Colorful Bounty

The garden is looking… well, fallish.  Bob pulled out all the remaining bell peppers and tomato plants, and finished spreading the leaf mulch we got from the city mulching site.  Next we will sprinkle some BrixBlend Basalt from RockDustLocal.com.  This is to replenish minerals into the soil that are taken up by the plants that we eat.  Our backyard is construction clay, so it can use all the help we can give it!  That’s also the reason for the layers of leaf mulch as well as using the BTE (Back to Eden) no-till method, meaning: wood chips.  The wood chips can be seen still piled up.

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Normally, we would put the rock dust down before the leaf mulch, but… we got things done out of order this year.   I’m not fretting.  I’m fairly sure the leaf mulch will break down to soil compost over the winter anyway and the rock dust will filter through with successive rainfall.  No big deal.

After pulling out all the tomato plants, we ended up with about 3 pounds of green tomatoes of various sizes.  That is just far too much to fry and eat, though we love fried green tomatoes, too, we have had our fill lately.

So what to do with 3 lbs of green tomatoes?  I searched the net and found that we could make something yummy that we love to eat, Salsa Verde!

Since neither of us had ever made it before, we pretty much settled on the first recipe I came across.  Bob LOVES to do the canning, and he took over from there.  I spent the majority of that time at the grocery, something he hates doing. haha  Yikes, it was a serious madhouse yesterday!

By the time I arrived home with our goodies for the week, he was just about ready for me to taste test his handiwork.  Here is the basic recipe, but I’m pretty sure he added some vinegar and garlic powder, plus not quite as much cilantro as it called for, since I’m sensitive to its taste if overpowering.  He also compared the taste to his bottle Taco Bell Salsa Verde and declared it was close enough.  I LOVE that we will be getting away from an industrial-produced chemical poop-storm fast food condiment.  In fact, I think we may have enough to last us many, MANY years.  There are 9 half-pint jars in total.

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While we waited for the happy POP! sounds, we mused over some of the other things we’ve canned this year, our favorite being the Sweet Jalapeno Relish, which we haven’t opened to enjoy yet.  It was delicious on the stove, so we know it will be delicious when we’re ready to dig in.

Here’s our little pantry so far.

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The pantry is looking more colorful these days.

It may not look like a whole lot, but this cabinet is a good 18 inches deep and full all the way back, and there’s more on the kitchen table that hasn’t been stored away yet.

We have:

  • Sweet Jalapeno Relish
  • Bread & Butter Pickles (slices and spears)
  • Dill Pickles (slices)
  • Hot Dilly Beans
  • Green Beans (half-runners)
  • Pickled Beets
  • Potatoes (still have many more of those to can)
  • Sweet Banana Peppers (tried Bread & Butter and then a vinegar brine)
  • Okra & Onions
  • Grape Tomatoes Sauce
  • Cherry Tomatoes Sauce
  • Purple Cherokee Tomato Sauce

There’s probably others, I’m just not going to pull them all out at this point.

Over all, it’s been a colorful, bountiful harvest!  One day, in our next house, I’m putting a request in to have Bob build us a wall shelving system where we can display all the colors in rainbow fashion, even if that’s in a cellar somewhere.

For now, we are still waiting on the peas in the garden… they haven’t produced big time yet.  We have decided that if they don’t by this next weekend, they are probably stunted, as all the blooms are gone and we’re not seeing little peas producing.  I think we got less than 10 peas.  I’m going to put them in a salad and enjoy that tiny bit.  Next year, we will be sure to plant by the first of August instead of the 22nd.  No harm done, failures make for the best lessons!

 

 

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Fall Peas Please

We are trying!

As a last minute decision, I talked Bob into planting some fall peas, Mammoth Melting Sugar Snow Peas.  I believe it was about August 22 when we planted, zone 6A.  It was at the very edge of seriously risking frost damage and most likely only getting one harvest instead of a few.  I’m a risk-taker, so I talked him into it. 😀

Bob had a grandpa who used to tell him that when he broke new ground for a garden he would have to “throw down the seeds and run” because they would grow that fast!  Our peas popped out of the ground within days!  They were super duper happy peas, which made us super duper happy, too.

