Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Daily Doin's, First Week of July, 2015

I start this on Saturday, July 5:

Independence Day is over for another year.  We don't set off fireworks, although sometimes our son brings his here to shoot off.  They have ordinances against it in most of the towns around us and you can get a pretty stiff fine if you decide to do it, anyway.  Of course, most of these same towns have fireworks displays, so it's not like they have a problem with the noise, the mess, the congregation of people.  They just don't trust fireworks in the hands of The Ordinary Citizen.  Considering some of the dumb and stupid things a lot of people do, I don't know that I blame them, but then if you stop someone from doing one dumb and stupid thing, it seems like they find a way to do something else dumb and stupid.  You just can't protect people from themselves and unfortunately, you can't protect innocent people from them, either.  Many times it involves a huge expenditure in rescue efforts that we all have to pay for, and that kinda hacks me off.  I don't know what the solution is for that problem.

We are not within the city limits here and so we are not regulated by many of the laws that are on the books for those who live in town.  And that includes the shooting off of fireworks.  People that live in town can buy a permit for that, but there are so many restrictions on it that it usually turns out to just be a waste of money.  The permit is only good for the one day.  No fireworks within so many feet of the nearest building, not in the street, not in a public park, not on someone else's property.  It begins to sound like Dr. Seuss wrote the law while he was eating his Green Eggs And Ham.   So a lot of people that live in town shoot off fireworks "illegally".  They realize the police can't be everywhere, and if some neighbor calls in a complaint, the most they'll do is a drive-by, and that's only if they aren't too busy, and by then the offender has either shot off all they had, or they're, like, exploding something intermittently. 

I've always had better things to spend my money on than something you light up, it explodes, and then you're done.  I get enough of that kind of behavior from my computer.  And I guess I must not be very easy to entertain, because I find a lot of things most Americans call "having a good time" boring.  Even so, I've bought fireworks in the past and I've attended many fireworks displays with children and grandchildren so they can have that happy memory.  My children are now "middle aged", my grandchildren are "Milleniums", and my great-grandchild and step-grandchildren have a lot of people in line that are related closer to them than I am.  I find one of the true advantages to being in the generation that I am is that I don't have to sit through another fireworks display, another soccer game, another karate tournament, or spend a hot and sweaty evening at Kiddie Park, unless I really, truly, want to.

Hubs and I just did our normal routine during the day.  I baked bread.  I use two bread machines and make two batches at the same time.  But now and then, especially in the winter, I will just make one batch.  We love it when it's fresh out of the oven and in the winter, the heat of the oven warms the kitchen so that it's all cozy and smelling good in there.  Each batch of bread has 3 cups of freshly-ground whole wheat flour and 2 cups of white enriched flour in it.  So that makes it 60% whole grain and this is a lot more whole wheat than is in most commercial "wheat breads".  If the package says "wheat bread", it doesn't mean "WHOLE wheat".  That enriched flour that white bread is made of is still wheat, you know.  Most likely the "wheat bread" you buy at the store, thinking you're getting something healthier than white bread, is made of the very same stuff the white bread is, just made to look that brown color with caramel coloring.  Read the labels and know what they mean according to the FDA.  You might be surprised.  Also keep in mind that the ingredients are listed in the order of quantity.  What's first on the list is mostly what's in the product.  Anything towards the end is there in tiny amounts just so they can say it's in there.  I looked on the wrapper of the bread Hubs always buys, and there was whole wheat flour and barley flour on the list of ingredients.  But they were 'way down on the list, after yeast and butter.  In fact, the butter was asterisked and the comment connected to it said, "A negligible amount".  So there ya go.  I pointed all this out to Hubs and told him, he might as well just buy white bread because it's cheaper.  White bread plus a little caramel coloring is what he's getting, anyway.  But Hubs will do whatever he wants.  It's A Man Thing.

