Thursday, August 30, 2012

Garden - End Of August, 2012

Despite the heat (way into the 80s) and humidity (way into ugly), I spent a bit of time in the garden today doing a little harvesting (tomatoes, cucumbers, kohlrabi) but mostly clean up.

I ripped up spent bean plants, sweet peas and some other flowers that had given their all. Did a little weeding but we haven't had much rain in the last week or so which seems to be keeping even the weeds from growing well. (Sorry, Erin.)

In no particular order, here are some pictures I took to show how things are doing at the end of the last month of summer.

I've got a nice crop of beets coming along. Forono cylindrical beets are the only kind I plant anymore. They stay nice and smooth and are perfect for slicing for pickled beets . . . or anything else.

My fall broccoli isn't as sturdy or robust looking (shape up, you wimpy little guys!) as I had hoped it would be by this time. I planted it by seed in the garden on July 29th, a month ago already.

I think the morning glories may be at the peak of their glory right now . . . so lovely.

What the heck is with the lettuce this year? Can't even count the number of times I've replanted it. This is my bed of fall lettuce and I've replanted it once. The germination on all the different varieties has been just plain poopy.

On the other hand, the cherry tomatoes . . . wow! I've never had cherry tomatoes get this big. And they are, finally, ripening like crazy.

Our experimental corn (multi-colored and supposedly good to eat fresh like regular sweet corn) has two or three ears developing on each stalk, but the ears still look skinny and not very filled-out as of yet.

Here's a bed of fall Swiss chard closest in the picture, then kohlrabi in the middle with spinach at the far end. My spinach early this summer bolted when it was about 4" high so I'm hoping we get our fill for fresh eating from this planting.

I have got some BIG pumpkins growing into what should be nice jack o' lanterns. I've never been successful at getting pumpkins of this size before.

And look at this one! Almost all orange already.

Here we have the skyscrapers of the homestead. And, lo and behold, way up there I do believe there are finally (FINALLY!) some blossom heads forming.

How tall are these giants? Well, Papa Pea is 6'3" and it looks like the sunflowers have about four feet more height above his head. We're gonna need the chainsaw to take these stalks down.

All in all, the garden is in as good shape as it's ever been at this time of year. Which I guess is saying something considering the wonky start we had, the plethora of insects present, the intense heat and bad germination of seeds. Our strawberries, raspberries and blueberries all had a shorter than usual season and gave us a less than bumper crop of fruit. But good rains came for us at just the right time and I don't think I hand watered nearly as much as most years. I know many of you have been dealing with really bad conditions so I feel very fortunate and appreciate that my garden has done as well as it has this year. Remember, NEXT YEAR we're all going to have fantastic gardens!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

More Living Room Organization

We finally got our stereo and TV screen hooked up in the living room. It's been a while in coming because it necessitated some re-routing of wires in the dreaded crawl space under the house . . . and nasty jobs like that are easy to put off.

But the task was completed a couple of days ago and I'm happy to have the TV in its new permanent spot and out of the bedroom.

I've spent way more time than I maybe should have in the past two days collecting music tapes and CDs from various spots in the house and getting them organized in the drawers of the unit the stereo and TV now sit on.

When we first contemplated putting the TV screen in this spot, we discussed having B build folding doors or a roll-down door (you know, like on a roll top desk) to cover the TV. I mean it's not used 99% of the time . . .

. . . and it just seems so BIG and black and dark in the little room. But to have her do this, we would have had to jettison the base unit with all the great drawer space that we salvaged from the old combination kitchen/living room and have her build a whole new, bigger piece. Didn't want to do that for several reasons so we decided to work with what we had.

So what I'm thinking of doing now is making a quilted piece (of some sort) that would hang over the whole wooden rectangle that the TV screen sits in. What do you think of that idea? Would it look too hokey? Would it make you wonder, "What the heck is behind that piece of quilting hung in that funny spot?" Or would it do the trick to hide the big, ol' black screen that I think jumps out at you? Or would the quilted piece be as obtrusive as I see the TV as being?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fuzzy Butts And Beautiful Flowers

It wasn't easy but we corralled one of the new little bantam chicks today so you could get a closer look at the little guy (or, hopefully, girl!).

Four days old today and cute as a button. I should have had Papa Pea hold a ruler or something next to the chick (with his third hand) for size comparison.

Mama Hen and four babies continue to do just fine.

