Sunday, November 3, 2013


It is Autumn. The leaves are changing fast. Just as I was having the thought that the leaves were peeking in our area - they did. Within a few days the brilliant yellows, golds and reds are fading. There is quite a chill in the air and winter is knocking on the door.

 Just a few days ago I still had Marigolds and these beautiful purple flowers in the walkway to our front door.
Now they look like this.

I only got 2 tomatoes from the plants I put in. The summer seemed to be hard on them. As soon as it got cool the plants perked up and I got two more tomatoes. 

So glad I wasn't depending on my tomato crop for canning. Thank goodness for the local farmers markets and farms. 
We recently ate these after they ripened - yum!

 I got one more butternut squash from the garden before all the plants gave out and I'm still getting carrots.

Butternut carrot soup - was very delicious. 

The green in the front on the left are the carrots I have remaining. The green behind that is arugula. It went to seed but still tastes pretty good. On the right are kale and more arugula. The cooler weather has been much better for the greens. The bugs seem to have disappeared. Now I only have to contend with falling leaves.

 Speaking of falling leaves... this is our driveway.

 I can't pick out a favorite autumn leave color. They are all so amazing.

We hike a lot now so we can take in as much of the beauty before it is gone. 

 A view from our living room.

This is a view from the west side of our property looking back at our house. You can just about make out the green roof just to the left of the big pine tree. We wanted our "green" home to blend in as much as possible. From this angle we were successful. 

 On one of our early am walks we were greeted by a rainbow.
No words needed!

We have had some fall visitors. Some unexpected and some expected. 
Momma bear returned...

 with 3 cubs.

All four were looking pretty hungry but didn't find anything to eat at our place.
Since the humming birds have departed for winter, the feeders have been removed and the bird seed is not reachable (they have tried and just can't get to it). 
We thought the cubs were pretty cute until they began mimicking mom by standing and putting their paws on the front door glass. No longer cute! Jim opened the side window and introduced himself. They are not habituated so they got spooked and moved along. Probably to the neighbors' garbage cans. A few day latter one was turned over in the street. Another thing we do to discourage bears is keep our garbage cans inside. They are only mildly curious about the compost bin and haven't done any damage to it. Small blessings!

Other guests this fall were my cousin Peggy and her husband Bill. 
Peggy mentioned they have been following our blog and were curious about our house. Since they were in the area they stopped in to say Hi and take a look. 
Thanks so much for visiting! 
As you can tell we love sharing our home.

The bluegrass group we play with, the Berry Pickers, have been pretty busy. We played a barn dance last night and the photo above was taken at a wedding a week ago. 
It looks warm and sunny. It was until the sun went down. I discovered some overalls at Tractor Supply that are one of the best cold weather investments I've ever made. They are sort of quilted with a padding to make them warm. And boy are they. It was 40 in the barn last night and I was nice and toasty!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Harvesting Time

It is harvesting time and a few of my garden experiments actually worked out - sort of. As you already know I've perfected Marigolds. Tomatoes are a bit more challenging. Even with all the advice I've gotten from my step dad, Bob, I didn't do well with them. I felt a bit better about it when I heard a lot of the locals saying how some sort of blight has made it almost impossible to get good tomatoes. 

 I felt really blessed to harvest and enjoy these two beauties from one of my 6 tomato plants. 
Below them are butternut squash and one summer squash. 
The butternut squash are being roasted today and I'm going to be making soup out of them. It is starting to get a bit cool in the evenings so the soup will be nice to have.

 I've also pulled a few tasty carrots out of the garden. They are a called Cosmic Purple and I got the seeds from Sow True Seed. They are a deep, sort of red color on the outside and a bright orange on the inside. 

See what I mean! 

The carrots are still growing so I might get a few more before we get our first frost. It is pretty hard to tell when they are ready to be pulled up so it has been a guessing game.

 My green beans are starting to come in as well. The one on the left was a bit longer but I got a little excited and took a bite out of it after I washed them. I use to snap beans for my mom when I was little and she was canning. I'd snap a few, eat a few, snap a few. Snapping simply means I would "snap" off the end that was connected to the plant before they were picked and then "snap" them in half or into thirds (depending on how long they were) so that they were ready for my mom to can them.
 The green beans are from my second "harvest." The corn are the first ones I pulled from the stalk - also not knowing when it was time to pick them. I'm sure there are some guidelines somewhere. 

 I only get about a very small handful of green beans at a time because they are not growing that fast and my Three Sisters Garden didn't work out as perfectly as I thought it might. We were getting lots of rain early on and things were growing really well. Then the rain pretty much stopped. The corn stalks sort of stopped when the rain did but the beans vines kept going and have toppled two of my corn groups. 
The beans keep coming but the corn stalks are pretty much toast!

 My Summer Squash are doing pretty well, but the plants have developed a mold problem, maybe because of all the rain or maybe just because the nights are damp and the leaves don't get a chance to dry out during the day. I found a natural remedy on the internet (1 Tlbs of canola oil, one Tlbs of baking soda to 1 gallon of water) and I've been using it. The plants continue to grow but it doesn't seem to stop the mold on the leaves. It has impacted the Summer Squash and the Butternut.

One other small problem with the Summer Squash

 I've been really fortunate that I've only found them in a few. I noticed a very tiny pin holes on the outside of the squash and after cutting into the squash found the worms having a feast. This one ended up in the compost pile.
Speaking of compost pile.
This mysterious thing is still growing and beginning to develop large, sort of oblong "fruit."
And we still have some tomato plants in the compost that are holding on and beginning to develop fruit. 
They all sprang up from seeds that were in the compost but didn't get "cooked" from the heat. I'm not sure how to prevent this in the future. Maybe next spring I'll just spread the compost across the back property and see what sprouts up! Another fun experiment.

