Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I'm Gardening Today

...........which makes it one of those "gee-I-hope-I-don't-have-aphids-in-my-hair" sort of day..............

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Today's Lesson Learned.....

A jalapeƱo pepper can handle a trip through the washer and dryer much better than one would think.....

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Five Years Already

Tomorrow is our fifth wedding anniversary.  To say that it feels like time has flown by would be an understatement.  Which is probably a really good sign, when I think about it.  After all, the saying is "Time flies when you're having fun."

And what can have we learned in our five years together?

*  No one can steal covers when the comforter is heavy enough

*  We are both idiotically devoted to our cats

*  My "organization sweeps" often lead to future scavenger hunts

*  Play to your strengths.  While Andy is by far the better birder, I am the champion mouse/vole catcher.

*  Pantry moths really must be one of the fabled plagues of Egypt--I don't care what anyone says

*  Don't start planning recipes until we actually see what comes up in the garden

*  Early adversity can really help you become a team much faster.

*  Don't try to explain to your husband why there are 38 "off-white" paint samples pinned on the wall.

*  Deciding to give up processed foods for an entire year can bring you closer together......and make all your friends doubt your sanity.

*  It's best not to tackle problems in ordinary ways.  One can fight about money, or go on three-month spending bans to explore one's spending habits.  Why not take the option that will actually be fun?

*  It's okay to weed out friends who don't behave well.  We have lots of friends who do, and we need space for the new ones we find.

*  Life can be an adventure.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Things We Have Learned This Week

*  Just about the time the garden is really paying off always seems to coincide with the time I am sick of the sight of it.

*  There are probably much smarter things to do than garden if one has allergies, but none as likely to produce fresh tomatoes

*  A "one year supply" of our favorite all-purpose salsa is 28 pints.  It might be the only thing in our lives that doesn't change from year to year

*  If you really want definite proof of which direction the wind storm was blowing, go check on the flowers that used to be 8-feet tall

*  In spite of the fact that I've been canning for some time now, I really actually thought it would be a good idea to make AND can 3 different recipes today.............after doing the weekly grocery shopping.  This probably explains a lot about the blog.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Quick--What Would You Like To Eat For The Next Year?

In trying to live without processed foods, this is the Question of the Moment here at Chateau Sutton-Goar.  The tomatoes are FINALLY on,
but still not as strongly as they were at this time two years ago, so now the questions begin.  What tomato canned goods are our highest priority?  How many will we need?  Do we want to use some tomatoes for new recipes or stick with the old?  If we run short of tomatoes again, what could we be most likely to buy without forbidden ingredients?

I've already canned about half of the vegetable salsa we use in a year
(Can you tell it's one of our favorites?)  I'll still need to make our signature carrot salsa supply for the year, and perhaps some roasted tomatillo-chipotle salsa.  

We did decide to try a few new recipes this year, so we now have 7 pints and 6 half-pints of roasted garlic tomato sauce:
which smelled wonderful while cooking, but is probably not nearly as thick as it is supposed to be, as even after "cooking until reduced by 1/3," I still ended up a lot more than the recipe said it would make, so I'm guessing they probably used Roma or some other paste-type tomatoes.  I have Romas growing, but we have such a short growing season that most of my tomatoes every year are Early Girls.  We just don't have time for anything else to really get going.

Of course, not everything in the garden is a tomato, so I have been making and freezing pesto and ice cubes of chopped fresh basil, and Saturday I made and froze three batches of this:
Andy discovered a wonderful recipe for green poblano rice that I love so much that I planted about 12 poblano pepper plants.  Even after me killing a bunch of them in the transplanting process--and Theo taking out a couple in a process we aren't going to discuss--I have a lot of wonderful mild chilies in the garden.  To make the rice, one chops up a couple poblanos in water or broth, to cook for a while, then purees them with some cilantro and salt--then you would cook the rice in the new vivid green liquid.  I made 4 batches and froze 3 right after pureeing, so all we'll have to do is add the rice and cook.  Of course, AFTER doing all of this, it occurred to me that I could have actually only used half the liquid in order to save space in the freezer, leaving half the liquid to be added with the rice, but there are a lot of peppers out there.  Next time......
I also grow a lot of jalapeno peppers so I can use them when I make salsa, but in order to have enough to make salsa, one really needs quite a few pepper plants, which means one also has lots of jalapenoes when one isn't trying to make salsa.  So...
I now have 6 jars of pickled jalapenoes.  I made these two years ago when I had a big jalapeno crop (they didn't do well with last year's cold and wet summer either), and Andy loved them.  Since he likes things hot and I don't really care much for the pickled jalapenoes, this year I left the seeds in to add a bit more heat.  

