Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Oh What Fun They Had........"

Our Granddaughter, Abigail, stayed with us last week while Julie went to an appointment in Traverse City.  It was an early appointment, so Julie and Abigail had left their house quite early and had not eaten, so Grandpa fixed a big breakfast for Abigail and Grandpa Don.  :)

After breakfast, Grandpa Don and Abigail took off to explore the woods, stopping at Grandpa Don's tent out in the furthest clearing from the house.  And just like "Goldilocks", she had to check out Grandpa Don's comfy cot and sleeping bag.

Then she moved on to his folding lounge chair........

After that, they headed back out into the woods, stopping at the next clearing where Grandpa Don had made a 2nd Ceremonial Circle.  Originally, he had designated this clearing for the placement of the "Deer Mineral Block", but after our neighbors had another bear on their deck a few days prior to Abigail's visit, he decided he did not want any possible "food attractions" near the tent.

As you can see, Abigail is not squeamish when it comes to Nature......

Another stop in their exploring was at Grandpa Don's deer stand.  Abigail has climbed up in it before but the day of their exploring, she only climbed up partway before coming back down.

Then off to do more exploring, stopping here, there, and everywhere, seeing what there was to see.  :)

Friday, August 8, 2014

"Fermenting Sauerkraut......"

I have not used my new "Farm Curious Fermenting Set" (http://www.farmcurious.com/product/recap-fermenting-set/) until this morning.  "Hopefully", I have done everything correctly and will have our homegrown cabbage fermenting into sauerkraut.

I went out to the garden and cut 2 heads of cabbage this morning.  Bringing them into the kitchen, I sliced each head as thinly as I could, reserving the core to use in the final step.

The sliced cabbage was then salted and kneaded by hand to help release some of the water in the cabbage.

When the cabbage was wilted and the bowl had liquid standing in the bottom, it was then put into a one half gallon Mason jar.  There wasn't enough released liquid to cover the cabbage so I added some brine that I had made so the cabbage was completely covered, then used a couple of large cabbage leaves underneath the cabbage core to keep the cabbage under the brine.

You can see the core and large cabbage leaves in this photo.  The Farm Curious Fermenting Set allows the fermenting gases to escape the jar without causing the brine to overflow the jar.  The airlock also prevents any outside contaminates getting into the fermentation and ruining it.  Now, it will sit on the kitchen counter so I can keep an eye on it to make sure all goes well.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Tent Set Up......"

Don has set up his new tent in one of our natural clearings.  He began yesterday and did his final check (my photo op) this morning, before he went off to begin more "trail blazing".  :)

Here is what the clearing looked like prior to his tent.   The 2 stumps on the far side of the clearing mark the beginning of a short path to another clearing where he has placed a "Deer Mineral Block".  We don't think the deer have found it yet, but the squirrels and chipmunks sure have........and they're loving it!  :)

Here is the tent before he installed the "rain fly".  The tops of both main room and screen porch are, for the most part, total screen.

And after the rain fly was attached........

I took a photo of the tent in the distance from one of the paths on our walk out to the clearing this morning.  We were perhaps 1/3 of the way from our house to the clearing.

Don had taken one of his folding recliners for its new place in the screened porch of the tent.

And also a new cushy cot for in the main room of the tent.  I "imagine" there might be a few naps out there in his future.  :)

A "small" feature of the tent, is the tiny screened window in the back at floor level, which has its own tiny awning.  :)

I took another photo from a distance on yet another trail that leads back to our house.  The tent is barely visible from the house, and only because we know where to look.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Patrick and Abigail Visit........"

Last Friday, Patrick and Abigail drove up to visit......."and do some work".  We needed a few trees cut down, mainly some dead ones on the outside edges of a couple of clearings in the woods that Don wanted to have cut down before they fell down on anyone walking his trails.

The kids arrive (Julie had a meeting to attend for the Manistee Library) and after getting out of their truck, Abigail immediately begins checking out flowers, taking photos with her camera she got from us for Christmas, and collecting.......

We all followed Grandpa Don to the first of his clearings, where his "Ceremonial Circle" is, which had a couple of trees that needed to be felled.  Abigail lays her "collection" of items already picked up on the short walk to the 1st clearing, in the center of the Ceremonial Circle, before we all head to the other clearings to see what else Don wanted cleared.

As you can see, she has quite the collection of various "finds".

