Journal

I’m Back! Updates and Strawberry Freezer Jam..

Phew!  Time sure flies when you’re having fun!  It also flies when you’re prioritizing differently, doesn’t it?

Let’s see:  Since January lots has happened!

1.  Most importantly, we found out we’re expecting another baby!  I alluded to a big surprise in my last post, and had meant to update way sooner, so for those of you who were waiting with baited breath (ha!), I’m sorry!  I’m due in early September, and I have a whole separate post about what gender this little one is coming up!

Big Sibling Book!

Big Sibling Book!

2.  I stopped babysitting.  That was a hard decision to make, but it all kind of unfolded very quickly and smoothly…kind of like what happens when you start listening to God and obeying Him.  I was watching three little ones in addition to raising my own two girls, and then all three of us mamas got pregnant, which meant by the time my baby came, I’d have one 6-year-old, three 3-year-olds, one 2-year-old, and three infants.  I was going to hire my mother-in-law to come help me several hours a day, but even if that would have worked out (which it wasn’t go to) I started realizing that the hours she wasn’t there was going to be extremely hard on me.  So I asked one family to find another sitter (that was a hard decision!) and shortly after that the other mama needed to quit her job for the health of her pregnancy and decided she was going to stay home when her third arrived.  So it was an abrupt end to babysitting for me, but it has worked out nicely, actually!  I decided not to get back into it, because I’ve been enjoying it just being me and my girls again… plus I’m not superwoman… I think having a newborn and starting homeschooling 1st grade in the fall is going to be enough for my brain to handle!

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This is what my house looked like all winter

A rare day "warm enough" to venture out

A rare day “warm enough” to venture out

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It was pretty fun to have our own sledding hill!

 

3.  I don’t know about you all, but this winter took a toll on me.  I think the combination of not being able to take all the kids outside hardly at all, nor being able to leave my house…nor really WANTING to leave in the frigid temps…has opened my eyes to just how amazing this era is that we live in. I have a whole new appreciation for Laura Ingalls Wilder and the rest of the pioneers.

Can you imagine experiencing a winter like ours without whole-house heating?  Can you imagine having to try to feed and water your livestock during a blizzard?  Just trekking out to give my poor chickens water twice a day was brutal enough!  Can you imagine not seeing another soul outside your family for an entire winter?  Seeing my daffodils push stubbornly through snow this spring brought tears of sublime joy to my eyes.  I imagine Mary and Laura Ingalls felt that way, too.  Sending my children outside to run and play and GET OUT OF MY HAIR and opening the kitchen window to feel the breeze while I did dishes for the first time this spring made me close my eyes in ecstasy.  I imagine Caroline Ingalls felt that way, too.  I think we can all stand united, from this century to the ones long past, and give a big cheer for SPRING!

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Kitty TV! Cider on the left, Toopweets, and Pancake on the right.

 

 

 

 

4.  My chickens.  My poor, poor chickens!  I had a big learning curve with poulty this horrid winter.  For starters, I realized that even though we had one day with a -40 windchill, and FEET of snow out there, the hens could survive.  It was totally unnecessary to bring them onto my back porch to dirty it up with a shocking amount of poo in 12 hours.  It helped me sleep better, anyway.  Despite all my babying, the poor girls were picked off one and two at a time over the winter.  Desperation drove predators to this easy meal, and one clever hunter even figured out how to get into the coop!  The last two were likely carried off by coyotes…after the coop raid they were too scared to go back to the coop, so they hunkered down in front of the house for about a week before they were taken.  So, sadly, I am chickenless right now.  I haven’t replaced them yet because I’d like to sell my coop and get a different style.  I’m also torn between getting hens or chicks…votes?

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“Looks like running, Feels like walking” ha ha!

My big brother, Zach, and me.  Typical shot of us.

My big brother, Zach, and me. Typical shot of us.

5.  Over the weekend I ran a half marathon!  And by ran, I mean walked. 🙂  But still, walking 13.1 miles whilst 21 weeks pregnant is something to be proud of, which is why it’s a bullet point here.  It took me nearly 4 hours, but I had a book on my iPod and I had a good time!

Where is the next porta-potty??  Baby on the bladder, people!!

Where is the next porta-potty?? Baby on the bladder, people!!

I’m still a little sore, which tells me I need to do more walking than I have been doing!  I’d been training for this half and had intended on running it, but I ran 10 miles at 19 weeks and between then there was a lot of growth happening with baby and it just was not comfortable to run anymore.  But I still got to cheese over the finish line and get lots of bragging rights!

 

 

6.  This morning my oldest, Cozy, saw something on TV about making “jelly” and asked if we could make some.  We hardly ever eat jelly or jam…like, seriously, one jar can last a whole year in my house.  Consequently, I never bother to make it because it would expire long before we got to it.  But when you have a love for cooking and preserving that has been ignored for months and your darling blue-eyed 6-year-old asks you to teach her how to preserve… “Sure!  Sounds like fun!”  So I found a recipe for a quick and easy strawberry freezer jam and we had a lot of fun making it!  The girls washed the berries for me and then helped me mash them:

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We added gelatin instead of pectin because I have loads of it:DSC03699

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letting it cool before sticking it in the freezer/refrigerator:

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(I stuck the jar intended for the fridge in the freezer so it would hurry up and set before lunchtime)

 

 

 

 

 

Taste-test time! DSC03701DSC03707  Yum!  It’s a little runnier than I’d like jam to be, but the flavor is really good!  I’m ok with the runny consistency because I’ll use this in my yogurt way sooner than we’ll eat it on toast, so it will actually be easier to mix in for me.  But if you want this to have a better spreading consistency, I would either switch to pectin, or double the gelatin amount.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Freezer Jam (Makes 4 half-pints)

  • 4 cups cut strawberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 envelopes (1 1/2 Tbsp) unflavored gelatin (double for thicker consistency)
  • 1/2 cup cold water

1. In medium saucepan heat strawberries, lemon juice and sugar, about 5 minutes.  Crush (I used an immersion blender after the girls finished having fun smooshing).  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, 3 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water.  Let set 1 minute. Add to berry mixture and heat, stirring until gelatin is dissolved, about 3 minutes.

3.  Let jam stand 5 minutes.  Skim off foam, ladle into jars.  Let jars cool before freezing.

Jam will keep for one month in the refrigerator and 1+ years in the freezer.

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So, after I finished spreading the jam onto the toast, Cozy says in a disappointed tone, “I thought we were making jelly!”  This confused me, because while I know my kid is smart, there is NO WAY she knows the difference between jelly and jam, so I said, “Huh?  This is jelly!”  I half expected her to school me on what exactly constitutes jelly vs. jam, but she just said again, “No, I meant JELLY.  This is not jelly.”  And then it hit me:  she wanted to make Jell-O, not jelly!  Ha ha!  Poor kid!  Life is rough when your vocabulary is still young!

It’s good to be back!

