Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Day of Fun with Friends


Today was a little non-eventful. We began with mowing, hoping to get it all done, but the tractor mower broke. The tall wet grass just did it in, I think. We could not even use the push mower as we were out of gas.

The grass is beginning to look like a green monster, stealthily creeping up to attack us in our sleep.

I don't particularly care for okra, but aren't the blossoms pretty?

We went to pick produce and that's when the reality of not going down myself hit. Michael works hard, but he doesn't see all that needs to be done. He picks and he comes up. I saw how bad it really it down there when I was mowing. YIKES! We are in for it.

We can't even GET to half of what is growing down there, and the garden is looking pekid. Might need more fertilizer. But.... if we fertilize it.... it will grow more.... such a dilemma! We'll have to consider that for a while!

I spent much time on the internet trying to find a mower solution, but didn't get too far. Everyone I called was not home. Then it was time to clean the dental office.

An old friend stopped by while we were there and we talked for a while. It was good to catch up. I'd not seen her in years. We'd just gone in two different directions.

The we met friends and hung out and played music til 11 tonight. Michael's first adult-like self-written song was put to full band orchestration and it sounded great.

I came home and found some replies to mower questions. A friend is stopping by in the morning, so I hope to have some good news then.

In the mean time, thought I'd share some pics of a get together we had here after church a couple of weeks back. It was great to have folks out and eat and play games and hang out under the shade trees.

It was a perfect 78 degrees with a light breeze.

We did tug of war, badminton, croquet, a huge volleyball game, etc. I played, so I didn't get a lot of pics.

Lots of fun! We should do this every week.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Canning Abyss


Not so many of you are posting these days. I know why, too. You have entered the canning abyss. I am there as well, but doggedly attempting to keep up with sharing what I am doing, so that I can do my part in saving the world. Well, my little part of it anyhow.

I keep meaning to fix this photo, I know it's cut off at the right edge, like all of them, but I will probably never do it and I want to post it anyhow. The sweet peas that are making me envious enough to plant some of my own next year.


Yesterday morning, after Bible study and chores and such, more canning meant a sudden trip to town on a mission to obtain more granulated sugar for 'berrious' endeavors. Also, the chickens seemed to be hungry, so we had to pick up some feed.

On the return home I tackled more jam making. When you've got over 4 gallons staring at you because there is no room in the fridge, you've got to do something quick! So small batches at a time, since I learned that the pectin actually breaks down after too much heat, I made three more batches. The first one was just Hot Blackberry Jam, in which you chop up peppers to spice it up.

Michael doesn't like it too hot, so I put in about a 1/2 cup to 10 cups of berries and 6 cups of sugar. It gives it just a little fun zip, without leaving any burning sensation in your mouth.

In the mean time, Michael once again left for the netherworld of the lower garden. He is like me, in that the trudging up and down the hill is tiresome in the heat. Such babies we are. I am very grateful for our home, but my thoughts do occasionally wander to the luxuries of flat land. A large, green and shady yard off the kitchen door, with chairs and tables to sit in and watch the flowers grow, and a hammock swaying gently between a couple of gorgeously perfect trees. The garden gate just at the edge, invitingly beckoning to...

Never mind, back to reality. Michael grabbed several baskets and went down with the camera.

Here is the melon patch with all the marker flags Michael put in the other day. They really help.

Bob? Is that you? (Inside joke for Veggie Tales fans.)

Now here you see our "Three Sisters" garden.
Where is the first sister, the one with the corn rows, you may ask?
She's been pulled down by her bean-pole second sister and choked to death.

The youngest sister, the fat and plump Squashita, is battling Bean-pole, for dominance, and it I think will eventually win.

This is how it looked a couple of weeks ago.

Lessons learned. 1. There is a reason you don't plant so many beans around your corn. Half as many beans, not half as much corn. 2. Need more space. Need much more space!

Michael is chomping at the bit to get his hands on those broom corn stalks. He took the machete down and checked them out.

Oh, and while we're at it, I took this picture of the grass that is now thickly growing over what used to be mere horse pasture dirt and weeds every summer. Cool!

Back to Michael's photos. Here is that giant pumpkin. There's Michael's size 9 foot next to it. Victory is not so sweet since it looks like there may be some bet welching going on...

So we are letting the plant grow more pumpkins. They'll be nice for more holiday decor.

