Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's a step...

Early this morning I15 had to be at the stadium for parking lot cleanup.  He did his thing there and I got busy on my list for the day.  Since we had the band contest yesterday afternoon I didn't get as much done as I would have liked.  So, we were bad and ditched church.  So I did manage to get quite a few things done today.
V and I went clothes shopping this morning.  Let me tell you, he's not as much fun to shop with as Justine, but we got the job done. I have one department store credit card and that is at Kohl's.  Periodically they send out discounts where you get 15, 20, or 30% off your entire purchase.  This time around I happened to get a 30!  That's always the best time to shop.  I needed a couple new pair of pants for work and, since V was desperately in need of new work pants, he came along.  He has been really hard on his pants with all the construction in the past few years.  I even splurged and got myself a new outfit (pants, shirt and loose sweater/jacket) to wear at a conference I'm going to later in October.  I've been asked to participate in a panel discussion group at the state Occupational Therapy conference this year.  The featured presenter is quite well known (she used to be the president of AOTA!) and as she presents, she wants individuals representing the different practice areas to be available to discuss how what she is presenting is relevant to their practice.  I've been asked to represent all the OTs in Mental Health. EEEK!!  I'm a bit anxious about this one.  I do hope I can speak intelligently.
Anyway... back to today.  While we were over in that part of town, I wanted to stop at one of the local farm stores to pick up some new bedding for the chicken coop since it's about time for the fall clean out. While we were there, we got something that I never thought we would ever own.   We have been having such trouble with chipmunks this year.   I think the mild winter and early spring helped boost their population tremendously.  I don't want to resort to poison and they always seem to be able to outsmart the traps.  We have been joking about getting a pellet gun and picking them off from the deck.  Amazingly enough, V was serious- so today we purchased gun.  Well, an air rifle, so it's not a REAL gun.  But this is a huge step for V who vowed that we would never have a firearm in the house.
It even came with a scope for precision targeting, LOL!  V is going to have to do some more target practice before he takes on the chipmunks, though.
K12 came down to watch for a while.  Interestingly enough, neither boy is interested in firing it.  But, we had the firearm safety lecture anyway.  Even though this is just an air rifle it is still a weapon.
I've been saying since we moved out here that we should get a gun.  Being able to pick off a sickly wild animal at a distance is a good thing. Or to get a deer license and snag one of the deer who hang out in the meadow. But, V never been on board.  Maybe this is the gateway weapon, LOL!
After target practice I had hoped to spend some time clearing out the garden (the chicken coop is slated for next weekend) but instead I tackled the mass of ripening tomatoes on the kitchen counter.  I made a bit more enchilada sauce and some spaghetti sauce.  I've got enough enchilada sauce for dinner later this week and 2 batches for the freezer.  I've got spaghetti sauce for tomorrow night and another night that also went into the freezer.
I harvested some English and Orange Thyme to dry and did a bunch of laundry in addition to a few other usual weekend chores.  I still have not managed to get the deer netting around the plum tree,  get the tomatoes pulled from the garden or the garlic planted. I simply ran out of time.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Photos from the end of September

It is an absolutely gorgeous day here.  Sunshine, upper 70's, light winds... the perfect day to sit on bleachers and watch a marching band competition all afternoon... right??
Today was the Little Hawk Invitational band contest.  This is the 4th performance in 3 days for these kids.  And they did a fabulous job.  Since they were the hosting school they did an exhibition performance only and weren't in line for any of the trophies.  In addition to City High, there were 12 schools there in competition classes 2A, 3A and 4A.  LOTS of teens amped up!
 There is my oldest son:  Looking sharp in that uniform.  Band uniforms are certainly much more stylish now than they were when I was in high school!  And I love the sparkly plumes!
 Here they are, ready to begin the performance.  They did a selection of Billy Joel songs.
 In action!!  I was going to upload a video but my file is too big for blogger to handle and I'm not inclined to upload to YouTube at the moment just so I can post it here.  Maybe I'll update later if I'm so inclined.
Iowa City High School is lovely, rambling old WPA building set on a hill.
They just don't build schools like that anymore.  Off to the left, with the columns is the auditorium.
 Check out that lovely carved detail over the door.
Autumn is definitely here.  The trees are changing and the view from the deck is becoming colorful.
And the boxelder bugs are gathering.  It's time once again to start checking the coffee cup in the morning doe unwelcome visitors.  I like my coffee without extra protein, thank you very much.

Now, I've got tomatoes to wrangle and a squash (one from Mom) that looks like it needs used very, very soon.  I've got to get I15 through the shower since the homecoming dance is tonight... and he's voluntarily going!! No date since his 'girlfriend' broke up with him (although she still emails him nearly constantly, LOL!) but the fact that he wants to go indicates to me that my little boy is growing up. sigh....  they grow up so fast!

Friday, September 28, 2012

OK... another rant coming

I15 decided to try to create a Facebook account this evening to keep up with friends and his big sister.  For some reason Facebook doesn't believe that his name is his real name and are requiring a copy of a government issued ID.  Really?  So, since I have been thinking about biting the bullet and creating a Facebook account to keep up with Justine in college.  Guess what?  They don't think my name is real either and are asking me to send them a copy of my ID.
You know what?  Maybe this is part of their new security but I don't need Facebook that bad.  If they don't believe that I'm who I say I am without providing a copy of my driver's license they can F#&K off.  I mean really, I'm 50!  Like I'm going to pretend to be someone else.  I've got enough trouble being myself.

