Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Best Clothespin Ever

In the past whenever hanging our clothes outside on the clotheslines, I've always had a frustration.  No matter whether I used wooden or plastic clothespins, I would regularly break two or three of them every wash day.

It must have been my disgruntled groaning week after week that caused my dear husband to go on a mission to find a clothespin for me that wouldn't snap into pieces.

A year or so ago, he presented me with a bag of . . . tah -da!  Metal clothespins.

I'd never seen a metal clothespin before, but in short order I knew they were just the greatest, and now I won't use any other kind.

They're nearly the same size as both wooden and plastic clothespins.

And do they ever perform without breaking!  My crocheted rag rugs are very heavy when wet . . . and thick besides.

These metal clothespins grab on to the rugs and hold them like no other clothespin can.  The same goes for hubby's heavy work pants especially when there is a stiff breeze whipping the clothes around.

They're constructed very well with a strong spring and I'm confident they will last forever.

Hmmm.  Clothespins.  Yeah, I know I may sound like I've been living in the woods too long.  It's a strange thing to get so excited about.  But what's that expression?  

Ah, yes.  It's the little things in life that count!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For any of you who may be interested, Papa Pea found the metal clothespins at Lee Valley.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Safe! By a Long Shot.

Fifty miles north of us woke to a temp of 39° this morning.  I'm happy to report (that's for sure) that we were a good ten degrees warmer than that.

The red-lettered warning I saw last night?  It's still posted this morning.  Guess it just goes to prove the old axiom you shouldn't believe everything you read.

Now I'm going to take my morning latte and go walk through the garden and talk nice to my brave little plants that continue to hang in there through it all.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Should I Throw in the Towel Now?

Fer cryin' out loud, I just checked the home page of our local Internet server to see what the weather was going to be like for the next few days.

What do I see at the top of the page in red letters?  A frost warning for us tonight from 2 a.m. until 7 a.m.  I am being warned to cover sensitive outside plants that might be damaged by a frost.

Have you see the size of my garden, Mother Nature?  No, I'm not going to attempt to cover anything out there.  If we should lose a bunch of the garden produce to this nearly unbelievable weird, whacky weather this summer, I'll find something profitable to do with the time I won't be spending canning and preserving.  (Like maybe getting a part time job to pay for the food we'll have to buy.)

Geesh.  This is getting unsettling.  And a smidge bit upsetting, also, but we have no choice but to roll with the punches.  

I'm choosing to take a positive view of the situation.  I don't believe we will get damaging frost over night.  No, no, no.  Nuh-uh.  UH-uh.  No way.  Ain't gonna happen.  (Do I look funny with my head stuck in the sand like this?) 

Addendum:  Worry thee not, bloggy friends of mine.  Getting ready to go to bed and by our temperature now, I don't think there is any way our temp over night is going to drop lower than the 40s . . .  it would have to plummet 20 degrees to hit freezing.  (Don't cha sometimes wonder what these weather forecasters are smokin'?)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Still Cold, More Garden Pics

No sign of that big golden ball of heat and light in the sky again today.  Another day of sprinkles and much grayness.  Our high for the day was 55°.  I know of a certain lady blogger who probably had a temperature of exactly double that today.  Oh, my.

I've got a good stand of carrots in this bed with the tepee trellis in the middle with morning glories planted around the base of it.  They have yet to make it much more than halfway up their support, but I do see blossom buds.  If the buds don't get the chills and die, we should see some color soon.

This sample carrot I pulled doesn't look too bad as far as length goes.  But it still needs to increase a bit in girth!

Picture of broccoli plants taken through the screened frame over their bed.  They're not even thinking about forming heads yet.

My bed of beautiful Lauren's Grape Poppies.  Seeds are from Sue's garden in Michigan.  Are they not absolutely luscious?  Our honey bees love them, too.

Here's my jungle bed of Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes.  No fruits yet but the two plants are covered with blossoms.  The good thing is the tomatoes have a wonderful flavor.  The bad thing is they are the size of marbles.  Small marbles.

