Saturday, July 31, 2010

Drunken Pears

The owner of a pair of pear trees has given us the green light to harvest as they don't want them. Now, I find this very strange yet beneficial. Who plants fruit trees only to reject the fruit? Pears are wonderful things and we planted two trees which offered us nothing this year. I hope for better results in 2011 but time will tell. So ok.... if you don't want yours, I sure do!

These are keiffer pears and are hard(ish) so off to the innertubes and extension for information as to when and how to harvest.

Did you know: pears ripen from the inside- out? Now I understand why I get mushy pears. When I buy pears at the market and wait with great anticipation for the fruit to resist any finger pressure, they are often beyond eating stage at the core. Well, you'd think after decades of this phenomenon, I'd have figured it out myself, but I need an ag agent to reveal this in words.

So, the keiffer pear is a cooking pear and you CAN eat it fresh but here's the "how to": Don't wait for the pear to feel ready. In the month/weeks of harvest, pick a few off the tree and wrap in brown paper and place in a brown bag in a cool spot for two days. I think the same is true of bartletts and anjou. Just use brown bags instead of those plastic bags. (look over at the bakery section.... you can usually snag a bag there) If the pear was picked and wrapped, you should have a tasty treat. If they are still too hard, peel and cook them in a sugar water bath.

We made 5.5 quarts of brandied pears and they are beautiful in the glass jars. We placed orange slices around the jars and there is a satisfying glow to it. I can't wait to make pear tarts over the holidays.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I Think I Jumped The Gun

With the sunflowers, that is.
I cut down 3 a few days ago, anticipating looming disaster (which didn't happen, as it happens) and now I think I moved too soon. The seeds do fall out of the head without resistance but they aren't black streaked at all. And the seeds are small to my way of thinking. (especially considering these are the Giants)

So I've hung them all outside in the sun to see what will happen next. If birds start to feast on them, I'm giving them to the chickens.

The rest (12) are still out in the beds.

Looking silly, hanging upside down. But the seeds are all white still.


They may look dark, but that is only what is left of the stamens after the bees have done their thing

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oh My Aching Back

It's no secret I have a bad neck-to-back....... all the things I enjoy doing don't help matters any. But this morning, as I savored the first cup of coffee and perused the innertubes, I came across this:

Straighten Up Uk


It's 3 minutes stretch video and feels really good. especially first thing in the morning.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Batten Down The Hatches, Boys

Tropical Storm Depression Storm Depression Bonnie is heading in our general direction so I thought I'd go out and do a little harvesting. The sunflowers have reached the point of maturation, I think. So this is where I began and very quickly found myself in a dither.

When, at what point, is a sunflower ready to get it's head whacked off it's neck?
I have read differing reports...... when the head droops. When the petals dry. When the petals fall. When the back of the head is hard. yellow. dark. brown. When the seeds are black and white striped. When the birds have eaten them, but that is one day too late.

So I cut the oldest one out there to scope out what I had. I really don't want to lose a single flower to this rain event.
Hmmmmm the seed falls out easily but it is white with slender black lines. Quite like a bicuspid but not black and white. The petals are almost totally gone but the back of the head is greenish-yellow and hard. Very hard. You can really see how large the heads are of these giants.
So I cut two more, both of which are curled back like toothy smiles. I head over to the jalapenos and Carmens. If the rain is constant, I can certainly can and freeze produce.

Now the question is, where to put them? I've read they need a dry ventilated space but that means indoors in Louisiana. I have draped them over a bench with the heads hanging down. They look like they're throwing up after a rough night.

video

The chickens can definitely sense something is in the air. They are acting nervous and alert. They pose when they are in this mood so why not use this to my advantage for some poultry photo-ops.

Handsome, no?

The "ladies" certainly think so. He is also very generous with his meals

Oh Dear.. that's a little blurry
Love the droplet on his beak
He looks like a British Officer from WWII



Sunday, July 18, 2010

For One Brief Moment

I thought I was back in Alaska.

We planned to pick blueberries this morning, early, with friends. But we wakened to a thunderstorm and waited it out. By 7:30 it was a steady drizzle with fantastic cloud formations above our heads and we decided it was now or never.

This is the end of the berry season and if you're gonna get 'em and haven't, now would be the time.

We pulled up to the place and stepped out of the truck and I swear, I didn't believe we were in Louisiana. At least, not in Mid-July. It was cool with a light drizzle. So light it didn't even really wet us. The bushes are huge where we picked this year and the berries, while not as plentiful as they were a month ago, very sweet and fat.

We picked a gallon and made for home. The whole experience was so reminiscent of up north, I had myself convinced when I open the car door again, it would be 59 degrees.

And then I snapped back to reality. While it is still down-right chilly for the south, it ain't Alaska. But then again, we didn't worry about bears this morning, so that's a plus.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Squeezo Tomato Press

has arrived and is in good working order.

