Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Cat


The fall colors are beginning to appear nearly leaf by leaf here along the Front Range. While we live on the edge of our small town, to the south of us the farmers have begun cutting corn. Soon those fields will be amber with corn stock. The onion harvest is on, too. The large farm trucks loaded with onions on the way to storage rumble down the highway leaving a trail of dried onion skins floating in the breeze. The roadside will be dotted with those huge awesome blossom onions that get shipped out of state to restaurants. We can buy them locally and let me tell you they are painfully stout to chop. 

And so the rhythm of life continues. The days are warm, sunny, quiet and peaceful. 



Meet The Cat. He is a wild cat that showed up here some months ago, a shadowy figure that we would see hunting mice out the in the pasture. He'd roam the yard, not daring to venture too close. The Head Gardner began to talk to him, call to him: Kitty, Kitty, Kitty. He looked bedraggled and thin, sickly. The HG began putting feed out for him, but the neighbor cats ate it. Now we feed him on the patio. He comes every morning and every evening asking to be fed with a sweet kitty meow. The HG wants to make friends and has barely touched him. And it looks like he will be a permanent member of the family here. We need to catch him to take him to the vet to shots and a little bit of a surgery. He will wear out his welcome as he seems to want fight with Mo and the cats next door. 

Remember the "Shout Heard Around the Yard" post earlier this summer: "I have Grapes"? Well here is our meager grape harvest:


They must be Concords with seeds, a bit sour, and not enough to do much with. But I have my own grapes. I hope we can repeat the yield next summer.


I wanted to share the apple jelly with you one more time before I stored it. The apples lent a pale yellow, cloudy juice but with very good apple flavor. I added half a cup of cinnamon red hots, a childhood favorite treat. I did add sugar too and pectin. The granddaughters loved the jelly and thought it would be good on their cream cheese and jelly bagels. I thinks so, too.


The jalapenos nearly gassed me, too, when I chopped them. I was a bit wiser this year to wear plastic gloves. Their fumes clogged up my throat, causing a coughing fit. This jelly is not as clarified as it was last year and it seemed to thicken rather than to jell as last year's did, so it is not a pretty clear green jelly. I used Truvia baking blend, a blend of the sweetner and sugar, trying to cut down the amount of sugar. I decided that the compromised color and texture are not worth the less sugar route. We will only be eating a bit at time. Next year: sugar.



And so the sun sets on another day at the Garden Spot. I have a counter full of tomatoes in various stages or ripeness. Each day when I go out to feed, I tromp through the fallen tomato vines picking the ripe and nearly ripe ones. I think I will can or freeze spaghetti sauce. Never done that before, but I am game.

I am glad that you took the time stop by. I love your comments. Thank you. See you next time. 







Sunday, September 21, 2014

An Apple A Day


I have written before about my childhood chores during the summer. It was always my job to gather the windfall apples from our small farm's 60 year old apple trees to make apple sauce every summer day before I could go ride my horse. Certainly not my favorite thing to do, but the family did love the apple sauce. I never could decide if I liked it best steaming hot freshly reamed or well chilled on breakfast toast. I'd add lots of sugar and cinnamon. It was a messy, hot chore with small, wormy apples that I had to chop and carve and cut around blemishes and worms.

Thus when I found myself at ACE Hardware the other day looking to buy what I called a reamer, I was chuckling to myself. As a child, I swore that I would never make apple sauce when I grew up. But there I was asking the clerk for assistance in finding one. I learned, too, that the contraption isn't a reamer, it is a chinois. It's fancy name doesn't make the chore any more pleasant. I know that I had my mother's, but it is one of those items that has disappeared over the years.

