Monday, August 31, 2009

My Two Favorite Boys

We tend to have lots of pillows instead of furniture around here, which the cats think are meant exclusively for them. This is Digit's favorite new spot. Q plays on the PS3 and I knit sitting to their right on the big pillow.
King Digit
Last night's dinner: eggplant parmesan made from our first eggplant of the season and some of my homemade marinara from last week. Excellent. Sorry about the lousy picture.

This morning I got the corn we bought yesterday blanched and frozen. Fifty-four half ears. Now we just have to remember to use it. That's always the hardest part for me when we add something new to the freezer repertoire.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Harvest Season is Upon Us

I had my first meetings of the school year on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, so this week already felt busy. It's amazing how much of the day feels gone when meetings (and going there and back) take up 5 hours.

Q had his last day at the old job on Friday and doesn't start new job until September 8, so he's got a few days of well deserved rest.

Saturday we went to the State Fair in Salem and stayed overnight. I'd never been to the State Fair and it was a really good time. There is so much to see. We saw a glassblowing demonstration and watched a bowl being made from start to finish. We bought the very bowl that we saw made and had to go back to retrieve it this morning after it had had its time in the annealer.Since we stayed in Salem last night, at a hotel about 1 mile from the fairgrounds it was not a big deal to go back. We also passed a small grocery on the way there and on the way back we got 28 ears of corn at 7/$1, onions at $.33/lb, and garlic 5 heads/$1. I'm going to blanch and freeze the corn still on the cob and the onion and garlic was necessary for the marinara and pesto. It seemed like a really good deal.

On the way home, we stopped at Thistledown and got the 200 pounds of tomatoes Valerie and I need for Wednesday morning's canning adventure. It looks like we're canning 42 quarts diced and 7 quarts of sauce this year. I also still need to make another 8 quarts or so of marinara. Marinara's working out to $2.65/qt for ingredients this year, so probably $3/qt adding in lids and energy costs. I have no idea how much the energy cost was but even my records don't need that level of obsessive-compulsiveness.

When we got home the decided to harvest the basil, since it really, really needed it. I've been pinching off flower starts for quite a while now. I can't believe we got 2 pounds of leaves. After looking at the bowls full of leaves, I decided that now was the time to upgrade our food processor from the little 3 cup one. We now own this one from Sears and so far I'm very happy with it. I did all 9 1/4 cups of pesto in one batch and now have 13 meals worth in the freezer. There are still a few immature plants that were hiding among the giants (as you can see from the middle picture below) so we'll see how much more basil I get. Making some rough guesses on water usage and counting the cost of basil seeds, pesto works out to about $1.50/meal ($4/pint) this year. That only works out to about $1 savings/pint from last year but it's a little skewed because the olive oil is organic and both it and the parmesan were more expensive this year ($2.50 total). Growing my own basil probably saved close to $1.50/pint.

We harvested the first Purple Cherokee tomatoes and the first eggplant today. We'll see.
Jumbo Pink Banana Squash just keeps getting bigger and there are at least 2 more started.
The first pea seedlings from the newest planting. The broccoli, cauliflower, beets, spinach, and a single parsnip have also sprouted. No kale or onions yet.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Take that Pressure Canner!

Hahahaha! I just took off the rings because I finally trusted that the sauce was well and truly cool. I had six out of seven seal - my personal best! I now only wish that I knew what I did differently from last year. I was very careful to leave the full 1" head, I kept the pressure at just over 14 (directions say 11 1/2 but my canner tested at extension a little low), and I followed the instructions to the letter - but I thought I did that last year too. I'll be curious to see how my next batch goes. Only one in the freezer and one for our tummies so far and I'm sure I'll appreciate saving all the freezer space I can.

Marinara and Turnips

I finished processing the marinara that I roasted on Sunday today. It made 8 quarts + 1 serving. I'd already boiled my turnips for lunch when I realized I had one serving extra so I just sliced the turnips into strips and had marinara and parmesan over them. Pretty good. A little unusual but good. I'm still waiting on the canner to see if I was successful. Worse case scenario, I freeze it. I am determined to figure out why I fail so miserably with pressure canning though.
Today's Harvest

Radish Seed Pods
Late Lupine - I have no idea why this lupine decided to send up one more stalk of flowers but I went out this morning and the flower was wearing and orange blossom as a hat.
I did my best to capture how full this eggplant is. It's almost 3 feet tall. Shown are the larger eggplants. There are a bunch of smaller ones all over the plant as well.

