Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last post of the year...

I fell short this year on posting. Mostly in the last couple months. Mostly because there hasn't been much to post.

But right now is the last time I get to post for 2014.

So... It was a great year in the garden- I produced more than I have in previous years- my goal for next year is to produce more than I did this year.

A goal is to finally really seal up my office window, fuck it's cold with the wind whistling through the gap in the glass and the plastic giving way to the freezing wind.

Had the best preserving year yet too- next year not so many sweet peppers for eating that ends up getting preserved instead, and more hot peppers for preserving. Including a weapons grade hot pepper that is gonna get used for zapping critters.

Goal for next year- successfully grow potatoes. 

Got most of my family moved in this year- it's been a serious adjustment. Goal for next year is to have everything work better than it is now.

Got lots of plans for next year- I started today with dumping out all the soil bins I got so I can start wintersowing tomorrow. Got all the litter jugs prepped for it too. Got the greenhouse frames strapped to the side of the porch the other day when the weather was fine so I'm good to go.

Goal for next year- enjoy the sun more- I'm so damn depressed from lack of sun it's pitiful. Gonna soak up more sun when the sun is out for soaking up next year. Goal for next year is to get back into healthy sleep again, this 45 minutes at a time crap has got to stop.

Got the solarium roof fixed this year, and jack shit else. Goal for next year, get more stuff done with the house.

I miss the shit out of all my friends- goal for next year, see them more. Get them to come out and visit, scrape up the cash for gas and go visit them more.

Brew something. Don't care if it's beer, wine, cider, or mead. Gonna brew something next year.

Watch the rest of the TrueBlood show- I'm already into season 4, and got the rest on order from Netflix.

Try to be able to keep up with bills- try to make more money to pay for stuff, like bills. Try to start up a roadside stand in the spring to sell off seedlings, and maybe even some produce later on in the year.. Maybe some seeds too. Get some beading to sell. Make beautiful things.

Make good food, eat good food... share good food.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

But, but.. gourmet or healthy means expensive, right?

Well, I haven't posted in over a month. There really hasn't been anything to write about. Nothing new in the garden or yard, the weather has been decent and non-dumping of snow, no new seeds.. Not much going on in the solarium. Even Christmas prep has been really low key.

But I wanted to write up a rant about something I've seen commented on by people lately, especially with the holiday season coming up. The notion that gourmet food means expensive, that healthy food has to be more expensive than junky pre-packaged food.

I try to make the argument that neither of these things need to be true- but to no avail. But anyone that lives in a place that can have a few pots on the porch, or a bit a land can have a garden- and there is a great start to gourmet and healthy eating. Back in our grandparents age of WW2, there were victory gardens for a reason- because it was too expensive and resource consuming to go out and buy produce. Meat was in short supply, yet cooks managed to get protein needs met for their families. Sweets were expensive, but still existed by means of making every ounce of sugar count.

Now, we aren't in the middle of a world war... but we do seem to be in the middle of a food war. Battle lines of what diet to be on, what product to buy or avoid, a thousand bombardments launched at you by commercials, a massive propaganda campaign by every food manufacturer.

I'm here to say you can fight this war- and win. Resistance is not futile. But it does take time and effort.

Let's start with gardening. Even if all you have is a windowsill, you can grow your own herbs. Herbs are tasty additions that can "gourmet up" pre-packaged food. For example, grow basil and parsley, and instead of paying for spaghetti sauce in the jar, pay half the price for canned tomato product and add your own homegrown parsley and basil to make your own spaghetti sauce. There are also veggies you can grow on the windowsill, like mini tomato plants that stay tiny or can be planted in hanging baskets, pepper plants both hot and sweet that just naturally stay very small and can be grown in a pot. Lettuce and spinach can be grown on the windowsill as well.
If you have a porch or patio, you can grow almost anything. Because most veggies have dwarf or bush varieties, or can be long vined and trained up poles and trellises.
If you have a yard, you can grow even more. There are some places that have a say in what you can grow in your yard, but there are many ornamental varieties of edibles- in fact there is a whole culture of edible gardening, which combines beauty, healthy, and quite often gourmet quality.

Shopping- man, I look in peoples carts at the store, and sometimes I'm shocked by what I see- or don't see. Soda by the case is the biggest wow- for that 20 bucks you just spent on soda, you could have bought healthy food, or drink mixes that are far better for you than fizzy sugar water. Boxes of sugary cereal- get oatmeal, it's healthier, more filling, and costs about the same. People pay a couple bucks for a half pound of frozen veggies that are already prepped up and just toss the bag into the nuker- get yourself over to the produce department and get the same thing fresh, and learn how to cook it. Get bone in meats, and eat well- first off the meat, then from what you can make with the leftovers, then what you can make with the stock you can make with the bones. For example, get that bone in ham, eat a good dinner, have enough leftover meat for a couple more dinners, then make stock with the bones for a couple more dinners. Or buy whole chickens instead of boneless breasts, and again, good dinner, good leftovers, use the carcass to make stock for yet more dinners. Turkey is incredible at the right time of year and can feed a family of four half a dozen times between meat and stock for soups, stews, and flavoring grain dishes. Stock in the store is too expensive and too much sodium? Get those bone in meats and make your own, and you will never go back. Bake your own bread- the initial expense seems like a lot, but it bakes up into more loaves that what you pay for commercial. And you can control factors you can't with commercial bread, you can add things to make it even more nutritious, and it smells great while baking and you feel good about it. Buy stuff when it's on sale and stock up. Don't be afraid to use "cheap stores" like Aldi and Big Lots.

Which leads us to cooking. Learn how to cook. Yes, cooking can take time you don't think you have. But yes, you have that time. Get a crockpot and a wall timer, and you can set up a ton of different dinners to be done at any time you want. You can take a boxed something and add in other stuff to make a bla junky box into something tasty and healthy. You can preserve food!! All that produce that you grow or can get cheap while in season you can learn how to freeze it, can it, ferment it, dry it.
For example, jelly and jams. A good gourmet 8 oz jar can be several dollars. But grow yourself some strawberries, and for the price of that one jar, you can make several jars of your own gourmet strawberry jam. And you just extended sugar cost. And heh, anyone who has followed my blog at all knows how much I dehydrate food and use dehydrated food, and how much I can food.
Don't be afraid of seasonings- there's more to life than salt, pepper, and perhaps parsley. Don't be afraid to use a lot of herbs! Dill can brighten herb tones the same way adding acid like lemon or vinegar can brighten dishes. Savory can be added to many dishes to add depth. Bay leaves should go into most soups, stews and stocks because it imparts a flavor like nothing else does. Oregano is excellent for Mexican food- it's not just for Italian. Nor is basil for Italian only either. Ginger and nutmeg are for more than just dessert, and cumin is your warm friend.
If you like to bake, it's worth the expense to buy yourself a few vanilla beans and a big bottle of Everclear, and make your own vanilla extract. Ends up being cheaper than regularly buying little bottles of the stuff.
Poor food can be gourmet too. Humble rice and beans are super healthy, and can be seasoned however you like... and is super cheap. Greens are good for you and can be prepared in dozens of ways according to taste- and there's more than just lettuce and spinach to choose from! Canned tuna can be cheap, provide a ton of protein, and be made into a multitude of dishes- Yes, there is something other than tuna salad and tuna noodle casserole. Heck, I have a tuna hater in the house and she loves my mini tuna loaves. Especially with my homemade tartar sauce.
And hey, if your house uses tartar sauce, make your own. The stuff in the jars is pretty much just mayo and pickle relish. If you normally keep mayo and pickles in the house, you can make your own. I tend to use pickles, capers, lemon juice, and mayo- sometimes I use pickled nasturtium seeds or add in some dill. If you use cocktail sauce, that's just ketchup and horseradish.
Learn how to make your own boxed food kits. Yes, I'm serious. There's a bunch of cookbooks out there, especially this time of year, on gifts in jars. A lot of them are more sweets based, but there are a lot that have savory goods too. Like I make up my own jambalaya kits by the half dozen, and keep them stored in a big jar on the shelf. I also have jarred up Italian bean soup kits, and instant potato corn chowder kits. 

