Friday, July 21, 2017

Stayin' Cool, Man, Cool - Or At Least Trying

It was very hot and humid here yesterday hitting 90 degrees in the sun.  The humidity, as always, made it more uncomfortable than the temperature.  We made the decision early in the day to save ourselves from melting into sweaty puddles (great visual, huh?) by staying inside as much as we could.

Papa Pea did all the normal morning chores while I harvested six more heads of cauliflower which were not as badly tinged with off-color as the first six.  Then I tied (securely and adequately, I hope) the leaves up around the newly forming heads in my second bed of that vegetable hoping these would remain snowy white.  I'm not even sure these will mature properly as cauliflower likes cool weather in which to grow, and we seem to finally be into real summer time around here.

When I got the processing done from the harvest and a few other daily tasks that refuse to go away unless tended to, it was 3 p.m. and I headed into my quilt room for some fabric therapy which was good.  Except I ended up with a headache that continues this morning.  (Coffee!  More coffee!)  I have a suspicion the heavy, humid air that is still with us may have something to do with that.  (And I don't think I drank enough water yesterday.)

It's a disappointment to wake to heavy, gray, overcast, uncomfortably warm weather this morning, because the forecast was for full sunshine, cooler than yesterday.  I had a big garden day planned.  Lots of weeds popping up out there, plants getting so big they need some support, old plants needing to be pulled and something else planted in the space, etc.  This weather encourages the biting insects (a pox on them!) to be bad early and late in the day so that doesn't encourage me to get out there and work in the garden before the heat of the day arrives full force.  But, hey, it's summer time!

I need to get some pictures of the menagerie in the poultry yard.  The Muscovy ducks have been quite successful in hatching out broods of ducklings, and we have wind-up toys of all sizes scooting around.  The mature birds (ducks, geese and chickens) seem to fluctuate between ignoring the wee ones or wondering what all these little creatures bumping into them and zipping through their legs are.  Happily, it's a peaceable kingdom and everyone has free range (within the fenced in poultry pasture) and their own secure, locked-down "house" to go into each night. 

I'll try to get pictures for the next update.  Hope you all have a great Friday and weekend which is coming up fast!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Do You Use Scallions?

A scallion or green onion is a regular storage onion that is harvested when the white or underground part is still long and narrow, before the bulb starts to form.

I love them and each year make sure I have enough onion sets to plant some to use specifically as scallions throughout the summer months.

To me, they have a fresher, sweeter and milder flavor than a regular onion, although they can be pungent.  I suspect this might happen because of slightly unfavorable growing conditions such as too little water being available while they're developing.

The green stalks can be chopped and used, as well as the white part, lending a lot of color to many dishes.  Chop them and add to tossed salads, they add flavor and color to cold pasta salads or a potato salad, use them as a garnish, put then in with cooked greens or on a raw veggie tray with dip.  We like them chopped over a small dish of homemade cottage cheese with some salt and pepper.  Mmmm, good.  The possibilities are endless.  Matter of fact, at this time of year, my storage onions from last season have usually disappeared (been used up) so I use scallions for all my onion cooking needs until the fall harvest of the new storage onions.

My parents didn't garden when I was growing up, but my grandpa had a huge garden and kept us supplied with various vegetables all summer long.  He brought us scallions, or green onions as he called them, and my mom would serve them whole almost as a second vegetable at meal time.  My dad loved them, would add salt and munch happily away on several of them.

Of course, ones straight out of your garden are tastier than ones purchased in the store.  They take up little space to grow and you can make succession plantings of them so they're available all summer long.

Do you use scallions?  If not, why not try 'em?  I'm betting you'll like 'em!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Bringin' in the Mint

I'm keeping the dehydrator cranked up these days.  After the fruit leather came out, another batch of mint leaves went in.  They dry really fast, only about three hours at 110 degrees.

I'd been crushing the dried leaves with my hands, but thought of using the rolling pin yesterday morning.  Works much faster (duh!), but I have to be careful not to pulverize the devil out of the leaves using this handy tool.  Otherwise, I quickly end up with mint powder.

Collecting and laying out the mint leaves on the dehydrator trays is kind of time consuming, but I'm not married to a stupid man.  He keeps exclaiming how much better "my mint" makes his daily cup of tea compared to "store bought."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

More Garden Produce, Some Wins/Some Losses

Sunday I harvested three more heads of broccoli which were quickly cut up, blanched and put in the freezer.  Best thing about them?  No worms caused by the nasty cabbage moth!   (Score one for our side.)

