Monday, October 28, 2013

Compost Bins

I can finally say that we are officially done with the spring/summer/and small fall garden.  I can't really say we had a fall garden this year.  A few squash and pumpkin plants pretty much was all we did. It's time to put the garden to bed and wait for spring.  Honestly?  By the time the summer garden was over I was seriously worn out.  It was a productive season but man I am so glad to get a break.

I don't talk much about my health stuff here and I'm sure most of you are pretty much ok with that.  LOL!  I'll just say that sometimes it takes me twice as long to get things done.  I get tired pretty easily and just have to take my time.  It aggravates me but hey... it is what it is. At least I'm on top of the dirt instead of under it!!!

Mars has been working on the composting station the past couple of days.  He's totally taken apart the compost bins and moved the area over some and turned it facing the opposite direction.  He had to take apart and move all three bins.  The grass was growing up from under the pallets and trying to take over the bins so along with moving the compost and the bins he had to fight all that grass too.
After he had moved the compost, bins and grass it was time to move it over to the new spot.  He actually didn't move it all that far, just a few feet actually.  He had some old tin stacked up from taking down the old stuff off the barn.  So he used some of the tin to lay on the ground under the bins, and this time he put some of the tin on the bottom of each of the three bins.  That should take care of the grass problem and it looks so much neater than it did before.  If you are wondering why there are three bins it kind of goes like this.  The first bin is the "raw" stuff we put in the compost.  Kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, grass clippings all go in the first bin.  As the raw stuff breaks down it is moved into the second bin to "cook" some more. Eventually it is moved to the third bin and ready to use.  Black gold to be recycled back into the garden.

That big grassy pile on the right side is a load of horse manure that's been breaking down all summer.  He's working on moving all of it as well. 

   I will admit it feels kind of strange not having to head out to the garden every morning.  I might actually have time to work on some crochet or even some knitting now.  I need some new dishrags and some new wash cloths.  Don't laugh!  I still can't knit anything that isn't "flat".  Knitting things like socks is still wayyyy out of my league.  I still have a way to go before I get THAT good.  I will say this though.  If you want to learn crochet or knitting there are some great YouTube videos that can walk you through some of the "hard" parts.  

Well that's about all I have for now.  I hope this week is a good one for each and every one of you!

P.S I was wondering if you've noticed this page loading any faster?  I've taken down a whole boatload of pictures and "stuff" and even shortened all my fellow bloggers lists.  I don't have a clue if it helped or not.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saturday Stuff

I wonder just how long it takes to get used to having actual seasons.  Like a kid I find myself smiling at the cooler temperatures and the lower humidity. We listen to a radio show in Austin on the weekends. There's a real good natural gardening show on the weekends we both listen to. Old habits and all but I hear the weather there and sometimes I just grin.  We have SEASONS!!  We've had a couple of mornings that were down right chilly already. .  I've unpacked my big fluffy robe and snuggle up in it while I drink a little coffee and ponder what I can/might get done today.Being a list maker I'll scan through some of them and compile one for the day.
I've still got some squash that was pulled a few days ago that needs to be canned and an entire bag of green bell peppers to cut and dehydrate. I don't know why I'm still procrastinating on getting it done.

Most all of the other peppers that we pulled when we were expecting that frost/freeze several days ago are now dried and sitting in jars.  There are some pepper plants that didn't get totally frozen.  The leaves on top need to be cut back and I think they will come back.  We are expecting some warmer weather for a few days.  I don't really need (or want) any more peppers this year but....  It's hard not to want to get out there and cut them back to see if  I can keep them alive until a killer frost takes them.  I have to ask myself "Is this normal?"  I just can't stand to see them all sad and droopy looking when I can probably save them for a few more weeks.  Heck I might even dig up a couple and get them potted and stick them in the greenhouse for the winter. We'll see.

With the garden now pretty much done there is much more time to get other things done.  Lots of things tend to get neglected around here while the gardens going full tilt. One thing we've done every year since we've been here is to move the rabbits.  Their spring and summer accommodations are located in the shade under a big old oak tree.  We move them to the barn when it starts getting colder. Rabbits can take the cold, it's the wind that gets to them.

 Speaking of rabbits I'm going to be on baby watch this week.  If Bucky has done his job we should have bunnies soon.  If not I'll be taking the does back to the Rabbit Lady and have her breed them.  That would be unfortunate for ol' Bucky though. (kymber close your eyes) He's liable to be rabbit stew.