Black berry season came and went again. Our wild berry canes are doing well but it is tough to pick them. Wild plants have prickers, unlike the plants you can purchase from garden shops - which also have a much bigger berry and you can also get tart or sweet. 
Ours are tiny and tart. 
I spent most of the morning picking a gallon of berries and canned 7 half pint jars of jam before the end of the day.

 I'm still waiting on the okra plants. The bugs have backed off a bit and I keep watering them in hopes that one day one of the little buds will turn into something we can eat.

And the pepper plants are taking their time as well. Maybe I just don't water them enough. Maybe I should have used "Miracle Grow"!

 Not my tomatoes but aren't they lovely!
I stopped by the local farmer's market and got some tomatoes that are good for canning because I found a recipe in my canning book I wanted to try. I brought home about 28 tomatoes and started the process.
Did you ever notice that tomato sauce doesn't have seeds in it? Well, typically it doesn't and I don't know why. Don't know if someone had something against seeds of they just wanted to make a lot of work for the rest of us. It isn't an easy task to de-seed a tomato. 
You blanch the tomato first in boiling water. 
Then you dunk it in cold water (the bowl to the right). After it comes out of the cold water the skin peals off really easily. (Oh, I forgot to mention that really nice tomato sauce doesn't have tomato skin in it either.)

Next you slice the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds. Eventually I figured out that it is much easier if you slice the tomato in quarters. Jim helped me out with this task and I was really grateful. It is very time consuming.

The tomatoes went into a pot with the other ingredients and simmered for a while. We ladled the hot mixture into 7 pint jars that were being kept hot so the sauce didn't crack the jars and added the lids that were also in hot water. When the lids were on the jars they went into my Presto Canner. It had to process for 25 minutes (cook in the sealed canner). Sorry I didn't get photos of all that. As you can imagine Jim and I were a bit busy.

 So here is the place where the chef brings out the finished product and you think, wow, that is simple I can make that.
 Did you notice that there were only 6 jars? One ended up in the frig because it didn't seal. This can happen if the rim of the jar or the lid isn't wiped completely clean. 
Unfortunately, I had a lot of tomatoes left over. 
I searched the Ball jar recipes for something else to make and decided on a meat sauce.

A few days later I went to a local farm and purchased the most expensive beef I've ever run across. The beef is from Hickory Nut Gap Farm, here in Fairview. It is grass fed and free of hormones and antibiotics (and all those things that people who want really good beef don't want in their beef). 
I browned 5 pounds of beef, added the tomatoes and extra spices. OMG! I wish I had smell-o-vision so you can experience what I was smelling. I wanted to eat it right then and there, but resisted. 

Of course, most of you who know us also know that we rarely eat meat - especially beef. It is usually reserved for special occasions or sometimes when we go out to eat. 
I put the meat sauce into jars but ended up with a lot more than expected. 
I couldn't process it all in my canner because it wouldn't fit so I put some in the freezer and set some aside to have with the tomato sauce that didn't seal. I mixed them together and they made an amazing tomato/meat sauce for spaghetti. OMG good! 

 Here is my peach butter (left) black berry jam and Italian Tomato Sauce. 
I didn't get a shot of the meat sauce.

 My Kombucha experiment worked out!
It tastes pretty good. But aside from all the positive things Kombucha has to offer, I found out that it is rather acidic. It is important to not drink too much of it each day because like other highly acidic drinks - it isn't good for you.
Everything has to be balanced. 

Who likes PIE!
My grandfather Updyke used to say, "Make all my cakes, pies." 
I love pies too. These were peach pies. One is gluten free and the other has a regular crust. I made them for a local picnic. My sister-in-law, Cindy, made us this pie basket a few years ago and it is fun to get a chance to use it.

 I threw these gals in just because they are so cute.
This was the first time we had ever seen two humming birds at the feeder at one time. Typically they are chasing each other away and they never share. As you can tell the gal on the lift has a bit of a "ruffled feathers" look. 
We are enjoying them while they are here. Pretty soon it will be too cold and they will disappear for winter. 

Our latest encounter with a neighbor. This bear is much bigger than the little one we have photographed in the past. Or maybe he/she is just growing. There is no way to tell without tagging and that isn't going to happen. 

Here's our public service announcement....


Or as the doctor in the emergency room put it, "Fire always gets you." 

Jim had a really good learning experience recently. He tried to burn up some old lumber that wasn't used on the house with some old gas that had been sitting around.
The fumes ignited and flashed back on him. He burned off some of the skin on his hand and caused some really bad blistering on his hand, fingers and arm. He also singed the side of his leg and some of his hair. 
He is really embarrassed about it but decided to share what happened in hopes that his experience will serve as a warning for others and possibly prevent them from doing the same thing. 


Jim in the ER and a few minutes after they gave him pain killers. 





Actually, it doesn't look that bad, now - but a few days ago - YUCK!
The bright red color is where the first layer of skin burned off. The dark patches are burns that are healing. We are using a cream called Silver Sulfadiazine and it seems to be doing the trick. We change the dressing twice a day which means washing it, reapplying the cream and then wrapping it up again. 

If you have ever used gas to start a fire - reconsider ever doing that again. 
Just when you think you are being safe - OUCH!