Blooms of Summer

Blooms of Summer

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why Tomatoes Crack

Canning peaches today. Not enjoying the process as I'd rather sit on the couch and watch a movie, still really tired but doing better. When I stare at the mound of work, I mean wonderful food, I am grateful. Grateful that I have two stoves to can on which speeds up the process greatly and grateful that we have peaches and pears to can this year. Last year the orchard we get them from in Colorado had a killing frost. This is not the first time this has happened and so I've learned to have on hand more than a years supply.

Once again we did not get any sweet corn this year. The corn stocks were the tallest we've ever had but the ears had just started to form when the17 inches of snow hit. The corn is now flattened. Oh well, our daughter felt impressed to bring home a large amount of corn last year from Colorado when our garden was hailed out. We froze and froze and froze corn until I began to wonder why oh why we were doing so much of it? I've found out that those little quiet impressions whispered to us are for a reason. A reason that we don't always know until later, sometimes never unless we don't listen and head the warning.

With self-sufficiency on the mind I'm wondering just how many years of food you should have on hand since weather is so uncertain these days like 17 inches of snow in the summer. I'm just glad survival isn't up to me entirely since I'm presently not up to the task.

As for potatoes and carrots, I'm not digging yet until I get the mounds of food in the garage under control. Even though things didn't quite go my way this summer with little time to spend in the garden, weather problems, and poor soil in the old garden, we still will have much to put away for winter.  I've pushed most of my goals to next year, planning this winter to better prepare a course of action.

One disappoint was that the potatoes did not produce any seeds, bummer. That leaves me questioning why not? Why do potato plants sometimes produce seed and not other times? Can't find the answer on the internet so far. The commercial potato farmers have to know. I need to find out.

But for now the order of the day is to deal with what is at hand. This has been a extremely difficult year. We have some dear friends with us right now. They are here to hunt Pronghorn antelope with our son. The plan was for them to stay with our son but his remodeling job had progress much slower than he thought it would. Consequently the house has no working bathroom or shower. It has been a revolving door of company most of the summer and definitely the past few weeks. I'm praying life will calm down and allow us to catch up a bit, if not disasters await us. Our poor goat kids are not weaned yet because we have not had time to build a shed and separate enclosure. We have hay to haul and wood which are essential for winter. The house is not painted and I've 200 bags to get sewn before November. Glug! what a list awaits our attention but I keep reminding myself that the Lord is in charge and so he will make all things imperative possible.

Meanwhile, we are learning and relearning some lessons. Due to the constant travel to the other home and to tend to Kirk's father, our poor garden has been neglected. Our tomatoes cracked or rather part of our tomatoes cracked. Yes, I knew why once upon a time but the files in my memory get lost from time to time. I found this handy site http://www.tomatodirt.com/tomato-cracks.htmlwhen I went looking once more for the cause. Not that I could do anything about it. I've given you a photo of the worst one. Also we have learned that up here near the mountain it is very important to trim back the tomato plants of excess leaves and small tomatoes in August so the plant can put its energies into the larger tomatoes. I had only two done of the twenty plants.

I do have some new projects started too like vinegar. I'll show you next time what is in the works.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Remember Me, Old Man Winter?

 Shock of shocks, Old Man Winter dumped on us. This picture is September 11. What is up?
One day it is this .... (note the low cloud cover)

... and the next this.
 
The weatherman just kept upping his predictions for precipitation and cold. At 6 in the morning on the 11th we woke up to 12 inches of the white heavy stuff. The trees were so... burdened they had started to break. These photos are from 6 a.m. before the next 5 inches came.
 