 I also harvested the first six heads of cauliflower.

And it wasn't a pretty sight.  One head was a lovely snowy white (front row on the right) but the others were tinged with the purple-ish/brown color caused by sunlight sneaking in through the leaves that I thought were protecting the heads.  The good news is that when I blanched the cauliflower prior to freezing, most of the off-color disappeared.  What a great improvement and made me a lot happier to know it would look so much better on the plate. 

I ended up with fourteen servings (a serving being enough for both of us) put by and ready for this winter's enjoyment.  I also saved out enough for us to have cauliflower as our vegetable with dinner that night and am glad to report it was delicious.

That same day the dehydrator got filled with seven trays of strawberry fruit leather and one tray of experimental haskap berry fruit leather.  As expected, the strawberry leather was a success and is stashed away for a treat when out and about hiking, or snowshoeing or skiing this winter.  The flavor is very much like fresh strawberries, and I predict it's gonna be gobbled up.

The tray of haskap berry leather we could. not. get. to. dry.  Finally it dawned on us (yes, we're sometimes a little slow getting the ol' brain cells in working order) that it would never dehydrate or dry properly because we put in more honey (to make the sour berries palatable) than a "normal" fruit leather recipe would call for.  Apparently, the amount of honey to fruit can't exceed a certain ratio and still make fruit leather of the proper texture.  Papa Pea salvaged it by peeling it off (with great difficulty) the parchment paper which covered the stainless steel dehydrator tray, rolling it up into small cylindrical balls and storing it in the refridge in a glass container.  

By the by, the flavor with the added honey made the haskaps taste not bad at all.  That's not to say I've been converted to a haskap berry fan yet.  I'm thinking a lot more experimenting with them needs to be done before I reach that point.  Or the bushes get yanked out.  One or the other.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A True Summer's Day

Mother Nature must have gotten tired of hearing all my whining about needing warmth and sunshine for the garden.  This may be the only day of it we'll get this summer (!), but warm it was!  I think we must have hit 90 degrees in the garden because the thermometer on the north side of the house in the shade read 79.8 degrees.  It felt like an oven out there, but it may have been just what the garden needed.

I took a couple of pictures from Papa Pea's upstairs office window to give you an overview of some of our growing areas.  Above are the 26 raised beds, although a couple are hidden by the cold frames.

Over to the right a smidge is the field garden.  That bare looking spot with the bit of greenery in the middle is my pumpkin patch.  We've been talking for a couple of years of plowing up more area for the field garden as I don't have as much room as I'd like for rotation of crops each year.  

The strawberries are coming on so hot (really hot today!) and heavy, hubby has suggested we take out about half of them.  This is just the third year for the three varieties I've planted (only the second year we could harvest them) so I want to keep track of quantities and flavor for at least another year before eliminating any of them.

Our three haskap bushes have really sized up.  That's the three of them with three rows of blueberries (hiding) and the raspberries behind them.  I think they're lovely and would even be attractive for landscaping.

And the quantity of berries is heavy this year.  But most importantly, how do they taste?  Awful, just awful.  I've been talking with someone who's had experience with them for several years and he tells me I have to find the right variety for our location in order to get berries that aren't so sour they make my eyes cross and ears wiggle.  Papa Pea seems to think the berries might make good wine.  But who the heck around here has time to learn how to make wine?  Not me.  Nope, I'm not taking on one more new project until I have so much time to spend in my quilt room that I'm bored.  (Tee-hee, won't ever happen.)

Dear husband helped me pick the strawberries today in that blazing heat.  Some of them are currently in the dehydrator in the form of (experimental) fruit leather.  Some made it into a Strawberry Cream Pie.  I sliced up some for fresh eating.  Depending on how the fruit leather turns out, I may make more tomorrow or I'm thinking of trying strawberry juice for the first time.

Tomorrow I have three more heads of broccoli ready and I'm not sure how many heads of cauliflower to harvest and prep for the freezer.  The haskap berries may get picked, too.  (Raise your hand if I can send you the whole batch of them.)

We actually took the day off yesterday.  Yep, we did.  We did only the necessary chores, spent a leisurely morning sipping liquids and reading in the living room.  It was so nice to do that at a time of day when we both weren't yawning and falling asleep.

