Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It's Wednesday Already

Tomato Hornwork
Yes I've been listening (and reading) the  news.  It matters not what I think about it.  Apparently it matters very little what 91% of Americans think about it either.  This will end badly I fear.  All the more reason to focus on the here and now.  What can I do? (besides scream obscenities)  Prep on folks, prep on.

And so dear friends that brings us back to being in the here and now.  There are a few things I CAN do around here.  I've got mostlyy gardening stuff going on in my life right now. My dehydrators are working 7 days a week. Currently there are peppers in both of them.  I'm out of propane for the canning station and it will have to wait until payday. I've been prepping the peas and beans and either freezing them or at least storing them in the bottom of the fridge for now.  I'll be back to canning soon though. Just in time too as the fridge is overflowing with fresh produce.  This is the one time of year I sure wish we had a second fridge. Hey, things could definitely be worse. 

 I called the local food bank this week.  They were thrilled to take some tomatoes! I was thrilled to get them gone!  LOL I'm so over canning tomatoes for the year. I've been keeping the neighbor supplied with tomatoes, peppers and melons. 

 Of course there are still tomatoes on the vine and the plants look pretty good so they should make it to fall.  Unless the grasshoppers and the hornworms  decimate them.  We've had one heck of a year for grasshoppers this year.  There isn't much you can do about that really.  And then the hornworms just came to the party in the past couple of days. (Cover your ears kymber) I must have killed at least a dozen of the fat green-blooded hungry bast destroyers.   I take a perverted pleasure in ripping them off the stems and crushing them under my heel. Something about the way they "squish" brings a smile to my face. They can take a plant down to nothing in no time at all.  I realized though that this year we've not had much of a problem with bugs.  Well, except those *%#$ squash bugs... but that seems to be it.  Why is it that only the insects you can't do much about seem to make themselves at home this year? 

I was going to go out and pull up those pole beans this week and plant some green peas in their place since they just weren't producing.  Well now they have decided to put on some beans.  Not many, but there are a bunch of tiny baby beans on it now.  I guess if I want to plant green peas I'll have to rig up some sort of "support" for them.  That's why I was wanting to replace the green beans with the peas.  That's the row with the "trellis" down it.  

The mystery plant has produced what turned out to be funny looking cantaloupe.  They aren't very sweet, kind of a boring flavor.  I guess I'll be looking for better seed for next year.  I can't see growing these again.  The Juan Canary melon though?   Yeah, now THAT'S a keeper.  Wonderfully sweet and juicy.  I'll sure be planting those again for years to come. (thanks zztop!!)

It's hard to believe that Summer is almost over.  For the most part we've had a wonderful season weather-wise.  And now all the sudden at the end of August we are going to creep back up into the 100's for a few days.  Go figure.  The Farmer's Almanac is predicting a colder than normal winter for most folks.  Strange year for weather isn't it?  

I want to plant some more lettuce and spinach but I'm thinking it is still a bit errr....warm yet.  My broccoli and cabbage seed didn't come up and the beans I planted in the lower garden were attacked by grasshoppers as quick as they sprouted.  That will make the third time I've planted beans there this year and can't get any of them over six inches high before they become grasshopper appetizers.  Oh well.... I wonder what they want for dessert?  

I'd try talking about something else but it seems my mind is stuck in "garden gear", which is better than having to focus on us teetering on the edge of World War III.  How's your week been so far?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Yeah, I Said That

I know some of you who have been hanging out with me for awhile must be wondering why I've not bee addressing some of the things happening in the news lately.  It's not that I haven't been keeping up with the real news and even listening to the B.S. MainStreetMedia via the radio.  It's times just like these that make me even more thankful that we don't have a television in the house.  I actually feel sorry for people who ONLY listen to the TV news.   I've grown tired of shouting from the rooftop to folks who are to lazy and complacent about what is happening in this country. 

  With the Obama Administration apparently doing just about anything they want with no oversight and no respect for the constitution, the NSA spying on every single American, the IRS, Benghazi, Obama Care, the NDAA , the unconstitutional Executive Orders being written and signed by the POTUS , drones in the skies of the US by 2015, TSA on the streets and are soon to be armed  I don't see the America I grew up in anymore.  (How's that for a run on sentence?)

