Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Berry Picking

We finally made it out to the You-Pick. Barely in time. So ripe a pint I left on the counter fermented within 2 days. 

@ 20lb. We paid $1.25/lb.

Strawberry jam. Don't believe them when they tell you you need 4 cups of sugar in 6 cups of strawberries. Yikes. I started with 1 cup and that was almost too much. I also added a box of non-sugar pectin.

And people just can't stop eating it either. It's going fast. 

The next day I boiled down some strawberries without pectin or sugar and I'm freezing that for later. 

Strawberries were frozen individually and then put in small containers. 

Dean even gets to use his rhubarb

Monday, June 21, 2010


It's always difficult to know when to stop. How important is something in relation to all the other somethings in your life.

Lots of rain here. And in many ways that's good.

But it also means:

strawberries rotted where they touch the ground
limited ability to treat plants eaten by bugs or other pests
some washing out of seeds or plants

I don't want to complain. I have lots of other things to do and gardening, although I love it, is only part of my life.

However, I am starting off the season not only late but with 1/3 of the tomato plants I had before. Bugs are cutting down the beans and basil, and there's that little accident with the peas. (I asked J. to wash the green food coloring from his experiment off the back table he yanked up the pea holders in order to get not 1 but 2 soaker hoses from the far end of the yard. He didn't notice the regular hose sitting right next to the deck. Sigh.)

Despite these set-backs bikes are being ridden, books are being read (Vanity Fair for me), Nerf darts are being shot, strawberries are being picked. It's a good life, even if its a little less green then I like.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bloggers: 7 Questions to Ask Before Hitting 'Publish'

For other bloggers, I thought this was an interesting article.

But that doesn't mean I always follow it! Hey, I do my best. Sometimes I'm my own best audience. :)


It's rather damp in the Midwest this June.

When one talks about the weather it's not unusual to say things like 'but the farmers could really use it so I can't complain.' I've heard this for both rain and snow in rural Wisconsin.

Other, less agricultural, folks mutter about water torture and moving to Seattle if they wanted this much cloud cover.

I like the thunderstorms. They're exciting, and many of them hit after dark. Its comforting to lie in bed at 2 am and know you're dry and warm while the world sounds like its coming apart at the atoms.

And it's nice to shrink our water deficit so early in the year instead of starting out at 'drought' conditions for the greening earth.

Unfortunately, this means I need to use electricity for one of my harvests. Oregano, evil woody monster oregano, needed to be harvested and taught its place. In the past I've picked the stems and left them drying over my greenhouse shelves on the back porch. It's so wet right now that things mold before they dry sufficiently.

This time I dried the stems on an electric dryer, and then crumbled the leaves into a recycled herb container. It only took a few hours.

I'm also busily picking strawberries. At least a handful a day. J is ecstatic. L is on the hunt. I keep telling them red...dark RED. It's interesting to see their interpretation of that statement. If this keeps up we may out-pace J's appetite and need the dryer again.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Trying to Dodge the Rain

Catching up with a lot of planting out. Everything looks so fragile and tiny!

Here's some basil. And unseen on the right a Cubanelle pepper. Both were planted in beds left empty by mysteriously disappearing tomatoes. 

The largest of the tomatoes. I planted 15 last Wednesday. Five survived the hard rains of the week. The other 10 were either eaten or disappeared (washed out?). I may be making an emergency run to Jungs to see if they have any plants left over. 

Okay, Okay, I'll Get Around To It

No one's really telling me to rush. 

Something about becoming a parent to multiple children, you never feel caught up with anything. The moment you do someone dirties a dish, drops a toy, changes their clothing, adds something else to the schedule. Then there's the hundreds of things you'd like to do that never even reach your To Do list and haunt your subconscious as you're falling asleep or waking up. Double this if you have a baby, toddler, or a child with special needs. 

I did get some beans planted this morning while L. set up some game for himself. 

I had the piles all laid out. (Left) bush beans, vine beans, hard shell beans. When I saw how many I had (minus the 2 envelopes L. planted for me last week while I was planting out the tomatoes...I guess its a secret as to where they will pop up) I decided to stick with one category today...bush beans. 

First I needed to weed some beds. Lots of grass, violets, and other things. Here's an interesting tool Dean got me. It's a metal trapezoid. You use it as a leg sweep on those pesky weeds. It sweeps them off their roots. I did 2 beds, one under the trees and the other in with the perennials. 

Weeds after they've been Kung-fu'd.

I did 2.5 envelopes of bush beans. A good many of the yellow ones are seed gathered from last year. Let's see what happens! 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The James Beard Foundations Essential Baking Books

I'm not sure you're anything like me. 

Lately I've been noticing that when I want to make a purchase I'll fly over to Amazon and read the pros and cons of specific books or pans or hammocks. If Amazon doesn't have it there's always Consumer Reports or online forums or my mother or something. 

My husband does not. He wants to test drive it, compare prices, and go. 

Because of this sometimes I find him too impulsive and he sighs and hopes I'm done researching before the deals are gone. Marriage is kinda built on putting up with each others little quirks and the occasional nudge into a more common direction. 

Anyway, I like reviews. I like recommendations. I want to read the rants and the raves and the comparisons to other things. Personal experience in quantity is what I crave. 

The James Beard Foundation put out a list of their baker's dozen (13) essential baking books, and since I just happened to pick up Dorie Greenspan's Baking: from My Home to Yours this week at the library I found it interesting. 

I read a lot of baking books. If you ever notice my list of books at the bottom of the page, you'll often see at least one baking or cookbook. Baking...because I'm good at it. And I like carbs a lot. At one time in college I ate nothing but mashed potatoes or waffles. It was easier to circumvent the cafeteria that way. And if I mess up baked goods no one goes hungry and the birds (or dog) have a nice meal. Cooking...because I'm not just not good at it. Too much pressure. 

I was very impressed with Greenspan's book. It walks that difficult line between too technical or strange for a home kitchen and too boring because the recipes are already in every book. There were quite a few things I've never made, but most of them seem within reach and looked delicious. It's going on my wishlist. 

While I was doing a search to get the title correct for this blog I noticed this list from the James Beard Foundation. It came out in April. 

Essential Baking Books According to Some Committee

1. Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006).
2. Beard on Bread by James Beard (originally published 1973; reprinted by Knopf, 1995).
3. The Book of Great Desserts by Maida Heatter (Andrews McMeel, 1999).
4. The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed, 2001).
5. The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (William Morrow, 1988).
6. Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000).
7. Cocolat by Alice Medrich (Warner Books, 1990).
8. The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham (Gramercy, 1996).
9. Great Pies and Tarts by Carole Walter (Clarkson Potter, 1998).
10. The Italian Baker by Carol Field (William Morrow, 1985).
11. Martha Stewart’s Cookies by Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, 2008).
12. My Bread by Jim Lahey (W.W. Norton, 2009).
13. The Simple Art of Perfect Baking by Flo Braker (Chronicle, 2003).

From these I have The Bread Baker's Apprentice (wonderful for an amateur who's made bread before but wants to take it up a step), and I've read Greenspan's and Beranbaum's books. All well-done. I think I have a  challenge on my hands. 

Anyone seen baking challenges online lately? People get together and bake through a baking or cookbook and then share their experience. What they liked, what they don't like, what they changed. The gift of human experience. Sounds like something I'd like.