Friday, September 28, 2012

Whole Wheat Sour Dough Pancakes

    I've seriously neglected my sour dough starter over the summer.  I just haven't had the time to make bread as often as the starter needs to be fed.  About a month ago I began using the starter to make sour dough pancakes and was very pleased with the results. Even more important, my sweetie really liked them.  Today I tried a new wrinkle and made whole wheat sour dough pancakes.  That actually made them 1/2 whole wheat as the starter was made with unbleached bread flour.  They turned out to be fairly light and fluffy which I consider an important feature of a good pancake. The recipe I used was as follows:

1 one cup of sour dough starter
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon canola oil

     The pancakes were absolutely wonderful with the addition of some orange blossom honey and a glass of milk.  Sadly, Linda has a touch of the flu and wasn't able to enjoy the pancakes.  Since I made a lot more than I should eat at a sitting I ended up feeding most of them to the chickens. At least that way I'll recoup the egg that I used in the recipe. Now that is serious recycling.

    If anyone wants to try my sour dough starter I would be happy to send some to you. If you aspire to be a serious sour dough purist you may want to try your hand at capturing your own sour dough culture. It really is quite easy, assuming you have an apple tree in your yard. I grew my starter from a couple of apples I picked in our back yard. Instructions can be found in my blog post dated November 20, 2011.

     My ukulele book from the library finally came due.  The only song I managed to memorize was the "Sloop John B"., a cautionary tale about the violation of the Word of Wisdom..i.e. bad things happen when you get drunk.  However, I'm eight chords ahead of where I started, I can tune it, and I'm a little more comfortable with a few strum patterns..  Now I'm looking for a ukulele book to purchase. It would be nice to find one with at least a few Hawaiian songs.  My son informed me that a local guitar store has a ukulele class on Saturday mornings.  Unfortunately, I will have to work most Saturdays for the next  month or so.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Grape Harvest

   I stayed home with a cold today and ended up feeling better than I expected by late afternoon. Of course this was after I had already cancelled several activities.  Linda watched Britton, Lucy, and John this afternoon so I enjoyed their company somewhat at arms length in order to avoid passing along my cold. Its fun to hear their happy little voices, even if I can't be as close as I would like to be.

    Three year old John decided he wanted to be outside so I took a nice little walk with him along a portion of the access road on the north side of our lot. While we stopped to admire the ducks I noticed the grapes growing over the duck pen were getting ripe.  This particular variety of grape, named Valiant, is a very early concord type of grape. They have seeds, but are smaller than Concord grapes and ripen about three weeks earlier than Concords. The big clue for me that they are ripe enough to pick is when the little birds start to eat them. John found them to be a little tart for his liking, but they still make pretty good juice at that point. I've found that if I wait until they are completely ripened, the little birds collect too large of a tax on my grape harvest.
Ripe Valiant grapes growing over the duck pen

    After Beth had picked up the kids, I got out the steamer juicer and picked enough grapes to fill the basket of the juicer. There are still more grapes to be picked. I only got three quarts of juice from that first picking. My other three grape varieties, Interlaken, Canadice, and Flame, probably won't be ripe enough to pick until mid October.  I'm pretty limited as to what varieties I can grow in our maritime climate.  Interlaken and Canadice produce dependably every year. The Flame plants produce produce grapes every other year at best.  I know the official first day of fall was September 22,  but it doesn't really feel like fall to me until I start harvesting the grapes.
A nice variety of colors

   My three Americauna hens have started to lay. I've collected a number of the cutest little blue pullet eggs over the past week. The blue eggs go nicely with the light brown eggs from the Rhode Island Red and the dark brown eggs from the Domeniques. The runner ducks stopped laying a few weeks ago or I would also have white eggs in the mix. That should actually work out very well for us as the runner ducks started laying at the end of January and had close to a two month head start on the chickens.  If the chickens lay later into the year I won't have quite so long a period where we don't get fresh eggs.  I could increase the length of their egg laying period by adding some artificial light on a timer to the poultry pens. I suspect it may be healthier for the poultry if I don't try to squeeze every last egg from them in the shortest period of time. If I were in the egg business I would probably have a different attitude and demand higher production from the poultry.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Surreal Moment at the Bee Store

   This little anecdote is for the benefit of all those who are familiar with the LDS inspirational speaker/humourist named John Bytheway.  So I'm working at the bee store last week and I am helping a customer who is asking me some beekeeping questions. At some point in the conversation he decides to introduce himself to me and says,"I'm John, by the way.." As it turns out his last name was not really Bytheway.

