Monday, August 31, 2009

What a weekend!

Still tired enough that I am almost cross eyed, lol

I am happy to share that I got nearly everything on my mental "to do" list done. The only items that didn't get attention was starting on the final stripping of the garden-but that's okay, I am pretty sure we are going to be gifted with another week or so before frost. (Crosses fingers and toes!)

The really big chore of putting up the cauliflower is basically done-only one smaller head remains in the garden. I was just astounded at the size of these heads, a couple had to go well over eight pounds. Yes they were pretty gnarly looking, all split and purply, but the purple cooks out and the flavor is still great. I didn't do an actual count of it all, but some got sent home with my SIL, and some with my ever helpful friend, and I still have 19 family size packages in the freezer, wow!

Also completed over the weekend: My first try at making a pie filling. I have 7 quarts of apple pie filling done-and man are the jars pretty! Plus two quarts of apple slices in a light syrup in the pantry. With the aid of a food processor, I now have a double batch of sliced carrots done as well, a beautiful bright orange in the jars. Last year I sliced by hand which took forever and then some, not to mention the wear and tear on hands and wrists, lol A food processor is the way to go! Also did up the bell peppers-and I still have peppers to take out of the greenhouse too.

Yesterday was milk test for my neighbor, and she is busy too, trying to put up items from her own garden in between farm chores and the herding lessons. It can be pretty difficult to set aside six hours to deal with this stuff, for anyone. It worked out pretty well for me that the hay van does not get delivered until today, whew.

On a puzzling note, both my horses are off. The mare remains very flatfooted, and she is slow to develop depth-but the heels are nearly level now and the balance is finally where it should be-right on schedule at ten months after I got her. She had a big bar release this trim and I have a hunch that had contributed to her discomfort. Tonight I will move her over into the other stall, so she is off the large rocks for a week or so.

My big boy, I am not sure what's happened other than he has been standing in his stall due to the rainy weather. He is a little stocked up, so last night and this morning I have been feeding hay way out away from the stall-this gets him away from the muck at the stall entrance too. He has a bar on one hind that continually kind of grows over, and it just does not let loose on it's own for some reason. Anyway, this morning he is moving much better but it's obvious he's very stiff so he got started back on his joint sups last night. This week I will see about finding some liquid HA for him, that should help a bunch.

Also yesterday, my unlce John passed away. RIP, John Church. I had hoped to go see him this winter but it was not to be.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Stressful times

Seems I have a lot on my plate just now, and so do a great many other people I know. Everyone is busy and feeling under pressure-getting things done in preparation for the cold and snow to come primarily. But the number one topic creating stress these days seems to be created by Washington, DC. Between the partisan politics, the bail outs, the taxes, the bank failures, the health care plan, the numerous "czars", swine flu, the ballooning size of the deficit-people are feeling a little put it mildly.

Me too.

My son will probably never know a time in his life that mirrors the standard of living we have managed to provide today. My son, and his children (if any) will pay the price of these "emergency bailouts", and the face of America will not be the one we know today. It troubles me, the future that our President seems determined to forge for us. What used to be a slow trickle, has turned into an outright stripping of constitutional rights-the breadth of which is frightening. From the stiffling of dissent, to controlling each bite of food and every domestic animals witin the US, to subsidizing off shore drilling in other countries (as are hostage to oil imports with huge reserves of our own), and so on and so forth.

It boggles the mind, it truly does, and most people feel helpless to stop or alter the changes to come. People are busy trying to cope with the imploding economy, the bank failures, keeping the bills paid and food on the table and that is stressful enough, they don't have the energy to attend the circus that passes for government in DC. I know I hardly do myself.

I just feel a deep unease settling into my psyche.

While I am not generally pessimisstic by nature (never mind what my hub says, lol) I am overwhelmed watching these events unfold without representation. Heck, no one even reads the bills before they are voted on. It's not just the large bills that are pushed through in the middle of the night, there is actually no law requiring the bills even be read into the Congressional record-did you know that? It's true.

I am wondering when the bailout is coming for people who are working.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Another day, another drama

The nameless, faceless drama on CL continues. A while back, it was over someone thanking people for helping during an emergency. This time, its nastiness being posted over another person asking for help.

