Monday, September 3, 2018

Balance.......... nope!

Over my short life I've strived for balance, great good balance.  I've OHMMMMMMM-ed myself some years to deafness, especially when my kids were little.  I OHMMMM-ed in the bathroom while one kid blew her recorder under the bathroom door and yelled; "MOM! CAN YA HEAR ME?"  After a summer of insane heat and garden madness I suddenly piffed;  an epiphany, as in giving myself a psychic noogie.  Wandering around the big blue marble for 60 plus years, always thinking; Why can't I get this balance thing?  I had a girl friend in grade school who could wear white tights on the playground and eat catsup on her bologna sandwich and went home in really white tights.  She jumped rope and never broke a sweat.  I was not that kid but was very aware that a person who could wear white anything on the playground, eat catsup at lunch and get on the bus looking like she did at 8 am upon arriving to Parkview elementary was pretty awe inspiring.  I was a walker and by the time I tripped out the side door, swinging my plastic lunchbox at my brothers head and missing,  I had ripped my tights and blood was usually streaming down both knees into my rubber boots that left big red marks on my calves as I chased him to school yelling really bad things...... I was THAT kid.  By 6 years of age I was pretty sure balance was going to be very elusive.

As I stood in the backyard with my headlamp beam pointed at the jalapeño pepper plants on the dark side of the moon, I had an out of body experience.  I love my little backyard grocery store and what the hell are you doing out here in the inky darkness with scurrying critters?  WHERE'S THE BALANCE?  I was making salsa at 10:30 pm and forgot to pick the peppers.   And the garden said; You idiot, there is no balance!  We had the explosion of growing in the Spring, a bit of lull during the middle of July letting you rest up for ALL THIS! The explosion of plants reproducing through seeds;  which we humans like to eat in the form of fruits, nuts, roots and other nutritious stuff and they do it better than anything we can even come close to reproducing in the lab, like fake meat! No, not everything sits on a Ritz!  And when it's on it's really ON!  So I have made peace with this thing called balance and I'm probably never going get it because I plant seeds.  In fact every year I plant seeds, can't remember a year I didn't plant seeds.  So I guess I'm just going to be a lunchbox swinger until I no longer plant seeds ....... like never!

I really wanted to complete a blog post each Sunday but it's nuts right now and I'm in the middle of this big grand experiment called my backyard.  How much will this place produce?  And it has not been a very good year!  We have had more than 20 days with 90F degrees (33C)  and above and not much rain.  Pests abound this year but my little jar of dawn dish liquid with hot water have made my reflexes very quick and fingers quite nimble picking little pests off delicate buds and leaves.
But here is where I am thus far.

I spent about $5 on seeds this year and $25 on starter plants like peppers, tomatoes, cukes.   I don't have a very good place to start seeds but I am working on that.

Master Canning List 9-1-18

7-18.     Dilly Beans                22 jars.       $0  garden produce
             Peach Butter.                3 jars        $4
             Pickle Relish                9 jars        $0 garden produce
             Mixed Veg. Pickles     12 jars       $4 for corn, the rest garden produce
            Caponata                      13 jars       $0 garden produce

8-18.    Plum butter                    2 jars       $3 Italian prune plums on sale $1.29 #
            Tomatoes chopped       10 qts.      
            Tomatoes chopped       14 pints     $20 for a bushel of tomatoes
            Kidney beans                 9 pints     $1.78  2-1# bags
            Black beans                   9 pints     $1.78. 2-1# bags
            Salsa I.                           7 pints.     $0. my tomatoes
            Tomato Soup                 10 pints 
            Chili Sauce                    18 pints
            Salsa II                          15 pints 
                                                   2 quarts
           Veg. Soup                       4 quarts     from Tomato Soup to Salsa II are from the second 
                                                                    bushel of tomatoes for $20
           Elderberry jelly              3 half pints  $0.  my elderberries

9-18.   Peaches                          6 quarts
                                                11.5 pints      $28 for one bushel
           Cowboy Candy              9 half pints  $0. my jalapeños 
           Lekvar Plum butter        9 half pints    4 pounds @ $1.29 #  $5.16

still needed corn relish and applesauce and more tomato soup, and catsup...... for my white tights :) 