We shook and banged our shovel and rakes upward to release their burden for it was still snowing heavily. We received at least 5 more inches on Thursday. Besides the Big Horn Mountains, we happened to be the spot where the clouds unloaded their heaviest coat of white. Everyone else had snow but we had at least 17 inches. I don't know about you but it isn't normal for the first snow of the fall to be anything more than a dusting or a couple inches. In fact this is historic.
After Kirk's dad's funeral on Friday the kids, their mom, and I headed back to winter wonderland where I bundled them up and out they went into the snow. The first snowman of the end of summer or is it fall now is Olaf. All the kid's snowmen are now Olaf. Doesn't matter what they look like. Or rather this is a Mrs. Olaf, note the pink waist ribbon. With the fire blazing in the stove and my daughter and I snuggled up next to it laughing, we watched the kids out the back window on their hands and knees crawling in the snow. Wonder what animal they were? Maybe they were mimicking the panicked wildlife. The deer were leaping and running about very much distressed by this white stuff that came wa......y too early. The poor little wild turkeys I can only imagine had a horrible time just keeping their heads above the white wet stuff.

What is the weather predicted to do now, turn warm of course. Yes, 70's and 80"s are in the forecast for the next week. But with a high of mid 30's and a low below 20 F the garden is toast. Just before my family left (we had a family reunion on my side while we were dealing with funeral arrangements for Kirk's dad) they helped to pick the bulk of it. My garage is lined with buckets, a wheelbarrow of squash and pumpkins, and baskets until we can hardly get the car inside. I left the potatoes and the carrots still in the ground but everything else but the dried beans were picked. The countertop has pears and peaches piled high from the Colorado fruit truck to add to the cellar like look. As if we didn't have enough to process, just before the storm hit we rushed in to pick grapes at Kirk's dad's and came home with 2- 5 gallon buckets worth. I'm going to be canning like crazy for a while. That is in between painting the house while it is warm and yes, more company is to arrive tomorrow. Not that we are alone right now. Our oldest daughter is here and will leave tomorrow just before friends from the east arrive. But more about company later.

The dried beans just weren't ready in the garden. Why would they be when summer was so late in coming, we had no real spring, and winter arrived early even if it was for a brief few days? My hope is the blanket of heavy snow will protect them enough so that they will continue to produce. It might be wishful thinking but we shall see after the snow has melted today. We are to be 55. My sisters advised letting a light frost sweeten the apples on the trees but we never got a light frost. We picked in fear of the apples freezing on the trees. The trees were so laden with apples that some of the branches had begun to break. imagine what the 17 inches of snow would have done to a already burdened tree, bye bye, apple trees.

Thank you for your patience in waiting for my return. It still is going to be a rough going as we have more tough days ahead but I'm going to do my best to keep blogs coming. I've got lots of photos and stories to share. I've started a couple gallons of vinegar and wishing I had more stopper things for the tops of my gallon jars. I'm starting a new culture of sour dough today from grapes. My old one isn't happy at all and I'm not sure I'll be able to rescue it. Once again for those who have stuck with me I'm praying in a week quieter days are ahead. Not sure how much more of this I can take before I break.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Taking a Break

Though I have pictures for lots of blogs to come and several blogs started, I will need to take a break from blogging for a couple weeks. Not that I've been writing up a storm lately but life has become very challenging. There are the issues on our own front. We have three month old kid goats that need weaned and no place to separate them off to, to name  one of the least of our problems. We still have two houses to care for as the other one has yet to sell. Our problems are minor in comparison with others though.

We are bringing Kirk's dad from the hospital to his home today. It has been a difficult couple months of one health problem after another for him. He is 88 years old and his body is giving out. The doctors believe he has but a few days left and he will no longer be with us.

It is the time of harvest and I've seven boxes of fruit showing up on Sunday. I ordered them in May. The garden is in full swing and I'm trying to sneak in a little, and I'm getting only a little, time in to sew the 200 bag order due by the first of November. I look forward to my family of my sisters, their husbands, my brother, and my dad for a reunion. They will be here next weekend. The reunions we use to have, have been canceled due to life's emergencies. This one will come no matter what. It will be most precious as cancer has raised its ugly head amongst two members of the group. Life is so uncertain.

Please be patient, I will be back when I can lift my head above water as they say. I'm praying that will be in two weeks. I  need the writing as it is a therapy for my nerves. Until then know I am thinking of you and longing for quiet moments to write.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Powdered Dried Vegetables

Run out of people to give your zucchini to? Don't forget to freeze some and dry some. I tried putting some zucchini in the blender and then drying it - don't do it. It didn't work so well as it was hard to get off the plastic sheets on the dehydrator trays.
 