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Here they are, our little baby peas, so precious. ❤

As they grew, I couldn’t help but take picture after picture.

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I think they’re beautiful.

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The above photo was September 14th, a little shy of one month old.

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September 20th with the evening sun shining. 🙂

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October 5th, look how big they are!

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We had our first bloom that day. So proud! Maybe we can beat the frost! Maybe!!

And then, yeah… the frost came and it’s still coming!

First Frost was a few days ago, and here are our efforts to keep the frost off.  Of course, the plastic is pulled off here, but you get the gist.

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There are still tons and tons of blooms.  We have even eaten one or two peas, but the majority have not produced yet.  We are still crossing our fingers.  In many ways we are novices, so we learn by trying.  Like for instance, I learned that while growing seedlings in the garage under lights in the spring is pretty easy and fun, trying to grow them in the garage in the FALL is STUPID. lol  Even with a fan blowing, it was WAY TOO HOT and I lost pretty much all of those seedlings.

The garden is winding down, and we have no idea if the peas will make it or not.  But it’s been a fun summer gardening “together-together” – as we used to garden “together-apart”.  When we lived in different states, before we moved in together, we each had gardens we tended, separately.  I’m so grateful to have this soul by my side and our efforts combined towards the life we each envision for us, on a small farm, doing the gardening and farming, that we love.

Our Annual Wood Chip Day

All summer we planned to get our free leaf mulch and wood chips from the city mulching site.  We set the day for Saturday, October 6th.  Last week I scheduled a rental pickup truck at 7:00 AM Saturday.  That day we headed over to the mulch site with the truck, eager as beavers.

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As they were loading the first of what we planned as 3 trips (1 leaf mulch, 2 wood chips), Bob said to me, “Do you see any wood chips?”  Panic spread instantly as I scanned the area.  “Um… there’s a small pile over there.  But we can ask them as we leave.”

No.  There were no wood chips available!!!  Truck rented and no free wood chips.  I would have to call around when we got back home to see where we could buy some, and fast.  The truck was only rented until 3:00 PM.

As a possible quick fix, I posted our photos at at the city mulching site on my Facebook wall and asked my friends for help locating wood chips “TODAY”.  It worked!  Before we arrived home, a suggestion was shared and the place was close by and their chips were $10/sq. yd.  Not bad.

Since it hadn’t rained too much in the week prior, we were, THANKFULLY, able to drive the truck into the back yard and shovel the leaf mulch out into the garden over the fence.

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After we were done with load #1, we ate something to tide us over and headed out to the mulch business.  They had grass seed, gravel, mulch, and plain old untreated wood chips.  Nice!

Here we are, way back into the thick of their giant piles of various mulches, waiting for our load.

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I think these huge machines are cool.  But none of them were in use at the time, just the little bulldozer, or whatever it’s actually called.

Chips ahoy, I mean, away! (sorry, had to)

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This guy was so nice.  He loaded us up, fully.  So full in fact, that we didn’t need to come back for the 3rd load of the day.   Whew!

Back at the house, it took us both shoveling for about an hour to transfer all the wood chips from the truck to a big pile in the garden.  And yes, we were quite SORE for a day or two afterwards.

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Since we still have a large portion of the garden growing peas, okra and tomatoes, the leaf mulch and wood chips are in piles awaiting the day we can spread them all out, along with rock dust (restorative minerals).

This was our first season growing in no-till gardens.  Last year we obtained our mulch and wood chips from the city free site, and we planned the same for this year.

