Archive for May 2016

05-30-2016 Journal – Sake & Memorial Day!   2 comments

I found myself awake much too early this morning for some unknown reason. I usually like to get moving around 7am but this morning I was awake at 4:45am and wondering why.  Yesterday was a nothing-special day and I had no pressing personal issues  preying on my mind . . . so why? I’ll probably never know but it sure is irritating.

Yesterday was a rainy and overcast day which kept me indoors most of the day.  I decided to get back to my home brewing tasks and to bottle my batch of Sake that’s been needing my attention for more than a week.

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I checked the bottles to be sure that fermentation had truly stopped. Once many years ago I bottled a batch of wine a little too early and was awakened in the middle of the night by exploding bottles.  I can’t have that happen again . . .  what a mess! Wine making isn’t as complicated as most people think but it does require a reasonable amount of common sense.  The minute you forget that fact you’re in trouble.  I began the  siphoning process which takes no time at all and everything went smoothly. 

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I decided against using the standard wine corks with this batch. These screw caps work just as well and require much less work for me.  It also makes reusing the bottles much easier and I won’t need to exhaust my limited supply of good wine corks.

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I was pleased with the overall look and clarity of the Sake and was able to fill twelve half bottles and seven additional full size bottles. More than enough to last me for quite some time.

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I was also able to save and store a pint and one half of the Sake yeast which will allow me to make numerous batches in the future and save me money at the same time.  It’s all about the yeast!

After the bottling was completed the better-half cooked up a delicious chicken and veggie stir-fry dinner. I cracked open our first bottle of the Sake, warmed it properly, and we toasted the great meal and the Memorial Day holiday. 

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY

THANK A VET FOR THEIR SERVICE

SHOW THE FLAG

(And maybe drink some Sake too.)

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05-28-2016 Journal – Salsa, Salsa, Salsa!   Leave a comment

Now that the garden has been planted I have extra time on my hands for other things. I noticed a few days ago that we seem to be running out of our homemade salsa.  We both love salsa so much and eat on average a quart every two weeks or so. My better-half insists on putting it on and in everything she eats so running out is not an option.  I’ve had a newly developed recipe that I’ve been waiting to make and this is the week to do it.  This recipe is called ‘Six Pepper Bean Salsa’. 

It even sounds hot and trust me it really is.  I’ve gathered together jalapeños, habaneros, Serrano’s, Thai chili, black pepper, and finally Ghost peppers. Add black beans and chili beans and a host of other ingredients and there you have it.  I even managed to harvest some early chives from my garden as well. During the summer months we always try to have at least one item from the garden in every meal.  So let’s get started.

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‘Slice & Dice with rubber gloves.’

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I usually wear very think rubber gloves when messing with hot peppers. I tried the normal latex gloves but they weren’t getting the job done.  Thick rubber from then on assures me of no more burning body parts. Then I gather the necessary jars, lids, and pots and boil them thoroughly.

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Everything must be boiled to keep things as sanitary as possible. That’ll keep contaminated jars from becoming a problem later on.  Next I begin the cooking process and the adding of a little heat.

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‘Dried habanero and chili peppers.’

Finally the salsa is ready for canning. I know canning seems complicated but it really isn’t.  The process is simple and easily managed. The more often you do it the easier it becomes.

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And here’s the finished product.  Thirteen quarts of really delicious salsa that is also hot enough to get anyone’s attention.

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EASY PEASY

05-26-2016 Journal–Miscellaneous Updates!   Leave a comment

As summer looms in my future I’ve been attempting to close out some existing projects to make room for what’s to come.  My infusion of hot peppers in tequila has finally ended with the hot peppers almost bleached white as you can see. I took a small sample and gave it a taste test and was very very hot.  I can’t wait to give it a try in a my first attempt at a Hot Pepper Margarita. I think it will be fine for me and my better-half but I doubt if most people will be able to handle the heat. We’ll see very soon.

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‘The Tequila sucks the color and heat from them.’

My second project has been the Sake that’s almost ready for bottling. Within the next few days I’ll begin the bottling process and finally be done with it. It’s taken a little longer than usual due to it’s refusal to clear.  It’s looking good now and it also has passed my first taste test.

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‘Nice and clear.’