My potatoes haven't looked this good in years.  No blight (hallelujah!) and next to no insect damage.  I don't recall ever seeing so many blossoms on the vines.

Their flowers are actually quite lovely, don't you think?

My shell peas are finally forming good-sized pods.  No evidence of peas inside the pods (sigh), but ya can't have everything.  Immediately.  (July 27th and no shell peas yet.  What's wrong with this picture?)

The lobelia in the herb bed is gorgeous this year.  Obviously, it must like cool weather and lots of moisture.

Do you think we should believe the weather people who are telling us we will see the sun come shining forth on Monday?  Nah, I'll bet they're just using twisted psychology on us so we don't go completely crackers in this wet, gray Arctic cold we've been slogging through.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Weather and the Garden

And whether the garden is going to make it this year.

Our weird summer weather continues.  We're in yet another cool, wet period.  One-half inch of rain accumulated in our rain gauge over night.  Today we didn't collect any appreciable amount, but we did get enough sprinkles on and off during the day, along with stiff winds, to keep me out of the garden.

First thing this morning the forecast was for a high in the low 60s during the day and a low in the low 40s tonight.  We never made it out of the 50s all day and the temp now at 7 p.m. is 51°.  Good for the two of us who tend to melt in the heat and humidity, but not so good for growing tomatoes, corn, squash, eggplant and the like.

But truth to tell, the garden is at least looking good right now.  I'm caught up on all the weeding and have planted out spots made bare by pulling the first salad greens, spinach, radishes, etc.  Hubby mowed the lawn surround the gardens a couple of days ago and things are lookin' pretty spiffy out there.  It may be soggy, but it sure is lush and green.

Here's the very first picking (yeah, I rushed it a bit) of my edible podded peas.

I planted only four feet of them (actually eight feet if you count both sides of the trellis) because I've never been able to freeze them so they don't come out limp and mushy.  They're still good in soups and stews but once you know what they taste like fresh, that just doesn't measure up.  So we'll be doing our best to eat all of them that we can fresh . . . heated until still tender crisp in boiling water, drained, butter and salt added . . . we can make a meal of them.  Many thanks to Carolyn Renee for sending me these wonderful pea seeds this year.

My slicing cucumbers are just learning to crawl around and investigate their surroundings.  Come on, guys, you've got a long way to go.

Speaking of having a long way to go, here is a portion of the area containing my second planting of corn with rows of pumpkins interspersed.  The corn is about 2-1/2 ft. high but the pumpkin plants are still so small I don't have much hope of them setting fruit and maturing.  It's just been too darn cold around here this summer.

If weather permits, I'll take and post more pictures of the garden tomorrow.  Then in a week, I'll do the comparison pictures of the gardens June 1st, July 1st and August 1st.  Even though a lot of the crops are very slow this year, the gardens are about at their best appearance-wise right now.  Everything (well, almost) is green and growing and yet it hasn't gotten all blowsy and spent yet.  At any rate, I'm thinking the August 1st pictures are gonna look a lot different than those from July 1st.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I made a wonderful cold strawberry pie yesterday that I just have to share with you.  It's not my recipe . . . I got it a couple of years ago from Jane on her blog Thy Hand Hath Provided.

Just look at all that fresh strawberry lusciousness!

I put some whipped cream on ours, 'cause I had a cup of whole cream in the fridge that I wanted to use . . . so why not?

The pie tastes very, very fresh and is not overly sweet at all.  I'm not fibbing to you when I say I think I could have eaten half the pie.  I did restrain myself (difficult that it was) and settled for the very large piece pictured above.

In the recipe Jane said the ingredients are for an 8-inch pie crust so if you are using a 9 or 10-inch crust, increase the amount of strawberries which I did since my pie plate was 9".  But as you can see by the picture of the whole pie, I do think the filling would have been ample as set forth in the original recipe because I nearly overflowed my 9-inch crust using the few more berries I did add.

