Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

08-22-2016 Journal – Herbs!   Leave a comment

With the Summer more than half over our garden time is more about canning, drying, and storing the results of our efforts than anything else.  I’ve been asked in the past how I can get so much production from such a small garden. There’s really no simple answer. An old adage immediately comes to mind: “Plan the work, then work the plan.”  Test your soil and keep it fresh, season to season, with compost. Plant your plants near compatible plants.  Pull the weeds and kill the bugs. Easy peasy!

The following picture was taken this morning of my small herb garden. The total square footage is 60 ft. which isn’t all that much.  I’ve noted the herbs planted there and while they are jammed tightly into the small space they are flourishing.

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This small patch has been supplying us with fresh and dried herbs for more than seven years and will hopefully continue to do so.  We’ve had so much luck with our herbs growing that next year we’re converting another 100 square feet of garden space for a much larger herb selection. This little patch will continue as is but the new area will be loaded with every herb I can find that we can dry and store. With a larger and more diverse collection I can begin harvesting herbs to create my own mixes for picking, canning, home brewing, and cooking.

Growing more herbs has a number of advantages over vegetables because none of Mother Nature’s little critters seem to like the herbs. That doesn’t include neighborhood felines who find fresh catnip rather interesting. That will allow me to remove some of the fencing I have in place and eliminate my current problems of ripping my clothing on the fence  or constantly falling on my butt trying to climb over it.  My better-half claims that I’m the clumsiest person on the planet but I dispute that.  I’m just unlucky is all.

I will try to post as usual but our upcoming vacation may make it difficult. I’ll attempt to post from New Orleans if I can but after all it is a vacation. I’ll have plenty to post about upon our return.

ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR SUMMER

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08-18-2016 Journal – Summer Cooking!   Leave a comment

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Fresh and delicious shrimp.

Do these shrimp look good to you?  They were just as delicious as you might think or so says my better-half.  She’s a shrimp junkie going back many years and considers herself an expert.  I tried just one and really couldn’t disagree.

Summer time meals are something special around here and are to be enjoyed and relished whenever possible.  While I’m not a big fan of shrimp or lobster I do love just about everything else that the ocean has too offer.  I experiment when possible to come up with new flavors and textures with my seafood.  This week we picked up those shrimp and a large haddock fillet just for me.

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To make things a little more interesting I poached the fillet in habanero wine.  I made this wine a few years back and it carries with it a delicious flavor and heat. Once the poaching was completed the fillets were dropped onto the grill to give them a little crispiness.

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Just sooooo good.

Then it’s off to the table with a side of fresh corn-on-the-cob and a glass of Chardonnay.  Cherry tomatoes picked just before the meal and chilled are a perfect addition.  That beer in the picture belongs to my better-half.  She considers any beer she drinks as her Chardonnay.

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The garden continues to flourish now that we’ve had a few days of rain to help perk things up.  I picked this collection of hot peppers (Serrano, Fresno, jalapeno, and Anaheim’s) today because tomorrow is salsa day and I want them as fresh and hot as I can get.

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I’ll be slicing and dicing all of the other salsa ingredients this evening in preparation for tomorrow.  This is the best part of Summer for me without a doubt.

OLE!

08-10-2016 Journal – Garden Frustrations!   Leave a comment

As you all know I love gardening.  That doesn’t change the fact that at times it’s as  frustrating as hell.  Last year my garden problems concerned a number of God’s annoying little critters that insisted on attacking my garden.  Since I’m a problem solver I installed a fence around certain portions of the garden that they like to eat. Problem solved, right? No way.  The following photos were some of the items harvested so far this year in spite of the critters.

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The culprit from last years fiasco has since disappeared and we haven’t had one of his nightly visits this year. Unfortunately he has friends that were apparently given detailed directions to find us. This year for the first time in eight years we were visited by a big fat groundhog.  He was sitting right in the middle of the yard watching the house when I spotted him the first time.  He ran into a culvert to hide and I immediately dropped a couple of fire crackers in after him.  If it didn’t scare him, it certainly deafened him.  Problem solved, right! Not hardly.

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A week later he was back sitting in the same spot and it appeared he may have been taunting me a little. I couldn’t see all that clearly but I think he might have been giving me the finger as well.  It was time for the big guns.  With my handy pistol in hand I gave chase and took a shot at him. He was one helluva lot faster than he looked and escaped with his life.  Problem solved, Right!   No effing way.

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A few day later I discovered that someone had been eating my kale plants that were of course, not inside the damn fence.  It’s man against the critters once again.  I’ve never won any battles against them before but maybe this time I’ll have more luck.

THERE ARE TIMES WHEN I HATE MOTHER NATURE

08-06-2016 Journal Entry – The 2016 Squirrel Wars!   Leave a comment

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I’m a little late in posting today due in part to visiting family from Maryland.  All of us have been kept rather busy for a few days which makes posting this blog more difficult.  Things remain much of the same around here. I take care of the garden, cut what grass that hasn’t been burned away by the heat and lack of rain, and of course . . . PRAY FOR RAIN.