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Today I’ll be making my second visit to the Saco Police Department. I’m trying to renew my permit allowing me to carry a concealed weapon for another four years.  I’ve held permits in multiple states in the past but I have to say the state of Maine isn’t quite as difficult as some others.  My reapplication was only ten pages long and in comparison to some states it’s rather short. I’ve finished the forms, obtained a new and handsome picture of myself, and a check to the city, of course, for $20.00. By far the cheapest fee I’ve ever paid for this constitutional privilege.

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CAN’T LET THE BUREAUCRATIC MINUTIA GET ME DOWN

05-24-2016 Journal–More Pain & Novocain!   2 comments

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I’ve been writing so much lately about gardening and gardens, today it’s all about something else entirely. There aren’t many things in life that I truly detest but dentistry and visits to the dentist lead the list.

Since the age of 13 I’ve spent a large portion of my life in dentists offices thanks to my late, great BFF who knocked most of my front teeth out during a sandlot football game. That was back in the day when no one had mouthpieces and if you took a shot to the chops there were serious consequences. Ever since then it’s been one thing after another with my teeth. For more than 50 years I’ve had a series of plastic and metal bridges of one sort or another thanks to an one carelessly thrown elbow.

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Just recently my dentist of 14 years decided to divorce his wife, leave town, get remarried, and retire. He was courteous enough to send out forms to all of his patients which released our records to the new dentist we’d be using. Being a good little boy that I am I filled out all the release forms as directed and sent them back, waiting patiently for them to arrive at the new dentist’s office. They never arrived. I attempted to make telephone contact but his former telephone number was no longer working, the office was no longer open, and that SOB had moved away and left no forwarding address. Thanks a lot doc.

So today I’m making my second visit to my new dentist and I have to start all over again because my records are no longer available. Lucky me. A week or so ago I went in for my initial consultation with my new dentist and had to fill out more paperwork than I care to tell you about along with some teeth cleaning, teeth scanning, and x-raying. A second visit was scheduled where I would get up close and personnel with the new dentist where he could explain to me all of my future options to regain my pearly smile. That visit is today.

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I’m really not looking forward to being filled with Novocain and to have three teeth rebuilt and then to pay my portion of the reconstruction of $250 out-of-pocket. Then I’ll have to sit through a 45 minute consultation where my new dentist will explain to me just how screwed up my mouth and teeth are and how much it’s going to cost for new bridgework and additional repairs.  I can already feel his hand reaching into my back pocket in an attempt to remove all the money from my wallet.

So I’m just walking out the door now to begin my day of fun. If I had all of the money I’ve spent on dentistry over my lifetime I could probably buy the state of Maine and put a fence around it. I’m stopping for now but I’ll return in a few hours to complete this post.

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Time passes . . . . .

It’s now three hours later and I’ve returned home.  The left side of my face remain somewhat numb while allows to to droll at any given moment.  I’ve been drilled and poked and then drilled some more. As I was escorted to the door I was permitted to pay a couple of hundred dollars out-of-pocket and then given more options for my next visit. Option #1 will cost over-and-above the insurance coverage . . $600.00.  Option #2 cha-chings up to $1500.00.

I JUST CAN’T WAIT !!!

05-22-2016 Journal – Spring Has Sprung . . Finally!   Leave a comment

I was beginning to wonder if Spring would ever arrive but as always it has. Finally the fear of frost has passed and we can start getting serious about gardening.  Todays posting will be a few miscellaneous items about the garden and other things.  Our day today has already been planned and as soon as I leave this computer I’ll be back playing in the dirt once again.

My first item concerns something I mentioned in a recent post about my new favorite drink, the Hot Pepper Margarita.  I collected all of the ingredients needed to get things rolling and here it is. This photo was taken after two days of the peppers soaking in tequila.

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I can already seen the peppers losing their colors as the tequila bleaches them and it won’t be long before it will be ready for use. One more week and then I’ll strain the tequila and put it back into it’s bottles. Then the fun can begin.

I began planting in earnest this week with zucchinis, cucumbers, onions, kohlrabi’s, and eggplant.   Later today I’ll finish up with tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, Serrano peppers, Thai peppers, and Kung Pao peppers.  Now that the nights are warming up the peppers should flourish.

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I began my night time skunk patrol this week.  He made his first stinky visit a few days ago and has been digging up the ground in and around the garden already.  The fence will keep him out of the larger frames but if he insists on causing problem in the unprotected frames he’ll be risking his stinky and smelly life.  My new rifle has been cleaned and oiled and is ready for action.  “Go ahead sucker . . . make my day.”

