Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Canning The Night Away

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes.  I wish I could say they were grown in my backyard .. but these came from central Washington state .. not that far away.  Our tomatoes are sparse, green and may still be that color when picked.  Make note to self:  In a bounty year can, can, can those tomatoes to last through a less than perfect growing season .. even if you're sick of canning!  I made spicy, zesty, and fiesta salsas; the first two are medium and hot .. and the fiesta is similar to Ro-tel brand which is super spicy/hot/crunchy/delicious as an ingredient in Tex-Mex recipes ... and a batch of quartered tomatoes packed in their own juice.  All the recipes are found in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. 

Our neighborhood moose, old Black-Jack, stomped through my yard this morning waking me from my Saturday morning slumber.  Mr. Mac had just come home from working the night shift ... and let our dawg out for a potty run ... and run she did .. straight away to bark and pester old Black-Jack ... getting charged and tromped on a bit.  I suppose the dawg will one day win a Darwin Award .. but she did keep him from tramping through the gardens.  Perhaps a soft pillow and a few dog biscuits are in order today, eh?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sweet Sleep

 ... was had last night on my first crop of sheets line dried outside yesterday :)  Better than any heavily scented liquid fabric softener ... air-sunshine-fresh-goodness! 

Sunday, August 22, 2010


... has struck with the drying of the onions at the Thrifty Garden/Home.  This year's crop yielded smaller onions compared to the bounty last summer .... but they are very tasty.  Both red and Spanish onions will be savored as long as the storage lasts.  We still have a few weeks to hope the walla walla onions get larger.  They were planted by seed and are still growing showing no sign yet of withering or drooping green tops.

  Soon my garlic shipment should arrive for fall planting ... then next summer we'll have garlicitis for sure (and maybe bad breath;).  Now to build a better mouse (vole) trap ... I'm planning to make (with hubby's help) a raised bed with fine wire mesh at the bottom to deter the varmints from  helping themselves to this prized crop.

Do you have a favorite onion?

Photos:  Mrs. Mac's onions drying prior to storage

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This Week At Home

We've been busy with company, my folks, and have given a few (ahem) chores to my pop to complete.  He has hooked up a faucet to our new garden sink with cold water, now to tile in the back splash with some mosaic tile 'art' .. and, yesterday, he took charge of putting up my new T-post clothesline by digging post holes and cementing in the galvanized steel posts; tomorrow we can string up the line.  Already the birds have discovered the T-posts.

Yesterday the pea vines growing on the trellis were pulled up .. not before saving some of the pods I left to harvest for seeds.  They were still producing a few peas .. but had gotten rather past their prime.  A new crop is growing to extend the season.

I am so pleased with my nasturtium 'Jewel Mix' seeds that were planted this year.  The colors are so bright they almost hurt your eyes :)  They were ordered from the Good Seed Company (Oroville, Washington) which sells open pollinated and heirloom seeds for northern gardens. 

This year's garden is a mixed review ... yet to be written off ... but already thinking about how to amend the soil for better results next year.  What's your best success (garden wise) this year?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Getting To Know Herb - Part I

If you've noticed the price of dried organic herbs in the market, planting them is an economical way to bring good taste to your meals.  Whether you have a windowsill with a few plants or a garden full of variety and quantity, herbs can transform food by imparting certain regional and ethnic flavors.  I prefer to use fresh herbs whenever possible ... and drying a good portion for winter use.  If you live in a cold or short growing season, many herb plants can be covered with mulch to overwinter ... only to re-sprout new growth come spring.  Other herbs reseed themselves ... and some need to be dug up and brought inside.  Snow makes a good insulator for lavender.

Herb Drying Tips

  1. Pick before the plant produces flowers
  2. Pick them in the cool of the morning
  3. Rinse only if necessary to remove dirt, pat dry
  4. Mulch around the base of the plants to keep dirt off the leaves
  5. Gather up 5-7 sprigs and tie with twine or rubberbands
  6. Hang the herb bundles in a hot location such as in the rafters of a shed or garage
Once dry, remove leaves from stems and keep in an airtight labeled jar in a cool dark location.  Use within one year.  Growing, drying and processing herbs is a labor of love ... and once you've done it you will appreciate the convenience of having your favorites on hand all year long ... as well as knowing why they cost a pretty penny.  Non organic herbs may have been sprayed with chemicals and/or been irradiated.  Just another reason to grow your own. 

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Garden Playing

... catch up.  Looking at the garden, it is hard to tell that we got such a late start.  All but the corn is looking pretty good.  Here's what our bounty provided today.  The dark berries are a mix of wild black-cap raspberries and either wild blueberries or huckleberries.  Each day I freeze the berries (those that don't get eaten) to use in smoothies this winter.  One head of lettuce weighed two pounds and would feed an army or my family of eight several times over.  God's timing is perfect ... regardless of my lack of patience ;)