I want to give a shout out to Sue over at The Little Acre That Could.  She has started a series called Food Storage Friday.  Pretty cool, huh?  If you get a chance pop over and check it out. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How to DehydratePotatoes

This picture from left to right.... Dried Okra, Dried Diced Potato's, Dried Tomato's

I was asked if I could explain the drying and re-hydrating process.  This is my attempt to do so. The question was about potato's but most vegetables use the same process.  Blanching times will vary with different vegetables.         

When dehydrating potato's, there are several ways to do them.  You can slice them for uses like scalloped potato's.  You can dice them in small pieces and use them in many different things.  You can cut them into french fries as well. You can shred them and use them for hash browns. This part is up to you.  Peeling your potato's is optional- there are lots of vitamins and minerals in the skins . They look nicer peeled but, again, its up to you.
I will explain the sliced potato's here, but they are all done the same way.
Slice your potato's approximately 1/4" thick.  This is where a food processor or a slicer comes in handy.  I do mine by hand but that's because I don't have either of them!   While you are cutting your potato's, put on a big pot of lightly salted water and heat to boiling. 

Put your potato slices in a vegetable basket or a French fry basket and drop them in the boiling water. When they start to boil again, let them blanch for for 5-8 minutes.  Have a large bowl ready with ice water. Plunge them in the ice water and let them sit for 15 minutes or so. Then spread the potato slices out on paper towels and daub dry.
Another method you can use (I would suggest doing this with things like hash browns) is to steam blanch them.

Spray your racks with some vegetable spray and place the potato's as close as you can get them without having them touch.  They need air circulation around them.  Dry them until the potato's are translucent and brittle.  You should not be able to "bend" them.  Let the potato's cool down, remove them from the racks and store them in jars or baggies.  Try to keep as much air out as you can.  This is where my FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer comes in handy.  I like to put them in jars and vacuum out the air.  (NOTE- If you are drying for long term storage DO NOT use the spray.  Oil can make anything dehydrated go rancid.)

To rehydrate them,  place the dried potato's in a bowl or pan and cover with boiling water. Cover the bowl and let them sit for about 20 minutes or until re-hydrated completely.  Drain excess water and they are ready to use.

 You can dry just about anything.  Carrots, peas, sweet corn, green beans, cabbage, spinach, swiss chard etc. I also dry tomato's for use in soups and stews.  I like drying  green peppers, hot peppers, and onions for use later in the year when these things are out of season.
I have had problems with re-hydrating green beans in the past and asked a true drying guru for some help.  She suggests blanching and then freezing the green beans before drying.  The freezing breaks down the cells so they will rehydrate better  otherwise, they will take a couple of hours to rehydrate.

Here are a few ideas for using some of your dehydrated vegetables. 

I like to do mixed veggies to use as soup starter.  Diced carrots and peas are good together. You can use dried sweet corn (ground up) and add it to flour when making cornbread.  
Scalloped potato's or au gratin ones. 
Dried diced potato's make a great hash when mixed with leftover beef and dried onions.  
Cabbage dices  and fried diced bacon and onions or leeks with bow tie noodles is good.Sometimes I add dried tomato's.
 How about cabbage soup with potato slices, carrots, and fried bacon? 
 Hmm, lets see.... pickled beet slices, gingered diced carrots, green pea and boiled egg salad.
Make white bread and roll it thin. Add re-hydrated hamburger, carrots, peas, onions and line the bread and make a pinwheel. Let the bread rise and bake. Slice and cover with gravy made from  the re-hydrating water.

The possibilities are endless.  So what are you waiting for? 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Early Frost

Coco Loves Peanut Butter!

Around here we aren't supposed to get our first freeze until around the first week in November. That's what they keep saying anyway.  That didn't work out to for us well last year.  We got a surprise freeze in the middle of October and everything in the garden froze.  Things happen.... We figured it was just a freak thing because the temps went right back up to normal for several weeks.  Well, as luck would have it this past Friday night we had a cold front move in and the forecasters were calling for a possible overnight freeze out here where we are.  It also brought in some seriously cold rain before dark. 