Here ends the rant.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pizza Sauce Recipe- by request

The masses have spoken- well, maybe not masses... but there have been a couple of requests for my pizza sauce recipe.  It is from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (with some tweaking).  It is really pretty simple but it takes time to cook it down thick enough.  Here goes the original recipe:
13 cups fresh tomato puree (from paste/plum tomatoes so it is thicker)
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp dried oregano

I actually use red wine vinegar rather than lemon juice.  I like the flavor better for pizza sauce and it's still 5% acidity.
You can play around with the spices as much as you want, just don't change the ratio of tomato sauce to acid  (lemon juice or vinegar). I added a bit of onion powder as well and rather than oregano I use an Italian Herb blend that we get from the Amish bulk store that has oregano, basil and rosemary... and maybe a couple other things- it's tasty and I use it in lots of things.

Bring tomato sauce to a boil and add other ingredients.  Continue to simmer until it thickens to the consistency of a thin commercial sauce.  The recipe says 15 minutes but it took much longer for mine to thicken enough.
Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Check for bubbles (although mine wasn't really that thick that I had to worry about bubbles), wipe rims and put on lids and rings.  The recipe calls for putting it into pint jars and water bath processing it for 35 minutes. I used half pint jars because there is no way I would ever use a full pint of pizza sauce at a time and I'd hate for it to go to waste. I guessed at processing time and did 20 minutes.

Hope that works.

We survived the homecoming parade this evening (but came home with a bag of candy).  Tomorrow will be a long day for I15.  Poor Boo.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I've been lax

I realized that I haven't posted an Independence Days Challenge update for several weeks.  Things have been so, so busy that my usual Friday posts have slipped by without an IDC update.
So here goes- an update for most of September.
Plant something-  Oh baby, yes!  Greens and radishes in the greenhouse. I also planted some oats in a pot for cat grass so Spaz doesn't munch on the houseplant too much.  Since I'm not very good at picking the blossoms off my herbs I noticed that the basil in the herb spiral had gone to seed and there were little basil seedlings out there. So, before the big freeze I dug up a couple of tiny seedlings and put them into a pot to bring inside.
Harvest something- tomatoes (both green and ripe), peppers, eggplant, zucchini, winter squash, cucumbers, eggs, herbs.  I still need to dig the last of my potatoes.
Preserve something- canned: salsa, tomatoes, pizza sauce.  Frozen: diced peppers, roasted peppers, broccoli, eggplant parmesan casseroles
Waste not- V rebuilt the old garden shed and we repurposed lumber to use for the foundation of that.
Want not-  V built me a greenhouse!!  Rediscovered canning jars in the barn.  Stocked up on shredded cheese on a one day sale at the grocery and stashed it in the freezer.
Eat the food-  Where to start...   We've been trying to eat almost exclusively from our stores.  About the only thing we have purchased in the last couple of weeks has been dairy products (including milk and the cheese stash), juice and apples.
Build community food systems-  I took a huge care package of produce and eggs to Jim.  4 dozen eggs went to work.
Skill up-  I've been reading up on 4 season gardening.  Imagine that!

Now I'm fairly caught up and can start fresh this week.  I hope I remember.


I was out in the garden for a bit today after work.  The weather is perfect- sunny and about 70- so I thought I'd start in on cleaning out the frost killed plants.  I could only work for a little while because we had to have an early (for us!) dinner because I15 has to be back at school by 730 for band rehearsal.  He has a super busy week with band activities.  Tonight is rehearsal.  Tomorrow is the City High homecoming parade. Friday the band not only marches in the University homecoming parade but also plays halftime at the high school football game immediately after.  Saturday there is a marching band invitational contest and Sunday is his last parking lot cleanup.  Whew!  Then he has a rest until next weekend which is the state marching band contest.  We're planning to go to the competition this Saturday since it is at City High and they're performing their entire routine (usually they do a bit at a time at the football games). I'll be sure to take my camera.
But, back to the garden.  I thought I'd start in on the peppers and eggplants since they are much less messy to pull than tomatoes.  Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that there are a few pepper plants that seem to have bits still alive!  The peppers became quite unruly this summer and several fell over each other or were in various stages of being engulfed by rogue tomato vines.  This shelter seems to have saved a few of the lower branches.  I've got a few branches left on an Anaheim, two hot Hungarian wax plants and a bell.  Sadly none of the jalapenos or sweet Italians made it.  And no tomatoes or eggplants survived.  I was also amazed that when I went to pick a few frost nipped little zucchini for the chickens that one plant, while all the leaves are frost bitten and brown, is beginning to send out new little leaves and blossoms on the end of the vine.  Life is truly amazingly resilient.