Master Freezer List

7-18.   Chicken Stock           20 quarts       $0 my chickens, celery, carrots, onions and parsley
           Blueberry curd            3 pints          $0 my blueberries
           Rhubarb Cordial         3 pints          $0 my rhubarb
           Strawberries              30 pounds      10#'s purchased at a you pick farm for $22.50
                                                                    the rest are from my garden.
           Blueberries                20 pounds      $35 picked from local farms
           Roasted tomatoes       1 quart          $0. my garden 
           Squash Soup              3 quarts         $0. my garden
           Roasted bean & corn 3 bags            $4
           Cherry tomato jam     3.5 pints        $0 my garden

also 2 pints of boozy cherries and 2 pints of boozy peaches.   
Ok, I'm a bit gobsmacked, in a good way, after seeing it on paper.

the clip board is hanging on the basement door and this inventory sheet is fastened tight.  

I am out of pint jars and half pint jars and not sure if I really need anymore jars.  I still have quart jars but realized some of the quart jars which I have been using are from my Mom and Grandma so must be quite old!  Should probably think about upgrading a few those.  My pressure canner I bought in 1978 and it still works great.  My water bath canner was purchased at garage sale for $5.  Ball Blue book could use an upgrade so I borrowed one from the library to make sure I am current and up to date on my times, pressures, acidity levels etc.  

So why am I doing this?  I keep reading articles on stuff in my food I don't want!  Two weeks ago I lost my mind when I read the new report out on oats.  I've eaten Quaker Old Fashioned Oats forever and Bob's Mill oat bran for a very long time.  Figured they had't screwed around with Oats too much as far as GMO etc.  Never really thought I was getting my RDA of Round Up or otherwise known as Glyphosate with my morning breakfast.  There I was sitting in front of my computer early one morning unconsciously shoveling oatmeal with raisins and oat bran in my face while reading this.......... my Quaker Old Fashioned Oatmeal dribbled down my chin.   But not to worry because they are telling us no problem it's safe to eat, go for it, it's fine.  IT'S NOT FINE AND I DON'T WANT IT!   I always believed if you can't pronounce it don't eat it but they don't even need to list this on the package.  We are doomed!  Isn't some government agency supposed be looking out for us?  Oh  wait they are way out of balance at the moment, even more so than myself!  Scary huh?  

The only label with not one PPB of Glyphosate was Whole Foods 365.  

The next week I had just started switching out my recipes to use coconut oil because it's sooooo damn good for you.  I posted the recipe on this blog.  Then news flash a Harvard Professor declares coconut oil is poison..... ya here is the article coconut-oil-is-pure-poison-  back to pig fat! 

So eat your vegetables, without a healthy dose of Glyphosate and dig out the olive oil again.  

Here are few pictures from kitchen or frontline ........ 

Elderberry tip; freeze first and the berries come right off! 

I inherited the Squez-O from my Mom :) 

first batch of peaches

Jalapeños for cowboy candy

Lekvar (Hungarian plum butter) 

and I'm weaving too as my pots are due on Friday!! 

and just want to say, 
I'm never going here...... 
nope not even on a handmade plate or bowl but thanks Edible Cleveland.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sundays, posting from the frontlines.......

Another week and I am just ticking down those August days.  I gotta say this is not my favorite month.  February gets a little brutal around here but August is the waiting month.  Waiting for northern breezes to start blowing, humidity to drop, rain to start falling, seeds to sprout, shows to start up and the wait sometimes seems eternal.  
The late summer gardens are pretty, especially in the evenings.  

Hydrangea Unique

Nicoctiana for the moths and make the yard smell of vanilla.

Lobelia and Fairy Roses

The bean screen is working remarkably well this year. 
My van is behind that green wall. 

The full blown garden bounty is coming in and I am pretty careful about what happens on which weather day.  I could never punch a time clock!  Yesterday my list was pretty full but then mid-afternoon the humidity dropped, the wind shifted, I stopped weaving and ran out to get garden chores done.  The back 40 got my attention.  Seeds once again were tossed in the ground.  Carrots, Swiss chard, red Russian Kale, Toscano Kale, Romaine and Butter crunch lettuces.  Still to toss are radishes and beets.  Might be late for beans but will give it shot as I have the seeds.

