I went out to the garden early this morning so as to get something done before it got too miserably hot. The garden doesn't lack for things that need to be done, so usually I just go out there for some other reason, such as to harvest some Swiss Chard, and before I know it, I'm digging down into the bed, trying to get the roots of that dang Bermuda grass. There was that, and a little bit of Bindweed, some Nutgrass, and a weed I haven't been seeing till just last year and this one. I don't know what it is. It is a very coarse plant. Even with your eyes closed, you could tell the difference between this and all the other weeds, just by how stiff it is. Left to its own, it will spread radially from the center with long fingers. It has some kind of seed on it (oh, goody....) that has little barbs on it but not as sharp as Puncture Vine barbs are. We have pretty much eradicated it by improving the quality of the soil on our land with all those wood chips Kylie brings us.
I was still out there when Hubs shouted to me from the driveway that he was off to the workout center, and I shouted back at him my usual, "have a good time", and "be careful". He does have a good time at the workout center because he and all the people he has met there meet regularly and their jaws get more exercise than anything. But it's a social thing that he needs as much as he needs to work his muscles, and if he gets a little bit of good from walking on the treadmill for twenty minutes, then that much the better. I don't begrudge Hubs these trips into town. He is more of a social person than I am. I feel like I get plenty of exercise in the garden and walking around our place. In the house, going upstairs and down. That sort of thing.
I am serenaded by House Wrens every time I go to the garden. There are two now, that I see flitting back and forth from fence to compost bin, then to the top of the arched stockwire panels that serve as bean or cucumber trellises, where they light sideways as if there is no gravity, all the while singing a long, complicated song that seems to require every muscle in their little bodies to get out. They act like they have a nest somewhere with babies in it. So protective of their young, even to their own detriment. I've hung some gourds that I grew last year there on the fence, cleaned out and a hole in each the size of a quarter. I had Hubs drill some little holes in the bottom for rain drainage, and a hole in the top for a wire. I was hoping the House Wrens would move in to some of them. They like small places, safe from the bigger birds, and they are safer in the gourds because of the hole being small and there being no perch on the gourd. House Wrens are great little insect eaters. They hop around under the canopy of the plants, hunting bug morsels.
But anyway, by the time I came in at 9am, the bed that the asparagus, chard and rhubarb was weeded. And so was the bed into which the Doyle blackberries are gradually being moved. All the pulled weeds go into the compost bins. These are just for weeds. If they ever make anything that looks like soil, I'll bring it in by the tub full and bake it to kill the insects and weed seeds, and then use it to start my seedlings in during the winter months. The birds have gotten so that they love to raid the compost bins for their nest materials. Hubs watched a sparrow trying to get a long piece of Bermuda grass into one of the birdhouses. It flew through the air trailing a piece about 3' long, which ended up getting caught on the roost of the birdhouse and fell to the ground. When I'm having a particularly frustrating day in which it seems like so many things go wrong, I tend to think about those little birds and how they struggle against all odds to get their nests built, so they can lay their eggs and raise their young. It's a lesson in persistence.
Later on, I went out with my colander to pick wild plums and bush cherries. These little mini-fruits are a lot of trouble to pit and I've been casting around for easier alternatives to sitting for hours removing the pits. Research on the Internet turned up a forum in which someone said if you simmer the fruit with a little water, the pits will float up to the top after it's cooled. Well, I have tried that with both the plums and the cherries and the pits are NOT floating on the top, thank you very much. I just hate how people make up these easy solutions because they SOUND like they might work, but they didn't, like, test it out or anything. And then other people see that and repeat it without trying it and before you know it, it's all over the Internet.
I really prefer the texture of the skins, pulp AND juice, not JUST the juice, and with that I can make, not just jam, but cobblers and fruit pizza and sometimes just serve it with a little sugar in a bowl. Maybe a little dollop of sweetened sour cream or yogurt. But I guess at least for my test batches, all I'm going to get out of this is just the juice and whatever pulp would come through the holes of the sieve.