I’ve since been told that we should be more careful with these sources because cities often spray along roadsides and chip those overgrown areas up.  This means chemicals might still make it into our garden.  This good samaritan told me we should let our chips rest for 6 months or so (turning occasionally), until we find that earth worms are enjoying the piles.  Earthworms, he said, won’t move in if it’s toxic.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of such space in our quarter acre suburban property.  So for now, we get them where we can, place them in the fall, and hope the fungi does its work and the worms come crawling in.  They did this past year anyway.  We had tons of fungi AND red wigglers, neither of which we supplemented (all natural).  So fingers crossed for next season!  I think we will have next year’s garden still at this residence, then the following year… maybe somewhere else. 🙂

An Unexpected Ride

My younger sister lives halfway between where we live here in Dayton, Ohio and where Bob’s parents live in western Virginia (NOT West Virginia), and I love to visit when I can.  She and her husband, high school sweethearts, live on a farm.  They grow alfalfa, have horses, pigs, and chickens, and kids (the human kind).  They sometimes also have bees, though those have been hard to keep alive in recent years.

This last trip I took to Virginia, I left right after work in the evening, and I planned to stay the night at my sister’s farm and hit the road again early in the morning.  That evening my brother-in-law invited me to stay a little longer and go horseback riding in the morning.  Heck yeah!  The remainder of my road trip was instantly delayed. lol  I hadn’t ridden in years and this was a big treat!

The next morning, it took about an hour to saddle up three horses.  My job was to brush them down before the saddles went on.  Pretty simple really.

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This is my sister above.  I’m not really sure what she’s doing in the stall.  There are 5 horses in total, plus one mule.  You can see the mule on the right in the photo above.  He’s nearly as tall as the horses, though in this photo he’s standing downhill.

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This is Max, their first horse.  He’s a Tennessee Walker and a bit spirited.  This is the horse I rode, and Max likes to be in the front.  Let me tell you, there are LOTS of BIG spiders and giant webs that he walked me straight into!  Egads!!  After a few of those, my brother-in-law told me to walk Max over to a prime branch and had me break it off to use it as a shield.  It really helped.  Some of those spiders were creepy looking and their webs thick.

We walked mostly.  But when the terrain was uphill or downhill, spirited Max would start cantering.  It was fun. I loved every minute of it.  So long as I stood in my stirrups as he tore through the woods, it was an easy glide.  At one point, we had to jump a small stream at the very slanted bottom of two hills.  This doesn’t intimidate me too much.  When I was a young girl, my sister and I went to Girl Scout summer camp a couple summers and always chose horseback riding as our themes.  As girl scouts we practiced cantering and jumping at the same time, and I from this I had definitely experienced a fall before.  But this jump was a walking jump, just a bigger one than I practiced when I was a kid, and we made it. 🙂

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Here we are, after our return.  The others are peering through the fence behind us.  When the horses heard us returning, they neighed at each other across the holler and Max took off cantering home.  Apparently it was a big day for the horses, as well.

(I promise, I’ll be back to writing about gardening soon!)

 

Late Summer Joys

Late Summer has been super busy!  Between vacation to Cumberland Lake with the family and two trips to Bob’s hometown amid the Appalachians, just trying to keep up with work and garden harvests has been too much.  I haven’t had much time to even think about blogging much less find time to sit down and do it.

So it is with a grateful heart that I sit here this morning, with my second cup of tea and my fingers tapping away at this old familiar keyboard.

Where should I start?!?

Fishing of course. 😉

Fishing in Virginia is so much better than Ohio.  The day we went to Burke’s Garden, it was HOT.  That’s not a great day to fish. Still, we caught a handful between us, even if they were mostly bass that were too little to keep.

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After a while, I did what I’m known for doing… and that is wandering off in search of interesting things to photograph.  Check out this not-so-little mushroom.  I have no idea what kind it is, but it looks like some little bug has carved it’s top.