    I had a pretty nice day today. I had to drive down to Kent in order to pick up 5 gallon and one gallon plastic buckets for the bee store. Its been a good honey year so container sales are up.  Linda was feeling good and decided to accompany me. That made the whole day a lot more fun and much less like work. My old beater cargo van isn't much to look at so I'm glad Linda isn't too proud to be seen in it. We spent most of the drive to  Kent making plans for this coming summer's cousin camp.

    We have decided on an Hawaiian theme but we haven't nailed down the location.  That means whatever tune we use this time for the Cousin Camp song will be something suitable to accompany with an ukulele. We've even found someone who can give some of the local cousins hula lessons. It also means we get to plan a luau, and have cool cousin camp uniform options (Hawaiian shirts and straw hats).  I'm seeing a lot of up sides to this particular theme choice. We'll have 21 kids there next year so it will not be possible to transport them anywhere for activities.  We need to find a site where we can do everything we want to do right there at the one location.

     Kent, Washington has a rather large industrial warehouse area. It seems that whatever you want to buy, someone is selling it out of a warehouse somewhere in Kent. After I loaded up on buckets and a few other things. we stopped by IKEA for lunch.  All in all, it was a pretty cheap date, but a good time.

    While I am on the subject of the surreal, I just finished watching a weird Monday Night Football game.  The Seahawks beat the Packers 14 to 12 with some very strange officiating calls throughout the game by the replacement referees. I have sympathy for Packer fans as I know how I felt when the Seahawks were treated unfairly by the officials in their one Super Bowl appearance.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pole Beans Update

    On September 10th I wrote about our bumper crop of pole beans and how I was trying lacto-fermented green beans this year.  I thought I should do a little update for those who are curious as to how that is working. After a mere twelve days the beans have developed a definite tangy flavor but at the same time they still taste like green beans. Linda and I both like the flavor which should be no great surprise since we both really like sour kraut. The beans shrunk a little bit, turned a paler shade of green, and the water turned cloudy. They are now about the same color as cooked green beans. They don't look disgusting yet, but we will see what happens over the next month or so.
Our prolific Blue Lake pole beans

    While I will eat green beans raw, I definitely prefer the flavor of cooked green beans. So far I find that I like the flavor of the raw lacto-fermented beans better than raw green beans and about the same as I like the cooked green beans. We'll see if that opinion holds up after the beans have lacto-fermented for another month or so. I haven't yet tried cooking the lacto-fermented beans, but I'm optimistic that I will like them. I'm sure any vegetable can be improved with the addition of bacon but I'm thinking the lacto-fermented green beans might be able to stand on their own. I'm optimistic enough that I did another gallon of beans this evening.

Lacto-fermented green beans at 12 days

I'm glad I don't have to can all of these green beans every three days.
     This method of preserving green beans is so much easier than pressure canning.  You simply have to cut off the ends and tips, pack the beans into a sterile jar, add the salt water and put on the cap.  The first gallon of lacto-fermented beans I did in a gallon jar with the flip bail and rubber gasket.  I don't have any other jars like that so I used two half gallon canning jars today.  I make up the salt water solution by bringing the water to a boil, then add 1/4 cup of plain salt for each quart of water. I wait for the water to cool before I pour it over the beans. I used plain salt because iodized salt can cause pickles to darken. I suspect it would have the same negative effect on the green beans.