Anyway, as you can see, there was no floating of pits happening. I THOUGHT that was just too good to be true, and I also thought, if that worked, I would've had it happen to me at some time in the past and I think having that happen would be significant enough that I'd remember. Just another example of somebody giving advice that they haven't tested out. Now other people'll see that and they'll start passing that advice on, not testing it for themselves. That's how it is that so many people can end up recommending methods that don't work.
I do have one of those Squeeze-O food mills, I think now they call them Vitorio Strainers. They have different-sized cones that fit on the contraption, for processing of different foods, but I've seen more than one comment about how, when pits are involved rather than just seeds, the pits tend to tear up the cones. So, seeing as I just had a little batch and putting the Squeeze-O together is kind of a pain, I just did them this way. I'll use them for jam, I guess.
Out to the garden around 6:30, worked about three hours. Got about half of one of the beds weeded, and swapped out about four little round tomato cages for four big triangular ones, now that the tomato plants inside them have grown some. These are later plantings than the ones that are now giving us ripe tomatoes. I've had several more Brown Berry Cherry, Hubs has had another Red-Orange, and there'll be an Oxheart ready very soon. Brought in my first beet.
Today when I checked on it, the shredded cabbage that I had drying in the bedroom was ready so I brought that down and filled another quart jar with what was once a full head of cabbage. It looks like drying cabbage without heat makes for a better product. Cabbage is so sensitive to heat, which is why if you try to can it, it turns pink and the flavor is really strong. My mother used to just cook cabbage to death. You don't want to do that. Just saute' in a little bacon fat or real butter till the color brightens and the cabbage has reduced some in volume. Even Hubs likes cabbage that way.
I harvested a bag of Swiss Chard yesterday, washed it, tore the ribs out and packed it tightly into a gallon-sized ziplock bag, then put it in the refrigerator. It has a kind of a green taste that I'm not all that crazy about but this morning I set up the Cuisinart with the slicing blade, like I use to cut my cabbage, and ran it all through that. I had chopped onion simmering in a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat in a large pot, and added the chopped chard to that, popped on a lid and let it do it's thing. Next time I looked, the chard had cooked 'way down and was a nice bright green. I tasted then, and the off-taste I hadn't liked was gone. Yup, I could slip some of that into a pot of spaghetti and I don't think Hubs would even turn up his nose. But for now, I just spooned it all into a pint container and put it in the freezer. Yes, I said a PINT container. That's how far it cooked down. I think it would make a pretty good Impossible Quiche and I didn't find a recipe for it so I modified a spinach quiche recipe that I already had and have used before:
IMPOSSIBLE Swiss Chard QUICHE
10 oz. Swiss chard leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 c. milk
3/4 c. Bisquick
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper or lemon pepper
Heat oven to 400º. Grease 10" x 1 1/2" deep-dish pie plate. (Or a 10" square cake pan will do). Mix chard and onion together in a pot and heat until chard has reduced in volume. Cool. Add cheese and lemon juice to chard. Beat remaining ingredients until smooth, 15 seconds in blender on high or 1 minute with hand beater. Pour into chard mixture and stir to incorporate. Pour into greased pie plate. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Garnish as desired. Refrigerate any remaining pie. (Note: I'm the only one who likes quiche so I freeze mine in individual portions. They heat up nicely in the microwave. I like to have quiche for breakfast.)
I found this recipe on Allrecipes.com, haven't tried it yet, but sounds really good. It got pretty good reviews. I made a couple changes, as some said the amount of chard called for was vague, and I thought so, too. So I guess that makes this recipe different and therefore there is no copyright violation in my printing it here:
Zucchini Chard Muffins
Makes 1 dozen muffins
3 tablespoons butter
5 slices bacon, diced
3/4 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 ounces chard leaves, (weigh after stems are removed and leaves have been chopped -- I'd use the slicing disk on my Cuisinart that I use for slicing cabbage for slaw. Also, I might double this and leave out the zucchini.)
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup finely shredded Swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Generously spray 12 muffin cups with cooking spray. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat; add bacon. Cook gently until bacon begins to curl, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onion, garlic, and chard leaves; cook and stir until chard has wilted, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer chard mixture to a large bowl; stir in zucchini, eggs, salt, and black pepper. Add flour and baking powder; mix until flour is evenly distributed and moistened. Stir in Swiss cheese. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin. Bake in the preheated oven until edges of muffin turn golden brown, about 20 minutes.