These beans are fun. We planted a variety of pole beans, as well as a bunch of pinto beans from the store, so I have no idea what beans are what.

My mistake on the melon naming the other day. That honeydew was not a Prescott Fond Blanc. This is.

So this melon was perfect, maybe a little past ripe.

This one was a little under ripe, but still good.

And the PFB was completely under ripe. It's supposed to be bright orange and very fragrant. But we did more reading up and Michael is confident he's got more of an idea now.

Here are the ones he missed before flagging.

Boy at play.

Sadly, that one rolled right into the garden. LOL Volunteers next year!

Back inside, I am making two more batches of jam, but these are hotter and with spices.

I added about 2 cups of Jalapenos to 12 cups of berries and 7 cups of sugar, as well a couple of teapoons of ground cloves. Yummy! I've also done this to strawberry jams in the past. The batch was slightly too big, though, and I cheated and added a little liquid pectin to set it.

I made 15 pints of blackberry jam yesterday.

Then still had more berries to use up, so I made another 3 quarts of blackberry pie filling. This time I cut down on the water to half. I was not pleased with the runniness of the first batch, and I also wanted more berries in proportion to the liquid. Here is a comparison of my first batch on the right, with the reduced liquid batch on the left.

Here is a cooling spot out of the work area of the kitchen. The spare room, which is now canning storage. I turn the overhead fan on to cool the bottles a bit before 'storing' them on the floor.

Then I still had tomatoes to do, and trying to get it all done before we had a movie night. So I used the "Italian Tomato Sauce" recipe from the Ball book and made three and a half quarts.

Here is my canning cache so far.

Michael made stuffed jalapenos again, and I made veggie sandwiches, and we turned off the light, lit candles, and watched "City of Embers", all achy and tired on the couch. Then we watched the light of the full moon through the windows and made up limericks for fun before going to bed.

Sleep was sweet.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Promise of Clear Skies...


...was kept only briefly. We did our usual morning stuff of study and a sugary breakfast, using up some blackberries that were picked a little early..

While I did some clean up, Michael picked as much as he could get to again. A little squash.

Overdue okra. It's OK. We don't want to eat it anyway. And YES! You see grapes! They escaped the evil black rot. I'm not sure which of the 30 varieties these are, but they are french wine grapes. Yummy!

More peppers and cucumbers.

Then, he marked out the melons in our patch... 65 markers, but they only mark groupings, not individual melons. You KNOW what is going to happen, don't you... They will all ripen at the same time.

I put off doing the pickle relish, because it was time to get out and try to catch up on yard work before rain arrived yet again. We have counted 3.5 inches this week.

This is what we needed to tackle first. The tall, seedy grass nearest the herb and flower beds.

We mowed low and raked, then dumped the grass into the sink holes down by the cherry bushes.

Then Michael picked some of the blackberries.

This is looking pretty bad. I could not mow here nor in the vineyard until the berries were all picked and the canes tied up again. This took many hours that we did not expect to spend here.

Meanwhile, the marigolds that I never did transplant into the veggie garden are looking spunky.

And the sunflowers and cosmos look great as well. Too bad I've been too busy to actually go get bouquets.

I think this is poke weed. Natives to this area say you make "poke salad" with it, which is not really a salad at all, but cooked greens. It is also poisonous in a certain form, so I've not pursued this yet. It grows ALL over and gets quite large if you don't pull them up. I mean like small TREE large, and fast!

But moving on to the rest, I had to raise the mower up all the way. We will have to mow again tomorrow, lower, if it doesn't rain again. The mower kept cutting out from all the wet grass.

So here are the blackberries we got today; about 4 gallons.

I used up about 1 gallon making hot blackberry jam with our jalapenos.

Just used a simple sugar recipe. I discovered that the spoon test is to be done with a cool spoon, away from the pot... That would have been nice to know on my first go around.

Kind of a seedy place, here.

I finished the pickle relish and it turned out very well.

And then, while the last of the stew was reheating, I quickly tossed a few peppers into the dehydrator.

Jalapenos and sweet banana.

Habanero and um.... I've forgotten. Not very professional, is it. EDIT - Czech Black.

So we missed our home group tonight, getting caught in the blackberry patch, and I'm ready for bed.

Tomorrow I'd like to catch up before the rain, but I'm not counting on it!