 

Categories: Freezing, Journal | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Garden Update – Summer 2013

DSC02192It was such a promising spring… I had so much motivation, I planted nearly everything I intended to although there’s always a few things that I don’t get around to planting, like kale- boo hoo!  I was even staying on top of the weeds and I thought I was pretty clever with my inter-planting.  I’m not really sure what happened, exactly…but I really did not get much harvest this year!

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For starters, ALL my fruit bushes that started out as expensive sticks ended up as…expensive sticks.  I’m guessing they didn’t “take”.  Huge bummer!  I was really hoping to get them established this year so that soon I would have fresh berries from our own yard!  I’ll try again next year!

Arugula Seeded

Although my arugula came in quickly and was plentiful, I actually MISSED the harvest and it went to seed!  I just never had a chance to make my huge batch of Italian Wedding soup, which is really the only thing I want the arugula for.  I think I can still re-plant that though, so all hope is not lost.  We did have several fresh salads off the Romaine and spinach, though.  Yum!

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I planted two watermelon plants.  One was brutally murdered by the lawn mower, but the other is thriving nicely!

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I even have two watermelons already…although they are both quite small still.  This picture was taken mid-August.  I’ll have to get an updated picture soon.

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The basil was probably the healthiest crop in the garden.  This is amusing to me because I’ve tried to grow basil so often before and never had much success.  But I’ve made tons of pesto from this one plant, bruschetta, and sometimes I just like to go pinch off the flowers just so my hands will smell delicious all day!

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My cucumber vines were doing amazingly, and then all of a sudden dried up and died completely.

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I kind of suspect I may have overcrowded them.  Next year just ONE seed per square.  No one needs 4 million cucumbers anyway.

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The snap peas were AWESOME this year! (It’s hard to tell from this picture because the peas are sharing a bed with three kinds of potatoes and of course, weeds)  This was my biggest triumph because I LOVE snap peas madly, and have never been able to get a respectable harvest from them!  I finally figured them out though, and had as many as I wanted this year!

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The pea harvest is over, unfortunately, but I have no complaints there!  I did inter-plant potatoes in there, which I will not do next year.  I think it is fine, it just made for a lot of extra vegetation as well as made it a little harder to weed.  I have already harvested the white and red potatoes, but the sweet potatoes aren’t quite ready yet.

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The saddest part of this year’s garden to me is my tomato plot.  I have no idea what happened, but just like with the cucumbers, the plants completely dried up.  The green tomatoes still ripened, and at least on the cherry tomato plants I had plenty of tomatoes, but on all my canning plants there’s hardly anything.  Fortunately, my parents planted tomatoes this year and had tons of rogue plants come up and do well, so they’ve given me enough to stock my tomato sauce supply.

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One thing that did bring a smile to my face though was watching my Dagny-girl eat her cherry tomatoes straight off the vine.  The only reason I even planted them was for her!

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The cherry tomatoes did pretty well, and I’ve made plenty of “sun-dried” tomatoes (using the dehydrator) that will last me at least a year.

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The green bean teepee turned out so cool!  I’m so glad we did this, and the kids have loved picking beans off it.

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I’m going to plant something else on the teepee next year though because I didn’t really care for the stringy texture of the pole beans.   I’m going to stick with bush beans from now on.

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The asparagus patch did pretty well, albeit the constant fight against weeds.  Asparagus is supposed to take three years to mature, and enough shoots came up this year that I feel confident that in two more years I’ll be frying asparagus straight from my garden!

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One of the more unique-to-me crops this year was the cilantro.  I’d never  successfully grown it before, nor did I ever know that coriander seed was another harvest from cilantro.  Ironically, I didn’t use ANY of the cilantro.  I forgot.  I did, however, harvest fresh and dried coriander, which I’ll detail in a different post.  It was fun!

We only got a few strawberries.  Honestly, this has been mostly a weed patch all summer.  It seems like every time I go out there the weeds have doubled.  Three times now I’ve completely cleared the weeds and still they persist in returning.  The June-bearing berry plants kept getting uprooted by pesky chickens and I don’t think there’s even one plant left, but fortunately the ever-bearing plants seem to have survived and even sent out shoots!  I’m looking forward to that crop next year!

The pumpkin plant started off healthy, and then decided to drink coffee or something because it never hit puberty.  It looks like we’ll be buying a pumpkin from Pumpkin Pete again this year!  That’s ok, even though I really wanted to over-decorate with pumpkins this year, we had a lot of fun playing at Pete and Gwen’s last year!

All in all, it was rather unsatisfying.  I was kind of hoping that I would be a professional gardener by my fourth year of gardening, but still I persist in making mistakes.  My biggest mistake was fairly obvious, and that was using compost that I had thrown weeds into last year.  (Duh).  This year the weeds went into their own pile, and what little kitchen scraps and chicken manure I have went into a weed-free pile.  I’m not really an advocate for composting.  I’ve tried it several times and generally lose interest halfway through the season.  Anyway, next year, I’m going to return to Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening concept and make fresh Mel’s Mix to put in ALL my beds.  That made it so much more fun last year to hardly have any weeding to do AND get a nice healthy crop.  If the budget allows, I’d also like to do a little landscaping to “pretty up” the space.

Lastly, I’m also going to plant garlic in each of my beds next month.  (I’m going to try to remember, anyway!  Someone remind me!!)  I think that will help fight any diseases/fungus that may think has a home in my garden.

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Categories: Gardening, Journal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Tribute To A Fine Lady

Phew!  Sorry for the major downer post last time!  I admit wine was involved, but mostly I was just feeling really sad for my poor hubby.  He’s been doing pretty well, despite the occasional innocent insensitivity from one of the kids.  Dagny: “Daddy, Mica a cat-killer!” or, “Dat Pounce?” (Pointing to a different cat).  Cozy’s are more sophisticated: (Sighs) “I miss Pounce.  Does it hurt to die?”  Each question brings a tear to his eye, but overall he is healing.

And then…

Two days after Pounce’s untimely demise a rowdy storm blew into our area.  After a tornado came through 10 miles from our house three years ago and destroyed entire neighborhoods and the front half of a local high school, I’ve been less than a fan of storms anymore.  Consequently, I pleaded with friends on Facebook to call or text me if the sirens went off, because we cannot hear them out in the country.  I also downloaded two different apps that would alert me as well.  (Oh, and my phone has a built-in storm alert…overkill?  Maybe.  Ironically, my basement is NOT stocked with emergency items or even somewhere to sit while praying for our lives.  I’m a conundrum.)  Anyway, my phone was going off in some capacity the entire night: alarms, texts, Facebook notifications, actual phone calls (remember those?).  The girls and I snuggled with blankets and bean bags next to the wolf spiders in the basement while Ty snoozed in our big comfy bed on the top floor of our house, far too unconcerned with staying alive for my taste.  We lost power for several hours, which was fine in the cool basement but rather steamy when we stumbled back upstairs to crawl back into bed once the coast was clear.  I wasn’t in bed more than 10 minutes before I got another text.  Heart pounding, I went back into survival mode but after reading the text my heartbeat changed to a different pattern.  The text was from my Mom, “Grandma just passed away.  Dad is heading over there.”