This pie has a permanent place in my recipe box in the pie section as Jane's Mom's Strawberry Pie.  If you'd like to try it (you won't be sorry), click here.  It is oh-so-good!  Thanks for sharing the recipe, Jane.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Midsummer Madness

Yup, I'm feeling like it's just a bit too crazy busy around here.  The really scary thing is that harvest season (for us up here near the tundra) hasn't truly started yet.

I'm still working on shaping up the garden after last week's neglect.

This is what those blasted Jerusalem artichokes have done to my onion bed . . . again.  I've actually had a sore right wrist since Sunday when I spent I-don't-know-how-long yanking, twisting and pulling the artichoke shoots out by their ugly little roots.  Some had grown to 18" tall.

Just look at that beautiful stand of corn.  That is STANDING!  I am truly amazed that it came back after being nearly flattened by the wind and rain storm late last week.  I am so happy.  Good corn stalks, good corn stalks!

This picture doesn't show it clearly, but my first planting of shell peas are finally blossoming like crazy.  A little late in the season, you say?  For sure.  But we'll take 'em when we can get 'em.  (Bean blossoms?  Well, that's another story all together.  Maybe by the end of August?  Sigh.)

Here we have sixteen pints of lovely, luscious strawberry jam I made yesterday.  Didn't think I'd ever get that batch of berries turned into jam.  One thing after another kept interrupting my planned canning session.  But they are done now and are ready to be squirreled away for winter gifts and consumption by the Pea Family.

We have a small maple tree on a corner in our back yard.  Yesterday I did a double take as I walked past it, my jaw dropping open.  This morning I asked my hubby, "Have you see the maple tree in the back yard?"

"Yup," he said, "happens every fall."

"BUT IT ISN'T FALL!!" I wailed.

Please, Mother Nature, don't do this to us after our cold, wet spring.  You remember.  The one that lasted until July.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Out of Shape!

One week of vacation away from the regular routine and daily exercise here on the homestead and, boy howdy, did my body complain working out in the garden today!

The garden is a little "out of shape" also.  Even though I've always thought I didn't spend a lot of time on a daily basis in the garden, that little bit each and every day does serve to keep things under control.  Out of control is more what the garden feels like now after being neglected for a week.

My main task today was to pick strawberries.  I brought in nineteen pounds and twelve ounces.  Tomorrow my kitchen will be full of the wonderful aroma of strawberry jam burbling in big pots.

Last Thursday we got 3 and 8/10ths inches of rain along with terrific winds.  (Papa Pea's brother had made this whole family reunion/vacation possible by renting a large house on a nearby lake for the week and that's where we spent most of the time.)  The whole bunch of us were at the lake in the late afternoon Thursday when the heaviest of the rain and winds hit.  Coming home around 10:30 that night, hubby and I encountered a big tree blocking our driveway about one-third of the way in.  Once we got to our house, I pointed the big beam flashlight out into the garden and was dismayed to see that my main crop of corn hadn't fared too well in the winds.

This is what it looked like early Friday morning when I went out to more closely survey the damage.  I didn't think there was any way the stalks of corn would stand up again and tossed around various ideas all that day as to how I could stake them back up.  I so didn't want to lose all that potential corn harvest.  I even counted the stalks.  One hundred and fifty stakes would be needed if I tried to stake them up.  Should I get some rebar and have Papa Pea cut it to the right lengths?  Did we have any wood we could cut to use?  Would a heavy stake at each end of each row and rope keep the corn in an upright position?

My annoyingly patient husband urged me to give the corn a few days to have a chance to come back up by itself.  I really didn't think that was possible, but dang and drat he was right as usual, and as of today (Saturday) it's starting to look like most of it will be okay.

A couple more days and the garden and my creaky body will be back in tip-top shape.  Well, I know the garden will be anyway.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Back to Normal

Well, our mini family reunion ended this morning when three rental cars headed out our driveway toward two separate airports both hours away.

