Sunday, August 31, 2008

August 31, 2008

Good day, good day.  The weather cooperated, though I didn't get much done in the garden.  I did dig around about a foot down into my yukon gold bed and didn't find anything.  I was afraid to dig too much so I gave up.  Whatever's in there will hold for a while so I'm going to let them cook a bit more.  I may even cover them to keep the rain from providing irrigation. 

But good news, I found flowers on my cantaloupe! Tomorrow they should be big enough to tell if they're male or female.  Of course they should be male first, followed by females a few weeks later.  But you can bet I'll be hand pollinating any female flower I find!

We also were hoping to pick some berries or maybe harvest some plums, but their not ready yet.  DoubleD's right when she says in years past we'd have harvested all there was to harvest by now.  Here's to hoping there will be plums and blackberries to harvest this year. Without it, there will be no PB&J sandwiches for a year, for my kids or I.  Yep, I regularly eat them for lunches or even dinners if I get home way late.  But I can't remember when I've had store-bought jam or jelly, and I'm not going to start now.

Speaking of preserving, we did harvest five more mini-cukes for pickling.  Then, for the larger ones, we cut them into fourths (wedges) and started the pickling process.  To begin with, we mixed up the pickling spices from a recipie found on the net and raiding my mother's and brother's spice racks.

The only things we're misisng here is Mace (whatever that is), and dill seed (we figured we had fresh).  Then we cut up the cucumbers...

The next step was to layer cucumbers, spices and dill.  But wait, I've got to show you my farmer's market dill find (thanks to my brother for calling me to tell me about it). It's so tall it took two pictures to get it all in, hehe.

That's right, they were 3 feet tall and my house smelled like dill even before I started marinading.  So here's one of the layers of pickles to be...

Note that we threw in six cloves of garlic from my brother's garden, then came the thick layer of fresh dill.  I had more than needed so I laid it on heavy. Why not?

So, now that mix is marinading in vinegar and that mess for the next 4 weeks in the garage with a plate weighed down to keep it submerged. It says it will have foaming and scum.  So in anticipation of that, my corn pot (I'm not needing that this season /sigh) is resting in a pastry/cookie sheet.  The mix smells great!  Much better on my wife than the bread and butters did.

We also would love to can some beans since I've got far too many to eat for all three of our families.  But all my mother's canning books say you need to use a pressure cooker to preserve any veggie without acid in it.  We don't have a pressure cooker. Anyone experienced with preserving know of a way to can beans or the like without a pressure cooker?  The last thing I need is MORE kitchen tools.

Anyway, in case you thought I just sat around eating bon bons the rest of the day, I also started making a loaf of no-kneed sourdough bread.  And my mother is pleased that her white flour starter is 90% ready for her to take home.  But since you're probably tired of the progression shots, here is the current finished product. 

It needs to sit under plastic for 18 hours.  Tomorrow morning I'll do the final proof and bake it!  I can't wait.  Tonight I thought of something. We've got that rosemary plant that's taking over our yard. I bet that would be great in sourdough bread.  The possibilities are endless.  Now if only I can bake it without my make-shift cloche breaking on me.

Also, I took a few more pics of my garden.  Enjoy...

Here are some tomatoes that are almost done...

And here is a funny S'shaped broccoli plant that grew leggy behind the cauliflower.  It's twin we harvested tonight and I essentially boiled it in the microwave along with some frozen corn for the rest of the family and it was very tasty!  Yay!  It may not be as healthy as lightly steaming it, but if I'm eating it, it's better than nothing.  Same will go for the beans thanks to the peanut gallery!

And here are Judy's marigolds.  Funny that my brother hadn't heard of marigolds as an amazing companion plant. But they're pretty also.  At least I think so.

However, if they're supposed to draw in bees to pollinate anything, it's not working. hehe\

Lastly, I've been hanging out at with some new local and not-so-local garden buddies, most of whom are either existing or homesteaders in training, so I'm learning a ton.  Anyway, there was talk about clothes lines for drying laundry, and how they're hit and miss in the PNW where it can rain at a moment's notice.  Tough to get your clothes dry if they get wet.  Here's what we've done to dry almost all our shirts, pants and some other laundry.

It was a quick re-build after my father grabbed a hold of it to keep from falling off a ladder, ripping the old one from the ceiling.  It works. Cheap PVC desigend to fit a very small laundry room! 

Yeah, I know, this is a gardening blog, so why am I bothering with making bread, pickles and saving energy.  Tis the season for saving money and preserving what we grow. 

Hope you enjoy it!


  1. Hey, Sin! I bought a great book called "Keeping the Harvest" from It's got all you need to know about preserving anything from tomatoes to PLUMS to dandelions. It has extremely easy-to-follow directions. They recommend that pickled cucumbers be processed in a boiling water bath. Times will vary based on your elevation. You don't NEED special canning equipment, but I got a pressure canner/cooker at WallyWorld for about 40 bucks and you automatically get a nice can rack and you make yummy things like beef stew or chicken noodle super-quick. Might be worth the purchase! Let me know if you need the exact recipe, but you might be able to find one including processing on the net. Happy pickling! Can't wait to see how they turn out!