With the apples we picked Sunday still on the patio, I decided that I should do something with them and not let them go to waste. Echos of my parents' harsh lessons linger in my own psyche. The apples don't look very good do they? As a kid not realizing that we were poor, I helped with food preparation and preserving, accepting the work as a way of life. My mother pickled, roasted, stewed, steamed, and canned the food that dad grew. She worked so hard preserving everything from pickling cucumbers and beets to making jellies and jams from wild plums, crab apples, even service berries that she gathered in the mountains. She canned tomatoes by the gallons, making juices and preserves, and butters from tomatoes. She baked green tomato pie to use up green tomatoes. Along with the smells of cooking food and hot steam from the caner, there was that silent whisper in the kitchen:  Let nothing go to waste. 
I spent the better part of the day hearing that whisper,  reflecting and remembering and thinking about how today's homemakers manage their food preparation. I remembered how hard our parents worked to put food on our table that was natural, safe, tasty (for the most part), and healthy. I had remarked to my brother once the Dad either grew our food or hunted it. There was never a question about what was in our food or where it came from. The only pre packaged foods in mamma's kitchen were Betty Crocker Cake mixes, Bisquick, Koolade, and Jell-O. A doctor had told dad way back in the 1950s that commercially grown beef and pork were the cause of his gout, so he provided his family with elk and deer meat. I spent the day making apple sauce from the pathetic apples that we gathered and salsa from the few tomatoes that we salvaged after the frost, appreciating that I was able to store some food for the winter, thankful that I knew how to do it, and amazed that I wanted to. 

I had other thoughts, too, as I worked. 

I caught the tail end of a documentary on GMOs on a public TV station. Now, I don't want to enter into a discussion on GMO food, but I did spent considerable time thinking about one of the speakers who urged her audience to grow their own food because it would be safer and better than commercially grown food.  Grow heirloom varieties, she said. Use no pesticides or commercial fertilizers, she advised. I got caught up in analyzing what she was asking and wondering if she gardened. 

Wouldn't be nice if everyone grew their own food? I thought of all of the benefits that we as gardeners enjoy when we grow our own food:

*Home grown fruits and vegetables taste better
*Home grown fruits and vegetables are probably healthier especially if the gardener doesn't use chemicals in the garden or with careful application of chemicals.
*Home grown fruits and vegetables are fresh, tree ripened, vine ripened, picked just before or at their prime
*And there is great satisfaction in growing our own food
*Gardening is fun, noble, spiritual


On the negative side:

*Food grown without some chemical treatment will not be perfect such as the apples that I had to work with today. I had to do a lot cutting around bad spots. These apples were not wormy, but they had been hail damaged and bird pecked and had plenty of rough spots. I know for certain that there would be homemakers grossed out at such produce. As for tomatoes, fortunately we have never had a horned tomato worm infestation. My dad did. His solution was to simply plant one for the worms because they become the beautiful humming bird moth. Nor do we treat for any diseases or vermin in the garden with any short of chemical. 
*Growing our own food is hard work. Fun, but hard. The process begins by crawling through gardening magazines and catalogs, tiling the the garden in the spring, planting, weeding, watering, weeding, watering, weeding. . . . Then figuring out what to do with infestations, molds, wilts, black leaves, yellow leaves, turned down leaves, yada, yada, yada.

*Then there is the weather. Drought. Wind. Hail. Heat. And frost at the end of the growing season 
when  the tomatoes have been slow to ripen and we just need a few more days of sunshine. Or hoping for a wonderful peach crop this season, a late killing freeze wipes out our dreams of fresh peaches from our back yard. Or the robins striping the cherry tree the day before we plan to make the one and only cherry pie from our prized little tree.

*Once we get the crop harvested, then we have to figure out what we will do with it.
Canning is a lot of work, hot, messy, time consuming, even stressful. Will it turn out? Will the lids seal? Will the family like what I have spent hours preparing? 

*And then there is the expense. Buying seedlings at the nursery is not cheap. Starting seeds at home seems to be a smart way to save money, but once again seeds and baby plants need care and nurturing and the right growing conditions. And gardeners have to buy compost, manure, hoes, shovels, gardening gloves and hats, rototillers, sun screen, hoses, fertilizers. What have I left out?                                                                                                                                                                                        After harvest: jars, lids, a caner, tongs and the list goes on.

Preparing the apples today wasn't all that bad and I got to have fresh apple sauce for lunch, the house smelled nice, and I put some in the freezer. And there is still a bucket full of apples on the patio that I should do something with.

Daddy would be proud of me. Momma would be smiling. I rested for a while, had some lunch and started in again to make salsa.

At the end of a long day of standing, sweating, and crying (those onions were stout) and reflecting on gardening and food preparation, I thought again wouldn't it be nice if everyone grew their own garden and put up their own food, assuring themselves of providing fresh, pure, nutritious food for their family?