My Dad and Grandma at our annual St. Paddy's Day party last year.

My Dad and Grandma at our annual St. Paddy’s Day party last year.

That was a rough week!  While Grandma was 90 years old and we all knew she would be dying soon as she was fairly ill and had received the Last Sacrament, you never can truly prepare your heart for the inevitable, right?  Well, I had a big giant post about our cat, so let me share just a few memories of my Grandma…different tone though.  Grandma lived a wonderful life, and while we will all miss her, she is with her Father, her husband, and her oldest daughter.  She’s happy.

My father’s mother was born in 1923, and probably like everyone else raised during the Great Depression never could quite break any extreme frugal habits.  She married Grandpa and they tried for five years to have a baby, and finally ended up adopting a baby girl.  As is often the case, she became pregnant…seven more times.  My Dad was right in the middle, the second boy of three, with five sisters.  Together, they raised their eight children in a tiny 3-bedroom house that is still in the family.  Grandpa died before I was born, less than 60 years old.  Grandma never remarried, and never did tell me why.  I think maybe she figured no one could ever hold a candle to her Edward.

I was in the middle of her 30 grandchildren (15 great-grandchildren!), but she never failed to buy me new underwear for Christmas each year of my childhood and she always made me a homemade peach pie on my birthday, bringing some summer to the dead of winter, which, to this day, is still my favorite kind of pie.

Truthfully, Grandma scared the bajeebers out of me as a child.  She was a staunch Roman Catholic who raised 8 children and even several grandkids…this was not a woman who took any crap from any kids.

Wearing glow-sticks as earrings at a Christmas In July Ty and threw many years ago.  She had a good sense of humor!

Wearing glow-sticks as earrings at a Christmas In July party Ty and threw many years ago. She had a good sense of humor!

Plus she HATED my cat, Rikki, who was the love of my life as a child.  Once, Grandma was babysitting us while my parents were off doing whatever it was that parents do without their children (I’m pretty sure mine just held hands and missed us…) and she was putting me to bed and Rikki jumped up right next to Grandma’s head.  Grandma sat up, let out a screech loud enough to wake the dead and Rikki shot out of that room in a bright orange blur.  My brother and I laughed about that for days.

I gained a new appreciation for Grandma the older I got, as children do.  As time went on and I got married myself, and had some of my own children, my fear morphed into admiration.  I loved talked to her at family parties or playing Scrabble with her when we’d hang out.  She was a fountain of family history and amazing recipes.  We shared an unabashed appreciation for food and while I usually never could get a word in edgewise, I liked hearing about her favorite recipes.

I think the thing I most admired about my Grandma though, was how close her children all still are.  Several times a year my Dad’s side of the family gets together for big Irish parties and all the siblings come as well as most of the grandkids.  It’s always such fun, and beyond the parties they are really there for each other.  Grandma definitely left a legacy to be admired, and she will be greatly missed.

She cheated at Scrabble, though.

Four Generations

Four Generations, Christmas 2012

Stick with me, folks.  I have so many recipes coming at you!  Hummus, lemon basil pesto, canning peaches (and making them into pies in honor of my Grandma!), vegetable soup, miracle pasta…  it’s all coming soon!  And no more sadness if I can help it!

Categories: Journal, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

A Sad Day

Today was awful.

Actually, it didn’t start out awful…  the kids were all great, practically all day.  Nothing drives me towards stress-eating or drinking faster than unruly children.  And since I am regularly in charge of at least four children during the day, it’s safe to say that most evenings I am indulging.

But today, miraculously, all four children were just normal, children-like kids.  Mischievous.  Happy.  Clever.  Funny.

Which is fortunate, because by noon I was completely pre-occupied with guilt, sadness and regret.

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You may or may not have pets.  That’s somewhat unimportant when relating to today’s events.  Even the most pet-less or uncaring soul can relate to the sad, twisted emotions of today.  (Note:  Pet-less does NOT equal uncaring.  Uncaring equals uncaring.)

Let’s begin: 

Toby, the boy-dog

Toby, the boy-dog

I have two rotten dogs.  Toby and Mica.  It’s no secret they drive me to the brink of craziness.  They steal food from little fingers:  food that I’ve carefully prepared for little FINGERS, not paws.  They pee and poop all over my carpet.  It’s not carpet I love, in fact, it’s disgusting carpet that I hate.  Regardless, it’s carpet that occupies my home, and until I win the lottery or until this blog starts earning me any income, it’s carpet that’s going to know the soles of my feet intimately for a LONG time.  (I also own a steam cleaner.  Coincidence?  Not.)

Mica, the girl-dog

Mica, the girl-dog

The only thing they do to endear me to them is hint at my protection.  I live in the country, and when my husband is out of town these two mongrels are my only safety.  I know without a doubt they would die to protect me.  This is a pretty big attraction for me towards these dogs, albeit the only one.

Scavenger (Taxi's sister), Domino, and Toopweets (our other boy-cat)

Scavenger (Taxi’s sister), Domino, and Toopweets (our other boy-cat)

I have five cats.  I used to have seven, once upon a time, in a much larger home.  Once, years ago, Toby chased and caught one of our more friendly cats, Taxi, and shook her viciously.  It wasn’t a proud moment of my life when I smacked and kicked Toby to let her go, but let her go he did.  Taxi never really recovered from the incident, and wisely never showed her face near the dogs again.  She lived in the rafters of our duct-work.  Safe in a world filled with mice and dust, high above the canine terrors.  Eventually we gave Taxi to my Mom, so she could live on the main floor again.

They have treed several of our cats before.  Even though we had three cats when we adopted the puppies nine years ago, the brother-and-sister dogs never really understood their role as SIBLINGS.  They were brother-and-sister pups, first and foremost.  They didn’t really adapt well to our feline household.  As we added cats we figured they would get used to it.  But small cat-terrorizing events over nine years eventually added up.

Our dogs are cat-killers.

I think it’s the German Shepherd in them, truly.

A flashback:  {When I was fifteen, my ten-year-old tabby was killed by our family dog, a German Shepherd mutt, while I was at summer camp.  I’ll never forget my Mom walking with me through the Confederate graveyard on Johnson Island after picking me up from Camp Patmos and explaining to me what happened.  I was devastated, in the way only a 15-year-old who had never lost anyone other than an aunt could be.  I cried every night for a year over Rikki, my beloved orange tabby girl who followed me everywhere and let me dress her up as a baby and push her in a pram.}

Today, it was my husband’s “Rikki”.  His name was Pounce, and Ty had received Pounce as a kitten 13 years ago from his mother.  Pounce came onto Ty’s scene three years before I had, and was already a Crotchety Snob by the time I made my debut.  By finally marrying Ty and making good on all my teasing, I eventually won Pounce over.  It took him at least 6 months into our marriage – he wasn’t one to blindly trust – to let me pet him, and probably two years to actually give me a kiss.  This cat had serious loyalties.  He was Ty’s Cat, through and through.  Over the last ten years of our marriage, Pounce won his own place in my heart.  He was still Ty’s Cat, and reserved certain greetings for Ty, but he condescended to cuddle me in the middle of the night sometimes, and would even allow a “goopa” (kiss) or two every now and then.