Other ingredients in my everyday bread recipe are 3 tablespoons each of sugar (or honey) and olive (or coconut) oil.  1 and 3/4 cups of water.  1 tbsp. yeast.  Around here, about all you can find in the stores is Red Star yeast.  That was what my mother used because it was the only brand stores carried around here THEN, too.  But lately I've been using SAF instant yeast, which I bought on Amazon, several one-pound packages at a time to get the best deal, and I really think it makes better bread.  I keep my yeast in the freezer.  A teaspoon of salt goes in last, on top of the flour.  All that goes into a bread machine that makes a 2-pound loaf.  I run it on the dough cycle, unplug it after it's quit kneading.  It's warm enough already in there for the bread to rise.  After the rise, I punch it down and form it into round, flattened "patties", about the size and thickness of big biscuits, let it rise and then bake.  In summer I take the pans of buns out to the "canning stove" in the garage and bake them in the convection oven that is in that stove.  These are perfect for eating as a bun, slicing in half and toasting, or used as a hamburger or sandwich bun.  They are really good with Sloppy Joe or Tuna Salad filling.  I freeze the extra and thaw a few at a time as I need them.  Freezing is OK for homemade bread, but don't refrigerate it because it coarsens the texture.  I don't know why.  It has something to do with Chemistry -- molecule chains or something.

We thought about spending the evening on our patio to watch the skies light up with fireworks over neighboring houses.  But it was hot.  The mosquitoes were thick.  And we were tired.  So we went upstairs, had our showers and pulled on our jammies.  I fell asleep during some TV program and I remember hearing one big "Thhhhwonk" outside, like a rocket launcher, but Hubs tells me I missed the jets that went overhead really low (there was some kind of a thing in town), and all the rest of the artillery.  By then I guess I was making my own explosive noises.

Hubs and I did a little work outside this morning and now we're in for the day.  He fixed one of the gates and I went out to the garden and emptied out probably twenty or so big black bags full of leaves so they can act as mulch in the garden.  Rain always gets into those bags, somehow, and by the time I'm ready to empty them out, the contents of part of the bag are always wet, making the bag heavy, and then the sun has beaten down on them since we left them there last fall such that the bag has disintegrated enough to just split apart as it is being picked up.  All in all, a pretty dirty job.  I was really glad to find the little tick that was crawling on me after I had finished, before he found a place to dig in.  I don't remember if I mentioned this before, but Carole told me she has a "tick spoon" and that it works really well.  Of course I am never able to find anything that's new and different in this area.  I go and ask and they just look at me like I'm an idiot.  And then they gripe because everybody goes elsewhere to shop, and wonder why that is.   Heeeeeeeeere's Your Sign.....  But anyway, you can get it on Amazon HERE.  I've got it in my "shopping cart" but I haven't needed to buy anything else yet and it's just $6.  Seems like, though, you could take a plastic spoon and cut a notch in it, maybe that would work.  And then you could spend your $6 on something else.  Heh.

While I was out there I saw that some of the Crosby Egyptian beets were ready to pick.
I've had this big stainless steel bowl since my kids were little.  I used it when I made cookies.  Cookies didn't last very long back in those days, so I found it easier to quadruple the recipe.  Now, mostly I just use it when I'm canning.

I still haven't made up my mind whether I'll grow this variety of beet again.  There's one thing I don't like about them and that's that they aren't as deep red as I'd like.  I roasted these in the oven (just cut off the tops and the roots, rub olive oil on them, and bake in foil for 30-60 minutes at 375º.  I baked mine at 350 because I also baked Hubs an Applesauce Cake.  It needs to bake for almost an hour so that's good use of the oven.  An oven rack is a terrible thing to waste.
This one was about as big around as a softball, just not as tall.  I was concerned that it would be woody.  Once cooled from the roasting it was easy to peel and was tender all the way through.  The taste was beety, I didn't detect any "dirt taste", but then I don't find that objectionable, anyway.

I've eaten two before this.  One of them was red on the outside, and when I cut into it, it was WHITE inside!  Tasted like a beet, but seemed a little on the "strong" side.  Of these that I pulled today, there was one that showed white flecks when I cut off the top.  After it cooked, it was lighter in color than the others.  As you can see, the one I cut into today was not as deeply red as a Detroit Red or a Bull's Blood would have been.  And they lost very little color during the roasting process.  Normally when I can beets, I boil them in water long enough so they can be easily peeled.  Even with roots and tops unbroken, they lose color in the water.  And then there's what they lose in the liquid that's in the jar with them.  I just don't think these beets have enough color, to begin with, to survive all that.  For sure, they would need to be roasted instead of boiled in order to preserve as much color as possible. 

I also checked the onions that I pulled before the Fence Crew got here, and the earliest-pulled (on the bottom two tiers) had dried enough that I could cut off the tops and get them ready to store.


