Monday, September 25, 2017

Juicing, Drying, Preserving

It's that time of year - the garden is winding down, but there is still a lot of work to do.  I don't do any canning any more - but I do preserve a lot of what we grow.
We have five different apple trees, all different varieties.  Since we can eat about a single pint of applesauce in a year, I had to figure out something else to do to try to preserve them.  Drying is the ticket for us!  When we travel, it's nice to have a big jar of them for snacks.  Most of the grandchildren prefer dried apples to fresh ones.
I save containers all year to store dried apples.
My son and daughter-in-law gave me a juicer for my birthday, and I've been enjoying experimenting with it.
Today I used cucumbers, kale, carrots, beets, grapes, tomato, and apples for my juice.  I make juice about once a week, and make enough to freeze some for when I don't have so many veggies and fruit to choose from.  This was the best mix yet! I drink about 4-6 ounces every day, and keep enough in the fridge for a few days at a time.  I haven't done a juice diet yet, but am thinking about doing that for a few days.

I put the compost that results from juicing out for the birds. 
This year I've had some beautiful annual flowers, and with the extended dry weather, I've found many seeds that I can store for spring when I'm ready to plant annuals again.  I'm also saving bean seed from my Kentucky Wonder beans and all the various squash plants that have produced so abundantly this year.  

Friday, September 15, 2017

Trying to Save the Rhodies

I've lived in Washington for most of my life, and I can't remember a stranger weather year:  wettest winter and spring on record, followed by driest and hottest summer on record.  Luckily, we have an irrigation system to the garden from the lake that is mostly underground.  I've had to clean out the foot valve at the end of the dock a couple of times as the lake level has gone down and the valve ended up on the bottom in the mud.  But by diligently watering nearly every day for a couple of hours at least, the garden has thrived.
We've had a lot of meals that were just veggies from the garden stir fried together.
But the water only goes as far as the garden, and we have about another 1000 feet of driveway to the road.  Years ago we found a Rhodendron farm in Marysville that was going out of business, and we bought several rhodies for the entry.  They've grown and gotten absolutely beautiful over the years.
They are really drought resistant, but this year was more than exceptionally dry, and they were starting to look really sad.

Ron rigged up a 50 gallon barrel in the tractor bucket, and brought it to where the water ended so we could fill it.
We brought three loads of water to them and hope that will be enough to keep them alive until we finally get some rain.
Our summer is winding down now, and for the first time in several months, they are predicting RAIN - not just a 10% chance of scattered showers, but real rain.
I'm ready!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Flowers, Fruit, Veggies, and Visitors

In the Pacific Northwest, summer is when we meet ourselves coming and going.  The days are long, so we don't sleep much, we cherish every day of sunshine, and sometimes think wistfully of winter when we can slow down.  The true sun worshippers live here - when the sun shines, we can't bear to waste a single minute inside.
A wonderful variety of flowers are in bloom 
My sister, Molly, introduced me to dahlias and gladiolas many years ago, and I can't imagine summer without them.
I used to dig the bulbs every fall and replant in the spring.  However, one year I didn't have time to dig them, so I mulched them good, and they have continued to come back year after year without digging.
Most of my flowers are in a swath along my garden fence, but I've moved a few to the front of the new house.
I've added a few new colors this year and planted some along the front of the new house.

When I choose bulbs in the spring, I usually forget what colors I've picked, so it's always interesting to spot new blooms and marvel at their beauty.
My friend, Karen, gave me a bunch of lily bulbs this year, and they just might be my new favorite flower.  They have come in a variety of gorgeous colors,
My entire garden is engulfed in the wonderful aroma of lilies this year.
With the spectacular weather we've had this summer, my garden is overflowing with produce.  The corn should be ready next week, and I already have 8 quarts of pickles in my pantry.
Wild blackberries are ripe, so I'm fully into my jam making season.
And it's the perfect time to enjoy some of our stunning parks and beaches with visitors.  Our granddaughter, Sara,  her husband, Dan, and their wonderful little munchkins came to visit last week.
We started in Granite Falls at the annual car show, "Show 'n Shine" and then went to Deception Pass State Park for a picnic and some beachcombing.
It's so much fun to watch a toddler choose rocks and sticks to collect. Even Grandma brought home a new rock collection.
We love summer!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Dill Pickle Tutorial

This year everything fell into place for me to have a great garden:  

First:  My friend Lonnie gave me a lead on where to get a truckload of manure.  I used to have a truckload of chicken manure delivered every year, but all of the chicken farms in our area are now housing projects, so manure got hard to find.  I bought numerous bags of what they called "chicken manure" at the Co-op, but they were basically topsoil with no real nitrogen left.  When I discovered this was the last year I could even get mink manure, I bought 5 loads and have used about half of that on my poor depleted garden area.

