Thursday, July 28, 2011


It's going to be a late night.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Handful of gold

This is a bad year for jam.  The state shutdown closed my favorite berry-picking spot (the park) for three weeks at the height of the season, eliminating any chance of a black raspberry or mulberry harvest.  Also, I can find no plums on the trees, and I'm not sure why.  We did have an especially wet, late spring this year--perhaps the blossoms never set properly.

So it's just as well that we planted a bunch of golden raspberry bushes in our garden this spring.  This is their first year, so there's not enough to make jam, but there is enough for a few mouthfuls of sweet savor.  I wanted golden raspberries because my husband's grandfather, who was a terrific gardener in his own right, had golden raspberries in his back yard.  I had never heard of them before, and during a visit I distinctly remember going out and picking a few.  They were mighty good.

I have also started a blueberry patch in our side yard.  Five bushes, bought on clearance at our local nursery.  Not much, but I've already eaten a few berries from them.  It's a start.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


The baseball season is over.  Owen's team won their Pee Wee tournament on Friday.  They were elated.

So, no more Monday and Wednesday night practices.

The boys' summer pottery class is over.  Their ceramic masterpieces are now adorning our dining room shelves.  So, no more Tuesday and Thursday morning classes.

The state shutdown is over, and I am back to work.  This is what a Three Sisters Garden looks like after three weeks of complete neglect.

Sports and Rec over, shutdown over, holidays over.  It's almost August.  The summer is all downhill from here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Waxing nostalgic

It's been two years since I've had a good crop o' beans.  Last year I grew Brittle Wax, which had done well for me in the past, but not so well this time.  We had one or two meals' worth, but nothing extra to can, which was a huge disappointment to me.

This year I planted Rocdor yellow bush beans and Fortrex green pole beans, both from Johnny's.  So far the pole beans are growing amazingly well.  But they're still in the flowering stage.  My yellow wax beans, however, have started producing like gangbusters.  Long and slim, uniform and uncurled!

I've missed my wax beans, I'm not afraid to say.  Now we just need the green ones to pick up the pace a bit, and we can start filling the pantry shelves.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cabbage love

How do you tell if a cabbage is ready to pick?  Beats me.  But I needed one for supper on Wednesday, so I picked one.  A Jersey Wakefield cabbage, to be precise.

After cutting it open, I could see that it still had a bit of growing to do.  But that's okay, it will still taste good.

I made one of my favoritest meals.  It's from my Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, and it's officially called Pork Rib Dinner.  But you can use pork chops or sliced pork hocks with it as well.

You'll need:
4 lbs pork pieces (ribs, chops, hocks, etc.)
1/3 cup flour
2 Tbsp salad oil
2 cups apple juice
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 lbs potatoes, cut into 1-1/2" chunks
1 lb carrots, cut into 1-1/2" pieces
1 lb small onions, quartered (optional)
1 small head cabbage, shredded

Take the pork pieces and coat each with flour.  [I've used sliced pork hock here.]  Save the leftover flour.  Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven and brown the pork pieces on all sides over medium-high heat.  Remove the pieces to another plate.  Reduce heat to medium.

Heat oven to 350.  Into the pork drippings, stir the reserved flour.  Add 2 cups apple juice.  Blend well.

Return the browned meat to the pan and add 1 Tbsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Heat to boiling.  Cover the Dutch oven and bake in a 350 oven for 20 minutes.

Add the potatoes, carrots and onion and bake another 40 minutes.  Stir.  Add the cabbage and bake another 30-40 minutes, til veges are cooked through and cabbage is softened.  Stir several times during baking.

If I made this dish in the fall, I could use all local ingredients.  But it's too yummy to only have during one season.  If you're pressed for cooking time, cut the veges smaller so they take less time to cook.

The best part of this recipe is the cabbage.  In fact, I usually put one-and-a-half heads in the dish, and leave out the onions (which the hubby and kids don't like anyway).  I love cabbage, in all its various forms.  Raw, cooked, slawed, brined, whatever.  Love love love cabbage.  Yummmm.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Little boys

50% goofball,

50% sweetheart.

Some days, however, the percentages shift dramatically.  Usually favoring the 'goofball' side. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The first sunflower

Cucumbers on Sunday

I have never grown cucumbers successfully.  I plant the seedlings in the ground and they grow feebly, winding their spindle vines reluctantly upward.  At most I get one or two fruit from each plant before they give up the ghost.  A few years ago I stopped trying to grow them at all.  I must have a cucumber curse, I thought.  Either that, or my soil was missing something the plants needed.

Well, this past winter while dreaming over seed catalogs, I spotted a variety called 'miniature white' and heard the siren song.  Such lovely, small, pale cucumbers would look so nice in a pickle jar.  And taste soo good on a summer salad.  Okay, I decided, I'll give it another go.  They will probably all die like the others, but what the heck.

Holy Moly!  I don't know what I'm doing right this time, but these little guys are going gang busters.  Yowza!

I've got two 5' wide cattle panels leaning up against each other, A-frame style, along this long bed.  The catalog said the vines would only grow 3-4 feet but some have already exceeded that length. 

Such perfect little fruit.  Crisp and fresh, with no hint of bitterness.