And of course... since my mind never stops pondering while I work, this resilience led to 'deep thoughts'.  I think we all need to be more like those little garden plants- overcoming adversity and doing things our own way.  I have been distressed at the level of angst among many bloggers I follow due to the election.  People on both sides are murmuring about doom and gloom if their guy doesn't win.  You know what I think? (since this is my blog I'm going to tell you even if you don't want to know!)  While the president does have power over some things. I don't really think the outcome will be vastly different regardless of which candidate wins.  We have the responsibility to take charge of our own lives and be resilient no matter what befalls us.  The country will not suddenly end, life as we know it will not cease to be,  we will not suddenly be forced to roll over and play dead. The government will not determine the values I teach my children.  I decide.  I am in the driver's seat of my life.  I may not always like the road I'm given to travel but the journey is mine to make.  I need to work on making myself more like my peppers.  Able to stand up to a frost or two along the way and still be productive.   And if there are things I don't like, it becomes my responsibility to work on changing them as much as I can in my life and my corner of the world.

Honestly, I'm more worried about climate change and big ag (and how little seems to be being done about any of that) than I am about the election.  I just wish the ads would stop and that the campaigns would be honest.

Monday, September 24, 2012

No Doubts

If I had any doubts about the end of the main season garden, they were erased with the dawn.  We a record low temp this morning and it was just barely above 29 degrees F when I got up this morning at 6:15.  Brrr!!  So, after that, the garden is officially done. It didn't matter if anything was covered, it was frozen.  I even had to wait for a clump of ice to clear the hose this morning when I went to water the chickens.  This is such odd weather.  We don't usually get temperatures like this until sometime in mid to late October. Global weirding strikes again.
I thought I'd share a few photos of my Manic Monday (and last night)
Last night's dinner- affectionately known as Zombie Smush.  It's really enchilada casserole made with blue corn tortillas.  It's built like lasagna: layers of tortillas, a mix of corn, chili beans & hamburger and cheese. With enchilada sauce poured over all.  (for a vegetarian version, just leave out the hamburger)
The blue corn tortillas make it totally gross looking but it tastes fabulous.  And the boys love to eat it.
The tomatoes have come full circle.  I've got green tomatoes ripening on my seed starting racks, nestled in flats.  They end where they began.  Somehow fitting.
And what's a girl to do on her day off when she can't play in the garden and has TONS of salvaged peppers?
Make fire roasted peppers, of course!  After a frosty morning, it turned into a lovely day- a bit windy but not too bad. It was too windy to fire up the grill on the deck so I  worked in the little 'porch' under the deck by the back door.  Sheltered enough from the wind but still enough air circulation that I didn't get smoked out.
And... I'm sure that none of you, nor I, have any personal experience from our misspent youth to be able to answer this question but I'm going to ask it anyway:  Did you ever notice that chiles on the grill smell kind of like pot?  Just a thought.  Not that I know what it would smell like from college days......
The peppers got chopped and frozen into little recipe sized packages.  While I had the grill hot I also grilled a few eggplants.  One I had for lunch and the others I made into little single serving faux eggplant parmesan casseroles:  grilled eggplant layered with roasted peppers, cheese and tomato sauce.  I had one for my Meatless Monday tonight while the guys had spaghetti.  And I've got more tucked into the freezer for later.  Hmm, I've finally got a use for all those little pyrex dishes from college that I've been lugging around for 20 years.
And finally...
the pathetic end of the garden.  If the weather is nice, next weekend I'll probably pull everything except the broccoli, fennel and kale and put the garden to bed for the winter.  Of course, we probably have enough warm weather left that if I till now maybe a bunch of weeds will sprout only to get frozen off, Mwahahaha....

So, with the end of the garden season and only straggling tomatoes inside it looks like I'll be able to get started on quilting season early this year.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The fat lady sang

You know that saying "It ain't over til the fat lady sings"?  If that's true she must have really been belting out the tunes last night.  I woke about 6:15.  The thermometer on the front porch read 33 degrees.  But....  further away from the house it must have been much, much colder.
Things in the garden that weren't covered were frozen stiff:

 Now that they are beginning to thaw they are becoming limp:

and the air has that smell of frozen foliage.  Even the plants that were covered took a hit.  There may be a couple of peppers that survive but most everything is history.  So, I guess that effectively ends the 2012 main season garden.
 But there are tiny lettuce seedlings up in the greenhouse!
And a view of the new garden shed (pre-frost when the squash vines were still trying to take over the world.
I'll have to go out again later to see what, if anything, is salvageable.  sigh...  I wasn't expecting this for another couple of weeks.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Frantic Fall First

Yes, it is definitely the first day of fall.  And it was busy, busy, busy- frantically trying to get things done that I thought I had a few more weeks to do.  We've got a freeze watch out for this evening (and a freeze warning not far away!) so all those things that need to happen before a freeze had to happen TODAY!
So, I picked several gallons of peppers, eggplant and every tomato that was starting to turn.  All the houseplants were brought in from outside and sheets were thrown over parts of the garden.  I know I can't save it all if it freezes/frosts but I did want to protect the few big squash that are just starting to ripen, some of the heavier laden tomatoes and a few peppers.  I've got 6 old sheets that I'm using to protect things.  Hopefully it will be enough or it won't get down to as cold as it is forecast.
I also went scrounging for canning jars today. I was out of real canning jars in the house.  Oh, I've got some mayo jars that I got from Mom but I hate to can in them.  But, I remembered that when we moved in several years ago some jars got stashed under a tarp in the barn.  With all the chaos of remodeling, we didn't really have room in the house and they were 'extras'.  Some were wide mouths that I had purchased a couple of years ago and there were some that I had received from Mom.  I thought I had, maybe two cases.  Imagine my excitement when I pulled back the tarp to find 5 cases of jars!!  One of wide mouth and 4 regular.  Yowza!  What a bonanza! I didn't realize I had so many.  I do think most of them are from my Mom who has slowed down her canning.  There are even a few old jars in there.  I'll probably not use them for canning just because they are so old and cool, but I do love the look of dried beans and such in canning jars on the pantry shelves.
V finished building (or re-building!) the garden shed today and lots of stuff was relocated.  The shed now houses the tiller, snowblower, push mower, wheelbarrow as well as most of the hand tools like shovels and rakes.  I got photos but haven't taken them off the camera yet.
I also got a bunch of stuff done inside the house today as well.  You know, the regular laundry type stuff.