After lunch on this glorious day, I hopped into my trusty little Toyota Tercel and took off for a ride into the countryside. My mission?

Well, first I made a stop at the Post Office as I went through town, then hit the Recycling Center at the edge of town to drop off a small load, and then went on to the home of a fantastic gardener a few miles the other side of town to get a special present for myself.

Aren't these beautiful? G grows all kinds of gorgeous flowers and she advertised these gladioli (yup, that's the plural . . . I had to look it up) for $5 a bunch. So not only did I take the time off from my list of To Dos at home for a lovely drive there and back (and a very pleasant visit), but now I have these glads to enjoy for a week or so which is how long they should last.

Flowers are amazing outside in their natural habitat but I think add such color and vibrancy when brought inside to enjoy.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Bantams After All!

When we put in our order to the hatchery this spring, we ordered some bantam chicks along with some regular sized birds. Unfortunately, the hatchery had trouble with a lot of their hatches and wasn't able to give us any bantams.

We've always kept a few bantam chickens in our flock because they are friendly, great foragers, don't consume much laying mash in proportion to their size, lay very well, and will often go broody.

The reason we wanted to get more bantams was because we found ourselves down to just two banties . . . one hen and one rooster, both Golden Laced Cochins.

Well, a few weeks ago Mama Bantam went broody so we put her and her clutch in a separated area in the hopes she would hatch out some little ones.

Last Friday morning she presented us with four little (little being the operative word . . . Papa Pea describes them as being about as big as a quarter) chicks. The pic above was the best I've been able to get so far. Two of them out and about but not wanting their picture taken and the other two snuggled under Mama.

I really want to get a picture soon, if I can, of one of us holding one of the little guys in our hand so you can get a sense of how small they really are. They are just the cutest little things!

Now I'm keeping my fingers crossed that all four of the new arrivals aren't roosters!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Patting Myself On The Back

I am proud of myself. I am doing good. I am doing what I need to do.

Yes, folks, right in the midst of harvest canning and preserving, lotsa work still to be done in the garden and yard, plenty of outside summer time tasks calling, planning and organization in getting geared up for fall chores and even doing a bit of work on the never-ending house remodeling, I am taking time to smell the roses.

I've been sitting and knitting. I've been in my quilt room working on (shhhh!) Christmas gifts. I have also been trying to do some reading in (gasp!) the middle of the day. But that's not working well because I keep falling asleep with the book in my lap.

Although I can easily be talked into doing some quilting any time, any day, at the drop of a thimble, lately my fingers have been itching to pick up the ol' knitting needles.

And so, that's what I've done.

I actually have two knitted projects started and am thinking seriously of another. The above pic shows the knit-from-the-top-down sweater I'm making for myself. A very simple stockinette stitch, open-fronted sweater to wear for that little extra warmth needed this winter. I'm planning wearing it over a turtleneck many days, if it turns out to be the comfortable sweater I hope it will be. The yarn I'm using is super-soft and has a nice, easy drape to it.

The sleeve stitches are on hold, waiting to be done when I finish the body of the sweater which I'm working on now.

The edge ribbing around the neck and down the front is picked up and knit when the body of the sweater is done.

I have to confess that all of the work on this sweater was not done while I was sitting on the front deck sipping iced mint tea. We made a supply run to the big city last Thursday and hubby was fine with doing all of the five hours of driving there and back so my time spent in the passenger seat flew by with my knitting needles happily clicking away.

Yep, I'm consciously concentrating on "letting" myself (leisurely) do things each day that I've put off (for way too many years) until "I have the time." I mean, duh! Just when do I think I'll "have the time?" When I'm 95 or 100 and don't have the energy to lace up my chore boots anymore? NOW is the time to start being nicer to myself. And I am.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Garden Bounty

I just collected thirteen of these beauties from the garden. (And they just keep comin'!)

We sure can't complain about our slicing cucumber crop this year! I had five plants spaced out in a 4 x 8' raised bed. Two of the plants mysteriously died just before bearing fruit, and it looks like the remaining three plants decided they had to make up for their fallen comrades!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Early Fall?

Ruth over at Hope, Joy and Faith Farm mentioned in her post this morning that on the southern Oregon coast where she lives fall seems to be arriving early this year.

I've had the same feeling about that in our neck o' the woods for a couple of weeks now.

Up here in northern Minnesota, we usually hit the middle of August when the temperatures at night suddenly turn and have a fallish kinda nip to them. This year it happened just about August first.