  Now the White House won't make a stand on Syria.  I think the reason for that is because we've been funding Al CIAda.  Remember them?  We went to the Middle East and bombed the hell out of Iraq fighting them.  Now our government has embraced them and are funding them.  When did Al Qaida become our friends?
Then there is the matter of 400 surface to air missiles that just went missing.  And who's hands do you think are on them. Call me crazy but those missiles can take down aircraft. Do you really think they won't use them?

  I've always been called a conspiracy theorist. I've also been right about many of the things others thought were just a crazy conspiracy theory. That makes them a conspiracy not a theory at all.  There is much more to the situation in the Middle East.  And the US has it's fingerprints all over much of it.  This President has an agenda and he told us straight up back in 2008 what he had planned to do.  People cheered when he told them he would fundamentally change America.  I think he's doing one hell of a job.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hatch Chilis and Other Stuff

I'd apologize for not blogging more this past week (month) but why?  I'm not the only one busy with the garden and food preservation this time of year.  Add the regular chores to that and somehow the entire day... err... week is gone before you know it. This was one picking some day this past week.  The purple hull peas are doing well and I've been getting quite a few peas.  I finally got a whole quart of green beans. Their production this year has been minimal and pretty much just taking up garden space. I'll be pulling out the pole beans in the next couple of days and replant with some Green Peas for the fall.  Maybe I'll have better luck with them.

I'm happy to report that the tomatoes are slowing down now.  They are far from done but I've gone from picking two 5 gallon buckets a day to a little less than one.  If nothing else these plants did extremely well and look like they'll be producing on into the fall months.  I picked these Better Boy tomatoes up from a local nursery and I'll try saving some seed and seeing how they do next year.  Except... I don't think I'll plant nearly as many next year.  lol  These tomatoes have just about kicked my butt this time around.  I've put up whole tomatoes, chopped, quartered, and crushed, Italian and Rotel tomatoes, Salsa (Of course!), tomatoes and onions, and spaghetti sauce.  I've dried load after load of tomatoes as well.  I doubt very seriously if we will run out of them before next year.  Shoot maybe the year after that! 

Sandy and her husband stopped by this past weekend for a quick visit while on their way to T Town.  Such a sweet and thoughtful couple.  I really enjoyed our visit and hope to see them again soon. They brought us some mesquite wood for the smoker!  I've not had mesquite smoked "anything" in what?  Three years now?  That's a down right disgrace for a Texan to have to say. The first thing I did was to pull a chicken out of the freezer for Mesquite Smoked Chicken.  Yumm Yummm. 
Sandy also brought some beautiful Hatch chili's and a whole BIG BAG of dried Hatch Chili powder!  Super awesome! 

I ended up roasting all of the peppers and put back some "prime specimen" for Chili Rellanos.  Both were a first for me.   You know, I've processed bunches of different types of peppers and never had any of them burn my hands before. 

 I'm here to tell ya I'm surprised they didn't blister they were burning so bad after getting done removing the skin from those peppers!  Of course, me being the brightest crayon in the box, I handled them again when I made the Chili Rellanos.  LOL No surprise when they started burning again.  All in all though it was worth it!  My neighbor taught me how to make them but this was my first "solo" run for Chili Rellanos. They came out super yummy. (Sorry forgot to get a picture).  

I've never put up Hatch Chili's before so I hit the interwebs looking to see what I should do.  It seems it's best to freeze them from what I've read.  Some of you probably know how I feel about freezing stuff.  I try very hard not to freeze much of anything.  But these yummy peppers deserve special treatment!  I wasn't sure exactly how I was going to package them up though.  Then I had one of those "moments".  Why not put them into an ice cube tray and flash freeze them! 
So I blistered the peppers in the little oven I have for my outdoor kitchen.
 Skinned and chopped them up.
Portioned them into ice cube trays and stuck them in the freezer for a couple of hours.

Then packaged them in a ziplock baggie.  I think its an awesome idea!  Now when I want to add Chili's to a dish I can just take out one or two cubes and they are ready to go.
 Well folks I'm off to the garden again.  Those tomatoes don't pick themselves ya know!!