I don't see that happening. Today's family is a busy family. Mom works, Dad works, the kids play soccer, take ballet lessons, play the piano, do homework. Given today's lifestyle, when are families supposed to grow and preserve their own food? Supermarkets have the consumer spoiled providing perfect fresh fruits and vegetables, worm and blemish free shipped in from exotic places like Florida, California, and Columbia(?).  How many food DYIers would see the good parts of naturally grown apples, over looking the worm holes, bird bites, and bug nibbles? I am afraid that the documentary's speaker is daydreaming as she  encourages her audience to become food independent. Perhaps the closest homemakers can come to that  is visit the farmer's markets in their area, to buy locally, buying in enough quantity to can and freeze enough for a long winter. Sorry kids, no soccer today. The apples are ready and we gotta can green beans for the winter before that ballet lesson. 





Oh, then there is the mess. What a mess. I didn't have a fancy cook top or dishwasher as a kid or a big kitchen where I could sprawl out or air conditioning. But what delicious memories of working in the small steam filled farmhouse kitchen elbow deep in apple pulp trying to finish my chore so that I go be a kid and ride with the wind.

Not to end a negative note, I do encourage grow your own, pick your own, preserve your own. My go to website is Pick Your Own. Org where you will learn everything you need to need to know about canning pretty much anything you want. The site is thorough including recipes, tips and hints, do's and don'ts, and equipment, even state by state.

So grow your own on a patio in a pot or hanging basket, on a porch, or in a side garden. Replace your dangling petunias and potato vines in hanging baskets with strawberries. Hide some cucumbers in with your geraniums. Use zucchini as vines in pots instead of expense trailing sweet potato vines. Pick you own  food for a fresh salad, a few strawberries on your morning cereal, or some cold refrigerator  pickles. Preserve your own by freezing, canning, dehydrating. 

Today I have to clean the kitchen and I will start all over. I want to make jalapeno jelly and apple jelly. I'd better get to work. 


I am linking with Judith for Mosaic Monday. Be sure to visit Lavendercottagegardening.com

Have a wonderful week end. I do enjoy your visits and love your comments. Thank you for taking the time to read this very long post. 








Sunday, September 14, 2014

A New Voice in the Garden


There is a new voice at the Garden Spot. As I was feeding the other night, Sundance, odd kid that he is, did something weird: he left his stall to go outside and have a look around. I wondered what he was up to. He stood by the fence looking toward the hen house. As I wondered about doing chores,  I heard what he must have heard: a croaky EEERRRRER. I thought, sounds like the neighbors had finally gotten some chickens. Then I heard it again EEERRRRER. Much too close.


Meet Chanticleer and Peretelote


I have named him Chanteleer and her name, obviously, is Peretilote, inspired by the rooster and his hen in the "Nun's Priest's Tale" in Chaucer's Cantebury Tales They remaining 4 baby chicks that the HG purchased in the spring. While the chicks are all supposed to be females, occasionally one will be male. He will be a grand rooster. You can see the difference in the coloring between him and the hen. They are silver laced red wyandottes. I don't know how long he will here because he will mess up our egg production, not that we are getting that many eggs now, anyway and the city ordinance for chickens excludes roosters. When the HG presented his proposal to allow chickens in the city limits, even though we are zone agricultural, roosters were excluded. Our poultry plan did not include a rooster either because they can be very aggressive not only with the hens, but they will attack children and adults, too. The HG has made friends with him, so we will see how aggressive a bird he is.

Our growing season may not necessarily be over. Since we had our first freeze last week, we are now officially in Indian Summer. We still have an abundance of green tomatoes in the garden, so I am hoping that the weather will stay warm enough so that the ones left will ripen. The frost was a light frost, nipping the top layer of plants. I am glad that I took these last photos of the few flowers out by the garden: an handful of zinnias and the wild sunflower.








We just did not spent the amount of time in the garden that we should have this year, so it was really weedy and messy. We will do better next year. It is still amazing just how much plants desire to live. Here is our harvest:


Two Carrots. (The seeds didn't germinate and the HG cultivated them out--by accident)

A handful of red beets.



A few Black Crim tomatoes. I love the basket. I can wash the vegetables in it before taking them in the house.


An EZ-Go full of butternut squash and spaghetti squash along with the rest of the garden harvest: a handful of potatoes, the last of the strawberries, lots of jalapeño peppers.  Lots of tomatoes and a lot Anaheim and jalapeño peppers.We didn't get our potatoes in early enough and what we did plant probably didn't get enough water. 