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All day today, the dogs kept barking up trees in the backyard.  (I had let them out at 4:30 AM a few days ago because Toby was whining and I figured if I didn’t get up now to let him out, I’d be cleaning up poop in the morning.  {PS.  Mica had already pooped on the carpet.}  They immediately ran aggressively through the yard, chasing some idiot animal that thought our fenced-in back yard was a good place to scavenge. )  So, I figured they had treed a coon or a possum, both fairly popular in the country.  I kept yelling at them through the kitchen window, and thrice let them into the house to give their vocal cords a rest.  I put them back out during meal times.  (By the way, I have four kids, 5 and under, during most days of the week.  There are 300 “meal times” during the day.) Each time they went back out, they’d run back under the trees barking at whatever was treed.

Let’s cut to the chase.  It was Pounce.  My favorite Person-Earth’s-Favorite-Pet-That-He’s-Had-Since-Way-Before-He-Even-Met-Me.  Those idiot dogs cornered Pounce under a thick blanket of pine trees.  I had no idea… I just thought they were being their usual idiot selves.  It wasn’t until my 5-year-old daughter, Cozy, came running into the kitchen crying, “I think the dogs killed Pounce!” that I had an inkling of what had happened.  I’m ashamed to say I even put her off for a few minutes while I finished the dishes, saying, “Oh Honey, it’s a raccoon”.  She kept insisting it was Pounce though, so I finally abandoned the mound of dishes and followed her.  Before I even opened the slider I saw she was right.  There was nothing raccoon-ish at all about the long short-haired skinny body on the ground, and with my tongue pressed to the roof of my mouth all I could do was pray it was a stray cat as I walked towards him.

Pouncer

There wasn’t much blood.  Only one dog with enough sense to be sheepish and another idiot dog with misplaced pride standing near the poor cat.  It looked like Pounce.  The same white-tipped tail, the same clawless front paws.  The same black-and-gray tabby stripes.  But a closer look at his face and I saw those were NOT Pounce’s insolent eyes.  Those were a strange cat’s angry, unbelieving eyes.  I felt a glimmer of hope…  maybe this was a stray.  Maybe I wouldn’t have to tell my Love that his kitten was dead.  Maybe I could just feel sad over the spent life of a poor soul that tragically wandered into the wrong yard.  Dig a grave for this Unfortunate…I could do that.

I called for Pounce.  In the garage, in the front yard.  He didn’t come, of course.  Eventually I had to face reality that our dogs killed our cat.  It was Rikki all over again, plus fifteen years.  Fifteen years of role-change, where suddenly I was the Giver of bad news instead of the Receiver.   I was dreading Ty’s return home.  What was I going to say?  Should I just hand him a shot of whiskey and straight-up tell him?  Should I let him greet the dogs with his usual love and affection and then tell him before he hated them forever?  Should I call him now at work?  Should I text him?  Should I let him tell me about his day first and then tell him?

Not a shot from today, but a similar expression of the seriousness in her blue eyes.

Not a shot from today, but a similar expression of the seriousness in her blue eyes.

First, a conversation with Cozy.  When we discovered it was, indeed, Pounce, she cried.  Hard.  I was impressed, honestly.  I mean, we have two dogs, five cats, one goldfish, and six hens.  That a 5-year-old attached any importance to someone who’s been there ever since she could remember made me crumble.  After I had found a suitable box and towel to wrap the poor cat in and finally came back inside to deal with human tears, I wrapped my arms around her.  (The other three small girls were blissfully ignorant of any sadness.)  Cozy spoke wisely through her tears, “Will he be going up the stairs now, Mama?”  (She’s referring to a scene from a family favorite movie, It Came Upon The Midnight Clear, where Mickey Rooney’s soul climbs from his corpse up stairs to Heaven).  After I confirmed this truth (Hey…  there’s no way animals aren’t in Heaven.  Why create them on Earth if they aren’t going to make us smile up there?)  She asked to pray with me.

It was one of those rare moments in parenthood where I felt a calmness:  despite ALL my failures, she’s learning the important things.

It was a rough few hours until Ty got home.  Ultimately, I just sputtered it out, as soon as he greeted me.  I couldn’t think of a better way.  We’ve lost a son together, our first-born.  We know loss.  Losing Pounce – although certainly not the same – is hard on Ty.  He’s a friend to him, someone he’s protected, fed, and most recently shoved thyroid medication down his throat, not to mention cleaned his litter box for 13 years.  Ty has an attachment to Pounce like I had to Rikki many years ago, and to lose him to the ultimate betrayal of another pet is the worst way to say goodbye to this longtime friend.

No one this good-looking should be so sad

No one this good-looking should be so sad

Please pray for Ty’s grieving, and for his forgiveness of our idiot dogs.  They won’t be any easier to forgive then my idiot dog from my childhood, but ultimately, they are just animals, acting instinctively.  This is why we are the superior race, so that we can fight OUR instincts.

We already miss you, Pounce.  You were the best cat ever!

We already miss you, Pounce. You were the best cat ever!

Categories: Journal | Tags: , , , , ,

A Very Lengthy Tour of My Garden

DSC01182(First of all, don’t those clouds look like something from The Simpsons? HA!)

My garden is mostly planted and I am just so pleased with it!  Last year, I tried Square Foot Gardening for the first time and loved it.  I learned a few valuable lessons regarding over-crowding last year, and I think I made the right adjustments this year.  This is the straight-on view of my entire garden.  On the very left up against the fence is a new addition, an asparagus patch!

DSC01185Nothing to see yet, really.  Asparagus takes three years before you can harvest it, and then it grows prolifically as a perennial, apparently.  I’ve  never had asparagus straight out of a garden before, so that will be a real treat!