Friday, August 16, 2013

How to Dehydrate Okra

Okra is a southern staple in the garden.  It loves the heat and will continue to produce till it starts getting cooler. It's one of those plants that gives and gives (and gives).  A lot of folks farther to the north can't grow it well because they just don't have enough time and heat.  Did you know that you have to pick it daily or it gets tough on the vine.  Or that it doesn't keep long once it's picked.  Which means if you are canning it you'll have to do smaller batches unless you've got a ton of plants. I've got a better option.

I met a guy (I won't mention his name) from Washington state who had never grown okra before. Since he knew everything there was about gardening (cough) he decided to give it a try down here. So he proceeded to plant a 250 foot row double spaced in okra.  Now if you've ever grown this stuff before you know just how prolific and how fast it grows. That's why most folks only grow 15-20 plants.  I tried to tell him that with 200 feet of okra that he would need someone out there all day every day doing nothing but picking okra.  Shoot, by the time you picked a 250' double row, it   you'd have to start back down it again. We left before I got to watch him freak out come about the middle of August!  I still laugh when I picture him out there picking okra till the sun goes down.  I bet that was one lesson learned!  LOL!!!

So what can you do with all that bounty?  I've found the best way (I think) to preserve okra so you can have it in the dead of winter and still get that awesome fresh okra taste.  Dry it! 

 This is one of those veggies that does amazingly well when dried and re-hydrated. (right down to the "slime") Oh, and did I mention it's easy to do???
                                    Dehydrating Okra

Slice okra into even size pieces for uniform drying.  Lay it out on your dryer trays so the pieces aren't overlapping. It's ok if they touch, you just don't want them on top of each other.  Set the dryer to your veggie setting (135-145 degrees) and let it go till it's crisp and totally dried.  Put it in an air tight container to store it. That's it.  Pretty simple yes?

Now if you want to there are some things you can do before you dry your okra.  You can season it with different spices before drying. When it's dried it also makes great snack food. Things like seasoned salt, Cajun seasoning, Greek seasoning.... let your imagination go with it. 

When its re-hydrated you can use it just like you would fresh okra.  You can put it in soups or stews or even better.... Gumbo!  Or you can do my favorite thing with it. Fry it in a cornmeal mix and pig out!   Man, I love me some fried okra. 

I found a tip somewhere that says to coat the okra you are going to fry with a beaten egg and let it sit in the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes.  

Then coat it in your cornmeal/flour mixture and fry it. It make all the difference in the world.  I've got to admit it works wonderfully. 
 The coating stays on and it almost reminds me of the frozen battered stuff you get from the frozen food section at the grocery store only it tastes better!  I've thought about trying to flash freeze it on cookie sheets once it's battered but haven't actually tried it yet. I'm pretty sure it would work though. I'm going to have to try it and see for myself. It would be a cool time saver and as close to fast food as I've been in ages! LOL

                           Now that's some good eating!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Juan Canary Melon

A few months ago a friend sent me a box with several packets of seed. (Thanks again Donna!!)  One of the packages in the box was marked Yellow Canary Squash.  I was intrigued.  They really didn't look like squash seeds but I never even "snapped" at the time.  Don't judge.  hehehe  I had three plants come up.  Well, I'm sure you've already figured it out but these are not squash at all.  They are called Juan Canary Melons.  There isn't a ton of information on the interwebs about them but wikipedia says they come from Asia. You can tell from the color where they got their name. 

The outside rind is softer than say... a watermelon or a honeydew. It's also smooth, kind of like a honeydew melon. It's oval shaped and the ones I have here are like 4-6 pounds each.  I wasn't sure exactly when I should pick them since I didn't know what "shade" of yellow I was looking for. The stems are supposed to "slip" when they are done.  The first one I picked (I realize now) was good but man oh man I knew that with a few more days these babies would be awesome. They turned noticeably more yellow a week or so after I picked the first one.  And I was right!  These melons are sooooooooo good.  They have a pale flesh that reminds me of a honeydew melon.  The seed cavity has  kind of an orange tint to it.  The texture sort of reminds me of a pear.  It's super juicy.  The flavor is kind of mild.  It's sweeter than a honeydew melon but not super sweet.  Absolutely delicious.

Some of the information I could find said they store fairly well.  That would be a double bonus. I'll let ya know if that's true or not.  Right now there are probably 10-12 of them about ready to pick and a couple more that will be ready before long. They've also got new blooms all over the plant at the moment.

