Wednesday, October 26, 2011

For once laziness pays off!

My garden just gave up and died during our summer heat wave and drought (except for the crabgrass - I have a record crop of that). Since the onions never reached eating size before they shriveled, I just assumed they were dead and ignored them.

Well, when I finally got around to weeding a week or so ago - with the weed whacker - I noticed an oniony smell. Sure enough, my onions had send up nice baby onion plants! Since I need to till and plant cereal rye, I dug the baby onions up and planted them in the big raised bed, along with garlic, spinach, carrots, beets and dinosaur kale. I'm not sure I'll be able to eat any of these things over the winter, but it should give me a head start on the early spring garden.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The house is progressing, but the garden is toast

This summer has been absolutely brutal. We set records for the number of consecutive days over 100F as well as for the total number of days over 100F. In addition to that, we're also experiencing a severe drought.  I started losing most of the annual garden plants in July and now even some of the long-term plants have died off, including my beloved raspberries.  We're most likely going to lose some trees, too.  I really hope we break this drought soon.

But, despite all that, the house has come along nicely.  The outside is finished, aside from painting the doors and pouring the driveway, and we're currently getting ready to paint the interior.  The things we are currently lacking are the counter tops, the plumbing and electrical fixtures, the propane tank and the septic system.  But other than those minor issues, it's a house!  ;-) 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

And we're FINALLY building our house!

We moved to the shed almost five years ago with the intention of building a house once we were settled.  Besides the fact that we tend to take our own sweet time in making decisions, life also threw a few roadblocks in our path along the way.  Add to that the fact that the shed is just comfortable enough that we didn't feel panicky about getting something built and it was four years before we even had a set of plans finished.    "Procrastination" is our word for the day, boys and girls.  :)

Here's the goal:

And our current progress:

Those leftover lumber bits are going to make great raised beds!

In an effort to marry our dreams to our finances, we're doing standard 2x4 construction and making it as energy efficient as possible, with foam insulation and low E windows.  We're also putting in a wood burning stove for supplemental heat, since we have an almost endless supply of dropped branches from the woods around here.  We'll also be doing a lot of the interior finish work ourselves, to save some labor costs.  In theory, the builder will be finished sometime in October, but we'll still have some work to do after that.

Neither of us have ever been involved in new construction before, so this is very exciting stuff!  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Solar baked blackberry cobbler

After being disappointed with my previous solar cooker, which didn't get hot enough for baking, I pounced when I found a good deal on a Sun Oven.  The Sun Oven is capable of temperatures up to 400F, allowing my baking addiction to live on through the summer months.  In theory, at least.

I did a few practice runs with meals with good results, so yesterday was going to be the big test for baking: a blackberry cobbler for the hubby.  I set the oven out to heat up, prepared my cobbler, placed it in the oven and... clouds.  It had been a bright, sunny day up until that point, so I was just sure it would be a good day for baking.  Alas, the clouds were here to stay, so the cobbler steamed along at about 250F. 

Pale and un-puffed shortcake crust

Since we're in drought conditions right now, I guess I should have tried to make those clouds rain by washing my car or hanging out some clothes. I did water the garden thoroughly beginning at 6:00 AM.  That really should have done it!

Ah well, the steamed blackberry cobbler wasn't exactly what I was trying to create, but it wasn't too bad.  I mean really, how bad could blackberry cobbler really be?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

More on May gardening

We finally had some rain last night!  About 3/4", which made everything in the garden all cheerful and perky this morning.

I have one Mortgage Lifter tomato growing in a container.  It was languishing in the pot ghetto until I noticed that it was setting fruit, so I plopped it into a large pot I had been given.  The plant hasn't grown much and is now randomly turning yellow and dropping branches (which is exactly what happened to last year's ML), but it is loaded down with smallish tomatoes and they are beginning to ripen.  I have another ML planted in the ground and it is the tallest plant in the tomato patch.  I'll save seeds from that one, but in the meantime I'm going to enjoy munching on these:

Mortgage Lifter - first ripe 'maters!