What do you do?  Well, we got out there in our raincoats and picked as much as we could ahead of a possible freeze.  We stripped all the pepper plants of fruit and picked as much squash as was ready to pick.  We started getting some of the tomatoes pulled off the vines but I got soooo cold and wet out there I finally said no more.  I called Uncle and went in the house to get warmed up and dried off.  It's not like we've not been blessed with a wonderful year for tomatoes. 

We didn't get a hard freeze but we did get a pretty heavy frost.  It was enough to kill off the squash and the pumpkins. 

The peppers look as though they'll probably come back. 

And the tomatoes .... well parts of the plants were burned pretty badly but there is still good growth mixed in with it that didn't freeze.  I don't know if the tomatoes that are still on the vine will do anything but I'm going to let them alone and take a wait and see approach.

So now I've got all kinds of peppers and squash that I need to get put up. I've got both of my dehydrators filled with serranos, hot banana peppers, cayenne (both red and green), jalapenos and haberneros.  16 trays.  I'll be hauling out the canner later on today and get the yellow squash canned up.

Some folks say that you can't can yellow squash. That it gets to soft in the canning process.  Have you ever seen yellow squash in cans at the grocery store?  I have.  Shoot, I've even bought it several times.  We happen to love squash even if it is sorta squishy, the flavors still spot on. This year I've experimented with chunks instead of slices in hopes that it won't totally fall apart.  I haven't opened any of it yet to find out yet but I'll try to remember to let you know how it comes out. 

Last years early freeze and then this years frost have me wondering if maybe we should look into some row covers.  What I've seen out there is pretty pricey though so I'll start poking around and see if I can come up with something more in our price range.  I've been told that using row covers on the squash helps dramatically decrease the  @#^% squash bugs too. 

I have to laugh.  We were having such good luck keeping down those #@$* squash bugs with the Eight.  And then they freeze. Go figure!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tyranny In America?

 You know it is true.
 What a mess.  I can't even find the words to express how I feel about what was once OUR government.  Yet again these fools have waited until the very last minute to do their job. What do they do when they finally reach an agreement?  They do exactly the same thing they did with Obama Care.  Passed at the last minute and filling it full of pork, they have again passed this mess  without reading it.  We are toast. A ticking time bomb is just waiting for the right moment to explode.
    At this point all I can say is that we are in for some deeply troubled times in the very near future.  If you don't feel the need to prepare for the coming days, if you choose to turn a blind eye to what has happened to our country then you will become nothing more than a burden.  I point to what happened last week when the EBT cards failed to work for a few hours. Their actions should be a wake up call to folks who think chaos cannot happen here. It can happen in a matter of hours.
   This president is hell bent on "Fundamentally changing America". It looks as though he is doing a bang-up job so far. Obama Care will destroy what little is left of this country. As folks start seeing just how much this "affordable" health care is going to cost them personally  maybe... just maybe they will understand what that fundamental  change "His Highness" was talking about.
   This government shut down showed those who didn't know before that the POTUS has no honor. His actions are juvenile at best. His version of holding his breath until he turns blue. Shutting down the commissaries on the bases?  Shutting down National memorials and National Parks. One park ranger told the press "we've been instructed to make things as uncomfortable as possible." ?   These actions and many others like it show just  what sort of cloth this POTUS cut from.  The emperor wears no clothes. Tyranny is truly upon us.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chipolte Peppers (and other things)

First things first, I want to apologize for taking so long to reply to your comments.  I've not been able to get into blogger.  I could use the dashboard and do anything inside but I couldn't comment or reply here or on your blogs. It just kept eating my comments. I finally got it figured out though. (I think anyway)  I've heard about it happening to others over the years but it was my first time.

I had a "procedure" on my back Tuesday and it's kinda got me laid low for a couple of  days. Since I've got to take it easy I  decided it was time to start shelling some of the dried beans.  It keeps my hands busy.  It's one of those things on "The List" that keeps being put off for more important things.  You know how it goes if you are a list maker.  Eventually you do it because you are tired of it hanging on the "List". 

