Its going to be a neighborly fence, maybe 5' high, not so high that an over-the-fence conversation cannot be had...
I tried to explain what i plan to do with the plants that are in there but i'm not sure if we are understanding eachother.    I'm also not sure if she isn't understanding what plants are flowers and which are weeds...
Its a hard conversation to have. I'm trying to not sound like i'm saying
"The whole thing is mine, the plants are mine and i'll do whatever i want with them."
---Though, essentially, i could say exactly that. 
What i did tell her is that i am going to remove all the plants and bulbs, sort them and decide which to give away, put back or place somewhere else.  I told her that she could have all of what she wants-  there is a ton of Iris and yellow lilies in there-  some i am giving to my mother,  but she can pretty much have the rest of them.  
Some of the problem is that i don't quite know if she understands that i am not just getting rid of everything completely.  When we first moved in, i gutted the long-neglected beds and split everything that needed splitting, rearranged things that were in unsuitable places ...  when i was in the middle of that project, she was almost in tears, thinking i was getting rid of all of the former owner's flowers. They had been long time friends and i understood, the lady was part of our extended family too and i respected that, the beds needed work but no i wasn't destroying them. 
My hubby and her hubby have talked and he's ok with whatever we want done... but i think his wife is having some trouble.   I think much of it is due to failing health and without sounding disrespectful, a touch of senility setting in.  She is also the reason that 'beautiful' box elder eyesore is still standing instead of a dwarf, ornamental flowering tree that i offered to put in it's place.
Like the first time i messed with these beds, i'll simply have to do my work despite her fears and when its done i think she'll realize that my plans weren't as frightening as she thought they'd be.
Of course its going to take me 10x the amount of time to complete it compared to when i wasn't disabled.
Its easier on the involved when something seems to happen overnight.  Like last time, it took me two days.  It was started and finished before she could get too much more upset with me, but this time she will have weeks to fret about it.
 I am going to use some highly visible colored rope to string a line along the survey pins, hopefully to assure her that i am intent on playing by the rules.  I really think that she has a lot of trouble dealing with change of any sort.  I fully expect to have similar issues as i grow older. I can see it starting already, so though i am frustrated with her i understand, but i still get to do what i want with my own yard.
There's always something dramatic going on around here! lol

The beans have slowed down in production and the summer squash have picked up. I think i will only plant one of each next year.  Unless i am prepared to can them.  Shredded, they make a great bulk filler for spaghetti sauce.  


I won't be able to get my pressure canner for at least another 2 weeks, so the beans i have will need to be frozen. 
I was worried that i won't be able to use my canner this year since i probably didn't plant enough cukes for pickles and the beans are running low, my swiss chard tasted like mud this year and i won't have any fruit in quantity for preserving....but then i remembered the  15 tomato plants i have growing....  what better garden produce to practice canning with.  Its what everyone seems to start with.
I will also have winter squash and i am pretty sure that can be canned.  Since i am getting a pressure canner, i can preserve most anything in it, including beef and chicken or recipes that include meats.   Wouldn't it be nice to open a jar of pre-cooked chicken or tenderized beef?  Chicken could be chopped and made into chicken salad,  beef would make quick work of a soup or stew..among other things.
The Ball book has a number of recipes for cooking ahead, worth trying at least once....

Hubby went and picked up my landscape edging yesterday. It looks like nice stuff,  but he wants me to hold off until the lawn is prepared and seeded.  I have no idea when that is going to happen, so i'm not too thrilled to wait to get started on that.
I like to get things going shortly after getting the notion in my head. But between having to wait an unspecified length of time before i get started and knowing it will be longer and more painful to do than it should be, i'm getting all anxious over it.
I just want it done! :o)

Other than this, not much else is going on. The garden is still weedier than i like, but nothing has raided it recently, i still need to use BT on the brassicas because i saw some caterpillar poo on one of the cabbages and dime-sized holes are forming on my kale leaves.   Last time i grew tomatoes they were attacked bu hornworms and destroyed my plants in one day.
I'm a little uncomfortable with BT, but not enough to stop me from using it when i think i need it.

So that is all for today.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tomato press....

I was actually on Amazon looking for a food mill when i remembered that i picked up this contraption about 8 years ago at Good Will.

.
 It cost me all of $2

.

Apparently, this was a pretty good deal.



I had gotten it home, the box had unravelled itself and i was afraid that it might be missing parts, so i tucked it away since i had no garden at the time and no actual use for it. I knew it resembled a Vegetable Strainer that i had seen in catalogs with price tags of over $30, so i hoped that it would be usable some day.

I have been reading up on canning the last few days and the Ball's "Complete Book of Home Preserving"  mentions food mills a lot. So i had gone to Amazon to do some pricing.  That is where i saw the pictures of food strainers and thought to myself

"I have one of those, don't i?"