These are the onions I bought at Wal-Mart, as sets rather than bundles of little plants.  There should be a white sweet, that doesn't keep very well, a red sweet, and a yellow keeper.  These are mostly baseball size and smaller.  A few bigger, but not many.  I pulled these from the raised bed that is between the outside of the yard fence and Hubs' workshop, because I knew the Fence Crew would be up in those beds and walking all over everything.  But the onions were done, anyway, pushing themselves up out of the ground, with their greens all crimped over and laying flat.  Since I had a couple of trays emptied, I went out to the garden to see if any of the onions out there were ready, and there was a little more than enough to fill the trays up again.

Oh, and I wanted you to see this:
Remember last winter, when I saved the roots I'd sliced off of grocery store onions and planted in little cups of soil?  Well, here they are.  About the size of a tennis ball.  Necks not limber yet so I haven't pulled them but they will be ready soon.  They've pushed themselves almost completely out of the ground.

Sunday, July 6:

Hubs decided to start working on getting the chicken wire fastened to the bottom of the new fence.  I'd really rather use hardware cloth, which, for those who don't know, is not cloth at all but is kinda like screen wire on steroids.  It comes in different sizes, meaning the little "squares" of the "screen" are bigger or smaller.  HERE's pictures of some on Amazon if you want to see.  But hardware cloth is expensive and chicken wire is much more affordable, doesn't last as long, though.  But we already had some from when we took the chicken yard down.  Use it up, wear it out, .....    I went out and helped him.  I just ask him, "What can I do for you?" and as long as he behaves himself and asks for something appropriate, I am more than willing to do whatever he needs.  So we got all the way along the back and halfway down one side before he ran out of fasteners.  By that time the heat index was getting pretty high.  We don't stay out in that.  I've stayed out in the heat until I've gotten dizzy before, and have paid for it by feeling sick all the next day.  Won't do that again.

I spent the rest of the day doing day-to-day stuff.  We've accumulated enough ripe tomatoes that it's either do something with them or give them away, so I cut up enough of them to fill the spaghetti pot.  I have been using a process that produces both tomato juice and tomato puree with only enough cooking to soften the tomato.  Two spaghetti pots full of cut-up tomatoes yields a little more than 7 quarts juice and 2 quarts of nice thick, not overcooked, tomato puree.  When I first heard about this method, the people doing it were cooking their tomatoes, running them through a sieve, then pouring the resulting liquid back into the pot and waiting for it to "settle".  Then they'd pour off the "water", and I think some of them were actually pouring this "water" down the drain, and they would then add their spices and herbs to the pulp that had settled to the bottom.  I don't do it quite this way. 
As the tomatoes cook and the liquid begins to accumulate in the pot, I lower my dipper into the liquid, catching only liquid.  I pour this through a strainer and into a container.  I do this until what's left in the pot is a mass of pulp, skins and seeds, and usually it all fits into my cone sieve easily.  So I pour that into the sieve with a container under the sieve to catch the excess liquid, and let it drain for about 15 minutes. 
This liquid goes in with the liquid in my container from before.  Then I will take the solids back out of the sieve so that I can sieve it in small amounts until it is all processed.  The skins and seeds go into the compost.  The tomato solids and the tomato juice can be canned in the same canner batch, as, according to The Ball Blue Book, both plain tomato sauce AND tomato juice need 40 minutes in a boiling water bath.  If it's late enough in the garden season that you have enough tomatoes, you can keep the pot going by ladling out "water" and adding more tomatoes until you've accumulated several gallons of "water" and several quarts of solids.  I prefer to water-bath more than one batch, so that the next batch is ready to go into the hot water that's already in the canner from the batch that was done ahead of it, but my garden does not always cooperate.  If I had more freezer space, I might accumulate liquids and solids in the freezer, watch for a cool day in the forecast, set the frozen containers out the night before to thaw, and do it all during the next day.  But, unfortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it) my freezer is full.  You do what you are able to do.  Oh.  And I add, to each quart, 1/4 tsp citric acid and 1/2 tsp sea salt or canning salt.  The jars of tomato "water" can be used in soups and stews.  In my case, I drink a glass of it with my breakfast nearly every morning.  Commercially-canned tomato juice is so thick I almost feel like I have to chew it.  So I don't mind that my homemade "tomato juice" is thinner.
Tomato puree on the left, juice on the right.  Yes, there are a few seeds in my tomato puree that were small enough to escape through the holes of my sieve, but by the time herbs and spices are added, it's not noticeable.  I add my herbs and spices to the dish I'm making when I add the tomato puree.  Usually Oregano, Fennel, Basil, Garlic, Onion, and maybe some Marjoram.  If you're making spaghetti for people who are accustomed to commercially-canned spaghetti sauce, add sugar.  We find that our heirloom tomatoes have enough sweetness on their own.