In the midst of the house repair chaos, my friend and I cranked out 12 gallon bags of tomatoes and effectively emptied a sizable portion of the chest freezer. Yesterday we continued by canning 2 jars of catsup, 6 jars of sauce and 5 of puree.

There are still bags in the freezer to go but those may be canned into simple stewed tomatoes. Haven't decided yet.

John and I pulled out the tomatillo plants and he worked the bed up for a rest. I need help with the tomas....they gave up some really nice fruit at the beginning but as the month wore on, they turned so pale in color, I didn't trust the quality. That and so many simply did not grow in the fertilized husks; they just dropped of the vines. So any advice would be welcomed.

Today I will clean the house and work on the quilt on the machine and just try to relax my neck muscles... they've been getting a workout.

HAND

New Sunflower Shots

I am having a blast watching these giants age. I've never been so close to a sunflower before and had no idea that the ones we buy at the store or find in a bouquet are different simply due to when they are cut. These guys are GIANTS.. They stand well over 10' tall and I swear there are two topping off at 12'.

Here is a shot of three in varying stages of open.


This is a closeup of the bee working on all of potential seeds


And this is what the flower looks like after it has been totally pollinated.


The symmetry is amazing. PLEASE don't tell me there is no GOD.

Now I wonder how to harvest the seeds. Of course I am going to want to!

Here's a lovely video I found on YouTube of bees on a sunflower

SOMEone Had A Rough Night!

Oh My Aching Head!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Life Is So Strange

I love wooden floors. When we first saw the house we sold in May, I'm going back 14 years now, I saw the floors through the window and cooed, "OOHHHHh wooden floors!"

No I was wrong, sigh; they were those peel n stick vinyl strips made to look like wood. But that was ok.... They eventually wore out around the island in the kitchen area, though.

When we found the house I live in now, there were wooden floors in the library room and here in the sewing room. And so beautiful, all streaky and irregular. I just loved them.


Well the flooding we experienced caused us to rip out the floors in the library and at the moment we under repair/construction. Along with the flooring, we have plumbers tearing into every wall with a pipe and replacing the joins and tees and elbows that are made of brass. So much fun.

And it's a very good thing we are too, because (and here is where I go off on blessings, so bear with me..) they all have degrees of corrosion.

CAN YOU IMAGINE what COULD have happened to the house if the pipe bursting occurred when we were both gone? THINK of the damage...... the problem had been lurking there all along and we never knew it. What a blessing that it happened in the early hours, and the damage was held to a minimum.
Don't get me wrong! I wish it had NEVER happened at all in the first place. I LIKED the carpet and it was so fresh even after 9 years. and the floors. What can I say?

It could have happened during the holidays when we had the guestrooms filled.

It is a blessing that we knew already of this great guy who is installing the new floor. It is a blessing that the plumber is willing to tackle this thankless job and a great blessing that we have the money it is going to take to bring us back to snuff because NO the insurance does not cover the cost of replacing the plumbing.

Quite honestly, I am humming right along, canning the veg and jamming the fruit in the midst of chaos but I am not the one who has to DO the repair. I get to stand back and watch the ones who know HOW to do it, do it.

That has to be the greatest blessing. Thank you, God. It's alright.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Well Well Well

It turns out that sunflowers are sneaky self-promotional liars!

I walked out the other evening to scope out the garden and my eyes fell upon the solitary sunflower in full and glorious bloom. Still facing East.

Clearly this one didn't get the memo. "Hey, you! Over there! WEST is THAT way!"

It didn't budge. Obstinate! I thought......

So I wondered, what's up with this? I thought sunflowers follow the sun every day.... I know! Let's go google it!.

So it turns out that yes, they DO indeed follow the sun. But that stops when the petals emerge. From then on, they face East!

Facing south or west could result in sun-scalding of seeds during very hot days.

And now we know......
PS it has a friend out there now to talk to...... I bet they tell each other stories!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Morning Has Broken

With it comes our first Sunflower head, facing the sun and perfect in every way.



I took several shots trying to capture both it and the misty dawn.
None of these have been cropped or altered in any way. I have just thrown them up on the blog.

Now, here we have figs galore and am I not the luckiest of women to have a friend who shares her bounty? I have 2 trays drying in the machine as I type. That AND a couple of jars in the pantry....

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Our first cantaloupe EVER!!!!!!!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
That would be special in it's own right but add this! We went down to the Back 2 the next day to check on the progress of these babies and found 2 of them had been pinched! Who would steal a cantaloupe; Make that TWO!!!!!?

A raccoon. They don't have masks for NOTHIN"!

The peppers keep popping and I am happy about this. I've been drying the cayennes and now the Carmens are getting ripe. I think I shall try canning and freezing. As for the jalapenos, well, never you mind about those!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Miracles Everyday

We planted 4 of 6 squashes with the Texas tomato cages as supports and they have worked out beautifully. Growing up rather than outward has kept the fruit from making contact with the earth and all of them have been pest-free.

