right now

right now

Jun 11, 2011

Saturday. (creative title, eh?)

The birthday party Loch went to last night went well, even though it finally did rain!  We dropped him off and came back a couple of hours later to pick him up and they were all playing outside after the rain and covered in mosquito bites, but they didn't seem to notice.

Finn was a bit upset that Loch was at a party, so I took him out for frozen yogurt.  I was amazed at this kid, there was a wall of dispensers filled with candy toppings and what did he choose?  Plain vanilla yogurt with strawberries, blackberries & granola!  I, too prefer the simple stuff for ice cream, but for a 6 year old to choose it was interesting.  It wasn't even the kind of fruit packed in syrup, it was the plain stuff!  

After that he was really nice to endure a short trip to JoAnn's for buttons and then to the bookstore to use my 40% off coupon for a nice canning book.  I already have the standard Ball Book (short version) and "Preserving Summer's Bounty" and they have been pretty helpful covering all the basics, but I wanted a really comprehensive one if I'm going to have the ability to can meat as well as the standard garden produce.  I did get side tracked by the ones with all the pretty photos, but found them lacking in lots of library type information as I figured and ended up with this one which is put out by the Rodale people which is a very trustworthy source of info for the gardening/preservation folk out there.

Speaking of the garden, this is today's harvest.  Once again had to take yellow pears off a dying plant, they are slowly turning and I'm hoping to get some before it's toast.  This is the remnants of a bolting lettuce, just took the good parts and had to compost it.  Rare around here to see lettuce & tomato in the same photo.

Not enough for a big salad, but enough to make tacos for dinner - nobody complains on taco night around here :)

All I did today in the garden was harvest and walk around after dinner, it was just too hot.  The mosquitoes are now out in full force.  Was greeted by this lovely find:

As Finn says "baby pickles are growing"!

The Brandywines are the only variety out there showing no signs of stress, disease, insects or other general mayhem.  They are getting quite large.

Turn the corner to check on the squash bed and get smacked in the face with...


My squash hasn't even bloomed yet and they are already here.  Found a few that were just hatching too, we smashed what we could.  Lots are turning metallic already, indicating they are very close to hatching.  I hope they hold out until morning when I can wage war in a proper fashion.

 Leaving on a happy note... look who's back!

Jun 10, 2011

Public Notice:

Attention!  Due to budget cuts the Gates of Hell are officially closed, the fire and brimstone have been relocated topside.  Drink lots of water.

Oh, please, please come our way, thunderstorm clouds!  Not like an Apple Pie kind of storm, but maybe a just the regular kind?  Do you do those anymore?

It's much too hot for anything, but guilt set in and hubby and I went to the school to help Loch's class tie-dye some t-shirts for their school-wide field day next week.  Holy cows it was hot.  At first we set up in the shade under the trees next to the woods.  After picking off about 15 ticks from screaming little girls' legs we moved them out into the hot sun.

Notice these poor kids are wearing garbage bags in the heat!

We tried to work quickly...

In the end I think there will be some great shirts to show for our haphazard/ slap dye everywhere fast and run back inside efforts!

I got home and was trying to finish up sewing hubby's shirt and a tick dropped right onto my sewing machine, eeeeeek!  Needless to say I RAN for the shower and now I can't stop itching!  It's not over, either... we have to take Loch to a birthday party back over there near the woods this evening, I'm a'scared!

Jun 9, 2011

Stupid Sayings:

"Cool as a Cucumber"

My cucumber plant begs to differ.

and this gem:  "Cooler at the Beach"

Not this beach!

Looks cool and shady, huh?

Looks are deceiving.  Note that it's 6 p.m.!

Narrowing down the choices...(lengthy!)

I had a dream about pressure canners last night.  Obviously I really need to make my decision and order the darn thing so I can sleep!  Still mulling over the choices, so here's an update on the "voices in my head" - I figure if I write it all down and get some feedback I can make my decision by this weekend!