In the afternoon, we took a ride to a lake neither of us knew much about and learned the lay of the land there.  We checked out the public landing (and a very nice one it was) where it would be easy to launch either our sport boat with motor or canoe to spend a day puttering around the lake.  Actually being as big as the lake is, it might take us more than one day to adequately explore it.

While we were standing on the nice dock that went out into the lake, down the shore we spotted a buck deer come out of the woods and wade out into the lake.  He meandered along the shore line for a while sometimes going into the water so far it was up to his belly.  We'd never seen a deer in the water like that.  A moose, yes, but never a deer.

Busy day again today, and with the heat we're not used to, I'm drained.  I don't even have the oompf to go into my quilt room tonight.  It's a shower first and then I'm hitting the couch.  Y-a-a-w-w-w-n!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

More Garden Talk

Remember how I said I thought planting the cauliflower so close together would enable it to be "self-blanching?"  Well, yes and no.

As I found out this morning, those little heads are quickly becoming big heads . . . and literally pushing the leaves out of the way.  This has caused the sun to be able to hit some of the heads which in turn causes a purple-ish tinge to the desired snow white appearance of the heads.  From what I've read, this bit of coloration does the cauliflower no harm.  It's not a disease, fungus or pest, but rather is caused by a natural occurring substance called anthocyanin which is exacerbated by exposure to the sun.  So I spent a bit of time using clothes pins to secure the leaves up and over the growing heads hoping that will at least prevent any more purple coloring to take place.  (Gee golly, you really have to keep on your toes, don't cha?)

Now for some pictures.

Gotta say our potatoes are looking better this year than I can remember.  Very lush plants that are just starting to blossom.

The asparagus has been left now to develop into ferns which are already over 7' tall.  Papa Pea is cursing the spot we chose for the asparagus because the ferns block the view from the house of vehicles coming up our driveway before they enter the yard area.  Oops.

Oh, how I love Sweet Pea flowers.  Oh, how slowly they always grow.  Each year at this point when the vines aren't more than a foot of the way up their trellis, I despair of ever having the fragrant blooms to bring into the house.  (I know, patience, patience.  I must exercise patience.)

The sugar snap peas are just starting to blossom as are the shell peas.  Usually the snap peas are a couple of weeks ahead of the shell peas, but not this year.  Hunh.

The beets are looking good compared to last year when the greens never grew much more than four or five inches tall and the beets themselves were only fair to middlin'.  I have had trouble getting my beet seeds to germinate this year as you can see by the bare spot (which actually has tiny sprouts coming up after replanting twice) on the end of the row closest to the camera.

Not sure it's very clear in this picture, but I planted a row of purple carrots (the ones that are dark purple all the way through) on each outside end of this raised bed.  Almost from the get-go, they were about a third taller than my regular Scarlet Nantes variety which makes up the rest of the planted carrots.  Curious.

Onions, as always, do really well for me.  This is one of three beds I planted this year.

Sweet peppers are finally putting on some size and have many blossom buds.  And, yes, I still shut them up in their cold frame "nursery" each night and keep the cold frame closed on cooler days.

I've taken two cuttings from my mint bed which has yielded a total of approximately 4-3/4 cups of dried mint.  The plants are still not filling out the bed as I'm hoping they will.  Eventually.  I hope.

Papa Pea has finished thinning the apples on all our apple trees.  These shown are on our new dwarf trees and are nearly the size of a ping pong ball.

Those apples (strangely enough) are about twice as big as the ones on our older semi-dwarf trees.  I'm campaigning to cut down the older trees and replant more dwarf apple trees and some cherry, apricot and peach trees.  Perhaps even try some nut trees that will grow in our area.

Made another nice harvest of strawberries this morning.  Total haul was 16 pounds and 3 ounces.  I'm still keeping the three varieties we have separate to see how they compare at the end of the season.

Also brought in three more heads of broccoli for a total so far this year of four heads.  We ate the first one but these current three went to Freezer Camp.  Yay! 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Peek in the Garden

You wouldn't think the garden needed any more rain than the frequent amounts of precipitation we've been getting quite regularly, but the thunderstorm that dropped an 1-1/2" of torrential rain (in about 10 minutes) on us this past Thursday seems to have given the plants a huge boost.

