Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The new year to begin...

So much has and hasn't happened this year. I can't sum it all up. There have been a few joys, and many sorrows.. and a strange slippage of time.
Christmas was very nice.... there is still quite a bit of Nightvale still up, in the form of winter village. Yes, I've been taking pics, will post them sooner or later.  And who knows? Perhaps Fortunes Turning will roll out of it's sleepy winter colors soon enough :) 2016 has been quite the year in a lot of ways, here at Growbox Hill, in our area, state, nation.. and around the world.

Now comes the new year. And I am ready to get on with that... 

Kind of glad the holidays are over- now I can start screwing up my kitchen with mini greenouses, lol.
The first one went up today, and already has large pots of little gem and gourmet mix lettuces, toothache plant, sprouting garlic, and an herb garden of parsley, dill, and basil.
It's still far too early to start anything for the outdoor gardens other than some seeds that I need to get out for their cold treatment... And pretty much all the other edible plants in the house are in their hiatus except the hardy herbs... By gosh it's nice to be able to start with some fresh edibles indoors again. Within just a few short weeks we will be snacking on nice fresh grown produce again. With the way garlic sprouts usually shoot up, it might be quite soon.. yum.

I do have some interesting seeds that I need to get out for winterizing too. Bearberry, serviceberry,  thimbleberry, and red and white currants. Red and whites are legal here, but black currants are a no-no in my area. However, josta berry is ok, and I have a couple of those in pots overwintering outside. I have a bunch of stuff in that straw bale box actually. A couple goji berries, some latham raspberries, a couple plum trees, an ornamental elderberry and a few random pots of flowers that needed the extra shelter. And I have seven potted Pixwell gooseberries that I saved before they went to the garbage- since they were considered the "purple" kind instead of the preferred "deep blushing green" kind, no one wanted them, and since they had been there a second season, they were going to be tossed when the snow flew this year.
I have a nice array of columbine seed to set up too- I was extra pleased this year that the extra spectacular lone one outside Marcs office yielded up goodly seed. I've been watching and coaxing and keeping that one isolated pretty much since we moved in. I also have heaps of other good flower seeds too. Time has come to shake out the first packet of poppy seeds over Pooks grave. I was told by several gardeners that if I could, wait till after the first snow and melt, and lay in the first round before the second snow. And repeat with the next melt off and snow in if possible. Keep going till I was out of seed or when sprouts looked like they were popping up in the spring. Well, I figured that time would have started weeks ago, lol.

So the new 2017 grow schedule spreadsheet is fully set up and already getting entries. We have a vault of somewhere between 450-500 seeds to start the season with. The tally on the sheet is 498, but I have a lot of spaces between several categories of seeds so..

I have some wind up notes to make with the 2016 preserving tally. That will come out sometime next week. But it was a pretty slim year. The garden yielded little- but then so did our area in general, it was a bad garden year. It wasn't just a lot of personal stuff going on, the weather didn't play nice either.
But important things to note.. boy oh boy do we miss pickled peppers. We are quite spoiled on homegrown and made pickled banana peppers, cherry bombs, pepperonchini, and jalapenos. Tomato stocks are missed too.

Anywho.. yay gardening.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

And the closing of the season...

A bit of an update first.. I realize I haven't posted for weeks...

Won the November elections, I'm now a trustee for my township. My area will be parks, of which we have four. And being involved with the cleanup and utilization of one of our major riverways. How cool is that?
Watervliet called me back in at the beginning of October. I've been working a few days a week, filling in and helping get the place back into shape again. Gosh. That will be ending soon though, it's another temp gig.
Everyone in the house is in fair health. Been several personal upsets in the family over the course of the whole summer. We've lost a beloved companion, a family home, a beloved family member, and an extraordinarily dear friend and companion of a lifetime. It's been a cruel summer that has stretched into the warm autumn... Let's hope that has stopped with the final coming of hard frost.

Hard frost finally has finally come. We got a straw bale enclosure set up in front of the kitchen window and filled it with all my late season perennial purchases that I got super cheap. Had just enough left over from last winters compost enclosure, 6 bales. And got a double layer of frost cloth laid over the huge beer garden radish just in time on Friday. We got our first hard frost yesterday morning.
We got all the marigold borders picked of this years seeds- it's a lot! And all the marigolds are now heeled over to the outside of the beds to die off and drop their final seed heads. If I did this right when I set up the borders this spring, they should start self-sowing in there next year.
And just saying- will for real do the hunk of seeds full flat sowing with marigolds again next year. That worked out exceptionally well.

I've decided I'm going to try for advanced seed saving this year and try brussels sprouts. This years growing season was difficult, and I didn't get a good crop of heads. But I can shear off the bottom heads and leaves, mulch them all in, and use them for spring seed production next year.

Tomatoes were a total washout this year. Too little rain at the wrong time of the year combined with too little upkeep. We got to eat a bunch fresh, and I dehydrated a batch, but that's it. I ended up buying a couple 10 pound boxes of basic reds to do up some stuff with.
Same goes for peppers. All the blacks and whites failed. Totally. We did get a midseason flush of a few, and here at the tail of the season I got enough cherry bombs to pickle up a quart.
No squashes, cucumbers, or melons. Bean yields were seedstock only low, but at least I did get some seedstock.
The greens did well. Asian greens seemed to drop off early in the spring, but todays harvest of fall pickings was a half-bushel full. The kale garden has done really well too, and we are already tucking in on the good eats.

I've already started the 2017 seed season. Gathering seeds here and have hit a couple of good seed sales from a couple favored vendors. Completely organized my current seed collection- though I haven't finished cataloging yet. The solarium is finally done being sealed up.

I did the whole solarium in clear window film this year. And it was fairly cheap to do so. Out of 20 windows, three of the four north side windows have fogged plastic, the last will get a clear panel. The outside door and window to the right are fogged too. Three already had clear panels from last year that were still good. So that left 13 windows to plastic up.
Sounds expensive, right? Yes and no. After tinkering last year with clear and using 60" wide gift wrapping shrink film I had sitting around.. I used it again this year.
The plastic is thicker, sturdier, and holds up longer. It's nice to use- instead of unfolding a tiny compressed cake of super thin plastic and trying to dewrinkle it and cut it up to use... Shrink wrap comes in 30" wide tubes like wrapping paper. And like wrapping paper, it unrolls nicely. Especially on a clean table- it has static cling that makes it want to lay down to the table. It comes perfectly folded in half, and static cling is great here too- you have time to pin one half of the window down neatly before doing the other half.
A side benefit is that since it rolls out nice, leftovers can be rolled back onto a tube nice. And since the stuff is thicker, already smooth, and has static cling to lay it flat, it tapes up really well with clear packing tape to use up scraps.
Cost wise... It actually ends up being cheaper to use the easy to use 60"x9' rolls. Typically, brand name 6 window kits of 62x252 run 12-15 bucks. On sale 5-6 bucks. Jo-Ann fabrics often has 50% off coupons, when everything you want is already on sale. But shrink wrap rarely is, and runs 14-15 bucks. And wait for that additional 25% off total purchase coupon and a three pack of rolls costs 5.63. Sometimes their 25% off total purchase runs along with a shrink wrap clearance, typically after Christmas and Easter. If it goes cheaper than that half off, even better. I've gotten it for around 3 bucks with timing and luck, lol.
The flip side of this is you gotta buy your own tape- and that stuff can be costly too. But it too goes on sale at the bigger box hardware places, and it's well worth stocking up.
Penny for penny, the cost between the name brand fold out 6 window kit is comparable to doing it with shrink wrap on sale and tape seperately. But the wonderful ease of the rolling out of the much thicker film and ability to use the scraps up with as much ease is worth it. Hands down.

Of course, yes.. we have had Nightvale County up and building since the day after Labor Day. I took a ton of pictures of it before I started taking down the Halloween and Samhain Week celebrations. This weekend I tore down the whole End's Meet alley district, and the outdoor movie theater. Started clearing out the orphanarium- the theater is getting moved there and staying put through new years. It's way too cool to pack away yet.
But several of our spookier places have been pulled out and packed away. Zombies, ghosts, vampires, and mummies are going back to their winter homes. October beer fest patrons and folks dressed up for the chilly weather have started coming in for their winter bird stay. Thanksgiving time and the Third Harvest have settled in.. Hard Frost has come.
When I first came back on to Watervliet in early October, we had a full pallet crate half filled with small gourds. About 15 half-bushel baskets worth. I sorted out the whole thing, picking off early rotters, repacking into half bushel baskets.. and choosing off a select peck or so of super small gourds.. that I have been curing off in the solarium for weeks now. They are now ready for final cleanup to set up into the villages along with a lot of foliage that is getting pulled off and re-distributed.

