Friday, August 14, 2009

Grandma and Grandpa's Apples


Had to take a short photo op on these flash frozen blackberries I'd forgotten to put into freezer bags.

Did more dehydrating yesterday. Along with lots of bell peppers, I had a few other peppers, okra, and dabbled a bit in onion greens.

Beans to can today.

Did not have time to do them or the tomatoes yesterday as my dad called and said the apples were ready to be picked. So we went to help them.

Michael and I picked and peeled. My mom cut them. She did pretty well, even when she dropped them she didn't get too upset, so that was very nice for her to have a good day today. For those who don't remember, my mom has Alzheimer's.

My mom used to can a lot. I have many memories of my mom canning up all the produce from our garden and fruit trees when I was growing up. I asked her about any memories this brought back for her and she didn't really have any.

I also asked her about a certain dressing we always used to have. She would go and buy it from a local restaurant that she loved. She had no memory of it. Mom did not get upset, but was a little sad, knowing that she had lost another memory.

It's important to talk things over and not pretend nothing is happening. I just held her and said that one day we'll either all forget or all remember and we'll be on an even standing.

Anyway, I'd love to have that recipe. I'll have to see if I can find it anywhere. It was for a red cabbage slaw. It was peppery. Good stuff. :-)

Some ladder climbing...

Some tree climbing...

Some kicking back and hanging out...

Some taste testing...

And the apples Michael and I took home for processing here.

Still lots of apples on the tree. My dad wanted to leave the smaller ones on to let them grow a little bigger.

I hope to get to applesauce, apple butter, apple pie filling and just plain apples today. Along with tomatoes, peppers, and beans.

I don't think I'm that good yet. But I'll see how far we get.

We started up school again this week, so Michael is busy with that for several hours in the day. He is currently working on an outline of world history. And doing math testing; not his favorite.

The workshop and Civil War ball is tomorrow. Tell me when I'll have time to finish that corset...



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fairy Rings and Blackberry Cobbler


We've got them all over.

"Fairy rings appear as dark green circles or semi-circles in the lawn. They vary in size from 1 to 10 feet in diameter. They are caused by the decay of buried stumps and other pieces of wood. Fairy rings often contain clusters of mushrooms and puffballs. Mushrooms grow from decaying organic matter and are most likely to form in areas with high organic debris, such as buried wood. Mushrooms grow best under wet conditions, but die off quickly with warm, dry air and sunshine. Fungicides do not suppress fairy rings or mushrooms, so it is recommended to dig up and remove the soil in the infected area."

We had an 8" mushroom growing out there, but Michael mowed it over before I could snap a picture of it.

I don't know... I kind of like them!

Michael, going cruising...

I froze most all of the blackberries we'd picked, but saved some for this recipe. Wednesday nights are always good for sharing food. This a sort of a cobbler, but not really.

Regardless of what you want to call it, whenever I make it, it is enjoyed. So I thought I'd share it with you.

Here is what you need for a doubled batch, such as the one I made.

Faith's Sort-of Cobbler

Blackberries, pictured yesterday.
2 cups of self rising flour (Or, add 1 tsp salt and 1 TBL baking powder to all-purpose flour to make your own, as I did.)
2 sticks of butter
2 cups of milk
2 cups of sugar

First, melt your butter over a low heat. And preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

To make your own self rising flour, add in baking powder.

And salt.

And whisk together. The two bowls here are from my grandmother's set of four Pyrex colored glass mixing bowls from the 1940's. I love them!

Add sugar.

And flour.

And mix thoroughly.

Add milk

And whisk it up.

Ooooooh, now that luscious butter. I do REALLY love butter!


Surprise! More butter liberally spread on a casserole dish.

A little help here, as I had one hand on the camera...

Now, for the UNscientific part. Just start piling in all those berries you have no idea what to do with because you already have gobs of pie filling, jam, and frozen berries, up to your eyeballs and you know more is on the way, so you have no idea what volume of berries you put in over the required 4 cups, but you just put them in until the batter won't hold any more...

The big fat one...? It's mine.

Oh, yeah. Don't forget. More sugar. Sprinkled liberally on top. Because if you are going to do sugar overload, do it right.

And tuck this little baby into the oven for about an hour and 15 minutes. The single batch called for an hour, but I had to extend it twice as it was pretty big and thick. Use the toothpick test, but remember, if you have as many berries in there as I did, you've got to tell the difference between berry juice and batter when you pull it out. It's an ULTRA moist dessert!


What's that? A missing piece?

You betcha'!

Add this dish to wonderful friends while still warm and you have made yourself a little piece of Heaven on earth. :)



Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday's Twists and Turns


After getting up at 4 am and spending time researching what was going on with the garden, Michael and I knew our previous plan of going out and watering in some inexpensive fertilizer with urea was a bad idea.

So instead we attacked another needed chore. Blackberry picking again. We got a little less this time. I think we might have another 10 or 20 gallons left on the canes for this year, so we are dwindling.