I went out the other morning to pick a few and found this:

Check out the sheer artistry of the twig weave. Amazing, little birds... I haven't seen what bird it is doing all this industry. Probably a SFBB.



Here's a shot of the garden gate... I might pose a picture by propping a bicycle against the fence to the left.......those tall things are the sunflowers


Here is the progress on the sunflowers, I think I shall call them suntowers. They are WELL over 10' tall now and are beginning to form the flowers. I have to stand on the raised beds and lift my hand over head to take the shot of the flowerheads.



Those are fantastic marigolds..... that is one plant each! From one thin seed! It's a miracle. Every bit as much as that enormous sunflower! one tiny seed! Now right behind the marigolds are the pepper bushes and the Carmens are turning red. I see a good-sounding recipe for canning some in that Blue Book.

I love this shot.... after I replanted the chicken-pruned azaleas, I tossed in zinnas. I had originally thought to plant the azaleas under the layboxes in the front of the coop and bought 3 fences. When I changed my mind, the fences were gone from the store and I was left short. Still, I plunked them in and it makes a cute bed..... the zinnias have taken over the azaleas at the moment but they'll be gone and hopefully the bushes will grow out.

I leave you with this...... It makes me want a dog! Those are dog houses... at Spencer's.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Great Balls of Preserves!

Ball's Blue Book of Canning and Preserving was snatched up by moi at Wally's World the other day and therein I found an interesting recipe for rhubarb: Rhubarb Confit.

Kathy returned form up North with 2 gallon bags of the stuff for me and after freezing in one-inch chunks 10 cups of the stuff, I still had 2 lbs leftover.

I must say, the recipe is outstanding and I have 7 jars of it now resting on the counter.

I also knocked out 4 jars of sugarless peach preserves and one of peach butter. That one is leaving the house tomorrow as a gift but I hope to get my grubby grubby paws on another pile o peaches soon.

I was given figs as well by Kathy and have 2 jars of preserves as a result. It's gonna be a sweet winter, to be sure.

HOWEVER, a minor set-back has occurred. John ordered that swift tomato press on Monday, June 28 with 3 day express UPS delivery. It sat in Dallas from noon Thursday over the holiday and arrived yesterday. Great , right?

No. The tray peg does not fit into the slot and is therefore useless. I have spoken to the makers in Vermont and they are sending new parts which may arrive by Friday or perhaps again, not til next week sometime.

Grrrr. The freezer is now totally packed. Not one more morsel will fit inside. The fridge is overflowing with tomatoes and I am off now to deal with that.

And Yessssssssss that means if I want pulp (and I do, obviously), it's back to pressing it thru the sieve. Here I go.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Blessings

On a daily basis, I observe how blessed I am.

I live in a beautiful State, on a lovely and fertile land. My health is darned good! I have a terrific family and set of friends.

Even the weather has been nothing short of amazing! Last week, with the first hurricane of the season, we had three days of both cloud-cover (which kept the heat down) and drenching rainfalls (which kept the crops happy and the hoses on the reels, which kept me delirious)

Now this week, it has been surprisingly dry. Hot, ok, but dryish. Not the typical high-humidity of the South.

So, Thank YOU God!

And also for the Garden Tally (sidebar) which continues to grow in length. Yesterday, we canned peach preserves and fig jam. I have a freezer of rhubarb from a very good and generous friend who hauled it back from the Great State o' Maine. I have a recipe for something called Rhubarb Confit which I am off to can.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Politikin' Chicken or Squabbles in the Run

I worry that we have reached the stage when I may no longer refer to them as "my babies!" The little ones are as big as Ginger now and can I say, getting feisty with the other chickens. As though the hierarchy has begun to shift. and not in the older ones favor....

1. Two of the biddies are starting to lay eggs. Not every day. And I am not certain which of the two are doing this. (But am glad because Ginger has walked out on strike, apparently)(unionized labor, dontcha know?)

2. They don't high-tail it away from Rooster Stu like before. Now they hold their ground and let HIM eat with them. Hmmm.... What CAN this mean?

3. This morning, whilst eating from the palm of my hands, something we do daily I might add, one of the golden girls lit into the other and would not let go of her face! I have never seen anything like it! Here I have one chicken screaming her fool head off and me whacking the other with my hand trying to make her let go.

Finally, we all scuttled back to our corners, breathing heavily and staring at each other, as though in a stand off. I crouched down again as if to hold more scratch and the attack-chicken poked over close enough for me to grab hold of her. By golly, I WILL dominate this bird! Nope, she gave me the slip. So, I called to her as though I had something good to eat and she's stupid enough to believe me. Quick but stupid.

This time, I get a good grip under her wing which she thoughtfully offered as she desperately tried to make an escape. And I forced her to put up with me singing at her, stroking her back and trying to get her to calm down. She did, eventually, but when I released her, she shot me a look that clearly said, "I hate you!"

Teenagers! What're ya gonna do?