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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Green Beans Galore

This morning I got up early and got everything ready to pick and can green beans. Yes, I am turning into Martha Stewart and I don't mind it too much. This is my second year for canning and I added pressure canning to my list of new things accomplished. I was very intimidated by my pressure canner even though I had read every bit of the instruction manual and every book ever written. I actually got over it by running my new canner through a test cycle. Not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. We picked for over an hour this morning and our yield was 28 pints. Not too shabby for the first harvest. I am sure most people with larger families would can quarts of green beans but it usually just the three of us at home on any given night and quarts are just too much.

I am taking a Home Preservation class online through our state university which I have thoroughly enjoyed so far. It was what spurred me to have my pressure gauge checked even though my canner was brand spanking new. It was horribly off. Thank goodness I had it checked. It was no big deal to get a new gauge and they did that for me right where I had it checked. Most extension offices will check them for free. I had to drive to a larger city in order to have mine done. It turned out to be well worth the trip. Just in case you're curious, a pressure canner gauge should be checked every year before canning season begins and anytime you purchase a new canner.

Just like last year when I learned to use the steamer/juicer, the pressure canner will likely turn out to be my newest fun play thing. I can see that it is going to be fun to watch my canned bounty stack up. I am a stock freak so home preservation suits my personality.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bucks In The River

On our recent trip to pick raspberries at the Ford Ranch, we saw a wonderful site on our way home. It's not every day you get to see deer at play. 

The buck on the left had an injury to his horn. At first we thought it was gone but the close up shots of this picture show that is is actually curled down in front of his ear. We saw these guys from the bridge as we passed over the river on our way home. 

I spooked this one and he took of running. He didn't run long and his pals were looking at him like he was crazy so he didn't run too far either.

And finally on the other side they all stopped and let me take their pictures again. What nice deer, huh? By this time other people on the highway were turning around to come see what we were parked on the bridge looking at. It's not often that I am able to get good pictures of the wildlife that abounds in this part of Idaho so I am always thrilled when it works out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Bed Progress Is Slow

This picture is to show the placement of this morning's project. I am building a new three wall flower bed and the red oval denotes the lawn area and the grass on the other side of the small trench will become the new flower bed area. The red oval also indicates where I built and dug in a rock garden bench landing. I have been collecting flat rocks for a while now and am at a stand still on other aspects of this project until a skid steer comes back and dumps the rest of my dirt in this area. The piles of dirt are too far away from this spot and too much would have to be moved to do it with a wheel barrow. This picture was taken early this spring so things look a lot different now but the placement is easy to see in this picture.

I started by digging around each rock and setting it in, adding dirt to level it as I went. I then back filled around each one until it felt solid and grass will once again grow around it and make them look like they had been there a while. Dave, from The Home Garden, did this same thing in his garden and posted about it on his blog this morning. I was inspired to just go ahead and get mine done after he made his look so nice. Thanks Dave! I sometimes need a little push, even if the ideas was there and the rocks were piled in the area. The sun wasn't shining here yet when I started. 

This process wasn't mentally difficult just hot and tiring.  I will eventually put a garden bench or something like it in this spot when the rest of the bed behind it is finished.

I actually need one more rock in the top left corner of this picture just to make it look finished but wouldn't you know that nothing I had left would fit there nicely? That's OK though, I got a lot done and the grass won't take anytime at all to fill in around the rocks and make it look like it's been here forever.

Here is the view from the same standpoint as the first picture in this post.The missing rock is now in the top right corner of the rock arrangement. It will look a lot more complete when there is a bench and pretty plantings all around it. One step at a time around here. This was something I could get done while heavy muscle was unavailable. This is the last day of my vacation and I didn't want to squander it with laziness.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My New Favorite Garden Tool

My new (cheap) MP3 player is my new garden best friend. I have wanted this for quite some time. It isn't fancy, it's not an Ipod, it wasn't expensive. It was at the top of the list from Netlibrary as perfect for playing their downloadable e-audiobooks. I love to read. In summer I don't have time to read. I first started listening to audiobooks when I commuted two hours each way to go to hygiene school. One also should not read while driving. Ever. It was the perfect way to get my pleasure reading in without wasting valuable study time to do it. They were hard to listen to at first. I have a very short attention span. But two or three books later I swear my listening skills improved ten fold. I noticed I even got more out of lecture. That was great. I have always known myself to be an active learner. I must read it or screw it up for myself before I get anything out of it.