DSC01183Right next to the asparagus patch is something else that is new to my garden and my experience:  Raspberry bushes!  I planted two red bushes and one golden, just for funsies.  I doubt I’ll get a harvest this year, but hopefully next year?  I’ve never grown raspberries before, so I’m really not sure when I can expect to harvest.  I know my girls are going to be all over them, though!  They are berry-crazy!  (Ha ha)

DSC01184It’s alive!  The other two bushes just look like expensive sticks that some crazy person planted, but this one actually has a few leaves!  (Doesn’t take much to excite me…)

DSC01181Behind the raspberry bushes is a raised bed.  Last year I grew pickles, basil, beets, cilantro and two kinds of heirloom tomatoes in this bed.  They all did fairly well here, so I didn’t change much.  I planted basil, cilantro and cucumbers this year.  I have room for more, but haven’t decided what to put there yet.  I will probably put cherry tomatoes in there once my seedlings are ready for transplant.  I decided not to grow beets this year, even though they were lots of fun, because I pickled and canned them up, and no one ever ate them.  I also decided not to grow pickles, because it was too frustrating to me that there was never a batch ready at the same time for pickling.  This year I’m just going to order pickles, and that way I’ll get all my pickling done at once.

I took these pictures the same day that I took the chicken pictures, as is evident by Dagny’s outfit.  See my big helper?  (There used to be basil seeds in that square…I’m guessing that they aren’t there anymore…)

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I did start my basil this year from direct-sow seed.  I’ve never done that (successfully) with basil, so it wasn’t too surprising to me that most of them didn’t come up.  I ended up buying a healthy-looking plant just to guarantee I would get some basil this year.

DSC01187It looks like at least one seed worked, though!  This is definitely not a weed!  Exciting!

DSC01188I also started cilantro from seed, and there are three seedlings that sprouted!  Aren’t they so cute?  I will probably still buy a larger plant though, because it’s getting to be salsa season and I need cilantro, dang it!  On a related note, you probably already knew this, but I’m still a beginner in the gardening world and this was new information to me.  Did you know that coriander is actually the seeds from cilantro?  I’ll definitely be learning more about harvesting coriander once my cilantro goes to seed later this year and posting about it.  Interesting, isn’t it?

DSC01199The next raised bed, which was all corn last year, now is my lettuce bed.  I decided not to grow corn because I tried it three years in a row, and although I did finally get good corn last year, I just decided it’s cheap enough in season that I don’t need to waste space worrying over it.  So this year I planted Romaine, spinach and arugula, just like last year.  I still want to plant kale, as well, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.  I might have missed the window… not sure.

DSC01200It is my opinion that arugula is the EASIEST vegetable to grow.  It is as talented as a weed and nearly as invasive!  Last year I used my arugula in my Italian Wedding Soup and also made arugula pecan pesto.  It was delicious, and I kicked myself all pesto-less winter for not making more! In fact, I went through a lazy streak in the crucial week before the arugula went to seed and didn’t preserve it at all!  (For shame!  Boo!  Hiss!)  I was definitely regretting that over the winter, because arugula isn’t something that shows up in my grocery stores.

DSC01201Spinach is so cute as a baby.  Aww, wook at da widdle spinach weaves! So sweet!  (I may need help.)

DSC01202Romaine is cute too!  The wood chips are about the size of my thumbnail, just for scale comparison.  Aren’t those leaves tiny?  Someday they are going to be crunchy chunks of deliciousness drenched in Caesar dressing.  Sniff.  They grow up so fast!

DSC01190In front of the lettuce box are the snap peas.  I’m not exactly proud of this contraption.  There are probably 10 different ways to encourage these climbers that are snazzier and more efficient.  But I’m saving my landscaping budget for more important things and this was made with things I already had.  Plus it’s WAY better than my original design, which involved a collapsible drying rack and was far more embarrassing.

DSC01192I think this will work.  This is the most promising batch of snap peas I’ve grown yet.  The first year I planted them too late and only got ONE pea.  The second year my garden was consumed by weeds and I was too scared to enter it.  Last year I foolishly planted the peas behind the tomatoes, which were foolishly planted behind the cucumber, which were foolishly planted to receive ALL the sun.  The tomatoes and cucumbers were amazing, the most amazing crop I’d ever grown.  But the peas?  Oh the peas.  Nary a one was able to even see the sun, and they were quickly completely consumed by the larger plants.  This year looks to finally provide me with all the peas I can consume!  Once the plants are happily climbing, I’m also going to interplant this box with red, Yukon, and sweet potatoes.  (This was the potato box last year.)

DSC01193I am, however, REALLY proud of this!  I saw this on Pinterest and had to do it.  These are just bamboo poles tied together so that pole green beans can grow up it.

DSC01194(Isn’t this a cool picture?)

As a little girl, I was always infatuated with fairies and tiny forts.  I would have loved something like this as a little girl – a “secret” hide-out in the garden where the fairies were sure to be spotted.

DSC01195My oldest girl was named Cosette, after a character in one of my favorite musicals.  (Name that show!) We nicknamed her “Cozy”, which completely epitomizes her personality.  She is a lot like me in the way that she loves to create forts and is more than happy to hunt for fairies in tiny spaces.  My plan is to try to train the beans up the poles in a weaving fashion, so that the fort will be completely covered.  If any grow higher than the 6-ft poles I will try to encourage them to hang over the “door”, to complete the entrance to the hide-out.  I’ve never grown pole beans before, so I’m not totally sure what to expect.

DSC01196This is the first year for pumpkins for us, too.  I tried to grow them my second year of gardening, but the weeds and the heat wave won that battle.  My plan is to just let the vines go across the right side of the yard.  Can you see the seedling in there?  It only took like 3 days to sprout like that!  It totally shocked me.  (I shock easily too, apparently) I’m not planning on leaving the tomato cage over it, I’m just a little distrusting of my chickens, so I’m leaving the cage there until the vines can fend for themselves.

DSC01206Likewise, on the back fence, is the watermelon.  I haven’t grown that successfully yet, either.

DSC01205I planted this the same day as the pumpkin, and look how wussy the seedling looks compared to the pumpkin!  It took longer to sprout, too.  I’m going to let these vines take over the back of the yard, too.  I tried to grow watermelon up that chain-link fence last year.  It did work, and I did get one melon – that I prematurely harvested because it was about to frost, anyway – but I have a big enough yard that it doesn’t really matter.  The back end of the yard is only used for compost and my husband will be grateful to not have to mow it anyway.

DSC01203The long back bed that was Romas and arugula last year now is the strawberry bed.  I planted both Ever-bearing and June-bearing berries.  The chickens have destroyed two of the June-bearing plants.  I’m not really sure what the method to their madness is… why only two?  Why both June-bearing?  It’s a puzzle.  I put a tomato cage in one end, hoping it would creep them out enough to stay out.

DSC01210This isn’t in my garden.  It’s actually on the back of my house.  This is from last year’s pitiful strawberry efforts.  (News flash, strawberries like FULL sun, duh!)  I was happy to see two plants return.  It kind of vindicated my salty feelings from last year.

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This is the view from the right side of the garden.  Stage left, for you theater majors out there.  The box closest to the camera is mostly empty still.  I have two banana pepper plants given to me by my generous in-laws.   They also gave me a jalapeno plant, but the chickens had their way with it.  More tomato cages to the rescue!  The rest of the box is going to be filled with beefsteak, Roma and cherry tomatoes.  I bought all the seeds for these, but only started the seeds a few weeks ago.  The seedlings are only about 4 inches tall, and I’m not sure that is far enough along.  I might just buy plants to get in the ground now, and plant the seedlings I started later when they are stronger.  That way if they don’t produce until late fall it won’t be a big deal and I will have already been able to can up some tomato products.