This year's volunteer tomato crop has been pitiful, but I finally found one trying to move into the tomato patch.  It's from the area that had Sungold last year, so I'm curious to see what it turns into.  Now I just have to find a spot for it...

Volunteer #1

The squash plants are all growing nicely and beginning to bloom.  So far I have gray zucchini, yellow scallop, yellow straight neck (which I don't really like, so I'm not sure why I plant it every year) and Delicata growing and I planted some seeds for spaghetti squash and pie pumpkins in amongst the corn.  They are taking their own sweet time germinating, so we'll see if any of them come up.

Gray zucchini

Yellow scallop squash

Oh and the sneaky tomato plant (Blondkopfchen, aka "Little blonde girl") that forced itself into a pot by the door is now blooming.  According to what I've read, they are yellow cherries with a point on the bottom, similar to Riesentraube, but very sweet.  I bought the seeds just because I liked the name.  Just don't ask me to pronounce it.  :)

Blondkopfchen blooms

Sunday, May 15, 2011

May garden report

I've been working really hard on reviving the garden this year after battling the drought and root-knot nematodes last year, along with the Invasion of the Giant Weeds.  According to what I could find, allowing the soil to dry completely (or even better, solarizing it), then adding copious amounts of organic matter can really help knock down the number of nematodes present in the soil.  I also read an article this past winter about an organic fungicide (Actinovate) that had been shown to work on nematodes in field trials, so I sprayed that on the soil this spring.  So far the garden is doing much, much better this year and I'm hopeful that we'll be enjoying lots of home grown produce this summer.

Lazy Wife and Kentucky Wonder pole beans

Eggplants, peppers and Christmas pole lima beans


Inigo, included because he's so darned cute.  :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It's tomato planting time!

It's amazing to me that a plant can go from a tiny seed to this in under two months and in a couple more months, these will be giant vines (hopefully) loaded with fruit.

My tomato obsession is reaching a peak right now and I'm looking forward to BLTs, salsa, pasta with fresh sauce, tomato and mozzarella salad, sliced tomatoes with S&P...  Essentially I think about tomatoes all day long and once and a while I even dream about them.  There is a slight chance that I have some sort of problem.  :)

I'm growing all open-pollinated varieties this year, some of which are saved seeds from last summer and some are new (to me) varieties. 

Varieties for 2011:

1. Aunt Ruby's German Green
2. Aunt Ruby's Yellow Cherry
3. Amish Paste
4. Mortgage Lifter
5. Pruden's Purple
6. Black Krim
7. Atkinson
8. Orange Oxheart
9. Arkansas Traveler
10. Great White
11. Pineapple
12. Ananas Noire
13. Riesentraube
14. large fruited cherry
15. German Pink
16. German Johnson
17. Green Zebra
18. Black Prince
19. Rutgers
20. Julia Child
21. Gary Ibsen's Gold
22. Cherokee Purple
23.Big Rainbow
24. Big Red
25. Clint Eastwood's Rowdy Red (not sure if this one will make it)
26. Old German

I think I'm forgetting a couple, but I'm drawing a blank right now.  Some of these will be single plants, just to see if we like them and others, such as Rutgers and Amish Paste, will be planted in groups to freeze for future use.  I will also plant extras in an attempt to thwart the tomato-stealing squirrels!  Grrrr!

I had hoped to start planting today, but it was so windy I was afraid they would all just be beaten to death.  Hopefully tomorrow the winds will be calmer and I can start getting these in the ground.

Edited to add:

I knew I forgot a couple!

27. Boxcar Willie
28. Mule Team (I think this one may have been blown to death by our 40 mph winds this week)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A playdate with Myra (aka Learning to sew)

Several months ago I decided I wanted to learn to sew, with a long term goal of making quilts.  After mentioning this to my father-in-law, I was given the sewing machine that belonged to my mother-in-law and I set out to find a cabinet for it.  I found a cabinet with a machine in it on craigslist and made arrangements to go look at it.  The machine wasn't working properly, but I liked the cabinet and made a lowball offer.  The seller accepted, so the machine and cabinet went to my mom's house for short term storage.