Banana Pink Jumbo Squash keeps growing. We've got a second one properly started (about 4" long) now as well.
Cherry Tomatoes
Cherokee Purple tomato
Sneaky Cucumber was originally hiding under it's vine, some tomato branches and a couple of corn leaves.

I also planted winter/fall varieties of beets, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, parsnips, onions, spinach and snow peas today. We'll see what happens. If it's a "normal" year, I've likely still got 1 1/2 months or more before first frost. My first sprouts from the bush peas I planted last week were just visible this morning but they weren't feeling very photogenic.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cider's done!

We bottled the cider yesterday and ended up with twenty-five 22 ounce bottles. Twenty four went into boxes to sit for a bit to hopefully get a tiny bit bubbly. The twenty-fifth went into our tummies. It was good. Q got us a bottle filler and a capper from the brew store on his way home on Friday and these tool are so cool. I really like using the capper. We're talking about picking the blackberries for our wine next week now that we have two empty carboys. After the cider, wine will feel like it takes forever, and we won't get to use the capper but... mmmmm, blackberry wine.
Our largest tomato harvest yet this year, including the monster beefmaster that was finally ready. It weighed in at 1 lb. 5 oz.! We had it as slices on hamburgers last night. A single slice exactly covered the bun.
Since we had five romas and we were at Thistledown Farm anyway (buying lots of corn on the cob for Q), I bought a box of tomatoes, some garlic, and onions, and have been reducing them down to marinara for the last couple of days. I think I'm going to try pressure canning again, although my results were so partially successful last year.
When we stopped at the grocery, the red tape banana man was just finishing. I don't know if others find this a mark of a red letter day but I was so excited I exclaimed with delight. Q resignedly said, "I'll go get a basket". We came home with over 16 lbs. of bananas, most of the them organic, and I've got about a 35 smoothies worth of bananas peeled and frozen now. Yay!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Garden Progress

The edamame crop came in today. I picked a tester batch yesterday and Q thought they were delightful before dinner so everybody else came in. Weird to have a crop that just ripens all at once. We got over a pound more, so the total is about 1 1/2 lb. for the year. Not bad for 4 square feet of bed, especially when you think about the nutritional value of the little buggers. (By the way, isn't that nutritional data site awesome? I especially like the "more filling"/"nutritious" matrix. )

We had the most fantastic dinner last night but the camera batteries were being silly so no pictures. It was mashed turnips, peas, pan-fried kielbasa, and onion gravy. It was inspired by bangers and mash but any English person who saw it would be mortified. However, the turnips made it much more nutritionally balanced than potatoes. Truly divine and it has to make it into the regular rotation.

We now seem to have four pumpkins started and a ton of blossoms. Two that are about the size of the top picture, the one in the bottom picture, and one that is smaller.

This is the first Jumbo Pink Banana Squash, which seems to be growing rapidly. There are many other blossoms and I think there may be a couple more just beginning.

This monster keeps getting closer and closer to ripe. Maybe tomorrow?

Eggplants also seem to be growing remarkably quickly. I've got three this size and a few more started.

This morning it's cloudy and damp and all the snails were out feasting. I removed over 20 adults from the front perennial bed and removed an entire lupines. It seemed to be entirely infested with them and a potential source of the trouble. I wasn't too sorry though since it really was too close to the corn. Hopefully, it will aid the slug/snail problem to have it gone.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Odds and Ends

Of course, today's harvest is the first priority. I harvested our first edamame today! We'll do a taste tonight and see if I got the harvesting anywhere near right. If I did, I need to harvest a lot more tomorrow. The lone purple bean is the third we've gotten and we probably won't get very many this year. I really like planting the corn in bunches with squash between but I think I'll just trellis beans and peas somewhere next year. The bowl is full of turnips below the other veggies - another 6 lbs. today and that bed is finally feeling thinned enough that the remaining ones really have room to grow and the parsnips have a chance at some light.

Snacking through the garden today, I came across about another 10 pods of peas and 2 more ripe cherry tomatoes. I poked some more pea seeds into the now almost empty pea bed to see if I can get another crop this fall. Left some space to maybe even poke a few more in in a couple of weeks as well. I missed so many pods that I had lots and lots of seed peas from the first crop, so I figured, why not? I'm compulsively not wanting my beautiful beds to be empty.

We're planting the "winter/fall garden" this weekend in the two beds we moved that are now sitting empty - spinach, beets, broccoli, parsnips, kale, and cauliflower. The cauliflower is purple and I was thinking how funny it is to grow purple cauliflower and white eggplants. The world's turned upside down!

