Archive for the ‘veggies’ Tag

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.)

10-01-2015 Journal–My 2015 Garden Eulogy!   Leave a comment

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This week isn’t one I ever look forward to.  It’s the week every year when I begin to dismantle our garden.  It’s been a priority for my better-half and I for the last six months requiring a tremendous amount of TLC and just as much water.  It actually began last winter when we sat down at the kitchen table and planned it all out. As with all plans it never seems to workout perfectly without problems of one sort or another cropping up.

First it was the damn stunk that did everything in it’s power to destroy things. It was one lucky SOB because he survived a number of night time surveillances where I sat in the dark on the deck with a loaded rifle waiting to end his life of vandalism and mayhem.  He must have a really hardworking guardian angel because I seriously wanted to do him harm. After all of the repair jobs and the new fence we reached a mutual agreement to avoid each other for the rest of the summer. I smelled him a few times at night but never met him in person (Thank God).

The weather was for the most part cooperative but you can always use more rainfall with any garden. After a slow start things picked up rather well making the garden fairly productive. Was it the best ever? No.  It was just an average year due mostly to the skunk.

These pictures were taken this morning and as you can see most of the plants have been harvested and removed. All of the herbs we need for the winter have also been harvested, dried, and stored. Beginning next week I’ll begin  removing the garden fabric and composting all of the frames. Then it will be tilled under and left to sit for the winter to be ready for planting in June.

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Here’s the final tally for the garden and all of our efforts for 2015.  The pantry has been restocked with just about everything we need for winter.  My one last contribution will be a large pot of my favorite chicken soup which will supply us with at least ten to twelve hardy meals during the winter.

41 Pints of canned habanero hot B & B pickles
13 Pints of Habanero Dill Pickles
  3 Pints of tripleberry jam
  8 Pints of strawberry/rhubarb jam
  3 Pints of strawberry jam
  8 Pints of blueberry jam
  2 Pints of jalapeño/rhubarb jelly
13 Quarts of Four Bean/Corn chili
14 Quarts of Black Bean/Corn salsa
2 Quad Berry/Rhubarb Tarts
15 Lbs Rhubarb
5 Loaves of Chocolate/Zucchini Bread
4 Loaves of Spice/Zucchini Bread
9 Lbs of Fresh Pea Pods
16 Lbs of Cherry Tomatoes
15 Lbs of Jalapeño Peppers
7 Lbs of Assorted Hot Peppers
20 Lbs of Fresh Zucchini
13 Lbs of Assorted Lettuces
2 Lbs of dried onion chives
1 Lb dried habanero peppers 
1 Lb dried garlic chives
4 Lbs of dried and assorted mints
2 Lbs of dried oregano
1 Lb of dried parsley

This just goes to show how easy it is to supplement your food supply from a medium sized garden and a few cheap purchases from local farmers. All in all not a terrible year but next year will hopefully be even better.

08-16-2015 Journal–Fall is in the Air!   Leave a comment

It’s beginning to feel like Fall already and I’m certainly not happy about that.  We’re just a couple of weeks from Labor Day and then it’s all downhill from there. Most of the smaller nurseries are already closing down except for veggies being shipped to the local grocery stores. 

One telltale sound  indicating Fall here in Maine is the sound of tractors pulling hay wagons down the road past our house.  It’s a distinctive sound which has been steadily increasing in recent weeks.  This is a common place scene in this area these days:

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The large  bales of hay covered in plastic will be appearing by the hundreds almost everywhere over the next month in preparation for Winter.  It appears to have been a great summer for hay production which should keep the animals happy and healthy until Spring.

We’ve been tending our garden more often of late because the veggies are ripening rapidly.  There are a few things every day that require picking as you can see:

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These items went from that basket directly to our table for dinner. The three white turnip looking items are kohlrabi’s. As I’ve mentioned in the past these vegetables aren’t available in stores very often.  Most people have never tasted them or even heard of them.  These were picked while they were still young and tender.  The larger they grow the harder they become to peel and eat.  As you can see by the photo, they grow fairly large but this is the best size for harvesting:

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This kohlrabi was immediately peeled, sliced, diced, and added to our salad for dinner.  They have a wonderfully mild flavor reminiscent of white radishes and are absolutely delicious.  I’ll be sure to return them to the list of plantings for the 2016 garden.

05-06-2015 Journal–Spring is in Full Swing!   Leave a comment

Almost a week of beautiful warm weather and I think I’ve made the adjustment quite nicely.  The expensive to run heating system has been shut down until sometime in late October (Yeh!) and my winter wear has been stored for another year. I actually had a weather related orgasm yesterday when the temperature reached eighty degrees for the first time.  I have to admit it was really good for me.

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‘Red Cabbage’

I made a visit to a nearby family run nursery to make the first of many upcoming purchases for this year.  I was looking primarily for lettuces and cabbages which can stand the cold nights we’re still having.  There’s nothing better than strolling through a smoking hot greenhouse.  There are times when shopping at this nursery is like going to Walmart.  You start buying this and that and eventually find it hard to stop.  I wanted to fill my car with plants but my better-half helped keep me under control.