This has been a learning year.  There were so many things that got crossed off the master list and then seeds and plants were unceremoniously slammed in the ground.  I said the garden prayer over the whole lot; GROW DAMMIT!  and moved onto other stuff on the list.  In past years I spent hours pouring over companion planting charts, moon planting charts, researching what seeds were resilient to pests, wilts and blights, heirloom or hybrid but not this year.  And a HUGE mistake was made!

I let volunteer potato sprouts grow where they wanted, ala Ruth Stout no till, no work gardening method.  
If you don't know Ruth Stout check her out here:  Ruth Stout video

One big problem, tomato blight winters over on potato tubers left in the ground.  Guess who got tomato blight for the first time ever!  So many lessons...... not from Ruth Stout this time!

My blighted tomatoes but the nasturtiums are doing great!  

As luck would have it there is a terrific farmer up the road and I can get tomatoes for $20 a bushel.  I am using the tomatoes I have for eating and soups and buying a bushel or two from my local farmer who thankfully, is pretty pesticide and herbicide free.  And can I just rant for a minute?  I am so over the boutique farm stands!  I have been going to a local farm stand for 35 years.  This year I had sticker shock!  5 peaches were $7.00.  A watermelon was $9.00.  I can't even remember what the "heirloom tomatoes" were going for as I stumbled around wondering where my old farm stand went.  There were custom jams, pickles, jellies. Custom paring knives. Honey was crazy expensive!  I am so grateful for my honey lady who lives a stones throw away.  I bought a dozen ears of corn for $6.00, which I thought was very fair.  As I walked out I noticed the cars in the parking lot; an Audi SUV, a Mercedes, a huge Suburban and my cute little work van.  Yikes, when did this happen?  and why did this happen?  My favorite orchard where I got Molly Red apples is closed this year.  Are farm markets being gentrified like everything else?  Ok I got the boutique corn home and half of ears were not filled out so I only got half an ear of corn or 6 ears.  I get you have to put your kids through college, and need equipment and and and ...... we are all in this together.  I guess this gets shelved with the $100 mug dilemma and I sure need time to ponder all this!  Phew February is coming!

My few tomatoes have been roasted and turned into soup.  I wish you could smell my house right now!  Almost better than Christmas!!

This is the easiest and best tomato soup recipe ever!  No need to skin or seed the tomatoes just core, cut and roast.  Toss in a head of garlic, some fresh basil, thyme, onions and roast at 375F until slightly charred.  Blend in blender or food processor adding stock as needed.  At this point I can put it in the freezer or add a bit of almond milk or half and half and make a nice bisque for dinner.  If you choose not to add stock it makes a super fab spread for crusty bread or crackers.

This works for squash too!  In the hollow put sage and garlic, roasting upside down to seal in the flavors. 

Let it cool, peel, toss squash, garlic and sage in a big heavy bottomed pot and start adding stock or water to thin out.  I use my stick blender.  This freezes super duper too!  

The birds won on the elderberries this year....

The white raspberries are doing OK this year.  These were a pass along from neighbor Joan H. and best gift ever! 
Last year they were stupendous.  This year between the Japanese beetles and drought not as well. The gardener fell down in her duties. 

The studio is humming along too.  Those raku pots from last Sunday have been polished up or hammered.  Weaving is taking way too much time but still love weaving!  

I'm also on the learning curve for terra stigillata.  Just when you think you've nailed it you open the kiln to find it peeled right off the bottom half of the pot.  Not sure if the pots can be fixed or worth the effort of fixing so I will sit and look at them for a week and then decide.  Nothing to loose at this point so time to play!! 

When all else fails back to pots you know and love :) 

So I must say just about the time you plod along through the week opening less then stellar kiln loads and trimming blighted leaves of tomato plants or spending a morning killing bean beetles, squash beetles, potato beetles, cucumber beetles.  

Then out of the blue this pops up. 

And you can't believe it and it makes you a bit teary because you realize you're doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing.  Planting seeds, making pots, plodding along through life and then one day you pop that sun warmed cherry tomato in your mouth and the explosion happens.  For a moment in time all is right in my little world on this tiny half acre and you can't stop smiling and you know you will always be planting those seeds.  