I’m also in the midst of a battle with a community of squirrels (both gray and red) that have a special love for our house and our bird feeders.  A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in our second floor living room doing some work on my laptop. The living room is directly adjacent to a porch that leads onto a second story deck.  I had the door to the deck open so the stupid cat could lounge around outside which in hindsight was my first big mistake.

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I was completely focused on the computer  but  noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked up and sitting in the middle of the living room was a red squirrel calmly watching me.  Apparently a string of loud curse words are the perfect squirrel repellent I’ve been looking for.  He made a dash for the door and onto the deck and dove straight into the nearby trees.  Where was my ferocious cat?  He was asleep on the chair not three feet from the damn squirrel. He barely blinked an eye as I was screaming at it.  He’ll pay for his total lack of interest in the very near future.

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The very next day I heard a noise on the porch and that same little red squirrel was in the process of chewing through a bag of bird seed. Again he escaped but just barely.  He sat in a nearby tree chittering at me until I shot him in the ass with a B-B gun.  I hate killing them but I will certainly take every opportunity to give him a bruise or two with that B-B gun.

Soooooooo! Today I was once again alone in the house working in the living room. I was really concentrating on my project and jumped nearly three feet in the air due to a loud crash on the porch. I ran over to investigate and found a big fat gray squirrel sitting next to an overturned container of bird seed. He saw me and very calmly walked out onto the deck and split.  I may be a little slow on the uptake but I’m reasonably certain the word is out in the squirrel community that I have food on my porch.

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Tomorrow I will begin taking steps to address these issues but I’m not optimistic.  I’ve been involved in two other squirrel wars at other places I’ve lived and sadly lost them both.

I’M  HOPING FOR THE BEST AND EXPECTING THE WORST

07-31-2016 Journal – The Garden Jungle!   Leave a comment

It’s the last of July already. It’s a little hard to believe that summer is more than half over.  This dry spell we’ve been having for the last month is a minor annoyance but without nightly watering the garden will be burnt out.  That little bit of water accomplishes miracles as you will see in the following pictures.

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These Mammoth sunflowers will eventually reach 8 or 9 feet tall.

The sunflowers will be absolutely shredded by the hundreds of birds we feed regularly.  They wait all summer for the sunflowers to go to seed and then it’s a bird free-for-all.   This large bushy clump of plants in the next photo is, believe it or not, asparagus. The plants must be left alone for three years until they are firmly established before we can start harvesting the spears. Next Spring we’ll finally get to eat some delicious home-grown asparagus.

 

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Sautéed in butter . . . there’s nothing better.

These last three photo are just  general photos of the entire garden in three sections.  As you can see in this first one the herbs are plentiful and I’ll be drying them steadily starting in about four weeks.

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This next photo is one of the large frames. This will be the last year we grow veggies here. Starting next Spring it will be converted to nothing but herbs.

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This final photo is a large frame filled with cherry tomatoes, green beans, rhubarb, asparagus, and a selection of hot peppers.  The jalapeños are thriving this year.

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That’s the update for the month of July. Here’s one last photo in my continuing war with the yellow-jackets, This nest was found under our deck after both of us had been stung as we walked by.  I won this battle but the war will continue.

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There you have it. Another month gone so quickly.  I can almost smell Winter and the snow that will follow.

07-25-2016 Journal – Summer Gardening!   Leave a comment

We’re in the heat of the summer and the garden is flourishing.  Even though the amount of rain has been a little less than expected the nightly watering is paying off.  We don’t water too much each day, just enough to keep the plants from wilting.  It seems to be paying off big-time.

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The sunflowers are already 4 feet tall.

As you can see the garden looks healthy and green.  Even the pepper plants I was so worried about a few weeks ago have recovered and are producing what appears to be a record number of peppers.  These hot days and night are exactly what they needed.

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These jalapenos will help make some delicious salsa.

My better-half has already made a number of loaves of zucchini bread and I’m anticipating a lot more in our future.  The zucchini plants as of this morning have an additional fifteen zucchini’s ready for use in breads and stir-fry’s.

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This big fat one will be on the dinner table tonight.

If the rest of the summer goes as planned we’ll be celebrating one of the best gardens in recent years.  In another week or so I’ll get really serious about drying and storing many of the herbs we’ve grown.  We should easily be able to have enough on-hand for the entire winter and then some.

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It’s time for me to get to work in the garden for an hour or so.  Even with fabric laid down to eliminate weeds they still manage to grow in every little crack and crevice.  It’s annoying but they must be removed as quickly as possible because they steal a lot of the nutrients needed by the vegetables and herbs.

