Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pumpkins and Butternut Squash!

Here is our harvest of pie pumpkins and butternut squash for this year. I think they are so pretty, I just had to show you. :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dye Day 2010

In 1973, when our first child was just a wee babe, I was in the Martinsville, Indiana, I ran across the book The Joy of Spinning by Marilyn Kluger. I took it home and read it and said to myself, "SOMEDAY I am going to learn how to do that! 5 years later I met a new friend and she mentioned that she knew how to spin wool into yarn. I nearly grabbed her by the lapels and said, "Oh! Will you teach me???" And she did. One thing led to another and I started doing dyeing using plant materials. For a while, I was a member of a spinning guild (by the way, blogger is underlining these words and I can't seem to make it stop.) Each year, in the fall, we would have an outdoor dyeing day, and it was so much fun. A friend and I were going to do that this year, but we are under a burning ban right now because the weather has been so dry. So, we decided to have an INDOOR dyeing day. Here is my sack of unwashed wool fleece. I decided to wash 1 pound of it last night. It is best to dye clean, wet, wool, so when I got done, I just put it in a plastic bag to save for this morning.

My method is as follows: I can do 1 pound of wool at a time in my kitchen sink, so that is what I did. I filled the sink with hot tap water and added enough dish detergent to make the water slippery, then I added the wool and let it soak for 15 minutes:

Gently squeeze the water through the wool, and then gently transfer it to a colander. Here is the dirty water after I removed the wool:

To the second rinse, I added 1/2 cup vinegar. Be sure to handle the wool very gently and never shock it by changing the temperature of the water suddenly. Here it is in its second rinse:

And here is the 4th rinse. You can see that the water is not absolutely clear, but good enough:

On to this morning ~ On the right you can see my large stainless steel pan. I put 4 gallons of soft water in there with a scant 1/2 cup of alum (this is NOT the kind of alum you make pickles with) and 2 Tablespoons of cream of tartar. I added the clean, wet, wool, brought it up to a boil and reduced the heat and simmered it for 1 hour. Then I drained it in the colander and it was ready for dyeing. That process is called a mordant. It makes the fiber accept the dyes.

Here is the marigold dye bath being cooked. We covered marigold blossoms with soft water and simmered them for about 1 hour, then strained out the dye liquor and put it back in the pot:

Here is the goldenrod flower dye bath cooking. The method is the same:

My friend brought poke berries! I cooked them, covered with vinegar, simmering for about an hour, and then strained out the berries. (There is no need to pre-mordant the wool for the poke berry/vinegar dye method.) Here is the wool, cooking in the dye bath:

Here you can see I put the big colander into a stainless bowl and drained the goldenrod dye bath before cooking wool in it:

Here is the wool in the goldenrod dye bath. Simmer for 1 hour, then strain:

Here is my friend with the wool we dyed with poke berries:

On the picnic table, you can see all the different wools:

Goldenrod yellow:

Marigold yellow:

Onion skin yellow:

Poke berry red:

The poke berry wool needs to dry in the shade. The color will fade, but even then it is still pretty. The yellows will not fade. I have managed to make lavender and a sort of green before with different plants, but this is all we had today.

It was a beautiful and very enjoyable day!

I am sharing this post over at Wardeh's "Simple Lives Thursday!"

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm at it again... a simple omelet

The little baby vegetables in the greenhouse are now big enough to use sparingly. Here is a scallion and a few small, tender leaves of kale:

6 eggs, 1/3 cup goat milk, salt and pepper to taste in the bowl. Washed vegetables:

Whisk the egg mixture with a fork and finely chop the vegetables. The kale is so young and tender that there was no need to remove the stems:

Melt 1 Tablespoon of extra-virgin coconut oil in a non-stick pan:

Don't have the heat too high:

Stir and cook the vegetables for a minute or two:

Carefully pour in the egg mixture:

When the edges start to look cooked, start carefully lifting the edges all around and allow the liquid egg mix to flow beneath:

When everything is cooked (do not overcook) it looks like this;

Carefully fold the omelet in half, remove pan from heat and let it sit for a few minutes while you set the table or make toast or whatever you need to do:

As always, this is more about a method than an exact recipe. You can use less eggs, other vegetables, add cheese, switch water for the milk, or whatever you like.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Getting Ready for Winter

Here is a picture of the greenhouse bed I took a couple of days ago. I planted, early this month, onion sets, leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, 2 varieties of kale, bunching onions and mache. It is still quite hot here during the day, so at first I watered the bed 2 times a day, but now that everything has sprouted nicely I only water once a day.