Here’s an update wide angle photo of the garden as it begins to grow. 

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THANK GOD IT’S FINALLY SPRING

05-20-2016 Journal – Hot Stuff!   Leave a comment

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Before I get started today I need to make a declaration. I LOVE HOT PEPPERS!  It’s my opinion that almost everything is improved if you can make it hotter.  I make a lot of salsa’s and chili’s and have upwards of six really excellent recipes using an assortment of hot peppers.  I grow some of my own when possible and I’ll buy from almost any source when certain peppers aren’t available locally. 

I received some bad news a few days ago concerning an ex-loved one who passed away.  I was feeling a little blue after receiving the news. My better-half suggested we go out for dinner and where better than a Mexican restaurant to look for therapy.  We’ve been visiting this restaurant for years and we knew the food would be excellent. Not only could I people watch for a while but I could also eat all of the  smoking hot food I could handle.  A proper atmosphere to rid myself of the blues.

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I’ve told you all of these boring facts about myself so you’ll understand the rest of this story.  As we waited for our food to arrive a new bartender appeared and began chatting with everyone.  He and I got into a friendly discussion about our love of hot food  when he surprised me.  He pulled a large jar from under the bar that was filled with tequila. Floating in the the tequila was an assortment of hot peppers, habanero’s, Serrano’s, and jalapeño’s.  The tequila had been soaking up all of that lovely flavor and hotness for a week. He dared me to try his latest creation, the “Hot Pepper Margarita”.  I couldn’t refuse and look like a coward so I took a long pull on the straw after salting my tongue and lips.

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I’m sure you’ve heard the term “taking ones breath away”. That’s exactly what that margarita did.  It was a little sweet and hot enough to make me gasp. It was freaking delicious.  Little did I know that I was first customer dumb enough to try it.  I was so dumb in fact I tried it again and again.  My head was sweating, my mouth was burning, and I was in heaven.

Now you know why I have this mother-of-all hangovers this morning.  I stumbled into the kitchen last night around 3:00am badly in need of a glass or two of cold water.  The water was so cooling and delicious but tasted strangely familiar . . . just like jalapeños. I’m now on my third cup of coffee as I sit here writing this and it too tastes just like jalapeños.

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Don’t get me wrong . . . I’m not complaining in the least.  I can’t wait to get back on my feet and do it all over again . . . in a week or two.

I’m going out later  today to make a few purchases of my own.  Two bottles of tequila, habanero peppers, Serrano peppers, and a few jalapeño peppers. I’ll be making my own hot pepper infusion to serve a perfect  Hot Pepper Margarita to any of our summer visitors.

PASS THE ADVIL PLEASE.

05-18-2016 Journal– 2016 Political Rant #2!   Leave a comment

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I awoke this morning and once again my body is achy and sore. We had such a beautiful day yesterday that I once again over-did the yard work and totally exhausted myself. I should know better by now but the warm weather and sunshine just kind of sweep me away and make me stupid.

Today will be one of my favorite kind of days which means I probably won’t do much of anything. I may run a few errands and work on some design sketches but nothing too serious. It’s going to be warm again which translates to some quality time for me and the cat to lounge around on the deck and listen to music or to just to read a good book (and yes, my cat can read).

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I spent some time this morning on the Net trying to keep up with the political situation as it develops but it took no more than just a few minutes for that the bore me to death. I haven’t decided on any specific candidate but I have eliminated a few. I’ve had my fill of the collection of political families who’ve been dominating the scene for far too long. I think the country and the people deserve some fresh faces in the political arena which means no more Bushes and no more Clintons. Let’s just let them fade into history like the Kennedys. Enough is enough. 

I’m still on the fence about Trump but I’m leaning his way for a number of reasons. His fresh and sometimes outrageous outlook on the country’s situation agrees with my own on a lot of points. If you read this blog you already know how much I hate political correctness and what it’s done to this nation. We need to break away in a new direction and I think Trump can supply that. Will he be perfect? I seriously doubt it. Will you be better off with Bernie, I think not . . . he an effing socialist. He’s willing to turn this country into a sad imitation of what Europe has become. That would be a very dangerous direction for the country to take . . . even more worrisome than Trump to be sure.