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‘Delicious Rhubarb’

Since we eat a great deal of salads I loaded up with four different types of lettuce.  We should have more than enough to last us until Fall.  Throw in some cherry tomatoes and  a few onions and we’re good to go.  On a whim I purchased and planted twelve purple cabbage plants.  We’ve never tried growing them before but  there’s nothing better than cooked cabbage. I hope they do well.

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‘Assorted Lettuces’

I returned home and couldn’t wait to get planting.  It didn’t take too long as you can see.  The next stage will be the new herbs I purchased.  I picked up a quantity of parsley, sage, basil, and rosemary.  Some of them are annuals that must be replaced each year and a few others that were replacements of ones that didn’t survive the winter.

The remaining herbs that did survive are really starting to sprout and from all appearances I’ll probably be knee deep in oregano this year. 

08-06-2014 Journal Entry–Fall in Maine!   Leave a comment

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‘This is From a Nearby Neighbors Farm’

I’ve been enjoying my downtime since the departure of my better-half for her trip to Ocean City.  The downside to her leaving is the fact that I’ve been stuck with some of her watering chores.  She has at least a hundred plants surrounding the house, on the deck, and even in the house.  I find having three plants six feet high in the living room very interesting.  It’s like living in a jungle and that jungle needs watering all too often.  God help me if these plants aren’t all healthy and happy upon her return.  There could be bloodshed.

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My second chore involved the babysitting of her daughters dogs.  I need to drop in at their house everyday around noon to let the little buggers out for a pee break and a romp around the yard.  I really don’t mind it all that much because I actually like most pets more than I like most people.

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‘Good Eating’

Once her chores have been handled I can then move on to my list.  Fortunately my list is flexible and if I choose not to complete anything on it no one would give a damn anyway. My list includes the garden that is continuing to produce ridiculous amounts of veggies.  I’ve been trying to keep ahead of it by canning a few things each week but I’m quickly falling behind.  Here’s a list of what we’ve canned so far and believe me I’m ready to call it a day anytime.

10 – pints of hot mustard dill pickles
  6 – pints of pickled zucchini
12 – pints of pickled jalapeños
  1 – quart of pickled veggie mix
  6 – pints of pickled veggie mix
10 – pints of hot B&B pickles

I still need to make two large batches of salsa and a huge batch of chili.  The salsa will be canned to the tune of twenty quarts or forty pints. The chili will be frozen in twelve one quart containers and that should give us enough for most of the winter.

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‘This is Kick Your Ass Chili’

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‘This is Double Kick Your Ass Salsa’

Once the better-half returns from her final trip of the summer we’ll get down to some serious work for a few weeks.  It’ll be a huge relief to get the garden processed and into storage.  If the results so far are any indication, we’ll surpass any expectations we had for a garden as small as ours. I’ve already started planning for next summer with the addition of a small greenhouse and an irrigation system that will use  our water more efficiently.  That will allow us to grow a few additional items in a more controlled atmosphere with less bug problems and better water control. 

Back to the fun.

05-15-2014 Journal Entry–Back to Work!   Leave a comment

After thoroughly enjoying my day-off and cruising around the area with my better-half it was once again back to work.  It seems that we’re finally free of the frost for this year so we I began planting the next group of plants which included black beans, green beans, wax beans and snap peas.  Any or all of these are delicious to eat fresh from the garden but they also can be canned without losing their flavor.  Normally we use them as part of the vegetable mixes we make for use through the Winter in stir-fry’s.

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The vegetable mixes are usually the last thing we do before closing down the garden.  The mix can contain any number of veggies that are left over at summers end. We try to make a number of different assortments as you can see by the photo’s.

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The better-half has been trying unsuccessfully for years to grow gourds.  She gives them a great start in the house under glass as you can see. Then they are moved to the cold frames before final planting. We decided this year to move some of the gourds out of the garden to a spot closer to the house where they can get sun and be better protected from the weather.  We’ll cross our fingers and hope for the best one more time.  In my opinion it’ll take a minor miracle to get them to grow large enough to produce anything useful. She’s forever the optimistic and is certain it’ll work this year. Half full is her manta in all things.

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I wanted to plant the jalapeños and cayenne peppers but stopped myself.  As a rule peppers do best when they have warm nights so I decided to wait another week or two. I’ll be able then to put the cucumbers, zucchini, and squash in and finally be done with the garden planting. So for now they remain in the cold frame.

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My winemaking efforts continue and that red wine I mentioned in an earlier post has completed it’s hard fermentation and moved into glass jugs and sealed with air locks.  It’s now just a wait of a few months for the jugs to clear.  Eventually gravity will cause all of the yeast to drop to the bottom of the jugs and I can siphon off the clear and finished wine.  I have to say I love the smell of yeast and wine when it’s fermenting.  I wish some company could bottle that smell because I’d make sure my man-cave was always filled with that fragrance.

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While I was cleaning and organizing my man-cave I was pleasantly surprised to find this bottle of wine.

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This is a bottle of blackberry wine that I made back in 1986.  I’ve recorked it a few times over the years and each time I’ve taken a small taste.  It’s pretty potent after all those years but I think I’ll put it back in storage for a few more years before I try it again.

