Thursday, July 31, 2014

Well This Makes Blogging a Little Difficult

The magical interweb box is out. Looks like it will be this way until at least next Tuesday when I have another day off. I mean, it BETTER be fixed next Tuesday morning since I waited around this morning to have the repair guy arrive before 11, with the promise of a  phone call half an hour out. I'm still waiting for that phone call.

I guess it's a good time to give my closet office a face lift.

No lights blinking where there SHOULD be lights blinking. I feel like Laura Ingalls.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Squawking

After finishing garden chores, there really is nothing better than to sit down and enjoy the results of your hard work. The watering is done, the lawn bags are put away, and the feeders are filled and ready for our avian friends' dinner. You can watch all of the garden residents while contemplating what needs to be changed in the landscape, how you want to edge the paths in the Shade Garden, you can daydream about the apple espalier you want to create to "fence off" the Berry Patch...

Then the peace is shattered by some squawking.

Daylilies, Oriental lilies, and garden phlox are the main focus in this section of the garden at the moment. Plans for some changes to the garden are underway, and soon the chain link fence will begin to be obscured by taller shrubs and trees that will create a natural privacy screen as well act as a backdrop for the perennial garden.
The clan of chipmunks are just awful. They dig up plants, turn over small pots, and plant sunflower seeds all over the garden. The sunflower seeds I don't really mind, but whenever I walk into the shade garden and find another pile of impatiens spilled from a pot I want to put down some poison. Honestly.

The little brown sparrows love to perch on the arbor in in the Berry Patch.

And I love to cut these clematis vines. The only real problem is that with all of the perching, there is a lot of pooping. Pooping on the clematis. Sigh...

I honestly thought this was a Road Runner in the tree.

Then I realized it was a young female cardinal. I should probably go fill the bird bath.

A young robin was nearby, flying back and fourth between the fence and the ground. Still holding on to his speckled feathers to help camouflage himself. What is that racket in the tree?
Ugh. The chipmunk is trying to be sneaky.

Caught in the act! He's not only burying the sunflower seeds in my tree fern's pot, he's burying the entire flower! Stupid jerk. I'll just spray a little water his direction and then go water the vegetable garden for the robins. They always like it when I water after cultivating around the plants.

In lands Mama Robin making the loudest racket ever! Usually the robins just wait until I finish watering the vegetable garden so they can dig worms. This one wouldn't shut up!

Oh, I get it. Her kid flew down to the ground again, and I'm 20 feet away. Danger!

Dang! She looks like she means business. You win this time, Mother Bird, I'll go water somewhere else. No worms for you!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Checking In On the Kitchen Garden

I really am loving this sudden cool July weather. I mean, 67 as a high in July in Indiana is rather wonderful to someone who absolutely dreads the Dog Days of Summer. However, there are so many tomatoes on the vines in need of some heat to ripen I'll be happy to get back into the 80's, but not the 90's.

Here's a quick tour of how the vegetable garden is growing.

The right amount of moisture and few really hot days have allowed everything to grow lush and green. As I approached the gate, a rather overwhelmingly sweet scent filled my nose.

The pure white 'Casablanca' lilies are blooming!

I planted these inside the Vegetable Garden several years ago in order to attract bees and other pollinators. Unfortunately, I can count on one hand how many actual honey bees I've seen this year.
Stepping through the gate and looking to the south is a quadrant of the old part of the garden filled with mesclun, herbs (chives, thyme, and dill) and a few Burgundy okra plants, as well as a row of carrots. I need to do a new planting of mesclun. And what's that speck of red?

Behold! The first sweet pea has (finally) bloomed! The weather made it impossible to plant sweet peas on time this Spring, but with the mild, English-like summer they are doing alright.

Of course the tomatoes are going nuts.

Some yellow wax beans.

A cluster of grape tomatoes. You have to be early to pick these because they seem to disappear by the end of the day. Especially if my nephew is over.

More dill mingling with one of the banana pepper plants.
I did two plantings of 'Clemson Spineless" okra after the first attempt resulted in rather awful germination. Okra likes it hot and dry, so it will be interesting to see how it does.

I have an abundance of borage, all self sowed from last year. It does double duty, as it is again a favorite of pollinators, and it also acts as a deterrent to those fat green tomato worms. I need to try my hand at borage soup.
The South half of the new bed is filled with more tomatoes (I think we put in 19 plants), some peppers, basil, bush beans, a row of turnips, tomatillos, and, on the old bamboo tuteur, cukes and pole beans.
I think I planted about seven varieties of basil. This is lime basil.

Waiting on the cucumbers to develop. We have many blooms!

