Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Well it's good news and bad news...

The good news is the canning is officially rockin.  I have put up  salsa, blackberry jam(w/o pectin), blueberries, and tomato sauce so far this season.  It is a great feeling to see the shelves begin to fill with goodness form the garden.  Feeling really good about some things, but bummed about others.  My peach trees aren't going to provide much in the way of peaches this year.  I will throw away about a bushel due to pests and fungus.  I am still hoping I can get a few jars of jams, but that is it.  I am planning on buying some from a farmers market to put up.  I still feel that is cheaper than the price of peaches at the store.  My mom used to put up frozen peaches.  Oh boy where those things good on a summer night.  Eat them slightly frozen....Ummm.  Might do that if I can get a good price on the peaches.
Yesterday I had to pull up some corn and bean plants.  I don't care who says it, you cannot use corn to support pole beans.  I read that, seriously, and I have tried for the past 2 seasons to get them to work that way.  It doesn't.  Know why?  Because pole beans aren't happy with grabbing the corn they were planted with.  Oh no, they have to grab the one two rows over.  After a bit of many pole bean plants reaching for different corn stalks, the corn just falls over.  Or I should say is pulled down.  Yes, corn and beans derive mutual benefit,but if you want to plant pole beans with corn, plant the beans against a trellis or something else they can climb on.  The good new on that front is I have more corn planted and at least I can plant still more before it gets too cold.  I am also going to plant more green beans, but not with the corn.  Lima beans... well they are going gang busters.  I should have plenty to put up this year.  Instead of drying them, I am going to can them up like last year.  Funny, I wouldn't have eaten limas as a kid, but last year I fixed some for dinner and WOW were they good.  I guess your taste buds do change as you get older.  I am keeping a tally of my gardens output this year to see what does well, what doesn't, what to change for next year, how much I saved, things like that.  I will post it when the season is over.
I did find something useful.  I had some t shirt sleeves left over from where I converted t shirts to yarn.  You can see that post  I have my watermelon(volunteers from watermelons planted last year from seeds saved from a store bought watermelon from the year before that) plants trained to a trellis, so to take the weight of the growing watermelons off the plants, I put a "shirt" on each of my three growing watermelons.  Then I attached the shirt sleeve to the trellis with a clothes pin.  Kinda like a melon hammock.  Seems to be doing well for now.
Well I am off to make more tomato sauce.  Just wanted to check in .  Hey Mama and Daddy!  love you!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hmmm, note to self...

If I am going to buy pinto beans from the store and plant them to make more pinto beans, then I need to use Aldi pinto beans for seed rather than Sams club.  I planted my Sams club pintos twice.  I had a few sprout, but the germination rate wasn't much to write home about.  So I bought a bag of dried pintos at Aldi, planted a couple of rows(or I should say partial rows cause the rest of the bed was taken up by the Sams beans), and noticed yesterday that it looks as if all of them germinated and have poked their little heads out of the ground.  Yay Beans.
I have heard over the years that seeds saved from store bought items, saved from non heirloom varieties or in this case, used from store bought dried beans, won't germinate.  If by some weird chance they do germinate, I was told I wouldn't get a product true to the mother plant.  I have found that to not be true.  SO far in my gardening career I have planted popcorn, pintos, navy beans, cantaloupe, and watermelon from store bought items. I have also saved seeds from squash, peppers, beans, and pumpkins from non heirloom varieties and they have been successful.  Every gardening season I end up with volunteers from previous seasons garden that pop up on their own.  The main culprits are tomatoes, potatoes, squash, watermelon, and sunflowers.  I once transplanted 23 tomato volunteers that had sprouted from tomatoes I had thrown off into the brush.  We had cleared the brush in late winter and then when things started sprouting, so did they.  These tomatoes did just as well as the ones planted that year.  Produced the same amount, and same quality.  The only year I had a weird product is when I planted some cucumbers that didn't germinate(or so I thought).  I replanted and still no luck, so I decided to plant cantaloupe.  Apparently they all sprouted and since I couldn't tell who was who I let them grow together.  Uhhh don't do that with squash.  They cross pollinated and I ended up with a cucaloupe, or a cantacumber if you please.  Bad tasting thing, but a good life lesson.  Another reason I am not on the heirloom seed band wagon is the fact if I am using heirloom seeds and my neighbor isn't; bees don't know the difference and my plants get cross pollinated.  So no non hi-bred seeds anymore.  Now that is my thoughts on the subject and I am sure there are others who would disagree, but this is my blog and it was created to voice my thoughts. So Nyah(smile; kidding people no one get mad).  Now I will admit I do plant more of saved seeds than I would if I had bought them.  That way I am sure to have enough germinate.  I can afford to plant more of those seeds because a) they are free, and b) I have more of them.
The garden so far this year has been pretty good.  Bombs this year are apples(no surprise they are still young trees), peaches, beets, and maybe my green beans.  I keep thinking they will start producing soon, but the plants are taking their own sweet time.  The plants look good, I just don't see anything on them.  Replanting those today just in case.  The beauties this year are blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes, peppers(green and jalapeno), lima beans,and herbs.  The corn and peanuts are still growing so that is a wait and see.  Potatoes were average.  Not as much as before, but what was produced has been really good.
Today's agenda is bread making(in progress), and garden work.  Well that and getting ready for work tomorrow.   The boys will be cutting the grass if we can keep the mower working !@#$%^&.  Excuse ME! SO off I go until another day when I can sit down and type my thought to share with those interested in what I have to say.  Until then I hope everyone stay comfortable, cool, and safe!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Success with the Mint Extract(how to pics also)