Apples


We don't know what sort of apples these are, but for as badly as they look (bird pecked and wormy) they are tasty. I will make apple sauce this week.






Sundance isn't picky. He loves apples, wormy or not.




The little girls were here yesterday and left their mark: apples on the fence posts. Love it. 

Today's Gardening Tip: Paper Grocery Bags do not--I repeat-- do not make very good containers for hauling garden produce fresh from the garden.



A busy week ahead. Looks like Jen and I will be making salsa and I will be making jalapeño jelly. What plans do you have for week?

I will be linking with Judith at Lavender Cottage for Mosaic Monday. Joins us

Have a fabulous week. I appreciate that you have taken the time visit.






Sunday, September 7, 2014

Shopping

It is just me, or do the weeks seem to just fly by? Here it is already Sunday evening. Are you ready for some football? To all of our Bronco fans, season opener in the Mile High City tonight. I can't even tell you who we are playing. None the less time to share my Denver Bronco Pride.

Heather and the boys were up this week end. It has become a tradition to go to a small private nursery that specializes in miniature plants, alpine plants, succulents, and pine trees. Come along with me as we build a little rock garden for Mosaic Monday at Lavender Cottage.

The shopping spree was a family affair with all 5 grandchildren, both daughters, even grandpa, and a naked Rapunzel doll.



Our first stop is always the hen house to view the nice assortment of laying hens. The hens are really hard to photograph through the fence, but I love the black ones. They are an iridescent black which makes them glow that neon green in the sunlight.



We talked turkey, too, as we wondered around the yard. It is a small place with the green houses, potting shed, a large vegetable garden and several raised beds of very young pines. (no photo). So it is a compact garden with so much to see.


 Time to get down to business. Heather's friend Karen who propagates the plants, gave the girls a cart, to haul the plants, flats to carry them home in, and a clipboard and pencil to write name tags for each plant since only one plant in each growing flat is labeled.


They have the neatest dog that loves to play with the kids.



Now, down to some serious shopping.





It really is cool to see the little succulents all lined up neat and pretty. Karen supplies High Country Gardens and local nurseries with her plant material. Since it is the end of the growing season, the green houses are pretty bare.



The rock garden in the center of yard provides lots of inspiration and good ideas. I love this globe blue spruce.



Heather and Karen can spend hours talking plants. Some women love shopping for shoes. Heather loves her plants.


The blue spruce is Colorado's state tree, a tree that I love. Look at this cute little tree. I'd love to take it home with me.



Time to tally up. Guess who writes the check?



Not all of our plants that we chose. These are what the girls chose. Karen threw in a couple of free ones. Did you know that when a Hen and Chick blooms, the hen that blooms, dies? So Lucy got a freebie. But Aunt Heather says that if you cut off the bloom, the hen lives. (Lucy calls it peeps and chick)


So here it is. Our rock garden. We will add more each year as we make our annual visit. I wish I could remember the name of the little nursery in the middle of town, but Karen only deals with very special clients and Heather has made an effort to nurture her friendship, but if you go to the Denver Botanical Plant Sale next spring, you will probably meet Karen there. Stop and say "hi"; she's a sweet lady.


Meanwhile, back at the Garden Spot. We have the sweetest little neighbor boys 4 and 6 who come visit all the time. They like to pick flowers from the garden to make their momma happy. You can see that their favorite one is the rudbeckia in the center garden. The other day little Bobby came by to tell me that my flowers were dying. He was so concerned, so we went out to see just what the problem was, and indeed their favorite flower is dying. I explained that they will dry up, make seeds, spread those seeds all over and be more beautiful flowers next summer. He liked that answer.



Hopefully the point of the center garden will fill in nicely. The grasses are really gaining some size, finally.


There's a bear spot on the burm since Heather and the Head Gardener took a saw to the dead pine tree.


A ponderosa pine, just like this one, that just plain died. No reason. Just died. We will clean out the root ball and seed it to grass.





The fairy garden is all grown over. The decorative strawberry that I planted last year as ground cover has gone to town  filling in just as I wanted, but but the fairies and the gnomes are no longer visible. I may have to come up a new location next spring.

