right now

right now

Jul 17, 2010

It wasn't supposed to be this way!

Yes, I'm talking about "my" weekend! I should have known better than to think that I could go see a movie, or any of the other things I had planned for myself! Here's how Friday went:

Kids were sooooo excited to go to camp, and I was too. Got them all packed, even left a half hour early so compensate for any Friday afternoon traffic! Didn't go as planned. We got stuck in traffic immediately on the on-ramp by an accident and it just spiraled downward from there. Our metro area is basically an island, you have to take a tunnel or bridge to get anywhere so you can imagine the bottlenecks that can happen even on a good day. Today traffic was completely stopped and we spent an hour inside the tunnel in 100 degree heat with all the traffic fumes in the tunnel. I am used to tunnels, but normally we speed through at about 45-55 mph, but let me tell you, being stuck in one is kind of creepy. It's underwater in the Chesapeake Bay and there was an oil tanker above us so I kept thinking about that, LOL! So anyways, we left at 3 pm and check-in for camp was between 5-6 pm. We got there at 6:18 pm!! That's almost 3 1/2 hours in the car to go about 95 miles! As soon as we pulled in, 2 college girls flagged us down and said "are you Loch & Finn?, we're glad you made it, we heard about the traffic!". It's amazing how short a distance away it can be to find small-town friendliness again. They took us to the kids' cabin, and although the other kids had already headed to the dining hall, one of their counselors was sitting on one of the bunks waiting for them! Typical, cute Virginia Tech student (remember being in summer camp, girls?!) doing his summer employment - someone should tell him to soak it up, 'cause the real world will start soon LOL! I pretty much dropped them and left, no time for the kids to show me around, they can do that when I pick them up. Loch has been before, but this is Finn's first time and I was a little worried about him since he is not as independent as Loch, but as I drove away he yelled "Bye Mommy! Luv you! See ya later!"... I guess he's okay!

Finally arriving at camp!

View outside the kids' cabin

Finn & Loch (in orange) walking with their counselor off to the dining hall

So I didn't get back home until 8:15 pm! By the time I fed the dogs and got settled, it was clearly too late to go see 'Eclipse' like I wanted to, so I settled for reading a book and watching a survival show on Discovery.... hmmmm, that's the same thing I would do if the kids were still here.

Today I got caught with another big harvest, and I hardly even touched the jalapeno bed, those are needing my attention, too. I am headed to a BBQ tonight (across another tunnel!) for my gardening & homesteading meetup group, so the rest of the day today was spent harvesting, making food, and driving again LOL!

Today's harvest was used for the potluck dish for the BBQ. It has a theme: "Catch It, Kill It, Grow It, Brew It"! Since I had so many tomatoes I am going to make Caprese Salad along with some Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread and bring along some of the Homebrew.

Caprese Salad with a Basil Vinegarette Dressing

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

Yikes, I made a lot!

This is the basil vinegarette

... and now it's time to leave again and go to the BBQ, it should be fun, plenty of new people to meet and good food to try, I just hope the traffic is okay. Unfortunately, this is a huge tourist area and while we are all trying to flee the area, crazy people mostly with Jersey plates thinking only of the beach are headed in to back up the freeways!

Hopefully, I will be back early enough tonight to finish my book! Then it's up early again to go pick up the kids tomorrow morning. They have a skit that they do and I want to make sure I'm there in time to see it! I know this camp is short, but I am just glad there is a sleepaway camp for such young kids, it's good for them! In a few years they will be old enough for a whole week, yay!

I have the feeling maybe I heaped my plate too full in the garden this year, it seems that I just can't find the time to "do nothing"!

Jul 16, 2010

kinderGARDENS Week 14 Update: Caterpillars, Butterflies & Uncles!

The green roof had a few plants that appear to be surviving in triple digit heat & humidity!

I think it's the mini-pumpkins!

Other things interesting the kids lately are the caterpillars! Several photos showing different branches of the same fennel plant. And there are 5 more fennel plants that I didn't even photograph! Get the kids and see how many they can count!

