Sunday, September 30, 2012

Winter, weekends, and ...

It was another harvest weekend. This time we threw some plums in as well. Lots of tomatoes are ready and about to be ready, so we are freezing the large ones to make some tomato jam and sauce and paste and sun drying the cherry tomatoes.
We are fortunate enough to have lots of neighbors, so we were able to give away a lot of the plums. They seem to all get ripe at the same time, and then if you don't pick them they fall and rot and the bees come to feast and sting.

It was also time to change out the window boxes. We had some diathus for a long time, but they were well beyond their prime, so we bought hardy mums to brighten up the windows. I know that the standard colors for this time of year are the oranges and reds of fall, but I planted yellow - a summer color. This is because it took a long time for summer to get here, and now that it is I am going to try and coax it into staying extra long. This is my protest I could put up signs and banners, but instead, I'll just plant yellow mums. 

Also, a little late I know, I did our winter planting. The corn was in the far bed, but as it was done, we dug that up and planted our winter carrots. I will cover them with straw when we get to freezing temps. The pots up close on the left are filled with bulbs (tulip and allium). I read an interesting article about having bulbs in pots so that they are easier to move and separate and replant, etc. so I am going to try it out. We'll have around 7 pots of bulbs ready for spring, then probably seed them with annuals when they are done blooming.

This is the back planter. I dug up the right side Sunday and planted things there as well. Right now there are endives, a winter hardy lettuce (one leaf, one head) Spinach, Mache, and one more, but my brain doesn't work all that well so I can't remember what it is. This will get covered with my lid as soon as the temps start to fall. (the dogs love fresh dirt, so the shock collar keeps beeping and they know from experience that that is a bad sound and stay away. that makes both of us happy!)

Just some fall blooms!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

more harvesting...

As winter approaches, I am getting starting my winter harvest planting. This requires making room in an already full garden. So, I was out harvesting this and that, and the mood became a passion. Soon the whole kitchen become full of fresh food. Lucy and Helen helped by sampling some of the stuff and making sure it was really ripe. We still have a lot more coming, but I can tell things are starting to commence to think about winding down.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

cooking, canning, and catastrophe...

First, the good, well almost good news. We found out why most of the birds haven't been visiting. The answer is in the picture below. A sparrow hawk has been visiting (and eating) lately. Also if you look closely on the ground below the humming bird feeder, you'll see our first squirrel. He has been eating some dried corn from our garden. So is that good news? 

We also have been trying our hand at canning and pickling. (Here I hope that my mother and mother-in-law will stop reading, and just look at pictures, and read something else. I am not writing this as a complaint or correction to they way they raised my wife and I. It is an observation and opinion which will probably change soon. Maybe it might give good mothers (like my mother and mother and law) some hope as they struggle to train their wayward children)
*so back to the canning and pickling*
My wife and I have never canned or pickled even the smallest cucumber so this is lots of fun and learning. I know that if my mom had tried to show me I would have found some way of making her wish she didn't, but now I look back on my wasted childhood and wish I knew that if you don't heat the lids or pressure cook the cans, the little bubble always stays up. Or that if you use the easier recipe, it may not turn out. Well, no crying over spilt milk (or even spilt pickling brine). Our first endeavor was Tomato Jam. This was one disaster after another. The recipe was rather on the unspecific side, probably expecting most people to know that you should add this or that and make sure you do this or that. However, since I am not most people I omitted this and that and didn't do that one thing so it turned out to be mirky tomato juice with the lid that goes click click everytime you push it. I still have unshed tears in my eyes over this debacle.
Learning from my mistakes and the extremely late night, I started earlier and with tried, true and very clear recipe for pickled summer squash. My wife took on fig jam. (we purchased figs from Costco. Fig jam goes well with cheese and wine) This went much better. I haven't tasted it yet, but after the week of waiting subsides, we'll crack open the goodies and try it out (mostly likely to wonder what new mistakes we've made)
So, I don't know if we've had more fun because we are the kind of people who they write "dummies" book for and don't know canning salt from table salt so that parents should let their kids learn by mistakes.... or if we should teach our kids to cook and can and pickle so that when they are older, they don't write blog posts on how their parents never taught them......

the mess grows...

summer squash awaiting the briny bath

fig jam!

yes, all of the lids are tight and don't click... now what does it taste like?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sun dried tomatoes (without the sun)

We have an excess of cherry tomatoes, so we have been looking for other uses besides pestering your neighbors with the overflow. Last week, during our cars oil change, I did a lot of "googling" about what other people do with their over flow. 
This is one very easy thing to do. Cut them in half, place on tray, sprinkle with a little salt, and bake in oven @ 200 degrees. The first batch we cooked for 5.5 hours and were on the crisp side, the next we baked for 4.5 and were on the moist side. You can play around until you find your sweet spot. (I recommend going for less time, letting cool and eating some, then putting them back in the oven for longer if necessary. It doesn't work quite as well if  you try the other way)
I eat them plain, but we also tried them on pizza for friday night dinner. They were great. 
I am also going to try to make tomato jam, but I need to get a dutch oven over the weekend. I'll let you know how the trial run turns out!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekend harvest...