Why a pressure canner?  I have been canning with a steam canner for awhile now and it's a huge pain in the @ss!  I can't use it on my cooktop, and it limits what I can preserve.  The pressure canner will preserve everything, and you know it's safe.  It's the safest method out there as well as giving you the longest possible preservation time.  Everything from fruits and veggies to soups, stews and meat can go in there.  Stroganoff, meatballs, you name it, if you can buy it in a can at the store, you can do it at home with this thing.I currently have a tiny chest freezer that is filled to the lid with frozen veggies.  Convenient and quick - yes, secure? - no.  We have frequent power outages due to storms and hurricanes so that's not the best way for us to preserve food.  The generator sucks massive amounts of fuel to keep it running, and won't do much good when the big one hits and the generator is flooded or has been stolen.  Much more cost effective to have it only run the water/well pump, that way we only have to run the generator for short periods for showers, etc.  The idea is to have a wide selection of foodstuffs available for us that don't need refrigeration.

Pressure Canner Thoughts...
Must have features -
1.  Be able to go on a glass cooktop.  

Yes, I know there is a disclaimer on all of them that says they should never be used on one, but many people have done so, and I have found a specific few that have been using them on a Frigidaire, which is what I have.  Apparently the new cooktops are made stronger than the old ones from the 80's and such.  The problem here is the weight of the thing, plus the water that can cause damage.  It has been said that as long as it doesn't go over an inch in diameter more than the burner, it will be okay.  

I also have a propane burner outside I can use, but I really want to get away from having to do that since it's not located anywhere near the kitchen, and some of you may remember my sliding hot jars incident 2 years ago from the commute to the burner.  I still have the scars.

On this note, apparently the control that cycles a glass cooktop on and off to prevent the glass from cracking does not affect pressure canners the way it does steam canners - steam canners are too large in diameter and also contain too much water to bring to a boil.  Pressure canners by nature of design come to temp faster and contain less water to heat.

Really, if the cooktop breaks.... I'll just replace it with an old coil style stove, which is what I should have bought in the first place LOL, this is my own fault from the get-go.

2.  A weighted style gauge.

I don't want a pressure canner that relies on a dial gauge that has to be calibrated yearly.  Not only will I never get around to doing this, but I will constantly be worried about my canning efforts being "safe".

The weighted "jiggle" type is always reliable, and instead of standing there watching a dial for 90-100+ minutes, I can do other work in the kitchen and hear the jiggling and know it's working while I'm busy doing something else, like cleaning up tomato splatter off the walls and ceiling :)

3.  It must hold 5-7 quart jars.

While lovely to be able to have, I have to immediately discount the large pressure canners since they won't work on my glass cooktop, but the ones that hold a few quarts plus lots of pints will be sufficient, since I only use quarts for tomatoes, and tend to put all my pickles and peppers in pint size jars as they are easier for me to store as well as use up in a timely fashion after opening.

So that brings me to my choices...

After briefly looking at some of the off brand smaller pressure cooker/canner, it was quickly apparent they were not primarily designed for canning, and quality would be an issue, we're talking food safety and security here, people!

Leaving me with the Big 3:

Presto, Mirro & All-American...

1.  Presto - this is probably the most popular due to the nice sizes available and price.  These have been used for decades and people like them.  Price is great at $70 for the 16 qt model.  Although this has a dial gauge, there appears to also be a weighted gauge on the lid.  This one has the most presence on the web for people that report using in on glass cooktops successfully.

 2.  Mirro - this is a nicer looking canner, feels a step up from the Presto in weight/thickness, and still has plenty of good reviews and tales of people still using them since the 70's, that's always nice to hear.  Price is fantastic at $66 for the 16 quart model.  Lots of great reviews, yet there are a few who say customer service is bad and replacement products such as gaskets are hard to come by, glass cooktop users report mixed results.  It does have the weighted type gauge and no dial.  