I grant you, the local Craigslist is not really the place for these discussions, but it happens as it serves as a community bulletin board of a sort.

Most people are now afraid to post contact information, never mind their names if they are smart. I have heard all sorts of stories about threats, slams, and attacks being made via CL postings using the CL remailer-no wonder folks stay away. Over the past two years, things have really gone downhill on CL, which is why AlaskasList was created and flourishes.

I hope the person needing help, finds what they are looking for despite the responses. It's just unfortunate that they chose CL to go looking for it :(

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Harvesting continues...

Well, I worked my patootie off over the weekend. I always seem to end up with doing rather more than I have hours (or energy!) set aside to actually do them.

I am racking up a rather impressive list of foods which are now preserved or frozen for the winter's use:

A staggering 35 pints of zucchini relish. A favorite of our own, and a hit with relatives and friends, we enjoy sharing this specialty that cannot be purchased in a store. Sweet and slightly tangy, it makes the best tartar sauce when mixed with mayo, is wonderful in salads of all kinds, in deviled eggs, on burgers and dogs. There is always a jar in my fridge :)

At least 30 packages (family size) of broccoli-cleaned, blanched, drained and then vaccum sealed.

13 quarts of Atomic green beans (and more to come, lots of beans out there still!)

5 quarts of cucumber pickles

26 half pints (two batches) cranberry ketchup-an Alaskan favorite.

7 pints tomato sauce

14 pints plain green beans-processed of course

Still to come: More green beans, all the cauliflower, about half the peas, the brussel sprouts and of course, the cabbage. I have heard of a different way to make sauerkraut so I will be looking that up today to make sure it's feasible and a safe method. In the greenhouse I have lots of tomatoes ripening and we've been enjoying the sweet corn. The green beans in there (my back up planting, done very late) are nearly fully flowered and some plants have tiny beans on them. I will cross my fingers they mature before the first hard frost. I haven't even checked my pumpkins in about six weeks, so I am hopeful there will be a treasure or two in there at frost. And I am up to my eyeballs in zucchini. After three years of marginal yeild-if any!-I really overplanted them. Whoopsie! Several big items coming in the month ahead: Salmon-smoked and plain, plus carrots and maybe more spuds.

We've been sharing our wonderful bounty with neighbors, friends, and relatives.

And a very generous bounty it has been indeed. Thank you, [diety of your choice], for blessing this house and this family.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Is it August already?

My gosh, where did summer go? Seems it was stuck in the mid 70s for a long time, and now we are sliding into the cool and rainy fall. I don't mind too much, the rain knocks down the bugs and this is the time I really gear up to put things away for winter.....

Firewood. Can't have too much firewood! We have a couple dump truck loads of logs to get sawn, split and stacked-that is a priority. I am very thankful we got the woodshed built, it's going to be much easier than dealing with tarps buried in snow and ice, lol

Garden. Can't let things go too long, so this weekend I will put the mature green beans and whatever else needs taking. I also need to do up a couple more batches of zucchini relish-which means a trip to the grocery store for more peppers. Bell peppers and hot peppers for the beans-the peppers in my greenhouse are not quite large enough to help with these two items, darn it! Although the Ace bell peppers have been marvelous in salads, yum!

Yard. Time to think about mulching my very few perennials, and get things put away for the season. I just need a few lengths of hose for the next two weeks or so, then they can be drained, taped into loops and hung up out of the way until next spring.

Chickens. We have decided to move the chickens into the barn for the winter, but instead of a basically open stall with little shelter, this time we will put together a smaller, well insulated house for them. We'll hang a real light and put that on a timer too, of course. I hope there is space to add a small fenced enclosure under the barn roof too. They definitey need a warmer place so this is another "must get done before the snow flies" item on the list. Speaking of the chickens, my one eyed rooster is faring very well now. His mate has turned off broody and I am just letting her sit when she wants. They are really chowing down on the garden plants and trimmings too, and seem to be doing great. Three hens, one to three eggs a day, lol