On to another subject- learn how to forage food. Those dandelions you hate in your yard are actually good salad greens. Plantains are great stewing greens. Those pretty blue flowers in ditches are chicory that's used roasted in gourmet coffee. I have a lot of wild chives growing in my lawn, and have saved myself hundreds of dollars in chives by picking them and making chive butter, chive oil, and drying chives as well as using them fresh in dishes. Ditch lilies are edible- the fleshy tubers, young stalks and the blooms.

I've probably ranted enough, lol. But if you take some time and effort, food does not have to be expensive to be gourmet or healthy. We humans figured out how to feed ourselves well for way longer than the commercial industry has existed. Next time you sigh over a cooking show- don't. Take it as an example, and make something of your own. Next time you reach for that box of riceoroni- don't. Take your butt over to the dry goods aisle and get a bag of rice and season it up how you like instead. Next time you are thinking about taking the couple hours to go out and eat- don't. Make something at home, and save yourself some money and sodium intake.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Preserving tally...

I couldn't really remember how much of a record I've been keeping or not on what I've been preserving so far this season, so... As of official winter, here's what I got done through the summer into fall..

6 pints and 8 quarts of pepper rings
14 half pints of citrus ginger zucchini jam
4 quarts of spicy beans
4 quarts of dilly beans
1 quart of dehydrated nasturtium leaves
1 quart of dehydrated celery- from 8 bunches
1 quart of dehydrated Juane Flamme tomato quarters
1 quart of dehydrated Roughwood Golden Plum tomato slices
1 pint and a half of dehydrated mixed tomatoes, sliced
2 quarts of dehydrated pepper rings
1 quart, 1 pint of dehydrated green pepper
28 half pints of spicy olive salsa
1 pint of hot pepper powder, made from guajillo, arbol, piquin, and Japanese chilis
10 pint and a half, 23 pint, 5 half pints of crushed tomatoes
23 quarter pints of pepper relish
6 pints of sweet jardiniere
6 pints of Italian jardiniere
4 quarts of lemony cauliflower
4 quarts of whole banana peppers
6 pints of hot mixed pepper rings
6 pint and a half of cherry bombs
18 half pints and 12 pints of pickled mushrooms
2 quarts of fridge pickled pepperonchini
2 3 cup bags of spaghetti sauce for the freezer
1 quart of dehydrated from frozen corn
2 1/2 pounds of green beans in the freezer
1 quart dehydrated habanero peppers, halved
1 pint and a half of dehydrated mixed peppers, chopped
1 quart of white bread crumbs
1 quart of rye bread crumbs
1 pint of dehydrated cauliflower
1 pint of dried sage
9 two oz cubes of nasturtium flower pesto in the freezer
9 two oz cubes of nasturtium leaf pesto in the freezer
12 pounds of carrots for the freezer, in matchsticks, diced, and crinklecut
1 quart of lacto-fermented carrtos
1 quart of mexican spicy carrots
1 pint and 1 quart of pickled nasturtium seeds, AKA poor mans capers
4 quarts, 3 pint and a half of fridge pickled mushrooms

Now, keep in mind that these are finished weights. So for instance, it takes 5 pounds of corn or 6 pounds of minced onion to dehydrate to 1 quart jar- but it takes only a dozen habaneros to dry up to a quart jar if they are left halved instead of powdered. When it comes to pickling, the jars are full, but there is a lot of brine in there too. 

Screw you winter

Yeah, I know, winter has barely arrived, and I'm already thinking screw you winter.

We have gotten in some snow over the last week- and it's snowing more today- I can already hardly wait till April. Hitting into the 20's, yuckola. For sure getting into daytime highs in the teens, night down to zero in the next day or two, fuckola :(

But on the bright side... I got all 20 windows and the outside door of the solarium covered with 4mm clear plastic- and it seems to be helping a lot! Instead of a 5-10 degree difference from the outdoor temps, I'm holding at around 40 degrees out there. Yeah, still cold, I know, but my main goal is to keep it above freezing. I have been running a wee space heater out there, the one I usually use to keep the chill off my fingers or heat harden paints and window goo. But I just checked the thermometer and it read 39.9, so I put one of the boys space heaters out there, set to 75. Considering it's currently 17 degrees outside, I'll consider 39.9 an accomplishment to my putting up plastic. And fixing the solarium roof of course. I'll kill the heater before bed though. I just want to prevent freezing out there, not heat the whole place to comfort. And not chance burning the house down, lol. It does make it a chilly 45 degree workroom when I'm at the beading bench though.

Pulled out the horseradish from it's bins. I actually have enough root to see us in grated horseradish for the next few months, and maybe even till next harvest! Which would be a big ole boo-yah. I also brought in the buckets and bins of glads just in the nick of time and dug them out of their containers for overwinter storage. Even though I'm going to try to not let the solarium freeze, it's still early in the winter and it could very well happen. And freezing temps kill the hell out of glads, turns the croms to mush. One bucket was pretty pathetic, but the rest of them had some nice robust croms- I'm hopeful that when I plant them in next spring I'll get a nice amount of blooms.

I signed up for a "What's left on my wish list" swap on the GW. I got about 40-45 kinds of seeds I still want, and sent of 84 kinds of seeds, so we shall see what I get back on my send off. I kind of had to add onto the wish list to help accommodate what others might be able to send me, so hopefully I will get some nice flowers and a bit of greenery in addition to the few veggies and herbs I want and still don't have.  The send off deadline is Dec 15, I'm thinking so the gal can hopefully get packages back off before new years, so I'm all anticipatory about it- maybe it will be a belated Christmas gift :)

I finally had to break down and turn on the office heater today- it's still set to a moderate 60 though.

Been trying out some new bread machine recipes lately, and they have all turned out good. Particularly a garlic herb bread, it's extra yummy for making sandwiches with. The Italian bread still needs some tinkering I think, it was good but not great. I think I'm thinking more to baking and cooking right now because it's so darn cold out- I keep wanting to have the kitchen all nice and cozy filled with yummy smells. Hey, it's one of those little things to help keep the winter blues away.

It's also the time for hot beverages. I've discovered, once again, that I'm totally addicted to hot cider, particularly with a splash of spiced rum in it- or honey whiskey, I've discovered honey whiskey and boy is it tasty as hell in hot cider.

I still need to get my cold hating butt out into the cold and jack the solar lights up so they can still illuminate over the snow drifts that I know are coming up. Zip tie the ones on the fenceline up onto the fence, and maybe hang the tree base lights off the trees. Darn things don't do no good if they are buried under snow.
I still need to get into the chicken coop and see what's going on there. Now that the interior should be freezing, it's less likely that any living leftover ick will be stirring up when I clean the place out. It will be hard as hell to work it in the cold and dim interior of the coop, but we can't get chicks in the spring if the darn thing isn't cleaned up and ready to receive them once it's warm again.

Had my best friend out for a wee visit recently, and she really helped relieve a lot of the funk I've been feeling lately- she's a total gem and a ray of sunshine. Life can't be all that bad when I got a gal like her on my side. I think sometimes I forget what great friends I have because I never get any of them out here to visit, and for sure winter discourages visiting even more. I think I really need to plan in a camping weekend in the back 40 late next May so I can see all my friends again. I should get off my hibernating hermit butt once in a while and visit them too.

Of course with all the hibernating hermitage comes planning next years garden- another reason to keep my hopes up for spring. I've discovered that the nice big kitty litter jugs are also too big to fit on any shelf but the top of the mini greenhouses. That sucks, but at least 8 of them fit on the shelf, and milk jugs do fit on the lower shelves. So sometime this winter I will prep them all up, sow them with hardy seeds, and strap them up outside to do their thing. Last years wintersowing went super well, so I have great hopes that this years will go well too.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall cleanup

It's that time of year- fall cleanup. Mama N has blessed us with some glorious warm weather, so though I weep to pull spent plants, at least it was nice weather for it.

Smoked a lovely bone in ham over the weekend- when the price is low, I love to pick one up. I save the fat for later rendering, the bone always yields wonderful stock for many dinners to come, and there's enough meat there for a few dinners.

Been raking up lots of leaves to cover beds with. The garlic beds are under, as well as the tomato and little squash bed. Today I pulled the last of the squash, bean, and pepper plants and dumped on several wheelbarrows of leaves over those beds. The tarragon bush finally got it's last clipping and the whole herb bed is now buried too. Gotta love that free mulch :)

Planted in a bunch of spring bulbs too. Snowdrops under the cedar at the bottom of the mint border and in with the sky blue irises. Mediterranean bells along one side of the east bay of the pole barn. Mixed colors of hyacinths along a section of the south side of the solarium. And a few Gypsy Queen and Gypsy Princess hyacinths on the other side of the solarium in the wee folk garden. Slowly but surely I'm getting more flowers into the yard, and I'm rather pleased about it.