And I am happy to report that yesterday's soup adventure,
was hot but successful, and we now have 16 pints of vegetable soup.  There was a little left over after filling all the jars, and it was amazingly good stuff.  I'm a little less terrified of the pressure canner each time I use it, though I still am more comfortable with the traditional water-bath canning process.  Now that we've had most of the jars and all the canning equipment for a couple years, we're finally starting to see the return on investment in all of this.  If we were to buy 16 cans of soup (most of which are no long 16 ounces as my jars are but 13 to 14 ounces and shrinking), it would be approximately $1.50 to $2.50 a can.  So, I made about $32 worth of soup yesterday.  Of course, if you factor in the time spent in gardening and planting and canning, it's probably about $1000 worth of soup, but we're going to focus on the no artificial ingredients or chemical additives angle at that point.........


Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Am Canning Soup!

And if you don't hear from me again, it will probably mean that I put a skylight in the kitchen with the pressure canner..............

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Garden of Surprises

Really, my garden feels a lot like Mr. Sassafras's garden.  If I planted pumpkins and pumpkins actually came up, that would indeed be a surprise.  Especially since I'm still waiting to find out what one of the Hubbard squash plants will turn out to be.  It's not looking much like the one that actually has turned out to be a Hubbard, so I'm thinking perhaps pumpkin?  I now know what acorn squash looks like since that's what my patty pan squash turned out to be, so it isn't that.  Maybe it's a new type of squash altogether.  Which is why these are so surprising:
I planted several different types of zinnias this year and they're all coming up.  Really--every last one of them.  I'm so surprised that I didn't even pay that much attention to what types they were when I planted them.  I know the bottom one is called "Envy," but I think there are a couple different types of striped zinnias.  I was so doubtful that they would grow that I'm not even sure where I put the seed packet.

Planting something and that actually being what comes up....huh.  That's a really interesting concept...........

I Am Caught Up!!!!!!

I have now read or listened to 68 books this year, which the little tracker at Goodreads assures me means that I am now on track for my goal to read 100 books this year.  I have been waiting 9 months to find out what it said when I was on track, rather than behind.

Whew!  Just in time, as I have plunged into a 600-pager called And The Band Played On about the AIDS epidemic when it first struck.  When I say that I really have not been able to put the thing down, you'll know that I am speaking metaphorically because the sucker weighs a ton, but it really is quite riveting.  Not just a story about AIDS, it's really about human nature--and I'm sure you've noticed by now that when we say that, it's never a good thing.  Greed, fear, prejudice, religious bigotry, ego, callousness--it's all there.  One of the most sickening parts is how early the CDC warned that the AIDS virus was in the blood supply, but because of economic reasons, the blood products industry and the FDA and the American Red Cross fought against testing or restricting donations.  The reason the CDC knew it was in the blood supply was because there were hemophiliacs dying of AIDS--it wasn't a guess.  People were dying, and money was still the most powerful consideration--not lives.  The AIDS epidemic couldn't have struck America at a worse time.  It started at the very beginning of Reagan's presidency, and while he was busily selling arms to Iran and training Osama bin Laden, destroying health programs throughout the US, stripping mental health funding and essentially creating the homeless problem in America, and ripping out the solar water heaters Jimmy Carter had installed in the White House just to be an environmental jackass, the AIDS virus was able to become an epidemic.  Had it struck someone popular, that would have been different, but Reagan was tied in with the Religious Right, and why would any of them care if gay people were dying?  By the time President Reagan delivered his first speech on the AIDS epidemic, 36,058 Americans had been diagnosed with the disease ad 20,849 had died.  I have never been able to understand why so many people consider Ronald Reagan a great president, but reading about his decimation of health spending in general, it does make me wonder if someone else had been president would there have been an AIDS epidemic at all, would 9-11 have even happened, would we now have cures for more diseases, would Global Warming be as much of an issue, would we have so much national debt, would scandals like Enron have happened, would the economy be more stable because the gap between the "haves" and "have nots" have been as wide without the Reagan-inspired era of greed-is-good have even happened, and would we still have a homeless problem?  The destruction one uncaring person can do in the world........................

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lessons Learned This Week

*  No matter how long until your next appointment, DO NOT go near a pair of scissors when you're frustrated with a bad haircut

*  One can make a bad haircut worse in a shockingly short amount of time

*  It is possible to forget every year how long salsa takes to make.  This is probably why I keep making it.

*  After a year when I actually had to buy tomatoes to can, I decided to plant as many as I could this year, saying "One can never have too many tomatoes."  22 pounds of tomatoes in their first real week might just prove me wrong.....

*  From a safe spot on Andy's office window seat, Theo is a very good guard cat.

*  When I'm proud of myself for finally remembering to chop and freeze fresh basil into ice cubes, I can't be bothered to measure.

*  When pulling out plants in the garden, it's best not to look to closely to see if those things are aphids or slug bait.  Pulling fast means it won't matter either way

*  The first year I owned a house, I threw some Purple Raffles basil seeds in a pot, and it grew.  Then someone told me it was really hard to grow and I couldn't get it to grow ever again.  THIS spring, someone else told me it was really easy to grow, and I was again able to start some from seed.  If I'm this open to suggestion, will someone please tell me that eating potato chips won't make me fat????

The Look

Anyone who thinks cats can't learn things hasn't lived with one. It took Theo maybe a month into his diet to figure out that I can...