Horses. Fall is when I make an appointment for floats and exams. It will be a hefty bill this year, due to having another horse needing a float also, but it's worth every penny spent. This is when I discuss little things that I have observed, just to check on them. And I will be sure to ply my vet with goodies from the pantry, especially considering she dropped everything a couple weeks ago, to tend Sully. It turned out to be nasty bug bites, but the steroid shot did the trick :)

School. Yes, school time already, first day is this coming Monday for my son. He is very excited to go (remember when we felt that way?) and boy has it been a real struggle getting him registered. The state has passed this mandatory chicken pox thing...and it's turned into a real mess for a lot of parents-especially those who work full time. My son had the first shot, but got a medium case of chicken pox just over three years ago. All speckled up, itchy, fever, the works. I did the right thing any parent would do, and kept him home so he wouldn't infect anyone else. Bad move on my part, I did not have proof! So it was quite a scramble to get the vaccine because there wasn't enough to go around but I managed. When I went to register him, I heard from the nurse that about one quarter of the kids still had not gotten the shot so could not attend school. Boy is the first week of school going to be a mess! Anyway, new clothes are on hand, new shoes, and we have an entire (large!) box of supplies for the year too. Whew.

I did ask the nurse about the school's plans for an outbreak of H1N1, and I don't think they have a handle on what they are going to do, quite yet. A little disconcerting to me, since you would assume they'd know what do with health emergencies, right? Of more concern is my hub, given he works on the Slope. Those camps have stuff going around all the time, people come from all over the US and the world to work there and the conditions are very crowded in the camps themselves. All I can do is send along a LOT of Purell and hope for the best that his naturally excellent hygiene habits will suffice.

So I think I have quite a lot to keep me busy until the snow flies. Six weeks to go, maybe eight if we are very lucky!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Harvest commences!

Woohoo, it's that time of the year to get my garden produce put away for winter. This weekend I hope to try my hand at making pickles-thanks to some very productive cucumber plants in the greenhouse :) I have not made pickles myself so I am reading up on the process, and am going to try a method similar to my Atomic beans. It should work okay because I intend to slice the cucumbers into spears before I pack the jars. Luckily, I have all the ingredients on hand already.

Today I am taking the largest zucchini. I let a bunch of these go really big on purpose, as it takes four or five super big zucchini to make just one batch of zucchini relish. These will get peeled, deseeded, and then ground (10 cups a batch!) and brined over night. A very good friend is coming by on Sunday to give me a hand with these two chores. I will also need to inventory how many larger squashes I have coming on, so I can figure out how many batches I can make. Usually, three batches (over 20 pints) is just barely enough to get by for the year. If you haven't had the relish in my own version of tartar sauce (for deep fried halibut) you just have no idea what you are missing! Unbelievably great, seriously :)

(Edited to ad photo above-rather more squashes than I'll need, don't you think? lol!)

I might take some cabbage too, and do up some for sauerkrout. I could probably wait a couple more weeks on that, let the cabbages get a little bigger though. They are continuing to add more leaves and are on a slow grow-perfect for tight heads. The other day I noticed I have some baby pumpkins too-they came on way too late to mature to any size-only one is about canteloupe size right now. It's all a learning curve and next year I will get them planted a couple weeks earlier and build a better bed and hoop for them. If I can expand the size along the bank there, it would be a perfect spot for all the squashes.....but then I would end up with some very strange results as things cross pollinate, lol

I can't say enough good things about Susitna Organic's humified compost. That stuff is downright amazing, honest. Everyone who has used it, is raving about the results they are seeing. If you are a local Valley gardener, I urge you to give it a try-even if you have your own compost going. I have several bags sitting right by the garden....I will be putting that down this fall before freeze up, so it will begin working first thing next spring. It's absolutely gorgeous stuff and I wish I could afford an entire dump truck load-just to have it, lol!