I can't keep up with them.  My frig is overflowing.  Yesterday I made relish, with dill from the garden and a few cloves of last year's garlic.  I scooped out the seed guts and then chopped the flesh by hand.  I've used a food processor before, but I prefer hand chopping.  The processor tends to mash the liquid out of the pulp.  And, I prefer the larger, cube-shaped chunks I get with a knife.

Nine pints of pickle relish done.  I went out this afternoon to the garden and picked a dozen more cucumbers.  I swear they've grown an inch in diameter overnight.  If this keeps up, my whole family is going to get pickles for Christmas this year.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Beets on Wednesday

I planted red and golden beets this spring.  Wednesday was beet harvest day.  There's nothing more satisfying to a gardener than pulling a large, lovely beet out of the ground. Unless it's a potato.  Or an onion.  Or a turnip.  Or a [insert root vegetable here].

The golden beets are true to their name.  I can't say that I taste any difference between the two varieties.

I canned ten pints of pickled beets.  The golden ones are certainly pretty--they look like peaches in the glass jars.

I had plans of tilling up the old beet bed today and planting some turnips and rutabagas.  But a heavy rainstorm last night put the kibosh on that plan.  The next five days are supposed to be in the 90s with heat indexes over 100.  Which puts further kibosh on my plans.  Tilling and planting in extreme heat is not my cup of tea.  The seeding can wait another week, I think.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Peas on Monday

This many pods

makes this many peas

which makes this many meals. 

Androids dream

of electrified goat barns!  A ginormous Thank You to my brother-in-law Phill, who came out last week to run electricity to our barn.  This is going to make a HUGE difference this winter -- no more extension cords for the heated water bucket, and no more forehead flashlights to see in the dark.  Hurrah! The barn swallows were grateful for the light, as well.

And Eve gave it a special standing ovation.  Thank you Phill!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Just as good as it looks

Blueberry Cream Tart, from the Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Testing the Tattlers

Saturday morning (Shutdown Day Two) we went to Morris to pick strawberries.  We came home with four gallons, two of which went straight into the freezer.  Half-a-gallon went into the frig for fresh eating (strawberries and cream is one of my favorite things), and the rest went towards a batch of jam.

A couple of weeks ago I ordered some Tattler reusable canning lids, after hearing lots of good things about them.  So I tried them out with the jam.  At first I was clueless and tried putting the ring on the jar first (as with the jar on the left), then fitting the lid over top.  That didn't work too well.  Then I happened to pull out a ring and lid together (as with the lid in the bottom center) from the scalding pot.  Duh.  That made things much easier.

I must say using the rubber rings was way cool.  Harkens me back to ye olden days, when rubber rings and glass lids were the norm.  So far, so good on the seals.  No pinging sound, but that's okay.  The harkening makes up for the lack of ping.  I'm ever fond of a good hark.

I couldn't wait

for these to get any bigger.  Must eat now.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good...

 Broccoli is ready!  We had some with supper.  Very yummy.

 The pole beans are climbing their little vines out.  This one is nearing 8' tall.

 The zucchini are growing!

Owen is enjoying pee wee baseball.  He likes playing catcher.

The two youngest rugrats are doing well too.  I made tents for them the other night when we had a 'camp in' party while Owen was at 4H camp.  They slept in them for most of the night.

The Bad...

The potatoes and tomatoes have blight.  New spot in the garden (20' away from the old spot), new seed, new mulch.  Same old blight.  I'm not sure if I'll try to save the potatoes, I'll get a harvest out of them regardless, just not as big.  But I will mix up a batch of copper spray to try to save the tomatoes.  Next year I am definitely trying the blight resistant hybrids, heirlooms be damned. 

I have also noticed a similar affliction on the thistle plants that I have pulled out of my potato patch.  Could thistle be vulnerable to blight as well?  If so, would they act as a carrier?  If so, will the extensive underground root system of the thistle store the blight fungus for years to come?  If so, I might as well just start packing my suitcase now.

The Ugly...

As of today I am on lay-off status from my job with the Department of Natural Resources.  You might have heard something in the national news about the State of Minnesota closing down, because our Democrat governor and our Republican legislature can't come to an agreement on a fiscal year 2012 budget.  Nearly 23,000 state workers got laid off today.  Including me.

I worked 14 hours on Thursday shutting down the park.  Turning off electricity, gas, and water lines; locking up boats, vehicles, and buildings; canceling mail and garbage pick-up; hanging signs like the one above; closing gates.  Everyone said, 'the bigwigs will get it resolved in time,' and 'this is just a big political bluff.' We kept watching the news, watching our emails, waiting for the call that said everything was okay, an agreement has been reached.  It never came.

The state is actually losing money every day this month that the parks are closed.  July is our busiest time--we bring in about $1 million in revenue every week this month.  Thousands of camping reservations had to be canceled, tens of thousands of visitors had to change their vacation plans at the last minute.  It's all so very sad, and so very frustrating.

When will I go back to work?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Having the weekend off, my first July 4th weekend in 12 years, is kinda nice.  Not getting a paycheck til who-knows-when however, is not nice at all.  Especially since I am the only bread-winner in the family.  So, stay tuned!  I know I will be ...

You must pay the rent!