Off we go to the other clearings.......

We have a total of 3 natural clearings that Don is cleaning up.  His 1st one, the Ceremonial Circle, his 2nd, a larger clearing where he will be erecting a large tent with large screened porch for immersing himself in total "woods" and not being eaten alive by mosquitoes, and the 3rd, where we have set a deer lick.  Each clearing needed a couple of trees felled.

The photo below is clearing number 3.  Once Don sets up his tent, I will post a few photos.....

After showing us what he wanted cut, Don and Abigail leave to go exploring (Abigail does not like to be around the noisy chainsaw), stopping off at their truck first to change into a short sleeved teeshirt.  It was beginning to get warm.....

Patrick hard at work........

We worked our way back through the clearings until we were back at the Ceremonial Circle where several trees needed felling.  Patrick is now cutting the last one down, which was going to come down through the middle of the Ceremonial Circle.  Some good clean up was required afterwards.  ;)

After the last tree was down, we called out to let "our explorers" know that it was safe to come back and check Patricks work.

Abigail had found more items to set in the center of the Ceremonial Circle.

Abigail and Grandpa Don found all sorts of interesting items.

Even some of Grandpa Dons property marking tape......

Abigail definitely is NOT scared of bugs or other things found in the woods.  Here she is opening up one of those "thin skinned puff balls" that are found on some oak branches.

Back we go to the house so her Dad can shower and change before we go out to lunch.  We ate in Karlin at the restaurant/bar, the "Karlin Inn".  I'd forgotten I wanted to send home with them some Zucchini Relish that I had made, plus I had some fresh Deviled Eggs, too, so back to the house we went.  Abigail LOVES Grandpa's Deviled Eggs.  :)  

Monday, August 4, 2014

"Barb's Zucchini Relish......"

I just finished making another batch of Zucchini Relish, using my cousin Barb's recipe from her cookbook, "Purr"fect Recipes for "Dog"gone Good Eatin' (copyright 2006). She published her cookbook as a fundraiser for benefitting several animal shelters in SW Michigan. She also bakes "goodies" regularly and sells them so that she can continue to donate to these shelters.
Here are a few photos of my version of her delicious relish.  When making the first batch earlier this year, I used my Kitchen Aid's "grinder attachment", but I shredded my squash for this batch. Hopefully, the texture will be OK......

The zucchini is shredded or ground, and mixed with chopped onion, plus salt, so the mixture can sit overnight in the refrigerator.

Several spices are combined with cider vinegar, sugar, and chopped red pepper, before adding the rinsed zucchini and onion to the cook pot.  The mixture is heated until boiling, then boiled for 5 minutes before removing it from the stove and filling HOT pint jars and sealing them with new lids/rings.  The jars will seal without processing.  

The recipe makes 6-7 pints plus, depending on how the squash was prepared.

Here is a close up of a jar.  Delicious! 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"New Additions to the Garden......"

I built 2 more raised beds for the garden.  This time, I made them 2' tall and 4' x 4' wide, thinking it might make it easier for picking produce.

As I did in the larger raised beds, I used baled straw as the base, packed tightly, and layered old straw (still in the wheelbarrow in this photo) on top of that before adding the soil mix.

Also, once again, I used bags of "Wholly Cow", a mixture of composted cow manure and peat moss, on top of the straw bales (the baling twine was cut to allow the bales to expand so they will absorb water/rain easier).

I used 5 bags of Wholly Cow in each bed, filling in the slits along the sides, too.

The main part of the bed will have strawberry transplants (from the low bed on the right), but I am going to try planting some bush green beans in the narrow side slits to see if I can get a Fall harvest.  I planted some bush green beans in the 4' x 8' raised bed (behind these in the photo), but slugs have taken their toll on them and I have only been able to harvest enough green beans for fresh eating.  I finally figured out it was slugs doing the damage (totally cutting the bush beans stem off at ground level) so I set a bowl of beer in the beds soil and my slug problem disappeared quite quickly.  I had never had to use the beer remedy before and was really impressed with how quickly my slug problem was cleared up.....literally overnight!

Tomorrow.....transplanting time!

Monday, July 28, 2014

"July 28, 2014 Garden Update......"