The weather is warm, but mild with threats of rain in the afternoons. Corn harvest will start soon. I love summer and hate saying good-bye, but I am ready for Jack Frost arrive to shut down the garden. I am done. What about you?

Have a fabulous week. Not sure what I will be doing this week, but for sure I will be visiting you. Thanks so much taking time to visit.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Just Peachy




The week is coming to an end. The weather has been mild, even hot yesterday with a promise of a change in the weather today. A cold front is supposed to come in with cold and rain. I expected to awake to that change this morning, but the early morning is still, cool, and quiet. I am on chore duty, for the Head Gardener has exchanged his gardener's hat for his hunting cap.


The week began with canning peaches in Jen's kitchen on Sunday.


 Since she now has a gas range and I have the glass cook top, we decided to do the canning on the gas stove. It was an easy chore since we have it down to a system. I blanched, peeled, and sliced while she boiled the jars, filled the jars, capped them, and put them in the water bath. I had wanted to water pack rather than using a sugar syrup, but I chickened out when I read that sugar does help to preserve the color. Instead we made a a very light syrup: 1 1/4 cups of sugar to 9 cups of water. Don't they look pretty in the jars?



Bubble bubble, toil but no trouble.





I picked a few tomatoes and peppers yesterday after I fed the horses and hens. I need to pick a few more, hoping to have enough to can salsa. I don't know about others in our area, but our tomatoes are very slow to ripen. They seem perfectly happy to stay green. I usually have an abundance of peppers, and while the Anaheims are prolific, the bell peppers are slackers this year. I do have one lovely red, small, pepper. I pick the ones that are destined to be orange or yellow to ripen in the house because otherwise they will just rot on the vine.


 How do you like my turkey tureen, a thrift store treasure. Do you have ARC in your area. I choose ARC over Goodwill because of the prices.



Here is a Black Crim tomato. It is a very sweet and very juicy tomato and not the traditional bright red. While not really black, it does sport a dark green stem top and a much darker red outer skin and inner flesh. My favorite way to eat tomatoes these days is a simple salad with avocado, onion, a sprinkle of lemon or lime juice, a dash of pepper, a bit of salt, some garlic powder. Sounds a bit like guacamole, but I only slice the avocado rather than moosh it. Were I brave, I'd slice up a bit jalapeno pepper, for I have plenty in the garden, but I am not that brave.


Okay, I have to admit that I started this post on the iPad early before I went to do chores. I took the camera with me to take some photos. Let me tell you, the boys did fuss with me because they are used to the Head Gardener's no nonsense approach to chores. I know he talks to them, but I want linger and take pictures. Smile Sundance. Smile!


Pop needs a bath, don't you think. Breakfast first.


The hens aren't too thrilled about a photo session either. These are the youngsters that we bought as chicks this spring. They are really pretty hens. Let me see if I can get their breed correct: Silver Laced Red Wyandotte. They should start laying brown eggs soon. We are down to six hens with one not doing so well and only one laying. I have told the Head Gardener that perhaps we should see if any local pet shelters have hens to increase the flock. My colleague at the university will be wanting eggs.


Monday the girls ended summer vacation with a riding lesson at my friend's barn where her daughter gave the lesson. Ellie rides without a lead rope. She looks so small on big Bear. He is such a gentle soul. And what a beautiful day it was. Cooler, sunny, a beautiful Colorado Labor Day.


Lucy learns to trot. Mara has to be worn out at the end of the lessons. She is very good and the girls love her and they love riding that big horse. But what about Pop?


I have to thank you all for your wonderful support on my first Monday Mosaic. I have felt that my blog has become a bit stagnet, so I need to spruce things up, energize it, spend more time working on it. Monday Mosaic provides a great opportunity to challenge me to spend more time with The Garden Spot and encourages me reach out to read new bloggers, a nice opportunity to grow. And it did, so a big Welcome to the two new followers Pat @ http://millefiorifavoriti.blogspot.com.  She is new to Colorado and wrote a wonderful post about one my favorite childhood memories, a buffalo herd just west of Denver off I-70 that as a little girl we would pass on the way to our grandparents cabin. I loved her post. And a thank you to Judy who also signed on. Of course a thank you to Judith, new host of Mosaic Monday who patiently helped me figure out how to create the link. I'll see if I can do it correctly next time.

Time to get on with my day. Headed to town do some errands. 

Have a fabulous week end. Thanks for stopping by.