Did you know that Chipolte peppers are red jalapeno peppers that have been smoked and dried? I didn't really know how they were done until reading an article about them a few weeks ago. I've been saving back the red ones until Mars fired up the pit. Well he fired it up  the other day to smoke a Pork Roast. I thought "What a perfect time to smoke those red jalapeno's I've been saving!"  So I spread the peppers out on a couple of baking sheets and set them in the pit to smoke and dry.  I'd have taken pictures but those rechargeable batteries I've got are garbage.  Every time I need the camera the batteries aren't charged.  Anyway..... where was I?  Oh, making chipoltle peppers!   It was pretty simple really.  I turned the peppers once about three hours into the smoking process and then let them sit until the fire went cold.  Some weren't dried yet so I set them in the dehydrator to finish drying.  That's it.  That's all you have to do to make Chipoltle peppers.  I put them in a quart jar whole and vacuum sealed them.  I've kept them whole because there are several ways to use them in cooking. If I want Chipolte Powder I'll just toss a few peppers into the little coffee grinder and whip some up! 

I finally got around to canning some of the yellow squash.  The #%$@ squash bugs have shown up in mass again.  I've been battling them but they are starting to win. I've got two plants that look as though they are on their last legs.  So I'm going to try and get enough squash canned before they win completely.  I'm also putting out some more Eight but the problem is that once they are up the plant and on the leaves they don't seem to leave until they kill the dang plant.  I've been real careful using it only on the stems and keeping it away from the blooms.  I don't want to hurt any bees.  The only other thing I know to do is just to pick off as many as I can as fast as I can.  Some folks would wonder why I keep trying to grow squash at all.  Because we love yellow squash! That and now those #$^@ have got me motivated to beat them. 

Our weather has been just about perfect so far this month. Cool nights and high temps in the 70's.  I just love it!  The tomatoes apparently love it too.  They are all putting out new growth and new blooms.  I don't really think we'll have time enough for them to fruit again before the first freeze but we'll see.  Last year we got an unusually early freeze about this time that pretty much ended the fall garden.  I'm hoping it won't happen again this year.  Not much you can do about the weather though.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Checking In

I've been feeling an urgency to get things lined out and double checked.  I'm not sure if it's because of the state of the Nation or just a natural instinct to get ready for the coming months.  Either way I've been staying busy around here.  With the internet throttled almost to a halt, I've pretty much taken a break from it for awhile.  It's frustrating. And honestly? I just don't need that frustration right now.  I'd like to post some pictures but trying to upload them to blogger takes more time than I've got.  I'll be back to my old "surfing" self soon and until then I'll do what I can to post here more regularly.

I picked up the new rabbits last week.    I brought home  one proven doe and one 10 month old.  I also got a younger one.  I hope I've made the right decision.  Now to see if we can finally get some rabbit things going. The Rabbit Lady assured me that if I had any problems that she would gladly breed them to one of her bucks. 

The garden is still producing some.  All the peppers are still blooming and producing.  Next year I'll scale back on the hot peppers.  Mars can only eat so many and the neighbors, (who love peppers) can't keep up either!  I've got some seriously hot habernero type peppers. Unfortunately the markers faded and I'm not sure of all the names. I'm going to dry some of them specifically for a hot pepper seasoning powder.  It should be good!  I think the tomatoes are just about done but I could be wrong.  They are starting to bloom again and the lower nighttime temps have been good for them.  We'll see how it goes.  The yellow squash is still doing well.  I saw a couple of those $#*@ squash bugs the other day and thoroughly enjoyed offing them.  Mars put out some more Eight around the bottom of the plants and so far it still seems to be working.  A couple of months ago when he planted the squash he also planted some butternut squash and what he thought was another type of squash.  Turns out it was pumpkin seed!  I'm really excited about that.  I've never grown pumpkin before!!!

 Lessons learned this year were huge ones.  One thing I absolutely MUST do is to keep a garden journal.  I try to get things all marked but have been seriously lacking in journaling what's going on.  Mars came up with what I thought was an excellent idea.  He's going to build me a box. (Think mailbox) I'll keep my notebook and pens out there.  I'm pretty sure if I had some place convenient to keep them, rather than trying to remember everything I did once I get in the house in the evening, I just might have better luck with keeping a garden log.  We'll see though, right?  hehehe

We've got our first cold spell of the season this weekend. I figure once the rain clears up later today it should be pretty nice. Highs are supposed to be in the 70's tomorrow. Lows in the 40's means it's time to start thinking about digging out the long sleeve shirts again. 

I think I'm going into blogger buddy withdrawals.  I've not been able to read much of anyone's blogs and I think I miss that as much as anything. This is such a neat time of the year and I feel like I'm missing all the good stuff!  No worries, I'll try to catch up as I can, I'll just have to forgo the comments for awhile.