The onion sets are making nice scallions already:

Here are the little tiny mache starts:

Bunching onions:

And some dinosaur kale:

Leaf lettuce:

Now, back to the outside garden ~ pumpkins:

And winter squash:

Here is a view of the vegetable garden. My wonderful husband pulled out all those weeds.

And, lastly, here is his wood shed. We heat with wood. This year he bought and assembled a steel carport and has put about 15 ricks of wood in there:

Fall is here. Winter will not be far behind, and hopefully, we'll be prepared.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Preserving Avocados

The same day I bought the celery, I also bought these nice avocados. If you gently squeeze an avocado, when it starts to feel soft, not hard, then it is ripe and can be used. I bought them quite hard, all except one to use right away, and waited for them to ripen:

I only shop for groceries about once every 2 months, and so having fresh avocados is rare, and if I buy more than 2 they might be wasted. I read about this on the internet quite some time ago - I don't remember where. Now, when I find a good price on them, I buy several and here is how I process them.

First, cut one in half and hit the pit with the knife. The knife will stick into it and then you can twist the pit out easily:

I use a spoon to scoop the flesh from the avocado and put them into the food processor. Then, for each 3 avocados, I add 2 Tablespoons of bottled lemon juice. Of course, you could use fresh, but I rarely have fresh lemons.

Next, process it all until smooth. I place a little sandwich bag into a drinking glass and add 1/2 cup of the avocado/lemon mixture. The glass helps hold the bag open and reduces mess.

Here is a bag with the 1/2 cup in it:

And here is a freezer bag stuffed full of the little bags:

This went into the freezer and when I want to make guacamole or have avocado dip, I just pull one out and let it thaw in the refrigerator. The lemon juice prevents darkening.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The trouble with celery...

I do not grow celery in my garden. Somehow, I think I'm "afraid" of it, thinking it must be difficult and exotic. Well, whether it is or not, I always buy it instead. The problem has been that I'll buy a perfectly good stalk of celery, use part of it, put it back in the refrigerator and forget about it. The next time I see it, well, um... it's a little "gone by" as they say.

Yesterday I saw beautiful stalks of celery for 76 cents each. I bought 6 of them. I cut off the root end, carefully washed all of the celery and sliced it up quickly in my food processor:

Then I put 3 cups batches into Food Saver bags and vacuum sealed them:

I ended up with 18 packages of celery and froze them:

Now, when I need celery for chowder, soup or stir-fry, I can pull a package from the freezer and use it. I realize that most instructions for freezing vegetables recommend blanching to stop the enzymes that will make the product deteriorate. I find, though, that frozen celery holds it's flavor well if I vacuum seal it. Even in regular freezer bags, I can keep it for quite a while. I have gone so far as to rinse the ice crystals off of some that I froze in regular freezer bags and it worked out just fine.

So, I have solved the trouble with celery. :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Shame and Gratitude

It happens every year. We plant a garden and decide that THIS year we'll keep all the weeds under control. That goes pretty well until it's time to start canning and freezing the harvest. Bam! I turn around and the weeds have taken over! At least we kept them at bay long enough to get a good harvest.

Here is a picture of me in my embarrassing weed patch:

Today, we dug the sweet potatoes. This was a very good year. I think I put out about 20 plants and got a whole wheel barrow full in return. Probably about 100#.

Which leads me on to tell you about the first year I ever grew sweet potatoes. I had never done it before, and knew next to nothing about them. I called the local greenhouse and asked if they would save me some of their plants. "How many?" the man asked. They had 2 kinds for sale, so I said, "50 of each." Oh, my! I planted them, kept them tilled and hilled and they were glorious to look at. So pretty! And then when I dug them, there were 500# of sweet potatoes! I gave most of them away.

Sweet potatoes, if you live in an amenable climate, are very easy to grow. They don't like to get their feet wet, so I always make a ridge and plant in the top of that, placing the plants ("slips") 18 inches apart. I only had to weed them twice. The vines, when they get going good, shade the ground nicely.

They must be dug before it frosts in the fall. They can just be stored in a box or basket in your kitchen, and will still be there (if you don't eat them all!) when spring comes, so you can start your own plants the next time.

Plant a few in some loose soil around the 1st of May in zone 5 and the slips will be ready to pull off and transplant at the end of May.

It's really too bad my husband doesn't like sweet potatoes. LOL. But I will sneak them into breads and make pies. He'll enjoy that.

OK ~ So guess what this next picture is of. No, it is not a group of dead Manatee babies. It is the cucumbers that got neglected! I had made plenty of pickles and given away lots and eaten lots. I had to move on to other things.

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