Hoping everyone a sun warmed cherry tomato week! 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Lessons from the garden ....... or not!

Still no rain here at happy acres..... it's all around us and indeed some places are underwater but not on this little half acre.  The tomatoes are dusty!  The deer have tromped through the garden pretty well and looks like the snap dragons are pretty comfy and bed of choice.  The echinacea is flat but still putting on a good show.  Note to self, you may be down but keep those petals perky!  
The humidity is just stupid this year, can we get an Amen for greenhouse gasses warming the globe.  OK this just bakes my potato; the island of Tangier in Chesapeake Bay is disappearing, don't believe me, here ya go: The New Yorker.  And all we can talk about is golfing at Maralargo and entertaining Putin.  My next blog will be in Russian........  Wait back to the garden and not the scorched earth policy currently floating around D.C.  

In my humble opinion I think everybody should plant a couple beans.  Stick them in a flower pot or the edge of the flower bed.  Beans just blow my mind as they have a 120:1 ratio.  Did you read that?  One bean plant will give you 120 beans!  They don't take up much room and they grow no matter what!  How can you not love that?  Be resilient!  Seeds in general just blow my mind!  Think about one zucchini seed.  One seed will give you 8-10 pounds of food and one ounce is about 250 seeds.  There are 18,200,000 hits on google for zucchini recipes!  Can we talk about carrots?  I toss carrots in everything and can't imagine life without carrots.  
One ounce of carrots will get you 18,500 seeds! 😲  
A 100 foot row will need .5 ounce of seed.  10 feet of carrots yields approximately 8 pounds of carrots so a 100 foot row will give you 80 pounds of carrots.  Do you need a frilly border in your flower beds?  Carrots or parsley or lettuce?  And don't get me started on potatoes because they are just amazing!  I tuck those in the ground everywhere!  And then you get dinner! 
I bought the corn from the local farmer.  Current price in this part of Ohio; $6 per dozen. 

All the extra you can't eat immediately goes in the fruit cellar.

A very small row of green beans has yielded 22 jars of dilly beans. 

another gallon of refrigerator pickles too.....  that's 2 gallons of pickles from two cucumber plants! 
Oh and 12 small jars of pickle relish in the fruit cellar!  Two plants! 

I planted 4 varieties of beans this year and learned so much!!  So far, Tender Greens are winning for sheer taste and abundance.  I also planted Triomphe de Farcy....... because I really like saying the name and they were ready for harvest in 48 days and the magic garden word; "heirloom".  Heirloom is not always a good thing as they are pretty stringy, not very sweet and if picked one day late tough and chewy.  These abundant producers have been left to dry on the stalks and will be used for dry beans.  Then I planted Kentucky Wonder beans, because I needed to know what made them so wonderful.  I believe these are the magic beans Jack in the Bean Stalk planted, they are trying to grow to the moon and have overshoot the 8 foot fence!  Not crazy about the taste, kind of tough, a magnet for Japanese Beetles but provide excellent screening from the neighbor. These too will be left to dry on the trellis for winter dry beans.  Then I planted Scarlet Runner beans.  Yet another bean you might ask........ I plant these for butterflies and hummingbirds period. Oh and screening of course, they are climbers but not as aggressive as the space traveler, Kentucky Wonder Beans. The dry beans are things of beauty!  And they are super tasty! 

The Monarch, Swallowtail, Admirals and hummingbirds just love the red tubular blossoms.

Favorite morning activity; sit on the patio with hot coffee and watch the garden.  Favorite dinner activity; sit on the patio with a dinner plate and watch the garden.  Last week while leaning back on my chair after a great evening meal we had hummingbird wars in the garden.  I know they are territorial but did not know they are ruthless!  A swallowtail was busy on the Buddleia when out of nowhere BAM!  Stabbed in the back by the pointy beak of a hummingbird! I have been gardening a very long time and been in and around gardens all my life and I have never ever seen this happen! 
I ran over and scooped up the swallowtail, still alive sort of, placed it on a flower and it fell to earth quite dead.  Tonight, Nature just sucked!  Ninja hummingbird, the swallowtail never saw it coming! 

I was so upset I baked cookies ....... 