07-10-2013   Leave a comment

The rain in Maine is mostly a huge pain.  This weather is continuing to wear on my nerves.  Rain, rain, and more effing rain.  I kind of feel like I’m living in India during the monsoon season.  That lovely musty smell has now become the norm and I’m certainly not enjoying that at all.  It would be nice to have three or four days of warm, non-humid weather that would allow the house and garage to dry out just a little.  Unfortunately wishing doesn’t make it so.

Earlier this year I picked up a copy of Poor Richards Almanac for 2013 and I’m beginning to become a real believer.  The almanac has been right on the money on the weather patterns for the last few months for this area.  If their predictions continue to be as accurate this will be one of the wettest summers on record for Maine.  Without a doubt it will be great for the garden but OMG.  I already need a machete to walk through the garden and the amount of veggies is going to be huge.

I see many days of picking, cleaning, and canning of veggies like never before.  We’re anticipating quantities of zucchini, cucumbers, and squashes that will be incredible.  Thankfully we’re well prepared and have more than enough supplies to handle things.  This year we may be canning a good quantity of mixed veggies with jalapeños to heat them up a little. Probably as many as sixty pints of hot Bread & Butter pickles and possibly some hot relish as well.  It’s amazing just how much production we get from such a medium sized garden.

I grew two items this year that I ‘m experimenting with, mustard and curry.  The mustard started off rather slowly but with all this rain the plants are almost three feet high now with brilliant yellow flowers.  The leaves have the greatest taste and are making our salads much more flavorful.  I should also be able to harvest enough seeds to make my first attempt at creating my own mustard.  If that’s successful then I’ll plant at least three times as many plants next year.  The curry was an aromatic plant which when dried will make one helluva good addition to our collection of cooking herbs.

My better-half has already started making her jams for the year.  She just completed two batches of blueberry which is always the best. One of the batches was made with a new gadget we received as a gift.  It’s sold by the Ball Company and made specifically for making jellies and jams.  It the coolest thing ever.  You put your crushed fruit into the cooking container, set the time, and it cooks the fruit until perfect.  It then beeps four times to tell you when to add the sugar.  It cooks a little longer, beeps once and then turns itself off.  You then spoon it into jars and can as normal.  Less mess and no possibility of cooking errors which have been an issue in the past.  I can’t wait to try it with a few of my new experimental flavors once I get the recipes completed.

I’m still hoping for some dryer weather so some of the other crops can thrive as well but what can you do.  Mother Nature cruises along at her own speed with absolutely no regard for us pitiful human beings.

05-16-2013   2 comments

After today I came to truly understand why I’d never have made a very good farmer.  It’s one of the hardest working careers someone could possibly pursue. I was advised by my nursery owning friend that the final fear of frost had finally passed and now I’m free to begin planting my garden.  I’ve been waiting patiently for this day for weeks which should explain just how stupid I can be.

While my garden is not a full fledged farm, it still requires a great deal of work and attention to be successful. My preparations for this summers garden started last Fall when I composted the entire garden.  It’s continued until today with making the decisions on what will be grown, how much to plant, where to plant, and when to plant.  I purchased the majority of the plants early but it was too cold to plant them.  I’ve had them stored in a cold frame for almost two weeks until the fear of frost had passed.

I started my day today by planting kale, spinach, beets, kohlrabi, and a selection of new herbs.  For the second year I’ve been forced to replace a number of herb plants that didn’t survive the winter.  It’s frustrating as hell but it’s something I’ve learned to live with.  I added thyme, lime basil, dill, cilantro, rosemary, and curry to the already existing plants.  The herb garden is now complete for this year and I hope I can harvest enough this Fall to get us through next winter.

After having a quick lunch I began planting the remaining plants I’ve been nursing along for all these weeks.  I planted my zucchini, yellow squash, and pickling cucumbers.  A few years ago I picked up a tip from an old gardener on how to grow these types of plants.  He explained that when planting just place a partially crushed hard boiled egg a few inches beneath each plant to provide extra nourishment during the early growth weeks.  I tried it for the first time last year with excellent results.  I grew a number of plants with eggs and an equal number and type without.  There was a marked difference in the size of the plants with eggs as well as the amount of squash, cucumbers, and zucchini s they produced.

After completing the planting I watered everything by hand to help them get established.  I then hooked up the sprinkler system and tested it.  As always problems arise at the worst times.  One of the sprinkler sections refused to work requiring another hour of my time to repair it.  One last job was to de-slug the garden.  Our worst problem here are slugs that can be really destructive if not properly controlled.  I spread a sufficient amount of pellets around each plant to begin the battle for this year.  I’ll be forced to do this at least three more times this growing season to keep those damn slugs under control.

Water every day, try to chase away the deer, rabbits, and other creatures at night and maybe the garden will be a success.  Expect the worst and hope for the best.  I couldn’t even begin to understand how farmers with hundreds of acres ever get all of their work done but I’m glad they do.

Hopefully after today I can sit on my deck for a few months and watch everything grow.  Then it will be time to harvest all the goodies and prepare the garden for next year. 

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