Sunday, August 23, 2009

All That Energy!

In about a month, we'll be grandparents again, so yesterday was an "un-shower" to celebrate the coming baby. The unusual name was because they wanted to invite whole families including kids to have fun and made it into a backyard party with kids swarming everywhere.
They rented a moonwalk and the kids had a ball. The water balloon toss was a riot and we parents and grandparents just watched with open mouths because of how seldom they actually hit anyone. Usually the balloons just bounced off the kids and broke on the grass. One little girl figured out how to squeeze them and squirted the water out, but most of it just splashed harmlessly out of the way.
It made me tired to just watch all the hilarity. There were two sets of twins and nice for the Moms to have a chance to swap stories, lots of goodies, and some grateful grandparents who were happy to just watch the show.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Our Own Golden Corn

This was a task I truely enjoyed today. I've tried for so many years to grow sweet corn here in our garden, and never succeeded. I could get it to grow, and the night before I was to harvest it, it'd get raided by raccoons. I'd actually see them by the edge of the garden, checking on the ripeness of the corn. They'd prowl around, and no matter what I did, they'd get it before me.

I sprinkled it with chili pepper, and they just seemed to enjoy the taste even more. Scarecrows, fake owls, cd's hung to swing in the rain, even a motion sensor sprinkler wouldn't chase them off. Always, the night before the corn got ready to pick, they'd beat me to it and I'd come out in the morning to see corn stalks leaning in all directions, and corn ripped down and torn apart.

What wasn't eaten was just spoiled and destroyed. It's been a battle for about 25 years here. You'd think I'd just get smart enough to give up, but I kept trying. This year a friend told me about their secret to success. They bought a small electric fence kit and strung a temporary fence around their corn patch. This year we did it, just two strands, one six inches and the other about a foot off the ground and we finally were able to harvest our own corn this year.

The ears are small, with our strange gardening year, but delicious, and of course, they almost all got ripe at once, so today we picked it and just simply nuked 5 ears at a time in the shucks, let them cool, stripped the shucks off and cut it off the cob to freeze in one big bag. We'll open it and just take out what we need for a meal. It's just so good.

I was thinking as I worked with it, how much smarter this kind of processing we do now than in the past when we had a giant pot of water steaming up the kitchen for so long and boiling out all the nutrition. It's smarter, and tastes better, AND saves on the utilities. Good all the way.

And finally, our very own golden corn. Great stuff.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why Does It All Get Ripe At the Same Time?

Best laid plans sure do go astray, don't they? I hurried out to the garden yesterday, seed packets in hand, to spend a short time planting fall veggies to fill in the empty spaces in the garden before scurrying back inside to tackle a whole stack of other overdue tasks. What I found in there stopped me in my tracks!

The vegetable squash was overrun with squash beetles, so I quickly pulled the whole vine, harvested the two best of the squashes and tossed the whole vine into the compost heap, so it wouldn't infest the other squash vines. Jim picked the green beans, I pulled the onions and harvested the giant overgrown collards, we both gathered all the tiny ripe tomatoes, and I brought out scissors and trimmed back the lush bushy herb plants that were shading the tomatoes.

I found more potatoes to dig and some cucumbers hiding in the weeds while tying the cucumber vines up to the fence so they couldn't hide anymore. The peapod vines had died back and needed pulling, and the cabbages and broccoli plants were being attacked by cabbage loopers, so I harvested them and pulled the plants out.
Three wheelbarrow loads of green stuff later, the island in the kitchen was covered with good things that needed to be processed and put by for winter meals. The tiny tomatoes were simply washed sorted and put into plastic bags in the freezer. Our favorite meal these days is onion and garlic and sometimes mushrooms sauteed in olive oil, and at the last minute, add grape tomatoes cut in half and fresh basil, cook just until hot, but not soft and serve over pasta with fresh grated parmesan. We froze the little tomatoes whole, and they should be delicious this winter.