    I picked an ear of my indian corn this afternoon as a test to see how well it is drying down.  It is starting to taste starchy, but it isn't close to where I would like it to be.  If doesn't dry down significantly within the next two weeks I will probably have to pick it anyway and let it dry over the floor vents up in the loft. It all depends on when the rains start.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Chicks in Oregon

    I made a trip to the Portland area earlier this week.  I had to fit in another trip to see grandchildren before my lone employee takes the month of October off to go hunting in Wyoming. This allowed me to deliver some of our surplus chickens to Sarah and further reduce the number of poultry mouths I will have to feed through the winter months.  The Dominique hens seem to have a strong mother instinct as all three of them have managed to set on a nest of eggs this summer and hatch out chicks.  So I drove to Portland with five six week old pullets in a cardboard box. I think one of them may actually be a little  rooster but its hard to tell with young chickens. People go to school for about six months or more to learn how to vent sex chicks and they still only get 90 percent correctly sexed. I find it easier to just wait until the roosters start to crow.

    Sarah's kids were delighted with the arrival of the chickens. She has several little wannabe farmers in her family. We went to a feed store the following morning to pick up a feeder and a waterer.  We were surprised to discover that particular feed store still had baby chicks for sale. Sarah jumped at the opportunity and let the girls pick out ten baby chicks to go with the older pullets I had brought them. Her husband, in a moment of weakness, had consented to let her do some chicks in  the garage. Sarah had thought it was already too late to get chicks this year. The purchase of the baby chicks complicated things as they now needed two feeders, two waterers, two types of chicken feed, and a heat lamp. They also needed two little cardboard boxes in which to transport the chicks so each of the younger girls could hold chicks on her lap. By late morning the older chickens were happily pecking away in their new home in a chicken tractor at a nearby friend's house. Meanwhile, the baby chicks were peeping their little hearts out in a cardboard box in the Kang's garage.
Grand Daughter Elise and her new best friend

The baby chicks' new home in the Kang's garage

    Baby chicks are serious kid magnets and are much more effective babysitters than a television set. Hannah turned out to be the most dedicated foster hen as she spent most of the remainder of that first day hanging out in the garage with the chicks.  An added bonus for the kids is the fact that they now get to read the newspaper comics every day as they are recycling their neighbor's newspapers into chick bedding. The next day Sarah found Elise quietly sitting on a chair in the garage, holding a chick in one hand while reading the newspaper comics. It sounds like Elise has found a new happy place.
Rachel looking determined as she kicks the ball towards the goal.

Rachel tries for an assist while her dad watches in the background 

     After a morning dedicated to poultry, I drove to Portland with Sarah and granddaughter Chloe to watch granddaughter Rachel play in a junior varsity soccer game. We stopped at Nike in Beaverton and picked up Sarah's husband, Chris, en route to the game.  Serendipitously, Rachel scored two goals as Forest Grove won the game 3-0.  I took lots of pictures. but most didn't turn out very well. It's hard to take great action pictures with an iPhone. I did get a really great picture of the opposing goalie's back as Rachel scored one of her goals. The game was even more lopsided than the score showed as ninety percent of the action took place in their opponents' half of the field. Rachel modestly attributed her two goals to the fact that her team's forwards had an off day. They have won several games 11-0 so I guess a mere three goals could seem like an off day.

    I spent Wednesday with daughter Rachel and her family. I visited a rock shop with Rachel in the morning. That is a hobby I could really get into if I were retired for real. Luckily, Lance and Luna had early release from school that day and got out at 1:30 pm.  Their school had dress like a pirate day to celebrate National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Since their school is 70 percent hispanic, the sign on their reader board was something like "Habla Como uno Pirato".  We picked up some Mediterranian  takeout as we walked home with the kids. Rachel was excited for me to try the fabulous tabouleh she gets from the Bagdad Cafe, one of her favorite local restaurants. They include some mint leaves in their tabouleh which is a big change from the way I make it.  Unfortunately they were out of tabouleh, but the baba ganoush (an eggplant dish), hummus, and bakhlava were all pretty good. I'll have to try the tabouleh on my next visit. I've seen mint included in tabouleh recipes and have been interested in trying it that way. However, my primary tabouleh customer is Linda who prefers I leave out the mint leaves.