3.  All - American - looks alone will tell you this thing is made for the long haul, this model is the Big Kahuna.  It's made in America, and in Wisconsin no less so I'm even more apt to go for this one!  It's heavy, well made, metal to metal closure and lock uses no gasket so that's one less replacement part to buy.  It has both a weighted gauge and a visual pressure indicator.  It primarily uses the manual gauge to maintain pressure, meaning in theory the dial gauge doesn't need recalibrating.  The heavy issue could be a problem with my cooktop, but several users report success, including a few that have my identical cooktop.  This is the pressure canner for those of us that want to have it in case of "squirrel attack", or WTSHTF for you hard core types.  No replacement parts needed, and it's built to last and withstand the rigors of our military moves.  Not sure I would trust the thinner metal ones to be dependable after being tossed about by military move contractors.  Something to think about anyways.  Sounds like I already made my decision?  Well, the price for the 15.5 qt is $175.  That's a full $100 more than the others, and when you are a family on a limited income that's a huge chunk of change.

In summary, I'm thinking that the All - American is the way to go and I should find the money for this one.  It's made in America, the others are not.  It's built to last forever, period.  There is not one bad review out there unless you count people that can't lift it since it's so sturdy.  There are several reviews out there from more serious canner types that have had others and basically say "skip those and go straight to All-American".  I have learned in the past with 3 new appliances that have had to be replaced in our new kitchen, that it's often cheaper to go with the best from the get-go.  Jane, I know you have an All-American and love it, anyone else out there?  Any owners of the other models?  Mama Pea, have you decided yet?  I probably wouldn't entertain the notion of the expensive one if I was right out the starting gate with this garden thing, but by now it's obviously not a "don't worry, she'll get sick of it" type of a hobby for me.  To the contrary, it gets more out of hand every year. I can only imagine what it will be like when I actually move to a piece of property that isn't in the suburbs.  That also isn't and "if and when" idea, either.  We ARE moving as soon as hubby is out of the military, we have no ties here, cost of homes are cheaper back home, and we are completely "tied up" where we are headed, LOL- so I know this thing would get more usage with every year as our garden output increases.

I know many of you are thinking, are you crazy, go for the 23 quart!  For many of you, the larger sizes are probably better, and I wish I could do that.  Even if I upgrade to a larger size 10 years down the road, I see myself still getting lots of use out of this size, since there are many times of the year where I don't bring enough peppers, pickles, etc in to warrant more than 7 quarts or 15 pints, that's a lot of water to heat up.  I think the larger size would be nice to have when there are copious amounts of tomatoes and squashes to process, but that isn't an option on my cooktop, and I want to repeat that lugging everything out to the propane burner in 100 degree heat is not going to happen with me :)

As you can tell, I research everything to death, remember my sewing machine purchase LOL?  That's also one way I know if it's even an important purchase.  If I'm not sick of the whole idea by the time my research is done, then I know it's a worthwhile purchase.  

Jun 8, 2011

First casualty...

The Yellow Pear tomato.  For a week or so I worried that it had a disease or insects.  No insects, and the stem I cut looked great inside and no milky or wilt evidence.  Upon further inspection at the base I see the stem is half torn just below the soil line so I'm chalking this one up to storm damage, since I had to go out there and tie these back up repeatedly.  All the other tomatoes around it look fine.  Oh well, no little tomatoes for me this year I guess.

Well, maybe one... I stole the one almost-ripe one off the plant, I doubt any others will ripen.  I'll pull it on Friday probably, I don't do 100ยบ temps like what's expected tomorrow.

Here's what happened to the first tomato harvest yesterday:  wasn't much but it livened up the enchiladas!  If it would have been the first heirloom we would have eaten it plain and sliced, of course!

Eggplant seems unaffected by the heat, and is loving it.  The first eggplant bloom, and it looks by it's faded color that I missed the first emergence by several days.

Does anyone else have a dog that sleeps with their tongue sticking out?

I didn't get any sewing accomplished today, only the cutting for the pattern.  My day had some extra time stolen from me - I had a dental appt to replace an old filling and I had a reaction to the novocaine.  Heart raced, apparently I turned white and started shaking really bad about 5 seconds after the injection and passed right out for a few seconds.  Normally this stuff never bothers me, but apparently I had a new type of novocaine I've never had with epinephrine in it.  Now my chart has big red marks all over it for the future, but I was a little peeved since I had to sit there an extra 45 minutes having my blood pressure taken... don't they know I have pressure canning research to do?!  All was fine within 20 minutes after the incident, but I sure am glad I'm not allergic to bee stings and need an Epi-Pen for anything!