You can see that I have two big helpers, staying busy digging in the dirt for Mama!

Behind the chain-link fence to the right, on the other side of the strawberry patch I planted sunflowers.  I had started the seeds in decomposing pots and then planted the pots after the seedlings were about an inch tall.  I then took some practical precautions and protected their row with chicken wire.  A day later, the seedlings were all gone.  In some of the pots there was even a broken sunflower shell, just sitting on top of the dirt, mocking me.  Crafty birds.

So I replanted the seeds, but I don’t have much hope for their survival.

DSC01209The last thing I planted this year was a blueberry bush.  I planted it by itself in a very empty space where a tiny propane tank used to live behind our house.  It also just looks like a stick in the ground, but hopefully next year or in a few years we’ll have fresh blueberries!

I still have a few things to get in the ground, including a blackberry bush.  I’m not sure where I’m going to put that yet, though.

If you have any tips for some of the things that are new to me (berry bushes, asparagus, pole beans, sunflowers) I would greatly appreciate it!

Categories: Gardening, Journal, Vegetables | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Wood County

DSC01218I love my “girls”.

Back in the fall of 2012, the daughter of a friend of my father-in-law’s (phew!) gave me an entire chicken coop as well as 5 older hens.  Some of the hens still lay (well, of the four that figured out how not to get eaten by hawks, that is...) on a consistent basis, but I was really only getting one or two eggs a day.  My family eats eggs practically every day, so I decided it was time to add some younger hens to our little flock.

Meet the new girls!

DSC01215This is Savannah.  I have no idea why I named her that, it’s just the first thing that popped into my head.  I was born in Peachtree City, Georgia though, so maybe my heritage was shining through in those crucial 10 seconds.

DSC01212And this is Sunshine!  Cozy named her, and it impressed me that she picked an appropriate name that “goes” with Savannah.  Not sure how to tell them apart?  Sunshine has a white butt.

Incidentally, Sunshine could actually be Savannah.  I didn’t notice the white butt until after both birds were named, and then decided Ol’ White Butt should be Sunshine.

EggsThe new hens haven’t figured out where to lay their eggs yet.  For about 4 days after I brought them home I thought they must have still been too stressed out to lay.  But then out of the corner of my eye I spotted their “nest”!  Once I removed these eggs though they stopped laying there and now I have no idea where they created their new nest.  Somewhere in my yard or in the cornfields there must be about 30 eggs!

Mother's Day 2013I love these girls, too!  We read the cutest book the other night called The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington.  It was darn funny.  We laughed the whole way through it (the girls and I were laughing at the little girl’s determination to catch a certain hen, and Ty was dying over my imitation of a southern little black girl’s voice.)  It’s definitely showing up at Christmas!  Ever since then, Dagny has taken on a new life goal.  She wants to be the Chicken-Chasing Queen of Wood County.

DSC01220Minding their own business, looking for delicious ticks.  (Ew.)

DSC01221“Run!  Here she comes!”

DSC01224 “Ack!” (Dagny is wearing a ballerina tutu with tennis shoes.  Pick your battles, folks.)

DSC01225“I git you, Shunshine!”

DSC01223Look at those thighs.  I’d run too if those were chasing me!

DSC01227Into the coop you go!  Dagny has become a pro at helping me get the new hens into the coop at night.  They haven’t developed the habit of going in there themselves like the black hens do every night.  (On the left side of the picture is one of the little girls that I babysit during the day.  Aren’t her blond ringlets adorable?)

DSC01217“Can we come back out now?  It’s only 11:00 am!  There’s still ticks to eat!”

DSC01216Sure!  But Dagny the Chicken-Chasing Queen is still on the loose!

Categories: Chicken, Eggs, Journal, Poultry | Tags: , , , ,

Mother’s Day Ideas

If you are my Mom or my Mom-in-Law STOP READING THIS!  Unless you want to to veto your gift.  Because I haven’t made it yet, but this is what I’m planning on making you.  Unless I change my mind and make something else.  Or buy you a plant like I do every year…

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For the rest of you looking for ideas, here’s a good one!  These are just inexpensive Terra cotta pots from the hardware store,  about $1 each, painted with inexpensive acrylic craft paints.  I made these little pots yesterday for a group of mom-friends.  I’m a table leader at my church’s mom’s group, MOMentum, and last night was our last meeting until fall.

DSC00898

They were such a great group of women, and I just loved hanging out with them twice a month!  So I painted them each a little pot and they turned out so cute that I thought they would make cute Mother’s Day gifts!  It took me about 2 hrs to paint 10 pots, and it was so much fun to do!

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I got a few ideas off Pinterest, and some were just inspired by the way I felt yesterday.  (Which, fortunately, was pretty happy 😉 )  For my friends I added a perennial, a packet of giant sunflowers (I’ve always wanted to grow those!) and some gummy worms for funsies 🙂

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I thought making these in a few different sizes would be nice too.  I’d like to try using my alkyd paints on a few and paint scenes or flowers or something, too!  A high-gloss finish coat would really class them up, too.  What do you think?

 

Categories: Crafts, Journal | Tags: , , , , ,

Homemade Ketchup and an Update You Didn’t Ask For

Remember me?

It’s been awhile…  4 months, to be more specific.  I haven’t forgotten you!  Just got caught up in life!  I have a few new adventures – one being that my husband, after nearly 3 years of being unemployed, got a job!  He actually went into my family’s business and is LOVING it!  I’m so happy for him, because he’s spent most of his career being relatively unsatisfied.  Now he’s running a school catering business and putting his super annoy… incredible efficiency skills to good use!  Another bit of news is that I have a “job” too!  I started babysitting these two darling girls who are sisters, just 11 months and 20 months old.  (Crazy people!  My girls are three YEARS apart and I thought that was kinda fast!!)  It’s a really good fit, having four girls running around during the day, and it makes me chuckle a little to think that with cleaning my parent’s house every other week and babysitting full time during the week, I’m actually getting PAID to be a stay-at-home Mom!  Ha!

So, life is good!  I also invested in a new camera, and after my next two posts (which are already photographed by my old crappy camera)  you will start seeing some sharper pictures of the canning process.  I sure know how to keep you on pins and needles, eh Dear Reader?  🙂

A sneak peak of my new photographic capabilities!  This is my youngest daughter, Dagny.  Isn't she just the epitome of summer here?

A sneak peak of my new photographic capabilities! This is my youngest daughter, Dagny. Isn’t she just the epitome of summer memories here?

