March? Are you kidding? and Springs about here.

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Monday March 9, 2015

It’s an observation I feel strong about: The OLDER one gets, and yes, I’m bordering on ancient, no longer regarded among the living by the young set………..it honestly seems time speeds up…. No, I’m not desparately trying to create and finish a bucket list, just wanting to read MORE books, COOK better food, sleep restfully at night, feed the birds, get the yard ready for another summer, and get the house “chores” done…..Whew! I sometimes wonder about people I hear going BACK to work because they were so bored at home. I can only presume they have “staff” to do everything THEY should be learning to do at home.

We’re completing 3 months of the warmest weather on record for mid-winter here in oregon. Our snowpack is nothing on the mountains, and summer fire season will likely be a serious one. That being said, it HAS been very nice to keep up with house cleaning without wet mud everywhere! It also means some nature fun we might not have explored other wise. **It also meant, in JANUARY, we saw mating dives being performed by Anna’s Hummingbirds, our tough little year-round resident….it was a bit shocking…..but FUN.

Oh well. Just a quick note here, like the last few “barely-alive” blog posts….hoping SOMEDAY, I will get back to keeping this little diary…it was an enjoyable task.

**Evening Grosbeaks…..the big flock FIRST sighted here in the ‘hood in late January at the neighbors…..SURPRISINGLY, and without a hint, moved over here a little over a week ago, and it’s thrilling….a bit more costly in seed, and worth every penny. Many mornings, there are solid counts of this most beautiful migrant bird. They ARE unpredictable in moving about, we can only STILL hope 2-3 pair remain with us for nesting and raising chicks.
**Rufous Hummingbirds…..the very FIRST males were spotted at our feeder last week, right in time with the usual siting, and now there are at least one if not two, that are settling in waiting for the ladies to arrive……the poor female rufous….they do EVERY BIT of the work of nest building, raising young…the males simply show up first, set up a territory and attempt to mate with everyone when they arrive. They must a tiresome sort in the evening….they have nothing to talk about except……uh….. you know.

Cousin Mary joined us for a weekend in February of dining out, wine tasting, and a lot of fun. I am SO happy to think she will continue to come visit despite we lost her husband, my cousin, Stan, in November…. and we may very well go visit her in Idaho this summer.

So really, quiet sunny winter…..meaning a lot of yard cleanup’s already done, pruning DONE, thinning and removing weeds….getting done, it’s a NICE feeling…. WE DID get to California for the Ripon Almond Blossom Festival….great to see the family, but things are SO uncertain with the fact there’s clearly not enough water to keep all the orchards alive….some are already being cut out….old trees….sad…..

WASHER / DRYER – ! As a “guy” type, well, sort of, I always bought the “sturdy”, simple, 3-cycle machine for the modest price believing I live life simply…… Those old sturdy machines for about $350-450 each are long gone and new ones come with computer boards that I don’t think will last the 25- 30 years these things used to last. That being said, THIS time, I wondered what it would take to have a great pair of washing/drying pieces to….work in this wetter muddier climate…. By the time “R” did the research, we found the top of the line machine that would have cost about $4000 installed and done, THAT firm also makes the top of the line SEARS/KENMORE model…..with a huge washing tub…..for HALF the cost. That’s what we got. And boy am I happy….it’s the first machine big enough to wash a bed comforter at HOME, and so we’ve put this thing to the test…. I’m happy the old ones broke……this is fun (and we hauled it home and installed it ourselves!)…..

I think I’m breaking new ground on the coming to understand sourdough bread (basics)……I’m not the kind of guy who reads reads reads cookbooks, bread books and comprehends what it seems to take to “KNOW” what your making, to “KNOW” the “FEEL” of creating that dough, and learning the patience of feeding/refreshing a starter for at least 3 days to get a full wonderful flavor….but I AM and am enjoying it more all the time.

Well, this seems to expose our winter as one boring period of life……..and maybe it was, we haven’t been as social as in times past…. is that ALSO the sign of getting older? Yikes…..I better shake THAT behavior off……. and with spring knocking at the door, I don’t think that will be hard to do.