Anywho.. homemade pizzas tonight. All sorts of goodness. But gonna post now instead of saving it for another day this time, lol..

Monday, September 12, 2016

Holloween is FUCKING ON!!!

Friday, August 19. So like always.... lagging around.

Went out an about shopping in SH.. Menards for a propane tank.. and guess what? THEY ARE PUTTING OUT HALLOWEEN!!!! SQUEEEEE!!!!
Guess who picked up a tiny freestanding birdhouse for ghosts, and a creepy monster standing town square clock? This girl! Three bucks each, ouch. But I pretty much totally missed any smalls last year due to putting off to wait till sales, then missing it.
I've hit the amount of buildings point that I really wasn't interested in any buildings at all. I've almost got a couple too many honestly, and might be culling out a "poorer christmas" or two to set aside for next year to give me extra time.
I'll hit Michaels soon to see what they got for village shit this year too.

I'm far more interested in now that I legitimately have Halloween on- hey man, candy in the aisles counts.. anywho. I have a lot of projects that I want to work on.
150 tiny brains I picked up at GenCon to turn into various stuff like farmers brain patches, a brain tree, and some fun jewelry.
A lot of random stuff, like a bunch of presents from Christmas that I now get to bust out with and touch up for evil farming :)
A few buildings.. and other random detail stuff.
And now that I have a bunch of the materials saved up... I want to take a crack at some set building, and start a vertical cavern system for the fireplace corner.

So yeah, Menards, Meijer, Hardings, and Rite Aid.. vape shop, bank and auto store too. Had to get it done before evening cuz sis is borrowing the car to get to work this weekend- her truck is puking oil like mad and needs repair.

Sat, August 20.
Had severe storm action blow in mid-morning, and kind of effectively put a hold on a lot of preserving plans till after one in the afternoon. I wasn't going to start firing up a canning kettle unless I knew darn well I could keep it going till the canning was done. And a dozen pint jars of Brussels sprouts got done, along with two quart jars of fridge zesty lime zucchini spears. Got the two cases of beets and 8jars of jalapeno slices from before GenCon de-ringed, labeled, boxed, and shelved. Sure feels damn good to actually have canned goods back on the shelf again. I have to get into the spare bedroom and really clean up previous stock and take a tally of what we got. I know we still have some jellies and jams, and a bunch of sauces, especially enchilada sauces. And it's a good thing we had such a boom tomato year last year that I felt good with making up two years worth of those products- because this summers tomato crop is pretty much null- been too damn dry to keep up with most of the summer, and some late planting really stunted the shit out of everything.
I do have a couple of volunteer white tomatoes from last year going strong in the kennel beds. I've decided to support them as much as possible so I can at least try to get one good batch of white tomatoes set aside for my brother.
In general, haven't been out in the garden in about two weeks. Got in a couple good days of weeding right after GenCon, on the 9th and 10th- but overpushed it in light of my plauge- and we have had three solid days of good rain in the days between.. just enough that I was only doing up some mandatory and much needed mowing. And stringing up clothesline and getting a lot of wash done.

Heh, we have been without a dryer for a couple weeks now. I managed to break the knob on the dryer- cracked it so it spun out of round. Glued and clamped knob. Then the back panel that has to hold the knob falls out while trying to put knob back on. Well fuck.
We have mom and sisters dryer sitting down in the pole barn, so we can swap out- but sheesh, it's been bloody hell trying to get that done. We need the dolly.. and I finally go to fix the tires, and discover that they are tubeless, and I picked up those innertubes long ago for no reason, and I don't have any tire sealant- need another trip to the auto store.

Anywho.. I picked up a nice package of top round steak slices- not enough to make rouladen, sadly. So I did it up kind of swiss steak style with a pound and a half of fresh mushrooms that were on clearance, some baby carrots, and mashed potatoes. Yum.

Sunday, August 21:

Summer has broken. The earliest of Autumnal cools blew in overnight. I don't think we will see any more summer heat this season honestly. The Dog Days are over. Weather is predicting a particularly hard cold winter this year for us. I can't help but think of last year Labor Day Weekend and Argent passing away and summer broke when he did. I kind of have to wonder if I will always think about the first breaking of summer this way.
But no melancholy like that today.

Got a half dozen pints of sweet and sour pickled red onions done. Three trays of hot banana pepper slices dehydrating- I actually picked those up a couple weeks ago for canning, but other shit happened, and they ripened on the counter in the solarium instead. Now they are past prime for pickling, but perfect for dehydrating. Seven trays of mushrooms on the dehydrator- they too are past their perfection for pickling already from the day I bought them, but perfect for drying. Shucked 8 ears of corn, 4/buck, and drying- made stock from the cobs, as usual. It's still cooling, so I don't know final yield yet.

And hey... been cooking a LOT out in the solarium this summer. Using the nesco as a steam oven, canning and cooking over the electric hotplate and coleman stove.. and I really, really love it.  So much so that I have kind of decided to do this much more year round. In the winter months I can do canning and it would be a welcome help to warm the solarium while still leaving the kitchen free for other cooking.
I'm also now much more comfortable with being not chained to the kitchen directly for use this way. I'm ready for firing up really big burners- AKA the darkstars, in a more outdoor kitchen situation.
I have noted that for outdoor kitchen action, I really need to pick up a few 5 gallon water jugs for potable water. The outdoor spigot on that side still isn't working for sink action. And I just want to use more potable water than the spigot for some of the cooking action.
I'm also much more comfortable now with small batch hotplate canning. When sales hit and it is cold, I will have no problem picking up a few more pounds and cranking out winter goods.

Something tells me that this winter will be buckling down for more than just the cold... I feel kind of instinctively  prompted to extra store up now. It might just be fearful of me.. but I don't think a bit of an extra stock up now to prepare for the coming winter is a bad idea.
Perhaps it's because I've been closely reading over last years preservation tallies and feel the need to catch up too.

Dryer still broken- but the day was cooler and winds were crisply clipping along. So a load of house linens, bed linens washed and line dried. Must fix the line, lol. It's cheap cotton, and even with my poor props, it needs tightening up and I need to cut a couple of those long bits of wood for some proper clothesline props. I strung up a secondary line in another more discreet side yard for more delicate outdoor drying, as well as a three pole rack in the solarium.

I've now dedicated myself to being out at, and working at Bristol for the last two weekends. You know it I'm excited about this. It should be good times, and good friends, and hopefully not too much drama.. cuz, lol, you know there is always at least some drama out at faire. And holy crap, as always, figuring out five days worth of garb is a PITA- especially now that I have an expanded yesteryear collection to choose from.

Cleared off the workbench today while cooking in the solarium.

And LAMO.. it's September 12..
Nightvale county has been waking up since the day after Labor Day. Picked up a shitton of produce to start firing up. Dryer still broken. Bristol was frigging awesome.  Started taking cuttings off the hibiscuses and fuchsias today. Made a couple gallons of ham stock. Taco night for dinner. It's sis's b-day, and I couldn't think of a better dinner request :)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

mid August report...

So the huge load of summer workload is pretty much over. My last day at the fruit exchange was last Sunday, and I'm offically laid off from there. I might go back and work there again in the spring, depending on what happens or not in the interm.

Sunday was my last day.. I took Monday off. Tuesday was the elections, and this gal won the democrat ticket for trustee with 35 votes. I have a competitor in the ring, threw in his hat as a write in on the day of- his name is Tim. He likely made his qualifying 10 votes to be on the November ticket. We got home from GenCon on Monday, and I had a Town Hall meeting that night that mom attended with me. Guess who wasn't there? Tim. Or the other two write in people.

GenCon.. again, fucking huge. The main exhibition hall has now taken up the full space that was gaming last year, and spilled over into the basement of Lucas Oil Stadium. Lots of good folks, fun times. Steam Crow is my hands down fave of the show. And of course, doing stuff like this with my sister always makes regular stuff extra awesome! It's just a blast doing stuff like this with her.

Took most of Monday off to decompress before the Town Hall meeting. Tuesday was some petty errands and waiting on hold with bill folks.