Over the weekend, both horses will get some arena time-both for work and play. Amazing what a couple good rolls does their attitudes, lol Reba is coming along pretty well, all things considered. A couple days ago they both got moved back to normal digs and the mare about lost her little mind. I honestly had no idea she was so averse to change-and not being able to see the old man really rattled her. She spent about three solid hours being an idiot-bucking, running, spinning, rearing, you name it....goofy girl! She is all settled in now and at ease, but because of her insecurity, I am seriously considering moving her about every ten days or so, until she gets over being upset. I can't even imagine taking her from place to place, she'd be a wreck waiting to happen, lol But she is picking up the figure 8's on the lunge line really quick, she's a pretty smart girl ;)

Now that I have written out my "to do" list, it remains to be seen how much actually gets done!


A lot got done over the weekend, whew! Here is a picture I took this morning of the fruits of our labors yesterday. I could not have done this without the assistance of my good friend and sister in law-and as it was, I was up to nearly ten pm finishing the last batch. Ugh! But in a good way ;)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Yay! A little rain :)

It was raining lightly at home last night, which allowed us to get into the garden safely (as in, no bees!) at last. We stripped the peas that were ready, and checked over everything else closely. I can see that next year, I sure need to grow more peas and carrots after watching my son munch away nonstop. At this rate, I won't have one decent sized carrot left in a 20 foot row ;)

Pulled a few more cucmbers, and have been reading up on making my own dill pickles. I have not made any on my own, but years ago I did help someone else, so I needed a refresher. Allow me to share a very nice resource for anyone who is intimidated by the thought of putting up produce:

There is a link on the right hand side of the page for canning and pickling. Easy to read and understand, this website provides solid information and step by step instructions on almost everything-and even includes what utinsels will be needed for each recipe.

I've had this one bookmarked for quite a while, and with Putting Food By and the Ball Blue Book I don't think there is much I can't process........still looking for a creamed soup one though!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Stymied again, blast it!

So, we have had this tremendously wonderful summer. Really we have, honest! Week after week of sunshine, hardly any thunderstorms, its been just great. The garden is fantastic and now is the time to start harvesting some of that produce.

We have been eating lettuce, cucumbers and zucchini for weeks. A while back, I took quite a bit of the broccoli and got that put up into the freezer-safely blanched and vaccum sealed. I have ripening tomatoes (and yes, some we have already enjoyed), peppers ready and the corn is setting ears like crazy in the greenhouse. The dill outside is ready to pull and hang for drying, and I could probably take the celery too. The cauliflower is busy setting heads, over softball size now and I know they will really come on in size in the next two weeks. I have blooms and baby green beans all over the three short bean rows, and the carrots are well up and getting some size too. Even the onions-which I have had miserable luck with, are actually making-well, onions! The peas are pretty much buried in weeds when they fell over in a heavy rain a week or so ago, but they are ready to strip also.

So the broccoli plants have tons of side shoots which are ready to harvest. Yesterday, my SIL came over and the plan was to take the broccoli and peas, and get it processed for the freezer. As it happens, yesterday was warm and sunny-would have been a perfect day to be upside down, rooting around in plants......except for one very big problem.


I have bees everywhere. Not just honey bees, but hornets and wasps. They showed up about three weeks ago or so, and have been a problem since. We have located two very large nests and they have been zapped with bee killer. But it seems I have one or two? nests in the garden itself. Somewhere, probably right in the broccoli. My SIL is a former beekeeper, she knows her stuff when it comes to these creatures and could identify them for I was not too sure which was which. It was quite unnerving to walk in the garden and see literally dozens of them buzzing around, right at plant level. We managed to get only three grocery bags worth cut, with me using the hose (and ice cold well water) to knock them down, while she cut as quick as she could.

But my gosh they were getting aggressive and would trail you a good 50 feet.....they are all over the garden! So we went down to the greenhouse and it seems they have set up shop down there too, although not so many. We took about ten pounds of cukes and some bell peppers and then we just gave up for the day.

So there you have it, stymied again-pfft! I will have to wait until a good soaking rain comes along so I can get in there and harvest what needs taking. I had left two broccoli heads to flower so that honey bees would come to the garden area for the green beans, zucchini, and peas. Now I am regretting that decision.

Funny thing is, I had no bees in my garden a week or ten days ago, except pollinators. So this must be a whole new hive that has taken up residence. Those wasps and hornets are pretty nasty tempered, and even though we did not get stung, neither of us wants to get close!