Its been a long time and all i have done is move the box from spot to spot to get at something behind it.

I think it does have all its parts.

The clamp, a hand crank and the sprocket-looking thingie.

.

There is the strainer mesh....  Unlike some of the Amazon ones, this is a one-size, permanent screen.
This may be a good thing, or it may be a not so good thing.
One less part for me to lose.... that is a good thing. Chalk up another for the good side.


The sprocket thing looks like it has all its proper bits. The crank handle threads are pristine.

I don't think this item has ever been used..


.
It came with on-box instructions. Thank goodness i kept the box. Simple enough, but since i wasn't exactly certain what this was at the time i bought it, i am glad i have it!  lol

.I put it together and the crank turns smoothly, the sprockety thing makes a reasonable clicking sound, not a grinding or squeaking noise,  the clamp disagrees with my countertop thickness and overhang distance, but i can modify something for that- or just hold the bottom.

Judging by the pictures on the box, i can use this for things besides tomatoes... though tomatoes are likely the main thing i'll be using this for....

I wonder if it is dishwasher safe....

Anyone else out there in the Blogosphere have one of these and could give me some tips, pointers or advice?
Such as....  do the tomatoes have to be cooked before this is used on them?  Do i have to blanch-skin them?
I see some that are juicers, will this help me make tomato sauce or will i get juice instead?

I'm guessing if i use raw, diced tomatoes i will get juice. If i dice and cook the tomatoes and run them through this i might get sauce with the seeds and skin removed?

  Searching "tomato press" finds me the food mills and strainers that reminded me that i have this contraption in the first place. :o)  But i'll keep looking anyway.

Maybe, just maybe, i saved myself $20 or so 8 years ago......or i got a $2 deal on a fresh headache.  LOL

Monday, July 19, 2010

Nothing much

Not a whole lot going on.
I am still getting green beans. More than we can eat in a day. If we ate them every night we could probably keep up, but i have a backlog beginning. If i had room in my freezer, i'd be blanching, vac-packing and freezing them now.... but i need to rummage through the freezer and shift things first.
I was picking them when they were about pencil size, now they are getting much fatter before i can collect them off the plant. More like the size they are when you buy them in cans at the grocery store.  Fewer beans equal more poundage, so even though actual beans picked is going down, weight is staying about the same.

I did find out that i cannot can my beans yet because i need a pressure canner for them.... unless i want to brine or pickle them and i don't.  I planned to get a pressure canner anyway so i had been researching them and decided on the All-American 21.5 quart, model number should be 921.

It will be a while before i can order it though- even if i did have enough money  saved.  Somebody tried to steal my card number and rent a room at some hotel in another country. My bank called this morning to check on the legitimacy of the attempted transaction.  It had declined anyway because the attempted charge was well over the available funds in the account.  Joke's on them.  Next time try  and steal from someone who actually has money, you horse's backside.

 
I have been meaning to get the fall crop seeded in, but things always conspire against me.  Indecision is my enemy. While i have been trying to decide if i should start them in flats or direct sow them and watch them get eaten or mistakenly pluck them as weeds, the days are going by.  *sigh*

Finally got my hair sent off to Locks of Love. I sent two bunches, one from a number of years ago that was 10 inches long and the most recent bundle which was 16 inches long.  Ten inches is the minimum they can use, so i hope they are able to get all they can from it. My procrastinating about mailing them off is my example of how not unusual this indecision is for me. My indecision about cutting off all my hair as short as i could stand added about 4 inches to the 16  inch hank. But enough of that, its just that i have had the hair bundled up and in a bag for ever and only just got to mailing it to the charity.

Yanno what. I think i'll just go now and start some flats.

Later update-

I planted 6 more seed types.

Salt Wort
Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Starbor Kale
Arugula
Calabrese Broccoli
and
Broccoli Raab which i guess is a form of early sprouting broccoli, but i don't quite understand the distinction-other than flavor.
Some of them should do well in at this time of planting, the others are experimental. I have never eaten salt wort before but the description sounds intriguing.
I am regretting not having planted parsley this year.  I did chit some seeds in a baggie with paper towel but i forgot about the seeds until it was too late and they got to be a mess. I had hoped to make tabouleh with fresh herbs, so i have plenty of mint but no parsley.  I think lovage can be used as parsley so i might go see if the plants i set at my parents' house many years ago have come up this year...  i should probably bring them home with me since nobody has ever actually used them.

I don't think i have ever seen a ladybug this small:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Koolickles, broccoli and midsummer pictures...

