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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Happy Earth Day!

It's Monday.. Earth Day. Well, every day is Earth day, but still.

And what a beautiful day! Sunny and in the upper 60's :) This morning it looked like a McSwanum family reunion going on down by the pond. It looked like there were a half dozen of them, mostly lounging on the land bridge. The Mrs. was on her nest the whole time. And I think we had a Great Grey Heron visit this morning, walking in the water. Now it's just down to the two again.

So it was a day to get some outdoor work done, mostly on the south side of the house. The basil cans were doing so well I split them up into a dozen cans. Still not too thrilled with how leggy the parsley, dill, and cilantro look, sigh :(. Got three pots of nasturtiums seeded up, Empress of India, Fordhook mix, and Alaska mix. They were Burpee. Gasp, I know. But they were also from the local farm shop, and I'm pretty sure they are probably not tampered with. But I was wasteful and used a whole packet per pot. I do have some other packets of safe seed, one of those will go into the pots outside the great room door, Jewel mix from Lillie Meyer, another gasp, I know. I wanted to blow through my crap seed and see what happens. I tried good seed I really wanted to save last year without a trial, and it didn't work well. This time I'm using crap seed, hehe. I still have two kinds of seed that are likely going to be planted in with the hops testing project. Another Empress of India, and Whirleybird. Nice climbers to grow in with the luffas.

Since the grape hyacinths were going to be blown out by the day anyway, I decided to plant them in now while they look good. I had potted them all up a dozen each into recycled mushroom containers. It was easy to just dig up the holes where I wanted to drop them in, and pop the bulbs in- they were all just rootbound enough to come out cleanly. So now 8 blocks of hyacinths marking the edge, from grandmas poppy to where the ditch lillies start. I had to move one clump of daffodils, and there was a blank spot handy. I left the big hyacinths alone. And made sure I kept the marker for grandmas poppy, also scattered what seed I had from the one flowerhead I harvested last year in the area I want those to fill in. I marked off the whole edge with tall bamboo stakes- driving markers for mowing.
Got in as much of the glass bottle border around the herb garden as I'm going to for the moment. I ran out of materials. A couple years collecting went a long way, but not quite long enough. All the soaking buckets are empty now and ready to be cleaned out. Since the border did wrap all the way around the redbud tree, I went ahead with my plan to dump all the Chinese Chestnut hulls around it's base. The coons didn't crawl up it anymore after I twined it with raspberry brambles last year- their paws are sensitive like our hands and they don't like to cross prickly barriers apparently. But squirrels have been up it, so I'm hoping a heaping of prickly might help deter them too. I only collected a half a tub, I was hand picking instead of raking, and blech. But I decided to wear my heavy blue rubber gloves, and was able to grab them up without any prickles at all, hooray! And the nest of raspberry brambles from last year provided a perfect ring to start piling in.
Had my love help me out and hauled some wide boards from the rows and plank over a path across the trouble area. It's not permanent, but good enough for now. Blocked off the awkward end with the catnip pot, moved the horseradish pot outside, and moved a broken pot to fill in. Long staked in the "rails".

Discovered we can't hold off with solarium skylight repairs any longer. The few cracks and tiny holes in the original wavy plastic has now given away to a large section out- a rafter wide and a foot long. and serious deterioration. So hopefully soon after the wedding we will have the resources to pick up new wavy plastic to put into place outside, and fix the hole crap. Maybe a little diverting action around the area and across the East to South face of the solarium.

Got all the big coolers and black tubs out of the solarium. Now they are stacked in the garage awaiting cleaning on another nice day between now and when they are needed. With the icky water leftover from soaking labels off bottles, I watered in along the ponds edge. Enough of it had soaked in that I finally got about two thirds of the green cans in their basic set in. The rest was still too dry and hard to even start trying really. Just dug in a bit, and gave it another soaking.
Snagged a couple of knotwork edgers from outside for around the water valve area. I just have them laying there now, they need to be dug in. The one I was all aww crap, it broke turned out to have broken perfectly for setting in there, hehe. I want to clean up and edge in the water valve area.
I moved the irises off the bench and onto the front porch. I'm hoping they will be a little bit happier there, they weren't doing too well on the bench.

Got the rest of the mushrooms in the dehydrator this morning. And whirred up the magic dust seasoning into actual dust and in a container for a gift. The berry preserves I canned up yesterday morning are all showing solid seals so far. I read around about my hardwater problem and the jars being foggy, ick. The solution was to add a bit of white vinegar to the canning water. I remembered to shake up the jars a few times while they were cooling down, to make sure all of it was distributed nicely- last batch I didn't and it was fruit on top, jelly on the bottom.
It still needs to be tasted, but here's how I did it.
I used six 12 oz jars. Boiled up 8 to be on the safe side.
3 pounds fresh strawberries- they were on sale, two bucks each
12 ounce bag of frozen mixed berries, buck fifty on sale
4 cups sugar, had to get a fresh bag, but it was on sale too, two fifty for a 5 pound bag.
one pink box of pectin, not on sale, three bucks.

I use three pounds of berries cuz I always end up slicing and dicing bits off unless they are really in good season. And it tends to run a bit over two pounds anyway.
I cut up the first two pounds, and mash them up with a potato masher. Pulp them to however you want, but yes, doing this with a masher is the best way to get juice and nice pulpy chunks.
Then mash into the fresh strawberries the bag of fully defrosted mixed berries.
Measure it off and see if it yields six cups. If it does not, cut up some more fresh berries to make up the difference, pulp them, then mix in with the mash and measure off 6 cups. Don't go over or under.
From there I just follow the directions that come with the box for strawberry jam and process for 15 minutes.

Tonights dinner is testing out some stuff. Made sausage gravy from a pound of hot tube on sale and stowed in the freezer. A large handfull of dried mushrooms simmered up. A big handful of dried kale stewed up.. All wrapped in pastry gotten on sale. I used a pizza crust and a roll of rolls, still a bit much for stuffing. Some dinner tonight, some lunch over the next day or two. 
I think I almost have the recipe down.
Set up a crockpot of beany soup goodness and a starter for some bean spread goodness to try out tomorrow.
Tossed the leftover liquids from soaking the mushrooms and kale into a bag to freeze up.

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