Anyway, I made some ketchup way back, even before Christmas.  I think I even alluded to it like a tease on my Facebook Page, but then never bothered to post it.  This ended up being a blessing in disguise though, because it gave my family time to actually consume the ketchup!  I still have a quart left, and I’ve learned a few valuable lessons:

1. Make this in small batches.  Unless you eat ketchup every single day with every single meal, you probably won’t consume an entire quart before it goes bad.

2. Do not store this in one of those cool retro red ketchup bottles or anything that doesn’t have a lid in the refrigerator, because if you do you will find yourself eating it and thinking it doesn’t taste quite right.  And then you will discover mold.  And then you will die of horror.

3. Do not put too much cayenne in the batch or your children will not eat it.  Wussies.

4. Whilst in the “reduction” phase of this recipe, a “low boil” is NOT the same as a “simmer”.  A low boil is more like reducing the heat from a high heat to a medium heat.  You want the sauce to boil down sometime while you’re still young, and if you turn the heat all the way down to simmer, you will die and be buried before it ever reaches the consistency you desire.  I’m actually writing from Heaven as we speak.  It’s amazing up here!  Say yes to Jesus!

5. Make this.  It’s really good and worth buying all the unfamiliar spices for!  The directions are all from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preservation, and they claim that the consistency will be thinner than commercial ketchup.  I think you can probably get pretty close to the right consistency depending on your patience in the reduction phase.  My batch turned out a little thinner than Heinz, but still held up nicely on a french fry.

Homemade Ketchup or Catsup for you weirdos out there 😉

Makes about 7 pint jars

What you will need:

  • 3 Tbsp celery seeds
  • 4 tsp whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (4 inches each), broken into pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole allspice
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 24 lbs tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup pickling or canning salt

Directions:

1. Tie celery seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice in a corner of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.

1. Tie celery seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice in a corner of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.

2. In a stainless steel saucepan, add vinegar and spice bag.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Remove from heat and let stand for 25 minutes.  Discard spice bag.

2. In a stainless steel saucepan, add vinegar and spice bag. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 25 minutes. Discard spice bag.

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, onions and cayenne.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes.  Add infused vinegar and boil gently until vegetables are soft and mixture begins to thicken, about 30 minutes.  (I actually pureed and strained my tomatoes before adding the vinegar.  You can do it either way.)

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, onions and cayenne. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes. Add infused vinegar and boil gently until vegetables are soft and mixture begins to thicken, about 30 minutes. (I actually pureed and strained my tomatoes before adding the vinegar. You can do it either way.)

Using a food mill or a food processor and working in batches, puree mixture.  Transfer mixture to a mesh colander placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl, shaking and  banging the colander on the side of the bowl to force the liquids through.  Discard solids.

4. Using a food mill or a food processor and working in batches, puree mixture. Transfer mixture to a mesh colander placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl, shaking and banging the colander on the side of the bowl to force the liquids through. Discard solids.

 

5. Return liquid to saucepan.  Add sugar and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by half and mixture is almost the consistency of commercial ketchup, about 45 minutes

6. Meanwhile, prepare jars and lids.  See Instructions for Boiling-Water Canning.

7. Ladle hot ketchup into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary, by adding hot ketchup.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistence is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

8. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

I chose to can this into quarts, which I would not recommend.  Pints or half-pints make much more sense since there are no preservatives!  (Am I wearing a muumuu in the reflection?  That was SO 4 months ago! Tsk!)

I chose to can this into quarts, which I would not recommend. Pints or half-pints make much more sense since there are no preservatives! (Am I wearing a muumuu in the reflection? That was SO 4 months ago! Tsk!)

Categories: Canning, High-Acid, Journal, Tomatoes | Tags: , , , , , ,

Garden Update and an Arugula Pecan Pesto Recipe!

It’s growing in nicely!

The right box, with cucumbers climbing up the trellis, three tomato plants, one snap pea plant, two green bean plants, three banana pepper plants, and a row of spinach.

So far I am completely sold on Square Foot Gardening.  It is 1000 times easier than row gardening, and truly, weeding is a pleasure!  Besides manipulating the tomato plants up their cages or the cukes up the trellis, pulling the occasional weed in my true SFG boxes is the ONLY maintenance I have had to do.

There are red and white potatoes growing here. I still want to get sweet potatoes going, just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

If you are not familiar with Square Foot Gardening, Mel insists that a key component to SFG success is “Mel’s Mix”.  This is a soil mixture of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost.  Mel instructs us to not use our existing garden soil, but instead to create Mel’s Mix ourselves and fill the boxes with it.  My husband was extremely skeptical of purchasing soil components when we live surrounded by fields…using existing soil…growing wonderfully…  I didn’t blame him, but as the only one who does the weeding, I insisted in experimenting.  He agreed that I could fill some of the boxes with Mel’s Mix as long as I left our existing soil in the others.  Anyway, long story just to tell you that the potato box above used our existing soil.  It’s not a great photograph, but I can assure you the 40% of the green is weeds.  I went two days without checking on the garden once and when I walked out there the potato box was completely overrun with weeds!  It was a good reminder to me of last year’s garden – row style, that I lost to weeds.  I am happy to report that this year, however, that the rest of the boxes are 99% weed-free!

I lost two of my Roma tomato plants, but the other six are coming up nicely. On the far end is an abundance of Arugula, and in the middle are two Romaine heads. I planted Romaine in several spots, but those are the only two coming up.

In this picture the arugula has already been mostly harvested.  Besides basil, it’s the first thing I harvested from the garden!  I was totally shocked with how much arugula came up, and a little bummed by how little Romaine came up.  I plan on planting more soon though, although I’m not sure it will come up in the heat of summer.  Anyone know the answer to that for me?

Some leaf lettuce on the end, and two tiny watermelon plants slowly coming up! Hopefully by next month the watermelon vines will be taking over the fence!

You can see the larger watermelon plant to the upper right of the leaf lettuce.  That one was started from seed and is looking really healthy, albeit small.  In the upper left corner next to that white stick is the second watermelon plant.  This one I purchased as a seedling from a local greenhouse, and handed it to my 4-year-old Big Helper to take over to the garden for me.  The next thing I heard was “Oops, Mommy, I think you should have taken this out.”  She had pulled the seedling straight out of the carton, completely exposing the roots!  All I could do was chuckle, and try to salvage the plant.  It’s not doing too great, needless to say.

Cucumbers climbing the trellis

Tomatoes!

Pickle blossoms…Makes my mouth water just seeing these!

This is the 5th time I’ve tried to grow basil, and the FIRST time I’ve been successful! I have 4 healthy plants! Go, Mel’s Mix!

Only two beans plants came up, I think I will plant more though because green beans are my absolute favorite harvest, fresh out of the garden! I could eat these all day long!

I made a few mistakes planning my garden, but then I expected to make some mistakes my first time at SFG.  I spaced some of the plants a little unwisely, like putting the peppers next to the tomatoes and trying to grow snap peas in between two tomato plants.  Next year I think I will plant all my tomatoes along the fence, where they can grow as bushy as they want without stealing the sunlight from other plants.

