Saturday, April 18, 2015

Daily Doin's, Mid-April, 2015

Mother Robin looks on from a safe distance while I look into her nest.  She built it in a low crotch of a Hackberry tree that's going to have to come down before the fence guys can work on the fence.  This tree is badly damaged by being too close to the old fence and is showing signs of fatal distress, anyway.  This is one time when I'm glad we're at least 6 weeks out from start date.  I find it odd that this nest, unlike the one that was built on the inside surface of a ladder, hanging horizontally on the back fence summer before last and which housed several batches of baby Robins, is not lined in mud.  Uhhhhh.... Maybe that wasn't mud it was lined in.....  Robins seem to like to be near humans, but not quite as much as do House-Wrens and House-Sparrows.  They seem to want to trust humans but are just a little too scared to.  Gotta say, I kinda know how they feel.....  I'm going to try to give her plenty of space because I want to take a picture of the babies later on. 

The days rock on while we anticipate the long-awaited Last Average Frost Date.  In years past, I have considered that to be April 15.  But, last year's late freeze IN MAY has made me a little more cautious.  I can't remember that EVER happening, though maybe it has when I was working.  There was a lot that I didn't notice back then.  I've been looking at the 15-day Extended Forecast for Tulsa (nearest point, apparently), and for awhile they showed a low of 38º expected on the early mornings of April 25, 26 and 27.  Forecasts being iffy like they are, that could mean that it won't be that low when the date arrives, or it could be lower.  And at 38, there's not a lot of wiggle room, considering that we are north of Tulsa and usually a little cooler than they are.  Several days later, now, it's gone up to 42º so that's not so much of a threat.  Maybe you have a better site for an extended forecast, but I use myforecast.com.  Along the left-hand sidebar is a place where you can choose "Forecasts", and then on the screen that comes up after are three choices under Forecasts, same place, where you can choose "15 Day".  It already knows where I am, and I don't see any place to plug in a zipcode or other clues for location, so maybe it will know yours, too.

Even when it's cold and/or raining, there is always something to do around here.  No time for slacking, even though I do, sometimes.....

I've been putting off having a garage sale for two or three years now.  I make it a practice that, whenever I run onto something that I don't use and that I don't find any particular joy in owning, I determine it's just taking up space and stick it in an open box I have sitting around.  When the box is full, I set it on the stairs going up and the first one of us that goes upstairs takes it to the walk-in closet in The Guest Room.  Well, the dang closet is still full even though I've donated a few big things and several big boxes full of clothes, and even though JR took home a couple of big boxes full of jeans, dress pants and shirts that I had bought up ahead of time for him and JC "to grow into" and then forgot where they were.  Spike and his wife even took home a few things.  But Mrs. Tightwad here just couldn't quite take the leap into donating everything.  I justified the clothes because they don't seem to sell very well at a garage sale since there are so many charitable organizations giving clothing away in Bartlesville, and some of them, I'd planned for Spike and JR to have, anyway.  Some of the other stuff I justified getting rid of because they were so hard to store, and I just didn't want to deal with them anymore.  But the rest would've required dragging the boxes down from upstairs and of course I'd want one last glance through them to make sure there's nothing in there I've changed my mind about.  For instance, there's a big, straight-sided glass apothecary jar, somewhere, that I was keeping Sonny's treats in, and then Hubs broke the lid, so I put the jar in the garage sale stuff.  Then, months later, I found another lid at a garage sale for a dime.  THEN, I couldn't find the jar.  Or, I packed up my old dishes because I bought new, and then found out they crack in the microwave.  So now I need my old dishes.  Stuff like that.  But anyway, that's a lot of work on it's own, so, what the hell, I'll have a garage sale.  Remember, we don't usually "make" money selling things at a garage sale.  We recover some of the original purchase price but it's usually only a small percentage.  What we ARE accomplishing is getting the stuff out of our households and into someone else's.  We get a little bit back, they get a bargain and we're both happy.  Maybe I recover a little more of what I spent on most things, if I originally bought them at a garage sale.  Sometimes I actually "make" money on a few things.  But most of the time, I lose.  Hopefully we have learned not to buy stuff we will tire of quickly and the buyer gets something they really need.  Or not.

Having a garage sale is sooooo much easier now that we have our very own attached garage.  I store only a few things for the garage sale stuff in there, because a rat or mouse occasionally gets into the garage and they can make an awful mess when it comes to things made of plastic, wood, paper, or fabric.  We have not had a rat in the house since we moved here but we came very close one time, which worried the cat, and me worse than the cat.

