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.