Decided the first batch of pickled nasturtium seeds were ready to try- I used a handful of them chopped up in some tartar sauce last night. A bit more peppery than true capers, but they for sure has that wonderful salty brine taste to them. Made nasturtium flower pesto and leaf pesto, both are delicious and in the freezer- I'm debating picking another batch before Halloween. Still got tons of the things out there if I so desire. I noticed a bunch of the wild chives are making an autumn showing too, so I might have to pick some to make butter or oil with.
Been dehydrating stuff too. Pretty soon I will publish this seasons preserving total- it's getting to be quite a lengthy list!

Been working on some more Halloween village stuff, a skeleton gazebo and my love printed me out the stuff for a jack o lantern water tower. I can't believe the holiday is right around the corner already!

Otherwise life has been the same ole around here. Doing chores, trying to deal with shit, work, life.. ya know... So I keep plugging away and hope things get better.

Been working on some crafting stuff, mostly beading projects. I'm starting to feel somewhat hopeful that I might be able to start selling some of it sooner rather than later.

Elections are coming up, and I'm sort of looking forward to being an election official- this will either be a good thing or something I rather not do again, we shall see. Maybe I just need something that is mine alone, and not shared. Greedy of me, I know, but I really miss having anything to myself.

At this point, I have several kitty litter jugs saved up for wintersowing. I think their bigger size and sturdiness will be of greater benefit than the milk jugs are. I still got milk jugs though, lol. I know, seems kind of weird that I tuck the garden away today and now I'm thinking about the next planting, but a girl has to plan, ya know? Through the winter I will probably make a thousand plans for the yard, and discard about 990 of them, hehe. My wish list for seeds is getting fairly small and specific to Pine Tree and Baker Creek- so even though I have a ton of trade seed, I think I might have to face it and just order seeds to fill in the little bit that I want.
I've culled out some more tomato seed- now I just need to settle in on what color I really want to grow next year.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Yay garlic!

October 10..
Recently, I built two new raised beds for garlic... Today they got completed. The first layers got rained in real good, and today I shoveled in the second layer of manure. Then we took the truck out to the back 40 and dug up some sandy topsoil to top off the boxes...

Then I planted in 240 cloves of garlic. 10 kinds of hardneck, 1 kind of softneck. What all did I plant in?
12 South Haven
18 Leningrad
30 Great Russian
12 Skips 1
30 Kankankee softneck
18 Up North
6 Skips 1
18 Skips 2
48 Kankankee hardneck
16 Lawrence
32 Porcelain Pearl

Two of the beds are 3x6, and one bed is 4x6. I pulled apart all the heads I harvested this summer, and picked out the best of the cloves for planting. And now I have a rather nice heap of garlic for eating too!

October 13
So I made another 9 half pints of pickled mushrooms, and another quart of fridge pickled mushrooms. They are quickly becoming a house favorite!
The weather has been nice enough to get a bit of outdoor activity done... But more importantly, it rained last night and for a while this afternoon, and the new solarium roof is perfectly dry! Whoo-hoo for a job well done! Now that I know it's nice like that, I can get the boards off the pond, get the solarium cleaned up and pots back into place- and get back to work on the beading bench.

Started in with the seed trade lists on the GW- one of them has been nice, but right now a request for SASE is kind of turning into a PITA! I get the request if I am willing to do a SASE- I say sure, just make sure it's a bubble envelope to protect the seed. I get a long email back about how the person won't do bubble mailers, all sorts of special instructions as to how they like seed sent- and that I need to take the SASE to the post office just to get it hand stamped! Do you realize that most post offices really don't like to do hand stamping, they only want to do machine stamping? And WTF is a SASE about if I have to do special running to another city to see if maybe they might be willing to hand stamp? I have done a lot of trades, and this is the first time I've gotten this kind of fucked up special requesting on what is basically me giving away seed for free- something I normally only allow to newbies. And this person claims to have done tons of worldwide trading, but is awfully particular and fucked up about it all. And their seed list is all "oops, my shit is all crossbred, take your chances with the seed". Sigh. Trading should not be that complicated.

And today I went in for Election Official training- it was interesting, but a little overwhelming on information! Lots of details got covered. Makes me glad I get to do a second round in orientation the Saturday before elections! I am looking forward to being a participant in the voting process, pretty cool stuff to do civic duty and all.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Season on!

Ah, it's that time of year.. Halloween time :)

There are several new additions to Nightvale, my Halloween village. A zombie eatery, coffin factory, ghostly haunted house, bat aviary, some witches flying around and stirring up potions, a couple streetlights, and a few more denizens. So now the vals sprawls across the mantle, the shelves, the stereo, and the square table in the living room.
The pumpkin patch is chock full of pumpkiny goodness, the vamps and zombies hang out on main street, the witches have their own hangout on high... Grim is hanging out with the skeletons having coffee, the workers at the coffin factory can stop for a terror dog or a couple bags of blood to go, and the haunted house gets to get a little batty.
Yes, I am kind of obsessed with my Halloween village. Some folks get Christmas village nutty, I go for Halloween. There's still a small handful of buildings I want, and a whole heap of oddbits and oddfellows. In a year or two, I will build landscape for all of it, lol. At this point when I pack it all up, it will take up more space than my Christmas decor, and I like it like that.
A bunch of the buildings are on timers, so the whole vale gets active or goes to sleep at different times of dark, which is fun in and of itself.
My love printed me off an incredible Cerberus to guard the gargoyle towers and gate I have set up, and there will be a ton more printing that will go into the vale- some buildings are just too frigging expensive for what they are, so I'm going to make my own. Same goes for stuff like gravestones- why pay someone else several bucks for them when I can make them or have my hubby print some off? There are some outstanding scans out there of real gravemarkers that are just wonderful, from when they still make them look like treestumps and books and such. Then it's just a matter of painting them up nice and putting them in place. The graveyard definitely needs more markers, it's pretty darn small right now for a Halloween village.

In other news... Got a couple of moms cabinets hung up in her room, they look real nice. And finally hung the barn painting up in the stairwell. It's not fine art, something mom picked up eons ago. But it's something that speaks to all of us of home somehow.

Exciting stuff- finally ripped out and replaced the solarium skylight today!!!! Holy shit it looks so much better now. The corrugated plastic is clear, and lets in so much light it looks like there are artificial lights on out there. And with no more gaping hole acting as a chimney, there is already a noticeable difference in the temp out there- and I'm hoping with just a little more weatherproofing and a bit of a heater, I might actually be able to use my solarium as my workshop year round :) Squee with joy! If nothing else, it will be really good for the plants.

And ugh, started the painful process of sorting out my seeds. Logging what I got, deciding what I want to keep or put into the trade list bin.. Then comes coming up with the trade list. Of course there are a lot of things I want on my wish list, but then that too needs to be cleaned up- only so many beans or tomatoes one can have and be realistic about using the seed. And heritage grower that I am, I've been taking down dates on the seeds as I can, and I have discovered that some of my oldest cultivars are about 400 years old! As in early 1600's, or at least that's when they are logged as being in the U.S.. A couple of those are even older, but I don't know how much because I'm not tracking back that far in European or Native American records at this time.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What have I been doing with myself?

Not posting on my blog, that's for sure. And why not? Been busy busy busy.

Since my last post, I've canned up many, many gallons ( I think it's around 25 gallons) of various goodies, and dehydrated many many pounds ( I think around 20 pounds) of various produce. Seriously- I actually broke the front burner on my stove with all the processing I've been doing, and I have no idea if it's even reparable or not. So now I'm down to three burners for cooking. I've been keeping a running tally of everything so far, and that will be it's own post.

Had myself a seriously wonderful time out at Holly for a weekend with some good friends. And squee with joy over some adorable beaded trees- they are so tiny and cute! I now own one of each kind, and plan on using those as models to make more because they are awesome. I had forgotten how nice Holly is, and how muddy it can be. But it was extra nice because I got to wear garb that I didn't have the opportunity to at Bristol.