There is great convenience in having an attached garage, in many ways.  Our garage doesn't get used for the storage of our vehicle, because Hubs bought that Silverado (without my knowledge or input) and the dang thing is too big to fit in the garage.  So Hubs used the garage as his workshop and that didn't work out very well because it was always so cluttered, and everything was coated in sawdust.  After he built his workshop, separate from the house, I took over the garage.  I bought a used stove and Joe activated the 220 outlet that was on the wall, so that was the start of my "canning kitchen".
We had these vertical pieces left over because we had to buy a couple extra units when we bought shelf units for the pantry, and that was the only way I could get the extra shelves I needed.  I had an idea for how we could use them and Hubs took the idea and ran with it.  This is why Hubs and I make a good team.  Having jar storage in the same place where I do my canning saves me many, many steps.
The garage is not heated or air-conditioned so the heat I generate when I do my canning does not increase our electric bill by overworking the air-conditioning.  And I notice I have a lot less problems with siphoning because it will be approximately 20º warmer in the garage than in my kitchen during summer, and that makes less of an adjustment that the boiling-hot jar has to make when it's taken out of the canner.  I wish the garage had running water and I've been thinking about buying a utility sink and getting an estimate from a plumber.  I also bake out there during the summer months, so as not to heat up the kitchen.

I mix my seed-starting soil and pot plants in the garage, and there is storage for my containers and soil mix components.  I keep plants that I'm hardening off for the garden on carts in the garage and just wheel the carts out onto the driveway for the day and back in for the night.  Easy peasy.  Being unheated, it gets cold in the garage in the winter, but has never gotten down below freezing even when it's bitterly cold outside.  So Hubs still keeps things in the garage that would freeze, or things that he uses for maintenance inside the house -- like lightbulbs, furnace filters, paint and painting gear, and an extra set of hand tools so he doesn't have to trek out to the workshop every time we need to hang a picture or shovel some snow (or so I won't go out to his workshop and borrow his tools, then forget where I left them.  It's one of the prices he pays for living with someone who is otherwise so, so delightful).  Ahem!  I use it for winter storage of bulbs and other non-winter-hardy plants.  If I get a bumper crop of apples from my BraeStar apple tree (someday), I will store them out there over the winter.  They are supposed to store well and that will be a real savings of time and money over having to can, freeze, or dry them.  Plus it's so much better for you to eat a whole apple instead of one that's been peeled and cooked.  The majority of an apple's vitamins and minerals are in the peel.

An attached garage really shines when you're planning to have a garage sale.  It cuts the work involved in half.  You can set up your sale at your leisure, close the doors and walk away whenever you feel like it.  Once you've got everything set out and priced, you can then place your ad, and aside from putting up your signs, you're ready.  No deadlines, no pressure.  You can run several days and know that when you are ready to close up for the day and collapse, it only involves closing the door, and then you're ready to go the next day.  When the sale is over, there's no hurry in dealing with what's left.  So, on Wednesday, Hubs loaded up some stuff out of the garage that belonged in the workshop and brought the folding tables up from the workshop on the way back.  I moved things around and cleaned up.  The rats found their way into the garage through a tiny space between the floor and the gasket of one of the garage doors, and boy, did they ever make a mess before their stolen meal of D-con took effect.

One of these days, I'm going to buy a small car.  One that's easy for me to get in and out of.  Maybe a Nissan Altima.  I saw one the other day while we were out and then when I researched it, I found it's rated #6 in affordable mid-size cars by US News.  Hyundai Sonata and Honda Accord are #2, with Honda Accord Hybrid being #1.  I hate driving that Silverado.  All the things that Hubs thinks are good things about it, I think are bad things.  I am tempted to believe that the reason why men love big trucks is because they are over-compensating for something.  ;~)  But anyway, a small car would fit in the other bay of the garage, OR it could just be parked beside the truck under the carport, providing Hubs doesn't take his half out of the middle, that is.....   MEN.  Gotta love 'em......

I have kept myself busy planting a few things every day.  Some in the garden, some in the herb bed, and some in various places around the yard.  I'm having trouble finding places for some things because I cannot plant anything else around the yard fence because of the work that will take place there when everything's in full swing.  I approach my garden as I do everything else.  I do as much as I can comfortably do in a day.  Some days, that's not very much.  Anything, no matter how small, can be considered progress, while doing nothing is only stagnation.  The tomato plants are big enough that, when I plant them, I put them deeply in the hole.  This means I remove several of the branches that would otherwise be underground.  I carried a container of water out to the garden with me and I put those side branches in the water.
It hasn't been more than a week, maybe less.
Yet another way to maximize your planting stock.

Hubs and I hit a few garage and estate sales on Friday morning and once again, we found very little worth buying.  One quart canning jar for fifty cents.  A stack of 8 Rubbermaid drawer dividers (I use them for starting seedlings) for $2.  The prices, in general, were so incredibly high that even if I HAD seen something I wanted, I probably could've bought it new for the same price if I shopped around.  Hubs always says, "They're sure proud of their stuff".  This is an old farmer's expression, I think.  And if you pay that high price for something that the seller is "proud of", it is customary for people you know to point at you and laugh, and say, "Boy!  They seen YOU comin'!"  Heh.