First, Koolickles.  Its another example of what those crazy southerners will do with pickles.  Its really not that crazy to me, though i never lived in the south i have seen odd foods from all over the place since i grew up watching cooking shows.... 
I think the first time i saw Koolickles was on an Alton Brown show not too long ago so for all my not-freaked-out-ishness, it is somewhat new to me.  The original recipe calls for dill pickles, sugar, and Kool Aid packets... red colors seem to be a must. Grape is reported to not work, lemon lime flavors are said to be nice, but are less preferred. Fruit punch, strawberry and cherry are the top choices.  Some recipes say to drain the juice and replace it with what is basically a double-sugar mix of Kool Aid.  The recipe i followed said i could add the Kool Aid to the pickle brine and add it back in. Some recipes say to slice the pickles lengthwise and some say leave them whole or buy a jar of spears.

I don't eat sugar, so i had to do some looking to see if this can be done with Sugar-free mix. It turns out that it might be possible.  So that is what i am trying.

The Victims.  A one gallon  jar of Mt. Olive kosher dills.  


The accomplice....

I'm taking the lazy way out. This may backfire. But if it backfires i'm out a jar of pickles...ho-hum.   I'm just going to dump 2 of the little cups of mix straight into the jar.   If it turns out to be too much flavoring i bet i could dump the juice out of the jar and refil with water and let it sit for a few days to purge the salt and flavoring a bit.

Ok, straight into the jar:

Looks sinister


Into the fridge for 1-3 weeks....


Ok, back to gardeny things...

I have Broccoli!  I noticed it the other day.  The plants that got shredded the least and that i left to recover have recovered.  The florets are understandably small

Polfast tomatoes are getting bigger.
All the tomatoes have been treated to prevent blights.

Cucumber!

FGS- Full garden shot
 Grapes...   the famous Marechal Foch....   this thing is so healthy looking.


Reliance...  i finally tied it up.


I tossed some flax seed into the garden in Spring. They had started to smeel like they might be going rancid.  Many of them sprouted...they don't take over much so its nice to have little blue flowers like this popping up here and there


I'm wondering what is up with my beets and rutabagas.  I need to take a closer look at them.  The beets are supposed to be 45 day and its right about that time now.  The packet said Spring planting was correct, but they seem to be late.  I think that area of soil isn't as yummy for them as it could be...though the beans just behind them are growing like mad.  The two rutabagas that i keep snipping the tops off of kept sending up flower stalks so i pulled them last night. Their roots looked woody and like they had tunnels through them....  they may have wireworms...  this would explain why my beets are slow... but i did pull a beet and the root of that one had no tunnels, but it wasn't any thicker than my thumb.  I managed to break it in half and it smelled sweet and had some juice to it.  It has been a long time since i have grown beets so i don't have much background to go on.  The rutabagas were 100 day type, so its too early to expect them to be getting ready....  but  i don't know if the reason the rutabagas were trying to go to seed was because of the attack on the roots...  they are the only ones that were trying to go to seed, so maybe they were the only ones affected?  This does not seem likely.  I noticed some green larvae on the rutabagas, so i'm going to apply some BT.  I have been picking cabbage butterfly eggs off the leaves of kale, collards et al, but the rutabagas have too many leaves to do this well and i noticed the butterflies are laying eggs on everything in the garden, not just the cole crops.

I had to pull back the birdhouse gourd quite a bit yesterday. It was laying hold of my rosemary and salsify plants in the next row over.  I almost have to say that planting them was a mistake.  My garden is simply too small.  They really need to be allowed to climb something, but i way underestimated what they would have needed to climb anyway. They are spreading in the rows like a large green glacier.... i had to rescue the watermelon vines from them as well.  They really would take over the entire garden if i let them.

The pumpkin plant that appeared in the walking row this Spring, and that hubby wanted me to keep is becoming a pest.  It has blocked my passage through that end of the walkway,  on the other side are my summer squash plants...it is a tight fit getting through.
I need to remember to plant squashes in the center of the row and at the end of the garden no matter what the garden planner says.  I planted 2 side-by-side and that is not enough room to keep them from coming out the side.
With my small garden, there wasn't enough root space for the Summer Squashes to grow this large, i had slightly dwarfed plants....  i don't now! lol

I have been able to pick about 2# of green beans every other day for the last week.  I may try and practice some small scale canning of them.  I have never canned solo before...  i borrowed Ball's Complete Canning book from the library the other day, so i'll do a quick read before i start trying.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Time to plant for fall?

Apparently. :o)

I have been getting little reminder emails from the assorted seed companies who have me on their mailing list.  Reminders that now is the time to plant cool season crops.  Because these seed companies are from various parts of the country i double checked with the most local company with a garden Blog:
Johnny's Selected Seeds

They have a monthly calendar with suggested gardening related activities,  according to July's calendar i should try to get fresh seeds in the garden (things like carrots, chard, broccoli,  radishes etc) by the middle of next week.  This meansi have to figure out where i am going to put what...  some of the plants the groundhogs ate have re-sprouted and some have simply croaked, so i can clear those.  But that leaves odd gaps, not clearly defined spots.  I also have a couple Job's Tears plants in there and they look a lot like weeds so i have to be careful to not crowd those so closely that i forget and pull them up later.  I'll figure it out.
I was going to start seeds in flats, but i might just direct sow if i don't find the time or energy to prep the 9packs and trays.