Our state, at least for now, has a contract with the Netlibrary to deliver online, downloadable audiobooks to library patrons who live in my area. I think all areas of Idaho. But the state is strapped so who knows for how long this will continue. But for now I can listen to all the books on tape I want right here on my handy dandy little MP3 player. OK, so I had to have my daughter help me add music to it. I am so lame at all things like this. Once I have been shown, I can usually figure it out myself but why bother when a perfectly capable 13 year old lives in the house?

In the last three days I have spent 13 hours, 55 minutes and some seconds outside doing my yard work and enjoying every minute of it. I wasn't bored with my own company even once. This is a record. I should have done this years ago. I listened to Nevada Barr, Winter Study and got all kinds of things done. If you have never checked into this and you love to read, this is a great way to read and get things done. I am smitten. there are also lots of sites out there that will let you pay them to download their books but I am and have always been a fan of the library. Plus this way is free. Ask your local library if they have anything like this. It really is fantastic!

PS~ I was actually outside way longer than the 13 hours, 55 minutes but those were the hours I enjoyed the most. Just didn't want you to think I was a slacker. Every good vacation must be filled with things one enjoys!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Island Bed and Edging

Well, since I am on vacation with no where to go, I thought I would tidy things up around my yard and garden. The chicken house consumed so much time, that some things were neglected this summer. 

Here is the island bed with things growing very well. I planted all of this in the heat of the summer last year when the bed was new. I just could not wait until fall. I lost very few things and everything else is doing well. I finally did cut back the huge daisies that were falling over and that really opened it up. I will use some kind of grow rings or supports next year. You can even see my chicken house in the background. I love that thing. The pretty red door is open to try and cool it off this morning.

Same bed from a different angle. I am only going to plant a few things into this bed this year because I want to see how the spacing is in year two before I add anything else. I know I planted some things too close at the onset. That should be easy to remedy before this bed is too full.

Here is one more shot from the corner of the boomerang shape. I still want to add a decorative small tree in this corner to anchor it a little but I can do that at any time. Maybe in the fall.

I am just loving this bee balm this year. It is so pretty even if it is 3 feet taller than the instructions said it would be. I have about six of these in several colors and one is a scarlet double. I like it too but it did not photograph well this morning. Not enough coffee yet.

This is a different bed that lines the edge of the raised bed garden. I edged it and top dressed it with new bark mulch. I love that stuff. I have one bed left to do and then all of the finished beds are done for the year. Better late than never. I think that edging everything really makes it look clean and tidy. I love clean and tidy, even if my plantings are a mess. My lupine got powdery mildew this year and I ended up chopping it off to try and keep it from spreading.  This area might be getting too much water being right next to a raised bed veggie garden. I am off to work on the butterfly garden bed and then I will be done until someone (Doyle) get the skid-steer over here to put more dirt in my newest bed in progress.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bagel Recipe

This recipe used the bread maker to make the dough. I am a fan of not kneading if I don't have to. Several of you asked for the recipe so here you go!

Bagel Dough

Water, 80 F/ 27 C 1 Cup
Sugar 1-1/2 TBL
Salt 1-1/2 tsp
Bread Flour 3 Cups
Active Dry Yeast 2 tsp

Glaze: Egg, beaten

Toppings (optional): Sesame Seeds, Poppy Seeds, Cracked Wheat Dry Cereal, Dehydrated Onions

1. Add above ingredients for the dough into the breadmaker pan in the order listed. Set your breadmaker to a dough cylcle, wait.

2. Place on a lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 peices. Roll each in a smooth ball, making a hole in the center of each with thumbs. Gently pull to make a 1-inch hole. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 10 minutes.

3. In a 3-quart sauce pan, bring to a boil 2 quarts of water and 2 TBL of sugar. Place a few bagels at a time in boiling water. Simmer 3 minutes, turning each bagel once. Remove with a slotted soon and put back on greased baking sheet.

