Tuesday, August 31, 2010


We've just come back from a rousing vacation at Wisconsin Dells.  Much fun was had by all, and by all I mean ALL of the family including grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, sixteen of us living in a lovely condo at the Kalahari Resort.  Thanks Grandma and Grandpa!

We had fun swimming,




and ropes coursing.

Plus a lot of other things that I didn't take pictures of.  Forgot the camera during the horseback riding and thought better of attempting photography while speeding around a go-cart track.

After it was all over, I came home to an overgrown garden filled with too-ripe cracked tomatoes, split cabbages, monster hard zucchinis and five-foot tall weeds.

Showing a remarkable bit of intelligence on my part, I also took the day after the vacation off of work.  It was spent canning tomatoes and running errands.  This batch was done last Saturday, and today I picked another three plastic grocery bags full of ripe maters.  Guess what I'll be doing tomorrow?

One of the cabbages that was besieged by bugs early in the season recovered enough to sprout a dozen or so mini-cabbages from its injured head.  I picked these today and cooked them like Brussels sprouts with a deep notch through their base.  They turned out pretty good, except of course the really large ones didn't quite get cooked all the way through.

Tomorrow will also be spent dehydrating garlic for more garlic powder.  The powder I made last year turned out very well, with a much stronger flavor than store-bought garlic powder.  My garlic harvest this year was extremely good and I've got to find something to do with all the extra bulbs.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hello Peter

Last winter I asked hubby if there was anything in particular he wanted planted in the garden this year.  He thought a bit, and asked if I could plant pepperoncini peppers for pickling.  I said sure, no problem.  But then I actually had to find pepperoncini peppers, since none of my main seed catalogs (Seed Savers, Fedco, or Johnny's) carries that variety.  After a quick Google I discovered Territorial carried it, so I placed an order.

The plants are very productive.  More peppers than on any of my other varieties (jalapeno, alma paprika, sweet cherry).  I did have a few rot spots on the earlier fruit, but that seems to be over with now.

I planted four plants, and harvested a bunch of fruit (maybe not a peck, exactly) earlier this week. 

I sliced the peppers and soaked them in salt water overnight.  Drain, rinse, drain again.

Pack into hot jars and fill with a strong vinegar/water solution.  My hubby is likely the only one who will be eating these, so these jars plus another harvest in September should supply us with several year's worth of pickled peppers.

Then again, maybe next year I will grow a lot more plants, enough to actually harvest a peck's worth at one time.  And then I will finally be able to answer that age-old question.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Able Baker

Biscuits a la Benjamin.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

Soft-shelled egg

Occasionally we will get a soft-shelled egg from our chickens.  They are pretty cool.  They are like little water balloon egg capsules.  It is amazing to me that a hen is able to get one of these out intact.  They don't always come out like this, sometimes all I find is a floppy broken shell and egg goo in the nest box.

Soft-shelled eggs happen when the egg-making process inside an hen goes boink and not enough hard calcium deposit is attached to the egg membrane.  It might interest you to know that eggs are made from the inside-out: the yolk gets made first, then the white, then it's surrounded by membrane, and then the hard outer shell is formed.

Some people ask me if hens need a rooster to produce eggs.  Nope.  You need a rooster if you want fertile eggs, if you intend on putting them under a broody hen or in an incubator to hatch baby chicks.  If you don't have a roo you will still get eggs, but they will be infertile.

Owen wanted to throw the egg against a tree to see it explode (like I said, it feels very much like a water balloon).  I wouldn't let him.  I didn't want to waste all the hen's effort.  I could have saved it and used it for cooking, it is perfectly okay as long as the membrane isn't damaged.  But instead I gave it to the outside cats, who appreciated it greatly.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Good evening

Tonight was vampire prevention night, i.e. the garlic harvest.  I pulled up around eighty bulbs, helped in some small part by the two littlest boys.  Graham wanted to help dig but the soil was so dry and hard that even I had difficulty getting a spade to go in.  I would dig the bulbs out, and Graham would lift them by their stem and put them in a bag.  Benjamin trotted around the garden in his own private relay race, chattering all the while.

Here is the largest silverline melon we have growing right now.  It is a heirloom variety I bought from Seed Savers a number of years ago.  These are the melons that Benjamin planted, so he makes sure to check on them whenever we are out in the garden.  This is a picture of what they look like when they are ripe (taken from the Seed Savers website):

Aren't they pretty?  Of course they are--they are supermodel fruit from a catalog.  Hope mine look as pretty as these.  Soon.

Here is one of my patches of tomatoes, looking for the most part healthy.   I have been spraying my maters with copper spray every eight to ten days, hoping to forestall the blight/wilt.  It seems to be working, 'cuz here is a picture of my unsprayed potato plants:

If I get a chance in the next few days I will chop them all down.  Sigh.

The mammoth sunflowers are true to their name.  Ten to twelve feet tall and just now starting to flower.  Right in front of the sunflowers are some lettuce going to seed.

Here are my two Swiss chard plants, still going strong despite horribly hot days and irregular rains. This is my first year growing chard.  The young leaves are good in salads, and the older leaves can be cooked like spinach.  I ask myself, why grow spinach which bolts quickly, when you can grow chard which grows all summer long?  According to wikipedia, one cup of Swiss chard has the following recommended daily values:  214% of vitamin A, 53% of vitamin C and 716% of vitamin K. And it seems relatively untroubled by pests or diseases.  I am definitely planting more of these things next year.

It was such a beautiful evening.  Just before I came outside a short rain had chased the hot hot of the day away, as well as the bugs.  A cool, gentle breeze was blowing.  The sun had just eased out from behind a bank of clouds and was turning the land to gold.  I stood in the garden and basked in the evening light.  I said to myself, the only thing that could add more splendor to this scene would be a rainbow.  Not two minutes later I turned to head back into the house, and saw this arching over the treetops.