I'm excited about these 'Indigo Rose' tomatoes. They will be a dusky purple red when ripe, and just over the size of a golf ball.

More beans and cucumbers on the second tuteur in the other half of the back bed.

Once they flower, the beans follow quickly. These are 'Kentucky Wonder'.
More beautiful tomatoes waiting to ripen. I need to prune all the plants of suckers to allow more sunlight to reach the fruit.

We've already had a few nice harvests of bush beans. It's almost time to make some Dilly Beans!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

When Life Gives You Red Currants, You Make Red Currant Jam

I don't want to jinx it by saying it, but this Spring and Summer has been perfect. Not for five years at least have things bloomed in such profusion, or fruited in such abundance. Everything but the gooseberries, that is. I'm afraid the gooseberries had more of a set back by the rabbits eating them then the currants did. Anyway, the currants! I've picked pounds and pounds! Every few days I will go out and pick another three or four pounds. I had about ten pounds in my refrigerator, another four pounds frozen in the freezer, and at least five pounds that have been given away. 

And there are still more on the branches!

I think I need to work on pruning as it seems they are ripening at different speeds. The ones the sun can reach the easiest naturally ripen first, while the ones on the bottoms of the shrubs plump up and turn red about two weeks later. This does allow for a prolonged harvest, however, so maybe I should just leave it as it is.

So what do you do when you have ten pounds of currants taking up way too much space in your fridge? Jam. Currents have a naturally high pectin content so you don't need anything except a pot, a food mill (or I suppose you could squeeze them through a piece of cheesecloth or try to push them through a fine mesh sieve), currents, and sugar. This recipe is perfect (although I would agree about using a little less sugar) and the blog itself is amazing!

Make sure you listen to Edith Piaf while making the jam.

Gah! I just love this! Like a copper pot full of rubies!

The currants quickly begin cooking down. Because I was going to use a food mill I could simply wash the berries and leave them on the stems.

My Grandfather made this wooden potato masher.

Using it to smash down the berries made me feel very "Old French Farmhouse".
My tiny apartment stove always makes me feel French. Ignore the splatters of currant juice.

Into the food mill the mixture goes. After all of the puree is through (and the seeds and stems are left behind) you need to weigh the puree.

I did this by first weighing the pot empty, and subtracting that from the filled pot.

It was about 2 1/4 pounds. I stopped at 2 pounds of sugar. I could have used less.

Mix the sugar and the puree, place on high heat, and bring to a boil.

Boil for five minutes. No stirring. Then turn it off. I used a slotted spoon to get the foam off, and then ladled into the containers.

The jam really began to thicken up before I was done filling the jars.

I wasn't going to process anything, so I used little reusable Ball containers to give away to my family.

Really good. Really tasty. I might experiment next with a current and onion chutney. Stay tuned...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Meatless Monday: Broccoli and Chickpea Salad

So there were no chickpeas in the pantry. I know! Crazy, right? Who doesn't have chickpeas? I bought everything to make this salad after seeing this video. Everything except a can of chickpeas because I just knew there were two cans in the pantry. Wrong. So much for buying backups!

Well, my lack of chickpeas was soon remedied and this delicious, fresh, bright salad was (finally) made. It made a great dinner. I almost wish I had made double because I could have certainly eaten it for days. The toasted pine nuts were left out as they are the one thing I am allergic to. At least I think I am. I mean, if I eat pesto made with pine nuts my throat starts to tickle and my eyes swell shut. It's not a cute look, so I avoid them.

Simple dressing made in the bottom of the bowl.

Everything else tossed on top. The parsley was fresh out of the garden. Had I seen the video a few weeks earlier the broccoli could have been, too!

Tossed, served, delicious. Seriously, it was so good I ate almost all of it in one day.
(But don't tell anyone.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Quick Tip - Rejuvenating Cut Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are, to me, the ultimate sign of summer. I've always longed for a hedge of bright blue blooms like you see in every picture of every garden in East Hampton or on Martha's Vineyard. Ours are always decidedly pink, despite yearly applications of soil acidifier, but still quite lovely.

Last week I decided to cut a few of the first blooms the Hydrangea Border had to offer, and they were a bit wilted a few days later. Thankfully there is a solution for wilted hydrangeas which I use year round, but especially in the summer after a hot spell. All you need is a sink and a plug!
It might be a little hard to see, but this large mophead was wilting considerably. The individual flowers that make up the flower head are wilted and their edges are slightly curled.

I filled the sink with cold water and plunged him in, leaving him while I went about my business and ran some errands.

Much better and much sturdier after the cool bath.

Together with one of the brightest of the pink mopheads (who took the same plunge the day before).