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All summer I have been seeing dragonfly after dragonfly. They’ve become a novelty.  I even see them on hot, hot summer days at work in the parking lot.  I guess the heat coming up form the asphalt below acts as a sort of water-looking mirage.  One day I counted at least 7 of them flying about!  They run back and forth, covering their territory over and over, looking for a meal.  Every once in a while another dragonfly comes around and off they go, zooming in twists and turns, each trying to chase the other off and win the territory.  I find them extremely difficult to photograph.  But at Burke’s Garden that day, I finally snapped one photo that I could zoom in on for a recognizable shot. 🙂

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While Bob was gone to Virginia spending time with his folks, the collards were due for another harvest.  I’d never done this before, but he left me with some verbal instructions. Plus, I’ve seen him do it a number of times.

After cutting the largest leaves from their stalks, I brought them inside and rinse each one, meticulously picking off egg sacks and any worms I found.

Tomatoes were also picked, but those I took to  Virginia on my return trip to pick him up.

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After washing and stacking, I cut each stem out and composted them.

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As this was done, I stacked the leaves up in a flat pile.  And when the pile was tall enough, I rolled it up tightly as shown below.

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Next I cut the roll of leaves length-wise.

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Then there was a couple long flat stacks which I chopped width-wise to create little pieces as shown below.

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After this point, I didn’t take anymore photos. But it’s just about done anyway.  I put the chopped collards in a salad spinner, rinsed them, spun them (love that part!), then vacuum sealed them and tossed them in the freezer.  It was the first time I’d used the vacuum sealer, too.  But overall, it was a job well done.

When we want to eat them, Bob thaws them and cooks them for well over an hour in  beef broth with a little bacon grease added in.  I’m sure he puts some seasonings in as well, but I’m not privy to that process.

And that’s enough for one blog post!  I have enough material from the past month to write a couple more, and hopefully I’ll find more time soon to do just that.  For now, I’m enjoying the cool fall air that came in with the fall equinox, right on time.  As of this morning, the air conditioner is cut off and the windows open.  Loving it!

Wishing you a joyful day wherever you’re at! ❤

Mini-Update

Summertime means gardening to us.  But for most folks, summertime means  VACATION!  For the past three or so weeks, both of those have been in play for us.  Right in the middle of harvest after harvest, we were out of town quite a lot.  And that also meant, I’ve been too busy to write posts!  After all, I also still work full time (as a computer programmer).  I haven’t been too busy to take pictures though, so there is plenty content waiting to be written up, if I could just find the time!  Of course, there are always plans for my time…. such as, this evening I’m going shopping for some emergency preparedness supplies and making up kits for our cars and adding to our house supplies.  Half the day tomorrow is also filled up, and… well, there’s always grocery shopping and meal prep to be done for the week ahead.  For us, harvest time is the busy season.  I am so thankful Bob is able to be our head harvester and canner (among many other roles), because without him, I would never get it all done!

For now, I am looking forward to settling in at some point, sipping a little wine, and relaxing as I write about all the photos I’ve been taking the past few weeks.  Stay tuned!

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Travel Time

Bob felt called to spend some time in Virginia with his parents while also helping them out with some more physically demanding chores.  With his car not being the greatest for traversing up and down large mountainous roads, I offered to drive him there one weekend then pick him back up in a couple weeks.  So that’s how I spent last weekend, with a two-day drive through the Appalachians.  Trip #1 complete!

On our way down there, I texted with my younger sister.  This sister (I have two, one younger, one older) is already living a big part of my dream.  She lives on a farm in southeast Ohio.  Usually they grow alfalfa hay and square bale them.  Bob says “Why do they call them square bales when they’re rectangle?”  Good question!  Anyway, we texted for a bit about what it would be like if we ended up moving near her.  It would make us rather central in terms of driving to both southwest Ohio where the rest of my side of the family is and equally central to driving to western Virginia where Bob’s side of the family lives.  Now we aren’t “ready” financially to make that move yet, but my sister told me of a land auction going on soon for a multitude of tracts, totaling over 400 acres, near her of course.  We mused about it, but that was about it.