Well, it turned out that this machine, a Singer 500 "Rocketeer" was the sewing machine Mom coveted back in the early 1960s.  Mom called me daily with updates on what she had found in the cabinet, how she had cleaned it, what features the machine had and (most importantly) that I had to get the machine fixed.  When I didn't immediately run it to the shop, she started calling her friends to come over to look at it and get their opinions on whether I should take it to the shop ("Yes!" was the unanimous opinion - though that's not really fair, since Mom bribed them with cookies).
One of the items Mom found in the cabinet (and probably my favorite) is the original bill of sale.  A woman named Myra purchased the machine new on May 9, 1962.  It reads:

Machine: $299.50
Cabinet:       67.50
Trade-in:     -60.00
Total:       $307.00

Down payment: $100
Amount owed:    $207
24 payments of $10.12
For a total cost of $342.88

According to the DollarTimes Inflation Calculator, that would be $2,468.15 in 2010 terms.  That was quite an expensive purchase for 1962!

While Mom was poking through the cabinet, I discovered that my other sewing machine (a Singer 301A) is a 3/4 sized machine and won't fit in the cabinet unless I buy a special cradle.  I also read that many quilters like the 301A because it is lightweight and portable, so it can be carried to quilting groups.  So, I gave in to Mom's pressure and took the big machine in to be fixed.

Now Myra (in honor of her first person) is up and running and I am trying to figure out what's what on her.  It would probably make more sense to start on the simpler machine, but I haven't taken that one in for servicing yet (it's been sitting in a closet for a long time, I think).

Myra, in all her space age glory

For my first project, I decided to make a pillowcase for the queen-sized pillow I bought by mistake a few months ago.  The standard pillowcase I've been using didn't cover it completely.  The silly dachshund fabric I purchased to practice on doesn't match our sheets, but this pillow is always under the coverlet anyway, so why not? 

The completed pillowcase

In retrospect, I'm not sure a diagonal print was the best choice for a beginner, especially a beginner that discovered there were no straight pins amongst all the stuff in the sewing cabinet.  But I was determined to sew something, so I just managed with what I had on hand.  I'll worry about perfecting the next one.  :)

Detail of the fabric

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sourdough and seed starting

Obviously I've fallen off the blogging wagon, but I'm gettin' back on today! 

The fall garden is still producing at a trickle.  The collards are doing very well, as are the cabbages (no cabbage heads yet), spinach and tatsoi.  The broccoli has a little freeze burn, but we should be harvesting the first flowerets in the next week or so.  The broccoli rabe, lettuce and radishes froze, but the dinosaur kale, carrots and rutabagas are still slowly growing.  Corn salad is another one that has made it through the cold, but I don't care for it, so I've been feeding it to the rabbits.  Ironically, the snow peas were crushed by the snow and only one vine is alive.  I guess I'll have to plant some more.

I've been taking advantage of the cold weather to indulge my baking habit.  This year's obsession is sourdough and I think I've finally managed to get a good healthy starter going.  As a matter of fact, I have 2 healthy starters going: regular white flour and rye flour. 

White flour/whole wheat flour loaf baked under a metal bowl

Rye sourdough baked with steam at 425F.  It was a little over-proofed, so no real oven rise.  Very tasty, though!

 A close-up of the crumb of my first attempt at a sourdough baguette.

Even though it doesn't seem possible, it's time to start tomato plants.  I'm trying to use all open-pollinated varieties so I can save the seeds for future years.  I've heard that if you grow a variety for several years, saving the seeds and replanting, you'll develop a strain specific to your soil and growing conditions.  Sounds good to me!

Paper pots planted with tomato seeds.