Oh, and I've got tiny lettuce seedlings up in the greenhouse!  Woot!!

Autumn starts with a bang

Today is the Autumnal Equinox.  Fall officially begins a little later this morning.  And it's starting off with a bang here.  We've got a FREEZE WATCH for tonight!  Really, a freeze?!  It's not even October yet!  No fair.  But then, what has been fair about the weather this year...
While I'm getting tired of processing the garden produce I'm also not quite ready to call it quits on the garden.  The weather guys are talking about widespread frost with the possibility of scattered hard freeze in spots.  So... I'll be hauling out my old sheets (good thing I salvaged them when my MIL cleaned out the linen closet) and covering things out in the garden.  I do hope I can salvage my squash. The Long Island Cheese is finally really producing and I'd love for some of those to be able to ripen.
This afternoon we'll be bringing in all the house plants off the deck.  With the new big windows in the library they should really like it in there. Even Franz Joseph, the black hungarian pepper replacement for Eric the Jalapeno will come in, probably living in K12's room like its predecessor.  So today will be a busy, busy day... but what's new, right?

I'll see if I can report in later to see what has gotten done.  I also see a produce run to Jim today.  Somebody has to help up us with all this produce.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Ok, another rant coming on here.  Yes it's political but nothing to do with the national elections.

Rep. Steve King (R- IA-- although I honestly don't care what his party is!) is an idiot.  He is an embarrassment to the state of Iowa.  I can't imagine how this man got elected and I do sincerely hope that his district (thank God it isn't mine!!) will have the sense to not elect this man to another term.
He is now complaining about the "nanny state" speed limit because he feels it wastes 'lifetimes'.  (read here, he thinks that safety or fuel efficiency isn't as important as getting him there faster) He also doesn't like energy efficient lightbulbs, preferring, as he calls them 'patriotic' edison bulbs.  He brags about drilling holes in his water saving shower head to increase the water flow.  The man is an ecological and social nightmare.

I'm sure he is all for more drilling and mining of fossil fuels (drill baby drill!), is the best friend of Monsanto and feels climate change is a hoax, regardless of what the science shows (I'm sure he doesn't believe in science either!).  And don't get me started about his bigoted ideas about social issues.

So, PLEASE, fellow Iowans in his district, when he comes up for election, boot him out. He is a disgrace to the good name of all Iowans.

Oh, and he also wants to get rid of the Healthy Kids initiative on school lunches.  He doesn't seem to think that an 850 calorie limit on lunch is a good idea for students, worried that some students may go hungry.

Here ends the rant.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Riding the tail end of the week into the weekend.  Even though it has been a short week due to missing some work due to illness it has seemed like a long week.  A couple of my co-workers have had sick children and so we have been short staffed all around.  If everyone is healthy, tomorrow will be the first day that we are all there this week (well, we're still one staff down).
I've got tomatoes in the garden and tomatoes on the counter that I need to do something with.  There are still lots and lots of peppers and eggplant out there. sigh.  I'm actually getting tired of the neverending stream of vegetables, LOL!  I never thought I'd say that.
There are little radishes, kale and chard seedlings up in the greenhouse!  No lettuce up yet.  hmmm I've had trouble getting lettuce to germinate all year.  And I even have fresh seed in there.  Ok, it's seed I picked up a couple weeks ago on discount for $.05/pack when we were at Menards but it's newer than lots of the seeds I've got.  But I actually never got lettuce to germinate in the garden this year at all. Who knows.
Otherwise, I've got nothing.  We're heading out to dinner tomorrow night with a friend that V helped move over the summer so tomatoes will have to wait until Saturday.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Woman down (and a rant- beware)

I was home from work today with a virus.  You know- the headache, body aches, fever kind of virus. Blah!  Good news is that I am feeling much better.  It's amazing what 14 hours of sleep and a day of doing nothing will do for you.
I did lots of laying around on the couch watching TV this afternoon.  I rarely watch TV so it was a novelty.  There is only so much Paula Deen I can stand to watch so, sadly, I ended up channel surfing and watching too much news that just made me irritated.  I have, at several points in my life, been in that 47% that didn't pay income tax but I have NEVER considered myself a victim or dependent on anyone.  Different circumstances led to that at different points of time- all of my own making.  I think that lumping of many people who don't pay income tax (for a whole variety of reasons) as victims and dependents insulting and showing a limited understanding of real life, real people and their struggles.  It is a low blow to people of both parties and from all walks of life (including, I hear 4,000 millionaires!).  Not everyone who doesn't pay income tax is a dependent loser. I'm sure the millions of retirees and military personnel would agree... as would all those people who pay payroll tax but because of a variety of deductions and credits (approved by both parties) end up not owing income tax.    Yes, there are people using the system, who don't want to take responsibility, but lumping everyone together like that just pisses me off.
OK... end of rant.  Maybe my continuing headache is from my irritation and not just the virus.  I've gotta stay away from the news.  I'm cranky today.