4. Brush with egg and sprinkle with choice of toppings. Bake at 400 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until done; cool on wire rack.

Homemade Bagel

Rain and cool weather always makes me feel like Betty Crocker. My husband finally went back to working in the woods and I am thankful. I finally have some time to tinker around the house and garden and just generally do whatever I want to. Doyle never places demands on my time, I do it all by myself. But there is something nice to being home alone and I couldn't wait for this work year to begin for him. I must say he could not wait for it to begin either. The logging industry is in the dirt, to say the least. This is officially the very latest start time in Doyle's history. He was going bat-crap crazy at home so much. I think he really wanted away from my Honey Do list. I always help him out by making him a list too. Goes over like a ------ in church.

I decided to try my hand at making homemade bagels. I love bagels and only store bought is to be had in these parts. Store bought is rarely worth eating. So I attempted it myself. I used the bread maker to make the dough. Very simple process. I then shaped and rose one more time for 10 minutes. The cute little bagels then went into a pan of boiling sugar water for three minutes, turning half way through.

They I egg washed them and into the oven they went.  Twenty five minutes later we had homemade bagels. For my butt to grow. That's what bagels do for me.

I didn't have the appropriate toppings for bagel masterpieces but plain is usually just as good. I will seriously have to figure out how on earth the bagel making pros make such perfectly round bagels. Mine were not but they eat just the same. I admit, this is a very simple way to make bagels but my whole family, mom included, loved them. I will rate them a hit and plan to make more. The yogurt wheat bread attempt that followed did not go nearly as well and needless to say, Doyle made sandwiches for work on bagels this morning. Dual purpose too, you see?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Intimidating Row Garden

The (not so new) Intimidating Row Garden is coming along nicely! I am so pleased with the permanent paths with the wood shavings in them. They really are great for easy access and less muddy feed. This picture is of the East end of the garden. The patty pan sqaush, zucchini and crookneck are here along with all the different kinds of beans. Doyle also has sunflowers for the birds at the end here too.

The corn is officially taller than me in all places but this end. We think this end got wet during all the rain and stayed wet the longest. From our research we have learned that corn likes to get thirsty between watering and we had three weeks of constant rain. It wasn't thirsty but the other end is 6 feet tall and going crazy. 

My bell peppers are doing great despite the cooler weather for this summer so far. I picked most of the 7 inchers to make way for the smaller ones to grow. I was running an experiment to see at what point the walls of this fruit become plump and thick. I still haven't figured it out but leaving such huge bells on the plant was driving Doyle nuts.

This is the cucumber area and it needs a little weeding. The smaller stature cucumbers are on heavily but the others are taking their sweet time. I know when they are ready I will be really busy so I welcome the stall.

This here beauty is Doyle's big pimpkin. He loves to grow pumpkins for the little people in our lives. They have so much fun checking the progress with him that he really ought to grow more but we have been there done that. What does one do with 100+ pumpkins? Put them in unlocked cars:-D

I was trying to get the whole thing in one picture but no such luck. 90 feet is a lot to have in one shot. We are thinking about expanding this for next year. We will likely just keep going where it ends way down at the end of this picure. We would like to add a raspberry patch and more planting areas for easier rotation. I never thought I would fill this garden up but I was out of room before I was finished planting. We will see how the rest of this summer goes before we make up our minds. Someday I would really like to go camping and so far we have worked our way into too much work to leave for any period of time. Silly us!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Drying Cherries, I Hope!

I thought I would try my hand at dehydrating sweet cherries today. I haven't done this before and I am hoping they turn out like cherry raisins. Fingers are crossed. My mother-in-law has a wonderful cherry orchard at her house up on the hill behind us. She usually has to fight the birds for them but with the West Nile and other crazy avian ailments, the birds haven't been as much of a problem this year or last. The cherries are beautiful and she has brought many in the last few days. I was feeling way too lazy to can them or make them into something delectable so I thought drying them would be something fun to do. Did I mention that my hands are permanently stained a delightful shade of red?