Wed was weeding, got the kale bed and kennel bed done. Made a version of Jambalaya for dinner. It was fucking good, and there's leftovers. I did it fast and easy, using up a couple bags of cooked rice (about 6 cups worth) that were in the freezer. Added in a pint of home canned tomato juice, a cup of home canned enchilada sauce, a handful of dried tomato slices, couple cans of undrained mushrooms, chunk raw chicken, few andouille sausage, and a half package of white fish fillets. This easily fed the 5 of us, with a few leftovers, so I would say 8-12 servings, depending on portion size. If I had been feeding more of a crowd, I would have added in a can or three of various canned dry beans of any kind, rinsed and drained. If I had less sausage or chicken on hand, or wanted to make a meat free version, I would for sure add 2-3 different kinds of beans. The seafood is critical, using whitefish, shrimp, or scallops is what's needed here at the end of the simmer to suck up the rich flavors.


2-3 tablespoons bacon grease- butter or olive oil will do, but bacon grease is best for that porky flavor. If you have rendered smoked ham fat, that is even more sublime.
1 large onion, rough chop.
2-3 sweet bell peppers, medium dice. This is optional, but makes it way better. 
6 cups cooked rice
1 large boneless chicken breast, raw, chunked in large two bite pieces
5-6 andiulle saugage, left whole, room temp. If they are raw, cook them first. If they are heat and serve, leave alone.
6-8 white fish fillets, or bag of raw large shrimp, or package of scallops- frozen. This is important, you want to add the seafood in it's frozen state, not thawed at all.
2 cups tomato juice- V8 and bloody mary mix works too.
8 oz enchilada sauce. This can be fudged out with salsa, or a can of diced tomatoes with some extra seasoning thrown into the mix, or use a bigger 15 oz can of sauce if omitting the mushrooms.  Do NOT use premade spaghetti sauce or canned tomato sauce.
Canned beans, rinsed and drained. Optional.
2 4 oz cans of mushrooms, one drained, one not. If not using mushrooms, refer to the enchilada sauce note. Or add 2/3 cup water.  Or if you want to make it HOT, replace the 2 cans mushrooms with 2 cans diced chilies or jalapenos.
Cajun seasoning. Usually I add 2-3 Tablespoons per batch. Adjust to taste and heat level.
Dried minced or wet jar garlic. Usually 2-3 tablespoons per batch
1 tablespoon salt, and one teaspoon black pepper

Sautee up your onion and peppers in the bacon grease till fragrant and starting to get a bit soft.
Add in the tomato juice, sauce you are using, half of the cajun seasoning, garlic, and salt.
Once that gets up to heat, add in your mushrooms or substitute, and raw chicken, and/or canned beans. It should be a bit soupy right now. If not, add in some liquid. Water, beer, and stock are good. Up to 8 oz depending..
Add in rice and stir in well.
Layer in sausage. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer 15 min.
Add in half of the seafood, stir well, cover, let simmer 15 minutes.
Add in the other half of the cajun seasoning, garlic, and salt. Add in the black pepper. Stir well. Add in the other half of the seafood. Let rest on top. Cover, and let simmer on low 15-30 minutes.

If you find yourself on a hold.. kill the heat on everything up to adding the seafood. The addition of the seafood should be in the last wee bit before service.

A note to folks.. if you like eating rice a lot, and like to buy those single serve instant nuke packets of it... Consider making a double batch of rice next time, and freeze off portions. Rice freezes and reheats really well. If you tend to use pouches, use freezer ziplock bags or vacuum sealing. If you tend to do bowls of rice, use deli containers or butter tubs to give you bowl action.
This works great too for when you have a lot of leftover rice, either homemade or chinese take out.
Thursday was mulching in the kale bed, putting in the smother bed between the kennel bed and the garage, and weeding out the central lasagne bed since that's the only one that had shade, lol. Lots of watering.  We are still disturbingly dry. We haven't quite hit the drought like in 2012, but it's creeping in there.
And cheesey baked potato bake for dinner. A dear friend of mine who happens to be a firefighter and hates cooking and I were chatting the other day, and I offered to help him out with some super easy recipes to feed 20 hungry firefighters. So I'm kicking off with another round of solarium cooking.
I baked off 5 pounds of taters in the nesco. Browned off one pound of bulk sausage- Jimmy Dean, Tennessee Pride, whatever- just mild or regular flavor. Did that up on the camp stove. And I'm baking the whole thing off in the Nesco. So.. recipe formulation time, using ratios I've used before.

5 pounds baked potatoes, large dice
1 pound cooked meat- this is a great way to use up leftover meat
1 can cream soup- we like mushroom or particularly, poblano queso cream soup. But any of the cream cooking soups are good for this- particularly depending on the meat used. Cream of asparagus or celery would go will with basic chicken, cheddar or nacho cheese soup would be good with chorizo. If you are making a double batch, you can mix soup flavors to suit since you would use two cans.
1 cup cream dairy product- this can be room temp cream cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, or a boursin style spread- that's what I'm using tonight since it was on hand and needed eating up. Do not use a sharp dairy like greek yogurt for this, use a blander/sweeter dairy.
1 cup sour cream. You can substitute sharp dairy like greek yogurt here.
1 8 oz package shredded cheese- I used a mac and cheese blend, but any blend will do. If making a double batch, you would use two packages anyway, so you can do two different packages of cheese to make a blend.
2 4 oz cans mushrooms, one drained, one not drained- if you can't do mushrooms, substitute in a 2/3 cup water with a beef bouillon cube, brown G's, beef stock. Or if doing a chicken or pork version, chicken cube, golden G's, or chicken stock.  If doing a double batch using leftover meats of various kinds, 1 cup water plus 1 each of beef and chicken flavoring.
2 medium onions, halved and sliced across the grain
1 T each of thyme and parsley
2 T dried minced garlic
1 t each salt and pepper
1 t mushroom powder
1-2 cups veggies, depending on your veggie level. A drained can of corn or  green beans, a bunch of broccoli, a couple cups a various frozen veggie tail end bags lurking around your freezer needing to be used up. Make sure you drain canned veggies, and get frozen veggies thawed out before mixing in. Even if you normally skip veggies, add in at least that can of corn or whatever. The moisture content from the veggies is necessary during baking.

Yes, you must use baked potatoes. Easy enough is to bake off a batch the night before, but doing it earlier in the day works too. Don't cook them till they are baked potato eating done- when you stick a fork into it to test it, pull off the heat when it hits about 10 more minutes till done time. Let cool at least till room temp, or better yet overnight. You want starches to set before slicing up, much like letting a steak rest to let it's juices redistribute before cutting into it.
You can use whole boiled/steamed taters for this too- but usually what you steam/boil whole is better suited for other applications like potato salad or smashed potatoes.

Meanwhile.. in a big frigging bowl, mix together everything but the taters and meat. Then fold in the taters and meat. Pour into a big baking dish and cover.
Normally in the oven, I would bake this off at 350 for an hour, then kill the heat and let rest for a bit before serving. Since I did it in the nesco, using a steam bath baking, I'm doing it at 400, utilizing the cover of the nesco for covering instead of actually putting a cover on the pan itself. I'm using a deep half hotel pan for this, and it could easily accommodate a double batch. If I were to do that, I would reduce the heat to 300 and let it bake for 2+ hours till a thermometer inserted in the middle reads at 165 degrees.  Everything should be hot and melty.
I also sliced up a large hot banana pepper to put on top of half the pan, to up the kick a bit. If doing a double batch, I would layer in half the potato mix, a layer of pepper rings on one half of the pan, then the other half of the mix with a second layer of pepper rings on top. Or do two 9x13 pans, one pepper spicy, one not with a single layer of pepper rings on top of the spicy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

coral bells, a new fave

 7/17... Arg... No rain.. AGAIN!!! Everywhere around me is getting rain, but in my 10 mile radius, everything splits up and it rains around me. West rain looks good, then North and South by a mere mile or two gets rain, then East the hole closes up again and they get rain.
What gives Mama N? Do I need to do a rain dance or something?
The barrels are low, the jugs are all empty, plants far out are languishing... gack.

And a fave new plant of mine is Coral Bells- Heuchera.
 These are frilly leaved evergreens native to North America, and have been heavily bred to bring out specific traits in coloration. These are great in full shade, dappled shade, and even some full sun action depending on the variety. Likes to be coddled moist for cuttings, but once established can be one of the hardiest perennials in the landscape that offer year round color.
And extra attractive, changing color year round too.

I purchased two more coral bells yesterday at work, they finally were on sale :) Cinnamon Curls and Caramel in gallon pots. Both can be split, and the Cinnamon Curls is actually from last year, and seriously needs splitting up.
On Friday while running errands in BH, I got a Peach Flambe and Purple Petticoats in quarts on clearance- both can be split.
Earlier this year, I picked up a pair each of Palace Purple, Marvelous Marble, and Firefly. But those need to go into quart pots to plump up for splitting next year.