The green beans were canned in 1 cup jars, and we got 14 of those which all sealed, thank you. The herbs were bunched and tied, with a label this year, because thoroughly dried herbs are hard to tell apart, and hung on the rack on the back porch to dry.Cabbages just went into the refrigerator drawer where they'll happily cope for a few weeks, vegetable squash is sitting on a shelf outside to ripen, and the onions are tied into bunches to hang in the sunshine and dry so they'll keep well.
The collards and new potatoes were our delicious dinner and I didn't post a picture of them because it grosses out Paula-but they sure were good. The burpless cucumber went into an experimental jar of dill pickles. Not sure if it will work for that process, so we'll try it with just one small jar first.On a lighter note, while trimming the herbs, I noticed the hummingbird feeding on the zinnias and ran to grab the camera. Of course, it didn't stick around for long, but I did get one kind of nice picture of the little flying jewel.
I didn't get much else done yesterday, but the freezer's almost full now, and the canning shelves look pretty good. Today it's back to that list of other even more overdue things, and yes, I did get some seeds planted outside this morning before it got too hot outside. Beets, lettuce, peapods and radishes so far.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back Home Again in Indiana

We took a short vacation last week, and headed north into Michigan for a camping trip. This was our third trip to North Manitou Island and as always, it's a neat trip. A small island in northern Lake Michigan, it's part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.It takes about an hour to ride the ferry from Leland to the Island, and the water was very smooth on the way over. It had been cold, dreary and wet in the area for a week or so and our luck was with us so it warmed up and the sun came out the whole time we were on the island. Low 80's during the day, and mid 60's at night.Once you're on the island, do the permit thing, listen to the orientation and fill your water bottles, you're on your own and can camp anywhere on the island you want, as long as it's 300 feet from any water and 100 feet off the trails.We packed for comfortable camping, so brought along the cushy sleeping bags and big tent, so the half mile walk out from the village was a bit of a chore, but Jim soon found us a comfy spot on a ridge, where we were out of sight of the beach and the trails, and we set up camp and settled in. We put up the tent, strung the line from tree to tree and hung the food bags. Walked the trail to the beach and felt we were home. We both took off down the trail for an explore, and hoped to find some mushrooms to add to dinner, or blackberries. My toe had a big blister so I soon turned back to rest and read in the tent.We had two days of good times, preparing our meals in the campsite and hiking down to the shoreline to enjoy it while watching the water, spent lots of time reading our books, skipping stones in the lake, and napping. We even carried out a bottle of wine, buried it in the sand to keep it cool and sipped it slowly out of our coffee mugs while talking over how much we loved the quiet.We never did find any of the edible mushrooms on this trip, and the blackberries were still completely green, but we did have a good hike across the middle of the island where we saw lots of traces of the past settlers. We found some ripe thimbleberries and got to graze on those a bit while hiking, always a nice bonus.

I got an excellent shot of a monarch butterfly perched on an endangered species plant, the prickly somethingorother? Stalked that butterfly all over the beach before it settled down long enough to get a good picture. Jim found fox tracks on the beach where it had made an early morning scout along the shore looking for something to scavenge.We waded in the lake to cool off on our second afternoon there and Jim rinsed his t-shirt off, then hung it on a piece of driftwood to dry it in about 30 minutes with that sun and breeze-and it was so very soft.It was a good trip, away from the usual routine, and we enjoyed seeing the little town of Leland too. We were checking out the menu of a terrific looking restaurant there when we saw Celebrity chef Mario Batelli walk in. Apparently he lives nearby. Now we need to go back to have dinner at that restaurant one of these days.

As always, it's great to be home, although it seems to take us longer to catch up these days. Tomorrow we'll start planting the fall vegetables to fill up those empty holes in the garden where things are all done.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Sometimes you just have to "Have a Cow, Man!"

This time of year, with all the wonderful veggies in the garden, we eat very healthy, and mostly veggies. But now and then, a piece of beef is just the right thing that you really just simply have to have! This was the week.

At our local Farmer's Market this past Friday, we were strolling past the meat market, with its beautiful pieces of locally grown beef and pork laid out so appealingly, we spied some cuts of lean chuck roast, just right for us.

Somehow Jim gets the very best out of any beef, so he's our official roast beef cooker guy, and today he slow roasted those cuts for 3 hours with onions, bay leaves, garlic and just a little bit of water, then added a small head of cabbage and some carrots straight from the garden with our own potatoes. Oh, boy. Add some horseradish and a good bottle of Shiraz, and it's all just exactly right!

Sometimes you just gotta "Have a Cow, Man!"