The few deciduous trees we have (we're primarily a pine forest) started turning color and even dropping a few leaves a couple of weeks ago. Now I know science tells us this phenomenon has everything to do with the amount of light during a day and nothing to do with temperature, but it still seems to be happening earlier this year to me.

The impatiens I plant in our flower boxes are already looking stressed and bedraggled.

Most years I feel badly about pulling them out of their boxes in the middle of October because they're still so lush and beautiful when I want to redo the boxes with fall foliage and miniature pumpkins. This year I think I'm gonna want to give them a decent burial long before that.

Who woulda thunk our super-hot summer would end so quickly and fall would come rushing in early?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Weighing In The Taters

I coerced Papa Pea into helping me dig up two rows of the potato patch this morning. These were the two rows that had gotten hit especially hard with blight and had virtually no vines left so I knew the potatoes in the soil weren't going to be doing any more growing.

I had dug up a portion of one of these rows a week or so ago to get some potatoes to eat because we haven't had any for ever so long, and I had a real hankering for some potato salad, plus my dear hubby had been dropping hints about how long it had been since we had had mashed potatoes and gravy. Potatoes have been selling at our organic co-op in town for $1.99 a pound and knowing I had some in the garden kept me from paying that. (I did get my potato salad after he got a meal of Swiss Steak, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy and Green Beans.)

I had taken 2-1/2 pounds when I raided the patch the other day and this morning we harvested another 9-1/2 pounds. So we got a total of 12 pounds from two rows each approximately 15 feet long. Admittedly, not a very good harvest.

The potatoes we sampled last week were solid, crisp and good flavored so these should be the same. The size has been disappointing though. I have a LOT of golf ball sized ones and only maybe three that I would call big. The rest are small to medium.

Now it'll be interesting to see what the other four rows in the patch yield. They will be our main crop of keepers for the winter . . . or as far into the winter as they will take us, so I'll leave them in the soil for a while yet.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Short Garden Walk

Short because the skeeters were bitin' like crazy!

Have you ever seen so many green tomatoes? I really hope these don't all ripen at once. Heck, what am I saying? I just hope they ripen!

We be growin' some BIG pumpkins. So far, we be growin' some big, GREEN pumpkins. Not much orange showing on this one yet, huh?

This is my fall broccoli. Just barely reaches 5" tall. Not nearly as hale and hardy looking as Sue's fall broccoli. (Waaah!) Oh well. If we have a long fall, it just might make it yet. I only have sixteen servings (for two) of broccoli in the freezer from our main crop so I'd like to bump that number up a bit, if possible.

Not harvesting anything from the garden in the last couple of days except stealing a few onions for cooking. I'm giving beans away to anyone who will take them. I planted one fifteen foot row of green beans and one fifteen foot row of yellow wax beans and I cannot believe how prolific they have been this year. If nothing else, we can for sure chalk this up to a good bean year.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Switcheroonie

After recently proclaiming that fall weather energizes me, today I was hit smack in the noggin with all that needs to be done around ye ol' homestead, both inside and out, before fall is plumb gone and Old Man Winter comes roaring onto the scene.

This has led to the disappearance of even a smidgeon of energy in my entire body and the appearance of something close to paralysis in the ability to do anything.

So what's the real problem here?

Seem to be in the summer, I'm perpetually trying to finish up chores I should have accomplished in spring.

Fall finds me scrambling to tie together a boatload of tasks I was sure I would get done in the summer.

Then winter . . .

Well, you see the pattern here.

Not intentionally meaning to sound ouchy and grouchy, just thinking out loud of changes I'd like to (need to) make because when I'm feeling that the hurrier I go, the behinder I get it doesn't leave much time for enjoying the here and now. (Wow, so insightful, Mama Pea, she says with eye roll.)

Well, there is no one who can make the changes but me. So I'm off to get ready for bed early, sit down with a glass of wine, paper and pencil and see if I can rearrange my less than satisfying modus operandi in order to regain some of that crisp, autumnal energy.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What's A Girl To Do With A Ton Of Fresh Cucs?

Since we're currently luxuriating in an abundance of lovely, crisp, crunchy, fresh cucs, I went looking for a new recipe in which to use them with dinner last night. And I found a real winner.