I did make it out to the greenhouse today.  I've got little radishes starting to sprout. That makes me happy!  The weather is definitely fall like.  It was down to 40 this morning and it only made it into the low 60's, even with plenty of sunshine.  Another cool night tonight and then it should warm up to a bit more seasonal pattern. We could definitely use some rain again but that doesn't look too likely.  oh well,  I'll take what we get.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pizza night!

Sorry, no photos though.
I had some pizza sauce left over from my canning exploits over the weekend so we decided to try it out.   Tonight was pizza night.  A pepperoni pizza with homemade sauce for the boys (and for V).  Plus, I made an experimental pizza for me.  Justine would have loved it!  One more thing to miss her for.
I roasted eggplant, tomatoes, sweet italian peppers, onion and garlic in the oven until tender and a little caramelized.  I pulled off the peels and tossed it all in the blender with a few black olives, some fresh basil and oregano and pureed the whole mess.  I used it as the sauce on a pizza crust, topped it with parmesan and an italian blend of cheeses, sprinkled it with a tuscan herb blend.  Fabulous!  Wonderful for a meatless Monday.  I had some left so I've now got enough for two more pizzas in the freezer for later.
Otherwise, the tomatoes are winding down. I've got a bit of sauce on the stove cooling.  We'll eat some this week and I'll freeze the rest.  There isn't enough to bother firing up the canner.

Not much else going on.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

It's a greenhouse!!

V finished the greenhouse last evening!  So, today, I got to play inside.
I was up early this morning since I15 had to be in town by 7am for parking lot clean up.  The City High Band works to clean up the parking lots around the stadium after home football games at the university.  They get paid for this and the money goes to fund all sorts of things like trips, uniforms, music, etc.  It is also part of their grade that the students 'volunteer' at least 4 times.  So, since it is still early in the year and warm(ish) and still light at 7am. I15 has been going to all the clean ups in September.  So far he has done 2 of his 4 games.  With lots of students there to help it generally takes less than 2 hours.  But wouldn't it be amazing if tailgaters cleaned up after themselves and the high school kids didn't need to pick up their garbage?!  What a concept!  But, then, the band would be out of money that they need and would have to do other fundraisers.
But, after clean up, I15 and I made a trip to one of the local garden centers and picked up 12 bags of topsoil.  They are selling it cheap since they want to clear it out so they don't have to store it over the winter- and I happened to want some for the greenhouse.
 Here it is in all it's glory.  Well, I guess it's not that glorious...
The frame came packed in this really cool box made of green corrugated plastic.  Which I cut and used to build little raised bed frames inside the greenhouse.  I love being able to repurpose stuff.  And I had some left over edging spikes from earlier this year that I could use to hold it in place.  After lunch, K12 helped me load in the topsoil.
Filled with topsoil and planted:  Lettuce (2 kinds), spinach, chard, kale and radishes are all in!  The kale is mainly for the chickens.  While I like kale, I'm about the only one who does (except the chickens!).  We can't keep it in the regular garden over winter or the deer will eat it (at least they always have in the past).
  V has moved on to his next construction project.  The re-construction of the garden shed just to the north of the garden.  To the left side of the photo (behind the gate) you can see the Long Island cheese vine trying to take over the world.  It was over the fence but V tossed it back in.
It has been a busy weekend,  I'll almost be glad to get back to work tomorrow so I can get some rest, LOL!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Sunny September Saturday

It was a gloriously beautiful day today.  Brilliant sunshine and temps in the mid 70's- perfect for working outside.
I did some weeding and other work in the garden. I finally finished off all those giant lambs quarters along the fence line. I picked tomatoes and a few tomatoes.  I did laundry. I made roasted tomato/pepper salsa.  V worked on my greenhouse.  All in all, busy but pretty laid back.
Here are a few photos of the day.
 The first Long Island Cheese squash was harvested!
 Tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic go into the oven to roast
 ... come out
 and make a fabulous salsa!
V working diligently on the greenhouse.  See, it isn't big- only 6x8 but I'm excited to get some fall greens planted in there.  He managed to get it finished tonight but it was too dark to get a good photo so I'll post one another day.  I will still need to put raised beds of some sort in there before I can plant.
And finally...
I'm so glad to see that someone was able to relax today!  Eesh!  I can see that the rug desperately needs vacuumed. That is the dog and cat's favorite spot to lay so it tends to collect lots and lots of fur.  Hmm... I think it is I15's turn at vacuuming this week.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Feeling a little saucy!