On the way back from VA, I decided to stop by my sister’s house for dinner.  It’s not too far off the beaten path, but I do have to head there via a different route than I usually do.  Thankfully there’s the Waze navigation app on my phone.  Only… the route ended up having a “Road Closed Ahead” sign posted, and I had to take an alternate route.  At this point, I did not know how far this alternate route would overshoot my destination, so with one bar of signal on my phone, I tried calling my sister.  She didn’t answer. 😦  Within another mile, my cell phone ran out of service entirely… OF COURSE!  Out in the middle of nowhere and no cell service.  Thankfully Waze still had the route information and could triangulate by tower instead of satellite.

So I continued following this winding, hilly one lane road through the middle of nowhere, unable to call to report I may be late or ask for more specific directions, or question her why she didn’t tell me the road was closed when I spoke to her earlier! haha.  To top that off, Waze kept trying to route me back to the road that was closed at each next available turn – because it didn’t know the road was closed!  I was beginning to think I would end up lost.  I passed up each turn and Waze recalculated to the next one.  Eventually, I decided surely I must be beyond the road closure point now, right???  So I took the next turn Waze suggested even though the detour signs hadn’t told me to turn yet.

Down this lonely wooded road, I saw this set of signs along the side of the road.  When I realized what it might be, I screeched to halt, threw it in park in the middle of the road and jumped out the the car to grab a brochure!

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It was indeed the same land auction site my sister was texting me about the day before!  Now how likely is it that I would end up standing right in front of it while nearly lost in southeast Ohio?!?  It’s ridiculously succinct how the Universe leads us into seeming coincidences!  The novelty of it is very cool. 🙂

I took a look around at the land.  It was 100% wooded, and very remote in the sense that not even a cell phone signal is available.  It’s also going to be auctioned off before I will be ready to buy.  So, as novel as it was, it was kind of cool to end up there after that texting conversation the day before.  I got back into the car and drove off in the direction of my sister’s farm.  Eventually I made it, only 15 minutes later than expected.  Dinner was almost done… grilled venison with sauteed onions & mushrooms and fried zucchini, mmm!

Now, I didn’t get any pictures at the farm, but afterwards, my sister Jenny took me out to see how her watermelons had taken over her landscaping (the kids planted them there, I think).  My niece, who is in 8th grade, introduced me to her four golden comet chickens, telling me “they hate open umbrellas”. Haha  This is the same niece who recently took second place in her first attempt at a 4H county fair bunny contest.  (So proud of her!)  Then we walked over the stream and out to the barn to feed the horses.

They have 5 now, plus one donkey.  The pasture has been made larger and includes part  of where they used to farm their alfalfa.

After that I was back on the road again with a few hours left to drive.  I was glad I could take time out and catch up a bit with my sister and her family.  I’ll also be sleeping over one night on the way to pick Bob back up, just to break the drive up some.

It’s different around the house without Bob.  Kozar the dog keeps acting like he wants to tell or ask me something, following me around, being extra “lick-y” and demanding my attention more.  I think he’s worried why Bob is not around. There’s no way to tell him, he’ll be back soon.  And even though I have the whole bed to myself, I still find myself scrunched on my side of it, missing his presence next to me.  I can’t wait until he returns. But in the meantime, we feel good about the time he is spending with his family.  I just couldn’t take that much time off work. But, when I go pick him up, I will be staying a number of days.  I’m looking forward to that, plus fishing if the weather cooperates.  Fishing is so much better in Virginia!

Next blog: Back to gardening!

Saving Seed

2018 seems to be my year of learning about seeds.  Have you seen this movie?


https://www.seedthemovie.com/

We watched it some time ago.  Here are some quotes from the movie’s website.

SEED: The Untold Story began with an article in National Geographic reported that up to 96% of the vegetable seeds available in 1903 have disappeared.

~*~*~*~*~

In our modern world, these precious gifts of nature are in grave danger. In less than a century of industrial agriculture, our once abundant seed diversity—painstakingly created by ancient farmers and gardeners over countless millennia—has been drastically winnowed down to a handful of mass-produced varieties. Under the spell of industrial “progress” and a lust for profit, our quaint family farmsteads have given way to mechanized agribusinesses sowing genetically identical crops on a monstrous scale.