Cinnamon Curls: Compact, 9-12" mounds, 18" flower spikes

Caramel: 12" high, 12- 15" wide mounding habit, 14" flower spikes

Peach Flambe: 7" tall, 14" spread, 16" flower spikes

Purple Petticoats: height 12", spread 24", 28" flower spike

Palace Purple: 8-12" wide, 12-16" wide

Marvelous Marble: 8-12" high, 16" wide, 24" flower spikes

Firefly: 15"w, 18" high, 20" bloom spikes

I'm getting into the reds, purples, blacks, and silvers right now. Not much of those color pallets going on right now on the property.

Great resources on growing heuchera-coral bells:


7/19.  We finally got in some rain night before last, about 15 minutes of super storming. Enough to fill all the tanks. We might have more rain in the forecast, so I made sure to drain all the tanks off today.

Also decided to take a couple pounds of fresh mushrooms to make up a big batch of duxelle. Gonna use some tonight, and freeze some off for future use. I had already filled up both dehydrators with mushrooms to help replenish dry stocks, and needed to use those mushrooms up! I was originally intending to pickle up a bunch, but they were just too big to work well. So alternatives are going on. Duxelle takes a while to make, but freezes up well, and is worth the time.

Gonna use some of that mixed with a wild grain medley, and a chicken and spinach mix to stuff a bunch of tomatoes with that I picked up the other day at one of the local produce stands.

And say, I was told yesterday that my final day at the Fruit Exchange would be the 31st. I knew it was coming since it was just a summer job and business has super died off. But still sad about it, this has been a fun job in a lot of ways. But it's a good thing too, I got GenCon coming up, and the elections too- and I really need to seriously start reading up on all the stuff I've been given to read up on, lol.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Planting in, praying for rain

It's a hot and dry one so far this summer.... We have gotten way less rainfall than usual, though we aren't quite into drought like 2012 yet. But the surface moisture tables are wicking away...

We really need rain, Pray, pray, pray for rain... and a lot of it.

But planting goes on... I've picked up more than my usual amount of plant this year due to where I work.. easier to spend money when you are there and get good deals on stuff.

I've planted in Sweet Anne and citronella plant in several places.. still have a few more of those to go.
I started one last round of cuke, melon, and summer squash seeds. So far no luck with any of those, and trying in trays for one last try.
I have some coral bells and other shade flowers that either need to get in the ground or get repotted- still not positive where those 10 plants final home will be, I'm torn between a couple places now, lol.

Been doing some potting up on lavenders, about a dozen total. Those are going to get overwintered in pots and I want to set up a smother bed this year to set them into next summer.

I still have a few other odds and ends to plant up. A bunch of marigolds, a couple eggplants, some rosemary...

The Aquilegia harvest is done!! I was able to get quite a bit of seed for the first time from my full double furl blue and white aquilegia that I've left isolated for three years. YAY for great seed harvest.
The regular aquilegia patch is done as of today too. I ended up with an unexpectedly large harvest this year. The regular patch has yellow single trumpet, pink and white single trumpets, blue and white single trumpet, and a double tassle burgundy and magenta, so I'm hoping for some interesting crossbreeds from this years seed batch. 

I took time the other day after the little rain we got to sprinkle Hyrbrix fertilizer around everything. I'm hoping it will help those tomatoes and peppers along that have been getting sort of neglected lately.  

The hanging strawberries needed trimming and cleaning up at work yesterday, so all the vines I cut off yielded me up 72 baby strawberry plants. I got those potted up today and now I need to keep a careful eye on them for at least a week or two
Some strawberries trail down, and those can be snipped off and potted up just like spider plant babies.  The two varieties are of teh Berri Basket series. White, which is a larger berry and white flowers, and Rose, which has smaller elongated berries and semi double deep rose flowers. 

Yesterday, I was introduced to dewberries. A ground vining berry I always thought was blackberries that were ground vining instead of caning turns out to be a dewberry.
It is far more delish than blackberries, and turns out I have them growing already and got a crash course in how to tame my wild patch.

so turns out a crappy ground vining blackberry I ignored for years is its own delightful berry that I already have and is worth cultivating for pies and jelly, but even better yet.... Wine.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A long hiatus...

A lot has been going on around here... I stopped posting once Pooks died because I just didn't have the heart to say anything.
We lost him a month ago now, and he's cuddled up with Moon now. I bet she pounced on him with a "Where were you?" as soon as the moon rose. See, he passed overnight during his one night, the full dark of the moon. First light was the night we laid him to rest.
I'm planning on planting his grave with breadseed poppies... fitting I think.
This wound is raw and sore... I miss my Big Fat Pooks, my undulating coco noir kitty. My big nudger...
So I just can't post without saying this first... and I do him no justice by not saying anything before now.

But it is time to post again... The gardens aren't doing well. I haven't had time or the willing effort to do anything due to the job. After cooking and busting my butt all day at the garden center, I just got nothing. And we haven't gotten rain, and we seriously need rain... and jeez for a few days of rain please!!
But been planting in stuff, and seeing some stuff grow nice- other stuff die off.
The yard itself is beautiful, my sister has been busting her ass out there all summer, and it's been greatly appreciated and a huge amount of work off my back. Honestly, she's taken on a lot around here with me working so much.. I don't know what I would do without my family.
Also, now that annual season is over, my hours are scaling back, and I'm finally part time. So now I have time for more attendance to the gardens, yay!

I don't really have much to say, but I needed to break the ice.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Busy week, happy holiday!

It's been a busy week!

I got the lasagne beds planted in since my last post. Rich sweetness melon, burpless cukes, and violetta pole beans are in bed one. I used three tomato towers to run them up. Started out with pinning with tent stakes, then sunk in 6 boot bamboo poles real deep around the cages to help keep them secure. I also utilized the outside of the rings instead of the topheavy tomato in the center. So I hope this works better.
Bed two has a hill of yellow straightneck and a hill of those heirloom Italian round zukes- the latter I'm planning on using for seed saving to the best that I can before the squash beetles move in.
In bed three is a whole bed of toothache plant- I hadn't planned on using bed three this summer, but it was ready to go, and the bed I was planning on using wasn't ready yet.
And in the backs, fronts, and corners of the three beds in it's set are borage, fennel, lemon balm, lemon bee balm, calendula, and a couple kinds of zinnias.
I also heavily mulched in all the paths and the mowing surround deeply in cardboard topped with straw flakes. Yes, I usually do lasagne with straw in the bed. But this year is going to be a build up year in the beds, and as the straw levels and stuff gets pulled, I will be backfilling in with compost and such.
We are having some lovely iris blooming in the yard too. Moons white iris was spectacular, and it has faded out just as her blue iris has come into bloom. A few of my "specials" have bloomed well behind the solarium too. Thank goodness I've had the mind to keep a tag of everything in one binder so I can Id these guys and prep up space to move them out elsewhere in the yard that is sunnier for them. I think some of them might end up in the first section of the front yard bed. It looks frightfully bare between the daffodil spring flush, hibiscus start to grow in, and mums fall flush. 

Got a HUGE amount of shopping done. Ground chuck was 1.99 a pound in the family packs, I picked up 12 pounds. That will bust down into several meals over the next few months. Butter was finally down to 2/5 again, so I picked up 10 pounds. That will last us into the fall. Stocked up on shelf stable condiments- it's sandwich and salad season, so it's good to buy cheap now.
Hit Menards for some random stuff, the resale shop for some new work clothes- found a pair of adventure pants for two bucks! Bought a pair of shoes on clearance for 10 bucks. I seriously needed a second set since my shoes get so wet with watering all the time, and I need to switch off pairs to allow for good drying time. Need to bring dry socks to work too. Thinking about buying a pair of cheap kids crocks to wear in the morning while I'm watering.
Hit Meijer, then Village Market, then Hardings, then Rite Aid. Yeah, this sounds like a lot of chasing around. But really I only used a gallon or two of gas, took some time to myself in comfortable indoors to shop.. and saved almost 200 dollars. And now the house is restocked on some much depleted things for a long time.

Otherwise a lot of going to work. Damn, I'm kind of hurting, like prescription meds hurting. Wouldn't be so much if I wasn't also busting a gut on my days off. But on the bright side, I'm acclamating to the extra physical work, and I'm getting fitter.
And I'm reaping in some great gardening benefits. I was asked to clear out some barrels of last years tulips and daffodils. One guy wanted the tulips. No one wanted the daffodils. So for free, I was able to take home a couple bags of daffodils. And over the last week I rack dried them and now they are finishing curing off. These will be going into heavily seeding in flowers at my mums house later this year.  And I was able to take a few pots and pot flats home of the bigger stuff we've been planting in for display. For free. They were going to be throwing them away, just like the daffodil bulbs I cleaned out of the barrels.
And I get total first pick of anything coming off the truck. All of our trucks show up when I'm at work, and either I'm helping doing the unloading, or working the clipboard for heavy unloading.