I must have done something really remarkable in a former life, to deserve such goodness in this one.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Playtime for Picasso

A few days ago we painted our outdoor playset.  Each of the boys got to pick out a quart of paint at the hardware store.  Owen chose blue, Graham chose cream, and Benjamin chose yellow.  We also had a remnant can of 'barn red' (from when we painted the chicken coop) that hubby and I used up.

What the boys lacked in technical skill they made up for in exuberance.  Benjamin exclaimed, "I'm painting!  I'm an Artist!"

Whenever I point the camera at Benjamin he gives me this stiff smile and says "Cheeeeeeeeeeeese."  He has learned:  a) to say cheese whenever someone takes his picture, and b) that Mom takes several pictures at once so he has to say cheese for at least ten seconds before she lets him off the hook.

Not your customary painting scheme, but it works for us.  Now to put the swings back up, and let it dry before the boys sign their names.

Our deck also needs a paint/stain job.  I'm not sure if I'll let the kids loose on that one, though.  One work of art in the yard is probably enough for potential visitors and their poor, unsuspecting eyeballs.  On the other hand, if it keeps solicitors and hopeful politicians away, have at it boys!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Cob job

Today I brought home fifteen dozen ears of corn.  Hubby and I went to work.

Does anyone else think that corn silks are yummy?  Give 'em a try sometime.

Blanch for three minutes.

Cut the kernels from the cob.  Electric knives are useful for this task.  Drain the kernels.

Scoop into quart-sized bags.  2KX = 2010.

This year with two of us working on it, it only took us five hours from start to finish.  Not too bad for a year's worth of frozen corn.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I was recently berated by a family member for my slacking-off in the blog department.  I am very sorry.  I will try to do better.  We have been busy, but it's been run-of-the-mill busy with no special projects that might be interesting to write about.  Or rather, interesting to read about.  That is, unless you find interest in the following things:

A.  Chickens -- our baby chicks are teenagers now.   That means they are almost as big as the adults but not nearly as smart.  They haven't yet figured out that that big blobby yellow-headed thing (me) walking toward the coop means that food is on the way.  They still run away from people, whereas the older and wiser birds stride forward confidently.  And if I am a little slow in the food delivery the older hens will start pecking at my shoes. 

Some of the older birds have had their back feathers pulled out by their bored coopmates, and exposure to the elements have left them sunburned.  The animal humanitarian (is that an oxymoron?) in me wants to catch them and slather aloe vera lotion on their red skin.  The old timey farmer-to-be in me responds -- what, are you nuts??

The teenager chicks aren't giving us eggs yet, that won't be for another few months.  But we are averaging about five eggs a day from the older hens.  Last week a storm toppled a dead ash tree in our yard, which landed on the fence to the chicken pasture.  So we have some fence repair to do.

B.  Goats -- About once a week one of the goats will get their head stuck in the fence.  It is an exercise in patience trying to guide a horned goat head backward out of woven wire fencing, while the rest of the goat body is convinced that forward is still the direction it should be moving.

C.  Garden -- Lots of stuff going on.  I planted a variety of snap bean this year called 'brittle wax.'  It has grown well for me in the past, but this year I have discovered that unless I pick every other day, the ripe beans quickly begin bulging with seeds and turning tough.  This makes them unsuitable for canning.  Which is unfortunate since canning was the reason why I planted all those beans in the first place.  Up until this week the weather has been ungodly hot and I haven't had the stamina to go out picking beans in 95 degree temps and 400 percent humidity.  So when I do pick over half of them are too large to use.  Except to feed them to the chickens and goats, who LOVE them.

The potatoes and tomatoes are slowly succumbing to the blight/wilt thing I have going on.  Actually, the potatoes are succumbing rather quickly.  At this point I have given up trying to save the potatoes, and will wait until the tops are mostly yellow before I cut them down.  I sprayed the tomatoes with copper last weekend and will do so again today, hoping that it will give me a bit more time before they finally die.  Enough time to actually harvest a few fruit.  Right now I have loads of green tomatoes but no red ones.  Next year I will be growing my solinacae in another section of the yard, in hopes to avoid any wilt issues, and I will not be saving any potato tubers for starting next spring.  I am tired of these fungal fiends.

Other than beans we have been harvesting zucchini, rutabagas, peppers, eggplant, broccoli and onions.  In a few days I will pull out and cure the garlic. 

D.  Preserving -- I used the last of the 2009 garlic in a batch of dill cucumber pickles I made last night.  Eighteen pints of pickle slices ready for the pantry.  Other than that, my preserving activities have centered mostly around freezing.  Our jam supply is still strong (probably good enough to last us three or four years) so I haven't been in a hurry to make jam.  So far this summer we've frozen 2 1/2 gallons of strawberries, 2 gallons of blueberries, 1 gallon of chokecherries, 1/2 gallon of gooseberries and just 1 quart of mulberries (sob).  This winter as things quiet down a bit I will make a few batches of syrup/jam, when the house will welcome the extra warmth from the stove.

E.  Family -- Baseball/TBall/Archery season is finally finished, thank heaven.  For several weeks in June and July I was transporting various kids to summer activities every evening, Monday through Thursday.  I am not a soccer mom.  But with us living so far out in the country, these activities are the only way my boys can interact with other kids during the summer.  We are not of the 'playdate' ilk.  So now the monkeys fill their day with games, legos, reading, random chores, water guns, and getting on each other's nerves.

So, if all of these things interest you, then you should be pretty pleased with this post.  If not, then I probably lost you long since.  Sorry for the posting delay, I will try to do better and get more photos taken for next time.