right now

right now

Jul 1, 2011

Warning: Explicit Photo!

I know, I know... it's a little early in the morning to be subjected to this...

Ribbit, can I join your club?

Jun 30, 2011

Harlequin Bugs!

This is a pest I haven't seen in my garden before, but I think they are here to stay now.

The Mizuna was covered in them.  I didn't see them anywhere else, but as I pulled all the old MIzuna they were running for their lives!  I threw it all in a bucket and soaked them good with some Neem spray before tossing it all in the trash.  I won't compost it since it's probably covered with eggs, too.  Blech.  After coming in to do some quick research, I'm not surprised about the greens since their preferred host are Mustard family greens.  If you want to know more about them, check this out... I haven't read it yet since I'm running out the door, but I sure will tonight!  There's way too many stink bugs in my garden this year, anyone else?

Hubby and I spent all morning in the yard, him mowing and doing the dog poop patrol and me in the garden.  Lots of maintenance type stuff today.  Tying up tomatoes, thinning the dill and pulling old parsley as it was all starting to shade my peppers and now that it's all bolting and flowering it was attracting the 4-lined plant bugs like mad.  Fantastic weather today by comparison at least - it was 83 and low humidity today.  Back into upper 90's for the next week so I had to make good use of the day.  Put some more Happy Frog down around the tomatoes and this evening I will go spray them down again with fungicide.  They plants themselves looked pretty good in spite of all the rain the past few days.  Usually after those storms I notice the blight worsens, but not today.  The fruit however was pretty haggard looking, had to pull quite a few misfits and some that were cracked and exploding from all the rain!
Today's motley looking harvest :)

The uglies are just part of the party when you grow heirlooms!

Unfortunately I had to stop gardening early today since we have to leave for the kids' music lessons, which means I need to get out early tomorrow before it heats up to deal with the squash beds.  They need a little training up the fence and of course to peer into those vines and see if there's any trouble in there, I'm kinda scared!

Jun 29, 2011

Unspeakable Acts

Kelly, avert your eyes!

Yes, those are all bush bean plants that had just started producing well that I just pulled out of the bed!  Contender, Yellow Wax & Dragon's Tongue.

Why?  Because I took the intensive planting methods a bit far this year I think.  I had them stuffed into the pepper bed and my peppers weren't getting any light.  No time to raise more peppers but I still have plenty of time for beans, so it wasn't a hard decision.  I did wait, however, until my new bean area had all sprouted successfully.  All the new beans are up about 2 inches high where the Amish Paste tomatoes met their early fate.

Below are the peppers now, free of beans and able to get the sun.  If this year has taught me anything, it's that closely planted things can allow disease to run rampant, so out they went.  I expect the peppers will ripen much better this way, this was the first year I crowded them with anything else but their own kind in my quest for the "cottage look", but cottage quickly turned into the "hoarder look" LOL

At least I got another dinner's worth of beans before yanking them!

The Brandywines are a freak show out there, that's a regular grocery-store size tomato in my hand... and no, I don't live near a nuke plant.  This looks like a banner year size-wise so that's why I'm really hoping they can ripen and stay healthy.

It's not just one, either... they all look that size!

The latest intruder, not sure what yet... could be canine but I'm thinking not, since they don't really stay outside long enough to work so hard at seeking shade.  This is also the garden fence that seems to be getting dug out, so I'm thinking intruder alert!

Lastly, we have some wildlife news... congrats to Mama Dove!  She survived the weird cyclone storm we had when her nest and eggs got blown to the ground and cracked, set two more eggs and survived I don't know how many downpours in her swinging basket up there but there are her new babies!  

Now I have to be super alert when I let the dogs out, since she will have them out and about in no time.

Sheep/Cattle needed: apply within!

The Unemployment Line...

Jun 28, 2011

The Daily Grind

It feels like Groundhog Day here...  every day starts the same, with hacking away at my tomato plants in the hot and humid morning.  Being the lazy blogger I feel like today, I just videotaped it instead of writing about it!