And ooohhhh,.... while out and about the other day, was able to pick up a couple waterbed pedestals for free! We now have a whole new dresser under our bed. Super awesome. Kind of wishing for a whole new mattress now that the boxspring is gone.

In super sad news... last Labor Day weekend I wrote... When summer broke, so did he, and when it broke again, so did he. Argent.
I think we are going to be living through that again this summer. This time Pookums. He's been taking an elderly downturn for a while now.. but more recently, with the weather breaking... so is he.
So now is the time we get to start preparing his grave. Choosing flowers to plant over and such. It's also high time to plant in Argents bed of lillys.

And ending on some food upswing. Hubby is making mac and cheese with ham and mixed veggies for dinner tonight.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Too dang busy to write..

And I have been too busy to write for a while now....

First it was the old job completely screwing up all of my time and my sanity. I quit that job, and within two weeks, I was offered a full time job at a local nursery! Which is wonderful, I love working with the plants and stuff... but it leaves me on mighty slim time to get everything else done that needs to be done.

I've been fortunate that a garden fairy has been cleaning out the beds for me, mysteriously leaving guardian chickens behind everywhere.
But we have had some nasty late season weather that has been putting hiccups into the works. 

So now there's new herbs in the herb garden, along with a lovely swath of inpatients. The stair garden is now chock full of ornamental kale, spring kale, blue vates kale, rainbow chard, broccoli, and spectacular ornamental head kales and cabbages, ringed around with marigolds.
The kennel garden is now planted in with brussels sprouts, cauliflower, spinach, tatsoi, bok choi, chinese cabbage, garlic, radishes, carrots, and beets. And containers have been set up with yard long beans and turkey craw drying beans.

Spring cleanup has been a PITA, we shed a lot of tree bits over the winter. That's mostly cleaned up into piles now, but they haven't been moved to the pit yet- too wet down there.

Pooks, my oldest cat, is getting very old- I fear we will be losing him sometime this summer.

Within two weeks of quitting that wretched job, I was also tapped to run in this fall elections for a trustee position- of parks- in my local township. So what little spare time I might have, I need to learn all that jazz. But thankfully, the full time summer job at the nursery will die back by November, so that at least will work out a bit easier. Hopefully.

I still need to get out and bust up some garden beds- I haven't even started getting stuff together to do plant sales coming up.. part of that is due to some serious winter losses with seed starting, and a lot of re-alloting plants off to other people.

All in all... just busy as hell.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Happy spring! Garlic.. and what? mmmm.

Under a winter weather advisory, been starting to snow like a mo for about an hour now.. and welcome to spring!

Sure, seems early and cold.. but March, April, and May are traditional spring months around here. Wasn't going to be shoveling today outside... so today was the freezer cleanout day. The kitchen freezer was empty enough finally that I could really scrub it down and start refilling it out of the chest freezer. Then it was empty out the chest freezer to let that defrost properly before refilling it again. Currently we have a laundry hamper of frozen food and a couple whole turkeys out on the front porch getting buried with snow. And this folks, is why you clean out your freezer in the winter :) You got a whole chest freezer outside, use it.

We have also pulled almost all of the fruit out of the bottom of the freezer- bags of whole strawberries and necterane slices, and cherries in simple syrup. We also have wild blackberries, gooseberries, and a wee bit of sugared strawberry slices too. A lone bag of sweet potato pulp and a bag of mixed winter squashes pulp to make into squash ravioli with a couple bags of won ton skins that need to be eaten up.
Tonights dinner is a treat usually reserved for summer- Southern style squash casserole. It's full of butter, cream soup, and sour cream, layered in with thick slabs of summer squash and top and bottom is crusted in with buttery crispy bread goodness :)
Pulled out a bunch of random meat bits and a lot of random cheese to the upfront freezer. We have and use a lot of cheese, heh.
Used up the last of the melon pulps in fruit-waters, yum! The watermelon was really good, will do it again for sure. But the cantaloupe, while good, was not awesome. I would rather stock twice as much of the watermelon.

Also made a batch of blueberry simple syrup today, yum. Maybe more of a shrub than a simple syrup, I'm also using dehydrated lemon slices and homemade vanilla sugar as a finishing sugar.
And today I roasted off a large quantity of homegrown garlic. yum. Who loves roasted garlic? This girl does :) And this is the second batch recently, teehee. I did up a lil brown crock of it the other day, and used it up to bake off a large loaf of roasted garlic Italian bread, yum. This batch uses up the last of the "roasting stage" garlic. I went through all my sacks of garlic we still have so far. We eat a lot of garlic! I set up another pot of garlic shoots with all the seriously crappy heads that didn't make it through winter storage so far. The first one I've already trimmed a couple inches off the top of, and it already needs another goodly pruning! Very gratifying and frigging fast growing instant awesomeness for this time of year.

Anywho, gratifying greenery... I have a dining room window full of plant goodness, and more sprawled across the house. 

Snort, thought I published this already, apparently not... First of spring was yesterday, time has slipped on me.

Well anywho, in the last three weeks since that bit above.. lots of seeding and reseeding. Peppers and another set of peppers, tomatoes and another set of tomatoes. Bunch of herbs and some flowers. Broccoli and cauliflower. Already got the first greenhouse set up outside and it currently has lettuce, brussels sprouts and hellebores in it. Thyme and rosemary plants are now out on the porch too, though if we get freeze warnings in I will still pull them inside or put them in the greenhouse. I can tell it got too nippy one night already since the tyme plants have some purplish blush on some leaves, showing frost damage.

Crocuses, siberian irises, and some of the early daffodils are blooming, yay!!

Been shaking up the menu around here. Using up the larder. Creating some new recipes. I think I might have enough of a stack or recipes by now that I need to start considering my cookbook again, and filling in segments of it.

Spring peepers have been out for a it over a week now, and the swans are on the pond and nesting. I need to pick up birdseed to start refilling the feeders again.

I trimmed out that crappy area on the fenceline where the weed trees grow- I hope I did it early enough and used enough spraypaint on the cuts to make a difference. This is a battle I'm tired of. I also trimmed the apple trees, one rather heavily. We will see if I did it too late in the winter or not, but I think I'm good.

The solarium has stayed above freezing for most of the winter, which is good. It has had some time in that fridge zone of 35-45, which is not good. Not bad necessarily, but I would like to improve on that if I can.  It has stabilized warm enough that I can use it for some of the heartier seedlings, yay! Which is good, because all of them are needing potting up, and I don't have room in the kitchen, heh. The grand shuffle of plants is on.

But I gotta bail off, need to get ready for work. And yeah, publish this right now before time slips again, lol.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

changing of seasons..

We went from true on cold as hell and got snow winter like we are supposed to last Saturday to full on early spring warm and lovely over yesterday and today. And dipping down in the next few days with snow storms likely

Been doing a lot of spring cleaning.. more like late winter getting ready for spring cleaning. Some rearranging of the furniture, tossing out stuff from the solarium to the garage or the curb. The solarium has gotten some attention, so I can start using the place more properly for potting and crafting again. It just gets too darn cold in winter, then stuff piles up... sheesh.

Anywho. In the gardening front... Some more major changes going on, heh. My brother and I got to talking the other day, and he wants a white chili veggie garden. He had no idea I ran a white year last year for tomatoes, hehe. I'm glad I did, so now I know which ones are the tastiest and best for chili. So I'm pulling a few other tomato plans of the list so I can grow white tomatoes. I have no white peppers, so I had to order some up real quick from Baker Creek. Three sweets and a white Hab. Now I'm changing pepper plans too, and pulling some off the list to just put into the sales pile. Like Sweet Banana and Hungarian Yellow Wax- those I can buy cheap and in plenty during the season locally.