This was an interesting weekend. Saturday was 85 degrees here, and Sunday was 64. I am not complaining as I feel that every 85 degree day is a good day, but a 20 degree drop in one day? The weather man did predict it, so he can feel good about himself and we'll all put on our long johns. 
But, this is a garden blog, not  a weather blog. So on to the gardening. Some of our crops are winding down, and others are just chugging along. Most of our neighbors, and a few strangers who ran out of gas in front of our house, have sampled the delights of our garden. It is time to be like educated, high-tech squirrels and start preparing for winter. (canning, pickling, and freezing) 
I picked what was ripe (lucy picked what could have been ripe in the future) and we loaded up the wheel barrow. The first ingredient of all recipes should be to pour yourself a glass of wine. White on a hot day, say 75 and up. Red on a cooler day like today. I had a bottle of Cab Sauvignon open, so I stuck with that. However, if you are looking for a good pairing, I think that freezing/canning would pair better with a vintaged Pinot Nior. 
I am going to relate the fun of freezing here, but if anyone would like the recipe, I will be glad to post them. I feel that most of you reading this probably know far more than I do in that area and have better recipes. In my one defense, I did not create any of these, I only stole them or was given them by older and wiser heads. 
First we cut and froze bell peppers for future use. (One didn't quite make it to the bag, but was dipped in ranch and was eaten) 
Next we cut the corn off the cob and added sugar, salt, and water and made some freezer corn which will be a bit like frozen corn you buy - except this will be far more delicious and wholesome. 
Last we cut and oven dried cherry tomatoes. 
We also planned the demise of potatoes (grate up and freeze for hash browns) and of the summer squash and cucumbers (we will use a recipe provided by my mother and another blogger for pickling).
The wine didn't last the entire time, so it had to be refilled, but 2 hours is a long time.

I hope you all enjoyed your weekend and I'll post the pickling fun we will have soon.
ps. a small note to anyone following a recipe... if you 1/2 the recipe, 1/2 everything in the recipe. If you forget and use the full amount of one ingredient it won't turn out right. just a hint. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

revenge of the gnats...

I think the local gnat population heard that we had a nice front yard for a town hall meeting because last night about half of the gnats in the northern hemisphere congregated. They didn't the let the party get out of hand, but just milled about in large swirling masses. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

back in action...

It has been a while since I posted, but never fear, I have not lost my keyboard or stopped using the internet. No, I have just been busy - or lazy - depending on whom you ask. We have had a lot of nice weather and no rain, which is odd for this part of the world, so I have even had to water. Most everything in the yard is loving the nice weather (excepting those ones that I forget to water). 
The summer squash has been getting ripe faster than we have been eating it, so our neighbors and in-laws have gotten the excess. We have also grated a bunch up and frozen it so that we can make squash bread in the winter. 
Below is a picture of our first head lettuce. We have had a lot of leaf lettuce, but this is a brief sojourn into the head lettuce sector. As long as we eat it, right and good. The only problem will be if I don't get through it and it gets all slimy. That is the good part of leaf lettuce. You only pick what you want to eat. However, I digress. You know all of this better than I do. These comments can get chalked up to the ramblings of an inexperienced gardener. 
The tomatoes are doing well. The cherry tomatoes (sweet 100's and sungold) are going crazy. We are barely keeping up with them, but the neighbors are helping us with these as well. The Roma and Beefsteak are a little behind, seeming to want to make sure it's going to be perfect weather before they turn red. A few have risked it and been picked and eaten... maybe they are catching on the circle of life.
Our reblooming lilac actually decided to rebloom, so we have a small bush in the fragrance garden keeping things sweet smelling and pretty. Most of the others are just growing and getting established, but the lilac, jasmine, and honeysuckle are doing their best to give the impression it really is a fragrance garden. 
Last of all, I have been babying my pumpkin. You may or may not remember, but we are having a local pumpkin contest here. I am not any where near winning, so I am doing all I can. The lastest strategy is feeding it half and half. I have a string from the milk into the vine and hopefully it will start feeding off of the milk, growing pounds and inches a day. Otherwise I may lose again. 
I know that this doesn't sound like much, but the unmentioned things were weeding, planting new vegies for fall harvest, preparing for winter planting, and just doing nothing. It is lots of fun.