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I’ll be catching up later on the news of the day from the Net because listening to the television and radio media is not worth my time. They’re more interested in forwarding their political agendas rather than reporting the truth factually. The way in which they’ve been manipulated by the Obama administration is shameful and harmful to the nation. It’s the job of the press to point out inconsistencies in how an administration governs and  to investigate illegalities as they occur. In my opinion one of the worst things that ever happened in this country in recent decades was the purchase of the media by large business corporations. That was the beginning of the end for truth in media and the beginning of using the media by those corporations to forward their political agendas.

This country was established with the media as a watchdog for the citizenry to monitor and report on the politicians both good and bad. That has long since disappeared. When one part of our well oiled democratic machine ceases to work properly the entire machine suffers and eventually ceases to work at all. Welcome to the 21st-century here in America.

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Well, I’m off to the deck with the cat and my Kindle for an hour of relaxation before I begin running my errands. That should be just enough time to get this short discussion about politics out of my head completely and to rebury my head in the proverbial sand.  I can’t continuously think about politics or I would go insane. A good suspicion of politicians, politics, and government  is what is badly needed to keep this country running properly.

I’M DOING MY PART – ARE YOU?

05-16-2016 Journal–Happy Birthday to SPAM!   Leave a comment

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No, I’m not celebrating computer Spam, that would be stupid.  I’m celebrating my all time favorite meat product much loved and much hated around the world.  I began my love affair with SPAM while in the service of our great country. The Army introduced me to discipline, mean DI’s (drill instructors ), forced marches, and much, much, more including SPAM. My love for SPAM was one of the only things I left the Army with except for a bag of really ugly olive green clothing.

Many people, my better-half included, hate SPAM. I’ve never understood why because it’s freaking delicious.  Since this blog is dedicated to all categories of trivia I thought it only fair you learn something about SPAM today on it’s birthday. I collected a great deal of information from around the Net and elsewhere on this subject and here it is.

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  • George A. Hormel & Co introduces SPAM on this date in  1891 although it wasn’t marketed until 1937.
  • During WW II, Hormel sold more than half of its output to the U.S. government, which supplied SPAM to the armed forces of the U.S., and also to the U.S.S.R. under the lend-lease program.
  • A convenient source of protein that required no refrigeration, 100 million pounds of SPAM were shipped to Allied troops during World War II. Russian president Nikita Khrushchev is quoted as saying, “Without SPAM, we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army.”

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  • No one outside the company really understands what the name SPAM represents. While people have posited “Something Posing As Meat” and “Specially Processed Artificial Meat,” the title is likely derived from the words “spiced ham” or an acronym for “Shoulders of Pork And Ham.”
  • To distinguish Hormel’s "spiced ham" from similar products, the company held a contest to come up with a unique name. Kenneth Daigneau, brother of a Hormel executive, won the $100 prize with ‘SPAM.’
  • Hormel produces 44,000 cans of SPAM every single hour. If that sounds like a lot, consider the facts that the canned good is available in 41 countries and comes in 14 varieties. Despite what critics may say, the world loves “Swine Parts and More!”

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‘SPAM Sir-fry’

  • The 1 billionth can of SPAM was sold in 1959.
  • The 6 billionth can was produced in 2002.
  • The 7 billionth can was sold in 2007.
  • In 2012 SPAM was being sold in more the 44 countries.
  • Hawaii ranks highest amongst the states in SPAM consumption, downing seven million cans a year. Found in grocery stores, on the McDonald’s menu, and featured at high-end restaurants, Spam should probably be added to the state flag.

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‘SPAM & French Fries Casserole’

  • Richard LeFevre holds the world record for eating SPAM by eating 6 pounds in 12 minutes.
  • In the United States alone, 3.6 cans of SPAM are consumed every second, making it the number one product in its category (canned meat) by far.
  • On the island of Guam, more than eight cans of SPAM are consumed by every person each year.
  • West Yellowstone sponsors the ‘SPAM Cup’ cross country ski race, with the winner receiving one can of SPAM.

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‘SPAM Sushi’

  • In addition to the U.S., spam is produced in 7 other countries: Australia, Denmark, UK, Japan, Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan. SPAM is distributed in more than 50 countries.
  • The SPAMJAM Cafe opened in February 2004 in the Philippines. Except for hot dogs, French fries and desserts, all other menu items are made with SPAM, including SPAM Burger, SPAM Hero, SPAM Club, SPAM Spaghetti, SPAM Baked Macaroni, SPAM Nuggets and SPAM Caesar Salad.