Some of the beds are moving around more too. Not physically of course. But the time is long overdue for me to do some serious rotating, replenishing, and general attendance to all the beds. I'm learning a lot of things about all of this action. The different groupings and scheduling of rotation, what companion plants are what, what plants are for what bugs. I want to grow a bug patch this year, something to attract in beneficials and the baddies, hopefully get some bug control going on.
At the end I know at least a raised bed or two will be getting dedicated to the white chili garden. Still planning on going ahead with the black tomatoes- fewer of them, but still.
The lasagna beds- some of that space is being dedicated to growing Brussels Sprouts. Probably some broccoli and cauliflower too. But a lot of turning over and attending to kind of cleaning up and finalizing the borders more. We got the base layer materials built up nicely now.
I need to keep up on the beds down front- and I still want to add on another section to what I planted last year. I'm just not sure if I want to try to mimic the first section, or do something different.
The herb border on the fence needs a total overhaul I think. Serious amounts of work.
And want to keep up with keeping the pole barn bed cleaned up.
The kennel beds are getting the most overhaul. The garlic bed went in last fall, and the other leg of the L is getting cleaned out and the line of it straightened out before anything else. I'm thinking of doing a lot of container growing on the slab, but I'm unsure of just what I want to do there yet.
The FOH garden and kitchen garden will likely see more attention this year. The mint hill will also see some cleanup- last year was an establishment year, this year I'm hoping to train that into a fill in year. The solariam surround just needs a little cleaning up I think- I gotta remember to pull some irises for the bead lady. 

I'm thinking there might not be any real squash this year- I want to combat squash beetle. So melons, gourds, cukes are all out too. I might plant in some for trapping action, but I won't be anticipating any real fruiting off them.

And ah yes. That glorious gardening and preserving moment.. When at the end of February, I can fully restock the pantry with two cases of tomato products I put up last year. Another month or two of not having to buy any tomato product in the stores since last summer- priceless :)
Italian stewed tomatoes, crushed white tomatoes, and tomato puree are now out of the canning pantry. Still have the Rotels to pull out when there's more space in the kitchen pantry. And I still have several jars of tomato juice and a couple jars of dehydrated tomatoes so I can whip up more tomato goods as needed. Plus an ice cube tray or two in the freezer of other tomato stuff. Super concentrated pulp and refined juice. And a jar of smoked dehydrated tomatoes in the back of the fridge. I'm starting to think that perhaps I'm getting to around the right amount of preserving required to keep the household happy. 
I've been tinkering around with some other preserved food stuff lately too, wanting to eat out the pantries and freezers as much as we can right now. Been keeping notes on it all too, heh. But that will be another post for another day, it's already been far too long since I last posted.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How I make Vanilla Sugar

So since I have vanilla beans on hand, and just picked up a few 4 pound bags of sugar on sale recently... And since I'm down to a half jar of Vanilla Sugar... I decided it was time to set up some more. Good vanilla sugar takes a while to really cure nicely. For me, it's a goodly couple months before I consider a jar steeped enough to use.
What is vanilla sugar? Why, simply white sugar infused with vanilla beans. What is it good for? All sorts of sweet applications that use vanilla. Like if you make pound cake, cookies, or meringues- use vanilla sugar and vanilla to kick up the vanilla. Works great for homemade ice cream, and is excellent in jellies. Makes a tasty addition to your coffee and several hot teas :)

Onto making it...

This is your whole list of everything you need.
Vanilla Beans and a 4 pound bag of sugar
jars to put the sugar into
a bowl, whisk, and spatula to stir your sugar up
a knife and cutting board to slice your beans on

 Mmmmm, I use five beans for this. One bean per pound of sugar, plus one bean for the batch.  These are lovely and fresh, very flexable and easy to cut.

 After you slice down the bean, use the back of your knife to scrape your bean. Yes, the back of your knife. Works easier this way, trust me.

 Mmmmm, lot of beanie goodness just piling up on that blade.

 5 beans yield of guts, yum. this gets stirred into the sugar. Yes, the pods and all their remaining clinging goodness are getting used later on.

 Now to start the sugar. Use about a third of the bag to start off with, and use all the bean guts.

 Before the first whisking. You are going to whisk it it because it will break up the vanilla blobs easier. You use less sugar because it's easier that way too. Once the vanilla is well distributed, add another third of the bag of sugar and whisk that in. Once that is well distributed, use the spatula to stir in the last third of a bag of sugar.

This is the whole bowl of sugar, after stirring. Now to fill the jars :)

 The stripped pods, with much goodness clinging to them, yum.

 Cut them up into 5-6 segments, you will be distributing them equally among your jars.

 Two quart jars, filled about a third of the way full of sugar, ready for the first batch of beans.

 Here's about a quarter of the beans in one of the jars. After tossing in your beans, close up the jar and shake well. Open jar up, add another third of sugar and another quarter of the beans, close up the jar and shake well. Add the final third of the sugar to the jar and shake well again.
Keep in mind that you are doing this to two quart jars.

This is what a full jar looks like. Nice distribution of little black flakes, and you can see some of the beans. There will be about a cup of sugar left over. If you really want to pack it into the jars, you can make it fit. I don't bother, I just use a pint jar for the leftover sugar. That sugar will receive my leftover beans from the last batch of vanilla sugar, sort of start a mother. But you want to make sure you use all 5 fresh bean pods between the two quart jars.

Now all you have to do is seal the jars, set them aside in a cool, dark, and dry place.. and in a few months when summer baking and sweet preserving comes in, you will have some sugar ready for use.

And that's how I make vanilla sugar.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Winter composting bin project

Last fall I read around about winter composting, and bins, and worms, and.. came up with my own winter composting scheme. One that hopefully would yield up a couple big garbage cans of compost over the winter- or at least a good way of storing up the compost over the winter so I don't have to walk all the way down to the yard pile. And getting in on having spring straw on hand as I need it that has already gone through it's freezing period.

12 straw bales
2 large garbage cans with strap down capable lids
1 large box of 45 gallon contractor bags
couple bungee cords
roll of packing tape

A drill with about 1/4" big, to drill a ton of holes in the cans with

 Figuring out the layout, and starting to wrap the bales in plastic. We did a double layer of bags on the bales, and finished off the open end with packing tape. As the bales were snugged together, the taped together ends all butted into another bale to ensure the flaps would stay closed.
Where this is located is right outside the kitchen porch. It gets a lot of good southern sun in the winter.

 Bagging up the bales. These bags fit perfectly.

 The first row snugged together. Then we went and picked up the second load of straw bales. And did it all over again :) Note that the orientation of the garbage cans isn't correct in this pic. We were just making sure stuff was going to fit right before moving on. The cans ended up with the handles back to back. This way when one lid opens, it's supported by the other can.

 Top view of the drilling I did. This helps with air flow. The bungee cords are super snug. At the time of writing this, I'm only using one per lid because the bins are remaining surprisingly undisturbed.

 Side drilling detailing.

 Bottom drill detailing:

 Empty and ready to start filling.

 Got some leaves, AKA brown matter.

A heap of kitchen clean out scraps I saved up to kick the batch off with.

And.... heh, I apparently never took follow up pics on this. We filled three of the big bags full of brown leaves while they were super dry, and stacked those over the top of the whole heap. This is to help keep the bins a bit clear, and provide the brown stuff needed to layer in with the kitchen scraps.

So I just took a pic out the laundry room window at the thing.

At first in the fall when it was still drier and quite blustery, we had the top bags blow off a couple times, but they didn't ever go far. Used up about a half bag or so to fill up the bin on the left, that one is now sitting for a while. Started up the right hand bin a week or so ago.
I didn't use the garden claw at all in the left hand bin. Last time I checked it was when I started the second bin, and the total volume had dropped by an inch or two maybe. So I finally gave it a clawing, and the top couple inches was still mostly loose leaves with a bit of other underneath, so that all got a good stir finally. I used the claw right off the bat on the right hand bin.

Have a lot of pics..

So I finally downloaded my camera today. Heh, just a smidge over 100 pics since last October. I really should not do that.

Anywho, all the Halloween Village pics are now pulled, as are a couple tutorials- one on how I set up the winter composting bins, and another about how I make vanilla sugar.

Got some random pics to share too :)

This is a random winter dinner around here. A fussy one, but hey, sometimes fussy is nice. We were torn between open face grilled cheese or maybe some scrambled eggs and hash browns? Hmmm..

 In the front left corner are the little grill pans for the raclette grill. Butter, cheese slices...

 Mmmm, cheese. An assortment of white tomatoes and Dwarf Wild Fred black tomatoes. Fresh sliced onions, and a wee bit of sliced yellow pepper.

 This is a raclette grill. It has this nice grill on top, a potent heating element underneath- that serves as the broiler element for the little pans that were in the first picture. I put it on a block to help keep it safe and raise up the platform a bit.

A small loaf of homemade herb and wheat bread, sliced thin and ready to toast. Hash browns and scrambled eggs are in dishes sitting on a tableside dish warmer.