There. I did it, NOT much in content considering all the wordy stuff here. With luck things will improve…now. out to the yard…..get the work done out in the SUN! yes. I said it. SUN….. in PORTLAND…….in MARCH!

sigh.

Ms Joni Ernst – a republican rebuttal speech to our State of the Union. 2015. Ugh.

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday January 21, 2015

Republican’s BEST rebuttal selection to Pres. Obama’s speech? Joni Ernst, Freshman senator from Iowa? She IS: Anti Abortion (wants fetal-personhood passed), Anti Gay Marriage, Anti Marijuana (“it will get into the hands of teens”), she “doesn’t know much about the science of global warming” but wants TO Eliminate the EPA, and thinks warming isn’t much to worry about. She wants to see the PRIVATIZATION of Social Security and Medicare (unbelievable to me…this idea), she thinks the Clean Water Act is too restrictive for farmers, so okay to contaminated water, and yes, wants REPEAL of the ACA…..and create a plan for Privatized Medical Care Insurance (oh yes, that’s worked well hasn’t it)……. So there you go, she says she grew up so POOR that her mother had to put bread wrappers over her shoes to walk to school (as did all the other Iowa kids on the bus)…. and yet….WAIT A MINUTE….. she’s a simple copy of about EVERY Republican elected in that congress / senate. I got curious about her beliefs when I heard that canned robot speech last night….she didn’t respond to Obama’s remarks at all. There’s our new rulers. We’re in trouble.

Christmas 2014

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Monday January 12, 2015

Was so very quiet, we were able to get back on track and be ready for 2015.

This was the first year since moving here that we got exhausted just getting everything done like lights on the house, tree up, gift mailing, buying, cooking food……and NONE of that involved inviting friends over. Sigh.

No, not the neighborhood party. No, not the socializing we’ve done in the past.

A VERY quiet, holiday……… That’s how 2014 ended.

What does that mean for 2015?

since Oct 10

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Monday December 8, 2014

I feel compelled to just fill in a few dates…. this ‘diary’ of sorts has been a welcome reference source since it began…..most often when I compare garden efforts from year to year.

But the last entry was putting the garden to rest, and a few things have happened….nothing big, but I want to remember them in their own way.

Seems putting the yard to rest WAS a big job, ’cause the next thing from Oct 15 was just after my birthday Oct 24…. That was seeing Paula Poundstone at the Aladdin Theater. What a fabulous night, seems Portland folk are “ripe” to make an improvised performance for….MOST of the evening WAS improvised and memorable. I turned 68 years old this week, and am not happy about it so much…..THIS helped me settle in.

Cousin Bruce WAS visiting with us this week, went to Poundstone with us, BUT, more importantly came because the Portland International Beard Competition came to town and he got our tickets….The entire competition went on all afternoon into night hours, so we only showed up for about 3 of those…. what a pageant. 300+ men with every kind of beard imaginable wandering Keller Auditorium was a kind of wonder in itself…..Some of these so tightly groomed, they seemed starched…..some free form….. it was a truly “first” experience of this kind.
BESTGUY

We all LOVED it and afterwards, talked about it all for a couple MORE hours. Thanks, Bruce!

Bruce’s visit then let us more right into prepping for a little Seattle Long weekend…..as the Wisconsin Hoppe clan let us know they were going to be IN Seattle and invited us to join. We all stayed at the downtown Hilton, had a lucky break with exec dining rights for breakfasts on the 29th floor…and that’s where our 4 days all started….. Mom Bev, Beth & Jeff and us….. I have been deemed worthy to call myself Bev’s brother….I’m lucky to be in a group that could say that. We had continuous fun the whole time, some wonderful shopping at Pike Market, hiking, Seattle Port Boat Tours, Chihuli’s museum, the Bubble Gum Wall:
sea 2014 bubl gem

and on and on. We spent a long evening simply in the Hilton Bar/Restaurant space celebrating Bev’s birthday…… **WE DID miss having Thomas & Brenda with us, the real reason we ever even met this family…..they were stuck working back in Minneapolis in the COLD arctic blast of winter hitting.