My poor banana pepper plants aren’t getting enough sun, although they are still producing some flowers. I’m going to try to stake them away from the tomatoes, towards the spinach.

This sad little snap pea plant is completely overshadowed by two big bully tomato plants. I love snap peas passionately, but I’ve not had success with them yet. This is the third time I’ve tried to grow them…looks like I’ll have to try again next year!

Ok, enough about my garden!  Let’s get to the recipe!  Here’s the thing:  I’m not a huge fan of arugula raw.  Or at least I didn’t think I was, until I was faced with an overabundance of the stuff!  I happened to be surfing Pinterest for clever ways to serve pesto as an appetizer when I came across a recipe for arugula pesto.  So I whipped some up and it turns out that it is fantastic! I doubled this recipe mostly because I had so much arugula and also because I wanted to give some as gifts.  I also changed the recipe slightly.  The original recipe would call for a whole cup of oil to double the recipe, but as I was slowly adding the oil, it reached consistency at around 3/4 of a cup.

Arugula Pecan Pesto (This made enough for 2 half-pint jars)

What you will need:

  • 4 cups arugula, washed
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for toasting
  • salt and pepper if needed (I didn’t use any)
  • Food processor

Directions:

Warm a little oil in a saute pan on the stove and toast the garlic and pecans for about 2-3 minutes.

Add all ingredients, except salt and pepper, and half the oil to the food processor and pulse a few times.  Stop, scrape down the sides, then turn the food processor back on, adding the rest of the oil while the machine is running.

When the pesto has reached the consistency desired taste it and decide if it needs salt or pepper.  I think the arugula adds all the pepper it needs, and the cheese adds all the salt it needs, but you may decide it needs more.

After the pesto looks like this, it’s ready to be consumed!  You can mix it into pasta, spread it on toasted bread or pizza, or get creative!  I think it can be canned, but I haven’t tried that yet.  I’m going to whip up another batch soon though and try it, and then I’ll update this post.  I’m also pretty sure it will be fine frozen, I also haven’t tried that.

We’re having this on pizza for dinner tonight topped with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes!  Stay tuned for another arugula recipe coming soon!  (This post is already a wee bit long 😉 ) *Update* Here it is!  American Wedding Soup!

Does anyone have any other good uses for arugula for me?  I really do have a lot!  And if you live in the Toledo area, I’m happy to share!

Categories: Journal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Somewhat Staycation

Last week we did a “staycation”, the idea of which is to stay home, ignore all of life’s other demands and simply enjoy your property and spend time together as a family.

That was the plan, anyway.

Tuesday I went shopping with my Mom.  Wednesday Ty and I ditched the kids for a date night.  Thursday I went grocery shopping.  Friday we spent the entire day having an actual vacation at Cedar Point.

Despite our inability to remain home for one week, we still accomplished almost half of what we had planned!  Mostly, we worked outside.  I planted my garden, which was a bit of a process.  I decided this year, after failing MISERABLY last year in the fight against weeds, to try Square Foot Gardening.  This particular method of gardening practically guarantees that I will not have to fight the weeds, especially if I go the extra step and replace my existing garden soil with “Mel’s Mix”, which is equal parts vermiculite, compost (from 5 different sources), and peat moss.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Once I located all the stuff it actually was fairly easy.  It was a bit tricky to find a reasonable price on the vermiculite and I miscalculated how much of each I actually needed TWICE so there was a lot of driving around, a lot of getting dirty, and actually a pretty decent amount of money invested in just setting up these raised beds.  However, it’s all done and from now on I only need to add compost each year!  It’s almost entirely planted (still need to plant corn, potatoes, watermelon, and pumpkin) and on it’s way to being gorgeous!

In the back row I planted pickles that will climb the trellis, in front of that is two different kinds of tomatoes, then a row of beets, and finally a row of basil and some sorry-looking cilantro

Cucumbers in the back 4 squares that will climb the trellis, more tomatoes ahead of those, then the rest of the squares are a mix of bush green beans, spinach, and snap peas that I don’t expect to spout because it’s been so hot here!

This bed has 8 Roma tomato plants and romaine lettuce, and eventually will have 2 watermelon plants and 2 pumpkin plants that I will grow up the fence.

The two middle plots aren’t planted yet. The front one will have white, red and sweet potatoes, and the back one will be all corn. The orange mutt is Toby, the rotten boy dog.  He is inspecting his own footprints atop my romaine seeds, *sigh*

I realize it isn’t much to look at and that I still need to trim that weed cloth, but believe me, it’s an improvement from the end of the season last year!  I had foolishly decided that since I could handle a 20×16 bed in 2010, I could handle a 20×40 bed in 2011.  Long story short, I couldn’t.  So now we’ve seeded that giant bed, and by the end of the summer this year, the above picture will be much better looking.  Hopefully there will be grass where there is dirt/weeds, and those sad-looking boxes will be overflowing with a healthy harvest!

At any rate, I’m pretty thrilled to have it planted and growing!

We also did some landscaping.  Here is a “before” picture for you:

Spring 2011

Mostly weeds.  Some daffodils, a few perennials, some incredibly invasive and annoying ivy, lots of chives, and several good patches of poison ivy.  No, thank you!

Nothing a roto-tiller, a mild afternoon and some mulch couldn’t handle!  After:

Spring 2012

Yes, please!  Eventually it will be filled in with more color, and I did plant some annuals that should blossom and take up some space, but even with just the mulch down I am so happy!  To think, I can actually walk down my sidewalk without being scratched by overgrown plants!  The daffodils should still come up next spring, but if they don’t I did reserve a lot of the bulbs that I can replant, because those are beautiful when they come in!

Some other things we did:

We used some pavers from a different project to encase three of the trees in the front yard and filled them in with mulch. Ty also trimmed the trees to head-hight so he can mow around them without getting concussions. They look beautiful!

Ty trimmed up the tree next to our fire pit and mulched around. The black mutt is Mica, the rotten girl dog. After I snapped this shot I realized what she was doing, which was rolling in another animal’s feces. And people wonder why I’m a cat person. Cats would never do that. Dogs are gross!

Filled three of my pots with annuals! I can’t wait for these beauties to fill out!

I weeded and mulched the back of the house. It looks great to see just hostas and not a pile of weeds!

Cozy and I planted 8 ever-bearing strawberry plants and mulched with straw.

Some of the plants already have berries on them! I think I’m supposed to snip them, though so they’ll have a bigger yield…need to research that.

One of our Mulberry Trees has some blossoms! This is our third summer in this house, and the first one that we’ll get mulberries! I know most people don’t get excited over a “weed tree”, but I’ve always loved mulberries, and summer just isn’t summer without purple-stained toes!

Categories: Gardening, Journal | Tags: , , , , ,

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