Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Daily Doin's, Early August, 2016

Some of you have contacted me, wanting to know if I'm OK, because I haven't been posting regularly lately. To anyone else that might be wondering, I do truly thank you for your concern and bless your hearts, all of you. Hubs and I are fine, putting one foot in front of the other, losing the battle with Mother Nature as far as the garden goes, though I've certainly had my money's worth of Crunchy Muncher cucumbers and I'm grateful that I do still have a few neighbors left that will take some off my hands. I've made Bread and Butter pickles with some of them and most of our neighbors are still glad to get those. Been passing around a few watermelons, and probably will start trying to find homes for pumpkins and cheese peppers soon, if the rains come often enough to keep them alive until fall. I watered the garden for awhile, but the cistern has a leak and city water leaves a lot to be desired. I've read that the chlorine and the fluoride that's routinely in city water is not so good for the beneficial fungi that lives in garden soil. Using city water in the garden increases our utility bills, also. The 100ยบ heat that we've had for the past few weeks is hard on tomatoes. They literally boil under the skin. I've brought many of them inside while they were still green and slightly smaller than they would normally get. The only other alternative is to shade them but the wind tugs at the old curtain sheers that I've accumulated for such purpose and tosses them aside while my back is turned, even when I think I've had them sufficiently weighted down. Hubs loves his tomatoes and he has had all he has wanted, the excess is cored and frozen as it ripens.

I saw the “cooking” part of a garden show last week where a woman was coring heirloom tomatoes with a melon-baller and I guess if that works for her, it's a la-tee-da way to do it, and lots of people like to be like that. It doesn't do anything for me, though. And sometimes the cores of these heirloom tomatoes goes deeper than a melon-baller will get. They were making such a big deal about how tomatoes could be frozen, but it was very misleading for a Newbie because they didn't go into detail. A frozen tomato, when it's thawed, is just a little watery, mushy, pile inside a tough skin and cannot be used like one fresh out of the garden. They're ok for cooking, but forget slicing up one of these fellers into a salad or anything. If you're being Nicey-nice and showing off, it'll be kind of embarrassing. Just so ya know. I've frozen ripe tomatoes for years, it's nothing new, you don't have to set them on a cookie sheet till they're frozen, just pop them into a ziplock bag or even an old bread wrapper, they'll freeze just as well, separately or piled together, like that. Not too much Nicey-nice about an old bread wrapper though.
We got a couple of “coolish” days at about the same time that I found myself needing to make space in the freezer, so I went out to my garage “laboratory” and morphed eight plastic gallon ice-cream tubs and two ziplock bags full of frozen tomatoes into 15 quart jars of thin tomato juice (that's how I like it! Add ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp citric acid per quart.) and 6 quart jars of nice thick tomato puree. Bwa-ha-ha-haaaaaa. (that's supposed to be mad-scientist evil but I realize there is a lot lost in the translation to the printed word). It's easy to separate the “tomato water” from the pulp from frozen tomatoes because the pulp stays inside the skin and the water can be dipped out with a ladle. What you are then left with is a thicker product that you can then run through a sieve to remove skin and seeds, and this produces a nice thick tomato puree that doesn't have to be cooked down. This is how they look after they've been canned.

As you can see, there's still some pulp in the “juice” jars, but there is no “juice” that floats to the top in the “puree” jars. Before I drink the juice, I give it a nice little “stir” to combine pulp with juice and it is full of tomato flavor and just the right consistency as far as I'm concerned. Tomato juice you buy is so thick, it almost has to be chewed. And I suspect that thickness is due to some kind of additive, because it grows thicker the longer it is stored in the refrigerator. Yes there are some tiny tomato seed in the puree, those that were small enough to slip through the holes of the sieve, but once you get your herbs and spices in the sauce, these are undeveloped enough that they are not noticeable to the eye or in the mouth.