The chard turned out so well that I was kinda spurred on to try the same thing with kale. I intended to cut the whole plant down to just the very bottom leaves, but when I looked closer, I could see that there were little nubs that, if I broke the leaf stalk off, would probably get right on making a new leaf.
So that's what I did. De-ribbed the leaves, ran the leafy parts through the slicing blade of my Cuisinart, and then added chopped onion, lemon juice and parmesan cheese, and started "massaging" away. The greens reduced in volume as I squished them with my hands and turned a nice, pretty deep green. I really expected to be impressed when I tasted it. But I wasn't. Instead, I just feel like the person who puts something in a brown paper bag, waves it in a circle around their head, and squawks like a chicken. Ha. Good joke on me, and so soon after I went on that tirade about people spreading information around on the internet about something they haven't tried themselves. I dumped it into a skillet with some bacon fat and steamed it for awhile and it just didn't get any less bitter. So I packed it all away into two one-pint containers and stuck it in the freezer. Maybe later on, when I feel like using the oven, I'll make a quiche and a batch of muffins. Someone said adding dairy to kale takes away the bitter taste. But I just don't feel like getting out the brown paper bag again today.
Just more of the same, out to the garden at daybreak to weed, back in at 10am this time. Hubs weed-wacked for awhile after he got home from his workout. I brought in some tomatoes that were in various stages of ripening. I don't like to let my tomatoes ripen on the vine because the red color seems to invite the birds to peck on them. The Mockingbirds are the worst. And yes, I have water in the birdbaths and I'm here to tell you that Mockingbirds are not necessarily thirsty when they attack your garden. They JUST. LIKE. FRUIT. So you can hang up the brown paper bag on that one.
There are other varieties in the garden but they were put out a little later and most of them haven't set anything on yet.
Today we went to Tulsa to see the orthopedic surgeon about my knee. The news was not good and I didn't expect it to be. I am bone-on-bone. I'll tell you how mad I am at the Orthopedic Surgeon here in Bartlesville that repaired my torn meniscus two years ago and made me end up needing knee replacement. I'm so mad, I've given him to God.
I know how God is. If you have been cheated and mistreated and used, you give it to God, He will bring you peace about it, and will usually bless you in some way that almost makes you happy you were cheated and mistreated and used. He knows the heart of the person who cheated, mistreated and used you, and if He finds that they need to be punished, He does it better than you ever could. Of course you have to accept that He might not do anything at all sometimes, because He knows extenuating circumstances that you can't know. Or He may do something that you may never know He did. So when you give someone to God, you take yourself out of it. Completely. And that's what I have done.
I was going to go to Dr. Smith for the surgery but he is in the same group with the surgeon who messed me up. I mentioned what I was going to do to a nurse I know, and she told me to go to Dr. Plaster in Tulsa, instead of having it done here, because he does not cut the tendons and his incisions are smaller, so you heal faster and with less chance of complications. Hubs had his knees done by Dr. Plaster and he has done just great. I think Dr. Plaster has done so many of these knee replacement surgeries that he could practically do them in his sleep. So I decided that, even though I hate that trip to Tulsa and I would so much rather be treated fifteen minutes from my home rather than sixty, I would probably be a lot better off getting this done by the man to whom practically everyone in Bartlesville goes.
So I have my pre-surgery appointments and my surgery appointment made and all that will happen in a some weeks. They've given me pre-surgery exercises to do to strengthen the leg muscles so that functionality will come back sooner after surgery, and have advised me to try to increase my upper-body strength which will help me in using a walker and maybe crutches while I recuperate. Carole tells me that her mother's doctor always told her to drink a bottle of Ensure every day for two weeks prior and one week after any surgery, and yeah, I'd be willing to do that. I eat healthy and have been doing so for awhile, but I feel like anything you can do on your end that might help you heal faster is not wasted effort. I seem to be having two surgeries every year on something or other and this has got to be stressful on this old body.