The tomatoes are really beginning to show some color here and there and I've got my eye on a decent number of romas that look like they all might ripen close enough together that I can do a batch of marinara. The number of greens is truly staggering though. I've been reading all these bloggies for places further east that are getting smote down with late blight, which sounds truly awful, so I keep having my fingers crossed.

Last night we went and roamed the mall for a while because we were "buggy". Trying on clothes there I realized it wasn't as much fun as it has been, largely due to the 10 pounds I've put on since I stopped running last summer. I've been unhappy with it but that really brought home how unhappy and haven't found the motivation to really take care of it so I made a silly little deal with myself. When I get it lost, I will be allowed to get a top that I want from Banana Republic (sorry, no link, inexplicably not on their website). I'd better get going though since it won't be in stock for more than a couple of months. Got in a 3 mile run this morning and then worked in the yard for a couple of hours, so as long as I watch what I eat, I should be started on the right track.

I also got the new fall issue of Interweave Knits while we were there. The fall issue is always the best and there are 3 sweaters in it that I want for myself - Slanting Gretel Tee, Trellis and Vine Pullover, and Farmer's Market Cardigan. I've got some pretty slightly variegated blue yarn I bought at the Brown Sheep factory store that I think might be perfect for the Trellis and Vine pullover. I really want to use my Baby Bamboo for the Gretel Tee but I fear that it's too heavy. I'd definitely have to redo the pattern instructions for a different gauge (It's 104 yds/50 g instead of the 165/5o that the original pattern is written for.) but I fear that the look would go awry. Might have to knit a sample swatch and feel the drape of it. I haven't figured out what would work best from my stash for that cardigan, although it's my favorite. Not quite enough of the Brown Sheep for it. I always harvest clean things into my pockets (blueberries, peas, cherries, etc.) and so the big pockets amuse me. Curse you alluring fall issue!

I'm about 1/2 done with one of the custom sweater orders I currently have. It's just a vest but it's a vintage pattern that requires edging to be knit and sewn on at every edge and all sorts of other crazy finishing. Not to mention that it's on size 2 needles. Should be pretty snazzy when it's finished though.
Looks like I'd better get to work. :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Foster Kittens

Yes, there are really three, even though two of them look exactly alike. We have them until 8/26 while they get over a bit of kitty cold before being adopted.
Kitten #1 (shy, reserved, the only short hair)
Kitten #2 (who growls if you try to take mousie away)
Kitten #3

Yet more harvesting...

Mom and I harvested the first 14 pounds of plums off our tree for the year. They leave tomorrow morning and we canned 7 quarts for her. This is the first year they've managed to stay late enough (just a few days) to get the first ripe ones. Mom is very excited, canned plums being a favorite of hers. We also cleared out all that brush in front of it and took out quite a few dead bits.
Three stages of eggplant babydom - blossom on top, tiny white beginning, and, finally, thumb sized. We've got at least four of the larger sized ones going on the "Casper" (white) and we're just starting to get a couple started on the purple.

Last night's dinner. Q has figured out how to grill chicken to perfection and among the 4 of us, we polished off 12 ears of corn. Q was the big winner in that contest by far. (Not our corn yet but hopefully soon!)

Monday, August 17, 2009


Mom and I just picked 19 quarts of blackberries, a.k.a. almost 4 gallons if that sounds more impressive to you. Should be enough for both of our freezer needs for the winter.

Baby Vegetables

What a beautiful view to be greeted with each morning! From my front the right

to the left

Today's Harvest - First Beet!

Baby tomatoes, we've gotten about a dozen cherry tomatoes and 5 or 6 ripe Romas so far

Baby Pumpkin
Baby Pink Jumbo Banana Squash (still wearing it's blossom hat)

Baby Cucumber

Baby Corn

Baby Cauliflower

Baby Cabbage

Not really babies, but little broccoli sideshoots; those plants just keep producing

Yes, yes, I know it's a blossom but it can be thought of as a very, very baby yellow squash. :)

I was irresponsible and let all the camera batteries die so pictures of baby eggplant, baby purple bean and big, huge ripening tomato will have to wait.

Over the weekend, Mama managed to cut up all 96 pounds of apples and freeze them ready for making pies to sell at boutique. They made 180 cups of apples, which equals 30 pies. We also picked another 10 pounds of blueberries. She has them frozen so she has enough blueberries for 20 triple berry pies. She already has the strawberries frozen at home and we're off to get the blackberries picked.