 It did powder up finer than the sliced zucchini but not worth the waste.
 
Slice instead and then put it through the blender to chop it up. I stored my zucchini last year sliced in ziplock bags but this time I'm powdering it and putting it in canning jars. It takes up less space that way. 
If you have a mandolin, the job is super quick. I love mine and use it almost every day during this time of year.
 
 
Some of you will recall that I like to dry vegetables, turn them to powder, and then add them to noodles, breads, and taco shells to boost the flavor and increase the nutrition level. I've done sweet potatoes, pumpkin, beets, spinach, and zucchini. I have LOVED my powdered hot pepper mix also that I don't use in noodles or taco shell but I love it in chili and Mexican dishes. No, dried hot peppers aren't in my noodles. I have yet to try them in taco shells but I should. It should be replaced this year but I've not hot peppers to do it with so I guess it will hopefully be next year. 
 
This year I'm doing some bell peppers dried. Just ones that I had in my bountiful basket but weren't getting used fresh. We have been on the road wa....y too much but hopefully that will come to an end soon. That has meant I don't get cooking done like I'd like and more food goes to waste, something that really bugs me. Sti...ll I'm doing my best and one can't do more than that. I'm to the point where I've thrown out most of my goals and started over. Not that the goals aren't still there, they just got shoved into next year. That includes doing a great deal of canning and freezing.  
 
 I am going to do quite a bit of drying of food. It is much quicker than canning. Beets are going today into the dehydrator. What a sorry crop I've had but it is okay, I've still some canned so I'll make it another year with cutting back on how much we eat of them.

 If I've learned one thing it is you should can for more than a year's use. Last year we had hail that wiped out the garden. That meant we ate the left overs jars from the year before. This year the old garden has such a bad PH problem that I planted peas three times and each time they died. That is the garden with the beets. I can see it will take a few years to get things set up like I'd like.   
 
This year my food storage will be pulled down to the bare bones as I use up what I have and give the old canned food to the chickens. I have a ton of green beans in bottles with a bountiful crop coming on this year. Chickens will love me this winter and in a way I will be eating those green beans through the eggs.  
When the beets are finished drying I will do scallions from the garden. Oh how I love onions dried. I've learned that despite having fresh onions in a dish, a dash of dried onion also adds a nice punch of flavor. In chicken noodle soup it is a must for a full rich broth.  I've dried a little spinach this year and I emphasize little since it was in the old garden. I'll just have to dry lots of zucchini to make up for the lack of spinach. Hoping next year will be better. I had planned on saving seed but have given up on the idea. Things aren't going smoothly in our lives and that is one of the goals that got thrown out the window for this year.
 
I do hope I get a decent crop of carrots. I put them in really late and it is already getting cool. We've had sixties and low 40's at night this last week. A cool September is in the forecast and I don't doubt it will be as it has already snowed in the mountains. This photo is from before it snowed. The snow has never left the high elevations. I'm guessing if I went where the snow capped peaks are I'd see the snow is pink or green - not white. Have you ever seen pink or green snow? I have a few times in the Beartooth Mountains. It is a growth of some kind that creeps across it. You find it in snow banks where the snow has set for a long time and the temperatures are high but not so high it all melts like now when it is the end of summer but snow is still on the tallest peaks of the mountains.
 
I've been telling the rain clouds that rain is welcome but do not turn to snow. Our acreage was covered in a thick layer of snow all winter and the soil stayed cold even after the temperatures finally started to rise. It was a very late spring. That meant my garden is really slow. The corn wasn't put in the ground until the third week in June. Usually I get beans the end of July but this year it was the middle of August. My corn is the prettiest thing, tall and lushly thick. BUT it just started to tassel and grow cobs. I'm thinking I may have to try another kind of seed. I've been traveling a great deal lately and every garden I peer at through the window has tasseled corn. The corn is skinny, rather bare with very few leaves, but it is tasseled with ears. Will mine make it before the snow flies? I'm strongly questioning it. It is beautiful but 'pretty is and pretty does'. This might end up being goat feed.
 