Looking forward to a book after the kids go to bed, the heat makes me so tired - and tomorrow will be even worse, heat index of 105+, blech!

Jun 7, 2011

Seriously? This is crazy... don't miss home today I guess!

Current: Cloudy
Wind: SE at 11 mph
Humidity: 75%

84° | 72°
Partly Cloudy
95° | 75°
Partly Cloudy
96° | 75°
Isolated Thunderstorms
88° | 73°

Current: Clear
Wind: S at 21 mph
Humidity: 21%
Mostly Sunny
99° | 70°
77° | 49°
Mostly Sunny
65° | 50°
Chance of Storm
68° | 49°

It's coming...

the heat, that is!  A photo posted on Facebook of the bank in my hometown in Minnesota was reading 103 today, what????!!  And it's coming our way next.  With temps forecasted from 95-100 the rest of the week and heat indices I don't even want to think about, it was time to make plans.  This girl don't garden in those temps, nuh-uh, no-way, nahgonnahappen.  I figure I'll get out there and water early at about 6 am, hit the auto-pilot switch on the way back in and close the door on it all.

Does anyone else get that gloomy doomsday feeling when the weather just won't seem to give anyone a break?  When it's nice here I have to watch the weather in other parts of the country and worry about fellow gardeners, and when it's bad here then I worry that my garden will go belly up or stress even more horrible things.  We live in a terrible area, a coastal tidal zone that is long overdue for the "big one"... maybe I should put a block on Jim Cantore and crew of The Weather Channel so I can relax!

Anyway, the plan for tomorrow?

Hopefully, sewing!  After I made Loch's shirt, hubby commented that he'd like one, too.  I think I'll make the brown fabric first since that's more likely to actually be worn LOL.  While the blue print has a lovely Jimmy Buffet vibe to it, slim hubby isn't rockin' the beer gut required to go with it to make it look authentic... maybe I'll get him some gold chains for Father's Day to complete the look...


Dinner tonight was (I thought) a lovely mix of pasta, veggies, cheese & alfredo.  How could I go wrong with that combo, right?  Well the kids announced "ISH" as soon as they saw it headed for the oven door and said no way were they going to eat it.

I heard everything from "what's that green stuff?" to "are those poisonous mushrooms?".  Yeah, busted - I'm feeding them poisonous mushrooms, where do they come up with this stuff?  I also made 2 pans of this for freezer meals, so they will be seeing it again!

So how did that pea pod make it into his mouth?

Pure bribery.  Homemade strawberry ice cream!

Finn didn't ask whether the strawberries were poisonous.

Question for the bread geeks:  what's the best way to cut bread for sandwiches?  I need to be able to make and freeze about 3 loaves a week for the kids' & hubby's lunches, but my bread knife is a piece of junk and before I buy another I want to know what y'all do.  I read today about using an electric knife but I had already cut the loaf.  I do have one, do any of you do it that way?  I'm thinking of getting a bread box guide but is it worth it or will I just get good after awhile?  

The first tomatoes are in!  They could have stood to be out until tomorrow but you can see below that something has already decided to peck at it, so in it came.  These are hybrids though, I don't expect any "real" tomatoes for some time yet.

After dinner a package showed up for Loch.  Books!  Ribbit of The Corner Yard has a son that is remarkably like Loch personality/interest-wise and had some book duplicates that she kindly sent our way.  He even had a personal note written to Loch in there, Loch is so excited to have a long distance pal now and is at his desk writing a note to send back tomorrow.  He's so excited about the books I have a feeling I'm going to have to go in there repeatedly to confiscate flashlights for reading after lights out tonight.  The blogger family is so generous, thanks, Ribbit!  BTW, just as there are a few sewing enablers out there (you know who you are), Ribbit was my e-reader enabler LOL...

Stay cool...