I pitted the cherries first and then layed them cut side up in each of the five trays that came with the dehydrator. Unfortunately this was borrowed by my husband from his mother years ago and no one knows where the directions are. There is a vent on top of the whole stack and a heating element in the bottom. No temperature controls to be found anywhere on it. There wasn't a name brand on it anywhere either. Isn't that nuts? I don't think I have seen anything in the last decade that did not have some major brand advertising on it. I actually don't have a clue how long to dry these but I figured that rotating the trays would be a pretty good idea. We will see. I guess I will know by feel when they are done. (This is a hint for anyone who may know to jump right in and enlighten me:-)
Here they are all stacked up and fogging up the inside of the unit. I suppose that means that I should open the vents a little more. That idea actually struck me as I typed this sentence. See how I am learning as I go. I will be sure to show off the finished product provided they turn out sort of pretty.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ripe For The Picking!

We were lucky enough to be invited to the Ford Ranch to pick raspberries this morning. I was so excited as these raspberries are legendary around here. My husband's Aunt Vicki is a Ford and she got us the invite. We left at 6:30 this morning as they like to pick the berries early and beat the heat. Perfect if you ask me. I dislike the hot part of the day.

Helen and Keith have had this thornless raspberry patch for about 50 years. They told me that it used to be twice as big but it just got to be too much. I was pretty fascinated by what was there and hope I am invited back someday. They pick every day for several weeks and can, freeze and dry their berries for use later on.

They had already been picking for a while when we got there and had picked a couple of gallons by 7:00 am. There were still lots more to pick. They pick a few rows every day and then start the rotation over when the first row is ripe again. There were still so many unripe ones that these folks really have their work cut out for them. 

This is just what we brought home. The Fords picked twice this many too. I am going through the canning and preserving guides to see what I want to do with my bounty. I must say picking these beauties from thornless vines made life really nice. Thornless is the way to go.

The berries held together very nicely and are sweet as they could be. I am anxious to figure out what to do with them. I love canning and maybe jam or jelly is the plan for today. I also thought drying them may be an option for making muffins with later. I have yet to dry berries and will be consulting Google before I try it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Feeding Frenzy!

We have been having some fun giving the chicks treats for the last two weeks. They have tried lettuce, dandelions, grasshoppers, corn and today they got to try watermellon. Good times! They love things they deem smaller than themselves. If it is too big they won't go near it for quite a while. This pretty fruit they didn't have any trouble attacking. They just jumped right in.

Another thing we have done to amuse them is to hang a suet feeder and fill it with lettuce and strawberries. They were afraid of this basket for a little while and now they devour the treats inside in record time. We want to bribe them into being our friends. We are not too proud.

This beauty is one of the Ross'. Could be Ross-a or Ross-b. I still can't tell the difference. Monica and Rachel still reign as the nicest ones but the two Ross' are pretty excited to fly onto a shoulder if the opportunity presents itself too.

And this is an updated picture of the chicken house. I still have to finish painting the trim on  the eaves on the east and west and the window up high above the  run but had some difficulties with the ladder. And the fact that the run roof is slick. I decided to wait for Doyle to get home from work to help me. Then the ambulance is only a phone call away and not a long crawl to the house first. I don't enjoy heights very much. I have also started the flower beds around the coop. They will be outlined in river rock and raised up with dirt a little. I still haven't figured out if there is any such thing as chicken proof plantings but the main goal is to keep mud off the walls in the rain. Plus it will finish the whole look nicely.  This project has been fun but I am so ready to be completely done and onto something else. It has consumed me and I need a change of focus.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Look Who Found Us!

Look who found us in the middle of last night! We got home shortly after midnight last night and I heard a very small meow from a tree in the yard. A little coaxing and a few minutes and this little guy popped out. Meet Barney Fife~ We live just far enough out of town that people dump their animals on us all the time. This will be the fourth in just a few years. We just lost a kitty to a likely kick by a cow a few weeks ago and I felt mighty awful. I had sworn off taking in strays but how can you resist when they come in a package like this one? We think he is probably about 6-7 weeks old and was well taken care of. His belly is still pretty round and he wasn't matted and malnourished like most of the others that come around. We know he didn't come from the idiot neighbors because he would have been damaged and starved to say the least. We will keep him and hope he fares well with all the other predators in the area. He isn't afraid of the cats or dogs and loves people. We are thinking that someone that knew us was needing to find a home for this little one. We seem to be suckers for this kind of thing and apparently people know it.