I let one chill in the fridge before cutting it.  Man what a treat! They would be really good in a fruit salad too.  I'm going to try dehydrating one and see how well they do as fruit leather. I might also try drying some in smallish pieces.  I've done that with cantaloupe before, and they had a neat kind of candy taste to them.  Did you know that dehydrating foods intensifies flavors? 

You'll need 80-90 hot days to grow it so it should do well in the south and to the west.So there ya have it.  Everything I know about Yellow Canary Melons.  Except how much the plants spread out!  I have a new favorite melon. I'm already sure I'll be growing these again.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Rambling

Anyone know what this squash is called?  How do I tell when it's ripe?
  It's official.  Oklahoma is now out of the drought status!  Such good news for folks around here.  Like folks all across the country we've been experiencing a really weird spring and summer this year.  Here in my part of Oklahoma we've had a pretty nice summer.  Of course it's not like I have much to compare it with.  Since we've been here, the past two summers  were off the chart hot and dry so anything less than that would be good as far as I'm concerned. I guess I don't have much "experience" with the weather here to draw on. 

Coming here from Central Texas I'm no stranger to long hot summers and so this years summer is a fresh and new thing for me.  90 might be hot to many of you but for me it's "do-able".   It's only been 100 here a couple of times this year. (So far anyway.)  And we've been getting rain.  I'm betting it just might be a spectacular Fall when the leaves start changing as everything is still green and pretty here. 

I'm still picking tomatoes every day.  I've about run out of things to do with them all. I might make "just one more" batch of salsa though. It's time to start looking at some green tomato recipes.  It looks as though the plants will make it on into the fall. 

The green beans I planted this year didn't do anything.  Well, they grew beautiful foliage and pretty blooms.  They just never produced any beans. I can't remember where the seeds came from but I do know that these are seed  I saved from last year that produced tons and tons of beans.  Hybrid maybe? Pretty disappointing actually. Not even a single meal from them this year.  We'll be pulling them out and putting in something else in their place this week. It should have already been done. I think I'll put in some green peas there since I didn't get a chance to this spring. There is still supposed to be time to plant more so I'll hope for a fall crop. At least the purple-hull peas have done ok.  The second "round" of peas are on the vine and almost ready to pick and it's still flowering so I've got high hopes of getting a couple more canner loads put up before they give out.

I had to pick and dry cayenne peppers again because it was so full of peppers it was weighing down all the limbs.. I'm trying to wait until the peppers turn red to pick them.  The trouble (if you can call it that) is that new peppers keep setting.  Which makes the plant limbs heavy again, drooping  to the ground. The Serrano and jalapeno peppers are really producing too.  The bell pepper plants are doing good but haven't produced as heavily as they did last year.  I've still got some that I dried last year so we should be set for another year if all goes well.  The other pepper plants aren't really producing much yet.  Most of those were the ones I picked up for dirt cheap at the end of the spring season.  Leggy and root bound.  Peppers are weird though, they still might decide to put out for me! :-)

We are hovering between the summer and the fall garden. So much stuff is still producing I'm having to shove fall stuff wherever I find the room. I think while I'm pulling up those green beans I'll go on and pull up the cucumbers too.  I only had one cucumber plant that made it this year but it's been really productive. It's slowing down now and starting to die back anyway.  I've found room for spinach, pinto beans, squash, lettuce and carrots and all those are in the ground.  I've got some broccoli and cabbage seeds that are starting to sprout and I'm hoping I'll be able to get them out in the garden soon.  I'm just not having much luck with either of them so far in my gardening journey.

I'm sorry it's been so long since I've sat down and tried to write.  As you can imagine I've been super busy and it ain't over yet!  This gardening thing is consuming most of my time but that's ok, It's not like I've got anything else to do.  I can't do things as quickly as other folks can.  I have to sit on my trusty bucket much of the time and walking the rows is a slow process.  I can't walk more than about 75' without having to stop and let the pain subside. I have to take lots of breaks. But hey, it is what it is and I'm still able to get my butt out of bed every morning.  Ok, I'm off to try and get some things done. Have a Super Day guys!!!

Friday, August 9, 2013

I'm here.  I'm ok.  Busy as all get out.... I'll be back.  ( In my best Terminator Voice)