Have you ever come across that one special cook book in which you find a kajillion recipes that are so, so good? Well, this one is like that for me. Seems that reaching for this blue and white check book can't help but yield another great tasting recipe. It's put out by Taste of Home books and I took the following recipe for Sesame Cucumber Salad directly from it. Didn't make many any changes at all except that I didn't have green onions so substituted red onion rings instead.


8 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
1 tablespoon salt
2 green onions, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Place cucumbers in a colander. Set the colander on a plate; sprinkle cucumbers with salt and toss. Let stand for 30 minutes. Rinse and drain well. In a bowl, combine the onions, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, oil, sesame seeds and cayenne. Add cucumbers and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until serving. Yield: 8-10 servings.

I did toss and stir the cuc slices in the marinade a couple/few times in the four hours I had it in the refrigerator before dinner.

What to do with more cucs today? Today's going to be an easy day on the cook. Leftovers from last night and lots of fresh veggies from the garden (including cucs, of course) with a good dip.

Happy Sunday to you all!

Friday, August 17, 2012

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night . . .

Okay, it was dark but not really stormy . . . unless 40 mph winds qualify as a storm. Well, yeah, I guess it WAS a windstorm!

At any rate, we were kept awake tossing and turning for most of last night. Hubby finally gave it up and got out of bed at 4 a.m. I think knowing he was up and "on watch" enabled me to fall into a deep slumber from which I didn't awaken until almost 7.

Although we had no real damage from the wind, my poor row of cosmos in the field garden did not fare well. I even had some of them that looked a little vulnerable staked but most of the row is laid low and broken today. No great loss, I suppose, since they weren't blooming very well anyway.

I was most worried about the sunflowers that are getting close to ten feet tall . . . without showing any sign of blossoming yet, I have to add. None of them got blown over, but you can tell from which direction the wind was blowing by looking at them now!

We have definitely had a shift away from summer weather and are experiencing a fall-like feeling in the air. A few weeks ago, I thought I'd never utter the words, "It's a little chilly in here this morning, isn't it?" but that's how I felt when I finally got out of bed this morning. Although it's hard to define, there is just that "feel" to the air that says autumn is rushing in and pushing summer out.

Our temperatures for this week are forecast to only get to the high 60s or low 70s during the day with night temps dipping down to the low 50s and high 40s. Such perfect weather for being outside doing what needs to be done OR doing something (wild and crazy) like actually taking off on a hike or canoe paddle.

I do love fall. It energizes me in the same way spring affects most people. I'm more than ready to have the cooler temperatures. Even if they did come in on 40 mph winds.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Can You Believe This?

We knew there was one of our little red pine squirrels who had gotten into our feed room. Papa Pea set a live trap in there, but we've had no luck catching him.

This is what hubby just discovered. That dang little rodent chewed this hole in the solid wood frame of the window to make his escape. (I hope he got splinters in his gums.)

That may be a bit of a challenge to patch.

I think open season on squirrels has just begun on this little homestead.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Finishing Up the Garden Tour

I know everyone can grow zucchini so it's nothing to brag about, but I think my two plants (in the same hill) are especially pretty this year. Maybe it's all the blossoms still putting on a show that impress me.

We've been eating them sliced and sauteed with onions and mushrooms with an egg on top for breakfast most every morning for a while now. Yum!

Here's my bed of slicing cucs. I thinned the bed down to four plants. Then two up and died on me before bearing fruit. They just withered and started to turn brown. I inspected them for insect damage but couldn't find any. The two remaining plants are producing about 55 pounds of slicing cucs a day. (Okay, maybe a little less than that.) I took ten cucs to a get together yesterday and wouldn't let anyone leave without taking at least one. They are soooo good and we eat a lot of them either cut into spears with a little salt or sliced and mixed with red onion, garlic salt, black pepper, dill weed and a smidge of mayo. We always miss them when the frost zaps the vines.

I planted three kinds of peppers in this bed and there was a time earlier this season when I didn't think any of them would get over 6" tall. But they did.

This is a sweet pepper, Antohi Romanian, an Eastern European frying pepper. They've always done really well for me yielding heavily. They are yellow turning both orange and bright red, but you can harvest them in the early yellow stage. You can't see them all but this plant has ten peppers on it.

We've never been much for hot, spicy foods but I know they are reputed to be good for us so for the first time this year, I've grown Cheyenne, a "warm" hot pepper which can be used when green, as they are now, or when they turn red. I've yet to harvest one to give it a try. (Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy. No kidding, I'm really afraid of them. I mean I'm supposed to wear protective goggles and gloves when I prepare them??)