So dinner was fun and fussy, all of us chatting as we made our little sandwiches and mini egg dishes and ate them up.

Heh, I should post up more food stuff. I post a lot of gardening and preserving stuff, but not enough food stuff. We do a lot of good food stuff here. I did a stellar beef soup last night- we had one last package of a lovely beef roast that needed to come out of the fridge and get eaten up. The broth was so thick and rich, we left it as is and didn't bother thickening it into a more hearty stew form.
Found out that sweet potatoes require a lot more flour and a bit less mild when making scalloped potatoes and ham the other night. I wanted to use some of them up- they were ones grown in our own garden, and they were damn delish. I still have a small heap of fingerlings left to eat up too.

And little bits to use up... I found out recently that I can build a perennial garlic patch. Or rather, a couple of them, lol. We so run out of garlic scapes way too soon now that we have discovered them. Anywho. I came across a tidbit where some folks grow out their tiny garlic cloves, use them like chives in the late winter/early spring when your stored garlic sometimes wants to start sprouting.. then after a spring snipping, plant the clumps out into the yard where they want garlic to grow in the future.

So I potted up a bunch of little bits in an 8" pot.

On day one, not much to look at. But hey, any good gardening juju I can get going on, I'm a taking it.

And today, it's been a puttering kind of day. Snowing on an off, sometimes pretty bad, other moments the sun is totally out. So I cleaned out the fridge, and dinked around with my camera. I need to get out and refill some of the wild critter eats, but nuh-uh, it's shitty out right now, lol.

On a whole nother random note.. We had a sewer problem yesterday. Well, actually a couple weeks. The toilets on the main part of the house were gurgling. Then the laundry machine made the lines super gurgle. Then nothing, the toilets quit working. Well shit. Turns out the main drain line needed reaming again. This is something that is going to need to go onto a yearly schedule. I did actually remember to change the furnace filter at the beginning of the month :) That too is something not to fall behind on again. Now what needs attention next is our well, it's getting rather bad. I got the phone numbers of a couple local well companies from Town & Country. They steered us right with the furnace guy, figured I'd get reference again.

So, now I'm up and about again. Got lots to do any only so many hours of daylight to burn, even if we are getting delightfully into actual evening for sunset now.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Bee growing like that..

So the plant race is on, lol. Been doing some action around here already. So much so I can actually give a kitchen window report.

Some of the earliest herbs are coming up, basil and lime basil I planted last month. A no show was the lemon basil, I have now sowed the last of the seed that I had. New up in seeding is thyme, oregano, lemon balm and wormwood.
No sign of hyacinth seedlings, but I think the first of the alliums has sprouted. Now if only all the rest of the tray would do something, lol.
Been shufling around some tomato cuttings. One each of silvery fir leaf and totem tomatoes have their own red solo cups. The others are not showing such favorable development, and I've lost a few plugs too :( But hey, if I can get these ones to really go, it's a win. And so far with the planting of the seed testing- the totems are leggy as hell, the freds are really good, and the Snow Whites are leggy.  I don't plan on starting up more tomato seed for a couple weeks at least though. And I moved both the totem mother plants out to the solarium- if they make it, great, if they don't oh well. At this point I have stable and high germinating seed stock and cutting action going on.
Started all the peppers. Yes, all of them. A dozen kinds too. Sigh. I can't seem to help myself. Not the scorching hot deadly weapon round that last year was, though there are plants coming back this year. It is indeed a bit early, but I have some pretty darn good season extending going on now, and I would rather get peppers off to their action a bit earlier than later. And really, it's only about a week earlier than last year. Anywho, enough second guessing myself with this one, lol. All the overwintered pepper plants- Aji Lemon, Fatali, Costeno Amrillio, 7-pot brain strain yellow, and Martians carrot- are in excellent health.

Now I'm going back into what feels like a forever holding pattern, lol. Now I have hit some of my earliest on 12 week action, it's just hover and wait for weeeekkksss at a time. Lol, patience is not my virtue at the moment.
I cleaned up all of my trade seed today- and tossed 95% of it into the IDGAF bucket. The bucket is now just about full enough for me to make some mega seed bomb action out of it. I want to bomb the living beejeebers out of the north line of the wild walk this year. I got more than enough random seed in the bucket now to make an actual impact on this plan. I also have a heap of good popcorn seed and a heap and then some of black oil sunflower seed too. With a lot of wild luck, I will be establishing some rather nice foodly growing border action. I still have a bunch of commercial seed bombs to use this year as well nicely enough.

And on a general whining I want note. Seriously want to procure and learn how to use a scythe well. For real.

Back onto yard and garden, lol. All the indoor growing is going well in general, and looking forward to good bounty come summer.

Another day, another entry.. I think the above is from the third, and today is the 5th..

Been doing a bit of plant cleanup. I potted up more tomatoes to red solo cups. From six each of Totem and Silvery Fir Tree, I now have three Totem and two Silvery Fir Tree  that have graduated up to solo cups. The SFT mother has been cut for a while now, the two Totem mothers are now out in the solarium to see what happens with the chill.
Took six Beaver Lodge Slicer cuttings off the three struggling mothers. I nixed the weakest one, willing to sacrifice the one almost bigger tomato for the good of the cuttings I got. The other two are healthier, and are well staked. And both have either fruit growing or strong bud clusters opening, so it looks possible to still get seed stock as well as clones going on.
The Copper River is vining along, a single 4 foot vine now. And finally starting to show both flower bud sign and has a sucker or two that would be suitable for cuttings. It got moved to the floor today because it's getting so tall, lol. And it got a couple new 6 foot bamboo rods to grow up onto.
I pulled the Dwarf Wild Fred and Snow White Cherry seedlings today. I couldn't kill them when they passed their germination test, but the are simply tooo leggy, and I will start again in a few weeks. The Totem seedlings are stubby and looking great.

Took a half dozen cuttings from the Aji Lemon pepper today, and got those under the dome. The plant needed trimming, and no sense in letting good cuttings go to waste since I currently have the space for them. The 7-pot Brain Strain Yellow required a harsh cutting today, all of it's new tip action. It was infested with something that were tiny, white, and made webs. We shall see if the harsh cutting is good or not. 

And on the food front.. it's citrus season. Seriously. In the depths of cold as a mutha, it's citrus season. Now is the time to perk up on massive doses of tart and sweet juicy sunshine. Over the last few weeks grapefruits and massive naval oranges have been 1/10, clementines are going on clearance here and there, and limes and lemons are running around two bucks a bag.
So we had a lot in pitchers of lemonaide, and a lot of fresh eating. But now we are starting to run down on the glut, lol. That meant it was time to take time for some preserving.
I took two grapefruit, four clementines, three lemons, and about a dozen limes to make up three cups of juice. Whew. Made a pitcher of aide right away, but the other two cups are in a bottle in the fridge, awaiting either more fresh goodness or to be frozen into cubes for later use.
That left me with a lot of citrus rinds. So much so that I felt I should be doing something more than just tossing them into the compost pile. So I took the ones that had been best rendered out of flesh and juice, and filled a gallon jar about half full with the rinds. Then I used about 3/4 of a gallon of white vinegar and filled up the jar, totally submerging the fruit. This will sit for 4-6 weeks in the cool dark floor corner of the pantry. Then at the end, I will filter the vinegar, and it will be an excellent homemade cleaner. Yum. Just in time for spring cleaning and thoughts of throwing the windows open :) Still had a few rinds left, and so I'm dehydrating them to a crisp so they can be ground up and my sister can use them in making soap.
It is also avocado season, and I picked four very nice ones the other day while they were still rock hard. Now they have ripened on the counter and we have been snacking those up, mostly tossed with lime juice, yum. And of course now the pits are balanced on toothpicks in glasses of water.

And just as a random cool thing to think about promoting..

Do you realize, with the Superbowl coming up..
If every single person making guac this weekended saved their avocado pits, and gave them to local schools for spring growing programs...
We could potentially teach thousands or even tens of thousands of kids about how seeds grow. Give them a really cool science project to look forward to in school.
Think about it. Right now, there are lots of schools throughout the country that have no current growing program. But a lot of those areas still see the influx of fresh avocados for the Superbowl every year. Kids that normally would not see any sort of growing program could now do so.. thanks to football. 

If you don't have any avocado pits... but you do have leftover red solo cups or perhaps empty jars from salsas and cheezy dips, or plastic tubs from other dips and salads.. Perhaps consider saving those up and then schools don't need to buy any pots- those are being recycled and kicked in too!