I also put up 7 quarts of pears from the Oriental pear tree. Probably could've done 14, but I stashed a bunch of them in the crisper of the refrigerator as they've ripened and we have, over the course of several weeks, probably eaten a peck or so instead of buying fruit at the store. I brought apples in off the two trees, I'll be doing something with them before too long. I've been coring and cutting out the bad spots in the windfalls, as I did Leroy and Sherry's apples a couple years ago, and I've tucked them away into the freezer and they'll be pressed into juice or cider this fall. The ones that ripen will become applesauce, I think. Those that don't ripen will become juice, too. Leroy and Sherry's apples didn't do very well this year so I didn't fall heir to them, but I appreciate that I got them in the past, and I appreciated them thinking of me this year even though it didn't work out. That happens. We have several apple trees of our own now and they provide gradually more fruit each year than the one before. This year I got about half a bushel, all together. I hope that maybe beginning next year the three or four oldest trees will begin bearing larger quantities. It's all up to Mother Nature and she doesn't always like me very well so who can say.

I haven't had a good bean crop in three years now.  Burpee's brand Triomphe de Farcy "heirloom" bush snap bean seeds that I planted this year, with high hopes, made the crappiest beans I have ever grown. Stringy. Never did get any size. Too labor-intensive to string every one of those little boogers. They'll be tilled under at the first opportunity. I should've known better than to buy that brand.  I have had so many issues with Burpee's products that I simply will not order from their catalog anymore.  This package was bought at my local Tractor Supply.  Before I planted, I found information on the Internet that these were actually the old heirloom bean "Tendergreen", renamed.  And I've found that Burpee has done some of that in the past, which is another reason why I don't like to order from them.  But on reading reviews for Tendergreen, I find that they are supposed to be stringless and they do not appear to run small.  So, another wasted summer for green beans, especially since the Jade beans I planted turned out to be more like southern peas than anything.  And not really what I'd consider a "bush" bean.  They grow tall enough that they need support.  And taste?  More like Noodle bean, aka "Asparagus Bean".  So much for the great bargain. Owa tagoo Siam. However, I did also plant some Red Noodle beans because they were old seed I had in my stash and I just wanted to use them up.  I read somewhere that noodle beans are related to southern peas and so I've been letting both Red Noodle AND the Jade beans get long and wrinkled and I'm harvesting the seed from inside the pod as southern peas. They make a nice combination and are delicious when cooked with onion, sweet peppers, maybe a handful or two of sliced okra or celery or carrot or summer squash or chopped spinach or kale, or a little bit of everything. Whatever we have at the moment. We just don't enjoy noodle beans in the “yard long bean” or “asparagus bean” stage.

That's a blob of frozen garlic in the center of the pan.  Usually I cut them in 2" lengths, but I left them long for the picture.  It'd be cool if the Red Noodle retained its color after cooking but that is not the case.  It turns green and the liquid you cook it in turns reddish brown.  Not exactly eye-candy.  The taste and texture is not quite the same as a regular green bean. I'll buy Lazy Housewife seed from Baker Creek and start over, trying to get something good for canned green beans next year. Lazy Housewife are easy to pick if you trellis them, and they have no strings, so there isn't that surprising and disappointing mouth-feel if I've missed some strings. And I always do, somehow....

I've packed Cushaw away in the freezer for pumpkin pie in the fall. The Futsu pumpkin vines (a Baker Creek seed packet picked up at a seed trading party) made some really cute multi-colored and sometimes knobby pumpkins and the damaged one I cooked was just absolutely delicious.  The texture was not watery like the Cushaws were.  Sure was hard to get that rind off though.  I have several Long Island Cheese pumpkins, they are beautiful. I haven't cut into them yet because they appear to be keeping beautifully and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Maybe there will be a damaged one coming out of the garden that will make it necessary for me to process and then I'll know what they taste like, but I trust Glenda's opinion and so I know they'll be delicious too. I just hate to cut into the perfect-looking ones.  I saw where some people are calling the Long Island Cheese pumpkins, "Cinderella Pumpkins".  LOL