I had a wonderful day off today.  I had a bonus day off since I worked last Saturday.  The day started off with something I rarely do.  After the boys left for school- I went back to bed and slept for another 2 hours!  I must have really needed it since I can rarely sleep during the day unless I'm sick.  I have been running ragged for the past two weeks and for the last week on 6 or less hours of sleep per night trying to get everything done.  I needed to catch up!
After I woke I cleaned the kitchen because I knew I had to clear the decks for the afternoon's projects.  V and I ran some errands over lunch and when we got home I started saucing!  I started off with a straight tomato/pepper/onion sauce that became part of this evening's lasagna.  And then, I made another large pot of sauce that I boiled down and spiced up to make pizza sauce.  This is a new one for me.  It tasted really good and I've got some extra in the fridge that we'll try for on pizza on Sunday or Monday night for dinner.  But I've got 10 lovely little half-pint jars of thick, spicy sauce cooling on the counter.  The recipe I used said to put it into pint jars but that seems like so much.  We would never use a full pint at a time.  Usually when I make pizza, even with the store bought cans, I always have left overs.  So half pints should do fine.  I can't wait to try it out.
The weather here has been fall-like.  We were at about 50F this morning.  Definitely chilly after all the heat of the summer.  It struggled to reach the lower 70's today but the sun was glorious.  Too bad I was stuck in the kitchen tending bubbling sauce.  But the weekend is supposed to be equally fabulous so I hope to be outside most of tomorrow.
V has the foundation done for the greenhouse and we'll probably put it up tomorrow.  HOW EXCITING!  If you can't tell, I'm pretty pumped about this!  He is also working to re-build a little garden shed that we disassembled when we moved in.  It was in an inconvenient place and the previous owners had used it for a chicken coop. It's one of those plastic-paneled jobs that we have kept all the bits to, just haven't figured out where and when until now.  It will go outside the fence at the North end of the garden to house garden tools, wheelbarrow, tiller and lawnmower.

Slowly but surely things are coming together.  V is finishing work on the basement.  I finally have a ceiling and insulation in my sewing room.  There is only one basement window left to replace so we're finally winding down.  It will take quite a bit more time for the finish work but things are starting to be finished.  It's only taken three and a half years!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Love and Hate

This has been such a sorrow and hate filled day.  Why, oh why do there have to be haters in the world?  A few hateful people can give all the great people out there a bad rap.  Terrible things are done in the name of God and country all around the world.  On all sides- Christian and Muslim alike.  For some reason there are people who just seem to need to hate what is different from them.  I will never understand.
But enough of hate.  There is also so much love in the world and I want to focus on that.
Today, V was definitely loving.  Look:
V is working on the foundation for my greenhouse!  He spent much of the day digging trenches and worked until dark to get the foundation set.  This is the little 6x8 greenhouse he got me a while ago as a gift but we have never had time to get it set up. Other things were always taking precedence.  But now, he hopes to have it done this weekend in time for me to get some winter greens in.  It is going up on the South side of the barn where it will be sheltered from the fierce Northwest winds we get in the winter but will still get plenty of sun.

I've been busy the past few days.  I've canned more tomatoes, frozen more peppers and made several batches of salsa.  I finally found a recipe that V likes- one that has a serious KICK to it!  As of this evening I've got 12 pints canned.  I'll have to do something with tomatoes again tomorrow though, I made salsa and still have lots of tomatoes left.  And I picked more this afternoon.  Oosh.  I think I've got tomato overload- finally!  But as much as I complain I'll keep at it.  Hmm... I wonder about pizza sauce....  I'm running out of ideas for tomatoes.

I figured out my treadle machine.  And I feel really stupid now. Everyone kept asking me if it took flat or round shank needles- I had put in a flat needle and it was secure but I wanted to check for sure.  So I got a mirror and flashlight to get a good look at the underside where the needle goes.  I was right, it does take a flat shank needle but to my surprise, the flat side wasn't facing the direction I thought it should go- I had to rotate my needle 90 degrees from where I thought it would go.  Amazingly enough, that solved the problem and it will now pick up the bobbin thread- although I still need to fiddle with the tension which is all messed up.  Who knew?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thistle mitigation and transformations

I have been declaring war on thistles in the yard in the past few weeks. I have discovered a very effective yet easy and non-toxic way of getting rid of them.  This is tomato season, and when I've taken the last jars out of the water bath, I remove the rack and then lug the entire pot of just-recently-boiling water outside and pour it splash by splash onto the thistles in the yard.  We have such a lot of thistles growing about. I've tried digging them, I've tried poisoning them (eww, roundup- I was desperate!) but this is by far the most effective (and easiest!) way I've found. They start to turn brown immediately (they've been cooked!) and it seems to kill them by the root because none have tried to come back.
Today was a busy, busy day of transformations.  I started the day off early, up shortly after 6 making five quiches to take to our 4th annual pie sale at church.  I even made one with a gluten free crust.  And they all sold- three of them as whole pies- the other two pieced out by the slice.  With all the pies there, we brought in $539 that will go to the Common Fund at the Crisis Center.  This is the fund that keeps people's power on and the water flowing.  Sadly, all that money will cover less than a week of need.  sigh...
After church and clean up, I headed home to pick tomatoes and peppers.  Then I started the transformations.
A sink full of heirloom tomatoes... became these:
Seven quarts of tomato sauce.
And this:
and another similarly full pail (love those ice cream buckets!- they are a harvest necessity here), became 3 quarts of diced frozen sweet peppers.  I just LOVE the purple peppers. The flesh on the inside is almost white so it's a wonderful contrast in color.   And look at the size of that sweet italian! They are huge this year!  I've got my day off tomorrow so I think I'll be harvesting, dicing and freezing hot peppers.
I may also take a trip to Kalona tomorrow to check out the quilt shops there to see if they can be any help for needles for my treadle machine.  Plus, there are always cheese curds to be procured....
I'm sure my day off will be a usual Manic Monday.  So, I must sleep.  V has had a stomach malady so my sleep was interrupted overnight Friday into Saturday and then last night Mandy was being a pest and woke me up shortly after 3 and I had a hard time falling back to sleep.  And having worked this weekend and getting up early to make quiche today, I didn't get a chance to sleep in.  I don't ever really sleep in (I'm usually up by around 7 or 7:30 at the latest) but I do love at least one day on the weekend where I can sleep until I wake up.  And I won't get that until next weekend.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thank you Mother Nature