WE JUST CAN’T ALLOW THAT

 

07-23-2016 Bread & Butter Pickle Day!   Leave a comment

Today begins my summer chore of making the first batch of Hot Bread & Butter Pickles.  Over the course of each Summer I normally can at least four batches of pickles. Each batch is usually 14-15 pints and I make both Dill and B&B versions.  All of my pickles are Hot which means slices of jalapeno and red pepper in each jar as well as a shot of ground habanero for good luck. Today I’ll walk you through the process but without giving up my secret pickling mix recipe.

The first thing this morning I prepared the jars and canning supplies by sanitizing them with boiling water.

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Once the jars, lids, and rims are boiled I then wash the cucumbers thoroughly.

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They are then sliced along with the red pepper and jalapenos. All are set aside until I’m ready to fill the jars.

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I  return to the stove to prepare the B&B syrup. It consists of my secret spice mix, 7 cups of sugar, and 7 cups of distilled white vinegar.

 

Packing the jars is my least favorite part of the process but still very important.  The jars are carefully packed, the syrup added, and the lids and rims tightened down. The jars then take a boiling hot water bath for a full fifteen minutes.

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Getting the first batch of the season completed is always a good feeling. Here’s the finished product . . . 15 pints of very hot and sweet pickles. They’ll be ready for eating after they sit for a few months to absorb all of the flavors.

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MORE TO FOLLOW

07-21-2016 Garden Issues!   Leave a comment

The garden is once again fast becoming my top priority. As usual at this time of the season the herbs are out of control. I spent some time this week pruning the oregano and catnip for later drying.  I did a general cleanup of the dehydrator in anticipation of a heavy work load this summer.

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It holds a great deal of material as you can see.  This week I filled it with diced jalapeños, cayenne’s, and two pounds of habaneros.  After six hours the peppers were ready for grinding. Unfortunately my reliable old grinder failed to work and I was forced to make a quick trip to Walmart to purchase another.  The peppers were ground into a fine powder and stored for future uses.

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Hot, Hotter, and Hottest

Then it was back to trimming and photographing some of the newly blooming day lilies.  These pictures are of the early bloomers with more colors and variants expected within a few weeks. I love these colors.

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It was a garden and yard work day all around.  I spent some time paying attention to my compost area. I needed to wet down the piles and add a compost accelerator. I’ll be needing as much of it as I can get to add to the garden this Fall.

The better-half and I also began the process of redesigning the garden for next Spring. We’ve decided to discontinue growing vegetables in one of the large frames and to devote it entirely to growing culinary herbs.  It’ll be something of challenge placing the correct herbs near others that are compatible. We’ll also be placing herbs in the vegetable frames to keep out assorted pests and varmints that the herbs do naturally. Hopefully we’ll be able to agree on the final design of the garden before Spring arrives and the purchasing and planting our selection of herbs begins.

IT SHOULD BE GREAT FUN

 

 

 

 

07-15-2016 Journal – Garden Production!   Leave a comment

I breathed a huge sigh of relief this week when we finally began harvesting a few items from the garden.  By far the plants that seem to be doing the best are the zucchini’s.  They are weeks ahead of the hot peppers of so it seems. Here are the first two we removed and they’ve already been made into a number of loaves of chocolate zucchini bread.

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The cake was delicious as usual.

We also have five or six cucumbers ready for the table.  This meal consisted of chicken tenders grilled in a tequila & lime sauce and a cucumber, tomato, and onion salad drizzled with oil and vinegar.  Add to that vegetarian spring rolls and a cold glass of Chardonnay and your in heaven. It tasted way better than it sounds or looks.

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One of the hazards of eating a meal on our deck are the hundreds of birds that consistently visit our feeders. Over the last few years we’ve been adopted by three generations of woodpeckers.  Imagine trying to eat your meal as they zoom into the feeder just a foot or two above your head.  They seem to have lost all fear of us.

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I guess it’s nice to have visitors of a sort when dining but these guys are a pain at times.

WE ARE LOVING SUMMER

07-13-2016 Journal – Garden Flowers!   Leave a comment

I just took a quick stroll around the property this morning to take a few snaps of some of the more colorful bloomers.  The recent weeks of rain and warm weather have the garden growing as fast as possible. Just a few short weeks ago most of these flowers were only 6 inches high. Look at them now.

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Day lilies are my favorites to photograph.

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These are the first of many different colored lilies my better-half has planted in the gardens.  They are beautiful, colorful, and make for some interesting screensavers I can enjoy through those long winter months.

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I’m not exactly sure what this plant is but I love the look of it.

As you can see the gardens are green and lush. A great place to sit on a bench and relax. There’s nothing more calming than that.  These last two photo’s are of flowers in full bloom. The white daisies are my better-half’s favorite flower. Once again I have no idea what the red ones might be but I like them regardless.

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Today will be more garden work for me. Although I use garden fabric to keep the weeds to a minimum it still requires spending some time on my hands and knees to get those few that always seem to show up in every little crack and crevice.

WE’LL SHOULD BEGIN HARVESTING SOON