 People ask if I planted early corn? I did. The earliest I could find and it was meant for Alaska. I fertilized it twice but not more than twice, so why so... tall? The neighbors tell me I have the longest growing time up here on the hill of the whole valley but how much longer is the question? I can breathe a little easier since we have lots of frozen corn our daughter brought us from Colorado last year.
 
My do I keep getting off topic. As for dried vegetables, I want to use some dried bell pepper along with dried onions in tomato sauce dishes and soups. Think what it would do to chili, YUM! Yes, some fresh as well would go in but adding dried would enrich the flavor. Dried vegetables take up so little room and since my storage room is in bad need of a overhaul in the way of building cupboards, food storage needing less space is quite appealing right now.
 
Now that we are back on the subject, don't forget to dry as well as freeze and can. It is a great way to use those not so perfect crops. I know I'm going to be doing more potatoes that way this fall. Remember I have quite a few potatoes in the old garden that haven't faired so well. I'm thinking potato flour big time. I emphasize thinking as I really don't know what is below those shrimpy plants. I'm hoping to explore potato flour in noodles and not just bread.   Well it is nighty night and a muscle relaxer for me. I've been in bed most of the day with spasms. Life just stays wa...y to exciting for me.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hypothermia Chicken

 Kirk hollered, " Come quick, one of the chickens is in trouble, bring towels!" Still in my pajamas, I ran outside with towels and Kirk led me to a soppin wet chicken huddled by the goat watering tank. Myrna, the Aracauna , was indeed in trouble. Kirk found her straddled in the tank and rushed to remove her but the soaking wet heap couldn't walk for the racking shivers that jerked her body back and forth. She had severe hypothermia. I called for our oldest grand daughter to go and get the blow dryer and I scooped the chicken up in the towels and headed for the electric outlet on the front porch.

Hypothermia is an old enemy. I often suffer from a mild case of it and once a severe level after a surgery. I've treated many species of animals in various stages. Only once before have I dealt with this level and it was a sheep that was run into a frozen pond by a dog in the winter time. Myrna was in BAD shape.
Forming a tunnel in the towels, I blew warm air inside. Then when she wasn't shivering quite so badly, I was able to gently lift each wing and blow dry underneath, fluffing her feathers as if I were creating a puffy hair style. Then last of all I lifted her up and blew dry her belly. When the painful jerking had ceased and she was just lightly shivering, our oldest grand daughter swore she could almost hear a purr. We fluffed and dried for minutes or more and then when we stopped a soft shiver would run through her now and then. We opted to keep her wrapped up in the towels and put her in the nest in the chicken coop, doors closed. She remained huddled inside the towels.
 
After a while Kirk went out and checked on her fearful that the trauma still might have been too much for her but there she was pecking on the plexi-glass door windows asking to be let out. No green egg today but can you blame her? I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't lay much the rest of the week. I'm just glad our little miss bug catcher is fine once more.     
 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What Is Your Opinion?


First of all, the pine needle tea from a different pine tree was indeed green, interesting. Hubby's finger is still really swollen but no infection. I'm going to have to look up how to lower the swelling but things have gotten really crazy. I'm really having a hard time blogging this summer. I promise I have been shooting photos and have a long list of posts to finish or do but no time.

For instance right now I've four children sleeping in my room. Presently a slumber party without grandma. I'm determined to say at least something on here and then climb in with a bunch of wiggly bodies. Thankfully three are on the floor and only one in the bed.
 Has anyone come to the same conclusion as I? Regular onions are a whole heaping scoop bigger than scallions in the same amount of time. I haven't eaten the scallions except in a dish so I've yet to determine if flavor makes them worth growing. I know if you are just looking at time, fertilizer, and water then the regular onions are much more economical.
 But first I need to give these scallions a taste test not in a dish where the flavor was masked a bit.
As for cucumbers the pickling ones are hands down superior in flavor. My mother-in-law said the same thing. I'm definitely putting more pickling in than slicers even though you get more cucumber volume wise on the slicers. If you re wondering why it has taken me this long to figure this out, it is because I couldn't get cucumbers to grow in my garden t the old house. I finally gave up.
The small bush style plant on these has me wondering if I shouldn't try growing them in the house this winter if I could ever get around to doing that project.
 
