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.
Then, you core the tomatoes….. yep, get that little green core out:
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:
This is a great machine…..
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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.
So, 2nd Stupice harvest, these babies looked perfect and tasted perfect:
stupice juice1
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
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.
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:
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.
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
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
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

***** 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
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.
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
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
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
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;
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.

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.

Tomatillos. Salsa ….. only a few this year.

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Tuesday September 9, 2014

Lessee. We still have 20 pints of Tomatillo Salsa from last year unused. As years rolled by, seems this item is losing its usability or interest in the kitchen, and no one requests it. I cut back on the number of Tomatillos grown, but am realizing I still have too many plants out there ripening with cute fruit…..hmmmm.

So, by Sept 5, I believe I’m done canning Tomatillos this year….two times, mostly half pints, but it was fun to do.

First get whatever prep things done you CAN do like garlic, onion:

A don’t know WHAT canners did before the Cuisinart Machine came around:

And finally, our little tomatillos are peeled and ready for the chop too:

And then, all things are combined: Onion, Garlic, Seasonings, Tomatillos & the magic of canning, Lemon Juice:

After a 20 minute cook, everything goes into the jars, then the water canner for 20 minutes:

and we are now done with Tomatillo Salsa for 2014.

The Tuna Project

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Tuesday September 9, 2014

Finally….on labor day, Sep 1, we spent the day with Marie at her restaurant, the John St Cafe canning 130 lbs of tuna filets, all cleaned, prepared on the coast from neighbor Aaron’s trip as described in the last post….

Just a quick look, we got the jars in one place, lids off separated, and everything made ready for the sterilizing dishwasher….commercial speed and size, wish I had one at home:

We then began to work the 6 heavy bags of filets……cutting and packing into jars. THESE were beautiful filets, caught from 40 miles out in the Pacific:

NOTHING was added to the jars except TUNA. As we packed, placed lids on, we set them aside to load into the 3 pressure canners we had on hand:

When the pressure canners were loaded, they were heated to 10 lbs pressure, and set for 90 minutes:

At 90 minutes, they were pulled and set in a few placed to cool:

At the end of the day? 260 jars, mostly half pints of new albacore tuna were canned. We split them evenly, and all went home tired, but happy.

**scuse some of the pics….all taken with a cell phone.

Tuna 2014

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Sunday August 31, 2014

The preparation is almost done. We NEVER know just how much, if any, tuna will be available for canning since we don’t buy it at the coast off the boats…….. We have been SO lucky for the last couple of years that neighbor, friend Aaron, because of all the money his plumbing supply house makes off his work, takes he and his brothers out tuna fishing ev August…..and I mean OUT….about 40 miles out in the ocean. How do these prize so fresh TUNA end up in our iceboxes? Aaron doesn’t want them to keep….two of his brothers smoke theirs, and do a little canning.

Last year we were given about 48 lbs of fileted, cleaned tuna the Saturday night Aaron returned from his trip.

This year? The charter service no longer cleans the fish off the back of the boat, so they had to remain overnight in Seaside for cleaning this morning. Aaron’s brother will bring them all back sometime mid-afternoon…. The ‘word’ is that THIS year, we’re going to get 21 tuna that averaged over 20 lbs each….. Cut that in half by the time they’re cleaned… WHAT? We will likely have to do some real work soon…..100 lbs of tuna?

Lucky for us, friend Marie shares her restaurant kitchen with us for the canning and we SPLIT the result. Aaron will want about 12 jars. So, it looks like we will get for ourselves about 40 1/2 pint jars, if my estimates are anywhere close to what happens.

So. We await the arrival of the tuna, and getting it into Marie’s cooler for the night. We will meet her there about 10:00 tomorrow morning and with 3 pressure cookers, begin packing jars, cleaning them, cooking them, cooling, and repeat, repeat. TOMORROW…..is going to be a FUN work day…….MORE on this later.

Whew. 21 TUNA. Are you kidding?