Support your football team through local farming.. Grow an avocado. Support your local school through your love of Superbowl.. Get your school on the avocado pit program.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The word is out... dinner at Growbox Hill!

So with the crappy and cold finally settling in... I put out a little dish of cat food and a box lined with a snuggly towel in the garage. We have a feral cat or two running around, and even though I put stuff out kind of late in the cold snap, there is still signs of it being used now. Along with some nice paw prints in the snow. And yes, I would for sure rather have feral cats in my garage than anywhere else- this encourages them to help keep my yard clean of rodents, lol.

And I made up some suet cakes and put out a couple along with a feeder full of black oil sunflower seed... Well, the first afternoon, no one showed up. The second I saw a few birds. Then the word got out, dinner up at our house! Now every bird in the neighborhood is stopping by for a snack.
So far I've seen some seriously fat bluejays, cardinals, black capped chickadees, dark eyed juncos, rose breasted grosbeaks, titmouses, goldfinches, Downy woodpeckers and red bellied woodpeckers, and the usual assortment of sparrows and wrens. It's kind of nice because all of their birdcalls make it sound like it's spring outside.

Making suet cakes is easy, and I have found that mushroom tubs are the perfect size for cakes. I started using them last year. And honestly, mushroom tubs are one of the most used items I recycle between projects and gardening needs. I finally used up the big bucket of veggie shortening, so now I will get a block of lard next time I make cakes, that's what I should have been using all along, lol.

And dinner.... I've started this years preserving tally, kicking it off with 46 jars of pickled mushrooms and a half dozen jars of spicy pickled edamame. This is my first time pickling edamame, but the raw form tasted pretty good, so I'm hopeful the canned form will be even better. But I couldn't resist when I saw them at Hardings on clearance for 99 cents instead of four bucks. I picked up five 10 oz boxes, and used three to pickle, though I could have used two and that would have been fine for a smaller batch too. But hey, now we know, right? I tinkered the recipe a smidge, leaving out the oil, but I kept the vinegar/water proportions right, and the salt good.
I'm a wee bit bummed that I seem to never find brussels sprouts on sale anymore now that I discovered how damn tasty pickling them is. So I guess a large part of the brassica patch this year will be brussels, yay!

It's been difficult to stave off the depression and hopelessness I've been experiencing for several months, like fighting against a monsoon. But I keep forcing myself to keep trying.. and keep focusing on the zen and happiness in the good things I know I enjoy. It's helping a lot. The plants are really having a lot of impact, taking care of them and knowing that they will do the family good soon. I now have three of the greenhouse stands in the kitchen in front of the windows, and several pots and starts are already there.

I seriously need to spend time in the solarium and really clean. Everything is stacking up in the cold, and too chilly to really spend much time out there doing anything. But it has been staying above freezing for the most part, and hitting above 40 a lot. That is wonderful. Still really chilly for working in though, lamo.

But right now I need to pop off and clean up a turkey carcass.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Snow a fallin, seeds a sproutin...

So yeah, it is January, and yeah... I have already started seeds.

Well, lol, really I started seeds in July :) Hellebore seeds. It's a facinating winter flower, because it will only sprout in the cold, and blooms during the coldest months. Kind of feels like the opposite of what plants do, right? I thought so too, but they really are such lovely little things.
And extremely expensive as plants, so much so they have been cost prohibitive to me till now. Last June a friendly GW member sent me seed, and a nice goodly lot of it. So I let it scarify in the fridge, and oops.. totally forgot about it. I was supposed to plant the seeds in August, but screwed that pooch till December. So I planted up the paper towels full of seeds at the end of December. Two of them showed signs of sprouting, and those got put into pots in the solarium, and the other four got put into kitty litter jugs for wintersowing.
And lo! Just a few days ago I helped a bunch of tiny little hellebores break free of their paper towel in the solarium... Squee with joy! These little beauties, if I'm careful, will yield blossoms in 2-3 years. That's part of the reason why they are expensive, they are one of those super patience kind of plants, lol.

So yay for those sprouts! I also started up the earliest of the basils, and just the regular basil has sprouted, still awaiting lemon and lime basils. I also planted the black pepper seed I've had for ages, and who knows if that will sprout or not. Got all the kitty litter jugs done and outside on their racks now. Horehound, Vervain, Feverfew, Valerian Hyssop, Borage, Wormwood, Butterfly Weed, Wild Lupine, Evening Stock, Allium, and Large Mixed Hyacinths. Keep yer fingers crossed that they all send up sprouts. I will also be starting indoor pots of all this stuff too when their indoor sowing times come up.

My Silvery Fir Tree tomato finally finished out it's last fruiting, or at least the last one I was willing to wait through. So those seeds are now stripped out and fermenting. And I cut the plant down, took a half dozen cuttings off of it to hopefully clone up for this year. I also took a half dozen Totem cuttings off the two plants I currently have and are either in fruiting or blooming stages. So far after a few days the cuttings still look really healthy, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will continue on well too. The Copper River cutting from last fall is doing very well, as is the best of the Beaver Lodge Slicer- the two weaker BLS's are not doing so great, but are still valiantly fruiting on. Hopefully we will get some seed stock yet off of those.
The 7-pot Brain Strain Yellow, Fatali, and Aji Lemon peppers I brought in are doing right fine. The one Aji Lemon I brought in way late after freezing temps from the solarium never recovered and I scrapped it. The Martians Carrot that is still out in the solarium is still doing remarkably well considering how cold it has stayed out there now for a couple weeks.

And tee-hee, I've planted up diakon radish for spring seed production now. My sister brought home a huge bag of the stuff last fall, and I simply didn't have time to pickle the stuff, and she sure wasn't going to do it.. So the poor roots just languished out in the solarium till one day I noticed some of them sprouting fresh greenery. So I potted the best couple of them up in the tall cans I usually reserve for growing horseradish, and now they are slowly coming along out in the solarium. Sooner or later it will get warm enough for them to really take off, and then I will get my own seed stock... I hope.... or at least that's how radishes are supposed to work, as biannuals. But this is the first time I'm trying this off of completely unknown stock, so hey, let's all hope for the best right? Some of my experiments fail, but a lot of them sure do work out fine :) 

And all in all, I'm pleased as punch with how warm the solarium is staying. Now that I have a growbot out there, I can monitor the temps and a bunch of other stuff too. And it's hit freezing a couple times, but is generally staying between freezing and fridge temps- which is a full ten degrees warmer than outdoors! This is huge. This is a whole growing zone difference huge. If I can keep this up, it will be a game changer. If I can apply myself to some more serious larger greenhouse/hoophouse action outdoors too... why, this whole gardening thing will really change around here. Being in a micro climate is incredible, but some of the growing and season extending abilities is monumental for getting food and such produced. And having a growbot in my solarium is making a marked difference too. Before I was just using a digital thermometer with a high/low mark that would reset every day. Now I get to take hourly readings and can compare them to the actual temps outside to find out what is going on when. Plus I track humidity, lumins, and I have a camera to capture data as well. Mega fucking badass!!

Etsy shop is slowing waaayyy down. I've had some repeated problems with people ordering custom printings without knowing what size they need printed, so I haven't relisted 3D stuff for weeks. And it's so darn cold in the solarium working at my jewlers bench on anything is right out because it's kind of impossible to string beads when you got the shakes from sitting in a 35 degree room, heh.
I need to get off my figurative ass and rework my etsy stuff. It would help if I had someone to take good photographs of my stuff so it looks and sells better- but the one offer I got to photograph stuff never amounted to anything more than words. Sigh, maybe I just need to suck it up and learn how to take good pics, hehehe.

I do have a lot of materials to work with out there, just piling up awaiting my artistic talents. I got a heap of painting to do too, adjusting a lot of stuff to work into the Nightvale scheme. Always a lot of beautiful art I want to work on... always a lot of reality and work I have to dedicate myself to instead. Ain't that always the way of it. I really need to start sneaking in some me and zen time with this.

And today I think I'm going to roast up a turkey- I need to get it into the oven SOON. It's been defrosting for days, so it's well and time. This is one of the four turkeys we picked up for 52 cents a pound. 52 cents, holy fuck good price on meat. But after Thanksgiving, three turkeys sucking up most of the freezer space is pretty ho hum, especially when I have to pass by super good other meat sales because of lack of space! So today is a roast off a turkey day. Mmmmm, means yummy turkey soup soon. And I need to make up a batch of sloppy joe mix out of some ground turkey that's been in the fridge and needs to be used up.
So off I go into cooking land, better get off my butt here... literally this  time :)