When you couple the loss of seed variety on this scale with how much monoculture agriculture depletes soil health, reducing produce minerals, society seems to have clearly gone down the wrong path.  Not only are the veggies we eat less healthful than 100 years ago, they are produced in fragile ecosystems.

If you are interested in checking out some of the wilder varieties of heirloom seeds available, check out Seed Savers Exchange.  I love browsing their beans and squash.  The varieties are so colorful and unique!

Really, I could go on and on about how backwards our food system is, but that’s not the focus of this post.

Today I want to show you how I’ve been saving my seeds!  They may be common seeds, frequently planted seeds, varieties that are widely available, but a budding gardener must start somewhere.  And in the future -you know… when we get to our farm– we will have much more space to grow unique heirloom plants.  (I assume I need that much space so that I can isolate the varieties to prevent cross pollination.)

The last two previous summers I grew some yellow cherry tomatoes that I bought from a home improvement garden center.  They are sooo delicious, the sweetest round little “garden candy” I’ve ever had.  And before that, I really didn’t like cherry tomatoes at all.  Of course, the only cherry tomatoes I had had before then was grocery store varieties.  If you’ve ever compared the taste of a home grown tomato to one from your local big box grocery store, you can understand why I didn’t care for them.  So I bought some yellow cherry tomato seedlings a couple years back, hoping they tasted different, better.  They did!

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Cherry tomatoes on left, and my sunset “yellow” (orange) tomatoes on right

Actually, they don’t look very yellow.  They get darker than that and, shown beside some regular cherry tomatoes that I got from the CSA program I was in back in 2016, they look orange.  I’ve since learned that these orange looking cherry tomatoes are called Sunset tomatoes.

Unfortunately we could not find any of these delicious “yellow cherry tomatoes” at the store this spring!  I walked away from store after store, greatly saddened.  Our only hope was to rely on volunteers.  And sure enough, like some Cherokee tomato plants that popped up in the garden last year from the 2016 season, we had 11 little seedlings volunteer this year, all our favorite sweet orange Sunset Cherry Tomato variety!**  I told Bob, “We are saving these seeds!”

Not all those volunteers made it.  Some were crowded and we had no place allotted to thin them out, so they had to compete for space.  Most grew between a new variety of little tomatoes we planted this year (since we couldn’t find the ones we wanted). Those are yellow “grape” tomatoes, rather than cherry sized.  They’re actually larger than the cherry size, and move oval.  When almost over-ripe, they’re quite sweet as well.  But nothing compares to those little Sunsets!

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Sunset Cherry and Yellow Grape tomatoes, mixed (& not washed!)

All summer we have waited and waited for these little dudes to ripen up!

Usually they are what I like to call “garden candy”, because they rarely make it into the kitchen.  Each evening while we walk the garden, admiring or discussing plant health, I pick a few, eat some and hand others to Bob.

HOW TO SAVE TOMATO SEED

To save their seeds, cut each open and scoop out the watery, seedy pulp.

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Seeding the yellow grape tomatoes

Then use a strainer and wash off as much of the pulp as you can while running some cool water over it.

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Most of the pulp goes down the drain while the seeds can’t pass through the strainer.

After that, place the rinsed seeds in a little bowl and cover with some water.

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Make sure if you have more than one type of seed, that you label them.  Because if you’re like me, it’s guaranteed in a day or two you’ll come back and cannot remember which is which!

Set these bowls out of the way somewhere for a day or two and let them ferment a bit.  The fermenting further removes pulp residue which might make the seeds go bad in storage.

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After a day or two of fermenting (I waited just one day for some and three for another because, you know, out of sight, out of mind.  It’s not an exact science.)  Just rinse them again through the strainer, then set out on a paper towel to dry for another day or two.