Squash bugs ended up killing off all but one of the Cushaw plants.  And that was with scattering some Sevin dust on the ground under the leaves. I found squash bugs on the Futsu a couple weeks ago, and an application of Sevin dust took care of that, allowing the plants to live on, but yesterday I found several Futsu leaves that had eggs on them. I broke those leaves off and burned them and scattered Sevin Dust again.  They are in the Moschata family so I was surprised to see them there.  After all the Cushaws but one were killed, I planted zucchini in those spots, thinking, if nothing else, maybe the zucchini would act as a "trap crop" and would keep the squash bugs off the Moschatas.  If I get any actual zucchini from the plants before they are killed, it'll be the first since moving out here.  I wanted to see if some advice I saw on the Internet would work for me, which said to plant squash later and since the moth that lays the eggs doesn't make her rounds that late, you won't get squash bugs. I haven't seen any on the zucchini yet, but squash bug eggs on the Futsu is enough evidence that the theory about the timing of planting doesn't work.  In addition to the eggs I've seen nymphs, and two dang squash bugs hooked together in their mating ritual. STOP that, you indecent critters!!! They got squashed before they could get unhooked. And then I powdered the ground under the plants with Sevin.  It's all I can do.  For every bug you see, there are lots you don't.  Of course, we have Japanese Beetles zooming madly around now. I don't know what kind of damage THEY are going to do. I haven't seen any grasshoppers, but they'll be next, and we'll have them till frost kills them off. Grasshoppers have their place. Chickens get REALLY excited if they get a grasshopper. The whole flock will chase the one that has it for miles.

It just has seemed like the time has flown by, every day comes with a list of things to do, that gets done, or not, and then it's time to rest inside where it's cool. Before I know it, it's time to prepare our evening meal, and the day is nearly over. Oh, what exciting lives we lead. (snort.)

What with extra produce to find homes for, Hubs and I are getting to know our neighbors better, and that's been a real pleasure. Rob's house is nearly finished, and they are semi-moved in. Randy comes regularly and mows, but his house is not at the point where he and his family can move in. Hubs stopped by one day last week and the insulators were doing the walls.

Many things are burning up in the heat of each day. I'm no longer in the gardening mood, anyway. I don't even care whether I have a fall garden or not, which is good, because I haven't been successful in getting anything started, anyway. September and October are my favorite months of the year, next to April and May. I have some plans for moving some things around, reorganizing the garden to make it easier to manage. May just take the bed that's full of Bermuda and Bindweed back to ground level and try to overplant White Dutch clover there and in all the walkways. I'd rather have clover than bindweed, at least it adds nitrogen to the soil instead of taking so much away, and the patch I have in the yard has seemed to overwhelm the Bermuda and bindweed. I saw a post on Old World Garden Farms HERE where they are using annual ryegrass as a winter cover crop.  On the way home from our next trip to Tulsa, Hubs and I will stop in Collinsville at Holman Seed and buy a bulk package of clover and rye. 

This year the garden was more of a burden than usual. I don't HAVE to garden, I'd probably save money if I didn't, but of course we wouldn't eat as clean as we do and that's worth something. Maybe at our ages that doesn't matter so much, but I like to think it enhances our Quality Of Life. Enjoying Crimson watermelon these days.

The Moon and Stars turned out to be yellow inside, and seems like they aren't as sweet as the Crimson.  I enjoy the looks of the outside of the melon, but I probably won't grow it again. 

HOWEVER, I looked at all those seeds that came out of the watermelon and I thought what a waste it was that these were going to have to be just thrown in the burn barrel, so also will the extra Crimson seeds because there are just too many to save.  So I began to wonder whether they might be edible -- you know -- like pumpkin seeds are?  Turns out, it is written that watermelon seeds AND pumpkin seeds are pretty much indigestible, unless you sprout them.  Information I found said that the hulls fall off after the sprouts appear.  I haven't found that to be the case yet. 