My Clove seedling arrived this morning. Its a cute little plant.  Looks similar to my bay laurel. Its growing point is dry looking, this may be from travel stress. i don't know how long the dead parts of this type of plant take to dry up... the leaves are a touch yellow which might also be from recent stress or normal color. Image searches of  "Syzygium aromaticum" show varying shades of yellow/green and dark green.   I think i'll pick up some weak fish fertilizer for it and see if it greens up.  It needs 80 degree temperatures but indirect light so i may keep it outside in a shady spot for the rest of the summer and set up a terrarium type housing for it later.  I plan on keeping it as small as i can. If it lives a long time and gets really big, i can use one of those mini greenhouses as a heat and steam tent for it.  I'm not 100% pleased with its appearance at arrival, but if it is healthy enough to survive with reasonable care it will be fine.  I was impressed with the packaging.... almost too sturdy to get the plant out without damage.

Looks a little pathetic right now...

I'll see how it goes i guess.

I have not been outside yet but its supposed to be a hot day.  The corn stalks reached the top of the hoop arches yesterday.  I'm leaving the hoops up so they can hopefully support the stalks later in the season when the breezes usually knock my stalks flat.

There will be more green beans to pick today i'm sure.  EDIT; later..

Picked just under 3# of green beans this evening.  I had sent the first 2# to my parents and they had them for supper tonight. They called to let me know they were very tasty.  We've been snacking on them raw here,. they are a bit more prickly than other types i have had, but the flavor is good.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Woodchuck #2 has been apprehended....

My sources say that a 10 mile ride is about right for relocation. We know of a few places where a woodchuck won't become someone else's problem, will be able to quickly make itself at home and have plenty of forage.

I used the Mantis as a weed-eater in the walking rows of the garden.  Well, most of them anyway... the vining plants are taking over too widely and were in the way too much. I got what i could.  It clogged up  the tines quite a bit!  I also snapped my wrist good and sharp with the handle of the starter cord. Right where i got a cortizone shot for tendinitis around this time last year. I really hope it won't inflame again!

I also carved out the rest of the area that needs weed fabric and will become home to the Beach Plums and whatever else i come up with.

We got about an inch of rain last night, we are now right about where we should be for average rainfall this year. I treated the tomatoes for blights since its a preventative thing. The alternative is for them to contract it themselves and be part of the spreading of it. I'd rather that not happen.
Almost all of the plants have a green fruit on them by now.

I just got back from the dentist, needed my one filling replaced,  it was loose.  They had to numb me to the eyebrow cause i kept feeling it. So i'm not feeling all that well.  Anxiety attacks are awful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bean picking and seed envelopes...

Went out to check the garden and the Havahart (which was empty of vermin) and i noticed that the Provider green beans are ready.  I picked 1 pound, 3.9 ounces in about 10 minutes or less. Not bad for the first picking. There's plenty more left to grow and still a number of flowers. They taste great and they release from the plant easily but don't fall off by themselves.  I remember picking beans when i was little and you had to be careful to not uproot the whole plant for one bean, they'd pull off so hard.  Jacob's Cattle can be like that sometimes, i have grown those most recently.  They make a great fresh bean and if i missed harvesting them, i'd fall back on them being a dried bean.



Oh, i came across this the other day,  Really easy to make seed packets:
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/wtrsow/con021447346105.html

You have to scroll down a ways to get to the picture instructions. I wanted to post them here but i didn't want to steal the OP's images, so i made my own real quick.  If the Gardenweb thread ever disappears i will still have the instructions here to remind myself.

1 sheet of regular or pretty paper.

Make it into a square
Damp air is not conducive to crisp torn edges.

Fold it into a triangle
Then fold the top down almost to the edge


Then bring the corners in to the middlle

Clear tape does not photo well so i used some old, ugly masking tape.


This makes a very secure seed pocket.


Tape to close

I really like these envelopes much better than plastic baggies.  If your seeds aren't quite finished drying when you store them, they are less likely to be ruined since they can continue curing in the paper packets. The other packet types i have made were the ones that looked just like the commercial types.  What i didn't like about those were that they had to be cut out with  scissors, folded precisely,  and either stapled, taped or glued in at least 3 places.  Like these,  they are really very nice looking and presentable, but time consuming.  I used to trade seeds a lot and i wish i had the simpler design back then!
The folded ones can be scaled up or down in size, The example is 3"x6" with the flap down.  If i want to make them more special or color-coded i can use Origami paper and pretty post card seals.

Now i have to go vacuum stuff.