Friday, August 21, 2015

Summer Review

Well, it's nearly over so it's about time to check the Summer Projects list and see how I did.  Let's take a look, shall we?

Summer 2015 Project List
·        Dig wildflower garden area and re-seed
·        Clean Bunny Barn and finish summer bean planting
·        Rework Big Coop run, add stumps and wild bird netting.
·        Paint Big Coop.
·        Get Little Coop ready for meat chicks.
·        Replace south fence panel on Little Coop run.
·        Plant ground cover roses on Berry Hill banks.
·        Finish hugelkulture beds and plant blueberries (before they die)
·        Re-cover the Tent Shed.
·        Make new planting bed on west wall side of house.
·        Research fermentation & improve technique.
·        Knit hats for the gang at Sean’s Allotment.
·        Work on another 3D knit project.

  Well, all in all, not too shabby.  A few things didn't get done--and sadly, the blueberries did die--and a few things could still be accomplished before winter befalls us.  But the main important things did get accomplished, even if I was limping about the joint for the most part.

It's amazing how one appendage can affect so many plans! 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Summer Squash for Wintertime

Ah, the annual summer squash glut.  This particular lovely harvest is by way of a friend, as my squash has sadly succumbed to invasion by the dreaded stink bug and poor pollination.  But any way you look at it, gifted or homegrown, summer squash is a delightful problem.  I've eaten loads in various incarnations, but there comes a point where it won't keep any longer.  In the past, I'd shredded and frozen it...and consigned it to a sad slow death by freezer burn.

So this year, I decided: I was going to slice it up thinly using my vintage, $1 deal mandolin, and dry it.
After a few hours in the dehydrator (set up on the porch to keep from heating up the house too much), I should have a batch of dried summer squash that can be added to wintertime soups and stews, or rehydrated by a soak in hot water and made into a summery gratin come January, when "fresh" zucchini costs an arm and a leg, and is anything but local.  I think some people even season it and eat them as chips...well, in a pinch, I suppose they would work for that.  But for me, I'm looking forward to adding them to winter soup.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Garden TV

I know I've mentioned The Horticultural Channel before, but I must mention it again: I love this channel!  If you haven't checked them out, there are hours and hours of excellent videos, which will introduce you not only to helpful gardening techniques but also to a cast of delightful gardeners who quickly become endearing.  If you've been looking for a new show to watch, you can't go far wrong with The Hort Channel.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Corn Season

Ah, mid-August.  It's the peak/possibly the downward slide toward the end of the local sweet corn season.  I've had some fabulous corn over the past week, after purchasing a dozen ears from family farmers who grow it on the banks of the Mississippi River in Wabasha, MN. (They make the trek to our local farmers market.)  It's sweet, and crisp, and just fantastic.  I made some terrific corn salsa, and roasted?  Delicious!
But I'm most excited about a harvest that is just starting to be ready.  This summer, I grew miniature popcorn, a variety called Tom Thumb, in giant decorative tubs along with rampant nasturtiums.  After growing all season, they've set tiny ears that are dried down and nearly ready to try popping.  A couple more weeks, and they should be ready.  I've got another type of popcorn growing in the community garden, a variety called Pennsylvania Dutch Buttered Popcorn, which has just started drying down.  And then there's my somewhat pathetic looking crop of Painted Mountain flour corn.  It's drying down, but fell over in a storm and I don't know what is actually going to come out of that bed.  It may become rabbit feed, instead of future tortillas.  Still, it's been a good summer for corn, no matter the variety!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Of Tomatoes and Apples

A week ago, I scored a great deal on 26 pounds of Roma tomatoes from my favorite Hmong family at the local farmers market.  Of course, many of them weren't ripe yet, but that didn't deter me.  There's a simple little trick to speed up the ripening process: get yourself an apple.