This past week we've had nine relatives visiting from California and Kentucky.  This came to pass because Papa Pea's little younger brother stated way back last December that what he wanted for Christmas was this trip to northern Minnesota.  You'll note that even though this was a Christmas present, he booked the trip for July.  For some reason, he didn't want to take the chance of battling knee-deep snow and the possibility of cancelled or delayed plane flights and icy roads in mid-winter.  Just no sense of adventure.

I've got to admit we did a lot of fun things this past week that we couldn't have done in the winter time.

::  We canoed.  Our favorite 8-1/2 year old is now an expert paddler in the bow position.

::  We collected rocks and painted them.  Who knew such talent would emerge!

::  We played croquet.  I haven't played that since I was a teenager.  I was much better then.

::  We got rained on.  Numerous times.  Again and again.  Over and over.

::  We shopped.  Well, it is a tourist town, you know, and there are all those lovely shops!

::  We fished.  And, lo and behold, we even caught.

::  We took sight-seeing excursions with the boat and motor.

::  We lounged and read and knitted and crocheted and worked puzzles and played backgammon when the rain was too heavy.  And it was.  Numerous times.

::  We kayaked way, way out.  And back.

::  We lounged on the end of the dock.  Alcoholic beverages may or may not have been involved.

::  We hiked and sustained only one injury which was a messy, abraded knee.  But he was very brave when I poured Tea Tree Oil on it.  Darn rain and slippery rocks!

::  We looked at old (really old!) family movies showing a few people no one present could identify.

Interspersed with all of this we ate (no shortage of good cooks in the family) and talked and talked and ate.

Gotta admit it seems very quiet in these here parts now.  And I think it's time for me to get back on my schedule.  I'll do that.  Right after I rest for a few days.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Couple High (and Low) Spots of the Garden

I took a quick tour through the garden yesterday.  Here are some pictures to share and help me chronicle this unusual growing season.

The very first blossom on my bush zinnias.  They (usually) have a profusion of flowers and hold far into the fall.

I think the turnips found some steroids this year.  They are on the right side of this bed and the greens are two feet tall!  A four-foot wide trellis of Sensation Cosmos is in the center and some Forono beets on the far side.

The morning glories have finally stretched tall enough to start climbing up the tepee trellis.  Carrots on either side.

My green/red peppers just can't seem to take off this year.  They're spindly and still not very healthy looking.

This is what should be a 16 foot long row of green beans.  The first planting yielded very poor germination so I went back over the row and stuck in more seeds in the bare spots.  They didn't seem to take well either.  I've been sticking bean seeds into every nook and cranny I can find available in the garden . . . and those seem to be doing okay.  I'm crossing fingers I'll get enough green beans some how, some way yet this year.

This is my main stand of corn.  It has really shot up in the last week.  It wasn't even knee-high on the 4th of July.  I can hardly believe it's almost two feet tall now.

I planted a new cosmos this year . . . Rubenza.  All red, red, red flowers and this is the first one to pop out.  I'm so eager for the plants to become big and bushy covered with these gorgeous flowers.

I snapped a picture of golf ball sized (but very green) cherry tomatoes, too, but the picture turned out too fuzzy.  The plants are Washington Cherry tomatoes and have always been prolific producing LARGE cherry tomatoes for me.

We had a soaking rain last night.  Now warmth and humidity today so I'm expecting the garden is doing some more growing as we speak.

Hope you all are having a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Of Berries, Moisture . . . and a Skunk

The first strawberries of the season are always a cause for celebration around here especially for strawberry-lovin' Papa Pea.  I gave him the first ripe strawberry I found in the garden a few days ago as is our tradition. I knew there were enough berries for a first picking yesterday but the weather was too wet.  (We had one deluge of 15 minutes duration that put 4/10th of an inch in the rain gauge.)