Tuesday:

Hubs worked on the gates this morning while I messed around in the garden.  I picked our first small batch of Fortex beans.

I was going to pick Provider bush beans, too, but by the time I got around to them, it was misting-almost-raining and my dad always used to say not to pick beans while the plant is wet because that encourages disease.  I don't know if he was right or not but it was a rule he always followed.

I noticed there were some blackberries on the Doyle plants that were ready to pick:

And, oh, LOOK!  I've got a dipper gourd already!

Remember the raspberry plant I bought at Tractor Supply last spring, and I rooted a piece I cut off it to get an extra plant?

I actually rooted a second piece, but it died shortly after it was transplanted.  But hey.  Two for the price of one will work for me.  I can root more next spring, or maybe even this fall when the weather cools some.

Then I decided to cut dill umbels before the seed scatters itself out into the garden and gives me another glut of plants to have to tear out like I had to do this spring.  And guess who I found?

Am I right that this worm is the larvae of the Monarch Butterfly?  Well, if that's true, my dill is feeding several.  I moved this one to an umbel that wasn't ripe yet, but all the others were in better places so I left them undisturbed.

This day was my appointment with Dr. Finley in Tulsa.  Have I said enough times how much I HATE to go to Tulsa?  The appointment was for 3:25 and we didn't get out of there till 5:30.  It started to rain about the time we got there and everybody's cellphones went off with flash flood warnings.  Dr. Finley was well pleased with the way my right eye has healed since he performed the epiretinal membrane peel, and he said my left eye, since I have 20/20 vision from it now that I've had cataract surgery, is not at the point yet where it needs to have anything done.  Good news.

We beat it for home as soon as we were finished there, not wanting to hang around and risk getting caught in high water somewhere.  It was raining steadily but not torrential, but we were in rush hour traffic so we felt much relief when we got out on the open highway and even better than that once home.    

Wednesday:

Woke up to a steady rain.  We've had over an inch because the bullet tank beside the garage was overflowing.  I'm grateful for this good rain without the drama of high winds and/or lightning.  It will allow me to spend my time at some effort other than watering and save $$ on my water bill.  Plus this cool night we are to have will encourage more flowers on the tomato plants, which stop blooming when the weather's hot.  Pennies From Heaven, if you will....

I repotted some geraniums and set out some begonias into the ground from pots.  They are just more than I can take care of when they're in pots.  I've lost some of them, they will have a better chance in the ground.  Cuttings taken this fall will easily root in water for next year.

Here are a few random pictures:
Paula's red cannas.  They look so tropical and yet they are hardy in this zone.  Paula, those are your Chickasaw Plum bushes in the background.

Red gladiolus, the bulbs bought at Aldi last spring.  So strange... I bought two boxes, they were supposed to be various colors.  All the pink ones ended up amongst the Bridal Wreath, all the red ones ended up in the Cellar Bed.

Another Daylily, from Glenda.
Pearly Everlasting AKA Rabbit Tobacco.
Garden Phlox.  Got these at a plant swap.  Perennials.
A "Designer Echinacea", bought at Green Thumb Nursery last year.  They are fragrant perennials.  I bought a red one, too, but it died.

Malabar Spinach.
Broomcorn: A volunteer.
The Tansy is really pretty this year.  They dry wonderfully for flower arrangements and wreaths.
This is some kind of edible gourd, more about it later when I get a fruit.
 Buckwheat.  O-Tay, Panky!
They have to be hulled before they'll yield anything edible.  I'll probably just plant them.  The bees love them and they are good cover crop for the garden.  I think it's cool that the leaves AND seeds are heart-shaped.

Strawberry Spinach.  Mostly for the birds.  The berries taste like mulberries.  Pretty though, aren't they?

Volunteer watermelon.  I believe this will be Crimson Sweet.