Of course I've been concerned because, in our tri-level, we don't have a bathroom on the main floor. It's ten steps up to the bedrooms and bathrooms and three steps down to the bottom level, where there is a half bath (in other words, a bathroom without a bathtub or shower). I thought first about outfitting both sets of stairs with stairlifts and we've talked about the possibility of doing that in the future so that we can remain in our home as long as possible. When you go to a nursing home, you have to leave all your "stuff" behind, and you can't live your life like you want. Our state has some pretty daunting statistics about elder abuse in nursing homes and of course we all know, once we go to a nursing home, we don't leave there unless they're taking us off for our Big Dirt Nap. So you feel like they're just keeping you there while you wait for that. That seems ever so much more inhumane than it would be just to slip us a little pill that would let us go to sleep and not wake up.
But I digress.
I went on The Internet and found where we could buy stair lifts that we could install ourselves. The track is attached to the steps and not to the wall so it's all pretty straight-forward. But the more I read, the more concerned I got about how far the track sticks out in front of the bottom step and above the top step. I can see how that could be a real toe-catcher for us and just about anybody that came to visit. Stair lifts are still something to think about someday, but maybe in ten more years with so many pissed-off old baby-boomers calling the call center because they've tripped on the dang track will cause them to correct that problem before we need an install.
No matter what part of the house I choose to recuperate in, it seems like there's a problem. After I had knee surgery the first time, Hubs helped me upstairs and I stayed up there for three days. It was handy for me because I was close to the bathrooms, and there was a TV up there, but Hubs got a workout going up and down the stairs to heat up our meals and bring me ice packs and whatever. If I was up there alone and needed him, he couldn't hear me if I called. And I was kinda lonely and bored.
So this morning Hubs got the idea of bringing down one of the beds from upstairs that has a Hollywood frame and setting it up in the office. There's room if we move things around a little. The office is on the bottom floor, so it's level with the back yard on the east and the garage on the west. And there's a half bath just off the office. The freezer's down here, which will make managing my own ice packs possible. I won't be allowed to shower for several days after getting home but I can easily do a sponge bath till I can safely make a trip upstairs. If I get stir-crazy I can even step outside the back door. I'm on this level most of the time, anyway, so this should work out really well. Hubs can still do whatever it is he needs to do, he thinks he can even bring a TV down to the office and I really don't think that's necessary or even desirable, if you know what I mean. He'll sleep down here with me and that'll be ok since he doesn't snore as much as he used to.
So there you have it, we have things all figured out.
Before we left Tulsa we went to Sam's. The only thing I was really thrilled about was that I found the Comfort Solutions Bali bra that Carole recommended, and it was $22 for a package of two. Really comfortable, non-underwire, and half the price you can get for the same thing on Amazon. Otherwise, I'm really disappointed in Sam's every time I go. They either don't have something I like to get and can't find anywhere else, or their prices are not any lower than what I can get locally. I wish we had a CostCo, and it looks like Tulsa is going to get one real soon -- the first CostCo in Oklahoma, even! The Tulsa World article is HERE. Looks like Sam's might lose us, and I predict we won't be the only ones. Well, that's what ya get when you take advantage of the fact that you're the only game in town.
There's a rumor there are going to be a couple of "Big Box Stores" coming to Bartlesville, going in on Adams Blvd, right next to Lowe's. No one knows what stores though. Maybe now we'll get a Sam's. Heh.
That pretty much shot the day, except for the fact that when we got home we discovered our land line wasn't working. Not even a dial tone. This time I went around unplugging this phone and then that phone, and found that when the phone in the garage was disconnected, we had a dial tone again. I was really relieved I didn't have to call AT&T, and that phone went into the garbage.
We were supposed to get some rain, but I wanted to empty out the bullet tank beside the garage so I watered it out onto plants in the garden that were still small: The garbanzo beans, Adzuki beans, and Provider beans, and the Purple Hull Pink Eye southern peas. It started to sprinkle while I was watering but it didn't even get me wet enough to enter a wet T-shirt contest (which would, more than likely, get me boo'd out of town, anyway....). And that was the extent of the 70% rain that was forecast for us on this day. We did have a cool front come in later in the day and that was welcome. Not much to report for this day, more weeds to pull, more wood chips to spread.