We came home to learn my cousin Stan Huffaker had moved into a hospice space and passed away Dec 6. Stan and Mary have been frequent visitors at our house the last 3 years since, in a late stage cancer onset, OHSU here in Portland gave blessing to giving him a bone marrow transplant, the donor being his sister Gayle. This meant he would need to visit doctors here every 1 to 3 months…..depending on how things went…..and they went up and down for about 2 years, then a slow decline began. Not good for he and Mary, who for a long time here has been the 24 hour a day single support nurse for Stan…. He was well liked in Couer d’Alene, ID. where they lived, and we felt we needed to go be part of the memorial weekend planned. It was a long drive with temps near 32 and winds blowing….. but the experience was wonderfully warm, and the “wake” Mary’s friends helped prepare afterwards was completely memorable. Stan would have been proud it was in his honor. I was lucky to meet so many people Mary had talked about……. I DID miss getting to see a few of my own cousins, but in this last 3 years, our lives were so wrapped with Mary & Stan, seems it was where we belonged.

SO. It’s December 8. We have had NO moment to even warm UP to a possible feeling about Christmas or the dozens of things one must do to get ready……..Can we bring ourselves back around and feel all Santa Clausy, get a tree, and have some Christmas Cheer? Ask me in a week……I already miss the leaves of fall….how could be in WINTER already?
11 07 14 trail back up

Putting the record producing 2014 Garden to Rest.

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Friday October 10, 2014

The day sure ended better than it started……with a Dentist filing, sawing, chipping, then a little filling saying my teeth were too crowded and as one gets older your lower jaw continues to grow, so I’d eventually have some trouble……….I said, will insurance pay, he says, “Oh, a little, yep, it will cost you a little…” Well, I did it…..then leaving had to pay $438 for MY share…..then get a call when I get home, NO, I owe $710 instead…..insurance paid: 116. Well. I sure learned how much dental insurance I have. Medicare NONE.
So I was glad the afternoon ended better than the day began.

Note to self: You promised Michael at Ridgefield a full report on just how much you got out of this garden where each plant starter was given….a teaspoon dusting of his magic Pro-biotic Garden powder last spring. The report WILL say: I don’t know if it’s ALL the probiotics, but it IS probably part a result of the warmest Portland summer on record that helped produce the RECORD, by far, amount of vegetables we’ve ever grown here. Whew! We JUST picked the LAST pile of tomatoes last night that will make yet ONE MORE round of Lydia’s famous frozen Pasta Sauce for the winter freezer…. We had countertops laden with produce all summer from peppers, lettuce, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, and herbs.

OKAY. On to the little report for today. A little misting of rain may occur tonight or in the morning, then a couple days of cloudy/mild weather, THEN…what appears to be the FALL changeover to very WET weather by Tuesday for several days. SO? After Rodger got home from work, we went to the garden to finish off the tomato harvest….then he dug around for some potatoes, and there are plenty of those still.

I SAW the opportunity with about 90 minutes of sun left……. With NO desire to be rolling up deer fencing on a wet lawn next week, my mind said….get things put away here. I got trimmers, and immediately trimmed the last of tomato vines off the cages…..PUlled the cages and hauled ‘em off to the shed.
grdn cages stored

Then, I began the dismlanting and rolling up task of pulling the half of the deer fence still up off the posts, and rolling the two pieces of as tight as I could. Those pieces were then hauled to the back of the shed for storage….still needing a tarp to cover:
grdn fence roll

I have already put down a layer of leaves/mowed grass on 1/2 the garden, so it’s beginning to look like this little piece of ground is ready for a rest:
grdn view1

Ånd THIS was that grand space all those tomatoes came out of…..this will await layers of grass/leaves in a couple weeks:
grdn view2

The sunflowers……..?? They’re awfully heavy….hoping they survive the rain coming.

AH, THANK YOU, Garden 2012…..what an adventure in Mole control, but mostly growing a beautiful bunch of delicious food.