We were out of bananas and oranges so we stopped at Aldi while we were out.  I never noticed this on the shelves before.  It's where the cooking oils are shelved.
The price, at $1.99, sure beats the price I paid for virgin coconut oil at VitaCost a couple of weeks ago, and that doesn't say anything about being cold-pressed, so it probably isn't.   Wal-Mart's price for LuAnna coconut oil is better, but it doesn't say anything about being virgin, unrefined OR cold-pressed.  So it's probably had the bejeezers processed right out of it.  Plus, Aldi's is packed in a standard glass pint jar that you can use later for relish or jam or whatever, and a nice metal lid.  You ROCK, Aldi!

I bought a bag of Fuji apples, too, since they were on sale.  This time, I'm going to save the seed and plant them.  One of the interviews on the gardening forum I signed up for last week was with Paul Wheaton.  He had a lot of things to say but one that really tweaked me was about planting the seeds from apples that you buy.  He said it's not true that you won't get a decent tree if you plant the seed, adding that about 20% will make apples that are "spitters", 20% will make apples that are like the fruit you took it from, and the other 60% will be somewhere in between.  Now, when space is not a problem, an apple tree grown from seed is better than some shade tree you've bought that doesn't produce anything but shade.  If it makes bad apples, cut it down and use the wood in your smoker.  Or in some other way.  Or leave it and let the wildlife have the apples.  If it makes apples that are edible but not exactly what you expected, then make juice.  If it makes apples just like the apple that the seed came from -- Boo-ya!

Along those lines, I have to tell you about some Red Currant bushes that I bought from Gurney several years ago.  Now, I'm not a satisfied customer when it comes to Gurney's, and I won't order from them anymore because half the time they don't seem to have what I order in stock.  You'd think, if you order online, they ought to know if they have it before they take your money, right?  Not so with Gurney.

But these "currant bushes" came and I planted them in a good spot, and last spring I got my first harvest.  A couple of things bothered me about that fruit.  First off, it was black when it was ripe, not red.  Secondly, the fruit had pits that were like cherries and not seed like you find in currants.

But I went ahead and picked what I could.  I had to cover the plants in nylon netting when the fruit started ripening, because there was a dang Mockingbird haunting the place.  It already had pretty much stripped my Pink Champagne Currant bush, and I only got a few of those after chasing the Mockingbird off.  Normally, I love the birds but those dang Mockingbirds will rob you of your fruit harvest whenever they can.  I pitted the "Red Currants", put most of them in the freezer, and made a small batch of jam, which I didn't taste but just put on the shelf in the pantry.  Well, last week I opened a jar and put a spoonful into my unflavored yogurt and "Wowsers!"  Didn't taste like any currant I ever tasted.  Tasted like a sweet black cherry to me.  So I'm pretty sure this is Hansen's Bush Cherry, which Gurney also sells, in fact, I bought two of those, too, but they died.  I'm thinking the tags must've gotten mixed up.
This jam is pretty thin because I expected the fruit to be more tart than it was, and the more tart fruits don't require pectin.  Just fruit and sugar in equal amounts, a pat of butter to prevent foaming, and take it to the jelly point.  But the "syrup" will be good on pancakes, or as ice cream topping.  I will use the cherries that are in the freezer in fruit mixes (homemade fruit cocktail).  Better for us than jam, any day.  Since the cherries I get from the Nanking bushes are more tart, and tend to fall to pieces after pitting, they will probably be better candidates for jam. 

Here's what the Pink Champagne currants looked like, and this was all I got last year.

They were tart and seedy.  After the Mockingbird's assault, the bush lost all its leaves and appeared to have died.  But it's back this spring, which is good, because the seeds I'd saved and wintersown didn't come up.

There's a bonus to not tilling your garden beds.  Besides the earthworms and the obvious stuff, that is.  You get little surprises.  Now, what is this?  Looks like a blackberry or a raspberry to me.
I tasted a leaf.  Doesn't taste minty or "herbal".  But I know I've seen something like this before.  There's also a turnip coming up.

Well, Hubs has my Saturday morning gardening show on the TV, so I will leave you now to see what's going on there.

Till next time, Rock On....  Hugs xoxoxo

1 comment:

  1. I am almost positive that unknown plant is a native weed. I have the same. I can't recall the name right now, but when I see it is dig it out asap!

    The champagne currant looks very much like a gooseberry!

    The tomato plants look very good. I like that deep green color.

    BTW, I love our Silverado both riding and driving! My second choice would be a small suv like a Toyota Rav4 or something similar.

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