Been working on some beading projects- and I think I might have found a local retailer that I can rent out some space in to see if I can't sell some of the stuff I've been making. Kind of exciting that.

Had a glorious weekend of burning for the fall equinox. All nice and legal too. Did a couple serious days of day burning, cleared out a huge amount of brush that was piling up around the firepit. And we got all the rest of what's there sorted out and organized. Now the area is clear, no longer a fire hazard in itself, and all set up nice for more burning later this year. And I think the keyhole is going to become a needle to the pond- I want to mow open a bit more space down there for easier navagating, and hopefully soon I will be able to start the cleanup on the ponds edge itself to eventually drop in a small floating dock. We actually filled the pit with ash, and had to slow burn the last of the paper products and brush. A goodly bit of that ash went to the new raised beds to sweeten the pine needles, and a smidge went to the driveway to see if it would really kill the weeds with lye leeching or not. Still need to clean the rest of the ash out, and re-configure the pit- I want to make it three bricks high instead of two, and shorten it just a little to make sure it's within legal parameters.

Built two new raised beds for garlic... and guess what? I made them all by myself! Yes, I did use the power saw and drill, and didn't ask for someone else to do it. Considering my fear of handling power tools, I consider it a victory. So now there's a 3x6 and a 4x6 bed sitting next to the first bed. I got them mostly filled, but still need to drop more mature manure on top and top off with soil. I was heartily glad that I had all that spoiled straw left from the potato bags because they pine needles and leaves just haven't really started dropping yet. But I really wanted to get started on getting those boxes filled so they would be settled by the time I planted in garlic in a couple weeks. Hopefully by harvest time next year, I will have increased yield from 72 heads to 240 heads- maaaybe enough to keep us in garlic through at least some of the winter, lol. Guess that would depend on how much gets used up next year for canning, and I sure do use a ton of garlic in canning.

The orange tomatoes this year have been a resounding success! About damn time I got those going on. Now the next challenge will be figuring out what color to grow next year, lol. I liked the Juan Flamme so much that I put the seed onto my wish list again- I was super lame and didn't do any seed preserving measures this year.
Pulled 11 spaghetti squash out of the garden, and still have a couple buttercups and 5 Long Island Cheese squash on the vine. Pulled who knows how many pounds of ball squash and zucchini out of the garden, enough that I had to come up with a couple new recipes to use them all! Two have become instant successes with the family- southern squash casserole and caviar, AKA citrus zucchini marmalade. You would think zucchini jelly stuff would be gross, but it's good as hell. We love it particularly with biscuits with dinner, yum.
The peppers have been in overdrive- I pickled rings and whole peppers, dried peppers, cooked peppers, and fresh eaten peppers- all of us have. Another bout time.
Eye of the goat bean did so well we will actually be able to eat some, have seed stock, and maybe even have a bit for trade. The dwarf taylor bush I had to container grow to save it from the critters has produced enough for seed stock, and the histada shield bean produced for seed stock.
The nasturtiums have been beyond wonderful. Darn things have eaten one whole slot on the dog run, but I got enough seed for stock, to try some as a black pepper subsitute, pickled up a jar for poor mans capers, got a quart jar stuffed with dried leaves, and still so much I need to harvest a ton of blooms for drying, leaves for pesto for the freezer, and enough seeds for another batch of poor mans capers- and the things have dropped enough seed that I realize I accidentally created a nasturtium bed. My milkmaids produced enough seed for stock- I assume chipmunks ate most of whatever else dropped. And my couple containers by the great room produced seed stock like crazy too. Now I want to fill out my palette with a couple more varieties.
The green beans were a low point- but boy oh boy did the few top crops crank em out- and the early contenders I planted late are producing like crazy so it looks like green beans might just get redeemed before the end of the season.
The herb garden is doing pretty well, but the parsley patch down on the fenceline is really growing in all it's glory- shaping up exactly as I hoped. I'm thinking next year I will finally be able to do a final sowing and pull all the recycled soup cans currently serving as a border.
Dill did really well too- I pulled a whole crop for seed, and started a second crop which is almost ready for harvest.
The mint border is filling in completely. Almost better than I had hoped for when I scrapped them into place last year. By this time next year, it will be complete and plush. I'm still on the hunt for apple mint. The toothache plant did exceptionally well in that area, I will have a serious amount of seed for next year. The lemon mint didn't do all that great, I will have to put it into a different area next year.
The lilies- sigh, some of them survived, some did not. Now it's a matter of figuring out where the survivors need to go. Some will for sure be going into the new garden area we are planning on in the front yard, focusing around that wonderful smoke tree. The four hardy hibiscus are now repotted and in the solarium for overwintering, and I picked up eight mums half in bronze and half in yellow to work into the hibiscus border. That's going to go along with the smoke tree garden. By the end of next year, that whole little area of the yard should be coming along right nice.

The solarium is already getting full of containers to overwinter, and I still have a ton of them to pull in. Nope, the roof still isn't fixed, I'm dearly hoping to get that done very soon before it gets too cold to do so. I wish I could just have someone else do it, but my luck ain't like that, heh.

But now I need to hop along and figure out what to do for dinner... 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Plans and plans..

It's the 21st. Been rather nice the last couple days, and we have been getting in some rain during the night hours, so I haven't had to water and the garden is coming along right fine to boot!

While out gardening the other day, my sister discovered one lonely cucumber growing in amongst all the squash. I'm not sure what it is, I have to trace the vine back. But it's large and lovely. And since it's the only one it's pretty likely it's pure seed. Yay!

Did another round of pruning. This time under the cedars right outside my office. I started out by cutting in the second year round for the chocolate mint and pineapple mint. And then it just kept going on from there, heh. To my delight the toothache plant seems right happy where I planted it so next year I will fill in that area of the bed with more of them.

Been taking pics over the last few days, decided it was time to post a bunch of them up.

This is what the giant collendar looked like a few days ago- made stuffed squash and squash casserole since then. A lot less squash in it now, and a ton more tomatoes.

The pickens from the other day when I cleaned out the potato bags. Every day it's a handful or two of pickings :)

This weirdness is something I cut out of the grapevines while cutting back growth on the north side of the property. Those crazy looking pod things are called galls- usually due to bugs or injury. Who knew, right?

The tomato jungle. Next year, more support considered prior to planting, lol.

The little squash bed. The zukes are putting out just the right amount of squash for the household. And enough that I'm planning on making another batch of ginger citrus zuke marmalade- it's been renamed ginger citrus caviar, lol. The stuff is crazy ass good. The buttercup squashes are finally producing a couple squashes that didn't abort early- must be because of all the good rain. But also means I should be watering more when it isn't raining.

The dog run, all agrown with various veggies and looking great!

The north stall has now been cleaned up of debris and the nasturtiums corralled by buckets of glads. I am pretty sure those are too small this year for blooms :( But once they start blooming they should look great!! At the far end you can almost not see the little histada shield bean.

The center run where the potato bags used to be. For sure need to do potatoes in bins next year. it was a huge mess for what we got out of it. More glad buckets for penning in the nasturtiums.

Got one of the huge spaghetti squashes growing into the center stall and just tucked straw up under it for support. Heaped up all the floor straw into the end for now till it's time to build the next raised bed. Then all that spoilt straw will be lovely to use.

The hops are not doing too well, I think I'm underwatering those too. But in the right corner you can just see yet another huge spaghetti squash being supported on a while bucket. The monster vine on the left is my Long Island Cheese squash- I have three growing and signs of more blooms! Eye of the goat is the vertical grower.

Don't look to bad considering what a lazy gardener I am. Right in the center is one of those Long Island Cheese squashed growing away nicely.

Cleaning out the area outside my office.

Almost looks like it's supposed to be something now- going to be planting in some lilies on this side.

The beds look neater. Chocolate mint on the far right, then pineapple mint. A large grouping of toothache plant in the center, though it's hard to tell. This area will start looking nicely plush next summer. And the mints at least will be in their final growth area, just needing trimming and a little weeding. They are already being very effective at choaking out weeds.

Cutting up like this will help with air flow under the trees. And man, I cut out tons of kudzu, wild grape, and wild raspberry vines.

Cut out a whole heap of branches that are destined for the firepit too.

The keyhole looks neat. But the scrap is building up. Time to get a burn permit!

And the freshly cut out alley on the north line of the property. A good bit of this was super overgrown, but now we just need to keep it mowed open.