I also observe the Gravenstein Apples near the garden, are SO many, and many LARGE, they’re falling off the tree….All nearby have been told to come pick some, but most will go for the hungry coyotes/deer soon:
grvnsteins all

The unexpected reward for the warm dry summer was out concord grapes mostly used just for the leaves in pickling, have a small harvest of their own going on, they are unbelievably delicious….that matches what I’m hearing about the entire Oregon Grape harvest….it too has been huge:
grdn concrd grapes

Lastly, when dear friends the Smiths left the ‘hood a few years ago, Karen gave me her old old boot, that she made into a planter after it was worn out….simply putting in some dirt and letting some little succulent plants grow. So. I have done NOTHING with, to, for, this little boot but move it around into the right light on occasion, and here it still thrives with life some 5-6 years later:
karens boot

FALL is in FULL swing here.

an unexpected fabulous migration siting while swimming Mac.

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Monday October 6, 2014

We had theater to see Sunday afternoon with cuz Nancy & Jerry….SO…..we took Mac to Kelly Point on the Columbia River. This is a pretty magnificent point on the River…..it’s about 1 = 2 thousand feet upstream where the Willametter River empties into the river, so it’s splotlessly clean water, but MORE importantly, it has some magnificent views: To the far right, You see Mt Hood ….clearly…….to the left and closer than that, Vancouver Washington’s port is seen, and directly across from the point is the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge….. then, moving to the left, is that river confluence, then far and moving off into the distance, is the Sauvie Island Bird Refuge locations…….

So. There we are, tossing things for the dog to retrieve, and 3 times, to that very FAR left in the distance, the low sky was completely FILLED with thousands of Canadian Geese flying like a great dark low cloud onto and landing at Sauvie Island for some rest…..it gave me goosebumps to see THAT many birds in ONE view…..

THEN….directly across, two flocks of SNOW GEESE (and I didn’t even think they’ve be any this far south yet were taking off from Ridgefield….now flying straight, but circling, climbing higher and higher to at great height, it seemed to us, finally caught wind currents and disappeared ……..going south.

snow geese3
**no not our pic, a web pic, and they were further away from us than this.

BUT that wasn’t the Magnificent part….. IN the morning sun as they circled….with their bright white feathers and black wingtips, at some moments, they’d almost disappear to a shadow, but then as they moved around into the sun, their bright colors were reflected to us as we watched…..OVER and OVER again, this circular motion happened. The two flocks finally merged into one as they reached the winds aloft and resume their southern migration.

What an alive experience that was……Snow Geese are quite beautiful.

as Sept 2014 ends, summer ends too. busy notes here.

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Friday September 26, 2014

Since I MISS not being able to reference end of summer / garden 2013 happenings, I am throwing in here a quick mish/mash of what’s happened just since one week ago at this house…..in no special order…..

1) 2 Batches of Lydia Bastianich’s special slow-cook fabulous pasta sauce, prepped, cooked all day, then frozen………

THIS wonderful sauce is one of Rodger’s summer favorite projects….awaiting the ripening of the Italian Sauce tomatoe, the San Marzanos…..he really doesn’t mind the all day task of making this…..usually I help in the prep part.

Ingredients: chopped onion, garlic, fresh basil, Sauce Tomatoes (in our garden were the San Marzanos, (yum), and begins with, as always, the prep work….let’s get the garlic / onions chopped and ready.
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lydia2
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Then, you core the tomatoes….. yep, get that little green core out:
lydia3
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Then…every tomato is run through the little machine that peels, mashes, de-seeds everthing….you lose a little mass of your product here before you even cook:
lydia4
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This is a great machine…..
lydia5
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ANd finally, you slowly slowly cook the processes tomato mix for a few hours until about half the volume is gone by losing all the water……nothing left but intense flavor. Remove from heat, COOL, package and freeze.
Ah. Ready for winter pasta cooking.
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After the mid-September cooler weather began to arrive, and forecasts of rain coming, every tomato plant (9) were pruned, trimmed so all growth would concentrate on what fruit was already there:
pruned sungold
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And finally with rain coming this afternoon, the possibly “last” tomato picking was done, even pale marzanos to bring in for ripening:
last mato pick 2014
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NOW. Onto Tomatillos……..we’ve always made TOO much Salsa…this year I really cut back and still have a dozen pints from last year to give away somewhere. I harvested two boxes like this after I’d made all I wanted, and two friends took them to make some on their own….Rhonda & Kim will have some stored for winter too now, yea:
giveway tomatillo
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One afternoon, after all that work growing a garden, fighting moles, weeding, watering, feeding, etc, I couldn’t just throw anything out…..ALL these little watery but delicious Stupice had to be used…..So I processed them, put ‘em on to cook, and here showing the new hot sourdough bread cooling on the country.
bread n stupice juice
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THIS part of the sourdough bread baking was taken 2 days ahead of the final bake….you feed the starter for about 2 days….baking the bread before waiting that long means none or little real sourdough flavor:
bread early