    I got the grand tour of Rachel's garden and and actually got to eat a fresh fig from one of the fig trees I had given her several years ago. We discussed their little green house, seed saving, and Rachel's plans for her garden. We also harvested her Rockwell dry beans which Lance help me shell with great enthusiasm. Of course her dry beans are running a week or so ahead of mine due to Portland's warmer weather. Lance showed me his really cool wall mounted hot wheels track and I got to demonstrate my improving skills on the ukulele. I say improving skills because that is the only direction in which they can go.  Luna is really excited because Chet is shopping for a drum set. Luna really wants to learn to play the drums.

    I finally left Hillsboro at about 6:30 p.m. and headed home to Snohomish. All in all it was a great trip, but way too short. I will miss the bee store when we get it sold, but it does tie me down. I am really looking forward to having more time to spend with family.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chicken and Dumplings

    I butchered our surplus rooster on Friday and cooked him in the crock pot Saturday. I was ready to make another try at chicken and dumplings.  I used a recipe from a library book, The Best chicken Recipes.  Once again, the recipe was somewhat of a starting point as I didn't follow it very closely.  I like the way the chicken turns out cooked in the crock pot so I did that rather than following the more complex cooking procedure in the cookbook.  Besides, I mainly wanted to focus on the dumplings themselves. I already knew I could make a pretty tasty chicken stew. The chicken was then cooked, deboned, and ready to become chicken and dumplings.

   The main suggestion I got from my two chicken and dumplings experts (Mom and Aunt Dolores) after my last attempt was to not cook the dumplings in the crock pot. the slow cooking allows the dumplings to absorb too much liquid.  They indicated that cooking the dumplings at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time would produce lighter dumplings.  Dolores also suggested that   I remove the chicken fat when it congealed on top of the broth after the cooked chicken had cooled. This particular chicken, an Americauna rooster, turned out to be pretty lean compared to previous home grown chickens.  I didn't get a tablespoon of chicken fat after I let the cooked chicken cool. I cut the deboned chicken meat into bite-size pieces then added chopped carrots, onions, and green beans. The only seasoning I used was salt. pepper, and minced garlic. The recipe in the cookbook called for chopped celery which I couldn't find in our fridge. I substituted the green beans because we are currently getting lots of green beans from our vegetable garden.
The chicken and dumplings rooster is the chicken on the right.

   I followed the dumpling recipe from the cookbook fairly closely.  The recipe gave the option of using either butter or the reserved chicken fat in making the dumplings. Our rooster failed to provide even one tablespoon of fat, let alone three tablespoons, so I went with the butter option. I also cut the salt in half and used baking soda and buttermilk rather than baking powder and regular milk.  Okay, so I guess I didn't follow the dumpling recipe very closely, but I did use two cups of flour, just not the all-purpose flour called for in the recipe.  The dumpling recipe I used was as follows:

   2 cups biscuit flour
   1 teaspoon baking soda
   1/2 teaspoon salt
   3 tablespoons butter
   1 cup buttermilk

Chicken and Dumplings

    I used a pastry cutter to mix the butter into the dry ingredients, added the buttermilk, and mixed until smooth.  Then I simply used a spoon to drop golfball size globs of dough onto the surface of the boiling chicken stew and let them cook covered for about ten minutes. Then I removed the cover and let the dumplings cook for another ten minutes. The cooking instructions came from Mom and Aunt Dolores. In lieu of my chicken and dumpling experts I had to use Linda as my chicken and dumplings guinea pig. Linda's childhood memories of chicken and dumplings were not pleasant so this was a little daunting.  Imagine my joy when she pronounced them to be delicious. She even proved her sincerity by going back for seconds after I had gone upstairs. I tried them myself, and sure enough they were quite good. They were about as good as chicken and dumplings I remember from a little homestyle restaurant in Houston. I would still like to fix them sometime when Mom and Aunt Dolores are here. I would like to get their suggestions on the improved version. Also, Aunt Dolores had promised to send me her favorite chicken and dumplings recipe which I would like to try making. Other than that I think I am ready to declare victory in the quest for good chicken and dumplings.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pole Beans

   One of the things that turned out very well this year is our Blue Lake pole beans. They were a little late in getting started due mainly to the fact that I had to move a major portion of the garden thanks to Everett City Water's access road. I'm not bitter about that because I really love our wonderful water. Also  I'm very happy having a significant portion of the vegetable garden in our very sunny front yard. Anyhow, once the pole beans got going they have made up for lost time. I started picking green beans about a week ago. Today I got a gallon of green beans in just one picking.