All you need to do is put the unripe tomatoes into a paper bag with an apple, and then roll down the top to close it.  Let the tomatoes sit in there, percolating in the ethylene gases released by the apple, and within a few days, they'll be ripe and ready for using in whatever recipe you want to attempt.  They do lack that sun-kissed flavor you get from tomatoes that ripen in the garden, but if you're wanting to make a ton of crushed tomatoes, they'll do the trick perfectly.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Garden Friends

The sunflower border is in full bloom, with multiple heads of gorgeous yellow and bronze sunshine flowers.  They are very popular with the bees, and have even attracted some honey bees--a rare sight in my garden this year.  I've got lots of mason bees and bumblebees and pollinator flies, but honey bees?  Very rare, sadly.  I was happy to catch this little girl enjoying the sunflower bloom this morning, she seemed so pleased to have this enormous flower head all to herself!
In addition to the insect and hidden animal life in the garden, I occasionally spot some larger friends.  Beezle likes to lounge in the shade of the sunflower border, until the day gets too hot and then he retires to the depths of the cornfield where the sun never reaches.  He's a funny old cat.  He is leery of strangers, and usually hides if anyone comes to visit.  He hates being indoors, even on the porch, and is happiest left to his own devices in the outdoors.  He's a cat's cat, I think, an enigma onto himself.
And then there is Jeffrey, a decidedly people friendly cat.  Him I usually find in the greenhouse or hoop house, napping in the heat, unless it's a warm day in which he'll tuck himself into the depths of the undergrowth in the garden.  This morning, he was happily curled into the far reaches of the cosmos hedge, and wouldn't come out for a head rub.  All I got was a soft meeew of hello, because he was too sleepy content to be bothered with any more excessive greeting.  I'm sure later he'll come calling through the open window, to see if he can convince me that he really, really does need a snack or a cuddle, or both.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Little More Liquor...

Finding myself with a few spare tomatoes after prepping for a batch of simple salsa, I did what any enterprising cook would do:  I started a batch of infused vodka.  This batch of tomato-with-half-a-jalapeno will make for excellent Bloody Mary cocktails come the that is something to look forward to!

Making infused vodka (or other liquors) is incredibly easy.  Simply put your desired flavor ingredients into a quart jar, top with vodka, and pop on a lid.  Place into a cool, dark location and give it a shake every now and then.  I typically let it infuse for two months before straining and rebottling.  I also sometimes add a dose of simple syrup at that time, if I want a sweet cocktail base (mostly, that's for fruity drinks best served over ice with an umbrella in the glass...)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Glorious Glories!

A few years ago, I planted morning glories by the mailbox at the edge of the road.  Every year since, they've come back, all on their own, surviving the winter's plowing and salt, and general icky run off that comes off the pavement.  They are cheerful survivors, and each summer attempt to completely cover the mailbox.  This is a variety called 'President Tyler', and it is very much loved by the bees!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Everything in it's Place...

Summer harvests are in full swing.  It's such a delight to eat fresh from the garden, and have enough to put some by for winter.
Beans and corn and peas and pickles, all of it tucked neatly away in the pantry.
There is nothing prettier than rows of shiny jars, filled with delicious things.  Of course, it's a challenge keeping things organized, so you can actually find what you're looking for.
It's amazing what you relocate after a little tidy-up.  I found several quart jars of homemade grape juice, plus some goodies like nutella, peanut butter and chocolate chips that I had squirreled away.
It always impresses me how much can be stored in one teeny closet.  Hopefully, I can get creative and make a little more space--tomato season is upon us!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

August Blooms

One of my favorite flowers of late summer has arrived!  After growing to be a good 6 to 7 feet tall, they have opened up into beautiful bright blooms...I just love sunflowers.  Each year I grow different varieties.  This year, I planted two Russian varieties, Rostov and Mongolian Giant, in the front flower beds.  I keep them pretty close together, so they don't grow to be super tall, but they help support each other and don't fall over in the wind as much if they are planted closer together and stay shorter.  I figure seven feet is plenty tall enough!