When I processed Cushaw pumpkins, I whirred the freshly-removed pumpkin seed in the Cuisinart, with the fibrous centers of the pumpkins, and froze it for later.  I think it will be a nice, fiber-rich addition to this fall's pumpkin bread, and since I processed them while they were still moist, I think digestibility will be better.  The manufacturers of High Fiber processed foods actually add what they call "cellulose", which is composed of some pretty questionable indigestible stuff.  Could be anything from cotton to wood pulp.  Cellulose is not meant to be digestible.  It's meant to increase the bulk, if you know what I mean.  But cotton is almost 100% GMO-grown now.  As I think about it, I'd rather be in control of what fiber I consume, and where it comes from.  Just something to think about.

This year's Cowhorn okra is not still tender when the pods start to get big. THAT was a surprise. When I order new Lazy Housewife beans I'll get new Cowhorn okra seed, too, or maybe I'll try the Beck's Big Buckhorn that they have. Maybe I've just saved seed too many years and my stuff has cross-pollinated with other varieties somehow.

Hubs and I have been busy with stuff neglected during the last few months. Doing more with friends and neighbors. Finally met our twin great-granddaughters. They are precious. And of course Big Sis already had us at hello, she turned four and starts preschool this fall.

The baby Bluebirds have long since taken flight.

I still haven't gotten below 200, weight-wise. But very close. My one-year knee surgery checkup is this month, and my goal was to be below 200 by then. I have enough time to reach it. If I don't, I'll be close enough that I can still meet the next goal I've set without any extra effort. I'm just trying to get through August. This has been a hard year for me, the dire warnings from my knee surgeon's nurse, who described to me in detail what has to be done if you get infection somewhere that migrates to your surgically-altered knee made me pretty paranoid. Every little bump or sore spot or bleeding event scared the bejeezers out of me. When I go in for my check-up, I'm going to ask if I'm going to be allowed to feel more relaxed about things now that I'm a year out from surgery.

With cool weather coming up, I'm planning to start back up at the workout center. Hubs likes to go early in the mornings and that's not good for me during the summer because I need to work in the garden in the cool of the morning. He doesn't want to go later because he thinks all his friends will be gone by then, and I've been trying to convince him that he might make some new friends if he goes later, and then he'd have friends there no matter what time he went, but it's like spittin' in the wind. Been thinking about trying to talk Hubs into line-dancing again. We got started when we were “Empty Nesters”, but adopting the grandsons made us parents again and put an end to our free-wheeling ways. By the time we got so we could pick it back up, Hubs' knees were too bad. By the time he recovered from knee surgery, I had foot and knee problems. It was sure a lot of fun while it lasted, though.

We drove to Coffeyville and brought our Turkey Red wheat home. It was that or have Kim bring a bucket at a time in what little room she had left, on Farmer's Market day, and I didn't want to do that to her OR to me. Still using the wheat I had from last year, and will be for a couple months yet, so I won't know what I think about the Turkey Red for awhile. Kim sent me her bread recipe and it's much like mine, except calls for more honey. I'll see how the wheat does with my recipe and if I can get a good rise with it, I'll probably not change recipes. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Of course you all know how concerned I am for my country. This is the second presidential election when I will not feel good about how I voted no matter WHO I vote for. I'm tempted to just stay home from the polls. They say if you don't vote, then you don't have any right to complain about how your country is run, but here's the thing. At least, no matter who gets elected, IT'S NOT MY FAULT.  And What The Hell??  I'm an AMERICAN.  That gives me the right to complain about how my country is run whether I voted or not.  Hmmmmppppphhhhh!  God, help us all. Amen.