So now I'm off to get more things done :) 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Great yard days

the 14th...

It was an absolutely lovely day today.Sunny and cool in the upper 60's. I got out around 11 and mowed up the whole front yard. I offered my sister mowing the rest of the yard. While she was mowing I went around the yard and did a lot of trimming.. a few truckloads worth. All the little tree bits and such that have gotten out of hand over the last season or three and I seriously needed to attend to.
The entire white fenceline is cleaned up except for the compost/bee corner. That's it's own project, lol. 
The wild grapevine choked tree in the front corner is now cleared of vines and pruned a bit back. Opened up and cleaned up around the traffic sign.
The raspberry bed around the utiltiy pole- whew. That was a mess of old canes and unruly new ones. Got all the old canes trimmed out and all the new ones woven in contained behind the mooring lines.
Extra mowed down the arch drive and cut down all that tall stuff around the trunk where the arch drive meets the easement drive. That was a thing- but now the area looks so much better! I think I want to go ahead with some sort of light setup on that stump and plan in a serious bed of nasturtiums in that area starting next year.
A new mowing keyhole down by the pond was made today, as well as a little drive through path on the north side where we dump our non-composting weeds.

Tomorrow we need to walk out around the back 40 and see how truck driveable or not the trek is. I would like to drop todays trimmings in the way back corner. Want to walk out the north fenceline to see what needs to be done to get a footpath in order. I think eventually we will need to figure out a whole pondside path too, lol.

It's the 17th, and man we have been busy as hell out in the yard! Lots of pruning and cutting. Got the veggie beds attended to- to tomatoes now have been cleaned up and re-supported as necessary.
The whole potato aisle of the dog run is cleared out and cleaned out- we even got a couple pounds of potatoes out of those sloppy bags! Enough encouragement to do it again, only using hard sides containers like garbage cans. Those would be mobile and sturdy. Got the whole mess of nasturtiums dealt with in the other bay of the dog run. Picked the very first of my Histada Shield beans and those are shelled and set to cure. There's enough otherwise on the vine that I'm pretty sure I now have a crop batch amount of seed maturing.
Cut in a whole new path on the north side of the yard and combated a grave vine overgrown rose tree to do it. My sister attended to the long overdue lilac, and I think it will be much healthier for the cutback. One of the darker lilies will get planted in there, and will need to attend to the violet patch more between the lilacs and the pine too. And now we have a full mowing lane back there again, discreetly tucked back. That's our general dumping ground for weedy crap that can't go into the compost area. Eventually we will just keep going right down the fenceline entirely I think.
We will end up running a whole walking patch all the way to the back corner- it was widely groomed at one time so a bit of effort should see at least a footpath cut back in again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Freaking Awesome weekend!

I had a really great weekend! Went and worked at the faire this weekend, and I was a busy bee the whole time :)
Got to hang out with some really great friends. We were there on Friday to help out with the RESCU rally, and I wasn't needed so much, so I got to hang out with a friend at the bakery and sling some dough around. It was good to putter around the kitchen.
On Saturday and Sunday I got to hawk- and it was really fun! Made some sparkley to wear while out there, and it was rather grand. My bellows were probably the loudest unamplified sounds in that section in a while, lol. Every time a show broke up on the stage across from us, I would holler out. It felt rather good to do it too. And I'm happy I quit smoking at the beginning of March.
It was really cool to handle so much pewter out on the street too- I picked up and carried around some really cool pieces! Got to do parade on Saturday, I always enjoy doing that. My face is almost sore from smiling, and arms tired from super-waving, it's great. Like a super happy workout right in the middle of the day. 
Got to make a bunch of new friends too- some of it is a blur I met so many! But a lot of faces and folks I look forward to seeing again :)
I received a pair of absolutely lovely earrings as a late birthday present. They are tiny delicate blue winged hummingbirds made of pulled glass. So absolutely lovely I was stunned at first- then immediately put them in my ears, woot!
I laughed a lot this weekend... A LOT!

I sort of got a commission for some jewelry this weekend. It's sort of an artwork for artwork barter sort of thing. One of the gents I work with is a stunning artist of the drawing kind. I asked him to draw a killer bee for me to hang in my living room. And he said yes, just because he's cool like that. Later on that night, he was able to get a beaded spider he absolutely loved- and I understood his happy because of my happy over beaded spiders. So I offered him to do a beaded pin mount for him in return for him drawing up my bee artwork.

So... on to Grobox Hill....
The whole garden has done wonderfully while I was gone! Apparently we got in a nice couple hour long gentle soaking rain early this morning. I checked all the plants. Radish and dill seed are popping up. Albino beet and Little Gem lettuce are not. Rainbow Lights swiss chard is regrowing back really well. Early Contender bean has most of the seed spots sprouting up really well. The peas not so much.
I have several ball squashes to pick, and a few Roughwood Golden Plum tomatoes.
In general, need to do a lot of picking, picking up, and such to do.

Unfortunately, while I was gone this weekend.. Someone came onto the back 40, and cut down many branches along our back corner. It created a full sized vehicle tunnel in our tree path. Not sure who it was, but we know who it likely is. So tomorrow my sis and I will get back there and stack up the cut down branches in the gate spot, and string up a no trespassing sign. And a sign that the new property is under new ownership, please contact us. I'm hoping that we can have a friendly conversation about it. I'm not too opposed to horses and four wheelers coming through. But full sized vehicle path is a no. And folks cutting down like that on my property without permission is a no as well.

The lawn needs a serious mowing as well. It was lovely to pull in and see all the little yellow flowers, but the yard is looking pretty shaggy as well. The first five hardy hibiscus plants are doing really well in their bigger pots. I'm looking forward to planting them in next spring, and starting new seeds for their plant in. I think I want to plant them in along the easement side of the street line. We still have my sisters lovely purple smoke tree to plant in, and I think I want to cultivate in that front corner quite a bit to go along with that. Depending on what we got going on for lilies in the bins, I would love to plant some of those around the smoke tree. I still haven't planted in the 5 two year lavenders, and those might switch back down to the trimmed cedar again. Set those in with another set of bin lillies.

Another day, another entry :)
It's Tuesday, weather is in the 60's and it's been drizzling on and off all day. A nice watering in sort of day for the plants. It stopped dripping for long enough to get out and pick some veggies that needed picking.

That's a big collendar full of squashes! The littlest ones are the size I'm supposed to pick the ball squash at. But I had a few grow like crazy while I was gone.

The first pickings of the Juane Flamme tomato. They are a lovely orange.

Not much for bean pickings yet- only 4 plants are producing. About a third of this is what I picked before I left for the weekend, the other two thirds I picked today. This batch is now in the fridge in a greenie bag.

I also set up five trays of the dehydrator with all four batches of banana peppers I've picked. I gotta say, I love the greenie bags, they really do store the veggies much longer than they would probably last otherwise.

Last week we smoked a bone in ham, it was about 10 pounds, at $1.29 a pound. I like to make every penny count if I can- and fortuantely I can use up every last scrap of the whole thing. We had a dinner for four the night we smoked the ham, and mom had a ham sandwich with it while I was gone. Today I broke down what was left.

On the left is three pounds of chunked ham. I will package it up in pound bags for later eating. On the right is the ham bone, it's a pound and a half. This will be getting made into pork stock tomorrow. I typically get three pints plus of pork stock out of a good ham bone. I'm glad I got dried celery on the shelf- I will for sure be using it to make stock tomorrow.

The is the fat scraps from two hams. I froze the scraps from the last ham I made, and I figured I had enough with two hams to render a nice batch of fat. This is raw, right at the beginning of cooking. I used about a cup or so of water in the bottom of the crock pot to help prevent sticking or burning till enough fat has rendered out so it self cooks. I started it around 2:00, and should take a few hours.at 5 PM, they were only half rendered down and really starting to burble up.

Made up a batch of chicken stock the other day. Today I peeled off the fat layer and dropped it into the chicken fat bin in the freezer. Ended up with seven 2 cup bags of stock for the freezer, yay! A packet of chicken meat from the roasted chicken ended up in the freezer too- this was after a dinner for four.