Heat index was already in the 90's doing chores this morning, steamy and mosquitoes are out in full force.  We have been having nightly thunderstorms the past several days, which is making the blight spread faster, and the storms wreak havoc with the plants and I'm having to re-tie them to supports on a constant basis, or they are completely laying on their sides, supports and all.

A few things are loving the heat, even if I'm not!

Sugar Baby Bush Watermelon in container

The Sugar Pie pumpkin/corn fence line bed

Pumpkin Blossom

My first squash, Butternut.

I finally got a photo of Mr. Mockers for you.  My constant companion for years out here, this time I was allowed a photograph!  Normally he hops around on top of the split rail fence following me menacingly, squawking and divebombing me, but today he decided to sit still and act nice for a moment.  I absolutely love this bird, his personality fits well with mine :), I know it's the same one every year since he has a mocking call that imitates me yelling out the back door "MAR-leeeeeee, SPROCK-etttttttt".  The nest is made in the very top of the Hops arbor every year, it's a fantastic perch from which to watch over the whole "territory" and watch for people and dogs coming from the house.

Mr. Mockers on his sentry post in the pepper bed!

I actually find his antics and middle of the night ruckus and singing pretty amusing!  One of his more endearing qualities is dive bombing Sprocket's head.  She looks at me like "aren't you going to stop this?" and I just laugh since she seems pretty deserving of a good peck on the head pretty frequently :)

Jun 27, 2011

No helmet required!

Today was the day to test drive the new All-American pressure canner!  Ridiculous what excites some of us, isn't it?

Salsa Time!

Don't ever ask me for a recipe for salsa, since I don't use one, it just depends on what I have!  This brings me to one of the best reasons to pressure can - you can use those "homemade style" recipes since pressure canning will ensure the salsa is safe.  With steam canning you have to use certain amounts of tomatoes, not too many peppers in ratio to them, and have to add lots of acidity.  With pressure canning, you would just use the processing time equal to the most time required for the lowest acid ingredient, such as peppers.

I apologize in advance for the fact that my video doesn't show the entire process.  Being a beginner with pressure canning, I was worried about reading manuals, timing, and making sure I was doing everything "right".  Maybe I can do a better "how-to" video some day when I try meats, since by then I won't be stressing every step.  These are more of a "first impression" collection of clips :), basically a "what to expect" for newbies to pressure canning.

Note, I did not wear a helmet :) - actually there is no reason to be scared using this thing, there are several safety stops in function on this canner, and the most likely bad thing to happen would not be an explosion, but rather steam burns from not paying attention or not waiting long enough for the canner to depressurize before opening when you are finished.

A note for anyone considering buying one of these and unsure of what size to buy- 

Check out the photo below, and note how much room there still is...

For those of you who frequently buy veggies or fruits in bulk, like by the bushel or crate and process them all on the same day, you will need the larger size.  For most people with a normal size garden, I think you would be fine with the 915.  The 915 is what you see above, and there are 6 pints of salsa in there with room for several more.  You can also stack pints.  It will hold 7 quart jars for the larger loads like tomato sauce.  Of special note is that this is exactly 1/2" wider than the large burner on my cooktop - if you have a ceramic glass, coil or any other regular electric style stove, you won't be able to safely use the larger size, this is the one you want.  If you need the larger size you will have to have a gas range or be doing it outside on a propane burner.  For people that process throughout the season as I do, one batch of pickles one week, a batch of sauce as tomatoes pile up, etc this 915 will do the job wonderfully!  I was scared that I ordered too small a unit until I actually used it, I found if I would have ordered the larger I would have had to return it, as it would have been too big for my glass cooktop.  For those of you who can 50 quarts of peaches when they come in season, however - you may need the biggie!

All in all - this thing is a breeze!  Easy to read gauges, awesome manual, heats up in just minutes as there is only a few inches of water to deal with, the lid security is amazing, made in the USA, and I saved the best part for last...