As always with bread the MOST in touch you are with leading UP TO the bake, is that final knead of a dough that is finally elastic, touchable, puffy, rich, aromatic, completely a tactile experience:
bread knead2
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AND, this fall, finally, after being given the recipe by dear friend Nancy Grossenbacher back in May, but getting busy with all that summer brings to this part of the country, I FINALLY got time to make it this week: ROSEMARY SYRUP.

THat began with the harvest of a dozen or two sprigs of rosemary off our big plant:
rosemary strips
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After stripping the leaves from the stems, pour a bottle of inexpensive white wine into your pan, a little balsamic vinegar, couple cups of sugar and simmer this stuff for a little while:
rosemary3
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Once you’ve reduced the volume of the syrup to about half, it’s a little thicker…..turn off the heat, cool, and bottle it up….KEEP IT IN the fridge:
rosemary syrup
. **IT truly was the surprise of the summer, I can only call it quite an elegant little topping for…..some say ice cream, I would also think some feta cheese/cracker workup…..it’s delicious.
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So, 2nd Stupice harvest, these babies looked perfect and tasted perfect:
stupice juice1
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Had to cut a tiny slice in the top so I could drop ‘em into boiling water for a few seconds so they’ll peel quick:
stupice juice4
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I worked those tomatoes the same as the Marzanos…peeled, cored, mashed….and they’re ready to cook down:
stupice juice
***after cooking down to half the volume, I said….HEY! I LOVE good tomato juice and gave up on making some more sauce…..these were cooled, and now have some delicious Stupice Juice out in the garage.
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And preparing for the 2015 garden? First on the list was this…….these leeks are going to seed….just propping ‘em up to keep ‘em outta the dirt in the rain….here’s the first peek at my 2015 leek crop:
the 2015 leeks

WHEW. Update a few days later……… ***The rain came, our fire danger’s gone, we’re all happy about that, and Ive begun thinning out a few of the plants detritis in the garden. A sad week for me, but so relieved the 2014 WORK part of gardening is over. C’mon FALL.

Sept 19. MORE tomatoes but rain’s 5 days away

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Friday September 19, 2014

a few more notes on a garden ending its summer life……and I’m a little awestruck how veggie clans call carnivores MURDERERS……you ought to see how a garden is murdered, sawed up, tossed, brutalized, savagely eaten, sometimes boiled in hot oil OR water….. veggies ALSO lead a horrible life. Just this morning at our favorite produce farm, the Pumpkin Patch, a beautiful jersey calf saw me coming back to the car, and began “hinting”, obviously, for me to come over….there were some cabbage leaves JUST under the fence she couldn’t reach….and up until THIS point in her life, believed Humans cared for her lovingly. Whew.

Onto things that move me in the garden as it passes on………… The Giant sunflowers become So mammoth, I have NO idea how the stems support their weight. IN FACT, in THIS year, I really fear that when rain really starts, the wet weight will make them collapse….they are ONLY standing now because I’ve supported the stems with steel fence posts and baling twine…..hoping against hope they blooms will dry, and through the first two months of winter, birds will dine out there regularly.