Since I had so many ball squash, I decided to try a freezer experiment. Seared summer squash packets. I sliced the balls about 3/4 of an inch thick, seasoned them with Italian herb mix, salt, and pepper, then seared them off in olive oil. Then they got laid on a drip rack to cool off. Sliced up an onion and a handful of banana peppers. Dotted the bottom of the stack with butter. Stacked together six slices, tucked the onion under and on the slices, then laid out the pepper bits on top. A goodly sprinkle of minced garlic on top. then folded up the packets. Now they are labeled and in the freezer, and in a bit we will pull them out and see how they cook up. They are kind of bulky as individual packets- but if they are good I will put them into the camping/cookout file- and then see if I get good results making a solid family sized packet.

Apparently I saved this entry instead of publishing it.. oops.... Publishing now :)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sure don't feel like summer

July 29....

Sure hasn't been feeling like summer. Been too cool for it. I'm not complaining, but I am, lol. I'm used to the hot bringing on the produce.

Today I canned up two quarts of hot pepper rings. One of the local produce places had the hot banana peppers, and I figured I would do quarts instead of pints because I have a lot of quart jars but I'm short on pints and didn't feel like dinking around with half pint jars. Don't it figure, no matter what jars I got, always seems like I need the jars I'm short on, lol.

Got a fourth batch of nasturtium leaves dehydrated today. Just a couple more, and I will have a super stuffed jar to add peppery herbal goodness do dishes all through the winter. Hmmm, maybe I should create a spice blend that features them. Actually collecting enough seed to please me, and there's a lot more on the plants that are ripening for picking.

Picked more peppers today and more summer squash. Getting to the point where I need to figure out some preserving on the squash. Debating on trying a squash jam recipe- we still have so many jams on the shelf and cramming the fridge I'm not sure if I want to or not, but it sure would be something different. Also debating on trying some pickled too.

Today was a big deal too- we signed off on the back 40. For the next couple years, we will be paying down on it while the neighbors are wrapping up business. Then after that it's whatever we want to do. But for the moment, it means we get to clean up the chicken coop enclosure to get it ready for chicks next spring, hooray! The whole thing makes me a bit nervous- I'm a worrywart about big things. But overall, I'm ecstatic about it.

July 30...

Another putter around kind of day. Did a ton of well overdue weeding in the herb garden and solarium side- couple barrows full of just crappy stuff that needed to be dumped out back. But now I can actually see the garden, lol. Found a couple huge chippy holes and stomped them in. Damn chippies. A couple of my corsican mints haven't fared too well, but some of them seem to be thriving, yay! Cut down a big chunk of the tarragon bush- and I have no idea what to do with it all there is so much of it. But now the winter savory is visible and apparently needs a goodly trim too.
Got a batch of broccoli on the dehydrator today- some stuff I picked up on clearance. Next up is to shred a bunch of squash since apparently I don't have any on the shelf. Thought I did, but I was mistaken.

Repotted the four hardy hibiscus- I'm hoping they overwinter well in pots and next year should be big enough to plant into the yard. And next spring I will start another set of hibiscus too.
Clipped the last of the dill heads for seed- had a couple wimpy plants, but those got pulled up with all the dead stuff. And I seeded in three new buckets of dill. Still early enough in the season that I will hopefully get a goodly batch of dill for the fall.

Cleaned up all my bags of seed, and ya know what? I got a fuckton of seed. I have so much seed I am not sure if I even have a wish list anymore. Ok, yeah, I still have a wishlist, but by golly it's much much shorter than it ever has been, and my outgoing trade list is much much longer. I still have to go through and catalog what seed I got because I did blow out a couple dozen kinds of seed this spring. On the nice side, I have more flower seed than I thought I did. On the down side, so much bean and tomato seed it's going to be a serious decision next year on what to grow.

Pulled out some other seed for fall garden. Alaska peas, Early Contender beans, Albino beets, Purple carrots, and lettuce mix. I still might pull some other greens too. Hopeful that I might be able to get some fall harvest in.

While out in the yard today I realized I still don't have enough blooms year round for bees. Sigh, hearbreaking sigh. I really wanted to start with bees next year. But till I have a lot of blooms to keep em fed, I just can't do it. Fortunately, I do have a lot of flower seed still to put out into the yard. A surprising amount really, I didn't use up nearly as much as I thought I did this spring. So more patches for the sanctuary, more to go around in other places in the yard. I even have more nasturtium seed than I thought! Will still probably need to get more milkmaid, but that's ok.

The tomatoes are plush as hell, full of fruits- and still green green green. Just hasn't been hot enough to prompt them to turn color. I swear, it feels like it's summer winding down instead of smack int he middle of the hottest part of it.

July 31...

Finally, it felt like summer today! Nice and warm, actually a relief to get into the shade kind of day. Started out first thing by shredding up all those ball squash and getting them onto the dehydrator- jucy little things, I had to squeeze the shred before laying the stuff out on jelly trays.
Finished up the weeding of the herb garden- super PITA pulling weeds when the ground is all dry from no rain. But that's ok, we will be getting rain in soon enough.

Got some seeding done today for some hopeful fall harvest. Planted in a round of Alaska peas and Early Contender bush beans out by the dog run- hopefully those will take, and no frigging critters will snip them. Planted in the rest of my Albino beets and some Icicle radish under the kitchen window, and all my Little Gem lettuce in the herb garden. Cut down all my Bright Lights swiss chard, yummy! Chard is a cut and come again plant, so I'm hopeful to get another crop off of it yet this season- maybe if I'm careful and protect it well, it might give me another crop after the snow flies!

And super exciting, I think we may have spotted an endangered species- Regal Fritillary Butterfly. Saw it this morning in the garden, and when I described it to my sister because I wanted to hunt it and get some pics, she said she had seen it too on the back 40! Eeep, of course he didn't come out when we both went back there, but he did come out for her later, so I'm hopeful that we will actually get some pics of this guy and confirm if we do or don't have a special critter here.  I have confirmed about a half dozen Monarchs in the yard, very pleased about that- the milkweeds are paying off. And some swallowtails, which are lovely.
But despite not getting the pics of the specific butterfly I was looking for, I did get a nice handful of pics of other lovlies- dragonflies and butterflies.

Haven't the foggiest what any of these are, but I thought them all rather lovely.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Makin Kraut

Had to go out and about today... Got a glorious head of cabbage at the fruit exchange for $1.95. So guess what? It's kraut making time :)

Kraut is a lacto-fermentation. Remember those yummy ass carrots? Same thing, veggie, salt, and mother natures preservation. And by luck, I happen to have a crock I can ferment in- thanks sis!


Here's the crock, weight plate, and that lovely head of cabbage.

Most folks only see a cleaned head of cabbage- just the head with all those wonderful outer leaves stripped off. I stripped off the outer leaves too, and bagged those up for some stewing greens. That left me with a 5 pound head to shred up. You want to use 1/4 cup of kosher salt per pound of cabbage, so it's important to weigh the head before you start shredding.

And right off the bat, you need to sanitize your crock and weight plate. Simple, some white vinegar and water, bring to a boil, and fill your crock up with the plate sitting on the bottom. Let it sit till it's needed. But sanitizing is necessary, to kill off anything that might be around- just like when you do canning, you sanitize the jars, even if they are freshly washed.

I used my serrated bread knife to shred the cabbage. Just a bit easier than using great-grandmas mandolin, though I wanted to use that instead. The bread knife is long and sharp, perfect for making those super thin slices. You want to stay within a quarter to dime thickness- over a quarter thick is just too darn thick, thinner is better. I halved, then quartered, then cut the quarters into eighths before cutting off the core section and shredding. The cabbage was rather big, so eighths made for easier shredding and better final shred lengths. 

Big ass bowl full of 5 pounds of shredded cabbage. Why use a bowl, and not just right into the crock? It's easier to mix the salt in this way instead of having to sprinkle in layers, and gives you a better idea on what your liquid yield is after wilting. And the cabbage all fluffy crunchy won't want to pack down into the crock, but after salt wilting it packs up right fine. I used 1 1/4 cups salt for the 5 pounds, keeping in the 1/4 cup per pound ratio. I placed a clean floursack dishtowel over the bowl during wilting to help keep out any bugs or nosy kitties. Gotta keep it clean!

So here's what it looks like after an hours wilting. I went for a stroll to check out the blackberries to kill time during this so I quit peeking at it. It's noticeably less fluffy, and pressing it there is no more crunch to it. If it had still been crunchy, I would have let it wilt longer.