These are really good although a bit too sweet for me.  But it's a great recipe and good starting place to start tweaking.  I did replace 3/4 cup of flour with oat bran and wheat germ.  Now to cut back the sugar, way back!  But they are a good chewy cookie. 


And I spent a couple days taking pictures of work in the studio.  The pots going on Etsy got a lovely display of tomatoes or peaches.  I have never put food in my pictures before but I think I like it!  
And I sold a bowl!  

And on Saturday there was time to fire up the raku kilns in the early morning dew.

Now to get busy waxing and weaving!  Tomato canning starts this week too.  Summer is flying by and I'm OK with that but sooooo many lessons from this little half acre!  And there is magic on this little half acre because as the world seems to be wildly spinning out of control and there is the continuing hopeless feeling of not being able to stop it.  Taking an early morning walk through my garden which is like the United Nations of pests with Japanese Beetles, Mexican Bean Beetles, Colorado Potato beetles, the American cucumber beetle and coming on strong the Chinese stink bugs.  I hand pick all these and deposit in a glass jar with Dawn dish liquid and water.  I inspect each yellow blossom, cucumbers and squash looking for cucumber beetles.  Each morning as the giant squash blossoms begin to open I find a sleeping bee.  Good Morning my little pollinator!  They wake up very slowly and are covered in pollen.  They have slept all night kept dry and wrapped in the gentle protection of the squash blossom and the fee for a bed....... free pollination! 

A lovely symbiotic relationship and I'm in love with this Nature thing again but still on the fence over those bastard hummingbirds. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Rounding the bend and.......

Sheesh what a month!  This blog post will be picture palooza because I'm kind of out of words.  

Banner year for cucumbers! 

and that equals pickles@!

 25 pounds of cherries were deposited in the freezer.

 and then the beans started..... this is a great yard for beans, they seem to love it here.

17 jars of dilly beans in the fruit cellar.

and basil.... 21 jars in the freezer and I am so done with making pesto 
but honestly you could eat it off your hand! 

or a tomato still warm from the summer sun.

banner year for blueberries too!  30 pounds frozen in the vault.
oh and lots of dill drying too! 

The butternut squash is creeping to outer limits. 

Jalapeno peppers are chugging along in the heat.  The sweet peppers, not so much.

Cutest baby watermelon ever :)

Third crop of lettuce, planted in full shade due to summer heat.

and still making pots....... 

Japanese Eggplant that is great on the grill! 

and as I don't eat much pie anymore I still like to bake, so happy to help out 
a local fundraiser to help immigrant families stay together. 

French Silk

Citrus Meringue 

I have not baked in a while and noticed this warning on the flour bag. 
WTH.... I watch Valerie Bertinelli taste cookie dough on the food channel and she still looks pretty good..... just say'n. 

New shoes from Campsaver!  great deals 60% off and free shipping! 
Take my money!

Cleveland Museum of Art exhibition that was crazy! 
More on my art ship sailing later..... 

and bloggers rock!  This package showed up on my door step and as I didn't remember ordering anything I ripped it open and found the best thing ever!!  And this is so awesome and Fresca I can't thank you enough!  LOVE LOVE LOVE!!  and check out her blog l'astronave 

Yup, been another month here at Paine Falls but on my walk this morning I notice 8 deer with a new crop of wee ones banding together, a late crop of goslings still with a bit of fuzz on their heads, wasps are in that August agitated pissed off frame of mind, leaves and acorns are dropping due to the stress of summer heat and drought, the little chipping sparrows, ever so feisty are in groups(mass feistiness), the weeding has slowed down, the new Spring green has turn to not so excited to see ya green.  While frantically picking beans in the early morning dew I notice the bees around me also frantic, bouncing from flower head to flower head...... we all know we are rounding the bend and heading into something else.  Things seem late this year.  The garden is late, the goslings are late, the fawns still have their spots and judging by last years records the tomatoes are really behind.   The days are definitely growing shorter.  I still need to get seeds in the ground pronto for a Fall crop or two and tomato canning season is almost here, along with the peaches and apples.  I have blown the dust off my camera and taken over 500 images of new pots, mixed up several batches of terra stigillatta (another rabbit hole but working!) Fall shows start up again too. 

Well someone knows whats around the bend......... it's not me!