We haven't had any fires out here yet this year so I haven't had to fight the rat population. One of our neighbors told me they hired an exterminator last time, who had a new product that killed the rat but didn't kill anything that ate it. Next invasion, I'm going to call that exterminator, too, and I'm spreading the word among the other neighbors. Some of our neighbors use D-Con, I don't unless they get inside the garage and I can't get them any other way. But that's rare, because there's nothing to eat inside the garage and they go quickly into a Have-A-Heart trap baited with peanut butter. I have a few snap-type traps, too, so if I want to I can set them all and get several in a night. Snap traps cannot be used outside because the birds get into them.  And they have to be attached to a brick or the rat may run off wearing "trap jewelry", and die elsewhere.  I don't trust Hubs to be as careful as I am.  Let's just say when you have lived with someone for nearly 50 years, you know where they are careless.  I wear disposable gloves and I do not touch the rat.  The ones in the live trap have to be drowned by submerging the whole trap in a tub of water. The ones in the snap traps almost always have broken necks. They all get buried and hopefully their bodies will be fertilizer for plants.  As much damage as they do, and diseases they carry, they should provide SOME benefit to us, wouldn't you think? Otherwise the only good they are is as food for hawks and other predatory birds, but then, maybe that saves a chicken somewhere. Trapping and disposing is unpleasant and time-consuming, and it would be worth $30 a month for me not to have to deal with it at all. Most animals and birds of prey won't eat a rat that's already dead, so maybe the exterminator's new product kills them quicker than the D-Con does and thus they aren't out there running around with a belly-full of poison. Some of our neighbors found their dogs lying dead last year and we had to have our cat put down. Keeping your pets home helps but doesn't eliminate the problem, because rats roam freely, and will come into yards where the pets are. Free home delivery, so to speak. This is “the country”, and the benefits of living out here outweighs the bad. It is part of the natural habitat. As soon as you control one critter, you have another. We've managed to keep the rabbits and opossums out of our yard and garden for most of the summer, but now we have squirrels. Come to think of it, I haven't seen that skunk in awhile, though Cathy told me last spring she saw a raccoon on the edge of our land. One of their dogs killed an armadillo out in the road between us and them. But raccoons and squirrels can climb fences. Oh, goody....... Maybe, if we can keep the rat population down, the birds of prey will zero in on the rabbits and squirrels?? One can only hope. Then the neighbors could let their dogs run freely again and maybe they'd take care of the raccoons and armadillos. Oh, for a perfect world.

I realize this is not a very well-organized post, but I guess you're kind of used to that from me. I have some things to do before I can “call it a day”, and I'd best get at that. I have fresh southern peas ready to cook for supper. I baked bread today so won't make cornbread to go with the southern peas, though that's traditionally what is served with them. I do love hot buttered cornbread, but Hubs is not a fan. He has strange tastes for a Country Boy. Neither of us have very big appetites anymore, so if he doesn't like something, I don't make it unless I want to be eating it for lunch every day for a week. Most American cornmeal is a GMO product now, anyway, and folks, the only way to make corporations stop tinkering with our food is to stop buying it.  They'll actually pay some "expert" to come in and figure out why.  It's a no-brainer if you ask me.

HERE is a YouTube presentation by Justin Rhodes.  He's starting a free "Productive Homesteading" online class, starting tomorrow.  This linked video is the "teaser", I think there's a link for the sign-up provided there, if you're interested. 

Hang in there, August will be over soon.  Hugs xoxoxo


  1. Well this was a nice interesting post! Like you I am done with the growing season. Tomatoes may be a bust again this year! Let the cold weather come......

    I have LI Cheese squashes still in good shape out in the milk parlor and they are two years old.
    So don't worry about having to work them up quickly.

    Glad to hear you are both still putting one foot in front of the other. That about describes us too.

  2. What a nice newsy post! In August it's about all we can do to put one foot in front of the other. I am really looking forward to cooler, less humid weather.

    Love and hugs to the both of you ~ FlowerLady

  3. Always so busy my friend! At least you are able to get something from the garden in spite of the crazy heat. Can't even begin to put anything in the ground here for another few weeks. Still blazing hot and raining every afternoon. The flowers however are gorgeous!
    Keep your chin up!!! (((HUGS)))


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