    I'm trying something different this year with the green beans. In the past I've always pressure canned our green beans. I will still probably can some green beans this year. However, I'm also trying lacto-fermentation with green beans. Think of it as making sour kraut with green beans.  I learned about this method of preservation in a book I now carry at the bee store, "Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning".  It describes various traditional methods of food preservation in France that were collected by a French organic gardening organization called Terre Vivante.  The process is pretty simple with green beans. I simply had to cut off the ends and pack the beans into a jar. Then I added a brine solution of 1 quart of water and 2 tablespoons until the beans were covered. I sealed them up and now I just have to wait a few months for the lacto-fermentation to do its magic.
A one gallon jar of green beans ready for lacto-fermentation

There are other preservation techniques in the book that I would like to try.

    In addition to the green beans and dry beans we are harvesting lots of summer squash, all of it from just one plant.  I planted two summer squash plants, but one of them only produced male blossoms.  I also harvested our first zucchini today. Better late than never.  Our spaghetti squash are almost ready to pick. I've been watching carefully for the tendrils opposite each plant to begin to dry up. Winter squash were a total bust thanks to the slugs. Its just as well. Most of my winter squash seeds were obtained from a friend who will remain nameless.  Apparently, he was unaware that squash have to be separated from other varieties of squash in  order to set true seed.  The seeds he planted were crossed with zucchini and who knows what else and produced a motley mess of mutt squash.  I have several other books at the store that have instructions on how to save squash seed.  It involves separation of certain types of squash from each other with some hand pollination thrown in for good measure.  Since I would like to save seed from squash it appears that I am going to have to limit the types of squash I try to grow. My friend has persuaded me that both Golden Globe and Lakota are winter squash varieties worth trying. I'm going to pick just one of them to try next year.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cherry Lemon Scones

My latest used book store treasure
   I tried out one of the recipes in my new cookbook, "Biscuits and Scones".  Actually, I can't say I really tried out the recipe as I modified it right from the start.  First of all, I didn't have any fresh cranberries so I substituted dried pie cherries. Then I had to modify the amount of liquid because I had used dried fruit rather than the fresh fruit in the original recipe.  I also substituted lemon zest for orange zest as we had lemons and were fresh out of oranges.  I was more concerned about the basic scone recipe than I was the add-on flavorings. They turned out well, very light and fluffy. We only got to sample one as they are designated to go to a youth fireside this evening.  I have to give Linda credit for suggesting the frosting, a nice touch.

Cherry Lemon Scones
     The scone recipe, as modified, is as follows:

1 cup buttermilk
1 duck egg
3 cups biscuit flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter
1/2 cup dried pie cherries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon butter at room temperature

     Mix the dry ingredients and cut in the stick of butter. Add the egg to the buttermilk and beat.  Mix the liquid ingredients with the dry ingredients. Knead the dough 5 or six times, then divide it in half. Roll each half into a circle and cut into six sections. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Then rub the room temperature butter onto the tops of each scone. I specified duck egg as the recipe called for a large egg and a duck egg is a very large egg. I think I'm going to have a lot of fun experimenting with various additions to this particular recipe.