I harvested our first broccoli (the one pictured above) yesterday, and we had it for dinner last night with roast beef hash.  So good!  This head wasn't as nicely formed as the others growing nearby are, but it needed to be picked.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned I was having trouble with chipmunks eating the blossoms off all my pansies.  That problem was solved with the (ahem) relocation (ahem) of thirteen chipmunks.  Now we've got a red squirrel (or seven) who munches on the leaves of my begonias in the window boxes.  What's lacking in his diet that he feels the need to dine on my begonias? 

There are quite a few blossoms on my cherry tomatoes.  I'm really eager to have the red, little nuggets as an addition to our daily great big bowls of salad.   The leaves on this plant look dirty because I just staked it up yesterday after it was pounded into the mud by that thunderstorm that rolled through.

I put this wooden arbor trellis in one of our raised beds and planted my pie pumpkins on either side of it.  (I'm embarrassed our grass is so long and untidy but having so much rain makes it difficult to find a time to cut it when it's not soaking wet.)

The idea is for the vines to grow up either side and over the top.  I'm sure they'll need a little encouragement (bondage?) to start their climb when they get a little bigger.

I may have inadvertently done a good thing.  ('Smagine that!?)  This jumble of huge leaves in the raised bed (picture shot diagonally between the two cold frames) shown above is cauliflower.

Year before last I had a great crop of cauliflower, but tying the leaves up and over the heads to encourage nice head formation is a bit of a pain.  So last year I found an heirloom seed for "self-blanching cauliflower."  It may have been just a bad year for cauliflower (or who-knows-what), but each and every cauliflower went to see on me before forming a decent head.  No harvest at all.

I jettisoned that seed and planted my old stand-by again this year.  And I planted very intensively.  Maybe too intensively.  I was sure I'd put the plants so close together that they would never have a chance to develop.  However (ta-dah!), the plants have grown to be so lush and healthy that the leaves are totally "self-blanching" the heads themselves without any intervention from me.  Super!  I'm looking forward to what looks to be a good crop in the not-too-distant future.  Once again:  In gardening there are no failures, only experiments!

Lastly, I made our second real picking of strawberries yesterday.  Thirteen pounds of huge, sweet, juicy berries we've been eating by the bowlful.  And in smoothies.  And freezing for use after the season ends.  Yum!  Jam is next on the list.

Yes, our season is much slower and later than most of yours, but with patience (of which my dear husband will tell you I have very little) we do get results.  Most of the time.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Back in the Saddle?

Well, at least I'm trying to find a stepping block that will get me back into the saddle of regular blogging.

I have my computer back up and operating which is a big relief after the ups and downs of the past month.  Seems we've found a good, honest, fair, easy-to-deal-with computer guy whom we are now calling our new best friend.  The first computer "guru" we dealt with charged us three times as much as this second one but didn't do anything to solve the problems I was having.  So it goes.  I just feel very happy to have found someone else we can rely upon when computer glitches pop up that can't be taken care of "in house."

Being without my computer has given me the time to get completely caught up on my whole list of summer tasks.  Hahahohohoheeheehahaha!  Summer time and the livin' is easy.  Well, yes, but because of so many things we want to do, both work and recreation related, that simply can't be done in other times of the year up here in our neck o' the woods, it tends to make it all on the frantic side.  Keeps us hoppin', that's for sure.

I want to give my garden some press time here on the blog.  And I promise to gather some pictures to post soon.  Yesterday, I made my first real harvest of strawberries. 

The total haul was four and three-quarter pounds of sweet, juicy, lusciousness.  We ate a few, shared a few and had strawberries and cream for breakfast this morning.  Only two of our three varieties are producing so far with the heaviest yielding variety (Cavendish) of last year still to start.  I can hardly wait for the first Strawberry Cream Pie, and I've promised to make a Strawberry-Rhubarb pie for Papa Pea this year.

Our regular rains continue with a couple of heavy thunderstorms rolling through last night.  Our grass is so long we might have to bale it when it dries enough for chopping it down.  Right now it's solidly covered with white clover which our bees are loving.

Our little tourist town is full, full, FULL of vacationers so I try to get in and out as early as possible when it's necessary.

I've missed you all (very much!) during this past month of periods without connection to the Internet and am trying to get caught back up.  So now, into that saddle and . . . giddy-up!