Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Family Affair

The fruits of summers bring a lot of work.

The week before school started, I tried to roast Anaheim peppers. They are a great  pepper. In the garden the plants are prolific producers. They have just a bit of bite for the faint of heart (me) when it comes to heat in favorite recipes. I've put them with scrambled eggs, in stir frys, any dish that calls for green pepper.

My first try at roasting pepper. I put them on the gas grill

Some are pretty charred, to say the least.

 Next, I put them in a zip lock to steam for a few minutes so that the peeling will come off more easily. HA.

A big mess. I did peel them and managed to save a few for freezing. My friend who runs a small restaurant told me how she does her peppers. She puts them in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes then puts them on the grill. She says the skins will just pop off. I'll try that next time. Do you have any suggestions?

Next, I froze the jalapeno peppers. My friend just pops them in the freezer bag whole. For her restaurant's salsa, she boils the jalapenos first. That's about all she would say about her salsa. Secret recipe, you know. Any good salsa recipes out there?

Tomatoes were next. Here they are in the hot water bath to loosen to peel. You can see the peeling begin to crack. After about 2 minutes or until the peeling splits, I put the tomatoes in an ice water bath to peel them. I put them in the blender and made pulpy juice which I froze. I had two varieties, yellow tomatoes and red beef master, that I processed separately.

Beef Master and a coupe of heirloom tomatoes that were really hard to peel.

Nicely pureed in the blender

I laid the pulp on a flat surface so that the puree would freeze nice and flat.

Next: Pears and Peaches. I had a half a bushel of each. The pears were work intensive. They have to be peeled and cored.

The girls came to help. Actually, Jennifer enjoys working in the kitchen. The pears were work intensive-Jen pealed, I cored..

Baby Nathan hauled nut shells around the counter top. His brother Jacob spent the day hanging out with  grandpa doing guy stuff.

(She's gonna hate this photo) And Heather, not so crazy about kitchen duties, helped out immensely by shampooing my carpet. I must mention, too, that she brought me a carload of transplants from her garden: meadow rue, Jerusalem Artichoke, prim rose,  couple of spruce seedlings, and an Endless Summer blue hydrangea that I am going to try my best not kill. Thank You Heather.

The fruits of our labor.

Flower of the Week

New to the garden, Gladiolas, a favorite. Mine didn't too well--they grew pretty crooked--. I picked them so that I could enjoy them in the house. Remember how popular they used to be in formal arrangements? They are so much fun to grow and really beautiful, too.

Teddy Bear Sunflower, A Beautiful Giant

Teddy's last portrait. It really is an impressive flower with its multiple flower heads. I didn't realize that it would have multiple flower heads. As I said before, I planted six seeds, with only one germinating. Can you imagine an entire row of these beauties?

Back to work tomorrow. Next weekend we will have two more boxes of peaches to can. Please share some of your favorite ways that you preserve your bountiful harvest, especially salsas. I want to can salsa and pickle relish, too.  Hope you all have a good week.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Back to the Routine

It's late, bedtime actually. Tomorrow classes for fall semester begin at the University of Northern Colorado. It is such a cliche to ask "Where did the summer go?" But go it did. I am beginning my 17th year teaching  3 of sections freshman composition and 1 section of introduction to literature. I will teach from 8 AM until 2:30 PM Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with two classes in the morning and two in the afternoon. Then I will tutor in the Writing Center Monday and Wednesday from 2:30-3:30. I will have Thursdays off--days to grade papers and clean house.  I love my work with 18 year olds. They are amazing young people and I do learn from them, too.

Summer ends and finally the new kid in the garden blooms, the teddy bear sunflower. I planted 6 seeds with only one that germinated and grew to rather glorious maturity. It will be quite interesting next summer to see any hybrids emerge from cross pollinating with Teddy.

 Teddy's face is the brightest yellow.

 It takes a couple of days for Teddy's face to acquire its characteristic fuzzy look. I was quite surprised to see that the Teddy Bear Sunflower has multiple heads to one stalk.

 Next year I will plant Teddy out in the garden--a safe distance for the coral fence to keep Sun Dance from snacking on it.

Standing tall along side the wild hybrid sunflowers, Teddy's bright sunny face smiles boldly.

Teddy was the only sunflower that I planted this year, but look at this beauty. It grew only a few feet from Teddy towering above the Black Eyed Susans at about 12 feet high. A single headed sunflower perfectly formed, bright and sunny towers over the garden.