You got my letter!  Thanks for the 1.3 inches of peaceful rain today!  And thanks for throwing in a little lightning and thunder early this morning.  It made for great sleeping knowing that there wasn't wind.  And the shower later this afternoon... BONUS!  And neither time did the rain interfere with my getting to and from work.  And that was important, especially today when everything was thrown into a tizzy by a visit from the President.
Yup, The POTUS and the VP and their ladies descended on our fair town this afternoon, snarling the entire day's traffic in the process.  All the buses were re-routed all day which meant I got a lovely walk in both before and after work- and it had stopped raining each time.
And speaking of work, it has been hectic this week.  Today was finally more manageable and I was able to get my required annual 'fire extinguisher training' in this afternoon.  (oh the things we do)
I've been canning tomatoes again this evening.  7 quarts of sauce are in the canner at the moment.  That brings the year's totals up to:
Sauce: 31 quarts, 1 pint and a half, 5 pints
Enchilada sauce: 20 pints!
Diced tomatoes: 18 pints
I may make some salsa next.  I'm not sure.  V has never been fond of my salsa and our local store produces such tasty salsa that it's hard to pass up.  We'll see.  I may make some yet.

It is Friday and time for a quick IDC update before my sauce is ready to come out.
Plant something- Not a thing!
Harvest something- tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, melons, cucumbers, basil, eggplant, eggs.  There is a little broccoli out there that I'll harvest tomorrow.
Preserve something- Tomatoes!  Sauce, enchilada sauce and diced.  Froze peppers.
Waste not- Not much other than the usuals
Want not- Nope- very few purchases or acquisitions this week.
Eat the food- where to begin.   I LOVE this time of year!
Build community food systems- took a goodie box to Jim.  And while not officially this week, I'm going to be taking several quiches to our church's annual pie sale fundraiser.  They have been such a hit in the past.  Many people don't want sweet pie at 9 in the morning but quiche goes well.  I'll be using ingredients from the garden and lots of our eggs.
Skill up- nope.  I've been too busy!

I've also been musing on the question "Are we better off than we were 4 years ago?" while processing tomatoes this evening.  I may or may not do a post.  We'll see.  I try to not get too political here (although I do have very strong opinions!)  I turn on the TV to listen to the local news and weather in the mornings while I'm getting ready for work.  Let's just say, living in a 'battleground state',  I heard Mitt Romney assuring me that I was NOT better off- in fact I must be miserable- at least 4 times before breakfast.  I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL THIS ELECTION IS OVER!!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dear Mother Nature

I want you to know that I really, really appreciate the three quarters of an inch of rain we got this morning about 3:30 am.  I am very grateful because, as you know, we desperately need rain.
However, I did want to point out that we could have easily done without the 65 mph winds that accompanied it.  Those winds broke off some heavily laden pepper branches, toppled a few tomatoes and blew down a few tree branches.
Just wanted you to know.

Thank you for your consideration.
The Management

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I have labored!

Yesterday and today have been busy, busy, busy.  Labor day was definitely full of labor.  I did laundry, weeded, cleaned house and canned tomatoes.  I managed to get 7 more pints of diced tomatoes (although one jar didn't seal- my first failure of the year) and another 10 pints of enchilada sauce.  We are definitely set for enchilada sauce for the year.  Good thing we like enchiladas!  And the diced tomatoes are useful in all sorts of things.  I think I've finally perfected spanish rice- it's still not quite Zatarain's but it's pretty darn tasty.   That is the one thing I use the diced tomatoes for the most.  Now, having finally figured out what I have been missing (paprika!) I'll need to make sure I freeze some sweet peppers,  This is the first year I've had enough bell peppers to actually have some for storage.  And the Sweet Italian peppers are going crazy this year so I'll have plenty to freeze.
Today, I labored at work.  It was insanely busy and we had someone off sick which always adds more stress into the mix.  And I came home to chicken chores, dinner, pantry reorganization and deep conversations with children.
Tomorrow looks to be about the same. Work is still stacked up from today's unfinished tasks and I've got more tomatoes that will need to be processed.  Sheesh!  Doesn't a girl ever get a break?  I guess not this time of year.  But I'm trying to not complain.  This is the life I've chosen for myself and all this food preservation works to help feed my family.
I sometimes wonder how women managed all of this in the past when they were responsible for preserving enough food to feed their family for the year.  That always just blows my mind.  I think of how tired I am after a day of housework, gardening and canning.  And to do that day after day plus caring for children and animals.  Wow!  It gives me much more respect for what these women were able to accomplish.  Of course, I also try to give myself some credit that I'm managing what I'm doing while working outside the home.  That said, if I had to feed my family for the entire year we would probably starve.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tigger Melon- a review