I decided since I was out in the garden picking green beans today and tying up Sugar Baby Watermelons, I should take photos for a "Garden Update".  :)

The 2 varieties of cherry tomatoes are growing very nicely but are not setting many fruit, although there have been hundreds of blossoms.  Perhaps the cooler temperatures have had some effect on this?

I was able to pick a few strawberries from these plants, but the majority of the berries disappeared......"I believe", with chipmunks.  The 3 blueberry bushes have ripening fruit on them......hopefully, I will be able to pick them before the chipmunks are aware of their ripeness.  :)

Here are several Summer Squash in planters.  I have been able to get a few squash from them but have had some blossom tips wither and die.  I'm not exactly sure what the problem has been but since I have watered the plants less, they seem to be setting fruit better.  I must have been giving them too much water for the cooler nighttime temperatures and the days weren't hot enough to require the plants to drink it up quick enough?

The broccoli is growing nicely but no sign yet of any heads......

In this 2' raised bed I have a variety of plants giving us produce.  The Zucchini and Summer Squash plants are doing well, although I think the cooler temperatures are slowing the production down.  As you can see, I am blaming the cooler temperatures for all of this.  ;)  I was, however, able to pick enough at the same time to make a batch of my cousin Barb's Zucchini Relish.  I will be able to do that again within the next few days, too.

I have cut numerous kale leaves, making seasoned kale chips in the dehydrator, and today, picked a bunch of green beans for tonight dinner.  I am thoroughly enjoying being able to pick from the garden and eating the produce the same night.  :)

I haven't grown watermelons in years but thought I would attempt to this year, choosing the variety, Sugar Baby.  I also thought I would try trellising them, giving the melons support by tying the melons up in old shower scrungie netting.  So far, this method seems to be doing very well.

The Grasshopper population is quite large this year and they have been dining on several types of plants, but really taking their toll on my pepper plants.  I get sharing with Nature, but hope Nature remembers to share with me.  ;)

All of my tomato plants are heirloom varieties.  The few which have ripened and we've tasted have been excellent, but the plants are not as productive as I would wish.........however, it could be the cooler temperatures, right?  ;)  I do wish I had planted a few hybrids (I don't think they all are genetically modified) for a control group to see how they would have responded to the same conditions.  Perhaps next year......

This small strawberry patch gave us quite a few berries until the chipmunks found it.  The 2' tall, small spaced fencing did not deter them in the least.  I hope to build a tall raised bed soon so that I can transplant these strawberry plants in it and give them a good amount of time to set good roots before fall.  I also plan on building removable sides and top, covered with hardware cloth in hopes of saving the strawberry harvest "for us".  :)

I hope to replace all of the rest of the low raised beds with 2' tall ones this Fall, too, so they can be in use for early next Spring.  I haven't been able to rotate my plantings as I would like, so having new beds will help with that.

My other 2' tall raised bed is doing very well, too.  As you can see, my cabbages are forming nice heads, the dill is close to flowering, and the peas are on their way out.  I am purposely leaving many pea pods to mature on the vine to see how well they dry and how many shelled peas I get from these few plants. So far, no sign of sprouts forming on the 6 Brussels Sprouts plants.  OH!  The small plants in this near corner are Zinnias.  I planted the seeds quite late after getting a package free with something else we bought.  

The 4 seedless grapes are all growing well, too.  I have 2 green and 2 red plants......the green seedless seem to be growing the fastest, sending out the longest runners.

The Red Raspberries that I planted last year have grown exceedingly well, too.  Next years harvest should be quite large with all of this years new canes.

I planted these 2 Blackberries about 5-6 weeks ago and they have grown tremendously, too.  I've never had Blackberry plants before so do not know what to expect from these.  All I know now is that the canes are VERY prickly, VERY long, and still growing!

Unfortunately, I lost one of my 3 Rhubarb plants, although the 2 surviving ones are quite healthy.  I'm not sure if the leaves are also poisonous for grasshoppers, but if they are, they aren't helping put much of dent in this years population.

All of my container plants on the deck are growing well, too.  Perhaps it is because the pots heat up more quickly after a cooler night?  (See?  Back to the cooler temperatures).

Here are my pots of Basil......


Tomatoes, with a tiny Zucchini or Summer squash plant emerging......

And lastly, my thriving pot of Chives.  I have already trimmed these plants 2 times for dehydrating.  I just noticed the weed growing in the pot.  These photos are good for spotting what needs to be addressed, eh?