I told Hubs I thought I'd drive myself in to The Workout Center on the afternoons of the days he usually goes, because mornings just aren't convenient for me. I need to be out in the garden during the coolest part of the day or I can't be out there at all. He told me he wouldn't mind going in the afternoons, too, which shocked the daylights out of me. Who Are You And What Have You Done With My Husband? So we started that on this day. I wore myself out and Hubs held my hand as I staggered along beside him from The Workout Center to the truck. I thought about just throwing myself into the bed of the truck but, well, there's no seatbelts back there and I didn't feel like rattling around like the ball in a pinball machine. I still had supper to fix and my pre-op leg exercises to do before I could take my bath and go to bed. All in all, it was a pretty exhausting day.
A beautiful day. We went to WMT to get a few things that I had on my list for Sam's but didn't get. Of course, there are things I can't get at WMT, too. Carole recommended a product to me called Odo-Ban. Her WMT in Joplin carries it. Guess what, WMT here doesn't carry it. Amazon has it HERE, but it costs a lot more than what Carole says she pays for hers. Here we go again.
I decided I wanted to get a good set of sheets for a change. I can't remember when I last bought new sheets. Usually I just buy them at estate sales. But, I don't know, I just felt like splurging. Who Am I And What Have I Done With Hubs' Old Scrooge Woman???
We had gone early, so as to beat the crowds, and then decided to go to Aldi, but they weren't open yet, so we hit a few garage and estate sales.
There were a few other things, guy stuff, mostly, that Hubs has already taken out to the workshop. Oh, and a pair of Fiskars garden nippers for 50 cents. Hubs said it was nice and sharp but it needed to be oiled for smoother operation, so he took that to his workshop too.
We are getting lots of tomatoes now.
I put these out on the counter at suppertime. We were having tacos.
Hubs said he really didn't have the heart to cut into them. Heh.
Sunday. I will try to get this posted today.
Hubs and I saw a commercial on TV for an Orbitrim lawn trimmer. It's a weed wacker that uses steel blades rather than the string. That's my main complaint about using a weed wacker. You have to keep replacing the string. I went to their website HERE. Apparently you modify your existing gas trimmer with the new head, and it's supposed to fit almost any gas trimmer and a few electric ones, but they don't guarantee that. I looked for reviews and couldn't find any except for one that said it's relatively new and not yet available through third parties like Amazon, Sam's, WMT, and so on. And for that reason, if you buy directly from the Orbitrim people, your contact information goes on all sorts of mailing lists. I just hate that. But it looks like it might work. We'd like to try it but I'm thinking we might wait till we can get it from a third party.
We also got home yesterday in time to watch Oklahoma Gardening on the educational station. It's put on by the Oklahoma Co-Operative Extension Service. HERE is a list of their shows that you can watch online. One of the topics was fruit trees and they recommended a couple of helpful fact sheets that are available online. One on Pest Management HERE, and another on Apple and Peach Varieties best for Oklahoma HERE. Oklahoma Gardening is a decent gardening show but I miss Growing A Greener World, which used to come on right after Oklahoma Gardening. The episodes can still be viewed on their website HERE. PBS took it off and put on a show about how to cook what you buy at Farmers' Markets in it's place.
I'm up early this morning, as usual. It's a cool morning out. Today I want to cut down the hollyhocks that are now done blooming at The Rock Wall along the road that approaches our driveway. I don't pull them out, I just cut off the stalk down to a couple of leaves. Generally, they will come back year after year from the one stalk unless they get too wet. I lay the stalk on the ground there along The Rock Wall so that if they want to self-sow, they can. Self-sown hollyhock will grow darn near anywhere, even through rock and concrete.
Other than that, I don't have anything planned except maybe some more weed-pulling in the garden, maybe some watering out of the cistern. Once I'm inside, I think I'll probably gather up all these packages of seed I have laying around and try to get it all put away. With knee surgery looming ahead, I don't think I'm going to try to have much of a fall garden.
I hope y'all are having a nice weekend, and if you're not, I hope things will start getting better really soon. Just hang in there. In other words,
Rock on. Hugs xoxoxo