Pickles 2014

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday August 20, 2014

so. Once again, the 4 cousins gather together in August to not only remember the elder matriarchal women who worked 22 hours a day in summers gardening, harvesting, preserving, canning, storing food for their families, but to also, “once again” HAVE the treasure OF those memories sealed up in jars and here for our own enjoyment.

It seems a while back now that the last of those “Grandma Ray Pickles” were being used up, all her own children already passed away except the youngest, Aunt Merle who still MADE them from her own garden way over in John Day, Oregon. We called her, she happily agreed to teach us just how to do this, so off we went for a weekend as pickle students….I’ll never forget that. The pickling of our own began that year with us, cousin Nancy M, and Merle’s own daughter Nancy P coming from Seattle…. and we’ve been pickling one weekend every August since. In that time, we lost dear cousin Nancy P. to the dreaded Mursa virus, so her own son, J & partner Bhakti replaced Nancy…..and we continue on.

Pickling these days involves a trip to the produce capital of the Portland metro area which lies just below our hilltop house on a massive island marking the confluence of the great Columbia & Willamette Rivers. It’s composed of 20 million years of river downflow containing volcanic, ash, and other rich sediments. The farm property there is invaluable….. There are produce farms where you can pick your own, organic choices, etc. OUR choice has long been one called The Pumpkin Patch…. http://www.thepumpkinpatch.com/ . . . a family owned place where no spraying is allowed.

So Friday morning is a drive to Pumpkin Patch to buy: 5 large 25# bags of smaller pickling cucumbers, dozens of dill weed branches, lots-o-garlic, serrano & Habanero peppers and a round of misc veggies that catches our eye. On return home, the work begins immediately for the cucumbers must be cleaned and placed in a water soak for the next 24 hours. So here we go with a table set up from sawhorses & plywood pieces, bowls, and cucumbers ready for work:

day 1 cleang cukes
**yep, note my stand was set up in the shade.

and we get ready:
1pickles cleanng cukes

Ah! Getting those dang Garlic cloves out of those clumps of husks and dry peels……..Rodger discovered the method….placing the clumps between two stainless bowls and shaking ‘em up…. it’s a much easier task after that…..and here we were after an hour:

day1 garlic

After about 4 hours, here’s our finished product that will sit quietly until the next morning’s arrival of our workmate cousins to chop, dice, place and ornament:

day 1 soak after cln

Ornament? Yes, half the fun is placing the seasonings/grape leaves/dill/peppers into the bottle as well:

didn't make pickle cut

Soon, that kitchen is simply in motion for a few hours:

cuzn picklng 2014c

And here, we await the hot-water bath finish of one group of jars before we can begin the next one. Friend RHONDA joined us because she is going to begin THIS week pickling on her own with hubby Bob. It IS because of Bob & Rhonda that we now have grape leaves growing on our own place, so we never have to buy them:

cuzn [pkl mrk rhnda
**Bob & Rhonda will also join us for the Dilled Beans project next on the list.

Part of the task….keeping lids sterile, and the water bath….never a full boil, rather a hot simmer going on with water level about half-way up the jars…..the purpose of this bath is simply to get the jars to “seal”……

heat is on

A batch awaits the water bath:

pickles await boil

Cousin Nancy M bravely continues on despite the arthritis bothering her hand……

nancy sore thmb

The tribe lines up the final production batches for a number count which finished at 95:

cuzn picklng2014 b

And a POSE:

cuzn picklng2014 aug

There WERE a few cucumbers left that night that Mark & Rodger finished the next day…..these were the very last lonely kids left for what ended up being a PINT Jar:

last  of cukes

The lonely Last pint:

jar lonely2

Last label:

jar lonely

The weekend has taken its toll on Mark & Rodger who added another 24 jars of finished “Grandma Ray’s Pickles”:


Ah….next project mid-week next: Ginger Peach Jam. After That? Dilled Beans.

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