The main plants in our butterfly garden are Parsley, Dill & Fennel... plant some and you will see why! And don't forget Butterfly Weed & Milkweed for the adults, among other flowering herbs, they love it!

Here's a video tour of the dill & fennel wildlife:

Other exciting things this past week include the arrival of the kids' uncle, one of my brothers flies with the Air Force, and occasionally we get a surprise visit when he arrives for an overnight stay at our local base!

We made it in time for the kids to watch him park it! They were so excited, they really need that male bonding while daddy's away in the Middle East. We had a great dinner with him, then he was off again!

The kids with one of their favorite uncles... they are all favorites! One's job is flying airplanes (cool), another works for Caterpillar (cool again!) and uncle that lives in AZ drives for FedEx (way cool guy that drives the trucks with presents on them LOL!) !!

As for me.... I'm out the door in 5 minutes - dropping the kids off at 4-H Camp for the weekend, yay for me! Although I kind of wish I was headed to camp! I have to drive almost 2 hours to get there, so you know I must really want some time to myself, is that selfish? Oh, well!

As always, check out The Inadvertent Farmer for a link to other kinderGARDENS participants' updates!

Jul 13, 2010

No work done today

I just heard on the 5:00 news that our heat index is 106 right now... am I getting used to it or just losing my mind? It's hot out, but to me it doesn't seem as bad as it was before, even though temps are the same. I could tell the humidity was bad however since at 5 pm I had to wipe down my camera lens before every shot, and still a bunch came out foggy! I only went into the garden today to take photos and check on the melons, then it was right back into the house - I didn't even glance at those jalapenos!

Here's what's going on now:

Everybody loves fennel! I have caterpillars of every different instar stage on my fennel, I stopped counting at 53, and that was only one plant! I can't even imagine how many are on the other fennel, dill and parsley plants. The butterfly weed is already constantly being visited by beautiful huge Swallowtails, I hope to have the camera handy next time. Speaking of, this morning while watering I saw a Hummingbird Moth at rest just chilling out on the peanut plants - ran in, got the camera, of course he was gone when I got back!

Honeybee! This is very exciting this year. We have always had loads of bumbles and mason bees, but never honeybees, even though my yard is the only yard planted out for almost 1/2 sq mile! This year - they found me! I couldn't be happier. Of course now I have to teach the kids to step carefully around the clover, they are used to the bumbles which pay them no mind and the Masons which are clumsy and cannot sting!

Look closely, 1st instar stage!

Jump for joy! It's greens! I haven't been able to grow them since early May thanks to the heat. Even my heat tolerant lettuce blends said "no, thanks". On a whim I planted out some Mizuna which apparently tolerates some heat (I didn't believe it!). Germination in about 6 hours, I forgot how darn fast that stuff is! I am letting it sun in the morning, and covering with shade the rest of the day in hopes of a salad for my tomatoes. Better get out there and thin...

UFO's are coming fast and strong now, but still not the top ones that look different

4th of July Hybrid has been a steady producer and has done well in a container in the heat

These mini yellow Stuffing Peppers look like lollipops! I love how they all grow upside down like a bouquet with all the peppers on top. This looks like alot, but I am hoping to make mass quantities of stuffed (with rice, etc) and freeze - they are meatball sized, so I am hoping they will be like premade dinners, just pour tomato sauce over the top and bake.
That's the plan, anyways LOL

Planted Japanese Climbing Cucumbers June 10th, they are now flowering and looks like they are doing okay with insects so far... I threw zinnias or something in there too, that's the other thing you see. Funny how slowly flowers grow in seed trays but go crazy direct seeded. These were planted 1 month ago and you can barely see to the right of Marley's ear one lavender bloom that opened tonight!

Cosmos self seeded last year all over the place - I have a 6 ft wire fence and they are above that!

Still not ready.... maybe I'm checking too much - is 10 times a day too often?!

Easy garden dinner tonight! Scrambled eggs w/cheese & salsa made last night, strawberry jam

Jul 12, 2010

How to make 9 lbs of harvest disappear in 2 hours...

did you guess?


