Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Funner with a Friend!

I think the original saying was "many hands make light work".  The bottom line is - it is almost always more fun to do a tedious job with a friend! 

Just 2 plants!  (and a marigold for bugs!)
I had way too much yellow summer squash, I let it get ahead of me - in my own defense, the last two years I have had squash bugs by this time and the plants were winding down!  This summer after a major move of the vines to the other side of the garden near the herb garden, (so far, knock on wood) I have yet to see a squash bug (don't get me wrong, I still have bugs just not that one...yet) and the two silly plants that I put in are just producing like crazy.  I am really not complaining, it is a good problem to have...I just wasn't prepared for it!

Patsi at "A Working Pantry" (in the blog roll) had posted a recipe for 'Yellow Squash Pickles' on the 26th, this seemed like too much coincidence so I figured this was going to be the perfect thing to try.  My friend Anita had been telling me about her new food processor and kept volunteering herself and the appliance to help with harvesting and preserving, boy is she regretting that now!! (not really, we did have a good time!) We discussed it and decided that we would use the food processor and do our sauerkraut on the same day.  We began our morning with a cup of coffee and some planning and then we went to work!

First we did the slicing and dicing of yellow squash, onions and red bell pepper.  The squash and onions sit under ice for a couple of hours with salt on them.  They will be drained but not rinsed to put in jars.  While the squash were soaking, we started shredding the cabbage for our kraut.  (the full kraut recipe is here)

  May I take a moment here to mention how much easier this is with the food processor than with a knife!!!  It was kind of fun just running it through. The salt was added and it went into jars, was covered with water and a leaf folded into a plug and we were ready for lunch!  (of course you have to eat to keep your strength up!)  Sandwich, fresh sliced tomatoes, cookies and tea, resting our aching backs and feet and then we were right back at it!

Boiling the liquid and packing the jars, and then filling the jars sealing and water bathing, with two of us each doing something in the process it really didn't take much time and Anita had almost all the dishes done by the time the water bath was done!  That is a true friend in my mind!  :)

So here is the final tally - 23 pints of sauerkraut quietly, and nearly odorlessly, fermenting.

And 20 pints of yellow squash pickles, all the lids have sealed now.

Not bad for about 6 hours work and a couple of breaks!!

I am not sure that there are many things more satisfying on the homemaking front than jars of produce lined up ready to be stored for the winter season.  It doesn't really matter if you do it to be frugal (the price ranges from $0.68 for the regular stuff at Walmart to $20.00 for organic raw, our cost was roughly $.25 a jar) to be prepared (so as not to be the one standing in front of the empty store shelves when the storm is predicted), because you like knowing what is in your food (yup, water, salt and cabbage), or a combination of all three like I do - it is a good feeling.  And it truly was funner with a friend!  We are now thinking of adding a couple more friends for peach season!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Activities... have I mentioned I hate the heat?

Sorry - I am in full blown summer misery, I do not know why some people love the heat, bask like lizards in it, worship the sun etc., and here I am every year acting like summer is a personal affront!  Sigh...this too shall pass, it will not be long until I am bundling up again and because of the heat and the garden I will have fun stuff to eat. (I do understand the connection!!)

I have been trying to clear my 'things to do in the yard' list of the stuff that I have been putting off because it is too daunting, for whatever reason.  I am pleased that I got two of those things crossed off in the last week!  The first one I did not take pics of, just forgot, but I was putting it off till I knew what the plants were, finally identified the last one and thought "oh dear"!
Turns out this is 'Bittersweet Nightshade' and while it is not quite as toxic as it's more famous cousin, it will make pets and small children sick!  So that had to be the first section to be done!  You can sort of tell from this photo that the area was overgrown, many weeds, twigs and (shudder) - large spider webs!  .

This was a two day project but since it is right behind the house it really has made a difference!  Much cleaner and I was able to use the grass rake on the Vinca and get a lot of the twigs, leaves and webs out of the ground cover - the flamingos are happier - I can tell!  ;)

The beginning of the fence...

 This next project involved the old honeysuckle vines on the fence that have not been trimmed for many years.  They are filthy and dirty and underneath a maple tree so they are full of seeds!  This also was a two day project but again, it really needed to be done and I think it makes a big difference in the look of things. In a future post I will share what I found underneath all that!

to the far end by the Lavender
By the time I was done - two 32 gallon trash cans and a pile of wood later - I was filthy and covered in twigs and seeds - but the fence looked a lot better!  Hubby and I had a discussion about cutting/harvesting the lavender and agreed that we would only harvest two bushes as the bees were having so much fun in the flowers - I hope someone is getting lavender honey!

So here was the beginning - I removed the dead ones and trailed the living vines up the now clean fence!

This part was trimmed and weeded but I left the dead vines as hubby and I are (a) half convinced they hold up the fence here, (b) trying to grow some more vines off the old ones, (c) using them as a privacy screen between us and the neighbors!  It is cleaner anyway.

Whole, sliced and spears!

We have begun the canning/preserving season as well, here are my first 5 quarts of dill pickles!

My first Hollyhocks!

And just to 'show off' a little, my attempt to add flowers this year has had a few snags but here are a couple of beauties!

Oriental Lilies!

These poor Lilies - I planted them 3 years ago and they didn't come up, forgot they were there and rototilled them last year - they barely broke the surface of the dirt!  When they came up this year there were 9 instead of 4 and they are lovely aren't they?  (must be pretty hardy as well!)