    I purchased a new biscuit flour the other day.  I'm going to try White Spear pastry flour.  It is 9.5 percent protein so I think I can use it the way it is rather than doing a 50/50 mix of cake flour and all-purpose flour as I did the last time.  That way I only have to purchase one 50 pound bag of flour rather than two 50 pound bags of flour(one of cake flour and one of all-purpose flour) and I don't have to go through the hassle of mixing the two bags of flour together.  I am optimistic that it will work out well. We'll see if the quality of the biscuits is maintained.  The precent protein isn't listed on most flour bags. I copied the label information of the various types of flour sold at Cash and Carry, then went on the internet in order to find which flour met my requirements.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Learning to Play the Ukulele and other Important Matters

   Over the past few weeks I have been spending some time with a library book trying to learn to play the ukulele.  Linda bought one a few months back with the idea that we would be able to use it at our next cousin camp.  We're obviously thinking about an Hawaiian theme.  She wasn't doing much with it so I thought I would give it a try. A little instruction book came with the ukulele.  It has a photo of an Hawaiian on the cover, but no Hawaiian songs inside the book. Then I found a library book that I ordered.  It was very helpful and had chord charts for about twenty songs, none of which were Hawaiian.  Fortunately, there is a lot of Hawaiian ukulele music to be found on the internet.  In the meantime I am going to work on learning some of the non Hawaiian songs in the library book until I learn a few more chords and get more comfortable with the instrument.  So far I have learned the chords for "Polly Wolly Doodle","Hey Goodlookin", and "The Sloop John B". Now if I could only sing tenor I could sing along. I tried singing "The Sloop John B" but it was painfully above my voice range and sounded pretty pitiful.

    The ukulele seems to be a fairly simple instrument. Since there are only four strings, the chords are generally less complex than guitar chords. Its also very portable due to its small size. The standard tuning seems a bit odd in that the strings don't go from lower to higher pitch as you go across the fingerboard.  I feel like I am making good progress and am on track to get learn a nice selection of Hawaiian and beach songs before cousin camp next summer.

    I spent some time yesterday cleaning up and organizing bee stuff. I ran about 25 quart jars through the dishwasher so I can use them to feed the bees. I have a dozen bee hives that each need to be treated for mites and fed at least 2 gallons of sugar syrup. Amazingly enough I also have a little more honey to harvest. A few of my bee hives have actually gathered some knotweed honey. I'm getting the last of the honey off this morning.  I stopped by Cash and Carry yesterday and bought 150 pounds of sugar. This morning I made up six gallons of sugar syrup. That is only 1/4 of the total amount of syrup I'll need to feed my bees this fall.  That is one reason I'm very happy with just 12 bee hives.  Anything more than that and it gets to be more heavy lifting than I care to do.

   I donated blood this morning.  It was a bit sad at the blood center in Everett as there were very few customers. I guess donations must fall off during the summer.  After today's donation I am up to 29 pints. I feel a greater obligation these days to donate blood on a regular basis as now close to half the population is excluded from donating. It seems that a lot of the exclusions stem from either foolish lifestyle choices or from where people have lived over the past ten years.

    After I returned home from donating blood, Linda and I had a date day. We spent part of the afternoon shopping at various cutesy stores on First Street in Snohomish. My favorite of course was the used book store. I love browsing in book stores. I looked for a ukulele instruction book to no avail.  I settled instead for a little biscuit and scone cookbook. It had at least a dozen recipes I would like to try. Obviously I will need more biscuit and scone guinea pigs. After shopping we dined at the Snohomish Pie Factory, visited Linda's favorite fruit and vegetable stand, and finally went to a movie..."Bourne Legacy". It was a good movie as far as action movies go. I have to admit that I have a hard time with movies that portray massive government conspiracies and a government as full of amoral control freaks.  However, I had a good time hanging out with Linda.
Note the two chicks playing peek a boo under their mother.

     We had a bit of exciting news today.  One of my hens hatched out another four chicks, two gray and two yellow. That increases the total of chickens I need to transport to Sarah up to ten, assuming nothing bad happens to the four new little chicks.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Saving Seeds

    I've taken my vegetable gardening to a new level in that I've become a seed saver. It started several years ago with my corn bread obsession when I began saving seed from my indian corn. Now I've added peas and two varieties of dry beans to my seed saving list.  I don't know why I didn't save seed for peas sooner. It happens so naturally in that sooner or later every year we fail to pick the peas in a timely fashion. In the past I've picked the over-developed pods and fed them to the chickens.  This year I left them on the plants to dry down and give us the seeds for next year's pea crop.  Saving seeds for dry beans was more pre-meditated.  I put a lot of effort into choosing varieties that were well adapted for our maritime climate.  The varieties I selected, Yin Yang and Rockwell, both happen to be very pretty beans, but that was serendipitous. There are more of the Rockwell beans in the photo below because they are maturing about a week earlier than the Yin Yang beans. A week earlier is a really big deal in our maritime climate.
Rockwell Beans