Most of you are well aware of the usefulness of this particular condiment as a way to "get rid of" almost anything! It's delicious, nutritious, keeps well, and is always beautiful, whether fresh or cooked and preserved. Of course you can't ask for a recipe, since it's different every time depending on what I have harvested, but here's a short tutorial for putting some salsa away for another day! Beginners are often very leery of canning their harvests, and rightly so, it can be a time consuming operation and food safety is always paramount, so here is another way, just freeze it! I know many of you are well versed in this, but there are always beginning gardeners that just don't know where to start - we were all there once! Canning has its advantages, like shelf life and not having to rely on uninterrupted electricity for your freezer, but for stress free stocking up, freezing is the way to go! I figure I will be stressing over the canner soon enough in September when the backyard is nothing but a tomato jungle, so tonight is all about keeping it simple.

Looking again at today's harvest - Red Norland Potatoes, Quadrato Rossi Bell Peppers, oodles of Heirloom Jalapenos, Heirloom Yellow Sweet Bell Peppers, Heirloom Fish Hot Peppers, 4th of July Hybrid Tomatoes, one more big UFO Tomato, 2 little Cucumbers, and a bunch of Cilantro

We won't worry about potatoes, never a problem using those up, and the 2 tiny cukes will be eaten with a salad for lunch tomorrow.
I will add to this another 7 4th of July tomatoes, 1 UFO, 4 Orange Wellington tomatoes that were harvested over the weekend, and some garlic, shallots, and onions from my stash.

Here we go!

Assemble your ingredients. Use as much or as little of each as you want! Taste whatever hot peppers you have first to give yourself an idea of the heat. I have had jalapenos that ranged from almost sweet to habanero-ish towards the end of summer!

In my case:
1 bowl of all of the above tomatoes, chopped
1 bowl containing 6 small yellow bell peppers & 3 large green bell peppers
1 plate containing 10 chopped Fish Hot Peppers and 8 chopped jalapenos (they were med-hot today)
1 plate containing 2 chopped onions, 1 whole head of garlic chopped, 4 chopped shallots, and a bunch of cilantro
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Lime or Lemon Juice (just a half to one will suffice usually, start with 1/2 and taste)

Use whatever fresh herbs you want! If you have coriander, basil, rosemary, whatever, it's all good!

Step One: Heat up olive oil and add onions, garlic, sweet & hot peppers, cook over med-high heat for 5 minutes
(at this point you may want to remove some and save for later - you can always add more hot peppers, but it's hard to take them out LOL)

Step Two: add your tomatoes and toss

Step Three: add your seasonings and herbs, cover and cook over low heat 20 minutes

Step Four: Let cool a bit, then ladle into containers, label with date and contents, freeze!

When you are ready to enjoy, simply take out of the freezer and let thaw in the fridge. Suitable containers include plastic, glass mason jars with lids (remember to leave 1/2 inch headspace for frozen expansion), even baggies sealed and laid flat on a cookie sheet while they are freezing will enable you to stack them using less space.

Mission Accomplished!
4 pints of Salsa for the freezer, a half pint for using now in the fridge, 2 quart bags of frozen bell pepper strips
(note to newbies: you don't even have to blanch peppers before freezing, they are super easy to preserve for a garden fresh stir fry in winter!)
I love salsa on eggs, omelets, quiche, whatever... we're gonna' need alot of eggs since this is only the first day of the peppers!

Produce has disappeared! (of course it helped that I saw my next door neighbor have a friend over - fresh meat! I promply brought over 2 lbs of those jalapenos, she obviously hadn't got the memo yet)... only these few remain! But what am I going to do tomorrow LOL?

Last year I planted 9 jalapeno plants, waaaayyyyy too many! I still have 7 jars of pickled leftover from last year, and I use 1-2 jars a month! This year I cut it down to 6 plants and there still appears to be a problem, like 2-3 lbs a week! Either they really like producing in Southeastern VA or there is a conspiracy. I am a closet survivalist/prepper, so I will always go with the conspiracy theory! Some people have zucchini problems, I have jalapeno problems! Stay tuned for more exciting ways to dispose of jalapenos!


Dearest Husband,

wish you were here...

and so it begins...