Looks like we may be in for a little more rain this evening so hubby is out mowing the lawn!  All I can think of is that it will be damp and hot then!  ugh!  Oh well the plants are in hog heaven and the garden is happy and if I don't move too much in the afternoon and sit in front of the fans - it is bearable - and I do love a fresh tomato!!!
Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A break from the yard and garden....

We have been enjoying a few days of rain and cooler weather but it will be back to normal by Wednesday, so I am going to share one of my "things to do when it is too hot to move much" projects.  I have been telling myself I would do this for the last two years and just haven't gotten this is it!  Two years ago we went to the lavender festival and learned to make these really cool lavender 'wands' that can be stuck in a drawer or anywhere that you want that lovely scent.  Fortunately they handed out instructions when they were doing the demo as I'm pretty sure I would have forgotten something by now!

You need to have some ribbon - 1/2 inch or narrower.  (I like the look of the narrow ribbon but it is more work) I cut 2 yard lengths of the 1/4 inch ribbon, just a yard or a little over for wider ribbon.

You need lavender in odd numbers. (I just went outside and cut a bunch and counted in front of the fan) I had to work around the bees, someone is getting great honey!

Take 13 or 15 stems  (your choice how thick you want them) of the lavender, mine are 15 stems.  Tie the ribbon around the stems just under the heads and even them up so all the flower bases are even at the ribbon.

Holding the bunch flower end down - gently bend the stems down over the flower heads.  (if your lavender is dry this won't work) working with the long end of the ribbon we used to tie the bunch, we are going to start weaving.

This part is just tedious, however if it is hot outside and the fan is blowing just right and you have a cold is bearable!  The hardest part is when the stems are a little thin and they get hard to see.  (that may have been a bifocal issue!) The weaving goes all the way to the bottom of the head of the flowers, and then....

When they are all woven I tied the weaving ribbon around the stems and then added a ribbon bow.  See those nice even stems at the bottom?  I trimmed them before I started weaving (after the first one!) and it made them easier to handle during the process.

The one that I made at the festival 2 years ago is in my china cabinet and it still smells good and the little lavender buds are not all over the place.

Speaking of which, this is a messy craft!  The lavender buds fell off all over, table and floor, and my studio smelled very good but very strong!  This is of course the reason that when you visit medieval castles they have bowls of lavender sitting around, and in the time period they used to put lavender in the rushes on the floor so that it would release scent every time one stepped on it.  I hope you enjoy another use for lavender!

A new craft and a little history!!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Monthly 9

Well the year is half over, today is one second longer than yesterday, and it is a good time to review.  Thanks to Linda at Greenhaven for hosting our monthly get together.  It is fun to see what everyone is doing especially since we have bloggers in both hemispheres, so we have opposite seasons!  It is probably due to the extra second in my day that I am not late with this post this month!!  We are in the midst of a record breaking heat wave with temps above 105F (40's C), this is really unusual for our area and we do not have A/C in our house - we are struggling to stay comfortable and drinking a lot of water!!
The sunflowers are loving the heat!!

Nourish - Ugh - when it is so hot we neither one feel like eating much.  We find ourselves eating breakfast after we have worked outside in the cool of the morning (such as it is), and then eating something light for dinner, salads with leaf lettuce and kale and sometimes some meat - but I am attempting not to turn on any heat producing appliances so we cook outside on the porch!
This was our bbq ribs tonight!

Prepare - So there it was, one of the hottest days so far and my friend calls and says "our plum tree has too many for us would you like some?"  Well I hardly ever turn down free stuff - especially food, so she and her hubby brought over the plums and I dug out the big cauldron canning pot and heated up the water (and the kitchen) and started working on the plums.

I tried something new and just canned some whole in a medium syrup, and then did up the rest in preserves.  I ended up with 6 pints of whole plums and about 7 pints of preserves and then gave one of the jars of preserves to my friend.  (just in case she has more plums someday!) I love fresh jam on hot bread in the middle of winter - it's like a little bit of summer in your mouth!

Reduce - This is the time of year I start getting out all my canning jars and lids and making sure that they are all in good shape, getting rid of any cracked or chipped rims and checking my supply of lids.  Someday I would like to try the reusable lids but for now I reuse the old fashioned ones till the seals look bad and only then use new ones!

Green  - Well the vinegar weed killer was a mixed result experiment, turned out to be good for things like sidewalk cracks and small weeds in the sun, but not so good for a huge well established weed bed (not that I would have anything like that!)  I posted pics of the results here

Grow -We are picking summer squash and strawberries, lettuce and kale and the occasional onion.  The peas have been pulled out and the herbs harvested (first harvest of the season I hope).  The corn always amazes me with how fast it will grow with a little heat!

Create - Creating this month was a wallet for daughter-in-law #one, she had asked for one to replace a previous gift and I was very pleased to have it turn out very well.  Posted here  Always nice to have someone appreciate the work and use the gift!!

Discover - We are discovering all the free places to go with air conditioning!!  The library in our town is new and lovely and very cool (temperature wise and fun wise!) and they have all the local papers!!

Enhance - I am working on a second genealogy for some friends of ours and having a lot of fun doing it.  Not only is it an activity that doesn't require that I move a lot in the heat, it is just so much fun for me to find the histories and stories.  These friends of ours had very little family knowledge and this has been a treat for me to be able to share this with them both.

Her momma's eyes and her daddy's dimples!

Enjoy -We have been enjoying the wonders of the internet, without which we would not be able to watch our Miss Lily grow up so much.  After she put that first birthday behind her she began to walk and due to the magic of facebook etc. we can be hundreds of miles away and still keep up on her goings onSeriously, could she be any cuter??

Enjoy the beginning of the end of the year and be sure to check out the other blogs in the roundup here at Greenhaven!