The blooms LOVED the hot dry August heat:
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giant snflwr 1
***I DID try to straighten one stalk out, and it simply broke. They are now “SET” in place for better or worse.
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This other view shows a bit better just how tall these really are (awell they WERE least 10 feet until they got so heavy they began to bend under the weight of those huge blooms):
giant snflwr 3
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The other “tall” plant for the season has now been, as I described brutally hacked, harvested, pulled and thrown in a compost pile on the back hillside. BUT. Just before they were, they offered beautiful sunset glimpses:
corn sunset
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Then the brutalizing of all tomato plants began. It began as 1st fruit ripened….that point in the season tells the grower….PRUNE BACK all the new stems, esp where blooms are starting up…..discourage the new growth, and that will encourage growth into fruit already set but small. That was a month ago. This past week, with a clear end in sight (daylight hours and rain forecasts ahead), I TRULY snapped off ALL branches without any product on it, or ANY blooms Anywhere, thinned out clogged areas to let light in, and though the plant now looks old and worn, the fruit show up to light and are seriously ripening at full speed:

The truly heavy yielding sauce tomatoes that LOVED this August, the San Marzanos show being brutalized:

last pruned marzano
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***** THE DEER FENCE has been shortened and wrapped just to include the remaining tomatoes…..the other side? ALL cleared out, corn, tomatillos gone….clearly showing murder and mayhem had taken place:
murder n mayhem garden
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Even the fabulous cherry SUNGOLD got knocked back, but that is ONE tomato, I NEVER tire of walking out there and eating off the vine. It does NOT want or NEED salt or pepper…or anything…..It’s rich sweet taste is pretty darn fabulous…..I ALWAYS miss them ….. and as I type, am just happy knowing some are out there waiting…..orange, right, warm, sweet…….yum.
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The future Leeks for 2015 harvest are at this stage, and will magically sprout next spring….bees of ALL kinds love garlic blooms….they’re now tied up so these drying blooms won;t fall into the wet soil when it arrives next week and rot:
the 2015 leeks
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There are so many peppers out there, I GOTTA get serious and find a pepper jelly recipe…harvest these tings and try one out:
red peppers 2-14
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Marigold. Such a modest little flower but some varieties get larger all summer and seem to peak as many other things are simply gone…I love these bush Marigolds:
late summer marigold
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And lastly, when MAC has set still as long as he can, and gives the Master that “look” long enough, a break is taken, and friends the Teals have given blessing to his swimming off their dock at their place out on the island, we take off….and this is the shipping channel on the Columbia Mac and I see when he dives off after the decoy ducks:
columbia rvr as shppng chnl;
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so now that leaves ONE MORE THING OUT THERE IN FULL HARVEST MODE: Spices. Basil, Parsley, Celery, Oregano, Thyme………….. and the BAY LAUREL….FULL of new single branches to harvest………bay leaf. better fresh or dry?

Off to pick tomatoes.
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sept 12. summer’s fading – GARDEN update.

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Friday September 12, 2014

How does this ever happen….we’re now at 422 jars of canned/frozen things and the tomato business hasn’t started…..(130 jars are TUNA….yes, THAT won’t happen again)…. but I swear, next year, this is being cut back big time.

The garden…..LAST year things were ALL done by Sept 2…..it began a wet fall …..while this year, we’re having a heat wave this week, and under red flag warnings about dry heat and fire danger. Hence, tomatoes are ripening so fast, I can hardly keep up. What to do with all those babies.

CORN – – -For a hot year, this corn year was strange. Half pollinated ears in some cases, NONE with the sugar content they should have had, nonetheless, I will finish ‘em up today….barely froze 4 quarts…..the few remaining are gonna become creamed fresh corn where a mite of sugar can be thrown in.

Garden CLEAN up . . . . begins on a small scale today…..getting corn stalks pulled and outta there, some other things pulled…..the mole war is still on, but they haven’t learned there won’t be so much water out there anymore……they’re gonna have to dig deeper…..we must get rid of them this winter since I don’t to fight this war next year.

TOMATOES. YIKES……yep, we planted them with just a teaspoon of microbiotic mix on each plant. I have never seen the size of the tomato plants we grew this year, and the amount of fruit, although they have come on very late…..gotta stody more about these microbio kids.

there. That’s about it for now…..but had to note for future references, about this garden state in mid September 2014.

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