Here all those 5 pounds are packed down into the crock. Packing is important, get the air out. Now, if I had layered and salted, this thing would have been super full and harder to manage and pack, harder to tell if the bottom was crunchy or not. So I took a couple handfuls at a time, packed them down, and repeat. And hell yes, you make sure you pour all the rendered cabbage juice into that crock too- that's vital. You can't really see it, but the juice is just barely up to the cabbage top. With the weight plate and a bit more break down, the cabbage will be fully submerged. Shouldn't need any saltwater addition.

Now for the weight plate. It's not the weight itself, but makes sure to evenly press all the cabbage down.

This is the weight- a quart bag full of saltwater. Just a couple tablespoons of salt and hot water. Why saltwater? Just in case the bag leaks, you are adding brine instead of water. And after an hour of the crock sitting like this, the liquid was well over the cabbage.

Then cover the crock with the floursack dishtowel to keep dust, bugs, nosy kitties out. Since we are having a rather cool spell right now, it can sit on the counter. If it turns hot, it will need to be taken down to the cellar. This fermenting does better under cool conditions- makes for a far tastier fermentation.

How do you know when the stuff is fermented? Well, during fermentation, there are bubbles, and once the bubbles stop, fermenting is done. This can take a couple weeks, but by keeping it cool and letting it ferment longer, you get a tastier kraut. I've seen some folks say it can be done in days, but slow and low is better as far as I'm concerned. So this will probably sit for a goodly month before I do anything else with it. Some folks just leave their kraut in the crocks till eating time, but alas, I only have one crock right now. So when it's time to take it out, I will either vacuum pack it for the fridge, or more likely, can the stuff in a hot water bath to make it shelf stable. That is, if there is any left over to store once we chow down on it :)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Summer Bounty

Today is Sunday, the 27th. And summer bounty is coming in.

The one ball and cue ball squash have been growing like crazy. Been picking a couple every couple of days. A few of them starting off off got a bit too big but there weren't enough for stuffing for four, and so I had to figure out what to do with them. Came up with a squash casserole, southern style- it's yummy! So much so we have had it a couple times recently.

Squash casserole- 9x13 pan
1 box stuffing mix
2 sticks butter
3-5 squashes, a couple pounds worth, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
2 medium onions, juilenned
1 can water chestnuts, drained- I used diced ones
2 cans mushrooms, drained
1 pound cooked and cubed meat- I've used ham and chicken, both are good. The meat is optional.
2 t dried thyme
1 sleeve butter crackers- I've used Ritz butter garlic
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1 cup grated carrot

Start out by piling up your sliced squash in heavily salted water. Bring to a boil, let boil 5 minutes, then drain, rinse well with cold water to cool it down fast, and then let drain really well.
Mix the grated carrot, sliced onion, cream soup, sour cream, mushrooms, water chestnuts, and thyme in a big bowl.
Once the squash is cool and well drained, pull it out of the strainer, leaving any seedy bits behind, and fold it into the creamy mix. Using your hands is easiest for this.
Melt the first stick of butter, and mix it with the stuffing mix. Make an even layer of the mix in the bottom of the pan. It won't fill in the bottom completely, but should have pretty decent coverage.
Layer in half the squash mix- using your hands is easiest for this. Make sure it is spread out completely over the stuffing mix, and pat it down well.
Layer in your meat, spreading evenly.
Layer in the other half of the squash mix, patting it down.
Melt the second stick of butter. Crush the sleeve of crackers, and mix it with the butter. Then spread it evenly over the top of the casserole.
Cover the casserole, and bake it at 350 for about 45 minutes. Uncover, and bake for another 15 minutes. Then kill the heat on the oven, and let it rest for another 10 minutes in the oven.
Serve up, yum! Yep, sounds like a billion calories, but it's well worth it. Makes a nice moist casserole, the onions are tender crisp, the squash stands out yet blends with everything else.

Dunno what I'm going to do with the rest of the ball squash I've already picked yet, there are a lot of possibilities. Zucchini has started coming in, and I decided to try out a recipe from one of my bread machine books- a wheat zucchini bread. It's not a quick bread, it's a true yeasty bread. That turned out pretty darn good too.

The banana peppers have started cranking the fruits out- I've picked a couple batches and stowed them away in greenie bags till I had enough to warrant canning up a batch of pepper rings. Todays pickings gave me enough, and I made up a half dozen pints of the things.

Dill seed and Spanish Black Round Radish seed are coming in right fine, already picked a bunch of both, with more to come. Parsley seed is coming along too, but not ready for harvesting yet. I can hardly wait till next year when I get to really start harvesting leaves and seed, woot!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Birthday Bee and gardening

Yesterday was my birthday, and it was a great day. My two birthday wishes were good weather and good food, and I got both :)
Unfortunately, the neighbors decided to open burn garbage unattended, filling my home with toxic fumes and making us immediately ill- I saw the fire marshal show up and shortly after they were out with the garden hose, putting out the fire and swearing up a storm.
For dinner I did up a small beef roast with baby red potatoes in the crock pot- sis did the gravy with the liquid. Sides were steamed carrots by mom, and spinach and beans I made up a few days ago. Man, I gotta say, that vacuum sealer lid attachments were well worth the pennies! The spinach stayed nice and fresh for far longer than they would in a regular container.
Picked up some greenie bags on clearance a couple weeks back, and those are paying off too- been able to keep peppers, beans, nasturtium leaves, and garlic scapes fresh for way longer than they would otherwise.

Started my third batch of nasturtium leaves in the dehydrator today. By the time the season peters out on those, I should have a rather nice stock of peppery green goodness for the cold weather months. I make a homemade jambalaya mix that I like to use peppery greens in, last time I used radish greens, but next time I'll likely use the nasturtium leaves. The things have been putting out enough seeds that I'm fairly optimistic that I will have a goodly amount of seed stock and some seeds to try grinding up to see how they substitute for peppercorns. If I have this kind of luck next year, I will for sure be trying out false capers with the things.

Right now the freezer is chock full of excellent deals that we have been getting lately. Plenty of fish that was 9 bucks for a 5 pound bag, country ribs that were 1.70 a pound, and a 10 pound bag of chicken leg quarters that were 70 cents a pound- 7 bucks for the whole bag! Got a bunch of other porky goodness like loins and ham that have been on sale lately too- I really need to get the smoker fired up to do up that ham, yum. Frugal shopping now will see us into good eats for a few months :)

The garden is looking good all around- been picking squash and peppers.
From left to right is spaghetti squash, one ball squash, cue ball squash, and Long Island pumpkin. That crazy vining up is the goats eye beans. Only been picking one ball and cue balls, the spaghetti squashes were labeled as "two man", but the things are huge enough to feed 4 of us with leftovers. I'm watching them ripening with baited breath. The Long Island pumpkin has lots of blooms, and starting to grow fruits- those I'm extra hoping for goodness out of.

The pepper bed. The pepperonchini isn't doing as well as I had hoped, but ah well. The top crop beans I seeded in in a last ditch effort to get any beans growing after the critters chomped up so many of them are starting to take off- I will hopefully get a couple pounds off of them before the year is out. The star producer so far is the banana peppers. And of course the jewel nasturtiums, those are absolutely wonderful.

The monster tomato bed- I'm not sure how I'm even going to be picking the ones in the middle. But next year will see some serious spacing adjustments. To the left you can just see the zucchini which is finally producing some fruits, and I'm not too sure if those late season buttercups I put in are really going to do anything or not.

Picked the last of the garlic today- the bed looks a little funny empty. I want to shovel in a bit of horse poo and work it in before doing anything else with the bed.

This is the last of the garlic, Russian Giant, Skips 3, Skips 2, and Up North.

Here's what todays pickings look like compared to what I picked on the 10th. Skips 1, Leningrad, and 2 bundles of Pearl Porcelain. Right now it's looking like I will not be replanting the Skips 1, and unless it tastes really good, the Skips 3. I'm debating on the Up North too- that will totally depend on how it tastes too. For sure will be replanting the Giant Russian and Pearl Porcelain.
The partially cured garlic was good enough done in my estimation for me to take the next stage of curing.

Here's the Pearl Porcelain, Leningrad, and Skips 1 trimmed up and tied up to finish curing. To the far right is the Kankakee softneck. The Skips 1 is noteably smaller than all the rest of them. These will cure up for a couple more weeks before I give them their final trim. All the rest of the garlic is now on the top shelf in the laundry room curing away. The huge pile of Kankakee hardneck is looking great, but I didn't think the leaves had died back enough to warrant trimming like the above heads.