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‘Only True SPAM Lover’s Can Pull These Off’

  • SPAM even has a mascot — Spammy, the miniature pig. In 1991, for its 100th anniversary, Hormel Foods opened the First Century Museum. The exhibit of SPAM memorabilia quickly became the most popular.
  • SPAM has earned a place in pop culture history partially thanks to the Brits. The canned creation made its television debut on "Monty Python’s Flying Circus" in 1970.
  • A collector’s edition SPAM — Stinky French Garlic — was introduced to celebrate the opening of "SPAM lot" in London. Not shockingly, the stinky SPAM tasted far better than anything else in the culinary-challenged country.

So there you have it. Everything you ever needed to know about SPAM but were afraid to ask.  I love it so much I always have at least one can hidden away in the house. Once my better-half goes to work I’ll get it out and prepare any one of a dozen recipes I love.  My all time favorite is my version of SPAM Fried Rice and it’s to die for.

MORE SPAM . . . MORE SPAM . . . MORE SPAM

05-14-2016 Journal–Home Brewing & Gardening!   Leave a comment

It’s been a week of good weather except for yesterday. The rain forced me inside to take care of something I’ve been procrastinating about.  As I’ve mentioned previously I am in the process of making a batch of Sake.  I began the process on March 18 and it’s been fermenting since then. The point was to let the yeast settle to the bottom of the containers once fermentation was complete and then I could siphon off the clear liquid. Unfortunately this batch decided not to clear and remained very cloudy. I decided to resort to an old stand-bye to clear it . . . it’s called Sparkloid.

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Sparkloid is a very fine clay that is mixed with water and boiled for thirty minutes. As it boils off you continue to add additional water.  After 30 minutes the mixture is added to the wine and thoroughly mixed in.  If it works as expected the wine will begin to clear over a period of days. This first photo was taken just after the Sparkloid was added.

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As you can see the wine is very cloudy.  Normally Sake is as clear as water but due to minerals in our water here in Maine it will eventually be a pale yellow color. This next photo was taken 24 hours after the first.

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It has cleared somewhat but will still need more time. If nothing else winemaking has taught me more than I care to know about patience. This next photo was taken 24 hours after the last.

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I can only guess that another week will probable finish the clearing. I can then bottle the wine and place it into storage.  These jugs will eventually supply me with approximately 17 – 750ml bottles or 34 – 375ml bottles.   Believe it or not it actually tastes pretty good already (I just had to sneak a taste.). It can only get even better with age.

The garden preparation continues and more plants have been purchased today. The next posting will be made after my initial planting has been completed.  I can’t wait to get started.

BACK TO WORK

05-12-2016 Journal – Garden Aches & Pains!   4 comments

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I hate missing a scheduled posting but it happened this week for the first time in almost a year. The weather turned bright, sunny, and beautiful and I got swept away with garden preparations and grass cutting. By the time I was finished it was much too late in the day to sit down and post something.  I’ve been waiting five long months for these first spring days and I enjoyed the hell out of them.

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Along with all that enjoyment came the inevitable aches and pains.  The morning-after reminded me just how many muscles I have in places I’d forgotten about . . . and they weren’t happy. Oh so sore.

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My better-half and I spent some time and money this week visiting a number of local nurseries and were able to purchase almost everything we needed for the initial plantings.  We  bought, cucumbers, zucchini’s, various hot pepper plants, pea pods, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and even some early kale plants. Add to that a few dozen marigolds for a little color and we’re ready to start planting next week. We also picked up quite an assortment of herbs to replace plants lost over the winter and a number of new ones as well.

I even got a little carried away and started transplanting a few things from the flower garden to a more prominent position near the driveway.  It was a backbreaker trying to get this bush moved but it appears to have survived the trauma and is doing well.

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‘Before’

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‘After’

We’ve filled our cold frames with plants and they’ll remain there until I’m sure the weather will remain warmer and no frost in the forecasts. Regardless everything should be planted on or about Memorial Day.  Then it’ll be time to relax and let Mother Nature do what she does best.

These few photos are the first of many I’ll be posting this summer. We should have a really productive garden which will hopefully fill our pantry shelves for next winter.

I NEED TO ORDER MORE BEN-GAY!