No more "sterilizing" jars!  That's right - you just wash your jars normally and set them someplace clean to fill, but you don't have to heat up a huge pot of water to boil the jars since the long hot pressure will safely sterilize your jars while canning!  You will still want to do your lids, however, since those sealing strips need to be softened.

Only blight can stop us now...

The summer harvest is officially underway here in our garden.  The blight continues to pop up in places but at least the tomatoes look like they will be able to produce as long as I can keep spraying and keeping it at bay.  It's difficult however, because I spray, then we have a thunderstorm splashing the spores up and high winds blowing the plants about.  I hesitate to mulch the beds since I hear of lots of people around here having problems with that due to the high heat and humidity here, the mulch tends to get "icky".

Today, Brandywine, Hillbilly, Orange Wellington & Fourth of July tomatoes, eggplant, small onions (green onions that were left in the garden too long!), lots of random peppers included a jalapeno, a few pepperoncini, Sigaretta and tiny bells.  Also picked some cilantro that has bolted and has green coriander seeds on it.

I turned the eggplant into Baba Ganoush for hubby to take to work since I'm out of hummus.

Here's a cross section of 2 heirloom varieties for those that are interested.  The pink is the beloved Brandywine, the orange/yellow is called Hillbilly.  I may have a new favorite here, the Hillbilly is almost lemony, which I really like!  Some turn out a pretty pink/orange multicolor inside, some do not!

This was a strange sighting... I spotted Finn folding laundry unasked!  I'm pretty sure he's gunning for something here, I just don't know what it is yet.

Today has been an overcast, humid, hot and rainy day...

You may have to enlarge the photo, can you see Mrs. Dove in her  bean basket?

Don't feel too bad for her out there, here's  a better shot of her roof I made hubby climb up there and give her LOL!

With all this rain, I decided to try out my new pressure canner today!  I'll sum that up in a separate post :)

Jun 26, 2011

Shirking responsibility

All work and no play makes mommy boring!  I had a great weekend just "being".  I was reminded of what an awesome hubby and kids I have, that's kind of sad that I have to be reminded, I need to do more of this stuff!

Friday's bike ride at our local state park...

it was in the mid-90's but the whole trail was heavily shaded, which made it quite nice.

all 3 of my boys :)

I'm so proud of Finnegan, he biked 6 miles that day!

This is the only photo of me :)


Saturday was a BBQ for one of the guys who is leaving hubby's work.  Finn got to play ladderball for the first time.

There was one of our illustrious snakes here a few moments before, but I didn't get a photo of it, darn!  Hate those things...

This particular park is only 30 minutes south of us, yet look what is hardy here!  These will not make it through the winter in my yard but apparently are fine just 30 miles away.

On the way home from the BBQ we stopped in at the little "out in the sticks" place (Southern Fried Studio & Shop) I told you about a few weeks ago who have been having all the problems with the permitting and codes division as well as vandal problems.  Just look at this - we pulled in and the place was packed! It's wonderful that social networking can have such a positive effect on our local small businesses, it gives me hope - I was afraid those sites would lead to people no longer needing or wanting face to face contact.  

The kids ate ice cream cones while hubby and I had their fantastic milkshakes on the front porch of the store.  Any business with a front porch is a big "thumbs up" in our book!

Today started out with a harvest, the 1st Brandywine tomato and 1st eggplant of the year -

Time for the annual "it's as big as my head, mom!" photo.

Then off to a birthday party for Finn's friend.  Here's an action shot of Finn :)

and another...

Finn on the left with his friends enjoying a hot dog and lemonade.

I think the lab was standard issue with the pool :)

Egads it was hot this weekend, but was made much more tolerable by having fun instead of sweating and itching in the bean and tomato vines.  Hope you all had a great weekend, now I have to get back in a "work" groove and get ready to do something productive tomorrow!

I'll leave you with a video of Swamp Bugs making their music, they were unbelievably loud Friday evening!