Second:  The weather has been fantastic since the middle of May. We have water rights on our little lake, so I'm able to water with unmetered unfiltered untreated water, and I've been diligent about watering every day.

So, bottom line, I have a bumper crop of cucumbers for the first time in years.  Everyone in our family loves dill pickles, so I'm in pickle making mode right now.  Here's my procedure for making dill pickles:
  1. Pick cucumbers that are from 2" to about 5" long and scrub them thoroughly.  
  2.  Peel enough garlic cloves to put at least two in every quart jar.  I usually put 4 or 5 in because I love pickled garlic as much as I do the actual pickles.
  3. Wash enough grape leaves for one per quart. I asked Ron to go get me "4 or 5 grape leaves" and he came back with 45. The grape leaves replace Alum - they keep pickles crisp without putting aluminum into our bodies.  
  4. Cut enough dill to put two heads into each quart.  I plant dill at the same time as cucumbers so they will be ready at the same time.  The dill is a bit behind the cucumbers this year, so I used 3 or 4 in each jar.  
  5. Make the brine.  I've been tweaking the brine recipe for years.  This is what I use:                                                                                      1 quart of vinegar                                                                          3 quarts of water                                                                            1/2 cup salt                                                                         Bring the brine to a boil and keep it simmering while you pack the jars.  Put the grape leaf in first, followed by the dill, and then pack in the cucumbers and garlic as tightly as possible. 
  6. Pour the hot brine to cover the cucumbers in each jar.
  7. Clean the rim of each jar,
  8. Screw hot lids and rings onto each jar.
  9. At this point, you can put the jars into a hot water bath and boil for 10 minutes so that the lids will seal.  It really isn't necessary to seal them as the fermenting process will preserve the pickles.

They are ready to eat although not fully fermented in a few days. The first jar is already gone.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Why I grow peas

In a lot of ways, peas are a lot of trouble:  
First, they need a support trellis to do well.  There are varieties that say "BUSH", but don't believe it.  All peas like support.
Secondly, they are a very early vegetable, so you have to get out early (I'm talking February) and get the ground ready to plant. Everything was so wet this year, that is was well into March before I got peas planted, but once they got started, they have thrived. Plus they only do well when the weather is cool, so they have a short season.

Third, they require shelling.
and it takes a lot of pea pods to make a bowl of shelled peas.

But on the plus side, there are things that we only get to enjoy for a short time once a year.  One of our family favorites is creamed potatoes, carrots, and peas. Here's a nice easy recipe:

1:  Chop about two cups of new potatoes into bite sized chunks.  Usually we have new potatoes that we can dig and we don't even have to chop them because they are just right about the time the peas are ready.

2. Chop about two cups of baby carrots into bite sized chunks.  If you have little carrots in the garden, they are best.
I boil the potatoes and carrots with a little bit of salt until both are soft.

3.  While the potatoes and carrots are boiling, make a roue:

Melt about 1/3 cup butter
Stir in about 1/3 cup flour

Stir in about a cup of milk until it is smooth.  Then cook until it has a gravy consistency and add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour cooked potatoes and carrots, and raw peas into the hot roue, and cook just until peas are bright green.
Even picky non vegetable eaters seem to like this, and I look forward to making it every year.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Spare time in the Summer

Summer time is busy time, but there's always time for more than riding the motorcycle, swimming, and entertaining grandchildren.
While this might seem excessive to someone, we do have six children who grew up eating jam, 22 grandchildren who are all jam eaters, and a few friends that we also share jam with.  Raspberries are at their peak right now, so I may not be done yet!
Although we are officially retired from sign making, an old friend asked about a sign, so we came out of retirement for one last sign. Still need to do "some" retouching, and a final coat of Verithane.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Grandchildren and Summertime

One of the nicest things about summer is we get to see our grandchildren a lot more. 
We live on a small private late that would be totally pristine if it weren't for us.  There are hundreds of bullfrog polliwogs and Stickleback fish around the shore and we buy Dollar Store nets so the kids can catch them.  We allow them to catch and put them in a five gallon bucket while they are on the job.  Once we all get done swimming and playing in the water, we release everything they have caught back into the lake.
Leeches are a sign of a healthy lake - We like to catch and release leeches also - they're creepy but fun too!
We have an assortment of life jackets, and they all understand that they don't go on the dock or near the water without a life jacket until they can demonstrate good swimming skills.
My daughter and her husband own a house on the other side of the lake, and it's a right of passage for the grandchildren to "swim across the lake with Grandma".  We are always happy when they are able to swim well enough to do that.
Learning to dive is the next step!
Boating - and learning to row a boat are part of the fun.
So is learning to paddleboard with Aunty Amy,
Learning to fish with Uncle Tony,
And there's the Bulldog.