  2. Sinfonian, don't even THINK about canning those beans without a pressure cooker. We don't want to lose you and your precious family to botulism. You can, however, make them into dilled beans (they taste just like dill pickles and easier to make) and can them in a regular boiling water bath. Or dunk them in some boiling water for a couple of minutes, then put them in ice water to cool quickly and freeze them. I like to drain them well, spread them out on a big cookie sheet (lined with waxed paper) and freeze them before bagging them. That way I can remove just what I need for cooking. If you boil them (remember that 20-minute boiling time?) they really taste very good. I have a recipe I use that has onion, diced tomatoes, a pinch of sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar all cooked down and stirred into the cooked beans. It's delicious.

  3. I've heard beans freeze well, but I'd hoped you could just bag 'em and toss 'em in the deep freeze. Of course it couldn't be that easy. I hear you about not wanting another piece of equipment, but I do enjoy my All American 21 quart pressure canner on occasion. I have 25 quarts of beans put up so far and likely more on the way. The new pressure canners seem to me about as safe as they can possible be. The weighted pressure dealybobs simply vent steam when the pressure gets to a certain point. How simple is that. I like the All Americans cuz they're built to last several lifetimes and there's no gasket necessary.

  4. RE: The mix smells great! Much better on my wife than the bread and butters did.

    come on, Sinfonian, aren't you getting a bit carried away, lol?
    >sorry, yuk, yuk<

    All the pics look great!! I would have welcomed the extra pics of the sourdough process, but I know it gets tedious posting all of them.

    As for the boiling brocolli: if you put a small amount of water in a two qt covered glass casserole, you ARE steaming them in the micro. They steam quite well that way, and are brilliant bright green when ready. As soon as you can smell them, they are generally done. I start at about 6 minutes and add a minute at a time, till I know they are done.

  5. I also found out this year anything that is not acidic has to be done with a pressure cannier. Problem is the cost of investing in the equipment much out weights the cost of buying canned beans etc from the store. Then again you don't know what is in the store bought food so I guess that is the price you have to pay. I'm not sure if you can get by with a pressure cooker though which are rather inexpensive or if you actually need the pressure canner that run from $100 for a cheap one and over $300 for the best ones.

  6. Absolutely do NOT waterbath can green beans unless they are pickled! Pickling adds acid with the vinegar - which is why dill pickles etc are able to be water bath canned.

    Your pickling efforts look great and I am anxious to hear how they turned out. I wanted to share with you that my whole wheat no knead bread attempts always yeilded very "dense" loaves. Because of this - I have switched to doing a half and half or a 1/3 whole wheat and 2/3rds regular unbleached flour approach and get much better results. If your recipe turns out great - I want to have it to try myself because I would really prefer 100% whole wheat.

    On cooking veggies... I hate stuff that has been boiled to death. Sorry... I know several have commented contrarily... but I just have to put my own two cents out there. I have this wonderful plastic microwave vegetable steamer - something my mom gave to me (a regifting thing) years ago. It has a lift out basket and a vented top. Fill the bottom with water, put the basket in, fill with your veggies, put the lid on, 8 minutes usually does it for almost everything in the microwave... and Voila! Perfectly cooked veggies... just add butter and salt!

    My next favorite way to cook veggies is to stir fry them. My third favorite thing to do with veggies is roast them in the oven(mmmmm... roasted garlic!) My fourth favorate way to cook veggies is to grill them to roast them.

    I'm getting hungry! ;)

  7. Carrie: Thanks, normally I rely on my mom but I'll check it out.

    Granny: Thanks the freezing like a charm. Now if they tast good.

    Tim: If only preserving was that easy. Well, it was for my blueberries. At least I hope I didn't need to do anything special before I froze them, hehe.

    Susan: haha very funny. Sometimes my mind doesn't work that way when I'm writing late at night. On microwaving broccoli, I've never cooked anything longer than 3 min with a little water in the bottom. 6 min seems like a lot.

    Dan: I concur with the coat vs buying, though if 3 families go in on a canner, maybe.

    DoubleD: Yep, my bread was dense even with 1/4 wheat 3/4 bread flour. I may try 100% wheat once I get this down. I'd really like to see if I can get a rise in overnight proofing.

    On veggies, I normally agree with you and "steam" veggies in a little water in a corning ware dish. The microwave steamer sound good. But 8 min! See Susan's note above, hehe.

    For the record, the beans I didn't like were microwaved for 45 seconds to get them warm but basically raw. I won't do that again. Hehe.

  8. Look at that seasoning for the dill pickles! Fresh Dill -- awesome :-)

    I also froze my green beans this year too. It is just so much easier and faster to do than canning. I think you'll be happy with them like this. And you can just pour out the amount you need when you cook them.