Today was forecast to be sunny, but so far it's been blowsy, gray and very damp.  It's not recommended to pick strawberries when the plants are wet, but I couldn't resist all those red, red berries beckoning to me so I went out with bowl in hand and picked only those hanging out on the edges.

My harvest weighed in at exactly one pound.

Unfortunately, there was evidence in the patch that this wet, cool weather has been hospitable to slugs . . . ugh.  (Ugh to slugs.)  Once I threw the first ruined berry over the fence into the chicken yard, I had an audience of feathered friends lined up eagerly watching me pick and ready to beat their buddies to the next one I tossed their way.

You can probably guess what we had for breakfast this morning.  Yes, the berries are late coming in this year.  Most likely lack of sunshine and warmth that hastened their ripening.

* * * * * * * *

During the night we were awakened with the perfume of a skunk, apparently one that had recently had a dispute with another creature of the forest, wafting in through our open bedroom window.  Whew-eee, was it strong.  Pepe le Pew must have made a tour of our little homestead because the odor is quite pervasive outside this morning.  When our daughter dropped off Tucker on her way to work, she said she could even smell the odor in our house.  Oh, great.  I should have gotten up and closed windows during the night when we first noticed the smell.

* * * * * * * *

I sure do wish the weather would blow clear and that sunny forecast would materialize.  I really need to spend time destroying communing with the prolific weeds in the garden.

I may not have mentioned it but about half of our Brussels sprout plants inside the screened frames blew over in a hefty wind several nights ago.  We had to lift off the frames and tie the plants to stakes so they would straighten up and fly right.  This morning I noticed two of the broccoli plants have laid down so now I'll have to enlist Papa Pea to help me get that screened frame off and stake all of them up.  I've never had this happen before but I'm assuming it's because of all our rain and the soil being so soft and soggy.

Too much rain, not enough rain.  Too hot, too cool.  We gardeners have to be a tough lot able to roll with the punches.  That . . . or we're gluttons for punishment.  (Wink-wink!)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Scattered Thoughts

I'm having a hard time just now keeping up with all of your blog posts and making comments on them.  Too much stuff going on.  Terribly behind on answering e-mails, too.  
Apologies extended.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I am so thankful each and every day
that I am able to be a
homebody and a homemaker.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My fingernails are too long . . . again.
They have always grown really fast and when
they get to the point where they bother me,
I have to sit down and cut them.
They grow faster in the summer time.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

The inside of my refrigerator is going to become beyond disgusting 
if I don't get in there and give it a thorough
cleaning soon.
Definitely TMI.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The garden has just had a big growth spurt.
So have the weeds.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I am the boss of me.
(I think that means I'm also in charge of
shaping myself up and keeping myself in line.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We are socked in with heavy fog again.  Nothing dries when
the air is so thick.  Not the laundry, not the plants
in the garden, not the muddy knees of 
my garden jeans, not the knee-high grass, 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I had the top of my desk completely cleared off a day or so ago.  
 Now it's a mess again.  
 How does this happen?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Each morning I make a list of things to be done
that is a page long.
Each night I find I have only one or two
things crossed off.
Can any of you relate to this?
(You can?  So I suppose I shouldn't look
for any sympathy from you, huh?)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Although the weather is now warm enough
to wear sandals without suffering
frostbitten toes,
I can't do it until I find time
to polish my toenails.
Can't stand the look of my feet in sandals
without polish on my toes. 
They look nekkid.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have a comfortable, safe bed to sleep in every night.
Hubby and I live just exactly where
we want to live.
We are both very healthy.
We never lack for nutritious food to eat.
I have multitudinous choices of what I can do
each and every day.
I live a life of abundance and I'm extremely grateful.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The End 

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Bit of Quilting . . .

Seems as if it took forever, but I finally finished a new wall hanging for the kitchen.

I saw this particular block in a quilt in a magazine and have wanted to make it for a while.  I made my blocks 6" x 6".  The whole quilt is 33" square.