I must say I am glad he decided our yard looked like a good home. Sometimes a new kitty mends a broken heart over the loss of another. I needed to mother something cute for a while. Not all of the new chicks are loving me yet and this little one won't leave my lap. Cute.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Knowing Our Food

Our quest to know our food and how it was raised and fed has come to the end. At least paritally. We took our first batch of Cornish Cross meat chickens to the processor to become dinner. Hard day to say the least.

Amazingly we did not lose any before we delivered them to the dinner making place. Usually the standard 10% is lost prior to ever making it to process weight. I don't know if we are good at it or just got lucky with the chicks we got but we got 51 and still had 51 until yesterday.

Doyle built some cages to transport them in. The poultry processor is a little over an hour away and we got an early appointment to beat the heat. We caught them and loaded them into the cages we built and made a little shade for them. I really did not want to go with him but he needed a direction reader as we haven't been there before. We took 20 this first time and need to build a third cage when we take the other 31 down.

I think I will sit out the next visit. I actually stayed in the truck the whole time. Doyle said the place was brand new and very clean inside. All stainless steel and concrete with a quick and humane kill. I still felt awful all day long. I really am rethinking this "know my food source" stuff. I know they lived a better life than in a huge place where they are kept in 8" square cages for a 13" square bird but I still struggled. I must admit the coward's way is to know it only as it comes from the store and I kind of like it that way. This was not the cheaper way to go. I figure we have $10 into each bird start to finish but since 31 are yet to finish I am not sure just yet. But cost wasn't the point, the healthy, chemical and medication free food was. I hope they taste good. If I can eat them.

In this picture you can see that this bird dressed out at a little over 6 pounds. They all came between 5.5 and 6.5 pounds. The intake man at the processor said that our birds were in excellent shape and were clean and well kept. That made us feel good. We never were able to leave the house during this endeavor as these birds drank 25 gallons of water every day. It has been a long 9 weeks and we still have a week or two to go. Is it all worth it? I don't know yet. I will let you know how they taste when I finally get up the nerve to eat one. I won't waste them, that would be sacrificing what they did for us, but it may take me a week to actually cook one. I am proud of me for not crying but I still feel bad. I will get better with this but I won't be raising pigs for dinner any time soon.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Blooming Today

My yard and garden have seemed to take a long time to start blooming with the cool off in the month of June. But alas, today I have blooms everywhere. All of our time has been spent completing the chicken house and puting on the final touches (read: paint and flower beds) so things seem weedy to me and I will fix that soon.

This stand of daylilies has been here for who knows how many years. I have thinned them and moved them around but they are so darn crowded that something has to be done again soon. I must say though, they put on a good show when they start. Hundreds of blooms open each day and they really are amazing to see. People see them from the road and often drive in to see them. I am always flattered as I have heard them called 'ditch lilies' many time. These are also what I have as the blog header picture here.

My bleeding heart took a while to rebound after my dog took a nice nap on top of it. It has very few blooms but this is only year two in my garden. The greenery is nice and if I can keep Marley off of it, it should be beautiful next year!

And this pretty pink daylily started blooming today too! I don't know what the name of this is, I actaully don't think it had a tag when I bought it but is is pretty and I can't wait to be able to divide it and add it to other areas in the yard.

And finally the coreopsis. I seem to kill this every time I plant it in my yard so I was thrilled to see it come back nicely. I have tons of babies in the butterfly garden and will transplant those to the island bed on Sunday. I love the punch of color this adds to a mainly green strip so I invite it to grow larger. We will see if I am crying a different tune next year.

About This Blog

We started this blog in Feb. of 2009 to help us stay motivated and to track our progess in the garden. We live on 5 acres surrounded by Idaho farmland. We have wildlife galore and are attempting to attract more in the bird catagory. This is our journal. Welcome!


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