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Make sure you spread them around as flat as you can on the paper towel. They’ll stick together for the most part, but the more you can separate them now, the less you’ll have to separate later.

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After they’re good and dry, it’s time to pull them off the paper towel (they’ll be stuck), separate them, then store in some container.  They’re best stored in a cool dark place over the winter.  I place mine in extra seed saving packets that Sow True Seed sends me with each order I’ve made from them.  Be sure to mark them with the year for future reference.

Here’s my latest order – for my fall garden!  Notice their little note and extra empty seed packets. 🙂  Love this company!

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Sow True Seed

And yes, we are going to grow more collards this fall. Mmm hmm!

Saving seeds is just what farmers do.  In days of old, honestly not too long ago, seed saving was just a part of the entire process.  Who would want the expense of buying seeds every single year?  That just didn’t make any sense.  Seed was always saved!  And this is how we intend to do it as well, like days of old.  And once we get to our farm land, I will probably go a little crazy with fancy varieties of squash and beans.  🙂

**Sorry for being confusing on the name of these little yellow cherry tomato plants.  The store sold them as “Yellow Cherry Tomato” and it turns out they’re actually called “Sunset Cherry Tomato”.

Scouting a Fishing Spot

I love our weekends. We get the most of them, no trying about it.

After some canning, seed saving, grocery and dinner, we drove across town at sunset to scope out a good fishing spot for tomorrow if the weather cooperates as predicted.

It’s been rainy lately and only dry today (and supposedly tomorrow), so we opted out of the steep hill river access site that is one of my favorites. Instead, we visited the other lake out where I caught poison ivy so bad earlier this year. This lake was quite a bit bigger, and most importantly, did not have poison ivy along its shores.

When we first heard about this place from some random fisherman that Bob struck up a conversation with, the man told us “park by the tunnel, walk the path about a 1/2 mile, then cut left through the woods.” That route was about as ’round-about a way as could be! BUT, it did bring us close, not once, but twice to deer feeding along the abandoned gravel road. There used to be houses along this bank of the river when I was a kid. Now the street is the only indicator. The houses flooded too much and were eventually razed. So this man told us to walk along the river for a 1/2 mile then cut through the woods to the left where the river sometimes overflows until we came to a set of gravel lakes. No matter how hard I tried that day, I came back with poison itchy something!

Since we had seen a parking lot at the lakes, on another day we tried to find the way to drive back there. Near the tunnel there was a road I’d never been down. Railroad tracks run parallel to it with the river on it’s other side. This land is wild yet protected by the metro park system. So I suppose the deer weren’t afraid of us due to seeing people frequently.

Anyway, the road led us right to an entrance to the tiny park. Between the two lakes (no bigger than a couple large ponds), was the parking lot, complete with a port-a-potty. Perfect. 🙂 No more poison ivy trying to fish the first lake we walked to that one day, and we have a toilet to boot!

This evening… (I really wish I had taken my camera with me) we walked over to the second, bigger lake and took it in from up on the hill. There were about 5 or 6 people around the lake, casting their lines over and over. Bob would explain to me why it was good to fish where some of them were fishing.

We walked closer, right up to the sandy dirt shoreline, strewn with gravel. That’s when I noticed a bunch of birds were flying and swooping above the lake. “Chimney Sweeps”, Bob said. “When the water is calm like this, they fly low, and if they see a bug, they skim their beaks along the surface of the water to eat the bug.”

I watched as a bird here or there dipped in the water for a split second, creating a skiing kind of wave cascading outward. It was then that I realized that the “fish” I thought I saw flipping at the surface a few moments ago were actually these birds instead. We watched them in quiet for a while.

Soon though, Bob was bending and pointing at minnows skirting the edge of the shore. “Where there’s little fish, there’s always something bigger to eat it.” Meaning, he was on the lookout for some bigger fish. “What kind of fish eat minnows,” I asked. “Blue gill and sun fish. Sun fish look like……” and on he went, answering my every fish question, many of which I’ve probably asked a few times before. He doesn’t mind repeating.