Just as we were finishing picking my mom and dad dropped by for a surprise visit, which is always nice. We did garden chatting for a little while then, as soon as they left, we rushed to get ready for the Civil War sewing meeting.

We were late, so I only got in an hour of sewing, but since I still don't have my ballgown ready, my friend, Lynn, is loaning me her extra gown. I can nip or tuck as needed and I'll be ready for the ball this weekend. This is the dress here, from our Spring Ball.

I need to spend time this week finishing up my corset. We are having a period dance and etiquette expert arrive for a workshop on Saturday, with a ball afterward. Homeschooling is awesome! :) Great history lessons here, as well as sewing.

Taking care of a necessary evil after sewing, we returned to our dental haunt, but this time for a cleaning for Michael. Upon -


-Upon returning home Michael showed his sparklies on our way down to get that giant pumpkin!

Here is red clover. It's pink in color. This is good for general immune system strengthening. If you ever see clover that blossoms red, it is Crimson clover.

Walking through the garden now. Here are our tomatoes. Many of them are split from so much rain, and you can see how the branches are dying, from what I believe is fusarium wilt.

These melons were hidden last week by a beautiful canopy of leaves, which was why we needed flags to find them.

Heading in for the kill.

The pumpkin is rotted. As we rolled it out, we were concerned it might split before we could measure it, but it came out OK.

It's 53 inches. But I noticed that the tape was not at the widest spot. It might have been 55 inches if it were.

Splitting melons are everywhere.

Rotted melons are everywhere. You can see how wet the ground is. That, combined with hot temps, was what did them in. I was doing more reading and found that melons do not need as much water as most people think. They are from arid regions and send down roots 6 feet deep. Something to think about...

There are a few plant that have not died completely. I am holding a little hope they could ripen fruits, but not counting on it, especially since the rain is falling steadily now, on already sopping ground.

The temps are cooler this week as well. Down in the lower 80's.

OK. Time to do some study in the book of Zechariah, do some housework, and then I think we'll freeze the berries.

Swimming in jam,



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vineyard - Before and After - Garden Death


Getting slowly caught up on the mowing. Still more rain today though, so at a standstill again.

We got the crop area down to a level 3. We also pulled all the weeds and still need to have enough dry time to spray.


During (I was working too, but stopped to take photos.):

And After:


This hole is about 5 feet across. We let the weeds grow on the edges and down as far as they can to try to hold the earth. I have no idea how deep these holes go. There are several of them.


I believe the garden is dying. Just as we were about to begin to harvest all our hard-won produce.

All over this area gardens are succumbing to Fusarium Wilt. That's a fungus that thrives in hot, damp summers. The garden was struggling for the last few weeks, but still going OK. However, last week we got 3.5 inches of rain and then went into the 90's during the day.

It was at that time that the whole thing just died. About 100 melons, all gone. They are rotting on the vines before even getting ripe. Same with most of the rest of the produce. We pretty much realized this about 2 or4 3 days ago, but didn't know what was going on.

It was a lot of work. We are fighting disappointment, but know that each year is another learning experience.

Here are some pictures that I took this morning...

Even our giant pumpkin is rotting. We need to go down there just as soon as the rain stops in a little bit, and pull it out to give it a measurement.

There is no cure. There are things we can do to lessen the chances of total crop loss in the future. None are guaranteed, but we will try to implement as many as we can.

*Raised beds - to lower moisture if heavy rains occur again.
*Drip irrigation - to support those raised beds.
*Rip out and burn all vegetation in garden - to cut down on fungal spores.
*Solarize soil with black tarp - 3 months in hot sun, reduces spores somewhat.
*Do not use fertilizers with urea - urea promotes fungal growth.
*Choose "wilt resistant" varieties - sadly most heirlooms are not.
*Use mulch - keeps soil slightly cooler.
*Use Trichoderma harzianum strain T-22 (AKA RootShield) - a beneficial fungus that binds to plant roots and protects them from aggressive fungi; a best hedge.

Signs of Fusarium wilt in your garden:

Are your plant's leaves wilting during the heat of the day, then recovering when cool? Are the leaves beginning to turn yellow? Do they look like they lack water, but you know you've been watering?

You may be battling Fusarium Wilt. The fungi sets up housekeeping in the water channels of your plant, eventually blocking them so that the plant actually is not receiving the water the roots are attempting to send. The plant dies, a portion at a time, but it happens rather rapidly.

Cut open a branch and look for tell-tale signs of dark brown streaks going up the channels of your plant. You can sometimes see them on the outside of the branches. If you cut them open, you will see brown spots around the perimeter of the branch.


On a happier note, here are soon-to-be additions to our herb garden!

A catnip plant. I was afraid the cat would attack it, but she did not. I like the fragrance.

A salvia, three lavenders, a sorrel, a hyssop, and a feverfew.

As I was mowing yesterday, I began noticing several herbs I'd not paid attention to before, just growing wild. Red Clover, which is actually pink. Comfrey, seems to be everywhere. :)