Yin Yang Beans

   I've been taking advantage of my iPhone to listen again to last April's General Conference.  I usually listen while I spin in the mornings or while I am taking care of the animals. Since the October General conference is almost upon us I thought I should review the last one in preparation for the coming one. Yesterday morning I listened to talks by President Monson and President Uchtdorf.  When I listen to the modern day prophets and apostles I am always touched by their humility and sincerity. I am so grateful there are such good and kind men who are willing to make such great personal sacrifices to serve the rest of us. It makes me feel a bit embarrassed that I have ever complained about the time I spend in church service.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Catching Up

   Now the Evergreen State Fair is finished, my honey is harvested for the most part, and the garden is winding down. I feel like I can get caught up a bit on some of my remaining summer projects.  In particular I need to take out some of the stumps in the front yard and I need to make some significant progress on my stock of rough cut cedar boards in the garage while we still have dry weather.  I have some piles of firewood that need to be split and stacked and I need to get my bees ready for the winter. I also still have some food preservation projects looming on the horizon.

   Linda considers the stumps to have been one of my primary summer priorities and has accused me of being a slacker with the stumps. Little does she realize that the stumps are a fairly big priority for me as well. I'm actually looking forward to using a stump grinder. I've been told a stump grinder is even more fun than a chain saw.  I'm also looking forward to the expansion of our front yard vegetable garden into area currently occupied by stumps.  I'm just waiting patiently for the immediately adjacent vegetable garden to mature.
I know the beans look like they are dying, but they are also drying down at the same time.

    I am very pleased with results from our front yard vegetable garden. Sheet composting with a cardboard mulch worked better than I expected. The weed problems were minimal compared to a new garden bed prepared with a rototiller.  Linda thought the garden looked cute and was happy there was a little less lawn to mow. We've had a great bean year. The dry beans I planted seem to have done well and are in the process of drying down.  They should easily be ready to harvest before the rainy season starts. The pole beans have finally started to produce.  I'm going to try a new method of preserving the green beans and do lacto-fermentation rather than pressure canning.  The green beans are simply packed in jars after the strings are removed and a salt brine is added.  Its sort of like making sour kraut from green beans. The lacto-fermentation turns a low acid vegetable into a high acid vegetable.

    The sunflower plants I got from Rachel did very well. I have several large seed heads drying down.  I planted one sunflower in the middle of one of my green bean tipis and consequently, it is well hidden from the birds.  We did not have good luck with the lettuce plants she gave us. Cutworms took them out one by one, just as they were starting to look promising.  The broccoli Rachel gave us did okay, but I'm not sure I will grow it again next year. Linda doesn't seem inclined to cook it and it is fairly far down the list of my favorite vegetables.  We have a bumper crop of spaghetti squash (I counted fifteen of them yesterday).  I did a search on the internet to discover how to know when spaghetti squash are ready to harvest.  Apparently the tendril which is opposite the stem of each squash will start to shrivel when the squash is ready to be picked.

    I intended to experiment growing tomatillos this year. Somehow I ended up planting a Roma tomato instead. The lone tomato plant has done well, nestled among the dry beans. It has set a lot of fruit, none of which is ripe yet. The big question is whether the fruit will ripen before the dreaded late blight sets in.  That was the whole reason I wanted to try growing tomatillos in the first place. They aren't susceptible to late blight. The tomato was a transplant that I started from seed and I don't recall starting any tomato seeds. I gave up on growing tomatoes in Western Washington years ago.  I can only assume the seed packet was mislabeled. I will just have to wait until next year to grow tomatillos. That is a common mantra for both sports fans and gardeners.."Wait until next year."