Sure enough, there were a few blue gills skirting about. We walked further along the shore using polarized sunglasses to help us see into lake a little further than without them. At an underwater log and plant life feature, we saw a very disguised larger fish, with just his little black eyes giving him away. Bob slowly stuck a long stick in the water and moved it towards the fish. Not until the stick was within inches did it give up its hiding spot. He was a nice sized bass!

After a good half hour of scouring the waterline, pointing out fish of various sizes, we declared this a “happening habitat” and decided we would be back tomorrow to fish. Then we wandered back towards the parking lot and headed home.

I love these excursions with him. There’s something regenerative about being in nature. I sat in the car wondering about why people like fishing so much. “It’s innate,” Bob said. Perhaps to him it is. He’s from a long line of fisherman in the hollers of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains. For me, all I know is that I’ve spend a lifetime wishing somebody would go fishing with me, not knowing enough about it to go on my own, and besides, not wanting to go on my own.

Until now. Now I just say the word and he’s packing the car with gear. Fishing is as much “us” as gardening and stargazing are. ❤

Sweet Jalapeno!

Relish, that is.  And it is damn good! Mmm!

Well, I may be a tad biased, because it was my first batch ever.  We winged it (as usual) and it turned out quite tastey.  Beginner’s luck perhaps. 😉

Let me explain the “winging it” part.  We had a giant cucumber, and some smaller ones for backup just in case the big one was bitter.  But the goal was to use up the maybe-not-so-sweet-tasting cuke in a sweet and spicy relish.

My inspiration for this comes from a homemade version of it that I used to be able to buy through a friend of a friend.  I haven’t been running in those circles for a couple years so my source ran dry.  I did remember part of the name of the farm, knew it was local-ish, so I looked on my friend’s Facebook Liked Pages list and found it!  Yay!

Unfortunately, the lady who responded to my email told me her crop of cucumbers had been decimated by flea beetles this year and, sadly, there was no sweet jalapeno relish for sale.  She offered to put me on her email list when it did come available again.  I could have cried!  Her relish is so amazing!  I did not dare to ask her for her recipe.  I just resolved myself to making some, any kind I could.  Just to “get close” to her recipe would have to do, because I really wanted some.

After not having too much luck looking for a recipe on YouTube itself (other than for general relish-canning instructions), I finally found a recipe for it on this website.

Back to the “winging it” part…

We didn’t measure anything but the brine ingredients, just chopped and cut things up in loosely similar proportions.  Also we didn’t manage to communicate well enough about using, ahem, apple cider vinegar instead of canning vinegar, and canning vinegar was used instead. (not naming names here haha)  Then I forgot to chop up any garlic and so hurriedly did so and tossed it in last minute.  Oh yeah, the big cucumber?  It wasn’t bitter itself, but the skin was a bit, so we peeled it.

Bob is very orderly. lol  I am very NOT orderly.  My methods are a bit chaotic and while he’s just trying to make sure canning happens so that the jars actually seal and in a timely manner.  Well… let’s just say, I make it a little stressful for him.  But it was fun making it, especially because it turned out so well.

So here are my ingredients, sans the diced onions, garlic, and brine.

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Cucumber, Red Bell Pepper, Jalapeno, Onion, Garlic (not shown)

It looks yummy cooking.

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The brine was made ahead of time and kept hot.  It was simply Mrs. Wages bread and butter pickle brine, and we followed the package instructions for that.  In a separate pot we sauteed the onions in some brine before adding the remaining ingredients, and some more just to cover.  I think we cooked it about 15 minutes.  I’m a little unsure of the exactness of any of these steps because Bob was tending to the stove and I was the veggie chopper.

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After simmering, we scooped the relish into a couple of blue half-pint jars.  That left a quarter cup or so that didn’t fit.  So… we tasted it… and we ate that stuff up immediately! Mmm!

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Sweet Jalapeno Relish!