I am so excited!  Yesterday I tried out my new(to me) Rival electric ice cream maker.  I purchased it at a thrift store for $4.  Off to a good start there.  By the way this thing is so neat.  Uses no rock salt or ice, you just freeze the base. Anyway, I digress....Where was I ?  Oh Yes, Ice cream maker.  I decided to kill two bird with one stone and try out my Mint Extract to see how it did.  I made mint chocolate chip ice cream. It worked!  It tasted like Mint choc chip ice cream.  The boys want more mint so next time I will add maybe a teaspoon instead of half teaspoon.  My Ice cream maker only makes 1 quart, but you can get one that make 1.5 quarts.  I figured the cost of my "all natural" ice cream. It comes to $1.84 for all natural mint choc chip ice cream.  Had I made just vanilla it would have been a whopping .96 for 2 quarts.  Considering the cost of 1.5 quarts of Aldi brand mint choc chip ice cream is 2.69.  I am way ahead.  Cost per ounce of homemade=.029 or 3 cents an ounce, while the Aldi brand comes out at .059 or 6 cent an ounce.  Way cool!  No pun intended.
So with that being said, since extract was successful, I wanted to share what I did:

What you will need:
Vodka (80 proof. Not for drinking now!)
Mint leaves
glass jars( I used wide mouth pint jar

First off you want to take your mint leaves off the branches and wash them well under cool water.  Let them dry completely before you start.
While you are waiting on your leaves to dry, go ahead and take your jars and have them in boiling water for 20 minutes.  I also boiled my lids and rings so everything was sterile.  It is important to keep the work area clean.
Once your leaves are dry, chop them coarsely.  This give a lot of area for the vodka to work on extracting the oils.   Once your jars are done, fill them about half full of the chopped mint.
Then you want to take the vodka and pour it over the leaves.  Leave about 1 inch head space.
Then top with your lid and store in a dark area for a week.  I dated mine so I could make sure I left it long enough.
I ended up with 20 oz of mint extract.  That is worth about 10 bottles of extract at the store.  Walmart sells the mint extract for 2.98 for 2 oz.  This cost me the cost of prep and the vodka.  So about $8.  Which compares to Walmart=.80 for 2 oz.  Nice.  I have plenty more mint where that came from.  I am thinking I will add more mint to my extract and let it steep another week just to strengthen it a little, but all in all I would say this is a good investment, and so easy to do.
Okay, I have to go get my boys out to the garden to work.  Myself as well.  I get help Yay!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Confessions of a Domestic Diva

Hello all!  I am taking a break from the kitchen.  I am on a baking jag in that I am trying to get some things baked before it gets too hot.  I am baking on a large scale this morning.  So far I have made 4 loaves of bread, 1 pkg of hamburger buns and 1 pkg of hot dog buns.  I have English muffins on the rise(hence the break).  I am trying to bake more at once so I can keep from having to turn on the oven too often.  I know I said I could use the grill, and I am sure I will when it gets too hot, but for today it is still cloudy and not so hot.
 Yesterday I picked another 4 lbs of blueberries and was able to can them up into 7 pint jars of blueberries.  I must have wanted those berries really bad cause I got out there yesterday morning not realizing the weather man was still calling for rain.  I start picking and get to number 5 of my 6 bushes and a little drop of rain begins to fall.  I think Uh oh I better get those herbs cut before the rain starts.  So I real quick go over to my herb bed and pick the mint and rosemary I wanted for later and then went back to picking.  I no sooner get back to picking blueberries and it starts to pour.  I keep on picking saying to myself "I am neither sugar nor salt (I am someones honey)I won't melt".  I finally finish picking the berries and go into the house soaked.  My oldest son just looks at me weird for a sec then goes back to what he was doing.  He's used to his crazy mama.  I was also able to get the rosemary oil and the mint extract started. So in 2 weeks you guys will get to see the results. Today's plan is to get into the garden after it dries up some and finish tying up the tomatoes, weed, and stake some Lima beans that don't realize they are bush beans.
Now all of that being said; I know I write often about about baking, canning, gardening, etc.  A lot of people read that and think "whew!  How can she have time to do all that?".  I'm guessing they say that anyway.  Well I will now house isn'   There!  I said it!  Now don't get me wrong.  It isn't that bad.  My kitchen stays clean in between projects.  I try to clean as I go.  My laundry stays done and for the most part folded and put away.  I try to make my bed each day.  I do those things and a few others, but the really clean organized home....  not me.  My home is ahh lived in.  I do make sure the floors are swept and things are straight before Dh comes home, but these extra curricular activities do take away from my "Donna Reed"ness.  Probably around the Christmas Holidays you will see my house plew perfect, but this time of year is extremely busy for me and spring cleaning isn't a great priority. Now once the garden is put to bed I will be going through this house like a mad woman getting it back to normal.  For now.  If you come over, just don't look too closely.  There... Confession made.  Now I can go back to my Domestic Diva status.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mornin all!