Does anyone else have the same opining? What do you think about onions versus scallions?
As for the Egyptian onions or walking onions as they are also called, I'm so far sold. I think everyone of the bulbs sprouted despite some being up rooted by the chickens a time or two. So far they have me sold. I'll try and get a word or two more in soon but my eyes just won't stay open tonight so nighty night.
 

Friday, August 8, 2014

OUCH!!!

Hubby has an boo, boo. He smashed his finger badly. I'd show it to you but it would not make a funny photo like the donkey one of me. No, this one would make some look away. As for me,  I'm likely to say ew.....w let me see when confronted by such things. I'm morbid that way. The damage is bad enough that one of these days Kirk will loose the nail and maybe it won't grow back. I'm not sure that where he smashed it, that it might not have damaged the growth plate. Do you call it a growth plate. Anyway, the thingy where the nail originates. How about that? I'm sure he did it so he could get out of fencing. LOL

Anyway, we needed to treat the wound and since his friend gave him some root of something, the something we will have to find out what it is, we did as he said and made a poultice. What Kirk thought the piece of dried up root was makes no sense when you coupled the fact that his friend reportedly grew it. The something that he thought he said is not possible to grow here. Thoroughly confused? I know it was tough.

The point is this friend's Native American grandmother taught him the use of it. He keeps some at work and at home for just such an emergency as a smashed finger or worse. We were told to make a poultice and cover the wound with it. Not real sure how you make a poultice but what sprung into our minds was to use Neosporin as the base. The Neosporin is a jell. The finely chopped root mixed in nicely and spread well, staying in place.

But first we soaked Kirk's finger in a bowl of pine needle tea with the companionship of all his fingers, easier that way I guess. Pine needle tea because after all we are trying to work on our natural medicine plan. The one where we use things that grow here or we can grow here.

I've been photographing the wild flowers this summer and looking up what some of them are in hopes of finding medicinal plants for our natural flower garden we plan to put in next summer. I figure if it grows native, it will need less water and care. The only problem is I'll have no idea what the medicinal plant looks like before they blossoms. The garden may take several years.

A few plants and seeds I want to add that aren't native. Calendula flowers are one of them. They volunteered, reseeding themselves, every year at the old house after the initial planting. For now, I'm just study things out. So far I'm not seeing the medicinal plants being eaten by the deer, another bonus.

I'm also going to add some things that the bees particularly love like bee balm. I have a photo of some I found along the road but I'm still looking for it. Alas, I'm having trouble finding the photo. Computer issues. Natives, bee loving, and a few just pretties I like will all mix to make this flower garden.

I have been paying attention to what plants the honey bees tend to and what ones the bumble bees like. I do hope bee balm is in the honey bee list as alas, there are no honey bees where the plants were for me to observe. Another goal is to fill the yard with food for the bees. That is why I'm keeping a list of what they visit and when so I can work on keeping them busy most of the summer months.

Oh dear, I did get way off track. I'd best get back to the original story. We've made pine needle tea before at the old place. It was winter and the needles from a blue spruce made a green colored tea. We drank it for it's vitamin C properties and as a survival experiment. Granted I'd made the mixture too strong but whoa!, Nothing I'd like to drink on a regular basis. Definitely tasted like pine needles. If you are interested in giving it a try be sure to look up pine needle teas as there are two kinds of pine trees that are poisonous.The two bad kinds are not naturally in Wyoming. That is why they don't come to mind as I put the names in the don't need category of my brain.

The tree I used this time looked to be a blue spruce also but the tea turned out a rosey peach color - very pretty. Not sure if it is the time of year of use that changed the color or if I'm mistaken on what kind of tree it is. I'm going to try another pine tree in the yard tomorrow. Will it be green? The purpose for the pine needle tea is not the high vitamin C's but the anti-bacterial property in them.

I'll let you know what the root ends up being. I'm hoping indeed that his friend grows it and we can get a start. Always looking for things that grow well in our new location.

Do you have a medicinal garden?