Another shot from halfway across the room.

It's all hand quilted which I've tried to show here . . . without a lot of success, I can see.

The big hold-up in finishing this piece was trying to decide the quilting design to do in the gold outer border.  I suspected whatever I did wasn't going to show up prominently.  I ended up doing two parallel wavy lines on top, bottom and each side.  And suspicions confirmed, unless you're right up next to the quilt, you can't see the stitching at all.

I succeeded (and it wasn't hard) in using only fabrics from my stash for this wall hanging.  Either there is something wrong with me or I DO have way too big a stash, because I have no desire whatsoever to purchase any more fabric right now.  

With luck, I'll eventually get over that!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Beware of Jerusalem Artichokes!

Three years ago we decided we wanted to try growing Jerusalem artichokes in the garden.  Heeding the warning that they have a tendency to spread and can take over your acreage if not contained in some way, we planted the tubers in one of our 4' x 8' raised beds.

We weren't thrilled with the harvest at the end of that first season.  The artichokes were small, thin and very bumpy.  Lumpy.  You know, lots of knobs that made it hard to clean them.  And the flavor?  Meh.  Nothing to write home about.

But being reasonable people (that's my story and I'm sticking to it), we decided to give them another year before making any rash judgements.

After the harvest at the end of that second year, we saw no improvement and were sure we could find some other veggie to plant in the space that we would enjoy more.  Lots more.

So at the end of that growing period, I took my trusty spading fork and dug out tubers.  And dug out tubers.  And dug out tubers.  Where the heck did all those tubers come from?  It was kinda creepy.

Having a sneaky feeling I hadn't won in the total eradication of the artichokes, last year we stacked "risers" on top of the artichoke bed and made it into a compost heap.  All year long, nary one little sprout of an artichoke made an appearance.  "Ha!" I rejoiced.  "We succeeded in smothering out those pesky little buggers."

This spring the compost was removed from the bed, the risers taken off and the soil was worked up and I planted the bed full of onions.

Next thing I knew (dum-da-dum-dum), strange looking "weeds" began popping up among the onions.  Oh, no!  ARTICHOKES!

Not only are the artichokes coming up within the confines of the raised bed, they're escaping via underground tunnels (!) and making a run for freedom.

This (and the first picture) shows one week's growth of artichokes.  Each week I attack the sprouts and wring their little necks.  I can't dig them out for fear of harming the onions valiantly doing their darndest to keep growing in the bed.  The artichoke shoots are so tough, the best I can do is break them off at soil level.  What if all I'm doing is strengthening the underground part by pruning off the tops?  Ugh.

Needless to say, next season I'm going to have to leave the bed unplanted.  I'll attack it regularly with my spading fork (and perhaps some dynamite) to get out every blasted, %$#^* tuber I can find.  Then maybe, just maybe, the following year I will again have that bed for use in growing something that is in no way related to a Jerusalem artichoke.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Month Ago . . . and Today

It's time for the comparison pictures of what my garden looked like a month ago on June 1st and now on July 1st.  I was actually thinking there wouldn't be much of any difference at all, but there has been a little change.  Just not as much as would/could/should be seen in a month's time.

Here are the raised beds a month ago.

And the raised beds yesterday.  Certainly not as far along as I would expect them to be at this mid-summer point, but we have had more than our share of lack of sunshine and cool weather in the last thirty days.

The field garden was looking mostly bare on June 1st.

A little more to be seen here now, but many of the plants are still so small they don't show up in this picture.

A very bare, unplanted pumpkin patch on June 1st.

Although you'd never know it by this picture taken one month later, the whole pumpkin patch is planted.  You'll have to believe me that the corn is starting to break through and one pumpkin seed (it's one of yours, A) has made it to daylight.

Sure hope we have a sunny, warm month of July to encourage some rapid growth out there.  Maybe on August 1st I'll be able to say, "Wow, what a difference a month makes!"