I planted Tigger Melons this year.  They are of Armenian origin.  They look absolutely, fabulously fun so I decided to try them.
 When ripe, they turn a brilliant orange with yellow stripes.  Today, I harvested 2/3 of our crop.    I had poor germination, as with many things this year.  Of my second planting I got one surviving plant.  On that plant. I had three little melons.  The vine is dying so I picked the two that were orange.  The one above had already slipped off the vine, the one below hadn't yet but the vine was nearly dead.
 They are just palm sized- about the size of a softball.  And the fragrance is heavenly.
However, they have a large seed cavity for their size, not leaving much fruit when the seeds are scraped out.  Sadly, for all the fabulous fragrance, it is pretty bland tasting, and it has a slightly mealy mouthfeel, not at all crisp- of course, it may have been a bit over-ripe. I'm hoping that the next one may be a bit crisper.  I've still got one out there on a slightly alive vine.
I know that this year wasn't a fair trial, with the drought, so I'll probably try these again next year.  I'm not sure they're worth the space but I'll give them another trial.

A full day Sunday

What a day we had yesterday.  Whew!  Packed full of wonderfulness.
First, V took I15 to church so I could work on weeding some more in the garden.  Yeah, I skipped out of church to take advantage of the beautiful weather we were having, and because I knew that we had plans for the afternoon.
So, church over, we headed down to Mt Pleasant (about 60 miles away) to attend the Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Reunion.  They've stopped numbering them so I'm not sure what year this event is up to but I've been going since I was a child.  It is a festival of all things old having to do with farming and life in the midwest.  They have antique steam and gasoline tractors, farm machinery of all sorts: horse, steam and gasoline powered, a printing press, and vendors galore.  V got a couple of boxcars from his favorite train guy and I picked up two small pieces of pottery from a potter who was there doing demonstrations as well as selling her wares.  I got a small bowl and a garlic plate- more about those another time.  And I did stop at- get this "Judy's Quilt Shop" where there were ladies using treadle machines to piece wonderful quilts.  But, alas, they weren't able to help either in my quest for needles for my machine.
After wandering the reunion grounds and filling ourselves with delightful food, we traveled the 27 miles further south to my parents so spend a little time with them.  Dad had to show us the mutant corn stalk he found in the field.
 It's kind of hard to see but there are 11 ears on this stalk.  As Dad said:  I guess that's what you get when you start splicing genes.
 It's kind of a jumbled mess.
The one ear that had any corn on it is mostly empty due to the drought.
Mom and Dad also gifted us with some winter squash.  They harvested 25 butternut, 20 buttercup and who knows how many acorn squash and don't seem to think that they can eat all of those.
And the buttercup squash aren't keeping so we took several of those.  In fact, half of one of these will likely become chicken food soon as it is already getting soft.  We do have some winter squash of our own so we should be pretty well set. I've spotted several large Long Island Cheese out in the garden and the vines are still going strong.  So, if we have a long fall, we'll hopefully get a few.

I'll be posting again later about a new to me melon review.  Ooo, two posts in one day. I'm not sure I can stand the strain.  Ok, mostly I'm avoiding all the work I have to do.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Happy September!

Wow!  I can't believe it's September already.  Where has the year gone!?  This first day of September saw me spending time in the garden.  The remnants of Isaac have us cooler temperatures and lots of clouds but only a few sprinkles (my parents got over an inch and a half just 78 miles away)  I've been working on removing the head high lambs quarters that seemed to spring up overnight around the edges of the garden (OK... and a few spots IN the garden!) while we were on vacation.  The deforestation went well and I drafted two energetic boys as my "debris management specialists" to haul everything to the compost pile.  I really, really want to get these before they go to seed or I'll just keep having trouble. I have had such an issue with weeds since we moved out here.  Since my garden spot is in the barnyard (which had been unused for over a year) the weed seed load is HUGE.  Every time I move any soil a hundred little weeds emerge. I thought about moving the garden but the soil is so, so lovely after years and years of manure where the rest of the property is clay.  I've been trying to mulch well but the weeds still seem to be an issue.  This year has been a little better so I hope I'm starting to get the upper hand.
I picked a whole bunch of tomatoes again while I was out there.  Some aren't fully ripe so I'll probably wait until the Monday holiday to can.  I also put together a goody box for our friend Jim.  He had bunny problems with his little garden this year and lost almost all of the plants I gave him.  So, I took him a whole bunch of peppers, some eggplant, a couple of tomatoes, a zucchini and 18 eggs.  He is definitely a foodie and was thrilled!  He was hospitalized last week with a kidney infection so was needing a little cheering up.
Doesn't that make a lovely get well present!
And another thing that I discovered today.  The White House released their beer recipes:  a Honey Ale and a Honey Porter (that they make with the honey from the White House bee hive! How cool is that?).  Hmm,  V and I have been talking about brewing.  Maybe this will inspire us to take the plunge.
I15 has to acolyte at church tomorrow but hopefully after he is done, we will head down to Old Threshers.  It rained there all afternoon today so we opted to not go today.  Also, today Justine had a visitor at Moore. V's mom went to visit her and to take Justine her stuff.  Justine says that the eggcrate mattress pad makes an incredible difference on her bed.  I also tucked in a jar of Gelatinous Yum (peach jam).  Hopefully she enjoys it.