I have serious doubt that these jack o' lantern pumpkins will make it this year. This is our largest one, about the size of a soccer ball. (Oh well, there's always orange spray paint.)

Unless we have an early killing frost, I think my Red Kuri squash will mature. This one shown here grows visibly bigger each day. Really.

How many green and yellow beans can two people eat? Like the peppers, my bean plants started so slowly this year, but have ended up giving us a bumper crop. I don't think I've ever had such a good crop of beans.

The green and red cabbage are huge, but a bit beat up by munching insects. They've been hard hit by critter damage this year and I've yet to harvest one to see if they are usable. I really must do that soon.

That's an overview of most of what's happening in the garden right now. Fall plantings are growing under shade cloth and I'm hoping they will give us fresh green goodness well into fall. I'll take the shade cloth off at some point and put cold frames on top of them to extend the season as much as I can.

Gardening a hard work, but I do so love doing it. This time of year I feel like a squirrel (or perhaps a big, ol' bear getting ready for hibernation) taking in the bountiful harvest and packing it away for the winter. What a great pay-off for your own labor!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Some Late Summer Garden Pictures

Considering the crazy weather we've had this summer and the onslaught of insects, my garden has turned out better than I ever thought it would. We've recently had decent amounts of rain, too, which I'm sure has helped immeasurably.

Here's an aerial view of the raised beds taken from my perch in hubby's office. (Or hanging out of one of his windows actually. He kept asking me to please not fall out. Whadda guy!)

Some beds have been cleaned out already . . . hence the sparse look. The three beds that look like they have black covers on them are planted out with cool weather fall crops like broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, kale and lettuce and have shade cloth covers on them.

This is some lettuce I planted several weeks ago. The only reason it looks this good or could survive in the heat we've had is because of the shade cover. That stuff really works.

Do you see the bed of Jerusalem artichokes way down at the end of the third row of raised beds? They have to be nine feet tall. Still no sign of flowering out though.

A very sad looking potato patch. It got hit with blight pretty hard. Especially the two rows in the center.

This part of the field garden shows the strawberry patch in the foreground. Just yesterday we cut down all the strawberry plants so they'll have a chance to make strong, healthy, new growth before frost. Beyond that patch is my little pumpkin pie pumpkins. Then sunflowers past that. On the other side of the sunflowers (which you can't see) are jack o' lantern pumpkins.

Here we've got corn in the right corner with Red Kuri squash in front of that and then a line of cosmos. None of my flowers have done well this year. The foliage part of the cosmos grew weird, there were very few flowers and the flowers that bloomed were malformed. Very strange.

Ha! I was so eager for these nasturtiums. They were supposed to be a mix of ivory and maroon blooms. Do you see any maroon blooms? Me neither.

I think I've got a good crop of yellow storage onions coming along. The red onions look pretty good, too.

This is the same variety of cherry tomato I've planted for several years. But, golly-wumpus, this year they are gargantuan in size! About three or four times the size they usually are. What gives with that?

They are just now starting to ripen. We had our first one this weekend. It had absolutely no taste. Nope. None. Zip. Zilch. No taste. Ain't that a boot in the butt?

Okay, this is getting too long. I'll post more garden pictures tomorrow. Promise.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Combining Blogs . . . For Now

Since I'm not managing to do enough quilting these days to warrant keeping my quilting blog up-to-date, I'm going to take the easy way out (at least for the foreseeable future) and post about my handwork projects here on this blog. (Clear as mud?)

I did take an R & R day last Thursday and spent most of the day in my quilt room finishing up a set of three table runners I've been working on little by little all summer. They've been dubbed my "summer" table runners and were put into place on August 10th. (Hey, it is still technically summer, right?)

They're all different . . .

. . . but I used the same assortment of green and neutral fabrics in each one.

This one made up of three blocks of Courthouse Steps ended up on our phone shelf.

The one I made using the Split Rail Fence design is all but hidden under the basket that we use to hold materials to go back to the library and outgoing mail.

Simple squares set on point form the design in this runner on this display shelf in a bookcase/storage unit at one end of the kitchen.

When my dear husband noticed them, he said I'd better get busy on ones for fall. Fortunately, I have two matching autumnal-toned runners that I really like so I'll just have to come up with one more that will look good with the other two. Plenty of time for that. Uh-huh, sure. Methinks fall will be officially here before I know it!