I have been obsessed with taking photos of the sunflowers. In days to come I'll pick through the best of them and share them with you, but it's bed time. I've got a long day tomorrow. Have a good week, everyone.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Everyone Loves A Mystery

Who has been eating the sunflowers?


And the hollyhocks?

"Not I," said the Flicker. I prefer my sunflower seeds with peanut butter.

"Not I," said the woodpecker, "I prefer gourmet."

 "Not I," said the house finch, "I like thistle."

 "Not I," said Lucy. "Are you kidding, why eat sunflowers when you can eat cookie dough?"

"Not I," said Ellie, "I don't like sunflower seeds."

 "Not I," said Jacob, "but I bet I can find out who did--for a fee."

"Not I," said Nathan (as he robbed the chicken coop).

 "Not I," said Max.

 "Not I," said Granny Bear, 'it's tea time."

 "Nor I," said Raggedy Ann, "I like cake."

 "Not I," said the scared little cotton tail.

 "Not I," said the toad, "strictly bugs for me."

 "Can't you see I'm taking a nap" growled Mo

 "Not I, said Holly, "I'm getting ready for a party."

 "Not I," said the little white hen

 "Not I," said the big fat hen.

 "Not I," said the horse.

 "Really?" smirked the horse.

"Catch me if you can," he laughed

Mystery solved.

Friday, August 12, 2011

In a Pickle

The garden has begun to really produce, so the question arises "What do to with the abundance of produce?" My mother and hubby's grandmother used to slice cucumbers in a bowl, cover them with vinegar and water, salt, pepper, and maybe add a bit of onion. The dish would sit on the counter where we could snack on the vinegar treat all day.
I went a bit further. Inspired by a new canning jar that I bought at my favorite kitchen gadget store in Fort Collins, I looked up recipes on the web on refrigerator pickles, then made up my own: equal amounts of white distilled vinegar and water, a handful of dill from the garden that I let grow wildly uncontrolled, a few garlic cloves, onion, mustard seed, salt, and pepper.
 I sliced two medium sized cucumbers, leaving the skin on. Since we don't use any pesticides or fertilizers other than the time released fertilizer we use when we plant the seedlings, I wash the cucumbers well before I slice them. I pack in the dill and garlic then the cucumbers and onions. I add the seasonings to the liquid and pour the brine over the cucumbers.
 This jar has a rubber seal, insuring a tight seal. I don't think that this liter jar would be suitable for hot water canning, but for fresh, long lasting refrigerator pickles it is perfect. We have polished off this first batch, so I added more cucumbers to the brine last night. I'll use the brine twice before I replace it.

You could add red pepper seeds for a dash of color or any other spice or herb.  I let the cucumbers marinate for about a week, shaking the jar daily to make sure all of the flavors blend throughout the jar.  This type of pickling is quick, easy, tasty, and preserves the excess. I don't think you need a fancy jar, any container with a tight lid will work. It's just fun to have an inspirational piece to get one motivated. For Kelly at My Garden Diary, this might be a very good way to use your cucumbers that tend to be a bit bitter. 

Happy Anniversary

On another note, I have been pondering the last few days how to celebrate the Garden Spot's first anniversary. Thinking it was in September, I totally missed it. I launched my blog August 5, 2010. None the less, I have had a blast. With the snarkiness (is that really a word?) on Face Book, I spend much more time posting here. My blogger friends are a warm, gracious, funny, interesting, inspirational group. I love them all. I have a small following, 39, but a great following. I've made friends in England, France, Ireland, Croatia, Australia, Mexico, Holland, and all around the United States. Generally I post Sunday night and most often only once a week. Before I go to bed every night, I read my followers' posts, trying to leave witty, funny, interesting, encouraging posts, depending on the need, but sometimes I think my posts are dumb, and sometimes I just can't think of any thing smart to say, but I always read. In honor of my Fab 39, I have figured out how to display all of the blogs that I follow on my home page. I hope doing so helps to increase your traffic.

Finally, one week of summer left. Classes at the University of Northern Colorado begin Aug 22. Next week I will be attending meetings, classes, shopping for school clothes, cleaning house--actually, I am going to try to find a house cleaner to help out--cleaning my office, and psyching myself up to go back to work. Actually, I have just the best students: college freshmen, 18 year olds just taking on the world by themselves for the first time Can't believe that the summer has gone so quickly.  

Happy Blogging to All and thank you for your wonderful comments and support.

The Last Hollyhock

(Note: if the font in Safari is too small: press option command + keys to zoom your Safari screen.)  Here in Northern Colorado, we are all f...