Tomatillos.  I planted Purple, Aunt Molly, and Pineapple.  I was looking forward to trying the Pineapple but unfortunately, all but one died.  This one's Aunt Molly.
I've never eaten a tomatillo before.  Reminded me of a green pepper.

Gosh, these grow slow.

I asked Hubs not to mow this down.  Charlotte helped me with the name, I just couldn't think of it.  Common Mullein.  HERE's what Laurie Neverman at Common Sense Homesteading has to say about it.  I like her Weekly Weeder series.  HERE is more information, from Natural News Magazine.  It has a lot of medicinal qualities, is habitat for beneficial insects, maybe a "trap crop" for leaf-eaters like grasshoppers, plus we love the Goldfinches and Blue Buntings and they love the seeds, and quite a little show-stopper, visually.  What more could you ask?  Well worth allowing to grow, in my book. 

It's so nice to have trees.  We're standing on our northeast property line.  Our property goes to the road.  Those tall Burr-Oak trees in the background (and the travel trailer) are across the road and are therefore Jay's.

Little volunteer pecan trees that got eaten to the ground by rabbit or deer, not sure which.

Mama Robin, on bug patrol.

Asian pear tree with Comfrey under it.  There'll be quite a few pears this year, if Mother Nature cooperates.  They are big, round, sweet and juicy when ripe.
The other pear tree.
One of the apple trees.  The other has just one apple on it.  A knobby one.  There will be no Stanley or Damson plums and in fact, I think I'm losing one of the trees.

Red Sand Plums, Yellow Chickasaw Plums.  Native to Oklahoma.  Thank you, Paula and Diane, for sharing your bushes with me.
First picking of beans.
Lotsa Dillseed.
Morning Glories from seeds sown last year.  Yes, I realize I'll never have to plant them again.  For all their invasive ways, I still love 'em.  They remind me of Aunt Viv, who never asked for much, and delighted in the simple things.  I miss her so.

Well, I see your cup is empty.  Time for me to let you go.  Rock on....   Hugs

4 comments:

  1. WOW! Great post Ilene. You have so much going on there. Love seeing your harvest and the plants that they come from. I always enjoy reading about and seeing pictures of your canning and baking skills.

    I love dill, and so do the caterpillars which are going to turn into butterflies. I think it's great that they 'volunteer' to grow for you. I need to grow dill again. I have some 'fennel' growing and that is such a pretty plant.

    You really inspire me, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, doing what I can and enjoying my life. Thank you.

    FlowerLady

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    1. I broadcast some fennel into a wading pool planter, just because I read that fennel is not a good companion for lots of other plants, but it didn't come up. I'll try again next year. I use more fennel than I do dill, wish it was a friendlier neighbor. Some of the Cilantro that I broadcast here and there in the garden is up. The seed was old so there are not many plants. But when it bolts, it makes umbels and the seeds are coriander. Apparently that happens when the weather gets hot. So maybe the coriander will take over when the dill is finished.

      Well, you know persistence makes the difference and so I think it's important not to give up on things. But I don't think you need much inspiration, girl, you're quite a little powerhouse in your own right. Hugs xoxoxo

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  2. Ah ~ you put me to shame with all the work you do! I've been wondering about you and your garden when I see the radar and all the rain in northeast OK. We've had lots of rain and the first cutting of hay hasn't even been finished! But it does make for a lush garden.

    I have little pecan trees scattered all over the yard and in my flower beds, planted by squirrels!

    I believe the plant is called mullein; if so it should have small yellow flowers on the spike soon.

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    1. YES! Charlotte! It's Mullein. Thanks so much for jogging my memory. I knew it was that but just couldn't think of the name. I'm going to fix it on the post.

      We have little oak trees AND pecan trees all over now, not so much from squirrels, though we do get some like that, but mostly because they're in the wood chips that Kylie brings us, depending, of course, on what he cuts down that day. At this point, I'm not turning up my nose at ANY tree.

      We haven't had as much rain as they have had in surrounding areas. I think it's the heat generated by all these wheat fields around us, or radio waves of some kind being sent out by all the limestone in the ground -- not sure. But seems like we never get as much rain as everybody else, and sometimes we don't get any. We've had 4" total in the last few days. That's a lot more than we usually get. Now they say we're in for some really hot weather. Oh, goody.

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