Now it's time for me to scoot because I need to get the brush wood picked up around the yard and down to the firepit... Thank goodness for pickup trucks, lol.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Good day sunshine

Started Monday, the 14th..

Been a rather nice few days. Got to have a weekend out at faire :) It was absolutely wonderful. Got to see a lot of friends, work the booth, do a little shopping. Got a couple of sweet ass beaded spiders. Some garlic goodies.. A couple of metal rose hairpicks.

And I used the first head of homegrown garlic today. I had one Kankakee Hardneck I had pulled. It was still really fresh.
This is what it looked like before I busted up it's 8 medium sized cloves. The outer skin peeled off more like a shallot and was already too tough for fresh eating, I could tell it was far from cured.

A bunch of the lilies in bins have bust into blossom.

The small red ones on the left are Little Joy, the one on the foreground is Night Beacon, and the one in the background is Budda. Thinking most of the lillies in bins will fill in the back corner of the white fence, and if we have enough, I would like to link up the pine islands in the back yard. Make a nice mowing aisle around it instead of mowing around each tree.

Hate to say it, but I think all eight bleeding heart dried root bits failed to take. Next year, I will pick them up and pot them up.. let them grow out a bit before planting in.

The mint border is looking really nice. Chocolate Mint and Pineapple Mint are growing in good. Looks like the weed out and bend over shoots of a couple weeks ago are proving in for a plusher bed. I need to get out there and do some more bending over of shoots. The lemon mint and toothache plants are looking wonderful too.

The herb garden is out of control with weeds. I got the deck clutch cable, but haven't installed it yet, so some of the yard is overdue for mowing. Been too wet to mow anyway. Seriously need to get around the yard with pruners and the hand mower.

Now that there is a fence up between us and the icky neighbors, and that seems to have sunk in.... My dust has settled a lot. Starting to turn my thoughts into more positive use. I am now thinking of building up a tick repellent plant border along the sanctuary fenceline.  I know I want to grow a lot of those sorts of plants for general use, and for seed collection. And I need to be careful about where I set them in in large mass. I still have those five second year lavenders to plant in. Got rue putting out mad flower heads I can start plants with for next spring. Catnip and feverfew for other sections.
And perhaps planting in spearament and peppermint along the angle line of the easement. The shade might help control the growth a bit. 
Gonna trim down this years willow growth in the sanctuary, and start laying it in to accommodate the fenceline and keyhole. Put those trimmings to good use as border edging.

It's Thursday :)
Mostly more puttering around and getting mostly nothing done. But I picked up a bunch of yellow and green beans today to make spicy and dilly beans with. And I pulled up the rest of the Kankakee Hardneck garlic today- will be needing a bunch of it to make the beans with!
Sat down and had a serious chat with the awesome neighbors about the back 40- looks like we will be able to buy it, woot! It'll still be a couple years till everything is transitioned to start working on the barn, but looks like we will be able to start right in on getting the chicken coop and enclosure cleaned up and set up to get chicks next spring, hooray!!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

And July rolls on

Monday, the seventh..

Picked the garlic scapes today- really should have done that sooner I guess. But there's a heap of them that I will steam and saute tomorrow. Picked the first five cue ball squashes today too. Those will get made into something- maybe a casserole of some sort. And I picked all the lettuce, it's getting to be bolting time.

Ran out to the dealership this morning and picked up a new deck clutch cable. Only 20 bucks and I still need to get it onto the mower tomorrow.

The first of the banana peppers are almost ready to pick- Of course those will get canned up into rings. Unfortunately, no beans will really be forthcoming this year from our garden, damn critters. So I will have to pick up a bushel or two and do a ton of dilly and hot beans. The tomato plants are taunting me!

Thursday, the tenth...
Cut off the garlic scapes the other day- still need to steam and saute them. Picked the first handful of cue ball squash too, yum.
Today I started pulling up garlic!! Woot on a wootstick :)
From left to right is all 6 Kankakee softneck, 1 Kankakee hardneck, all 6 Skips 1, all 4 Up North, and all 12 Porcelain Pearl. Now I just need to be patient while they cure up- which can take another month or two depending on how humid it is around here. Curing is simply keeping them in a cool, dry, airy spot till the roots get crispy and the skins are well dried.
Still in the bed are Giant Russian, Leningrad, Skips 2, Skips 3, and the rest of the Kankakee Hardneck. Didn't pull those yet because their bottom leaves were not quite died back enough. But those will get pulled in a week or two, and I'll put in some carrots or something to get a crop in before I plant in seed garlic again in October.

And oohhhh, I got a vacuum sealer a couple weeks ago on sale at a great price. Picked up a regular mouth and wide mouth jar attachments yesterday. My food preserving capability just shot up. SQUEEEEEE with joy!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Holiday weekend

Not a ton going on around here. The fence works according to my awesome neighbor- the icky one didn't even look my way, but spoke to the awesome neighbor about it. Looks like the fence will indeed deter the icky neighbor.

Did some smoking- chicken one evening, and my Kefta Swiss steak another night. Did cooler corn- and that was spectacular. Got the corn fresh from a local favorite farm stand, and boy was it good as hell. Got the turkey stock made up from the turkey we smoked last weekend and the stock is in the freezer.
Made fresh blueberry muffins with lemon strudel topping- those were spectacular. Even paid mind to make notes so I can make them again, lol.

My attempt at canning cherries in apple juice was a fail- three quarts and all the seals were blown. So cherries went into the freezer- thank heavens for the chest freezer!

Lit off about 45 minutes of ground works on the fourth- it was sparkley and super fun. Made sure to hose them down real well after. Last night some of the locals blew off the big mortars before heading back into town- it was loud as a battlefield till midnight.

Went to mow another section of the yard today, and snapped my deck clutch cable. Boy, was I steamed by the time I got the stupid thing off to replace it. Now I have to wait till tomorrow to hit up the somewhat local dealer to see if they have one or can order one for me. Good thing I got dinky hands otherwise I would have never gotten the stupid thing off from under the engine case.

Started picking seed off the Alaska peas- there weren't enough for eating. But I still have a heap of Green Arrow I can set in for a hopeful fall harvest. Been picking and drying Nasturtium leaves too. And the garlic is looking so damn good, I can hardly wait till they are ready to pull up. I think I might just have to cut off the scapes for some garlicky dinner goodness soon. All the squashes look spectacular- I'm hoping for a serious crop this year. The tomatoes are all plush as hell, can hardly wait to start picking those too.

Got a faire weekend coming up- I sort of dread going through garb and seeing what fits, or more like seeing what does not, hahaha. But at least it's just a weekend behind the counter, and I should stop being a costume snob.

The family is settling in pretty good. We still have a lot of re-arranging to do, and a heap of boxes to unpack. But it's coming right along, peace and contentment is settling in.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer catch up

So been busy. With fencing and such of course. But that's another post that was posted then pulled so I could attach pics. That might get re-posted later.

Today was a regular garden working day.

Got the dirt back into the septic tank hole- that was sort of a PITA, kind of ganked my black wheelbarrow. But all the dirt is back into the hole.
Got the tomato cages in, what cages I had. Still need a bunch more. But hooray! I have some baby tomatoes growing. Got some zukes starting to come in too. One of my potato bags has keeled over in the last 24 hours- I suspect the couple holes in the bag means critters got into it. Ok, so I will use proper bins next year.
Got the mint beds properly weeded and the mints pushed over- by this time next year, I will have some very plush mint beds. Got the lemon mint and toothache plants put into the ground as well.
Got all the growing beds weeded out properly- I have a ton of volunteer tomatoes popping up amongst the peppers. 

In anticipation of the nasty neighbor potentially spraying the fenceline, I took 13 cuttings of that 150 year old rose bush potted up- hope at least a couple of them take off. They are now sitting pretty in one of the little greenhouses in the shady part of the porch.

Otherwise, the rest of the yard is growing like crazy like it should this time of year.  The lawn got mowed yesterday. The cherry trees and mulberries need some serious picking tomorrow!

And this morning I tossed a turkey on the smoker. Just a wee bit till the green bean casserole is done as well as the mashed taters... So off I go to feed the family!