It is raining this morning so what better time to do any bread making than today.  Can't go play in the yard, but we need bread too.  So while the dough is on its first rising I am here typing away.
I tried another experiment.  I would like to say it is original idea, but apparently I am not the first to try this.  I managed to bake bread, pizza, and muffins on my gas grill outside.  It was a test and so I only made 1 loaf of bread(hence the reason we need bread today), and 1 batch of muffins( I needed to use up a ripe banana,2 egg yolks and about a cup of milk).  Everything turned out well.  The trick is to move it around periodically in order for it to brown evenly.  I lit only one side then put the items to be baked on the unlit side then closed the lid.  It was enjoyable to sit outside with my Dh and catch up on the day as we looked out over the back yard with the garden and fruit trees.  So anyway, I now have an alternative to heating up my house when making bread.  The first alternative was to buy bread and while it is Okay, there is nothing like homemade bread fresh from the oven(or grill) with butter.  Oh yea baby!  So I will be enjoying an indoor day knowing that tomorrow will definitely be an outdoor day.  I have a some tomatoes to tie up, Lima bush beans to stake (I know right!) They are bush beans but apparently they don't know it and are in the process of reaching across the isle to the corn.....hmmm I feel like I should say something political here....never mind!  I still want to get out and get some herbs for teas, tinctures, and oils.  I will do that sometime this week.  And I haven't forgotten about posting pics of how I did it.  Add to all that the normal pickin and grinnin and it makes for a busy day outside.
So I will write more when I have more to write.  Until then I hope everyone has a blessed day.

Friday, June 1, 2012

What to do with old ratty t shirts

First of all, I need to give a shout out to my Aunt Peggy who I understand has recently tuned in.  Hey Aunt Peggy!

Anyway, I know everyone has had this moment were you are going through your families clothes and weeding out what is good enough to wear, sell, or give away.  Well that is all fine and good, but what do you do with t shirts that are faded, holey, and otherwise ratty.  Not good enough to keep, sell, or give away.  Then there is the ever present guilt now associated with throwing things into the land fill.  Bad, Bad, Bad.  Well, for those of you who suffer from this and want to know what you can do about it, I might have an answer.  Re purpose those t shirts into something else.  Here is what I do:
Use to be these:
This is what I do while I am watching TV or just vegging on the bed after working in the garden etc.  I can't do this whole pile at once.  It makes my hand a little sore after a bit mainly because I am left handed using right handed scissors.  See what I have to put up with in this right handed world?  Just not fair....anyway, I digress.  First of all you want to lay the t shirt flat and cut off the hem at the bottom.  Use the hems for tomato tie ups if you want to or something to that effect, but they are no longer needed with this shirt.
Then you want to cut the bottom half of the t shirt off.  Some people want to make sure they cut off below the decal, but I don't care if it is there.  It will add a bit of color to my next project so I keep it.
Next you will cut the T shirt into strips coming to withing about a inch of the other side, but alternate sides to leave un-clipped.  If you accidentally cut to far you can always tie it back on so now biggie.
Now you can shred this bad boy all the way to the top and then roll it up into a ball, stretching the material as you do so..  This is how I learned how to do this from another site.  Wish I could remember the site, but here tis.  This does work, but I prefer the lazy method and that is to just cut the hem off and then begin trimming from the bottom to the top around and around until I run out of shirt.  Like this:

Kind like peeling an apple and keeping the peeling whole.  That same idea.  Once rolled up this t shirt material can be used where you would use yarn, just make sure you use a larger size needle.  What can you make from something like this?  Well here is a hot pad I made from an old t shirt of mine
Now I realize my crocheting leaves a lot to be desired.  I am still learning, but this thing is seriously useful.  My plan for the rest of the "yarn" is to make a scatter rug for in my country quiet room.  I will post a pic when it is done.  Might be next year...LOL

On the garden front I am happy to say I picked 3 lbs of blueberries today for my first picking of blueberries. So far so good.  Everything seems to be rocking along.  The list is still long on thing I need to do in the garden or outside in general, and it gets added to daily, but its great.  It rained last night and is cloudy today so the plan for today is to bake bread for next week.  I should be getting to that instead of loitering about here, but I wanted to share my pics.  Hope everyone has a great day.  Stay cool!